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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Heilbronn: December 17, 2012

Dearest Family,

This letter is going to be WAY short. Sorry, I just wanted to get that out of the way right now. I have to be on a train to go to a zone Pday in about 20 minutes, so I will do my best to write a few things before I go.

Before I forget, a really cool young family invited us to come over and Skype at their house on Christmas, so that will work. What was your Skpye name again? Hopefully I can find it. If not, just have someone on Facebook, and I think that the Costas can work it out somehow through there.

This week was pretty great, you're right, Dad. It really warmed up this week, and it has been raining for the last few days, and that means that pretty much all the snow is now gone.

We found a new investigator this week. His name is Jürgen, and he is pretty cool, he also gave us a couple of referrals while we were there, so that was nice.

Also, for the second time of my mission, I had someone come to Church!! It is our investigator, Sven. This guy already knows that the Church is true, and the only reason that he isn't already baptized is because he has some Word of Wisdom problems, but he is working on it, and he has a really strong testimony of the Gospel.

Umm, yeah, we had our Christmas celebration in the ward this week, and that was a ton of fun. Just being able to talk to all the members and everything was great. Sven also came to that. Ok, I really need to go now. I hope though that this short email will help you to see what you could be getting every week, and will help you to apreciate my emails more in the future!

Love you!
Elder Merkley

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Heilbronn: Christmas Time December 10, 2012

Dear Fam-bam,

Another pretty good week here in Heilbronn! Winter really let us have it, there has been snow on the ground for the last few days, and it has been snowing pretty constantly for a while. I have been breaking out all the winter clothes I have to try and stay warm, but since I didn't really bring any with me that doesn't mean that much. I am however very grateful that I bought a scarf and a beanie last week, as I have been wearing them almost every day, and they have been helping me to stay warm.  I think I will answer a couple of questions before I go further, these questions usually help me to direct my emails.

1. The Germans like Christmas a lot. They have a huge Christmas market in essentially every downtown here. I had never even heard about them before, but they are so great. They sell some really typical German stuff there, Bratwurst, and other meats, alcohol (of course), and a lot of just cool Christmasy nick-knacks (I don't think I have ever written that word out, so I don't if that spelling is right, but that is what spell check is telling me...).  All in all I would say that Christmas here is pretty commercialized, pretty similar to America in that way. But the Germans do have like three Christmas days. They have Christmas Eve, Christmas, and then just a second day for Christmas... They like celebrating. The Germans actually make fun of Americans for working so hard some times. They get normally longer vacations, and they have a ton more holidays here. 

2. Now, as for Christmas. We have not yet received an invitation for Christmas day (the first one). We have received an invitation for Christmas Eve, and the second Christmas day, but we are still hoping that we will receive one for the first Christmas day. I hope that we will be able to Skype, I think it will work out. If we don't receive an invitation in the next week I think we can just talk to our Branch President and he can help us to find something.

3. Now Mother, as for Christmas cards. YES. I have received a billion of them! I think I got about 5 of them on one day! I opened our mail box and they literally were just falling out because we don't usually get that much mail, so we never really expect to get too much. Ok, so btw, a billion was very much an exaggeration, but I do think I got between 10-15 this week, which is a ton! And yes, I got the envelope thing this week, and have started to work on the brownies, thanks Katie! Have you received my package yet?

That is fantastic news about Grand!! The Leukemia just went away? Wow, that's a miracle if I have ever heard one! That is definitely a huge blessing. Will he be doing the sealing for Tin and Brock?


Specific needs for prayer? I would just ask that you would pray to help me to be able to learn to be happier. I am happy, but I think I could be happier, you know, just get to the next level. I wrote a little bit about this to Tin, but at the beginning of my mission I concentrated more at strenthening my testimony, I feel that it is a lot stronger now. Now I want to concentrate on learning to be happier.

Sometimes I feel like I forget to talk about missionary work in my emails...anyway, we have been meeting with this less active, Bruder Reisinger, a couple times for the last couple of weeks, and we are going through the lessons with him and helping him to remember everything that he once knew. He has been coming to church the last few weeks, but he does have a problem with smoking, so we will have to address that with him. Umm, but it is really great to teach him, he gets way excited because he is just experiencing again the joy of learning the Gospel.

We also started meeting with this other guy, Sven Peters, about a week and a half ago. He already has a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but he has a lot of problems witht he branch here, and he has a smoking and drinking problem. He actually has already had a baptisimal date, so we hope to be able to help him to see past his problems with the branch and overcome his problems.

We also found another new investigator this week, Ismael, this young Muslim guy. We don't know how much potential he has, because he believes really strongly on the Qu'ran, but he said that he would pray about the Book of Mormon, so we'll see what happens there.

Anyway, I love you all, hopefully everything works out for Christmas!

Love,
Elder Merkley

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Heilbronn: December 3, 2012

Dearest Family,

This week in Heilbronn was pretty normal...oh wait, except winter finally came!! I was just talking about how it was still pretty warm, and that I have been enjoying the last remnants of fall. I take everything back. It is cold. Ok, well, I think it's cold. It is now definitely below freezing, and it  snowed most of the day yesterday! When we went to Church we had to help clean the sidewalks so that members could come safely to the building. (Does one 'shovel snow' in English? How do you say to clean up snow? I'm not sure if this problem is because I haven't been speaking enough English, or because I'm from Southern California, and we just don't talk about these kind of things. Probably a combination of the two.) Awww, man. It just started snowing. No, it's really beautiful, it's just not as much fun to spend the whole day outside when it is freezing!

Anyway, before I whine too much, I think I'll just answer some questions (Also, I am probably not going to write as much today, we wanted to be done a little quicker today...)

1. So, unfortunately, no one became progressing investigators this week. Barney and Nikol are unreachable still, and Kirstin was sick this week, so our appointment with her fell out. We met with one new person this week, but this was probably one of the weirdest appointments of my mission, and she didn't invite us to come another time. No one came to church this week, but this American member showed up, and I had to translate for him, which is way harder than I thought it was.

2. I received only a little grief for wearing my Christmas ties last Sunday. There was more of a scandal when I suggested Christmas songs for Priesthood meeting. I almost started a fight. I had no idea there were such strong opinions on the proper time for starting to sing Christmas songs. 

3.We don't have a Christmas tree yet, but we were planning on checking out basement to see if maybe some missionaries have thrown one down there. The last time I was down there I definitely saw a Santa costume, so there could definitely be a tree somewhere down there.

4.I actually have met this one American missionary who doesn't have an accent. He had done some foreign exchange program for a while, but wow, when i started to talk to him, I thought I was talking with a German, and then I asked where he came from, and he said, 'Ich komme aus Virginia', so the first part sounded like perfect German, and then he just said Virginia, like an American, and I was just so impressed. But yes, missionaries only pray in German, out loud at least. Whether or not a meeting is in English, we always pray in German, I've never heard anyone say anything about it, it's like some sort of unwritten rule.

5. I have received two Christmas cards! One from the Bishops, and one from the Buellers. It was great to get them, and there were nice little notes in there. Besides that I got the other package this week, a letter from my trainer (who is now home and has a girlfriend...), but I haven't gotten your envelopey thing yet. OH! But I sent my package today, but I didn't wrap the things...sorry. Also, don't expect anything spectacular, or even a long note inside. I really just sent you a key with who gets what.

6. With calling home I don't know how we should do it. We can only skype if we are at a member's house, but I am hoping that we will receive an invitation for Christmas, up to now, we only have one for Christmas Eve. But I would personally love to Skype, I think it would be a lot more fun.

Anyway, I love you a ton, thanks for all the support and prayers, they really help me to work hard here!

Love,
Elder Merkley



Monday, December 3, 2012

Heilbronn: November 26, 2012

ROOT BEER!!!!

Dearest Family!!

Thanks for all the emails, I love being able to hear from the fam bam every week. Oh wait, while I'm thinking about it, Mom, could you maybe send me Spencer's email? I would love to be able to hear what that kid is up to. Anywho, this was a pretty good week, but I think I will answer questions,  if it wasn't for that I would have no idea how to structure these emails...

1. It has still only snowed the one time, which I am so thankful for. That day was really miserable because it was cold, and it wasn't real snow, rather it was more like sleet. Ooh, it wasn't fun. So in answer to your question, no, there is no snow on the sidewalks. In fact, it's an enjoyable 45 or 50 degrees right now, although it is raining.

2. So none of our investigators have reached progressing status, and none of them have been able to come to church yet. We weren't able to meet with a lot of them this week for various reasons, some appointments fell out, some people just didn't have time for us, but we are still hopeful for them. We continue to find a ton of potential investigators through our own efforts. By that I mean spending time going door to door, or going on the street and talking to people. We're trying to stay organized and contact them all so that we can hopefully get some more lessons in the next couple of weeks.

3. I wouldn't say that I have observed any unusual Christmas holidays, though I was impressed by the huge Weihnachtmarkt (Christmas market) here in Heilbronn. It looks pretty cool, and very old fashioned and German. Dad, it's funny how you mentioned that people gave you grief for wearing your Christmas stuff, becuase I may or may not have also gotten grief for wearing my Christmas stuff this Sunday. That reminds me, yes Mother, I did get the package, and thanks a ton!! I was impressed with how many Christmas ties were in there. I'm wearing another one right now actually...

4. Elder Buck and I still get along very well, we usually can talk really well with each other, and we work in general really well together, yeah I really can't complain. We just got an invitation for Christmas Eve from one of the families in our ward, and so we should be able to spend the Holidays with some members, well at least Christmas Eve!

5. So Mother, I think my German is coming along pretty well. I still have an America accent and stuff. I don't really have problems talking with people when we are on the street, because we are talking about religion, and when it comes to the gospel, my German is pretty good. When we go to a member's house, then I feel that my German isn't as good as it could be, because we get on some topic, and I just think, holy crud, I don't know the words to talk about this! I can almost always understand, but I can't always say the things that I want too. It is still getting better, it is pretty easy for me now to talk the entire day in German. I usually talk only in German, regardless of whether or not my companion talks to me in German, and I know it will come. I guess it is just frustrating, because I want to have perfect German now! The other day two people asked me if I was from Holland (That's a nice compliment, because the two languages are pretty similar), and one guy even said he thought I was from Austria, so that was pretty nice.

4. Yeah, letters. So I got the Relief Society note thing you sent, a letter from two of my friends at BYU, Kristin Mauger, and Amy Forbush, which I really enjoyed reading. Some of my friends at BYU are starting to go on missions now! Other than that...I got the package! Which was super great, Elder Buck was so pumped that he got something too.

Do you really want to hear about how we went to a Jehovah's Witness Meeting? It was actually pretty boring, and we had to leave early, because they start pretty late. But yeah, some guy on the street invited us, and I kind of thought, Hmm, how can we expect other people to accept our invitations when we never accept their's? And so we decided to go. While we were there members would come to us, see our name tags, and do a double take. LDS missionaries are pretty well know to JWs. Anyway, it was just like a normal class, where they read out of the Bible, and then talked about it. But their Bible is a lot different than the normal Bible. It is no wonder that they are so confused about so many doctrines.

Anyway, this week we spent a ton of time trying to get a hold of those people who had said that they have interest, while also trying to find new people. We found a lot of new people who said they wanted to talk  another time with us, so I hope that we will start making out some  more appointments in the next few days.

So this first picture is just a picture of the district. I don't know who made the decision that we needed to do piggy backs, or why Elder Buck, who is like 6-4 and 200, ended up on my back, but that's just kind of my life, haha. 

This second picture is a picture during our Zone Pday, the point of the picture was the two huge things of Root Beer that a Senior couple somehow managed to find. All the America Missionaries were psyched about it, and all the Germans didn't really care, because most Germans don't really like Root Beer, and I guess that's why it is not really sold here.

Anyway, I love you all!!

Love,
Elder Merkley



Here is the district, giving each other piggy backs..

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Heilbronn: Thanksgiving

Dearest Family,

This week was pretty great, the weather wasn't too cold (for most of the week), and we found a lot of people who gave us their information, and wanted to hear more about what we have to say.

But first, something really cool that we just found out last night. Well before that I should give a little backround. So we all know how missionary applications have been jumping up a ton since the announcement of the age change in General Conference. Well Presiden Miles Had been at a Mission President Seminar, and there they told him that they estimated that we would be getting approximately 40 new missionaries in the mission. Well, so I mean that right now we have about 160 missionaries, that number would essentially go up to 200. Last night the Zone Leaders called me, and they told me that we just found out that we would actually be getting 90 new missionariey. 90. If I could capitialize numbers I would be doing that right now. I guess I'll just have to write it out. NINETY!!! So they were calling to ask about the apartment in Heilbronn, if it is big enough to fit other missionaries (which it totally is. I only get big apartments for some reason). So sometime in the next six months or so, our mission is going to get a ton of new missionaries, and they will probably be doubling up companionships in apartments, which right now almost never happens. I think there may be two apartments right now in the whole mission where there is more than one companionship.

Anyway, that was just something that really pumped me up. I guess I'll just answer some questions now:

1. Yeah, so if all of our appointments had gone through, we should have had about 7 or 8 lessons. As it was, most of the appointments with our new people, so the ones that are right now not investigators, fell out, but so we ended up with still a good amount. We had a couple of days where we should have just been able to go go from appointment to appointment, but some of those appointments fell out, and so those days turned out to be a little harder than I had expected. But we still found a ton of potential this week, although we haven't made out a ton of appointments for next week, though I still think we'll be able to see some success.

2. We don't have a ton of member's at our lessons, but that is mostly because our investigators are all like under 30 or something. I don't know why we are only finding young people right now... But we only have a few young people in the ward and so we have been trying to use them, but yeah, I actually don't have a lot of time right now, so I have to rush this. I have to leave in like 15 minutes for my Zone p day.

3. Our appointment with Barney and Nikol fell out, and we haven't really seen them recently, but we will be calling them this week to try and make something out with them. Ayoub is going pretty well. We had another appointment with him yesterday, and the only difficult thing is that he is Muslim, and so he doesn't want to pray with us, because we, of course, pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who he believes was only a prophet. Besides that he is very receptive, and our lesson with him yesterday was really good. Bashir is pretty good too, but his English isn't perfect and his German is non-existent, so it is sometimes difficult to always get him to understand. We have this other investigator, Kirstin, and she is doing great too. She really wants to know if the church is true, she is just worried because she hasn't gotten an answer to her prayer.

4. The members here are great (btw, we will both be staying in this area for next transfer, and that means for Christmas). They are pretty supportive, we usually have at least one eating appointment a week. We have been finding more oppurtunities to serve the members here, we will be helping with the cleaning of the building, and we have spent a few hours with an old couple helping them do yard work, so they really like us.

5. Yeah, I think there are a lot of non Germans everywhere in Germany. In Offenburg there were a ton of Russians, Macedonians, and Turks, here there are a ton of Turks, not as many Russians, but yeah still a ton of different people who are not from Germany. I think there are a ton of Turks all over in Germany actually. 

Hey, did I ever tell the story about how we went to a Jehovah Witness meeting? I can't remember if I wrote about that or not... Anyway, yeah, the week was good, I also got a letter this week from my friend Alicia Myers, and I got that letter from the fam bam. Although only half the family was actually represented in this envelope, haha.

Ok, I love you all!!

Love,
Elder Merkley



Monday, November 5, 2012

Heilbronn: Fall

It snowed last week!

Dearest Family,

This week went by pretty quickly, and I don't even know what experiences I should relate first, not because I had a ton of them, but just because I don't know where I should begin... I guess I'll just answer a few questions to start.

1. So Halloween was a pretty normal night, though we did see a few groups of trick-or-treaters walking around. And after knocking on a door where the occupants were all getting ready for Halloween, I have made the decision that next Halloween evening, I will do no dooring, because it was definitely one of the awkwarder situations I've been in. Particularly because the people didn't speak German very well, so we couldn't communicate why we were there very effectively. Other than that though, it was a pretty typical evening.

2. The branch here is really quite great. The branch president is pretty young, and really wants to make a difference here. We have one member of our ward, Bruder Lichner, who is actually the High Councilor over Missionary work, and so he is really determined to go on joint teaches and things with us. Bruder Lichner is also super big, I mean like 6'8'' or something, and played basketball in some German league for a while. But yeah, we accidentally made out two appointments for the same time on Tuesday, and so we decided that we would try to do splits so that we could give the members a chance to work with us, and so that we could make both of these appointments. When Bruder Lichner heard that, he was like, ok, I'll do it. Even though he had earlier told us that 7:30 was about the earliest that he could make an appointment, he said he could come for this one at 6. And then he started talking to other members and found us another man that could come before we could even start asking around. Still no real referrals. We get fed usually at least once a week, which is more than I've experienced before. It isn't uncommon though, for us to be invited twice a week, which is really great.

3. Still no progressing investigators, and no investigators in church. This week we were able to teach one lesson, with another three or four appointments that fell out. But we have been working really hard and doing a lot of contacting, and we already have five or six appointments made out for next week, and so I think we will be able to find a few new investigators this week.

4. The countryside in general is pretty beautiful here. We were driving with a member yesterday, and some of the countryside was just so beautiful. The grass is still super green, but the leaves are all starting to change color and it was just great to look at. But I don't think there is really anything unusual in this area, not that I've seen yet, at least.

And Mom, those are great goals that you have. I really have formed a strong testimony that missionary work is best done through the members. What we do, as full-time missionaries, is, to be quite honest, weird. I don't always blame the people for not wanting to share the innermost beliefs with some stranger on the street. The real way to do missionary work is with that relationship already built, or when you are just in a normal situation and you can talk about the gospel without pushing it. I'm not saying that what we do isn't worth it, or that it's not important, I just know that there is a better and more effective way to do it. Wow, Chase is coming home already? Say what? I really didn't realize that he had been out for so long

I did have one interesting experience this week. While we were teaching this investigator who has been meeting with the missionaries for a couple of years, his name is Arisa, and he lives in a refugee home, this other Afrikan came in and started talking to us. The room was super super small, and so he was standing less than a foot away from where I was sitting. Anyway, because of this close proximity, I could smell the alcohol on him, and see it in his eyes that he was drunk. I probably should mention that this all happened before noon. Anyway, and so he started speaking a mixture of German and English to us, saying some really weird, and most incoherent things, and our investigator was super embarrassed and tried to get him to stop, but he just plowed on. And then he started rapping, and I must say, he was surprisingly good. Especially when one takes in the fact that he was drunk. Anyway, so this guy is practically sitting in my lap and rapping super loudly, globules (Is that right in this situation? I think so...) of spit were hitting me in the face, and the whole time, our investigator (who is quite intelligent and nice) was trying to get him to stop so that we could talk alone. He finally convinced him after 5 or 10 minutes of this. As you can very well imagine, that essentially chased the Spirit away for that lesson.

Other than that, we did a lot of contacting this week, so it was pretty normal. But this next week I get to go to Munich for a couple of days because of a meeting that they have for some missionaries, and that should be fun. I think I will be able to drive there with another missionary from my group, Elder Fiedler, who is a German. For some reason, although we have only seen each other a few times, we have become really good friends, and so I'm excited to see him again. Maybe I'll even be companions with him someday.

Anywho, I love you all! Have a great week!

Love,
Elder Merkley

PS Mom, why did you stop forwarding me other emails?
PPS Also, I got your letter from Brussels yesterday, Mom. Thanks!

Heilbronn: Fam Bam

Dearest Family,

Greetings from Germany!! The weather has taken a turn for the worse this week (in my opinion, at least...), and it even snowed on Saturday!!! It's not even November yet! I thought I was going to die! Anyway, I have since realized that missionary work is a lot less fun when it's freezing temperatures, you don't have any appointments and so you have to just talk to the people on the street (who are also not enjoying the weather, and do not enjoy being stopped). But yeah, the work goes forward regardless. I have been using the weather as a way to start conversations in buses, I just tell the people that I am from California, and that this weather is ridiculously cold, and then we get into a nice conversation, which often leads to me talking about how I'm a missionary...it works pretty well.

Well this week we finally came into contact with a few of the people that the missionaries had already taught, it was kind of weird though, because all of the 'investigators' here in Heilbronn had had no contact with the missionaries here for at least a few months. Well, that's what their record says anyway, and so we have just been having introduction lessons with all of them, trying to get to know them, and see how we can help them the best

I don't think that I have already written about this, if I have, I apologize, but in the mission we started doing finding days every week. That means that once a week our whole district comes together in one area, and we spend from 11-18 just finding. So we talk to the people on the street, or we go to a neighborhood in the area and we go dooring. It was started in Zürich zone in the last few transfers and they saw some pretty good success from it, and so now we do it every week. It's tough sometimes doing so much finding, but it helps find interested people that we can hopefully turn into investigators, and it's nice to spend a little bit more time with the Distrikt.

So yes, one of the members of our branch went to the Rathaus, and we are allowed to talk to people again. We just can't talk to them in buses, at bus stops, or at the train station. Elder Buck and I have since realized that we are actually finding a ton of potentials together. I think more than I have in my whole mission so far. We started talking to people on Wednesday (although, I still did it a little bit before...), and since then we have find nine people who are interested in hearing more about the gospel. The only problem that we are having is turning these people into investigators. By that I mean, actually meeting with these people, and helping them come closer to Jesus Christ.

Anyway, I guess I'll answer the questions right now, so I don't forget:

I got the letter from Daniel this week, but I didn't get the one from you set, maybe later today, who knows? Christmas list? Mom, I have no idea. A watch. Besides that...I really don't know. Elder Buck gave me some of his thermals this week, because they were too small for him, and they fit pretty well, so I think I can survive with those. Umm, I really don't know. Music? I always appreciate a few more CDs or something. Or you can just send me my ipod with a bunch of churchy songs on it. I'm trying to give you ideas, but I can't think of anything. I'm sure right after I send this I'll think of ten things that would be awesome, then I will forget to write them down, and have this same problem next week.

We did not have any nonmembers in Church today, though like ten people promised us they would come. That is so frustrating to me! I don't understand why people always promise they will come to Church, and then just not show up! Arrgh. I did however receive a referral from one of the members of our branch presidency, although the address isn't in our area. But still! It was a referral, and I got to make our Zone Leaders very happy by passing it on to them.

Now for Father:

1. Halloween. Hmm, that is a good question. Well, they don't really carve pumpkins here. Some people do, but it is not near as wide spread as it is in America. I only know this, because we planned a Distrikt Pday for today, and Elder Buck and I had to track down pumpkins, which we did, and now we are sitting in this internet cafe with six pumpkins with us. We got some weird looks. Especially as I was trying to shove one of them into my backpack... That wasn't even the worst part though. As we were walking away from this store carrying our pumpkins, we saw our bus coming, and I had just called some of the other Elders in my district, and so then we had to start running.  I had one pumpkin in my backpack, two in this bag, and I was talking on the phone, and I had to run, and I mean run. It was really hard, haha. Anyway, I don't think they do trick or treat, I don't know, I guess I'll find out on the 31st, but maybe you should ask Daniel, he has already seen two Halloweens here!

2. Things with Elder Buck are great. We really understand eachother well, and so far I have the feeling that I can really be myself with him, and actually be funny. I didn't always have that feeling with my other companions. But yeah, things are going pretty great.

3. See above.

4. The work is going alright, like I said, we are finding a lot of potentials, we just need to do better at getting appointments with them. We went over the ward list yesterday with just a member, and so I think this week we may be able to try and meet with some more less-actives, we'll see what happens. We don't have a ton of appointments for this week, not yet at least! 

Anyway, this morning we listened to a great BYU devotional from Elder Holland (Elder Buck has a MP3 player with a ton of great talks), called Remember Lot's Wife, or something like that. Anyway, I only mention it, because I realized that I have been making the same mistake as Lot's wife. I have been living in the past, and I haven't been trusting that the Lord can make things better for me. I don't know, I can't articulate these thoughts that well, but I realized that there is still some major attitude adjusting that I need to do in order to make myself happier. But I'll do it, and I think it should help me for the rest of my life too.

Anyway, I'm tired of writing, and I have already written a ton. Love you tons!

Oh wait, that email from Niklas was way cool too. You can have him send me an email if he wants, and then maybe I can send him a letter or something once I hace his address, I'd love to stay in contact with him.

Love,
Elder Merkley

PS I was going to send a picture of me on the first day where it snowed, but my camera is somewhere under the pumpkin in my backpack, aka, not worth the hassle.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Heilbronn: Polizei/President Monson


This picture is from the time at the Zanders. I didn't want to wear my
BYU sweatshirt to move coal, so Bruder Zander gave me this nice old man
cardigan.
Hello family!

So my first full week in Heilbronn is finished, and to be honest, it was a
pretty long week. We didn't really inherit any investigators from the
missionaries before us, and so that means that we have been doing a lot of
streeting and just contacting in general to try and find some
investigators. That is, until Friday, when we had a nice little encounter
with the police, but I'll get to that later.

First, remember how I said that the missionaries couldn't go see President
Monson? Well, I was mistaken. If I had stayed in Offenburg it would have
been true, but since I got moved to the Stuttgart zone, we were invited to
go to see him speak to the members in Munich. The only downside was that
since every member had to have a ticket to get in, the missionaries had to
stand during the entire meeting, but, I mean, we saw the prophet...so it
was worth it. Anyway, so that is what I did on Saturday, I went Munich and
I was in the same building as President Monson (for the second time in my
life), and it was pretty fun. He spoke all about working with those members
who have fallen away from activity. And he really wants us to work with
love, to do more than our dutiful once a month visit to our home-teachees,
to try and really show them that we love them. It was a really nice talk,
and I really hope that we can try to apply it in our branch here in
Heilbronn.

I guess now I can tell the story of our encounter with the Police... So on
Friday we went into the Innenstadt to do some streeting, because we had
about 40 minutes until the bus came that we needed, and so we were just
talking to the people trying to see if we could find the ones who were
interested. After about 15 minutes or so, we talked to some young guy who
was interested in an English course, so we were writing down his
information, and then these two policemen rolled up (they were on Segways
(which was super cool, btw), so they literally rolled up), and asked us
what we were doing. In these situations (always actually, but especially in
these kind of situations), I'm always for honesty, and so I said, 'Wir
missionierien' (I love that about German, they have a verb that means, 'to
missionary'). And then they asked for our authority or our permit to do
that. We have these Geistliche Ausweise, or Spiritual Authority, from the
Church, and so we showed them, and they told us that that isn't good
enough. They told us that every city has it's own rules, and in Heilbronn,
we aren't allowed to talk to ANYONE, if our intent is to start a
conversation, sell something, or give something away. That means we
essentially can't be missionaries... I was not very happy about that, and I
called President Miles and told him what the police had said to us. And he
told us to talk to our branch president, and try to get a German to go to
the Rathaus or somewhere and try to take care of it. Since then we have
just been going through out phone, calling all the contacts there, and
sitting in buses, trying to start normal conversations with people. I've
had a few good conversations, but it is really frustrating, because I'm not
aloud to do what I feel that I'm supposed to do! Yeah, recently I've
realized I'm not always the smartest missionary. I just like to be outside
talking to people, doing something. Staying inside, or even sitting in
buses, to do missionary work doesn't really appeal to me.

But yeah. So that's kind of my life right now. If any of you have creative
ideas with how we can do missionary work without talking to people, they
would be very much appreciated. We want to start visiting the members, but
we haven't been able to go through the ward list with our Branch President
yet, and so that means that we have no idea who we can visit and who are
'no-goes' (My branch president actually said that in the middle of a German
sentence. It was pretty funny).

We did have the oppurtunity to eat with a member and serve them. The Zander
family had invited us to come to lunch on Thursday, and then they realized
that they were going to get a shipment of coal (Don't ask me why they still
use coal, that's not really common here), and so they asked if we could
come in normal clothes and help them move it. We said yes, and so we got
there, ate a great lunch gave a spiritual thought, and the coal still
hadn't come. You know how companies always say, yeah, our guys will be
there between one and two, and then they actually come like two hours
later? Yeah, that's what happened. So after the Spiritual thought, he
called the company, and they said they'd come in an hour or so, and we
couldn't do any real missionary work, because we were of course in normal
clothes, and so I just said, Bruder Zander, there has to be another way we
can serve you until they come. He would've taken us home, but the car was
gone with his wife, and Bahnhof was over 5 kilometers away...I don't know,
they didn't plan it very well. Anyway, so we ended up mowing his lawn and
raking leaves for about 45 minutes, and then when the coal came we spent
about 45 min to an hour moving about 3,300 lbs of coal, yeah, they ordered
a TON of it. It was actually a lot of fun, I haven't had the chance to just
sweat doing that kind of work in a long time.

1. My companion is still pretty cool, we can usually talk pretty well with
each other and work out any problems that we have. Because problems are of
course bound to happen when you have to be with someone for 24/7. But yeah,
we have a lot of fun together. He worked before his mission, btw, he didn't
go to any school, at least I don't think so...

2. I didn't get to see my ward yesterday, because there was no Church
yesterday because of President Monson. He spoke in Frankfurt yesterday, and
so there was a transmission of that in Stuttgart. But yeah, they are still
pretty cool, we have another appointment with the Rukasz family tonight,
and so that should be pretty fun. We actually don't have a GML here...It's
just one of the counselors of the Branch President who does most of that
kind of work. But he's really cool and he lives pretty close to us, and so
that has been nice. We will be going over the list of the members hopefully
in the next couple of days so we can start some real missionary work.

3. Honestly, we have no investigators right now. Some of the
'investigators' that were in the area book hadn't had contact with the
missionaries for a few months, and others we couldn't get a hold of, so we
are essentially starting from scratch. One funny story, we made out an
appointment with this lady who we found in the potentials list, and then
when we went there, we were talking with her, and I asked her how she came
to know the missionaries. She answered and talked something about her
baptism, and I thought, no, she must think we're Jehovah's Witnesses
(everyone here does btw). And so I asked a clarifying question, and then
she named a couple people from the ward. Yep, it turns out she is actually
a less-active member... Gotta love it when missionaries don't write things
like that down.

Mom, I got the letter from you, but that was it for this week. I just told
you my address last week, so I couldn't really expect more, could I? Also,
for Christmas I was thinking maybe a watch, make sure Daniel says it's cool
though. I want one of those kind of cool different color ones. I don't know
if that makes sense. Just talk to Daniel. Other than that I'll think more
about it this week. Also, ties are a great idea. I love ties.

Ok, I've already written a ton. Wow, I spoil you, Mother. Anyway, I love
you all! You're the best fam-bam ever!

Love,
Elder Merkley

Heilbronn: Ohh Whitewashing

This was actually Andy's first area, Offenburg
Dearest family,

This week was pretty crazy. It was really weird in a lot of different ways. On Tuesday I went from Offenburg to Zürich, and then back. On Wednesday I went from Offenburg to Stuttgart and worked with the Zone Leaders there in a trio for a little over a day, and then I went on Thursday from Stuttgart to Heilbronn with my new companion, and we went into our new area (and found our apartment!). And then on Saturday we had to go back to Stuttgart for a meeting there, it was pretty crazy.  But yeah, the title of this email, Ohh whitewashing, has really been our saying for the last two days. When we find weird things in our apartment, we just say, 'Oh whitewashing'. Oh, a bus doesn't come from there? 'Oh whitewashing'. Yeah, you name it, and we had to figure it out. Luckily there's another missionary in our district who has spent a few transfers here before, and so he clued us in on some of the tricks, and that's helped us a little bit.

Anyway, I'll start by answering some questions:

1. My new area seems pretty good, I've only really worked here for two and a half or three days, so it's pretty difficult to really tell, but I like it a lot so far. The city Heilbronn has a completely different feel from Offenburg. It feels a lot bigger, I think it may be about a 100,000 or so, but yeah, it feels a lot bigger and noisier than Offenburg, which has a sleepy feeling to it. This new branch seems really great, there were about 30 members in Church on Sunday, and I was able to talk to a good amount of them. There are a few young families here, which surprised me. In Offenburg there were four youngish people, the rest were mainly just old. The branch president is about 30-35 maybe, as is one of his counselors. I think I will be getting more eating appointments here than I had in Offenburg, because there was this one family, the Rukasz, who we already had an eating appointment with on Sunday, who told us that every Sunday that we didn't have another eating appointment we could come eat with them! It was so cool. They also let us role play teaching the first lesson to them (This is something our mission president has asked us to do, teach one lesson a week to members, as if they were investigators). They even said we could teach them the 2nd lesson when we come back, and they're actually going to do the reading we assigned them during the role play! But yeah, we actually got invited by three different families to eat on Sunday, but of course, we could only go to one of them. We also have another eating appointment on Thursday already, so yeah, the branch is pretty cool.

That was for Dad btw, now for Mother's questions:

1. Transfers are actually on Thursday, but since my companion was going to train, we ended up leaving our area on Wednesday.

2. So Elder Buck is actually from the area of Fresno, California. The members were really impressed that we were both not from Utah (Let me take this oppurtunity to thank you, Mom and Dad, that I did not grow up in Utah).  Honestly, he's great. He's super tall, like 6'4'' or something, but it's ok, I'm used to having super tall friends. But yeah, we get along really well (or at least we have for the first 4 days), and I have the feeling that I can really be myself around him, which is a feeling that I didn't really have in the last while. We understand really well with eachother and have similar senses of humor. But yeah, it's been pretty great working with him so far.

3. Umm, so we inherited no investigators here. That means this week was the first week of my mission where I have not taught any lessons. We did however find three potential investigators on our first day together, and that was really cool, it definitely gave us a nice spiritual boost.

Mom, I'm 'practically' a seasoned missionary? I want to tell you something, I never really felt like a Golden. Elder Persicke never gave me the feeling that I wasn't a real missionary, or that he was training me. He did a really good job at helping me to work my harderst and learn without really being taught (If that makes sense. I'm not sure it even makes sense to me...). So essentially I try to follow President Uchtdorf's advice when he talked about the middle. I want to serve like I'm in the middle of my mission.

But yeah, I have really enjoyed having an American companion, we talk about what we like that the Europeans do, and what we don't really like as much. We love the people regardless, but it's nice not having to hear about how all American things are dumb and superficial. Because that's what a ton of Europeans think (Even European members...).

By the way, I took a few good pictures that I was going to send with this email, but unfortunately these computers are a little different from the ones in Offenburg, so I can't send them this week. Next week I can try to bring a cord or something. But I took this one where I was wearing this ridiculously big jacket and I was looking a little bit sad. Now let me explain the reason behind this picture. I was going to send it to show you how bad I need my new credit cards, because I have to wear this ridiculously big jacket that I found in the apartment until I get money to buy my own. It's colder, btw. Already colder than what I have experience for most of my life, aka, I need a jacket. Before I forget, here's my address: 

Werderstr. 164
74074 Heilbronn
Germany

Yeah, and the other picture was of our ridiculously messy kitchen, which we have started a deep clean of. By we, I mean Elder Buck... Anywho, I love you all a ton! Thanks for your emails and prayers! This truly is the true Church!

Love,

Elder Merkley

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Offenburg



P-Day Hike

Dearest family,
Wow. Conference this week was so good! I felt that there was so much advice in there that was meant for me! Just so you know, we weren't able to watch the Sunday afternoon session, and so I still haven't even seen all the talks yet, but I will be able to see them in the next few weeks during Sacrament Meeting. I got to watch all the sessions so far in English, but when we watch the Sunday afternoon session I'm pretty sure it will be in German, so that will be pretty fun. But no, I've really realized how blessed we are to be able to watch it in English, we, as native English speakers, can understand everything (except when one of those genious apostles uses a word above our vocabulary range) and we don't have to deal with translators, ahh it was so great. During Elder Holland's talk in the Sunday morning session I couldn't even take any notes, I was just so engrossed, just staring at the TV, aww man, it was great!
So. Really big news this week. I have been transferred. I'll be going to an area called Heilbronn, which is in the Stuttgart zone. From what I have heard, Heilbronn is smaller than Offenburg, with about 20-25 members in Church every week. I'll be whitewashing it (so, I don't know how well known that missionary term is, so I'll define it; it means when both missionaries who are going in are new to the area) with another missionary, Elder Buck, who is from somewhere in Utah I think. My first American companion in the field!! Now I won't have to only talk to Europeans all day, who, at the best, are all at least a little anti-American. If I'm honest, at the end of last transfer I would have really welcomed a transfer call, but this transfer had a different feeling and went WAY fast, so I really didn't want or expect a transfer call. And of course, then I get one. What made me even sadder is that since General Conference this weekend, I didn't really get to say goodbye to any of the members, and that was pretty disappointing, but that's just the life of a missionary. There are a lot of members that I will miss here, and a few investigators too. But yeah, I'm sure that I will get to more of that later in the email, I'll just start answering some questions now:
1. So yes, we get the Liahona here in Germany. We get a copy in both English and German, so don't worry about having to send one to me. I am super excited to get the next edition with the General Conference talks in it, so that I can study them a little bit more and figure out how I can improve.
2. Yeah, we found two investigators this week, one of them was a young black guy named Therry, who is from France. He is a student living in our area, and we had a pretty good introduction lesson with him. He has a strong faith on God and Jesus Christ, and is interested in talking about them. The other guy is pretty interesting, he told us this story about how this guy, who he is convinved is an angel, saved his life. He said that he was really tall, and had white hair, not blonde, white. I think it may have been one of the Three Nephites, actually. He also has a Book of Mormon from 1964 or something, it was pretty cool to see. And yes, I'm getting along pretty well with Elder Szvoboda, I wouldn't say that we are best friends or anything, but we get along well enough that the work isn't super difficult or anything. I really did enjoy this transfer with him, but I am pretty sad that it is only one transfer.
3. Yes. President Monson is coming to Germany, unfortunately though, the missionaries aren't invited to any of the meetings with him, or so I've heard at least. But yeah, it would be pretty great if we could go and meet with him, because he's the prophet of course... I think there may be a...transmission, over carry? (The German word is Übertragung, I'm not sure what word is the best to use in English) that we could watch.
Now, in response to your (Mom's) question of who wrote me this week, I will try my best to remember. So, I got a letter from Benny boy, from my friend Andrew Walton from BYU, from you, Mother, and that may be it. I think, at least, I didn't write it down anywhere, sorry.
Germany has got some GIANT orange slugs!
Anywho, so we stayed with the Freiburg missionaries for the last two nights, because of General Conference, and that was a ton of fun. One of the Freiburg missionaries has been transferred too, and we've been in the same district for the last three transfers, so it was a ton of fun to be able to spend some time with him before he goes off somewhere in the Munich zone. And as most missionaries know, when you overnight somewhere, you don't get as much sleep as you normally would. We are always obedient, in bed at 10:30, but asleep at 10:30? Definitely not. So I am feeling REALLY tired today.
We had six lessons this week, and that officially ties my record! I am pretty excited to see what will happen in this new area, especially because there were actually no missionaries there this transfer, so hopefully the members will be happy to see us. Yeah, sorry this email isn't very good, this week was good, but there was no repeat of the noodles and ketchup story, not yet that is. We did have a great lesson with Konny this week, we watched the Restoration with her, and after I told her that I was leaving, and she got pretty sad. The members that I did see were all really sad that I was leaving too, and that made me a little happier, because I figured that they really wouldn't care, with missionaries coming and going ever few months. But they said, "Das tut mir wirklich Leid. Sie sind ein toller Missionar. Wirklich." So that means, "That really does me suffering. (That doesn't translate that well) You are a great missionary. Really."  And yeah, that really cheered me up a little bit to know that the members appreciated me and the four and a half months of work that I put into this area, even though we didn't see much number success here. It is very surreal though, I never really thought that I would finish with my first area. Where does the time go?`
Overall though, this week went by very quickly. We had a pretty good amount of appointments and saw a little bit of success this week. General Conference really uplifted me spiritually, more than before my mission definitely. It is very interesting to see the topics on the minds of the prophets. This time it seemed to be that the rising generation needs to step it up, and that parents and leaders need to help them step it up, and that we, as adults, need to humble ourselves and become as little children. Anywho, I love you all! You're the best family in the world, and my appreciation grows for you every day!
Love,
Elder Merkley
PS Pictures. Yeah, this first one is me with the Senior couple who lives in my area. They always make food for district meeting, and they have made waffles for me three or four times. Oh yeah, and she cuts our hair! So that's me with my new hair cut.
The second picture is Elder Szvoboda and me with the Fischers, a really cool family in our ward. Oh yeah, did I mention that I am invited to eat every single meal today? Breakfast with the Holmes, lunch with the Fischers, and dinner with the Vosslers (our branch president)? Cause I am...




Monday, October 1, 2012

Offenburg: Bye Bye Wallet

Kinderspielecke means "Children's Play Corner"
It appears to be on a Train.

Dear Fam-bam,

I really enjoyed this week, and to be honest, I don't really know why. Last Monday, I just got this really good feeling that this is where I belonged. Not only in Germany, but on a mission, serving the Lord. This feeling has stayed with me, more or less, for most of this week, and so I was able to enjoy this time a lot more than a lot of other weeks. Oh, and I guess I should explain the title, yeah, I lost my wallet this week. So that means that you should probably cancel my credit cards and stuff...and maybe send me new ones, and maybe a new driver's license. Don't be mad. I'm already pretty mad at myself, and mad at the punk who stole it and didn't give it to the bus driver! Ach, it doesn't matter, but that was really really frustrating. Especially because I now have no money... Yeah, whatever, it's done.

So I guess I'll start off with the questions, in case in the course of answering them I share a few stories:

1. Testimony meeting, this week we just had a normal church meeting, except the Stake President was there, President Bolt. Daniel probably knows him, he's been the Stake President for over nine years. But normally during testimony meetings we have no problems trying to fill up the time. There are those people world-wide who get up with what appears to be a prepared talk, one in which they only share stories that have a very tenuous connection to some gospel principle. I was very pleased to realize that it doesn't only happen in Glendora 2nd Ward.

2. I'm really excited for General Conference this weekend for multiple reasons. Foremost because we will be able to hear from the Prophet and the Apostles, and that's just crazy in itself. I really never thought I would be one of those people who got super psyched about General Conference, and yet, here I am, super happy about it! So here we watch one session on Saturday night at 6, then we watch three more (If you're a guy, because of the Priesthood session. The Relief Society one is earlier on Saturday) on Sunday. The extra one we will watch in a few more weeks because we will already be asleep when it happens. I think we can watch it in English, but I don't know for sure... I would like to watch it in German, but it's just annoying with the delayed translation and stuff. Did I ever tell you how my first or second week of church we had the sacrament, and then we just watched a General conference session? Cause that happened... Anywho, so we get to overnight with the Freiburg missionaries on Saturday night, and so that's another reason that I'm excited. Also, I'm doing an Austausch (Exchange) in Freiburg tomorrow, so that will be a lot of fun too. 

3. My German skills. Sometimes I feel like I can speak really good German, and sometimes I have the feeling that I can't speak any German at all. It just comes with the day. I get a lot of compliments with my German, but I know I still have a really strong American accent, and that I have a lot of room to improve. It is a lot more rare though, when I don't understand someone. Usually when we talk to people I understand everything they say to me. I started reading the Book of Mormon in German this week, and I am understanding most of it. Granted, it is 1 Nephi, which I practically have memorized from all the various times that I've started and not finished...

4. My understanding of the German people and culture is pretty good I think. I love German food (even though it makes me gain weight), and I love the German mannerisms. They have this whole different set of ways to express themselves. During an Austausch this week, Elder Niedens and I were doing them to each other, because we both think that they are really cool. There's no way that I can explain them over an email, but I really like them. Oktoberfest doesn't really effect this area here, though last night there was a Weinfest  or Wine festival or something like that, in the city here. I had forgotten about it and we walked through the Innenstadt and everyone was holding a glass on wine and there was some lady singing in German in this concert like setting, I don't know, it was very strange.

5. The work is going pretty well here. We don't have any progressing investigators yet, but I think that maybe this week that will change. So we had this really good lesson with Konny over Joseph Smith. And we invited her to pray about him, and she said she would do it, so we'll see, she's already a few chapter into 2 Nephi with her reading, but up to now I haven't had the feeling that she's really making any progress, but I think that maybe soon she will. We meet with her every week, and I am so grateful for the Branch President for referring her to us. Our only referral, and she's our only steady investigator. The ward is pretty great, I blessed the sacrament this week, and I was just looking at the ward and just had this great love for them. They're really great people. The Relief Society President announced to all the adults that they should invite the missionaries over more, because we love every invitation we get, and then after she came up to me and asked if we had received some invitations already. She is really great, she invites us over every couple of weeks to eat.  I was blessed to teach four lessons this week and find one new investigator. This guy we found, I guess we had talked to him on the street a few days eariler, and then he called us and made out an appointment with us (That is literally the first time that has ever happened to me). Other than that I had another interesting meeting with Erwin, and he fed us again, but I don't know if I want to get into that...

Ok, I'm really tired of writing now, so I think I'll close it there. I had a really good week. The weather has been nice and cool, the people nice, and the work good. We had two days this week where we did just finding. I think in those two days we may have done 6 or 7 hours of streeting and about 4 hours of tracting. And then we were going by on potentials. It was a hard couple of days, but it's worth it, because the work's good, the Church is true, and Jesus Christ lives.

Love you all!
Elder Merkley



Andy says this car's paint job reminds him of his "lucky finals jacket",
Which is indeed quite similar in its color scheme!