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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

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