Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Heder Family Update!

One of the most exciting things about living in Greece so far is getting to see so many ancient historical sites. About two weeks ago we got to see the Temple of Poseidon, which to me, was the kind of thing you would see on a postcard from Greece. But someone must've dumped garbage in the sea or something, because Poseidon seemed especially angry that day... We were almost blown of the mountain! However, the seafood we ate after made up for it.

Just two days later, on July 24th, I FINALLY turned 17! My family made it one of the best birthdays anyone could ask for. We woke up early, because we were going to spend the day seeing a few more historical sites. As I came downstairs, I heard everyone singing Happy Birthday in the kitchen. When I rounded the corner, Marie and Brooks screamed as they jumped out and blasted me with confetti! After recovering from the mini heart attack, I saw all of the signs and balloons that my cute family had put up. We didn't have long before we were off!

We stopped first at the ancient city of Corinth, where the apostle Paul served part of his mission in the New Testament.  Just above the city was a massive hill where an ancient fortress is situated at the very top. We got to hike all the way up and through the fortress; the view was spectacular. We made the trek back down and ate the most amazing birthday lunch in the town surrounding ancient Corinth. I've been asked this a lot, so I'm telling everyone now, I LOVE Greek salad. And anything Greek. (So far...) Our next destination was the 1,000 stone steps that led to another ancient fortress. I highly regretted my shoe choice (sandals) around step 300. When we finally reached the top, I felt pretty ancient too. However, the view was well worth the hike. 

About a week after my birthday we had the opportunity to have Elder Dyches (2nd counselor in the Europe Area Presidency) and Sister Dyches with us for a round of zone conferences and trainings. You'd think that I would get tired of sitting in 4-6 hour meetings, but I have loved every second of them. I am learning so much about becoming a consecrated missionary, and giving everything up to the Lord so he can work through me. All of us are placed in areas where we can serve and minister to the people around us, even if it's in our own family. He is giving us a part of His "garden" to tend to, and if the Savior said, "Show me how you have taken care of the people in this part of my garden,” would we be prepared and feel confident in our efforts? These meetings allow me to feel the spirit so strongly and so often, and it is such a blessing to see how the Lord moves His work forward.

The last evening that the Elder and Sister Dyches were with us, we got to take them up to Mars hill. This is always a special experience, to be able to walk where Paul walked. It was coming back down that I had my first real missionary experience with a man who was selling me postcards. He asked my mom what "Latter Day" meant on her missionary badge. We tried to explain that we were members of Christ's church that has been restored in these latter days by a Prophet Joseph Smith. I asked, "Are you religious? Do you believe in Christ?" He answered that he was Greek Orthodox, but didn't believe in God or Jesus Christ, and that he found too many faults with religion in general. The missionaries stepped back and let my mom and I struggle to answer this man's questions. In the end, all we could do was give him a pass-along card and encourage him to visit, even though we knew he probably wouldn't. I learned an important lesson. There are people that the Lord has prepared who are ready to receive the gospel, and there are people that we can only love and be good examples to, so that when their hearts are softened, they can remember what we did to reach out.

Just last Friday we got to attend our very first convert baptism here in Athens. All of the missionaries and most of the branch attended, and it was a beautiful meeting. This woman from Africa has so much faith, and demonstrated her faith by entering the waters of baptism. She knew that this was the true church because it requires us to work and learn and grow so that we can become more like Christ. I admire her faith and desire to be what her Heavenly Father wants her to be. 

P day is one of my favorite days, because our whole family gets to be together. Two weeks ago we got to spend our P day at the zoo here in Athens! The very first thing we saw as we entered the gates were the flamingos, and that was enough to make my whole week. After visiting the zoo, my mom managed to find another beach to finish the day at. (If there is water anywhere close, my mother will find it, and she will get in it.) This week our P day was spent at the beautiful cliffs and monasteries of Meteora. I don't know HOW they managed to build these monasteries right on top of the cliffs, but it makes for some jaw-dropping views. 

Tomorrow we are off to Crete! We will be visiting the few members that live there, and seeing some of the sights. We only have our brother Brooks for a few more weeks and want to fit everything in that we can! School also starts in less than a month, but Marie and I are excited for every new adventure that comes along. We love all of you and wish you all the best! 

The Temple of Poseidon blew us away! Literally...

Ancient Corinth

A 17 year old and The 1,000 Steps

Mars Hill with Elder and Sister Dyches

The Zoo (and flamingos!)

More of the beach... ahh

Meteora (I'm slightly afraid of heights...)

Can I take a serious picture? I'm not really sure.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Zone Conferences, Brooks, and the Beach.

We have finished our first round of zone conferences and we LOVED it. Our first conference was here in Athens, and I ate up all five hours. We have some amazing missionaries who I'm learning so much from. Marie and I are becoming very best friends with the Sisters, and loved getting to know all of them at the "Sister's meetings" the day before zone conference. In the conference we talked a lot about the Holy Spirit, and how he is the true teacher of all things. We can all be missionaries when we invite others to feel the Spirit.
 As if our week couldn't have gotten any better, our brother Brooks returned home from his mission in Jacksonville, Florida! I think it was a shock for him to be coming home to Greece... but he is adjusting well. So well, in fact, that we've watched Frozen with him TWICE. He was weird for the first couple of days, but we'd be worried about him if he wasn't. My dad got to release him as a missionary, and it was a tender experience for all of us to bear our testimonies and be a part of his release.
Brooks became a part of the mission very quickly, and spoke in sacrament meeting the next day along with my parents. We attended the branch in Acropolis, and met some amazing people. One older Greek lady came over to me and Marie and said, "You call me yia yia Gogo. I am your grandma now." We felt welcomed by everyone in the branch. I have become the mission pianist it seems... the church leader's eyes go wide when I tell them I can play any hymns they want to sing. I think the electric recordings get old after a while. ;)
We left for Cyprus the following Tuesday, and while President Heder was busy with meetings most of the week,  the kids got to relax on the beach! On one of our first nights there I had the opportunity to talk to our waiter about "Mormons" and gave out my very first pass-along card! I felt like a real missionary then. Zone conference in Cyprus was just as great as it was in Greece... only hotter. ;) They served us a delicious lunch, and I have found a new love... Moussaka. Yummm. We finally got dad to the beach on P-day, and it was beautiful! I've never seen water so blue. I even got to finish my favorite book, Edenbrooke, for the eighth time!
One of the best parts about our trip to Cyprus was attending the branch there. There were three other youth besides Marie and I, and they had such strong testimonies. They live in a place where they are standing alone as a member of the Church, and I hope I would be as brave as they are if I had grown up in that situation. You have to go look up the Mormon Message about the girl in Cyprus! That was the branch that we attended. :)
We are happy to finally be home after a wonderful round of zone conferences, and I am happy to update that our tortoise Tommy is doing well. We got to visit the Temple of Poseidon today, and we hope to visit more of the amazing places in Greece soon. And for all of the worry warts, even though it may seem like Greece is going to explode with the Bank crisis going on... we are safe and away from the riots and demonstrations.  It just makes things more exciting!

Athens Zone Conference

 He's home!! (Sorta...)

Yia yia Gogo

We got to visit Mars Hill where Paul preached to the Greeks over 2000 years ago!

The Parthenon (from a distance)

Zone Conference in Cyprus

The Church building in Larnaka

P Day Adventures

The Beach... ahhh

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Mission Tour!

The mission tour has come to an end, and what an experience it was! It was exhausting , but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We LOVE all of our missionaries so much already. After meeting with the missionaries in Athens, we had only an hour to pack and leave for our flight to Cyprus. You can imagine the chaos that ensued; however, with divine assistance, we made it on the plane in one piece. Cyprus was beautiful and HOT. One of the scariest things was that President Heder had to drive on the wrong side of the road for the first time. We may or may not have lost the AP's once or twice due to Presidents' driving.. ha! The AP’s took us to an amazing seafood restaurant that evening where we witnessed the most “Greek” thing; the waiters and waitresses smashed plates on the floor and danced all over them saying, “OPA!” After the meal, the AP’s gave a Book of Mormon to our waiter and referred him to the missionaries in Cyprus! He was interested in religion, and wanted his girlfriend to hear about our church. We love witnessing the work going on here! The next day, we got to meet all of the missionaries; it was a wonderful meeting. After the meeting we had the opportunity to visit a Greek Orthodox church in the area, and then my personal favorite... the beach! Our visit in Cyprus wasn't long enough though, because we had to hop on another plane to Thessaloniki that night. With only one set of elders and one set of sisters in Thess, our meeting was a lot smaller. The spirit was so strong despite our small numbers. After, our AP's, (who have saved our lives more times than we can count), were kind enough to take us to Phillipi, a place that Paul served his mission. However, our GPS had a different plan and we ended up in a city somewhere on a hill... We did find a museum with ancient royal tombs, so it turned out to be a wonderful day. On Sunday, we had the chance to attend church the next day in Thess, and had a wonderful testimony meeting with the members. Finally, Sunday night, we returned home. We feel blessed to be in this beautiful country and for the opportunity we have to serve the people here. More adventures to come!

Missionaries in Cyprus!

Greek Orthodox Church 

The beach... ahh

Missionaries in Thessaloniki!

"The White Tower" in Thess.

An ancient tomb museum we found on our adventure in Thess.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Adventure Begins!

On Tuesday, June 30th, around 1:00 am, our very tired, very wrinkled family finally arrived in Athens! President Heder had a couple of hours to meet with the old Mission President, and it has been an adventure ever since. We are in LOVE with the new mission home and even found a new pet tortoise in the front yard! His name is Thomas. Jet lag is brutal... But this morning, when I was feeling especially tired, I wandered down to the pantry and found Nutella, so all is well. Today, to kick off the mission tour, we met with all of the missionaries in Athens. They are amazing, and we can't wait to meet the rest of the missionaries! In conclusion: We are safe, we love the missionaries, we have a new pet tortoise, and we can't wait for the adventures to come.
President and Sister Heder!

Our 8 hour layover in Frankfurt had its perks.

It's a good thing we have good AP's who can show us around.

Missionaries in Athens.