Monday, July 27, 2009

We are all God's Children...we all need Charity........week 11

So now that my family is fully equipped in cowboy boots and 10 gallon hats, I can officially say, ´´howdy´´. ha ha. Haven't said that in awhile.

So Troy is officially a doctor now. Wow. That is SaWEET! Good work Brother! I wish I could have been there. You'll do great in the profession.

Sean, I hope you get better soon. I imagine that your school plans are falling into place and that you are getting ready for school. Good luck there.

Tyler, I hope everything is going well for you. I understand that you are busy with school and work but when you get a chance, send me and email so I can feel the stress too. Ha ha.

Mom and Dad, busy as ever. Thanks for all of your hard work and your examples. The Greenway project was a success and it is always good to get some publicity. The missionary work can go forward faster when people associate the good with the church.

So now about me...

This week was absolutely crazy. We had about a bajillion meetings in Managua and it takes 3 or 4 hours round trip every time we go there. I think we had more like 4 days to work this week instead of 7 if you subtract all of the hours. But we still had some great experiences.

We worked hard with two families this week to try and prepare them for baptism this last weekend. Both families (pairs) felt good about the doctrine but wanted more time. But missionaries don't accept that as a No. So we continued to give it our all.

Naturally, Satan gave it his all though too. We had some serious trials with the families. Carlos and Fatima have some pretty interesting family ties. I think they have about every religion possible in the extended family...Evangelicals, Catholics, Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, etc. They have had quite the struggle with their family and even received some visits from them who came to save the family from our devil worship...yeah.

But like I always say these days, Challenges are good because it means we are doing the Lords work. We eventually challenged the family to pray about their decision to be baptized on Saturday. Carlos decided to be baptized and Fatima decided to wait a week. Although we were disappointed with the wait, we were extremely happy with Carlos and even more so because he was really excited.

Jose and Leticia proved to be a whole other story. They are a young couple, unmarried, and had many troubles finding their information to be married. When we finally got everything together, we had trouble finding a lawyer and we had little money to pay one. But the Lord always sees us through our trials. We found a lawyer who gave ex tremendous service and performed the wedding on Saturday. We had to travel by moto in the rain 30 minutes one way to marry them in the house of Leticia's sick mother so she could be a witness. We crammed 6 people into the moto (it is about the same size as the tiny European cars) and then, yeah. It was done. Then we headed for Managua to baptize Carlos, Leticia, and Jose.

Carlos' baptism

Jose and Leticia's baptism

The baptism went really well except for Jose became really doubtful and we had to comfort him that his decision was the right one. Really, he has never been one to make commitments and we were asking him to make a ton in a short period of time (marriage, baptism, etc). But he did it and it was a great experience.

I really felt the love of God as I was privileged to perform the baptisms. I love being able to say ´´having been commissioned by Jesus Christ´´. It feels so great and my joy is so full as I see Gods children enter the waters of baptism and accept the covenants, and blessings, He has in store for them.

So I had a really special experience at church yesterday too.

We had ward conference with the Stake Presidency and everything. I don't know if I have told you, but we work with basically two groups of people in our ward. Where we live, the Borgoña, they are trying to form a Branch and in Las Colinas they are trying to maintain a ward. The people in the Borgoña are very humble and don't even have money for the bus on a weekly basis and so they frequently don't attend the other meetings in the ward. To help this last week, the ward provided transportation to bring as many as possible to the meeting.

So as we arrived in the ward we (the members of the branch) took our seats in the back, most of us together. There had been some other members from the ward seated towards the front and I took my seat toward the back as well. We went around greeting the members and such and when I realized that one member and his family looked very solemn and sad, I began talking with them. It took some coaxing, but eventually they told me why. Pointing with his finger, he said ´´in front are seated those who have the back are seated those who have nothing´´

As I realized this distinct division, I began to be filled with sadness! I became so emotional that I had to leave the room and stand outside. I began to weep. My companion followed me out to see what the matter was as well as the ward Mission leader. I told them it wasn't my problem, only it was the love of God within me that provoked such a response. I felt terrible seeing the monetary division that the members had created within themselves. This ward has had some problems with some of its members and pride. We have the greatest spectrum I have seen. We have doctors and utterly unemployed. It is almost as if the members in the Borgoña were treated as filth.

When one serves among a group of people, he develops love and charity for them. That is what I felt. It was so sad to see that this charity didn't exist in all the members...I was reminded of the vision of Enoch when he saw God weep and had the question as to how the heavens could weep. His response was that he had created all things and that to see His children acting wrongly gave Him great sorrow.

Truly, it is a great blessing to have this charity developing within me. I feel such a great love for the people I serve. I love all of you and if I could ask you one thing, it would be that you always treat your brothers and sisters with respect. We really are all brothers and sisters and we should never, NEVER look down on anyone. The Savior never did. He was a carpenter after all.

I love this gospel and I know it is the gospel of peace. I have seen it change lives and I know that it has changed mine. Thanks for all of your prayers and thoughts in my behalf. Never forget to be missionaries. Until next week,

Elder Grant Russell

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From that Gringo in Nicaragua........week 10

Hello family!

How is everyone doing back at home?! It sounds like the answer is good from the letters I am reading...I am glad that that is the case. Everything here is going well. I will try and catch you up on the activities of the week.

So yeah, we have been teaching some families and preparing them for baptism (let´s hope...cross your fingers) One couple, Jose and Leticia, are only 22 and 16 and they have a two year old. Just think, having a kid at 14. Wow, now that is overwhelming. They are really progressing and always have questions, which is a really good sign. The worst lessons are when the investigators just nod their heads the whole time, say that they understood everything, and then stare at you with a blank face when you ask them a simple question about what you taught. Unfortunately, it happens occasionally.

The other couple, Carlos and Fatima is having a good experience. They seem to like everything so far they can see about the church. Their challenge will be to have faith enough to not know everything when they are baptized.

Oh and you´ll think this is really interesting...We also have been working with a Mason. Not Mason as in the name Mason but a Mason like the organization. Yeah, he is a really smart engineer and retired fireman who cant wait to go to the temple. He ALWAYS has really interesting ways of explaining principles and seems to understand principles better than the missionaries. But he is going to be baptized next week hopefully.

What you said about having the Lord´s hand guiding us through it all is definitely true. Sometimes I forget that as I walk in the street, but He is always there guiding us.

One of the greatest experiences as a missionary is exactly what the quote says that you shared. This week we had the great experience of being an answer to the investigators´prayer.

We were wandering in the street at about 830pm Sunday when we ran into Leticia and Jose. They, like many here in Nicaragua, have a hard time making ends meet. I thought I understood what that meant before I came to Nicaragua, but since I have been here I have met some very humble people. There are people here that don't eat because they cant. Jose is unemployed and they support themselves by buying bread in the city and then going to another city to sell it for a higher price.

Because Sunday was the 30 year anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, there was quite the celebration in Managua. They had to go to the celebration to sell and couldn't´t make it to church. Long story short, Jose fell in his commitment of the word of wisdom and he felt terrible. Leticia had said a short prayer aloud to Jose and said if only the missionaries passed right now...and so we did.

So we spent the next hour talking with them about repentance and his desire to do what is right. I really think one of the greatest opportunities as a missionary is help people come closer to Christ and solve their problems through Him. I felt the Savior´s love emanate through me as he told us of his fall and it was really special. He again had many questions about why he would fall and how he could keep his commitments. We bore simple testimony that if he had faith, that God would help him through this trial. And just to show you how humble the Nicaraguans are in general, we did all this over some drinks and cookies and bread that bought for us with the meager income they have. That is humbling to know that they think of others when they cant even provide for themselves. They were so grateful to just have something to eat.

SO yeah, the President has set new goals for the mission with each key indicator we work with each day. Let´s just say that we are missing the mark in more than one and have to work harder than ever to accomplish what is required. I am finding that desire is different than obedience. I definitely have the desire to do everything right. I am still working on the obedience part. Like you said, I am trying to turn my will over to His and just submit myself to the work. Line upon line, I am learning how to be a missionary. I thought it was going to be easier than this...ha ha.

