Monday, December 28, 2009

Miracles in Matagalpa........week 33

Hi family!

Merry Christmas! Well it seems about pointless to write today as well seeing as we talked for an hour and you got a really good idea of what has been happening here. All is good here. We had a weekend of miracles!

As you noticed in the call, I was a little bit stressed out for the weekend (and for good reason seeing as the goal for the attendance was extremely high). But let´s just say that so many miracles happened this weekend that I am amazed and surprised.

Sunday was an extremely busy day as we started inviting people to church at 6:00am. Our ward starts at 8:00am so we have to wake up pretty early. The office elders from Managua came to help us out over the weekend with our attendance and with the excitement and dedication of the members, it really made a difference! We were able to have a about 170 people in church this weekend and what made it best was that every companionship of missionaries in the zone improved their attendance this Sunday. The President was happy, so we were too ha ha.

But really, to tell you about all the miracles that have happened in the last 3 weeks to make it happen would take 3 weeks to tell. In short, instead of finding about half of the people engaged in something in the morning or without desires to go, we found the members ready and willing to come and many made huge sacrifices. Many families came for the first time after not having come in over a year. It was a special experience. I really love working with the less actives because I can feel the love of the Lord for them. This week we are going to hit it hard again and try and maintain a good attendance in the Branch and in the Zone.

I don't know how much of my testimony Troy and Tyler could pick out or if they told you what I said, but I would just like to reemphasize the things that I said. I am so grateful for your support and help here on the mission. I feel your prayers and love across the miles and I know that I am doing the right thing. I feel so privileged to be a missionary and to bear the name of the Saviour in this great work. I am so grateful for the Atonement and I know it works because I have seen how it changes lives and makes homes happier.

This week taught me a great lesson: Trust in the Lord even when you don't believe. I was a bit cynical and sceptical about how many we were going to be able to have since the best the Branch had achieved in a long time was about 120 or 130. But we worked our hearts out and we saw how the Lord did His part.

May God continue to bless you always and may you trust in Him even when your earthly eyes limit your eternal perspective. I am so grateful to see that the Lord is never wrong and that if we just put our faith in Him, He will lead us along the way. That is what He does for me.

Elder Grant Russell

P.S. Please tell Brother Minor that I got his package and that I enjoyed it! He is truly a special man. Thank him for his continued thoughtfulness in my behalf.
I expect to get the other package soon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas has already come.......week 32

Dear Family,

Well, this is going to be one of my shortest letters for sure because it almost seems pointless to write you all when we will be talking this week for Christmas.

This week has been very interesting and difficult for me. I have been struggling with my area and I feel like so many trials are coming in my life. The good thing is that I have been able to have the help of the Lord this week a ton. My companion is doing well and we are getting along better but he has been feeling sick the last few days. Oh the joys of being new in the mission ha ha.

We worked really hard this week to activate a few families and it was a success on Sunday to see a few of them in church. We had many miss church from the week before so the attendance was about the same.

This week we had a mission activity but it wasn´t as delightful as it might have been. The president told us that he wasn´t happy with the mission right now because we aren´t baptizing and the attendance is down as a whole. Right now I am passing through tough times and I need evermore the help of the Lord. I was able to help out with a Christmas activity this Sunday in Managua with piano and I got to see several of my recent converts. I found out that many of the people I had left in my area in Las Colinas are going to be baptized and have already been baptized in some cases. I felt so grateful to my Heavenly Father to know that I had been able to help His children in that part of Nicaragua and my thoughts and heart turns to the hearts here in Matagalpa.

I would just like to bear my testimony that I know that this church is the true church of Jesus Christ. He leads us and blesses us with peace as we keep His commandments. I will strive to do my best and be the best servant of Him I can be while I am here in Nicaragua.

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, December 14, 2009

Have yourself a Merry little Christmas........week 31

Hola y buenas tardes!

Well, the week has come to a close and the new week has begun. Time is moving faster and faster now and I can hardly stop and think anymore. I really like the advice that you give me to stop and take a deep breath every once in a while. I am putting it in practice and it is helping me a bit. The good thing about Matagalpa is that I can stop and take all the beauty in…there is some pretty beautiful vistas here.

It was a long and very challenging week. I feel the help of the Lord guiding me so that we do what He wants here in Matagalpa. First impressions of the area: the members are very great and many are veterans in the church which helps. However, there is a ton of work to do here this Christmas season. The attendance is dropping and the investigators are virtually at a standstill. I feel the pressure of the work but the support of the Lord as I embark and try to accomplish much here with my companion. We will need to find new investigators and work with the families to help reactivate a whole bunch more.

