Monday, August 26, 2013

Trains, Brownies and Street Contacting

Hey Mom!

This email won´t be terribly long because we have Sport P-day today in Erfurt, so we have to take a train soon to get there. This week wasn´t too bad. On Tuesday, we helped a guy move from one apartment to another. He was a potential investigator who Elder Goodrich and I found about 4 months ago. His apartment was already tiny, but the one we helped him move into was seriously about the size of my old bedroom back home. It was pretty much in the attic of this building and the bathroom had to be about 2 square meters. I felt really bad seeing someone living like that and was just greatful for the spacious apartment we have now. We later had Gemeindeabend, and we made dinner for the branch this time. We made home-made Döner, which are kind of like a Turkish taco/sandwich thing full of Kebab meat, veggies, and crazy sauces. It was really good. I wish there were Döner in America, but they are against the health codes because the meat sits there and rotates in the open air all day, even though it is constantly up against a huge, extremely hot heating mechanism.

Then on Wednesday, we had a lunch appointment with Schwester Dörlitz, and then went straight to Schwester Sorge´s garden to help chop up some overgrown hazelnut trees. It was pretty fun. Thursday was a good day as well. I went on a split with Elder Norman, one of the other Elders in Gera. We went by on a couple people, and they were both home but couldn´t meet right then. It was good to find them at home, though. Later on, we decided to try just talking to people in the street trains. It is kind of awkward sometimes, and it is something that I don´t like doing a lot, but we did it anyway to overcome our fears and we actually had two good conversations with people. The second conversation, with an old lady and her husband, was actually really natural and nice. I got to show them my family tree, but they weren´t interested in doing their own research. The other Elders did see them a couple days later though, and said they came up to them and talked to them as if they were lifelong friends. So that was good to hear.

On Friday, we tried to take a Book of Mormon to the library, but they said they already had it so we couldn´t donate it to them. We later on had decided to do some more contacting in the street train. We were on the train for about three stops and then I really felt like we needed to get off and say a prayer with a member that lived right around there. He was home, and we prayed that we could find someone on the way back to the Kempe´s apartment. We were about halfway there, and we walked up to a train stop. There was a woman facing the other way, and usually we walk past people like that because it is kind of awkward to talk to someone facing the other way and at a train stop, especially when they reject you. We walked about a step past her and I kind of just turned around with out even thinking about it and talked to her. It was kind of weird, like something just grabbed onto me, turned me around, and opened my mouth. She rejected us at first, but I simply asked her why she rejected us, and from there, we had a conversation with her for about the next 30 minutes or so. She told us that she had ridden her bike that day because she felt like she needed to, and she was at that train stop for no reason, just feeling like she needed to be there. She said she had seen us walking down the road from far and thought that maybe we were the reason that she was waiting there. Unfortunately, after inviting her to learn more about the church and Joseph Smith (she had already read the Book of Mormon), she said she wasn´t ready and didn´t want to give us any contact info. It was still a great experience with following the Spirit, and we gave her a card for when she is ready. We then finished the night by working on this toolbox for member work for our mission.

Saturday was also a good day. We decided to make some brownies for our neighbor, Frau Friedemann. Her daughter comes there quite often with her boyfriend, and every time we see the boyfriend outside, he calls us names and makes fun of us for no reason. We knocked on her door and the boyfriend of the daughter opened it. Frau Friedemann saw us from the door and told him to let us in. She was super excited that we had made her brownies, and told the daughter how we are the best neighbors and are always there for her if she needs any help. We also had made a plate of brownies for the daughter and the boyfriend, and they were suprised we did something like that for them. As we were leaving, the boyfriend who usually mocks us thanked us and told us we were cool. It is nice to see what a little bit of charity and service can do to change someone´s attitude. After that, we went sport contacting in the park, but I couldn´t do much; I have gotten tired of putting on a little pudge so I got a jump rope and did really good at working out for a couple mornings, but I suddenly got really bad shin splints and could barely walk for a minute. We finished that up and went to the Kempes to finish the member toolbox. We finished it right before we needed to go home, and it actually turned out really nice. I asked one of the assistants to Pres. Schwartz why they had chosen us to make this toolbox for the mission, and he said they needed someone they could rely on to get the job done, and that made me feel really good that they see me as someone who could take on a task like that.

