Monday, January 20, 2014

The Last Melon: the Pursuit of Happiness

Liebe Familie,
New Year's Eve brought a miracle for us! We were watching the Hobbit with a bunch of YSAs at the YSA Center, and this one guy, Khan, walks in with a friend - who wants a tour! His name was Mike. Sister Ackerman and I were summoned, and we started showing him around. We started with the chapel and explained a simple church service. Guys. Mike has been through the discussions with the 7th-Day Adventists, and J-Dubs, and a few others. But he always quit because something wasn't right.  We got in the elevator to go look at some classrooms, and Khan said, ''I'm sure you have noticed there are no crosses in our church. This is because we celebrate the resurrected Lord, not the dead one.'' Sister Ackerman and I just looked at each other with excited smiles - Khan was such an awesome little missionary! But wait! It gets better. At the opening of the next floor is a picture of Jesus in the Americas, so I pointed to it and also added my testimony to that of Khan. Then I asked Khan if he had talked to Mike about the Book of Mormon before. That was when I noticed that Khan had a Book of Mormon in his hand, ready to give to his friend!! So ready, in fact, that he had written his testimony in it! He handed it to Mike, and we explained what the Book of Mormon was. Mike was very curious and very excited. We shared Moroni's promise. Then Mike asked us how we had learned if theses things were true. So we went in a circle and shared our stories. Mike has investigated a lot. So he already knew what to do. He knew that by reading, praying, and studying, one DOES receive answers that way. So when we all testified that that is what we had done, he said he knew we knew. We seriously talked for about an hour. Mike told us that he was new to the city, that he had no friends outside of work friend, Khan. He had asked Khan what he was doing for New Year's. Mike said, ''I'm going to my church! Do you want to come?'' Mike explained that he was wary - he had had a lot of bad experiences.  Khan told him, ''You don't need to worry. My church is warm and welcoming, like a home. And the people there are like a family.'' Mike said, ''I can see what Khan is talking about.''  We taught the tripod lesson - that you have to read, pray, and come to church in order to find answers to questions and keep a firm foundation on Jesus Christ. I asked Mike if he would come to church on Sunday with Khan. Mike said he would absolutely come. Khan said he didn't know if he could come; he had to work. Mike lit into Khan for about five minutes about how he needed to reorganize his priorities, that Sunday is the Lord's day, and he should, therefore, go to church. He told Khan to talk to his boss and do what was necessary to get Sundays off. After this, we decided it was time to head back down. Sister Ackerman asked if we could pray before we went back down. Mike confessed that it had been a long time since he had prayed. I asked Khan to pray. Khan thanked God for the wonderful day, for Mike, for the spirit, and other wonderful bold things. After Khan said, ''Amen,'' Sister Ackerman and I thanked Khan for his beautiful prayer. It had not been five seconds after the amen, and Mike started praying!! He said, ''Heavenly Father, It has been a long time since I have spoken to you. I am so sorry. But, I hope you can tell me what to do. I need to know. Is this church thy church? Should I join?'' He closed in the name of Jesus Christ. We went back downstairs to finish the Hobbit. Mike read his Book of Mormon for the last hour of the movie. Can you believe that miracle? Khan just invited his friend from work to a get-together at the church, and it turns out his friend is this golden investigator who had been searching for so long, he had almost given up hope. 
We went to Theresienwiese (where Oktoberfest is held) at midnight, and it was like a war zone! Sister Ackerman got hit in the back by a firework, and it cinged her coat! But it was so loud and so cool! These people take their holidays very seriously. And Mike clutched his Book of Mormon the entire time:]
Yesterday in church, half of the kids in primary were investigators/kids of investigators. It was so crazy and so good at church! I couldn't believe how blessed we were. 
A few weeks ago, we sat in a bus. We were en route an appointment, and a little boy sat across from us. We asked him: ''What do you want for Christmas?'' He was hardly ten years old, but he nevertheless said, ''I want my family to stay together.'' That was it. Above all else, he wanted his family to stay together. We asked him if he liked to read. ''Absolutely!'' he said. ''We have a book about Jesus Christ. It's priceless. Would you like it?'' ''I love books about God! Yes, of course!'' We showed him 3 Nephi 11, where Jesus Christ comes. ''I will start reading there tonight! Thank you so much!'' Then he got out of the bus.
I have been thinking about desires. I thought about a less active in Neumarkt, and how her heart's desire was that her family all to church come, and eventually in the temple go. In Mosiah 18:8-11, we read about the desires of the people of Alma on the Waters of Mormon, and how they clapped in the hands because of their joy. I made a lot of thoughts about that, about desires and motivation and the biggest desire of mankind is. At the end, I came to happiness. We do what we do, because we believe that it will bring happiness. The only true happiness is only to be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when one lives by and applies the principles and doctrines from the Master.  We were at the Arnold's home this week. It was a bit of a girl's night (sorry, Brother Arnold), but he said something very wonderful.  He said, ''You can't have a good relationship with anyone until you have a good relationship with God.'' So how do we develop this relationship?
President Thomas S. Monson said the following: ''To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves.  No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellowman. Service to others is akin to duty - the fulfillment of which brings true joy.''  
He also said: ''You can never love the Lord until you serve Him by serving His people.''
Everyone is searching for happiness in one way or another.
''[But] this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.''   -John 17:3
When one does that, one will be happy everyday. 
''We are all searching for happiness; we hope for it, we think we live for it, it is our aim in this life. But do we live so as to enjoy the happiness we so much desire?''   -Brigham Young

