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Monday, October 26, 2015

Off To Hamburg!

Dear loved ones, 

First things first: I AM BEING TRANSFERRED TO HAMBURG! I will be serving in the Hamburg Altona ward with Sister Wasden, one of the the coolest sisters I've met. I'll leave on Tuesday and my new address will be:

Sister Grace Hendricks
Kirche Jesu Christi HLT
Jevenstedterstraße 155
22547 Hamburg

I'm freakin' out. It's crazy to think that Sister Rückauer and I won't be companions anymore... 6 months is a really long time to be with someone 24/7 - we know each other ridiculously well. But Heavenly Father sent us some really special moments this week to make these last few days together wonderful. 

The voices echoing through the halls of our little visitors center were sweet as real Sachsen honey as we visited with the Hannover sisters and their friends from Papau New Guinea, Tahiti, and Togo on Saturday afternoon. Darling Sister Stacey and Sister Brim had made the 3 hour trek in a sketchy red car with a Rolling Stones sticker pealing off the side with three beautiful, God loving women: Gaure (an investigator), Angela (a less active sister), and Nicole (a happy, humble member). We talked about God's plan for us, His desire for our happiness, making changes in ourselves through the Atonement, how it takes our action to come closer to the Savior, the eternal nature of families, why there is a different spirit at the temple, and a handful of my other favorite things to talk about. The tour didn't go at all as we planned, but the conversation just kept on rolling in a way that was unmistakably guided by the Spirit. These women just seemed to sparkle with new understanding and motivation as they walked the temple grounds. The sun was illuminating the temple in the most perfect autumn light, Sister Stacey's arm was looped through mine, and the flame colored leaves blew around our ankles in the perfect October breeze. Magic. 

This has been my favorite part of serving here at the temple. Witnessing a moment in a prepared investigator's or less active's life where where things just click - one lesson where everything changes and they finally recognize the Spirit that has been working with them all along. At the temple, we've had the opportunity to be a part of that turning point time and time again. Big, big blessings my friends. 
I'm out of time - we really aren't having a P-Day because of the finishing missionaries, broken wifi, members insisting on cooking me one last "real German meal" before I head back to the West, and packing.

Hamburg, here I come. 

Liebe Grüße, 

Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, October 19, 2015

On The Mend

Hi folks, 

I'm on the mend - my broken pinky finger will take a bit longer, but I don't have to wear anything on my wrist anymore, and with the help of my trusty American makeup and a lot of time with an ice pack, my black eye is almost unnoticeable! The words of the priesthood blessing I received are being fulfilled: "You will be healed faster than any of the doctors will be able to explain. The Lord has work for you to do and He will help you do it." And work we did. 

Much of the week was spent in the car going to and from Berlin for exchanges with the Dahlem and Neukölln sisters. It was good to have time to think and enjoy time with Sister Rückauer. Here are a few peeks into the week: 
  • Sweet Sister Warner had homemade Mexican food waiting for us when we finally reached the Neukölln apartment after 3 hours of driving in the dark and rain on Monday night. She also had saved me peanut M&Ms that her mom sent in a package, got my favorite yogurt for breakfast, and had a full evening of appointments planned for us to go to. Fabulous! Tobias, the super cool new investigator that we found on our way to an appointment, was the cherry on top of a perfect evening spent in the sketchiest area in Berlin. 
  • Sister Israelsen and I also had a wonderful exchange here in Freiberg. No one wanted to talk to us on the street, but we had a great time anyway and we learned a lot from each other. It was so cool to see how what I had been studying in my personal study for the past week was exactly what Sister Israelsen needed. We walked out of companionship study feeling on top of the world. 
  • Thursday evening was spent in the Mission Office starting to redo the temple tour video. It felt SO GOOD to be back in my zone: being creative, working with all sorts of movie editing programs, researching, all of it. I think I was so happy that I scared the new office elder with my enthusiasm :) 
  • Back in Freiberg, we had an eating appointment with Bruder Adolf, an elderly brother from southern Germany. He had each of us pick out a microwaveable dinner from his bottom freezer drawer and he told us his whole life story, conversion story, love story, childhood stories ... all the while his fake front tooth popped in and out, accentuating the most important parts. He left us with one piece of advice: "There's a reason that the prophets have counseled us to keep journals. Do it. Keep a journal. The most important things to write down are how you feel. I never thought that I would use my journals again, but now they are my most prized possessions. Keep a journal." 
  • Sunday was filled with a lot of little miracles. We met with 2 inactive sisters that we've been trying to meet with since we first got to Freiberg and they want to meet with us again this week! We also had a wonderful lesson with another sister in our ward who hasn't been to church in years because she is totally overwhelmed with her four young sons. Amid the chaos (including mashed potato Armageddon, truck wheels tangled in my hair courtesy of 2 year-old Marcus, and Lucian's narration of a monster truck showdown at staggering volume) the Spirit of the Lord was there. This young mother wants to start meeting regularly and her 9 year old son, Sean Lucas, wants to be baptized. Things are picking up here in our charming little city. 
Thank you all for your prayers. I'm feeling very grateful today. 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks

Grandpa, I was wearing my helmet!

There I was, sitting in now the sixth doctors office hoping against hope that they wouldn't turn the blonde American away too. Abba's "Fernando" was playing softly in the waiting room, and I was feeling incredibly sorry for myself.

Rewind about 28 hours.

We were riding our bikes down Hainichener Straße after an awesome temple tour with the Temple Engineer's nonmember girlfriend on Tuesday morning. Going down the hill, I hit the curb, flew off the front of my bicycle, and landed on my hands and face. Sweet Sister Hubrich picked us up within a few minutes and rushed us to the emergency room. 5 hours later, I walked out of the hospital with a cast on each arm and a good sized lump on my forehead that was slowly turning lovely shades of black and purple.

On orders from my Russian emergency room doctor, the next day we went to try to find a doctor who would take another look at the XRays and decide if my right wrist was broken and if my finger was broken enough that it needed to be operated on. Cranky secretaries, ditzy secretaries, apologetic secretaries, condescending secretaries, nice secretaries; doctors office after doctors office said no. We finally walked into the sixth doctors office and the secretary took a look at the lump on my head (which had increased sizably since the beginning of our search earlier that morning), and she said she would talk to the doctors to see if they could squeeze me in. That led to another hour and a half wait and when they finally allowed me to see a doctor, I don't think the doctor even looked at me. She just saw the color of my finger and told me to come back on Friday. Another day gone. Wasting time is a very choice form of torture for a missionary.

After being so sick last week, I couldn't understand why Heavenly Father would allow this to happen - launching us into hours and hours of waiting rooms and cold hospital halls with no one to talk to and no phone service to try to get some missionary work done that way. I couldn't see the point of it. But then I started to.... 

Ward members brought by chocolate and get well cards, the phone was ringing off the hook with concerned members of the Relief Society and primary asking what they could do to help, investigators offered to go grocery shopping for us, and my sweet companion helped me with everything: washing my hair, getting me dressed, binding the cuts on my  knee - everything. The amount of love I have felt in the past week is indescribable.

This week I felt God's comfort wrap around my shoulders like a warm blanket - one carefully woven with the friendship of people that He purposefully placed in my life by divine design.  

I'm also pretty sure that Heavenly Father was trying to teach me to have patience with myself. Sister Rückauer and I could laugh about that one as I even struggled to turn the pages of my scriptures during companionship study, and when I dropped the phone during our phone call with the Assistants. 

To answer the question that I know Grandpa is asking: YES I was wearing my helmet. The latest news from the doctors is that my finger won't need surgery, my wrist is only minorly fractured, and that I better just get used to having an ice pack on my face whenever we are home.

All is well that ends well. And with God, the power of the priesthood, and Schwester Schönherr's 'there-there's on my side, its all going to end well. 

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015

Grace and Sister Walker

Grace with Elder Gallacher

God Is So Good

Hi gang, 

What. A. Week. 

Sister Rückauer and I spent Monday through Tuesday night with some kind of stomach bug. I can't remember the last time I was so sick. But it was good that we had each other - we had a good "you hold my hair, I'll hold yours" system worked out. Sister Fingerle put us on house arrest until Thursday morning and it was absolutely maddening to be stuck at home - too weak to get from one side of the apartment to the other, too dizzy to read our scriptures, too tired to sleep well. Didn't the Lord know we had work to do? People to find? Lessons to teach? Exchanges to go on? After weeks of spiritual growing pains and finally the blessings of personal revelation, didn't He see my renewed devotion to be the best missionary and disciple I could be? Those were my fevered thoughts as I lay on our squeaky couch in my BYU Jerusalem sweatshirt for what seemed like an eternity. I was feeling physically and spiritually empty. 

But this week I learned that the Lord has a way of making us full again. 

On Thursday morning, Sister Rückauer and I managed to make the trip to Berlin for our Sister Training Leaders Training Evening at the mission home. As we rode the S-Bahn through my old area and passed Kleistpark, Julius-Leber-Brucke, and Lichterfelder Ost, I felt like I was home. After our meetings with President and Sister Fingerle, I caught up with Sister Walker, Sister Stacey, and other sisters whose friendship has been an anchor throughout my whole mission. There are some people whose spirits just shine in a way that is edifying and an answer to prayers. With Sister Walker's arm looped through mine as we crammed 8 sisters on two blow up mattresses in the Fingerle's basement, I felt healed by the love and unity of sisterhood. God is so good. 

I felt spiritually fed as I listened to Elder Gallacher, one of my best buds from before the mission and a current ZL in Hannover, bear his testimony of Christ's Atonement in Mission Leadership Training the next morning. Two years ago, I would have never thought that I would see my stretchy-gold-tights-wearing, melodica-playing, shenanigan-seeking Briggs bear his testimony in German with such power, conviction, and authenticity. At the end of their lesson, Elder Gallacher and his companion invited each of us to listen to a sound reel (is that the right vocab? Who even knows) of apostles and prophets testifying of the Savior and to write down in our study journals what the Atonement means for us personally, how we allow it to play an active role in our lives, and what we want to do to help those we teach feel that power. Simple, general questions, but it opened a door of incredible humility, love, and gratitude for the perfection of the Father's plan and Christ's willingness to do whatever it took to make it so that I, Grace Allison Hendricks, could make the most out of my experience in mortality, have real joy, and be worthy to return to live in the presence of my Father in Heaven with my eternal family. In that moment, I felt the reality of Paul's declaration in his letter to the Romans: 
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is so good. 

More drops of spiritual goodness were added to my now not-so-empty soul as I received very specific answers to my questions in General Conference. A few more came as I played a beautiful hundred year-old classical guitar owned by Schwester Hartzt's mother after her husband fed us a lovely dinner of spicy curry and gave us a tour of his award-winning garden and told us tales of his days as an athlete in "Orienteering Hiking competitions." A few more came as I got an unexpected package from a dear friend right when I needed it and a letter from a friend that I haven't heard from in a long time. I felt more as 2 year-old Finnley in our ward learned the word "missionaries," as Schwester Apel told Sister Rückauer and I that we weren't allowed to get transferred while she was on vacation,  as Schwester Schönherr blew us kisses from the church door as she told her husband "those two are like my daughters," and as a less-active sister randomly dropped Rittersport chocolate off at our apartment. God is so good. 

My heart is full as I'm writing this. I'm grateful. Really grateful. 

I hope you have a lovely week. Look for the good things God is filling you with.

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks