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.