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
( >/°¥< )

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