Monday, December 30, 2013

3 Weeks Behind

"These are the pictures from Rodrigo´s baptism awhile ago. Good news: this week he got confirmed. His dad is in that picture, but he hasn´t been to church since. There have been lots of complications, he has problems with his neighbors, and we are trying to do all we can do bring peace on earth and goodwill to all men. Mostly we´re just thankful that Rodrigo is an official member of the church!"

"Sorry I didn´t tell you beforehand about these two Christmas activities. I have lots to think about, and we had spent so much time planning them I was sure I had mentioned them. Like I said, no one showed up for the open house, but we had a great group of missionaries there."

"The next day was our Christmas activity with all those musical numbers. I didn´t take pictures of many of those (I was singing in some of them--I really like the Spanish Primary song "Estrella de Luz"). This is the Nativity play where President took people out of the audience to participate. It was a lot of fun, especially for Delfina, who is normally pretty shy, but as the only pregnant woman in the branch had to be Mary by default. Alberto, her husband, loved every moment. He reminds me a lot of Jed."

"These next ones are all from the Christmas activity. We had half the mission there on thursday (our day), and the other half on Friday (Elder Jessop was in that one, so I didn´t get to see him. But I heard he´s training!!) We hiked the Cerro Lambaré, which was short and easy. Played some games there at the top, then we had a white elephant gift exchange (passing them in a circle) like last year. Then we played sports, had relay races--including a watermelon eating relay between the zone leaders. It was very, very fun. With all the stress of the branch and the zone,  I was so happy to have a free, fun day with other missionaries. That doesn´t ever happen, but It really did help."

"The Kellers at the activity."

"Our tug-of-war team at the top of the hill. We won! I´m in front, with my companion right behind me."

"Elder Adamson and I eating watermelons. Woohoo."

Well, I kind of have to update you on the past three weeks. I talked about some things in my other emails that you can string together to see the parts of the story that are missing. This will be more like a Daniel email--lots of quick sentences about things that happened.

I mentioned the Garcias in the photos. They have a niece who lives nearby who asked us to walk with them to church. She´s 10 and very sweet. With the support of the Garcías, she´ll be baptized soon. Silvia has pretty much disappeared, which makes me very sad. But I did what I could and her time will come. Gustavo Resquín continues to come to church, but not the classes. We´ll get him there this week and hopefully he´ll find the courage to be baptized. Cristian and Ilse are still waiting for the divorce. He´s the one telling her she needs to make time for the Book of Mormon, and he wants his family and friends to be baptized after him. Oddly enough, they didn´t come to church yesterday, so we´ll have to find out what happened.

Then we´ve got the Castro family (my other 9-year-old convert), who we are still breaking our skulls to figure out what they need to come back to church. We talked about tithes and offerings because they have financial issues (fasting can also help). They said that in their 6 years as members, no missionary has ever taught them fast offering. Moral of the story--don´t be afraid, the people need the blessings of making sacrifices so they can progress.

I´m also frustrated with the Centurión family. Lessons with members who now attend other churches are very awkward. We talked about the Atonement, and it is obvious they are trying to tell themselves what they are doing isn´t wrong. I bore one of the strongest testimonies of my life--I was close to crying--telling them that they need to believe that the Atonement IS powerful enough to help them forgive and come back to the church that THEY KNOW is true. I would have never said things like that a year and a half ago, but I´ve learned that we have to be direct, sincere, and teach what Christ would say if he himself where there. The spirit was strong, and they thanked us for the visit but they are firm in their decision to keep going to another church "for now."

Other great experience that I didn´t have time to tell you on Wednesday. We found a group of 20-22-year olds sitting around the other day who actually let us teach them. One of them showed me his tattoos and could tell I was uncomfortable. He asked why, and though I wasn´t sure they would take it seriously, I offered to sit down and answer as many questions as they had. We started with a prayer, and an hour and a half later they didn´t want us to leave. They asked about baptism, the restoration, worshipping images, chastity (we were VERY direct about that, and they also said no one has ever told them it was wrong to live together without being married), what happens after this life, how to repent, the word of wisdom, what we do as missionaries and why we chose to come here, and much, much more. It was very spiritual, and there was never more than a 3-second pause between questions. I am so grateful to have studied PMG well, and I know the Spirit gave us the answer to all of their questions. It also works to ask people questions--"Does it make sense that babies are baptized when Jesus was baptized as an adult?" Questions like that have been helping me in lots of lessons. They´re pretty busy (one of them--Jorge--is a pro soccer player), but we are excited to go back and teach them again.

I also taught a man in the bus about the restoration--in English!! He lived in Indianapolis, but is from Uruguay. He teaches English here, and he is a member of the Salvation Army--he explained that it´s a church, not just a charity like most people think. I would love to talk more about that lesson, too, but time is short!

As far as things after the mission go, feel free to ask me when you need to. I don´t love talking about it, not because I am afraid of being unfocused, but because I am actually a little worried. I have been praying a lot, and that idea of working with the Educational system has been on my mind for months. I think I'll have to sign up for my own classes when I get back and make a firm decision on what to do. As far as work goes, I have also felt the impression that EFY isn´t for me. But I really want to come back and start working. I don´t want to go from being busy all day to nothing--that would depress me a lot. But I also need a job that will let me study full time in the fall--which is most important. There is a lot to worry about, seeing as I'll have to be saving for a future family and all that. It´s not just saving up for my mission and the fun things I want. Definitely a big change, but I think it´ll be okay. For now, I´ll keep you posted on how the work of Salvation is going here in Ca´acupé, Paraguay. I am so grateful to be a part of it!!

Elder Morgan the Elder

Monday, December 16, 2013

Short Letter

Well, writing Mom and President didn´t leave me much time this week, and next week I won´t be writing the family either--we are using that time for the phone calls.

Fast updates--we had interviews with President Agazzani who got me very excited to see progress in Ca´acupé. We also found out about a lot of problems in the districts, which we are working on. We had SIX investigators in church yesterday!! Woohoo!! Gustavo, the teenager whose sisters are all members, finally came!  Juan Martinez brought three of his nieces who are visiting from Capiatá (one lives here): Cristian, whose girlfriend is a member named Ilse (I think I mentioned them) came with his Evangelical friend, and they LOVED church. Liza Melgarejo gave a talk, the Garcias still didn´t confrim their son. The Melgarejo twins went to do baptisms at the temple, and their sister Silvia finally came to our lessons again. She knows she needs to gets baptized, the only question is when. Pray for her and everyone else around here. I do love it here in Ca´acupé! I was very happy to hear about Daniel´s baptisms! Hope all is well, and we´ll talk next week!

Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, December 9, 2013

Weekend in Tobatí

I think I said this last year around this time, but there´s really nothing I´d rather be doing during Christmas than serving these people and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There´s also no place I´d rather be than back in Ca´acupé! We have been in Tobatí for 4 nights (we left Thursday night) and three days (we came back this morning). Luckily the wife of a member (who´s getting baptized this week) loaned us two mattresses. The members are pretty great there, though most are new converts--the group has only been there for 5 years--and are still learning how the church runs and the importance of rules and commandments. Good thing we have two obedient missionaries there right now.

There were 21 people in church--a rented house--and when the talks ran out with 25 minutes left in the meeting, one of the missionaries there asked me to give a talk. People warned me that would happen in the mission, but I never guessed it would be like that. I talked about D&C 97:8, one of my new favorite scriptures about being willing to sacrifice anything to keep our covenants, and Mosiah 5:2-5--the desire to avoid temptations and be faithful to our covenants all our lives. We found lots of families to teach, many of whom are very interested in praying to know the truth, so I hope there will continue to be growth up there.

