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Monday, August 31, 2015

"Lead, Kindly Light"

Dear loved ones,

Last Monday seems like an eternity ago and at the same freaky time, it feels like this morning. Time is weird.

This week I learned a lot about what it means to have a testimony. As we sat with Schwester Kaden, an 83 year-old sister with no bottom teeth and a huge heart, she taught me that a testimony means hope. As per her request, we sang "Lead, Kindly Light" and as our voices echoed through the cold hallways of her senior residence, she nodded her frail head along. After, she held our hands and told us how excited she is for the life to come: "I will be with the Lord in all His glory. And I will be able to stand and sing with the holy choir of angels. I know my husband is waiting to sing with me."

Li Meng taught me that having a testimony means confidence. Li Meng is a quiet, good-natured student from China. She invited us over for traditional Chinese food on Tuesday and I was struggling big time with the task of using chopsticks. Li Meng smiled at me, placed my fingers correctly on the chopsticks, and practiced the motion with me. She told me that that was what it was like as she learned to pray. She knew that she had the tools to pray, but the missionaries really taught her how to pray and how to communicate with her Heavenly Father. With practice and time, she became so comfortable with praying that she would pray all the time - on her bike, brushing her teeth, sitting in class, and even in the middle of meals. She said that her favorite prayers were the ones at night, as she got on her knees and had a good long talk with God. She said that when she prays, she knows that someone is there. She knows that someone is listening and really does care about how she is doing and what she is going through. She has complete confidence that her prayers are heard and answered.

I learned that a testimony is an expression and fruit of our faith. We had many of lessons with one of our investigators, Orwa, this week. He is so wonderful and it was hard for us to see his frustration about not yet receiving an answer to his prayers. He says that he needs something more than a good feeling to believe. We used Alma 32 to explain how we find out what truth is and what faith actually means. He was kind of taken aback when Alma explained that faith isn't having a perfect knowledge of something, and as we continued to read and talk about how faith is a desire and hope that we nourish and work for, his attitude changed. Bruder Chimchuck (best name ever - some kind of awesome cross between nunchucks and a chipmunk) - a recently-baptized, 10-year investigator and renowned scientist - explained that he totally understood Orwa's need for something more than just a warm feeling. He told Orwa that a testimony comes when the gospel and the spirit touches both our heart and our intellect.

I learned that a testimony is constantly under construction as we did a role play with Sister Hubrich in District Meeting. In the role play, we approached her on the street and the conversation turned to the topic of happiness. Sister Rückauer explained how she believes that happiness is a choice that we will always have the option to choose. I bore my testimony that there is someone who wants more than anything for her to be happy - a loving and caring Father in Heaven. We talked a little bit more before Sister Hubrich stopped us because she was crying too much. She told us that our testimonies and that reminder that God is actively involved in our lives and our happiness was exactly what she needed to hear. Sister Hubrich has been a member her whole life and she told us that she has always had a testimony of what we talked about, but sometimes we forget that the things that we are dedicating 18+ months of our lives teaching and promising people apply to us as well, and that we cannot forget or neglect our own testimonies amid the search for helping others develop their own.

I have been reminded of the blessing that it is to have a testimony in almost every priesthood blessing that I have received in recent years. It might be simple, it might not be a perfect knowledge, and it might need a little refreshing from time to time, but my testimony is mine. My testimony, what I know to be true, is a gift. And it is up to me to nurture it, it is up to me to build upon it, and it is up to me to share it with everyone that I come in contact with. What a blessing it is to be a missionary, where I have the opportunity to share this precious gift with other people and watch them develop their own.

"It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
Then, my brethren, he shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you."
Alma 32:28,43

I know that God is our Father and that He loves us and is aware of each of us. I know that Joseph Smith was called as a humble instrument in the hands of the Lord to restore the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for us that allows us to return to live with Him again and to be sealed to our families for time and all eternity. I know that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of the world and that He knows me, He loves me, and He walks beside me. I know that when I kneel in prayer, my Father hears me and listens. I know that He answers.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks 

Monday, August 24, 2015

A group of recent converts visits the Freiberg temple.

Back in Berlin (for a week)

Dear loved ones, 

This week -what a blur! Hours of travel, not enough sleep, 3 exchanges, 2 major conferences, 3 cities, and more adventures than I will be able to cram into this email with the time I have left. 

I SPENT ALMOST THE ENTIRE WEEK IN BERLIN. The drive into the city was the most strange feeling of coming home and feeling like I had never left. Driving past the Dahlem church building, walking the streets lined with huge trees, waving to our buddy at the post office, and the familiar rattle of the U-Bahn as we got off at Kleistpark station was so wonderfully familiar. The Dahlem sisters surprised us and took us to a dinner appointment with the Spasovs. Vasilka cried and hugged me for a solid 3 minutes, Albena beamed and held my hand for the majority of the night, Ivan showed me his new high score on Fifa, and Zlati took selfies on my iPad. Just like old times. They are preparing to go to the Temple to do baptisms in a few weeks. It was great  to see how spiritually self reliant they are. Plamen got the Priesthood this week. He bore his testimony in Sacrament meeting the week before. They are doing so well and I am so grateful to the Lord for taking care of them. Home really is where the heart is - and my heart is with this Bulgarian clan.

The next two days were spent in Neukölln with Sister Frenkel - an absolute gem from Frankfurt. We got along so well and learned a lot from each other. One of the highlights of that exchange was spotting an old man with the shortest booty shorts I have ever seen walking a perfectly groomed chihuahua down one of the sketchiest streets in Berlin. It took us about 5 minutes to recover from our laughing fit. 

Mission Tour and MLC were wonderful. It is always so good to see other missionaries and Elder and Sister Johnson were so great. I could feel love and goodness radiating from them as they spoke to us. 

I really would love to write more and share what I learned, but time is up. I promise to compensate next week :) I love you all and am so grateful for your support and prayers. 

Liebe Grüße, 

Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, August 10, 2015

Freiberg - Week One

My dear loved ones, 

First of all, here is my new address:

Sister Grace Hendricks
Kirche Jesu Christi HLT
Thielestraße 2 
09599 Freiberg

I will start by telling you a little bit about Freiberg. 

We live (temporarily) in the Temple Housing. Our apartment doesn't have anything in it yet, but apparently it is 300 years old and SWEET. Picture a fairytale old German city... that is Freiberg. Except there are no humans in it... Sister Rückauer and I have spent hours finding (yay for starting from ground zero!) and I'm pretty sure there were 5 people on the streets within our first 2 days. None of them were interested. Surprise. We live across the hall from an amazing senior couple - the Hubrichs. They are serving a service mission through the Church's 'Special Projects' mission and they are supervising the construction and documentation of the construction of the Freiberg Temple. They are like our grandparents. Yesterday morning, Elder Hubrich knocked on our door with two smoothies in his hands for our breakfast. They are already very dear friends. The ward has welcomed us with open arms - the excitement of having Sisters in the ward again has our eating appointment calendar filled for the next two transfers. 

BUT later in the week, as we went finding in the park, we found a new investigator! He is a Syrian student at the university and he has so many questions. He is so humble and his questions sound like they are straight out of Preach My Gospel. Zum beispiel... "There are so many books of scripture. How can I know which of them is right and really from God?" Ya gotta be kidding me. We've had two lessons and another one scheduled for this week. 

Adjusting to being here has been hard, but I was comforted re-reading a BYU Devotional given by Bishop Gérald J. Caussée in 2012 where he taught that: "You have control of your own happiness. ... You are the architects of it. Your happiness is not really the result of the circumstances of your life. It is much more the result of your spiritual vision and the principles upon which you base your life. These principles will bring you happiness regardless of the unexpected challenges and surprises you will inevitably face during your journeys here on earth."  

I am happy. I am grateful for the gift of agency, which allows me to decide to be happy. I am grateful to know of my Father in Heaven, who's love and perfect plan for me allows me to have happiness in this life and in the eternities.

Pray that we will find people to teach :)

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Still frames from video: "Last P Day in Berlin - boat tour on the Spree"

Monday, August 3, 2015

Schwester Winkler, the Bishop's wife, heard that I love almonds.  She threw us a goodbye party in their garden featuring homemade almond ice cream with candied almonds on top 

The Winklers.  They loved us and cared for us like their own children.

Break on a red park bench in a wooded German paradise.

BBQ at the Whitings with Elder Short, our fearless district leader.

Dinner with the Spasovs.  Scarf=going away present from Ivana.

New Assignment: Freiberg

My dear loved ones,

I feel like my whole mission has consisted almost completely of being launched into new, unexpected situations and changes. Surprise after surprise, challenge after challenge, blessing after blessing, plea after plea... and here we go again!

Mom, your vision of me one day serving in a Temple Visitor's Center will sort of come true beginning this coming Tuesday. Sister Rückauer and I have been assigned to go together to open a Sister Training Leader program at the Freiberg Temple. Here's the story:

On Friday, we had Mission Leadership Conference. In this conference, President Fingerle announced some big changes: incoming missionaries will begin their mission in Freiberg at the Temple (not in Berlin) to remind them where they need to see each of their investigators and
less active members going, and missionaries will end their mission at the temple as well and will have the opportunity to go through the Temple with those they taught and baptized before going home. The Dresden Zone Leader program will be moved to Freiberg, and a new Sister Training Leader program will be opened and based at the temple. 

After the Conference, President Fingerle pulled me and Sister Rückauer into the bishop's office, sat us down, looked at us for a minute, took a deep breath, and told us how much he trusted us. He said that he was going to leave us together, but move us to Freiberg to open the program. He began to tell us some of the details (I probably missed some because at this point I was in a state of complete shock): the bishop was excited to have us come, that we will eventually be living in a really nice home that is divided into 3 apartments with 2 member families, that the temple is 30 minutes away by foot and 10 minutes by bike, that our "Visitor's Center" is a room with a couple of posters in it (one talks about the ancient temple in Jerusalem! Score!) and an orange couch,
that Freiberg has a university with 5,000 students, and that we would be exchanging with a LOT of sisters. Our program in Berlin will be taken over by the Lankwitz sisters and we have been given permission to stay in very close, regular contact with our investigators and recent converts in Berlin by phone, email, and exchanges to Berlin more than once a transfer.

My heart broke as I realized that I would be leaving this ward, the Spasovs, Vasilka, Bucky, Sandra, and so many others. I am sad to leave Berlin - 11 weeks doesn't feel like enough time. But, if this is what the Lord wants and expects from me, I already said yes. I said yes when I made my baptismal covenant and was confirmed at 8 years old - a promise to be a representative of Christ at all times.
I said yes when I accepted my call to serve in the Germany Berlin Mission and promise to serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. I said yes when I made my covenants in the temple. And as Bishop Gérald Caussé said in his address at the past New Mission President Seminar, "That yes was a yes forever - for all eternity. And nothing, no circumstances or challenges in our
lives, could ever change our promise to serve the Lord when asked."

A little piece of me will always be in Berlin. I have fallen in love with this city, with these people, and with the cool, humming, ever-changing energy that pumps through the heart of Berlin. The lessons I learned here about discipleship, complete consecration, humility, applying the enabling power of grace made possible through the Savior's Atonement, stretching my capacities and potential, and
learning how I receive answers to my prayers have been priceless and I will treasure my experiences and relationships here throughout eternity. I plan to continue to work on applying Paul's admonition to the Romans in chapter 12:

11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

Your prayers would be much appreciated as we make this big transition. I love you all and am grateful for your support. You'll never know how much a spontaneous email during the week, a note in the mail, or a prayer means to me. I add my voice to that of my Great Grandmother, Maren Hardy, as she wrote that "...blessings from the Lord are not just dropped on our heads. They are brought to pass through the hearts and hands of others." Thank you for being my blessings.

Liebe Grüße aus Berlin,
Sister Grace Hendricks