Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Aug 27: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Investigators, Notes, Lots of Good!

To All: 87.92 KM (112766) Almost as many steps as an average week in Liepāja!

Pictures: The first one is a pictures of I. Trolas and one of his works. It's a dipiction of Stalin and the average Latvian under his reign. The other one is Russia, and the three kids represent Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The panoramic is just a glimpse of all the amazing things he has in his musium! The story about him is below (hunt for it ")).

My companions are Elders Grey and Palmer. Grey is from Colorado, and worked on ambulances for a good bit of his life before now. Palmer is from Utah, and has a pretty good singing voice. He also has an iPod full of movies and music that is almost always blasting in our apartment (all churchy-type movies and music, which is way cool)! Grey is about a year out, and Palmer is on his third transfer (he came out the group after me).
In Imanta there are 12 missionaries:
3 Latvian-speaking Elders (Already talked about, adding me!)
2 Latvian-speaking Sisters (Sister Knight, the dark-haired artist from my MTC group, and Sister Morley, who is from my district in Liepāja)
2 Russian Sisters (Tanner and Reed. Both very hard working, and one is actually from Russia, so she has a very good accent).
5 Russian Elders...names...don't know them all. They are very fun, and stories will come later (I really just don't have a lot of time right now).
We do splits rarely, but we do blitzes (a Russian-speaking missionary goes with a Latvian-speaking one and they knock doors somewhere). We didn't last week, but we should be doing that this week.

Imanta is not to Riga as Ammon is to Idaho Falls. It is a portion of Riga. It's kinda like downtown LA and LA--different, but still technically the same city. My new apartment has a lift, and is on the 5th floor. It's actually really nice, but the floor always seems to have lots of dirt and junk on it. But, even thouugh there is no stove, it is a nice pad. I have never even seen my neighbors, so I'm not sure what they are like.

The church is not too crowded. We've lost most of the branch. About 30 people come (the branch list is as long as the one in Liepāja), so we're soon going to be looking through that to figure out where people are, and how we can help them out (bring the branch over to help them move, or whatever we can do). We do have an actual branch president! Who (may I add) has a Macintosh computer, and is far more than simply pleased with it. He took a few minutes of our meeting to tell us how wonderful his Mac was. But, I'm not endorsing Mac...just simply saying it's the best on earth "). Anyway, I have met very few members. But, they are all amazing, outgoing, fun, lovable...more on them next week (that darn time thing again).

Our sports here has been pretty lame. We need to figure out how to make that better. There's more people sometimes (because we have so many missionaries), but less members and (so far) not as much fun for me. We'll see, though.

We do teach English. I will have stories about my English class (and all the craziness there) next week.

Weather...something I wanted to talk about anyway. The rainy season has come late this year. Every day, we've had rain. Sometimes, very hard rains. My umbrella has had a really good work out. And is still kickin' it!

I am, however, getting the hang of all the transportation stuff here. About time.

There is still a lot of green...that should disappear this month. Maybe winter will be slow in coming too.

The food is still the same ol' European, mostly flavorless stuff. It's not bad. Nothing really worth talking about though. Some more delectable goodnesses (The Totally Ice creams...the brown is caramel, maple, butterscotch and stuff, and is absolutely amazing. The white is vanilla and white chocolate, and the rest were not that good).

I am nowhere near the ocean. I'm settling in alright, and things are going well. I've almost got my focus entirely here (still dreaming every night about Liepāja...great place).

Quickly, the story of the wood carver: We decided to go to Vakarbuļļi (a place just outside of Imanta...about 15 KM from the river dividing Imanta from Riga center).We got there, and discovered it was much smaller than we thought. We decided to knock around there anyway. The gates usually don't have bells (not unusual), so we started calling from the street. This elderly fellow came out, invited us in, and we were allowed to see his museum. He made all of those (as well as some life-sized wood sculptures and such). He was way nice! Three doors down is a stone sculptor (we have a meeting with him later, so more about him next week).
I do have investigators. We taught a great many lessons this week, and it was all amazing! No time!!! More about it all next week.

I love you all!!!
(1 min left!)
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Aug 19: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: The Curse is Transfered, New Comps, and All the Rest

All: 61.86 KM (that's 79,334 steps!).

Pictures: The first one is a shot of the river that flows through Riga. The water is not clean, but very still. I don't think you'll be getting many more pictures like this...explanation forthcoming.
The second picture will be explained shortly.

It's been a short week. You may notice by the date this is sent that I'm writing a day early: we have zone conference tomorrow. So, preparation day was moved to today! I guess I didn't do so well getting the news out, because my inbox was totally empty today when I logged on. Sorry about that, y'all! So, the heading--"curse." Elder Bodily had a curse. Bad things seemed to hunt him out, and misfortunes fell his way for no good reason. It seems in choosing him as my role model for missionary work, I have now found myself obtaining that same curse. Behold! Last week, my companion was yanked from me. Why? Who knows. But, I am again in a tripanionship with Elders Gray and Palmer (E. Gray was E. Payne's companion a while back). E. Palmer served the first three months of his mission in Jelgava, but it would appear that everything about Jelgava and the work there is different from when I was there. On a side note, they now have another companionship in there--a Russian one. I can't wait to see how the work grows! But, getting on with here. I was just beginning to get along with Elder Black, and just figuring out how to work with him, when suddenly--SNAG!--he's gone. The "theft" was Saturday, after two really good meetings with excellent investigators. So, I moved in with the other two Latvian-speaking Elders here in Imanta.'s been interesting. It's been tough. I think in two weeks, it'll be better again.

But, the reason you will not be getting scenery shots is one of my companions thinks it's very wrong to take any pictures at all when it's not preparation day (and maybe even then...we'll see). I make sure my photography doesn't detract from the work--I only take shots when people to talk to aren't around, and when it won't hold up the work. But, because it's really important to him, and really throws him off if I take any, I won't be getting any shots like that this transfer. But, the second pic attached is of my two new companions--Palmer in the back with the knife, and Gray being the other one. We were enjoying an ice cream treat that night. was good. Believe me--ice cream here is succulent. They have this ice cream called "Totally." Following that word is a color, like brown, red, yellow, whatever. They take all the tasty things of that color, and put them together. They are...amazing. Well, the Totally Brown is amazing. The Yellow...not so amazing. But...when I try them all, I'll let you know.

So, about the rest: We attended young Jakob Sekan's baptism yesterday. The Senkani are the family that brought the church into the Baltics. At least, into Latvia. They are the Seventies that preside here (one of them is the Area Authority Seventy, I should say)(this is a leadership calling in the church), and another the district president. They are a powerful force here. The baptism was fun to see, as well. I always like seeing baptisms. I got some pictures of the font that we have here, but none of anything having to do with the baptism besides (sorry about that). And...let's see...Elder Black and I had some good investigators. They are now Grey, Palmer, and my investigators, but I don't know all of their investigators, so this week I'll keep them separated. Starting with mine:

G. and M. - This is that couple from last week. They are still moving. He's been willing to re-read the Book of Mormon with us, so we can help him see the truth he didn't feel last time he read it. Or didn't recognize the feeling. I think it's more of the latter. His girlfriend is quite open, and just enjoys listening to us.
D. - This guy is rather cynical up front, but I can see that he's thinking about it underneath after we push through his rough exterior. We meet with him today, and we'll see if we keep teaching him or no.
A. - This is a very interesting fellow. We don't know if he's mentally handicapped or not. We need a few more meetings to know that. He, on the other hand, is keeping all commitments thusfar, and is very willing to read more from anything we have!
K. - Loves to play chess, and trounced me first run. He's been an investigator for a while. He can't drop smoking. So, we're not forcing him, but we keep teaching him the doctrine. It's slowly making sense to him, and his desire to change is increasing.
A. - This kid is young, and hasn't thought much about God. He doesn't believe in Him or not, right now. He's way nice, and sincerely willing to think about what we talk about, and pray about it.
S. - He is a younger kid, and from the other part of my current tripanionship. I don't know much about him other than he likes to play soccer.
O. - Know nothing about him at all.
So, yeah. Lots of people. Please pray for all of them, OK? I'm pretty sure that's everything, so I will catch you next week!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Aug 13: Baltic Cronical: Transfer info, what I think, etc.

(This note is from Jordan's mom. Jordan is still in Latvia--he was just transferred to a different city. Where he is now is Imanta, a suburb of Riga, the capital city of Latvia).

All: 66.02KM (84687 steps).

The first picture at the bottom of this letter is a Ķeizarkronis (Emporor's Crown), also known as a lauko lili (country lili). I liked it a lot.
The second picture is us at the station leaving. The names (from left to right) are: Elder Bodily, Sister Kelley, the girl next to her is Inese, Lāsma, Jana (the previous three are Latvian church members), Sister Thurston. Back row: Aivars (barely visible--hilarious, amazing man!), me, and Elder Payne.

The bottom picture is an image of Liepāja from the Lutheran church belltower. That street right in the center (without the cars) is Tirgoņu Iela, where our church is. That is a look at most of Center, by the way.

Alrighty, then. Here we go with the rest of the stuff for this week. This week has been interesting. I was able to talk to a plethora of members in our Latvian branch here in Imanta. They are good, and very fun! I like them. We had family night at one member's place. Vinita is very artsy by hobby, and a photographer by occupation. It was very fun to be by her place. We have been by some other good members in teaching appointments, and have been by a few families while knocking on doors. It has been pretty good, so far. No solid investigators for now, but I am also adjusting to the different way they speak here. It's usually more understandable, but they choose to use a different vocabulary, so that has been a little tricky. But, overall, I like it!

We have a little X Maxima (Maximas are rated X, XX, and XXX. (Not like movie ratings) (These are grocery store ratings) The XXX is about the same as a super Walmart in America as far as the things that they have). There we get all our groceries, and there's also a dry-cleaner in that building's upstairs. We are also by the little Ālgenskala Tirgus, so we can get stuff there.

The city, overall, feels just like any other big city. But, fortunately, I am on the little side of it, and so am much more comfortable because you don't have throngs of humanity flooding the streets. The traffic is still pretty crazy, and people like to pretend they are too busy to do anything but walk, but otherwise it's normal. turns out I don't really have any distinct impressions...let's see...oh! We have the only real church building in Latvia for our building!!! That's exciting! It's very nice, has a font and everything. I have been in little rented rooms up until now!!

The bus schedules are a little more confusing than they were in Liepaja. Turns out there are more than 9 busses, one tram line, and 5 mikroautobus routes. I now have some 40+ tram routes, 40+ bus routes, 40+ trolley routes, and many mikroautobuses (I've only seen the numbers 237 and 243 right now, so I don't know how many of those there are). But, I have a pass for trams, busses, and trollies, so I can take pretty much whatever I want. Which is good.

Uh...ask questions. I'll tell you more as I think of more.

Kaspers is a man who loves to play chess, and the missionaries here have been teaching him for quite a while. He currently is having a hard time kicking smoking, but he's a nice man (who destroyed me in Chess...twice).

We knocked on the door of a man named G. and his girlfriend M.. They are very good people. I don't know how much they will be interested in our message, but they have good hearts. Please pray for them, if you are so inclined (we supposedly have other investigators, too, but I have not yet met them, so I can report nothing about them.).

I also got thinking about the Book of Mormon again. Especially how the Book of Mormon helps us to understand the doctrines of God better. For example, in the Bible there is a lot written about the fires of hell. Mosiah 2:38 describes what the fires of hell actually are. Especially how those fires are not literal flames, but "is like an unquenchable fire." Also, Mosiah 3:6 shows that literal devils were not cast out every time a devil was cast out, but the "evil spirits that dwell in the hearts of the children of men." It also abundantly explains why the law of Moses was given, and why it is no longer valid. It has been fulfilled. It also explains quite clearly that children are free from sin in Christ until they reach an age where they are accountable for their actions (8 years old). Until then, a child is 100% sinless through the blood of Christ. That is all found in Mosiah 3:14-21. The best part about that passage is it affirms, powerfully, that Jesus is indeed the Christ. That is the Book of Mormon's purpose!

Anyway, I love you all! More next week (as usual)
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Aug 6: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Emotional week, Dead companion and a New one

For all: 86.82 KM (111,332 steps).
Yes. Baltic Beach Party is every single year. And the Liepājnieki (Liepājans) are very nervous about it every year! Grandpa+Grandma A, thanks for your letter! And Grandma J, Happy Happy Birthday!

Robyn, my little sister, commented that she is both thrilled and dismayed that she is, at last, a senior. She's excited, because what she's doing her senior year is fun to her, and she's moving in the ways that she's wanted to. But, as she said, "it WON'T be so nice knowing that every day at school is one less day in familiar territory surrounded by my friends I've grown up with, and one day closer to college and the 'Great Unknown.' " She said it. This week has been very emotional for me. Since the work has continued to be fairly slow, I have spent a lot of time growing closer to members here and to the missionaries and just the beautiful city of Leipāja in general. It has been very, very rewarding. I, however, was transfered to Āgenskals, which is in the Imanta side of Rīga. Here, I know nobody, I know nothing about the territory, or the members. The missionaries, however, are amazing! Sister Morley, Sister Knight (from the MTC), and Sister Tanner (a Russian-speaking sister who came out with me...I got to know her well when we went to do visa stuff in Estonia). The elders are new for me, but I hear that I am beyond lucky to be with some of them. Time will tell.

However, that's not the point.I'm nervous. I am now in the 'Great Unknown' of Rīga. I have left my home of Liepāja. I had grown to love it there so much, that it was a home to me, just as real as my one in Idaho Falls. When I left, two members and an amazing man from English, saw me off. I received a few farewell notes. While reading those on the bus, I realized how much I loved those in Liepāja. I have never realized before how much it meant to me. I spent a good, long time in a prayer of thanks and pleading for the well-being of those I was leaving behind. I felt the love of God pouring into me through those I associated with, and grew to love, in that city. I grew much in faith, and in my commitment to help others accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that I grew to love those amazing people in Liepāja so much because we shared in spiritual things as well as secular things, and that together tied us together. I will miss the members much, especially my close friends there. I know that I will miss Jana terribly. When you are the one through whom somebody accepts the true and everlasting gospel, then there are feelings of closeness unlike anything else in the world! It is the most amazing thing I have ever felt, and it makes anything unpleasant I have endured meaningless. I can understand why Christ would suffer as he did for us.

When I arrived in Imanta, my companion (Elder Black) and I watched a film called Lamb of God with an investigator. It depicts the last week of Christ's life. I was so filled with the emotions described above, that when I saw Christ suffering both for our sins and at the hands of men after, my mind was opened. My understanding was quickened by the Spirit of God, and I understood again how incredibly, unspeakably much Christ loves us. There is nothing that I would not do for those dear friends in Liepāja, and Christ understood us far better than I understand. There is definitely nothing He would not do for the benifit of those He loves. The love He has for us must be so, so much more. I can understand why He went through what he did, even though many would not accept His atoning sacrifice. Words are so weak...there is no adequate explanation of what happened. I see people differently. They are children of God. When people were rude to me yesterday, I didn't even think about getting angry. All I thought was, "How sad that he acts that way." It's very interesting. I hope I can maintain it...

OK, so, that's been the main thing this week. One very good thing, though. There is a saying in Latvia that if it rains when you leave a place, it means that you will be coming back. Par laimi (fortunately), it was raining all day, and hard when I left. Will I be back? I must say I will. I am very short on time here, so I will just hit the questions asked, and end for now. I've only been here half a day, so I can't really talk about the area or people or anything else, so I'll do all that next week.

We had a "funeral" for the leaving missionaries, including my companion, Elder Bodily, who is headed home to Idaho Falls. It was amazing! Funeral potatoes, eulogies written by a Māsa collaboration, songs with new lyrics, and lots of good stories. It was amazingly fun. Random Latvian trivia: Latgale (an area of Latvia) has a Latvian that is almost nothing like Rīga Latvia. They use the letter 'y' and pronounce very little the same. Grammar, apparently, is very, very different, too. OK, questions now.

Do people wear jeans here? Quite often.
Do most families have cars, or do most people use public transportation? Most use public transport. Because a car costs numerically the same here as it does in America, except the currency is Lats and not dollars, so is therefore more that twice as expensive. And salaries are very small, so the vast majority cannot afford a car.
Is it still pretty hot and humid? In Riiga, it's not so humid, but it's been just hot last week and humid like mad. But, lots of rain right before I left Liepaja cooled it down a lot--it was downright chilly when I drove away.
Do you have fans in your apartment? Now, yes! In my other ones, no.
What are your impressions so far of the new mission president and his wife? Did any of their kids come with them? I love him! He's very open, doesn't want to change too much before he understands how things run and why they are that way, and he's truly looking for what will help this area the most. Yes, some of their kids came with. Two daughters (one leaves to go to school in America this fall), and a son returning from a mission in Brazil is here for now. I don't know about anybody else.

Anyway, The gospel is true. God loves us. Yes, bad things happen. That doesn't mean He doesn't love us. All parents know that bad things will happen to their children. It's when the parents help them through those things that the children grow. Es jūs milu.
Elder Argyle