Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sept 24: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Big City Thoughts and the Restoration of the Gospel

All: 66.57KM (85350).
Sorry. Apparently, some have gotten confused about what Šašliki is. Šašliki is...pretty much shishkabobs. It's meat grilled on a stick of some kind, usually with a few veggies or mushrooms or something like that. Way good...and Elder Raker makes a mighty fine Šašliki (pronounced shah-shleek-ee).

IMG_0695 is me falling into a pool of ridiculously huge lily pads at the Botaniskais Dārzs my last service day. The sign says "don't touch the plants!"
IMG_0709 - This is attack of the cats. I saw a cat, so I called to it. When I did, a virtual whorl poured out and this is only about half of the cats that appeared from quiet bushes and still grass around us. Kinda neat.

0714 is me right outside the church. We have these random grooves cut in, and I've seen other missionaries with the statue photo, and I wanted one for myself, as well. There you go.

OK, a few things. General impressions of Rīga center: Way too many people! But, when coming home from a meeting way out there, I looked to my right and saw a XXX Maxima (that's the biggest one...pretty much Walmart), McDonald's, and a GE Bank all glowing in the night. It looked pretty much like any American big city at that moment. I still don't like big cities--US or otherwise, but it's not so bad. Actually, we have had a good number of investigators, so in that respect I am quite liking this place. The church building is nice (it's a second floor that we bought and turned into our church a good number of years ago).

It's been a little tricky this week, as far as the work goes. My comp is sick, and therefore we spent most of our time not in meetings but at home napping. But, we have had a lot of meetings. One good thing about the hoard of humanity thronging the streets is that you can always find somebody to teach. Any time not at home or in meetings has been spent knocking with the Russians in this area. Things have been good. I don't really have any other impressions on the city yet (as I haven't really been out and about in it), but I'll keep you posted. It's nice to have public transportation come on time...

Investigators: This section is actually very full and exciting right now:
H.: He's a construction worker. Very humble, and praying about all we teach him. He's reading and building his own testimony.
J.: This man works for the president of Latvia as a landscaper (I'm fairly sure). He's excited to jump into the Book of Mormon, and he's moving right along. He's not from Rīga, though, so meetings and church may be tricky.
J. Family: This is an amazing family. They understand the gospel, the principles, and are striving to apply them in faith. I have yet to meet with the mother, but the father and daughter are doing very, very well. I love them, already!
I.: A young college student who just showed up at the church when our meeting fell through. He is amazing! He told us what he had read in the Book of Mormon (he got half a discussion on the Restoration from a Russian companionship...he, however, is quite Latvian and understands little Russia or English), and then he pulled the doctrine taught in those chapters right out. He accepted all the things we taught, and the Spirit was incredible throughtout the meeting!

A few week.
OK, now, I wanted to go ahead with my discussion on what the church believes, and how we differ from from other churches. We, however, are going to Sigula today, and my time is depressingly short. So...I apologize, but I will talk about that next week, as well.

Es jūs milu!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sep 17: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Transfers, Lido, Mega Homes, Locked In

All: 83.33 (106,839) this week, and 83.22 (106,738) last week. It would seem that I'm hitting a decent consistency, vai nē?
IMG_0577 is the scarecrow that Elder Raker (the fellow on the far left) constructed with his companion, E. Andrews. The other fellow on the far right is E. Wilkins. The scarecrow was erected because of the damage the birds were doing to the grass (seen in the background). It worked...a little. It proved ultimately to be ineffective. Latvian birds apparently do not honor the scarecrow.
IMG_0579 is Ausma Bedre (a member in Imanta) and her monstrous cat. This thing is one of the largest cats I have ever before beheld. I was actually quite terrified when I first beheld its mighty girth. But, it loves us, and so I grew to like the beast.
IMG_0603 is me at Botaniskais Dārzs. This is where we did a lot of service. This photo is during the festival mentioned last week. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's probably time you read things in chronological order, eh? heh heh

I would have had more photos, but I didn't bring my card reader, and this computer seems to be lacking in card-reading abilities. get stale, last week or further back shots. Sorry.

