Monday, May 19, 2014

The Reality: This Work is Truly the Errand of Angels

Dearest Family and Friends,

What a marvelous and magical week this was!  We saw many, many miracles that truly led me to recognize and be more fully grateful for the importance of my calling as a missionary, that in all reality this work is truly the errand of angels.

We had a great appointment with a very sweet less active woman in our ward, Schwester Börner. We went with our Relief Society President Schwester Cyron, and had  cheesecake (German cheesecake, that is....not American at all!), and talked about the blessings of the temple. Schwester Börner did not know Schwester Cyron, her long time friend, was coming along, and Schwester Börner began to weep with joy when she saw Schwester Cyron with us at her door! An even more addition to this story is that Schwester Börner came to church on Sunday! We will be visiting her every other week and helping her with various house help, and giving a lesson.

We met with Mirjam also this week. When we first met Mirjam she was so very hesitant to take a Book of Mormon, and this lesson Sister Wunderli and I really wanted to stress the importance to her about the Book of Mormon and how it is the "keystone" of our religion. We enjoyed lunch together by making homemade käse spätzle....much like our American Mac N Cheese but SO much better!!  We wanted to talk to Mirjam about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the five steps of Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End are all essential and a process that is continuously repeated, but the lesson through the beautiful guidance of the Holy Ghost switched to the Restoration. We talked about Joseph Smith, his journey for truth, and at the end we shared our testimonies of the First Vision. I even got emotional when I shared it with Mirjam!! Sister Wunderli and I both have the blessings of the Gospel in our lives, we know what the Gospel message entails, and it is with greatest desire we wish others to have it as well. I think that's why I felt the Spirit was so strong when we taught Mirjam the Restoration, because I could see her for who she really was, I could feel her aches and frustration in confusion, and I desired more than anything for her to understand what we are giving her. At the end we gave her a Book of Mormon with our testimonies written inside, and she graciously accepted it. We challenged her to read the introduction, to write down questions she has about anything, and then to read the first chapter. We hope all goes well this week when we meet again....

We also met with Lian and her mom Lisa. We enjoyed freshly pressed apple juice, a few rounds of the game "Blinde Kuh" (German version of Marco Polo) and then talked about the ten commandments. We even watched the way old Church cartoon film for it on the church website, but Lian loved it and ate it up. She now has the goal to memorize the commandments in order in German and in English. So proud of our little girl!!

One miracle we witnessed this week was that with Maria. Maria was an investigator found by Elders in her homeland of Portugal, but she lived here in Germany. After teaching her three lessons she came back and told the missionaries here she wanted to be baptized. Within a few short weeks something happened, and Maria was afraid, and still had the desire to be baptized, but had many questions. We decided to stop by on this former investigator and she how she was. Our guidance to her on Friday was completely led by the Spirit. After getting lost and taking the wrong bus, being late to GMK, and thirsty and needing to use the restroom, we were about to turn back, but we still felt the impression to visit Maria. After arriving (finally) we klingeled Maria and no one answered. "Well great" I thought. But I wasn't about to not leave at least a note.....we traveled the entire way to her so might as well leave something. We klingeled her neighbor and told them we were to visit Maria so they'd let us in, and they didn't. Then, right before we were about to leave, Maria answered the door and let us in.

Our meeting with Maria was quite unexpected. She told us she was sick, very sick, and it was not anything nobody could cure. She broke down into tears and told us how she has very serious depression. She has sought help and was in therapy for 2 months, but that didn't help. The day we dropped by was the day she was thinking about taking her life to rid herself of the pain. We spent one hour testifying and teaching and sharing testimony of the incredible healing of the Atonement, and that this cross that Maria said she was carrying could be lifted. Perhaps not right away, but it would be lifted. Maria sobbed and at the end grabbed me in the biggest and strongest hug I've ever felt a 75 year old woman give, and she thanked us and thanked Heavenly Father for sending her "her angels." Maria is leaving to Portugal for a few weeks at the end of June with her daughter, but she said that we should come see her often before then and reteach her everything. She says she wants to be baptized because she knows the Church is true.

We also met with Lu this week! Lu is from China, and was first taught by Sister Smith (whom I replaced here in TÜ) and Sister Wunderli. He's a student at the university and has no religious background, but wants to know who this "God" everyone talks about is, and how he can relate his perspective of God to that of the laws of nature. In his mind, everything has a purpose for existing. We used the Elders, Elder Badders and Elder Byers, as joint teaches. It. Was. AWESOME. We talked about how God is our loving Heavenly Father, read in Alma 32 about faith, and how developing faith is something that takes time but once there and we continue to nourish it, it will be strong and mighty. Lu loved the metaphor to a mustard seed. At the end of our lesson, we taught him how to pray, and Lu, this sweet Chinese student who has no previous knowledge of his Father in Heaven, said the most humble and sincere prayer I have ever heard anyone give. He said, "I don't have to ask for anything if I don't want to, right?" I found that cute/really sweet. Lu then said his prayer, which consisted of "Dear Heavenly Father......" opened his eyes and looked at us and said, "did I say that right?" and continued to thank Him for the fun he had with the missionaries and that he could learn more about who He is. The Spirit was SO STRONG. It was incredible.

Etwas lustiges(Something funny) time Sister W and I really, really needed to use the restroom while waiting for our train. We were in a teeny, tiny little dorf in the middle of nowhere, and the only available WC was the local gambling center. We got so many strange looks when we walked in!! Thankfully I had my handy dandy disinfectant spray! 

Sister Wunderli, my cute little Hungarian companion, also asked me this week if they translated the Harry Potter movies from British English to American English. She's so funny and cute and we are having a wonderful experience together. Her German and English is coming along well!

We spent our Sunday dinner with Familie Dornhausen in the southern most part of our area of Albstadt. WHAT a GORGEOUS area! The Dornhausen's are our genealogy experts here in Tübingen, and have been doing genealogy for over 11 years. With the permission of President, we will be going every other Tuesday to help them with Genealogy. Schwester Dornhausen made delicious chicken and rice for dinner, and then played her accordion for us! Quite the German moment.....and it was heavenly.  I LOVE GERMANY!!!!! So so blessed to be here.

This week I read a talk from Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson titled "Be Ye Converted" and studied a little bit more about the prophet-warrior Joshua in the Old Testament. I absolutely love what Sister Oscarson taught when she emphasized the importance of being converted NOW. NOW is the time to gain our testimonies, and not just that, but to share them and be steadfast and immovable in the Gospel. This week I watched carefully as God taught me just a little more how my mission is another step in the conversion process, how this life-changing experience is one that blesses, tests, strengthens, and solidifies our conversion, if we but consecrate ourselves. It is that with each of us! We do not need to be full missionaries to have the experiences that lead to conversion as Joshua the prophet warrior experienced. We simply need to apply the LITTLE things into our daily routine, as prayer and scripture study and weekly partaking of the sacrament, that give us the spiritual nourishment that in today's world we so desperately need. It has therefore become my resolution to be as Joshua of old, to be converted and be converted NOW, because the time is running short! We need to harvest that white field and get to work!!

I love you all so  much. I feel your prayers strengthening me each and every day. How grateful and demütigt I feel to contribute if but even a small part to this great and marvelous work.

Have a wonderful week!!

Love your missionary
Sister Natalie Hannah Motto

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Mothers Day Miracle

Dearest Family and Friends,

What a blessing and wonderful gift it was to talk with you yesterday for Mother's Day!! I honestly thought I would come away homesick, but rather it was the opposite. I came away feeling so incredibly GRATEFUL for the family and support I have at home. Missionary work is hard, but knowing that there are prayers and support all in my behalf is very, very humbling and helps me resolve to work that much harder.  I know I am über-blessed to have the kind of family I have...I know for a fact that there are quite a few missionaries who I serve with who really have no one championing them from home.  Your sweet words of encouragement and your tears of joy are going to continue to carry me when the days get a little long.  It is with the knowledge of eternal families that this point really hits home.  We are eternal with no limits on our love.  Isn't that overwhelming to comprehend?  Wow, I sure love the Lord. 

Sister Motto and her horses…..never too far apart

This week was wonderful!!! Sister Wunderli and I are seeing our hard work begin to pay off as we had a week full of lessons! We saw the miracle yesterday at church when 3 less active families we have tried to contact came to church, along with 2 of our investigators!! It was so rewarding to see those people sitting in Sacrament and attending the seperate classes, and then to tell us later of how special it was for them to come and to see so much peace and happiness in their faces. It truly was a Mother's Day Miracle!!

One investigator in particular, Patricia, loved her first experience at church. Her daughter passed away 3 years ago to Lukemia, and since then Patricia has felt that there is something more to life, that her daughter isn't gone forever. Patricia is about 53 years old, and does facepaint for a living. She dresses like I did when I was 15, with flower headbands and skinny jeans and ballet flats. She is proud of the fact she cannot speak High German. Patricia believes in God and Jesus Christ, but also believes in angels....she's a character for sure, but has a heart of gold. We met last Monday at McDonald's, and outside of that being a little bit awkward, it was a wonderful appointment as we explained the entire Plan of Salvation. When we taught Patricia about the Spirit World and Resurrection, she slammed her hand down on the table and in crazy Schwäbisch said "I knew it!! I knew it!!" Patricia then promised us "mit meine' ganze' Herze'" that she would attend church Sunday. She was late, but made it for Relief Soceity, where Sister Wunderli and I taught the lesson. Patricia met Bischof Dobin, our Relief Society president, and many other wonderful members. Sunday night around 10pm Patricia texted us and said "I think this is a new beginning for me. Thank you for a wonderful and uplifiting time at your church. I love you both." She's coming again next Sunday and we have a meeting following with our Relief Society President.  Isn't that great?!   Our members in Austria and Germany are just the best.

Tuesday we met with Carina, our very sweet Neu Apostelische investigator. Her husband Oliver was baptized a member of our church last summer. Carina knows our church is true, but due to unrest in her family with her parents being completely against the Church (her father is one of the Anti-Mormon ringleaders in this area......), she has decided not to be baptized until a little bit later. We meet with her weekly at a member's house to crochet and eat and talk. Carina asked us how we came to know the church was true, because she had a concern that because she didn't have a big, angelic type of experience, she wanted to be sure that she could still recieve answers in smaller ways. We said OF COURSE!!!! Our awesome joint teach Samira (whose family is in Vienna stake and I know them well!) said something that ended up being an answer to MY own prayers. She said "It was all the little tesitmonies along the way that let me know it was true, instead of the individual moment."

This week I have really focused on how I personally recieve answers to prayers. As I go about my mission and teach people how to recieve answers to their prayers, I recognize more and more the way I find answers to mine. Heavenly Father is a God of Order. He is organized and perfect. In my little-bit-oldest-child/OCD female tendencies to want to know every little detail, and oftentimes immediately, I have been humbled as a missionary to learn that answers often come with TIME. Time is precious, and the greatest but most sparse here on a mission. As I begin to understand the divine nature of our Heavenly Father, I learn that He gives us understanding little by little because we (hopefully) learn to apply what we are given and use that, and then He will give us more. It's like a chocolate cake! Heavenly Father is wise in giving us only one slice at a time, rather than the entire cake, because He understands that we can only eat so much and if we ate the entire cake in one sitting, we just wouldn't appreciate it.

I am so grateful for the answers to my prayers I have recieved, and for the personal revelation I have been able to enjoy and treasure. God loves us and will give us the righteous desires of our hearts. In Matthew 7:7-11 it reads
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock,and it shall be opened unto you...For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seekethfindeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will hegive him a stone Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto yourchildren, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven givegood things to them that ask him?

It is my testimony that Heavenly Father treasures each of us so dearly, more than anyone in our Earthly life could even fathom to love us (and that being said, trying to comprehend the love of a mother is even too much!!). As we truly, deeply, and earnestly seek for Him, just as in D&C 88, when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. I testify that He hears us! I know He hears me, even when we feel as small and forgotten as a fallen sparrow. And because of His Son, Jesus Christ, and His Atonement, They understand with perfection what we endure in this life, whether it be joys or sorrows and everything in between. I know He is there. Do you??

And, to end, a wonderful poem I found this morning during personal study.
When God makes a promise,
It remains forever true.
For everything God promises
He will unaterably do.
When you're disillusioned
and every hope is blighted
Recall the promises of God
and your faith will be relighted.

Let us always remember that because He will always give us His best, let us return the favor and give Him all we have, all we are, and all we will become. I promise it makes for a happier life!!

All my love this week dear friends and family!

Your missionary,
Sister Natalie Motto

Monday, May 5, 2014

"Work hard, my missionaries…WORK HARD!" Meeting with Elder Dyches of the Seventy

Liebe Freunde und Familie,

This Transfer went by WAY FAST!  (Probably because it was only 5 weeks rather than 6 weeks) For this next transfer things stay the same for me and I will continue working with Sister Wunderli in Tübingen. I love Germany and its particularly amazing in the spring.  Tübingen is so beautiful right now and I'm happily soaking it all in.  Sister Winters in Stuttgart and Sister Powell in Ludwigsburg are getting Little goldens, and I am so excited to work with brand new missionaries!

We had a wonderful week this week, having had the opportunity to meet with many less actives and see them all come to Church yesterday! Many of these less actives hadn't come for a couple of months and even imagine the wards surprise when we they show up yesterday! It was such a great feeling.  This is such a wonderful ward who has gone through some hard trials and we are determined to help them strengthen and grow.  They appreciate our efforts and we feel their support and prayers.  Yesterday they told me how thankful they are that I was sent here...ahhh, I can't disappoint them so I am giving this ward, the Lord and his children my everything and all. 

Wednesday morning around 2am, the day we were leaving for Munich, I woke up with an incredible neck pain, so much that I could not move my neck whatsoever. I'm pretty sure it was sleeping on it wrong.  After lots of ibuprofen, ice, heat, massaging...nothing really worked. We called the Mission Nurse and she recommended purchasing a perscription of Naproxen (German Aleve) from the Apotheke, reassuring that it would help. It didn't. Our GML (Ward mission leader) Steven and the Elders gave me a Blessing Wednesday afternoon and if anything that blessing comforted and reassured me. The train ride that evening to Munich with the district leaders and Zone Leaders was way fun, but I still felt pretty miserable. The Muncih 3 Sisters, Sister Kutschke and Sister Threkheld, were SO sweet and at last minute provided space for us to overnight at their apartment because Sister and President Miles were in Switzerland and we could not sleep at the Mission Home. Throughout the weekend I had steady pain in my neck, but it eventually got less intense, and this morning I woke up with no pain at all. I am so grateful!  Prayers were heard and answered!

Thursday was SO spectacular!  We met at Rückertstrasse chapel in Munich for the District Leader Meeting, along with the Munich Sister Training Leaders, as special invite by Elder Timothy J. Dyches. For one hour as a leadership group were able to be specially instructed and taught by Elder Dyches. He talked about humility, teaching, and the importance of leading by example. (In one more embarrassing moment, Elder Dyches demonstrated how to properly use a planner. Because apparently sisters have amazing planners, Elder Dyches asked to use mine. (Pres Miles told him to use mine! He called it "very sisterly" and also very organized and methodical. It's not every day a member of the seventy looks through your missionary planner!) He talked to us about making our missions a foundation for the rest of our lives, and right at the end he got very quiet, looked us all directly in the eye and said powerfully but immer noch so quietly, "Work hard, my missionaries......WORK HARD."

Mission Leadership Council 

Mission Tour (Munich and Stuttgart Zones)

For our main meeting, as Stuttgart and Munich Zones, we were instructed by President and Sister Miles and Sister and Elder Dyches for Close to 3 hours. Sister Dyches quoted Elder Bednar in saying that if she could change the word "meeting" for "Revelatory Experience", she would. She also taught us the importance of studying, learning, and growing in this life, and that the things we learn here on our mission could not be replaced by any School in this world. Stimmt! (Isn't that the truth!?) . My Mission has only added hundred-fold to the truths I learned in Sunday School, Young Women's, Seminary, etc. How grateful I am for that decision I made to serve a mission. It is HARD but this purifying and sanctifying work is one of the greatest blessings I could have recieved in my life. Elder Dyches related it to a cruciable, like in Chemistry.  As we experience ups and downs in our mission and go through those common faith-testers, we are purified and made stronger. In relation to this, the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 18 came to mind. Verses 10-16 were the Topic I was asked to speak on for my farewell talk, and 11 months later I think I better understand what they mean.

With this image of a firey cruicable from Elder Dyches, I reread verse 15 in Doctrine and Covenants 18 which says "And if it so be that you shall Labor all your days in crying repentance unto this People, and bring, save it be one Soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!" Our missions are  beautiful non-coincidences, perfectly personalized and set directly for us. Do I think it's a coincidence that I serve in the Alpine German Speaking Mission, when my mother, father, 3 uncles, a Cousin, and some of my closest friends all serve or have served here as well? Absolutely not. Is it a coincidence that I have had terrible Deja Vu daily since coming on my mission or that my parents lived here while working in Germany and were pregnant with me? After Elder Dyches taught us, not at all. I have the strongest confirmation that my mission, perfectly designed for me, is something that I perhaps talked about with my Father in Heaven before this life. Heavenly Father knew that I could help bring that one soul to Him through my service.

Missionary work does not end with a mission. Having experienced a miracle of finding a man my father taught on his mission, and after 26 years having them be reunited through Skype, I have begun to build a testimony of lifelong missionary work.(Natalie, through still some unknown search, found a man who Kevin taught and baptized on his mission but afterwards lost contact with.)  And so it shall be, my dearest family and friends. I shall labor all the rest of my days: throughout the rest of the days of my mission, and the rest of my life. Mission Tour and Mission Leadership Council were one of the best experiences I have had so far on my mission. It's similar to a returning from the temple feeling: refreshed, strengthened, and ready to take on the world!

I love you all!! I hope you have a fantastic week. Say your prayers, obey the Word of Wisdom, read your scriptures, say I Love You more, and be grateful for the many and overflowing blessings the Lord gives to you and me.

Until next week!!

Sister Natalie Hannah Motto