Monday, June 2, 2014

Grateful

As I´m sure you all wondering, Sonia finally got confirmed! It was an incredible experience to see her in the Gospel Principles class. She has matured so much spiritually and her comments are much more appropriate. A testimony is a wonderful thing to watch grow. She also gave me a thumbs up on her way to her seat after the confirmation.

In that Gospel Principles class, several new converts, like Andres, shared very nice experiences. The whole Insfrán family finally came!! I´ll be happy to hear about their baptism in the coming weeks. We have a lesson with them tonight, and like you said, I have a lot of goodbyes to do. I didn´t cry during my last testimony, but I almost did while playing the last hymn "God Be with you till We Meet Again," which I requested.

Now everyone wants me to come by their house and say goodbye. We´ll see what we have time for. I also have mostly planned how I am going to pack things, so I´ll be fine there. There are 8 missionaries going home with me, but only two others will be with all the way to Salt Lake.

Everyone keeps asking me how feel, and I honestly don´t feel much differently yet. But, the best word to describe it would be grateful. The experiences have been unforgettable, the Paraguayans are more than welcoming, and Heavenly Father has always been with me to help me learn and grow.

I think that´s something very important in order to feel at peace at the end of the mission, being grateful. It has also helped to be obedient--I don´t have any guilt nagging at me. Above all, I have tried to give my all to the Lord and to his work. That´s the key. You can´t be a successful missionary if one foot is still at home and one is in the mission. And above all, I have stayed focus on the most amazing miracle I have seen in these two years--Conversion.

Conversion means that someone makes their own decision to follow Christ and change their life to be more like His. And that´s why we´re here. That´s why they gave me a name-tag and flew me all the way from Utah for two years, to help the process of Conversion--giving people access to the Atonement. 

That´s why it´s so important to stay focused on baptism. There are a lot of misconceptions in the church about missionary work, especially when it comes to baptism. Before the mission, I thought  I was coming out here to help people live better lives, and if they didn´t get baptized, oh well. Now I understand that if they don´t get baptized, the changes they have made will most likely not have eternal significance. It´s like a hospital. The nurse that brings food to the patients will make them feel better for a few moments, but only the surgeon will help them make the permanent changes that they need. We are instruments in that surgery, and sometimes it´s tough. We need to work hard and be clear so that the people can understand the importance of repenting now. Everyone needs to understand in the first visit that our goal is to help them get baptized, because waiting longer will probably create confusion.

And above all, baptizing is just a very happy thing. The people I love and remember most are my converts, and I am so grateful to have helped them. I recognize that many great missionaries work hard and don´t bring many people into the waters of baptism. Finding and teaching are noble efforts, and I know I have laid the foundation for many people who were baptized after I left, which is great. But our focus always needs to be on baptism and confirmation, and it is urgent because it is of eternal importance! Salvation is so important, and we need to do the work the way Christ would. 

That´s another thing I have tried to do, always live like Christ would. I know I need to continue doing that for these last days, because I have to keep up the good reputation of the church. So, once again, I am very grateful to all of you for your support, and I will see you soon!

-Elder Morgan the much Older

P.S. I do have two food requests: Krispy Kreme donuts and those layered graham-cracker and caramel bars. I don´t know if you remember them, but they are pretty similar to alfajors. I´ll explain more when I get back.

Monday, May 26, 2014

This is my joy

The theme of this week might be Romans 15:1, a scripture I found and really liked. I don´t know how it translates to English, but those of us who are stronger need to be patient with those who are weaker spiritually. For example, not all the missionaries take the work as seriously as I do. Or yesterday it rained A LOT, and the investigators and members who committed to come to church did not. But, like I learned from that scripture, we just need to be patient, and love everyone even if they are imperfect. Cesar Insfrán was finally going to attend church, but I´ll have to wait until next week, which also means I won´t be at his baptism. It´s frustrating, but if there is one thing I have learned, my mission is not about me. It´s about the Savior Jesus Christ and helping other people come unto him.

Sonia is included in those who didn´t attend, so we´ll also have to wait another week for her confirmation. Interesting turn in the story of Deborah. We had a very straightforward lesson about the Law of Chastity, and without offending her, she realized herself that she is committing adultery. She, as always, wants to get married and baptized. Her member boyfriend does not. One thing led to another, and the next time we went by, they had fought and are no longer living together. So, there´s another baptism for Elder Rodriguez and his next companion.

We had the monthly meeting with the Stake President, and we are seeing slow but visible progress. He is always saying he wants to teach with us, and we decided to invite him to teach Santiago and Sara. Unfortunately, that just made her close off more. All of the wonderful progress we were seeing...ciao. She´s back to not wanting to get married. Now you know why Romans 15:1 is the them of this week.

But that is okay! We had my last Leadership Council today. I took more notes than ever, even though the things I wrote may not be used until my next mission (yes, there will be other missions). It was all about how to be a good leader, and one missionary, who had been here with me in Pa´i Ñu, talked about how I had been a great example correcting him with amor (love) so that the misionary wants to be better. President also talked about an experience he had with us a few weeks ago with a missionary who wanted to go home. Remind me to tell you when I get back. Above all, I was able to give my last testimony, which is also a feeling that everyone looks forward to. I just told them that I know I may not be the best missionary in the mission, but I know that I am the best Elder Morgan I can be, and that´s what is most important. I know that I am a child of God, that Christ died for our sins, and I can be an instrument in his hands. Like it says in Alma 29:9, "this is my joy."

I have learned so much in these years. I am amazed that I couldn´t realize at the beginning of my mission how important baptism is. I think I heard too many stories of "don´t worry how many people you baptize" and misinterpreted them. I have finally gotten as focused on baptism as I think I should have been my whole mission, and our goal is to help the Zone to do the same.

I also had my last interview. It was a great experience. The counsel President gave me was simple, direct, and but not very specific. He didn´t tell me what to do when it comes to work or marriage or anything, just focus on putting God first. He was also very emotional when he realized it was his first exit interview for someone who he had also interviewed at the beginning.

Haha, I didn´t realize I put a double meaning in the subject title. Honestly, I try not to count how much time is left. I just know that June 5 will one day arrive. I´m still feeling like a missionary. Next week, when everything culminates, I will write a little more about what I have learned and how I feel. Know that I will keep praying for you, especially for your back injury and Dave´s passing. I hope everyone is doing alright.

Love,

-Elder Morgan the Older

P.S. Elder Brown is my hero.

Monday, May 19, 2014

2 Weeks

Okay, I have to update you on some things that have happened in the last two weeks. That is a very long space of time, just so you know. We had our district activity, where Elder Henrie (our district leader from Idaho) made AMERICAN food. He made brownies, we tried the cream soda recipe (it turned out alright), and I did my best imitation of champ sandwiches from Ernie`s Sports Deli. Cooking eggs and meat for 16 sandwiches is a lot of work.


Last Sunday, like I said, was Stake Conference. It was very spiritual, especially for me personally. I got to see the effects of missionary work done in that Stake while I was there a year ago. The photo attached is of Miguel and Gema, who I found in Costa Bonita. She is from the Nivacle tribe, if you remember me saying that. They got married and baptized after I left, he received the Melchizidek Priesthood, and she is pregnant with their second baby. In San Isidro, two converts who I met while I was there are now doing very well. One, Francisca just received her endowment and her mom, who was very Catholic when I was there, just got baptized thanks to several miracles. The other one is preparing to serve a mission very soon. Just a few results of missionary work here in Fernanda de La Mora Sur.
"My companion and I at the temple."
We went to the temple, which was beautiful. The new video is amazing. We`ll talk more about all that later.


Sonia was finally baptized! But she did it in secret, and her family made her go visit some relatives when she should have been at church for her confirmation. We called her to try to get her to come...but it looks like we`ll have to wait a week. She understands that her baptism isn`t complete, and we visited her with the Benitez family last night. They live nearby and should offer great support.

Marcelina Insfràn and her daughter came to church again. She decided not to go to her meeting, but her husband had to take care of another daughter. She already has a very strong testimony, so the only question is when she`ll be baptized.

We also had a great experience with Santiago. His girlfriend Sara had a dream that she was getting married. We had a very intense lesson about repentance yesterday, and she wanted us to come by again today to talk more, because yesterday she wouldn`t commit to a marriage date.

Well, this subpar internet place is kicking me out early. What can you do? All is well.

Elder Wesley Morgan

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rapidisimo

Well, I received my flight plans, and I´ll admit it, I feel like my mission has come to an end. But hey, that´s life. I´m excited to see you all, like we did yesterday, but I will stay focused on the work. Next week I´ll write more about plans for the next life. For now, keep praying for Sonia to stop smoking and for the Insfráns to have faith to keep coming to church. Stake conference was VERY spiritual, and a bonus: I met a returned missionary visiting Paraguay who is studying at Georgetown with Sophie Siebach. God never ceases to amaze me.

Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, May 5, 2014

Just Keep Swimming


"Well, I finally have time to send pictures of our small-ish apartment. As you can see, the other two missionaries are sleeping on the floor. That´s interesting for Elder Henrie, who is more than 2 meters tall."

It was a bit of a hard week. We are losing contact with a lot of investigators, which is tough because we don´t even get the chance to tell them why they should keep investigating. But, we also found a lot of new families, like the couple last night who had heard some bad things about tithing. It was a good lesson, and we are able to shift the focus to baptism and finding out if this church is true. With all of those new people, our biggest challenge is that most people want to wait a few weeks to see what church is like. Elder Morgan doesn´t have time to wait! Well, next week we´re hoping for a lot of people to come to church, especially the Insfrán family, whose daughters were sick but are now committed to come.

Yesterday we asked the bishop when he would interview Andrés for the priesthood. He started to talk about how many people get scared when he talks to them about commandments like tithing, so he likes to wait a few weeks. My companion and I were not very happy with that, but we told him we understand his point of view (from my experience as a counselor I know a little of how hard it is to work people who just aren´t willing to keep the commandments), and luckily the night before Andrés had asked us to help him fill out the tithing envelope. He´s very converted and willing to obey, and the bishop believed us. It sounds like they had a very spiritual experience in the interview--what a relief for everyone.

You asked me a bit about my zone and the area. I can´t think of much more to say about the Paraguayan culture, I feel like I´ve shared everything. The biggest difference in this area is that there are so many members (including less-actives). We contacted a teenage BMXer with long hair who was listening to Linkin Park, and when we went by to teach him, he told us he was a member. Happens all the time with all sorts of people.

We have a great, hard-working zone. One of the sisters who just arrived is Hermana Cortés, who was also with me in Ca´acupé and when she started the mission in Amambay. We´ll also be ending the mission together, which is cool. For the first time, we have two young American district leaders. Elder Henrie, from Idaho, and Elder Walsh, from Utah. They are great to work with.

That´s about it! I look forward to talking about spiritual experiences next week. See you soon!

Love,
Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, April 28, 2014

One Thing is Needful

Well, as you can see from the photo, the baptism was a success. Antonia was so nervous she was shaking, and unfortunately her foot came out the first time, so I had to baptize her twice. Andrés shared a great testimony, and I hope they´ll be able to start helping in the ward ASAP. The other man in the photo is Santiago, Andres´s is brother, who is very converted, but his girlfriend Sara still doesn´t want to get married. We need a miracle soon.

We are also praying a lot for Sonia, who finally left the hospital, but still has to spend lots of time taking care of her grandson. Good news--she can´t be near the baby if she´s been smoking, so she said that might be what finally motivates her to quit. Yesterday we shared 2 Nephi 25:23 with her, explaining that Christ´s grace has gotten her this far, but it all depends on her own decision to do her part to quit.

We were hoping to have a family of 8 in church yesterday, but it looks like we´ll have to wait at least one more week. We are teaching their son, Carlos Saldivar, who is trying to overcome a drug addiction. In the first lesson, his parents said they were very Catholic and didn´t want to change, but they are all (he has 5 sisters) willing to come to church with him to provide support. He wants to repent and be baptized, we just have to get the ball rolling by getting him in the church.

We´ve also got the Insfrán family, who I mentioned last week with the introduction to the Book of Mormon. He works on Sundays, but we taught about the Sabbath and the Plan of Salvation, and he understands what he needs to do to change. Once again, it´s just a matter of time until they decide. We are teaching so many great people, and, like Elder Funk said in the last conference, "Hearts Open Daily." So many people are willing to open their doors to this message, we just have to help them have the courage to open the chapel doors and visit us there. The ones who can do that will be the ones who get baptized in the marvelous month of May!

Today we had a great Leadership council. Basically, the first three months were incredible for the mission, and for lots of reasons, the mission didn´t baptize as much in April. President said he had planned to talk about lots of things, but he decided to just focus on regaining the vision to baptize. There was a lot of open discussion, and I shared the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42. We have so many things to worry about as missionaries, and last month we talked about a lot of things to improve in our work with the members, the area book, etc. But, we are really just here for one thing--inviting others to come unto Christ through the ordinances of Baptism and Confirmation. All the other temporal and spiritual things we do are appendages to that purpose. So our zone training (my last one) next week will be focused on that.

About the Sister missionaries...I¨ll just say that the Elders were not receiving any support from the members, for many little things that had been adding up during the last few years. This will give that branch a fresh start, and we´re sure the members will be a lot more sympathetic towards the Sisters.

Honestly, there are a lot of things that happen in the mission that I can´t talk about--because it´s personal for someone else or because I just don´t have time to write everything! Is it alright if I use most of the time in the phone call talking about the experiences I haven´t had time to write about? I would really like to do that with Daniel, and I am not sure what our schedule will be like. I´ll just wait to hear next week and make the necessary arrangements.

Love,
Elder Morgan the Older

P.S. I´ll add a bonus photo. For an FHE last week, I made strawberry bars from a recipe on the back of the oatmeal boxes we buy. Turned out great!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Easter!

Well, we did not have a baptism this week. Sonia has been in the hospital for a few days with her daughter and newborn granddaughter, who is having lots of complications. She (Sonia) seems to be doing well, and she even said that an extra week free from cigarrettes before the baptism would be good for her. That´s a change of heart!

During weekly planning we decided to talk to Andrés about postponing his baptism a week to make sure his wife does it with him. He said that would be wonderful. They prayed for a sunny day (it has been cold and rainy) so that Antonia could come to church with the baby. On the way they ran into Marlene Centurión, a recent convert who was excited to find someone else going to our church, too. Just a few of the miracles that have made them even more sure. They are such a converted family. We reviewed the baptismal questions last night, and they are 110% ready. Antonia seemed very shy at first, and Andrés seemed like he didn´t want to commit, but they have opened up, trusted in the Lord, and they are now like our second family. Yes, I have a lot of second families here in Paraguay.

So, if all goes well we´ll have three baptisms this Saturday. Debora didn´t come to church, again. But her less-active father-in-law did! Progress! That great family I mentioned last week pretty much tried to drop us, but we were insistent, and they gave us permission to keep teaching their children, who have lots of interest. We also had a great experience reading the introduction to the Book of Mormon with a new family, Cesar and Marcelina Insfrán, who had seemed very closed-off but were very interested by Christ´s visit to America and the opportunity to pray to know the truth.

I don´t normally mention the exchanges I do, but know that we do exchanges just about every week. This week we did TWO. One with Elder Ruiz, a Peruvian who was in my district in the MTC. He´s working hard, but they don´t have much support from their members, especially their branch president. Good news--In our meeting with President Agazzani and the Stake President, one of the many things accomplished was that President is going to take out the four missionaries in that branch and put in two sisters. That should solve a lot of problems.

I also did exchanges with Elder Velasquez, which was interesting because we worked together once in Ciudad del Este--August 2012! It was his last Friday, and we were able to teach 8 lessons that day. That kept him from thinking to much about home. He also sold me one of his SD cards, which is good because the one that came with my camera is full!

