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Monday, June 17, 2013

Passau: June 17, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

So, my new companion is Elder Barker, from Springville, Utah.  He is already 21, and is turning 22 in a couple of months.

Passau is really different. It is funny that you had aleady heard about it, Mom. And yeah, the flooding here was RIDICULOUS. The water was still a couple meters high when I got here, but most of it was done. I think in total the flooding was around 13 meters high. The whole old city was underwater, and tons of people lost everything, because it happened so fast and it was so unexpected. And yes, I have definitely had opportunities to serve because of it. Saturday I served around nine hours with some members of the ward, and other missionaries, and then today we went and served another four hours. So much water. And I have been super sore recently.

The branch is just as small as we had expected, on Sunday as church was starting, there were thirteen people in the room. Four of them were full-time missionaries.  The Sagmeisters are really cool. Our ward mission leader is a Sagmeister, and has been back from his mission for around 6 months or so. One of the Sagmeister boys, Johannes, already has his mission call, and will be reporting in a month to go to the Leeds (Is that how you spell that?), England Mission. His little brother already has his papers in too, and should then be leaving during summer at some point too. That is awesome for them, but will be a significant blow to the ward, as they lost 2 of their 14 active members. But the branch is super cool, a ton of them came to me after I had introduced myself and told me that I spoke German almost without an accent, which was really nice. I am the oldest missionary in our ward right now. One of the Sisters is a Golden right now, and the other one has been out for like 6 months, so maybe they just missed the accent by comparison...

As for working with less-actives... we don't even have a ward list yet.  We are literally starting from scratch. We have absolutely nothing to go on right now. When we got to the apartment, we found our new area book, which was awesome. It was a half-inch white folder. The tabs that organize it were there too, all nice and still in their package. And there was nothing inside. All we have done for the last few days is streeting! We have found 2 potential investigators so far, but to be honest, I am unsure what kind of potential they have. This is going to be super hard, just starting from nothing.

So we are essentially just sharing the area with the Sisters, who are both really cool. If we can't find a joint teach, which is super hard because of the small amount of members, then we can have the other companionship come with us. If we want to give people to them, then we can do that, but for the most part President Miles has said that when we find someone, we are often led to them for a reason, like we are supposed to be teaching this person. So we are not required to give up our female potentials to them. We'll see how we do it though, because we still need to sit down with the Sisters and the ward mission leader and decide how we can organize this.

Our apartment is really nice, it is known as the Passau Palace. I think the Sisters took the new one because it is nicer, but not neccessarily bigger. We have a really nice look over the Donau river (I forget, is that spelled different in English? the Danube), and it is a good size. It doesn't even really have that dirty missionary apartment feeling like the most do!

Oh my word, Bayerish is so difficult to understand! The first night as we were streeting, I asked like three people, can you please speak High German with me? I'm American. It was ridiculous. It has already gotten a lot better, but the first time I heard it, I just thought, that's not Schwäbisch! Which is the dialect they speak in Heilbronn. I haven't really seen any cultural differences yet, just been noticing the dialect differences right now, haha. And yeah, we are ridiculously close to Austria. Where we were serving today was less than 500 meters from the Austrian border. But I think that Austria isn't actually a part of our boundaries, so I don't think we'll be getting there, which is unfortunate. Who knows? Maybe I'll never make it out of Germany! (Austria is part of the Alpine mission -rgm)

And no, I can't use facebook right now. I meant more for after the mission that it will be nice to be able to keep contact with him and with other members of the Heilbronn ward, whom I am going to miss with my whole heart. I really loved that branch.

That's crazy that Kevin is already home from his mission! Wow, how the time flies, am I really the next one to come home? That is still so far away, it's kind of funny how big of a gap there is between the missionaries in our ward.

I really don't know what else to report. We don't have any appointments this week and we will be doing therefore a ton of finding. So pray for me that I will have the strength to talk to everybody.  I have been trying to help my comp talk to more people, and yesterday we set a goal that he would talk with 16 people, and he did it, it only took about four and a half hours. . I know that everybody has different strengths and weaknesses, and he definitely has strengths. For instance, he is a great cook, and really enjoys cooking food for us, which I really appreciate.

The Sisters in this area are great. I have been calling them like 15 times a day to ask them questions about the area, about how to do certain things, how to go certain places, and everything. They have been extremely helpful, and even made us dinner on the first night we got here, because we didn't have any food in the apartment. One of them was in my district for a couple of transfers back when I was district leader, and so it is fun to come and work in the same area with her now. 

Life is still good. I am happy, and am excited for what this next transfer will bring. I am stressed because of having to start this new program, but I think it will be good, just a ton of work is all it will take to get things moving. I don't know. Just pray for me that I will be able to really  love my companion, because I think that is going to play a huge role in how this next transfer goes.

Oh, but a cool story before I go. This morning, when we were going to serve, we were in a bit of a rush, and I had the feeling that I should put a Book of Mormon in my bag, just in case. We weren't going to go streeting or something, we were wearing normal clothes and everything, and I almost didn't, because I didn't want my bag to be too heavy, but then at the last second I did. Then while we were eating lunch we were talking to the guy we were serving, and he asked a few questions about our Church, and so then I went to my bag, took out the Book of Mormon, and gave it to him, explaining that I had brought it to him. It was really cool, and a super normal way of giving a Book of Mormon away, I was really happy with it, and I am super grateful that I listened to that feeling to put the book in my bag.

Well, I love you all. Keep being awesome, and yeah, the Church is true, and missions are good.

Elder Merkley

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