Monday, March 29, 2010

A few might seem........week 46

Where to start! I think that I might just say that since the last time i wrote a LOT has happened. First off, I am now in Managua. I am serving as the new zone leader of Las Palmas, the ward that meets in the oldest church building of all of Nicaragua. It has been quite the change in climate, both literally and spiritually this week. But it has been a good change.

So they called me Tuesday night to say I had changes and I wasn't super surprised. I felt like I had changes even though I didn't want to admit it. It was hard to say goodbye to so many of the Matagalpans. Many will be eternal friends. I cried a little and when tears streamed down the faces of a few, I felt a little bit like Paul. I will always remember the faith of those poor members of Matagalpa that sacrifice so much for the work of the Lord.

My new companion is Elder Aroche, also from Guatemala. He is my third from Guatemala in a row ha ha. Basically all the missionaries are from there here though. He has 14 months in the mission and we work well together because we can both teach and there is a lot more unity in the companionship. I hope to have time with him. it is quite the change after training.

This last Saturday we had two baptisms to finish off the month and the baptismal service went really well. Many people from the ward arrived and one of the baptisms was touched by the service. Sunday was a super spiritual day. We are being blessed like none other. During the week we had been working to invite families to church. We visited with one man named Luis and he is super excited about the church. He had already gone two times to church but his wife hadn't visited. When he shared with us how they had had some problems in their marriage we left them a video to watch. Figure that we had put the goal to give out two videos that day and the Lord blessed us to complete that goal. When we arrived on Sunday morning we saw something that you could call a miracle. More than an hour before church we arrived at the house and we said "buenas" as usual but to our surprise the little boy answered the door. He was all dressed up and I thought suddenly...创shoot, they are going to her church.创 Then in the background we saw the mom and dad and other little girl all ready and spiffy for church. I was super happy ha ha. They said that they were going to go to church and when we arrived there they were, waiting for us.

Elder Aroche and Elder Russell

It was a powerful meeting. I was given the last talk and I talked about how if we love the Lord we will feed His sheep. Then I related how the lamentation that sheep really need is the living water and bread of life that the gospel bring. I talked about how many people have been blessed here in Nicaragua from this message and how if we love the Lord we will feed the sheep and share the gospel message with everyone.

We had several powerful lessons with my companion this week and in one lesson we made a plan for a family so that they could understand the importance of the Book of Mormon. We talked about how in the Bible the truth had made people free. We compared it to the Book of Mormon and how many had been made free in the same way and how together the two books today help us to break the bonds of spiritually slavery and be free. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and I am so glad that God has given us the way to be free and sure in this day and age.

I know that this is His church. It really is true. I give thanks to Him for His trust and His bounteous blessings and opportunities.

Elder Grant Russell

PS-hey by the way...Elder Palacios says hi to Troy. He served in the same mission at the same time and says that Troy was a super sweet missionary that knew a whole bunch about the Bible haha. It made me proud to here about my brother. He is now married and has a little girl.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Greatest Service ever!.......week 45

This week was super crazy! I only spent like 2 days in my area because I was always helping out in the other areas of my district. But it turned out to be a very successful week for everyone! I am satisfied and grateful for the blessings that my Heavenly Father gives me on a daily basis.

We are really reaping the harvest right now.

We had a baptism this week! Aracely was baptized with much excitement from everyone! We had a good turnout at the baptism too and a whole bunch of Relief Society members came to support her. She is completing a family and it was a pleasure to help her in this process. But the baptisms we had this week weren’t all so perfect or easy to carry out.

You know how it is when we are about to have a big accomplishment in the Kingdom of God, Satan fights with everything so that it doesn’t happen. The water ran out in the baptisms Saturday and Elders from my district couldn’t fill the font. We had to revert to filling trashcans from an outside sprinkler. But even that didn’t work well. They ended up baptizing a guy, not kneeling but sitting. He was in about a foot of water and had to literally lay down to be completely submerged. That is what I call not giving up!

The president visited us for interviews this week and it was a super spiritual experience. I felt the spirit strongly witness that I was okay and that the Lord was happy with my progress. He talked about how God really does love us and how He not only weeps for our sins but for our future suffering.

We had so many lessons this week that the spirit was so strong. I am trying to use the Book of Mormon more in my teaching. It is such a powerful tool! I know with all of my heart that it is true! With one family we bore solemn testimony and they were listening so intently that we were all edified. At one point in the lesson the lights went out in the house and we used it as an example of how the darkness of the apostasy is clearly in contrast with the bright light of the restoration. I know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God and that through him we received the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth. Thomas S. Monson leads today with the due authority and powers to give us the keys to enter in the kingdom of Heaven.

Reading my brothers mission announcement gives me such joy. I feel such a love for fellow missionaries that they become brothers to me. To have one of my blood brothers serving in the same work, in the same language, will bring me such strength. May he go forth with the message in his heart and preach to every creature the truthfulness of the work. I know it is true.
Called to serve Him, Heavenly King of Glory! What a blessing! What a calling! What a responsibility! There is nothing greater, more noble, and more satisfying than this work!

Elder Grant Russell

Baptism of Aracely

More Adventures in Nicaragua

Monday, March 15, 2010

Such Great Faith........week 44

Such faith I have never seen in my whole life! If you were to see what I have seen you would probably cry. I did…

In Nicaragua the people are very poor. They don’t have anything. If they have food they are happy. Even without it they are happy. It is heartbreaking. Moises Gutierrez is the first counselor in the Branch Presidency and his wife is the Primary President. They just completed 2 years as members. They are sealed in the temple. They help us out a lot. Let´s just say that they are willing to drop all they have and to help us out at whatever hour. They visit with us, walking approximately 2 km in the heat up hill to visit other poor families. That is humility. They do all of this not having work. He has months without a job. He has even worked 20 hours shifts overnight as a security guard to provide for his family. He frequently goes without food so that his family can eat.

Yesterday it seems the stress of all of their difficulties and trials despite their devoted service wore down on his wife. She didn´t wanted to come to church because she felt bad. So Moises went alone and was there for 12 hours and didn´t eat Breakfast, lunch, Dinner. When he called us at 8pm to ask if we could lend him a phone call so he could stay in the church building over night at the request of the President without prospects to eat, we found him in the street and we asked him how he was. He said fine but we inquired further. Then he explained to us how hard it had been for him to continue in the faith without murmuring and fighting with his wife, he being ex military. We all cried. Then he went off in the night. The visit impacted me. I have never seen such faith. He is a living and breathing pioneer here in Nicaragua, one of the many. Never a murmur…never even a tear, until last night. I feel honored to even know him.

I thought about all the things that have happened in my mission and how many times I might have complained about something. My thoughts shifted from me to others on the way home. As we sat down to eat we offered a sincere prayer for what we had in front of us. I didn´t feel like eating. How many times I had eaten with ungratefulness in my heart. I think I will always remember this experience.

Appreciate all that you have. We are so blessed. When the greatest challenge in your life is to eat every day it kind of puts things in perspective. These types of experiences are only experienced in the mission. I feel so grateful to the Lord for blessing me with examples of faith and love all around me. I will try to have that kind of faith. In moments like these you can’t help but feel the love of Christ pour out of your soul. It emanates.

Please pray for Arecely and Kelvin, a pair that is having troubles. She is preparing for baptism this week. Also keep in your prayers the members here in Nicaragua. Thanks for everything. I love you all. It makes me so happy to hear about the success that everyone is having. Let your hearts be full of gratitude and may you have the desires to serve God until the end!

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reasons to Rejoice........week 43

Well it is really exciting to hear that Sean is getting his call. I will guess next week where he is going after a long week of meditation. Cough, cough. Guatemala, Retauleo.

This week was a great one for meditation. On Wednesday we had a meeting with president Fraatz and Elder Martino from the Area Presidency. I felt so many spiritual promptings it was like a spiritual thanksgiving. I really loved how they talked about Alma and his struggles in the book of Mormon. He was very depressed when he was about to turn away from the wicked city. But then an angel appeared unto him and told him that he had a reason to rejoice, that he had never ceased to keep the commandments and that he would blessed for his service. He returned and found Amulek and they had much success in their labors. As they cited these versus the spirit hit me in a powerful way and I felt as if the Lord spake to me in that moment. I knew that He was happy with what I had been doing that I shouldn´t be sad but rather rejoice.

Elder Martino talked about how the hardest times in our mission teach us more about ourselves and so they are blessings for us. I pondered over that and I think it applies to not only hard companions but to hard areas too. I thought about all that I had been experiencing in the last few months and how I had changed. I knew it was true. I had changed more and learned more about my weaknesses in this area than in any other. I thanked the Lord for teaching me so much about myself. I realized that I had come closer to Him in this time. As I walked in a pitch black, dirt path for 3 miles with another missionary we talked about how in this time we had both been able to receive spiritual experiences and strengthened testimonies. In that moment of darkness I felt like I finally understood what was happening. The Lord´s wisdom came to light in the darkness.

Several times this week we had strong testimony building experiences. Many people are stubborn and hard hearted here and it gives me even more chances to bear fervent testimony and I am so grateful for that experience. When someone said that I was wrong and that I had mistaken a spiritual witness of God as a self invented pleasure, I looked them in the eye and testified with all my soul.

I know that God lives! I know that the Book of Mormon is true! It is so simple but so true. There is so much reason to rejoice these days. We can never turn back. We have to move forward.

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, March 1, 2010

Central American Stake Conference........week 42

We worked like crazy this week trying to prepare a few investigators for baptism but they all at the last minute couldn´t do it. We are hoping for a baptism or two this weekend. We had a super awesome conference this weekend via satellite with Elder Eyring and Christofferson. They are very powerful. It was broadcast to all of Central America. The neat thing was to see how the Lord is inspiring the leaders across the board. What they taught is exactly what we are trying to do in the mission right now.

This week I had several baptismal interviews for the other missionaries in their areas. I had to go to Jinotega in the nighttime and I had to sleep in the church building with the first counselor accompanying me. It was a funny experience. It will be one of those things that I tell to my kids. As I was riding back to my area in the back of a pickup this week hitchhiking, my water bottle fell out of my backpack. I wouldn’t have worried about it too much but it is a purifying water bottle. So I decided to go look for it. Naturally, someone had already picked it up because everyone is in the street here in Nicaragua. So I started asking around and eventually they told me that the pastor’s son had picked it up. So we went in search of the pastor. Then we found the family and we began talking and eventually they gave us the water bottle. It was a pretty funny lesson to me about how if we really want things and put our mind and soul into it, we will achieve them. We just have to have faith that we can achieve them.

We are getting along pretty well as companions and I am trying to help my companion feel more comfortable in the mission. The mission is really the greatest thing on earth. It has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows because when people decide to not listen to the gospel they are not only losing their blessings in this life but in the life to come. But when a soul repents great is the joy in the heavens. I am trying to work on the repentance thing myself. I think here in the mission I feel the spirit working on me harder than ever to refine me and burn out the impurities. The scriptures teach us about how the natural man can be molded and shaped like clay in the master’s hand. But after many years of bad habits and customs, my harden and cracked clay needs a renovation. Luckily for me and for all of us, we have the atonement that finds even the vilest of sinners within its limits to save. I testify of the love of the Savior and of His infinite mercy and forgiveness. I know that He can help each and everyone of us to be better.

I was particularly impressed by what one of the speakers said on Sunday. He talked about how in Noah´s family was saved from the iniquity of the world through true conversion. Then he made the comparison of what we needed to do in our families to have similar protection against the storms today. Noah in Spanish is written as Noe. He assigned a word for each letter of his name. N…noches de hogar (family home evening) O…oraciones (prayers) E…escrituras (scriptures). It was simple but powerful and our investigator loved the message.
It is through the small things in our life that we have the changes that make a difference. It is in the small things like that that God can make the refining changes in our lives.

Elder Grant Russell

The Lord has definitely tried my patience this week! I was on the computer this week trying to fix something with my USB and I lost all of my photos from the whole mission because it got infected and then deleted by an antivirus program. Gaahhhh!! The only good thing is that I had at least some of them saved on my SD cards still. I thought I had saved my photos on the CD but I apparently hadn't. Mom, don't delete any of the photos that I have sent you. They might be the only photos from that time period that I have. I hope to have retained at least the half of them. I don’t know. I think I lost all the photos for the first 2 months including the MTC and about half the photos from then on. Yeah it is painful. I hope that the Lord will give my patience right now as I struggle to accept that many memories have just slipped away.My consolation is that even though the photos are gone the change in the peoples lives still remains firm. That is really all that matters.