Oh, I also wanted to mention an eye-opening lesson I had with Elder Ruiz. We ran into two atheists, who were very intelligent, and knew quite a bit about the church. They mostly wanted to mock religion, so we couldn´t achieve much. But the sad part was when their 6-year-old daughter came out and said she also "used to believe in God." It´s so sad to see a little girl talk about not believing in God the same way she´d say she realized the Easter Bunny doesn´t exist. Though I often do not agree with other religions (haha, that´s a light way to put it), I am SO grateful to serve in a counrty where almost everyone has the tradition of accepting that God exists. Besides helping them live better, more hopeful lives, it saves us a lot of work as missionaries.

Church was very spiritual yesterday, though there wasn´t much about Easter. One of the bishop´s counselors talked about the importance of talking to the investigators at church, something we had shared with him at lunch the day before. Sorry I don´t have much more time to talk about Easter traditions. I think I explained a lot of that last year. They eat a lot of food and watch The Passion of Christ all day. 

They sold the house we wanted to someone else, so we´ll have to keep working on that, along with everything else. And hey, you do have other things to look forward to--like Mother´s Day and Skyping your sons. Hope you enjoy it all! Love you lots!

-Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, April 14, 2014

Becoming a Preach My Gospel Missionary

Next week I will try to send photos of our house. If all goes well, I might be sending photos of our new house, too. For now, just know that things are going quite well. Andrés has a lot of faith, and has prayerfully decided to be baptized this Saturday. He had to quit drinking (which he did weekly but not extremely), he has to work almost 24 hours a day to fulfill a commitment he wants to get done so he won´t have to work on Sundays, and he has some other family issues he committed to resolve to he can feel fully repented. He´s a man who knows he has found the truth. He came to church on his own and helped us set up chairs. His wife, Antonia, did not come to church, so she´ll need another week or so. She´s a little tougher, but like most of the people here, her Catholic traditions are more traditions than beliefs, so it´s not too hard to help her change her mind on certain things (we hope).

Another surprise at church was that Hugo showed up! We continue visiting a lot of converts and less-actives, so it´s good that something is turning out well. Sonia smoked last week, so we postponed the baptism. She couldn´t come to church because her family came to visit for her birthday, but she still wants to quit smoking and be ready to be baptized this Saturday. We talked about not playing the game of smoking until the absolute last day (one week before the baptism), explaining that true repentance is a change of heart which she should make as soon as possible.

Debora is also progressing. Her less-active in-laws are not, but she said that she will come to church next week even if they don´t! She really, really wants to get married and baptized. It´s always nice to teach people like that, who just understand the truth and do what they can to live it. 

One day, while waiting for a member to accompany us, we asked his sister Mercedes (our last baptism), to take us to the house of some kids she brought to the English classes the ward is doing on Thursdays. Their names are Marcelo (13) and Deisy (9), and they have a sister named Natasha (15). They were all very smart, and her mom asks great questions. She is Baptist, and she can´t understand why every church wants her to get baptized again. During the lesson I had a really spiritual experience. I really wanted to help this family, and I remembered the talk we read this week in the Zone Training, "Becoming a Preach My Gospel Missionary" by Elder Bednar. He talks about letting our will become the Lord´s will so we can be his representatives. In the middle of the lesson, when she was asking us all those questions, I didn´t want to lose them, so I prayed silently for what Elder Bednar mentioned, letting my words become his words. The lesson turned out well, and they understand the importance of praying to know the truth. If we can keep teaching them, then we have a great family to baptize in May.

I don´t like to take time in the fast and testimony meeting, but I felt like I needed to say something. Few of the members take the initiative to talk to the new faces at church, and most of them just call us Elder instead of learning our names. It´s understandable, but it needs to change, like Elder Gifford Nielsen said in the October General Conference. So I talked about that, along with my testimony of the Savior´s love for us and importance of this work. It´s a small thing that could make a big difference.

We keep working hard, all day every day, even though not everything goes how we plan. There are lots of people who want to preach to us instead of listen, and it´s easy to get frustrated. But I feel like most everyone in the family is going through some challenges, and I just want encourage everyone to stay strong. This conference, more than ever, I felt like the second coming is getting closer. We don´t know when it will happen, nor do we need to. But we know that we need to prepare. The only way we can develop the faith necessary to overcome the trials ahead is by experiencing challenges now. I love the scripture in Matthew 10:29-31 that says that even a sparrow can´t fall without the Lord knowing. He understands every temptation, sorrow, or frustration we experience. Many of those were given to us directly from him because he knows the eternal potential we have. Even so, he has promised us so many times that he will never let us face those trials alone. He has also promised us that in the end, we will be grateful for the difficulties we faced in this life. It is hard to have that perspective now, but we can always pray for it. It´s like you said Mom, the Lord can help us be grateful and patient. I testify of his love for us, and I will keep you all in my prayers.

Love,
Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, April 7, 2014

Courage to Stand Strong


"Here are the pictures from General Conference! It was the first time I have been in a ward that provided a bus for the members to go to the stake center. I hope you can recognize some people, like my companion standing up. The lady in the very front of the picture is Sonia."
"One other new thing is that most of the wards provided lunch between sessions. I peeked into the Costa Bonita room to take pictures of my old friends from that ward, where I served. Elder Adamson just so happens to be serving there, too. I also got to see a baptism they had on Saturday between sessions, which was a special experience."
"I also included a picture from last week when my district cleaned the temple."
I was so busy last week I forgot to mention a few things. That happens quite often.That week I learned to cut trees with a machete doing service for our member neighbors. My district went to clean the temple in Asunción. All I did was dust the furniture, but just being in the ordinance and Celestial room is a great feeling.

And the feeling of participating in General Conference is always incredible. I noticed the common themes of avoiding pornography and defending the truth, both of which were very powerful. They were also mostly discussed on Saturday, so I hope not too many members are "Sleeping through the Restoration" and just watching the Sunday sessions. I really enjoyed those talks about having the courage to choose the right. I am sure they will help the 18 and 19-year-olds now serving missions around the world. I think many missionaries come with the false concept that though many doors will be slammed, the last door you knock right before giving up hope will always be a miraculous family that will have been praying to find the truth. Some days that does happen, but most of the time you just have to keep working whether the people want to hear the message or not. In all seriousness, I had no idea how many people would not want to hear this message. Now I do. We sow many, many seeds, but only a very small percentage grow fruits of eternal life. 

Speaking of missionary work, can you see why I said that Elder Ballard knows how to be an effective missionary? He followed-up on his commitments! That´s great. We are actually trying to do that more in our mission, too--follow-up in our conferences and zone trainings on what was taught the last time. I also liked how Elder Anderson added the idea of being a tree that cannot be blown away to Elder Maynes´s phrase from last conference, "You must become the rock the river cannot wash away."

Apart from that, I am sure you all had the parts you liked most, and I know most of what I learned was revelation for me and won´t be as interesting as what was meant for you. Just remember what Elder Hallstrom said and apply it!

The other interesting event this week was interviews with President Agazzani. The tone of those interviews has changed a lot. We just talk like friends now, which is nice. He told me he is really going to miss my group. He has mentioned that before, but never like the way he said it on Tuesday. But hey, he´ll be back in Cordoba the next July--Tell Tim Price to say hi!! 

I did write to Liza, though I don´t know if it´ll be enough. President Agazzani told me we´ll be going to the temple in May, so I will be able to put her name on the temple list. And I'll try the cream soda recipe....someday.

With all of those spiritual experiences, the missionaries in our zone weren´t able to teach much. We´ll have to get them jump-started again with the training tomorrow. In our area, we continue to visit the converts hoping that they will use their agency and fulfill their baptismal convenants. Sonia smoked her last cigarrettes on Saturday. The members are starting to get a little more used to her. She also escaped from the conference without telling us. She really wants to get baptized, and she is changing a lot. Here´s hoping she´s ready for this Saturday.

Lots of Love,
Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, March 31, 2014

I always forget to put a subject line, you can put whatever you want ;)

As with every last week of the month, today we had the leadership council. As always, it was very spiritual, reminding me of how great it is to be a missionary and how many details we have to take care of, especially as leaders. We read the Agazzanis´ new favorite talk, "Becoming a Preach My Gospel Missionary," by Elder Bednar. It´s very similar to what he taught us when he came here. We talked about using the area book to help keep track of our investigators´ progress and coordinate retention with the ward leaders. There were lots of things I have been thinking about recently, which always helps me know that these councils are inspired.

Sonia went to live with her aunt in Fernando de la Mora (closer to the center of Asunción), but she found the missionaries and went to church! She´s incredible. We are trying to help her fit in better with the members and be honest about how much she smokes. Those seem to be the only two challenges we have. She is my only investigator who reminds US of her baptismal date every lesson and asks when we are going to buy her a triple combination.

We really couldn´t find many new investigators this week, but that is just another opportunity to learn and improve. The Morinigo family, one of the pioneers here, is committed to help us visit everyone on the Action list (I think that´s what it´s called in English) and re-record or re-baptize those who need it. So we´re on our way to solving that problem. We found out that one of the girls who we thought wasn´t a member actually is...but it was good because we are working on reactivating her family.

Andrés, Santiago´s brother, and his wife and two kids came to church! Lots of members talked to them. I think they had a great experience. Tomasita, who I don´t know if I´ve mentioned, also came to church. She´s the niece of Nila, a recent convert. She doesn´t pay much attention--she´s 11 years old and can´t read because she doesn´t pay attention in class either. But we´ve found that movies work miracles!

One thing we did well was visit a LOT of converts this week, so most of then are doing better. Hugo and Arnaldo seem to be avoiding us, or their families are keeping them from talking to us, which is sad. I guess you can´t win every time, right?

Also, I just heard that Liza Melgarejo, my convert in Ca´acupé, has cancer. Her daughter Silvia, who took so long to get baptized, is angry and hasn´t come back to church. I love them like part of the family, so it worries me a lot, as you can imagine. I didn´t really understand what was going on when Dad was diagnosed with cancer, but I understand now. It seems like as an adult all of my feelings are a lot deeper, if that makes sense. Just keep them in your prayers, as I surely will, too.

Thanks for taking care of classes and housing. About the little miracles, we do try to take advantage of every chance to find new people, but your spiritual thought will remind me do it even more. Luckily, here in Paraguay, when plans fall through someone somewhere is willing to let us in. I don´t think I was able to answer all your questions from last week. My companion has been out for 16 months. He goes home in November. He is a little shy, but we get along very well. He is a very good listener and a sincere testifier (if that makes sense). And know that all the news you send me is very interesting, even if I forget to write my reaction. Like Brother Pyne--that´s great!*

Woopdee doo, the church is true, and I love you.** Have a great week!

-Elder Morgan the Young at Heart

*Brother Pyne from our ward was just made the new Stake Patriarch.
**That is a quote from an elderly gentleman in our ward who used to say that at the end every time he bore his testimony.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Always learning

It was a good week, as is every week in the mission. (You always learn something worthwhile). But we didn´t teach as much as we would´ve liked. We used a lot of time moving the other missionaries in our ward into our apartment until they find a new apartment. It´s cramped and smelly but we get over it. They are both from Guatemala. I think I have mentioned this before, but never asked specifically, could you give me the names and addresses (approximate) of your cousins in Guatemala? Elder Velasquez, my old friend, goes home in April and lives pretty close to the temple, too. He said he´d like to visit them.

Another thing that took a lot of time was a conference with Elder Francisco J. Viñas, a Spaniard who grew up in Uruguay. He's from the Area Presidency, and it was a very very good conference--one of the mission tours that Daniel mentioned in his mission a few weeks ago. My zone did a special musical number, "Onward Christian Soldiers," which turned out alright. I sang a solo, which was pretty nerve-wracking. Elder Viñas talked about a lot of great things--teaching by the spirit, preaching repentance to help people change. Everything was centered on the Atonement. He shared a story I loved about a missionary who wanted to go home a little early. When he had to interview the missionary, he said "You probably think I am here to convince you to stay, but that´s not what I am going to do. I just want to help you understand why you want to go home. You may have your reasons, but it is really because you don´t understand the Atonement. If you understood the Atonement, you would understand why you have to continue in the mission. And if you were to stay here, you would come to understand the Atonement more fully." The missionary was intrigued, and--as you can guess--decided to finish his mission.

He also mentioned what you said, that the mission isn´t ours. He reminded us that we don´t baptize or teach anyone. I´ve heard that before, but it was a powerful reminder. It´s no use counting your baptisms and comparing numbers because I have little to do with the success. Like you said, we are just instruments in the Lord´s hands. Elder Viñas was very direct in everything he said, and used a lot of memorized scriptures. He talked about the poor retention in Paraguay, and told us we can´t baptize people who aren´t ready yet. He gave the example of Ammon and Limhi. He wasn´t worried about what other people thought, he did things the right way. That´s something this mission could improve. We talk a lot about having faith and showing the people they are ready and need to be baptized now, but sometimes we should give them more time to prepare, especially if they don´t have a true desire to endure to the end. So, as with all such conferences, we have a lot to improve.

Speaking of retention, we have some members who are helping Nila and Hugo learn to read. The youth of this ward are incredible. I need to visit my converts more...it´s so hard to do so many things at once. We are visiting the Centurions, whose dad is working here for a few weeks. He went back to visit his wife this Sunday, but we´ll try teach him the importance of making time for church, too.

We also keep trying to help Santiago, and one thing that will help is his brother Andrés, who seems very interested in learning about Christ and the Bible. He promised to bring his whole family to church (he is already married) next week, and we are hoping that his baptism will encourage Sara to consent to be married so Santiago can get baptized too.

We also have a new investigator named S. She is very interesting, haha. She is a 38-year-old grandma who contacted (yelled could be the word) us in the street. She wanted someone to help her quit smoking, which we are doing. She has had lots of problems in her life, many of which continue--like bipolarity. Elder Viñas said we should only teach people with the desire to change who will contribute to the church. She has a desire to change...but we are trying to help her contribute. She came to church and made a lot of inappropriate comments in the classes. At least the members know who she is now, and I hope they will be patient. I keep finding scriptures in the Book of Mormon like Alma 6:5, which say that we can´t exclude anyone from participating in the gospel. We just have to tell her frankly what she can and can´t do, and with lots of prayer, God can work his miracles. She really needs help, so let´s hope she changes soon.



I almost forgot to mention the baptism. I hope you can tell who everyone is from the picture, like my new companion and Mercedes, who is in white. This got the ball rolling, so we should be on our way to help other people re-record or redo their baptism so that the church records can be up-to-date.

Let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for all the news. Love you all!

-Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, March 17, 2014

Last (?) New Companion

Dear Mom,

I really liked the last part you wrote about Dad. With how little I knew him, I always appreciate everything I can learn about him. That one especially, because, well, I have written that same sentence* in my journal several times on the mission. I´m normally happy on Mondays, so you may not see that quite so much, but I have had some very, very tough days out here. I have been thinking about that this week, as I have mixed emotions. Really, my feelings about being a missionary are so complicated, and often contradicting. It`s so frustrating, and yet so hopeful. We have days where I work so hard, get home, and think I need to rest for a couple months before I can keep working. Then I get up the next morning, somehow with the strength to work hard once again. I love how much I am learning, and I love the people I get to work with, but those are blessings that only come after lots and lots of trials. I am definitely going to cry a lot in my homecoming testimony. I find myself tearing up at stupid moments throughout the day when I think about how far I´ve come and what a privilege this is--like when we went to do studies with a new missionary, Elder Castañeda, (which I always enjoy) or reading in the missionary handbook about how the Lord will convert us into defenders and messengers of truth if we strive to be obedient.

But don`t worry, I´m hanging in there. I have a new companion! His name is Shared Rodriguez (Book of Mormon name) and he is from Tijuana, Mexico. I had met him before, and I knew his city is very close to the border, so until the Tijuana temple is finished they have been going to the San Diego temple. He was in Ca`acupé when the mission limits changed, so he is my first companion from the North mission. He didn`t fall quite in love with Ca´cupé like I did, but we enjoy talking about funny things there. He speaks very slow, and with somewhat of a California accent. Before the mission, I thought Mexicans talked fast. South Americans talk WAY faster, and as you´ve noticed, I picked that up. This is his first time as a Zone Leader, and he is a kind, calm person (those words don`t have quite the same meaning as in Spanish, but oh well. I might revert to writing everything in Spanish soon, (ha, ha). So yeah, we are doing well.

Our baptism streak did end. But it is starting back up again. First we have Mercedes Baez, who comes with us to teach young women and has been to the temple to do baptisms....but yesterday told us that she was never confirmed. Yeah, this ward needs to improve their record-keeping a lot. More on that in coming weeks, if there`s progress. So, she`s definitely ready to be baptized. She`s 13, and of her large family, only one other brother is active, but we`re hoping this will have an impact.

Tomasita, Nila´s niece continues attending and seems willing to accept everything. We are working hard with Emilia Saldivar, who appreciated your letter. She said it makes her cry a lot (she cries just about every time she thinks about her son), and it was very nice. She has also been coming to church 2 weeks in a row, so we might be close to finally convincing her.

We aren`t having much luck convincing Carlos Acosta, who looks like Abe Lincoln without the beard. His wife and kids are all members, and he is nice but stubborn. One of his sons has football....also known as soccer in the EEUU...on Sundays, and he goes to that. They are adding on to their house, so our new battle plan is to help them build that, and build his trust with us at the same time. Also, Liz and Alejandra Vera, who seemed to be progressing so well, failed us for the 3rd Sunday in a row. We heard that Alejandra is getting baptized in the Catholic church this week or the next, but she has pretty much told us that it`s what her mom wants, not what she wants. We´ve done all we can, so we´ll stop by today and invite them to keep reading and praying, and when they come to church we´ll keep visiting them.

This week we found 17 new investigators, which is a record for my time in this area, so we have lots of possibilities for the future. They come from all different types of religious backgrounds. Well, most are Catholic, but most of them have investigated other religions. I`ll let you know about those who keep progressing.

Our Zone is having a lot of success. We have new district leaders, one of whom is Elder Velasquez. He was in my very first District in Ciudad del Este--this is his last transfer. We are trying very hard to work on retention, and there are a few members who are helping us. Hope that keeps improving.

Thanks for all the other news about vacations and family. I actually don`t feel much skinnier, though I am definitely not in shape like I was for football. Do you know if Makade Claypool was affected by what happened in Ukraine? I don`t know if you have heard anything about him. Let me know. Love you all!

Love,

Elder Morgan the Older

* Note from Elder Morgan's mom: I told the boys that one of the times their dad was in the hospital, every day they made him say his name and the date and write a sentence to make sure his brain was not affected by the medications. He always wrote: "Tomorrow will be a better day."

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Streak Continues

"The district activity last Monday--we played soccer."
Well, our streak continues, as this week we had two baptisms. Melisa Paez, who is nine years old, was baptized. Her mom came to church for the first time in a long time. Her sisters are already active, and her nonmember brothers seem to be a little more interested in talking to us (when we bring food, haha). The other one is Nila, who has a very large family (children, cousins, etc.), almost all of whom are living in a fairly small house. Not all of them are members, so we´ll keep passing by there to see who else we can help. The girl in the navy blue shirt is Tomasita, Nila´s niece who came to sacrament meeting and said she really likes it.


We don´t have anyone committed to be baptized this Saturday, but we´ll see what happens. We have some possibilities. Santiago keeps coming to church, and his girlfriend keeps refusing to get married. We also have Emilia, the missionary mom I mentioned, who also attended church. We went by her house with three young adults who live nearby. They were great to help us, but she is very stubborn about wanting to wait until she is absolutely sure of her decision. Patience.

The other investigators who I am hoping for are Liz and Alejandra Vera. They are two teenage girls who remembered the Restoration perfectly when we went back for the second visit. They have some commitments in the Catholic Catechism (sp?), which is like seminary but requires much much more time. Speaking of that, they have seminary in this ward, which is nice. Hope to be able to update you on their progress next week.

The Zone training went well. One thing I wanted to mention. I think I said that most of what we taught came from Elder Ballard. One thing he said is that we shouldn´t look at the missionary handbook as a set of rules, but as a "guide to be a successful missionary." Very, very, very true. Those who obey the rules avoid certain problems and can give all their attention to teaching and working. The assistants, Elder Brown and Elder Arango came to the training. Elder Arango then worked with me in my area. It was a very wet day--rain up to our ankles. But we did get to teach quite a few people. He´s a recent convert with no support from his family, but before the mission he was a tour guide and party host, so he always seems happy and excited. Lots of fun.

Elder Arango and Elder Morgan
Other fun facts: Everyone says I am much skinnier than when I got here. Our chapel is on the corner of the streets Jerusalem and Jericho. Pretty cool. Not to worry you, but Pa´i Ñu is a little "village" wedged between Ñemby, and San Lorenzo, two bigger cities. So we end up with a lot of the not-so-good people from both sides. There are a lot of marijuana smokers, but as long as we stay in the right areas at the right time, there´s no real threat (there you go with Elder Ballard´s advice--it´s not a rule, it´s a guide to success).

We also had a meeting with President Romero, the stake president, and President Agazzani. Pres. Romero didn´t remember me from a year ago, haha. The overriding theme was that the missionaries are baptizing more and more, but due to lack of retention efforts, statistics like church attendance are not improving at all. We talked a lot about how to improve that. It is always interesting to see how the organization of the church works.

Keep me posted on how everyone is doing. Send me some photos if you can. I am starting to feel like the hourglass is running out of sand. But I won´t let that keep me from doing the same things I have been doing every day. There is still lots of work to do, and I am committed to change people´s lives. The church is true, and no amount of opposition can change that. I am so grateful to be a missionary. It is an unforgettable experience. Love you all!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Work Continues




As you can see from the photos, Irene was baptized. She is the last of the Centurión siblings. There is a picture of her, her son, and her two sisters. The one next to her son is Clotilde, who we baptized a few weeks ago. She has been living out there in Ybycuí, but came back to visit. She is reading a lot in the Book of Mormon and trying to dress more modestly, so we are really happy with her progress.

This week we have Melissa Paez, a nine-year-old whose sisters are active, and Nila Perez who are preparing to be baptized this saturday. Nila is the mom of several active members and lived in the area of the other missionaries in our ward, but her husband did not want to get married. This week she left him and moved in with her grandma, which is in our area. Luckily, she wants Elder Cortes, who has been teaching her, to baptize her. They are looking for a house, so we just have to hope they find one within the ward or wait until next week.

On the other hand, we are still working with Sara and Santiago so they can stay together and get married. She has been progressing a lot. We watched Finding Faith in Christ, and she has been telling us more experiences she has had with answers to prayers. I hope she will soon decide to have faith in God, herself, and her husband so they can have an eternal family. 

We found LOTS of other great people this week who expressed interest in baptism. Unfortunately, none of them came to church, so we have work to do. One cool story--we saw a mom and her kids moving rocks in their yard, and we stopped to help. They turned out to be members that stopped attending church just a few months ago. We came to back visit them and found out that the Young Women´s presidency also visited them this week. That family, the Zaracho, came to church this week. The Lord always has a plan.

Somehow, I knew after writing my last letters what things you would ask me to explain more. We´ve been writing each other for quite some time, it appears. About health blessings, it´s the bishop who has the authority and responsibility to minister to the members. Therefore it should be him or an assigned home teacher or member of the ward council who goes to visit them and give the blessing. We can only give blessings under their direction. But some people have gotten in the habit of asking the missionaries because it´s easier (we always have time and are willing to go help). We need to let the ward leaders do that more.
Ca´acupé worries me because they haven´t had any baptisms since I left, and it sounds like the attendance is declining. They did finally get a release from being branch counselors, but no members have stepped up to take their place. Here I am busier than when I was a counselor just because of how many people we are teaching, baptizing, retaining, etc. in our area and in the zone. Each convert is a lot of work, but it´s worth it.

Corbin is talking a lot with some of his other friends about housing. I´ll see what they decide on. If you can talk to his mom and Truman (when he gets back....wow! time went fast. Congratulate him on being an excellent missionary), that would help me out. I, too, wasn´t too worried about location. But what would be a reasonable price? What happens if I get married before the school year starts? 

Haha, just trying to scare you. Stay focused. But really, thanks for all your support. I hope that everyone is doing well with jobs, studies, missions, families, and all of the eternally important things. Whatever happens, remember that when the storm comes it´s time to ask for more help from God, not run away from him. Love you all!

-Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, February 24, 2014

(No Subject)

I just got out of the Leadership Council, which was great as always. President Agazzani always knows exactly what the mission needs. We watched "The Pump," an old church movie I remember well, and talked a lot about being obedient and patient. He was very direct, as always, sharing some great scriptures, like D&C 27:15-17, and talking about the consequences of some disobedient missionaries once they get home. He talked about not abusing health blessings--members here have a problem with that, and I have gotten lazy about asking ward leaders to do it, but we really should do that every time. President also said we should not give investigators blessings unless they really need it, have done all they can, and absolutely understand how the Priesthood and Faith work. A lot of people have erroneous ideas about healing and the priesthood, as you can probably imagine.

"Elder Jessop and Me from the meeting we had today."
We talked about a lot of other things we can do to get more references from the members. The mission presidents in the area just had a conference with Elder Ballard, who seems to be the world´s expert on effective missionary work. Wish I could tell you all the things we learned, but I´ll give you more details after the training. Also, because the District leaders attended this meeting, too, I got to see two of my best friends in the mission, Elder Jessop and Elder Godoy. We really make strong friendships here, and I love hearing how my old areas are doing (even if Ca´acupé worries me).

"The one next to me is Hugo (he´s 30 years old). In the middle is Nico Galeano who taught Hugo much more than we did."
Well, as you can see from the photo, Arnaldo and Hugo got baptized. Arnaldo was incredible, he read the pamphlets about the commandments we hadn´t taught him, and he understood perfectly. Hugo was a little harder to teach, and he didn´t show up for his interview the first time, but he´s very happy and wants to progress. He also needed a translator (my first convert who really doesn´t speak much Spanish). It was a stressful weekend trying to get all that arranged, including while we were doing exchanges. I can´t imagine having a bigger workload than what I have now (yes, I know I said that when I trained and when I was a branch counselor, haha), but I am grateful for my companion and the excellent missionaries in our Zone who keep working hard. We had a very successful month, and I hope that continues.

Yesterday we finally got Irene, the last of the Centurión family, to commit to be baptized. It was a very spiritual lesson, with testimonies from her siblings. We were very straightforward, showing her scriptures and explaining that the Spirit doesn´t always strive with us if we ignore the promptings we receive. She didn´t think she needed to be baptized because she had already repented of her sins, but by the end she felt the Spirit very strongly and commited to baptized this Saturday.

We don´t have many other people who are progressing, but there are many who could. We chased down Eladio one night when we found him drinking. He didn´t want to go home, but when his 8-year-old son came with us, he went back to his wife, who was very upset. He doesn´t seem very motivated to change, but--if only for her sake--we´ll keep working. The only other person I´ll mention is Santiago, who I don´t know if I´ve already talked about. His girlfriend is a member who doesn´t have a testimony, does not want to get married, and doesn´t think she can change. It´s tough. We pray for and teach her more than him. He came to church and already seems like a member--very strong testimony. We just have to get her to change or, if she continues to be stubborn, convince them to separate so he can live the commandments and be baptized.

I also did exchanges with Elder Connor Peterson, who is going to be a Wide Receiver at BYU. We talked a bit about that, but I really encouraged him about missionary things. He´s new and has a lot of energy, and I showed him the importance of listening and teaching by the Spirit, among other things. He really enjoyed it, and I like helping other missionaries, too.

With all the people writing me and these post-mission things to take care of, I´ll try to stay focused. I do love being here, and I am thankful for the card you wrote. Thanks for all your support. Remember to trust in the Lord, even when we can´t see why. Things will always work out for the best in the end (D&C 100:15). Love you all!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, February 17, 2014

Solving Problems

"I haven´t taken many photos of the apartment yet, but here´s the view right outside our door. Yeah, they sell a lot of Cerveza downstairs." 
Elder Morgan demonstrating the homemade bench press in their apartment.
 Wow. I just lost internet connection for a few minutes. When I asked the man to come help, he found an option on the internet connection that says, "Solucionar problemas" (solve problems). In thirty seconds, my connection was back. If only everything in life were that easy.



As you can see from the pictures, Clotilde was baptized! We fasted with her on Friday, and she fulfilled her commitment to not go out and party. Even still, she scared us to death arriving very late to her baptism and confirmation. There were a lot of young single adults there, as you can see from the photo. Her sister, Irene, had some health and family things to take care of, but will be back here this week to be baptized this Saturday. They come from Yvycuí, a town in the middle of nowhere, and they often go back to visit their parents. When I come back to Paraguay in 50 years and there´s a ward there, I might be able to say I helped with the first converts.

We also have two other possible baptisms. Hugo, who mostly speaks Guaraní, but has been receiving the lessons from two priests who are very excited about missionary work. They are also helping us with Arnaldo, who is their age and might go play rugby with them. The youth in our ward have a rugby team in a small league. Their team is called "Helaman Rugby." Wish I could play on that team, haha. Arnaldo and Hugo have been coming to church, but we haven´t been able to teach them much, so we´ll have to pray a lot for them to be ready this weekend.

E. will not be baptized this weekend. He spent all his salary getting drunk instead of coming to church, and his wife, Perla, is very frustrated. We just have to keep visitng them and helping her be patient. He did read the page I marked for him in the Plan of Salvation pamphlet, so there is progress. Thankfully, we have a member couple who visits them, too, and the man was an alcoholic before getting baptized.

We were hoping for more investigators in church, but we´re analyzing what happened and who we are going to visit more often and less often. Remember that family who has a son that left on the mission? Mom, I was wondering if you would be willing to write a letter to the mom. You can talk about what it´s like having a son (now two) on the mission and the blessings you received. I know you didn´t take it as hard as she did, but maybe you can give some good advice (hopefully it will also help her decide to come to church and prepare to be baptized). It would have to be in Spanish, would you be willing to do that?

The only other interesting news is that I worked with Elder Guzmán, who I was with in Ca´aguazú when he started his mission. He´s doing a lot better now, so it was very interesting to see his progress. It´s just my companion and I living together, but it is very hard to keep clean. We are incredibly busy. But we´re working on it.

Good to hear that Daniel is happy and having success. Keep up the faith, especially in the family. I have heard that all over the world same-sex marriage is a prominent force. But, as I read today in 2 Nephi, those who wait upon the Lord will not be ashamed. Love you all!

-Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy Birthday Heather and Daniel*

Wow! You have lots of questions! First we´ll talk about what happened this week. We had our Zone Training, which went well. We shared some scriptures and quotes that President Agazzani showed us about not worrying about what leadership position you have, just serving humbly. We reviewed the mission´s emergency plan--everyone has to have a backpack ready with basic hygiene materials and non-perishable food. The rest of the time we talked together as a Zone about our progress--especially in church attendance and baptisms--and what we can do to overcome the challenges. We also have a goal as a mission to read the Book of Mormon in the next three months.

I did divisions with Elder Cortes, from Chile, who is a great district leader. I also worked with Elder Jensen, from a little city in Utah, I think it´s called Castle Dale. He´s a great missionary, but very young and a little unsure of himself. His trainer didn´t let him do much, and so this transfer is the first time he´s teaching and talking to people in the street. I really enjoyed working with him. I made him do a lot of things he wasn´t comfortable with, but in the end he was happy with how much Spanish and missionary skills he knows. I love helping young missionaries, in part because they bring new ideas and a lot of spirit to the mission, and also because I remember how hard that part of the mission can be.

We have two baptisms for this Saturday--Irene and Cleotilde. They are sisters (24 and 21 years old), and three of their siblings are recent converts. Irene travels a lot and had some doubts, but she finally attended church for the third time and is willing to be baptized this Saturday. Cleotilde, the younger one, has a lot of crazy friends, and we have been trying to help her raise her moral standards. Saturday night we went and made lasagna with their family so Cleotilde wouldn´t go to any parties. This week we invited her to fast the day before her baptism, so let´s hope everything goes well.

We are teaching lots of people, but I´ll just talk about a few more. There´s Victor, a 9-year-old, who just moved from Argentina with his less-active mom. His accent makes me laugh a lot. Imagine how you feel listening to a little British boy talk. There´s Eladio, the husband of Perla, who is a very large man. He works with cement, and he had a big drinking problem. He´s been fine for a week, and a member who also struggled with alcoholism is helping us a lot. He´s planning on getting baptized on the 22nd.

We also have the Salidivar family, whose son is a recent convert and left on a mission last week. The mom was crying last night when we got there. Seems like she misses him a lot. We talked about the plan of salvation, and how if they get baptized, when their sons gets back they can be sealed in the temple.

So, things are going pretty well. It´s always rough for me to learn a new area, as I think I´ve mentioned. I´m not so good memorizing windy, unnamed streets. But I just try to be patient. Hygiene updates for you, Mom--I´ve switched to razors and shaving cream. My beard is pretty tough, but I´ll try to manage it. Also, those black spandex shorts have really helped me some hot days--keeps me from chafing. I think I´ll just have to show you on a map of Paraguay what happened to my mission. The whole south part, plus Ciudad del Este, is now part of Posadas, so our mission is pretty much the line between Asunción and Ca´aguazú. "Pa´ee Ñoo" (that´s how it´s pronounced) is about 30 or 40 minutes south of downtown Asunción, depending on the traffic. My last area was a branch. I do play the piano in sacrament meeting, which is interesting when your book closes randomly...The bench press is just solid cement blocks attached to a bar. I do use the perfect pushups. I think I´m at about 175-180 pounds.

My companion talks pretty normally. Most of the Latinos develop a fairly neutral accent in the mission. I really wanted to talk to President Webb about my career decision since he has lots of experience in those fields. I´ll just have to arrange another time with him. Love you all, keep reading the Book of Mormon and sharing the gospel with anyone you can.

-Elder Morgan the Older

*Our sister Heather's birthday is February 8th and the other Elder Morgan's birthday is February 7th, so it was a birthday-filled week!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Hit the ground baptizing--Pa´i Ñu

"Here is the last picture I took before leaving Ca´acupé, with my home away from home--the Sostoa and Melgarejo families, half of whom are my converts. I hope you´ll be able to recognize everyone from the other photos and emails I´ve sent. Brother and Sister Sostoa are the elderly couple on the end."
 I am very excited to be here in Pa´i Ñu. Things ended pretty well in Ca´acupé. We didn't have quite as many people to teach and baptize soon as I would have hoped, but I'm sure Elder Godoy and his new companion, Elder Zenteno (who arrived here with me) will do great.

My new companion is Elder Cabrera, from Arequipa Peru. He was trained by Elder Leishman, so I had already heard a lot about him. He comes from a very active family and is a very hard worker. He looks black because his mom is from Ecuador. I am actually learning more from him than I think he is learning from me. He has a stronger personality than I do, and is a lot more controlling in his leadership style, but he's also very loving and obedient. Like I said, he has a strong testimony and is definitely here for the right reasons, so I'm sure we´ll get along.

I am in Pa´i Ñu, which is a small "suburb" in Ñemby, a "city" on the South side of Asunción. It´s just like classic Paraguay--lots of small or medium sized houses and huge trees in a labyrinth of small dirt or cobblestone roads. Made me realize how open and "wild" my last two areas were.

The members here are incredible! I have ward missionaries to work with for the first time! It's a young ward--primary, youth, and YSA ages--but there are also a few people who have been in the church for a long time. The missionaries here sometimes complain about the members not helping them, but they have no idea how blessed they are. I have never had this much support from the members. One sister, Sebastiana Silvero, came up to me crying after church because the young man who played piano left on his mission two weeks ago and she had been praying for someone to come who could bring music back to the ward.

Interestingly enough, I have already been here. When I was a Zone Leader in Costa Bonita, we had a huge zone which they divided shortly thereafter. I am in the half of that zone where I almost never worked, but I do see things from time to time that I remember. It's also easier to stay in contact with the members and converts from Costa Bonita, and maybe I'll see them if there's some sort of conference or activity soon (it's the same Stake).

The apartment needs some help. I had visited it once, but it has gotten worse. I'll send some pictures. We live above a Despensa (small supermarket), so we get some interesting smells. What's cool is that someone gave us a bench press made out of cement and rebar, so I might not come home quite as "flaco" as I thought.




I have so much to talk about, but I'll just mention a few things. This is definitely the first time I have gotten to an area and had baptisms that week. First was Perla, who has been trying to get married. Her husband is drinking less alcohol, which is why she finally agreed to marry him (the other option would be separating, because she really wanted to be baptized). He could definitely get baptized in a couple weeks.

Then there's Alma, who comes from a less-active family with some problems. She was going to get baptized when she turned 8 but...there were problems. Basically, she just turned nine, and she normally comes to her church with her sister. Her grandma wasn´t sure, but gave her permission. Then Saturday came. I ran into a barbed wire gate, but luckily I have enough hair that I didn´t bleed too much (I was fine for the pictures, and it wasn't too deep--don't worry). I tell you that because it's funny and shows one of the many crazy things that have been happening. When we got to Alma's house, her mom and grandma had been fighting, and didn't want the baptism to happen. Alma came with us to watch Perla's baptism. Right before the ordinance, her grandma showed up and said we could baptize her. Alma was sure she wanted me to baptize her, so I changed quickly, we took pictures in the hall, and had quite the miraculous evening.

Wish I could tell you more about the other people we are teaching. The kid on my shoulder in the picture is another 10 year old who wants to be baptized, but the permission there will be a little tougher. I'm so grateful for the support of the members. We do run into people who are a little more aggressive, but I've learned how to handle that. For example, the other day we taught some protestants (not sure which denomination) who attacked Joseph Smith and talked about 7th day worship. My companion whipped out the Bible and was ready to defend the truth, but I just calmly explained, "This message could change your life, but you'll need to read the Book of Mormon and pray to know if it's true, are you willing to do that?" When they said no, we just left. 

Things are great, love you all!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Happy Ending (perhaps) to Ca´acupé

"BAPTISM PHOTOS!! We have Silvia, who FINALLY GOT BAPTIZED! I have been working on convincing that girl for almost four months. Haha, well we weren´t teaching her that whole time, but it´s been quite the wait. She was even a little unsure right before entering the font, but it all turned out well. We also baptized her ex-boyfriend-who-she-wasn´t-
talking-to-but-are-friends-again-and might-possibly-starting-dating-again (teenagers...), Alex!! He is great."

Email from Sister Keller, senior missionary in Elder Morgan's mission: "We had a great weekend here in Caacupe.  Your son is such a gentleman:-)  The missionaries sang Donde Hay Amor= Where Love Is:-)  and it was lovely.  I wanted to do that song in case Elder Morgan gets transferred.  He looked at me today and said, 'How's my Mom?'  I thought that was so funny.  I told him though that I thought I would send you the pics.  Enjoy :-)"
"Here are a few of the photos I took at our district activity last week. We went to 'El Mirador,' a small scenic hill in Tobatí. It takes about a minute and a half to hike, and then you can walk around on top to see the city. So we played a few group games--Zip Bong (makes me think of Aaron Densley) and Signs (don´t know if you know that). Fun stuff!"




I am sure you got my other letter about the baptisms. I am so so so happy. In this last month we have found a lot of wonderful people who have let us down, and my one plea to Heavenly Father was to help Silvia get baptized and complete the Melgarejo family before I left. We still don´t know if I´m leaving, but....we are pretty sure. It´s now the norm to be in an area for 3 transfers. I have been here for 3, and there are 3 left in my mission--makes sense. I have already started to conditionally say good bye ("If this is the last time I see you, thanks for everything"), which could make for funny moments if I stay here. We´ll see!

We actually just had a great Leadership Council where President Agazzani encouraged us to focus on how we serve, not where (including leadership positions), using Alma 13 and D&C 121:34-46. Very spiritual. There are a lot of changes in the mission, and this month wasn´t quite as fruitful as were hoping, though the last week we had 58 confirmations (6 in our Zone!), a record for President Agazzani´s time in one week. Also, to clarify, the numbers of 1400 baptisms were just for this mission, and there are two and a half (Posadas Argentina takes half) missions in Paraguay. So each missionary (200) baptized about 7 last year, but that´s actually 14 per companionship. Now, with about 250 missionaries, if we baptize 8 each (16 per companionship), we´ll reach 2000 baptisms. That´s pretty much how President Agazzani thinks--he´s a business man. But, combined with the gospel, it works! Like I said, this mission is growing incredibly fast.

Speaking of President, he finally read my letter and gave me permission to do the ecclesiastical endorsement for BYU. Still waiting for it to load. He also, for the first time, sends his greetings specifically to all of you (the family).

And, most of our attention was focused on the baptisms in our area and the other areas. Oh, the missionaries who came to split my area finally had their first two baptisms, too! Like I said, we are finding great families or groups of young adult men --they are usually willing to chat--but no one came to church apart from those you saw in the pictures. We are having trouble with reactivation--the Castro family, whose daughter we baptized a couple months ago, told us they don´t want to come back to church :( --but with a fully armed Elders Quorum, the branch councils are now going to implement the 5-5-5 plan that all wards here are supposed to use to focus on reactivating 15 families.

I do love the chapters about the sons of Mosiah. There are many, many things there that led to their success. Some are their spiritual preparation, their love for the people, their simple form of teaching according to the needs of those they taught, and their focus on important doctrines like the Atonement. They also taught people who were willing to be converted and sacrifice anything to accept the Gospel. Those are great chapters to analyze again and again.

As always, I enjoy hearing how everyone is doing so I can pray for all of their individual challenges. I, too wish I knew the transfers. I´ll let you know next week!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, January 20, 2014

No Subject

I´m trying not to explode at the internet man. I just spent an hour writing emails to everyone on another computer as I waited for the website to load. When it didn´t load and I switched computers, everything was erased. It´s a good thing my favorite Avenger is Captain America and not the Hulk.

There actually wasn´t much news this week, but I had written a lot of details. Unfortunately, I don´t have the time or patience to write all of that. Basically, we found a lot of great people this week, in part due to our ward mission leader, who is sacrificing a day of work each week to visit investigators and less actives, and his son, Daniel, who is finally helping us. We sure have great members here. Unfortunately, none of the new people we found came to church. Cristian came, and his girlfriend, Ilse, realized that if he died tomorrow, it would be her fault that he wasn´t baptized. Somber, but true, and we reviewed the option of separating until her divorce is finished and they can live together as a married couple.

Cristian´s cousin Alex came to church again. He is no longer dating Siliva (teenagers...), but they both want to be baptized this week!

I have had to testify a lot about the Restoration this week. So many people think we are just another church, but if that were the case, I wouldn´t be here. This is the only Church that Christ directs personally, and we have all the other truth that is found in other religions. We try to explain that to people, but many of them tell us that they would rather stay with their religion than ask God what they should do. Alas. We do what we can.

Haven´t heard of the parasite pill or travel plans, but I'll let you know. Thanks for all the news. Be patient, and don´t lose your temper. Even when they erase all your hard work. Haha, maybe I´ll be over it by next week. In any case, I love and keep praying for all of you.

-Elder Morgan the Older

Monday, January 13, 2014

Progress

We are seeing some excellent progress in the branch. I am excited to hear that you have a new Elders´ Quorum Presidency. We do too!! When I got here there was no one in the presidency. Yesterday Alberto Sostoa was sustained as president, with two counselors (one is his dad who he is helping reactivate) and a secretary. I don´t know if you remember that Alberto is Delfina´s husband who was inactive before he moved back here and we helped baptize her. He is a natural leader, and I am so excited to see progress here! Our ward mission leader is helping us reactivate recent converts, one of whom--Juan Martinez--received the Aaronic Priesthood.

We only had three investigators in church (saying "only three" is also a sign of progress). Cristian, who is still waiting for the divorce papers came with his cousin Alex, who we have been teaching. Best part: Alex randomly showed up with Silvia to one of our lessons with the Melgarejos. He´s dating Silvia and he is very excited to be baptized on the 25th. Though she still acts very unsure, I am pretty positive they´ll get baptized together. What a miracle! They also want to go to EFY the week after (they´re both 17).

Luján did not come to church and her mom is gone so much we couldn´t teach her at all this week. Though she likes coming to church with us, we´ve decided to postpone the baptism until her mom or her uncles (The Garcías--those recent converts who have also been facing some work and social difficulties) are reactivated and can take her to church. I just realized that you can´t say uncles in English to refer to an aunt and uncle. I´ll leave it that way just for fun.

The Meza family is also a disappointment. We were pretty gung-ho about their baptism (they seemed to be, too), and we talked about the law of chastity to explain why they´d need to get married before their baptism. Now they don´t want to talk to us...Lesson learned. I´ll be sure to teach a few more of the doctrinal lessons to strengthen the faith of the investigators before teaching a commandment that could try their faith.

I´ve realized that I talk a lot about what these people do, but not much about what they are like. That may be for lack of time, but I do wish you could get to know all of them. My best way is just to compare them to people you know. Like my companion, who--musically, religiously, politically, and in many other ways--keeps reminding me of Tony. He´s a lot of fun, and we have been very good about communicating openly and being patient with small differences. For example, there´s Sister Guerra, the Uruguayan Relief Society President who is SO crazy I can´t even explain it. There´s Rubén Ledesma, the young (20) man who came to live with his active grandma. He was born in the church but never really developed a testimony. He knows he should come to church and do the right things but seems to have a lot of bad influence from his friends and his personal feelings. It´s really interesting to help people like that. Perhaps someday we´ll have enough time to talk about all of the great people I´ve met and who they really are.

As far as Elder Morgan goes, I do wish there were faster progress in the Zone and with the investigators, but we are working hard. I have been sick this week (cold), but I´m finally recovered. Only the 2nd time I needed to ask for a health blessing on the mission. I don´t even want to talk about how skinny I´m getting. New favorite fruit--Mburucuyá (passion fruit in English). It´s hard to describe. Sort of like sweet lemon, but all the seeds are mushed together in a goo that´s inside of a very hard shell. Reminds me of an alien egg. There´s fruit everywhere in Paraguay, and that´s the latest one that falls so much people just give it away.

I do also wish I could explain more about the culture. Part of the problem is that I don´t want to say anything negative, so you only hear the positive things. In this city, there are a few many asphalt roads. The rest are cobblestone, and there are quite a few dirt roads. It´s interesting here, because there is a lot of urban influence from Asunción and tourism, but there is quite a bit of rural culture, too. We have 70-80 in church every week, but the other two companionships are finally starting to bring people to church, so that should go up as we continue baptizing and retaining.

Also, we are in the South America South area, which is Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. I can write anyone in those missions for free, which is nice. Our mission baptized just under 1,400 last year, and President Agazzani´s goal is 2,000 this year. He likes it when people tell him he´s crazy.

Thanks for all the other news from everyone. Not all the news is good, but it gives me things to pray for. I know the Lord is with us, no matter what happens. Just trust in him! Love you all!

-Elder Morgan the Older