27 February, 2012

Shopping experiences

Well this week has been a good week, we've had some super spiritual lessons with our investigators, and I feel super happy with everything that is going on... even though as of right now we're still not seeing baptisms. We had changes this Wednesday. My companion and I stayed here for another change. The other 3 companionships all had changes. Elder Brown who came with me is now with Elder Ayola..... they are both just trunky, so there's a lot of work to do there. The other two companionships had younger missionaries that came with them, so now we have a younger district. One of my zone Leaders, Elder Clement went as one of the assistants. There are 4 now in the mission due to the fact that there will be a new president. The other new assistant, is Elder Paledines, the elder that was in te same apartment as me a year ago, and always stole my food and stuff, and was super disobedient with Elder Vaca. Who knows, maybe he changed?
On Monday, we went to downtown Cuidad del Este. It is actually the most city I have ever seen here in Paraguay. My companion needed to look for some stuff, and so we went there to look. At the same time we did a lot of souvenir shopping because they have everything out there. It was super hectic downtown. We had people walking all over, so it was a lot of dodging, and avoiding trying to get around. Basically on all the sidewalks there, there are stores on one side, and the street isn't even visible because on the other side, there are stands with various different things to sell. It kind of causes a maze effect, and is super confusing, because it kind of just forces you to go a certain way, and you can't see the streets, so it's really easy to get lost. We don't know downtown at all, so we were just wandering aimlessly to try and find some cool stuff to buy. I got some pretty cool stuff, and got some good practice on my bartering skills. I bought a jug with leather work on the outside, with a cup, that the guy said was 120 guarani. I told him I'd buy it if he included one of the metal straws (used for drinking terere, which is about 7 guarani) He agreed, and then I told him I only had 100 guarani, so he just sold it to me for that anyway. Then I bought a leather work cup thing, and a wallet that was supposed to be 50 guarani. I got her to put my name inscripted on it, and got the both for 40 mil. Later I got some napkin holder, and cup placers that are leather, it was 45 mil, but I got it for 35. Then I got some of the Paraguay jerseys, set at 150 mil, bought for 100. I saved overall 100 gaurani (25 dollars or so) It was pretty fun going around and seeing all the different little things that they have here. I did some pretty good shopping. Hopefully I don't get a change now, because I won't have space.
We were looking for a suit for my companion, and we entered into a store. It had an escalator, and every floor had different things. The first floor was a bunch of jewelry and stuff. Then we got on the escalator, and the next floor had electronics, it kind of turned into a nice little surprise as we are going up, to find what the next surprise was on the next floor. The third floor had a restaurant with sushi, and a guy playing the piano..... strange... Then the last floor, they had some clothes. We found some suits, and they seemed pretty nice. We go over and ask the lady how much it costs..... 1,800 .... dollars. Wow. Yeah, as you can imagine we got out of there pretty quick. On the way back, we saw a pen that costed 200 dollars, and a watch that cost 1000 dollars. Yeah, we're not going back there.

We had changes on Wednesday, my companion and I both stayed.
Basically the whole week it rained off and on, so it made things a little tougher, but we kept trudging along, with mud, and rain. We are really starting to teach with the spirit a lot better now. We are having super spiritual lessons with almost all of our lessons, and we are seeing a lot of people who have been prepared of God. On Tuesday, we taught a family that we just sat down with. We had the spirit there strong, and I have realized that the spirit makes it so that people aren't just luke warm, they either accept of reject. As we taught this family, the spirit was there strong, and we invited them to be baptized. Immediately, the father stood up, and walked away, saying no.
The very next lesson, we sat down with another guy, and once again, had the spirit there strong, and we could see that he could feel it. Regardless, he rejected it as well. We told him that if he wanted to know the truth he had to ask God. He stood up at that point and yelled something at us, and went storming into his house. My companion and I looked at each other, stood up, and left. It's sad to see that people are willing to reject what they are feeling so much, simply because they want to follow their traditions. It makes me feel a lot of anguish for them, because I know what they're missing out on.
On Friday, we taught some really good lessons as well. We went and taught two new investigators in the morning. We had a good lesson with them, and they seemed really sincere. Later, we taught a guy named Ramon. We got into his house right as it was about to rain, and we sat down, and taught him the restoration. It was a really spiritual lesson, and he even admitted that his church is false, and isn't the same church as what Christ formed. He accepted a baptismal invitation at the end. Later, we sat down with a reference that we had from a member. We started teaching them, and it was a super spiritual lesson. I could tell that they were feeling the spirit, and so I asked them, what are you thinking right now. The responded: " I don't know." Then I asked How do you feel right now? There was a long pause as they sat thinking, the spirit was burning strong, and then the wife spoke up and said: "I don't want to change churches." I replied, that's not what we asked you, I asked how are you feeling right now. Another pause, and they responded, no we don't want to change churches. I felt my heart just drop, and we left them with a prayer. It is really sad to see that so many people feel that spirit so strongly, and then are willing to just throw it out the window.

Later in Friday, we had one of the best lessons I have ever had. We went to Juan Ramon, who we had previously taught at a member´s house. When we went for the return visit earlier in the week, he told the members that he is catholic and doesn't want to change. We went to his house regardless, and he let us in. We sat down, and started talking to him. Right from the start of the lesson, the spirit was already there, and it just got stronger as the lesson went on. We testified to him about how he could come to know for himself, and he asked us some really good questions. We could tell that the spirit was directing him, as well as us. It was really just a lesson of the spirit. At the end of the lesson, the words came out of my mouth. Juan, Satan will attack you with even people that are close to you to try and get you to doubt our message, but trust what it is that you are feeling right now, and God will help you. After I said that he replied, well you are right there, I have already seen that happen.
We had a couple of other really spiritual lessons in the week, and really I just feel even happier now. We are feeling so edified by the spirit, and seeing his spirit work trough us. We are both really excited, and working hard. My companion and I get along really well, and we are really seeing miracles. As of right now, we still don't have anybody lined up for baptism, but regardless of if we have baptisms or not, I feel happy that I am becoming a better servant of my Father. I feel so grateful for the testimony and knowledge of the gospel that I have gained in my mission. I will never be able to work hard enough to pay Him back, but as long as I feel like he's pleased with me, I know I am doing all I can.

I love you guys, and hope all is well back home. I want to ask you guys a favor, please don't talk about home to me. I want to stay focused on the mission, so I would really appreciate it if you guys can help me with that. Thanks a ton, and I love you all. Cuidense!
Elder Ryan Griffin

20 February, 2012

Release date

Well this has been a very interesting week.
On Monday and Tuesday we had a pretty rough start to the week, with just 5 lessons, adn no news or anything else. Then on Wednesday, we had our zone Conference. We had to wake up a little early to go to Cuidad del Este to go to the conference. It turned out to be a really good conference. I learned a lot about teaching with the spirit, and about the different things that we can do a little bit better in our area. I had to give a little 5 minute talk to start out the conference, it was about goals and plans, and why it is central to our purpose as misionaries. President talked a lot about various teaching principals that we need to do better as missionaries. Our mission is super young right now, so I think it was really good for some of the younger missionaries to learn how to teach better. I recieved a lot of revelation as well during the conference, about simple little things that I can do to improve my teaching techniques. We also had a special number with about 8 missionaries, and we sang Joseph Smith's first prayer. We did really well for the fact that we only had about 20 minutes to practice it, and it turned out really well. The conference ended and we went back to our area. We only ended up getting another 2 lessons during the day, not starting off the week so well.
Then on Thursday we had an even harder day, only getting lessons with less-actives. After 4 days in the week, we had like 14 lessons, 7 of which were with less-actives. It was looking like it was going to be a pretty bad week.

