Greetings from a very cold and very snowy Vienna, Austria! (Finally the snow is falling...and all around is white and beautiful! Mom you were right...Vienna looks even more magical with the snow!) What a beautiful January (Jänner here in Austria) day to celebrate the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart! :) As I sit here in the freezing internet cafe, I am excited to tell you about our great week with fantastic appointments, including interviews on Friday with President and Sister Miles. But I have to write fast before my fingers fall off……. We were able to meet with Nicole and her family again this week and re-taught parts of the Plan of Salvation, with an emphasis on eternal families and the temple. We talked about family history, and Nicole found that to be "sehr sehr schön" . Nicole is making incredible progress! There was a moment during our lesson, talking about what a blessing the family is, that the Spirit filled my heart with warmth. In that moment, I was so very grateful for the family that I have been blessed with in my life, and that gratitude is simply overflowing and grows more and more each day.
Also in our week, we visited in our districts with the Miles. Again my interview went wonderful! President Miles is so positive, complementary and gracious. He loves the work we are doing in Vienna at this time! I am so grateful for his wisdom and his love for all of the missionaries. He gives great advice which comes directly from his heart. One can feel his genuine love for and trust in each missionary, and that means a lot to me. I love the feeling of energy and renewal of commitment after interviews, conferences, and trainings. It truly is incredible the power unity among missionaries, and our goals, and what it brings in missionary work! Sister Miles is also one of the cutest and sweetest missionary moms...she laughs and smiles with all of us, but at the same time, encouraging all of us to improve and work diligently. I feel so blessed to have the Miles´ as my mission parents! I feel so fortunate to have/had already such awesome companions -- I love Sister Green and she inspires me so much every day!
The Senior Couple in our District
Our awesome and amazing district enjoy Wienerscnitzel
This week, I have felt an overwhelming desire to express my love for my Father in Heaven. I have begun a little "Gratitude Journal" that I carry around with me, and whenever I feel a sense of gratitude for something or someone, I write it down. At the end of the day, I look at the list and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to Heavenly Father. I know He is there. He loves us. Whenever we feel alone, sad, discouraged, or weak, all it takes is us to get on our knees and whisper a prayer. Most of the time, getting down on our knees is the hardest part. But I can promise that as we kneel in prayer in gratitude for all we are given and are blessed with, our hearts and minds will be opened, and we will have a more illuminated, elevated, wholesome understanding of His love for each of us.
I love you all!! I feel your prayers each day, and along with the strength which comes from the Lord Himself....that´s what keeps me going.
This week has surely been one of the most interesting and adventurous that I have experienced so far! Some of our funniest and most spiritual moments have been with old men (meant in the best way) --Heavenly Fathers wonderful Sons of God. I'd better explain...here you go:
Last Monday following emails, Sister Green and I went grocery shopping at our favorite little store of Hofer. As we were loading our groceries into our bags, I noticed an older gentleman bending down next to us, to what appeared to be getting something from his walker-wheelchair basket. Well that is what we thought. Within seconds I noticed his face had completely gone white and began to go blue. My nursing/lifeguard instincts kicked in and I ran over and supported him on his back so he would not fall, and cried out for help. The sweet man, who at this point was still coherant, said "Tut mir leid, tut mir leid," (I'm so sorry, I'm sorry) over and over. I assured him everything would be ok, and asked for help again. Oddly enough nobody in the store helped me. The cashier just stared in panic, and I said over and over again, "Bitte Können Sie mir helfen?!" (Can you please help me?!) The gentleman was really heavy, and I gave all I could to help support him so he would not fall and hit his head. Eventually, for what seemed like an hour but probably only 1 minute, two other women rushed from the back of the store (why nobody in line didn´t help I´m not sure) and helped me ease him down. One of these women, miraculoulsy, was a nurse, and as an other employee called the ambulance (144 instead of 911 I learned!), she provided the necessary care for him. Whew! This older gentleman ended up being ok (we believe), and Sister Green and I were able head on our way after about 30 minutes. Yes, stranger things have happened but this was just crazy unexpected!
Another awesome and unexpected story....two weeks ago, Sister Green and I recieved a call from one of our friends from the Wien 2 ward, a young adult named Annika. Annika lived in our ward when I first got here, and has done many joint teaches with us. She gave us a call and informed us she, on the errand of a friend, was requested to visit an older gentleman here in Vienna. She asked if we could come with her to visit him. We met Annika and on Wednesday visited Ludwig , who is supposedly a famous theater actor here in Vienna from about 20 years ago! He has since gone completely blind and is very ill and bedridden. What I first thought would be an appointment of just small talk, we sat and talked for almost a full hour just about the Book of Mormon. That was such a wonderful, special conversation! Ludwig expressed his love for Jesus Christ, and he said "I can feel His love when you speak!" He begged us to come back and visit and talk to him more about the Savior and the Book of Mormon so we will soon be going back with Annika to give Ludwig a Book of Mormon on CD for him to listen to, and to teach him more about the Gospel. We taught Ludwig about prayer, and as we pray to our Father in Heaven, we can always feel Him near, no matter what we are doing or where we may be. As we were leaving his apartment, Ludwig shouted from the other room, "Bleib Christus treu!" (Stay faithful to Christ!) Here is a man with massive physical challenges who wants to become closer to the Savior. AMAZING! I felt the Spirit come over me with such power in that moment, and I had such a firm confirmation that that is exactly the mindset we need to have each day. No matter what people say to us, as long as we stand by Him and preach His Gospel, we will have nothing to fear and we will have joy.
Just this past Friday as Sister Green and I were walking home from an appointment with a less active, we made the goal to say hi to everyone we saw --even when that means catching someone off guard and surprising them with non-typical culturally American greetings.(Germans and Austrians find it odd that you greet strangers on the street -- that is usually saved for people who are already acquainted) We saw a nice looking younger man and said very energetically, "HI!" He stopped us and said "Kennen wir uns?" as seemingly everyone does when we say hi to them) and I expressed that we were simply friendly and wanted to say hello. This man, maybe 25 years old or so, looked at my nametag and said "Hey! You are the people with the men dressed up always so nice, with the beautiful ties. Your men missionaries used to come over a few years ago, until we moved, and we have since lost their contact information. You are always so friendly. Don´t you have something to give people about what you believe?" Within 2 minutes we had Dragan´s address, phonenumber, and will be going to teach him, his sister, and mother later this week. The Lord works in mysterious ways...even through his oftentimes overly eager sister missionaries:)
Overall, Sister Green and I had a fantastic week. We had a wonderful appointment with Nicole and her kids also this week. We taught about the gift of the Holy Ghost, and at the end of the lesson Sister Green boldly and without hesitation commited Nicole to be baptized....and she said YES!!!! Nicole says she has set personal goals for herself as far as reading the Book of Mormon, prayer, and coming to church are concerned, and as we help her achieve those goals she will focus more on picking an exact date. HUGE progress, and we are simply BURSTING with happiness!!!
We have truly begun to see the fruits of our efforts come forth, and we have been able to harvest and partake of the sweetness. There is not a morning that I don´t wake up and think "which miracles will we see today?" Big or small, noticable or hidden, the Lord is always blessing us and placing miracles and gifts in our path.
I feel so blessed to be a missionary! I am so very grateful to be chosen to find people to teach in this incredible city. Yep...the work is hard and sometimes can really get you down. But that´s when you take a breath, pause, get on your knees, and humbly ask "only with Thee can I continue forward." Then you get right back up and go to work. As we give God a reason to bless us, He will give us reasons to work, as He sends His prepared children to hear the message of the Everlasting Truth.
I love you all!! I pray for you, and I hope you know how much I love you.
Hello from sunny, bright and blue-skied Vienna! OK...so I know it's winter here -- but it's been so mild and dry...perfect weather for missionaries. We love having dry shoes. Even with the unusual warm temps, the weather the past couple days has been absolutely stunning... no complaints here. Many of the members have been saying its crazy that we haven´t had any snow yet. Apparently by this time last year they had knee-high snow. As missionaries we are feeling very blessed and are grateful for sunny skies, pleasant and dry cobbles to walk across and temps which allow us to stay outside a little longer during the day. (It's been in the higher 30s and 40s rather than in the usual below freezing temps)
This week we had Zone Training, and we talked a lot about Finding and Teaching, as in Preach My Gospel. We have such an incredible zone -- I love them and they all know how to work hard! Sister Green (she was so nervous!) had an assignment to speak, gave a fantastic thought about the importance of being ourselves in missionary work and to "make friends" rather than "get numbers". A wonderful perspective, ja? It made a lot of sense to Sister Green and me to try build on those common beliefs and allow our love for Heavenly Father's children to permeate their hearts. Well...that is the plan. As for those oftentimes stubborn Austrians, we hope it becomes their plan too! I just love them!
This past week was much better than the "leave-us-alone-theme" of the previous holiday week. Austrians know how to celebrate! (Case in point...the New Years Eve firework display at midnight...our ears are still ringing!) Thankfully we had some great success in finding quite a number of great potential investigators! We talked with so many people and were able to make contact with many less actives and former investigators. That really is key, oder? The more we talk to...the greater chance of finding...odds are always on the Lord's favor! We saw many blessings where we felt prompted to visit someone, and they wouldn´t end up being home, but we were able to teach and/or set up appointments to teach the people who lived there currently. It was all in the little things that we saw God´s love and tender mercies. This week we had incredible lessons with Nicole M and her family, as well as Doris. Although these two women, Nicole and Doris, cannot completely progress onto baptism because of their marital situations (spouses will not give permission, sigh), I still feel so honored and blessed to go and teach them and to help them build their testimonies and help them draw closer to Christ, even though they cannot do so yet through the waters of baptism.
Funny, slightly awkward moment of the week: We had an appointment fall out at last minute with an awesome investigator named Sara. She texted us telling us she had a short-notice appointment come up for the Beschneidung for her son...no worries, we didn´t have a dictionary on us, so we texted the Elders to ask what Beschneidung meant. It was their response which made us kind of chuckle.....(meaning: circumcision) Thankfully we have been able to reschedule and have an appointment with Sara later this week.
Now, it is common knowledge that everyone at some point on their mission, as well as through life, experiences ups and downs. To be completely honest, I feel like that happens more on a mission, especially here in Vienna, than anywhere else. One is SO aware of weaknesses and shortcomings on a mission, and I think it is because we are always striving to be the most effective and efficent servant of the Lord possible. I know that as I have gone about my mission, really trying to serve with my whole heart, I have recognized my weaknesses practically every day. THat part...is what I'm realizing...is for my good! I shouldn't fear that process of humility and the more humble we become, the happier. When we are happier, we want to work harder and then success DOES come! I promise. And for that is what all missionaries are striving.
American Pasta Salad I made for the Ward Dinner
Sister Green and I enjoyed a beautiful sunset stroll on the way back home from a teaching appointment. Our walk took us through the famous Zentral Friedhof (Central Cemetery)! There we were greeted by my musical great-great-grandfather, Franz Schubert, and his famous colleagues and musical geniuses, Bach, Beethoven,Mozart and Strauss. Their gravestones and statues are incredibly beautiful and as dreary as a cemetery could possibly be...this one spoke to me. I owe much to these special composers....who spent a lot of time with me during my formative years. The hours and hours of piano practicing was difficult and tiring...but I got to know these men. Their lyrical compositions are forever cemented in my brain and heart. Now that I live here and preach the Gospel to the special people of Vienna Austria, I have become even more appreciative of classical music. I firmly believe that these brilliant composers hands were guided by the Spirit and were influenced by a loving Heavenly Father. I can't wait to meet them one day.......and say thanks!
LDS area of the Central Cemetery!
Yesterday during Sacrament Meeting, I had the impression and thought come to mind how honored I feel to be a missionary serving in the Alpine German Speaking Mission. All of these people have become so dear to me. I really feel very comfortable and at home. There have been many of moments where I recognized exactly WHY I was sent here, whether it was to meet a specific person or to learn a specific attribute, I know why I am here, and I am so very grateful. I can't wait to wake up tomorrow and know that I get to teach the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ!!!!
I hope you have a great week!! I love you all so much, and I encourage you to turn to your loving Father in Heaven, and to always and forever seek His guidance. Wherever we may go, He is our Family and our Home, however far away we will be from our earthly home.
We could tell that Natalie had a hard week this past week...yet she still remains positive and joyful nonetheless! Please continue to pray for her and the work in Vienna!
Dearest Family and Friends,
Happy New Year and a very exciting 2014 to you!!
I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the reality of this news that it really is a brand new year: my journal has many scratched out dates with 2013 still written on it as proof. I am so excited and very grateful for the opportunity and blessing of being able to be on my mission for this ENTIRE YEAR. I can't think of a better way to live one entire year of my life than as a missionary! for the Lord. I get butterflies of excitement when I think about that I have this chance to serve Him with all that I have. One of my goals this year is to read the entire standard works (New Testament in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) all in German! It´s a HUGE project, but I know I can do it with the help from the Spirit and the Lord. I love that Mom is also trying to still read her scriptures in German! Know that I will be doing that with you....strength in numbers from across the sea.
We started off our Silvester (German for New Years) celebration with our entire awesome district and enjoyed Mom's Pumpkin Pancakes and buttermilk syrup for brunch at the church building. We had a lot of fun making them, but I forgot how much Elders really do eat, and I had only purchased one can of pumpkin from the American store, so we settled with making buttermilk pancakes until everyone was full and satisfied. We had a really good meeting concentrating on working with less actives. We talked about focusing on one particular less active with each companionship in our wards, and making some "new best friends." We have many less actives in our ward here in Vienna, and after doing so much less active work in Göppingen, I think it will be neat to fixate on strengthen and building up these already pretty special wards in Vienna. I really want each member, particularly the sisters in our area to know that she is truly loved and that she has a beautiful divinity. Too many worldly hurdles cross these sweet ladies paths obstructing them from understanding how important they are to the Lord, to this ward and to themselves. If they could only know that we are praying for their happiness everyday! My prayers are getting increasingly longer with the many names added to my list....my knees are actually starting to get calloused!
We celebrated New Year´s Eve with the Elders, and Baagi and Richard Huy. Fireworks were already going off around 4, and were getting more and more intense around 7 when we went to the Huy´s. Baagi made us a beautiful dinner complete with meat and mashed potatoes, and had everything decorated super cute. The fireworks outside and our attention spans got to a point where Baagi, the elders, and us bundled up and went outside to watch the fireworks for a while. Many of these fireworks were the very sizable ones, comparable to Stadium of Fire. The city sounded like a war zone: everywhere we turned there was a brilliant flash of light. I can better appreciate your explanation of how Germans and Austrians celebrate Silvester and why President Miles encouraged us to not be on the street but to be safe inside with members. All in all we remained safe and sound, maybe a little deaf now and had a wonderful New Year´s! So cool to say I started off my year in VIENNA!
Speaking of which...I'm more than thrilled to be staying here yet another transfer. There is so much work to be done here and I feel like the Lord needs our companionship to find those who are willing to hear our message about the Savior.
Honestly this week was REALLY hard & challenging in so many ways. Very very few people were interested in meeting with us and we had appointments cancel on us right and left. Perhaps it was the holidays and being off of work, but we could hardly teach one lesson! So discouraging...I have to remind myself that the Lord is in charge and that He will lead us if we stay faithfully diligent. Another difficult aspect of this week was that Sister Green, Sister Packer, AND Sister Clark ALL got sick. I got to play nurse and do lots and lots and lots of Area Book work! :) So far I remained healthy and have avoided the bug that´s hit our entire Vienna zone which is definitely a blessing from Heavenly Father. (Really someone had to stay healthy to take care of all the others, right? )
Another bump in the road was that our sweet investigator Frau Eiser told us she did not want to meet anymore. So sad. When we called to make our appointment for next week, she told us she was happy with where she is at in her religion. She was making such beautiful progress, and I felt like I lost a dear friend. I walked the city that morning with tears and such emotion and love for this sweet lady. How I wish I could just embrace her and let her know that she can find so much happiness in the Gospel! We still pray for her and hope that one day she will want to meet with the missionaries again and make further progress in the Gospel.
Even though this week was humbling and taught me a lot....I grew in many ways. (Yes...missionaries do get down and not every week is a banner week...it's how we pick ourselves up and go at it again and again....) Elder Scott teaches that the Adversary will use our memory of any previous guilt, difficulties and lack of WHO we really are to lure us away from the light of the Gospel. It was a good reminder in a not so great week.
As I have set goals for myself, I encourage you to do the same, with the mindset of knowing weaknesses are different from rebellion. It is through the Lord, who gives us weaknesses so we can be humble, that we transform and make our weaknesses into strengths. I have such a testimony of this! Here on my mission I have recognized more and more of how truly imperfect and flawed I am. It´s been a very beautiful experience as I go about each day, and when I give my best, to see how I improve, step by step. I am so grateful for this opportunity to be a full time missionary. In my "farewell" talk I was given the scripture D&C 18:10-15, where the Lord says how great our joy shall be when we bring but one soul unto Him and rejoice with them in His kingdom. I remember expressing with such fervency the desire to find just that ONE. I'm still searching and I'm going to continue to do this with great fervor and excitement for THE WORK!
I love you all!! I am so grateful for the letters and emails and expressions of love and support. I truly, honestly, heartfeltly am so grateful for each and everyone of you: family, friends, ward members, and alles gleiche. Throughout the week, I felt your prayers and thank you for thinking of me and asking our Heavenly Father to bless these people, this work and those who lead and guide us!
Liebe Grüße, Sister Natalie Motto
The wonderful Baagi Huy!
District Vienna 1…so happy that they are staying together for another transfer
Sister Motto with new "over the shoulder" bag from Grandma Pat