3 John 1:13-14
13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:
14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to
face. Peace be to thee.
This week was really pretty good.
We found a cool investigator, so Elder Weber helps us out on Skype teaching him since he speaks a different language. I got to go on exchange with Elder Oliphant one last time, which was fun. That exchange though, I was just pooped. I went to bed at 8. I could barely keep my eyes open. Exhaustion is coming more and more frequently, which is great! That means I’m still workin’!
We had Zone Conference with Elder Adler, an area seventy, which was great. I really liked it.
I’ve been trying to make a new plan of consecration for before and after the mission, so I’ve been studying that a lot. And that was roughly the topic of ZoCo as well.
Also, a missionary had been really struggling with feelings of worthiness about things he had already repented off and as far as I know, weren’t actually that big of a deal anyway, but he was just really beating himself up about it. We had been trying to help him. And then Elder Adler started his talk by saying “I hadn’t planned to say this, but I feel I need to tell you all that..” and then went on to explain that we just need to move on when we’ve made a mistake, and not dwell on it anymore, and the only one that wants us to do that is the adversary. It was crazy how fitting what he said was. That missionary really needed to hear that. I thought that was really neat, and I want to be that in tune with the Spirit in the future so that I can help people more.
Probably the most exciting news of the week is that we put R on baptismal date! He is this Chinese guy that came to church with some BYU students a few weeks ago. I haven’t talked much about him, because we always taught him when I was on exchanges, so I didn’t really know him that well. But we had a fantastic lesson with him, and he is just the nicest guy. He doesn’t have much of a Christian background, which means we have to clarify everything. We set the date for June 19, which is really soon. We decided to do it that soon because we have to do a tough balancing act. He is going back to China in 4-5 months. You are not allowed to get baptized in China. So his only chance to be a member is here. They have wards there, you just can’t join them unless you come back to China a member. So, that means that we want to give him as much experience being a member here as possible, so he is as strong as possible when he goes back. So of course, we want to make sure he understands his covenants as well, but we are going a little faster than usual. Hopefully it works out. He already is socially converted, because he loves the BYU students, who are really awesome. They all live in the same building, and they pray with him and read the scriptures with him, and have him over for dinner and everything, so he’s really solid that way.
Sorry, I have no more time… 😦
Love you guys!
This week has been really good. We got a lot done!
We received a special assignment to do an MTC to study our additional language. More about that just to family . . .
This week probably the most exciting investigator is M. He is a scientist, and just sent his 3rd book on the science of Arabic poetry to the publishers. “It’s only a hobby,” he says. 🙂
He’s a very smart man. It’s a lot of fun teaching him, but a challenge to keep the Spirit there. Not that the lessons aren’t spiritual, but he just asks super logical questions, and we want to answer them, and then it’s never focused on getting the Spirit there. But we are going to change that. He’s super engaged, though, so it’s super fun.
Please pray for him that he will search for and embrace the truth, wherever he finds it.
This week we have a lot going on. We are going to Berlin again, and then we have to plan another Zone Training Meeting.
I am loving my mission!
Have a great week!
I haven’t gotten the [family picture] calendar yet.
Make sure to thank Grandma and Grandpa and Grandma Cathy for me! I just took their money out to buy a suit, but they didn’t have any in my size, so I’m ordering it online. So when a bunch of money comes out, just know I’m gonna deposit the 200 back or something.
That temple experience sounds super awesome, Mom!
You said you are running out of names. I’ve been doing a little family history too, since our mission is focused on that. I’ve found several names. Just go on my account to get them. If that doesn’t work, I’ll just send them to you separately. Just let me know.
You asked about keeping the Sabbath day holy and if I’ve had any experiences in teaching that concept or thoughts that have come to me about why the brethren might be
emphasizing it more?
There is a newish Mormon message about the 10 commandments that talks in part about keeping the Sabbath day holy. There are 3 things we tell investigators they have to do to get an answer – read, pray and come to church. Interestingly, as important as the first two are, neither are in the 10 commandments. The most basic of all commandments are the ones that are basically all about just how to be a decent person, and keeping the Sabbath say holy is on that list.
