Sister Renee Fokken

My photo
Why hello! Welcome to my missionary blog! I'm glad you found it! As most of you well know, I will soon be serving in the Alpine German-Speaking Mission where I will take upon me the name of Jesus Christ and serve him for a period of 18 months, striving to bring souls closer to Christ. I report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on June 15, 2011 and will return home in December of 2012. While I am away, my lovely sister has taken the task to post on here my weekly e-mails home to the family! Feel free to read them or just glance at any pictures I'll send home! And always remember to be continually seeking for those who are looking for the truth and know not where to find it; our Father has sent me abroad to help gather his sheep in Germany/Austria/Switzerland and you can do so where ever you may live. :)

August 29, 2011

Pictures



Wunderbar!

Wow this week has been sufficiently crazy! I experienced my first eating appointment this week... Meine Gute... That was a lot of food. Unfortunatly, food is a HUGE part of Austria culture, and their feelings are hurt when you 1) don't eat every thing they give you 2) don't say yes to second helpings or 3) don't accept random food they feel obligated to give you when you come to their home! I am thoroughly convinced that the Lord blesses missionaries stomaches and tastebuds to be able to take on the amount and variety of food they have to consume. I thought the MTC was rough... stuffing my face here has become quite the obstacle. I am grateful, however, that I have found a new 'like' for certain foods that I never liked before. Exibit A: Ice cream with fruit. IT'S AMAZING!!! Where has it been my whole life and why was I so opposed to it before? Exibit B: Granola cereal with cornflakes. Best invention in the world if I do say so myself! Exibit C: Salmon. Had that for the first time ever! I think my like for fish was tainted ever since my fishing trip with Dad when I was 8 yrs old... something about having fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week straight makes me not crave fish that much. I thought all fish had bones in it and tasted basically the same. Boy was I wrong.

The scenery here is amazing! We went to visit family Kaiser. They are so sweet! They live on a farm ON the Alps and the view from their home is breathtaking. Their children are adorable. There is Sandra (12; almost the exact same age as Rachelle actually! Her birthday is at the end of March) Then there is Peter (11) and Paul (10) Marlene (6ish) and then Mattius (3) I was swept off my feet by little Mattius! He had just returned from an exciting ride in the front loader of the tractor driven by Paul. Mattius got on his little "FisherPrice" version of his front loader tractor and went to the end of the drive-way. I didn't pay much attention to what he was doing because I was trying to keep up with a conversation with Sandra. Much to my surprise, Mattius pulls up right next to me and opens the basket of the front loader and gives me probably the sweetest little flower in the world! (Okay so it was a week with little blossoms) But it was soooo cute!!! I love flowers and from this little prince charming, they were priceless ;)

Another cool experienced that happened later that day was when we were out finding people after an appointment fell through. It was getting pretty cold and it started to rain. We had umbrellas luckily though. We went to a potetial investigator's apartment and they weren't there (shocker I know) so we rain through the rain back to our warm car. Well, as I was sitting there, a lady was just sitting at her window watching us and the rain, probably thinking that we were crazy or something. I knew we needed to go talk to her so I looked at Sister Downs and said, "Let's go talk to her real quick" so we left our warm car and talked to her by her window in the rain for maybe a minute or so but she told us we could come back! We set an appointment with her to see her tomorrow. Schau ma mal (We shall see).

Probably one of the crazy funny things I saw this week is an old grandpa just walking down the streeet in a speedo. Classic European look ;)

I wish you all the best week of your lives! "The happy life isn't found, it's made" - Camille Eyring Kimball. So destiny is yours! Use it wisely!

Love always,
Sister Fokken

PS My new address is:

Salzlände 15/21
8700 Leoben
Austria

Hope to hear from you soon!!! :)



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August 22, 2011

PICTURES!!!! And recent happenings!

Hello out there! I am so glad to be able to finally send you some pictures! I am currently living in Leoben, Austria! Basically I live in a valley in the Alps... no big deal... I promise to have more pictures sometime soon. Please enjoy these ones for now that give a slight glimpse of my mission thus far.

SANY1389: This is me and my first Mitterbeiterinen! aka companions. Sister Phillips is on the left and Sister Taysom is in the middle. I love these two so much!!!
SANY1401: Sister Phillips LOVES icecream! More than anyone I've ever met!
SANY1402: Sister Baxter (left) and Sister Hunt (right) these are the other two sisters that were in our room who also went to Alpine! They are awesome!!!
SANY1403: This was us staying up late on 4th of July to watch the fireworks from Stadium of Fire! It was a ton of fun and we got awesome icecream but the next day was Sunday and it was fast Sunday so needless to say, it was a little rough trying to stay awake...
P1010451: This is a view of the Alps from our balchony on the 5th floor! So glad there is an elevator :)
P1010453: This is my new companion, Sister Downs! She is great! We have already had very tender moments with one another as I am experiencing a whole new mission world!!!

Wow it is so nice to not have to rush through e-mails here. I can actually share some really neat stories I have been experiencing! Woohoo!!

So, we left the MTC at 5am on Monday, Aug 16th and arrived in München, Germany at 7:50am on Tuesday. So that means we were going to have to go all day long before we could sleep! When we got here, we were greeted by President and Sister Miles and their daughter, Rachel who will be leaving for her mission to Rome, Italy next week! Woot! :) The Assisstances to the President were also there. We loaded our stuff in the van and we were given a copy of Das Buch Mormon, several passalong cards in German and were told that we were going to board the train and be missionaries! Ha, well Sister Baxter and I had been talking to a woman on the plane (mostly Sister Baxter) about the church and we decided that we wanted to go and give her a Buch Mormon. So we did! She said she would read it :) Then we got on the train for the first time... talk about being scared out of one's mind! Elder Baird took the lead and showed us what to do and spoke to one woman and she actually committed to reading das Buch Mormon! Then he turned around and said to stay on that side of the train and to get off when we were supposed to. So we (S. Phillps, S. Taysom, and ich) started to scatter ever so slowly. Sister Taysom got shut down and I knew I was up. I had seen a fellow who was sort of eavesdropping and he seemed very curious so I chose to speak to him. I told him that I had been in Germany for about 45 min and began teaching! It was awesome! I was inspired to ask the right questions to get him thinking and make him even more curious about the church. I bore testimony that all the answers to those questions were in the Book of Mormon and committed him to reading it. Then he even let me get his address so that missionaries could come clarify what he reads and help him answer his questions. What a rush?!?!  It was awesome! The Lord knew I needed that. I had been praying for missionary opportunities on my journey to the mission and here it was. I know for a FACT that the Lord places His servants in the path of those who are prepared and it is up to us to find out who they are!

Moving on, my companion is great! Her name is Sister Downs, she is from Georgia! She goes home in November but is trying really hard NOT to get truncky and keep working hard. I hear it is really hard to stay focused the last few months. I'll worry about that when I get there ;) We almost missed our train the first day we met! Ha, President Miles had to drive us as fast as he could to the train station and we made our train but barely! I've never had to run so much to catch a mode of transportation as I have in the first week of my mission! We were always running it seems! But the area that I am serving in is called Bruck an der Mur (said like Book on der More) It is so cute! I live in a town called Leoben. Sister Downs says it is really small comparitively. The buildings here are like that of Louisiana in that they are so colorful! I'll try to capture more of that in pictures but my camera is currently broken so I'll use Sister Downs! :) The creeks here are crystal clear! I have never seen anything like it before! On Saturday we went to do service for Bruder Kubik. He is awesome! He sings Home on the Range in ENGLISH! It is so cute! He is an elderly man like most of the people in our ward. Our service for him was to pull weeds, aka Stinging Needle from his bushes that line the yard. Meine Gute... I had so many bumps on my arms that day and they still itch a little... but all is well! Oh yeah and afterwards, he gave us some juice. What kind one might ask? Well none other that UNsweetened Grapefruit juice... if you haven't had it, I would recommend using it as a prank because it tastes that nasty! I just drank it fast and tried NOT to think to much! After that he gave us chocolate which I was extremely grateful for. Chocolate here is amazing! (as most of you already know...) so that made it totally worth it!

Our area is huge! It takes about 2 hours to get across the whole span of it. Our ward has 30 active members. There are 2 primary children,1 young woman and 1 young man... All the rest are either elderly or don't have children. It's crazy how much missionary work they do though! They are golden! Sister Cseh is one of the most amazing of them all! She is 81 and LOVES to go on team ups! She is a powerhouse! Yesterday I had the priviledge of listening to 5 hours of straight German. I think I understood MAYBE 10%. It is a lot different here. They speak a dialect known as Steirisch (sty-rish). It can be compared to a southern drawl. So basically I feel like I'm back in my first week of chemistry class my first week of school in Louisiana, but they aren't speaking in english... I did have the priviledge to say a few prayers in the meetings and I spoke/introduced myself in sacrament. I got a lot of compliments on my German so it must not be too bad? :)

After church, we had the opportunity to go and teach a girl named Aline. She is from Romania, living with her cousin and his family, the Costans. Brother Costan is currently attending another church so they found Aline while contacting Brother Costan as a less active member. (Hopefully that makes sense) Aline does not speak German, and she speaks a little bit of English. Brother Costan speaks German and Romanian. It is very interesting to say the least. So anyways, we knocked on the door and Aline answered and seemed very pleased to see us! Brother Costan was sitting there and the fun began. We opened with prayer and attempted to answer his questions. He tends to not like you speaking for more than 5 seconds so he will cut you off and ask another question. It was rough at first and I didn't fully understand what was going on, but he suddenly turned to me and asked me what I thought. I paused and through the spirit bore strong testimony of agency and the will of man verses the will of God. That the only person that can tell us what to do is God and even then it is still our choice to obey. I testified that when we do, we can feel peace in our hearts depite the actions of others and the restlessness of the world around us. I translated what I said to Aline and she agreed. As Sister Downs bore testimony, the Spirit was so strong and you could sense the discomfort Brother Costan felt. The spirit is real. The gift of tongues is real. I know it!

Well I have to get going... until next week!

One more random thing before I go... people walk their cats here! They have a leash and actually walk their cats...crazy...

Schönen Woche!
Sister Fokken



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August 13, 2011

Farewell MTC

Welp, see ya later America! I'll be heading out to Munich on Monday morning! I cannot tell you how excited I am. This is the most amazing adventure I have ever been on. I have met new people that I feel will be my friends throughout the eternities and I get to continue the friendships as I go to spread the "good news" to the people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A mission has been a very interesting thing. One cannot describe it, one can only experience it. The power of God is real. The gift of tongues is real. The Spirit is real. I have grown so much in my time here; even if I went home now, I would never be the same again. Yesterday we had an In-Field training session and talked about The Doctrine of Christ. I love the purity, clarity, and simplicity of the doctrine of Christ. Every aspect of the Gospel points toward our Savior Jesus Christ and how we can become like Him. The process is easy to comprehend because it is so simply stated. Faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement. You dont have to KNOW how the atonement works, you just need to know how to WORK the atonement. Once we learn how to work the Atonement, we will better understand how we can fully and sincerely repent. In Preach My Gospel, we are told to, "repent daily." We are all mortals and make mistakes on a daily basis. We should not be so proud as to think that we went about our day perfectly, for no one does. If the prophets says that he repents daily, I'm sure we can find and acknowledge at least a few of our weaknesses or mistakes throughout the day. I promise as you strive to repent daily, you will have an added measure of the Spirit in your life and you will be able to better contribute to the building of the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. The Spirit will open YOUR eyes to those who are struggling that you would have not seen other wise.
 
The biggest thing we stressed yesterday in our meeting was that our purpose is to baptize. We know it is only through the grace of God that we can be saved in the last days at the gateway to His highest kingdom is Baptism. So yes, my purpose IS to baptize. We desire everyone to be baptized because we care for them. We love our fellow men. If I had a friend come to me and express their love, share what brings them happiness, and tell me I could return to my father in Heaven, I would love to know how. Especially if they told me that I could have a contant comfort, if I made the right decisions in my life, after I was baptized. We all know enduring to the end would be difficult but the Lord, knowing that obstacle before hand, thoughtfully provided us with our families and prophets in EVERY dispensation. I am so thankful for our current prophet, Thomas S Monson and the decisions he made in his life to live worthy and able to receive revelation for our day. We NEED it.
 
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I extend a call to all of you. You too are to be missionaries in the gospel. Please think of someone that you know that could use the gospel in their lives right now. Right this second. I'm not joking. If you cannot think of anyone, pray for someone to be placed in your path whose heart is prepared to receive the "good news" aka the gospel. The gospel is meant for everyone. We must work in the Lords timing, yes, but there is always someone that has been being prepared by the Lord. Remember that the Lord was already IN the vineyard when the servants came in Jacob 5, the alagory of the Olive Tree. Once you have someone in mind, invite the missionaries to your home. Tell them you have someone in mind that you would like to share the gospel with but don't know exactly how to go about it. I KNOW it is hard and I KNOW it takes courage to share something so precious to you. Missionaries have been there too! They were member missionaries before the mission as well! When you ask them what to say, they should have some pretty good ideas on how to best bring up the gospel. They are trained to relate everything to a gospel principle and to relate it quickly to the Restoration. Take courage and pray for the ability to share. If your friend says no, don't worry about it. It is just not the right time. They will thank you later for planting that seed and your attempt to help them find an ever lasting happiness.
 
I know this church is true. The Book of Mormon is the best book on the planet. It has the answers to every question  you could possibly think of. I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for all that He has done for me in this life. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve Him. It is the least I can do to give back what I have been given. I know that God cares about EACH of His children. He knows YOU! Not as just a son or daughter but He knows you by name and every small detail you care about, He cares about because He loves YOU. I know this is where I am supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing. Thank you to all who have made it possible. I love you! Take care! Until we meet again.
 
Sister Fokken



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August 8, 2011

Testimony

Sorry I haven't posted for a while, I just wanted to share my testimony with you before I leave America for a while...
 
I know my father lives. I know that the Lord loves all of His children and that is why he has called me and many others to serve in Germany/Austria/Switzerland! I feel so blessed to have found favor in the Lord that He trust me to do His work. I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I know He lives! I know the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and we would be lost without it. It truly is a sacred book of scripture that is to be use in companionship with the Bible. So often I have read the Bible and thought, "What exactly does that mean?" More often than not, there is a BoM scripture that explains it so much better than anyone ever could. This IS the work of the Lord that I am finding myself lost in. I couldn't think of a better place to be. My scripture for the week has been Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all they ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your path." I couldnt image anyone else that I would want directing my path but a Father in Heaven who knows my potential. Who loves me more than I could ever dream!
 
I have modified my mission motto in the last few days to: The Savior Jesus Christ. Learn of Him. Come unto Him. Become like Him.
 
For it is Jesus Christ in whom I have chosen to be the center of my life and my mission. Doubt not, fear not. I know who my shephard is and I will do my best to gather His lost sheep in the Alpine Mission. If you have a few extra moments in your prayers, pray for all the missionaries, pray for missionary opportunities, and pray for His children to soften their hearts and let the message of the Restored Gospel in their souls, that they all may partake in the blessings of exaltation when the time comes.
 
Until Next time,
 Aufwiedersehen!



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