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Monday, April 11, 2016

"It's all true. That's the best part."

My very last lesson as a full-time missionary was spent in the home of perfect strangers, starting at the very beginning - explaining that God was their Father and that He had a plan and a message for them that would bless and change their family for eternity. "We invited you over because our son has just been married in the Frankfurt temple," they explained. "We decided that's something that we want too - to be sealed to each other forever." I smiled and once again began to teach and bear my now unshakable witness of the eternal truths that I have spent the past 18 months studying, pondering and sharing. As I hugged Frau Wilde goodbye, I left her with the words that my father shared with me right before I was set apart as a missionary: "The best part of the whole thing is that it's true. It really is true." I thought of how good it was going to feel to be in his arms again in a few short days and to be able to tell him "Dad, you were right. It's all true. That's the best part."

My last week as a missionary has been chock-full of miracles. After discovering that an earlier investigator had moved, we klingeled her neighbor to see if she knew where he had moved to and the woman asked us if we would come back and teach her. We talked with two Turkish men at a café in the hipster/grungy part of Hannover and talked about faith, God, and eternal families and were asked to come teach them and their children. We had our first appointment with a member referral named Britta - a 28 year-old who has been confined to a wheelchair her entire life and who, after loosing her father last year, wants to know if she will ever see him again. We stopped a man on the street named Souleyman from Camaroon who wants to learn more about the Book of Mormon, talked about what it means to be "converted to something" with two guys on an S-Bahn who afterwords asked us if we had any books or brochures or anything, helped complete strangers move into their new home and committed them to come to church this Sunday, and talked to everyone that we possibly could. It was great.

Friday night at the Metzigs found me right back where I started in Hannover: sitting at the dinner table with homemade abendbrot, laughing with their twins, and feeling like I could stay there forever. At this point, I hadn't seen the Sunday Afternoon session of General Conference and Annie had us watch Elder Holland's talk together. At the end of his talk, Annie looked at me and told me that she knew that my 'tomorrow' was going to be hard to face but, as Elder Holland said, "Don't be afraid of tomorrow, but remember the uplifting experiences you had on the mountain.'' In my teary state I could hardly do more than nod and say "I know."

Week after week I have written home about all that I have seen, learned, felt, and witnessed in my time here. I have given all that I have and all that I am. I am changed. In an email shortly after receiving my mission call, my dad wrote me, "the time will come when it will be hard for you to
express your gratitude for your mission without shedding a few tears of gratitude." I'm there. The thankfulness that fills every fiber of my being is overwhelming. "I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." (Alma 26:16)

I leave you with the simple truths that I know for myself:

1. God lives. He knows us by name, loves us, and is intimately involved in our lives.

2. Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world - the very Son of God. He loves us more than we can ever imagine and it is through His infinite Atonement that we can make progress, that we can be healed, that we can fix that which has been broken, and that we need never stand alone.

3. Joseph Smith was called as a prophet of the Lord to restore Christ's church to the earth. His humble seeking and asking stands as an example to each of us. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It, along with the Bible, nurtures my soul and is a means of receiving answers to my prayers.

4. Families can be together for eternity. I once again raise my voice with that of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have
put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. ...O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"

5. Every single person is given the opportunity and the means to find out for themselves that the above statements are true. God won't leave anyone in the dark when we search for light.

I know it. And I know that I know it.

"Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full." 2 John 1:12

See you soon.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, April 4, 2016

Neues Rathous


Markt Kirche

Markt Kirche - Grace and her companion

Markt Kirche - The District

We found root beer!

I Do Not Fear The End.

First things first: let it be noted that President a Dieter F. Uchtdorf - the second counselor in the First Presidency - has identified German as the celestial language! Was habe ich denn für Glück! I have yet to see the Sunday afternoon session, but General Conference has been wonderful thus far. I am in awe of how poignantly the Lord gives us answers to our prepared questions through the words of those who speak. 

You know, I wanted to avoid writing about the fact that my mission is coming to a rapid close and just focus on the happy fact that here I am, serving in Germany.  But when I think about this past week and what I've learned, I realize that that it all has to do with the end. At the end of this week, I could say something that I could not say two weeks ago: I do not fear the end. 

It had already been an emotional day; I watched my trainee trust herself enough to give an answer in German at the trainer-trainee conference, I couldn't help but tear up as Elder Morton sang "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" - "O wie lieblich war der Morgen" in the language that I have come to love with all of my heart, one of the assistants asked me to share the story of the Spasovs and how the gospel healed their family, Sister Fingerle got emotional as she recalled her first experience in the mission field on that hot July evening with Sister Rückauer and me during her testimony at the close of the meeting, and I could hardly get through reciting Doctrine and Covenants section 4 as we stood all together - missionaries old and new. "Nun siehe, ein wunderbares Werk ist im Begriff..."  Everything seemed to scream in my face 'you won't have this for much longer.' 

