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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Passau: October 28, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

Anyway, this week has been pretty good. I actually saw Elder Barker real quick on Tuesday, and I would guess that they are doing pretty well. I think Elder Barker would be able to get along with everyone alright, except someone who is just outright mean, I don't think he could deal with that. Elder Niedens is anything but mean, so I think they should be able to get along alright.  

There has actually been a lot going on in the District this week. The Andersons, who are the Senior Couple, had a tragedy in their family, where their daughter-in-law, who is 33, died. So they decided instead of going home in five weeks, they will be going home this Thursday, so I've been calling them a lot and trying to help them prepare to go so unexpectedly. That has been pretty hard on them, and they have been rushing around trying to get everything taken care of. Beyond that the new Elder in Landshut was actually the one who was trained by Elder Szvoboda last year right when I left Offenburg, so we have been having a lot of fun talking about Elder Szvoboda, and about Offenburg. We actually have an exchange this week, which I am really excited for. The new Sister here in Passau is really cool, too. So all in all the District is doing alright, with the exception of the Andersons' family emergency.

I actually do have an amazing recipe for Carrot cake, that Sister Anderson gave me, Mom. I've made it twice, and it is super delicious.

Carrot Cake

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups grated carrots (I actually put four, it makes it more moist)
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
1 cups raisins (optional. I would only put raisins in this cake if you want to destroy everything that makes it tasty. So the choice is yours, but if you do it, the cake will taste terribly. Choose wisely (don't do it))

Mix dry ingredients. Add oil. Add eggs one at a time. Add carrots and mix well. Bake at 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.


2 tsp vanilla
1 box powdered sugar (1/2 bag)
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 square butter (no idea how much that means, I've never actually put any in my icing, and it has tasted super good)
chopped pecans (I also haven't tried this out yet, so I don't know if it makes it taste better or not)

NOTE: If you want it to be healthier you can cut the icing in half, but then you don't have as much do it at your own risk.

Anyway, that one and then the Peanut Butter No-bake cookies would be the two I would like to have in your cookbook, Mom.

Anyway, I am actually really nervous for next transfer calls. I am going to assume that my next area will be my last area, and I also have conflicting desires. I would love to be able to go the area where Elisabeth lives too, do we know which area that is, btdubs? I would also love to have one area in Austria, and I would love to go to one of the areas where Daniel served, none of which were in Austria... so I don't know what I really want. I just want to know what is going to happen. I am also glad that I don't have to make the decision, I know Heavenly Father will show President Miles where I should go.

Yeah, on Tuesday we had interviews, which always happen during our District Meeting, the whole thing was super interesting for me. During the meeting, Sister Miles had to take a phone call, and she didn't tell me right then when she came back into the meeting, but afterwards she said, Elder Merkley, I just had a great chat with your dad! It was pretty cool. The whole time we were in Munich I made sure that my District was keeping a look-out, just in case we ended up running into Dad. But yeah, the interviews were really interesting because President Miles really had some interesting insight for me. I was telling him about a lot of the things that have been on my mind recently, and he had good feedback for each one. He interrupted me at one point and said very directly, 'Elder Merkley, you're a perfectionist!' I was really speechless for a second, because I had never thought about it before, but it's true. I think a lot of stress that I have comes from the fear that I'm not doing everything as well as I could be, that I'm not living up to my potential, or that I'm disappointing people. President Miles had a lot of interesting advice on the subject, along with advice on a couple of other subjects that I brought up.  The advice you gave was also really thought provoking, Mom. I think you are right. I think that may be a reason why my excitement is where it's at.

I did get those letters from the Keith Merks, Mom. Oh my word, the letter from Scotty was the funniest thing I have read in a long time! I could just hear him as he would be saying all those things he wrote. It was hilarious. I also got the note from Miss V, which was also a really nice surprise. Thanks for having her write me something! You're the best Mom ever!

Missionary work has been going alright this week. We actually gave out like three or four Book of Mormons in the last few days, which has been really enjoyable. It has been really fulfilling to get some good work done in the last couple of weeks.

