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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Passau: November 25, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

This week has been really crazy, full of ups and downs, and just crazy stuff altogether. I think the craziest thing that happened was that we set a baptismal date with Andrej!!

Ok, so before I tell the story of how that happened, I need to give a little bit of background so that you can understand fully how insane it was. This year as a mission we have this goal to baptize 290 people. That is kind of crazy because last year we only baptized around 130-140. Well, we are sitting around 120 right now, and we only have a little bit of time left, so we fasted as a mission last week, and will do it again next Sunday, asking for miracles so that we can accomplish this goal. This week our Zone set like 6 baptismal dates. It was crazy! In the space of two days there were about five new dates set, and it was in the midst of all this that we had our appointment with Andrej. We actually didn't plan on setting a baptismal date with him, but we were in this lesson, and I just had the thought that unless he really sets a goal that nothing will ever change. He has met with missionaries a lot before, but has never made real progress. So we invited him to set a date for baptism so that he could test the Lord, and really show his faith. At first he was hesitant, but after a couple minutes of pretty intense testifying from both us and the Spirit, he agreed to set a goal for the 22nd of December. We were so stoked! We then set up a plan with him that we were going to have contact with him every day, meet with him at least twice a week, and he needs to come to Church. Guess what? He came to church!! I've been really praying that as he puts in his effort he will come to know that the Church is true.

Church was actually really stressful this week, but kind of in a good way. We had a total of five investigators come! We had invited a couple of the Nigerians in our lesson with them this week, and four of them ended up coming. Our lesson with them was actually really good, and we ended up using technology in it! I never dreamed that I would see the day when I was allowed to do things like this, but Elder Nicoll and I found a good Mormon Message during our internet time this week, and we brought it up for them on their iPad, and showed them it. I think we're going to try to download some onto a flashdrive next time, because the internet connection wasn't great, so we couldn't watch the whole video. Other then that though, the lesson went pretty well. They just have problems accepting anything that doesn't come from the Bible.  The Sisters also had someone in Church, so there were a total of six nonmembers, nine members, and four full-time missionaries at Church this week. The Sisters and Elder Nicoll taught an investigator class for the Africans, and I stayed in the Priesthood class with Andrej, and this guy Bernard, for whom I had to translate (he's from Africa too).

At Church I was privileged to give a talk, which went pretty well. I didn't feel super prepared, as in I didn't have my thoughts as well organized as I normally like to, but I think I was able to get my point across well enough. We actually had three different people translating during sacrament meeting, so it was a little disconcerting hearing the missionaries translate everything right after I said it. Today was actually a little bitter-sweet, because as I found out on Thursday, this will be my last Sunday here in Passau.

Yup. I'm being transferred. I got the call on Thursday morning, and the Assistant with whom I talked was being super obnoxious. He plays this game with every companionship where he beats around the bush profusely thanking you for your service in the area, taking the time to testify about how he's sure you have effected many lives there, and all this kind of crud. It's no wonder we had to sit around for three hours waiting if he does that with every companionship in the mission! Anyway, so I'm getting transferred to Austria! I'm going to an area called Klagenfurt, which is probably the biggest area, in geographical terms, in the mission. My new companion's name is Elder Krieger, and I think he is a little less than a year on his mission, and is from Salt Lake City. There are a couple more things I'm excited about. 1. It's a ward!!!! It's about sixty members, so it's not huge, but this is the first time that I have served in a ward, and I think it will be a big difference to Passau. 2. There are two other Elders in that area, and we will share an apartment! I have always wanted to be in a four-man apartment. There is also a senior couple in that area, so I'm pretty excited. There are some things that I am worried about, but I can't tell how it will be until I actually go there on Thursday, so I'm not going to worry about it too much.  This is the first time in over thirteen months where I won't be either training, District Leader, or both, so I'm looking forward to not having to have any of those kind of responsibilities, though, I'm really going to miss it if I'm honest.

Because of this transfer my week is going to be pretty crazy. There is a lot that I want to get done, and not a ton of time in which to do it. Today we are going to the Müller's house to cook together one last time, which I am way excited about. She is going to teach me how to make a incredibly tasty soup, I think. We also have Family Night tonight, which should be a lot of fun. Tomorrow we have my last District Meeting here, and then we are going to be meeting with Sogo, who is the guy who was baptized a couple months ago. Tuesday night we will be meeting with the Heumoses, with whom we will go to a Chinese Place (did I tell you that I like Chinese food now? I do. But still not raisins), and maybe ice cream, Sister Heumos knows that I love eating ice cream, haha. Then Wednesday there was a less active member whom I wanted to visit, and we have English Class. Then Thursday morning I'm gone into the unknown, into Austria. I had hoped to be able to meet with the Sagmiesters one last time as well, but they didn't come to Church this week, and I haven't actually been to their house in about five weeks, we only went once this transfer, which is pretty sad.

