Thursday, August 29, 2013

8-26-13: Windows and Doors

Claire's pretty sure she'll be in Hamburg for another transfer (6 weeks), but we will find out on Monday when she emails us again. 

Windows and doors
A lot of doors didn't open this week. Doors that belonged to people that were really excited we were coming and then somehow forgot. Seven times in three days. But fortunately when doors don't open, windows usually do and we get some fresh air (flowing outside?). Okay maybe not the best metaphor. Main point: the cornucopia of appointments that fell through didn't devastate us and we met some cool people through the windows of opportunity that opened up when the doors didn't. 

Das Wunder der Woche
Part I. So our appointment with the Boschmann family fell out, which was sad because we like them. But I think I forgot to write last week that they invited one of their friends to our lessons. His name is Oskar and he's from Siberia and he is great. So our appointment fell out with the family, but we ran into Oskar and he was like, "Yeah, teach me some things!" I can't understand his German super well, but with the help of my newly learned Russian word “pro-rog” (prophet), we were able to have a good chat. His family is a little weary of him meeting with missionaries because they've heard some weird things about Mormons so we are moving forward with faith and love.
Part II. So sometimes missions are hard and you have hard days because that is just life. On Saturday I was feeling a little bogged down and thoughts of imperfection were weighing on me because I know I will never be a perfect missionary. But a wise friend told me that God always gives us enough to keep going, whether it be a good conversation on the street, an awesome lesson, an expression of love, or whatever force God chooses to send us to let us know He is there and loves us. My needed assistance came through the lesson option because we had a großartig (great) lesson with Rita at the end of the day. She is so solid. We talked about the Plan of Salvation and her kids were there too (though their comprehension of our English is not so good) and it was way more than enough to make me cry unto the Lord in gratitude for being here and being permitted to teach His children. 

Enter Serbians, stage right
We started teaching some Serbians this week. We weren't international enough before so we needed to add another nationality to our mix of Ghana, Tajikistan, Siberia, Cameroon, Togo, and Germany stew (not edible). They stopped us as we were walking by and that's always sweet. More week.

Forget me not
Important life lesson number 354: don't forget people. My district leader from Leipzig served here earlier and he gave me some names of people he thought that I should check up on. We met with a couple from Ghana he had taught last year and it was good. EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT MISSIONARIES JUST STOPPED GOING BY FOR SOME REASON! Their record didn't say why they'd stopped taking lessons from the missionaries and apparently after some missionaries got transferred, they got forgotten. The husband's name is Amaotang and he said, "We thought the LDS church didn't want us anymore!" Mild frustration. Okay, maybe I semi-punched a bush after we left because it's dumb that they got forgotten. But we're glad we can meet with them again and help them progress with their faith in Christ. So....don't forget people.

Quote of the Week
Talking with kids at the kindergarten this week. My German grammar is pretty solid. But I still sound American, or British on a good day, or maybe Russian on other days. Which resulted in the question from Kandai, "Why do you talk so funny?"
Still trying my dear. 

Love you all. 
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, August 19, 2013

8-19-13: Thinking Thoughts

Claire is excited about the baptismal date because that is her birthday--the very best present for a missionary!

Happy birthday to my dear mother on Friday. everyone wish her good tidings of great joy. Speaking of good tidings of great joy, I broke down and listened to three Christmas songs this week. That should hold me up for a bit.

Lost in Translation
I tried to talk to start up a conversation with someone on the S-bahn this week. Turns out he was from Romania and couldn't speak German, nor any of my Pimsleur languages. But we tried really hard to communicate nonetheless with all sorts of charades, from which we understood the question relating to our singlehood and we tried to explain the mission thing but...that didn't gesticulate well. Finally we just left him with one of our cards with and our phone number on it. But apparently that was a bad choice because then he made a flirty I'll-call-you hand signal. Nothing like accidently hitting on Romanian men when trying to share the Gospel.

Upcoming Baptism Bliss
Remember how we invited Rita to get baptized last week? Well this week she accepted the baptismal date of the 29th of September! I’m so stoked! She is one with great believing blood. She had a few questions about the baptism. Like how long it would last. We thought she meant the service and said about 45 minutes. But she actually wanted to know how long you have to stay underwater. We clarified and all was well.

Dead Man Quote Board
Most of you know that I had something called my dead-man-quote-board with a bunch of my favorite historical people saying historically and profoundly significant things. Just wanted to let you know that I have a variation of it still on my wall, but it's mostly just quotes. From living people. Though with a fair share of dead people quotes too. I just kind of love words a lot and I think that the examples, lives, and wisdom of others, dead or living,. really help me to do good. Good as in the noun, not the adverb, because then I would have used well. Just thought I'd mention that. 

Das Wunder der Woche
We have interviews with our mission president once every few months to see how things are going with us personally and with the work and just to kidna check in. We had said interviews this week. But I was really touched by the love that I felt from President and Sister Kosak. Because even though we have a huge mission with 250 missionaries to care about, they still take precious time to see how each of those missionaries is doing. Which reminded me of Christ and the individual ministering He did while He was on the earth. I think most of you also know I have a small obsession with individualism and I think it is profoundly important. One of my fears about being a missionary was turning into one of a million robots. But we are not robots and we are all prfoundly human. And I am so thankful for a mission president who cares so much about each of us. Just trying to do our best. 

Wo kommon Sie her?
So you know from last week that we're teaching a lot of foreigners. So our favorite question is where they are from. But we are also trying to pick up the family history work in our area and help people in our ward and strangers off the street get more geneology savy. Because family history teaches us about ourselves! The point of this paragraph is actually not at all about where people come from actually. Sorry for the misleading title and introduction. Now I'm just going to make an awkward transition from loving all these different kinds of people and wanting them to experience the joy of the message we have. I was looking through some emails I'd printed out early and found something from my cousin Hillary that I wanted to share from Elder Holland. It's long, but good.  

“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.
For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
I bear witness that He came from God as a God to bind up the brokenhearted, to dry the tears from every eye, to proclaim liberty to the captive and open the prison doors to them that are bound. 19 I promise that because of your faithful response to the call to spread the gospel, He will bind up your broken hearts, dry your tears, and set you and your families free. That is my missionary promise to you and your missionary message to the world.”
(If you’d like to read the entire talk by Elder Holland, here is the link:

I’m trusting in the promise. I shared more thoughts than stories this week...but it happens. 
Love you all.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

8-12-13: Ice Cream Week

Week 3 in Altona? Like eating ice cream after licking bread for the past two weeks. Sometimes miracles happen and the bread turns to ice cream—that`s always a good thing.

The first part of the ice cream?
We finally had appointments and we have people to teach! Teaching is the substance of missionary ice cream. I`m going to stop the ice cream metaphor now because it`s not going to carry further very well and I`m starting to crave the ice cream that we shall now buy as soon as we are done with emails. We work with people anyways, not ice cream.
Just to give a broad overview, we met with Getrude from Camaroon (yes, I thought of dear Chako from Leipzig who bytheway is still going to get baptized, except probably in Canada. Rumor has it he finally made it to church in Leipzig before he left. Huzzah!),  the Blanksons from Ghana, Rita from Ghana, Schwester Elevanyo from Ghana, Juliana from Haiti, the Boschman family from Russia, and Frau Frommhagen from (wait for it...) Germany. Just so you know the cultural mix of people here in Altona #thesmallerghana

Awkward Meeting Moments
So we met with a lot of less active members of our ward this week as well, and we tried to track down a bunch of others. We only got yelled at twice. One lovely awkward meeting I wanted to share was our meeting with this old man in our ward named Brüder Fricke and his daughter Schwester Rosa. Brüder Fricke has a bunch of medical problems and his daughter is there to help take care of him, and when we went to visit them, he just starting talking and talking with Sister Schwantes and Schwester Rosa started talking with me. Except Sister Schwantes doesn`t quite understand German yet and Brüder Fricke didn`t really move his mouth when he talked and I could hear him talking about the war and his wife and I knew that Sister Schwantes had no idea what he was saying. For possibly twenty minutes straight. And Schwester Rosa just kept talking to me and I just thought the situation was so funny and so whenever she said something slightly funny I just busted out laughing because Brüder Fricke just kept going and neither of us knew how to tell them we had to go and when we did he just kept talking still, except directed mostly at the one of us who doesn’t really speak German yet. Finally, Sister Schwantes just started praying to signify our lesson was over and we needed to go. Baha. 

Das Wunder der Woche
So we had an appointment on Wednesday with the Blanksons. Except they were late. So we waited outside until they got home. While we were waiting, a family speaking Russian walked by us and I heard the mom say "kirche" (church). They`d already passed us when I decided to call out "Sprechen Sie Russisch?" (Do you speak Russian?). They responded in the affirmative and came back to talk to us. I once again faithfully spouted off my token Russian phrase (I really need to write Dr. Pimsleur to thank him for all his help with learning phrases in French, Spanish, and Russian before my mission) and apparently it was impressive enough this time for them to invite us over to teach them. Say wha—teaching a family for the first time???!!! Apparently she had met with missionaries a long time ago and he's kinda agnostic but the husband is the one that wanted us to come and we had a good first lesson with them. I didn't know if I'd ever get to teach a whole family in Germany J
And wait, there`s more! 
We went by a contact the elders gave us because she's a single mom and elders aren't allowed to meet with alleinstehende frauen...what is that called in english? (a sister who lives by herself). Her name is Rita and she let us in and told us she`d started to read the Book of Mormon and knows it's true. Which kinda threw Sister Schwantes off because then the discussion question changes from "When you come to know these thing are true..." to "Since you know these things are true..." except she still used the former. But we utilized the correct preposition in the end. And invited her to be baptized. And she said yes. And then we asked if she would prepare to be baptized on the 29th of September (my birthday!) and she said she`d think about it. She is so awesome though and we are so happy we met with her.

Quote of the week
Fraue Frommhagen, who still thinks we're elders, in her prayer: "Danke, dass ich mit den weiblichen elders treffen konnte." Thanks that I could meet with the female elders. I always thought elders were cooler than sisters J.

West German food is like...
American food. Tacos. Lasagna. Spaghetti. It`s weird. I miss my eastern German potatoes, meat, and rotkohl (red cabbage). But hey guess what? I've apparently lived here long enough to enjoy bubble water. It only took six months. (Those of you who know Claire well should know what a huge miracle that is)

Making Small Talk
So when Taylor came home from his mission, he wanted to talk to everybody we saw in stores and have actual conversations with cashiers at Walgreens and what not and I thought it was weird. Mostly because I hated small talk and thought it was a waste of breath and meant nothing to people. But my small talk skills have been increasing exponentially and my appreciation for it has increased as well. Because sometimes people need a stranger to say hello, to ask about their day and their lives. Sister Schwantes and I have been working on our bus conversations and we've seen a lot of little miracles from it. So go make a 25 second friendship with someone this week and try it out.

Also....Matt Becar (a young man from our stake who is in Claire’s mission) is in my zone and I saw him at zone conference this week. That was weird. But great! His German is super good by the way.

Unfortunate event of the week that was still tied to a good thing:
I was talking to a guy from Ghana (surprise) on the S-Bahn and getting his information because he was interested in learning more about the church (more miracles!), but it took a little bit of time and so at our stop I had to run to make it out the doors before they closed.
Except I didn't make it and once again, I got stuck in the S-Bahn doors.
Or endearing.
Take your pick.
Fortunately I made it out after a few struggles and with Sister Schwantes pulling on my backpack.
Sometimes doors close on you. And sometimes you get stuck. But if you keep squirming, you're bound to get out eventually. Missionary work? Helping people get out of doors that closed on them. Squirming our way into faith.

Love you all. Keep squirming.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, August 5, 2013

8-5-13: It’s all about love

First week in Altona? check.
Mastered the S-bahn and bus system? getting there.

Ready. Set. Tausch.
So once a transfer we tausch (exchange) with another sister missionary to gain new insights and experience. This past week I had the opportunity to work with Sister Knoll from Austria for a day! It was sweet to have a native speaking German companion and she was so funny. Zum Beispiel (for example), she found out I liked running and really wanted to go running with me, even though she didn't bring any workout clothes or shoes. She convinced me it was ok so Thursday morning we took in my basketball shorts and a t-shirt and she in...normal missionary attire and sandals. What a hoot. We got some great looks from passersby. J

Kindergarten joy!
So normally missionaries aren't allowed to work with children because of legal complexities. However our mission president approved a service project where we get to help with a kindergarten once every couple of weeks. We experienced great joy while building sandcastles with adorable African children.

Italian love speeches 
Street contacting always brings good stories.
We started talking to two guys on Thursday except they only spoke Italian and Polish and unfortunately I can't say any phrases from those languages. We were trying to just do really simple German and hand motions when the Italian breaks out into a passionate speech with lots of gesticulations directed at me. We left them with cards and Sister Knoll turned to me after and said, “I think he liked you.” We missionaries are a charming folk.

Raising spiders in our new home
We finally moved into our new apartment and said goodbye to the tempting swimming pool and nice house and now we live in a happy apartment. We co-own our apartment with a tribe of spiders and they all have very sophisticated names, such as Sauron, Neville, and Othello. They aren't super hospitable though so Sister Schwantes destroyed the four most menacing looking ones. Despite my great fear of spiders, we've decided the best plan is to tame and raise the rest as our own (plan subject to change). We're trying an aggressive parenting style though. Sister Schwantes smashes instead of spanks.

Three Russian Babushkas
This paragraph is dedicated to my two friends serving Russian-speaking missions, for I met three characteristic babushkas (grandmothers) from Russia last night. They were all sitting on a bench just watching the world and we talked to them for thirty minutes about God and joy and other missionary topics. They didn't want to meet with us again, but they were so cute and so talkative and thought we were so cute and they were so excited about the one sentence I can say in Russian. Hopefully we left them with some food for thought, and one took a Family is Forever card for her daughter. J

Frau Frommhagen
We met with an investigator this week! The elders were kind enough to pass her off to us. Except apparently I sound like a man on the phone because we showed up and she was expecting the elders and thought they had called...but she still let us in and thanked God for some new elders (she still called us elders because she associates that word with missionaries). Anyways, we were excited to teach her. Teaching is one of my favorite parts of missionary work. She was having a hard time seeing God as a merciful father and instead saw him as a powerful tyrant, which was really sad. Knowing that God is my father and that He loves me provides me great comfort. I love my Heavenly Father and am grateful for the strength that I receive from the knowledge that I am His daughter. My mom sent me something cool about covenants this week and how they help us feel God's love for us and increase our love for others. When we talk about baptism, it's not just putting people under the water and, though its symbolism is beautiful, baptism is really about covenants and promises with our Heavenly Father. I know as we follow Him, our ability to love increases and we strengthen our relationship with Him. I felt like I could really feel God's love for Frau Frommhagen as we met and I hope she can feel how important she is to Him.

Love is why we serve missions. I needed to remind myself of that as we looked at our numbers for the week and saw mainly zeros. In Hebrews 6:10, we read about the labor of love and how our work and love go hand in hand. So love your work. Thank your God. Amen my brotha's and sista's.  
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

P.S. Please send your love for me in written form to: 
Kirche Jesu Christi
Sister Claire Woodward
Jevenstedter Strasse 155
22547 Hamburg