Tuesday, February 26, 2013


It's great to hear how excited she is! You can read more about Claire's adventures this week by visiting her companion's blog: 

Dearest Family,                                                                                                 

I loved my first week in Leipzig! More than a plethora and a myriad and a cornucopia full of love! That is true love right there. Even though it snowed. Every single day. Apparently more than it has all winter, but I'm too happy to be here to care how cold or wet it is. I think missionaries sometimes lie in their emails because they say they're happy and they are, but they're also way too stressed to really feel that joy because there's so much to do. But I really am happy. And not too stressed yet :)

People at glance:
The people here are one of the reasons I love it. Our ward is great (lots of cute old ladies and lots of families too, which surprised me). We have people who always want to go teach with us or even talk to people on the street with us and they love the sister missionaries. We're kind of adorable like that. Then there's our investigators (people we teach about the Gospel of Jesus Christ) and our new converts. They come from China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Vietnam, but they somehow ended up here and learned German. I can't understand the Vietnam lady's German but...I smile and that's usually acceptable. We teach one Chinese guy in broken English (both his and our English are broken). Our investigator from Turkey is really philosophical and has met with LDS missionaries for the past 8 months or so. This week we talked about God's plan for us and he had some good questions. Like why it's important to know why we're here or what will happen after life. And what God eats. 
We weren't sure.
Good news is I understand everything we teach in a lesson and all of our investigators' questions.
Bad news is I don't understand people on the street as well. We did some street contacting with the four elders in Leipzig this week (winter wonderland style) and it was an adventure. I usually got too excited when I tried to start a conversation and would blurt out "Wir sind alle die Kinder Gottes!" (We're all children of God). Except then when people actually stopped, I didn't know what else to say and would look helplessly to one of the elders or my companion and they would save the day. I liked it nevertheless.
Also we ate lunch at a Schewster Pfeffer's (Sister Pepper—what a great name!) house this week and I only caught 40% of her German. To speak German, you need to use your mouth muscles a lot more than with English. However, Saxisch (spelling?) requires no lip movement. So it's still German....but you don't move your mouth. Rough times.

Trainer of the Year: 
Sister Diederich has been a great trainer. We get along well and she has no fear of anything and she has a great love for everyone that we meet. As she puts it, "If you're not having fun as a missionary, you're doing something wrong." Simply put, her German grammar is atrocious. But she has so much courage and just talks regardless and people understand her and know she loves them, which is the important part. That's been a good example for me because I'm terrified my German won't be perfect or I'll run out of words. But I'm working on it. Her words of wisdom for the week are that "we will see miracles if we go outside our comfort zones." Amen sister. Keep scrolling for details. 

Near Death Experiences:
Sister Diederich and I were walking with one of our joint teaches (someone who teaches with us) over a bridge this week when I saw beavers under the bridge. I don't know that word in German, so I asked Mike (friend-man) and he said "Rat." I said "Okay." Then we realized they were giant river rats. The size of beavers. SAY WHAT--GIANT RATS? Sister Diederich wanted a photo so we went closer and they proceeded to come out of the water and chase us. Oh my goodness, scariest rats EVER.

Wunder der Woche:
Look up the translation for Wunder. You all get to learn the German words for miracle and week! Because miracles happen all over the place! New missionaries here are called "goldens" and there is such a thing as "golden power," demonstrated by.... A.) a lady came up TO us on the tram to ask about our church because I was proudly holding my precious Buch Mormon. That never happens. We taught her about prayer, prophets, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and baptism. She left with a free blue book. What a gem. B.) Someone just decided to walk into sacrament meeting (church) with her child yesterday. She heard singing and saw the sign that said all were welcome so she came inside. We have an appointment to meet with her this week :)

Things German Missionaries say...
There are 6 missionaries in Leipzig right now, four elders and then me and Sister Diederich. I like them all mucho. And they say funny things like...
"We can totally schaff that" or "Man, we just didn't schaff that." (schaffen=to make, do, create)
"Let's go ansprach this lady right here." (anspraching=to go contact someone)
"All of our neubekehrts came to church today!" (neubekehrts=recent converts)
"How's the golden doing?" (That would be me.)
"SHE MAKES BANANA BREAD!" (the elders on finding out my ability to cook. Apparently they've called Sister Diederich for help making scrambled eggs...)

