Monday, July 29, 2013

Zone Conference

Well, of all of those interesting stories I have been telling the last few weeks...we haven´t been able to find any of them again. I am sure the Lord has his timing. I keep telling my companion that we are working as hard as we can, and once we learn what he wants us to, he will bless us with investigators in church again. One more interesting investigator (who I hope to be able to teach again) is Vidal Notario. He heard the discussions 15 years ago and still reads and believes in the Book of Mormon. He is 50, but like many here, his obstacle is fear of what his parents will think if he changes religion. Sometimes I think it would help to explain that their family has only been Catholic for 400 years maximum, and long before that their Nephite-Lamanite ancestors were members of our church. Haha, I wonder how people would react to that.

Of all the people who we can´t find, I am grateful to at least be able to say that my companion and I are still here! We had to have special transfers to accommodate the change in the mission boundaries. We received Élder Lopez from an area that used to be part of the north mission. He is from Retalheu, Guatemala, and he says Sister Schroeder was in his ward in December! Maybe you can ask her if she remembers him. And the Zone Leaders we live with are Elder Johnson (just arrived) and Elder Moffet, who you asked about. I really like him as a leader. He is a lot of fun and I feel like he is interested in me personally and what I need to progress, not just the numbers the Zone achieves. It is good to finally start meeting missionaries who I can visit after the mission, seeing as most of my companions live very far away.

With those special transfers, we had a Zone Conference, which was great, as always. We had to leave very early in the morning, and it was so cold that there was frost on the ground. Never though I´d see that here. But it is already hot again. Anyway, I learned something that really helped me--tell the members what you need! I get frustrated when they don´t help us, but President Agazzani reminded us that we can´t just assume they know what we need. That is the same problem I have noticed with companionships--communication. So now, especially in lunch appointments, we talk about the gospel and missionary experiences as much as we can, we read a missionary scriptures like Jacob 5:70-72, and we ask for referrals. Whether or not they have one, we encourage them to keep looking for new friends and ask them if they are willing to help us teach their friends or other people who live nearby. Just about everyone responds very positively, and is willing to help us much as their schedule allows.

The Conference also helped us improve our teaching, planning, and contacting. We practiced inviting people to be baptized during our street contacts, which is actually really great. My companion, who is always excited to do everything, loves doing it. I have tried that before, but I am finally doing the right way. We ask about what is important to them (family, peace) and explain how baptism will help them with that. We invite them to be baptized a specific day, and that leads us into setting an appointment to explain more about how they can prepare. I have been thinking that John the Baptist and other great missionaries probably worked like that. In studying about him and his way to teach, I realized that our culture and missionary work are very similar to his, the only difference is that we have a lot more resources and advantages. We still haven´t found anyone who says "Yes! I have been wanting to change my life" but it is good to show them our purpose and see if they are interested.

Yes, I am still District Leader. That is why I have a lot of responsibility--two assignments at once. We are having some small obedience problems in the district, which is frustrating, but I am doing all I can to help them. Time is flying, though it does pass slower on the harder days. But I am really focusing on trying to enjoy each day for what it is and not be so much of a perfectionist. Being a trainer and seeing my companion´s progress helps with that. Life really is good, and there is nothing better than teaching the gospel. Being a missionary is awesome, and I enjoyed receiving Daniel´s first email. That is about how I felt the first few days. It is overwhelming. But it gets A LOT better.

One more of those tough questions I sometimes ask. We found a lady who spent a long time telling us about spiritual experiences she had that helped her see that God has saved her life and given her everything. When we came back, she wouldn´t even let us teach her grandchildren (who are awesome) because she realized what our objective is as missionaries. This isn´t too rare, but she has been more rude than most. The question is, why do spiritual experiences or blessings from God sometimes cause people to become closed off to the truth? I understand that people have their agency, but what is the wrong decision they make to get them off the track the Lord wants them to be on by giving them those experience? I hope that all makes sense. Alma 12 explains a bit, but I am still looking for a solid answer. Thanks for always writing me and answering my questions. It is great to hear that things are going well. Stay strong!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Iron Rod is the Word of God

First, a miracle experience. The woman in the despensa (those are little gas-station-like shops everywhere...have I already explained that?) in front of us is a less-active member. I have always wanted to teach her husband but she says he is not open to other religions. Yesterday as our plans fell near the end of the day (as usual) we were close to the house wondering what to do. I felt like passing by, and sure enough, her husband was there. I asked him if he would listen to us, and he said, as expected, that he already has his religion. But I said we just wanted to watch a movie about families, and he, with encouragement from his wife, let us in. I don´t know if you know the movie "What is Real?" It is about a young family with a baby girl and the dad really wants to be able to answer the questions about the plan of salvation that she will have when she grows up. This family also has a 2-year-old, so I picked that one. The shot in the dark turned out to be a bull´s-eye. After the video, she said, "Those are the exact questions my husband has been asking me! What kind of friends will she have, will she lie to us or trust us, will she move to another city, etc." He didn´t want to talk to much, but he accepted an appointment for next Wednesday!

So that is Arturo and Griselda Fleitas. Then there was Carlos Molina, who is an evangelical. He has heard our message, and has a lot of doubts about Joseph Smith. We read Mormon 7 and invited him to pray. He said, "Okay, I will pray TONIGHT, and if I don´t get an answer this book is false." At least he understands more than most people that just because the book talks about God doesn´t make it true--it is the indicator of whether or not our religion is true. He also understood more than most people that if it is true "We´ll take it to all the world!!" he said. Haha, so we tried to use Isaiah 55:8-9 to explain that the answer will come in God´s time. Haven´t been able to find him again, but I am excited to see what happens.

Two more people who live out in Toro Blanco close to him are Crecencio, a large young guy who is trying to quit drugs and wants to get baptized to change his life. Then there is Adilio, who is 13 but understands really well. He is the reason we were running to church last week. His grandpa doesn´t want him to come to church, but we met his grandma and she does! Vamos a ver lo que va a pasar.* :) We also have a young man named Cesar who would have come to church if he didn´t go visit his family out in the "campo."** That is the biggest challenge in the district right now... no one is coming to church. But I am trying to help all the missionaries feel like they are important and they need to be obedient and diligent to see results. 

It is a lot of responsibility, but I am learning a lot. For example, I learned that you need to boil the water and then add the pasta, or certain types of noodles become a green-spaghetti-slime. With enough sauce, it is edible. 

I am also grateful to be learning that imperfection is alright. Anytime God shows me something I need to be doing better as a leader, trainer, or teacher, I try to improve it as soon as I can, and I think he´s happy with that. I love teaching, and I love that the 12-week training program is based on focusing on the person and their needs, not just the lessons. It's always something I can improve, especially by asking questions. The people out here in rural areas take longer to open up, especially when we ask questions that make them think a lot, but it is a process I am improving.

One thing we did this week was have weekly planning in the chapel so everyone could stay focused and so we could see how the area books are. That helped me a lot, because honestly the 3 hours of weekly planning are sometimes hard to concentrate. It is tough making plans when you know most of them are going to change, but it is something else to keep working on. 

Thankfully, I have a great companion. Sometimes I do look at him the way I used to look at you mom, that "You are sooo weird" face. But he is a funny guy. Like Jed, he loves Star Wars and has read many of the books. And of course, he is studying mechanical engineering. He and his family fix up classic cars, and he wants to go into the auto industry. He learns everything fast--Spanish, teaching, and even cooking. Today, he made most of the pancakes for lunch. We usually make pancakes for lunch on P-Days. Actually, I am learning to eat more at midday. One night a less active member who is very mad at the church surprisingly invited us to come in and eat. I ate too much, and realized that my eating habits have changed a lot. But it was a great lesson, we read 1 Nephi 8. I mentioned a bit more about this in my letter to Tony. The Book of Mormon really is so important. I love it, and gaining or strenghtening a testimony of it is one of the most essential things for a preparing, current, or returned missionary.