Thanks for all of the information on the family.
Joy and Josh- I hope that everything goes well for you in this hard, and life changing transition. I can see that this is going to be rough on the whole family, but you will all be strengthened through this. It is always through the flame that we achieve our brightest shine.

Troy- Congrats on the success at school and I wish I could be there to see you receive your coat. I think you´ll understand. I look forward to seeing Doctor Russell in action when I return, though I prefer it be from a third person perspective.

Tyler...same old!? Am I just going to here that for two years...ha ha. I understand. I wish you the best while you work like a maniac in school, work, and social activities (at least I hope so)

Sean- I am glad to hear that you enjoyed your 50 miler. I look back on my experience with great memories. It is always better in retrospect, believe me.

Dad- It sounds like Dad is busy as ever with church and work assignments. I would like to read the talks, if you get a chance. Thanks for everything you do DAD! You might like to know that I talk about you often in lessons, especially in lessons about the priesthood and families. I appreciate you worthiness and example over all these years and I aspire to be a priesthood holder and father like you.

Me- Busy as ever. I can imagine that adding Joy and the two chavalos ´´kids´´ to the routine would be busy...Thanks Mom for everything you do as well. I often think of you and I miss you always as I do with all of the family.

I find it very interesting that you chose that scripture this week because I read that scripture this week and it hit me really hard. I realized that it was my desire too. I feel so grateful to have had opportunities to that already.

Is there really a greater call than to be involved in the work of the Lord? I think it is the greatest opportunity.

So cultural differences,

So it rains pretty frequently here, and it is always a challenge to stay out of the rain. Typically, people use umbrellas...typically. This week Ï saw a man wearing bubble wrap over his head like a scarf. That was funny.

It is the anniversary like I said for the Sandinista. There was a lot of Babylon going on in every direction. And the handheld cannons are so loud. Obnoxious.

It wasn´t until yesterday when I was talking with some gringos that I realized how funny it was to buy the bread here. It looks like hot dog buns and so they joked about how weird it would be to just walk to your neighbor´s house and ask, ´´hey, do you have any hot dog buns!´´´

The smell, I think I found a new one. Rotting animals on the side of the road. Just ask Sean about Alan´s car. He will know what it smells like. We are linked across the miles after all. Ha ha.

So until next week, I wish you the best of luck and may God attend you in every minute of every day. I know that God is intimately involved in the happenings of his children. Lets pay attention to what He does for us.

I love you all and I will write soon!

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, July 13, 2009

Another weerk has come and gone........week 9

Hello family!

Wow a lot seems to be happening back at home! I look back on the 50 miler with fond memories. I have found myself looking back on many memories of youth trips, family vacations, school experiences lately and I just feel so grateful for the experiences that I have been blessed with. I think I always look back on experiences with a better vision than when I experienced them. I seem to forget the hard times and only remember the good times. It is pretty neat. I even find myself starting to do that with my mission. I have 2 months now! Wow, time really does fly by. I look back on my old area and the people I met and the times when we ran getting drenched in the rain...all great experiences. I forget the sweat I had on my face and I only remember that we walked 45 minutes in the heat to the chapel with a family so the mother could enter the waters of baptism. Being a missionary is really the greatest blessing I have ever received.

The family is experiencing her fair share of trials, but with every trial comes an opportunity to show the Lord our obedience and hence receive blessings. It is in the trials of our lives that we learn who we really are and who the Lord wants us to be. It is kind of funny to think back on the trials we had as a family and the trials I had as an individual...I realize that I have grown and that my trials now are completely different. I now have trials with adapting to a new culture and being away from everything I have ever known. I really have only one thing to rely on now, the Lord. He has always been there for me, in the best and worst of times. When I was willing to listen, I was blessed. When I didn't heed His promptings, He patiently waited for me to come back.

So we have been working hard this week and trying to adapt to the new area. The Mission President is turning the mission around and changing a lot of things. He has asked us to meet certain goals for each key indicator (baptisms weekly, lessons, etc) and many are much higher than what we have been achieving. We have put our foot down on the gas and tried to give it everything we have. One of our goals is to have more people accept the invitation to be baptized. We did a better job this week and have about 11 or 12 people now with baptismal dates (but I don't think all will be baptized...lets hope)

About the photo...that is perfectly okay! I was worried it wouldn't go through and, to tell you the truth, I have felt bad that I haven't sent any photos. So from here on, feel free to check my email to see if I posted anything you didn't receive.

Thanks for sharing the gospel everyone! It is really the best gift we can give someone. I even sometimes forget how special the gospel really is and I feel disanimated. We should always be ready to give THE reason for the hope that is within us as Paul directs.

So cultural differences for this week...lets see how many I can remember

Urination in public...just about anywhere.
Noche de Hermanamiento (Fellowshipping night) was very interesting. Lets just say that I ended up with lip gloss all over my face. It was a game where you had to try and not laugh...if you laughed, you got painted. I laughed.
All buildings and churches are gated and locked.
There is this smell next to this field we walk by every day...lets just say I can barely breath. ha ha.

So spiritual experiences for the week (at least some of them)

I gave my first and second blessing in Spanish this week. That was definitely different and it was kind of hard. Not only are you trying to listen to the spirit, but you are trying to speak in another language. I think it turned out okay.

I have been really blessed this week in my Scripture study to find answers to investigators questions. I love searching the scriptures with questions in mind. It always turns out better.

I went on my first divisions with Elder Contrerras from Venezuela. He is a great missionary and really a hard worker. I felt the spirit really strong that day. I want to be as hard as a worker as he is. I was able to help teach some lessons and answer questions.

So anyway, it was a great week. I am so grateful for all of you and for your examples. May God be with you and strengthen you always. I feel your prayers across the miles and I hope that you feel mine as well. Till next week.

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, July 6, 2009

I stand out in the crowd.........week 8


So my first photo was sent now, I think. I will try and send a few more if I have time. I will just have a short letter today!

Feet fine. Shoes work great! No problems. Next question.
Haven't been burned yet! Sunscreen (the baby power stuff is the only thing I use and only on the face. My arms are kind of tanning)
No hats.

I stand out, but it is an advantage because I can get people to look at me and once that Game, set, match (baptism ha ha). My complexion seems to be doing better if you believe it?

Ticuantepe is much cooler. I really live in the Borgona right next door. It is still kind of hot but cooler than Managua. I don't really know what temperature it is. I figure it is better not to know.

Only shop for the essentials, next!

The people are very humble and receptive to the gospel. But they are also very religious and set in their ways too. They are smaller in build and I have even been called tall several times.

I am adjusting yes. I have had a few problems but they have all work out! Lots of beans and rice. In the new house, the lady is cooking a few American meals here and there.

The work is still going forward. We are trying to contact a lot and use the recent converts and less actives to get references. The ward is really good, but it is just so big we are still adjusting. We have about 4 new investigators with baptism dates and we are teaching a bunch more. Hopefully, we will be able to start baptizing this next week.

So something I am working on this week has been trying to be more outgoing and fearless in sharing the gospel. Many people have noted my reservation at times and have labeled me as a newbie because of it. I want to be just as outgoing and effective as other missionaries so I am trying to improve in this area. I don't want people to know I am new.

I have really started to trust the Lord to help me reach my goals. I have to put forth my effort and do what He wants, but he pulls through to help me. I am so grateful to serve here in Nicaragua. I am learning every day more why I am here. My love for the people and for the mission is growing as well.

Cultural Differences

So people burn just about anything...just about anywhere. I think I have inhaled some potentially cancerous substances (just kidding).
I don't know if I mentioned the carts in the last email...not enough could be said about them.
I ate coconut for the first time...the real way. There are so many fruits here.

I know this church is true and that this is the Lord{s work. I love hearing about the family and it sounds like everything is going well. Thanks for your prayers and thoughts and I can testify that I feel them across the miles. Don't forget to preach the gospel. It is really what we are here to do. Thanks for the pictures Joy and I will write you next week. Continue to send my letters on to the friends and family and tell them all that I love them! Que les vaya bien

Elder Russell