I hope New Years was a wonderful time for you all and that you are planning on your best year ever! I absolutely cannot believe how fast 2013 has gone by! At the beginning of 2013, I had just returned home from BYU and getting ready for my mission. Twelve months ago, I was so clueless about what my mission would be like. I was excited to be going to my favorite country in the world and for all the adventures I envisioned- but there was no way to completely plan and prepare for the life I have been living for the past nine months- NINE MONTHS, can you believe, I am officially half way done with my mission! How can I slow this time down??
To celebrate, all of the Linz missionaries were invited to the Vogl's house for Silvester (New Years)!
We were allowed to stay out late as long as we had a safe ride home. I think it is possible that we have the coolest mission president ever! Some may argue, but I love President and Sister Miles, so their arguments won't work well on me.
We had a really delicious and traditional New Years meal called Raclette (which is actually a Swiss meal...hmm, ironic.) It starts with baked potatoes, a bunch of different types of meat, cheese, and vegetables. There is a big Raclette oven
|Picture of a Raclette grill from http://indoorgrillraclette.wordpress.com/|
in the middle of the table with a grill on top to cook the meat.
The whole purpose of Raclette is to have everything FRESH at the same time. So you melt your cheese in the oven and the meat on top, and then put everything all together on your plate, eat, and do it all over again! It was so delicious, but super filling!
|pictures of the Raclette in action|
|Elder Szvoboda just couldn't stay awake until midnight|
|'S' & 'A' Vogl|
|'S' in Silvester confetti|
You know the really big fireworks that we watch for the 4th of July? Those are just a very small side show compared to what we saw on New Year's Eve! Everyone is allowed to buy those big and showy fireworks here. On New Years Eve, as it gets close to midnight, everyone starts firing their fireworks, so the fireworks display literally lights the entire sky. The city doesn't put on a show, no company is hired to sponsor an event! The entire sky, no matter where you look- everything you see is a fireworks display from the people in Linz. Not only is it spectacular- but it is such a show of community spirit and love! So much joy and happiness and SUCH a great way to start the New Year.
It was so amazing to be outside at midnight, seeing the sky filled with fireworks, and having everyone scream 'Es ist 2014! Glückliches neues Jahr, es ist 2014!!!' It was so exciting, so amazing, but yet so surreal.
I couldn't help but think 'O my goodness, it is 2014. I go home in 2014!' New Years Resolutions don't just include my mission life; but my post mission life of school, family & friends. It is an exciting thought, but also very scary. On the one hand, I feel like I have just started my mission and that I still have SO MUCH more to learn and SO MUCH more to give!! But then again, the reality is finally starting to sink in that I have been here a while and only have a limited amount of time left. It only makes me appreciate my time here so much more! Time is just too precious to waste- someone wise used to tell me that when all I really wanted to do was sleep until noon on lazy summer mornings :)
We went over the Vogl's house again to break our fast on Sunday. Let me tell you, nobody knows more chocolate games than this family does! Grandma Nielsen needs to learn some of these games- she would love to spend a few evenings with this family.
|Sister E eating her chocolate from the game|
|'S' playing the Chocolate Game|
|More crazy Chocolate Games|
We played this really fun game; you need a chocolate bar, a fork, a knife, some big winter (or baking) gloves, a scarf, a hat, a dice, and other obnoxious accessories. The chocolate bar, the fork and the knife are in the middle of the table, and everyone takes turns rolling a dice. If you roll a 6, you have to quickly put on the hat, the scarf, gloves, and everything else, grab the fork and knife and cut a square of chocolate and eat it. But here is the trick-the dice is still being rolled as you are doing all of this, and if someone else rolls a 6, you have to stop what you are doing and give everything else to that person. Eating a small square of chocolate has never been so difficult before!
O-kay, so on to the news you are dying for, I know!!! Transfer calls!!!
Nothing too crazy this transfer. Sister Wunderli is going to Tubingen in the Stuttgart Zone, and Sister Erdenetsogt and I will be staying here in Linz to finish her training. Sister Wunderli is very excited! She was so worried that she was going to be sent to the Swiss bubble! (once you get called to serve in Switzerland, you NEVER LEAVE!!)
We had a lot of fun working in a companionship of 3, but I am kind of relieved to go back to having just one companion and being able to train Sister Erdenetsogt on my own. We will have a lot of fun together and do a lot of good, I know it.
I have also realized that I have been getting really lazy with my German. The people in Freiburg told me that the Austrian's mumble, which I thought was impossible because German is such an articulate language. But as I have been listening to myself, I have realized that I have been making up words and sounds that I am pretty sure don't actually exist :P But the Austrians understand me, so oh well!
We found an amazing man on the Straßenbahn this week, his name is 'L' and he is from Gambia. In our very first meeting, he told us "I'm not a very religious person, and I am only here to exchange thoughts; but you need to know, I am not a very Christ believing person." But by the end of our time with him, he was asking so many questions, AND he committed to read the Book of Mormon. We have met with him a few times since then, and it is so amazing to see the change that people make as they learn about the Gospel. Sometimes it is so hard to not teach him EVERYTHING because his questions are so perfect and he is so prepared to accept this gospel.
It is just the coolest thing to see the Spirit testify to these people that the Gospel is true, even if they don't fully understand everything that we are saying. It is the coolest thing to be a missionary! I love the change in people's smiles, their faces; their whole bodies seem to light up with the message of the restoration of the Gospel and the Plan of Salvation. This is a gift only offered through the testimony and witness of the Holy Ghost. It is not some magic trick we missionaries learn in the MTC, this is the spirit and gift of the Holy Ghost working in real time. The only true magic is that missionaries are given a front seat vantage point to see it in action.
So with that said, share the gospel! Share it with yourself, with your family, with your friends and with the strangers you meet on the street each day. Sometimes it is just so hard to hold this joy and testimony in.
So my spiritual message for today is directed at a question mom asked me, but I think it applies to many people- maybe even a lot of people at this time of year when people are looking back on the past year and hoping for a bright and squeaky clean new year:
|I made cupcakes for the YW in our ward|
|Sister E so happy that we found a new veggie store|
|A sister missionary slumber party with the Wels sisters|
Well, I hope y'all had a great new years, and I am excited to see what this year has in store! I love you all so much :)
Gott sei mit euch! Alles Gute!