Monday, April 29, 2013

Running out of subject´s the same great Missionary work as always!

We just got out of the Zone Leaders´ Council...which will no longer have the word "Zone." Why? The Church has added a leadership position for sister missionaries, who will also participate in those Councils. Elders will still lead districts and zones, just like it is in the church, but there will be one companionship of "leader" sister missionaries for every 12 companionships in the mission. Should be exciting!

There were a few other interesting announcements about rules and things to change. We are going to focus even more on the repentance process in every commandment and teaching from the Book of Mormon. I really love studying the Book of Mormon, and the rest of the Mission Library--Our Heritage, Our Search for Happiness, True to the Faith, and Jesus the Christ. Each of those books is full of great doctrine and things to apply to missionary work. I also love the For the Strenght of Youth Pamphlet! I usually read those books during breakfast or other short times, and I try to focus my peronsal study on the scriptures and Preach My Gospel. I have found one of the most effective ways to study is to just write questions and doubts that investigators, members, or missionaries have, and look for as many ideas as I can in the scriptures and Preach My Gospel. When I do that, I feel like the Spirit really guides my study through revelation.

Speaking of studying, I am getting a lot better at Spanish. I can now focus on learning words like "machine gun" and "hazelnut." I also like studying a little Guaraní, though I don't think I'll every be able to teach entire lessons in that language. We did get to watch "The Restoration" in German this week with a man we found named Harald Schmitz. He is very funny, because he speaks very broken Spanish. He smokes and drinks a lot, but we're working on him! Then there is Gemma, who speaks Nivaclé, an indigenous language from the Chaco. She is living with a less-active member who is very excited to come back to church and prepare for the temple. They are a very special family, and it really was such a miracle to find her. 

Unfortunately, the Duarte family did not get baptized this week. Their dad did not give them permission, but we will pray and work with the members for this next week! They are great kids, and I honestly don't know how to convince Hector to let them get baptized. But if it's the Lord's will, he will provide a way.

Yes, I think I will know in May for sure if I am staying or going to the other mission. Villa Elisa is the city, and Villa Bonita is the name of the neighborhood. They changed it to "Costa" for the ward...not sure why. We are on the coast of the river between Paraguay and Argentina, which we can see from our house. I'll send pictures of that next week. The elections were not dangerous, staying home was just a precaution. In Guaraní we sing hymns, actually. The old Gospel Principles book in Guaraní has some hymns at the end.

I like what you said about the fact that the people who have problems with their family changing religion are often those who are not active in their own. I have seen personally that they just feel guilty and want to pull other people down so they feel better. Rules like the sabbath and the Word of Wisdom are especially frustrating to them. And for those who honestly have strong testimonies in their religion, it is true that showing them the positive, family orientation and doctrinal center on Christ will help them soften their hearts.

Lots of Love,
-Elder Wesley Morgan

P.S. Fun coincidence. On a bus (we travel a lot) I saw two guys with sporty shirts. One said Tigers in yellow and the other Bruins in red. ¡Qué Loco!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Week 2 with Elder Enriquez

I sent a lot of pictures this week (less time to write). I was going to send one of my companion and I yesterday. We had to be in the apartment all day because of the elections (in case something dangerous happened). I am always saying I want more time to study the scriptures, but that was plenty. I almost went crazy being inside all day. Luckily, my companion is pretty great. He left at 18 because they were experimenting with the young age in a few countries, as President Monson mentioned in the last conference. He is now 20 and goes home in August.  We sing in Guaraní together, he is a happy person, and he helps me clean a lot more than some of my other companions. With my Latino companions, we speak Spanish 95-99% of the time. Honestly I normally think in Spanish now. One cool that shows that my companions were chosen by the Lord. All want to be engineers. Elder Izurieta-software, Elder Gayoso-civil, and Elder Enriquez-mecatronic (also known as electromechanical, I think). Elder Nielsen wants to be a helicopter pilot and Elder Knudsen an eye doctor, but both said their backup plan is engineering. It's nice to work with smart, hard-working people.

Villa Elisa is somewhat far from Asunción. It's like Draper and Salt Lake City. The ward is small but great. I don't know if I told you the ward council volunteered to help us with the family who is going to get baptized this Saturday! We just need to have those meetings more often. I have heard in just about every ward that things "used to be better" before the bishop changed, ward divided, everyone left on missions or got married. Something like that. We are working hard to get all the wards in the stake excited to be a part of this work. We teach a lot of lessons, and we are hoping to find (or baptize) more members to accompany us. The chapel is just outside the ward boundary. We also had a miracle with the Duarte family bringing a friend, and a less-active member coming to church with his girlfriend. 6 investigators in church! 

One more quick question for pondering and answering. I often wonder why it is so hard for people to face the opposition from their family. Then I realized it would be hard for me to change religion with the strong traditions we have. (Completely hypothetical) How would you react if I changed religions?

Thanks for sending the package and letting me know how the ward back home is. I´ll write more next week. Love you all!

-Elder Wesley Morgan
Quintana family in Amamabay

Grau family in Amambay
Lorenzo, the investigator Elder Morgan played chess with in Amambay
Hector Pavón, golden investigator in Amambay
"Juan Ramón. He is the one who has to sell Bingo (lottery) all day to support his drug addict son. I hadn´t seen him in a while because of his work, but he happened to be in the bus terminal with all the missionaries! What a miracle."

Goodbye to Elder Gayoso and Amambay.
Hello to Elder Enriquez and Costa Bonita!
Outside Elder Morgan's new apartment
Inside Elder Morgan's new apartment

Monday, April 15, 2013

Costa Bonita, Villa Elisa

Well, a few hours after sending my last email I received some unfortunate news. I will not get to see all those plans in Amambay come to pass (but I hope to hear about them later from Elder Gayoso). I have been transferred to Zone 4, Villa Elisa (Stake: Fernando de la Mora Sur). It was sad to leave, especially because I felt like I had not done all that I set out to do. But it was good to remember Zion's Camp. What they gained in that story was not winning a battle (baptisms, members), but leadership experience. And that is exactly what I have gained. I am more patient; much more of the leader the Lord needs me to be. The other church video that helped me was that of John Rowe Moyle. When explaining why he walked to Salt Lake with his amputated leg, he simply said "It's my calling." I feel the same way. The hymn "I'll go where you want me to go" is more and more important to me.

And really, I am excited to be here. Like I said, I am more patient. The change was still hard, but unlike when I arrived at my other two areas, I am not thinking so much about perfection, just doing the Lord's will and enjoying it. Ironically, that has allowed me to do more. I am discovering that happiness is really a decision. It is not always easy, immediate, or 100% of the time. But it is a decision based on our attitudes and habits over time. My Zone is a lot bigger--22 missionaries in 3 districts. One of my District Leaders is Elder Beatty, who was my Zone Leader in Ciudad del Este (he goes home in 6 weeks). I also have Elder Ramirez, my favorite Uruguayan who was with me in Zone 1. This area is much more like CDE--more hills, streams, and dirt roads. I didn't realize how much more urban Amambay was than the rest of Paraguay. The ward is small, but I am very excited for that! I have been frustrated with being in large wards with most of the leaders in the areas of the other missionaries. We have all the members in our area, but not the chapel (3 wards share a chapel--rare for Paraguay). We had 38 people in church, but we will do all we can to change that. One miracle on the way is the Duarte family. They have 5 kids between the ages of 8 and 15, who all want to get baptized April 27th. That should really give the ward a boost in primary and young men/women. The parents cannot get baptized because the dad was married previously and has not gotten divorced (that is incredibly common in Paraguay). There are also a lot of kids of less active families who we are working with. You'd be surprised by the percentage of baptisms that come from children of less-active members. I think that is why Utah has the highest baptizing missions. But really, I am excited to strengthen this ward and see that chapel filled. I am also the ward piano player again, which is fun.

My companion is Elder Enriquez, from Oaxaca, Mexico. He was an 18-year-old missionary, but he is now 20 (he goes home in August). He is a hard worker and a good leader. As with all companionships there are a lot of adjustments to make. Zone Leaders and older missionaries are also harder to change. But like I said, I am trying to be more patient, and most of the time we get along very well. I am sure we will have a lot of success together.

One experience I wanted to tell you. I had my first baptismal interview this week where the person didn't pass. It was an old man who wanted to repent and get baptized to follow Christ, but he didn't fully believe in the Restoration and he was convinced that the law of tithing is a suggestion, not a commandment. I tried to help him with both of those, but he just needs more time to become fully converted. It was a tough decision, and I thought about all the goals we have and what other missionaries would think. But I have always been taught to do the right thing no matter what, and there is no way I could stand before God and tell him that man was ready to be baptized. We're doing important sacred things here, and whether or not it is easy or popular we need to do the will of the Lord.

Great to hear the news, as always.  I'll try to ask my mission president about my question* in the next interview we have. With all the emails he receives every week, he doesn't usually have time to answer questions. Forgot to bring my camera, but I will send my last pictures from Amambay and my first ones from Costa Bonita next week. 

One more gigantic miracle. Do you remember Reynaldo and Rocío, that couple that was going to get married and baptized but there was a problem with the documents and she decided to leave him? That was quite depressing, but Elder Dyer, who was in that ward in Ciudad del Este, went to Guarambaré, where Reynaldo moved back to live with his family. While helping him get reactivated, Rocío came back to get married and baptized!!!!!!! I can't tell you how happy I was to hear that. All things are in the hands of our Eternal Father in Heaven. He sees the end from the beginning, and we can trust that he loves us infinitely and always has a plan. 

-Elder Wesley Morgan

*Wesley had asked what to tell people who are too worried about this life to care about what happens in the next.  I didn't have an answer for him and suggested he ask his Mission President.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Conference Number 2!

Conference was amazing! Felt more like other conferences before the mission--spiritual, but not world-changing like the last one was with the missionary age announcement. There was still a lot of emphasis on missionary work, which I loved. There was a lot about members getting involved, especially President Eyring's talk in Priesthood session. That really motivated me to keep trying to get Amambay excited about missionary work. We might just print that talk out and share copies of it. In Priesthood, I also liked President Uchtdorf's talk about the 4 Titles all of us have. That really helped me remember the importance of who I am and not comparing myself to others, just to what the Lord expects of me. He mentioned something I have been thinking about a lot. Missionaries, in their enthusiasm to be excellent, often create the idea that there is one type of ideal missionary that we all have to be--a super-positive, hard-working, gregarious, natural leader that makes everyone laugh and always has a plan to get the job done. President Uchtdorf said that we are meant to be different, and it's true! Being quiet or serious is not a sin. Everyone is unique, and they have a unique purpose. Having trials is not a sin either. We don't always have an answer. If we never failed, we'd never learn. There was quite a bit in this conference about being patient with others, especially our children. I loved Elder Christofferson's story about Sarah and  Annie. That inspired me to see the hope and potential in each person. Wish I could put my whole notebook up here, but I know you all received your own revelation and guidance. Those parts were my favorite, as was seeing BYU MEN'S CHORUS! That was a surprise. The people sitting next to me where sick of me saying "I know him!" "Him too!" Haha, I loved seeing Andrew Moore, Ken Kenworthy, Devin Flake, and a lot of other friends from the Choir. It was also a surprise to see Hannah Herring and Kristen Bodine up there! That music, as with all conference music, was wonderful.

I wish we would have had more people in conference. I always say it's kind of like the Brass serpent. Anyone could watch it and know that the church is true, but it is so hard just to get them there. We did have one surprise. Fermín is one of those investigators who wants to accept Joseph Smith as an inspired man and the Book of Mormon as a true book but not our Church as the only true one. That happens a lot, but he came to a session! We'll see what it did for him. Diego was also there, and we found out that the Stake President got special permission to baptize him here, mostly because of the opposition from his family and the friends he has in the ward. It was a mess getting all of that figured out. I am happy for him, but it would have been easier if he had just attended church where he lived right from the start. I've learned my lesson the hard way, and we will be sure to change that in the future.

Other notable occurences. Iván, a 19-year-old investigator, surprised us by teaching US a lesson. He had (finally) been reading the Book of Mormon and wanted to read the whole chapter to us. That warmed my day. I think I have also mentioned the Pavón family? They are still progressing slowly, but Hector, their cousin, is doing great. We were worried when he said he had a pregnant girlfriend (he's also only 19), but after teaching the Law of Chastity he said he would make plans to get married. He's awesome. The testimony of Giuliano, less-active guy who has been coming with us a lot, also helped out. He said something I want to teach more often--that they shouldn't feel bad for doing something they didn't know was wrong. That's why we have the Atonement. I also received a great idea while on exchanges with our District Leader Elder Dominguez. An old man said what many people say to us "It's so nice that you are preaching the word of God like Jesus said we should. My church needs to do more of that." I decided to give him 2 Restoration pamphlets so he could participate in sharing the gospel, and he was very excited to share it! I will do that more often--with investigators and contacts. We'll see how much other people can help us spread this message. Also, I would still love an answer to my question from last week--how do we help people who are too worried about this life to care about what happens in the next?

The Zone training also went great. Everything we taught was from what we heard in the Council with President Agazzani. We started off with the story of "La Piedra de la Sopa." I think I vaguely recall making "Stone Soup" in elementary school...but I never really got the point of the story. In any case, we bought real vegetables and meat to help the missionaries participate actively and see that every person has something to contribute. The rest of the training was about how all of us can be leaders, especially for the members and other missionaries. We are trying to change the way we do district meeitngs to focus more on what the missionaries need to do that week to help their investigators progress and to get them to commit to do it! I know that will help us have more success this next transfer.

That's all the news I can think of. Really, I am feeling great and loving what I am doing. Being a missionary is an incredible opportunity, and I will keep sharing the gospel for the rest of my life. Trust in the Lord, talk to him as much as you can, and share what you know with His children. I love you! 

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, April 1, 2013

Semana Santa (Holy Week)

Wow, this week sure was interesting. I can now tell you a lot more about what Holy Week is like here. It´s a big deal. Reminded me a lot of Thanksgiving, actually. Everyone has Thursday and Friday off from work and school. Unfortunately, people use that as an excuse to drink a lot. So we had a few days of walking and contacting all day. Everyone attends church Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. And all day, all the channels show "Holy Week Movies," marathons of old Bible movies like Ben Hur. The soccer game rivals Cerro Porteño and Olimpia was also similar to the Thanksgiving football games.

"A picture of Easter Candy we got, just to show that they do have that here. :)"

So, like I said we are working hard. I am helping my companion a lot with English, especially using books and songs to help him internalize it. Many things are hard for his mouth to say, like "shrinking." He also teaches me Guaraní, so I can now say Cheaipota heta ñapymikuéra (I want a lot of baptisms). We really do have a lot of people who can get baptized next month, we just have to help them see the importance of coming to church. For example, there is Lorenzo, who said he is now talking to his children more about religion (Catholicism) and attending his church thanks to our visits. That happens a lot. People feel the Spirit, but misdirect their efforts. But we taught him with Hermano Damiano, the 2nd counselor and former Stake President. He also served here in Amambay (he is from Uruguay) and I am sure he was a great missionary. Hermano Texeira, the other counselor and great returned missionary, also helped us out. When someone asked him how important members are in lessons, he said something that REALLY won my respect: "Honestly, it would be ideal if the missionaries never taught without members." ¡Es verdad!*

"Here´s Diego, my awesome 'convert' (he is working on getting baptized in the ward where he lives)."

Amancio is also progressing a lot. He prays to have help quitting smoking and preparing to get baptized. Then we have Hugo, that guy who is a little crazy. He doesn´t believe God speaks to us, but he believes aliens do. Haha, it is a challenge teaching him. He always offers us alcohol, and he finally let us pray once. We had another funny experience when his daughter came into one of the lessons. She is as skeptical as him and wanted to know what the bad part of our message was. He said "Well they have this story of an angel and gold plates that I don´t believe." "That´s it?" "Yeah." "Seriously? If that´s the worst you can tell me, why aren´t you Mormon already?" He didn´t know what to say. We have had a lot of funny moments this week. One thing about Hugo, his biggest challenge is his son who died 20 years ago. He doesn´t want to accept the plan of salvation because he says it doesn´t matter to him what the next life is like or if he can be with his son again. He says he needed his son 20 years ago, not 20 years from now. That is similar to a problem we encounter a lot here. The people don´t want to learn about what happens in the next life because they already have enough to worry about today and tomorrow. What do you say to people like that?

"Here´s a picture of me during weekly planning (there is always a lot to do!)"
Thanks for all the news and encouragement. I´ll try to respond to all your questions and emails next week. (Yes, I have adjusted to converting temperatures and weights in metric). I have had a lot of people calling me or sending me things to fill out. A lot of responsibility as a Zone Leader! But I really do enjoy it here. I know the Lord is with us. We are preparing to have a great Zone training, so I will let you know how that goes. Love you all!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

*It's true!

"Here are two pictures we took from the roof of a building. Gotta love Asunción! ("The Mother of American Cities")"