“When the Walls Came Down,” Ensign, Jan. 2003, 70–71
In November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, leading to the reunification of Germany. Our family had just returned to the United States after living in Germany when this historic event occurred. The fall of the Berlin Wall caused me to reflect upon how the walls that had once stood between our family and our German neighbors had also come down.
“The landlady says your family may not rent the house.” I still remember the stunning and upsetting words of the housing referral officer. After searching for months, we had finally found the perfect house for our large family to rent during my husband’s three-year military tour in Bamberg, Germany. Finding housing for a family with six young children is never easy and is especially difficult in Germany.
The six-bedroom house in Poedeldorf, a small town near Bamberg, was ideal for us. We left the housing referral office in bewilderment. Yet we felt impressed to keep trying to rent the house. We fasted and prayed and continued to express our interest. We were overjoyed when several weeks later we received a call informing us that the landlady had changed her mind.
Our arrival in town was noted with interest. It was a spectacle to behold, our family driving down Poedeldorf’s narrow lanes in a large van bursting with children. Everywhere we drove, we waved at everyone we passed. Most residents, surprised, waved back. And while the German people are generally reserved in manner, especially toward strangers, some of them even started waving first.
Gradually we became acquainted with our neighbors. The Dworazik family had two boys and lived next door. The children played together, sometimes in the Dworaziks’ sandbox and sometimes on our trampoline.
One morning we awoke to find that a section of fence had been removed from our adjoining backyards. Astonished, we asked Herr Dworazik about it. “Es ist besser,” he explained. “This is better.” It seemed an unspoken invitation to become better acquainted with their family.
With the opening in the fence, we enjoyed a deepening friendship with the Dworaziks. They helped us in many ways as we encountered questions while living in a foreign land. The open fence between us became symbolic of the shared cultures, joint activities, and rewarding relationship between our families.
One Monday we invited the Dworaziks over for family home evening. After games and refreshments, we showed them our copy of the Family Home Evening Resource Book (item no. 31106; U.S. $5.00). We explained the family home evening program and presented them with a German copy of the book. They seemed pleased to accept it.
Several days later Claudia Dworazik rushed over. “Can we have another book?” she asked. “I showed it to some friends, and one of them was so excited about it she took it with her.” I assured her we would get more manuals. Then her husband called from the window, “Get one for the priest, too.” Now Claudia’s friends, as well as the priest of the area, have home evening resource books.
On another occasion, the landlord of a nearby apartment building asked us, “Do you have any more friends from your church who need a place to live? We have a vacancy and would like to have Mormon families in our building. They are clean and don’t smoke or play loud music.”
As time went on, members of the Bamberg Servicemen’s Branch jokingly suggested we rename it the Poedeldorf Branch, since half the small apartment building was then filled with Church members and other Latter-day Saint servicemen had found housing in the same town.
Just before we left Poedeldorf, Claudia Dworazik told me many of our neighbors had mentioned they were sad to see “the Mormon family” leave. “Such happy children; such a friendly family.” We believe it was the gospel’s influence they saw and would miss.
We, too, were reluctant to leave. It seems the Lord allowed us to live in Poedeldorf for a purpose. It was there that we were ambassadors, in a small way, for the Church. We felt we, together with the other Latter-day Saint servicemen and their families living there, were able to plant many seeds of goodwill and friendship. I know no matter where we are, it is possible to bring down barriers that separate us from others as we strive to be good examples and true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.