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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 

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