So....it was a good week and we have lots of teaching appointments this week so that's awesome. I love talking to people about what is important to me and what is important to the world. Even if they stare blankly back and I wonder if I forgot to speak in German. But it works out. And I love it. In case you didn't catch that in the first paragraph. And now the awkward trail off at the end of an email....
Keep living the dream!
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward
A picture of the "river rats":

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


We were so excited to hear from her today. She has been reading her companion's blog for the last two months (she had just stumbled upon it after she got her mission call and was searching the internet for missionary things), knowing that they would be in the same mission, but not knowing they would end up as companions. 
She also said that it is ok for friends and family to email her letters instead of mailing them, though she won't be able to respond to them by email. So feel free to email her at:  claire.woodward@myldsmail.net
If you would rather mail her a real, tangible, actual letter through the USPS (which she would certainly love), a stamp is $1.10 and she gives her address at the bottom of her letter.

Because many of you (aka my parents) are professional stalkers, you might already know where I am, but in case you don't, I'm in Leipzig! Huzzah! And my trainer is none other than the famous Bella-in-Berlin (http://bellainberlin.blogspot.com), Sister Diederich! It's kind of awkward that I've been stalking her blog for the past few months so I already know lots of things about her and the area, but she didn't think it was super creepy. Apparently she's gotten some fan mail and packages because of her blog. Crazy! 

Most of my MTC district (11 out of 15) drove off to the airport Sunday morning. Our flight left at 11am and we all got to call our parents before leaving, so that was nice. We flew to Seattle and then settled down on a long flight to Amsterdam. I sat in the very back of the plane by myself, though the other Berliners were close by too (I don't think Delta wanted to put other passengers by missionaries because we talk too much. Just kidding. But only partially). I slept for probably 30 minutes total on the flight, and spent the other time writing, reading my German dictionary (book desperate?), talking with an Indian man in front of me, and pondering the meaning of life. Plus getting stoked for Germany. Except my head almost exploded at one point because I'm kinda sick and my decongestant apparently didn't do its job. But don't worry, no one had to clean up exploded claire-head.

We said goodbye to the Alpiners at the airport in Amsterdam and they flew to Munich and we flew off to Berlin. We arrived in Berlin around noon on Monday and were taken by President and Sister Kosak (the people in charge of our mission) to the mission office, where we were fed butternut squash soup and apfelstrudel, interviewed by President Kosak, oriented into the mission, and then...assigned our trainers and areas! Usually new missionaries stay the night in a hotel in Berlin and get to take a nap, but we just got right into it. All the new missionaries were pretty much ready to fall down and die (in a sleepy death) because we were so tired. Sister Diederich and I took a train down to Leipzig and stopped by a new convert/investigator family home evening, where people were playing games. I stayed awake until about 10 and then was out. 
And now I am celebrating my first German preparation day and I love it here. We went to a Stasi museum* (see footnote below) this morning with the two other sets of elders here (apparently we see them a lot) and a recently baptized member, who pretty much knows every random fact you would ever want to know. Or don't want to know. It's great. I love Leipzig too. The snow falling from the sky. Our super great apartment. The old buildings. The cobblestone. The bakeries. My trainer. The TWO wards here. That's right, two full LDS wards here (about 200 members). Sister Diederich said we're really spoiled here and I feel like I just won the lottery. Without even buying a ticket. 

Being here is another answer to a prayer. Not going to lie, the MTC was a little rough for me. So much learning and spiritual enlightenment, but stressful too. And now I am so blessed to be in a beautiful city with a great companion (who has been an excellent mother to me thus far in my sick, jet-lagged state of being) and many new members of the church as well as many who want to learn. I'm so stoked to be here. In case you didn't catch my tone/other statements of excitement beforehand. Now you know for sure.
One last thing....usually as a new missionary, you get a trainer (Sister Diederich for me) and she'll stay with you for 12 weeks and basically teach you how to be a missionary. However, yesterday President Kosak told us WE should be ready to train soon. IN FOUR WEEKS. I thought he was joking. But I was assured he wasn't. Sister Diederich said they want to open up a second sister missionary area in Leipzig, so chances are good that I'll be here training someone who entered the MTC the same day that I did. Um......... (insert more of those missionary-appropriate swears I can never remember)
It might not happen, which might be good, but it also might. Just thought I'd give you a heads up. 
Here's my new address:
Kirche Jesu Christi 
Sister Claire Woodward
Blochmannstrasse 15
04105 Leipzig
Love you all.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

*Here’s what I (Claire’s mom) found on the internet about the Stasi Museum in Leipzig: The Berlin wall came down in 1989, reuniting East and West Germany. But though the German Democratic Republic is no more, there is still, in the city of Leipzig, one chilling reminder of the dreaded Stasi (SSD), the secret police of the GDR. It is the Stasi Museum and it encompasses the original rooms of a Stasi headquarters.
Located in the stately 19th century building known as "Runde Ecke" -- the Round Building -- the museum features a powerful permanent exhibit called "Stasi - Power and Banality." Walk through the rooms where the secret police operated a sinister network of spying and terror and it becomes clear how the Stasi infiltrated every aspect of the everyday life in the GDR.

Friday, February 15, 2013

An Abundance of Cinnamon Rolls, Spiritual Enlightenment, and German Words

In case you forgot when I leave the MTC, it is in the very near future. My district is already breaking out into missionary renditions of "One Day More" as we anxiously prepare to leave on Sunday morning (Berliners and Alpiners), though the 4 Frankfurters don't leave until Tuesday. Since my companion is going to Frankfurt, she will be left behind and we're a little sad about that. 
Apparently missionary parents don't know how to cope with the absence of their children, so they send them cinnamon rolls. Which is great and exciting when they come in package format. Except when we have 5 boxes at a time, plus a couple of pies for good measure. We're just loved that much. Our MTC teachers have thus been getting food as an extra perk. Also, my teacher Brother Hunsaker is part of Vocal Point. He's the solo on "All Creatures of our God and King." Crazy! Our district leader, Elder Krieger, is far from his warrior name. He was sweet enough to tell his mom who hadn't gotten very much mail last week and she decided to send all those people mail/packages. That is dear.
I know I said this last week, but I love my district. They really are an inspired group of people who are so spiritual and great and can handle the 11 day MTC rush and be prepared to teach right after. We gained one more Berlin Elder, bringing our district up to 15. We are together all day and love it. We have one 18 year old and the rest are 19, and all the girls range from 19-21. My German is actually at the upper end of the class, though far from perfect. I know that God is helping me though because when we practice teaching in German, I say things I definitely couldn't say two weeks ago. It's awesome. There are a couple of missionaries who still look like petrified children during a bomb raid whenever someone speaks German to them, but they should be fine. Eventually :) My zone leaders left this week and it was sad to see them go. They're from the Netherlands and China (who knew China sent missionaries?!) and were just so funny and awkward. A quote from the Chinese elder: "Everything is better with guns." Baha.
I got to take a field trip off the MTC campus this week and go the hospital with my companion because she had to get a nerve test done. That was pretty exciting.
The MTC is just a crazy place. My companion described it as a mix between EFY and boot camp and I can't think of another way to describe it. It's hard to get up at 6:30am every morning and I miss family and friends like crazy, but I learn so much every day and love being surrounded by people who just glow because their faith in Jesus Christ and His restored Gospel is so strong. Elder Krieger gave a really good thought this week and said that we usually don't do things because we're either lazy or afraid. Admittedly, those two things keep me from a lot. And if I didn't know that Christ lives and want to share the message of His church, I would not have lasted two days here. But I do know and that knowledge gives me power to overcome fear and laziness.
So here I go off to Germany! I might send a new German address next week, but if not, you can just mail stuff to the address already given. Muchas gracias and vielen Dank for your love, prayers, letters, and support.

Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Friday, February 8, 2013

12 Days of MTC-ness

Once upon a time, normal missionaries spent about 9 weeks at the MTC and if they were fast tracked, they spent 3-6 weeks reviewing the language and being initiated as a real missionary. When I walked into my German classroom the first day, I was told my good friend from BYU Sister Jensen that we would get 12 days here. Insert missionary appropriate swears. Which are actually none. But today, I got my flight plan and as it turns out, I actually get 11 days in the MTC, because I leave on Logan's birthday—February 17th! Oh goodness gracious, that is just over a week. I therefore decided to not really unpack and haven't been to find anything very quickly because of that decision.

In case you missed it the first time I wrote it, I WILL BE IN GERMANY VERY SOON! While terrified at first, I'm excited now and can't wait to go.

My district of 14 fast track German speakers is the first group of missionaries with such a short sojourn at the MTC. Needless to say (and so written), we are all freaking out but so pumped to go teach people about Christ's Gospel so soon! There are 10 sisters (5 Berliners, 3 Frankfurters, and 2 Alpines) and 4 elders, who all have just taken German in high school. But they are great and have good, strong German names like Elder Krieger and Rasband. I love my district. I fly out with the Alpine Germany sisters as well and we fly from Salt Lake to Amsterdam, and then we fly to Berlin. The Frankfurters leave Tuesday. I share a room with the Frankfurt sisters! We actually didn't get assigned a companion the first day and then some and just moved around as a big German blob and picked our companions as we liked. Last night, we finally got assigned a real companion (who we will have for 8 days) and Elder Krieger got assigned as our district leader. Which means we got mail! Thanks to those of you who wrote me. For those of you who didn't, you only have a week to send free dearelder.com letters!
Anyways, my companion's name is Sister Teusch (pronounced Tishe) and she is great. She is quirky and outspoken and lived in Germany for a while and she's probably the most different from me out of all the other sisters in my district, but we've gotten along fine. Plus 8 days is not that long. My other roommates are Sisters Muncie and Leavitt and I like them too.

There are 3 districts in my branch and they other two districts comprise of foreign missionaries (representatives from Fiji, Haiti, Germany, Chile, Mexico, and Samoa). They're leaving just as fast as we are and most are staying in the United States, but teaching in their native tongue. Yup, we German speakers feel pretty cool being lumped together with those missionaries.

My MTC teachers are Brother Hunsaker and Sister Singer and they are awesome. Except I only get them for a week pretty much. We've mostly talked about the Gospel in English because our German is proficient enough (we all laughed when they told us that), but we will be practicing teaching lessons to people in German.

Lessons that have stuck out to me in the past couple days include the fact that missions change everything (your life, the people you serve, your companions, your future spouse and kids, the bugs on the street, etc). For the better naturally. It's nice to focus on how what I'm doing will affect others.

I like that people smile here all of the time too. Everyone is so excited to learn and teach more about Christ's restored Gospel and even if they have no idea how to not use Mormon lingo (pardon me, I know I've used some in this email--ask a friend), they are great examples to me. We focus a lot on baptism in the MTC, but that's because that is kind of the big overarching theme of teaching. Baptism shows that you understand the restoration of the Gospel of Christ and believe His principle and are ready to act on that truth.

Wish me luck with my last/first full week here! I know that God loves and cares about me and somehow everything will be okay. Love you all :)
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Why of My Mission

As many of you know, I am about to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Germany Berlin mission and will begin this 18 month sojourn on February 6, 2013. This blog will consist of my weekly emails, chronicling life as a missionary there, but before I go off into the great unknown, I wanted to write something to help you understand this endeavor a little more and why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Those who want to be missionaries in the LDS church turn in an ‘application’ of sorts and then are assigned to a specific mission by church leaders.  The Mormon Church has missions all over the world, ranging from Thailand to Montana to Paraguay to Ghana to the Philippines, and I feel so blessed to be able to serve the Lord and teach people about Christ in Germany. The Germany Berlin mission covers the whole northern part of Germany, so it’s possible for me to be anywhere in that area (see colored picture on side).