My sweet former companion, Sister Rückauer, came up to me during one of the breaks during the trainer-trainee conference and asked me how I felt about everything. "How are you really doing?" I told her how I didn't know how I was going to leave all of this behind me. She hugged me, and for the next ten minutes, she helped me talk through everything and slowly start to see how just because something good is ending, doesn't mean that other good things aren't waiting to begin on the other side. 

A few days later, we sat down in a classroom at the church to begin our second appointment with Herr Pagel. We talked again about the purpose of our meetings and what kind of light, answers, and changes would come into his life if he listened and earnestly sought to know the truth of what we shared with him. A lifelong atheist, Herr Pagel was worried about his capacity to believe in what we shared, even if he wanted to. "You know, I am absolutely terrified of death. The idea that one day I will not exist anymore, will not be conscious of my surroundings and mind, that I will leave my family here alone scares me more than I can say. But I simply cannot believe in it being any other way."  We bore witness that, as Alma said "...all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and it's motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." We promised him that the Supreme Creator was not an absent and indifferent God, but rather our Father in Heaven who knew him, who loved him, and who wanted more than anything for him to know that He had a plan for him and wanted a relationship with him. "It takes trust and walking into the dark," said Sister Darton. "When we know who He is, we do not need to be afraid. So start there." 

In that moment, I realized how blessed I am to know and believe in a Father in Heaven who really is everything we had just testified of. I realized that in my fear about the end of my mission, I - like Herr Pagel - was failing to put my trust in something I could not see. I have spent the last year and a half telling everyone I can that God lives, that He knows and loves them, and that He has a plan for them. I said it because I believe it. I really truly do. So why should I fear? This Father has given me, and indeed each of us, the perfect light to guide us through whatever darkness and uncertainty may lie ahead: the Savior. As the Savior said to the prophet Joseph and Oliver Cowdery in the a revelation now found in the 6th section of the Doctrine and Covenants,

"21 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God... I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."

My fear stemmed from a failure to apply the faith that I have. I know who my light is. I know that light will always conquer darkness. I know who I need to look to in order to handle this transition. I do not need to fear the end because He who has been by side these past 18 months is not going away - He will stay by me. 

I do not fear the end. I'm excited to see you, my dear ones. I'll write you next week for the last time. 

All my confidence and love, 
Sister G Hendricks

Monday, March 28, 2016

He lives. I know it.

This week I join my voice with Paul; "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift." 

This Easter week has reminded me once again of the gifts that the life, Atonement, sacrifice, and resurrection of Jesus Christ brings to each of us. 

The gift of having someone who knows exactly how we feel. Sister Ann-Katrin Rückauer and I walked the streets of Berlin again, our long legs making our steps falling into our same old tempo. Julius-Leber Brücke, Südkreuz, Lichterfelde Ost; it all felt like home. Never in a million years did we ever think we would be able to be on exchange with each other - much less in our old stomping grounds, but here we were again, almost a year after our first day together. We visited one of our favorite members in Dahlem, ate at our favorite cafe, taught our Bulgarians about the Temple, and walked back home that night with her arm looped through mine. That walk home through the streets of my favorite city on earth reminded me that the Lord is always going to answer my prayers. He knew that I needed to be with someone who knows me well and loves me. The Lord sometimes shows us His character through the the people around us and through Sister Rückauer that night, I felt the Savior's compassion, understanding, and unconditional love. "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20)

The gift of our future resurrection as perfect beings. Schwester Hormann's face beamed with pure happiness as I twirled around in her 1960s Dirndl. "You look like a princess!" she exclaimed as she clapped her crippled hands together. I kissed her cheek and thanked her again. "No need to thank me, Sister. That hasn't fit me in years!" She folded the dress up carefully and tucked it into my backpack. "Now, Princess, do you two have a spiritual thought for me?" We watched the 'Hallelujah' video together and asked her what the term 'new life' meant for her. "It means that this life isn't the end - it means that there is something better waiting for me. I have accepted the challenges of this life and I know that I can talk to my Father in Heaven for the strength to get through them. But I do know that something better is waiting for me on the other side. That will be my new life." The cadence of her voice as she struggled to get the words out through her speech impediment was slow, sure, steady, and confident. 

