Monday, September 19, 2016

TAUFE!!! (Baptism!!!)

Halllooooooo... 

This was a crazy week! 

Tuesday was Izu's baptismal interview!  Of course he passed with flying colors, and we had fun planning out his program and getting everything ready for Sunday!  The interview went a little long, so after that we just helped Maili paint in the evening. I found out that I'm really good at painting things. I painted the walls, the ceiling, my hands, arms, feet, and even a little bit of the floor! Maili loves how helpful we are. 

Wednesday was a day full of vorbeis (visits) in the beautiful countryside of Germany.  I can't even describe how amazing the views were!  Rolling hills as far as you could see, green grassy fields, corn, wheat, red and pink flowers everywhere, I was in heaven!  I love nature! We had to stop a lot along the way to do some photo shoots because we felt like we were in the Sound of Music or something, but we eventually went by our vorbeis, and sadly neither of them lived there anymore, but at least we found that out!  


After walking allllllll day long in the scorching heat (Germany can actually get pretty hot surprisingly), I felt like one of the wise men walking to visit baby Jesus. Way more appreciation for those guys! Also, I've got some awesome Oreo tan lines. Brown arms and feet, and a wholeeee lotta white in the middle. That night we went to Kaufbeuren to help the elders with an appointment with a less active lady!  She is American, and taught us how to cook meals for like 60 cents per person, and then she sang some gospel choir songs for us. It was so cool and so fun!

Thursday we had Zone Conference in Munich. This was really one of the best Zone Conferences I've been to!  I feel like throughout my mission they have just been getting better and better.  We talked about how to face opposition, motivation and working hard, and role played the Restoration a ton!  I have grown to LOVE role playing on my mission, so that was really fun :)  I love President and Sister Kohler, and that they care so much about us and teach us exactly all the things we need to hear!  

For Zone Conference, President Kohler usually asks all the missionaries to prepare a 5-7 minute talk about a certain topic, and then he randomly chooses a few people to speak during the conference!  Well, unfortunately I didn't have time to prepare a talk during the week, but I figured that I probably wouldn't get chosen.  Bad figuring.  I was the only Sister chosen.  Ugh.  I just got up and hoped that the spirit would say something coherent through me, and all I remember is that I said the word "poop" over the pulpit and Sister Kohler's face was like "😳😂" haha oops. Lesson learned, ALWAYS PREPARE A TALK. Goodness... 

Luckily Heavenly Father gave me a second chance to give an actual prepared talk, because that night our Bishop called and asked me to speak in Sacrament on Sunday!  

Speaking of Sunday...BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!  HOLY COW!  I literally cannot describe the feelings I was having that day.  But my cheekbones have grown ten times in size from BEAMING so much throughout the whole day!  Everything for Izu's baptism went so smoothly and so perfectly!  I teared up a couple times through the whole thing, just because I am so happy and proud of him, and so grateful to be a part of this experience for him! What a wonderful thing missionary work is!!  We also decided this week that we are going to help Izu start an account on ldssingles.org because we got him so excited about temples and eternal families, that now he wants to find an LDS girl to take to the temple :)) HE IS SO DIFFERENT FROM WHEN I FIRST MET HIM. Just goes to show how wonderful the gospel is, and how great an impact it can have in people's lives!



This week I have been learning and studying a lot about gratitude!  Sister Howsmon and I decided to fast this weekend in gratitude for Izu and his baptism!  And it was such a great experience. Fasting in gratitude is so much easier than fasting for needs! 

I also read a talk by President Uchtdorf called "Grateful in Any Circumstances," and one of the things he said that I really liked was, "We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?"  

Being grateful through hard times definitely makes life happier, more fun, and more enjoyable! Instead of turning to my natural-man self and complaining about every little thing that may go wrong throughout my day, this week I decided to try harder to have the spirit of gratitude about me!  And it's crazy the beautiful things surrounding you that your eyes are opened up to!  

So I hope we can all try harder this coming week to be more grateful for our lives: Our trials, the gospel, God's beautiful creations, and all the tender mercies that for sure help you throughout every single day! 

I love you all so much!

Liebe grube,

Sister Thunell

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sister Gondwe


The missionaries living with us are Sister Training Leaders, so every Friday they exchange with another set of sisters in this area.  Last night when Craig and I came home, our cute red-headed, Idahoan Sister Pyrah had been replaced by this beautiful African sister missionary.  Her name is Sister Gondwe and she is from Zambia.  


