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Monday, April 11, 2016

"It's all true. That's the best part."

My very last lesson as a full-time missionary was spent in the home of perfect strangers, starting at the very beginning - explaining that God was their Father and that He had a plan and a message for them that would bless and change their family for eternity. "We invited you over because our son has just been married in the Frankfurt temple," they explained. "We decided that's something that we want too - to be sealed to each other forever." I smiled and once again began to teach and bear my now unshakable witness of the eternal truths that I have spent the past 18 months studying, pondering and sharing. As I hugged Frau Wilde goodbye, I left her with the words that my father shared with me right before I was set apart as a missionary: "The best part of the whole thing is that it's true. It really is true." I thought of how good it was going to feel to be in his arms again in a few short days and to be able to tell him "Dad, you were right. It's all true. That's the best part."

My last week as a missionary has been chock-full of miracles. After discovering that an earlier investigator had moved, we klingeled her neighbor to see if she knew where he had moved to and the woman asked us if we would come back and teach her. We talked with two Turkish men at a café in the hipster/grungy part of Hannover and talked about faith, God, and eternal families and were asked to come teach them and their children. We had our first appointment with a member referral named Britta - a 28 year-old who has been confined to a wheelchair her entire life and who, after loosing her father last year, wants to know if she will ever see him again. We stopped a man on the street named Souleyman from Camaroon who wants to learn more about the Book of Mormon, talked about what it means to be "converted to something" with two guys on an S-Bahn who afterwords asked us if we had any books or brochures or anything, helped complete strangers move into their new home and committed them to come to church this Sunday, and talked to everyone that we possibly could. It was great.

Friday night at the Metzigs found me right back where I started in Hannover: sitting at the dinner table with homemade abendbrot, laughing with their twins, and feeling like I could stay there forever. At this point, I hadn't seen the Sunday Afternoon session of General Conference and Annie had us watch Elder Holland's talk together. At the end of his talk, Annie looked at me and told me that she knew that my 'tomorrow' was going to be hard to face but, as Elder Holland said, "Don't be afraid of tomorrow, but remember the uplifting experiences you had on the mountain.'' In my teary state I could hardly do more than nod and say "I know."

Week after week I have written home about all that I have seen, learned, felt, and witnessed in my time here. I have given all that I have and all that I am. I am changed. In an email shortly after receiving my mission call, my dad wrote me, "the time will come when it will be hard for you to
express your gratitude for your mission without shedding a few tears of gratitude." I'm there. The thankfulness that fills every fiber of my being is overwhelming. "I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." (Alma 26:16)

I leave you with the simple truths that I know for myself:

1. God lives. He knows us by name, loves us, and is intimately involved in our lives.

2. Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world - the very Son of God. He loves us more than we can ever imagine and it is through His infinite Atonement that we can make progress, that we can be healed, that we can fix that which has been broken, and that we need never stand alone.

3. Joseph Smith was called as a prophet of the Lord to restore Christ's church to the earth. His humble seeking and asking stands as an example to each of us. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It, along with the Bible, nurtures my soul and is a means of receiving answers to my prayers.

4. Families can be together for eternity. I once again raise my voice with that of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have
put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. ...O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"

5. Every single person is given the opportunity and the means to find out for themselves that the above statements are true. God won't leave anyone in the dark when we search for light.

I know it. And I know that I know it.

"Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full." 2 John 1:12

See you soon.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, April 4, 2016

Neues Rathous


Markt Kirche

Markt Kirche - Grace and her companion

Markt Kirche - The District

We found root beer!

I Do Not Fear The End.

First things first: let it be noted that President a Dieter F. Uchtdorf - the second counselor in the First Presidency - has identified German as the celestial language! Was habe ich denn für Glück! I have yet to see the Sunday afternoon session, but General Conference has been wonderful thus far. I am in awe of how poignantly the Lord gives us answers to our prepared questions through the words of those who speak. 

You know, I wanted to avoid writing about the fact that my mission is coming to a rapid close and just focus on the happy fact that here I am, serving in Germany.  But when I think about this past week and what I've learned, I realize that that it all has to do with the end. At the end of this week, I could say something that I could not say two weeks ago: I do not fear the end. 

