Guten Morgen liebe Geschwister! Or I guess in English you say: "Good morning brothers and sisters." This is the first time I'm giving a talk in English in a year and a half, so we will see how this goes. For those of you who don't know me, because I don't know any of you, my name is Savannah Thunell. I just came home from serving in the Alpine German-Speaking Mission, which covers Austria, Southern Germany, and the German-speaking part of Switzerland.My mission was hard, painful, uncomfortable, depressing, frustrating, unenjoyable, and exhausting.BUT. My mission was also the most joyous time of my life, the time where I was happier than I have ever been. It was the most successful and rewarding time of my life, where I grew stronger in my testimony of this gospel and closer to my Savior, Jesus Christ, than I had ever been before. It was the most humbling and beautiful time of my life, where I was able to witness people change who they were to enter into the waters of baptism and hold strong to the iron rod on the way up the straight and narrow path. It was a time where the Lord trusted me enough to pound my heart with a meat tenderizer, and mold and shape me into what He knew my potential could be.My mission was the perfect mission for me. And let me tell you why:Faith. The first principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To be a missionary you need a LOT of faith. Faith that you will find people to teach, faith that you will be able to learn a new language, faith that you and your companion won't kill each other by the end of the transfer. Lots of faith. When I first came on my mission, faith was a little bit of an abstract concept to me. I knew we were supposed to have faith, but I didn't really know how I was supposed to water this little faith seed they gave me in the MTC, or what I was supposed to have faith in. Well, that's where the miracle of the plugged nasal passages comes in.I was in my second area, Graz, in Austria, and we had been invited over to a recently reactivated member's house to share a spiritual thought with her. Well, we got inside and we were immediately HIT with the overwhelming smell of dirty cat litter mixed with rotten food and moldy trash. It was absolutely unbearable, but she didn't seem to notice the smell at all, so we just said over and over in our heads "what would Jesus do, what would Jesus do," and proceeded with the appointment. A couple weeks later she invited us over for dinner. My companion and I were dreading it all week, but we wanted to be true disciples of Christ and show her how much we loved her, so we knew we couldn't cancel the appointment. Right before we got there we prayed our guts out, "Heavenly Father, PLEASE plug our nasal passages so we can get through this appointment," and then we moved forward with faith.We got to her apartment, took a giant breath of our last chance of fresh air, and then knocked. The door swung open and we got a giant whiff of that wall of stink, so I prayed even harder in my head, and as soon as we stepped into the house neither of us could smell ANYTHING! It was the most amazing miracle to me! Through the entire appointment Heavenly Father shoved some spiritual tissues up our nostrils and let us simply share His unconditional love with one of His beloved daughters.The pattern of faith that I learned from this experience is:Step 1. Have a sincere, righteous desire.Step 2. Ask in faith through prayer.Step 3. Act. Leap with the confidence that your Father in Heaven won't let you drown.And step 4. ALWAYS show Him your gratitude.Faith precedes action, and action develops faith. When we have faith in our Savior Jesus Christ, and the healing power of His Atonement, it leads us to repent. Repentance leads us to want to be better every day, and every week, which leads us to partake of the sacrament and renew our baptismal covenants every Sunday. Worthily partaking of the sacrament is exactly like we are being REBAPTIZED. Washed clean. No spots of sin left. This invites the Spirit to be a little more influential in our lives—a little stronger and a little clearer—which helps us along the path of endurance throughout life and builds our faith. And these steps of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are repeated over and over again throughout our lives until we have finally reached the top of the staircase towards heaven!Faith is an intimate bond between us and our Father in Heaven. It is very individual and personalized. Faith cannot take away another person's agency, and it also cannot change the will of God. But what faith CAN do is work miracles, and soften hearts. It can turn the impossible into completely achievable, and make giant, rocky mountains seem like small pebbles under our feet. Faith is the battery of our spirits.Patience. A mission is just a whole lotta patience woven together to create the most beautiful tapestry in the end. My tapestry is probably full of a lot of giant clumps of knots and random yarn, where I wasn't patient enough to weave it smoothly. But I can definitely say that I've changed a lot compared to 18 months ago.In