Holy cow!  She was so stunningly beautiful, I had to just go tell her and give her a hug!  I instantly loved her.   We didn't get to visit much last night because it was late, but she sang Love at Home for us in her native language before we all had family prayer and went to bed.  Amazing.  

This morning, over piles of pancakes and bacon, we asked her a million questions about her life and her family back home.  (Poor Sister Bradford...the novelty of being from Hooper, UT didn't capture our attention for quite as long as Sister Gondwe's amazing story.)  She has 17 brothers and sisters!  Her mother is 70 years old, and she has had two sets of twins.  She and her twin sister are the youngest in the family and they are both serving missions right now along with her older brother.  Her  sister is serving Kenya and the older brother is serving in Uganda.   Her father met the missionaries and joined the church first and then her mother and all the children were baptized after.  In the 16 months that Sister Gondwe has been in Birmingham, both her father and an older sister have passed away.    

They only eat meat about twice a year, mostly just on holidays.  And she was planning to go to college when she goes home (she wants to be a pharmacist) but since her father died she will now stay home for awhile and help her mom until her sister and brother return from their missions and then they'll decide what they'll do about their careers and education.  

While she was in the MTC she fell down a flight of stairs and broke her leg really badly, like the bone was protruding out of her leg! But since it was so far to send her home, she decided to just stay and start her first transfer in Alabama with her leg in a cast on hobbling around on crutches!  And now she has a GIANT scar down her leg from where it happened.    She said it'll make for a really good story when she gets home.  :)

We asked her if it's a lot different here than in Africa, and she said that there are too many trees here for her comfort.  She doesn't know what's hiding back there.  :)  It's too green.  Not enough dirt.  :)  And it's much more humid here than in Zambia.  (Evidence that this is indeed the most humid place on the planet, just as I suspected.)  

When we asked if she had anyone waiting for her at home, she said, "Oh no, I'm never getting married.  The world is too crazy to get married and have babies."  And I said, "Well, sometimes Heavenly Father has a different plan for our lives than we do.  He might send someone who you can't resist."  And she said, "It's ok.  I can run fast!"  (bahahaha...she's quite possibly the spunkiest missionary I've ever met)

We asked if she had eaten anything unusual here, and she said, "Oh yes, I've eaten alligator and possum and chitlins and you know, it all just tastes like chicken."  She said  she doesn't mind any of the food.  She'll eat anything "except frogs and people."  (haha...!)

She's super funny and I seriously could have sat at that kitchen table this morning and talked to her for hours, but they had to get on with their day.  There are apparently several missionaries in the Birmingham mission who are from Africa.  Like about the same number of African mishs as there were Poly mishs in Dallas.  I'm sure they have a great connection with the people in Birmingham.  I can't imagine what people here must think when they open the door and see a stunningly beautiful black woman with a thick African accent.

I have stopped counting the blessings we feel each day from having these sister missionaries in our home.  There are too many.  But meeting Sister Gondwe and hearing her amazing story have definitely topped my imaginary list.  What an amazing young woman!  What hope there is to be found in her and in her family for the rising generation of the Church in Africa and around the world.  What a privilege to have crossed paths with her before she flies back to her life in Zambia in two months.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Adventures

McKay and I have been going on adventures in the afternoons lately. 



He bikes.  I walk.  He takes the longer, less traveled, dirt covered paths, and doubles or triples around me.  I walk in straight lines, mostly on the road unless he leads me onto other paths.


Last weekend he led me to the new construction part of the subdivision and we explored in some of the unfinished houses.  I don't know what it is about empty houses that's so appealing to me, but I love them.  New, unoccupied ones.  Abandoned, previously occupied ones.  I really don't care.  I just like wandering around homes without residents.  

It turns out, McKay and I not only like the exploring part of our adventures, but we also really like collecting things.  I think my spirit animal must be a magpie or a blackbird or whatever those birds are that drag every sparkly thing into their nests.  We found tons of useless, but interesting treasures on our adventures this week.  Some of them we brought home with us, and some we just took pictures of.  His backpack and my camera are essential exploring equipment for us.  





That thing up there is a totally random podium, like the kind in church buildings, that we found out in the middle of the forest.  There's a microphone and a radio sitting on top of it.  And even though it's mildly creepy to think about what kinds of weird gatherings might be going on out there in the woods, it was definitely interesting enough to cross a suspension bridge to get a picture of. 



Holy cow, that kid is super fun!  Half the reason I like to explore with him is because I'm a little nervous to send him off by himself because he's adventurous and I'm a worrier.  If I can see where he's going, I'm less likely to worry about it.  And the other half is because he invites me?  What normal 13-year-old wants his mom to come with him to look for treasures in construction sites?  So, as long as he's inviting, I'm going.  Every time.  

Unless it's raining...because I hate getting wet.  

And while adventuring with McKay has rapidly become one of my favorite pastimes, I wouldn't advise following him anywhere without adequate shoes on.  After that first adventure, I learned my lesson.  No more flips.  Only tennis shoes or rainboots on all future adventures.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Temple Wednesday

Well, I've been telling myself for over a month now that I needed to get back into a regular temple schedule. The Birmingham Temple is tiny, though, and only has limited sessions each week, so I looked up the temple schedule and decided I would make Wednesdays my new temple day. My neighbor, Gretchen and I sort of talked about going together but I really prefer going to the temple by myself, especially the first few times, so I haven't pursued that much with her.  Yesterday, I felt like this would be a really good Wednesday to start my new schedule. I was super excited and energized about it yesterday when that thought came, but this morning when I realized this was first day in a LOT of days that I would have the whole house to myself (no missionaries, no Craig working from home, no kids, no appliance repairmen or delivery people to wait for...) I almost talked myself into staying home.  That would have been a whole lot easier.  But I didn't.  

And then, while I was getting ready this morning, I specifically heard that familiar little voice in my head say, "You need to do an actual session today and not just initiatories because you need to hear the words in the endowment."  

Okay. 

So I found my tiny pile of names that were ready for endowments and I left the other GIANT pile of pink cards that still needs initiatories laying on the bed. I made sure I had everything in my temple bag, grabbed my keys, and my camera at the last second and made it out the door right on time at 9:45 (like Craig had advised this morning before he left for work.)  It takes about 45 minutes for normal people to get to the temple, probably slightly longer for me, so that would have given me plenty of time to get there, park, and change before the 11:00 session. 

I've been to this temple three times. Once with Craig and twice driving by myself without him. So I sort of knew which way I was going and what to expect.  But I put the address into the Jeep's GPS just to make sure because I never trust myself with directions. It directed me to the first freeway and then told me to get off at the first exit. Um...that totally wasn't right.  The only way I've ever been to the temple is ALL freeway.  First, the one by our house and then another one for a little while and then the long one directly to the temple exit.  I didn't know where the heck the GPS was taking me, but because I'm a dumb sheep when I'm driving, I just followed it. 



About five miles down Sweeney Todd road (or something like that) I texted Craig and asked him, "Where in the heck is this GPS taking me?" He said it was probably a back way and yay for me that I would get to explore a new way to get to the temple. 😕 

And then there were all these road construction guys and a giant sign... 

...and the long line of traffic waiting for a tiny little man in an orange vest to move out of the way. 

...and the truck with 500 gallons of milk baking in the sun.  

...and then it was 20 minutes later...  😓

I mostly cried for at least 15 of those 20 minutes because all I wanted to do today was go to the temple.  So why in the heck wasn't I getting to do that?  Why is everything I want to do so darn hard?  Why can I never go someplace without getting lost? 😡😓🙄💦

And then finally the little orange man moved and we could drive again...more Sweeney Todd road winding and winding through beautiful Alabama to who-in-the-heck-knows-where.
 
25 minutes later, I did actually pull into the temple parking lot at exactly 10:57am (so the GPS was correct, just creative with its choice of routes today, I guess.)  I'm pretty speedy changing into my temple clothes, but not that speedy!  I didn't even try to make the session. For a minute I thought about just doing initiatories, but then I realized I had left all those cards on my bed and couldn't do those either. 😓

Instead I drove to the far end of the parking lot, cried again for a minute or two, took a couple of pictures of the temple, and then listened to today's Book of Mormon chapters for Grandma's Challenge. I'm on 2 Ne 15-16...the Isaiah chapters. 😕 

Then I said a prayer and apologized to Heavenly Father for being a dumb sheep and not having any sense of direction. And prayed that I would learn whatever I was supposed to learn from this frustrating experience.  And I committed to trying again next week. 

And now I'm just waiting...for what exactly, I'm not really sure.  

What I thought this day would look like hasn't happened...not the disappointing morning I've been dreading all week.  ...not the enlightened and uplifting afternoon I expected either, though.  

Maybe this is a sign that I need to pursue that Wednesday temple date with Gretchen?  Maybe I need to start the temple trek earlier in the event of future construction?  Maybe I need to always carry every kind of temple card with me just in case?  Maybe I need to trust my instincts more and turn around before I get five miles down Sweeney Todd road the next time?  Or maybe I just need to give myself credit for a valiant effort and calm down?  

I bet Heavenly Father would pick that last one.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Family Night

One of the great benefits of having missionaries living in your home is that Family Home Evenings seem to be so much more intentional and successful.  

Last night we helped the sister missionaries make pass along cards to invite people to watch General Conference next month. 

Emma found a cute coloring page of the Salt Lake Temple. printed it out 6 per page on cardstock, and then cut them into individual cards.  


Then we dragged out all the colored pencils we could find, spread everything on the dining room table and the seven of us spent an hour happily coloring while we listened to a super old devotional by Hugh B Brown.  (Well, not all of us were happy about coloring.  McKay would rather have done a million other things but he endured the experience.)



When we were finished, the sisters had 24 personalized, handmade pass along cards to take to all their investigators and less active families in the ward to invite them to General Conference.

Seriously, this might have been the most fulfilling FHE we've ever had.  Everyone was so happy and cooperative, even after coloring for so long that their fingers hurt.  (I really think boys need more coloring in their lives.)

We ended with dessert and the most awesome video that should totally be a Mormon Message.  


"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." - Moroni 7:45


Monday, September 12, 2016

Walking and Walking and Walking

Time for the weekly update! 

On Monday for pday we went to the Augsburg Oktoberfest thing, and it was pretty awesome! Let me just say that Germans know how to do carnivals and fairs. These things are a million times better than anything I've been to in America! 

That evening we worked our butts off going by a clump of less actives and leaving notes for them and trying to get to know them and become friends with them! And that was kinda the theme for the week! 
1. Working our butts off, and 2. Getting to know less actives! 
Literally, the answer to any problem on the mission is WORK. So, whoever said that is right. I didn't even have time this week to think about anything but the work here! 

On Tuesday after district meeting I went to Munich to tausch with Sister Gach! We had a great time, and I got to see Nadine again and have a couple of lessons with her, and then we went to lunch at Vapiano's (the best Italian restaurant ever). It was so great! And Sister Gach and I had a few awesome appointments with some people in their area, so it was a good tausch! 



On Thursday we walked EIGHT MILES IN THREE HOURS. I don't know if that sounds like a lot, but let me tell you, it was A LOT. We had a ton of less actives to go visit, and then we had a lesson with a lady super far away, and we found out way too late that there is no public transportation to her house, which is in the middle of Kansas, so we literally walked an hour through the corn fields and cow poop to get there, and then an hour back! So crazy! But hey, walking three miles in an hour isn't too bad! Already starting my six months to sexy I guess! (That's actually coming up really soon and it's freaking me out).

Thursday night after our walking marathon, we had a BOMB lesson with Izu. He is just so great and so smart and humble and ready to take a dive head first into the baptismal fontttttt! Next Sunday :) Please pray that everything keeps going smoothly! We talked about some of the commandments, and we told him how we study for him and prepare what to teach him every single morning! And we pray for him every day! And he was so speechless and so happy! It was a great day :) I slept like a puppy on Benadryl that night, to say the least. 

Saturday we probably walked the same amount, and now I know why people come home from their missions with holes in their shoes! This cobblestone is rough! But we went by a ton of former investigators and less actives, and I would say that it was a very successful day because we found ice cream for 90 cents per scoop. #yes. 

Quick fun fact: we hit all of our goals for the week! It was so awesome! Just taught and talked and helped and smiled, super easy stuff ya know :) 

Sunday was great because finally all the members are back from vacation!! So we got the baptismal program for next week all settled, and heard about everyone's dreamy vacations to Greece and South Africa and Paris. We had another great lesson with Izu, and we told him that we were fasting for him that day, and he was even more speechless and even more happy! The key to missionary work: love!! The key to anything really :) After church we had a great member appointment at the Frölich's, and the family in our ward from Columbia came too! They can really only speak Spanish, so yay I got to use a little of my rusty Spanish to communicate! "Niños, jugar, serpiente" you know, all the important stuff.  (haha) 

Today for pday we went to the zoo again, which was super fun!

Well, thank you all so much for the emails and prayers :) this week has definitely been better than last week! 

Lately for personal study I have had the goal of reading a General Conference talk every day! Man, those things bring so much power! And believe it or not, General Conference is right around the corner, people! So I'm gonna challenge all of you to start today and read a conference talk every single day from now until General Conference! They bring so much added strength to the day, and they are literally the words of God through his prophets! :) pretty awesome I think :) 

I love you all, schöne Woche!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Opportunity Givers

This week has definitely been a hard one. But, luckily, you learn the most during the hardest weeks!!

We'll start with Tuesday. For some reason, Satan was working hard on me on Tuesday. I found myself, throughout the morning, thinking about why I am even out here on a mission. I don't have to be, and people never listen to us, and all they do is criticize us when we are trying to do good and giving up our lives to serve the Lord!!  I was just in a horrible place mentally, and I even found myself questioning my testimony. After District Meeting we all did a district finding activity. Some pairs went street contacting, and some stayed at the ausstellung we had set up in front of the church.  While Sister Howsmon and I were street contacting I was just thinking, "How can I even talk to people when I don't want to be here, and I don't even believe in what I'm doing?"  But I decided to just try and talk to ONE person. Then I was done. Well, this one person I decided to talk to was a lady with headphones in, wearing all black, and sitting gloomily on an electrical box. Awesome, she wouldn't be interested and then I would be done with my duty. Well, doch, she was TOTALLY interested!!  We gave her a Book of Mormon and explained what it was all about, and she just ate it all up like sweet potato casserole!  I was SO HAPPY after that, and felt like maybe I could try talking to a few more people.  Lesson learned, once again, you give Heavenly Father a little and He gives you a Gurke!  I don't know how many times I'm gonna have to relearn that lesson till it sticks. The rest of the day went well, and we even found out a way to hand out pamphlets to people riding by on their bikes!  They would grab it as they rode past, and because everyone in Europe is a profi at bike riding, they would start reading it as they kept riding!! It was the coolest thing, and we had no pamphlets left at the end of the day!

Wednesday was harder than Tuesday. I am trying to be a good example to my golden, and we are working hard and being exactly obedient, but I was kind of in a "fake it till you make it" stage. Just doing things because I had to, and because I hoped somehow it would get better. Missions can be so routine and mundane sometimes, but that's where it gets dangerous! As soon as you get comfortable in your comfort zone, things start slowly going downhill. We had a lesson we needed to teach to Izu that day, so something needed to happen where I had the spirit with me so I could at least teach him! We were able to have a good lesson about the Plan of Salvation, sandwiched in between a few emergency pep talks from President Kohler. My testimony that President Kohler is really called from God has definitely grown this week! Thursday morning was where it just all came crashing down, and I fell to my knees to have a personal interview with my Heavenly Father. I realized, as I was begging Him to help me, that I had asked a couple weeks ago to know how I can have a stronger relationship with Him. Well, I'm pretty sure this was my answer! Trials! Funny how answers to prayers come in such strange ways. In that interview I realized a couple things: 1. my testimony was actually still as strong as it has always been, so phewph, 2. I'm not allowed to quit and go home because that's what Satan wants, 3. I need to have personal interviews with Heavenly Father more often, and 4. I needed to fall on my knees and pray when times get hard, and then get on my feet and go to WORK! So that's what I did! Cried it all out, then I stopped thinking about myself and I went to work! And the rest of my week was good. Not problem-free, not without doubts creeping in or temptations from Satan, but I KNOW IN WHOM I TRUST, and I know who's side I am on. And that's all you need to get you through the hard times.

On Friday evening we watched a broadcast of the cultural celebration for the dedication of the Freiberg temple. It reminded me so much of Jubilee (the cultural celebration I participated in in Texas) and it made me so happy! It was really the little spiritual uplift that I needed to get me through the weekend, and as I watched all the youth dance and sing, I just hoped so badly that they were feeling the things I felt when I was in Jubilee, and the spirit I was feeling right then as I was watching them! AND GUYS OMG WE GOT TO LISTEN TO PRESIDENT UCHTDORF SPEAK IN GERMAN. It was so cool, and even cooler that I can understand German so I was able to enjoy it :) Sunday was the dedication of the temple! The only other temple dedication I've been to was the Oquirrh Mountain temple, so I was so excited to go to a dedication in German. Best thing ever: both President Uchtdorf, AND Elder Bednar spoke in German!! Elder Bednar served his mission in Germany, and his German was pretty good! It was such a cool meeting, and I got to translate it for some Australians, so even better! It was nice to just get that extra boost of spiritualness to help me get over these crazy humps I've been having! And what's awesome about the fact that I'm going through humps out here on my mission, is that I can get over them so quickly! I'm kind of just forced to honestly, because the Holy Ghost and all these angels surrounding me are like "STOP THAT. NO BEING SAD." And then poof I'm not sad anymore! (It actually takes a lot more work than that but that's how it seems to happen when you look back at it)

Something this week that President Kohler told me that I really loved is that we are OPPORTUNITY GIVERS. Yes, we need to baptize, and yes the numbers somewhat matter, but mostly we are just opportunity givers. That helped me focus more on simply opening my mouth and GIVING out opportunities, and less on how many people did or didn't listen to me. The second we open our mouths, we win. Gold trophy BOOM, falls right into our cereal bowl. But when we let Satan get to us and we don't open our mouths, when we are shy or afraid or when we fear man more than God, that's when we lose. So really, no matter what happens, we are in control of whether we are successful or not! No matter how many people accept the invitation to come unto Christ. And that's pretty dang awesome I would say! So, to tie this all up in a bow:
1. Hard weeks can be the best weeks
2. We can see the hand of God in our lives even in the worst days
3. Open your mouth and you win (and it will be filled)
4. The temple is the greatest place on earth :)

I love you all and hope you have a great week! Open your mouth this week! And let it be filled with something good.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell





Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sunday

This morning in church, I sat across the aisle from the Bishop's wife.  She has four kids under the age of 10 who are the cutest things ever, but super busy...because they're kids.  She had things under control, but I could tell she was getting frustrated and starting to lose her patience with them.  She also wasn't able to concentrate at all on anything that was being said in the meeting.  

To the left of us, on the other side of our bench, there was another little family with three kids under the age of 5, I think, who were equally struggling and equally frustrated with their busy, active toddlers.  

The counselor in the Bishopric who bore his testimony today said something about "when we drag ourselves to church we'll find that it's worth it."  I thought "drag" was an odd choice of words because I never have to "drag" myself to church.  Even on the busiest Sundays, I look forward to coming each week.  

And then I looked at those two little families and remembered when I had to "drag" myself to church and my four busy kids, too.  I remembered when preparing for church wasn't easy or fun, when Sacrament was neither uplifting or inspiring for me, and when there wasn't a huge reward even after I made the effort to "drag" everyone there.  The days didn't always miraculously go smoothly, the kids didn't ever sit quietly and listen, and I don't think I felt the Spirit regularly until about 2010 when they were all old enough to sit quietly for an hour.  

But, today in church, when I looked at my current little family, I realized that somehow, these kids have all transformed into capable people.  Megan was sitting with the 4-year-old daughter of that family on the bench next to us, reading to her and keeping her entertained.  Emma was the substitute chorister today and did a fantastic job despite the fact that she has that cold I had a couple of weeks ago, and the songs were super hard!  McKay, after passing the Sacrament, was the official "assistant to the Bishopric" today, and was in charge of carrying the microphone to all the older people who wanted to bear their testimonies but couldn't manage the long walk to the stand.  And my Savannah is off teaching and serving as a full time missionary in another country.  Holy cow!

I realized in that moment looking at my little kids, who aren't so little anymore, that that Bishopric member was totally right.  "When we drag ourselves to church, we will find that it is worth it."  Maybe not that day.  Maybe not for a lot of years.  But eventually, we will look at those kids who can now help and contribute in meaningful ways, and we will see that all those years of "dragging" were totally and completely worth it.  

Sometimes the blessings aren't immediate, but they do absolutely come.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

New Beginnings

I can't remember if I mentioned the emergency New Beginnings we've been putting together this month?  (New Beginnings = a program held at the beginning of each year for the upcoming 12-year-old girls who will be entering YW to help them understand what to expect, to introduce them to the other girls and the YW leaders, and to explain the YW program, including stuff like the YW theme, the Personal Progress program, weekly activities, and Girls Camp.) 

There is a little part-member family in our ward.  The mom, Cassie, was baptized a couple of years ago with her daughter, Angel.  They live with Cassie's dad, Bill, who was just baptized a couple of months ago, but hasn't been to church since.  :(  

Cassie currently lives with her boyfriend and his two little boys and she smokes like a chimney, so there's apparently been some regression since she joined the church.  But, Angel is 11 and turns 12 next month and because they've not been to church in over a year, everyone had just sort of forgotten that she was an upcoming Beehive and didn't plan a New Beginnings last January at all.

Fast forward to August when YW finally got a fully functioning presidency and started looking at attendance rolls and stuff, and we realized we needed to to have New Beginnings for this little girl.  So we planned it for the last Wednesday of the month right before she turns 12 in September.  The missionaries visited her house to tell her about it.  The YW President called Cassie and invited both of them to come.  And the YW did all the rest of the planning and made decorations and stuff. 

Last Sunday, Megan and Emma and I followed the missionaries over to Angel's house so we could meet her and hand deliver the little printed invitation we had made for her.  We also met Cassie for the first time and talked with her for a little while.  Angel is pretty quiet and very sweet, but no amount of explanation could make her understand why we were "making such a fuss" over her.   But she took the invitation anyway, and then the rest of us just hoped and prayed for the next three days that her mom would bring her.

This Wednesday was the day!  I printed out the programs and practiced the music for the special musical number the girls had worked on.  The whole YW Presidency got there early to decorate and set up the RS room.  The Bishop was there to speak and one of his counselors came with him.  Craig and the sister missionaries came to support everyone, but mostly me, I think, because I've been stressed out about this all week.  :)  The girls decorated the whole room with cute BEE themed things.  And then at 6:55, we were totally ready...but no Angel had arrived yet.  At 7:00...no Angel.  At 7:10...still no Angel.  I think we were all starting to wonder if we had assembled this event for nothing.  

I had been thinking of a backup testimony/talk just in case she didn't show up to remind all of us that sometimes there are disappointments in life, and sometimes we can plan and plan and set up a beautiful, welcoming environment where the Spirit is, but we can't always count on people to come and receive it, and how no effort on behalf of someone's spiritual well-being is a waste...and blah, blah, blah...but my heart wasn't really in that talk and I really hoped I didn't have to give it.  

At 7:17, just as I was getting antsy and looking at the Bishop to tell me when it was time to stop waiting and start conducting, THEY SHOWED UP!  Late, not in church clothes, and reeking of smoke, but who even cares!?  They came!  And that's all that mattered.  I almost cried.  

So we went forward with the scheduled program instead of the alternate LIFE LESSONS one I had pulled together in my head when I thought all hope was lost.  And the whole thing was great!  Angel was super cute.  Her mom was chatty with all of us after the program was over.  And they stayed and mingled for a really long time.  (Refreshments always help with that sort of thing...)



And all I kept thinking all night was how difficult this missionary thing must be for the full time missionaries...like my Savannah!  I went through every single emotion in my head while I was sitting there for 20 minutes waiting for Angel and Cassie to show up, wondering why Heavenly Father would have inspired us to do this, and then have us plan this whole thing and go to all this effort if they weren't even going to come?  And THEN, even after they got there, I spent the majority of the program wondering if it was sinking in, if they felt the Spirit, if the girls and the leaders were saying the right things, if we had picked the right song, if they were allergic to any of the food we prepared.  Sheesh!  So much to worry about!!  

Cassie apparently said that she loves the message of the church, and she always loves the words and the feelings she feels when she comes, but she just wishes it were a little more contemporary and not so...reserved.  She asked the Bishop if he could add a later service with some peppy music for the younger, more contemporary crowd.  He said no.  

So who even knows what, if anything, will happen?...even after all that effort and all that worrying, guess what?  I still don't know if they'll ever come to church again.  I don't know what they thought or felt.  I don't know if it was enough.  Blah...I hate not knowing stuff. 

But that's the whole point, right?  We do what the Lord asks us to do and then we let it go and trust Him to do what He's going to do with it.  Whatever that may be...

This missionary work is hard stuff!

But I'm so super proud of the girls for doing such an amazing job of planning and collectively hoping and praying, and then welcoming the heck out of this little girl.  Hopefully Angel felt all that love in the room.  


Monday, August 29, 2016

Oktoberfest Season Has Begun


Guten Tag! 

So this week was another great one! 

On Monday evening we stopped by our Peruvian friends with some chocolate cake and visited with them a little. We are hoping to start doing weekly family nights with them soon, which will be so fun! 

Tuesday we had Zone Training in Munich, and it was really good! I had fun helping Sister Howsmon understand the German, and we both really learned a ton of new things that we can definitely apply to see the work grow even more in this area! One thing that we have both really been focusing on this week is mastering the message of the restoration. Because that is what makes us different! That's why we have the Book of Mormon, and the FULNESS of the gospel and God's authority on the earth today! We have been practicing teaching the restoration almost every single day, and it has really strengthened my testimony of the truthfulness of these events! I know that Jesus Christ really did live on the earth, and that he really did perform the atonement for us! I know that he was resurrected, and that after his resurrection he visited the people in the Americas. I know that Joseph Smith really saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and that he restored the priesthood, or the power of God, to the earth! I know that the Book of Mormon is the most true book on this earth, and that the Holy Ghost will guide us, direct us, and answer our questions if we pray with a sincere heart!

After Zone Training, we went back to bahnhof to head back to Augsburg, and I got to see NADINEEEEEE!! 

For those of you who don't remember, Nadine is my sweet investigator from Graz who will be getting baptized this June! I was so happy to see her and catch up with her! She is in Munich for about a month for a summer job, so hopefully I will get to see her again soon! 

On Wednesday we had a bunch of old lady appointments, but we had the opportunity to do the best service project I have done on my mission, for Sch. Weingardt. She has lots of hip/leg problems, so it's very hard for her to do a lot of normal day to day things! She has a lot of people that come to help her throughout the week, but some things still get lost in the mixture of it all. Like washing her feet. On Wednesday when we asked her what we could do for her, she shyly asked us if we would be willing to help her wash her feet. Of course we said yes, and this is embarrassing but I was actually getting emotional while we were doing it. I just couldn't help but think about my Savior, Jesus Christ, and how he washed his disciples' feet out of pure love for them (even though their feet were probably super disgusting). I LOVE being a missionary, and I loved the opportunity I had to literally do something that Christ did while he was on the earth! I am a representative of him, and I am trying to follow in his footsteps, and that made washing Sch. Weingardt's feet the best experience ever :) And she gave us some apples for doing it, so that was cool.

On Thursday we had a breakfast appointment with a family in our ward, and holy crap German breakfast is like a thanksgiving feast. Bread, butter, the whole winery of cheeses, wurst, all the fruits from the Garden of Eden, tea, juice, boiled eggs, tomato-mozzarella salad, and every vegetable that could possible be grown in a pot on a porch. Germans do not believe in real breakfast food apparently...haha. #lunchforbreakfast. But it was SO GOOD. Frohed myself. The best part about the appointment though was that THEY BROUGHT A FRIEND😭😭😭 first time going to a member appointment where they brought a friend without us having to ask. And this friend is super cool, and super ready to accept the gospel!! We showed her the restoration video, and then the Bertele's just killed it bearing their testimony and explaining all about the church, so yeah it was pretty amazing. #miracle. We could all see those gears churning in her head by the end :) She said she would come to the ward temple celebration next Saturday, so we hope to see her soon! 

The weekend was a strange one! Fireworks in the middle of the night that looked/sounded like Germany was entering WW3, drunk people causing a ruckus all day long, random giant parades through the middle of the city, and so much trachten!! We finally figured out that Oktoberfest season has begun, and we just so happen to live right next door to the Augsburg Oktoberfest! So crazy!

This weekend we had a lesson with our investigator Izu (who is making sky rocketing progress towards his baptism in a couple weeks, by the way! He's so awesome!) and we were bearing our testimonies about how we can overcome temptation. I told him that when I feel tempted to do something wrong, or a bad thought pops into my head, I immediately pray to Heavenly Father to help me overcome it! He asked, "and does it always work?" I realized that no, it doesn't always work. But I told him that Heavenly Father isn't a magic genie who grants wishes. We can't just pray to Him for help, and then sit there and continue doing what we were doing before. We have to do our part, and then Heavenly Father will do His part! D&C 82:10 "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." I know that when we try our very best, but still fall short, the grace of God will be there to lift us to where we cannot go. The atonement is real. Our Savior loves us and took the sins of the world upon him so we can return to live with our father in heaven. Turn your face to the light of the Lord, and you can overcome darkness. 

Love y'all!

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Thunell