Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Apr 9: Baltic Report, 9 Apr 2008

For All...

I was asked a few things: How's Liepāja? How's your comp? What's Jelgava looking like right now? What's my weight loss secret? Un tā talāk. Answers:
First, the most trivial. Weight loss. Basically, all you need to do is walk around all day very briskly, touting some 5-15 kilograms around in a bag on your shoulder. Then, you eat a bowl of cereal in the morning, stuff yourself with a bunch of Selga cookies (more laud for those tasty little guys in a moment), then don't eat again until about 14:00 for lunch. Some days. Then, occasionally eat something for dinner. And at night, have yourself a bowl of soup, or a few bites of something yummy. That's what I did.

Elder Doane is finishing his mission in Jelgava. The area will stay open: this is eastern Europe. It sometimes takes a while for things to get rolling. "Russian Missionaries" refers to the elders here that are Russian speaking. Many of them are not from America. Both the ones here in Liepāja are, but I've met an Australian, one from Russia, one from Bulgaria (I think, or Ukraine...I don't remember) and several other places. We do splits a lot. We do them at least once a week. We call it a Blitz, because there's a Latvian and a Russian elder together, and there's absolutely no excuse for not being able to talk to someone. I have yet to play that game (as the Russians were sick this week), but we do shuffle investigators between us, so that people can teach those who can best learn from them. Es manai matei piekritu (I agree with my mother) about Estonia. I'd be living on yogurt and ice cream, and I likely would be gaining a little bit of weight. I've been looking for Estonian cheese, but haven't found any. Oh well...the coveted flavor of Jogurt is Baked Apple. I see now why it is so coveted. It tastes like an apple pie with vanilla ice cream on it, mixed with an extra bit of yummy and then turned into a drink. It's...good, we'll say. Lest I go raving about those for a while. [It's good, but some people will pay up to 20 bucks (US) for a liter of the stuff. It's not that good, nor is it so ridiculously amazing as to throw myself at it, but it is quite tasty. I would gladly drink the whole carton almost any time...I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is able to get their hands on it.]

But Selga cookies!! Oh, man. These things are about 2 inches square, and you buy a package of 19 for 38 sani (cents). They are the most delectable things I have ever chomped. They are cheap, and come in several flavors. Very unfortunately, the Carmel ones are not that tasty (I was very sad about that), but the vanilla and coconut ones are ļoti garšīgs [very tasty/delicious]! I was actually introduced to them at Z.'s house in Jelgava. Anyway, I love those suckers!

Cars are just about the same here. Although, you don't see as many American brand cars, and most people have smaller cars (not those ridiculously monstrously huge SUVs and trucks that everyone seems to think they need in some other countries).
Now. Liepāja. Ready? Our stove is a downgrade. We now only have two heating pads, and no oven. Our fridge also--less than half the size with an ice box (who thought of those ridiculous things, anyway? They can't even keep anything close to frozen!). But, the city is gorgeous and the church is much bigger. It was very, very exciting to see all the members (almost 50!!!), even though I have never been in a meeting that required two translators (Elder Boehm--a married American LDS missionary--is the branch president here, and he and his wife only speak a little Latvian. So, they do most things in English while asking us Latvian elders many questions about Latvian in general). The elders quorum president only speaks Russian, and most of the rest of the ward speaks Latvian and can speak Russian. So, it was VERY interesting, to say the least. But, we had the week full of meetings, and right now we have 6 investigators. At once! It's a huge leap from Jelgava for me (where we'd have 3 at the most at one time, and they'd disappear fairly quickly). Morning exercise is much better than it used to be as well--now, we jog to the beach, and dash around looking at the White Sea [Baltic sea..."balts" is the Latvian word for "white", so it's Baltijas jura, and while that actually translates to "The Baltic Sea", I was thinking the color...rookie mistake]. It's gorgeous! The missionaries here are amazing! Oh! One quick note. Elder Doane was/will be a professional snowboarder and skateboarder, and Elder Vance was only one slot away from making the US Olympic speed skating team last year! Anyway, the number of Russians in the city (people who speak primarily Russian) is about the same ratio as in Jelgava, but Liepāja is almost three times as big. I still have the entire city in my area, however, because we are the only Latvian elders for the city. Neither of the sisters are sisters from the MTC with me. All three other Latvians from the MTC are in the exact same place as they were last transfer (same companions, even). And so far, I love this city!

OK, a few things I wanted to talk about. One of our investigators was V.. He prayed to understand the scriptures, and God opened his mind so that he felt what he read. He wound up reading until 2 in the morning! But, unfortunately, he just got a job in Germany. So, we've been coordinating with the mission there to help him get baptized. I'll keep you posted. And no, this isn't the same V. from Jelgava.
I finally found out what A.M. and P.M. mean, also. I was reading my Latvian dictionary, and right there in the back were abbreviations. They're Latin (no surprise there): Ante and post meridien. So, for all who've wanted to know, there you go.

During church and in meeting with investigators and members alike, the Spirit has been with me in ways I have not felt before. I've finally started talking in meetings a good amount, and telling personal stories and actually teaching big chunks of the lesson, which probably is the reason for it! [Elder Vance made some serious efforts to work me into lessons and work with me, and it was fantastically empowering!]

The street contacting is definitely harder here, though. That's because Liepāja has been open for a very long time, and most people in the city have talked with us before. But, just like selling in California (Jordan sold pest control last summer in California to earn money for his mission): plow through, and you will find people's interest (at least some of the time).

We had a baby blessing in church also, this last Sunday. That was beautiful.

Finally (I'm sorry, I wanted to give more details on some things, but I have typed too long today and I must soon run), we had zone conference last Monday. That means anything sent to me is likely to not make it to me until 6 weeks from today. But, please don't let that discourage you from sending...Anyway, one of our central themes at Zone conference was "It's what we do." We meet people in their homes because "It's what we do." We talk about Christ and His atonement when we contact because "It's what we do." It...was unplanned, but incredibly powerful! So, all is well with me!! I love THIS WORK!!!!!!!!!

Also, I have dedicated this month to studying about Christ and His Atonement. If any of you can find the talk "The Meaning of the Atonement" or "The Search for a Personal Meaning of the Atonement" or something like that (it's a talk by Cleon Skousen, or something close to that), please shoot it my way! And, you will likely hear lots about the Savior and what I have learning. So...anyway. Thank you all for your prayers, and know that you are in mine! I love you all!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

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