elder caleb greaves

Holding to the Iron Rod in Germany

2nd week

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No clever email name, sorry. I’m feeling really nauseous right now, and I also spelled naseous wrong, but this is a German computer. But anyway, I’ll just power through it. 🙂

Emails: Christmas day. No idea what time. Probably in evening here, so that it isn’t so bad for you. But yeah, I’ll let you know next week what time. I did receive the Christmas package, thank you! It was awesome. I haven’t opened anything I wasn’t supposed to. I’m sending my package tomorrow, so we’ll probably be paying through the nose to get it there on time. Also, you can see that I kinda had to… get thrifty with the wrapping paper. You’ll see what I mean for sure. But they are all wrapped, so open that sucker up when it gets there. Sawyer has one for the gift draw and for Christmas day (Do we do it that way? I got the first one a while ago along with Aspen’s, and couldn’t resist the second one the other day, because it so darn awesome. That’s the gift draw one.) I didn’t get a chance to write letters yet, so those might come a little after Christmas, we’ll see. Suitcases: Yes, ordering me new ones would be great. Don’t worry about getting super indestructible ones, but the bigger the better for sure.

If there was one piece of advice I had for missionaries going to somewhere in Europe, it would be don’t take so much darn stuff because most Elders just burn their missionary mall or Mr. Mac suits or whatever and buy super cheap super slim European suits, shoes, ties, coats, and everything else anyway. But don’t worry. I’m too cheap for that. But will be stepping in puddles and kicking curbs until these black shoes die. 🙂 The first Christmas concert went well, there were about 200 there. We do have bikes, but against a little resistance from the comp, we are now walking basically everywhere so we can talk to everyone. It’s helped a lot, and it didn’t hurt that my bike had bad gears, either. 🙂 Happy Birthday, Mom! Phew. I think that’s everything.

Example of a Heele-Christ-Markt (Christmas market) in Bernburg.

Example of a Heele-Christ-Markt (Christmas market) in Bernburg.

So about Christmas in Germany: They have little Christmas fairs in just about every city, including Bernburg. They sell traditional German Christmas food, and then a bunch of middle eastern people sell belts and wallets and handbags and candles. The usual. But they are very very very serious about advent calendars here.They’re serious about everything Chirstmas. It is three days long: Holy evening (Christmas Eve), The day, and the next day too. If we went finding, we would be shot, ya know, in the Spirit of Christmas. But seriously, our German mission president has made it a rule: NO working the three days of Christmas. I absolutely hate it. I’ll feel guilty the whole time, not even joking. It just feels wrong, even if I’m doing what I’m told. But Germans will not ever talk to you during Christmas. Also, the song Silent Night cannot be sung except on Christmas Eve. It’s a big deal here, but Americans could get away with it. In Austria, however, I’ve heard it is actually against the law, and you pay a fine. They absolutely love Christmas here though.

silent night

So this last week:

And bear with me if my enthusiasm seems a bit curbed, I still feel a little queasy, and I have lost the ability and desire to use proper grammar, partly due to the fact that I’m doing this at the very, very end of the day and I’m super tired. But it was a great great week and Bernburg is – and there’s no other word for it – bumpin’. (That means good, Grandma Ann and Cathy. Also thank you for the book Grandma Ann, it’s awesome. And thanks Grandma Cathy for the birthday money.)

This week, we found 6 more people, which for all you Brazilian RM’s is super good here. We ended up inviting John, the guy that asked if baptism is important, to baptism on the 4th of January, and he is just about the coolest guy I’ve ever met. He traveled from Benin (by Nigeria) to Germany over the space of several years, with a 3 year stop in Morocco to earn enough money to travel more. He grew up on the streets, never got to go to school, and in some ways seems a little haunted. He says he’s honestly just grateful he’s alive, and that things in Africa “are just broken”. He is so amazing. Only 25. We had a lesson with him and his friend on Tuesday. Their other roommate was there, and he was trying to Bible bash with me, which was really fun (I swear, I never Bible bashed). He laid in his bed and would say stuff like

“Church on Sunday? Wrong. Sabbath day is Saturday”.

Answer: Basically, Prophet said. Read the BOM to see if he is a prophet.

Or we’d say, “…. prophets in the Bible like Moses, Abraham, Noah, Adam…”

“What! Abraham was not a prophet! He as a friend of God, it says so in the Bible. How can you say he was a prophet? Moses! Moses….. Okay. I’ll let you have Moses. But Abraham!” or “Í’ll bet you don’t know what it says in John 3:16!”

Thank goodness, that is like the only scripture I know in English. That surprised him. So I answered all his questions while Elder Pilling kept asking John and his friend Mark in a whisper if Ama (the guy) was drunk,so they were trying not to bust out laughing. My personal favorite,

“Church only once a week? WRONG! We should go to church every day if we really love Jesus!”

To which I replied, “Oh really Ama? When was the last time you’ve come to church?”

And then we all died laughing.

It was all in good fun, actually, and Ama still likes us, but he was doing his best to derail the lesson. We got through it though, and it was actually one of the best lessons we’ve ever taught, even with the distraction! They ended up both coming to church too, which meant more translating. The hardest part is that you have to translate from German to English to English without Gospel slang so they understand it. Sacrament meeting is fine, but Priesthood is awful. It’s kinda funny actually, because when you are translating into the simplest terms possible, you realize that all those old guys are saying EXACTLY THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER. They just use different words and scriptures and phrases. So your investigator is looking at you like you’re crazy, but you’re like, no really, they did just say”work hard for yourself” and “Jesus helps you when things are hard” 43 times in a row. Sorry. But anyway, we had a good investigator lesson with those two.

Fitz, the Asian guy that came to church last week, couldn’t come this time because he has midterms that he was really stressed about. Sad. But he is reading the BOM, so at least there’s that.

Albert, who was going to get baptized on the 28th, could not come to church because he needed to pick up his sister or something else REALLY DUMB MAN COME ON! I feel like we shouldn’t baptize him until he honestly is in the habit of coming to church every single week. We have done a good job explaining why, and he has told us why he should come, but it still isn’t happening. I’M feeling kind of alone in this though. Most other missionaries have been advising us to baptize him after he comes to church twice, the lowest “legal” amount. But we’ll see. He knows everything, but something is holding him back.

We have been inviting people to baptism on the first lesson lately. It’s something Preach My Gospel tells you to do, but no one does it ever because it just sounds crazy for Germany. But we have invited so many people and have seen so much success for little ole’ Bernburg that our zone is making it a new “key indicator”, so everyone will keep track of baptismal invites. Pretty cool! But it has been a testimony builder for me. Sometimes, you actually don’t know better than the Church leaders, and you need to go on faith.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “giving it your all” lately, and of course, I don’t have time to really go into it today, but I’ll do a little more next time. It was something Elder Garrett and I figured out together during personal and comp study over a few weeks, actually, and I’ll talk about it next time.

For now, I want to talk about following the Spirit. It’s a topic pretty dear to missionary’s heart, because it’s just about all you do. I’ve really seen a difference in the days I “seek after the Spirit” and those days I just hope it’s there. When I work for it, I have felt my mouth answering questions that I hadn’t even had time to register yet. I have seen the Spirit guide me (almsot unconciously, becuase I’m a stubborn little brat sometimes) to ask questions that have led to me understanding the investigator in a completely different way. The other day, I was on an exchange with a newish elder (still being trained). We were setting a goal for how many people we would find the next day. We decided to pray to ask Heavenly Father to give us a number that we could accomplish that would push us as hard as we could. I was feeling three, and he was thinking two. We prayed, and the first thing he said was “dang it”. What?

“Well, I really wanted to say two, because three is really high, and I was telling myself to say 2, but 3… it was like it was being stamped in my head. 3. 3. 3. It’s three. I know it.”

That’s following the Spirit. What an example to me! The next day, we found 2, which was more than had been found in the last week. We could have found three, but we didn’t know our phone number! He wasn’t discouraged. He said he still knew 3 was the right number, because we had worked all day, talking to every single person, and if we had been a little more ready, we would have found three. That’s faith! And faith and the Spirit are what should and someday will guide my every missionary footstep. I want to learn to recognize it more. Something I think I’m going to try is something I heard from a companion of a companion. He prayed to know what a “yes” felt like and what a “no” felt like for over an hour, so that he could recognize it more readily. I love that. The Spirit is incredibly more tangible than we sometimes think! He is there, ready to share God’s love and proof of our Savior. It comes through prayer! Sorry, that thought was a little discombobulated, but so it is.

Love ya, Elder Greaves

P.S. Also, you should know that today I got maybe the worst hair cut of my life. It is like a sideways mullet. VEEEERRYYY. European. One side says “I’m a missionary!” The other side, the one with the part, says “WW2 nazi soldier”. Look up pictures. It’s very accurate. I’m wearing a beanie for the next two weeks.

Hitler Youth haircut

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