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