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Monday, December 21, 2015

Learning About Christmas

Dear loved ones,

God gave me two particular moments on Sunday to help me learn about Christmas.

I wish I could somehow capture the way that Farshid's eyes brimmed with tears, gratitude, and awe as Bishop Skibbe handed him a Christmas bag filled with food, clothes, and chocolate. Farshid - our Iranian friend who gave up absolutely everything to learn about the church and who secretly reads his paper-covered copy of the Book of Mormon every single night in a hidden corner of the Refugee camp where he lives - could hardly get out more than a choked "Thank you very much." He ran his fingers across the pattern of the new tie and sweater over and over again. Just as sweet was the look on little Ephraim Skibbe's face as he watched Farshid's gratitude. After, I kneeled down on the carpet next to Ephraim and whispered in his ear: "Ephraim, how did it feel to give Farshid that gift?" He grinned and whispered back "Really good. He was so happy and he didn't even get any toys!" "You know what else I think would be a good idea?" "What?" I gave this sweet little 7 year old a hug and a high 5 and pointed at Farshid. He went right over and hugged Farshid's knees and gave him a double high 5. Farshid was beaming.

Schwester Päblow's eyes were hidden behind the hundreds of happy wrinkles as our motley group of carolers sang a few requested Christmas hymns in her warm, paper snowflake decorated hospital room. Her roommate hummed along as she looked at hand colored cards from her grandchildren and the spirit of Christmas danced along the tones of our 4 part harmonies. Präsident Schmidt (the Hamburg stake President) shared his favorite memory of her deceased husband, kissed her cheek before we left, and as soon as the door closed behind us, told me
"that was a holy moment. She has angels standing all around that hospital bed." A middle-aged woman with a worn-out bible in her hands came out into the hallway and asked if we could sing for her mother. We sang again and my heart felt ready to burst as this sweet, invalid daughter of God beamed and nodded her head along theentire time.

We celebrate Christmas because the example of the Savior drives us to be more loving and kind, more charitable and understanding, more hopeful and positive, more open and generous. That's the reason He was born: to show each of us how our Father in Heaven would have us live and to make up the difference when we fall short. Because He came, all pain, sorrow, injustice, disappointment, shortcoming, loss can be swallowed up by Him who knows us better than anyone.

"For unto us a a child is bborn, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

He was given for you.

Have a beautiful Christmas, my dear ones.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas market + friends + final phone calls from Sister Walker and
Sister Stacey before they got on the plane back home

Ask God if He is there

Dear loved ones,

It has been a great week. On Tuesday, I walked the crowded, Christmas-star illuminated rows of Dresden's Weihnachtsmarkt with Sister Cady on one side of me and Elder Gallacher on the other - each of us so excited to get our brand new missionaries. The bells of the Frauenkirche echoed off cobblestone streets littered with cigarette butts and candied almonds, ushering in this new chapter of my mission. 
Wednesday was a familiar blur: RE train rides through beautiful Sachsen fields and forests, Sister Hubrichs' little green car waiting for us in the Freiberg Bahnhof parking lot, sacred moments with Bischoff and Schwester Schönherr in their immaculate yellow kitchen, and running to the dairy outlet to pick up 24 yogurts for the trainer/trainee dinner.

When the APs paired me with Sister Rachel Porter in the Freiberg chapel at the conclusion of the trainer-trainee conference, it felt right. This Portland native is spunky!  Our alto voices slipped into perfect harmony with the rest of the group as we sang "Joy to the World." Instead of getting us home to our cozy Hamburg apartment, President surprised us with a request to come straight to Berlin for me to finish the temple visitors center films in 27 different languages. Sister Porter toughed out 2 days in the mission office with a smile on her face the entire time - which is more than I can say about myself. My companion is a champ and I have a lot to learn from her :)

Our Christmas party was a success - people who hadn't had contact with the missionaries in months or years showed up, and members brought their friends and family. I spent much of the evening washing and drying tea cups. 

My invitation for you this week is this: get on your knees and ask God if He is there. Ask Him if He knows you. And then look for the answer and be ready to notice it. I promise you that He is and that He does. 

I love each of you! 

Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, December 7, 2015

Training Again!

Well folks, I'm stoked out of my MIND.

Transfers have once again rolled around. After Mission Leadership Council on Friday, President called me into the small office at the back of the Berlin Tiergarten chapel, just like he did three transfers ago as he transferred Sister Rückauer and me to Freiberg. I sat down at the same wooden table, in the same green upholstered chair, and directly across the same beaming President Fingerle. He held up 5 fingers and then thanked me for my 5 transfers of service as an STL. "Sister Hendricks," he said, "do you know what I do with the most diligent, obedient, and dedicated missionaries?" I really wasn't sure what to say, so he laughed at my awkwardness and
continued: "I make them trainers again. Sister Hendricks, you have learned how to love so many sisters and how to adapt to so many situations.The Lord wants you to now focus that love on one new sister missionary. Are you ready to train again?"

The thoughts that went through my head were more or less as follows:
1. Hallelujah no more leadership training meetings
2. Hallelujah I am staying in Hamburg
3. Dang it Sister Wasden is leaving. Only one glorious transfer together
4. Oh my goodness NEW MISSIONARY

As it turns out, the elders program will be closed, so my trainee and I will be in charge of 2 programs. Which exciting because they have been working with some really amazing people, but slightly intimidating considering the fact that we already have our plate
pretty full of people to teach and I'm still new in Hamburg. Also it's brutal that Sister Wasden and I only got 6 light-speed weeks together - most of it spent laughing so hard that it brought us to
tears. I've learned a lot from this dark-haired spunky Louisiana lady. She taught me how to find that sweet spot of being chill and not getting overwhelmed and still working incredibly hard, how to laugh at my quirks, and how to bravely and fearlessly tackle any situation that is thrown our way. I'm going to miss her a lot.

But hey, "come what may and love it," right? I'm gonna love it.

I've been thinking a lot about how I've changed through the course of my mission. In Freiberg I went through that mid-mission crisis where I couldn't see how I had changed. Now, with only 3 transfers ahead of me and the task of showing a new sister missionary how wonderful a mission is, I can see a little bit more clearly the difference between where I was and where I am now. President Ezra Taft Benson once said:
“Yes, Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world. Men changed for Christ will be captained by Christ. Like Paul they will be asking, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ (Acts 9:6). Peter stated, they will ‘follow his steps’ (1 Peter 2:21). John said they will ‘walk, even as he walked’ (1 John 2:6). Finally, men captained by Christ will be consumed in Christ. To paraphrase President Harold B. Lee, they set fire in others because they are on fire."

I'm not suggesting that I'm all the way there yet, but I do know that Christ is my captain and through Him, I am able to change and I am able to learn how to align my will with His. I am learning, if slowly, to be consumed in Christ and to help this fire that I feel be ignited in the hearts of others. I am so excited to help the flame of a love of sharing the gospel to grow in my new companion.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks