Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dec 17: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Caroling, Amazing Lessons, Christmas, Stats

All: Well...I have now been out a year. Rather than tell you how far I walked this week, I thought I'd give you the whole years' worth of numbers for various things. I hope that you like it. This will also make it easier to see my progress from year one to year two. And keep in mind that these are estimated numbers (mostly):
  • 27,100 min (451 hours 40 minutes) spent reading the holy scriptures.
  • 8,969 min (149 hours 29 minutes) spent doing that in Latvian.
  • 4415 min ( 73 hours 35 minutes) spent writing in my journal
  • 238 pages (front and back) pages written in my journal
  • 8,435 min (140 hours 35 minutes) spent planning.
  • 9,876 min (164 hours 36 minutes) spent in prayer. This one is a total guesstimate.
  • 4,500 people contacted on the street.
  • 3,500 additional people contacted elsewhere (like homes and such)
  • 475 lessons with people (investigators, members)
  • 4,086,572 steps (3,187.526 KM / 1,992.204 mi, for you in America): total distance.
  • 160 other meetings (that's district meetings, zone conference, and the like), probably grossly underestimating the number of meetings from the MTC.
And there you go. I want to say first off, right now, that I do not time anything. Especially not prayers, as those are sacred moments between a person and the Lord. Lessons with people are more than just lessons to teach statistics. All of those numbers are attached to people. The times are pretty much just estimates of about how long I spent doing something. I just thought that you might be interested in how I'm spending my time out here, and what I have accomplished. Now you know.:)

2157 is me building a Christmas tree before district meeting. The finished tree is seen in

2167 with Sisters Hagen and Largey, the new sister in our district. This tree is huge!

2179 is us, singing on a street corner of Old Rīga (Vēcrīga). Not too many listeners, but it was gorgeous. And it was last night.

2187 is Brivības Piemeneklis (Freedom Monument) last night. Love the snow!

Answers to questions: Latvian sign language is decently different from Russian sign language. Beyond the fact that they are different, the only specific I know is the word Āmen. In LZV, it's two fingers into the palm of the other hand. In RSL (no idea what letters that would be in the language...), it's a fist into the other palm (not like you're going to beat someone up, but like you just pounded a table or something like that). Otherwise, I have no idea how LZV and others differ.

Christmas in Latvia: just like anywhere else. Trees, lights (on the trees and streets...they're called lampiņi here...or little lamps. I laughed when I heard that), presents, singing...the only difference is that it's not so ridiculously overcomercialized, as I've seen it in other places. Oh, and a good percentage of the nation goes out to chop down their own trees. You're legally allowed a tree per family. I don't know of anything particularly Latvian as far as traditions go.

I have one exciting thing to tell: my blog had a response. A fellow who has connections to the movie that was being filmed here (Miss Irina's Children) wrote to me, to tell me what the movie is about. I was really excited to read that! The response came through (so anybody could go ahead and write me. It's not too bad!).

More excitement: we've been singing to people when we go knocking, and they've been loving it! Or thinking that we're trying to sell them something, and leaving all the sooner. :) But it's been really fun (even though it's not the most beautiful thing ever). We've been invited in to sing, and then left with the host sometimes in tears, and we've seen how singing has softened the hearts of people and brought joy to people, even if they weren't interested. I love Christmas.

We've also been caroling in the snow; we're scheduled to go singing this Saturday in a public square in Vēcrīga (old Rīga) on a stage and everything. We've also had several miraculous lessons with amazing people, and things are going quite well. We have none who have been able to set up a specific return meeting, so we must admit that we have no people progressing towards baptism, but we have taught (and learned) lessons from amazing people, where the Spirit was felt. That's quite important, I think.

Speaking of Christmas, I've got a little Christmas message for ya all. You can click on the links and read the verses specified if you like. Then I've got my narration . If you want, you could use this in your missionary efforts. That's actually one of the primary reasons I include these spiritual thoughts--to get you all fired up to share it! And now's the best time of the year to share this message with people! Ok, so here we go!

We start by asking: what is the point of Christmas? Why do we celebrate it? The goal of this message is to answer those questions!
John 3: 16. Christ's coming was not a surprise. Many knew about His coming long in advance. Alma 7: 7, 10, 13 is an example of a prophet named Alma, recording events he knows will come. v.13 is the reason why Christ's coming is "more important than they all."
Matthew 1: 18-24 is a record of Christ's birth. From it we learn several things: that personal revelation was had among just men before Christ (prophesies from prophets), and during Christ's time (Joseph). God communicates to His children. Other doctrines therein include the proof that what God causes to be spoken by his prophets, He also fulfulls. That prophesy is found in Isaiah 7: 14, and that was copied by Nephi in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 17: 14.
Another thing we learn is that when we receive an answer from the Lord, we follow what we were told. Note that Joseph rose and took to him Mary to wife. He didn't question what the Lord told him. Even though the situation could have lead to Mary's death, had Joseph so wished it, he chose to heed the Lord and trust in Him.

A companion to Matthew 1: 18-24 is 1 Nephi 11: 13, 18, 20-21. This is Nephi, in a dream, being shown a symbol from a vision his father had. He was trying to understand, and the angel in Nephi's dream showed him what it meant. The symbol was a tree, to which all were trying to go. And many were lead away before they got to it. It was the center of the vision, just as Christ is the center of our lives.

Just as people were striving to reach the tree in the vision, many searched out Christ after His birth. Matthew 2: 1-2, 4-5, 8-11 accounts the wise men, who traveled from the land east to Jerusalem. They took some years to reach Christ, and sought knowledge from those who would know where He was (Herod, in this case). They then checked what men said by receiving conformation from God (v.9). These men were holy men, and their band traveled, earnestly seeking the King. They knew a sign of his coming (a star), and they searched it out, leading them the the Christ child. All of them then rejoiced. They, too, received personal revelation concerning their return to Jerusalem, to Herod. These were holy men.

Others were helped in their search, for they knew not the signs of the child's birth (Luke 2: 7-17). These shepherds knew of Christ, but did not know the specifics. However, once they learned them, they went abroad, sharing this message. That is what we do. As missionaries. We share the glorious message of what we have received and know. And what is it that we make known? 2 Nephi 2: 6-8. We teach how to use the glorious power of Christ's Atonement.

1 John 4: 7, 9. God has done all necessary for us to believe in Him. We all can build our faith in Him, and ask Him ourselves. 3 Ne. 14: 9-11 is only one instance where the Lord promises answers to our prayers. God answers all prayers, asked in faith (James 1: 5). We can ask about all questions, including where to find the fullness of God's blessings. Joseph Smith did exacly that. When he prayed, his prayer was answered in a miraculous way. And because he had the courage to follow through with what the Lord instructed him to do, all has again been restored to the earth. We now have all the glorious truths of God in amazing simplicity, so that none can misunderstand. Does not your heart swell within you, knowing that God never will leave His children without guidance, as long as the world is ready and willing to heed it? I know that these things are true, and that Christ is the center point of all. The restoration is, so that we can know God and Christ, and use the gifts they have given us better.

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

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