Monday, May 31, 2010

A Marvelous Work is Coming Forth among the Children of Men!........week 55

It is hard to express adequately the feelings that I have had this week. Gratitude is about the only word that fits well. I just feel very grateful.

Have you ever sat back to just think about life and how wonderful it all is?! I am having the time of my life here that I can hardly believe how many miracles I see daily. I will try to tell you about the miracles that I had this week.

We planned an activity this week for matrimony's and couples who are investigating the church. We had an activity, wedding, cake, dance and all. It was a mission activity. Even though I was way stressed out about it, it turned out well. I felt that the activity helped me in many ways. I had one brief moment of revelation in which the Lord let me know why these types of things happen in the mission. As I thought about how much our Heavenly Father has to do and plan and how wonderfully it all comes out, I appreciated His wisdom. In few words, I realized that the small things that the Lord requires of us are like on the job training.

We had two more baptisms this week. We are really excited! Marwell is 17 (almost 18) year old boy that is going to be a great missionary next year I think. We found him only 3 weeks ago and he is already progressing like crazy. He got baptized Wednesday night. He had this huge grin on his face as he came out of the water. He was just ecstatic. On Sunday we passed by his house at 8 am to wake him up and make sure he got confirmed at 10 am. But when we went by at 9:30 am to go to church with him, his family said that he had already left about an hour before. I thought, ´´are you serious?´´ but when we called the bishop he said that sure enough Marwell was at church….more than an hour before due to his enthusiasm. It felt good to see such faith.

The next story comes from the other confirmation. Yelba is 56 years old but due to her struggling health condition she appears to be almost 70. She was baptized Saturday. Sunday morning brought further blessings because I realized much more about my own progress than hers. She had to go to a clinic to get some blood work done and when they told us about the situation it seemed like she wouldn’t be arriving at church on time, or even that day. But as they told me of the situation, for the first time in my life I felt a peace and faith enter my body. I just knew it would be alright. I don’t know how to explain it. I just was sure even though it seemed impossible. We asked where she was. The daughter didn´t remember. She gave us an address and we went to look for her. 2 hours and 10 clinics later we found ourselves at the front door of her house and she still hadn´t returned. We didn´t find her. Even then I didn´t doubt. It would be alright. We looked for a few investigators and it turns out that 5 minutes before the hour, a member called us to tell us that he was on his way with her in hand and that she was going to be confirmed. It was nothing short of a miracle. I felt like because we had done our part, the Lord had done His part. For the first time in my life, I had experienced the type of faith that is described in Hebrews 11…a surety, a conviction. I just knew it the whole time even though I didn´t see it. That was really cool and very humbling.

Next comes from the meeting with the whole mission that we had. This month was the BEST month the mission has ever had since President Fraatz has been here. We baptized 621 people this month in Nicaragua and 105 families. That is a miracle! It was a month of miracles and faith! I was so happy to have been a part of it! From what the President said today in the meeting, the Quorum of the Twelve are interested about hearing of our success and have even asked for a video of the families that have been baptized. The Lord has His eyes on Nicaragua and the apostles of the Lord are very happy with what is happening. I just feel grateful.

A wonderful work is about to forth among the children of men! Let us with faith work and do what the Lord asks. So many people are waiting. Let´s thrust with all of our might and lift wherever we may stand. Then we will see miracles. I still believe the Lord works miracles, even daily!

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, May 24, 2010

Disappointments before the Blessings........week 54

How´s life in Nicaragua? Just great, thanks for asking! A little wet for sure but that happens when it rains.

This week I had several experiences that have strengthened my faith. I am now going to share with the story of the Rocha family.

About 2 or 3 years ago, Igor Castro was baptized in the church and after a few years of dedicated service to the Lord he left on his mission. In December of last year he entered the Guatemala North mission. Little did he know that for his hard work and dedication, he would bring blessings to all of his family. When a member told us about Igor about a month ago and how his family wasn´t member, it struck a chord. I knew we had to visit them. I knew that the Lord had a way of blessing missionaries´ families while they serve and so I thought, "lets start there..."

So from the start of our visits they were positive. They received us with open arms and we pried the door open convincing them that it would be worthwhile to at least know what Igor was teaching. Alba, Kenia, Ablita, and Miguel were attentive and always quick to answer the questions we threw at them. When we put a goal for baptism in the first week, all were very doubtful but they accepted reluctantly knowing that if they weren't prepared, they would back out. But we kept on teaching. We started with the Restoration and the kids were super smart. They remembered everything and they even read the scriptures with us. Kenia always listened but I knew she would be a little harder to teach from the start. She was Catholic and liked it.

We taught about the Book of Mormon and we found it to be a huge help in their conversion. Day after day in our lessons we taught from it and they all began to gain a testimony of its precepts. I felt the spirit witness of the truthfulness of the book every time we taught.

As the baptismal date approached we began to see that Kenia and Albita weren´t willing. Albita wanted to do whatever Kenia did...but Kenia wanted more time. We watched the Restoration film. We read Alma 32 together and I felt the spirit teach me in the lessons. I felt like an instrument in His hands. Thursday arrived and the interviews were done. Only Alba the mom and the young son Miguel wanted to be baptized. I got a little disanimated. But I accepted the response.

But when we went Friday, we went with the intention that Kenia and Albita were going to be baptized. We went with a very strong member in the ward and when we arrived we could see the disappointment in Kenia´s eyes. she was a little sad. As he began to teach her, it felt as if I were seeing the very Savior convince His people. I realized the importance of having faith that the people can still accept the gospel even when it seems late. I had doubted. I realized that she could still do it. She accepted. She stood up and embraced her mother. I am going to be baptized. The spirit filled the room.

The next day brought great joy to me to see that family and many others enter the holy waters of baptism with joy on their faces to make covenants with the Lord. It was one of the happiest days of the mission for me. I think Igor will be very happy to see photos. The Lord is content. I can feel it.

We had the best attendance in Las Palmas this Sunday that the members have ever seen and I just feel this new energy in the members. It is amazing. I can just testify that the Lord helps us when we have faith in Him. He even surprises us.

I testify that this is His true church. He works miracle today and when we take a little time to realize how important a family is for Him, it brings a tear to my eye. We are only preparing these people dressed in white for other occasions to be dressed in white as well: the temple and the eternities.

May the Lord always bless you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your love and prayers. I always feel them. They lighten my burden and bear me up.

Elder Grant Russell

P.S. brownies in the package. and cookies. I bought contact solution but you can send more. I think I will need it in a few more months.

The Rocha Family...they are Great!

Monday, May 17, 2010

We get Lost in the Blessings........week 53

Many times we get lost in the work here in the mission. I am now finally beginning to realize why missionaries say that the mission time passes quickly. This week I hit my year mark and pondered over the change I have had in the last year. Along with that story about the shoes and the experiences they had, I too can add my list of experiences. They are so many that I can´t list them here, however, I am happy to say that I have kept a good journal of my experiences…things I will share for the eternities with my children.

I see the photos of Sean in the temple and oh how I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I had so many desires to serve the Lord but I had no idea what things I was about to experience. Sean, you don’t even know. But you will. Your mission will be personal and no one will be able to understand but you and the Lord. You are in this together, you and Him. Remember, with Him, all things are possible.

I am so grateful for the blessings of the Lord in my life and for all of your blessings too. I realize how much our Father in Heaven has put His hand in our life. Everyone is having success.

In the mission right now we are seeing miracles. Finally we have begun to see the fruits of our hard labors here in Managua. The people here have a lot of time hearing about the church…respectively speaking. The church building is the oldest in Nicaragua and so the old timers frequently talk about when they saw it in its construction and all. I am amazed at how the people are receiving the message right now. They, despite their 50 years of seeing missionaries in their streets still show interest. We had 10 baptisms in the zone last week and three families. It was a great week for Managua. This week we have more planned. I feel humbled by the blessings we receive when we are obedient.

This week we received a new mission rule after talking about sacrifice with the Mission President. We all decided to wake up at 5 am instead of at 6:30 am. That is quite the challenge for a missionary when he is busy all day long and arrives home super tired. But we were committed. So this week everyday we woke up early and left earlier in the morning to find more people to teach.

We found many positive people in the mornings. One day we found this super positive 16 year old boy that is very fluent in the scriptural language. He asked sincere questions and accepted a baptismal goal upon hearing the first lesson. A future missionary for sure. This all happened in the morning in the time that we wouldn´t have found him if we hadn’t been obedient. In the work of the Lord, there isn´t room for buts and whys. We just have to do it.

The Toruño family shared the second half of their little miracle the day the came to church with us for the first time a few months ago. They had left beans on the stove and when they realized in church the first hour what they had done, they knew it was a lost cause. Beans require a lot of work and attention. They dry up and burn if you don´t add water at every few minutes. They expected to return home and find nothing but burnt junk. They had nothing else in the house to eat and so they expect to have to face the hunger but when they opened the pot after more than three hours of neglect, they found savory and moist beans. The tastiest th

ey had ever had they said...a little tender mercy but a tender mercy that changes lives. Sister Toruño said it was impossible. But nothing is impossible for the Lord. Truly, we receive no witness until after the trial of our faith.

We are preparing people to get baptized for this weekend. I am just in awe at the blessings that the Lord pours over me. I live in the best time of life. I wake up and serve the Lord. Early even ha ha. And as I go to bed at night, I have an assurance that I am doing His work and not mine. He is directing us. I have learned by experience in the mission that we are angels carrying out an ministry that has eternal consequences. What a blessing. What a privilege.

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, May 10, 2010

El décimo de Mayo........week 52

Sorry but this letter is going to be very short...but we talked yesterday so that should be a good consolation prize ha ha.
Everything is good. The work is true. We had leadership training. We have put new goals. Take care. Talk next week.
Elder Grant Russell

Monday, May 3, 2010

Life. It's worth Smiling about........week 51

So I have been thinking a lot the last few weeks about future careers and my latest idea is Orthodontia. Yes, I have returned to the idea. I think it would be sweet to have a future clinic and run the business and make people smile. That is why my title is as such. I think it could be the future sign for the business. Life. Its worth smiling about.

Joy and Josh to the zoo. Tyler and Sean with new jobs. Troy, Dad, Mom, and Josh traveling…sounds like everyone has been busy, an eventful week indeed. Congrats Sean on the scholarship…keeping the Russell tradition alive always. Its hard to run the last leg of the race sometimes and you seem to always do it well.

I have had my fair share of experiences this week too. It was probably one of the most challenging and rewarding weeks of the mission because the Lord gave me serious moments to reflect and ponder. I always love those moments.

We finally said goodbye to the future missionaries from the coast on Tuesday and had a short time to work in the evening. I woke up excited Wednesday because I realized it would be a full day to work and serve the Lord but then they called us suddenly to invite all of the Latin missionaries in our zone to go to the dentist checks. My companion decided to go and so we made our way over there.

There I saw Chase Moffat as you already know. That was a little strange. Many days I forget there is another world outside Nicaragua just as before the mission it was hard for me to imagine a world outside the USA. But seeing him and giving him a hug brought back sudden memories from home. It was a nice quick visit. Of course, he was busy so we only talked about 3 minutes and took photos. But don’t worry, I am not trunky.

My companion proceeded to get his teeth checked by getting an Xray. We had joked about how he would have to get his wisdom tooth pulled, so when they started showing him his Xray I started to think it would be a reality. The situation became more serious. Suddenly they sent him back to surgery and he consulted with a doctor. They were worried by what the X ray was showing. After much consulting, they decided that he might have a cyst or something else in his left jaw that was making his bone very fragile and weak. Even though they wanted to take our the tooth, they didn’t feel comfortable doing it with that risk. If it were true, his jaw could break upon extracting the tooth. They sent him to another imaging center and there he received what seemed to be a confirmation of his situation. His jaw bone showed up as faint gray on the Xray instead of a solid white substance. As the doctors touched his jaw bone, faint pain grew into a dull throb and now his fear was becoming a reality.

In the course of the next 2 hours, my companion talked with about every surgeon and doctor there and even talked with the Mission President, Elder Martino from the Area Presidency. They were very worried about him. I sat in shock and I didn’t know what to think. Throughout the day, every doctor asked him, "how much time do you have in the mission?", "poor thing". He was heartbroken. Would he be sent home early? My companion took a few minutes in the bathroom and began to cry. I tried to console him. It was hard for me too.

He stayed with us Wednesday night and even valiantly worked Wednesday evening but Thursday he went to the office and to the doctors to see a few more tests. Thursday evening they informed us that his medical condition demanded further attention and that he would be leaving the country. We were all affected by the news. He is such a great missionary. How could this happen to him we thought?

We gave him a blessing that he would be able to accept the outcome as the Lords will and that he could use it as a way of improvement and progression. I feel like the blessing was powerful.

He kept good spirits about the whole thing. For two more days he worked with us and helped in the area and this morning he went to the office with the missionaries who have completed their two years. He goes to Guatemala tomorrow and will be there for two months or so resting with his family. We said goodbye this morning and it was the hardest goodbye I have had. He has been a great companion. I have learned a ton from him. I will miss him a lot. I pray that he will return.

We never know when something will happen to us. We never know. I think it helps you appreciate the little things in life when we have problems and challenges. In the end, this has been a huge blessing for him. Doctors told him that if someone were to have punched him or if he were to have fallen, his jaw would have shattered. This operation will reveal one of three possibilities… It is a virus that is eating away at his jaw and they will only have to clean it, they will have to put a plate in his jaw or he could have cancer. We pray that it be one of the first two, preferably the first. And the blessing? This operation will cost approximately 50,000 dollars and he would have never been able to do anything after the mission. By finding this problem in his missionary service, he has been blessing financially, spiritually. His family will be waiting for him and he will spend this mothers day home with his mom.

I am so grateful to the Lord for the things that He gives me and my family. Hearing about the blessings that everyone is receiving fills me with such joy. I know that these blessings are coming in part from my missionary service. I hope that you may all continue to keep the commandments. Live righteously. One day our day of probation will end. The way we leave depends entirely on the way we lived. I am trying my best to do the Lords work and I know that He blesses me.

May His hands guide and protect you and may you realize the blessings that God gives us daily. Life is great. Enjoy it. Smile.

Elder Grant Russell

Elder Aroche