The gift of promised light to break through the darkest days of our lives. Jacky cried through the entire "Because He Lives" video as baby Marissa crawled around the primary room floor. We sat on the carpet and talked about how, through the Savior, light always follows the darkness. "I would have never imagined the darkness that I have had to live in," she said. Then she looked at the painting of the Savior on the wall. "But there is light. I just need to roll away the stone." 

There are countless gifts that are ours for the taking through our risen Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for the light the He is and brings.

He lives. I know it. 

Sister Grace

Monday, March 21, 2016

Room For Miracles

Well, folks, I'm looking back through my planner for this past week trying to wrap my head around everything that happened and I'm realizing that almost everything turned out differently than planned. Fallen out trains, emergency exchanges, demonstrations in the inner city, klingeling random buildings, and more taught me one very important lesson this week: flexibility allows room for miracles.
After an absurd number of hours stuck on delayed trains trying to do our exchange with the Osnabrück/Bielefeld sisters, Sister Wayment and I had already missed two appointments and my patience was wearing very thin. We were already late for our last planned appointment of the day and I was thinking about just canceling. Luckily, that quiet voice of reason told me to stop overreacting and to just get to the appointment as soon as we could.
Thank goodness we did.
Thirty minutes later found us sitting on the couch in Jacky and Edi's apartment, talking about cars, Star Wars, God and religion, as baby Marissa held onto my knees and laughed at my lame winking skills. Getting to know this half-German half-American family had me laughing harder than I have in a long time and feeling the Spirit in a way that has sweetly coursed through the story of my mission and has become one of my greatest treasures. Jacky had randomly walking into the church a few months ago to ask for help moving, and since the move they had lost contact with the missionaries. ''I'm so glad you found us again,'' said Jacky. We showed them the new Easter ''Hallelujah'' church video and during the video, I felt like the message that we had prepared for them wasn't what we needed to say.
A question fell out of my mouth: ''Do you know what we do as missionaries? Do you know why we came on mission?'' Well that was a weird thing to say...I thought. ''To teach the word of God?'' said Edi in his thick, southern accent. ''You know,'' he continued,''I believe in God. I may be a little rough on the outside, but I do believe in higher power. I don't know a lot about Him and I wouldn't say that I always have the best relationship with Him, but I tell you right now - I say my prayers every night before I go to bed.'' We smiled and explained that that's why we are missionaries - because we've experienced how happy living the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes us, how it has strengthened our families, and how it helps us understand and deepen our relationship with God. We explained that we teach people lessons to learn how to do just that. ''Yeah yeah! Come teach us! You guys got brochures or something? We wanna learn!''
Sitting next to them in Sacrament Meeting two days after was wonderful. They soaked in every word, sang every song, and even asked ''Is it okay if we come back next week?''
Another happy change of plans had us klingeling in an unfamiliar part of town. We had been at it for a while with no success, but decided to try one more. Immediately after ringing, we were buzzed in and greeted by short teenager with a huge smile and big, kind, brown eyes named Christian. After a few seconds, it was clear that he spoke neither German nor English - just Spanish! And so in my awful Spanish, I was able to explain that we talk to people about God and about families. His face lit up and we made an appointment for Saturday.
That appointment - Skyping in the Spanish speaking Berlin Zone Leaders - was perfect. Straight out of Preach My Gospel. Christian agreed with everything and said that he felt like Joseph - he is on the search for the truth. And I understood almost all of the Spanish! We left him with a Spanish Book of Mormon, the Restoration pamphlet, and a promise to come back next week. He sent us off with a promise to read, two Dominican Republic candies, and an invitation to eat food from his  homeland with his whole family.
Have a wonderful Easter Week, my dear ones. I love my Savior. I know He lives. I know that He is ready and willing to pour out miracles when we make room for them.
Liebe Grüße, 
Sister Hendricks

Monday, March 14, 2016

Keep hoping!

The demonstrations of faith that I have been privileged to witness this past week have been remarkable. Let me share one.

Yuliya looked totally drained as she opened the door to her 4th story apartment on Saturday night. She had just spent the whole day in the hospital having blood tests to prepare for a major surgery in the coming week. This lovely Ukrainian woman was baptized two years ago but hasn't been active in the church.  We met met her on my first day in Hannover and she came to church the next day, invited her daughters, and has read in the Book of Mormon and prayed every day since we met.  As we sipped our Himbeer-Vanille tea, I held her IV-bruised hand, and read to her from the 5th chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans about trials, hope, patience, experience, and the love of Christ. She suddenly sat up straight and said, ''Girls, I will be at Sacrament Meeting tomorrow.'' She went in the next room, called the hospital, and told her doctor that she was going to come to her follow-up appointment an hour later than expected. ''I need to spiritually prepare. I am going to church'' she told him. She came back in, sat down, grabbed our hands and said ''If I want to ask God to take care of my body, then I had better do all I can to take care of my spirit.'' 

The next morning, Yuliya sat between us and sang all of the Sacrament hymns with extra enthusiasm. She studied 3 Nephi 18 as the Sacrament was passed. As she lifted the cup of water to her lips, I saw two or three tears run down her cheek before she leaned over to me and said ''He really does live. He is going to take care of me. I am so glad that I came.'' In the face of one of the most physically and emotionally taxing weeks of her life, Yuliya knew what her first source of nourishment, strength, and support was. Even though she was almost too weak to get to the hospital, let alone church, she knew that it was a righteous desire and that God would give her the strength to fulfill that commitment to come to church and partake of the Sacrament.
God taught me about faith again as we stood in front of a painting of the Savior in the Hannover church building with 4 Chinese people on a business trip. They had lost their way and asked for directions on the bahn to get back to their expo center where they were giving a presentation on their bluetooth speaker product. 30 minutes later. Sally, the head of sales, was translating the first lesson as we gave this group of coworkers a tour of the Hannover church building. Sally told us that she was a Christian and that she had just prayed to God to give her a way to share her testimony of Christ with her coworkers. ''The laws in China are very strict,'' she said, ''so it is hard for me to tell them about Christ. But I think they are ready to accept Him. In China, I can't tell them and they would never know, but now we are in Germany and here you are!'' We showed them the new Easter video from the church and taught about who Jesus Christ is. ''It feels like coming home,'' one girl said. After we got their information and hugged them goodbye, Sally told us ''I had faith that God would somehow let these people know about Jesus. Even though it seemed like it would never happen, I had faith. Thank you. My prayers are answered.''
What an experience it is to be able to really be around those ''who against hope believed in hope.''  

I love you all. Keep hoping. 
Sister Grace

Monday, March 7, 2016

Grace with her new companion, Sister Darton, and President and Sister Fingerle

The District
Hannover Gang
Grace with former trainees Sister Ballard and Sister Porter
 with their new trainees: "I'm a grandma"


Well, this past week has been great!

After a weekend and PDay full of tough goodbyes and packing like a  madwoman, I found myself once again making the trip back down to Freiberg. The familiar scenes of rundown DDR buildings, open fields, weathered steeples piercing the overcast German sky, and my out-of-date  journal laying open on the little desk next to me made the hours of travel slip away as quickly as it  feels like my mission has. In that good ol' Freiberg chapel, I was paired up with Sister Brooke Darton - a Sandy, Utah native with a big smile and a desire to talk to everyone. I'm a lucky girl. ''Hannover, here we come!'' 

Walking into the Metzig's 4th floor apartment that first rainy day in Hannover felt like a big hug: crowded bookshelves, games, seashells, a green umbrella stand full of funky walking canes, framed little kid scribbles and paintings of the Savior on the walls, carefully-folded owl paper napkins on the table, the way that Bruder Metzig had his wife try the Asian noodles to make sure they were exactly to her taste, heavily marked copies of the Book of Mormon open on the table ... everything.

"We have two rules for missionaries in this house," announced Bruder Metzig. "Number one: here is home. You can feel totally comfortable here and with us. Number two: Eat as much as you want - not one bite less and not one bite more." With a smile and a wink, he asked his wife to bless the food and I bowed my head, grateful for this new family in my life.
On Sunday, our investigator, Marina, sat on the stand in Fast and Testimony meeting nervously and excitedly waiting for her chance to speak. ''This is my first testimony I will ever share,'' she said as she held her 7 year-old daughter Mariella's hand. ''I just wanted to say thank you to the Metzig family  or introducing me to this circle of faith and friends. I am so grateful for the missionaries and for how sweet they are to our little family. We both have been given priesthood blessings by Stefan Metzig and each time, we felt so much more strength and support and love from God. We are really grateful to be a part of this and I am grateful to learn about this church.''

I was in shock. What investigator does that in front of a huge crowd of strangers?  Wonderful!

Truly here in Hannover, I am among ''many of the noble and great ones.''
All of my love, 
Sister Grace

Monday, February 29, 2016

Last Transfer - Off To Hannover!

Dear loved ones,

The first spring Hamburg sunlight streamed through the windows of the Altona church building on Sunday morning, bathing our small chapel in warmth and light. I folded my arms, let my eyes linger on the look on Farshid's face as Hadi and Bishop placed their hands on his head.  I closed my eyes, bowed my head, and listened to Farshid receive the gift of the Holy Ghost in Persian. My mind went through everything that had happened in the past 48 hours and my heart was filled with
simultaneous gratitude and heaviness.

