23 April, 2012

Fast ride on a double decker

Well, this week has been a really good week. We've had our ups and downs, our joys and sorrows, the trials and blessings...... but most important we know we are doing the work of the Lord. We are strengthening our faith, developing the celestial attribute of patience, and really learning to be firm in our faith.
To start off the week, we went to AsunciĆ³n on Monday, like I told you guys last week. We got home at about 9 or so. Our bus driver was crazy. He was in a big hurry, but the good news is, we got to our destination 30 minutes early, in rush our traffic. He was just flying around, passing people up hills around corners...... in a double decker bus! The greatest is that we had front row seats for the whole show. We were up top in the very front, so we witnessed the whole ride home. Lets just say there wasn't a whole lot of sleeping that was getting done on the drive home. It was quite a "on the edge of your seat" experience. We passed literally everybody and everything on the road, we were the fastest ones driving around. We got home, and weren't able to do anything else during the day.
On Tuesday, we talked about the consecration, or dedication to the work of the Lord in the district meeting. It was spiritual, and went really well. We also talked about the baptismal invitations, because the district has fallen big time on that. The rest of the day Tuesday, was a trial to our faith, and our enthusiasm that we still had from the last week. We literally knocked a good 40 doors, and only got into one lesson with a couple, but it was only for 5 minutes, and then they had to leave. We didn't find any news during the day, which was really tough. We maintained our enthusiasm really well, and kept on pushing hard the whole day. We also went and taught the family that had attended church the last week. They are progressing really well. We taught them the plan of Salvation, and it went really well.
On Wednesday, we actually were able to find some good new investigators. We found 4 in total. We had branch night, and one of the young women brought a friend, and they wanted to learn English. So we brought a male member to be present, and taught them some English. We taught them how to pray in English..... Something I've almost completely forgotten. It went really well, and the friend asked us some questions about what we do as missionaries.
On Thursday, we were guided to an investigator who´s wife died on Monday. Literally, out of thousands of people in our area, we happened to find him 3 days after his wife had died. He had taken it pretty hard, and started drinking because of it. We had a really good lesson with him, and he is progressing now. He wasn't able to attend church, but he committed to attend this week. We also had a good lesson with Reinaldo and Silvia (the ones that attended church) and talked to them about the law of Chastity, since they aren't yet married. They agreed, and said they would talk about it.
On Friday, we really got pushed to our limits of faith and patience. It was raining basically all day, and so most of our appointments fell. Since people don't sit outside when it's raining, we only had one option left..... knock doors. We knocked doors for a good 4-5 hours of the day, in the mud, and rain trudging around, just trying everything to get into a lesson. Every single person we talked to just either flat out rejected us, or said "come back another day" (the Paraguayan way of saying I'm not interested). We just kept going and going with nothing else to do. During the day, we knocked a good 60 houses, and the result of the day...... zero new investigators, and some muddy shoes and pants. The most important result..... our faith and enthusiasm for the work, still at 100%. I honestly don't know how, but after all, the whole time we we happy, and just pushing along the whole day. We came back happy and content for having done everything we could in some not so desirable circumstances.
On Saturday, the day started out the same, we knocked about 10 houses in the morning, and nothing. Then we saw a family sitting outside, we went over and taught them. Where is there house you might ask? Well right in front of the huge Catholic church here in our area. They were really intelligent, and understood really well about why it was important to have prophets and everything. They already had a Book of Mormon, but they said that this time they were really interested and wanted to know if it was true. They said they have had a bunch of other missionaries that have come over, but they never really had interest, but that this time we explained everything really well, and they said it made them want to know if it was true. Well, I don't say that to say we are better than other missionaries, obviously we are teaching the same message. It was just a miracle to see that someone who has already heard the message, when taught by the spirit, are a lot more open, and willing to experiment. On the other side of the spectrum, we also taught a guy that just wanted to argue with us after lunch. We sat down, and he started going off about how his church has prophets, and all this other stuff. After 15 minutes, I asked him what church it was. He has gone there for 25 years, but he replied, oh it doesn't have a name yet...... what? Well apparently his prophet is still pending on that revelation..... Anyway, we tried to get into a lesson, but before we could say a prayer or anything, he said, You know what I don't like about your church? He asked who's name we baptize in. I replied, in the name of Jesus Christ. He said, no but if you were to baptize me, what would the words be that you pronounce. I said, well in the name of the Father and the son and the Holy Ghost. He said, well that's where you guys go against the Bible. It says that Paul baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I told him we weren't here to fight, and that we were going to leave if he wanted to argue about stuff. He just said he wasn't arguing, and then continued reciting off all these different scriptures from memory, just trying to show off how well he knows the Bible. So I pulled out my bible, and right off he just said, go ahead and look up Mathew 28:19 (just happened to be the scripture I was about to pull out) It is the part where Christ tells his disciples to baptize in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy ghost. He said that after Christ said that the apostles received revelation that it really meant in the name of Christ, and that it should only be that. So then, I just pulled out the Book of Mormon (the easy way to win a bible bash) and showed him 3 Nephi where Christ teaches in the Americas to baptize in the way we do. He then pulled out a scripture in the bible that says that if someone announces a different gospel than what Christ left, it is cursed. I told him, well yeah, you are changing what Christ himself taught, so you are right there. He kept arguing and asked, in who's name did Paul baptize. I just told him, well yeah he baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, just like he preached in the name of Jesus Christ, and just like it says that the apostles met in the name of Jesus Christ. When somebody does something with the priesthood of Christ, then they are doing the action in the name of Jesus Christ. After that he kept arguing, so we just left the lesson. He was just there to argue, so there wasn't anything else left to do.
On Sunday, our attendance fell..... We still had 3 investigators, but the family we were teaching didn't come to church for some reason. Our baptismal dates basically fell, and now we really have to do some repairing this week. Things are still looking up a lot. We have a ton of investigators that are progressing really well, and that are really interested in knowing more. We have a lot of work to do, but it's just a matter of time before we start seeing some more baptism.
Today we had interviews with the President. They went really well. President talked about some stuff that I had on my mind, and really was guided by the spirit to help me with some questions. That's about all for this week. It has been a good one, and my health is all good..... well all except for the back. My back isn't doing so well from all the walking on empedrado, but it's just minor back pains, nothing to big. I can't keep on any weight here, because of all the walking and everything. I am doing really well. I'm happy, and excited for the work. I love you guys tons. Thanks for everything.
Elder Griffin

16 April, 2012

Elders on Bikes

Well, this week has been really good. We have seen a lot of miracles in our area, and things are really starting to pick up. We are seeing the hand of God work in our behalf here, and we are both doing really well. I'm actually writing you from Asuncion right now. We had to travel here for an operation. Don't worry though, I'm fine. My companion is the one that had to be operated. He had an ingrown toenail that was getting pretty bad. We left our house at two in the morning, and after 8 hours on a bus(there was only indirect ones at that time) we finally got to the office. The operation was fine, they just cut his toenail a little bit, and now he should be alright.

We now have bikes in our area. Some other elders in the district had them, and weren't using them, so we were able to take them to our place, and now we use them to go out to a part of our area that is like a 30 minute walk. It's saved us a lot of time this week. The only problem, is that the roads here are all cobble-stone, and so it's not exactly the most comfortable to ride them. On top of that the seat is hard as a rock, and they don't have any shocks. Can't complain though, it beats walking that far. It is really weird riding a bike after so long though, it just feels weird not to walk. We don't use them all that much, only every other day to get out to Ca'acupemi, and then we leave them at a member's house. The people in our area just can't get over the fact that we are using bikes, because they always just see us walking around everywhere. Now when they see us they yell, "hey look, the Mormons are using bikes now!"

Well, the long dry streak is over finally. After 5 months now, I finally got to see a baptism again. We had the baptism of Miriam on Saturday. My companion baptized her, and everything went over pretty well. The only problem was that all the people that said they were going to come, didn't. We only had her family there, which was a little disappointing. Other than that, it went well, and she got confirmed. We made a cake, and all the people really liked it. It was a jello-cake, new innovation for them.

On Sunday, we had a miraculous turnout.... of investigators anyway. We had 8 investigators in the meeting. I think that was the most I have ever had. The attendance was 45, so the members were really surprised, and now the branch president is actually getting excited, he sees that we are going to be baptizing a bunch here, so they realize now that they gotta start getting stuff going. Oscar came again. We have been teaching him a lot. He is trying to stop smoking and drinking. We did a fast with him on Saturday, and he didn't smoke any cigarettes during that time. He has a baptismal date for this Saturday, but we are thinking he still needs another week. We also had Clarise there, the sister of Miriam. She is 9, and so we are still waiting on her baptism until she has more support from the parents. Right now she has a date for the 28. Their dad came, but the mom is not really caring at all. She did come to the baptism at least. We also had a family of 5 that came. Renaldo and Silvia, and their son, and 2 nieces. They are progressing really well, and have a baptismal date for the 5th of May. We have been finding some really good people as well, so right now we are having the potential to start baptizing almost every week in our area. It would really be a miracle if we can pull that off seeing as in the last two years, this area has had 6 baptisms.

We get to spend the rest of our p-day on a bus for at least another 6 hours to get back to cuidad del Este, that'll be really fun. We are both doing really well, still getting along well and everything. That's about the gist of what has happened this week. It's been a little rainy, and has cooled down a little bit. One of the only three active men in our ward, and the one with a car just got divorced with his wife(non-member) and no longer lives in our ward..... that definitely didn't help us a ton. Well, that's all for this week. Love you guys tons and hope you all have a great week. Until next time, hasta luego.

Elder Ryan Griffin

09 April, 2012

Semana Santa

Well, this week has been a nice interesting one. First things first, changes were on Wednesday. My companion and I both stayed another change together. We are now going on our 3rd change together out here, we were both excited to find out we were going to stay here, because we wanted to stay together another change. We are still getting along really well, and things are looking pretty good in our area.
Alright, so to start off the week, well I got a little bit sick. I had a fever hit on Monday shortly before we had to leave for proselyting. Well, we left anyway, and tried to work, but it got so bad that I ended up having to come back to the house and just collapsed on the bed, and fell asleep. Later, on Tuesday, we had to go to district meeting, and I still didn't feel very good, so when we came back, I took a nap before we left to go out and work again. We left, and I lasted a couple of hours, but then it got so bad again, that we had to give up, and come back to the house. Turns out that with a fever, it is not in fact better to just "toughen it out," and go out to work. I figured that one out the hard way. Finally on Wednesday, I just took a sick day, and slept a bunch. It helped a lot and fortunately, I felt mostly better on Thursday for my Birthday. In total I slept about 34 hours in 3 days..... not exactly the way I like spending days in the mission.
On Thursday..... well lets just say it was definitely an interesting Birthday. I had just recovered from being sick, so we went out and worked normal for the first day in the week. This week was what the Catholics call "Semana Santa," or holy week, in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ..... or at least that is what is is supposed to be for. As far as people actually doing that, well that's another matter. Anyway, we went to our lunch appointment on Thursday, and low and behold, the member wasn't there. We called him, and he was somewhere else. OK, well our area doesn't exactly have and "restaurants," so we started looking for a dispensa (a little in home store at peoples' houses). We walked around, and couldn't find any that were open. Oh, but don't you worry; the lord didn't forget us there. We were provided a meal from the heavens.... literally. We looked behind us, and saw red skies. Well, that wasn't something I had seen before, so we didn't know what it was. Shortly thereafter, we found out what it was. A dust storm. Now you have to understand that where we live, there is a lot of dust. The streets are basically all just red dirt. In other words, there was a lot of dust. So what did we eat for lunch you might ask, well a lot of dust. In the eyes, in the mouth, on the shirt, everything you might imagine. Well, after that, the feast wasn't over, we also had a nice little bit of rain to quench our thirst after that, so everything turned out quite nice. OK, but on the real story, you are probably wondering what we really did eat. Well, we went to an investigators house, and they just happened to be eating lunch. They offered, and we accepted. So we actually did end up eating some lunch. At the end of the day, we had a cake, and some candles, and lit them and all that traditional stuff, and that was the 21st Birthday. Honestly I probably would have been frustrated before the mission if a Birthday had have gone like that, but here in the mission, I was so focused on helping other people, that it really didn't even phase me. I was still really happy the whole day.
On Friday, nobody was home. We walked around a lot, and were only saved by the fact that we had to go and do an interview for some baptisms in the district. I did two interviews of two young kids. One is 14, and the other 11. They were baptized on Saturday. after the interview, we were sitting by a park, waiting for a bus to get back to our area. The Catholics here have a strange tradition. On Friday, they set up the street with a bunch of candles, and stuff, and then they have a man walk with a "cross," until the plaza, and then the crucify them. Not literally, but they literally put them up on a cross for a while. You might be wondering how I know this.... well, my companion and I saw it first-hand, all while we were waiting for the bus. It was quite possibly the strangest thing I have ever seen. We were so weirded out, we just decided to jump in a taxi and get home.
Side note, I finally figured out what the strange noises the parrots behind our house are making. We were walking by one day, and the dog had a squeaky toy that it was playing with. For a second I thought the parrots were making their noise, but then I looked, and the same exact noise was coming from the toy. They've been imitating a squeaky toy this whole time. Well, it hasn't really made it any less annoying.
On Saturday and Sunday, they were the only half way normal days we had during the week. On Sunday, we had 5 investigators in the meeting. Miriam(13), who is going to be baptized this Saturday (Yay, first baptism in like 5 months!) and Clarise(9), her sister, that is going to be baptized the 28. Also Oscar(22), and his little brother Lucas(13). Also a little boy named Carlos(9). Oscar is progressing a lot. We taught him the word of wisdom, and shared a scripture in Galatians 5 more or less verse 12. Anyway, it talks about the spiritual and the carnal. It really helped him to see the need to stop drinking and smoking.
My district is doing better right now. We are finally starting to see some baptisms. This district has been the lowest baptizing in the mission for a while, and lately we have been just average, but this month we are one of the highest in the mission.
On Sunday, my companion and I had to teach the priesthood lesson. We were told about 5 minutes after the meeting started. Well, for an improvised lesson, it actually went pretty well. We talked about how the Savior talked a lot about the missionary work after his resurrection, and that it is because he expects each and every one of us to be witnesses of his resurrection, and invite others to come unto him.
Well, that's about the story of this week. I love you guys tons, and hope you had a great Easter. Have a fantastic week. Love,
Elder Griffin