Many of the challenges come from the fact that neither my companion have much time in the area. He has 4 weeks here (and total in Nicaragua) and I have 1 week. We spent the majority of the week just trying to find the members and animate them for church. The attendance was a mere 60 Sunday and I feel like the Lord is really counting on me to do something great here. I would ask for your prayers at this time. I very much need them. I am also getting used to my new responsibilities and my new companion. He is an interesting elder to say the least. I love him for who he is…I am learning patience. He is like a little kid with desires to do the right and a sweet spirit but he is just odd sometimes. Oh well. It could be much worse. We work fine together.

We had several sweet experiences this week with a few families. I would like to tell you all about one. We met with a recent convert family and we began to gain confidence. We had a nice first encounter but I felt and got the impression that there were problems in the marriage at the moment. We visited the next day and we found that the father had come drunk to the house and that the mother had been trying to take care of him. While he slept on the bed in the small, one room house of metal sheets, we talked with her and tried to console her in her present circumstance. I felt the love of the Lord come upon me. I couldn´t close my mouth becuase He put words into it.

I talked about the Savior´s love for us and his patience and mercy. I talked about His sacrifice and of his endless power to heal us in our trials. As I shared a few scriptures in the Book of Mormon and gave advice, she said, “it is as if I were putting words into your mouth. You are saying exactly what I need to hear!” I felt so glad to know that the Lord was answering her prayers. She had begun to lose faith in the church and God despite his and her constant attendance there. He had been unfaithful to her in every way as a husband and she felt betrayed and abused. I then compared her to the Savior and showed how the people´s betrayal and abuse of Him had left Him perfectly capable and willing to help her. I told her how she was to not abandon the help that God had provided. I felt the spirit testify of our words and I knew that she was understanding. At the beginning of the lesson she was thinking about a future divorce and by the end she was willing to support and help her husband in this time of serious difficulty. It is truly a blessing to be a servant of God and bear His glad tidings to all.

I also had the great opportunity to give a talk Sunday and introduce myself to the Branch. I talked about Missionary work and I invited the members to ponder about their conviction and help in the work and I pleaded that they try to do more for the Lord. I said that God loved the world so much that He gave His Son. The Son gave His life for us and if we love Him we will share that message to everyone else around us. I told them of how the gospel can really help us and I knew that the people had the message. One family after church told us that they wanted to help us activate another member family and so we are going to do a Family Home Evening in their house tonight. It was a good sign to me and I hope that all the members will have the same enthusiasm to help us.

As for Christmas preparations, I think I am about the least prepared for Christmas of everyone. Yes, the Nicaraguans decorate their houses. The majority have Christmas trees and about 10% have Christmas lights. The thing I miss most is Christmas music. It is doesnt feel so much like Christmas to me without Mainheim Steamroller but oh well. I will have to save up the 2 years and have a Steamroller marathon the Christmas I am home. It is pretty hard for me to believe that Christmas is already almost here.

The mission is doing a party Wednesday so I doubt that I will get my package that day seeing as it is 7 days but maybe I will get lucky. We are going to have a dinner and games I suppose. But I am pretty excited for a day to rest a bit. I am also pretty excited to talk to all of you soon. I haven´t decided what to do for the Christmas call yet…maybe they will give us information in the activity Wednesday but as for right now, I expect to call a little before hand to set up the other call. I expect that the call will be for one hour.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas from across the miles. Know that I am thinking of you and that I always miss you. Thank you for your prayers and your support. Be of good cheer in this Christmas season and spread the gospel message of peace and God with bless us so much. May His spirit always be upon us and guide us in His way.

Elder Grant Russell

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Emergency Changes and Added Blessings........week 30

Greetings and Salutations everyone!

The last week went very well for my companion Elder Avila and I. We spent a ton of time finding references from members and we found several new families to teach. One of the sweetest experiences in the mission is to realize that God has prepared people for me to teach and that upon teaching them they feel the truthfulness of the gospel begin to burn within their hearts. One of the many experiences that we had was finding a family Tuesday with Brother Robles and Brother Maradiaga. We met the family in the twilight and talked for a few moments about the experiences that they had had previously with the missionaries. The two youngest sons are members but have been inactive for some time. As we talked about how the gospel has blessed our families, I was so touched and I testified that my family had been greatly blessed through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This week I had so many chances to share that testimony and I feel that it touches the families greatly in the lessons. I always show them pictures of our family and they comment about how happy we all look.

