There’s Something in This Place That is Different

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With the clock ticking ever closer to the half hour, I don’t have much time to write. So I will start with the most lovely miracle in the form of a story.

Once upon a time after Sunset by the Mississippi someone came back stage and said “Sister Gardner, German!” So Sister Gardner sprints gleefully away to meet the next adventure. He was visiting on a road trip with the young man who’s family years ago had welcomed a German teen into their home for an exchange program. years later, the friendship is still strong and the American is now a returned missionary eager to see the sights with his German friend.
She convinced him to stay for Trail of Hope promising that Philip (That’s the German man’s name) and I could talk after the trail. She was worried she would not be able to find them, but to Sister Gardner’s Joy, she saw him and the American friend walking up from the River. She talked with them excited to speak in the language that she so loved. She invited them to stay for the evening prayer and devotional. it was lovely to watch as her fellow missionaries shared simple testimonies of God’s love and plan. Then to her excitement and amazement the group chose to sing a song uncommon to their nightly meetings, “A Child’s Prayer”.¬† To her joy Elder Muncy even went and got his guitar and Sister Zamora had her violin. “A Child’s Prayer” is the only song that Sister Gardner still knew every single word to in German. So as they played, she sang along standing next to Philip. She watched as he looked to the stars and wiped a tear away from under his glasses.
This eternal investigator who had been in a town in her mission felt the spirit again after a long time. She joyfully gifted him another copy of the Book of Mormon. He said that though he was scared to accept what he knew to be true, frightened to be different than his family and accepting all the teachings, he would really try and figure it out this time.
Even in Nauvoo, I am able  to meet and teach the investigators of my Sisters teaching and serving in Freiburg in my beloved Alpine German speaking Mission.

The Gospel is true, God is Good.
Bis Aufwiederhoren.

Sister Gardner

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Nauvoo Singer singing Sweet Violets

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Sunset by the Mississippi – Orange Blossom Special with Elder Larsen

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“Along Came Jones” – Melodrama

Whenever I Feel the Rain on My Face

There is a big tree that grows out next to the road across from the Printing office. We call it “The Tree”. It is funny how we refer to it. It is a part of our life here. Part of serving and loving this place, of calling it home and driving and walking along those streets everyday.
The Tree now has more meaning to me as It was where I was able to spend some happy time with my family.
Because of the unique aspect of performance in this mission families are able to come visit and watch the shows. I sat under the tree on a bench after our afternoon show of Nauvoo singers with my brother. One of the Elders had let my brother borrow his guitar. He played the song we performed together a few years ago and then entertained us with his other song from Nacho Libre. I was laughing so hard. It was a good reminder of who I am and the happiness that is the plan of God. He intends us to find peace and love within our families. It is the second point of the first lesson in Preach my Gospel. “The Gospel Blesses Families”GArdner FAmily Nauvoo 2017
I loved seeing how the messages we share through our performances touched my family and the multiplicity of visitors that come. Other people’s families.
There was some rain this week and we where all set up to do Trail of Hope. I was so worried we would not be able to finish it because of the oncoming storm. I prayed with all my heart that the rain would hold off so that my family would be able to go through the whole street and that everyone would get to hear our message. The storm stayed off in the distance, the clouds so dark and ominous around us but the rain stayed far enough away. I could see lighting streaking through the clouds. It was beautiful and another one of our Nauvoo miracles.
It was hard to say goodbye to my brother there under the tree the next day, but I know he will serve the people of Spain valiantly and bring many to the knowledge of the gospel. I loved seeing him on stage with me. I loved dancing with my little sisters and seeing my parents happy. It made me think about how I get to help so many families feel that way.sweet Violets
We were wondering where to find some people during Nauvoo Singers. There was no one by the tree and it was a bit of a slow day. We decided to pray and Elder Cottam felt like we should go to the brick yard, The day before we had also felt like we should go. Anyway, We stop and sing a bit on the way, but then we get there and there is no one there. unlike last time. We are wondering what to do, and then we see this mother and father and little girl. We start singing as they approach and then they came over to us. We sang primary songs with the little girl and she was so happy. As we continued to sing and play with her a huge crowd gathered. We finished off with a big audience. In the group I saw a girl wearing a name badge. I went up to her and and said “hello Sister” She did not have a companion around and then I realized she was with her family and coming home from her mission. She had served in Missouri. I was able to put my arms around her and tell her that it will be ok.
Even though finishing my mission was hard, I realize that I have a message of peace to offer to the other full time sisters serving here. Who will be leaving. I love having the perspective I do .Carthage 1
This week after the first Wednesday show of the promise, I was standing outside greeting our audience. This girl comes up to me in tears and hugs me. She explains that she is going through a similar problem as the character I play. He boyfriend is not a member of the church and she is trying to figure out what to do. I did not know exactly what to say except, I know God love you and has a plan for you and you can do what ever it is that He intends for you. But I think that was just what she needed to hear. She said that the show really touched her and taught her.
I love when we get to sing our arrangement of the Lord’s Prayer for those who are of other faiths. I like that they are included.zions youth 2
After Trial of Hope Friday night, I went down to the river and I talked with a girl who was crying. She was so lovely. We talked about how God shows He loves us by the way He paints the sky with storms or clouds or sunsets… and as she put it… On the days he is content. A clear blue sky. She said as we parted, until we meet again.
I know that even if I don’t have all the time in the world to talk to these people, or any of the people I have known in my life, there will be time in the eternities to be together. For such is God’s Plan of Happiness.thumbnail_Nauvoo Temple

Another Nauvoo Miracle

This phrase started out sort of as a joke and has perpetuated itself a multiplicity of times. Whenever something goes right that probably should not have, the phrase “Another Nauvoo Miracle” pops out. From found granola bars to beautiful sunsets, costume malfunction repairs, and a whole myriad of escapades, Nauvoo has this way of making everything work out. It is a joke, but it is also true.

As you all know I have been struggling with my voice. On Sunday I fasted that it would get better and planned on starting a medication i had received to help it on Monday.
The next day we had the performance of The Promise. And For the first time since the day they cast the show, the high note I sing came out! I was actually able to sing the high note, it was clear and not as strong as It has been in the past, but I was able to do it. My voice has been improving since. I really believe it was a little miracle for me because of the faith and prayers and fasting… and now as it has been strengthening, the medicines of man that has helped me to work on this healing process.

I tried to make everyday this week a good day and I am glad to report that they were all good days.
I live for the times after a performance when I get to talk to the people. It is interesting. Three years ago, I would not have said that. I was not the biggest fan of talking to strangers. I love to see how my missions have helped me to progress in this area.
Sister Curtis, the director of the promise and the other shows was talking about how each show has something it testifies of. Anna Amanda: Self worth, Sunset by the Mississippi: JOY, Trail of Hope: Faith and The Promise: Jesus Christ. We don’t ever say that, but I think that is what comes across. I have loved helping to form The Promise with my own ideas. I have loved how Sister Curtis has listened to my perspectives with my character and how we have formed this show as a cast.
Something really wonderful happened Friday night at Trail of Hope.
As I was delivering my lines to the people who came down Parley Street. My mind was filled with images of my mission. People and places that I had not remembered or been able to think about. situations or lessons where brought to my remembrance. It was so beautiful. It was like finding an old journal entry. I was just filled with this enormous feeling of gratitude and joy for the service I was able to give.
I realized that since coming home from my mission I have often mourned the fact that it came to an end. I thought, oh, why would my Father in Heaven have me be finished if there was still more I wanted to give. As I stood out in the clover field after Trail of Hope, I saw thousands of fireflies. and I realized that it was not me that was giving, but rather my Father in Heaven who gave me the blessing to be there. He is the one who made it possible for me to have those memories. It is i who should have gratitude for that which he gave Me. The time and the year and the months in his service, was actually serving me. I knelt down and for the first time I really really thanked Him. For my mission in Austria. It put it in a good perspective. Nauvoo is healing me in ways I did not know I needed. I am so glad to be here and serving and singing and loving.
I invite all those who will come to Nauvoo or who study about its stories to do so with an open heart. This place changes lives.
I know that the gospel has been restored. I know that the temple ordinances are God’s gift to help us return to Him. I know that my God has a plan. And I am so grateful for that.
-Sister Gardner

 

Sunset By the Mississippi

This week marked the beginning of putting my hair up in to 1840’s hair styles every night. I am glad to say I got a lot of good practice from doing Christmas Carol because it is exactly the same. Well, that is to say, the hair is the same, but the humidity and the vast amounts of sweating I do make it a little more difficult out here in Illinois.

I am feeling so happy every day, There are hard bits every day, but then I feel good too. We have finally been able to start talking with visitors who are coming! Last night we had our opening night for Sunset by the Mississippi. It is a great show, but there are literally only about 7 minutes when we are changing shoes and costumes that we are not on stage. I am excited to see how my body handles a whole summer of this high energy. But I feel good, I feel stronger. the promise may 2017

Unfortunately, my voice is still just trudging along. I no longer feel sick, but my tone and range is shot. I am so sad. I have felt worried, and wondered why God would let this happen when he was the one who called me to be a performing missionary. I was pondering this during my scripture study one night when I read in Nephi 16. This is the part where the bow breaks and everyone is starving. God called Lehi and his family to leave. They were obedient and did as they were asked. They worked hard and followed the directions of the liahona, but despite their valiant behavior they still where faced with suffering and affliction. I was reading how they began to murmur.

And I realized, even though I was trying to wait it out and be strong and not worry, I was murmuring. I need to learn to be humble. I need to find away to make things work, even if I am having to make a different bow than I am used to. Even if it is course and made of wood rather than steel. I know that it will still serve it’s purpose to bring light and salvation and needed nourishment to my loved one and those I serve on this mission. I cannot promise that my voice will be as clear as it has been in other performances, but I know just like Nephi’s wooden bow, it will serve its purpose by the gift of the Holy Ghost. the promise may 2

We have had a choreographer here with us, he is really good and has worked with lots of big professional artists. He is a member of the church, but it was simple to see that the world was taking its toll on this son of God. I felt the prompting that we needed to write in a Book of Mormon for him. All of the YPM’s writing their testimonies and favorite scripture along with a thank you note in the back. as the time has progressed, we have seen him change and feel the spirit. And yesterday after watching The Promise, he had been crying and told us that he felt like he had been re-baptized and now had the courage to go back on a good path and return to his closeness with God. We saw how the spirit of Nauvoo brought to remembrance the things that he knew but had started to forget. I presented the Book of Mormon to him at his little good bye meeting we had. nauvoo singers

I don’t know what is in store for him, but I do know that he was mean to be helped by the missionaries of the 2017 YPM’s. I could talk about so many wonderful conversations I had yesterday with visiting families. But just know that the missionary work is alive and well here along the Missississippi.