Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"At the end of my 6th month as a Missionary..."

Crazy, eh? Mom, you asked if the time is just flying by and I will answer you: yes. Things have just flown by. It's almost a little scary to consider that I've already gone through a fourth of my mission! It makes me feel like I need to work even harder to get everything I can out of this unique experience.

The biggest news from Segovia first: Alfredo is moving ever closer towards baptism. He is such an example to me. Just this last week, he completely gave up coffee. He used to drink a cup every morning, following the proudest Colombian tradition, but he told us at our last lesson that he hasn't drunk a single drop for 9 days. Alfredo is just a good person, and good people like him deserve the Gospel and will make sacrifices to live it. We are very blessed to be the missionaries who get to be here at this time and see his progress.

Second biggest news: Money came in! I can stop living on just rice and lentils and potatoes and eggs! I bought some fresh green salad to celebrate.

Third biggest news: General Conference is coming up this weekend. We will travel to Madrid and watch it in the big stake center by the temple in English with all the other missionaries (which means I'll get to see and spend time with Elder Ogden). Because of the time difference, it starts for us on Saturday night, with us watching the Saturday morning session live. The other sessions are recorded and played back the following day (including Music and the Spoken Word, for which I am incandescently excited) and followed by the Sunday morning session in real time. We don't get to see the Sunday afternoon session; we have to wait 'til it comes out in the Liahona. We've made arrangements to stay with some of the elders who live in Madrid. I trust that it will be a memorable experience.

Right after that (next biggest news) we have transfers. We still don't know who's going where, so I'll be sure to include that before anything else in my next email. I'm hoping to stay here in Segovia, just so I can keep working with Alfredo, but things will work out no matter what happens.

The next news is sad news. As I have previously mentioned, our old investigator Angel, after showing remarkable potential and being very friendly, had all but disappeared. The other day, we finally saw him in the main square by the aqueduct, and he hardly even acknowledged we were there and refused to even say a word to us. We called him a few days later and, after he realized who we were, he hung up immediately. It saddens me, and I can't seem to understand why he's acting this way. It's a complete mystery. We'll keep trying to be friendly with him when we see him, but it seems that he just wants nothing to do with us at this moment.

All right, let's bring the good feelings back! Today, we went hiking with the elders from Villalba in a little, foresty town called Cercedillas. There are a variety trails running through the forests. There was a nice, cool fog blanketing much of the landscape. We brought along the fixings to make some bocadillos (Spanish subs) and a few apples, and had a little picnic by a cool waterfall. It was a good preparation day activity, and it was nice to be in nature again!

I still have not received any packages, but don't let that alarm any of you. In all likelihood they've been sitting in the stake center in Madrid for over a week and no one has been able to get them to me. That's okay though, I'll get my hands on them soon! Thank you for being so mindful of me! :)

Yes, Mom, I am still the same shirt size. Goodness, what do you all think about my weight over there? Do you all think I'm some kind of fatzilla, rampaging through the Spanish countryside, consuming massive amounts of jamon, flan and sunflower oil? Yes, I'm still the same shirt size, and just so we're all completely clear, I haven't even changed the sizing of my belt yet. I'd better get these pictures to you so I can dispell the apparent rumors of my greatly exaggerated "swelling."

[Elder Knorr’s family is taking care of the following requests.] The rest of my equipment has worked extremely well so far, leaving me wanting for nothing as far as clothing, luggage, and all those other aspects go. As for needing more of something, my music collection is beginning to get the slightest bit repetitive, and it's always nice to have another stick of Irish Spring antiperspirant deodorant. I still have several unused bars, and the cooler months ahead will demand less of it, but I figure it's better safe than sorry. As for Kool-Aid, I've drunk so much in the past few months that I've gone through a kilo of white sugar a week. I don't think that's very good for my overall health so I'm going to finish the Kool-Aid I have now and then go with just water from here on out. In all honesty, I haven't used any of the guacamole or taco seasonings that I've received, though I have used or will use every single hollandaise sauce packet that I can get my hands on. The peanut butter has been of particular use as a delicious and nutritive bread spread and has also made possible peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, something unheard of in this part of the world. I've gone through half of that 3 pound jar you sent me and I plan on taking it with me wherever I get moved to until it runs out. I just like receiving a nice
farrago of items in packages. I'm sure anything you send will be fine!

All the missionaries and members here in Spain have been "flipando" about the new LDS Santa Biblia. Elder Moreno, my district leader, has already bought his own copy. I would like to do the same; they have them here. In the MTC, they gave us a good Libro de Mormon (in Spanish) as well as one of the Catholic versions of the Reina Valera, and I've been using those to proselyte and teach lessons up to this point. The Catholic edition has been serving me well, but my "Mormon Pride" has been gnawing away at me and I think I'll end up buying the new edition sooner or later. Don't send me one though; that would be a horrendous waste of postage as I can easily buy one here.

I've been wearing my glasses for the past one and a half months (I think). I still go back and forth. My vision feels great (better than our branch president's at least, who went in for eye surgery this last week. He's recovering fine and still has his typical go-get-em attitude, despite his 73 years of age).

We haven't been doing any chalk drawings or crop circles or whatever like those Russian elders have done. We do, however, still seek out creative finding opportunities and try our best to interest people in the Gospel.

Just call me
Jedediah Smith because my ear has healed right back together without any kind of incident. It was a funny experience though!

Well, I have to go now. Thanks for the emails and the letters and all of that stuff! I love you all and I love your support and I thank you all for the ways you've helped me become who I am. Bye!

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More News from Segovia

Hi! Things continue to move forward here in Segovia! I'll start by briefly going over and responding to the questions in your email to me:

I have not received any packages recently, though I wait for them with great anticipation. I don't expect that they will have any chances to get them to me in the next week or so, seeing as we don't have any trips planned to Madrid and I don't think our district leaders will be seeing the zone leaders before next district meeting. I'm starting to get a feel for how the mail "trickles down" and can predict with a fair degree of accuracy when things will arrive. As usual, the mail to us tough, frontiersman pueblo elders is significantly more delayed than the mail to those spoiled, pampered inner city elders. (una broma, una broma...)

I got my hair cut recently as well, along with a little something extra! All thanks to the masterful skill of my companion Elder Zollinger and the hair clipper he bought on discount from a Chino Store, my hair is now a neat, short, presentable length. After he did the initial buzzing, I asked him if he could trim around my ears with some scissors. He did well on one ear, but when he went to the next one I felt an unexpected pinch, then heard "Um, I just cut your ear." I thought he was playing a joke at first, but then he said "Actually, it's about to drip..." He caught the drop on his finger and showed me that, in fact, my ear was bleeding at a rather fast rate. So we spent a couple of minutes washing it out (it was a small wound, no more) and putting a bandaid on it. It's kind of been a running joke now between the two of us, and the elders of our district. Hooray for new experiences! :)

[Elder Knorr's family is taking care of this next request.] I'm glad you mentioned Christmas songs, because I have nothing of the sort. Besides the fact that any kind of Christian music could apply to Christmas, I don't have any special seasonal music. I know it's a ways out still, but I would like a good, large amount of Christmas music probably about a month or two before Christmas. Any Mormon Tabernacle Choir would be good (of course) but I'd also like other Christmas music from home. I'll leave it up to your good taste and judgement to select exactly what to send me. The official rules are "no music with romantic lyrics or undertones" and "no beats that would drive away the Spirit." I think a lot of what we used to listen to would be ok for me now under those guidelines, omitting a select few songs.

I'm sorry, but I don't have the funds right now to prepare or send the pictures. We've had to do a ridiculous amount of traveling lately and, though we can get our travel expenses reimbursed, it does create something of a pinch in the present. I've been shopping very cheaply the past few weeks for food and still eaten well enough. I wasn't able to send very many letters last week because I lacked the money to pay postage. Today I'll probably have enough money for 5 or 6 stamps. The thing is that I don't want to pull any more money out of my home account. I've already done too much and I know the exchange rate is killing me! We're supposed to be allotted enough money for our food and travel needs monthly, so I figure the reason things haven't been flowing financially for me lately has got to be my fault at some point. I have a very strong commitment to pull no more money out of my home account, at least for the next two months, so I'll find some way to make things work out.

As for the taking of pictures, President Farnsworth asked us to only do it on Preparation Day so as to not look like tourists or waste time during the week. That rule has stuck around [with President Watkins] and for that reason I haven't been able to take very many pictures (Preparation Day is usually filled with other activities). I do have a fair amount of pictures that I've taken over the months though, that I think would be worth sending at this point, so as soon as I have the money I'll take care of that.

As for rules changing and remaining the same, the only one that's really changed has been the ban on sports for missionaries. We can now play certain sporting activities if approved by our district leaders in advance, and it must always be done with the intention to find new people to teach. There have also been various small changes as to how things are organized, how things are run, and how we do meetings. A few of these changes may make mail even a little slower for me here in Segovia, but that's just how it goes!

I'm glad to hear my blog is well-attended. I hope it continues to be a good and effective way for people to share my mission experience.

As for how things are going in the area lately: Angel has all but disappeared. We're not sure why, but it has troubled us a bit because he was so good before! Alfredo, on the other hand, is progressing towards his date on the 17th of October, and we teach him 3 times a week to prepare him. He's a very good, very humble man with real desires to learn and follow the truth he's taught. He's from Colombia (shout-out to Dad!) from an area called Narillo near the border with Ecuador, from a city called Tuqueres. Does that ring any bells? We continue to teach him and answer any questions he has. He likes his coffee every morning, so we've challenged him to go without it for a week and see if he can recognize the promised blessings in Doctrine and Covenants 89 in his life. With the rest of our time, we've been walking (what else is new?) and doing a lot of contacting on the street.

In other news, I failed at trying to bake bread two days ago. I used a recipe from the mission cookbook (submitted by Elder Ogden). I mixed together all of the ingredients, added too much flour, then didn't have enough time to let it rise enough or cook enough. So... it came out kind of floury and flat and doughy. But it more or less looked like a loaf of bread, and parts of it tasted like bread too, so it was a good learning experience. I'll do better next time!

Well, I've got to get going! I love you all and hope you all have a beatific day!

-Elder Knorr

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tape from Elder Knorr - last part

Highlights from Current Area of Segovia:

Spanish "companion-for-a-day" Elder Moreno

Lots of walking

New investigators!

American naysayer

Thanks and Goodbye

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Letter bits and pieces - happy news!

To Ethan:

Things are great here in the mission! We've found some more people and they want to get baptized! We think so, at least. We're teaching them the lessons about the Gospel right now and things are looking good.

If I were you, I'd definitely start learning more about the Book of Mormon. Take care! Remember to let the scriptures be with you always.

To Megan:

So I hear you spilled my little "secret" to the WHOLE FAMILY. Now everyone knows I'm a fatty McGee. It's ok, it's not that bad. I've just kind of plateaued 10 lbs. over my normal weight, probably all thanks to that dumb MTC food. It's delicious, and it's pretty much an all-you-can-eat buffet every meal, every day. Our district had a tradition: if you went for seconds, you got the Bell (everyone says "Ding Dong Double!"). If you went for thirds, you got the Gong (everyone pretends to ring an imaginary gong 3 times then says in a ninja-ish voice "Triple!" with Spanish pronunciation). And if you went for fourths (I never saw this personally, I only heard about it happening) you got the Cannons (everyone makes 4 loud cannon sounds then says in an operatic tone "Quadruple!!!"). Yeah. We had a little fun with that :)

To Dad:

I do love the temple. We went just today, and it was perhaps one of the sweetest experiences I've had on my mission thus far. Elder Ogden was there, along with several members of my old district in the CCM. It was just pure joy being with people I love in a place that I love. I imagine that's something like what my sealing in the temple will probably be like.

Thanks for the joke that President Monson cracked. [Oquirrh Mountain Temple Dedication - Elder Uchtdorf at Air Force One controls - "Don't do it, Dieter!"] He is amazing, isn't he? A very good sense of well-timed humor. And I'm glad that everyone, even Ethan, got to attend the dedication. The temples are the most precious things we have as a Church and we must never forget that.

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed Education Week, especially the "deep doctrine" classes. In the mission we call that "Kolob Doctrine" and kind of joke about it a little because we're encouraged to study and explore just the core doctrines. Sure, the location of the sword of Laban would be fun to know but I don't know if that's really going to every help me help someone else gain a testimony. But it is fun stuff!

Well, I now leave to go do some work. Things are looking good here in Segovia (finally) and we're singing His praises for the blessings we've received lately in the form of good investigators. We'll keep working hard, and smart, and have faith that the Lord will do His part.

Tape from Elder Knorr - Madrid Barrio 1 - Part B

Highlights from this slideshow:

Song with Elder Ogden
First Besos (kisses)
Mejia Family
Companion haircut
New Investigators
Elder Parry homeward bound

One more part to come soon!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Teaching and Studying, Beans and Rice

I'll start this off by saying THANK YOU for all of the letters I've received lately, and a big thanks in advance for all those letters and packages that are still on the way! I await them with felicitous, giddy eagerness. And I'm very glad that the letters and tapes I've sent are well-received and enjoyed. I enjoy writing them!

I'm glad to hear that the family is doing well and is anxiously engaged in good causes!

Ok, now a word about the work. Our investigator Angel (the Ecuadorian would-be American) is progressing well! We've met with him several times and he's attended church. He's keeping his commitments and does all the reading we assign to him. We've set as a goal with him the 17th of October for baptism. We'll do the best we can with him and see how things go! Also, Alfredo has been in Madrid the last couple of days but he still meets with us and we're meeting his needs well. We continue to look for more, but those are the two big bright spots lately.

I thought this time I'd include a little blurb about my studies. As missionaries, we get a whole hour every day to ourselves to study the scriptures, Preach my Gospel, and other approved reading. I love it! I've been working on a goal to read through all the standard works. I finished the Book of Mormon first, then I started the Old Testament at Genesis and started going through that. When I got to Psalms, I started reading through Doctrine and Covenants simultaneously. I've been thinking of stopping the D&C and reading Our Heritage first because I'm told it will enrich my understanding of the aforementioned book.
Today I just finished Isaiah. It's not as bad as everyone always says it is!!! I've enjoyed it a great, great deal and have marked it up top to bottom. I'd recommend it for anyone wanting to understand better the prophesies of Christ and the gathering of Israel, and the Millenium.

Traveling costs have been very heavy lately, so I ate VERY cheaply this last week, making beans and rice every day. I was able to stay under 10 Euro on my grocery bill. Pretty good, eh?

Well, I need to get going now. Take care everyone! I love you all and thank you for your continued love and support. Hasta luego!

-Elder Knorr

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tape from Elder Knorr - First Area - Madrid Barrio 1

This part is a full slideshow now, with lots of news:

Mejia family

A typical day in the life

Local ward

Funny story - "I Am The One"

Rambling pastor

New investigators!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tape from Elder Knorr - Part 1 - Madrid MTC

Highlights from this audio slideshow:

Special Musical Number by "4 Ordained"

Contacting in the park

Pondering and preparing for entrance to the mission field


There are 3 more parts to come - watch for:

First area - Madrid Barrio 1, part A

Madrid Barrio 1, part B

Current area - Segovia

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bits and Pieces from older letters

July 22

"We have an appointment this preparation day to go over to Hermana Loli's house, (the wife of the branch president, just had heart surgery a year ago and is a wonderful, happy 75 year old lady) and she's going to teach us how to make tortilla patata, which is basically potatoes, eggs, milk, cheese and bits of ham all mixed together and cooked in a pan until it's kind of solid. Then you eat it. We want to see how a real-life Spanish woman cooks it so that we can learn how to make it for ourselves. Then, some other day, she said she'd teach us how to make flan de huevo, which is basically a yummy egg-based custard."

July 29

"I'm still getting used to "pueblo life." The Spain Madrid Mission has city areas, which is where I was before, and pueblo areas, which is where I am now. Pueblos are kind of like miniature cities. They have all of the same modern conveniences, they just have less of them. And there are way less members. Here, we're attached to a little "rama" (branch) and we get 13-16 people out to sacrament meeting every week, tops. Also, we only have a president (branch equivalent of the bishop) and a 1st counselor. That's it as far as Priesthood goes. Yeah, we're small. But we're like a small family."

August 26

"So I read a sweet article out of the Liahona (our Ensign) "Our Refined Heavenly Home." It was a good article. It was all about how we can make our home more like heaven. My companion and I have been freakin' out about it for weeks!" If you'd like to read the article, click here.

"We needed to get to an appointment in a different part of the city that takes a while to get to because you have to go around all this wilderness and hills. But my companion told me about a legendary trail that we could take that would take us right there. We looked for it and...we found it! The secret trail is real! We hiked a bit and it even had a sweet view of the cathedral at sunset. We named it "Dead Man's Pass" just to make it sound cool."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lots of news, including...another Angel!

First thing to say: I am truly shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of Ryan Alder. He was truly one of the best and brightest people I have ever known, and I always looked up to him as a near-perfect example of what a young man should do and should be. In many ways, Ryan has been my role-model throughout a good part of my life. And I am extremely glad to hear about the protection and survival of Kate and their child. I am sure they will be well cared for by their loving and supportive families. Wow, I just... don't know what else to say. My sincerest love and comfort to the Alder family in this time of difficulty.

Secondly, I FOUND ELDER OGDEN AGAIN! Today for preparation day we decided to come to the temple here in Madrid, and he has recently been transferred here to serve as a district leader, so we gave him a call and arranged to be at the temple at the same time. It was a wonderful, refulgent experience to meet him there and share a bit of time together. It felt so complete! I'm so glad for the blessings of the temple and for the blessings of missionary work. I truly felt that my joy was full today. As a matter of fact, he's sitting only a few computers down from me right now, writing his email to HIS family.

The fact that I'm content with where I'm at right now is also helped along by the fact that our area is suddenly doing amazing! Segovia, and I think missionary work in general, is a true rollercoaster. Sometimes people listen and sometimes they don't. Sometimes people follow through on their commitments and sometimes they don't. And, well, in the past couple of days, some people have been listening!!!

First, a man named Alfredo, who has come to sacrament meeting twice already on his own will, has really begun to investigate the Church. He meets with us often and reads all the scriptures and things that we ask him to before every lesson. He's a quieter, more serious, thoughtful person, but he's very interested in the Gospel and he will be blessed. Elder Zollinger and I both feel very good about him and his potential to get baptized.

The other new investigator is a whole subject in himself. His name is Angel, a 50 year old Ecuadorian man with a grown up family of 4 children. He's currently living here in Segovia with his wife and working towards getting a professional truck driver's license so he can work. Oh, and one other thing: HE LOVES AMERICA. And I don't mean a fleeting fancy either, this man is a red-white-and-blue fanatic! At our second meeting he brought in a bag a full size official American Flag and gave it to us as a gift. I don't really know what to do with it so it's currently in our apartment properly folded up and tucked away. Because of his love of the USA, we were afraid that he only wanted to meet with us so much because we're Americans, but he's actually shown a lot of real interest in the message of the restoration as well and has done the reading we've asked him and is on his way to getting a great testimony. We taught them both yesterday, back to back, and got a bit of long-overdue relief! :)

So, things are all butterflies and roses in Segovia right now as we work to keep these two amazing men working towards the goal of baptism and conversion to the Gospel. I thank you all for the prayers that you've offered that have helped me along and kept me working hard even when things weren't looking so great.

Yes, yes, I'll come right out and say that I have put on exactly 10 pounds ever since my entrance into the MTC. So it's mostly still just the MTC food that I haven't worked off yet. I can see it a bit around my neck (I can now make one or two more chins than I used to be able to make when pretending to be a whale or something at the public pool). My companion and I walk all day but I don't think that does a whole lot to burn fat, honestly. The runs we do in the morning are better. And I have been cooking a lot for myself, a lot of chicken and rice, and I make a lot of pure fruit smoothies as well.

Glad to hear that BYU beat that team! I was told by my sports-savvy companion Elder Zollinger that they were in for a hard time against Oklahoma but it looks like the ol' blue and white won the fight!

I'm sorry I've been leaving things out of certain letters to certain people. I'm not doing it on purpose, it's just that I have a rather hard time remembering what I've written to who and who I've written to what and where and when and why! So I'm sorry about that and I hope that parties with unique information that they feel comfortable sharing will come forward and share it so that no one misses anything they don't want to miss.

I sent the tapes last week! I sent one to Kristen and one for the family. I sent them both to Kristen to save on postage so expect those soon! (assuming that they don't disappear forever into the mail system) I've got to go now, but I love you all! Thank you for the news, both good and bad, and know that the Lord knows.

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"I got shot at!"

Ok, ok, alright, I'll describe the subject line! A few nights ago some teenagers drove by and shot at us with airsoft pistols from inside the car. At first we were walking along and we just heard the impact of some of the bb's behind us on the wall we were walking by. I thought it was gravel or something or maybe they were throwing little stones. But then I heard the extremely familiar sounds of single-action airsoft pistols going off and I knew what was going on. We just kept walking like normal and ignored them. Frankly, having a broad and detailed knowledge of airsoft weapons as I do, I was disappointed by the weakness and cheapness of their guns (in Spain, to say "Cheap" we say "Chapuza"). They didn't even leave any good marks on us! So it was more of a lame story than a cool one, but it still made Elder Zollinger and I laugh really hard and it was definitely our happy thought for the day! :) And Mom, I'm sorry if the subject line scared you or anything. I'm just learning a different sense of humor, mostly from my companion Elder Zollinger.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention that I haven't said much about Elder Zollinger. I'll take some time today to tell you about him: Elder Greg Zollinger is from Idaho Falls, Idaho. He's a half an inch shorter than me, but he is stronger. He's a very fun, very funny guy, as well as a very sedulous [diligent] and focused missionary. His favorite thing is baseball, and he's taught me a ton about it in our time here together in Segovia. I never knew there was so much to it! He was on his high school's baseball and football teams and worked overtime for a long time before the mission. In turn I've taught him a lot about music and other interests. He enjoys shooting clay pigeons with shotguns for target practice. He also really loves reading. Before the mission he was a big reader and he also loved audiobooks. He has been on the mission for over a year and a half. He has plans to attend BYU-Idaho when he returns, and thinks he might want to get a degree in Biology.

Elder Zollinger and I get along great! We have a lot of fun together, we know how to work hard together and we've begun to understand each other well. If there's one thing that I'm starting to learn from my companions it's that there is ALWAYS a mountain of things that you can learn. First off, every companion is different so you have to learn how to adapt and work in unity with them. That's something that I've noticed has come with time spent together, as well as the desire to learn and understand the other person. Secondly, we all have different interests and areas of knowledge which we can share with each other and learn. Every person is a world in themselves from which can be learned a wealth of things, and I'm grateful for these opportunities I've been given.

The time has finally come: I'm going to send the audio tapes today! I know I've talked about it before, but this time I'm serious. We've planned it all out and everything. I'll be going to the mail center here in Segovia to get the proper packaging so that I can ensure that the tapes arrive safely and in good condition. As for the CD with pictures, I still don't feel like I have enough to justify burning a disc. I take a few more every preparation day, but I admit it's a slow process. Also, since my first camera bit the dust, I haven't been able to find a good, reliable way to take the rest of the pictures off of the old memory card, so I think I'll just end up sending it (the memory card) along with the CD when I burn it. I know that this has been advised against, but you already have almost everything that's on it, and if it's sent in tandem with a CD I think it will be safer. Please send me your thoughts on this and tell me what you think.

It's good to hear that my cousins who have successfully completed their missions are doing well! And it sounds like Matthew's living the good life now! That's all great.

I was amused by the description of the doggie obstacle course and Max's completion of it! I can only imagine how fun that would be to watch! I miss that little black dog. I can still remember playing with him in Rocky Mountain Park, getting a good head start and then trying to outrun him across the field. Fun times! As always, it was good to hear how the family is doing and recent developments in things.

I'll have you all know that we are going to go to the buffet here in town again and I hardly ate any breakfast so that I will be ready to really get my money's worth of egg flan, pudding and jello. :)

I love you all and thanks so much for the letters and the emails and the love that you send! We'll keep plugging away here in Segovia and hoping for things to take an upward swing!

-Elder Knorr