One can only speculate as to how the history of Mormonisn may have changed in Germany, or even all of western Europe, had Elder Erich W. Kopischke's parents been less valiant in the faith of their religion. His father had found the Gospel and joined the Church during the bad days of World War II. Then his father's interest in the Church piqued the curiosity of Elder Kopischke's grandparents. They began investigating and also joined the Church, along with Elder Kopischke's aunt. Then, after the war, came the even worse days when the family found that the area in which they lived was ruled by the staunchly ant-Christian Communists. Nevertheless, the family remained faithful and worshipped as circumstances would permit.
Years later, when Elder Kopischke's father entered the East German military, he promised a beautiful young lady that if she joined the Church, they would marry upon his return. With that, he left the teaching of the Gospel to his future bride in the hands of his mother. Still, the family participated in the limited Church activities available to them under the red regime
Elder Kopischke was yet to be born when, in 1956, his parents concluded that life in Communist East Germany would never allow them to raise their children in the full measure of their faith. They figured they had to somehow go over the border to West Germany. they decided that their desires for worshipping God in religious freedom were greater than the fear of death by shooting or probable imprisonment if caught while attempting to escape from East Germany.
With Elder Kopischke's mother seven months pregnant with him, they summoned their courage, and despite lacking proper permits to leave the country, boarded a train bound for West Germany. Their only hope of escape hung on the Lord.
When the train stopped at the West German border they heard bloodcurdling cries for help as guards arrested those lacking authorization.
They watched horrified as an armed guard strode to their compartment. Just as he was about to open the door, the guard looked away as if distracted, then left. Compartments on either side of their compartment were checked, but they went unnoticed and were permitted to escape.
Thus Erich was born in the freedoms of West Germany and nurtured in the dynamic growing Church that flourished there. And thus the Lord had a servant that in time would be a bishopís counselor, stake high councilor, district president, stake president, mission president, Area Seventy, Second Counselor in the Europe Central Area, and General Authority.
After their escape, Helga Haupt Kopischke and Kurt Kopischke immigrated to Elmshorn, a city north of Hamburg near the Danish border. There, Elder Kopischke was born on 20 October 1956. A refugee, his father performed common labor. The family lived in humble circumstances but was rich in the things of faith. In the years to come, all the boys served missions and each of the children married in the temple. The near miracle of the family's escape and other events in his life helped Erich gain a testimony of the Lord's love for the individual and that the Lord knows what is best for individuals.
He recalls being a little disappointed when called to serve a full-time mission in his native Germany. "I wanted to learn a different language," he said. But he soon came to love teaching his own people. And when he was assigned to the mission office for nine months as a secretary, he had to learn English.
Elder Kopischke came to realize that his mission had truly been the Lordís plan for him, because it had prepared him. "The Lord knows your mission in lifeóthat is my greatest testimony," he said. "He knows what is in store for you."
When Elder Kopischke returned from serving in the Germany Munich Mission, there was an 18-year-old young lady named Christiane in the stake who was interested in seeing what had become of the young man who suffered motion sickness every temple trip as a youth.
She was smitten by first impressions, but it wasn't until a few months later, while he was completing his requirement in the West German military, and simultaneously was called as a counselor in the bishopric, that she sensed his commitment to the Lord. "What a wonderful man," she thought. They became better acquainted in young single adult activities, and were married 10 December 1978, in the Bern Switzerland Temple. They would have seven children.
After his mission, he earned a degree in business, served in the German military, and worked in the insurance industry before starting a career with the Church Educational System in 1996. By the year 2000, he had worked his way up to become CES Area Director for the Europe Central Area.
These years saw a dizzying pattern of moving across the country, first near Hannover, then Nurnberg, Munich and then Berlin for service as a mission president. Their children cried at the first moves, but it became a way of life and the children came to gain new friends quickly and love the adventure of the moves.
Each new experience provided opportunity to share their testimonies and talents in ways that strengthened the Church in number and activity.
In Stadthagen, near Hannover, they joined with other young couples to create activities that strengthened retention and activation. Returned missionaries married and lived in the ward. During this time, the ward grew from about 60 active members to 160. Elder Kopischke often returned home from work to find that his wife had invited yet another neighbor for dinner with the missionaries.
In Nurnberg, Elder Kopischke became the stake president when the American military stake was combined with the German-speaking Nurnberg district.
In 2003 he was called to serve as president of the Berlin mission, an experience both he and his wife loved. The first time that Elder Erich Kopischke walked into the Prenzlau Branch as the new president of the Germany Berlin Mission, he looked so much like his grandfather who lived there as a young man that long time-members universally exclaimed, "Erich is back."
In the way of family traits, Elder Kopischke, who bears his grandfather's name, as well as his appearance, hasn't fallen far from the tree. And in the way of spiritual traits, he continues his rich familial heritage. "I have seen my parents sacrifice everything for their faith," he said. "They were always a great example. Their faith and sacrifice had an impact on us as children."
At age 50, having served only a few months as an Area Seventy in Germany after being released as mission president, Elder Kopischke was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy on 31 March 2007. He continues to serve at this writing.