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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!