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Monday, October 29, 2012

Here in the northern end of Deutschland, we can tell that winter in rolling out his icy hands. The last few days of last week were around 5° Celsius, which made me finally pull out my coat that I will irrefragably be wearing for the next few months. So far, the climax of all the weather hit us on Saturday, as my companion and I were trying to do street contacting in a very chilling, icy rain and wind that cut through to the bone. But unfortunately for the weather, and my poor companion, I obstinately withstood, declaring my Colorado upbringing and Viking lineage (if not by blood than at least by the name "Erik") against the cold. But even though the weather is going down, the work here is picking up a bit. We had a few really awesome miracles this week. First of all, we are meeting with these two ladies from Kenya, who are both progressing wonderfully. They both speak fairly good English and are really spiritual. When we meet, it is in the Auslanderheim (Foreigner home) in their very humble, yet respectable room. The best part is that they came to church on Sunday, which Elder Primas said has not happened for at least 3 months here. The members seemed pretty excited, but they did not see too much of each other because on Sunday we had the last session of General Conference being played, and so we had our investigators in the English-speaking room with us missionaries. They seemed to really like the talks and are excited to meet with us again this week. We have also been meeting with some other people that have some interest, one of which finally gave testimony of the Book of Mormon last week. We also were able to make out tons of new appointments this week, as so we are really hoping that some of those can go through and that we will be able to get a teaching pool going here. I think one of the biggest miracles that we have here in Prenzlau is simply just the Missionary couple, the Böhms, that we get to work with. They have been doing quite a few joint-teaches with us and have been able to drive us around to the smaller cities that we do not usually get to visit. Elder Böhm has a really great testimony and understanding of the gospel, and he is one of the reasons that we have missionaries serving in Turkey right now (its a really fun story involving Latvia and the UN). Sister Böhm is hilarious and gives the missionaries some great food. So, all in all, the ball is starting to roll here, and hopefully we can keep up the appointments we have and get some new ones going before it gets too cold. Thank you everyone for your prayers and for your support. I know that we are on this Earth to fulfill a great and noble cause. I know that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet to restore the keys of the Gospel in the last days. And finally, I know that Thomas S. Monson is the called prophet who holds these keys today. Have an awesome week!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hey Family and Friends, This week was definitely a stretch German-wise, and I am actually really happy with the results. On Tuesday, my companion and I gave a lecture for a missionary training meeting, in which the Zone Leaders asked that we do the whole thing in German. We did a pretty good job, and I am very happy that I get to have a German companion because he helped me make sure that I was explaining everything correctly for that. Of course he did almost flawlessly, but he has had about 20 years to work on it. Our lecture was about trying to invite our investigators to baptism on the first lesson so that we could help them receive the restored gospel with better focus and purpose. On Sunday, I had to give a 15 minute talk to the Branch about General Conference and what really stood out to me. Of course, due mainly to the fact that I am serving here, that also had to be auf Deutsch. That also turned out really well, but mostly because I spent the entire week pouring over my notes and rewriting it 3 times before finally letting my companion at it to perfect the German. The members said that they were surprised that I have such good German even though I've been out in Germany since April. I credit it to two things: awesome companions that have helped me a lot, and the spirit and gift of tongues that come with Him. I have learned that when I am completely worthy of the Holy Ghost that learning and applying the language comes 200% more easily. Other than that, we had a pretty fun week. If none other adjective applies, I think that 'small' is the best one to describe Prenzlau. We have well under 20,000 people living her, so we get to say hi to the same people on the streets everyday, and everyone else has already had the missionaries try to stop them a few times over in the past few years. It makes tracting pretty hard, but we are planning on heading out to the other, smaller towns in our area to get a teaching pool. Right now the number of progressing investigators is 2, in which both of our lessons with them fell out last week, so we might be down to a little lower than that this coming week- a major contrast to the work in Goerlitz. But we have some really good appointments set up so I'm keeping my hopes high and my disappointment locked up tight. Okay, so here's the lowdown on Elder Primas, my new companion. First of all his name is in-and-of-itself pretty awesome, because "prima" in German means "great." He was born and raised in Munich, Germany, so his house is only a few train connections away from us. He has amazingly good English, so much so that he wants to speak in it more than his mother language! He comes from a family of 5, with two younger sisters. His mom is actually one of the people that helps to translate the Liahona into German, and his dad used to work for Mercedes-Benz. Elder Primas is pretty funny, especially whenever I forget that he is German and so he will say something that makes absolutely no sense to me, and then I'm like "wait...what?" He is about as tall as I am, so we both look like towers as we are walking down the streets. As for the ward, we have about 15 active members that come every week, and the Branch President is a member from another ward in the District (we do not have enough members for a Stake quite yet). They are some really solid members though, including one sister that loves the missionaries and keeps wanting me to talk because she thinks that my "r's" sound funny. She used to be the owner of the missionary apartment a few years ago so that is the main reason she likes us so much, I think. Thanks everyone for the letters that you have been sending, and I am hoping to be able to get some responses sent soon now that I do not have to spend the whole week writing a talk. Congrats to the Kickery's for their baptism; I am so proud of them! I wish everyone a great one and you and you are all in my prayers!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Eric's new Location, Prenzlau Germany!

Well, I am finally all situated in my new city, Prenzlau, north-east of the capital of Berlin. It is a beautiful little town, and is situated right next to a picturesque lake and some beautiful country side. But like I said, it is fairly small- only about half the size of my last location. So, here is why I consider it a "rough start" into my new city: On Tuesday, I missed my connection from Berlin to Prenzlau by about two minutes. The next train was not for another two hours, and I did not have a way to contact my new companion, making him have to wait in the city by himself for a while. His name is Elder Primas, and he comes from Munich, a city in southern Germany. He has really good English, so much so that he continuously tries to speak English with me when all I want to do is speak German to get my language skills better. The next day, only my second day in the city, Elder Primlas came down with a pretty bad flu, resulting in us having to stay in our apartment for the rest of the day. Then, only two days later, I came down with the exact same thing, and we had to stay inside once again because every three hours I was throwing up. I haven't been sick for at least two years, so it was a very miserable reminder of the blessing of health that I usually enjoy. That is why it was a rough start. The good news, although, is that by the next day (Sunday) I was well enough for us to be able to go to Berlin to see President Monson as he addressed us live in the International Conference Center. It was really cool to see how many members there really are in Germany and how much they love the prophet. The prophet spoke to us in English, one sentence at a time, and was followed by a German translator right next to him repeating it auf Deutsch. He did a really good job of translating, and I enjoyed trying to see if I could beat him or translate it in a diferent way than he did. President Monson talked quite a bit about Goerlitz and the promises that he made there, but his overarching emphasis was on the importance of sharing the gospel to those that are unaware of the blessings and miracles that appear in it. He related it to a blind man, whom could not yet see the spring of the Restoration, and is held back by malice, hate, anger, envy, or rebellion. He gave a really great talk, and it was wonderful to be able to see him in person. I love the prophet, as well as all of his teachings. But now it is Monday, and everything is looking better. I am once again healthy and now really excited to get started in Prenzlau. Due to the conference yesterday, I am not sure how many members there are, but our church building is a rented-out floor just above a suntanning salon. Now before I go to church I can make sure that I have golden-brown skin! It is the same spirit and it looks beautiful on the inside, so it is just a testimony to me that where you meet has absolutely no influence on you feeling the spirit. I love you guys and hope that all is well back home. Oh, yeah, and here is my new address in Prenzlau. Elder Eric Gibson Wittenhofer Strasse 1 17291 Prenzlau Germany Have a great week!

Monday, October 8, 2012

I feel amazed at how quickly and easily life is changed. We had our transfer calls on Saturday, and it looks like I am going up north (just in time for winter) to Prenzlau, near the East Sea. I will be getting there on Tuesday, so I can tell you guys all about it next week. My companion, like Elder Jacob Gibson, is getting a new missionary to train, so the city will have back-to-back new missionaries. I am both excited and sad to be going to a new area and new companion (I will also tell you about him next week, but he is a native speaker, so I think that my language is going to improve quite a bit). I love Goerlitz and all of the people there. We had such an amazing transfer though, so it was definitely a great way to end my service in my first city. We had a great week, in which the Baumans, the new missionary couple in Goerlitz, joined us in our efforts to teach and serve the people. They are doing wonderfully in the branch and have brought a new kind of excitement to the members. It is wonderful to see the change taking place. We have also made quite a bit of headway with our investigator, Jana Nocke, including a miracle of a lesson with her on Tuesday. We were intending to teach her with a member, but he was busy and could not come. We only had an hour to find another member, or we would have to cancel the lesson with her. After many calls and prayers, we finally got in contact with a less-active member. She consented, and she was able to explain the idea of tithing really well. Sister Bauman was also there, and said is very simple German (she cannot speak the language quite yet) and then afterwards in English with us translating what tithing means to her. It was a such a great lesson. Additionally, we have been doing quite a bit of service both for the community as well as for the ward. It has been successful, and a family that we helped trim their trees on Friday is also making a large amount of growth in the gospel. We also had the opportunity to go to the temple this week, and it was wonderful to be able to do another session in the House of the Lord, especially after cleaning it last week. It has a completely new and sacred meaning for me. General Conference was also a wonderful boost, a great way to end the transfer, and also an auspicious start for my time in my new area. It is really interesting how they have is set up with the 8 hour time difference, and so the only two sessions that we are able to see live are the Saturday and Sunday morning sessions. I was able to watch a couple in German as well, which was really fun but really hard because they have to talk extremely fast sometimes. My favorite talk was by Elder Holland about the apostles being called to the work after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He speaks with such great power and influence, and just increased my drive to major in English to use words like he does. Also, the news about missionaries is so crazy!!! I am excited to see the numbers of missionaries in spring as all of the missionaries start getting into the field, and my own personal belief is that the number of sister missionaries is going to increase dramatically. It is awesome that the options for both the men and the women are widened so that we can accelerate the work of the Lord. I hope that everyone also had a great Conference weekend and that all is doing well at home and abroad. I love you all and wish you the best. Until next week, in which I am excited to tell all of you about my experiences with President Monson when he comes to Berlin!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Guten Tag Familie und Freunden, I can't say much other than that we had such a great week! Well, to start off, right after we finished E-mails to family last week, we headed to a late-night appointment with a family that we had set up over 4 weeks ago. We were not very optimistic about it going through, so we were surprised when the wife answered the door and said that she was really excited that we had come. They are a family of 5 with one child married and away from home, but sadly the other 2 children are in their 20's each suffering from a mental disease that makes it where they are considered handicapped. We started talking about the restored gospel, but they were fairly skeptical about it. He quickly explained that he was raised communist, and so he did not believe on God, but that he is open to the idea. They said that they noticed that all of the Christian children have helped support their two mentally retarded children throughout their school years, so they know there is something good about it. But is it true? Another story... so far. We invited them to pray and they declined, but soon realized that if they were "open to it", as they claimed, that they should at least try it out before telling us that is was not for them. By the time we left, the spirit of the home was completely changed, and they invited us back to meet with them later this week. Another experience we had was on Wednesday, with a contact we found in the area book. He seemed really nice letting us into his house and when we sat down, but when he joined us, he slammed his fist on the table and told us straight up that he believed that Jesus Christ exists "but that is all, and there is nothing you can do to change that." We were taken aback at his straightforwardness and superciliousness, but we were able to calm the situation down, and ended up having a good talk about the Plan of Salvation and how it could change his life for the better. His heart was softened, and now we have a return appointment to talk about Pre-Earth life next week. On Wednesday, we decided to do a whole new way of spreading the name of our church by participating with one of our investigators in a city choir (here's where I take a moment to thank the Wallin Family for helping me get some singing practice in and for my brother Jacob getting me to join the choir at church). Anyways, they meet at a music school in the old part of Goerlitz in a beautiful building overlooking the Goerlitz landscape with Peter's Kirche in the background. It was a surprisingly large group of people; all of them except 1 were at least 20 years older than us, so the age ratio was defiantly off balance. I was put in with the Basses while Elder Bangerter joined the Tenors. The substitute director was really excited to have us, thanking our investigator for bringing us along, and everyone started to ask us who we were and what we were doing in Germany. The music was wonderful, and I got to keep all of the music, so now I have some very beautiful German stuff to take home with me. One of my favorite parts about the school was that there was a 400 year-old trumpet on display in the foyer of one of the levels. I had to stop drooling on my way up the next flight. Another highlight of this week was that our Mission couple finally moved in. We spent all of Thursday getting their apartment ready for them. We started at 7 A.M. with literally nothing- including no light fixtures or furniture- and by the time noon rolled around, we had set it up enough to make it a place that they could live in. Unfortunately, they still do not have a kitchen, but it should be coming in sometime this week. Their names are Elder and Sister Bauman, from Salt Lake City, and they are really wonderful people. They are BYU fans, and their son is well known because he was a starter for 4 years on the football team there. Their apartment has enough keys that they could be janitors, but they love that they are finally here in Goerlitz. I am kinda sad because I am almost certain that I am going to be transferred out of Goerlitz next week, so I am not going to have too much time to be with them. This morning, we made them breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes and homemade apricot syrup with bacon. I am finally mastering how to make pancakes from scratch, as well as some super good Swiss bread, tomato butter, and banana bread. On Sunday, we had simply a wonderful day. We walked with the couple to their first day of church, and all of the members greeted them with warmest welcome I have ever seen. They are all really excited to have new members, and it reminded me of when I was brand new with how much English everyone was speaking. We also had 5 investigators show up to church, including Jana Nocke, who now has a baptismal date; Noreen Neugebauer, the lady from Chemintz that comes every other week; and a Polish guy that we contacted on the street on Saturday. He was such a surprise, and luckily one of our members can speak polish, so he was happy at church and said that he and is wife will be there next week. The best part was at second hour, in which Jana Nocke's 11 year-old daughter asked me if she could get a copy of the Book of Mormon in German. In comment to that, Elder Bangerter, with total awe, said "the last thing that I was doing at 11 years old was looking for the true church." So if you guys didn't catch the little part about me most likely leaving, please hold off on any letters or packages until I give you my address for the next 6 weeks. Other than that, I hope everyone has a great week and I love you all!