one of my last interviews with my Mission President, he told me to start making a list of the most important things I've learned on my mission. I could go on for DAYS about all the things I wrote down, but, most important thing I've learned on my mission #27 is: Don't wish your trials away, because trying times are when you learn and grow the most. BASK in your trials.If I've learned anything about patience, it's that patience is an ACTION word. You can't be passively patient. And patience in PAIN is one of the most important attributes to develop for our growth here on the earth. Heavenly Father did not create us to live in our comfort zone. There is absolutely no growth in the comfort zone. He created us to continually be tried and stretched, and sometimes meat-tenderized, and He also provided a way for us to have patience through these uncomfortable times. That way is our Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ.There will always be painful times in life. No matter who you are, no matter what your circumstance in life, no matter what today looks like, we are gonna have trials. That's a fact of life.In Romans 5:3-5, it says:"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."GLORY in your tribulations! BASK in your trials! Get a nice brown tan from that scorching heat in your life! And, always remember that there are brighter days ahead.I learned a really great lesson of patience one morning in Switzerland during my personal study. I had a companion who could be quite loud sometimes, especially when eating, and she loved to eat while she read in her scriptures. I LOVE personal study. That was my favorite time of the day, and if anyone interrupted me while I was studying the scriptures, I was not a happy camper. This one morning she was being particularly loud, and I was getting particularly impatient. I couldn't focus, so I decided to stop reading in the Book of Mormon and try reading in the New Testament instead so maybe I could get something out of my studies. I flipped to where I had left off a couple days before, Romans chapter 14, and read the following:"Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him."So, after that gentle slap in the face I decided to be a little more patient with my companions from then on.James 5:10-11 says:"Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."Take comfort in the fact that Jesus Christ knows PERFECTLY every trial, pain, affliction, or struggle with patience that we have, and that He is ALWAYS by our side. Be JOYFUL through trying times. Be HAPPY while enduring! Because whether you have a positive attitude or not, trials are still going to come. So we might as well juice the best things we can out of it!Prayer. I counted once how many times my companion and I prayed on a typical missionary day, and it was about 15 to 20 times! And those were just the prayers spoken out loud! Most everything I learned about prayer came from the last 6 months of my mission. I went through an extremely down time emotionally for a couple months, and it came to a point where I needed to find an answer to whether I should continue dragging myself on through the gloom, or whether I should return home early. I remember having countless personal interviews with Heavenly Father, begging Him for help, pouring out my soul of despair and problems, and even questioning whether He was even there for me or cared about me. I asked myself so many times how in the world I was supposed to help others come closer to Him if I didn't even feel close to Him myself.My favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon is Mosiah 24. This is where the people of Alma are in bondage to the Lamanites, who persecute them mercilessly and force the people of Alma to work for them. I shared this scripture COUNTLESS times with people throughout my whole mission, and bore my testimony of the power of God to help us through our trials. It was easy to help others understand how they could apply this in their lives, but sometimes it's a lot harder to apply the truth into your own life. But I remember one particularly hard day where I was prompted to dig into my scriptures and just read, and listen to what Heavenly Father had to say."And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God. And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."There is no doubt in my mind that prayer, with sincere intent, is the most powerful thing in the world. Prayer works. I know that with all of my heart. And it only works when we are willing, when we are DESPERATE, to do anything the Lord commands. Even with all the begging of my burdens to be taken away, or for the answer that it was okay to quit and go home, I knew in my heart that I would submit to the will of the Lord if He would just give me an answer. And after a little while, He did.Now, I can't say that immediately after I got the answer to stay on my mission that I submitted cheerfully and with patience. There were still hard days, and still sometimes where I needed to cast my mind on the night when I received my answer to keep pushing myself forward, but I also have a