Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Elder Ogden writes about his stay at Elder Knorr's apartment

The last week has been a precious and fast one. On Thursday after weekly planning we went on a four-hour train ride to Madrid, where we stayed for the next two nights. Elder Morris and I got to the missionary apartment just before 9:30 and were the first ones there. Next came Elder Fronce and Elder Ostler, who let us in. Elder Morris and I got ready for bed and then we heard the door open. I heard familiar breathing and got ready around a corner from the hallway. I heard Elder Parry's voice say, "You can go say 'hi' if you want," and I prepared to spring. I caught Elder Knorr totally unprepared. Elder Fronce took a picture afterwards and a daily planning session later we got to chat. That night (and the next one, for that matter) I hardly slept, not due to any conversations we might have had (we were in different rooms) but because that apartment is with the majority of missionary apartments here in that they don't have the convenience of air conditioning. Plus I was sleeping on the floor on two couch cushions and a blanket for a pillow. But we did have some good conversations and we got to sing for the other elders and on Elder Knorr's tape recorder. We'll be doing more of that as occasions permit.

From a letter dated June 24th - Valle de los Caidos

I'm now on a bus heading out to Valle de los Caidos. It basically means "Valley of the Fallen." It's a memorial/cathedral/gravesite/huge cross on a hill that was built as a memorial for those who died in the Spanish Civil War. The cross is supposedly the largest cross in the world! I'll be sure to take lots of pictures. [picture on previous page]

[afterwards] That was a hard hike! 6 kilometers both ways, and I think I started getting shin splints. But it was awesome! The cathedral is a HUGE tunnel going deep into a mountain. The tunnel is actually the shape of a cross, and at the intersection of the cross there's some pews and this altar thing with a life-size carving of Christ on the cross. It was actually very dark and scary, and they burned incense and the music was pretty, but also kind of creepy. There were lots of huge statues of angels and saints that were pretty neat looking. Yeah, we actually sat in for a mass. It was all really ritualistic. It didn't feel good or right. I just look at that and contrast it with the temple. It's so different!

Eternal Families - The Church in Madrid - Grass Fire

Hello!!! It's Elder Knorr, your son/brother/friend/acquaintance/grandson/nephew!

Just emailing in to let you all know that I'm doing fine and enjoying missionary work here in Barrio 1 in Madrid! First off, it's good to hear that the mail is making it so fast! I try to be very quick in writing replies and then sending them off, so it's good to hear that the Spanish mail system is doing their part as well!

I'm still happy about the baptism, but I can't let any kind of lull set in. If I just act satisfied and loosen up the work, who knows what kinds of opportunities I'll miss? There are other people out there who need the gospel as well. For instance, the other son of the Mejia family, whose name is Angel, has two children with a girl named Carla, who isn't a member. For all intents and purposes, you couldn't tell them apart from a married couple except for that they aren't married! After a lesson in priesthood this week about the temple and sealing and eternal families, Angel seemed really set on getting married in the temple! So Elder Parry and I let him know what that was going to take. First we have to get them married, and it's really hard for people to get married here if they come from another country, due to a lot of paperwork and government stuff, but I think that they have the desire to work at it until it's a reality. After that, Carla will be able to be baptized and we'll be one step closer to helping the Mejia family get sealed in the temple for eternity! :)

"Missionaries leave their families for 2 years so they can bring other families together forever." That quote really sums up what it means to be a missionary. Sure, we work towards baptism, but eternal families are where it's at!

The Church here is much younger here than it is in Utah, and it shows. There are very, very few people born into the Church. I have a lot of respect for the members of the ward that I'm with here. Most of them are immigrants from South American country or from Africa. There are six missionaries who serve in our ward. Our chapel is nice, but it's not its own building like in the States. Just think about the NYC temple and you'll get an idea of what it is.

As missionaries, we spend time teaching members, for practice and also to get referrals, but we hardly ever get dinner appointments (at least in my area). I've become quite apt at cooking rice and hamburger. Yum! Oh, on that note, I made some Chicken Fallbrooke for my companions a few days ago. It was delicious! I don't think they caught the vision though because they kept mixing it with pepper and barbeque sauce and stuff, but that's ok!

Some exciting things that have happened recently: We live in a large apartment building on the second floor right next to an empty lot filled with dry, yellow grass and weeds. A few days ago I was brushing my teeth at about mediodia when I heard a cracking sound. I followed the sound to the window. When I looked out, I saw that there was a small fire that had started in the lot next to us. It was small, but I knew that there was no way it could be a controlled fire, considering where it was. I shouted to the other missionaries to have them call the emergency number (112) and report it. We took pictures of the blaze, and within minutes there was a fire truck filled with bomberos valientes parked on the street next to the lot. The fire had really picked up and it was burning through the field really quickly! They took it down in no time with the high pressure water hose. I got pictures of that too. I'll be sure to send them in the next batch!

Today, we went to a place called Valle de los Caidos. You can look it up on the internet, probably. It's an enormous Catholic cathedral tunneled into the side of a mountain. We attended a mass there! It was really different, that's all I'll say about the experience. There were somewhat scary-looking stone statues all along the walls of hooded figures and winged angels. It's in this cathedral that the famous dictator Francisco Franco is buried, along with many of the casualties of the Spanish Civil War. One of the defining features of the Valle is an enormous, and I mean ENORMOUS cross on the top of the hill that the cathedral is tunneled into. It's the largest cross in the world. I got pictures of the outside of the cathedral and of the cross. It was all pretty cool! We had to hike 6 kilometers in and 6 out, but that was good exercise too.

Well, I need to get going and go shopping so that I can eat this next week. Thank you for all the letters and emails and love and prayers! Let the good times roll!

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"The Missionary Speaks" - First Baptisms!

I got the package!! It's awesome! The food all looks delicious and I'm going to save it and see how long I can get it to stretch out. Thanks for the Koolaid too! I was looking for a way to make my 1.5 liters of water per day more savory.

And the camera seems like it's exactly what I need! I've been snapping new pictures all day. Up until now, Elder Parry has been taking pictures of me. I'll be sure to copy the ones of me off of his camera and send them along with the next batch, which may still be a while in the future. I want to get about 150 pictures on this current, new card before going into the photo shop. As for more pictures of me... I don't know. We'll see. It's just that those 10 pounds of extra weight all seem to have gone to my face and I don't want everyone to think I'm Fatty McGee over here!

The baptism of José and Júlian went great! Elder Parry said it was one of the least stressful and least problematic baptisms he's ever seen. It all went well and everything, except for as I went up into the font I nailed my head against the mirror that hangs over it and it made a huge BANG and it was kind of embarrassing... The prayer went ok though and I said it all correctly. Both boys were confirmed in sacrament meeting on the following day. It's great to see how these baptisms have reactivated this wonderful family!

As for the other José, we haven't been able to teach him again because he hasn't shown up for his appointments. It's kind of sad. But we're going to keep trying with him because we both feel like he still has a lot of potential! A funny story though: as we were walking the streets a few days back, we saw him and his wife taking a walk and waved and said hello. I noticed he was fidgeting with something small and black and I realized it was a cell phone. We asked him why and he said it was because he dropped it and it had fallen apart and he couldn't get it back together right. Now, anyone who knows me well will know that I have this habit of taking things like cell phones apart and putting them back together without thinking much about it. It's a way I used to keep my mind occupied when I was bored in class or something. Anyway, I took a look at the cell phone and was able to fix it in a couple of seconds. They were grateful and I think it helped us build a better relationship with them. Who knew that all that time I spent fidgeting with my cell phone was preparing me for my mission? :)

The language and teaching skills are... coming. Slowly, but they're coming. I work hard to speak the language and learn words that I don't know or aren't familiar with. As for teaching, I'm slowly taking over more and more of the lessons. I have noticed my fluidity with speaking has gone up recently. I'm still making lots of mistakes, but at least I'm making them faster :) I...think that's a good thing.

No big foibles this week. I'm sure that I'll have twice as many this coming week to make up for it, though.

Elder Ogden hasn't come yet, but he's going to come today, if I'm not mistaken. It will undoubtedly be a lot of fun to talk to him and find out about how his mission has been so far and also speak in nothing but inside jokes.

As for my equipment, everything is working just fine! My paraguas has come in handy several times as it's rained almost once a week. Other than that, it is HOT here! Muggy, muggy hot. I usually get really sweaty by the end of the day. It's ok though, it doesn't bother me much. I'm adapting. What IS hard to adapt to is the heat during the night. It makes it rather hard to sleep.

How's the economy back home? We talk to a TON of people here who are out of work. "La Crisis" is what they call it, and it's a big deal. I think it's definitely worse here than it is over there in the United States, though I admit that I don't really know. I just know that there are a ton of people who are out of a job over here.

The Temple really is a great blessing. We get to attend once every transfer (6 weeks) and I really enjoy it. The Madrid Temple really is beautiful and it's made more beautiful by remembering why it's here. There's just a wonderful peace about it.

We went over to the Mission Home for interviews yesterday. It was awesome! President and Hermana Farnsworth put on a good ol' American style BBQ, complete with grilled cheeseburgers, root beer floats, watermelon and smores. It was truly glorious, and reminded me of how we used to eat around the 4th of July. Camping out on the parade route was always fun too, as was Summerfest.

Hermana Farnsworth asked us earlier to bring an old tie to donate to a quilt she's making. Since I don't really have any ties that I'm not planning on using, I didn't donate. But it should be a pretty cool quilt!

Well, time to be logging off. I love the mission! I'm doing my best to prioritize and remembering to enjoy every moment! Thanks for the letters and packages and emails and love! It's nice and it helps me remember that I'm loved. Back to work! Bye!

-Elder Knorr

Awesome news from another missionary

Elder Patrick Ketchum from Indiana was in the CCM at the same time as Christopher. Here are some nice things his mom forwarded to me:

"Tell Sister Knorr what a wonderful son she has. His Spanish was practically perfect before he even got into the field. And I don't think that any missionary at the CCM was so sought after for doctrinal answers as Elder Knorr. In addition, he can sing any part in any song, anywhere, anytime! I always tried to sit next to him so that I could mimic whichever part he was singing and learn how it was done! He is one of my best friends here."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First Week in Cuatro Caminos

Oh wow, where to start? I've been working really hard this past week trying to learn and adapt and survive. It's really different living in a city as opposed to a more suburban area like Orem.

Ok, I'll start with my companion. Elder Parry is an excellent missionary who's just about to finish his mission. He is very passionate about skiing and biking and I can tell that he's excited to get back to that. He's also really ambitious and has his next 6 or so years all planned out. I can only hope that by the end of my mission, I've achieved some of the same things. As for the missionary work, he really knows how to do it. I've just been absorbing everything I can to try and learn how to be a good missionary, but it's tough because there's just SO MUCH to learn! I suppose the language isn't as big a barrier as it could be, but it's still hard for me to speak to people without having to stop and think about what I'm going to say next. I don't really know if I could even do this in English. I'll learn and improve with time, I guess!

José y Júlian are getting baptized this very Saturday, and I get to baptize José! I'm very happy, these two boys are very prepared for the Gospel. Júlian is especially amazing. He reads the scriptures *every day* and marks passages he likes and then shares them with us. It's amazing! Whenever we're having a down day, we can always count on a visit to José and Júlian to cheer us up again! Their family is also reactivating really well. They are coming to church all together and it's just great!

We found another investigator this week. His name is also José. He's a big, muscly man from the Dominican Republic who we were finally able to make contact with and teach. We taught him about the Restoration of the Gospel and it was just the picture perfect setting!! The Spirit was very strong and I was just so happy! He seemed to have a true desire to learn more and we have another appointment set with him coming up. I'll keep you posted on him, ok?

Yeah, yeah, mock me about the breakfast burrito... This week's awkward foible would definitely be when I nearly put roach poison powder in the clothes washer instead of detergent. The bags weren't very clearly marked, in my defense! :)

The red tie is one I bought off the Russian Elders who come to stay at the Madrid CCM while their visas go through again. I was lacking in red ties so I went for a brilliantly red paisley and I love it!

As for the food, I'm learning quickly how to cook a wide variety of quick, delicious meals. They pretty much have everything that we have in the states as far as cooking goes. If you send me a recipe I can seek out and find the ingredients at Mercadona (the place we usually shop). And yes, a few recipes would be nice because as of now I'm just freestyling it and I know it's only a matter of time before something goes terribly wrong...

As far as I understand, the mail works as follows: We mail our own letters with our own stamps at various mail receptacles stationed around the city. Incoming mail from family and friends is sent to the mission office and then weekly collected by our district leaders and distributed to us during district meeting. I was sad cause I didn't think I got any this time around, but Elder Fronce surprised me later with a letter from Kristen that had made it to me in an incredible 6 DAYS!!! I was very happy to get it and I'll respond to it today, as well as respond to a few other letters that I haven't yet responded to due to the fact that I was somewhat overwhelmed and out of time last week.

Exciting news: because mission interviews are coming up, some of the elders in more distant regions are coming up to bunk with us for the night. Among them... ELDER OGDEN!! I'm excited to actually spend some quality time (which for elders means 30-45 minutes) with my good friend!

One last thing about the mission: walking. We walk a LOT. I've developed four nice blisters on my feet: one on each big toe and one on each little toe. But it's ok cause they don't really hurt me that badly and over time those areas will callous and it won't be a problem at all.

Well, time for me to send this and then go my way. I love you all! Thank you as always for your letters and love from home!

-Elder Knorr

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Phone Call from Mission President Farnsworth --- It's Good News

He just wanted to introduce himself and report that Elder Knorr made it from the CCM into his first area in the Madrid Mission. His trainer, Elder Parry, is an experienced, hard-working elder who has zone leader experience. He thanked us for sending a well-prepared missionary to Madrid and gave us Sister Farnsworth's email address, in case we want to contact her. Even though the Farnsworths are going home in July, it was reassuring to talk to him and know that Christopher has an involved and caring mission president and mission mom.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First Area - Cuatro Caminos in Madrid

Yes, the rumors are true. I have officially entered "el Campo Misionál" and it's really good! I'm serving in the Cuatro Caminos area of Madrid, which stretches from Cuatro Caminos on the south all the way to the northernmost border: la Plaza de Castilla where there stand four great "torres."

My companion is Elder Parry, who is an amazing missionary and teacher. I know this firsthand because last night I taught my first lesson! We taught this beautiful little family, the Mejia family. Ángel, the father, Helen, the mother, Ángel, the oldest son, all are members, but they're what we call "menos activos." We're focusing on the two younger boys, José and Júlian, 8 and 10. They've already set a baptismal date for the 13th, so we're just going over the commandments and everything. These two boys are so wonderful!!! They really like the missionaries apparently. I would have been done for if it weren't for my companion and his incredible teaching and Spanish skills, but my Spanish wasn't all that bad and I was able to understand *everything* so I really enjoyed it. The Spirit was very strong.

Today is p-day for us here. Our p-day is on Wednesday. Today for p-day, we went to El Plaza del Torro, where we took a guided tour of the bullfighting arena! It's actually quite interesting. We took lots of pictures with Elder Parry's camera because mine, as you all know, esta muerta. But it was cool, we got to hold the matador's cape and take pictures with it. As for sending pictures home, it's good to hear that the CDs FINALLY made it! I sent those ages ago! And don't worry about the arm sore. The photographic evidence is very misleading. That picture was taken at the beginning of my stay at the CCM. By now, it's completely gone! Yay!

Mom, thank you so much for the current news bits! I love those. And who knows? Maybe one day my knowledge of something in the news will be just what I need to get a golden contact! As for the other package, I was pleased with all the things that came in the last one! If you just did a repeat performance, that would be fine with me! I really love anything that is sent, especially things of the edible kind that remind me of home.

What more to apartment is nice. Small and run down, but acceptable. It works for me! We share it with two other elders, Elder Fronce and Elder Ostler. Here's an embarassing story: this morning I was super hungry because I hadn't had dinner, and I saw a breakfast burrito sitting there. I supposed that someone had just made breakfast for everyone already and I was the last one to get to it, seeing as I'd just gotten out of the shower. So, I ate it. It was really good and filling! Turns out that the burrito was for Elder Ostler and he ended up eating cereal instead. Shows how much of a newbie I am... all the other Elders thought it was the funniest thing they'd ever heard of though. I have to admit that if it hadn't been me, I probably would have thought it was really funny as well. But, as it turns out, it was just another thing that I needed to figure out.

There's so much to learn and so much to adapt to! I feel overwhelmed 80% of the time. The other 20% I'm preaching the gospel so I don't have time to feel overwhelmed. This is the real start of the adventure! And as soon as I get comfortable in my apartment, I'll be able to focus a bit more on the finer aspects of the work. As of now, I'm just observing everything and soaking it in. I'm a learning machine! My companion Elder Parry knows how to do this work, so I'm learning everything I possibly can from him. I know that the Lord has put me here to learn from him, so I'm doing my best to suck the marrow out of the opportunity.

Today I got my "golden ticket." It's a special metro ticket that will get me anywhere in my area for the entire month of Junio! This is nice because we use the metro probably 4 times a day. It cost me 46 euros, but that's one of the reimbursable things.

That's so good to hear from Elder Ogden! He's been out here awhile. Almost all the elders in my apartment know him. He's got a reputation in the mission for speaking some ridiculously good Spanish.

Well, I've got to get going now! Thanks so much for your support and love! Take care everyone!!!!

-Elder Knorr

Monday, June 1, 2009

Here I go! Wish me lucks!!! :)

We leave the CCM tomorrow so they gave us time to write our families a short email just to let them know what the plans are! I've been packing all day and I'm finally ready to head out tomorrow! Well, at least I'm ready luggage-wise... hehehe... There's probably nothing that can prepare a person for this kind of experience. Maybe that's part of the fun of it! I'm incredibly excited to get out there and start having adventures. But yep, this is it: the end of my CCM experience. So far, I've been training to be a missionary. Now I actually get to go out and be one, just like all the missionary movies and missionary stories I've ever seen or heard. I must admit that the task is more than daunting, in almost every way! I've done my best to work on my Spanish and learn the doctrines, but at the end of the day, all I can really do is trust in the Savior. Jesus is the perfect teacher. I know that because I'm doing his work, I'll be able to succeed. 1 Nephi 3:7, right? That scripture is SO applicable...

I got the package!!! It was a very joyous occasion indeed. I shared everything I got with the other missionaries, and they are all very grateful. I'd almost forgotten the taste of Skittles... And the vacuum packing was a genious idea, I must say. Especially with the cookies. They tasted just like they did at home! Crispy, chocolatey, nutty and delicious (just packed down as tightly as possible, that's all! ;)

Other missionaries being sent to the Madrid Mission with me: Elders Albretson, Ketchum, McArthur, Jeppson, Froberg and Hermanas Sharp, Ball and Nuckols. We're all way excited and I love all of them so much! Elder Ketchum is especially studly. He's a spiritual giant and he's really humble and he could probably be an opera singer or the next president or something amazing! I can't say enough good about Elder Ketchum.

Well, I have to go now. I love you all so much and am more grateful than I can express for your love and support! :) Till we meet again!

Oh, I forgot to give a report on the park! It went really well this week. I went with Elder Southwick, who has as much energy as three of me combined, loves to chat (especially about soccer, which comes in extremely handy. He was able to name the team of every soccer jersey that we saw!) and knows very, very little Spanish. We turned out to be a pretty dynamic duo, contacting anyone who crossed our path in a blind, flailing, snowballing force of gospel-sharing fury! It was awesome! Elder Southwick has no fear whatsoever, and I had the Spanish to back him up. Some of the special little tidbits: We gave a "Plan of Salvation" pamphlet to a preparing street performer. At the time we were talking to him, he was sitting on the street, wearing nothing but a brown, crusty speedo, applying some eye makeup. As we closed our talk, he started wrapping his legs with saran wrap and painting himself brown. We never got to see the finished product, but that was ok with me! Also, our main strategy was to try to talk about the Church, and if they refused us, we'd at least give them a picture of Jesus Christ emerging from the tomb. They NEVER rejected that, because they're almost all Catholic! Anyways, time's up! I love you!

-Elder Knorr