Before going to their respective missions, missionaries spend 2 to 9 weeks in the Missionary Training Center (usually referred to as the MTC, because we Mormons love our acronyms), located in Provo, Utah. During this time, they spend every day learning the doctrines of the church more deeply, teaching methods, and, if assigned to speak a foreign language, learning that language (be it Spanish, Cantonese, Russian, or Croatian).
In the LDS church, most missionaries serve in proselyting missions, meaning that their primary focus is to preach the gospel, or, in other words, to teach people about Jesus Christ, their purpose in this life, about His true church on the Earth, and about the happiness that it brings into people’s lives. After leaving the Missionary Training Center and arriving in their missions, missionaries spend their missions teaching, finding people to teach, and doing service.

Missionary work is sacrifice and a completely different lifestyle than what most people are used to. Those who go on missions “devote their time and attention to serving the Lord, leaving behind all personal affairs,” as is stated in a missionary’s call, or acceptance letter. This is a true statement. Because they are to focus completely on serving the Lord, they put all things in their regular life on hold, postponing school for 18 months to 2 years, leaving romance behind, and communicating minimally with family and friends (we can send one email to family a week, call home twice a year, and write good, old fashioned letters. Also, we aren’t allowed to visit family or friends while on a mission). A missionary’s life is extremely different in a few ways. First, missionaries have rules for literally every aspect of life. We wake up at 6:30am every day, spend two hours studying the scriptures, and spend the rest of the day finding people and teaching people about Christ’s gospel. Missionaries spend 24 hours a day with another missionary (same gender) called their companion in English. If you're really cool though, you'll call your companion Mitarbeiter or Mitartbeiterin. Companionships are rearranged by mission authorities every 6 weeks.

And now for the why: why would I want to give up my first name (I’ll be Sister Woodward after February 6th), sleeping in, hanging out with friends, reading books, and seeing movies for a year and a half? And not only give up these things, but pay to serve a mission? Well, Germany certainly is appealing, but I didn't know where I would go when I first decided I wanted to go on a mission. I didn't know how the timing would work out. But God answered my prayers and somehow I am going to the place of my dreams and leaving at the perfect time for me. And that is really the reason why I am going. Because God answers prayers. Last April around General Conference time (twice a year our church has a worldwide conference that is broadcast from Salt Lake), a lot of my friends had received their mission calls and were eagerly waiting to go all over the country and the world. Their enthusiasm got me excited to serve someday too, and I was struggling with the reason girls had to wait until they were 21 to serve. I prayed to either find out why that was so, or prayed that if it be God’s will, that He change the age requirement. I didn't get my answer in April, but when President Monson (the prophet) announced the change in October at the next General Conference, I knew my prayers had been answered in the Lord’s timing.

I know that my Heavenly Father watches over me and knows me. I want other people to know that he knows them personally too and that He answers their prayers. I have felt the comfort that only Jesus Christ can give. I want to share what my religion has done for me and how it has changed me. I want to bring it to people who are looking for truth. I want to do it as a token of gratitude for the beautiful life that God has given me. Likewise, I want to share and use the knowledge that my church has given me, the knowledge that life has purpose, that life is about growing and learning and loving and joy, that God is our spiritual father, and the implications that has in our lives.

I am so excited to serve the people in Germany and bring the happiness that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into my life into others’. I love people, and I love Christ. I know that Christ brightens every life and that I can help bring more light into the world.

Feel free to ask me questions, write me letters, and smile because life is good and God is good.
Check out mormon.org if you want to learn more about my church and why I’m so dang happy, or look at my own mormon.org profile here.