the long road to Berlin

“Hi Mom,” I could hear Gabe’s excitement crackling over the phone line. “Whatcha doing? Want to get Dad on the phone?”

Just a week earlier, I called my sister, my voice, choking with tears, “Every other missionary who was in home MTC the same time as Gabe is going to Germany. I think they’ve forgotten about him. I’m afraid he’ll be left behind.”

“It’s going to be OK,” she said, “we’re going to pray for a miracle. He’ll be in Germany for Christmas.”

Her words immediately calmed me (and if someone is panicking, this is what you should do– tell them it will be OK and promise to pray for them), but I didn’t see how her promise could be true. This was the last group going to Germany this year, he wasn’t on the list of missionaries going in January, and when two missionaries were exposed to Covid, they’d been replaced with other elders. I was afraid Gabe’s file had been stuck in drawer, lost under a cabinet, destroyed by a spilled drink…

It’s not like Gabe has been miserable in San Jose. He loves serving in the food bank, he’s helped people move and done yardwork, made good friends and taught so many people about the love of God. Still, there’s something about serving in the land you were called in in the language you learned. Missionaries all over the world are waiting to travel to their assigned countries, so Gabe knew he was just one of many.

It wasn’t until word trickled in of one German speaking missionary after another getting the call to go, that he began to feel singled out. Finally, at one point, he was the last German speaking missionary in his mission without a date to leave and the very last from the July 8th group of missionaries. His inbox was full of happy chatter from the rest of his group about going to Germany and he watched the San Jose German-speaking missionaries pack. Who would he call for his weekly German study? Had he been forgotten?

Let’s go back to Gabe’s call:

I was snuggling baby Fritzie at his house, so instead of Erik, I called Ben and Sammie into the room, “Put me on speaker phone,” he said.

I could tell it was good news. I thought, hoped, prayed, he’d just been added to the list of missionaries leaving in January.

“I’m going to Germany!” he exulted, “On Thursday!”

It was Tuesday.

We cried, we celebrated, he got off the phone to call Erik and then PACK.

I called my sister and she cried and exulted and told me, “Don’t forget this is a miracle. Don’t slip into thinking it would have happened anyway. His name wasn’t on any list– this is a miracle.”

I won’t forget.

My first thought was joy for Gabe, but my second was sorrow. I hoped he’d just been forgotten, I hoped they’d just found another spot, but I feared he’d taken someone else’s place.

Even in the car, driving away from Ben & Sam’s, I prayed, “Please bless this boy, whoever he is, to go to Germany.”

saying goodbye to his English name tag

Gabe’s next few days were a whirlwind. He packed, he said his goodbyes and packed some more. His sweet mission president and his wife drove Gabe and the two other boys to the San Francisco Airport at 5 am, where they boarded a flight to Atlanta, then Amsterdam and finally to Manchester England where Gabe and dozens of other Europe-bound missionaries will quarantine in the Preston Missionary Training Center for the next two weeks.

They only leave their room to use the bathroom and spend one hour a day outside in a 30 sq. m. yard. In two weeks, they’ll head to the Frankfurt Temple Housing for another ten days before the finally go to Berlin.

And they couldn’t be happier about it.

At home, I kept praying.

On Facebook, we have a group for parents of missionaries in the Berlin, Germany mission. We share packing tips and stories and help each other in any way we can. I’ve been haunting it lately searching for updates and information.

On Thursday, one mom posted the sad story of her son, who would have been on a flight to England that day, but had tested positive for Covid on Monday. I knew. I just knew Gabe had taken this sweet boy’s place.

It only took me moments to decide– I messaged her and told her we were praying for her boy. I knew I’d want to know. He’s sick and away from home and suffering a big disappointment and she needed to know people are praying for him. We had a long and tearful messaging conversation and immediately became friends (love you Kristy!).

When Gabe called me at 4 am on Friday to say he’d arrived, we didn’t talk much, but I told him to pray for Elder Lish.

On Friday evening, we were just settling down on the couch, when Kristy called me (through that cool FB messenger option– thanks modern technology). She’d just received word the church had decided to send another group to Germany on December 14th and her son was on the list. We cried and laughed and talked like we were lifelong friends.

Oh you can tell me it all would have happened that way anyway. You can say the plans were already in place.

I’m not taking any of it for granted. It’s a miracle.

p.s. Gabe’s letter is also worth reading. I edited it for the internet, but let me know if you want the inside info. 😉

On Sat, Dec 5, 2020, 06:55 Gabriel Lehnardt wrote:

Hey everyone! This week was absolutely crazy!! And I know you’re probably thinking, “Oh meine gute, Elder Lehnardt is being disobedient and writing emails early!” But I assure you this is not the case.

So, previously on my super exciting emails…I was in California and tearing up the field, finding, teaching, finding, teaching. The grind never stops in missionary work. But wait! Somethings coming! Stay tuned!

On Tuesday we’re driving down to zone council, very excited to set some goals for December and then BAM! President Smith is calling me! Whaaaaaat??? President Smith says, “Elder, how fast can you pack? You’ve got a flight on Thursday. You’re going to Germany.”

This is the part where the story gets a little crazy.

I said goodbye to my awesome district in Morgan Hill as we had our district council setting goals for December. And then the rest of the day was packing, packing, teaching, calling, farewelling, and you guessed it, more packing. It was very hard to leave Bernal so quickly. As short of a time that I had been there, I had made some lifelong friends, I hope I’d changed some lives and I hope my life was changed. That ward is full of some amazing people who understand what it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

On Wednesday, I didn’t eat a very big breakfast, because we had to be down to where President Smith was conducting interviews pretty early. I really regret not eating breakfast because I was starving for the rest of the day! Life lesson here: take advantage of the food you have, you never know when your next meal will be. After saying goodbye to my zone, President and I threw all my luggage in the car and went to eat dinner. And in case I haven’t mentioned this before, President Smith is a super super cool guy. He was a firefighter, a doctor, and a hospital manager. Serving with him and Sister Smith has been so awesome and I am inspired to work harder and be better every time I talk with them.

We had an awesome dinner and then went to bed early! Cause the travel waits for no man.

Luckily for me, I had TWO other German speaking elders in my mission with me, so Elder Jenkinson, Elder Breinholt and I got to enjoy this awesome journey together!

After we drove to the San Francisco Airport at 5 AM, we flew all the way across the country to Atlanta, Georgia! Where we met several other missionaries who would be travelling with us. After sitting in Atlanta for two hours (and eating some Pei Wei) we got on a plane and flew to Amsterdarn. Which took 8 hours! We were all pretty tired after our first flights so we settled in to our new seats in a much bigger plane.
Just after takeoff, they announced that they would be taking around dinner so that everyone could survive this eternal flight. I began thinking of what I should choose to eat and then I fell asleep.

Big mistake, brothers and sisters, big mistake.

When I awoke, everyone’s dinner was being cleaned up. The lights were dimming as the flight got back into “Ooo, we’ve got 8 hours to watch movies!” mode.

At least that’s what everyone else did, I just sat and suffered from starvation (for the second time in two days no less).

And then breakfast comes, I’m saved! Nope, it was a tiny cinnamon roll and some grapes, very nice, but not filling at all. 2/10 Delta, 2/10.

But they made up for it, the pilot was a member and when he saw so many missionaries, he invited us all to come sit in the cockpit and fly the plane! After it had landed of course.

And then we ran really quickly from that gate to the next gate, flying to England!

At this point you’re probs thinking, what? Why are you going to England? Why don’t you just go to Germany? Well, that’s a good question. In order to get into Germany, we’re quarantining in England for two weeks.

And now we’re here!!! Here in beautiful England, where the accents are as nice as the country side. Unfortunately we’re not going to see much of either because we are isolated to only the four people of our rooms… And we can only go outside twice a day… and if we talk to somebody else from other rooms, we might be sent home… and if we get any packages we can’t have them…

But anyway! I’m really excited!!!! I can’t wait to get to Germany and to get to know these elders really really well!

And I’d really love some emails everyone!!! Just in case you were wondering. I hope you all have a good week! I hope I get to hear about it!!!

Love, Elder Lehnardt

December 4, 2020
December 9, 2020



  1. Handsfullmom

    December 7, 2020

    Hooray! Thank you for sharing your miracles. So happy for Gabe and Elder Lish too.

  2. Kristy

    December 7, 2020

    After last week, i didn’t think i had any tears left. Wrong! Thanks for sharing, i love hearing the other side. We are so blessed! Miracles have not ceased! Love you!

  3. Adri

    December 8, 2020

    Yay! So happy for these miracles!

  4. Anne Marie

    December 10, 2020

    What a beautiful, beautiful miracle!! Thank you so much for sharing these experiences! So so happy for your radiant, blessed, loving missionary!

  5. Julia

    December 23, 2020

    I really enjoyed reading his email. If it’s okay, could you ask him to include me in his weekly emails? Thank you!


      December 30, 2020

      Absolutely! I’m so glad you enjoyed his letter.

  6. Francine

    December 31, 2020

    Michelle, thank you for sharing this story. It really reminds me that God’s timing is better than our timing, and that he really does hear our prayers. So glad that you’re able to communicate with Gabe regularly .. it must be tough on you to have him so far away. But this story leaves me feeling so hopeful.

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