Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mar 26: Elder Argyle Weekly Report

For all:
Well, it appears that it is (already) again time for the weekly report! Don't weeks still have 7 days? It feels like three since I last wrote...ah, well. I was asked how the general experience is. Not bad. Although, I will say that I found something very interesting this week. Each time I report on something, the following week things seem to go the opposite way. I reported on warm weather: now it's below freezing with snow almost every day and wind cold enough to kill. I reported on the hot water being off: now it's back on and our cold water was out for a while. I must admit, the bathroom is much more foreboding when it's not all warm from the hot water in my towel warmer :P Culture shock never really set in on me. For a little while I was fairly unhappy because I couldn't understand what people were saying well enough to teach and do anything useful, but now I think the main thing that I notice that's different is the food. I really miss those salty treats (crackers and chips and things) that either don't exist here or are way too expensive!

This upcoming weekend ends this transfer. So, I'm fairly confident that I will still be in Jelgava, but the office did call and asked what my computer experience is. I'm afraid that they'll call me to work in the office! That's not what I want at all!! But, I'm still fairly sure that I'll be here still. I'll let you know next week.

My update: yes, we are still meeting with E.. He does, however, have some...interesting ideas that are making it difficult to teach him. But, he quit smoking and drinking coffee because he felt he should about two weeks ago. He has a strong desire to serve God, and is very sensitive to knowing what is right and what is wrong. He knows God leads him, and he already believes that we are here on earth to become like God! Wow! I think he will teach us the Plan of Salvation!! The big problem we have right now is his interesting ideas, and he lives with his girlfriend. So, pray for him. L. dissapeared. We don't have a number for him, and he didn't make it to one of our meeting, so I have no idea how he's doing. The mother and son are busy, and I haven't seen them recently. V. just started work like crazy (or something), and he's also fallen off radar. So, E. is our only investigator from before; otherwise, we're back to a clean slate. But, we met with a man named A. yesterday, and he looks like he'll go through. Everyone, just pray that the people we talk to will remember and desire to meet with us. We set up plenty of meetings--just most of them don't come.

Other questions: the gypsies here are like gypsies anywhere else. I think they came in traveling from somewhere, and now they have people in every social class. They are, however, the nicest human beings on the entire planet of earth. Once you are friends with them, there is nothing they won't do for you. I haven't known any since I have been here, but R. [a church member] is half, and he has taken a lot from that half. His heart is so good, and he wants nothing more than to help other people. He actually told us last Sunday that he wants to serve a mission! I love him! Electricity is very reliable: I have never once been without it. "stove." It's basically a tiny oven with two electric burners on the top. It's a little bigger than a microwave. So, it's not what I would consider a true stove. But, it looks a lot like what other people have in their homes. Only, most other people use gas. Come to think of it...ours is the only electric one I've seen so far...(that's one of the pictures I included) . They do have microwaves, but we don't. I have been asked about some other food...they have pancakes here, but they are very little like what's in America. They are basically a thin lining of dough filled with delectables (cheese with meat, apples and bananas--please, nobody start singing--and anything else that's tasty in fried dough). I love those things! I have also been getting some ice cream from Estonia each week (they sell those at Iki and Rimi), and I must admit, it is amazingly tasty! The rye bread here far surpassed anything I had in America (in fact, Latvia is famous for it's black breads), and they have something called "Biezpien [something starting with s]" [biezpien sieriņi]. Basically, they're little cheesecake squares covered in chocolate with fruit mixed in, only they taste way, way, way, way better than any cheesecake I've ever eaten (and I've had some tasty cheesecake).

'Marts' is 'March' in Latvian. It was also Easter here last week. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. Well, we had two people at church (less than usual, odd, considering it was Easter) and a lot of trackting. Oh, and a random blizzard with a frigid wind. But as for how it's celebrated...I know not. I did want to share my favorite Easter scripture: John 20:11-17. This is Mary at the tomb. This story, I believe, truly shows the love the Lord has for each of us. This also reminds me of a song, called Turning, that I deeply love. It can by found on the CD "Reverence" by InsideOut, for any who want to hear it. It's basically this story from Mary's viewpoint. Anyway, I love the story, because she sees two angels, but they provide her no comfort. She seeks only the Lord, and when he appears to her, all her grief (which must have been very great) was changed so quickly into euphoric joy! I love it! one person we talked to Saturday asked us if we celebrate Easter in America, or if it was just an European thing. I couldn't help but smile at the question, "Do they celebrate Easter there?"

Typical day: get up at 6:30. Very tired. I then exercise a little or shave (depending on how awake I am), then I eat. Following is an hour of personal study in the scriptures. Then an hour of companion study (language, Preach My Gospel--they missionary manual--and scriptures), and sometimes another hour just for language. Depending on meetings, though, those can move elsewhere. Also, we contact for two hours in the mornings on Tuesday and Thursday. But, after study, we head out, contacting until we have meetings. We eat usually around 14:30, and then we study for another hour (usually). By 16:00, we're back out in meetings, contacting, and finding people to teach. That's about it. Well...that's the shortened version. But that's the gyst.

One more random story really quick: I got a pile of letters last Friday. Apparently, all my mail I have gotten since I arrived has been put in my mailbox at the Riga center church. But, I had no idea where it was until last Friday. So, thank you for the updates G+G A, and thank you also for the note, Kirstie! And I'll let all of you know when I get stuff from now on!
Anyway, this is the true gospel of Christ. I know that. And I feel that. Please, pray for those Elder Doane and I find here! I love you all!!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mar 19: The real one (my bad on sending the last one too early)

To all:
Several asked what kind of cake I had. It was one with the pudding/frosting/something layer between two cake layers. It was good. Yes, we do our own cooking, but I didn't make that cake. We have a fridge, which is totally full on Wednesday and almost completely empty by the next Wednesday. It's funny to me. Anyway, we do not get invited out to eat much. Our washing machine is in our apartment. Right by our "stove." In fact, we usually put our washed dishes on it to dry. They have a little carpeting (and what we have is that thin stuff) and we do have a wallpaper lining along the top of the room.

Woman's Day is interesting. Basically, women get flowers and their man to spend time with them. It's kinda like mother's day, only...I don't know. I just saw a lot of couples out that day and a lot of flowers in people's hands.

There are about 90 members of the church in Rīga, and we rent the second floor of a business building for our church. In Jelgava, we are just renting an apartment so far. I feel very much like I imagine the pioneers of the old west felt, where all things are new and they are struggling to make a place in the world for themselves. I realize that every member here is a pioneer, as they are among the first members here. And definitely the first in their families! It's amazing for me to see.

Elder Doane, my companion, does not speak Russian. He speaks Latvian, English, a very little Russian, and the local Gypsy language (he studied it and actually taught a few gypsy families!). But he understands about half the Russian that's spoken to him, which is fortunate (that's in the miracle-laden letter to my mission president below).

Really quick random note: We got a huge snowstorm yesterday, which was interesting and kept our contacting to almost nothing. And we also had the hot water turned off at our apartment. That amazing towel heating pipe? It's cooling off and will soon be dead. That is a little sad to me. But, this week was very, very powerful to me. So, enough with the small talk. Here are the miracles!

What follows is the weekly letter I sent to the mission president, so here goes:

Dear President,

"I have shed many tears since last Wednesday. I almost convinced one of our 4 active members here in Jelgava to leave the church forever when I met with him last week. I made an understandable mistake while speaking, and he was less than excited by it. That filled me with a terror of talking with people for much of that week. But come Wednesday night, Elder Dons had had enough. He talked with me about it, and we decided I was going to be done with my fear. It was over. I was just going to talk, and go. Well, last week (Monday to Monday) had few good contacts, and very little of the Spirit for me. It was really unbelievably difficult.

But after that change of mind for me, that paradigm shift, everything is 100% opposite. Oh, sure, things are still hard. But it doesn't get to me. The Spirit races through me with every testimony I give on the streets of the atonement of the Lord, and the hand of God is tangible. Quickly how that's gone: Using only that Atonement-based contact, talking to people about repentance through baptism right on the street, I got phone numbers from almost everyone I talked to in Riga during a zone leadership meeting (I'm not a leader here, so I wasn't in the meeting. So, I went out with my old MTC companion Elder Brown contacting in Riga!), and they were all nodding to everything I said.

Starting on Thursday, Elder Doane and I have begun to pray that we will find one person who is interested that we can talk to right then on the street and teach. Every single day since then, it has happened. Every day. My language skills, since I abandoned my fear, have skyrocketed. I put my faith in the Lord that I will understand enough of what they say to me to respond appropriately. I now understand over 50% of everything everyone says to me (when I listen closely). I am also able to speak so much better! Sometimes, I catch myself thinking up stories in my head--in Latvian! That alone would be a miracle. But, that's not all that's been happening.

We had an investigator show up to church. He has some issues with the Book of Mormon. As it turns out, the S. family (the family we have been teaching that has recently been avoiding us) has a 27-year-old daughter who read only the parts of the Book of Mormon about war. So, she thinks the book is about war. Well, the day after this man, E., met us, she gave him her Book of Mormon and a Gospel Principles book. He said the same thing. We then talked with him a little while, and he promised he would read 3rd Nephi (which is almost 100% about Christ), and he told us that he knows God put our paths together. He missed two buses before he met us. He has never missed a bus before in his life before then. He firmly believes he met us for a reason. That was amazing to hear!

Then, the man we talked to on Sunday is full Russian. He barely understands Latvian, but he is eager to learn, and likes what we say. We had talked to a Russian kid earlier, and grabbed some pamphlets and things in Russian for this kid. But, we have not seen that kid since. We did, however, have the Russian materials to give to L., that Russian fellow. He's read everything we have given him, and seems like he'll be baptized.

Ready for some more little miracles? We were waiting with a member to meet with L. (this member speaks Russian), and before we filled in this member with what we've talked about and what we wanted to talk about with L., we prayed. The member prayed that we will find people to baptize so that he will have a larger church family (because his biological family is often very hard for him to live with). Right after we closed the prayer, we got a call from a man we talked to on the street 2 weeks ago about baptism. He told us he needs to start his life anew, and he needs our help becoming better. Out of the blue. An interesting side note: I have prayed every night that the people we talk to will think about our message, and that the spirit will constantly work on them so that they are softened for when we next meet. This was in accordance with the faith that God really would do that.

More? OK, people are giving us their phone numbers right and left. When we are teaching somebody, I get distinct impressions to talk about certain things. When I do, I see a change come over them and their eyes change. They really begin to think.

How 'bout another? Our inactive family is another. It's a mother and son who live together. A friend of theirs died, and they allowed their faith to die with him. We've been calling and visiting and praying for them since they left, only a week and a half after their baptism. Well, one of the Elders that baptized them was finally able to set up a meeting. As we met and began talking about spiritual things, the mother was very nervous and uncomfortable at first. The son was fine with it. By the end of the meeting, a visible change had fallen over the mother. She was comfortable, the darkness I felt around her at the beginning was gone. The spirit was straining to fill her, if only she would allow it. They both committed to read and pray daily, and I left amazed at God's power.

There are yet many more small miracles that occurred, but I will stop for now. Just know that once I truly gave in to my faith, and with confidence approach the Lord and those with whom I speak, the miracles have rolled over me much like the waves of the ocean would a surfer. Continuous and powerful. This is God's work. He has everything prepared. Why would you walk a trail covered in overgrowth when right beside you is a paved road?"

And that, my friends, is life here now. Thank you for your prayers, and for all that you do for me. I love you all!!
Elder Argyle

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mar 12: Hail from the rainy Baltics!

For All: First, thank all of you for your birthday greetings! They made my day (as this week was a little bit rougher than I hoped for). I actually cannot tell you how much they meant to me, so thank you! And parents, I loved the little notes you put on the packages. I think that's a tradition that I will continue when I have kids!

The question and answer session: Yes, most of our contacting is done on the streets. We also go "harvesting" from time to time, which is door to door. People almost always live in Domes (big apartment complexes) because that is what the Soviets built for everybody and that is what is the easiest to maintain. They are also what is cheaper for people to live in. I usually eat potatoes, soups, eggs, and a lot of things between slices of bread. They have all kinds of stuff here, but I normally don't eat anything but the basic staples. The water is unsafe for us, but we do have filters here. [Actually, the water is almost always free from microbes and such, but the danger lies in the high concentration of metals from the super old pipes the water runs through, so the filters usually just pulled that metal back out.] My regular day I will have to do another time, as I am short on time. I do not buy bottled water, as I think bottled water is usually a fairly foolish idea. [This was my idea from the states, where it is a foolish idea to, in a country where we have arguably the best water cleaning and purification systems in the word, buy water for what turns out to be 3-4 times what we pay for the same volume of gasoline. I have since learned that ideas that are valid in one locale are not always valid in another.] I e-mail from the internet cafes around town. There are few houses here, and they are not very colorful. They are mostly browns and reddishes, and various other colors of age and concrete. The roofs? Random...they are shingle, metal sheets, and sometimes a few other things. The people dress very much the same. There are a few colorful folks, but most of them are plainish. I have mostly heard rap and techno of various kinds blasting out of people's speakers. It all sounds like the same to me (there're two different kinds of beats or so and that's it...).

There is an update on V.: he is still very eager to do what we ask and keep all his commitments. He loves to learn more about the gospel. But, he was unable to quit his job like he wanted. They wouldn't let him, so he's stuck there for a another week at least. But, he is definitely quitting when he gets the opportunity.

As for the things I jotted down to write home about...the list is a lot shorter than last week. Here goes:
The 8th of March was Womens Day here (sorry, ladies, for forgetting to mention it until now. Nothing like a late celebration! Tell your husbands!). That was definitely interesting. We also got me a cake! I sent a picture of that with this email.

It's a really good thing I love rain, because we've been seeing a lot of it! Mostly, it's like the rain in DC or Washington or somewhere it rains a lot in the summer (light mist, with a rare downpour that will soak you good). And it's rainy A LOT!

I discovered that in Rīga, (the capital of Latvia, where the mission home is), at the church, the members name the various poles poking out of walls and ceilings after missionaries. I was given a tour of the missionary poles, which I found definitely interesting! [To clarify, these poles are water pipes which are used for heating in the winter.] The members here are amazing, and I love them dearly! We have one here in Jelgava who is so deeply immersed in studying the scriptures that he can whip out several scriptures to answer any question and knows his scripture stories backwards and forwards. I love him!

We also had a freakishly hot Monday (it was clear up to 13 degrees! And remember I'm talking C, not those crazy F things you use back home). It was sunny and just crazy all day!

While sitting in my apartment studying one day, I noticed that the sun went from behind the horizon to above the building next to us in about 20 minutes! The sun rises fast here! (pictures of a glorious sunrise to come)!

Enough about those things. The work is going fairly well! I am rapidly advancing in the language (due mostly to talking to people all the time and praying very, very, very hard each day before I go out). I was able to get a phone number on Monday from a man named P. who speaks an unknown amount of English (he gave me his number in English). But, I have been able to talk to R. (the aforementioned member) today for about an hour, and I was able to understand almost all of what he said and could answer his questions satisfactorily! That was very exciting, because I majorly messed up the language, and almost convinced a person to never involve himself with the church again! Fortunately, Elder Doane was there to clear that up. (hee hee)

Speaking of Elder Doane: we spoke with this man last night. He told us that alcohol is the most powerful thing there is! He tried to drop it, and couldn't. And he knows from experience that it's stronger than faith. Well, within 10 minutes, Elder Doane had him saying "I want to quit! When can you meet with me and my family?" It was really cool! Doane can slip into people's heads with ease here. I've also talked to many people here who tell us they have no time for church, or God. But we mention baptism, and almost all of them have told us that they can come to us whenever we need them to! I love it!!

Anyway, I have almost no time left. I will send this, a few more pics, and call it good. Sorry this is so short: I was interrupted and now we're on a time crunch! (a note from Jordan's mom--he was interrupted by US--we happened to log on right when he was writing us, so we did a little instant messaging and it was really great! :) We found out that Latvia is 8 hours ahead of us here in Idaho Falls, so now it's easier for us to picture where he is in his day. Anyway, sorry we took away from his group letter, but it was way worth it for us :) And he'll write again next week.)
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mar 5: Argyle reporting in!

[I talk about groceries. The upper picture is a shot of the milk (Lāse is the brand of milk we got for the first little while) and juice we buy. Both of these will last for months outside the fridge, so we often called them "forever milk" and "eternal juice".
Lower pic: Since Latvia is high enough up the globe, it gets strangely long and short days, depending on the time of year. In March, the days are rapidly lengthening (about 5 extra minutes of sun a day), and so I was always awake for the sunrise during my first transfer. Here is what they generally looked like...gorgeous. Later, the sun would wake me up (as early as 3:30AM), and I learned to abhor the long, long hours of sun.]
Now, to everybody: hello from Latvia! It has been quite an interesting week! I have some questions that I have been asked to answer, so I'll do that before I do anything else:

I was asked how the S. family is doing. I have no idea. They have continued to skirt us and avoid our meetings. No progress with them at all.

V. is a miracle! He quit the job that was conflicting with church. The reason is work conditions were not good for him. The Lord, I firmly believe, has been acting for us before we even met him. He now is available to go on Sundays. He listens intently when we talk to him, and he has kept every commitment. I'm very excited for him!

A little something about my apartment and comp: Our apartment is very interesting. The building it is in was built during Soviet times. It's kinda junky. The stairs are falling apart, the walls are covered in graffiti, and there are very obvious signs of mismanaged aging (rust, broken things, dents, run-down look, etc). But, our apartment itself is very nice. We have fake leather chairs, decent beds, the walls are nice-looking and it has some beautiful shelves and things. Only two odd things: our faucet in our kitchen isn't mounted. You can pick it up and pull it out of the sink (you shouldn't be able to do this). We also have a hole in our bathroom exposing the pipes for the building. [Honestly, this is pretty common in Latvia. Those with money refurbish what they own--their apartments. The buildings (called homes--mājas) themselves are usually pretty rundown. First off, the Soviets built everything as cheaply as possible, and secondly, they designed them to be frequently upkept to make sure that everybody had jobs. few want to pay anybody for things like painting unless they need it. Result: pretty shoddy on the outside. However, a lot of places have been upgrading and rebuilding, and nice-ifying recently, so it's a very interesting mix.] I have taken some movies of it on my camera, and I'll show you when I get home. But one absolutely ingenious  thing they do here: all bathrooms have hot water pipes coming out of the walls into the bathroom. On these you hang your towel, and it heats your towel. It's just part of the piping. It doesn't cost extra, or anything else. I think if that was implemented in America, somebody could make bank! My comp is Elder Doane. He is an ex-boarder (snow), and comes from Utah. He has had good practice here and was one of the two elders who designed the approach we now use. He is serious about getting missionary work done. He is a music lover also, and is very fun.

We get around on foot [meaning we walk everywhere we go]. Period. Anything in Jelgava is reached by foot for us. When going to Rīga, we use a mikroautobuss (basically a large van). It used to cost us 1,10 LVL each time, but this month they cranked the price to 1,50 LVL per ticket. Yikes! Anyway, it's good.

The people are kinda friendly. In Jelgava, most of them will listen to us, and most of them actually stop walking to talk for a few minutes. You still have your rude businessmen and those who know who we are and don't want to talk to us, so they try to avoid us, but otherwise yes, they are friendly. Especially when we speak Latvian to them. They like that we foreigners have taken the time to learn their language.

Our food comes from grocery stores. There's two big ones here in Latvia: Rimi and Iki [and if Doane would have taken me farther to shop, I would have added Maxima, which is almost as big as the Rimi in Jelgava. Iki is a good deal smaller, but that's where Elder Doane and I went shopping, since it was the closest to home]. They look kinda like Walmarts, only without all the evil that comes from Walmart (joke [but not much of one]). Things look a lot cheaper here. For one thing, most things are a little bit cheaper than in the States (or a lot, depending on what it is). Second, all prices are in LVL (Latvian Lats), which is worth more than double a US dollar. So, I always see a price and think it's ridiculously low (0,37 for a king-sized Twix! oh wait...that's about 80 US cents. That's not too much cheaper than the US...). I have only been to the open market (the tirgus) once so far. Things are cheep, often illegal, and not often of very good quality. But, I will definitely be buying things there before I leave. It's the only place that you can barter! [I like bartering. And you can find killer deals here. The only thing to look out for is to see if you're getting an illegally attained product. A lot of things were made by the people selling it, and then it's a question of quality. I would recommend shopping there in any case.]

It has stayed pretty warm. We got a lot of sun yesterday and today, which always makes contacting easier because people are always happier here when it's sunny. But, it was also bitterly cold yesterday as we received the second notable snowfall of the year (highly unusual for Latvia [for that to be only the second notable snowfall. Usually, there's mountains of the stuff every month]). The man we were teaching (Kristops vinu sauc [K. is his name]) was very excited to see it.

Preparation days: yes. I am allowed to wander the town. Today we went to Rīga (where I am currently) to shop at the tirgus for a fox hat for elder Doane, and to try to find a hat and gloves for me (since I've been living off borrowed goods up till now). But, I will be wandering around for pictures later, and will definitely have those prior to my leaving in 20+ months.

The language is still pretty tough. I have been fervently praying for the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues, that I may understand what is being spoken to me. I find that when I focus on listing to the person, not on trying to understand everything they say and tear their sentences apart in my head, I can understand. Often, I don't understand each word. But I always understand the general message (unless they used 0 words I've heard before or have a ridiculously heavy accent). As far as speaking goes: when I'm contacting lots, I can speak fairly easily and can put things together well. But days where I don't contact very many people, I cannot speak without a lot of thought. It is obvious that my actions of faith bring blessings.

People in general are not religious. Most aren't even believing in God. I also found that almost 70% of people from 20 to 30 have not been baptized even [again, that's what I was told. I found that a high percentage of school kids at Jelgava hadn't been baptized. It's a collage, and a lot of that-aged kids haven't, but this isn't necessarily a country-wide generality]! And most of the people who have been were baptised so that they could be married [that's true of anybody under 65]. There is not a lot of people (I have found one so far) who held strongly to his religion. [Very true. Currently, if somebody is religious, they are powerfully religious. If not, then they aren't at all. Most are in a church because that's their family's church for generations. No other reason. Things like, "No, I don't believe--I'm Lutheran/Catholic/Pravaslavnie!" were said to me all the time.] When religious freedom was re-instituted here, they pretty much picked a church based on how close it was to them [] (usually). [True for very few. Sorry. I thought I knew a lot then. Most picked a religion based on what their family was.] So, that has been very interesting. They also don't have that annoying American trait of always having to be right. People who are in a religion in America usually are there because they think it's right. People here don't really care so much. They're very open. I like that. America needs to stop being so politically correct all the time and so uptight. Anyway, that part about the people here I have really liked.

I have met no kids yet (as all 6 of the church members here are above 25), so I'm not sure if kids are cute with the missionaries.

We have been on fire. We met with 7 new people this week, and after the first few days of this week, elder Dons told me, "I don't know what we're doing. We are having more success and getting more done that I've ever seen before!" So, that's exciting!

One of the members here, Romāns by name, is beyond amazing! We asked, after our meeting with him yesterday, if he would help us with our meeting with Valdis in an hour and a half. He said he would. We asked what he would be doing, and he told us he'd be reading at the church. Well, when we came back an hour later we found him deeply engrossed in the Book of Mormon, with his highlighter and study guide out and in use. He read us several passages from what he had just finished studying and immediately related them to himself and to us. He is amazing! He also whipped out scriptures all over the place during our meeting with Valdis to support what he said and to answer Valdis's questions. [I didn't want to use anybody's names, but then I realized that Latvia has so many reused names, that it really wouldn't matter if I did. You wouldn't know one Valdis from another. Most of the rest of the blog uses names, unless I felt specifically that I should change it for that reason.]

Now, for the things I wrote down throughout the week to tell you:
First: right after emailing last week I went and bought a bunch of stuff: a Bible, dictionaries, etc. I found the card game Bonanza! in Latvian!! I was so excited, I couldn't not buy it! I was thrilled (it's one of the best games ever!). [Sadly, the version I played had 46 more cards...this one didn't have the 22 or 24 beans.] Anyway...

We also had two teens call us over to them while we were out contacting on the street. They yelled "Hey, friend!" a few times to us. We went over there, and discovered that one of them had talked with us before. He told us he remembers giving us his name and number before, but he doesn't remember why. Even not remembering, he had been telling his friend about us for several weeks, and his friend was interested. We told them that we teach people about baptism, and that they can become clean from their sins and start a new life after their baptism. They one who had given us his number said, "Really?!?! I can be clean?!" He then excitedly told his friend in Russian, and his friend became all smiles. It was really neat to see.

One thing here at this time of year is a lot of birds. It is not uncommon to see a small cloud of birds swooping through the sky or flocks perched in trees. I will send a picture when I get one (I left my cable at home today...protams). [small cloud = flocks of some 300-1,200.]

Food: I don't remember what I said about this last time. They have something called Kefirs here. It's essentially milk that they let spoil: they they leave it out an extra month, then they chill it and sell it. Well, I had to try some. It tastes basically like liquid sour cream. Interesting to say they least. I don't hate it, but I definitely wouldn't drink it often. Another thing here is their salsa. I love Mexican salsas. They are what make food amazing! But, there is none of that to be had here. I did find Texicana, which is the most salsa-like thing you can find. It's hot, spicy, but is very sweet. It's like zesty ketchup, only a lot better. I'll have to try to smuggle a bottle out sometime.

An amusing thing: my name here. A gailis is a rooster. The preposition "ar" means with. So, when my name is in accusative, it means "with a rooster" or "by the means of a rooster." That's just one random, humorous thing I found out just this week. [Correction: ār- as a prefix means "outside (of), or external. So, my name actually means "the outside rooster". Ārgailis. Without the long sign, I would be right. But I did "Ārgails," and "gails" doesn't mean anything, so...]

As long as I'm being random: on the CD "Boarderlands" that you have, mom and dad, there's a track from Latvia. It's track 7, "Who is Crying" and I believe it is a traditional lullaby here in Latvia. [Never had that confirmed.]

One more random thing, then I'll get serious. Our laundry machine is really odd. It makes a lot of noise, takes pretty small loads, and for some reason I'll never know, takes a little over two hours to wash a load!

Ok, serious time. K. believed what we told him. But, he told us that all churches are right. So, why does he need this church? Why can't be be both Lutheran and LDS and be saved? We tried to explain to him, but it didn't quite click with him. If anybody has any ideas we can use to help him, let me know. We probably won't meet with him again until next week.

Finally, I read these two scriptures today, and they explain the Book of Mormon very, very well.
2 Nephi 29: 8-10 -- 8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.

Also D&C (Doctrine and Covenants) 20: 5-12 After it was truly manifested unto this first elder that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world;

6 But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness;

7 And gave unto him commandments which inspired him;

8 And gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon;

9 Which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also;

10 Which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them—

11 Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old;

12 Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.

Anyway, I liked those a lot, and thought I would share.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )