Week 27…"Christmas and Adventzeit have arrived in Vienna"
Hallo liebe Familie und Freunde!!
Tis the season and deck the halls... Christmas and Adventzeit have arrived in VIENNA! Charming little (actually really very big) Christmas markets have exploded around every corner, and beautiful lights are hanging over the streets, on buildings, sign posts and even on the S-Bahn. The delicious scent of nutmeg, citrus and chocolate and hot cider permeate the air and the Christmas desserts and delicacies are everywhere. I am most thankful to be a missionary during this magical time in Austria.
Over the past week, I have said goodbye to one companion and greeted another! Sister Judd is now serving in nearby Graz as Sister Training Leader, so we will have the opportunity to go on Tausch together! :) Sister Green and I have been "reunited" so zu sagen, and are so happy and excited to be working together here in Vienna. It's kind of surreal being able to work with my MTC companion again, but particularly special at the same time. Seeing her again makes me realize how FAST time goes. Both of us have been out for 6 months and have learned a lot: it's now time for us to take what we've learned and add it together and apply it to most effectively work here in the Vienna 1st ward.
This week was extremely hectic with getting two sisters moved out of our apartment, getting two sisters moved in, saying goodbyes and hellos and serving the Lord. Thursday of last week was transfer day, and because Sister Judd and Sister Harman left earlier in the morning, Sister Clark and I had the opportunity to be companions for a day. It was so much fun being able to spend time with Sister Clark as companions again. :) I love her so much!! We were able to have Thanksgiving lunch/dinner with some American families in Sister Clark's ward. I heard you got the pictures from Sister Rhee!! Although it wasn't completely "home", I felt so at peace and loved with these families. I got to spend time with cute 9 year old Julianna Rhee-- talking about horses and swim team and dogs (she's a little version of me!), and got to spend some time in the yard playing with the family dog Balli. It was just like being at home!! Thanksgiving was wonderful overall. I know you prayed that I would feel gratitude and not be homesick and that is exactly how I felt. We ate plenty of traditional American turkey and rolls and yams and potatoes-- everything tasted soooooo good and it was comforting to be among some fellow American Saints during this holiday. I thought a lot about you, my dear family, and want to let you know that not a moment has gone by that I don't think of you fondly and lovingly! I am so grateful for all you do for me and your prayers. I feel them each day, and even the thought of prayers in my behalf gives me strength and courage to do what I do each and every day.
For the majority of our weekend, Sister Green and I had the opportunity, along with the other Vienna missionaries, to volunteer and help out with the Vienna International Charity Bazaar held each year at the Vienna Austria Center. Friday afternoon we helped set up the stands and chairs and booths, and then Saturday got to help with selling items. Missionaries have helped out each year for quite a few years in a row, and it has made a good impression on the Church. It's always good to show people that we are normal, average people who are simply performing a work of love and dedication. Sister Green and I had a neat opportunity to talk to many people about our faith and what we do as missionaries, as people came up to us and asked about our nametags. We talked with people from all over the world! We found quite a few of potentials to teach the Gospel. Any opportunity to FIND the Lord's children who want to hear about the Savior is always a great one to take! We had prayed earlier that day that Heavenly Father would give us the opportunity to find some of His prepared to teach, and He answered our prayers! There is great power in prayer and faith and putting forth our effort in working. Prayer just doesn't work without action, doing something...forgetting about ourselves and relying solely on our Heavenly Father.
I know Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas is right on it's way, but I want to take this time to simply express gratitude for being able to serve a full-time mission. My heart is honestly so full as I sit and write this email. Even during the hard times, (and I have plenty) I learn so many things. I have never had so many, daily, almost life changing learning experience than here on my mission. When everyone told me that a mission would be hard, I expected it to be hard in completely other ways that it is. Simply put, a mission experience and the emotions connected cannot be put into words. My mission has taught me so much. As I look back in retrospect over the past six months, I have made plenty of mistakes. But these mistakes have taught me and have given me experience to become better. We give our best, we try our hardest, we mess up, we succeed, and we progress. As long as we are willing to PRESS FORWARD and give it our best, the Lord will help us become who we want to become. He cannot change us without us wanting to be changed. When we want to change, when we want to be better, when we want to be more refined, the Lord blesses us bountifully with gifts and talents and trials and blessings that ultimately make up a recipe for a better refined, dedicated, sanctified individual. I am so grateful I have decided to serve a mission. I'm not a perfect missionary, and I have LOTS to learn and I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for this Sister Motto!
I am so grateful for this unique opportunity to walk hand in hand with my Savior, going about His work, and being able to serve Him 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. He has given me so much in my life. Where much is given, much is required (thanks for always saying that Mom!) and we have been given SO MUCH. I see individuals here on my mission who have literally nothing: in temporal and physical needs, as well as spiritual nourishment. (Even in this prosperous city, there is plenty of poverty.) There has been nothing more rewarding that I have ever been given in my entire life, than to see someone broken, beaten, and lost, and see them accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Simply put...my message today is this. The Lord has commanded us to feed His sheep, to find that lost lamb, to nourish it and take care of it and bring it back to His fold. We can all do this everyday of our lives...missionary or not. At this time of my life, I am a called servant of Jesus Christ to bear witness and to preach His Gospel for it is true and the only way we can return to Him is by accepting and living it.
What a priviledge it is to bear His name upon my heart, each and every day, and to be His representative.
I love you all so much! Stay healthy and enjoy the beautiful season to celebrate and remember our Savior's birth.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MCKENNA TODAY!!! I love you so much!
Liebe Grüße from your favorite Austrian missionary,