It sounds like you are having a ton of fun on your vacation! I'm a little jealous about this drive to Chicago, only because I barely remember the last time we did that drive. I remember Liberty Jail, but I have no recollection of Winter Quarters.
The weather this week has been alternating between ridiculously hot, and only mildly hot. As your wrote though, the last couple of days have been a lot cooler. This week we have actually been starting off almost every day with a jog, which I have been really enjoying. When you have somewhere beautiful to jog then it makes it a lot more fun. Here in Passau we have the most beautiful run in the world. We run to what is called 'die Spitze', which is the point of Passau, where the three rivers all meet together, and it is just amazing. The sun is just starting to peek over the hills (where a nice palace is), and when we get to the very point we always see something interesting. This morning I saw some guy doing yoga by himself. I think it was yoga. There was definitely a mat, and a lot of stretching and bending. Anywho, it has been a ton of fun.
Things with Elder Barker are still going well. His German has made slow improvements, and I think this week probably a little more. President Miles told us that we could have more than an hour of language study, so that he could learn faster, and so I've been taking the time to straight up teach him grammar principles. It's been difficult, I don't think this kind of stuff comes naturally to him, but I hope we're making progress.
Speaking of language studies, we and the Sisters here have been starting to have some language studies together too. It's kind of weird, but I am now by far the oldest missionary in my district. By a solid six months too! Yeah, so we've been studying together to try to help each other learn faster, which has actually made language study a lot more fun than it normally is.
It's still good being District Leader, nothing really new to report there. We have a total of four Elders in our district, three sisters, and then one senior couple. So it is a little bit bigger than what I am used to, but not too much different. I do feel like I am a little bit better qualified now, having actually had some mission experience now, haha.
I have heard that the next group of missionaries won't be as big as the last three or four groups, but should still be somewhere around 15-20, which would have been a huge group about a year ago. So yes, I think the mission is still growing. In fact, we have about 250 missionaries or so in our mission. I feel like these newer missionaries are really just as well prepared as the older missionaries. I think the difference is really easier to see in the Sisters, because the difference between 19 and 21 is pretty significant. You can just kind of tell that they are not as experienced as the older Sisters, and yeah, I think that difference is a little more noticeable.
The ward is still good, but as for support... yeah, I wouldn't say that they are not supportive, but we kind of feel like there is a barrier between us and the members. We really only have contact with most of the members on Sundays. The Stake President was here yesterday and gave this amazing talk though, about how the members and the missionaries really need to work together. It has actually answered our questions, because we have been talking with the Sisters, and trying to figure out what we could do to bring the ward together and really make a change. The answer to our questions really came in an experience that he related. He told us about his great-grandmother and how she was baptized and how all her kids were baptized too. After a while the tiny little branch she was baptized in became the strongest ward in the Stake because of all her descendants. That is something that we had discussed, was the need to find another family. So that story really answered our question, and on Tuesday I think we will be fasting together for that.
So. We did have a relatively funny and awesome experience this week. We went by on somebody that had told us to come back, and her husband actually answered the door, wearing only his tighty whities (things started off on the right foot), and he invited us in right off the bat, excusing himself for his clothing, or rather the lack thereof, the entire time. He then put on a robe, and brought us some milk and some food to eat. We sit down and are just chatting, talking about our religion and his religion-he's a Buddhist who still believes in Jesus Christ and his role in saving mankind-when he then gave us 50 Euro. We tried to say no, but he got a little aggressive, and said, 'Bitte!!' a few times very strongly... so we took it, haha. And then we gave him a Book of Mormon and he made us write our names and a quick message in it, and as he put the book down next to his phone, he looked at it and his phone and started to say something, but then cut himself off and said, no, I'm not going to say that. I insisted that he did, and so he told us how he felt that the book had more power than the phone did. We bore our testimonies of that of course, although inside I did have the thought come across my brain that you can get the Book of Mormon on your phone... Anyway, sorry I'm kind of rambling, but here's the real funny part. The next day we were having a finding day here in Passau, and the Sisters ended up dooring into him. He was only wearing his underwear again. Give the guy a break though, it was pretty hot. Anyway, I guess he just cut them off, went inside and then showed them the Book of Mormon, with our names written on the inside cover, and told them that we were faster than they were, haha. He is going to Africa or something next week (right after his back surgery...), and so we don't have a return appointment, but we have his number and are hoping to set something up when he gets back.
I got a letter from you, Mom, but I haven't received a recipe for Cinnamon Rolls yet, which I was sad about. I think I want to add Oatmeal Pancakes to the list of recipes that I want, because those things are delicious, and even though I have realized that I don't like big sweet breakfasts anymore I think that would be a perfect lunch one day. I have actually been losing weight here in Passau; I think because I established my reputation pretty fast as a small eater with everyone, and so it is a lot easier to eat less than normal. I'm not as skinny as I was at BYU, but I am still like 10-12 lbs lighter than I was at my heaviest both at home and on the mission.
Well, that's that. Love you all!!