Monday, July 29, 2013

Grace in the Church

Liebe Familie,
As transfer weeks are always something for the crazy category, so was this one. On Monday, Sister Smith and I went on a walk around the Ludwigsburg gardens (not in, around) and took pictures through the fence. We just enjoyed nature and being outside in the shade. It was really nice to have some time to relax. After that, we got on a bus to try to find a place Sister Smith had discovered before a few days while she was on splits with a member. We accidentally got on the wrong bus and wound up a lot closer to our eating appointment that night, so that was nice:] 
On Wednesday, we had an appointment with a woman named Maria. She is so cool. She is from Italy originally, but she moved to Germany when she was 7, so she speaks great German. She has two little boys who are 6 and 3 (?). She was raised Catholic, but really loves the teachings of our church. We were talking about repentance in this lesson. We asked her if she knew what that meant. And she said, ''Absolutely. You go and talk to the priest or pastor or bishop, or however he is called in your church, tell him what you did, say a few 'Hale, Maries,' and you're good!'' We explained how repentance actually works, that it's a process. Every night you report on your day, and every morning you pray for help in the coming day. The repentance process is simply that we are trying every day to be just a little better than the previous day. We talked about how sometimes you do have serious sins (we defined what that entailed), and you do talk to the bishop. But you council with him, and he helps you to get your life back on course. She really liked that and kept saying that she likes the way we do things in our church way better than the Catholic church. She is so cool, and we are so excited to keep meeting with her!
Thursday morning, Sister Smith finished packing, and we headed into Stuttgart. I knew I was going to get hungry before we would get back, so I threw a few rolls in the oven. They would be done in 10 minutes, and we had to leave in about 12. But, of course, with the craziness of getting out the door, I forgot about my rolls. Luckily, the bishop's family has a key to our apartment, so I called his wife and asked her to go turn off our oven. We came home to two rolls that would almost make Moses proud (they weren't burned up, but one could just about hammer nails with them. Needless to say, I did not eat them), but the apartment was still intact, so that was good:] Anyway, the train we took to Munich started in Frankfurt, so it was already kind of full by the time it picked us up in Stuttgart. We had to stand in the doorway area the whole trip. We kind of made a barricade with our suitcases in front of the bathroom, and we were so thankful there was a bathroom gegenüber so that we could direct people to it when nature called. But Sister Smith, Sister Holmstead, and I stood by each other, and we had a great chat. The train had a ten minute delay, so Sister Smith's 16 minute Umsteig got turned into 6. Then the doors wouldn't open for a few minutes when we landed in Munich because somebody probably hadn't paid. So we got off the train, and Sister Smith and I started booking it down the Gleis. She caught her train, we hugged good-bye (but in the other order), and I went to join the big crowd of missionaries in the center of Bahnhof. I like being in Munich on transfer days because a lot of missionaries pass through Munich, so it's fun to see everyone. But my Umsteig wasn't much longer. I only had time to exchange a few pleasantries before I had to hug my dying (now dead) mother good-bye, grab my golden, and get on the train back to Stuttgart. My new companion is named Sister Brinck and comes from California. We had dinner with the elders at the bishop's house that night. 
