Well, folks. Here we are.
This was a fun week - we got a big dose of missionary-Christmas fun, German-Christmas fun, and preaching-the-Gospel fun. Who could ask for anything more, amirite?
First of all, I have an experience from last week that I wanted to share but COMPLETELY slipped my mind, which is crazy, because it was so funny that Sister Bishop and I were literally laughing for days. So. Last week on Pday, Sister Bishop and I were checking out the Christkindlmarkt in front of Stephan's Dom, and decided to pop in and look around the cathedral again, just because it's absolutely beautiful. There was a little group of Asian tourists (3 cute young adult girls) who were flitting around taking pictures of random things in the Dom. One of them came up to me and Sister Bishop and, in broken English, asked if we could take a picture of "us three." So Sister Bishop and I are like "of course!" and prep to take their picture inside the Dom...but, no. The cute girl (who ended up being from Korea,) straightened up her shoulder and posed with us. Then they quickly shuffled around and switched who was at the camera so they could all get their picture with us. And then they ran away, as quickly as they showed up. We were laughing for forever about it. We were like, "...did they just take our picture because we're white?" We felt pretty celebrity.
|Sister Bushman in St. Stephan's Dom -- one last time|
We had Christmas Conference this week, which was pretty fun. I was sad because I thought I wouldn't get to have Christmas Conf this year because I wouldn't be here for Christmas - but I got to play! Hooray! We went to München and talked about the Christmas initiative, A Savior is Born, and talked about Präsident Kohler's awesome Swiss ancestor's conversion story, had Hawaiian Haystacks for lunch (yay!), and had a gift exchange. I got a huge chocolate Santa from Elder Threlkeld. (I find it funny that I was with a Threlkeld during both of my Christmas Confs on a mission.) We got to watch a movie: "Silent Night," which is about the Austrian priest who wrote the carol Silent Night. Präsident and Sister Kohler gave us these beautiful temple recommends with the mission logo and a picture of Christ on it for Christmas. It was really nice of them; I'm happy that I'll have that mission reminder in my wallet constantly for a really, really long time.
|The Christmas Conference|
|Sister missionaries in the Munich Zone|
We found somebody really, really cool this week! We were alone at a train station getting ready to head back to Passau, so we were just sitting at the stop talking. Then, out of nowhere, we hear this guy speaking English with a distinctly Southern accent, and he asked "Hey, where are you from?" Basically, it's this cool guy named Tom who has dual-citizenship and is fluent in English and German and has a couple kids. We got chatting with him just about life and stuff, and why we were there as missionaries, and what we believe in. We asked him if he believed in Christ. And he said that he believed in Jesus Christ, but had problems with the Bible becuase he "knew how it came about" (meaning that it had been translated and changed so much). And we got really excited, because of course that's a big reason that the Book of Mormon was prepared so long ago - so we could have a second testament of Christ. And so we tried really hard not to explode with excitement and not freak him out. :) But as we neared Passau, he was all like, "man, I'm kinda bummed that we're already in Passau! I would love to keep talking with you guys about this stuff!" And so he invited us to come meet with him and his wife! We were SO excited. It turned out that they had a family emergency so we had to move the appointment (so I won't get to be there! :() But Sister Bishop and her GOLDEN will be able to go! Yep, Sister Bishop is training!!!!! She'll be so good.
Another fun thing. So Germany does this thing where their children's folklore is sometimes a little grim and scary. (Just read real Brother's Grimm if you don't believe me!) And there's this fun tradition associated with this time of the year. On the 5th of December, St. Nikolaus is accompanied by Krampus, this super creepy, horned, clawed, furry monster guy, who goes and visits all the children. If you were good, you get goodies from St. Nikolaus. If you were bad, then Krampus gives you coal and twigs and he punishes you. We were about our business doing our missionary thingwhen we saw that there was going to be a big Nikolaus event-thing in the city center, so we rearranged our day a bit so we could see what was going to go on. I took a video of all the St. Nikolaus guys and scary Krampus guys walking down the street. Fun stuff!
It's hard to believe that I'll be home in just a few days. I've been all over the place emotionally recently. Most of the time I feel fine and it just feels like another transfer - and then it will dawn on me that I won't get to wear my tag anymore soon, that I'll soon leave this beautiful country and all the people I've grown to love and adore here, I won't be authorized to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ like I was anymore, and that this unique, painful, beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime experience is almost done for good. Church was hard yesterday, saying goodbye to all of these wonderful branch members who have made us feel so at home. I started crying in the cereal aisle today looking at all the types of Müsli that I'll never get to try now. Overall, I am just grateful that God gave me the opportunity to be here. To be completely honest, there were many, many days when I didn't think I'd finish in one piece - it was just so hard. I've wept countless tears and spent so much time pleading with Heavenly Father on my knees - sometimes getting answers, sometimes not. I feared I would make it to the end of my time too soon, and if I did finish, I wouldn't be glowing with the glow of the Gospel and missionary work as much as I was supposed to. But here I am, klinging on to each moment. I am so, so, grateful that God let me come here and be refined by this experience. As Alma would say, "I cannot say the smallest part which I feel".
President Kohler asked me in my last interview to write down a list of things I've learned on my mission. I'm not quite done, but here is a small sample of what I've written down so far (in no particular order of importance):
- Faith is a choice, and God will never force us to believe. But when we make the choice to have faith in Him, it is one of the most powerful forces on earth.
- Faith, Hope, and Charity are super connected.
- I don't actually like chewing ice, I was just super iron deficient. (Bummer, right?)
- Everything always works out in the end - God is at the helm.
- God is able to do incredible things with really dull tools.
- I love musical theatre, and I always want it part of my life as a hobby, but not as a career.
- I'm super great at planning things.
- I learned to cook...........at least better than I could before.
- I learned a lot about the Atonement. I learned a little bit more about what Grace is. Mainly, I learned that I will never really understand the Atonement or Grace - they're just too magnificent.
- I'm currently in the MTC so I can be a missionary and disciple of Christ for the rest of my life.
- The Widow's Mite is one of my favorite stories in all of the New Testament.
Well, here we are. I love you all. I know that this last year and a half was one of the most formative periods I'll ever had in my life. I have seen the power of the Book of Mormon, and seen prayers answered. I'm so grateful to Heavenly Father and for His Plan of Happiness. I'm so grateful for every moment I've had out here - even the blistery, painful ones. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. His grace is sufficient for all of us.
I'll see you.
Final moments of Sister Bushman in Passau: