A fellow missionary was asked if being in a companionship was like being in an arranged marriage, and she replied it was much more like being each other's parole officers. Hehe. 

No, it's not always the easiest thing on the planet. Differences arise from political beliefs to family backgrounds to teaching styles to energy levels to eating habits. But in the process of overcoming struggles with your companion you really learn a lot about humbling yourself, taking a step back, and seeing what good lies in others. You learn what they need, what makes them happy. Or perhaps what maybe you, yourself, can improve on... rather than get defensive about. 

Luckily, I have not encountered many companion struggles on my mission. It has honestly been so good. I have gained so many friends on my mission as I have worked 24-7 with these girls, laughing and crying, building trust while talking about life, experiencing Austria/Germany, and together seeking to bring people into the Kingdom by the sharing of testimony. 

Really I have been blessed with 11 incredible comps who have all been such a lights to me. 

My first companion was beautiful Sister Gines (Utah).

Her 19th birthday was that very first jetlagged day in the MTC. Although it was really quite a stressful and exhausting day, I never heard a peep of complaint out of her. She always kept her cool, even when I would botch our mock lessons with my toddler German; I could always count on her to sneak upstairs with me to grab some Oreos when we were getting too antsy in class.

Sister Price (Utah) was the best trainer a golden could hope for. 

On the long train ride to Austria, everyone told me that she was "the coolest," and they were so right. To this day I'd say my first two transfers hold my most treasured memories, because with Sister Price we could have spiritual experiences and yet have fun at any time and in any place. She was incredibly patient and encouraging, despite the fact that I felt like a deer in headlight in just about any experience. She has a way of just loving the people and making them feel special. She connected with them-- for example, if they were from Iran, she would light up with excitement and exclaim hello in Persian! 

Sister Fast (California), one of my two beloved blondies and greeniebusters.

The first night she arrived, she made cinnamon roll pancakes at like 10:20 PM; her sweetness radiated outward in every way, from the to-die-for treats she would bake to the kind words that came from her mouth.  She has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. She just needs to skip forward a couple years and be a mom already because she can make anyone feel right at home. 

Sister Selph (Utah), my other greeniebuster Blondie. 

She is intelligent, beautiful, kind and diligent, someone who I trust will accomplish anything she sets her heart on.  She loved the land of her mission.  With her talent for languages she could connect with people both German- and English-speaking. As well, her fascination with the history and the culture was both obvious and admirable to those she served. The uniqueness of Vienna was certainly not lost on her! 

Sister Slack (Texas), my firstborn daughter (golden). 

She is such a sweetie-- she has a glowing smile and really knows how to make someone feel special.  What a heart of gold.  I will never forget how much she spoiled me for the duration of my entire birthday!  She is genuine, and she knows her purpose.  I was so proud of her as she bravely went about trying scary missionary tasks for the first time, and now, as she trains a second time I know she has grown into such an influential missionary!

   Sister Moore (Utah), my foster child.

We were only 10 days together but we sure had a party in our trio! She is one of quiet dignity, not one to talk poorly of those around her.  Despite being such a young missionary, she was diligent in trying to talk to everyone and had a skill in speaking to those, for example, on the subway. She could just strike up conversations!

Sister Howsmon (Colorado) always had a smile on her face. 

Despite some of the weirdest things that we experienced, she could turn anything into an adventure with a positive spin.  She loved her mission and she was going to make the best of every second of it-- oh we had a blast!  And best of all, the first thing that one will notice about her is how much she loves her Heavenly Father.  Because that's how she talks about Him: like her Father!

Sister Franchino (Washington), my youngest daughter.

Literally the most hardworking person I have ever met in my life.  From the time she got up till the time she went to bed, if she wasn't doing missionary work, she was studying.  She really taught me so much about how to push through even the roughest of times-- just keep swimming, just keep swimming. I could always count on her to leave cute notes hidden for me... and you know what cheered her up? Going finding.  This was when she was at her funniest; man could she crack me up. I also learned so much from her.. to teach simply but powerfully!

Sister Woolsey (California) the lovely!

The perfect future dental hygienist whose backup plan as a "beautiful beach bum" is equally fitting.  
She taught me to chill out and enjoy the ride.  EVERYONE LOVES HER, because from individualized handshakes to genuine compliments, she can make anyone feel special.  I have never felt so confident as with her.  

Sister Saint Laurent (California) is incredible. 

We were only together a couple weeks and yet she taught me so much about endurance.  Despite everything, she rarely complained, striving rather to keep on working.  She is totally selfless and dedicates so much of herself to giving.  She is probably one of the strongest, most resilient gals I have ever met-- both spiritually and physically. I am still amazed by her.  

Sister Harwood (Washington), last but certainly not least. 

I have never met someone with so much in common. I ADORE THIS GIRL. She's caring. She's creative. Although a fellow introvert, she shows me that it is possible to overcome fears and become a powerful and eloquent teacher.  Seriously, she has a talent for being able to understand people on a deeper level and being able to adapt to their needs. I am so excited for our weeks together!

July 24

My heart is so full.  Lately I have just felt so much love... for the goodness of the gospel, the people, the work.  

It's interesting to think back to the hardest week of my mission, in the dead of winter when my spirit weighed heavily with sorrow and due to illness, my physical body weighed less than at age 15.  I opened my heart to everyone, sewing till the point of exhaustion and yet, there were no fruits to reap. 

My life had been going something like this:
  •  I felt like a failure of a trainer 
  • I received a heart wrenching email about the trials one of my siblings was experiencing
  • My body felt still so weak whilst recovering from bronchitis and the antibiotics
  • I still felt lingering guilt for not being able to talk to people about Christ during previous CHRISTMASTIME at which point I had been too ill to safely work. 
  • My landlady stayed in the apartment till 2:45 AM to patch the wall; the man who was supposed to show up at 8 to do subsequent repairs showed up 12 hours late.
  • The next day in my delirious state of exhaustion I felt terrified to go finding, and then when I finally worked up the courage to stop a guy on the street, I thought he would rip my head off (probably deserved it... it was sideways sleeting)
  • We got off the bus two villages too early and the lack of road names rendered our map useless as we wandered practically through the wilderness for 1.5 hours 
  • A woman we tried to compliment just turned around and gossiped about us to her friend as if we couldn't hear her.... right in front of us. Girls were always viciously judgmental on trams when they eyed us up and down. 
  • We had some really sketchy middle-of-the night experience that to this day I cannot explain 
  • If we were lucky enough to schedule an appointment with anyone, they bailed
  • And since we didn't have hardly any appointments ever, we got to have a lot of 6 hour dooring days in the bitter-cold snow instead. It was like walking on needles. 
  • Out of all those people we doored for all those weeks and weeks and weeks we didn't find a single one interested in the gospel 
At the time, life seemed like a dark tunnel that stretched on forever. I remember tears rolling down my cheeks as I wondered if I could possibly go on when it seemed like everything was only getting worse.

Now, I wish I could go back and talk to myself in this time when I had no hope at all:

Dear Kate.....Everything will be OK.....It will be SO good
Chin up, hun!

Now, over 1/2 a year later, it has been incredible push forward in the work of the Lord.  Lately I have had the most wonderful conversations with people on trains, spiritual teaching opportunities, and heart touching moments with those people who, through service, we come to absolutely love. Yesterday the chapel was filled with welcome strangers. We get to watch every day as people discover new paths and learn to find God! I feel so utterly happy.  

In those difficult times I could never have imagined that I would come to love the mission. In those times of excruciating homesickness and self-worthlessness it was so hard to think that all this would be for my good. But I know that now. It's incredible to look back and be able to recognize from a different viewpoint the tender mercies and miracles which the Lord was providing His weary daughter-- the entire time. He never left me. I know that now. 

