Monday, July 29, 2013

7-29-13: Welcome to Altona

Moving is always hard, but she will adjust. Keep her in your thoughts and prayers, and send her a letter or an email of encouragement if you can!
Her email is:
Her new address is: 
Sister Claire Woodward
Kirche Jesu Christi HLT
Jevenstedter Strasse 155
22547 Hamburg

Mensch. It was hard to leave Leipzig and the inhabitants therein. I felt kinda like my mission was ending. But then I arrived in Altona and felt like a new missionary again:
Umzog x2
I packed all of my possessions once again into two suitcases and prepared to leave Leipzig the early part of last week. I also helped pack up our apartment because surprise--Sister D moved to another part of Leipzig. We spent our last night together in the new apartment (my third one in Leipzig). This apartment is on the ninth floor and has a great view of the city, so we spent many happy last minutes sitting on the windowsill watching the city and talking about all that has happened and all that will be. Movie moments. It was a time of peace before the dawn swept me away from home.

Into the New...
Nine new sisters and five new elders came into our mission on Thursday. Each missionary gets a trainer and I had the cool experience of having my trainer there (training again and going to Kassel), my first trainee, and me-all with our new companions! My new companion is Sister Schwantes. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and studied math at BYU before coming here. We left Berlin together with the Altona elders (who are also in training) and headed to Altona. My new home apparently. 
Housing Conflicts
So....the new sister apartment wasn't ready (we spent this morning assembling all of the furniture) when we got here so we've been staying at a member's house while they are on vacation. It is a really nice house (with a swimming pool we can't use...) and we're grateful we can stay here. We should move in later this week. That makes for 4 different beds in the past week!
Everything is....DIFFERENT
Definitely not in Leipzig anymore. Unlike the East, people live in houses here, not apartments. So when we go door to door, we talk to real people instead of speaking through a klingle. We also go by bus rather than by straßenbahn. People also say hello back here when you greet them--still disinterested in our message, but friendlier. And the buildings are also shorter. And...differenty.
African adventures
I was sad to leave our African friends, especially Chako, even though he wasn't ready to get baptized before I left. Fortunately, Altona has a huge African population. We had our first eating appointment on Saturday with a family from Cameroon. Except we weren't quite sure if it was an eating appointment or a dance party. My comp is a little shy and a little quiet and when this family broke out dancing and praising God while trying to stuff us full of rice, she looked a tad uncomfortable. Not really what you're expecting on the mission I guess. But it was so great and I loved how happy they were and they were so glad to have us there. I am thankful I get to be around such a believing people. J
Quote of the Week:
Walking down the street. Nun rides by us on a bicycle: "Nice to see other girls in skirts!" Presh. 
Odds and Ends
Well, I kinda feel like a terrible trainer because I have no idea where anything is in the city, don't know good places to find people, we have no investigators, and I feel brand new again, except I'm supposed to leading and helping someone else. That's hard. But apparently God thinks I can do it so...we'll keep going and figuring the city out. I have to call the elders at least twice a day to ask them how to get somewhere or for some kind of information. We have a good ward though and everyone was really nice on Sunday. There are about 50 active members and about 75 less active members...which means we can at least start on strengthening them J. Our church house is in an old mansion, which is cool. It's still weird for me to see houses. 
I’m trying to look forward. Because no one wants to be turned to a pillar of salt. 
And trying to have enthusiasm. Which apparently means "God in us" in Greek. That's cool. 
Love you all. 
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, July 22, 2013

7-22-13: Westward. Northish.

I am curious to know how her zone leader learned about how rabbits count.

I'm leaving Leipzig.
Moving to Altona (the west area of Hamburg).
Opening a new sisters program there.
And training a new missionary again. 
Here we go round 2. 
Even though I was kind of expecting to get transferred, I'm still sad to leave Leipzig. I love this place. And now I am just going into the great unknown, where no sister has served before. Step one of opening a new area and training: locate your apartment (we already have the address—we just need to locate it). Carrying all of your belongings. As your new missionary struggles to carry all of hers. I'll let you know how it goes. I was a little overwhelmed by all of that responsibility at first and there is so much to do before leaving, but...just bring it on! I'm going to Berlin on Thursday to pick up my new missionary and then we'll head on over to Altona. Westward. Away from DDR style housing and culture. Weird. 
My zone leader Elder Barr shared a fun fact about rabbits this week: they can only count to four and everything more than that is converted into a thousand in their minds. Therefore, to test your think-unlike-a-rabbit skills, this email is going to be a bunch of stats/numbers. Because I still know how to count past four.
1 traumatic transfer phone call on Friday (while I was on a tausch (exchange) in Chemnitz)
9 laps around the apartment screaming after previously mentioned phone call
12 pfannkuchen eaten during the last week (this is a crepe-like German pancake)
1 Tausch to Chemnitz and viewing of Karl Marx's head (not his actual head, but sculpture style)
47 flights of stairs climbed to help someone move from the top floor of one building to the top floor of another. 
0 lessons with our African friends :(
1 production viewed of Die Schöne und das Biest in the Leipzig opera house, with the permission of our mission president
2 suitcases that still need to be packed, trying to fit in all that I own
3 trainers coming in or out of Leipzig (Sister D is training here and Sister Wallin from Colo Springs is also coming to be a trainer and open a second sisters program here)
4 elders and an Ehepaar (the married couple serving in Leipzig) that I will dearly miss. Don't even get me started with how much I will miss my comp.
987 predicted tears shed as Sister D and I part ways.
Quote of the Week
Duol (our Muslim friend from Iraq): "Wait, we don't get holiday tomorrow?"
Us: "No, we don't really get holidays..."
Duol: "You stupid, stupid girls. Now I know you are crazy."
Meh. There are enough holidays to celebrate throughout the rest of my life.
Das Wunder der Woche PSYCHE! I mean Das Wunder die WocheN
I've loved my past five months in Leipzig and have seen so many miracles here and have learned so much. I've been thinking of the hymn ''I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord'' this week because I know He sends me where I need to go. I learned a lot here. The phrase "following the Spirit" didn't mean as much before coming here. I learned about planning to meet and meeting peoples' needs. About the Atonement. About how to get to work and how to have fun. About obedience. About public transportation and taking the right trains. 

It's been great. And to top it all off, we called a Hungarian lady last night because she wanted to learn English. Except as we talked, she decided she wanted to learn about the Gospel. She was so sad that I was going to Hamburg this week and asked some questions about faith and hope and prayer and we talked for a while. At the end of our conversation, she said, "Wow, I feel so good right now. I had a really hard week and I am so thankful to know that you remembered me and were thinking of me. Thank you for sharing your hope with me and giving me the strength to carry on." I love this lady and I've only met her twice. She said that we answered her prayer of need with both of the encounters we've had with her. I'm so thankful God answers prayers.
Wish me luck on my travels and training and trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing in a big city with new kinds of public transportation. It will be okay J.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, July 15, 2013

7-15-13: Finally!

Claire's district got approval to go see the musical "Beauty and the Beast" at the Leipzig opera house on Saturday, so she's pretty excited for that. But if she gets transferred next week (which she thinks is very likely), she will miss their African investigator's baptism, which is sad. 
I just wanted to start out by saying that we took the right train to Delitzsch this week. No probs.
That's another one of those words where I have no idea what the direct translation into English is. You can use some context clues. And look at the cognate. 
We had a Zone Training meeting on Wednesday this week, which is where all the missionaries in our zone and gather and get...trained. I know. Expect the unexpected. Anyways, Sister D and I got to give a Thema during said training meeting about commitments. We talked about why commitments are important for conversion and for life changing experiences. And since everything is better with demonstrations, we used an object lesson. We brought two eggs with us and talked about how uncommitted people are just obtaining raw data from us and never take the opportunity to act to see if something is true. When problems and hard times come....(insert Sister D throwing an egg into a bowl)...they crack (visualize runny, broken egg bits in a bowl). BUT when we encourage commitments and people are trying their best to change their lives based on what they are learning...(insert Sister D throwing a hard-boiled egg with somewhat less force into a bowl)...they stay firm and whole. Because as we try to change our lives and apply what we are learning, we become firm, steadfast, and uncrackable. All the missionaries liked it. Because who doesn't like seeing people throw eggs?
How the members almost killed my companion
The same day as zone conference, we ate with our dear Schwester Pfeffer, who feeds us every couple of weeks usually. Except apparently she was trying to clean out excess oil, fat, and mayonaise in her house by smothering it all over our plates. Bless her heart. I stomached a plate, but Sister D took one for the team and ate two, plus the standard after-meal hot chocolate. She immdeiately feel into a state of cardiac arrest thereafter. Just kidding. But seriously, it was rough. We realized that maybe our nametags don't actually say "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," but rather "I have never eaten a good meal in my life. Feed me as much as inhumanly possible." 
Weird Things
Missionaries see a lot of weird things. As in mucho. Some of the weird things I've seen have included Chihuahuas in purple, leather coats, countless numbers of people talking to themselves on the street, gothic gatherings, and people opening the doors without being fully dressed: #nearlypantlessappointments #whatdoyouevendo
Quote of the Week
"When I have a child, I can give him a Book of Mormon." --Francesco. Where all the best quotes come from. 
Motivational Moments
Sister D and I just have another week together probably. Because transfer calls come this week. (Insert increased breathing pace.) But we want to go out with a bang and both of us have been a wee bit tired the past few weeks. So we're adding something to our morning routine. I once heard a possibly fictional story about someone who woke up with his alarm every morning shouting "Finally!" because the day couldn't come soon enough. We decided to try this thing. So starting on Saturday when our alarm went off at 6:15am, I started the war cry of "FINALLY!" Except as it turns out, my voice isn't totally functional right when I wake up. So it kind of sounded like an old man’s death cry.
That didn't stop us from continuing our morning shouts every day since then.
So, world. Be excited for every day. Even if all you can muster are the sounds of a dying 98-year-old. Love you all. 
-- Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, July 8, 2013

7-8-13: Gratitude list (a bonus posting this week!)

Here's a quick list of things I've been grateful for lately.

parks everywhere!
green grass. also everwhere.
green trees. you guessed it, everwhere.
flowers shops
lessons with Africans
personal study time
language study time
missionary gatherings and conferences
having purpose/working with God
German windows
letters from family and friends
grocery stores
awkward stories from finding investigators
wearing a nametag. i forget sometimes.
members who love missionaries
seeing old buildings
the Andruses (the "ehepaar," or senior missionary couple assigned to Leipzig)
adorable foreign children
mission friendships
walking places! with feet!
testifying of what I know
having two built in best friends (my comp and the Holy Ghost)
cake, gelato, and bread
sticky note reminders
public transportation
funny language mistakes
mission culture. it's a weird world out here.
old German ladies. who tell stories of old.
focusing on Christ. every day. 

7-8-13: Terrible Train Trouble

I guess it just goes to show that you can be smart and beautiful and still not have a sense of direction. 

Once upon a time I went on a mission to Germany and I thought that I would quickly learn how to use public transportation. 

How wrong I was.
Over the past ten weeks of training, I have taken the wrong Straßenbahn a multitude of times, but last Tuesday seemed to sum up just how transportation illiterate I am.
It started off in the morning as we took the wrong bus and were late for an appointment. Which wasn't a huge deal. We moved on. That evening, we were supposed to travel to Delitzsch to teach a part member family. Except for some reason I thought they lived in Eilenberg. So we took a train to Eilenberg. Which as it turns out is not Delitzsch. After calling the person who was planning on picking us up and realizing my mistake, we were resigned to wait at the Eilenberg train station until the next train back to Leipzig came.
A train came about an hour later and we hopped on, trying to forget my judgment error and happy to be on our way. Happy until 45 minutes later we wondered why we weren't home yet. We looked at the travel screen to affirm we were heading in the right direction, when what before our wondering eyes should appear? Cottbus. Which in case you were wondering is not Leipzig. I asked someone if the train was going to Leipzig (just to be sure) and he said no, it was come from Leipzig. A very important preposition distinction. 

Needless to say, we got off the train as soon as possible. Dying of laughter. Because if it's 8:15pm and you have no idea where you are and how in the world you make the same mistake so much, you're either going to be laughing or crying. We opted for the former.

We called our zone leaders, only mildly frantic, to tell them we were in Falkenberg. Which is outside of our zone (about 75km to the NE, or an hour away—another hour east and they would have ended up in Poland). We then called our mission president to tell him of our whereabouts and let him know we'd be late coming home. A kind member offered to pick us up so we wouldn't have to wait for another train and buy another ticket (or possibly have the opportunity to take the wrong train again). She arrived at approximately 9:46pm and we made it home at 11:06pm, exhausted but grateful. And humbled.
With this experience, I thought about the Christ's Atonement. Because some people can be a little dumb and make the same mistake over and over again. Like taking the wrong train. Or drinking mucho. Or doing drugs. But it doesn't matter how far you get because Christ will also drive out to get you and bring you back. Even if you make it farther than Falkenberg and even past Russia. No far is too far for the Atonement to heal people through Christ's love and forgiveness and patience. I've needed to rely on the Atonement a lot on my mission to help other as well as myself progress and try to become better without having the weight of failure halt that progress. 
We now resume to my normally segmented email. Shortened version.
Sandra was my first new investigator on my mission, which means she's been learning since February. This week she tschüßt us, which means she said she didn't want to meet with us anymore. Because she decided we weren't strict enough. That's a first.
It was really sad though because we've spent so much time with her and really just love her. Such is life. She'll come back in the future. She just needs time.
Die Woche
Other adventures from this week included increased enthusiasm from the members about missionary work, visits to a mental hospital/rehabilitation center, a lot of appointment fall outs, and a pushed back baptismal date for Chaku (now set for July 27th, which is after transfers). I also hit my five month mark. Timey wimey people.
All my love. Plus some. 
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, July 1, 2013

7-1-13: Missionary plumbers and “Germlish”

I admit that I made up the word "Germlish" but it seemed to fit Claire's description of missionaries' mixture of German and English. She's been out almost 5 months now--time sure moves quickly when you are busy!

I would like to start out by thanking my AP Euro class for their letter. It made my day and I support all of your life adventures. We shall forever be lifelong students and friends bonded by history.

Part time plumbers...
Well, I never thought there would be a need to know how to fix sinks on my mission. But apparently I was misinformed.
Sandra, from Columbia, who we've been teaching for the past several months had some plumbing issues this week. And who better to ask for help than the sister missionaries? Except this sister had never taken apart a sink before. Fortunately Sister D has! We had just meant to stop by to say hi on Tuesday, but when Sandra opened the door looking distraught, wet, and on the brink of breakdown, Sister D was super prepared to use the basketball shorts she always wears under her skirts (for comfort and in case of emergencies). Unfortunately, years of grime had corrupted all piping of the sink, which resulted in a couple of hours of smelly cleaning and then assembling the pipes and then reassembling because a part was missing and then buying a new piping system and then discovering the new piping system didn't work with the old. Whew. 
I'm pretty helpless when it comes to sinks apparently, but Sister D is a champ. Taught well by her mother in how to serve at all times, in all things, and in all places. 

German fact of the week
Remember how Sandra's sink pipes were disgusting? Actually you don't because you weren't there, but trust me, they were. Partly because Germany doesn't believe in using garbage disposals. You're supposed to just have a garbage for bio degradable stuff and take it out every couple of days, but food sometimes escapes into the pipes. Which is bad. So...count your blessings if you have a garbage disposal. And good sink pipes. If you don't, take out your trash often.

Forgotten English words
I have forgotten how to say the following words in English: schaff (to do or accomplish), Familie (family), Termin (appointment), Taufe (baptism), fest (party, celebration). There is only German when I try to talk in English.

Das Wunder der Woche
We met with the Africans that we met last week on Saturday and just so everybody knows and has not forgotten, I love Africans. They were all so touched that we'd brought them Books of Mormon in French and all four of them vigorously shook our hands in gratitude. We had a great lesson and they asked many a good question about how our religion fits in with the rest of the world and what God expects from them. They loved that we still have a prophet today like in the Bible. At the end of the lesson, they all wanted to take pictures with us and their Books of Mormon and then wrote down our names in the books. It was so tender. 
We also set a baptismal date for July 20th with Chaku and have faith he can schaff that. Just getting in our daily doses of Africans.

Quote of the week
Francesco: "Sister D, can I come visit you in America? Would you take me as your husband?"

Well, I'm grateful to know that God is there, to know He answers prayers, and that He continues to send miracles in hours of frailty and weakness. I love you all.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward
 Leipzig Missionaries