I thought about the phone call that I had received the previous morning at 7:19am from President Fingerle. "Sister Hendricks," he said, "I have three changes for you." Well shoot, I thought. "I am
sending you to Hannover to open a new missionary program. I am going to ask you to train again. And I would like to ask you to once again serve as a Sister Training Leader. It is going to be a big task. Do you accept the assignments?" "Well, Präsident. Alles vermag ich durch ihn der mir Kraft gibt." The German version of Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." "I thought you would say that," he chuckled.

I thought of Farshid dressed all in white the day before as he finally "had his dream come true" and entered the waters of baptism in our tiny Altona baptismal font. I thought of the efforts of the ward to make his special day perfect and to welcome him. I thought of his sister's voice over our crappy brick of a cell phone echoing through the halls of the church building - her voice bursting with excitement for her brother.

And then, I stopped feeling sad about leaving this beautiful home of Hamburg and basked in the spirit, love, and beauty of the moment. That moment, as Farshid received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, was what these whole 18 months have been about. In that moment I felt a perfect, indescribable peaceone of those personal, sacred "Peace, be still" moments.

So in my heart, I am still. I am okay with the changes that the next few days will bring. The "come what may and love it" attitude makes it a lot easier to savor the sweetness of experiences past and to look forward to the next adventure with courage, humility, and confidence in the Lord's ability to qualify me for whatever He asks.

Goodbye for now, Hamburg. Hello Hannover.

Sister Grace Hendricks

Monday, February 22, 2016

"I Am In Your Midst"

Dear loved ones,

There are so many things that I want to write about and I know I'll never be able to get it all down. The other night as we walked back from the Elbgaustraße bahn stop, I turned my face up to the sky and soaked up the moment of being here in Hamburg, Germany as a missionary after a long day. I felt the snow melt on my cheeks and wondered how many more times I will get to walk through the wet German snow and how I ever deserved these experiences.

I told you last week that Farshid was going to have his visa appointment on Tuesday and that we had fasted together that he would get his 6 month visa so that he could be baptized. Hadi (translator) called us on Tuesday morning to tell us that Farshid had only received a 3 month visa. He was crushed. I mentioned something about it in my email to President and President immediately responded that he wanted to see a digital copy of his visa and a report of his involvement with the church to get a better idea of his
situation, so I sent everything to President right away. On Saturday, we felt prompted to have an unplanned lesson with Farshid. At the close of the lesson, Farshid prayed, promising the Lord that he would do anything it took if he prepared a way for him to get baptized. There wasn't a dry eye in the room - the humility and begging in this prayer
was indescribable. I emailed President Fingerle about the lesson, and within 5 minutes of sending the email off, President responded and said that he wanted to talk to Hadi immediately to discuss how Farshid could move forward in his discipleship. At 20:43, President called and told us that he had prayed about it and he had decided to give Farshid permission to be baptized. When we called Farshid  in a conference call to tell him, his voice cracked with emotion, gratitude, and bewilderment that the Lord had so directly answered his pleas with a miracle, and I couldn't do a darn thing to stop tears of happiness from streaming down my face.

Farshid will be baptized this coming Saturday at 16:00.

Remember the refugee family that I told you about last week? On Tuesday, we sat down on the couch of this family's one-room apartment in an Auslanderheim in Sülldorf. Their adorable 4-year old daughter drew flowers in my planner as 16 year-old Portia brought us cold glasses of water. Fahran, the father, told us how excited his family was to meet us and cute 12 year-old Marsel nodded. There was an immediate feeling of friendship with this Kurdish family and the next hour was spent hearing their story.

The Qasim family is from a small Kurdish village in northern Iraq near a sacred mountain called Shengal. Fahran was a medical assistant at a hospital with a side business making wedding pictures and montages (enter superimposed doves, fountains and magic carpets stage right). His wife got the brides all dolled up and was a professional hairdresser. Their life was perfect: good jobs, their own home, 4 wonderful kids, and everything they ever wanted. Then came the new government.

"They started killing everyone. They started taking our women and our girls and killing the men right before their eyes. They took everything we had. We had no choice - we had to run."

The family left with the clothes on their backs, a cell phone, and a hard drive with all of their family pictures and headed for Syria in their car. Fahran showed us video footage of the hoards of people trying to escape. On their way to Syria, a roadside bomb exploded next
to their car. Miraculously, all members of their family were (for the most part) okay. Their car was destroyed, so the family continued on foot. "I carried my 3-year old daughter through gunfire, heat, and chaos."

