28 November, 2011

The monster returns

Well this has been an interesting Thanksgiving weekend for my companion and I. We were planning on buying a Chicken to be able to celebrate the holiday a little bit, and maybe do some mashed potatoes or something. On Wednesday, however, we ended up feeling a little sick after our lunch appointment. On Thursday, we both woke up with pretty bad stomach aches, and head pains. We both got hit with some kind of bug, and so the monster (the Diarriah) returned. We both had pretty bad diarriah and headaches and everything from Wednesday until Sunday. It just so happened that Thursday (Thanksgiving) was the day we felt the worst. We ended up having to change our dinner plans a tad bit, and ended up eating rice with some eggs...... not the best Thanksgiving dinner ever.

On Thursday while sitting there eating bland rice with eggs, I really started thinking about Thanksgiving. I realized that I was in another country, away from the family, and eating quite frankly the worst thanksgiving dinner I had eaten. Regardless of all of that, I realized that this thanksgiving I have more to be thankful for than any other thanksgiving I have passed. The holidays really aren't all about all the food, or about presents, or about the turkeys, the christmas trees, the ornaments and all that..... It's about really reflecting on our lives, and the life of Christ. My whole life, I have always been more focused on the food, the presents, and all that with the holidays, and I guess it really took me being in the most humble circumstances to really come to realize the blessings that I have in my life. It helped me really see just how blessed I really am to have the gospel in my life.
This week was a pretty tough one due to the sicknesses of my companion and I, and also the fact that it was one of the hottest weeks we've had in the year so far.   Tyler and Kiplin sent me a letter with a talk attached named "but if not." I realized that one of the problems I have had in my mission is the pure unconditional trust in the lord. With supposedly increasing my faith a little, and working harder, I thought I had faith that no matter what, we would see miracles. When that didn't happen, quite frankly it discouraged my faith, and shook my hope of seeing miracles. My problem I have had, is that I didn't have the unconditional trust. I told the Lord I would work as hard as I could, and trust that he would give us miracles. All along what I should have said, is that I would work as hard as I could, and trust that he would give us miracles, BUT IF NOT, then I will keep working as hard as I can, and trust in him. The mission really has helped me in so many ways to be able to really understand the faith and trust. Before the mission, I always viewed it as simply believing somehthing that you can't see. Little did I know that is just the "milk" of the doctrine. Faith and trust is really to just throw my own will out the window, and conform my wants, my wishes, and desires to be those of the Lord. The trials that I pass every hour, every day and week and month of the mission serves for my growth and understanding. I am so thankful for my trials. I know that without the trials I have had in my mission, I would not be who I am now. I also know the Lord still has so much more to teach me as a missionary, and I am excited to learn it all.
This week we didn't have any investigators come to church, we only had about 25 members there. We are starting to see a lot of potential baptisms that are coming from our work with the members now...... maybe we will start seeing the miracles now, but if not..... well you already know. We have been working really hard to gain the confidence of the members, due to the fact that there have been a long line of disobedient missionaries that have been here, and so we have been having to build everything up from zero.
We have changes this Wednesday, and I'm not sure if we will be changed or not, but I do have the surety that if I leave here, than I have at least done everything I can to leave this little branch of the world better off than when I found it. We have had a really hard time changing the traditions of the members here due to the past missionaries, and have even had some members that get offended by us. We are really making an effort to be 100 percent obedient, and we have gotten to a point now where they are starting to understand a little better.
Well that's about all that is new this week..... we are feeling better with the stomachs now, although they still aren't up to 100 percent yet. I love you guys, and hope all is well back home. Thank you all for everything and my prayers are always with you. Love ya all tons!!!!
Elder Ryan Griffin

21 November, 2011

Following the Spirit

Well this week has been a week of, well a week of work. Missionary work really is one of the most exhauting, but most rewarding. This week has been a mix between the two.

On Tuesday I did divisions with another companionship in the district, it went pretty well, there were some things they were struggling with, and so I talked to them about that, but the divisions were helpful I think. During the divisions my throat started hurting a little bit.

On Thursday, we had a zone conference with President Callan. It was a really good conference, like all, and I feel like I learned a lot from president about some more things we can try, to see more success in our area. On the same day, later in the day, we had a lesson with a woman named Lina, and her son-in-law. They are a pretty poor family, we have been teaching Lina for a couple of weeks now, and she has attended church once so far. They have a ton of chickens running all over, a couple of dogs, and even a pet monkey in a cage, that has temper tantrums sometimes. On Thursday, we went there to have a lesson with them, and I felt like we should teach lesson 1. She had been taught by other messionaries before, so I thought to myself that it wasn't necesary. Then I felt the impression to teach lesson 1 again, so I conceded, and we started up lesson 1. We got really deep into some of the doctrine, and it was really spiritual, we went over prophets, and it helped a lot for them to understand the importance of the true church, instead of just whatever church talks about God. With the life of Jesus, and the apostacy, I think it really hit their needs, and their doubts they were having. Then we got to the restauration. I said the first vision, and then after it took a while for something to come, so it was just silent for a moment. Then finally the words started coming out, and I bore my testimony and felt the spirit guiding it stronger than at any other time. The spirit just completely took over the lesson, and it really just hit home to their needs. Lina said she was feeling the spirit really strongly, and committed to read and pray that night. It was one of the most spiritually edifying lessons I have been a part of. It is amazing to me how beautifully the words and scriptures, and testimony go together when they are guided by the spirit. The spirit really is a perfect teacher, obviously that's why we have to teach by it. It also is really cool seeing how it hits right at their doubts and concerns as investigators when the spirit is the one teaching.
The next day we went back, and she had prayed and read, and knows that it is true. Unfortunately she couldn't attend church due to her daughter having a baby on Sunday.
On one of the days of the week I don't remember which, a man with a machete, and a plastic grocery bag came up to us. We got kind of nervous, seeing as he had a machete, and he told us that he had been working all day, and that the lady didn't pay him, and that he had nothing to eat. He seemed really sincere, and we felt bad for him (and he had a machete) and so we gave him a 10 mil guarani (2-3 dollars). He took it and we walked off..... close call.
We have been finishing the thank you letters to the members this week, we have already written them all, now we are just trying to get them in their houses without them noticing. A lot of them have thanked us for the letters. I think it is helping them have a better relationship with us, so if nothing else it makes them feel good about themselves. It makes us feel pretty good to be serving them as well.

On Saturday we did a service with Emmanuel, one of the members, we cemented in some rocks in front of his house for a walk-way. It didn't turn out all that well, but we aren't exactly experienced with rock laying, it's tricky stuff.

On Sunday, we had a stake conference with Elder Foster from the 70. President Callan, and the temple president were also their, and it was a pretty good conference, their weren't as many people their as we would have liked, but it wasn't too bad of a turn out. They talked a lot about the importance of families, and it was really spiritual. I feel like I learned a lot from it. There was a youth choir that sang in it, and it was pretty bad, and off tune, but other than that the conference was pretty good.

This week we started a "game" to help us do better with the contacts. We came up with certain ways of contacting related with a certain sport (for example: volleyball; first elder does the warm up of the contact(bump), the other one does the contact part(set), and then the first one bears their testimony(spike)). Every time right before we do the contact, we say a certain sport, and then follow the contact (yes, we are that bored). One of the days, I said volleyball, and started the contact, then my companion found out his information, and then I bore my testimony. At the end he gave us both little candies..... best contact ever! Believe it or not, it has actually helped us to have more variety in our contacts, and helps us follow the spirit more on them. We also play golf(if someone passes, without contacting them, on your side, you get a point) all day. We sometimes have to come up with things like that to help us focus more on doing it.
Also on Sunday, I lost my voice due to something in my throat. In the morning I couldn't say anything, and later in the day, I could say a little bit. My companion had to guide everything during the day, so that was pretty funny. It was actually awkward in some situations, because he would just sit their waiting, and since I could hardly say anything, I had to do the same..... lets just say we had a lot of awkward silences. It was fun sounding like a 14 year old boy again though with my voice.
Right now we are having a pretty big rain storm.... it's cooling things down a bit. The heat has started climbing up there this week though. It's nice when it rains, because it helps with that.

Changes are coming up this next Sunday, in about 10 days. There are a 18 more elders that go home.

Love you guys tons, and hope that everything is going well with you. Hope to hear from you next week......
Elder Griffin

13 November, 2011

Thank you members!

Well this week we had the baptism of Liz Paola Portillo. We had the baptismal service on Saturday, and it was incredibly spiritual. She bore her testimony after the baptism, and the spirit was really strong there. Then her uncle (who we reactivated about 2 months ago) got up and shared his testimony for the first time in 3 years. It was incredibly spiritual as well. Most of the people present in the service were teared up at least a little bit. Yesterday she was confirmed a member of the church, and is going strong now.

On Sunday it rained pretty much all the day. It's still raining as of right now as well. We didn't have any investigators in the meeting unfortunately due to the rain and some other problems we had during the week. This week we have been working a lot with the members. We are trying to build up their confidence in us, and get to know them a little better. We decided to write them some thank-you letters and hide them in their houses, to help them know we love them. We have done it with 5 of the families so far, and they all thanked us for the letters. We are hoping that will help to have better relashionships with them. We are working really hard to try and help them get excited to do the missionary work, and as of right now we aren't seeing any immediate results, but I know in the long-run it is going to help out a lot.
We also went looking for some of the less active members in our area this week..... that was fun. One of the ladies we found just started yelling at us right when we got to the door, and was yelling for probably 5 minutes straight about different stuff, we left empty handed their. Another one told us that they weren't part of this church anymore and asked us to take them off the list. Well needless to say, we didn't have the greatest reception as of yet, but we are going to keep looking and see what happens.

I did divisions with one of the companionships this week, and that was really good. It's kind of weird having to be the example for other missionaries, because then I'm always worried if I am doing everything right or not. It was a good teaching/learning experience though.

We were talking to Christian, the one I baptized when I got here to this area. He told us that he is planning on serving a mission when he turns 19. He also said that he is in 2nd nephi 15 in the Book of Mormon. He is progressing really well, and is a strong convert. 
Well other than that, we did a deep cleaning of the house this morning, and that's about the gist of this week. Oh, also we have a zone conference on Thursday, that should be really good.
Love you guys tons, and hope all is well.
Elder Ryan Griffin

06 November, 2011

Pushing past exhaustion

Hola querida familia,
Well this week has gone pretty well. On tuesday I did divisions with one of the companionships in the area. I went to Libertad with Elder Bowers, and Elder Rodgers stayed in our area with a brand new elder. I got to do the interviews with the QuiƱones family. They are 4 in total, the parents, a daughter of 13, and a son of 8. The first interview was with the father, and was really spiritual. I felt the spirit so strongly the entire time, and so that was really cool. We had a really good conversation about some gospel themes, and then finished it up. Then I interviewed the son, and that was just a quick interview. Then the daughter was really nervous, but I just lightened up the situation, and then it was really spiritual as well. Then the mom was really nervous as well, but her interview turned out really well also. I love doing the interviews, because I feel so much love towards these people who I only talk to for like 30 minutes, and feel the spirit so strongly throughout.
Also in the interchanges, we went to the house of an evangelical guy that knows a bunch of stuff about the church, and basically just likes to argue. Elder Bowers told him that I had more time and experience, and that I could answer all of his questions. So then he started his attacks right off the bat. It basically turned into a bible bash, because that's what he wanted, and so I gave in. Every time I would prove him wrong on a point, he would just change subjects. Finally I just put away the Bible, and bore my testimony of the Book of Mormon. He then proceeded to throw out all this supposed "scientifical evidence" that the Book of Mormon was false. I simply told him, well quite honestly I couldn't care less if all the scientifical evidence in the world proves that the Book of Mormon is false, because I have an undeniable spiritual witness that it is true, and there is no way I could ever deny that. Well needless to say, he changes subjects again and started attacking the church.  I just told him that the contention is of the devil, and that we weren't there to argue. He kept on going, so I shook his hand, and we left him there yelling things at us.

On Thursday, we did divisions with the Zone Leaders to do our interview for Paola (14). I went with Elder Merrill in Kary Rory and my companion stayed here again. She passed the interview and was all good. Unfortunately nature was not on our side this week. The day before, she started having her.... feminine problems.... Well needless to say we had to postpone the baptism for this coming Saturday.

On Sunday we had 4 investigators in the meeting, which was really good. We also started picking up our lessons with members, and some of the other indicators. We have been working so hard for so many weeks now, and we are praying that it will be paying off now. We have people with bap. dates for the next three weeks, so if we keep it up, we can actually start baptizing every week. We are praying with everything that we can accomplish that. We are already about half way through this change, so in 3 weeks there's a good chance that we will have a change. I don't know if I will go or if my companion will go.
The elders that had the family that was baptized also got robbed on sunday night. They were walking along, and apparently some random guy just came up to them with a machete, and robbed them. They just threw the cell phone, and ran, so they didn't get hurt or anything..... but now they are phone-less.
We are really working with the members now to get them more excited for missionary work and get them more involved. We have a plan of 10 families who we are working with to get a reference every month from them. If we can do it well, we should start seeing a lot more success in our area. We are thinking of more and more things that we can do bettter so that we can see more and more success as missionaries. It sure doesn't come easily though.

After 8 full weeks of hard work, and mental exhaution, we are now finally seeing the fruits of our work starting to appear. I feel really good about our efforts with these weeks, I think I have suffered more frustration and exhaution in these 8 weeks than I thought I could possibly bear. It is amazing to see how well the Lord knows us personally and gives us such trials as to help us push ourselves to the very limit of our strength so that we can become that much stronger. Our personal progression is like a muscle, it needs that maximum resistence to be able to reach it's potential. If we don't reach that top resistance, than God knows we can never reach our true potential. I remember that when I started lifting a little in college with Michael, I was even more skinny and quite frankly weak. I would get to a point with the lifts (bench press or others) in which my body would tell me to stop. My natural response was always to try and put the weights back. Michael, knowing the need for more resistence to stimulate the growth, would always push it back, and tell me to do one more. I would do the one more, and at that point I was always passed my usual point of exhaustion. Then once again I would attempt to put the weights back, adn once again Michael would tell me to push out one more. at that point I would usually say, I can't do one more, I'm already passed the point of exhaustion. But he wouldn't let me put it back. Whenever I would go and do that very last one, even after the exhaustion, I could never get the weights all the way back up by myself, but he would let me sit there and struggle a little bit with it before reaching out and lifting the rest. I've come to realize how similar that experience is in the real life. I think god understands this need for stimulation of growth. He pushes us to that very last limit, and even lets us sit there and struggles sometimes to try and get it back up. He also always reaches out eventually to lift the rest. I now am understanding the great need for trials in our life. I have been praying a lot to my father in heaven that I can reach my true potencial as a missionary, and well I guess he knew the only way I could start getting there was a trial to the very limits of my strength.
I am so greatful for my father in heaven, and the great blessings and the great trials that he gives me. I know that he always knows what's best for me, and the best thing I can do is trust in him, and keep going.
Love you,
Elder Ryan Griffin