''But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.''  -Luke 22:32
''We believe it just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world.''  -D&C 134:12
''After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel.''                              -Joseph Smith

My mission didn't go anything like I planned. But as I served the Lord, and learned to trust in His plan and His timing, I found the greatest happiness.

Bis bald!
Sister Stephanie Reid

Guten Rutsch!

Liebe Familie,
So, we had Christmas this week. :] To recap, on Heilige Abend, we were at Sister Fischer-Ladenbach's house. We went to an old folk's home right before that delicious dinner to sing to a member of the ward. She wasn't in her room - she was in a cafeteria area with about 10 other residents, and we sang to them, too. Then we (the elders, Sister Fischer-Ladenbach, her daughter and granddaughter included) went around and wished each of them individually a Merry Christmas. It was so cool, and they were all so excited. After dinner and the white elephant gift exchange, we went to the Mason's (the senior couple) apartment and played games until it was time to go to the midnight mass. I suppose if one is only going to see one Midnight Mass, this is the one to go to. In short, in 17-something, a battle with Austria took place, and every year, they commemorate it. The people dress in traditional costume, carry torches, pitchforks, the whole nine yards, and march through the streets of Munich behind a brass band. Then we go back into the cold, drafty church for the service. The preacher had a lisp, so that was embarrassing for him, and the brass band continued to accompany the music. We weren't able to stay for the whole service because the buses stop running at 1:30. Quite the interresting night. 
We were at the Arnold's home all day on Christmas, and it was seriously just perfect. I wrapped a wonderful chair for Camille, and she loved opening it and sitting in it. We watched We Bought a ZooElf, and My Best Friend's Wedding. Brother Arnold cooked a fabulous turkey dinner for us. That guy is talented, I tell you what. It was so nice just being able to sit and not have any worries. We also had a Devil's Chocolate (ironic) cake and sang ''Happy Birthday'' to Jesus, which I had never done before. It was really neat, though, to see how good the Arnolds were at helping Camille remember the reason for the season. 
The next day, we were at the bishop's house almost all day. They have a way cool house, and their daughters are about the cutest. Their house is about 80 years old and has a whole half that is not finished. But if they ever finish it, they could have a bowling alley, a basketball court and an excellent (Elder Root suggested) motorcycle restoration garage. Anyway, after we left, we got a call from Chia Ling asking if we had some time to meet with her that evening. We asked the Masons if we could watch a movie at the JAE Center, and they invited us to their home to play games. We arranged to meet her and then go the Masons' together. Underway, she told us about why she had cancelled coming to midnight mass with us a few nights prior and why we hadn't heard from her in the meantime. We had been so worried that something had happened to her. Well, something had. She is working on her PhD and apparently didn't get a good grade in one of her classes. One of the top professors told her that he would work with her. As he worked with her, he tried to use her to get a music therapy program started in Taiwan. After she had coordinated with the appropriate people in Taiwan and learned that that wasn't a possibility, she reported to this professor that that would not happen. On Christmas Eve, he told her that she would be done with the program all together then. She had been emailing all sorts of people for the last two days! Apparently this professor is a pretty big guy in that department, so even transferring schools isn't really going to be an option. She was very distraut. Understandably so. We took her to the Masons' and wound up just talking to her. Elder Mason has a projector, so we watched this talk in Chinese with her and talked about the idea of the current bush discussed in this talk. Elder Mason apparently had a similar thing happen to him while he was working on his PhD, so it was so perfect that he was right there to share his experience and bear testimony that it would all work out. Her visa is good until next October, so we told her that these next 10 months should be very prayerful ones as she considers what it is the Lord would have her do. We talked about how sometimes the Lord lets bad things happen because he has something way better in mind for us. We watched this Mormon Message at the end. 
I have been thinking about repentance and the atonement this week. As President Hinckley once said, ''We honor His birth. But without His death, that birth would have been but one more birth. It was the Redemption which He worked out in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross of Calvary which made His gift immortal, universal, and everlasting. His was a great Atonement for the sins of all mankind. He is the Resurrection and the Life, ‘the firstfruits of them that slept’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). Because of Him all men will be raised from the grave. We love Him. We honor Him. We thank Him. We worship Him. He has done for each of us and for all mankind that which none other could have done. God be thanked for the gift of His Beloved Son, our Savior, the Redeemer of the world, the Lamb without blemish, who was offered as a sacrifice for all mankind.'' The gift that God gave us makes it possible for all of us to pick up the pieces of the shattered past and create something beautiful. As Elder Shane M. Bowen taught, ''The Atonement of Jesus Christ is available to each of us. His Atonement is infinite. It applies to everyone, even you. It can clean, reclaim, and sanctify even you. That is what infinite means—total, complete, all, forever. President Boyd K. Packer has taught: 'There is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ.'” In Doctrine and Covenants 128:22, it says, ''...Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!...'' This morning in my personal study, I found this scripture in section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants. ''Go ye out from Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord....Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion...unto the mountains of the Lord’s house....But verily, thus saith the Lord, let not your flight be in haste, but let all things be prepared before you; and he that goeth, let him not look back lest sudden destruction shall come upon him.''  With the new year approaching, I find it appropriate to share this Mormon Message. It takes a lifetime to achieve perfection (3 Nephi 12:48), but it is possible through little steps everyday. Afterall, isn't that how the Lord has always worked? (Alma 37:6,7) The New Year is a perfect time to start anew. Leave your past in your past. Learn from it. But don't dwell there. Believe in the promise that the Lord makes in section 58 of the Doctrine and Covenants: ''Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more,'' and the first chapter of Isaiah: ''Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'' You really can be made completely clean. I have seen that in my own life and in the lives of those I have met on my mission. A new start is completely possible. It feels so good to be clean. Don't wait one more day for that renewing feeling. Pray and ask your Heavenly Father what you can do to be just a little bit better. Then ask Him for the help to turn your weakness into a strength. (Ether 12:27) It's a new year. Forgive and forget. Said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, ''So how do we make sure that we never ignore or slight or forget His greatest of all gifts unto us? We do so by showing our desire for a remission of our sins and our eternal gratitude for that most courageous of all prayers: 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' We do so by joining in the work of forgiving sins.''  And remember that forgiving others most definitely includes forgiving yourself.  Don't be afraid, and don't look back. 

''O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.''  -Mormon 9:27

I love you all! May you have a pleasant transition into the new year:]
Sister Stephanie Reid

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Liebe Familie,
We finally got our Christmas tree decorated! We bought a real one for €15 our first P-Day together, and we kept it on the balcony to keep it fresh. Then on Monday, we finally decided we could bring it inside and decorate it. We love the little Christmas cheer it brings to our living room:]
On Tuesday, we had our Zone Christmas Devotional. The whole zone came together, we had a white elephant gift exchange (I found Bayerisch suspenders that were very fought over - it's always nice when your gift is a wanted one), we sang Christmas songs, we had a potluck lunch, and we listened to a wonderful Devotional from Presidents Monson (via technology) and Miles. It was so wonderful! There is a company called ''Obey,'' and a hat with their logo is what President Miles got:]
We had lunch with a member and her friend, Sabine, on Thursday. The member told us in advance not to push the friend, but if the gospel came up, we could for surely talk about it. We smiled and told her that with us, most conversations find their way to the gospel. But what was cool was that the member just started bearing testimony about the gospel and what a blessing it is in her life. Then she gave her a Book of Mormon and apologized that it wasn't much, but also that it really was the best present she could give her. She bore testimony about how much this book meant to her, and Sabine just gave her a hug and almost cried - she could feel the love this member had for her, and she could feel the spirit her testimony brought. We set up another appointment for lunch for this week, but this time, we are going to make lunch in the church so that Sabine can come to the church and see that it isn't a big, dark, cold place, but a home. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: we cannot do hardly anything without the members.  
We experienced another miracle this week on Wednesday. We met with Elena again. I talked about her a little bit this last week, but her husband's heart is softening so much! This week, we came later in the afternoon when the children were home. They just love us. While we were there, the husband came home and actually joined us for the end of the lesson and the closing prayer! It may seem like a small thing, but the fact that this whole family prayed together in their home is huge, people! 
Then yesterday, in church, the elders did this cool thing where they watched this Mormon Message and then had all of the brethren write their testimonies in Book of Mormons and wrap them to give to their friends for Christmas! Meanwhile, a little family from Nigeria walked into the church for the first time and, well, long story short, the elders set baptismal dates with them! The elders first asked about February some time, and then the mom asked if she could be baptized on her birthday - January 16. What?! The Lord truly is hastening His work. We are living in a prophecy being fulfilled. The stone cut without hands is rolling and is filling the earth. 
Sorry this is short, but I love you all and am looking forward to seeing you on Christmas
Sister Stephanie Reid