Saturday, July 19, 2014


Yes. I cried on the plane home. Repeatedly.
Downright bawled when I saw
my beautiful mountains again.
I'm home.
In America.
In case you'd missed that part.

It's been almost two weeks and admittedly, I'm getting awkwarder by the day.
Still saying things like "I'm freuing myself" and "I totally schaffed that" and expecting people to understand me.
Still asking my parents for help with my iphone.
Still going through quark withdrawals (though greek yogurt has helped).
Still missing the benefits of weekly planning.
Still somewhat terrified to talk to people my own age.
Still going through shock every time I go into a building because of freezing air conditioning (which most people enjoy apparently).
Still asking how many Euros something costs.

However, the adreneline rushes I used to get from checking my email are gone and technology is starting to become routine again.

So things come and go in their own time.
Life will be normal again.

I loved my mission.
It will forever be a huge part of me because my faith makes me who I am.
I'll still be counting the blessings for the time God gave me to serve His children in a century. Okay, maybe I won't be alive in a century, but someone will be reaping the blessings still.

For those of you that want to keep following my much-less-than-exciting-non-missionary life, I'll be keeping my normal blog again ( so you are welcome to look at that when you are avoiding homework, chores, mending your socks, cleaning out the cellar, or other undesirable activities.

A smattering of you wondered if you could have my homecoming talk so I thought I'd just post it here. It's not everything I said, but a rough draft. Rough like sandpaper.

I’m really excited to be here with you today! I spent the last eighteen months serving as a missionary in the Germany Berlin Mission, which covers the entire northern half of Germany. There were about 250 missionaries in our mission-about 70 of those were sisters. This is the fifth Sunday in a row where I’ve been permitted to give my testimony during sacrament meeting, though this is the first of four different locations where I’ve been permitted (or rather expected) to talk in English. Please forgive me if I briefly pause to frantically recall words I’ve used too much in German to remember their English counterparts.
I loved teaching so many incredibly different people from all over the world in Germany—our crazy Africans that called us “you people,” our brilliant and curious Chinese students, our destitute and humble Eastern Europeans, our stubborn and deep feeling Germans. I met with people from Poland, Ukraine, Africa, Russia. Serbia, England, America, Fiji, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Chile, Columbia, Venezuela, China, Vietnam, Brazil, India, Italy, and Pakistan. Regardless of our differing circumstances, I know we all need the Gospel more than anything else. 
I get to share a little bit of what I’ve learned and experienced with you today in relation to my missionary purpose and the fourth article of faith. Which is….to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.
Active belief in these things, namely in the Gospel, requires a lot of pushing, a lot of energy, a lot of our souls—even our whole souls. Energy to believe on something you can’t touch or see or even understand completely but only feel. Energy to change yourself, to not only retire from sin but to leave it behind forever, to turn from being a good person to a better person. Energy to make and keep promises with God to follow Him so we can be worthy of the Spirit.
I wanted to share a story I shared with a lot of people on my mission about this task of pushing.

PUSH (pray until something happens)
There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared to him.
The Lord told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.
Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture - placing thoughts in the man's mind, such as ``Why kill yourself over this?, you're never going to move it!'' or ``Boy, you've been at it a long time and you haven't even scratched the surface!'' etc. giving the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn't moving the massive stone.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. ``Why kill myself?'' he thought. ``I'll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.'' And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.
``Lord,'' he said, ``I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?''
To this the Lord responded compassionately, ``My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven't succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.''

Sometimes we end up moving things as we push with all our might, as we test our faith. But the movement isn’t the most important part. Missions are hard because we do an awful lot of pushing and running around and often don’t see a lot of movement. A story from a sister I knew serving in Rostock sums that up. The work was going really slowly for her and her companion, despite their ardent pushing. They hadn’t found new people to teach in many weeks but they had prayed and fasted to find someone new who was ready to accept their message about Jesus Christ.
They did indeed find someone shortly thereafter and they were so excited to go visit them at the appointed time and place. After traveling o'er hill and mountain in pouring rain to reach their appointment, they discovered a false address had been given, without a phone number to boot. And so as they tried to put on a tough face, they went to a nearby park, sat on the swings, and cried in the rain.
That is a missionary story for you. Not a magical miracle. But a "life happens" one.  But faith doesn’t end on swing sets, it keeps going past the rain and keeps pushing. Which is what these sisters did as they strived to relay even more on the Atonement of Christ to carry them.  My mom sent me an article on my mission from Betsy VanDenBerghe, who had served a mission in Brazil a couple of decades ago. She remembers, “The dynamic currents of religious experience passing through your being often lapse into doldrums, particularly in mission life, where every inch of spiritual enlightenment must be paid for in miles of endurance. A disinterested populace, indifferent investigators, companionships issues, less-than perfect mission leaders, fatigue, and most of all, our own inner demons ensure that the faith of LDS missionaries is not born of…blissful stupidity…rather it’s a faith born of gut wrenching prayers, intensive study, and inner transformations only God could empower. Otherwise, who would do this?”
So now that I’ve intimidated you with some of the hard times of a mission, let me tell you every ounce of effort was worth it. I loved my mission with my whole heart and the transformations I saw in myself and others were heaven-sent.
I loved my mission largely because of the miracles I saw and the deep joy that came from sharing the restored Gospel.
One of my miracle people was a student from Africa named Chako, who I met at the beginning of my mission when I was serving in Leipzig. Now, I taught a lot of Africans on my mission, but Chako was the very first one  and he was special. We had actually contacted his roommate first and then his roommate told him we were giving out free bibles in any language so he called us asking to meet. We excitedly met with him for the first time and shared the precious story of Joseph Smith and explained the Book of Mormon. He listened very attentively and reflected the whole time asking questions here and there. At the end of our lesson, he looked reflectively at the Book of Mormon and then met our eyes and said, “You have given me a golden book.”
Chako was a great example of faith for me; he was one who felt the truth of the Gospel and wanted to bind himself to that truth as soon as possible.

I remember walking home after that first lesson with him with my companion and just beaming. It had just rained and there was a double rainbow over the bridge we walked across and it was one of those really beautiful, sacred moments of my mission, where I knew God was God and this was His work.
So sometimes our faith leads us through rainbows. Sometimes it leads us through rainstorms. But it leads us ultimately to peace.
As hard as change is, we have peace when we exercise our faith and do what God wants us to do. I love the German word for repentance—umkehr. It literally means to turn around. We have to stop doing wrong and start doing good. I love how Elder Bednar describes it, “Repentance is a principle of hope and healing—not of discouragement and despair.”
When we hold to that hope, it is natural to want to join Christ’s church by being baptized, by keeping our promises with him we made at baptism so that we can always have the Holy Ghost with us—the special part of the Godhead who can dwell with us at all times.
I loved the switch when investigators stopped saying “your church” but rather “our church.” I loved seeing ward members welcome visitors and our investigators feeling like they were home when they were at church. I loved seeing people develop relationships with God, especially those who previously had no religious background. We taught a Chinese student in Berlin named Annie, who said her first prayer with us. She spoke for a long time in Chinese and then said Amen and then looked at us a little sheepishly. She asked if we understand Chinese and when we replied no, she sighed in relief and said good because she was telling god secrets and basically pouring out her heart. To someone she didn’t even know was there. That is faith. And that relationship with our Heavenly Father is at the core of our religion. I think we should all pour a little more of heart out to Him and share a few more secrets with Him.
It all goes back to love in the end—love of God. His love for us and our love for him. (1 Nephi 11:22)
I think people go on missions for a lot of different reasons. And people join the church for a lot of different reasons. And I think that’s okay. But I believe that ultimately, we stay on missions, we stay active in the church, we keep pushing, because of the love of God. That’s partially why I left last year, but it’s entirely why I stayed. Elder Holland said, “No worthy accomplishment has ever come easy.” And it was definitely worth it.
Joan of Arc wrote, “Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it and then it's gone.”
So I’m my life to this big thing, no matter how hard it may be, no matter what questions I may have. Because I know it’s true.

This is true joy—to live the Gospel with constant influxes in life as we try to maintain and develop faith, repent, are baptized, and follow the Holy Ghost. I love it. It helps me live life in crescendo, relying on my Savior Jesus Christ, who is the high priest of good things to come, the author and finisher of our faith and of our joy. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

7-5-14: Forward Motion

Here is the bonus email we got from Sister Woodward today: 

My whole mission I'd planned on sending this scripture (3 John 1:14) as my last email with nothing else attached:
"I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face."

But we all know I don't have the self-control for that because I like words and writing too much. And smiley faces JJJJJJJ

We cleaned up and packed up the apartment in Lüneburg this week, which will stay empty until we have enough missionaries again for two to serve there. We were blessed with one last perfect missionary day before leaving; we had a super uplifting and spiritual lesson with a less active lady who adores sisters, we went by on a young mother who invited us in and wanted to meet again soon, we had an awesome lesson with a lady we found last week plus her husband, AND we topped it off with a joint teach with the previously mentioned young mother's sister.
It was mildly depressing to see these people get so excited about the Gospel only to tell them that we actually couldn't come back though...
The elders in Lauenburg can drive down to meet with some of them, but they were slightly suspicious of men and it was just hard to leave knowing no missionaries were coming after us.
Except the elders.
To whom I should probably give more credit.
They'll (the investigators) be taken care of somehow.

Yesterday we took a train to Berlin and I was reunited with my wonderful companion from over a year ago, Sister Darrington! We get to stay with her until we leave and once again, Ammon joy was achieved J.  We've been able to see several members and be with Sister Kriser's sister here and it has been grand.

Anyways. Prepared for sentimental thoughts?
Also known as shortened semi-memoirs?

When I think about my mission of the past year and a half, I think about chasing busses and bahns (trains), fallen out appointments, companion dates, and waiting on investigators.
When I think about my mission, I think of missionary conferences, the Kosaks, and lots of study time.
I think about more trains and good elders and gentle sisters, of testimony, of crazy people, of foreigners.
I think of conversion, of God's love, of intense personal growth.
When I think about my mission, I am happy with what I've been able to give.
I am thankful for this experience that has shaped so much of who I am and where I am going.
I am going forward.

A friend sent me this quote a couple of months ago from Elder Maxwell: "All crosses are easier to carry if we keep moving."

So we keep moving, leaping and bounding as much as we can.
Forward motion is what counts.

I know Christ lives and that I have a perfect Father in Heaven who knows me personally. I know that Christ's church is here today restored by Joseph Smith. I know the Book of Mormon and the Bible are the word of God and they help us with our forward motion. Miracles come from diligence and faith.

Thanks for your prayers, emails, letters, and thoughts throughout this time. I'm excited to see you soon J.


Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, June 30, 2014

6-30-14: Superheroes

Every day this week has made it more real that I go home in the very near future and mostly I feel like everything is going too fast and I can't take it all in but I guess I've been taking it in for the past 17 months so I don't really know what kind of different taking-it-in-capacities I expect for this last week.
Whew. That sentence was way too long but probably reflects how I've been talking this past week because I have too many thoughts that I attempt to connect with too many conjunctions so I can avoid taking a breath.

I feel a little bit like a superhero about to lose her super powers--a tad relieved that I can pass on the responsibility to save the world that I've been carrying around but also a little sentimental about the whole not-being-a-superhero thing anymore. But we shan’t dwell on that because I was still a superhero this week, doing superhero activities like protecting cherry trees from birds for less-active women, painting an apartment for a stellar member, going door-to-door (which admittedly we haven't done a lot of on our missions--we are more street contacting folk), singing songs with the sweetest of sweet 88-year old women, picking wild fruit for orphans (okay, actually it was for us), and going on our last exchanges. Of course those are just a few of the things that heroes do, which normal people can actually do too.
I will miss the automatic trust people have in you as a missionary, just because they know you represent Christ.

Just thought I'd throw that random thought out there.  

We take a train to Berlin on Friday and are staying with some other sisters there until Monday, when we go to the mission office. We are planning on sending short emails on Saturday, so if you want to write me any last things, do it before Saturday J.

Life Lesson #1. Good things keep coming.
I no longer believe that "nothing gold can stay." There are just lots of different shades of gold that come in and out of life, but one thing is certain, good things keep coming. There is not a limited supply of good times or of joy.

Two of my favorite articles are Elder Holland's "Remember Lot's Wife" ( and Caitlin A. Rush's "Good Things Keep on Coming” (
Sometimes I feel exactly like Caitlin Rush described it: "I have always had a hard time facing change and am hesitant to let go of good things. I miss the past even while it is still the present, desperate to enjoy fully moments in which I consciously and determinedly live. I know when I have a good thing, and I want to hold on and never let go... Usually when I realize how good things are, I instantly begin thinking of how everything is fleeting, that it will eventually be lost to time or circumstance."
But then she realized something marvelous, just like I have, that we can enjoy what we have in the moment and let it go when it comes to move on to other good things. Elder Holland counseled us to not let our attachment to the past outweigh our confidence to the future. He said, "Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the 'high priest of good things to come.'"

The knowledge that good keeps coming has brought me great comfort every time I've had to leave something good behind. It's simply marvelous. I look forward to the good to come this week and the weeks after that.
In America.

You'll get one more email from me which will probably be filled with more sentimental, nostalgic feelings with a mix of gratitude and excitement and all sorts of other emotions. It might be even shorter than this email though.
It's just weird at the end.
That's all I got.
Love you all.

--Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, June 23, 2014

6-23-14: From your local Lüneburg casino..‏.

So Lüneburg doesn't have any internet ladens (cafes) apparently. So we are currently sitting in a casino taking turns using the only computer here that supports our email system so I don't have as much time as usual. Sorry.

Also, I've run out of normal pens.
That's how you know the end is near. I don't think I'd ever actually written a pen dry until I came on my mission (I always seemed to lose them before finishing them). But you didn't really open this email to read about pens, did you?

You are probably more interested in the strange, beautiful, old city of Lüneburg, where we have found ourselves for the last couple weeks of our missions. Sister Kriser and I both arrived here on Tuesday, joyful to be reunited (there was so much joy that I temporarily forgot about my pen crisis, but not enough joy to pass out). Whitewashing for this last time has been better than before, due largely to the goodness of my companion and because the sisters we replaced were really awesome and left a lot of appointments for us.
So we got to meet with a cute, old Russian lady who actually doesn't understand that much German.
And with a refugee African lady who actually doesn't understand that much of our English.
And with a normal German woman who actually does understand German.

We had a few challenges adjusting to the transportation system here because our area is HUGE but the trains and busses don't run very frequently. So I thought we should get out the bikes we heard were in the basement. We found them--broken, but good enough to take to a shop to get them fixed--so we could ride our wild stallions where busses do not go. Both of us have only served in big cities where bahns (trains) come and go all the time so it is just a little different having to take a 40 minute train ride to visit someone and then figure out when (or if...) a train can take you back.

There are about 40 people in our ward here and we were able to introduce ourselves yesterday so it won't be so strange when we have to say goodbye next missionaries are coming after us for at least a couple months so that is a little weird.
Our church is in Lauenburg.
Which is not Lüneburg, in case you forgot.
So to get to church on Sunday morning, we ride our stallions to the bahnhof (train station) so we can take a train so that we can walk another 30 minutes since busses don't run on Sundays. It's quite the adventure! And we'll only have that adventure one more time...yeah, it's just weird.

But it is good; I am happy here :)

Life Lesson #2. I love my family way more than I knew I did.
I mean, I knew I loved my family a lot back in the day when I lived in America and called my mom every day to talk to her. But over the past year and a half, I have come to realize how incredibly much I have learned from my parents and my brothers, how much I miss them, and what a special type of love exists in a family. I suppose I've gotten more excited for the idea of starting my own family in the next decade too.

But for reals, my family means everything to me and they have helped me so much on my mission and in my life. So I'm really glad to know that families are forever.
As Elder Russell M. Nelson said, "Priesthood authority has been restored so that families can be sealed eternally."

I thought a lot about that this week as well with Taylor getting hitched and all, and I am just so grateful that we have that power to be sealed together forever. I'm excited to have another girl in the family, I am happy for Taylor to start his own family, I am happy to see my family soon, I am glad there are no eternal goodbyes. We are knit twain :)
Love you all.  

--Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, June 16, 2014

6-16-14: The Last Transfer

And so it came to pass that Sister Woodward was once again shipped off to a northern corner of Germany.
That corner being Lüneburg, which is a little south of Hamburg.

The duration of my stay there?
2.5 weeks.
The other half week of my mission will be spent back in Berlin visiting people I served with--hurray!  J
And my new companion is actually my old companion...dearest Sister Kriser.

This week's transfer calls brought back memories of being asked (or rather compelled) to leave Hamburg unexpectedly. Sister Hansen was told she would be training her last six weeks, and as I was told I would once again be whitewashing (and closing that sister program, though I don’t exactly know what that means...), I frantically began to run around our apartment and nearly jumped out the window, but decided there were better ways to get out nervous energy. I had mixed feelings about going somewhere new for the end of my mission and leaving behind a ward and people I love, but I am so excited to finish my mission with one of my best friends. I couldn't have asked for anything better. I am stoked to be able to run again every day and just to put everything I have left on the table. Plus we got permission to go a little early to go to Marzahn, where we both served so long, to say hello, and goodbye. It is a good deal J

But wait! We still had bunches of bomb Bielefeld baptisms this week!
Oh wait, I mean adventures. I just wanted to use some alliteration but couldn't think of a synonym for adventures that started with b.

First there was visiting teaching with Alisha on Tuesday, who wanted help visiting people on her list. We went by one family from the Dominican Republic and had an appointment entirely in...SPANISH. Because Alisha can speak that apparently. Except we can't. So we just sat there and smiled as I tried to use the twenty Spanish words I know to follow the conversation. Twas grand.

Then we went by our favorite, bitter, less active British lady, Sister Page. As we drove and were talking about her, Sister Hansen said, "Sister Page doesn't like Sister Woodward very much."
To which Alisha's three-year-old son Noki screamed, "NOKI LIKE SISTER WOOOOOO....."
Note: he always refers to himself in the third person. Also “Woodward” is a hard word. J

We also had a lovely lesson with a part-member, less active family from Italy this week. They have an eight-year-old son who wants to get baptized and we taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his closing prayer, he thanked Heavenly Father for the sisters who helped him repent, teehee. Then we played telephone. That obnoxious game where you have to whisper things in peoples' ears and repeat what you hear. Their kids love whispering things like God loves me, Jesus Christ lives, I am a daughter of God, etc. So that's cute. Except that I hate it when people whisper in my ear because it just gives me the heeby jeebies so I had to use all my might not to recoil whenever a child whispered in my ear.
But we shall never play this game in my home.

And then of course there's Ting, who I am very sad to leave but I am so glad that a brand new missionary will get to continue teaching her and be here for her baptism. After church yesterday, she came to our eating appointment with a German family. Ting is trying to learn German, but doesn't really understand a lot. Yesterday, however, seemed to be a really good German day as this family conversed in German and she often nodded in support or said something short in German.
On our way home, Sister Hansen turned to her and said, "Wow, you seemed to understand a lot of German today."
To which Ting said, "I don't know..."
She fooled us J.
I really am so grateful I was able to be here for this part of her journey and I know great things are in store for her.

Life Lesson #3. The church is the same everywhere. It brings me comfort to know that wherever I go in the world, there are faithful members who will treat me like their own family, probably because they understand we are all one family of our Heavenly Father. That thought gives me strength every time I get transferred, knowing I can and will keep loving people. The doctrines of Christ are the same, His organization doesn't change. Is that a life lesson? I don't know. Maybe the lesson is more that...
we find home in Christ's church.

--Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, June 9, 2014

6-9-14: Love of God‏

We spent the majority of our waking hours this week in various trains. Okay, actually not a majority. Probably not even a minority. But then I don't know what I'm supposed to call the amount of time in I should have just said it was more than ten hours.
But now that I've wasted at least ten seconds of your life with less-than-vital words, I'll tell you why we were in trains so much.

Because we got to go to Hamburg for a zone conference!

Gracious goodness I loved seeing Hamburg again (which I've decided is probably the prettiest city I've served in) and I was able to reunite with two of my kindred spirits, Sister Kriser and Sister Ricks. Pure Ammon joy right there (if you don’t understand this reference, please read Alma chapters 17-27 in the Book of Mormon, then come back and finish this letter). I thought about passing out just so I could stay there longer but...the joy was apparently not above my own strength.
Lots was learned and many people were cherished J.

We didn't take a train to visit Ting, because she lives in Bielefeld, but she's pretty much my favorite person to write about here so of course I'm writing about her now. #attempttotransitionfromtrainstoting

She told us this week that a group of Christian missionaries in China killed a girl because she didn't believe in God (not missionaries from "our church," she added) and she was pretty troubled about this incident. She didn't understand how people who say they are Christians can do such "crazy things."
Which led to her telling us she was a little nervous she would be forced to do crazy things if she became religious and got baptized.
We tried to comfort her and assure her that extremists were not part of our church and they wouldn't be allowed to do such things and stay a part of this church. Because this is Christ's church and He will not allow anyone to destroy His work or tell them to do stupid, evil things.
She said a really long prayer in Chinese at the end of our lesson, which I think was good, but since I can't speak Chinese, I don't know for sure. She said she felt a little better afterwards though and was still at church yesterday.

Ting also came to our International Dinner Night on Friday that we had as a ward activity. Sooo many different nationalities live in our ward, so everyone brought food from their native land and gave a little presentation on their homeland. It was cool, except that sometimes I feel like Germans don't know how to throw a party (Exhibit A: waiting 90 minutes before realizing people are too hungry to pay attention to the presentations so they should start eating), but we tried to liven it up a little bit by dancing to Cotton-Eye Joe to represent America J.

And now for those of you have actually been reading my emails every week for my whole mission, I have a self-quiz. Meaning I'm going to list all the Africans I can remember that I've met on my mission and you tell me if you remember which city they lived in. Ready go: Chako, Innocence, Jean-Marie, Rita, Blankson family, Gertrude, Chamball, Eric, Eric, Collivan and Angel, Declan, Michael, Samuel, Adrian, Bed, Alex, Eric (different), Wilford, Elvis, Quinta, Nelly, John, Michael, Paul, Conte, Lehi, Souhman, Maureen, Julia, Henry, Azzizy, Salif, Emmanuel, Roger, Adam, Louis, internet cafe man who texted us, Presence, Mike, Ose, Osa, Serge, Sarah, Rosette, George, Glory, Samson.
Whew. They're great J.

Life lesson #4. Love of God is why I'm here.
I think people come on missions for a variety of different reasons and I think it's okay to have multiple reasons. But in the end, I've realized that the love of God is why I came here and why I stayed here. It's a love for Him and for His children that makes it joyful to serve.
Taylor sent me this poem he wrote on his mission a long time ago and it's helped me a lot on my mission, so hopefully he doesn't mind me sharing it.
Thanks Taylor J

"On High"
Failure is your greatest teacher
Fear has proved a fiendish foe
Faith is loyalty--fierce firmness to truth
Understanding comes
      through time and persistence
Love of God--that's why I'm here
Love is what? a fuzzy feeling? No--
An action. A choice. A way to live
A willingness to sacrifice
      an understanding
Love is a decision
We love to experience Godhood
I will beat you and try you and purify you and you will be taught from on high

--Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

Monday, June 2, 2014

6-2-14: The Face of Faith

Shall we start this email with Ting?
Because let's be real, she is our favorite part of every week.
Or we could talk about walking around in the rain for hours in sandals, or we could talk a little bit about the zombie apocalypse, or there is also the crazies or how “weak” sisters are.
Na, we'll defs start with…

We had planned this awesome joint-teach appointment with Ting at the home of a family in our ward and were looking forward to it the whole week. Ting is a sucker for cute children and this family happens to have two and can speak English, so we thought it was a good match. Our appointment was supposed to be Friday at 5:00pm, but at 3:30pm, we got a text from Ting saying that she wasn't going to be finished with her work early enough. She's getting a PhD, plus she's Chinese, so she kinda overworks herself, but either way, we were super sad about this fallen out chance.

BUT she said we could come by her office later so we did and had another WONDERFUL lesson about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what she needs to do before getting baptized. We started talking about faith and before we even got too far, she cried out, "I have faith!" and did a fist pump.
Except Chinese people always say "face" instead of "faith" so it sounded like "I have face!"
Plus the fist pump J.
Oh gosh, we just love her faith, and her face.
When we talked about baptism, we told her we thought she'd be ready to be baptized sooner, namely July 6th. Her eyes got pretty big and she exclaimed, "JULY 6TH?!?" And so we started to backtrack and explained we could wait and then she asked what month came after May and we told her June. Then she realized we were not asking her to get baptized in a week, rather in a month, and she happily agreed. She's doing great in every area so far--she turned down coffee this week and simply drank hot water (hot water is her favorite drink anyways apparently). So things are going well!

