Monday, October 26, 2015

Dear family,

     At MLC a couple transfers back, Sister Stoddard gave a theme and said something along the lines of "instead of setting baptismal dates with investigators, you missionaries should set temple dates and then set baptismal dates for a year earlier. That way, the people you teach understand what the real goal is and what this message we're out here sharing is really about" 
     Saturday night, we called that family who randomly showed up at church last week to let them know they were welcome to come again (we didn't have an opportunity to meet with them throughout the week). Endurance picked up the phone and was like "Sister, we just walked through the door...can we just talk at church tomorrow?" We were like. Oh. Okay. Yes. Perfect. Sure enough, Kingsley, Endurance and Edwin were sitting pretty in a pew today before Sister Johnson and I even got there. That suggestion of Sister Stoddard’s hit me like a ton of bricks while sitting next to them during sacrament meeting (the Holy Ghost. Isn't he the best?! Hitting people with bricks. Must be fun) Sister Johnson and I went into our lesson with them later on with that in mind. We told her all about eternal families and how those ties can extend past death when husbands and wives and parents and children are sealed together in the house of the Lord. We showed her pictures of the temple and invited her to start preparing to enter into it....and she was so excited, she started slapping her boyfriend (who, plot twist, turned out to be a member). She said "wait. So your church will let me go in there even though I have kids?" And we said "yes! In fact, we encourage and urge you to prepare to go ESPECIALLY because you have kids! There's nothing that will bless their life, or the life of your family as a whole, more than that!" We then explained that, in order to enter into the Lord’s house, she would need to be baptized by someone holding His authority...and homegirl didn't miss a beat!! "Yes! Yes I will be baptized!" she said. 
     It was pretty funny because as our lesson was winding down, she said "you know what? I've seen you around a lot. You're always on the busses. One time, you sat across from me, so I pulled out my phone and pretended to be talking to someone on it so you wouldn't talk to me!" Sister Johnson and I got a kick out of that, for sure...but it was actually really good she told us that because it brought to light her only issue with the church: The Book of Mormon. "It's not the Bible!" she said! "I have a big problem with that!" Thankfully, we were able to resolve said problem really quickly by reading 2 Nephi 29: 7 & 8 with her: 

7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the (children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? 
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. 

     She understood after reading that that the Book of Mormon does not replace the Bible, nor does anything contained in its 500+ pages conflict with the Bible, but the two books go hand in hand and help us grow in faith and testimony in Jesus Christ and His gospel. 
     After our lesson with her, our other two appointments fell out. Our backup plan was to go do doors in an area over by the off we went! While we were walking over, we saw a group of people standing around talking, so we approached them with “BecauseHeLives” cards. They all turned to look at us, and we recognized one of the girls as someone we'd contacted a few days ago! We met her on Monday night and invited her to take a church tour the next evening, an invitation that she readily accepted. We waited around the church for about 15 minutes on Tuesday...and she never showed up :( however, Sister Johnson and I think the Lord was working some sort of invisibility cloak miracle, because when we asked her what happened yesterday, she was like "I came! It's that building right over there, right?! I went right up to the doors but they were locked and all the lights were off!"

Bummer, right? 
The lord had bigger plans in mind. 
We invited her and 6 people who were with her to all come inside the church right then in there! 

     They were Muslim, so we focused the tour on Jesus Christ and his ministry. We ended in the chapel, where the beautifully talented Sister Johnson (obsessed with her) played "how great thou art" on the piano. They were all so touched!! We explained to them what exactly it is that we do as missionaries and asked them if they would like to meet again and learn more about Jesus Christ. 

I will never forget the looks on their faces. 

     With big smiles and exaggerated nods, they accepted our invitation and then proceeded to give us the biggest hugs EVER. They were from (I'll give you a wild guess) ALBANIA, so we couldn't communicate super, super well (the girl we'd met on Monday night spoke perfect English and was translating the whole time) but they just kept gesturing to the hearts and smiling and looking at each other and nodding and OH MY HEAVENS SISTER JOHNSON AND I JUST BROKE DOWN IN TEARS. 
     We had had SUCH a rough week. Pretty much everything had fallen out. Potentials weren't answering. Investigators were canceling. We were getting ignored and shut down by just about everyone all week long. My daily journal entries seemed to all contain something along the lines of "WHYYYYY" or "I’M SO FRUSTRATEDDDD". During weekly planning last week, we felt inspired to set a goal of finding 5 new investigators and despite our hardest, sincerest efforts...we hadn't even come close by the time Sunday rolled around. Then BOOM. 6 new investigators in one day! Miracle after miracle! Those weren't the only two, though! Ben came to church and is progressing really well towards baptism on the 14th of next month. 2 random people showed up as well! One of them being someone Sister Johnson had briefly talked with on a bus earlier this week. On top of all that, before leaving, one of our little Albanian friends was like "everyone wants to come inside your church! Our neighbors, my sisters, everyone!" We were like "oh my gosh, they're so welcome to come!!" And they're going to on Wednesday! (: 

     I have some other really incredible stories to share with you...but this email is already long enough. Basically, the Lord is just incredible. I kneel down to pray and just feel like no expressions of gratitude or praise even scratch the surface of my love and thankfulness for the Heavenly Father, His son Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost and this wonderful work of Theirs that I get to be a part of. I love being a missionary. I can't say it enough. A mission is the place to be. I'm so glad I'm here. 

I hope y’all had a great week. 
I'll talk to you soon! 

- Sister Terry 

P.S. guess who hits their year mark in Germany this week?! Ahhhh time needs to SLOW. DOWN.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dear family,

This week we went on splits with köln, Bonn and Dortmund (Thursday night was the first time I stepped foot in my area. I was going through Duisburg withdrawals, for sure). They all went really well...I think my favorite one was with Bonn, though! I got to spend a whole 24 hours with THE Sister Williams. She's one of my favorite people in the world. We had a couple member appointments, which are always fun...but the best part of the split came right at the very end…

There's something wrong with the Deutscher Bahn electricity or something, so there's tons of train verspätungs and fall outs. We were standing on our gleis at hauptbahhoff waiting for our train (which was supposed to come 25 minutes later), and I had only made a couple attempts to invite people to learn about Jesus Christ. 25 minutes became 35 minutes...and aside from those few conversations I'd had, most of that time was spent talking with Sister Williams. At around the 30 minute mark, 35 minutes late became 45 minutes late on the screen and I made a comment around the lines of "why is this thing so late?!" And then, prompted by the spirit no doubt, I answered my own question—"it's probably because someone here wants to hear about the gospel". I looked around, said a little prayer that I'd know who to talk to, and walked towards a guy standing a few feet away from me. He was super sweet, but it seemed pretty clear to me that he wasn't all that interested...I kept trying anyway, though. I pulled out a Book of Mormon and asked if he'd read it. He remained uninterested, but the attention of the guy standing next to him was sparked. He interrupted and asked "is that a Book of Mormon?!" I said yes, and he was like "Joseph Smith wrote it, right??" I motioned for Sister Williams to come join the fun, then explained that he translated it through the power of God and asked what else he knew about Joseph Smith and our church in general. He gave us a brief summary and we filled in the gaps. I can't remember what all else was said after that, but at one point, we tried to give him the book and he was like "I already have one! I bought one on the internet because I was really interested in learning more"...sad day though, because he didn't have a phone. And he didn't want to give us his address (understandable) as of right now, nothing's going to come from that experience, but I'm confident that one day, something will! 

Same thing goes for Mark! On the bus ride home (when, after 4 days I was FINALLY reunited with Sister Johnson), we turned to the guy sitting behind us and asked him if he had internet on his handy. He said yes, so we gave him a weilerlebt card and told him to watch the video! He said "I already have! We've talked before on the train! I'll take another card anyway, though". He then went on to say that he was just wondering the other day what exactly it was that we believe, so he looked us up on the Internet. We told him that we missionaries are a lot better sources for information than the Internet is, and invited him to meet with us and learn more. He said no, but we continued talking, anyway. He said he isn't sure whether there is s a god or not and we asked him what he believes happens after this life if there isn't a god to return home to. He said he didn't think there was anything, to which we responded "so what's the point of living then?!" And he was like "I don't know!! What is the point!? You tell me!" And I was like OH MY GOSH PLEASE JUST AGREE TO MEET WITH US...but he said no. again. Ha-ha, we asked him once more before getting of the bus, and he denied us thrice, but he walked away with a Book of Mormon in his hand and curiosity in his that's a pretty good start!! I'm positive Mark will eventually see that the restored church of Jesus Christ has all the answers he's looking for...I just hope it's sooner rather than later! 

We had a pretty sweet experience on Sunday, too! We were sitting in the pew waiting for sacrament meeting to start—both feeling pretty drained from a super crazy week of splits & fallen out appointments (had lots of those. Don't pray for charity. 4/13 of the characteristics of charity mentioned in Moroni have to deal with patience...) when we noticed a little family sitting a couple rows behind us who we'd never seen before. We were watching the last session of general conference, so we got up and asked them if they knew what general conference was (AKA are y’all members because, if not, we would like to baptize you please)...and they said no (AKA no we're not members and why yes of course you can baptize us). I explained what it was, sat by them during the meeting, then turned to them afterwards and asked exactly who they were. Apparently, they live right down the street from the church building! They had come by two weeks ago, but there was a sign on the door saying the church was closed (we were all at the stake center in Düsseldorf) they tried again today!! I'm so glad they did—we were able to get their number and will hopefully be meeting with them sometime this coming week! 

