FHE in Germany

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Shared by Janet S. Scharman

"Our family lived in Germany from 1983 to 1986. A member of our ward worked for the U.S. government and had responsibility for certain aspects of academic training for the American military personnel who were there. He asked me if I would teach a week-long course to soldiers in a nearby city. I had not been in any kind of full-time work situation since having children, and I was anxious both about my ability to teach the course and also about leaving my son and daughters. I finally agreed to teach when a woman in our ward, who had become a friend of our family, offered to tend.

I was to start my first class at 8:00 Monday morning. About 8:30 the Sunday night before, I received a call from the woman's husband telling me she had had a medical emergency and had been rushed to the hospital. Although her situation had stabilized and she was in no immediate danger, she obviously would not be able to watch my children the following day. We had no family nearby and, because we were so new to the country, I didn't know people in our neighborhood well enough to call and ask them to help. I hung up the phone and went back into the living room, where two elders from our area were just completing a discussion to a young male investigator. Our home offered the missionaries the privacy that was sometimes lacking in the living arrangements of those they were teaching, and we had invited them to come whenever they wished. As I told them of my plight, the investigator said that his girlfriend had just lost her job and might be willing to help us. Under normal circumstances I would not have considered losing a job as a sterling recommendation for watching my children, but at this time and in this situation it was enough. I immediately called the young woman, who was willing to come. The only area of concern was that she smoked, and she agreed to go outside for her breaks.

I want to pause in this part of the story for a moment and tell you about an experience earlier that same Sunday. A young sister in our ward was teaching a Relief Society lesson about the importance of family home evening. Suddenly, right in the middle of her lesson, she said that she felt inspired to ask each one of us individually to commit to having family home evening the next night. This was a little irritating to me because I had already made a conscious decision to skip it this week since I would be so busy and probably a little stressed as well. But as she questioned me directly, I felt there was nothing I could say but that I, too, would promise to spend this time with my family.

Monday evening I came home from work to find that all had gone well. I personally was exhausted as we finished dinner, and I began preparations for the next day of teaching. However, my promise of the day before to hold family home evening would not leave me alone. Finally I went to my file drawer and hastily selected one of the family home evening packets my sister, Carol, and I had prepared together before our family moved to Germany. I had made a simple drawing of a boy figure named Sammy who had a big mouth, which was cut out. I also had a picture of a garbage can with a hole cut in its lid. There were smaller pictures of things like fruit, vegetables, milk, cheese, bread, etc.--all healthy things--and beer, wine, cigarettes, cigars, drugs, etc., which were not good for the body. The children selected an item and then decided where to place it. Things that would keep Sammy healthy went in his mouth, and the unhealthy things were thrown in the trash. The entire lesson on the Word of Wisdom--including prayers, music, and treats--was completed in record time. I no longer felt guilty and was able to return my focus to the lessons for the next day.

When I returned home Tuesday, the baby-sitter announced that she had decided to quit smoking. Then she told of how our daughters had gone out to her in the yard that day as she was smoking. They wrapped their arms around her and told her they loved her and that they didn't want her to die. Then they brought her into the house and gave her a little lesson with Sammy.

Wednesday night our baby-sitter had the children's version of the Book of Mormon in her hands as I walked through the door. She said she and the children had finished reading it that day. Although it was quite interesting, she knew there must be more to the story and asked if I had any other reading materials I could share with her. I often wonder if people investigating the Church have any idea what they are getting into when they ask such a seemingly simple question. By the time my work assignment was finished on Friday, she had a stack of books and an appointment with the elders. A few months later she was baptized, and a year after that she was married in the temple. Not only is she now a member of the Church, but so are her children.

It all started with a young sister who followed the prompting to ask those in her Relief Society class to commit to having family home evening. The teacher moved out of our ward shortly after her lesson and likely never knew of the great impact her decision to follow a prompting of the Holy Ghost would make. I have shared with you only our story. Who knows how many other lives were touched because she was humble and allowed the Lord to lead her by the hand?"

This personal experience was shared by Janet S. Scharman in a devotional address given on 1 December 1998 in the Marriott Center. She was a BYU assistant student life vice president and the dean of students at the time the address was given.  Link to entire talk.