Monday, December 31, 2012

A Baptism just in time for a Transfer


This last week was chock full of happenings, I am still surprised that I managed to survive it!

Monday- Was Christmas Eve! After writing e-mails we went and had a lesson with W and then took her with us to the member's house we were visiting for Christmas Eve. W's first Christmas :) Sis. G was so kind to host us and the Elders and W and a recently moved in couple from the ward. She had a bit of a problem in her apartment, the electricity stopped working in the afternoon, but then she got it fixed in time for us all to celebrate Christmas Eve together. Sis. G is from Brazil and was telling us how in Brazil they wait until midnight on Christmas Eve to start celebrating and then the party just doesn't stop! It was so nice to be able and just sit and eat and talk with good people.

Tuesday- Was Christmas! We got to sleep in (a little Christmas present from President Miles) and then we opened presents, studied, and then went to visit M A, another member in our ward. She made Raclette for Christmas dinner :) And we sang some Karaoke.

Wednesday- We had District Meeting and then ate lunch and then went caroling in the middle of Vienna and THEN President Miles called. You always know something big is about to go down when President Miles calls. He asked to talk to Sister Leben and then told her that she was being transferred in Munich. And she had to get on the train the next day. Oh boy. So we figured out train schedules and went home so Sister Leben could pack.

Thursday. We got our Transfer calls! I have been transferred to Göppingen, Germany. For those of you following along at home, that means I spent 4 transfers in Munich, 4 transfers here in Wien, and as far as I have figured out (I try not to think about these things too much) I have 5 transfers left on my mission. So who knows, Göppingen may be my last area, or I may get sent somewhere else afterward. After the call, we did a little studying, and then went to the Bahnhof to put Sister Leben on the train. She was only here 3 weeks! It was so strange to be back down to two, I have spent a good chunk of my mission being in a Dritt. Thursday evening we met D (she came back from Christmas break!) and made the program for her baptism.

Friday- It rained. We didn't have a translator for our appointment, and we desperately needed one. But then things got a lot better in the evening when we went to the church. Some of the Elders in town helped us clean the font and get it all ready for the baptism. Then Danielle came and we picked out clothes and had a lesson with her.

Saturday- Baptism Day :) The sun was shining (which is uncommon for Wien in the winter time). We met the Graz sisters at the Bahnhof. They came in for the baptism because Sister Pingree taught D a couple times and D really wanted her there. Then we went to the church. We almost forgot to start filling the font, but luckily someone reminded us. The bishop came and practiced with D, we got the programs printed just in the nick of time, and we only started 15 minutes late! (I know that sounds bad, but keep in mind, this is an International Ward!). The baptism was perfect; D came up out of the font and just said "Wow!" She was beaming the whole day long.

Saturday was a BIG day. You know those days; they only come along a few times in your life. The day you get married, the day you start your mission, the day you get baptized, those are all BIG days, milestone days. As I was getting ready on Saturday, I was thinking about how the events of this day would change the rest of D's life. So much has happened that has brought her to this point, and I know that her life will be full of lots of other things in the future, but for this one day, all that mattered was the step she was taking right here, right now. I am just glad I got to be a part of it.

Sunday- Was my last Sunday in the ward :( I gave a talk (which I got assigned to give on Saturday-go figure). D got confirmed. We had dinner with a Ghanaian family. It was hilarious because the mom made "kid food" i.e. meatloaf and mashed potatoes for us and her kids (who are 23 and 21) and then traditional food for herself and her sisters and the grandma.

I am sad to be leaving this place. I feel like I have grown so much here, the members especially have just taken me in. The Vienna 4th Ward is a very special place; there is no other place quite like it. These people come from all over the world and are very different, but somehow it all works together to make one very colorful, diverse whole. I will miss the Filipino food, I will miss hearing Nigerian prayers, and I will miss little French kids talking about all the different animals they know. But even though it is sad to go, I know the Lord has something big in store, and I know that I need to keep moving forward. Somehow, someway, I will see these people again. I just have to put them in the Lord's care.

Ich weiß, dass Jesus Christus mein Erlöser ist. Wenn wir ihm nach folgen, dann bekommen wir Frieden und Freude, die die Welt nicht geben kann.
(I know that Jesus Christ is my savior. If we follow him, he gives us the peace and joy that the world cannot provide.)

Mach's gut!
--Sister Stewart

Monday, December 24, 2012

Heiligabend (Christmas Eve)

Happy Christmas Eve! In Austria stores are only open until about noon on Christmas Eve, so we had to brave the crowds at the grocery store to buy some last minute things this morning. It reminded me a little bit of Costco on a Saturday.

D had her baptismal interview! She passed :) Right now she is at her parents’ house for Christmas. This coming Saturday is the big day! Everything is (almost) in place, just a few more details to worry about. We are so excited for her!

On Wednesday we were in Wiener Neustadt for District Meeting. Then after District Meeting we passed out flyers for the Family History Center there. And somebody actually let us in! We rang the bell and waited, then were about to just stick a flyer in the mailbox when the door opened up! It was an older gentleman who had just been working on decorating the house for Christmas. It turns out he doesn't have too much interest in religion, but he did think the Family History Center was cool. And he fed us cookies and orange juice :)
My favorite part of this week was the Ward Christmas Party on Saturday. There was lots of good food, good company, and a funny talent show. I am just so grateful to be a part of this kooky international community. It is so fun to see all these people from different cultures come together to celebrate.

Church yesterday was a special Christmas program. The German ward and the English ward were combined, so the service was held in both languages. That was really cool. It was the best of both worlds :)
Sorry this is a little shorter than normal. I am sure that next week there will be a lot more to talk about!

Frohe Weihnachten! Vergesst nicht, warum wir diesen Tag feiern!
(Merry Christmas! Don’t forget why we celebrate this day!)

Liebe Grüße (Best wishes)
--Sister Stewart

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Get ready for Christmas!

Well, it's been an awesome week here in Wien.

We started off the week with a fabulous P-Day, wherein we visited the Christmas Market in front of the Karlskirche. It is definitely more on the artsy side. The whole square in front of the church was covered with booths. They had a carousel for kids that had been built out of scrap metal and discarded baskets and things. There was a really cool stall with things made out of leather and then a stand where they were making crepes with buckwheat flour. Christmas is definitely a good time to visit Vienna, I highly recommend it.

One thing we have learned this week is how effective it is to talk to people in public transportation rather than on the street. On the street people are most often in a hurry, trying to get somewhere. In the public transportation, they have to sit and listen to you :) The best way is to just strike up a conversation, ask what they are up to, where they are going. Either people will ignore you or get curious as to why this American with the black name tag is talking to them. It is a great opportunity to then share with them a little more of why we are here and what we are doing.

Friday was Zone Conference day! Because Graz is so far away and we had to be at the church for Zone Conference at 8 a.m., we once again hosted the Graz Sisters in our apartment for the night. It was fun to have a sleep over again :) Then we all had to get ready and go, which somehow we (mostly) managed to do within an hour. Zone Conference was great, as always. President and Sister Miles spoke to us and also one of the counselors from the mission presidency, who is a native Austrian. We got our Christmas packages at the conference and also the box of Book of Mormons that we ordered. Luckily we brought an empty suitcase with us.  That made it a whole lot easy to take everything home on the public transportation.
D is doing great, we are just helping her with the preparations for the baptism and giving her all the love and support that we can. She will be leaving town this week to visit family for Christmas. Since she will be gone, we thought we would give her an Advent/Baptism calendar to do while she is away. The basic idea is we have an envelope for each day from now until her baptism. In each one we are putting a conference talk or a little note from one of us along with some scriptures to read. That way we can have "daily contact" even though she won't be in the same country for the week leading up to her baptism.

On Sunday I talked in church about how Serving God and Others Brings Joy. One of the quotes I found while preparing the talk has stuck with me. In True to the Faith it says "The true key to happiness is to labor for the happiness of others." I have seen that principle in action on my mission. The days that have been the best days are the ones that were chock full of missionary work, where we just worked as hard as we could for our investigators or for the members.

Die Monaten auf Mission vergehen so schnell! Ich kann es kaum glauben. Ich bin dankbar für die Heilige Schriften, für die Führer der Kirche und dass ich jederzeit zu meinem Himmlische Vater beten kann.
(The months go by so quickly on a mission. I can hardly believe it. I am grateful for the scriptures, for the church’s leaders and that I can pray to my Heavenly Father.)

Mach's gut! (Take care!)
--Sister Stewart

Monday, December 10, 2012

Birthday Austausch, Austausch Birthday (Birthday Exchange, Exchange Birthday)


So many big things happened this week I hardly know where to start! So I will try to go day by day and keep everything in some sort of logical order. Buckle your seatbelts, folks-

Monday- P-Day! Sister Reid and I headed down to Graz to play with the Graz Sisters and then that evening Sister Pingree, Sister Kleiner (who is serving with the Graz Sisters while wating for her visa) and I went back up to Wien for the Austausch (Exchange) on Tuesday. That night when we got home there was a smallish package from the mission office waiting for me. I was confused because we hadn't ordered anything. I then opened it to find a nametag that said "Sister Leben." Now, at this point I got even more confused. President had called a few days before and asked if we had space for a third person, but I never heard anything definitive after that. So I called President Miles up and said "uh, President, we have a problem... Do we have a new companion coming?" He was also surprised that I hadn't heard anything. Turns out Sister Leben was for sure coming, on Thursday. So that was the first big surprise.

Tuesday- My Birthday! Sister Pingree made Crepes for breakfast :) Then we headed out for a full day of appointments. We met with some of the Filipino members of the ward. Sister Pingree wanted to have a picture taken with them. As I was taking the picture I just had to laugh because they are so tiny and Sister Pingree is 6 feet tall :) Then we went and taught W, which is always a pleasure. Then we had English class, during which Elder Johnson taught our class the song "Mother Goony Bird" which I had never heard before, and also had the class sing "Happy Birthday" for me. Then after English class we went to teach D.  and GUESS WHAT! She wants to be baptized!  She is so sneaky. We got all the way through the appointment before she said "So I've decided I would like to be baptized!" Hooray! Best Birthday present ever!

Wednesday- We switched back companions. Sister Reid and I went finding in Wiener Neustadt and found the cutest Armenian woman. That evening we had dinner with our Ward Mission Leader.

Thursday- was nutso. Sister Kleiner came to work with us because Sister Pingree and Sister Holmstead had to go to Munich and they couldn't leave Sister Kleiner alone in Graz. So we picked her up around lunch time and then started going to our appointments. Then we had English class and then Sister Reid went with one of the members to the airport to pick up Sister Leben. Sister Kleiner and I then made our way over to the church to meet with D.  Oh, and we had to carry lots of extra bedding (due to the influx of people that would be sleeping at our apartment), cereal and milk (because said people also needed to eat breakfast) and a birthday cake that one of the Elders gave me. So we arrive at the church heavily laden with things only to discover that Sister Reid has the key! And she's at the airport. SO I stood there and started calling some members. Meanwhile, Sister Kleiner, being the logical German that she is, walked around the building and discovered that there were people in the family history library, so we were saved. Then a few minutes later Sister Reid and Sister Leben showed up. So we met with D. with 4 missionaries. That was fun :)

Friday- I spent the whole day in bed :( I had a nasty 24 hour stomach bug. So I just basically spent the whole day sleeping. But luckily, there were still 3 other sisters here, so two could go out and then one stayed with me. They switched halfway through so no one got stuck inside all day long. That night Sister Pingree and Sister Holmstead came back and stayed the night so on Friday night we slept 6 people in our apartment.

Saturday was pretty lovely. We taught W and then discovered the second ward was having a baptism, so we attended that too. The little girl was baptized in Spanish by her dad and then confirmed in German by her uncle. Cool stuff.

Sunday was fabulous! We sang in church! W came to see the Christmas devotional!

So the results of this week:
-We have a new companion! Sister Leben is from northern Germany. She has her call to the Washington DC North Mission (hooray! next door neighbor!). She is here waiting for her visa to come.
-D. will be baptized at the end of the month!

So, I will now let you catch your breath until next week :)

Ich weiß dass der Herr uns kennt. Er weißt, was wir brauchen. Er hilft uns immer. Manchmal wissen wir nicht genau, warum manche Dinge passieren, aber der Herr weißt alles und führt uns. Ich bin dankbar, dass ich diese Arbeit tun darf :) Ich weiß, dass Jesus Christus lebt. Ich freue mich so auf Weihnachten und die Gelegenheit, mehr an ihn zu denken.
(I know that the Lord knows us. He knows what we need. He always helps us. Sometimes we do not know why some things occur, but the Lord knows everything and is leading us. I am grateful to be doing this work. I know that Christ lives. I am so happy for Christmas and the opportunity to think more about it.)

mit lieben Grüßen (with warm regards)
--Sister Stewart

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

That one time the U-Bahn broke!

Hello my family! I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

Our week was full of interesting experiences that is for sure. We taught some really cool people. B and N are the roommates of some members in our ward. They are from Nepal and are just so sweet and very receptive. J is from Nigeria. We watched the Restoration DVD with her and afterwards she said "Something is shocking me!" That's the spirit, my dear :) We taught W about temples and she got really excited about doing family history work.

Then on Friday and Saturday this week we helped out at the UN Women's Guild Charity Bazaar. It was HUGE. I heard that there were 20,000 people there. On Friday we did lots of work to help set up, including putting up some really big banners. Then on Saturday we were working the coat check. Luckily we did not lose any coats. We may have misplaced a few, but in the end, everyone got the right ones back :) The event was held in this big convention center right by where the UN has their offices here in Vienna. There were all these booths from different countries. They way I understood it is that each country picks a charity and all the proceeds they make go towards helping that charity. In addition the Women's Guild was selling old books and clothing and raffle tickets and there were also booths from Austrian charities and performances going on and oh my goodness SO MUCH FOOD. For lunch we ate Peruvian food and then an Australian dessert that I think is called a Pavlova that was basically the tastiest thing of my life. All the Wien Missionaries were there helping out.

Then after the UN thing on Saturday Sister Reid and I went to a Rice Feeding Ceremony for the daughter of S and O (they are the members living with B and N, mentioned above) Their daughter is about 6 months old, and at the age in Nepali culture you get together with family and friends and have a ceremony where the baby eats its first rice. It was so fun, and the food was absolutely delicious. So we had a very cultural Saturday.

Sunday was also great we had 4 investigators come to Relief Society, which is amazing because that's the first meeting and then they stayed for all 3 hours! Hooray!

We had a really unique experience yesterday night; I guess you could call it a miracle. We were going home from an appointment. We got in the U-Bahn. We only were going one stop, so we just stood by the door. As the train starts to go, all of a sudden we hear a big BANG and see a flash of light and the train starts slowing down and then stops. The main lights in the car turned off and just the lights by the doors were left. Sister Reid and I looked at each other and said "That's not good" We both quickly realized that this was probably not a problem that would be fixed in a couple minutes. So we looked around for some empty seats and spied two across from a woman and her son (who were speaking English!). So Sister Reid says "Let's sit down over there and share the gospel with these folks" So we march over and plop ourselves down and meet A and T. We chatted for a little, we told her we were missionaries for our church. Since they were speaking English, we asked them where they were from. Turns out they are Austrian; they just speak English to each other. As we were talking a little more, Anna just pulled out a business card and hands it to us and tells us to call if we ever need anything. Naturally we then hand her one of our cards and explain about the different church buildings in Wien. She was really interested in the English services and said she would love that so her son could speak English with some other kids (well, we've got a whole Primary full). She said they would come to church on Sunday and we gave her a Book of Mormon! Then the firemen came and opened up the doors of the train and we climbed down a ladder and walked out of the U-Bahn tunnel (something I never thought I would do in my life).

As we were sitting in that train, stuck in the U-Bahn tunnel, I just had the feeling that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. It was very peaceful, which I know is a strange thing to say about being stuck in a train several feet underground. Without the train breaking, we never would have met A and her son. Turns out they also just missed the U-Bahn and had to get on the next one. Who knows what will come of it, but I know that God definitely had his hand in the events of last night.
Today we are going to Graz because we are doing an Austausch (Exchange). So that means I get to work with Sister Pingree on my birthday! Hooray!

I am so grateful for the chance I got to serve a mission. I am constantly amazed at how much the Lord gives me. I have gotten way more out of this experience than I have put in, and for that I will be thanking my Heavenly Father for the rest of my earthly life, and probably the next one too.

Ich weiß, dass wenn wir Glauben ausüben und etwas TUN, dann passieren die Wunder. Wir müssen manchmal ein Schritt nehmen, ohne das Licht zu sehen, und dann schenkt der Herr uns das Licht, das wir brauchen. Dann erleben wir, wie das Sühnopfer uns Macht und Kraft gibt, weiter zu gehen. Der wichtigste Schritt ist der nächste.
(I know that when we believe and DO something, then miracles happen. We sometimes need to take a step without seeing the light and then the Lord gives us just the light we need. Then we see how the atonement gives us the power and strength to go on. The first step is the most important.)

--Sister Stewart

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Denn Gott hat die Welt so sehr geliebt (For God so loved the world)

How I got lucky enough to serve here I do not know.

This past week was great! My favorite day was Friday: We had 4 appointments scheduled, none of them fell out, and we found 3 new investigators! Hooray! Oh man it was an amazing day. We met first with J, who is from Africa. She had met with the Sisters a year ago. This past Sunday she came to church and said she would like to meet with us! Hooray for long lost investigators coming out of the woodwork! As J was leaving (we met with her at the church) who should walk in but W, our very favorite Chinese investigator. She was 40 minutes early :) We asked her "W, why are you so early?" She said "Well, I was out shopping and I thought 'I should stop' so I came here" Oh man I love that girl. She is so funny. Then later that evening we went to have FHE with a member in our ward. We talked about faith in Jesus Christ and then played Uno with her and her two roommates. Then afterwards her roommates told us they would like to learn more about the church! They are the cutest couple from Nepal. Our last appointment that day was with B, another member. She is from Africa. We talked more about Jesus Christ (of course). My favorite part of that lesson was that B wrote down all the scripture references we shared with her :)

During our lesson with W she asked us, "Why do you talk so much about Jesus Christ and not so much about the God?" We turned the question right around and asked her "Well, what do you think?" Then she said "Well, 'the God' (that's how she refers to Heavenly Father, always as 'the God') sent Jesus to the earth for us. And Jesus is His son, so He did all the things the God wanted to do for us" Yup, that's exactly right. It made me think more about how God and Christ really are one in purpose. Everything that Jesus did, He did because His Father commanded him to. So, when we talk about Jesus Christ, what we are really talking about is God's love for us.

Things that broke this week:

-Our cell phone. I may or may not have gotten the SIM card stuck in upside down. We had to take it into the store, where the clerk fixed it by carefully sticking a box cutter into the SIM card and pulling it out. I’ve never seen someone do that before.

-Our washer. There was a fair bit of water left in it that then spilled onto the floor. We mopped it all up. Then I had to make approximately five million phone calls to get it fixed (I'm not a fan of talking on the phone to people I don't know)

On Saturday we went to a Filipino birthday party. Some of the members were telling us how when they served their missions in the Philippines, sometimes the missionaries would live in the same building where the church meetings were. Sometimes there wasn't enough space downstairs for all the classes, so the missionaries would hold meetings in their apartment upstairs. It is so weird to think about how different a mission that must have been.

Ich weiß, dass mein Himmlischer Vater mich liebt. Er hat mich so viel schon gesegnet und ich weiß, dass er mich weiterhin segnen wird. Ich muss nur mein Bestes geben, ihm zu folgen. Es gibt so viele Beweise für seine Liebe. Das größte ist, dass er seinen Sohn Jesus Christus gab, damit wir alle eines Tages zu ihm zurückkehren können.
(I know that my Heavenly Father loves me. He has blessed me so much already and I know that he will continue to bless me. I just have to do my best to follow him. There are so many proofs of his love. The biggest is that he gave us His only son, Jesus Christ, so that we can all return to him one day.)

Mach's gut! Ich hab euch lieb! (Take care! I love you!)
--Sister Stewart

Monday, November 19, 2012

Weihnachten in Wien! (Christmas in Vienna)

Well, we got transfer calls on Friday: We're both staying!! I don't know how we pulled that off. I am excited to be able to spend my birthday and Christmas in a city I know so well, with a companion I get along great with, and with members and investigators that I have really come to love. It will be awesome!

This past week we were able to teach D twice. Once at Family Home Evening with the Bishop's family and one more time before she went out of town for Thanksgiving. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Sister Reid and I have gotten to know her. Sooner or later the Spirit will 'prick her heart' and she will get baptized. It's only a matter of time for that one :)

We also were able to meet twice with W, the music student from China. She is doing great at praying every day and coming to church most weeks, her main problem is finding the time to read in the scriptures every day, so that's what we've really been pushing with her. We read 1 Nephi 17 with her the other day and she really related to the story and was excited to read more!

They have started to put on Christmas lights on the streets of Wien, I'm just waiting for them to turn them all on! Some are on in the evenings, but there are still lots more. Oh, the city will look magical!

This past week we learned a lot about opening up more to the people we meet in the trains and on the streets. We practiced answering questions like "What are you doing here? Why did you come?" Normally I just give some sort of plain vanilla answer "Well, I'm a missionary for my church..." But what we learned and practiced recently was really opening up to the people and telling them the real reason you're here, letting them get to know you on a more personal level, because then they will be more likely to feel the spirit and to open up in return. I have been trying that out recently and the results are amazing! We were talking to this medical student the other day and he asked "So why did you come on a mission?" I was so excited to put my new training into effect. I told him about how the knowledge I have of the gospel really is a sure foundation for my life and how I realized that I want others to have that foundation as well. He really connected with that and we gave him a Book of Mormon and took his phone number! (Unfortunately he's German speaking so we had to pass him off, drat!)

This past Sunday we had a member come who got baptized in Ukraine in 2006, but has since moved here and lost contact with the church. She brought her little boy and stayed for the whole time! I hope we will be able to help her out, communication is a problem but luckily our ward clerk speaks Russian. And we invited the people from our English class to church and some of them came!

Some of the funnier stories from this week-
-We had FHE with the Bishop's family on Monday, at which we played a Ninja Lego game. I am still not too sure on what all the rules were; I just know it involved fighting Guards and finding Golden Weapons
-On Wednesday we ate dinner twice (it was an accident)
-On Saturday we went over to a member's house for dinner and turns out she also invited her friend (who we have taught a couple times) and didn't tell her we would be there. We were able to have a really nice lesson together. The look on the friend's face when she walked in was priceless.

Ich weiß, dass ich in der richtige Ort bin. Egal, wo der Herr mir schickt, werde ich seine Arbeit tun. Es ist wunderbar zu sehen, wie der Geist auf andere Leute wirkt und sie hilft, die richtige Entscheidungen zu treffen. Diese Arbeit ist wirklich die Arbeit des Herrn!
(I know that I am where I belong. No matter where the Lord sends me, I will do the work. It is wonderful to see how the spirit works on others and helps you to make the right choices. This work is truly the work of the Lord!

mit lieben Grüßen,  (with much love!)
--Sister Stewart

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Grasshopper and the Ant


Oh man, I love serving here so much. The ward here is like no other ward I have ever been in, nor will ever be in again. I can't believe how lucky I am that I got to serve here. Transfer calls are this Friday and who knows where they could send me next. I do know that wherever they send me will be exactly where I am supposed to go, but I will miss Vienna a lot.

This week we did an exchange! I got to go work in Graz for a day with Sister Holmstead. That was lots of fun :) Graz is a cool city, definitely smaller than Vienna or Munich, so it was a nice change of pace to be doing missionary work there. Sister Holmstead is one of the funniest people I have ever met. She is also an amazing missionary to teach with, because she really thinks and considers her words before she says them, which makes the people respect what she says a lot more. That is something I want to get better at. Sometimes I just start talking without really knowing where the sentence is going and it gets all twisted around itself. The train ride from Graz was also gorgeous. One of my favorite parts of this mission is the train rides we get to take :)

On Thursday we taught our favorite little family from Vietnam again. We had left them the Restoration DVD and we asked them if they had gotten a chance to watch it. The mom said "I think I watched it 10 times. Maybe more. It's now one of my daughter’s favorites" :)

On Saturday we did a "Finding Day" with our District, which we are now doing every week. Basically we spend one afternoon a week out on the streets talking to people. Sister Reid and I were in Baden, a smaller town about 20 minutes outside of Vienna. We walked around the pedestrian zone for a couple hours. The town was setting up their Christmas lights :) I am so glad that Christmas is coming soon and that there will be lights on at night, because it gets so dark so early here. Seeing all the preparations for the holiday is making me excited!

On Sunday we went to church twice: once in German, and once in English. We had an investigator that we brought to the German speaking ward. So fun, but also very exhausting!

One of my favorite parts of this week was the Relief Society lesson in our ward. This week we were talking about temporal salvation, so one of the topics we were discussing was food storage and being prepared with enough so that your family could get along if something were to happen. Well, as the discussion is going on, the story of the ant and the grasshopper came up. It's a children’s story that has a good moral about being prepared. Sister Picard, who is French, told it. It goes something like this: There once was a grasshopper and an ant. The whole summer long all the grasshopper did was lie out in the sun and sing, while the ant worked busily storing up food for the winter. The grasshopper made fun of the ant and told him that he should just enjoy life, it was summer after all! Then winter came and the ant was all snug in his house with lots of food. The grasshopper came to his door and said please, can I have some of your food? The ant said, no you sang all summer long, and now you can dance.

I kid you not, as soon as Sister Picard finished telling this story, Sister Appiateng, who is from Ghana, piped up from across the room "You forgot the next part. And then the grasshopper died of starvation and the ant added him to his food storage!" We all DIED of laughter. The timing was priceless. I love being in this ward for that very reason: we get so many different opinions and viewpoints that it is never ever boring.

One of our investigators finished the Book of Mormon on Sunday! I think that is the first time I have had that happen on my whole mission. I am really close to finishing too, I just have Ether and Moroni left. And then in January I will start it all over again and read with it with the whole mission!

Ich bin so dankbar für die heilige Schriften. Sie bedeuten mir viel. Das Buch Mormon ist ein Beweis dafür, dass Gott uns liebt. Weil er uns liebt, hat er uns weiter heilige Schrift gegeben. Er spricht zu uns immer noch heute, durch seinen Propheten. Auf Mission haben wir viel Zeit, in den Schriften zu lesen, wofür ich sehr dankbar bin. Ich lerne jeden Tag etwas neues!
(I am so grateful for the scriptures. They mean so much to me. The Book of Mormon is a proof that God loves us. Because he loves us he has given us another scripture. He still speaks to us today through his prophet. On  a mission we have plenty of time to read the scriptures, for which I am very grateful. I learn something new every day.)

Tschüss! Ich hab euch lieb!
--Sister Stewart

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I think we are teaching a person from almost every continent!

Hallo liebe Freunde und Familie!

I continue to be surprised by how much the Lord really does bless us. Truly I notice His hand in this work daily. And I guess that shouldn't be too surprising, because after all, it is His work.

I love the ward here so much, and I love being in the city. It will be strange when (and if) I get transferred somewhere else that is not a big city. I don't know if I know how to be a missionary outside of a city... I might actually get to do all of my study time, and take all of my lunch and dinner breaks! In the city we just go, go, go, which I love, but also can be exhausting.

This past week was Halloween! I wore my Halloween socks and baked a Halloween cake (thanks mom!) that we then shared with D. I even saw a couple kids dressed up.

I will just take this moment to list the nationalities of the people that with met with last week (members and investigators) - Serbia, Hungary, Thailand, Iran, Vietnam, USA, Poland and China. Not a bad sampling of the world. I guess there is a reason it is called the International Ward.

One of my favorite things that we do is teach English class. We teach at the center for young adults. It is a free class that we do for an hour two times a week. The interesting thing is that the vast majority of our students are from Iran. They are either Christian or Zoroastrian and are fleeing Iran and trying to go to America to get a better life. They come here so they can wait for their visas. It is a lot of fun to teach, because they only speak Farsi and a very little bit of English, so we have to take it slow. But they are just about the nicest people you will ever meet. In Iran they are forced to live by the rules of the Muslim government, and all they want to have is religious freedom. Seeing them makes me think about all the people who have come to the US over the last couple hundred years, just looking for a better chance at life. I wonder about the circumstances of some of my own ancestors. It is cool that we can have some little part in helping them along their way.

They are starting to set up the Christmas markets! It is strange because in America there hasn't even been Thanksgiving yet, but here the Christmas markets open up around the middle of November. There is a big one right by the town hall that we pass by a lot and they are already decorating the booths!

Yesterday I taught the lesson in Sunday School. It was about Family Responsibilities. As I was preparing for and teaching the lesson, I really gained a better appreciation for my own family, especially my parents. I have been so blessed in my life to have the parents that I do. Thanks Mom and Dad for setting such a good example for me :) Some of the things I was remembering as I was preparing the lesson were Dad reading to us every night, or Mom asking us every day after school "What did you learn today?" or telling us as we headed out the door "Make good choices!" On my mission I have gained a deeper testimony of the importance of family and how important it is that we have that good foundation in our lives.

We are currently teaching the cutest little family from Vietnam. A whole family! They have two little kids and are here while the dad is getting his PhD. The language is a little hard, but luckily the church has lots of resources. The mom committed to come to church with us this Sunday! She is a little hesitant, but we reassured her that we will be with her every step of the way. I am so exciting to see what happens with them!

Ich weiss, dass der Herr alle seine Kinder liebt. Egal welche Sprache sie sprechen, Ich kann vielleicht die Leute nicht perfekt verstehen, aber ihre Himmlische Vater kennt sie und weisst genau, was sie brauchen. Wenn wir andere Menschen besser kennen lernen, dann lernen wir Gott besser kennen. Sie sind seine Kinder, genau wie uns. Er liebt uns alle!
(I know that the Lord loves all his Children. No matter what language they speak, while I may not understand them perfectly, Heavenly Father knows them and their needs. When we get to know others better, we learn more about God. They are his children just the same as us. He loves us all!)

Mach's gut! Ich habe euch lieb!
--Sister Stewart

Monday, October 29, 2012

It snowed today

Guten tag!

Today it snowed. And it's October. Luckily I have hats and scarves and boots to keep me warm.

Everyone serves us tea when we visit them, which is awesome because it warms you right up, but I always get too eager to drink it and end up burning my tongue.

We went to our Ward Mission Leader's house for dinner! He lives in a village outside of Vienna, so getting to his house involved a somewhat creepy train ride (it was just really dark) and then getting out at a stop that looked like it was in the middle of a field. The station was just one gravel platform. I think I have been serving in big cities too long. I am used to brightly lit train stations with multiple platforms. But the trip out there was worth it. He cooked a Filipino feast. Oh my word it was so tasty. I never knew until I served in this area just how good Filipino food is. We also got to go to a Filipino birthday party this week. There was a whole pig and Filipino sticky rice. Our Ward Mission Leader tricked us into eating intestines.

This week we also watched the Restoration video with one of our investigators in Tagalog. Maybe they just should have called me to the Phillipines.

On Wednesday we went finding with the other missionaries in our District in downtown Wiener Neudstadt. It's a cute little city about 30 minutes outside of Wien. It was so fun to spend the afternoon just wandering around the Pedestrian Zone just talking to people. We talked to one woman who was so touched that we wanted to give her a Book of Mormon. She said "No one's ever given me a book before." She also asked "Why did you talk to me, specifically?" I have been thinking more about that question, and I think that every person we talk to was put in our path by the Lord. Now, they may not want to listen to us, but that doesn't matter. Heavenly Father gives everyone a chance (multiple chances actually). We as missionaries just have to be in the right place at the right time, and then we will meet the prepared people.

Our investigator with a baptismal date postponed. She is still doing great, but she just wants to be really sure before she makes such a big decision.

Something I learned this week: When you have a problem that's bugging you, or when you feel discouraged, go to the Lord in prayer. He WILL help you. And then, once you receive revelation, ponder on what He has told you. This week I was struggling with something, and I prayed really hard about it and got an answer about what I needed to do. I did that, but then I still felt uneasy, so I kept on pondering on the problem and the things I could do to solve it, and then BAM. Heavenly Father was right there again with even more revelation, and more importantly, the peace of mind that I so desperately needed. Then I read in Helamen 10, and I really related to Nephi's experience. So I know that Heavenly Father will not leave us hanging. He will be there, every step of the way, until we find the peace that we are searching for.

Ich liebe euch. Ich bin so dankbar, für die gute Menschen, die ich in meinem Leben habe. Ich weiß, dass Gott mich und alle seine Kinder liebt.
(I love you. I am so thankful for all the good folks in my life. I know that God loves me and all of his children.)

Ich wünsche euch eine schöne Woche!
(I wish you a wonderful week!)
--Sister Stewart

Monday, October 22, 2012

Taufdatum in November! (Baptism in November!)

Hallo liebe Famile und Freunde!  (Hello--my loving family and friends!)

Well, I guess I will start with the biggest piece of news- We set a baptismal date! D will be baptized on the third of November! Please keep her in your prayers.

D is amazing, we have been teaching her for a little over a month now. She really wants to finish the Book of Mormon before she gets baptized (she's about halfway through). To support her in that goal, I decided I will also try and finish before she gets baptized (I am also about halfway through) Wish us luck! If you want to join in this crazy challenge, you can start today in about Alma 30 and then finish before November 3rd. Even if that's not possible for you, I still encourage you to push yourself in your scripture study. If you normally read 10 minutes a day, read 15. If you normally read one page, read two. I know the Lord will bless you as you feast upon the words of Christ!

This past week was one of the busiest so far on my mission. We did splits three times! Wednesday we had a Zone Training Meeting. The Graz sisters came up to Vienna for the meeting and then stayed the night because interviews were the next day. So we got to split with Sister Pingree and Sister Holmstead. Oh, it was so fun to work with Sister Pingree again! 

Thursday we had interviews with President Miles. I love interviews because it is that little extra boost that I need to help me through the transfer.

Friday we went to a work out class that one of the Relief Society sisters teaches in our ward. Oh man, my muscles (especially my glutes) were very sore.

Sunday we got to hear President Monson speak! It was broadcast from Frankfurt. We had two of our investigators come! One of them showed up at 11:15, and then it ended at 11:30. Oops. (I really thought it was supposed to go until 12). They had a translator for him. He would pause after every phrase and then the translator would say what he had said in German. I am so glad that is not my job! It is hard to translate on the fly like that, especially because German and English sentence structure are so different.
Fall has come to Vienna. The leaves are changing colors. The past two days have been very foggy. I am grateful that we can wear boots and scarves; they help so much to keep me warm. I think I will leave lots of my clothes here when I come home, but I will definitely bring back the scarves I have accumulated.
We memorized this scripture in Alma 26:12 this week, and it has become one of my favorites. I am striving to develop this attitude-

“Ja, ich weiß, daß ich nichts bin; was meine Kraft betrifft, so bin ich schwach; darum will ich nicht mit mir selbst prahlen, sondern ich will mit meinem Gott prahlen, denn in seiner Kraft kann ich alles tun; ja, siehe, viele mächtige Wundertaten haben wir in diesem Land vollbracht, und dafür wollen wir seinen Namen preisen immerdar."
(Yea, I know that I am anothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will bnot boast of myself, but I will cboast of my God, for in his dstrength I can do all ethings; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.)

Ich hab euch lieb!  (I love you very much!)
--Sister Stewart

Monday, October 15, 2012

Halfway there

Well, hello there!

This past week was great, we were able to see the rewards of our hard work and also get a glimpse of some of the exciting things we have coming up ahead.

 We also got in contact again with one of the less active members in our ward, S, who we hadn't talked to in about a month because she had moved and we didn't have her new address. Well, we tracked her down. We invited S to have family home evening with her family and she got really excited about it. And then she came to church on Sunday!

This next week President Monson will be visiting Germany, and we get to see him speak via Satellite! It will be broadcast here in Vienna! So exciting!

 This week is my halfway mark! Time on a mission is a very strange thing. The weeks seem like days and the days seem like weeks. I still have a hard time believing that I have already been in Vienna for three months and been on my mission for 9 months. Next summer I will be home! I don't get another August on my mission. Crazy! I want to make it count.

This past week in my scripture study I have been reading in Alma 7. I have used that chapter a lot on my mission to explain the Atonement, but I never realized before reading it this past week that there is so much more in there. After verses 11 and 13 which explain the Atonement, Alma goes on to extend a baptismal commitment, which is perfect. It really is after we start to understand what the Savior did for us that we then develop the wish to follow him and be baptized.

Sorry this is so short, I am a little tired today, we walked all over Vienna and back. The city is so pretty, and I wanted to see the "touristy" bits before it got too cold.

Ich bin so froh, dass ich auf Mission bin. Es ist so toll, dass ich die Gelegenheit habe, andere zu helfen, näher zu Christus zu kommen. Ich versuche, mein Bestes zu geben, und dann kann der Herr Wunder bewirken.
(I am so glad to be on a mission. It is so great to have the chance to help others come unto Christ. I do my best then the Lord works miracles.)

Tschüss! Hab euch lieb!  (I love you!)
--Sister Stewart

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wir haben Propheten heute, und sie sprechen zu uns! (We have prophets today, and they speak to us!)

Guten Tag!

I must apologize, as I was reading over my letter from last week I realized how much I use smiley faces. I will try to restrain myself in the future.

Anyway, this past week was a good one. We taught an adorable little family from Vietnam that the Elders in the 5th ward found. There are so cute and just want to know more about Jesus Christ. Well, that's what we do :)

This past week we also taught C, who had a son die when he was just 20. We read Alma 40:11 with her, and as she finished reading, she literally shouted for joy. Oh man, she is so ready for this message, we just have to get her some good fellowshippers in the ward and get her to church!

Sister Reid and I taught our English class the song "Head, shoulders, knees and toes." So, so, so much fun.
The highlight of the week was of course General Conference. We went to go watch it at the Stake Center. During the Relief Society session (which we watched Saturday afternoon), we sat with an investigator some of the Elders are teaching and her 4 year old son, D. D is a ball of energy who mostly speaks Spanish with a couple German phrases thrown in here and there for good measure. Luckily, we did have some crayons on hand, so now I have a nice drawing, courtesy of D, in my notebook. I loved the talks particularly about the Atonement; because that is something I have wanted to understand better.

Then Saturday night we heard the announcement by President Monson: Elders can serve at 18 and Sisters at 19! We have some 18 year old missionaries in our mission, and they do a great job. I think this means that a lot more Sisters will serve missions, because they won't have time to get married first :)

On Sunday we watched two more sessions. We had 4 of our investigators come to watch the Sunday morning sessions! And one of them brought a friend! :) That was amazing. I especially loved the beautiful music by the choir during the session, that really helped to invite the Spirit (and to break the meeting up, so people stayed interested). W came, and in order to keep her focused, I looked up the scriptures the speakers used and had her read them in Chinese. She especially liked President Monson's talk. She said "I want to hear him again!"

One of my favorite talks was Elder Holland's talk. Oh my goodness, he speaks with power and authority, you can't help but listen. I will be going back and rereading John 21 in a whole new light now.
We got transfer calls this week and have some exciting news! First off, Sister Reid and I will both be staying for another transfer at least. Also, we are getting a set of Elders in our ward!! Oh man, I almost jumped for joy when the Zone Leaders told me that. Our ward really needs Elders right now. There are so many priests that should be preparing to go on missions that need a strong example. And, we will be able to pass off some of our investigators to them, so we can focus more fully on meeting the needs of the needs of the sisters that we teach. I am so grateful, because this is something I have been thinking about. The last transfer I told Heavenly Father I would continue to do my best, but it would be awesome if He could send some Elders our way.

Ich habe diese Arbeit so gern, und ich weiß, dass wenn ich mein Bestes gebe, kann ich anderen helfen. Der Herr will, das wir einander dienen. Ich bin vielleicht nur eine kleine Honigbiene (wie Elder Ballard gesagt hat), aber ich kann anderen jeden Tag helfen, in dem ich aufmerksam bin und meine kleine Teile tun. Wie Sister Burton gesagt hat "First observe. Then serve." Meine Mutter ist ein gutes Beispeil von dieser Grundsatz, und ich will ihr Beispiel folgen.
(I am very fond of this work and I know that if I do my best, it will help others. The Lord wants us to serve each other. Maybe I’m just a little honey bee (as Elder Ballard says) but I can help everyone I know and do my little part. As Sister Burton said, “First Observe. Then Serve.” My mother is a good example of this truth and I will follow her example.)

Ich wünsche euch eine schöne Woche! Tschüss! (I wish everybody a good week!)
--Sister Stewart 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Austausch Miracles :)

Liebe Familie,

This week was stuffed with miracles. Really, sometimes I like to just sit back and watch as the Lord directs this work. I am sure it brings Him a lot of joy to lead us to the right people, to lead the right people to us and to work miracles so that His work can go forward. The logistics involved must be astronomical, but somehow He makes it all work.

We found more new people this last week! One of them is named C. She was a referral from the Zone Leaders. They met her on the street and got her contact info, but we hadn't been able to get a hold of her yet. On Tuesday we had a slot of time where we were trying really hard to make an appointment, but two different investigators cancelled on us, so (a little bit frustrated) we decided to go by and see C. We rang her bell, she let us in and said "I just got home from work" Miracle :) Then she told us how she has started reading in the Book of Mormon that the Elders gave her and that she felt that this book came at the right point in her life. Miracle :) We had to leave pretty soon, but then we were able to see her again on Friday and it turns out it had been a really rough week and she really needed some peace in her life. So we read Alma 7 with her (one of the most comforting chapters in the Book of Mormon, if you ever have a bad day, read it!) and after she read she just had this great smile on her face. Miracle :) Oh man she is awesome.
Wednesday we did an Austausch ( = companion exchange). Sister Reid went to Graz to work with Sister Pingree and Sister Holmstead came here. Sister Holmstead and I actually entered the MTC on the same day, but since I was fast tracked I don't know her that well. But we will get to go home together. Working with her was so fun. They have seen some miracles in Graz lately so she was on the lookout for them all day and would point them out when they happened. For example, she forgot her ticket at home so we had to buy her a new one which caused us to miss the tram and then while we were waiting we met a woman from Thailand who was so open and friendly. Miracle :) Then later on even though there was something wrong with the trams and they weren't running regularly, we still made it to our next appointment only 5 minutes late. Miracle :) Sister Holmstead didn't have a jacket, but it didn't rain all day long. Miracle :)   There are miracles large and small that the Lord works every day, we just need to be on the lookout for them.

Church yesterday was so fun. We had Linger Longer, so everyone brought food and we stayed after church and visited. W, our Chinese investigator was there. We made sure one of the ward missionaries stuck with her and took care of her. It was so funny because the member (who is Filipino) taught W how to say "How are you?" in Tagalog, and W then proceeded to go up to every Filipino member she could find (about half our ward is Filipino) and practice her newly learned skill. It was a very funny and creative way for her to get to know lots of the members of the ward.

Lots of the time when we ask people, "Wie geht's?" (How are you?) on the street or in the tram, we get the response "Kennen wir einander?" (Do we know each other?). I guess it is really not a normal thing for Austrians to greet each other, and they are so surprised when someone is friendly. I just smile and say "No, I'm just trying to be friendly." Hopefully we brighten a few people's days or make them think more about why those two missionaries are so nice to everyone.

Next week is General Conference! Yes! So exciting!! We will watch the Relief Society session on Saturday afternoon, followed by the Saturday morning session (live with the time difference) and then on Sunday watch the Saturday afternoon session and the Sunday morning session (also live).

Ich liebe es, auf Mission zu sein. Ich bin oft überrascht, wie viel der Herr uns segnet. Er hilft mir, Freude zu haben, egal was passiert. Diese Arbeit ist wirklich die Arbeit des Herrn, und er passt auf alle seine Kinder auf.
(I love being on a mission. I am often surprised how much the Lord will bless us. It helps me to have fun, no matter what happens. This is truly the Lord’s work and he takes care of all of his children.)
Mach's gut! Ich hab euch lieb!

--Sister Stewart

Monday, September 24, 2012

Herbst ist gekommen … time to pull out the scarves again :)

Guten tag!

This past week I have noticed the air is really starting to feel like fall. I have dug into my suitcase to pull out my tights and scarves that I haven't used since the winter. In a way it feels like seeing old friends again.
Last Monday Sister Reid and I took advantage of the sunshine and went and saw the gardens at Schönbrunn, a beautiful baroque palace. There is a little hill you can climb up and then you get a gorgeous view of the palace and of part of the city behind it. As I saw all those red roofs stretched out in front of me I couldn't help but think about how miraculous it is that I get to serve here. I am grateful to the Lord everyday that I have the opportunity to be here.

I realized something the other day. I have served about half my mission (my halfway mark is next month, gasp!) and all of that time I have been in big cities, first Munich and now Vienna. Sometimes it can be a bit intimidating in a city, because you are surrounded by people all day, every day. But it is also an incredible blessing to get to know the people here and to just soak up the culture. We have so many opportunities to do cool things on P-Day, and we see other missionaries all the time, which is a great support. So who knows what my next area will look like, but if it's another city, I'm ready for it :)

Something cool about Vienna: Vienna has a lot of streetcars, or trams. However, the streets of Vienna are very narrow, so if someone doesn't park their car close enough to the curb, the tram can't get past and is stuck. Then other traffic and possibly more trams get stuck behind it. The tram driver will then ring their bell a lot. If the person doesn't come in a minute or two to move their car, the fire department comes and moves the car over a few inches so the tram can get by. I have heard of this process but have never seen it in person. Well, last week there was a bit of a hubbub outside our window while we were studying. I just attributed it to normal city goings-on until Sister Reid got up to get a drink and looked out the window. Turns out a tram got stuck right down the street from us and they had to call the fire department to move the car. Unfortunately, we were too late and looked out the window in time to see the fire men putting away their equipment. Blasted newts! One of these days I will see it.

This week we met with D three times! She is an American working at the embassy. There have been multiple events in her life that have prepared her for gospel. She is so ready. The members of the ward have been really supportive as we have been working with her. She already has made some great friendships. Unfortunately, she will be out of town on business for the next two weeks :( She will still be able to come to church in between, so that's good.

Last week we got 3 referrals! Now we have all these great new people to go out and contact. I am excited to see what will happen.

A few weeks ago Sister Reid and I talked to a man on the U-Bahn named M. He took the Book of Mormon though, and was really interested in talking more about God. So we met with him last week. His big question was "But how can God have a son?" His view of God is that God is bigger than everything; that God is incomprehensible, and that saying that God has a son is limiting him to our human view point. Thinking about what M said caused me to delve deeper into my belief about God. Here is what I believe: God is our Heavenly Father. I believe, like the angel Gabriel tells Mary "für Gott ist nichts unmöglich." (“for God nothing is impossible”) Therefore, who am I to say that God can or cannot have a son? All things are in His power, and if I believe the Bible and the Book of Mormon (which I do), then I KNOW that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Because God loves us, He sent His Son.  (We passed M off to the Elders, since he speaks German)

I also realized that even though we can logical explain things to people, even though we can put together good scripturally based arguments, ultimately it is the Spirit that does the convincing. It is through the Holy Ghost that I have gained my testimony of God and of Jesus Christ. When I read in the scriptures I feel that confirmation, but without the Spirit I would not have the sure knowledge that I do.

Ich liebe es, mit den Menschen über das Evangelium zu sprechen. Ich lade die Menschen gern ein, aber sie müssen die Entscheidung selbst treffen, ob sie unsere Botschaft annehmen oder nicht. Jeder hat die Entscheidungsfreiheit. Obwohl ich vielleicht nicht so viele Taufen auf Mission sehen werde, ich kann erfolgreich sein indem ich Menschen jeden Tag einladen, näher zu Christus zu kommen.
(I love to talk to people about the Gospel. I issue an invitation of welcome to people, but they must make the decision for themselves whether to accept our message or not. Everyone has their agency. Although I may not see many baptisms in this mission, I can be successful as I invite people every day to get closer to Christ.)

Tschüss! Bis bald!
--Sister Stewart

Monday, September 17, 2012

We rode bikes through Munich :)

Guten Tag!

This past week was one of the most unique I have had on my mission so far.

It started out fairly normally. We had appointments with most of the
investigators we found last week. It is always cool to see how the people
we teach are starting, step by step, to change their lives.

The second half of the week was anything but normal. Wednesday night the
sisters serving in Graz came to stay with us for the night because on
Thursday we headed to Munich together for Sisters Conference! We woke up on
Thursday morning, got ready, went down to the train station, printed out
our tickets and then went to go get on our train, except we missed it
because I read the wrong platform number---ooops. So then we had to wait an
hour for the next train, which ended up being delayed by half an hour, oh
joy. We got on that train and rode it to Salzburg, and then we transferred
trains and rode the rest of the way to Munich. Those were some of the
longest train rides of my life. Luckily, we still got there in time.
Thursday night we ate dinner with everybody and then most of us slept at
the mission home. There are 24 sisters total in the mission, so some of
them got shipped out to a hotel.

Friday was an amazing day. In the morning all the companionships shared
little lessons they had prepared so we all got to learn from each other’s
teaching styles. Then we headed out to rent bikes and go on a bike ride
through Englischer Garten, Munich's biggest park. Navigating through the
streets of downtown Munich was interesting, but once we got to the park, it
was so much fun! The weather was beautiful, sunny with a little nip in
the air. We rode around a little lake and then sat at some tables to eat
lunch. And while we were eating a Bavarian band started to play. It
felt like we were living a scene out of a movie, probably part of a
chick flick with Meg Ryan. That evening we had a discussion with
President Miles during which he (and some of the other sisters) said
some things that I really needed to hear.

Saturday morning we ended with a testimony meeting and then Sister
Reid, and I, along with Sisters Pingree and Holmstead (who are serving
in Graz) got on the loooong train ride (4 and half hours) home. Sister
Reid and I at least didn't have to transfer trains, but once we
arrived in Vienna, the Graz sisters had to get on another 2 and a half
hour train ride.

Sunday was a full day. We had three of our investigators at church!
D, who is our Polish investigator with a baptismal date, came! We
met with him after church and with the help of a Polish speaking
member we talked about repentance. D talks a lot about how he is
standing at an intersection, and he doesn't know which way to go. As
we were teaching, we bore testimony that the way to go is to follow
Christ and be baptized. We told him he needs to pray about it. He did
pray at the end of the lesson, with a little help. We are meeting with
him again tomorrow. It has been cool to see that even though he is not
all that sure right now, he is still keeping his commitments. He is
willing to try it out and see what happens.

Ich habe auf Mission gesehen, wie oft der Geist zu uns spricht und wir
es nicht merken. Ich habe begonnen zu lernen, auf diese ganz leise
Stimme zu hören. Manchmal meinen wir das Gedanken wie "Ich soll diese
Person anrufen" unsere eigene Gedanken sind, aber sie sind oft die
Flüstern des Geistes. Man muss sehr aufmerksam sein, um sie wahr
zu nehmen. Ich habe Wunder erlebt, wenn ich diese Eingebungen gefolgt
habe. Ich lade euch alle ein, aufmerksamer und empfänglicher für den
Geist zu sein. Ich kann versprechen, ihr werdet auch Wunder sehen!
(I have learned on this mission that often the Spirit speaks to us and we do not notice it. I have begun to learn to hear this quiet voice. Sometimes we think thoughts like “I want to call on this person”, are our own thoughts, but they are often whisperings of the Spirit. One has to be very attentive to recognize it. I have seen miracles when I followed these promptings. I invite all of you to be attentive and receptive to the Spirit. I can promise that you will see a miracle.)

Ich habe euch lieb!
--Sister Stewart

Monday, September 10, 2012

Oh my goodness gracious!

Just when I thought we were free of the hot summer (the last week has been relatively cool) today it is HOT again.

So much to tell and so little time! I apologize in advance if this is a little hard to follow.

First story of the week: D. D is Polish. He is an investigator that the Elders in Wien found. I had taught him a few times, but since he speaks better English than German, they passed him off to us. The first appointment we had with him was last Wednesday and we were actually able to set a baptismal date with him! That was a miracle and a half, because there is a bit of a language barrier. We set up another appointment for him on Saturday, but we knew we had to get a Polish speaker there to help us out. Luckily there is a member of our ward who served a Polish speaking mission in Chicago (random I know). He came to the appointment on Saturday and boy, what a difference that made. Where before D had been pretty quiet, now he just talked and talked. It was really cool to be able to see him express himself in his native language. His baptismal date is for the end of September, so that means he needs to come to church every Sunday between now and then. We'll have to exercise some real faith!

This past week we found 5 new investigators! That's right. And most of them were found through members. I really have a strong testimony now that the best way to find the people who are ready for the gospel is through the members. It is much more effective than talking to people on the street or knocking on doors (or in our case, ringing doorbells, since you don't actually knock on doors here).

This past Sunday was probably one of my favorite days on my mission so far. So many good things happened. First off, D came to church! And he came to all three hours! That was awesome, and we found another member who is Polish that could talk to him! We also had two more investigators in sacrament meeting, and then a friend of a member who has been to church a couple times came up to us and said she wants to meet with us! It was just amazing how many miracles we saw.

A little back-story on one of those miracles: We teach English classes. Most of the people in our English classes are from Iran. They are either Christian or Zoroastrian and have fled Iran to escape the Muslim government. They come to Vienna to wait for visas to get to America. So they come to us to learn English. These are some of the nicest, most humble, and genuine people I have ever met. I can only imagine how hard it would be to just pick up and go, leaving most of your things behind, in search of religious freedom. Anyway, lots of the Iranians have shown interest in the gospel, but the problem is communication. We do have selections of the Book of Mormon in Persian (Farsi) but we have been trying to find a way that we could teach them. And then low and behold we find out on Sunday that the ward executive secretary speaks Persian. His mother is from Iran. Not only that, but then he said "Oh, and I found about 12 copies of the Gospel Principles manual in Persian. We could maybe do a whole Sunday School class in Persian." If that's not an answer to prayer, I don't know what is.

This week is going to be amazing. The area is literally exploding right now. We have so many cool people to teach, I am sorry I can't tell you all of their stories.

This week we also get to go to Munich! We will be having Sisters Conference with all the Sister Missionaries in the whole mission! I'm so excited!

Vielen vielen Dank für alle eure Gebete. Ich spüre sie. Es hilft mir zu wissen, dass so viele Leute Himmlischen Vater um Hilfe für mich und meine Mitarbeiterin bitten. Der Herr hat uns so reichlich gesegnet, und ich weiß, dass er uns weiterhin segnen wird, wenn wir Glauben ausüben.
(Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all your prayers. I feel them. It helps to know that so many people ask Heavenly Father to help me and my companion. The Lord has blessed us beyond measure and I know that he will continue to bless us if we exercise faith.)

Ich hab euch lieb!
--Sister Stewart

Monday, September 3, 2012

Railjet nach München und zurück nach Wien (Railjet to Munich and back to Vienna)

O, meine Güte! So viel ist passiert! War es wirklich nur eine Woche?!?
(Good gracious! So much has happened! Was it really only one week?)

The past week has been just a little on the crazy side. Monday for P-Day Sister Taysom and I played volleyball with the elders, during which I managed to bruise my thumb, nothing too serious. It just made me laugh; I often manage to collect bruises of one sort or another on P-Day. I have finally been venturing around without an ankle brace and it feels SO GOOD.

Tuesday we had district meeting in addition to teaching 4 lessons, we were sooo busy. Everyone was sad to see Sister Taysom leave, and then when I would tell them I was getting a Golden they would say "ooo, fun!"

So Wednesday Sister Taysom and I left for Munich. It actually worked out pretty well because all the trainers go to Munich to pick up their new companions and Sister Taysom was getting transferred to Munich anyway, so she came along with us. The train ride was pretty good except for the fact that we had to change trains in Salzburg. We got off a very nice Railjet and instead boarded a rickety commuter train that seemed to stop in every little town between Salzburg and Munich. It was not air-conditioned and very, very toasty. It was fun to spend some time on trains with some of the other missionaries; it was like a little vacation for us. We arrived in Munich safe and sound and I got to see Sister Pingree! She was transferred to Graz, so we will be in the same Zone!

Going to the mission home with the other trainers was surreal, I had the feeling like "Wait, are you really sure you want me to train? Didn't I just get here myself?" It really doesn't feel like all that long ago that I was spending my first night in the mission home, but then I look back and realize how much has happened since then. There were 4 sisters who came this transfer,  one German and three Americans. One of the American sisters has a Swiss passport. That meant she and the German sister were automatically assigned to Switzerland (Swiss visas are so hard to come by, anyone who has one goes into Switzerland and never comes out). As a result, I knew that one of the two remaining Sisters would be my companion. So, I am training Sister Reid! She is from Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Wednesday night we had a testimony meeting with the new missionaries and then slept at the mission home. Thursday morning we had training with President and Sister Miles and then we got on a train to Vienna at 3:30, which put us back in Vienna around 8 (this time we rode the whole way in a very nice Railjet).That meant we basically had to go straight home. It was fun to ride through the countryside with all the newbies exclaiming over the scenery. Austria really is a beautiful place.

Friday was an interesting day. I don't think anything we planned for Friday actually happened. It was just a lesson to me that it is good to make plans, but the Lord also has things in mind that we need to do. I just had to laugh as one after another all of our plans fell through. It really taught me that ultimately, I am not the one in charge here, God is.

Training is fun! Sister Reid is so well prepared and so ready and willing to go to work. I am excited to be able to learn from her. She has some good ideas for how we can improve our missionary work. There are so many exciting things that will happen this transfer; I'm really looking forward to it.

Ich weiß, dass Gott all unsere Gebete erhört. Er weiß, was wir brauchen und er ist bereit, es uns zu geben. Wir müssen nur bitten. Ich weiß auch, dass obwohl ich nicht vollkommen bin, es ist genug, wenn ich mein Bestes gebe. Ich werde bestimmt Fehler machen, aber das ist okay. Hauptsache ist, dass ich davon lerne und mich bemühe, weiterhin mein Bestes zu geben.
(I know that God answers our prayers. He knows what we need and he is willing to provide it. We need only ask. I know that although I am not perfect, if I give it my best---that is enough. I will certainly make mistakes, but that is OK. The important thing is that I keep trying and continue to give it my best.)

Tschüss! Bis bald!
--Sister Stewart

Monday, August 27, 2012

Eine Golden kommt! (The Golden One Comes!)

Guten Tag!

I guess I'll start with the biggest piece of news first. We got transfer calls on Friday! The call didn't come until pretty late (they normally call about 8 in the morning, we didn't get called until 10, needless to say it was nerve wracking). Sister Taysom is going to Munich! She will serve in the third ward, just like I did! And, I will be training! There is a brand new, "Golden" missionary coming! I will go to Munich to pick her up on Wednesday. It would be so weird to be trained in the International Ward. I know I will have to speak German with her as much as possible to help her learn. I am really humbled by the opportunity I have to train. I hope I don't corrupt her too much :)

This week we did my very first Austausch! (Exchange) Since our mission is HUGE and there are so few sisters, Austauschs (at least for me) have been few and far between. Sister Taysom went to Neumarkt (which is near Salzburg) and I stayed here in Vienna. The Sisters serving in Neumarkt are the ones closest to us at the moment. The train ride there takes about 3 hours. So we met them about halfway (in Linz) to trade companions. So I got to work with Sister Marquardt. We had some really good appointments and met some cool people. We contacted a couple Africans on the street and in the Strassenbahns. Talking to Africans is so fun. They are such open, friendly, and humble people (the problem is following through with them; they are hard to get in contact with again). Sister Marquardt hasn't really served in any big cities so far, so it was a very different experience for her. It was so, so hot. Since we were riding in Strassenbahns the whole day that made the heat even worse. They are not air-conditioned, so they basically become ovens. Being in charge of the area for a day gave me a taste of what it will be like to take over the area when Sister Taysom leaves.
Friday we had a Sports Night with the ward, which went really well. A lot of the youth came, as well as a friend of one of the members who has been to a lot of activities. The second counselor in the bishopric brought watermelon! The members here are awesome.

On Saturday we visited a Synagogue with one of our investigators who is a deacon in the Catholic church (he is a funny person). Synagogues here in Germany and Austria have very tight security. We had to e-mail them with our names before hand and then make sure to bring photo ID. The service was really enlightening. It was interesting to see how they worship God, and to think about how in the end, all anybody wants is to be close to Him. I also was able to see some of the parallels to our faith and realize where some of the things that we do come from.

Last night we had an eating appointment with one of the families from the ward. It is the family of N, who got baptized last week (and confirmed this week!). They are from Ghana. There are three sisters who moved here about 20 years ago and have raised their children here. As a consequence, the family speaks a mixture of German, English, and their native language. They will start a sentence in German, throw in some English words, and then when they get irritated start speaking their language from Ghana. At one point one of the moms yelled at her children "Guys, the missionaries cannot understand you!" So then they switched to English. It was so funny.

W, our Chinese investigator, is doing pretty good! On Sunday she came to church! We just have to get her reading in the Book of Mormon more.

Ich bin so dankbar, hier in Wien zu sein! Meine neue Mitarbeiterin und ich werden eifrig arbeiten, um die Auserwählte Menschen zu finden. Hoffentlich ist sie bereit, Wunder zu sehen :)
(I am very grateful to be here in Vienna! My new companion and I will work hard to find the elect. I hope she is ready to see miracles.)
Tschüss! Ich hab euch lieb!

--Sister Stewart

P.S. the guy sitting next to me at the Internet Cafe just asked if it was OK if he smoked (which people do in the Internet Cafe all the time even though it is NOT ALLOWED.) I told him I would rather that he not, and then he didn't! Hooray for people who are still polite! Hooray for small victories!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Baptism!

We had a baptism yesterday! Hooray! It was a wonderful day. N's family basically took care of the whole thing. Her mother and her two aunts made amazing food; her brother baptized her and her cousin gave one of the talks. Sister Taysom said the closing prayer and I played the piano, so we were able to have a small part of it too :) The water was sooo cold (apparently the hot water was not working) and she had to be dunked twice, but she is baptized! Most of the ward was there (it was just right after church) and Sister Taysom and I had four investigators there, the Zone Leaders had another one and then the Elders from the Third Ward brought two more. So fun! Baptism days are the best.

This past week we had Zone Conference. It was so great to be able to meet with President and Sister Miles and the other missionaries in our Zone. We talked a lot about using the Book of Mormon and how effective a tool it is to find people and to teach people. And then after we left Zone Conference that day we were able to give out two copies of the Book of Mormon just in the U-Bahn! At our appointment that night we were teaching Y L and her mother and sister, our Chinese family. We were trying to explain what commandments were, but not doing a very good job of it (language barrier). So then we turned to the back of the Chinese Book of Mormon and they found "Commandments" in the Index and started looking up all these scriptures that talk about them. They did it all on their own. It was so cool to see them actually using the Book of Mormon by themselves to find answers to their questions.

Thursday night we had an interesting appointment. It was with a less active member of our ward. We thought we were just going over to teach her, but when we got there, she had two friends over, plus two of her daughters and their boyfriends. The TV was on and they were all eating dinner together. It was a little chaotic. We were like "uhhhh, okay" She gave us something to eat, and we decided we would just eat and then maybe try and share a little thought and then go. BUT  THEN, one of her friends (who we have given a Book of Mormon to before) asked us a question about it and all of a sudden all the attention was focused on us. We turned the TV off and just started answering their questions. One of the member's daughters is really genuinely interested and we gave Books of Mormon to both the boyfriends. It was just amazing to see how fast the appointment turned around. It ended up being one of the best appointments I have had so far on my mission.

Some other tidbits
-I play the piano in Relief Society, guess I need to find some time to practice
-If you have the book "Teaching of the Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith" that is being used for Relief Society this year, if you look at page 168, that's a picture of our chapel here in Vienna, and the people are from the Vienna 2nd ward, which also meets in our building
-Even though I live in Vienna, I hardly know any Austrians

Diese Woche habe ich viele gute Erlebnisse gehabt. Es ist wunderbar zu sehen, wie der Herr diese Arbeit führt. Obwohl es nicht immer leicht ist, er wird uns immer helfen, diese Arbeit zu tun, weil es ihm so wichtig ist. Ich bin dankbar sein Werkzeug hier in Österreich zu sein für diese kurze Zeit. Ich weiß, wenn ich mein Beste gebe, wird es genug sein. Ich weiß, dass die Kirche wahr ist und dass Gott uns liebt.
(This week I have had many good experiences. It is wonderful to see how the Lord leads this work. Although it is not always easy to do, he will always help us because it is so important to him. I am grateful to be one of His tools her in Austria for a short time. I know when I do my best, it will be enough. I know that the Church is true and that God loves us.)

Tschüss! Baba!
--Sister Stewart

Monday, August 13, 2012

Taufe nächste Woche! (Baptism this week!)

Hallo zusammen!

This past week has been pretty good. Last Monday on P-Day we went to a park and played on giant swings with the Elders. The playgrounds in Germany and Austria are ridiculous. You would never find anything like them in the U.S. (probably because of the liability). Of course the Elders made a competition of who could touch these block things at the top of the hill ten times, I was just grateful to be able to get on the swing at all :)

We were able to meet with K (who we met last week, the one we ran into again on the U-Bahn) twice before she flew to Peru. We gave her a Spanish Book of Mormon. She told us how she has a strong faith in Christ; she just hasn't found a church yet. She said she will be gone until about the end of September! We will definitely be calling her when she is back.

N had her baptismal interview yesterday! So it looks like we will have a baptism this Sunday! YES! N is so great, she has grown up in the church her whole life, she just isn't baptized yet because her father didn't support it when she was a kid. But now she is an adult and can make her own decisions. Hopefully her brother, who was baptized last year, will baptize her :) The ward is very excited for her, so we should have a good turnout.

This past week we were also able to meet with S, a member from Nepal. She and her husband joined the church about two years ago and they just had a baby. Even though they live in very humble circumstances very far from their families, they have such strong faith.

I am getting more familiar with getting around in Vienna. Let me tell you, we definitely get our money's worth out of our monthly tickets. I think we spend more time in the U-Bahns, Trams, and Busses than anybody else. I knew the transportation system in Munich like the back of my hand and I am getting there in Vienna. I can hardly remember what it is like to just get in a car and go. Being on public transportation as a missionary is good though, because it gives us more opportunities to talk with people (they can't walk away, ha ha!)

This Sunday I gave a talk on "Why do we go to the temple?" in Sacrament meeting. As I was thinking about it, I realized the main reason I go to the temple is to feel the Spirit there. Because it is a place so separate from the rest of the world, I am able to feel the Spirit there unlike any other place on earth. I love the feeling of being able to put my watch and cell phone in the locker and just focus on Heavenly Father and listening for His voice. Our ward is going to the temple this week in Frankfurt, which is outside the mission. Because of our mission boundaries and the fact that I will probably never serve in Switzerland (sniffle, sniffle, tear, tear) I may not get to the temple on my mission. So for those of you who can, go to the temple! Go often!

Ich weiß, dass mein Himmlischer Vater mich liebt. Ich weiß es gewiss. Ich will, dass andere Menschen diese Erkenntnis erlangen. Deshalb bin ich auf Mission. Obwohl es manchmal schwer ist und es gibt so viel, was wir tun müssen, es hilft mir immer daran zu denken, warum ich hier bin.
(I know that my Heavenly Father lives. I know it without a doubt. I want other people to obtain this knowledge. That’s why I’m on a mission. Although it is sometimes difficult and there is so much we must do, it always helps me when I remember why I am here.)

Tschüss! Mach's gut!
--Sister Stewart

Monday, August 6, 2012

It is very hot, but miracles happen!

Guten tag!

The thing that I think about most when I think about this past week,
is how hot it has been. Luckily, since I grew up in Virginia, I am
used to hot, humid weather. Despite the weather we have been able to
see some great progress with the people we are teaching.

N is our investigator with a baptismal date. Things with her are
going great. She grew up in the church and is very familiar with the
gospel and really has a testimony that it is true, she just hasn't
gotten baptized before because her dad was against it. It is exciting
that we get to be the missionaries to 'seal the deal' and see her
enter the waters of baptism. We met with her this past week and went
over the baptismal interview questions with her, now we just have to
set up the interview and put together the program for the baptism!

The Chinese family we teach has been making great progress. The Mama
in particular has developed so much faith and wants to be baptized.
The problem is she is only visiting here in Austria and when she goes
back to China, she will have no support at all in the town where she
lives. Sometimes, I just get mad at how unfair the world can be. I
just have to remind myself that God has a plan (Sister Taysom always
tells me of this). The family will pray together about what they
should do.

My favorite story from this week is Karina. On Wednesday, as Sister
Taysom and I were on the way to Leadership Training, a woman came up
to us and asked if we were on the way to church. She then said 'I just
really need to find a church.' So we started talking to her and it
turns out we were getting on the same Strassenbahn, which drives right
past the church on Silbergasse, so we were able to show it to her. She
is from Peru, and her family still lives there. It is really hard for
her right now because her mom is sick in the hospital. She can't fly
home to see her until the end of this week. We got her phone number
and told her we would call.

Then on Thursday as we were heading out for the day, we saw her again!
It was actually a miracle because we checked the mail on the way out
and the mission newsletter was there, so we read that for a few
minutes, which caused us to just miss the U-Bahn when we got to the
station, so we had to wait for the next one. And when we got in the
next train, guess who was there? Karina! She told us how the night
before she had been feeling really sad and weak, but then she thought
of us. Her mom had gotten worse. I gave her a Book of Mormon in German
(if only I had had a Spanish one on me!) and committed her to read. It
was just really cool because at that moment I could tell she just
needed someone to talk to, and Heavenly Father sent us.

Some random tidbits from this past week-
-Up until Friday, I had not eaten at McDonald's on my mission (not
because I don't like it, just because I never really had the
opportunity). Then on Friday by some twist of fate we ended up eating
at McDonald's not once, but twice.
-On Tuesday at English class we had 5 men (no women), most of whom are
Muslim. It was hilarious.
-I have applied for an Austrian visa! Hopefully it will come soon
(Sister Taysom still doesn't have hers) I can be in Austria for three
months without a visa, so we're good for now.

Manchmal kann ich kaum glauben, dass ich auf Mission in WIEN sind. Es
ist so cool! Ich habe besonders diese Woche gesehen, wie der Herr uns
segnet, wenn wir gehorsam sind. Ich bin einfach glücklich, wenn ich
die Gebote und die Missionsregeln halte. Obwohl wir vielleich nicht so
viele Taufen sehen, der Herr segnet uns. Wenn wir unser Bestes geben,
werden wir erfolgreich sein, egal ob die Leute unsere Botschaft
annehmen oder nicht.
(Sometimes I can hardly believe that I have a mission in VIENNA.  Ii is so cool! I have particularly seen this week, how the Lord our blesses us when we are obedient. I'm just happy when I follow the commandments and mission rules. Although we are not seeing many baptisms, the Lord will bless us. If we do our best to we will be successful, no matter whether the people accept our message or not.)

Alles Gute!
--Sister Stewart