Monday, January 11, 2010

Jan 10, Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Partial Quantification of the Unquantifiable

Well, it has been a while since I wrote, huh? I wanted to give you my mission totals. I know that you're excited for it. I know I am. So, here we go.

Year two (please recall that these are guestimates):
  • 45,360 min (756 hours...that's about two hours a day) spent reading the holy scriptures.
  • 22680 min (378 hours...that's about an hour a day): scripture reading in Latvian.
  • 2460 min (36 hours...1.5 hours a week for half the year): writing in my journal
  • 22.5 pages (front and back) written in my journal.
  • 19,440 min (324 hours...that's about 360 min weekly): planning
  • 17,010 min (283.5 hours...that's about 45 minutes daily): in prayer.
  • 6,000 people contacted on street.
  • 17,500 people contacted elsewhere.
  • 572 lessons with people (investigators, members)
  • 5,483,901 steps (4,277.443 KM / 2673.402 mi) distance walked
  • About 171 other meetings (district meetings, zone conference, and the like).
Recap--year one:
  • 27,100 min (451 hours 40 minutes) spent reading the holy scriptures.
  • 8,969 min (149 hours 29 minutes) spent doing that in Latvian.
  • 4415 min ( 73 hours 35 minutes) spent writing in my journal
  • 238 pages (front and back) pages written in my journal
  • 8,435 min (140 hours 35 minutes) spent planning.
  • 9,876 min (164 hours 36 minutes) spent in prayer. This one is a total guesstimate.
  • 4,500 people contacted on the street.
  • 3,500 additional people contacted elsewhere (like homes and such)
  • 475 lessons with people (investigators, members)
  • 4,086,572 steps (3,187.526 KM / 1,992.204 mi, for you in America): total distance.
  • 160 other meetings (that's district meetings, zone conference, and the like), probably grossly underestimating the number of meetings from the MTC (we had 5+ a week...x9 weeks).
So, the two year totals (estimates, all. Except lessons taught):
  • 72,460 min (1,207 hours 40 minutes) reading holy scriptures.
  • 31,649 min (527 hours 29 minutes) reading scripture in Latvian (in addition).
  • 6,875 min (114 hours 35 minutes) writing in my journal.
  • 260.5 pages (front and back) of journal written.
  • 27,875 min (464 hours 35 min) planning.
  • 26886 min (448 hours 6 min) in prayer (this is probably an underestimate).
  • 10,500 people contacted in the street or on buses
  • 21,000 contacted elsewhere (in apartment complexes, homes, &t)
  • 1047 lessons taught (to investigators and members)
  • 9,570,473 steps (7,464.969 KM / 4,638.508 mi): total distance walked.
  • 331 other meetings (district meetings, zone conferences, planning meetings, church, coordination meetings, &t).
And although these numbers may, in some respects be impressive and show what I accomplished, a mission is unquantifiable. You cannot determan the worth of your mission from something as trivial as this. I have already talked a little about what I received/gained on my mission. I like to remember this thought when thinking about what I gave/influenced: we can never know in this life how much good we have done, who we have touched, or what we have left in others. For example, there was a fellow baptized in Estonia during my mission who, about a year before he established contact again with the church, some missionaries talked with him and pointed out the church to him. They simply invited him to come if he felt like coming to church.
A year later or so, he woke up, feeling like he should go to church. Low and behold, he remembered where the church was, and came. He loved it.
I have spoken with many members about why they were baptized. What happened with them. A VERY large percentage took a very long time (often more than six months) before they finally decided to accept that covenant and move on. So, there is no way to measure that. I know that the friendships I forged with many of them will last a very long time. And the influence they have had on me is...remarkable. Powerful. Life-altering. I love these folks.

I think I will write at least one more time. Collage life kinda sneaks up on ya and takes LOADS of your time. Rough. But, it's been good. Anyway, until next time.
( >__< )
^^ ~~ ^^

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dec: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: The End of an Era...filled with Adventure

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jordan Argyle <>
Date: Tue, Dec 22, 2009 at 18:47
Subject: 22 Dec: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: The End of an Era...filled with Adventure

All: About 200,000 steps is about 256.41 KM. It was a long week...

So, here we are. The mission is over. It was a very interesting last week, and the trip back was rather...eventful as well. So, I'll start with the week, and move to the trip home. If you are a missionary reading this, you may want to print this out and read it tonight or something, because it will be long.
Last week: so, I had to play a rather unfun game to get permission to do our "informative tent" in Jelgavas main square. I needed proof that we had authority from our registered organization to be there. So, I called the man in charge, and he couldn't get everything together for a while, so the man from the city called me several times to get info, and I had to check in and get updates from our guy. That was fun. We did get it all together in the end, though.

Then, remember how we had that news crew at our place last week or something? So, Last-last-last(?) Thursday we had the police called on us because our English students were being abnormally loud and left the door below open (which really makes some of the people who live in that stairwell where our meeting place is really upset). When the police came, we were already gone and home, so nothing was done. Then, the next Monday, the news came and asked me a bunch of questions and stuff. Really annoying. Because after a few days, it showed up on LNT (Latvijas National TV) and was very...incorrect and demeaning, which caused some problems for missionaries. Particularly in Rīga. So, the best part: sometime last week (Monday, I think), we hear a knock at the door. Elder Reid gets it. Three very large men come in and flash cop badges. They then demand our documentation and ask us a lot of questions. Eventually, then have us take them to the meeting place the next stairwell over. Once they saw that everything was normal, then left us be and told us to be quieter.

A few days later, because of minor damage to walls we painted the main room of the church place there (same as the above mentioned place). That was fun. And it was really cold. It dropped below -20C.

I also cried a little bit (meaning a lot). Sunday, after church, the members gathered everyone up after church and gave me a bunch of presents to see me off, and told me how much they loved and appreciated me. It was really touching! And again on Tuesday, when we had our last English class of the transfer and my last class ever (in the new building!), I received very meaningful gifts again. And a lot of email addresses! It was marvelous!

Then, we had our trip home. We all gathered at the mission home bright and early (or whenever we got there), had an exit interview with president, and looked around Rīga for a while. We then ate dinner together, and talked. There were twelve of us (from the back row, left): Elder Fitzgerald (Lithuania), Me (Latvia), across the tree is Sisters Nelson (Russian), Beuhner (Russian), Free (Lithuania), Elder Pehrson (Russian), left side again--Elders Nielson (Lithuania), Guber (Office), across the tree--Brown (Latvia), Sister Romney (Russian), bottom row--Elders Newman (Lithuania), Davis (Lithuania), Sister Gubler (Office), Sister and President Dance, and Elder Hill (Estonia). All together, we were 12 travelers. We ate, talked, and watched Miracle together. It was very bonding. We assumed that we'd have this evening and the next day together, so we thought that we bonded as much as we would. Boy, were we wrong.

We all headed to the airport the next morning. I rode with the Gublers in a taxi. Sister Gubler almost immediately started talking about the restoration with our driver. We wound up teaching a full first lesson to the driver, and his eyes said that we was genuinely interested. It was way cool! We then got on the plane, and headed out. We knew that we'd be crunched for time at Frankfurt, because we had to get to another terminal with all our baggage, and check in (and go through security) again in an hour. Well, by the time we got our bags we had only 40 minutes left. We sent two ahead while the rest of us battled with 12x3+3=39 bags. We pushed baggage carts up and down escalators; we held up skytrains so we could all pile in; we sprinted with 60+KG carts. All to no avail. We arrived at check in as our plane was taking off. And, because of extreme weather, all other flights out were canceled.

After several hours of consulting (and consoling), we added our names to the stand-by list, and headed to a hotel. We ate dinner together at a near-by restaurant in good spirits. Then, Elder Gubler called travel again. After a little while, we gathered to hear the news. We would all be getting home Sunday (two days from the time we were told) with the exception of Elder Hill, the Gublers, and Sister Free. The latter three would be taking the stand-by option. Elder Hill's father had arranged something for him, so that's how he got back. The other eight of us decided that we would be going to Frankfurt and to the near-by temple. We decided that while playing cards in one of our rooms until almost midnight. And Sister Beuhner's dad owns a phone company, so he was helping us get in contact with our families.

We got up, and went to the airport to get tickets. We took several electric passenger trains out to Friedrichsdorf, where there is a temple. I'm very impressed with trains in Germany. They run very smoothly, and they are very well organized. I'm also very impressed with the temple there. Take a look: It was amazing to be able to go through the temple again! I felt energized after!

We then headed into Frankfurt itself to eat and look at the Christmas Tirgus/Turgus/Rinik/Market. That was amazing, and I must say that we spent a lot of time bonding, and I think that we (some of us, anyway) are pretty close now. But, if I could upload pictures I would. We had frankfurters in Frankfurt (they grilled them on a free-hanging grill over a fire. They were good!), and we got souvenirs and such.

The next morning, we were ready to go. We flew to Dublin, where we again had to run to get to our international on time (again late flight). During the rush, I left my watch in security and worked up a good sweat. We all made the plane though. The first thing that impressed me most was the fact that most of the people on the plane were smiling, happy, and truly liked their lives. That is not something you see too much in Latvia. They also were very willing to just chat with you. I really enjoyed that. So much, in fact, that I wound up talking quite a bit with the people in my row.

We then arrived in Chicago. I had a different flight than the others, and again we had to check our baggage back in and go through security. So, I went with the group until the train that goes between terminals. As we were all piling in, the door shut. And so it turned out that I was the only of our group left behind. I waved them all goodbye, and got on the next one I could. Check in went smoothly (I was pretty experienced by this point), and I made my plane without a problem.

Again, however, in Salt Lake City I had another one hour rush to the flight. My mother was worried enough that I wouldn't make it that she called the airport and had them send a little cart to pick me up (the kind you always see employees driving around the airport). The actual plane was lost somewhere on the runway (they couldn't find the thing), so I made it with time to spare.

There was a small group of amazing people to greet me at the airport. I then spent the whole night chatting with my little sister, and the rest of the next day shopping and whatnot. I don't want to go too detailed into any of that, but if you'd like any extra details, just ask.

I will write a few more entries. I need to give you my yearly totals, and then the mission-ly totals for some categories. And I wanted to write my general impressions and thoughts concerning my mission. So there are more coming. So, please ask me any questions that you have, because otherwise you won't be getting any more info really about my mission itself.

I still know that this church is true, and I'll be working on continuing to help people understand how to learn through the Holy Ghost what is true, and how to use restored priesthood authority of God to change their lives. I would encourage you all, regardless of how well you think you know how to do that, to pray to God for His guidance on how to do that better. I will be doing just that during this next week.
( >__< )
^^ ~~ ^^

Monday, December 21, 2009

Baltic missionaries heading home

This is Elder Argyle's mom writing. I don't know if he will add any more to this blog or not "), but I thought I'd write about the final chapter of his mission. This picture is of all the missionaries in the Baltic mission who were scheduled to travel home on December 19. The mission president and his wife are also in the picture "), along with a senior couple who were going home. ANYWAY, they had quite the adventure. They made it to Frankfurt, Germany, and then missed their connecting flight to Chicago. We got a call from the Salt Lake mission travel office telling us about the missed flight and letting us know that the missionaries were in a hotel and they (Salt Lake) were working on alternate plans.
The missionaries spent a day and a half in Frankfurt. They found the temple there and were able to attend a session. They were put on a flight to Dublin Ireland on Sunday morning, and from there flew to Chicago. Elder Argyle then traveled on by himself. His flight from Chicago to Salt Lake was delayed, and his connecting flight from Salt Lake to Idaho Falls was on time. So we were sitting at our computer all evening, trying to somehow push the Chicago flight to go faster so he would make the connecting flight home "). We knew it would be too close for comfort. After a nail-biting couple of hours, an airport person finally confirmed that he WAS on the flight to Idaho Falls, so we ran to the airport and put up our signs and balloons and cheered when he got off the plane. ")
He just came in and saw what I was doing--he said he WILL be adding the last week of his mission to the blog, so I'll stop here--I just wanted to tell you that he's home safe and sound. He'll spend Christmas here and then head to college in January.
The merriest of Christmases to you all!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dec 9: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Activities, My Letter

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 5:22 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Activities, My Letter

Fam: Thank you for all your support and love. We will be engaging in some really intense board/card games when I get back, so get ready!

All: A grossly inaccurate reading of 63,838 steps (49.79KM).

Pictures: Top: We had a pretty rad break the fast. Here's who people are, from bottom left: Sister Carson's arm is visible, and then Elder Carson's face. Then comes Elder Taylor, and Verner's face is barely visible behind him. Elder Thompson, me, and Brother Pravains sitting there in the middle. Then Pāvels and his fiance'e Natalija (they get married this Saturday!!!!!!!), and Sister Z. with her son A. (standing). Sitting is Sil., Lai. (with the kid, named Diago), and Mai. (Diago's mother). These three women are investigators who are amazing!!! Lai. reads out loud, and then she discusses what she reads with her mother (Sil.). They are amazing to me. They also have, in two weeks, read almost half the Book of Mormon. They love that source of truth, and are learning at an amazing rate!! The two men in the right corner are An. and Ain., also investigators. It was a really good week!
Middle: I love the graffiti in domes. This was one of my favorite this last week.
Last: So, we got on the roof of another dome, this time in Satiksmes. The light on the top floor was flickering ominously--it was perfect. And the view was pretty good.

Q+A: The mother who came to church and loved it was a mother of a woman we taught. After I left Jelgava for Rīga the elders taught them, and they invited their mother. She's way cool, but didn't come this week. Sigh.
The first meeting in the new building will be (ironically enough, since I fly out on the 18th) 20 December. Lol. Oh well. We'll have a little party in it on the 15th, so that I can still see it full of the people who I love. Thanks to all who sent ideas for the open house!--that will be done in January sometime, so I'll leave your ideas here.

Now, we are planning to get stuff all going here for Christmas. We have asked for permission from the city and a huge shopping center here to put a booth out in a park and in the center for several days for a few hours. We'll be inviting everybody to a Christmas party here on the 22nd and informing everyone that we have English classes and telling them about our new building. I think it will be really fun. I spent a lot of time last week getting that all organized and setting up all that stuff. But, it'll ROCK! And we're still doing missionary work. A lot of our investigators have kinda pooped out, so we're playing that finding game again (like this whole transfer, but that's fine--I love talking to people now).

Otherwise, I don't know what to tell you. Nothing overly extraordinary happened. I was asked to write a departing letter for the Mission President, giving a general overview of my missionary experiences and how they've impacted me, so I guess I'll just include that for y'all.
"I have started and scrapped this letter to you a few times. It is very hard to cram perhaps the most full two years into a letter of any length. So, I'll just hit those things that I am most impressed with from these years.

First, my understanding of the gospel has grown remarkably. Before my mission, the teachings from the scriptures were, in my mind, separate doctrinal points that didn't really connect very often or do more than provide a rough outline by which to live my life. The truths of the gospel were not really written in my heart (Proverbs 7: 1-3). After much study and application and teaching, however, these truths have been written very deeply in my being. Through their application I have seen myself change dramatically, yet gradually. I truly love the scriptures, for they are a great source of truth and a powerful way to invite personal revelation through the Holy Ghost. I love the honest, heartfelt prayer of faith, for it edifies and enlarges. And I love teaching people the restored truths and facts of God available through the restoration of His gospel through a living prophet. The doctrines of the gospel have become an integral part of me--they have become my way of life.

And that, probably, has been the biggest impact from my mission--the dramatic change of self. I have matured much, and grown in every aspect (including, unfortunately, the belly region a little). But I see everything differently: my siblings around me--especially the ones here in Latvia--and decisions I and my siblings around me make. I see all things from a higher vantage point. My view is widened, and I understand far more of life from that truer perspective. I believe that I understand things much more fundamentally. Like obedience. I used to think we were obedient to obtain blessings. Now I understand that obedience comes out of love for the Lord, and out of love He will bless us. But we don't do a list of things to obtain a list of blessings; we do all we can to be in harmony with Him. Doing that, we will feel His spirit, which expands, teaches, strengthens and lifts us.

I have also enjoyed growing in many practical ways--social skills, cooking, cleaning, and that jazz. My thinking on life has been expanded from constant contact with so many other amazing individuals--and here I specifically mean other missionaries, but it applies to everybody I work with. These experiences and lessons have been an enjoyed benefit that I hadn't really thought much about when preparing to serve. I did, however, expect to better understand charity.

Which leads me to my final point. My mission has been very emotional. I have earnestly sought the gift of charity, and because of a genuine love for those I have taught, I have felt the greatest gandarījumi and the deepest sorrows (gandarījums-an emotional state, like satisfaction, that comes from achieving a desire through much work). And the more I work with and love the people, the more I rejoice when they do, and sorrow when they do (Mosiah 18: 8-10). Other people have become as important to me as I am to myself (Matthew 22: 37-39), and most often my studies were for others. Interesting how we grow and learn the most while studying for others...

Well, reading this over again, it sounds a lot weaker than I wanted and a little unorganized. Basically, I have learned to apply the scriptures and listen for the Holy Ghost. And as I have been doing those two things, my Heavenly Father has poured blessings on me that I always have heard in stories from church history, but somehow never really envisioned obtaining for myself. Most especially when talking about prayer. Never again will I ever doubt that God answers prayers.

