Monday, April 29, 2013

4-29-13: Training!

We're starting this week's email off with a drum roll....(please dramatically drum your hands in anticipation of reading the next sentence)....because I get to stay in Leipzig and train a new missionary! Which I had already guessed, but now it is official. Sister Diederich is opening a new sisters program in Bremen, which has apparently been asking for sister missionaries for a while. We both leave on Thursday to pick up our new missionaries in Berlin. I'm actually excited about training, even if I am still a new-ish missionary. Mal sehen if I still feel that way in a week...:)

Das Wunder der Woche
This isn't a big deal for most missionaries, but the following was a miracle for me. Last week on my tausch (exchange) with Sister Warncke, we found a student from India who was interested in the Book of Mormon. This week we stopped by his house to deliver both Hindi and English Books of Mormon and he was there! We gave a short introduction about the Book of Mormon AND he wanted to meet with us again this coming week. This is the first person I've talked to on the street to a.) be home for an appointment and b.) invite us back for a follow up appointment. No big deal. Except to me!

Lessons learned...
Well I've been looking back at my golden time and reflecting on what I've learned. Despite having a German medical vocabulary that rivals most German doctors (I won't tell you all the words I've learned. They're probably not appropriate, but maybe someday I'll write a book), I've learned more about the joy of missionary work than how to treat various ailments. Before I came on my mission, I was a little worried about feeling like a work horse and it being a long, long eighteen months. But I want the world to know that the happiest moments of my mission have been working. Teaching. Talking to strangers. Talking to cute, old Frau Kühler. Visiting ward members. Serving. Testifying of truth. Getting stuck in tram doors because they closed on my backpack (embarrassing...). Simply doing! I believe that truth is manifest in happiness. And I am happy when I am spreading good news of truth. In German (that was a reminder in case you forgot what language Germans speak). I'm excited to take off running these next several weeks. 
Maybe a little too excited. But that's okay.

Also, for those of my friends preparing to go on missions, I would like to tell you that office supplies will be your best friend. Bring ample supplies of sharpies, paper, tape, scissors (one pair should be sufficient), and other helpful instruments! 

Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Sister Woodward teaches an "investigator"

Goodbye to Sister Diederich!

Monday, April 22, 2013

4-22-13: Finders Keepers

Claire said that she got to go outside and run in circles around the garden this week and that made her very happy. Now if only warmer weather would come and stay in Colorado (it's snowing sideways again today).

I seem to start every email home with a comment about the weather, so for consistency's sake, this one shall as well. I LOVE SPRING TIME IN GERMANY! Winter made Leipzig's inhabitants appear mainly gray, forlorn, and empty. Warm weather has given Leipzig a Renaissance, a rebirth of smiles, color, and joy. This ends this email's weather portion.

We gonna find you...
Missionaries find things. We find new people to teach. We find people who used to meet with us. We find things out about ourselves. Occasionally, we find snails on the sidewalk (that only happened once actually). BUT people find answers when they meet with us and learn about Christ. Missionary work is just a great game of hide-and-go-seek and come to think of it, we are all either hiders or seekers in this life. I experienced my first tausch (companion exchange) this week, where I got to spend a day with the German Sister Warncke and it was really great. We stepped up our seeking skills, and though most of our MIA peeps stepped up their game as well, we started a couple new games with others too. We're determined at this game though because this game is no child's play. It is about eternal happiness! 

Das Wunder der Woche
I saw my first baptism in Germany on Saturday! A pair of elders in our district found 50 year-old Peter a couple months ago (my second week here) and have been teaching him since then. Peter is one of those prepared people who is so ready for the Gospel. He called the elders after their first meeting and said there was something in their eyes that he couldn't get out of his head (we get a lot of eye comments apparently because of our natural twinkle of truth). And here he is, two months later and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints. His baptism was really special and he looked so happy about making that covenant to follow Christ.

Hobbits come from Germany
There are bunches of garden plots that look not-so-coincidentally similar to hobbit houses. My new BFF, our aged neighbor Frau Kühler, tends to one of these in our backyard. Remember her from last week? Kindred spirit right there. Now that I know about World War II and all. This week I got to talk to her about why I'm here in Germany as a missionary and she told me...stories J. I invited her to Peter's baptism and though she declined, she cut some flowers from her hobbit lawn for the "kranke Schwester" (sick sister Diederich). She is so precious. 

Quote of the week
"You can only get answers by asking questions." -Sister Diederich
Words of wisdom from my still ill companion. I know that sometimes people don't answer our questions, but God can answer all of our questions. Sometimes we have to wait. A long time. Or maybe the answer is endurance. But for reals, He has heard all of my prayers and has answered them somehow. I know He listens to Francesco's simple heartfelt prayers. I know He listens to our investigator Sandra, who has so many questions about the Gospel and feels like she's not getting answers. I know we get answers when we ask questions. Just like we'll find if we don't give up on the game of hide-and-go-seek.

We find out about transfer calls this week, but my guess is I'll be staying in Leipzig and training a new sister. Time shall tell.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, April 15, 2013

4-15-13: Hospital Happiness

Keep sending her mail--emails, letters, packages--she loves it all! Her address again is:
Kirche Jesu Christi
Sister Claire Woodward
Limburger Strasse 52
04229 Leipzig

My MTC teacher warned us that about halfway through our missions, we'd start to get a little frumpy...same skirt, same bun, and forget about makeup. Well, family, after being out only 2 months and having a week of visiting various doctor offices and hospitals and attempting to tend to my ailing companion at home, I admit I've already hit frumpy...french braid every day, stable earring studs, and waning makeup. It's hard to get dressed up for doctor offices. Still sporting a glamorous smile though, like this digital sideways one :)

Fortunately I am healthy. Unlike Sister Diederich who continues to develop Job-like ailments and then must try to explain resulting symptoms in German to people. Hospital charades are the best. Watching your comp give blood four times in three days? No bueno (we now would like to introduce the Spanish segment of this email experience). She is a real trooper. Most missionaries face discouragement when they feel like people aren't listening to their important message of joy. Somehow Sister Diederich can have a needle in her arm thrice and relish the opportunity to tell doctors what we're doing here in Germany.

We did venture out from our various infirmaries a few times this week, which was good especially because the sun started to shine! Once was me getting to run circles in our backyard as Sister Diederich watched from our window (missionary companions need to stay with each other at all times. I don't know if I clarified that earlier). There are a bunch of gardens behind our apartment where old people tend for tender plants and so while I was running around said gardens, a cute, little 80-year-old lady stopped me to talk. I didn't understand her at first and so she asked where I was from. Upon finding out I was American, she proceeded to tell me that Germany was at war with America when she was little, but Germany lost that war. I know, I was shocked too. I wish someone in one of my history classes would have told me sooner. *end of sarcastic remarks* Really, she was sweet and adorable. Just trying to enlighten naive 20 year olds about World War II. I brought her cookies the next day to thank her. Sweet little Frau Kühler.

We also made it to our weekly Book of Mormon class. And good thing too because Francesco said the closing prayer.  Which went like this:
"Dear Heavenly Father. Thank you that....*laughter* that I can brush my teeth... *more laughter*....AndthatmybaptismmademehappyInthenameofJesusChristAmen."
Sister Diederich made him pray again to show respect while talking to God and he prayed wonderfully, including the profound "Thank you that Jesus is my friend."
Good old Francesco shows us how to become more child-like every day. We love him.

We also made it to another zone conference and then a stake conference. Stake conference happens twice a year when a bunch of wards in a certain area come together for a larger meeting. Instead of our usual three hour block with sacrament meeting, sunday school, and priesthood/relief society meetings, we just have a two hour meeting with various talks from different ward members and leaders. It was really awesome. One cool thing about it was that instead of normal prelude music by an organ or piano, an orchestra made up of various ward members played hymn arrangements. Good old cultured Germany.

You know you're a missionary when...
You start measuring life in transfers (6 week periods).

Love you all. Every stinkin' person who takes the time to read funny and not-funny stories and hear once again that I know that this is God's church and that He loves all of us :)
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, April 8, 2013

4-8-2013: The week I flooded our Wohnung...‏

Claire is looking on the bright side and appreciating the good, learning experiences she is having. She was a little homesick this week, but is feeling better now. Thanks to all of you who emailed her last week. I know she truly appreciates and feels your support.  --Shireen
Floods of Blessings
This week we were blessed. And also flooded. I'm going to focus more on the latter for right now. Because while I was showering one morning, I apparently didn't entirely close our little German shower curtain that hangs from the ceiling. Which resulted in water flooding our bathroom and study room. After realizing my mistake and the resulting detrimental consequences, I frantically began brainstorming ways to resolve the excess of water everywhere. After ruling out vacuuming up the water, I proceeded to employ every absorbent thing in our Wohnung (that is your German word of the day—use context clues) to soak up water and ring it out in the bathtub. I therefore succeeded in drying the unwanted floods from our fourth story Wohnung in a little under 30 minutes. I have included a picture for your viewing enjoyment; please note that floors should not reflect windows #newmissionaryproblems

Living History
The rest of this week was good and less...wet. Though probably not as exciting. Most of you know that I adore history. Possibly too much. But I was thinking about Romanticism this week and connecting it with missionary work because Romanticism portrays the common as sacred. And every day, we walk around and talk to people and visit people and tell them the same thing: that common men are really children of God. People have so many sacred experiences, but see them as trite and bane because their eyes are trained to see normalcy. I know that life is more than common though. 
As I think about history, I'm also a part of history! As is everyone. But it is a great time to be a missionary. We believe that we are led by a living prophet and apostles today, just as in biblical times, and twice a year we have the opportunity to hear from them through a broadcasted conference. This past weekend was one of those times and it was fabulous. Since Germany is eight hours ahead of Mountain Standard Time, we watched them in the evening at our church. If you care to listen or read any of the talks given, you can check them out here.
You can also change the language if you want to go for German. I know I give you that option a lot, but it's only because I'm a good teacher. And by teacher, I mean someone who thinks people should practice their German.
The sum of those thoughts really are just this: I am one of 65,000 LDS missionaries serving around the world, with thousands more on the way. Adding goodness and light to millions of lives through Jesus Christ. Yes.

Das Wunder der Woche
So one of our investigators is the famous Francesco's mother, Frau Assisi. She's an artist and grew up in Switzerland, but had a really hard childhood. A few years ago, she went into a coma and when she woke up, she couldn't remember very much from her former life, which, as her husband told us, is probably a good thing. But it also makes learning new things hard and remembering what we teach her. It's a slow process, but it is progress and she loves coming to church and learning from us. 
Anyways, Herr Assisi was really against Francesco getting baptized when the sister missionaries were teaching him several months ago. However, as he saw how happy the Gospel made Francesco and how much the missionaries and ward members cared about his son, he let Francesco get baptized. And as we taught Frau Assisi this week about how we can talk to God through prayer, he came in and told us that though he wasn't a part of us, he knew we were good people and he respected us. He was very impressed with how we lived, taught, and served. Which is a real miracle seeing as he once forbade his son from meeting with us. Hurray for changing hearts!

When I return home, I would like to request never to be fed creamed spinach. Ever again. Just throwing that out there. See picture.  (Claire has always had a problem with mushy textures in food. When she was little we let her pick one food a year that she never had to eat, and she always chose mashed potatoes. I imagine creamed spinach had a similar gagging effect on her, and would have loved to see her face as she politely ate it!)

Quote of the week
Sister Diederich went to buy makeup this week and the lady who was helping her asked about where we were from (our lack of makeup vocab gave us away) and what we were doing here. 
Sister Diederich: "We're missionaries for our church. We're here for 18 months and teach people about what we believe."
Makeup lady: "Oh. Do your parents think that's weird?"
Us: ""
At least I don't think they do. Mom, Dad, is it weird? :)

My German is still coming along. Sometimes the message (and verb) of what I'm trying to say gets lost in subordinating conjunctions, so I've been trying to simplify my sentences. The Gospel is simple and true, so our speech should be too. Plus it's really important to have verbs in your sentences because faith requires action! Adjectives and nouns are nice, but it is important to act to gain a testimony or get answers or get through school! 

Simply said, the Book of Mormon is true. The life of a missionary is great and awkward. Man, after that spiel on verbs, I just used two weak ones. Be strong regardless.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, April 1, 2013

4-1-13: Making awkwardness less awkward

Claire sounds like she is doing better this week, but still has limited activities because of her companion's health. I know she appreciates your support, your emails and prayers. Shireen

Good news: we made it into April.
Bad news: so did the snow. 
BUT the snow has given me excellent opportunities to talk to strangers about normal weather in Germany. They always check out my spiffy nametag afterwards.

Risking the Awkward
We had a tri-zone conference last week in Dresden and it was splendid. I am always inspired by the strength of other missionaries and get so pumped up for the life that I'm living. We talked about risking the awkward and starting conversations with people everywhere, especially during our travel time, even if it's not always about the Gospel. And by risking the awkward, they really meant being awkward. But that's okay because by saying something, anything, people notice our black badges and maybe will remember the curly haired girl who asked about the snow on Easter who wasn't from Germany. Being a missionary is awkward. But I love that part for some reason. And I know that God takes our awkwardness and weaknesses and makes them into strengths. Someday someone will be touched by my awkwardness and want to know more about why I'm here. Doing the awkward. And then they will read the Book of Mormon and it will change their lives.

Engaged in a Good Cause
Missionaries always try to engage themselves in good causes, whether it be service projects, teaching lessons, studying the scriptures, finding people who are interested in our message, or lifting people up. This week, Sister Diederich and I had an appointment with Sandra, our investigator from Columbia, and two ward members who spoke Spanish came with to help us teach. Sandra has a darling, energetic five-year old boy named Pablo and someone usually has to help entertain him so that Sandra can focus on the lesson. This week was my turn and I would just like to say that German Spanish kids are the bomb. Not literally. But in the pure, loving adorable way.
While Sandra learned about how Christ'S atonement makes it possible for us to return to our Heavenly Father by repenting, Pablo and I had the following conversation:
Pablo: "Do you have a child?"
Me: "Nope."
Pablo: "Why not?"
Me: "Because I don't have a husband"
Pablo, pausing to reflect upon this revelation, then responds, "I can be your husband someday."
Apparently I'm on my way to being engaged in more than just a good cause :)

Das Wunder der Woche
I am part of a prolonged miracle right now. Because my companion is still ill as you all know. Unless you haven't been reading my emails very carefully. Regardless, we have the miracle of having so many members of the church here in Leipzig that want to be our parents. They all feel so sorry for the sickly missionary and her awkward, new companion. Charity is such a miracle. Sometimes we forget that. But people bringing you food and calling just to check in is a great blessing from the Lord. We love our peeps here in Leipzig and I'm so thankful for the organization of the church and for Germans with big hearts.

Quotes from the week...
We got some new elders this transfer and one is fresh from the MTC. He spent just 12 days there like me, except he only had two years of high school German. You can bet he's living the dream :) 
His companion: "I'm trying to have us talk in German in all the time. But there are some things you can't express in German."
Elder Huebsch: "There is nothing that I can express in German."
Thank goodness for companions that speak the language and for help from the Lord, right? 

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. Leipzig shut down for a few days because Germans love their holidays. I am so grateful for the life of Jesus Christ, for His atonement, death, resurrection, and love for all of us. I know He lives and I know this is His restored Gospel. Keep looking for everyday miracles.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

3-26-13: There and Back Again. Twice.

Due to somewhat unexpected trips to Berlin for varying reasons (including a rare sister missionary gathering), my email day is once again on Tuesday. With the way things are going, I should be in Berlin again next Monday. Just for kicks. And then I'll have been there and back and there and back and there and back. Whew. We have a combined zone conference (missionaries from a couple different areas in our mission gathering together for a meeting) in Dresden on Thursday, so I'm looking forward to going there too.
Birthday Bashes
Four missionaries out of the eight of us serving in Leipzig had birthdays in the past week. Including Sister Diederich. I know. Insane. I just wanted everyone to be aware of that. No stories or inspiring messages. Simple celebrations of joy. 
Field Trip
I don't know why I always associate hospitals with field trips. But that's what the labelmaker in my brain decided to call them. This past week, we went to visit one of our investigators in the hospital. Which hospital happens to be the same mental institution where my companion had previously visited a less-active member of our ward, Trihn. Trihn is this tiny Vietnamese lady (picture an older woman the size of a 10 year old) and on most occasions  she is pretty sad because she's had a rough life. We have had little luck in cheering her up thus far. 
Until we brought her back to the mental institution. Because what would make someone happier? Seriously though, we walked in the front doors and started towards her old wing, which happens to be where our investigator is, and she started smiling and telling me all about her the happy times here. She was stoked to see her doctors again and other patients. She thought it was so FUNNY that some of them didn't remember her anymore. I don't think she caught the whole reason why they're at a mental institution. Anyways, it was grand.
What was the best though was watching Mormon Messages there. Mormon Messages are little inspirational/faith building/comforting videos that our church makes. And Sister Diederich is the bomb at finding good ones. Please now pretend you are in a little waiting area in a mental institution, gathered around a little laptop with precious little Trihn, our 25ish year old investigator Tobias, our right hand man Mike who helps us teach a lot, and my companion. Jut watching Mormon messages.
While we were watching and talking about how we can overcome our trials, I realized I was the only physically healthy one there. I don't have depression, allergies, a thrown-out back, a stomach ulcer, an eating disorder, a broken leg, or anything. I am so freaking blessed. 
Pardon my language. I get too excited to be so blessed sometimes.
Even though we don't all suffer from physical maladies though, we all suffer from emotional and spiritual sickness sometimes. But there is a doctor for that and He knows exactly what we need. Christ came to visit those in need of a doctor. Sometimes people ignore their illnesses and hope it will go away by itself. But we know that our message is the medicine that every person needs. Take your daily vitamins people. 
Here are a couple of the Mormon Messages we watched. If you want to practice your English, watch this one: (It's called "mountains to climb")
If you want to practice your German, watch this one: 
(Mein neues Leben, or you can search for it in English as My New Life).  Watch both if you want to be bilingual.
This story got a little long. 
So I've gotten in the habit of writing poetry as I study the scriptures, as I ride the Straßenbahn every day, and as I sit and contemplate the whole.  Zum Beispiel (did you study your German today?), here are a couple of little poems from this week:
Life can suck.
But only if we leave the vacuum on.
Life can really blow.
But only if we insist on using the leaf blower.
Life can stink.
But that's why we have flushing toilets.
Happiness is just a switch away. 

I will bless you when you sneeze.
God will bless you when you serve.
I will give you orange juice when you're sick.
God will give you strength and comfort when in need.
I will wish the germs away.
Good will take the pain from you.
Men can only bless so much. 
God will bless with loving arms unseen.
Also, someone at church on Sunday quoted Goethe and called him "Brüder Goethe” (Brother Goethe—using “brother” or “sister” before someone’s name is how we talk to members of our church). Baha.
So I'm not really living a normal missionary life right now because of my comp's health issues. But we get out every day and try to add some good into the world. Life can be draining. But it is so good too. And abnormality is a part of life and that makes it wonderful! I'm a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. People stare at me with my nametag and yell at my companion for not wearing boots in the winter. I love it.
 Sister Claire Michelle Woodward