I am also very glad to be back in my area. It was weird not going to church in my own area. I heard there weren´t many members in church, but I also heard that there weren´t the millions of people were expecting to visit the Basilica. There were quite a few, but it was interspersed throughout the week. We heard lots of music every morning and night while we were still in Ca´acupé, and we did feel a little out of place when large groups of people were heading towards the center of town. But I don´t think it was anything noteworthy on a global scale.

Rodrigo was baptized right after our English class, but due to a miscommunication he was not confirmed. Gah! Nothing that can be done to change that now. It was a great baptismal service. That morning we assigned lots of members to come and participate, and most of them did! It was amazing! I wish I knew more about how our other investigators and converts were, but I´ll find out. I do know that Liza, our recent convert, offered to give her talk a week early because her friend Sister Sostoa, who I had assigned for that week, wouldn´t be able to. Hope that makes sense. Basically, Liza is an awesome convert who is willing to do anything.

In our meeting with President Burger, we helped him give lots of assignments and callings to recent converts and more-or-less-active members. That is progress! We still haven´t been we´ll continue to help as much as we can until that happens.

I am also learning patience with people who talk a lot. Sometimes, people here can just talk for 15-20 minutes without taking a break, and I get very frustrated because I don´t like to lose control of lessons. We had a great family who we wanted to teach about the Restoration, but we couldn´t get our testimonies in because they talked about all the terrible things their neighbor (who is a member) has done. It is frustrating that there are people who don´t find the truth only because they don´t let the missionaries get a word in. Haha, but I am also learning that the things they tell us might be very personal or important, and we should listen with love. One of the many things I learned in Tobatí.

Men´s Chorus has always had 180 men, as far as I know. Sometimes it just looks bigger with combined choirs. Hope things are well with the family and their various work, study, and calling situations. I love you all!

-Elder Morgan the Viejo*

*Viejo=old, older

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mucho que hacer...siempre*

*Lots to do...always

We were expecting a ton of people in church this week, but life always presents many obstacles. The only ones who came to church were the Garcias, whose son will get baptized this week. They enjoyed the classes, but had to leave early. Unfortunate, but I think we´ll continue with the plans. They enjoy everything about coming back to church, and Brother Garcia is helping us teach some one of his neighbors. He also asked "Why aren´t there as many people in church as there used to be" (I do not like that question), and we committed him to talk to his many neighbors who are less active members (his neighborhood is full of them).

We found a great guy named Justino. His wife is a former investigator, but she recently left him. Normally, it is hard to talk to people during crises in Paraguay. When someone dies they pray and mourn together as a family for several days, and when other bad things happen, they often react by drinking a lot or doing other things to isolate themselves. But when Justino told us what happened, we promised him a message of hope and peace, and he actually let us in! By the end of the lesson he couldn´t stop smiling. Great moment. He has neighbors who are members, and with their help he´ll be baptized soon.

One more, Elvio Britez. Well, first you have to know that the Resquín family are recent converts, whose daughters were baptized, but only one of their 5 sons. For some reason, Gustavo Resquín (17 years old) decided to let us teach him, and told us he wanted to invite his friend. That´s Elvio, who, unlike Gustavo, is very interested in learning about God and coming to church. He works on Sundays, but is trying to change. If we can help him with that, he´ll be a great missionary someday.

This week we will work in other areas for the weekend so we can avoid being here during all the activity for the pilgrimage, which has already started. Lots of people come in buses from very far, and there is music coming from the Basilica all the time. Still haven´t found the less-actives we are looking for in MLS. I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn and help people in my calling, but it would be nice to focus more on missionary work.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was moved to Saturday, because there was another Zone Conference this week on Thursday, which I conducted. Elder Ávila, an area 70 from Argentina, visited us. We watched a video of President Eyring and Elder Holland comparing the Atonement to missionary work (and D&C 107:99-100-"Let every man learn his duty"), which explains why salvation can never be easy because it comes at such a high price. Elder Avila talked a lot about obedience, working with members, and the importance of the first two great commandments. He has a very animated personality, and we learned some great things--especially the importance of loving God and those we serve. And the lunch was with the other four missionaries here in Ca´acupé. The Kellers made us somewhat-American food--chicken, peas, sweet potatoes (kinda), mandioca (paraguayan), and rice with gravy. It was definitely good enough for me.

Other interesting bits. Sister Castro (Milagros´s mom), like many members, is going to be working all this week (including Sunday). We read Luke 12--a parable about focusing on eternal rewards, and reminded her of her goal of the temple. She committed to pray and decide what to do...but wasn´t in church on Sunday. We did what we could. Mom, I really liked that you shared 1 Nephi 13:37 with us because President Agazzani sent us the same scripture last week! We saw Plutarco, a less-active member, skinning a dead pig he had hanging by its feet. That was a new, unforgettable experience. And I also realized I have lost more than 10 pounds in this area. It´s so hot you can breathe the heat in, and we walk up a lot of hills. But I´m doing fine, don´t worry!

Also, I got my Christmas packages! So happy to have my camera working again. This time I´ll wait to open up the wrapped presents. I loved the photos of Chris....I like showing people the photo of him before I left and they say "Wow, you´ve been out here a long time." I´m so old. But I really did appreciate the candy and decorations. It´s going to be a great month. Thanks for your support!

-Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, November 25, 2013

Double Wedding!

"These are a few of the many pictures from the wedding ceremony. In one of the pictures is Liza Melgarejo (recent convert) and her daughter, and Sister Sostoa (Alberto´s mom), who made great dresses for just about everyone."

Well, we had our double marriage and baptism! It started pretty late because of the paperwork and other last minute disasters, but it was a very nice ceremony--the refreshments, decorations, and all the other things we worked to plan went well. Sister Keller put together a musical number of "Where Love Is," which all the missionaries sang.

I don´t know if I mentioned that the other couple was from Atyrá, a group that belongs to our branch. So I went out there to do exchanges and the interviews for the other couple. They were very young, but I was SO impressed by the girl. She´s 18 and pregnant, and when I asked her why she wants to get married, she said that she wants her baby to be born into a sure, married family. Wow! I wish all the young people here understood that! She also asked interesting questions about the apostasy and the difference between repenting before and after baptism (try explaining that one...). Her husband was a little tougher. He had some issues that I had to call President Agazzani about, who left the decision up to me. I wasn´t sure either, so I decided to talk to Darío (who was going to be baptized) on the way back to Ca´acupe for the wedding. I explained to him the situation, and left it in his hands to decide if he was ready to commit to live the commandments or needed another week or so. We prayed and he said yes. I felt very good about that...but for other reasons they haven´t been confirmed yet. We´ll see what happens. We have a lot to work out in the Zone to help them achieve their potential.

I am also overwhelmed by our workload as counselors. President Burger is putting a lot on our shoulders. It seems like the branch´s new motto is "ask Elder Morgan to do it." But hey, the Castros were there yesterday! Hna. Castro (mother of Milagros, who hasn´t been back to church since we baptized her) said that every time she opens up her Book of Mormon, it falls on 3 Nephi 18, which reminds to her to come to church. Some of the Garcia family who we started teaching last week came to church. They also arranged to get help from the bishop´s storehouse, which they desperately need.

I don´t know how to explain why my companion is so much like Tony, but he really is. He just has that jovial, laid-back personality, but also has a great testimony. You´ll just have to go to Buenos Aires and meet him, and it´ll all make sense. He also sings (very well) and plays guitar in a band with his four brothers. He and the other two I live with are always talking about soccer. Always. And actually, the Kellers invited us to have Thanksgiving lunch with them on Thursday, so that´ll be a unique experience here in Paraguay.

Two other fun little things. There was an error in the mission computer, so our latest list of who´s in the zone says I am from El Salvador. Who knew? I have also been working a lot with the MLS computer in the church trying to find some inactive members using whatever scrap of information I can. I feel like a detective, and I think it´ll help me do family history research after the mission. 

Well, I love you all! Hope everyone´s doing well. :)

-Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, November 18, 2013

El Crecimiento de la Rama*

*Growth of the Branch

Well, most importantly, I´m still alive. Haha, even more important, we are still on our way to having a baptism and wedding this Saturday. I don´t know if I mentioned that another couple from Atyrá (one of the small groups within our branch boundaries) will get married and baptized at the same time. We´ve seen a lot of progress in Delfina. I don´t know if I mentioned that she was very shy at the beginning, but she smiles and laughs a lot more, and she even shared a spiritual experience about how she prayed to find her daughter who had been kidnapped.

We´re finding lots of new people to teach, normally thanks to our efforts in reactivation. We have Hugo and Estela, who said the following when we were getting to know their situation, "We just moved here; he´s out of work and I have been very sick, but we are looking for a new church to join." Those are all great things to hear to help someone accept the gospel! They talked a we didn´t teach much. And we have to take a bus to get to their house. But we´ll be back there soon.

In another far area, we found the Rodriguez family, which are 5 or 6 humble families that live right next to each other. There are a lot of very young mothers and grandmothers there (very common in this area), but they seem willing to listen. The Centurión family are members who used to be very active but got offended because of some things that really shouldn´t bother them anymore. They are a great family that we hope to reactivate soon.

And one more great family we´ve found are the Garcias, recent converts who have a 9-old-son to baptize.They have a problem that we are finding a LOT, which is that they work Sundays because they are barely making enough to get by. I am going to be studying a lot about that--3 Nephi 13 and 1 Kings 17 this morning--and I would love your input as to how to help people have the faith to come to church so they can receive even more blessings than they would for working.

Other news about people--I found out that my convert Diego from Amambay recently baptized someone. And Elder Jessop is already a District Leader. I saw him at the conference with Elder Christofferson, which was very interesting. Elder Walter F. Gonzalez, (Area Pres.) Elder DiGiovanni (70), and their wives gave brief talks. Then all Elder Christofferson did was ask about our comments on those talks and open it up for other questions. Someone asked about how to help people who don´t read very much (very common problem), and it was interesting to see that Elder Christofferson was able to give us some inspired but general adivce (love and persistence), but Elder Gonzalez and the Mission Presidents were able to give us more area-specific counsel. Moral of the story--apostles are awesome, but we should also listen to local leaders because they´ve also experienced what we´re going through.

I also did my first calling interview for a Young Men´s counselor. That was so awkward. I am so inexperienced. But luckily he is a great guy (recent convert) who is willing to help. I´m sure I´ll get the hang of these things soon. We called Liza Melgarejo to be in charge of organizing the church cleaning. The other missionaries are also working hard in their callings. Elder Godoy actually reminds me a lot of Tony--very similar personalities. Funny to hear that he works with Sophie´s dad!

On the other hand, it is rough to hear about Patriarch Cooper. I won´t be seeing quite as many of the faces as I was hoping to when I get back, but I guess that´s just part of life. I hope all goes well with the rest of the ward. Remember how blessed you are to have such worthy, obedient leaders.

Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, November 11, 2013

The World Has Need of Willing Men

Well, the subject line this week has a very important meaning. I have often been thinking about why it is so much easier to find active women in the church, while men are who we need to shoulder most of the responsibility. President Burger seems to have found a temporary answer to that for now. He called me and my companion as his counselors and the other two as the Elders Quorum Presidency. Overwhelmed is a good way to describe it. I now feel like everyone needs me to do everything. But at the same time, I am excited to work more closely with the members, leaders and less active, to reactive them and to find people to teach and baptize. I also found it really interesting that this was Dad´s last calling--makes me feel sure that we´ll have the Lord´s help sent to us whenever we need it.

Speaking of my companion, his name is Elder Godoy. He is older than me, but less-experienced (only 10 months as a missionary). He is very excited to work, especially because his trainer was a good friend of mine from the MTC, Elder Villar, who seems to have told him a lot of good things about me. As always, he is from Argentina. He speaks quite "porteño"* because he´s from Buenos Aires. We are living with Elder Portillo (again--he was Elder Leishman´s comp in Ca´aguazú) and Elder Vega, who replaced me in Ciudad del Este. Small world, great missionaries, 100% Español.

As far as investigators, no one was able to attend church, for various small reasons. We are working hard with Silvia, even convincing her to fast with us for fast Sunday. I´m hoping for this Saturday, but I´m also realizing I¨ll have to accept it if it´s not yet her time. We´ve given up on Emilio....he seems to be only interested in the social and English aspects of the church. Yes, Delfina will get married and then baptized. You can add "wedding planner" to my list of responsibilities. It´ll all be great. I love those families. Liza (Silvia´s mom) is already doing visiting teaching, planning to visit one of her neighbors who we found with us, and sewing a skirt to give to another neighbor that she wants to invite to church this week. Golden!

One other interesting bit. I asked the haircutter last week to "cut my hair very short, but still long enough to comb." He said he´d do a bit with the razor and a bit with scissors. Sounded great, until he buzzed my whole head except my bangs, which he cut a little. I felt sooo weird my first day, but with lots of gel, it almost works. So, for Danny Boy, I now have a Latino haircut.

It is an apartment we live in. It´s above a house and an office. We have already had some adventures getting the air conditioning and shower fixed, along with breaking the key in the lock one night. I love this house so much...I don´t want see it destroyed. Haha, we´ll see what happens with 4 young men living here all the time. And thank you so much for sending the package. I´ll see what I can do with the razor and the Christmas phone call. We have transfers on the I don´t even know if I'll be here!

Sorry I didn´t explain the meetings very well. The weird part is, District refers to two things--a small group of missionaries, which make up a zone, OR a large group of branches under the direction of the mission president (it´s the step before Stake). So District Meetings are just missionaries, District Conferences are all the members (like Stake Conference). Zone Trainings are just us teaching our zone. Zone conferences are large conferences where President Agazzani or someone else speaks. And tomorrow we have the great opportunity to listen to Elder Christofferson! I am excited! I´ll let you know how it goes!

 *We found out this is basically the Argentine equivalent of a southern accent here in the US.

Monday, November 4, 2013

We have a home!

Baptism from last week: "This is Liza and two of her daughters, Analía and Anayeli. Ever Barrios, who helped us baptize, is the son of the ward mission leader."

Well, the big news is that we found a house. I don´t know If I already told you the story of how we found it. A week or two ago, when we found out we had a big deadline, I decided we needed to pray because we had tried everything and there was no way we were going to find the perfect house on our own (missionary houses have very high standards of privacy and security). As we were searching, Elder Leishman decided to go talk to someone at a house he had looked at while looking for houses for the Kellers, but had been too expensive. We went inside, I loved it, and Elder Hardy (the financial secretary of the mission) was able to negotiate the price down a little so it would be reasonable for two companionships to pay. It is right by the Casino (just two blocks from our old house), and right on the limit between the areas. I feel like we aren´t living in Paraguay anymore--it is so nice! I´ll let you know what it´s like when I find out who the three missionaries are that will come live with us.

