Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Little Bit of Deja Vu

Hello All, 

     At the beginning of my mission, my life was all about experiencing new things and "firsts".  Becoming a missionary, arriving in a new country, my first companion, the first transfer calls, going to a new area, new companions, learning new things, new meetings, new language, the list goes on and on!  Now, I have pretty much accepted that my 'new' experiences are pretty much coming to an end and most of my 'firsts' are becoming my 'lasts'.  
This may be my last 'first'- it is my first time seeing a spiderman missionary :)

     I am in (what is likely) my last area, I'm probably getting my last companion soon (unless Sister Erdenetsogt and I stay together one more transfer, we find out Friday!) I was shopping last week and realized that I was probably buying my last bottle of shampoo and conditioner before I go home! It sounds like they are just Kleinigkeiten, little things, but they are the little reminders each day, every moment counts right now! 
Summer Festival

The Elders living it up at the Summer Festival

Having fun at the festival
      It also seems that I am living a life of deja vu right now. Time is going so fast that it seems like conversations that I just had six or twelve weeks ago are being repeated over and over. I remember going over the Sneddon's house 6 weeks ago and telling them that transfer calls were right around the corner, and asking them to pray that Sister E. and I would get to stay together. Well, they came up to us again on Saturday and asked when the next transfer calls were, and we realized that they are again, just right around the corner- and our prayer is the same, 'please let us stay together for a little longer'!
Can the wheel of life just stop turning for a tiny second please???? Or at least slow down enough for me to catch my breath before I dive into another monstrous wave!

     But it was a good week!! We had Zone Training again on Tuesday, and I have to say, its pretty nice to be right in Munich and only have to travel 15 minutes to get to the church, rather than a full 3-4 hours to go to a meeting that only lasts 3 hours only to have to turn around and travel the entire way back again! We can actually have appointments after Zone Training, and all of our studies before?  It was the first Zone Training that we have had as STL's, and it was kind of stressful to coordinate and plan with the Zone Leaders- sometimes I worry that the Elders think we have cooties or something! When we all get together to plan something like this, I am reminded that we are all still very, very young adults trying to coordinate and do the best we can with what limited experience we really have. In the end, it all worked out very well, just as it always does when you are on the Lord's errand.  

     We also got all of our Tausches done- big sigh of relief!! So Sister Erdenetsogt and I finally have a full week this week where we get to spend the entire time in our own area with each other! Success!
I was able to go to Passau on Tausch this week, which I was so excited about for 2 reasons.  1-Passau is where Sister Regnier (my MTC companion) started her mission, and I have always heard from her about how gorgeous it is! I have been dying to see it for EVER! and 
2-I was able to work with Sister Woods, which I was also super stoked about. Sister Henry absolutely adored her, and I've been excited to work with her even since I came to this zone! It was a pretty good tausch, I always love going to other areas and seeing how other missionaries take care of their people. 
Sister Woods and I

Passau- not the best picture, but it is beautiful here!
      In my opinion, there are two kinds of tausches: skill tausches or love tausches. On the skill tausches, I learn a lot about how to be a Preach My Gospel missionary. Things like teaching skills, finding, studying, and how to be effective and diligent. On the love tausches, I learn how to be a personal missionary, like how to care for people, how to serve, how to be humble, how to be Christlike.  
The International Ward Elders went looking for my lost phone & added some personal touches of their own!

Our neighbors baked us muffins to apologize for being loud- YUM!
      It was also very cool, because Sister Erdenetsogt was able to work with Sister Wunderli in Munich. Ah, memories of the dritt in Linz! I haven't really talked much or seen much of Sister Wunderli since she came to the Munich Zone, but after Sister Erdenetsogt and I came back together, the first thing she said was 'Sister Peterson, she has changed SO MUCH. You have to work with her next transfer!' 
     That's probably one of the coolest parts about training, and I have said this a million times before-  I love meeting my companions months later, and seeing how they have grown and changed, not just as a missionary but as a person. And how lucky I have been to even get to be companions with one of my golden's again! Missions are tough and trying, but they are also so rewarding. One of the rewards that I see is just how much the missionaries learn from each other. We really grow so much, something I never understood before my mission! But truly, Heavenly Father takes these young, immature and sometimes selfish youth and young adults and in 18-24 months of serving His children, He turns these kids into amazing and selfless people- honestly my biggest concern about coming home is that I will lose who I have become in the 'real world'. 

But I assure you, we haven't outgrown silly antics,

... or silly faces,

... or silly photo bombs :)
    One of the ways that I see this change manifest is in the personal touch game that we play with each other! It is just a simple service game that we use to keep our spirits high and to stay unified within our zone's. It might be simple, but the impact it can have on your life when you really need a 'personal touch' from someone is HUGE! Can I just stay here forever?!?!? 

     A few weeks ago, I was talking with Elder Thurman and his wife about how I was going home soon and I wish that I could ask for an extension, but that its really hard for missionaries (at least in this mission) to extend their mission, even just one transfer. On Tuesday, he came up to me and said ''Sister Peterson, I know that you want an extension. I did what I could, and this is the best I could do!''  

My mission "extension"!
... and gave me an extension cord Bwaaaahaha! Mensch, I am keeping that cord and taking it home with me! 

     I love you all and am so grateful for your prayers


Sister Peterson

Monday, July 14, 2014

Learning Gratitude the Hard Way

Hello Friends & Family- 

     Well, just in case you have been living under a rock the past few weeks (or are like my mom), you may not have heard that I am currently living in the same country that can officially claim they are the world's soccer champions!! I'm sure you can imagine, it's a pretty big thing here-

German pride is everywhere!
     One thing you have to know about me is that I am awful at quoting movies and songs! I am also the biggest fan of exaggerating and paraphrasing! Hopefully that explains my biggest epiphany this week: there is supposedly a quote in some sort of movie or spoken by some sort of a famous actor that goes something along the lines of 'When we ask God for patience, He doesn't just give us patience, He gives us the opportunity and experiences that will teach us how to be patient.' And so it is with everything-humility, faith, diligence- we might think we are asking for a Christlike attribute, but what we often get is a refiners fire that forces us to develop that attribute- I never understood why people always say "Never pray for patience..." Well, now I understand, and for me the lesson came this week as Heavenly Father taught me about gratitude!  
     Last Monday, I had a huge panic attack. Did I say huge?... well, I mean to say HUGE!!! 
Actually, it was pretty embarrassing. We went home after emails, and all of my worries and stress and fears just kind of exploded. Sister Erdenetsogt got to see a real 'American' girl break down; which included me laying on the floor, crying while shoving peanut butter and crackers into my mouth, whining about my problems for a good hour or two! Honestly, she didn't know whether she should be serious or laugh! Before Monday, I hadn't really given myself a lot of time to think about what scared me. I hadn't really thought about my fears, my worries, and my concerns. This little breakdown really forced me to think about what was most important to me and all the promises Heavenly Father has given me to help me keep my heart open to all that I will need to go through.

     Luckily it was P-day so we were able to stay home for a bit until I calmed down, but I had decided to ask some of the Elders in my district if they could give me a comfort blessing the next day after district meeting. I was 100% sure that the blessing would solve all of my problems, tell me everything that I wanted to hear, and that life would be fine and dandy. Well, I hadn't told the Elder giving me the blessing what was wrong; I just told  him that I wanted one. I was totally confident that I would hear what I needed to hear (or at least what I THOUGHT I needed to hear.)  
     But to my disappointment, the blessing was really general and did not address, in even the slightest way, what my worries were. The rest of the day, I was really upset; I was even tempted to call the Elder and tell him that I needed another blessing. I had gotten some pretty cool promises and been told some cool things, but I was so focused on the fact that I hadn't heard what I wanted to hear that I wasn't grateful for what I had heard. I wasn't listening! 
     The next day during personal study, I was reading talks from last general conference, and of course President Uchtdorf's talk about gratitude was next. It was a big slap in the face of how I needed to be grateful first for what I have, then I can be given more. I made a list of all the things that I was promised in the blessing, and how those things would help me in my work. Then I made a list of all the things I was still worried about, and decided to leave it to the Lord, put my worries in a mental box, and place it at His feet. From there I went about and continued on my day.

Me and my girls at Mission Leadership Conference

Birthday celebration with the Munich missionaries and the Kohler family
     Well, that day we had another Austausch with the Sisters in Augsburg. Sister Smith came here to Munich to work with me, which was really cool, since she started out in Munich II, and so I got to see the way that she loves and teaches the same exact people that I love and teach. It was also cool because there have been lots of people that Sister Erdenetsogt and I have been trying to get into contact with, but who have never answered us, but we were able to get back into contact with some of them and even meet others. But the biggest gift and mercy came for me at the end of the Tausch when we were on the way back. Normally I don't really open up about super personal thoughts with people who are not my companion, especially people who I haven't really known a long time. But for some reason, I told Sister Smith almost everything about what was on my mind; why I am nervous to go back to Texas, my fears, the sense of security that I feel as a missionary and not wanting to lose that; feeling like I don't have enough time to do all the things I still want to do here in Munich, etc.
     The blessing came when she opened up a bit to me on how she felt about my worries and she shared some thoughts that could help me. Well, surprise- surprise, they were exactly the things I needed to hear and had been praying to hear ever since I had decided to ask for my blessing. Heavenly Father could have just been told the exact same things on Tuesday in my blessing; But instead, the Lord taught me to be grateful first and to remember the promises He has given me (and the miracles He has shown me),to have faith, and to press forward! After He allowed me to put my heart in the right place, then I could receive the comfort that I needed. 
This is what our kitchen looks like on Sunday's after we get done making gifts for our members and investigators
     We did get to celebrate Mongolian Independence Day on Friday with one of our investigator families, the Göb's. Lately, I feel like all that we are eating is German potato salad and Mongolian dumplings- it's good thing that they are both so delicious!!

Mongolian Independence Day celebrations
Thank you so much for your love, your support and your prayers,
Love to you all,
Sister Peterson

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A little Spice to Life

Dear Family & Friends,

     At the beginning of my mission, I made the goal to eat everything that was put in front of my plate by members or investigators, no matter how gross or scary it was to me. I didn't want to be too picky and I definitely did not want to offend anyone by my food likes and dislikes. Luckily, I have not really had a problem with that my entire mission (except for the blood sausage that I ate in Freiburg- but I didn't know what that was until after I ate it). 
This is how we spent Independence Day
      Well, this sweet lady in our ward invited several of the missionaries to her house for dinner. Before we went in, Sister Erdenetsogt grabbed my arm and said very seriously, 'You need to be very careful eating here, she cooks really SPICY!'  Its not that I don't like spicy foods, I do; I think spicy foods have the potential to taste really good. I am just a big food wimp when it comes to extreme spice and flavor! But I was confident and faithful that I could tackle this food. I was actually doing pretty good for most of the appointment, only dishing up small amounts of spicy food and big amounts of rice, and drinking plenty of water in between. 
     Until someone noticed that I hadn't eaten any of the meat dish yet. I said that I would, but I wasn't sure how spicy it was, so I didn't want too much. Elder Jones assured me that it wasn't spicy at all, it was actually really delicious- reassuring me that I would want a lot.  
     Sister Erdenetsogt immediately objected and whispered to me 'don't do it, don't do it, its sooo hot!  I'm not joking, don't do it!'  
     By this point, I was curious, and I wanted to try just a bit, I gave Elder Jones my plate and told him to dish up just a tiny bit, and that I would try more later if I liked it. To my horror, he kept dishing more and more until all of my rice was soaked and covered with the meat and it's sauce. Needless to say, it was HOT! I think I had to drink an entire glass of water for every tiny bit of rice that I ate. I kept having to add more and more rice and drink more and more water; I'm sure my stomach was about to explode. I felt so bad, the food really did taste good, but I'm sure my face looked like I was in so much pain, because the poor member kept standing up and bringing me cucumbers, water, bread, yogurt, etc...Everyone cheered when I finished it. Mensch. I guess I learned to never trust an Elder at dinnertime- even if they are AP!
     We started our Austausches (exchanges) this week. By now, I am definitely comfortable with Austausches by now and have loved all the times I have gotten to do them in the past. I've been going on exchanges my entire mission- but these have been a little different. As a missionary or trainer, we only do one Tausch every 6 weeks and we don't have any planning or training that we need to prepare. We also don't have to make any of the organization plans either, so we aren't involved with who goes where and works with who! All I've ever had to do in the past is go through the day with the Sister Training Leader who was working with me, take their suggestions and ask any questions or concerns. We would set goals and talk about how to achieve them... then the STL would return to her area and my life would return to missionary normal. 
Starburg Sea
      Well, now, we are tausching with a companionship once a week for the rest of the transfer, we have to plan who goes where, when it happens, what our goals and focus of the exchange is going to be, everything! I'm not gonna lie, I was a little nervous and anxious to lead the exchanges. But we had one last week with the other Sisters in Munich (working in the München 3 area) and I went to work in their area with a cute German missionary, Sister Kutschke. 
     It was kinda funny to still be working in Munich, taking the same Sbahns and Ubahns that I normally do! But I always love working with other missionaries and getting new ideas from them on how they do missionary work, how they work with members and other missionaries, and how they organize and plan for the day. It was also very humbling to go in with a specific goal for each tausch, be asked questions on some things that the missionary companionship was struggling with, and try to help exchange ideas and set goals to help them with their work. Leadership positions are always more hard and humbling than I expect them to be! Training is quite different, mainly because the new golden's don't know the difference if you do anything wrong or make a mistake and since the trainer is usually their first companion, they don't compare you to others either-
     President Kohler and his family traveled around the mission last week to host an Introduction Conference for the missionaries. This was mainly so they could get to know the missionaries in each area and we could get to know the expectations and plans for this mission at this time. During these conferences, time was given to Sister Kohler and their children, Erika and Tanner to introduce themselves and talk about their thoughts and feelings about being here. One thing that really hit me, which I guess I thought about before but never really understood, was how much they have all had to sacrifice to come here. The kids are still young and in high school, and yet, they left everything to support this calling to serve the Lord! I threw a huge fit when I found out that I was moving from California to Texas during my senior year of high school, but I was still able to visit California pretty frequently after I left. These kids have just been asked to move, not only away from home, but to a different country, where they will need to learn a new language and a new culture AND have very limited opportunity to travel home to see friends and family. Again, I just have so much respect and appreciation for them and what they are doing! I know that for the Kohler's, this is a family calling. Though President & Sister Kohler will be doing most of the "in the trenches" work, their children will spend most of their free time traveling from one mission area to the next! Though, I will confess, that traveling around Germany is definitely NOT the worst thing they could be forced to do, I appreciate what they are willing to do for the sake of serving the missionaries and members of this area! 
     Well, I think this is the end of my time.
     Love to you all,

Sister Peterson

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Welcome President & Sister Kohler

Hi All,

     I used to not like change at all; I liked things as they were, and I was always comfortable in my old little habits. 
I died my hair- can you tell??
      But as a missionary, we kind of live for change. We are always finding ways to be better, to do better, and to adjust to our circumstances. Learning to adjust to the little changes that happen everyday has really helped me learn to adjust to the bigger changes that I can not control. 
    I was really worried about our new mission president coming in. I have served 15 months with President and Sister Miles, I grown to love them, and everything that I learned about missionary work is what I learned from their example. I was praying all week to be able to love the President & Sister Kohler as much as I loved the Miles, and more! 
Dunkin' Donuts- our treat
      I used to be so jealous of all the missionaries in Munich because of all of the perks that they get, and now I am here and realize that it is just as nice as I imagined it was. Getting to experience the transition from one Mission President to the other has truly been a wonderful blessing. 
     We woke up at 3am on Saturday morning, were picked up by the office elders at 4, and drove off to the airport with a few other missionaries serving in Munich to say goodbye to President and Sister Miles. It was so...not really sad, because I hadn't really connected the dots yet that they were leaving Germany and their service here. It was weird. I was super grateful and very happy to be there, but my brain couldn't really imagine what was going to come next.

     At church the next day, I was sitting down in Sunday School class, and I saw a group of people gathered at the door. It was a family, a couple and two teenage kids. I have to admit, my brain doesn't move super fast on Sundays. The thoughts going through my brain went like this: ''That looks like a nice family, I wonder if they are visiting. The dad is turning around now..wait...hey, is he wearing a name tag? I realized it was President Kohler and his family- to say I was excited would be an understatement! They are very young and have two teens who came with them- I cannot wait to get to know them better! 
     As nervous as I was for the moment that I would meet them, I was surprised at the amount of love that I immediately felt for them. The feelings of excitement, nervousness, confusion, gratitude, and humility were feelings that I was able to recognize because I feel those same feelings all too often in myself, and sense them every time new missionaries come into the field. But I also got an overwhelming sense that they are exactly what the mission needs right now. President Kohler is a man of God- my testimony of that was sure the moment I saw him and solidified the first time I talked to him. I only get to work with him and his family for 9 weeks, but hey, I am going to take those 9 weeks and run with it!
     Because the world cup is going on right now and soccer is a HUGE part of the culture here, all of the missionaries have permission to watch 2 of the games! We were invited over to the Sneddon's, an American family in our ward, to watch the Germany vs. America game. It was so fun! I am very sorry to admit it, but I was cheering for Germany :P  
Cheering for Germany
      This week, our zone is having a 'Finding Week', where we are really focusing on finding new people to teach. There has been a lot of excitement for this week, especially since we have set such a high goal of people to find. Sister Erdenetsogt and I have really been praying to find people who are actually going to progress and who are actually searching for the gospel, and we have seen nothing but miracles the past few days. 
The Elder's talking to someone at the park

I love pretty fields
      For example, we were walking down a street, and a car drives by and honks at us. Thinking it was just an immature man honking at us, we kept walking. A few minutes later, he drives by again, honks and waves, trying to get our attention before driving on. We didn't recognize him, so again, we kept going. A few minutes later, he drove by again, slowed down, but we were talking to a lady so he drove forward and parked on the side of the road. After we were done talking to the lady, we walked to his car, and he rolled down his window. I didn't recognize him, but he recognized me! He said 

          ''I have seen you before! You were here a few weeks ago, and I saw your name tag; you were talking to people about a book. I didn't know what you were talking about, but I knew you were missionaries. I have been thinking about you two for weeks.  I moved here a bit ago, and I haven't been able to find a church that has God. I am Christian, and really love God, but I cant find him in any of the churches here. What is that book you are holding? Can I have it? Can I come to your church?''

    Sister Erdenetsogt and I stood there for a bit before the whole thing really connected in our brains! "Of course you can come! Here is a book, here is our card, come to church!"
     It was so cool to see that not only do we see miracles, but lots of times miracles come to US. Sister Miles told me once that the amazing thing about miracles is that they happen every day, not just occasionally. How true that is! 
We went knocking here

Well, I think that's all for today. Love you tons!!!

German flowers
Sister Peterson