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Monday, December 21, 2015

Learning About Christmas

Dear loved ones,

God gave me two particular moments on Sunday to help me learn about Christmas.

I wish I could somehow capture the way that Farshid's eyes brimmed with tears, gratitude, and awe as Bishop Skibbe handed him a Christmas bag filled with food, clothes, and chocolate. Farshid - our Iranian friend who gave up absolutely everything to learn about the church and who secretly reads his paper-covered copy of the Book of Mormon every single night in a hidden corner of the Refugee camp where he lives - could hardly get out more than a choked "Thank you very much." He ran his fingers across the pattern of the new tie and sweater over and over again. Just as sweet was the look on little Ephraim Skibbe's face as he watched Farshid's gratitude. After, I kneeled down on the carpet next to Ephraim and whispered in his ear: "Ephraim, how did it feel to give Farshid that gift?" He grinned and whispered back "Really good. He was so happy and he didn't even get any toys!" "You know what else I think would be a good idea?" "What?" I gave this sweet little 7 year old a hug and a high 5 and pointed at Farshid. He went right over and hugged Farshid's knees and gave him a double high 5. Farshid was beaming.

Schwester Päblow's eyes were hidden behind the hundreds of happy wrinkles as our motley group of carolers sang a few requested Christmas hymns in her warm, paper snowflake decorated hospital room. Her roommate hummed along as she looked at hand colored cards from her grandchildren and the spirit of Christmas danced along the tones of our 4 part harmonies. Präsident Schmidt (the Hamburg stake President) shared his favorite memory of her deceased husband, kissed her cheek before we left, and as soon as the door closed behind us, told me
"that was a holy moment. She has angels standing all around that hospital bed." A middle-aged woman with a worn-out bible in her hands came out into the hallway and asked if we could sing for her mother. We sang again and my heart felt ready to burst as this sweet, invalid daughter of God beamed and nodded her head along theentire time.

We celebrate Christmas because the example of the Savior drives us to be more loving and kind, more charitable and understanding, more hopeful and positive, more open and generous. That's the reason He was born: to show each of us how our Father in Heaven would have us live and to make up the difference when we fall short. Because He came, all pain, sorrow, injustice, disappointment, shortcoming, loss can be swallowed up by Him who knows us better than anyone.

"For unto us a a child is bborn, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

He was given for you.

Have a beautiful Christmas, my dear ones.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas market + friends + final phone calls from Sister Walker and
Sister Stacey before they got on the plane back home

Ask God if He is there

Dear loved ones,

It has been a great week. On Tuesday, I walked the crowded, Christmas-star illuminated rows of Dresden's Weihnachtsmarkt with Sister Cady on one side of me and Elder Gallacher on the other - each of us so excited to get our brand new missionaries. The bells of the Frauenkirche echoed off cobblestone streets littered with cigarette butts and candied almonds, ushering in this new chapter of my mission. 
Wednesday was a familiar blur: RE train rides through beautiful Sachsen fields and forests, Sister Hubrichs' little green car waiting for us in the Freiberg Bahnhof parking lot, sacred moments with Bischoff and Schwester Schönherr in their immaculate yellow kitchen, and running to the dairy outlet to pick up 24 yogurts for the trainer/trainee dinner.

When the APs paired me with Sister Rachel Porter in the Freiberg chapel at the conclusion of the trainer-trainee conference, it felt right. This Portland native is spunky!  Our alto voices slipped into perfect harmony with the rest of the group as we sang "Joy to the World." Instead of getting us home to our cozy Hamburg apartment, President surprised us with a request to come straight to Berlin for me to finish the temple visitors center films in 27 different languages. Sister Porter toughed out 2 days in the mission office with a smile on her face the entire time - which is more than I can say about myself. My companion is a champ and I have a lot to learn from her :)

Our Christmas party was a success - people who hadn't had contact with the missionaries in months or years showed up, and members brought their friends and family. I spent much of the evening washing and drying tea cups. 

My invitation for you this week is this: get on your knees and ask God if He is there. Ask Him if He knows you. And then look for the answer and be ready to notice it. I promise you that He is and that He does. 