"Pictures of our very nice new house! Which is still in the process of being cleaned and organized."
We really didn´t teach much this week--just looking for houses and moving. I am excited to get back into normal missionary work rhythm. Liza, our recent convert, is already helping clean the chapel. Delfina has been sick because of her pregnancy, but they decided to prepare to be married on the 23rd. She´s now come to church 4 weeks in a row. Yesterday was District Conference. President Agazzani came and spoke about how he loves breaking down walls--literally and figuratively, challenged all the members to meet Elder Ballard´s member-missionary challenge, and talked about hoping to grow enough that we can tear down the back wall of the chapel to put in a cultural hall. That would be good, because it was pretty packed. I also got to see the Grau family, some good friends from Amambay whose dad is now Pres. Agazzani´s 2nd counselor.

The Zone Training went great. Everyone in the mission had to read the 4th missionary, a talk that I think I´ve mentioned, so we talked a lot about that in the meeting. I attached what they sent us if you (and also Daniel) are interested in seeing what it is. We talked about being self-sufficient and creating solutions--I shared D&C 9:7-8, and Elder Leishman shared the story of the Brother of Jared--his favorite story. We talked about "lifting where you stand" using 1 Corinthians 12´s analogy of the parts of the body. And, among other things, we acted a story about a dad helping his son enjoy the journey when they had to walk home. That was our biggest objective; we need to help these missionaries enjoy what they´re doing. It is an incredible opportunity.

One thing that also helped is the new manual "Adjusting to Misisonary Life" which everyone received. It is perfect. It would have helped me so much at the beginning of my mission. It just talks about how to deal with the stresses of mission life. It is about 50-60 pages. I will definitely keep using it even after the mission.

That´s so cool that you got to be a part of Toni and Arnold´s mission. I didn´t know you could do that!! The Senior Couple is from South Carolina (she talks like Andy Offut Irwin*), and they are a lot of fun. Elder Keller has a lot of great ideas to get home teaching going, and he scored himself a calling as 2nd Counselor in the District Presidency. So that will get a lot of wheels rolling. He served in Posadas Argentina a long time ago, and was once in Asunción for a Zone Conference. He gave patriarchal blessings in Spanish, so he still remembers it.

Also, the only other thing I can think of in the Christmas package would be facewash. Like I said, I don´t think my razor will make it another 7 months (Gah!) and I need a new camera battery or something.  I think that´s it. I´ll try to see if I can find someone to going to the states to send you something this year, haha. Love you all!

-Elder Morgan the Older

*Andy Offut Irwin is a storyteller that comes to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and tells stories about his aunt using a cute, old lady southern accent.

Monday, October 28, 2013

More baptisms! Woohoo!

This truly is the Lord´s work. Once again, we spent a lot of time looking for houses, and the week ended with baptisms and confirmations. I don´t have pictures (My camera battery is officially dead...I¨ll let you know what kind it is next week if it would be possible to send a new one), but we had six people in white! Liza and her twin daughters, Analía (who I baptized) and Anayeli are now members of the church. They have such strong testmonies, and the YW President (President Burger´s wife) surprised us by giving them full scripture sets and Personal Progress manuals. She also gave all that to their sister Silvia, who is going to need a little more time before getting baptized. Delfina keeps coming to church, so we just need to get the marriage plans ready! Also, our Zone pulled some miracles and we had nine confirmations yesterday--that was also great!

But after that...we don´t have absolutely anyone. ALL of our extra time has been house-shopping. It isn´t easy here in Paraguay, where directions, contact information, and business negotataions are pretty informal. One cultural thing I don´t know if I mentioned: They always wear flip-flops. Even when doing construction or moving jobs. It´s pretty funny. And the only interesting news about the house is that we found some "hippies", for lack of a better word, (one is from Minnesota) who showed us their house where they do Reiki Therapy. Seems like pseudoscience mixed with religion and massages. Interesting experience to lighten up a day of non-spiritual work. We just have to remember that what we are doing is important. Just glad I am not in the office where they do things like this every day, haha.

The Kellers (the senior couple) are amazing. They are working with the District President to reignite the home teaching program. Most people give a lot of excuses as to things that have already been tried and don´t work, but we still have to keep trying! District conference is this weekend, so I am excited to see how things start to change.

We sang "Teach me to walk in the Light" and "Love one another" (there is an incredible EFY type CD that has two singers, one of whom I think is Freddy Ashby singing those two songs, which is why we chose them). And I just got out of choir practice. Elder Brown put together a 30-person mission choir for a conference we will have next month with ELDER CHRISTOFFERSON! I´m pretty excited. The practice went very very well. Right before that was the Leadership council, which was also great, as always. We have to do the training THIS Friday because next week is transfers (that´s when Elder Leishman goes home), so I'll let you know the details about what we are teaching and how it goes. President Agazzani was pretty direct about how what we teach should be exactly what we heard today or we´re like the people who created the Great Apostasy, haha.  So I´ll talk more about how both went next week.

We did also have our primary program...not quite as organized, but still spiritual. Elder Leishman is very focused for having so little time left. He always talks about how happy he for the experiences he has had, and how all the challenges were worth it. My two suit pants are the hot ones, and I have one left that I brought (the washable ones) and two that I have found. (You can find ANYTHING in old apartments--books, clothes, personal care supplies...) So I´ll be fine. I did hear about that missionary movie, and I will be interested to see it. It´s great to be a missionary, and every member can participate!
-Elder Morgan the Older

My mom found this picture on a Missionary Mom Facebook page... Elder Morgan's zone, taken sometime this summer

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wonderfully exhausted

Well, this week was insane. It started Monday night when the assistants called us to do exchanges the next day, and I finally got to work with Elder Brown! We had planned to go do house inspections, a new assignment from the mission which is a huge workload in this Zone. So we had to move those to Wednesday and Thursday. We also had to help the sisters in our ward move, and I learned that it is not a good idea to do that in church clothes. Elder Brown and I were already tired. We went out to visit the Castro family, who had given us some unclear doubts about why they didn´t want to come back to church and baptize their 9-year-old daughter. But when we arrived, they didn´t put up any fight at all. It was great! The service was very nice, and two other nine year old girls (one from the sisters, and one from another branch nearby called Eusebio Ayala) were baptized. It shows that the parents need to take a bit more responsibility, but salvation is salvation. I was also very impressed by the fact that all three mothers (none of the inactive fathers came) mentioned that their daughters had made their own decision. The best part might be that the one we baptized is named Milagros--miracles in Spanish. And it truly was.

Elder Brown tried to do the same thing with Emilio, but he is as stubborn as ever. We also ran to look at that big house, but no go. We have had to spend most of our time looking, and we have a deadline of THIS Thursday now! The two missionaries who are coming are going to be Zone Leaders in when the zone splits. 4 Zone Leaders, 2 Sisters, and 1 Couple in the same branch will be crazy. Luckily, we have been able to keep visiting the Melgarejos, who keep progressing, but aren´t sure if they are ready to take the step of faith and get baptized this Saturday. We´ll see what we can to do help them tonight.
Apart from that, my only other news is that Elder Leishman and I sang two primary hymns in Spanish, Guaraní, and English yesterday. He never sang before the mission, but it actually went well. There are also some Russians and Germans in our ward who sing all the hymns in german, so we just have quite the mess of languages. Last week we went to the Basilica and saw the Virgin statue. Interesting. We also got to go in the dome above and see the city. Unfortunately, I had camera problems, as I have been having all my mission, so I will have to find another chance to go back and take pictures, though I have to admit that everything Daniel sent surpasses it by far. I also loved getting pictures from everyone!

It is ridiculously hot and humid, but I have been able to find some old pants that missionaries have left, so I don´t have to wear my suit pants except on Sundays (they are pretty thick and itchy in the humidity). I did use my thermals a lot in the winter month(s), because it got very very cold. But now...I don´t know what to do with it. I do have everything I need, and I am thankful for the blessings the Lord gives us, even when we haven´t had much time to work in our area. One other thing we had to do was make the arrangements for a new missionary we sent home today. He was not prepared for the mission in several ways, but I do feel bad for him. Please pray for him, for me, for the house, for the new converts, for the Melgarejos, for us to find other people to teach, and all the other normal things. I love you all and I am so thankful for your support!

Monday, October 14, 2013

House Shopping

First and foremost--the investigators. Of the miracle Melgarejo family, on the 12-year-old twins Analía and Anayeli came to church, and they had to leave early. But they really liked the Young Women´s classes. But we had a great lesson with the family the night before. They had asked about why only we have the authority to baptize and who the Nephites are. Reading 3 Nephi 11 was a great way to answer both questions. They are still getting ready to be baptized on the 26th, as is Delfina, who we are also teaching with the Sostoa family. She is the oldest son´s girlfriend, and they just moved to Ca´acupe. She seemed really quiet in the lesson, but she also loved church. She is pregnant with her second child, so I think she really likes the emphasis on families.

Then the story continues with Emilio. We devised a plan to have him come teaching with us. He got to see how much work it is to find people to teach, and we intentionally visited a lot of less-active families who asked him "Why aren´t you a member yet?!" Some of them are people with testimonies who just don´t want to keep the commandments, which we are trying to use to show him that he just needs to act on what he knows is true. He loves practicing English, though he is fairly slow at learning. Yesterday when we were talking about what he would need to be baptized, and he said he needs to learn more, I said "YOU KNOW EVERYTHING!" That he understood, haha. He´s really fun to have around, but we are just praying so hard that he will get his answer from the Lord and make up his mind to get baptized, maybe even this Saturday.

Not much else to talk about. We did do the Zone training, which was interesting to be doing again. I feel like everything we did helped the missionaries, but we could have explained to the District leaders a bit more of what their role was (they spent a lot of time talking when we wanted more demonstrations and practices). But overall, I enjoyed it.

It will be easier when the Zone splits next transfer, which is now official. President visited a few branches to approve some new houses. We are going to be receiving new missionaries in three of the branches, including ours. So we have to dedicate a lot of time to house shopping. Luckily, we found a great one nearby, which might even be big enough for the four of us. Besides finding a house for the new Elders that will come, we need to move out because there is a single lady living in the beauty salon downstairs. So please pray for us to be able to do that.

There are 13 Zones in the mission, with two or three districts in each. I heard Corbin is a ZL over 40 missionaries which is insane. Here 8 missionaries in a district is the maximum, with no more than 3 districts in a zone. And it is sad to hear what happened in Truman´s mission. I´ll have to write to him and see how everyone is handling it.

As far as your talk goes, I think the best thing I could say is that missionary work is truly guided by the Lord. He will never abandon us if we believe in him. That guidance only comes through preparation and participation. Like Elder Maynes said, you can´t learn how to play basketball by watching the NBA. You have to go out and do it! It´s the same with missionary work. I have learned most everything by making mistakes and trusting in God to help me improve. The other day we had a meeting with our district leaders. They were letting us know what challenges they are facing, and I found the counsel to help them just coming out of my mouth naturally. When we are focused on helping others, not our own desires, the Lord can work through us, and it is the same for every member or missionary who wants to participate.

Well, I wish you luck with your great new temple calling, along with Tony & Jed in their new jobs, Danny with his grad school applications, and Brittany, Heather and Daniel. Thanks for keeping me posted, even with the sad things. I´ve heard that something is happening in that important for me to know about? In any case, I hope all is well. Love you all!
-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rededicate Myself

The English room at General Conference
Well, I loved Conference as always. We only have one investigator who came, Emilio. He is awesome. He comes to the English classes we started (Wednesdays, like Daniel), because he loves learning English. He has been investigating and coming to church off and on for a year and a half. Even the members ask him when he'll finally get baptized, but he doesn't want to commit. We're just trying what worked with Paola--let him know that we aren't going to pressure him, it's his decision, and we'll work hard to help him feel comfortable with it. He came to Priesthood and both Sunday sessions, and he watched them with us in the English broadcast room. I don't think he understood much, but like the story in India (?), I believe he felt the Spirit of it.

Apart from him, we have one other investigator who we were really hoping would come, Cheli. She has also been investigating for a while (a couple months), and knows it's true, but doesn't want to commit for lack of time. We also found a miracle family--The Melgarejos--who just happened to be doing a family night with the Sostoa (members) one evening. They told us they wouldn't have time for conference, but they really want to know more. We're watching "On the Way Home" with them tonight.

Back to the Conference. Like the subject line says, I feel like the theme of the conference was rededicating ourselves to be better. I loved Elder Maynes' talk about treating trials like a Spiritual workout. I felt the Spirit in so many talks I can't even remember, but I do like seeing the recurring themes between conferences. Many apostles speak about the same things they always do, but it's important! Les Miserables was mentioned again, and in the priesthood session someone said the phrase from last priesthood session that I loved--Don´t die with your music in you. It's so true. All that people will remember here--missionaries and investigators--are what I taught them to do. I will leave this country at some point, but if I lift and inspire others my legacy will stay here.

Elder Dube's talk was incredible--exactly what the branches in this city need. Never look back; we still have work to do! It is a branch we are in, and it's actually pretty big. That picture was a group in the Elders' house in Tobatí. There are a couple areas like that--very far away with small branches or groups. Yes, we are Zone Leaders, so we have a lot of work to do. The city itself is very nice near the Basilica (more urban and less Guaraní than Ca´aguazú), but there are some rural parts, too. With Elder Leishman going home, I can also be sure that I will be here for the infamous 8 de Diciembre.
Other little things: Two of the Sisters here are from Nicaragua (Diriomo and Ciudad Sandino), but only one has heard of Juan Sacasa. We got chased by a large, angry turkey. That's a first. The Arnold's came up to visit the Kellers for conference, so it was good to see them again. Our Branch president is President Burger from Germany. He speaks English and Spanish, and all the missionaries go to his house on Tuesdays to eat and talk about progress.

I am excited for the Zone training. This time it will involve a lot of help from the District Leaders, and one interesting thing we will teach is President Agazzani's new way to ask questions. Rather than ask if someone wants to do something, it is often more effective to ask them when or how they will. That was easy while asking which session of conference people would go to or when they will read the Book of Mormon chapter we assigned. It also works with members. Rather than tell the bishop it is his duty to send someone to preside at every baptism, you can say "Bishop, we are planning the baptismal service and we want to know who is going to preside. Will it be you or one of your counselors?" Pretty indirect way to give people a push in the right direction, which they often need.

We have a lot to worry about. But, as always, I love hearing how everyone is doing. I hope you can all apply what you learned in Conference. It really is a great time to be a member of the church and participate in missionary work. There's not much more you can ask for than inviting people unto Christ. Love you all!

-Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, September 30, 2013

New Area; Old Friend

Well, we´ll start off by talking about how my time in Ca´aguazú ended with a bang. After having two decent, but average days, we went to our last lesson with María, who lives with the less-active members. She hadn´t been reading the Book of Mormon much and had some doubts about baptism. The members sort of took control of the lesson, and we didn´t get to talk much. But the most important part was the end when we invited her to pray. She said a very long prayer, thanking the Lord in detail for the blessings of the Restoration. Everyone felt the Spirit very strong, and while they all got up, I kept kneeling, and she did too. I asked her how she felt, what she believed about the church, and when she wanted to get baptized. She said "this month." We were so happy! She is an incredible person, and that was a great last lesson to have with her. In the leadership council today, I was able to find out that she will get baptized in two weeks, and Marta (who I mentioned last week), did get baptized on Saturday--Elder Jessop performed his first baptism.
"I happened to have my camera, and there wasn´t anyone around, so I took a picture of what Ca´aguazú looks like on my last day."
Now for the crazy part. I am in Ca´acupe with a familiar friend--Elder Leishman! I am so excited to work with him. I am still getting caught up on sleep from the travelling, and we work so hard we are always exhausted. The area is gorgeous. We live in the state right next to Asunción, which is called "Cordillera" (mountain range), and it´s true--there are actually small mountains (part of why we walk a lot). We live in the center of town, which is very, very touristic due to the famous "Virgen de Ca´acupe," which is housed in a HUGE Cathedral close to our apartment. I hear that December is going to be crazy here.
"My 'new' companion, who is shining my shoe for the Leadership council."
We also have a lot of rural parts in our area and in the zone. It is a very large zone, with 24 missionaries, two of whom are the other senior couple in the mission, The Kellers from South Carolina. Of the 11 normal companionships, FIVE are sisters (up until now I haven´t met that many sister missionaries) and SEVEN are trainer&new missionary. It´s a young zone, and it used to be part of the North mission. Some of the missionaries are serving in groups, which are even smaller than branches. It´s the biggest zone in the mission, so we travel a lot, but it will probably be divided next change. So there is a lot of work to do!
"My new, small apartment. We live right on a busy street, very close to Burger King and the Basilica."
Other exciting news--there are a lot of new and young leaders in the mission (2/3 of the missionaries in our mission have been out less than a year), so President decided to invite all of the district leaders to the Leadership Council, not just the zone leaders. So that was quite the adventure, coordinating travels with Elders Valle, Farroñay, and Bravo. They are all great, and I will talk more about them as time goes on. It was great to see old friends at the council, including Elder Brown and Elder Cuases, two of my best friends in the mission, who came with me and are the two assistants!! As always, we learned a lot in the council and are going to keep improving the way we work.
"Elder Herrera, an El Salvadoreño who was with me in Ca´aguazú and is now a Zone Leader."

I am also VERY excited to here that things seem to be going well back home--Tony getting a job, Brittany´s comical letter, and Daniel seems more upbeat and experiencing a lot of the missionary life I am used to. As for Pumpkin...I am not surprised.*

 I feel like I have sent a lot today, but I have bit more of fun things. On Saturday the missionaries from Tobatí baptized a lady in a wheelchair. They used a metal chair in the font and two people. It was complicated, but very spiritual because you could see how much patience and faith she had the in the missionaries. Then Bishop Jorge Gomez from my first area randomly showed up to sacrament meeting here (he was baptized here), so I got to find out how everyone is there. Talking to missionaries at the council I also got up to date on just about everything in my old areas. Amancio, whose brother I baptized in Amambay, is finally getting baptized. And that family of 5 kids in Costa Bonita who broke my heart because their dad wouldn´t give them permission? He left, and now the mom is going to get baptized with her kids! 

Life is great! Love you all!

*Our 18-year-old cat had to be put to sleep.  :(

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Pursiut of Happiness

Man, it has been quite the journey here in Ca´aguazú. This is the end of the training program, and I feel like Elder Jessop is ready for anything. He has learned a lot and will keep learning through the challenges and opportunities ahead. And Marta, the girl who had been coming to church, finally committed to get baptized next week. So he´ll finally have his first baptism! With whoever his new companion is.

It has been a very emotional week for me. We had intereviews with President Agazzani, and I talked to him about how I can do baptismal interviews better. He said something about how this experience as a district leader and trainer would make me a better Zone Leader "if" I got the opportunity to do it again. And he called me yesterday to confirm my suspicions. I don´t know where I am going, but I am sure wherever he sends me, it will be a joy to keep serving other missionaries while participating in this work.

I am really going to miss living with these three missionaries. Elder Johnson has been very focused his last week, and they helped a great family get married and baptized on Saturday. I also got to do exchanges with Elder Moffet, which I enjoyed a lot. We talked a lot about what we want to achieve in life as missionaries, husbands, and fathers. That day encouraged me to keep working hard in spite of the obstacles. Like I said, it has been a tough week, realizing how hard I have worked in this area and how fast the time has gone. 

I love watching "The District" videos, like most missionaries, and this week it really impacted me. I realized how great God´s plan is. Every missionary is different. We have had different experiences to prepare us for the mission, and we will continue to be put in situations specifically tailored for our needs and personalities. That´s why it´s stupid to compare myself to others. God has a different purpose for them than for me. It wouldn´t make sense for us all to have the same missions with the same results. The part of the mission that is most incredible and difficult to understand is that we are here to learn. Obviously, I will get to the end of my mission wishing I could start over with my knowledge and experience gained, but that´s exactly the point! My primary objective was to gain that knowledge and experience, not the external results. God has a plan. This all hit me pretty hard yesterday as we were watching those videos and I was wondering why the mission is the way it is. I realized that all missionaries have similar difficulties (companionship issues, investigators who face peer pressure, fallen appointments, etc.), so I can never complain about having hard situations. No one has an easy mission. But at the same time, my mission will be unique and especially for me. I wrote about five pages about this in my journal yesterday, and I don´t think it can have the same impact on those who read this as it has on me because of the weeks and months of experiencing and thinking about the mission. Just know that I now realize why my mission has to be the way it is. God´s plan is perfect and I am so grateful to be a part of it.

And next week in my new area? I´ll keep working to invite other people to come unto Christ. This gospel is so powerful, and it can change lives better than anything, but it can´t do anything for anyone until they decide to accept it. And as I just explained, I am still in the process of understanding God´s plan. It´s all part of the "pursuit of happiness." That phrase is starting to mean so much more for me.  One fun thing--I found two missionaries (who are now married to each other) who served with Jessica Harmon´s dad. I don´t know if I´ll get a chance to tell him, but if he reads the blog or you are in contact with him, let him now that Elder Dandaluz (Uruguayan) and Sister Lopez (Paraguayan) got married. 

I´ll have to give more details when I get back. I have so much to tell you all when I get back, and truly, the greatest part about being a missionary is the man I have become as I just trust in God and let him use me in his work. Daniel mentioned Tennis Shoes among the Nephites the other day, and I also thought of it relating to the mission. I remember that there is a part where one of them goes back in time and his dad is surprised to see him come back a grown man. I may look very similar when I get back, but I can promise you I will be a new person on the inside. I really feel like I have come to be a better priesthood holder, teacher, and leader, and I am so grateful to be a missionary.

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, September 16, 2013

Miracles on the Horizon

Well, this week was LOCO. I had more lessons with a member present than ever before and we didn´t find anyone who became a new investigator. There are several reasons for that.

1. We had the open house (I attached photos) in the chapel. That was really spiritual for the few people who came. As in many wards, there is a small percentage of members in this branch who do all the work for the rest of the members. I do wish we had more support from them. We did find a few miracles in the open house. Once again, we got to teach in front of the baptismal font, and there was a girl who asked us, "I was baptized in another church when I was 14, but I want to be a member of your church. Do I have to get baptized again?" Golden!

2. In preparation for the open house, we had some less-than-efficient meetings with the members. We also had to go to the church one morning and empty the font with buckets because the pump broke. Luckily my companion is the Hulk and we got it done in record time. I also lost an entire day doing interviews for other missionaries in the district who finally found baptisms but live very far away.

3. I realized how little time I may have in this area, and I put everything towards baptizing someone before the end of this training. I really want Elder Jessop to experience the joy of having a baptism, but it is all according to the Lord´s will. The assistants were doing exchanges, and one of them told us something that really helped me. He said that there are some missionaries who need to baptize often or they won´t work hard or be excited. There are few missionaries who will keep working hard with a positive attitude even when the results won´t come.

That made me feel really good, and I have been trying to invite so many of our investigators to get baptized this week or the next. I have to realize that it is their choice, and we have been praying with them and for them so that they can get an answer. My biggest hope is Clementina, the mother of my convert Paola. She believes the church is true, but isn´t completely sure. We shared the story of Peter walking on the water to help her with that, and she will keep praying to receive an answer. Other than that, we have been trying to visit so many people, and now we just have to wait and hope God grants us a miracle this Saturday.

Also, as part of the 12 week program (which Daniel is also doing) there are tasks to complete every week. For example, the new missionary has to learn to teach certain lessons or techniques. This week he had to take the initiative in everything. That led to many awkward pauses and long lessons, but as always, he is learning fast. 

One interesting person we are teaching is Miguel Bogado. He is a member of a church with a very long name--"Israelites" for short. They have long hair, beards, and the women have to wear veils and dresses, because they believe in "the restoration of all things." That part sounds familiar, haha. But they treat it as being very strict with the Bible. He even believes that the sun revolves around the earth. Surprisingly, he is very open, and he obviously knows a lot about the scriptures. We are just trying to help him realize that the Restoration happened through Joseph Smith. He likes the Book of Mormon, so I know if he keeps his heart open he´ll see the truth.

Alma 7:15 was a scripture that our Zone Leaders shared in the training. I do appreciate your comments on my letters, because I can´t see how you react to these stories. I´ll think about Christmas requests and keep praying for all the members of our family in need. My Mission President´s letter thanked me for my positive attitude in spite of challenges and shared the quote "They key to success is consistence." (Or is it constance? Or being consistent? AH! I don´t know English*). Well, I hope all is well.

Love you all!

-Elder Morgan the Older

*Consistency ;)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Seize the Day

Seize the Day is a great phrase (and song) that I am using to keep myself excited. Every day is a marvelous opportunity, and with how fast the time goes in the mission, sometimes I forget how important each day is. This week we had a zone training, talking very in-depth about planning, teaching, and working with members for three of the most important invitations: baptism, repentance, and church attendance. I don´t know why, but Alma 7:15 really hit me hard. I was blessed with a perspective of how many people in this world desperately need the blessings of repentance. At times my thoughts wander to life after the mission, but since that I have had the feeling that there are so many people here in Paraguay who haven´t received the gospel, and when I get done, there will still be a lot who need it! I can´t leave them hanging! I guess I have to have a lot of trust in the new groups of missionaries. But right now, I really want to keep working. I do wish we were having more success, but that will come when it is the Lord´s will.

Zone Training (Elder Morgan is hiding in the back)
 Speaking of new missionaries, my companion is excellent. He is interesting, because his family isn´t 100% active in the church, so he has never felt pressure to serve a mission, but they were very supportive. His great-grandfather was the last one in his family to serve, so he is a bit of a pioneer. I can tell he is very self-motivated, but this week I had to help him remember that we can be happy if we gave our "best" effort, even if we can always improve. The Lord is patient with our failures, and progress is enough for him, so long as we trust in him (Ether 12:27).

We actually found a miracle yesterday. Her name is María, and she just started working and moved in with a less-active family. They have been offended by just about everyone in the chapel, but they like eating lunch with us. So we were so surprised to see them at church yesterday with María! They want to help her, but that also means THEY have to come to church. I love it. God plans much better than we do. We also have a girl named Marta. I don´t know if I mentioned that she came to church last week with her grandma, who is a member. She attended church AGAIN on her own. It´s easier to find her in the chapel than in her house, but as soon as we can start teaching her again, she´ll be baptized pretty quickly.

We still have Catalino, who is really suffering with his mouth cancer. He couldn´t go to church again, and he has backed out of a lot of appointments with members for pain or doctor´s appointments. We can´t blame him too much, and he really does want to change. The doctor forbid him from smoking, so that helps. Please keep him in your prayers along with Jorge Nuñez, one of our invesigators who lost his job. I hope we can help turn that trial into a blessing with the Gospel.

I know that more than anyone, Daniel needs your prayers. I remember how hard my first weeks were. The mission never gets easy, but it does get easier. (Hope that makes sense). I have been keeping in contact a bit with Elder Byers and Elder Blanchard. As you know, there isn´t ever much time, including today. We went with the Arnolds (senior missionaries) to Campo Nueve, a mennonite colony with an American-style supermarket. They had a few things, most of which were very expensive. I bought a few things, which are in the picture I sent. I realized that I am pretty satisfied with the food here, but it was fun to buy some things like Marshmallows that I haven´t had in a while.

American food!
 I also have given, received, and traded a few ties with members and missionaries, but it´s not a huge thing here. I have been very tired this week, but like I said, I am just trying to keep working. The companionship we studied with last weeek seems to be more obedient, and we do have people who can get baptized soon. This Saturday we´ll have an open house in our branch, and that should help us a ton. Please keep both of the Elder Morgans in your prayers (There´s only two...or is Trevor still in the field?*). I love you all and hope you take advantage of every day to strengthen your faith and serve those around you.

-Elder Morgan the Older

*Elder Morgan's cousin, Trevor Morgan, has been serving a mission in Portland, Oregon, but he returns home the beginning of October!

Monday, September 2, 2013

I Am So Grateful for Every Day

This week we found a lot of great people, as always. Jorge and Sara are a young couple who live close to our house. They have been reading the Book of Mormon a lot and have a lot of interest, but they also have a lot of other family and friend activities going on, so they aren't always at home when they say they will be, and they couldn't come to church. Next week! We found Catalino, who also didn't attend church because he went to the doctor for his mouth infection (might be cancer). He used to smoke and drink a lot, and now he just smokes a little. He felt bad for not coming to church, and got all dressed up to visit the Caballero family with us, who helped us teach him about the Word of Wisdom and repentance. He is a humble, little man who is definitely going to keep progressing.

We also had a very spiritual lesson with Jimmy (a recent convert) and his siblings, who are about our age. We watched Finding Faith in Christ, and the Spirit was incredibly strong, especially with Jimmy's testimony. Members are so great! And every lesson is strengthening my faith that people can commit to change their lives. The Plan of Salvation is perfect! These are some of the many people I would like to baptize before I leave Ca´aguazú, and if this is my last transfer here, we are going to need a lot of miracles in these coming weeks. 

The next transfer is Sept. 26, and Elder Johnson will be going home. It is not common for the trainer and the new missionary to stay together, so I am pretty sure Elder Jessop or I will be leaving. It has been great to work with him. He learns so fast, and he will be a great leader soon. 

To answer your question about obedience, this morning we (4 of us--the Zone Leaders came too) went to the visit the missionaries who are having some obedience issues. They aren't doing anything that would be bad if they weren't missionaries, but we talked about why they need to change if they want to stay in the mission. When we got there...they were still sleeping. And by the end of our studies with them, they were pretty upset. I worry about them. It's really only one of them that is creating problems, and his young companion just follows him. They have told me many times they need to change, and I hope this is finally the moment.

The weather has gone from freezing to very hot to very rainy again all in a few days. Haha, Che ra´a (in the subject lineof last email) is a just a Guaraní way to say "amigo." Send my greetings to Ryan. I would love to see how the mission went for him. I am also stoked for Daniel to enter into the real mission field. I know this is going to be a great experience for him, and it will help him grow so much.

I am also grateful for your testimony. Yesterday in Elders Quorum we talked about teaching our children to read the scriptures. I always assumed you studied the scriptures, but it isn't something I remember talking about much--what you studied or your personal testimony. I am grateful we always had Family Home Evening and prayer and scripture studies together--helped me develop good habits. I only remember a few times hearing you share your testimony, but you were a constant example of living righteously as someone who truly believes in Christ.

 I hope all is well among the family and the ward. I love you and pray for you often. Be strong, whatever happens, because God is always with us.

-Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hace Frio, Che ra´a

"A few weeks ago when we made pancakes, eggs, and bacon together."
"The day the Assistants came to do exchanges a couple of weeks ago."

"Elder Jessop´s package that cost much much more to send ($90) than the value of the contents. He was pretty excited for everything."
"Me on a typical P-day trying to take care of a lot of things at once."

Okay, the pictures tell some of the stories of things that have happened in the past weeks. It is once again cold and rainy, which means that few people want to come to church or let us in. It does make for some fun experiences in the mud when we sink in past our ankles and our shoes get stuck. We did find some great new people--Cristian and Norma, who live close to our house, are very open and friendly, know lots of members, read their assigned chapter in the Book of Mormon!, and are willing to help their cousin (our investigator) come to church. We also found three young girls (The Rivas family) who are former investigators and believe in everything. They used to come to church a lot, but they have some family opposition. Reynold Aguilar, the recently RM, is helping us with them.

And, one other person from the past appeared again--Carlos Molinas, the man who was very emphatic about reading the Book of Mormon to find out if it was true or false. He had read a little, but not enough to make a sure judgement. It was a pretty intense lesson. I explained the Apostasy with just about every detail I know, and my companion told him pretty directly that he hasn´t read, prayed, and come to church enough to say that the Book of Mormon is false. He was speechless after all that, but I don´t know if he has a sincere desire to change. It is always hard to know how forward to be with people, especially with seeing the bold examples in the scriptures of prophets inviting people to repent. But we were as loving as we could be--the only part that offended him was when we explained that until he receives the gift of the Holy Ghost, he can´t have it with him 100% of the time. He was certain that he is always feeling the Spirit...I am grateful that Elder Maynes told us to just teach the truth and not worry about losing investigators.

We had a district activity, playing soccer together on an indoor court. That, along with the cold weather, got me a little sick. But we keep working! The district meeting was interesting. I told the missionaries about learning experiences and regrets I have had so that they can avoid making the same mistakes, and invited them to do the same. We are having a lot of difficulties, and it was sad to see that some of them don´t realize how much more obedient and diligent they could be. But, I'll be patient with all of the wonderful people here in Paraguay whom I have been called to serve.

I am grateful for all the interesting news from everyone. Life is a time of tests and challenges, but the rewards are eternal and infinite. I have seen the added emphasis on missionary work, and realized that it was not just something I am noticing more because I am a part of it. This is a great time to be a missionary, and like it says in Preach My Gospel, EVERY missionary (and member missionary) has an important role in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. I love you all!

Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, August 19, 2013

Life is Good

It is great to hear how everyone is doing, even if it appears small. I enjoy hearing what you are doing so I can pray for you and feel like I know what is going in your lives--especially Daniel in Madrid.

As for me, I am doing very well. We finally had someone in church!! Jimmy, a recent convert, brought his brother Madi. We have been working a long time to get him to come, and we are hoping his other brother comes soon. Maybe they´ll come to the "Game Night" we are planning this wednesday. Two people on my happy list are Luis and Gregoria. Luís is a 13-year-old kid who lives next to his cousin, one of our investigators. He reads the Book of Mormon and is always waiting with Blas (his cousin) anytime there is an appointment. Gregoria is similar. We are teaching her dad, Angel, who told us he lives alone (he's friendly...but a little senile). She came and listened to us, and we found out she used to come to church. Hope to get them in church and in the baptismal font soon.

Angel lives out in San Pedro, a small neighborhood we are going to for the first time. We also found a man named Gregorio, who was very interesting. He has been praying for a companion so he can preach the gospel (he is Protestant), and we tried to show him that we were sent by God to help him. His problem is his wife. She hates the Book of Mormon and us, and she never lets him really think about accepting the fulness of the gospel. This week, as always, we have found a lot of people like her who don´t want to change, but it is hard when one of them wants to and the other one doesn´t.

The District meeting this week was a little disastrous. The Elders spent WAY too much time talking about their investigators and we couldn´t get much done. Luckily, we had a meeting with the Zone Leaders, and I was able to set more definite goals and plans for how I can help my district improve. Elder Ballard in Preach My Gospel says that if we don´t learn to set goals we will never achieve our potential, and with all my personal and companionship goal-setting, I have neglected setting goals for how I want to help the district. Lots to do, but I am really excited for the future. I really like living with Elder Johnson and Elder Moffet. They are great Zone Leaders, and they focus more on the people than the numbers, which makes me feel like I can do the same. I don´t like pressuring missionaries to baptize or things like that, and it really isn´t the way to do things. Those two are very supportive, and the four of us are always talking and laughing in the apartment. Definitely a fun group to live with.

The members are also great. They are so generous to always give us lunch. Even people with almost nothing are willing to share what they have. This week Reynold, a member here, came back from his mission. I was excited to start working with him that day, and I was a little let down when he had other things to do the whole weekend. He´s a good guy, and he might be called as our new ward mission leader, so I am sure he will be able to help us as soon as he settles in. But it was an eye-opener about how things will change in the blink of an eye as soon as I leave this country. It made me pretty sad to realize that I´ll be going back to Utah, where there aren´t many missionary opportunities. I am sure that the Lord will give me chances to serve his children as long as I am faithful with the responsibilities he gives me. I want to be a missionary all my life, whether it´s for investigators, members, or my own family.

I love this work. I don´t know if you´ve noticed, but the past few months have been tough. Okay, the whole mission is tough, haha, and that is what makes it so worthwhile. But this week I have started to stop worrying so much about the external results and just be happy to be a missionary. It is an incredible opportunity that only comes once. It may not go how I expect, but it will all be worth it. I love teaching and testifying and everything we do. It´s like Elder Wirthlin says "Come what may, and love it."

-Elder Morgan the older...(you´re welcome Daniel)*

*Elder Morgan's  brother, Daniel, is also on a mission and suggested Wesley sign his letters "Elder Morgan the older" since they are both Elder Morgan at the moment.