A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about my hopes and fears surrounding an upcoming move to Germany and how that would affect my general craving for more spiritual authenticity.
I was thinking a bit about that post today and realized that I had some things to say about what I’ve learned, different perspectives I’ve been given, and, perhaps most importantly, the new sense of empowerment I feel like I’m just beginning to grasp.
So, for what it’s worth, here’s a brief review of my ex-pat church experiences and mini-year-long faith journey, in parts.
Part I: The Arrival
When we first arrived in northern Germany, we didn’t go to church for almost two months. This was partially due to the fact that we both knew that we needed some time to spiritually regroup and evaluate what our goals, boundaries, and needs really were. A big move, we found, is the perfect time to do something like this because no one is expecting you to be somewhere and no one is judging you for not fulfilling those expectations. You’re flying under the radar, so to speak, and not hurting or disappointing anyone in the meantime.
But, other than the need to evaluate our souls and all, there was another reason we didn’t go to church–we honestly could not find it! And we’d really tried! The address was wrong. The phone number didn’t connect. No e-mail replies. Multiple web searches. Complete radio silence.
So, well, you see how things were.
Sometime in November, however, we experienced something nigh unto miraculous. One morning, I decided to go to a new, rather obscurely located (behind some townhouses, completely off the road) discount grocery store we had seen from our apartment’s top-floor living room window but hadn’t tried out yet. As I walked through the parking lot, I happened to glance up at the dentistry sign advertising its offices above the grocery store (big, blue dancing cartoon tooth that happened to have a word in German I’d just learned that day)…and right below it was a small, plain, silverish sign with an all too familiar font that said, “Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der Letzten Tage.”
I’d found it!! Literally hiding in our backyard.
When my husband came home that day, I ran up to him and said, “I have a surprise!” To which he replied, “Oh! I have a surprise, too!” And, after I pointed out the church (i.e. second floor above grocery store) from our living room window he laughed and pulled out a pass-along card (with the new address on it) that he had happened to look down and see discarded in a gutter while waiting at a crosswalk that afternoon.
Now, we aren’t really people who put much effort into searching for Ensign-Worthy-Faith-Promoting-Story miracles, but we also aren’t really people to ignore something that seemed as strangely, improbably coincidental as us both finding the missing church…in our backyard…on the same day.
By that point, we’d had the time to establish the boundaries we needed and we felt like we were ready to make the choice (our choice) to go to church that Sunday and meet our new ward.
When that day came, we got dressed and stationed ourselves at the window to scope things out. After watching all morning (we still didn’t know what time it was supposed to start), we finally saw a few older couples and one family with two young boys go into a side door.
“They look so…Mormony!” I said, as a few more people showed up.
And so they were… And so they weren’t…
But, I’ll get to that later.