I love each of you! 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, December 7, 2015

Training Again!

Well folks, I'm stoked out of my MIND.

Transfers have once again rolled around. After Mission Leadership Council on Friday, President called me into the small office at the back of the Berlin Tiergarten chapel, just like he did three transfers ago as he transferred Sister Rückauer and me to Freiberg. I sat down at the same wooden table, in the same green upholstered chair, and directly across the same beaming President Fingerle. He held up 5 fingers and then thanked me for my 5 transfers of service as an STL. "Sister Hendricks," he said, "do you know what I do with the most diligent, obedient, and dedicated missionaries?" I really wasn't sure what to say, so he laughed at my awkwardness and
continued: "I make them trainers again. Sister Hendricks, you have learned how to love so many sisters and how to adapt to so many situations.The Lord wants you to now focus that love on one new sister missionary. Are you ready to train again?"

The thoughts that went through my head were more or less as follows:
1. Hallelujah no more leadership training meetings
2. Hallelujah I am staying in Hamburg
3. Dang it Sister Wasden is leaving. Only one glorious transfer together
4. Oh my goodness NEW MISSIONARY

As it turns out, the elders program will be closed, so my trainee and I will be in charge of 2 programs. Which exciting because they have been working with some really amazing people, but slightly intimidating considering the fact that we already have our plate
pretty full of people to teach and I'm still new in Hamburg. Also it's brutal that Sister Wasden and I only got 6 light-speed weeks together - most of it spent laughing so hard that it brought us to
tears. I've learned a lot from this dark-haired spunky Louisiana lady. She taught me how to find that sweet spot of being chill and not getting overwhelmed and still working incredibly hard, how to laugh at my quirks, and how to bravely and fearlessly tackle any situation that is thrown our way. I'm going to miss her a lot.

But hey, "come what may and love it," right? I'm gonna love it.

I've been thinking a lot about how I've changed through the course of my mission. In Freiberg I went through that mid-mission crisis where I couldn't see how I had changed. Now, with only 3 transfers ahead of me and the task of showing a new sister missionary how wonderful a mission is, I can see a little bit more clearly the difference between where I was and where I am now. President Ezra Taft Benson once said:
“Yes, Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world. Men changed for Christ will be captained by Christ. Like Paul they will be asking, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ (Acts 9:6). Peter stated, they will ‘follow his steps’ (1 Peter 2:21). John said they will ‘walk, even as he walked’ (1 John 2:6). Finally, men captained by Christ will be consumed in Christ. To paraphrase President Harold B. Lee, they set fire in others because they are on fire."

I'm not suggesting that I'm all the way there yet, but I do know that Christ is my captain and through Him, I am able to change and I am able to learn how to align my will with His. I am learning, if slowly, to be consumed in Christ and to help this fire that I feel be ignited in the hearts of others. I am so excited to help the flame of a love of sharing the gospel to grow in my new companion.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, November 30, 2015

How we celebrated thanksgiving with the Kiel sisters

Love Grace

Hi all, 

On Tuesday night I knelt in prayer at the close of the day and as I prayed for our investigators and ward members, the thought entered into my head that now was the time for us to find someone who was really really prepared. I asked my Father in Heaven to help us be in the right place at the right time to meet someone that He had prepared. I also asked Him to help me feel His love the next day. I asked Him to help me feel like He was hugging me. 

The next day, Sister Davis and I were on exchange and decided to get a quick lunch at the tiny baked potato place I had found a few days ago. We sat down next to a bespectacled, beautiful Jordanian woman with unruly hair and began to chat as she finished her couscous-piled potato. 30 minutes later, we hugged our newfound friend Fida goodbye and quickly scribbled down our appointment to help her with her English that coming Saturday. There was something different about Fida; something that was just so genuine. Saturday at 15:00 by the potato kiosk couldn't come quickly enough.

On the way to visit an earlier investigator, I was totally buried in my typical thoughts of plans for appointments the coming week, exchanges, and worrying about our investigators. I was snapped out of it by the yell of a Turkish fruit stand guy yelling about the price of tomatoes. In that moment, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sticker on the light post a couple feet away. "No way. Absolutely no way." I walked closer and surely enough, it said what I thought it did. The bright yellow (slightly disintegrated) sticker said: "KEEP CALM GRACE I LOVE YOU". I gingerly peeled it off and could hardly believe my eyes. I quickly fastened it to my emergency sticky notes on the back of my planner. I was kind of in awe considering my prayer the night before, but I caught myself thinking "well, it's probably just coincidence." 

We made a left hand turn onto a teeny tiny little alleyway in the fancy part of Altona and lo and behold, there on a distant light pole was another sticker: "KEEP CALM AND LOVE GRACE." 
God can answer our prayers through other people, through dreams, through the scriptures, through a song, and apparently through street stickers. I now have in my possession two street stickers: one assuring me of God's love for me, and another one inviting me to love myself. Grace is not a name you will find in Germany, but even if these stickers were meant for someone else, Heavenly Father put me in the right position to find them and to know that He wanted me to see them. He loves me. 

I felt that love of God again as we sat in a hipster little cafe with Fida on Saturday afternoon. Over a totally overpriced and extremely delicious hot chocolate, we got to know her a lot better. Fida is a gynecologist from Amman, Jordan, loves art and religion, is getting ready to take an English proficiency test that would help her start up her own practice in London, and loves big big mugs of herbal tea with extra sugar. She's smiley and authentic and just plain awesome. Sister Wasden and I told her how we felt God's help in learning German and that we knew that He would help her refine her English skills. She got kind of quiet and said "I could listen to you two talk for hours. I think I need to tell you something." She then told us how the day before I met her at that potato place, she had a lot of stress and felt like she didn't know where to find peace. For the first time in a long time, she prayed to God that he would send her someone to help her and bring her what she needed. She started to tear up when she expressed how grateful she was that the next day, everything fell into place so that we could meet each other and how she knows that we met for a reason. Sister Wasden and I were beaming. I told her that the same day she asked God to send her someone, I had prayed and asked God to help us find someone that needed us. She squeezed our hands and ran her fingers over the gold title of the Arabic and English copies of the Book of Mormon we gave her. "He really does listen, doesn't He?" I thought of the stickers in the back of my planner. "He sure does, Fida." 

Other highlights of the week included finding two beautiful families to teach, a spaghetti thanksgiving dinner at Bishop's house for all of us Americans, the calling of an AMAZING new ward mission leader, awesome Filipino food at the Hansens for Deutsch class, seeing my favorite member of my first ward in Germany, and being the first missionaries to get in the door of an inactive family and getting a return appointment. 
The love of God is real, personal, powerful, and perfect. It is unconditional. It is individual. I am so incredibly thankful that I have felt it in my own life and can see it in the lives of everyone in this sacred slice of Germany.

Alma 26
36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land.
37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.

He loves you too. 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, November 23, 2015

Freezing But Happy!

Dear loved ones,

So sorry that I won't have time to email those of you who have written me this week - we have ZERO time. Which is happy for a missionary :)

Here's a little postcard from this week: Christmas lights and telephone wires strung with hundreds of shoes swung in the NordSea wind as Sister Demke and I walked the magical streets of Flensburg's Innenstadt on exchange - passing cathedral after cathedral, quirky coffee shops, old stores from the 1400s, and a harbor full of dinky little tug boats strung up with more Christmas lights. A group of about 10 older men and women were standing in a half circle playing trumpets, trombones, and horns for the whole city to hear as workers started to set up the Christmas market. I could see the light from the lighthouse, safely guiding the ships into the harbor. I could almost hear my dad singing...

1. Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

In a way, Sister Demke was my lower light on this exchange. The hour and a half train ride from Kiel to Flensburg melted away as we talked about everything and anything, both pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to be so open. On that train ride and throughout the whole exchange, she taught me about the capacity of the human heart to handle tragedy and then, through the Savior, to bounce back stronger, more sure, and full of love. She taught me how important it is to value this time on my mission as a sacred time of growth. She taught me that we do not need to be defined by our experiences or circumstances, but rather by our reactions. I'm grateful for this new friend.

Jeralie, a 16 year-old Hamburg native, was my companion for a youth missionary weekend - a chance for 16-18 year olds in the Hamburg stake to go on splits with the missionaries and see what it's like. She was a trooper as we spent the whole day going door to door, street contacting, and visiting less-active members in the lovely German winter rain. We were cold, but we were happy. That evening, as we said goodbye, she told me that now she knew that she wanted to go on a mission. I told her that it would be the best decision she could make.

On Sunday we missed our normal bus to church and had to find an alternate route. We found ourselves walking down the 'beach' of the Elbe river, freezing cold. Everything we passed seemed to be glowing as the lilac morning light slowly began to thaw the frost that had coated every surface. I thought of a talk given by Elder Neal A Maxwell that I had read just the day before. He said "Brothers and Sisters, this mortal experience through which we are passing is one in which beauties abound; subtleties and delicacies are all about us waiting to be noticed. Wonders are everywhere to be seen. It is, however, the observing meek who will ponder the galaxies and see God moving in His majesty and power. It is also the meek who will notice, and then lift up, those whose hands hang down."  I want to be better about that. It's a beautiful way to go through life.

I loved watching Aiden, a 5 year old from Australia, who was in shock as - for the first time in his life - he saw flakes of white magic blanket beautiful Altona during church ... pure glee as he caught snowflakes on his tongue and blinked through the ones getting caught in his eyelashes. He then helped a little 3 year old make a snowball and dusted off another child who had fallen down. Heart melt, right?

It's funny. Regardless of how many drunk men hit on us, how many crazy people we ended up talking to on the bahn, how many people were never at home, how many buses fell out, and how cold it got, this week I really had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the opportunity I have to be on a mission. This is an experience unlike any other.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Apostles of the Lord

Well, gang, Friday morning companionship study was interrupted by a surprise mission-wide conference call. After a very long roll-call, several technical difficulties, and a decent amount of suspense, we were informed that all missionaries would report to the Berlin stake center on Sunday evening no later than 5pm so that we could have a mission conference with Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Surprise!!!

One and a half hours with Elder Ballard, Elder Christiansen of the Presidency of the 70, and President Kearon (the Area President for Europe) was precious, fast, humorous, and Spirit filled. Elder Ballard took the time to shake each one of our hands, look into our eyes, and ask us how we were doing. In his apostolic authority and grandfatherly manner, Elder Ballard shared some pearls of pure wisdom with us:

- "You have to be great teachers." We have to be great teachers in order to cut through the spiritually numbing noise and distraction surrounding those that we are trying to teach. And becoming a great teacher goes back to two basic, vital things: 1. Understanding the doctrine and 2. Being worthy and ready to teach with the Spirit.

- We know things that the rest of the world does not know. And they aren't going to know it unless we get good at telling them. That means that we need to talk to more people and be ready to tell them what's
important when we do.

- "Missionary work is talking to people wherever you find them."

- "When we are anxiously engaged, we will see miracles. Then, Heaven will get a little closer."

- (And my personal favorite) "Get out there and get crackin'!"

And with a "adios, amigos" and a wave, he was gone.

President Kearon told us to go home that night and to write in our journals not "tonight I shook the hand of a living apostle" but to write "Tonight I shook hands with a living apostle, and from this day forward, I will __________."

Gotta love those spiritual face smacks. Last night was a long journal entry.

I am grateful for the Apostles of the Lord and for the Prophet. They serve so selflessly, so lovingly, and so fully. I hope to learn from their example.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Service Project ft. The District

with Ana

When Elder Müller rocks my rings during Leadership Training Council

Grace and Sister Wasden

Working on the Visitors Center Tour Video; Chicken Encounters

Hi Everyone! 

We had too many appointments yesterday so our PDay was delayed.  We were in my our area only one day this week, but we got a lot done and it was a week filled with a lot of beautiful moments. 
One of those moments was on our way back to the Kiel sisters' apartment on exchange as Sister Davis suddenly spun around and said in all seriousness "Guys. I'm just warning you now. But we are being haunted by a giant stuffed chicken." Sister Wasden and I immediately burst into laughter and Sister Cady went on to explain how there had been a stuffed chicken sitting on a car a couple days ago and how it kept showing up in random places and now they were totally freaked. Again, laughter ensued and in the middle of the whole ridiculous thing, I realized that there I was, walking the streets of a coastal college town in northern Germany with three awesome friends, serving as a full time sister missionary and having the time of my life.

Sister Means and I completely emptied, sanitized, cleaned, and reorganized everything in Ana's tiny, rundown kitchen as she packed her bags and prepared to leave the abusive relationship that had trapped her for years. In classic Gypsy fashion, Ana wanted the house to be perfect and dinner ready to go when she left. She butchered chicken thighs and opened a massive can of soup with only a small pairing knife with incredible speed as we sang Primary songs per her request. She asked us "God will always love me, right? He will forgive me, right?" I took out my study journal and translated a quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland : "...however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you don't have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have travelled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ's Atonement shines." She smiled, gave me a hug, and continued to happily hack away at the chicken thighs. 

In a whirlwind of two high speed ICE train rides, not enough meals, negotiating the Berlin Bahn and bus system, computer crashes, a number of technical difficulties, and 18 hours spent in front of the mission office computer, I spent the entirety of Friday and Saturday working to fulfill President's request for the updated Temple tour video for the Freiberg visitors center. Finding the correct places to separate the words in Serbian - not easy (darn Cyrillic alphabet. Thomas and Nathan, I don't know how you do it). I had two absolutely killer fun sleepovers with two of my mission bests, Sister Walker and Sister Seare, involving laughter, rockin' dance moves, weird hairdos, burned stovetop-made popcorn, and a feeling of total peace, security, sisterhood and love. Talking late into the night about anything and everything, I was grateful that God has put so many quality, wonderful people around me. 

Yesterday we sipped rose hip tea from our gorgeous mix-matched tea cups at our investigator Ulrike's brick home as a fire crackled and Fleet Foxes was playing from the open bathroom door upstairs. We met Ulrike on the bus a few days earlier and this woman is so ready to accept the gospel. Her husband left her 3 months ago and, in her words, she is on a journey to find herself again and to find something to believe in. Her blue eyes were fixed intently on the makeshift doodle that Sister Wasden drew to explain the Plan of Salvation and she accepted the Book of Mormon that we gave her and kept asking us if we were sure that she could have one. I'm excited to see where things go with her :) 

I am so grateful to serve here in Hamburg, to have my hilarious and hardworking companion, to share what makes me happy every single day, and just to be alive. 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, November 2, 2015

 We found a box of Christmas lights in a drawer. Christmas came early

waiting for our investigator in the park

Loving Hamburg

Well, guys, I am in love with H   A   M   B   U   R   G!

I loved the retro textured glass that made the whole Wilhelmsburg chapel glow in diffused, golden autumn light during district meeting on Tuesday as the 1960s organ accompanied "I Need Thee Every Hour" - magical. It was like Hamburg was giving me a hug saying: 'Hi Grace. I know you've got a lil funky in this soul of yours. Welcome to the city where we want you to be just the way you are - your love of decades past, your need to take a minute to appreciate beautiful cars parked in the posh parts of town, your flowered Doc Martins, and all....'

I loved the slightly weird way that Schwester Moon motioned her hands as she was talking about Silver Gelatin - a chemical you can use with photography. Sister Wasden and I munched on the bizarre spinach twists offered to us in a woven reed basket with a "100% organic" sticker on it, and soaked in all of her advice.

I loved the familiar foam on my first Root Beer Float in over a year as we laughed at Schwester Pohl's Christmas light-illuminated dinner table. Homemade vegetable soup had preceded that magical first soft spoonful of root beer-y vanilla goodness and a fashion show from her extensive dress collection followed right after. We walked back to the S-Bahn station with full stomachs, cheeks aching from laughing, and a new dress for each of us. 

I loved the African peanut butter and pancakes that we ate with Janinna, a sweet and soft spoken recent convert. We each rocked a bun on top of our heads and talked about preparing to go to the Temple as her neighbor blasted Jimi Hendrix. 

I love the way Sister Wasden bounces down the stairs at every S-Bahn station. She's from Louisiana and she's hilarious and loves to speak German. She also loves photography, quoting Nacho Libre, and antique stores. Yes!  
God knew exactly what I needed. He always does, right? He is the Great Physician - always there to heal our broken hearts, to give us a loving pat on the back when we get discouraged, and to make us whole and full again. 

Your Hamburg Hunny, 
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, October 26, 2015

Off To Hamburg!

Dear loved ones, 

First things first: I AM BEING TRANSFERRED TO HAMBURG! I will be serving in the Hamburg Altona ward with Sister Wasden, one of the the coolest sisters I've met. I'll leave on Tuesday and my new address will be:

Sister Grace Hendricks
Kirche Jesu Christi HLT
Jevenstedterstraße 155
22547 Hamburg

I'm freakin' out. It's crazy to think that Sister Rückauer and I won't be companions anymore... 6 months is a really long time to be with someone 24/7 - we know each other ridiculously well. But Heavenly Father sent us some really special moments this week to make these last few days together wonderful. 

The voices echoing through the halls of our little visitors center were sweet as real Sachsen honey as we visited with the Hannover sisters and their friends from Papau New Guinea, Tahiti, and Togo on Saturday afternoon. Darling Sister Stacey and Sister Brim had made the 3 hour trek in a sketchy red car with a Rolling Stones sticker pealing off the side with three beautiful, God loving women: Gaure (an investigator), Angela (a less active sister), and Nicole (a happy, humble member). We talked about God's plan for us, His desire for our happiness, making changes in ourselves through the Atonement, how it takes our action to come closer to the Savior, the eternal nature of families, why there is a different spirit at the temple, and a handful of my other favorite things to talk about. The tour didn't go at all as we planned, but the conversation just kept on rolling in a way that was unmistakably guided by the Spirit. These women just seemed to sparkle with new understanding and motivation as they walked the temple grounds. The sun was illuminating the temple in the most perfect autumn light, Sister Stacey's arm was looped through mine, and the flame colored leaves blew around our ankles in the perfect October breeze. Magic. 

This has been my favorite part of serving here at the temple. Witnessing a moment in a prepared investigator's or less active's life where where things just click - one lesson where everything changes and they finally recognize the Spirit that has been working with them all along. At the temple, we've had the opportunity to be a part of that turning point time and time again. Big, big blessings my friends. 
I'm out of time - we really aren't having a P-Day because of the finishing missionaries, broken wifi, members insisting on cooking me one last "real German meal" before I head back to the West, and packing.

Hamburg, here I come. 

Liebe Grüße, 

Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, October 19, 2015

On The Mend

Hi folks, 

I'm on the mend - my broken pinky finger will take a bit longer, but I don't have to wear anything on my wrist anymore, and with the help of my trusty American makeup and a lot of time with an ice pack, my black eye is almost unnoticeable! The words of the priesthood blessing I received are being fulfilled: "You will be healed faster than any of the doctors will be able to explain. The Lord has work for you to do and He will help you do it." And work we did. 

Much of the week was spent in the car going to and from Berlin for exchanges with the Dahlem and Neukölln sisters. It was good to have time to think and enjoy time with Sister Rückauer. Here are a few peeks into the week: 
  • Sweet Sister Warner had homemade Mexican food waiting for us when we finally reached the Neukölln apartment after 3 hours of driving in the dark and rain on Monday night. She also had saved me peanut M&Ms that her mom sent in a package, got my favorite yogurt for breakfast, and had a full evening of appointments planned for us to go to. Fabulous! Tobias, the super cool new investigator that we found on our way to an appointment, was the cherry on top of a perfect evening spent in the sketchiest area in Berlin. 
  • Sister Israelsen and I also had a wonderful exchange here in Freiberg. No one wanted to talk to us on the street, but we had a great time anyway and we learned a lot from each other. It was so cool to see how what I had been studying in my personal study for the past week was exactly what Sister Israelsen needed. We walked out of companionship study feeling on top of the world. 
  • Thursday evening was spent in the Mission Office starting to redo the temple tour video. It felt SO GOOD to be back in my zone: being creative, working with all sorts of movie editing programs, researching, all of it. I think I was so happy that I scared the new office elder with my enthusiasm :) 
  • Back in Freiberg, we had an eating appointment with Bruder Adolf, an elderly brother from southern Germany. He had each of us pick out a microwaveable dinner from his bottom freezer drawer and he told us his whole life story, conversion story, love story, childhood stories ... all the while his fake front tooth popped in and out, accentuating the most important parts. He left us with one piece of advice: "There's a reason that the prophets have counseled us to keep journals. Do it. Keep a journal. The most important things to write down are how you feel. I never thought that I would use my journals again, but now they are my most prized possessions. Keep a journal." 
  • Sunday was filled with a lot of little miracles. We met with 2 inactive sisters that we've been trying to meet with since we first got to Freiberg and they want to meet with us again this week! We also had a wonderful lesson with another sister in our ward who hasn't been to church in years because she is totally overwhelmed with her four young sons. Amid the chaos (including mashed potato Armageddon, truck wheels tangled in my hair courtesy of 2 year-old Marcus, and Lucian's narration of a monster truck showdown at staggering volume) the Spirit of the Lord was there. This young mother wants to start meeting regularly and her 9 year old son, Sean Lucas, wants to be baptized. Things are picking up here in our charming little city. 
Thank you all for your prayers. I'm feeling very grateful today. 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks

Grandpa, I was wearing my helmet!

There I was, sitting in now the sixth doctors office hoping against hope that they wouldn't turn the blonde American away too. Abba's "Fernando" was playing softly in the waiting room, and I was feeling incredibly sorry for myself.

Rewind about 28 hours.

We were riding our bikes down Hainichener Straße after an awesome temple tour with the Temple Engineer's nonmember girlfriend on Tuesday morning. Going down the hill, I hit the curb, flew off the front of my bicycle, and landed on my hands and face. Sweet Sister Hubrich picked us up within a few minutes and rushed us to the emergency room. 5 hours later, I walked out of the hospital with a cast on each arm and a good sized lump on my forehead that was slowly turning lovely shades of black and purple.

On orders from my Russian emergency room doctor, the next day we went to try to find a doctor who would take another look at the XRays and decide if my right wrist was broken and if my finger was broken enough that it needed to be operated on. Cranky secretaries, ditzy secretaries, apologetic secretaries, condescending secretaries, nice secretaries; doctors office after doctors office said no. We finally walked into the sixth doctors office and the secretary took a look at the lump on my head (which had increased sizably since the beginning of our search earlier that morning), and she said she would talk to the doctors to see if they could squeeze me in. That led to another hour and a half wait and when they finally allowed me to see a doctor, I don't think the doctor even looked at me. She just saw the color of my finger and told me to come back on Friday. Another day gone. Wasting time is a very choice form of torture for a missionary.

After being so sick last week, I couldn't understand why Heavenly Father would allow this to happen - launching us into hours and hours of waiting rooms and cold hospital halls with no one to talk to and no phone service to try to get some missionary work done that way. I couldn't see the point of it. But then I started to.... 

Ward members brought by chocolate and get well cards, the phone was ringing off the hook with concerned members of the Relief Society and primary asking what they could do to help, investigators offered to go grocery shopping for us, and my sweet companion helped me with everything: washing my hair, getting me dressed, binding the cuts on my  knee - everything. The amount of love I have felt in the past week is indescribable.

This week I felt God's comfort wrap around my shoulders like a warm blanket - one carefully woven with the friendship of people that He purposefully placed in my life by divine design.  

I'm also pretty sure that Heavenly Father was trying to teach me to have patience with myself. Sister Rückauer and I could laugh about that one as I even struggled to turn the pages of my scriptures during companionship study, and when I dropped the phone during our phone call with the Assistants. 

To answer the question that I know Grandpa is asking: YES I was wearing my helmet. The latest news from the doctors is that my finger won't need surgery, my wrist is only minorly fractured, and that I better just get used to having an ice pack on my face whenever we are home.

All is well that ends well. And with God, the power of the priesthood, and Schwester Schönherr's 'there-there's on my side, its all going to end well. 

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015

Grace and Sister Walker

Grace with Elder Gallacher

God Is So Good

Hi gang, 

What. A. Week. 

Sister Rückauer and I spent Monday through Tuesday night with some kind of stomach bug. I can't remember the last time I was so sick. But it was good that we had each other - we had a good "you hold my hair, I'll hold yours" system worked out. Sister Fingerle put us on house arrest until Thursday morning and it was absolutely maddening to be stuck at home - too weak to get from one side of the apartment to the other, too dizzy to read our scriptures, too tired to sleep well. Didn't the Lord know we had work to do? People to find? Lessons to teach? Exchanges to go on? After weeks of spiritual growing pains and finally the blessings of personal revelation, didn't He see my renewed devotion to be the best missionary and disciple I could be? Those were my fevered thoughts as I lay on our squeaky couch in my BYU Jerusalem sweatshirt for what seemed like an eternity. I was feeling physically and spiritually empty. 

But this week I learned that the Lord has a way of making us full again. 

On Thursday morning, Sister Rückauer and I managed to make the trip to Berlin for our Sister Training Leaders Training Evening at the mission home. As we rode the S-Bahn through my old area and passed Kleistpark, Julius-Leber-Brucke, and Lichterfelder Ost, I felt like I was home. After our meetings with President and Sister Fingerle, I caught up with Sister Walker, Sister Stacey, and other sisters whose friendship has been an anchor throughout my whole mission. There are some people whose spirits just shine in a way that is edifying and an answer to prayers. With Sister Walker's arm looped through mine as we crammed 8 sisters on two blow up mattresses in the Fingerle's basement, I felt healed by the love and unity of sisterhood. God is so good. 

I felt spiritually fed as I listened to Elder Gallacher, one of my best buds from before the mission and a current ZL in Hannover, bear his testimony of Christ's Atonement in Mission Leadership Training the next morning. Two years ago, I would have never thought that I would see my stretchy-gold-tights-wearing, melodica-playing, shenanigan-seeking Briggs bear his testimony in German with such power, conviction, and authenticity. At the end of their lesson, Elder Gallacher and his companion invited each of us to listen to a sound reel (is that the right vocab? Who even knows) of apostles and prophets testifying of the Savior and to write down in our study journals what the Atonement means for us personally, how we allow it to play an active role in our lives, and what we want to do to help those we teach feel that power. Simple, general questions, but it opened a door of incredible humility, love, and gratitude for the perfection of the Father's plan and Christ's willingness to do whatever it took to make it so that I, Grace Allison Hendricks, could make the most out of my experience in mortality, have real joy, and be worthy to return to live in the presence of my Father in Heaven with my eternal family. In that moment, I felt the reality of Paul's declaration in his letter to the Romans: 
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is so good. 

More drops of spiritual goodness were added to my now not-so-empty soul as I received very specific answers to my questions in General Conference. A few more came as I played a beautiful hundred year-old classical guitar owned by Schwester Hartzt's mother after her husband fed us a lovely dinner of spicy curry and gave us a tour of his award-winning garden and told us tales of his days as an athlete in "Orienteering Hiking competitions." A few more came as I got an unexpected package from a dear friend right when I needed it and a letter from a friend that I haven't heard from in a long time. I felt more as 2 year-old Finnley in our ward learned the word "missionaries," as Schwester Apel told Sister Rückauer and I that we weren't allowed to get transferred while she was on vacation,  as Schwester Schönherr blew us kisses from the church door as she told her husband "those two are like my daughters," and as a less-active sister randomly dropped Rittersport chocolate off at our apartment. God is so good. 

My heart is full as I'm writing this. I'm grateful. Really grateful. 

I hope you have a lovely week. Look for the good things God is filling you with.

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks