Elder Aaron Baxter
Germany Frankfurt Mission
Kirche Jesu Christi
Corneliusstrasse 18
60325 Frankfurt am Main

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Into The West

After 2 years, the time has come to say goodbye to Germany...

It was a curious final few days of my mission.  Recalling from last week, I ended the week sick, which had some effects on me throughout the week.  Monday, P-Day, was ultimately spent packing while still feeling a little sick to my stomach.  It wasn't enough to keep me home bound the whole day, I was able to do shopping and emails, but at the same time, appointments had to be rescheduled because both I and a member we would be taking were feeling too queasy for the task.  Of all the times to get sick on a mission, your final week is probably not the best.

Tuesday I was able to meet with others.  The day started by saying goodbye to an Elder in our area being transferred.  We waited with the staying Elder, Elder Domingues, for his new companion to come to Hanau.  After lunch, Elder Russell, an Elder I knew from my days in Siegen came in to Hanau to join Elder Domingues.  My companion and I then drove to meet with a less active member and so I could say goodbye.  The member had us sing some hymns with him and we read a scripture with him and we invited him to continue meeting with the Elders, because he's kind of a hard guy to stay in touch with.  After meeting this member, we then met his parents (also in the ward) so I could say goodbye to them.  We really just talked and read a scripture with them, because these members LOVE to talk.  In the evening we had our last meeting with the ward mission leader and choir practice, and during that time we also went to the hospital to say hello/goodbye to the assistant ward mission leader who had recently had a surgery.

Wednesday the original plan we had went completely out the window.  My companion was to leave for Frankfurt to pick up his new missionary while I stay in Hanau with the other Elders, but Elder Domingues became sick.  So instead of staying in Hanau, I got to go to Frankfurt a day earlier than planned and I was able to spend the day with the Tech Elders, or more specifically Elder Pfleumer, a past companion of mine.  I was also able to attend the trainer/new missionary pairing meeting and escort those missionaries to the hotel they were staying in that night.  It was fun to spend the day in Frankfurt and meet the new missionaries that would be filling in for my group that would be leaving the mission.

Thursday all the leavers met in Frankfurt for one final day.  We all went up to the Main Tower in Frankfurt with the mission president and his wife to get an overlook of Frankfurt, and then we had a short street display before heading to the mission home for some final words from the mission president and advice for the future.  We then went to a restaurant for a final German meal (my stomach still feeling a little small from being sick), and then we met in the Frankfurt chapel for the leavers testimony meeting.  I got to see some familiar faces at the meeting, there was a slideshow of pictures from all of our missions, and it was a great testimony meeting, including some final words from a member of an Area Seventy who was in attendance.  We then all left for the hotel, said goodbye to the mission president, and then played a game before getting some sleep for the travel home.  Friday morning we took a taxi from the hotel to the Frankfurt Airport, and before we knew it, all of us leavers were on a flight leaving Germany.  The flight to Atlanta consisted of a 9 and a half hour travel time, and all the willpower I had to not look at the guy sitting close to me as he was watching "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."  Surviving the trip, us leavers divided into smaller groups headed to different locations in America, and then I was on a plane to Salt Lake City.   It was close to a 4 hour flight, and the travel and anticipation started to get to me then, but I was able to meet my family at the Salt Lake Airport in one piece.  It was exciting to see them all again, and then we drove to our Stake Center and I was released as a missionary from my Stake President.  

Wrapping it all up, I'll leave with some thoughts and my testimony.  I am so grateful for my time serving as a missionary in Germany.  There were many experiences I had and people I met that I will never forget.  From my "Golden" days in Offenbach, a baptism and friendships made in Paderborn, serving as district leader in Schweinfurt,  acting as a branch secretary in Siegen, to finishing in Hanau, it has rightfully been an adventure in every aspect.  I know that God lives and that he is our loving Heavenly Father.  Jesus Christ is his son, and through his son we can return to our Father in Heaven.  Christ's church is the true church, and it was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith.  The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, and through it we can know that Joseph Smith really was called of God, and that God still speaks to us today.  Isn't that great?!  I think so.  Although my mission may be over, it's not the end of the world but rather the beginning of a new chapter of my life; one in which I know if I do my best to follow the example of Christ, I will receive the heavenly help I need moving forward in life and ultimately one day return to my Heavenly Father.  Until that day, may your life be blessed, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saying Goodbye To Germany

Welcome Home Aaron!!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Is This Really How Things Wrap Up?

You know you're getting old on your mission when the expiration date of the milk you're drinking  is your release date.

So it was, this week.  As for starting the week off, P-day was your usual list of things to do, with nothing really out of the ordinary. In the evening my companion and I had planned to meet with a man other missionaries had met with, but now he has moved to Hanau.  After waiting a while, we got a call from him informing us he couldn't make it, but we could meet the next day.  For Tuesday we traveled to district meeting, which was all about working with members, and then I was off on my last split of my mission.  My district leader and I worked in my area, and we met with the man we were hoping to meet with the day before.  This guy is Arabic and met missionaries who gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon in his mother language.  After reading some of the book, he decided he wants to change his religion.  In other words, we got a solid new investigator!  The day ended practicing with the ward choir.

Wednesday my district leader and I drove out to meet with a less active member we work often with.  It was my last time with this member, so we said goodbye before we were done visiting him.  We then drove to the city of Gie├čen to end the split.  Returning to Hanau, my companion and I met with our eternal investigator to read in the Book of Mormon with him.  We also met a woman at the church who some members wanted us to meet.  She had keys to the church building for several years, and was returning them to the bishopric.  We were there to say hello and invite her to meet with us.  She has our number now, so maybe someday...

Thursday early in the day we drove to the Church's distribution center in Europe to get a new car.  What we got was a brand new 2016 Toyota Yaris hybrid.  It's a really nice car for a missionary vehicle.  Later that day I went through some legal work saying I was going back to the states, and then we met with our eternal investigator to read, and then met with our new investigator.  Because he comes from the Middle East we have to get special permission to continue teaching him, which an appointment with the mission president was set up for that reason. That'll happen after I'm home.  Friday was weekly planning day and also some work on the ward list.  At the end of the day we met with our ward mission leader and his family to have dinner with them.  It was a "thank you for helping with the piano last week/goodbye Elder Baxter" appointment.  We shared a thought about the Gospel of Christ with them, and had a good time.

Saturday we helped a member clean her dusty attic with our ward mission leader, and we met with our usual investigator to read.  At the end of the day we did some coordinating work with the other Hanau Elders and had our transfer call.  Elder Ireton, my companion, will be training a brand new missionary next transfer.  All was set to have an awesome Sunday the next day where we would have an investigator there, I would say a farewell testimony, and we would teach the youth during the second hour of Church, followed by a member appointment after church.  We were ready for a great day... and then I threw up.  Yup, that's right, at like three in the morning Elder Ireton and I woke up to upset stomachs and we both had to vomit.  All of Sunday turned out to be a sick day for us, never leaving the apartment.  What a bummer to the end of the week!  Especially my last full week of my mission! Not fun, but what can you do other than keep moving forward....

In conclusion to this weekly update is attached two pictures that look similar.  The differences being the first picture being taken in the year 2014, the beginning of my mission, the other being taken this last week, the end of my mission. I did my best to replicate the picture of me standing in front of the city hall and Brothers Grimm statue (despite that bothersome sun shining right in my eyes).  Time is a funny thing, isn't it?  I have one more weekly update to give next week to finish my story as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Germany Frankfurt Mission.  Until then, may the Lord bless you as I know he has blessed me.

"Golden" 2014

"Leaver" 2016

The New Car

Monday, February 22, 2016

"Almost There..."

Five out of the six weeks of the transfer are over now, but all in all it was a pretty good week!

Monday during P-Day my companion and I got to head to Frankfurt and do some shopping before I officially leave Germany.  During that time I got to see Elder Sollis, a past companion of mine, and we ran into an investigator from the AP´s or assistants to the mission president.  At first this guy just started talking to us when we were ordering some food, and through it we found out he was actually investigating the church, so once again, it´s a small world.  That evening we went with a member to visit a single sister in the ward that can´t make it to church that often.  She asked for a priesthood blessing, which I had the opportunity to give, and afterwards we had a really good discussion with her about missionary work, and she got really excited about it all.  Walking away from that appointment, the member we were with talked with a guy just walking by and asked it he was interested in quitting smoking.  Through that we set up an appointment to meet with this guy in a few weeks and help him out.  It was a way cool end to the day!

Tuesday we met with a less active member that I actually met two years ago when I was on a split in Hanau.  It was fun to catch up with this guy finally.  We also read in the Book of Mormon with our one investigator, and ended the day meeting with the ward mission leader and practicing with the ward choir.  Wednesday we worked on member list work for the ward, and met with another less active member and talk about the commandment of fasting.  Thursday we had district meeting in Wetterau like usual, this time the zone leaders were in attendance.  District meeting went way overtime due to everyone giving really long thoughts for those who were asked.  In summary though, we talked about the role of the Holy Ghost in missionary work.  That evening we were also able to read in the Book of Mormon with our investigator.

Friday was when life picked up.  We woke up early in the morning to travel to Frankfurt so my companion could apply for a new passport (he lost his).  Because I wasn´t applying for anything, I had to wait outside the US Consulate for nearly four hours in the snow watching a security guard help people in line for the consulate who curiously enough looked a lot like the actor Martin Freeman.  I did get to talk to some people at that time, and even share the First Vision with an older German man, but at the end of the whole ordeal, I was pretty done.  After warming up, we read with our investigator, met with a member to get to know him better and talk about missionary work, and then in the evening we helped our ward mission leader transport a piano into his home.

Saturday was much more quiet than the day before, with a lot of walking in rain, weekly planning and fallen out appointments.  I even dared look at my luggage situation before I come home that day.  Sunday was a nice day in church.  I got to translate the second hour of church for an investigator from the other Elders, and in the evening meet with the man we are reading the Book of Mormon with.  Through all this reading, we have come to better understand this man´s understanding of the Gospel, and while he doesn´t know a lot, at least now we know.

Just one full week left now...

At the church building

Seeing the sights 

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Whole Lot of the Book of Mormon

So, the week flew by rather quickly.

Monday was an interesting day for multiple reasons.  To start off, I had to pick up my last companion´s driver´s license at a government building and then mail it off to Elder Merkley.  At that point it was raining rather hard outside, so we spent the free time of our P-day playing Settlers of Catan with a member.  In the evening we drove out to spend family home evening with the new 2nd counselor of the bishopric and his family.  As we arrived, so too did the Bishop and his family.  We ended up having one big family home evening and dinner together, which was fun.  The spiritual thought turned into Christlike attributes and how they are better than what the world sees as important in the character of man.

Tuesday was another rainy day, with us walking around in it checking up on less active members and seeing if they were actually still around or not.  Later in the day we met with our investigator we read the Book of Mormon with, and read about Nephi and obtaining the brass plates.  We were wondering if this investigator was getting anything when reading out of the Book of Mormon, but as we read that chapter together, he showed he was paying attention to what we were all reading together.  We finished the day with ward choir.  Wednesday all of us Hanau Elders took a train to Friedrichsdorf, where the temple is, for a zone training meeting.  At the end of the meeting they asked the leavers to bear their testimonies like they always do, but that meant it was my turn to give a testimony.  It was a good experience, but man, time is really speeding up now!  After the meeting and reading in the Book of Mormon with our investigator, we met up with the ward clerk and sorted out the work we had done so far on the member list, and then we were involved helping out with Young Mens.  We talked about Preach My Gospel, and helped them practice teaching missionary lessons.  Mission prep, one could say.

Thursday we traveled out to do some more member list work, and found everyone in the area to still be around.  After reading in the Book of Mormon we thought to go by a Syrian family we know.  They are always super busy so it´s hard to meet, but this time we were able to stop by briefly, see how they were doing, and finally give them a copy of the Book of Mormon in Arabic.  As for Friday, after weekly planning we met with an investigator and mostly talked the whole time about how the Book of Mormon is not the Bible, but another testament of Jesus Christ.  After that, we read with our other investigator, and that about summed up the whole day.  Saturday, Elder Ireton woke up to an ingrown toenail, so we had to deal with that for the first part of the day.  We did some more member list work and visiting/reading the Book of Mormon with our investigator.  That was kind of a hard day because this investigator has been complaining almost non-stop about a medical problem he has, and how terrible his doctor is.  We asked if he could try letting go of his grudge against his doctor, and he got a bit mad.

Sunday was Valentines Day, which was hard to remember the whole day, but oh well, whatever.  We didn´t have any investigators make it to church, but we had some good interactions with members.  Later in the day when visiting our investigator and reading in the Book of Mormon together, I tried to change my attitude of frustration to being more positive, something talked about in church, and it helped a lot.  Despite this investigator still having frustrating problems, I felt more at peace than in the days before.  Valentines Day was also the day I hit the teens as to how many days I have left in Germany.

Like I said, time is flying.

Playing games

Zone Meeting

Monday, February 8, 2016

Karneval Begins Again

Another week, another chance for adventures.

Well, to start off the week, after normal P-day activities, we spent family home evening with the recently released bishop and his family.  The family is basically German and American, so the conversations kept on jumping back and forth between German and English, but it was a really fun time, and we had the role to share the spiritual thought for family home evening, which was about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Elder Ireton used a fire demonstration for a visual representation, which was pretty cool. Tuesday (Groundhog Day!) we had some time to make contact with less active members.  All we came up with in the end was a refugee house with no less active member, but now the ward knows, and finding these less active members is an assignment we received from the ward.  Plus, during that time I managed to snap a picture of a landmark in Hanau: the Philippsruhe castle.  That evening we met with our ward mission leader and practiced with the ward choir.

Wednesday we had a split, and I served in Hanau with the companion to the district leader.  We were able to meet with a less active member we meet regularly with, and this time talk about following the prophet.  During studies the idea came to me to watch the talk from President Monson from the Priesthood session of the last General Conference.  It turned out really well, and was exactly what we needed.  Thursday there was district meeting, which was all about learning the language in our mission.  We played a game centered around asking questions, which was pretty fun (and I won!)  Friday was weekly planning and meeting with an investigator.  This guy has been meeting with missionaries for forever, but seems to have never really read the Book of Mormon.  During weekly planning, we got the idea to ask this investigator if he would be interested in reading the Book of Mormon a little bit every day with us, so we asked and he said yes!  So it looks like from here on out, we will be reading a chapter of the Book of Mormon every day to help out this investigator in reading the Book of Mormon.

Saturday we had a full day of appointments.  It started by driving out to Fulda to meet with a potential investigator, but when we got to our destination, the man was nowhere to be found.  Because of expensive parking and us thinking we still had a pretty busy day, we weren´t able to hang around in the area that long.  Upon returning to Hanau, we found a parade being organized right in front of our apartment.  It was for Karneval, so that meant a lot of costumes and beer.  It was fun to watch from our window while eating lunch.  All appointments continued to fall out throughout the day, except for reading a chapter in the Book of Mormon, so I´m grateful that appointment still worked out.  Sunday was Fast Sunday, my last Fast Sunday of my mission if you were to be specific, and the investigator we are reading with was able to make it to church!  Church was great, and it was fun to see how the ward is carrying on with the new bishopric that was instituted last week.  We were also able to read the Book of Mormon with our investigator a couple of hours after church, and ended the week eating homemade pizza with the other Hanau Elders for dinner.

The transfer is now halfway done, with Karneval well under way!

Philippsruhe Castle

Monday, February 1, 2016

Gas Theft and Leaver´s Interview

So, January came to a close, and a lot happened, most of which was unexpected.

Monday was a usual P-day with using our free time to play games with the other Hanau Elders.  In the evening my companion and I got a ride from a member in the ward to visit a less active member together.  We were encouraging this less active member with reading in the scriptures, so for our appointment we all read in the Book of Mormon together.  Tuesday we had no appointments for the day, so we used our time trying to find less active members who live in the area.  During that time some guy gave us the number of his ex-wife and said she wanted to visit our church.  That was cool!

 On Wednesday we did some more less active work, and then we got a call from our district leader informing us that he and his companion would be using our car for the day.  We let them take it because they already had our mission president´s approval, and then we took a train to meet with a member we thought was less active.  It turns out she was more active than we were led on to believe, which made for a nice surprise.  We were with the other Hanau Elders for this appointment because we couldn´t find any male member to help us out in visiting this single sister, and we had a really good time talking about the Book of Mormon and helping her out in her plans for sharing a copy of the Book of Mormon with a friend.   After that appointment, I got a call from my district leader and his companion asking how to fill up the car with gas, and that´s where the adventure began...

Thursday we took a train to district meeting and then got our car back.  As we were back in Hanau preparing for an appointment, we got a call from the vehicle coordinator in our mission telling us that the day before our car was identified for filling up for gas and getting a car wash and then not paying for it.  We asked our district leader and his companion about it, and they said they thought they had paid for the gas, but didn´t get a car wash.  As we took a look at the receipt from the gas stop, we found it to be only for a car wash.  Obviously there was some sort of mix up at the cash register when they went to pay for the gas.  We continued on with the day, visited a member with another member and talked about concerns this returning member was having, and at the end of the day we took a picture of the receipt for the mistake car wash and emailed it to the mission office.  The next morning we got a call from our district leader and his companion telling us we needed to pick them up right away and drive out to where this gas station was to pay for the gas, because the police were now involved and looking for them.  So, we picked them up and drove two hours to get to a gas station so they could pay for the gas, and then drive all the way back.  At this point of the month, we didn´t have any more kilometers to use for the car, but the mission told us our limit was out the window and we needed to get this whole mix up fixed.  Everyone in the  car was pretty tired, some more than others as you can see in the picture of us four Elders in the car.

Was the day done yet though? No!  Despite our already long day, we helped out in cleaning the church and then meeting with an investigator and talking about the importance of the restoration.  Elder Ireton and I were pretty done with the day at that point.  Saturday we did a lot of weekly planning and attempting to visit an investigator and less active members.  Sunday came around and we had the unique opportunity to have our mission president in attendance and teach about the Book of Mormon in the second and third hour of church, with the help of the four Hanau Elders.  We also saw the Bishop and his counselors be replaced by a new bishop and counselors, making for a unique day.  After church, President Stoddard pulled me aside for my leaver´s interview.  It went really well, and I was able to spend something like an hour and twenty minutes for the interview, talking about various subjects of life when I return home.  I feel like I have some better direction as to what I will be doing with my life after my mission now.

What a whirlwind of a week!  To finish it all off, I thought I would throw in another picture of Ultron and I just for fun.  

Gas Thieves??


Monday, January 25, 2016

Transfer 16

The 16th transfer of my mission has finally come around.  This is a unique transfer because it is also my last six weeks of my mission.  Where did the time go?!

It all started on Monday preparing for my companion to leave to his new area.  There was packing, ping pong, and saying goodbye to members.  The following morning Elder Merkley jumped on a train and I waited a few hours with the other Hanau Elders to wait for my new companion to arrive.  During the wait, I ran into an investigator who we had lost contact with because his phone number had changed.  Needless to say, I got this guy´s new phone number.  After a little bit of time, my last companion in the field showed up: Elder Ireton.  He´s been out on his mission just a few months shy as to how long I´ve been out, and for the first time since the MTC, he´s my first American companion that doesn´t come from Utah.  He´s a way friendly guy.  We spent the rest of Tuesday getting Elder Ireton situated in Hanau, meeting with our ward mission leader, and practicing with the ward choir.

Wednesday we had a lot of time dedicated hitting the streets, and we actually found some good success getting contact info from others.  In the evening there was a special worldwide broadcast for missionaries put on by the Church.  It was titled "Teach Repentance and Baptize Converts" and was all about the basic purposes of missionary work and the Gospel, specifically: faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.  The next day we had district meeting with a couple of newcomers in the district, including the new district leader being my district leader in my last area.  We talked about the mission broadcast and got to know each other better and then it was back to Hanau.  That evening we drove out to visit with a less active member and we discussed the importance of scripture study.

Friday we had several appointments planned out with investigators, but they all fell through. With no set appointments, we used the time finding and got some more contact info from others.  Also, I got a package in the mail from the mission office, namely a 4 step ladder.  It was addressed to me, and while my companion and I don´t know exactly why we got it, we do know it was intended for us and is probably for our bunk bed that doesn´t have a ladder.  Random, but ok.  Saturday I baked brownies for a member appointment because we would be visiting an older member on her birthday.  We got to the member´s house, and she had her family and friends over, most of whom were less active or nonmembers.  We got to visit with all of them.  After we left, we attempted to visit some other less active members.  Sunday was ward conference in Hanau, so there were a lot more people at church than normal.  Elder Ireton introduced himself, we sang in the choir, and during the second hour of church we got to meet some nonmember friends of a member family.  It was a positive experience, and the members were really happy with us being able to meet their friends.

Time is rushing by, but it´s not over yet.  A lot of great things happened for the first week of the transfer, and if things continue this way, I´ll be really happy with the end of my mission.  No matter what comes though, I´m sure it will be a good transfer.

Aaron and Elder Ireton

4 step ladder