Many churches today, in claiming the law of Moses to be fulfilled, also seek to render the 10 commandments obsolete. Obviously, that doesn’t mean they advocate stealing, murder, or adultery. Actually, any mainstream church or belief system that says the 10 commandments are annulled follow 9 of them – they don’t have any other Gods, stay away from graven images, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, honor their parents, don’t kill, commit adultery, steal, lie or covet. All of those things are still considered guidelines. However, the only one that these churches do ignore is keeping the Sabbath day holy. I think that’s interesting.
That’s an example to me of doubting God’s wisdom. We doubt that such a thing could actually help us, or actually affects our spirituality. But I don’t think God put it in here just for fun. I think that is one reason we are focusing on it. There are more blessings connected with it than we probably understand, for it to be on God’s original top 10 list.
Dad, you asked about the greatest compliment I have ever received. It’s probably a tie between two on my mission: one time, a companion looked over to me at the end of
a looooong day outside. We had sore feet and tired legs from all the walking, and he said
“Elder Greaves, I’ve never been so tired in my entire life.”
That was awesome. Another one was meant more as a statement than a compliment, but it carries with it both negative and positive. Another companion told me
“Yeah, your kinda just like a whirlwind, you know?”
That made me really happy.
Yeah Dad, I’m glad you liked the story last week. It was even worse this week. An 18 year old girl started coming to church last week, so first she heard that we can be Gods. Then she asked for next class to be about the three kingdoms of glory, since someone had given a talk on that. I was excited, because there is some really pretty doctrine there. But then, we ended up mostly just talking about hell and outer darkness. WHY? It was confusing for me, and I’m living the darn Gospel.
Dad, you were talking about birth being like a baptism. Elder Bednar said something really cool at our conference a year or so ago. He said that real birth combines water, blood and the spirit, and baptism is done with water, sealed with Christ’s blood, and finished by receiving the Spirit. I thought that was really cool.
You also said being a zone leader is awesome. Were you one your mission? How did that work there?
Anyway, that’s all I have time for, but I love you guys! I hope you have an awesome week!
We met with K, the nonmember husband, on Monday. It was a somewhat difficult lesson, since he had a ton of questions about all of the commandments. Having lived with a Mormon for 30 years, he’s experienced all the inconvenience and has felt none of the blessings of all of those “rules”. I can totally understand that. From the outside looking in, it just seems to be problems. And the only way you can find out if something actually blesses you or not is just to do it.
Then Wednesday, we were supposed to meet with our miracle Frau, O, but she was sick. That was super disappointing, but she agreed to come to church.
Thursday we had zone conference. That’s always fun, but most people that I know are home already. All the sisters I know from the MTC, Elder Weaver, and Elder Garrett are all going home next week. A year ago, going to zone conference was this big exciting chance to talk to people about crazy stories and stuff, but eventually, you’ve collected so many crazy stories and everyone else you know has too, that when all the little whippersnappers are jabbering on about all those things you’ve lived through about 4 times already, you see a friend across the room and just kind of give grim nod and move on.
Then, we made the TERRIBLE mistake of agreeing to ride with the 4 sisters in our district on the way back, because group tickets are way cheaper, and also because we are buds, but I swear, we were literally the last missionaries out of the church. I stood at the door with my scarf and gloves on for about 20 minutes, begging, pleading, cajoling, praying, and singing at one point, and all the while they just blissfully floated from group to group, squealing like they’ve never even seen another sister before, and moving their mouths remarkably fast, probably chattering about makeup or purses or chocolate, or whatever it is sisters talk about these days.
So we missed our train. “And the voice of one crying in the wilderness…”
Then, like champs, we planned alternatively. So the Kiel sisters got out with us in Neumünster, and then we thought they would wait a few minutes and then get another train, only when we showed up, their train was already there, and they hadn’t bought a ticket yet. So as they hysterically tried to figure out which ticket to buy, then panicked because they didn’t have small bills, then, freaked out getting change at McDonald’s, I thought idly to myself that this is what they are probably like ever single transfer day. Then, ironically, the only time they relaxed and slowed down was after they bought the ticket, assuming they had already missed the train anyway.
But they didn’t.
So Elder Allen grabs literally 6 bags himself and throws them in the train, with me making that windmilling motion baseball coaches do on 3rd base, and they slide in right as the doors close.
I’ve been teasing them about that all week.
This week will be the Flensburg sisters’ last week. I’m sure going to miss them. They are the perfect examples of having been changed by their missions. I asked them both what the the single most important thing was that they learned on their missions. Their answers just blew me away.
Sister Hahn didn’t even have to think about it. Her answer was that she learned how to be a Mormon. She learned what it meant to fulfill a calling by learning from both good and bad examples. She knew what she expected from the members here and now sees what the missions would want from her in Utah. She learned what it meant to live her faith.
Then Sister Demke, who personifies the phrase “still waters run deep”, said she has learned and gained a testimony of the perfection of the Plan of Salvation. She knows God has made a perfect plan for her and everyone else, and the more she learns about all the parts, the more impressed she is by the flawlessness of it.
Both very different answers, but proof that they both spent their missions becoming true disciples.
But the coolest thing that happened last week was in the culmination of what we affectionately dubbed “D-day”. As a missionary, you get excited for activities, because if it is a “special” Sunday, it helps investigators make time.
This Sunday was a Primary program (gold), and a child’s baptism, with a ward potluck afterwards. We have been working hard with the little German munchkins to get them to bring friends. The zone leaders did this thing where they asked every companionship to pick a day this month when the rest of the zone could pray for you. They’ve been getting on my case about picking a day, but we kept putting them off, because we wanted to save it for a special day. We asked everyone to pray for us on Sunday, the last work day of the month, that our investigators would come, and ward would bring friends.
As church started, we were disappointed to see that there were no visitors there. Our investigator was coming for the last hour, but 2 others had cancelled on us. But as the lady hour and the primary program started, we were amazed to count about 9 nonmembers and 5 less active members there, only one of which was our O “the Wonderwoman”. The rest were from members. I saw at least one full family with 3 kids and a mom. The little buggers brouhgt down the house with a rousing – and more than a little brainwashy – 9 verses of “follow the prophet”. That song gives me the heebie jeebies. But the rest was great. We didn’t have time to talk to everyone, but we did talk to one couple named B and S. They are from Canada actually. They were super friendly. The girlfriend is inactive, and the boyfriend is a nonmember.
But the cool part is, we are meeting with them this week!
Then, those two and O stayed for the baptism. It was super awesome.
N (the 8 year old) it’s just about the cutest little button ever. Then her 10 year old sister, V, sang some baptism song, and man, I almost cried. O told us right after the baptism that she wanted to get baptized and become Christian someday too.
We told her we think we could help with that. That day was really cool, because then we felt like not only was our faith strengthened, but the other missionaries in our zone were hopefully strengthened as well!
To answer some other questions, yes, I have bought a coat, and I look
pretty stellar, and no, I still have not gotten anything about my birthday package. As for the Christmas package, did you send it to Berlin? I have no idea what the game plan there is, but no, I won’t be going to Berlin to get it. They could just ship it if they need to.
I love you guys a lot!
I wanted to tell you, Dad, that I thought your talk was awesome.
I brag about you guys as if you were my grandkids.
Also, what you said a few weeks ago about set ridiculously high goals and then working to achieve them anyway totally inspired me, and really helped me these last few weeks. I’ve thought about it often.
Okay. I have, you guessed it, not very much time. To answer a quick question, this is the 5th week of the transfer now, so not this Saturday but the next I find out what happens. A fun fact of the day Elder Garrett just emailed me: The average rate of baptism in this mission is .9 baptisms per missionary per mission.
A fun fact about Germans I’ve never talked about: They have special work pants. They are canvas colorful overalls, and before they can do manual labor, they must be wearing their work pants. I think that’s pretty adorable.
“Hey come help us pick weeds!”
“Shoot, I left my work pants at home. Better go get them.”
This week, we’ve been noticing that people are markedly less friendly now, compared to 4 weeks ago. I think they may be recognizing me or something. Honestly, when people are rude or yell, it doesn’t really bother me. The two situations that do bother me are:
1. We talk for a while, they tell us something like their wife just died, we tell them they can live forever with their wife, and after a while, they tell us they wish it was true, but it isn’t. That hurts.
2. When we try to talk to them, and they refuse to make eye contact, but just keep walking, even after we try a few times. Just pretend like we don’t exist. That one just really ticks me off. A lot. I’m getting a little twitchy just thinking about it.
This week was very good. We were able to recontact people we had lost contact with. We invited 3 people to baptism. (Just a note, we try to invite on the first or second lesson to help them understand why we are there. We don’t really wait until we are sure they will say yes, or until they are 100% ready or anything. It’s not a marriage proposal.)
So that is really exciting. Those three people are:
Herr Petro: Found on the street. He is a gypsy from Serbia, here on asylum. He is a great guy with the a wife that speaks only Serbian and 2 of the absolute cutest kids I have ever seen. His wife can’t understand us, so her interest level is pretty low, but he said if he finds out it is true and we really do have the Priesthood, then he would be baptized. I really like him a lot.
Benji: This one I’m not so sure about. He’s one of now 3 referrals from John. He has the best English of the 3, but is still very hard to communicate with. Through a combo of pictures and a Tigrinyan dictionary and hand signals, we managed to communicate the Restoration to him. So we will see how that goes. He is a really nice guy.
Peters: Now this is exciting. It is basically every missionary’s dream to baptize someone their own age so they can raise a family in the Gospel and stuff. He’s 22. We talked to him in front of the grocery store, and he offhandedly gave us his address right before he got into a friend’s car and drove off. We barely even talked about religion, so we doubted how much interest he had. Fairly typical college student. But last week, we stopped by (3 weeks afterward). He set up an appointment for Friday, again, one we doubted would go through all things considered. Lo and behold, he was there! We had a great lesson with him. I was actually really nervous the whole time. I really haven’t had that many lessons with a normal German. I was a little . . . off my game, but he still said he would be baptized if he found out it was true. He says he really wants to develop his faith more, because he feels like it gets really hard to believe on God sometimes. I really think we can help him if we can keep meeting with him. Fingers crossed!
I love you guys a lot. I hope you have a great week. I love hearing all of your stories and adventures. Can’t wait to talk to you next week!
As always, I don’t have a ton of time. Please fix the grammar, mom, I’m having a really hard time thinking in English today. The important stuff:
Monday/Tuesday: Said goodbye to Lauenburg and Elder Garrett, both of whom I miss a ton. A TON. Tuesday I had to take trains to get to Leipzig. Here is a summary of probably the worst morning of my life.
After staying up til 2 to finish packing and cleaning for the new elder, I fell asleep. My alarm clock broke, so we slept in for an hour and a half. Then, I duct-taped my two big suit cases together (not to each other, just to hold them together).
Because they both broke that morning.
Broken shells, zippers ruined, etc. I was in survival mode at this point.
Put my shoes on, and my laces broke.
My other shoes were packed. I did the rest of my morning with a shoelaceless shoe, remember that.
Went to the Greek family’s house to get a last second picture with the dad before I left. He was sick, so no picture.
We parked really far away from the train station, because there were no spots.
Ransacked the car, looking for the 120 dollar ticket that fell under my seat.
Ran to the train I needed to get the the big train station in Hamburg. I was clearly late, so I called to reschedule, which involved multiple elders begging a train station worker to let me get on another train.
I step off the train, into Hamburg. The handle of my 3rd suitcase broke off. I put it over my shoulder with a strap, got a new ticket, and grabbed breakfast. I pick up the third broken suitcase. The straps snap off. It is now a cube of nothing to hold onto.
I catch my train, which was late. Which means I miss my next train. And then I was in Leipzig, five or so hours late. Where my companion thought I was idiot for missing 2 trains.
When I got here, I found out Bernburg has a teaching pool of 4. (Lauenburg, a very small place, had a teaching pool of 21 when I left.) They found 1-2 people a week. Nothing had happened in a really long time.
Then things got crazy.
Wednesday: We found 3 people. Both previously made appointments fell out.
Thursday: We went to a college campus. About 95% of students there were Chinese. We found 6 people. We had our first appointment with Fitz, also Asian. We taught him lesson 1 using a Chinese “Restoration pamphlet” to teach him the gospel words.
We invited him to baptism, and he said yes! Not bad. We invited him to come to church. Then he asked us where the church was. We told him, and he said
“Oh, so like an hour and a half walk?”
We said, yes, but we could get him a ride. He said it was no problem, he could just walk it. Wow! That’s sincerity!
So we were excited to make out our first baptismal date. Then we stopped by on more Asian contacts back in the actual city of Bernburg. Turns out is was an entire home full of Chinese 20-year-olds.
One girl was in the bathroom, but all the people were so excited, they kept yelling at her to get off of the toilet.
Her friend kept telling her two handsome boys wanted to talk to her, so not the best start.
But we started teaching her and her friends, and all of her friends piled into the room, coming in and out. They were so excited to see real live Americans. They were coming in so fast that Elder Pilling just started asking every single one
“Do you believe in God?” Most of them said no, but one was recent Christian convert. We talked to a core group of 4 or so people as the other ones came in and out, using like 6 different Apple products to translate everything. They made us chinese dumplings, so that was cool, and fried liver, so that was not.(The dumplings made me very sick later…)
But then told us they just couldn’t really believe in God, but “still wanted to be friends”. We invited about 20 of them to our English class (which they could actually come to) and left, a little bewildered at was definitely the craziest night of my mission. So we found a total of 6 people that day.
Friday: District meeting day, which was sooooo long. It was really good though. Elder S. will be an awesome district leader. Then afterwards we did “district finding”, which means everyone found for Magdeburg for 30 minutes. That was interesting, because I got to go with Elder G., and it was his first time finding in Magdeburg, or any other time except for “Golden finding”. (When they take you finding for your first time ever after you get off the plane.) Then we had lunch all together, which meant it was a huge chunk of our day. But the elders in this district are truly amazing. I can learn a lot from them. Magdeburg was famous for being a horrible area. It shouldn’t have been, it’s a huge city, but even when President sent in former zone leaders and everything nothing changed. What did change it were a few brand new elders with a lot of enthusiasm. They are really great, and are both training now. We got home and did a little finding, and found 2 more people. Then we met with the new convert, who was going into the hospital soon and was worried about it. So we helped her with that.
Saturday: We met with Albert, the baptismal candidate they had before I came. He has had a broken foot, so he has had a hard time coming to church. Plus, I guess this weird guy came by and took away his Book of Mormon at one point, and tried to make the hausmeister (house master) of the auslanderheim (Really poor apartments where everyone from Africa lives) disallow us, but a few weeks later everything was sorted out, and we gave him a Book of Mormon again, recommitted him to baptism, and invited him to read and pray every night. At this point, I was still leery, just because he’d only been to church once before, and I don’t want to just baptize a bunch of Africans that go inactive immediately afterward. But he seemed sincere, and I really like him. We handed out alot of cards for the Christmas concert. (This branch puts on a huge Christmas concert. It is literally the most important thing in the world to them.
Sunday: Met the ward, translated for Fitz (that is so so so tiring), who actually did come the hour and a half here. Taught him Plan of Salvation. Then we ran to the Christmas Concert practice, where everyone was very very annoyed to find out I sing bass, not tenor. I don’t think anyone in the ward DIDN’T ask me if I sang tenor.
“Hallo Elder Greaves (Gree-fiss), Where are you from? Do you sing tenor? I don’t really care where you are from. Do you sing tenor, though?”
But that went well.
Then we met with Albert again, who told us he really wanted to be baptized still, but he might go back to Africa in a year, and there are no churches anywhere near him. He told us he doesn’t want to get baptized and then just not come to church. So that was sad, because we don’t kow how to help him, or even if we should still baptize him, but happy, because now we know he has made the connection between baptism and coming to church every week.
Then we stopped by another African contact, and, as a theme of the week, people were coming in and out so fast, that we just asked everyone if they believed in God. One guy named John said he did. We said we could stop by some time to talk about it, and he said to just do it now. So we taught him the first lesson up to priesthood, when I said that that power can be used to baptize and bless people. He stopped us and asked
“Is baptism important?” We told him it was, and he said,
“Okay. I want you to baptize me then.” I had to stop Elder Pilling from making a baptismal date out for like 3 weeks from now! Seriously though, we have to know that he will stay active first. We’ll see if he comes to church this Sunday. So all in all, we had 3 baptismal invitations, 2 dates, and 12 found people to bring our teaching pool up to 15. Not bad for one week!
My new companion is Elder Pilling. He has a lot of enthusiasm. He’s a great guy, and he’s excited to work hard. I love you guys, and I think I can finally send my Christmas package now.
It is very very cold here, and I have a coat that will work (it just looks dumb because it doesn’t fit). There are some crazy after Christmas sales here, so I’m holding off until then, so that I can get one I like.
Oh! The new Address: Karlstrasse 31, Bernburg, 06406. I’m probably forgetting something. Next time I’ll slow down and use better grammar!