Follow by Email

Monday, April 21, 2014

Klagenfurt: April 21, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

Ok, so sorry that I am writing so late. I have also a very limited amount of time tonight, but I am going to be trying my best to get in all the things that needed to be written. The reason things are kind of more stressful recently is trying to email all these people from my old areas and get all this stuff figured out, and it leaves me very little time for writing you, which I really regret. I don't necessarily enjoy writing such long emails every week, but I really like for you to know everything that is going on in my life, well everything that I can fit into an email, I forget a lot of things. Thanks for complimenting my emails, Mom. I really do try to put in effort and write the important things from the week.

Anyway, something cool that will be happening next week. We will actually be heading over to Vienna next Tuesday so that we can have a Mission Tour with Elder Dyches of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. That by itself is really cool. Just last night, however, we got a text from our Zone Leaders and found out that we will be doing a finding day in Wien while we are there, and we will be doing exchanges with Elders from the Wien zone. And I guess they thought it would be cool to put a couple of Father-Son pairs together, because guess whom I will be working with? Elder Barker! I'm really excited to work with him again and see how he is doing. He's about a year on his mission, and I'm really excited to see the progress he's made since the last time I saw him.

Easter was a lot of fun. The Wades actually invited us over, and had a really great Easter lunch with us, complete with a lot of pretty typical American foods, which I really enjoyed. Sister Wade is a great cook, and she has such a great heart. In this part of Austria, they have a cold Easter lunch (I think, at least that is what I heard, and what we kind of experienced today. Today was a holiday here too-because it's the day after Easter, I think?), with meat, and a lot of horse radish. My sinuses were on fire at one point from smelling it/from eating it.

Elder Dickson and I are still going running every day, that pain behind my knee has essentially gone away. In fact, we just stepped up the distance today, and probably ran over three miles at a decent pace. For me, a decent pace means around 25-26 minutes for that. It was a lot of fun, really beautiful, and we were able to chat the whole time, which made the run way more fun and less painful than it normally is. You two should bring your running stuff when you come, so that we can still get up in the mornings and start our days off with a run, I love doing that.

Well, we did get one new investigator this week. His name is Amir, and he is from Iran. He is Muslim, but he wants to convert to Christianity. He is one of the students that we found in the Mozartheim, which is where Radu lives. I don't think this University is anything that special, I just think that this house is where most of the foreigners live, because it is pretty cheap, I would assume, and located within ten minutes from the University. Anyway, Amir is cool, and we actually met with him twice this week with members there. It was a cool experience, and we are hoping that he will be able to start progressing and accept the baptismal committment. We do want to make sure that he doesn't want to convert just so that he doesn't have to go back to Iran, which is something that he has mentioned to us before.

This week I have been learning a lot about love. I have just realized how much I need to work on my charity and selflessness. I think that a lot of the other Christlike attributes I am missing could be developed if I first would have the basis of the pure love of Jesus Christ. I'm really trying to focus on developing this.

Anyway, sorry this is so short, but our email time was a little short today. I love you guys! I know the Church is true, and I love being a missionary. I'm looking forward to coming home, but I am also looking forward to these next few weeks of service.

Elder Merkley 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Klagenfurt: April 14, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

So just before I forget, I spoiled you this week and put a few more pictures on Dropbox. Please, enjoy.

This week has been a lot of fun.  The best thing has been the weather. It has really been a very enjoyable temperature, and it even feels like Spring may already be passing, as many of the blossoms are falling off the trees and there are real leaves starting to appear.  I think this is the first year that I have experienced a real Spring. Last year we went straight from Winter to Summer in the matter of a week and a half or so, haha. We have also seen more success in our finding efforts, although we did not find any new investigators yet... but we have a couple of appointments set up for the coming week, so I have hope that things are going to keep getting better.

Kind of a funny story from this week, so Elder Dickson and I went to the place where Radu lives to meet up with him, and when we knocked on his door his roommate answered and told us he wasn't there (Radu lives in some sort of Student Dorm), and so we began chatting with him. We chatted for a few minutes and then ended up explaining our purpose as missionaries and invited him to hear more. We got his number and actually had an appointment with him last night. It was really cool, though it might be kind of awkward when Radu sees the French Book of Mormon lying around... Radu seems kind of like the jealous type to us, so we are wondering if that might cause some problems... Anyway, the appointment was cool because we were able to get a member there, and we were really able to establish our purpose, and that of the Book of Mormon well. We invited him to hear more, and he was hesistant, because he said he wasn't really ready to change his Church. We ended up leaving him a pamphlet, and we are hoping to be able to follow up with him about it next week at some point.

Speaking of Radu, things are...unchanged. We have tried to meet with him, and we saw him once briefly, but he was just playing Ping Pong with some other guys, one of whom is someone who had just given us his number last week, that was pretty fun, haha.  Anyway, he keeps putting off really sitting down and meeting with us, because he has always had a test coming up, and can't take the time to talk with us. It's really sad, because I can just feel his priorities completely shifting. Before it was all about God, and everything else was second to that. In the last month or so it has been school and ping pong first (not necessarily in that order), and God is a very distant second or third. It has led me to thinking a lot about what I need to do in order to stay strong in the Gospel and avoid letting my priorities change too.

We have actually found a ton of young college students from around the world in this same little dorm. It's been a lot of fun talking to them, and we should be having another couple of appointments this week with students from the University here. We're definitely looking forward to that.

Besides that our teaching pool has really become very small. It's saddening to see how many solid investigators have dropped off the map, or how many became one hit wonders- those are always big disappointments to me. I have really improved my attitude a lot though, when it comes to this kind of empty time. I am looking forward to this time where we can go out and look for those really prepared people. There have been so many of those kind of people that I have taught here, and I look forward to trying to find more of them.

This week I have actually been studying General Conference a lot, because I had received the assignment on Wednesday to give a talk about General Conference on Sunday. I was really happy to do it, but the short amount of time was a little annoying/stressful, and to make matters even more complicated, the talks weren't available in German, and so I had to either translate things spontaneously by myself or listen to the talks in German on, and painstakingly pause the recording every few seconds to write down three of four words at a time. I did a combination of both, and they were both pretty difficult, haha. I was studying a lot about love this last week, and was really struck by President Monson's remarks. I read this morning in 1 John 4, and was really surprised by how clearly it says that if you say you love God, but you don't love your neighbor, then you are a liar... That threw me through a bit of a loop. I definitely have some improving to do.

Other than that I have been studying in Preach My Gospel about the Book of Mormon and the role that it plays in missionary work. We actually had Interviews this week, and President and Sister Miles were emphasizing our goal of giving away a Book of Mormon every single day, and so I want to strengthen my testimony of the great power in that book. I just realized though, kind of like that email you sent me from Tanner said, that all we can really do is just invite people to read and testify of the results of that. Whether they actually do it or not is their choice. A lot of times I take myself way too seriously, and gauge my success on the actions of others, but I know that I am still a successful missionary even if no one uses their agency like I would want them too. I remember Spolmes telling me in the one letter I got from him on my mission (he went on his mission shortly thereafter, and we email pretty regularly, so I'm not trying to bag on him), that his grandpa had given him the advice to just 'invite, invite, and invite' on your mission. I have really seen the wisdom of that. That's all that we can really do, and it is so important that we actually do it!

Elder Dickson is doing well. We are working on his German, and I think he is getting better. Progress is nothing groudbreaking, but it is still definitely there.

Ward support is still good, in fact they just called an Assistant GML yesterday! Which is awesome, and he lives in Klagenfurt too. Our GML lives in Villach, which is a thirty minute train ride away, so I wonder if they decided to call an assistant here in Klagenfurt so that he could assist us in a more hands on fashion.

The Welsh woman (Rose), came to Bible Course with her husband on Thursday!! It was so cool! Frau Lahoda came as well, and so we had a pretty full class (relatively). There were three nonmembers, two members, and four missionaries. We brought that up in the various organizations on Sunday, and we are expecting a few different members to come on Thursday, but we will see.

I'm feeling really good about missionary work, even though success isn't going exactly like we want it to right now. Well, I got to get going! I love you so much!

Elder Merkley

Monday, April 7, 2014

Klagenfurt: April 7, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

Well, this week was just as crazy as we anticipated it being. I really did enjoy General Conference, just like you all did, from the sound of it. I was able to see all sessions this year, because we sat down with the senior couple this morning after seminary and watched the Sunday afternoon one. What I find so amazing is that although none of the speakers are given topics, their talks still work together so well. There were three or four times when after a talk I thought something like, 'Wow, I really need to work on that', and then the next talk was exactly about that topic. Everything just fit together really well.

Other than that and service we didn't see a lot of success this week. We didn't have a ton of time, and we tried to fill that time in with effective activities, but not as much happened as we would have liked. One cool thing that happened is that we brought cookies to a former investigator from Wales, in order to say hi, and to invite her to our Bible course. She was super nice and said that she would come this week. She loved the cookies (thanks, home teaching. That helped me to memorized that no-bake cookie recipe, and then we also have Aunt Janet's cook book that she gave me. My whole apartment is super thankful for that. We use it for baking all sorts of treats to give people), and she was super open because of them. It is really interesting to see how cookies can melt someone's heart. I don't think anyone can be mad when you are standing in front of their door with a plate of cookies.

Elizabeth is still doing great. She seems to be progressing in the Gospel very well, and comes to Church regularly. She was resistant about the idea of home teachers, but if I'm honest, I'm not sure she understands what they really mean at this point, so hopefully we can get her some assigned soon. The language barrier still makes it hard at some points. We need a member who can speak fluent Spanish and German. That would be ideal.

Gin is still investigating. In fact, he read all of 1st and 2nd Nephi for our appointment on Saturday. I don't know how much progress he is making, but he did just send me an email with about 16 questions from his reading, so we'll see. To be honest though, the questions are often a lot more of the nit-picky, generally accepted as non-important things, haha. I'll let you know how things develop.

Well. Some really heart-breaking news with Radu. He didn't answer any of our texts or calls up to Friday. I even had asked him if he wanted to go get some breakfast/lunch on my birthday, and he never responded, and so we were really worried. We ended up walking over to his dorm on Friday and tracking him down, and he told us that he didn't have the courage to tell us, but he said he was never going to come to Church again. He said that he realized that God doesn't love him. He still believes in God, but he believes that God only loves certain people, and only certain people deserve to be happy in this life, and he's not one of them. He said that he would not read in the scriptures or pray any more, because it doesn't help him at all. It really made me sad. He will at least answer our texts and things now, so we are going to try and keep contact with him, but it is just so sad. I know that smoking and his reading in the Book of Mormon played a part in it. At the beginning he was so adamant about how easy it was to read 2 chapters a day, but after a while he started getting distracted by school and before long I think his reading became a little sporadic. In addition to that, he never was able to give up smoking, and I think these two combined to lead him away from the path. It goes to show you the importance of keeping the commandments, and daily reading your scriptures in order to strengthen yourself against temptation.

Elder Dickson is doing well. We are speaking a good amount of German, which is really good for him. He is still hard on himself, but we have been focusing on being more positive, and so I think things are looking better. He knows that in a few weeks he won't be able to rely on my German, and he is already worrying that he will get a companion who can't speak good German, and that he will have to take over a lot of the things I do. I try to give him oppurtunites to do things like that, but I think I need to make a more concentrated effort to help him prepare for taking over the area.

We found out recently that at the end of April we will be having a mission tour with Elder Dyches of the Seventy. So right before we go to Vienna together, I should be able to go to Vienna with my zone, although I won't be able to really do any sight-seeing.

Anywho, this week was good. Thanks for all your prayers! I can feel your love and support and it inspires me to be better. Oh, yeah, you asked me about what I have been studying in Preach My Gospel. Something I have been really trying to work on is gaining a strong testimony of Scripture Study and prayer. I feel like the very basics of the Gospel are where I have problems being effective. Something I have felt the power of recently is really putting your name in the scriptures. Literally trying to make every verse apply to you. One other thing that I kind of have been trying out on my own is my posture when I pray. I had been thinking about it recently, and I realized that my posture when I pray is often pretty disrespectful. Well, when I pray at night I kind of am half lying in my bed, and it doesn't really look like I am speaking to my Father in Heaven. I have tried sitting up, and being really respectful, like you always see if you watch Mormon Messages, and have really focused on trying to feel the connection to Heavenly Father. I feel like the more I focus on understanding what I am doing, and really speaking to Heavenly Father, the more I can really feel this connection to him, and receive answers to my questions daily.

Ok, well on that note, I love you!

Elder Merkley