elder caleb greaves

Holding to the Iron Rod in Germany


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This week was pretty productive.

Hey guys!

These last three weeks before this one have just been a blur of train rides and meetings and exceptional circumstances, so it’s been really nice to have a chance to hit the pavement! Every area seems to have its challenges, and Neumünster is no exception. (By the way, it’s pronounced noy-moon-stir).

Here we’ve been able to find a ton of people, like “miraculous” a lot, and they all seem more interested than I’m used to. In other words, they seem to be more solid –

But that’s the catch.

Just about every single first appointment falls out, and as every missionary knows, if the first appointment falls out, you have like a 3% chance of ever seeing them again. That is, I can assure you, incredibly annoying. And it debunks
one of the myths of a mission in Germany.

German(/Europe) mission myths

1. You can’t baptize in Germany.

It’s really not bad. I’m reminded of a story I heard the other day about this missionary who was sent to a really tough mission. Everyone told him he couldn’t baptize, that the people there were uninterested, would hate him, hated religion, and would always ignore him. I don’t know the exact numbers, but he baptized a lot. You might’ve heard of
him – His name was Ammon.

Did you know that when some Mormons see a group of missionaries headed to Germany in the airport, they actually
– this has happened to multiple missionaries I know – they actually go up to them just to tell them to not be upset but they weren’t going to baptize anyone? I just want to give those people a hug. Tightly. With my hands around their necks. Maybe if people stopped doing REALLY DUMB THINGS LIKE THAT, some missionaries around here would have a little more faith in the all powerful neighbor upstairs and start baptizing like we should be.

2. Once you get a German to meet with you, they will be super solid and will never miss an appointment.

Oh my gosh, I wish! I think a real problem is, the people of this country are as dependent on their daily planners as normal people are on their cell phones, and so if you make an appointment on the street, they completely forgot about it. Plus, if anything is remotely stressful, like they have a cold, or they have to go grocery shopping in the next couple days, it’s all too much and they need a breather, and they cancel. Or just aren’t there. So you have to wade through those ones.

3. Once a German gets baptized he never goes inactive.

Shortly said, retention rates are just as bad here as they are anywhere else. Germans are just as easily offended (or more so) as anyone else.

I know Numbers two and three seem to completely conflict with number one, but the thing is, the Lord prepares prepared people for prepared missionaries, whether they be members or full-time missionaries. And there are prepared people everywhere.

Case in point – on Tuesday I was on exchanges with the zone leaders. We were walking to the church, talking to people along the way, as we do, and we met this really nice Hungarian lady. She spoke some German but not a ton, but we were able to use the pictures in the front of the book of Mormon to explain what it was, and offered to give her one in Hungarian. She gladly accepted. Saturday, we had a Hungarian joint teach lined up using Skype. But our appointment fell out, since she was in Hamburg. She rescheduled for Saturday night, though. Again, there was a misunderstanding, and she thought we only wanted to give her the book that night, and then we would meet later. But we talked for a few minutes before parting ways, and I am super excited to meet with her. It was difficult to understand, and she was struggling to express yourself, so I’m not positive, but here’s a summation of what I think I heard. A few days before she met us on the street, she had some sort of dream, and she somehow knew that she would talk to two men on the street, and that she should listen to them. She told us that she was atheist, but somehow everything we said, she believed. That’s pretty amazing! We’ll see what happens there.

As for me personally, I’m in a very good place right now. I really good place. I love becoming who I want to become. I’m excited to see the differences even more sharply when I see you guys next year. I was telling some sisters in my district the other day that I was pretty shy before my mission, and they were shocked, mostly because now I can’t shut up! 🙂 It’s just about my favorite thing ever now to get some time to talk to someone – about anything. I was thinking about how about 20 months ago, the idea of having to talk to several missionaries in the phone every night for about 20 minutes each would literally be the most terrifying thing ever, but now it’s a highlight
of my day.

I wanted to share a spiritual thought with you. This was what I wrote for my (abnormally good) personal study one day, and it was really an answer to prayer.

Endure to the end

Sometimes, we feel like aren’t making any difference. We keep going and going and going, but nothing changes.

It’s like a flashlight. Turn on a flashlight in a dark room. Where do actually see the light? On the wall. Between the flashlight and the wall, you see nothing. Sometimes, that’s how God works with us. We are expected to make it all the way to the wall, even if up until that point, we are convinced we are not being a light unto the world at all. True success comes as we make it to the end.

This is consistent with the scriptures. In the story of the fishermen, we see this important principle.

Luke 5:2-8 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen
were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed
him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down,
and taught the people out of the ship.
4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into
the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the
night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let
down the net.
6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of
fishes: and their net brake.
7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship,
that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both
the ships, so that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees.

They were washing their nets – they were done for the day. But when the Lord commanded them to do it just one more time, Peter responded with

“Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing:
nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.”

And then they had more success than they could handle. What an example of hope – of thinking, this time it will work. Notice this important principle as well – the Lord seems always eager to bless beyond our capabilities to
receive, if we wait.

The other instance of miraculous fishing help further explains:

John 21:3-6 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto
him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship
immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the
disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship,
and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to
draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Imagine that – Peter, the powerful fisherman, must have tried everything in his power, must have used every trick he knew, must have called upon every bit of knowledge he had, and then nothing happened. Then the Lord comes, and tells them to do something so obvious, so unoriginal, so painfully simple as to try the other side of he boat, but they did. And it worked. Sometimes in missionary work, we need to listen to that still small voice that says something like “talk about the Book of Mormon” or “pray you’ll find an investigator”. Sometimes we just need to listen and obey and have hope.

Now, why do you think it is that the Lord works in this pattern of absolutely nothing all the night long, and then bam. Right at sunrise more than you can take? Why not spread it out across the whole night to avoid those feelings of discomfort?

Without being too harsh, I’m not convinced that God is overly concerned with us being comfortable. Quite to the contrary – sometimes, he seems to desire just the opposite! He seems pretty determined to take us out of our comfort zone, to push us, and pull us, and twist us until we have finally worked all night, and then He can send us the miracle, because a few things have now become clear:

1. We can’t possibly do it alone – we easily recognize the hand of the Lord.
2. We truly only desire success.
3. We deserve success.
4. We will be grateful for it.
5. We will take care of the people we are blessed to be helping.
6. We held to our hope that the Lord would bless us.

I think this principle applies to all aspects of life, but I think the Lord meant to make it a very specific parable of missionary work.

Luke 5:10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which
were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from
henceforth thou shalt catch men.

John 21: Feed my sheep.

In other words, the Lord tends to kind of ignore any patterns we try to impose. We think of gradual increase, of slow gains, of progressing continually. We try to predict what will happen in the future based on what has happened in the past, but when it comes to being on the Lord’s errand, it just doesn’t work like that. That only works when we are relying on humans. But this work is more than just us. The Lord is with us, and we can never forget that.

Like 19th century English reformer John Ruskin once said (found in general conference talk 😉

“I believe the test of a great man is humility. I do not mean by humility the doubt in one’s own personal power; but really, truly great men have the curious feeling that greatness is not in them but through them and they see the divine in every other human soul and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”

If you are given a tough challenge, if you have been working for a while but nothing seems to be working, if, in missionary terms, you are sent to an area where nothing good has ever happened, if you have sweat and prayed and fasted and tried new things, and it’s still the same, the Lord is not just working somewhere else right now.

He is with you, watching, buoying you up, keeping you going, until you have proven that you are a constant he can count on, then, all at once, we can pull up our nets and be blessed beyond imagination.

After all, as PGA golfer Arnold Palmer once said (also found in a GC talk, please, I don’t watch golf),

“Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to is.”

I love that quote.

I can’t tell you, nor myself, how long that night might drag on, (and depending on the challenge, it might be until the next life) or how choppily the sea might jostle your boat, or how heavy your arms will get throwing the net over and over in the water, but through that night of darkness, know that God is always, always there. You will have too much success to handle, if you continue on in hope. Know that the sunrise always, always comes.

Phew. Sermon over.

Love you guys.

Elder Greaves

yosemite-half-dome-sunrise-1090321-gallery

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This week was another weird one.

Hey guys!

Friday, the Zone Leaders, Elder Allen and I went to Flensburg for their baptism. It was so awesome. M. is just a great guy. He’s one of those converts that make you inspired to keep working, because you want to find someone just like him.

But then, a train fell out going back, so we had to take like a 3 hour bus ride instead. That was pretty annoying. But that day was just weird all the way around. We got a conference call that morning, which means the whole mission was on one phone call.

M-Russell-Ballard

Elder Ballard was heading through Germany to do a video conference about how ward councils should be done. THANK YOU. But he realized he had a little tiny hole in his schedule, so he asked President to call over a few missionaries to talk with Elder Ballard. President Fingerle decided instead to get all the missionaries to Berlin by Sunday evening to have an hour long conference. That took a massive amount of coordination, but it worked!

So we got to shake Elder Ballard’s hand. This is my second apostle now. I’m thinking about turning it into a game, like Pokemon, to see how many apostles I can get. Got to catch them all!

Pokémon-Gotta-Catch-Em-All_art-520x292

Anyway, he talked to us about, of course, missionary work. It was super awesome. He said a lot of cool things, one of my favorites, as he was talking about getting a passion for missionary work, being,

“You’ll get to the point where it’s cold and wet and you look out the
window and it’s raining, and you say, ‘Ah, I get to be persecuted all
day!'”

He has perfected old man charm.

Actually though, one of the most meaningful things I learned was not really what he said, but his attitude towards missionary work. I had forgotten how missionary work could be. His view of missionary work is finding people that are interested in learning more about families, or just interested in your message, and you get invited to their nice clean home and have a wonderful evening with their family. And then you come back the next night and do it again. I think I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking all missionary work could be is meeting with lots of kinda strange people in their dirty little apartment, and then trying to come back next week, if the appointment doesn’t fall out.

But he reminded everyone, I think, that it could be a lot better. I liked that.

One thing I’ve learned on my mission is, there are a few things I hate a lot in this world. One of them is not having a garbage disposal, but that’s beside the point.

I hate complacency. It is terrible.

I never want to ever use the phrase “good enough” again. I think being a go getter means trying to do everything you have to do the absolute best that you can, whether that’s a talk, a calling, setting the table, or filling out paperwork. I don’t like it when I or someone else assumes that, although there is room for improvement, it’s a passable effort.  That’s dumb. I hope I and all other missionaries can take that to
heart, and not be satisfied with where we are now.

I also have a particular hatred of cynicism. I can’t stand it.

Cynicism is the justification of the apathetic, the anesthetic of the
lazy, and the addiction of our society.

Waxed poetic there for a second, sorry. I’ve thought a lot about it. 🙂

In other news, I’ve been really enjoying taking all this time on trains to just think. I realized I haven’t done that in forever. Back at home, if I had nothing to do, I would be playing some stupid phone game I didn’t even want to be playing, or listening to some music I didn’t care about, or watching some show that bored me, because I thought that is what you did. But man, thinking is a blast! I just like letting my thoughts wander and go where they want, and usually that involves some really great brainstorms, if I do say so myself.

Lately I’ve been on a real flying kick, so I realized the other day that no one has ever gone to the moon as a solo pilot and as an independent space program. I’d be an astronaut. So I thought about all of those things and all the problems.

Also, I’m sure I could break the record for longest fall without a parachute if I jumped out of a plane into a stadium filled with styrofoam peanuts, which would take some funding, but hey. Sounds like a plan.

This week was too crazy to have almost anytime to do real missionary work, but we found a really cool lady that hopefully we will be teaching soon.

I love you guys!

Elder Greaves


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I hope you’ve had an awesome week!

Hey guys!  Our week here has been really good! We have a big goal that we sent personally to baptize someone before Christmas. Then the mission also set that as a goal, and then you guys said you were praying for that too, so we decided we better make it happen! 🙂

I personally have been trying to focus on saying really sincere prayers, and asking for very specific blessings.  So this week that’s what I’ve been praying for. Chances are, we need to find somebody either last week or this week or the week after that if we have any chance of baptizing them before Christmas. It’s really made a difference in me as a missionary. I felt like I’ve started working harder and praying harder and having more faith that when I do everything I can, and have righteous desires, the Lord does the rest.

But this week we were also super busy and had very little time to work in our area. . .

Monday with P-day, Tuesday we had to go to Flensburg to do a baptismal interview, Wednesday we had to go to Kiel for a district meeting, and Thursday we were in Hamburg for a leadership training meeting.

ScoutingOutdoor-773092

The baptismal interview was a super cool experience. The Flensburg sisters have an investigator named M. He actually found out about the church through scouting believe it or not. He was in America for I don’t know how long being an assistant scoutmaster for a troop back in Arizona right around where we lived! He talked about Indian school Road and knew where Litchfield Park was, but I couldn’t quite figure out what ward he went to. But he went to church there several times, and then when he came to Germany, he continued to meet with missionaries. He is so cool! It’s taken him a long time to get here,but he truly understands the Gospel. He said the turning point for him was when he prayed about the book of Mormon, and felt for the first time that it was true. All he could talk about was how baptism was his greatest desire, and how it’s so precious to him that he feels closer to and understands the Savior. Such an amazing guy. We are going to his baptism on Friday.

Thursday was the leadership training meeting. It was pretty fun. It was six hours long though, so I was pretty done at the end. I really like president Fingerle. You can tell he has lots of ideas and really wants to shake things up, but is having a hard time with missionaries that don’t like change. That’s kind of ironic that the missionaries find it difficult to change things like how often we speak German, or how we work with members, but then we expect the people we talk to to completely change their lifestyles, way of thinking, general attitude towards life, probably circle of friends, and give up everything they’ve considered fun up until this point. I’m going to try and support him as much as I can.

time for change

So we got home from that meeting, and basically just walked straight home. Well at least that was the plan, but then some doofus took us in the complete opposite direction like three times in a row.

That doofus was me.

But we ended up finding two investigators, so we’ll just go ahead and chalk that one up to the spirit!

We met with one of them Saturday. I honestly wasn’t super excited to meet with her, because she was a Jehovah’s Witness. I figured we both try to convert each other, and it would end with us walking out, refusing to fight. Well turns out I was completely wrong. She was one of the most open awesome investigators ever! Unfortunately, she doesn’t actually live here – she was only visiting, so we are not able to meet with her in the future. But anything we said that we disagreed on, if we explained it clearly, she had no problem with it. She had a ton of questions and we used a lot of the Bible, and we ended up teaching both the restoration and the plan of salvation, as well as Christ is Jehovah and we have both a body and a spirit. We finished with introducing the Book of Mormon – three hours later. She was so excited, she asked us if she could have the book of Mormon, before we even could offer it! The weird thing is, I actually know for a fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t allowed to read other religious texts. So she was a pretty cool one. I hope it all works out for her.

No, I haven’t gotten my package yet. [mom editorial, because it showed back up on our doorstep].  I also ordered a book online, and that hasn’t arrived yet, so I wondered if maybe I somehow gave you a false address. But no, I checked, it should be fine.

Weird.

Anyway, I accidentally took out my monthly money from my personal money again. Sorry about that. I will put some back and use the rest for Christmas. I love you guys!

 
Elder Greaves


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So sorry, I thought I thanked Grandma Cathy and Grandma and Grandpa Gerald already!  I was super grateful for both things. Grandma Cathy’s card was really meaningful, she actually wrote we a somewhat long note – and I’m going to use Grandma and Grandpa’s money to finally buy a suit, so I can stop looking like a hobo. (just kidding, it’s not that bad.)
This week was a whirlwind! Just about nothing was normal.

The saddest part happened on Monday evening. I got a call from the AP’s, and they had some bad news. My new trainee wasn’t coming to Germany after all, so I’m not training. That really stunk. I was/am pretty bummed by that. So my new companion is named Elder Allen (again), only this time he’s from Utah. He’s been out since February. He’s been on his mission as long as I was when I got to Frankfurt Oder. He’s great – I really like him.

So after that call, Elder Weaver finished packing, I tried to finish cleaning, and we went to bed. Tuesday, we rode a train to Hamburg, where I finally bought a coat. It’s long, an overcoat, and it’s navy blue. I like it. Then I waited for a really long time with the zone leaders. My new companion couldn’t come until Wednesday because it was an emergency transfer, so I was spending the next couple days with the zone leaders. But it was fun because I got to see if you missionaries. I saw Elder Germann, my last district leader, and I also got to see Elder Allen, (from Frankfurt Oder). It was so great to see him, and to talk about Lauenburg.

Finally the zone leaders and I headed back to Kiel. The next day, they set goals for the zone, and we went finding. We found two really old ladies, which are some of my favorite people. That night we picked up Elder Allen, and then we headed back to Neumünster. So we didn’t actually get to start working until Thursday.

Friday we had district meeting. It was good, but teensy bit boring. It was kind of a filler district meeting, because I thought it would be best to wait till the second week to talk about member missionary work, so that the new missionaries had time to adjust and get to know the area and members.

At the end, after the other companionships had given some presentations, I gave a short little “pump up” spiritual thought about giving it all you’ve got. I talked about it a long time ago, the story of Elijah wanting to give up and eating the cake and water, and then going 40 days straight without food. The Flensburg sisters were freaking out because they had exactly 40 days left! They are funny.

One thing I’m getting really excited about is that we are going to start working with the primary kids. President Fingerle had a really good idea when he told us that children are the best missionaries. Lucky for us we have an upcoming primary program at the end of November! Everything just seems to be falling in place. We just ordered these super awesome bracelets and stickers that say future missionary on them. It actually says them in English, but that’s what the kids call hip here, so it works out.

It starts with these black-and-white invitations that say “children’s choir” at the top, with the picture of Jesus and children at the bottom. It’s purposefully left colorless so that so that the children can color them and give them to their friends. But here’s the kicker: we just ordered little rubber black bracelets and black stickers that say future missionary on them.

future missionary

All I know is, if some missionaries had given me a bracelet when I was eight and told me to get all my friends to church, I’d sure as heck do it. The primary president agrees. She thought the invitations were pretty cool, but when we told her about the bracelets, she squealed and said,

“That is the cutest thing!”

Perfect.?  And I really think it will work.

Lately I’ve become really really comfortable talking in German. I mean I could always speak German but now I actually enjoy it almost as much as English. 🙂

So I’ve been trying to talk to all the little kids. On Sunday, they all ran out of primary program practice, and I was just sitting down on the couch. Before I could object, I had about 8 little ruffians climbing all over me. I let them wear my name tag and tickled their feet and talk to them about their favorite primary songs. I can honestly say, it will be one of the happiest memories of my mission.

I’m starting to think that the ward is waking up a little bit. There at least starting to talk the talk! With our focus on home teaching and helping them do it, the focus of the lesson in priesthood and Sunday school for the past three weeks or so, I was just about always turned to home teaching, as well as working as hard as you can and doing missionary work. Hopefully that gets into someone’s heart!

I think one of the coolest things about a mission is being able to see how you change. And I really have changed a lot. Just a few weeks ago, I was on exchanges with one of the zone leaders, Elder Bretzieng. We were in the MTC together.

At the time, we were actually lamenting the fact that the mission field is not much different from regular life, and that there are still rumors and gossip and sometimes a lack of acceptance. It’s an unfortunate truth that sometimes when someone becomes a “big leader”, People start trying to tear them down and talk about what they’ve done wrong.

Elder Bretzieng just offhandedly said,

“The only thing I’ve heard about you is that you were very different from who you were in the MTC. In a good way.”

My first reaction was,

“What the heck was wrong with me in the MTC?!”

But the more I thought about it, the more I was OK with that.

The funny thing about growing up is it doesn’t mean who you were before was bad. I just means that the person you were was good enough to become the person you are now.

Another funny thing is, it’s fun and exciting and scary and terrible all the same time trying to imagine who I’m going to be in the future. I feel like I’m changing and growing and learning so fast on my mission, that I can hardly predict that. All I can do is do my best now to keep headed in the right direction.

I love you guys, and I hope you have an awesome week.

Elder Greaves