Saturday, October 31, 2009

Excerpt from Halloween Letter...

I love Halloween. Spaniards don't understand Halloween. They think it's some kind of devil worship holiday and they think America's insane for celebrating it so much! It's so funny to talk with them about it! And it's also kind of funny how in-stride we take all of the demons, ghouls, and goblins back home, isn't it? Anyway, fun stuff. I plan on having some kind of Halloween celebration, even if it just involves my companion and I eating candy and telling ghost stories on the eve of the 31st.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This week from Avila! Past, Present and Future Ponderings from Elder Knorr

As the subject line implies and vaguely foreshadows, I am writing this email from the Spanish city of Avila, a city best known for its completely intact, large, handsome wall. I was sure to take a lot of pictures of it to send home. Despite what you all may think about me and pictures, I do try to take them when I get a chance. It's slow going but I hope to soon fill up the memory card to a point where it will make sense to send a disc.

I think that Avila is also famous for being the resting place of part of Mother Teresa. Allow me to explain: according to my understanding, the grave of Saint Teresa was dug up a while back and, since various Catholic bishops and priests wanted to have her re-buried in or near their cathedral, they decided to just split up her remains and divide her up evenly. Ghastly I know, but I think the cathedral here in Avila has one of her toes.

Our week has gone well. We just had companion exchanges yesterday. I spent the night in Villalba and also got to teach many of the investigators and members here. They're so great! Villalba has a complete ward and it is very strong. I wouldn't at all mind serving there but it probably won't happen. Actually, the word on the street is that I'm going to get sent to the office next transfer. I don't know if I believe that but that's what several elders claim is going to happen and President asked me some very suspicious questions in our last interviews, so now I don't know what to think. I hear the office is very...different. Elders typically don't want to go there because the office elders don't get to do a lot of traditional missionary work. We'll see what happens though; there's really no point in guessing.

We've worked hard this week to find and teach, but things are slowing down a little. We continue to teach Alfredo and have met his wonderful family, but even so we lack lessons. We've set a very high contacting goal this week, so we'll see what comes of that.

The holiday season is approaching fast here in Spain, and I'm very excited to see all the traditions and feel the atmosphere. We've already established that they don't really understand Halloween, and they don't have Thanksgiving (obviously) so it will definitely be different. But I'm sure I'll have lots of flashbacks of Thanksgivings past as we walk in the chilly air and smell the falling, orange leaves.

The Spanish do have a yummy Christmas food called Turron. It's more or less a peanut brittle that comes in a bar... but not really. And they have lots of different varieties to try out. It's fun! The culture here is really fun and I love it.

I'm glad to hear that Megan went to her first stake dance! Ah, yes, I remember how big of a deal that was to me back in the day. It's practically a rite of passage. Congratulations! And I like Megan's costume idea too [glamorous tin woman]. It kind of follows up on the costume I had last year: the Scary Scarecrow. Now next year someone is going to have to be the lion. But, let's face it, no one really likes the lion enough to be him for Halloween. My apologies to any of you cowardly lion fans out there who may read that. But it's true! As for Ethan's costume, it sounds fun. Can't go wrong with the classic Grim Reaper costume, can you? Then again, I was a Ninja for 3 or something years in a row when I was a kid (and then once more when I was 17) so I couldn't make fun of that even if I wanted to. :)

I'm glad to hear that Kristen is still hanging out and having fun with you guys! Thinking about the game Apples to Apples reminds me of how being bilingual has affected my brain. Oft times I find myself speaking in a mixture of both languages, using words from both that allow me to most accurately express myself. It's fun to do, but only another missionary can follow the conversation without getting lost. My companion and I make up raps sometimes too, or put alternate lyrics to existing songs that fit the situations we find ourselves in, and let me tell you, rhyming possibilities really skyrocket when you include a new language. :)

Working in Villalba yesterday made me realize how hard I've had things for the past 2 transfers! Segovia is a tough area, and I'd just kind of gotten used to it and accepted the toughness. Pondering on that has made me excited though, because one day I'll move on to a new area and it will seem like I have too many lessons to keep track of them all! But, at the same time, it makes me reflect on my current situation and ask myself whether or not I'm really using this opportunity working in Segovia to learn and grow to its fullest. The more I apply myself here, the more of an indomitable missionary I'll become in the end. I'll continue to try my best and leave it to the Lord to judge.

Oh, by the way, I think I've decided what I want to do for a career. I want to be a music teacher, more specifically, a Band Director in High School, preferably Timpanogos, but I'll go where I can. Any thoughts?

Well, I'll continue working here in Spain and doing what I can to bring people to a knowledge of the truth. It's hard work, but I'll keep at it because I know it's good for me, for them, and for everyone, even though it quite often does not seem that way entirely. I love you all and I hope to hear from you all again! Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do for me.

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"We Miss Christopher," siblings sigh . . .

Megan and Ethan drew some interesting Elder Knorr-related pictures last Sunday. Click to zoom.

La Lucha Continua...

"La vida es una lucha..." [Life is a battle.] That's something that our beloved Presidente Galera always says. Things continue to go well in Segovia. We've had some very promising contacts recently and have kept teaching Alfredo and helping him progress. We finally got to meet his family (at least, the family he has here with him) and they are some of the nicest people I've ever met! His Aunt Meri is a charming old lady who speaks in the most tiernos accentos. We also taught Alfredo's 26 year old son, William, and he seems to have a steel-trap understanding of what he reads and what we talk about. That's always refreshing.

Yesterday we had Interviews in Madrid with Presidente Watkins. And since I was in Madrid, close to the center of the mission, I got mail! Yay! I got a whole stack of letters and a delightfully fun Halloween package from Kristen, and I thank you ALL for your wonderful correspondences. The way things are looking now, I probably won't be able to respond to very many of the letters today as we're running a little crunched on time and my time to write letters will be fugacious at best, but I'll do what I can.

After interviews, the office elders had scheduled me for a residency appointment so I went to a government building and then got in an intense chase/combat scene avoiding all the guards... just kidding, this isn't the Bourne Identity. But they did take my fingerprints and I got to spend some time talking with other missionaries in my group while waiting in the lines. All around good times! Apparently it will still take me several months before I'm officially a "resident" here in Spain. Quite an ordeal.

Since we were going to be in Madrid so late anyway, we decided to spend the night here and then spend preparation day here as well. Since we were outside of our regular area, all we could do was contact and try and get return appointments for the Barrio 5 Madrid Elders. We got two!

Then the skies darkened and a torrential rain started to fall. It was without a doubt the most rain I've seen thus far here in Spain! We bought an umbrella at a Chino (basically a small store that sells a little bit of low quality everything) but it proved to be ineffective as the rain came in from sideways and the streets flooded, essentially becoming rushing creeks. I got completely soaked and my companion did too. We tried to dry our clothes off that night, but when I woke up, my shoes and the pockets of my pants and coat were still wet. It's alright though, it was a way exciting experience being in such a fierce rain!

We've spent most of today walking around Sol, one of the main centers of Madrid. Elder Zollinger doesn't have long left in the mission, so he's starting the "souvenier shopping phase," mostly for family and friends. I still don't have very many desires to buy much in the way of souveniers, so I did a lot of following around. The Elders of Villabla met up with us, and we also bumped into Elder Ogden and his two companions waiting in line to go into the Royal Palace! I got pictures.

Oh, here's a fun story: Hermano Patricio, the first counselor in our branch, and his wife Maira have recently become the owners of a restaurant in Segovia. They serve Cochinillo, which is the meat of a baby pig (the best ones are only 3 weeks old) which is a delicacy very specific to Segovia. They invited me and Elder Zollinger over and fed us some. It was very good! The best part is the skin, because after they roast the whole piglet in the oven, the skin gets crunchy and delicious. The meat is very juicy and tender. Anyways, after they'd fed us and we'd left, their restaurant got filled to bursting with tourists. They invited us over a few weeks later to feed us again and yet again, after we had eaten, the restauraunt got very busy. So, convinced that their success as a restaurant hinges on how often they feed us, they've asked us to come over every week! :) Just a funny story. And I hope you all don't think I'm some kind of sadistic creeper for enjoying piglet meat. It's a cultural thing, ok?

Some other things specific to Segovia and the surrounding province (I may have talked about this before, but whatever): the Jota. It's a folk dance danced by the natives here at any festival, party, or similar celebratory gathering. It's almost always danced to the music of a snare and bass drum, and a woodwind called the Dulzaina, a uniquely Spanish horn which I can only define as a sawn-off oboe. It has a very powerful and happy sound. Elder Zollinger and I have seen the Jota danced every now and then and have always enjoyed the culture of it all. Once, in the apartment, I almost had it down! Elder Zollinger just said I looked like a dopey-dopey-dumb-dumb, but I think I was doing pretty good!

Things are going well for me here in Segovia still. I hope to receive more letters and packages soon and I hope everything is going well for all of you back home. I love you all and I love the Lord. 'Til next time!

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Missionary Work in Segovia . . . I Continue Forward

Hi!!! Thanks so much for the tidbits and news.

You know, hearing about these missionary experiences from you and Dad has made me think . . . you both really WERE my age once! It's so much easier to visualize you [Mom] going from door to door in humid Georgia and trying to share the Gospel with people, now that I'm a missionary myself! I'll tell you what though: a lot of the people here don't even want to talk about Jesus. Or religion. Or really talk at all! I don't know if it's just Segovia or if it's a more nationwide thing, but people very, very seldom even let us get a few words in. It's frustrating sometimes! But we keep doing it because, regardless of the tens or hundreds of times we get rejected, there's always one or two people who will listen to us and let us teach them. And that member missionary work you had going sounds pretty awesome! We don't have very many active members in Segovia (4 or 5) but we work with them the best we can. Our branch president, Jesus Galera, works with us almost every day. Either we teach him directly, or he goes with us to a lesson so we can visit one of the single sisters (we can't go alone). That's more or less how the work goes here in Segovia.

I'm happy to report that the onion has successfully cleared my system and I now smell, once again, as sweet as an Irish Spring rose. It seems we missionaries will go to any length to teach a good, unforgettable lesson.

We have had to move the date back with Alfredo. He doesn't feel like he's received an answer as to whether or not this is the Only True Church. To him, it could be the same as the Catholic Church. We've been trying to help him understand the difference and explain to him the doctrine, but the only true testimonies come from God, so we're just doing everything we can now to help him obtain his own testimony. I still have no doubt that he will, with time, get baptized. We just need to make sure that we don't lose our focus with him and that he keeps progressing, learning, and praying.

To answer the other queries concerning Alfredo: We've been getting a member in every lesson that we possibly can, and that member usually ends up being Presidente Galera. Alfredo has come to church every possible time since we met him, except for once, so he's doing very well there. As for his wife, she lives in Colombia still with all of their children except for one. That one is 26 years old and lives with Alfredo here in Segovia, but we haven't met him yet. Alfredo seems to be a bit nervous about telling her [his wife] about the Church, despite our constant requests for him to do so. It's important that she understands what he's doing.

Thanks for the words of comfort and animo. I can't think of a word that says it better in English. That's happening more and more to me . . . ask Dad for a rough translation. [animo = motivation] I'm doing my best out here to do you proud, to become a more
magnanimous missionary, and to see if I can perhaps bring a wayfaring soul to repentance.

I love you, and thanks for the letters, packages, emails and prayers! Sigo adelante [I continue forward].

-Elder Knorr

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fresh Letters - written October 7th!

To Dad:

Speaking of dates and times lining up, I DID catch that cosmic convergence at 9:09 on 9/9/09. Cool story, actually. On that day we attended the temple, and we were in the 9 o'clock session. And guess who else was in that session with us? Elder Jonathan Ogden :)

Elder Ogden and I did alot of singing in between sessions of General Conference. We have sung with each other so much that we can blend incredibly well and we almost intrinsically know when to switch parts. It's strange being around Elder Ogden, honestly. Our personalities are so very alike, just cause we've spent so much time together throughout our whole lives, and it's weird to be with someone who I get along with so totally effortlessly.

I was thinking, I'd like to know how your mission was and what you would suggest I do. I know that the way missions are has probably changed alot, but some things don't change. Contacting for instance. How did you and your companion do that? What were the people like in Colombia? Did they feed you often? To me, it seems like the singular goal of alot of the hermanas in our branch is just to get me as fat as they possibly can! It's so hard to keep the weight off when they sit you down and give you an obligatory three-course dinner, watching you carefully as if suspecting me to hide food in a hidden plastic bag or something. Anyway, enough about food. What recommendations would you give me, from one missionary to another? What things worked for you?"

To Emily:

I thought about hanging the American flag [that an investigator gave them], much as I'm a Yankee through and through, we're not supposed to affiliate with any countries so that people know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a worldwide church, not just an American one. The other day an old Spaniard lady stopped us in the street and yelled at us for trying to preach the Gospel in her country, and told us how Catholicism is Spain's religion and that we'd never have success and told us to just go home to our country. We just bore our testimonies and left. Good thing the opinion of one old Spaniard lady isn't going to change my testimony, eh? The truth is that I love being a missionary and I've seen firsthand how this Gospel changes lives for the better. I know it's true and I know I'd be in dire straits without it, that's for sure. And I'm so lucky to be here on the frontlines of the Church and to be a missionary. Hopefully, as a result, I'll come back more manly and more spiritual..."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bits from a recent letter to Dad

Written Sept. 16:

Yeah, Segovia's known as a pretty slow area these days, though my companion and I have seen a good deal of refreshing éxito [success] in the past few weeks. There aren't quite as many baptisms here in Spain, for whatever reason.
Not like Colombia at least, where you probably baptized like Dan Jones, or Alma at the waters of Mormon. But we have been recently given counsel by Elder Teixeira the Seventy on how to increase the number of convert baptisms here in Spain, so we're working hard to apply it. So far it's working great!

We have a progressing investigator from Colombia named Alfredo who's showing very good potential!
He does the things we ask him to, including reading in the Book of Mormon, which is hard for him to do and understand because he only has a 3rd grade education. But he keeps doing it, which I think is good evidence of his determination to progress. He is an amazing example of humility to me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Segovia still doesn't get relief from me . . . . . . . . Mwah-ha-ha!!

Yes, you heard me right. I'm still here in Segovia, as is my companion, Elder Zollinger. Going 3 transfers with the same companion is apparently quite uncommon: this turn of events has made me the companion that Elder Zollinger has had for the longest. And, from what information we've been able to gather, there has been an eldritch stillness when it comes to transfers this time around, with only 5 changes in the entire mission! We suppose this is part of Presidente Watkins's plan for the mission, leaving us in one area for an extended period of time. I'm personally glad about this: I've gotten to be friends with the members here and I think moving is such a hassle!

Going this long with the same companion is starting to yield strange results, however. The other day while walking some empty streets, we discovered that we might be developing a telepathic link. We decided that this is how it works: At 3 transfers together, you develop a mind link with your companion. At 4 transfers, you begin to physically resemble one another. At 5 transfers, you start to call yourself by your companion's name and vice versa, beginning to lose your distinct identity. We decided that at this point, being transferred out of the area and away from your companion could result in severe withdrawals, a lot of blankly-staring-into-space, and possible coma. At 6 transfers, neither you or your companion can speak a complete sentence without having the other interrupt and finish the sentence in exactly the way they were going to, much like the agents in The Matrix. And, at 7 transfers together, they need to transfer a new elder into the area because the fabric of space-time has blurred and you and your companion have fused into one individual human, with the combined attributes and characteristics of both. But, thankfully, that's never happened in the Spain Madrid Mission.

General Conference was awesome!!! I've never, ever gotten so much out of one. We got to travel to Madrid and watch it in English with the other missionaries. We didn't, however, get to see the Sunday Afternoon Session and that was a big bummer because we didn't get to hear Elder Holland give his talk!! :( I've always loved Elder Holland's talks, so I guess I'll just have to wait for it to come out in the Liahona.

Elder Ogden was there and I spent a lot of time talking and singing with him. He had his tape recorder and I trust he'll send that tape to his family. You can ask Sister Ogden to borrow it when it shows up and Dad can rip the music to GarageBand or whatever he's been doing to get it on the Internet. I took a few pictures of us together. He seems to be doing great!

Alright, now down to a quick report of the area. Alfredo continues to be one of the most dedicated, honest and humble people I've ever met, and he's still right on track for his baptismal date on the 17th of October. Not much more than that to say about him. Our lessons usually go something like this: we teach, and then we ask him "Will you pray to your Heavenly Father every morning and night?" and then he just kind of looks at us incredulously and says "Yes...I've been doing that my whole life." Teaching him is a joy and I'm so grateful to be the missionary who gets to do it!

We taught a very good lesson to some of the boys here in the branch last Wednesday. I based it off of a lesson that I was once taught in Priesthood class. The boys are Clayton and Kenneth Guzman, 8 and 9 years old, both sons of the first counselor here in Segovia, Patricio, who was also there with us. We started off by cutting a green apple in half and offering them each a half. They happily ate them up while we chatted with Patricio for a minute or so. When they had finished we asked them how they'd enjoyed the apple and then pulled out two palmeras, which are a kind of flaky, crispy Spanish pastry covered in chocolate. The boys, of course, really wanted them, but we wouldn't give them to them, saying "You ate the apple. No one who's eaten an apple can have a palmera, I'm sorry. That's just the rule." They were sad and despairing because they wouldn't get to eat the palmeras. Finally, we said "Well, there is one way you can get these palmeras..." We pulled out a whole onion. "Someone has to eat this onion. All of it. Then you can have the palmeras." Clayton didn't want anything to do with the onion, but Kenneth said he'd try, so we cut him off a small slice and he popped it in his mouth and started chewing. He soon tasted the bitter, burning taste and ran to the bathroom to spit it out, the rest of us laughing. When he returned, we reminded them of the obstacle they faced and they once again despaired. Finally, I piped up. "I'll tell you what," I told the boys, "I want you to be able to eat these delicious palmeras, so I'll eat the onion for you." So, skinning off the first flaky layer and cutting off the very ends, I ate the onion. After the first few bites, the boys fell completely silent and all that could be heard was the sound of me chewing and swallowing the layers of that terrible onion. The juice of the onion started dripping, so Kenneth rushed to get me a napkin to wipe it up. After half of the onion, my entire face, mouth and throat were burning, my nose running, my eyes watering so much that I almost couldn't see. Clayton ran to get me a bottle of water to try and take away the sting, but after a few swigs I realized that it was futile and only made the burning worse. Kenneth asked if Elder Zollinger could eat the rest of it. "No," he replied, "He has to eat it all, alone." As I choked down the last few bites of the onion, the boys were covering their eyes, unable to watch. I was somehow able to force down the rest of the onion and finish it, and the boys were allowed to eat their palmeras. Clayton ate his right away, but Kenneth couldn't take it. We then explained that I had already paid the price for the palmera and it was his whether he decided to eat it or not. He eventually took it and ate it. It was a lesson on the Atonement, as you've probably realized, and I don't think they'll ever forget it, so it was worth it. The smell of the onion, however, was on my breath for the next 3 days.

Well, I've got to get going. I love you all! I got 3 packages and 8 letters at Conference! They must have all just been waiting for me in the mission office all this time. Thank you and please send more!

-Elder Knorr