On Friday, we were supposed to have a service project for a pregnant woman in our ward, but her kids got sick at the last minute. We decided that we would return some tupperware, and then come back home to do weekly planning. We stopped at the first home (an older couple in our ward) and said, ''We're just dropping this off...'' but they still invited/encouraged us in. We had a lovely chat with them for a little while. They told us that they were going to set up for their grandson's birthday party but that it was too hot to do that now. We asked if we could help. They said we for surely could and asked if we had any appointments. We told them we did not. So they told us to stay for dinner, and we could set up after that. We left for a little while to get some other work done, but we came back and enjoyed a real Schwäbisch (the area of Germany here) meal. We mostly had to water their plants and help them empty their kiddie swimming pool so that they could put new water in. But it was good to spend some time uplifting the members, anyway:]
Saturday, we had an appointment with Grace. She is so so cool! We talked about the first two steps in the Plan of Salvation. We really focused how we are here to have our faith strengthened. She was practically teaching us! She said, ''A lot of people get good things from God and say, 'Thank you.' But when the bad things come, they say, 'Why me?' or 'No, thank you!' God knows what it is we need. We need to accept everything he gives us with, 'Thank you, Lord!''' It was so cool that Grace just got it. We talked about some other things and ended up setting a baptismal date with her for the 18th of August
She came to church yesterday - the bishop picked her up. Because she is from Nigeria and has only been in Germany for 8 months, she really doesn't speak German yet. So Sister Kleiner had to translate Sacrament Meeting for her. Then she had to go to primary, so I had the translate the other two hours! It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I was quite relieved:] Grace really liked church a lot. She also said, ''You know? I had no idea white people went to church...'' 
It has been so hot this week again - around 38, 39. On Saturday, it was just plain miserable. We were with the bishop for a little Saturday night, and he commented that they would probably only hold church for one hour if it was hot again. In Germany, we don't have air conditioning, and it would be downright miserable if you weren't in the basement of the church. But, it rained all Saturday night and Sunday, and it is still raining now! We were so thankful that it cooled down so that we could have all of church! And also so we won't perish in the heat. 
Wellp, that should sum up this week! I hope all is well! The Lord knows what's up, and He has a plan. Trust in Him, and all will be well.
Sister Stephanie Reid

Monday, July 22, 2013

The First Day of Kindergarten

Liebe Familie,
Another week has come and gone, and I can't believe I am already sitting in another internet shop reporting on it. Time really does fly. 
So last Monday, we went to the zoo. We preached the gospel to every creature (including the crocodile, as made evidence by this picture). The Heilbronn elders joined us and the Ludwigsburg elders. The Stuttgart Zoo was very neat. It was a lot like a park with a zoo in it. It was very nature-y, and we all enjoyed it a lot:]
A member of our ward, Schwester Kleiner, is the one who tranlates the Liahonas into German. She said she was working on one particular article about member missionary work when she felt like she should really do something about it, instead of just translating about it. She said a prayer at her desk and asked what she could do. She thought of a woman in our ward who is less-active. Schwester Kleiner had been her visiting teacher years ago, but after they received their new assignments, they kind of lost contact. Schwester Kleiner called her up and made an appointment with her. Then she called us and asked if we could come along. We, of course, agreed. She is a really cool lady in her mid-30s. She was born in Russia. After the wall went down, if you had German heritage, you were allowed to come back to Germany. Her dad is German, so they came back, and she has lived here ever since. She is the classic story of marrying a non-member and then falling away herself. She really enjoyed our visit. She has a cute little four-year-old daughter and another one who just turned 9. She was so excited to meet with us again, and we are so excited to start working with this family. It was also neat to see the spirit of missionary work in this member. She was just so excited to introduce us to her friend. She also said this member has a less-active sister and a mother that she also wants to introduce us to. The really neat thing is that Sister Smith and I both felt like dooring and streeting were not what we should do to find people in this area. We both feel very strongly that there is so much work to be done if we can work with the members. We have so many part-member families in our ward. So on the ward list alone, there is work to be done! It's just been neat to see how these people are coming out of the woodwork - this particular woman had been forgotten about, but the spirit always remembered her and helped us find her. 
On Thursday, we tried to contact another less-active on our ward list. She is the daughter of a member in Pforzheim (a branch in our stake) who told us we should try her. We showed up at her Klingel at 6:30, and she answered! We were so excited! We introduced ourselves, and she said, ''It is far too late to meet tonight, so you will have to come back another time.'' I was not aware that 6:30 was far too late for an appointment, but we will have to visit her in the afternoon. 
That night we did Bible Prophecies. This is where Sister Smith closes her eyes as I flip the pages of my bible back and forth until she says, ''Stop!'' Then, of course, I stop. I ask her left or right, learning from which page, and then left or right again, learning from which column I should read. Then I move my finger up and down the column until Sister Smith again says, ''Stop!'' The verse before where my finger lands, the one it lands on, and the verse after are the prophecy of Sister Smith's next transfer. You can see what an accurate and inspired process this is. This time hers said something about how she is all grown up and she can take care of herself now. Mine said something about me destroying lands. We determined that meant that that meant that I was going to tear it up whereever I was. Anyway, we received the call the next morning. Sister Smith will be transferred to Passau! This is now her third area in four transfers! Hopefully she can stay in Passau for awhile and get established somewhere! I will be staying in Ludwigsburg and training again. I knew I would be training again, so that was no surprise. We just thought I would have to open another area. But now I don't have to pack again. Woot! And Ludwigsburg really is nice. It is an awesome ward, and it so pretty here! This really will be an awesome ward to be raised in because it is such a good example of how members and missionaries can and should work together. Elder Morrill (the elder who got here the same day Sister Smith and I did) will also be getting a golden, so that will be fun having to goldens running around:]
Friday night, I ran my first race. It was a 5K, and it was 35 (about 95) degrees. We were all struggling, but we finished! A lot of the ward was there, so that was fun to bond with them. Slash, when will I get to run a race in Germany again?
Saturday we had a finding day. We had four sisters who came, so all four of us sister missionaries split up and went with a member. It was a very successful day!!
We taught Grace on Saturday. She is from Nigeria and can't understand me very well when I speak (English). I guess I have been out of Wien for too long... :] Anyway, she is way cool, and I will tell you more about her next week.
Yesterday, Amely and Madelin begged Sister Smith and me to come to primary with them. We went to the end of their class. The teacher had had them all write down questions for us, and we answered them. They were great questions like:
     ~How many people do you talk to everyday?
     ~How many people have you taught? 
     ~How many sister missionaries are there in the world?
     ~How many people do you teach everyday?
They also asked us how old we were, what our favorite foods were, and such. But the number questions were pretty good. The teachers also helped us try to explain how missions work and why we don't know those numbers:]
They also wanted us to come to Miteinander, but Sister Smith had a part in Relief Society. So I went. Amely was teasing me because I didn't know the words to the songs, and it was rather obvious I was making it up as I went. I was making pretty darn good educated guesses, though. After she teased me, though, I whispered, ''I know the words in English!'' She got really excited and told me to just sing in English. She thought it sounded very cool, and she and her friend were just giddily excited. Anyway, it was fun to be in singing time again, even if I didn't know all the words. The spirit is the same in every language:]
Wellp, I hope you all have uplifting weeks! Love you!!
Sister Stephanie Reid

Monday, July 15, 2013

If only the rings could control the mood...

Liebe Familie,
So on Monday, we had a zone P. Day. It was so fun seeing so many old friends again with our belated 4th of July Celebration. We grilled hamburgers, chatted, and played soccer. Apparently, they made Elder Escher say the Pledge of Allegiance. I inquired as to the truth of this story, and he told me that he did, hand on his heart and everything. But then he told me he had his fingers crossed behind his back, so all was well:] I remembered how in on of my German classes in high school, we had to say the Pledge of Allegiance in German. I had always wondered why that was translated into German in the first place. I feel like if any German-speaking person would like to pledge allegiance to the US, they probably speak English. Oh well.
That night, we taught Bernie at a member's home. We met Bernie at Bahnhof and walked with him to the member's home. He loves to walk. The members were incredible joint teaches. They were awesome fellowshippers, told wonderful stories, and bore powerful testimony. They are a couple around 60, and their youngest son who just got back from his mission almost a year ago. We used Doctrine and Covenants sections 8 and 9 to teach how we receive answers to prayers. We talked about how you have to have a specific question, not just, ''Lord, tell me what to do.''  We then told Bernie one way to make his question more specific would be to set a goal of when he would like to receive his answer. So we set a baptismal date for the 4th of August, and all was well! The Burgers all bore testimony that he could receive an answer by that date. Bernie was a little nervous, as he is concerned that he won't have any more friends after he gets baptized, but on the way home, he got more and more excited about the idea. Bernie and Bruder Burger also really bonded. 
The next day, we had zone training, which I always enjoy. I always learn so much, and again, it is fun to see other missionaries. 
The next day, we met with a less-active in our ward. She was super nice and has the cutest baby! We discovered that her other three children are former investigators, so we are excited to start teaching them. Apparently just six months ago, they said that they believed that they could receive answers to prayers, and the missionaries almost set baptismal dates, but they wanted to talk to the mom first. And then nothing on the progress record! So, Sister Smith and I will be taking care of that.
Thursday, we had Austausch. I went to Stuttgart and worked with Sister Stewart and Sister Green, and Sister Jencks came to Ludwigsburg and worked with Sister Smith. It was so good to work with my mama one last time. We had such a fun time, reminiscing of our time in Wien. We accidentally had a lengthy pillow talk, but it was so good! We met with a few less actives that day, and it was an awesome day:]
However, Sister Smith and I discussed that if Bernie was going to be baptized by the fourth of August, he was going to need to be taught the Word of Wisdom soon so he can stop smoking. Their joint teach was Elder Morrill, and Johann, an incredible member of our ward who came from a super rough background. He grew up in foster care and got into a lot of drugs and trouble. However, he found the church and turned his whole life around. The church is his family now. He was an incredible joint teach as he testified that it was possible to quit smoking, as he had quit that and so many other things. Unfortunately, Bernie wasn't too receptive to the spirit that night. He got very angry. Luckily, Elder Morrill started joking with him at the end of the lesson and pulled him out of his bad mood. They couldn't commit him to live the Word of Wisdom, but he promised he would read the pamphlet and pray about it.
The next day, we sent Bernie an SMS wishing him a great day. He sent us an SMS saying that he didn't deserve our friendship or the nice day well-wishes. We sent another SMS, negating what he had said. After a little while, he sent us another SMS. This one said that he wanted to be polite, but (and then he switched to all-caps) to please cross him out of our planners as he wants no more to meet with us. He explained that it was too hard for him to change, and that he wanted no more of this. Sister Smith and I did not know what to do. We discussed leaving it for a few days, as he was obviously in a bad mood, to wait for him to calm down. We discussed calling him right then to try to help him calm down and realize that he wasn't serious. We kept going back and forth of the pros and cons. We eventually decided that we would need to pray, as we could not figure this out on our own.  After the prayer, we sat back on our couch to ponder. I kept thinking of a scene in the District (yup, the District) in which the elders visited their investigator when she called and said, ''No more.'' Then Sister Smith said, ''I almost wonder if we should visit him...'' I told her that I had been thinking the same thing. So we quickly put on our shoes and headed to Bernie's house. He opened the door and told us to come in. He then told us, ''I, uh, I sent you an SMS...'' I told him that was why we were there. After talking to him for a little while, we got him to agree to continue to meet with us. He also agreed to come to church on Sunday. He would not, however, agree to meet with us on Saturday night if we wanted to bring more people with us - Bernie does better in smaller groups. Unfortunately, we can't meet just the three of us. So, we called the elders and told them that they would need to take over teaching him. They have already been there a few times, so it should be an easy enough transition. 
Bernie came to church yesterday, and he just loved it. He said it was a lot of information, but it was really great. He was really excited all day, and was a very different person from the Thursday night/Friday Bernie. 
The biggest change we noticed, though, was that Bernie was that in the second-to-last lesson, he reported that he hadn't been reading in his Book of Mormon. We observed the drastic change when this one link was removed. My testimony of the power of the Book of Mormon has really been strengthened this transfer. It is as President Benson says, ''It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.''
Have a great week!
Sister Stephanie Reid

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Babysitting on the Fourth of July

