Claire told us this week that her mission is the biggest in the world. They currently have about 70 sisters and 200 elders serving there.
Last week's word of the week was great. This week, I would like to introduce the more complex word..."good."
Good things come. Sometimes. But not always. But the end is always good. And if it's not good, then it's not the end.
Good news first
Remember Frau Köhler, my cute little old lady neighbor in Leipzig that I befriended while running circles in our garden outside? Well I got a letter from her last week! I had given her a Book of Mormon before I left and she wrote to tell me that she started reading my gift and has enjoyed it thus far. She said she missed her Claire-chen (little Claire) and hadn't met the other missionaries that moved in yet, but....she is so good. The card made my day.
Another good thing? I did my first tausch as a sister training leader! I hope it's okay that I call it a tausch. Because I didn't even know that word meant exchange until three months into my mission. But just so we're clear, tausch=exchange. Sister Kriser and I both took the three hour train ride up to Rostock to serve with the sisters there for a day. They just re-opened a sisters’ program there last transfer and it's been pretty hard to find people to teach. The five missionaries that serve there make up a quarter of the branch and their church is above a ghetto-netto next to a belly dancing studio. Yeah. I know. But Rostock is so great (I mean good?) and they are such hard working sisters. We went in and were able to see some miracles there :) Namely...while trying to go by some contacts, Sister Cluff (one of the Rostock sisters) and I got a couple of new contacts, which has been rather scarce in those parts. One of the contacts we had was a false address, so we decided to just klingle the building and after most people not answering, a guy finally let us in. Sister Cluff gave a two sentence summary of why we were here as he held back his barking dogs and to our surprise, he told us to come back next week to tell him more! Then there was another guy that we walked by on the street and he started calling after us in French. Little did he know that Sister Cluff studied a little French before her mission and she responded to whatever he said. And of course then we started talking about Jesus Christ. Because that's what we do. Though Muslim, he said he loved Christ and we got his phone number and guess what his name is? Mormoni. Ridiculous.
The tausch was a very good thing. I was so impressed by the testimony and spirit of the other sisters, even when they are in a hard time of their missions. Plus we got to run along the Ost See for morgen sport (morning exercise) :) I miss my Colorado mountains, but Germany sure does a good job of providing its own non-mountain beauty. I feel really blessed for the opportunity to get to serve in this way on my mission and love it.
More good news?
We met with a lady named Frau Möbius, who has been going to church for five years but has hitherto refused to meet with missionaries. However, she agreed to meet with us on the condition that she can try to help our "schrecklich" (terrible) German. (Sister Kriser: Can we do language study for an hour and then have an hour for a lesson? Frau Möbius: You don't need one hour of language study, you need twenty!). By the way, our German isn't that bad. Anyways, we're glad for her help and that we get to meet with her (she gave me a 1-, sort of like an A- in our grading system, on a German translation she had me do, so not bad).
Conversation Starting 101
We did our sprach studium in some chairs at a mall one day because we didn't have time to come home and do it. There was an old lady sitting next to us and both of us kinda wanted to talk to her, but were stumped on potential small talk starters. So after a few-dead end questions (she wasn't very talkative) and finding out she was waiting for her husband, Sister Kriser asked, "So....how do you get a man?" First time we've used dating advice as a conversation starter. Unfortunately its uniqueness worked about as well as the other questions and she anxiously awaited the arrival of her husband so she could get away from the weird, probing American girls.
Not So Good Things
We had stake conference this weekend and all the wards and missionaries in and around Berlin gathered together and it was lovely! The not so good part? We had a semi-sketch investigator show up (who informed us this week that he had to go to prison next month because he was caught riding the trains “schwarz”--without paying for a ticket), who was pretty dang angry at the world for some reason. Plus he's not exactly all there upstairs. As the meeting started, he started shouting some of his most choice German profanities at the surrounding ward members and the stake president and was getting a little violent. We didn't exactly know what to do since he refused to leave the meeting at first. But Sister Kriser coaxed him out soon enough with some pixie dust and help from the Lord and we walked him to a bus stop. Along the way, he kicked a couple of fences and yelled at some more passersby. Which was actually pretty scary. But we managed to get him on the bus, said a prayer together, and humbly returned to the stake center in Tiergarten to assure everyone that we were okay.
Missionaries just have weird experiences sometimes. Okay, a lot of times, because we talk to a lot of random people, which most normal people don't do. And we see a whole different side of society than what we saw as normal people. It's so hard to explain what it's like to be a missionary, what it's like be a missionary in your mission, in your area, in your companionship, in your life. But I am so grateful that Christ knows exactly what it is like for every part of that pyramid.
Marzahn is nice--it's not the city/busy part of Berlin, so it's actually pretty quiet. Sister Kriser is still good and healthy and funny and brilliant :)
Love you all.
Sister Claire Michelle Woodward