Friday, December 24, 2010

Learning LSE and Christmas Plans!

Hello family! It's been a great week this week and I'm excited to share my experiences.

First off, we just barely taught Isaac, our friendly deaf investigator. In our last lesson (the one before this one) he had expressed the desire to be baptized, which made Elder Holub and I very happy. However, we still haven't been able to "cover much ground" as far as the lessons and doctrines go. I realized the other day while I was riding the train from Segovia that there is no way that Isaac can enjoy the gospel fully without an interpreter. There are no Church materials in LSE (Lengua de Signos Española), no videos are translated into that language (almost all are translated into ASL, but that does Isaac little good as the two languages are as different as English and Spanish.) Also, reading in Spanish is difficult because there are many words, especially scriptural language, that he does not understand. This is to say nothing of the Church meetings which, as you can probably imagine, are mind-numbingly boring for him. We'd looked high and low, in Villalba and Madrid, for an interpreter member of the Church who could volunteer their time, but we found no one. We could pay to have a professional interpreter come, but that isn't a sustainable option.

So, I saw no other option than to buckle down and learn LSE for myself: not just a token effort to get across some broad principles, but actually learn it. I wanted to be able to teach Isaac better and to be able to interpret for him during Church meetings. I've dedicated my daily hour of language study time during the day to learn LSE, and I also take time during meals and right before and after sleeping to studying it. I checked out a LSE grammar book from the local library (where we do weekly emails) and I've been going through it. I'm enjoying learning, but after our lesson today (which went great) I see how important this really is. I love Isaac and want him to be able to share the blessings of the gospel that I've received, and as long as he's still willing to learn the gospel, then I'll be willing to learn and speak his language. In the meantime, we've gotten two of the members of the ward to start learning so that when I leave, there will still be someone here to interpret.

Our hearing investigators are doing great, too. :) We met a man named Mario, a very energetic Spaniard in his mid-30s who's looking for the truth. He loved the Restoration movie and is really diving in to the Book of Mormon. He's learning a lot, and he understands the importance of the Spirit. We talked about baptism, and he expressed concern about getting baptized because of his addiction to smoking. We explained that we can help him quit and he was very excited about the idea! We'll be visiting with him today to teach him more, and get him started on the quit-smoking program.

Natalia, a young Spanish-Brazilian investigator, passed her baptismal interview this week. Her baptism is set for the January 3rd, and we're very excited for her. Also, Michelle Coello, another investigator from Ecuador, has recovered in part from her surgery and is feeling ready to get baptized. We are all praying to know what her date will be.

Christmas and Christmas Eve Day are somewhat lame in the field. Why? Because almost no one wants to meet with you on those days. Everyone's spending it with family, or at a party with friends, or something else. No one seems to want to spend it with the lame, boring, weird missionaries. Well, that's not true. There are a few families who have invited us over: one to eat at mediodia Christmas Eve and one to eat mediodia Christmas. Besides that, we'll probably spend most of our time in the streets contacting Muslims and Chinese people. Fun!

We've been saving packages and putting them under Elder Holub's little Christmas Tree in the corner and have been enjoying a variety of Spanish Christmas-y delicacies.

Hampson [the leg of ham] is holding up well. We hit bone on one side of the leg, so we've started cutting in on the other side. This second side is much more juicy and tender than the first. Mmmm....

I love you all and I'm anxiously looking forward to being able to talk with you! Merry Christmas, everyone! I love being a missionary, even though it restricts some of my ability to celebrate Christmas the normal way with all of you. Know that I have you in my thoughts and prayers.

Till next time,

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Missionary Work is Great Here!

Hello! Wow, lots of news this week from my family, and home in general! I don't know where to begin...

I let out shocked cries of "What!?!" concerning Lauren Elliot and David Butler. It's funny the things that happen
in life that you never would have seen coming, isn't it? In any case, they look very happy together and I'm sure they are. And it's nice to see a photo of my old friend Isaac (this is only the 2nd one I've seen of him in a two-year period) and also Melanie. They also look very happy together! I wish them all the best in their new life together... wow. All my friends getting married. I heard that Ben Quilter is getting married too! Oddly enough, I find it easy to disbelieve all of this because of my distance from it. In other words, my removal from the situations at home allow me to suspend reality and not actually consider the implications of things that are really happening. Yes, I consider myself informed, but only in the shallowest sense. I suppose it will all come crashing down on me when I get home. Fortunately, I can also suspend that reality. Let the good times roll!!! Onward, ever onward....! :)

Moving on: Ethan continues to prove his awesomeness by buying another Nerf gun and crafting his own duct tap
e suit. Happy Birthday, Ethan, and welcome to a whole new era of your life. I'm glad I'll be around for the majority of it. You don't even know all of the great things that are waiting for you in your future.

And I am very glad to have r
eceived pictures of my two beautiful sisters, including one with the until-now-thought-mythical Justin. It looks like they are also very happy together. What dance was this picture taken before?

Well, missionary work is GREAT here! It's cold, but there's no snow. Yesterday was the most "bomb
-town" (a companionship catchphrase) day that I've had in a long, long time. We taught two very spiritual lessons to Natalia, a young investigator with a baptismal date for next week, and Mariana, a Romanian woman who hardly understands a thing in Spanish, but has achieved a very strong testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon by reading it in Romanian and praying about it. We then found two new, excited investigators.

I'm loving working here, with this companion, with these members, in this area, in this Work. I know it's true. I want everyone to know that for themselves, here abroad and at home as well. If you are won
dering whether this message is true or not, I invite you all to take a bit of time to study it out in your mind, read some Church material, and pray and ask God, your Heavenly Father, if it is the Truth. I promise you all that if you do, your testimony will be strengthened, as mine has been time and time again out here in the mission field. Everything will fall into its proper place. You will receive additional clarity and insight, as well as peace and comfort. The Gospel is true. The Church is true. Those things will never change. The only thing that can change is how much each of us personally know that it's true, and that makes all the difference in the end. Try. Know. I promise you you'll never regret it.

Well, that's all the time I have today. I love you all! Take care of yourselves and each other, and thanks for all of the love you continually show me. Bye!

-Elder Knorr

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hello! Meet Hampson! (pictures below)

The weather has been very stormy here in Villalba. Lots of snow, rain, wind and cold. It mellowed out near the end of the week and the temperature got quite pleasant for a little while. Today is normal, with rather gray skies and not-too-cold temperatures. Maybe a bit of light rain later on.

Anyway, enough talking about the weath
er! Things continue to go well here in Villalba. There seems to be a curse on this area, however: we find lots of people to teach, they do great at first, but then they all seem to run into unsolvable obstacles and lose drive. It's really sad. We've tried so hard to help them but they don't seem to ever progress. It's a challenge. In the meantime, we keep looking for new people and trying to help the ones we're already teaching. Preach my Gospel says that my responsibility is to teach with clarity and power so that people can make the right choice. Beyond that, and exhorting them with all diligence, there's not much we can do. They have to make their own decisions, and sometimes they just make really dumb ones. Missionary work is quite frustrating sometimes.

In the meantime, we're working really well with the members. They have a lot of drive to help us here, which actually pains me sometimes, beca
use if any ward deserved to have more baptisms, it's this one, and I just wish we could give them what they want. It will take some time but I'm sure that if we are obedient, work hard, and teach to people's needs, the Lord will do the rest and people's hearts will be changed.

I successfully made some delicious Honey Barbecue Chicken the other day. Also, our leg of cured ham is treating us quite well. :) Hampson is
his name, and we've been working our way through him over the past week. [More pictures below.] I remember Elder Zollinger made me promise to do this at least once in my mission, and I'm glad I did. It's been quite a Spanish experience, eating slices of cured ham on Spanish "pan del dia" with a bit of cured cheese on the side. From what I understand, spanish jamon is not allowed in the United States by the FDA, so I won't be able to send any home. Sorry!

Well, I think I'll spend the rest of my email time attaching pictures to this email. Enjoy! I love you all. I haven't gotten any letters i
n a while. Can we see what we can do about that? Thanks! :)

-Elder Knorr

P.S. I've been asked to participate in the Mad
rid Stake Christmas Concert! I'll be playing an arrangement of Christmas carols on the clarinet! I'm pretty anxious because I haven't played the clarinet in a very long time, but I'm hoping that a lot of it comes back.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Officially in the Holiday Spirit!

Hello Dad! It was good to hear from you. I love Mom and everything but I like getting multiple perspectives on things as well. The Gary Powers U2 incident sounds like it was fun. I didn't expect that you would have success recreating it without some kind of missile guidance system (not even the Soviets were that good of shots). But it sounds like you and Ethan have been having a lot of fun together and building memories. I've made a long list of things that Ethan and I will do when I get back, so you'd better not get used to monopolizing all his time.

Work in Villalba continues to go well. We
've actually had a rough past couple days but I know it's just a minor setback. Monday was especially challenging as all of our visits fell through, it began to snow quite hard, and there was a Real Madrid vs Barcelona soccer match going on which means that NO ONE was on the street (they were all at home or in bars watching the game.) Yesterday was also a bit difficult. But today is looking great! We have a lot of good visits scheduled and a lot of solid plans on how we are going to help these people.

Alicia continues to progress very well. Her bigg
est challenge currently is that she is VERY smart and is greatly enjoying the Book of Mormon on an intellectual level, but needs to come to know with her mind and her heart that it's true. Other than that, she eats up everything and is very concerned about applying the gospel of Jesus Christ to her personal, everyday life.

Luchi's family is also doing well. They came to church this last Sunday. Getting people to come to church Sunday morning is of
ten quite difficult, as sleep and laziness usually impede them from doing so. To counteract this, we came up with a new idea for helping our investigators get to church: eat breakfast with them beforehand! We tried this first with some investigators, but it didn't work because the main investigator wasn't home and his wife was very willing to eat our pancakes... but not so willing to go to church. :S However, the second time, we were met with success! We made crepes for Luchi's family and took them to them an hour before church started. We had a fun breakfast with them, then all went together to church. It was especially good because last Sunday was the primary program, and Alvaro, one of Luchi's sons, participated in the singing! (he'd come for the previous two Sundays so he'd been in the rehearsals). It was a great experience for them and it really strengthened their testimonies. Today we'll be meeting and teaching an overview of the commandments, along with watching the Restoration movie. We're planning on bringing popcorn to keep Roger, the 5-year-old son, occupied and behaved (which is a challenge sometimes). They're all really great, especially Alejandro and Alvaro, the 12 and 11-year-old sons, and we're very confident that they will make their date.

Elder Holub and I are officially in the Holiday Spirit! Last Thursday, we were a bit sad because it looked like we weren't going to be able to do anything even remotely traditional for Thanksgiving, and we had visits planned all day, so we were just ready to forget about it. But an "anonymous" member left
us a fantastic surprise bag of American treats and goodies, and a less-active member later invited us over for a delicious Dominican Republic-style Thanksgiving, with real turkey and everything! It was a great day. The people here are so nice! Elder Holub's mom sent him a package with a nice nativity set and a little Christmas tree with all of the fixings to deck it with. We've started playing our Christmas CDs without restraint, and today we're planning on buying a leg of Jamon (basically a big, cured pig leg. Mmmm! P:) I'll take pictures.

By the way, a shout out to Elder Holub's mother: Your son is one of the greatest missionaries I have ever met. He has been raised well and he has a very strong work ethic and an even stronger testimony. He is really grateful to you for the decisions you've made that have affected his upbringing and knowledge. You really are his heroine.

Well, that's all the time I have today. Thanks so much for everything! I'm still going on those four boxes of cereal you sent me. I calculate that I have about enough left for another week-and-a-half of Post and General Mills bliss, then it's back to the Spanish regimen. I love you all!

-Elder Knorr