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Monday, September 28, 2015

Dresden Zone Training Meeting at the Freiberg Temple

Christ - A Perfect Leader

Dear Family and Friends,

Hi. This transfer is flying already. A bizarre, slow-motion kind of flying. Now I just have an image in my head of the super queso doves superimposed on Vasilka's daughter's Bulgarian wedding pictures. Something like that.

After Zone Training Meeting, Distriktsleiterschulung (I really don't know what this is in English and if I translate it exactly, then it sounds weird... it's just another meeting where the Zone Leaders
taught all of the district leaders in our zone and we were invited to help out), an exchange with a brand new trainee in Cottbus, a lot of miles logged on the road, and a few unexpectedly helpful personal studies, this week I learned a lot about leadership what it means to be a good leader. In ZTM, Elder Morales asked us to write down things that we admired have admired in our leaders. A long list started going through my head of all of the leaders I know were put in my life path for a reason.

I thought of district leaders who were in tune enough with the spirit to say exactly what I needed to hear on a nightly phone call. I thought of Sister Training Leaders whose friendship and support at the beginning of my mission was the one thing that kept me sane and encouraged me to keep giving my best. I thought of President Kosak and his unconditional love, matched with his determination to have each missionary realize his/her individual potential as set-apart instruments in the hands of the Lord. I thought of companions who have shown me what it means to be patient, what it means to have complete trust in the Lord, and what it means to truly rely on prayer.

I thought of my family: my father and his sensitivity to the needs of those around him, my mother and her genuine desire to give and serve, my sister Maddy's easy-going and fun-loving spirit, my sister Abby's example of magnifying her God-given talents, and my brother Mark's ability to know when anyone just needs a hug. I thought of bishops and friends and Young Women's teachers and professors. I have been blessed with a lot of really good examples in my life who have taught me how I can be a better person.

Luckily, we have been given the best example of a perfect leader: Christ. As President Spencer W. Kimball taught, the Savior showed us how to serve selflessly and endlessly, to not be afraid of close relationships, to listen, to be patient and loving as we teach, to show our faith in those around us, and to be understanding and compassionate. Christ taught us, through His perfect example, that the best way to lead our own souls and to help others is to love. Christ put "His own needs second and ministered to others beyond the call of duty tirelessly, lovingly, and effectively." He served and led out of love. I hope that this week I will be able to focus a little bit more on showing those around me that I love them.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace

Monday, September 21, 2015

"superior to your former self"

Dear all,

Check mark on the first week of the transfer - complete with sending the finishing missionaries home, welcoming the jet lagged new missionaries, a handful of road trips through the gorgeous Erzgebirge mountain range, free Chinese food, a heaven-sent surprise 15 minute conversation with President Kosak, two sleepovers, some really intense lessons with some of our investigators, and much more. 

My dinner break on Friday night found me once again attempting to tackle the task of organizing the chaos of my desk. Under a hundred copies of German "MyFamily" packets, I found a crinkled sticky note that I had written 7 months ago. It was a quote sent to me by my father: "True nobility does not come from being superior to your fellow man; true nobility comes from being superior to your former self." I slowly put my Euro Shop pencils away, sat down on my squeaky swivel chair, put my hair in a knot on top of my head, and thought about what it means to 'be superior to my former self' - how could I know if I was doing that? I thought back on the last few weeks of my time spent in Israel over a year ago- my teachers (my heroes) talked a lot about what it means to be transformed. I remembered Dr. Seely's parting address where he talked about what it really means to be a pilgrim: to go on a journey and return a changed person. To allow our experiences to change our character for the better means to be transformed; to become more holy and more like the Savior and our Father in Heaven.

I concluded that in order to see if I was working on this goal of being superior to my former self, I needed to see if I was actively trying to change. I needed to see if I was allowing my testimony and my experiences to change my behavior and character. The question became: 'Am I a different and better person than I was when I began this journey?' My mind began to replay all of the weaknesses that I feel like I've working on forever and
somehow they still aren't strengths (Ether 12:27). It was hard to fall asleep that night.

But personal study the next day gave me the strength to tell the adversary to leave me alone. As Nephi declared in 2 Nephi 4: 26-28:

26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of
mine afflictions?

27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

I don't think any of us will ever be as far along the path of perfection as we would like to be, but we need to do our best to change for the better and to have the miracle of Christ's Atonement transform us. We make steps forward as we become "more than conquerors through Him that loved us" and day by day strive to be superior to our former selves. 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Allison

Monday, September 14, 2015

Schwester Hendricks, now 20!

Dear loved ones, 

First of all, thank you so much for the sweet birthday wishes! It was a beautiful day full of homemade streamers and confetti, a chocolate cake baked by my cute 10 and 11 year-old neighbors, singing my favorite hymns with our investigator Orwa in Sacrament Meeting, teaching the Primary children what it means to be a 'fisher of men,' Sister Hubrich's curry for dinner, a million "happy burssdayss" wishes from our loving ward members, and sunshine and a perfect September breeze. I felt blessed beyond compare. 

Transfer calls came and Sister Rückauer will both be staying here in our charming little Freiberg. We're glad - neither of us felt like our time here was done. And that means that we will be together for 6 months - that's a third of our mission! Its a good thing we love each other :) 

This week, "Tour Guide Barbie" mode was put into the next gear with 7 tours. As you already know, adjusting to this mode of missionary work has been a bit of a challenge for me, but on Saturday, the Spirit kind of smacked me in the face and made me realize what it is exactly that we are doing. I realized that when people come here prepared, the Spirit of the Temple is a catalyst. Tour after tour, we saw that this was exactly what these investigators and recent converts needed. President Fingerle always reminds us that "the Spirit of Elijah is the Holy Ghost testifying to our hearts of the eternal nature of families." And it is. It is amazing to look in the eyes of the people who come to visit and to see it all finally click and realize what their goal is. And it is amazing to feel how the Spirit will guide what we say and share according to the needs of those who come - no two tours are the same. 

This week I have also been really focused on the way that I pray. A lot of people that came to the Temple this week have had problems with praying - they don't feel comfortable, they don't think its important, or they don't know how. And like the bible dictionary tells us:"As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. " 

God is the Father. And I know that He wants to hear from us. I believe in a God that is mindful of us, actively involved in our lives, and eager to bless and guide us. Developing and strengthening our relationship with Him happens through prayer. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, "As we on occasion 'pour' out our souls in personal pleadings, we are thus emptied, making room for more joy." 

I pleaded a lot this week. I was emptied. And then I was filled. I am a firm believer that sometimes our souls need a little prayerful excavating, not just renovating, in order to expand. 

I am grateful for each of you. I am grateful to be a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of my Lord. I am grateful for the gift of prayer and the healing, comforting, edifying, enlightening, purifying power that it brings. 

Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, September 7, 2015

Looking For God

Dear ones,

I really don't feel totally comfortable in English anymore hahaha. I am incredibly grateful for your prayers which carried me through some trying parts of this past week. What a blessing it is to know of the gift of prayer and the power that can come from this direct line of communication to our Father in Heaven. And what a blessing it is to know that for every hard day, a better one is headed my way.

I felt that something was kind of off this week and I didn't really know what it was. I finally figured it out in an eating appointment with Schwester Seifert; a faithful, jolly, salt of the earth sister. Schwester Seifert suddenly went deaf 7 years ago and as she told us her story, I realized what my problem was. She told us "The thing about loosing my hearing is that I have to rely entirely on sight. And in those first few months, I really learned where to look. I learned to look for and to God." Sitting there, eating my Knödel and Gulasch, I realized that I had not been looking for my Father in Heaven as much as I should.

The reminder came again in a thoughtful letter in my mailbox at the end of a long, unsuccessful day of street contacting. Sweet Sister Walker - currently serving in Hamburg- wrote me a letter with a quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning that reminded me again to keep things in perspective. She wrote: "Earth's crammed with Heaven, and every common bush afire with God, and only he who sees takes off his shoes - the rest sit around and pluck blueberries." It is totally up to me to
see the hand of Heavenly Father all around me. It is totally up to me whether or not I see the streets I walk as hallowed ground - already walked by a loving Savior who has prepared people to hear the very message that we have to share. It is totally up to me to realize that the most important times to look for God are when I feel far from Him. I am so grateful to Sister Walker for being in tune with the Spirit and writing me exactly what I needed to hear. God really does answer prayers through the hands of those around us.

I prayed to be able to more clearly see the hand and presence of God in my life and the lives of those around me. I told Him that I would do everything I could to see him and recognize Him. And my prayers were answered.

God was with us as we sat in the garden of the Senior Living home where our investigator Frau Kuhn lives. We discussed Alma 32 and what faith really means. She told us that the seed had been planted a long time ago, but that she had neglected it long enough and that she was glad that it wasn't too late to start watering. I felt like I was watching her bloom as she turned her face up to the sun and smiled so much that her eyes almost disappeared in her Lachfalten ("laugh wrinkles"). We left with her a commitment to reread the chapter and to think about what God wanted her to do to water and nurture the seed of her faith, and she left me with the commitment to bring my guitar next time so we could sing Elvis Presley and Primary songs.

God was in yesterday's Fast and Testimony sacrament meeting as almost every child in the Primary voluntarily stood up and bore testimony that God is our Father in Heaven, that Christ is the Son of God and our Redeemer, that Joseph Smith was the Prophet of the Restoration, that the Book of Mormon is true scripture, and that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today. Sitting between Orwa and Noah (a friend of Orwa and new investigator), I knew that my prayers that they will appreciate the truth of that what we are teaching them are being answered - they are well on their way.

God has been at my bedside as I ended each day with a prayer of gratitude - regardless of how the day went. God has been by my side as we have walked through heat and rain and mud and the Temple construction site, helping me see each step as a step in a holy place.

I know that He is there. I know that He cares and listens and answers. I know that He loves us - each of us - with a love that we can scarcely comprehend. I know that it is up to us to feel it.

I love each of you and am so grateful for you.

Liebe Grüße from your Freiberg Fraulein,
Sister Grace Hendricks