Homesick Missionary

By Lori Stevens

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The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself (Lev. 19:34).

Taylor loved Elder Turley and Elder Junker (Yewn-kur), the missionaries assigned to her ward. She especially loved having them over for dinner.

Elder Turley was tall and slender. His head almost touched the ceiling in Taylor’s living room, and he had to duck when he came through the front door. He had a Book of Mormon with colorful sticker pictures in it. He would flip through the pages, telling Taylor the stories that each picture illustrated.

Elder Junker was short and round. He was always laughing, and Taylor loved his accent. He told Taylor stories about his large family back home. He was the oldest of eight children. He had a brother who was her age and a sister who was just a little younger. Taylor was always glad to see his happy face.

One Sunday, Taylor saw Elder Turley and Elder Junker in church as usual, but she could tell that something was not quite right with Elder Junker. His beautiful smile was missing. And even though he turned up the corners of his mouth when he shook her hand and said hello, it was not the same jolly smile that she was used to.

“Mommy, why did Elder Junker look so sad?” Taylor asked after church.

“Well,” Mommy said, “Elder Junker comes from a faraway country called Germany. His entire family is there, and I think he is homesick.”

“What does homesick mean?”

“When you’re homesick, you miss the people and things of your home,” Daddy told her. “In Germany, the people speak differently. They eat different foods too. Even the sounds and smells are different.”

“Couldn’t we do something to help?” Taylor asked.

“Well, I suppose we could ask the elders to dinner,” Mommy said, “but I don’t know if that would help much.”

“Yes it will,” Taylor practically shouted, “if we eat food from Germany!”

Mommy laughed. “Of course—an authentic German dinner. The Guenters are from Germany. Sister Guenter could give me one of her mother’s recipes. What do you think, Daddy?”

“I think it’s a great idea. and I’ll get a German phrase book so we can learn to say something nice in his native language.”

“Hurray!” Taylor cheered, growing more and more excited. “I know exactly what I’ll do too.”

The next day, Taylor and Mommy went to Brother and Sister Guenter’s house. While Mommy explained to Sister Guenter what she wanted and why, Taylor went to the work shed out back to find Brother Guenter.

She watched him for a few moments until he looked up from his workbench.

“Oh, my goodness,” he said, “I wasn’t aware that I had a visitor. Come in, come in.”

“I’ve come to ask a favor.”

Brother Guenter patted the seat next to him. “Sit here,” he said, “and we will discuss it.”

Taylor told Brother Guenter her idea, and he agreed to help her. All that week she went to his house after school and stayed for an hour or so, learning to sing a special song in German.

On the night of the dinner, Taylor’s house was filled with exciting new smells.

When the elders arrived, a strange look came over Elder Junker’s face. He sniffed the air and smiled. “I smell bratwurst! And sauerkraut!”

Daddy bowed. “Wilkommen zu Hause (welcome to our home). Taylor thought an ‘evening in Germany’ might help you feel less homesick.”

“Oh, Taylor,” Elder Junker exclaimed, “how thoughtful of you! I have been feeling homesick lately. Thank you very much.”

“Bitte schön (you’re welcome),” Taylor said, beaming. “Möchten Sie ein Lied zuhören (Would you like to hear a song)?”

“Ja, bitte (Yes, please),” Elder Junker told her.

“Ich bin ein Kind von Gott (I am a child of God),” Taylor sang in a clear voice. She finished without a mistake while Elder Junker wiped happy tears from his eyes.

Later, he told Mother that the bratwurst and sauerkraut tasted just like his mother’s, and he asked Taylor for an encore of “Ich bin ein Kind von Gott.”

When the missionaries left, the jolly smile had returned to Elder Junker’s face.

Illustrated by Mark Robison