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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.

Love,
Elder Merkley

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