Sunday, May 22, 2011

Returning and reporting...Elder Russell's return continued

Today Grant spoke in 2 wards: the Medford 5th YSA ward and in our home ward Medford 6th.
He gave excellent talks. As difficult as this is for him to be home, though his heart and thoughts are in Nicaragua, he has learned the eternal principle of becoming who he needed to become and has committed to live his life in the Lord's service. Now it is a matter of continuing that service and application for the rest of your life.  I think summing it up is Enduring to the End....

He will wear his mission badge one last time as he reports to the High Council of the Medford Oregon Stake next week. The badge will come off, but he will wear the Savior's name on his heart for the rest of his life. Thank you Elder Russell for being everything I ever wanted or hoped you would be. I love you...Mom


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Welcome Home Elder Russell continued

Today Grant went to the temple and did baptisms with the Spanish branch. He loved it. We hung his hammock that he brought home, and he spent some time there. A place of familiarity for him. He read his scriptures, some books, and did some pondering. His heart was not at home.

He went out with the Spanish speaking elders in our area and taught some investigators tonight. He loved it. Pondering, studying, and preparing for his talks tomorrow.

Does he want to be here? No.
Does he need to be here? Yes.
Is it hard for him? Yes.
Is it hard for me? Yes, especially because I know he doesn't want to be here
...but I don't take it personally

Friday, May 20, 2011

Off to see the Stake President....May 20

Since Grant returned late last night, he is being released as a missionary today. Then he will speak at the Friday Forum at the Institute of Religion at Southern Oregon University. We will attend the Medford Oregon temple, and maybe catch a nap in between.

Taking upon His name...

Adjusting to jet lag, the emotions of the past 24 hrs....and dreaming of the mission
(where he really wants to be right now).
At the Medford Oregon Temple with Grandma Turner

Grant has been FREEZING since he got off the plane last night. (Notice the slippers)

Funny story...on our way home from the airport last night, as he was glancing out the window, he said it is soooo cold, it feels like it's going to snow.

It was after midnight, we looked at the temperature was 71 degrees....we had a good laugh.

Mind you it was 100 degrees in's hot even at night.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In anticipation of his it week 105 yet?

Pictures speak louder than words....I will let them speak for themselves....

The Honorable return of
Elder Grant Russell
from the Nicaragua Managua South Mission

Need I say more?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Take His Name Upon You........week 105...his last letter home

Dear family,

I remember the first day when I entered the MTC. It was exhilarating when I got in line to receive the greatest, most valued token of a missionary: his name tag. It said everything I had imagined…that much I was prepared for. What surprised me was the weight of the light plastic. Something happens between the moment a missionary grabs his small name tag in his hand and when he slips it gently over the pocket covering the heart. It rests much heavier there. He realizes that He has left the world behind. One must “watch himself, his thoughts, words, his deeds” because he no longer represents himself. I remember walking down that long first hallway and hearing the greeters say, “Welcome Elder…Good Morning Elder…Thanks for coming Elder, right this way Elder.” I loved that word then and I have come to love it even more.

For two years I have tried to live up to the names on my little black tag. It is such a small name tag with such eternally important, huge names. Both names are sacred to me. I have come to appreciate “Russell” and “Jesucristo” more than my own name. I am not so important anymore. When I look in the mirror, I honestly know myself as a different person than he who walked through the front doors of the MTC so long ago.

How little I truly knew then! Surely, I had a strong testimony and a desire to serve the Lord. I will never deny the testimony I had before the mission. However, my testimony was like a flame that flickered and had to be rekindled at times. I now feel like a forest fire is within my heart and I can’t hold it in. Just like fire gets progressively stronger with proximity, I feel like I have been the one that has most benefited from my service. Surely, there are many that have caught fire as well from a distance, but I am the one with the third degree burns. There are marks in my heart that will never be erased or forgotten. The mission has set the course for my life.

What does the mission mean to me? What have I learned? How have I changed? Who have I touched? Who has touched me? Who am I now? What was the best experience? The most memorable experience?

I have tried to think about these things for the last few days and I can't hardly include nor can I adequately answers such questions in the short time of one day or letter. I could respond to those questions with any number of experiences, but I believe that the best message of my mission is the change that has come over me. For the first time in my life, I understand what it means to live the gospel. I feel now more converted to the Lord than ever.

I could make a reader marvel by describing the many miracles I have seen because the mission has been full of them. I could perhaps teach doctrine in a new way or show what characteristics I have acquired through much study, tribulation, and trials. I could list the people I have baptized or even share one singular experience as a type for my mission. I could list more names of people here in Nicaragua who have changed me than I have changed them. I don´t have a most memorable experience but so many that I will remember, cherish, share and study further as my service in the kingdom continues. Many people could share similar experiences like the ones I have acquired in my mission; however, my experience is completely unique to me.

One would have had to have walked down every dusty street, talked to everyone of the thousands of people I met and thought, ate, read, said, and did everything I did to fully understand what the mission has meant to me. While I have had companions for any variety of times, there has only been one person there in every moment to experience it all with me.

How appropriate it is that his name also appears on the name tag!

