23 December, 2013
WE HAVE REACHED THE WEEK OF CHRISTMAS. And I have officially passed my 6th month mark by almost two weeks.
Last Monday was an adventure in Hamburg with Sister Darrington and J***! He knew where everything was and knew the coolest places to go. He's a good kid. It felt good to have hours of laughing, taking photos, and just talking.
We went to Michaelis Church and climbed hundreds of stairs to a tower that overlooked all of Hamburg. It was like a Hamburg Eiffel Tower ;). I liked looking down and seeing things from a new perspective. The monumental Rathaus of Hamburg innenstadt was just a speck down below, the sun was beginning to set, and the cool crisp air was blowing my hair every which way, keeping me wide awake.
J** also showed us this old tunnel that goes under the Elbe river that we walked a while through and then came up on the other side of the Harbor. The sun was completely down and the night black even though it was still so early. The moon was full overhead and it was that light, and the lights from the bordering buildings that were reflected in the dark water. How beautiful.
As we went back by the Rathaus to meet up with the Elders so that they could meet J**, I brought up the Book of Mormon and asked him if he had read in it since we had last given him a chapter to read. We were able to talk a little bit about the last chapter he had read, and it was so natural for me to just share how much the Book of Mormon personally means to me.
Time is going by so quickly. I have heard it explained by another missionary like this: the days feel like weeks, but the weeks feel like days. That's really how it is. Sister Darrington is only two transfers ahead of me and she hit her half way mark this weekend. She has been really worried about it coming; like me and many other missionaries here, we work so hard, but we worry about how much our efforts actually bring about. Have I really done enough? Have I really made a difference? Several times leading up to the big day (Friday the 13th) we talked with one another, cried together, and really just felt blessed because of the incredible reality of the Lord's presence in our work. I was praying for her leading up to this day because I knew that it would be hard for her, praying for understanding, and praying that she would be able to feel of God's love for her. As I woke up on Tuesday this last week, I felt like I had received an answer to my prayer. God had blessed me with an understanding of how my dear companion was feeling, and with what we learned in our personal studies we were able to share with one another in companionship study. I explained the pain and the fear that I experience by constantly being rejected on the streets. How tragic it is that even our "investigators" who are our friends, who we love and care about, even they commonly don't leap at coming to church, reading in the scriptures, keeping other commitments, etc. Oh how I wish that I could get upon a wall and cry out to the world about the glorious message that we have. God lives! I was grateful for the feelings that I had come into my heart, because it is these feelings of courage and determination that give me the strength to stand strong in the faith even when it can be hard.
Sweet Schwester J** was having a really rough time when we went to visit her earlier this week. She explained that sometimes her faith is really high, other times so low. She was just feeling so discouraged. With the challenges that Sister Darrington and I have personally had in the past few weeks, we were really able to show our sympathy and love. Sister Darrington especially showed such tenderness as she asked her what her needs were, both temporal and spiritual. We ended up returning the next evening with flour, eggs, sugar, etc, Christmas music, and cooking supplies and we made cookies with her because it was the only thing she could come up with that could help her feel better. We also brought a little Christmas tree that we had received from volunteering at the tafel and a necklace as a little Christmas gift. It was an hour where Schwester J** was able to sit back and relax, sing along to Christmas music, eat dough out of the bowl with her fingers, and talk with people who really care about her.
Standing there in the community kitchen I just took everything in. It is times like this where we are able to serve people that brings me so much joy. It is so often the people who live in such humble circumstances who are just humble people themselves, and so easy to love.
We received a call from a worried Bruder W** that his dearest "V**" was in the hospital. We were on exchanges at the time, and so Sister Hansen and I went to the Krankenhaus the next day to visit dear Schwester N**. We sang "The Spirit of God" with her, her favorite hymn since she joined the church so many years ago. She had such words of wisdom to share, and once again I just couldn't help but think about Grandma Shelley as I sat by her bedside holding her wrinkled hand. I wish I would have had a tape recorder. I almost started crying. We were able to remind her of the love that God has for her. She doesn't need reminding though, because she knows this better than almost anybody else I know.
Remember that experience I had a couple weeks ago when we taught a lesson and I got really shaken up by it? Well, I am really beginning to see how it is these situations that I go through, that shake me up or cause me to fall, that have really helped me to become stronger.
We met with L** on Saturday evening and it was another Scientific proof talk for him, why God did not exist. I felt so overcome with the Spirit as we were in the lesson, I was so active and alert, and I was able to speak with a power in my voice that I haven't experienced in a while. When we are truly rooted it the gospel, when we are prepared for the storms and the winds, the help will come. The Lord will give us the strength and the words that we need.
We have continued to meet with Ev** and the children . The children are so cute and they are all so smart. One day we taught the plan of salvation, and we returned the next day. D** got up and was able to the draw the plan out perfectly with a marker and explain it to the rest of his siblings. He is only 9! Together all of the children expressed their excitement of one day being able to go to the "Sun" the Celestial Kingdom. That is where God lives and where we can be together with our families forever. In an earlier lesson we reviewed the Restoration Lesson and talked more about the importance of the Priesthood. We were able to ask each one of the children personally if they had a desire to be baptized into Christ's church. Their innocent and sincere responses really touched me. Even Ev** was very supportive. And to add to the excitement of this . . . E** is actually back and meeting regularly with us again.
Last night’s tender experience that I have to share… I was really having a hard time.
Again. I really, really miss our family. Missionary work is so hard.
I ended up grasping one of my Christmas packages and just rocking back and forth. "I just want to be with my family. But they aren't here. This has my Mother's handwriting on it. I just want to hug her right now."
There was Sister Darrington at my side. She told me to stand up and close my eyes. Before I knew what was happening she told me to keep my eyes shut tight and to picture my mother in my mind. Then her arms came around me and just gave me the tightest hug she has ever given me. My body just started shaking and I just kept my eyes sealed tight. We both just started sobbing as we hugged each other picturing our mothers in our minds. She told me, "This is a squish. Whenever you miss your mother. just close your eyes and remember this. She is always with you."
When I pulled back to look at her I had streams running from my eyes. "Thank you. That is the nicest thing that anybody has ever done for me on my mission."
Even earlier in the day I was feeling really weak (been a little bit sick the past couple days), and Sister Darrington just wrapped my arm around her neck, wrapped her arm around my waist, took my bag onto her own shoulder, and half supported me until we got to the bottom of 8 flights of stairs. Yes, I could have walked the way on my own, but that's really who my companion is. We just tackle the mountains together as they come! Today we were talking about how cool it is that we have become so close in our companionship. We really just each other with anything and everything. And now we get to spend Christmas together as a family!
I am really excited for this week. The members are making us feel very loved and we have appointments every one of the three days of Christmas. Even Abel is going to make Fufu with us tomorrow! :) Merry Christmas Family! I can't wait to see your faces on Skype in just a few days!!!!
Sister Heidi Elaine Shelley