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Monday, March 30, 2015

"Just Be Ourselves"

I can't believe that its already P-Day again!

This week we visited for the first time with Frau Selimovic (from former Yugoslavia) and her husband (from Albania). They have 6 children ages 3-14 and when we walked through the door, we were immediately smothered in love and kindness. Sammy, the three year old girl, ran up to me and gave me a huge hug around the neck and wouldn't let go. Frau Selimovic said that she had missed the Sisters reading her the Book of Mormon (she's illiterate) and that it was so beautiful and she wanted that in her life and in the lives of her children again. At the end of the lesson, they kept saying over and over again how grateful they were that we came over. They pray together as a family each night and talk about God and the Savior. These people are so ready for the gospel.

Later in the week, we were sitting at a bus stop when a lady approached us. I offered her my seat and she smiled and said in English: "No thank you, Sister. But that's very kind of you!" Apparently, she had been to our ward's open house when the new building was dedicated and then did a lot of genealogy work a few years ago with a member in our ward. She told us that when he explained to her that her ancestors would be baptized and married, she felt so happy and close to them. We talked to her on the bus and she committed herself to come to Sacrament meeting the next morning. We exchanged phone numbers and lo and behold, SHE CAME! We are so excited to work with her.

Finally, as we were walking upstairs to our apartment after church, we said hi to a guy in his late 20s who was just walking out of his apartment. He asked us if we were from the "American Church." It turned into an almost 2 hour conversation in the stairwell. We explained to him why we are here, what we do, and a few things that we believe (he was one seriously chatty guy.) We gave him a Book of Mormon and read Moroni 10:3 and he seems really open-minded, respectful, and curious. We exchanged numbers and he wants to meet with us in the coming week.

The thing that became really clear to me with all of these experiences is how important it is to just be NORMAL and ourselves. People will feel if you're being genuine or if you are playing a role. We chose to come on a mission and share the light that we have found. Everyone we come in contact with needs to feel the conviction that we have in our hearts.

I did find comfort this week in a scripture found in 2 Corinthians 4:5-9:

5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed

Paul crushes it every time. We will keep on working and letting this light shine through us. That is what it is to be an instrument of the spirit. 
I love you all so much and am so grateful for your faith, examples, and prayers. 

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, March 23, 2015

Grace is serious about her Projekt.
Conference in Hamburg

 A glimpse of Grace's apartment
Best graffiti in Bremen

Das Freude Projekt

Well, this week we got to go to Hamburg for a conference with all of the Sisters serving in the West! I learned a lot and felt spiritually recharged. It was so nice to see Sister Walker for the first time in over a year! It was 6 hours of instruction, discussion, and learning from the spirit. We talked about getting over fears and understanding (and helping the members and Elders understand that we aren´t just girls with name tags, we are missionaries called, set apart, and given authority from God). We also talked a lot about finding people to teach. Interestingly, the day before, Sister Ballard and I came up with a finding idea that we´re really excited about: Das Freude Projekt. We bought 6 large, thick, matte boards (sturdy cardboard) and two bottles of chalkboard paint and turned these boards into a portable, giant chalkboard. This week we are going to start using it! We will put all the boards together on the ground in certain areas in the city and walk around and ask people to participate in a project. We´ll ask them to write what brings them joy on the chalkboard and then talk to them about what brings us joy (the GOSPEL!). The boards will be covered in things that bring people joy. The point is that approaching people about participating in a project and then engaging them in a meaningful conversation is a lot more natural than walking up to people and asking "haben sie hoffnung?" We´re trying to get the youth in our ward involved and I think it will be a really fun and effective way to talk to people and find people to teach. I might even whip out my guitar one time! SO, it was great to have this conference on boldness and focusing on finding people to teach - it was exactly what we needed.

Things with our investigator Magdi are... dynamic... He is such a great person and he wants to learn, he´s just stubborn and we have to make sure that we are keeping the spirit in the lesson. Our investigator, Enoch, is progressing now! He is reading in the Book of Mormon every day and is starting to realize that this is the path that he NEEDS to take. We will meet with him more this week. 

I am out of time! Have an amazing week, all.

Liebe grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, March 16, 2015

Twists and Turns

Well, this week was full of all sorts of twists and turns. But like all things when we are in the service of our Lord, everything works out. 

We started out the week with a lesson with Irina. The spirit was strong and she actually asked to be put back on baptismal date. We knelt in prayer together and she asked Heavenly Father if this was what He wanted her to do - she had tears in her eyes as she told us that she knew it was right and what she and God wanted her to do. That night, Sister Ballard and I made her a calendar to help her understand exactly what needed to  happen for her to be baptized and how we were going to help her reach that goal (Sister Ballard and I have been talking a lot about Elder Kopiscke's visit and how we can apply what he taught about helping people keep commitments in our work - Revelation doesn't expire!). We went over the plan with Irina the next day and she was so excited. Then, at 10:30 that night, we got a text from her saying that she didn't want to meet anymore and that she wanted to find God on her own. We asked if we could meet and talk about it and she said no. I don't know what else we could have done to help her. I wouldn't change how we taught her - we taught her with loving boldness and with the Spirit, fostering her own spiritual growth. But people have their agency, and as Preach My Gospel explains, some people won't accept the gospel even after they've had a spiritual witness that it is true. This principle proved to be important to keep in mind the next day as well.

We went to visit Ulrike (our other investigator with a baptismal date) because we hadn't heard back from her in a few days.  We rang the bell and she didn't answer. Right as we were about to leave, she walked out and seemed surprised to see us. It was clear that she didn't really want to talk to us and as she walked away, she told us that she would send us a text. About 30 minutes later, we got a text saying that she decided to attend the African church instead, so we didn't need to come by anymore. I racked my brain, trying to figure out if there was anything that we should have done differently ... if there was any way that we weren't being exactly obedient. I came up with nothing. Obviously, we are not perfect teachers and sometimes we make mistakes, but we worked so hard to do everything we could to help these people. 

Friday to Saturday, we had tausch with Sister Stacey and Sister Demolder. It was so wonderful. Sister Stacey came here to Bremen and I am so grateful for the time that we had together. We talked about each of our programs and different ideas for building/rebuilding our teaching pools. We have a very similar mindset about the mission - that it is work, but that it isn't something to suffer through. This message is one of joy and meaning for each individual. And so we, as missionaries, should be full of joy and be ourselves (granted our best, most obedient and diligent selves).

I was asked to speak in Sacrament meeting on my decision to serve a mission. It was really amazing for me to reflect on the years of preparation, prayers and seeking confirmation.Thinking about WHY I wanted to come on a mission in the first place and what I did to get here allowed me to really think about how grateful I am to be here. Even though our program might be going through a rough patch, I knew then and I know now that the Lord will always help us. He promised us that and He will alway fulfill His promises. And speaking of promises, I forgot the last pages of my talk on my seat when I got up to speak! But the gift of tongues came in full swing as I winged the last part of my talk. I think that my German was actually better in the unplanned part! 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, March 9, 2015

Leftover jam from our crepe party / joint teach with Irina

I stayed with Sister Wilson in Tiergarten. 

Story Time

There are so many stories to tell you, but I'll share just a few: 

A story of Obedience: Our GML (Ward Mission Leader) and his wife invited us over for dinner on Monday night. After ending our P-Day a little early in order to travel all the way to Oyten, we got to their home and realized that his wife wasn't home yet. We explained to him that we couldn't come in until his wife came home (mission rule: we can't be alone with someone of the opposite gender in their home). He argued with us, mocked us, and said that the Sister missionaries had never before followed this rule before because he was our GML and he could be trusted. We insisted on remaining outside. About a minute later, it began to thunder, lightning, sleet, and hail. By the time his wife got home, we had endured the downpour for 30 minutes. Trial by ice. I'm happy to report that we survived it well and the Lord blessed us greatly for our obedience. 

A story of Fellowshipping: The next day, we had a wonderful joint teach with Irina and a wonderful 25 year-old sister in our ward who just got back from living in Cambodia for 5 months. It was wonderful for Irina to be with a ward member close to her age. 

A story of Boldness: After Zone Training Meeting on Wednesday, we had an appointment with Ulrike - a wonderful woman who had come to church and wanted to be taught. It was AMAZING. Sister Ballard and I discussed beforehand that our approach with her should be full of loving boldness to show her and Heavenly Father that we really believed in the power of what we had to teach her. We taught her the first lesson and the spirit made each of our hearts just burn in our chests. Her face was full of complete joy and awe. We invited her to be baptized and before we could even finish talking, she said yes! She is starting a new job and doesn't know her work schedule yet, but we will determine a concrete date this week.

A story of Repentance: A few weeks ago, I met Magdi at soccer. In all honesty, I judged him to be a suave pretty boy who spent too much time at the gym ... but on Friday, he came to Deutsch Class (he ended up being our only student...) and after talking to him and getting to know him, I realized that my prejudgment of his character was way off. Magdi is from the Egyptian countryside, studied literature at a university in Cairo, "lives simply," speaks perfect English, is a faithful Coptic Christian, and is incredibly nice and moral. He has a visa to be here for 3 years and his story of how he came to Germany is amazing. When he was applying to come to Germany, he had a translator in the room to translate from Arabic to German. The official asked him for a reason/story for why he wanted to go to Germany. Magdi had never been around the violence and political tension in Egypt, he simply wanted to work in Germany. He told the translator that he didn't have a story - he wasn't running away from anything. The translator looked at him and told him to make something up; everyone needs to have a story if they have any hope of getting a visa. Magdi refused to make something up. The German official realized what was going on and appreciated that Magdi wanted to be honest and gave him a 3 year visa. Magdi came to church on Sunday and really liked the focus on strengthening families. We met with him later that day and invited him to participate in the "experiment" that Elder Kopischke suggested we challenge people to participate in. In that same meeting, Magdi asked us to tell him our stories of why we were on missions. As each of us shared our stories, the Spirit came into the room so profoundly. He was fascinated and so impressed that we sought an answer from God and then acted on that answer. We will meet with him again on Tuesday. I felt so guilty for assuming that he was a certain way, and have since repented and thanked the Lord for blessing us with someone so prepared to hear the gospel. 

Big things are happening in Bremen, folks. I am grateful I can serve here. I love being a missionary. 

Have an amazing week! 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Don't worry, Mom!

It was exciting to go to Berlin! I stayed with Sister Frenkel and Sister Wilson in Tiergarten and they were so kind to me. I liked going with them to appointments and seeing how they teach - it's nice to see something different and to get ideas for how we will teach in Bremen. 

My trainee is Sister Gina Ballard and let me tell you, Sister Ballard is great. She is from Montana/Rexburg, ID, is a European Studies major at BYU, and is about 10 inches shorter than I am. She is so ready and willing to work hard, she isn't fazed by some of Bremen's quirks, and she speaks German! She helps me with the language, and I have the chance to show her what I have learned about being a missionary. 

We really hit the ground running as soon as we got back to Bremen. We have been able to make a lot of progress with our investigator, Irina. She was supposed to move to Berlin this past week, but changed her mind and we will keep teaching her here in Bremen! On Saturday, we had an appointment in the church and after, there was a Primary activity! We ended up staying for a little bit and she absolutely LOVED it. It was her first interaction with the ward and I think it really helped her to start to envision herself as a part of the ward... Next Primary teacher? Fingers crossed! 

We also have made a lot of progress with Irina's mother, Michaela. Last night, she called us and wept as she told us how lonely she felt as her children have kind of kept their distance from her, how much she misses her ex-boyfriend, and how she feels like she is trying to do the right things, but her life is still so hard. It was too late for Sister Ballard and I to go over, but we knelt down and said a prayer with her on the phone, shared and discussed some scriptures that would comfort her, and tried to help her feel how much we and her Father in Heaven loved her. We gave her some reading assignments in the Book of Mormon and we will discuss it with her today. 

It is amazing to see the Lord use us, His servants, as instruments to comfort and support His children. It is one thing to understand it intellectually - indeed, our calling is to bring others unto Christ - but it is amazing to actually see the difference that the gospel makes in people's lives. It has been a huge blessing to see the promises that the Spirit prompts us to extend to these people be fulfilled as they keep commitments and walk in faith. This gospel really and truly is changing their lives - as it should with us all. 

This is a new transfer. Something that I want to change this transfer in my missionary work is really reaching out in faith. I think that sometimes, I have been hesitant to ask for really specific blessings in my prayers for fear that nothing will happen. Which is, in reality, ridiculous. I am beginning to better act on the understanding that my relationship with my Heavenly Father is not passive. "Ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you." That is how our relationship with the Lord works. Our family motto is "Pray to God; Row Towards Shore." I think that a big part of that is that we have a direction: we row towards the shore. Our prayers are pleas to help us reach the safety of the shore. Specific goals, specific prayers, calling down specific blessings. 

I love being here. I love the work. I love my Savior. 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks

PS Sorry that there are no pictures this week - there are a bunch of viruses on these internet cafe computers... Sketch. ALSO if you hear scary stuff about Bremen in the news, our Mission President is keeping us in the loop and we are just being really smart and careful about who we talk to. But we are totally okay don't worry! (mom..)