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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Klagenfurt: January 27, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

For a number of reasons I don't have as much time to write today, but I will try to get in as much of the important stuff as I can. I think I will just jump into the week/investigators, as to not waste any time.

Elizabeth is doing great! On Saturday, we went to Villach, which is the other big city in our area, and looked at this warm river that comes out of the side of the mountain. Right after we looked at it she decided that she wanted to be baptized there, and since the water there doesn't run all the time (I guess it has something to do with precipitation, and when it rains a lot then warm water starts coming out of the side of the mountain. People dug a hole so the water would be deep enough to swim in.), and so there was a period of a few hours when we thought we were going to be having to organize the baptism within a week or so. Luckily she decided to wait, and I think we will end up setting a new baptismal date with her sometime in May, so that she can still be baptized in running water. I'm glad that we aren't rushing it, because we obviously want to make sure that she is really solid in the Church before she is baptized. We have already taught a lot of the biggest elements of the gospel, including the Law of Chastity, which we were a little worried about, just because she is a very outspoken woman, and the language barrier does not help us to communicate with her. Sometime when we are having lessons I will look around the table and think about how crazy it is that we are all sitting here, and speaking German. Especially when we had our member from Croatia there, and none of us were native German speakers. This ward is super international. 

Dominic is doing alright. We are actually going to be going there tonight and will be introducing the concept of Family Home Evening, and then will try to invite them to a family home evening at our Bishop's house next week. We're going to try to start meeting with them twice a week as well to see if we can help him make more progress. We actually just found out this week that the Mom, and Peter aren't actually it will be fun when we get to the Law of Chastity with them. We tried to involve Peter more in the lesson last week, but it didn't go as well as we would have liked. He likes being more aloof, and even things like asking him to read the scriptures didn't appeal to him. We're going to try and just teach generally, but teach in such a way that he will still be able to learn even without being an active participant, which is, of course, the ultimate goal.

The only other investigator who is showing a lot of potential right now is actually one that we found this week. His name is Radu and he is from Romania. We had a great lesson with him on Saturday (which a member came to), and then he came to church on Sunday. He stayed for all three hours, and he said he really liked it; although he wasn't thrilled by the 10 Romanian-Gypsies who showed up during Church to beg. As I am writing this, there are actually two more sitting in the lobby of the Church waiting for our Bishop to come and talk with them... That's beside the point. The point is, Radu is really cool, and we will be meeting with him again on Tuesday, and he is planning on coming to Church again next Sunday. On Sunday, he was even explaining to me how he had already read the first two chapters in 1 Nephi, so I think that he shows a lot of promise.

Frau Lahoda is also doing pretty well. We are going to try to start out so different strategies of teaching this week, because right now we just have the feeling that she thinks that we are there to just have a nice conversation with her, and not necessarily to teach anything. I really think she needs to understand the Atonement, because right now, although she considers herself Christian, she doesn't believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, she just thinks that He lived a perfect life, thereby giving us a perfect example.

We are still getting a lot of ward support right now. It's getting tough, because we have started using a couple of our go-to people too much, and we just need to be careful how much we ask them. It's just tough, because we meet a lot of our investigators during the day, and there are only so many people who don't have to work at those times. We are going to start trying to involve the female members a lot more, because at this point at least a few of our investigators are male, and so we don't necessarily need male joint teaches. Our GML announced during Priesthood how well the ward is doing with those, and he told them that the ward has never seen this many joint teaches. He says that there have been more joint teaches in this ward this month than there have been days. I guess that makes sense, when I think that Elder Krieger and I have been able to get seven lessons with members present the last three weeks in a row, and that's not even considering the other companionship, who also works very hard.

Yeah... I think some of my stress is actually coming from my success here. I'm trying to figure out how to deal with it, because I'm am 90% sure that is the main cause of the bad acne breakouts I've been having for the last few months. I don't know. I'm trying to figure it out, and actually one more thing that is adding to my stress is the fact that I don't have a visa yet. There was some problem with something that they should have sent from Passau, it got lost in the mail or something, and it has become very complicated. We're still working on it, and now I have less than a month to get this all figured out, and if I don't, then I will be shipped back to Germany... The main problem is that I don't feel like I have any time. Every waking moment is spent doing something. I haven't even had time to write in my journal since last Thursday, because I have just been updating records, planning something, or trying to prepare a little bit better for the next day. I can still kind of feel the stress sitting in my shoulders right now, they're just a little tight.

As for letters. Yeah! I actually got a ton in the space of like three or four days. I got one from this random friend from BYU, who I had a Poli Sci class with, and who used to always get me to buy him food at the Canon Center. It was actually really cool, and a really nice surprise. That was the first letter I have ever received from him on my mission. I also got a letter from Alicia Myers, and from Anna, which was also way cool. I don't think I'm going to be able to write any letters today, because we didn't have as long of a Pday as we normally do, because of an eating appointment and this appointment with the Hernauses tonight. I think I may have gotten another one from Sheridan too? I'm not sure, this whole week has been kind of a blur. In fact, this last transfer and a half have been ridiculously fast. I don't know where the time is going. I did not have time to write the Menloves last week, and this week I opted for an hour nap, so I haven't written anyone. I don't think I will get around to it...

Anyway. The week was good. We are still doing a lot of teaching. I hope next week will be just as good, we are trying our best to get everything worked out, but it takes a lot of energy, and a lot of planning. Pray for me that we will be able to figure it all out and get it all taken care of. I love you guys!!

Elder Merkley

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Klagenfurt: January 20, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

Well, this week was awesome. We got a ton accomplished, and we taught more lessons and people than I have ever taught.

Before I get into that, I actually have some really sad news that we just got like 45 minutes ago. So we had one lesson with Francesco this week, and he was telling us about this job that he got, which will require him to work on Sundays. We talked about it for a while, and then I ended up promising him that if he looked for a job that wouldn't require him to work on Sunday, the Lord would help him to find one so that he would still be able to come to Church. I really felt like I should promise him that, and I felt like it could be a turning point for him. Well, we texted Francesco last night to see when we are going to meet this week, and he just sent us a text where he told us that he has decided to keep his job, and that there won't be any need of setting up any further appointments. It really made me sad, and it really made me question myself, and what I told him. I really felt like it was right at the time, but now I am really unsure. I know I shouldn't question those feelings at all, but I just feel really sad that he decided to stop investigating. We're going to try to keep contact with him, send him emails and stuff, but it seems like, for right now at least, he won't be investigating anymore.

Now that we got that piece of depression out of the way. Life is still good! We actually had seven joint teaches again this week, which was awesome! The members are really doing a great job at supporting us, and are willing to pick us up, drive us to appointments, and we can also usually find rides for investigators when we need to. They are being very supportive.

Elizabeth is doing awesome. It's funny that you mentioned the Law of Chastity in that story, Dad, because that is one of the things that we taught Elizabeth this week. We didn't explain the law as exactly as we could have, mostly because of the language barrier, which would have made that pretty redundant. We did however give her the talk about Chastity by Elder Bednar, and she agreed to read it. It was actually a good lesson, except when our joint teach started talking about all the naked women that he has to paint because he is an artist... It sounds kind of crazy, but the way he pulled it in actually kind of worked. It was also pretty funny, because I was looking around the table, and I realized that none of us were Austrian. Two were Americans, one from the Domincan Republic, and one from Coatia. Yet we were all speaking German.

Dominic came to Church again yesterday, as did his step-dad, who is also a non-member. We've been focusing on teaching Dominic, because we felt like Peter, the step-dad, didn't have a ton of interest, but recently he has been subtlely showing more interest in Church and our message. He hasn't said anything outright, but he is taking a bigger and bigger role in our lessons and talked to me yesterday about how he enjoyed Church. We are going to try to start focusing the lessons a little bit more on him, and see if we can help him increase his interest a little bit.

We had quite a few new investigators pop up this week. One's name is Frau Lahoda. She was a former investigator, and had stopped taking the lessons like 10 years ago or so. We met with her twice last week, and will be meeting twice more with her. Right now, she doesn't quite understand the principle of authority, and so we are going to try to help her understand that principle this week. She's really cool, and she should be coming to Church next week as well. I'll be honest, there are a ton of other really cool investigators, but I'm getting kind of tired of writing right now, so I don't know if I am going to tell you about them all...

I know you are going to be mad about that, Mom, but think about how awesome I've been in writing emails during this last year and a half.

Fine. I'll give you a brief run-down:

Guido, Dragi, and Magnus- A family from Germany. Right now it seems like their main interest is more out of curiousity rather than a burning desire to find the truth. They are very active in their own church, and actually have a lot of similar beliefs to us.

