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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