I am gauži thankful to have served, to have been able to experience all that I have (gauži-very, very, extremely, incredibly very). I know in Whom my trust lies. I feel very privileged to be able to honestly, with all my soul, echo the words of Nephi:

Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth upon the things which I have seen and heard. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me His great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. When I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in Whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; He hath led me through mine afflictions in Latvia; and He hath preserved me as I have talked to people in this land.

He hath filled me with His love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. He hath confounded mine enemies, heard my cry by day, and He hath given me knowledge. In the evening have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before Him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high. Mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for most to believe.

O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in His condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions? And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy? Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul. Do not anger again because of blinded people. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions. Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise Thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in Thee, my God, and the Rock of my salvation. O Lord, wilt Thou redeem my soul? Wilt Thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because I strive will all my will to follow Thee! O Lord, wilt Thou not shut the gates of Thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!

O Lord, wilt Thou encircle me around in the robe of Thy righteousness! Wilt Thou make my path straight before me! O Lord, I have trusted in Thee, and I will trust in Thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto Thee; yea, I will cry unto Thee, my God, the Rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto Thee, my Rock and mine everlasting God. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen (2 Nephi 4: 16-35)."
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dec 2: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: New BUILDING(!!), Investigators, Good stuff...

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Dec 2, 2009
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: New BUILDING(!!), Investigators, Good stuff...

All: Maybe my pedometer has just lost its sensitivity. Anyway, it shows 55,612 (43.37), but I know we walked more than that (we did a lot of walking this week).

Pictures: First one: So last Preparation day we went bowling. And it was cosmic/disco/whatever-you-wanna-call-it bowling. It was way fun!! The member that we had invited didn't come, but we decided to play anyway. Tell ya what--when you have a white shirt on at that place, you glow!
Second: We found another abandoned building, and climbed up on the roof (through that hole you see there). That was fun. And the bus came a little late, so we still made it home on time! That's my companion.
Third: One of the many, not-as-good-as-I-hoped shots of the city from the top of said building.
Last: See that double-decker bus? I've been waiting my whole stay in this city to ride that thing. It finally happened this Sunday, by pure luck. I got to ride a double-decker bus for the first time!! It was kinda cheaply made, so really loud, but way cool!

Q+A: This last week, the work has gone fairly well. We made contact with several people with whom we haven't been able to meet for a while, and had some really good lessons with them. We also talked with a mother who came to church and LOVED it. She said she'd for sure be back next Sunday.
The Z. family are still taking lessons. I don't know if the father is ready to do anything yet, so we may not go as often. Then again, maybe not, because they are having some really hard times right now, so they could use the support. And I love them soooooo much!

Contacting people: one interesting experience was I talked to another guy who studies theology at the university. It's so ridiculous talking to those kinds of people, because they always look at religion abstractly, not seriously (from my experience, anyway), and they still refuse to accept that God can speak to us personally through the Holy Ghost. And when the Holy Ghost tells us something, we can trust 100% that it is truth from God. But they just don't recognize that. I don't get it.
Funnest Experience (this week): Signing the contract for the new church building. That was rad. Also, when knocking, almost every night we got in a door and taught a lesson.
Hardest Experience (this week): I don't know. It may have been telling my landladies that we're leaving at the end of this month. That wasn't fun. Or Thanksgiving, because that's the really big family day in my family, and we didn't even really have a celebration for it. And nobody who is not my parents really said anything, or wrote, or anything. Turns out that after about a year, it's a fact that almost everybody pretty much forgets about you, and just when you're getting into the swing of things all of your support from home (with the usual exception of parents) just drops out from under you. It's very disconcerting. It's a good thing that a few members wished me a happy Thanksgiving, and that I went bowling, otherwise it would have been a very difficult day.

The new building is the same one I talked about before. It's on Debeles iela 42 (but Googlemaps can't find it. It's the red brick building on the corner of Dobeles iela and Pulkveža Brieža, in case you wanted to check it out.)

