- We sang hymns at a teaching appointment with a member, she was so happy and pulled out her little flower fabric bound hymnbook to sing along.
- Lilac trees are in bloom here
- Playing Uno with the random man on the train who decided it would be a good plan to stay in a compartment with 6 missionaries. He thought we where a bit strange but by the end was playing Uno and laughing. A little awkward when he kept shouting out english swear words whenever someone played a Draw Two.
- Seeing my MTC district at the mission conference for Elder Bednar.
- A Lebkuchen Heart (a traditional gingerbread cookie)
- Fireworks we could see out the window of the hostel we stayed in the night before Elder Bednar´s address.
- Elder Bednar!
- Spending the night with the sisters in Salzburg and then going to church with them Sunday morning.
- Sister Poll got a camel in the mail for hump day, she is halfway through her mission. I got a package too!!
- The sister training leaders for Sister Poll and I dropped off a little note and some doughnuts for us while we were having president interviews and a district meeting in Vienna.
And perhaps a sticky bun… or four…
Before this mission the only train I had really ridden on was the Heber Creeper and some sort of railway at Disneyland. Lets just say things are a bit different.
We traveled all day on Friday to get to Munich for our meeting with Elder Bednar. Sister Poll and I made some no bake cookies right before bed so that we could take them on the eight-hour train ride… hence, the title for today. We got really good at those flashcards we brought with us during that time. This whole week has been filled with travel. Really. Honestly. I am so excited for a normal week where we can go talk with people and have some appointments, aber (but), I learned so much during our travel adventures.
Elder Bedar told us right away that the reason he was there was not for I-Pads. Granted- yes we are getting I-Pads, but it was so much more than an instructional meeting on how to use technology, it was an inspiring meeting led by Elder Bednar, but perfected through the spirit.
He talked about how we are agents that act not objects to be acted upon. We need to remain that way. The technology is a tool that I might be using more in the near future, but it does not change the nature of this work. This work is to bring others to the light of Christ and help them accept the Lord’s atonement in this life.
There was an elder playing music before the meeting started, he brought such a spirit with his piano playing, the microphone kept throwing angry fits and buzzing loudly and attempting to drive out the spirit. It would be uncomfortable for a moment and then they would fix it, and those beautifully arranged hymns would bring the spirit right back in again.
I wanted to share two different thoughts I have had. The first is a quote:
” I do not believe there is one missionary whose weaknesses are greater than the potential strengths within him. Why? – Because each of us is a son or daughter of God, with His divine nature and divine potential woven into the very fabric of our souls. I do not think the Lord expects immediate perfection of us, but I do believe he expects immediate progress.” -Tad R. Callister
I think that the last part is what I am really going to focus on, always improving and trying to do everything a little better. I know I have so much to learn as a missionary, and it is always hard work. It is a leap of faith to start talking to someone, trying to share what you hold close to your heart and hoping they understand it is meant with love. I know I need to be better, but I am grateful for the change to grow. I know God has blessed me with both strengths and weaknesses, therefore, he understands when I have weakness, and is always encouraging me to improve.
Second, I also finished the Book of Mormon again this week, I love reading in Ether and those last power chapters. I prayed as I always do to ask about the truth. I felt good, but usually it is an enormous spiritual experience. I figured it was because I already knew it was true, but I was a bit confused, but hold your horses ladies and gentlemen, because what happened next was about all the spiritual experience I needed. The day I finished, I got some letters in the mail. Inside were two talks from Apostles in this day and age, testifying that they knew without a doubt that the Book of Mormon was true. All the way from Utah, these letters had made it to me on that exact day. Later, Elder Bednar said at the meeting on Saturday that those who are in tune in with the spirit do not have to be hit over the head with the Holy Ghost every time. It means that God trusts me; it means my testimony is solid. And it is true, I do know.
The Book of Mormon is the manifestation of God’s love for his children in all times. It is either true or it is not, and you have to consider would Joseph Smith die for some sort of hoax that he put together on the weekend with some buddies to make some cash. NO. That is something I can say plain and simple. The Book of Mormon has always been there for me. If you have faith that something will help you, it will. I would offer that when a testimony is challenged the most lovely way to put those pieces together stronger is to read. “Climb the Castle Wall, Sweep her off her feet.” Sorry for the obscure Robin Hood reference, but it really just means ACT! Do something. Decide to be strong and then BE STRONG.
So I forgot to mention something from last week. I went and helped a lovely less active member in her garden last week, I was able to get out of the big city of Graz and just see the beautiful green landscape all around me. It felt good to dig in the dirt and be close to the wind and sky. God gives these as gifts. I know that joy in this life, and joy in doing what we love shows that indeed we are meant to have joy. So be good my friends.
Sing some songs, say some prayers, eat something tasty, dance around in a train station a bit, and try not to flood the bathroom floor of the hostel with a well meaning but secretly evil shower head. Because although the six sisters you are sharing a room with will come to the rescue with their own dry towels, you will inevitably have to go get more dry towels from the lobby.
Life is Good.
Just be Brave.
Be an agent of action for yourself.
Any Path… So many Worth Exploring
Forewarning: This week snuck past me like a ninja, or a zoot-suited-big-bad-wolf. But I, Little Red have survived. Sister Little Red. Excuse me.
So I think this week is going to be some bullet point party time. Who is excited? I know I am.
• Langmut it the word for longsuffering. I am not saying I am suffering, or that I am very long. Actually, I am really short. Sister Poll, Elder Durrant, and Elder McArthur are all way taller than me. But what is interesting is the direct translation… Lang means long and Mut means courage. So basically (Long Courage) Enduring to the End is long courage, it is what I will need every single day of my mission and what we are employing when we have the faith to say tomorrow will be brighter.
• This week I met B, she is a ten year old with an amazing love for the gospel, but her mother will not let her get baptized until she herself is active again… And after I met her I can see why that could be a bit of a long shot. So we just go to give her little lessons and sometimes her little friends are all running around, I have plans to sing primary songs with them. At our visit we sat outside with her as she ate the little ice cream she had saved for and we showed her a picture of the prophet. She tells us how she reads her Book of Mormon with pictures every day. Her dad brought her to church this Sunday, so that made me glad. Her parents are divorced and she is the only girl in a very big, family. It is a complicated situation, but I can see so much faith in this little girl’s attitude and eyes.
• So I sang with the ward choir. Ha!
• We had a zone meeting in Vienna so it was nice to meet a bunch of new people. There where two Elders who also do theater, so as we were all talking before the meeting started, I got to have a little “theater talk” again. It was lovely. We also all went to lunch together after the meeting. We went to a place where they make giant schnitzel. It was bigger than my face and I ate all of it. Ok, ok, I lied. I had to share it with Sister Poll and even that was a struggle.
• So missionaries leave a lot of things behind in their apartment when they leave. Sister Poll says that she thinks I know the apartment better than she does. I found lots of strange stickers and a flowerpot and a stash of headbands and a picture of Christ. I found a dress that is actually workable and as I ate lunch I fixed it up and now I have a new shirt. Huzzah for that.
• I met more of the young single adults in the ward here. We go to some activities with them, for instance playing frisbee Saturday morning. But we were sad because the investigators we invited did not come, but at least I got to run and jump around for a while. It was in beautiful Stadtpark with a very strange fountain.
• We were trying to go meet with H, a less active member that the missionaries before have tried to go by and talk to all the time. We left a note and…..he finally called! We had an appointment and a joint teach and then suddenly we all had to get off the bus we were on. There was a huge parade of protesters blocking the street, it was really crazy, Sister Poll said she had never seen it happen before her whole time here. So that was really loud and filled with people, not violent or mean, just inconvenient for us. We had to reschedule for next week. (In many large European cities protests were held against TTIP a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they fear will erode food, labor and environmental standards. I looked it up to see what it was all about)
• There is another less active that we went by to visit and she has never been there. But magically she was there. We discovered the real reason she has not been coming to church, it hit really close to my heart. I feel a little un-sure how to help her, but the good part is she wants help. And even though I cannot figure exactly why she must struggle with what she does. I know God loves her, and I told her that and I felt the most profound spirit that God forgets no one. The atonement is for sins, but it is also for pain and feeling alone or misunderstood or judged or unwelcome. God loves people no matter their perspective on life or love or existence. Naturally he wants them to be near Him. My job is to help the people I teach realize that no matter what, there is love for them. Forgive me for quoting Into the Woods here but, “Someone is on your side, no one is alone”. After this lesson I felt a little like Little Red, “I wish….” In this case God was Cinderella (this is a funny connection to make but..) He says, ” I know”.
• I believe that God is the perfect director. In my past I have been frustrated when I am doing all I can, but it is still not the way a director wants it. I guess I don’t trust or understand their perspective or vision for the show. But God is a director your can always trust to make the best production. I may know how to act, how to share testimony and have faith and want to do things my way and to an extent I can. I can use the skills I have acquired. But I also need to heed to the direction that will ultimately improve my performance. My lord knows all the perspectives, and exactly how the message of the show will be best expressed. This mission….. to have faith in his direction and give all the work and practice I can.
Much love ladies and gentlemen.
Next week P-day is on Tues.
“WELL, EXCITED AND SCARED” No, I am not talking about a fairy tale today, I am talking about my first few days as a missionary in Graz! Sister Poll is my trainer, she is also from Utah, She has beautiful curly brown hair and has been out on her mission for eight months. She has been here in Graz before so not only is she taking over a mission, but she is taking care of me. She has been helping me figure out the way the buses work here and helping me have courage to talk with people and mostly making sure I don´t get hopelessly lost. In a rather Large Austrian sort of nut-shell, Helping me know how to adjust to actually being out in the feild. It has already been really hard, but really joyous. Joyohful, Joyubulan. Joyneedful. Joyfulliful…. you get the idea.
It is differnet than I thought, a big city which some buildings holding the “oldness” of Austrian charm and then you go a little ways out of town and there are big tree covered hills and blue skies. I cannot send pictures yet from this computer so It might be a while before I get you a view but I really love it. (From sister Gardner’s mother: She must have found a way to make it work) It is spring here so all the magnolia trees are in bloom and outside my apartment there is a big flowering plum tree, and a little playground next to a kindergarten so during the morning we can hear children playing. It is a small happy little apartment with a big book case filled with copies of The Books of Mormon in so many languages. We have a little kitchen. It was the fourth day before I was able to get all unpacked because we have been busy. Ok, Highlights time. We recieve a referall for a man who wanted a Book of Momon. He is a manager at a hotel, he also worked on a cruise ship, he has been gathering “Bibles” from different faiths so that when his guests come they will have something to read. He also however took a book for himself to read and he was telling us about places we should go see and he said he might come to church. He did not come this week, so next week is the hope.
So we finished a member visit for lunch with Sister K and we had given a thought about the confrernece talk by Wilfred W. Andersen… ( My favorite.. heh heh, imagine that) and it turned out that, that particular talk was her favortite too. She showed us her notes from conference and above it was written, “Für Uns” or “For Us”. We had unknowingly given the spiritual thought on the very talk she felt applied most to her situation and needs of her family. It was a wonderful moment for me. Anyhow, we finished the visit and as we where saying goodbye, she said it was going to rain and gave us an umbrella. Of course it was pink. We almost refused but it was a very, very, very good thing we did not. It started to rain….pour. We were ringing doorbells in the rain.
Once we got to an apartment building, inside, a bit more dry, I would ring each door with a flourish, like a magcian pulling away a cloth. Sister Poll said, “I can tell you are a theater person, keep that, it will help you”.
I hope I can keep that, that feeling of excitement and enthusiasm. It is what is going to help me remember everyday the little amazing things. God is good and the same for all times and places. I love you! Sister Gardner
INTO THE WOODS…
I think that this perfectly explains how I felt leaving from the MTC to travel to the mission home.
We we last left this brave adventurer as she was sending a last minute email before the fearless leader Elder Fischer called Sister Burgess and Sister Gardner away to begin our new adventure. The bus ride was an adventure, as every flashing camera was a dagger in the eyes of a bus filled with darkness. We got to the airport safely and through security.
During my airplane ride, I met a girl from Bulgaria and we had the most lovely chat about where we were going, our families and she even asked me about what comes after this life. It was my first most lovely missinary experience. She gave me a hug before she left and told me that I had helped her a lot, hopefully what I taught her will give her hope of seeing her grandfather again after this life. She was so sweet and gave me a purple pen. Even if many do not want to hear my message, even those I come to love so, I will be glad knowing that there are some who will, some who are ready, I just get the blessing of meeting so many others on the way.
President and Siter Kohler met us, along with their two children at the airport, it made everything less painful to say goodbye too at the MTC because we were all together, my district and the other german district.
We were given each a book of mormon, a small group to stay with and released “into the Woods”. My first conversation with a German person was a Mother with her child, I explained that I was brand new here in Germany, My first day and could I please practice with her. Unfortunately she said she was tired. So it was less of a triumphant experience than I thought, I was really sad when I did not give that lovely peace bringing blue book into someones hands, but with the help of an Elder I did have a really good talk with a man who was very interested. I could see it in his eyes. For the time being we will call him Lasagna man. … I will explain later.
Training was nice, I said the prayer for the food auf Deutsch and no one threw any tomatos so I guess it was a decent performance. Then we went over some safety items and watched a slide show of pictures from our mission plus other things, but really the exciting things started happening later. After training we went to the home of the Kolhers and ate a lovely dinner together. I have never felt more aware of how I was eating and sitting than when I was sitting at the table with the mission president and his wife and daughter… and of course all the missionaries who have become my brothers throughout these weeks here. After Ice cream bars. Hallelujah…
It was the moment of truth, Elder Erickson brought us together with one more hymn on the piano and then we found out where we would be serving and who our companion would be. We all said a short testimony as well…
Now I am sure you are biting your nails and holding your breath and trying to suppress the angry humm from ecaping from your lips.. But where sister Gardner? Where? Where are you? In fact for alI I know you have perhaps skipped to the end of the email already and read it. If so, Shame on you, the suspense comes from the experience not the actual event. but No not really shame on you because I was feeling the same. The same sort of feeling of nervous anxiety. But in a positive floaty sort of way. Ok. I am done now.
I found out I would be serving in Graz, Austria!
My trainer is Sister Poll!
Elder McArthur will also be serving in my ward, that was happy news indeed.
Yes! and now, my dear friends who I am so glad to be sharing my story with, I will be able to tell you in these next twelve or eleven weeks, what adventures will come!
We stayed in a very nice hostle that night, and in the morning we ate breakfast and visited the church for a little more training before heading to the train station and off for the long trip to our areas. I was one of the lucky missionaries who was able to get off in time when the plan suddenly changed and the Austrian Conductor told us we needed to go faster.
One more thought for this… This is what I am her to do… 1. Connect with people 2. Teach powerfully, simply, clearly. 3. Help… It is that simple. I am here to be like Christ.
Into the Woods, Into the Woods, Into the Woods….. And home before dark!
THE MYSTERY MAN
I realized I forgot to tell you what happened to lasagna man! Just as I was getting on the train at the Munich station, the Elder ran up to me and said, “The man from the train called me back! He wants us to meet with him and have lasagna with his family, I will tell him you are going to Austria, don’t worry Sister, I will take care of him. ”
I know he will.
(This email was received Wednesday afternoon. It was sent by her Mission President)
Dear Family of Sister Gardner –
We are delighted to tell you that Sister Gardner arrived safely in Munich this morning! She has been fed and trained, and is now in bed after a long day of orientation.
We thought you might enjoy this picture from our meeting this evening. Her new companion will be Sister Poll, and they will serve together in Graz, Austria.
We are thrilled that she is here and we are grateful for her preparation and enthusiasm. She will be a wonderful missionary. We love her already, and will do all we can to help her have a successful mission.
Your daughter’s preparation day is on Mondays, and that is when she will be e-mailing you each week. We also have a mission blog if you would like to see occasional pictures of what is occurring in the mission. The address is: alpinegermanspeakingmission.blogspot.de.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us. We know that the Lord will bless you and your family during the next year and a half as you support your missionary in her service.
President and Sister Kohler
Alpine German-Speaking Mission
( We are so excited for Sister Gardner. Can’t wait to her more from her.)
I found some Flowers on the Ground and then strung them together with a thin plant vine.
( Email received on Tuesday Morning the 7th)
I love you. I will try to send another email quickly in the morning but we are leaving at 5. Meaning I am waking up at 3:45. Go me!…. and my alarm clock fell and smashed, so I have the left side of the numbers but not the other. I just need a screwdriver and I will have it fixed. Cause I am handy like that. Loose wire and all. But all is well. if you send me one then I will lose the chance to participate in the fine workmanship of German clocks. I suppose I could get a small portable Cuckoo clock………………. I think perhaps not.
Any how. I will attempt to send you more… On the Morrow, but if not, know I am safe, and happy… And a little sad to leave this lovely place that has become a most loved home to me. I will also miss this family I have loved here at the MTC. But greater adventure awaits.
I send my love, and maybe you can imagine me humming, “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go Dear Lord” as you finish reading this.
All My Love,
Pictures of our Easter Egg Coloring efforts
( Email received Wednesday morning the 8th)
Well, I am off this morning. I really have no time to email you. But I love you.
Go read Elder Wilford W. Andersen’s talk from General Conference on LDS.org about dancing and singing.
“The music of the gospel is the joyful spiritual feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. It brings a change of heart.”
That man knows what he is talking about.
I will be safe and have fun. Transport mode… Elder Fischer is in charge, so that is sure to be an adventure.
(Elder Fisher is an elder from Germany that joined their MTC group last week)
… In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. Find the fun and SNAP the jobs a game.
If you want to understand what kind of week I have had please refer to the title. Ha Ha. Thank you, now if you are still confused as to what I mean by Tech Week, let me explain.
Tech Week is the week that must come to pass before a show can have its opening night, it is notorious for last minute problem fixes, long hours, stress, malfuncions and basically is like the quality control guy at Krispy Kremes with the long tongs, not everyone is going to make it out alive it seems. ( I’m sure we will though)
Ok, so maybe that is a little too frightening of an explination. But to get my point across. Tech Week is the week that technician, costumers, designers, actors and musicians generally need …but do not want.
But, let me explain to you the other side of Tech Week. These are the rehearsals where everything starts to come together. Is the production perfect? Heavens no. But you start to see the magic happen. The costumes and the props, the lights and the cues. Lines are memorized, scerery added, Projections and fog and music all coming together. The production will only ripen as it continues but Tech Week is when it all starts to make sense in the most nerve wracking sort of way. You start to realize that even though, you feel you will never be totally ready for the show to open, you do in fact have a show. And because the music is good, because the message is written into the scripts and because there are so many working to make it a success, the only hope now is to put your heart into it and share with who ever comes through the doors.
Currently I am trying to wait very very patiently for opening night.
So now that you know my current mental state, how about a little update on what I have been up to.
We gave a tour of the “Church” to one of our investigators this week. Because obviously if you put sticky notes on the doors with names like “Sunday School” and “Family History Center” the empty class rooms magically transform into a full blown chapel and not the corridors of the MTC. I think the most entertaining part of that was when Sister Burgess and I showed Frank the “Primary” and all the other German Elders, the one in the other German Language District, inside started singing in high squeaky voices the much beloved hymn many will know as “I am a Child of God” in German naturally. Just to be brief I will say that those primary children, as much as I love them, need to practice. Ha Ha, It was great.
I got Sister Burgess to do the exercise work out with me, so that was nice. I think it is funny how even listening to hymns sung by the tabernacle choir motivates me to run so much more than silence. We have a funny little group of us who use the gym during work out time. Three are Elders from my district and the other is Elder Dimartino from Italy. I had some Italian music on my Ipod. It was on shuffle, and when it went to the Italian song, he got very excited.
It has been raining here a lot. Surprise! But one glorious day, God stopped the drizzle and it meant that we would be able to go to the field. It has always been too wet to play safely. But there is a lovely running path, It goes through trees and around and up a little hill. Sister B wanted to speed walk, so I would run a little until I would be out of her sight if I continued, and then I would run back to her and giver her a high five. Eventually we started playing ultimate Frisbee, It was so nice to be able to sprint down the field and dive for the Frisbee and get pleasantly grass stained and muddied. ( I am not sure that is a word, but you get the idea.)
Also I got some letters this week and getting letters is the most magical thing, also reading your emails. I don’t know if I said this already, but I go print them off first thing and then I set them around me on the ground in our dorm room, it is like a most lovely Christmas morning. I read them each a few times after email time.
Today we have planned to paint eggs today. Because I do that sort of thing. Elder McArthur says he plans to make a Batman egg. I applauded him greatly.
I don’t know if I shared this with you all, but I thought it was really powerful so I am going to share.
“Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind. ” — Oliver Cowdery
I think I just really love the way Oliver is writing here. And it shows how important it is to teach with the spirit. I can give my testimony all I want, I can try to love and serve others, understand and uplift them, but that “one ray of glory” is what will bring the truth to my message and hopefully inspire those I teach.
All My Love,