Hope all is going well with y’all!!(: 
Talk to you next week 
Love youuuu <3 

- Sister Terry (I have less than 5 months left to refer to myself as nothing else but that name. Gonna enjoy it while it lasts!!)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dear family,

     Allow me to express how incredibly kind the lord is to me by sending you one of my journal entries from earlier this week (I'll be providing commentary in parenthesis, don’t you worry).

October 7, 2015 

     “Today was a pretty rough day. We had some members over last night until about 10:15 trying to fix our bathtub (our plumping is all backed up. everything we put down the sink comes up in our tub. Showering with noodles is no fun, in case you were wondering)...but they couldn't figure it out. They came back today and spent another hour working on it and ended up saying we'd just have to call someone else because they couldn't do it. Later on, we got a text from Leyeo saying "thanks for meeting with me, but I want to be atheist. Religion just isn't for me." LIKE WHAT?! Leyeo!!! No! I SAW YOUR FAITH GROWING BEFORE MY VERY EYES. YOU BELIEVE IN GOD. YOU KNOW HE’S THERE. WHY?! We texted him back...but he never responded. Ben texted us earlier this week and said something similar, actually. Something he heard during General Conference didn't resonate well because it was RIGHT after that second session that he started acting really funny. In addition, we have Dortmund zone training tomorrow and a) I get attitude from some people over there because of some super unnecessary drama that took place last transfer and b) we totally forgot to inform one of the companionships that they were giving a theme. AND ON TOP OF THAT, we're splitting with Hamm again because Sister L (I'm disguising her identity) is having a rough time."
     “Sister L's comp is Sister W. 
     Who I recently went on a split with. 
     And made cry (I was too intense for her...)” 
      “All those things, on top of usual missionary exhaustion, just kind of built up and I broke down a little bit on the train over to Hamm. Luckily, after meeting up with the Sisters there, it was pretty clear that Sister W. had no hard feelings towards me (she brought her lion stuffed animal (I named him joebob) to party with us) so that was a huge weight off my shoulders. The Sisters who we'd forgotten to call last week about the theme were super sweet, too! Then, on the train ride over to Dortmund, Sister Caselton (the mission nurse) called me!!!! I. Love. Sister. Caselton. I've gotten to talk with her quite a bit (between Sister Hallman’s bladder issues and other comps getting sick), and we've become really good friends!! Talking with her always brightens my day! Anyway, she called to see how my allergies were (FYI THEY’RE OUT OF CONTROL), but when I answered, I basically said "Sister Castleton, I need you to not be my nurse and be my mom instead". She asked me what was up, and I just vented to her on the phone about EVERYTHING for about 25 minutes straight and at the end of the conversation, she was like "you know what my prognosis is? Chocolate. You need chocolate." (Not only was the timing of the call inspired, but her advice was too!! That's EXACTLY what my mom would have said)!! When we got to Dortmund, the first thing I said to Sister Nielson was "do you have chocolate at your apartment??" She said "I think so…a little bit, at least" and then next thing I know, she's stopped at a kiosk buying 3 PACKAGES of Ritter sport. THE NUGOT KIND. She handed it to me and said "this is for you!"...and I literally started CRYING. HOW NICE WAS THAT?! I was walking to their apartment, reflecting on how many tender mercies the Lord had, in just a matter of hours, sent my way when a voice entered my head saying "you take care of my children and I'll take care of you." My brain flashed to last night when those members came over to fix our tub. It was after gemeinda rat and I was pretty much staving because we hadn't had time to take our dinner hour. Long story short, I was about to sit down and eat when the spirit prompted me to ask the members who came over to help if they wanted food, and we didn't have much so I just gave them everything we had. Afterwards, one of them turned to me and said "you are my Savior! I haven't had the chance to eat all day! Thank you thank you thank you!" I didn't think much more of that experience....until tonight when the Lord pushed the "repeat" button in my brain." 

