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Friday, April 12, 2013

Heilbronn: April 8, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

Hello. We had a super great week! Well first off, I had my birthday on Tuesday, so I guess I'm 20 and all that now, it's not really a big deal. In fact, I would say it feels very similar to being 19. Anywho, on this day we had an exchange with the Zone Leaders, which was super cool. I worked with this guy named Elder Davies in Heilbronn, and it was a ton of fun, because he can speak near flawless German, and it was fun to concentrate on my accent for the day, and try to pronounce words a little bit better. We were also invited by our branch president, and we had a great time there too.

I forgot to tell you last week, but there was another big meeting for all the District Leaders and Zone Leaders this week. I guess they do it every six months, and it was kind of crazy, because I was there at the last one too, and the face of the leadership of our mission has completely changed during this time.  Anywho, so I spent Thursday and Friday in Munich, and then we came back just in time for Sven's baptism. I have some pictures of us, all dressed up in white and what not, but because of various reasons which will be explained later, I wasn't able to bring my cord with me today; so I can't send them, sorry! But yeah, the baptism was great, a lot of the ward members showed up, and Sven said that he felt really really clean afterwards.

Then on Saturday we went to Stuttgart to watch General Conference, then we stayed with some missionaries in our district, and were able to watch conference again on Sunday. The only meeting that we are not able to see is the Sunday afternoon one, so other than that I have been able to see them all.(And that's why I don't have my cord, we also spent the night last night...) Conference was super great, I really enjoyed listening to the Prophet. Talking about it after, one of the biggest messages I got out of it was about love. I think that it is important that I learn to love God and Jesus Christ more, but not only them, also my companion, my ward members, and just all the people that I meet as I am going about my day. There were a lot of other things I learned too, but that was the biggest thing I took away. Anyway, can you send me a copy of the conference edition of the Ensign? The last time we got it like 5 months after conference, which is really frustrating.

So I'm not going to be able to write a lot today because we have a Zone Pday, and so I am actually writing this email in some cruddy email place in Stuttgart. These places always smell really strongly of smoke, and there are always some pretty sketchy people here.

Your Birkentstock story was way cool, Mom! I was telling Elder Jerman about it just this morning during Comp study. (From Robin (Mom): A couple of weeks ago, the girls and I went to a thrift store to get some more stuff for our pioneer trek.  On the way, I said a little prayer that I would find a pair of brand new Birkenstocks.  Well, I found TWO pair in my size!!  Brand new! Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers!! rgm)

Also, no, it doesn't bug me that you don't often quote scriptures or anything. I study the scriptures every single morning for over an hour. I want to hear about your lives, I don't need my emailing time to be just an extension of my personal study. I mean, if you notice that I'm developing a bad attitude, or getting prideful, or something like that, feel free to give me some advice, but you don't necessarily need to always be quoting scriptures. It's not a bad thing, I enjoy it when people do that, but I guess just don't make your entire email a record from your personal study.  (From Robin (Mom): I asked Andy if it bugged him that I didn't often quote scriptures in my email, but tell him what's going on in our lives.  I do tell my inspirational Birkenstock stories!)

Yes, I got the second package! Thank you so much for those butterfingers! I gave some of them to Sven at his baptism, because he loves them, but you can't buy them here in Germany. I ended up getting like 10-15 cards maybe? I have no idea, really no idea.

Ok, I should go, but thanks for being a great family!!

Elder Merkley

Heilbronn: April 1, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

This week was pretty great! The weather was still cold, and members have been telling us that this spring is the coldest spring that Germany has had in the last 150 years... so I guess it is pretty uncommon, but what do I know? Winter is just a thing of legend in California.

Also, I know that I am turning 20 tomorrow, and it is really weird. I can't believe that I'm not going to be a teenager anymore. When did I get old? Yeah, there are a lot of mixed feelings going into this age change. Our branch president invited us over for dinner, and I think we will be actually having lunch with Sven. So I should be having a good birthday. I got one of the packages you sent yesterday, and I made Elder Jerman open it for me and take out the brownies, so that we could eat them. I was good and didn't look into the package, although I was sorely tempted.

Yeah, Elder Jerman and I are getting along alright. This last week has been one of the most humbling of my life though. I just have been having to make myself be humble way more than I wanted to. I don't know, I think training is just overall a humbling experience. I have been swallowing my pride and forcing myself to listen to his ideas, even if they are idealistic. Yeah, I've been working on trying to be humbler, and it has been getting better. Elder Jerman is really a very impressive Golden. He is not afraid to talk to the people, although his German is not very good. He really wants to be obedient and a good missionary, and we are working and finding pretty well together. When I choose to be humble, then things are good, when not, then I get frustrated and a little upset. So I just need to be more humble.

I love this ward so much!! Eating appointments and everything are just getting better and better, because I know the members so well, and we have pretty good relationships with each other. I know the little problems in the ward, which are not too prevalent. That in itself is impressive, because the branch is only about 30 members, and a lot of little branches like this have all sorts of spats and feuds. But in our ward there is just a good feeling. I feel like a part of the ward, and the ward members really like me (I think), which just makes a lot of fun. 

It sounds like plans for the Trek are going pretty well. I wish I would have had a chance to do something like that, you'll have to let me know if it is enjoyable, if you survived, and if Dad somehow managed to swindle Mom into carrying some extra candy.

So Philipp is doing super great. I am kind of concerned, just because the 'hand-off' between the missionaries and the ward isn't really happening right now. We are teaching him the New Member Lessons, and he doesn't have home teachers yet. I am not worried that he is going to be going less-active, his testimony is really strong, but I just want to stop being selfish, and get him to form some stronger bonds in the ward. He has started having interviews about the priesthood, so I think he will be getting that in the next few weeks.

Yes, Sven will be getting baptized on Wednesday, he has been handing out fliers to everybody, emailing invitations to everybody, and just getting really excited about it.  He stopped drinking alcohol on Wednesday I think, and hasn't touched it since. We have been praying a ton for him, and have been working as hard as we can to have daily contact with him, so that he knows that we love him and are thinking about him. We went to his apartment this week and it didn't smell like smoke at all! His whole countenance has changed in the last couple of months. Sorry, we always call this rehab thing therapy, because that's the translation of what they call it in German, and I forgot that it had another name in English. But I think it may be this private thing, but because of the health care in Germany, he won't have to pay anything to go there. He will be going there to make the final step in getting rid of his addiction, as much as is possible at least.

With questions three and four there will be no comment made... Except that we tried really hard, did a lot of finding, and hopefully the next couple of weeks will be better.

Anywho, Love you all!!

Elder Merkley

Heibronn: March 25, 2013

Here Andy is with Elder Buck. Andy says " I was walking around for five months with that big guy."

Here is Andy's District! They were really close and all became great friend

Dearest Fam-bam,

Well, winter came back with a fury this week. Fury is relative of course, but I was just cold, I miss California weather! But yeah, the last three days have been below freezing again, which was cold, but if you dress right, it's not terrible. Except on the face, the face is always cold, haha.

Anyway, I should probs tell you who my companion is before you get mad at me. His name is Elder Jason Jerman (pronounced like German. Yes, it's hilarious. The members loved it!), he is from American Fork, which means that I am now working with my first companion from Utah! He is also a little small, about 5' 8'' to 5' 9'', and he has brown hair. Do you really want to know how much he weighs? I don't know that! We haven't gotten around to discussing our weights yet, don't worry though, we'll get there. We get along pretty well, nothing super special. It has also been difficult because his German is essentially non-existent. He wants to speak German, and he wants me to always speak German to him, but I feel bad, because I know he is understanding about 15% of what I say. I've been trying to work on finding the right amount of German to speak, so that he can still learn, but so that we can still get to know each other and develop a relationship. 

Oh, so I have kind of big news. I guess Sven wants to be baptized on the fifth of April. Which is in like a week and a half, pretty crazy. He stopped smoking like 4 or 5 days ago. Just made the decision that he is done, and that he is ready to really make these changes. He has already started reducing the amount of alcohol that he drinks, and will be stopping that sometime this week too. He has been smoking and drinking for 30 years or so, so keep him in your prayers. We have been trying to have contact with him daily, to try and support him, and get him through this process. He got his date for the rehab this week, and that's why we set the date, because he wants to be baptized before he goes in. I think he's treating the therapy as the last step to getting rid of the alcohol. He also asked me to baptize him... So definitely pray for him a lot. He is also planning that when he gets out of this rehab, he will baptize his daughter. So things are going well with him.

Uuuhhhh. I was hoping you would forget to ask for that story, it wasn't as funny as I made it out to be, well, not through email at least, and I didn't want to have to try and explain it. Anyhow, so when we were teaching Philipp the last time, right after we finished, Becky said, "Hey, we need to do a practice of the baptism!" And so her dad and Philipp stood up, and then her dad was demonstrating how Philipp would need to bend his knees, and he held on to Philipp and did it, and it was just hilarious, it looked a little scandalous, like maybe some thing a stripper would do... but it was just hilarious. Her dad is super funny. Philipp is still doing great, he was telling Sven at church yesterday about how praying and going to Church are so much more meaningful now that he is baptized,. it was great to hear, just hearing him list all of the blessings from his baptism was super cool.

This week I got a letter from Alicia Myers, and like 5 cards too. It was on Tuesday or so when I got those, so right before Elder Buck went home, I had to apologize for those cards to him... I am pretty sure he was a little bitter in Christmas time when I got like two or three of those things daily, haha.

But yeah, other than that this week was pretty great, we did a lot of work, found a few potential investigators, and just worked hard. Our branch president also surprised me with a talk on Friday, and so I gave a talk yesterday. I think this is the fourth talk that I have given in this ward, that's how you know that you have been in a ward for a long time, when you've given a ton of talks, haha.

I think that I sub-consciously really don't like change, because after this transfer I was pretty sad for a couple of days. My district, like I said last time, was destroyed, with only me and one other guy staying, and that was also hard, because we were super good friends. Now I have to learn a whole new district, and that makes it hard to plan district meetings. Anywho, I'm getting used to it. Oh, I guess there was something else cool that happened this week, so one of my best friends, Alicia, her roommate just came into my district, and so that was pretty cool, a nice coincidence.

Anywho, I think I'm going to call it here, hopefully that will give you enough information to satisfy you for the next week.

Elder Merkley

This is the info sheet that was introducing Andy to the missionary he would be training (Elder Jerman). The Mission Secretary filled it in and, in Andy's words, "took a few liberties" with his information. It sounds like that Mission Secretary has a sense of humor!

Heilbronn: March 18, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

Well. This week was pretty good, we have been having a ton of eating appointments because everyone wants to say goodbye to Elder Buck, who will be flying home on Friday. Maybe I explained badly what will be happening, because it kind of sounded like you believed that I was getting a new companion this week? 

I got the call this week, which I guess brings me to what happened. Well, I still don't know who my new companion will be. I guess I'll be training next transfer...(You called it, Mom) That could very well mean 6 transfers in this area, as the normal segment of training is 2 whole transfers. So I don't know exactly what will happen, but somehow I will be picking up my new Golden on Thursday, and then will be spending forever on Friday in meetings. Oh yeah, I guess I'll still be District Leader too, which will be the fifth transfer in a row. My district got destroyed though. We were all super great friends, and the only person who will be staying is Elder Thompson. Which is cool though, because we are super great friends, we really wanted to be companions at some point, but he is dying in just a few months, so we don't really think it will happen.

Umm, but I don't think I actually got any letters this week. Well, I did get that thing from the Birthday Bash, but I can't remember if that was this week or last week, whatevs.

The weather wasn't great this week. It snowed Monday until like Wednesday, and I think a little bit on Thursday too, but didn't really stay on the ground. It has warmed up a little bit now, and has been just raining for the last couple of days. I have heard that this winter wasn't ridiculously cold, but it was definitely not an enjoyable winter. I hope that next winter will be better, but I could still deal with it if it only got as cold as it did this year. But it also depends on where you are, I guess Heilbronn has warmer winters usually. Well, I think I will answer some questions now so that I can wrap this email thing up, cause I am already a little tired, and Elder Buck and I are going to go hang out with some members in a few minutes.

1. Philipp (I guess he spells it like this...) did receive the Holy Ghost yesterday, which was great. Right before Sacrament meeting started he asked Elder Buck and me to participate, which was a great opportunity. He is doing great, every week now he comes up to us and talks to us about setting up an appointment, we don't even have to talk to him.  It was great seeing the change with the Dreadlocks and everything, to nice short hair, and really clean cut looking.

2. Sven and his gang are doing great. He told me this week that he and his older daughter will be getting baptized on the same day. The when is still the question, but he should be finding out this week when he can go in to the program, and he got a letter last week telling him that everything was good, and that he is definitely in.

3. Unfortunately we didn't see that much success in the way of finding this week. We met with this one new guy, Dominic, who is actually pretty promising, we should be calling him in the next few weeks to try and make out an appointment with him. The lesson with him was way good, we really felt the Spirit leading it. We did however, have a good lesson with Kirstin this week, and we think we finally found her concern, it is about authority. She says that if she was to be baptized then she would acknowledge that her baptism, and by extension, the baptism of her family wouldn't be valid anymore. Definitely a valid concern. We will be studying that this week and trying to alleviate that concern the next time we meet with her.

4. Every time we have a lesson with Kirstin there are members there, but it is really hard to use members a lot. They work a lot, and a lot of them live like 20 or 30 minutes away, and so it is difficult to ask them to come to appointments when you're not sure if the appointment will really happen or not. 

This week we had a good meeting with our Ward Mission Leader, and as a result, I have been thinking a lot about what we can do differently here. It has become obvious to me that all the streeting and dooring we have been doing isn't really leading to much success. I have been thinking about how we can work better with the members to see success through them. It would be all about training the members to be missionaries themselves. Our GML was talking all about how he did this in Brazil, and in his ward, the membership doubled, and then they tried it in the whole mission, and the active membership also doubled. I am really excited to be giving that a try this next transfer or two.

Anywho, I guess that's that. Love you guys! Thanks for being the best fam-bam ever!

Elder Merkley

TAUFE!! (Translation: "Baptism!!"). Heilbronn: March 11, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam, 
Time is again short, as we had our District Pday today, but I will try to write down everything that happened this week, which will be difficult, because there was a lot. 
First off, Phillip was baptized yesterday!!! (See included picture [From Daniel: I'm sorry, but the picture didn't work for me, so I am not able to include it in the blog]) The baptism was great, there were no problems, and I don´t know what else you want to know... it went just perfectly. We were talking to him after, and he said that he really felt the Spirit during the meeting and everything. He and his wife are just super great. 
I guess that after that anything else is kind of just boring... well, I will still try to tell you a little about my week. So Monday was super great, we had Zone Olympics, and I won two Gold medals, I was pretty much the Micheal Phelps of our Zone. The Sisters in our district just planned it really well, and everyone participated great, and so it was a ton of fun. On Tuesday we had Zone Conference, and then an Austausch with the Zone Leaders, which was also super fun. 
The weather this week was almost Springy! There were a couple of days where we were able to work without a coat, and we almost didn´t need the suit jacket, but then today it turned winterish again, with a really nice cold rainy drizzly thing going on. So I guess winter isn´t quite over like we had hoped. 
Umm, yeah, I guess my birthday is coming up. Wow, I don´t really want to turn 20. That sounds so much older than 19! I use that as a crutch right now, I tell everyone that I´m still a teenager, and that they should just cut me some slack, but once I`m 20 that won`t really work! Umm, I actually thought about it a little this week, and I was thinking maybe you could send me a small PMG (Preach My Gospel), they have those now, and maybe a good frisbee? I was thinking that it could be fun if I got a companion who liked to play, we could play for morning sport. 
Sven couldn`t come to church yesterday because he got sick, but his two daughter still came. We are trying to talk to him about them, but he keeps saying that they aren´t ready for baptism. The oldest, Xenia, is 11, and I may have to agree with him about her, because she couldn´t answer the question, ´why do you want to be baptized´, which I think is a pretty important part of being baptized, haha. But yeah, we visited him last night, because he also cancelled our appointment, and gave him cookies, but we have another appointment this week, so hopefully everything will work out. 
This week we didn`t have a ton of lessons, only 2, which was yeah, not great. We should have had a lot more, but there were just a lot of different misunderstandings, and we had one day where we should have had two appointments, and both of them fell out, leaving us the entire day to do whatever we want... Which wasn´t exactly what we wanted. This next week should be great though, a ton of members came up to us and invited us to come over to eat, and so with them and our investigators, we have one or two appointments every day. 
Sorry time is way short. Got to get going now! Next week I can tell you who my new companion will be! 
Elder Merkley

Heilbronn: March 4, 2013


This week was really great, the sun even came out the last couple of days!! I think that a new statistic or study or something came out in the last few weeks, because all of the members have been telling us how this winter has seen the least sun in the last 60 years or something. I don't know if I have mentioned that, but the weather has been super super dreary. Just cloudy and gray every day. But! The sun came out, and I have just been loving it! I got a letter from Sister Whitworth this week, which was great, she also included a a few pictures in there, which I loved. You should take that for an example, pictures are nice. Also, when is Tanner putting his papers in? I really want to know when he is planning to go on his mission!

That one day with the five appointments was good, but one of them fell out, and then we had to change one of them to another day, so we only had like two or three...but! Herbert Krause became an investigator. He's really involved in his Church, and has already read a little in the Book of Mormon (this was actually the second time when we met with him). We hope that he will be able to find out that it is true, but he is very busy, so our next appointment is in two or three weeks. We also met with this super cool young couple, but they wanted to bible bash a little bit. And I just kept saying. Hey. Just pray about it! It was still good, but we don't have a return appointment. Definitely will be giving them a call this week though, we'll see what happens there.

I will now answer some questions from Father, and then I will have to wrap this email up. We've got a Zone Pday today, and so time is definitely something that is lacking.

1. Phillip is doing soooo great. Ahh, I just love Phillip and Becky so much. Yesterday we went to a different area where their parents live, and gave the last lesson to a group of about 11 people, which was great. Especially when we came to the Law of Chasity... but no, it really was super spiritual, and like two hours long. Then they had to drive us back to Heilbronn, and we just chatted on the way back. They're super cool, and super fun to talk to.

Sven is doing super great too, we actually didn't have an appointment with him this week, because he has been super busy, but he did come cook at our district meeting, which was also great. He's a really great cook, and he also may be making Elder Buck and me a cook book as a present...

2. I just can't tell funny stories on demand! If I have them, then I tell them, if not, then I don't. Well, sometimes I just forget to tell the funny stories...

3. This week was actually Stake Conference, so only Phillip and Sven came to that. But Bashir promised to come next week, and he wants to bring a friend too, so hopefully they will both come.

4. I love this ward so much. I really think that I have a great relationship with them. I definitely feel like I belong here, like I am just a part of the ward. There isn't really that weird missionary barrier with most of the members, we're just friends.
Also, my district and I are really good friends too. They just call me 'Leader' nowadays. I think that started three or four transfers ago, and I guess if they talk about me when I'm not around, they only call me Leader, it's actually super funny, even though it may be a little bit against the white handbook...

Ok, I think I'll call it for today. Thanks for being the best family ever, and for emailing me so often! Also, I knew it was your birthay Father! I tried to send a card last week, but then I didn't put enough money on it, and so I had to send it a little later than I wanted, but you should get it soon!

Elder Merkley