Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Still in Segovia - quick little email this week!

Hello! Thanks so much for yet another wonderful email letting me know how everyone I love is doing.

As for news about the mission, our investigators and recent converts have all decided to vanish into thin air, so we haven't been able to teach very many lessons this last week. We've decided that it's a test and a learning experience to help us develop patience and diligence. So...we're being patient and diligent. And doing a whole lot of contacting.

Neither I nor Elder Zollinger got moved in this last set of transfers; we're both staying in Segovia. I'm pretty happy about that: I'll get to know this area very well before I leave. In our district, Elder Monson got moved to Alcala and Elder Coley came in to replace him. Elder Moreno is now the district leader.

Thank you so much for the letters you have sent! They have given me strength in some rather challenging times so far. I'm sending off a wave of letters today because I've had ample opportunity today to write them, so everyone brace yourselves! :) I'm doing fine! Take care everyone!

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

News - good and bad - from Segovia


I realized last week during weekly planning that I was staring down the last week of this transfer! Unbelievable! It seems only such a short time ago that I was starting here, and now in little more than the blink of an eye a whole six weeks has passed! Time is like that on the mission. All we can really do is just push forward and try to "make the best of it" – a little inside joke for all of you Christopher Knorr fans out there ;)

I'm glad to hear that my letters are well received. I do enjoy receiving letters a whole lot! It's good to hear from my parents, my beloved siblings and my friends every so often; it helps remind me of all the blessings Heavenly Father has given me. I really do appreciate all the letters and well-wishes that you all send. They've helped get me through some trying times so far.

Well, I have some sad news. I tried making the oatmeal cookies out of the oatmeal cookie mix and it was a terrible disaster. First off, I made the mistake of adding melted butter instead of softened butter; this melted all the chocolate chips. Then, we didn't have a metal cookie sheet so we tried doing it in our glass casserole dish. Bad idea. The bottom of the cookies didn't cook and it just became a huge mess. We had a good laugh at ourselves, at least.

Since I've already started the sad news I'll just get the rest of it out of the way right now. We've been having some trying times with our investigators and recent converts. All 3 of our recent converts have gotten jobs recently that require them to work on Sunday, which is just no good at ALL. We've tried to teach them the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day holy, but it just hasn't been sticking! As for our investigators, one of them moved out to a pueblo, making it hard for us to meet with them, and the other two just aren't keeping their appointments with us. It just kind of seems like everything is falling through lately; we've spent a couple of days now having all our appointments fall through and just walking the streets trying to make contacts. So, that's kind of how the work is right now. We'll keep trying with all of our people and praying that they'll get the desires to progress in the Gospel.

Today was a good Preparation Day. First off, it's my companion's birthday!!! We sang him a special rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" that was sung to the music of the American national anthem instead of to the normal song. You can probably imagine how it would sound. Six other elders came in from Madrid and we all went to the cathedral. I took lots of pictures! I didn't bother trying to make a [photo] CD today because I knew that I would be taking so many pictures. Plus, we've been a little stretched for time today, due mostly to our adventures. We went into the cathedral and looked around at all the high vaulted ceilings and artwork and stained glass windows. Cathedrals are very impressive buildings, and if you know your Bible, you'll most likely pick up on a lot of the symbolism and be able to identify a lot of the artwork. I like touring cathedrals. We then took a little walk around the alcazar (fortress) and enjoyed the nature. There were also several good places to take pictures of the castle, and we even ran into our branch president, Presidente Galera! I took a picture of him and me together.

For lunch, we went to a rather pijo (pricey) buffet down by the aqueduct. They had ok food but it wasn't the best I've had. Better yet, they had a clever little trick at work in this place: they only allow you one free drink. It costs a good amount to buy another. In this way, they can control the amount of food that their patrons eat because they'll eventually run out of water and won't be able to eat any more. I noticed this early on and was frankly shocked by their devilish scheme. But there was one thing they apparently failed to take into account: no one ever got thirsty from eating too much jello. So after the main course, I took advantage of this propitious oversight and ate about 10 little bowls of strawberry jello and also a good amount of egg flan, which is a tasty egg-based pudding, and several bowls of soft serve ice cream. So the score currently stands at: Elder Knorr: 1 European Restaurant: 0

Well, I hope that Emily recovers from her Strep throat quickly. It's no fun having it: I think I had it once too. Good to hear that everyone's participating in fun activities and gearing up for the upcoming school year. Exciting!!! I wish you all luck in your scholastic adventures.

Well, preparation day is nearly over. Thank you for the email and the news! I'm doing fine here. Take care!

-Elder Knorr

Monday, August 17, 2009

Letters Today!

We received some letters today - hope you enjoy these little excerpts:

"It sounds to me like all that stands in his [Ethan's] way [in swimming] is "Las Ganas," as we call it here in the mission - the desire to create the will to push himself. I remember I didn't have that for a long time. You'll probably remember that as well. That's one thing I'm gaining here on the mission."

"Presidente Watkins is changing a lot in the mission. It's exciting, but also a little scary. But, when it comes down to it, he is the one called of God by revelation to lead this mission, so I just need to obey him and things will succeed."

"I'm currently in Ether in the Book of Mormon, and in Psalms in the Old Testament. I'm enjoying my scripture studies a great deal these days.
Psalms 118:6."

Other News:

We called Elder Harley Parry on Sunday and had a nice chat. Elder Parry was Christopher's trainer. He's home now in Logan and has some pictures of their time together that he'll be sending soon. I'll be sure to post those when they arrive!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Zone Conference tomorrow! And guess who's part of the special musical number....!

Yes, you guessed it. It's me! Elder Knorr. And you'll never guess what part they have me singing. It's.... bass! Yet another shocker. :) But I'm more than excited to be doing it. Elder Ketchum will be singing with us too! I'm way excited because I haven't seen him since we parted ways in the CCM. It will truly be a 4 Ordained reunion concert!

Luzdadi and Javier are two great people. We haven't had the opportunity to teach them again, mostly because Luzdadi has cancer and has begun chemotherapy, so we were very worried about going by because we didn't want to disturb her or bother her. But we were able to make contact and we have a lesson set up for tonight at 9. We're actually planning on making brownies today to take to them. I hope we don't totally mess up the recipe! :)

As for new and exciting people that we've met, the brother of Carola, a recent convert, is showing real interest in the Church lately. He's sat in on some of the lessons we've taught them and we gave him a Book of Mormon. He came to the "Noche de Hogar" that we hold every week and enjoyed it. The only problem is that his vision is bad and he needs reading glasses to read, but he doesn't have any at this point. So, really, his progression literally depends on getting those glasses!

As for reembolsos for covered expenses, we fill out a form of all the expenses that are covered (which is basically just travel) and glue all the receipts and ticket stubs to the back of the form and turn it in to the office elders. They then just wire it straight to the card, so it's all done electronically, which helps avoid any would-be muggings. The problem is that reembolsos don't come on time all the time, so we're left with less money than we need to buy food or more tickets, which is why I've had to draw from my home account a few times.

Sweet, ballroom! Lucky Emily, getting to go to an intensive workshop. I love ballroom, as you probably all know. Which brings me to another thing: the special activity that Presidente Watkins has asked us all to carry out. He wants us to use our talents to put together special activities to find and befriend new people to teach. Elder Zollinger and I have been putting our heads together to try and come up with something. We came up with a few ideas, from music classes to ballroom instruction (which would involve me dancing with Elder Zollinger, an idea that he did not like in the least). Elder Zollinger likes shooting targets with shotguns, but that's definitely not something he can do in Spain, or do as a missionary. Then I remembered that I know how to make a plethora of delicious subs, called bocadillos here in Spain. I could teach people how to make Subway sandwiches, and then we could EAT them! Peradventure the members could bring their nonmember friends, and it could become a great finding activity. So that's what we're going for at this point.

One thing that I've been doing lately for fun is cooking different kinds of foods. A week ago I tried making Arroz con Leche (which is basically rice pudding) and failed terribly, ending up with what was basically a cinnamon- flavored cold rice cake. :P But it still tasted pretty good! Also, I've made crepes a couple of times for me and my companion. Delicious! Something new for you guys to try on crepes: sliced up kiwi together with berry yogurt. It tastes amazing! Of course I've been eating plenty of Chicken Fallbrooke as well, thanks to the many packets of hollandaise sauce I am now the proud owner of. Thanks again for that package! My companion and I have enjoyed it very much. Another thing we've been eating a load of is fruit smoothies. We have a little Bosch blender, and we throw in there frozen nectarines, peaches, bananas, paraguayos and yogurt, along with some milk and fruit juice. It's a delicious treat at the end of a hot day. Also, yesterday, I tried for the first time a yellow kiwi. I didn't even know there existed different kinds of kiwi! It didn't taste very much like a kiwi though; it was more like a big grape. Today I want to go buy a starfruit from a Fruteria and see how it tastes. Anyway, enough rambling on about food!

I'll get my mail tomorrow at Zone Conference and I'm excited to see and read the letters I've received! Thank you all for your love and support. I'm doing fine over here. The work is excellent! Until next time.

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I got letters! And a package! Joy!

Hello!!! So good to hear from you again.

Yes, the title answers your first question. Being in a pueblo like Segovia, so far from the mission office, limits our ability to receive mail in a timely manner. But yesterday we had interviews with the president in the Cuatro Caminos meetinghouse in Madrid. Interviews with the president are done by zone (there are 6 different ones) and everyone meets together and then takes turns going in and talking with him. During the down time for everyone else, we have other meetings and training from zone leaders and assistants to the president. So our zone was told to meet yesterday in the Cuatro Caminos meetinghouse for interviews.

To get to Madrid, Elder Zollinger and I took the Avant, which is basically a bullet train that goes up to 150 miles an hour. It got us from Segovia to Madrid in 20 minutes! While at interviews, I was able to pick up the mail that's been waiting for me for the past couple of weeks. I was pretty PSYCHED when I got 4 letters and 1 package, including a letter from the family that contained 3 individual letters within! :) I'll try to respond to as many of these letters as I can today.

The package was AWESOME!!!
It contains enough Kool-Aid powder to make a swimming pool's worth of Kool-Aid, along with several other food mixes, including 3 packs of cookie mix. Chocolate chips don't exist here so up until this point, chocolate chip cookies have been impossible. Also, there were 6-7 packs of hollandaise sauce mix!! More Chicken Fallbrooke is definitely in order. Maybe even some Eggs Benedict! There were many more wonderful things in the package, all of which I am very grateful for and cannot enumerate at this particular moment. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

That "slowdown" on the work I was whining about last week is now old news. Last Saturday, we found no less than 3 new investigators!!!! And what's better is that they're all really willing to meet with us and appear to have great desires to keep going with the lessons.

One of them is a 50-year-old man named Jaime from Peru who has a very charismatic personality and likes to read the Book of Mormon with us. The other two are an older married couple named Luzdadi and Javier. Javier is a native Segovian and Luzdadi (Dad will love this) is an immigrant from Colombia. That's right! Estamos ensenando a una Colombiana!!! Just keeping the tradition of Knorrs-teaching-Colombians-the-Gospel alive. :)

The Spanish isn't quite a non-issue yet; no need to throw a party. I still struggle with speaking fluidly and also grammatically correctly at the same time. When I was on exchanges with Elder Moreno, we spoke nothing but Castellano and it felt totally natural. I didn't even make too many mistakes with him! So it comes and goes. I'm still studying a lot and trying to get it to STAY.

About the withdrawals from my U.S. account, I've needed to make a few so that I could buy food. We spend a whole truckload of money on transportation out here in the pueblo, which gets reimbursed by the mission, but we don't get reimbursed for food. So I had a bit of a deficit and I needed a little from the home account just to keep things rolling. I shouldn't need to do that for the rest of my time here in Segovia, now that I've sent in "reembolsos" to the office and will be getting that money back shortly. It's just one of the ways that things are different here out in the pueblos. I'm not sure at all what the exchange rate was. I don't plan on making many more of those withdrawals so it shouldn't matter too much.

That is pretty incredible to believe that summer is over already for the kids. It seems like only yesterday to me that they were finishing up their classes and taking finals and stuff. Time is truly distorted out here on the mission, but I like it. It's part of the experience.

It's good to hear that the members of the ward who have undergone those trials lately have been doing well. It's almost too sad to believe! Two families all of a sudden without their mothers, in such a short time too. My heart goes out to them.

The branch I'm serving in gets a weekly sacrament meeting attendance of about 14, and that's including us. Most of the active members are single women. We have one family, the family of Patricio and Maira, that has 5 members. Then there's the branch president, Jesus Galera and his wife Hermana Loli, who are getting along in years but are still way faithful and active in the church. And... that's about it! We have a recent convert named Jorge who comes just about every Sunday. It was actually him who gave us the reference that led us to Luzdadi and Javier, our new investigators. Then we have Hermana Carola and her son Luis Guillermo who are also recent converts and attend regularly. Our meetinghouse is a small one. It doesn't even have a kitchen! But it's nice. It has a chapel, restrooms, a couple of classrooms and an office for the president. It, like the one I was at before, is part of a much bigger building on the bottom floor. Nothing like what we have in the United States. But all that really matters is that the saints of God meet there and that makes it a meetinghouse! :)

I'll finish things off by giving a bit of a recap on the project we recently brought to pass in Segovia. No, we didn't distribute any cookies. But we did go out in the main plaza of our apartment complex with a big, wooden easel-like thing that basically has the first and second lessons on it, and also took out a table and filled it with pamphlets and DVDs and copies of the Book of Mormon to give away. As it turns out, very few people wanted to come out of their apartments and talk to us. But a few gypsy children, who I will tell you right now have NO fear of anybody at all, came and asked us questions about things we had out, which I was happy to answer. It was funny to me; they were all so young and yet they were braver than all their parents in coming down and talking to us. We gave them pass-along cards with pictures of the temple on them and I used the pictures in the front of the Book of Mormon to tell them the story of the book and what it's about. Eventually, one of their mothers came down and we were able to give her a pamphlet too.

Yesterday during interviews President Watkins praised us on carrying out the activity that he asked us to do. He has some big ideas for this mission and new ways to contact and do things. It's a bit scary for me to step outside the way things have always been done, but I'm also excited to be part of these changes. I hope I can be the missionary that he needs me to be to get these things moving.

Well, I haven't gotten the CD with pictures out yet. I've taken a lot less pictures so far this transfer and there's not as many places to get the CDs made out here. But I'll let you all know that I HAVE just finished the last side of the tape I was working on, so I'll probably try and send that home soon. Be prepared for a weird packing job. I haven't recieved any tapes yet from anyone back home, so I don't have anything to go by. I'll just have to be creative!

Well, we need to go grocery shopping now. I love you all and I'm ever so grateful for the support and love you've been sending me. Thank you, and take care!

-Elder Knorr

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

President and Sister Watkins

Here's the new mission president’s profile from the Church News. They came to Madrid in July.

James Stanford Watkins, 56, and Murlene Brown Watkins, two children, Crystal Springs 2nd Ward, San Francisco California Stake. Brother Watkins is a counselor in the California San Francisco Mission presidency and a former counselor in a stake presidency, bishop and counselor, high councilor, ward clerk and missionary in the Mexican Mission. Retired managing director, Bank of America. Born in New York, N.Y., to George Elwin and Geraldine Swensen Watkins. Sister Watkins is a ward Relief Society teacher and a former ward Relief Society president and counselor, ward Primary president, ward choir director, gospel doctrine teacher and missionary in the Spain Seville Mission. Born in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, to Murlyn Lamar and Marzelle Whetten Brown.