Thursday, May 1, 2014

Vienna: Third Time's a Charm

Hello All-

... or in honor of the line dancing class we are teaching this weekend "Howdy Y'ALL!" By the way, I wish you all could see the hilarious videos of line dancing that my sisters and brother sent! The first thing I am doing when I get home is post those on YouTube (is YouTube still a thing?)

Sister Pentz and I on p-day
I will start with last Monday for p-day. It was a holiday in Austria so pretty much everything was closed, so we hadn't made any really big plans for the day. Randomly, Schwester Seyr and her husband called us us to see what we had planned for the day. 
Schwester Seyr & her husband- we love them so much
Schwester Seyr said "well, that is just not acceptable to be in Austria for a limited number of Monday's and NOT have any plans!!  

Another selfie :)
They invited us over for lunch (a special curry and rice dish, which ended up being an answer to Sister Pentz's prayers!!) and then they took us on a fun little hike up to a place called Lichtenberg. It was a bit of a drive away, but I had no idea that Linz was so GORGEOUS!  
I wish pictures could do this natural beauty justice

It reminded me a bit of Schwarzwald (the Black Forest) where I started out my mission. It probably has a lot to do with the time of year, because it was this time last time last year that I first arrived in Freiburg. Whatever the reason, I just felt so "at home" in those rolling hills!

I gotta say, I love the members! I don't think that any of us have any way of truly realizing how our little, seemingly simple acts of kindness make a huge impact to someone in our path. 

Everyone needs an ice cream break
I definitely know I didn't think anything of having the missionaries over for dinner at home, but NOW- we live for and thrive from our interactions with the members and their families. You might think a smile and a sandwich is no big deal- but to those kids who are far from home- it's the difference between crying and laughing sometimes! :)  
The view from a member's home here in Linz

I love this view of Linz
When I got the call two transfers ago that I would be working with Sister Ackerman, I pretty much knew that I would be staying in Linz for 5 transfers (7 and a half months) and I was pretty intimidated. Five transfers is a LONG time to be in one place! I was only in Freiburg for 4! So when I was told I would be with Sister Ackerman, one Elder here told me to be grateful for the extra time. He said that I would be amazed at how well I get to know the ward, the area, and the people. That has proved to be more true than I thought possible. I love how comfortable I am now in Linz, the friendships I have made, and how much I feel at home :)  Now the trick is to make sure that THEY don't get sick of ME...teeheehee

Kirchschlag means 'church slap'
On that note, the Didenhover's offered me one of the kindest things this past month. They have been here in Linz with me and talked to me the other day about a special fast they had decided to do. They had been fasting that one of our investigators would be baptized before I leave Linz. I know from my own personal prayers that if I don't ever have an investigator choose to be baptized that all is well- I'm here for more than I can truly comprehend. But it was so nice that they were thinking of me on that level to have a special fast on my behalf. We really do make a difference in each others lives. I'm telling you, by small and simple things are great things brought to pass! Don't ever forget that.

Sister Pentz's first Doner
We had a really cool activity in the church last week. There are a lot of Persian less actives in the ward who struggle coming to church. I think one of the biggest challenges in getting investigators to come to church and stay active is the language barrier. Imagine how intimidating it is to come to a church where the culture is different, the way of worship is different, the ideas of doctrine are different, and add on top of THAT the inability to speak the language of those around you. It IS pretty scary! I know it was scary for me my first few weeks in Germany, and I am a missionary!  
But the ward organized an activity based on the talk from conference about how we ''are no more strangers''. The Persian members were asked to prepare presentations, introduce themselves, and cook dinner in order to demonstrate their culture and show themselves to the ward. It was probably one of the coolest activities I have visited on my mission. Just to watch the Persian members connect with the ward, and feel involved, welcome, and just excited to be there! 
I often think back of my attitude on missionary work in America. How often would I see the Elders bring an investigator to church, and instead of being a friend, I judged?  Excuses of 'they cant speak English, they aren't wearing traditional church clothes, they have different standards than I do, they won't think I am genuine if I say "Hi"- these kinds of thoughts ran rampant through my mind all too much.  
But now, as I missionary, I realize how much trust and patience and faith I ask of the members every time I bring someone to church. And how grateful I am at the help we do get! We are not strangers!!  We are all Gods children! 
That person sitting next to you on the bus stop, who might not speak very much English, might actually be the funniest person that you ever meet. That girl who sits behind you in Sunday School who is really shy and dresses a little differently might actually be one of the most spiritually in tune people you'll ever meet- and she might be able to answer one of your much needed questions.  
It's kind of cool to think about. That lady that always checks out your stuff at Target might end up being your best friend. Her and her newlywed husband might end up accepting an invitation to come to the ward barbeque, which will help them feel comfortable enough to come to church, take the missionary lessons, get baptized, and be sealed to each for time and all eternity in the temple. You just never know- but the only way you'll find out is if you open your mouth and be a friend first. I'm telling you, friendship, love, fellowship! Every member has a story of a friend who made a difference! So go out and be a friend- who knows where it might lead you and the person you meet?  
Romanian Easter eggs

The Easter Egg Game
This Monday, all of the missionaries from Salzburg and Vienna zones met up in Vienna and had a massive finding day. I was able to work with Sister Green to go finding. It was so super, incredible, over-the-top fun! I love going on splits with other missionaries and just seeing how other missionaries do the work in their own areas.  

On Tuesday, we had Mission Tour. President and Sister Miles came to Vienna with Elder and Sister Dyches (from the 70) and led some pretty good discussions and lessons. It was overall a very spiritual and uplifting few days. I definitely learned a lot.

But, for me, it wouldn't be a trip to Vienna unless there was stress involved...
I don't know why, but lately I have been having a really hard time dealing with TIME. I have always told myself that no matter how ''old'' I get on my mission (age is defined by how many months serving not necessarily year of life), I won't have to worry about going home and all that that entails until a,b,c, and d happens. For example, until my year mark, until I have 5 months left, until my field year mark, until my last general conference, until my last time skype home to my family, etc etc etc. To focus on the work and keep my head in the game, I have definitely been procrastinating thinking about going home or ending my mission until it gets much closer....
But while in Vienna, it was so amazing to meet up with and see lots of missionaries that I have worked with throughout my mission. There have been so many people who were instrumental to my first few months trying to learn the language, feeling comfortable with a new way of life and feeling confident as a missionary- I have looked up to all of these awesome missionaries and have just kind of never thought of them as much more than my missionary mentors- but in Vienna, talking to them I realized that many of them are going home. Like going HOME NEXT WEEK!!  
I remember meeting them, hearing them say that they would be going home in May, and thinking that that was forever away. May is only 3 transfers earlier than me and I have all the time in the world left to be a missionary! 
Sister Garrett and I (I'm going to miss her)

I always look forward to seeing Sister Allman and she is going home too
But seeing them all together, especially because Elder Dyches made them all stand up and come to the front of the room, I think it launched a little panic attack. A few missionaries have told me that the 3rd to last transfer is the hardest to deal with. This is the transfer when you finally start to realize the reality of the fact that going home is going to happen, and sooner than you were expecting. Like really Soon. Fast. Schnell. 
They all have warned that you feel like you haven't had enough time to learn yet, that you are just barely getting the hang of missionary work and finally can cope with up and down days. It's so easy to think that it is in the distant future. But than all of a sudden it is looking you square in the face and you are afraid of becoming trunk-y and NOT focusing on the work, you start to get stressed about what you still have to learn and do, and it is emotionally and physically draining! Since it is still not close enough to your release date, you don't have the excitement and anticipation about going home yet, so it's all stress and panic.
Sister Lohmann: one of my first tausch's (going home next week)
Yes, I thought they were all crazy, but it is all happening now to me. My 3rd to last transfer begins next Monday. And I am already feeling it. I'm afraid I think about this a lot more than I should. I think this is one of the biggest blessings about my companionship with Sister Pentz. She is ganz neu auf Mission! She needs as much help as she can get to adjust to missionary life, to learn to love the language, the culture, the people, the rules. She, just like every other Golden I know, needs all of my time and attention. Her enthusiasm and the novelty of everything we encounter keeps me well grounded and joyful at our days together. I am very grateful for the opportunity to train again for this (and many other) reasons! 
I have already noticed how when my thoughts are on her (and my investigators and members, of course) I am happier. I am carefree, and time is not an issue, because I am not living for time, but I am living for the moment. But how to learn to do that all the time?  I have no idea!  I will let you know when I do ;)
One more selfie- I love this girl!
I love you all so much, and have a wonderful week!

Sister Peterson

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