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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Week 7-Erste Haltung- St. Pölten!!

Well good morning all you boys and girls back in the USA! It is about 12:30 PM here in Austria, but I guess that makes it about 4 AM back home!
What a crazy sauce week it has been! I guess Ill just start with a sequence of events since I left the MTC to help catch you all up!
Tuesday morning 6am- we left the MTC for the Salt Lake City airport! It was crazy driving on the freeway, seeing the 1600 North exit... all kinds of weird being in the outside world again. Once at the airport, it was like they released a pack of wild animals. We had an hour before our flight, and the missionaries in our group all seemed hungry to preach the gospel to every person in that airport. It was moderately comical in most instances watching elders jump from person to person with a book of mormon, only to discover that many of the people were mormon! Not to say this wasnt awesome- i had some good coversations with some kind folk as well- it was just so different being in the real world, DOING what we had been trained for six weeks to do, DOING what I had prepared my whole life to do. I had never felt more like an outsider in my whole life. People stared as they walk by, and the nametag on your chest REALLY DOES make you feel like a different person. The calling of a missionary is real. You can feel it in your veins. Its really quite interesting.
Next stop: Minneapolis Int. Airport. Let the list of weird experiences begin, because now we REALLY WERE in a place with no mormons and we had TWO hours. I spoke with this awesome teacher lady from california- she was a student council advisor, so we had a little bit to talk about, but I found out she gives seminars to stop kids from bullying, and shes basically dedicated her whole life to this. She wasnt at all interested in the gospel, but it helped me realize there are good people trying to do good things in the world, and I hope someday she will be prepared. I attempted to call home, and after 5-6 minutes of conversation, and elder ran up and announced our flight had changed and we were boarding. Sorry mom and dad that I cut our conversation off, but we ran all across the airport just to find out that we actually boarded half an hour LATER than scheduled, and I really did have time. But everyone was so confused, I didnt want to risk going back to the phone :(
After that we had an 8 hour flight to Amsterdam! It was weird because we took off at 4 PM our time, and landed 630 AM their time... so we just kind lost a night somewhere in between! Didnt sleep much on the plane, and when we landed I was exhausted (because it was then midnight our time) and sick out of my mind. I had my first German discussion in the airport though! I met a lady who spent the last 7 years volunteering in orphanages in Zimbabwe, and was just now coming back to Germany. I found out she knew English, but elected to use German anyways. CRAZY. Who knew I would land in Amsterdam airport on wednesday, and Michael would be flying home from than airport just a few days later!
After a short flight to Munich, we finally met the Mission President, his wife, and the APs! The Miles are SOOO nice. they are the nicest people ever. The APs are pretty stellar also. they quickly informed us we would be getting straight on a train to the church house, and they gave us a book of mormon and asked us to place it! pressure!
I spoke with about 11 people on that first train through Munich. No one would take my book, but I tried! They were all interested why an American has taken a 6 week crash course in German, and came to talk with them about a book. I bore tons of testimony, but they didn't really want to listen. Oh well it was still fun!
Then we walked about 3/4 of a mile to the Church house in Munich- Germany is so pretty. Ill just take the time now to say it is rad (haha if you knew german, thats a pun!) Every house is differently shaped, a different color, and basically looks like what you would imagine an old fairy tale house would look like. Except its cool because they werent buil that way, like the houses on skyline drive in orem 2 years ago to look fancy, they are all old school and dark age-ish. It is sweet. And the sidewalks are cobblestone, and the streets are tiny. Oh yeah, and the cars are SO DIFFERENT. Every car is sleek and new looking- kind of like every european car you see in movies. Its crazy. I think its pretty- but I cant wait for spring because all the people on the train couldnt stop complaining about how ugly it was this time of year (atleast I think thats what they were saying...) and how they cant wait for spring. Oh yeah. Its FREEZING here. FRIGID. quite frigid indeed.
Once at the church, we had a quick lunch, then we had a mini "orientation" while the president did interviews. They gave us a 30 minute nap (thank goodness) and then we walked to the mission home (about another 1/2 mile through narnia) where we had an AMAZING bavarian dinner. OH MY it was so good. Food Germany>Food MTC.
After dinner they sat us all around in the living room and pulled out a mission map and pictures of all the trainers. They read a description of the trainer and the area where they were serving, then SURPRISE! they assigned a "golden" (thats us) to work with them. I got assigned ELDER JANIS in ST. POLTEN!
That night, the sisters slept in the mission home, and elders walked ANOTHER 1/2 mile to the mission office. I slept on the floor of the kitchen, because there was 14 of us, but it was ok, the floors here are usually heated so it wasnt so rough!
The next day it snowed! But we quickly got to the church through the blizzard (oh yeah, German snow is cooler too.) and after breakfast (Breakfast is awesome too! cereal- not so good. not enough sugar ;) Yogurt, or Jogurt auf Deutsch, is AMAZING. Apparently, it has so much bacteria they can even sell it in America. But it tastes sooo good, and its healthy too. What?!?) We had a few more orientations in the morning, then it was a quick walk back to the train station to head out all over Germany, Austria, Switzerland! There were tons of elders in the Train station, going all over the mission, switching it up and such. Only one elder had been in St. Pölten before- let me explain why. St. Pölten is actually a relatively large area of austria west of Wien (I apologize for saying Vien last week, I was ignorant. Vienna is WIEN auf Deutsch) but we are the only Elders in this area.If Wien is new york, we are in the Bronx. St. Polten is a thug town. They havent had a baptism for four years, and the last was really just a girl turning 18 and her dad couldnt tell her no anymore. So... most Elders consider this a pretty difficult area. Elder Janis, though, came in with no investigators, no leads, nothing. And his companion was trained here, and had only taught 2 lessons in 2 transfers. But they turned it around! We are having lots of success now! But Ill get to that later.
We got on a five hour train to Wien- which basically meant five hours of the prettiest country side in the world. It is still winter here, which the people tell me is unusual, but the buildings are so so pretty. We are too far north to be in the mountains really, but it still incredible! I didnt take any pictures on the train... I actually kind of fell asleep! oops! Ill get some pictures on my way back to Munich in 6 months or so! Here is the best story ever. Im pretty proud of this one. The train arrived in St. Polten. I got off. logical right? Well, I walked around the platform for a few minutes, and there was definitely not a missionary there waiting for me. Time passed... 30 minutes, Im still standing there, in a foreign country for the first time, all alone. Fun right? Finally after 45 minutes of attempted conversation with strangers, a lady ran up to me and started talking SO FAST. I calmed her down enough to the point I could understand her- and I discovered she was a member of the branch here, and that my companion had been waiting for me in Wien, and when the train arrived without me, he called the sister down to find me. We sat together and chatted for another 1/2 hour till Elder Janis arrived. Crazy stuff.
We went straight to our apartment, unpacked, and then walked to the Innenstatt (inner city) to do some contacting! Thats basically the center of our town, it has lots of really tall buildings with pretty terrible images on them, they are all really close together, and they form a sort of outdoor mall. We talked with several people, and I quickly realized two things. 1) Austrians speak a dialect of german that is probably the craziest thing I have ever hear. really. 2) most people here really dont like to talk about God. I can tell its extra imortant to find the prepared people, because they are the only ones who will listen. I placed my first book of mormon with a man who moved from Afganistan though! he was super cool, but didnt want to give out his number, so I couldnt really call him a potential investigator.
Rather than give a day by day, Ill just describe our current investigators:
Amanda: She JUST committed to a baptismal date (WHOO!) and is an amazing emaple of faith. she is the mother of another one of our investigators, and she is just soaking up everything! she fed us Pizza on friday!
Albert: Also has a baptismal date. He has a nervous issue around people, so his last date fell through, but he is making serious progress. We met with him Saturday night
Herr Hertvogal: He is a crazy old man. We met with him in the church on Friday, and attempted the first vision. He cant really hear and likes to talk in his Austrian dialect alot. and just keep talking. hes funny.
Wayne: he is my favorite. He is from south africa and speaks good english, so luckily I can work a little more with him. Last night, at our lesson, he really opened up and told us about some hard times in his life. He has been SO prepared. every question hes been having lately ties into the gospel. I believe he'll have a baptismal date soon also!
Our meeting house is actually on the third floor of a building in the innenstatt, and is directly above a bar! how funny. the smell of alcohol and cigarettes kind of makes me sick when I walk up the stairs, but once youre inside you really feel the spirit! Our branch has about 30 members, and is basically ALL part member families. The only problem... the members are really stuck in a mindset where they believe missionary work CANT happen in St. Polten. they all seem to believe we will never have success here, so its difficult to get members to help us with lessons, or take people to church, because they have such negative attitudes. We are working with them too. 
Being in Europe is so crazy. The first thing I noticed though... everyone here is so sad. everywhere you go, no one talks to eacthother, and everyone has a permanent sad look on their face. perhaps thats why people are so shocked when we say hello to them on the street!
Wien is beautiful- we had a meeting there on saturday for training, and it must be one of the prettiest places in the world. wow. Ill try to take some pictures next time I go!
I have so much to say and Im sure no one really wants to read it-
but this has been the single hardest week of my life. I have never felt more worthless, more helpless, more lost, more cold, more friendless, then this first week in Austria. Ive also seen miracles! we ran into a man on the street just yesterday, and in conversation we realized he was someone the past elders had been trying to find for months! crazy things. The only things thats pulled me through is my testimony. I am beginning to understand why they say a mission is the hardest thing you will ever do. Cause this first week is already the hardest of my life.
I love it though! I am beginning to enjoy having no idea what people are saying to me, and no idea what Austrian dialect is. We didnt have any food in the apartment last night so I ate old noodles with ketchup! I really do love these little crazy things. Austria is nuts!
Well my time is almost up. I love you all and hopefully someday I can give you more detail than this breif summary!
Elder Bartholomew
ps, I can email anyone now, and we have plenty of time. so email away! my email is
Adventure is out there!

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