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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Passau: July 1, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam, 
This week has been pretty great. That is probably because, as Dad noted in his email, the weather was really enjoyable this week, maybe even a little bit on the chilly side. 
First off, I am glad that you are taking good care of Gideon, and not letting him suffer too much from the heat. I can just imagine that poor little guy sitting outside right by the door, panting up a storm. Speaking of dogs though, that's terrible that Aunt Tami's dog died. I'll be including her in my prayers this week. There's got to be something good coming her way soon, she has expereinced so many hard things recently. 
As for packages, I will be picking up one of them today, the second one hasn't come yet. But, do you want to know something really cool? I did get a different package this week! It was the only piece of mail we got (I think, I have bad memory), but on Wednesday or Thursday I got a package, and I had just assumed it was from you guys, but when I opened it, I saw a small card, and realized that it was written in German, so then I got a little suspicious... Anywho, do you remember Stefan Schmidt? The Priest that Daniel met and taught on his mission? I guess he just decided to send me a box, quite literally full of chocolate. It was just about the nicest thing ever, and I was super surprised by it. And the chocolate is also Swiss chocolate, so it tastes super good. 
As for teaching pool, we still don't have any investigators, but we did have a couple lessons this week, and wow, one of them was super super powerful. So in those letters you sent me, you had included this one random email from Michael Watking, about setting baptismal dates and using the first vision. As I read it, I was thinking about the first lessons that I have had, and I was just realizing how seldom I use the first vision on my mission. I decided I wanted to change that, so I brushed up on the first vision, and decided I would use it in our lesson that day. We had this appointment with this 17 year-old guy, whom we actually found through a presentation at a school. he just came up to us afterwards, and asked if we could meet another time. Anywho, so we went to the church building and had this lesson, and I tried that basic thing that Michael had described in his letter, and I recited the first vision. Holy crud. The Spirit was so strong there. I can't remember the last time I have felt the Spirit that strong. It was just such an amazing experience. I know this kid, Aaron, felt it too, and we even talked about it a little bit. He said he would be baptized when he finds out that it is true, which, if he really reads in the Book of Mormon, is only  a matter of time. Anywho, in the closing prayer he prayed that Heavenly Father would help him, because we had given him a lot to ponder about. One downside: he has finals for these next couple of weeks, and then he is going for for weeks into Italy and Croatia, so the next appointment won't be for a while. 
Yeah, so besides that awesome story we had a lot of fallen out appointments, and spent a lot of time finding as well. We have a few more appointments set up for next week, so we hope that something will come of that. 
The branch is pretty great here. There's not a lot of them, but they are pretty supportive. I would say that this one family, The Sagmeisters, are the biggest strength to the branch. The wife is the relief society president, the oldest boy, who got back from his mission about 6 months ago, is our GML, and now the next two boys both have their mission calls, and should be reporting to the MTC in the next month or two. They have invited us and the Sisters every week to eat, and they are our only eating appointment, which is already pretty good, though. They let the Sisters bring one of their investigators to our eating appointment last week, too. Yeah, it will be a big blow when both of those boys go on missions in a few weeks. We are starting an English class this week, and at least two or three of them will be coming to support us in that too. 
The Sisters here are super great, and we have been trying to stay coordinated with each other. We are doing the English class together, and have been both giving out fliers and trying to hype it up a little bit. I also tell them where we have been dooring, so that they can try to avoid dooring the same areas as we do. We actually have been avoiding dooring for the most part, though. We have been doing streeting. Which reminds me, I did see a part of this cool broadcast thing yesterday. Our branch president decided spontaneously that instead of having a normal sacrament meeting we should watch that, and it was great! Except that I had to translate for two hours, and let me tell you, the Apostles are extremely educated men, and have very large vocabularies. I won't lie to you, I don't have a huge German vocabulary. As in, trying to translate a translation of what the Apostles were saying, back into the original language was really mentally exhausting. Anywho, that's not important, I was reminded of this because one of the Apostles was explaining how when he was on his mission they used to just stop people on the street to talk to them about the Gospel, but about how in our world today that doesn't really work anymore. I wanted to yell, 'AMEN!' but I restrained myself. I've just only been in areas so far where finding is essentially the only thing we do, and I'll be perfectly honest, I start getting frustrated. I talk to people all day, I talk to every person I see, why am I not seeing more success? I also know that I am pretty good at it (not trying to brag, just being honest), as in, I'm not a robot, I have real conversations with people who will actually stop and listen, and yet somehow we still see very little success. I mean, I have spent hours and hours talking to people and trying to find investigators during the last three weeks. We have literally found none.  
Our mission is a lot bigger than it used to be. In fact, they just created a new Freiburg zone, and put the Zone Leaders in Singen, where Daniel served. But yeah, looking at where all the missionaries are, you can notice that they are putting more than one companionship into a ton of areas, mostly just the areas where the ward is big enough to support them, but I guess also a couple where they hope the missionaries can be an extra strength to small branches. I don't know if the whole mission feels like it, but I definitely feel the hastening of the work. The new missionaries coming in are really prepared, and are stepping up to the plate and working miracles. I have been impressed with the young Elders and Sisters. There is an 18 year old in my district right now, and he is super cool, and was super ready to come on his mission at 18. 
Things with Elder Barker  have gotten a lot better. I am SOOOO grateful that I was with Elder Jerman for the last couple of transfers, because that kid taught me all about how great service is. He would always pray that we could serve and love each other, and then he always would do little things for me, and eventually I started following his example and serving more. I was really excited to try and apply that with my new companion, and I have really been trying to serve as much as I can this week. It has really helped. I have also tried to be super patient and just try to help Elder Barker as much as possible. He was having a really hard time teaching, because of a lack of knowledge about the lessons, and also because of the language, and so we have been doing role plays ever day in comp study on the first lesson this week, and are planning on staying on it until we can teach it really well together. I have seen a ton of progress with him, mainly just in confidence. He has been teaching a lot more clearly this week.  I have also been trying to just have real conversations with him a lot more too, which has helped us to become more comfortable with each other. It's weird, because I am never angry with him at all, sometimes just...exasperated. But it is getting better, and I am learning to love him for his quirks. 
Holy Moly, I wrote a lot. I think there is a lot more I could write, but I still have other emails to write, and you probably would start getting bored...so, I love you all, and I hope you have a great week. 
Love,
Elder Merkley

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