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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!!

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!

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 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 Z├╝rich 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.

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.