Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Spirit changes People...a very humble people........week 67

It has been a great week! We have been really busy with some training meetings and the office has been a little more hectic. I have taken the ropes more this week as Elder Pulley has let me do the majority of the work. We have changes in less than two weeks so I have to get a hold of this quick since he will be leaving me.

Our investigators continue to progress leaps and bounds. This week we have two families prepared to be baptized and it is so special to hear of their testimonies. I am amazed at how the Lord is blessing us. Every day as we visit investigators, we ask them about sharing the gospel and they are already doing it! The spirit is making them want to share the gospel with their friends and family. Each week we have had investigators bring other investigators to the sacrament meetings. We had one investigator that we are preparing for baptism come with us to a few appointments. He even bore his testimony and invited another to church on the way. They are praying and reading the Book of Mormon together as a family. I just love missionary work…

Gloria bore a sweet testimony about the word of wisdom this week. While we talked about obeying this great commandment, she was amazed at her own progress. She said, ”Look at me! I have drunken coffee for over 30 years and now I am not doing it! I just don’t really want to.” Her husband seemed to be a little bit like a redwood at first but he has accepted to be baptized. God makes us all a little softer! The spirit changes people.

I guess that I am just grateful for all of these blessings from the Lord. I many times question my own worthiness of these blessings. I guess that He decides when to bless us. Our job is to be grateful and confess His hand in all things. Only He can carry the message to the people through His spirit and then open their hearts to receive it. We had several people this week come and ask us if they can get baptized. I feel like Ammon among the Lamanites. These people are so humble. I love them. I have never met a people so willing to give up all of their past and their sins to know the Lord. I cant really express adequately the love I have for them, but I try to show it.

I love you all. Thank you for what you do. Thanks for laboring diligently in the Lords vineyard. Whatever service we give is worth it in the end and we end up being of more worth to the Lord. May He bless you always and protect your every footstep.

Elder Grant Russell

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Great Week........week 66

BOYS will be BOYS

Having fun together

We have just received blessings all this week and it is hard for me to remember exactly how it all happened. As always, the Lord is doing His part as we try and do ours. While we have little time to work with the people, the people just progress with the help of the spirit. We were able to have 6 baptisms this week and we have seen so many miracles.

This week there were several training meetings for the missionaries and that makes for a busy week in the office because we have to prepare for their food and other necessities. My assignment consist much of helping missionaries solve money problems, buying things for the office and missionaries, keeping track of all the spending and organizing it all. But really my biggest responsibility is to baptize and be just like any other missionary. I am just happy to see that my Heavenly Father is helping me to maintain that focus always.

Baptism of Gloria

The baptism went well though. It was a little difficult for Gloria to get baptized because she is extremely afraid of the water. The first time I baptized her I almost had to force her into the water and she wouldn't get under all of the way. She was shaking too. The second intent was a success and she was happy to just know it was over. Afterwards, she bore a simple testimony...´´since coming to this church, I have felt so good. Now that I am baptized, I feel even better. In the name of Jesus Christ amen.´´ Mario was really happy too. He and his wife now have a house full of members and a goal to go the temple next year. In fact, we had a lot of success in teaching Eternal Marriage to our investigators. Edgar and Gessenia that will be baptized this week were enthralled with the message and took it all in. They have made huge changes in their lives and even Gloria´s husband´s heart was changed enough to come to the baptism and see her and his daughter be baptized.

This morning we woke up to a rainy day and in Nicaragua that means that you might have to be the noisy alarm clock for some members. The rain has a way of hitting the metal roofs of the houses here that just puts everyone into a deep sleep. The typical Sunday morning makes us look something like an unwavering door to door salesman that would even go as far as look through windows to find the people. We stand at the doors, fences, gates, etc and shout ¨buenas¨ until the people answer us. Then we try to get them excited to go to church if they are still in REM sleep. As we did so this morning, another wave of rain came and when we came to church there were only about 2 families there with 5 minutes to spare. Keep in mind that we start at 8am and most people don't have vehicles nor transport money. We started the meeting a little late but by the end there were 147 people there and almost 20 investigators. It was a miracle. Investigators are bringing other investigators and less actives there nonmember families. It is just so beautiful to see the hand of the Lord in the work. Every week He just puts the people in the way and if we are willing to take a step of faith and find them, things just happen. In other words, He makes things happen when we act on spiritual promptings.

When I was studying about Baptism this week in Preach My Gospel I began thinking more seriously about why the material focuses so much on Ordinances and Covenants. Many missionaries kind of skip over that part in their teaching but I began to ponder over the necessity of that material. It just hit me. I realized that what investigators really want and need is only obtained through covenants. As we promise to God that we will do certain things, He promises so much more in return. Nevertheless, many of us want to have God give us the blessing without really committing ourselves to do anything. Only upon making covenants and being faithful to them will He feel obligated in blessing us. There are some covenants that require us to outwardly show our promises...these are symbols and ceremonies called ordinances that help us remember with greater vividness the promises we make. One cannot seriously covenant with God that he will stop sinning and become a new man until he outwardly shows it through baptism. Having faith in God and staying home just doesn't work. When these ordinances are performed by proper priesthood authority, covenants are accepted by the Lord and the Holy Spirit of Promise seals it all. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints has the power and authority to baptize the Lord´s children upon the Earth and if we make and keep covenants, we are enabled to do even greater things.

Elder Grant Russell

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Field Trip with President's family........

Prison Chamber 1

Are we going in there? Do we have to?

Office Prisoners

Amazing views

La Officina y familia Monestel

Caballos in hallway 1

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In the Strength of the Lord........week 65

As I was reading the account of Alma and his brethren and how they felt after having labored in the missionary work for so long and had reaped in the sheaves, I was particularly impressed by his description of joy. I have felt that pure joy and love come over me in the work so many times but it was truly a tender mercy of the Lord to feel a greater joy than I had never experienced in my mission last night.

As I have already explained, the mission permits us to greater understand that God is in charge of the work. We might think we do something when we bring an investigator to church or we might feel useful when a person gets baptized. Satan can make us think we did something spectacular when an investigator progresses and has a tendency to teach to make excuses when something goes wrong. The truth is that we are nothing. God does everything! We have so little time in the office to work that the finite mind cannot comprehend how the success goes up. It isn't after all because of our efforts but because of the Lord. This week we had quite the struggle to try and visit investigators we were preparing for baptism. It wasn't until Thursday night that we could even inform the majority of our investigators about the baptismal service and invite them to see it the following night. The investigators we in many ways on their own to be prepared for the baptism and the Lord helped us out there too. Satan never rested and they had many doubts before getting married and baptized but in the end His wisdom won out. Only after inviting them quickly to the baptism Thursday night, we had 4 investigator families come to the baptism and 8 investigators. There were more investigators and nonmembers there than members. It was amazing. What made my joy fuller was to hear of the challenges they had and how they exercised faith to go to the baptism. Even being at 7pm, many furiously walked through the rain about a mile of the highway to get to the church on time. Their faith made for a warming experience.

I will not boast in my own strength but I will boast in my God.

What made the experience even more beautiful was to find a good friend of mine waiting in the chapel before the baptisms. Who could have expected to meet Victor Narvaez and Ester in San Juan in exactly that moment. I embraced the man and his wife that I taught and baptized almost a year ago. He began to express his testimony with me:

"We are here for a Seminary Teacher Training meeting. Ester has been newly given the calling. I am the Sunday School President and First Counselor in the Elders Quorum Presidency. All of the family goes every week to church. We wouldn't miss it for the world. In fact, Carlos already has his missionary application ready for next year. He says he wants to be just like you. We are preparing to be sealed this December before he goes. (By this time the tears had already welled up in my eyes...and writing this gives me more.) We always have you in mind and in our prayers. We thought we would never see you again but we always have had you in our heart. We have had our difficulties for sure. But we are going forward and nothing will keep us back. Ester has been giving references of a few neighbors and our other daughter has been baptized with her family. We are just so happy!"

This is the same family that when they were baptized vowed never to have a calling. They weren't committed to come to church every Sunday either. They were super addicted to coffee too but dropped it. Victor was antagonistic toward wearing a tie and said he would never go to church again if we made him do it. Ester too had her doubts at first but they are living testaments to how the Restored Gospel changes and blesses families. There they are every week, dressed in shirt and ties and always serving the Lord in their callings.

It is hard to explain the feelings that came to me. Gratitude. Love. Charity. I think Doctrine and Covenants explains it best when it says that Great will be our joy if it be with only one soul we have saved. But then I had another feeling. I can continue to help more families like that. I looked at the those who had assisted the baptism and I was just so thankful to know that God was doing His part. He changed the Narvaez family since I last saw them. He made it possible for these new investigators to come to the baptism. He also helps us find them after preparing them all. I am nothing.

God LIVES! Christ DIRECTS. I know that this is His church. This Gospel is true and really does bless us. I am speechless and tearless. The tears have long been shed in pure joy.

Elder Grant Russell

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I have grown leaps and bounds...I can make a difference........week 64

Sorry family for not having written yesterday. We had a crazy day with the planning of Sister Monestel´s birthday. We threw her a party and it was way fun but we didn't get done in time to write so I am writing from the office quick today.

As for the financier position, I am getting used to it...and to driving. It is still kind of nerve racking. I haven't had a whole lot of time yet to practice because we had a four day training meeting for the zone leaders this week that we had to plan for. It was a hectic week to say the least but it turned out real well.

This has been quite the week for me. It is so amazing what can happen in a week, We had so many lessons this week in which the investigators made significant progress and changes! Many committed to baptism and today we were able to bring a ton of investigators to church. There were three families and 20 people in all! It was a miraculous day indeed. I have seen so far how Lord follows through with His part if we do ours. Many of the people are preparing for baptism and it should be a great month for us in the ward.

I have been reflecting a lot this week about the changes that have come over me in my mission. I would have never been able to expect these types of changes. I feel more able to help in the Lord´s kingdom. Instead of a spectator, I am now a participant. I feel like I can make a difference with the help of the Lord. This has become even more apparent to me because I am in the same area in which I started. When I got to Nicaragua, I didn´t know how to help a ward grow. I didn´t know how to find new investigators and I couldn´t really help them live and keep commitments. From this perspective, I have grown leaps and bounds.

Each day I love the mission more and more and I can´t help but thank my Heavenly Father for the whole experience. I know that in my own strength I am weak but with my Lord on my side, I can do whatever He wants.

Miracles do exist right now. I see them daily. We have begun teach several families and it is amazing to see how the spirit directs us. We found new people by the spirit and they were able to come to church and loved it. There is no greater joy than to see a person put the gospel into practice and then see them receive the promised blessings. Here in the mission, I have realized that true joy comes from obedience to the gospel principles and I have seen some truly joyful people. You wouldn´t think they eat only rice and beans sleep on a dirt floor. The Lord is just so amazing!

The people here drop everything to hear the word of God. They talk about Him in the streets, in the market, they sing in churches on every corner almost every night and even the greetings have the name of our Father in Heaven. The familiar "adios" has within its own spelling the meaning of "go to God." But despite the common goal we all have I raise my voice to all of the world to say that the Lord Jesus Christ has one true church over the face of the Earth that He leads and directs and that is the Church of the Jesus Christ of latter day Saints. My testimony is confirmed daily when I testify. I think the easiest way of keeping your testimony strong is to be involved in missionary work. Those members are always stronger in my opinion.

May we build up the kingdom of God in all parts of His vineyard.

Elder Grant Russell

ps. I haven't received my package yet...Surely the package was lost by now but what I understand is that they can trace it by the number on the receipt. Maybe you could look for it and call the post office and send me the number too and we can find out if it ever got to Nicaragua.