As for relationship with Elder Nicoll, it's been alright. Nothing to get really excited about. We get along fine, we haven't really had any problems with arguments or anything, but I don't know. There also hasn't been a real click. We talked about it for an hour or so yesterday, because I don't want this transfer to turn into a waiting game. I don't just want to endure for another few weeks until one of us gets transferred. I have been focusing on praying that God will give me a piece of the love that he has for him, and have been trying to do a lot of service. I think this week that is something that you could pray for. That I can develop a real love for Elder Nicoll. I know Uncle Keith talks about his little PLOW thing all the time, and it is really true, Love is something really important in missionary work, and I really want to develop a real Christlike love for Elder Nicoll this week.

The members here are great. I really love them. I actually had the oppurtunity to give a talk on Sunday, which I think is the fourth time I have given one here in Passau, and I realized how natural it felt to stand up there and talk to them. I mean, the Sagmeisters were gone, as was Brother Müller, so I was only standing in front of about nine people, three of them being other missionaries, but the feeling was still there. I really enjoy giving talks now. Maybe that is why I have been in so many little branches, because I was thinking about it the other day, and I think I have given between 10-15 talks in the last 16 months, which is something I would not have been able to experience if I was in big wards all the time.

Pristhood was a littler interesting though...our Branch President yelled at this crazy member from Austria while we were having the class. The guy was being kind of rude, and was interrupting and drawing us away from the topic, but yeah, Elder Niccol had a weird impression from his first Sunday.

Anyway, I love you all! Thanks for being such a great family!

Elder Merkley

Monday, October 21, 2013

Passau: October 21, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

Well, this week has been really crazy, and has gone by really quickly. I think I will just jump right into it. On Tuesday we actually had two eating appointments, because the members wanted to say goodbye to Elder Barker and Sister Regnier, who was also transferred. Elder Barker stayed in the Munich Zone, and actually went to Ingolstadt with Elder Niedens. You probably don't remember, but Elder Niedens was actually in my District when I was in Offenburg. He is about four months older on his mission than I am, and I think he was a completely inspired choice for Elder Barker's next companion. I can't think of a single other missionary who could do a better job. Sister Regnier was transferred into Graz, in Austria. It was really sad to say bye to both of them, and I feel like my friend group has been torn apart a little bit.

Speaking of which, it's funny that you were hanging out with the Jermans this week, because I was actually hanging out with Elder Jerman! We had Stake Conference this weekend, so I went up to a meeting on Saturday night, and then we all stayed in Munich at the Mission Home, and went to the meeting the next day as well. All the missionaries from our Zone were there, which was a ton of fun. Elder Jerman is actually District Leader in his district as well, so we got to see each other at some district leader training meeting we had before conference. I really enjoyed it. Stake Conference itself was also really great, the entire conference was devoted to missionary work. Our Stake President here is young, and is super motivated to do missionary work. He had three full-time missionaries give talks, in addition to President and Sister Miles. He also had all the missionaries in our Zone stand up and sing in a Choir in the Sunday session of the conference. I really enjoyed the Saturday Evening session, I think it may be one of the most spiritual church meetings I have been to in a long time.

Letters... Hmm, I actually got that one from the Merks a couple of days ago, and I got one from Sheridan that she sent three months ago. Apparently she sent it to the wrong address, so it took a while to find its way to me, haha. I also got a letter from my friend, Madeleine, whom I met at BYU.

So my new companion, Elder Niccol (please note my spelling error, he spells it two cs and one l), is from Lehi, Utah. It's actually kind of funny, because Elder Niedens trained him, and now I'm working with him, and I trained Elder Barker who is now working with Elder Niedens! Elder Niccol can speak pretty darn good German, he's been out on his mission for about a year, and can really communicate pretty well. I had decided that I only wanted to speak German with him, and it has actually been a bigger adjustment than I had thought. I think it is because Elder Barker only spoke English with me, and we usually spoke English in the apartment, and now sometimes I just forget that I want to speak German all the time. I have learned a ton of new words in these last few days though, mostly because I am used to telling stories exactly how I want to, because I can do that perfectly in English, and now I try to do that in German, and I am now learning all the cool words that I had never learned before. Words like Stoffwechsel or vornehm, or bekömmlich. They are really awesome words. We have been getting along pretty well, so far. I don't think that we will be having any problems with that. He seems to also want to work hard, and so I am looking forward to the work that we will be able to get done in the next transfer.

As for staying in Passau for another transfer, I think it is right. Like I said, I feel like there is a lot more that I can get done here, and if nothing else, I love the members here, and so I am happy that I can stay one more and spend a little bit more time with them. However, I will be honest, I hope that I get transferred after this one. Only because I only have four complete transfers left, and if I stay another one in Passau, then I will only have three in my last area, and I don't want to only spend three in the area where I will be able to build up relationships the best, because of the reduction of the language barrier. I actually would love to go somewhere that Daniel was for my last area, so that we could meet some of the same people. They actually just sent two new missionaries into Ulm, so now they have four Elders there.

Anywho, I can't believe that Scotty is going on his mission!! That is so cool that he has the opportunity to serve! I hope he has a great time.

Mom, yes, I got your letter with the talk in it. You actually forgot to put in the entire talk, there were only a couple of the pages in there, but don't worry, I still know the talk, because I have been studying every talk out of that last conference. I love that talk too, and I think it is way inspiring.

Andrej has been doing alright. Elder Niccol and I had an appointment with him on Thursday, which is the first night after transfers, and it went pretty well. We focused on what Andrej's part is to be able to receive an answer to his prayers. We were a little disappointed, because he hadn't prayed at all, but he had done his reading, so that was great. We will be meeting again with him in a couple of weeks, and will be following up with his efforts to read every single day.

Gogo... We had an appointment with him about a week and a half ago, where he forced another 50 Euro on us, gave us dinner, and then essentially told us that he doesn't plan on joining our Church. I was really sad, especially since he had read the Book of Mormon all the way until Moroni 6 or so. It was a great time, and I think we will try to stop back there again in a couple of weeks, but it sounded like he is a little closed off to our understanding of God's character. I hope that after he reads the promise in Moroni 10 though, he will come around... we'll see.

We actually had a pretty interesting experience this week. So we talked to this guy and his wife on the street on Friday and got his information. His name is Amaechi, and he is from Nigeria. We went to his place on Sunday to teach him and his wife. When we got there he led us into a room where there were three other guys from Nigeria. So we started teaching all of them, and unfortunately we had only brought one Book of Mormon with us, but we committed them all to read in it and pray about it. They asked a ton of questions and we spent a good amount of time explaining various concepts to them.  It was a lot of fun. We are planning on going back in about a week or so, where we hope to get them all Book of Mormons. I'll let you know as soon as something changes there.

Anyway, but we actually saw a good amount of success this week. We had almost no time to find, and yet we still found people while we were on our way to appointments and stuff, it was fun. I actually have been having fun with Elder Niccol. He actually reminds me a little bit of Elder Buck, in the way he talks and stuff.

Other than that I don't know what else there is to report. Life is good, I'm still having fun, and hopefully I will still learn a lot during this next transfer. I really want to focus on learning to judge myself by my own and the Lord's expectations in the next six weeks. Sometimes I feel like I develop my own opinion of myself based on what other people expect or want of me, and that is something that I am trying to get rid of. So that is potentially something else that you could pray for.

I love you!

Elder Merkley

Monday, October 7, 2013

Passau: October 7, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam, 
This week has been a lot of fun, and has gone by really quick. I guess I should comment on the weather, because Dad remarks on it every week, and I feel obligated to show that I really read his emails. Yes, fall has been setting in, which is making me sad. I don't like waking up when it is dark! It is so much better to wake up to the sun!! Also, I don't think I have ever told you, but both my pairs of Eccos have been worn through. One of them to the point where the bottom is really falling out, and the other only has a crack in it. I thought I could get the second one repaired, but I went by a shoe repair place today, and he told me it was done. I wouldn't care that much, except that when it rains my feet get wet, and I imagine that it won't be that different with the snow. So I might need a new pair of shoes to get me through my mission, which I'm sorry about, because I know how expensive these shoes were... As for other things I need, I hope that my coat will be big enough for this winter. It is more just like a thick jacket, but it got me through my last winter just fine, but if I am in a really cold place I may have to buy a new one. I would rather not though, and I actually just want to wait and maybe buy a cool normal person one before I go home. 
Which brings me to your first question, Father. I think I could maybe use another couple of things of deodorant, and I can't think of anything else right now. You come next week, right? I'll think about it and let you know. Also, just to let you know, next Sunday, as in two weeks from yesterday, is Stake Conference, so if I don't get transferred I will also be in Munich on that Sunday, which is pretty crazy, I know. 
Elder Barker has been doing pretty well, he has been speaking more German with me, which I am really happy about. It is still not to the point where we want it to be, but we are still working on getting better at it. I do feel really good about the time that we have spent together. I think it has been really necessary for my own personal growth. I have been really pleased with my progress in the last few months, I feel like I have learned a ton about myself and about other people in general. It has been a very interesting experience. 
We actually did find an investigator this week. His name is Andrej Schmidt, and is a Russian-German, meaning that he is German originally but was born in Russia and speaks German with a Russian accent. He is about 30 years old, and we actually found him through the Area Book. We talked to him a lot about prayer, and we should be meeting with him again on Friday.  On that same night we should also be meeting with Gogo, whom we talked to a couple of days ago. We set up the appointments one right after the other so that we can hopefully get members to come to both of them. 
This actually reminds me, we had a finding day in Landshut a few months ago, and another Elder and I talked to this guy, who gave us his information. He became an investigator for the Landshut Elders, and actually ended up accepting the invitation to be baptized. He is African and is from Rowanda. Anyway, yesterday when I was in Landshut for General Conference, I had the oppurtunity to interview him for his baptism, which was a really neat experience. It was cool to see how well he knew the gospel, and to really see that he believes in it all too. It was just a way uplifting interview. 
I was also really uplifted by conference this week. I really focused on preparing myself for it during the last six months, and I made sure that I read each talk from the last one, and read a good amount of them more than once. I learn even more being able to read it, and write down my thoughts and feelings without having to worry about missing more wisdom. I would love it if you could send me a copy of the conference Ensign, but you don't necessarily have to, because I could potentially just order myself one from, and then you don't have to pay the extra money to send it all the way from America. I enjoyed every talk, especially the one from Elder Dube, and Elder Bednar. They spoke such great words of wisdom. President Utchdorf gave one that really made me thoughtful, I can't wait to read that again. Oh, that reminds me, just so that you know, every conference when they do the sustaining of the officers of the Church, the Germans always snicker when they hear how they pronounce President Utchdorf's middle name. They do use a really strong American accent, haha. 
As for your question, Dad, we were able to watch every session but the last. We actually had to miss a portion of President Monson's talk, as we had to leave early in order to get our train back to Passau. Other than that we saw every session. Sunday was a long day though, because that is the day when we watch three sessions, and I don't know about you, but after six hours of trying to concentrate I have a very slow mind. I wasn't getting as much out of the last session, just because I was having trouble focusing. That's why I am really excited to be able to read them, because I always get more the second or third time. 
Another cool thing that happened this week was that I got a package from Aunt Tami!! I swear it was one of the coolest packages I have ever received! She put some of my favorite candy in there, a couple of ties, and two of the coolest games ever. One of them was a Trivial Pursuit game, and I have already been going through and just quizzing myself, I actually need to get some more cards, because I have had the package for about three or four days, and I am already about three-fourths of the way through the cards.
 I had forgotten how much fun Trivial Pursuit it. I have been telling everyone about how Kimmie and I are the Dream Team, and always win. 
Tim and Tam are expecting a baby?! What? That's so cool! I was starting to wonder when they would have their next baby. And it's in May too, that's pretty awesome. 
Mom, you know that when we write letters to our siblings, it's not that we don't want you to read it, rather we want to be able to write super honest letters to a single person, and if we know that someone else is going to be reading it then we can't be quite as honest. Don't fret too much, just be happy that we like each other. 
Elder Merkley

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Passau: September 30, 2013

"Im Dorf" translates to "In the village"

Dearest Fam-bam,

Well, this week has been pretty eventful. The weather has been pretty indecisive, staying in cooler temperatures, which has been really difficult for me, because I don't have a good in-between jacket. I just hope that it either warms up or that it starts snowing. That's not actually true, I'm actually really afraid of the snow. Elder Barker was also feeling pretty sick, and so we had to go a lot slower for a good portion of the week than we would normally go, but things are more or less back to normal now. He even had to go the Doctor's while I was away on an exchange, and they diagnosed him with high blood pressure. I guess in addition to that though he has been feeling pretty dizzy, had shortness of breath, and even some pains in his chest, so he spent a lot more time sleeping this week than he normally does.

This week was pretty good, in spite of Elder Barker's sickness and everything that happened in connection with that. I had an exchange with one of the Zone Leaders (I actually met this guy when he announced his call in our Book of Mormon class. He's like 6'6'', which is a little bit taller than me) in Munich, and we were walking by a park where we saw two men who were playing ping pong. They have these metal tables in essentially every park here in Germany, it is way awesome. I told Elder Root that we should go challenge them to play, and then teach them after. After watching them for a second he said, Can you take them? I'm not that good...  I was super confident when we were far away, because let's be honest. I'm pretty good at ping pong. Especially when we're talking about street ping pong. I can take a couple of ruffians any day. I got a little worried as we got closer, because they looked pretty good, but I challenged the winner.  It was actually a lot easier than I had expected. Even after having not played for around a year and a half I beat him 21-12, and I was wearing a tie. It was so awesome though because they asked me what I was doing here, and I explained about the Church, and that I was a missionary, and then I talked to them about the Plan of Salvation and gave them a pamphlet I had in my side bag.
Later that night, Elder Müller, who is the financial secretary, and I cooked dinner for the whole six man apartment. It was so much fun. Elder Müller is really cool, and we cooked really well together. I think I threw a picture onto  Dropbox. He's the one wearing the Lederhosen with his dress shirt. (See the picture below)

Elder Barker and I are doing really well. We are still getting along really well.
As for transfers, I really have no idea what is going to happen. I would assume that Elder Barker and I won't be staying a fourth together, I imagine that once a mission is probably enough for that sort of thing, but as to who is going to go where I couldn't begin to guess. Up to this point I have been leaning towards the idea that I would be leaving, and yet in some ways I have the feeling that there is still so much that I could do here, and that three transfers isn't enough to get everything done that I need/want to. Transfer calls happen a week from Friday, so I will be able to tell you two weeks from today what is going on. It's actually funny that Dad is coming on that Saturday to Munich, because on that Thursday before he comes we will have transfers, and so if I am transferred he will have to send that gel a little bit farther away. Oh, I will most likely know the missionaries of the ward you go to, you should tell me which ward next week you're thinking about going to (assuming you are able to), and then I can maybe even leave something with them for you.
We still have a great relationship with the branch, in fact, President Heumos gave us the combined class yesterday, and so the four missionaries ran the class. We actually talked about faith, and how to receive faith. It was pretty interesting, especially because it was also Lukas Sagmeister's farewell, he will be leaving on Thursday for his mission. The Sagmeisters and the ward will have two missionaries in the field at the same time. It's great, and yet it also kind of stinks, because our branch shrinks one more person. The Müllers did come back this week, which was awesome. It was really good to see them, and they got really excited when they saw that Elder Barker and I are both still here. It was just a good day at Church.

The ward list here in Passau isn't very long, and because we have to share the less-active work with the Sisters we don't typically spend a ton of time trying to contact less-actives. We have taken time to try and contact a few, and we have had a few lessons with one of them. We have even been able to get a member to come with us to him a couple of times, but working with the less-actives has been kind of difficult in this area.
Anywho, time is short! I love you all!
Elder Merkley

Andy cooking dinner with Elder Mueller