German Mission Foundation

Returned Missionaries Still Serving
The German Saints

South German Mission - President Orville Gunther years

Content provided by Gary McClennen

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Pres. Gunther, Gaby Raimondi (investigator), Alan McConkie, Debra Gunther, Gary Ogzewalla, and Sister Gunther at a picnic south of Munich.

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Gary Ogzewalla, Sister Gunther, and Debra Gunther at same picnic.

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Susanne Raimondi (new member) with Pres Gunther window-shopping in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

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The Gunthers with church members from Munchen at a restaurant near Kochelsee.

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Pres Gunther with restaurant owner near Kochelsee.

Following content provided by Kim Nelson

A Most Memorable Meal

Invitation Protocols

Every LDS missionary gains an appreciation for the areas where they serve. For most, their mission, no matter where it is, becomes a new adoptive home. I was in awe of the beauty, the culture, and history of my new homeland, Germany. I gained an even greater appreciation, however, for the German people. In particular, the members of the church had a remarkable influence on me. I reserve a special place in my heart for those good people to this day. One member comes to mind that instilled this love for the German saints in a very different way.

While serving in Nürnberg, I was the junior companion to Dave Williams the Zone Leader. We met regularly with the local district in their weekly meeting, which was under the direction of District Leader, Alan Hackney. I enjoyed listening to Brother Hackney because his thick Kentucky southern drawl had a way of softening the German language in an almost melodic way. Each agenda included assignments for dinner invitations from the local members. Of course the prospect of an authentic German home cooked meal was always welcomed by any missionary.

There was one invitation, however, that was always filled more out of a sense of duty than pleasure. Brother Jurowatti was an octogenarian war pensioner and widower of very simple means. He had a standing monthly lunch date that the missionaries were invited to.

President and Sister Gunther had thoroughly instructed us on many do’s and don’ts. One of the ultimate insults (beleidigung) we were told, would be to turn down a German’s invitation to eat. And, we in no uncertain terms, were to leave any food on the plate.

Brother Jurowatti was not just old school… he was closer to Old Testament, and as such, any seasoned missionary knew that he would have this beleidigung thing notched up to an art form if the missionaries didn’t show up. Brother Hackney understood the gravity of the situation and, as the District Leader, made double sure that someone would always take a turn to be there even though what was served would not be the most appetizing.

Introduction to a New Cuisine

The Jurowatti menu was simple and very predictable. As such, the missionaries had affectionately given the limited menu items fancy names. For example; one standard faire was titled: ‘Reis Ueberlauf’. I was told this consisted of steamed rice that had been portioned out on a serving plate early in the morning to allow it to cool. At meal time, Brother Jurowatti would pour canned (woody) peaches over the rice and then sprinkle hard crusty raisins over the top. Missionaries would also be served a single glass of room temperature apfel saft (apple juice) to wash it all down. As the missionaries consumed this epicurean delight there would be expressions of ‘bitte’, ‘das schmecht gut!’, ‘wunderbar!’ etc. Sincerity was generally the one thing a good elder could fake the best. When the missionaries cleaned their plates the host, as was the custom, would offer a second helping. The missionaries would graciously but insistently decline the offer.
Brother Hackney was very adept at making sure that each missionary received the opportunity to dine with Brother Jurowatti. I had become very skilled at avoiding the opportunity…until one particular day there was a back room deal that made sure I would be Brother Jurowatti’s next guest. The calendar had mysteriously been altered. Everyone had obligations on the day in question except me and a poor unsuspecting green elder, Bruder Watts, who would be doing splits with me.
I was told that because of my perceived importance (I was the junior companion to the Zone Leader, Dave Williams) I would probably receive Brother Jurowatti’s ‘best dish’, ‘Fett’.

‘What’s that?’ I inquired.

‘You’ll know it when you see it’ I was told.

‘Gracious’ Guests

We arrived at Bruder Jurowatti’s at the appointed hour, knocked once, and were enthusiastically greeted by our host. Bruder Jurowatti was much more animated and outgoing than at church…even the most casual observer could tell he was sincerely honored to have us in his home. As we were invited into the simple three-room apartment, our gaze fell upon the linen draped card table with three place settings. We were directed to our chairs, I was asked to give a blessing on the food then Bruder Jurowatti rose, declining our offers to help, and gingerly hobbled into the kitchen to get the food. He reappeared with two plates which he placed in front of each of us. Boiled pig knuckles, with bristles of hair protruding from the skin somehow looked out of place on a serving plate intended for human consumption. The cold congealed grease at the base of the grisly meat added to the effect. Yes, I knew ‘Fett’ when I saw it. As he made his next trip to the kitchen, speaking over his shoulder he explained that he had cooked it the night before and had kept it in the Kuhlschrank overnight. “Bitte, bitte, essen.”, he implored. Momentarily turning, he motioned again, admonishing us to start without him, as he disappeared around the corner to get his plate. He placed his serving of ‘fett’ on the table, returned to the kitchen, explaining as he continued back and forth, that the Metzger gives him a good deal on the meat. I noted with some chagrin that our portions were more generous than our host’s.

I did not want to be the poor Elder that tested the long standing beleidigung tradition…so I proceeded with what I was obliged to do. The ‘fett’ jiggled slightly as I sank my fork into it, and… I started to eat. I remember thinking that somewhere in my short life I’d had worse…I just couldn’t recall what or when it was. One glance at Bruder Watts, who was waiting on my lead, spoke volumes. His complexion’s color wheel was dialed back several shades but he followed my lead and began to eat. As Bruder Jurowatti went back to the kitchen for apfel saft I waited for him to turn the corner. Once he turned the corner, I quickly bare handed the biggest piece of ‘fett’ and stuffed it into my suit jacket pocket. Bruder Watts’ eyes grew to the size of saucers. He quickly glanced toward the kitchen, saw he was clear, and followed my example. Returning, Bruder Jurowatti poured the apfel saft as we each chewed vigorously and commenced with the obligatory ‘danke’, ‘das schmecht gut’, and ‘wundershoerns’. Our host noticed how we seemed to be enjoying the main plate as each trip back from the kitchen, first with steamed kartoffeln (potatoes) then with steamed kohl (cabbage)our portions were noticeably smaller.
All the food was now on the table and our host sat down to enjoy the meal with us. Our servings of ‘fett’ had diminished appreciably, due primarily, to secreting what we could into our pockets. It was now obvious, however, with our host seated at the table, the plates would have to be cleaned up by a more traditional means: We were going to have to eat what remained.

Between mouthfuls we talked about missionary work, our families and other related matters the entire time interlacing our conversation with compliments to the chef. I soon discovered that if I had more kartoffeln or kohl in my mouth than ‘fett’ it would neutralize the effects of the offending food. Bruder Watts proved to be a quick study as it became apparent that he had made the same discovery and a subtle battle ensued over who could get more kartoffeln and kohl to help diffuse the gastronomic disaster we were experiencing. One glass of apfel saft couldn’t wash this down but we knew better than to ask for more so we sipped it carefully. I don’t believe I’ve had more satisfaction from any single glass of refreshment before or since.

Midway through the meal it dawned on me that ‘fett’ and suit coats weren’t the best combination. Sister Gunther (our mission president’s wife) always instructed us on proper decorum and manners and had told us we were to always carry a clean handkerchief with us. ‘I need to wrap my handkerchief around the ‘fett’’, I thought. I pulled the handkerchief from my pants pocket and in one smooth motion, touched my nose, lightly brushed the beads of perspiration from my brow, and deftly wrapped it around the ‘fett’ in my jacket pocket. I doubt that Sister Gunther’s admonition to always carry a clean handkerchief ever anticipated such utility.

Finally, we were done. As always, we were asked if we would like more. When I said I couldn’t eat another bite, it was the absolute truth! We thanked our host and with all the dignity and grace we could muster, made a hasty departure.

When we got far enough away to not be seen or heard we both shared a common concern that our queasiness could violently erupt at any moment. We agreed that anything that unpleasant going down would certainly be worse coming up. I briefly thought there could be potential for losing the respect of a new missionary but the fear of losing my lunch overrode that moment of valor. We decided that too much activity was not a good thing so we returned to the wohnung (apartment) for some much needed ‘scripture study’. Later in the day, our stomachs had settled down enough for limited activity. We un-wrapped the ‘fett’ and took a picture of it. (See the picture below)
I will never forget that meal….but not for the obvious reasons.

In Loving Memory

This humble Saint, of simple means honored us with his best offering…he couldn’t afford even the most modestly priced cuts of meat. Our meal stretched his meager means.
Brother Jurowatti saw us as those servants spoken of by Isaiah: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith to Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7) He consecrated what little he had to the Lord and the Lord’s servants. Brother Jurowatti saw us as special witnesses of Jesus Christ and was honored to have us in his home. He loved the missionaries….they had brought him that wonderful message that had changed his life and had given him hope in the poorest of circumstances. Brother Jurowatti held us at a level of esteem I could only hope to be worthy of. No magistrate or dignitary was ever served a finer meal by the most affluent or cultured guest. I only hope to see him again. I owe that good brother a heart-felt sincere thanks for such a magnificent feast.

I’m humbled to this day that I was honored to be a guest in his home.

As a missionary, I learned that the German Saints have a deep love of Christ, an enduring love of His message and a profound love for His messengers. I will be forever grateful for the way they opened their hearts and lives to me while I served my mission.

Kim W. Nelson
South German Missionary

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Pig's knuckles - the basis for the meal of Fett.

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Kim Nelson - author of this remembrance.