02 April, 2012

General Conference on April 1 not a joke

Well, this general conference was amazing. I felt very uplifted and edified from the spirit and the strength that those great apostles bring at there age. It is amazing to me how happy and loving each and everyone of them are, despite there health, and other problems. We were able to see all five of the sessions, but some of them were cutting out on the connection, so we didn't see them very well. Some of them that we only got bits and pieces of were on Saturday Evening. Dallin H. Oaks talk, and Henry B. Eyring as well....... yeah, I know they were both really good talks. The lord was definitely testing our patience on that one.
On Sunday, we had 3 investigators. We had Miriam and Clarise, the daughters of the members. They have a baptismal date for the 14th. We still have some work to do there, so we could use your prayers on their behalf. We also had another investigator, Oscar that is 22 years old. He actually had a friend take us to the conference on Sunday, and take us back afterwards. He seemed to like it. He is a really smart guy, so I think it really impressed him some of the talks that the apostles gave. He also has a date for the 14th.
I was praying and fasting to be able to receive some answers to questions and other stuff that I had for the conference. One of my questions was why when I am praying to see miracles in my mission, and have a desire to baptize every week, why it doesn't happen. Almost at the very end of the conference, Neal L. Anderson really just hit that one on the head. After he was done explaining about the Haiti earthquake, where the father found his 3 children, he basically said exactly my question. At that point, it really grabbed my attention, and he taught: If the miracles we seek do not come to pass in this life time, they will come to pass in the next. And also he taught The lord will make more of you than you can ever make of yourself. Well, as far as the first line he said, I was kind of indifferent at first, as to what it was teaching..... Then I realized, the mission is like a life inside of our actual life. Although I am not be able to see baptisms every week right now in my mission, I am planting seeds for others to be able to see that miracle. I also really like the last phrase, the Lord can make more of you than you can ever make of yourself. I looked back at the past 21 months of my mission, and I really realize that it has been perfect. I have no regrets. I have given my all to the Lord, and he has made of me more than I could have ever made of myself. I still have yet to see these miraculous changes, and bless the lives of others. I am so thankful for the Lord and how he really knows each and every one of us. I am so thankful that he answers my prayers, and that he has molded me into a different person with his hands.
After the Saturday priesthood session, we got out at 11. There was no more collectivos, so we had to resort to taxis. To save money, we decided that our whole district was going to get into the same taxi. The taxi pulled up, and well, lets just say it wasn't the biggest car I've ever seen. I think it's only meant for 4 people in total. However, all 8 of us got into the car. We had to resort to throwing two elders in the trunk..... don't worry it was just one of those trunks that is in connected with the rest of the car, not a separate compartment. We had 4 of us on a seat where there was only room for two, and 2 up front with the driver. 9 people in one little car designed for 4. It was a pretty awkward and not comfortable experience, but makes for a good story.
We also have changes.... this Wednesday. We still don't know anything, but either one of us could go, or both of us could stay. We're not really sure. We are both hoping that we can stay to be able to see some fruits from all our labor, but the Lord will work it out. No worries. Anyway, I'll let you know next week what happens. I may be spending my birthday in a new area, with a new companion. We'll see.
Anyway, love you guys tons, and if you could, please send the talks of elder Oaks and Elder Eyring next week so I can know what they said. Thanks a ton. Love ya lots.
Elder Griffin