Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 23: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Līgo, Apartment, Enemies and Friends, Church Moving Along

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 4:59 AM
Subject: June 23: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Līgo, Apartment, Enemies and Friends, Church Moving Along

All: Lots of walking this week! 112,113 steps and 87.44KM! And that's from last Wednesday to today!

I don't have much time, so I'll skip the Q and A part this week. I want to thank all those who have written to me--Grandparents and Rachel, because I got a heap of mail last Sunday when the CES couple, the Carsons, came to Jelgava with some mail for us. It was wonderful!

Now, here are the pictures I want to include this week. Then, I'll talk about the week and what not. I will soon be leaving for Lecava, a city--well, village--not too far from Jelgava (it's as far as Rīga, but towards Daugavpils, rather than towards Estonia) for our Līgo activity. I'll explain that in a little bit, too.

Top picture-We were on our way to the Zerveni family (the wife and older son are members, the rest aren't yet), and we have to cross the river and the railroad tracks to get to them. Turns out there's a rail bridge. And, as a new addition, they took railroad ties and made stairs with them. I thought that this was really funny, so here I am, standing on the rail-road staircase.
Middle-We had just talked to the other elders about hot-air ballooning. This is the first hot-air balloon I have seen here. The irony was so great I had to photograph it. The building is a university. Last-Another burst of irony. This is in XX Maxima right by our place. The register there is especially for "Vecākiem ar Mazuļiem"--or Parents with little children. If you look, they have many large boxes of cigarettes that they're stacking on that lane. I thought it was ridiculous. One other note--every free space in the store (all lanes and aisles and such) are full of beer, vodka, and alcohol of various kinds. The reason: it's Līgo!

OK, about Līgo. The night of the 23rd of June is the shortest of the year. In other words, it's the longest day. Due to their pagan roots, Latvians have a VERY big celebration that day. It's called Līgo, from the verb Līgoties, which means, literally translated, to Līgo. Yeah. The word only means to celebrate Līgo. No, it means to rock or teeter, but they don't use it for that. To celebrate, they build a huge bonfire, drink ridiculous quantities of beer, and just party it up all night. When the sun comes up the next night, they all cheer, then go to sleep somewhere. Interesting, huh? We were invited to go to Māsas Šulcas place in Lecava to celebrate. So, we're going with any of the branch who also would like to go. The biggest benefit is that there won't be alcohol at our Līgo party.

Name days here are a big deal. As important as birthdays. Jānis is the most common name (about 60% of men have that name). 24 June is Jāņu (meaning in English Jānis' ) name day. So, it's day two of getting drunk and partying, because every human in the entire country knows a Jānis. So, Līgo is also called Jāņi. I think knocking will be very interesting tommorrow night.

Two examples: we went knocking last night. One guy opened his door wide and sang, "Lī-ī-ī-go! Lī-ī-ī-goo!" And wished us a happy Jaņi. Odd. But then, knocking in a different place a little earlier that night, we were coming down the stairs (we usually start on the top and work down) and saw a big pile of vomit on the stair landing. "Great, somebody got a little too drunk," we thought. Well, on the next flight of stairs was a man, passed out, sprawled across the stairs. He was quite drunk. Man, alcohol is so great! Only a fool would pick up drinking after seeing its effects here. Or, basically, seeing what it does at all. If you want that, then you REALLY need to find an actual purpose to your life. I speak as one who has never gotten wasted drunk, so maybe it is fun. But the negatives I have seen FAR outweigh any positives.

We moved into a new apartment recently. The lady has bought us all our furniture, since we had none. That's about 1200 lats of furniture (that's WAY a lot, by the way). We got mostly everything, and all we needed to live there now was a fridge. She surprised me with a call telling me that she had a fridge. So, that was brought in yesterday. Then she added tablecloths, a picture to hang, another little table, benches to go around that table, and a thing with drawers and a big mirror on it. I was shocked, to be honest, that she got us so much! So, now it's most definitely the best place I have ever lived (in the Baltics). Nothing's even broken (I have never been in a place that didn't have something broken)!

