Monday, February 22, 2010

Visit from Elder Clayton........week 41

So family it has been a great week for us here in Matagalpa. We have felt the blessings of the Lord as we have worked with our investigators. We are seeing the fruits of diligent efforts to teach the investigators. We have begun to see the seedlings of testimonies flourish and it is just miraculous.

We met with a young catholic woman this week that we have been teaching for more than 2 months. In Nicaragua many missionaries don’t stick with investigators for more than a few weeks if they don’t go to church but I just have felt that she will progress from the beginning. We talked about her reading of the Book of Mormon and she told us of how she felt. She said that it was great and that she felt good reading it. We asked her if she had prayed about it and our visits and then we simply asked her if she believed that what we had been teaching was true. Her response, if I didn’t think it was true I wouldn’t have received you! The spirit filled the room as we talked about how her response was a sure one and that she was beginning a path and journey that would be difficult but worthwhile. We asked her if she understood what her answer really meant. She said she would have to make some serious changes in her life. We talked about how Peter and Andrew had to make a critical decision in their life when Christ invited them to leave their boats and nets and families. We invited her to be baptized and she accepted and the spirit was so strong. She understood and we were all edified and rejoiced one with another.

Another great thing happened this week. A man named Yader came to church for the first time and he loved it. He has been reading the Book of Mormon and will get baptized but he just wants to know a lot before he is baptized. We are trying to focus our teaching in the long term Nicaragua.

This week Elder Clayton of the presidency of the seventy came to see us and he gave us a bunch of helpful council. I really liked how he talked about thinking about how Nicaragua should be in 10 or 20 years because how we teach and baptize right now will make the difference in years to come. He congratulated us for our success in baptizing and in splitting the mission but committed us to work with more fervor. I thought about his words and I am committed to give a little bit more. At one point in the meeting with the leaders in the mission, he put his hands on my shoulders for like a whole minute. I was a little bit nervous. He talked about repentance and giving all of our heart to God. I really loved his comments. It was cool to be in the presence of a man that gets to meet with the prophet on a weekly basis. He really knows it. I know it too. My testimony is growing every day. The spirit just fills my being and my understanding of the gospel plan and of God gives me a greater appreciation for His wisdom and mercy. I truly stand all amazed at what he proffers me. I know that He lives.

Elder Russell

Monday, February 15, 2010

I am on the Lord's side........week 40

Well that is a pretty sweet way of spending Valentines day! What a deal that was! It makes me happy to know that all are well and that they are having the time of their lives in their respective places.

This week has been another week of huge changes for me! First off, we had changes and my companion Elder Polanco left. My new companion is Elder Escobar from Guatemala. He has a whole 5 days in the mission ha ha. We are learning together I guess. I now have a great responsibility to help this Elder as he makes the adjustments needed to be an effective tool in the Lords hand.

We had several difficult experiences this week. We continue to find positive people but our problem right now seems to be in getting them to church. We have several very strong influences from other religions in our area and many people aren’t too open to going to another church. Some are reading the Book of Mormon and feel that it is true so that is a huge step in the right direction. At the same time we had some unfortunate encounters this week. For example, we had a very positive investigating lady almost drop the lessons because we came to visit her at a time we hadn’t designated. I just stopped by to see how she was doing and she freaked out. But we calmed her down and we are going by tonight. I pray that the spirit will soften her heart tonight so that she doesn’t turn us away.

We also figured out who the new presidents will be in the missions in June this week. One is from Guatemala and the other is from Costa Rica. It will be interesting to see what kinds of changes they make in Nicaragua when they get here.

This morning we were talking as a zone about the different problems that other religions have and how much apostasy they have in their doctrines and I sat back and realized how grateful I was for the restored church today that gives us the fullness of the gospel and in beautiful simplicity. I know that the church is true! I can feel it every waking moment and I know that what we do is worth the effort. I feel like such a weak instrument in His hands and when I have success I know that it isn’t me. I was particularly impressed today as I was studying in John 3. I was reading about how John the Baptist humbly submitted his calling to the Lord acknowledging with all his heart that the Lord had a greater calling and authority. Even though he had many disciples and followers, not even an ounce of pride entered his heart and he wasn’t jealous of how his disciples left his side for the side of the Greater One. He too was on His side.

I want to be on His side. I am on the Lords side and I know that He is my strength. I love Him. Please remember what He has done for you. I love you all and thanks for always supporting me.

