Sunday, November 2, 2014

Eastertime in Koln, Germany, April 2013

 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:
President Schwarz,
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.
I love you all so much,
~ Elder Mark Standring

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