Monday, January 30, 2012

Week of January 28 from Berlin

Hello Everyone!

Well today has been a great day already to bring an end to a long long week of travel. So basically just a few hours ago this morning I was standing in the baptismal font in our church baptising one of our investigators, and now I´m here writing this email. It was a great baptism- definitely one of the better ones I've attended. The Spirit was strong, and she was very very happy. Normally when we asked her in the past how it´s going, she would reply with a "Bad, life is horrible" or a "Naja, life could always be better" but it was fun this morning when we asked the same question she replied with an emphatic "WUNDERBAR!" She´s made lots of progress, and now she´s finally a member! Everything went very smooth and just as planned and it was no problem... we were initially a bit concerned since she´s super old and not a big fan of water, but she did it and everything went perfectly.

Well aside from that this week was a pretty good one itself. We had lots of Zone Conferences to visit, but it´s always fun to get out and see all the missionaries, to be taught from them, and to teach a little bit yourself. It really is a great blessing to be able to visit and participate in every single one and to get to see so many different view points and ideas for improving yourself as a missionary! Tuesday we started in Berlin, the next day in Hannover, the following day Hamburg, and we ended in Dresden, with each city hosting 2 zones. Dresden was beautiful as always. It was great to be back there. Also, most all of my ex-comps and good friends are in the Dresden and Leipzig zones down in Saxony at the moment, so ya it was super special. Following the meetings we drove president and his wife down to Freiberg where he had a quick meeting while we ate and then we all did a temple session together. I love that little Freiberg temple!  It was so beautiful with the snow everywhere on the ground, and it was another great temple session. I went with a few problems and opinions and left with lots of answers and confirmations, so that was really really good. I wish I would have had my camera to take some pictures of everything, but sadly I left it in Berlin and the ZL´s there grabbed it and are holding it hostage and I have to go on exchange with them if I want it back. Yes, apparently there´s no rules against blackmail in the white handbook, so I´ll probably have to surrender to their designs and just go on an exchange. The tricky part is just working it all out and balancing it with the hours of transfers we have to do this week.  There are lots of decisions to be made, and there is going to be a lot of change in the mission in preparation for the new mission president coming.

So anyways, for our thema we focused primarily on a section in Chapter 10 of PMG focused on "Teaching for Understanding." We started off with a quick role play which began in a doctor's office. I would come in and diagnose a selected missionary and give him instructions for treatments using complicated medical lingo (conjured up by my father of course-thanks dad ;) ) and then watch their eyes fill with confusion. Then we´d do the same role play using simple, easy-to-understand lingo and see the difference. We emphasised how crucial it is to teach for understanding and not leave our investigators confused or overwhelmed. We taught that we would better teach for understanding if we first, studied and treasured up the doctrine ourselves, second, understood the principles of expounding on doctrine, and lastly if they would develop more trust in the spirit. So we expounded upon those things a bit and it ended up turning in to a great thema and one that was lots of fun to teach. We said that as a mission if we would do the 3 S´s- that is Shorten, Simplify, and Sequence our lessons more properly- that we would see more success and teach with for better understanding.  Sometimes missionaries fall into this once a week for one hour schedule with investigators, which in reality PMG calls for us to have 15-45 minute lessons multiple times throughout the week. I likened it to treating a public pool.  You don't roll up in a truck and zap-fry a pool every month, but instead it requires short constant sequenced treatments to purify the water, and it´s the same principle with our investigators I think. So ya, it was fun to teach and I hope to see some results come as we all shorten, simplify, and sequence our lessons better.

So ya, that was our week this week. Ended with an awesome baptism! This next week is going to be full of prayer and big decisions.  It´s fun to seek revelation with my companion and president though, so it will be interesting. I´ll also find out who my new companion will be this week as well, so it will be even more interesting.:) Hope you all have a wonderful week back home.  Luv ya lots!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Week of January 21 from Berlin

Hello, schöne Grüße aus Berlin!

Well it was definitely a good week back here in good old Berlin. Glad to have some time to devote more to our area this week. We had an AMAZING week of missionary work here in the area though, found 3 awesome new investigators (FINALLLYYYY!!!) and just got a lot of work done that needed to get done.

The beginning of the week was pretty normal as far as beginnings go. Collect all the numbers from the zone leaders in the morning, prep reports for staff meeting, have staff meeting, office lunch, and then our meeting with president, followed by following up on the dozens of assignments that seem to pop up after all the meetings. So ya, lots to do in the office, but we got out a lot and got some solid finding and teaching done as well. Wednesday we had our district meeting, and then I finally got to go on my first exchange since being here in the office. It was so great! Our district leader happens to be a good mission friend who was in my district as a junior companion in Prenzlau. It was totally weird because we had exchanged before, but that was like literally 10 months ago haha. It was weird that that long ago we would freak out to come down to Berlin for P-day and eat at this Döner place in Neukölln, and now he´s literally serving in that area as my district leader and we´re going on exchanges together again. It´s always was cool to see those blasts from the past. In a couple weeks I´ll be getting to go on exchange with the Berlin ZL´s, one of which is also a good friend from that Prenzlau district, and the other comes from St. George who I know. So ya. I LOVE EXCHANGES, but really not because they´re sometimes missionaries I know, but really because you can learn SO much and it´s just so healthy. So ya, I´m super excited to get exchanges going back in the office again.:)
So ya, Wednesday we met with a new guy. He´s a way cool guy from Egypt, and a pretty strict Muslim. I´ve loved getting to know Islam more on my mission and meeting with Muslims, but it is still hard to teach them sometimes. Usually it just turns into them trying to teach you about the Qur´an and ya, it´s just a mess. But he was very open and willing to listen. He´s going through a pretty rough time right now, but knows faith can help him. The cool part is that his family, who aren't religious, are going to be there next time and he wants us to teach all of them, so we´re excited for that. That night we went down to an unexplored part of our area on a big lake called Wansee, and found some saweet neighborhoods to do doors. They were just like millionaires every! Biggest houses I´ve ever seen in Germany. Some of them had doorbells for their boat houses out back. Everyone needs the gospel though, and it was just a really enjoyable evening of work. It was just a great exchange!

The next day my companion and I hooked back up and we went and taught another really cool new guy we just found. He´s native German, but just got back from living in Rwanda for 10 years with his wife he found there. He´s super cool as well, and super open, so we´re excited to continue teaching him.

Friday, or yesterday, was probably the coolest day though. In the morning we had a conference call with all of the zone leaders in the mission and spent a little over two hours discussing things and taught a little lesson. Big news though was an announcement that is kinda going to rock my world in a couple weeks. One of the members of the 1st qourom of the Seventy, a gentlemen from Portugal by the name of Jose Texeira is coming to visit the Zone Leader Council in our mission. He´s a pretty notorious figure here in Germany, known for pushing baptising pretty hard and not hestitating to grab you by the lapels a bit and singe your eyebrows. So we going to have to prepare a bit to host a general authority. I´m trying not to worry about it to much, haha, it´s just that it´s going to be weird trying to facilitate our numbers discussion with him sitting in the room observing, but I´m hoping everything goes alright. But ya, anyways, we also had the COOLEST appointment with a new investigator, who lives in this millionaire neighborhood I just talked about.:) She met the missionaries (one of whom comes from Texas and is from the home ward of my best friend while I was living in Japan) and now we´re teaching her. She lives in this insane huge modern house designed by her husband who´s a famous architect. It´s just full of modern furniture and art and is just SO COOL. Looking out the window you could see their glass garage with a new Mercedes S Class sitting in it, it was pretty cool. But, all that being said, the coolest part was just who she is. She´s from Russia and is a professional pianist and like model, but her main focus right now is raising a strong family. She is SOOOO COOLL. Maybe one of the coolest people I've met on the mission. She is just so inteligent, and open, and just eating everything up! It was just one of those appointments where she says something brilliant and then you look at your companion and just think "Is this for real?" So ya, I don't want to hype it up any more so we dont jinx ourselves, but seriously, she is solid.

To top everything off, we met with our baptisimal canidate yesterday with our ward mission leader. The baptism is all planned and ready to go for next Saturday. This last week has been another hard one. She had a violent fall down her kitchen stairs and her daughter had some serious problems, and it has just been kinda another crazy week. But she´s finally come to the conclusion "The devils trying to get me, but I´ll show him!" It´s pretty awesome to see how she´s become a more positive, laugh in the face of trial, kinda of person. So good for her! The whole mission will pray for her daily next week and hopefully it will help her before her baptism.:) It´s been such a blessing to find such good people in all of my cities on the mission who have taught me so much. Today, a Chinese student my companion and I found and taught while I was in Dresden is getting baptised, so it´s a special day today as well! I won't be able to travel down there, but it´s just been great to see how in every city there´s been someone ready to be baptised. Take that Euro-German mission stereotypes!!!

Well today will be a great day. Gonna go bowling for my first time in almost 2 years, so we´ll see how I fare. Other than that I´ll just have to tidy up a few things and get ready for another week on the road. Gonna be teaching a 30 minute lesson 8 times next week , so it´s going to take some mental strength haha. Hope you all have a wonderful week back home, love you all so much!

Week of January 14 from Berlin

Well another "travel week" has finally come to a close, and it was really good. Monday was a long day getting everything tied down around the office and then it all started here in Berlin on Tuesday. This week it was leadership training, so it was for all ZL´s, DL´s, and Trainers. It was fun to see so many familiar faces and get to experience so many different workshops from so many different and dynamic leaders for an entire week! Ya it was kinda different giving our workshop over and over again and hearing president´s and his wife´s over and over again, but it´s great how when you´re really set and intent on learning you can just take something new away from it every time. In our workshop we talked about the importance of becoming a "Preach My Gospel Mission." We talked about the principle of fire and how quickly forest fires can spread, and how we want a new emphasis on Preach My Gospel to spread through the mission like a spiritual forest fire, and how the fire sparks with leaders. Overall I think it went alright. We did a few role plays on how to answer questions while on exchanges with emphasis on Preach My Gospel and reviewed clips and things from apostles to shed light on all of the blessings that come from it´s correct application. So hopefully it takes. The coolest thing though was to see how after prayerfully emphasising what you felt needed to be emphasised, to see lots of other leaders make similar points and convey similar feelings. I walked away from our meeting yesterday in Dresden just thinking "Man, it´s like we´re all praying to the same source or something." It was really cool.

So ya, Tuesday was Berlin and Neubrandenburg Zones in Berlin, Wednesday was Hannover and Oldenburg in Hannover, Thursday was Hamburg and Neumünster in Hamburg, and we ended yesterday with Dresden and Leipzig in Dresden. It´s weird starting to have these routes become familiar to you after driving them so much... but I do love being on these roadtrips and getting to converse with your companion as well as President and his wife. My favorite trip was definitely Dresden though. I have so many good friends down there in Saxony and those 2 zones, and getting to spend good time with them there while being in DRESDEN at the same time was just a dream.:) It was also the last meeting, so afterwards it´s just kind of a collective sigh, plus everything runs smoothly because it´s all so polished.

Well aside from that, I can't think of anything too extra ordinary happening this week. So I guess I´m just going to have to leave it a little bit shorter this week. I´ll try and make up for it next time.:) Hope you all had a wonderful week. Love to hear from ya!

PS I attatched a picture of a Zone Leader Council... but that´s usually what leadership trainings look like.:) If you´re ever curious you can always check to see what´s up in the mission.

Week of January 7 from Berlin

Well, last week I almost died from sickness and the pace of the work needing to be done, and of course naturally this week was a week of harvesting the fruits of the sacrifice. I HAD AN AMAZING WEEK THIS WEEK! Easily one of the best of my entire mission. I could probably write a whole novel about everything that´s happened, but I´ll see what all I can convey in this email.

So the week actually started out with a bit of a struggle to be honest. So coming off the hectic week, our one solid progressing investigator started to get thrown right in to the buffetings of the adversary. I hate talking about him, but he really tried to give us a run for our money this week. So this elderly lady started getting phone calls from relatives and people she didn't even know telling her we were an evil sect and just a bunch of crazy bologna. It came so hard and so intense that the result was an 80 year old women balling her eyes out for an entire day and calling us asking if any of the stuff she heard was true. It continued for the next couple days til she finally stopped answering and barricaded herself in her room. We took up daily contact and visits to calm her down, but she was really having a rough time. Eventually we narrowed it down and found out her only daughter had spearheaded the whole thing and was enlisting tons of people to try and talk her out of joining the church. It peaked with her coming over and with a bunch of anti mormon literature and stuff. Ya, pretty bad. As we were praying and thinking about what we could do to help her, the thought hit me very hard, that a certain member in Prenzlau, my "German mother", was around the same age group and had gone through roughly the same opposition as she joined the church and became a strong member, so after making a quick phone call, we put the two in contact and they became best friends virtually over night. That coupled in with a few members fellowshipping efforts, and it´s safe to say that we´ve finally righted the ship, and she´s doing better now than before. Her family has forsaken her, and she´s still facing opposition, but she´s more determined now than ever the reach her baptisimal date, so we´re super excited. Our last appointment, as she was kind of coming out of everything, she asked if I would baptize her as well.:) I think it´s more the fact she thinks I´m really strong and support her than anything, but it´s always an honor to have someone ask you to do that... :)

Now we come to the real highlight of the week.... ROAD TRIP NACH KIEL!!!! OHHHHHH YAAAAA! Oh that was the coolest thing EVER. So basically it all went like this. We left Friday morning at around 9am-ish, and made our way up to a small little place called Lauenburg, a tiny dorf on the outskirts of Hamburg. We did some power-finding there with the missionaries and made out 7 appointments and an old mission friend and I found the COOLEST guy ever! We were just walking down an obscure street when all of the sudden I see this black guy coming the other direction. We talked to him and he said in broken German, "I can't speak German, just English" and I was like, "Oh no prob, I´m from America" to which he said "OH SNAP (bro hug) No way! I´m from Miami!" Anyways, he was like the coolest guy I´ve ever met, and after we had talked some basketball (he offered his condolences for my not having seen LeBron yet play for the Heat) we got to the important stuff, families and the gospel. So anyways, the elders there are meeting with him soon.  I can't wait to hear how that turns out. Haha, who finds a guy from Miami walking down the streets of Lauenburg??? But surely enough he lives there, pretty cool story. Anyways, then we headed up into Hamburg and delivered a bike to our storage unit up there with some other packages, and then went out with the elders in the Hamburg, Altona program and did some good finding. Afterwards, we headed up to the promised land... KIEL! I screamed like a little girl driving in to that place. We got in at around 9, but squeezed in an appointment with a good old investigator/friend as well as another less-active member we did lots of work with, and committed both of the them to come to the baptism the next day. It was one of the most joyful/weirdest experiences of my life! Joyful because it was awesome, weird because it was all so familiar, but I would have never in a million years would have thought I would be retracing my footsteps as a golden driving the big ole Chevy Cruze down those streets. It is so weird what all can change in one year. But ya, aside from serious reflection, everything was just so lively and happy.:) The following day, we went up to Rendsburg to work with the elders there (actually the first city of my companion) and met with a lot of people that he used to teach there. We also went on the world´s longest escalator there, and a cool car ferry over the river, and then a suspended cable ferry back over the river (all in the car) and it was just super super awesome. After the Tausch we drove by the man I baptised right outside of Kiel to visit, but he wasn't home, so we just headed back and met at the church for the baptism of a lady who was one of the first people I ever found on my mission. It´s so crazy... I would have NEVER thought she would be baptised. She was a strict Buddhist, but we just helped her with things she needed help with and did what we could, and next thing you know, she has a mighty change of heart and is now a member of the church. AHHH!!! That coupled with seeing a bunch of the old members was just so awesome! She asked me to speak there and I gave a talk on the Holy Ghost. As I got up there I said, "Last time I spoke from this pulpit, I cried like a little child because I didn't want to leave this place... and now I´m crying because I´m back." I then went on to say how it was such a special place because of the love and support of the ward which this new member would enjoy, but that she should be even more excited for the constant love and support that will come from having the Holy Ghost as her companion. It was an experience speaking from that pulpit again which I will NEVER forget. I wish I had a count of how many German sentences I butchered from that place as a golden, but to step back up there with confidence to to give a talk with the Spirit, awh, that just made my mission! I have never felt the Spirit so strong at a baptism on my mission as I did yesterday in Kiel. It even brought the investigator, and less active member (who did show up by the way :) ) to tears. It was one of those moments where you think to yourself "I would knock an 1 million doors in a blizzard, and have 999,999 slammed in my face, if I could only experience the joy I´m experiencing now again." I think a lot on nights, like tonight for example, we were just outside talking to people for a long time in the freezing rain, and no one really gave us the time of day. It´s easy to think, "Why do we do this? Almost everyone says no," but that´s really whats so cool about the Gospel... it really isn't about numbers. I think the Germans would be the first to tell you before anybody, that doing something purely because it´s what "the majority thinks makes sense" doesn't always make something right... the Gospel is about individuals. Just like the scripture says in D&C, "If you should labor all of your days and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy." Being on a mission here has shed more light on this principle than ever before. Just do what the Lord asks of you, no matter what. I´m not a big fan or practicer of "blind-obedience", but I do practice faithful-obedience, because I have faith that what is asked of me comes from an inspired and holy source. So ya, long story short, weekends like this are the weekends were you just thank your Heavenly Father for all the MANY blessings he gives you. This was definitely a week of thankfulness!

So ya, after that all, we went by on a family I taught up there, who weren´t home :(. and then began the 6 hour car trip back to Berlin, where we got in late at night. I don't know exactly how far we drove, but I know that from Rendsburg to Berlin is about 400 km and we took probably a 50 km detour to run some elders somewhere, so ya, we drove a LONG ways this weekend. It was totally worth it though and we both had the most wonderful time of our lives, thanked our lucky stars, and got re-energized for the work ahead! Next week we´re on the road again for leadership training. It´s gonna be a long, but fun week. Hope you all have a wonderful week back home. Love you all so much!!!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Week of December 31 from Berlin

Happy New Year!

So I´m sitting at my desk right now typing this email while fireworks are going off like crazy! It´s only around 6 o´clock but man, Germany just seems to light up on New Year's Eve. Today has been a great p-day, so relaxing after having had a CRAZY week this week. Since we have to be back where we live at 6 pm tonight because we shouldn´t be outside, we decided that since we have computers where we live we´d write while we were home anyway and take advantage of the once-a-year longer p-day. We woke up this morning, I got a good P90X workout in, then got all ready, 2 hours study time, and then we were off looking at some of the year-end shopping deals, eating lunch at our favorite italian pizza place here in Berlin, then playing some sport at the Stake center. Ah, it´s just been soooo relaxing and nice!!!

So this week is basically your worst nightmare as an assistant. New missionaries coming in, Zone Leader Council to prepare and just a bazillion reports to generate. I got more acquainted with Excel this week than ever before.  It´s just crazy. The big problem though was that I got pretty sick, too, which held me back a little bit.  But just like I was promised when I was set apart, I haven´t yet missed a single day´s work due to sickness.:) Monday was normal- getting reports and numbers collected, staff meeting, meeting with president, not to mention a couple of member appointments with it being 2nd Christmas as well. Oh ya, I almost forgot- Christmas was last Sunday! Weird. Ya got to talk to the family, and open presents with the apartment.  Man it was a good Christmas.:) But ya, Monday, despite being a holiday, was a normal day in the office. Tuesday, the new goldens came. I LOVE PICKING THE NEW GOLDENS UP!!! It´s really the funnest thing in the world.:) We got a total of 5 sisters and 2 elders from the Provo MTC that day. We brought them home and got all their luggage dropped off, then took them to check in at the office, take a nap to kill the jet lag, and just entertained them for an evening. Now normally when goldens come, they come with the Preston goldens, so we don´t have the overlap, but this time Preston´s came the next day, which left us with a whole entire blank day to spend with the goldens. So the next day we met them at the hotel after breakfast, took them to the mission home, showed them a documentary of the missionary work here in Germany, and did a finding 101 class on basic missionary finding skills to prepare them for the surprise later in the day.:) Then we took them to a special place called Meter Pizza, where they make a pizza literally 1 meter in diameter, and then we took them to dead center Berlin and pushed them out of the van and the other car we were using and had some experienced missionaries pick them up and take them to talk with the people just swimming all around them. Then we took them back to the hotel for dinner and to meet up with the Preston goldens who had finally arrived from their late afternoon flight. After dinner the sisters went back for a sisters meeting and we took the newer goldens and the two remaining elders finding. I took a new Swiss missionary, and we had a great time together. Overall though it was a very stressful couple days, but extremely rewarding. It is SO refreshing being around goldens! Thursday the trainers came, we trained them, and then had golden conference where we hooked them up with their trainers and sent them off all over Germany to their areas. Among the trainers for the 7 new sisters where all 3 of the sisters from my golden group who, and this is crazy, ARE ALL GOING HOME SOON. It´s weird to think about, but it´s the sad truth- the sisters are almost done.  I´ve almost been out for 18 months.

So ya, Thursday afternoon we walked back into the office where we finished up a bunch more things for the Zone Leader council which was yesterday. We worked late into the night, then got up at 5:15am to drive to Hannover. We had a good productive meeting. It was my first time leading the floor on the numbers discussion, which goes a couple of hours in the morning session, and it went okay. I was really scared I might pass out with all the sickness and fatigue, but I was sustained and everything went okay. In the afternoon session my companion and I taught about "returning to PMG". We talked about the importance of Preach My Gospel and how it would have the answers to all of the problems individual zones and individual missionaries are having out here right now. We watched the satellite broadcast which was given to all ZL´s Ap´s and Mission Presidents when PMG was released and talked about how we could implement it more as a mission.  It was a really good reminder and I think it will help in the future. It really is an AMAZING book.  Everything you need to succeed as a missionary is in there. M Russel Ballard promised in the broadcast that if we master PMG we will become better fathers, members, leaders, and teachers for the rest of our lives.  It was a pretty moving promise, and one that I think I´m going to put to the test. I love Preach My Gospel.:)

Well anyways, hope you all had a wonderful week this week and a happy happy new year! Love you all so much and love hearing from all of you back home!