Christmas Memory


I was living in Taft California in the early 80s when I met an East German who had come to visit his sister.  She had left Europe after WWII and he stayed behind to raise his family and was now a retired railroad engineer who his government allowed visit his sister.  Communist countries like East Germany were noted to be repressed counties that did not allow freedoms we take for granted here, like freedom to travel and freedom to practice religion.

 An unfortunate thing happened just before Hans arrived to see his long lost sister to celebrate the Christmas season.  His sister got a stroke and as a result, as well as being bedridden, was not able to speak German.  Ferrel Roundy, a member of the church I attended there, was a German language teacher at the local college there and friend of Han’s sister. Ferrel’s plan to meet Hans changed to where Hans was staying with Ferrel for over 2 weeks.  Fortunately Ferrel was able to comply.

First Ferrel picked up Hans at the airport in Las Vegas, a five hour trip from Taft and after customs and the usual greetings, and before heading over the desert to California, Ferrel stopped at a grocery store to get drinks to stay hydrated while driving.  Hans came with him to pick out the drinks and was extremely excited to see a grocery store as large as a warehouse with full shelves everywhere.  He ran all over the store and was amazed he select anything and as much as he pleased.  He was so enthralled that for many days he insisted to visit all the grocery stores with in traveling distance. In his country at the time food was scarce because the leaders in his country, in their efforts to control everything, did not provide incentives for people to do any more than they were told.  People were punished for growing their own food.  To this day I can not imagine how he felt about seeing so much food. 

He could not be more expressive at our churches Christmas party and other church events despite not being able to communicate with him directly.  Ferrel got to share with him the Book of Mormon and gave him his German copy.   Hans was planning to share it with his family when he got back to  East Germany.  The highlight for me was when Hans sang Silent Night to us in German. Something he was not able to do in his country for decades, at least not publicly.

This was sad and, with Ferrel translating, I shared my hope for him to be able to express his faith in East Germany.  As destiny has it within 2 years plans for a Latter Day Saint temple in East Germany were announced and with in a decade the Berlin Wall came down.  The Berlin wall was part of the physical fence separating the two Germanies The destruction of the wall signified the reuniting of the Germanies and unrestricted travel within and outside Germany.  Who would have thought?  Certainly God was in the details.


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