Monday, February 25, 2013

Council & Changes

We found out today that my companion is going to be an Assistant! I am very excited for him. He really has changed in ways I did not expect, and I know he will be a good leader there. He is ecstatic; this has always been his dream. I don't know who my next companion will be yet, but I hope it is someone who is excited to work hard. I need someone obedient and positive. We just found out that José Olavarrieta will return to his former calling as Ward Mission Leader! I heard great things about him, and we already planning activities to get this ward excited about missionary work.

We just got out of my second Zone Leader's Council. That is always a spiritual experience. We talked about improving our vision as missionaries and leaders (including helping our District Leaders catch that vision), baptizing people who will have a ripple effect (Alma 22:15-26), inviting everyone we can to progress toward a baptismal date, and understanding the power and authority of our call to build the kingdom of God. I don't know if you have heard the story of the 3 stonecutters; it's pretty common here.* One says he is cutting stones, one says he is gaining $X.XX per day, one says he is helping construct the House of the Lord. We studied a lot of scriptures, and I think Doctrine and Covenants 6:8-13 is my new favorite. A lot of good things for the Zone training, which I will have to do next week with a new companion. That will be a fun challenge if he is a new zone leader and was not in the meeting. I also met Elder Wilding there, who is the grandson of The Fraziers. (If I had a dollar for every person whose grandparents live in that ward....)

One piece of bad news. We won't be able to baptize Diego. The rule is officially that we cannot baptize someone who does not live in our ward boundaries. I had suspected that, and it makes sense, even though he attends church here with the Grau family. If a member does not attend church in their own ward, they cannot pay tithing or have a temple recommend. In other wards, they cannot be a legitimate, covenant-keeping member of the Church of Jesus Christ. Pretty important.

Things are not so great with the rest of our investigators, either. Some are hard to find and some know that what we teach is true but are unwilling to let go of their old ways. Life is hard, and I know change makes it harder, But we have to help them see that this gospel really will make their lives easier overall. I´ll give more name-specific updates next week when we see who is progressing.

I am not sure what I will do will all the extra money. This month it will be for dry-cleaning (my suit, pants, and a few ties REALLY need it) and Herbalife shakes. Hermana Agazzani suggested we take multivitamins, and those Brazilians I mentioned last week work for Herbalife, so they get us special offers. Not that important, but we´ll see how it goes.

Great to hear about Daniel and BYU! I was also hoping for a mission announcement...but that will come. Say hi to President Webb, Brother Crandall, and everyone else in the ward/stake for me. Sounds like there are a lot of tough times, but I know that all those people you mentioned are firm in the faith and will have the Lord's help with them.

I am not sure why, but this last week felt very, very long. This coming week we´ll bring a lot of changes, and I always try to have hope for the future. I have had a couple dreams this week that I was back home, and both times I wanted to be back in the mission. Really, I love it here. I would not want to be anywhere else. But I know that anywhere else, I--and each of you--can give my heart & soul to the Lord and build his kingdom. Awesome.

-Elder Wesley Morgan

*I have heard this quote before in a talk by Spencer W. Kimball: "There is the old story you have heard so many times of the question asked of three builders of St. Paul's cathedral in London. 'What are you doing here?' The first one answered, 'I am working eight hours a day.  I am putting in time.  I am earning my living this way.' The second one said, 'I am putting brick on brick and I am building a structure here.'  The third, when asked, raised himself to full stature and said, 'I am building a great cathedral.'"  As this is a famous anecdote, it has probably been spread around and the versions vary a bit.  Still a great message either way! 

These pictures were not sent by Elder Morgan, but by Jose Olavarietta, the guy from Paraguay who visited our family here in Orem recently.  We're not sure what the pictures are or who the family is, but these are the most recent pictures of Elder Morgan in action!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Busy, busy week

It has been quite the week. February 14th marked one year since receiving my call! I tried both figs and blood sausages. We went to a couple museums last week about the history of Paraguay. And, most importantly, we are trying to teach as much as we can.

Diego, as always, is amazing. Cecilia Grau had already talked to him about tithing, so he has been trying to save his money more. He said he is already receiving more financial blessings for doing that. I have never taught tithing and had the investigator already be able to testify it. He is great. We just need to get him baptized. I told him I would do it tomorrow if he wants. The only problem is his family, and that is something he has to face on his own. I don´t know if I have ever mentioned Elía Almeida. He is 27 years old and a convert of 3 years who has been off and on in his activity in the church. This week we helped him write a talk, which went great. I felt like a proud parent. Also, he has a roommate named Líder who we have been teaching. He speaks a lot of Guaraní and only understands the absolute basics of what we teach, but he is very happy and willing to do everything. 

One of our biggest miracles was finding the Pavon family. We contacted them a couple weeks ago, but finally had time to visit them. It is a "multi-family" of about 20 people in three or four little houses all next to each other. We have taught about 10 of them so far. They work all day in the sewing factories (just about everyone who is low-income works in one of those--there are a lot), and they tend to drink a lot on Sundays, especially Marcelo and Maria, who were baptized in this ward about 15 years ago. They are great people who really seem to feel the Spirit; and I have a lot of hope that they will change. We didn't have much time in our first lesson, so we were going to do what we often do in short or simple first lessons: talk about Christ (as the Son of God, his baptism, church, and atonement). We read Alma 7:11-12 and as I testified that Christ has suffered for each of our pains, the Holy Ghost was very strong. I decided to invite them to come to church, but they said that they had a baptism this Sunday of one of their babies. I wasn't sure whether to talk about that or save it for the next lesson, but Elder Knudsen jumped right it. We read a scripture in the Bible about responsibility for our own sins and Moroni 8:8-10. They admitted they were only doing it because it was what they had always been taught, and we invited them to pray to find out who needed to be baptized: their children or them. Only two of them came to church this week, but luckily it was the two who were going to baptize their child (who traveled a long way to do it here...). We have a lesson with them in a couple hours, so I hope things go well with that.

We found Rubén again, that kid who was really interested in what we were teaching last week. His family goes in the category of a few families we have had this week who seem to have tough lives because of illnesses, accidents, drugs, or poor living conditions. It is difficult, especially because we cannot to do much to help them temporally. All we can say is that if they have faith in the Christ, come to his church, and live his Gospel, they will be able to find the peace they need, and eventually some solutions. For some of them, that is enough. That reminds me of a couple we found yesterday. They had fallen off their motorcycle and were almost too drunk to remember their names. They were on their way to Luque, which is about an hour away. We did everything we could help them recover their strength so they could take a bus. But honestly, they were like 3-year-olds. They were not in a mental state to make any decisions. After doing everything but physically forcing them to the bus stop, we let them get back on the motorcycle and ride away, swerving all over the street. I prayed hard for them...but I didn't have much hope. Like I said before, there is only so much that is within our power. People suffer a lot here sometimes, but I just need to remember that it is all part of God's plans.

Besides that, it has been a busy week with a lot of baptismal interviews. President Agazzani challenged us last Monday to call everyone and see who they could baptize this week. We had a few people find old investigators that got baptized or are progressing again. Normally, I love doing baptismal interviews. It is a great opportunity to see someone´s preparation and testimony. This was my first time having to call President for permission to pass them, which we have to do if they committed a serious crime or sin. He pretty much left it in my hands to decide if I felt the man was ready, which was a lot of pressure. We also had a Zone Conference, where we learned a lot about how to do weekly planning better (helped a lot). Hermana Agazzani talked about more precautions we can take to be healthier, which we are doing, like putting a little bleach in our water bottles to purify it every night. 

Yes, I would love receiving CD's. I wear my Guaraní tag on my suit.  I am doing great health-wise. And we found out in the Conference that we are going to be receiving 100,000 more Guaranies ($23.00) every month, which is actually a big deal!

One more thing. We did a mini-training with our District Leaders to help them with some of their difficulties. We talked about many things, about the importance of testifying when explaining our purpose, like I mentioned to you last week. I have often found that inspiration I receive is actually for me to share with other people. My favorite moment was when my companion talked about the importance of teaching a short, spiritual first lesson according to the needs of the person. I was so happy! I have been trying to help him with that my whole time here. There is always hope for the future.

 Love you all!

Monday, February 11, 2013

I Will Not Be Still

The title of this email comes from something I have been thinking a lot about this week. I really try to bear testimony as often as I can (street contacts, lessons, church meetings, etc.), but many times I feel like it does not do much. I am tempted to think that if only I could speak Spanish better or had more experience or something, then it would make a difference. But I read the famous quote by Brigham Young about his conversion (there is also a short church video about it) that says the opposite. A testimony really just needs to be humble and sincere. I also know that we cannot open people´s hearts for them, though we can pray and work hard for that to be more likely. So, I will not let setbacks keep me from testifying of the Book of Mormon, the Savior Jesus Christ, and other principles of the Gospel. The song "I Will Not Be Still" from my last EFY CD describes exactly what I feel.

As always, we have seen many miracles this week. Iván, a young man we were teaching, has been reading the Book of Mormon a lot. It turns out his grandma gave him one and he remembers a lot from what she taught him. Unfortunately, he and Julio (the man we found last week who had lost everything), received double-edged blessings. They were both blessed with jobs they had been looking for! ...and now their schedule doesn´t allow us to teach them. We´ll see what we can do. We have also been looking for every Former Investigator that has not been visited in more than a year and a half. In one case, my companion remembered a house in front where he taught a girl once. She had moved, but as we taught her semi-interested brother, his friend walked by and started asking a lot of questions. His name is Rubén, and I have a lot of hope for him. The Lord definitely prepares people for us to teach.

Mauricio has not been able to come to church because of his work, and we are hearing rumors from his family that he has been doing some bad things. He says he is fine, so I don´t really know who to believe. We´ll see. Diego, the young man who we were teaching with the Grau family, is still awesome. He was planning on getting baptized when he moves out at the end of the year, but we suggested he do it a little sooner ;). We are fasting with him and the family this week so that he can talk to his family about getting baptized as soon as possible.

We have a lot to do helping all the missionaries in our Zone and the members in our ward. But we keep working hard and doing the best we can. From my personal feelings and things President Agazzani has said, I know I am here to re-energize this ward. I honestly don´t know how, but I know it is important that I do it. So, as you pray for me, please pray for that specifically. Our Ward Mission Leader just got released, so that makes things even more interesting. We are going to have to go to a lot more ward council meetings. The mission is a learning experience!

Speaking of members, I don´t think I have talked much about them. Today we are going to eat lunch with the Stefaniu family from Brazil (they speak a mix of Portuguese and Spanish that keeps me on my toes). Last week they gave us lemonade similar to the kind and Tucano´s. They are a wonderful family, and I love telling the missionaries about them. They investigated the church for almost a year, attending church every week. They were only baptized a few months ago, because they wanted to be absolutely sure of what they were doing, along with doing it at a time best for their family. I am sure that tried the patience of every missionary who taught them, but that is part of what we do.

Also, I had my surgery on my toenail. The doctor´s name was Wesley Schmidt (he is the son of Mennonite missionaries). He injected anesthesia, and all I felt was a little pulling as he yanked and cut a piece out of my nail. It is healing over well, and I am walking pain-free for the first time in a while. It is wonderful! 

I do make pancakes (sometimes German), french toast, and scrambled eggs sometimes. I have gained weight because of many factors, but I am trying to eat less again. We eat lunch with members 3 or 4 times a week. My companion´s grandma is from Rosario, Argentina. He is finding out the rest of the information. Also, I have been thinking about Elder Byers and Elder Blanchard. They have both tried to email me, but unfortunately I cannot email them back. I sent letters to them while in Buenos Aires, but I don´t know if they got them. Have you heard anything? Did you say Corbin cannot receive letters? I´d just like to know how they´re doing and stay in contact to some degree.

Great to hear the Daniel put in his papers! I have been wondering when he would. I also enjoyed the video from Heather. (Editor's note: Heather's baby started walking!) Great birthday presents for both of them, I supposed. Glad to hear their birthdays went well. I sent my birthday wishes, love, and prayers.  I will definitely be excited to read my email in two weeks and see if he got his call.

-Elder Wesley Morgan

P.S. I received my magnetic name tag in Guaraní that I ordered a while ago. It makes me happy, mostly because I can understand it. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Be Positive :)

So I forgot to mention that I included those statistics about references and baptisms because we have a perfect example of it. Diego, a friend of the Grau family (21 years old) has been coming to church for the past few weeks. We finally taught him, and he said he felt the Spirit. He really wants to find the truth, and we explained how to ask and receive an answer. The next time we taught him, he said he felt that this church was true! He doesn´t want to get baptized until he knows he can come to church every week, which is a struggle with his family opposition. But we are heading in the right direction. He is so smart, especially since he has already been reading and learning a lot. When teaching the plan of salvation, not many people (including members) can tell you what we need in order to have agency (law, opposition, knowledge, ability to choose). Mauricio was excited to have his interview for the Priesthood, but he had to work very late Saturday night and could not come to church. 

Besides them, we have a LOT more investigators, which is great! I haven´t had this many people to teach my whole time here in Amambay, so it is good to feel that again. One of those we found this week because during Elder Knudsen said he remembered findng an alley where he felt there was someone who needed us, and I decided we should go look for it again. It was in an area I had just been to a couple weeks ago during exchanges, but didn´t notice the entrance. There we found Julio, who recently lost his job because of breaking his arm and has lost contact with his family. He said he was in an awful situation and we arrived just in time to help. He already seems happier and has a couple job opportunities. The Lord works miracles! (2 Nephi 26:12-13). We also have Francisco, who seemed very opposed to us because he doesn´t agree with many of our "restrictions" and has a cousin who came home early from a mission. But after talking and explaining why we have those commandments (prophets/restoration) along with the personal blessings we have received, he opened up and says he has always wanted to make some changes, like quitting smoking, and hopes we can help him. Another testament to me of why we shouldn´t just teach the same robotic first lesson each time. We should listen and see what they need, then explain how the Restored Gospel can help them.

Things are improving with my companion. He has had a lot of success in his mission, and with some of the things he does, I often wonder how. Haha, but he does do a lot of things very well, and I am learning from him, the scriptures, and other experiences every day. Also, I just found out his grandmother is named Elisa Arguello! She is a member and has Spanish ancestry...would you be able to find out if we are related?

Another random question: I am always interested in learning about other religions, and there are a lot of 7th day Adventists here. I hear that they are either a branch of our church or have a restoration story similar to ours. But that makes me wonder why they have more members than us. I´d love to know what Wikipedia says about what they believe and where they came from.

The pedometer works a lot better. I now know that we walk about 6-8 miles a day. And Saturday...was the hottest day of my life. But that is okay, I am adjusting! Really, this has been one of my best weeks here. I got to do a baptismal interview for a 17-year-old who already wants to serve a mission. That was a fun experience. We also had our monthly meeting with the Stake President, which I always enjoy. He talked about how we can work more with the ward to help our investigators and recent converts to family history and temple work, something I have always wanted to incorporate more into our teaching. He also emphasized the importance of teaching tithing so that people learn to trust in the Lord and stay active, along with always being positive about our leaders and members here (sometimes a problem in certain wards). He really is an incredible leader. 

So, that is my advice for this week. Be positive! We all have troubles, but if we have faith in Christ, we really will make it through everything and receive more blessings than we can imagine. Sometimes I wish those would come sooner, but I know I am where I am because there are things I need to learn. Thanks for staying in touch. Love you lots!

-Elder Wesley Morgan