Monday, January 28, 2013

Talk to Each Other!

First and foremost, Mauricio got baptized! We had a few problems setting up the interview, but it all turned out well in the end. I also got to baptize Jesús (so yes, that makes me John the Baptist), the 8-year-old son of his girlfriend. Great experience all around! I also loved receiving your package from José. Peanut Butter M&M's and Cinnamon Roll Pop Tarts are two of my favorite things in the world.

Well, I was all excited to see what changes happened in the Zone, and there were not any. Somewhat of a surprise. Most everyone is new in the area, but there are some companionships with relationship issues. We had to do exchanges twice this week with companionships who could not work together. Both were a lot of fun for me and the missionary who I brought to work in the area. The first one was more difficult, and when we all got back together, those Elders took a couple hours of talking and planning to finally resolve to work through their differences. I really learned the importance of communication. We need to get to know our companions personally so that they can trust us, talk to them about our problems rather than letting them explode inside us, and encourage them when they need help. Apart from an unforgettable testimony of communication, I also understand why President Uchtdorf gave a talk this last Priesthood session about how Priesthood service can be one of our greatest joys. Helping people overcome the difficulties and realize their full potential can be a wonderful thing.

Also, during one of those exchanges we had an incredible lesson. We asked what they were expecting from our visit, and they just asked about what it is that we do. We explained the importance of this message, our schedule, and that we have challenges and difficulties just like everyone else. That really got them to open up. They talked about so many questions they had always had about why they could never make enough money or why God made their daughter so sick. We briefly testified of the plan of Salvation, and you could see that they felt the Spirit and power of this message. It was exactly what they needed. I look forward to teaching them again, and I hope I can continue to teach like that. I have kind of hit the 6 month wall I have heard about. You get into a way of doing things the same way every time. I still see a lot of missionaries who never got through that. That lesson reminded me that I need to keep improving how I teach, improving my Spanish, trusting the Holy Ghost, and changing what I teach to fit each investigator's needs.

Also, even though we have a small area, I am learning that there are always more people to teach! We just need the faith and diligence to find them. I thought of this when we found an alleyway that led to a lot of little apartments. We were climbing over makeshift bridges/stairs to get to them with a little boy who was showing us the way. If we go back, I will try to take a picture or two. The mission really is an adventure. 

To answer your questions, as Zone Leaders we are usually transferred less often, and I have a strong feeling I will be here for a long time. We are actually going to cut our hair today at a cheap place near our house, which costs $3. I am keeping a good journal, though I am quite busy and don´t always write a lot. Heather asked about how church is here. It is pretty similar, just smaller (Primary is usually just two separate classes, for example). We use the Lorenzo Snow manual and the other materials that you do. I hear often that no one in the States uses real scriptures anymore (ipads, iphones, etc.), so we don´t have that here yet. Oh, and I get to give a talk in two weeks!

One more thing, Preach My Gospel says we need to ask for references from EVERYONE; which we definitely do (that's our one thing we actually do well every week). But I haven't asked for references from my family yet! Haha, so if you or anyone reading this know anyone who is going to be in Paraguay, let me know. It sounds ridiculous, but if a girl here knows Tyler Woolley, anything can happen. In all seriousness, I hope you are helping the missionaries by sharing the gospel. I am sure everyone reading this has someone they know who they could talk to about the gospel. The statistics for this area go from 1/2000 getting baptized if the missionaries find them on their own (ugly number), to 1/3 if members teach their friends with the missionaries (2/3 if the missionaries meet them in the house of the members). I like that number A LOT more, and I hope the members here, there, and all over the world can catch the Spirit of missionary work and share the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their fellow brothers and sisters here on earth. God loves us a lot, and we should tell everyone we can! 

Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Future is as Bright as Your Faith

Well, there is a picture of our missionaries getting ready for the Zone training. As always, it didn't go exactly as I planned, but I felt like it went fairly well. Most meetings start off with having everyone talk about how they did the last month, but seeing as December and January have been hard months for everyone, I decided to change it to be more positive. We had everyone say 5 things they are doing well, 5 things their companion does well, and 5 reasons they know the Lord is with them. It was a great opportunity to compliment ourselves and our companions (two things we do not do often enough). The other great part was at the end when we sat down and read Mark 10:17-30,35-45 to talk about making sure we have really left everything behind and are focused on the mission. You could really feel the Spirit there. We also talked about the importance of being worthy of personal revelation, the new standards of excellence, our "Vision, Goals, Plans"  for the month, and practiced inviting investigators to be baptized while also explaining what they'll need to do to prepare (attend church 3 times, learn 5 or 6 more lessons, etc.). We spent a little too much time on some of those things and didn't get to talk about what may have been the most important--understanding what baptism really is so we work hard for these people to receive the incredible blessings (not just for numbers). But we learned a lot of things we can improve for the next time.

One of the streets in front of Elder Morgan's apartment
I am glad you understand why I don't want to be negative in these emails. But I definitely don't want to be fake either. There are some things we are not allowed to say, such as negative things about the culture or our leaders, and we are supposed to focus on the good things our companions do. My companion really is a good leader who knows a lot about how to work effectively and teach other missionaries. Like I said, he is getting a bit tired and robotic. He was really hoping to get the call on Sunday to be an assistant (like I did to be a Zone Leader) because he wants something new and exciting to do. That's not the best reason, and I think that if he is an assistant soon, there are some things I´ll need to help him with as far as diligence, leadership, and teaching by the Spirit (I hope that doesn't sounds like I am perfect...I still have a mountain of things to improve). It's going to be tough, but for some reason I am actually excited. That's weird, because usually I dread hard or uncomfortable things, but I am looking forward to the opportunity to help him change and to really become the leader the Lord needs me to be. 

Entryway of Elder Morgan's apartment
First we are starting with our area. I thought of an analogy a few weeks ago I never shared. I have felt that we are like farmers working with a tractor that doesn't function properly--our area book is very complicated and needs a lot of work, we need to work more with members, and we spend way too much time doing exchanges in other areas. Because our "tractor" does not work, we sometimes do more damage than we do good, but we have to work a certain amount of time each day no matter what, which leaves little time to fix the tractor. Finally, we are improving the way we work, fixing the area book and map, and focusing more on this area. There is still a long way to go, but I do have hope for the future.

Elder Morgan's study area
I have also discovered that I am much happier when I talk to more people--one reason numbers are good when they motivate us to good things. So I am trying to contact as many people on the street as I can, even though most of them live out of our area. That is one of the difficulties of being in the Center of Asunción, but we are giving a ton of references to other areas. One other thing about the city: there are so many people who come on the busses selling things--coke, snacks, cleaning supplies, medicine, etc. There was a little of that in CDE, but it is huge here.

Elder Morgan's kitchen
As far as people go, Mauricio does not want to get married, but he decided to move out so he can get baptized this week. Not the eternal family we are hoping for, but it is a great step in the right direction. The other prospective baptism we have right now is David, whose uncle is a member. He knows pretty much everything, but he is a little different. He accepted the baptismal invitation, and then he started telling us that vampires exist. Haha, we'll see what happens. If nothing else, I sure have a lot of opportunities to laugh here in Amambay.

Elder Morgan's bathroom
We also have Nestor Benitez, a 20-year-old who wants to become active again so he can go on a mission. I had a really spritual experience teaching him lesson 1 and testifying of the importance of what we do as missionaries. We really are here to invite everyone to come unto Christ, and even if it doesn't always turn out the way we want it to, that is a miraculous opportunity.

Elder Morgan's bedroom
We are waiting to get a call about who is coming and going in our Zone, so I am a little anxious. The future is exciting, and I hope I can be faithful and learn through the difficulties so I can enjoy this amazing experience as a missionary.

Much love,
Elder Wesley Morgan

"I got a package from the primary a couple weeks ago with a Christmas tree and some Snickers bars (melted, but wonderful). This ornament was by far my favorite. Makes me smile every time."

"We also had the District activity this last Monday. We went to that Pizza Hut buffet again. And there is a member in Centro who works in a tall building, which he let us go to the top of and take pictures of the city. So these pictures are not of my area, but the part of the city right next to my area. The only difference is that we don´t have a view of the river or quite as many skyscrapers and government buildings."

"Our district!"

"Elder Speedy broke his shoes (which were already falling apart) as we were running to take these pictures. Fun times!"

Monday, January 14, 2013

Press Forward, Saints

I did forget to tell you about a few things about the Council. First, we had to get up early, and while my companion was getting ready I was still sleeping. He said he told me get up a couple times and I responded in my sleep (in Spanish) that I was about to get ready. So this language is starting to become pretty natural for me. There are 11 zones in the mission (5 or 6 in the Asunción area), so there are 22 Zone Leaders. I forgot to mention that one of those is Elder Brown, who, not surprisingly, is in the same situation as me. He has a great companion and seems to be doing very well. One great thing we talked about at there was no longer "teaching" less-actives and recent converts by just sharing a scripture. I don´t know where that tradition came from, but I think most missionaries do it when it is really not effective. We have Lesson 5 (and the other lessons) for a reason. Also, we ended the meeting with the hymn "Oíd el toque del clarín," probably my favorite Spanish hymn. I don´t think it exists in English, but you can check and see.

This week we had interviews with President Agazzani, which was a great experience. I walked in and he said "What are you doing here (as a Zone Leader)?" I laughed and said "I don´t know, you tell me." He laughed and replied, "I don´t know either, but I know that the Lord plays the cards how he wants them." That, along with the rest of the interview, was very reassuring to me that God has important things planned for me. I am here for a reason, even if I can´t see that now. He told me he knows there are people here for me to baptize, and I know if I am faithful and obedient, I will be able to recieve all the blessings the Lord has for me.

Then, after telling him that I did not have many worries about the Zone, we had quite a few problems this week. That week an Elder called and said he wanted to go home. That was surprising because he is one of our best, but he feels like he can´t deal with the pressure. The biggest problem is that his family are not members and are very against him being here. Not being able to call them Christmas was a big blow. We talked to him that day, and he is going to keep working (they had 10 investigators in church yesterday...that should keep him a little happier). We also got permission for him to email his cousin, the one member in his family. There is one other missionary who is talking to girls more than he should and listening to music against the rules. We´ll probably have to talk to him, too. I have never been able to confront or correct people, so that is something I am having to learn.

The toenail is getting a little better, and it doesn´t really hurt unless it hits something. Our apartment is fairly large (I´ll remember to take pictures). It is on the second floor, but our entry way is on the first floor. Every apartment in our building has their own door going outside, which is nice. I guess I do need to give you more details on my companion and daily life. I don´t ever want to be negative, but there are a lot of negative things that happen. I will try to tell you more so I can find the balance between being positive and making sure you know what´s going on. For example, all of my companions, at one point or another, have driven me crazy. I love them, but we do not agree on everything. I don´t want to just complain in these emails, especially since a lot of those problems pass after a day or two. But, as you have seen, sometimes avoiding saying negative things about them...means I don´t say much at all. So, I´ll try to be more open with you. Elder Knudsen is a great missionary who has been a leader for a long time. That also means he is a bored with what he is doing and he is stuck in his ways. We have fun together, but I struggle to get him to see things my way. We are also struggling to have success in this area, which is why that interview with the President was so reassuring. In my last area, we never had a enough time to teach all the people we wanted to. Now I find myself walking around all day wishing we had more things to do. We really need a better way to find people. Knocking on doors, especially in an area as small as this, is not so effective. This really is one of the hardest areas in the mission, and I don´t want to get tired of it like many missionaries do. The members are great, but we are also having a hard time working with them. I did find out that one of the girls in the Grau family, who has cousins in Orem, went to visit them and knows Tyler Woolley! That could also be another sign that I am supposed to be right here right now, because the odds of that are quite small.

The Zone training is tomorrow. I have been studying and preparing a lot for that, so I am excited and I really hope it helps the missionaries work more effectively. I will try to keep you better updated on how I am doing while not being to negative about things. I also like to focus on mission things more than personal things because I am trying to forget myself and work hard. So keep me and the rest of the people here in Amambay in your prayers, because we really do need it. I always pray for the whole family, and I hope you all feel the Savior´s love for you in your daily lives.

Elder Morgan

Monday, January 7, 2013

My first "Consejo de Líderes"*

I am so happy you liked seeing José on your doorstep (you can explain more of what happened on the blog if you like).**   I knew that would be quite the surprise that not many people get to do. He is awesome. I just want him to come back so we can teach with him again! We are struggling to work with the members, but we have plans to improve that a lot. We were not able to teach Melizza last week, but I hope we can find her again at home so we can help her get baptized next week. She knows it´s true, she just has to overcome the opposition of her family and boyfriend. We also have Amancio, Elva, and Mauricio. I don´t remember if I mentioned Amancio before. He is a great 18-year-old who walked pretty far with us to a baptism last week. He has a tough work schedule, but he also wants to get baptized. We also received a miracle by finding his brother who lives next door, Mauricio. His wife, Maria, is an inactive member who wants to start coming back to church. The second time we taught him he had prayed and felt that the Book of Mormon was true!! The only problem is that she may have been married before. She thinks the paperwork never went through completely, which is what we are hoping (divorces take a very long time here) so that they can get married. It´s kind of a Princess Bride scenario, haha.

I did exchanges twice this week. One was in Obrero with Elder Colton Richards, whose cousins I know from BYU (Devin and Alyssa Flake). He is an incredible worker who taught ME way more than I taught him. The other was with Elder Pavon, the new elder from Mexico. He still needs to shake off some nervousness, but he takes a lot of initiative (something I had a problem with) and will learn quickly. This week we also had our monthly meeting with the Stake President Rivarola (who lives in our ward). I love meeting with him because he has no problem with saying that things aren´t working or people aren´t doing their jobs. He is trying to make the stake leadership more like a mission (he is an RM) as far as accountability and efficiency, and we have a couple activities planned that should really help with Family History, finding new investigators, and getting them to church. He is really one of the best in Paraguay, and I feel like he will be key to helping get this ward turned around.

Like the title says, this week was my first Zone Leader´s Council in the mission office. That was very interesting. We started off talking about each of our zones--what went well, what didn´t, and goals we have. I think I did that well. Then we talked about changing the "Standards of Excellence" for this year. That took a little longer than it should have, and people had quite a few differing opinions. But overall, we lowered a lot of the standards that were so unrealistic that most missionaries had just written them off. Now, rather than being huge goals you hit in a few of your best weeks in the mission, they are more like expectations for missionaries who are working efficiently every week. We also changed the daily contacts from talking to 20 people to getting 5 addresses and phone numbers. That is really good, because a lot missionaries were wasting time doing those ineffectively rather than finding people to teach. I feel like that meeting changed a lot of things that will help us work better. They also normally give us a lesson that we can use in our Zone training (which we get to do next week). This time we just talked about what baptism really is and means. (3 Nephi 11:33) I have been feeling like that would be so important for motivation missionaries to work harder and to help people change for the right reasons, not just for numbers. So I was very happy we talked about that, and I hope it will make a difference when we use it. Sometimes with all the meetings and numbers we forget that everything we do centers in Christ. (2 Nephi 25:26)

After the Zone training I stayed around so the mission nurse could file down my toenail. It´s part of the treatment she gave me to do for my toenail that has been infected and ingrown for a couple weeks. Hope it works! Other than that, I am doing well. We ate with the Grau family, who we found out has grandchildren that live behind the Orem library! I was talking to them a lot about Orem and what it´s like there. They found it weird that McDonald´s in the USA is for lower-class adults, whereas here it is almost only for upper-class children.

Thanks for all your emails! I really liked Brittany´s message about atheists.*** At some point I do just have to realize that some of those people have hardened their hearts and I can do nothing more than testify, invite, and be a Christ-like example. I did get the letter from Brother Corbridge and a few other people. Stevie Carr sent me a little package for Christmas, which I appreciated. :) Also, in the Council I was able to talk with other leaders about how my old companions and areas are doing, which was fantastic. Lidia did get baptized, along with a couple other people I taught! Maria Villalba still has not...but we´ll keep praying. Elder Knudsen (Manu Ginobili) and I will keep trying to learn, lead, enjoy, and WORK here in Amambay. Love the mission, and I love you all!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

*Zone Leader's Council

**A few days ago, there was a knock at the door.  It turns out that José Olavarrieta, whose house Elder Morgan was at when he Skyped the family on Christmas, was in Utah!  And he had a surprise Christmas present: soccer shirts for Mom, Tony, and Daniel!

***I shared a story from President Boyd K. Packer about talking with an atheist about our beliefs.  If you would like to read the talk, click here.  The story is under the first section titled, "What Does Salt Taste Like?"