The zombie apocalypse...
was less cool than it sounds. There is a holiday in Germany called Christi Himmelfahrt, which is kind of like Father's Day except that everyone just drinks a bunch of alcohol and goes a little (or a lot) cray cray. Therefore, missionaries are supposed to be home by 6:00pm for safety reasons. We were cutting it kind of close on our walk home from a lesson and had to pretend everyone turned into zombies at 18:00 and would get us so we would make it home on time. But we schaffed it (made it) and didn't even see any zombies from our windows.
That was a lame stories of things that didn't even happen. So moving on.

Sisters are strong!
We helped a family in our ward move this week! Which was grand because we got to wear pants, help people, and move around. Except that people sometimes think that sisters can't do anything except carry doorknobs or toothpicks. Which is mildly offensive and strikes a match in my inner, somewhat dormant, raging feminist. We persuaded them to let us carry some heavy things, but...tell the world: sisters are strong. Let them help. We play sports and don't easily break.

And the crazies keep coming...
Remember that crazy lady who showed up the church last week? Well she came again this week, just like she said she would. She was so excited to see us that she attacked Sister Hansen with a hug and then flung her arms around me and gave me a huge kiss on the cheek. She then promptly apologized and said, "I couldn't help myself."

Life lesson time.
#5. Prayers are answered differently than you expect them to be answered. But they are answered.

I have two examples to support this statement. One comes from a lady in our ward who wanted to go somewhere with her two children, but it was raining super hard and they couldn't find an umbrella. Her 3-year-old daughter suggested they pray to find it, and so they did. Except that they kept searching and still couldn't find that dang umbrella and so the trip was going to have to be cancelled. Just as this thought came about, though, the sun came out, and there was no more need for an umbrella.

Then there's the story with my camera. Remember how I was so distraught that I'd lost all of the pictures from the second half of my mission? Well I prayed hard that somehow I would find it or someone would return it to me, but alas, it did not come. BUT...God provided a way for me to still have most of the pictures that I'd taken (minus Christmas and my videos) because I had saved most of them on a computer in Marzahn and my dear former companion who is still there sent them to me. I didn't get the camera, but God provided another way for me to keep these records of wonderful memories J.

I think these examples illustrate trust. Richard G. Scott said, "To trust means to obey willingly without knowing the end from the beginning."
Sometimes I don't remember the beginning. I sure as heck don't know the end. But I trust that everything in the middle has a purpose and God hears my prayers. He answers them in His time and in His way. Sometimes we don't need an umbrella because He'll bring out the sun.

Keep on keepin' on.
--Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

P.S. Also if you meant to write me a letter while I was on my mission and haven't yet, you still can do so without feeling embarrassed if you write within the next three-ish weeks.

Just thought I'd throw that out there J.

Monday, May 26, 2014

5-26-14: The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy

Let's start with the good.
Namely, Ting. Who is just the cutest Chinese girl ever.
And this week...she agreed to be baptized on July 20th! (date subject to change)
How did that happen to someone who didn't believe in God a week ago?

Well it started with lots of stress at work/school (whatever you call it when you are getting your PhD) as she felt like she couldn't meet with the varying expectations of supervisors. As she thought about the rising pressures, she said, "I remembered what the sisters told me, that I have a Father in Heaven, who loves me even if I don't meet others expectations. And then I felt a lot better."

She also committed to living the Word of Wisdom, giving up her coffee and tea and the chance to drink beer at parties (since she said she doesn't drink it alone). Her simple faith that she hasn't even noticed changing is so inspiring and we just adore her. We told her we would be there every step of the way to help her be ready for her baptism and she got a concerned look on her face and said, "So you won't be there afterwards?"
Then came the awkward part where we both had to explain we were going home relatively soon (as in before her baptism...) but that there would always be missionaries for her. Plus God, who is the most important J.

Some other memorable things she said (insert thick Chinese accent):
"I was reading a study about chocolate and they said chocolate has become more expensive because the Chinese discovered it was delicious!"
"I don't actually want to be a supervisor. I just want to be a mom. So if you know any open housewife positions, let me know."

To celebrate after our appointment, we went out to eat at Vapiano's and Ting ate Italian food Chinese style, crying out every few bites, "MMMHHH! DELICIOUS!!!"
She's our pride and joy, if you couldn't tell J.

And now for the bad
A member asked if she could cut our hair and we foolishly agreed. I felt a little like Samson as large curls fell from my head and I realized it was more than a little trim. Except I didn't lose any supernatural strength and though mildly saddened at first, it really wasn't that much hair (because I have an abundant amount to begin with). It’s probably the same length as when I came on my mission, which is actually not that bad. But I needed a bad thing in the week so I could still use my chosen email title, and I had been so proud of not cutting my hair for over 16 months.

So on to the crazy.
Fact: Missionaries are crazy-people magnets, thus leading us to many crazy experiences.
Such as sitting on a bahn (train) and having a man come up to us and ask how we are doing as we are about to get off. We say we are doing well as we all get off. He then proceeds to point to where he lives and invites us over for coffee and then clarifies he doesn't want any violence but the very presence of a statement like that indicates otherwise. We then move away and he takes our hands to kiss them as a farewell. Resisting the urge to run, we walk quickly in the opposite direction.

And where do we walk? Oh, we just go right on to see a crazy lady that a member told us to visit. Except we didn't exactly know how crazy she was. We approach her building and see this lady in a nightgown wandering outside the building looking under rocks and she asks if we want to go inside. We tell her we are looking for someone and then naturally, we find out she is indeed our intended contact. Unsure of whether we are visiting a mental institution or not, we cautiously follow her inside.
Only to walk into a room where we can't breathe because no one has opened a window in a couple of decades. There is no way to describe the scent of mold and cigarette smoke that enveloped us as she shut the door and the feeling as she then stared politely at us without sitting down. We said a brief prayer with her and left rather quickly to avoid any airborne plagues.

But, don't worry, the crazies just kept coming! Yesterday at church, we were happily waiting for Ting to come (which she did of course, since the Chinese seem to be more reliable than the Africans). However, before Ting came, an old lady entered the church and immediately hugged us around our necks (which was awkward because she's smaller than us) and then grabbed our arms and dragged us into Relief Society, where we sat as she continued to cling to us. We had seen her once at a bahnhof before and she's also seen our elders, but somehow knew where our church was. As we sat during the lesson, she made us open her water bottle and punch out a pill for her to take. Then she started shaking really badly and moaning and we had no idea what is going on (insert frantic looks around the room for help), but then she calms down after a 43-second freak out session and asks us to escort her to the bathroom. She stayed all three hours at church, but thankfully our ward mission leader helped take care of her the rest of the time.
And guess what? She called us this morning to say she'll be coming every week.

Anyway, let's move forward to life lessons.

#6. You make time for what is important. I have met so many people on my mission who say they didn't have time to read in the Book of Mormon or pray or go to church. And every time they say that, I don't believe them. Because we fill our time with what is important to us. We make our own priorities. I know people work and have lives and need to sleep, but five minutes is not a big sacrifice- cut five minutes from some other activity. I've also met lots of busy people with so much on their plates and yet they continue to make time for church, for family, for maintaining their relationship with God.
As Elder Bednar put it, "Ordinary people who faithfully, diligently, and consistently do the simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results."
I will always make time for the little things of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because that's when little daily wonders happen.

And for your reading enjoyment, I thought I'd include a list Sister Hansen and I made this week.

Fears Missionaries Have about Going Home
· relating to normal people again
· how to act with your family
· adjusting to babies born and spouses added (to friends/family back home, not us)
· technology
· dating
· catching up with everything
· feeling a lost sense of purpose
· forgetting everything you learned on your mission
· losing contact with people from your mission
· being awkward and only knowing how to make missionary jokes
· being alone
· realizing you didn't figure out everything out on your mission and your mission didn't make you perfect
· forgetting the mission language
· knowing your dog probably won't recognize you
Fortunately, we can boldly face these fears in not too many weeks.
Have a grand week J.

--Sister Claire Michelle Woodward