Monday, October 29, 2012

"Seek Learning By Faith"

Before everything, I have to say that the conference was amazing. It was pretty fun riding on a bus with 40 missionaries and waiting outside the church at 4:00 in the morning. Not something you see every day. It was great to see missionaries I know from this mission, but I also got to see all the missionaries from the North mission that were in my group in the MTC, including my pal Elder Bayles. I also saw Elder Joshua Thomson from Orem High who is 2 weeks from going home. He is happy, spiritual, and seems almost Paraguayan now. I am sure he has been an excellent missionary.

Well, Elder Bednar really is an inspired man. He started off telling us we would not follow two stupid traditions people in the church have. 1. We should not write down every single thing he says ("Large Plates") because no one ever uses those notes. We should write down the inspiration we recieve ("Small Plates") so that we will want to apply what we learn. 2. He said he would not play the "Guess what´s in my head" game that teachers in the church, including us as missionaries, often do. He is right, we really should never ask questions like "What are the three things Moroni says we need to do..." because that is trying to get them to learn how we want them to. We need to ask questions to see their progress and then help them continue to learn by the Spirit. Most of the day was focused on treating people like agents who can learn for themselves, not objects who just receive lessons. He demonstrated that during the conference itself, as it was mostly a question and answer session about the talks he had given us to read: "Seek Learning by Faith" (given at a CES conference in Jordan in 2006) and "Ask in Faith" (given in conference, I think). Those are both about teaching people to teach themselves, and I encourage you to find and read them if you can.

The best part about it? We are already putting it in practice. We went to the Villalva family on Sunday for lunch and watched "Together Forever." That really touched their hearts. Maria said she does not care what her dad thinks, she will come to church and hopes that someday her whole family will get baptized. Her mom does not mind--she reads about 10 chapters a day in the Guarani Book of Mormon we gave them! Her sister Silvina said that she will come to church and support her. They also talked about their nephew who recently died, and we testifed of how you can find hope in Christ. We really did not have to do much more in that lesson than ask questions and testify. We let the Spirit do the teaching, which is a great feeling. I feel like I have gone up to a whole new level of missionary work.

As far as our other investigators, Sergio did not finish his paperwork, despite his wife and us reminding him often. That was really frustrating. He has a testimony, but I don´t know if he has truly been converted yet (putting what he knows in practice). We´ll see what happens with them. Ismael and Patricia did not attend church so it will be at least another week before their baptism. They believe it is all true, but he explained to me that he just does not have a testimony yet that this is the ONE true church. Nora, however, could be baptized this week. She is an investigator to whom we taught the first lesson, but then she moved into another part of our ward. The missionaries there taught the rest of the lessons (without knowing we had taught her), and then she moved back into our area. All she needs to do know is quit smoking. She is a funny one. And Reynaldo, our recent convert, is still going strong.

A few more things about Paraguay culture: We do have to watch out for "snakes" (women with bad intentions). Luckily I had a couple years of practice before my mission trying to keep my distance from girls. Now I am really glad I did that. Also, everyone talks to us. Even if they hate us, if we come up to them and ask for directions or something, it is almost like they are obligated to help us. It is just part of their culture to talk to anyone. Pretty funny. They are poor, but it is surprising how happy they are with what they have. We often ask them what they want in life, and they really don´t feel like they lack much. All they need is a job so they can feed their family, a roof and a few walls, and maybe a Bible or a TV to watch fútbol. Also, whatever they have, they are always willing to share. Great people.

I am so happy to get emails from all my siblings and hear about all the exciting things in your life! And the 4000 missionaries every week! Wow! (great to here that Eve, Maggie, and Bubba got mission calls!). I got the absentee ballot but I don´t think there is time to send it. I am sure you will vote for Romney for me anyway. Elder Hinton is doing great--he really knows how to teach well and his area is baptizing more than the rest of our district combined. It`s called Minga Guazú and thanks to their great branch president, it is growing very fast. Elder Brown, Elder Smith, and Elder Adamson are all doing well in their areas, and we will have officially been trained THIS wednesday. Who knows what will happen with transfers? If I don´t send an email next is because I have been sent to a place where there is no internet access. Haha, that is very unlikely. Please pray for me in this time of changes, and know that I continue to pray for everyone in the family with their individual challenges. Love you all!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

P.S. I can sometimes understand Portuguese! How cool is that?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bittersweet Baptism

First, to explain the pictures and the title. Remember Reynaldo and Rocío? Well, she finally decided that she was not sure about getting married and left to go live with her mom in Asunción. That was really depressing. We tried so hard, and she had changed so much. But she gave it all up. (Kinda like the Aguínaga famliy, who we visited again but still want to go to the Iglesia Belén instead of ours). Well, she says she still wants to get baptized...but she left her husband and her oldest son (he is the little guy in the picture, she took the two baby girls with her). This Gospel is about Forever Families. The Baez family, Reynaldo´s brother and family who he lives with, had more drama. Dariel, their oldest son (they have 7 kids, most of which could not come to the baptism), ran away from home and did drugs with his friends for a few days. But he came back and they are all doing much better (he is the one in the red jacket). I am sure having a lot of grown-up experiences for being 19. But I guess you have to enter the real world at some point. Well, in spite of it all, Reynaldo showed a lot of faith wanting to continue with the baptism and now preparing for the Priesthood. He is a champ! And maybe next week you will be seeing me in white...if Sergio finally gets his Cedula done. We really want them to get baptized before the end of the transfer and one of us leaves. Ismael and Patricia did not attend church, so it will be at least another week or so for them. We also have a new awesome family, the Villalvas. José and Aniana are very old but a lot of fun to talk to. He does not want to be baptized again, but they are both reading the Book of Mormon and loving it. Aniana recently had surgery and can´t come to church, but their daughter Maria is going to come to church this week with her kids. She will probably be the first in that family to be baptized. There are 12 kids in total, and apparently they all get together every Sunday for a big lunch. We are going this Sunday, and should be a lot of fun! (and maybe in a year we´ll be sealing them all together in a year ;)).

Now to answer your questions from this week and last. We do not hear much about the North mission, but surely we will this Saturday! Did Truman list any of the same girls I did as suggestions for missions? Glad to hear all about Daniel and Orem football. I did know about Ty and Shayne´s dad. He was the one who took all those pictures. Pretty sad to hear. Many people have wood or tile floors, but there also plenty with just dirt. Not many people have cars or bikes, they usually just walk or take the bus. I have no idea about gas prices. Milk would be about $3 a gallon, about $4 a pound for ground beef (it is hard to do the kilogram and guarani conversions in my head) $2 for a loaf of bread (but we usually buy a lot of rolls, which are cheaper and easier). We shop at the Gran Vía supermarket, but I actually think it would be more fun to be in a place where we bought food at street stalls.

This week I have gotten to do interchanges THREE times because of baptismal interviews and my companion´s emergency trip to Asunción to do with Elder Hinton, the Orem-ite, we studied and then really tried to apply focusing on the people, not the lessons. That really worked, such as when we taught a man who did not want to change religion, but loved the Book of Mormon. We read Mormon 7 with his family, and they asked US when we could come back! I still need to improve my listening and question-asking skills. I also learned to avoid contention while working with Elder Escoffre. At times people want to argue about doctrine, but I learned it is best to say, We understand what you are saying, but we just want to explain that what we believe is a little different. Then they will allow us to express our beliefs, and maybe something will ring true to them. Elder Escoffre is from France, and I spoke to him with what little French I remember. He taught me a bit, and was impressed with my accent. Guess it is in my blood. It has been a great week. Last P-Day we tried to play Piki as a district. It is like volleyball but without hands. So hard. Paraguayans are so much more coordinated than us. I also learned to make Reviro, which is pretty much fried flour. Cheap, good food. Loving life down here, and this week, with the baptisms (we hope) and conference with Elder Bednar should be awesome. Love you!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, October 15, 2012

We are in the Lord's hands

First and foremost, investigator update. Rocío was having a lot of doubts about if she could stay faithful after being baptized. We had a really powerful lesson last Monday where we read Ether 12:27 with her and assured her she was important to God. She and Reynaldo accepted the baptismal date, but unfortunately it did not go through because she does not have a Cedula (ID). Supposedly she can get a Contraseña (temporary ID) this week, but now she is doubting their marriage again. With the Lord´s help, I am sure we will be able to help her overcome her doubts and be baptized this Saturday. Sergio is finally working on getting his Cedula, so he and Blásida should also finally be baptized this week! Daisy is still a great example for them. She is about to turn 10. Unfortunately, Freddy and Antonia decided they want to join the Iglesia Belén (Bethlehem Church). That was pretty tough, and we are going to try to teach them one more time to see what we can do. We also finally talked to Aníbal for the first time in a while, and he is working on his divorce. With all these issues, it would be easy to say that I had been robbed a of a few baptisms, but that is not the attitude to have. They aren´t my baptisms, they are the Lord´s. I can do very little, but he lets me be an instrument in his hands. When they are ready, he will let us bring them into his church.

Conference was amazing! Yes, I do wear my sandals, pretty much everywhere. Any missionary coming to Paraguay should buy really good sandals. Also, my glasses are getting pretty scratched up. It is almost to the point where I can see better without them. What do you think I should do?

Great to hear about all the rest of the news of the family.  I did get Tony's email just barely.  Hopefully I will have time to respond to you all next week.  Also, Brittany may want to know that there was a time change here.  (Our little blog clock updated automatically!  So we're all set.)  We are now 3 hours ahead instead of two.  One more question, just out of curiosity.  How many people did Dad baptize in France?  On the topic, I guess I'd be interested to hear how many from Tony and from your dad if you remember.

I love you all. Stay strong the faith. Thank you for your support!

'Elder Wesley Morgan

Elder Morgan's favorite treat - alfajors!
Elder Morgan's handy skills - fixing his own tie.  He was proud enough to send this picture, so it's going on the blog.  :)

One of Elder Morgan's favorite quotes from General Conference.  This is taped on his desk.

Empanadas that Elder Morgan's companion taught him to make

Visual aid from a lesson Elder Morgan taught this week (click on the pictures for bigger pictures): This was a lesson about the law of tithing and fast offerings.  This list shows the requirements we are given to follow.  Not very long.

This other side shows the list of blessings we get if we follow that short list of requirements...

...and the blessing list just keeps going and going and going!  We only are asked to do so little, and we are blessed so much.  Elder Morgan said you can do this with any principle of the gospel.  (Also, isn't he cute?!  He's so excited to share the gospel message.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Amazing General Conference!

Sorry again about the email from last week not sending. Hope that doesn´t happen again. Or maybe I´ll get sent to an area with no internet access someday...haha, we will see. Before I talk about the awesome conference, I am going to send you the recap of our 5 main families that I sent to President Agazzani to keep you updated on our investigators, and so you don´t feel like I am not writing enough in Spanish. ;)
*En nuestro planeamiento semenal, tuvimos 5 familias (11 personas) que podían bautizarse ésta semana (el 13). La mayoría no asistieron, entonces no todos van a bautizar esta semana, pero todo de ellos deberían ser bautizados este mes.
Sergio y Blásida Herrera: Bautizar Daisy fue una decisión inspirada. Ella es un buen ejemplo por ellos. Lee y ora cada día, y siempre ora para que puedan ser bautizados. Todavía están esperando su plata para conseguir sus papeles, pero el otro desafía ahora es la Palabra de Sabiduría. Sergio toma a veces y Blásida fuma uno o dos cigarrillos cada día. Ellos saben que la iglesia es verdadera, pero no sabemos como ayudarles el próximo paso para seguir el Señor.
Reynaldo y Rocío Baez: Asistieron la Conferencia! Y vieron el bautismo después! Ellos quieren bautizarse, pero la cosa es que su fecha era para el 20, y están listos ahora. Hoy vamos a intentar otra vez convencerles a hacerlo una semana antes, porque nunca es demasiado pronto para vivir la ley de Castidad, tener una familia mejor, recibir la remisión de pecados, y empezar una vida nueva como un discípulo de Cristo.
Ismael y Patricia Sanchez: No asistieron a la Conferencia porque la Familia Ramos, que les debían haber buscado, no se fue. El tiene mucho interés, pero todavía no ha recibido una respuesta que debe ser bautizado. Ella no ha recibido muchas de las lecciones, y estamos tratando a ayudarles a leer juntos para que ella pueda tener un testimonio también.
Carlos y Angelica Ramirez (todo de estos apellidos son de los hombres ahora; ninguna pareja está casada) : Él es el hombre que caminó a la iglesia la otra semana. Además dijo que ha sabido todo su vida que esta es la iglesia verdadera! Hay problemas en su relación, entonces éso va a ser un desafío.
Freddy y Antonia Aguínaga (y su hermana Selva): Ellos debían haber sido bautizados hace mucho tiempo. Me dio cuenta que somos los primeros misioneros que han sido serios sobre compromisos con ellos. Antes, pensaron que estabámos allí para cantar himnos y charlar un poco. Tienen testimonios de la iglesia, pero no quieren hacer las cosas pequeñas para progresar. Les amo mucho, pero sí no empiezan a cambiar, vamos a tener que dejarles.
Well, that was a lot! We are also finding a lot of new people all the time. On the street of the Baez family we found two other less active families. It is funny and sad that there were three member families on the same street who did not know that the others were members of the Church. This week we finally got to do service! I loved that. We helped the Portillo family rebuild their house. All we did was move bricks and boards, but it was fun. It has also been reeeally hot. It is 43 degrees Celsius right now, but it´s not all that bad. I got to do companion exchanges twice this week, which was a lot of fun. With Elder Gary Nielson, I was listening to "El Yivneh Hagalil" and he said he remembered the BYU Men´s Chorus coming to sing that at the MTC. After talking for a bit, we realized that was when I gave my talk there, which he remembered. Pretty cool!
So, NOW I understand why missionaries are so excited for Conference. I learned a lot and felt the Spirit strongly, as always, but this conference is going to change my life. My favorite talk by far was by President Uchtdorf about enjoying the moment. That is a problem I have had all my life, and it has gotten worse on the mission. I am always worrying about the time rather than the people we are with. I loved his analogy about music--we don´t just listen for the last note. I have to be happy with who I am and what I am doing, and I am definitely working on that now. I also loved the talks by Elder Ballard, Elder Bednar, Elder Bowen, President Eyring (Sunday Morning), Sister Burton, and everyone else. :) I was impressed with how up-to-date this conference was, speaking about important issues like abortion and same-gender attraction. I love the unequivocable way Elders Anderson and Oaks talked about our position on those issues. I can also testify, like Elder Whiting, the high standards of temple construction after touring the Buenos Aires temple. The amount of money spent on temples is insane. I loved Thomas S. Monson´s talk in Priesthood, especially when he said we need to picture the people we meet as they will be when they get baptized. That is something we already do and will try to improve. All the music was amazing, and my favorite was Shane Warby singing "Does the Journey Seem Long" after President Packer used it in his talk. Elder Gonzalez repeated the invitation to be baptized that he gave to everyone in Paraguay and Uruguay at our recent regional conference (including his mother). When Elder Cook mentioned those huts in the amazon with Satellite dishes--yeah, that is definitely Paraguay, too. I wish I could comment on everything, but suffice it to say that if you were listening to something and thought, "Wesley probably really liked that," then yes, I did.
And how about that announcement about the mission ages changing?! WOOOOW! That was incredible. I cannot even begin to fathom what that is going to mean. The best way to state the significance of that would be to quote Elder Dyer, who was sitting next to me at the time, "These truly are the last days." I would love to hear what Daniel´s plans are now. I know that this should all be considered prayerfully. Ah! I am still so excited! I wish you could have been in the room when we found out. (The picture I sent is the missionaries in the English room in the Stake Center. That was when we were singing Called to Serve). Also, knowing that this will be posted on the blog, I would like to suggest that the following sisters prayerfully consider preparing to serve: Stevie Carr, Mariah Kerr, Missy Marsden, Jackie Clark, Liz Hilton, Sophie Siebach, ShaNae Foster, ReyLynn Reid, Jasmine Jones, Maddie McCann, Haley Wilson, Sheri Millard, and Maryn Abunuwara. Those are just a few suggestions, of course, and for all I know they are all married by now. Now more than ever, I would love to hear updates on mission calls and marriages.

One last thought from conference. Elder Bowen´s talk made me think about Dad, but his and Elder Perry´s talks also made me think about my relationship with you, Mom. I love and miss you a lot, and I realized that besides taking care of me, you were also my best friend. You talked to me and helped me with so much. Like Elder Perry, I am appreciating the little things you did for me. I hope you´re proud of the good work I am doing, and I will try to keep doing it better ever day.
Elder Wesley Morgan
*In our weekly planning, we had 5 families (11 people) that could be baptized this week (on the 13th).  The majority didn't come to church, so they will not be baptized this week, but all of them should be baptized this month.
Sergio and Blásida Herrera: To baptize Daisy was an inspired decision.  She is a great example for them.  She reads and prays every day, and always prays that they will be baptized. Still they are waiting for money to get their marriage papers, but the other challenge now is the Word of Wisdom.  Sergio drinks sometimes and Blásida smokes one or two cigarettes a day.  They know that the church is true, but we don't know how to help them to take the next step to follow the Lord.
Reynaldo and Rocío Baez: They attended Conference!  And they saw the baptism after!  They want to be baptized, but the thing is that the date was going to be the 20th, and they are ready now.  Today we are going to try once again to convince them to do it the week before, because it's never too soon to live the law of chastity, have a better family, receive a remission of sins, and begin a new life as a disciple of Christ.
Ismael and Patricia Sanchez: They didn't attend Conference because the Ramos family, who should have picked them up, didn't go.  He's very interested, but he still hasn't received an answer that he should be baptized.  She hasn't had many of the lessons, and we are trying to help them read together so that she can have a testimony also.
Carlos and Angelica Ramirez (all of these last names are of the men now; neither couple is married): He is the man who walked to church the other week.  He also said that he has known all his life that this is the true church!  There are problems in their relationship, so this is going to be a challenge.
Freddy and Antonia Aguínaga (and his sister Selva): They should have been baptized a long time ago.  I realized that we are the first missionaries that have been serious about commitments with them.  Before, they thought that we would be there to sing hymns and chat a bit.  They have testiomonies of the church, but they don't want to do the small things to progress.  I love them a lot, but if they don't begin to change, we will have to leave them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

¡¡Primer Bautismo!!*

As you can see from the pictures, we had our first baptism this week! It all started with the interviews on Thursday we had with President Agazzani. I was a little nervous because some of the missionaries were telling me about some of the harsh things past Mission Presidents here have done, but it turned out to be good old, laid-back President Agazzani like I expected. He gave us a lot of great advice, including the fact that we can baptize Daisy Herrera! We have been waiting so long for Sergio and Blásida, we did not realize she did not need to wait. It was quite the adventure getting everything ready, including emptying the font with buckets & rags so we could clean it. And due to the late notice, pretty much no one else showed up. But it was a great experience for everyone. I got to give a short talk about the Holy Ghost, one of your classic, basic talks for a primary child who is being baptized. But, most importantly, this motivated Sergio to work extra and do all the paperwork he needs to so they can be married and baptized this week! Also, Rosillo came up to us after church and said she definitely wants to be baptized on the 20th! And, after weeks of saying he would come, Ismael & Patricia showed up at the last minute to sacrament meeting. It was truly a Sunday of miracles.

I also have to give a shout-out to our ward mission leader Elio Martinez. He is a convert less than a year, but if he didn´t tell you, you would never know. He is a big guy who rides a motrocycle (reminds me of Hagrid, but he is bald and has glasses), and he has such a powerful testimony. Last Monday we had FHE with him, the Vargas Family, and the Herrera Family. We watched Finding Faith in Christ, and spent most of the lesson eating pizza while the members shared their testimonies. It was a great night. Hermano Martinez also helped us with Freddy and Antonia Aguínaga, who were having marital problems again. Though it was hard to even get them to talk to us, by the end of his powerful pep talk, they were crying and holding each other. It was another powerful lesson with him.

This week I did exchanges with Elder Beatty, one of the Zone Leaders. I love doing exchanges, I always learn so much. He taught me how to focus more on teaching principle by principle, and not moving on until they understand. For example, if they don´t get why a prophet is important, the Restoration will not be that significant to them.

I am very excited for General Conference (we do get to hear it live), but I do not feel like some of the other Elders who say they are so much more excited than before their mission. Maybe that is because I have always loved it. More exciting news, Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Mervyn B. Arnold are comig on the 27th to do a conference for all the missionaries in Paraguay! Also, our mission had 115 baptisms this last month. It is the first time we broke 100 in a while, but our goal is to stay above that from here on out.

Hmm....more on the culture here? Have I told you about mate or tereré? It is an herbal drink that everyone drinks through those metal straws. Missionaries are not allowed to drink it, which may be because of past missionaries who did not know how to drink it, or because everyone uses the same straw. They share everything here; their hygiene sure is different. But seriously, they are always drinking tereré. Always. And their cups or wampas, usually have the one of the logos of Cerro Porteño or Olimpia, the two biggest soccer teams. There is a HUGE rivalry between them, and I have chosen not to take sides.

I am pretty happy, and I really love working with Elder Izurieta. We are hoping that this month will be full of more baptisms and confirmations, so get ready to post a lot of pcitures!

I love you all,
Elder Wesley Morgan

*First Baptism!