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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

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hadi gave us a tour of his laboratory....
"I... am a genius..."

Rare algae reserves.

Farshid looking dapper in his new suit!
Grace and her current companion (from Portland, on right)
with Grace's former companion (from Germany, on left)

Right Place, Right Time

Well, gang, I've been kind of staring at my iPad for the past 5 minutes not really sure what to say. I could write to you about our New Years 5k run as a zone which turned into a service project cleaning up a park from all of the fireworks trash. I could write to you about the dozens of fallen out appointments that occasionally
turned into situations where we were in just the right place at just the right time ... to help a mom carry her stroller up the stairs, to have a great conversation about the role of prayer with some engineering students
on a bus, or to help an elderly couple move out of their 4th story apartment. I could write about Friday evening with Jannina as she told us that her testimony of Joseph Smith is slowly getting stronger and stronger as we sipped vanilla tea and read "Safety for the Soul" by the light of the colored Christmas lights still lining her window. I could write about personal study, setting New Years goals, or lessons learned in District Meeting.

But somehow my thoughts just keep getting drawn back one simple thought: Faith.

President Packer once said "Faith, to be faith, must center around something that is not known. Faith, to be faith, must go beyond that for which there is confirming evidence. Faith, to be faith, must go into the unknown. Faith, to be faith, must walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness. If everything has to be known, if everything has to be explained, if everything has to be certified, then there is no need for faith. Indeed, there is no room for it. …"

I somehow have the feeling that this coming year will lead me to the edge of the light - my testimony that I have spent the last year+ working so hard to expand and deepen - and I will be asked to take a few steps into the dark.

But that's a good thing. I am so grateful to know of a Father in Heaven who loves me enough to stretch me and who cares about me enough to give me opportunities to make room for faith.

I welcome in this new year with open arms and a grateful heart.

Your Sister Grace Hendricks

Last Skype!

Skyping with you, my dear family, was awesome - weird, but awesome! This was the last of my calls home. Those calls are kind of like peanut M&Ms in a ziplock bag tucked in your ski jacket. In the middle of a long day of skiing, when you can't really feel all of your toes, those little nuggets of chocolatey goodness give you just enough energy to motivate you and remind you how much fun you're having. It's crazy to think that I will be able to hug you in a few short months.

I love you all,
Sister Grace Hendricks