elder caleb greaves

Holding to the Iron Rod in Germany


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Before I start . . .

Hi Guys!

And before I start, I probably should have done it last week, but Happy Birthday Aspen, and Happy Birthday Dad! Dad, your birthday was my 2 year mark, which was made extra special because that was the day that R was baptized. Pretty neat, huh?

This week was… turbulent. We had the intensive language course, which was, you guessed it, intense. The schedule every day was this: Wake up at 6:30 (of course), take a 45 minute tram ride to O’s house, eat breakfast, plan the classes I was supposed to teach. At 10, classes started. After one 2 hour class, we had lunch, then 4 hours of class, then dinner, then another 2 hours of studying. I would say about 80% of the time I was teaching, but sometimes I was learning too.

It was fantastic seeing Elder Weber again. He is one of my favorite companions, and we are definitely going to be hanging out a lot at BYU since we both are studying  German and another language. In the same classes. So we are together at least 2 hours every day.

I stayed at a hotel all week, which was terrible. I didn’t have enough clothes to last all week, and it was extremely hot. There was no iron, nor were there hangers, so my shirts were more wrinkled than an old missionary’s forehead.

We were in O’s apartment about 12 hours a day, and it just so happens to be just about the hottest, least ventilated apartment I’ve ever had to be in. Just miserable. And there were 7 missionaries there. And we were getting blasted in the face with a billion language things.

So there were a few spats.

One time, I was eating dinner, and I had just sat down and started it. I had been doing other things, preparing, etc., and there were the aforementioned 7 missionaries all in the kitchen all trying to find something to eat. The day before I had not eaten much lunch because I was too busy making lunch for everyone else, and they ate it all.

I skipped dinner that night too, because Elder Weber and I had to go grocery shopping for everyone (We felt like moms.

“Oh little Jimmy won’t like those vegetables. Better get a more safe flavor of mustard. Do you think the kids will eat this?”),

and then the next day it happened again that I didn’t get much food because everybody ate what I made before I could sit down. So I was starving, and was eating boiled potatoes and gravy, when we saw that time was up, and I was supposed to start the next class. I decided 5 more minutes to finish eating was a necessary sacrifice. Then a (actually really very nice missionary) – the group leader – kind of backhandedly cattily made a comment about how I was being irresponsible and disrespectful. Ooh, I was steamin’ mad. I dropped my fork with a clang and whipped around and stared him down and told him he’d better shape up, mister, and mind his own business.

Maybe a little loudly.

2009-03-16-Whoops

Everyone got real quiet after that.

Ah well, no one said you’d come home perfect from your mission, so I guess I’ll just have to work on that temper when I get home. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he totally deserved it, but I still shouldn’t have done it. Sometimes I think I’ve become a little too spunky . . .

But the rest of the time was really good. I made some really good friends with some missionaries I stayed with in the hotel. I stuffed them full of the language too. We covered in a week what took Elder Weber and I at least 3 months to do. They get a huge jump start in the language, which is really cool. Also, Elder Weber and I will probably be teaching classes later on with Skype.

After I got back, we had appointments with some new families they had found while I was gone. It didn’t work out, but an Albanian family did. I got to use my sweet knowledge of Albanian, which consists of three words: Hello, good, and very good.

But they are really neat, and I’m excited to meet with them in the upcoming week. We had some time to find, and it was awesome. Everybody wanted to talk.

One of my favorites weren’t even the ones that become new investigators. We started talking to two very elderly women on a bench. (Think 90.) Eventually, it was clear that they weren’t ready for the Gospel, but they were lonely. So we just sat down next to them and asked about their lives for the next 10 minutes or so.

We seemed to lift their spirits, and we just told them we thought it was amazing that they never gave up through all their trials (one of them had lived through WWII). We told them that God was waiting for them on the other side and when they got there, He’d give them a hug and tell them He was proud of them.

Like I said, they didn’t want to learn more, but I felt like we helped them. And I came away feeling a love for the German people I’ve tried my whole mission to develop. I’ve always loved them, but I feel like I know now how much I love them, which I didn’t know before.

There are very few cultures on the planet that have experienced so much heartache, so much trial, so much guilt and pain and fear. Very few peoples have had such a rocky, turbulent history and have still come out human afterward. I’m proud of them, and though they have a long way to go, I have met true Germans who aren’t bogged down with the fear of the past that so afflicts so many. They are amazing, caring, direct, and bold. They are truly agents unto themselves.

If there is a problem, they fix it.

A trial, they overcome it.

They do what must be done, never grimly, never frustratedly, only determinedly. I love that about them. I’ve become more like them. By living among them, talking with them, and significantly, by starting to speak and think and even feel in their language (which is so descriptive of their culture), I have changed for the better. I hope, and I believe, that I’ve changed others here for the better as well.

I believe that very few things in this life can bring as much joy as giving 2 years of your life for a people, and really just falling in love with them as you do it. I’m am so grateful for these last 2 years.

I have a lot to do with this week and a half.

A quote I like (and will paraphrase) from Dieter F. Uchtdorf goes something like this:

“When serving your mission, you are in the middle of your mission until you’re home.”

I’m really enjoying this part of the middle of my mission. I’m pumped to hit the ground running, lift some hands that hang down, and leave it all on the court. I feel like I’m just hitting my prime, so it’s going to be good. 🙂

I love you guys! Have a great week!

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Hey guys!

This week was decent. We found a lot of people.

This week was transfer week which is always exciting. And a lot of
things changed in our district! Elder Allen and I are both staying in Neumünster still, but every other companionship changed. Elder
Bretzieng, a good friend to the MTC, and one of the elders in our
district last transfer, got transferred to the other area in our
district! He’s super excited to not be zone leader anymore. He and
sister Cady are training. Another elder from my MTC group is coming to
be the new zone leader. Obviously the Flensburg sisters got
transferred to America, where one of them already knows who her new
companion is going to be ;-).

Two new trainees and one district though! That’s going to be way too
much fun. It will be good too, because this was just about the oldest
district ever. And all anyone ever talks about is going home, not
necessarily that they’re excited for that, sometimes like “I hate that
I only have this long left”, but still talked about all the time.

We still weren’t able to meet with O this week, because she had work. Grr.
We went on exchanges this week, and I was with Elder Bretzieng. We had
way too much to talk about, so I was really tired after that one. But
Elder Allen and the other Elder found a family for us! I’m excited to
meet with them this Wednesday.

Gosh guys I’m really tired and I can’t think of anything to write about.

Elder Ballard challenged us to start talking to people in buses and
grocery stores and stuff. At first of course you’re a little nervous
about that, but I’ve actually learned to really enjoy it. It’s
surprisingly easy to start conversations. This doesn’t always lead to
the gospel, but the other person always comes away thinking they were
happy to talk to us, and I think that makes a difference too.

Also, Dad I think that’s so awesome that you invited someone to the
nativity play. I’ll bet that’s really hard. One idea for you is just
to let the missionaries know that you’re bringing him. Maybe
afterwards, with all the cookies and stuff, they can just strike up a
conversation with him. Doesn’t have to be anything huge. But I think
that’s awesome, that’s a good example to me for when I come back from
my mission.

It’s funny what you said about “being an example” and how
we need to move beyond that. This week we got permission to use the
last hour of church as a “missionary class”.

We separated everyone into groups and have them discuss how they
personally could do missionary work better. Of course as expected,
lots of people just talked about being a good example.

Don’t get me wrong actually lots of people talked about how they could just open  their mouths, just invite people, etc. but a lot of it was about being  a good example. We knew that was going to happen, but it’s still kind of frustrating. I’m not really sure when the phrase “being a good
example” became a synonym for NOT DOING ANYTHING. That’s a terrible
example!

If we talk about football or soccer or a cake recipe, and say
it’s “the greatest thing ever”, and never talk about where we spend a
massive chunk of our time, namely the church, what is that saying to
others about we think about our church? To me being a good example
means showing them what these things mean to you. Sure that’s way
easier said than done, but we don’t have to go in blind.

There’s a pretty simple formula for anyone that wants to do some heavy duty missionary work. We accidentally tricked our members into agreeing to do it with us. 🙂

Pray for inspiration, then set a goal for when you want to have someone prepared to be taught by the missionaries, or someone to bring to church, etc. then, if you’re really feeling bold, share the date with the missionaries. Ask them to also pray for you that you’ll be able to find someone by that time, and then pray yourself. Allow the gospel to come up naturally in conversation. Don’t force it, don’t ram it down peoples throats, but lead conversations towards the deep end, if you know what I mean. Instead of just talking about the weather, talk about how awesome it is to be together with your family during Christmas. Ask what they love about Christmas. If someone is a close friend, share a hard time you went through/are going through, ask them how they would deal with something like that, and then explain how the Gospels help to you. The Lord will open up paths to you if you have a goal in mind and you were praying for it.

As for why someone would be scared to talk about the gospel, they
don’t want to get rejected. If you believe this gospel is true, then
your testimony is one of your most precious possessions. Having
someone you care about, or someone you have to see every day, reject
something so near and dear to your heart is painful and embarrassing.
But in my opinion, as I’ve said before, I really don’t think you have
to teach your friends the restoration or something like that. You just
say hey, this thing that I’ve learned is helped me. If you’re looking
for answers, come to church. So for me, I think a big part of not
feeling awkward about it, is just to make it a natural part of your
life. Everyone HATES talking to people on the street when they are a
new missionary. But eventually, you can actually learn to love it.
Everybody knows that running sucks. But ask someone who’s gone running every day for six months to skip running one day, and he won’t do it because he likes the feeling it gives him. That’s how it is with most
of the good, difficult things. You just have to keep doing them until
you have a testimony they make you happy, and then it’s easy.

I love you guys!

Have a good week!

Elder Greaves

P.S. Hey Mom! I just wanted to write you a quick note and tell you I love you. You’re just awesome. I read your blog post today, [thatwhichbringsjoy.com] and it is my favorite so far. It made me laugh. That’s right, I literally lol’ed. I brag about you like I’m a grandpa. I think you’re example more than anything else has taught me what it means to be a woman of God. I’ve always been so impressed with the equality in your marriage. I love that you are just as smart and capable as Dad, and just as hardworking. I just think that’s something very unique and special about you that really sets a high bar for my future marriage! I love you, and I’m thinking about you. I hope you have an awesome birthday. I’m sending pictures too.  (hover on a picture and the caption appears).