And, I am doing great. Glad to hear preparations are great for Daniel. When you mentioned his farewell...I couldn´t remember if he was supposed to leave this week or last. So since Wednesday I have been praying for him "wherever he is in the world." Glad to have that confusion cleared up***. I do like lentils and ate them a lot with the Spanish Grau family in Amambay. I don´t see many posters for movies. People here just watch Ice Age, soap operas, and soccer games all the time. I have never blessed the sacrament and only passed it twice, because the wards that are lacking priesthood are also lacking pianists. So I am always playing the piano, which I love. The mission is full of wonderful opportunities, and I am thankful for your encouragement. Keep reading the Book of Mormon (and Preach My Gospel--awesome that Brittany is reading it).

Love you all!
-Elder Wesley Morgan

*Vamos a ver lo que va a pasar: We will see what will happen.
**Campo: field
***Wesley's brother Daniel left for his mission in Madrid, Spain the day after this letter, July 23rd! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

La Esperanza*

*La Esperanza: Hope

First and foremost, I forgot to mention the awesome letter I got last week. I don't know if you know we are supposed to write our converts, which I do occasionally. I finally got my first letter from a convert! Remember Lidia, the miracle I found my last week in Ciudad del Este who had searched all her life for the true church? Well, she is still enjoying the fullness of the Gospel. She seems very happy, and she teaches the fourth Sunday class in Relief Society! Makes me feel SO good to hear things like that.

Around here, we are dropping investigators who don't have interest and trying to avoid the many people who say, "Yes, we'd love to listen, but we already have a church we go to and we don't want to change". Thankfully, we have found some great new investigators in Toro Blanco, a neighborhood that is fairly far from the church. The kid who was going to come with us this Sunday wasn't there, so we ended up having to run a lot to get to church on time. Elder Jessop is having some fun experiences in his first weeks! Haha, he is always pretty positive, so he doesn't mind things like that. He is like a fireball-- I just have to show him what to do and let him go. He isn't afraid of talking to anyone, and he learns very fast. 

I do have a lot of responsibilities, so I have to try very hard to be paitent when things don't always go how I want. For example, after a very tough day of looking for people to teach, we found a family we talked to a few weeks ago. Their dad is a preacher in a church founded by a very false prophet. It scares me sometimes how close Satan's imitations are to the truth, but I just have to trust that those who really want to find the Gospel will recognize the difference. I know it's not good to try to convince people with the Bible, but that is what they tried to do to us. I wanted to use my testimony to show them the truth, but I should have just left. My companion and I ended up getting very frustrated because they wouldn't let us talk with how much they were trying to preach to us. (What Grandma said about the importance of understanding the Godhead is very true). Thankfully, forgiveness exists. After a lot of prayer and meditation, I realized how we should have handled the situation. The next day when we found another family who, in spite of our attempts to explain, was sure the Book of Mormon does not talk about Christ, we just left. I am realizing that with our limited time, we can only use it on those who really want the truth.

Okay, now for those recipes I have forgotten to send you. These are the ones I have made (some several times): Pancakes, German Pancakes, Syrup (mucho), French toast (a companion showed me how to make French toast sticks--very good--I can send Daniel the recipe if he wants), tortillas (my Mexican companion helped me perfect that), Banana bread, No bake cookies, brownies, snickerdoodles, and easy cobbler (that is the PERFECT missionary dessert). The mission gave us a recipe book that had some ideas I have made: an easy apple crisp and empanadas (which my Argentine companions helped me with). Some recipes you gave me that also seem simple enough to try soon are breakfast cake, corn bread, paprika potatoes, easy fettucini alfredo, meatballs, mac&cheese, teriyaki chicken, lemon bars, and sugar cookies.

The thing with being a missionary is that we have an hour to prepare and eat the food (except P-Days), so that limits us a lot. There is a book I found here called "Missionary Meals in Minutes" that I think you used some recipes from--very good ideas there. Then there are a lot of ingredients that are expensive here (beans), that don't exist here, or that may exist but I have no idea how to look for them in Spanish. So, there are some complications, but I am very grateful for the recipes I have used. I am sure I will keep using them after the mission. Like I said, it is also fun to learn from your companions. 

I should be here for two more transfers (including this one), but with the addition of the new mission... anything could happen. I don't know how many more missionaries there are. I know that before President Agazzani the mission was baptizing 80 or 90 each month, and now we are averaging about 120. Last month was amazing, but it looks like this month will be tough--my whole district didn't even have any investigators in church yesterday (to answer your other question, there are usually about 60 members in our branch every week). But, like I said, we just have to be positive and learn from our past. Life isn't easy, so I can't expect the mission to be either. I hope my time here helps me learn to deal with adversity and stress.

I don´t know if you have been able to tell from before the mission and my letters that sometimes I let myself get really stressed. But the promise of the Atonement is that anyone can have a hope of changing to become like Christ. That's why Mosiah 3:19 and Omni 1:26 have become two of my favorite scriptures. Prayer is powerful, and I know the Lord has a plan for us. Stay within the limits he gives you, and he will always give you the blessings and challenges you need.

Love you!
-Elder Morgan

Monday, July 8, 2013


Well, I am very excited to be one of the many missionaries (the age change is bringing a flood of new recruits) training a new missionary! His name is Elder Andrew Jessup from Harbor City, California. He is very big but he has the enthusiasm of a little kid. He is a hard worker who wants to be obedient. He speaks the basics of Spanish, but I am helping him a lot with pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. I am pretty strict about speaking Spanish all of the time, though I do explain things he doesn't know. One of his goals is to learn how to roll his r's. I am taking your advice and trying to serve him every day, even little things like teaching him how to cook or cleaning his shoes. It can be very fun, but it is also a lot of work. I have a lot more respect for parents or anyone else who has to give constant attention to children--I am sure what I am feeling is just a small example of how that is.

I am also very grateful for my trainer, though at the same time, I am trying to do everything I would have like my trainer or other companions to have done to help me. Being a trainer has been pretty emotional. It was exciting going to Asunción to see who else would be training and wanting to see which one in the group I would train. Like I said, it also makes me remember how hard my training was and gives me an immense sense of gratitude for the strength God gave me to make it through and how much I have progressed in this year.

It is also satisfying to see his progress and enthusiasm as we focus on the basics. Today we were setting a lot of goals for the 12 week (two transfers) training period, and one we decided to put was how many baptisms. When he said 5, I acted a little shocked, and so he was going to set a lower goal. He was very happy when I told him I think we can get even more. So our goal is 15! I didn't tell him that is more than I have baptized in my whole mission (yes, I do write it all down in my journal), but it will be good to help him have a high aim. 

I am trying to have faith to baptize more people in spite of the difficulties. I now have a lot of pressure with my two assignments--like worrying about a calling and a family. But it is just another chance to learn and strengthen my testimony. Speaking of baptisms, the mission baptized 185 last month, which is a record (because there were 5 weeks). My district was one of the highest baptizing districts, as it was before I got here. So things are going fairly well, but like I said, there is a lot of pressure.

One of the difficulties is that we still don´t have anyone who is progressing. But I am happy with the progress our branch is having. That was our first correlation meeting in a very long time, and we might have branch council this week! Yes, Ismael is younger than me. Please keep praying for the leaders, for my companion and all he is learning (especially Spanish), and for me to strengthen my faith (may sound odd, but I need it).

Sounds like there are a lot of changes happening (just like this time of year last year), but I am sure you will be able to get through it all. Life never stops changing, like you mentioned. I am sure Daniel will do well.  One thing that might be good for him to bring is a flash drive to store pictures, videos, or things the mission sends him like talks or emails. 

Like I said, the best way I can describe how I feel is gratitude for this chance to train. The Lord blesses us with so much, and we always need to use that to help others. Simple, but true.

Love you!
-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, July 1, 2013

Creemos en Cristo*

*Creemos en Cristo: Believe in Christ

One piece of great news--we finally had correlation with our ward mission leader! His name is Ismael, and he is preparing for a mission, so he is fairly inexperienced. But this is a great step towards coordinating our efforts with the members. It's been a tough week to find people, and I have walked a lot! Marcos is one of those who has been tough to find because of his work, and he also has a lot of doubts about the Book of Mormon, like that Indians aren't descendants of Jews. We tried to testify and I lent him a video called "Creemos en Cristo" by Elder Holland that I found at the distribution center. Hope that works. We did find a kid named Enrique, whose sister is a less-active member. He doesn't have too much interest, but we'll see what we can do. She really wants to start coming back to church. Many of our efforts to find and teach people only result in strengthening the members we used to teach them, but I guess that is part of our job. Paola is doing great. Last night we taught her with all the young single adults, who had been watching a movie. That was weird...because they were exactly like me and my friends hanging out before the mission. Sort of felt like another reality. Haha.

One of the people we contacted this week was Amado. He is similar to a lot of people here in South America, who sometimes have a hard time letting things go. The people here often tell us about their same problems or grudges every time we visit them, and he kept telling us about his wife who left him 6 months ago. I tried to tell him that he needs to pray to have the Lord help him forget it and come to church where can also relax from his worries. We also met a young man from Florida working for the Peace Corps. It was nice talking in English...except for the swear words he used. 

One more experience. We were going to go to a city nearby called Campo Nueve. Seeing as our area is HUGE, it is still in our area. There is a store with American food, which many missionaries have visited. I wanted to see that, but I also wanted to find out if there were people there we could teach. But as we were walking (20 minutes) to the bus terminal, I had the feeling I shouldn't go. I had felt that the night before, and I wrestled with it the whole way, thinking about experiences of friends, family, and the scriptures where people had followed the Spirit. Finally, I asked myself, if the Lord wanted me to know that this is a bad idea, how would he make me feel? The truth was, I felt awful, and finally, right when the ticket man was pressuring us to buy our tickets, I told him we would go another day. Still not sure why the Lord didn't want us to go. Like I said, we didn't teach many people that day, but there were a few small things he may have needed us to do. I was waiting to hear on the news that the bus blew up or there was a fire in the city, haha, but divine answers are not always that clear. We just have to trust in God.

It has been cold, and according to thermometers, we have had some days just above freezing. The humidity and the cold means that wet things don't dry at all...and no, the heated water in the font does not work very well. But it sounds like you are all having a tough time there, too. 

Yes, that is probably the only time I will go to the temple until my last day in the mission (unless some of my converts get sealed!). I understand a lot more Guaraní...but still not very much. I do miss some of the patriotism, but it is not something we think about. We did sing the national anthem in the MTC.

And that's all for this week. I will find out the transfers tomorrow. Still hoping I will train, and there has not been any indication so far that that will not happen, but there is still the suspense. One more thing that I have been wanting to say to you, Mom.  These past months I have been thinking a lot about how Sister Bednar and most women who talk to us remind us that every mother thinks her son is an excellent missionary, and we should live up to that. I have seen many missionaries who are disobedient, unfocused, or prideful, and I don't think their mothers know yet. But I do want you to know that you can be proud of me. All I want is to serve the Lord, and I am trying to give all my heart to this work. I love being a part of it, and I will never do anything to bring shame to those I represent. It's not always easy, but it is worth it, and I hope I can always say that I am the kind of missionary my mom thinks I am.

-Elder Wesley Morgan