Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 28: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: To Rīga and back, slow week

All: 88.54 KM (95,807 steps).
"Only in Latvia" moment wasn't too exciting. We just had a plethora of drunks swarming the streets. Two, in particular, are worth mentioning. These two kids came up to us and just starting talking with us for about 15 minutes last night waiting for a tram. They were absolutely plastered drunk, but spoke English fairly well, so we chatted with them.

I lied. This is fairly interesting, but is not an "only in Latvia" thing. Another guy (not a drunk) used to work in the opera. I have no idea what he did there, but he now sings opera on the streets and sells watches. He's a very, very cheerful man, and I do not think that he is drunk often (every time I've seen him he's been sober, anyway). He serenaded us on the street this week as well.

Clarification: I did not crochet at all. I cannot do that, it turns out. But, the other missionaries did. Letters: Alex (7 May), Nichols (16 May postmarked), Grandpa and Grandma A (12 May). Thank you!!!!, it's so great to hear from you all, and zone conference will be this Monday (so, hopefully all will be there).

Sigh. As far as the work goes, it's been slow this week. Most people we wanted to meet with are in the country (laukos, in Latvian, which means "in the country" and I'll probably use that from now on because it takes me a few seconds to remember the word "country" in English for that connotation). But, I have changed the way I do my work, in my attitude and my determination, and that has changed everything. I am now a lot happier, and other people can feel the difference in me. I also try to have the Spirit with me more often, so a lot of good should come soon. We've been focusing this week on English classes (we do free classes for 45 minutes Tuesdays and Thursdays at the church, followed by a 15 minute spiritual thought), and we've passed out a great many fliers. We actually had a lot of new people in class, and it was very, very fun. So, we'll see where that goes (too soon to tell). Also, sports went very well, as we had a lot of people come: and they were all investigators or members! The best part: all but one of the members that came are people that haven't been to church or really wanted to exert effort to be involved with the church the last little while! I had to chase the ball a few times into the sea (we played kickball on the beach), and that water was cold. But, it was all good. My planner didn't even get wet (or my pedometer)! It was a good time.

I have one story...don't laugh too hard. Disclaimer: I'm not stupid, just forgetful. OK. so, we were going into Rīga to get our visas (finally) yesterday. Well...I took the three hour bus ride with Sister Hagen, got into the car, and realized I'd left my Passport in Liepāja. So, I stood in line for the next bus, and after half an hour headed home again. Three and a half hours. Then, I got back to work. That But, on the plus side, I read Mormona Grāmata and understood 2 Ne 27-33 (amazing chapters, by the way. If you've never read them, I invite you to. I know they were written while Nephi was in the Spirit, because they are powerful words).

Also, we were at the hospital to visit a lady in our branch. The hospital's first floor reminded me of a subway (the feel and that there were shops and things on the first floor), and the lifts dropped 5 centimeters when you first step into them, and the lights in them dim as the thing moves, and some parts of that place I'm sure haven't been changed since the building was built during soviet times. But, the lady next to our member (Māsa Kaupene) had been talking to M.K. (the member), and was interested. So, we talked with her, she was very interested, and we encouraged her to read the Book of Mormon. She said she would. That was cool. Good on M. Kaupene!

Then, one thing to anybody who wants to do work for the Lord: work with Him. If you tell Him in prayer what you are willing to do, and ask for specific blessings in return, or if you set it up as a pact between Him and you, then you can feel His help much more powerfully. I'm not sure why that is. But I know it is. For any human on earth: pray. Pray to your Heavenly Father. He is our Father in Heaven. He is an actual individual, with a personality, and he loves us, as we are literally His children. When you pray, pray from your heart. Pray to an individual who cares about and can help you with anything. Thank him. Express love for him. He is there. He does listen. If there is anything in this world that I am sure of, it is that we can truly speak with God through prayer just as easily as one can speak to a friend over the phone. Don't wait: do it now. Do it tonight. Speak to Him every night. Every morning. And never fear to speak to Him any other time of day. You can pray anywhere, anytime. If there is only one thing that I can encourage you to do, that would be to pray often.

i love you all.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

May 21: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Record Distance, Lots of Folks, Drunks with sharp things, wilderness wanderings

For all:
New walking record! 92.52 KM (that's 115,693 steps, my friends!)

Also of interest, I finally figured out how to type in Latvian. You have a language thing in Windows that lets you change the language. But, when you change it to Latvian, it still types in English. Weird? Yes. But, when you hit the apostrophe ( ' ) and then a Latvian letter (A,E,I,U,G,K,L,N,C,S,Z) it does it Latvian style (Ā,Ē,Ī,Ū,Ģ,Ķ,Ļ,Ņ,Č,Š,Ž). So, that was very exciting and greatly sped up my typing a letter to R. (from Jelgava).

Questions from the home front: New companion - doing great! Our tripanionship is strong, as we think very alike concerning missionary work. We're trying some new things. Just talking with people didn't work so well last transfer, so we're telling everyone that doesn't want to listen to the gospel about English and sports. Last week, we had 7 people (counting missionaries) at sports. That means we had two, and both were members. This week, we had well over 20, not counting any of the 7 missionaries! And all of them had fun! We played American football, Frizbee, Red Rover, Duck-Duck-Goose (in Russian), and just catch. It was very, very successful. We'll see what happens with the folks there. We actually had a Russian lady from my English class come, and her three daughters enjoyed it very much (1, 4, and 7 years old, if I recall correctly). So, we're working on that. It's easier to talk gospel from English, so we'll push that this week. We had several new people show up to English class, too, so I think we're moving the right way! The new sisters are amazing! Both are very, very good with people, very likable, and are just ripping it up. Sister Hagen and Sister Morley talked to 300 people on the streets last week (that's a very, very big number, by the way). Sister Thirston is fantastic, too. She's hilarious, well-seasoned, and bold. That's the way work gets done. Our new apartment is on the 8th floor, but we have a lift (held up by quarter-inch thick rope) that we use. The biggest down is that it's quite a distance from center, so we are hard pressed to get home on time. But, it's a nice pad, with a gas stove (so food actually gets cooked), and room for three to study. I like it! It's not without broken things, though...

Investigators: O. - She has a job!!!! She works at Rimi (where Liena, an investigator of the sisters in the same situation, works. That situation is that they live with somebody of the other gender, and don't have the money to move out). And, she's moving along well.

That's actually it. Our families weren't able (or didn't want to) meet with us, and the others are out of city/country. On the super, super, super plus side, though, V. (the one in Germany now) was baptized last Sunday. The German elders working with him let me know via phone. I was very, very excited. I should have pics next week from them!

I was asked to share something that only could happen in Latvia. Easy. We were leaving the church after practicing singing a song for district conference (more on that later), and a drunk man with a saw approached us. This is one of those old school saws with the wooden handles, and was about a meter and a half long. Why he had it nobody knows, but the sharp part was facing us. It was fortunate for us that he was wasted drunk. He spoke to us in Russian, with English and Latvian words and grammar constructions mixed in. This man was very, very drunk. So, I think that kind of thing is very much a lower Baltic state (Latvia and Lithuania) occurance. We left after locking the church door without incident.

Now, more fun stuff: We had district conference in Rīga at the Rīga world trade center. That's all Latvian members invited to that. Well, the Liepājnieki (the Liepājans) that didn't travel by car or train or go Saturday went with the missionaries on a bus. Well, about 100km from Rīga (between Salus and Rīga, one stop after Salus) our bus broke down. We were left to wander about the farm behind the stop (the lady who owned it wasn't overly thrilled with that, but didn't actually care as we weren't destroying anything). But, we were left there about two hours while a new bus was sent FROM LIEPĀJA!! was fun. We wound up playing with a little girl there, which was very fun (actually, Sister Thirston did most of the playing), while the rest of us crocheted. Elder Bodily brought a lot of yarn and a good-sized pile of hooks to do that with, which was cool. (this is Jordan's mom talking for a moment--Jordan's never crocheted in his life, as far as I know, and Elder Bodily, who is from Idaho Falls, is a big sports guy, so don't ask ME why they were out there crocheting! :) Oh! Wait! I'll call Elder Bodily's mom!! OK, here's the story. Another Elder taught Elder Bodily how to crochet earlier in his mission, and his mom sent him some yarn and instructions and stuff and told him that maybe when he had some free time, like on bus rides, etc, he could make hats or scarfs and give them away, and Elder Bodily thought that sounded good, so that's why the crocheting! Glad to get that explanation there :)) Back to Jordan: We got to Rīga after conference started, and we were able to get in for the last hour of conference. Then, we grabbed the mail for Liepāja, and rushed to the train station to leave. Whew! But, the trip was beautiful, and where we were for two hours was gorgeous. That's what I call a district unity activity!

And with that, I must say that I am out of time. I love you all! I do know that God speaks today, and that He watches out for and protects His children! Aceries viņū, un to, ko viņš ir darījis musu deļ! Viss, ka mums ir, ir dāvana no dieva. Tik želigs viņš ir!
(Brother Shell, if you'd like to translate, we'd love to know what he said ! :) )

Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

May 14: Baltic Report: Red Cross, Inflation, and Some Miracles of Christ

(This is a note from Jordan's mom about our Mother's Day phone call to Jordan--we get these weekly e-mails from Jordan, and the missionaries are also able to call home twice a year, on Christmas and Mother's Day. So we were really looking forward to Mother's Day :). We called him at 7:00 a.m. our time, which was 4:00 p.m. his time. They were still at the church, and we talked about 45 minutes before he had to walk to the apartment where they were having dinner. He kept talking while they were walking :). At the apartment, the connection kept disconnecting, and we kept calling back. He finally found a spot where we could stay connected if he hung his head out a certain window in the apartment. Needless to say, it was an interesting conversation :). Luckily, we had been told about a prepaid calling card called which allowed us to call all those times and didn't charge extra for all the dropped calls. Anyway, here are some highlights from our talk with Jordan. He sounded happy and like himself and was glad to answer our random questions
We asked him about the Latvian teacher he had mentioned in a previous e-mail. He said that on Friday mornings at 8:00 a.m., the missionaries go to the church, in "various stages of lateness :)," and ask this Latvian member questions about things they've heard as they've been teaching during the week--words or phrases or whatever--and she answers their questions in Latvian. Jordan says it's really helpful. He also said there are three different kinds of Latvian, with their own phrases and stuff, depending on what area of Latvia you are in. So that makes the learning even more tricky. He said "gangster Latvian" is called Russian :).
He said some of the nicest people he's talked to are Russian. Once he was talking to a guy on the street for about 5 minutes while his companion was on the phone, and it wasn't until his companion got off the phone and joined in the conversation that the guy Jordan was talking to revealed that he only understood Russian, not Latvian. He just very politely listened to Jordan even though he couldn't understand what he was saying.
He said that the Latvians are very impressed that these Americans are learning Latvian. They'll start talking to someone, and the Latvians will say, "Wait--what are you speaking?" And the missionaries will say, "Latvian." And they will ask, "Where are you from?" The missionaries answer, "The United States." The Latvians will ask, "Why are you learning Latvian? There are Russians who have lived here for years and never learned Latvian!" And then the missionaries can begin to explain why they are there and what they are teaching. Jordan says it's pretty cool.
He knows how to say "yah, whatever" in Russian--"da, lodna". And it's meant in exactly the same way and inflection as we would say it here :)
He told us a little more about what happened to his camera--they were on their break day, and were playing frisbee at a beach, and he had tucked his camera into the pocket of one of the member's coats on the sand so it wouldn't get dirty. Well, she picked up her coat, and of course the camera flipped out of the pocket and into the sand, and sand got all in the lens. He said he got it to sort of work, but the lens won't zoom anymore and there are other problems.
We asked him about his shoes, since he said his were falling apart. He said everybody's shoes were hammered--walking all those miles every week--and with his the whole insides were falling out and one of his companions had given him some insoles and that seemed to be holding things together for the moment. They were still going to go looking for some different shoes.
He said that four new missionaries were coming to the city he is in this week--one, Elder Payne, will be with Jordan and his companion Elder Bodily. The other three are sister missionaries--one is Sister Hagen, who Jordan was in the MTC with. He said she is already legendary in the mission--she is a wonderfully hard working missionary who is just going out there and contacting all kinds of people. The mission goal is for the missionaries to contact 140 people during the week, and teach 20 lessons. Sister Hagen and her companion decided to try for more, and they've been contacting 200-250 people a week. There's also a Sister Kelly, who has been in the Air Force, and a Sister Morley, who is from Logan, Utah. He says something a little different in his letter below, but this is what he told us on the phone.
He talked about a fun experience the missionaries had--the Red Cross is new there, and they were trying to get some publicity about themselves out to the people. The branch president there, Elder Boehm, and his wife have been offering the services of the missionaries to help however they can. The Red Cross wanted to do some disaster simulation things, and they asked if the missionaries could help with that. Jordan said that there are some really cool ruins of World War II forts that run along some cliffs by the beach. He said they are mostly in ruins, but the pieces are still lying along the beach and you can kind of imagine how they looked by mentally putting the pieces together in your head. This was where the Red Cross training session took place. They brought in school children from about ages 12-16 and had them react to several mock accidents. They were supposed to be working on being a team, on speed, and on taking care of their "accident person" in a medically correct way. So Jordan played a person who had fallen and broken his arm. He said he was supposed to pretend he was unconscious, too. So the kids that were working on him had to wake him up, splint his arm, and carry him along that rocky cliff to some prearranged spot. He said these little twelve-year-olds dropped him on the stretcher a couple of times, complaining that he was "too heavy!" We said, "But Jordan--you said you'd lost about 23 pounds!!" And he admitted that he's beginning to gain some of that weight back--the Boehm's have the missionaries over frequently and feed them "real food".
He said they had almost 50 people at church that day (last Sunday), which was really exciting for them, and way different from the 2 people that were coming in the last city he was in.
He doesn't drive a car over there, of course, but when Mark asked about gas prices, he said that it is about $5-6 a gallon.
The apartment he was in for the second part of our conversation looked out onto the street where Latvia's Hard Rock Cafe is.
When teaching the gospel, they will often ask people, "Where is your favorite place to be?" He said they usually talk about the country, and they like it because it's peaceful there. Then the missionaries talk about that peaceful feeling, and begin to talk about the gospel and the peace it can bring. Jordan said that one man he talked to had a different answer, and he tells about it in his letter below--
He told about the 19-year-old, J., and how she told the missionaries she was afraid to pray. She told them that one night she couldn't go to sleep because she kept feeling like she wanted to read the Book of Mormon. Then she wanted to pray about it. She asked the missionaries to teach her how to pray. She meets regularly with the sister missionaries now and is learning and growing. Jordan said that it's great to meet with people who are changing.
He also talked about the English classes that the missionaries teach. He said on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. the missionaries teach three different levels of English to anyone who wants to come learn. Latvians, that is :). They teach by reading and talking and doing activities and stuff. They teach for 45 minutes, and then have a 15-minute spiritual thought time at the end. He said that a lot of times, most of the people leave before the spiritual thought, but sometimes they stay, and that's another way to share the gospel.
Anyway, we had a great talk and just wanted to share as many of the details of it with you as we could--now here's his letter that came this morning:

For All: Labi. First: 79.36KM (99,428 steps).Then: Transfers. We actually got another two sisters (including Sister Hagen from the MTC!) and Sister Thirston, a Russian speaking sister. I'm way excited about that! They arrived, and we moved out of our old pad. Elder Bodily and I are still together, and we have Elder Payne from Rīga Center as our District leader (and third member of our tripanionship). We moved out into the old Russian apartment, about 15 minutes by tram away from Center (where the other two apartments are). Elder Payne took the cot, and the other two of us have mattresses on the floor. Prices here are skyrocketing: just to dry-clean my suit cost 12,50. That's almost $30! And that's up from a month ago when Elder Bodily got his suit cleaned at the same place. Living costs are ridiculous, and getting worse. But, I have enough to live, and all is well. Just...a little annoying at times. Although, many Latvians are having problems surviving, especially here. Wages here are no higher as prices climb. Rīga workers get more green (or brown, in case they are getting Ls 20 bills) but they are the only ones. People (in answer to mom's question) do not leave the country a lot for vacation. But a lot of Latvians move out of country for work (as is the case with our best V. so far. Who, by the way, takes a little over an hour each Sunday to go to church. He lives in a very awkward place in the middle of nowhere, and it takes him a good amount of time to get there. But he is, and is meeting with missionaries in Germany there, and is loving the light the gospel brings him!). Many will go out into THE country for vacation (almost everybody has a little dača out in the woods). (jan says, maybe that's like a cabin up in Island Park :)). [Dača is the Russian word. A lot of Latvians call it a vasarnīca, or summer place. These things can be anything from an actual house or cabin, to barely more than a shack--actually, I've seen things barley more than lean-tos in some places, so...I guess it can range from a place to sleep, to a place you can actually live in some comfort. Anyway, they have these places so that they can grow a garden, get out of the city, and be close to the land, close to nature.]

The new people are great! Sister Thirston is the most seasoned missionary out here besides Elder Bodily. She actually goes home the same time E. Bodily does, so she's got until August! It's been great getting to know her, as she is a powerhouse! Sister Hagen is amazing too, and is just here to get the work done. I love that! So, I smell good things on the horizon!
Moving was a little crazy (from 9 in the morning until about 3 we were packing, moving, and unpacking. It was madness!!!), but we're all cozy now and all is well. The most exciting thing from last week is the Red Cross activity we were able to help with. It was a competition. We've been trying to be of help to them since November of last year. We went in normal clothes, and were the "victims" or score-keepers (depending on who your were). There were 14 teams of 6 competing. Scoring was based on teamwork, speed, and medical correctness. So, we were able to act a bit and help out there. I was a fall "victim": my wrist had "broken" when I "fell" off the forts we were by. That was interesting, because I had 14 teams with ages ranging from 10 to 16 carry me strapped in a stretcher along the drop-off into the ocean. I was a little nervous, but it all worked out. The most exciting part, though, is we were able to wear our tags (their missionary name tags). We got a lot of questions about what we were there for, why we did what we did, etc. And afterwards, we were able to stay with the main staff for a little over an hour just talking. They were able to see we were real people. After that, right before English classes, several of them came in (separately and in small groups) to ask for a meeting with us. That's a big deal. There were also some members there that we haven't been able to contact in a while, and a lot of interest was stirred up in general. Now, every time we see one of the "Red Cross girls" out on the street, they greet us with a big smile and a cheery hello! It's amazing to see what just an hour of talking did! And, it was very fun!

The forts are way cool, too. They're forts built by the Germans in WWII to secure that beach front. They tried to destroy the forts when they left, but didn't get them all. We'll be going out as a district to get pictures of them a little later this transfer, so I'll keep you posted there.

O. and I.: this is a family I talked to last Monday. Not this week, the one before. We met with them last Wednesday, and this will be our second meeting. I don't know how receptive they are, but they were attentive and agreed to have us back. We'll meet with them again this week and see how it goes. I like them a lot, because O. told us his favorite place to be is wherever his family is. Wow. I've never heard anything even close to that, here. I have heard "in the country" most often. Most Latvian's favorite place to be is somewhere out in the wilderness. Pray that they are receptive and feel the Spirit together as a family.

O.: This is our only other investigator going anywhere. She is finally able to get a job again, and as soon as she can, she is moving out of her ex-husband's place. Once that's done, we can get her baptized! Pray for her to get a good job close to or in Liepāja.

J.: The sister's investigator. I love to see her, because she has thought through everything we have taught her, and has accepted it. She's 19, and is doing very well. She wants to be baptized, and has told us "when the sea is warm" she'll be baptized. Pray that she doesn't lose the joy and the Spirit she has found!

AND pray that we find some amazing families and good people that can become the priesthood leadership of the Liepāja branch here!
About Christ this week: I studied a lot of Christ's parables this week, as well as a few amazing miracles. I found a few things that I would like to mention:

First, I thought about parables in general. I know that stories stay in the mind a lot longer. Christ's teachings were all about familiar things, too, so that as people went about their days and worked in the fields, they would remember those parables. I thought how wonderful a teaching method that is: it allows the listener to glean from it what they are ready for, and it also allows all who hear to remember it longer, so that they have time to glean the truths from it! I love that! And one in particular: because all of my former investigators have kinda dropped off, I have reason to liken the parable of the farmer to myself. The farmer plants a seed. It springs up on its own, and the farmer just watches it. And when it's ready, the farmer harvests the fruit thereof. I like it because a lot of times, the seed needs time to grow. Those that we've taught this last transfer are not ready to accept the covenant with God that comes with baptism. So, I simply leave them be and allow that seed to grow. And I search for those who are ready! It's a little frustrating sometimes, but I know that it will be granted me according to my faith. I seem to recall that I decided I would build from similarities in faith on my mission. That has proven an utter failure. The only way to get anything done in the Lord's work is to boldly testify flat-out truth. That means (in the case of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) flat out telling the world that God speaks, not spake, and that He, today, speaks through a living prophet. That only in this church can one find the fullness of the Everlasting Gospel and the power of God unto the salvation of men. That doesn't mean, however, that I discredit other churches' partial truths. It's good if others accept those pieces. All they need now is to find the rest of those pieces. And we have them all. That, has proved effective for me.

