Monday, February 3, 2014

2-3-14: Year One‏

And now a musical intro:
Iiiiit's been one year since I left my house
took a plane and said "I'll come back later"
One year since I got my tag
The one that says my name is Sister Woodward….

Okay, that was a (very) rough attempt at what should have been read (or rather sung) to the tune of "One Week," but it's probably okay if you just read it. The goal was to recognize that I've been a missionary for a year. Goal achieved, if you are still reading these emails you signed up to get forever ago.

It has been a glorious, exhausting, rewarding, and incredibly awkward adventure that I have loved and am glad it keeps going (though I have started having bad dreams about coming home, like I usually do before school starts--not that I dread school, but it is something new and unknown every year). I learned from the office elders that my name now has a little sticker with the expiration date of July 8th on it, so I will officially be home for my brother's wedding three days later. Give me a few months and I'll probably start having nightmares about a wedding that isn't my own.

Moving right along past bad dreams and into the goodness of real life! Though sometimes good dreams are interrupted by bad life. But I am fortunate enough to experience the former.

The final exchange. and thoughts on Cameroon
I had the privilege of serving with Sister Hinkle on our exchange this week for the last exchange of her mission, for she is homeward bound in a couple of weeks. It was cool to hear about her mission experiences as a whole and her plans for ever-onward-progression, plus we experience the regular dose of miracles we see when we go on exchanges.

Like finding Eric from Cameroon.
Not to be confused with Eric from Cameroon who is already a member of our church.
But rather Eric from Cameroon who attended a baptism with us yesterday (it was actually Christian's baptism--the one I talked to on the phone in the ghetto apartment complex! Bed and Alex couldn't make it, but we also met with them and had a sweet lesson.).
Between us and the other sisters in Marzahn, we have between 15-20 Cameroonian investigators/contacts. So we are trying to organize a great party where Eric From Cameroon who is already a member can talk with them all about how the Gospel changed his life.
Except most all of our Africans have crazy work schedules where they don't make that much money or get to sleep ever and it's hard to coordinate one appointment, let alone gather them all together. We'll see.

Serbian update
Well, our Serbians are still wonderful, especially the women who are so humble and have so much love. They didn't make it to church again, even with a member coming with us to offer a ride to all of them AND their children, so we might end up pushing their baptismal date back, but hopefully it works out. They have hard lives. Like pretty much every single person I've met on my mission. I know the Gospel doesn't make things easier, but that it does make us stronger. That is sometimes hard for people to accept.

Our lovely Annie from China is doing awesome. She is so sharp and so attentive. We asked her why Christ needed to suffer for us after reading in the Book of Mormon together and even though she's never heard about the Atonement of Christ before, she told us it was probably so he could know exactly how we are feeling and so he can help and comfort us better.

Moment of awed silence followed by the strong desire to clap for her.

I love it when people make connections and discover truth for themselves.

Of many meetings
We also had zone conference and a leadership training this week, which were both excellent, as usual. Because how can the gathering of so many valiant missionaries not be wonderful? And I got to see Elder Lyon from Leipzig again and the Andrus Ehepaar right before they go home. It was a nice trip down memory lane. Also I love President and Sister Kosak. I think I say that a lot, but they are so wonderful and simply beam with goodness and love for us, for others, and for the work.

Seize the day
We tell a lot of people that they need to act now. Because faith leads us to action and applied knowledge is the best kind and if you know something is good, you should do something about it immediately. So I just wanted to end with an old proverb quoted in last general conference: "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
That means NOW! President Uchtdorf sums up my thoughts better than my brain does:
"There is something wonderful and hopeful about the word NOW. The is something empowering about the fact that if we choose to decide NOW, we can move forward this very moment. NOW is the best time to start becoming the person we eventually want to be."

So do it now.
Whatever it is.
And seize the day.
(Cue music and dancing from Newsies…)

-- Sister Claire Michelle Woodward

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