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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Klagenfurt: May 5, 2014 (The Last Email)

This first part was added by Robin, Andy's mom:
 This is the last email from Elder Merkley.  Such mixed emotions.  I'm mostly excited, but just a little sad that I'll no longer wake up to these wonderful, spiritual emails.  Unbeknownst to him, we get to meet him at the train station when he arrives in Munich on Thursday.  I'll be wearing a big smile and waterproof mascara, especially since I'm crying now as I write this.  Thank you for your love and support of this wonderful missionary.  We'll be home just after midnight, Wednesday, May 22nd and you're welcome to come over that afternoon.  If you can't make it then, his homecoming will be Sunday, June 15 at 9 AM at the stake center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2121 E Route 66, Glendora.  We love you!

Dearest Fam-bam,

This is a pretty surreal feeling. Knowing that I am writing you an email as a missionary for the last time makes me really ask myself where all the time went.  We'll get to that later.

The weather here has been a little temperamental. The last couple of days have been a little bit cooler, and if you are standing in the shade then it was a little bit chilly. For the most part though I have been wearing short sleeves for the last week and a half, and it has been very enjoyable.

You will definitely be able to meet Elizabeth. She knows when we are coming to Klagenfurt, and she should be there in Church on that Sunday. If she isn't there for some reason I know where she lives, so we could get a hold of her. I think she will be fine. She is forming good connections with the ward, and yesterday she made me give her Radu's number, because she told me that she had felt something good in him, and that even though I was going she wasn't going to give up on him. She is really converted.

We actually just taught Ulrich today, and it was definitely a better lesson. We really focused on talking about prayer, and then at the end of the lesson he said a really short memorized prayer, and we all said Amen, and were about to leave, but then I just had the feeling that he needed to pray again, and speak it from his heart, and so we stopped and asked him to pray one more time, and to try it in his own words. He did it, and I think that will be a major step for him as he continues to study and pray about the Gospel.

We haven't had an appointment with Magnus since the last time I wrote, but we did make a lot of progress with him, too. We invited him to the baptism on Saturday, and he came, and then afterwards we were invited to a member's house for a barbecue, it was a very select group of people there, but Magnus was invited too, and it was a ton of fun. There was another young member, one of the only YSAs in our ward, and her boyfriend, who is not a member, that were there, and then Lukas, the 24 year-old who was baptized. I was looking at the four of them, two of them nonmembers, and I just could see the future of Klagenfurt. If those other two were to get baptized the young single adults of this branch would become so much stronger and more solid.

We're trying to focus more and more on preparing Elder Dickson to take over the area, but I am slightly concerned that he doesn't know it well enough. We'll see what happens. Taking over areas is a lot more complicated than in some other areas of the world, because not only do you need to know the members and investigators well, you have to know where they live, how you get there with the bus or train, including when and where they go from, what the name of the stop is, etc, and you have to know about buying tickets, language, and all sorts of other things. Sometimes it can get a little bit stressful, and I know that Elder Dickson is feeling it. I have seen a ton of progress in him though, and I know that he is a lot happier than he was when he first came. I am looking forward to staying in contact with him throughout the rest of his mission, until he comes back to BYU to become a track star.

Yeah. I'm not super proud of the teaching pool I will be leaving behind. There are a few solid investigators, but not nearly as many as I would like to have left. Had I left before the Great Recession of Investigators that happened about two and a half months ago, then I would have been proud of it. As it stands though I am happy with the work that I have put in, with the relationships that I have built up, and with the people I have helped come closer to Jesus Christ. I feel like I gave my best, and I will continue to work hard for what is left of my time.

Also, Mom, the word I used to describe my mission/what I learned was love. I learned to love people, I learned to love myself, I learned to love the Lord more, and I learned to love my mission. Love I think is something that describes my mission very well, although I still feel like I have miles and miles to go before I reach any point at which I could say that I was charitable.

Also, I know you like a record of my studies, and so I'll tell you about what I studied this week. I was privileged to give a talk at the baptism on Saturday, and I talked about the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I really was just so happy for Lukas that he was going to be able to receive this gift, and as I talked about it I realized what a marvelous gift it was, and how he can really guide us and help us to make good decisions in our life, and also help us to help others on the path. I'm very grateful for his influence in my life.

Well. I kind of feel like a part of me is dying. I'm really excited to come home and see you all, but I also relate with what you were writing, Dad. I just feel like part of my identity is going to die, and that I'm taking off a major part of my armor against the Adversary. I know that I will still study the scriptures and pray, but I also know it won't be the same. I'm going to miss the Spirit of the Mission, and I have been really drinking it in recently, and trying to live in it as much as possible. 

I love you all. I know the Church is true, and that Jesus Christ lives. He loves us. I also know that being really sad about ending my mission might indicate a lack of faith, because I also know that God has a lot of good things in store for me. I'll see you on Friday!

Love,
Elder Merkley

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Klagenfurt: May 1, 2014

Dearest Fam-bam,

I just wanted to send you a quick email, now that I actually have time, and just give you a breif recap of the week, so that you know that I don't just sit around all day thinking about going home and making plans.

The Mission Tour was awesome. It was great being in Vienna (Wien in German, sorry, I forget sometimes to write that in English. We always just call it Wien. I was kind of confused the first time I heard it too), and it was great to have a few hours where we could really just concentrate on finding people. I really did enjoy it, I felt good, and it felt really good to be able to talk to a lot of people and share my testimony with them. We were able to meet a good amount of people who gave us their information and wanted to talk to us a second time too.

Elder Barker is still the same Elder Barker whom I knew in Passau. His German is definitely better, but he still has those same endearing quirks that I got to know so well. I really love the kid, and I really enjoyed working with him again. We had a lot of fun chatting with each other and we were even able to stay in his apartment, which was also a lot of fun.

Our teaching pool is going alright. We have found a new investigator recently whose name is Ulrich. He is a really nice older gentleman who sometimes has some funny tendencies, but he has done some of his reading in the Book of Mormon, and it looks somewhat promising with him. We had an appointment yesterday, and he had three friends over, whom we were able to teach too. It was great, because they seemed pretty interested as well, and one of them committed to come next Monday to our next appointment. 

Magnus ended up coming with us on a hike, that our GML organized, kind of spontaneously last Friday, which was super great. We have a way better relationship with him, and we committed him to live the Word of Wisdom at last night's lesson. He says that the only potential problem would be forgetting and then drinking Black Tea. We are praying for him, and I know that he has the willpower to do it. It is great because we had a joint teach last night, and she was really supportive, and it seems like they are building up a bit of a friendship as well.

Elder Dickson is doing well. He is making the effort to participate more in every lesson, to say more in our street contacts, and it is really noticable that his German and teaching skills have improved a lot. We have a lot of fun together, and we especially enjoy our morning runs. It's a good chatting time, haha.

Ok, well I need to go! I only had about 20 minutes to type all that, so I hope that it is legible. Also, spell check is in German, and so I am not accountable for any spelling mistakes!

Love you!
Elder Merkley