A small downer, then we'll move on to another good. Things have been quite challenging with my companion and district. I cannot seem to really lead them in a way that motivates and inspires. I also cannot force them, which leaves me in an awkward bind! I continue to pray, and hope things work out. This week was just really bad. I think it will improve from here. And if not, the transfer ends in a pair of weeks anyway. WHERE ON EARTH IS TIME GOING!!??!?!?!?!?!?

The Good--we're working on getting the branch really going here. So, we have people called as Sunday School teachers, we just called an activities committee last Sunday(!), and we are wanting to start up a Primary. I'll be talking with President Dance about how to do that tonight. I'm way stoked! Basically, we just want everything in place so that when leadership is handed to the branch, they'll just take it and go. Missionaries can step out. That's one major problem thoughout the Baltics right now--missionaries are too much connected with parts of the branch's functions that they should have nothing to do with, and they have less involvement (sometimes none) in places where they need to be (like working with the branch in missionary work). So, we're hoping to avoid that by teaching the members early how to run everything. Good thing the Lord helps us know what to do, or that would be a problem.

I gotta go now! I love you all! Keep reading, praying, and think about prioritizing your life so that it's centered on the Lord first, your family second, and then the means for your family after that! We just spent a lot of time talking with one member about that, and how a misbalance can be catastrophic to family health, and to your own health! But, don't take my word for it--pray about it and ask God what your priorities should be, and then listen to the Spirit. God does answer our prayers. Loves again!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

June 17: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Father's Day, Liepāja, DMV, Moving, Lessons

From: Jordan Argyle
Subject: June 17: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Father's day, Liepāja, DMV, Moving, Lessons
All: Happy Father's Day to all those Father-types out there!
From that, we'll look at the 99,141 steps/77.32KM for a second...OK. Done. Moving on.

Meals: Thurs 11 June: Bistro Stuff (pancakes and stuff)
Fri 12 June: Teriyaki Chicken (minus the chicken, plus lots of peppers).
Sat 13 June: Delectable Veggie Wraps (with beans and whatnot)
Sun 14 June: Potato things (like funeral potatoes, but failed) and Udi soup
Mon 15 June: "Ultra Veggie Pizza"
Tues 16 June: Veggie Madness (picture).
Kinda a boring food week.

Pictures: Top: That's Veggie Madness. It was like a salad with all that we had left over.
Middle: I went to Liepāja again this week on exchanges. We went knocking while I was there, and saw several people that I haven't seen in a really long time, who I really love. It was wonderful! These are the windmills just outside of Liepāja. That's when you know that you're getting close to the city.
Last: This is the Pravaslov church in Jelgava. It looked really pretty that day, so I nabbed a pic. There are also a lot of nuns there, which is interesting because a Lutheran or Catholic (the buildings look the same to me) church is right across the street, with their own nuns. We decided they should have volleyball competitions between the nuns in the laukums (field)right by the churches.

So, here's some stuff about the week. My comp is from Washington. Trivia: He used a mass spectrometer in a project investigating the effects of trace minerals in salmon. We had a family home evening for the branch here. Well, it was a branch home evening (Draudzes Majvakars (DMV)), but whatever. It was really fun! We have one investigator who came. He's from English class. After, he told us that was the most fun he's had without alcohol. I was excited, because he thinks it'll be hard to drop that nasty beverage called beer. There were actually more people at DMV than there were at church, just because people brought most or all of their families. I was really excited by that!

We are moving apartments. The new one is closer to the church, and about twice as big. The lady who is renting it to us was really desperate to rent it out, and bought us 1000 lats of furniture and will finish sewing curtains for our windows today. The place is really pink. Huge, awesome, and pink. It just doesn't have a fridge right now. That will come later. I'll have pictures of it next week.

