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!