Monday, December 30, 2013

3 Weeks Behind

"These are the pictures from Rodrigo´s baptism awhile ago. Good news: this week he got confirmed. His dad is in that picture, but he hasn´t been to church since. There have been lots of complications, he has problems with his neighbors, and we are trying to do all we can do bring peace on earth and goodwill to all men. Mostly we´re just thankful that Rodrigo is an official member of the church!"

"Sorry I didn´t tell you beforehand about these two Christmas activities. I have lots to think about, and we had spent so much time planning them I was sure I had mentioned them. Like I said, no one showed up for the open house, but we had a great group of missionaries there."

"The next day was our Christmas activity with all those musical numbers. I didn´t take pictures of many of those (I was singing in some of them--I really like the Spanish Primary song "Estrella de Luz"). This is the Nativity play where President took people out of the audience to participate. It was a lot of fun, especially for Delfina, who is normally pretty shy, but as the only pregnant woman in the branch had to be Mary by default. Alberto, her husband, loved every moment. He reminds me a lot of Jed."

"These next ones are all from the Christmas activity. We had half the mission there on thursday (our day), and the other half on Friday (Elder Jessop was in that one, so I didn´t get to see him. But I heard he´s training!!) We hiked the Cerro Lambaré, which was short and easy. Played some games there at the top, then we had a white elephant gift exchange (passing them in a circle) like last year. Then we played sports, had relay races--including a watermelon eating relay between the zone leaders. It was very, very fun. With all the stress of the branch and the zone,  I was so happy to have a free, fun day with other missionaries. That doesn´t ever happen, but It really did help."

"The Kellers at the activity."

"Our tug-of-war team at the top of the hill. We won! I´m in front, with my companion right behind me."

"Elder Adamson and I eating watermelons. Woohoo."

Well, I kind of have to update you on the past three weeks. I talked about some things in my other emails that you can string together to see the parts of the story that are missing. This will be more like a Daniel email--lots of quick sentences about things that happened.

I mentioned the Garcias in the photos. They have a niece who lives nearby who asked us to walk with them to church. She´s 10 and very sweet. With the support of the Garcías, she´ll be baptized soon. Silvia has pretty much disappeared, which makes me very sad. But I did what I could and her time will come. Gustavo Resquín continues to come to church, but not the classes. We´ll get him there this week and hopefully he´ll find the courage to be baptized. Cristian and Ilse are still waiting for the divorce. He´s the one telling her she needs to make time for the Book of Mormon, and he wants his family and friends to be baptized after him. Oddly enough, they didn´t come to church yesterday, so we´ll have to find out what happened.

Then we´ve got the Castro family (my other 9-year-old convert), who we are still breaking our skulls to figure out what they need to come back to church. We talked about tithes and offerings because they have financial issues (fasting can also help). They said that in their 6 years as members, no missionary has ever taught them fast offering. Moral of the story--don´t be afraid, the people need the blessings of making sacrifices so they can progress.

I´m also frustrated with the Centurión family. Lessons with members who now attend other churches are very awkward. We talked about the Atonement, and it is obvious they are trying to tell themselves what they are doing isn´t wrong. I bore one of the strongest testimonies of my life--I was close to crying--telling them that they need to believe that the Atonement IS powerful enough to help them forgive and come back to the church that THEY KNOW is true. I would have never said things like that a year and a half ago, but I´ve learned that we have to be direct, sincere, and teach what Christ would say if he himself where there. The spirit was strong, and they thanked us for the visit but they are firm in their decision to keep going to another church "for now."

Other great experience that I didn´t have time to tell you on Wednesday. We found a group of 20-22-year olds sitting around the other day who actually let us teach them. One of them showed me his tattoos and could tell I was uncomfortable. He asked why, and though I wasn´t sure they would take it seriously, I offered to sit down and answer as many questions as they had. We started with a prayer, and an hour and a half later they didn´t want us to leave. They asked about baptism, the restoration, worshipping images, chastity (we were VERY direct about that, and they also said no one has ever told them it was wrong to live together without being married), what happens after this life, how to repent, the word of wisdom, what we do as missionaries and why we chose to come here, and much, much more. It was very spiritual, and there was never more than a 3-second pause between questions. I am so grateful to have studied PMG well, and I know the Spirit gave us the answer to all of their questions. It also works to ask people questions--"Does it make sense that babies are baptized when Jesus was baptized as an adult?" Questions like that have been helping me in lots of lessons. They´re pretty busy (one of them--Jorge--is a pro soccer player), but we are excited to go back and teach them again.

I also taught a man in the bus about the restoration--in English!! He lived in Indianapolis, but is from Uruguay. He teaches English here, and he is a member of the Salvation Army--he explained that it´s a church, not just a charity like most people think. I would love to talk more about that lesson, too, but time is short!

As far as things after the mission go, feel free to ask me when you need to. I don´t love talking about it, not because I am afraid of being unfocused, but because I am actually a little worried. I have been praying a lot, and that idea of working with the Educational system has been on my mind for months. I think I'll have to sign up for my own classes when I get back and make a firm decision on what to do. As far as work goes, I have also felt the impression that EFY isn´t for me. But I really want to come back and start working. I don´t want to go from being busy all day to nothing--that would depress me a lot. But I also need a job that will let me study full time in the fall--which is most important. There is a lot to worry about, seeing as I'll have to be saving for a future family and all that. It´s not just saving up for my mission and the fun things I want. Definitely a big change, but I think it´ll be okay. For now, I´ll keep you posted on how the work of Salvation is going here in Ca´acupé, Paraguay. I am so grateful to be a part of it!!

Elder Morgan the Elder

Monday, December 16, 2013

Short Letter

Well, writing Mom and President didn´t leave me much time this week, and next week I won´t be writing the family either--we are using that time for the phone calls.

Fast updates--we had interviews with President Agazzani who got me very excited to see progress in Ca´acupé. We also found out about a lot of problems in the districts, which we are working on. We had SIX investigators in church yesterday!! Woohoo!! Gustavo, the teenager whose sisters are all members, finally came!  Juan Martinez brought three of his nieces who are visiting from Capiatá (one lives here): Cristian, whose girlfriend is a member named Ilse (I think I mentioned them) came with his Evangelical friend, and they LOVED church. Liza Melgarejo gave a talk, the Garcias still didn´t confrim their son. The Melgarejo twins went to do baptisms at the temple, and their sister Silvia finally came to our lessons again. She knows she needs to gets baptized, the only question is when. Pray for her and everyone else around here. I do love it here in Ca´acupé! I was very happy to hear about Daniel´s baptisms! Hope all is well, and we´ll talk next week!

Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, December 9, 2013

Weekend in Tobatí

I think I said this last year around this time, but there´s really nothing I´d rather be doing during Christmas than serving these people and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There´s also no place I´d rather be than back in Ca´acupé! We have been in Tobatí for 4 nights (we left Thursday night) and three days (we came back this morning). Luckily the wife of a member (who´s getting baptized this week) loaned us two mattresses. The members are pretty great there, though most are new converts--the group has only been there for 5 years--and are still learning how the church runs and the importance of rules and commandments. Good thing we have two obedient missionaries there right now.

There were 21 people in church--a rented house--and when the talks ran out with 25 minutes left in the meeting, one of the missionaries there asked me to give a talk. People warned me that would happen in the mission, but I never guessed it would be like that. I talked about D&C 97:8, one of my new favorite scriptures about being willing to sacrifice anything to keep our covenants, and Mosiah 5:2-5--the desire to avoid temptations and be faithful to our covenants all our lives. We found lots of families to teach, many of whom are very interested in praying to know the truth, so I hope there will continue to be growth up there.

I am also very glad to be back in my area. It was weird not going to church in my own area. I heard there weren´t many members in church, but I also heard that there weren´t the millions of people were expecting to visit the Basilica. There were quite a few, but it was interspersed throughout the week. We heard lots of music every morning and night while we were still in Ca´acupé, and we did feel a little out of place when large groups of people were heading towards the center of town. But I don´t think it was anything noteworthy on a global scale.

Rodrigo was baptized right after our English class, but due to a miscommunication he was not confirmed. Gah! Nothing that can be done to change that now. It was a great baptismal service. That morning we assigned lots of members to come and participate, and most of them did! It was amazing! I wish I knew more about how our other investigators and converts were, but I´ll find out. I do know that Liza, our recent convert, offered to give her talk a week early because her friend Sister Sostoa, who I had assigned for that week, wouldn´t be able to. Hope that makes sense. Basically, Liza is an awesome convert who is willing to do anything.

