Monday, October 21, 2013

Wise words from a 20 year old missionary

Wisdom from Sister Sherry's Henry's Alpine German-speaking Mission

 I am trying to focus a lot on diligence and giving my all every day.  There is a difference between a missionary who looks out the window on the bus, and a missionary who says hallo to the person next to them.  There is a difference between a missionary who says hallo and a missionary who asks how you're doing.  There is a difference between a missionary who asks how you're doing and a missionary who looks for any opportunity to teach this stranger even a nugget that will improve their lives.  And then there is a difference between a missionary who looks for an opportunity to teach a nugget and a missionary who will flood that moment with a testimony and a spirit of love that the stranger can't deny.  My goal is to reach that last phase.  But, I have also learned that it's important to just diligently work schritt für schritt.  Elder Uchtdorf says to start right where you are.  I couldn't agree more.  The only way we can reach where we wish to be, is if we take the small step today.  Are we looking out the window?  Well then start saying Hallo.  It may take a while, but I promise you will master the Hallo.
      The only way I have been able to improve is by the little steps.  There is a reason missions are 18 months.  There is a reason life is 80, 90, 100 years.  The fact of the matter is, change in us, change in others, takes TIME.  The key is not only patience, but diligence as we work to make ourselves better.

     You asked if it is hard to be myself in another language.  Mom, do you really think that another language could keep ME, Sherry-Lynda-Henry-Dance-Across-The-Video-Camera-Look-At-Me-Mom, from talking?  I get frustrated sometimes, I can't lie and say it's easy.  But, the only person that keeps me in the way of being me auf deutsch, is me.  A big lesson I have learned serving in another country, is that language isn't who we are. I have met people from France, Ghana, Peru, Turkey, Japan, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and countless other places and cultures.  When we talk to each other in German, I am thinking this emotions and thoughts auf Englisch, translating it into German, then they receive it in German, and translate it in themselves to whatever language they have.  Regardless of the Sprache, the things we say are always the same because in reality, everyone speaks the same language.  
It's just, we don't remember that language because we were dumb enough to try and build a tower to heaven before they had even invented Automobiles.  Come on people, it would have been much easier with a tractor or two.

When I'm feeling Glum,
and my heart won't seem to hum,
I look around with desperate eyes,
thinking happiness is in disguise!
I then ask, "Can I hear it?
Sometimes one's eyes can seem to fade,
But surely my ears function well,
the same as when they first were made."

Oh yes, Oh gee, Oh silly me,
How could I think to hear or see!
We all know the sense that goes,
for happiness really is the nose!
But I have learned through many tries,
that happiness isn't found through nose, ears, or eyes.
Happiness that is really worthwhile,
will only come when we learn to smile!

As I was standing there listening to this woman talk to us, I thought of how phenomenal of an opportunity this mission is.  How many times can a person say they talked with a random 90 year old German woman on the street?  She had so much to say, and I know I have so much to learn from her.  The greatest part, is that as a missionary, It wasn't just listening to this woman ramble.  I have the opportunity, and the blessing, to be able to listen with my heart and to let this woman know that she is loved by God.  This woman is loved by the most incredible, powerful, magnificent being in the universe.  Maybe we weren't able to say that out loud, but by the way she was looking at us, I know that she felt it.  She felt that love, and as we continue to listen to her and talk with her, we will have the opportunity to teach her about that love.

Missionary work is all about patience.  The opportunities won't come unless we are patient enough to work on the Lord's time.  His time is in terms of eternity, so we have to adjust accordingly.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God loves us.  He loves us so much.  He loves you so much.  That is the message I share.  Everything points back to God being our loving Heavenly Father.  That is the first principle we as missionaries teach, before Joseph Smith, before the Book of Mormon, even before Jesus Christ.  The first principle, the foundation for existence itself, is that God is our Father in Heaven and he loves you.

As I was sitting in Sacrament with all of these young women, and thinking of H, I had such an overwhelming feeling of happiness.  As I was able to share the joys of my missionary work with the young women, it only helped my joy grow exponentially!  Mom, it is not easy for me to be here.  I will say that frankly.  I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss my language, I miss my down time, I miss my alone time!  But this work makes me so happy, the joy I feel here is so great, that it makes it all worth it.  It is not easy, but the overwhelming moments when I feel that joy and that love for these people, the pure happiness that comes through this work, makes it all worth it.  I have never felt so much fulfillment in my life.  I have never felt the love of God so purely.

I am so grateful to be here.  Through the hard times, through the tears, and the sadness.  Through the homesickness, the long days, the sore feet.  I would not trade the things that I have felt, the things I have learned, and the people I have loved, for the world.  This mission is everything to me.  I am so eternally grateful for what it has done for me.  I am so indebted to my God for giving me this opportunity.

 I have been learning a lot about patience as a missionary.  The fact is that, I am not in control of anything.  Through studying the plan of salvation, so many aspects of missionary work just make sense.  When we understand why we are here, we understand why things are hard, why things aren't happening, why we need to do certain things.  We know what blessings are, we know what trials are, and we know who we are.  I think about how great The Book of Mormon is, how great the hope we gain from a knowledge of latter day prophets, but the single most important doctrine for people to learn about from us is WHY we are here.  

The plan of salvation is not just a piece of what we believe; the plan of salvation is what we believe.  I am so grateful for the peace and hope I have from learning about it, and that peace and hope is why I am not discouraged one bit that things aren't happening on my time scale.  This life is much more than me.

So the other day it was raining and it was just absolutely gorgeous.  There are just some times where I am here and think about how I am totally living a Fairytale.  But I know it's not because I am living in Germany.  It's not just because I am far away from home doing things I would have never imagined.  My life is a Fairytale because of the Gospel.  I know what choices are the right choices to make, and because I make those choices, my life is blessed.  When we do the right things, our lives will be Fairytales.  This Gospel is the path to happiness.  If you don't know that yet, find out.  If you do know that, then tell someone else.  I don't know why in the world we are so afraid to spread happiness!

I love you all.  All of the emails, letters, love from my friends and family back home do more than any of you could know.  I read and treasure each one.  They get me through some tough times.  I am so grateful for all of you.  Stay beautiful.  I love you all so much.

God loves us.  We are his children.  I know it.  I want everyone else to know it.  It is such a happy day when someone learns who they are.

Every day here in Freiburg is filled with Love, Fun, Challenges, and God. It is the most indescribable and amazing thing, to be here and devoting all of my time to the Lord. Being a missionary is the single greatest experience that has happened to me so far in my life and I am so eternally grateful! I love these people so much! I love you so much! I love my friends back at home so much! I miss all of you but I am also so grateful to be here. This is where I am supposed to be. Ah, being a missionary ist am besten!

Before I came out into the field, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't let fear keep me from using my talents on the mission. We got a phone call this week from a Sister in the ward that plays piano for Primary. Before I had time to be afraid and say no, I told her I would love to do it! So, yesterday in church I PLAYED PIANO FOR THE PRIMARY!!! I just feel so proud and so accomplished and I know you would feel proud too, Mom! It has been years since I played. But you want to know the coolest thing? I literally have not been able to really play the piano for a couple of years now. As I sat there looking at the music visualizing it, I couldn't figure out how my fingers would work to play this song. But as I started to play, my fingers and my hands remembered the intervals. I felt God bringing this skill back to memory because he wanted me to utilize it. It was the most phenomenal experience ever and I am so grateful! I am so grateful to be a missionary! I am so grateful that as I give all of myself to God, he makes me all that I can be!

This week we followed a prompting in an unusual way and ended up going by on a Less Active. We went in and she was drinking wine with a friend. There was a strange atmosphere and then after the friend left, she told us that her daughter passed away. We sat with her, we comforted her, we loved her. The next day we found out she struggles with Dementia and her daughter had passed away 3 years ago. But her brother passed away that day we went by. This woman's husband, only two children, and only sibling are gone. She is literally alone and only 65. She lives alone, she has no close family left. There are people like this in the world! People you are friends with, people you visit teach, talk with who are this lonely and are hurting this much! I am so disappointed that I spent so much time on Netflix and not enough time lifting up those with feeble knees. There just isn't time to run around, there are people who need our love! I am so grateful that as a missionary, that is what I get to do. I get to help others, I get to lift and strengthen these people. There are people who need us! I know we are busy, I know life gets in the way, but if everyone just makes a little more effort, God will give us time. We do our part and he makes up the rest. That is the way He works.

 I am completely convinced that the Love of God will change the world.  That is really the reason I am here to be a missionary.  I am not a perfect teacher, sometimes I am not even a good teacher!  I am not the nicest, the kindest, the most patient.  Try as I may, it’s impossible for me as a mortal to be absolutely obedient 100 percent of the time in life.  But those things are of no significance compared to the power that I possess that each of us possess, through our capabilities to love one another.  Love is what changes loves, but not just any love.  The perfect love that comes only from living a absolutely Christ-Centered life, and that life can only come through devoting our lives to the teachings of the Gospel.  The Gospel teaches us how to love, it's up to us to utilize that love and to change the world!
     I am so grateful for this Gospel and what it has done for my life.  I am not here as a missionary to condemn people, fight with them, try to turn them from their ways.  I just know with my whole heart that this is the truth, that this is what brings man more happiness than he has ever experienced.  All I am trying to do is share this happiness with other people because I know it will make them happy as well!  What a great message I get to teach, what a great work I get to be a part of!  I love it!  I love being a missionary so much!  I love you so much, you all mean the world to me!

  Don't forget how loved you are.  Every person on this planet is loved infinitely by the most magnificent being in existence.  How phenomenal!  He hears us, he loves us even when we turn to walk away from him.  Never forget!  He loves you! I love you!