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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Polten, Austria!!!

We are delighted to tell you that Elder Bartholomew arrived safely in Munich this morning.  He is tucked away in bed now after a long day of orientation. 
We thought you might enjoy these pictures from this evening. His new companion is Elder Janis, and they will be serving in St. Polten, Austria. 


Week 6... Aufwiedersehn!

Guten Morgen!
In case you are surprised that I am emailing home today... so am I!
I figured the next time I'd get to write home would be in Germany, but our Branch President gave us some time this morning while we takle some last minute laundry.
First off, thanks so much for all the packages/letters/etc I have recieved here at the MTC- it seriously is so fun to get stuff during mail time, and I know I'm probably going to miss that once I get to Germany and things can take weeks to get there!
Final reports on the MTC... I ended at a solid 193.7 lbs, which means my total net gain was only 2 lbs... not too shabby?? Unfortunately for Elder Vitel, American food is a lot more fatty than he expected, and he can no longer fit into his favorite skinny jeans- it was probably one of the funniest moments of my life! But thank goodness I can look forward to REAL food on the other end of the trip... and missionary work. Thats cool too.
Nothing incredibly out of the ordinary to report! We've been slowly packing up our belongings over the course of the past few days...   Elder Pugh, for some unknown reason, packed fully a week ago "just to be safe" so now anytime we have to pack he just sits around and watches us! Its a little bit sad to think of leaving the MTC, leaving my district, leaving America, leaving the sound of the BYU Bell Tower, leaving my HOME, but if there is one thing my testimony has been reassured of over the past few weeks- it is that there is a far greater work for me to accomplish across the sea then I could ever do here in Provo.
We listened to a talk by elder Holland last night, and he said something very powerful that hit me pretty hard. He said- "don't you EVER. NOT EVER. say, or imagine in yourselves, that you are leaving "real life" to serve a mission, shortly thereafter to return to "real" life. Your life will NEVER get more REAL than it is right now. There is nothing MORE REAL or IMPORTANT than saving a human soul. Marriage and families are of equal importance, but nothing will ever be MORE important than what you do right now."
Isn't that powerful!?? I am so darn excited to get to Germany! Time to let REAL life begin!
Pray for me the next few weeks- its going to be a lot to adjust to, but I know I can trust the Lord to get me where I need to be! Whether it is in a small cluster of villages in Southern Austria, or smack dab in Dowtown Vien (Vienna), I know I'm about to go labor in a very specific field! So wish me luck!
I love you all so much, and I'm sorry If I haven't been able to respond to all your letters! I'm pretty caught up... I think I only have 4 more to write, and I may just need to write them on the plane and send them from Germany! I heard rumor that they are going to give my mission extra email privlidges (1 hour and a half) because mailing is difficult from where I might be! So I may start emailing a lot of you! We'll see though!
Well my time is up! thanks so much! Love you all! Aufwiedersehn!
Adventure is out there!
Elder Bartholomew

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Elder Bartholomew -Week 5... nur ein Woche in die MTC! nach Österreich, Deutschland!

Well it seems as if the Final Countdown has begun!!
Our district has only gotten more and more anxious as the time passes! We are all desperately awaiting the 19th when we leave for the field!
We recieved our travel plans this past week- Woooo!- and it looks like we'll leave SLC at 9AM on the 19th, land in Minneapolis, then fly to Amersterdam, and then to Munich!! We'll land about 11 AM the next day (their time.) There are 24 of us flying together to Alpine mission, out of 94 German missionaries. The Berlin elders/sisters will fly to Dallas, Amersterdam, Berlin, and the Frankfurt elders/sisters fly direct to Frankfurt! Me and Elder McGinn have already discussed it... we're pretty bummed we wont get to preach the gospel together, but we've decided he'll convert the north, and I'll take the south! I can't wait to speak fluent German with him again someday at a Homie reunion. So, I won't be able to call home from Germany, but if I want, I can call home for about 6 minutes from SLC... Mom, do you want me to or not? I need to know so I can buy a prepaid phone card!
I wish there was more interesting stuff to report... But after your fifth week of the MTC, things just don't really change. Our German has SKYROCKETED this week, and I feel really good about entering the field. I obviously nowhere close to fluent, but I can hold a pretty decent conversation, and when it comes to gospel principles- BOOM. I know them in German. But... if you asked me to pass the salt at the dinner table, I'd probably have no idea what you are talking about. It was really cool in Sacrament meeting on sunday though- they three speakers all gave talks about the Atonement (all in German) and I understood 100% of what they were saying, and I felt the spirit so strong! then... I realized that is was in a different language! So I had a little party (in my heart) and thanked the Lord for allowing my understanding to be enlarged. Its interesting... I was talking with Elder Vitel the other day, and I commented that when I think about church terms in my brain... the first words that come are in German now. When I think about the Atonement, I think of das Sühnopfer Jesu Christi, and when I think of Sacrament Meeting, I think of Abendmal Versammlung. Its almost strange for me to use the English terms, because they stress so much talking in German all the time! I just cant wait to dive in!
This week, we started district "Consecration Week", which means that each day, we speak only German for a few hours (beginning and ending with prayer) and we increase the hours each day. I wanted to try just German all the time, but the sisters thought this would be more reasonable. It was so fun yesterday, and during those few hours, I didn't even struggle to explain my thought hardly at all! By the last 3 days, we'll be doing full days, so we're are PUMPED!
Our lessons are going great still- Elder Vitel and I have worked out a really good teaching pattern, and we're both comfortable teaching pretty much anything, so lessons aren't stressful at all anymore. Our two practice investigators are Michael and Alex (Michael is a 40 yr. old Atheist with a wife but no kids, and Alex is a 20 year old student from Chile) And we've committed Michael to baptism because we had a really powerful lesson where he felt for the first time that God existed, and Alex is still having problems with priesthood authority, but Elder Vitel shared his conversion story and it had such a strong spirit about it! Especially in German. As much as I enjoy teaching these practice investigators though... I CAN'T WAIT FOR REAL PEOPLE. It's moderately eating at my insides, this burning desire to go convert the world.
The reason I am so pumped is because we got the MOST EPIC pep-talk from our teacher on wednesday! We were discussing how the work is in Austria and such when I asked him what a reasonable expectation was for things like, lessons per day, baptisms, etc. and he immediately fired up and pounded on my desk and started this awesome speech! This gist of what he said was this:
"don't let anyone tell you the work isn't going well in Germany. I know people told you when you got your call "oh its beautiful, but don't expect a lot of baptisms. DON'T BELIEVE THEM! Nothing makes me more angry then when people say that. The Lord has been planting seeds in Germany for years now- its time to Harvest. He wouldn't be calling 94 missionaries to Germany if there wasn't a work to be done. It all depends on faith. The elders with the faith and desire to find those who are ready, WILL. THEY DO. Bruder Handley (another teacher) went to Vienna a year ago, and the average missionary was teaching 1-2 lessons at most per day. But Bruder Handley believed and got all the other elders on board, and worked there tails off, and at one point, the average for missionaries in Vienna was 45 lessons per week, 4-5 investigators in church every sunday!  One elder hadn't taught a lesson for 6 months, but on his last week after this, his companionship taught 47 lessons, had 7 investigators in church, and a baptism on his last week as a missionary! There is a work to be done for those who believe in the power of God and are willing to thrust in their sickle with all their might."
He said other things too, but the gist of the message: there IS a work to be done! So, I'd appreciate if people would stop trying to rain on my faith by telling me negative things about the german people. God loves them just as much, and we CAN bring the gospel to them. Thanks :)
Since this is my last week here, if you want to mail me something, do it quick because anything you mail after... thursday, I probably wont get unless its dearelder! So make sure you start using my new address after this week!
Well the time is now past, and the next time you'll hear from my by way of mail... I'll be in Germany! (or Austria :) ) So wish my luck!
Thanks again for all the letters and prayers, they mean a lot!
Adventure is out there!
Elder Bartholomew

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Week 4- 2 more weeks!

Well ahoy mateys!
Looks like its time for the weekly update! Things don't exactly change a whole lot around here, so hopefully I can find something interesting to talk about!
First of all, I'd like to apologize that going on a mission didn't change my extreme dislike for carrying a camera around with me- so most of the picture I have sent home came from Elder Vitel's camera, and very few came from mine. I am also sad to say that I didn't actually ever get a picture on my camera with Elder Davies or Elder Haines, who are both out in the field now, bu I'm sure you've seen the ones they got so I don't really care too much!
Thanks for all the letters you've been sending- they are a serious moral booster around here! Plus, it would sure be nice if someone could clarify whether or not a massive meteor landed in Siberia, because thats the rumor floating around, but we never actually hear real news in here... so nobody is sure if that one was fabricated or not. Sometimes we feel like zoo animals... we live our little lives inside the walls of the MTC, and we see people driving around outside. And when they drive by they point and scream "ITS A MISSIONARY AHHH I'VE NEVER SEEN ONE BEFORE" or something ridiculous like that. After four weeks you begin to forget you used to be one of them... and you forget what real food tastes like. Sometimes I forget I haven't been waiting in cafeteria lines my whole life for sub-par food. But today we should get our travel plans, and we will know the details of our flight to Germany! Two weeks from this moment... We'll be somewhere over the atlantic, headed for the eastern hemisphere! Sweet moses... I can not wait. my whole district is getting more antzy on a daily basis! Sometimes it seems scary, but more than anything I wanna get out into the wild blue yonder and spread the gospel, even if those people have no idea what I'm saying!
Some points of interest from the week: Tuesday night we heard from a certain... ELDER BALLARD! And my district camped out and sat in the third row (right behind the reserved section!) it was amazing the power with which he testified that Christ truly is the center of our work and message as missionaries. When he got up to leave and the whole room stood... whooooo that was powerful! Wednesday we were uprooted from our classroom and moved into another building because of renovations- the good things: really nice new chairs and desks. the bad things: its pretty far away, its in the basement, and the room is TINY! with 10 of us, plus the teacher and desks, we can't even kneel to pray! Oh well, i moderately enjoy the change. Just moderately. Also, on wednesday we found out that tomorrow, our district gets to be host! So if happen to read this, and you are coming into the MTC tomorrow- keep an eye out for me on the curb! I can show you the ropes! Thurday, Friday, and Saturday were pretty uneventful- a few funny stories though: about noon on friday, Elder Vitel and I were in the bathroom. I was washing my hands when Elder Vitel discovered a spiget sticking out of the wall with a handel. He decides it will be a brilliant idea to pull the lever, just for fun. It then proceeds to shoot water like a fire hydrant, soaking me completely from the waste down. yay elder vitel. Another funny story, they call missionaries down to the main desk from the residences every night for lost items and such- and the last name on the list: "Sister Catalin Vitel" I think our whole zone died laughing when they repeated it three times. It was his missing name tag at the front desk that had HIS PICTURE on it. still hilarious. Sunday was a seriously powerhouse spiritual day- over the course of mission conference, district meeting, sacrament meeting, devotional, and film, we talked about the atonement, obediance, deciphering the holy ghost, value of testimony, and the key role of the Temple. Talk about an amazing day! the speaker at devotional was the Provo temple President- and his wife grew up in LeGrand Oregon- does Grandpa know them?
German is coming along well. We set the goal (a more reasonable goal) to speak only German monday, thurday, and every other day during meals and class. Yesterday, I did pretty good! It was incredibly hard sometimes to communicate my obscure ideas, but it was actually really fun! I am seriously loving the German language- and I'm positive its the language I was meant to learn. I can understand 99% of what my teacher says to me now, but I hear other people speaking spanish, or chinese, and I can't even pick up basic meaning. German is the language for me!
Life is good! I am loving everything about the mission- the struggles and the good times. Some elders are beginning to lose focus, but elder vitel and I are working hard to keep the drive going in our zone, and for the most part, elders are working hard and progressing and most importantly- keeping the rules. we haven't had to deal with anything major yet.
Living with Europeans is weird- they all come from very wealthy families, and make it a regular game of making fun of my "fat american suits" because theirs are all incredibly tailored fancy suits. It doesn't bother me-I know that a mission isn't a fashion contest, and hopefully this will help me adjust to European life!
The time is now gone and past- I love you all very much! thanks for the prayers! keep sending me letters- I promise to respond!
Adventure is out there!
Elder Bartholomew