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Monday, March 31, 2014

Klagenfurt: March 31, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam!

This week was pretty interesting, but altogether I definitely enjoyed it.  Our week was filled with a lot of good things, that weren't your traditional type of missionary work. We did service again last week, and we should be doing it this week probably about four times, which has eaten up our week a lot. Today we won't be having much of a Pday, because we already spent four hours this morning helping a member, and then in about an hour or so we will be going to another member to help them as well. I may make this short so that I can try to take a nap before we go, because I also lost an hour of sleep yesterday because of the time change, and got up at 5 this morning for seminary, so I'm pretty tired...

In regards to the missionary work, I wasn't very pleased with it this week. There has been a lot of stuff going on with Radu recently, and I don't really want to go into details, because I'm not sure myself what's going on exactly, all I know for sure is that he didn't come to Church yesterday or answer our texts, which is something really weird for him. So I'm kind of worried about that whole situation. We're going to try to get in touch with him soon, and see how we can help him.

Elizabeth is doing well. She planned a little party thing for my birthday, and so we should be doing something with her and with the other Elders then. I'm looking forward to it. She had me order her a Spanish Preach My Gospel, although I think she was unsure what it actually was, but it will be great for her to be able to read through the lessons and that kind of stuff by herself.

We found a new investigator yesterday! His name is Jakob and he is 18 years old. His interest in looking into the Church seems to be more of a objective interest, but we gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to read about it, and hopefully we will be meeting again in between a couple sessions of General Conference next week.

We had a Fireside this week, and it was great because our investigator, Gin, came to it. I don't know if I have already talked about him at all, but he was a self-referral through the internet, and we have been teaching him for about two and a half weeks or so. He is really funny, and speaks super great English. He is Muslim, and always asks some provacative questions when we meet. Up to this point he has been a little hit and miss with his reading, and he went to the Jehovah's Witness Church last week, so hopefully he'll be able to come next week. We'll see.

Yeah, so we have had ups and downs this last week, but I am really looking forward to next week, because of General Conference. I love General Conference, and it will be a great chance to strengthen my testimony about modern day prophets. I still need to make sure that I write down a couple questions and a few things that I want to learn while I am watching, because that is always how I get the most out of it.

Other than that a lot of my stress has been taken away about school, so thank you for that! I'm glad that I can finally know where I am living, know that I am at least signed up for classes (I may have added a Bowling Class... I just saw one opening and struck, deciding that I can always drop it later if I don't want it. Sometimes I'm an impulse shopper).

I did get a few cards in the last week or so, I definitely got one from Grand and Grandma Grace, from various people in the ward (sorry, I didn't write it down!), and definitely one from the Holmes, which was really nice.

Sorry this email is pretty lame, but on a scale of 1-tired I'm at an 8. Running on fumes right now, and I have a few more hours of yard work in front of me today. Love you all! I pray for you every night!

Love,
Elder Merkley

Monday, March 24, 2014

Klagenfurt: March 24, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

The weather this week was really nice! Almost every day we were able to go outside without any jackets, and as we were doing yard work for a couple of members, we were able to work in short sleeve shirts because it was so warm! One of the other Elders actually got sunburnt on his neck... Don't worry, I put on sunscreen, so I was fíne.

Other than that this week was pretty normal. Thanks for setting it all up with Elder Persicke! I'm really looking forward to seeing that guy again. As for things with Elder Dickson, they're going pretty well. Yeah, I help Elder Dickson a lot with his German, we are working on speaking a lot more, and I help him figure out how to say things pretty often.

The ward is being really accepting of Elizabeth. In fact, one of the members remarked yesterday that they felt like Elizabeth had gone through a big change while she was in the Dominican Republic, which is something that I had noticed as well. It is clear now that she understands the Gospel a lot better. I think that hearing the lessons through one more time really helped her prepare for baptism. We actually went to her apartment this week to celebrate Elder Janis's birthday, which was a lot of fun. She has already set up an appointment with me on my birthday, so that we can eat together and celebrate, so that was really nice of her.

As for Radu... there was actually a little bit of drama this week. He failed another class, and was really doubting his faith in God. We met with him on Saturday and went on a walk, because he was refusing to go into a Church, claiming that he would never go into a church again. We talked to him for a while and he was feeling better by the end, and did end up coming to Church yesterday. So things are going better with him again. We are hoping to be able to meet with him more regularly this week, which should help him start making steady progress again. He will hopefully be coming to FHE tonight with the Wades, and a couple of the other young adults.

Dominik and Peter did come to church yesterday! It was cool, because they actually came by themselves, because Gudrun had to stay home to take care of Peter's mom, but they came anyway. I don't know what else needs to be done in order to help them have a better experience there, they only come for Sacrament Meeting. I actually have started joking about baptism with Peter, but he still claims that he is just an observer... The annoying thing though, is that starting this week he probably won't be at our lessons, because he is working again, and because he is a truck driver, he works really weird schedules.

The only funny story from the week is when Elder Janis and I were explaining the concept of a 'guilt trip' to our GML and his wife, and they haven't invited us over to dinner in a while, and so we proceeded to start giving them examples of how guilt tripping could happen. We told them about how when we go home, we usually just eat flour with water, and sometimes put it in the microwave to shake things up a little bit. This guilt tripping went on for about five minutes or so, and then they proceeded to invite us over to eat with them on Sunday. So we went there yesterday and had a delicious dinner, after which we told them that they had bought themselves a few weeks reprieve, but that it wouldn't satisfy our hunger for ever. Maybe it doesn't sound as funny as it was, but it was actually hilarious.

I did hear from Elder Barker! He seems to be doing well, I don't think he and his companion are best friends, but he is about 95% sure that he will be transferred this transfer, so he isn't too worried about it. I think he is on crutches though, because i think he has a torn meniscus or something? His email was a little scattered.

Let me know what we should do with Anna and the apartment thing. If she really wants me to room somewhere where she can be in my same ward, than I will definitely go to a different complex so that we can make that happen. Just let me know.
 
Anyway, maybe I'll add more later, but I'm tired, and I have a lot of school stuff I still need to take care of. Love you!

Love,
Elder Merkley

Monday, March 17, 2014

Klagenfurt: March 17, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

So this week was pretty great! I think I will just start out by telling you the coolest thing that happened this week: Elizabeth is back. And she was baptized in the Dominican Republic!! She showed us pictures of her at her baptism, and also of her in front of the temple in the Dominican Republic, and it was so awesome, because she was telling me that she knows that it's not all done. She said that she knew that she had to wait a year to go into the temple, and that just because she is baptized doesn't mean her work is done. It was clear to me that when the missionaries in South America retaught her, they emphasized that point, something that obviously must be a problem for converts there. It was so cool though! She asked me for a list of all the callings in the ward, so that she could know who is responsible for what. She is definitely planning on staying around.

The second coolest thing that happened this week has to do with Radu. Every Sunday, we tell a success story to the members in Priesthood, Relief Society, Primary, and Young Women's, and this time Elder Dickson convinced Radu to come with us and bear his testimony. So although a good amount of the members already knew who he was, yesterday he stood up in front of them and told them that he is going to be baptized in May, and he told them about how 'Andy and Elder Krieger' talked to him on the street. (Yeah... he figured out my first name at some point, and now he just calls me Andy, even when he is talking to members. They get really confused by it.) The whole thing was really cool, and I think he feels like he is more of a part of the ward now. I'm pretty sure he still has a smoking problem, but we haven't really had a lesson with him for about a week and a half or so, because he has been studying like crazy, preparing for a couple of tests that he has this week, and one that he has next Monday. We probably won't see too much of him this week either. We try to have daily contact through texting, calling, or something.

As for our other investigators... there were a lot that we didn't see this week. Zsuzsanna really surprised us this week when she called and explained that she wouldn't have the time to meet with us on Saturday, and then proceeded to explain that she would like to stop investigating the Church.  That was really sad, but we spent about thirty minutes on the phone, and I just gave her my testimony and really promised her that it would be something that would help her, but she decided to stop meeting with us. She said that her family didn't want to watch the kids, and that that was the reason, so I'm hoping that with time she will start investigating again, we'll see. Other than that we had a good lesson with Dominik and Peter, but they didn't end up coming to Church yesterday, which was too bad. That is the biggest problem with them, their inconsistency. We are hoping to teach them how to keep the Sabbath Day holy, and hopefully that will help them to understand why it is important to come to Church.

We also had our first Bible Study group on Thursday. We essentially started it for Frau Lahoda, who came this week, and so that we could have something to invite investigators and people on the street to. The first one was awesome. The member who we asked to lead it totally ate it up. He used a power point, dressed up in a suit, and you could just tell that he loved the responsibility of doing it. I have set a personal goal of trying to get two new people to come this week.

That's crazy that the Markhams had Spolmes at their house! I can't believe that the Markhams didn't call you and freak out. I would have freaked out if I had been in that situation.

I can't believe that Matt Secor is coming home so soon!! That is crazy! I still feel like I have a long time on my mission still, so that is crazy to me that a missionary who hosted me is going home now! And Adam Welker is going home pretty soon too... Wow. Time goes by quick.  And then we have Matt Hyer, on the other side of the spectrum. He already has his mission call?? Oh my word. That is so cool! Crazy, because I feel like he is still very young, but super cool.

Elder Dickson is doing very well. We go running every single morning, which is something that helps him start off the day right. I like it too because it is getting me in shape. We only go about two miles or so, but I am running faster than I ever have before, and have already shaved about three minutes off of my time, so I feel pretty good about it. I have noticed that same kind of thing about some of my companions, Mom. I do often feel like a big part of my mission has been working with my companions, and also working with the members of my District. I don't know how Elder Barker is doing, but I did send him an email, and so I hope to be able to give you some sort of an update next week.

What is this Honor Society thing with Anna? What kind of society is she being accepted into? I'm kind of confused, but that is really cool that you are going to Conference! I have never been to a live session of conference up until now. Hopefully I will be able to go when I am back at BYU, but we'll see.

Ok, I think that is all. I love you so much!

Love,
Elder Merkley

Monday, March 10, 2014

Klagenfurt: March 10, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

I enjoyed this week a lot. Even though we had a ton of fallen through appointments I feel like we were able to be really effective with our time and get a lot done. Another plus was the weather. Just like the reports are telling you, Dad, the weather is very Spring-like. I went to Church yesterday with just my suit coat, which was the first time that has happened in months. It is kind of an awkward time though, because it is too warm with my big jacket, but a little too chilly without it. But I would rather have that problem than the problem of freezing.

I don't know exactly when we change to Daylight Savings time... I assume it will be soon. I was actually thinking about it this week, because it has been very light recently as we have been waking up at 6:30, which I love. Getting up to a lit room is the best feeling in the world, and I kind of had this feeling that it wouldn't be a while before the world took that away by switching the time on me. Luckily they can't stop the natural sun patterns, and so soon I will be waking up to sunlight again.
 
It's so weird that Nicole is already home. I remember hearing how she went on her mission, and now she is home already... Crazy. It's also really interesting to me how each mission is totally different. In our mission for example, President Miles has never commented on how long lessons should be. We try to keep them under an hour, but I have also had lessons that have lasted an hour and a half to two hours. We had this one investigator who would get mad at us if we took less than an hour and a half. I think the different cultures play a role in that too, because our eating appointments also go a lot longer than they would in America. It's also really cool that you are able to go and teach with the missionaries, Mom! I think it's so awesome that you have been able to have more and more missionary experiences.

It looks like Radu is still smoking one or two a day at this point. He still loves coming to Church, and is becoming more and more an active part of the ward; and we just hope to help him overcome the last boundary in his life between him and the fruits of the Gospel. I don't think he has told his parents yet. I don't know if he will either. I feel like that is something that he will try to avoid.

Things with Elder Dickson are still going pretty well. It's hard to keep him positive and happy, but I'm doing my best. To be honest, I feel kind of sad, because I feel like I'm sacrificing German speaking for communicating with him right now. His understanding is very limited, and even when I talk to him in German he understands about half of what I say, if that much, which can get frustrating for both of us.  I don't know, I worry that I'm not doing my part in this companionship in leading out in German speaking. I just don't want him to get even more frustrated than he is, but at the same time, I know that if we don't speak German, his won't get any better, and mine won't either. It's a tough situation, and I have just been trying to be as positive as possible, and when he beats  up on himself I just ignore it, and try to stay positive. I feel like I have been a little sadder this week though.

Our meeting with Zsuzsanna went really well this week. We took our Bishop with us, and invited her to baptism. She said if she does find out, she will be baptized, which we are really excited about. We are hoping to set a baptismal date with her this week as a goal, and work towards that. Her only problem is time. It is already hard for her to get away from her kids once a week, but I think if we were to set a date with her for about six weeks or so in the future, and then ask her to make the effort of also getting away for church every Sunday. We think helping her set a date will help her to show her faith and be able to make a more concentrated effort.

We did actually find a couple new investigators this week. One of them is a pretty cool story. Elder Dickson and I felt this week like we were teaching a lot less than we wanted too, and we really wanted to find new people to teach. Well, we prayed that Heavenly Father would help us to find new people, and the next day we seemingly coincidentally found a new investigator. We had had an exchange the day before, and Elder Dickson had talked to some guy in the bus, the next morning we were walking around in the city to take care of something for Radu, and had stopped to talk to this lady on the street. While I was talking to her, Elder Dickson saw this man again and went and talked to him. We ended up getting his number, and after we had gotten home we actually end up getting a call from him, asking us to come over to his house on that day. We went over and taught him, his name is Bernhardt, and he is pretty cool. It was definitely a miracle.

The next day we talked to this guy on the street who ended up inviting us into his house and letting us have a little talk with him and his roommate. It was funny, because it ended up that these two college kids are living in the top part of a member's house. He's like 87 or something, and is currently in the hospital, but it was just interesting to see how the Lord led us. Even though we didn't do as much teaching this week as we had hoped, we definitely had a lot of oppurtunities to share our testimonies and invited people to come closer to Jesus Christ.

We found another investigator whose name is Raheeb. I talked to him on the bus on Friday, and we ended up meeting on Saturday. He is Muslim, from Pakistan, and is currently getting his PhD right now in Austria. His English is essentially perfect, and the lesson went really well. We really focused on helping him to understand our purpose as missionaries, and the importance of the Book of Mormon, and our message altogether. Although he said straight up that he isn't necessarily looking to change his faith, he did understand why it would be important, too, if he were to find out that the Book was true. We are hoping to try the same tactic with him as we are planning for Zsuzsanna.

Umm, that's about it I think. The ward is still supporting us a lot, and we are really trying to work with them as closely as we can. I think that we are doing that pretty well. They like us, and we have seen a good amount of investigators coming through them, which is something I haven't really experienced before.

I love you all so much, and pray for you all every night!

Love,
Elder Merkley

Monday, March 3, 2014

Klagenfurt: March 3, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

This week has been a lot of fun. Elder Dickson and I are getting along really well, and so that makes everything just a little bit better. We have been seeing a good amount of success together too, so I'm excited about that.

The biggest news from this week is that we have set a baptismal date with Radu! He is planning on being baptized in May, the last Sunday before I leave. We're still a little bit unsure where he stands with smoking, but we're going to try to be a little bit more forthright with him about that so that we can make him feel accountable. That is still the only thing standing between him and being baptized. He even came to the baptismal service of an boy who turned eight this week. We're really excited about the progression we see happening there.

We actually got a call from Elizabeth last night. She is definitely going to come back, and should be here in the middle of March, so around a week and a half or two weeks. I'm still unsure if she was baptized there or not. I asked her, but she just chastised me for being so curious, and told me that I would find out when she gets back... so yeah. If she isn't baptized when she gets back she will hopefully be baptized during the summer, we'll see what happens though. From what she said she has been going to church there as well, which is definitely a positive thing.

Frau Lahoda, one of our investigators, finally came to Church yesterday!! But we're still dropping her... I had received the feeling twice in the last few weeks that we need to be ready to drop her, and in the lesson this week it became clear to me that she is not ready to be baptized right now. She believes in the Book of Mormon, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and all that, but she doesn't believe that our exclusive attitude in relation to the truth is right. We are going to be trying to start a bible course next week, and we think we will substitute taking time to meet with her with inviting her to this course and then letting her build up her connection with the ward through that. It will be nice for future missionaries, because if she comes consistently then they can keep a feel on her level of readiness to keep commandments. I think within a couple of years she could be ready to be baptized, but we'll see. It really hurt me to drop her though, because she reall s a sweet lady.

The lesson with Zsuzsanna went pretty well. We didn't get as many concrete things taught like we had wanted too, but we should be meeting again on Saturday, and I hope that things will start developing there. We also plan to talk to her about her husband, because she is married with four kids, and teaching the whole family would be great for the ward here.

All the other investigators are doing fine too. I don't have a lot of time to write today, and there was no monumental progress made with any of the other investigators, so I am not going to take the time to comment on them all, alright?

My acne has made a pretty significant improvement in the last few days. I have noticed it clearing up, and I have had no crazy emotions recently, and so I don't think it is messing me up. For this medication I need to have my blood drawn once a month, and then go to the doctor's and talk to him about it, so I have another appointment in about a week and a half.

The ward is doing great, they are super supportive. I think the key to working with the members is to really just help them do things. Everyone knows someone with whom they could potentially be working. The missionaries should just help you to figure out ideas of how to get them into contact with the church, Family nights, different activities, maybe inviting them to dinner, things like that. That's how we have started to try working here, and it is a lot more successful. A lot of the investigators we have have come through members, which is obviously ideal.

I love you! (sorry this email was a little short. I'm starting to get a little lazy/my time is up)

Elder Merkley