Monday, September 28, 2009

Marriage and a Baptism: A Great Combination ........week 20

I would like to announce....the New Sanchez Family

Buenas from Nicaragua

Wow! Well it seems like Medford had an exciting week…sheesh! I am glad that everyone was protected and that no one was hurt in the fire. The pictures were cool too mom! Thanks for sending them.

So everything is good at home. That is really a relief. I realize every day more and more how blessed we are in the United States to have such comforts. The people here mainly worry about food for the next day here in Nicaragua, so it puts everything in perspective. Everything is different for me now.

This week has been a great one! As you will be able to tell from the pictures, we were able to baptize again this week. The Sanchez family accepted fully the góspel and each member is being blessed for the faithfulness of the parents and eldest daughter. I really have enjoyed teaching this family. They come from humble circumstances. He doesn't have a job and hasn't had one for some time. The mother cares daily for 6 children under the age of 9 and many times she does it solo while he goes out in search for work. It is very humbling. When we began teaching the family, they accepted the message with such faith. They loved the way that we took everything so seriously. As the time progressed we learned that they would lose their home as well due to the fact that the owners mother was going to return. Homeless, jobless, but with faith to move mountains this family was baptized and I was able to witness it all. They have a room with the grandma so everything will be alright but it will still be hard. The father received the priesthood yesterday and it was so nice.

A Great day!

The other part of the story isn't so well known…how the family first came to meet a member. I have told you many times about Brother Robles, the recent convert four months that has the God given desire to share the góspel to the ends of the earth. He walks around with his Book of Mormon until someone asks him about it. Because of his diligence and faith, already some 6 or 7 people have been baptized. Imagine that! A recent convert has done so much. He was sitting in the Mayors office one afternoon when he began to read the Book of Mormon and Zaineyda Banega, of the Sanchez family, asked about the book. He gave his 5 minute introduction to the church with his testimony and invited her to visit with the missionaries. She accepted the invitation and we visited with her a few days later. Brother Robles was present at the baptism Saturday and such joy showed upon his countenance that day. It was the joy and love that God promises to those who labor all of their days and bring save it be one soul unto him. But he has helped more than just one soul…

I frequently forget in the daily scramble how blessed I really am as a missionary. I have so many experiences every day that I sometimes even forget them. I am trying to repent and be more grateful for what I have always. I just finished writing a letter to my friend who is serving in Washington and I realize that we have the great privilege of baptizing in Nicaragua. Many don't have such blessings.

If there were two things I could ask right now of all of you, they are that you remember always with gratitude the goodness of the Lord in your lives. God gives us so much. He gave us His son. He gives us houses, families, food, comforts, etc. If he is disappointed with us, it is because we are ungrateful. The other thing I would ask is that you share the góspel as members with testimonies to everyone around you. Maybe not everyone is comfortable carrying a Book of Mormon round everywhere. The USA is different than Nicaragua. But there are many things that we can do to invite our families, neighbors, and friends to enjoy the blessings that we receive every day. Open your mouth. Talk about the church. Bear your testimony. Pray for missionary opportunities and then open your eyes so that you see them when they come.

I know that this is the true church of Christ and that He loves us. I know that he leads this church through a living prophet and I look forward to hearing His words and the words of the apostles this weekend. May God always bless you. Listen this weekend and you will hear the words of God.

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stake Conference and Craziness........week 19

Wow it sounds like everything is going so well at home. Thanks everyone for your updates and thoughts on my behalf.

Everything is great here! We are really seeing the hand of the Lord in the work and I know He is directing us in our daily efforts. I am being obedient to the rules and striving to have the company of His Holy Spirit every day. I can testify that the Spirit really can accompany us always for I can feel the whisperings of the spirit throughout the day. May we always yearn and seek His spirit. Life is lonely without it.

This week we focused our efforts on our baptisms and we prepared and baptized 5 this week! It was really exciting but stressful too. We had so many people to help that sometimes it was overwhelming. I find that the stress in the mission is different than any other that I have experienced before because I cant always control what will happen. Stress in school, etc is contrable because you can just work harder and give up some things to make the grade, but in the mission, the investigators have their agency and that can create some problems for us. But we helped each person and answered their questions and doubts so that they could feel comfortable with the baptism.

Pablo and his son Steven were baptized and Pablo was married the same day too. He had so many struggles in his teaching but always exercised the faith to move on. Truly the following quote is true:

Faith is the power, Obedience is the Price, Love is the motive, the spirit is the key and Christ is the reason. I have seen this in my life.

