Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Week of August 13 from Braunschweig

Hey everyone,

And so begins a very emotional experience for me- my last email written to you in the mission field. This week was definitely one of the hardest of my mission, lots of opposition to deal with and heartbreak, but many good life lessons learned.

The week began pretty well.  We spent some time on P-day at the headquarters of Volkwagen and that was pretty cool.They have a factory that is over a kilometer long and just all sorts of cool stuff. I figured walking may be even more difficult at the end of the week, so I just wanted to get out and walk around. VW owns like all 11 of the biggest car companies in Europe except for BMW and Mercedes, but Porsche, Lambourghini, Bugatti, Audi and loads of other ones all belong to VW so it´s kind of like getting to tour the Death Star when you head to Autostadt in Wolfsburg. It was relaxing though and in the evening we met with a really cool new golden investigator. Tuesday was packed with appointments as we tried to meet with everybody before my surgery. It was so cool, made a new baptismal date with a golden investigator and had just a really really really cool lesson. He is just devouring the Book of Mormon and it´s just so cool to see people prepared and hungering for the gospel. Wednesday was my last district meeting and I gave my last Thema as a district leader.  I thought it was my last workshop on the mission, but then the ZL´s called and gave me their half hour time slot at ZoCo, so I still have one more in me. ;) It was super super weird though. I´ve given close to 40 workshops as a DL (I tallied up just recently) and the last of anything is always weird for me. I remember tearing up taking the name off my locker at work at the pool, and this whole scenario is like that times about 100 at the moment. I give my finisher testimony at next ZoCo and I´m the only one leaving out of the 2 zones oddly, so it´s going to be a pretty emotional experience for more. I´ve spent so much time getting to know, memorizing, and teaching all of these missionaries and I can't imagine it coming to an end. I should probably just stop counting all these "lasts" but I just can´t seem too.

Wednesday was the day of my operation.  Everything went pretty smooth. The doctor was really cool and was explaining to me everything he was doing. Shots in your toe hurt like the devil, but other than that it went relatively smoothly. He had to take out a bit more than he thought though and went pretty deep.  He totally let me look at it though and I pretty much almost fainted. Afterwards he asked me if I wanted a sick note for work, and I replied, "My boss doesn't accept sick notes," and pointed upwards and we all had a good laugh and a good conversation about the gospel. Everything went down hill from there though over the next couple days. The pain medications didn't work and the next 2 nights I couldn't sleep and just had to writhe around all night and day.  They were two of the longest of my life. Finally we got a doctor to come over from the ward, and everything was pretty inflamed and the infection was still there. Long story short, lots of medication and antibiotics were given, and today has been the first day I can hobble around without crutches. Sunday I managed to get into a member's car and spoke in sacrament meeting, but it was one of the hardest meetings of my life. Afterwards I got swarmed by members wanting to help though and we´re going to be taken care of. I think everything is slowly finally starting to mend a bit, but the next 2 days will decide a lot. It´s been sooo hard to stay away from the work the past couple days, but I´m trying to take it and learn from it. I´ve repented of my pride of not asking for a sick blessing sooner and allowing myself to be helped and the more I do the better things get. I just really hope things are better by Wednesday for ZoCo.

Aside from that major setback, this last week is set up pretty nicely.  We have a LOT of people to visit and a LOT to do. The days should fly by.  I just hope there´s enough time to take it all in. Thank you all so much for you love and support which has sustained me constantly throughout my mission when I thought I couldn't go any further. You´re so wonderful- thank you so much for everything. It´s still not over, but these last two years mean everything to me. They say Abraham needed to sacrifice his son to learn something about Abraham.  I´m positive that one reason God sends us on missions is so that we can learn lessons about ourselves. I´ve enjoyed it thoroughly!  I took my mission and invested everything, and reaped more than I could have possibly calculated in return. People say they wouldn't trade the world for their mission.  I understand what they mean, but in another perspective I did trade the world, and it was the best trade I ever made. I have a testimony of the work, of His Goodness.  Never question Him for a second- it´s the worst mistake you can make! I love you all so much and can´t wait to see you next week! Have a great week and bis dann!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Week of August 6 from Braunschweig

Hey everyone!
Alright another week gone and only two more to go.  It´s so weird thinking how quickly everything is flying by! 14 days is still enough time to do some more damage to Satan and his plan though, so we´ll see what we can do! The week started out a little bit rough to be honest. The doctors in our ward said that I could get in with a surgeon Monday, but Wednesday rolled around and it still hadn't worked out. We had pushed all of our appointments off as well, so it made things pretty difficult having hours and hours of empty time just spent tracting... but we pushed through and found some more people. Eventually I just said forget it and scheduled out the rest of our week and am going to get an appointment with a doctor myself. So we taught a lot at the end of last week and I had the first appointment with the doctor today and Wednesday at 4 pm they´re going to take part of my toe off, so now the race begins to get as much done as possible before that time!

So as I said, the first few days of the week consisted mostly of finding and a few appointments we were able to salvage. We had a cool appointment with a brand new investigator who has a lot of potential.  We´re excited for him! Thursday we headed off to Hannover for our first interviews with president. They were definitely much different than with our last president, but they were good. Each one lasted about 15 mins or so which is unheard of in a mission this big haha.  Poor president interviewed from 9 am to 8 pm straight just in our zone, but it was very uplifting and inspiring. Most of mine consisted of post mission stuff... actually all of it did haha. I´m still not comfortable talking about it so intensley, I just wanna focus on the time I have left!!! But it was good I suppose.  He´s an inspired and loving man.

We set an WAY cool new baptismal date with a solid investigator this week. He´s from Liberia and is looking for "the one and only true religion." He´s met with almost every church but says he needs the whole truth, not just "parts of it" and he´s just eating up the Book of Mormon. He says he sees the way we walk everywhere and travel so far to teach people-even with bum feet haha- and recognizes us as servants of the Lord. The scriptures are true, there really are people searching for the truth but just held back because "they don´t know where to find it." We also found another really cool family from Armenia who are way awesome.

Tomorrow I have to travel 2 hours on the train up to Halberstadt to do a baptismal interview for a guy in our district. Supposedly he´s 6´6 and ways over 300 lbs (heaven help whoever gets to baptise him) and is supposed to be a really really awesome guy. I´m super excited to see how things work out with him. Baptismal interviews are awesome expierences, but very spiritually taxing and can get intense.  I just hope everything goes smoothly.

Well can't think of too much else to report on this week.  Everything´s moving onward and upward! I hope after the surgery everything gets banging again on all cylinders for the lucky elder who gets to come here! I love this work, I love this church, I´m going to miss doing this full time like crazy, but I´m excited for next transfer as well! In closing thought I´d share a cool quote with you:

"We need such knowledge.
We need to understand what we know.
We need to believe in what we understand.
We need to apply soon what we believe in."

Apply what you believe in this week! Love ya!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Week of July 30 from Braunschweig

Hey Everyone!

Man this week was a long one, totally crazy, so much tracting so little time! Haha a lot of our investigators are gone on summer vacation and we are just finding finding finding a lot. Couple that with the heat wave that ravaged Braunschweig this week and it made for one of those weeks where you just have to say to yourself, "Sacrifice brings for them blessings of heaven!" That was pretty much the motto of one of my transfers in Dresden and it has helped me ever since. I think I´ve neglected to mention that I usually develop themes to my transfers.  I was looking back through some of my old planners and reading some of my thoughts I had written in them and it´s been a fun experience. Some of my favorite themes include, "I can do hard things," "I am nothing," (Mosiah 4) "Count sacrifice a bargain," "Destroy the natural man," "No excuses," "Work like everything depends on you, pray like everything depends on Him," and I can't remember off the top of my head my other ones I´ve collected. But yes, this week was one of sacrifice.

We had a couple fun experiences doing doors this week. Summer is just not good in Europe. Clothes become more and more scarce and it´s bad with the girls, but sadly it´s almost worse with the guys when you´re knocking on their doors haha. I don't know how many people answered the door without major articles of clothing, but even just one man without pants is too much, and this week, we had TOO much haha. I don't remember if it´s like that in America or not, but it´s pretty bad here. Also, deodorant isn't necessarily in abundance here either, and when you get stuck on a tram packed full of people in the city in a traffic jam in 35° weather plus the greenhouse effect that comes with having no AC, it becomes almost unbearable haha. SOOO hot and so stinky. We were literally just standing there dripping in sweat and hardly had enough room to wipe it off us. Being outside so much is also contributing to my wonderful mission tan lines I´ll get to sport with pride back home. They consist of a white ring midway up my neck, farmer's tan lines down to almost my elbow, and pale white legs. First thing I´m throwing on at home is a V-neck and Jordan shorts and then we´ll see how many people get vertigo from the multiple layers of color in my skin haha.

We found a really really cool new guy though and had an awesome first lesson with him. He was a hard core drug addict who did a complete, radical 180 with his life, and he´s just the coolest guy ever so we´re excited for him. We also found a cool family from Italy I´m excited to work with. Oh, we did have a crazy sad experience though this week. We were teaching a single mother from Angola and during our visit Social Services totally came and took her daughter. It was the saddest thing ever. Made me see then importance of having two parents in the household. It´s possible without both but it sure plays a risk and we literally saw the pain it can bring. I love my family!

Sunday was a cool day. A family from Murray, Utah, came to church with their exchange student they brought back home and his mom came too. He´s super interested in the church but the mother is skeptical. Anyways, it was cool to see a big American family and they´re totally the neighboors of one of my favorite RM´s from this mission so it was cool. Also a guy from Munich was visiting a family in the ward, and he looked soooo familiar but I couldn't figure out why. He just so happened to be there at our eating appointment after church and after talking I realized who he was. He is a RM who served 6 months in Prenzlau and was the last Elder to baptise there before I got there few years later. It was really cool to talk with him about that place and reflect on the good memories.

Well not much else to report. This week is going to be a challenge in and of itself. I asked a doctor in the ward to look at one of my feet that´s given me some problems the last 5 months or so to get some antibiotic/inflammatory stuff and he said no question it needs to be operated on immediately so I have to go and get it done this week which means at least 3 days in bed.:( But we´re going to get it better and finish strong. In the meantime we´ll reorganize the area book and do some paperwork and clean the apartment. It stinks, but it´s part of life, and it will be nice to have the pain gone. Have a great week at home, keep the missionaries in your prayers, thanks for everything!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week of July 23 from Braunschweig

Liebe Familie und Freunde,

Another one in the books, the joys of the mission are everywhere to be seen! We had a fun week this week, a hard one, but a fun one. Summer vacation is starting here in Germany so everyone is just leaving us high and dry and leaving the country pretty much. Two of our new converts are flying back to China, and 4 or 5 of our most progressing investigators are flying around Europe to France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and who knows where. It´s kinda sad to have a lot of the people you worked hard to find and stuff just leave right at the end of your mission, but I´m trying to keep more of an eternal perspective and try and find more people so that when our current group gets back, the missionaries here will just be swamped with teaching. It´s not as easy as I thought it might be though. The other day we scheduled the first appointment with someone that I wouldn't be here for and it was a really weird feeling.

We spent a lot of time this week on our feet in the streets talking to people in between appointments and stuff. We talked to a lot of cool people though, met some interesting ones as well. We met a Muslim student and had an appointment with him in the college library, and he was just asking the weirdest questions and stuff... turns out he´s from some weird sect of Islam who believes Jesus Christ is never coming back to earth again (very opposite of normal Islam belief) and that they have found his body in India. It was weird because as we talked, he just seemed so different and we had so many things in common religiously. There are soooo many different beliefs I´ve seen out here who branch off from the main ones and appear to be more similar to ours, but then there´s always a massive lie somewhere tucked away in them. It seems like Satan is really good sometimes at the whole technique of telling 100 small truths with one big lie. "Eat from this fruit, it will give you knowledge" -TRUE "surely you won´t die" -FALSE Bleh, it´s so frustrating.

ANYWAYS, we commited 2 investigators who really wanna get baptised before I go to live some pretty major commandments and they are having the hardest time keeping them! It´s soooo hard for people to change behaviors. But just like Elder Packard says, "The study of gospel doctrine will increase improvement of behavior faster than the study of behavior," so we´re trying to help them understand the doctrine. One can´t give up coffee and the other can't get to church. Anyways, this week I´m offering the one who´s trying to get off coffee a deal that I will give up ice cream (my love here in Germany) with him for a week, and the other guy we´re waking up early and showing up on his door Sunday morning, so we´ll see if that helps everything move along a bit.

Highlight of the week was definitely the confirmation of our friend and new convert. It was just an awesome experience and he´s getting the priesthood as soon as he comes back from his summer break trip. We ordered him a way cool Chinese bible, which we wrote in and put some pictures in. I didn't remember though that in the old Chinese they read right to left, so we totally wrote everything in there upside down because we couldn't tell what side was up or down (it´s written horizontally as well) but it´s just a nice memory of our incompentency for him haha. He loved it though, and he loves the gospel. People like him make everything worth it.

Other than that it was just a solid week, not sure what else I can report on. The church is true, God is great, life is good. Hope you have a great week back home, love you all!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Week of July 16 from Braunschweig

Hey everyone!

German word of the week is... TAUFE! (baptism) We had an epic week and we finished off with a super awesome baptism of a young student who´s grown to become a very good friend! And on top of that we found 3 new people this week who all accepted baptismal commitments and one even commited to cook for us the next time we meet which is also a wonderful commitment we missionaries love to hear. :)

So the week began Monday at 6pm after P-day was over. We had just planned 3 hours of tracting since we felt we needed to find more people, and after a couple of hours I was getting a little tired and wondering if we should just go by on an eternal investigator who lives next to home, but we kept on dooring and ended the day with a SAWEET walk in with a really cool young student who will be moving to the US in 2 months to the city of Providence, Rhode Island, the current missionary city of a good friend of mine.  So ya, we´re working on a trans-continental referal. ;)

The next day we had 2 appointments with 2 Chinese guys we had made apps out with last week and both of them were drop dead golden and ate everything up we had to teach. One of them even gave us jade necklaces.  They´re super super awesome. We also taught a few of our refugee friends who are all kinda struggling at the moment. It´s really humbling to walk from a big beautiful European city to the outskirts where there´s a fenced off compound full of refugees from everywhere from Afghanistan and Sudan to Vietnam. It´s a night and day difference in style and living, but also in faith and hope... the refugees have tons more faith and hope and in a lot of ways are far more rich than many of the Germans we speak with.

Wednesday we had a great district meeting and one of the sisters who´s going home tomorrow gave a fabulous thema about what she had learned on her mission. It´s always something special to hear finishing missionaries talk about their mission. I always sit there and just think "I hope I can talk about my mission like that when it´s o.... oh"

The other days were just filled with lots of teaching appointments, eating appointments, and preparations for the baptism. One appointment was with a guy we found doing a street display who had been taught and baptised in Paris and just didn't think the church existed here. He was teary eyed as he thanked us for "helping me get back on my feet." Baptism prep was great too. I think this was the first baptism I have had where everything went 100% smoothly and there was no last minute rushes to do anything. FINALLY, I have everything down and it´s almost time to head home. I guess I´ll just have to try and stack a whole bunch of baptisms in before that time comes.:) After our investigator´s baptismal interview though, the interviewer, who is a good friend, pulled me aside and asked, "How can someone have that thorough a knowledge of the gospel and the commandments before baptism? I´ve looked my whole mission for that." So ya, he´s ready and I think he´ll be a great member.

Sunday was just a great day. Had a good amount of investigators at church, including a nice young college student, who just returned from living in Utah as an exchange student with an LDS family, who just came all by herself. She seems really interested, but wasn't really willing to meet with us during the week, so we´ll just hope she keeps coming and feels the Spirit. The new stake president was also there (the last one just got taken to the Seventy recently) and he gave a great talk. He shared -a story about his recent trip to America where he was visiting his daughter and son-in law in Cali. He really wanted to do a hike in Zions on his trip, so he and his son-in-law woke up early one morning and drove 8 hours to Zion, hiked 4, and drove the 8 back. He made a great analogy with how that trip can be compared to life. Had they been forced to do that trip, it would have been miserable and they would have found a million reasons not to like it, but because they both chose to be there and make it, it was one of the most wonderful experiences he´s ever had and he grew a lot closer to his new son-in-law. Sometimes in life we forget that we choose to come here, and that we can choose to find great joy in the journey and at the end of it all we can look back and say we loved it. Had we been forced to come here and do everything, we would have a very opposite opinion. His main theme was "the church will grow when the members get happier." It was sooo true! Out of everyone on the earth, who has more reason to rejoice than us! Nevertheless we forget to show it sometimes.

So ya, it was a great week this week and I hope the next couple weeks go the same! Thanks so much for all the love and support back home. Love you guys!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Week of July 9 from Braunschweig

Well here once again at the conclusion at one of the longest/shortest weeks ever.  Soooo many things happened but everything just flew by at the same time. From a new mission president to baptisms it was packed full of experiences!

Definitely the first momentous occasion of the week was meeting the new president and his wife at their very first Zone Conference Wednesday... no wait I digress. The day before, Tuesday, we set a SAWEET new baptismal date with a new investigator and that was an awesome lesson! But after that definitely ZoCo was epic. The new president is incredibly different from the old one, but he´s going to be amazing!  I´m excited for the missionaries who will be getting to spend a large part of their mission with him. We was a CES area director for East Europe, so essentially he´s a seminary teacher who absolutely loves the youth and a good joke. He´s super relaxed and just an amiable man, but has a massive testimony and love for the Gospel. He was so happy to see us and talk with everybody that the zone conference actually ran 2 hours longer than scheduled. It was nice to meet him though.  It´s still a little weird not having a mission president who´s been there from the beginning and who knows your personal mission story and everything you´ve been through, but the clean slate scenario is actually pretty refreshing.

After that the next 2 days were filled with teaching and finding. We had 8 appointments fall out this week which was super super frustrating, but we used the time to find new people and this next week is looking pretty busy. We had a pretty funny experience though one evening while contacting people in front of the palace in the middle of the city. Some guy broke up our approach and said we had 30 seconds to convince him why he should read the Book of Mormon, and at the end he pointed to the sky and screamed at the top of his lungs in the crowd "Ahhh the goldens plates... These are mormons- help they´re trying to kill me!!!" repeating it multiple times while everyone else looked at us, he then sprinted off at full speed screaming. Haha it shook up my golden a bit I think, but he´ll get used to dealing with crazies. Another crazy lady ran at us and said she needed help and then pulled us into a building where people with addictions get paid counseling and she led us in to "introduce us to the person who saved (her) life." Once we were in the room surrounded by people she yelled, "I have brought the church to curse you crooks for who you really are for taking our money!" haha That was an awkward one to get out of, but it´s weird how normal it becomes to deal with such situations after 2 years. The fact is when you´re out roaming the streets looking for people all day, you get to know the city crazies pretty well.

We also had a cool experience with an investigator we were teaching who is dealing with the age old question of, "If God is there, why do bad things happen to good people?" I´ve thought long and hard about this and there´s tons of ways to answer it, but the one that has most impressed me as of late is a little tiny scripture in 1 Nephi 11:17 where an angel asks Nephi a question and he responds "I know that God loves His children, nevertheless I don't know the meaning of all things." I just love that thought.  We just need to know that God loves us and if we know that it means everything. I also really like the scripture in 3 Nephi 13:32-33 when people ask why they can´t seem to have everything they need. God really does "know (we) have need of all these things" but if we "seek first the kingdom of God" then "all these things shall be added unto (us)." I really like those thoughts and we´ve used them a lot in our work lately.

Saturday was a great conclusion to the week, we had the baptism of a family in the district and the whole district came together to see it.  It was a great moment of Espirit de Corps. Afterwards we had a musical fireside, in which for the first time I didn't have to sing a duet in a foreign language! :D I just had to say the opening prayer. :) But we have a pro opera singer in the district, an organ player, and a sister with a degree in oboe performance from LSU, and another missionary was there to see the baptism who´s a concert pianist, so there was some real talent there.  It was a beautiful evening. Everything went smoothly and it was great to be there.

Sunday was also a good day.  We had a few investigators at church and the meetings were really good. About 5 mins before the meeting the bishop asked if I would give a 10 min talk on missionary work, haha but it was not problem and went really really well. Also an old mission friend was back to visit with his family who I went on lots of exchanges on so he and I got to take one of our investigators in another room and teach together again which was super fun. It was just a great day. Afterwards we ate with an awesome member who was also a long time temple president in Frankfurt. I learned a lot from just having some time with him and that was great. Overall it was an awesome week, and I just hope the next one is great also. Transfers are one Saturday- I´m pretty safe, but with a brand new president you never know what will happen. ;) Have a wonderful week back home. Love you all tons!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Week of July 2 from Braunschweig

Hey everyone! Another week come and gone just like that. We had a good battle in the missionary work this week and lots of little victories every day. Summer vacation is beginning with the Germans and so lots of people are leaving and it kinda leaves us alone in the city sometimes, but we´re really focusing on finding new people so hopefully our efforts pay off!

Tuesday almost all of our appointments fell out so it left us with almost a pure day of finding. We doored out a lot of student housing, but at the end of the day all we really had to show for it was a new app and a walk in, which is still better than nothing, but in that many hours of finding you´re obviously hoping for a bit more. We pushed through though and it felt good to come home beat after a long day.

Wednesday we had District meeting which was fun like always.  We have a really fun district so I enjoy being around them more and more as time progresses. I´m starting to figure out how they tick haha. I talked about how this transfer we need to "get wet" referring to the priests who carried the ark of the covenant getting their feet wet in the water before the Lord parted it through the new prophet Joshua. It´s kind of hard to explain how we tied it all in, but the main point was we need to do all the little things with faith if we want to see baptisms and allow our faith to be tried. I´m sure it wasn't easy for them to carry the most sacred object they knew and wade into a dirty river with it, but they did it and the promised blessing happened.  As missionaries it´s not easy sometimes to ask investigators to kneel when they pray, or give them a baptismal calendar with reading assignments, or ask them to start living commandments, but we have to do it to see miracles. Our goal is a bold 5 baptisms in the district this transfer, and we´ve got one from us last week and a couple more coming up next week.

The middle of the week was pretty normal. Lots of fallen out appointments, a few false addresses, and meeting with lots of the investigators we already have and working more on them with their problems. We had a great JW appointment this week- it almost turned out being really good- but in the end we all decided it probably wouldn't bring a whole lot to keep meeting. So ya, as said lots of little ups and downs, but that´s just the way it is.

Saturday was awesome. We traveled over to Celle to help the sisters there do a street display for 3 hours in the middle of the city. Street displays can be really good sometimes, and other time super super draining. We were in city center with crowds of people everywhere, and probably 85% of them don't even acknowledge you when you speak to them, but we kept going and found some cool people. I found this super cool family from the Middle East who were refugees because they refused to deny Christ, and they ate everything we had to say up and came to church on Sunday and are looking really cool, so just that makes it all worth it. Following that though I had the privilege of doing 2 baptismal interviews with some awesome people in the area and everything went well and next week there will be a couple baptisms there in Celle. And in 2 weeks we have one, so that makes 3 weeks of consecutive baptisms in the district! Woot woot!

Sunday our new convert gave his first testimony in Sacrament meeting and it was beautiful, sooooo rewarding as a missionary! And we taught the priesthood lesson on how we can improve home teaching when we plan our lessons like missionaries plan for investigators. It was a tough crowd haha, but we survived. And overall it was just a good Sunday!