Of all the testimonies I have given during the best two years of my life up until this time, this is the testimony, last of all, which I give of Him: That he lives and that He is our Savior! He is the anointed one! The Son of the Father! This is His holy work. He directs it. What a marvelous work and a wonder! I am the weakest of all servants but despite my weaknesses I have been an instrument in His hands “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man!” I see his handiwork and I marvel not that he can do all things but that he does all these things through me. I know that in His power I can do all things. I may not comprehend the intricacies of the Atonement, but I know it works. I may not have seen the finger of the Lord like Jared, but in these two years I have seen his hand in all things. I may not be perfect but he is helping me be better today than yesterday.

Shortly the name tag I wear daily will be but a thing of pictures and memories and perhaps stored away in a box, but within my heart there will always reside a mark of what His holy name has done for me. Now, more than ever before, I take His name upon me. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ who has dedicated his life and everything else to his service. I will forever be in his debt.

In the Holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Russell

Elder Ward, Elder Russell, the bishop, the ward mission leader,
the executive secretary

First rain of the year from our balcony

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Another Testament of Jesus Christ that Helps Us Know of a Surety!........week 104

 Good afternoon family,

It seems kind of wierd to write you after only talking yesterday, but so be it. There is always something more to tell. I have been feeling really comforted this week as I begin to realize that the time is limited. There is so much more to do. I am comforted time and time again by the spirit which testifies that the Lord is happy with me up until this time in my service but I know there is so much more to give.

We have been focused on teaching families and I have had some of my most powerful first lessons this last week. The interesting part is that it seems as though most of the families we are teaching right now have a problem with their commitment to come to church. We have heard more times in one week this haunting phrase: “If only I would have met you guys earlier, I would come to your church. But I am comfortable in my church. I can´t leave it.” It is a heartbreaker. Many of these people listen to our message but they decide not to pray becuase they dont want it to be true. They are certainly blessed in their lives becuase of tradition, or atleast good intention, but they miss greater blessings becuase they deny the spirit. I have pondered this time and time again in the mission, and I learned another great truth while teaching one of these families.

We had given them 3 Nephi 11 as a reading assignment after having taught the first lesson. We were very excited at first to hear that they had read the chapter but as we reviewed the contents of the chapter, we began to feel like the family was reserved. At several points in the lesson as we talked about the truthfulness of the gospel, the mom made an uncomfortable facial expression showing us her apparent desicion to not accept our message. The words of the husband seemed reassuring but in time he to admitted their non-commital agreement to recieve us in their house. We read the first few verses and upon reading them I gained more insight into how people can leave good things behind for the better.

1 And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.

2 And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.

Here the people were doing something good. Their past knowledge had led them to a point where they could openly converse about Jesus the Christ. They knew the signs of his coming and even becuase of their past obedience, they had not been destroyed with the rest of their bretheren. But apparently their present conversation was interfering with their understanding of God´s voice becuase it took three times to internalize his message. They had to pay special attention and be willing to obey.

5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

Upon paying special attention the spirit, these people witnessed to a greater degree the testimony of the Christ in their lives. They would not only talk of him, but their willingness to listen to His spirit would allow them to see him, touch him, and know Him. This is much different than knowing of Him.

15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.

As we taught these principles to the family, I learned that God will always give his message by the still small voice and that it is up to us to listen. We cannot force this message upon anyone. Though God wants to give us the greater portion of his word, he cannot unless we open our heart to him. Alma describes this principle too:

"And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.” Alma 12:10

I hope and pray that these people might come to know the Christ in a greater way. Joseph Smith said of the Book of Mormon that a man “would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” I know that this is true. We offer to these people another testament of Jesus Christ which will help them come to know him even more, but in the end it is our choice to come to know him.

I know that this message is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that as we listen to the still small voice, heed to his words as found in the restored gospel and keep his commandments that we will also “know of a surety and bear record that is is of he of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.”

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Mother's Day call to remember........week 104

Some really cool vines

Jinotepe from my bedroom window

Being cool in Salto

Elder Russell in a tree....or is this classified as "tree hugging" in Jinotepe?

Today we got to talk to Grant for Mother's day. It was great to talk with him, as we enjoyed the sound of his voice one more time.

I will try to add some of his comments from the call here....

Monday, May 2, 2011

I found Myself in the Service of the Lord........week 103

Hernandez Familia

Claudia's Baptism

Hey there family,

It has been another great week. I am thankful everyday for the opportunity
to serve and represent the Lord. I have learned several important lessons
this last week. Let me fill you in on the work here.

First off, it has been SUPER HOT here!!! I think all of my head is burnt. I
will be happy if all my hair doesn´t burn off before this month is over
ha ha. I think most days have been over 100 and it just seems like the sun is
closer here. I just thought I would be use to this by now. But it is worth

The work is going forward. We had a wonderful meeting on Sunday. Claudia got
up to bear her testimony in church and thanked the Lord for showing her the
true way. She also brought a friend to church. It has been a week of
miracles with the families we are teaching. We are preparing approximately 3
families to be baptized right now...we are under the wire to finish before
the changes are over. I would like to see them baptized. With a little faith
and a lot of prayer it will happen. Please pray for these families so that
they might receive the gospel.

We also have had some of the most spiritual lessons this week with our
investigators. The words have just flowed into our mouths as we testify
particularly of the restoration. I have come to love that message even more.
I really know that it is true! Even if they don't accept the message right
now, but I know that the message is true nonetheless.

I was thinking particularly this week about my personally identity and how
it has changed since coming on the mission. I marveled as I remembered a
time in the mission when I literally didn´t know who I was...I had forgotten
myself. I didn´t think about home, my life before, I think I even forgot my
name. As I passed through that experience, my cares began to change and I no
longer feel like I worry about who I life purpose is clearly
defined. Christ summed it all up when he said,

“he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” Matthew 10:39

I have found myself in the service of the Lord. My past is redeemed, my
present has meaning and my future is secure. I know that the greatest call
is to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is my call. I finish the
mission with the determination to serve the Lord every way
possible. Truly there is no greater call than to represent the Lord.

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter and the Process of Hope........week 102

Good afternoon family!

I hope Easter Sunday was good for you. I don’t know if you asked me last year about Easter in Nicaragua, but I thought I would remind you of all of the “interesting” things that I saw. Basically the week is Spring Break. Few people spend their time thinking about Christ rather they go to the beach or spend time drinking with their friends and family. It is kind of a sad sight for missionaries. We almost only talked to drunk people all week. But despite the challenge, we were able to find several new families, one of which came to church this week. They are great. The father was a little sick at first, a sort of hangover from eating too much Amibar (sweet fruit stuff that they make for the Holy Week). But they liked church a lot. They are getting ready for baptism the second week of May. As we wandered around empty, deserted cobblestone streets in Jinotepe we occasionally had to quicken our pace to pass in front of a Catholic parade of sorts. I would describe it as a mix between a funeral procession and a middle school marching band practice. I don’t know if you get the picture. Interesting would be about the only word I can use to describe it. Creepy might be the second word ha ha. But we were able to feel the spirit of the season despite all distractions. We also heard occasional fireworks Sunday as people celebrated the resurrection. I guess we need to let others worship in the way they deem right too. I think I will laugh about this stuff in the coming years.

April seems to have taken its course here as we near its end. We are already making preparations for May in Jinotepe. The zone has had a lot success. We ended up baptizing 15 people this last weekend in the zone. The missionaries have been working hard and we are seeing the fruits. I love the work. We ended up having a wonderful baptism too. Antonio, Socorro and their daughter Maria Mercedes made eternal covenants with our Heavenly Father on Saturday. It was a special service. Antonio took a second as he was about to enter the water…he stepped in and as he left the water he said that “only two more left.” He meant that only his older daughter and son were left to make the same covenant of baptism. My companion said that he would be able to baptize them. “Really!?” he asked. He smiled real big. Sunday morning they were there early with their Sunday clothes, Antonio sporting a new white shirt and tie. They looked great! I love baptizing families…it is the best.

We haven’t stopped having changes either in the zone. Today the mission sent us two more Elders. Now we have 26 Elders in the Zone. Wow! It is huge!! But at least they sent us a District leader so now that will help us balance out the districts. We had one district with 10 missionaries and the District leader was overwhelmed. But with 4 District Leaders there will be an even 6 per district. Thank goodness! The missionaries are really learning how to be better leaders. I have seen the District leaders step up to the plate in the last few weeks and I think we are setting us up for success in May. We work as if everything depended upon us and we pray as if it all depended upon the Lord. I have seen His hand in the work so many times.

This week I read a neat scripture:
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulationsalso: knowing that tribulationworketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3-4)

As I thought about this scripture I realized the divine process of acquiring hope.

In my mission, there have been times when I felt tried…seriously tried. I think in those moments I realized that I wasn´t patient haha. That is the “worketh” part. The trial exercises our patience making us more capable to support future trials...though we might be slow in getting over the present one. But when we finally learn how to overcome x or y trial, we have experiences that help us get through the future, more difficult ones. Our previous success gives us hope that we can once again triumph in trials path. We can succeed.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be tried by our Master, be molded and shaped, humiliated and torn apart…and then of course, put back together again. As I am patient with Him, he gives me experiences that let me hope for what is better. My hope for the future is better now, so much better than it was before.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

We realize our potential because little by little the Lord lets us know that we are on His path.
May the Lord always let us have more hope in the future…and may we have patience in the trials that come our way so that we might achieve this hope.

Elder Russell

PS- I asked Grant which missionaries were serving in his Zone, here is his response...

I will tell you the names of the Americans at least...
Ewell, Rodriguez, Ward, Sis. Rios, Fuller, Tonga, Taylor, Pugmire, Call, Keyser, Hinton, Fabricius
Wow, that is a lot of cheles...ha ha

Monday, April 18, 2011

I Keep Looking Up........week 101

A Broken Heart

Hey family,
I blinked and another week went by...every week is faster and faster. Ï guess it must be one of the blessings of working with all of our heart, might, mind and strength. I sometimes sit back a wonder where all of the time has all goes by so fast.

The work is great right now! The Jinotepe Zone is about to do something incredible this month. Elder Ward and I have had a lot of success with several investigators. Right now we have been teaching a few families, one of which is ready for baptism this week. Antonio and Socorro and their daughter Maria Mercedes are just wonderful people. They are a fun family to teach. We were able to talk with the ward council on Sunday and they are really excited to help us. They already gave them home teachers and visiting teachers. Claudia was baptized this Saturday too. She has changed so much! She has received a ton of help from the ward members too. It is amazing when the members help out in this great work. Not only do they feel a spiritual boost, but they also give us more references when we help their friends get baptized.

The spirit continues to teach me how I can be a better leader. I feel like everyone is looking up to me. My whole mission I have had other Elders to look up to but now that I am in my last transfer the only thing I keep doing is looking up as well. I find strength in a greater power. I am so thankful that the Lord gave us a perfect example and that our Father in Heaven answers our prayers.

I am happy to hear about baby Clayton. I have been praying for him and Joy this whole week. I hope that she feels comforted by this. I have been comforted countless times by a humble prayer. I also have been praying for the rest of the family. I hope that all goes well for everyone.

I have been having a fun time with the work. I think I have finally hit my rythmn as a missionary. About time huh? I am having a great time getting to know my companion too. I feel like I have been able to learn something from each of my companions. Little by little, each one of my companions has helped me identify a weakness that I have and I am honed by their example. I want to be better. I am thankful for the companions that the Lord has given me. I have never felt happier than when I love the people around me...a very hard lesson to learn in the mission. If we are to love God with all of our heart, might, mind and strength we must love those around us. Although at times it is hard when they aren´t the same, when they might not have the same standards or when their culture and background are as different as can be, the greatest lesson that one can learn is that taught by the smallest person whom we thought knew nothing. It has happened time and time again for me. I guess I have never been happier to be wrong.

The Lord always knows what I need. He has my future blessings prepared but I must discover them through discipline and diligence. Maybe in a search for deity, we sometimes go to higher ground but at times our vision becomes blurred by pride. We see our growth and judge ourselves as greater than anyone else. Perhaps a Rameumptom of sorts would be a correct description. When ones comes down from a lofty, prideful viewpoint he discovers that there is much more detail and joy experienced by the very things he looked down on. One may for example sea the beautiful seashore from a distance but as he nears the crashing waves and sees the crabs and sealife, his experience becomes all the more enjoyable. So is it with personal relationships be it family, friends, etc. Many times our coming down is voluntary but more times than not the Lord must help break us down a little. He breaks our heart and shows us the way. I was particulary touched by an end note this week in Jesus Christ.

Discussing the literal cause of the death of Jesus Christ, James E. Talmage gives his personal opinion that Jesus Christ died of a ruptured (broken) heart. He cited several rare occasions in which such a thing has happen from intense emotional stress on the individual. His conclusion of how Jesus Christ literally died of a broken heart made it all the more clear to me why he allows us to go through heart-breaking experiences so that we too may become like him.

As stated in the Scripture Guide,

“To have a broken heart is to be humble, contrite, repentant, and meek—that is, receptive to the will of God.”

When we have a broken heart, our old self with its imperfections and weakness dies away and we are able to rise up as a new person. I am thankful for the heart-breaking experiences that the Lord has given me. I am thankful for all the times when I have been wrong, when I was taught to come down from my lofty pride and see the true way of the Lord. In many ways I have left things of the past behind...

I love the work of the Lord. I love seeing the humble, true follower who enters the waters of baptism and shows his broken heart and contrite spirit. I am learning from those I baptize.

Until next week family, may the Lord change your heart and expand your vision to see what he has ready for all of you.

Elder Russell

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Lord ALWAYS does His Part........week 100

Good afternoon family!

The weeks seem to go by faster in the field. I can´t believe that it is that time again. I love being able to think about the work, the people, their progress at all times of the day. Every day we see miracles in this work. It is amazing. I love it so much.

This week was successful again in the zone. We are getting the people prepared to be baptized. The zone has brought over 60 investigators to church both Sundays so far this month so we are about to see miracles with these people. It is just a matter of time. One more Sunday and these people should be ready for baptism. We have been visiting the areas to meet these people, especially the families, and help support the missionaries` teaching. Every day the Lord gives us new ideas and direction in how to help these missionaries and their investigators progress. I believe so much in revelation. It is the same spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel out of Egypt…the same spirit by which he parted the red sea. Great analogy mom…right on.

I can hardly compare myself to Moses but I do not deny the presence of revelation in the work. I would be an ungrateful servant if I didn´t acknowledge his hand in all things. I have learned in the mission that heaven`s powers are much greater than my own. When I call down on them, I say as Moses, ´´Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.´´(Exodus 14:13) It is touching to see that many missionaries are seeing that the Lord is doing great things in their areas. Areas that haven´t had success for months in bringing people to church are bringing new families of 7 or more to church. We stand still and watch as the salvation of the Lord is accepted by those prepared by him.

We have one family right now that is getting prepared for next week for baptism. Antonio and Socorro and their daughters have felt a sincere change come over them. It is amazing to see how they accept the teaching and the commitments so quickly. They are examples of faith. We taught the Word of Wisdom this week. As is customary, I share Grandpa Turner`s story about true commitment of the commandment. We invited them to stop drinking coffee and the Father to not drink ever again wine. When we asked them about their progress yesterday with this commandment, they explained that it would be a gradual process. We inquired further and we asked how much each had drunken yesterday. “None,” they said. Talk about gradual progress! They just dropped it and said that they didn´t really miss it. That is true faith.

We also have another Lady who will be baptized this week who is named Claudia. She has had serious changes come over her. She is so excited in fact to be baptized that she is inviting everyone to come. In the Gospel Principles class yesterday she invited everyone, including people she didn`t know to come this Saturday. She is very faithful. One day she said that she was worried because she had made only 29 pesos after a full day of work. That is equivalent to $1.25. She lives with her 6 year old daughter. So we decided to teach tithing. I love teaching tithing to the poorest people. They have so much faith. She paid tithing this Sunday. What an example of faith and devotion!

I am strengthened daily by the spirit of the Lord. I believe that the Lord has taught me how to live by faith. I no longer worry over what I have no control. I just do my part and the Lord ALWAYS does his part. Like Moses I always try to have this in my mind...Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. I have seen it time and time again.

I love you all. I am so thankful for the family that I have. I know that the Lord will protect you and guide you. His watchful eye is always over us. My prayers are with you. I have a confidence in His power that everything will work out in the end. Tell Joy that I will pray for her. Tell Troy that he is also in my prayers. All of you will be protected. Perhaps, faith isn´t truly discovered until it is tried.

Elder Russell

Monday, April 4, 2011

Las Villas Zone outing

We had a fun zone activity before the changes last Monday.
I hope you enjoy the waterfall as much as we did.

He wants to bless us........week 99

Hello Family,

I didn´t have time to write today. I think it is going to have to be a short letter today. Sorry....

I thought of you all this week end as we gathered together to listen to the prophets voice. How wonderful it is to know that God reveals His will to us each personally through his servants. I loved all of the talks. I especially thought a lot on Elder Oaks talk about Desires. I really feel like the Lord is blessing us for our desires in Jinotepe. We had three times as many investigators in church as a zone this week when compared with last week. What a miracle because of much prayer, fasting and hard work. The Lord will help us have miracles this month. We not only expect this hard work to be shown by people in church but also by baptisms! We are focused on the work. We were able to bring two new families this week to church and it is really becoming a hard juggling act to teach all of the new people we have found. This is the work of the Lord. I testify of it! I have seen his hand in some miraculous ways extend down to us to answer our prayers. I feel like He has his eyes on us. He wants to bless us.

Well my dear family. What is it that you desire? What is that we are willing to work for? That is what we will have. Let us not let our fear of success make us live far below our privileges as sons and daughters of the almighty. What is the famous quote---My greatest fear isn´t that I am inadequate but that I am powerful... We have his help always.

I promise to write more next week. I send you my love and support and prayers across the miles. May the Lord bless you according to your desires as He does with mine.

Elder Grant Russell

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Put me in Coach, Put me in"........week 97 & 98

Well family,

I write you from the beautiful highlands of Jinotepe. Surprise, surprise! I am not in the office anymore. I was emergency changed out on Wednesday because the President wanted me to help out as zone leader here. Elder Woods was a little caught off guard but he is doing alright. He has only needed to call me like 5 times in the last five days ha ha. But boy is it a change of pace. It feels great again.I love being with the missionaries and building their faith. That has been the biggest challenge and goal for the zone in Jinotepe. We have the biggest zone and we should have the biggest goals and numbers. But lately the zone has been having low numbers. We are about to change the history of Jinotepe.

I arrived Wednesday and we worked in the afternoon trying to meet the members and see the investigators that the missionaries had been teaching. My new companion is Elder Ward from Utah (another Gringo...ha ha) and he only has a little over a year in the mission and one change as a zone leader. I feel like the Lord is depending a lot on me to change things here. It has been a hard change for me but I have hit the ground running.

Thursday we had a Zone Leader Council meeting to set goals and we basically looked like crazy people with our goals for the zone. The zone only baptized 9 people last month between 26 missionaries. Our goal for the month of April is 60. I feel like it is going to be the biggest trial of faith I have had in my mission. I am trying to remember everything I have I learned since the beginning to put it into practice. The missionaries are determined to work harder. Seeing the daily numbers we have seen that they have nearly doubled in many cases. The Lord is going to bless.

I think the world is full of three types of people: those that make things happen, those that watch things happen around them, and those that look around them and wonder what is really happening. We need to be the force to change things for good in the lives of members and nonmembers alike. We need to be more than listeners and watchers. We must be doers.

I love the council given in 1 Timothy 4:14-17

“be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity...neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of hands...for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.”

We must not let our limited experience and vision cripple our faith. When things don't happen at first, we regroup and we work harder. When we don't see our strength as enough to do what the Lord requires, we begin to have real faith.

Jacob teaches about how our weakness really strengthens us.

“Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescension's unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.

The great missionaries of the book of Mormon understood this principle.

“Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.” (Alma 26:12)

When we feel weakest, we confide in our Father in Heaven. I know that he gives unto us according to our faith. Our faith gives us power.

I am very excited to leave it all out on the field. I feel like one of those players who has been watching from the sidelines for so long. Now I am warmed up and I ask coach, “put me in coach, put me in coach.” I will not give up. I will keep going unto the end. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a special representative for the Lord in this place and in this time.

Well family, I love you. I pray for you and I hope that you can be blessed continually for your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that when we feel the weakest, we have the opportunity to ask for divine help.

“For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?” (Jacob 4:9)

If He can create the world and keep everything in place, why couldn't he help us in our daily lives?

Elder Russell

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Believe in the Lord's Promises........week 96

Good afternoon family!

I had a great week this week. I feel very thankful for lessons that I have learned. Every day is a new opportunity to do what we left undone yesterday. Every new day is another chance to be more compassionate, more serviceable, more studious of the scriptures, more obedient to the Father. We should seriously ask ourselves daily if we are better than we were yesterday. We should care about each moment because in the eternal scheme of things, our time here on earth is as if it were a small moment.

That is how I feel the mission has been for me…every new day that I wake up, my past seems to fade away. I remember only the missionary schedule and daily routine and my thoughts, actions, words and worries are that of the mission. Every day adds more moments onto the list of things that I have made happen on the mission. Interestingly enough is the fact that despite the time I have on the mission, I feel like I have been here for so short a time. I can trace the week by week and month by month with journal entries, and a fast replay through my mind makes me realize that it is longer than just a moment, but it doesn’t feel like that. In the mission I have learned how to live more in the moment. I enjoy the little things a lot more.

For example, the time in the office seems to just eats away at my field time some weeks. This week was one of those weeks in particular because we had multi-zone conferences with the whole mission. In summary, lots of spending and cash flow and work and record keeping, etc. We only got to teach a hand full of lessons…but they were powerful lessons.

We continue to teach Santos and Lizet about how they can prepare for baptism. They are ready but they need to get married. Hopefully, this week they can get all of their paperwork worked out so next week they can get baptized. While my companion was interviewing the wife this week for baptism, I spent some time reviewing with Santos about the Book of Mormon. With very little education, his recall is somewhat limited but he remembered the importance of the book of Mormon. I proceeded to explain the different tools for studying it and then I gave him several promises. I promised him that if he read the Book of Mormon daily that he would over time become more fluent in his reading and upon finishing it he would be completely capable of reading. I also promised him that the book would strengthen him against temptations and that it would bring a spirit into his home, distilling the doctrine of the kingdom in his heart and mind. He was excited about the promises and is committed to read it in its entirety.

Now mind you, I remember a certain day in the MTC when I had a disagreement with a few companions. The conversion had to do with the promises that we can give as missionaries to investigators. I was very hesitant to promise anything to my investigators because I was afraid it would happen as I promised. In the mission, I have realized what kind of promises come to people when they keep commandments. Plus, I follow the spirit a lot more. I have come to realize that God blesses according to the needs of the people too, if they have faith in him.

I believe in the promises of the Lord. I wouldn’t have promised something like that at the beginning of the mission. But I will have you know that I feel completely confident that the Lord will bless him and his family with these things if he keeps his part of the contract. I choose to believe in the Lord´s promises.

Do we live our daily lives with faith in the lord´s promises? What promises do we not believe in quite yet? I think if we were promised by our boss a pay raise by getting to work early every day of the week that we would do so without a doubt. But do we believe in the Master? But do we read the scriptures daily to receive milk and honey without price? Do we pray on our knees with all energy of heart early in the morning and at night so that the Lord can more abundantly bless us in our lives with what we need? We should believe in the blessings of the Lord. I believe but I stop believing sometimes. Surely, from time to time we will doubt the Lord´s promises. Peter did when he began to sink. Thomas didn’t believe in the Lord´s resurrection at first either. But we should live by faith knowing that the Lord will bless us if we do all that we can. Life become so much more enjoyable.

I love you all. Thank you for your examples of faith. Thank you for your prayers. I feel of your love and support. May the Lord extend his all merciful hands over you to bless you with what you desire and most need.

Elder Russell

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Repentence and Sincere prayer........week 95

Well family,

I have very little time to write. Everything has been going well here. It is just busy. I can´t believe another week has gone by already. The work in the area is still progressing. We had a family baptism this week. We have been teaching Eliza and Jon Kevin now for a month and she was baptized to complete the small, young family. She is expecting her first child already. It has been good to her conversion to the gospel.

We also continue to work with other families. Santos and Lizet are doing great! They both attended the baptism. It felt good to see them there. We had a very special lesson with them the night before. They had both fallen into their bad habits. She drank coffee and he smoked after having dropped them for two weeks. We talked about the repentance process and the importance of changing completely. We may have said things pretty strongly in their small, humble home but the spirit was there. Up until then, Lizet had been the only one to profess she had received an answer about the restoration. Santos always just changed the subject when we asked him about his prayer. But Saturday when Jon Kevin was going into the baptismal font with Eliza, Santos leaned over and whispered something to my companion. “I prayed,” he said. “How did you feel?” my companion replied. “Really good,” he responded.

God answers prayers. He cares about his children. He wants us to repent…sincerely. He honestly feels sad when we sin. He forgives and forgets when we truly repent.

I am thankful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It heals me daily. I feel like in this time of my mission, the Lord is helping me understand this much better. I have come to trust more in the healing power of the Atonement. I have powerful personal prayer. It helps me get by every day.

I love you all and I pray for you. May the lord bless you always. Pray unto him with all energy of your heart so that he might lift both your spirit and heart from your bended knees. We reach our highest heights when we lower ourselves humbly to our knees.
Elder Russell

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rejoice........week 94

Well family,

I am pretty much out of time after having sent all of those photos, but I will try to fill you in on a few of the things that have been happening here in the office.

I continue to train Elder Woods as the financier and he is getting the hang of it now. I am trying to give him the reigns as much as possible and at times I feel like I am not doing anything. Oh well, I guess consulting every few minutes isn't that bad. We are always busy it seems...I don't know where all the work comes from but it seems to keep coming. One of these days I will figure it out.

I have learned quite a bit from personal study this week and I would just like to share a short scripture with you all. Right now I am in 2 Nephi. When I was reading about the plan of salvation verse 11 of chapter 9 struck me. I was particularly touched by the descriptions Jacob uses to talk about the members of the church. He says,

´´Therefore, the a
redeemed of the Lord shall breturn, and come with csinging unto Zion; and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads; and they shall obtain gladness and joy; sorrow and dmourning shall flee away.´´

Perhaps the words like ´´singing, everlasting joy, gladness, and a freedom of sorrow and mourning´´ were what caught my attention. I thought about how we as members of the church have the right to feel good all of the time. Surely there are trials and difficulties that come. I guess we could assume that in those times that it isn't expected of us to show such happiness. But that is a wrong assumption. No matter the circumstances, trials, etc that we might have, there is something to rejoice about. But how can we be happy in the difficulties? I read a little further in 2 Nephi 9:52...

´´Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give athanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts brejoice.´´

We let our hearts rejoice when we remember what wonderful things God has given unto us. When we pray unto him thanking him for the blessings we have our hearts are changed. Our heart is full of gratitude and there is no more room for sorrow. The sorrow and mourning shall flee away! I thought of Job for example. When he had trials, what made him rejoice?

´´And said, aNaked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath btaken away; cblessed be the name of the Lord.´´
(Job 1:21)

He thanked the Lord for what he had been given and recognized His hands in all things. The trials continued but his faith never faltered. He had a grateful heart and the sorrow wasn't there. He walked as a redeemed one of the Lord, singing with everlasting joy the glad song. What greater blessing can we have then life itself? Can we ever truly be so tried as to forget that Jesus Christ has paid the price for our sins? Can our problems ever be bigger than the love our Heavenly Father has for us? When we remember this and thank him for everything, our problems seem forgotten and they are resolved with his help.

I know that God loves each and everyone. I know that we should be the happiest people. I hope that we can always remember who we are, where we have come from, why we are here, what we have been given, and where we can go after this earth. If we do so, than earth´s sting shall be swallowed up in Christ. He is the reason for us to be happy. I am glad, are you?

Elder Grant Russell

Saturday, February 26, 2011

To Know the Mysteries of God........week 93

Good afternoon family,

I don't really know what to say…this week has been a blur. We had transfers this week for the mission so we ran around a lot trying to finish up last minute things. It is always a busy week but it is always rewarding too. I feel like it is always a time of reflection and meditation on the things we have learned in the last change. Now that I am in my last change as financier, my thoughts and desires are shifting towards the field. I am so excited to get back in the game and give it all I have, to leave it all on the court. My desire grows everyday to serve the Lord even if my energy is less and less. I don’t wake up as easily as I did at the beginning of the mission. My shirts are worn and my socks have holes in them too. Most ties have multiple stains and my shoes are almost ready for their third pair of soles. My scriptures are heavily marked with cross references and lessons learned and I have two journals full of experiences to show why. But of all of the noticeable changes that have come over me it is the spirit that I feel daily, the revelation and daily learning that has caused my own person to change. It is that spirit that keeps me going. In my own strength I am weak, but in the Lord´s strength I can do all things. The more I serve the Lord in his kingdom, the more I realize that I have so much more to give and that I will forever be indebted to him. I have pledged my life and heart to the lord and I am willing to do whatever He asks. He will support me along the way.

I am now training like I said. Elder Woods is the new financier. He is great! He is short, blond, and he fits the stereotype financier for our mission. Hopefully, he won’t go bald too like the rest of us ha ha…He is from New Jersey and he is going to do a great job as financier. He has a year and a half in the mission and will be finishing in the office. This week we had success in marrying a few people. No, lawyer responsibilities aren´t a part of the duties of the financial secretary but we are supporting the people we are teaching to be married. It was a nice wedding. I admire the faith of the Nicaraguan people and their simple testimonies of obedience. They are willing to keep the commandments without a moment´s notice. For example, these couples knew that the Lord expected them to get married because they have already started their family. Both have babies on the way and they knew that the Lord required this of them urgently. We arranged the marriage as if it were an every day event. There weren’t a lot of ribbons or bows, invitations or family preparations. It was just a simple ceremony with a nice cake to celebrate. It was great! They understood the reason behind the activity.

Why do we complicate things so much? I think from time to time the members of the church can get so involved in Homemaking night and scout camp outs that they forget about the reason behind everything we do. They forget the reason behind the activity. Surely they are important though. I have never understood this so much as I do now. The Lord wants us to keep our covenants and be obedient and endure to the end and if we do these simple things, then everything else is just a support, an appendage. Why do we do activity days, mutual, church basketball and other programs? The lord teaches that by small and simple things great things are brought to pass and that by simple things he brings about the salvation of many souls. How did seminary activities get some many of my high school friends baptized? I don’t know but in the end it worked. The Lord cares about everyone and tries to embark everyone´s interest with the goal in mind that their activity in other the aspects will enable their continued activity in church.

I am thankful that I grew up in an environment where these programs and activities were a part of my life. I am most grateful that I was taught the importance behind the activities and that my family´s focus was on covenants more than activities. I was impacted by a scripture this week in my personal study.

´´And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.´´

(Alma 12: 9-10)

We in our lives have the capacity to know the mysteries of God. However, we receive according to the portion which we are prepared for through our diligence and obedience to the Lord. I then asked myself this question:

How many times in my life have I received only the lesser portion of the word?

I would have us ponder upon what we do in our lives. Are we focused on the best things? Are we just busy or are we anxiously engaged in a righteous cause? Everything we do we should do it with the eye single to the glory of God. We should recognize that we are part of a great work and that our diligence will help us know the mysteries of God to a greater extent. As we do so, our callings become joys and blessings to us. The loving nursery leader knows the mysteries of God when she realizes that in her hands she holds the future leaders of the church. The Boy Scout master knows the mysteries of God when he resists to yell at the rambunctious boys late at night because he remembers that these same voices will proclaim the gospel of peace in all nations and tongues. A father and mother know the mysteries of God when they pray with their little child who will have no recollection of the prayer or the night they prayed to together.

These things have made the difference for me. Thank you Mom and Dad, brothers and sisters, scoutmasters and young men's leaders.Thank you for knowing the mysteries of God and being there for me in the times when it seemed it didn’t matter. I now know the mysteries of God a little bit more because of your diligence and faithfulness. My goal is to continue to learn and one day know them in full.

Let us magnify our callings not by making our jobs difficult or complicated but by seeing more clearly that our service has eternal consequences for ourselves and others.

Elder Russell

Saturday, February 19, 2011

God Know Us........week 92

The Lord knows each and every one of us. Our thoughts and worries and struggles…He has felt them too. More and more I realize that God cares about the one and will stop at nothing to help them get back on track if they have been lost. That is why He came to this world.

From time to time, I have fallen into a common trap that Satan has for missionaries. When missionaries see a convert that goes away from the fold, the enemy of all righteousness tells them that their service was in vain, that the person is doomed to an eternal destruction and all sorts of other nonsense. Honestly, it is pretty tough when we see a child of God who has made covenants go astray. One almost falls into the trap. It has happened a few times in the mission for me. But I have seen so many examples that are contrary. This week I received an answer to my prayer, a prayer I have had in my heart since about a year ago.

When word had gotten to me that my converts Carlos and Fatima had moved from La Borgoña about a year ago, I was worried for them. They moved to Pochomil where there is no church and barely any members for over an hour and a half in bus. Apparently they had been meeting with a few other members in a makeshift nucleus. That at least comforted me for a while until about 8 months ago when I heard that the nucleus was abandoned. The only way that people could go to church was in bus and the trip would be both costly and long. The family had nothing they could do. I have thought about them weekly since then and prayed that they might be strong and that they might keep the faith. They are special to me and I know that the Lord has something really special prepared for them. Since my time in the office I have tried to contact them and there was no luck. I had no phone number, no direction, no member that could talk to them and I certainly couldn’t go look for them. I was stuck. The only thing I could do was pray. But the Lord was preparing the way for them to come back, little did I know.

In my normal routine of coiffure duty in the office, I took the AP to La Borgona for the District Meeting they were having since he didn’t know how to get there. I began talking with one of the members that I always worked with there and it was amazing to feel of her faith again. I suddenly felt prompted to ask her about Carlos and Fatima. Perhaps she would have heard something…it turns out that she did. They had returned to La Borgoña for a few days to see how things were with their house and she had seen them that day. They were right there! I was so excited. She we took a quick detour and went to see them.

I can’t adequately express the feelings I had when I saw them from about 30 feet away. Fatima did a double take and she beamed from ear to ear. Then Carlos walked around the corner and gave me a big hug. I didn’t want to let go. I had had to let go for so long from them and they had been left out to dry. I just wanted to protect them and help them and make sure that all was okay. We entered the small house like I had done so many times over a year and half ago. The house almost looked the same, it just didn’t have their possessions inside. But the spirit was there. That I can say.

They began to relate the long, sad story and history of their struggles in Pochomil. The families who had participated were overtaken by pride and worldly desires and shortly after they had moved there the nucleus was nonexistent. They explained to me that they always read the scriptures and that they had all of the manuals but that it just wasn’t the same. They had been trying to find a way to make things work out but their faith was hurt by their circumstances. They shared with me how the Lord had been blessing them with work and how they were now expecting a baby and how so many things were going well. Then Carlos´ mom died. They were looking into how they could make things work. In that moment, I asked them to bare their testimonies. It was an amazing experience to hear of their conversion stories from their own mouths. They both know it is true! We read 1 Nephi 3:7 and Fatima remember the scripture and she testified that the Lord would help them go to church, even if it were only from time to time as circumstances permitted. They committed to go to the temple and resume church activity. We said a sacred closing prayer.

I walked out of the lesson in awe. How did the Lord know? How does He make things work out like that? I too can sing the song ´´I stand all amazed.´´ He knows them. He heard my prayer. He helped me be there at the right time in the right place. I was so thankful. I said a silent prayer.

God will never abandon us. Our trials will be but for a small moment and then we will be rewarded for our sacrifice. The family will come back. I will be in their sealing. I know it. Satan´s traps never work out.

May we be in the right place at the right time, always!

Elder Grant Russell