The Baptist preacher has his wife with him here. We have not seen him any more, but he's way cool. He actually was a cop for a while, then things just started happening that led him to think that he might be able to serve a mission. So, he visited other congregations, and they felt that he should too, and he's been here since! Of course, there's more to the story than that, but I'll call it good there (since this keyboard doesn't type so well, and I can't focus at all).

For a spiritual thought: We taught a theologian yesterday. He was really nice, and had some good questions. We'll be seeing him again. But one thing he said was very interesting to me, and I totally agree: spiritual knowledge, if not enforced with the Spirit, does you no good. Just studying without applying is like watching somebody drive, but never getting in a car yourself. You understand how to turn and shift and whatever, but you never actually go anywhere. I would invite you all do take an extra step in applying what you know. Take a look-see at this talk from our last general conference: The Way of the Disciple, by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He is in the first presidency of the church, and is an apostle. It's a good talk, and he encurages us to go from where we are right now and move forward! Do it!

Love you all!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Oops, a P.S.

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: 2009/6/11
Subject: Oops. a P.S.

So...There are 9 missionaries leaving this transfer (in about 5 weeks). They represent a large part of my mission. It's way weird to see them go. Here they are:
Latvian speaking missionaries:
Sister Hagen (WAAA! From the MTC with me. All my sisters will be gone after this)
Elder Thompson (Yep, my last companion. Weird)
Elder Payne (my comp from Liepāja)
Elder Ence (who was assistant to the president forever)
So, that's four of the 21 Latvians who are leaving. Then, some Russian speaking:
Sister Reed (she was a great source of inspiration to me when I was in Imanta, because every single time she'd get on a bus, she'd sit next to some young lady and just start talking with her. That's so hard for me, and she made it look so natural)
Elder Weston (was in Center with Patterson for a while. He's so funny!)
Elders Barker, Hansen, Brimley (these I didn't know so well. Sorry, guys. They'd been in areas with me and I know their faces, but I don't know them SUPER well)

So, it's way weird to me that they're all going to be gone. On the same note of death things (we call it "death" when missionaries go home), I got fleas. For the first time on my mission. Elder Brown is back in Rīga center (he came out with me, and has only been out of Rīga one transfer, and then he was in Liepāja), and I'm basically just kinda weirded out by all that right now. So that's it for now...


June 11: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Baptists, Dancing, Jahova's Witnesses, Death, Vegetables

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 4:16 AM
Subject: June 11: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Baptists, Dancing, Jehovah's Witnesses, Vegetables

All: 105,792 steps = 82.51 KM. Not very much walking this week--a lot more sitting than I thought. But this was one of the most crazy, awesome weeks I have had yet, and here's why:

To start, I want to clarify that I'm not going vegetarian my whole life (
1 Timothy 4: 3), but we just wanted to try it for now. It'll be fun! It has been. Our meals were:
Mon 1st: Veggie Stir Fry
Tues 2nd: Curry Rice
Wed 3rd: Veggie Pizza
Thurs 4th: Leftover Curry Rice
Fri 5th: Marak Avacado im Batzal (Onion Avocado Soup) with Focaccia bread.
Sat 6th: Fries and a Veggie Burger at Hesburger.
Sun 7th: Mshat arnabeet (Cheesy fried Cauliflower (and we added broccoli to the mix))
Mon 8th: Ratatouille
Tues 9th: Grilled Cheese and Potatoes
Wed 10th:Veggie Pizza from Lulu's at zone conference

So far, it's been quite adventurous. I'll post each of our meals each week, and send a shot of the best one. When this month is over, we'll be having bacon-wrapped hamburgers and use fillets of chicken breast as the buns. Just kidding--but we will go back to meat.

Pictures+Q+A+The Norm
Top: Us dancing. This is one of the traditional Latvian dances we learned. More on that later.
Middle: Elder Udi (Юди) painting at the baptist church. I have a closer-up one of me, but you can't see where exactly we were painting, so I chose this full one of Udi to show it better.
Last: This was our Ratatouille. The cactus juice was on super sale, so we just had some fun. Looks great, vai nē?

My week was amazing! I'll get there later. Zone conference was also really good. Zone conferences are done by the leadership of the mission--President and Sister Dance with the assistants to the prez do all kinds of stuff, and then we split into zones (Latvian/Russian) and are trained by the zone leaders. We talked more on teaching skills this time, as well as ways to improve our thoughts so that they aren't barrier thoughts but success thoughts, and how that affects our work.
We have no elevator in our building, so we have to walk up all 5 floors. Whatever.
Church is held in a rented apartment that we've converted to a meeting house for now. It's not as permanent as we are in other cities, because we're way young here.
Our kitchen is normal--stove, fridge, sink. Just...a little soviet-style. We don't really use busses in Jelgava--it's not a very big place. We usually walk everywhere we need to go unless we're going to a place in the Jelgava Rajonā (region, I think). It's a requirement for every apartment to have a laundry machine, so we do that at home.

Now, for the excitement! So, here's our week. Not long after p-day we knocked into a lady (the first door to open), who said, "Hey! We're always waiting for you people. Come on in!" We, a little confused, came in. She then said, "Our preacher is just in the other room!" Oh. That usually means that somebody wants to bash scripture to try to prove somehow from one source of scripture that we are wrong. So, we wearily entered the room, and it turns out that the guy is an American baptist who is serving a mission here! He's been here for 12 years now. We joined them on their Bible study (from 1st Moses chapter 4 about Cain and Abel) and after, he told us that they're building a church out there is Ozolniekos. So, we offered to help. Thus, that Saturday, we all bussed out to Ozolnieki (a smaller city not far from Jelgava--I guess you can think of it as a Jelgava suburb) and we painted. My comp (Spears) and Farnsworth painted in one room, and Udi and I painted a section of the ceiling. It was really cool to talk to the preacher while we painted (he was working on lights a little farther over), and we even played foozball with him after. It was really cool!

But Saturday wasn't over yet! We didn't ever put a tie on that day. We went to Hesburger with the other elders, then showered at home, put our dancing clothes on, and went with two church members (Janaviča and Pravains), two investigators, and the Māsa Janaviča's kids (so we were 9 total) to an activity in Imanta. That asked about an hour and a little of travel, but the dance thing was way fun! There were two dances to songs from Hannah Montana, and other pop-style dance. A group of six showed us all the dances, and then we chose one of the three to learn. After 45 minutes, we showed the dances off. It was sooooo much fun, I can't even tell you. And after that, we learned three traditional Latvian dances (which are really, really easy--I'll show you all when I get home. They're fun for a little bit, but get boring after a minute or so). So, that picture is one of the Latvian dances, and the only one whose name I remember -- "Oira." That doesn't mean anything, by the way.

Sunday (I think) we knocked into some VERY active Jehovah's Witnesses. We talked for a bit. I'm very impressed by how well they know their Bibles. The only bummer is that they only rely on the Bible, and without revelation you get some very odd ideas. Like that Christ has already returned (right before WWI) and that the war in heaven described in Revelation took place last century, and because Satan lost and was cast down to earth, we've had so many wars. Some verses they use totally out of context--but they connect all that they use, and it's very logically sound. I have great respect for what they have done. Most especially that the majority of them actually live their religion, and know what they believe. Very few churches can claim that most of their members understand their doctrines and live after them. However, they, like all other churches, do not have apostolic authority from God to receive revelation for the world. Christ's church must have apostles and prophets (
Ephesians 2: 20, Ephesians 4: 11-13) "until we all come in the unity of the faith." We are not unified in the faith, nor are we "perfect men." After the apostles died, the authority was lost. That is why the restoration is so important. People changed doctrines and interpreted the scriptures differently after the church fell into apostacy. Teachings were added by man and called doctrine or changed (transubstantiation, baptism, the nature of the Godhead). But most are supported by the Bible. It all depends on how you read it. That's why another testament of Jesus Christ is so important--it helps us to understand.

