All: Well...101,156 steps (78.90KM).
(Jordan's mom who does the posting to this blog messed up--the pictures are at the end of the blog this time instead of the beginning--sorry! "))
So, first (really fast), pictures:
Top: Elders Long and Palmer on a horse in Jūrmala.
Next: Random: We went to this Arabian place in Jūrmala to eat, and they told us our food would be ready in half an hour. So, we just left. While we were gone, they put this rezervēts sign out. If you can't figure out what that means, then you are in some serious trouble. So, I put it on me so all would know that, during my mission, I am rezervēts. Haha.
Third: This is Sisters Wilson and Hermann (the only person whose face you haven't seen is my comp's--Elder Thompson. He was there, too. Just...I didn't have any amazing pictures this time with him in them). As you can see, Jūrmala has a pludmala (beach).
Last: Random. This is the most interesting stairwell we were in this week. In it, a little farther down, a guy invited us in and told us about all the corrupt bureaucratic billionaires who are destoying Latvia--buying homes and forcing people out, for absolutely no reason at all. It was an...odd converstation.
Then, this week has had very many memorable things. So, I wanted to hit daily highlights. Are you ready for this?
Wednesday: Jūrmala. We went as a district by train to Jūrmala, a city where Elder Long served once a long time ago. It is now closed to missionary work. But it was way fun. At that restaurant, we ran into two Americans from Bountiful, Utah (we don't think that they are members) who were just there for vacation. It was cool to meet them. At the electrotrain station (how you get back to Rīga), a very odd guy asked a lot of very odd questions (kinda serious, but those "haha, I'm so funny. Look at what I'm asking a minister" kinda questions). Then, on the train, right across from us was a guy who was reading what I was pretty sure was the Bible. So, at one of the stops, I slid over, and started to talk to him. He was way cool, and we had a great, 20 minute, spiritual conversation. It was really cool. And a lot easier than I thought it would be.
Thursday: So, this day was amazing. I went to Liepāja. Yes, my Sapņu Pilsetiņa. I went because my zone leaders (ZL) live there, and every transfer (6 weeks) the ZLs work with each of the district leaders (DL). And since I am a DL...anyway. So, I got on the 7.10 bus, and off we went (that's so early in the morning...). We had one stop for 10 minutes at Saldus. And a lady from the bus came out and asked us where we were from. Turns out she's from a Latvian family who immigrated to Los Angeles, Cali. So, she's an American. Her relatives owned a farm here in Latvia before they died, and she comes every summer to take care of it (she also thinks Cali is too hot in the summer). That was way random.
Then, just outside of Liepāja, there are windmills to power the Metalurgs. I was already pretty excited to be going to Liepaja, but when I saw those windmills my excitement redoubled. Then, entering the Town of Exquisite Beauty, I recognized almost everything. Every step brought greater joy to my heart. We then got home (where the missionaries live), where we ate, and the ZLs planned their week. So, I lost about 3 1/2 hours of time in my city. But oh well. Elder Grey and I walked to their area (at the top of the city--so I got to walk from the middle to the topper part (not Karosa, but right under the river) and do some knocking. It was amazing. I loved it. On the walk, we met an investigator who decided she'll be getting married so that she can be baptized. We talked a little bit. She's amazing...
Then, we hit the church (the old one), dropped off some stuff, and left again real quick to do some contacting. Elder Grey took me by the new church. Now, I didn't think my joy could grow more, but basically the seams of my soul were stretched near to bursting when I saw the mighty edifice. The outer shell is already done (basically a miracle in and of itself--construction usually goes REALLY slowly in Latvia), and the new church is HUGE. I think it's bigger than the one in Idaho Falls (my home town), when you take out the gym. Or maybe it's just as big, including the gym, I don't know. But I felt pretty amazingly joyful.
Then, I got to teach English with Elder Grey. In the room I used to teach in. That was great fun! I saw Rita (the girl who was baptized with Jana, who I baptized), Inese, Aivārs (an eternal investigator who is a huge fan of the missionaries...he was very excited to see me), Skaidrite Bokuma (an older lady who left when I was in Liepāja for England. She's back), and a few others. It was that--teaching and seeing those I love--that filled my heart with joy that was more than I could contain. It was sooo amazing!
After (it still gets better), I got to see the Beldavi, a family that I used to visit all the time. They had unexpected guests, so the conversation was brief, but I loved to see them anyway. After, again to the old church for Latvian class, during which time I again saw and this time interacted with all the missionaries, whom I love (including Sister Knight and Elder Brown, my MTC buddies. Sis. Knight is gone in only THREE WEEKS!!!! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!).
There's a verse in Nephi that reads like this: "He [God] has filled me with his love, unto the consuming of my flesh" (2 Nephi 4: 21). I never really understood what that means. There's other places where peoples' joy or other emotions overcome their physical abilities to maintain it (see Ether 12: 24, Alma 19: 14, and Alma 27: 17-19 for examples). I always wondered how that could be. Well...now I have some idea. I'm pretty sure that my soul was insufficiently large to maintain those emotions. And what caused them to swell the most was the memories of those I taught and loved in Liepāja. There's a song that has this line: "It's strange how things are changed when touched by love---you treasure things you never thought much of." I would undoubtedly like Liepāja if I just visited it for vacation. But my love for it comes from the love of those I taught and learned from there.
Friday: On the train home, the lady I sat next to (after about an hour or so) asked if I spoke English. She then told me, in broken English, "I have to use...the toilet room." When she came back, I struck up a conversation--about where she lived, if she spoke Latvian, or English. Turns out she's a Russian seamstress from Liepāja, and she only knows a little Latvian and a little English. She was really neat. We talked for about two hours about family, languages, dreams, and what not. Of course also the gospel. She taught me some Russian; I taught her some English. It was really fun to see how open people can be (because most people here are not).
Saturday: Today was Uzvaras Diena--The Day of Victory. This is a day when people wear an orange and black striped ribbon to celebrate when the soviets defeated fascism. Translation: that's when Russia came in and took over the Baltics. They call it a victory, and so the Russians celebrate it, to commemorate WWII's end in that part of the world. To Latvians, however, it's a reminder of the genocide of half their nation, the forced "Russification" of the remainder, and the subsequent oppression and destruction of their cultural traditions. Needless to say, it is a very controversial holiday. I wore my Nameja gredzens (Nameja ring--probably one of the only things still truly, uniquely Latvian), and an orange and black striped tie. So, I supported both. It was way tough, because almost nobody would answer their door (because there was a four day holiday, so naturally everyone was in the country). And those that weren't there (in the country) were watching hockey. Hockey is sooooooo huge here! It was a very slow week because of finals in hockey.
Sunday: So, what's on Sunday? Mother's Day! Church! I talked to my folks and little sis (way fun), and so did all my district (well...they talked to their own families, not mine) (...except the sisters...they didn't get calls. Until 23.00 or something that night. Then Sis Hermann's folks called. Sis Wilson still hasn't talked to her family for more than a few minutes, though). Then, I wanted to talk about some of the people at church (because we have some amazing people):
N.: an investigator of mine. He is amazingly smiley, happy, fun, and great. He's not sure why he needs to be baptized again, but loves church and is very open. His heart is pure gold.
Ainars: This is the kid E. Black and I baptized. His brother came to church last Sunday, which is huge because his brother was a 7th day Adventist missionary, and it was through him that faith was brought to the family. They both liked church. Ainārs is still doing well, and is still amazing!
Lauris: Just recently baptized. He was so excited to pay his tithing Sunday! He has a fiery desire to follow God, and sticks by his decision to follow. I love the kid.
The sisters' investigators now. First, I came on a mission for three kinds of people. The sisters are teaching one of each kind. So, here they are: (abbreviations or initials are used for investigators for their privacy):
Iv.: Direly wants to change her life. She really wants to be baptized, but she needs to break free of some things before she can. She is one of the most amazing humans alive! She has a daughter who she deeply loves, and she is just smiling every time I see her. Her life has not been anything close to easy, and she has overcome so much. She is now ready to keep progressing.
Evi.: She is just an amazingly good person who is always happy and wants to be even better. She wants to follow God, and all the reasons just make sense for her. She, too, is soon to be married (to her boyfriend of 16 years!), and then she'll be baptized! She's been involving herself more and more in the church, and she loves every second of it.
E.: This is one of the most amazing people ever. Every time I see her, she is better. I can see in her eyes that she is growing, improving, and understanding more about God every day. She's actually a church member, but she's been inactive for a while. Her life wasn't fulfilling, though, so she decided to accept an invitation to come back to church. She is now earnestly seeking the Lord, and the change for good is palpable. I love to see her for that reason. I also saw that same thing in Jana from Liepāja, and seeing people grow and learn like that is probably the greatest thing in the world.
Now you know them. During a discussion on the importance of family, we heard from the above people more than we heard from the teacher. That's not normal. It was an amazing discussion, and the spirit was there in a mighty abundance. Church is amazing! After, N. waited for me to be done with my meeting with the branch president, then walked with us home. Man, he's so good!
Tuesday: Right. So, I'm running out of time. Just one thing: we saw another protest. Workers have protested; teachers have protested; students have protested. This time, it was mothers who protested. This little country is soon to be in a heap of trouble--they've almost no money, and they have to keep reducing wages and such, but people can't live on less money, so you get a lot more protests. There hasn't been anything violent or anything, but there's a lot of contention. And, ironically enough, the one thing that could save the country is the one thing most people refuse to even talk about--God.
Accepting Christ, living after His guidelines, and developing Christ-like attributes elevates people (and by 'people' I mean also 'people,' as in a people. In Latvian: cilvēks and ļaudis), and will save a people. But people here, all of them together, refuse to change, and learn of these saving truths. It's really mind-boggling to me! And because I love them so much, it's very frustrating to see them stagger around with fatal wounds and refusing any kind of treatment. Before long, this people may just collectively bleed to death. But many are brought to God by their struggles and the circumstances around them, and they receive the healing Christ has promised.
I love you all. I know this church is true. God lives, and He loves you. You, personally. Yes, reader--you. He knows you. Your name, what problems you have. He loves those you love, even more than you do. He wants more than anything for you to come unto Him. Why not see what His embrace feels like? I'll let you know, that it is even more amazing than any other feeling I have ever felt. It dwarfs my emotions from my Liepāja trip. And those feelings from God are real.
Es jūs gauži mīlu!
( >/°¥< )