Of course, there are always gonna be the notable notes:
  • a drunk man wandered into Sunday school. He was angry at us for not knowing Portuguese and snapped at Elder Andreason for "speaking English" when he was actually trying to speak to him in German. At one point during our lesson he came up to the board where Sister Harwood was drawing a diagram about the Nephites and the Lamanites, told her all up in her face that it was *explicit word* and then proceeded to take her marker and draw a new diagram with a bunch of wobbly circles before storming out of the church in tears. Huh?  
  •  There is some psycho with a chainsaw in the area bordering mine 
  •  We showed a film about the life of Christ to a young man from India (not Christian) and he told us afterwards "I AM SO EXCITED!"
  • Mission Leadership Council in Munich was FANTASTIC.  We sat in a circle like the Knights of the Round Table and helped EACH OTHER in trying to help improve our dear mission.
  •  Since the office forgot we live on the German side of the border, they ordered tickets for us to travel through Zürich. Also, we 12 missionaries missed our bus because we were at the platform of Bus 006 instead of X06 (same destination) so it was a mad scramble to make all new arrangements so we wouldn't have to spend a second night in Munich....the bus traveled through Austria, around Lichtenstein and into Switzerland, where we finally arrived in Zürich at about 10pm.  With two more trains to catch, we didn't get into Singen till about midnight.  ADVENTURE TIME   
  • A member taught us to make Marillenknödel and Käsespätzle
 "Belief and testimony and faith are not passive principles. They do not just happen to us. Belief is something we choose--we hope for it, we work for it, and we sacrifice for it. We will not accidentally come to believe in the Savior and His gospel any more than we will accidentally pray or pay tithing. We actively choose to believe, just like we choose to keep other commandments” (“Choose to Believe,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 38).

Liebe Grüße, 

Sister Lundgreen 

Day 500 and Counting

Happy almost Pioneer Day! 

We just returned from Stein am Rhein (which we had no idea was in Switzerland until the bus crossed the border) where we enjoyed a beautiful riverside daytrip with some of the best chocolate I have ever tasted.

We are booked-- this week will include 2 days in Munich for MLC and then every week after that will include exchanges.  We're pumped!

It's been interesting to notice how we went from a super frustrating week where we got stood up by 4 separate people and literally everyone was mean to us (not even in the rejection sense, they were just flat out rude to us as people)... to then, in contrast, an absolutely FANTASTIC week. It makes you appreciate the good things.

Some things that went down lately:
  • - we rode a ship 
  • - we had the most lit ward party I have ever attended. From an astounding view to grilling to a bounce house to Benji's band, everyone had a blast. Several people came (including many old faces not seen for a while) and the next day the chapel was filled with more people than ever before! 
  • - Played soccer with a bunch of competitive Germans #stillsore
  • - Played barbies with the kiddos. They love us and we love them-- every time we see them we get tackle-hugged. Probably cause we give them cookies
  • - There was a new lady working the cash register and she was so excited to see us!  Turns out she met the sisters a few years back and really liked them.
  • - We celebrated our bestie's birthday-- oh man she always makes us feel so loved
  • - We had a lesson about learning to find God's influence in our lives... the Spirit was so so strong! It is truly a humbling to be able to teach.

Quotes of the week:
  • - Me: "What an incredible scripture story that is!  The Brother of Jared had such faith that, upon asking Him to light up the stones, he saw the finger of the Lord." Schwester K: "I have faith that one day you will speak perfect Spanish."
  • - "Is there anything we can do for you?" "Yes sisters, we would love it if you took our dogs on a walk through the woods." 
  • - *in Sunday School* "We are living in the last days.  There is not a single country that isn't plagued with conflict" "Except Switzerland." 
I am so grateful for the time and the place in which we live.  In a world where so many are persecuted for their beliefs, it is such a blessing to be able to practice freely.  It was only within the last 2 centuries that my ancestors faced the treacherous journey across the sea from Europe and across the wild terrain of the American continent... and yet to this day others still risk their lives to worship their God.     

We have so much to live for, and we cannot take these sacrifices made by others for granted. Instead, we have so many opportunities to strengthen ourselves (and others) by expounding upon our faith. We cannot afford to be wishy-washy, choosing to follow our religion based on, say, tradition.  Rather, we must build for ourselves a firm foundation!  Let us decide for ourselves what we believe and then act on it.  We need not be "pioneers," although many will be even in this day and age.  But we can always follow the pioneers' excellent examples of faith and dedication to their God.   

Liebe Grüße, 

Sister Lundgreen 

Etwas Grimmes (Post from July 11th))

I love Germany. 

As we drove into Triberg I could only gasp at the beauty of "traditional" Deutschland; yes it was rather touristy... but from chirping cuckoo clocks and lederhosen to Black Forest cake and Weißwurst, it flaunted all the stereotypes that make this country UNIQUE.  

We hiked through the lush Schwarzwald to a gushing waterfall, picking fresh strawberries along the way as we but imagined the Grimm Brothers' stories coming to life-- for you see, Schneewittchen (Snow White), Rapunzel, Rumpelstilzchens and Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) were all born here in Schwabenland! 

Transfer calls: I shall end my mission with a bang, remaining here in my third area to be a Sister Training Leader for the Zürich zone with Sister Harwood! So pumped! 

To be honest, after the call I was filling in the dates of my last planner and started to cry when I wrote in the day on which I will fly home. 

But it's more than just missing the country (and oh how I will miss it).  I will miss the spirituality. The hour every day to study the scriptures. The way people-- strangers-- open up to us. The diligence in trying to dedicate every hour towards the Lord. The chance given every day to testify that Jesus is the Christ and that God loves all of us!

Quotes of the week
  • "The shine of my forehead is brighter than my future." -Elder Raemon 
  • "Wow Sisters, you are really good at walking!" #alldaye'ryday
  • "How old are you two sweet girls? 12?"

German Fun
  • the only difference between the words humid and gay is schwül and schwul don't ask me which is which
  • Gift in German = poison 
  • die See = the sea ...however... der See = the lake 
  • Hell  = bright 
  • Donner & Blitzen = Thunder and lightning 

What I Have Learned 
You know, I think one of the biggest things I have learned on my mission is that God works through us as INDIVIDUALS.  
Things were mildly hectic as I prepared to serve my mission-- when my call date actually WAS as early as I put my "availability," it became a mad scramble trying to squeeze in all the doctors appointments and police checks over Christmas break; my little sister had to try on half my clothes for me since I couldn't buy them from the island.   In February I had to ask permission from all my professors to finish my final projects and exams early so that I could actually return home to Arizona for the meager 10 days before flying to Preston. 
On one of the last mornings on Oahu, my friends and I headed to Electric Beach to snorkel.  As most of them pushed past the waves and swam out, I was tossed to and fro and kept losing my gear whilst trying to recover for breath. After about ten exhausting attempts, I swam back to shore sandy-haired and frustrated.  
"I was worried I was gonna have to come rescue you," a guy friend said from the beach. "You ok?"
"You know, I'm worried about this whole mission thing," I replied, ignoring the fact that he was referring to my physical wellbeing. "What if I'm not really cut out for this?"  
At the time I was hanging out with a number of newly returned missionaries.  As we sat on the beach he reminded me of their biggest advice for me, "While you're out there serving as Sister Lundgreen, don't forget to still be KATIE."
Those words of wisdom have gotten me through the past almost-year-and-a-half.  
I thought a good missionary had to be someone who was super skilled at learning a language, an extrovert talented at picking up conversations with strangers, a brainiac scripture master and a spiritual giant.  But there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter missionary.  

The moments on my mission where I have really connected with people are when I am myself. I have had fun and bonded with teenagers by throwing back handsprings in a park.  I have developed closeness with elderly women by asking them for advice on acrylic painting. I love history and culture, so I ask people about that and they love to answer.  I have sung.  I have been blogging since age 11 and of course, here I am, sharing my mission via blog. These are just silly examples. But they mean something! 
So if you are considering serving a mission but you don't know if you are up for the challenge... I PROMISE YOU IT IS WORTH IT.  God has blessed you with an individual personality and only you have the unique characteristics to influence certain people in your unique way.  
The worth of souls is great in the sight of God.  Your soul is great.  And so are those of the people you have every potential to influence for the better. 

Liebe Grüße, 

Sister Lundgreen

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