Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"It's been a great week, with lots to tell."

Hello everyone! It's Elder Knorr. I'm doing well here in Villalba. It's been a great week, with lots to tell.

Firstly, we were contacting in the morning last Friday (I think) and we met a woman named Alicia, a Spaniard woman in her late 40's early 50's. To our surprise, she was interested in listening and agreed to meet l
ater that very same day. She's been taught twice now and she really likes the gospel, the Book of Mormon, and the Church in general. We set a baptismal date in the first visit, and she's doing great! She has apparently worked in marketing a lot of her life, but she is now studying civil law (derecho) and wants to try and get in to that. We bumped into her last night in the street and she expressed her desire to have a bigger perspective than just the worldly and material. Today at 3:30 we'll be teaching her about the Plan of Salvation. I'm excited because I know it's just what she's looking for.

Another cool experience that ought to tickle Stephanie Raymond's fancy: When I was on exchanges with Elder Ottesen the Monday before last, we contacted a man named Isaac. At first he was unresponsive to our words, but finally saw us and motioned that he was deaf. A lot of people who we ap
proach on the street pretend that they're deaf, so at first we didn't believe him, but we were soon convinced. We used a pamphlet of the Restoration to explain to him, using words and sentences written in it, what it was that we were there to do, and I wrote him a message asking if he would be interested in having us come by later. He agreed and wrote down his name and phone number. We communicated for the next few days via text messaging, and then visited with him on Saturday.

When we went there, we met his wife, Andrea, who is also deaf. They are both from Chile, and we had a nice visit, communicating through gestures, things written to each other in a notebook that I had brought with me, and some Spanish Sign Language that they taught me. I learned how to say prophet, give, receive, God, Jesus Christ, family, friend, child, brother, th
e same, more, less, best, love, want, thank you, you're welcome, teach, witness, Saturday, Sunday, intelligent, all, see you later, and several other things. It was a nice visit but we weren't able to share much of our message because of the difficulty of communication. To be prepared for the next visit, I asked a member of the ward to do a little research and print out some gospel terminology in sign language for us. Remember how I included that request in the last email for advice from Stephanie? I would have really liked to have gotten that today! There are so many aspects of the gospel that I do not know how to apply to a deaf person, for instance, how do they pray? How do they enjoy church if everything is spoken or sung? They are both really great people and I feel that they would be interested in learning more about the gospel, but my knowledge is lacking in this area. We'll have our next visit before I can get a response from you, but if you could send me a bit of information in the next email, that would be fantastic. Thank you!

Other than that, there's not much going on. We tau
ght a Russian the other day, and we'll be teaching a man from Pakistan today. He speaks Urdu, but he said that he understands English well enough to read and understand, so we won't have to try to find a Book of Mormon in Urdu for him to read. Whew! :) I've had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world here in Spain, but boy would I just love to meet more Spaniards! :\ We'll see.

In other news, I'm planning on making Hidden Valley Ranch Crispy Chicken today. It seems to be a worthy alternative to my specialty fried chicken, but it's baked instead so it's much healthier. We'll see how it turns out. Now that I'm a free-range missionary again, I have time to cook and
eat good food, so I'm going to try and sharpen my cooking repertoire in the meantime.

I went on exchanges to Segovia two days ago, something that was very nice. We visited a lot of recent converts and less-active members that I had known and taught them doctrines to try and get them to go back to church and endure to the end. It was nice to see those people and
to have a positive influence in their lives again.

Sounds like everything's going well back in Utah, with family and friends and the like. Thanksgiving Dinner will be somewhat tragic
this year. We're going to eat lunchmeat turkey with mashed potatoes. We haven't been able to think of a substitute for turkey gravy yet, so we're more or less at a standstill in that regard. As for stuffing, we haven't the slightest clue how to start, so we'll probably leave that untouched. It definitely won't measure up to last year's glorious thanksgiving dinner, but it'll be alright. I have lots to be thankful for, in any case. Maybe I'll make fried chicken.Well, that's about all I've got this week. It was fun. Thanks for the emails, love, packages, prayers, letters and thoughts. I love you! Happy Thanksgiving.

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hello everyone! Things are still going well here in Villalba.

Winter is well on its way as we've had a good number of rainstorms and windstorms and sunshowers and just all around cold. It's all very reminiscent of a year ago when I was in this same region in Segovia and experiencing similar weather. All in all, however, the experience is much different, owing to the large differences between Villalba and Segovia as proselyting areas.

We continue to have remarkable success when it comes to finding people to teach. There are a lot of people willing to listen, and all we have to do is open our mouths and speak with as many people as possible to find them. We find a lot of new investigators who are willing to learn more. Of course, they all have varying levels of genuine interest, but we do our part to help them understand the importance of the message and what God expects of them.

Actually, this last week I realized something for the first time: I can now honestly say that I am "myself" in the lessons. It's something that's been so hard for me to do, because of the difficulty with expressing myself in the language, teaching new gospel principles, and just meeting brand new people all of the time. A lot of the time missionaries get into "robot mode" in lessons and forget to be themselves. But, in a lesson the other day with Jonatan, a young South American investigator, I truly felt like I was myself, just teaching and explaining gospel principles. I'm really glad that I've finally achieved this, and it's something that I am going to have to continue to work at, but it was refreshing to finally unite my past with my present in that way.

We have several investigators right now, but all seem to have challenges when it comes to their progress in the gospel. Walter and Noa, a young couple, have been trying to give up smoking (especially Noa) but we think that she's fallen again and is embarrassed about it and doesn't want us to know. Luis, an investigator who was supposed to get baptized this Saturday, didn't show up to his baptismal interview even though the Zone Leaders from Madrid made the trip up to Villalba just for that. We're thinking he might need some more time, but it's getting hard because this is the second time we've psyched everyone out on his baptism and I think it might be hurting his drive to get baptized. He didn't really have a good excuse for missing the interview... And then there's Natalia, who has a testimony and wants to get baptized but has one little problem: getting up on time to get to Church. So simple, yet so impeding. Thus is missionary work in Villalba lately.

We do, however, have one investigator who is totally unstoppable. His name is Carlos. He's about 30 years old, a Spaniard, married to a Bolivian woman named Nereyda, and they have a little son named Sergio. We found Carlos by mistake. We were walking around and we met Nereyda as she sat on a bench and watched Sergio play in the park. We approached her and began talking to her about the Gospel. She invited us to sit down and teach her right there, so we did! She seemed to have moderate interest in hearing more, so she gave us her address and phone number and we set up a return visit. We passed by a few days later to check in and confirm the visit, and guess who answers the door? Carlos. He eagerly invited us in and began to talk about how he'd met with missionaries extensively a few months before and how he was all ready to get baptized, but the military called him and he hadn't been home for a while. We set up a new baptismal date with him right there and let him know what it would take to get there, and he was totally willing to give it his all. The only obvious obstacle for him at this point is smoking, but I think we'll be able to work with him on that. Nereyda doesn't have the same level of eagerness to get baptized as he does, but neither is she opposed to listen, so I think she has some good potential as well.

One big problem we're facing right now is that our phone is almost out of saldo. Cell phone service in Spain works on the principle of a "Saldo Limit," which means that a certain amount is set at the beginning of the month and once that limit is reached, the phone no longer makes calls (though it can still receive for a time). There are no overage charges because there is no possibility of going over. However, missionary work is very hard to do in this day and age without a phone. We need to contact references, set up lessons, confirm visits, coordinate with members, and communicate with mission leaders. On the 12th of the month, we received a text message informing us that we had used 65% of our saldo. We called in to the office to ask for an increase, and it was granted, but we need to find a more long-term solution to this problem. We already do everything we know how to do to be efficient with our saldo, but it's hard. We'll keep trying to figure it out.

Anyway, this was a rather newsy, report-like email, but I hope you've liked it anyway. I've been enjoying the scrumptious breakfast cereals I got last week. :) Joy! Thank you very much. I've also been putting the Tootsie Rolls to good use, keeping them in my coat pocket to give to members and investigators so that they can have a "taste of America." They've been a big hit.

Thanks for everything! I love you all a lot.

-Elder Knorr

P.S. We will be teaching a deaf man on Saturday. Could you communicate with Stephanie Raymond and ask her for some tips? I know the sign language differs, but if she could give me some insight into how deaf people would view the Gospel, I would be very grateful (for instance, how do they pray in meetings?). Thanks!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


It's me, a somewhat tired Elder Knorr.

It's been a busy last two days. I went up to Madrid for a companionship exchange, beginning Monday morning, and it's lasted 2 days. This morning, we ended it by going up to Segovia for a Zone activity by bullet train. It was a fun activity, and it was nice to be in Segovia again, of course. However, I'm quite exhausted after so many consecutive days of unexpectedness and adventure. Not to mention that since we left the Madrid 1 apartment, I've been carrying around a 20 pound box of Libro de Mormon on my shoulder, or under my arm, or in front of me, etc., plus my two backpacks that I brought on exchanges. I'm a bit sore...

Rumors are that I've received a package while I was away and that it's waiting for me in the apartment. Only time will tell if these rumors are true.... :)

So yeah, Villalba is an awesome area. I thought I'd take some time to describe it to you.

Villalba is a small, uncelebrated, clean little town about 30 minutes from Madrid on the bus. It lies almost exactly halfway between Madrid and Segovia, on the Madrid side of the mountain range. Thus, it gets slightly warmer temperatures and not quite as much snow as the other side. It's population is mostly Spaniard, but with lots of South Americans (Colombians, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Bolivians, Paraguayans, Dominicans, etc.), and an relatively large number of Morrocans (Muslims). There is also a smattering of Bulgarians and Romanians. Most of the activity in the city happens on Calle Real, the main street that divides the city in half. A river runs through Villalba, but it isn't a very pretty river. There are often ducks floating in it and I've heard that river otters have been spotted there occasionally.

The ward in Villalba is impressive: a large compliment of Spaniard members with a good mix of South Americans as well. It has over a hundred people at sacrament meeting every week, and is well known for its outstanding musical talent. There are many members of all ages willing to accompany us to lessons and help us in missionary work. That, plus the good work done here by Elder Holub and Elder Meek, is the biggest reason for all of the success here lately. I hope to continue the tradition.

I've enjoyed this last week, though today specifically I will sing praises when it's time to go to bed (I'm very tired). In the meantime, I'll keep working hard, meeting new people, sharing the Gospel and doing my best to please the Lord. La vida es una lucha, but with the help of Christ and the ones we love, we can win.

Take care! Thank you for the letters that have been sent to me recently. I appreciate beyond words your love and support.

Until next time,

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Well, I'm not in Barrio 1, as I thought I would be.

...Instead, I was sent to replace Elder Meek in Villalba, a small city north of Madrid. It just happens to be in the same district as.... Segovia! It's been somewhat eerie and surreal walking the same streets that I did on exchanges several times a year ago, and just to top off the weirdness, I went to Segovia today for preparation day and visited a few of the members and streets that I know so well. It was great, but, like I said, weird.

Villalba is an incredible area! When I got here, there were 7 people with baptismal dates! Since then, some have been adjusted, and others have been added. There are a lot of great people here: members, in
vestigators, and everyone else. Sure, it's still hard work, but it is doable. I have a great companion, Elder Holub, who is incredibly focused and hard-working, and also super optimistic.

It's great being out of the office and being able to work full time again. I've missed being able to focus purely on missionary work. No more residency trips! No more empadronamiento [census] checks! No
more email-sorting, file-organizing, or report-preparing! No more embassy-registering, contract-negotiating, or reference-forwarding. Just good old missionary work. Talk about a breath of fresh air. :)

We have some neighbors who are friends of ours who live down the hall: Ana María, and her kids Joaquín and María Jo. They're from Peru, but they lived in the United States for a long time and are now big fans of Halloween. Before I came here, they had been decorating ours and their apartment doors with paper pumpkins and ghosts, and spider webs. So, the day of Halloween came and we decided to dress up a bit for the kids (who both speak
perfect English and really like us). I dressed up as a basic vampire and my companion was a rudimentary mummy. We also made "Monster Brownies" for them, complete with candy eyeballs and teeth, and took them over. It was fun. I'll send a picture of the dress-up, but the picture of the doors and brownies will have to wait.

Life is good. I'm in an apartment with just two of us again, so it gets a little lonlier than it did before. The weather is getting a bit cold, rainy and windy. I like it. Soon I'll be able to wear my awesome trenchcoat again. In the meantime, we've jus
t been wearing light jackets.

I love you all and am glad t
o be a missionary. We have to go grocery shopping now, but know that I'm doing fine and that I plan on writing some letters to my favorite family on earth soon.


-Elder Knorr