Monday, December 23, 2013

Week 16

Merry Christmas! 

The time has finally arrived! I am so excited to be able to skype my family! Probably the best christmas present right now! We have member appts scheduled for the 24, 25, and the 26. It's just going to be a lot of eating.....German food.......

We had a Chinese family home evening last week.....
Just playing ping pong with a member at our Chinese FHE...
Chinese Abend FHE
This week flew by! I had a split with the Sister Training Leader, baked Christmas cookies with a member, got my Visa, went caroling with the Elders in the freezing cold, and...just a lot more things I can't really think of right now.....

Baking cookies at a member's house!
She made me wrap like 50 presents......
This last Saturday and Sunday were a real changing point, though, in pretty much how I've been feeling as a missionary. We had interviews with the Mission President on Saturday. He is such an inspired man. Literally everything he told me was exactly what I needed to hear. 

I told him how sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with everything I need to improve that I don't feel like the best missionary I can be. He told me to stop talking to myself that way. He told me that I was a great example to all the missionaries I am around. Pretty much he just made me feel good about myself haha! I decided that I need to stop worrying if I am good enough and just realize that what I am doing is enough.
It sounds pretty simple when I type it out.

Split pic with Sister Miller....comps for the day :)
Later that day Sister Kearl and I decided that we needed to have a little "district inventory" at our coordination meeting with the other Dortmund Elders. We just have noticed that we lack a little unity and such......the details aren't important...........but we decided to bring it up. It ended up being like a therapy sesh....super special........but it really helped to get everything straightened out. Things are SO much better now! The elders just told us they don't really know how to interact with sisters. 
And I was like "we're just making it so you'll be better husbands some're welcome!" 

We had a little Christmas party with all the Dortmund missionaries. Elder Weidmann organized a secret santa gift exchange and then he made us lunch. Seriously so sweet!
Sunday we had Marion's baptism! She was rebaptized into the church but it has been a 14 month process for her to prepare to be baptized. Sometimes Sister Kearl and I felt like we really didn't do anything to help her get to this point. So many missionaries are responsible for this baptism. We were kind of having a bad day and feeling like what we were doing wasn't good enough for our area. We prayed together one morning that we would be able to know how God felt about our missionary work.

Our secret santa gifts under the tree
Later that day we had an appt with Marion. We were getting everything squared away for her baptism and she was very emotional. She told us that there was a reason that we were her missionaries right now. She said that she knows that when we speak that we are sincere. She told us that we were the best missionaries. Now I don't wirte this to say that "Oh we're the best missionaries lalalalalala look at us!" but I know that what Marion told us that day was answer to our prayer and that it was what God wanted to tell us. Of course I was just balwing while she was telling us that......that's fine! Her baptism went really well! Sister Kearl gave an amazing talk!!! 
I was so proud of her.

Marion's baptism!
Later Sunday evening Sister Kearl and I were talking and we just realized that all we can do is our best and that is enough for God. I'm realizing that every missionary has different talents and it's not fair to compare these talents. One of Sister Kearl's talents/strengths is that she is really good with people one on one and is really able to develop and strong connection with people who most don't take the time to get to know. While another elder in our district is really good at contacting people on the trains. They are so different but that doesn't mean one is a better missionary! 

Sister Kearl and I had nothing to eat Sunday night but I had your package in our apt. And I thought maybe you sent some mac n cheese. So I made Sister Kearl open the box, take out the mac n cheese, and then tape it back up. Kind of desparate times....... was a good week! I hope all is well back home!
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas! Thank you for the emails! 

Sister Madsen

Friday, December 20, 2013

Week 15

It has been a crazy week!

Some legit street it!
Sister Kearl and I have suddenly turned into the musical number touring companionship. You would be so proud of me mom! I sang in front of 3 different groups of people! I know you are all thinking....."Well she's a Madsen blah blah blah"........but that's kind of a big deal for me! haha!

At the Evangelical church!
The Bishop's wife first invited Sister Kearl to play her violin at her children's kindergarten Christmas program. We got there and it ended up being in this old Evangelical church. It was way pretty inside. The Bishop's wife asked me if I would sing one of the songs. I was like, ok! When would I ever have the opportunity to sing in a German Evangelisch church?! so I went for it. The pastor/priest man totally looked like Harrison Ford and he was rockin the classical guitar. So there we were, two sister missionaries performing in front of a German Evangelisch congregation with Mr. Harrison Ford rocking out on his guitar. It was so cool! It ended up being a really good missionary opportunity for the Bishop's wife because everyone came up to her afterwards and asked her who we were! 

It was really pretty inside!
The outside of the church
Later in the week, Sister Kearl and I were practicing for the Ward Christmas program and again the Bishop's wife asked me if I would sing a song. This time it was Silent Night. Oh boy......let's just say I'm not a soprano but I decided to do it anyways. The program was on Saturday and Sister Kearl played some numbers with the choir and a couple by herself and then the very last number was Silent Night. I was just singing in front of the ward in German. That's fine! Special times......

Santa giving us our presents at the Ward Christmas party!
Delicious German has a special name.....can't remember it/spell it.
After the program the elders had a baptism. The man being baptized is Romanian and doesn't know any German. So we had the translation system hooked up to the phone and on the phone was a German to Romanian translator. Sister Kearl and I prepared a musical number for the baptism. We did Savior Redeemer of My Soul and we spent the night before writing a violin part for the music. Sister Kearl is a boss at transposing music! No one could accompany us on the piano except another elder in a neighboring area. So he came to the baptism. Except they came like 5 min before it started so we only had time to run through it altogether ONCE! 

After the Baptism. John (in the middle) was baptized!
I was nervous to sing the song because there were people there who only knew romanion or chinese or german and my song was english. But as we performed the song I looked down at the man who was baptized and he was bawling. Even though not everyone understood the lyrics, the language of the spirit was universal! It was a very amazing experience! I'm glad we decided to do the muscial number even though it was a little stressful to prepare for it :)

Our awkard christmas family photo.....
I also had a split this week. It was my first time taking control in Dortmund. So I had to make sure I knew my way around and that I had appts planned for the day because Sister Kearl was in Herne with the Sister Training Leader. I was a little stressed but it made me realize how much I can actually do on my own. And it also made me appreciate my trainer a lot! 

My split with Sister Clendon. We bought some delicious crepes at the end of our split :)
I hope you are all doing well and excited for Christmas!!! I miss you a lot but I am doing well! I can't believe Christmas is next week! 
It will be a little different this year but I am thankful for this time to dedicate all I have to the Lord!

That man from our ward took us all out for lunch again today. We go to this Chinese buffet every time haha!
My pet elephant......
Love you all!
Sister Madsen

Week 14

Guten Tag!

I seriously love christmas! I bought some chrsitmas lights for our apt so it could feel a little more homey for christmas. Each night while we wirte in our journals we turn off the lights and just turn on the christmas lights. The only problem is that I only found lights that our in a circle so our lights on our wall are in the shape of a mustache. So special..... Sister Kearl and I also bought matching pjs for christmas time. They're so fluffy and warm and we can barely sleep through the night with them on because we get so hot. 
Still a good purchase.....

Our mustache lights in our study room...
This week we had a meeting in Offenbach which is pretty close to Frankfurt. It took about 3.5 hours to get there by train. It was a meeting for all the goldens and their trainers. I was excited to go because I got to see all my old MTC friends. It was cool to see how they are all doing in their areas and to hear stories. When I saw Sister Hamner she just started crying. I seriously love her! The meeting lasted all day. I was called on to give 2 prayers and to bear my testimony. President Scwartz told me I was a popular choice today. I was thinking that maybe they think I need the practice haha! 

I learned a lot at the meeting. I think the biggest impression I got that day was that is ok to still be myself and to be a missionary. And seeing all the other golden's with their companions made me really appreciate my companion. Not many people stayed with their companions throughout the day but Sister Kearl and I just kind of hung out together. haha! 
We love each other :)

Christmas decorations at the Frankfurt train station.
I have also discovered that my eyelashes are a good contacting startegy. Elder Weidmann always makes fun of me that I just need to bat my eyelashes when I apporach people and they'll join the church. We always just joke about it. Then one day Sister Kearl and I were on a bahn and somelady was staring at me and she asked me if my eyelashes were real. We started talking and eventually started talking about religion. Who would've thought that these bad boys could be useful for missionary work haha! Sister Kearl thinks it's funny because literally everyday a conversation is started with someone because of my eyelashes. And we don't even apporach the people. They start the conversation for us. Thank you eyelashes!!

The long journey home on the train after our Golden trainer meeting.
This week was also Nikolaus. It's a holiday where people give small gifts to each other. We were visitng a member and she gave us both huge presents filled with chocolate and jewelry. We didn't even know it was a holiday and so we were so surprised. It was nice of her! The members here are so nice. We have our ward christmas fireside and activity this saturday. Sister Kearl is playing the violin. So pumped. I love christmas!

Sister Kearl and I eating crepes for dinner.....this is a regular occurrence.
I may or may not have had a mental breakdown this past week. Oh boy.....haha! One morning Sister Kearl and I were having companionship study and I just started crying.....for like 2 hours haha! Sister Kearl was so patient with me and just talked me through it. I am doing a lot better now. I think every golden goes through this where they don't feel like they're contributing to the work. It was a special time. Missioinary work is hard! You all should just go up to the missionaries in your ward and give them a hug, and tell them they're great, and feed them chocolate. 
I don't know anything hahaha!

Here's the package I sent to you about 2 hours ago. I hope it makes it to you safely!
Although I may have had a breakdown I realized something. This may be the hardest thing I have ever done but I am so happy. It's really weird. It's a different type of happiness I´don't experience very often. It's good to now that I can be happy even when I'm not comfortable. This gospel can bring so much happiness to our lives. And it's the kind of happiness that is long lasting and isn't determined by our situation.

I hope all is well! I love the weeks leading up to Christmas! Take time this week to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you!
I love you all and miss you dearly.

Until next week :)
Sister Madsen

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Week 13

This past week is just probably one of those weeks
where I would be ok not repeating it......

I don't know if it is the combination of the cold weather and maybe having only 7 hours of daylight but I have been so tired lately. I literally close my eyes and in 1 minute I am completely out! And it happens every where......the trains.......relief society......literally any chair I'm sitting in....Kind of a struggle haha! I have never been so tired in my life!


Christmas in Germany
This week we went to the Christmas markts for Pday. It is insane. We were there on a monday afternoon and there was so many people. There's stands and stands of gifts and food and clothes. It's so beautiful! I love Christmas! I guess Germany is the perfect place to be for Christmas! Suckas!

Christmas Markets.....the tree in Dortmund!
Later this week we had an appt with a new member. She invited us over for the lunch and wanted us to teach her neighbor. It turns out this neighbor is really into like natural healing. We had already been over there for like 2 hours and we were trying to leave (the appt got a little out of hand) and the neighbor lady came and sat by me.

She put her hand on my back to say something and she was like "oh my....I feel an energy blockage." Oh heavens......she was like "Are you homesick?" I was like "no....but I could use a massage." haha! She then proceded to have me do this deep breathing meditation thing. She was like "do you see the light in your breath out the darkness...just cough it out."
Sister Kearl was just laughing at me the whole time.

Just sipping hot chocolate
Another funny story.....on thanksgiving we had a ward council type meeting with all the missionaries and some of the leaders from the ward. Before the meeting started Elder Weidmann (who doesn't know English) asked us if we ate a "gans" (goose) today and he was trying to act it out with his hands. I had no idea what he was saying and I thought he said "ganz" (which means entire or whole). So I was like "Nein, Wir haben die ganze nutella gegessen." (we ate the whole nutella). The whole ward council started laughing.
I made a room full of germans laugh and it was with a german pun that I didn't even mean to do!

The Dortmund ward has three baptisms this month. Each set of missionaries has a baptism. It is such a blessing. We are planning our baptism for a lady who is going to be rebaptized. She has given up smoking and heroine to join the church again. She is so sweet and gave Sister Kearl and I shoe polish for christmas. haha! I think she noticed that our shoes were getting a little jankety. I am so excited for her to be baptized!

Strangest looking dog at a member's home.....
Looking back, this week was kind of difficult. You have a lot of time to think on your mission and sometimes I think too much.....almost a downward spiral. But if anything I've learned that I can't do this on my own. Who would've thought that I would get up at 6:30 am for 3 months straight? Holy Cow! I am so dang tired but I know that the Lord is sustaining me. I feel so blessed to be able to dedicate this time of my life to the Lord. It can be hard sometimes but I know that I am never alone.

Our thanksgiving day photo :)
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Love you all!

Sister Madsen

Monday, December 2, 2013

Week 12

Guten Tag friends and family!!!!! Oh I just miss you all!
I've officially made it through my first transfer in Germany! 
The time is going so quickly! CRAZY!

Our last district meeting all together :(
Elder Kent and Schmidt are transferred to a new area (this pic was with a self timer and on a music special)
We had transfer calls on Saturday morning. All the missionaries in the mission get on a huge conference call and the mission president and APs go through every area. They tell you whether you'll be staying in your area or moving to another. The Vermillions (a senior couple in Dortmund) invited some of missionaries over for breakfast and then we hooked up our phone to a speaker to listen to the call together. We all went around and made our predictions before the call. I knew I would be staying in Dortmund because I'm still being trained. I'll be here for at least another transfer. After then it's fair game! We knew that Elder Kent would be leaving because he's been in Dortmund for like 8 months! Elder Schmidt was transferred too! He was completely shocked because he's been in Dortmund the same time as me. Transfer calls are kind of just sit around waiting to hear where you'll be for the next 6 weeks!

Transfer calls breakfast! - the elders
We had an appt. this week with the other elders to visit with a woman in our ward. She is a recent member but her husband is not. We go with the elders so we can teach her and they can teach him. Every time we go there they feed us so much food. This time they had us sitting in this lights, one candle lit, and it was like 500 degrees. They just gave us a bunch of polish food and then left. haha! There we were sitting in candlelight alone. So special.....she fed us mushrooms but they were huge and looked like wild mushrooms. Elder Weidmann asked if she grew them in her garden and she was like "No, I found them in the woods." Oh boy....Elder Schmidt's face was priceless. Well.....if we got sick in the morning that would be why! I'm acutally suprised that I haven't gotten sick yet on my mission.....knock on wood! My poor body is put through a lot....still going strong!

The sisters at transfer calls
This week Sister Kearl and I had to teach Sunday School. Special times.......the topic was the Last Judgment. The GML wanted to meet with us to plan our lesson. We met with him and he pretty much came with our lesson prepared haha! I don't know why he didn't just teach it. I was a little nervous but it actually went really well! We have some chatty people in our ward so they just talk a lot of the time :) We also had a new couple at church on Sunday. They came in contact with the church at our street display a couple of weeks ago. They are from Iran and have set a baptismal date for the 14th of December! So cool! They are the nicest couple! I am just reminded that the Lord has people prepared to receive the gospel. This couple just walked right up to us and a few days later decided to be baptized!

It's just kind of dark and gloomy like this every day all day. Still so pretty!
When I got my mission call a lot of people told me Germany was going to be a really hard mission and maybe not many people would be baptized. At times it can be really hard. German people are kind of stubborn and very set in their ways. But there are still so many people who have a deisre to learn. Most people haven't even heard of the church here. It amazes me! If anything we just try to familiarize people with the church. 

Waiting for a train. So cold!!!
Last Tuesday, Sister Kearl and I had a goal for the day to get a new investigator and to give out 2 Book of Mormons. We prayed specially for our goals. Like very specifically! Every prayer we had, we told the Lord about our goals and how we needed help to achieve them. Later that day we did some street contacting. We were walking down the street and talking to people for about an hour with no luck. All we were able to give people was a pass along card. Then as we were walking back to the train we talked to a girl and she took a Book of Mormon.

And then Sister Kearl saw a girl walking toward us and she was like "Ok your turn!" I love just stopping people! It's so fun and I try to make a little game out of it. Sister Kearl and I have a competition to see who can have the most awkward contact of the day. It's not like we try to be awkward but sometimes it happens. This girl walking towards us had her headphones in and we were able to stop her. We ended up giving her a Book of Mormon, getting her number, and setting up an appt for the weekend! Yay!

The trio and their comp ties......they are all germans......
 My least favorite thing to talk about is goal setting! I hate it! I didn't used to but now I do! So....the girl ended up not meeting with us but I think I needed to learn an important lesson. There is a lot of power in setting goals and turning to the Lord for His help. I'm trying to be better at my goal setting because we are such better missionaries when we do.

I love the story of the Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon. He needed a solution for the barges they built. They had no way to see and they needed light. Instead of the Lord giving him a solution, the Brother of Jared came up with his own idea and took it to the Lord. There's no way his idea could have worked without the Lord's help. All he had to do was ask for help and he was able to find a solution. I think our goals can be the same. If we take our goals to the Lord and ask for His help in acheiving them, we will be so much more successful! 

Just walking to the church.
I hope you are all doing well!!! I will miss Thanksgiving! What a wonderful holiday! I hope you take time to think about what you are grateful for! We won't be celebrating it here but I have been thinking a lot about what I'm thankful for. I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve a mission. So many sacrifices have been made in my behalf in order for me to serve. I am so grateful!! My life has been changed! I am thankful to be serving in Germany. I am thankful for a wonderful companion who leads by example. I am thankful for a loving God who sent His son so that we can return to live with Him. I am thankful for the gospel and the purpose it gives my life. What a blessing! 

Trying to catch up on some journal writing.
I love you all! 
Sister Madsen

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Week 11

I think the build up to P-days are better than the day itself.

This is my friend Elaura and I on one of our last days in the MTC.
I was hosting one wednesday and she came off the bus so I got to host her.
So glad we were in the MTC at the same time :)
Sister Kearl and I cleaned this morning and then we both just slept in our beds for like 2 1/2 hours. So exciting.....I know. We were getting ready today and she had her ipod playing and then a song started playing and I was like "I think that's my mom singing." Yep sure enough!! It was my mom. I think it was a Kenneth Cope song. Sister Kearl was like "who would've thought that my future companion's mom was on my ipod all this time." haha! Look at that!

Last P-day we went to my very first German Castle. It was the Burg Altena about 45 min from Dortmund. It reminded me of Harry Potter. It was huge! Everything was closed in it though. Apparently everything is closed on Mondays in Germany. What the?! We went with a few other elders from our zone. It was fun even though I had to hike up there in a skirt....
....special times!

Made it to the castle!
The Group!
This week we also had zone training. It was good to see some of the missionaries that were in my MTC group. I was glad to see they were still alive haha! We talked a lot about how we have been sent to Germany for a reason and it wasn't just random. I've been thinking about that lately. Sister Kearl and I weren't going to go to the castle last Monday because the trip was put together last minute and we had other plans but we decided to go. I am so grateful I went! I was reminded how BEAUTIFUL Germany is. Looking around me, I felt so grateful to be serving here! 
I know I am here for a reason. 

View from the castle.
So German people are very interesting. I love them to death! But they are hilarious. There's this lady in the ward.....let's just say she reminds me of the principal in Maltida.......such a stereotypical German woman! haha She offered to take Sister Kearl and I home from an appt she was at also. We were a little nervous because let's be honest, we were afraid.

The drive home was the scariest thing of my life. she kept swearing and swerving everywhere. She would talk to us and if we didn't answer immediately she would get mad at us and start talking to us in German. (I've noticed a lot of Germans are like that. If you don't immediately respond to a question they automatically assume you don't understand or you are stupid. It's just the best feeling in the world......) anyways......I was super grateful she drove us home but I was even more grateful to be out of her car.

Setting up.
Sister Kearl, Sister Vermillion, and I at the street display.
This week I also had my first street display. We did it on Family History. We passed out balloons that said "Ich liebe Familie" so precious....... It was so cold! but I had a good experience :) It was neat to see a sea of people with our red balloons walking around. 

Just singing on the street.
Street display
I've decided that I am sick of German food. So the bread and chocolate are good but that's about it!! Everything tastes the same and it is always like cabbage, potatoes, and some kind of meat. They have no spices here either. Cooking has been kind of difficult. New goal: don't count chocolate as a meal! haha! Oh boy......I want cafe rio and corn dogs.....'Merica.......

Apparently, it's a big deal when a missionary eats his or her first Döner...
(some turkish thing....kind of like a pita). So this is me eating my first one!

The gang watching me eat my first Döner.
Can I just brag about my companion for a second.......I LOVE Sister Kearl. I have seriously been blessed with the best companion!! We will just start talking about random things at night and then look at the clock and it's10:30 pm and we're like "I guess I'll just write in my journal tomorrow haha." She is so sweet and will just make me crepes for breakfast. That's fine! It can be really stressful out here but it is such a relief to have a companion you can get along with! It's interesting that you can tell with other elders and companionships when they don't get along. I am so lucky!!!

I love my companion :)
She shared a quote with me yesterday: When you pray for other God listens to you and blessed them and sometimes when you are safe and happy remember someone has prayed for you. I love that! I fell very blessed! I am so grateful for all the prayers said in my behalf. I can really feel the power in my service as a missionary. I've been thinking a lot about prayer lately (if you haven't noticed- there's a lot of time to think on your mission haha). Sister Kearl and I were on a train and we were late for an appt and we were lost. We prayed that the next stop would be the right stop for us. 
It ended up that it was! I was thinking.....
...if we didn't pray that would have happened anyways. 

So why pray? 

I have been reading "Jesus the Christ" (oh my goodness....changing my life....if you haven't read it...start right now - shamless plug) and Talmage says "though the sun shines and the rain falls alike upon the just and the unjust, the righteous man is grateful for these blessings; the ungodly man receives the benefits as a matter of course with a soul incapable of gratitude." Deep stuff......but I've noticed that as I have been praying more than I've ever in my life that I am more aware of the blessings in my life. I am more aware of how God makes things happen for me. I am more grateful. It has truly been an eye opening experience. Prayer is an amazing gift. 
We can pray to God no matter how rich, educated, or worthy we are!

Sometimes it's freezing and you wear tights and leggings and socks and
your grandma shoes and you don't even care what you look like.....
Love you all!! Thank you for your prayers and emails! It means a lot to me :)
Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Sister Madsen