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Monday, November 25, 2013

Home for the Holidays and Retired Opera Singers

Flo probably already told you, but I get to spend this next transfer here in my new German home town, Freiburg!  Ah, Mom.  I can't even tell you how happy it makes me to stay here.  I know I say this all the time, but I love the people here so much.  The people we talk to on the Straßenbahn, in the bus, or on the street.  They are the best people in the world, they don't even realize how amazing they are!   
We bought eggs from the baker on our run (after forgetting to buy them Monday so we could make the Bignalls brownies when they came to do apt checks)
Pday last week repping our soccer teams!

And then don't even get me started on the members.  I gave my first talk yesterday in Sacrament and I got all choked up when I was telling the members how much I love them.  Gosh, I love this place.  I don't think words can describe how swollen and full my heart gets when I stop and think about how much I love this city and the people here.  (who knew our little "Ice Queen" could end up such a softy like her mom!)
Eating outdoors even in the cold!
I had my first Berliner, it was DELICIOUS!
Here I thought this would be my first Christmas away from home, but little did I know I would still be spending it with family.  Ah, I love this place.
we met with a man named H. and he asked if he could take us to dinner. He is our uncle here.
So, I just have some pretty funny, weird, but funny situations happen to me.  I don't know how, but I guess being a missionary just attracts...situations.  The other night we were taking the bus out to Tiengen to go visit Schwester Berg and then give a lesson to one of our investigators, Ellie.  Sister Woods started to contact a nice old lady on the Straßenbahn and she happened to be taken the same bus as us.  We talked with her for a bit and she told us there was a concert in the retirement home on Friday and she wanted us to come.  We said we would love to come by, and she gave us the time.

Just imagine this situation.  All we know is this lady's name, and that there is some sort of concert in a retirement home.  We show up on Friday, find the front doors and then look at each other like, "The things we do for our Potential Investigators."  I then pull the, "Sister Woods you are senior companion so you have to take the lead!" card.  We walk in boldly and ask the first worker we see where the concert is, B invited us.  We then proceed to the cafeteria room where there are a couple of rows of chairs with twenty or so old people accompanied by their walkers and wheelchairs.

We don't see B anywhere, so I scout out a chair next to a nice lady who seems like she still has it all there, and we start chatting.  There's a woman on a electronic keyboard at the front of the room and we sit and watch for a few minutes.

Finally, in walks B (the potential investigator) but she is dressed sort of nice and we soon find out she is sort of the master of ceremonies for this little concert.  She welcomes everyone and introduces the two singers who will be singing for us today.  

The two singers were two retired opera singers and so, though their voices were a little tired early on, they were really good!  It was a hoot!  The concert went for an hour and they just sang little selections and put on a little show for the old folks home.

We go up to talk to B afterwards and she barely remembers us, but we were able to get her number and she wants us to come over and share some scriptures about hope with her, so hopefully it leads some where!  But that's not the best part.  The little old man opera singer came up to us and started raving about how glad he was that two pretty young girls came to watch.  He then takes me in a huge hug and slaps two big kisses on my cheeks.  He repeats the process with Sister Woods.  It was awesome, who knew I'd ever get so much action on my mission?  Okay, that was a joke.  But it still was the cutest thing ever.  Also, it not only makes for a great story but just an all around great memory.  Whenever life gets hard, I will just look back at that day, and start laughing.  That's all I can do.  I went to a random old folks home, in another country, and listened to random retired opera singers sing selections and dance around.  

Being a missionary is just the best.  Oh the things you do.
The first time doing computer time on Thursday to email investigators!
The straßenbahn (streetcar) stop we use all the time
We have really been seeing a lot of miracles since we've recommitted ourselves to this miracle of reaching our goal of 290 baptisms this year.  We've been working hard and just talking with everyone.  It's been so cool to see the small miracles that have been brought about.  Those little miracles may not look like much, but when you take a step back and look at them with a bigger perspective, you see the great foundation that the Lord is laying in his work.  The fact is that he wants his children to come unto him. I may not see the results of these miracles in my life, but I'm okay with that.  As long as these people end up choosing the better part, I would stay here my whole life and be a missionary if it meant there would be a temple here in Freiburg.  These people need the Gospel, it's just hard sometimes for them to see it.  But God has had patience with them for so long, I can be patient too.

We also had a Talent Abend (Night) this week at the church!  It was so awesome, our ward is the best ward ever!  They went all out, decorated the gym and everything!  It went until like 10:45 so we ended up getting home late, but it was so worth it. A lot of members brought friends and it was so exciting to see how anxious and happy the members are to do missionary work!  Also, no one knows how to make good food for ward activities like Germans.  My stomach was full of Badisch (Baden-the region she is in) food happiness.

Speaking of my belly and things in it, Sister Woods and I may or may not have eaten an Advents Calendar worth of chocolate last night...each.

Well, the temperature has been dropping, there was snow on the hills near Freiburg the other day, and the decorations are being put up in innenstadt (downtown).  'Tis the season.  I love this time of year, there really is just a special spirit that encompasses everyone.  I think a big part is that, even when people don't realize it, Christ is on every one's mind and in every one's heart.  I love Christmas!

I am so grateful for all of you at home.  I am also so grateful for the people here.  It's funny, as you grow up and meet more people, you think people will leave your heart to make space for the new ones.  But nope, it just keeps growing and growing.  When you're a missionary, you unlock a part of your heart that you didn't even know was there.  It just expands and you stretch and expand as you turn your heart and your talents over to the work of the Lord.

I am just so happy to be here!  I am so happy to be alive, to be breathing, to be a daughter of God.  Life is beautiful and it is truly meant to be enjoyed.
Myspace Pic?
I love you so much!  Have a wonderful week!

Sister Henry

Monday, November 18, 2013

Taco Seasoning and Tortellini

This week we forgot to go grocery shopping because we were out of town for so long.  So by the end of the week we were really struggling to figure out what dishes we wanted to make.  I feel like I am in college all over again, we eat so much pasta.  So we opened up our new package of Tortellini when we realized, Oh Mist!  We don't have any red sauce, any cream to make a white sauce, what are we going to eat with this tortellini!  Sister Woods settled for cheese, olive oil, and salt.  But I just couldn't handle it.  I needed something more to satisfy my Tortellini craving.  So, I put taco seasoning all over it.
It was nasty.  But I was hungry.
On our way to Zone Conference! Drinking "Buffalo Juniors" in honor of Elder Stricklin!

Regardless of the lack of variety in our kitchen, this week was AMAZING!   It all started out with having interviews with President on Monday, which was actually my first interview with President Miles.  It was a blast, and it's just always fun to be with the district. We then spent Tuesday and Wednesday down in Singen.  

I love the train ride to Singen.  We really have 3 routes we can take, up through Offenburg, directly through Titisee, or down through Basel and along the Rhein.  Because of train times all three routes take about the same amount of time, so we really just sort of pick which way we want to go.  This time we went down through Basel, and it's so fun to see the small settlements on the Rhein.  You also feel cool looking out the window and saying to yourself, "See that grass? That's Swiss Grass?" Or even when we are going down to Basel from Freiburg (before we head east) it's fun to look out on the Donau and say "See those trees?  They're French trees"  Who woulda ever thunk?

Our District

Our Zone!

Zone Conference

Zone Conference
So something that was mentioned a couple of times at Zone Training and Conference was the challenge to have 20 meaningful conversations every day.  I remembered it was something Elder Root had mentioned him and Elder Gochnour doing.  Well, Sister Woods and I just couldn't let them beat us and so we've taken this challenge upon ourselves too and it has been amazing.  It's not that I didn't talk to people before, but having a goal to work towards has been such a help!  I have been having conversations with so many cool people!
Sisters Sleepover at Zone Conference
But seriously, I talk with people from Syria, Hungary, West Africa, South Africa, Finland, Peru, Iraq, China, Singapore, just all over the place!  How sad is it that in a world of technology, we have in a way lost the precious ability to just have a good conversation with the person next to us.  I remember something that struck me when I was down in Mexico with Granny was the way the people reached out to each other as a human being.  They say hallo and they talk with each other.  They understand that we are all children of God.  Honestly, if people even just understood that one truth.  That all of us are Children of a Heavenly Father, and are one divine family, the world would be such a better place.
Meeting Elder Sharp from Australia, Elder Root's companion when she arrived in the mission

Elder Barber from England! He read my blog before his mission.
The other night we needed 3 more conversations to reach our goal of 20, so as we were walking by a nice looking old man, we stepped over and asked how he's doing.  He then says to us, "Oh, really bad (schlect)" We ask him why, and then the sneaky old man pulls a clown nose out of his pocket and puts it on! It was 17% weird, 83% HILARIOUS! Old German men.  You gotta love them.

I don't have too much to report this week, just because it was such a whirlwind!  So many thoughts, I have to have time to process it all!  But I am so grateful to be here.  Wow, being a missionary is just the craziest thing.  It truly is the experience of a lifetime.

But the best part is that you don't have to be a full-time mission to have a life full of adventure and funny old man stories.  You just need to live the life that God wants you to live.  As we align our lives with his and do his will, he will give us the life we were always meant to have.  The life that refines us into who we want to be.  It takes a lot of hard times, and a lot of refinement, but God has a plan for us.  He knows us, loves us, and wants us to learn of Him and His Son.  

And, I will let you in on a little secret to happiness.  Talk with people.  Share with others the things you know to be true.  Be a missionary!  As we let others into our lives, and give these precious pearls of truth to others, we will find more happiness than we have ever known.  I can testify to that, because it has happened to me!  Share your light with others, that is why God has given you your happiness and light!  To share it!  Ye are the light of the world.

Missionary work isn't scary.  Missionary work is love.  Love and conversations.  That's the recipe for missionary work.

I love you all so much.  I am so grateful for your light and the pearls of truth you have brought into my life.  We are here to help one another, and I know that I am who I am because of the righteous influence of those I hold to be dear.
I love you!
Sister Henry
PS  The work is...going. I'm not going to lie, it is not easy to work when you don't see baptisms. Definitely being a missionary here refines you in different ways. But I think how much patients God has with these people, and I can do it too. We are coming together as a mission to really fast and work to have 180 baptisms before the new year, because our goal was 290 this year. I've worked harder, talked with more people, and studied harder than I have before and it's been really cool. I just keep optimistic so I don't get discouraged :) It's the Lord's work, I just have to remember that.
     My interview with President was great. I just told him how happy I am to be a missionary. He talked about improving studies but he talked about that with everyone. Everyone could hear me outside the door because I was just saying how happy I am so loudly.
     Zone Training and Zone Conference just made me want to be more focused and work harder. 
Elders wearing our glasses

Cute kids with lanterns in Singen

I am obsessed with Pigeons!

Random picture of me.
Freiburg (photo by Sister Miles)

Black Forest with snowcapped trees! (photo by Sister Miles)

Black Forest behind the Miles' hotel in Freiburg (photo by Sister Miles)

Cute Sister Woods!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lost wallet? No, a miracle! "Kindness is the essence of greatness."

A cool Smart Car they only have in Europe
Liebe Familie!  I love you all so much!

This week was a great week, just like the rest.  It is hard to not have a great week out here in Freiburg.  It is possible to have a hard day, maybe a hard two days, but it seems that every week ends up great!  Of course I learned from an African man at a bus stop that the secret to being happy and having a great week, is hope.  He said that the African people carry a hope in their heart for tomorrow.  They believe that tomorrow can be better and so with that hope, they are able to be happy today.  We are meeting with him soon, he was super cool!

Biking trip for pday last week!  What a blast!

Yummy cake and pumpkin soup we had at the bakery in Kirchzarten
So look at the world news, now back at me, now back at the news, now back at me.  Ah, you must think that the world is a pretty rough place.  Full of böse (evil) people who just want to tear each other apart.  Well let me tell ya something, turn off the television and step outside! Why am I beginning on such a random tangent?  The other day we looked down the street and saw the Straßenbahn (streetcar) coming.  We put our legs in high gear and started booking it like usual.  We made the Straßenbahn with enough time to hold the door open for a cute little old lady.  Then we started moving forward.

All of a sudden we hear a ton of honking.  I sort of ignore it, but Sister Woods looks over and taps me on the shoulder.  We see a man with his window rolled down beckoning at us.  The Straßenbahn stops at the next Haltestelle (stop) and we step outside as he hands me my wallet out his window.  This man saw my wallet fall out of my bag, got out of his car, picked it up, hopped back in his car, and followed us to give it back to me.  That wallet had all of my MSF fund, my VISA, and all of my credit cards.  I learned two things, not to keep my wallet in that pocket anymore.  But the more important thing I learned is that a simple act of kindness can inspire multitudes of people.  We got back on the Straßenbahn and all of a sudden EVERYONE wanted to talk to us.  Everyone started talking about how nice that was of that man, and how people like that really are still out there today.  This man got a Straßenbahn full of Europeans talking to each other about a Gospel principle.   To echo the words of Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Kindness is the essence of greatness."

"I love University of Freiburg I may want to study here for a semester."

I've been thinking a lot about Jesus Christ.  Natürlich.  I've been thinking about how smart he was, but how we know that he came to his knowledge grace by grace.  Christ taught in parables so that all could understand, but to teach in parables, he had to understand what it was he was talking about.  For example, to teach about a shepherd rescuing the one sheep, you first need to know what a shepherd is and what he does.  Before Christ ever taught in parables, he first had to learn.  That got me thinking about how much I am learning here as a missionary, and more importantly, how I am learning.  This then made me think of N and P.

The twins with a member at Stake Conference 

P was just a name in the phone that we decided to call up and meet with.  She seemed really nice because she scheduled an appointment immediately.  Phone calls like that just make a day really good.  We had our first meeting with her this last week and let me tell you all about it.

We go in and we see the sweetest looking Indian lady.  Behind her we see an African man with the biggest smile an African can muster.  She invites us in and we sit down.  She then brings out home made muffins and cookies and warms up some water to have warm apple cider.  We start all talking, we have no idea if they have met with the missionaries before, or anything about them.  So we just start listening and learning about them.  He's from Rwanda and she is from India.  They met while he was at university in India and they now live in Freiburg as  he finishes up his Doctorate, which he just defended his thesis for last week.  

We just started talking about God, naturally, we are missionaries.  They ask the coolest questions, and we all talk about our Savior and how much He loves us.  They ask us of our conversion to the Gospel and what it means for us, etc.  Just really great questions, it was so cool!  We then ask them the same question, as they are very devout 7th day Adventists.  Nepo starts sharing stories of how he questioned, and studied, and then searched for which church to join.  Eventually he was led to the 7th day Adventist church and he shared the coolest story.

Moved the couches to create a comfy study space!

When he was at University in India, they had a system for these big university exams.  There were basically two of them a semester, and you had to take a total of 8 or so to finish the university.  They were always offered on Saturday, and they sort of rolled over so you could pretty much wait to take them.  N didn't know what to do, because Saturday is his sabbath.  He didn't take the exams but it got to a point where he had to make a decision, as the exams had to be completed.  N didn't know what to do.  Because he was on scholarship from the government in Rwanda, if he failed at school, he would return home and be punished.  But he had made a decision already that he would honor God and remain true to his beliefs no matter the consequence.  He and his friend decided they would talk to the Chancellor of their school.

The Chancellor showed empathy but he let them know that he had no power over the exams.  Because the college was one of many who operated underneath the wing of the University, there was nothing the small school could do to change the days.  N and his friend decided they would drive up to the main University and see if they could talk to someone there.  After driving two hours, they came to the office of the main Chancellor and to their dismay saw about 40 people outside the door and a sign that says the president would love to speak with you, if you have an appointment.  

But, they didn't let their doubts overcome their faith.  They went to a corner in a different hall and prayed that God would let them be able to talk to the chancellor.  They didn't know how, but they knew he could do it. They then went back and talked to the secretary.  She told them to wait a little bit.  Then, a few moments later, they were the next ones called in!  They talked to the Chancellor and he understood their concerns, but told them that to switch the exam date, he would have to propose it at a meeting with all of the dozens of smaller university chancellors and they would have to come to an agreement.  Not only would it take time, it could be impossible.

N was told that at his college they would let him know the result.  A few weeks later, he found out that the entire group that operated under this system changed the exam structure so it could be taken on other days.  Not only is this a miracle because it happened so swiftly, but P then explained to us that in the Indian culture, to be able to change something so set in stone for so long as that rule,  is impossible.  And yet God made it happen.

N then closed by saying, "If you stand for God, he stands for you."
With District Elders on the bus to Stake Conference- "I love these elders so much!"

I can't believe how blessed I am to be here and to be a missionary.  The things I learn every day just blow my mind.  There is so much knowledge out there in the world, we just have to be open to learn it.  We need to be open to questions, to challenging ourselves and to asking.  We need to hear the voices of those around us, because if we truly listen, God will highlight the truth in whichever form it takes.  He will lead us to people who share stories we would have never heard in other ways.  He will lead us to books to read which will teach us truths we have never been exposed to.

With Elder Kelly, who Elder Root trained!

It blows my mind that people see the Book of Mormon and automatically dismiss it.  Hand me a Jehovah's Witness Bible, I'll read it.  Have an atheist tell me why he doesn't believe in God, I'll listen to him.  This life is about acquiring knowledge, as all knowledge, all truth comes from God.  So why reject an opportunity to acquire more knowledge?  If the Book of Mormon isn't true, your great aunt Anabelle will still make that fruit cake, the oil will still changed tomorrow, you will still have that birthday cake for Jonny to make.  

But I know that the Book of Mormon is true.  It is just more truth, more light to illuminate us!  How exciting!  How wonderful that we get so much truth in such a concentrated form!  Now instead of Aunt Anabelle making a fruit cake every year until she dies, you get to be sealed to her and eat that fruit cake for eternity!  Now instead of the oil being a chore to overcome, you realize god has given you the ability to change oil so you can help old man Jenkins down the street change his!  Now you get to teach Jonny that in 10 more birthdays, he'll be able to serve a mission, share the Book of Mormon with others, and go change his world!  The Book of Mormon and the truth that it illuminates dispels the fog and helps us see life in a more brilliant way!
"I finally had some yummy milk!"

That is why I am so excited about P and N.  I am not trying to change their religion, I am not trying to make them Mormon.  I am just inviting them to come closer to Christ, to receive all of the restored principles that complete our collection of truth.  I am so excited for them as they receive these truths Schritt für Schritt, piece by piece.  Being a missionary is Wunderschön!

I am so happy to be here, to just love these people in Freiburg.  I can't believe I ever thought I didn't want to come here (to the Alpine German-speaking Mission)!  These people are phenomenal, they are so loved by their Father in Heaven.  Now it's just my job to give them a few pointers to help them see it!  I can't wait for the day when all of these people here, these people I love so much, understand who they truly are.  I just really love them, I really do.
With a child in the ward at an activity
 I also love all of you.  I am so grateful for your prayers, support, and letters.  I love you all so much, every person back at home.  I think about you and I pray for you constantly.  You are all so special to me, and so special to our Father in Heaven.  I hope you all have a fantastic week!  Because you deserve it!  And remember, if your day seems pretty hard and you aren't feeling to great, just let your heart be filled with the hope that tomorrow brings.

I love you all so much.  More than you know.

Sister Henry
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More photos!
Sister Woods' 9 month "birthday"

We both had candles =)
The mountains in the distance are France!

Sis Henry creeping on the Weeping Angel--such a total Sherry face!

This statuary on the U of Freiburg campus truly is profound


Random pictures at an S-bahn stop.

Elder Stuart sleeping in Conference, tehe.

Elder Davies creeping on sleeping Elder Packer