In our meeting with President Burger, we helped him give lots of assignments and callings to recent converts and more-or-less-active members. That is progress! We still haven´t been we´ll continue to help as much as we can until that happens.

I am also learning patience with people who talk a lot. Sometimes, people here can just talk for 15-20 minutes without taking a break, and I get very frustrated because I don´t like to lose control of lessons. We had a great family who we wanted to teach about the Restoration, but we couldn´t get our testimonies in because they talked about all the terrible things their neighbor (who is a member) has done. It is frustrating that there are people who don´t find the truth only because they don´t let the missionaries get a word in. Haha, but I am also learning that the things they tell us might be very personal or important, and we should listen with love. One of the many things I learned in Tobatí.

Men´s Chorus has always had 180 men, as far as I know. Sometimes it just looks bigger with combined choirs. Hope things are well with the family and their various work, study, and calling situations. I love you all!

-Elder Morgan the Viejo*

*Viejo=old, older

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mucho que hacer...siempre*

*Lots to do...always

We were expecting a ton of people in church this week, but life always presents many obstacles. The only ones who came to church were the Garcias, whose son will get baptized this week. They enjoyed the classes, but had to leave early. Unfortunate, but I think we´ll continue with the plans. They enjoy everything about coming back to church, and Brother Garcia is helping us teach some one of his neighbors. He also asked "Why aren´t there as many people in church as there used to be" (I do not like that question), and we committed him to talk to his many neighbors who are less active members (his neighborhood is full of them).

We found a great guy named Justino. His wife is a former investigator, but she recently left him. Normally, it is hard to talk to people during crises in Paraguay. When someone dies they pray and mourn together as a family for several days, and when other bad things happen, they often react by drinking a lot or doing other things to isolate themselves. But when Justino told us what happened, we promised him a message of hope and peace, and he actually let us in! By the end of the lesson he couldn´t stop smiling. Great moment. He has neighbors who are members, and with their help he´ll be baptized soon.

One more, Elvio Britez. Well, first you have to know that the Resquín family are recent converts, whose daughters were baptized, but only one of their 5 sons. For some reason, Gustavo Resquín (17 years old) decided to let us teach him, and told us he wanted to invite his friend. That´s Elvio, who, unlike Gustavo, is very interested in learning about God and coming to church. He works on Sundays, but is trying to change. If we can help him with that, he´ll be a great missionary someday.

This week we will work in other areas for the weekend so we can avoid being here during all the activity for the pilgrimage, which has already started. Lots of people come in buses from very far, and there is music coming from the Basilica all the time. Still haven´t found the less-actives we are looking for in MLS. I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn and help people in my calling, but it would be nice to focus more on missionary work.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was moved to Saturday, because there was another Zone Conference this week on Thursday, which I conducted. Elder Ávila, an area 70 from Argentina, visited us. We watched a video of President Eyring and Elder Holland comparing the Atonement to missionary work (and D&C 107:99-100-"Let every man learn his duty"), which explains why salvation can never be easy because it comes at such a high price. Elder Avila talked a lot about obedience, working with members, and the importance of the first two great commandments. He has a very animated personality, and we learned some great things--especially the importance of loving God and those we serve. And the lunch was with the other four missionaries here in Ca´acupé. The Kellers made us somewhat-American food--chicken, peas, sweet potatoes (kinda), mandioca (paraguayan), and rice with gravy. It was definitely good enough for me.

Other interesting bits. Sister Castro (Milagros´s mom), like many members, is going to be working all this week (including Sunday). We read Luke 12--a parable about focusing on eternal rewards, and reminded her of her goal of the temple. She committed to pray and decide what to do...but wasn´t in church on Sunday. We did what we could. Mom, I really liked that you shared 1 Nephi 13:37 with us because President Agazzani sent us the same scripture last week! We saw Plutarco, a less-active member, skinning a dead pig he had hanging by its feet. That was a new, unforgettable experience. And I also realized I have lost more than 10 pounds in this area. It´s so hot you can breathe the heat in, and we walk up a lot of hills. But I´m doing fine, don´t worry!

Also, I got my Christmas packages! So happy to have my camera working again. This time I´ll wait to open up the wrapped presents. I loved the photos of Chris....I like showing people the photo of him before I left and they say "Wow, you´ve been out here a long time." I´m so old. But I really did appreciate the candy and decorations. It´s going to be a great month. Thanks for your support!

-Elder Morgan the Older