I will be really sad to leave Passau, because I really feel like I have had friends here. The members, the other missionaries, investigators, and just random people we see all the time walking around. I feel like I have friends here, and so it will be sad to have to leave them. I have enjoyed this transfer with Elder Nicoll, and will also be sad to leave him. I still wouldn't say that we are best friends, as in I don't feel like our personalities click to that level. But we are definitely friends, which is a feeling that I really like, and something that I really want to keep with my next companion.

Anyway, Mom, that's awesome about the Cook book, will I get one when I come home? I hope so. By the way, you never answered my questions about Christmas Presents. I'm going to assume that I won't have any time today, but what do you guys all want. I've already taken care of Daniel's, but other then that I'm kind of unsure what to get.

Well, fam-bam, I will hopefully be able to send you one more quick email before family night tonight, so that I can send you my new address, but because of time constraints I think I will close this email now. Know that I love you, and am very conscious of your support for me. Thank you!

Love,
Elder Merkley

Elder Andy Merkley
Marian Platzer str 2/1
A-9020 Klagenfurt 3

Austria

Monday, November 18, 2013

Passua: November 18, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

Sorry that I am writing a little bit later, but I am actually in Munich right now, and my whole Pday has just been kind of thrown off. We had to come into Munich today, because we have Zone Conference tomorrow, and there is a meeting for the District Leaders that starts at 9.30. In order to get there in time, we would have had to take a train at 6:45 AM, so that wasn't really an option. So I am actually writing in the Mission Office right now, which is kind of distracting me, because I am really good friends with the Mission Secretary, and so we keep taking breaks at intervals to talk with each other. It doesn't help that I know that he found out today what is going on with transfers, and that is what he is working on right now. I tried to get him to give me a hint, but he has a really good poker face, so I've got no hints for you guys, sorry!

This week has been pretty fun. I think the coolest thing that happened was a meeting we had in the Church on Thursday night. Bruder Sagmeister participates in some sort of Religious group which meets every five months or so, and this time they met in our church. It was really good that we had taken the day on Saturday to clean, because the Church really needed it. Anyway, so there were 23 people that came to this event, 8 of those people were members of our Church, and it was really great. There were people from the New Apostolic Church, the Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, Catholics, the Muslims, and Protestants. Brother Sagmeister gave an hour long presentation about our Church and our basic beliefs, and then there was an hour where people just asked questions about our Church. After this meeting everyone was invited to look around our Church and just kind of explore. It was so awesome! We had a ton of really nice conversations with people, and Brother Sagmeister actually gave everyone who came a CD from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I saw at least three people walk away with copies of the Book of Mormon in their hand, and a ton asked if they were allowed to come to our meetings. It was a really nice event, and I was really grateful to be able to be a part of it.

We didn't really use our emailing time this week. I think it is a great idea, but we are going to need some time in order to get it rolling. We first need to get some people to give us their emails, and I think that is just going to be a big attitude change. I think there will be a ton of people who are willing to give us emails, we just need to make this change and ask. I'll let you know if we start seeing success with it in the future. Also, just a side-note, the spell-check on this computer is in German, so if I am misspelling a ton of words, that's my excuse. Every word right now is coming up in red.

The drama in the branch has not improved at all. This sister has still not come to church, and some of the other members in the branch have been doing a lot of back-biting recently. I'm a little bit worried. I hope it will all straighten itself out, but I don't think I will be here to see it. I'll let you know if anything changes. I really love this branch, and I know they love me too. A couple of the members came up and were asking me about transfer calls, and they were getting scared when I told them that they are happening this week. If I do get transferred, I really will miss this branch, with all their funny idiosyncrasies (Did I spell that word right? Without spell check I am lost).

Now onto business. Yeah, we get 188 Euros every single month for food and all that kind of stuff. Normally people in Bayern just get 150, but we need to buy bus passes for Passau every month, and that costs 38 Euros. From that money we should buy our groceries, hair cuts, and that kind of stuff. We are actually allowed to order at least three tickets through the office every single week, and those cost a lot of money. Luckily the office pays for that, but I really do believe that we are one of the most expensive missions in the world, because there are some weeks, like this week, where we are probably using at least 70 Euro of traveling costs. Probably more actually. If we buy a ticket ourselves we can send it into the office to get it reimbursed so that we don't starve, haha.

We met with the Nigerians again this week, which was pretty good. The best lesson was actually when we met with this one guy, Vincent, alone. When a big group of people were there it was hard to concentrate and address the concerns of every individual person, but when Elder Nicoll and I were able to concentrate on just Vincent the lesson went really well. We taught him about keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. We wanted to help him understand the importance of going to Church. He said that he will go to Church this next week, and I feel like he is really planning on going, we already looked up all the Bus times and what not, so I hope that he will come.

Elder Nicoll is doing better again. We have been able to really work full-time again this week, which has been nice. We actually had a finding day this last Saturday, which was actually super exhausting. We doored for around 5 hours or something, and it was just a really long day. Elder Nicoll and I were both super tired and sore after it. I was on an exchange during it, and we hiked up this mountain to go visit some former investigators, and I am still feeling it in my calfs (PLEASE HELP ME, is that how you spell it when you are talking about your leg?). I was really walking around in pain today, not fun at all. We did find some potential investigators, but I don't know how much real potential they have, they were a little sketch when I tried to get a specific time we could come back on.

Other then that, there is not too much new... except that this guy whom we taught together with the Sisters one time came to Family Night on Monday, which was awesome, and then he called the Sisters on Tuesday and told one of them that he was in love with them, which wasn't as much fun. Yeah, the Sisters went and met him the next day, and had a DTR with him essentially, where they pulled the nun card, and he respected that, but said he can still love her in his heart. It was kind of creepy. Don't worry, he is still going to keep coming to Family Night though, and he is even going to bring dessert next week!

I can't believe that Christmas is coming already. It's been coming really fast. All the stores are starting to sell the traditional Christmas treats, whcih is awesome, because Christmas treats in Germany are so tasty!

I don't know what else to tell you, and like I mentioned earlier, I'm kind of distracted right now, so I think I will close this email here, sorry that it is a little bit shorter than normal, but I love you guys!

Love,
Elder Merkley

Monday, November 11, 2013

Passau: November 11, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

Well, this week has been different than almost every week so far on my mission. The biggest thing that was different was that Elder Nicoll almost died on Friday. Ok, I can just imagine how you gasped, Mom. He didn't really almost die, he just got really sick and we had to stay in the apartment all day. We had an exchange on Wednesday with the Zone Leaders, and on Thursday we were switching back, and since the train was kind of full Elder Nicoll and I didn't get to talk until we got back into Passau, which is about two and a half hours of travel time. Anywho, so we get there, and then I ask Elder Nicoll how he's doing...and he wasn't doing well.

We ended up having to cancel an appointment that night, and then he threw up that night, and I guess he threw up on a pretty regular basis during that entire night. So he ended up sleeping the entire day Friday, waking up at intervals to throw up or go to the bathroom. I barricaded myself in the kitchen and had personal study, and essentially killed time. It didn't take me long to go through our Area Book and try to contact people. I made a fancy lunch, read in the Book of Mormon, made No-Bake cookies, ate two or three dinners, and started making transfer predictions for the entire mission. (Speaking of No-Bake cookies. Mom, of course I know how No-Bake cookies are made. I have that recipe memorized. You skip the cocoa, and after you boil it you add 1 cup of peanut butter instead of half) Oh yeah, I also sewed up a pair of pants that were broken. I had a very full day. I was kind of looking forward to the day at the beginning, because I thought, sweet, I can just kind of relax today, and take it easy, but after like three or four hours of silence, and just sitting there I started to get a little antsy. Elder Nicoll decided to crash on our couch for some reason, where the music is... He also had a bowl of throw up sitting next to him for most of the day, and actually spilled that on the floor at one point. It was a little pathetic. Sorry, I know this is probably too much information.

The Sisters figured that I was freaking out, and so they got permission from President Miles to meet us in the Church on Saturday and clean. And that we did. We literally spent like 9 hours or so just cleaning the Church. We threw away bags and bags of trash, and really did a very good job of cleaning it up. It was fun, and yet by the end of the day I was really quite tired. 

Add to that Tuesday, where we had an eating appointment at the Müllers' house, and then spent most of the rest of the day helping them out, and we didn't get much traditional missionary work done this week. We still managed to give out a couple of copies of the Book of Mormon, and get some lessons in though.

Actually, something cool that I just found out today, is that we are finally going to be allowed to start using emailing as a way of contacting! They just sent us a list of new rules for internet use outside of Pday, and it looks like we are going to be able to spend an hour on the computer outside of Pday every week. It is not a huge amount of time, but considering that we haven't been able to do anything with internet up to this point I think it may be really nice. A lot of people don't want to give us a number or their address, and now we can at least get their emails and contact them that way.

Things with Elder Nicoll are still going pretty well. We're tight, I wouldn't say we're best friends or anything, but we get along fine. I feel like we are friends though, if not besties, we at least can have fun with each other, and so I'm happy about that. I really want to use these last few weeks of this transfer to really learn how to always look at my companion as a friend, so that I can apply that from the very beginning next time. I think that Bishop Whitworth's advice is really true, loving everyone is really the key to having an awesome mission, in terms of success and general enjoyment.

This transfer has actually gone really fast, and transfer calls will be next Friday. So I won't know what's happening when I write you next week, rather the week after. The actual transfer will be in two weeks from Thursday. Elder Nicoll and I both kind of think that I will get transferred, but I would love to stay another transfer here. I really feel like I have learned a ton here, and would love to stay.

You asked about the branch, and there has actually been a lot of drama going on recently, which is really too bad. I won't explain it exactly, but it could potentially result in the inactivity of a sister here. She hasn't come for two weeks in a row, and I was told she doesn't plan on coming for the next month, after which she will be gone on a trip for another couple of months. I'm really worried about it. The branch president's wife was talking to me a lot at church yesterday, she has been affected by it a lot. She looked really tired and not super happy. I don't know what is going to happen. It makes me super sad, because I have really learned to love this branch during the last couple of months. All the members here are so awesome, and I worry that this little spat will have far-reaching effects.

So on to lighter subjects, No. I have not purchased shoes yet. I think I am going to skip it. I tried some on today, and they were just super expensive. I am going to want to buy shoes before I go home, but I think I will do that right before I go, so that I don't have to worry about them being super comfortable or anything. I think I'll just deal with wearing the ones with holes in them when there is no snow on the ground, and when there is snow we could I can wear those boots that I bought last winter.

We actually had some teaching experiences yesterday, which was awesome. We had two appointments yesterday night, with the Nigerians, and with Andrej. The one with the Nigerians was actually a little frustrating. One of the guys, Joseph Peter, was having a really hard time accepting the Book of Mormon, and he eventually refused the commitment to read and pray about it. He explained to us that we need to teach from the Bible, not from the Book of Mormon. I think it was at that point that I pulled out my soap box, and climbed on up. There were about four or five guys in the room besides us, and I just gave some real testimony. I had been just praying to be able to speak with power, and I feel like my prayers were answered, because I just told them how I knew that both of these books contained the words of God. I promised them that if they really read in the book and prayed before we came again, they would know. Then I also told them that if they didn't I would wash my hands of any responsibility that I had to their eternal salvation, and would meet them at the Judgement Bar of Christ and tell them that I had tried to help them. I was really worked up, and really dug deep. At that point there were only two other people besides Joseph Peter (They were filtering in and out a little bit) in the room, and we committed them both to read in and pray about the Book of Mormon. We set up another appointment on Wednesday. The two main ones from this group are Frank and Vincent.

Our appointment with Andrej also went well, we actually got there soaking wet, because it started raining out of nowhere, and we didn't have our umbrellas with us. It was a little dangerous, because it was also pretty cold, but we didn't get sick, so I think we'll be fine.  Anyway, we talked with Andrej about the power of doing, and really helped him understand that he needs to do things. We're going to try to stay on him this week, keep more regular contact, and help him to really read and pray about the Book of Mormon.

Mom, I don't mention this enough, but thank you so much for your letters. Sometimes they do get a little bit rambly, but I love them regardless. It is great to just get a little something from home every week.

I love you all! Thank you for all your prayers and support!

Love,
Elder Merkley

Monday, November 4, 2013

Passau: November 4, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

This week has been a really good week. To answer your first question: yes, the Andersons got off ok. The Elders in Landshut helped them get onto the train on Wednesday, and they flew home on Thursday morning. As far as I know they are back in Utah. There will be about a month until the new couple arrives, because of the unexpected departure of the Andersons.

The weather has been starting to get a little bit colder. I have had to break out my winter jacket, which has been kind of annoying, because it's been at that kind of in-between temperature where you don't need the big jacket, but anything else wouldn't really be enough. Whatevs, I'll get through it. As for winter clothes, no I haven't bought any. I probably should buy a new pair of shoes because both of my pairs have holes/cracks in them, which wouldn't be very enjoyable if I was to walk through snow, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. As for jackets or anything like that, I think I am just going to use the same jacket I did last winter. It doesn't look super big, but it was warm enough to get me through last winter, and so I hope it will get me through this winter too. I bought a couple of scarves in the last couple of months, so I now have a little bit more variety in that area. I don't really want to buy new clothes until right before I go home, because I want them to still be nice. Some/most of my white shirts are starting to get yellow armpits, but I kind of have the same feelings. It's winter anyway, and I don't really want to buy new shirts again. I think I will be able to make it through.

My exchange with Elder Sessions was a ton of fun. We gave out a couple of Book of Mormons and had a ton of fun together. I love exchanges, and it was a ton of fun to talk about Offenburg. The church was finally moved from Offenburg to Lahr, a city more in the center of Offenburg's area. I'm glad it got changed after I was there, because the church was really close to where we lived, and it was way convenient. It's funny that you asked about Offenburg, because this week guess who showed up at Church? Two members from Offenburg. They are actually members of the Freiburg ward, their last name is Jung. While I was there they had been called as stake missionaries or something like that, and were asked to go down to Offenburg every week for church. They didn't remember my name, but to be fair, I also didn't really remember their name. They weren't the most personable people in the world, It was a lot of fun to talk to them though, and hear their accent again. I haven't heard that accent since I was in Offenburg, which was over a year ago.

For the cookies Mom, the recipe is the same as regular No-bakes, you just put a cup of peanut butter in after you boil it instead of cocoa. They are super easy, but ridiculously tasty. I think it is really cool that you are doing this cookbook, Mom. For which side of the family was it again? I know you have mentioned it before, but I can't remember, and I don't really want to sift through all your old emails to figure it out.

Oh my word, is Tanner's farewell next week? No one tells me anything! When is he reporting? Why did he wait so long to go on his mission? Now we won't see each other for like three and a half years! That ridiculous! 

Things with Elder Nicoll (note the spelling. Dad, you've been pretty creative with your spelling. Mom, I made the same mistake for the first week or so) have been a lot better recently. One morning during personal study I was taking some time to pray in our bedroom (I feel very blessed that I've had this opportunity in every one of my apartments so far) and I was trying to think about how I could make this day better, because I wasn't feeling very excited about it. I had the thought that I need to treat Elder Nicoll as my friend. For some reason during my mission I have often seen my companion as just that, a companion. I just haven't looked at my companions as my friend as well. Focusing on seeing Elder Nicoll as my friend has really helped me to learn to love and like him more. Our relationship is still not where I would want it to be, but it is definitely getting better. We are having a lot more fun together then we did at the beginning. I'm going to keep focusing on this during this next week, just looking at Elder Nicoll as my friend, not just someone with whom I have to spend time.

We met twice with the Nigerians this week. There was a different group of them each time, but we had pretty good lessons. Ok, let me rephrase that, the first one was good, and the second had potential to be good, but due to the fact that the U17 World Cup game between Mexico and Brazil was going on in the background, I don't think it achieved the spiritual levels it could have. In case you didn't watch the game, it went into shootouts, and from what I picked up from the yelling (they apologized, they were just 'caught away' in the game. I love how Africans speak English, it's hilarious), they actually had to do two different rounds of shootouts. In the end Mexico won the day though. But for realsies, the lesson was pretty good. They're just having time accepting the fact that God would reveal more to us when we already have the Bible. I straight up got out that scripture in 2 Nephi (I think), where it talks about A Bible! A Bible! and I read it to them. They really liked it. I'll let you know how things develop there.

We haven't made any progress with Gogo yet. We're going to try to give him a call this week to see if he wants to meet again. I'll be honest though, I'm not sure if anything else will come out of that. As for Andrej, our last two appointments have fallen through, but we should hopefully be having one this week.

Mom, as for missionary experiences, I don't think it is about how many you have, I think it is more about being ready to do it. If you pray for the opportunities and you are looking for them then I think you are doing just fine. Who knows, maybe your opportunity is just saying a kind word to someone? Or maybe it will just be your example. I think real missionary work is a lot more simple than we make it out to be.

Anyway, I think you are right, Dad. I really have been blessed to be able to serve where I have. I really have learned to enjoy giving talks, and I have gotten a lot better at being able to express myself at the pulpit (even in a foreign language). I am actually kind of sad that I won't be able to give talks as often after my mission.

Well, I think that is all that I have for this week. Like I said, it has been a pretty enjoyable week, in spite of the weather, and the apparent lack of success. We haven't been finding a ton of new investigators or even potentials recently, but we're doing our best, and I feel good about the work we are putting in. I have really been trying to find my own level of work recently, because sometimes I still feel like I try too hard to try to duplicate some of my old companions' level of work, which I feel may have been influencing my happiness.

Alright. I love you all. Thank you for supporting me, and for all your prayers!

Love,
Elder Merkley