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