Rudolf- Our first lesson with him went awesome, and before our second he actually tried to drop us, because his girlfriend and his family and friends don't want him to change his religion at all. We had a really good second lesson with him, so we will be meeting again with him tonight, but he is not sure that he is ready to "throw away" his entire life right now, so that could play a big factor with him. I'll let you know how it goes.

Heimo-Taught him the Restoration, but we don't have another appointment with him for three and a half weeks or so, so there won't be a lot of updates with him in the foreseeable future.

Like I had mentioned, this week went pretty well. I am typically happy, but there are always times when something really frustrates me. I am trying my best to love and support Elder Krieger, but sometimes I feel like our personalities are just too similar in some ways, and then too different in other ways, and it makes it really hard. I could complain about details, but I don't think that would lead to anything good or would help the situation at all. I am really going to try to go the Lord this week. I know that this is a perfect time to really try to strengthen my relationship with him. I wonder if that is why he has given me so many difficult situations on my mission, to drive me to remember Him. 

So I am very impressed with your member missionary work! Way to go out and invite the new neighbors (I didn't really know whom you were talking about. Who moved out?), I love how little things like that can really make a big change. Even if they don't join the Church or anything at least they now have a nice impression of you.

As for letters, I got one from you this week, Mom, which was awesome. Thanks for writing me! I love getting your letters, and even though you say that they are just really haphazard, I still love them. They are just a nice taste of home. Your last packet of Missionary letters was awesome as well, thanks for that. I'll try to write the Menloves in the next couple of weeks. I think you're right, I think they would love that.

Mom, rocking the new iPhone? Way to go! Just so you know, I never want a smartphone, though, so don't try to get me one when I get home. I have seen too many young people being totally addicted to the internet, texting, and the games on those things, and I don't want to lose the ability to communicate with people face to face. I'll always have a computer, where I can look up things as needed.

On that note... I love you!! Thanks for being awesome.

Elder Merkley (The Eldest. I've seen how the other two cousins throw in these qualifiers, and I thought it looked like Benny boy was getting a little uppity, calling himself, the Elder Elder Merkley. So I thought I would just declare my place as the Eldest of the three.) Andy's a little uppity himself.  Since Benny boy is actually older than Andy, I'm assuming he's referring to the fact that he's been a missionary longest. RGM

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Klagenfurt: January 13, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

Ok, so I procrastinated writing this email a little bit, so I have less time than I normally do for writing it, so apologies in advance. This week has been a lot of fun, though. I think a big factor of that was the weather. It has been pretty mild this week, with temperatures never getting below freezing, which has really been great. I love that we are in the middle of January, and the temperatures are still a little above freezing. All the natives are saying that it is very unusual but I am really enjoying it.

In addition to that, this week was awesome because we were able to get a lot of teaching in. We taught a ton of lessons this week, and we found a good amount of people as we were on the ways to these appointments and what not. We also had a ton of contact with the ward, because we had members at every lesson we taught this week. They are being very supportive, and yeah, life is good.

So, the only thing that kind of stinks is that both Elizabeth and Francesco didn't come to church yesterday. They both called before and let us know what was up, but it was still kind of lame. Dominic did come though, which was great. The whole family came, even the dad, who is not a member. That was a bit of surprise, but it was really encouraging. 

Our appointments with Francesco are still going alright, but I just feel like we are not really helping him right now. He thinks too deep and philisophically about everything and it is hard to make progress, because when you ask a question, he always talks about there not being any blacks and whites, in terms of right and wrong, and the agnostic view points just kind of slip out. I don't know, we're doing our best, and I hope that we will be able to make some progress soon, but we'll see.  We're still getting members to come to his appointments, and we actually did something a little unconventional this week, we had a female member meet us at his house, and then she was our joint teach for the lesson. She was really surprised and actually didn't even think that was allowed at first. I was glad that we could use her, because I don't think the women in this ward get very many oppurtunities to be able to go as joint teaches, not as many as they would want at least.

With Elizabeth things are going a lot better. She is drinking up everything we are teaching. I don't think we have taught a principle yet that she hasn't agreed with, and she really like the Book of Mormon, and always tells us how much she likes it. I was really disappointed that she didn't come to church though, she called and said that she didn't have the energy to come. Satan working? You better believe it. We're going to just try our best to be really loving and supportive, and I think she will come again next week. I still don't know if she will actually be baptized on the second. The only problem is that she doesn't want to be baptized in the faunt, but a member found some warm stream that is running right now, and we may show her that and see if she wants to be baptized there. I don't know if it will work though, because it will only run for a couple more weeks, and I don't know if we want to rush her baptism at all. We want to make sure that she is really solid before she is baptized, but waiting to May or so is also a really long time.

We are actually hoping to get another seven joint teaches this week, which is still kind of insane, when I really think about it. I never got that many joint teaches the entire time I was in Passau, and I am able to get that pretty easily in a week here. I just love how when I put in the work, I can see the results. I remember always reading these quotes in Preach my Gospel about working hard, and about how that brings success, and kind of laughing under my breath, because I was typically in a situation where I felt like I was doing all that I could, and nothing was happening. Here I would be able to support that, because I do all that I can, and things seem to fall into place pretty nicely. It just takes work, and a ton of planning and phone calls.

Anyway, your ward conference thing sounds legit, Mom. I really enjoyed reading that letter thing you made. You are definitely magnifying your calling! I think you are doing a great job motivating the youth, let me know how the other ones go, ok? 

Sorry for this disjointed email, but I am too lazy to try to make it flow better. One more random thought: Scotty sounds like he is growing a ton on his mission. I am really enjoying reading his emails. You can see his personalitly in them, and I love the clever things he says, although sometimes I am confused because I don't always know the context as well as his family does. He's great.

I love you guys so much! Thanks for always writing me emails (and maybe letters will start again at some point...?), I love reading them!

Elder Merkley

Monday, January 6, 2014

Klagenfurt: January 6, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

I almost forgot to write you guys this week... our emailing was broken up by a lesson with Elizabeth, and so I'm just kind of all over the place right now.

I'll just jump right in by talking about our investigators: Elizabeth is doing awesome. I don't know if she will be baptized on the second, but that's only because she wants to be baptized in running water, and to be baptized at the beginning of February somewhere outside... That would be a little chilly to say the least. (Although on a nice side note, the weather here has been awesome recently. Today was over 40°F, and I actually took off my scarf while we were walking, which is something that I haven't done in a long time.) She came to Church again yesterday, which makes for the third time in a row. It is funny, because she gave me a very stern talking-to this week, where she told me that I didn't need to worry so much about her at Church. She told me that if I had other things to do I could leave her for a minute and take care of what I needed to. We taught her the Gospel of Jesus Christ today, and it is just awesome how much she drinks it up. The only potential problem I foresee is the fact that she is very sensitive, and I worry that she will be easily offended. I have already seen changes in her though. At the beginning she didn't want to read the scriptures in Spanish, because she is very sensitive about her German skills, but she has been reading a ton in the Book of Mormon, and she read some scripture about the scriptures in your own tongue, and since then she brings her Book of Mormon and Bible to every meeting we have, and will take notes and mark up her book while we are teaching, it is really cool. We even set up a pretty firm two appointments every week, so I think she we will be making progress really fast. There is a lot more I could write about her, but I think that will suffice for now.

Francesco is doing alright too. Of all my investigators he gives me the most problems. I have just been really unsure what he needs to understand so that he can make progress. I think the problem is that he is coming from an agnostic background, and so when we teach him a principle it is hard for him to understand why it should be super important to him. For example, when we were committing him to pray about the Plan of Salvation, which we taught yesterday, he just commented on how he felt like it didn't really matter, like it really wasn't that important to him. We ended up committing him to pray for a desire to know if it is true or not. I have never had an investigator who is so philosophical. There are a lot of points in lessons where I don't know what to say, which is something that I'm not really used to. I have been spending a lot of time just thinking about what we can do to help him make progress. We have shifted his baptismal date to sometime in February, and we will see if we can make that. He still keeps all his commitments, he's living the Word of Wisdom already, he reads anything we give him, and so it is just a mystery to me why he isn't making progress faster. He has come to Church for seven weeks in a row though, ever since we first met him.

We actually set a third baptismal date this week... It's with this thirteen year old boy, Dominik, who is the son of a less-active woman in our ward. I guess the woman is only less-active because she has to take care of her mom or something, but we went there this week and taught him the Restoration and then committed him to be baptized. The only problem right now is that I don't think he really understands what it means to be baptized. We think he thinks it is a one time thing, and then he can go on living his life like he has up to this point. They didn't come to Church yesterday, but we talked to his mom afterwards, and she said that she had a long talk with Dominik yesterday, and that they should come next week. We're going to try and talk to him about what baptism means, so that he can really decide if that is something that he wants. His date is on the first of March.

Oh my word. We are seeing so much success right now. I feel like this is the first area where all the hard work I have put in has really yielded results. In a lot of my areas I have felt like no matter how hard I worked nothing really changed. Here, however, we have only been together for a transfer, and things have changed a lot. We are going to have at least six to seven joint teaches this week. I don't think we will have many other lessons at all. Church was intense this Sunday because we had two investigators there, and I also had a list of like 10 members I wanted to talk to, in order to set up the joint teaches and everything with them. It was crazy. This week is looking packed though. In fact, we even set a goal to have six investigators at Church for next week, and we are pretty sure that we have three that are pretty solid. We may even have more than six. I don't know, but something is really happening here, I've never felt this before. I love it so much, because now I really have a lot of food for thought as I walk around during the day. I don't have to think about home or about what I'm going to be eating for lunch, or anything like that, instead I can think about Francesco or Elizabeth, or I can think about whom we can ask to come as a Joint teach for the lessons we have this week for which we don't yet have a member lined up to come with us.

At the same time I have felt my stress building up recently. It hasn't been anything crazy bad, but I can just feel the stress, because somehow I have this feeling that if I don't keep my hand constantly on the pulse, if I don't constantly strive to do more that we will lose this success, and so I have felt it a little bit in my back and neck the last few days. I think I will ask one of the roommates for a back massage at some point in the next few days, because I think I could use it.

The ward support here is awesome. We are really going to be able to have a ton of joint teaches this week, and we are even trying to branch out from our norms. There are typically like two or three members whom we ask every time, but we have been starting to ask a bigger and bigger range of people, and I love being able to get to know the members. In fact, today during our lesson with Elizabeth we had a switch that happened. Right before the lesson we figured out that our joint teach could only stay for about a half an hour, and lessons with Elizabeth typically take at least an hour to an hour and a half, and so we called this member who lives in the area and asked him if he could come in thirty minutes so that we could still teach her. He came and halfway through the lesson we just switched joint teaches and kept teaching. It was interesting how the mood of a lesson can be totally different depending on your joint teach. It was only apparent this time because we switched halfway through, but it was noticeable. 

We did find two new investigators this week, and that is actually a really funny story. We found them through the area book, and we took a member with us to the first lesson, and it turned out that he had been the teacher of one of their children, so they had a nice little chat. That actually turned out to not be that awesome, because it was really hard to keep the lesson focused, but we are going there tomorrow night, right after we get back from Salzburg (we are literally having a member pick us up from Bahnhof at 7:15, so that we can make it there by like 7:30 or so. Tomorrow is going to be INSANE), where we have a meeting. We are going to try to watch the Restoration with them, so we hope that will limit any distracting conversations. That is not a guarantee, because there are those people who still like to talk during movies. We'll see what happens though.

Today is a holiday, which is always dumb when it is on a Monday (P-Day), because then we can't go shopping for that week. We do our emails in the Church though, so that will never be effected by holidays. The holiday is called the Three Kings Day, and has something to do with the Catholic Church. All I know is that I have seen a bunch of people dressed up in ceremonial clothing, and they go house to house and ask for donations. If you give a donation then you get a nice sticker above your door/sometimes they chalk it on, and your house is blessed for that year, or something like that. That's what I've heard, but I am also not 100% sure.

Yeah, transfers were this week. We got a call...and our entire apartment is staying for another six weeks, which is something that I expected actually. I kind of feel really isolated down here in Klagenfurt.  We literally don't have contact outside our apartment, except a couple of calls to the Zone Leaders during the week. Sometime during this transfer though we should be getting a new senior couple, so at least we will be able to see some new faces at some point.

As for picking up Italian... No. I know how to say How are you doing? And that's about it. I learn a couple of phrases every now and then from members so that I can impress the other members who don't speak any German or English, but I can't say much at all.

Well, other than that, we did actually end up going to a member's house for New Year's. We went to our GML's house, where we played some games, and then went up on a mountain in order to watch the fireworks. It was so cool to watch them going up form the entire city. Haha, I just remembered, we almost died while that was happening. Not really, but there were a couple of guys in the group we went with who were lighting off fireworks, and a couple of them exploded without going off. One time right as the guy was leaning over it. He was fine, I think. He just staggered away and then a few minutes later was lighting them again. I have this video though where it starts right at midnight, and ten seconds later another one goes off without first launching, and you just hear this shrill scream from one of the female members at the very end of my video. Elder Krieger has a similar video from one of the other times it happened. It was a very exciting night, and we didn't get into bed until 1:30 or so, which made for a weird next day.

Alrighty, I definitely spoil you, and that's because I love you! The gospel is true, that's for sure.

Elder Merkley

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Klagenfurt: December 30, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

Well, this week has been a lot of fun, and so unusual.  I really enjoyed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day 1, and Christmas Day 2. Although the celebrations and the people with whom I was celebrating weren't the same as at home, I enjoyed the oppurtunity to think a little bit more about the birth of Jesus Christ, and I already miss listening to Christmas Music non-stop.

I think I will start with the best news of all from this week: We set a baptismal date with Elizabeth this week! We only taught two lessons the entire week, but we had members at both of them, and in the one with Elizabeth she agreed to be baptized on the second of February. So although we didn't have as many appointments with investigators this week, we were able to have one with each of our baptismal candidates, which was awesome, and they both came to Church, and got themselves here, which is also wonderful. We set some really high goals for this week, and are hoping to get six lessons with a member present, which is something that I have never accomplished during my mission. This ward is so good with joint-teaches, as long as we go to the trouble to look for one, we can find one.

Francesco is doing great too. I am pretty sure he won't be baptized on the date that we set with him, but we had an appointment with  him this week where I really got to know him better, and I feel like I understand a lot more where he is coming from and what he wants. I think we will start seeing a lot of progress with him in the next few weeks. He has come to Church the last five or six weeks in a row, and has been keeping his committments, and so I am excited to see how this develops.

As for how supportive the ward is, I would say that they are by far the most supportive ward I have ever served in. The GML, Bruder Mauch, is awesome! He is constantly looking for ways to be better as a GML, and he even had us change our appointment with Francesco to a member's house, because he said he had read it in PMG, and decided that we should try it out. I knew that was in there, but I had never thought that I could ask and make that happen.

We're trying to meet with more members this week and help them to develop their own personal Mission Plan, we hope that we will be able to see some success through that, maybe get a few referrals, we'll see.

The work did slow down a little bit this week, like I mentioned before, we only had two lessons, and only found a few potential investigators, but I think we really set up a good week coming up. We already have a few appointments set up with our investigators, and are hoping to see a lot of success this week. Our New Year's Eve looks a little boring right now. We have two appointments on that day, but we don't have an invitation to stay up to midnight with anyone, so it looks like I might spend the transition period into the New Year sleeping... I'll let you know if that changes at all, but at this point I am not expecting to be able to celebrate it at all.

I know this email is a little disjointed, but I just want to tell you everything! So back to Christmas. It was really weird, but on Christmas Eve, I was able to watch the Hobbitt. I have to tell you, it was so good! I was worried that I would get distracted by it, but by the time I woke up the next morning all trunky or distracted thoughts were essentially gone. Also, I know I already told you, but I accidentally called the Doha Merks on Skype right before I called you. It said Merkley Family on it, and when I called it, a picture popped up of Dad, and I was like, huh, that's a really funny picture of Dad, he looks a little different in this. Hindsight is definitely always 20/20, because it wasn't Dad, it was Uncle Keith, and I didn't realize it until I heard Aunt Janet's voice yelling my name, and saw the whole Doha family gathered around the web cam. It was hilarious!

On Christmas Day 2 we actually got to watch the movie Silent Night, which was made by an Austrian. That movie was awesome, it really inspired me to be a better disciple of Jesus Christ, and not become jaded (I don't think I've ever written that word out, is that how you spell it?) like the old Priest guy. Have you seen that movie? If not I would highly recommend it.

Oh yeah! I got a text Thursday night from the Bishop, asking me to give a ten minute talk on Sunday (yesterday), so I spent all of my study time in the last couple of days preparing this talk. I was really grateful to Heavenly Father, because I really felt him leading me in my preparation. I was hitting a kind of writer's block again and again for a while, and finally I was able to use my study journals, for which I have an awesome organization system, to find some scriptures and talks that spurred my thinking and led me to being able to create a coherent talk. I know that I was led to find those quotes, because I never would have been able to prepare a good, original talk, if I hadn't had that idea pop into my brain. After I gave it, our GML told me that I had pronounced a word wrong, and had made three grammar mistakes while I was speaking, but that other than that I had used the right formulations and conjugations and everything. I was really happy, because I was worried that I was going to mess up, it's been a while since I have given a talk in front of more than thirty people. Yesterday, because of the holidays, there were easily 80-90 in Church.

Anywho, I'm not sure what else to tell you from this week. It was fun, and I am looking forward to this week, where I think we will be able to see a lot of success. Also, Mom, you asked me if I am happy that I stuck it out at the beginning of my mission. Yeah, I am. There are a lot of people whom I have met, and a lot of experiences and learning that I would have missed out on if I hadn't served a mission. I know I have been able to do some good on my mission, and I have learned so much about myself and about my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I wouldn't trade this experience, however, that does not mean that I have loved every minute of it. There have been a lot of experiences that I've had that I would not repeat if I could avoid it, however I think they have helped me to become the person I am today, so in that sense I am grateful for them. I still have a lot of learning and growing to do, and so I am grateful that I have more time to get rid of some personality flaws that I still have.

Anyway, I love you!

Elder Merkley

Klagenfurt: December 23, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam,

Well, this last week has been a lot of fun. I feel like we have been pretty busy, and I think we have been able to get a lot of good work done as well.

Business: So. We can Skype on Christmas day itself, but I think it will be a little bit earlier than you thought. The problem is that we are invited to lunch on Christmas, but I think I could swing about 8 AM, your time. So try to be logged on a little earlier, maybe as early as seven, just in case that doesn't work. Also have someone on email, in case I have some problems with my Skype, because I haven't logged onto it in like seven months, so I hope I remember my password.

There is absolutely no snow on the ground right now. Ok, well that's not quite true, there are still a few stubborn strips of snow every now and then, but it is not white here right now. I'll tell you on Wednesday if that has changed at all, though I don't necessarily expect it too. My feet are staying relatively warm, but when we get into freezing temperatures there is a certain point where no matter how thick your socks are and no matter how thick your boots are your feet are just cold. At least for those of us who have bad circulation like I do.

I actually am really healthy. I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables than I ever have before, and I haven't been feeling sick at all so far this winter. I have had a runny nose, but that is mostly just from the cold, and it stops as soon as I come inside and blow my nose. I have however been feeling super tired recently. I haven't had any problems getting up for like a year or so, but recently waking up is the hardest part of the day. It's not that I lounge around in bed, it's just that when I wake up my body kind of yells at me for not sleeping more. I hope that it is just a side effect of winter, and of it getting dark at like 4 PM. At least the Winter's solstice is already past and the days will start to become longer! I'm looking forward to that for sure.

The work is going along very well here in Klagenfurt. Every single lesson we had this week we had a member at, granted one member was at four of them, but still, we are trying our best to work well with the ward. We found this one new investigator and she is awesome. Her name is Elisabeth, and she is from the Dominican Republic.  She was to Church on Sunday and she was telling a lot of people that she wasn't a part of this church yet, but that she might be baptized. We are hoping to try to set a baptismal date with her this week. Don't get too excited though, I won't be able to tell you what is happening on Wednesday, because we won't see her until Friday at the earliest.

Francesco is doing well too. He has come to Church five times in a row, and is really making an effort. Somehow though he is having trouble feeling the Spirit enough to really gain a testimony, and so we are trying to do our best to identify the problem, to try and find the thing that is keeping him from feeling the Holy Ghost testify to him. The Casellas, the family who invited us on Christmas, invited him too, so we will definitely have some contact with him this week, even though the holidays are happening.

We had our Zone Christmas Conference on Saturday, and it was a lot of fun. We had to get up early so that we could make our train, and I had planned on getting up at 4:45 so that I could take the first shower and we then could take a bus at 6. Unfortunately, the alarm didn't go off, so we woke up at 6... All four of us got up, showered (well, three of us showered, one of us took one for the team and skipped it), and ended up taking a taxi so that we could get to our train on time and still make it to our Christmas Conference. I was actually really impressed with us, because although we had just got up, all four of us thought very clearly and quickly, and were able to come up with a plan within about thirty seconds. It was pretty cool, but not an ideal start to the day. So I did get the presents, and I put them underneath the tree (a six inch little thing that one of the other Elders got for a twelve days of Christmas thing) without opening them. Also, I got a package from Aunt Tami this week! I was really surprised by that, and it made me really happy. She's really quite thoughtful.

Well I have written much, but I still have other things to do today, so I need to go. I love you so much, and am excited to be able to speak with you on Wednesday!

Elder Merkley

Andy's Christmas Pajamas