Monday, November 25, 2013

Double Wedding!

"These are a few of the many pictures from the wedding ceremony. In one of the pictures is Liza Melgarejo (recent convert) and her daughter, and Sister Sostoa (Alberto´s mom), who made great dresses for just about everyone."

Well, we had our double marriage and baptism! It started pretty late because of the paperwork and other last minute disasters, but it was a very nice ceremony--the refreshments, decorations, and all the other things we worked to plan went well. Sister Keller put together a musical number of "Where Love Is," which all the missionaries sang.

I don´t know if I mentioned that the other couple was from Atyrá, a group that belongs to our branch. So I went out there to do exchanges and the interviews for the other couple. They were very young, but I was SO impressed by the girl. She´s 18 and pregnant, and when I asked her why she wants to get married, she said that she wants her baby to be born into a sure, married family. Wow! I wish all the young people here understood that! She also asked interesting questions about the apostasy and the difference between repenting before and after baptism (try explaining that one...). Her husband was a little tougher. He had some issues that I had to call President Agazzani about, who left the decision up to me. I wasn´t sure either, so I decided to talk to Darío (who was going to be baptized) on the way back to Ca´acupe for the wedding. I explained to him the situation, and left it in his hands to decide if he was ready to commit to live the commandments or needed another week or so. We prayed and he said yes. I felt very good about that...but for other reasons they haven´t been confirmed yet. We´ll see what happens. We have a lot to work out in the Zone to help them achieve their potential.

I am also overwhelmed by our workload as counselors. President Burger is putting a lot on our shoulders. It seems like the branch´s new motto is "ask Elder Morgan to do it." But hey, the Castros were there yesterday! Hna. Castro (mother of Milagros, who hasn´t been back to church since we baptized her) said that every time she opens up her Book of Mormon, it falls on 3 Nephi 18, which reminds to her to come to church. Some of the Garcia family who we started teaching last week came to church. They also arranged to get help from the bishop´s storehouse, which they desperately need.

I don´t know how to explain why my companion is so much like Tony, but he really is. He just has that jovial, laid-back personality, but also has a great testimony. You´ll just have to go to Buenos Aires and meet him, and it´ll all make sense. He also sings (very well) and plays guitar in a band with his four brothers. He and the other two I live with are always talking about soccer. Always. And actually, the Kellers invited us to have Thanksgiving lunch with them on Thursday, so that´ll be a unique experience here in Paraguay.

Two other fun little things. There was an error in the mission computer, so our latest list of who´s in the zone says I am from El Salvador. Who knew? I have also been working a lot with the MLS computer in the church trying to find some inactive members using whatever scrap of information I can. I feel like a detective, and I think it´ll help me do family history research after the mission. 

Well, I love you all! Hope everyone´s doing well. :)

-Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, November 18, 2013

El Crecimiento de la Rama*

*Growth of the Branch

Well, most importantly, I´m still alive. Haha, even more important, we are still on our way to having a baptism and wedding this Saturday. I don´t know if I mentioned that another couple from Atyrá (one of the small groups within our branch boundaries) will get married and baptized at the same time. We´ve seen a lot of progress in Delfina. I don´t know if I mentioned that she was very shy at the beginning, but she smiles and laughs a lot more, and she even shared a spiritual experience about how she prayed to find her daughter who had been kidnapped.

We´re finding lots of new people to teach, normally thanks to our efforts in reactivation. We have Hugo and Estela, who said the following when we were getting to know their situation, "We just moved here; he´s out of work and I have been very sick, but we are looking for a new church to join." Those are all great things to hear to help someone accept the gospel! They talked a we didn´t teach much. And we have to take a bus to get to their house. But we´ll be back there soon.

In another far area, we found the Rodriguez family, which are 5 or 6 humble families that live right next to each other. There are a lot of very young mothers and grandmothers there (very common in this area), but they seem willing to listen. The Centurión family are members who used to be very active but got offended because of some things that really shouldn´t bother them anymore. They are a great family that we hope to reactivate soon.

And one more great family we´ve found are the Garcias, recent converts who have a 9-old-son to baptize.They have a problem that we are finding a LOT, which is that they work Sundays because they are barely making enough to get by. I am going to be studying a lot about that--3 Nephi 13 and 1 Kings 17 this morning--and I would love your input as to how to help people have the faith to come to church so they can receive even more blessings than they would for working.

Other news about people--I found out that my convert Diego from Amambay recently baptized someone. And Elder Jessop is already a District Leader. I saw him at the conference with Elder Christofferson, which was very interesting. Elder Walter F. Gonzalez, (Area Pres.) Elder DiGiovanni (70), and their wives gave brief talks. Then all Elder Christofferson did was ask about our comments on those talks and open it up for other questions. Someone asked about how to help people who don´t read very much (very common problem), and it was interesting to see that Elder Christofferson was able to give us some inspired but general adivce (love and persistence), but Elder Gonzalez and the Mission Presidents were able to give us more area-specific counsel. Moral of the story--apostles are awesome, but we should also listen to local leaders because they´ve also experienced what we´re going through.

I also did my first calling interview for a Young Men´s counselor. That was so awkward. I am so inexperienced. But luckily he is a great guy (recent convert) who is willing to help. I´m sure I´ll get the hang of these things soon. We called Liza Melgarejo to be in charge of organizing the church cleaning. The other missionaries are also working hard in their callings. Elder Godoy actually reminds me a lot of Tony--very similar personalities. Funny to hear that he works with Sophie´s dad!

On the other hand, it is rough to hear about Patriarch Cooper. I won´t be seeing quite as many of the faces as I was hoping to when I get back, but I guess that´s just part of life. I hope all goes well with the rest of the ward. Remember how blessed you are to have such worthy, obedient leaders.

Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, November 11, 2013

The World Has Need of Willing Men

Well, the subject line this week has a very important meaning. I have often been thinking about why it is so much easier to find active women in the church, while men are who we need to shoulder most of the responsibility. President Burger seems to have found a temporary answer to that for now. He called me and my companion as his counselors and the other two as the Elders Quorum Presidency. Overwhelmed is a good way to describe it. I now feel like everyone needs me to do everything. But at the same time, I am excited to work more closely with the members, leaders and less active, to reactive them and to find people to teach and baptize. I also found it really interesting that this was Dad´s last calling--makes me feel sure that we´ll have the Lord´s help sent to us whenever we need it.

Speaking of my companion, his name is Elder Godoy. He is older than me, but less-experienced (only 10 months as a missionary). He is very excited to work, especially because his trainer was a good friend of mine from the MTC, Elder Villar, who seems to have told him a lot of good things about me. As always, he is from Argentina. He speaks quite "porteño"* because he´s from Buenos Aires. We are living with Elder Portillo (again--he was Elder Leishman´s comp in Ca´aguazú) and Elder Vega, who replaced me in Ciudad del Este. Small world, great missionaries, 100% Español.

As far as investigators, no one was able to attend church, for various small reasons. We are working hard with Silvia, even convincing her to fast with us for fast Sunday. I´m hoping for this Saturday, but I´m also realizing I¨ll have to accept it if it´s not yet her time. We´ve given up on Emilio....he seems to be only interested in the social and English aspects of the church. Yes, Delfina will get married and then baptized. You can add "wedding planner" to my list of responsibilities. It´ll all be great. I love those families. Liza (Silvia´s mom) is already doing visiting teaching, planning to visit one of her neighbors who we found with us, and sewing a skirt to give to another neighbor that she wants to invite to church this week. Golden!

One other interesting bit. I asked the haircutter last week to "cut my hair very short, but still long enough to comb." He said he´d do a bit with the razor and a bit with scissors. Sounded great, until he buzzed my whole head except my bangs, which he cut a little. I felt sooo weird my first day, but with lots of gel, it almost works. So, for Danny Boy, I now have a Latino haircut.

It is an apartment we live in. It´s above a house and an office. We have already had some adventures getting the air conditioning and shower fixed, along with breaking the key in the lock one night. I love this house so much...I don´t want see it destroyed. Haha, we´ll see what happens with 4 young men living here all the time. And thank you so much for sending the package. I´ll see what I can do with the razor and the Christmas phone call. We have transfers on the I don´t even know if I'll be here!

Sorry I didn´t explain the meetings very well. The weird part is, District refers to two things--a small group of missionaries, which make up a zone, OR a large group of branches under the direction of the mission president (it´s the step before Stake). So District Meetings are just missionaries, District Conferences are all the members (like Stake Conference). Zone Trainings are just us teaching our zone. Zone conferences are large conferences where President Agazzani or someone else speaks. And tomorrow we have the great opportunity to listen to Elder Christofferson! I am excited! I´ll let you know how it goes!

 *We found out this is basically the Argentine equivalent of a southern accent here in the US.

Monday, November 4, 2013

We have a home!

Baptism from last week: "This is Liza and two of her daughters, Analía and Anayeli. Ever Barrios, who helped us baptize, is the son of the ward mission leader."

Well, the big news is that we found a house. I don´t know If I already told you the story of how we found it. A week or two ago, when we found out we had a big deadline, I decided we needed to pray because we had tried everything and there was no way we were going to find the perfect house on our own (missionary houses have very high standards of privacy and security). As we were searching, Elder Leishman decided to go talk to someone at a house he had looked at while looking for houses for the Kellers, but had been too expensive. We went inside, I loved it, and Elder Hardy (the financial secretary of the mission) was able to negotiate the price down a little so it would be reasonable for two companionships to pay. It is right by the Casino (just two blocks from our old house), and right on the limit between the areas. I feel like we aren´t living in Paraguay anymore--it is so nice! I´ll let you know what it´s like when I find out who the three missionaries are that will come live with us.

"Pictures of our very nice new house! Which is still in the process of being cleaned and organized."
We really didn´t teach much this week--just looking for houses and moving. I am excited to get back into normal missionary work rhythm. Liza, our recent convert, is already helping clean the chapel. Delfina has been sick because of her pregnancy, but they decided to prepare to be married on the 23rd. She´s now come to church 4 weeks in a row. Yesterday was District Conference. President Agazzani came and spoke about how he loves breaking down walls--literally and figuratively, challenged all the members to meet Elder Ballard´s member-missionary challenge, and talked about hoping to grow enough that we can tear down the back wall of the chapel to put in a cultural hall. That would be good, because it was pretty packed. I also got to see the Grau family, some good friends from Amambay whose dad is now Pres. Agazzani´s 2nd counselor.

The Zone Training went great. Everyone in the mission had to read the 4th missionary, a talk that I think I´ve mentioned, so we talked a lot about that in the meeting. I attached what they sent us if you (and also Daniel) are interested in seeing what it is. We talked about being self-sufficient and creating solutions--I shared D&C 9:7-8, and Elder Leishman shared the story of the Brother of Jared--his favorite story. We talked about "lifting where you stand" using 1 Corinthians 12´s analogy of the parts of the body. And, among other things, we acted a story about a dad helping his son enjoy the journey when they had to walk home. That was our biggest objective; we need to help these missionaries enjoy what they´re doing. It is an incredible opportunity.

One thing that also helped is the new manual "Adjusting to Misisonary Life" which everyone received. It is perfect. It would have helped me so much at the beginning of my mission. It just talks about how to deal with the stresses of mission life. It is about 50-60 pages. I will definitely keep using it even after the mission.

That´s so cool that you got to be a part of Toni and Arnold´s mission. I didn´t know you could do that!! The Senior Couple is from South Carolina (she talks like Andy Offut Irwin*), and they are a lot of fun. Elder Keller has a lot of great ideas to get home teaching going, and he scored himself a calling as 2nd Counselor in the District Presidency. So that will get a lot of wheels rolling. He served in Posadas Argentina a long time ago, and was once in Asunción for a Zone Conference. He gave patriarchal blessings in Spanish, so he still remembers it.

Also, the only other thing I can think of in the Christmas package would be facewash. Like I said, I don´t think my razor will make it another 7 months (Gah!) and I need a new camera battery or something.  I think that´s it. I´ll try to see if I can find someone to going to the states to send you something this year, haha. Love you all!

-Elder Morgan the Older

*Andy Offut Irwin is a storyteller that comes to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and tells stories about his aunt using a cute, old lady southern accent.