On that note, I would like to ask you all for suggestions. We are trying to use this new church building both to invite more people to us (to understand us better and to understand what the restored gospel and restored priesthood means for them and their families), and to invite those who have been baptized, but are not currently active, to come back. We will be having what's called an open house, so that people can come and see the church and ask questions and stuff. I just want more people to understand what the Atonement of Jesus Christ means, and that living His gospel (or way of life) enables them to enjoy those blessings available through His Atonement. If you have any ideas, the open house will actually take place next month, so you have plenty of time to send me ideas (this week). Send them to Thanks!!

Otherwise, I'm stoked to have a new building. All is going forward here. I love you! Keep seeking truth through prayer, study, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nov 26: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Happy Thanksgiving!

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Thu, Nov 26, 2009 at 3:11 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Happy Thanksgiving!

All: I now know that my step counter is off. I took 60 steps, and it only counted 47. So...anyway, it shows 75,870 (59.17 KM), but I'm sure we did more that 100,000, because we did a TON of walking this week. But, whatever.

Random thing: I had my last Christmas of my mission. Every 25th I have a little Christmas celebration. And the last one was yesterday. One of the most amazing missionaries in the world gave me a call and sang a modified version of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, missionary style: "...then how the missionaries loved him, and they shouted out with glee 'Amen!'..." It was awesome. Really made my day. And then we taught a bunch of lessons that evening. Score.

Q+A: It really is dark at 4 p.m.. We sometimes use flashlights after that. Usually we just use ambient lighting (street lights and such) or walk in the dark, but when it's muddy then we often will use our flashlights. And we are currently on a winter proselyting schedule: we are out working until 8:30 p.m., and we slide our language study around (half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening). It's been really good.

Elder Reid: He's a Utahn who is very into sports. He would definitely kick my trash in ping pong, basketball, football (both American and regular), and anything else (since I'm not too sporty a person). He's a good cook. I'm not sure exactly what else to say--after being with 16 companions, it's kinda hard to really pick out things about people. They are my companion. We teach well together, and we have been having really good lessons recently. We understand how we teach, and we have much the same focus when we teach, so it's easy to just jump in during lessons when the people speak both languages. It's been good.
I understand differing amounts of Russian. If I can contribute in the lesson, then I usually understand more (thanks to the spirit) and I can participate better. If I can't help much (say, they don't understand Latvian), then I usually don't understand overly much, but I do know some phrases.
There are a few more Latvians than Russians in Jelgava, but the balance is about 55-45.

We visited our 50 some-odd people, but not much came of it, sadly. People are really resistant to change or to anything they are not used to. And with people as flaky as week-old pastries, it means it's hard to really meet with people. But, we did have two lessons from all those go-backs, so not too bad.

We have found several families, but none of them really look too promising right now. They meet with us because they like us, not because they want to learn the gospel, but becasue they are nice and like us. But, we'll keep working with them. Actually, the Z. family is moving along quite well. We had a very serious lesson with them, and the father agreed to work on specific commandments and Christlike attributes, and all the other family members also agreed to get crackin' on Christlike attributes. The father is not a member (yet). But they are probably the most promising for a family baptism right now. We'll see how things go. I think he will still take more time, though.

Church on Sunday was amazing! We contacted all the members, and had a pretty good showing. And all of the Z. family (except the oldest son, who lives elsewhere) came!! The talks were amazing, and everything seemed quite pointed at helping the branch. I think that was one of my best Sundays. And President Dance really gave a good talk, about the three parables in Luke 15. I will share that as my spiritual thought, so here goes:
In that chapter, you will find three parables. The first is Luke 15: 4-7, and it talks of 100 sheep and one lost. Then the shephėrd leaves the 99, and goes after the one. And when that sheep is found and brought back, the heavens rejoice over the one, and kinda ignore the 99. Then Luke 15: 8-10 talks about a woman with 10 coins. She loses one, hunts for it, and then the angels rejoice over the one, and again ignore the 9. Then President Dance asked a question: Which are you? Are you the 1 lost sheep, or one of the 99? Then: are you one of the 9 coins, or the 1 lost one? He then said: if you still don't understand which you are, then Christ gave another parable. Luke 15: 11-32 This is the tale of the Prodigal Son. There are two sons. One who does not leave his father, and the other who squanders his inheritance on wasteful things. That son then returns, and the father throws a huge party for him. The son who didn't leave then gets upset, and asks why he hasn't had a party. Again, there is rejoicing over the one, and not much attention paid to the other. Why is this?

President Dance then explained: I personally don't believe that the ninety and nine even exist. I don't think that the nine exist. I don't even think the one "good" son exists. Because we are all sinners. We are all lost. And if you think that you are one of the 99, or the 9, or even the one, then you are mistaken. There is only us and Christ. We are all fallen from the grace of God, and we are all sought after. Christ Himself seeks us, as in the story of the sheep. Servants of Christ seek us, as in the story of the coins, and we seek ourselves, as in the story of the Prodigal Son. It was really good, because there were several in attendance who have a hard time coming to church because they think that they are sinners and that the people at church are perfect, and so they will be looked down on and will feel uncomfortable. So, I think that pointing out that we really are all wanderers, and must always repent (change and improve and become closer to God) each day, really helped those people. "Because sinning is a part of our daily lives, then repentance must also be a part of our daily lives." Way good.

God lives. He does seek us, and will give us after our needs, but only if we seek and prepare to accept that help and those gifts. I know that Christ's arms of mercy are extended to us at all times, and He pleads that we access His mercy: 3 Nephi 9: 13. I love you all. Have a great week! Happy Thanksgiving!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nov 19: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Tele2, Jelgava Again, Neatkarības Diena, God's Glory

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Thurs. Nov 19, 2009 at 7:18 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Tele2, Jelgava Again, Neatkarības Diena, God's Glory

All: Well, 90,776 steps (70.80KM). Woo.

Sorry for the delay in this letter. Usually I write on Wednesdays, but because yesterday (18 November) was both Elder Brown's birthday ") and Latvia's Independence Day, there were no internet places open here. So, it's a day late. Now on to other things. This week I found out much, both funny and serious. Funny first:

Remember how I told you that tele2 faked the meteorite? Well, they also ran a campaign this last month about heroes. They had ads everywhere that just said, "Pārāk Dārgi būt varonim?" ("Too expensive to be a hero?"). Then they only had a web I asked, and apparently that site only had a little game you played, where they call you often to tell you where to go next, and then they call you again. So, you do this for half an hour, and it turns out that the big secret they wanted to tell you is that they are tele2. Now they just released a plan that allows you to call any phone anywhere in Latvia for free--land, their line, another cell company--doesn't matter. I thought that it was remarkably genius marketing! They also have been pouring a lot of money into light shows and other attractions to keep people's minds off the economic crisis that everybody sees and hears about on the news daily. I really admire them for that, and it sure was a good way to advertise!
Another random thing: It's basically completely dark here by 4:00 p.m.. Funny, huh?

Top: These are the bonfires on the main street right across from the current church space.
Middle: This is one of my favorite shots of the fireworks. This is from the window of the church space looking out from the kitchen.
Last: Here are some of my favorite people in the world. The photographer didn't really warn us that he was going to take a shot, so we weren't overly ready, but it worked out anyway.

I'm settled in, yes. In the old apartment. Plans for the new one fell through for right now. The missionaries in Jelgava are Elders Thompson and Taylor (a new missionary--this is his second transfer), then Elder Reid and I. I have a crazy euphoria being back here! But, honestly speaking, I'd be cool with just about anywhere. About the people we are teaching, see the paragraph below. There are a ton in areas left to tract--I think that in my last time here, I used about 20% at the most of my area. There's still a lot more to do!
No, I am not a ZL any more. And Elder Brown is not an assistant. He's now the DL in Imanta. Elder Reid is a way awesome Russian-speaking missionary. I will tell you a little about him next time (if you remind me). We are tearing everything apart, because there is not a single person with whom we speak that cannot be spoken to. Latvian, Russian, English--every person speaks one of those three well. I love it!

Then, I am going through all the contacts of people that I have talked to and am really working with the members here to strengthen the branch and get a new building here before I go. Things all look good, and hopefully I can prepare one family for baptism before I leave. If you could all pray for that with me, I would really appreciate it (I've been searching for a family my whole mission who are ready to accept the gospel). We have a lot of good people to go back to, and I know that there are a lot of other good people with whom we haven't talked, so I am still hopeful. For them to be baptized before I leave, though, we need to find them this week. Please pray hard!

Yesterday was Latvijas Neatkarības Diena (Latvia's Independence Day), so there were no internet places open in Jelgava. There was a firework show, a million people all over the place, and big bonfires in the street. It was a pretty interesting day. We had hoped to be able to teach some people during the day, but a lot of people had gone to Rīga, so it didn't work out. We did talk to a lot of people, though.

And we had DISTRICT CONFERENCE last Sunday! I love district conf. We were treated to some of the most amazing talks, I got a lot of e-mail addresses of members that I love, and Paša from Jelgava received the Melchizedek priesthood!! That was way exciting!! I love seeing the members here, and many of them were very excited that I was in Jelgava again. I'm looking forward to this Sunday--we've made a big deal of a big deal. The mission president will be here, and so we just let all the members know and will remind them, and hopefully we'll have a full chapel. And tomorrow through Saturday we have a little over 50 people to drop by (people who have given us their addresses), as well as another 50 with just phone numbers, so we're thinking that we may be a little busy (if you lack perspective, that is a ridiculously huge number of people for a short period of time here). I'm thrilled again!

And I would like to share something that was discussed at that conference and at zone conference (we also had that, by the way). It was from Elder Senkāns, who is a Seventy here (the general priesthood authority "in charge" of Latvia and the other Baltic states). He thinks very logically, and he understands that all good things come from God. Therefore, all things he learns he turns to the gospel and tries to understand it in the light of eternal truth. He shared an article about how scientists have shown that to become a master at something (like sports or an instrument or a subject) it requires at least 10,000 hours. He then shared how the brain operates--all those neurons and such connect with others, and each neuron or synopsis or whatever it's called can connect with some thousands of others. As we learn and practice something, it literally becomes a part of our physical makeup, making verses like Alma 37: 6-7 or 1 Nephi 16: 29 even more powerful. The article also stated that we become what we think and do--so it is. Anyway, he took that further to state that if we only attend church once a week, then in a year we have 52 hours of that 10,000. If we live to be 80, then we're barely half-way there if we don't miss a single Sunday. If we're there for three hours a week, then that's 156 a year, times 80--still not there. And the article also stated that if it is not sustained, then the links are weakened, and it falls apart. So we need consistency also. It was quite a remarkable talk. It isn't even close to the power that he brought to it, and I don't have my notes, but I will probably flesh this thought out a little more later.

Another thing: he shared his favorite scripture. It defines the glory of God: D&C 93: 36. Very simple: it is light and truth. What are these? Truth was explained very clearly by God Himself: D&C 93: 24. It is simply the way things are. We need oxygen to live. We need to eat. The sun shines for us. Fire is hot. These are truths--just simply the way things are. There are also truths like God has a plan for us. He has a physical, perfected body of flesh and bone. We will all have the opportunity to be resurrected in glorified, perfected bodies. These, too, are truths. God wants us to know truth. This brings us to light: D&C 88: 7-13. Light, very simply, is the sustaining force by which God maintains order and influence in the world. There is both visible and invisible forms of light. The visible is fairly easy for us to understand at a simple level--it is what we see by, and it is what brings life to plants (among a host of other uses). Light is also the thing that allows us to understand truth (v. 11), and it gives God power and influence across all space (v 13). There is undoubtedly even more to light, but we have this for now. Elder Senkans helped us see how we can obtain this in our own lives.

Luke 11: 34 speaks of our light. Where we get it. This is both literal and figurative. Matthew 6: 22 is very similar, but helps us understand this a little better. If we are focused (on what, you may ask), then we can be filled with light, or, in other words, understanding, power and life. From the Doctrine and Covenants we read even more clearly: D&C 88: 67. Focused on what? On God and His glory--truth and understanding.

That is the purpose of Christ's church today. To help the children of God the Father obtain light and truth in their own lives, so that they are able to understand His purposes, and understand the way things are. Truth is not subjective--regardless of whether people believe it or not, it is still true. So Christ's church, or, more appropriately, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is not concerned about proving things wrong, or forcing others to accept what we teach. We do not teach philosophy, or religion, or good morals. We teach truth. You could say that the Church of Jesus Christ today is as it has always been--a school of learning for the children of One who has all light and truth. For those children who are willing to learn. D&C 88: 118 is truly the beginning of all activities in the church. And, as we learn truth, we will act on it. This is what brings salvation and exaltation--acting on true principles as stated by the Lord. When we follow His gospel--starting with faith (trust) in Him and His counsel; using that faith to repent (change our lives) so that we live as directed; then applying our repentance into a promise with God through baptism with water from one holding true authority to act in God's name; receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands from one with that same power; and then continuing our whole lives long to learn and apply the truth we learn--then we obtain exaltation. I know that this is the true plan of our loving Father in Heaven.

I love you all! I invite you to keep reading and praying with the intent to learn truth.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )