Monday, May 20, 2013

Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee!

Guten Tag!
      Man alive, this has just been a fantastic week... I just don't even know where to begin! My mother asked me in her last email if Austria felt like home yet...... absolutely! To me my time here in Austria has been a time of growth. It has been the polishing as I near the end to an INCREDIBLE experience. I am warning I have been in quite the stupor of thought today about it all haha, so my spiritual thought may be long. Before we get into that though, lets take you through the miracles of the Vienna 1st ward sisters!!
       I am not even going to wait to share the most exciting of the news.....we have 2 baptisms coming up! WOOT WOOOOOOOT! First up, Oyuka! I shared in my last email the story of Oyuka. She is so freaking awesome! This week, during one of our lessons, she asked if she could get baptized sooner because she didn't want to wait until July. Well folks, new date JUNE 1st!! When she chose that day, a jolt exploded inside of me. That day belongs to my dear Elina, who got baptized a year ago on that date. I almost suggested another day, as I felt this need to protect that day and reserve it forever for Elina.....but than a peace came over me and June 1st is just going to forever be my favorite day of the year now! I get to think back on the joy that I had seeing Elina step out of the water and give me a giant wet hug, and add more memories in just a short two weeks.
      Next up, Mohammed Ali. Nope, not kidding, that is his name. He is golden too! I met Mohammed on the street about 2 weeks ago. I got his number and told him I would call and make out an appointment. He couldn't meet for 8 or so days, and I was a little skeptical as to whether he would really come through or not. Saturday rolls around and low and behold, Mohammed shows up to our appointment, right on time in a suit. We had SUCH a powerful lesson with him. Whoooo, the spirit was so strong I just got shivers down my spine just thinking back on it. We committed him to baptism on June 22nd! He chose the day :). Then he looked at me and said, well that means we need to meet a lot before then so I will be ready! I want to really be ready! So we booked out every appointment up until his baptism in June :). To tell you a little more about Mohammed......He is 46 and from Somalia originally. He has lived in Austria for over 20 years. He definitely acts like an Austrian. He speaks German and Arabic. He is a businessman and sadly has no family members left. I can't wait to meet him later today and find out more!!
       The ward here in Vienna is just so great! They simply just love us sisters!! Every sunday we walk out with bags of goodies that the members got for us. And you won't hear me complaining!! I have also never have been so busy at church! I have either had to teach or give a talk every sunday since I have been there! And when I am not teaching, I am translating....whoooie, its exhausting! But, I love it :). Especially now that I can actually speak the language! We had an awesome service project this last week! A family in our ward asked us and the elders to come and help them with landscaping their yard. As we arrived the wife informed us that she had a little secret plan and that us sisters were actually going to help a old neighbor of hers. We went and knocked on the 86 year old's door belonging to Frau Stephen. She was the cutest thing ever! We worked hard in her yard and got her a chair next to us and just chatted with her for hours. She just kept saying how grateful she was for us. At the end she gave us a big hug and I told her that I was the one to be grateful because it allowed me to feel like I was with my grandma again who passed away 5 years ago. I told her that her hugs were just like my grandmas and that I use to garden with her too. (For all my family that knows, haha she even did a Vernice butt pat!) Tears streamed down her face and she told me that she was never able to have kids, but that she truly felt that I was her granddaughter in that moment. It sounds cheesy I know, but it honestly was such a sweet moment. I know for some reason, that my grandma really was there with both of us that day.
       Our investigators continue to progress so well! They are keeping us on our toes trying to keep up with them :). We lead the zone this last week in lessons taught. I am not one who focuses on numbers, but it just goes to show that this program, that has only been open for a few weeks, was just waiting with prepared people! What a blessing it is to be apart of it all!
      Spiritual thought:This week a learned a huge lesson. I read a quote from Howard W. Hunter that particularly hit hard, "It is important to be appreciated, but focus on righteousness, not recognition; service not status. Visibility does not equate to value. Seek service over status." I must make a confession of sorts to better explain my thinking, so I was a tad disappointed when I found out I wasnt going to train. I have been told for so long, "Next transfer...get ready!" When I found out that I would not only not be training, but that I was getting a companion that was 5 weeks younger than stung. I let myself believe it was because I had failed and wasn't a strong enough missionary. This quote hit hard because I realized that all of those thoughts that I let myself dwell on were simply thoughts that focus on status. I let the title of trainer tell me I had finally made it.....I finally would be a good enough missionary when I was trusted to train. But that is NOT at all what it focus was off. I have been serving with only my might and strength, but I withheld my heart and mind a little bit. I have given my time, my energy, talents, and worked hard, but I realized I had no given whole self. From the start, I have pushed myself. I have strived to be the best missionary in the mission.I have tried to change programs around and do things that have never been done. I have been blessed with the Holy Ghost to find and teach prepared people who accepted the gospel. I have measured my success level through the observation of the transformation in the lives of other people. And, I have seen a lot of it. But, until recently I have realized that I have not let that same power, affect me personally as deeply. I let my behaviors change to conform to the mission life and standards, but the nature of my character and desires had only slightly changed.
       I have learned that change is the design of faith in Jesus Christ. It only happens if you unconditionally surrender your will to the Lord. But, I have corrected that this past week. I have shifted my focus slightly and the consequences have been enormous. I have given my will to the Lord. I have surrendered all my desires, dreams, and wishes to Him. I have let go in my heart of the things I want to do. I want to simply fulfill the Lords will. It's not that I have stopped caring about music, or boating, or my family and friends....its that I have stop dwelling on them. This doesn't mean I have become the crazy sister missionary and now the only course I see is going home and becoming a seminary teacher. I just have realized that by boxing up some of my plans, wishes, and wants, that I have found better plans, wishes, and wants. I needed to let go before I could find new.
      In the end your heart and will is all you can give to the Lord that he doesn't already have. I have learned what it means to truly lose myself in the work. I am going to give everything I have these last few weeks so that I can end and say, "I have no regrets; i did my best." I don't want to be a great missionary anymore, I want to be a great servant. I know that as I continue to focus on service, my character will inner core.
      Thank you all so much for you continued support and love! I don't know what I would do without! I know this week is going to be amazing! Its my birthday week, so how could it not be?? I miss you all tons!
Sister Linford

Kirche Jesu Christi
Sister Jessica Linford
Hormayr Gasse 59/top/9
A-1170 Wien

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