Thursday, October 18

Our LDS Identity Presentation

GM & Easton
Their baptism pictures, the church logo in English and Deutsch, and the Weilimdorf Chapel we attend.

Jesus Christ in John 15:12

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
Mahatma Gandhi

President Gordon B. Hinckley

The boys attend an international school here in Stuttgart, Germany. The first unit each year is always about getting to know the students. In the first two weeks, Easton and McKay were both bringing home projects and assignments asking about themselves - What am I good at? What groups do I belong to? Describe yourself. As they would ask me, I was overwhelmed with a mother's desire to take this chance to teach them about their true identity. You are a child of God! What could be more important to know?! But this is their normal, they didn't even think twice about it, but I wanted to show them this knowledge is something very special, even a privilege not to be taken lightly.

I was blessed to grow up as a Mormon too. In middle school and high school I felt gratitude for the perspective this identity gave me. Working with YMCA kids over the course of my teen and college years, I saw children of broken homes and I ached for them. But during my summer internship with a pro-life/pro-family coalition at the United Nations where my first week was the Conference on Women and Children in June 2000, I deeply realized how the gospel of Jesus Christ was the true answer to all the hard things this mortal life throws at us. We are all children of a loving Heavenly Father. Loss of that identity is the root of all heartache. International and government programs only serve as bandaids and can never adequately solve this identity crisis.

When attending the Open House the third week of school, Easton's teachers asked that parents sign up to do a 15 minute parent-child presentation as part of their "Celebrate Our Family/Cultural Identities" research unit. I immediately thought of doing one on our LDS identity if they would let us. With immediate approval, I felt the weight of not screwing this up!

That following weekend at Stake Conference, we were sitting in the Relief Society room where we could hear simultaneous English translation (TOTALLY AWESOME! I am so grateful previous kinks have been worked out and that this service is available!). Just behind us was a nice family we didn't know and the room was sparsely populated. As we chatted afterward, we realized our kids went to the same school and that Easton and their son, GM were in the same class! The F family are from the Venice area and just moved here from Shang Hai, China in August. They attend the German ward and are ardently trying to learn German now that they are locals. I immediately knew I wanted to invite the mom and GM to do this presentation with us. I didn't let fear of sharing control of the project enter my mind, I knew it was to be and I was so excited!

V and I got the kids together a week later to play while we hammered out a sweeping overview. I came with a prayer that she would help with the visual presentation. She came with a prayer that I could write a script. Our prayers were answered and among the chaos of feeding and keeping seven kids entertained, the ideas just flowed and kept a focus that edified us both!

I Am A Member of 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
I am learning about my personal, community, and global identity as a member of this world-wide Christian church which shows me how to love and serve others in my family, my community, and the world.

=> Our little posse met three more times - once via Skype, once to assemble the posters, and then the day before at the school to run through it with the boys. These subsequent meetings felt scattered and distracted for us moms, but miraculously accomplished the desired goals! Every time I felt fear, inadequateness, or doubt creep in, I felt peace wash over me as I sought it. Prayerful needs I had on the hectic days I worked on this were answered and tears of gratitude came often - usually while catching up on hoards of neglected dishes.

And so the presentation time came - 3pm, the last half hour of the school day. A mere fifteen minutes to convey what our knowledge of the gospel tells us about ourselves and why we are here. No sweat!

In the knick of time, I remembered to make and bring the promised snack. Forgetting to deliver on this promise probably would have been remembered by the boys more than the wonderful presentation they shared with their class! As a consequence, however, those treats meant I had to forego finally putting on my makeup today and honestly looking at what I was wearing. Ugh. But here's our wonderful boys!

Learning about my Personal Identity
I am a child of God.
I am part of a family.
I believe in Jesus Christ.
I believe in the scriptures.
I was baptized just like Jesus.
I go to church each week.

Learning about my Community Identity as a member of the church

Sunday Worship:
  • German Ward, 200+ attend, meet at 9am
  • International Ward, 200+ attend, meet at 1pm
  • Sacrament Meeting, Primary Sharing Time, & Primary class time
Midweek Activities:
  • Cub Scouts, learned about fire safety this week
  • Upcoming Stake Primary Activity

Learning about our Global Identity as members of the church

Semi-annual General Conference: Come Listen to a Prophet's Voice! (Plus a shout out to President Uchtdorf being German!)
  • Every April & October - 6 sessions, each 2 hours
  • Here in Germany, we can watch it broadcast at our chapel or live online
Church website
  • The Friend for children 
  • The New Era for youth
  • The Ensign or Liahona for all

The second presentation board was all about how we as members are able to love and serve others in our families, communities, and around the world.

We covered Family Home Evening with the F family's FHE assignment board. The boys shared their favorite parts of FHE. No brainer - activity, acting out scripture stories, and treats!

Under Serving our Communities, we talked about . . . 
  • Serving Families in Need
  • Donating Money - Fast offerings
  • Community Service and Outreach Events - V had participated in a Relief Society activity in Shang Hai where they assembled school kits for the community's poor.

Serving families in need:
We shared a little bit about how our church is organized so that every adult member is asked to watch over a small number of other people in our congregation (Visiting and Home Teaching). When a family among us needs help, it is rather easy to mobilize people to help them.

Just a few weeks ago, one of the four LDS families at this school had a bit of a crisis. In their final two weeks here before moving back to the US, their 10 year old daughter had to be hospitalized with severe abdominal pain and a very high fever. Members of the ward were quickly mobilized (largely through our Relief Society's facebook page) to clean their house after the movers packed out in preparation for final inspection by the landlord; spare items were moved out, listed for sale; and sold; their other children were tended and given rides; meals were taken to the hospital and hotel; priesthood blessings of comfort and counsel were arranged; friends stayed with Sienna at the hospital while the parents had to both be away; and Primary children made a bouquet of paper flowers with get well messages for Sienna to know she was being thought of. Sienna had to have her appendix out but was in the hospital for a full week. Their family flew to the US two days after she was released from the hospital. (I was able to help with much of this effort and while I thought I understood how this works, I learned so much about how our wards are organized to truly meet needs and was inspired by so many helping hands!)

Serving our Communities
Easton shares the August 2012 Friend article about two girls who helped their communities that were struck with disasters. Honoka from Japan, Maggie from Missouri. Even children can do something to serve!

Serving the World

Donate $
Ward Service Events
  • Collect items and assemble Hygiene kits, newborn baby kits, school kits, and first aid kits.
And when it was done, there was time for Questions & Comments!

I am profoundly grateful I had a chance to be a part of this project! I am deeply thankful for countless promptings V and I have had over the past month tweaking the script and the visual presentation so the boys could take it and run! I am indebted to Ryan for putting up with this preoccupation, my friend Carmen who fueled my envy for a CriCut machine, my friend Cami for taking pictures during the presentation, and my friend Vian for taking Jake out when his snacks weren't enough to keep him quiet.

A few weeks ago, Easton came home one day and said that in a class discussion someone had said that going to church was part of their identity. Everyone laughed except him, GM, and their friend Anna who comes from a South Carolina Baptist family. Easton was puzzled by this. I am so proud Easton and GM never even complained about being roped into this project. There was no fear on their part that I could tell. The classes were very respectful during the presentation and I hope this remains as a good experience for all. I'm sure sharing Rice Krispy treats in the end won a few points in our favor at least!

I am a Daughter of God!