Eventually, the family made it to Syria, then Jordan, then Turkey. They lived in a refugee camp for a year while Fahran smuggled himself into Germany and borrowed money from a friend to bring his family over. He showed us a photograph of the family reunited at the train
station. "It's beautiful," I said. "I know. We were so happy."

This family carries the physical and emotional scars of experiences that are incomprehensible to most of us. And yet there we were, sitting, laughing, and getting to know each other as newfound friends. The whole family smiles endlessly and clamors to share the little that they have.

"God protected your family," I said as we were getting ready to leave. Fahran responded: "Thanks be to God. Yes He did. We are safe and we are together."

I am running out of time, but these are just two glimpses into the things that have helped me see God moving in His majesty and wonder this week.

In Doctrine and Covenants 38:7-8, we are told "Mine eyes are upon you.
I am in your midst and ye cannot see me; but the day soon cometh that
ye shall see me, and know that I am..."

I may not be able to physically see Him walking beside me and beside those whom I have come to love so much, but I sure can feel it.

God answers our prayers. Always. He will answer in His own time and in His own way, but He will always answer. He protects us, nurtures us, guides us, loves us, and knows us.

Your Sister Grace

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

 Lunch date back in the world of preteens. Insert "like" x 1000

With Sister St. John at the St. Pauli loading docks, Port of Hamburg

Refugees and Grandma

Well, friends, our week was once again nuts. These past few weeks, I've felt such a pressing sense of urgency to work harder than ever, to push our companionship, to be more earnest in prayer, to talk to absolutely everyone, and to do as the spirit directs. And it has brought a lot of miracles: new people to teach, new referrals, new confidence for Sister Porter, new spiritual milestones reached by our investigators, and new strength. Let me tell you about some of these special moments.

I was trying not to be irritated by the incessant squeaking of the broken window on the 30 minute S-Bahn ride home after a long day. A cute woman in her mid-50s sat down across from us and Sister Porter immediately complimented her purple knit hat. She thanked us in a thick accent and I asked her where she was from. "Iran" she said. That initiated a 30-minute discussion about all of our Persian friends at church, why we were here, our families, and learning German. By the end of the bahn ride we were laughing like old friends. I asked her if she had family here in Germany, to which she responded that no, she was here totally alone. "Well," we said, "it's like a big Persian family at our church every
Monday and Wednesday night. You should come sometime!" "I would be like the Oma (grandma) - that would be perfect!" She laughed and we exchanged numbers with a promise to have our Persian translator Hadi call and invite her. She pinched our cheeks, said that she was excited, and assured us that we would see each other next week. Hadi reported the next day that they had talked on the phone for 45 minutes, that she would be coming to our "Persian pals" lesson next week with her boyfriend and that she was open to learn more about what we believe.

As we were visiting contacts in a random part of our area, I stopped a man to ask him for directions. 20 minutes later, we were still standing there, talking about his family. His four year-old daughter came up, promptly began to play a hand-clap game with Sister St.
John and told us that we were her new best friends. "She needs friends. She hasn't laughed like that in a long time," Qasim said. He told us everything that his family has gone through in the past two years: kicked out of their home in Iraq, everything stolen from them
but the clothes on their backs, and narrowly escaping Iraq with their lives. Then he smiled and motioned towards the "auslander heim" complex behind him. "This is our life now. And we are so grateful. I have my family, I have my health, and now we are safe. What more could I ever ask for?" We waved goodbye with an appointment to teach them about family home evening the next Tuesday.

You guys remember Farshid, right? Our Iranian investigator who lives in the refugee camp? On Monday, he told us that next week he will be getting his visa and that there is a 50-50 chance that he will get a 6 month visa. THE LONG AWAITED 6 MONTH VISA. This piece of paper has been the only thing preventing Farshid from getting baptized. At the end of our lesson, we kneeled in prayer together and called on divine assistance to help Farshid get his visa. While we were still on our knees, he said ''I have believed in Jesus Christ for two years now. This is my dream.'' 

Hadi, the Zone Leaders, Sister Porter and I fasted on Sunday for Farshid. After Skype Persian Sunday school, Farshid spun around in his chair and said ''I did not know that you were fasting for me! Please eat something! This is too much! You do not have to do this for me!'' He had tears in his eyes as we told him that it was more than okay and that this was our way of showing Heavenly Father that this meant a lot to us and to him and that by fasting, we were trying to exercise our faith. ''This is too big. Too big gift. Thank you. Thank you so much. I will never forget this.'' 

I am grateful to be surrounded by so many people who really understand the treasure that the gospel of Jesus Christ is. 

I am savoring every precious moment that I have here to serve, to find, to teach, and to lift others. Time is going really fast.

Love to each of you

Sister Hendricks

Monday, February 8, 2016

 dinner with the ladies
Dieter and his books

Brothers and Sisters

Dear loved ones,

The foggy evening Hamburg light highlighted the smoke streaming from Dieter's skinny hand-rolled cigarette and trailing up the books stacked on every available surface in this crowded, dingy apartment and for 20 minutes, his gravelly monologue was interrupted only by intermittent drags. As missionaries, it can be tricky to know how to interrupt such tangents with grace and sensitivity to put the lesson back on track. From the blank looks on Sister Porter's and Elder Smith's faces and the faint snoring from the brand-new trainee in the overstuffed chair behind me, I felt the weight of directing the conversation back to our lesson plan fall entirely on me. After a few futile attempts to segue the conversation back to the Book of Mormon, I was getting frustrated and I felt like we were wasting our time.

Then, I remembered my name tag: "Sister Hendricks - Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der Letzten Tage" - and what I had studied in chapter 1 of Preach My Gospel the day before: "You are surrounded by people. ...All of them are children of God, your brothers and sisters. God loves them just as much as He loves you." Immediately, I began to listen to his tangent a little differently; not with annoyance or impatience, but with a real desire to know what he needed. I began to see Dieter differently. He was no longer the slightly crazy, stringy-haired, long-winded, book hoarder that was taking up way too much of our time, but rather my brother. Once I really started really listening, the Spirit helped me know where I could bear my testimony and how to go about teaching him. As we left, he looked at the cover of his Book of Mormon and promised to read the introduction and the testimonies at the beginning. He tapped his finger on the word "Mormon" and said "You know what? You kids are my brothers and sisters. If you ever need anything, you know where to come. It doesn't matter how early or late - my door will always be open for the children of God."

We are all brothers and sisters, folks. When I think about my siblings Maddy, Abby, and Mark, my heart is so full of love for them that, as any companion of mine can confirm, once I start talking about how wonderful they are and how much I love them, I can't stop! And the love that I have for my siblings should be training for how I see everyone around me - with love, respect, and recognition that there is God-given potential within each of us. This coming week, I hope to see with clearer eyes.

Love to you all,
Sister Hendricks

Monday, February 1, 2016

Week of Service

Dear loved ones,

I don't have a lot of time today so I'll have to keep this one short.

This week was one of service. Dismantling wooden bed frames, building furniture, carrying cabinets, unpacking boxes, dragging the Pinneberg Elders' luggage up a thousand flights of stairs, visiting lonely young mothers whose only company is their screeching two year old, and volunteering at the Hamburg International School.

As President Kimball said,

“Service to others deepens and sweetens this life ... in the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the
promise of Jesus that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves! [See Matthew 10:39.]... We become more substantive as we serve others--indeed, it is easier to ‘find’ ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!”

How wonderful it is that we have opportunities to step outside of ourselves, serve others, and find ourselves.

I love you all!

Sister Hendricks

Monday, January 25, 2016



A Priesthood Blessing

Dear all,

This week has been one for the books - every day booked solid from the second we finish studies to the last possible moment we can be home, joint teaches, killer Persian food, two investigators committing to be baptized, investigators at church, referrals, a surprise hug from an old Polish man, forgetting really basic English vocabulary, singing "I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane" while our stake president plucked out a few chords on his super retro nylon string guitar, cracking up the whole way home after an insanely awkward lesson with two Russian-speaking women, planning a Fufu party, and so much more.

But my favorite moment of the week was late yesterday evening after Ward Mission Correlation. A major headache, fever, and sore throat had been paining me since the night before and I felt
overwhelmed. All throughout our meetings at church, I was pulled in a thousand different directions: translating, caring for all of the investigators there, setting up joint teaches for the coming week, battling the snarky remarks of a grumpy old sister, setting up skype Persian Sunday school, and the list went on. Normally, I would have been energized by all of the excitement, but this time, I felt stretched beyond my capacities - like I could feel my body snap under the strain.

I asked Brother Lopez for a Priesthood blessing. He laid his hands on my head and, with authority from Jesus Christ, gave me one of the most specific and powerful blessings I have ever received. Through the words he spoke, I knew with my whole soul that it was actually my Father in Heaven speaking. The concerns of my heart, things about my personality, challenges I had been dealing with for a long time - all were specifically addressed. The bold, personal promises extended could not have been fabricated by a man I hardly knew, but rather had to have been given by inspiration from a loving God who knows His daughter Grace.

I am so grateful to know that God still communicates with man. I am grateful to know and feel the power of His priesthood and authority restored once again to the earth. I am grateful to know that He is deeply and intimately involved in our lives - not from a distance, but rather step by step alongside us.

I love my God and I love you.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Hendricks

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bulgarian Reunion

Hi folks,

My mind is kind of going in a hundred different directions right now so I'll keep this email short for everybody's sanity.

After the trainer-trainee meeting at the mission home on Thursday, we got permission to go to Dahlem and spend the evening with the Spasovs. Lichterfelde Ost, Südkreuz, Julius-Leber Brücke, Kleistpark ... I felt the S-bahn carry me stop for stop back home. The familiar orange glow
of the crappy, sticker-ridden street lights lit the way and as the klingel buzzed us in, I realized just how much I had missed this sketchy apartment complex, the creaky millions of steps up to
Vasilka's door, and the oh-so-distinctive Bulgarian smell in the stairwell. "Meine Baby!"

After an extra long hug and several smooches on my cheek, Vasilka looked me in the eyes and told me how grateful she was that we had come. I could see the strain of the last few weeks on her face - she looked tired and a part of her spark was just not there. I walked into the purple painted apartment and happily slipped into the world of Bulgarian music playing over cheap speakers in the kitchen, the smell of weird cheese bread in the oven, Alicia running around waving a baby doll over her head, and Vasilka holding my hand. Within a few minutes, the Spasovs walked in: Albena, Plamen, Ivana, Ivan, and Zlatomir. We talked for a long time - Plamen and Vasilka's dad made it here to Germany, but he is now bedridden with stomach cancer. "Its hard right now," said Albena. "But if this is God's plan for our family right now, then okay. We do not lose our faith."

We talked about God's plan for us and that He has promised to give us every opportunity to be with our families forever. "Der Tod hat keine Macht" she said under her breath. "Death has no power."

Miles, months, sickness, death. Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, none of those things have the power to separate us from the ones we love. Regardless of how our life plan works out, we will be "taken home to that God who gave [us] life."

Love to each of you.

Sister Grace

Monday, January 11, 2016

St. Michaelis Kirche

Light in the Wilderness

This week I want to write you about Farshid.

It's Tuesday night and we are riding the M21 bus back from German class with the Hansens. The robotic German voice announces the next stop: "Grubenstieg," and the Deutsche Rotes Kreuz (German Red Cross) refugee camp slips into view through my bus window.
I cannot even imagine what it must be like to live in a place like this.... A world where the only concept of any sort of privacy is found in a thin sheet hung between 'living spaces', where you have to wait hours and hours in a line for laundry or a shower, and where the massive fluorescent lights never ever turn off. No darkness to hide in or find solitude. The bus rumbles on and I see the flash of ambulance lights in the front lot. My heart skips a beat at the simultaneously irrational and rational fear that Farshid is somehow in the middle of it - that he's hurt or got involved in something. The memory of Farshid's face two days prior as he stared out of the Altona church building window and told us that he didn't read in his scriptures the night before because he got in a fight defending a woman that was being harassed was still fresh in my mind. The reality is that the only thing protecting him in his newfound faith is the thick white paper covering the cover of his Persian Book of Mormon; keeping his involvement with the church a secret is essential. The ambulance drives off and our bus moves on in the opposite direction. A skinny boy has climbed halfway up the fence and his brightly-light silhouette is the last thing I see before our bus turns onto the next street. In my head, I pray for Farshid and I pray for this little boy.

I gleaned some understanding of Farshid's life before he came to Germany from flipping through the pictures on his iPod as we sat in the mall food court the next day. I zoomed in on the faces of all of his family members. His voice changed when I zoomed in on one in particular:"That is my big sister." Using trusty old google translate, I asked him if they were close. His huge eyes crinkled a little bit as he smiled and he did his classic Persian extra-long blink. Over these past weeks, I have learned that the the longer the blink, the stronger the affirmative. He lit up showing us pictures of his nieces and nephews, brothers, and parents. A picture of him in a hard hat brought to light that he was an architect. Our lesson with our translator Hadi later that week gave Farshid the opportunity to give us even more background. At the end, he explained how now that he knows about Jesus Christ and he has found the church, his family means even more to him. He said that as he has come closer to God, he has learned how to be happier and more grateful, in spite of everything that he and his family have had to go through. I am still in awe of his humility, spiritual maturity, and his gratitude.

The Lord told Nephi: "I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you..."

Farshid knows who his light in the wilderness is. He knows that the Savior had been preparing him his whole life to hear and accept the good news of the gospel. He begins each prayer with "Father" - in full confidence that he is communicating directly with his Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for Farshid's example, testimony, sacrifices, and strength. I am grateful to know that God is intimately involved in the life of this Iranian refugee and for the opportunity I have had these past few months to watch and be involved in Farshid recognizing that too.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace