Lessons Learned

Today I am reminded of William Saroyan’s words, “Everybody has to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case.”

At the beginning of my mission the thought of writing my last letter home seemed impossibly far away. I always knew that missionaries go home, but I guess I never realized that it would one day come to an end. That’s something that’s been really hard for me to grasp the last few days. At the beginning I couldn’t wait to be done, now, I just wish I could go back to my time in Singen. I just wish I had six more months, but I know that if I had six more months at the end of that time, I would be begging the Lord to give me more time. Time is such a fickle thing. A missionary who went home about a year ago said, “Time is so unforgiving to a dying missionary.” I cannot tell you how true that statement is.

Sister (Michelle) Jaynes wrote me a letter in which she described the sensation as “a rollercoaster” and all you want to do is “get off and throw-up.” Das stimmt, Bruder! oder…Schwester…

Today we spent our P-day with Oma Voigt. She’s the most adorable, loving, sweet woman that I know, and I am going to miss her so much! When we were eating lunch at her house I was crying because of how sad I am that I am leaving on Thursday. But I have the opportunity to see her again on Thursday morning (she’s going to bring us to Bahnhof with all of my bags). I have met so many people that I am going to miss and that I will forever remember in my heart. I will always keep these people close to me because they have become family. Granted, I am so grateful for the people that I have left at home, the people that I will be seeing on Friday and those that I will be hugging and freuing myself to see.

Yesterday, I was sitting in the back of the chapel, translating for Wisdom, a member who just moved into our branch, when Präsident Frank asked me to stand up. Everyone in the chapel turned around to look at me, some knowing why I was standing and others beginning to realize. Präsident Frank told the branch that I had successfully completed my mission and that I would be returning home to my family on Friday. Then with tears in his eyes he asked me to come up and bear my testimony. I could feel the weight of sadness and grief weighing on my shoulders as I went up and stood at the podium and I felt the tears forming in my eyes. I looked out at all the faces that I had come to know and love and the people that had found themselves so deep in my heart that there would be no way to remove them.  I stood there and with teary choked German told them how much I loved them. I started crying harder as I saw the tears in their eyes. But the comfort of the gospel of Jesus Christ is something that will get us all though. Because for the faithful, for the righteous, and for the strong in the gospel of Jesus Christ, there are no true good-byes. Only bis aufwiedersehen.

But to move away from the things that make me sad about leaving, I am so grateful that I get to go home and to see my family. I have missed them, but I know that the time that I spent away will only make this reunion all the sweeter.

I decided that for my last email, I would simply share with you all the lessons I have learned on my mission. Lessons that I am so grateful I learned, even though they were difficult.

As I thought about this these last few days I realized that there were many lessons I’ve learned, many things I had to learn the hard way because I was too stubborn to learn it the easy way. But however I learned these lessons, I am eternally grateful I met the decision to go on a mission.

I could list off all the things I learned in this refiner’s fire, but instead I think I’ll stick to the greatest lessons the Lord could have taught me, the lessons He presumably sent me here to learn.

Before my mission I was short-tempered (I’m not sure how much this has really improved, but I would say there’s been some definite progress.), easy to offend, and one of the most prideful twenty-one year old you had ever met. I came on my mission assuming that I would be enjoying a nice vacation baptizing twenty or so people, coming home with stories of a miracle filled mission that would one day end up in the Liahona and would be talked about in General Conference. I assumed I would be the most proficient at the language and that I would have the ability to communicate with people about the gospel and show them the way to baptism with grace, poise, and ease.

I do believe the Lord sent me on my mission to humble me.

The Lord knew, when He was inspiring the apostle assigning me to my mission, that I would need to have some hard times, I would need to struggle and I would need to work. Hard. And that’s why He sent me to the Alpine German-Speaking mission. And it was the greatest decision that He ever made. And here I am, a humbled servant of the Lord. I have learned that the miracles aren’t always going to come in grand flashes of heavenly fire, or sixty five people getting baptized in the Bodensee. But I am so grateful for that lesson of humility. I have learned so much about being grateful for the small and simple things, the small things that before I never noticed. Now I am just so grateful if someone will give me the time of day on the bus! But the Lord is so wise, and He knows His children very well.

I would say the second important lesson that the Lord wanted to teach me was patience. Oh how glad I am that the Lord taught me PATIENCE! Granted, I am still anxious and antsy for certain things, but I had to learn that the blessings that I want won’t always come on my timeline. The Lord has His knowledge, His plan and His way. And thank goodness cause it’s a lot better than mine. I have had to learn to leave that in His hands, and it’s something I’m still learning.

But the most important lesson that Heavenly Father wanted me to learn on my mission was how to love other people. I will admit that I did not know how to love people before I came to do the Lord’s work that REQUIRED love. “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.” (D&C 4:5) Thank goodness the Lord qualifies those that He calls. I needed some major qualifying and I needed some help figuring out how to love people. And I can tell you that if I hadn’t figured out how to love these people, I would not have enjoyed my mission like I did. And I am so grateful that the Lord was able to take the time and the patience to teach me such an important lesson. Because He wants His children to be loved and He’s going to prepare people that will love them and I am so grateful that I have been, and hopefull will continue to be, one of those people.

I had to learn that there is good in all people and you can always find a reason to love someone. Even someone who has wronged you, hurt you, or ignored you. My capacity to love has grown so much and I have, on more than one occassion, felt a little like the Grinch as he stood on Mount Krumpet and felt his heart grow three sizes. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the sizes of heaven, my heart has grown twelve sizes. ANd how grateful I am for that growth.

I wish I could tell you everything that I had learned, but the time is short, and I have a lifetime still to tell you everything. Just know that I love you all and I am so excited to see you on Friday. Thank you for the LOVE you have given me and the ways that you have supported me. I have felt your prayers and your love from accross the world. There have been times on lonely buses, surrounded by people, or alone on my knees in a train bathroom, that I have felt your prayers and your love crossing the boundaries of space and time, and I have felt so much peace in those moments. The Lord has let me feel the love and the support you have given me and words in any tongue cannot express how eternally grateful I am for that. Thank you so much!

I love you all.

Sister Hammock

The Ninth Pair

Well, this week was an adventure! We went to Rhein Falls on Monday for P-day and that was quite fun! Switzerland!

Rhein Falls in Switzerland

Tuesday was Zone Training, which was successful and was followed by an Austausch. I went to Lahr with Sister Hemmi (this is her first transfer in the field) and we were talking about how their suitcases had been stolen out of one of their hall closets in their apartment building and she showed me the closet that had been broken into. Someone had basically pried the door open wide enough to get past the deadbolt and had gotten away with a passport, internet passwords, etc. As we were looking at the other closet in the hallway that also belongs to them, we noticed that this door was open, and lo and behold, the burgler had come back that day and had opened up the other closet door. So Sister Hemmi and I spent the next few hours at the police station. Most of the time we spent in a tiny locked room (see picture below). It was quite the adventure. 

DSCN4500

Friday we went to a Relief Society activity that was…veryEuropean. I’ll tell you all about in two weeks, but suffice it to say, it was not something would find the members of my home Relief Society doing. 

On Saturday there was a baptism for the Schaffhausen Branch in our Stake. It was a part-member family and it was all in Spanisch and Swiss German. It was so very spiritual and everyone of the family members who were there for the baptism were so happy that he was getting baptized. The Lord works miracles on the hearts of the people here in Europe. There are people being prepared, we just have to find them. 

Yesterday we went to a Romanian birthday party and that was…well…interesting. I will be very excited to enjoy BBQ that is done the American way: warm, fresh off the grill, and has more meat than fat. I  love Europeans, but they just don’t understand the concept of grilling. 

 
This week I decided to share a poem that I wrote recently. I love my mission so much. It means everything to me and I’m so grateful that I have had the opportunity to be a missionary in this beautiful part of the world. It has never been einfach, but it has always been worth it.

THE NINTH PAIR
I remember the day I walked through the doors

To 18 months of dreams on distant shores.

A pair of brand new shoes on my feet,

Carried me further than I could ever think.

Those shoes carried across the sea,

Walked the beginnings of the journey with me.

Through rolling hills and crowded streets,

We talk with everyone that we meet. 

But soon enough the soles wore down,

My feet touching the frozen ground
A small price to pay to preach the word,
I only wish my shoes had endured.

Purhaps a hundred miles, maybe two,
The next pair wore out much too soon.
With a heavy heart and a weary mind, 
I wish I didn’t have so much time. 

Each step marks another day,
Out in the heat, always on our way. 
I spent many long and sleepless nights,
Crying and praying with all my might. 

I felt abandoned and oh so alone,
I couldn’t help but wish I was home.
Back where I was comfortable,
But the decision to leave was impossible. 

And then through the darkness came a light,
That gave me a reason and a purpose to fight. 
With renewed evergy and a newfound hope,
As I read the words an apostle wrote. 

So on again with a brand new pair,
Before the frosty chill joins the air.
And as the fall creeps in again,
Those shoes aren’t as nice as they once had been.

Unworn boots crunch fresh fallen leaves,
And the passing of time brings a bit of relief.
But the people aren’t always so kind
And all our efforts seem undermined.

And before I know the water comes in,
The world is against me, there’s no way to win. 
The holes in those shoes are too much to bear,
Even the seams have begun to tear. 

Stomping your feet to keep the cold at bay,
What I would do to stay inside all day. 
So I buy a new pair that locks the cold out,
And makes it easier to be out and about. 

But all too soon the cold breaks through,
I tell my father, “I should have listened to you!”
Before the winter’s chill is past,
 I find a pair I know will last.

The winter’s snow melts and fades to spring,
And finding new shoes is no small thing.
But off again in the work of the Lord,
The soles fell off as I was preaching the word.

We say all souls will be resurrected one day,
But for shoes I’m not sure it works the same way.
With a good-bye to the shoes that carried me so far,
I prayed the new ones would be up to par.

I’ve learned more than once that life is hard,
But you have to finish what you start. 
So others could know what’s truth and right, 
A new pair of shoes came into my life. 

The time is so short, now where did it go?
It seems like yesterday that we had snow.
And as time goes on so cooly unforgiving,
I pray to Heavenly Father in desperate yearning.

I wish for the days that never seemed to end,
The days when I had no more energy to spend. 
I long for the days in Austrian hills,
And long winter nights with unbearable chills. 

For the Bayern blue that feels like home,
The friendliest place I’ve ever known. 
To walk those streets and hear those sounds,
To cound the cobblestones on the ancient ground. 

For the Bodensee with waters so deep,
And the picture perfect view that makes me weep.
With people I could’ve never loved more,
Who I will continue to love, of that I’m sure. 

I’ve learned time moves much too quick you see,
And it’s going on, with or without me.
Now my heart yearns for days long gone,
As another new day breaks into dawn.

And as the day grows steadily nearer,
Some things become somewhat clearer. 
I think of all the lessons I’ve learned,
And all the hearts the Lord has turned. 

I remember an eager little girl,
Who set out to save the world. 
Her heart and mind so full of dreams,
Found out the work was harder than it seems.

And through the steady flame of the refiner’s fire,
That girl gave up all the Lord required.
And now in the ninth pair of worn out shoes,
I’m coming home, back to you.

I love you all so much! Thank you for all your support and love. I feel it every day!

Alles Liebe,
Lillie

The One

We said goodbye to L yesterday. She’s going back to China this week and she is very sad to leave. At the beginning of our time together she told us that she was looking for home. Yesterday she told us that the church feels like home. ​I’m going to miss her, but thank goodness for modern day technology.

.Lillie and Lily

This last week I have been an emotional wreck. I just have moments of realizing that I’m almost done with my mission and then I freak out. There are times when I talk about how excited I am that I’m going to see my family usw. BUT then I start crying my eyes out cause I’m so sad I’m almost done. For the most part though, it doesn’t feel real. But every time a plane flies by someone will always say, “How far away do you think that plane is?” And then I KNOW what’s coming! “It’s about three weeks away.” Oh man. It’s just a rollercoaster. 

But I’ve just been thinking about my mission this last week and everything that’s happened and all the people I’ve come in contact with, L in particular. I just couldn’t help but feel a little entäusched that L wasn’t able to get baptized before she went back to China. The Lord had directed her to us. He had sent her to Germany, put her on a bus where we would be and ruined the vacation weather so it would be unpleasant for her to go out and do things so she would want to meet with us. I just had this moment of wondering why the Lord would go through so much trouble and then have it not work out that she could get baptized now. And then I had other questions and worries about my mission and why I had been lead to all of the places that I had and why I had experienced all the things I did. And It took me a few minutes, but I realized that the Lord cares so much about the one. 

The Lord tells us as much in Luke 15:
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
“And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing
“And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”

So why is this principle to understand in terms of sheep and not in terms of ourselves? Perhaps we aren’t all lost sinners, wandering from the fold of God, but we all need individual attention and the Lord will prove to us over and over again that He will orchestrate miracles for us to feel like we are cared for. 

In my endeavor to read the Standard Works on my mission I am almost finished with only a few books of the New Testament left. Yesterday, while reading in Hebrews, I had a huge moment of realizing that the Lord cares about me as an individual, as the one. 

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Hebrews 6:10

I felt as though this was a moment of the Lord telling me, Lillie, I’m proud of what you’ve done so far, you’ve done my work, you’ve done good work. And then the next verse was an additional reminder that the Lord is conscious of all of His children. So conscious of us, that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lord inspiried Paul to write these verses where he did, in the order that he did so the Lord could organize the fate of the cosmos so I would read it at this point in my life:

“And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.”

This hit me like a wall of bricks. I realized that yes, the Lord is pleased with my work, but He wants me to keep working. Keep going. Endure to the end. 

The Lord just knows exactly what we need, exactly when we need it and He will do everything to make sure we get it. Sometimes it’s easy to view the Lord as some untouchable being. The Great, the Almighty, the Creator of the universe. And although He is all of these things, we learn about His priorities through the principles He teaches us through His modern day prophets. James E. Faust said, “Noble fatherhood gives us a glimpse of the divine attributes of our Father in heaven.” Our Father in heaven is our father, and His greatest joy in life is not in all the worlds He’s created, not in all the marvelous power He has. Instead, His work and His glory, is us. The greatest Being in the universe wants us to be happy and to return to Him. 

Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He is willing to organize any means and any people, to get us to come closer to Him, to return to Him. How great is it to know that we warrant, not only the attention of the God of the universe, but also, that He cares about us so much as to seek after each of us individually so we could return to live with him. 

I know our Heavenly Father lives and loves us. He wants to hear from us, He wants to show us that He cares and that He’s there. Trust in the Lord. Try prayer. Your Father wants to hear from you.

I love you all!

Lillie

Do It Heartily

This has been quite the week. We’ve been the joint teach for the Elders for one of their investigators J. She’s from Kenya and she’s BEAUTIFUL. One of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. But she’s also progressing really well in the gospel and she’s so sweet. She has a baptismal date for the 16th of August and she loves the missionaries and the ward members. She is so great and when she gets baptized she’ll be doing really well on the whole staying active front.

On Tuesday we met with L. We were worried that she wasn’t really grasping what the restoration means and we were worried that it wasn’t going to go anywhere, but when we met with her later in the week we realized that she understands more than we realize because of the cultural/language barrier. (I never learned any gospel words in Chinese). But she’s doing really well. I’m not sure if she’ll be ready to take that step of baptism before she goes back to China, but we’ve been in contact with the Church in China to get her set up to still go to church and be a part of a ward. She just won’t be able to be baptized until she comes back out of China. But I have hope that she was led to us for a reason and that the time will come when she is ready. SHe told us that she believes the gospel is true, she just doesn’t understand it. Which is okay. We want her to feel ready before she gets baptized. But I was seriously impressed on how much of the gospel that I don’t fully understand per se, but I feel like I believe it enough to feel that it’s true.

Sister Henry and Sister Hammock

We were also in Zürich on Tuesday with Präsident Blaser, the Stake Präsident for a coordination meeting with the Zone leadership from both Zones. Präsident Blaser is a prime example of an inspired leader. He cares so much about missionary work and is truly one of many people that I admire and respect on my mission. He has done so many good things for this Stake and he is just so in touch with the Lord’s inspiration.

On Thursday we were back in Switzerland for Zone Konferenz where we met Präsident Kohler and his family. It was just so strange to see the difference between him and Präsident Miles. While we were sitting there listening to Präsident Kohler speak I just had this overwhelming rush of sadness/jealousy come over me for all the missionaries that get to have more time to be with Präsident Kohler. His vision for this mission is incredible and I am just so jealous that I don’t get to experience where this mission is going to go. But I know that the Lord called me on my mission at this time for a reason.

The Fourth of July was a fun day. We met with Schwester Kautz, one of the members here in Singen who loves America and Americans. So we brought an American flag, no bake cookies, and sang the star spangled banner with her. She loved it. We also had a night with the Zimmermans, well two of the Zimmermans, Antje and her daughter Joyce, and we hung up the flag, ate hamburgers and watched part of the Germany v. France game. Of course, Germany won. It’ll be interesting to see who wins against Brazil. I’m honestly wondering if Germany does get to the final game if we’ll be allowed to watch it. That would be awesome!!!!!

We’ll be going to München this week for MLC and I’ll get to see Sister Smith!!! But it’ll also be really interesting to see what President Kohler is like in these Leadership meetings. I’m really interested to see the changes that he makes to the mission, if he makes any this early on.

Well, this week has been quite the emotional rollercoaster for me. I’m torn between so many thoughts and things and I just don’t know what to think. Most of the time I just don’t think about it because it just confuses me. It doesn’t feel real and I still feel like I have four or five months left. But this week as I was reading in the New Testament, in my desperate attempt to finish the entire standard works before the end of my mission. (For any future missonaries, begin this quest at the begining of your mission and not when you have about eight months left. It’s a bit knapp.) And while I was reading I found a scriputre in Colossians 3 that says:

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

This really hit me because I had been so worried about what other people were going to think about the legacy I left behind as a missionary, and if I talked about home it would be a bad thing, but I do believe I have done my mission heartily. And I sincerely hope that when I am on that plane home I’ll be able to look out over Europe and feel Heavenly Father’s acceptance of my mission.

But I know that this scripture doesn’t just apply to me as a missionary, but it applies to all of us in whatever our daily ventures are. We can always find reasons to be happy in our lives, even if everything seems to tossed hap-hazardly into a handbasket and sent on down the road in a unicycle to the pit of fire waiting for you. That’s something I’ve learned in these last seventeen months, that even when things are hard, there is always a chorus of angels standing off to the side cheering you on, lifting you up when you can’t go on any further.

I have such a strong testimony that the Atonement of Jesus Christ extends further than we realize. If we let it, His Atonement can permeate itself into our lives and can give us the little extra umph to our try and that makes all the difference.

There will always be difficult times that enter into our lives. Always. If there is one that we can count on in this world it is that we will have hard times. But I’ve come to learn that whenever a hard time comes my way, it’s the Lord’s way of showing me that He’s trying to make me into something or someone better.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still struggle though these horrible times of trial, it’s just really easy to write pretty words while you’re sitting at a computer, but when you put life into practice it works you hard.

I feel a lot like the man that God put in front of a large boulder and told him to move the rock. The man, being obedient to the commandments of God, pushed the rock as hard as he could and for eighteen months he pushed that rock and had absolutely no success in moving it. Not even an inch. And after eighteen months God visited the man again and the man said, “Lord, I have tried my hardest to move this rock and nothing has worked. I have pushed and pushed with all my might all these months and I have seen no results.” The Lord in turn looked at the man and said, “My son, if I wanted to move the rock, I could. Instead I asked you to move the rock so you could grow and become strong. Look at yourself now, after eighteen months of pushing this rock, you have grown strong and steady.”

Sometimes I feel like God put me in front of a rock and told me to push, and that’s what I’ve been doing for seventeen months with little to no success. But I can see the spiritual growth in myself and in the way that I am and the person that I have become. And for that I am so grateful fro all the difficult times when I was on my knees pleading and asking the Lord, “Why!” I understand maybe just a little more than I did before about why the Lord wanted me to come here to be a missionary.

Alles liebe,

Lillie