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