A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we’d recently been to Germany. Actually, I wrote a multi-paragraph description of the jet lag I was suffering from. (To be honest, I was so tired when I wrote it, I’m not sure I want to go back and read it to refresh my memory.) The week before that, I didn’t post because I was busy visiting big castles in Bavaria and subsequently getting lost on some highway leading back to our hotel in Munich because of a sign with an arrow and a really long German word that we didn’t understand. (The word turned out to mean “Detour.”)
I don’t want to bore you with a big travelogue, but I would like to devote some space to a sweet experience we had the next day back in Munich—Sunday. Before we left home, we’d used the meetinghouse locator on www.lds.org to look up the wards in the city, where they met, and when they met. We also printed out directions using maps.google.com. (Incidentally, I was truly impressed with how well directions from Google could get us around in a country where we didn’t even speak the language. They were very reliable.)
Since we had to check out of our hotel that morning, and into another one in the afternoon, we chose a ward that had sacrament meeting at the time most convenient for us. Frankly, we expected to sit in the back, take the sacrament, and not understand any of the talks. We’d heard that you could still feel the Spirit when you attended church hearing an unfamiliar language, and we did certainly hope we might gain something from the experience. But we didn’t expect to actually understand any of the messages.
We also didn’t expect the ward members to welcome us with open arms. We didn’t expect that there would be at least seven missionaries, many of them from the United States. We did not expect that they would provide interpreters for us. But they did. One sweet sister missionary sat behind us and translated for us all through sacrament meeting and Sunday School, and then came with me to Relief Society. A couple of the elders helped with Priesthood meeting for my husband and for our son in his classes. (He said afterwards that it was pretty cool that he had his own interpreter.)
In Wisconsin there are a number of Hmong-speaking people, and it’s common to see a Hmong-speaking missionary translating for someone during church. But it was truly humbling to be the ones receiving the translation—receiving help for something that we simply could not have done ourselves.
Sometimes you don’t realize just how much an act of service can mean to someone until you’re on the receiving end. We finally left after the block of meetings (so similar to the meetings we attend at home, but just a little different) with a beautiful spirit of gratitude and kindness accompanying us.
And sacrament meeting itself? I was incredibly grateful for the whispered translation behind me, but I did notice that as those speaking up front testified of their love for the Savior and the truthfulness of the gospel, their faces shone with a radiance that told me that they knew that what they were saying was true, and it brought them joy. Even if I didn’t know exactly what they were saying as they said it, I knew that they knew it to be true.
P.S. And here's a picture of a big castle in Bavaria... ;-)