In commemoration of a worldwide and unified sisterhood of the Relief Society, the Church News has featured an international Relief Society leader once a month, leading to the Relief Society sesquicentennial on March 17, 1992. The five women were in Salt Lake City recently to participate in taping an international satellite telecast to air March 14, 1992. The women represent five continents of the world.Doris Sertel knows firsthand that the strength and love of the Lord can pull His children through anything - even through a world that seems to be crashing in on them.
A member of the Hanau Branch in the Frankfurt Germany Stake, Sister Sertel, recently released as first counselor in the stake Relief Society presidency, said: "We can feel the love of the Lord when we stretch our hand to help others and when we let them help us. We should watch out for each other and serve each other because we love one another, not because it is a commandment or because it is our duty."Both she and her husband were searching for something more in life when they decided to join a social group of young couples more than 12 years ago. "We were living the easy life, doing fun things," she remarked.
But she still wasn't happy. Perhaps getting her driver's license - a difficult task in Germany - would impress her husband and the social group and ultimately bring her happiness, she thought.
But Sister Sertel's failure to pass the exam only brought discouragement. She prayed for help because "I needed to do something. I felt my husband slipping away from me. I told God if He would help me, then I would do something for Him. I went back and was able to get my license the second time."
Sister Sertel forgot about the promise she had made until two weeks later when sister missionaries knocked on her door.
"I opened the door and thought, this is Jesus Christ coming to collect. So I asked the missionaries in and listened to their message. Then I realized what this was. It was exactly what I had been looking for without knowing it."
She began taking the discussions with her husband listening once in awhile. When the challenge of baptism came she accepted, but shocked her husband with the proposal.
"He turned away from me and stayed with the old crowd of friends. He felt I was turning away from him to go to Church and wasn't interested in him anymore. He wouldn't come home at night."
She postponed her baptism, but continued to attend Church meetings for six months. Then at her wits' end, she decided to write a letter to her husband.
"I wrote that I loved him very much and I also loved the Lord, and felt that this gospel would bring our family closer together instead of dividing it. When he read the letter he wrote back, `If you love the Lord that much, I cannot keep you away from the gospel and be against you. I hope that I can develop this faith also. It might take a long time.' "
Sister Sertel was soon baptized and relied on the strength of other Church members as she grew in the gospel.
"After my baptism 12 years ago, it was very hard because my family was not in the Church, and I couldn't understand everything that was being taught in Church," she explained. "I was grateful to have visiting teachers. I could ask them about the lessons, and they saved a seat for me on Sundays.
"Whenever I needed somebody to help me out they were the ones I would go to. They built me up and they always reinforced the positive by saying, `Your husband will come into the Church. Don't give up.' They did more than just give a message. They went the second mile."
Her husband, Gernot, was baptized two years later. At that time they had been married for nine years and were the parents of twins, Stephan and Nicole (now 18). The Sertels also have another daughter, 7-year-old Anna.
"The gospel has totally changed our lives," Sister Sertel, 44, commented. "It is hard to say in so many words when the gospel is everything to you. It brings about love and trust. It is like having a beautiful plant that makes your home bright.
"There are certain friends of ours who have watched us progress in the gospel and they are still our friends. They seem to respect us for it, especially for living the Word of Wisdom."
Even though the Sertels are the only members of the Church from among their extended families, the love throughout her and her husband's families has greatly increased, she said.
In 1983 the Sertel family was sealed in the Swiss Temple.
"We had been been married for 10 years when we were able to promise our love a second time - this time for eternity," Sister Sertel remarked. "It was the culmination of everything that I ever desired."
The Sertels, residents of Nidderau, Germany, are temple workers in the Frankfurt Germany Temple. "Having the temple close brings great joy," she added.
"Every time I go to the temple, I feel like I am making promises over again. It is almost like getting married once a week when we go to the House of the Lord together.
"It is my prayer and desire that we can be with our families in eternity because we love them so much. I hope that the renewed love and strength my husband and I have found in the gospel can be taken by our children and developed in their families, as well as spread to our parents and other relatives."
Sister Sertel said being a member of the Relief Society has been a great support for her.
"We are just a small unit of Relief Society in Germany, but like other sisters we find strength in each other.
Through the lessons, we find strength and endurance and learn to look for the spiritual worth of things, not just the material things.
"Relief Society helps us develp talents and also helps us strengthen our youth and teach our children to walk uprightly so they can withstand all the temptations that come from the outside."
Church leaders emphasize the importance of visiting teaching in Germany because members don't live close to one another, Sister Sertel added. "There may be four or five sisters in a city. Vising them is always a reinforcement of gospel teachings.
"It's great to know you can reach across the city to find someone who knows exactly what you are feeling. Visiting teachin is the one thing that ties the sisters together."
The fruits of missionary work have also been felt through visiting teaching, Sister Sertel related. After making contact with a less-active sister, the sister agreed to accept visiting teachers into her home.
"She was very happy and able to talk about the gospel again," Sister SErtel added. 'Another young lady who lived with her was curious about the woman's change in habits and behavior and wanted to go to Church with her to find out more. She was baptized through visiting teaching."
Sister Sertel, now serving as counselor in her brance Primary presidency, said: "The gospel has given the sisters a greater self-worth and a feeling of not being alone, but being a part of one big organization. it also helps them find possibilities to conquer problems.
"One of the biggest problems in Germany is that some of the women are single mothers and they feel lost and lonely and they have no where to go. We watch over them and help out whenever and whereever we can. Some join the Church through our efforts."
The Church can do so much for the German people, Sister Sertel remarked. Not only does Relief Society help the sisters, but priesthood bearers learn more about the importance of their roles as husbands and fathers.
Since joining the Church, Sister Sertel and her husband take time to be together more and have emphaxied their family life before other activities, she explained.
"Communication is the magic word in a good marriage," She explained. "You have to have trust and love for each other. Relief Society emphasizes things like that."
Speaking about the recent reunification of Germany, the German native remarked: "The last few years our prayers were tha we could be one nation again. When the wall came down, we felt like we had to walk toward East Germany. As we walked, they walked toward West Germany. We wanted to be close to those people we had been separated from for so long and feel of their spirit."