elder caleb greaves

Holding to the Iron Rod in Germany


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This week… was not the best.

Oh geez. Mom has a lot of questions. No, I’ve done basically nothing asked, but not from lack of trying. I took 2 trips to Magdeburg, and even dragged my 15 minute old companion to ZARA, temple of the skinny people, where I found what was just the most gorgeous coat I have ever seen in any time in my life, and I had a hankering, let me tell you. It was not in my size. It was the 200 Euro one I talked about, but now it was 80, so I asked if I could find it online. They told me I could, and… it was of course not there. So… I have no coat, just a dream to keep me warm.

And also my ugly coat.

This ZARA coat was camel, beige, tan, whatever you want to call it, over the thigh, single breasted overcoat, so if you could possibly ever see that pop up on their website, order it immediately. I am in love. But I am also too skinny for most places still.

This week was difficult. I felt like we worked as hard as we could, but things just slid backwards this week. In the past 4 weeks, I believe I’ve had around 30 fallen out appointments, the majority of them 1st appointments. At first I thought maybe it was finding technique, but we’ve tried giving them cards with the appointment on it, calling, coming early, stopping by at a different time, praying, everything. But eventually it just comes down to people’s agency. Really though, it is kind of amazing how the Lord will support you. There’s no doubt, seeing that over and over can get really really frustrating, but I’ve felt supported. I know the Lord is watching out for us, and I really haven’t felt that discouraged.

Anyway, this week was more of the same. We actually had a couple 1st appointments, but then the 2nd ones fell out. We are trying hard to recontact those investigators, especially since they were both families. We don’t know what happened to make the 2nd apps fall out. Maybe just faulty communication.

We met with Shar [a Muslim investigator?] a lot this week. (We found out just now that we can’t teach him anymore.) He was well on his way to baptism. He literally begs us to baptize him, but we completely understand that if it isn’t safe for him and it could even slow the progress of the Church, then we can’t do it. I can definitely respect that. I know that God isn’t dumb. Shar won’t be punished for not getting baptized, as long as he was unable to do so. I do hope for his sake that he will eventually get a long term visa somewhere in Europe and then get baptized. I will try my best to keep in contact with him through email and help him find missionaries… but we’ll see.

On Sunday, we actually found an inactive person on the street. He was not on our records. He was so awesome! He loved his baptism, but just kind of fell away. He gave us a difficult address to find, however, so we are praying we can find him. He might be a good source of referrals as well.

Elder Riddle and I are getting along well, and working very well together. He is one of my favorite companions so far.

I’m getting really annoyed with NOT having anyone on baptismal date, so I want to change that very very quickly. It’s less exciting.

And also, like, souls and stuff. 🙂

I love you! Hope you have a great week!

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Subject line. (haha)

Hey guys! This week has been great! Bernburg is back up and running! We knew we needed to put the rubber to the road and pedal to the metal, really burn rubber and change gears. We knew were drifting out a little, but we are steered in the right direction. I’m out of puns for now. I’ve watched too much Top Gear, and words such as “oversteer” and “downdraft” are the only things coming to mind.

Top Gear

Really, there isn’t a ton of exciting things to talk about this week. I mean, it was fantastic week, but all pretty straightforward. Biggest things: Elder Pilling left. I miss him, and the ward misses him more. He had a lot of energy. Elder Riddle came! Before you even ask, yes, his brother is actually named Tom. No joke.

tom riddle

He is really great. We get along really well. He is 16 months out on his mission, so he is super old. 🙂 I’m excited to work with him. He likes ballroom dance, (He has a very good chance of making it on the tour team of BYU, the best team hands down in the world, when he gets back.) He is lots of fun to talk to, and loves to work hard! And he loves his email time! He almost throttled me when we took a wrong turn to get here! Other than that though, he’s great.

For some reason, there is just nothing to talk about this week. It was a great week, but just pretty straightforward. We talked to everyone, and some of them were interested.

There was one cool thing that happened today. We had an appointment with someone named Prinshu. We found him a few days ago. He clearly barely spoke any German or English, but immediately gave us his address and set up an appointment. We have no idea why. We actually didn’t even count him as a new investigator since we thought for sure the appointment would fall out. When we came there, Sure enough, a few ladies answered. He was in the shower, but they let us in this small apartment complex (very cheap) to wait. We got to know his wife a little, who told us that she recently converted to Christianity. She was so awesome! She is in Germany for asylum, because she married her husband, an orphan, in a very strict Caste system in India. And broke off an arranged marriage. Her family was not at all pleased. She speaks 12 languages! We taught them a little about the Book of Mormon, but then we had to go. They asked for a very specific return app, this Thursday at 3, because it is the only time all of their Indian friends in this house are free. So we kinda got like 15 referrals maybe. We may have to start a Hindi branch soon! 🙂

They also asked us to pray for a sick baby of her sister, and we actually gave him a blessing of healing. He had heart problems, and was going to the doctor. I did the blessing (After Elder Riddle and I were like “no you do it. No YOU do it” because SCARY!). I blessed him to be healed and grow up happy and strong. Just like that. Not normally how blessing for the sick go, but that’s what happened. I know priesthood is real, and God is real, and he wants to bless us.

I’ll copy what I sent to Rhonda below. And her email so you know what is going on. I love you all!

From Rhonda to me:

I probably missed your email day, but my SundaySchool lesson is about helping others know who the Godhead is. And, I would really like to be able to share with the class some of the beliefs of people around the world. If you get this and have some time, can you please share with me any experiences with teaching about who Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are?

Thanks so much!

From Me to Rhonda:

I’ll do my best! Today actually, we had a lesson with a woman from India. She was Hindu, but recently converted to Christianity. We taught her about prayer, and she said it was still strange for her to imagine talking to God, because that is super against Hindu belief. But she really liked the idea that God is our Father, and was excited to talk with him and share what was in her heart.

About 2 weeks ago, we taught a girl from China (athiest), and she said what I think was her first ever prayer with us. She told us she “didn’t believe in God – yet!” But she said her prayer and asked for hope and peace and got a good feeling. She wanted to know if there was really a creator out there.

Then I’ve taught a lot of Muslims. They will tell you over and over that we all believe in the same God, which is true. The Jews split with Jesus to become Christians, and Christians split with Muhammad to become Muslims. (Of course, most traditional Muslims were converted from tribalism and paganism in North Africa). But we all believe in God, and to some extent, we all believe in Christ.

With the few Jews I met, they all agreed that Christ was a good person. Of course a central tenant of Christianity is that he was literally the Son of God. And Muslims will say this exact phrase a lot: “If a Muslim were to tell you they didn’t believe in Christ, they would not be Muslim!” They believe that God is all powerful, all knowing, and impossible for a mortal to imagine. Without boundaries or end or form, just kinda… godcloud. Or something. But they believe Christ to be a prophet who will come again and save them from the Apocalypse. They say he didn’t die, but that one of the soldiers (or Judas, depending on the branch of Islam) was transformed to look like Jesus and was crucified, and God took Jesus into Heaven.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, of course, that Heavenly Father is Jehovah, and that Christ comes again to lead the way for God. They’re weird. Sadly, we see a lot in Germany that people are either Athiest or not a part of any church but at least believe in a God, or maybe worst of all, are “religious” but have no idea what they believe about Christ.

We ask people who say they are Lutheran or Catholic especially, what they believe about Christ, and they almost always say they are baptized, or they go to church every Sunday, or they have read the Bible before. So we ask them again, “But what do you believe about Christ? Who is He for you?” And they have no idea what to say. Some of them say something about how he is the Son of God, or how he was resurrected, but not one has ever talked about the Atonement in any way, shape, or form. It is sad to see a complete misunderstanding, even ignorance, of what Joseph Smith would say is the most important doctrine we have.

The biggest points we emphasize with everyone are that God is literally our Father, and as such, he loves us and wants us to be like him (exalted, a perfect body), and assigned Christ, our brother who volunteered, to suffer and die for us to be able to just that. And of course, we try to get people to recognize the Holy Ghost, because his main job is testify of God and the Savior. We can do all that thorugh the Book of Mormon, which was written and given to us not only as a testiment of the Restoration, but more importantly, of Christ as our Savior and Redeemer. (See intro to Book of Mormon, last paragraph). Hope that helped!

Love you all!


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Blech

First of all, let me tell you a little story entitled, CIARA V. IS MY HERO. [Ciara is an awesome friend from high school who decided to join the church a little more than a year ago]

I hadn’t heard from her in a while, and my missionary senses were tingling, and I was actually a little worried that she was having problems converting to LDS life. Just the opposite! She wrote me this week, and she is just doing absolutely amazing. I’m so excited for her. She immediately started sharing the Gospel with every single person she ever even smiled at. My goodness.

She told me she literally has “potential investigators” that she is still working on. Knowing Ciara, she probably has an area book too. She invited one friend to meet with the missionaries, but her friend got mad when the missionaries invited her to baptism. She’s still working on that one. She got one of her athiest friends to start praying with her, and She EVEN GOT SOMEONE BAPTIZED! As she was writing her email, he was apparently next to her, indexing! She told her student ward that they needed 1 baptism a semester! (They were a little doubtful, so she’s just doing it herself). She’s that hardcore crazy convert every ward needs, and every missionary wants. So cool for her!

And…. this week sucked. It was absolutely terrible. We found 8 people last week. That’s four times the average for the zone, and our area is tiny. Truly and only through the power of the Lord. We found miraculously this entire transfer when we gave it 100%. But when we gave it 99%, we found almost no one, because the Lord couldn’t bless us. This week, we had… 8 fallen out appointments with those guys. Pretty rough. We found 1 guy, who later walked all the way to the church to tell us he had no interest.

Ouch.

So there’s not much new to share this week, other than that John was confirmed. He was super happy. Later in the classroom, as I was walking out, he started singing

“I feel good! Dun-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh. I knew that I would now! Dun-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh. SO GOOD! DUH_ NUH! SO GOOD! DUH NUH…”

You know the one. Maybe you at least know the tune from the ever-so-descriptive duns and nuhs.

I feel good

But next week, I’m ready to hit the pavement. Oh yeah, transfers. Elder P. got sent to Bremenhofen in the far far west by the sea, and I’m staying here. My new companion’s name is Elder Riddle. I’ll meet him tomorrow!

I love you guys so much! I’m really grateful to be on my mission, feeling the Spirit and learning about myself and the Gospel every day.

Hey super cool news! I think I told you a while ago about Tom, who drove 2 hours to church the week after I left Lauenburg! I was talking to him through email before that to set up appointments, so while I never got to teach him, I did get to explain the Book of Mormon a little, give my testimony, answer a few questions… Well, he’s getting baptized! He felt the Spirit and knows it is true. They set a date just before his 25th birthday because he wants to serve a mission! How amazing is that stud?

Love ya,
Elder Greaves


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Baptism!

First off, tell the ward thanks for all the awesome Christmas cards! Thank them for thinking of me! I saved them all.

So this last month here in Bernburg has been AN ABSOLUTE TRAIN WRECK.

And by that I mean we actually literally got in a train wreck a few weeks ago, but other than that, I mean John got baptized, we are finding a ton of people, and a lot of investigators are progressing. The train wreck hasn’t affected us, other than that they DID have to amputate my foot. And my right arm. I hated that thing anyway, though.train wreckThe parts about the train wreck and the baptism and the finding? Those were all true.

So I finally figured out how to use this newfangled technology, and I put 2 pictures and a few videos in the box of dropping. [Dropbox :)] The videos were taken right after John’s baptism. He is so awesome, and so is the ward. All the little old ladies came up afterwards and gave him little gifts and big hugs and talked to him in German even though he can’t understand a lick of what they were saying.

Short summary: Took him there. I had to translate the first talk on baptism for him, which was really stressful because all the English speaking Germans were watching me very closely, and the speaker would stop if I fell behind. But it was definitely the best translating I have ever done. I was able to communicate basically everything, which was cool for John. But I was absolutely pooped. Then he was baptized, smooth as butter, by Elder P. He is very reserved, so you don’t hear him talk much, but he came out of the water and was like “WOW” It was funny. Then we took the videos while Bruder Schütze told the ward about how awesome the church is in Nigeria (actually better than in Germany), which was good because I guess most of the ward had no idea that the church was even in Africa at all. Then we had the second talk in English, and then we had the closing song.
John took the time to say a silent prayer of thanks, and we followed suit. This big tough man who grew up on the streets, who begged for money for 3 years in Morocco to get to Germany, started to cry a little bit. I wasn’t sure if he was, because man was he trying to hide it, but then he turned to me and sheepishly asked if I had a tissue. So cool. Then we took a ton of pictures. John hates pictures. Well he doesn’t mind them, but he can’t smile for long periods of time. Really weird, but that’s why he isn’t smiling in some of them. Then we went to the G. family’s house for a little dinner, and they asked John to tell us a little about him. So he told his entire life story in 10 minutes. It was so silent in that room.
He is a twin. The second twin. His mom couldn’t afford that, so they decided to sell him (I have no idea to what.) Last second, they decided he was a gift from God, and that is what he was named. (His African name means Gift of God, Son of a King). And they kept him.
Kind of. They still couldn’t afford him, so he was forced to live on the streets. No food, no money, no school. He decided to go to Europe to help his family, which means going through Morocco. There, it’s just a huge mess. Drugs and prostitution are rampant. He spent three years begging there, and finally he got on a boat to Spain, where he had to decide between going to Switzerland, where he could make easy money selling drugs, or to Germany. He fasted and prayed for 2 days, and decided he needed to come to Germany, and that he wanted nothing to do with drugs. And then we met him 1-2 months later. His family is 5 minutes from a branch in Nigeria, and he said he saw missionaries all the time, but was never interested in talking with them. By the end of this story, a few were in tears. They honestly love him now. They’ve felt his desire to come closer to God, and have seen that he is a very serious, responsible person. I’m so grateful for him, and for this ward.

The rest of the week has been really great, too. We found a ton of people, almost all Germans, which is great. One of them was actually a pretty amazing story. We had almost walked past him without talking to him, because we were on train tracks, but last second we turned and talked a little about the Book of Mormon. He got really happy, and after a few minutes, he said we were sent to him from God. Turns out, this Iranian guy came here from Switzerland, where he spent 6 months going to our church and being taught by the missionaries. He even had a baptismal date. He moved here because he just ran out of time on his papers. Multiple people told him there was no Mormon church in Germany. He started meeting with some people from the Evangelisch church, determined to still be baptized. One day they saw his Book of Mormon on the table in his apartment. Sie haben ausgeflippt. (They flipped out). They took it and even tried to exorcise the devil from him, because of the Book of Mormon.

And then he found us!
Pretty crazy, but we committed him to baptism on the street. Then we found out that he lives 3 doors down from John! We got to take John on a joint teach (not really, he wasn’t yet a member) the next day. It went well. He has an extremely strong love for Jesus Christ. We set a baptismal date with him.The plan was for him to come to church the next day with John, and then to John’s baptism that evening. He was really excited. The next day, John came to church alone. Sam apparently was not yet ready. We were a little bummed, but we thought he would still come to the baptism. He didn’t. John told us that Sam said he read in the Book of Mormon that 1 woman can have 5 husbands. Yes, absolutely nothing in that sentence is true. We hope we can clarify that, and it seems that things may not be as smooth as we hoped, but only time will tell.

Alot of our investigators come into town this week, so we are excited for that. Elder P. is starting to get nervous about transfer calls on Saturday, because this place is rockin’ now. 🙂  At the beginning of this transfer we had a teaching pool of 4.  Now it is 24.  This area is on fire, along with the rest of the district.

We also have mission tour, so we get to see President Kosak on Friday. That’s always great. With such a huge mission, we don’t have much of a chance to talk to him.

This week, something I have learned is the power of obedience. There is a special power that comes into your life when you can say you are giving 100% obedience everything you’ve got. Especially on a mission. The Spirit is with you all day long. I know it is the uncool thing to just obey right away, but when it comes to the Gospel, I think the best mentality is “Obey first, ask questions later”.

I can tell you that it has brought new confidence and new miracles in my life.
I wasn’t disobedient. But sometimes, it is good to just rededicate yourself.

I love you guys a lot. Thanks for being awesome. Your prayers really help me. Have a greeaat week!John pic 1 John pic 2

Elder Greaves