Alright. So, transfers. Jes, I'm transferred. To my greatest possible nightmare: Rīga Center. I'm very much NOT a big city person, and Rīga center is very much a big city. But, I will withhold judgement until after I have taught here, and come to love the people. Then, I will let you know. I'm expecting a good transfer. We are informed about transfers via phone call, through the district leaders. They then call everybody else and inform them. Here's the new lineup:

Gray and Payne Imanā (that means in Imanta), with Sisters Morley, Wilson (who took S. Knight's place not too long ago mid-transfer), and Kelly also Imanā. They will cover the whole area of Imanta (that huge area about which I wrote only last week).
The Russians-speaking Elders are Elder Raker (Scarecrow maker and Šašliki chef extraordinaire!) with Andrews (no change), and Sister Tanner is with a new trainee. Elder Palmer is headed to Beautiful Liepāja, and I to Riga Center. S. Tanner's comp is going to Tallinn (Estonia). There is also one other companionship of Russians in Imanta, but I don't remember what's happening to any of them, or who will be there, so....yeah.

I'm know I'm with Elder Black as my comp (he goes home at the end of this transfer), and Sisters Knight and Hagen are in my district. Also Elder Brown (who is the district leader). So...this will be kinda like a reunion! (Elder Brown, Sister Knight and Sister Hagen were all in the MTC with me). I have no idea who else is in my district. More next week (probably).

I do believe that is all the questions...hmm...yeah. I think. Now, I got a letter, but I'm not sure who it's from (we were rushed at the office, and E. Palmer grabbed all the mail, and I have yet to get that from him...he's gone to Beautiful Liepāja already, but I do think that Gray has it. So, whoever sent it, thanks!). And...yeah. On to the week.

Oh!! Before that, Lido! So, look at the picture from last week. Looks nice, eh? It's a buffet-style restaurant, that has about anything you can imagine. Absolutely everything was delectable. There's only one problem: they have things priced per item. And it's not very expensive. So, you'll pile things on, thinking, "Oh, it's only 45 santimi!" but, you get to the register on your way out, and suddenly it's almost six lats! Totally worth it, though. They had amazing pancakes (more like crepes, for you in America accustomed to fluffy pancakes), Šašliki of all kinds, chicken, beef, salads, casseroles, lasagna, soups, desserts, drinks of all kinds, shakes, ice cream, pastries, breads, naked fruit, clothed fruit (covered in amazing sauces), noodle thingies, and mounds more of delectable edibles filing nearly an entire floor of a decently large building, the rich scent of goodness wafting in the air, filling you with a nearly uncontrollable lust for food and a dire need to fill your tummy with the bliss creating that succulent scent! In summary, it was good. Very good.

Now, moving on. It's getting cold. Very cold. Turns out that humidity makes chilly freezing. And there's plenty of humidity. Then you add a decently strong breeze, and suddenly your hands are changing colors in mere minutes from the door. I am again sporting my suit-coat jacket, and occasionally sweaters under that and gloves. And earmuffs. And...probably my overcoat soon. It's getting very cold very quickly. Only last week, it was still hot enough to spend the day in shirt sleeves. need at least three layers to not die. Interestingly quick, eh? But, I will survive.

English class starts tomorrow. I'm pretty excited about that (because English class is probably my second favorite part of missionary work...the first is gospel teaching. I guess I like it because I'm still teaching, even though it's not all gospel stuff).

Now, for a pair of humorous knocking stories. We decided to go knock on some doors (or mash some doorbells) in a part of town we have not been. Actually, two different parts of town that we thought people have not been to in a while. The first area contained a pair of monstrous residential skyscrapers, called the Panorama Plaza. We waved to the guards on our way in, and then took the elevator to the top. Floor 25. And it took about 15 seconds. This was the nicest elevator I have ever been in. The lifts in the other domes are rickety, old, and some make me fear for my personal safety. This one...I barely even felt it moving, and was well lit, roomy...beautiful. Anyway, when people began to answer their doors (the top 6 floors or so were uninhabited...or, nobody was yet home), we saw that the inside of people's flats were just as beautiful, if not more, as the elevator. We got a few return appointments. Each floor had automatic lights, and every person there spoke perfect English in addition to Latvian, Russian, and probably a few other languages, too. I've never seen anything even close to the same in all my wanderings. Then again, only in Latvia have I attempted to hunt down folks who live in palaces like that. But, unfortunately, around floor 11, somebody called security, and we were ushered out of the building in three languages. Good thing we got those return appointments, so we can go back!

The second interesting knocking experience was in another nice, new dome. We knew it was yet to be fully inhabited. Anyway, we found one with an open front door. A Russian lady was letting a friend out. So, we walked past them into the building. We then went knocking, and found about half of the 15 or 20 flats even had a resident (evident from the electricity meters kept out in the halls in almost every dome in Latvia...they read 000000). The biggest we saw was something like 001200. Not an old place. So, after knocking, we found that the front door was locked not only from the outside, but the inside as well! So, we went into the basement, finding only storage rooms and pipes. We found the door to the parking garage--locked both ways as well. Very interesting...we tried the few doors that had opened earlier...nobody. We called the return appointment we had there (today, if I remember correctly), and she wasn't there. The Russian lady wasn't there. There was no way out. We waited for somebody to come for about 15 minutes, and then the following 20 minutes we tried to escape on our own and tried the residents again. After about 15 minutes, we finally decided to hop out the second story window! We climbed onto the overhang, and then leapt from there to the ground. We then went home. Very humorous. And such is life. Oh well. It was overall good. And, we had several lessons we taught this past week--YAY!!!!!!

As far as spiritual thoughts go, I just have to comment on how amazingly fantastic Alma, Ammon, Aaron, Amulek, and all the others are. If you are not familiar with their stories, read Alma 4-30 (starting Most particularly, the tales of Aaron and his brothers are amazing. Those are chapters 17-24 of Alma. (same link as above, but .../alma/17. ).From those, we see the power that God grants unto those engaged in His work. It's a lot.

Starting next week, I will be going over the basic doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I will begin with the story of how our church came to be, and how we differ from any other church on the face of the planet today. From there, I will go through some of the main doctrinal points. For those of you not LDS (a member of the above-named church), and are curious what we believe, stay tuned. For the rest of you, this may or may not be a good refresher. I will try to include a lot of scripture references. Anyway, that is what I'll be doing. So, until then!

Es jūs milu!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sep 10: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: English's End, Knocking, Rich Neighborhoods, Killer Conference, Beaver, LHC(!!)

All: No distance this record is at the church right now, and I couldn't add it all up last night! But, next week, you'll get it.

Pictures: IMG_0609 is me PETTING A BEAVER! Yup! My comp, who took the picture, thought that I was fairly immature. But, I enjoyed it. A lot. Unfortunately, you cannot really see that it's a beaver....anyway. This was at the Rietums Festivals (Autumn Festival) at the Botaniskais Darzs (botanical(?) garden).
IMG_612 is from the roof of a 12 story dome, about sunset time. It's rather pretty, I thought (and you can see a hint of Rīga off to the right). It was a beautiful panorama (but I didn't take the panoramic shot from my comp this time, so you'll just have to believe me).
IMG_0569 is a shot of Lido. It's...quite a fancy place to eat. More on that later, also.

Letters received: Ashley, Lacey, Grandparents (both sets). Thank you much! I love reading all the news and updates!

Next item of business: I have found a pretty good Latvian-->English and English-->Latvian dictionary! The link is . To change the language, just click on the flags at the top, or on any of the words when you're searching. Remember, that all words (almost) decline or conjugate in Latvian, so often you won't find the exact word. But, it's good enough.

Answers to questions:
English class is stopped until the 18th. We are running ads in the 5 Minute (a little free paper in Rīga) and we're hoping to see lots of new people! Amy said she'd come back, and she's bringing friends with her. And Tims was there Thursday (the last day of this session), which was kinda weird, but nekas.

Weather here has been odd. Rain almost every day, still. Monday was an actual thunder storm, and enough rain that several...uh...dzivokļi (apartments? I don't know what this is in's where people live. A little apartment-type thing) flooded. Crazy...and on that day was a zone conference with President Gibbons (one of the presidency for East Europe...more on that in a moment). Thus, things have been hot, cold, normal, cold...and still humid, yes. I love it, now! Still not cold enough for a jacket, but chilly enough for sleeves (sometimes).

My typical day is this: wake up. Study. Leave. Talk to people. Sit for an hour or two on transport (and waiting for transport), knock somewhere, and teach a lesson when possible. It's been...rough for investigators the last little while.

Now, to other news:
I've already talked about English class. So, moving on from there. Since all of our investigators (save A., who is the interesting guy) have disappeared or no longer wish to meet with us, we have spent a great deal of time knocking on doors. We have been finding a little more than half of those we knock into are Russian. And areas we've been picking have not had great numbers of interested folk. But, on that note, we went out, almost as if going to Piņķi, but got off the bus before there and knocked an area of homes for three+ hours. This is the area with the Spilva factory, if any would care to find it via googleEarth or Maps. Zvaigžņu Iela and Spilva Iela is the street intersection I recall. Anyway, these homes were very, very nice. I do think that any of them could have fit in very comfortably in California (where I worked last summer). One even had a robotic lawn mower! It felt very much like a cross between outdoorzy Idaho and California's homes--the best and most beautiful of both! It was very enjoyable (pictures next week, maybe...). We've also gone on lots of splits with the Russian group of three missionaries, and found several good Russians to teach that way for them. Not a lot of interested Latvians...and the ones that are cannot ever meet (because they work 80+ hours a week or something similar...).

Then, we had a conference with President Gibbons. He's in the presidency for the East Europe area. President Dance went to a mission presidents' conference in Moscow, and both came back with the exact same message: Working with members is the only way to do the work. It was one of the most powerful meetings I have attended, because every single thing was on how we can be more effective in bringing souls unto Christ. Our primary focus should be with the members. As members, their focus should be on helping their friends accept the gospel. And it was stressed how easy it is. True, not all will be interested, but if done in love, and simply (as the gospel is a part of your life--you don't need to force conversation about it. Just simply state the reasons you do what you do, and people respect that and want to learn more), then none will be offended. Just do it. It was cool. We were then told how the priesthood organization works, and that with leadership positions come prieshood keys (authority), to preside over specific people and ordinances. The only thing the mission president has keys for is for convert baptisms. Everything else falls in the branch or ward. That means the branch/ward leaders are the only people authorized to receive revelation for the members of their branch/ward. That means we need to get working with our branch presidents throughout the Baltics! We were told we, as missionaries, can receive the revelation for our area and our investigators, for they are under our direct stewardship. But we cannot receive revelation for the branch, or for members, because they are NOT under our jurisdiction. But we can receive revelation for how to implement the shift to mostly branch-centered work in our areas. And so we have begun to do that. Obviously, we're still looking for people on our own, but the majority of investigators should come through the members. If anybody has any ideas on how to talk to friends, or how to build the faith of the members and such, send them this way, because I'm tired of not having investigators!

Already talked about the beaver. But, at Botaniskais Darzs, we have been offering to do service there. Because of that, we got free admission to this festival. There were vendors, activities, and we could tour the gardens. So, we did. It was very good. I enjoyed it a lot. And the garden is gorgeous..I have a mess of photos I'll send later.

Then, for any who foolishly thought the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and CERN would cause a black hole, stand reproved. According to the 5 Minute, they tested the thing at 9:30 their time (10:30 here), and nothing terrible seems to have happened. And I, personally, am super excited that that thing is up and running!!! (Google LHC-CERN for more info)

Random side-note: my area is now anything across the river. This means any little sub-city of Rīga or anything over there is my area. I have from the Daugava (the river), and down and across. All of it. Technically, this means I have until Liepāja (300 KM away), but we rarely venture farther than Jurmala (13KM from here). area's big. Transfers are next Wednesday, so if I'm sent elsewhere, I likely won't have time for a big email. I'll let you know at least where I was sent, though.

I love you all!! Good luck this week!!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sep 3: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Packages, last week's things...Lido?

From: Jordan Argyle Date: Sep 3, 2008 4:59 AM

All: 83.5KM (107,102 steps).
The pics: IMG_0535 is a shot through the rain at night (I super wanted a shot like this...too bad my camera picks up a lot of noise at ISO 400...).
0552 and 0553 - We had a Sošliki (grill meat and eat it with stuff...good. Kinda like a kabob...). The people in the pics are (left to right):
0552: Benches - Hagen, Kelly (here from Liepāja for only a few days), Knight, Morley (really doesn't like having her picture taken), Wilson and Freeman. Standing up is sister Wilson (sister Hagen's trainee).
0553: Raker. Sitting is Palmer (my comp), Udee, Lindhart, Hansen, Weiderman, Edington, Brown (in the back there), and Gray (my other comp).

From last week: I have been wanting to say for a while: Argyle pattern sweaters are THE thing to wear here. Hundreds of folks are flocking around in Argyle sweaters all over the city. It's way cool!

I wanted to tell some stories about the members here (I didn't do so well telling you all why the people in Liapāja are so amazing...sorry about that), so I have a little there to say. And also, my English class (which just got...quite interesting again). Then, about what I did this week. Now you know. Let's go!

We met with the Šostaki family last Monday for Ģ.M.V. (Ģimenes Mājvakars--family home evening). They fed us pancakes, we chatted for a while, got to know each other, and then we shared a thought on charity. The family is so funny! They discovered I like to write all words I don't know down, so they began to use odd phrases and different words, so that I had more to write. When they saw me write, they'd know which word it was, and then go back and explain what it meant. It was great!
There's also a couple is this branch that is quite interesting. I do not remember their names (I've always been terrible with those things...names...), but he is from Liepāja, and she is from Salaus (in Lithuania). They now live here. They communicate much through English (great middle language that it is), and she is learning Latvian. She is quite hilarious to talk with.
I also had a great time with the youngest Senkans boy. We talked quite a bit last Sunday also.
Speaking of speaking on Sunday, I got to do that last Sunday as well. I was assigned the topic of baptism. I spoke, and almost everyone said that they understood me (I sure hope that they weren't just being nice...I did get mixed up a lot declining the word for "baptism" (kristīšanās...reflexive nouns decline weirdly), but otherwise did decently). For those who know me, I stopped before I had been going TOO long (15 or so minutes). It was fun, actually, because I do a lot better with just lecturing than I do teaching with questions and such.

On to English (kinda abrupt, I know, but try to keep up with my frantically running mind here, eh?)! At the beginning of this transfter, I joined Sister Morley in 3rd level English. We had two students: Amy and Tims. They are dating, and are a really cute couple. They were also a great deal of fun to talk with. But, me teaching with a sister wasn't to last (as that's not really a missionary-ish thing to do), so teachers were shuffled so that it was me and Elder Black. But then, he was transferred, so I taught them alone one week (we had a third member also join us...apparently he has come frequently, but hasn't been able to make it recently), which is also not kosher. So, we moved into the Russian third level class, which my students did not particularly like (as they talked a lot about sports there). Anyway, last Thursday was Tims final day with us. He is gone to Vencpils for school. So, I impulsively told them we'd have a farewell party. I wound up buying a bottle of "TexMex Salsa" (which barely tastes like salsa...if anyone has a good salsa recepie that doesn't require a blender, send it along! Or, if it's really good, send it anyway) and some chips, and we had that with juice. It was "The best farewell party I've ever had," according to Tims. "And your only," according to Amy, but the point is that it was his best. This week, Amy brought a classmate from school (she's in the 12th grade), and we met separately with a borrowed Russian-speaking missionary from the Russian tripanionship. It was one of the most fun English classes I've ever had! Too bad we're taking a break after this Thursday class..we'll start again on September 18th (for any Latvians who have found this...we're on Dumbrāja Iela, right behind the Imantas Kulturas Centers).

The best moment of my week was that English class. The conversation went from racism to explosives to sulfuric acid to not knowing any Latvian history to candy bars to schooling, to chemistry, to...etc. It was so random; I felt absolutely wonderful afterwards. And then we knocked into a cool family who said we may be able to come back. It wasn't very solid (meaning it wasn't solid at all), but it felt good to finally talk to a Latvian at a door for more than 10 seconds.

Both of my comps got packages this week (or, within the last two). So, that was quite exciting. We had American sweets and all kinds of goodness going on. I have been very careful with my salsa, and only just barely finished it off (yesterday). This would be the salsa from my package. Anyway, it was a good week that way, too.

Today we're going to eat at Lido -- a super fancy restaurant that every Baltic missionary has told me I must go to before I leave, for the food is beyond delectable and it is the best place to eat, and the atmosphere is great, and blah blah blah. We'll see what it's really like. I belive it'll be good. I'll let you know next week.

Last week, we had a feast of new investigators. This week, we didn't really get too much action in that respect, but here are the people (and why they're awesome!...or not):

K.: Way, way busy. He's way cool, though. We gave him a large reading assignment (3 Nephi 11-30), and he told me that he read chapter 11 three times, to make sure he understood it, and fell asleep mid-reading. He can't just put it down! That's exciting. But, he travels a lot for work, so meeting with him has proved to be tricky.
E.: Very interested. At first. Now, not so much. But we had a good hour long gospel discussion including a fairly in depth discussion on the great apostasy, this new dispensation, and those things. Please pray for his interest to be rekindled.
A.: We're probably going to have to drop him. He's pretty slow mentally, and we're going to keep with him on the phone. If he quits smoking, we'll see what happens, but right now he just reads and reads, but doesn't really understand or remember what he reads, so...good guy, through. It's always hard to drop people.

A.: cool young guy in Marupe. He's actually from a city far away, but works here. Again, hard to meet. In our first meeting, he told us that he was interested in seeing what we talk about, but he's not that religious.
G. and M.: Haven't had a change to meet with her, but he is still super analyzing the Book of Mormon. So, we gave him 3rd Nephi to read. If he doesn't feel the spirit reading that, then there's nothing we can do for him right now. We'll see where he goes.
D.: Cynical one. We got him to read a chapter from the Book of Mormon. We'll see how he felt to know if we keep teaching him.

Oh, and we have dropped S.--he is not really learning, reading, or praying, and we think he's there because we're good friends to have.

So, no real solid people that we can meet with often. We need to find some.

Spiritual thought: God lives. Christ is our Savior. "...there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives" (Mosiah 5:8). We enter God's kingdom through proper baptism. When we are baptized, we covenant with God to keep his commandments, and after a baptism of water (by immersion, as Christ was baptized), we then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. In the Book of Mormon, 2nd Nephi, chapters 31-33, these three chapters are all about baptism, both of water and of the spirit, and why they are so important. The chapters also clearly explain what the Holy Ghost does for us (there are at least 15 points...hunt for those). I testify that the authority to baptize in the manner that continues after this life is in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this baptism, through the proper priesthood authority, is the first covenant--two-way promise with God--that we make in this life. It starts us on our path back to God and blesses us with the gift and guidance and comfort and direction of the Holy Ghost.
Anyway, it's true. I love you all! Know I pray for you all the time!!

Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )