Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year, New Goals

Well, I am here in "Shopping del Sol," which looks just like an American mall, except the words are mostly in Spanish. There is even American music playing. It is weirding me out quite a bit. Asunción is definitely not Ciudad del Este. It was great to hear from you all, and see you when the video was working. That time flew by, but I am sure that is how it always goes. It won´t be long before we call again in May. I will probably still be here in Amambay. I have the feeling I will be here for a long time. President Agazzani really wants me to help turn around this ward and this zone.

This week I have gotten to work with both District Leaders in our Zone, doing exchanges and studies with them. Elder Portillo (from Argentina) is a great worker, and we found some miracles together. Elder Speedy (from Logan) is also an incredible missionary, but he has a tough branch to work with. There have been serious problems with the leadership and past missionaries, so he is trying to fix all that.

We are working hard to help our zone, especially through the district leaders, and I have discovered the importance of having other people in mind when you study. It really helps you learn more, especially when studying the lessons in chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel. The missionary handbook says we need to focus our study on that chapter, something I haven´t really done because I kinda felt like I already know it all. But there is really always much more to learn, study, be reminded of, and ponder. There are also many more good scriptures to use in the lessons that the ones that are in the lesson.

It has been another challenging week of finding new investigators (just one). We have run into a couple more atheists, who are so hard to help. For all their talk about science and truth, they close their minds and hearts to everything we testify of. I know there is only so much we can do, but do you have any ideas on how to help someone who has chosen to deny the existence of God?

I love getting emails from you all. Daniel makes me laugh a lot, and I am very happy for his success in the ACT. I hope you all fun this New Year´s Eve and that you remember daily how much the Lord has given us.

I am very excited for 2013. This entire year of my life will be devoted to the Lord and his work. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve other missionaries, and I feel great about the help I have given other missionaries in the first 6 months of my mission, even if I have not seen the success I have wanted with members and investigators. I love (most of) the people here, I love my savior Jesus Christ, and I will keep testifying of him as long as he lets me.

Con Amor*,
Elder Morgan

*With love

Monday, December 24, 2012

I'll Be Home for Christmas... if only by way of Skype

Sorry I did not explain everything last week. As I said, I was pretty sick. But I miraculously felt better the next day! I am here in Asunción, Barrio Amambay (one of the oldest in Paraguay). There are two sister missionaries who share the ward with us. The name is one of the few that is not based on the location. If you want to look up it on a map, look for Mercado 4. That is the big market with a lot of shops, poor people, and streets to avoid. We are right on the border between the two missions.

I was just thinking about Brother Buss when this ward was doing tithing settlements (fudge!). He was such a nice man. I can´t believe Danny had never seen It´s a Wonderful Life. I guess he will be even jollier now. If that´s possible.

We´ll talk tomorrow, so I won´t write too much. We have been busy this week with a zone conference, travelling to three other areas to study or teach with other missionaries, and just knocking on a lot of doors trying to find people (that is not something I ever had to do much of before). I just want to share one experience I had while on a companion exchange with Elder Speedy in Centro (one of the only areas in the mission more urban than ours). On the street we started talking to a Dutch man whose accent and blond hair made him seem very much like an Indiana Jones villain. I have never had someone attack my testimony like that (and in my own language). He basically said, "I am much older than you and I have investigated every religion there is. You don´t know that your religion is true, neither can you convince me. Religion just causes wars, I have my own relationship with God. Your religion does not accept people the way they are. People cannot change." Wow, that must be what missionaries in Europe have to deal with all the time (I worry about Elder Claypool often--he has it a lot harder than I do in many ways). I have only ever had to fight against corrupt tradicions with weak logic. Never have I had someone here say things like that so aggressively, but also very logically. It startled me, but I testified to him that I know what I have felt is an answer from God, and this much good could not come from a false religion. I tried to teach that the Atonement of Christ means that people CAN change, but he would not let us say much at all. Though it may not have helped him, it strengthened me. I felt like Jacob agains Sherem, or one of the other Book of Mormon prophets. I now know that our faith needs to be tried and tested if it is to become "unshakable."

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, December 17, 2012

In the big city

Well, there you have a picture of my new companion, Elder Knudsen, and I. He is 24 and Argenitnian (very familiar). He was a Zone Leader in the neighboring zone back in Ciudad del Este, so I had met him once or twice. He is very laid-back and a great leader. He is patient with me as I learn, especially since he was also made a leader quite young in the mission. I really have been so lucky with companions. I was honestly expecting 8 of the 12 (average number of companions for a mission) to be full of trouble. I believe both of my past companions will soon be Zone Leaders and all of my future companions for the next space of time will have to be. What a blessing the Lord has given me.

That being said, I am sure I will have plenty of excitement with those I lead. We have already had to send one Elder out to an area in the middle of no where for his last few weeks of the mission for touching and threatening members. His companion. Elder Bravo--my friend from the last district, will have to be in a trio for this transfer. This week we also did studies with Elder Pavon, who just came from Mexico. It still seems like last week that the Zone Leader´s did that with me my first week. I think that helped me relate to him and give him the encouragment and advice he needed.

This city [Asunción] is huge, though my area is smaller than the last. There are lot of people who have pretty much nothing, a large market, and some very rich people. We also happen to have a lot of Koreans in our area, most of whom speak only Korean and the missionares have had zero success with them. Could you send me a few Korean phrases, like how to say hello a few differnt ways and "We are Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints"? It may not convert them right away, but is a start. Maybe I will be able to communicate with Liz Hilton when she gets back. :)

We do a lot of walking, it is very hot, and I am fairly sick today (let´s hope it goes away soon). But hey, I know without a doubt that we are blessed for hard work. We only have one investigator I´ll mention this week. Her name is Vanina, and after a few lessons she says she has prayed and know the church is true. We just have to overcome family opposition and get her to church (it is like Maria again but 10 years younger). The members are a great support, so we will do our best to work with them as much as possible. I am definitely overomcing one of my last challenges--learning their names and the streets here--a lot faster than my last area. There are actually street names and numbers! Woohoo!

I don´t know how to say Merry Christmas in Guaraní...probably Navidad Porá! Haha you probably didn´t laugh at that as much as I did.

Rohayhu (I love you)
-Elder Morgan

Pictures from last week:

One of the pictures of Elder Morgan's hand signals from a lesson on prayer

Elder Morgan's newest investigator... just kidding!  His face is awesome in this picture.

Elder Morgan's new companion... just kidding again!

The last of the red dirt roads we'll be seeing for awhile now that Elder Morgan is in the city

Elder Nielsen and Elder Morgan at a ward activity

"And we have Lidia, her son, and Hermano Brisuela (Alma 13:24). He is pretty much my hero. Elder Nielsen thinks he is one of the 3 Nephites..."

Monday, December 10, 2012

What a week!

So, I had quite a few pictures to send you, none of which are working right now. I will try to send them next week. Grrr. I did take pictures of a Family Home Evening doing the hand signals lesson, me with a monkey, and a beautiful part of our area we went to for our ward party on Saturday. That was the infamous 8th of December, when many people travel (including walking) to visit the monument to the Virgin of Ca´acupé. It is a pretty big holiday, so members usually have an activity since the pilgrimage is obviously only for Catholics. Really though, we went out to that amazing part of our area twice this week, and it is gorgeous. This area is very big, and I do not think missionaries have been out there in a while. I am sure that field is white and ready to harvest. The one person we have been teaching out there is named Lidia. She is amazing. I wish I could tell you how many miralces and coincidences it took just to get to our first lesson, but I do not have time. In the words of Inigo Montoya, "I will sum up." She has come to church three weeks in a row now, and last Friday when we could not find anyone to teach we decided to go try to find the house of Hermano Brisuela, who told us about her. He is living here temporarily, but he is a returned missionary and has already taught her a lot of the lessons. She studied to be a nun but left because she realized it was not true. She has searched for the true church all her life and when we taught the first lesson she knew that the Bible supports everything we do. She has to come to this man´s house at nights so she can read the Book of Mormon and get answers to her questions because the people she lives with hit her children and have threatened to destroy any Book of Mormon they see. So even the situation at the beginning of that lesson was just a powerful testament that this is the true church. The Spirit got more powerful as we shared the story of Joseph Smith, and she easily accepted the invitation to be baptized THIS SATURDAY.

Unfortunately, Maria did not get baptized. We had an awesome lesson with her and the bishop where she said she would skip her meetings and come back to church...and then the night before her family said they would disown her. She said she will try to work with them. It was so disappointing. This has happened to me a few times in the mission, and it happened to two other missionaries in our district the same night. I still have hope for her, she has an incredible testimony. Unfortunately, she really wants me to baptize her, but that will not happen. We got a phone call yesterday from President Agazzani. Apparently I am going to be a Zone Leader*. I was shocked. I am the youngest missionary to be a Zone Leader as long as anyone can remember. I am thankful to the Lord for the experiences and abilities (like Spanish, which I did not have before the mission) he has given to me to prepare for this. I know that it does not make me any better than any other missionary. I am still very nervous to have so much responsibility, but a member we visited happened to give me exactly the scripture I needed--1 Kings 3:5-15. I also have Joshua 1:5-9, which helped me in the CCM as a District Leader. I don´t know where or with whom, but I am sure this will be quite the ride!

I have been reading those Christmas stories, which are quite nice. I definitely have a lot more of Christmas here than in many other countries: we still see the occasional tree, lights, or Santa Claus. I always love hearing about how the family is doing, and I was very excited to see that Jackie Clark is going to Indianapolis! That is so cool. I hope she gets sent to our Indy 2nd ward at some point.  Both of my companions have been great, but Elder Nielsen did work harder and was a little more obedient. I feel good about how I am leaving this area. He will be training a new missionary who gets to start off with an awesome baptism. There is also Alfredo and Fabiola, a great couple who has come to church a couple times. We will see what the future holds. Please keep praying for me, I am going to need it!

Elder Wesley Morgan

*In a mission, each companionship is part of a district, which is usually made of 4 to 8 missionaries.  (Remember when Elder Morgan was called to be a district leader in the CCM?)  A zone is made up of several districts, and Elder Morgan has been called to be in charge of one of the zones in his mission!  As he said, it is very rare for an elder this young to be called to this position.  But we all know Elder Morgan is awesome, so I don't think anyone is surprised.  :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

December has already arrived!

Time sure flies! It still seems like a few weeks ago that I was saying goodbye to you at the airport. Now I might be in the last week of of my first area. We´ll talk about that in a minute. First as always, the children of God that we are teaching. Maria is amazing to teach. We reviewed the baptismal interview and she will definitely pass it. She just has to find a way to get out of those meetings to get a house...or just not go to them. I don´t want to tell her to do that, because she has been going to them all year and it seems like she is close to getting one. But they seem like a scam to me and I know that obeying the Lord and being baptized (2 Nephi 31:11-12) will do her more good than anything else. We´ll see what we can do. We had FOUR people in church this week, two of which were actually in church last week, we just didn´t know! It is a lady who lives way out in the edge of our area, and a less-active member we did not even know has been bringing her.

There is also Alfredo and Fabiola Caceres who came to church. They are very intelligent, open people. I really enjoy teaching them. We just answer their questions and testify of what we know. It is awesome when people just understand. Pedro and Olga Caceres (they are not related so far as we know) are pretty similar. He always has a lot of questions about things like Polygamy and the Fall, but if we give him a scripture to read and a few days to think about it, he always feels the Spirit and gets to the right conclusion. He now understands the principle of obedience and revelation (how the Lord can change the laws of the church such as polygamy) better than a lot of members. We have one other couple, Ever and Perla, who could also progress. Our goal is to teach all of them with at least one member this week. We did not get our goal of 20 lessons with a member present, but that is okay. We are always learning better ways to work in this area.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about Vincent last week! He was my first lesson in English here in Paraguay. He was a Brazilian American who just travels around the world on his bike. He is pretty much a hobo, but he is pretty smart and loves nature. It was such an interesting lesson. I did enjoy testifying in English. I never realized that missionaries probably have to explain the language of prayer (thee/thou).

One thing we did to work more with the members was have a fun family home evening with the Portillo family (picture attached). I made snickerdoodles, which they and my companion loved (I gave him the recipe and he just made them again today). We had forgotten about Thanksgiving, so at dinner with them we all talked about things we were thankful for. It was a bit more comical than at home, but it is good to laugh with the members. I have been a bit disappointed with the lack of success so far with Elder Nielsen. I think I expected that when I got a missionary who was so obedient and experienced we would just baptize the whole world. But I have come to realize we may have been put together not so that we could have a lot of success now, but so that we could learn things to bring more success to the Lord´s work later. I do not know if I am staying this change, but I have decided to have the attitude that I will be here so I can keep wanting to help these people who are progressing. At the same time, I am trying to make sure everything is ready so that Elder Nielsen could stay if he has to.

We really have learned so much together, and I will sure miss him if he leaves. He sends a random request...could you send me that picture of me wrapping myself up for Rian that homecoming date? She was in a church music video, and he is just amazed that I know her AND have even gone on a date with her. It was really funny. He has been pretty sick, and we could not even go out to work yesterday (I did not enjoy that). Hopefully we will be raring to go tomorrow!

I still don´t believe the wrist-chip thing anymore than I believe the many people who are talking about the end of the wolrd (Matthew 24:36). Christmas does seem pretty big commerically here, though the people are not as wealthy. The 8th of December is an important day for a lot of Catholics who focus on Mary, but we will have to see how the rest of the season goes.

Now, the most exciting thing, MY PACKAGE!! I was so happy to get that. I only had to pay 15,000 Guaranies (3 or 4 dollars). I did decide it would be better to open it all because it would be hard to handle that if I leave next week (transfers are the 12th). I promise I will wait with the other one! I really did love it, even just getting a package was way exciting. I loved getting the things I had asked for: hymns, pedometer, and Peanut Butter, and you sent me some things I had been thinking about buying but did not ask for like scripture pencils and post-its. The mini-Predicad Mi Evangelio will be very useful for district meetings and Zone Conferences. There is a picture of how I translated the Plan of Salvation. Elder Nielsen also thanks you for the stocking. I love the decorations (except that crystal tree that did not survive), and I think out of the whole package my favorite thing may have been the motivational poster from the talk by Elder Uchtdorf. It means a lot to me that you remember that. We are handing out those pictures of the Nativity, listening to the Hamilton Singers, and loving this season. I would suggest you send a letter to any store that says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas and read the December Liahona (Ensign). There are some great stories in there about Prophets and Missionaries at Christmas. Love you so much!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

P.S. You should know that one of the most common comments I get when I show people pictures is "Tu mamá es muy linda." :) *

*Your mom is very pretty.  :)