Then, that's all I have for now. Love you all! Thank you for your prayers and your love!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

May 7: Baltic Report: Birthday, Funeral, Investigators, and Spring's Initiation

For All:
87.82KM (109,823 steps) this week. We also set a new record at 20,400 and some odd steps on preparation day! (Jordan is keeping track of how far he walks each week with a pedometer)

YES!!! The Cow Parade! That's what that was called! There were some 3600 cow statues (most of them life-sized) that toured several cities throughout the world. They came to Latvia in 2002. The biggest ones in Ventspils remained (they're about 15 or so feet tall)! So that's what we saw on our culture day last week.
Yes, I am still in a Tripanionship. We are actually in the exact same apartment, and things are the same. As missionaries, we are required to sleep in the same room, so we're all smashed into one tiny bedroom. We have a cot that Elder McIlrath uses, and one bed and couch does the job for the other two of us. The couch falls down into a flat surface, so it looks more like a bed than a couch. Anyway. We have a landlord, yes. The guy is totally interesting. Our bathroom light died a little while back, and he has yet to do something about it. It's a fuse or wiring problem, because we've tried about 5 different kinds of replacement bulbs, and none work. So...whatever. Ladna, is the Latvian spelling of the Russian word meaning "Whatever."
I didn't leave Liepāja--only Elder Vance left. Elder Bodily and I stayed in Liepāja in the exact same place. Food wise, we pretty much eat on our own. But, we plan a companionship meal once a week, and occasionally we'll just cook food for each other. As far as I know, Latvia has only two independence days: this one from Russia, and one they call "Latvia's Birthday." It's in October or November (I don't recall which), and celebrates the first time Latvia was made its own country in the 20th century (I think. I can't get a good answer out of any Latvian yet. I think I'm still not able to ask about it in a way they understand. So...more on that when the time comes up). [The first independence day is on November 18th, and is called "Latvijas Republikas Proklamēšanas diena", or "The Republic of Latvia's Proclamation Day", or "Latvia's Birthday", and celebrates the first time Latvia was internationally recognized as it's own country. I think the year was 1918. The second is on May 4, and is called "Latvijas Republikas Neatkarības atjaunošanas diena" or "The Republic of Latvia's Day of Return of Freedom", where they celebrate the official proclamation in 1991 that the USSR released their hold on them, and they voted to become their own nation again.] Interesting Latvian Trivia? Well...Latvia is divided into four pieces: Kurzeme, Latgale, and another two I can't recall. They used to be separate kingdoms back when Latvia had kings. Look up Nameja Gredzens (Namejs Ring) to read a little of the story there. [The four pieces are Kurzeme (the western chunk of the country), Latgale (north-eastern chunk), Zemgale (a large section of the middle of the country), and Vidzeme (the south-eastern chunk, which contains the city Daugavpils, where Russian missionaries serve). I don't know what region Rīga is in, because Rīga is often considered to be in its own region. You can check out what that looks like here, if the link still works]

Now, my thoughts, then I'll get to the real business. I was once asked if Latvia is green. Now, yes. It looks like a completely different country, because it's just flooded with green. I would like to ask all readers who care to to send me fun little games for groups of 5-15 that we can play without anything but paper, and also with cards or dice or something. We need some new games for Family Nights and youth activities. Also, if anybody has good short stories that aren't creepy, and that are not too complicated in grammar or vocabulary, we could really use those in our English classes as we practice speaking and seeing the language with those who want to learn English.

Letters I recieved, and am VERY thankful for: Grandpa and Grandma Argyle (Dated 7 May), Grandpa and Grandma Juchau (Dated 7 Apr), Alex (Dated 27 Mar), and Rachel (Dated 7 Apr). Also, I got the package from the folks with the Ensign in it and pictures. So, thanks!! Always so great to get letters! Emily and Ryan: you have adorable children!! Today is Elder Bodily's birthday. And we are preparing a "funeral" for when Elder McIlrath "dies" this week. (He's finished with his mission and going home). That will be fun.
Random last note: I love Studio Ghibli. I found "Howl's Moving Castle" (a movie of theirs) in Latvian. On the way back from Zone conference this Friday, they played that movie. In Latvian. How random and funny is that!?

