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