One of the things we have missed while being on this mission is the chance to go to the Temple. This past week we had the privilege of going with over 100 of our YSA from several Italian stakes to the Temple in Bern Switzerland for three days. What a treat!
The three and a half hour drive from Milan to Bern was spectacular. But what was truly spectacular was to witness the love for the temple that these young Italians have. Many of them brought their own names and did 3 and even 4 sessions a day and/or worked in the baptistry all day long for three days. We knew we loved these kids before we did this, but to be together in the temple like that deepened the bonds of love we have with them as only the temple can.
David and I marveled at the experience of being at the temple and doing Temple work for that kind of extended period of time. At home in Utah, we usually sandwich a session or two in between the regular busy-ness of our normal lives. But to dedicate a weekend like this and to physically stay by the Temple the entire time and in the town where the Temple is located, Zollikofen (outside of Bern) which is pretty small and tranquil gave us the feeling of truly being taken out of the world and immersed in the Temple for the time we were there. The temple there is backed by a lush green dense forest. Lovely.
The young people just could not get enough of it. They truly love doing the work. Since we had such a large group there was not enough room for all of them in the Temple hostel, so they ended up renting what is called a bunker, not too far away. ( pronounced "booncare" by the Italians.) In Switzerland, it is a law that every citizen must have a space for themselves in a bunker. The bunker is an underground facility that we would think of as an emergency fallout shelter. It is equipped with beds, kitchen, bathrooms and first aid area and supplies. One can see all over Switzerland little air vents on the sides of the mountains where these bunkers have been built inside of the mountains. Looked like something out of a James Bond movie. Amazing! Bunker beds below. There were 50 beds in this one bunker.
The outside entrance to the underground bunker
The kids planned all the meals and brought the food and took turns cooking meals for each other and cleaning up.
Kids eating pasta lunch in Bunker
A special treat was that David and I were able to meet up with a couple (the Strongs) that we met in the MTC who had been called to serve in the Bern Temple. Due to Visa delays they spent the first nine months at the New York City Temple before coming to Switzerland. They are enjoying their mission so much. Our son, Matt actually taught them some Italian in the MTC when he was teaching us, since they said that over 70% of the temple work done at the temple there is by the Italians. They wonder if the Rome temple would decrease that percentage a lot, but the Swiss temple will still be by far the closest temple to those in northern Italy as it is a six hour drive from Milan to Rome. Pictured below - myself with Elder and Sister Strong.
We marveled at being at a temple where we were having a multi-lingual experience. At one session I was sitting next to an African woman in an Italian session surrounded by people using headphones to translate into French, German and English. At one point I had someone speaking to me in French while another spoke to me in Italian. And then someone would say something to me in English and I was shocked, almost forgetting that I could speak English! I could truly see the fulfillment of the scripture that says that the Gospel would be taken to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. Incredibile!
Across the street from the temple is the "Mormon Shop". It sells some things that we would expect to find at Deseret Book but also translated in Italian, French and German. It also carries the very much coveted by Americans, A&W Root Beer. But you won't find the Italians clamoring for it because they think it taste like cough syrup! What? Maybe we need to suggest to them a root-beer flavored gelato? Kind of like a root-beer float? Mmmmm.
German Hymn Book
Anyway, we are so grateful to have been able to go. We got back on Saturday night. On the way home we stopped with some of the young people at a restaurant called Cindy's Diner. It was a 50's style all american diner that served up huge American hamburgers and fries and had pictures on the wall of Lucille Ball and Elvis Presley. This experience definitely put the cherry on the top of what felt like a multi-cultural banana split of a weekend. If I had not been culturally mixed up before I certainly was then while eating traditional American fare from a German menu surrounded by Swiss mountains in a restaurant attached to a store selling Swiss chocolate and cheeses and magnets and key chains with Cow bells and White flags with Red crosses, hearing people around me speaking French and German. I had no idea which language I was expected to speak to the clerk behind the counter. Actually a bit of my high-school French from so very long ago came in handy. Who would have thought any of that was still accessible in my very over-crowded data base of a brain. I may not be able to remember the names of all of my children but out of the blue I recalled, "Ou sont les toilettes? " (Where is the bathroom). A useful thing to know how to say in any language.