Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Just Us Here

All the other missionaries here left yesterday, so it is just the seven of us here. One good thing about that--we have all afternoon to email, so I can finally write back to the rest of the family. I am excited to meet all the new people coming in. It will be interesting to see how they adjust and to remember how we felt coming in. We have come along way in three weeks. But it remains to be seen if we will all know enough Spanish to have Latino companions in three weeks.

Proselyting went well this last Saturday. We gave out all three Book of Mormons! It is always interesting to see who is willing to listen and who is not. One of those was to our friend Luís, the preacher. He was very receptive because I testified that it was a book about Christ. I don´t know if it is good or bad that he is one of those people who just accepts all Christian religions as true. Hopefully he will read it and understand that there is only one true church. We´ll be in a new area next week, so I may never know. We also did not get a chance to see Marisela, the first lady I gave a Book of Mormon to. Oh well. We are learning to speak better, and sometimes we can understand what people are saying. It took us 10 minutes to figure out that Claudio, a storeowner we talked to last week and this week, was asking if the Book of Mormon was about the end of the world. He was going on about this movie that said the world would end in 2012. Finally I told him we didn´t believe in that, and he realized that I could undertstand some of what he was saying, and my companions got almost none of it. Usually they pick up on quite a bit, but he talked so fast. That is a principle we have found to be true from the moment we entered Argentina. If you tell someone you speak even a little Spanish, they assume you´re fluent. Without fail. Maybe the word "poco" actually means "please talk faster." Do we do that with foreigners in English? I think I usually try to speak slower and clearer.

Anyway, Claudio was a great guy with a lot of cute little kids. He was also Evangelical. We seem to be having more success with families and with Evangelicals. We have a joke that we have yet find a practicing Catholic. Many people use that as an excuse not to listen to us, but seriously, we have not found a single Catholic who actually attends church. Few have even read the Bible. I don´t understand that at all. Hopefully we can help them. The past few days we learned something really important. I have heard it explained before, but now it finally clicked. We need to explain our purpose right up front, every time. Otherwise people wonder why we are coming back to talk to them about our church. If you are selling TV´s, you will ask the people if they want to buy a TV. If not, you will explain why they should. It´s pretty much the same with baptism. We need to tell them right up front that we want them to be baptized, that way they have a goal to work towards. They´ll have a reason to keep commitments.

We also learned about the importance of lesson outlines. It is really hard to balance not planning anything at all and writing out your whole lesson. It´s not a big deal when you are writing a talk for yourself, because you know your own thoughts. But to get two people on the same page as to the lesson plan without planning it out bit by bit, and being ready to adapt to any changes your investigator or the Spirit may dictate is not easy. (And we have to do it with three--being in a trio might be my biggest challenge here). Yeah, just about every four days we learn something that shows me how wrong my previous teaching approach was and how much I have left to learn. It´s pretty humbling. And we get to do it in another language. It is a good thing we have the Lord on our side, or I would not believe that this worldwide mission effort could work this way. Last Sunday we watched a video of an MTC Devotional from David A. Bednar. We watch a video every Sunday-- either a talk by an apostle or a church video like The Testament--one of the highlights of my week. In that talk, he shared a lot of great stories about following the Spirit, definitely what I needed to hear. One of the things he mentioned at the end was pretty insightful. He said he has talked to many converts worldwide, and the overwhelmingly most common response about the missionaries--no matter the language or culture--was this: "I had no idea what they were talking about. It was the most confusing story I had ever heard. But I felt that it was true so I let them keep coming." The point is, we are never going to be grand speakers. I can testify that missionary work is a miracle because I cannot explain how it is so successful. But I know that it is. And I am so lucky to be a part of it.

Thank you for your emails. That is very sad to hear about Everett and Clayton. I do remember him; I was reading his entry in Dad´s book a few days before I left. Interesting to hear about the NBA finals. And I don´t really care about So You Think You Can Dance. I would like to hear if anything big happens in the presidential campaigns. Stamps: sounds like Hermana Openshaw told you that you can send an envelope with stamps in it through the pouch?  I would just like to write to my fellow missionaries so I can tell them about my unique experience here and make sure they have my mission addresses. I was also planning on replying to any letters I got...but that has not happened yet. So it is not that big of a deal if they don´t get here. Letters do get here fairly quickly, as do bubble-wrap envelopes. it seems like it takes about a week and a half for both of those, although it can take up to a month. Packages often get opened in customs, so I think that is why Hermana Openshaw did not think anything could get here.

Let´s see, what else do I want to tell you about the CCM? Well, you should probably know that it stands for Centro Capacitacíon Misional (Missionary Training Center in Spanish). It was originally intended for Spanish speakers going to Argentina, Paraguay, or Uruguay, but they are starting to open it up to more English speakers. We are the first group of Paraguay-bound missionaries to be here all 9 weeks, did I already mention that? We are right by the temple, and we are just one of the rectangular buildings on Google Maps, I believe. There is a field and a couple basketball courts next to it; that should help you identify it. The temple is gorgeous, and we will get to go inside! The open house starts a few days before we leave, and so they are trying to make sure we get a chance to get a tour. None of the General Authorities will be here by then, but that's okay. It has taken 3 years to do this "remodeling." Some temples are built that fast, so people have been waiting a long time.

I´m glad you got to hear from President Openshaw. He is a great guy. I don´t always agree with his teaching style, but we can talk more about that in 23 months. Hermano Gomez-Paz is also great. He is one of the Adminstrators, and he speaks fairly good English. We agreed that he looks like a James Bond villain: he is lighter for a Latino, he has this evil smile, and he has piercing blue eyes. Yeah, he´ll probably be in the next movie. Like I said, I really like our teachers. I also love getting an hour of physical activity each day. I try to do some running and a short workout so I don´t gain weight here, and then we play volleyball, basketball, football, soccer, or even 9-square. It willl be a lot more fun to do all those when we have more people here. Our third "transfer" (three weeks) here, there will be about 80 missionaries! That will be exciting. Don´t be fooled by this long email, next week it will be back to skimming quickly over your emails and typing as fast as I can. I love and pray for you all. And if you have some free time, read something in Preach My Gospel. That book is amazing.

Love, Elder Morgan

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Feeling Like A Real Missionary

Thankfully, they did not have us proselyte our first saturday here. We would not have been ready. But this last Saturday, we did! It was so great. I finally feel like I am a missionary. We had a lot of pamphlets and a couple Book of Mormons to hand out. It was actually kind of frustrating at first. No one wanted to listen to us. Finally, a store owner named Marisela let us talk to her for a while. We gave her a pamphlet about the Gospel and talked to her about her family, then we bore testimony of Jesus Christ. She pretty much said, "Yeah, that´s all great, but I already know all this." Then I tried to tell her about the Book of Mormon. I don´t remember much of what I said except "It´s my favorite book!´ Spanish is still a struggle for all of us. Some people around here are impossible to understand. Nevertheless, she agreed to read it! I was so excited. We´ll stop by next week to see how she´s coming. Our Spanish is not quite good enough to teach someone through all the lessons, but we can refer her to the nearby missionaries. That is mostly what we do: practice meeting people, testifying, and then referring.

We also met another awesome guy. He was an Evangelical preacher named Luis. He was the first person who came and talked to us. He seemed very happy that we had chosen to serve Jesus Christ, but I think we may have unintentionally told him our parents made us. Oh well. We talked about doctrinal things, and he went on about how the justice of God will come upon the US. We declined to comment on that. Somehow we got onto the subject of singing (like I said, I understand more than either of my companions and I can still only get the general idea), and I had decided to bring my hymnbook. So I told him we could sing for him, and he invited us into his house. He had a drum set and guitars, all of which Elder Brown played with him. He introduced to his family and we sang "¡Grande Eres Tú!" with him. That´s the Spanish version of "How Great Thou Art." Such a great experience. He told us we are welcome back any time.

Not every Evangical preacher is as nice as him. We had a few other old guys who just talked to us for 20 or 30 minutes about what they believed/why we are wrong. It might have made me mad if I had understood it, but I sure couldn´t. We talked to a few other people, and next week we´ll stop by some stores and by some candy or something else. Everyone loves "alfajors," (pronounced alfahors) which are pretty much big Oreos. There´s actually seven of us in the district. And it sounds like we are getting a lot more guys in the next two rounds of missionaries (they come and go every three weeks). One of those is Jace Bayles, a guy I met at BYU, so I´m excited for that. I will miss the Elders who leave. One of my favorite people is Elder Paredes, a 25-year-old P.E. teacher from Santiago. He has a tattoo on his arm because he only converted two or three years ago, but he is just an awesome, happy guy. We´re pretty close. Our teachers are also great. Hermana Aponte teaches us in the morning. She is really quiet and reminds me of Elise Osorio. Then Hermano Baez is our evening teacher. They are both locals and recently returned missionaries.

Being a district leader is stressful. I have to enforce the rules, even when I don´t understand them, which often garners complaints. I have to pass on "suggestions" between missionaries and from the teachers and the President. I do really like President Openshaw. Overall, life is great here. I´m tired a lot, but that´s just how life goes. I am so grateful to have everything I need. Honestly I feel so prepared. Everything is packed right where I need it, and I haven´t missed much. Thanks so much, Mom!

There is one thing that I now know I should have brought: American stamps. Would it be possible for you to send those? The easiest way is through the SLC Pouch: POUCH Argentina MTC PO Box 30150 Salt Lake City, Utah 84150-0150 There is an Argentina address, but that is probably easier. You can send envelopes and padded envelopes, I believe. Apparently there´s not a chance of packages getting through customs and to me without someone taking everything, so don´t try that. Also, I forgot the Guarani joke about laughing, do you still have that email? One more thing I should mention. David L. Beck and Russell T. Osguthorpe were traveling around South America, so they came to one of our Sunday meetings. That was pretty cool to meet them.

It is great to be part of such a wonderful work.

Love you all! Elder Wesley Morgan

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One Week Down

Wow! I wasn´t sure if I would get any email right away, and I got three! It is great to hear from you. You´re posting these emails on the blog, right? Well, I only have half an hour of computer time, so I will do my best to write every one. I apologize for any sloppiness, especially if I start throwing in Spanish words. My English is already going downhill. Which is fine.

So, like I said, getting here was an adventure. Did I tell you about the airport? There were just two guys there to pick us up who did not speak English, and we found out later they were not members of the church either, just hired cab drivers. People down here speak so fast. It´s so hard to figure out what they´re saying with the slurred words and Argentine double ll. Most of the natives down here are from Argentina. There are 30 people total, and about two thirds of them are natives. Most of them love American things. A lot of them are trying to learn English or play football. It´s pretty funny. And they know about American sports and politics. I had no idea how much the rest of the world is watching us.

I can see why Elder McComber called this the Black Pearl. Things down here are pretty ´´laid back.´´ Which means unorganized. It took a while for us to get Spanish Scriptures and Predicad Mi Evangelio (Preach My Gospel* in Spanish). Saturday, our third day here, was the most frustrating. I was sick of the lack of organization and focus. But Sunday was awesome. We got to do all our meetings with the other Norteamericano district. They have been here for six weeks. It sounds like we are going to be here for nine weeks? Because we get a new set of Latinos every three weeks...we´ll just have to see, I guess. Everyone here is going to Argentina, Paraguay, or Uruguay. And we are actually the first Paraguay-bound missionaries to spend all nine weeks here.

I cannot complain about the food. It is always great. But one of the Sisters from Paraguay warned me the food will not be this nice when I get out there. It is funny how many things I have had that people said I never would! Ranch dressing, cold cereal. The only thing I haven´t liked were the hot dogs. Those already are not my favorite...and they were weird. Someone told us it had horse meat, but they may have been messing with us. They put dulce de leche in everything.

So, I was called to District Leader. Kinda stressful, but that is okay. I really love the guys in my district, so I will tell you about all of them. Anytime I meet a lot of new people, I automatically compare them to people I know back home or celebrities. So you are going to get some of that. First, my companions. Elder Brown, who I know from Men's Chorus, reminds me of Woody from Toy Story. It's funny, because he says I remind him of Buzz Lightyear. He loves singing--his grandpa wrote I Hope they Call Me on a Mission--and he is from Texas. We are in a threesome, so we call ourselves the Tres Leches. Our Senior Companion is Elder Cutler from Draper. He acts so much like Braxton Lisonbee. I really like him. Then there is Elder Adamson, whom I learn more about every day. Elder Suprise is his companion. Funny story--I hope Sophie, Liz, and anyone else who was in Jazz Band with me in 10th grade reads this. We had a Jazz Band festival sophomore year at Timpview high. Timpview´s band had a singer with an amazing voice. I think she sang Unforgettable by Nat King Cole. Afterwards I decided to ask her for her number, which went well until she found out I was two years younger than her. Well her name was Karlee Suprise, and she is Elder Suprise´s older (and now married) sister. Life´s funny. Elder Suprise is a laid-back, humble guy who is definitely out here for the right reasons. But he knows absolutely no Spanish, so that has been a struggle for him. (We are all in one Spanish class...not the most effective method, but that´s how most of my education felt.) The other two guys are definitely the funniest. Elder Amodio, from Italy, reminds me a lot of Christian Wawro. He makes my day all the time. His companion, Elder Smith, is quite the character. He is sorta like the actor Kevin James. He makes us all laugh all the time. Unfortunately, this is often irreverent, and he doesn´t like people telling him what to do. He definitely has a testimony, but it will be a struggle getting him to be as much of a team player as we need him to be.

Like I said, being a District Leader is not easy for me. But it is good for me. Everything out here is. I am learning how little I know about missionary work, especially the planning. Planning is everything. Well, having the Spirit is everything. Those are pretty much your right and left legs as a missionary. We practice teaching "Raquel" every day, and we are making progress with her. We look at what we taught her three days ago and we already see how we could have done it a lot better. But that´s how it goes right? It will also be easier when I learn more Spanish. Work, work, work. Gotta love it.

I don´t have time to write back to Brittany and Heather, but I hope they know that I love them and appreciate their letters. I love you all, and I miss you a lot more than I was expecting. I am glad you enjoyed Arabian nights! And I am not surprised that Summerfest was an adventure. It always is. Keep me posted on how things are going. I can only email family, but I think that includes Grandma & Grandpa. Again, I love and pray for all of you.

Sincerely Elder Morgan

*Preach My Gospel is a handbook and study guide for missionaries.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

We made it!

Dear Family,

After many delays, we have finally arrived at the MTC.  There was a storm over Dallas, so we had to wait at the Midland-Odessa Airport before we even got into our layover.  We got to our gate right as the plane should have been leaving, so we were really worried.  But the storm delayed that flight getting out of there, too, so we actually waited for three more hours.  In our district, there's me, Elder Adamson, Elder Suprise, and Elder Cutler from Utah (all of whom are awesome), and Elder Amodio from Italy.  He is hilarious.  In Texas we picked up Elder Brown, who I knew from Men's Chorus, and Elder Smith.  Customs cost us $160, and they wouldn't take any bills that were ripped or had any sort of pen mark on them, so it was good I had a lot of change to help some of the other guys out.  When we got our luggage, it was all a little damp, so I'm really glad you put it all in plastic bags!  There was a guy there to pick us up, but he spoke with a heavy Argentinian accent.  That made things difficult.  Everyone deferred to me and Elder Amodio to try to understand (because he speaks Italian), but it was rough.  The other guy wanted to take our passports, which worried us, but he put us on the phone with a guy from Church Travel who told us we could trust those guys.  And hey, they got us here!  It's inside the temple grounds, which are beautiful, and it is actually not too cold.  Seems like there is a lot to do, and I am looking forward to learning a lot!  P-Days will be Wednesdays from now on, so you can expect an email cadas las semanas*.  I love you all!

Elder Morgan

*each week (for all you non-Spanish speakers)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sending Wesley off at the Airport

He is so ready to go!

Hopefully they'll see each other in 2 year and not in 4!

Elder Adamson is also from our stake.  4 others joined them at the gate.

Last farewell.  Best wishes to you Elder Morgan.