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