elder caleb greaves

Holding to the Iron Rod in Germany


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P.S. I haven’t gotten my package yet

happy birthday

Hey guys!

This week was pretty okay. Honestly, nothing really report-worthy happened, except for we talked about member missionary work at District meeting and the district was excited to move our focus to that. I hope good things come of it!

On Thursday, we had ward council, and it was really hard. There were just some members that were digging their heels in when it came to anything involving work. And they seemed in some way negative towards the missionaries specifically. Sometimes, we run into problems when we are TOO enthusiastic. There is a culture clash there, because sometimes, Germans feel like you are putting on a show when you are really happy. Which is kind of sad, but I can’t blame them, either. Germans are very honest with their feelings. If they don’t like you, they will tell you. Americans are not like that. At our best, we appreciate everyone. At our worst, we pretend to, and complain about them later. Sometimes Germans are over-sensitive to that. For example, if someone in America asked you how you were doing, you could have just had your leg bitten off my a shark, and you would still probably automatically answer “good.” The German’s typical answer to that question is along the lines of “It’s not unbearable.” Which is probably more realistic…

But anyway.

One of them I had heard great things about, but he seemed really down in the dumps. So we went by the next day, and he is an absolute stud.

And I think he is on our side now. 🙂

Turns out he loves astronomy and Einstein, and he knows just about every apostle personally. Like he was actually really good friends with Elder Faust. He and his wife are awesome, and now they know that we are awesome too!

On Saturday, we got our transfer calls. Elder Weaver has been here a long time, but this next one is his last transfer, so we kind of thought he was staying. But he’s going! I don’t know the area very well yet, but luckily I’m training again, so my new companion doesn’t have to know that. 🙂

That means this next week is going to be spent almost entirely on a train.

trains

Tomorrow I go to Hamburg, then back to Kiel, then Wednesday I go to Freiberg (where the temple is) and on Thursday I get the new guy and head back to Neumünster. Then Friday we can start working… sigh. But I’m excited to train again. It should be really fun.

 

Sunday is usually my favorite day of the week here, because it is game time! That’s when you can do the most with the members. This week was no exception. It’s just good to get to talk to everyone and build relationships.

I’m doing really well. It’s weird to be getting so old. I’m over 2/3 done with my mission now. The sisters I was in the MTC with, Elder Weaver, and Elder Garrett all go home in six weeks.

I’m just puttering along in my old age, loving my mission!

And sorry, I’ve just been feeling really tired at email time lately, so they’ve been kind of lame.  But I feel awesome!

Love you guys!
Elder Greaves

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This week was… eh. Not terrible.

Hey Guys! I hope everyone is doing well, including Ginger!

This week was… eh. Not terrible. Actually, good things happened, but just not enough to be satisfied.

I’ve talked before about how we are working really hard to collaborate our efforts with the Neumünster ward.

We’ve started meeting with this awesome retired guy named K, who is the husband of a member. He’s been married to her for 30 years. It’s so interesting to see how he learns. His wife is super awesome, and is not afraid to talk about the church, but I think the phrase “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house” applies here. 🙂

We met him during an eating appointment, where our ability to talk soccer and 60’s music came in handy.

(Sidenote, one of the best things you can do to prepare for your mission, after you have read your scriptures, is learn how to talk to people and develop your interests. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I knew more about music or movies or professional soccer so that I could have a good conversation with someone.)

interests

We gave a “quick” spiritual thought, which lasted about an hour, because he started asking a ton of questions. He was super frustrated because he hasn’t been able to understand anything his wife has been saying about the church for the last 30 years. But as we explained it, it clicked, and he got really excited. He said he didn’t want the lessons, but we asked later at church if we could come by for another spiritual thought, thinking we were being sneaky, but the member wife just said,

“Hmm. Sure. You might be able to help him.”

Busted.

But we came over, had a super awesome talk, and then offered to build some Ikea furniture for them on Saturday. Then we had another spiritual thought. You get the drift. He’s so great. He’s this super German crotchety old man that likes his soccer, but he has a best friend and when his wife is out of the house, they put on records, blast he music, and start jumping around playing air guitar. O love that image. 🙂

He’s super happy whenever something makes sense to him. We shared Alma 32 with him, where it talks about faith being like a seed and not being a perfect knowledge, which he didn’t get.

So we compared it to love. You can’t see love, but you can feel it. No one can prove that you love someone, but you know it just the same, and it really can’t be explained away as merely chemicals in your body causing you to feel that way.

Another good teaching moment is when we were with this less active couple. He used to be in he Bishopric, but eventually fell away. He makes lots of excuses, but it basically just comes down to pride and laziness.

That sounds really harsh, but what I mean is, it could happen to anyone. He missed one week, then two, then before you know it, he was gone.

They brought up this time how they could come back to church, but then it is just one meeting after another and before you know it you are drowning. That is legitimate. I think we can all agree we are strangely addicted to meetings in this church, considering no one likes them anyway. We empathized and asked how difficult it must have been when they had 4 kids at home. The wife spoke up for the first time, and for the next 20 minutes they detailed their schedules, how they were always tired, how she had had to run kids everywhere and it was all too much, it was super stressful, on and on, all real feelings they had. Then, when they finished, we just asked,

“But was it worth it?”

It got quiet. They slowly nodded their heads. We moved on.

This church asks a lot of its members. In the form of showing faith and obedience, that is a very good thing. In the form of keeping families apart, it is a necessary but potentially dangerous trait. Apostles and prophets have warned us about this. One said we needed to remember not to ask for too much time. Another reminded us that it wasn’t about Mutual, or campouts, scouts or Relief Society activities. It’s about Christ. The rest is just an appendage, a tool to help us come closer and stay near to Him. Let’s not forget the order of things.

David A. Bednar asked us missionaries when he was here, how we would respond if the church started building church buildings without a gym, without pews, if it got rid of the youth program, Primary, etc. It’s weird to think about it, and I don’t think it will ever happen, considering that they are too useful, but if it were to happen, the church would still be true.

Let’s not forget that.

All in all, I’m a little disappointed so far with the progress of Neumünster. It’s going better than it has in a long time, but I honestly expect more. I can see the Lord helping us, I just hope I’m not somehow slowing Him down. I feel mostly good, but I want to feel all the way good. Neumünster is a good area with a bad reputation, so we need to see a lllooot of success so that missionaries stop knowing it as a hard area. That’s actually a problem in our whole zone, which the zone leaders are working on. It’s fun working together with them, and I really like them both a lot. It’s fun taking them on exchanges and trying to kill them with work. 🙂 I think Elder Bretzieng had to walk about 10 miles with me on Thursday, not exaggerating (at a very missionary-like pace, of course). Not something that happens in big cities, or so I heard through the snail mail we just got from the pony express out here in BOONIES. 🙂

I love you guys.

Mom, that’s so cool about your law firm. I hope everything goes well.

Love you!

Elder Greaves


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Aspen asked about the refugees . . .

OH MY GOSH have I heard about the refugees. I’ve seen it too. It’s just about all Germans can talk about, because they are freaking out.

Neumünster has, as far as I can see, equal numbers of Germans and Middle Eastern people. I respect Germany for what they are doing, but have heard very little in favor it from the actual people.

refugee grafitti

From a newspaper.  The caption reads in German,"Another train arrived in Neumünster Around 370 more refugees arrived early Tuesday morning in Neumünster . The train from Salzburg arrived around 3:30 clock , as an Interior Ministry spokesman said."

From a newspaper. The caption reads in German,”Another train arrived in Neumünster. Around 370 more refugees arrived early Tuesday morning in Neumünster . The train from Salzburg arrived around 3:30 clock , as an Interior Ministry spokesman said.”

Numbers I’ve heard tossed around: Germany has received about 800,000 refugees now. Imagine Utah’s population suddenly becoming 1.5 times as large, and that is about what has happened. People are sleeping in tents, on lawns, every school gym is being used, and we are headed for what might be the coldest winter in 15 years.

Some Refugees are amazing, working their butts off because they feel like they owe the country something. but the program basically runs like this: They arrive after a RIDICULOUSLY long and dangerous journey with literal bandits and murderers, getting here by just walking for months. Then they get assigned to an in-between spot, where they wait for a month or so with paid-for housing and food, and with 90 or so dollars of spending money every 10 days. They have literally all of their basic human needs taken care of already, so they use this money for 1 of two things: They save up, or the other 95% spend it on really expensive clothes. They have nothing to save for.

So it is comically common to see a toothless, very poor looking middle eastern man smoking as many cigarettes as he can, passed out drunk on a bench, wearing 100 dollar Ralph Lauren or Lacoste sweaters, cat-calling at people walking by. It needs to be handled better. It’s about to collapse. There is a very real need for refugees to be taken somewhere, but they are flocking to Germany because they get paid the most.

Some of them are the most amazing people I have ever meet, who take their monumentally massive trials with a British stiff upper lip, gird up their loins, and get to work. But many get here and quickly realize they are on vacation. I don’t understand why this is happening.

They need to be helped, but if I could some up the problems I see, they would be:

1. Drugs to unbelievable levels, mostly cigarettes and heavy heavy liquor for buying, and cocaine for selling.
2. If they get married to a German, they can stay forever. You can imagine how that one has played out.
3. They have literally nothing to do all day. They can’t leave the tiny city they are stuck in, they aren’t allowed to work until they get a Visa, and they have stress from former lives, so gambling, drugs, and prostitution are real problems.
4. Those that want to make a good life are put down because no one trusts refugees anymore.
5. To reiterate, they are not even allowed to work. In old East Germany, there are 1000’s of abandoned, gross, brick, burned down buildings. It looks like a dump. You don’t have to speak Arabic to tell someone to take that sledgehammer and knock down a building. Build up the infrastructure!
6. They are letting in more than they can handle financially. This is, in all honesty, because Germans feel guilty and ashamed about the Holocaust. That happened because of hate for foreigners. I don’t think it is a coincidence that today, Germany is letting in so many.
7. The plan is to kick all of them out when it gets better in the Middle East. The middle east has never been even good before. Why would it get better now? Then what would Germany do?

So Germans are panicking. They generally just panic anyway. But just like Americans, it is so much easier to attack politicians than to support them, so Merkel isn’t particularly loved, although she is not altogether hated either, which usually is a politically victory in today’s moan-fueled society.

Phew – glad I got that off my chest.

Sorry, I spent a really long time writing Aspen about the refugee thing, because it’s just about all I hear about these days, so I had some thoughts.

So, I won’t have much time today.

Below is my letter to President Fingerle, translated into English by Google translate – oh and no, I cannot do German puns by any means. Although sometimes I can do bilingual puns with missionaries.

This week was …. hectic. We have seen success, but it was the most unconventional. We have found a lot of people – 4, which is actually more, perhaps, than all the dislocation it. But all, 100%, appointments have failed. Progress, but also disappointing. Hopefully we can make contact again. A couple of them were families. Who knows? Perhaps we see this week. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were all quite full and busy with appointments, with some members, but all have failed. Bad luck.

The good Sachen: We have contacted families two less active, and we will meet this week. That makes us very happy, and when coming back, then the municipality (ward) would also.

Our Gemeindemissionslieter is fully enthusiastic about our efforts to work with the community. He supports us. He said the council this week that we are doing a lot of good and he has noted that although all the missionaries to work hard, we will give our best to the particular. That’s good to hear! This helps the whole community to trust us.

what

Haha that was funny to read. Maybe you can get the gist.

Anyway, yeah, we found a lot of people. But they all fell out. Super lame. Elder Weaver is about to go home, too, so he’s getting trunky. (Mission slang which means the same feelings as homesickness, but at the end of your mission, with a special emphasis on dating). But I’m working him! Just kidding we are both working hard.

This week we had a really good district meeting that helped me personally a lot. Elder Cook (senior couple member) gave presentation on charity which was super awesome. He is a spiritual giant. I love hearing his thoughts.

The ward thing is slowly.. ever so slowly.. progressing.

Can I just publicly proclaim how important home teaching is? Yes, a missed month happens. But that is a calling from God.

We have to remain worthy for our priesthood, and if we don’t watch out for each other, who will?

Home teaching, in my opinion, is the direct application of why it even is that every man gets the priesthood. In earlier times, only a select few got it. Specifically, just enough to do the ordinances. But now, it is given to everyone to bless the lives of everyone else. It is not a joke, it is the power of God! We need to magnify it! If you have less-active families to teach, do it! Make that priority number one! If you have only active members, still do it! I can guarantee there is someone you are supposed to teach that needs help to read in the scriptures daily or say prayers, or needs a friend or an ear. Every time. I also give testimony that the better the ward does on home teaching, the better the missionary work goes, because the Lord sees that ward is ready to take care of new people. And if the missionaries offer to go on splits with you, (in our case we are not just doing that to make sure it gets done, but to get to know the members better and work with them more), don’t tell them “Maybe in December when I have more time”! It’s sooo important to show your kids that you are serving the Lord by serving others! Think of what that can do for your family!

I love you guys. Thanks for being awesome.

Love you,
Elder Greaves

P.S. I should be buying a coat next week hopefully.


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Hey Guys!

This week was a good one. I liked it. And of course, it finished off with General Conference, which I really liked.

One of my favorite things that happened this week is we met with an older lady in our ward named Schwester G, and with her nonmember husband. Of course, we wanted to talk about the Gospel with him, but we also knew that missionaries can sometimes get a little nervous or awkward or overeager in such situations, so we just wanted to make sure he liked the missionaries at the end of the day.

As we talked, the conversation just naturally turned to the Gospel. We ended up having an awesome lesson! He’s an awesome guy who’s just been frustrated because he can’t seem to recognize the Holy Ghost. But we were able to explain it to him a little better, and he really liked that. Hopefully something comes of that!

We also met with this less active guy who used to be a part of the bishopric. That was also a good lesson. He still believes the Book of Mormon is true, so we read in it together and try to get as much out of it as we could. It turned out really well. It’s pretty enjoyable because he just has this attitude

“GRR. I hate that this book is true!”

One thing I’m really excited about is our member missionary work plan. It’s a fact that the best way to do missionary work is through members. The actuality of our calling is that we are supposed to be full-time teachers, and the members full-time finders. I’ve never even heard of anyone getting anywhere close, but I’m pumped to try here!

We spent a chunk of our day planning everything we possibly could to really jump start the ward. Here’s part of our plans:

Operation Shirtless: This one was actually thanks to Sawyer! We made origami ties modeled after the one he sent me a while ago, and then put a thank you note inside. Then we give them to the members after eating appointments, etc. That’s really cool! I’d never thought I’d do something so cutesy, but Germans are suckers for homemade gifts. Really. Like in America, you’s be like

“Aw. That’s really cool!”

But here they like melt and hang it up framed on the wall.

So we are trying to take advantage of that little cultural chink in their armor. 🙂

Class:  We are holding a missionary class in December to explain actually how they can help.

Through the kids:  The Primary Program is coming up, so we ordered these “Future missionary” bracelets and we are going to help them invite friends. This is a proven tactic. And please, when I was 6, if the missionaries gave me a bracelet and told me to invite friends, heck, I’d invite everyone.

Plan:  We are helping our Ward Mission Leader make a ward mission plan before December.

Family History:  We are now going weekly to the family history center to meet members and nonmembers alike.

Temple:  The stake is paying for all new or returning members to go up to the Copenhagen temple once a month. That’s awesome!

Service:  This one I need your help on. We are going to have service project activities, because this ward has a terrible problem of not coming to activities. But it’s way easier to say you are too busy for soccer than it is to say you are too busy for premature babies. That is kind of sneaky, yes, but in a good way. Could you guys send me a few ideas of things that wouldn’t take too much work to set up, but have a good emotional story behind it?

I don’t have time for much else, and I’ll talk about GC next week more, but I really liked it. I dug the pottery analogy, and I loved Elder Nelson’s and Elder Renlund’s talks.

To answer those questions: The 500 dollar thing: I have been racking my brains to figure out where it’s all gone. I honestly have no idea. I went out a to eat way too much in Frankfurt Oder at the end, which is how I train to gain an appetite, by just eating right when I’m hungry and keep doing it, but I definitely stopped that. I’m really sorry. Truly. I can’t really explain it. I feel really bad.

We watch session 1 Saturday night, Priesthood Saturday morning, then S2 and S3. S4 we watch on our own, or sometimes next Sunday during the last 2 hours.

District leader is fun. I think I have it under control. One thing DL’s do here is call every companionship every single night, which is sometimes not what I want to be doing, but also it’s a ton of fun to talk to them. District meetings have been really fun to plan, and I’ve been getting some pretty positive feedback, so that’s good. Last week, the subject was helping investigators progress, but I try to say different or unique things, since most obvious stuff has been said. That seems to be working. This week, I’m going to be mixing it up by doing more of a spiritually-focused meeting. Every other district meeting I’ve ever been to has been about how to be a better missionary, but I just asked several missionaries to talk about a certain characteristic of Christ, so it will be a little different but cool.

Hey! To end on a happier note, I don’t know if you’ve read any bios of the new apostles, but Elder Renlund’s wife sounds like a powerhouse! She owned her own law firm and was in several committees, but gave it all up when he was called to Africa. Anyone that’s a mormon mom and a lawyer is cool in my book! 🙂

Anyway, I’m gonna go now. I can totally tell that my English is sounding very German today. I have weird sentence structure going on right now. Also, in German, I-e and e-i in words (like weird) makes the opposite sound as in English, which has completely fried my brain. It’s to dyslexic levels on those. I literally have no idea anymore. For example, fried. Fried would be said freed in German. To say fried, you’d spell it freid. Sigh. College will be fun.

I love you guys!

Elder Greaves