testimony that when you are trying your best to follow God and be obedient, angels cannot be restrained from aiding you. It got easier, and it got better. And I can say that that was one of the best decisions of my life, to stay on my mission, because I would definitely not be the person I am today without those last four months of fine-tuning and refining. I would have had an Achilles heel that I regretted for the rest of my life.Prayer is direct communication with the Creator of the Universe. Don't ever take it for granted. As soon as we open our mouth, or open our hearts, to Him, His complete attention is on us. Like that creepy eyeball-mountain in The Lord of the Rings! He will never be too busy to listen. He will never demean our concerns. He will always gently guide us and direct us, and it will always be our choice whether or not we obey. We can choose to treat prayer as a pizza order, or we can choose to treat it as a humble, respectful conversation with the Father of our spirits, but the effectiveness of our prayers is directly related to how much thought and effort and humility we put into them.I loved my mission. If any of you are considering going on a mission, young or old, I would say just do it. Just take that leap and let Heavenly Father unfold His mighty power unto you. If any of you are not considering going on a mission, I would say that maybe you should reconsider. Follow these principles that have just been lined out for you: have the faith that God's ways are not our ways, and that His plans for us may be different than our plans for ourselves. Go to Him humbly in prayer, and be prepared to submit to His will and act upon the answer you receive. Then be prepared to endure to the end, to be patient through the pain, and let yourself be torn down, and then slowly built back up in His image. I know with all my heart that it will bless your life, because it has blessed mine."Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, and on, on to the victory!"I have a testimony of this gospel. I know that it is true. Ich habe ein Zeugnis über Glaube, Geduld, und Gebet. Ich weiß dass durch Glaube können wir Wundern im Namen Jesu Christi machen. Ich weiß dass mit Geduld können wir Glücklichkeit in unserem Leben finden. Ich weiß dass durch Gebet können wir ein stärkere Beziehung mit Gott entwickeln. Ich weiß dass Jesus Christus unser bester Freund ist. Bauen auf ihn. Vertrauen ihm.Diese Dinge, sage ich, im Namen Jesu Christi, Amen.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Monday, April 17, 2017
Dear lovely family and friends,
Well, this is my very last email home as a full-time missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. What a weird feeling. I have learned and changed so much over these past 18 months, and I am so grateful for every single second of this once in a lifetime adventure! The good times and the bad, because all have combined together to blend into the unique and delicious smoothie of who I am today! My testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ, has grown SO MUCH, and my love for this gospel and God's children has also just sprouted like a bean plant. I can't believe that next week it will all be over. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in the Dallas airport writing in my journal before I flew off to the MTC! But, now it's time to move on to another chapter of my life, and luckily the missionary work doesn't have to end! It's just different! Thank you all so much for your support and love throughout this last year and a half.
I want you all to know that I have a testimony of this gospel. I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I've read it three times on my mission and each time I finish, the answer is the same. It's true!! I know with all my heart that it's true! And that it can change your life if you will let it. I know that God loves all of His children, and that He has given us a prophet on the earth today to lead and to guide us through these perilous times! I am so thankful for President Thomas S. Monson, and the sacrifices he has given to follow Jesus Christ. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that he really did see God and Jesus Christ appear to him, and that he really did translate the Book of Mormon! If you don't know that 100% for yourself, go find out. Don't shy away from the truth or the facts, or from praying to Heavenly Father and asking the direct source. Uncover every corner, do your research, and have the righteous desire to know the truth and gain your own testimony. I know that PRAYER WORKS. Get on your knees and pray. It will work—according to your faith and desire to do His will—but it will work. I also know that the primary song "Scripture Power" is SO TRUE. The scriptures bring us power to get through the days and weeks. My mom once said that reading in the scriptures is like drinking water. You can't just do it all at once and then be good for a couple days. It's a DAILY thing we need to do for our SPIRITUAL SURVIVAL. Don't let your spirit die of thirst for that knowledge and light contained in the scriptures.