Ok, real business now. So, investigator updates first:

D. has completely left smoking and coffee in his home within two weeks. He has no desire to smoke at all. He works some days over 14 hours, so he still drinks coffee at work. He drinks these little 3-in-1 packets that have milk and sugar with a little coffee. He tried to justify the reduction by saying that there's hardly any coffee in it. Well...we're working on that. His girlfriend is Lutheran, and is not not changing. So...we'll keep our eye out there.

J. is moving along very well. She also was a little taken aback by the Word of Wisdom. But, she says she will do it. She doesn't understand why all those things are unhealthy for us, but she is willing to do it. She has decided she wants to be baptized, and she told us, "It doesn't really matter what my parents say. I'm 19, and I'm moving out to go to school soon, and I know this is true." Vot tak (that's Russian for "wow!" by the way)!

O., it turns out, lives with her ex-husband that she hates. We're not exactly sure what her living conditions are. She told us they live in separate apartments, or separate parts of the apartment, or something, but under the same roof. She doesn't have a job, so we're not sure how to get her moved out. But, she understands she needs to and is looking for alternatives.

A. is a new lady. We knocked on her door. She's an older lady who is not so sure about what we talk about. She respects what we do, and she recognizes (and often comments) on our gospel knowledge (as she has spent very little time studying doctrine in her life). She kept the commitment we gave her last meeting (to read a pamphlet) and she was able to pull out the important parts of it. She doesn't understand WHY the things we talk about are important yet, though. So, that's what we're working on there. We had companion exchanges (with the Zone Leader together with E. McIlrath--that was 4 people living in our little apartment that night), so I taught her all by my onesy. I had Elder Bodily there, but she would not speak any Russian (which is what Elder Bodily speaks), so I taught for about an hour and answered questions. Anyway, E. Bodily prayed in LATVIAN at the end. He's such a stud!

A. is a fairly old lady that is a sister to Zintra, a member from here that now lives in Germany. A. has seen the influence of the gospel in Zintra's life, and wants it for herself. She's about 70, and is ready and willing to do all. I have yet to meet her, so that's all I know about her.

Others: We also have several meetings with families coming up. I don't know if they will go anywhere, or be good, but we have been expressly searching for families and we're finding ones willing to listen.

Anyway, in my study of Christ this week, I was impressed by the following:
Christ commands us to be perfect (see the end of the sermon on the mount). This is not possible for us now. We cannot be perfect yet. But, we can be perfect in our respective spheres. James E. Talmage likened it to school: A freshman or sophomore can be perfect in his sphere (all A's, perfect attendance, etc.). But the achievements of the Seniors are beyond him at present. But, he is assured to attain that same achievement, and that same perfection as a perfect senior IF he continues faithful in the course of perfection in his present sphere. Same with this life. We can obtain a relative perfection. We cannot be as God. Just not possible in this life. But, we can become perfect in our spheres. Also, in the story told in Luke 7:37-50 (that's the one about the unknown woman who was a sinner coming and anointing the Lord with oil), it was suggested by Talmage that perhaps this woman heard the Lord's adminition to "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give thee rest." I had not thought of that story with the idea that the woman was acting on faith on the words of Christ. It was because of her faith that the Lord granted forgiveness. I had not looked on that story from that way before, and it was really cool.

I also read an article from the new ensign (Apr 2008). I highly recommend that all folks who want to hop onto and read it. It's called "Your Divine Heritage." Here's the link:

It is rather amazing! I was struck with the importance of observing and researching ourselves, so that we can see our strengths to cultivate them, and know our limitations so we do not exceed them too far. This line was especially good to me: "Your successes highlight your gifts; your disappointments help you learn your limitations and identify areas to work on." I think that's simple enough to use readily. And the rest of the talk was powerful. I recommend it (hence the link).

The pictures: all of us on the bus on the way to Ventspils. That's the "Severed Cow" in the second, the third is me "slaying" Agnese (a member from Riga soon to go on a mission) and the fourth is the traveling cow (one of the big cows aforementioned).

I love you all. I know this is long. Thank you for your perseverance to read all of it! I love you all, and I know this is the true church of God on the earth, and the only church on the face of Earth with the full doctrines of God and the authority to act in His holy name.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )