Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An Adventurous Week, for sure

Since so much has happened this week, I will begin by sharing experiences, then I will answer questions.

Something unprecedented and truly remarkable happened in Segovia this last week: We hit mission goals. The standard of the mission is to teach at least 20 lessons a week, make at least 105 contacts a week, and invite 2 people to get baptized a week. Last week began normally and we didn't notice much of a difference until mediodia Saturday, when Elder Zollinger realized while looking at our plans that we were closer to teaching 20 lessons than we had ever been before. We carefully planned out every hour, confirming as well as we could every lesson and doing everything in our power to complete our plans. By the end of Saturday, we had taught 4 more lessons, an incredible day in Segovia by anyone's reckoning. The following day, Sunday, we stuck to our plans and taught 5 lessons. The last lesson was taught at 9:20 PM, after which we had to practically jog to the other end of the city to make it in the apartment on time. But we did it. We taught 20 lessons.

Allow me to give a brief history in order to help everyone properly understand the meaning of 20 lessons in Segovia. In the Area Book that we keep updated and maintained in our apartment, there are records of the work that missionaries have done dating back all the way to early 2007. After reviewing these documents we found that the average number of lessons taught in Segovia weekly was under 10. There were two notable instances: one time when 19 lessons were taught and one time in more recent history when 18 were taught. At those times, the mission standard was lower: 10 lessons a week, which later became 15, so these statistics do indicate reaching that goal. But sometime around April 2008, the standard was raised to 20. The majority of the areas in the mission, helped by the vast pool of members in the wards and larger branches, have been able to reach this goal consistently, especially since President Watkins came in and made it a focus. Segovia, however, having a smaller branch with only two active members that can be taught, was never able to make the standard, though we tried every week.

What made this week different was that we found new investigators, 5 of them, all in one Bulgarian family, and were able to teach them thrice. This, including teaching all of our other investigators and members, was just enough to give us 20. This has never been done in Segovia in recorded mission history. Working hard, Elder Zollinger and I had been able to bring Segovia to a somewhat steady level of 12 lessons a week, and we even broke through and got 14 once, but never higher. This time, not only did we reach the mission goal for 20 lessons, but we had record breaking numbers in almost every other aspect, including having 4 investigators at Church. This has been the most successful week I have had in my mission thus far!

But success is not without trials. Saturday in the late morning we discovered that our water heater was not working. Having been told by the mission to not touch water heaters as they are too complex and breaking them would be very costly, our only option was to call the landlord and ask him to come take a look at it. However, we didn't want to deal with it that same day because we were going to be too busy with lessons and didn't want to give up our dream of 20, and the landlord would indubitably be inaccessible on Sunday, so we consigned ourselves to calling him on Monday to come and fix it. For the next two mornings, bereft of hot water from the tap to shower with or shave with, I heated up pots of water on the stove top and, standing in the shower, poured them cup by cup over myself to get clean. I then did a similar thing to heat up water for the shave, just dumping a pot of hot water into the stopped-up sink. It was truly an adventure and it worked just fine too. I am, however, glad to have normal hot water back.

Another development: Luis Enrique, one of our investigators, has a baptismal date for the 19th of December. His wife and son, Carola and Luis Guillermo, are already faithful members. For a long time he didn't want anything to do with us, but recently he's come back and we've had many good lessons with him, together with his family. When we invited him to be baptized, he said yes and all five of us started to cry. It was a very sweet experience and I am sure that the date will go through this time. Missionary work can be so rewarding!

Alright, now, on to the answering of questions:

Elder Zollinger has been here in Segovia for one transfer more than I have, but he's scheduled to go home halfway through this transfer, so it's still possible I'll get moved out this next one. They "whitewashed" Villalba this last time around, meaning that there are suddenly 2 new missionaries in there: Elder Butterfield and Elder Vause. They have had a trying time this last week, getting lost a lot and even getting a bit of food poisoning and having to stay in for a couple of days.

Things have been going well here for me. It's getting cold at last. I've gotten good use out of my coat as well as my gloves, and I've drunk a lot of "Leche con Miel" which is nothing more than warm milk mixed with honey. Spaniards seem to think that it has some kind of magical healing and sickness-prevention qualities, but I remain unconvinced as I came down with a sore throat after trying it for the first time. To me it is but a feckless [ineffective] beverage.

Today, we have plans to do a lot of Preparation Day souvenir shopping right here in Segovia. During the course of the day, I hope to stop by a photo shop and get the pictures onto a CD, along with purchasing other knick-knacks and whats-its to send home. My companion and I have also had another idea: Weird Fruit Day. We plan on buying all of the strange, exotic, weird and otherwise foreign fruits that we've never tried and try them, taking pictures all the while to send home to intrigue and gross-out our families and friends. How does that sound?

Well, we've got to get going; there's a lot to accomplish today! I hope everyone is safe and healthy and I wish a hearty "Bon Voyage" to the Knorr family as they embark on yet another California Thanksgiving trip. I love you all! Thanks for the support you've given me, in these emails, letters, packages and prayers!

-Elder Knorr

[Note from webmaster: We finally discovered what’s with the occasional obscure words that Christopher uses in his messages home. His friend Kristen sends them to him with a challenge to use them in his emails. It’s been educational for all of us!]

Fun tidbits from a letter to Kristen sent last week...stay tuned for today's email with some GREAT news!

I'm doing fine here, still in Segovia! They didn't move me. This is my 4th transfer here now, but I don't mind. I am truly beginning to love the people here, even if the work is a bit slow from time to time. For some reason, not many Spaniards want to talk to us. I think it's because they're scared of us. That's why member missionary work is so IMPORTANT! If members did more referring of their friends to us and then helped us meet them and teach them, the Spaniards would love the gospel! They're good people! They're just scared to even talk to anyone wearing a black name tag.

To explain the "lisp" in Spanish here: they still use the regular "s" sound too; the "th" sound is given to certain letters. For example, "cielo" vs "sielo". The first will be pronounced "thielo" because it has the soft c. The second will still be pronounced "sielo," even by the most Spanish of Spaniards. The letter "z" is also always given the "th" sound. For example, "pez" is pronounced "peth." Tho I hope thith lethon helpth your underththanding increath! :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hold to the Rod

Elder Jonathan Ogden sent this song home.
The tenor is Elder Ogden. The bass is Elder Knorr!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gobble, gobble, gobble! Thanksgiving coming up in the Mission Field!

Hello family and friends!

Despite raging rumors and whispered wishes of where I would go for the next transfer cycle, I ended up staying here in Segovia, again! This marks the beginning of my 4th transfer here, as well as the beginning of my 4th transfer with Elder Zollinger. This has a few specific significances: first off, I'll be here for Thanksgiving and Christmas! As you all probably can imagine, Spain isn't huge when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving (go figure) but they have some great Christmas traditions and I can't wait to experience as many as I can! I also eagerly anticipate the arrival of my Christmas package and am already steeling myself against the inevitable urges I will have to open the presents early. I think I'll be able to do it!

As for our investigators, we still have Alfredo and William, the dynamic father-son duo who would both probably be baptized by now if it weren't for the fact that they're leaving to Colombia for the holidays so soon. We've done all we can to prepare them in the way of testimony building and exhortations to continue daily scripture study and prayer. That's all that we can do. We've also considered sending their information to the elders in Colombia and, of course, I'm a bit nervous in doing so. I just hope that those two elders who get the reference appreciate how golden these two men are. If Dad was still down there serving, I would have no reservations in sending him the reference :) but I'm dealing with an unknown here so I have a few insecurities.

I love you all and I thank you for your continued correspondence! I'm doing just fine here in Spain and will keep working as hard as I can until my time is up. The Church is true!

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fall has Fell in Segovia

Elder Zollinger and I haven't quite fused into one individual, though we've started to speak in perfect unison at all times. This makes it rather difficult to contact people in a normal, natural way, but our companionship unity is better than ever! ;)

The weather has gotten rather cold here in the past week. I'd equate it to the early autumn temperatures we experience in Utah. The funny thing is that when it gets that cold here, Spaniards act like it's reaching lows from the movie "The Day After Tomorrow"! One day Presidente Galera marvelled, "Elderes, saben que llego a dos bajo zero esta manana? Dos bajo zero!!!" ["Elders, do you know it's going to be two below zero this morning? Two below zero!" - that's Celsius, which equals 28.4 degrees Farenheit.] It was apparently very, very cold for him at two below zero. I've personally experienced much lower temperatures than that in Utah Valley, and I can't even tell my companion, who comes from Idaho Falls, a single thing about coldness as it often reaches 20 to 25 below F out there! So we both silently chuckle at how cold the Spaniards get with a light breeze in bright sunlight. I've been dressing warmer just in case though, wearing my coat so that I don't catch a truculent gripe [pugnacious cold]!!

THANK YOU SO MUCH for the Thanksgiving package (which I received about a week ago). I was very pleased with all of its contents. Oh, where do I start? First of all, thank you for the Christmas music! We've started playing it every day and it's really getting us in the yuletide mood! I'm already seeing in shades of vivacious green and incarnadine red. There was a disc of MoTab music, Come Thou Fount, but since I already have all that on my current MoTab disc, I gave it to Elder Zollinger, I hope you don't mind. And thank you so much for the entire General Conference! The first thing we did was listen to the session that we missed and enjoyed it thoroughly, geeking out especially over Jeffrey R. Holland and D. Todd Christofferson's talks, then we reviewed many others and have been greatly uplifted and edified. Then, there was the food. Food, food, food! We got all the fixings necessary for a fine Thanksgiving dinner, which we will no doubt prepare and consume in the near future. Then there was a bag of caramels, a bag of pistachios, a bag of candy corn (fun!), and a bag of Reese's Pieces. Yummy beef jerky was also found, along with MANY, MANY pouches of Stephen's hot cocoa mix. I think this hot cocoa mix is an incredibly good idea and would not mind getting more of it in my next package. I've already enjoyed two of them, and plan on enjoying the rest of them in the near future. :) There might have been more contents that I am forgetting. In any case, all the contents were well received and I thank you all so very much for the package. It was great!

I've been taking lots and lots of pictures in the past couple of weeks, preparing for an imminent CD of pictures. I've been thinking on how and when I will be sending it home and decided that I'll probably be sending a small Christmas package and I'll just include it in there. Is everyone ok with that plan of action?

Transfers are coming up, and I'm pretty sure that I'll get moved this time. To where exactly, I'm not sure. But a move is likely coming, so be advised. I don't like having to move all of my stuff; it is quite a hassle. I do, however, look forward to the adventure of seeing a new place and doing missionary work in a new location. There are both good stresses and bad stresses involved with transfers.

Also, I'd like to inform you all that today is 11/11/2009 and I caught 11:11 AM on my wristwatch as we did a bit of hiking in Cercedilla. It was very cold up there today! I made good use of my scarf, beanie, earmuffs and gloves, as I'm sure you'll all see when I send pictures home. We summited a small mountain there and the view was beautiful! I was sure to take a good amount of pictures this time and I predict that it won't be long until I have enough to justify the disc. Maybe the first week of next transfer I'll do it?

Thank you all for your letters of love and support. Still working hard out here in Segovia! Not too many people who want to listen, but we do a lot of contacting anyway. And that's life! Write back soon.

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Month 8...

Wow. Who knew the time would fly so fast? I don't feel like I've been out this long... it's just snuck up on me! I've been having the time of my life though. It just impresses on my mind the importance of making every day count.

I laugh to hear about the "shrine" you've got of me. :) I'll try to take some pictures that will work well for a life-size cutout.

It is currently week 5 of the 6 week transfer cycle, so in a week and a half we'll have them again. Elder Zollinger and I are pretty sure someone is going to get moved but, as usual, we really don't know anything so it's all wild speculation at this point. I wouldn't mind staying in Segovia at all; I've grown to love it here.

As for my current whereabouts: I'm in Madrid again, within a minute's walk of the Temple. Since today is Preparation day and tomorrow is Zone Conference, we decided to come up early and spend the day here. We'll be staying in the Barrio 6 piso, and you know what that means... Elder Ogden!!! Yes, we'll be having a grand ol' time today and tonight and tomorrow. I'm quite happy about it. We spent an hour or two already playing some futbol in the pit, taking some pictures and making some audio recordings. No doubt we will take and make more.

I'm also excited for zone conference because that means we will soon receive mail again (finally). The cycle seems to be that we receive mail about once every three weeks, so I've resigned myself to that. But that will change, of course, if I get sent to a new area closer to the center. I can't wait to see what letters and packages are awaiting me. :)

The Swine Flu (or as they call it here, La Gripe A) is a commonly talked-about topic. I have been fortunate enough to avoid not only it but also almost every other sickness, and have been in good health this entire time. If I have been sick, I haven't really noticed at all, for which I am very thankful.

Alfredo's family continues to progress well. He and his son William are our only progressing investigators right now but they're both doing really well with their reading and church attendance. They're just good people, that's all there is to it! I don't worry too much about not seeing success as I'd like to see it; baptisms isn't the gauge of a successful missionary.
Obedience and hard work are, so I focus on being as perfect as I can in those and leave the rest to the Lord. After all, the only baptisms I've participated in on my mission thus far were of the Mejia boys, neither of which I found or really taught very much. Someone else did all the work there. And with things going the way they're going now, it looks like I probably won't be the one to baptize Alfredo or William either. That doesn't matter though. All that matters is that they get baptized and stay strong afterwards. The details of who gets to do the ordinance is just superficial.

We set a goal last week to push ourselves and make 200 contacts. The normal standard is to do 15 a day, thus getting 105 by the end of the week, but we wanted to put forth a special effort to find, so we doubled it. We worked hard all week and... we got 201. :) There have been whispering rumors that I'm going to get transfered to the office. To these I respond "I'm too young to die!" :) Nah, I'm just kidding, I'd love to serve in the office and do the work there. We'll see what happens with the mazy ordeal we call transfers this time around.

Now, I just want ALL of you to know that I'm very grateful for the letters and packages you've sent. I thank you ALL for your diligence in writing me, especially those of you who are more diligent. ;) And I very much enjoy receiving the letters, packages and pictures that come through for me, and I will gladly receive them for as long as they will be sent. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Well, I need to get going now. Thanks for the email correspondences you sent me this week, I enjoyed them very much. I hope you all do well this week and keep smiling, no matter what!

-Elder Knorr