I told the family that God had been preparing them for our message and if they would just open their hearts and listen they would be able to be blessed like my family. We later returned and found the family more positive. We talked with the father about his many struggles and we found that he wanted to change. We explained the Book of Mormon and upon meeting the wife later, we talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ and how it helps us to resolve family problems. As we finished the lesson, the spirit prompted me to invite them to be baptized and the father accepted right off. The mother was a little more hesitant but she said she would pray about it. I don’t really know how to explain it, but there are so many times (even daily) that the spirit just shows me what to say. I find myself using connections and relating scriptures with principles that I have never even studied and then to my amazement, I see the investigators understand. I know that it isn’t me. I praise the Lord for His wisdom and I thank Him for using me as an instrument. I never thought I would be able to teach that way. I am so grateful.

So had a marriage as well for an investigator that is going to get baptized the following Saturday. I am excited about our investigators´ progress and I hope to be able to baptize several families this month. This last week we also had a conference with President Fraatz and I am so grateful for his leadership and spirit. He inspires me to be better. I often receive confirmations that what he says is inspired and exactly what we need to do in Nicaragua so that the church can grow. I liked what he said about making a change that day. He said that we should try to have a changing point in our mission, a point where we could say that everything was different after. I think I am starting that point in my mission. It usually happens around 6 months. I just didn´t expect the changes I got (if expecting changes is even possible anyway…) Let´s just say that this
Monday wasn´t the most relaxing P-day I have had…

At 11 AM I was on my way to eat lunch with my District Leader when suddenly he passed his phone to me. The Zone Leader wanted to talk to me. I asked him what he wanted and he said that I had emergency changes: I was to report at the office with my things in 2 hours and I was being reassigned to Matagalpa. Wow! I was shocked. I didn´t talk the whole bus ride home. It was a time of reflection and pondering. I realized that I would have to leave my area and all of my recent converts from the last 6 months. I knew the day would eventually come but I just thought I was going to have another few weeks to prep for it. My thoughts turned to the families that I had taught and I was sentimental. I love them. It was hard to leave. There is a special connection between a missionary and his recent converts. Each is different and has specific needs and desires but there is a God given love and charity that develops as the conversion process takes place. I only said goodbye to the Narvaez and Sanchez families for time restraints. I felt so much thanks but so much pain to say good bye. I said I would only see them later. In parting, the family prayed for me and I was touched as they said things like: ´´bless this young missionary and servant of thee so that he might find other hearts and touch other lives like he has touched ours. Bless the people and open the doors wherever he might serve in the future so that they might receive the same blessings that we have received. We are forever grateful for the change that has come over our family.´´ I was touched.

It was a long and strange bus ride to Matagalpa. The climate is cooler and the people are different. It is very beautiful. They are very friendly and open to hearing about the gospel but surprisingly, it seems like many people have heard about the church here. I am now assigned to the Guanuca Branch in the Matagapla district. It is an exciting and stressful time in Matagalpa as the President has his sights on making our District a Stake. It is critical right now so that Nicaragua can qualify for a temple (maybe even in Matagapla.) Elder Polanco, from Guatemala is my companion and he only has 3 weeks in Nicaragua. He was only with his trainer for 3 weeks and so it is basically my responsibility to train him. He doesn’t know all of the members yet and has trouble remembering things because he has some slight mental handicaps due to previous accidents. I am also a District Leader now and have to learn those responsibilities. If you get the picture, I have many opportunities to learn and grow and I am definitely relying on the Lord in this time of serious change and added responsibility.

Although I feel lost and I have a stress level that is about at its limits, I know the Lord will continue to bless me as He has in the past. I know that He lives and that He loves each and everyone of us. I am so grateful for the experiences that He gives me to serve Him and I pray for patience and strength to bear the burdens He has placed upon me. I ask for your prayers so that we can have success in this area. I so much want and desire a temple here in Nicaragua and I know how much it would bless the people here.

Thank you so much for your prayers and for your example. If I could ask something in this Christmas season, perhaps it would be that you just all continue sharing the gospel message with everyone. Everyone talks about the birth of Jesus Christ during this season but perhaps an even greater message is the reason for which He was born. I know that in and through Him we can receive salvation and that He is the only way to obtain happiness and joy in this life. If the purpose of Christmas is to spread peace and happiness on earth, lets do it through the spreading of the gospel message. I will do my part.

May God be with you always,

Elder Grant Russell

P.S. I think I will have a preliminary call to set up the call for Christmas. I don’t know if it is on Christmas day or if it is another day. Maybe they will give us options. If that is the case, what day to you prefer? The cost here to call internationally to the US is about 5 cordobas a minute (about 25 cents a minute). I think that would be cheapest if I just called you but if there is a cheaper way just let me know. If you haven’t sent the package yet, I only request a USB and perhaps a few CDs that I could use to save pictures on because my memory card is full at the present. Ties are always accepted haha. Thanks everyone and I look forward to talking to you soon. Cya.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving...that we might give thanks........week 29

Hey there family!

I spent the majority of the time just reading all of the emails. Thanks for always writing me and for keeping me in your thoughts. This week was a very special week for me. I feel very blessed.

At the beginning of this week I felt a lot of opposition. I was kind of worried. “Why is everything going so hard right now? I thought.” We had a hard time finding new people this week. A lot of appointments fell through and my companion even said that he was feeling a bit down. But as we talked it over, I realized that I wasn´t being grateful for what God was giving me. Being the Thanksgiving season, I should have known better than to not give thanks to my Father in Heaven for everything He gives me in the work. I have a companion who wants to work. I have an area that is growing. I love the members and the members seem to appreciate the work we do. The members want to work and they are giving us references. I am of good health and my family across the miles supports me. I am so grateful. I went to bed with the spirit of repentance and I woke up a different missionary. Everything seemed better. I don’t know if much changed really. The only thing that changed was me!

I now understand the importance of having an eternal perspective. I love the work and I am so grateful for the opportunities He gives me here in Nicaragua. I had so many blessings this week. For example, of all the missionaries in Nicaragua, I think I was the only one who was able to taste turkey and pumpkin pie this week. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that that would happen here, seeing as no one even knows what pumpkin pie is- well, that is unless you have an American family in your ward! Score! It was awesome. The family invited us over on Sunday night for leftovers along with prespective elders from the ward who are planning or thinking about going on missions. We talked about the mission that Brother Black went on and of course, we had pie. Mmmmm. So don’t worry mom! I felt your cooking across the miles (well at least almost as good as your cooking).

On top of that a few other people invited us to lunch and we were able to feel the blessings of heaven pouring out upon us.

My letter is short today but I just want you all to know that I love you and that I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for the opportunities that He has given me. I can see the hand of Him in your lives. Congrats Tyler on the Job! I am super excited for you! I love you all and just remember that God blesses us with so much. Many times we just don’t recognize His hand in all things. Just be happy! I love you and will continue to pray for you! Happy Thanksgiving!

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, November 23, 2009

Changes........week 28

Hey there family!

This has been quite the week of change for me.

So I was companionless on Monday and Tuesday. I spent the majority of the day on Monday with another Elder In Managua. I went to the migration office on Monday and got my residence.

I am officially Nica now ha ha.

On Tuesday I worked hard with the Ward Mission leader (who served as my companion for the day) and we found a few new families to teach. The mission is so focused on families that I spend the majority of my time and efforts looking for new families.

On Tuesday night I got the call that I would stay in Las Colinas for another change at least. I think they should call the mission “Mision Nicaragua Las Colinas” instead of “Managua” for me because I am passing a ton of time in Las Colinas. But all is well. Atleast I like it!

On Wednesday I got my new companion, Elder Avila from Honduras Tegucigalpa. I only have companions from Honduras it seems ha ha. All Katrachos! Well, he seems like a very good missionary. He has 3 months in the mission and we are practically learning together. He teaches well too and seems very humble so I hope and pray that the work will go forward in this area.

Throughout the week, I have been showing him the area. I feel like I will be leaving this next change so I have to be sure and teach him well. We found some positive new investigators and families so we will have to wait and see how it goes this week.

This week we had several powerful lessons that for sure arrived unto and into the hearts of the investigators. One that I especially liked was to our newly baptized family. In the church, many times we want the investigators to change so quickly. Perhaps in a rush of adrenaline or excitement that they were baptized, we begin to tell them about all the things they are going to be doing now in the church. For our recent converts, they have felt overwhelmed. The men already received the Priesthood and are afraid that their human weaknesses will not live up to their best intentions. For example, a family or 5 here in Nicaragua can have breakfast for a dollar if they have bread and coffee. The families that we baptized are very poor. Few have jobs and they have many debts to pay off and although they haven’t been drinking coffee they are afraid that if it came to it, that God would punish them for their poverty forced trangression. Also, the leaders want them to begin to dress like members (in dresses and ties) and they neither have the means or the customs of doing that. We told them that none of us are perfect and that God will judge us according to the desires of our hearts and our actions. We talked about grace and how no matter how imperfect we are, we can always be okay with our Heavenly Father if we but do our best.

As we testified of the love and mercy of the Savior, the spirit entered the room and I know that we understood one another. This week I have made a conscious effort to talk more about the Savior. I think that even as a witness of Him, I have fallen short in my promise to bear His name at all times, at all places and in all things. I have tried to talk about the Savior in all principles of the gospel and as a result we have walked with His spirit in greater abundance. As one seventy said, “we are never closer to the Father than when we bear testimony of the Son.”

I know He lives and that His Atonement is real. I love each and every one of you. Thank you for your example and I will strive to be a good example too. Please share the message of the Atonement with your friends and family because really, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way that we can have true happiness in this life and in the life to come.

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, November 16, 2009

He will Show You the Way........week 27

Well family,

I am companionless…and I feel a bit lost and sad. Right now I am on temporary
divisions with another missionary until the changes this Wednesday. It will be
different to work in his area and not in mine, but so is life. I like what you
said, change brings growth. I have a feeling that this week is going to bring
much growth, that there is much change on the horizon for me.

I very happy and grateful with what has happened in the last week in our area.
We had so many spiritual experiences and miracles that my hastily written letter
wont do them justice but I will try my best to fill you in.

The week was so busy that my companion didn’t´ even have a chance to be trunky
and think about his house. (for the best I think). We worked all week long with
the three familias to prepare them for baptism. Throughout the week, I had
divisions twice so that another missionary could interview all of the

Speaking of interviews, we had ours this week in preparation for the changes and
I am so grateful for what the President said. We had a nice interview and he was
happy to hear that we had possibilities for families this week. He then shared
with me how in some missions in the World, there are missionaries that are
baptizing 10 families per month. That is amazing! I realized that there is still
more that I can do in the work. If the field is ready elsewhere, I think I can
thrust with my sickle with a little more might to lay up in store another family
here and there. I am committed to do so. I know that with the help of the Lord I
can bring families into His kingdom.

But the interviews went well, so well in Fact that all of the familias were
animated and ready for baptism. I wish I could send photos from the baptismal
service, It was quite the day! Three familias entered the water and the
following Sunday they were confirmed. It was the perfect way for my companion to
leave the mission. But we didn’t have the service without some challenges. The
allotted baptismal clothes ran out and we had one larger father to baptize who
had no clothes to use. He is a funny man, but with much seriousness he said,¨Ï
am not leaving here without being baptized. I am going to be baptized if it
means I have to wear that dress.´´ And so he did. It was a little embarrassing
for me to see him but he was alright with it. His family was all joking about it
and saying how he was literally following the example of Jesús in the way of
baptism. Well, I cant help but marvel at his faith and sacrifice at following
the Lord into the waters of baptism. He will be a great example for his family in
the future. The familias all had wonderful experiences. They said that they felt
like new people and that they had literally felt the forgiveness of their sins.

Sunday we spent the whole day saying goodbye to the familias and recent converts
in the ward. It was quite a spiritual boost to feel of the gratitude and love of
the members. In church, they announce that I might leave this week too (which is
possible) so it felt like a goodbye for me too. We´ll wait and see. But anyway, as
we said goodbye to each and every family, my Heart was filled with gratitude as
I realized how the members loved us. The newly baptized family was nearly in
tears as we left. They thanked us and offered another special prayer for us and
mentioned our names specifically in the prayer so as to bless us personally.
They have all expressed their desire to go to the temple the next year and I
would love to see that happen. We visited with Carlos and Fatima and they again
thanked us for being the messengers sent by God to change their lives. We helped
Carlos give his first fathers blessing with his newly received Melchizedek
priesthood. What a blessing it is see a recent convert bless his family. That is
what it is all about.

We visited with the Sanchez family and they told us how if we had not come by
that first day, they perhaps would be in the street and separated. I was touched
to hear that they wanted to give us dinner. We ate the humble table of a poor
family and I had never felt so much in the presence of the rich because they are
rich of heart.

Being a missionary is difficult. I feel very lost and I struggle at many times
but when I realize that lives are being change here, that people are accepting
the true gospel of Jesús Christ and are living it, I know that it is all worth

I know that God lives and that this is His church. The blessings that are found
therein are most desirable and endure throughout the eternities. I know that the
baptism we perform is the only (thing) that unlocks the door to numerous blessings
including life with God again and the forgiveness of sins.

Go forward with faith and God will go before you and show you the way!

Elder Grant Russell

All Creatures of our God and King....