I have learned so many things on my mission. A new language, how to get along with lots of different types of people, why you shouldn't buy purple toilet paper, the power of Satan—but also the stronger and more enduring power of God, what my favorite European chocolate is, the importance of good communication, how to be more self reliant, why having my own testimony is so important, etc. I've met some wonderful people who have changed my whole life for the better, and also some crazies that need Jesus. I'm so grateful for this time that I've been able to give up a part of my life to focus on helping others and serving God. I've been able to push and fight and smash my way through the thorns of trials and discouragement, and now I can come out on the other side of the rose patch and look back to see the beautiful roses and fruits of my labor!
I love you all so much! If you're interested, my new email at home will be:
Have a great week!
D&C 128:22 "Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!"
Monday, April 10, 2017
This week was another crazy roller coaster, my mind is just swarming with things, it's hard to really get a hold of all these emotions I'm feeling lately. Going home is weird! This week was rough, and full of lots of challenges. I feel like I didn't really do my best this week, but that's okay because there's always next week! That's the great thing about the atonement :) it gives us the chance to shake off the old, and start BRAND NEW each week after we take the sacrament! And that's all possible because of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Don't forget Him in this Easter season. Enjoy the eggs and the bunnies and the beautiful weather and nature blooming, but don't forget who created it all. Don't forget what He did for us, and how much He loves us, and that He's there right next to us every step of the way. Let Him lead you and guide you, and give you PEACE.
Well, I love you all and hope you have a great week! Here's my five most important things I've learned on my mission for the week:
1. I am a problem-solver, but sometimes people just don't want their problems to be solved, or sometimes they need to solve their own problems.
2. My parents are so wise and have done/continue to do so much for me
3. Juice everything you can out of every person/experience in your life
4. Don't live with your regrets. Move on, CHANGE, forgive yourself, accept the atonement of Christ.
5. Never let a task to be done or a goal to be accomplished become more important than a person to be loved.
Monday, March 27, 2017
Well, things are definitely warming up over here in Germany! Hopefully it will stay like this for another couple weeks! You never know what's going to happen with the weather here. This week was CRAZY. We were running around from appointment to appointment every single day! I didn't even have time to sit down and eat, much less to think about anything besides missionary work. So it was great :)
On Monday we did FHE with the Kardovs at a member's house, and we talked about The Family Proclamation. It was so great! They are doing awesome! During the week we started teaching their kids from the children's Book of Mormon. We would act out the stories or watch videos to go along with them, and they all just love it! So much love for these guys :) During the week we did SO MANY service projects!! I think everyone is getting spring fever a little and they're recruiting the missionaries to help with their spring cleaning! Best idea ever! Recruit the missionaries at home to help you with stuff cuz we LOVE it! We also ate lots of ice cream this week. Don't even regret it :)
On Wednesday we had Zone Conference. It was my last one as a missionary, and it was definitely the best one ever!! I love President and Sister Kohler, and I'm so grateful for everything they do for us missionaries. I also had to give my dying testimony, so that was super weird. After Zone Conference I brought Sister Hancock back to Ulm with me on tausch. My last tausch as a missionary! Also so crazy! But I'm so glad that it was with Sister Hancock, because she was the first person I met at the airport in New Jersey about a year and a half ago :) so it was so fun to work with her for a day. The rest of the week was just full of soooo many appointments, but it was so awesome to be so busy.
Well, I love you all and I hope you have a wonderful week this week! Enjoy the fact that spring is coming, and that it's almost Easter!! I'm so excited for Easter! And watch for the new video that the church is putting out, it's amazing :) Here are the five most important things I've learned on my mission for the week to end:
1. Obedience brings blessings. Exact obedience brings miracles.
2. I am the one who holds myself back the most
3. Forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving others
4. The grass is NOT greener on the other side. Stay on your side and enjoy the greenness you have
5. The Spirit does not dwell in unclean places (including your apartment)
Liebe Grüße,Sister Thunell
Monday, March 20, 2017
Okay we are just gonna skip to the good part: VANESSA AND TONI WERE BAPTIZED AND CONFIRMED AND IT WAS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE.
Really, there are not many things in the world that can make me as happy as I felt on Saturday. I remember this same feeling when Izu got baptized, and it is the best feeling in the world!! To see someone accept the gospel and change their whole life, and to see the smile and pure joy on their faces when they get out of the font :) We met with them twice during the week, and their poor family had the most horrible week ever. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong, but they are so amazing. They kept saying that they knew this was the right choice to get baptized, and that Satan was just trying everything he could to discourage them, but they wouldn't let him succeed! I could go on and on about these people, but the baptism was beautiful, and now they are officially confirmed members of the church :)
Thank you all for all your prayers for them! Now we get to keep meeting with them and prepare them for the next step: Toni getting the priesthood and their kids to be baptized! It's so exciting to have such a wonderful family to teach!
This week was a week of gratitude for me. As I come closer and closer to the end of my mission, I am just seeing more and more things to be grateful for! I'm grateful for this wonderful opportunity I have to be a missionary, and the wonderful countries that I've been able to serve in :)
Well, this is a short email, but here are some more of the bazillion things I've learned on my mission, and will continue to learn over and over again throughout my life:
1. Communication is the key to a good companionship (or relationship)
2. How to be comfortable with being uncomfortable
3. The right words will be put into your mouth, but you have to start speaking and stumble a little first
4. The Lord qualifies those who He calls
5. It takes two to tango
Love you all so much! Have a great week!
Monday, March 13, 2017
Hallo! Time to tell you about my week!
The beginning of the week was pretty slow, and I was actually going crazy because when a missionary doesn't have a lot to do, thoughts start wandering, and mine were wandering towards home. So!...We fixed that real quick and by the end of the week I had forgotten all over again that I'm not gonna be a missionary for the rest of my life.
We had some great appointments with the Kardov's, and the baptismal interview went SO GOOD! They're so amazing. They have such strong testimonies!! Transfer calls were on Saturday, and Sister Campbell and I are both staying. So here go my last five weeks as a missionary!! It's going to go by so fast, I already know. I'm trying to just soak up every minute of everything I'm doing here, because I know I'm gonna miss it so much when I go home! The beautiful scenery, the markets with fresh bread and produce every morning, the people, teaching the gospel, it's all going so fast I don't even know what to think!
Sunday was one of the best days ever. I just had such a grateful heart the entire day, I thought it was going to burst! First of all it was fast Sunday, and those are always the best on a mission :) I loved being able to focus my thoughts even more towards my Heavenly Father, and I loved hearing all the testimonies during Sacrament meeting! I love this little branch with all my heart. And it's growing!! A brand new family of 5 randomly walked into the church yesterday and said that they had just moved in from another Ward and found the address to the church on the internet! And the entire Kardov family came, plus a couple other investigators, so our tiny little chapel was STUFFED with people wanting to hear the word of God! I was so happy and excited the whole time! And the whole branch is so excited for the baptism coming up on Saturday, they were just flocking the Kardov's the entire day :) it was so cute!
Well, I just wanted to let you all know that I KNOW that this church is true, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. My calling for the last 17 months has been to testify of Him, and in the process I have also gained an unshakable testimony that He is the center of my life, and the only way through which I can return to live with my Father in Heaven again. Most important thing #1 that I've learned on my mission: Jesus Christ is literally our best friend and knows EVERY pain or affliction that we can go through. The Doctrine of Christ is the blueprint for those stepping stones we need to take each day to become more like Christ. We can exercise faith every single day (Most important thing #2 I've learned on my mission: If you give Heavenly Father a little bit, exercise your tiny particle of faith, He will bless you more abundantly than you could ever imagine), and be more inclined to repent daily of our mistakes, big or small. Most important thing #3 I've learned on my mission: No mistake, sin, or choice will change God's love for us.
We can partake of the sacrament weekly, then start the week brand new and fresh, like literally being re-baptized, and therefore choose to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost more deeply, and more fully in our lives. Most important thing #4 I've learned on my mission: How uniquely the Spirit speaks to me, how to recognize it, and how important it is to simply ACT upon promptings. And then we take a step upwards and repeat :) it becomes harder with each step, but also more meaningful and powerful. Most important thing #5 I've learned on my mission: Don't wish your trials away, because trying time are when you learn and grow the most. BASK in your trials.
With each step we take, we have the promise of angels to surround us and lift us up, the protection and guidance of the Holy Ghost, and the comfort of the warm and loving arms of our Savior, Jesus Christ. If we hold fast to Him we cannot fail :) Enduring to the end means more than simply going through the motions, it means to LOVE what you're doing, to let it sink into your SOUL and become a part of who you are. Let the Gospel of Jesus Christ penetrate you and change you. Because it has changed me.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Hello once again! It's your favorite Sister Missionary in Germany!
The last couple of days have been great!! Going to the Military Base on Thursday was extremely weird for me. We bought all of our favorite American food that I forgot I even missed, but the whole time I was just in culture shock because everything was so American!! Everyone was speaking English, and they all looked super American, and you had to pay with US dollars, just so weird. But we have Captain Crunch and Pop Tarts now, so that's good :)
But onto more important things!...
Update: Remember our investigator, Vanessa, who is getting baptized on March 18? well, her husband, Tony, called us on Thursday and said that he has decided he wants to get baptized, too!! So we now have TWO baptisms on the 18, and their four kids will follow shortly after :) Holy cow, it was such a miracle! Sometimes I can't even believe all the miracles that Heavenly Father gives to us. He is just a wonderful God :) So we have been visiting them a ton, and the entire family came to Stake Conference in Stuttgart yesterday! And Debbie! So we had 6 investigators at church! That's about double the size of our branch haha. Good things are happening here in Ulm.
I wanted to share the miracle of the colored markers today. We all know that Stake Conference can be really long, and really boring, especially for children under the age of 12. So we found some cute church coloring booklets for Vanessa and Tony's children to keep them busy during the two hours. Well, we handed them all out, and shortly after, we realized that we forgot to bring crayons or markers for the kids to color them with!! So we went running around throughout the whole church building (but actually speed walking because we don't run in the House of the Lord) hunting for anything they could use! Well, we couldn't even find ONE crayon or colored pencil. So we sadly went back to our seats, thinking that it's gonna be a longggg two hours with restless kids. There was a hymn book stand right behind our seats, so we decided to check there as our last hope, and what do you know! A whole package of 24 colored markers!! Jackpot!! I thought it was a huge miracle, because probably the Sunday before, a mom with her own little bunch of kids accidentally left their really nice pack of markers at the church, and maybe she didn't even realize till they were driving home. And probably she didn't want to drive all the way back to the church to get them, but she knew it might be a long week at home with her little kiddos if they didn't have any markers to draw with, but she left them there anyway. And it was for a purpose! Heavenly Father had a plan for those little markers, just like He has a plan for all of us.
So, next time you accidentally leave your markers at the church, it might just be for a really good reason, that you may never find out! And next time you wonder why a certain challenge is happening in your life, or why you have to deal with this certain person, or why your google maps led you two hours away from where you actually wanted to go, think of those little markers and how if Heavenly Father had a plan for them, of COURSE He has a plan for you.
And yes, the coloring books and markers were successful at keeping the kids busy the whole two hours! Yay!
So, five things from Sister Thunell's "Most Important Things I've Learned on my Mission" list to think about for the week :)
1. Satan has no power over me unless I give it to him
2. Heavenly Father doesn't require perfection, but He requires that you try your very best, and your very best is different depending on the day
3. Everyone has a story, and everyone has their own problems. There is a reason people do the things they do, and are the way they are. Dig a little deeper.
4. Sarcasm chases the spirit away, and is not becoming of a daughter of God
5. My faith cannot change another person's agency