03436_000_016I brought everything with me. But something was missing.
I felt like an Indian Placement student must feel that June morning as our bus rounded the final corner and the chaperone said, “… eure Gastfamilien” (your host families) as he pointed to a throng of anxious, unfamiliar people pushing as close to the curb as possible without falling off. My stomach fell to the very soles of my new shoes as I realized that I was about to be separated from the only people I knew in all of Germany. Reluctantly I hung my bag and my camera over my shoulder, sucked in a huge breath of air, and held it as I gingerly stepped off the bus and onto German cement. My ears were immediately hit with a barrage of jumbled conversations and nervous laughter, and I stood there in a daze not knowing where to go.
Soon I felt a hand begin to take my suitcase from me, and I turned to find a girl with long, black braids and wire-rimmed glasses smiling at me. I recognized her from a picture she’d sent as my new sister, Sunny, so I followed her as she wove her way through the mass of students and families. We found the family we were supposed to ride home with, and as we drove through the streets of Nuremberg I listened in bewilderment to the language I had thought I understood.
When we arrived at our home I met Sunny’s younger sister, Oschi, and was taken on a grand tour of the beautiful three-story house. We ended up in my bedroom, and Sunny and Oschi helped me lift my oversized suitcase onto the bed. As it sunk into the fat feather comforter I began to unload my wardrobe for the next weeks, amid innumerable questions about each piece of clothing.
After a short nap that did little but make me realize how tired I really was, we went to dinner at the house of an older sister, Claudia. My great fear of the strange, unknown things I would have to eat was dispelled when Claudia and her husband Bernhard came to the table with a very welcome sight: spaghetti and green salad. After dinner we returned home and welcomed Vati and Mutti home from their trip to Scandinavia.
After all the day’s activities I felt very lost to be back in my strange, new bedroom alone. I let myself fall into the puffy softness of the bed. There wasn’t much in this bedroom belonging to a brother away at college; just a writing table, a closet, a few shelves, and some rather strange artwork, including an odd collection of tiny hippos going up one wall and onto the ceiling.
As I lay there counting hippos, jet-lag exhaustion caught up with me and I started to cry. The more I cried, the harder I cried, because I didn’t know why I was crying. True, I was separated from my family, but I would be seeing them again in only a month. My new family treated me like a princess, yet still I felt horribly empty and I sensed something had been missed that day. As I lay there crying, feeling helpless and frustrated, I remembered: Today is Sunday. Of course. I had forgotten, but my heart had not, and it had been trying all day to get through to me. I wanted desperately to go to church, but it was far too late by then. So I closed my eyes and went through a typical Sunday at home: family prayer, journal writing, dinner together, classes, and sacrament meeting. Suddenly I realized that, more than anything, I missed the sacrament. Never before had I felt so great a need to partake of the bread and water. It had always been a routine part of my Sabbath, a routine that left me feeling fulfilled. This day there had been no routine, no sacrament, and I felt painfully void without it. I knew then that I needed that time. I got to my knees and let the pillow absorb my tears as I asked Heavenly Father for the opportunity to attend an LDS church the following Sunday.
The next morning I mentioned to Mutti how much I would like to go to my church. Over the course of the week I nearly forgot that I had said anything because I was so busy meeting new people, going new places, and learning new things with my family and at the Gymnasium (high school).
One day after school, Mutti handed me a paper with the address and meeting schedule of the LDS church in Nuremberg. A wave of excitement and gratitude swept over me in anticipation of church and the sacrament.
Sunday morning after breakfast, Mutti, Oschi, and I climbed into the car and drove the few miles to the chapel. Oschi and I were dropped off in front of the tall, gray building, and we mounted the few steps to the door. Almost as soon as we entered we were greeted by the bishop and several other members. I felt enveloped in love.
The service began. I felt the sincerity of those around me and rejoiced with them. Soon all heads bowed as prayerful words floated from behind a lace-covered table—“… dass sie wahrhaftig immuer an ihn denken …” (that they do always remember him). I clung to each sweet syllable, knowing that the message they spoke was true, no matter what the language: the Lord Jesus Christ shed his blood, and I would live again because of it.
The bread and water were passed. How satisfying each morsel, how quenching each drop. My hungry soul had been fed. I will never forget the significance of this sacred ordinance, learned one night while crying in an unfamiliar bedroom.