Elder Grant Russell

About the contacts, I think it would be best if you sent me the same prescription that I had before from Costco. The glasses that you sent me from Dr. England for some reason seem weird. I don’t know if the prescription is right.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Best NEWS in Nicaragua!........week 39

So family we had groundbreaking news come in this week! If mom has been on missionary moms I bet there will have been rumors there. The mission has been working hard and the Lord has set His sights on blessing the people here in Nicaragua in even greater ways. Let’s just say that when President Fraatz leaves in June, we are going to have two new mission presidents!!! They are going to split the mission! Everyone here is pumped and excited. We are seeing historical times here in Nicaragua. A ton of new missionaries will be coming to Nicaragua in the next few changes to compensate for the opening of many areas and even zones. Imagine that! The Lord is going to be able to carry forth His message to even more corners of the earth, starting with Nicaragua. For example, this change 20 new people come. Next change come 40ish. Then even more are going to come to be trained in the new mission. They are going to have 2 groups of office elders and 2 presidents. We are all really excited to see what happens.

With this news, the entire mission has a hunger to obey the Lord and to work hard. I have been rejuvenated in my desire to serve. I want to be more obedient. This is a huge step toward having a temple here. They announced two new stakes in Nicaragua…one in Managua and one more, in Matagalpa. The Lord helped us complete the goal. Now we are just awaiting the final news but there should be a stake here in June or so. How exciting right? I feel so blessed to have been a part of something. But all the missionaries are doing there parts. There are elders that are baptizing by the dozens and it is just so cool to see the hand of the Lord in the work.

This week we had so many spiritual experiences in finding people. The people here in Nicaragua are prepared. For example, we found a lady last night that was so interested she almost cried. She told us about the questions and doubts she had had in her religion and how she had asked her Father in Heaven to guide her in her search for the true church. That is pretty amazing because in Nicaragua the majority of the people think that you can assist any church if you just obey the commandments. But we told her about the book of Mormon and now we are going to see how she accepts her answer from the lord.

Well, I am happy to hear the family is doing well. May God bless you all. I know the letter is short but I plan on sending a few photos to compensate. Take care. Work hard. And dad (and mom), if you go to Europe, take good pictures haha! That is so cool!

Elder Grant Russell

P.S. thanks for the news about doing the blog. I really like that idea. Try to post on my facebook the direction so my friends and family can see it. I am going to need contacts in my next box I think. Just an update.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Spiritual Boost........week 38

Well that was quite the list of changes that have happened in the last week! I feel like the world back home is at a stand still. It will be interesting to see how life back home really changed when the time comes…

Thanks to you all for your support! I love to hear from you and feel your prayers. You would be surprised the difficulties we face as missionaries but their is a consolation prize: the whole church is praying for you! I feel like we are at a breaking point in the mission. We are seeing historical steps toward what could be a very different future for the saints here in Nicaragua. We are talking about possible division of the mission, new mission president, a few new stakes and maybe even a temple announced here. It is a great time to be a missionary and an even better time to be a missionary here in Nicaragua.

I was talking with a missionary this week about how beautiful the mission is. I talked to him about his recent converts and baptisms, the wonderful spiritual experiences we have, and the opportunities to serve. Frequently, the stress and pace of the mission carry us like the tide: we don't realize that we are making progress until we see the surroundings. However, we try to enjoy the ride….find joy in the journey as President Monson counseled.

This week we were blessed in miraculous ways. Perhaps we had lost a little bit of the focus in our zone because with visiting general authorities and a future stake on the horizon we had put all of our efforts in the church attendance and retention. I had basically stopped teaching investigators and it was taking a toll on my spirits. It is hard not to teach as a missionary. But as we changed our focus, we have seen how the Lord has blessed us. We found more positive people this week than in all of last month. I think the Lord was holding off the blessings until He was sure that we were going to treat them well.

But the good experiences of finding new families always have their opposites. Several people who had previously shown interest began to reject the message. That is perhaps the saddest moment as a missionary: to drop an investigator. One woman, for example, is the mother of two recent converts. Even after reading a part of the Book of Mormon she decided that we had tricked her children and that if they had just been more careful when the kids received the missionaries, the daughter and son wouldn´t have “been lost”. That can be quite the sting to the ear and spirit.

But we have heard great news about the district. The mission president is happy and the area authorities are sending the papers to see if Matagalpa can become a stake. I have faith that the Lord will see these good people and want to bless them. But the work hasn´t stopped. There is much to do still.

I have felt a special missionary spirit enter my work this week. I feel more at home. I feel more comfortable. I want to be here. You couldn´t even ask me to leave right now. I still miss you all but when I think of the future of the church here and how many people I have to help still, I can´t even budge. I love the people here. There is a special place in my heart for them. In some ways, I have asked myself “Why was I sent here to this mission in this time?” Then I think of how I have changed and the people I have met and the skills I have learned and I know why.

I love the Lord. I know He lives. May His kingdom go forth unto every nation and into the hearts of every child.

Elder Grant Russell