Liebe Familie,
Last Sunday, Sister Smith and I were trying to find a member´s house for an eating appointment. Our best friend lives there, so it was paramount that we not just give up. Also, it´s good to build relationships with the members, anyway:] Anyway, as we were underway, we found an incredible playground. It looked SO COOL! So, we called the Stuttgart sisters (Sister Stewart is there! It´s so fun to be in the same zone as my mama again - it´s so good to see her just before she dies) and asked what plans they had for P. Day the next day. They told us that Sister Green really needed a rain coat, and they would be emailing.... Anyway, they were open for ideas. So we told them about this playground, and they were very down. So that is what we did. We went to the park and slid down the slide and just had fun. I am telling you - they do not build playgrounds in the states like they do here. Parents would have to sign wavers for their kids to play on something like this in the states! And the Germans are living longer (let´s also remember that everyone here smokes, too. So with that added variable in consideration, a whole new light is shed on how much longer they are living than us. Also, we should have Döners), so, it might not hurt to start implementing cooler playground equipment... 
We have a family in our ward who is from Nigeria! I love the Nigerians so so much. Anyway, we got to meet with them this week, because they are trying to get to the temple. We got to know the mom and three-year-old daughter better. The mom is so funny and real! She told us about how she met her husband, and it was freaking hilarious! She told us about how she was on a plane to Nigeria, and she had an empty seat by her. She was really hoping it would be somebody cool because she can`t sleep on planes, so they better not be someone boring. Then a very good-looking Nigerian man got on the plane. She thought, ´´I could definitely be next to someone like that.  Mmmm... he is fine!´´ And, sure enough, he sat by her. She was pretty darn excited! Mostly, just hearing her tell the story was wonderful! Then she fed us a traditional Nigerian dish that you serve a very special guest when they visit for the first time:] Chuck (the three-year-old daughter) also really liked us. She was crying when she couldn´t go with us when we were leaving. She also was having a hard time finishing her lunch because she suddenly desired a desire to go to Africa. Her mom kept telling her that the flight to Africa was a long one, and she would need her strength if she was to endure. So she would eat another bite and be so excited. Then she would get distracted thinking of Africa again and ask if she could go. Her mom would tell her again that she would have to finish her food first. She would get excited, eat a bite, and then get distracted again. It was a bit of a vicious cycle:]
We went to Pforzheim on Saturday to do a finding day. Sister Holman and I went on splits, and we took a member from Peru with us. Her name was Stephanie, and I only remembered that was my name towards the end of the afternoon when Sister Holman said, ´´Stephanie, will you pray for us?´´ I gave her a funny look, and Stephanie started praying. I explained afterwards that I was wondering why she would call me by my first name. Anyway, it´s always fun to realize that we have another name besides ´´Sister Reid.´´ No wonder return missionaries are a little awkward... :]
The fourth of July was this week, and we celebrated as best we could. The Zone Leader Council was in Munich, and since the Sister Training Leaders are in a dritt, their third party wasn´t supposed to come. So Sister Smith and I had to babysit her for the afternoon, night, and most of the next day. She is not like most missionaries. But that´s okay. Anyway, we picked her up in Stuttgart and ate at Burger King. America. Sister Smith wore red and white, and I wore blue and white, so between the two of us, we had red, white, and blue. America. We also ate Reece´s milkshakes (made with the Reece´s Sister Smith got for her birthday, vanilla ice cream, milk, and the electric hand blender we have - needless to say, there were large chunks of Reece´s in there. But they were still tasty:]) when we got home that night. America.
We had an awesome lesson with Bernie that night. We talked about faith at the start, but then (200% led by the spirit), we started talking about how we can use that faith in Jesus Christ to be healed from whatever hardships and heartaches we may have had. It was so cool! Bernie always says how good he feels whenever he meets with us. He also told us that in his free time, he sits on his balcony, drinks a Coke, and reads in the Book of Mormon.  I am so glad we have found him! We may only have one investigator right now, but he is so cool! Also, here is an awesome scripture. ´´Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation for a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.´´ -D&C 64:33  Sometimes it gets a little discouraging. But the one investigator we do have is so prepared and so elect. And we have only been here a few weeks. Sometimes we have to be a little patient. ´´I know for sure that the promises of the Lord, if perhaps not always swift, are always certain.´´ -Pres. Uchtdorf    I know that also to be true. The blessings will come. They may not come when or how we think they should. But they will come. And more often than not, they will be better! 
I hope you have a great week! Remember to ``never give up on anyone. And that includes not giving up on yourself.``
Sister Stephanie Reid

Monday, July 1, 2013

Cookies and the District 2

Liebe Familie,
Sister Smith had this week birthday. She is officially the Big 2-0. I asked her a lot of questions Sunday night, as she was still a teenager. Monday came. We were going to have a zone P. Day and play soccer. Sister Smith was freuing herself up the waz. She loves soccer. And that is an understatement. Anyway, we were supposed to go to Stuttgart to meet up with the other missionaries after we finished emails. But we accidentally spent a little too long; by the time we finished, we realized that by the time we got there, they would probably be done. So, we decided we would stay in Ludwigsburg. It was a little rainy, otherwise we probably would have still played outside. But we were worn out, and didn't feel like trying to figure out a Plan B. So we went home after buying groceries, made lunch, and made cookies. Then we turned on the District 2 (these fabulous DVDs used for training - they are a documentary of a district of missionaries serving in San Diego, and we just love watching them) and enjoyed our cookies/cookie dough. Sometimes a chill day is nice, too. :] I gave Sister Smith a way-to-go for having her birthday on P. Day so she could do relax. She gave me a weird look and said, ''No problem.'' 
Tuesday night, we had another appointment with Bernie. We could not find a joint teach for the lives of us. So we called the Stuttgart sisters, and they agreed to come. Problem was, they are to Dritt, so that would have been five extra people in his house. Agreeing that that would perhaps be a few too many, Sister Smith and her MTC comp., Sister Jencks, went and tried to contact some former investigators in Kornwestheim. Sister Stewart and I took their golden and taught Bernie. It was so fun teaching with my mama again. The lesson was awesome! We taught the Plan of Salvation. Bernie is a great student. He is really good about asking questions, but he also doesn't get distracted. He also absorbs information like a sponge. We got all the way through the Plan of Salvation, with Bernie repeating back each step all along the way. He is so cool. He told Sister Stewart also about the day he met us and how even at 300 meters, he saw us and knew he needed to talk to us (but we talked to him first:]). He really is so prepared and so ready for the gospel. He also really liked Sister Stewart and told her she was welcome to come back anytime. 
We taught Bernie again on Thursday night and broght the elders. We have been praying a lot about him, obviously, and we feel that someday we may need to give him up to the elders. But we feel like at this time, we would just be confused if we told him that the elders need to start teaching him. So we are trying to help him get to know them, so that when the time comes for a switch, it will be natural. Also, it will be good for him to have people in priesthood to sit next to. This week we are going to have a family in our ward and a few YSAs be our joint teaches on various occasions. This will also help him get well integrated with the ward and feel more comfortable. 
We had interviews this week, and those are always lovely:] I love drawing on President Miles's wisdom and learning so much. We also were shown a little bit of the broadcast on member missionary work. We saw the full thing yesterday as our last two hours of church. It's interesting to me how whenever we have these changes, it always just makes sense. Like when Preach My Gospel came out. It makes sense that we should be teaching by the spirit and not giving memorized scripts. And it also makes sense that we should be working more with members to help them do missionary work, as opposed to trying to have a missionary church and a member church. It will be cool to see the whole face of missionary work change with these technology and focus changes. We are still inviting people to come unto Christ, but now we are being smarter about it.
Saturday we had a service project at a local elementary school - that meant: pants. 'Twas wonderful:] It was raining the whole time, though, so we were very cold at the end. But it was nice to be outside and spend time with members of our ward. 
I hope you all have a great week!! 
Sister Stephanie Reid

''Wishing will not make it so; the Lord expects action.'' 
-President Thomas S. Monson