Sunday was a less exciting day for the most part. We had church, which was nothing special except a homeless woman came into the building before church started so she could wash her face in the bathroom. After church, we had lunch with Schwester Dörlitz again, and then did some go-bys on a couple people. The second go-by wasn´t home, but we ran into them on the sidewalk on the way home and talked to them for a moment. We finished the night with our studies and then, with about 15 minutes before we needed to be inside, Elder Watts felt like we needed to go outside. We started walking down the street, and we came across a woman that Elder Watts talked to. At first, she was very skeptical and didn´t want to talk with us, but then saw the sense in what we were saying about agency and why bad things happen, and above all, how the gospel brings peace in life. She didn´t want to trade contact info, but she took a card and said she wanted to come to church next week. It was a good experience, and I hope she comes.

Well, that is the story for the week. By the way, transfer calls are this Saturday, so be ready for a transfer email next week. I hope your week is great! Love you!

LG, Daniel

Monday, August 19, 2013

Genealogy Project

Hey Mom!
It was good to get your email and hear about all of the news that has been going on lately. That is cool that Mackenzie is going on a mission as well. It seems like everyone I used to go to Sunday school with is now either going on a mission or married.  I am also glad that Andrew got married. He is a great guy.I remember when he was a priest and would always try and make me laugh when I was a deacon/teacher when I would hand over the sacrament tray to him. Good times.
Well, this week was a pretty stark contrast to last week. We had probably one of our slowest weeks since I have been in Gera (which is forever by the way). We have had to do a lot of planning for the genealogy project we are working on. So far we have planned out the following things: have a street display all about genealogy and have family trees drawn out in chalk on the ground, have family history firesides, make flyers that we can post throughout the city and in stores and markets, make a Facebook page for the Erfurt Zone´s genealogy efforts (after we have the permission to do that), inviting all members and investigators to study their family history, and so on. It should be good, but I have a feeling it is all going to get planned out and then I will get transferred as soon as it all starts taking effect. We will see.

We were also given an assignment from the APs to create a "Member Work Toolbox," and they gave us pages of material and old toolboxes to work through and edit. It has already taken a large chunk of time and will take a lot of time out of this week, seeing that it needs to be done by Saturday.

Other than that, this week was not bad, we just didn´t have a lot of finding time or lessons. We were in Erfurt on Monday for the zone training and then again on Saturday to see a baptism from the Elders in Jena as well as to have a meeting with the family history worker from the Erfurt branch in the family history room there.

In terms of lessons, really all we got to do this week was meet with Bernd and show him the church´s websites and also to have a meeting with Schw. Pröhl, the lady who is no longer a member of the church. We talked to both of them about genealogy as well. We should have had more appointments, but one with Emily fell out (and it already fell out again today), and the appointment we have been looking forward to for the last two and a half weeks with our investigator, Thomas, got cancelled 30 minutes before the appointment and was pushed back another 3 weeks. That one was really frustrating.
Well, that was about all that happened this week. I hope you have a great week! Love you!
LG, Daniel

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Lot More Success and Effective Things To Do

Hey Mom!
This is the only week where Pday will be on Tuesday. We had zone training and interviews with Präsident Schwartz yesterday, so that´s why it´s been switched.
This week was one of the best weeks we have had in Gera since I got here. We saw a lot more success and had effective things to do every day, so that was really a blessing. On Monday, after Pday, we went by on an older woman we had been by on a couple weeks before that, and we had a really good lesson with her and the Spirit was strong, but she said she couldn´t change her faith. It was a little frustrating because when we testified of the Book of Mormon, she said she believed what we said, but then she refused to read in the Book of Mormon for herself. I think it is just one of those things where someone is too worried about what people think instead of worrying about what God thinks. The next day, we had a lesson with Bernd and then had another lesson with a former investigator from other Elders years ago. This guy almost got baptized and then started having a lot of doubts, and now he just argues and bashes a lot. Then we just bore testimony to this guy that all he had to do was read the Book of Mormon and pray about it to find out if it is true, and he admitted that he had never done that. He still wasn´t interested in meeting with us again, but I think he felt the Spirit of our testimonies and hopefully one day reads the Book of Mormon.
Wednesday was a good but exhausting day. We decided that we would walk from the very north tip of the city to the south tip, contacting along the way. It is about a six-mile trip, and we did it in about three hours. We found two potential investigators that day, so it was pretty cool. We later had an appointment with Lutz Müller, a member, and finally had English class. Thursday was one of the best days I have had in Gera. We had a lesson in the morning with a member; had district meeting; had a lesson with Schw. Pröhl, who took her names off the records of the church a while back; had a lesson with Bernd Strunk; then later we got let in on a door by a man named Thomas F. He was very talkative and had been drinking a little, and it was really hard to teach anything. We had to watch our 5-minute DVD (Finding Happiness) twice because the first time he just talked the whole time. He said we could come back though, so we did that yesterday. On Friday, we had our weekly planning session, had lunch with Schw. Dörlitz, and later on we got invited to dinner by the people we did service with last week. We ate at this traditional German restaraunt, which was really good. At one point, they all started talking about religion, and we just sat there and listened. It was cool because they are all atheists as far as I know and they probably never would have had that conversation if we had not been there. At the end Elder Watts had the prompting to give them all pass-along cards, and they were actually all pretty happy to get them. Who knows if something good will come out of that.
On Saturday, we cleaned the church, and then later on had an appointment with a less-active we had lost contact with for over two months, Emily Jahr. We had a good lesson with her and hopefully she will be more willing to meet with us in the future. We have a follow-up appointment with her this week, and I hope it goes well. Sunday was typical church. There was hardly anyone there. Excluding the missionaries, there were nine people at church. It is really sad how small the branch is here and how small it will get if we can´t find some prepared people. We had a good conversation with a lady on a streetcar stop and also with another lady on a bus that day as well. They didn´t want to meet, but took cards. We hope that goes well, too. Yesterday, like I had said, was zone training. It was really good. I got to give a theme on finding through your own efforts, especially on how to open your mouth and talk to people about what is important to them. During my interview with Präs. Schwartz, he gave me the task of setting Gera on fire with geneology, so that is what we are going to be doing for the next while. It is going to be tough considering we have very few geneology resources (there is a family history center in Erfurt, an hour away), but we are going to do our best. Pray for us that we will be able to pull it off because we are going to have to do a lot of work with the city, and they don´t like us anyway because we are religious.

Well, that was the week. I hope you have a great week this week! Love you!

LG, Daniel

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Variety of Activities This Week

Hey Mom!
That is way cool about our ancestor missionaries. It is always good to know about relatives who also did the same work we are doing today, even in those early days of the church. I also hope things keep going well with your missionary efforts and that things pick up.
Anyways, this week was another slow one. Nothing really happened on Monday after P-day ended. We had district meeting on Tuesday, and later on we had our weekly Gemeindeabend. We had a pretty cool service project on Wednesday morning that Bruder Krause set up for us. We helped move out some office furniture from a building that was damaged by the floods and took it across town to a different office building. We tried to talk to people about the church while doing it, but it didn't work out so well. We later had a decent amount of contacting time where we  found 3 potential investigators, the last of which was actually kind of interested, so we hope that these people can develop more interest. Then we went to an appointment with Lutz, and we watched the Testaments with him. He loved it and felt the Spirit really strong. We ended the day with English class, which is still going because this really cool guy from Afghanistan wants to get his English really good.
Thursday was a bitter-sweet day. Bitter because we got a call from our only investigator, Thomas, who told us that he had to cancel his appointment and couldn't meet for another 2 weeks (which is an eternity not to meet with someone when you are on a mission. It was a sweet day, though, because we met with Bernd, the recent convert (kind of) and he had a friend there who we got to watch "Finding Faith in Christ" with, and he showed a mild interest. That was pretty much the events of that day. Friday was weekly planning, a bunch of unsuccessful finding time, and then we did some Karate in the park with some kids who had invited us to participate. We are going again tonight and plan on inviting them to a church activity. On Saturday, we had to clean the church, and then later on we took a bus to a little town called Aga, where nothing really happened. We met later with Bernd again, after inviting his friend to come to this appointment as well, but he didn't show, so we just had a lesson with Bernd.
Yesterday was kind of interesting. After church, we ate with Alex Krause and his girlfriend in the church, and they made 12 portions-worth of Spaetzle for 6 people and made us eat it all after we had been fasting for a day, so we all just felt terrible for the rest of the afternoon. Once we were feeling better, we headed to Zwoetzen, a part of town, and went by on some members who go to the ward in Werdau because they don't get along with people in our ward. They weren't home, but the mother of the wife was there and talked with us for about an hour, telling us that it was thanks to God that she had never read the Book of Mormon. She said that when she was going to read it, some kind of force stopped her from reading it and she thought that force was God trying to tell her not to read it. I know for a fact that that was not really the case, it was more likely Satan trying to hold someone back from discovering the truth. She told us the typical reference to the Book of Revelation, and it is kind of funny because it says pretty much the same thing in Deuteronomy, but no one ever seems to realize that there is quite a bit of Bible following Deuteronomy, but just because we have the Book of Mormon, we are bringing upon us some kind of condemnation. It is funny to me that some people can be so closed off so much as to not even read the Book of Mormon to find out what really is in there. Anyways, that was pretty much the whole week.
This week should hopefully be a little busier than last week, so next week's email will hopefully have more good news than this one did. Hope you have a great week!
LG, Daniel