elder caleb greaves

Holding to the Iron Rod in Germany


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Hey guys!

Tell me when my Christmas package arrives! I also just sent the Pyramide [wooden nativity]. So that should come soon.

[Family played “Where in the World is Caleb Sandiego” since we had no idea where Elder Greaves was for a week.  Dad chose Hanover, Mom chose Hamburg, Sister chose Madgeburg, and Brother chose Salzwedel.  And the winner was????]

Well, to cut it short, you were all wrong. 🙂

I went to Jena.

Salzwedel, though, was in my first area in Lauenburg – it’s pretty small. It was 2 1/2 hours away from our church! (That area was huge). That’s where I assumed I’d be going, because that was where Elder Anderson just came from.

My companion’s name is Elder Weber. He is super awesome! We are in the same MTC group. Actually, I’m the 4th missionary in a row to serve here from our MTC group. Elder Weber and I, Elder Anderson, and Elder Peterson before that. Elder Weber wants to study computer science. It is kind of spooky how similar to Chuck he is (from the TV show).

Jena is absolutely gorgeous. By far the prettiest town I’ve served in. The scary thing is, there is a good chance this is my last city. It has about 100,000 people, which in terms of missionary work is medium-small, but on the Elder Greaves scale is huge.

About 60,000 of those are college students, which means it’s a lot of fun. Jena has an extremely high level research center for light, so most people we meet are either getting their Ph.D’s in optics or photonics. This one guy in our branch named SR is studying optics, and wants to develop virtual and augmented reality stuff.

HOW COOL IS THAT?

I’ll put a cool experience that happened this week through google translate.

In Neumünster , we were completely packed with appointments. We have R met. Last week I wrote about R also. A brief summary: We did find the whole day . Did not do anything. All people were especially grumpy , so we were even. But we have given a Book of Mormon to Rudy, written with our number in it. He called us and said that he has noticed how happy we were, and he knew that this was so, because we were both Christians. He has asked us to teach him how to become a Christian, because he wanted to be as happy as we are. We talked about prayer. He meant that he could not pray , but asked us to say a. We made it , and he wept. He said that he already so find it and he was praying alone.

Also, the day before we were leaving, we got to finally put O on baptismal date. She was really excited, and as long as things go according to plan, I’ll be skyping her baptism on January 29th! She is so amazing. It was definitely a bummer to have to go after that. But she is super prepared, and she will make it.

I hope you guys have a great week!

Love you!

Elder Greaves

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Hey guys!

I’m not going to write much today, because we will talk in a few days, but we had a great week. I got to go on exchanges to Flensburg with Elder Bretzing, and it is a gorgeous city. We had lots of success too, which was cool. They are super focused on finding people, so we did some of that and found 3 new people. While we were doing that, Elder Allen found an entire African family at the train station. The wife and son are already baptized, and the husband isn’t yet, as well as the 8 year old daughter, but they came to church and the kids especially loooooved it. They are super cool, and we are excited to meet with them in the future.

We met with Herr G, that man that asks the super hard questions. We just went LeGrand Richards style and started with baptism by immersion, gift of the Holy Ghost, etc. He had a big problem, because he thought that apostasy not only didn’t happen, but couldn’t happen. He showed us the scripture where Christ was talking to Peter and told him he was the rock, and gave him the keys, and then told him that the church would never be prevailed against. That stumped us for a second – I’ve never thought of it that way – but then we talked about Christ dying. We asked him if Christ being killed was in any way a failure. He said, of course, no. And of course, we know that in a way, Christ died to be resurrected. We compared that with the church, and said that it was no failure that the church collapsed. It needed to happen, to prove the power of God. He LOVED that. He finally agreed to read in the Book of Mormon (He has only read in D&C in the past) so he’s starting to make progress.

We had a couple other cool things happen to us, like the man that called us and told us he wanted to be Christian, but that story is better saved for face to face! 🙂

Speaking of which. We will have to remain flexible, because we don’t really know what is happening. Because of the time difference, and the fact that we are skyping at the church, we can’t do it on Christmas itself. We were going to do it on the day after Chirstmas, if that’s alright. It would be about 6 am for you. Does that sound alright? Let me know – like I said, it can be changed.

Everything is going great here. The ward is starting to pick up, Christmas in Germany is beautiful, and I’m loving it.

To answer your question, Mom, yeah, just email the applications to me. I should get them. Attached are the pictures of my first serious souvenir, something called a Pyramide (pronounced Pyrameedeh). It is from this part of Germany called the Erzgeberge (Ore mountains) where Christmas was basically invented. They do handmade wood work. For example, they made the original nutcracker. That’s them. This pyramide is from the 1950’s, and also plays music. This is probably my favorite thing in Germany. The blades spin when you light the candles, and then the little figures spin too. I think it is so beautiful. How I’m getting that home is an entirely different story.

pyramide 1 pyramide 2 pyramide 3 pyramide 4 pyramide 5
I love you guys! See ya Friday!

Elder Greaves


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This week was good in a lot of ways!

Elder Weaver and I are getting along well. He’s almost done with his mission, actually. He’s finishing when Elder Garrett does in December. We are working hard here!

Monday we had a lesson with L, the 17 yo kid. We taught him the Restoration, and he was excited to read the Book of Mormon. His friend promised him a Döner (turkish Gyro, basically what tacos or hamburgers are to America) if he reads it in 12 weeks. 🙂

Then Tuesday, we had a member appointment with some awesome members named the L’s, who may or may not have a friend for us to teach in the future, which is cool. We also help with a football team on Tuesday, since Elder Weaver is really into football.

Thursday we had district meeting, which turned out really good. We focused on helping investigators keep commitments. We also had ward council, which is usually pretty lame, because missionary gears turn a lot faster then member gears. 🙂 And it was, but we are working on it.

Friday we met with L again and taught the Plan of Salvation, then we went on exchanges, and I went to Kiel with Elder Morton. Elder Morton and I were in the same district in Bernburg, so we are already good friends. We had an AWESOME exchange. I respect that guy a lot, and we had a ton of fun together. We had a full day of appointments planned, and were kind of bummed that we wouldn’t be able to do much finding. By next morning, all the appointments fell out, so we had nothing but finding! So we just walked down the street and talked to everyone for like 6 hours, just cracking up the entire way in between conversations with people. It was awesome.

Sunday we had church, which was okay, and then we went to a Born Again Christian church we got invited to that night. We were told it was a Pentacostal church, so we were pumped to see people talking in tongues and stuff, but there was none of that. It was just this Christian folk band and crazy lights and people getting waaaay to into it. It was wierd. Elder Weaver and I made a list of positives and negatives afterwards:

Positives:
1. Everyone was way into it. Like, no one fell asleep. Something our church could improve on!
2. The members seemed to genuinely like each other. Everyone liked everyone, and they all seemed really happy to be there. Sometimes I feel like our church puts us all together so much, we completely take for granted how close we are to everyone around us, exactly like we treat our family. It was like they were all friends, and we are sometimes like a family but we are all grumpy teenagers, who secretly love each other but don’t show it.
3. They really focused on Jesus Christ.

Negatives:
1. It was basically a party. The scripture about the voice of the spirit being not in the wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, but as a still small voice came to mind. It was not at all still or small, but our sacrament service is very simple and quiet. I like that.
2. It was somehow apparent to me that this was all completely the thoughts of men. It was men reaching out to Christ, not Christ reaching out to men, if that makes sense. Instead of Christ being at the helm, the Elder guy was at the helm, and they were all trying to get to Christ.
3. It was missing the “genius of our church”, as Gordon B. Hinckley put it, which is activity. No members had any jobs really. I love that in our church, they entire congregation is the priest. Everyone has a role. It asks a lot, but it makes everyone grow a little more.

Something cool I learned in personal study this week:

We were talking about the ten virgins parable in Priesthood on Sunday, and this super old guy raised his hand and said,

“You need a wick for the lamp to work.”

Turns out he’s actually just completely senile and that wasn’t a gospel related comment at all, but then the more I thought about it, the cooler it was.

The topic was on being a light. Everyone knows that the oil in that story is a testimony, and everyone knows how we can’t give people their testimonies. They have to find out for themselves if it’s true. But it mentions that when the bridegroom came, the virgins trimmed their lamps. So why do we need wicks?

Wicks turn oil into light. That’s our works.

oil lamp

That’s how we turn the passive testimony represented by the oil into a burning light. We use our testimony to be light to others, which is sharing our testimony but in a different way. I really like this not-really-scripturally-based-analogy because it totally talks about member missionary work.

I dunno. I have to go, that was a little rough, 🙂 but I love you guys!

Elder Greaves


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I’m happy. I like being where I am. But…

Hey guys!

Really quick: did Cupcake [beloved car] ever get sold? Just curious, I haven’t heard anything. Also thanks for your package, it was awesome. I especially loved your letter, mom. Also, you had a question about sacrament for the dead [and why we don’t do it, even once for someone who has died]. I thought that was a really good question! I never found a direct answer, but it somehow kind of made sense when I read it was a replacement for the sacrificial altar stuff. So it is there to help us always remember Christ, but in itself, it isn’t a covenant or promise that brings us closer to the celestial kingdom, except of course through repentance. I dunno maybe repentance is different after this life?

Speaking of gospel stuff, I’ve been working on an outline of the Plan of Salvation using only scriptures and a few headings. I thought I show it to you. It has been really cool to work on! I’ll attach it at the bottom. As for Sawyer, I wrote him advice last week [about trying out for soccer], so I’ll just say that I know you are going to do awesome, and no matter what happens, hard work will make you even better.

I’m going to preface this with saying I’m fine, we’re fine, it’s all fine. I’m happy. I like being where I am. But…

In all honesty, this week was rough. We didn’t find anyone, and we taught very few people. We struggled just to get people to answer their phones. We have investigators, but they are all on vacation or busy with school. It was painful, it was annoying, and it is okay.

I’m not accepting defeat if I say we worked hard, right?

Honestly, I haven’t struggled to find or teach my whole mission until this area, which is admittedly tiny, but is actually my biggest area so far. I’ve always had a strong testimony that if you work hard and you are obedient, you will have success, and if you work hard, obey, and you work skillfully you will have a lot of success. (That part is left out too often).

But I feel that we are working extremely hard, and we try every day to be obedient, and if anything, I’m more skillful when it comes to finding and teaching and planning now than I ever have been. And I would be lying if I denied that I have been getting frustrated.

At first a few transfers ago, I was sure it was a test, so I just pushed through it. But it never got consistently better. So I thought maybe I had let up, that I needed to work harder, but no change was seen. If anything, it got worse.

Then, I decided it must be me, that I was making mistakes. So I threw myself into scripture study, my comp and I planned lessons more intensely than ever to make every moment packed with the Spirit (and we did see a huge difference), we switched up finding techniques, my prayers were more sincere than ever, I worked to purge any little bit of desire for “numbers” out of me, we worked through the members to get referrals, (and got them, but then nothing happened with them), I prayed and prayed and prayed for charity, until I came to love my investigators and the ward like I never have before, and we looked for any shred of service we could do all day long.

We weren’t perfect, but we were growing. And the outcome was exactly the same.

Now, I was left with a conundrum, and a few options. Either:

1. It was my fault,

2. The Lord couldn’t help us, or

3. The Lord was helping us as far as he could, but Frankfurt Oder is doomed to not be successful.

But:

1. I will continue to grow, but I feel I am doing my best and that is good enough.

2. That’s ridiculous, the Lord has all power.

3. I will never ever give up on my area like that.

We briefly considered that we were just “planting seeds”, but I intensely hate that phrase. I feel like it’s used too often as an excuse. I think it is an important skill to recognize how much good you can do, but success is finding, teaching, baptizing, and keeping, which includes getting people to the temple.

So I’m confused.

This whole time, I felt like this was just supposed to be a growing experience for me, which was terrible. One thing I’m pretty sure of, because of some spiritual temple experiences I’ve had, is that the Lord and I are on the same page about this whole mission thing, and He will never let my personal growth get in the way of the fact that I am here to help people. In other words, I know he wouldn’t just briefly stop the missionary work so little ol’ Elder Greaves can be toughened up. I just know that.

One thought I had was that this time is not set up to be productive here at this very moment. It seems like outside circumstances are stacking against us, what with vacationing, including our two best member friends, who were our main connection to our investigators. Maybe this is a time that is just going to be tough. So this isn’t a test or trial, the Lord just sent 2 buttkicking missionaries here to ride the bull, so to speak, and He is helping us in ways we don’t yet know, and he needs us to keep working hard, because I still get the feeling that Frankfurt Oder is on the brink of something big. Every investigator has potential, they just need a little push into investing more time. It all feels like it’s building to something – I just don’t know if I will personally be here or not. This thought is, in a way, inspiring.

One experience we had illuminated this.

We decided Saturday to really try and follow the Spirit to know where to go. We decided to pray (quickly) at every single turn to know which direction to go. Then we would announce which direction we felt inspired to go, and if we matched, we would go that way. We probably took about 35 turns, and every single one, we always chose the same direction separately. The chances of that, even very conservatively calculated, are between 0.00000009% and .000003%. At the end, there was no super prepared investigator, just a good conversation with someone that is not interested right now. It’s evident that the Spirit is working with us, and that we can feel it.

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One investigator we did meet with is named Bruder J. He is new. He is a really old guy with lots of health problems, but underneath the German is a really sweet, honest old guy who just needs some lovin’, which just happens to be an Elder Allen/Elder Greaves specialty. Really, I like him a lot.

This week I studied the Plan of Salvation from the scriptures. It is amazing how well the scriptures teach it. You could honestly teach the whole plan of salvation just by pointing out scriptures and saying nothing. I love the scriptures.

Have a good week!
Elder Greaves

[Elder Greaves sent two videos this week.  Mom watched one and one only.  Send an email if you would like to see the videos and we will forward to you.]

Video 1:  “This guy’s name is Member Missionary Machine. He’s a stud, and he and Elder Allen like teaching each other stupid German and English words.”

Video 2:  “This video involves a mouse mom. Be warned. But I think it’s funny.”

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