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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Auf Wiedersehen President Kosak

This week was a really great one!
We had a really special lesson with Albena. We taught her about temples and after looking at pictures and discussing what exactly a temple is, Albena told us how much she wants to go there with her family. She asked us questions about how we have felt in the temple, how it has helped our families, and how the temple has brought us closer to Heavenly Father. "We will go together as soon as we can." 
Mom sent me a big package that would have been a pain to get home from the mission office, so the Curtises (cute office couple) used that as an excuse to 'take us to our next appointment'. Translation: President gave them approval to take us to lunch at an American Diner called 'The Sixties' to get a real cheeseburger and a real milkshake, THEN drive us to drop off a gift at the home of an overwhelmed young mother in our ward, and THEN take us home. We're spoiled. 

On Saturday we picked up the whole band of Bulgarians and headed to Tiergarten ward's summerfest where Bruder Jordan had two pigs roasting on a spit in the parking lot. They absolutely loved it. Afterwards, we tried to go home but were caught in  the middle of a massive 'Christopher Street Day' parade. Oh my. So many crossdressing men. So much Britney Spears blasting. So much alcohol. So many dudes peeing in bushes. We were just trying to find the U Bahn station! AH!
Sister Rückauer and I got to say our goodbyes to President and Sister Kosak. It was bittersweet. 

I love you all! 

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, June 22, 2015

The District

Familie Spasov

The Companions

Forgiveness and Bacon

This week was a good one -we didn't have to run after too many buses, sprint down too many escalators to catch the UBahn, OR get home late. We patted ourselves on the back for that one and I think the Zone Leaders were pretty proud of us. Some highlights - 

Familie Spasov: Plamen and his father haven't spoken in years, but this past week, after Sister Rückauer and I left after Family Home Evening on Monday, Plamen sat down, prayed, and then decided to call his dad. Albena (Plamen's wife) teared up as she told us how much Plamen's parents cried when they heard his voice. The whole family has been praying and turning to the scriptures for strength this past week. It has been amazing for Sister Rückauer and I to see the gospel heal broken families, hearts, and relationships. As they have learned of the ever present source of forgiveness found in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, their gratitude for that has encouraged them to forgive each other. 

On a lighter note, we had an appointment with a less active couple in the ward. The husband is ex American Air Force gone Berlin journalist and football coach. The appointment went pretty much as expected - he talked for an eternity and a half about 500 unrelated topics. Other highlights: I showed him how to make crispy American bacon in the microwave using paper towels as he ranted about how much he despises the French. I had to eat a bagel sandwich that consisted almost entirely of mayonnaise. We were finally able to get them to focus for our lesson where we tried our best to make it clear why we were there - to help them to come to church regularly and keep the covenants that they have made. They were a bit taken aback, but then realized that we were right. They promised to read in the scriptures and pray every day together as a couple. We're hoping to get them to church next Sunday. The appointment ended with them insisting on a bathroom stop for us both, where I was greeted by a porcelain Meerkat Manor (Animal Planet TV show) toilet seat. Yup.

As I watched Plamen take steps to heal his relationship with his father and as yesterday was Father's Day in America, I have been thinking a lot about Fathers. I am so grateful for my earthly father. He knows me inside and out, he has supported me on my hardest days, blessed me with hands that hold the priesthood authority of God, laughed with me, sung with me, cried with me, rejoiced with me. He has taught me to share my testimony with boldness, to work hard, and to care for everyone. I love him with my whole heart and I know that he loves me. And I am so grateful for this relationship, because it helps me to understand my relationship with my Heavenly Father. My Heavenly Father knows me perfectly. He loves me perfectly. He feels my pain, my joy, my regret, and my growth. He does all of this because He loves me. I am so grateful to know of my relationship with Him. 
Shoutout to Elder Nathan Golightly, who will be returning home from Russia tomorrow. Welcome home, my dear friend. That's 2 of the 3 of us home now. I'll be there in less than a year. Nathan has been my example and one of my best friends for many years now, and that example has continued all through his missionary service. I am a better missionary because of him. Someone take pictures at his homecoming and send them to me!
Shoutout to Sister Eliza Smith, my soon to be Filipino Princess. She and Sister Bethany Simmons report to the MTC this Wednesday to prepare to serve in the Philippines Cebu mission. Love you to Jerusalem, to Berlin, to Cebu, to the moon, and back. x100. 

Liebe Grüße, 

Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ja, Naturlich

This week was incredible!  Here are a few snapshots:

-Snapshot: All 3 of the Spasov children - Ivana, Ivan, and Zlatomir - looking hopefully at their parents' faces as they ponder the invitation to be baptized. 

On Tuesday, Sister Israelson and I went with our GML Bruder Speck to finish teaching the Plan of Salvation to the Spasov family. At the end of the lesson, I asked Albena if she knew that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the restored gospel of the Lord. She said yes. I asked her if she would be baptized. She smiled and said yes. I then turned to Plamen and asked him the same questions, and without hesitation he said "Ja, Naturlich." I asked him if he would be baptized. He looked at Albena, then his children, thought about it for a minute, and said yes. We invited each of the children to be baptized and each responded with the same answer: a resounding YES! 

-Snapshot: The whole Spasov family bowing their heads together in prayer as Plamen prayed for the first time.

Sister Israelson and I felt prompted to go back the next day and to read in the Book of Mormon with them. Luckily, Albena and the kids were home and Plamen had the day off of work. We read Enos together and talked about how and why we pray. Plamen told us how he felt very close to God, but had always been afraid to pray. 8 year old Zlatomir told him that it was easy when we know that God wants to talk to us. In the middle of Sister Israelson's testimony, Plamen suddenly bowed his head and folded his arms and began to pray in Bulgarian. We didn't understand anything that he said, but we could feel how earnest and heartfelt the prayer was. After closing in the name of Jesus Christ, all of us looked up and there was not a dry eye in the room. Albena explained a little of what he said and it was beautiful. Plamen apologized for crying, but said that he prayed from the bottom of his heart so he couldn't help it. He and Albena committed to pray together every night and to pray with their children every morning and night. 

-Snapshot: Ivana sitting on a park bench with Aimee - a less active 13 year old - explaining why she wanted to be baptized. 

Sister Rückauer and I thought that it would be a good idea to organize something where Ivana and Aimee could meet and feel like they have a friend at church. So we picked them both up after school and got ice cream. They realized that they had a lot in common. We asked Aimee to explain how she felt when she was baptized 2 years ago. She thought about it for a second and a look of recognition and fondness came into her eyes. She talked about feeling totally clean and knowing completely and without a doubt that God loved her, was proud of her, and knew her. We asked Ivana to tell Aimee why she wanted to be baptized. She then gave such a mature, beautiful answer about making a promise with Heavenly Father, being totally clean from everything wrong she has ever done, and being a member in the church that she really feels is the right church. 13 year-olds rock! We have planned another activity with them and another 13 year old girl from a part-member family. 

I have been working hard and following Elder Holland's counsel to "CALL THEM DOWN", and yet somehow I still question what I could have ever possibly done to deserve the chance to witness these miracles. I have the faith that blessings will come, and then somehow, for some weird reason, I am in awe when they actually come. It's incredible. 

This week I said goodbye to President and Sister Kosak. I believe so strongly that I was sent here not only to serve these people and with these companions, but to serve with them. The advice and direction that they have given me, the love and strength they have demonstrated, and their testimony and light will guide me through the rest of my mission and life.  

Liebe Grüße, 

Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, June 8, 2015

"Thou Shalt Read More."

Personal Revelation / Dresden

Another wonderful week here in Berlin!

Zone Conference on Tuesday was great - Elder Randall (our amazing District Leader) asked each of us to really think about how we were going to change based on what we heard and felt (as instructed by Elder Bednar). So, I spent the next few personal studies pondering what I learned and thinking about what it really means to 'apply' what I learned. Application involves change, and I realized that there are some things that I need to change. For example, I need to learn to better distinguish which self perceptions come from the Lord and which do not. There is a difference between humility and being too hard on myself. I need to recognize and use my strengths. I re-read my Patriarchal Blessing and went through my notes from my Father's blessing and setting apart. I asked Heavenly Father to help me to see what aspects of those blessings I have fulfilled, which I am continuing to fulfill, and which I still need to try to fulfill.  Needless to say, these past few days have been a time of incredible personal revelation.

I traveled to Dresden with Sister Cady and Sister Kooyman and we had a great exchange. I feel so lucky to work alongside such strong, dedicated, and loving sisters. Sister Rückauer and I pray for each of the sisters we work with daily. We want to help them and to have them feel our love and support. The rest of the week was a blur of a thousand appointments, chasing down buses, learning Bulgarian methods of calming down babies (apparently rubbing an egg yolk and some flour on their backs and then wrapping them in a tight blanket burrito does the trick), having an incredible discussion about the 10 commandments with our new convert, and much prayer and gratitude.

Sunday was the real highlight of the week. We had a lot of investigators at church on Sunday; including Plamen, Albena, and their three beautiful children. The whole family showed up 15 minutes early - white shirts ironed and not a hair out of place. Plamen wept as he bowed his head in prayer during Sacrament meeting. Albena loved the testimony meeting and held my hand all through our Relief Society lesson on the Holy Ghost - she told me after that that was exactly what she needed to hear. Ivana participated in Young Womens and Ivan and Sladomir drew pictures of Jesus in Primary. This week we will invite them to be baptized. We can already envision them being sealed together as a family in the temple.
Quick congratulations to my dear Elder Thomas James Colton who will shortly be finished with his mission in Russia. TJ, I love you and I am so grateful for your example and friendship over these many years. Time goes fast, folks. I remember when Thomas came down his front stairs in his missionary suit for the first time, about to be set apart as a full time missionary. I hugged him and cried like I would never see him again. And here we are - he will be giving his homecoming in a few short days. I'll be home before you know it, family. Love you, Thomas. Good work. 

I am so grateful to be here in Berlin. I love this city. I love my companion. I love the prepared souls that we have the privilege of teaching. I love being a missionary and I love my Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, June 1, 2015

"Mein Herz!"

Great week in Berlin!

Our first PDay together. Sister Rückauer and I had a great time and treated ourselves to falafel for lunch. For Family Home Evening, we went to Albena and Plamen's home, taught their children about the Book of Mormon and made picture books about how Jesus loves and knows them. We sang "I am a Child of God" together and Albena recorded the whole thing on her phone.

On Wednesday I had my first Sister Training Leader exchange in Cottbus with Sister Lisonbee. It was so interesting to be in the heart of East Germany. The Sisters live in a cute/crappy DDR apartment with a tiny gas stove and a plywood pantry. That evening, we picked up about 15 Serbians and brought them to the church building to watch "The Testaments" (famously queso but no matter!). The majority of these Serbians were raised Muslim, believing Christ to be a great prophet and a good person, but not the Son of God or Redeemer of the world. But I'll tell you something, friends - I saw that change as we watched this movie. I saw the Spirit touch and teach their hearts as their brows were furrowed in concentration. At the end, one leaned over to me and asked me if Jesus really did rise again from the dead. I smiled and told him yes. My answer was supported by a chorus of "amens" from the other investigators in the room. When Sister Lisonbee asked how they were feeling, the same man who leaned over to me said "It's the truth. And the truth is the truth. You cannot deny what your heart and what God tells you." They promised to come to church on Sunday and even wanted to come early to ensure a good seat. 

We made the trek back to Berlin and had a dinner appointment with the Wenkes, a darling couple in our ward. They made us feel so at home and loved. They told me how happy they were to have us in the ward and asked how we came to the decision to serve missions. Sometimes it's nice and necessary to take a moment to remember how I got here - what my parents taught me growing up, what my testimony was before my mission, and the guidance and feelings of confirmation that I needed to serve a mission.  

Later in the week we were trying to get to Vasilka's baptism interview and had determined to walk there when three buses in a row hadn't arrived. We started walking and after a few hundred feet, we heard someone call out "Missionaries! Wait! I will walk with you!" and saw a friendly man from Zambia that we had been talking to at the bus stop. He asked us about what makes Mormons different from other religions and about the Book of Mormon. As we parted ways, we asked him for his name and address. Turns out that he lives a block away from the church and his name is HAPPY SIMBA. No joke - that is his name. Next week we will bring him a Book of Mormon and teach him and his family. We are so excited. After that, we went to the church for Vasilka's baptismal interview, which she passed with flying colors and she walked out beaming with all 10 of her teeth :)  "Mein Herz!" she said over and over again as she described a dream of white room with beautiful lights and mirrors and prayers - she had dreamt about the temple. We hugged her and told her that one day she would be there. One year. 

On Saturday we visited the Rinkes - an inactive elderly couple in the ward. Partway through our lesson, Bruder Rinke (who is blind and not all there) walked into the kitchen with just his diaper on saying that he couldn't find his pants anywhere. We helped him find his pants, picked up his medication from the pharmacy, and wished them a wonderful day. As we walked out the door, Schwester Rinke gave us a huge smooch on the cheek and Bruder Rinke yelled "Hasta la vista, baby!!!" We were making on our way to a less active family's home when I saw a €20 bill blowing on the sidewalk. I picked it up and asked the old woman waiting at the bus stop if it was hers. She was SO relieved - that was the money that she had been saving to get the medicine she needed and it had just fallen out of her pocket. She thanked us a million times and we (obviously) started talking about why we are here and what we do as missionaries. She is very religious and wants us to come by and talk to her about God. We gave her a Book of Mormon, helped her on the bus, and we are expecting to meet with her next week. 

Sunday was happy chaos as 10 Bulgarians came to church and we helped Vasilka get ready for her baptism. Sister Rückauer braided Vasilka's hair and Elder Miller brought a cake that he had spent 4 hours baking the day before. The service was short, sweet, and simple. While Vasilka changed, we passed out little colored papers for everyone to write their favorite scripture and something nice to Vasilka to welcome her into the ward. We put them in a glass jar and gave it to her and she promised to study one every day. 

I apologize for the length of this email. My experiences this week were just too sweet not to share. I am so grateful to be a missionary. I am so grateful to serve in Berlin, with this ward, and with my companion. I am so grateful for the people we teach and for how much the Lord has prepared them to hear the message of the Restored gospel. I have seen it turn sadness to hope, doubt to faith, loneliness to love, and even happiness to true joy. I see it in myself and in everyone around me. It's a transformation - an active choice and change. And it is all through Him whose name I get to wear on my black name tag and my heart every day. 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks