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!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Week of June 25 from Braunschweig

Moin moin!

Man this week was super emotional for me.  I think it had a little bit of everything in it.  I don't really even know where to begin....

The week started out pretty good.  My golden had his first JW confrontation and that was a lot of fun for him... not really haha but we´ve decided everything we do with a good attitude can be fun, so ya. But it was a good meeting and we got to bear some good testimony before things went off the deep end. Those are always fun appointments. The next day though we bounced back strong and had an awesome day and found a new family. It´s a single mother and 3 kids from Angola.  They speak German and Portugese and are pretty cool. We taught them twice this week and I´m anxious to see what kind of progress they make.

Wednesday was one of the absolute hardest days of my life. We had zone conference in Hannover and it was time to say goodbye to the Pimentels. Overall it was a great meeting with lots of inspiring lessons to be learned, but at the end of the day it was dominated for me by the pains of transition. It´s something you learn to cope with on your mission and I thought that I had grown used to it, but I was wrong. I remember shedding lots of tears having to say goodbye to my first companion and I remember shedding tears having to say goodbye to my first city.  I´ve had to lose lots of comps and change lots of city since, and each time it got better and better, but losing your mission president rocks your world haha. Their son came all the way over to Braunschweig with the train and stayed the night with me to say goodbye, so that was awesome to see him again, but then morning came and we all met with president and his wife our last time. I choked up a bit just at the beginning, but then we split up into districts and President and Sister P came by to spend just a few moments with each missionary personally and say an official goodbye and that´s when I lost it. I broke down weeping in President´s arms, and it was hard to let go. He left some great words of wisdom though and it´s good to know that I´ll see him again soon in the States. I have no doubt in my mind that one of the reasons I felt so strongly to come immediately out on my mission instead of go to a semester of school was so that I could serve with President and his wife. Life goes on though, and I´m excited to meet the new president next week.

Well after I had somewhat composed myself it was back to the streets and missionary work. The rest of the week was filled with appointments and finding. We got back in contact with a lost investigator who we met in a bakery on P-day (miracle) and worked through a lot of problems with other investigators. We also had the baptismal interview for our baptismal canidate and everything went well. Haha my golden had his first interesting eating appointment. A member asked him if he´d rather have German rouladen (an amazing dish of meat wrapped up in herbs) or salted herring with onions and he, not understanding fully the question, choose the latter haha so that´s what we had. I had heard some pretty bad things about the dish, but it turned out not to be so bad actually... not sure my comp felt the same way.:) Sometimes it´s a lesson you have to learn though- understand before saying yes. :) The next day though we had an eating appointment with a new member and an investigator poorly planned with 2 hours space in between. The first one stuffed us full of amazing Chinese food and then the next one made a spicy rice chicken dish and I have probably never come so close to popping from overeating in my life! It was so good, but soooo much. Could have used some alka-seltzer... but my mom and dad could tell you that we don't mix too well sometimes. ;)

Sunday was the baptism, it was amazing. And we FINALLY got one of our investigators to come to church on that day so it was great. Over 60 members were at the service and there wasn't enough room in the font room to watch the baptism. He has so many good relationships and is going to fit right in and be a fabulous member in the ward! I love baptism. :)

Well I can't think of too much more to report on. If anyone has any questions, feel free to write. I´ve only got 8 more weeks, and hopefully my mail fast doesn't last the remainder of my time haha. Have a great week!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Week of June 18 from Braunschweig

Hey everyone!

Wow, this last week was a long one filled with ups and downs, victories and defeats- just a little bit of everything. Training is hard work, but it´s super fun and my son and I are making lots of great memories together! It´s weird how in the mission field every week has a lifetime´s worth of memories but when you sit down to write about it you just have no idea where to begin...

Well on Tuesday I had to go to a leadership meeting in Hannover with a lot of other good friends in the zone. It´s so weird to look around and see the new leadership in the mission... I remember when some of my good mission friends were training a lot of these guys. The mission is in super good hands though for the transition coming up in the next 2 weeks.  I´m grieved to the depths of my soul to have to say goodbye to president Pimentel, but it´s kind of exciting to get to see a new president come at the same time. Anyways, after that meeting, one of my best friends on the mission came back to Braunschweig with me and we had an awesome exchange together and learned a lot from each other. He lived in the same apartment as me in Berlin for a few months, so it was fun to work with him closely and reflect on good times. Haha can´t say the exchange was as edifying for my golden however.  In Hannover a crazy lady came into the church saying she was possessed by demons, and one of the missionaries tried to cast them out only to have her scream and freak out even more... haha definitely not the best experience for a brand new missionary to have to witness, but he´s doing a lot better now. There´s always a bit of a learning curve you have to get over when you first get to Germany.  The MTC just pumps you up out of your mind, but you realize very quickly that the word "elect few" is very literal here in this mission.  Very very very few people are willing to even give you the time of day, but once you get used to it, you realise that there still are people to be found and it keeps you going. I think the hardest transition for him, I think though, is not ever eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom. I forgot how much we don't eat in the mission sometimes. We haven't had hardly any eating apps lately and when members don't invite us... well then it´s just a bowl of cereal in the morning, noodles for lunch, and no dinner haha and it kills him. I just always tell him though, "Elder, man shall not live by bread alone..." I don't think he´s a big fan of this mentality, haha but he will learn. ;)

Wednesday we met with an old investigator and talked about the Restoration. He absolutely loved the message and we instantly invited him to be baptised. His dad is a pastor and says the scriptures say you can't be baptised again, but after explaining to him what a real baptism is, and reading Acts 19 with him, he understood and accepted so we got a sweet new baptismal date. I really hope it goes through too.  It would just kinda be extra cool because that means I could start my mission with the baptism of a Nigerian and end with one haha, but he´s got a long way to go. Also one of our coolest long time investigators said her first prayer out loud in a lesson! It was beautiful and I don't know if she recognized how beautiful it was and how much it meant to us.  She is really so awesome! The rest of the week though was mostly filled with finding lots of little concerns and trying to settle them with our other investigators... ugh there´s just so many problems in the world and the more people you teach the more you are exposed to it... why can't they see that the gospel answers all problems!!? Oh well, patience and perfect love can do anything with anybody.

On a very bright note though, our first baptism is all set up to go through this Sunday. He is sooooo ready and just one of the coolest people ever! I´m really excited for it, it´s hard when you go a very long time working hard without  baptism and it´s just going to be nice to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. He´s going to be baptised by a member and everything is just set up like a dream! I´m super excited!

Well not much else more that I can think about for this week. It was just spent like most other weeks. Working as if everything depended on you, praying as if everything depended on the Lord and just teaching the good word. We spend a LOT of time just traveling, but I like it though because we have a clear purpose in mind and it helps time pass when you know exactly what you´re doing.  We are super blessed to be teaching so many different people and to be in such a great city! Oh, tomorrow president´s son is going to come up with a train and spend the night with us so I can say goodbye to him.  Man I´m gonna miss him and them so much! Hopefully I'm not too much of an emotional wreck this week! Anyways, hope you all have a great week back home.  Love you all so much!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Week of June 11 from Braunschweig

Well the long awaited day has come and on Thursday morning at roughly noon my mission posterity was secured for another 2 years! I picked up my Golden from Berlin and he´s an awesome young elder from the San Fran Cali area and I´m excited to see what we can do! We jumped right into it this week meeting with investigators and having activities with the ward and he got a good taste of everything. The highlight of my week was probably when a member approached him and talked to him in a thick German accent and very quickly, and after he walked away my Golden looked at me with the picture perfect face and said "... was he speaking Russian?" Haha, it was great and brought back so many feelings of my first moments in Deutschland as well.  It will be a good couple of transfers.

So Tuesday we sent my old comp back up to the north DDR to his new city and then I took a train to Hannover to meet up with another elder who is also training this transfer and we spent the rest of the day and most of Wednesday here in Braunschweig. It was nice to not have to totally leave the area without missionaries for a few days! We had a good time and got to know each other a bit better. At night I put on my BYU shirt to go to bed and he pulled out his red Ute shirt and then the trash talking began.  It was a good couple days.

Wednesday we met with some more of our investigators at the refugee camp on the outskirts of Braunschweig and that was nice. It´s kind of a sad situation.  The houses are super ghetto and it´s a fenced, guarded compound. You have to surrender ID to get in and declare who you´re visiting and stuff and it´s just a sad place. Apparently after WWII germany was made to have to take in all refugees who try to claim assylum, so that´s why they have so many people here and why the country is getting more and more diverse. But ya, later that evening we headed on a night train down to Berlin where I got to stay the night with one of my good high school friends here in the mission.  It was SO good to get to see him again and talk to him!  He´s an awesome elder.

Thursday we had trainer training.  It was kind of fun to be on the other end of the stick and watch the assistants (absolutely destroyed from fatigue) try to stay awake and teach haha. Apparently the Goldens' flights were delayed, so they had all been up til 3 am trying to figure everything out so they were just way confused and tired haha. But I got one of the 17 Goldens and we hopped on a train back ot Braunschweig where we had 3 appointments scheduled for the evening.

Friday was also filled with appointments and a service project. We helped a member remodel her kitchen and got to visit the massive IKEA here to pick up everything. She´s awesome because she has a thick Leipzig accent and talks like a lot of people I knew in Dresden, so I always enjoy getting to talk to her. Her language brings back found memories of my time back east.

Saturday we had a massive ward activity/party. Not as many non-members came as we had hoped, but we were still able to offer tours of the church and had a display stand all set up. The night before a water pipe broke under the church and the electricity went out, so that wasn't the best, but it was fun to be with the ward and see them interact with my Golden. The bishop, one of the coolest people I know, had him bless the food in German and made sure he was right in the thick of things.  It was fun. The rest of the day we met with students and did a couple hours of doors.

Sunday was a good day as well. Church was wonderful, and I was especially touched by the music. We sang almost all of my favorite hymns, and while singing I was overwhelmed by the Spirit and realized how much I´m going to miss singing in German! I love the language and songs so much.  I don't know why that thought hit me so strongly, but it was just a good Sunday.

Well not much going on today.  We are going to go help a member out and just see the city a little bit. Going to go take my son to get his first Döner, so he´s pretty excited for that haha.  Training brings back soooo many good memories. I just hope he can love this city at least half as much as I love Kiel! Have a great week back home!  Love you all!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Week of June 4 from Braunschweig

Hello everyone!

Well, transfer calls came on Saturday as expected and... I WILL FINALLY GET A GOLDEN!! The long awaited day has finally arrived and my mission family line will finally continue! :) I´m pretty excited if you haven't been able to tell already. Training was like the one thing I wanted to do on my mission, but it´s somehow eluded me the past 21 months, so it will be great to finally finish my mission with a golden. Wednesday I will head off to Berlin to spend the night with a good friend from high school in the mission who is currently serving in Berlin, and then Thursday morning I will pick him up and we´ll get back in the afternoon. It will be a new challenge, but one I´m anxious to take on.

This last week was a good week. We got invited over by lots and lots of members, and the food is just so good and they just keep on stuffing us... haha I have no idea what to do. I hope my next companion likes running because we are going to have to step it up these next two transfers if we don't want to explode from all the food. It´s great to get to know all of the members here a little better though. Yesterday we were by this amazing family with a bunch of little girls who are just the cutest little girls I´ve ever seen, anyway, they were asking us what our favorite animals were, and since I don't really know how to say platypus in german, I just said it was a unicorn. Haha they all freaked out and the gave me a toy unicorn when I left... it is now a paper weight on my desk at home. So many wonderful strong members though. This month is "The Month of Invitation" and so we´ve been encouraging people to invite friends to come out to church and yesterday we filled almost the entire chapel.  It was really awesome. The members here are just so full of faith and such great examples.

Most all of our baptismal dates are coming out to church regularly now. We´re hoping to get 2 down before June 24.  One of them is struggling with some visa stuff, but the other is super strong and is going to be a great member! I´m excited to really cash in this transfer and see a lot of miracles. No one else in the district was transfered, which was a big surprise, so we´ll see if we can all get our baptismal dates down in the next two transfers. It should be great!

So one of the highlights this week was getting together with some Chinese investigators and friends and playing some basketball. The Chinese are pretty good! A little bit unorthodox at times, but effective nonetheless. It was pretty enjoyable. It´s a great way to pick up contact with some new people too, and hopefully it adds a few more people to our pool. I was looking back on this transfer's numbers, and we´ve really just been super blessed. We taught about 140 lessons, and found 23 new investigators.  It´s pretty unheard of and I just hope we can continiue to work hard and see the blessings!

Well sorry this email is a bit shorter.  I don't have a whole lot of time to write today.  We need to head to Hannover here soon.  We´re going to go play some basketball and I´ll get to say goodbye to one ex-companion and some other friends who will be going home this transfer. ;( Have a great week back home though.  Love ya lots!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Week of May 28 from Braunschweig

Hey everyone!

Wow, had a lot happen this week!  The days just seem to fly by faster and faster the further into the transfer we get. This is the last week of this transfer.  It´s hard to fathom that I´ve been out of the office for that long already! Let´s see, where to begin...

I suppose the highlight of the week was our zone conference on Wednesday. It was fun to be back in a zone conference again! Probably the coolest part however, was that I had 3 ex comps there, 2 of which I served with in the office and one of which I served with in Dresden who is now an AP. Anyways, it was way fun to see them all again. This next week a LOT of my mission friends are going home, so it´s been kinda hard lately to say goodbye. I´m going to miss this group going home a LOT, but we´re going to hang out in Provo, so at least I know it truly is aufwiedersehen. (til we see each other again). So ya, that was really inspiring, and it was the first Zoco in over a year where I didn't have any assignments to fill, so that made it double relaxing. :) President taught us about the Love of God and gave a brilliant Thema. The rest of the workshops were pretty run-of-the mill. We have a big generation of new missionaries, so a lot of the workshops are based on pretty basic skills... it´s still cool how the Spirit always can teach you something new if you listen.

Well as far as the work goes, we´re just wrapping up oure great "sifting" process. We´re going through all of the people we meet with and finding the gold to concentrate our time on. Sadly, this was the first week of the transfer where we didn't make out a new baptismal date, and we dropped our list down to 5, but the 5 we had are all doing wonderfully! All are coming to church, and most all have caretakers at church, so we´re super excited for them. I see all of them becoming great members that will actually be able to build the ward and bring something new too it. We probably did less finding this week though than ever before- we just had hardly any time. One day, we were on the go seriously every minute, and 2 people approached us and made out appointments. I talked to one guy at a bus stop and then our bus came we needed, so I just had to give him a card and say, "just call" haha and he totally did and we totally met in the church and he´s way interested. Our miracle walk in man from 2 weeks ago came to church again as well, and we had a good lesson during the 2nd hour, and we hooked a golden Chinese investigator up with our new Chinese member, so things were starting to click. I can honestly say the only problem we´re facing right now is the risk of gaining too much weight with the crazy number of eating appointments members are giving us haha.  I´ve never had so many eating appointments in my mission!  It´s good though. Probably our coolest "friend of the church" finally came back from a vacation in Switzerland, so it will be great to see her again too. She´s always a ray of sunshine to meet with. All I can say the more and more I reflect on the work here in this city, is that God is just good, and even though it´s still not easy, and even though sometimes you start to feel like you´re running out of steam, he always compensates!

I´m anxious to see what transfers bring with them next week.  We have the call coming on Saturday. My comp is almost definitely going and we´ll probably lose one of the 4 sisters and gain a new district member... it´s going to be really weird having to call in to the transfer call and not know anything, haha I forgot how exciting they can be.:) Well I hope that you all have a good week this week, and hope to hear from you all soon!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Week of May 21 from Braunschweig

Another week in the books!  This one went a little bit quicker than normal it seems like. We had lots of traveling to do and lots of people to visit.  I´ll see how well I can recap it.

So Tuesday we headed all the way over to Leipzig so that my comp could visit a member dentist over there who does everything for free. I thought I was done with Saxony, but apparently there was still one more trip to be made. It brought back lots of memories getting off the train at that massive familiar train station.  It reminded me of the days way back in Dresden where we always had to switch trains there at Leipzig early in the morning one the way to meetings. Probably the highlight of the trip was getting to eat a world famous Leipzig vanilla donut for the last time. They´re SOOO good and you only find them in Leipzig. Overall though it just made for a long day on trains, and even though it gave us some time to catch up on some planning and stuff, it ate up way to much missionary time. But what else can ya do?

Wednesday we had district meeting and the ZL´s came down. It was nice to have some fellow elders in the meeting to have my back with all of the sisters haha. I talked about Charity and Service mostly in the meeting since president is trying to put more evidence on service projects. While studying I stumbled upon some old notes in my PMG and one really stuck out to me. "Service to yourself dies with you, service to others leaves a legacy" and under that I had written, "What kind of legacy are you leaving in Germany?" It was a good moment of reflection for me. I had also written down my three motivations for doing service. 1-Because I love God and want to serve him. 2-Because there´s a possibility I may develop more charity for those around me. and 3-Because of anticiptation that it may just result in a bit of joy. I was just more and more impressed the more and more I studied how important charity is. 1 Cor 13 taught me that in Peru and Moroni 7 in the MTC, and really the ways we can develop it are limited. We can 1-pray for it, and 2-serve people. So we´re going to look for more oppurtunities to do more service as a district.  We´ll see how that goes.

After the meeting I got to head back with an old friend to go on exchange in Hannover. We had a great time and talked through a lot of things together, as well as see tons of miracles in Hannover. We found a way golden family from Iraq and just had a great time together. Then I got to spend the night with him and my first companion in the office together (who lives in the same apartment with his golden) and it was just great to see them all again. It´s weird having such limited opportunities to go on exchange these days haha.

Throughout the rest of the week we had a few super cool lessons, and had lots of our investigators cook for us even! Chinese food made by actual chinese people is sooooo good! I love it. Next week our Indian investigators are offering to feed us some of their dishes, so we´ll see how that compares. It´s awesome to have so many investigators who are also becoming good friends, and who care about you as a person and who want repay even a small portion to us for our helping them. This, coupled with the sudden surge in member eating appointments, is not looking to good for my weight loss plan haha. It´s good though- people are opening their hearts to us as well as the message.

Sunday was a disappointment. We had 6 people all lined up to come church, and only one showed up. We need to find a way to get these students up and ready to go to church somehow... so that will be our focus this week. They need to come to church if they want to make it to baptism!

Well love you guys a bunch! Have a great week back at home and keep us in your prayers, love ya!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Week of May 14 from Braunschweig

Hey grüß euch!

Wow that was a fun week this week, and what was the cherry on top? Getting to talk to my most beautiful and amazing mother last night!!! What a great day that was indeed, and for more reasons that one.

I really need to do a better job with writing down my miracles every week so I can structure them better in these emails, haha but I´ll give my best shot to account for what all happened this week.

Our biggest success this week was getting the members more involved in the missionary work. We more than doubled our joint teaches and member lessons this week, and still managed to get all of our investigators taught. We just finished dooring out the biggest student dorm building here in Braunschweig with like a little over 600 doors or something, so now we just kinda have to sift through the pan a little bit and fish out all of the gold we´ve found. I´m learing more and more every day how tough it can be to teach more and more people and try and plan for them versus merely knocking on doors and finding new people.  Normally in missionary work tracting is what you picture as the "hard work" but when you're teaching like you should be, it´s hard work as well.

This week we did a street display with our new street display equipment we recently received. We got a permit and set up down in the middle of the city and got a couple members to come out and help us represent the church. Displays are kind of a bitter sweet thing.  Yes, you can sometimes find lots of cool people, but having a banner and a table with the name of Christ and stuff also intensifies the people's feelings of hatred towards you haha. Despite the 200 cold rejections, we managed to place about 5 Books of Mormon, make out 2 new appointments, and invited a couple people to church. I was sitting there looking at our members and how discouraging things would get sometimes, and it was easy to question, "Is this really worth it?" But the words of "every soul" having "great worth" in the eyes of God were stuck in my mind... and what is the "worth of a soul?" I´ve thought about that a lot lately.  The worth of a soul truly equals the potential of becoming like God.

Yesterday was one of the greatest miracles I´ve ever seen on my mission though.  We were just greeting people in church when a kind of scruffy man came walking in and sat quietly on the back row. I hustled back and introduced myself to him and sat with him throughout the church services. I got to know him a little bit, and during the second hour of church the thought came clear, "Take him and teach him in the 3rd hour" so when it came, I grabbed a member (my companion was already teaching another class) and we went back into a little room and taught him about the Restoration. At the end the thought came, "Invite him to baptism," so we did, and he totally accepted and said he had been looking for a place to get baptised for quite some time now... HOW COOL IS THAT? Just a walk in from off the street, walks out of the church with a baptismal date! He gave us all his info and we´ll be meeting with him this week. Now that´s what we call a Plan A miracle. Plan A being praying and hoping for miracles and success where people are led to us. Plan B being working hard to lead ourselves to them. When you work on Plan B as hard as you can, then Plan A miracles still come along as well. I love Plan A AND Plan B miracles. :)

I had my last interview with President as well this week. That was kinda sad. It was great to share a few last moments of one on one time with him.  I´m really going to miss him when he leaves here soon!

Well that´s all that comes to mind right now. The Work is super hard, but I wouldn't want or expect it to be any other way! Have a great week back home, love you all sooooo much!!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Week of May 7 from Braunschweig

Hey hey hey ya´ll!

Well another week of miracles back out in the mission field. The Lord is blessing us like crazy right now, and I don't exaggerate at all when I say I´ve never seen anything like this before at the mission. It´s just like it says in Corinthians- we plant, we water, but God gives the increase.  All success and glory comes from him! We taught a record 35 lessons this week and lead the mission in teaching. Doors were just opening left and right. We have 28 names we´re working with right now who are inviting us back to teach them again as well as now 8 people with baptismal dates.  The work just keeps going forward. We´re finding most of our success as we stick to college dorms and work with younger people and immigrants.  They are really receptive to the message, and all we need to do is bring the Spirit and teach with power and bam- the new investigators keep coming. Our big focus is to get the members coming out with us to teach now and to get all these people to church. The church has kind of a weird location, so it´s a struggle to get a bunch of college students up early and coming, but we´ll get 'em there!

One of the coolest baptismal dates I´ve ever seen set happened this week though.  Well, actually two. The first was a way cool guy from Iran.  It´s illegal for him to become Christian, but he´s wanted to all his life. He eats up everything we teach him and when we taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and baptism we felt like asking him to be baptised, and I think I got to the words, "Would you be..." before he just yelled "YES!!!" haha. He has a visa that keeps him safe from having to go back though, so he´s a valid candidate now. The other was a way cool Chinese guy, total boss, he said yes before we even extended the date and then when I said, "Okay, we´ll work hard and when you´re ready..." which he then interrupted by saying, "I´ll be ready!" It was soooo coool!

All the success hasn't come without great opposition though. We´ve had some hostile encounters with some free Christians, Muslims, and a couple JW´s this week. It was pretty intense. We walked in to the dorms to see one of our investigators almost in tears with a BOM in one hand and New World Translation in the other asking a German man, "Which one is right?" The German answered back in Chinese and then turned and saw us, and, well, it wasn't a good experience. Then while doing doors a huge black guy from Cameroon let us in and within 10 minutes was demanding us to burn our BOM´s and not blaspheme against God while yelling and pounding his Bible. Normally I´m pretty calm in those situations, but for some reason I felt I should stand up and I said very seriously, "By asking me to burn this book you are asking me to blaspheme against that which God has already made known to me through the Holy Spirit.  Think twice before you say another word" He backed down and as we left he said, "I know you´ll never come back and face me.  You don't have the courage." haha It was epic.  We´ll see though. Bleh, I have about as many of these stories from the week as the good ones haha, so I won't ramble on.  It´s been intense though, seriously a battle for the souls of the penitent.

Things continue to be hard, but I´m working on being more optimstic about everything, and at the end of the day, even though I´m dead, I love to get down on my knees and thank God for everything. It´s frustrating how quick we are to forget the miracles we see every day and His goodness, and how easy it is to let yourself get discouraged, but perfect love caseth out fear so I know if we keep working and develop love, everything will work out! Love all of you so much! Have a great week!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Week of April 30 from Braunschweig

Hey fam and friends! My first week in the beatiful city of Braunschweig is in the books. It was totally insane! I´ll try and recap it all a bit.

Braunschweig is a very beautiful city with about 250,000 inhabitants. It´s famous for its university and science. I don't know too much about it really, but it´s super similar to Kiel in lots of respects. I´m working on getting the bus system down and stuff and trying to figure out where I am. It´s been pretty hot outside lately and there are just people all over the place. There´s definitely lots of work to do here and we dove in head first this week!

So the transition from the office to the field is not as hard as I had pictured it, but definitely not as easy as I had hoped. The rust knocked off pretty quickly though and we got things rolling off to a blazing start. Basically there was already a lot going on here, but this week we found 10 new investigators made out almost 20 new appointments, made out 2 new baptismal dates, had about 7 walk-ins and taught close to 30 lessons. It was literally INSANE. The Lord blessed us in ways I had never seen before. People just opened their doors and asked us to come in before we had even said anything. The hard part is trying to keep all of the names straight and plan for all of these people at this point. We focused a lot on student housing here at the universtiy and have so many new Chinese investigators I hardly know what to do. We´ve got a great ward with about 120 there most Sundays, and I think the big next step to take is going to be getting them involved in missionary work.

The new district is pretty fun as well. I forgot what it´s like to be a District Leader. We have the "sisters district" here in the mission, so it consists of my companion and I with 4 sisters. It´s kind of fun to have a little district where you can be every week. It´s a lot more fun to take numbers from 2 areas instead of 78 as well. :) It will be a good transfer.

Today we were in the neighboring city of Wolfsburg at a huge VW factory/museum like place. It was pretty cool to see the ways the car industry has effected this are. We were there with our ward mission leader and it was good to get to know him better as well. There are lots of really cool members here. West Germany is just still so different from East Germany. It really has got this feel to it that I haven't felt since I was a golden, so it´s kind of refreshing in a way.

Well the work is really hard, and every day I´m getting closer to my goal of wanting to not hate sweating in missionary clothes, but it´s good experience. My testimony grows every single day. I really miss my last area, companion, and the office staff sometimes, but I know this is where I need to be so I'm more than happy to lift where I stand! Hope you all have a great week back home- love you all lots!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week of April 21 from Berlin

Well the time has finally come and the transition begins into my final area on my mission! I'm super excited and it's going to be a great experience. It was a close decision whether or not I was going to stay in the office for the mission president transition, but at the end of the day the Lord knew how I've always wanted to finish my mission, and so I will be going to serve in the great city of Braunschweig! It's a city of about 250,000 located in the area of Hannover, so back in the west side of the mission. I'll be serving there with another missionary who I know well and took on his first exchange as his zone leader in Dresden. The other cool thing is that I'll be a district leader again, but in a special district. Braunschweig district is known as the sister district because it's only us two elders and 4 sisters in the district! So basically I won't do many exchanges or have to worry about them too much, they will just keep being awesome and I can focus on my own area and companion. It's a good load of administrativee duty off my shoulders, and even though I'm going to work my guts out, it will be a different kind of work. I'm super excited!

So this week was quite eventful. I wasn't sure if I was going to write about it, but I figure it's alright to talk about now. I had to have a procedure this last week for my foot. (Don't worry mom, I'm totally fine!) I had tried to fix things myself, but I'd been walking on a bum foot for about 5 months and decided it was just time to have a doctor look at it. So ya, I spent yesterday morning with a foot doctor getting two toes repaired. It wasn't the most pleasant experience- numbing toe shots are not the best- but I got to talk to him during the procedure a bit about the church and clear up some myths he'd heard. He asked if it was legal to have more than one wife in America or if we were doing that just illegally... you would think a doctor would be more educated than that, but oh well. His name was Dr. Weis (Dr. White) and he is literally the personification of a German doctor. Thick accent, land white hair spiked up like a mad scientist, but we was really cool and we had a good conversation. So I'm back on the mend, and feel horrible that I waited this long to get it taken care of, but I should be about ready to go by Tuesday when transfers come if all heals well. I just have to stay off of it and keep it elevated as much as possible.

Last night didn't help too much though... my companion and I drove up to Hamburg and taught the youth at a stake fireside up there for about an hour and a half and got home this morning at around 2 am. It was a super long trip, but totally worth it in my eyes. We taught them about missionary work, and today they are spending a day with the missionaries up in Hamburg Zone for a mini mission. The exposure to missionary work really helps them I think and prepares them to be stellar missionaries. The trip up there wasn't the most comfortable, and I found out this morning at the doctor that I wasn't supposed to be standing and teaching on my foot, but it was a worthy sacrifice. The nurses asked "Who is your boss, and why would he make you work?  Do we need to give him a note or something?" I could only reply "You don't know my boss, and during these two years I don't plan on handing anyone a sick note." But this weekend I am going to try to stay off it as much as possible. It was fun to be with the youth in Hamburg though and see their excitement for the missionary work.

Most of the week was spent doing transfers for my last time. I'll always have fond memories of kneeling with President and receiving guidance for the direction the mission should take. My successor is a good friend and old companion from Switzerland who I served with in Dresden. He'll be great. He'll have to learn everything quickly and be ready to welcome the new mission president soon, but he's capable and will do a great job I think. We get to pick him up tomorrow and spend a couple days breaking him in. I'm excited!

The work went okay this week. We focused on doors and finished dooring out a big student complex where we found a few cool people. We had a couple walk ins with two pretty hard core Muslims who appeared interested in the beginning, but ended up a bit contentious. They have the Book of Mormon now though, so we'll see if they take the time to let its converting power work on them. We're meeting with a couple of other newer people tonight.  Hopefully one of them will take a new baptismal date on. I don't know- we'll see! We got two elders transferred into our area as well this transfer, so hopefully they'll be able to teach some of our people while we're gone. One is my old MTC companion, so it will be great to see him finish with some people I was able to see start their journey to the church.

Well the church is totally true! I'm so grateful for all the great blessings I've seen these past couple weeks. I've been bouyed up and helped along to get done what needs to get done despite my many weaknesses. This experience in the office has been amazing and I've learned SOOOO much from President and everyone here. So many life lessons learned I can hardly comprehend it all. And now it's time to tie up the shoe laces extra tight and finish my mission like I've always dreamed. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store! Love you all so much, have a great week!

My new mailing address is:

Scholke Strasse 1a
38118 Braunschweig

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Week of April 14 from Berlin

Hey ya´ll!
Well my final week of travel has come and gone and we ended it on a good note with lots of good zone conferences.

Easter Sunday was a great day and one full of peace and reflection, which was a wonderful blessing after having a somewhat stressful weekend with zone conference and everything. We had a way cool investigator come to church for the second time, and she´s making huge progress very fast, and should be getting baptised in the next couple weeks. Overall though, the day was filled with eating appointments (we had two back to back) and doors in student housing in the evening. We´ve been seeing lots of success in focusing on students during this holiday time, lots of new appointments made out and first lessons taught.  The trouble is just getting time in their busy schedules to meet with us and time in our almost busier schedules to meet with them. It´s been rewarding though to get to declare the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon so many times to so many different people.

Tuesday we had our conference here in Berlin.  Everything went pretty well. The Zone Conferences were focused mostly on the Book of Mormon. President, being the creative teacher he is, read a modified story of Green Eggs and Ham, called Green Eggs and the Book of Mormon, and talked about it´s converting power and how it helps investigators on the path to conversion.  He then showed us Jeffrey R Holland´s testimony of the Book of Mormon in his famous talk "Safety for the Soul" and bore his testimony to us. Siser P. talked about how we could use the BoM more in our missionary work and shared some missionary stories from her mission about how using the BoM lead to success.  Then she challenged us to pray to know how we can better use the BoM in our missionary work. We taught, on special request of President, about another blue book that´s very important to missionary work, the Area Book, and announced some changes in policy and things we had made. It wasn't the most popular topic, but we tried to make it fun and applicable to everyone. We closed however with a cool Mormon Message about the BoM and our testimonies. Overally the ZoCos were good, but in a way it was sad to see so many mission friends for the last time. 2 former companions bore their finishing testimonies and are going home in a week, so it was no fun saying goodbye to them as well. Overall though it was a good trip and things went smoothly.  It was a good finishing round of ZoCos.

Another hard thing this week was saying goodbye to our wonderful investigator who is going to Miami for the next couple weeks. I was able to tell her goodbye and that I would come back for her baptism 100% sure. She shed a few tears and said thanks for everything and that she was excited for her baptism... it was one of those rewarding missionary moments to know that you were able to help somebody out and that you meant something to them. I´m stoked out of my mind for her baptism though! I just hope they don't steal one from us in Miami haha.

Well all and all not a whole lot more to report. I was super sick this week, but things are on the mend and I still have yet to miss a day of missionary work due to sickness, so I´m thankful for that. It made things unpleasant but not impossible. I´m hoping to finish out well this last week here in Berlin. We´ve got a big transfer coming up with lots of key pieces on the move.  Tuesday we´re driving out to the political offices of a well known Senator here, and also a good friend from the Prenzlau days, to discuss the future of the work here in the great state of Brandenburg, so that will be fun to see him again as well. Hope you all have a wonderful week back home, and thanks for all that you do!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Week of April 7 from Berlin

What more can I say- all is well in Berlin!

It was a great week for us here in Dahlem! Full of little miracles and lots of good memories. Yesterday was probably one of the most memorable days of my mission, but we´ll get to that later! First off, how about conference, wasn´t that just great? We took so many good things away from that for ourselves personally, but also for our investigators! Conference is always great for investigators I think because the brethren focus so much on the basic key points in the doctrine which they explain beatifully and simply. It really does take the word edify to a whole new meaning. I´ve decided the definition of edification is personalizing the understanding of a doctrine to someone, and when you have so many brilliant inspired men explaining beautiful plain doctrine in so many different ways, edification is bound to take place. It used to really frustrate me to hear so many of the same themes because I was always looking for something new, but I´ve realized on my mission how important it is to never stop studying the most important things. The Gospel is like a pond, and the deepest part of a pond is the center, so that´s really where we can always dive more deeply... so ya, I think I´m cured of my selfish desires to want to hear our prophets talk about "new and exciting" things... who knows what kind of confusion we´d have in the church if they did that haha. So ya, conference was great, it is always refreshing to hear the words of a modern prophet!

Well the first couple days of the week we were really able to focus on the missionary work in our area. We were blessed to be able to take up some contact with investigators who we hadn´t been able to reach while being so busy the past couple weeks. Our baptismal date is still doing well, but won't make it to baptism before she leaves to Miami in a week, so that´s kind of a bummer, but she´s commited to getting baptised. We taught her the word of wisdom and she just lit up and said, "I´ve been living this already for years now and didn't even know it!" She´s great. Others are making slower strides. We sacrificed a few cushy evening eating appointments to do some solid door to door missionary work, and the sacrifice was SOO worth it. We´ve turned our focus to students and university housing here in Berlin during this easter season because we think it may be the perfect time to lift and build up some lonely students, many of whom are far from their mother land. The universities in our areas are super diverse, and it makes it a lot of fun. We get to use a lot of English, and I get to pull out a bit of my rusty Polish as well as some broken Spanish and stuff, so it´s a good time. We had an amazing walk in lesson with a girl from Indonesia who converted to become a Christian because of the Bible. She was super receptive to our message, and we´ll meet with her next week. We also found a way cool young guy from Poland who´s getting his Phd in International Law. We´ve met with him a couple times and had a super spiritual lesson with him at church. He´s a little stubborn when he feels the Spirit but he´ll come around I think. Lots and lots of first lessons taught though, and it was just a joy to be teaching again and knocking on doors. Now we just have to sift through what we´ve found for some gold.

So the latter part of the week was filled with lots of preperations for zone conference, which we held in Dresden yesterday. The ward there needed us to move it a week earlier so they could have the building available, so we did. I´ll probably fill you in more on exactly what we did next week, but our presentation went well. It´s weird standing up and teaching the entire mission for the last time. I was looking out on the faces of all 68 missionaries there and there were so many friends (Paco) and it was kind of sad to know I may not see many of them again for the rest of my mission. The day isn't too far off now where I´ll be tucked away again in some little corner of the mission, and even though I´m stoked for it, it still remains weird to me.

So yesterday was a very, very emotional day for me, and it turned out to be a rollercoaster. First off, it was fun to celebrate the 182nd birthday of the church here on Good Friday. We got off to an early 6 am start from presidentes house where we said our morning prayer together and ate a quick bowl of cereal to hit the road. We left a bit early to make room for an early morning visit to the St. Pauli cemetery in my beloved city of Dresden. President and his wife had always wanted to visit the Joseph A. Ott grave, so I got to take them there and visit it for the second time myself. It was great to drive into that city again, but the tear ducts were swelling a bit knowing that this may be my last time there in a LONG time. We found the grave, a lot more simple than the first time, took some pictures and just took in the sweet spirit of the morning. We then went to the stake center were we had ZoCo, which went really well. I got to be in a workshop where Paco and I did a role play together and I put on the character of one of our mutual friends back home, and it made it really fun. After the Zone Conference, all of the missionaries were gathered upstairs getting mail and stuff, when one of them suddenly collapsed and started shaking uncontrollably. One of the missionaries ran and got me and I ran over and grabbed his hand and got his pulse while the other missionary ran for President. My companion cleared the auditorium, and pretty soon President was right there next to me. The Elder was crying and in a lot of pain, but mumbled through it that he would like a blessing. I annointed quickly, and then President laid his hands on his head, sealed the annointing and began giving the blessing. I kid you not, there was a reverence there as I have seldom felt in my life, and as he rebuked the shaking and commanded him to be still and calm down, you could feel a calmness come over him and the entire room that was just like a blanket of comfort. I´ve been part of many priesthood blessings in my life, but I can tell you this- this experience sealed my testimony and I will never be able to say that there wasn't power in that room from God without lying through my teeth the rest of my life... it was amazing. He calmed down, I elevated his feet, tucked his arms in to his chest and got him covered with a blanket and held on to him and talked to him until we got a car freed to get him to the ER. He´s doing fine now, and they still aren't sure what it was, but it was a blessing to see the priesthood in action, and to see the importance of sanctifying yourself so that at a moment's notice you can call down the powers of heaven to help others.

Well after that we headed on the road again down to Freiberg to attend an evening temple session, for what may be my last time on the mission, and my last time in German for a long, long time... like I said, this was an emotional day for me. It was a BEAUTIFUL session, and the calm and peace and Spirit was so welcoming. I felt a lot of things there, worked some questions out in my head, but the overiding feeling for me was overwhelming gratitude. As I sat in a room, surrounded my people I love, it was hard to hold back the tears as I was able to say thank you to my Father in Heaven for the opportunity he gave me to serve in this great land, and to speak this beautiful language, and to help him find his lost sheep. It was simply a beautiful experience never to be forgotten. I LOVE that little Freiberg temple. We then headed back to Berlin and got in just past midnight at the end of what was truly on of the best days of my mission. What a blessing it is to serve here in Berlin in this mission, with this mission president, and with these great missionaries. It makes me shudder to think that it will eventually come to an end.

Well that´s about it for this week I suppose. Love you all tons! Have a great week!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Week of March 31 from Berlin

Well what another fun week here in the best mission in the world! We had a good time traveling around this week and are happy with the way things are going. Mostly we´re just happy that we´re surviving this special 5 week transfer and all of the challenges that it brings with it. You wouldn't think losing one week in a transfer would make a whole lot of a difference, but when it´s one of the only 2 weeks in the transfer where we have to relax and focus on our area a bit more and prepare things in advance for the busy weeks, it takes its toll on you I suppose. Last week of last transfer we had to do transfers all week, then came the first week of this transfer which was crazily busy, then a travel week with leadership training, throwing in a Zone Leader Council on the other side of the mission, and an emergency medical trip with a car pick up and delivery trip... and ya, needless to say, I just hope the Lord sustains our area of his vineyard in our absence, because frankly the last three weeks have been pretty ridiculous- haha.
One of the highlights, for sure, was last p-day after writing emails we got to go back up to my old stomping grounds in Prenzlau. That was an experience and a half! I can´t believe I was in that little place for 6 months- haha, but it brought back the fondest of memories and somehow I felt this sense of belonging there, like I was home again. I got to visit my adoptive German grandmother there, which about gave her a heart attack (we thought a surprise would be fun :) ) but it was a happy reunion. We passed by to say hi to a couple other members, then went and delivered the car to the senior couple there, who came to Prenzlau when I did, and catch up with them at my favorite ice cream place right across from their house. It´s crazy to see the change in them as they near the tail end of their time here as well.  They are just so at home and magnifying their callings there. Anyways, then came the highlight.  I got to go visit the man we baptised there.:) It was SO good to see him again! And the coolest part was hearing from him how things were going. He´s still having some bad health problems, but the new branch president, who just got called to travel all the way down to Prenzlau from another city, picks him up and he goes to church with him every Sunday. It´s so cool! So ya, we caught up a little bit and he is doing really well there in Prenzlau.

Sunday we had a great day at church. I gave a talk for the first time since Prenzlau- haha- and it went well. It was weird having to keep it down to 15 minutes, but I managed and it went okay I suppose. I talked about Obedience a bit. I talked about how we learn in the Pearl of Great Price in Abraham 3:25 that the world was created so God could "prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them." Obedience is not only the first law of heaven, but really the first law of EVERYTHING. I talked about how in our mission we strive to develop the attitude that it´s "cool" to be an obedient and diligent missionary, and how we are missionaries who shave every day despite us not even really needing it, but are doing it because the White Handbook says so. :) I then talked about the Liahona, and how we learn in 1 Nephi 16 that it "did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them." So I figured I could talk about how those three attributes relate to obedience and how when we are obedient the Lord will bless us with direction in our lives. Faith is a fun topic. I talked about how I don't believe in this whole "blind obedience" deal. I think the word blind shows a lack of trust, so we should replace the word blind with the word faithful. No, we may not always understand the reason why we have a commandment, but we should trust the Lord in following it. That trust is evidence of our faith in Him. I think that´s what Lehi wanted to teach his children in his dying words when it says "I know in whom I have trusted." It´s important to realize that obedience is probably the most the simplest, most pure outward expression of our faith. Next comes diligence, also important in obedience. In Preach My Gospel it talks about diligence being an "expression of our love for the Lord." So I talked a bit about things that have helped me to stay motivated to be diligent on the mission. Finally comes heed. Elder Bednar gave a great talk in which I remember something he said that was very profound. He was talking about obedience, and at one point he used the word exacting obedience instead of exact obedience. At this point I used the wonderful parable of the kite, and how the string is what keeps us steady and helps us fly higher, like the commandments. Should we cut the string, despite our thinking that the kite would then fly higher, it would in reality plummet to the earth and crash. As we are constantly in the process of exacting our obedience, we are, in effect, lengthening our string, or knowledge of the commandments. We exact our obedience as we study the commandments and learn how we can be more obedient to them, and work on keeping them with the right attitude and for the right reasons. Moving from a law of Moses mindset to perhaps the Higher Law mindset. Then in closing, I talked about how every blessing we recieve comes from obedience "to that law upon which it is predicated." The Lord gives us commandments in anticipation to be able to bless us. So ya, hope someone learned something from all of that...

Most of the rest of the week was spent getting ready for leadership training and then going on the road. It takes a long time to make all the assignments for every meeting and to call everyone and print all the material off. We used a powerpoint in our presentation talking about how our mission wide standard of excellence of 20 lessons each week is totally attainable and how important it is to increase the quantity as well as the quality of our lessons in the mission. We showed a bunch of charts and graphs showing how close we have come in the past, and talked about how we can increase the quantity of or lessons. Then we talked about the worth of Gold, Silver and Bronze and how gold is like a joint teach with a member, silver an investigator lesson, and bronze a member lesson and how we wanted to increase the amount of gold in our teaching every week. Overall we presented everything pretty clearly and I think it was well recieved. As we were talking about teaching people we already teach shorter and more often, we used an example and had a missionary dip his finger in honey, and then have to eat a huge heaping spoonful and we asked him which was more enjoyable. Sometimes we expect our investigators to eat these massive feasts of spiritual knowledge, when they really have had a life of spiritual malnutrition leading up to that point. Giving them a rich meal would lead to indigestion and sickness, so we want to give them shorter, simpler, more frequent doses of spiritual knowledge. It was fun to see the missionaries with mouths full of honey though. I remember doing that before basketball games, bleh, I couldn't stand it.

So ya, then we just traveled and taught, and traveled and taught some more until late last night we pulled in home, and now I´m back here at my computer again. Yesterday we were in Leipzig and that was fun. My comp had served there for 6 months, baptised a way cool guy there who took us out to eat at a famous schnitzel place where they make schnitzels bigger than you can imagine. We had a huge one loaded with potatoes underneath it along with tons of other stuff... it was intense. So ya, we visited a couple members and new converts from him quickly on our way back and it made for an enjoyable end to a nice trip. It´s fun to get to see good old friends, many of which are now seasoned vets ready to go home soon. It was fun to see the next generation step up though and take over lots of the teaching and stuff.  I hope they handle the change of mission presidents well... I don't know how anyone could ever replace President Pimentel!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Week of March 24 from Berlin

Wow, wow, wow- what an awesome week here in Berlin!!! So much happened this week I don't even know where to begin.  Probably with the best I suppose.

Well Tuesday we met with our amazing investigator, the professional Russian pianist. She's pretty much one of the smartest, most charitable, and amazing people I've ever met. We started the lesson with just a bit of small talk, finding out how her week had gone. She had been applying for a visa to go to America on vacation, so we talked about that and she said "Ya, it was a very good week. I got the visa, and I booked some flights to America. Oh ya, and I decided I want to be baptised as well." Haha, she said it so nonchalantly though, it totally caught us off guard. After a few seconds, all I could mutter were the words "With us?" and she said, "Yes, of course with you!" It was seriously the coolest thing ever! We asked her why, and she responded that she had read 2 Nephi 31 as we had asked her to, and prayed about it like we asked her to, and just knew that it was right! So yes, it was one of the happiest appointments of my mission. The timing is super frustrating because we weren't able to fit another appointment in with her in our crazy schedule this week, and next week we´re traveling to leadership training, and then on April 12th she´s leaving to America for a month, so it´s just super frustrating not being able to meet more regularly with her, but we´re praying for her and have faith everything will work out. Our goal is to get it done before she leaves, but we may just have to settle with waiting til she gets back.... by which time I won't be here anymore :( but that doesn't really matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. So ya, hopefully we can meet with her at least once this week, but who knows, we´re traveling like crazy.

Speaking of crazy, that´s exactly what this last week was. 10 new missionaries came, and we had a TON to do in the office. This transfer is a 5 week transfer, so basically we lose one of our more relaxed weeks where we can focus more on missionary work in our own area and to prepare for the busy weeks. We managed everything just fine though and everything is going well. The goldens were great. Crazy story though, as we picked them up, we were waiting outside the terminal when all of the sudden this short black guy came walking out with a crazy hair style and super super nice clothes. I was standing right in his way and he brushed by me quickly when all of the sudden cameras started going off everywhere and people started to realize who he was. It was Sean Paul, some famous rapper I guess. But ya, if you see any news of him in Berlin with video clips, that big white lurpy missionary he pushes out of the way when he walks by was me haha. So that was weird, but then came the good part, and all 10 goldens showed up ready to work. That´s easily one of the biggest things I´m going to miss about the office is picking up the new missionaries. It´s just so refreshing to feel their great spirits, and the excitement that radiates from them to start their missions right. We spent most of the day with them, and then took them downtown to show them how we find people to teach here in the Berlin Germany Finding Mission.  It was awesome. Thursday we had golden conference which was super good as well. Lots of the trainers were good friends, 2 of which were ex-companions. My last companion here in the office, and my Swiss companion from Dresden, along with a few other good friends. It was super fun getting to see them all again, and to see them get their goldens.:)

Friday we had Zone Leader Council in Hannover. We were up til about midnight the night before getting all of the reports ready, and then I got up with one of the ZL´s who was staying overnight with us to drive up together, also a good friend who lived with us in Dresden, and we went on a nice run together at 5 am before we left. We had 9 people in our apartment that night.  It was crazy. We have a drit (trio) living with us now, and then 2 sets of ZL´s came and stayed the night.  Our apartment is like a hotel sometimes. We headed to Hannover early and then after the meeting my companion and I, instead of driving everyone back in the van, hopped on a bullet train down to a town called Köthen to pick up a car which needed to be transfered to another city in the mission (by the name of Prenzlau ;) ) On our way, we found out one of the missionaries had just had some sort of freak nerve attack and was in the hospital. So we hurried over, waited for them to stabilize him, and we took him home where we gave him a blessing. We then took the car and headed back on a late night trip all the way from down in Saxony back up to Berlin. Along the way we stopped off the side of the road in a famous little town called Wittenburg, where we payed a quick visit the the Schlosskirch, aka the church where Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door. It was SUPER cool to walk the same footsteps that Martin Luther walked up to that door. The door has since been turned into a bronze one with all the 95 thesis engraved on it.  It was a super cool experience to see such a historic site, one that plays a big role in the Restoratino itself. I´ve learned to gain such a great appreciation for Martin Luther as I´ve been able to visit places where he has been, and read the Bible he translated in the language that he translated it.  He was a great revolutionist who opened the doors to religious freedom.

So anyway, we got back from that late last night, and now I´m back here at my desk again. It´s been a crazy week and I know that there are some things I´m forgetting, but hopefully I´ll remember them again and write them down somewhere. The fun isn't over though, because now that car we brought up here needs to go to Prenzlau, so today we´re going back to my old stomping grounds! P-town here we come! It´s going to be epic. We´re going to go visit some cool little places and a couple members- it´s going to be lots of fun.:):):) Then we need to take the current Prenzlau car and drive it 3 hours down to Leipzig where it will be picked up and taken back to Frankfurt. It will be a fun little road trip. I really do love the travel, it´s just always new and refreshing, and provides quiet moments where I can clear my mind and reflect and ponder a bit.:) Also it´s good because we have lots of presentations to prepare for the upcoming meetings. Not to mention the fact I´m speaking in church tomorrow.  I don't mind it though- teaching really is a joy- I just hope that with all this practice I can somehow start to get better.

Well I do hope you are all doing well back home! Love you all bunches and pray for the best for all of ya!