I have a whole bunch of photos but I will send them next week. We also were able to locate, talk to, and baptize Auxiliadora who was scheduled to be baptized last week. She is a simple woman without much education. She cant read or write and has many challenges in her life. But I will never forget what she said as we left the baptism Saturday: Thank you for all you have done for me. Thank you. I feel so happy! The greatest blessing a missionary can have is the gratitude of an investigator and to see their desire to serve in the church and be faithful to the end.
Along with Pablo, Steven, and Auxiliadora, Marioni and Sidney were baptized this week. They are Nieces of Sister Maria Elena, who is probably one of the best member missionaries I have ever seen. They have simple testimonies but they desire to change and I pray that they will be able to continue in the faith.

This week we also had Stake Conference. It was kind of crazy because we had to confirm all of the 5 baptisms after the conference, but we were able to get it all done. The speakers touched on some points that are really important. I really liked a talk given by the first counselor in the stake presidency. He told a story about Japanese culture. The people of Japan like eat their fish fresh but in recent years, they haven't been able to locate as many fish. They began to artificially put fish in ponds and tanks for the people toe at but over time the people complained that the flavor wasn't the same. Perhaps because the fish were protected and somewhat lazy the taste was lost over time. To solve this problem, the people placed a few sharks in the cages and the taste was recovered.

He explained that many times God places trials in our life so that we can remain spiritually alive and strong. That we are always better when we are humble amidst trials is a fact of life. I find that as a missionary, I constantly have trials and struggles with my companion, investigators, members, etc but that it is in the trials that I learn and grow.

I am at a time in the mission where I don't feel new but I don't feel old either. I have Little experience but Satan still Works hard so that I don't accomplish what I have been sent here to do. It is in these times that we must pray harder, more fervently and read the scriptures with more faith. I am so grateful for the mission and for the things I am learning. I know the church is true and that God really does love all of us.

As I lifted each of those baptisms out of the wáter Saturday, I felt the love of God around me and I knew that I was doing His work. I am so grateful for that opportunity.
May God bless you and guide you in all that you do.

Elder Grant Russell

P.S. We only get packages the week of changes or the first week(in two weeks) and the weeks of Multi Zone Conferences (usually the second week). The packages usually take 2 weeks from what I have Heard so if it is in the mail right now I should get it the week of changes. Thanks by the way and I look forward to it!

PPS Please say to the family for me and thanks to all who have written and I promise to write next week. I was just a Little stretched for time today.

PPPS My companion is from Nueva Luarca Ward which is right next to the airport in the capital.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Obedience and Love........week 18

Holy Cow!

Landon and Tyler are growing so fast. I don't think I am going to recognize them when I get back home. Thanks for sending me the photos though. It really helps me to see pictures. The cake looked awesome by the way! It makes me so happy to see that the family is doing well, both at home in all the parts of the US. I am doing well in Nicaragua.

This week was interesting for me as I continue to adjust to my companion and the struggles and challenges that I have each day. I have found that one of the hardest parts of the mission is just getting along with everyone. My companion yesterday spent about thirty minutes telling me about all the different types of missionaries he has met and struggles he has had with each one. I try to learn what I can from him, retaining the good and rejecting the bad. I find that every missionary has his strengths and weaknesses, even after 22 months in the mission. I hope to be able to overcome my many weaknesses and do so in the manner and in the timely manner that God expects.

The stress of being a missionary is huge. Every day we have about a billion things to do and remember and people always looking over us to tell us when we need to improve. I had several of those instances this week. Every day I realize I have more to improve and more to do. I just keep on going, waking up every morning with the prayer in my heart that God will guide my path and bless me with everything I need to be His servant. It is really a great experience.
We had a scheduled baptism for this week but it didn't happen. We gave the responsibility of passing for the baptism to be to a member in the Ward. She passed by the house of the person and waited several hours but the woman didn't return from work until 5pm and the baptism was scheduled for 4pm with about a 1.5 hour travel time to the building. So we waited there for 2 hours and then left a Little bit disappointed that it didn't all happen as planned. She didn't return the next day either in time for a baptism and so we will have to do it next week.

But on the positive side, we have been working with some really positive families and they are progressing really well. We have been trying to work more with references since they have a tendency to progress more than contacts, etc. We are teaching about 4 families and two families came to church this week and enjoyed the meeting. I spoke in church (my first time in Nicaragua with a talk in Sacrament meeting) about Missionary Work. It was a pretty simple topic seeing as I do it every day. But it was a nice experience. I was told that it was powerful. I shared the experience of Grandma and Grandpa Turner and how through the example and diligence of the missionaries, my life and many others have been changed. I really am grateful for the blessings that I receive every day. Like I said, the mission is hard but it is definitely worth it. And it passes so fast! I already have 4 months in the mission…and I have so much to learn.

I am learning that obedience in the mission (and in life) is extremely important. It really is the first law of heaven. When we obey the mission rules and commandments, we are blessed with the spirit and it is only with the spirit that one can truly be happy. All members that are keeping their covenants can testify that their lives are happier when they are doing so than when they are not keeping the commandments. Truly, wickedness never was happiness.

As missionaries, our main purpose is to invite all to come unto Christ so that they can receive the góspel and a remission of their sins there in. There are shouts for joy in the heavens when one soul repents and I can testify of that.

I know that the church is true and that God lives and loves His children with a love that can only be felt and experienced. There aren't words adequate to describe His love but the scriptures say His love great enough that He sent His only Begotten Son, that he sacrificed a God. That is love. That is true love.

May we always be grateful to our Father in Heaven for His love and may we show our love for Him by our obedience to his commandments. If ye love, keep my commandments. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your examples. Go forward with faith and I will do so as well. May God bless you this week, until we talk again.

Elder Grant Russell

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dirty water, Clean soul........week 17

Hey family

Well I am sorry I didn't get a letter off to you yesterday. We had a somewhat crazy Pday and didn't get a chance to write.

So as always this week has passed quickly and I can hardly believe it. We are already in week three of the change and I feel like I am still getting used to my companion. We had many great experiences this week and I will inform you of a few of them.

We had a baptism this week. Laura Izaguirres was baptized Friday and it was quite the experience. We arrived at the rental house where the Ward has church in Las Colinas and to our dismay, the pool that we had planned to use for the baptism was dirty. There were Little creatures (tadpools) and it was a green. It was kind of gross. But we weren't deterred. We decided to start to clean it, and a few hours later, the wáter looked good enough to enter. We left and came back for the baptism later that day and the wáter had become dirty again. We cleaned it again and began setting up for the baptism. In the end, it all went well. Brother Robles performed the baptism which made it extra special. I think I will always remember the image of that day: Brother Robles, a recent convert in his White baptismal suit standing in a murky pool, ready to baptize a daughter of God who he had helped invite into the waters of Baptism. It was an unforgettable experience. How one can leave dirty waters cleaner than when she entered is truly a miracle!

We have also been working with many members this past week to try and help them become active. In Nicaragua, the retention is still very low and the President is working hard so that we can retain and reactivate those who have been lost in strange paths. Our Ward has unusually high percentage in attendance but the Branch has a lot of work. Working with less active members is really special. Upon talking and sharing experiences with less actives, I have realized that many have only left the church because they had no friends, they began to have commitments, they had a question, or were offended. These small challenges can many times be resolved and they can once more enjoy the blessings of active worship.

As member missionaries, we must not only think about inviting nonmembers to hear about the church but also work with those who have only retired for a time. We know that Christ is willing to leave 99 sheep to search for one. How willing are we to do the same?

Anyway, the mission is great! I am learning a ton every day and I feel so inadequate as a missionary still but I am trying my best. When I see the difference in one persons life, it makes it worthwhile for me to be here.

It sounds like the family is doing great! I thank you all for your prayers and thoughts. Joy and Josh, I am excited that your lives are moving forward and that Josh is starting to work again. When we have faith, it always Works out. I smiled thinking about the family gathered around for Landon's birthday. Two years old! How fast the time has gone! Troy, I am tired too. Not to the same extent, but tired. We can both be tired together. I love ya man! Tyler, I bet the party was SaWEET and that a ton of friends came. If not, well we know how that goes and we still have fun. I hope everything is well with you and enjoy this last Senior year. Sean, well done. In the library until closing the first week. It brings tears to my eyes to know that my brother is warming my library seat for me. Keep it warm all year. But relax too. I found that if I worked hard all week long, including a good portion of Friday and Saturday, that my Saturday nights and Sundays were so much better and relaxing.

Mom, I thought about you today and I wondered how you had been feeling with the change in your life. I really appreciate your years of service as a mother and everything you have taught me. One many times doesn't remember the lessons because they weren't one time discourses but year long study courses. I really can see the difference that your teaching (and Dads) has made in my life. I am truly a product of your hard work as parents. Thank you, and I hope that I am not a negative externality ha ha.

Dad, your hard work and dedication in all that you do is a great example to me. Many people here have the false impression that Americans have it easy, that they don't work, live like movie stars and are lazy. I can always testify to them that not all are that way because of your example. Thank you. And about the Nostalgia, I am passing through it a Little bit too. I will miss sitting next to you this year again.

Well the time has come again, and I will say my good byes. Always remember that God loves you and watches over you. He is ready to help us and has blessings ready. It depends in us if we are going to receive the blessings. May you feel the spirit guiding you every day is my prayer.
Elder Grant Russell

PS lay your hands off my brownies…

Laura Izaguirres' Baptism by Brother Robles