Sister Renee Fokken

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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. :)

October 30, 2012

October 29

Well, this last week lots has happened!!! We set a baptismal date with Sandra from Liberia! She is Golden! Since our first visit, she has been so intrigued with the fact that we are in her life and that she is a daughter of God, that she CAN repent and that she should be baptized. She has asked questions about why we are here, what happens after this life, how she can be happy now, how do we repent, can we repent more than once, and how do I get baptized. It was truly a remarkable experience. The only thing is that she lives out in the middle of nowhere and no bus runs through there on Sundays. But she will come to church next week! :) Another really cool story is about Zlata. She is amazing! We met with her last Tuesday she asked us why she was baptized as a baby and we told her we didn't know why people did that, but it was okay that she was, because she didn't know better but that she would have to be baptized again. We asked her to pray about it and committed her to do the "Stop Smoking Program" on Friday and she said she would if she hadn't already quit before then. We went on Friday and she had already quit. She quit Wednesday morning. Gave away all of her cigarettes, and hid her ashtrays. Her brother came over and he kind of made fun of her and said she would last only a few days, but she told him she has quit for good! She then said how she was reading through the The Gospel of Jesus Christ brochure and she had a question about Enduring to the End. She asked us to read it and she then asked, "So the only way that I can be that happy is if I am baptized?" We said, "Yes" She fell silent and I know she felt the spirit because she said, "A part of me wants to get baptized, and a part of me thinks of my family." We talked a little more about her family and what they might think of her baptism. We think she is afraid that they will think that she is leaving a family tradition and abandoning her family in a way. She told us about a church she saw when she went on a walk with her brother, when she was still in Croatia. Her brother told her that these people were always so nice and happy and they were like a big family. She asked if it was OUR church? We didn't know, so we went to the church website and sure enough, it was one of our meeting houses. It was so cool to see that members are just as happy there as they are all around the world! And members' examples penetrate the hearts of MANY even if they just SEE them interact with one another. She is so close to getting baptized! So in summary: Be Careful what you do at all times, you never know who is watching or what conclusion they will come to because of the actions/words you do or say! I hope you all have a wonderful week!! Love ya! Sister Fokken

October 22

So this week has been pretty good. I honestly don't remember what happened? I just remember that we were busy all the time? Crazy how that works. I can't believe October is almost gone! It JUST STARTED!!! This last week I had a scary experience because President wasn't sure if he told the main office of my extension or not and if they had already bought the plane ticket. I was torn! It hit me today during personal study that someday, I won't live in Switzerland anymore! I finally came to my senses, to realize that I am still in Switzerland and I better enjoy it as much as I possibly can before I have to leave! Then today, in study, I thought about the possibility of having to go home still in November. I was really excited and then I thought more about, "what would I do?" I have been so good at living my mission in the middle, this thought of going home to a normal life caught me completely off guard! This thought of my mission ending someday is a bittersweet thought but luckily, I can put it off for a few more weeks. I am not going to lie though, it'll be so nice to get hugs everyday again! I miss our family's hugs! I've had to teach everyone here how to give a proper hug! :) Love, Sister Fokken

October 15

Man, I am so tired this week! We have been so busy I can't even TELL YOU! I will definitely be one of those who sleeps for the first week I am home from my mission. I already feel dead.... yay for being a full-time missionary! This morning I was reading in Alma 26 and it is Ammon exclaiming the joy he feels in the work of the Lord. There is a verse in there that talks about how they went forth proclaiming the word of the Lord which was in them. I thought about that and just smiled. I always knew the scriptures applied to my life but on my mission I feel that the scriptures have really became a PART of me. It was a really cool realization today. Okay, now for the good stuff! The Miracles from this week! Well, this week was just really crazy! I set a new record for how many lessons in one day that I've had! We had 4 lessons on Thursday! All with men! So they all had to be joint teaches! Luckily we have a willing Senior Couple who are able to help us out a lot! The lessons each got progressively better! And the last one we committed him to baptism!!!! Heck yeah! It was such a good day! That night, I went to pray and Sister Hatch was in the Bathroom, so I took the opportunity to pray out loud. I just spoke to Heavenly Father as if he were sitting right next to me :) It was so cool! I felt him talk back in my heart and in my mind! I felt I should ask him where we should go to contact the next day. He told me. "Buchthalen" I said, "Okay. Should we just go dooring or walking on the street?" He said, "Walk on the street." I said, "Okay, mach mal so!" And then I asked him to please allow Sister Hatch to receive that same inspiration so that we can be in unison with our decision. He said he would gladly do so. I thanked him for the inspiration and said good night. The following day, we had planned to have weekly planning and then go to this place called Rafz to go by on a former investigator. Around 4 or so, I asked Sister Hatch if we could just call this person in Rafz and go contacting somewhere else? She said, "Do you feel like we should go somewhere else?" I sheepishly said, "Yes, we need to go to Buchthalen." She said, "I was thinking the same thing earlier today and I didn't know why?" Ha, I knew why, but we then finished planning and headed for Buchthalen. While waiting for our bus, we met a woman named Lurdas, who loves to talk about God and Jesus Christ and agreed to meet with us this coming week. We were feeling pretty good about it too! We then took the bus to Buchthalen, got off and were trying to decided which way to go. We decided downhill would be a lot better than climbing another mountain. We started walking and Sister Hatch asked if we were dooring or just walking. I then began to relate my experience from the night before and before I could finish, I found myself speaking to this woman. We told her who we were and she said she was Reformiert (I don't know what that is in English) and we asked her about how her faith has helped her? Before too long, she was in tears. This whole last week, I had been preparing myself to talk to someone who was crying, and I thought a lot about what I would say to them.) I looked at the woman and asked her sympathetically why she was crying. She told us about her daughter who desired to cut off all contact. This woman was in serious contemplation if the Lord even loved her? I looked her in the eyes and testified that the Lord indeed loved her and he had sent us to her. I related again my experience from the night before to her and she asked if we could come to her home and talk a little more. We said of Course we could and we walked with her to her home. She told us more about the situation with her daughter and how it is so hard for her to know what is true and doesn't understand why the Lord would have her suffer so much. As we talked more about the gospel, she finally opened her heart and she felt something. Something powerful. We testified how our faith in Jesus Christ has been the only thing that has really helped us through these hard times. She gladly accepted the Book of Mormon (when she found out it was free) and invited us back for this coming week. The Church is true. Miracles happen every day! Was this a coincidence... NOT A CHANCE!!. There are no Coincidences in the Lord's work. EVERYTHING happens for a reason. I wish you all a wonderful week! One filled with miracles and thanksgiving! I love you!! Love, Sister Fokken

October 8

19 YEAR OLD SISTERS IS THE BEST THING THAT COULD EVER HAPPEN!!!! That announcement brought so much joy to my heart I can't even tell you! Man, I was talking to Sister Hatch and we both had relatively strong desires to serve missions at the age of 19 but still had two years to go before we could do so. Well after two years, the desire had left us. But the responsibility never did. And because we love our Savoir we decided to serve. We both came out when we were 22. There will be so many more sisters serving missions now, I can guarantee it! Well, this week we helped with a new church building's open house in a place called Singen. It was really fun to be with missionaries all day but it was even more fun to get to know people and just to see how many people were curious as to what goes on in that beautiful building. It was so fun! Then conference this weekend was exactly what I needed. I got very specific answers to my very specific questions. The Lord truly does guide those who speak and allows them to say things very specific, even the very words/phrases, that we so desperately need to hear. I am staying again in Schaffhausen, and still with Sister Hatch! :D YEssss LOVE IT!!! I was able to go to the temple recently. It was really cool. I was the very last one to go through the veil and so everything was quiet and it was just me and the "Lord." Thus, it was quite a touching experience. :) Quick story: This last week I have felt a few times the pressure of the mission and just how hard it CAN be. I found myself asking a few times, "Am I sure I want to extend?" I thought back as to why I even CAME on my mission? I remembered I came because He asked me to come. I came because my love of the Savior and His gospel is greater than my own personal desires and interests. It's the same reason I stayed. Even when times were tough. I know the Lord has called me to this mission and I am here for a reason! I loved Elder Holland's talk because I can relate so much to Peter. I felt like I have been asked that question a lot on my mission, "Sister Fokken, lovest thou me?" I am so grateful that I have always been able to respond with yes! It may have been a little shaky the first few times He asked. But now I can say, with a firm assurance that YES, I DO love my Savior. That's why I came, that's why I stayed, that's why I extended. I promised to go wherever He wants me to go, say whatever He wants me to say, and be all that He wants and needs me to be. The gospel is real. I still stand by my mission saying, Learn of Him, Live like Him, and you will Become like Him. I know that it is true! The apostles of the Lord have given testimony to that very principle. As we learn the Gospel of Jesus Christ and apply it to our DAILY lives, we will have no regrets and we will be filled with his joy and peace. I love you all and wish you a wonderful week! Thanks for sharing your insights on Conference! I would love to hear how you have planned to apply some of the things you learn! Have a great week! Love, Sister Fokken

October 1

The other day, I was laying on my bed looking out my window just thinking about how crazy life as a missionary is and how blessed I feel to have this privilege to serve a full-time mission. Then, I suddenly realized that I speak GERMAN!!! I never thought I would ever be able to say that I was fluent in another language but, here I am! Oh man, I still can't believe it sometimes. I really do love this life as a missionary. I've never been so tired yet so satisfied in my whole life. There is NOTHING but the work of the Lord that could produce such a sensation. This gospel is true. If this church were of the devil, he would have abandoned me on this mission a long time ago. But I am here. Stronger than ever. And have asked to labor longer in this wonderful field. I don't get it. And I don't have to. I just have to recognize where my strength comes from. Who is by my side. And press forward with a perfect brightness of hope, feasting upon the words of Christ. There have been so many little miracles that have happened this week. I wish I could tell you them all! But, it would take 5 hours to speak it let alone TYPE it. But the one person that I wanna talk about is Zlata. She has made so much progress this week and is living proof of so many principles of the gospel. 1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation to all learning in the gospel. 2) The Book of Mormon will change the lives of those who read it and apply the doctrines they learn there in. 3) The Priesthood is real and this church is the ONLY church on earth that has the right to exercise that priesthood power. So #1: Earlier this week, we were talking to Zlata about baptism. She said that she was born Catholic and would die Catholic. She also said she knew that the Catholic church was wrong but she didn't want to change. I was about to drop her right there. She could feel it too. She asked us if we were going to stop coming if she wasn't going to get baptized or if she wasn't allowed to get a blessing if she wasn't a member? The spirit gently placed a few questions to ask her before we dropped her though. We asked her why she thought we came each week? (I can't remember what she said exactly, but I think she just said, I don't know?) Then we asked her how she feels when we come? (She said, "I always feel peace.") Then we asked her if she feels like her faith has grown since we have been meeting with her? (She said yes.) I told her we were not going to give up on her and she asked why? We read Alma 32:27. She said that was beautiful and we explained that even with her little faith that she had, she could accomplish great things. And as long as her faith is growing, we would continue to meet with her and help her along the way. #2: Just before leaving, we committed her to read just 5 minutes in the Book of Mormon each day. And we gave her a scripture marking pencil and told her that she didn't have to remember EVERYTHING she read but to mark scriptures that she liked or she had questions about. We promised her that if she would just show Heavenly Father that she was TRYING, he would bless her and she would be able to remember things more clearly. She agreed to read and we set another appointment for Friday. Friday came. The blessing we had scheduled for her had fallen through, and we didn't really know what we were supposed to teach her. We prayed (like always) just before going into the lesson. We went in and asked her if she had read. She said she only had a little bit of time to read. We said, that's okay, what did you mark and we can talk about it? Well she shared about 5 scriptures with us and the last one she shared was all the way in 1 Nephi 19! Ha, we were amazed! She had never read any other reading assignments we gave her before. It was crazy. When we talked about the scriptures she read, she read one and said, "Here, I found myself in the scriptures!" She was already applying the scriptures to herself! We were astounded. After talking about a few of the scriptures, we went back and re-read one about Christ and repentance/judgement. We then talked about repentance which led to a discussion about the ten commandments which the Spirit totally testified straight to her heart and she understood and wanted to repent and live the ten commandments. Coincidence? Not a chance. The power of the Book of Mormon is real. #3 After the lesson on Friday, we set another appointment for Sunday. We finally gathered two men with the Melchizedek Priesthood to come with us and give Zlata a blessing. We were really late, and it was kind of crazy to have 5 people come into her TINY apartment instead of just two. But we did it. She had explained to the two brethren that she had had 3 blessings from the Catholic priests already. As the brethren were explaining more about the way we do the blessing, and how it is the words of the Lord not these brethren and then explained that it is only by the wish of the recipient that a blessing can be given, she just kept saying, Yes, I want one! Please! The blessing was amazing. Afterwards, she said she felt a really warm feeling. She was very grateful for them coming and doing that for her. Ah, I wish words could expressed the feelings I have had in the last few days. This Friday, we have transfer calls... I am going to cry if I have to leave this place. I have really come to love this area! We have been so busy this last week we haven't really had time to have a proper dinner break! Then on Friday, we had a "District Finding Day" and found 19 more potentials! Needless to say that we are going to be fairly busy the next little bit! We are helping with a building open house this week, going to the temple, and still trying to meet with everyone we are needing to! Yippee!!! Please pray for us to have success this week contacting these 19 potentials and that they will accept the offer to learn about the gospel. And Please pray that Sister Hatch and I have the energy to be able to do that which we need to do! Oh and enjoy conference this weekend! Don't forget to bring a question! :D Love, Sister Fokken

September 24

It's official, I am coming home on January 4th! Woot! I cannot tell you how excited I am! Every time I think about November, I think, "Man, I don't have to go home then anymore!" I am so blessed to be able to serve these people I love so much for just a little longer! Thank you again for all your support and positive thinking! So I can't make this too too long, we really need to go to Zurich today to renew my visa, and try to get it extended until 4th Jan. If we can't, then I will just go to Germany or Austria for my last little bit. It's still crazy to me that my time is coming to a close where I can wear a tag in which my name is next to that of the Savior's. Once a missionary always a missionary. I have no fears about that. But you are also right in that the time is short that we are able to serve as full-time missionaries. Don't worry! I plan to live it up! Every last drop! Well, about our investigators...we have many! We have Peter, Brother Humm, Sister Zlata, Yoldas, Felix, Edith, Friede, Martin and Vera. These are the ones I can think of off the the top of my head. They are all so awesome! Peter and Brother Humm are progressing but they are swiss which means they will take a while before they will be truly converted. But that's okay. I have learned a lot more about the art of patience on my mission. More than you can possibly imagine! Sister Zlata has a disease that is "unknown" and she has been to many doctors and still no one knows what she has and how to fix it. But her faith is growing so much because of this trial. We asked her the other day if she believed that Christ could heal her. She said she was 99% sure he could! We told her that that would be enough! We need just a small amount of faith to accomplish great things! Please keep her in your prayers this Tuesday as she will be getting a priesthood blessing of healing. She realizes that she can be healed but it must be according to the will of the Father. But I have really high hopes for her because I think that it would lead her to a true and lasting conversion. If she was ever converted, she would bring her family along with her! Her whole family! :) As for our goal, we currently have.... 90 baptized and 47 others committed to baptism! We will have to really work hard to reach our goal but I believe that we can do it! I really could use your help this week especially. Sister Hatch and I are seeing really good success here but we have a hard time committing people to be baptized. This week in your prayers can you please pray for Sister Hatch and I to have the courage to invite our investigators to be baptized? If you could do that that would be so wonderful! I know that we can achieve our goal of 300, but it will take all the faith we can possibly muster to do it! Well, I just want you to know that I love this work! I love my Savior more than I could have ever imagined! He IS the way. The ONLY way to return to our father in Heaven. I wish you all the best this week! Love, Sister Fokken

September 17 - Extending my mission!

Thanks everyone for your excitement about me extending my mission! I am pretty excited myself! I heard it works out better for you anyway. :) I am really excited for one more Swiss Christmas! I really didn't appreciate how special Christmas really was last year. Elder Nelson was visiting the missionaries in our mission last week and he opened the floor for questions. One elder asked, "How can we know our potential? And once we know, how can we reach it?" He referenced 3 Nephi 12: 48 which says, "48 Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect." He said, "Elder, that is your potential, to be like God. Now how do your reach it? Well, you can't. Not in this life." He then read Matthew 5:48 which says, " 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. The difference? Christ was not perfected until he was resurrected. Therefore, we literally CANNOT be perfect in this life. Even if we never made any mistakes. We would still need the Atonement to be perfected. Without the Atonement, we could not be resurrected thus, we couldn't be perfected. It was very interesting. The Savior should be incorporated into every aspect of our lives. As you can see it was really good. Take care this week! Love Sister Fokken

September 10

Holy moly did I feel loved this week! Not only has the Lord blessed me here in Switzerland but he has SHOWERED my family with more blessings than they know what to do with! Does life get any better than that? I submit that it does NOT! I wish I had time to tell you all the miracles I've seen. I am looking forward to sitting with you and telling you stories face to face! Just remind me to tell you about Martin and Vera, and also about Felix, Edith, and Frieda. I will have stories for the rest of my life from my mission. Okay well I love you all very much! I wish you all a wonderful week! I will talk to you next week! Love, Sister Fokken

August 27

Well hello there! So Felix, his wife Edith and his daughter Friede all sat and listened to us last week as we explained about the Book of Mormon. It was really wonderful to see the wife's mind change through out the lesson as she felt the spirit more and more. At the beginning she told us that she has heard of the Book of Mormon and that the people who read it and follow it's teachings become crazy and worship the devil. (hehe) I just smiled and asked if we could use a scripture. 2 Nephi 25:26 to be exact. When I asked if she would read it, she refused. She was literally scared of the Book. I said that was fine, I would read it. I read it and explained that the purpose of the Book of Mormon was to help lead others CLOSER to Christ, not further from him. After that, we asked Felix to read but I guess he had a welding accident and so he can't see too well. She, Edith, volunteered to read and we asked her to read a few more chapters (Alma 40-42) and she gladly obliged, and wanted to make sure she was there the next time we came to visit. They are very curious about religion and I would love to see them come, as a family, into the Gospel and experience it for themselves! We will see what the Lord has in store for them right now. :) So many times this week Sister Hatch has looked at me and asked what I was thinking about and nearly every time I was thinking about an investigator, how I can be a better missionary, or a member we should go visit or serve. I really don't know what I will think about when I go home... It is so much easier to focus on others while serving a mission because honestly that is the ONLY way one will survive in this jungle. We need every blessing we can get from the Lord and they will only come if we are doing our best to serve him and working for Him and loving His children. This life is so hard. But so good at the same time. I will certainly be pushing all unmarried women around the age of 21 to serve a mission. It truly is the best life preparation anyone could ever imagine. I am so grateful I am serving a mission. I like what Dad told me in his last e-mail that he has been involved in more baptisms after his mission than he ever was ON his mission. That's what I want to be like. There is no end to this mission. Not until the Great Jehovah shall come and say, "The work is done." Then we can stop finding. But we will always, ALWAYS be teaching someone somewhere, and learning from everyone around us. It will be so great! Love, Sister Fokken

August 20

This week we have had so many miracles happen. Never have I, throughout my whole mission, been let into someone's home on the spot. And this transfer it has happened 3 times. (Two times in the last week alone.) Last Monday we were getting on a bus and I said hello to a man but proceeded forward and sat by Sis Hatch. Then I got that feeling. That same feeling you get when you are sitting in fast and testimony meeting and you KNOW you are supposed to share your testimony but you are terrified for some reason or another. So I got up and asked the man if I could sit with him. He said, "Of course!" We got to talking and he is from Nigeria, has been here for 14 years, has two jobs, a beautiful wife and 6 children. He invited us to come over right then and meet his family. We did so and it was crazy. Little kids were running around, the tv was on, and then suddenly a friend came over and started to talk to us. She had heard before that we weren't Christian. She had heard of the Book of Mormon but had never read it. We invited her to read a little of the introduction. Her countenance changed almost instantly. She realized we weren't there to tell her that everything she learned was wrong. But that we were there to help people come unto Christ. It was pretty interesting. We had to leave not too long after we got there because we had another appointment. Before we left, the man I met on the bus, Felix, asked if we would pray before we leave. The spirit filled the room and it was a neat experience. After we got up, he asked us to come back soon! We told him we would! He was thrilled. We saw him a few days later and made an appointment but unfortunately it fell through. But we will keep trying. We also found a woman on Saturday afternoon. Elder and Sister Betts took us out to lunch and we decided that it would be a good idea to contact in this area for a few hours before our next appointment. We didn't have a map with us but we found a city map and knew that we needed to go a certain area on the map. We walked there but Sister Hatch had to use the restroom. As weird as it sounds, I have learned on my mission that bathroom breaks are rather inspired! I have found great success when my companion or I had to use the restroom and we either found someone on the way to or from the bathroom. Crazy as that is. Well, after the restroom, we went back to this one area. We felt embarrassed a little because we walked by the same people three times in the last 15 mins... I am sure they thought we were just some silly American girls that were lost. Anyways, we got to this one street and Sister Hatch said that that wasn't the right way. I followed her counsel and headed down the other street. We knocked a few doors but we saw another street and we both knew that is where we were supposed to go. We decided to walk to the end of Rosenweg, and work our way back toward the town center. We went to the very last building rang the top klingle and they buzzed us in. We went to the very top, saw a woman, said, "Hello! How are you today?" she answered, "Yeah, I'm okay, please come in!" We thought, okay, well that's interesting. That NEVER happens. (Well never say never!) We taught a powerful first lesson with her and she felt so honored to receive a copy of the Book of Mormon. She promised to read the introduction before the next time we come. She said we could come by again next Saturday to talk more about what we believe. Her name is Frau Flink. And she is amazing. I could tell you more miracles that happened but it would take a really long time to do so... Schaffhausen is beginning to bloom! Soon we really won't have any room for people in the chapel! We are already packed in there like sardines with only 3 investigators there. The work is going forth! I am having the time of my life, even though it is still hard sometimes, I have never felt as much joy doing something that is so hard in my entire life! I have really learned what it means to trust in the Lord on my mission. Especially in the last few weeks. I feel his hand guiding me in every aspect of my life. I have no idea what will happen after my mission. But I am not afraid. I know the Lord will provide. I have learned to live each day as a new one. I am living my life "in the middle." This transfer is coming to an end. We get transfer calls on Friday. I really want to stay here... And I am pretty sure I will die here. I wouldn't want to go to a new area for my last transfer. Next transfer is going to fly by because Elder Nelson is coming and then we have Sister's Conference for three days. It will be so great! I wish you all the best! Have a great week! Till next week! Love, Sister Fokken

August 13

This week, we had Zone Conference which is always a great treat. I cannot tell you how much I love my mission President. We also are having another "Sister's Conference" in September and Elder Nelson is coming to visit his daughter. Thus, we will also be seeing Elder Nelson next month. Get this week of Sept 10.... Monday- Pday, Tues- Normal day, Wed- Elder Nelson is coming, Thurs- Head to Munich for sister's Conference, Fri- Sister's Conf, Sat- Come back to Schaffhausen, Sun- Church. We are hoping to commit an investigator to baptism who just returned home from her vacation in Croatia. The only thing that could make that week any better would be for her to get baptized on that Saturday we come back. Oh, boy, have a told you lately how much I love my mission. I am realizing now just how many of the apostles served their missions here in Europe or have lived here.... There are a few and I really connect with them. They know what it is like here and how the gospel is "received." :) There is much work to be done here and not enough missionaries to do it. We need more missionaries.