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