It's been a fat minute since I've sent an email. I don't think I've even sent one whilst here in Germany. I honestly appreciate all the emails I've gotten, and I read each and every one of them. Too much has happened and I don't want to send an essay, so if you want to know more about what happened, just send me an email. Anyways here's the rundown of where I'm at. I'm currently serving in Bad Bentheim with Elder Tillett. He's a great guy, and I'd say we're on the same wavelength in a lot of ways. We live in Rheine, which is 30 minutes away from the actual town of Bad Bentheim. Fun fact: Bad Bentheim is less than 10km from the Netherlands border.
This week was a good ol' time. We had a split with Elder Fawcett and Elder Umsworth down in Hamm. Having some contact with other missionaries is a real morale booster, and we had some fun along the way. One of their members bought them some non-alcoholic beer, and we all gave it a try. One word about the taste: Naw.
Just yesterday we were able to have our first in-person District Council in Münster with the Zone leaders. We had a fun ol' time. Afterwards we went across the street to a Döner shop. It was by far the best Döner I've ever had by far.
Finally, the big ol' missionary moment. We have an investigator named Sabine, and she's been amazing. She actually approached two elders a while ago saying she wanted to be baptized, but they were just about to shut down Bad Bentheim as an area, so it never ended up going anywhere. She's been connected with the ward for a while, and we were trying our best to meet with her but it just kept falling through. She made us dinner this week and it was delicious. We also are going to be going on a walk with her to let her know that we baptize during COVID, and talk more about faith and what not. So sick. I can understand her pretty darn well, and although my vocabulary sucks I think I'm making some great improvements, especially with being able to understand.
*Don't worry, there wasn't any alcohol in it.
From Left to Right [Elder Fawcett, Elder Tillett, Elder Umsworth, Blonde man]
MOMENTS BEFORE REGRET...TASTED LIKE GARBAGE
DINNER FROM SABINE
COMPANION ELDER TILLETT
Andrew left for Bad Bendheim on January 21st. He took a 4-hour train ride from Darmstadt all the way north to Dortmund where the Elders picked him up and drove an hour to their apartment in Rheine, Germany. The stake center in this area is actually in a city called Bad Bentheim which is close to the border of the Netherlands. In Andrew’s words: “I arrived in my new area on the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century.” The day after Andrew arrived, he got to spend his first p-day exploring the outer skirts of the castle in Bad Bentheim. The castle was closed but the bakeries and other things around it were open. A few days later, Andrew gave a 5-minute talk in church and all in German.
The beginning of February brought a lot of snow to the area. Andrew and his companions were able to help several people get their cars out of the snow. He said it felt good to be able to serve others. Since the new shutdowns in Germany, it was rare to be able to help or converse with other Germans on the streets. The rules are pretty strict. They are essentially on Stay-at-Home orders. On February 10th, however, a big group of missionaries got the clear to head to Frankfurt to get their residency papers. In Andrew’s words: “Had a 5-hour road trip down to Frankfurt and a 4.5 hour one back to Rheine this week. Got my residency papers, so I'm currently registered and got my passport back.” This month Andrew also got to participate in his first German Stake Conference. There was lots of “What did he just say?”
FROM THE MISSION PRESIDENT (JAN/FEB 2021):
Germany is currently in strict lockdown. Surgical grade masks and social distancing are strictly enforced. Curfews from 8pm through 5am have been in effect. Hotels and all attractions are closed. Everything is closed except grocery stores. Restaurants are closed except for takeout. Everyone is expected to stay at home unless your work requires you to work in person. In some areas, travel is restricted to 15 km from your home. Missionaries cannot teach friends of the church or members in their homes, because only 1 individual may visit any given household at a time. As of last Sunday, only 10 individuals could attend church in person.
Due to these incredibly stringent restrictions, every mission in Europe was at a decade’s low compliment of missionaries. The Frankfurt mission normally has around 170 missionaries but at the end of 2020, we were in the eighties, around half of normal. Many cities, wards and branches had lost their missionaries. While many missions in Europe continue to shrink, Germany has been greatly blessed due to the fasting and prayers of the faithful, combined with amazing work from our Area personnel and several miracles from our Father in Heaven. We have received 93 new missionaries over a few months. There are 155 missionaries with 55 Sisters (35%). Only 15 (27%) of our sisters have much experience as a missionary in Germany and we have a similar lack of experience with the Elders. The majority of our missionaries are struggling with German. Some of our sisters served initially in missions in the US and arrived in Germany having only 9 or 10 months left on their missions. Four missionaries began training after only 6 weeks in Germany.
Our new missionaries came from the US through England because Germany’s borders are still closed to travel from the US. We had 24 missionaries who flew to England in December and then a new and more virulent strain of COVID was detected there. Germany closed it borders to travel from England. Miraculously, we were able to get 14 of the 24 into Germany in early January. This included 2 missionaries who, due to horrible traffic, arrived at the airport just minutes before their flight was scheduled to depart. The flight was delayed, and they were barely able to catch it. Ten Missionaries were not allowed to board their flights in England on different days and were reassigned to 3 missions in England. In yet another miracle, those missionaries are now in Croatia and will be flying to Germany next week. All of Europe has now restricted travel from England, so we clearly see the hand of the Lord in getting these missionaries to Croatia.
Covid has had a major impact on missionary work in Germany. Those we were finding and teaching dropped to a multi-year low. This combined with all the restrictions were especially discouraging. After Sister Hammon and I arrived in the fall, for 3 weeks straight only 20 new friends of the church were found each week in the entire mission, averaging just 0.4 new friends per companionship. This week, that number nearly tripled to 64 new friends, (1.1/companionship). Our missionaries are so diligent in so many ways, basically reinventing how missionary work is done. This week, our missionaries posted and boosted an add on Facebook for one week in 3 languages, (German, English, and Persian). We received 48 self-referrals with 38 requesting copies of the Book of Mormon and 10 wanting more information about the church. Social media is a new and exciting way of sharing the gospel, but we can’t forget about what missionaries have been doing since the church was restored. We have been commanded as missionaries to open our mouths at all times, and in all places (D&C 24:12). This is not always easy, especially when you struggle with German and can’t understand what they are saying as is the case with many of our missionaries. Although it says, “fear not” multiple times in the scriptures (D&C 6:36), we all experience it. Three weeks ago, our missionaries spoke to 954 individuals in 1 week. Last week, they spoke with 2,876 children of our Father in Heaven about His gospel.
Of all the words that I used earlier to describe missionary work at this time in Germany, we feel miraculous is most accurate. We read in 2 Nephi 27:23, “For behold, I am God, and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.”
We love our missionaries and the faith you exhibit is inspiring. Miracles are happening every day in this mission in finding, loving, teaching, strengthening, and speaking German because God is a God of miracles.
President & Sister Hammon
On December 18th, Andrew flew from Manchester to Frankfurt, Germany. He was greeted by President Hammon and his wife. He then headed to the mission office building where he quarantined for 5 days. He was able to take a COVID test which was negative and was then sent on a train to his first area in Darmstadt on December 24th. It was an interesting train ride with one of the sisters that was also heading to Darmstadt. In Andrew's words: "Today we are leaving to our assignments - we took the U-bahn to the train station, which is a neat station. They bought us tickets last minute. Me and the sister missionary got on the train to go to Darmstadt together. She's been out for 10 months already and is just now getting to Germany. We sat together on one side, which had normal seats, and put our bags on the side with an aisle. In front of us were fold out seats so we just put our bags next to it. Unfortunately, in our excitement to get to Darmstadt, we totally lost brain cells and left the bags on their wheels. As we pulled to the first stop the bags all started to rush down the aisle next to us. I had to dive out to get the bags, managing to stop them next to the bathroom. We had a good laugh about it and put them in front of us instead, so we could just catch them while sitting down. Not our brightest moment, but it was funny. I'm in one of the two elder companionships in Darmstadt and both of them are together in a quad apartment. Our apartment is good, not to nice, not too shabby."
Andrew met his new companion, Elder Jenks (District Leader) and the two other Elders in Darmstadt (Elder King and Elder Jackson), one of which is the Zone Leader. In Andrew's words: "After dropping off my bags we went straight to a lunch with a German family. I felt like a deer in the headlights. I understood like 70-80% of what they said, especially the wife who said she served in Temple Square. We talked about me being new in Germany, what our families do on Christmas Eve, and the husband talked about how the covid mutation in England almost stopped me from getting here. I feel proud that I could understand them but was so mesmerized at being able to understand a German person right off the bat that my brain flat-lined and I couldn't muster a good enough response in German. Need to work on my vocabulary." One of the members fed them on Christmas Eve. In Andrew's words: "I had my first dinner with a member. It was really tasty. He made us cake, let us eat cookies, and played a card game with us. He is an incredible member, and I totally embarrassed myself with bad German, but that's ok because at least I tried. Germans, so far as I've been told, usually reserve singing silent night until Christmas Eve. Since his family is getting back into town tomorrow, we sung silent night in German with him. It was really neat." This member gave Andrew and his companion really cool pens in a wooden engraved Darmstadt case. On Christmas Day, they spent time during the day at two different member's homes. It was nice that they had somewhere to go on Christmas. The work moves on, even during COVID. Although there haven't been a lot of service opportunities, the members have been awesome. Andrew really loves the people he has met so far in Germany.
After the New Year, Andrew was finally able to experience eating Doner. It was something that he had been looking forward to since finding out he was going on his mission to Germany. It did not disappoint. Doner is essentially a big meat sandwich. On January 9th the missionaries found a cat outside their apartment and were tempted to let him come in and chill with them. It was kind of a highlight of their day. The next week on January 16th, Andrew found out that he was being transferred to a new area. In his words: “I am going all the way up to the literal edge of our mission at Bad Bentheim.” Before transfer day, Andrew and Elder Jenks took a little field trip to meet the sister missionaries who gave them both a haircut. The sisters had a little fun with Andrew's hair before making it look normal. It's great to see that these missionaries can find humor in the everyday. Andrew was also able to see Elder Helmer who he quarantined with in the UK before leaving for Rheine. He and Elder Jenks brought packages back from Frankfurt and delivered them to some of the missionaries in and around the Darmstadt area. It was a nice reunion.
ARRIVING IN FRANKFURT, GERMANY
LEAVING FOR DARMSTADT, GERMANY - 1ST AREA
GREAT BUS SYSTEM & AWESOME NEW DRINK DISCOVERIES
EATING DONER FOR THE FIRST TIME & FINDING A FRIENDLY CAT
FROM THE MISSION PRESIDENT (DEC 2021):
November and December were exciting months for our mission. In addition to receiving 3 wonderful missionaries from Europe, we have had four groups of missionaries join us from the United States.
It has been an interesting process getting these four groups into our mission. There have been three steps:
Several groups of missionaries have joined their companions in the mission field on the following dates:
Group 1 - 13 missionaries - November 24 (as shown in the November Der Mitarbeiter)
Group 2 - 27 missionaries - December 8
Group 3 - 24 missionaries - December 23
With these 64 new missionaries adding to our existing group of 97, our mission now has 137 missionaries. And we still have a group of 24 missionaries in England waiting to join us which would bring our number to 161 missionaries. They were to fly into Germany on December 29, but border restrictions have delayed their arrival. We are all praying that they will be able to join us soon.
We are so thrilled to be receiving these wonderful missionaries. We thank Brother and Sister Hicken, Brother and Sister Schott, the office elders, the assistants, and the Europe travel office for coordinating all the many details of their arrivals, housing, and transportation. We also thank all the missionaries involved in training these missionaries.
To all the missionaries of the Germany Frankfurt mission we say: "Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission Is come; and your tongue shall be loosed, and you shall declare glad tidings of great joy unto this generation." D&C 31:3
President and Sister Hammon
I've been quarantined in the Preston MTC here in England and I have to say, I'd rather not be quarantined again. But, I'll be doing that exact thing upon my arrival in Frankfurt, so that's lovely.
I've been put in a room with Elders Felt, Helmer, and Sumsion. Although I miss my friends back in Texas, all three of my roommates are going to Frankfurt with me, and we've had a great time. They're all funny guys, and in comparison to my last companion this is a heavenly situation. We also have been in contact with President Hammon (our Frankfurt mission president). He's incredibly passionate about missionary work, and truly loves all of us missionaries. We've been able to tune into some of the Frankfurt zone conferences, Monday morning prayers, and He's even had one on one interviews with us. I haven't heard of any other mission president for the missionaries here going to such lengths to meet with the missionaries and include them before they're even in Germany. I can't wait to get there.
Side note: he told us to really hit our german hard, as it's very possible that we'll only have 4-5 weeks of training before we're on our own or training other missionaries. Oh yikes.
Upon arrival, we were put into these rooms with some strict rules. We have to stay in these rooms unless we are going to our assigned bathroom. Food comes 3 times a day and we have to stay in our rooms while they deliver it. I don't know if this is a reflection of the country, but oh my goodness mayonnaise and cheese on a sandwich is by far the worst lunch idea I've tasted in a long time. We get many nutella packets with our meals, so we've done the only logical thing we could: use them as currency for different food items.
We were allowed outside time twice a day for 30 minutes, but had no room to really exercise. The classes they recommended we attend were basically our MTC classes but with different teachers, so we have been skipping them and practicing german on our own. Although it's been boring, we've had near daily devotionals from the area 70, which has been uplifting.
That was my boring schedule, however due to some changes in the UK our quarantine limit was shortened to 10 days. Although we have to stay in our rooms when food is delivered, we have unlimited outside time and are allowed to go throughout the entire MTC campus. We've had the opportunity to visit the temple grounds daily, and might have snuck onto the grounds during a run on our first day of freedom. We've also been going on runs through Chorley, the town we are right next to. It feels amazing to get out of the MTC, and these runs really hit home the fact that we aren't in the US anymore.
It rains a lot here, and It hasn't been completely overcast or rainy twice while we've been here. One of those times was yesterday afternoon. We went up to the temple during this time and the gates were open, so I snagged some pictures of the temple.
So that's my life right now, In about 48 hours I'm going to be on a plane to Frankfurt for quarantine v2. I miss y'all, and hope you're doing well.
- Elder Wilhelm
LAST DAYS IN TEXAS
ELDER WILHELM and ELDER ELDER (and yes...that is his name)
ELDER WILHELM & ELDER JOHN (COMPANIONS IN BONDS RANCH AREA)
ELDER WILHELM & ELDER LARSON
ORIGINAL MTC DISTRICT - ALL ARE FINALLY IN ENGLAND
I usually don't have much to talk about, so I have been sending emails every other week. However, I felt that today I had enough to say.
We've been working hard on connecting with our ward members, both active and inactive. We have an incredible new bishopric and ward mission leader, and our progress on a ward mission plan is going strong. I'm glad to see the positive impact we're having, and I hope to be able to keep this solid effort up! Other than that, I did a few other fun things this week.
We did a lot of service, from a Thanksgiving food drive to setting up rooms for kids at Christhaven. It feels great to help others, and we also made sure to have a fun time doing it.
Today is P-day, so we thought it would be fun to go fishing with the trio in our apartment. Some members who have an enormous ranch let us fish at one of their ponds. Only Elder Larson caught a fish, but I got a couple bites. We usually end up having a super fun times with each other, and the mission wouldn't be the same without them.
And that's my week! Short, I know, but I thought it'd be nice to check in!
I almost forgot: on December 3rd I'm going to quarantine in the Preston UK MTC for two weeks before heading to Germany!
I've been staying busy these past few weeks. Sometimes it seems that 12 hours is not enough time to get everything done, which I have a hard time hearing from the mouth of a lazy teenager. Regardless, I haven't really had much to say at all, hence the lack of emails the past few weeks.
I've done my best to make friends, have fun, feel the spirit, and work hard. After a little over a month in Texas I am confident in saying that I've gotten into the groove of being a missionary. We've been working hard on finding more people to teach, and have been working on setting up a ward mission plan alongside our newly made family history plan. We're still working at it and are praying for the best.
Aside from that, I technically am allowed to knock some doors! We are able to check up on inactive members or people who have been taught by the missionaries if they first don't respond via text or call. I've knocked a lot of those doors, and have had plenty slammed in my face. So I'd say I've gotten a solid taste of the classic pre-covid missionary experience.
This past week, Sister Schellenberg left to quarantine in the UK. She was the other German missionary in my zone, and was also out just a few weeks longer than me. I'm optimistic about heading to Germany soon, but it could be before December or well into next year. It's hard to tell.
My other big highlight was finding out that the Elders Quorum president in our ward has a two-seat plane in a trailer on his driveway. The wings fold up, and it has a giant parachute in the back to safely stop / land the plane during an emergency. He told us how he sometimes flies it when his kids are at school between the days he has to fly for work.
So that was my little captain's log, but I wanted to leave off with one small message. This Friday, President Nelson will be sharing "A Message of Hope and Healing" live around 11 AM MST. I encourage you to tune in, and I hope his message brings some comfort and peace into the hectic world we seem to live in.
See you next time!
- Andrew Wilhelm
Man time moves quickly. It's been about 4 weeks since I came out to Fort Worth Texas. These past two weeks have been focused on exchanges, service, and a little bit of finding. My companion is the district leader and as a result I go on exchanges twice a week.
Last Wednesday, I went on exchanges with Elder Edwards, who was originally assigned to Thailand. We spent most of our afternoon helping a member build the foundation for a small patio in their backyard. He lives with another companionship, where I got to meet Elder Fake. As it turns out, the both of us grew up on the same street over a decade ago when we lived in Dupont, Washington.
Last Saturday on my exchange with Elder Hawkes, we also had the opportunity to go to a service project. It was a short one involving hauling wood next to a lake. While out by the lake we saw all sorts of enormous insect, and Elder Hawkes even caught a big grasshopper bigger than my pointer finger. And most recently, I went on exchanges with Elder Hunt. A member called us at 9:30 asking if we could come help them with a project on a ranch. All the other missionaries in our district already planned to go to another service project, so we decided to go to the ranch instead. The members there were super nice, but we spent over 7 hours doing service at this ranch. We cut down trees, cut and hauled the logs through creeks, shoveled an unholy amount of dirt... It was tiring but really rewarding to ourselves and helpful to the members who needed it.
Last P-day I got our district permission to go to a store called "House of Blades". As the name implies, there were a ton of awesome bladed tools and weapons for us to look at. I got to hold a katana from the walking dead, which was really awesome. I like knives a lot, and we spent hours browsing through the different items for sale at the shop. I ended up buying a Karambit, which has a curved blade that looks like a talon. I bought it because I've often needed a knife during service projects, and it feels pretty sick to twirl it around.
Other than that we don't have plans for our P-day today so we're just relaxing at the apartment. I might go on a walk or something, who knows. I also recently received an email about gathering documents for my visa, and now the next step is waiting for my mission president to get a call about when I am to go to Germany. That call could come now, it could come next year, who knows. All I know is that I'm excited to have the opportunity to eventually go to Germany, and I'm doing my best to have a great time in Texas! Yesterday I had the opportunity to give a talk in the ward I'm serving in. I've attached a link to the talk in case you want to read it, but it revolved around these five steps anybody should take to be missionaries in our own capacity:
First, Draw closer to God
Second, Strive to be disciples of Christ
Third, Love others; be a good neighbor
Fourth, share what is in your heart
And Finally, Trust in the Lord to work his miracles.
I wish you all the best!