It had already been an emotional day; I watched my trainee trust herself enough to give an answer in German at the trainer-trainee conference, I couldn't help but tear up as Elder Morton sang "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" - "O wie lieblich war der Morgen" in the language that I have come to love with all of my heart, one of the assistants asked me to share the story of the Spasovs and how the gospel healed their family, Sister Fingerle got emotional as she recalled her first experience in the mission field on that hot July evening with Sister Rückauer and me during her testimony at the close of the meeting, and I could hardly get through reciting Doctrine and Covenants section 4 as we stood all together - missionaries old and new. "Nun siehe, ein wunderbares Werk ist im Begriff..."  Everything seemed to scream in my face 'you won't have this for much longer.' 

My sweet former companion, Sister Rückauer, came up to me during one of the breaks during the trainer-trainee conference and asked me how I felt about everything. "How are you really doing?" I told her how I didn't know how I was going to leave all of this behind me. She hugged me, and for the next ten minutes, she helped me talk through everything and slowly start to see how just because something good is ending, doesn't mean that other good things aren't waiting to begin on the other side. 

A few days later, we sat down in a classroom at the church to begin our second appointment with Herr Pagel. We talked again about the purpose of our meetings and what kind of light, answers, and changes would come into his life if he listened and earnestly sought to know the truth of what we shared with him. A lifelong atheist, Herr Pagel was worried about his capacity to believe in what we shared, even if he wanted to. "You know, I am absolutely terrified of death. The idea that one day I will not exist anymore, will not be conscious of my surroundings and mind, that I will leave my family here alone scares me more than I can say. But I simply cannot believe in it being any other way."  We bore witness that, as Alma said "...all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and it's motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." We promised him that the Supreme Creator was not an absent and indifferent God, but rather our Father in Heaven who knew him, who loved him, and who wanted more than anything for him to know that He had a plan for him and wanted a relationship with him. "It takes trust and walking into the dark," said Sister Darton. "When we know who He is, we do not need to be afraid. So start there." 

In that moment, I realized how blessed I am to know and believe in a Father in Heaven who really is everything we had just testified of. I realized that in my fear about the end of my mission, I - like Herr Pagel - was failing to put my trust in something I could not see. I have spent the last year and a half telling everyone I can that God lives, that He knows and loves them, and that He has a plan for them. I said it because I believe it. I really truly do. So why should I fear? This Father has given me, and indeed each of us, the perfect light to guide us through whatever darkness and uncertainty may lie ahead: the Savior. As the Savior said to the prophet Joseph and Oliver Cowdery in the a revelation now found in the 6th section of the Doctrine and Covenants,

"21 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God... I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."

My fear stemmed from a failure to apply the faith that I have. I know who my light is. I know that light will always conquer darkness. I know who I need to look to in order to handle this transition. I do not need to fear the end because He who has been by side these past 18 months is not going away - He will stay by me. 

I do not fear the end. I'm excited to see you, my dear ones. I'll write you next week for the last time. 

All my confidence and love, 
Sister G Hendricks

Monday, March 28, 2016

He lives. I know it.

This week I join my voice with Paul; "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift." 

This Easter week has reminded me once again of the gifts that the life, Atonement, sacrifice, and resurrection of Jesus Christ brings to each of us. 

The gift of having someone who knows exactly how we feel. Sister Ann-Katrin Rückauer and I walked the streets of Berlin again, our long legs making our steps falling into our same old tempo. Julius-Leber Brücke, Südkreuz, Lichterfelde Ost; it all felt like home. Never in a million years did we ever think we would be able to be on exchange with each other - much less in our old stomping grounds, but here we were again, almost a year after our first day together. We visited one of our favorite members in Dahlem, ate at our favorite cafe, taught our Bulgarians about the Temple, and walked back home that night with her arm looped through mine. That walk home through the streets of my favorite city on earth reminded me that the Lord is always going to answer my prayers. He knew that I needed to be with someone who knows me well and loves me. The Lord sometimes shows us His character through the the people around us and through Sister Rückauer that night, I felt the Savior's compassion, understanding, and unconditional love. "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20)

The gift of our future resurrection as perfect beings. Schwester Hormann's face beamed with pure happiness as I twirled around in her 1960s Dirndl. "You look like a princess!" she exclaimed as she clapped her crippled hands together. I kissed her cheek and thanked her again. "No need to thank me, Sister. That hasn't fit me in years!" She folded the dress up carefully and tucked it into my backpack. "Now, Princess, do you two have a spiritual thought for me?" We watched the 'Hallelujah' video together and asked her what the term 'new life' meant for her. "It means that this life isn't the end - it means that there is something better waiting for me. I have accepted the challenges of this life and I know that I can talk to my Father in Heaven for the strength to get through them. But I do know that something better is waiting for me on the other side. That will be my new life." The cadence of her voice as she struggled to get the words out through her speech impediment was slow, sure, steady, and confident. 

The gift of promised light to break through the darkest days of our lives. Jacky cried through the entire "Because He Lives" video as baby Marissa crawled around the primary room floor. We sat on the carpet and talked about how, through the Savior, light always follows the darkness. "I would have never imagined the darkness that I have had to live in," she said. Then she looked at the painting of the Savior on the wall. "But there is light. I just need to roll away the stone." 

There are countless gifts that are ours for the taking through our risen Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for the light the He is and brings.

He lives. I know it. 

Sister Grace

Monday, March 21, 2016

Room For Miracles

Well, folks, I'm looking back through my planner for this past week trying to wrap my head around everything that happened and I'm realizing that almost everything turned out differently than planned. Fallen out trains, emergency exchanges, demonstrations in the inner city, klingeling random buildings, and more taught me one very important lesson this week: flexibility allows room for miracles.
After an absurd number of hours stuck on delayed trains trying to do our exchange with the Osnabrück/Bielefeld sisters, Sister Wayment and I had already missed two appointments and my patience was wearing very thin. We were already late for our last planned appointment of the day and I was thinking about just canceling. Luckily, that quiet voice of reason told me to stop overreacting and to just get to the appointment as soon as we could.
Thank goodness we did.
Thirty minutes later found us sitting on the couch in Jacky and Edi's apartment, talking about cars, Star Wars, God and religion, as baby Marissa held onto my knees and laughed at my lame winking skills. Getting to know this half-German half-American family had me laughing harder than I have in a long time and feeling the Spirit in a way that has sweetly coursed through the story of my mission and has become one of my greatest treasures. Jacky had randomly walking into the church a few months ago to ask for help moving, and since the move they had lost contact with the missionaries. ''I'm so glad you found us again,'' said Jacky. We showed them the new Easter ''Hallelujah'' church video and during the video, I felt like the message that we had prepared for them wasn't what we needed to say.
A question fell out of my mouth: ''Do you know what we do as missionaries? Do you know why we came on mission?'' Well that was a weird thing to say...I thought. ''To teach the word of God?'' said Edi in his thick, southern accent. ''You know,'' he continued,''I believe in God. I may be a little rough on the outside, but I do believe in higher power. I don't know a lot about Him and I wouldn't say that I always have the best relationship with Him, but I tell you right now - I say my prayers every night before I go to bed.'' We smiled and explained that that's why we are missionaries - because we've experienced how happy living the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes us, how it has strengthened our families, and how it helps us understand and deepen our relationship with God. We explained that we teach people lessons to learn how to do just that. ''Yeah yeah! Come teach us! You guys got brochures or something? We wanna learn!''
Sitting next to them in Sacrament Meeting two days after was wonderful. They soaked in every word, sang every song, and even asked ''Is it okay if we come back next week?''
Another happy change of plans had us klingeling in an unfamiliar part of town. We had been at it for a while with no success, but decided to try one more. Immediately after ringing, we were buzzed in and greeted by short teenager with a huge smile and big, kind, brown eyes named Christian. After a few seconds, it was clear that he spoke neither German nor English - just Spanish! And so in my awful Spanish, I was able to explain that we talk to people about God and about families. His face lit up and we made an appointment for Saturday.
That appointment - Skyping in the Spanish speaking Berlin Zone Leaders - was perfect. Straight out of Preach My Gospel. Christian agreed with everything and said that he felt like Joseph - he is on the search for the truth. And I understood almost all of the Spanish! We left him with a Spanish Book of Mormon, the Restoration pamphlet, and a promise to come back next week. He sent us off with a promise to read, two Dominican Republic candies, and an invitation to eat food from his  homeland with his whole family.
Have a wonderful Easter Week, my dear ones. I love my Savior. I know He lives. I know that He is ready and willing to pour out miracles when we make room for them.
Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Hendricks