     I don't tell you that story to toot my own horn, rather toot the Lord’s. I repeat: HE IS SO INCREDIBLY KIND TO ME. Every tiny good thing you or I do is returned with SHOWERS OF BLESSINGS AND TENDER MERCIES by The One who cares so deeply about each and every one of His children. Like King Benjamin, it's become pretty clear to me out here that no matter what we do, we will ALWAYS be indebted to the Lord. His kindness never ceases, He ALWAYS returns the favor and sometimes, He throws in chocolate, too (THE NUGOT KIND).
      But hey, back to that text I told y’all that Ben sent us earlier this week! He ended up agreeing to meet with us again and we asked what he thought about conference, hoping to be able to resolve his issues. He said that he wasn't too crazy about it because a) prophets and apostles are unnecessary because we can speak to God ourselves & b) the church seemed more political than religious with a bunch of old men at the helm who manipulate you and tell you what to do. No worries, though. The spirit took over from there and we were able to address all his concerns! We read with him in Ephesians 4 about prophets and why they're so important:
     11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 
     12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
      13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: 
     14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 
     We explained that there is a lot of confusing doctrine out there, lots of straight up junk, too...and prophets help us discern between right and wrong! Yes, we can receive personal revelation. Yes, God speaks to us as individuals, but when it comes to the church as a whole, the prophet is God’s go-to man!(: That's how it's always been!!
     Then we read the following snippet of President Monson’s talk and asked "does that sound like manipulation to you?”:
      "I am confident there are within our sphere of influence those who are lonely, those who are ill, and those who feel discouraged. Ours is the opportunity to help them and to lift their spirits. The Savior brought hope to the hopeless and strength to the weak. He healed the sick; He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. He even raised the dead to life. Throughout His ministry He reached out in charity to any in need. As we emulate His example, we will bless lives, including our own" 
     If manipulating=testifying of Jesus Christ and encouraging us to be more like Him...then yes. That is EXACTLY what he was doing.
     Ben was so open hearted! The spirit really did touch him, and he thanked God in his prayer at the close of his lesson that we were able to give him such positive answers to the questions he's had!!

I hope all y’all had a great week!
We're going to köln today, so if a bunch of you don't hear from me, that's why!!
I'll make up for it next week, though!

Love y’all lots!!

- Brookie

Monday, October 5, 2015

Dear family,

     The Lord is just blessing Sister Johnson and me like CRAZY. We were able to set two more baptismal dates this past week! On Monday night, we taught Icey (We call her Spicy Icey. Sometimes Icy hot. Whichever.) the first half of the plan of salvation and focused on Christ and how we NEED him in order to overcome our trials, challenges, and sins. At the end, we invited her to follow His example and be forgiven of her mistakes and shortcomings through baptism...and she said yes!!! 
     Then, on Wednesday, we met with Ben and set a date with him, too! He's pretty much perfect. He reads. He prays like a member. Heck, he came to church and found out that some of his family ARE members! We texted him the other day and gave him Alma 32 to read, which compares our faith to a seed—saying it'll take root and continually grow so long as we're nourishing it! He responded back (practicing his English) "I read the chapter...I have the seed inside me and I'm giving water". 
     He has the seed inside. 
     And he's giving water. 
     Hahaha, what more could we ask for? 
     We went on a couple splits this week!! One with the Herne Sisters and the other with Münster! I got to work with Sister Kemlage—who is one of my absolute favorites! Allergies were plaguing us both, so we were kind of out of it…but we had a super cool experience together! We were on our way to the church to look up directions for a vorbei we wanted to go on, when we contacted a Frenchman. I asked him if he believed and God, and he gave a sort of confused yes-no-maybe so sort of answer. I asked "do you have time right now? We'd love to sit and talk with you about this some more!" and he said yes! We sat down at the nearest backeri and began talking about the basics of what we believe, namely, that God is our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is His son who atoned and died for us! Sister Kemlage used to be atheist, so she was able to bear a SUPER powerful testimony about their reality and love...which Frenchie was very obviously touched by. We talked for about an hour and at the end, we made mention of the Book of Mormon. His eyes got HUGE and he exclaimed "YOU’RE MORMON?!" we laughed and nodded and he went on about a roommate he had who was Mormon and how he's read from "the Mormon book" and so on and so forth. We gave him one to keep for himself, and although he wasn't interested in meeting more, gave him our number so he could call us if interest or questions develop! It was such a good reminder of the fact that the Lord really, truly is hastening His work! People everywhere are hearing about His gospel...and every seed we plant is appreciated by the Savior! You never know when someone will start "giving water" (Hahahaha), so plant as many as you possibly can! 

     Hoped y’all LOVED general conference! As chupie so kindly reminded me, I'LL BE WATCHING THE NEXT SESSION WITH YOU AT HOME. That’s so weird. And kind of depressing. Literally cried thinking about that at the end of the last session. My emotional instability aside, I was BLOWN AWAY by everything I heard over the last couple days. Those men and women. They're called of God. Every single one of them. No doubt about it! 

I love y’all lots!! 
Hope you have a great week!!(: 

- Brookie