Apr. 22, 2013--First off, Mom, the Assistants sent out an email saying it would be okay to talk on the 5th or 19th if the 12th doesn't work for Mother's Day. And we sent him an email about whether it's ok or not to use Google Hangout[so many different family members in various places can all be on to talk at once]instead of Skype. My trainer Elder Davis thinks it will be.
Wow, I have super less time today than normal. I'm going to share a quick story and some pictures and then I have to go. Oh, and I got an email from Elder Travis Stacey today, so I was super excited about that, and thanks for the pictures of David in BYU Folk Dance.
Ok, this week something happened that I think my companion thought was pretty bad, but it seemed to me like it was the guidance of the spirit and that it was really good. We had a second appointment with a family who we're really excited about, because they're really, really searching for the truth, but they also are not sure yet whether they believe in God. So, we were arriving to the appointment really early, and I had to go to the bathroom, so we found a bathroom I could use, and while I was busy, Elder Davis started talking to a man who had an English Bible with him. It was the King James version of the Bible, which isn't available in German. They talked about how many things have been taken out of the Bible when I got out I was amazed that I could feel the spirit testifying to me while the man was talking about how Jesus really is the son of God. I know this man loves the Savior and I also know that no book on Earth will bring a person closer to the Savior than the Book of Mormon will, so I offered the man a Book of Mormon and testified of the power of the Holy Ghost (which he agreed with) to guide us and tell us what is truth. At first he said that he didn't like "secondary materials" and that all he needed was the Bible, but we testified to him again and he agreed to take it and pray about it. We ended up being about a half an hour late to our appointment and nobody answered the door, but we gave that man our number, and even though he hasn't called us yet, I've been praying that the Holy Ghost will help him to find the truth and closeness with the Savior that he is looking for. I know that if ANYone really prays about the Book of Mormon, they will receive a witness from the Holy Ghost, and I know that man would become such a strong member if he will just open to that bookmarked page we gave him and read that one verse, Moroni 10:4, but I also know that God will force no man to accept him, so I hope his heart will be softened to receive the joy of this gospel.
[The pictures are of a Milka McFlurry from a German McDonald's (pretty wimpy if you ask me) and this whipped cream can that was like industrial size at a member's house in Euskirchen. Apparently you can only get them if you own a restaurant or some kind of business.
Ya so pretty much about that whipped cream can, when they first brought it out I thought it was a fire extinguisher, that's how hard core it is. I want one.]
[This is my distrikt leader, Elder Divver, in Köln. He's (two v's, not a w) from Salt Lake. He's crazy, but he's awesome, so he's crazy awesome.]
PS President Schwarz just texted us that Google Hangout is ok. :D
So there's this really popular game that Talon and Lisa Haynie I think introduced to us, called Settlers of Catan, and I knew that it was more popular in Utah than back home, but what I didn't know is apparently the game originally came from Germany, because the creator's name is definitely a German name, Klaus Teuber. Yep, so I was walking around the ward building I think last Tuesday, and I saw this German 'Settlers of Catan' in the Ward Secretary's Office!
That last picture is for Dad. Our Zone Conference was in Düsseldorf and one of the first things we noticed when we got off the platform by Stake Center was this crazy wall painting... I was wondering if maybe he recognized it. I didn't take any pictures, but also something else cool about the Düsseldorf Stake Center is that the chapel room is really old, but it's also really really big. I don't think I've ever seen a chapel so wide it could fit FOUR columns of pews instead of two or three!
These pictures were from a while ago when we had that Goldens (greenies) & Trainers Meeting in Frankfurt. The train we take to get there is called an ICE and it goes really really fast. Then the other picture was when it was the beginning of the month so we were given extra money to buy our month ticket for getting around the city, and they cost a lot, so when I withdrew it, I had a 5, a 10, a 20, a 50, and a 100 € bill! (They don't have bills for 1€ and 2€, only coins).
These pictures are from two P-Days ago when we climbed the bell tower of the Koln Cathedral, but my companion had the pictures because I forgot my camera that day. I think a sign said there are 533 steps. Basically, it took forever. It didn't seem nearly as long on the way down though. And it was super windy at the top. (I like the one the most where I don't have my scarf/neck gaiter on in that one, and it shows where the massive building I live in is in relation to the Cathedral.)
Date: Mon, 8 Apr 2013
Dearest beloved mother,
The mouse of this internet cafe computer decided to stop working, so I'm doing the whole keyboard mouse thing (so glad it still works in Germany: press shift 5 times, you'll find it) and therefore, this email will likely go a lot slower and might jump topics if I can't type in the right place of the email.
Real quickly before I start answering your questions, I'm going to share a story that I shared with my mission president this week:
This last week we had Zone Training and I think it went very well. Elder Davis and I had a Thema to give, so I was expecting there to be about as many Elders and Sisters as were at the Golden/Trainer Meeting, but when I got there, I was surprised to find out there were maybe only about 25-ish missionaries, so I guess that made it easier. Our Thema was on Teaching People, not Lessons, from the 12 Week Program. We weren't getting much of anywhere when we first started planning for it. I think that we had different visions of how we wanted it to be. I remembered somebody telling me that a poor plan that everyone agrees on is much better that a great plan that nobody agrees on. I told Elder Davis this and we prayed about it, for help to prepare not the Thema that either of us wanted to teach the zone, but the thema that Heavenly Father wanted us to teach the zone, so they would hear the things the Lord knew they needed to hear to help most effectively help them with their teaching and their problems. After we prayed, we felt impressed to read a scripture, Alma 17:3, which I have referenced to Helaman 3:35 and one other scripture that I can't remember of the top of my head. Those two scriptures tell of times when there was somebody teaching with the spirit, with the power and authority of God, because beforehand they had prayed and fasted mightily that they might be prepared to serve, to become better, more useful instruments in the hand of the Lord. I knew then that if we fasted, it would unite each one of us with the Lord's plan, which would in turn unite us with one another. I was already the day before when we started our fast, but we really wanted to do a good job on our thema, so we kept trying to figure out a plan we could agree on. The day of the zone training, we woke up and tried planning again for our study time before we left. We got a plan together. It didn't seem like a great plan to me, but I was glad that it was at least a plan we agreed on, so we'd be united. After we gave our thema, a lot of missionaries were really glad for what we said. The spirit was there. We taught simply. I know that thema was the right one that the Lord wanted me and Elder Davis to give, and I know that when we want the spirit more than anything we've ever wanted, when we want it as much as we want to breath, then the Lord will help us in this work He has given us and we will bring about a marvelous work and a wonder.
Yes, Easter is much the same here, except for perhaps it's celebrated a little bigger-like. It seemed like everyone really focused on the Savior here (or maybe just it seemed like that because I was), and people actually get gifts, too. That was a little different, but I guess not too much. It's been a little cold, but not very. Actually, the whole time I've been here it's seemed very much like Crescent City, a little drippy at times, not too bad, and pretty much always cloudy. I'm at home! Haha, I think I've only worn my big wool coat a couple times, so it hasn't been that cold. Usually I'll just wear my suit coat, with my thin gloves and a scarf and I'm fine. The Sister missionaries in Köln keep asking me if I'm not cold, so maybe it would be if I had to be wearing a skirt all the time. I'm thankful I don't. For multiple reasons. Since we're on the topic of outerwear, I've been doing some observing on the matter, here in Germany. Turns out Dad was pretty right about most people with wool wearing more modern single-breasted overcoats that reach to just above the knee. I don't know if that's because it's the end of winter and people left there super long-heavy double-breasted coats in the wardrobe, but that's what they're wearing now. However, I haven't seen any missionaries with the super big down coats like he described, with the fur on the hood. Tons of Germans have them, but I haven't seen any missionaries with them. Another thing they have everywhere here is a brand called Jack Wolfskin. I'd never heard of it before, so I think it may be a German brand; it's seems like an outdoorsy clothing company similar to the North Face or Eddie Bauer, except those aren't as common. If I had tons of money to throw around I'd probably buy a light hiking coat from there.
This is a question for Dad:
When I first got here, it was confirmed that it wouldn't be nearly as easy for me to get a Führerschein (German driver's license) as say someone from Utah. And I think it would still be the normal price, so like 5000 € (that's probably way more than actual, but I haven't asked how much it would be exactly). So from your experience, since you have one, do you think it would be too much of a time commitment and a bother to try and get a Führerschein anyway?
I definitely got the Easter Package, thanks! That was actually another thing that was quite different about Easter because, like I said, people give presents for the Holiday, so a few members actually came up to us at church and gave us presents/packages too! It was mostly chocolate, but there was also a little bunny figurine in one and a couple pictures of us with a family (taken after a dinner appointment with them). One thing I will say about mail and packages in general, is that if you send them to the mission home, I might not get them for a couple weeks, since I only go there if we have some big conference or for Mission President interviews. I was there this last week for a Golden (greenie) and Trainer meeting which is when I got the Easter package, but besides that it's not really a regular thing I don't think.
Bytheway, how has Kira been treating my phone? Has she been liking it a lot? Not texting in class I hope, haha.
Ya, so I'm pretty sure a planned "meeting up" kind of deal wouldn't be in line with being a missionary, but yes, I know Marvin (friend from a German choir that stayed with us) and his family live just inside my mission border. I didn't however know that Sandra's parents and Uncle Horst's brother live in Schweinfurt. That's actually where my MTC companion is right now, although he's told me that he mostly works with the American base and military people there. Maybe I'll send him a letter and see if he can look them up!
I think it's really good that Dad is having Kira give talks, even if she doesn't really like to (Ya, Kira I know you :D), because absolutely one of the greatest experiences that helped me to recognize the spirit and trust that it would help and guide me was when Dad would take me as a High Council speaker with him. I'll always remember those times (although I don't remember how old I was).
Ya, in Conference, actually what President Monson said is that there are 65,000 missionaries out currently, 20,000 applicants, and 4 or 5 ,000 interviewees, so by the end of the year perhaps, there will only be 10,000 short 100,000 Missionaries!!! Haha, this is probably really silly, and I didn't even know we were that close, but I've always thought as an opinion/suspicion that the Lord was waiting until after we'd broken 100,000 to open up China to missionaries, so that was exciting for me to hear.
Speaking of Conference, I loved Elder Uchtdorf's and President Monson's talks. Sister Dalton's talk was also pretty good. PS, did it seem like to anyone else that the speakers talked about Germany more than normal, or was that just me? Anyway, one of the things I felt impressed about was praying for family and missionary experiences. I've already been doing this for the past week, but in response to one of the talks, I'd like to invite the rest of the family to pray for our relatives, either that they will be prepared by the spirit to accept the gospel in the future, or to recognize opportunities to appropriately and lovingly share happy thoughts with them, spiritual thoughts. When you really love somebody, as a family should, you know the happiness which comes from being together, and if you could be together with a brother or sister or cousin or grandma forever, that is the greatest of all the gifts of God. In the MTC, our branch president's counselor told us a story about a man in Japan who had been praying for his brother's family for about 20 years. There was a Sister missionary who served in Japan for only about 3 months because she was so sick all the time until she was sent home. While she was there she happened to run into the brother's wife, a relief society president, many times even though they weren't in the same ward. The sister felt the everything had been going wrong for her during that time, so she applied again to serve a mission and was sent to the San Diego mission. Shortly after she arrived she met a man who was from Japan and although he wasn't very interested, he wanted to show the sisters a picture of his family. In the picture, the man pointed to a man who the sister didn't know, but the woman next to him, his wife, was the relief society president who had seemed like one of the sister's only friends while she was so sick in Japan. Because she recognized a picture, the man took the lessons and was baptised. After 20 years, prayer can pay off. I know, when we are righteous and obey God's commandments, that whatever is important to us is also important to Him, because He loves us.
[Elder Standring's note, regarding message above: "So I guess that means I'll be doing a lot more of this! However, I dö feel strongly that I should still send you back a letter every week. :) Tschau!"]
"And then this is where I live. You can barely see the Cologne Cathedral (Köln Dom) behind me in the distance, so I included another one of the view.
Our actual mailing address is:
Elder Mark Standring
Luxemburgerstr.124 apt. #912
We live at the stop labelled Weisshaus-str. (White House Street), so you can see how close/far we live to the Cathedral.
This second picture is pretty much the where we spend all of our time: in Trains, aka Bahns/Zuge. Köln is the biggest area in the mission, so we have to jump around a lot. We make it work out though, and we just talk to people while they ride, instead of on the street.Well, I really have to go now, we're going to play soccer with Se'a, Abraham, and friends in about 5 minutes, so Tschüss!!!!!
I love you all so much!"
Man, this was going to be a super cool reveal of where I am right now too, because I have the perfect picture for it that a lot of people would probably recognize.
Ya, so I'm in Köln.
/Cologne (for you silly English speakers)
SO, it's super awesome that I've already been here before, even though it was only for a couple hours and that didn't help me to know the area AT ALL. [NOTE: Elder Standring came here as a high school student with his choir while on a European tour and they actually sang right here in front of this cathedral!! And some of his family--parents & brother--got to come along, too, so we think it's SUPER COOL that he got assigned here as his first area in Germany! :)] Haha, I was totally thinking that it might, but no. Not even close. Köln has 2 million people in it, so it's definitely the biggest area in the mission. My Companion, who I was also previously acquainted with, actually, says that our Apartment Building, too, is the biggest/tallest in the Germany. Soooooo... Cool Beans :)
My trainer's name is Elder Davis, and he's from Utah (Turns out that most missonaries are!), but more specifically, Provo. I don't think anybody back in Crescent City knows him, but we met briefly at BYU as he accompanied a girl in my German Class one day, which was actually just before he left on his mission. He's been out here about 18 weeks and in Köln about 6 weeks. He's a really awesome guy and super patient and loving, and his German is really, really good. too. Cool story though, my first day here we didn't have any lessons, but we did have Priesthood Correlation Meeting, so I go to meet the Bishop right away! I didn't really say much at the meeting because I didn't have know what any of the plans were, but he said I have quite good German for being a Golden (what they call greenies here in the Frankfurt Mission). After the meeting there were two old women in the building probably working on genealogy or something, and they both agreed that I have no accent at all! And then a few more people at Sacrament Meeting said that I have really good German too, all of which is pretty surprising and a huge relief, and I know that Heavenly Father has really been good to me in Learning the Language Department. However, just being able to mumble without an accent doesn't get people baptized by itself! I learned that for sure on Saturday when we had a Strasseausstellung in a suburb called Bergisch-Gladbach, and it was SOOOOO COOOOLD. (Oh and bytheway, a Strasseausstellung is a Street Display) I'm definitely sure that it wasn't the coldest I've ever been in my life, but I just really, really do not enjoy windy weather, especially when it's already quite cold outside. It was in the negatives for temperature (Celsius that it), and we were out there for about three hours. The deal with it was, that yes, it was hard to understand people when they start talking about one of many, many, many things they don't teach you in the MTC, but definitely the hardest part was just starting. (Meaning that if someone were to look up the word 'starting' in a dictionary, it would say 'Starting ~ The hardest part of everything') It was exactly like when you're about to call somebody on the phone, and you've gone over the whole conversation in your head already, so you've got it figured out, but then the moment someone answers, or the answering machine beeps... It's all gone... and not even 'gone' as in it left, more like 'never existed' is what I mean. Anyway, it's crazy, incredible, and a little bit frustrating. Ha, I talked to one guy and asked him about the purpose of life, and I'm pretty sure he was just doing it for a laugh, because he basically walked up to me and answered like, 'Ok, c'mon, tell me the meaning of life'. Didn't see that one coming.
Wow. Kids are super hard to talk to also, because.... ugh.. just everything, hah. I was trying to make up a story with the Bischof's kids who were at the Street Display and after the first round, I had like no idea where the story had gone. I know, tragedy. Tragedy that there had been four words put together as a story put together with no missionary to appreciate it because he didn't understand. After hours of mulling over, with consultation, I think the story went something like this:
An apple jumped and flew over a mountain.
the end. I guess.
One more awesome story:
So as a missionary, it's great to be friendly and talk to as many people as you can (easier imagined than done, especially about 10 seconds before you try), so I was trying to do that on a train the other day. Bytheway, let me just tell you, Germans have trains coming out of their ears, but in a good way. There's SO many trains, and they go EVERYWHERE, it super complicated, like it's a huge problem for my district right now because the missionaries can't figure out which ticket to buy to get where they want! Hahaha, anyway long story short, I told a lady on the train that I liked the color of her scarf and so she gave it to me.
What do you do, say 'no' after you just said you liked it? Bah, haha, so I have a very womenly-like knitted scarf in very fine shades of red, pink, and purple.
Anyways, I'm am so loving it here in Köln. Lovin' it, Lovin' it, Lovin' it. I had a Döner for the first time the other day, and it was way good. Also, Elder Davis says he's not much of a cook, so I get to subject him to all sorts of the Culinary Experiments that I love doing! So far, I've made french toast, scrambled eggs with potato, tomato, and green-plant-that-I-found-in-the-fridge-ness bits, and mashed potatoes with onion, lots of butter, more green-leafy-stuff-that-resembles-spinach, and cheese! Lovin' it.
I can't quite remember what else I'm supposed to tell y'all as far as answering questions go. I feel really silly that I left my camera home, especially on a P-Day. Oh, yep and we went to the Köln Cathedral today! Which is time #2 for me, although this time we also went up to the top of the steeple/tower, so that was new. My companion got pictures, but we'll both have to wait 'til next week I suppose.
I love you all so very very much. Thanks for your supporting prayers and letters! I've been praying for you too, so be awesome and feel the Savior's love in you life! I witness so, so strongly that Heavenly Father has a plan for us and that he loves us more than we can fathom or understand. I know the Holy Ghost can help you to find solutions to those problems in your life that you've been thinking and worrying about. Let Heavenly Father bless you. Don't be afraid to be great. Don't be afraid to succeed. When there's something good you feel, do something with it. Act on that silly little thought you have to help someone. Be better than you were yesterday. I know through the atoning sacrifice, the Atonement, of Jesus Christ, all the bitterness, bad, and sorrow can be emptied out of us and we'll be filled back up with something happy, good, and loving. We will change when we do this, yes, but it's ok, because it's what you want deep down inside. I know there will be a way provided for us to do what Heavenly Father wants and needs us to do. Don't be afraid to succeed.
I love you more than little boys love cake and little girls love bunnies,
Elder Standring's comment: "This picture was taken right before we found out where our first areas were and who our trainers would be. We were all sitting down in basement/meeting room of the hotel listening to the Assistants to the President and President Schwarz."
Elder Standring's comments: "Oh, and a random side note. In this picture of Elder Manzke (glasses) and Elder Lake (Blonde), over Elder Lake's other shoulder is the face of the third Germany-going Elder Noorda from the MTC. He's only distantly related to the twins :) [known from BYU]. Elder Lake was new, because he got fast-tracked (he already had the German down). I met Elder Manzke when the plane first landed in Frankfurt, and I was in the group that helped put all the luggage into the moving van (you already have a picture of that). We became friends right away, and I found out he's actually German, but he's not serving a mission in Germany. He's been assigned to the Lisbon, Portugal mission, but he wanted to come in early, so he's serving a sort of mini-mission for 6 weeks before he reports to the Spain MTC for two weeks and then goes to Portugal. He's part Brazilian, so he already knows Portugal (and spanish; we talked), so the next thing I found out, is that he's also from Köln (Cologne). This was before I knew I would be assigned to Köln and actually before President Schwarz knew too, so we just talked about how I'd been there once before when I was a freshman in High School. So ya, he lives in Köln, and obviously, so does his family. They even have the missionaries over every Monday for dinner, and so I met them last week (and at church). The Manzke family kind of has two ''adopted'' sons too, Se'a and Abraham who are about my age, and just kinda live in Germany. They don't live with the Manzke's but they also come over every Monday for dinner. Se'a is Japanese doesn't speak German, and Abraham is Mexican and only speaks spanish. :) Elder Davis and I are actually about to play soccer with them in about half an hour to see if any of their soccer friends are interested in learning about the Gospel! It works out though, because Se'a kinda speaks spanish, and is fluent in English (lived in Redding California for a couple years going to Shasta College) so they two and the Manzke's get along really well, speaking spanish together and all ... in Germany, haha. I could understand sometimes, but most of the time, the other missionaries, and I would try to cut in with a bit of German and figure out what was all going on. Yep. Love the Manzke Family."