On Friday, we had a hard day as well, but we pulled out of our rut a little bit, finding some new investigators, and getting more lessons. Then on Saturday, we had a complete change of the way things were going. In hte morning, we taught a guy named Arnaldo, we had taught him a couple weeks ago, but we couldn't find him again, until Saturday. we asked him about his compromise, of reading and praying. He said that he had done it, and told us that he felt something in his chest. He said it was something he couldn't explain, and that it made him feel good. We read part of 3 Nephi 11 with him, and explained that was the same thing the Nephites felt when they heard the voice. We ended up setting a baptismal date with him, and he told us he couldn't go to church, because he had work on Sunday. Later we went to another guy we had been teaching, named Abel. it turned out that now his daughter-in-law is living with them, and she is a member of the church, so that will be a big blessing and help to be able to get him to church. Unfortunately he also told us he couldn't go on Sunday, becuase he had to go work the next day. Later in the day, we went to a member's house, and they had us sit down, and teach a friend of theirs that was over. His name is Juan Ramon. He sat down, and we started teaching him the restoration. It was a super powerful and spiritual lesson, and we felt like he was really sincere, and really attentive to what we were teaching. We invited him to be baptized at the end, and he accepted. He gave an amazing prayer at the end, asking help to be able to wash himself of his sins, and be baptized in the true church of Christ. He also told us that he wasn't going to be able to go to church Sunday, due to a compromise he had. Later in the day we taught another family that we had been teaching for a couple times. We talked about the BOM with them, and they expressed that they felt it was true, adn that they want to be baptized. We put a date with them, but they also had something they had to do on Sunday. All of the investigators committed to go to church next week, but this week none of them could go. We have a lot of potential to start having a lot of baptisms now, we just have to keep working hard. I really feel like I felt the true joy of missionary work with my companion on Saturday, seeing the power of God, and of our message in the lives of these people.

We have changes coming up again this week, on Wednesday. I am hoping I don't get a change, because Elder Richards and I get along really well, and we are working really well together. We are having really spiritual and powerful lessons with almost every lesson we are teaching. It is awesome to feel the spirit so strong in all of our lessons, because now I really feel like I am doing everything in my power to help the people make the correct decision. We are really starting to see the power of God working through us in our area and in our investigators.

The next mission president for our mission has already been called. He is going to be Presidente Pedro Agazzani from Cordoba, Argentina. He'll be coming on July 1, 2012.... right after I leave. President Callan and his wife leave just after we do, so we are their last full group.

13 February, 2012

Ice Cream Man

Well this week I finally got my Christmas package. Thank you guys for all the letters and everything, I loved it!

Well On Tuesday, I did divisions with Elder King again. It went pretty well, we found some good people, and had some good lessons. We talked a lot about a bunch of different things that are going on in our areas and other stuff. He is a really good elder. It was fun being his companion for a day again. The next morning I had an awakening to Elder King falling out of the bed. He forgot he was in our pension, and somehow managed to fall out of his bed. Our room is really dark, so I just heard a thump and then, "ouch...." Then I started laughing, and he got confused, because he realized he wasn't in his pension, and asked "where am I?" It was a pretty funny morning for that.
Later on Wednesday, I took some of the fireballs that I got in the package, and I gave them to an Argentine member that lives here. At first he tried chewing it, and we told him you just have to suck on it. Then after a couple seconds he said, "wow, this is pretty spicy." Then a couple seconds later, he jumped up, and ran to his sink and spit it out, and then started chugging a bunch of water. I guess their not quite as used to spicy things as we are. We gave one to the branch president as well, and told him he wouldn't be able to finish it, so being a tough guy, he actually kept it in his mouth the whole time, but it was quite funny watching his eyes watering. We have given some to some kids and other people as well. I think the reactions of the Paraguayans with fireballs is much more worth it than eating them ourselves.

I tried grilled chicken hearts this week. Another strange food to add to the list of weird things I've eaten here. It wasn't really good or bad, just kind of in the middle. Not really something I'll be seeking out after the mission.

We had a super funny contact this week. There was an old man that walks around with a little cart selling ice cream all day. This old little guy was sitting on a bench eating some ice cream, with his cart at his side. We went up and started talking to him a little bit. I asked him where he lived, and he said: "over there," pointing in a direction with his finger. Then I said OK, perfect, and what is there close to you house, something we can use to find it? He replied: "oh, you know.... all of the things." I couldn't help but smirk a little at that one. Then I asked OK, but hermano, how can we get to you house? He responded: oh, well through God of course." at that point I just gave up the contact and we left him sitting there with his little ice cream. You win old man, you win.
We also had a funny encounter or two with some drunk guys. The first one, called us over and we started talking to him. To try and explain something, he asked well you have a mom right? I said, well yeah. Then he asked my companion, and he replied, nope, my mom died when I was 12 (she really did). Then the drunk guy got super sad, and said how can a boy live without him mom. You're only 19 years old, and you don't have a mom? Then he pulled out a box of cigarettes, and said, "well now I'm really nervous, I need to smoke." I don't think he was expecting my companions response before he asked that question, but it was pretty funny to see his reaction. Later in the week, we went up and talked to a guy, who turned out to be drunk. My companion was talking to him, and asked him which is more important, the Virgin Mary, or Jesus Christ. The guy responded, well the virgin Mary of course. Then asked us why we don't believe in her. We ended up just leaving and knocking a different door. Later we walked past him again, and he yelled, hey, do you guys believe in the virgin. My companion just said, nope! The guy then started yelling at us, How can you not believe in our god. If you do that, I'm not going to believe in your god. We kept walking, and he shouted, hey come back here. I'm gonna hit you guys! How can you not believe in the Virgin? He was shouting things until we got about 3 blocks away, and then we couldn't hear him anymore.
I've been working a lot this week on smiling more, and just trying to be happy regardless of the circumstances. I did pretty well right up until Saturday and Sunday. We ended up walking a ton, and we were both exhausted, so it was hard to keep a smile on the face at that point. We both woke up exhausted this morning from how much we walked yesterday.

We had an overall good week, we found lots of new investigators, and had some good lessons. We are still struggling on having investigators progressing. We are working super hard, like for the past couple months, but I think God still has some things that he wants us to learn. Well, all we have left to do, is just keep improving, and do everything we can do, and then sit back, and see the promises of God fulfil themselves. I really feel like these past couple months of my mission have been some of the hardest. Sometimes I really don't think I can take anymore. However, I wouldn't have it any other way. I am so grateful for every little experience that the Lord allows me to pass through to become a better person. I love looking back at the person I was, and seeing now the difference in the person I have become. Most of who I now am, is thanks to the trials and tribulations that I have had to go through. I guess you could say the best weeks of the mission are the most frustrating, and difficult weeks of all, but that's because the Lord loves us. My testimony of this work, and of my Savior and the atonement are all thanks to the hard times I have had in the mission.

I love you guys, and hope all is well back home. Have a fantastic week!
Elder Ryan Griffin

06 February, 2012

Learning and Growing

Well, this week has been a really good week.... not so much in the numbers, but as far as learning and growing, it has been a great week for me.

This week, we had interviews with the President. In my interview, I talked to president about how I have started getting a little bit frustrated with the fact that I'm working as hard as I can, trying to be productive, and follow the spirit, but still I am not seeing nearly as many baptisms as I would like. It has honestly been something that has been frustrating me a bunch, so I asked president about it. He told me that he went in his mission 8 months without a baptism, and that people always think that he baptized a bunch, but really he didn't. He told me that I have to trust in the lord, and be patient to see him fulfil his promises. He really helped me feel a lot better, and in the morning I had studied a bunch about patience, so i left the interview with the mindset to be patient regardless of what comes.

On Friday, we found a bunch of really good investigators. 4 of the ones we found were definitely people that had been prepared by the Lord. They had special circumstances, that made it perfect to teach them, and we had really powerful lessons with all of them. We also entered into a lesson with a Catholic couple. Right off the bat, they started talking about how the catholic church is the church that God put on the earth, and that Peter was the first "pope" and all that good old stuff. I didn't want to argue with them, so we started with a prayer, and just tried to start up lesson 1. We started talking about prophets, and they told us that God only called prophets until Christs time. I then showed them the scripture in Amos 3:7. They tried to justify and twist the scripture as best as they could, and so I opened up to Ephesians 2:20. They said, well yeah, but we have apostles, so it's the same. I explained to them, that would be like constructing a foundation just with just water, or just cement. You need both to have a sturdy foundation. They just kept on arguing and arguing the point, and so we tried to just push on in the lesson. We bore testimony, used examples.... basically we tried everything we could think of. We ended up talking about how there were in fact prophets after Christ, and well from there, they just twisted, and distorted the scriptures we would share. It got to the point, that I just told them, alright, we're not here to argue with you guys, and you've made it clear you don't want to listen, so we are going to leave. They just kept on trying to argue, and tell us that we needed to read the scriptures better. We told them, alright, we would like to offer a prayer to leave, and they just kept on arguing, so we stood up shook there hands and left.

On Saturday we had 8 people that were committed to go to church, and 3 less-active families as well. On Sunday morning, we went and picked up two of the investigators, and went to church with them. They were there for the first meeting, but the members didn't really do so well with fellow shipping the guy. The relief society did really well though with the girl. Regardless, the guy after the first meeting, felt out of place, and wanted to leave, so they both left after the first meeting. When they left, one of the less-active families showed up, a family of 4 that hasn't been to church for 8 months now. We had some really spiritual lessons with them in the week, and they finally came. However, we didn't have any investigators in the sacrament meeting, so that was pretty disappointing. Then after church from about 1:00-4:00 we just walked from appointment to appointment, and nobody was letting us in. It was super hot in the week, and we had just finished our fast, so we were super exhausted, and worn physically, and mentally. We ended up getting a couple of lessons in the day, but it was a pretty frustrating week.

Today, I was reading in Alma 8. The Lord certainly planned everything perfectly like always. Just when I was getting frustrated again with the area, the Lord extended his hand, and lifted me up. I'm not sure the verses, but there is a part where it says Alma started preaching in Ammoniha, and it says that Satan had taken over the hearts of the people there (well that sure sounds familiar). Later in the next verse, it says that Alma made a great effort in the spirit pleading with the Lord so that he could help them, and baptize them (I feel like my prayers have been fervent on behalf of the people here, and it is quite the effort.) Then in the next verse it says that the people still rejected Alma, and threw him out. The three or so verses later, it says that Alma was sorely afflicted and disappointed at the iniquity of the people in not accepting the gospel. (well that's been what I've been going through for a while now.) Then the next verse is what really caught my attention. An angel appears unto him, and says : Lift up thy head, and rejoice. Because surely you have much to rejoice about. The talk of Elder Carl B. Cook, "look up," came to mind. It really helped me to see, that I really need to lift up my head and rejoice. I need to be happy, because I have so much to be happy about. It helped me to see that even one of my greatest heroes in the BOM, one of the greatest prophets and teachers, also got frustrated, and disappointed. It felt like a message from an angel directly to me. It is amazing how God really does speak to us through the BOM. It really helps make my testimony of the BOM stronger. The wisdom of the Lord is infinite. Later in the next chapters the following occurs: Alma goes back, takes a member that lives in the city (amulek) and goes and preaches, and still has a lot of trials and tribulations, but regardless, they baptized and converted many people. What I got out my studies today: I need to be happy, and lift up my head. Then I need to use the members here, and we will see the conversion.

Well, I love you guys tons, and hope all is well back home. I pray that you are all healthy and well. Love ya,

Elder Ryan Griffin