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
( >/°¥< )

No comments: