Monday, June 24, 2013

6-24-13: Rains from Africa Part II

Warning: A lot happened this week. The length of this email could equate to a small fortune if I was charged per letter. Fortunately, I can send it via email for free and talk as much as I want about rains of sweat, water, and fish. Be ye forewarned: brevity is not my strong suit. Nor is organization this week. 
Sweat drops are falling from my face...
It was really hot this week. Especially for someone who has never been exposed to a ton of heat and humidity before. I suffered a mild heat stroke on Tuesday after spending hours outside talking to people and then also got a pretty nasty sinus infection. Again. So I had several days feeling sickly and sweaty, but that hindered us not and we carried on in good faith and humor. 

On Wednesday, it was around 35 degrees C (about 95 degrees F) and someone we were visiting gave us hot chocolate. Just to warm our hearts a little bit. And moisturize our faces a little more.

We had a zone conference this week too here in Leipzig and the heat continued until that night (Thursday), when it began to POUR rain. In fact, it poured so much that all of the straßenbahns (streetcars) stopped going. So rather than stay stranded at our church center, Sister D and I briefly discussed the possibility of building a boat to sail home. That idea did not go far and we had a wonderful time walking home (safely and semi-professionally). That concludes this week's weather reports.
Sprach studium
Every day, we have an hour where we get to study German. Apparently I should have added some other languages to my study because I have exhausted my meager Spanish and French vocabulary in the past couple of weeks. Fortunately, all of the French people I've talked to can speak English as well, but I was not so lucky with the Spaniard we found. I was able to tell him that I had a Book of Mormon in Spanish and that I liked Jesus Christ and I understood he was here for work. Couldn't remember the word for "to give" in Espanol but...he has our website. The moral of this story is that you never know when you could need to use another language. So learn some words. Though I do not regret learning "mira los gusanos" (“look at the worms!”) ...I recommend learning useful words. 
Quotes of the week
Elder B (an elder in our zone who is very funny and…individual): "Missionaries, smile to show people that this message doesn't suck!" Every day my brother :)
Cute little Frodo-like child on the straßenbahn as he watched a lady running to try to make the bahn: "Du schaffst es, du schaffst es!" (“You can do it, you can do it!”) ...bahn starts to pull away..."oh, sie hat es nicht geschafft." (“Oh, she didn’t do it.”) Trust me, it was adorable.

African Fish
Well, we met four more Africans this week that want to learn more about our message and we got back in touch with the golden Chaku. We invited them to church on Saturday and Jean-Marie showed up to sacrament meeting the next day, looking sharp in a suit. I translated the meeting for him and he LOVED it. He said, "I will come every week to this church until I go home!" Which is in August. Maybe we can convince him to stay a little longer. I love Africans. in case you forgot.
Gott ist Gott
I have felt sufficiently humbled this week as I left important documents in unimportant places (but they were rescued!), took us in the wrong direction for an eating appointment and showed an hour late (but the family was forgiving!), and was physically weak from illness (but I got better!). I ended every day knowing for sure that God is God and that He loves His children. I love that during maybe one of my weakest weeks, God poured down many miracles. I know He takes the simple and weak to do great things and I know for sure that without Him, I would be able to do about as much as an ostrich attempting to weave. Which is not very much. I love seeing so many miracles every day. Look for the ones in your lives.
Peace out.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, June 17, 2013

To consider before peacing out...‏ (i.e. leaving on your mission)

A bonus post from Claire this week!

The few weeks before leaving on my mission, I would randomly scream out the number of days I had left before leaving and then take a few frantic laps around my house to get some energy out. And then there was the intense stalking of all things related to the Germany Berlin Mission and of other missionary-related things that added to pre-mission excitement. At the request of my friend Shay (peacing out to Germany as well), here are some things I'm glad I brought and knew/wished I brought and knew, for those of you in that pre-mission excitement phase.
  1. Bring tons of uplifting music. Music can be a really powerful source of inspiration and comfort on your mission. I brought an ipod. I support that choice. But other formats are acceptable too.
  2. Bring your own converters for the country of your choice (preferably the one where you will be serving).
  3. Don't bring bed sheets. Unless your mission told you to. The MTC has sheets for you to use (they are old, but definitely usable). If you decide to bring sheets to the MTC, leave them there. Germany has different bed sizes. Other countries probably do too. 
  4. Bring OFFICE SUPPLIES of all sorts and varieties. Bring yo' sticky notes, sharpies, paper, folders, scissors, white-out, tape, hole punchers, and thank-you cards. You could also buy them here, but every missionary needs a good storage of such items in order to decorate planners, advertise activities, prepare object lessons, thank people, remind people, uplift others, decorate your apartment, keep things nice, etc.
  5. An American calendar from home. Possibly with pictures. It brightens the room and helps you remember American holidays (Father's day, Memorial day, or the hardest of all...Fourth of July).
  6. Pictures of family and friends. For show and tell all the time.
  7. Recipes from home (especially a good cookie recipe).
  8. An address book (I brought a piece of paper with addresses written on it and I wish I would have had an actual book to get peoples' addresses from the places I serve and to keep other family and friends' addresses).
  9. Stuff the corners of your suitcases with feminine products.
  10. Write down a bunch of pick-me-up scriptures and quotes in a book. It can help you. It can help others. It can help you teach a dang good lesson someday.
  11. Bring some favorite General Conference talks. Printed out or electronic format. They help your brain. And your converts and your investigators and your members.
  12. Bring a blanket. Even if it's small. My apartment is always a bit chilly. But that's also because our heating is broken. Not that you need it in June (usually). Just be prepared (insert singing from the Lion King).
  13. A hoodie. I only brought one jacket and wish I would have brought a hoodie and pullover or something for p-day activities and when it's cold in your apartment that has no heat (keep singing the lion king "Be Prepared").
  14. Buy a dictionary in your country. The MTC gives you one that is only a 4/10 in quality. Germany has many that all rate 10/10. Also bring the 500 German verbs book. I love that yellow book of wisdom and use it regularly in language study to learn new words and review conjugations.
  15. Take pictures. And bring thumbdrives and multiple memory cards. Just in case (still singing?).
  16. Tide to go sticks save lives. And shirts from terrible eating appointment accidents. 
  17. Mini hand santizers (handshakes: friendship frenzy or germ fests? you tell me)
  18. Learn names of everyone you meet and write them down and then call people by such names. There is power in remembering names.
  19. Some pictures of temples (your favorite or local ones).  
You may now resume the typical pre-mission excitement of dancing around your house listening to music in a foreign language you don't understand or wondering how people eat alligator in your mission area. Live the dream. 

Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

6-17-13: Painting the town

Color your world
Our teaching pool has been a little dry in the past couple of weeks, so this week we had a lot of time to go find people to teach. Instead of the usual awkward conversations on the street or through dooring, we used the right sides of our brains and used chalking as a finding technique. We drew the plan of salvation (a pictorial representation of where we came from, why we're here, and where we're going) and did several pictures and sentences associated with light. It was so fun and we got to talk to a bunch of people about the ultimate source of light: Jesus Christ. Think outside the box. And look to the light. 

Was habe ich gelernt? (What have I learned?)
So...missions aren't all chalk and sunshine all the time. Despite the joy of painting the sidewalks of Leipzig this week, it was kind of a hard week where I missed home a lot and felt a little overwhelmed by what is expected of me as "Sister Woodward," versus just "Claire" and that there such are a lot of things I can't do. The past several months have really helped me to trust God though. Because maybe I don't understand everything, or at moments anything, but a mission sometimes requires you to walk in the dark until you can see the light. Standing in the dark does no good: Just walk until you can see the light. 
Das Wunder der Woche
We met a guy named Ralph this week. We started talking to him as he was pulling out little weeds from the cracks in the sidewalk (because things grow everywhere in Germany!) and after a few minutes, we ended up sitting down weeding too. We talked with him for about a half an hour about the purpose of life and the Book of Mormon, all the while weeding in our skirts (I unfortunately chose white that day). Maybe my dirty hands and muddy skirt didn't look super professional afterwards, but it was so great to take the time to hear about his life and talk about how it can be better. We get to meet with him again this week! Though weeding is unfortunately not a part of the scheduled program. 
Quote of the week
"My experience is that there is, you know, surprisingly, always hope." -Doctor Who. Thank you MTC companion. Hope is what fills the darkness! (She didn’t really explain this, so I’m not sure if she got a letter from her MTC comp or if she just suddenly remembered this quote.)
Our cornflake peeps are still MIA. Stay tuned. 

Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, June 10, 2013

6-10-13: The rain came down

Claire will be staying in Leipzig with her current companion for the next 6 weeks and she is very happy about that. We were glad to hear that she is safe and dry. I'm not really sure why she calls us all peasants at the end of her letter, but I assume it's because she'd been to see some former East German historical site.
Rain results
Well if any of you watch the news, you probably heard that Germany had some flood problems this week. If you don't watch the news, then you should start because the being informed of world events leads to greater enlightenment. Independent of whether you watched the news or not, the heavens have sent forth an abundant amount of rain during the past few weeks. Leipzig is just fine, but its neighboring cities--Halle, Groitch, Eilenberg, etc--were not so fine. We were able to spend Tuesday in Halle sandbagging for flood prevention and have had a smattering of other opportunities for service this week. Seeing as I can't watch the news, I don't really know how bad the flooding is aside from what people on the Straßenbahn have told me, far as I know everything is mostly safe and it has gotten better. But now is a good time to do some research to find out! Then tell us how we can help!
Winds of change...
did not blow me nor Sister Darrington away from Leipzig. I'm here for transfer number four and am very happy to continue training, though she didn't really need any training in the first place....naja. Our faithful district leader goes home tomorrow and we're getting two new elders, but no other sisters in Leipzig yet. Therefore...continue to send me letters at Limburger strasse 52 (04229 Leipzig) for the next few weeks. 
We teach people, not cornflakes
So missionaries talk a lot about making sure that we are teaching people, not just lessons. Because individuals are individual and so important. Sister Darrington and I found a bunch of people who wanted to learn more about the Gospel at the beginning of last transfer, including our happy African friends, but they've been a little flakey about showing up to meetings, answering phone calls, and making time for...the most important thing ever. So we've been addressing the cornflake problem this week. But to address that problem, we need to not call them cornflakes because cereal doesn't progress or have specific needs....but people do! And we teach people. I love that part of serving a mission. Because the same lessons are never the same if you're teaching according to peoples' needs and following the Spirit to know what to teach and how to teach. And pouring milk is not the solution. Because then we have soggy cornflakes and that does no one any good.
Also, I just used a million conjunctions to start my sentences. And then a hyperbole. whatevas.
Quotes of the Week...
"Finding" quotes--part one:
Sister Darrington: "What are you doing on Sunday?"
Man: "Not going to church, that's for sure!"
Part two:
Man : "Are you here for the festival? Because it's huge! With lots of alcohol!"
Sister Woodward: "Actually we don't drink because we believe that our bodies are gifts from God and we should take care of them."
Man, pointing to Sister Darrington: "She has a beautiful gift!"
awkward word of wisdom talks....
Francesco: "My soul feels so light in the temple, like paradise."

Comments on the work:
Sister Darrington: "Why do people keep saying we're doing a good job?"
Sister Woodward: "I don't know, all we do is pray and make pancakes!"
Love you all my dear peasant brothers and sisters.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Some "Spaghetti Eis" (a delicious ice cream treat--not really spaghetti)

Claire is so happy to be able to run with her companion each morning!

Monday, June 3, 2013

6-3-13: Dienen

"Dienen" means "to serve" and it sounds like it was more a week of service than teaching. It didn't sound like there was any flooding in Leipzig, but there has been lots of flooding in central and southern Germany. Also, you can tell she is adapting to the language and culture as each letter is full of more and more random German words (which I have tried to clarify). 
This week I finally realized that I can't keep telling people that I'm a new missionary. Because four months and entering my four transfer next week longer new. Getting rid of that crutch I've been using.
Before I left four months ago, a mission was an abstract concept for me. Because it is really hard to know what a mission is like unless you are actually doing it. Home is starting to feel like the abstract concept now because it is so...fremd (strange, foreign) and mission life has become normal life. But then there are reminders that other times and normal life exist. Zum Beispiel (for example)… my district leader (the leader of the eight missionaries here in Leipzig) has been in Leipzig for the past three transfers as well, and he goes home next week. And then my cousin goes home in a couple of days and home is just....abstract right now. I guess that whole paragraph didn't include any stories, but instead just some random thoughts about abstract balls of timey-wimey that weren't really explained. Naja (oh well).
Das Wunder der Woche...
So last week all of our appointments with our African investigators fell out, which was a bummer. But this week we got to have a short meeting with Shaku and it was great! Because it was long enough for him to ask, "So when can I get baptized?" He is leaving Germany at the end of July, so we're hoping we can teach and help him prepare before then. But seriously, he is the bomb. Not literally. But he has faith with explosive potential.
So every week we usually plan for times to just go talk to people on the streets or dooring (knocking on doors--that's not German, just missionary slang) or some kind of way where we can find people who are interested in learning about the Gospel. We got a lot of "oh-that's-cute-you-still-believe-in-God" looks this week and not many people wanted to stop to talk because it rained more than a boatload this week, but...we still had lovely times. No story with that paragraph either. Apparently this week isn't really a story-full week. Shame.
Quote of the week...
Francesco gave another wonderful prayer this week and expressed gratitude for the Book of Mormon and how it has helped him: "thank you that the Book of Mormon is the feeling of Jesus Christ!"
Also once a month, we have the opportunity to fast and at church, anyone can go up and give his or her testimony during sacrament meeting. Yesterday was fast Sunday and a lady in our ward went up and simply gave thanks that this church was not a church of just sitting and listening, but doing. Because ward members get callings to serve others. And some crazy young folk decide they want to go on missions. And people try to do good and keep the commandments. Sister D and I had many opportunities to serve this week as we helped some people move and were able to work in a garden. I LOVE GARDENS! And weeding is surprisingly rewarding. Though if I ever write a book about gardening, it will probably be called "The Futility of Weeding." End of tangent. As I sum up with, simply, we are indeed a doing people. 
Well, we went to Wittenberg (Luther’s city!) today for p-day and it was gorgeous. We are having a musical fireside tonight before Elder Baker goes back to the real world next week and....busting out the miracles for the week of this transfer(!), I'm pretty sure I'll get to finish training my wonderful daughter (more missionary slang--her companion) in Leipzig, though there is a chance we might move apartments...stay tuned.

Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Sr. Woodward enjoying the rain

The result of so much rain--beautiful countryside