Wednesday, October 23, 2013

...that our children may know...

Liebe Familie,
A lot of wonderful miracles happened this week! I, unfortunately, only have the time to speak of a few. However, miracles big and small happen everyday. And they especially were all around this week.
On Wednesday, for example, we were visiting a less-active woman in the ward. We have been meeting with her since the beginning of my time here in Ludwigsburg, and she never wanted to talk very much; she was always willing to let us come, and she was very attentive during the lessons. We just didn't know how to pull her out of her shell. Then we started bringing a member a few weeks ago. We were very nervous because the less-active had informed us that there was a member in the ward who had offended her, and that was why she didn't want to come to church. We asked her who it was so we wouldn't accidentally bring this member, but she politely declined. Anyway, we brought a wonderful member named Monique, a young mother also, and they bonded within the first few minutes of that first meeting. The less-active started talking and laughing, and it was awesome! This week, we came, and we had decided to follow the advice in Jacob 4:12, ''...why not speak of the atonement of Christ[?]'' We hadn't had a ton of time that morning to prepare a lesson, so we were running 100% on the spirit to guide us. The spirit always guides, but the lessons in which we truly recognize our dependance on Him are always miraculous, as was this one. We started out by talking about the blessings available through the atonement, resurrection, forgiveness of sins... I mentioned a talk I had read in the recent past from Elder Holland, ''Amazed at the Love Jesus Offers Me.'' He talks about that since Jesus could forgive us, how much more do we need to forgive others? As reading, I thought about how silly it is to expect Jesus to forgive us when we can't forgive ourselves. I mentioned this article to her. I told her a story that I don't like telling, but I felt I needed to share. It involves me forgiving, even though it was really hard. I bore testimony that it was hard, but possible. She broke into tears and started telling us exactly what went down years ago. It was pretty serious what happened, almost as though this person had tried to offend her. She told us how she was so mad at God when her husband died, and then this happened on top of that. She didn't want to talk to anyone who had anything to do with the church for years. She told us that she knows she messed up a lot, but she is on the road back. It's a long one, full of tiny steps, but she knows what she needs to do. The very fact that she lets us come is progress. We told her that it wouldn't happen in a day, a week, and maybe not even a year. But we also bore our testimonies that it was possible and worth it for her to forgive and forget. I shared the verse in Jacob 4:7 with her, and the spirit was just so strong. I can't describe (both to protect privacy and also because there are no words) how powerful and progressive the lesson was. But it was incredible. 
On Thursday, we had dinner with a member, and it came up that Sister Brinck is Gluten-intolerant. This member used to be Gluten-intolerant and offered to take us to Kaufland to show us where to find food for her. So not only did she take us there after dinner, but she paid for our groceries! We could not believe the charity! We have no idea how to thank her. A note is just not adequate, and baking something for her would be silly. I suppose it's like the atonement. There is truly no way to fully pay Him back for what He did for us out of love. The only way to truly show our gratitude is to pray and use the gift He gave us.
The next morning, we had an incredible lesson with Maria. Maria comes from Italy, but she moved here when she was 7, so she speaks excellent German. Her biggest problem is why there is so much wickedness and evil in the world - how can God put up with that? We taught the Plan of Salvation all the way through. We spent a lot of time on every step, even the pre-earth life. It was so incredible to see her understanding expounding as each new puzzle-piece was laid down. At the end, she told us that she has been praying a lot this last month, and she just feels peace. She also told us that she feels such peace when she meets with us. Once we finished presenting the Plan, she just stared at it and said, ''This is just beautiful. This is such a beautiful plan.'' She stared at it some more and then asked if she could take a picture of it. We also gave her The Family: A Proclamation to the World. She loves her sons so much and wants what's best for them. She had a total change from the beginning of the lesson to the end of the lesson. This plan really is so beautiful. Every little part of it shows God's love for us so much. Another investigator a little while ago said that is was wonderful how simple it is. It IS so simple! And doesn't that also show God's love, that He wouldn't give us something too complicated? We can totally do this. And the thing is, we have already beat Satan once. 
Elder James J. Hamula said, ''Understand, my young friends, that there is only one way to win the war against Satan, and that is to win it in the same way it was won in the beginning. When victory was finally achieved in the War in Heaven, a loud voice was heard to declare: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ. ...For they [referring to Michael and his angels] have overcome him [referring to the devil] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; for they loved not their own lives, but kept the testimony even unto death.” (Joseph Smith Translation, Revelation 12:9, 11) Do not miss the significance of this declaration. Satan was overcome in the beginning by (1) faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, (2) testimony of Him that was steadfastly kept to the very end, and (3) consecration of oneself to the Lord and His work. If this was the means for defeating him in the beginning, you can be sure that this is the one sure way to defeat him now.''
Sunday was the Primary Program. I love the Primary Program. It is so incredible to see the faith and understanding that children have. Isaiah's prophesy that someday ''a little child shall lead them'' does not just apply to the Millenium. We can be led by children now. The gospel is so simple. We don't need to be afraid to open our mouths and talk to our friends. The daughter of the less-active member previously mentioned was there (as were her step-kids (who are investigators of ours)), and for her part in the primary program she just bore her testimony of how badly she wants to baptized. Well, we can help there:] The teenage daughter sat by us, and started crying as the children sang ''A Child's Prayer.'' Do you realize the wonderful message in this song? This knowledge I have always taken such for granted. But it has so many wonderful gospel truths. 

Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev'ry child's prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
"Suffer the children to come to me."
Father, in prayer I'm coming now to thee.

Pray, he is there;
Speak, he is list'ning.
You are his child;
His love now surrounds you.
He hears your prayer;
He loves the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav'n.

Sister Stephanie Reid

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Run with Patience

Liebe Familie,
Grace attended her final sacrament meeting in the Ludwigsburg ward yesterday. She goes back to Nigeria not today, but next Monday. I can't believe it is already time for her to go. We visited her this last week, and the elders came, albeit on Austausch. So Grace got to know a new elder, Elder Jensen. However, when he introduced himself, Grace said, ''Jensen?? Jen is a girl's name. Johnson. Johnson is a boy's name. I will call you Son Johnson.'' And so it was. We sure are going to miss Grace. Her faith and wit are one-in-a-million. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to meet and learn so much from her. She is going to do great things in bringing more people to Christ in Nigeria.
In my personal study this week, I learned a lot about self-mastery, mercy, and the atonement. I read a few different talks, and one of them is called ''The Justice and Mercy of God'' by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. At one point, he says, ''I know it isn't easy to go back and undo and make a new beginning, but I believe with all my heart that it is easier and surely more satisfying to begin anew than to go on and try to believe that justice will not take its toll.''
He then quotes C.S. Lewis, who said: ''I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A [mathematical] sum [incorrectly worked] can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and [then] working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound.''
I made a lot of thoughts about those two ideas. I thought about my high school math teacher, and how she would give us five points for each math problem. She required that she see our work so that if we made a small mistake at the beginning, resulting in a wrong answer at the end, we wouldn't lose all credit, although all of our other work may have been right. I thought about how in order to really have a perfect test, we do need to go back and correct every little error. I also recognized how it is impossible to go back and completely correct every little error, especially in sins that involve others. But that is where the atonement comes in. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, He can go back and correct our mistakes for us. It really will be as though the mistake never was made. We are promised that when full repentance is made, ''Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.''
I also read a talk from Brad Wilcox called, ''His Grace is Sufficient.'' In this talk, he compares the atonement to piano lessons. When a kid takes piano lessons, it is not expected to pay its mom back. What does the mom expect then? She expects that the kid practices. Although practice does not repay the debt, it is how the kid shows gratitude that the mother paid the price. And the mom has joy in which she sees her kid improve. And the kid can only improve when it practices. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.” Later in the talk, Brad Wilcox says, ''When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?'' I thought also about how that really is our ultimate goal, perfection. But we can't be perfect. ''...unless [we yield] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and [put] off the natural man and [become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and [become] as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.'' This is where the self-mastery came in. That is what our ultimate goal is then. Self-mastery. For when we achieve self-mastery, we would then be perfect.  President Uchtdorf gave a talk called, ''On the Wings of Eagles.'' In it, he quotes an unknown author who said, ''The greatest battle of life is fought out within the silent chambers of the soul. A victory on the inside of a man’s heart is worth a hundred conquests on the battlefields of life. To be master of yourself is the best guarantee that you will be master of the situation. Know thyself. The crown of character is self-control.'' At another point in the article, President Uchtdorf said that if we want to change the world, we must first change ourselves. Isn't that what we are all trying to do? Are we not all trying to do something to change the world to be a little better? Our purpose as missionaries is to invite others to come into Christ wherein we help them to develop faith in Jesus Christ and understanding of His Atonement. But one cannot teach others about how that works, unless he himself knows. God has invited us to ''fly with the eagles, not scratch with the chickens.'' We can only do that as we work on one little math problem at a time. Once we perfect that, move on to the next thing that may be holding you back. This is where the scripture from the title comes in. In Hebrews 12:1, we read, ''Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.'' President Uchtdorf once said that in patience we win mastery of our souls. I guess that's the hardest part. Not getting frustrated or bored or annoyed or discourage because the race against sin isn't over yet. Keep running! The race will be so much better if we run the whole time, as oppposed to walking a kilometer of it. But if we do walk, that's okay, too. It's always possible to start running again. That's why the atonement is so important. God knew we wouldn't be able to run the whole time in the right direction. Isn't it wonderful to know that we can still return home, spotless? 
I know this church is true. There is no other explanation for the miracles I have seen. I am everyday so grateful that I have this chance to share the peace the gospel brings with others. Elder Holland said, ''Inherent in all of this is a rather simple definition of the gospel, at least when considered in its essence. The word gospel as we use it in English comes down to us through early scriptural language which meant literally “good news” or sometimes “glad tidings.” The “good news” was that death and hell could be escaped, that mistakes and sins could be overcome, that there was hope, that there was help, that the insoluble was solved, that the enemy had been conquered. The good news was that everyone’s tomb could one day be empty, that everyone’s soul could again be pure, that every child of God could again return to the Father who gave them life.''  Now what will you do about it? 
Sister Stephanie Reid

Friday, October 11, 2013

General Conference 183.2

Liebe Familie,
This week was pretty great! We found a lot of people and are really excited about the potential here:]
Last Sunday, we realized we still needed to find ten more potentials for the week. We only had a few hours, and I told my companion that I really didn`t think we could find ten potential investigators (oh, ye of little faith, perhaps), but I told her I thought we could find some. I asked her how many. She thought about it for a moment, and then she said, ``Four.`` I said, ``Then let`s go find four potentials!`` She got a little flustered and said, ``Wait! You were supposed to think of a number, too!`` I told her that she was just as much entitled to receive revelation as I was, and if she thought we could find four people, we could. And we did. We walked to Bahnhof, and we talked to everyone along the way. There weren`t a lot of people out because it was almost (and eventually after) dark, but we found exactly four people who wanted to learn more. It was such a cool miracle!
And this whole week we have been focusing more on finding more people. We have done a better job of talking to everyone - there is still room for improvement, but we are certainly getting better! Anyway, we were on a train on Tuesday, for example, and Sister Brinck was trying to place a Book of Mormon with an older gentleman. My person I had sat by didn`t have much interest, so I listened in on her conversation. She successfully gave him a Book of Mormon before he had to get out. Just then, a girl ran over (she wasn`t sprinting, of course, because she only scurried over from a few rows over, so it would be difficult to get to full speed in that time. So I suppose I should write that she scurried over. Or hastened herself. Anyway...) and asked if she could have one of those books, too! Sister Brinck got her information, and then found out she was from Mongolia and wanted a Book of Mormon in Mongolian. But she accepted the tiny English Book of Mormon Sister Brinck had and went on her way. We got out at the next stop, too, and I gave Sister Brinck my larger English one, and told her to run that one to her. She was very grateful and took it, too. 
Thursday, we met with her and her husband. She is a student here, and her husband is German and graduated. We gave her her Mongolian Book of Mormon (bringing her total number of copies to three) and her husband a German Book of Mormon. They were so cool! She is Buddhist, and knows absolutely nothing about Jesus Christ. Her husband grew up Evangelisch, but isn`t too attached to it, and is willing to find something to believe in. They were both so excited to read a chapter and pray about it! 
We also visited Obehi this week. She is from Nigeria and has two kids: Chuko (girl, age 4) and Emi (boy, age 0). She is married, but Kevin is always gone at work when we are there. Anyway, we dropped by to bring her a baked good and some chocolate as she had missed church on Sunday due to her illness. She invited us right in, and explained how the whole family was sick, and she just could not get a break! We played with the kids for a little while before we had to go, and it really helped her. She begged us to please come back the next day and help some more. So we did. We helped her clean a little and play with the kids, and then she made us lunch. It included such products as cow tongue and bone marrow. It was so sweet of her to make us lunch, even though she was so sick! The elders came to give her a blessing, and they also got to enjoy the meal:]
We also met a cool guy named Fathali. He was found by Sister Brinck on Austausch about two months ago. He was waiting at our busstop, found out they came from America, and gave them two avocadoes. We got to our busstop on Wednesday, and Sister Brinck told me that was the guy from Iran who had given them avocadoes! I told her to greet him, and she did. He gave her an apple. And we met with him the next day. We had a time finding a joint teach as all of our members were at the temple for Deutsche Einheitstag (the day the wall came down), so we had to invite the Stuttgart Int. elders. Fathali has spent his whole life searching and has not found the truth yet. He is so confused, as he says he just keeps on finding parts of the truth, but he can`t find it all. We gave him a Book of Mormon in Persisch, and he says he has been reading in it! He came to General Conference Saturday night, and he brought a friend!! He had not seen this friend in five years, he said, and he just ran into him on his way to conference. So he asked this friend if he would want to come along, and he did! After five years, that was how they enjoyed each other`s reunited company - at general conference. Fathali is way cool, and we are so excited to see him continue to progress! 
I learned so much at General Conference, and so much peace was whispered to my heart. It`s always cool how every general conference, it seems like they are speaking directly to you. And yet, it`s for everyone! And wasn't that a cool goal Elder Ballard gave all of us - to bring one person to Christ before Christmas! I know that goal is acheivable through prayer, work, prayer, and more work. 

''So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.''
                                                                -1 Thes. 2:8

Sister Stephanie Reid

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The definition of insanity

Liebe Familie,
This week was crazy and good, and we learned a lot. 
So, on Monday, we went to Tübingen with Anna. We invited Lena and Denise, but they didn't show up. We were sad, but we still went and had a great time. Tübingen is just gorgeous. It looks like the Germany that was in my textbooks, the Germany that one pictures when one about Germany thoughts makes. I took lots of pictures, but I unfortunately forgot my camera cord. Next week:]
Friday evening, we had an appointment with the Nespers, and the Zimmers came along, too. Mandy just LOVED Sister Zimmer, and Brother Zimmer was also awesome. We talked about the importance of church attendance. Tina expressed her frustration in not being able to quit smoking, and Brother Zimmer told her that he used to smoke I can't remember how many cigarettes every day, but it was chain-smoking for sure. He told her that she could do it if she really committed to herself that she wanted to quit. Lena and Denise were also both there the whole time, and really liked the lesson. Sister Zimmer talked about how they never really used to go to church, but then oneSunday morning, she just knew that was what they needed to do. So she got the kids ready, piled them into the car, and they went to church. And it was awesome. She bore such powerful testimony of the spirit that is at church and the strength that we receive from it. I think the Nespers were even convinced that they were coming to church at the end of that lesson!
We came back on Saturday night to help move some furniture with the elders. The elders had gone by on them earlier that morning with our GML. They just talked, and the Nespers really opened up. We had talked about the priesthood and blessings on Monday evening, and we had asked Tina if she would want a blessing to help her quit smoking. She said she did, and for one reason or another, we couldn't get priesthood over there until that time. They gave her a blessing, and apparently it was incredible. It talked all about how much her Heavenly Father loves her, and what a wonderful daughter she is, and so forth. Apparently it was like a talk in the Relief Society session, which is just what Tina needed to hear. When we were there that night, Tina was frustrated again because she had smoked in the meantime. We told her to not give up, and that she needed to come to church to get that added strength. She told us she couldn't, because who would watch the dog? We started giving out suggestions, and she had excuses (they were, albeit, legit excuses) for everything. Then she thought of a friend who could watch the dog, and she said she would call the friend after she woke up. 
They didn't come to church yesterday. I did a lot of thinking during sacrament meeting about why in the world we couldn't get them to come to church. We invited. We found a ride for them. We brought members to the lessons. We left for church a half hour earlier for the past month so that we could be at their door to take them to the Bahnhof. That was when I realized it. Was it Einstein or John Wayne who said that that was the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? During Sister Brinck's personal study that morning, she had read the scripture in 1 Nephi 17:50 and was bearing her testimony about how if Nephi had that much faith to perform miracles, then she could, too. I told her that something else we can learn from that verse is that sometimes we have really good ideas. Nephi thought it was a really good idea to turn the water into dirt and walk to America. But the Lord knows everything from the beginning (1 Nephi 9:6), and He knew that that would just be silly to walk across the Atlantic Ocean. It would be better if they took a boat. Look how much Nephi (and his whole family) learned from all that transpired during the boat-building. Look how much simpler it is to sail across the Atlantic Ocean than walk across it. I think that's also what Nephi is saying in that verse, that if God had commanded him to turn that water into dirt and walk to America, he could do it. But God didn't ask him to do that. God asked Nephi to build a boat. I think that's what Sister Brinck and I have been trying to do with the Nespers - we have been trying to walk across the Atlantic Ocean. But the Lord knows that it's better if we build a boat. So, we need to come up with more ideas. Then we can go to the Lord and ask Him if that is the best idea. If it is not, then we keep coming up with more ideas until our will and mind are aligned with the Lord's. I don't think the Brother of Jared thought of gathering rocks and having the Lord touch them all so that they would illuminate right away. I think he had to study in the scriptures, pray, and perhaps even come up with some other solutions first. But the Lord eventually helped him think of rocks, and He saw the finger of the Lord (taking us back to that quote from Elder Holland: ''We must believe in miracles... until we wind up to the level when our heart is up in our throat and if we opened our eyes, we would expect to see angels.''). Well, that is what Sister Brinck and I need to do. We need to build a boat. And the only way we can learn just how to do that is to trust in Him. 
''Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.''
- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Sister Stephanie Reid