Monday, November 24, 2014

Walking In The Sunlight

Liebe Familie und Freunde,

This week was SO GOOD!  Being a missionary is simply the greatest! I love each and every day. I've learned to even enjoy the hard moments, because I know the Lord provides a way for us to be refined and made something new. 

Last Monday Sister Ahlm and I had the opportunity to go to Dachau Concentration Camp for Pday. Even though I had been there a couple of times before, this was an experience to remember. The day was kind of grey and cloudy and cold, which for me brought a little more reverence to the memorial site. Walking around the camp, looking in the bunkers, and staring at the vast, empty plot where prisoners were called for roll call each day was a sobering, humbling, and peaceful experience. The events that took place at Dachau were tragic and unjustified, but I left that place with special sense of peace in my heart and mind that I knew came from my knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, recognizing in many ways that the grounds we had just walked are very hallowed and almost sacred. 

We met with Spacs a couple times this week, and were able to teach him a lot. Yes, his name is Spacs. Because of his thick African accent Sister Ahlm and I assumed that his name was Sparks. Well, he never noticed, or never bothered to correct us, but now we feel really silly for calling our investigator and soon to be new member by the wrong name for the past 2 months! (Can't blame it on a rookie mistake)  We finished teaching Spacs about the Plan of Salvation, talking about where we go after this life, judgement, resurrection, and the kingdoms of glory. Spacs posed the question, "so what happens to the people who don't hear about the Gospel in this life?"  We are going to be talking about temple work later this week, and help make a plan for the next year to prepare Spacs to go to the temple! 

On Thursday evening we went to the Sneddon's (Our lovely Bishop and his family) with Spacs and our district leader companionship for Spacs' baptismal interview. We had a delicious Swiss raclette for dinner and watched a Mormon Message. Spacs said he totally related to the man in the short video, because he also had to go on his own search for the truth. When he shared his testimony, I felt the Spirit wrap me up in a warm blanket, and I was immediately filled with gratitude for the opportunity to teach such a neat man the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Spacs' baptism is on Saturday (my 18 month mark, I also just noticed) and we are SO EXCITED!

We met with Juergen and Baigal again this week after a little while, and it went very well. We read in 2 Nephi 31 about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this lesson, Juergen and Baigal asked so many questions that were good and relevant to what we were teaching. I was a little surprised of how involved they were!! We encouraged them to begin/continue reading in the Book of Mormon together as a family. In return they invited us to go bowling for Mathias' (their son) birthday on Friday. 

Because next Sunday will be the Primary program in our ward, I had the opportunity to give my closing testimony in Sacrament meeting yesterday. That was sort of a surreal moment for me. I saw a lot of familiar and unfamiliar faces in the congregation, but it didn't matter to me. I loved each individual who was sitting in that chapel. Afterward, I was still so full of that joy. During that Sacrament Meeting, I just couldn't help but feel peaceful, happy, and grateful. Being a missionary has brought me a fullness of joy, like it talks about in Doctrine and Covenants 18. Now I'm most definitely not a perfect person, nor a perfect missionary, and it's more incredible for me to think of that joy being magnified when I one day am perfect!! That is something beyond my comprehension. 

Having the Gospel of Jesus Christ I have noticed is like walking in sunlight everywhere I go. Especially as a missionary, I have been more aware of this "light" given to me (meaning the Gift of the Holy Ghost received after my baptism) than I ever have before in my life. I see so many sad, disheartened individuals everywhere I go, and all I want to do is give them just a little taste of this light, of the warmth that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we act upon the principles and commandments taught in the Gospel, we receive blessings beyond our understanding or imagination.  At the very least, when we are obedient and strive to obey the commandments and keep true to our covenants, it really is like walking in sunshine, even on the cloudiest day.

I love you all!! Have a marvelous week.

Your Bavarian/Alpine missionary

Sister Natalie Motto

Gift from the McCormick's! 

Munich Hauptbahnhof decorated for Christmas!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Being Born Again

Meine lieben Freunde und Familie,

Bruce R. McConkie once said,

"Being born again is a gradual thing, except in a few isolated instances that are so miraculous they get written up in the scriptures.... we are born again by degrees, and we are born again to added light and added knowledge and added desires for righteousness as we keep the commandments."

My mission has been a born again experience. I am so grateful for each moment that I have had to allow my faith and testimony to be tested, proven, and strengthened. This quote has been one of my favorites of the past little bit, as Sister Ahlm and I have seen investigators and less actives progress and add to their own light and knowledge.

This week we were extremely busy, to a point where Sister Ahlm and I went to bed and woke up the next morning feeling like there were only seconds in-between. I feel so blessed to be so busy, and one of the greatest tests of my faith has been to see if Heavenly Father can support someone as tired and exhausted as we!! We were able to meet with Sparks a couple times this week, one of our lessons being over the phone. Sparks has had a lot of questions lately, but all very good questions that have helped his understanding of the Gospel grow. Sparks is one example I think of in this "born again" stage, where, at this point in time, he is already such a different individual than when we first met him. We also began teaching him the Plan of Salvation, which was kind of a big step for him, something a little different that he  had a more difficult time understanding. Sparks being Sparks however, said he would pray about it and really study the scriptures we gave him so he can know what we're teaching him is true. His baptismal interview is this week: we're so excited!

We had a really great Zone Training this week, where President Auras, our stake president, was in attendance. It was an amazing Zone Training, and I had the privilege of bearing my testimony as a soon-to-be "departing missionary". That was so strange but still a good, special experience.

We met with Gerhard. He's an older German man who grew up behind the wall in the former DDR. He hasn't had the easiest life, and from his experience has dedicated his life to helping the poor and starving in Africa. We taught Gerhard about the Restoration and he LOVED the metaphor to the Apostasy as being a broken mirror, and through Joseph Smith the broken mirror was restored. I love metaphors, especially when teaching. Gerhard got it, and is anxiously awaiting our next appointment. We're hoping to set a baptismal date with him this week!

I went on Austausch, 3 for 3, with Sister Smith from Munich 3 this week! She's such a darling missionary, and it's been fun to see her progression over the past 3 transfers. On Austausch we met with Klaus Nudlbichler and Niculina Muntean. The Muntean family is still set on their goal to come to church the 23rd, and Klaus has enjoyed reading in the Book of Mormon, although we are not 100% sure how much he understands. We also got to meet with Tenzin and Ngawang at a Chinese Resturant, drank some Apfelschorle (fizzy apple juice), and talked about the Word of Wisdom again.

Something new! We went to a Moonie party with the Goeb's. The Unification Church celebrated their 50th anniversary of being in Munich, and Sister Ahlm and I went after being invited by the Goeb's. It was pretty interesting, we had some delicious cake and fruit tea, and the Goeb's were really happy we went to support them. 

I feel so blessed to be working with Sister Ahlm here in Munich. She's such a great missionary who has blossomed into a confident, excited missionary. She's always been so, but even from the beginning it's been a neat opportunity for me as her trainer to see how she's grown. I love her so much and am so grateful for this time we have together!

Whenever I experience an uphill climb here on my mission, I think of that Bruce R McConkie quote. The Lord is so brilliant to allow us to have to endure some things, so that we can become stronger and more refined. Just as a rough stone becomes smooth after the river's waves rush by after a period of time, and as the bumps and jagged edges wash away, so it is with us. Being born again is to be made whole and new. How grateful I am for the Sacrament each week, so that at the start of each new week of various challenges and obstacles, I have that clean slate to begin again. It's a step by step process, a gradual thing, and I am so grateful to know I have a patient and loving Father in Heaven and merciful Savior who constantly remind, reassure, forgive, support, and love me.  I have the most humble desire to stay strong, to finish strong, to fight for the Lord and for His Gospel until He no longer needs me as His full time missionary.  I'm savoring each and every day. 

I love you all so dearly! Have the most marvelous of weeks.

Your missionary

Sister Natalie Motto

Monday, November 10, 2014

"What more is required, Lord?"

Liebe Familie und Freunde,

Everyone should have more faith in pass along cards, and to give them out more often. You know why? Because they WORK! Sister Ahlm and I got a phonecall yesterday afternoon from a man by the name of Gerhard, an older German gentleman we met at our U-bahn station on the way home one evening. We had a very simple, brief chat with him, gave him a card, and didn't think anything of it. Yesterday right before church started we got a call from a number we didn't know, and it was Gerhard, and he explained that after we met in the Ubahn station he went home, looked on, and now wants to learn everything about the Church! 

For Pday last week Sister Ahlm and I went with Jürgen and his friend from his church congregation, Ursula, down to Garmsich-Partenkirchen and the famous Oberammergau!!! It was BEAUTIFUL. The sun was brighter than it had been all week, the sky was startling blue, and we were really able to enjoy running around in these beautiful mountain villages. It was probably my favorite Pday that we've had in a while :)  I couldn't get over the brilliance of the colors of the trees, the clearness of the Bavarian mountain lakes and the crisp clean smell in the air.  It was perfectly picturesque and heavenly.  Every day, I grow more in love with Bayern, Munich and what this area has to offer.  The people are charming and warm and fully embody "Gemütlichkeit".  I feel so blessed. 

Sister Ahlm and I met up with our Tibetian threesome this week in a coffee shop to enjoy donuts (German donuts, sogar) and a discussion on the Word of Wisdom. Namdul asked us if we put milk in the black tea, if then it would be okay to drink. He and Ngawang kept asking if putting sugar, or milk, or more water, or many other random things would make the black tea "ok" to drink. After laughing at us and trying to get past the language barrier, Tenzin stepped in and translated everything nicely. We found out that Namdul has a problem with smoking, and he wants to give our Stop Smoking Program a try! He's really determined to stop, and that's all the motivation he needs.

Confession: I'm a really bad trainer...or just a little blonde.:)  Sister Ahlm and I got a ticket for riding the Sbahns without a valid monthly ticket!  (Lesson number one to Sister Ahlm...never ride "schwarz"!)  We got charged 40 Euro. Yikes!  Fortunately, the controllers told us that we could go to Hauptbahnhof, show our valid ticket, and get a slight deduction off our "strafe" price. You can imagine my relief when I found out our ticket strafe was only 7 Euro!!! I'm still a little embarrassed that we got a ticket, but all's well that ends well, and we learned from our mistake! Whew.  (I have to say how grateful I am for my awesome and very patient companion!)

I had the opportunity this week to Austausch again with Sister Smiley, but instead of being in Tübingen we were in Munich! We had a lot of fun talking about Wien, because she got to serve there for 1 transfer: it was so good to hear how everyone there is doing. We met with Sparks and were able to answer a lot of questions he has about the creation, repentance, the Atonement, and the meaning of the Sacrament. He's always so nervous to ask questions because he says he knows as he learns he'll find answers, but that being said he wants to be as ready as possible for his baptism soon. One thing I have noticed teaching Sparks is kind of like that when I taught Ainhoa back in Göppingen: teach simply and powerfully. Sparks, although 27 years old, is still like a child in the Gospel, and line upon line we as missionaries have the opportunity to help him grow and mature spiritually as he continues to learn. Teaching people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and in many cases the teachings to them are so new, is something that will forever amaze me. I love this chance to teach, because whether or not the investigator/less active/member knows it, I grow right along with them.

Me and Sister Smiley!

There was a train strike in Germany this week that lasted somewhere around 75 hours, which is supposedly the longest strike in Deutsche Bahn history (so everyone is saying). It was really dumb, but thankfully we serve in the city where the buses and Ubahns still ran. Sadly, we had to cancel many of our appointments for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday due to the strike, but we were still able to make those hours productive.  For Germans, the trains are a necessity, so you can imagine how a train strike can paralyze a country.

We met with Armando this week for the first time in a real lesson, and cute Rachel Sneddon, our bishops daughter, came with us! Armando was so kind and made us REAL Italian food, and we were able to teach him about the Restoration. He's been reading a lot in the Book of Mormon and each thing we taught him about the Restoration he said "made perfect sense". That's what the Gospel does: make sense!!

Hashim,the Göb's, Muanza, Klaus, and the Muntean's are all doing well, even though we didn't get to meet with them because of the strike. We have regular phone contact with them all, and they are all doing well.

One thing I learned about this week in my personal study, and something that we talked about at district meeting, was the principle of Accountability. The Lord expects us to be accountable for all our actions, and to report back to Him at the end of each day, although He is very well aware of all we do. The very act of kneeling in prayer and giving an account of our day's actions shows our Father in Heaven that we know He is there, that He watches over us, that He is aware of us, and that we are grateful for the time He gives us each day. It also helps us personally to recognize what we are doing with His time, if it happens to be better instead of good, or even the best instead of a better usage. My thought process in my prayers lately has been "What more is required, Lord?" What more can I do? What can I do better the next time? What can I say the next time? Help me become who THOU wouldst like me to become. And it has made such a wonderful difference.

Elders Jensen and Abbott at MLC

Seeing my sweetest friend from Lindon.....and saying goodbye until 10 weeks:)

Me and Sister Erdentsegsogt

The Tübingen and München 2 sisters at MLC

Have a marvelous week my friends and family! I pray for you, I think of you, and I hope you know I love you!

All the best,

Sister Natalie Hannah Motto

Monday, November 3, 2014

Driven To My Knees

My dearest Family and Friends,

Happy, happy November!! How can it already be November??

Sister Ahlm and I have stayed busy and anxiously in good causes throughout our week. We were able to say goodbye to a couple of the departing missionaries at the main train station before they left, just in passing through. It was kind of a weird moment for me recognizing the Sisters I came out with were leaving. It was a bitter-sweet moment and my heart this week has been full of gratitude that I have the opportunity to stay one more transfer.  Oh and guess what.....I'm officially the "oldest" (longest out) sister missionary in the mission!! (as far as mission time goes, that is.)

We met with Tenzin this week, and both meetings went very very well. He has the goal to be baptized in December, and we're doing everything we can as missionaries to help him reach that goal. Tashi, his wife, has no disagreements with him being baptized, and in fact, Tashi even sat in for a few mintues during one of our lessons! How much she really listened to, I'm not 100% sure, but we have a really good relationship with Tashi and have a solid foundation of trust. She even invited us to come over sometime to make Tibetian dumplings!

Bustling Busy and Beautiful Munich

Remember Hashim? Our super cool investigator from Somalia? We haven't had contact with him in the past couple months and we and the Elders were kind of bummed that he dropped off the planet and despite our best efforts we couldn't locate him. It just so happens that this week after going by on some less actives and getting just a little lost, Sister Ahlm and I hopped on the Ubahn to run into none other than Hashim! Because of his work schedule and because he got a new cell phone number, he had no way of contacting us and we had no way of contacting him! I was so grateful for even this small little miracle so that we can continue teaching Hashim.

We met with Sparks and Kai this week and had a fantastic lesson reviewing the Restoration. Sparks simply eats up the Book of Mormon, he absolutely loves reading in it. He even downloaded the LDS app onto his smartphone so he could read the scriptures and other Church materials while on the train going to school and work! He read the chapters we asked him to and beyond. In everything we ask him to do, he goes the extra mile! Kai is also a huge source of support to Sparks. Like I've said a thousand times, member-missionary work is the only way to go about this work! Sparks is going a thousand miles an hour to prepare for his baptism on the 29 of this month and smiling the entire way. Sparks is a perfect example of showing how the Gospel edifies and changes our lives for the better. 

As of late we've had the chance to make some visits to the older senior women in our ward. One of my really good friends I've made since being here in Munich is Schwester Seeber, a Swabian born and Swabian raised woman who has lived in Bayern with her husband for about 20 or so years. Bruder Seeber is nearly deaf and has many health problems, so he doesn't come to church very often. We had some "tee und kuchen" with the Seeber's one evening, and Bruder Seeber showed us all of his cool collections, which included model "old timer" cars (that's what Germans nickname vintage cars, "old timers"), beer coasters--Bruder Seeber has over 700, and old American stamps that date back from the 60's. Bruder Seeber gave Sister Ahlm and I each a model car from his collection to thank us for our visit. 

We began teaching a man by the name of Klaus this week. He was a referral from the Church. He watched a pretty interesting movie about the Mormons and in his curiosity he looked up our church on Wikipedia and found He loved so much what he saw there that he placed an order for a Book of Mormon, we got the referral the next day, and we met him two days later. Klaus grew up in a circus and is not super religious, but he says that he is on the search for hope and light in his life, hoping to turn his life around. Well, if anything can change anyone's life for the better, it would be the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We look forward to continue teaching him. (And whenever I say his name I can't help but smile. Such a great German name!!)

Herr Muanza is doing really well. We met with him with Sister Kohler as our joint teach, and we taught him about the Restoration of the Priesthood. Herr Muanza says he likes his church ward better, but he knows that everything we've taught him is the truth. We get the feeling he's scared and has some deeper concerns, and that's why he won't be baptized. We are still praying for him and hoping that he will have a change of heart. 

This week at District Meeting, I was really touched with our topic of prayer and answers to prayer. Elder Huff brought up a really good point when he mentioned that the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this magnificent gospel we have on the Earth today and everything that pertains to it, all began with one question. It all started with one simple, heartfelt question. When we sincerely desire to know something, and we turn to the Lord, He will bless us with an answer! He loves us THAT MUCH. No matter how great or how small our question may be, He will answer in His own beautiful way and in His own perfect time. I've seen that on my mission. There have been and there are things I greatly desire! I've seen the blessings of getting on my knees and simply asking. 

I love what President Abraham Lincoln once said,
"I've been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go."

When life gets more than we can stand, don't forget that we can kneel. Some of the most powerful statements uttered are not in mighty speech, but in that of a whisper to the Almighty.

I love you all so much!! Have a wonderful week!!