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Monday, February 24, 2014

Klagenfurt: February 24, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

Ok, so really big news this week pertaining to my police report: it came. It came, and I went to the city hall and I already have my Visa, and so they won't have to emergency transfer me!! I'm really excited about that, because I was definitely starting to get worried there for a little while. Thank you all so much for your prayers, I don't think I could have gotten it all taken care of so quickly had it not been for that.

In regard to the plan you sent me, Dad. It sounds great! I'm going to avoid pondering that too much though. In my mind, the end of my mission is still very far away, and that's how I want it to stay. I don't want to get distracted with thoughts of going home, because I know that it will reduce my effectiveness and my happiness.

These last few days with Elder Dickson have been going pretty well. At this point I would say that we are getting along pretty well. He is a really good missionary with really pure desires to do what Heavenly Father wants him to do. I am slightly concerned, because he is really hard on himself, and gets really down on himself for any mistakes that he makes. In addition to that he is really self conscious about his German, and has had a hard time taking any part in the lessons we have had this week. I really want to help him with his German and his confidence, but I have already noticed how much more English we are speaking than ever before on my mission, and that is something that I want to change, because I know speaking will be the thing that will probably help him the most.

Also, I'm probably not supposed to tell you this, because Elder Dickson likes to keep this on the DL, but he is a crazy fast runner. His fastest mile time is 4:01. Crazy, right? We went running on Tuesday, which was really nice, he is good at pacing himself so that I don't die, haha.

Things are going great with Radu. We actually had a Fireside on Friday night, which he came too, and he bore his testimony there. It was so cool, because I think that the seven or eight members who were there will take him a lot more seriously now, and will really see him as a part of the ward. We are trying to start get him integrated into the wards through activities, because we are already running out of things to teach him, but he loves coming to Church so much that we want him to still be able to come and get that spiritual boost. I think it is going alright with his smoking, he is still sticking to his program so far, but I haven't talked to him today, so we'll see how it goes.

I haven't heard anything new about Elizabeth yet, but I am hoping that we will hear something from her before she just shows up. I don't know, I would really have preferred it if she was baptized here, because I feel like it would have been great for the ward. It would have been a lot more real, rather than someone just showing up and saying that they were baptized on their trip to South America.

Dominik and Peter are still doing pretty well. We had another good lesson with them this week, but they didn't come to Stake Conference this week, so I don't know what is going on with them. I feel like their biggest problem right now is consistency. We are going to try focusing a little more on the basics, so that we can get them reading and praying regulary, which will hopefully also lead them to start attending Church.

Gehardt is the name of the referral from the ward member. Things are going really well with him. He really listens to all the lessons, he is coming to Church consistently, and he really has this honest desire to change his life. I think we are going to have to reteach the Word of Wisdom again though, because he mentioned something in our lesson today about only smoking every now and then, which threw up some red flags for me, because we had committed him to live the entire Word of Wisdom a while ago. We'll see what happens.

I had a really cool experience this week. So it all started a few months ago, where one of our members invited one of their acquaintances to the Christmas Party. She came with her family, and we invited them to English Class and just chatted them up a little. The wife started coming to English Class a while ago, and a couple weeks ago I was praying, and I had the feeling that I should ask this lady, Zsuzsanna, to meet with us and talk about our Church. So we went to English Class this last week, and I was really praying for help, because I was really worried about messing something up. Long story short, I got up the nerve, and asked her right after English Class, and she said yes! So we will be teaching her on this Saturday, right before there is some sort of party in the Church, which she will be staying for. I'm really excited because it would have been easier for me in that moment to just turn away and not do it (for reals though, the feelings I had reminded me of how it felt to ask a girl on a date. I was really scared she would say no and that she wouldn't come to English Class anymore), but Heavenly Father helped me to have the courage. It was pretty awesome.

So ward support in general is still going really awesome. We are still getting more joint teaches than we have ever had, and I am really grateful that Heavenly Father has led us to so many prepared people, and that the members are so willing to come and be a joint teach with us. Our GML has us give him a list of the joint teaches every week so that he can keep track of it and tell the members at the end of the year how many times they have gone with the missionaries.

Honestly Mom, I don't really need anything for my birthday. I don't know if I would really need/want candy. I eat a lot more healthily than I used to, and at that point I would be getting home in a month or so anyway, and so I don't think it would be as appreciated as it potentially could be. If you were determined to do something you could put a little bit of money in my account, but that's not really necessary. I'm pretty content with what I have. I am just trying to ride it out with all the missionary stuff I have, and then buy some more cool stuff before I go home. 

I don't know what else to tell you. Life is pretty good. I'm trying my best to be positive, trying my best to love my companion and serve him, and I think I am doing pretty well in general.

Anyway. I love you!

Elder Merkley

Monday, February 17, 2014

Klagenfurt: February 17, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

Well, a lot of things have been happening this week. First off, until today the weather was awesome. We had sunshine and temperatures in the high thirties/low forties, and it was AWESOME. It snowed all day today, and was pretty terrible. In fact, Elder Krieger and I were standing on the side of the street earlier, and a car came by and splashed water and drenched us, which can be a little dangerous when you have below freezing temperatures... It's ok, we weren't outside for long afterwards.

I think the biggest news is that Elizabeth is going to be baptized in the Dominican Republic. She left on Friday to go there, I think she is planning on staying about a month or so, and right before she left we showed her where the Church would be in her city, and I guess she went Sunday and told the missionaries that she wanted to be baptized. This trip explains most of the drama that had been happening, because she hadn't told us that she was going to be going on this trip, and so she had wanted to cook with us, and we had to cancel last minute, and that's why she was mad at us. It makes sense, because she knew there wasn't going to be another opportunity. I don't know when she will be baptized, but I'll be honest, it was a little frustrating to feel like the only part of her baptism story that I don't get to see is her actual baptism...

I'm so glad that you have had a missionary experience, Mom! You have mentioned often how you haven't been feeling like you have had as many as you would like, and so I have been praying for you to have some, and I will keep doing that! I'm also glad that President Miles told you that I was staying when he called you. He called me on Friday morning, aka the day before I found out about what would happen, and talked to me about my Visa. He gave me a real scare, and I tried my best to convince him to let me stay, and at the end of the conversation, when he talked about calling you, I suggested that he tell you if I was staying or not. I knew you would love it. I also told him to tell you that I said hi. I hope he relayed the message!

Oh yeah. I guess I should tell you my new companion's name... His name is Elder Dickson, and he is from Buckley, Washington. I met him briefly in Munich when he came into the mission, and he left a very favorable impression on me, and so I have high hopes for the next couple of transfers. He has only been in the mission field for about 4 months, so it will be a lot of fun to work with somebody that young. Elder Krieger was actually transferred within the zone, to Salzburg itself. Elder Smith will be going to Wiener Neustadt, which is an area right outside of Vienna. An Elder Graver, who is currently serving in Heilbronn(!), will be coming to Elder Janis. 

As for our trip, I just want to spend a Sunday in Heilbronn, and a Sunday in Klagenfurt. Other than that, I would love to see Vienna and maybe Salzburg. If you could just plan those in, and then just tell me when we're in places I can try to write people to set up places to stay and stuff. 

Sorry, so this Email is super scattered, but my visa is still not solved. I still have a week and a half or so to get the Police Report, and I am praying that I will get it in time. I'm really looking forward to this next transfer, and I really don't want to be emergency transferred out of here. The time it takes is supposed to be somewhat regular, and so I should supposedly get it by Wednesday, if everything goes right.

The work is going really well. We had another baptismal date fall into our lap this week. A member's relative started meeting with us, and he is super humble, and is ready to change. We set the date for the beginning of May, so I'll let you know how that develops.

We taught Radu the Law of Chastity today, and he agreed to live it. He is also doing great on his smoking thing, and this week will only be smoking three cigarettes a day. He is still making a ton of progress, and we are meeting with him like three or four times a week. I found out this week that he is pretty good at Ping pong. he gave me a run for my money...the first game. I have only played like twice on my mission, so it took me a while to get warmed up, but by my second game I was on. Elder Krieger isn't bad either, and he scored the first point against me...and then I scored 21 in a row. Sorry, that might have sounded prideful. Humility is a Christlike attribute I am still working on.

Things are going great with Dominik and Peter too. Peter drove us back from our last appointment with them, and we had a real heart to heart in the car, and I feel like he will probably come around eventually. He really likes what we do as missionaries, and he really enjoys coming to church and seeing how happy everyone is there.

Joint teaches are still happening a lot. We had two today, and we are trying to involve the women of the ward a lot, which has been awesome. With Radu we are trying to get the few youth we have to come as joint teaches, which has been going pretty well. We have already had two of the younger women in the ward come as Joint teaches, and they actually did really well. It is interesting, because we always have to find joint teaches who speak English, and that can limit the options a little bit.

All in all things are looking good. I am looking forward to my new companion, who is coming from the same District as Elder Jerman, who is a Zone Leader now, did I ever tell you that? He started training, and then they made him a Zone Leader a couple transfers ago. I'm really proud of him. But yeah, life is good, and I am happy.

Love,
Elder Merkley

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Klagenfurt: February 10, 2014

Fam-bam,

Well, this week has been a lot of fun, and has gone by ridiculously fast. I am having a really hard time concentrating right now, because both Kimmie and Anna are chatting with me, and there are a bunch of Italians making Tiramisu and Spaghetti in the Church right now, and they are being pretty loud and Italian, so we'll see how much I will be able to write today.

Umm, so the thing on my mind right now is my Police Report from Germany. I still don't have it. I have another two weeks approximately where I can legally stay in Austria, and there are transfer calls on Friday. I was talking to President Miles this last week, and he sounded like he was very seriously considering just transferring me back to Germany somewhere for my last two transfers, which really scared me. It didn't become real for me until he said that. I had to have something notarized this week, and I am praying that I will get my police report by Wednesday, so that I can start my visa on Thursday and then call President Miles and tell him there is no need to transfer me because everything is already going. Ahhh. I swear. If I get transferred I will be so mad. However, I am just praying that Heavenly Father will inspire President Miles to make the right decision, and preparing myself to accept anything.

We use a little bit of technology in our work. Nobody in our entire mission has ipads, but we do use the computers once a week for emailing potentials and stuff, which is awesome. I have one contact whom I talked to in a bus with whom we should hopefully be meeting this week. Other than that though, we haven't seen a ton of success.

The Hernaus family had a lot of fun at the Bishop's house, and I actually found out that my second semester German teacher, Lyndi Mechan, was one of the missionaries who started teaching Dominik when he was about nine or so, so that was really cool to see. It is weird how small the world is.

There was a little bit of drama with Elizabeth this week. I don't really want to go into explaining it all, but it is just kind of tough because we kind of feel like we have to walk on egg shells around her all the time so that we don't offend her or hurt her feelings. We're not giving up on her, and I am still confident that she will be baptized, but I just hope she develops a strong enough testimony before she lets her fiery South American personality drive some wedge in between her and some member of the ward.

Radu is doing pretty well. We started the stop smoking program with him on Friday, and then he didn't come to Church on Sunday, which really worried us. We called him later that evening, and he told me on the phone that this Church wasn't for him, because he couldn't give up smoking. I asked him where he was and asked him if he could meet us at the Church. He said yeah, and he was there in 15 minutes. We sat down and talked to him about it, and it turned out that he was just really down because he didn't feel strong enough to give up smoking and didn't feel worthy enough to come to Church. Right before this meeting we had been talking to Bishop and he had mentioned the scripture about the healthy not needing a doctor. but the sick. That really hit him, and we ended up meeting with him today, and he came up with a plan himself how he wants to quit smoking, where he slowly weans himself off of it. It will take him about three weeks or so, but he should be able to do it. Keep him in your prayers!

The new senior couple is good, but they are feeling really really overwhelmed. Sister Wade can not speak German, and they have been having a hard time finding their place and getting settled in. They're starting to get a better feel for things though, so I think they will have a better second week.
 
Also, I forgot to mention it last week, but I got ANOTHER package from Aunt Tami! Just like you said, Mom, she is crazy, but in such a great and unique way. She sent me two great ties that she had found in Goodwill. I love Aunt Tami so much!!

Ok, I have got to get going. Sorry that this email was kind of choppy. I definitely love you, though!

Elder Merkley

Monday, February 3, 2014

Klagenfurt: February 3, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

So...this week was pretty good. I have to be honest, it was not my favorite week, but I am really happy about it, because I feel like I learned a lot of important things about myself, and about missionary work in general from it.

Before I get to that, I guess I will finally answer Dad's never-failing query as to the weather. It has snowed a ton!!! We had been having an unseasonable low amount of snow, and then all the sudden the Heavens just opened, and out came the snow. Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Snow. Snow. Snow. It snowed for like three days straight. Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it has honestly snowed more than I have ever seen. It's about two or three feet high out there. The main problem is, that the temperature has been sitting around freezing, and so there have been some times when it has been raining too. It was really a quite curious experience, to see the rain coming down onto the snow-covered ground. I kind of just want the weather to decide, this halfway stuff is pretty annoying. We are already in February though, so I am hoping that it won't get too much colder before things plateau. Who knows though, I hear these temperatures have also been relatively warm. The weather continues to provide great finding opportunities for me in buses though. Telling me people I'm from California often brings sympathy, and then the question, 'Why did you come here?', which is a question I love to answer.

Elizabeth is still doing great. She is progressing, and we haven't set a new date with her yet, but I imagine that she will be baptized before I go. I hope so at least. Both appointments with her this week actually ended up falling through, which was part of the reason for my frustration. I think there were a total of six appointments where either the person or the joint teach cancelled. This is what provided the great learning opportunity though. I have realized that I haven't internalized my purpose as a missionary (which is to invite others to come unto Christ) quite as much as I could have, because I had started to pay too much attention to numbers, and had become frustrated when we didn't reach the goals we had set. I feel like Heavenly Father had all these appointments fall through to get me to feel this frustration, so that I could realize how much of a weakness I have there. It all culminated on an exchange on Saturday night, where I started talking to the other missionary about this, and after a long conversation it finally clicked, and I figured out what I need to do to make it better. I just haven't been working as effectively as possible, because my understanding of my purpose wasn't as deep as it should have been. The last two days have been really good, and I am excited that I still have a few months to try to get this right. However, I am also a little disappointed that it took me this long to see some of the faults that I have. I don't feel like I wasted any time, but I do feel like I could have been more effective in my efforts to help other people. Oh well, I'm just grateful that Heavenly Father has helped me to realize it now.

Dominik and Peter are doing pretty well. We met with them twice last week, and we are hoping to meet with them twice this week too. They should be going to our Bishop's house tonight for a combined FHE, which we are really excited about. We're not really sure if Peter is making progress, he still holds himself too aloof from the whole thing. We hope that as we continue to teach he will continue to open up and continue to listen and learn.

Radu is doing awesome. He was at Church again yesterday, and he really likes it. We met with him twice last week, and almost a third time, but he had to cancel. It is really cool with him, because he really wants to meet with us too. He came really early to Church this morning so that we could meet with him (We will be leaving shortly to go to Salzburg, which because of snow and stuff will probably be a five hour train ride. Yea!). He even came an entire hour early for our appointment, which was a big surprise. We taught him the Word of Wisdom today, and he committed to live it, which means giving up smoking for him, which is something that he wants to do, because he knows it isn't what God wants him to do. He believes in the Book of Mormon and everything, and reads about two chapters every single day in there, but he hasn't quite received an answer about baptism or not. He is Orthodox, and he is hesitant to be baptized into a different church. He told us today that he just needs some time. We are hoping to set a baptismal date with him in the next couple of weeks. He and Elizabeth have finally made me realize what kind of investigators we are looking for. We aren't looking for the kind of wish washy ones who don't hold commitments. We are looking for the ones who come to Church, who are willing to sacrifice for God, and are willing to really follow His commandments.

The ward is still being really supportive, we are doing our best to try to involve them with every investigator. Especially with Radu, because we have the feeling that he is becoming attached to us, which is good, but we are only going to be here for so long. The main problem is that the two times that a joint teach fell out this week, it was with our appointments with Radu, and so he hasn't really had a joint teach yet. We are trying our best to get him to be a part of the ward quickly, and are trying to get a very recently re-activated 21 year old, Sebastian, to come this Wednesday with us.

We are also hoping to be able to involve him in some sort of FHE that hopefully the new Senior Couple, the Wades, will be putting on. They just got here last night, and they are so cool! They are funny, and Sister Wade was telling us we could come over any time and are welcome to eat their food, and she would make us cookies. It just feels like my grandparents moved here, so I am really excited about that. I am already contemplating just asking them if we can hang out on Pday some time and play board games and make cookies together or something. I hope that will happen in the next month or so.

My stress is doing alright. It is still there, and I am working on trying to control it a little bit better, which means trying not to worry about things I can't control, and things like that. As for my visa, one of the Senior Sisters from the Office just called, and told me that the papers I had sent to Passau didn't work, and so I now have to try to get a notary and get them to watch me sign some other document to send to someone else... yeah, it's still a little bit complicated. I still have to the 26th of February, but it is starting to get a little tight, and I really don't want to leave here. The problem of the moment is that I have to go get on a train in two hours, and I will be gone all day tomorrow in Salzburg, which means that I can't get anything going until Wednesday.

Anyway, I love you a ton! Thanks for your emails!

Love,
Elder Merkley