Monday, June 30, 2014

Hey all!
Greetings from Köln! This week has been quite an interesting one. To start off, we now have weekly visits to an elderly woman where we sing to her, and in turn she buys us all chinese food. Pretty good deal if you ask me!! She's almost 90! We also met with the way cool guy Herr Zeitel. His wife was a member, and she recently died. Since then he has read book after book about the church. He had us over and he served us pizza as well as gave us fruit, his favorite chocolate, and a ride home which was a way big deal. This guy is so nice, and he just wants to know if the church is true. It's so nice to see that religion isn't dead in this great country, and I'm excited to help him in any way that I can.
For those of you who follow fussball/soccer, you know it was a rough week. We lost to Germany!! Elder Arts bought an American flag and started wearing it during the game at a members house, but we put it away out of fear of being mugged haha. It is so intense how into the sport these people are. EVERYONE gets dressed and painted up for games, and the trains are almost empty when games are going.
We had some ups and downs this week. Since Cologne is so big, it takes forever to get anywhere. We had a meeting with an investigator that was over an hour away, and he wasn't even there. In fact his brother said he had just left. Darn kid never picks up his phone either! Oh well, because we had so much time we called a bunch of people in the phone contacts. We actually got a few people that arent members and want to know more! Speaking of knowing more, there were the Sisters in another part of the mission that got 3 baptisimal dates set. That is way cool, and that's the kind of thing that really pumps us up.
This week we lost our President! After 3 years of service they decided it was time to let someone else have a turn at being a mission president. Our entire area got together to say goodbye, and afterwards we had a big street preach. There were a few people who were interested, but mostly people ignored us. Honestly it makes sense. If I were comfortable where I was, I wouldn't want to hear from some pesky 18 year olds either! It makes sense to me that people don't want to hear, and as a missionary it bumms me out, but as Kevin I totally understand. After the streetpreach, we went to the train station and bought some crepes! While in line, one of the train station officials jokingly told us that we weren't allowed to be there. We actually struck up a cool conversaition, and he told me that he had met with the missionaries all the way back in 2003!! We started talking about religion and I got him to commit to meet with the missionaries in his area and I gave him their number. Like I said, most people don't want to hear it, but even if that guy never calls the missionaries, it totally made my day.
Not a whole lot else to report on, those were pretty much the bigger parts of my week. Oh! We also went inside the Cologne Cathedral for a little bit and it is just astounding. Check it out on Google if you can. Ok well I gotta go!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kevin's first letter from Germany:

I arrived in the Frankfurt airport on Wednesday morning, and it was huge! Never have I been to such a huge airport in my life. The 9 plus hour flight was actually really fun. Rather than try and sleep and study, I talked with some native Germans that hardly spoke any English. They had visited the states in a couple of different places, and we spent 2 or 3 hours just talking about Germany, the food, the festivals, and then probably another hour and a half of them showing me all of their pictures from their trips. Never have I met anyone who took so many photos. They handed me their tablet, and they would let me look. Finally I thought I was done, so I handed the tablet back and told them how cool I thought that was. Then they opened two more albums and handed it back. Haha, it was fun, but a lot of the photos were also personal or repeats. Such nice people though! We talked a little about how I am a missionary, and how I will be here for two years. They live in Heidelberg, and actually told me that if I am in the area, I should stop by. They even gave me their number and then wished me well. They also expressed to me many times how much they love beer. How German of them! haha.

The first day was awesome since I had slept four or five hours on the plane. We were all tired, but I was still perky and in some aspects kind of hyper. The older Elders and Sisters thought it was pretty funny since just about every other Elder or Sister in my group had fallen asleep or tried to fall asleep during orientation. Here I was, smilling and asking questions with my squinty eyes as open as they go. We then went out street contacting, and I saw a guy with a "Made in Detroit" T-shirt on, so I went over and talked to him. Unfortunately he wanted no part. Oh well. Most people will shew you away like a fly, but that's why we like to talk to people on trains and the bus!

I got my first real companion, Elder Arts, and we had a 2.5 hour ride on a bus from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof to Cologne. Rather than sleep on the bus, we talked a lot and shared stories. We eventually got back to our appartment and I will admit. It is prettty sketchy! My desk drawers are falling apart, and my bathroom is bigger than my kitchen! My stove/oven and fridge are basically fun size, which is pretty funny. Here's the good part. Our washing machine is also small, but it connects with a tube to the shower, and then has hoses that dump the water back into the tub when it's finished. I haven't gotten to try it yet, but I think it will be quite amusing getting a load done.

The people and the cars here are awesome! There is graffiti or however you spell it everywhere! We also had a quick visit to the Cologne Cathedral called the Dom. We got some pretty dang good eis/ice cream and a mango currywurst sausage with fries. Even Fanta tastes different here, but I actually like it better! I also see a bunch of really cool cars too, and they are sooo expensive sometimes. One thing that's odd to me, is that people take their dogs literally everywhere.

We had an investigator this week that said goodbye. I didn't really know him, and I couldn't really understand him. I actually think he was a little mentally handicapped, but it was still sad to see him go. It was harder for my companion because he knew him a lot better. Other than that, things couldn't be better! The only things are that it smells a little, and we can't find disinfectant to clean our aromatic bathroom. That's right mom, I want to clean my bathroom now! Haha.

The city is gorgeous, and the trains are awesome! Cologne is where I wanted to go, and is the biggest city in our mission. We and two sisters are responsible for the 2 million plus people living here. We too just had a massive storm in Cologne just before I came, and trees were knocked over everywhere, insomuch that some trains were shut down.

We live on the ninth floor and have a way awesome view of the city! Unfortunately we are on the opposite side from the Dom/Cologne Church. We actually went up to the 43 floor in our building, and we saw it from way far away. It's such a cool building, but unfortunately that's all that it really is seen as now. For hundreds of years people slaved away to build it, and the whole city is built around it, yet now nobody cares about religion. We were walking to get onto a Bahn, and this guy just totally stops us, asks us where we are from, and tells us that Germany doesn't like us. He was telling us that nobody is important, and that we shouldn't go around telling kids that God created the Earth. Basically telling us to go home.

Just want to thank everyone for the letters, and thank my aunt Cherill for the awesome letter and travel money! It totally saved me at the airport! Stay happy and be thankful for what you have, a lot of people here have a lot less than you. Love you all!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kevin made it to Germany!!! This is him with his first companion, Elder Arts, and his mission president and his wife:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

So this week in an attempt to break free from one of the other Elder's grip, we kind of wrestled and in the process ripped my pants from front to back! I would have been mad, but it should be a pretty simple fix! Also, I got a couple of packages this week, and that was a lot of fun! I got some new toys to throw at other missionaries! The sad thing is, is that bouncy balls are pretty much one of our favorite things. We also like to pop our paper bags that we get from bagged lunches, and it makes a really awesome bang! Unfortunately, some older folks do not appreciate that kind of humor, so we got scolded. 

This week we have kind of been slap happy. I think it's something they put in the water, but who knows. I find it harder and harder to focus sometimes, and I think I'm beginning to think in German a little bit. This week we listened to two paragraphs of a general conference talk by Dieter F Uchtdorf and wrote down words we didn't know. Only then did I realize how terrible my listening skills were. Hopefully That will change soon enough though, because it took us a good half hour to translate it! 

Just last friday we got out flight itinerary. We will be leaving the combine at 430 in the morning and will be taking off out of salt lake at 830! Then we land in Dallas at 12 local time, and have a four hour layover..After that, we will have a 9.5 hour flight directly to the Frankfurt airport. Things are getting crazy here! Everyone is ready to leave I will say that much. 

It's been really interesting to see my own growth in the MTC. I think I have greatly improved my German skills, and some of the rules just kind of apply themselves when I talk. But I think I have also become more tolerant, more thoughtful of others (I would hope), and more receptive to what people need to hear. I'm looking forward to the long flight, and hopefully I'll be able to jam that much more into my head before I leave. This is so exciting! And crazy to think that this week is my last in the US for 2 years. 

Oh one last thing. One of the elders managed to imitate Elmo, except he sounds very very raspy. It's pretty dang funny! We also make fun of Dobbey from Harry potter and many other things. It helps us get through the day.

Well that's about it. Hopefully more eventful things next week. Keep me updated.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I officially have 13 days until I leave, and have 12 full days left becuase I think we leave at 2 or 3 in the morning on Tuesday..but I'll probably just pull an all nighter and drink sparkling apple cider with the guys!

I apologize that all of my letters sound relatively the same, but once I get out of the MTC I'll have more to report on.

I have been picking up on my German still, but it has kind of slowed down. Certainly glad that I took two years in High School! I have forgotten much, but these last few weeks have really helped me prepare to go to Germany. We had a devotional the other day, and the speaker said something that really stuck with me. He said, "It doesn't matter how well you conjugate verbs and all that stuff, it matters that people see that you care. There was a missionary in Russia that when he got there, got to know everyone. The members told me his grammer was terrible, but it was his thoughts and personality that touched all of them, not his words". It went something like that, and I recognize that my German will probably make people's ears bleed and make them cringe, but I hope I can convey my love to the people in a way that they will get a sense of my desires to help.

Everyone here is so excited to leave, but we all know that once we leave we won't ever be all together again. Kinda sad. I will say, it feels like I have known  the guys that I live with forever. I mean they have become some of my best friends. Even when there is someone that is hard to get along with, there are a few things that we have in common. We are all children of god, and we share the same beliefs and gospel. Here we help each other live right, and it is just so much fun. I have made friends here that in high school or college I probably would never have associated with, and they are some of my favorite people.

Sometimes I look down at my tag and see the name of the church in German, and I still can't believe I am a missionary of God. It's quite a title really. Powerful, yet a very humble one. The church's name in German is Kirche Jesu Christ der Heiligen der Letzten Tage. Was kind of confusing at first, but I'm starting to undestand a lot of things a lot more. I can already tell that this is going to change who I am going to be, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. 

Lately I've been missing little things like music. Really that's the only thing I can think of right now, other than that I am pretty content. We listened to some church music and that was a little difficult for me given my past music style. Hopefully my music tastes will remain the same when I come back.

They have been doing some construction around here lately, so I decided to hop into one of the machines when we had some free time. There are also people who drive golf carts around campus, and they just leave the keys there for like 10 minutes! It's begging for a hot lap around the campus...but they might not think it's as fun as I think. I don't think anyone thinks certain things are as fun as I think. I'm pretty much like a todler, but anyone who knows me already knew that.

Well not much else to report on, more stories coming within the next month!

Elder (Kevin) Andrew