A picture with one nail holding it can be turned all over, but still be nailed to the wall. But with two nails, it's not turning anywhere. The Book of Mormon is that second nail. It proves itself true. I invite you to read it and pray about it. And knowing that it is true, you can confidently believe that Jesus is the Christ (or add more confidence to that belief you already have), that God has called prophets in these days, and that God's kingdom is on the earth. To those of you who recite the Lord's Prayer, take a look at what you're praying for:
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That kingdom is His church. It's here now. His will is made known through prophets, as it always has been (Luke 11: 49, Ephesians, 2: 20, Ephesians 3: 5, 1 Nephi 13: 39, D&C 98: 32, D&C 52: 9, 36). You could say your prayers have been answered. Now, all that is left is to learn of Him and learn His will, for "If any man will do his will he will know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether [we] speak for [ourselves]" (John 7: 17). That's how you test it. Try it. If it is good, then it is true. And that is real, tangible, testable (Alma 32: 28, 35).

To end, there's a really good talk given by Robert Millet. Give it a read. Or a listen.
What We Believe, by Robert Millet--Text. What We Believe, by Robert Millet--MP3. It's kinda long, so it may be best to take it with you when you work out or are traveling or something.

I love you all! You are in my prayers.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 3: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: New City, Vegitarian, and...uh...Parades?

From: Jordan Argyle
Subject: June 3: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: New City, Vegetarian, and...uh...Parades?

All: 97968 (76.41KM). Sunday, I already had 73K, so I think that we'll stomp my old record in not too long. In the "random other things" department, I have another calling in the "branch"--I'm also the piano player. So I'm the Jelgava district leader, the Jelgava group leader (but we have Sunday School teachers and several priesthood holders, so I don't have to do too much), and the Jelgava group piano player. Anybody who knows me will know that I cannot play the piano. So, it's just the top line. Sometimes that pretty badly. But, we'll see how it goes.

Pictures: The top one--The guy on the left is Elder Fulcher. He's from Australlia. He just went home. I love the kid with all my heart. The others are Elder Jensen, Patterson, and Weston. All of them are amazing Russian-speaking Elders. Love 'em.

Next--Random. While waiting for Elder Udi (he was trapped in Estonia for a little while, so we went around the three of us), we happened to see the parade. It was Jelgava Holiday, and the parade went down Lielā iela, which just happens to be where our apartment is. So, this shot was from my window (right after lunch). This is the beginning of the parade.

Third--Jelgava isn't a very big town. This parade lasted for about 30-45 minutes. And I'm fairly sure 90% of Jelgava participated. Here's a thick line of students.

Last--There were a lot of cool performances, but this was one of the coolest. These were trick moterbikers. And one of the tricks was to jump onto the top of that car. It was rad.

PLEA FOR HELP!: Spears and I (my new companion) decided to go vegetarian this month. We made an amazing stir-fry and some great curry dish yesterday (because my comp loves to cook and is quite good at it). But we're desperately in need of meal ideas. If you would be so kind as to send a few, that'd be great! This invite is open for everybody. (just send it to mnjargyle@msn.com and my folks will forward it to me).

Q+A about Jelgava--the transfer last transfer (in Riga Center) was the best I have ever had. My district was amazing beyond all belief. Each member was amazing, and worked hard. And their passion was easy to feel and catch. I love each of them. A lot. And now I'm with another three missionaries. Also awesome. But I don't know them so well, yet. Here they are:
Spears--My comp. He's a super brain. It's really fun to have scientific chats with him. He's a convert, so it's also amazing to see how the gospel makes sense to him, as a cynical realist. He's really cool, and I think we'll have a good time together. And we get along quite well. We both like to argue semantics, so sometimes we have silly little arguments, but after we've both said our parts, we just move right on. Normal.

Farnsworth--He's a little (meaning a lot) quieter than the other three in the district. He's a Latvian speaker (as is Spears) who speaks really well. He was just told by President to focus on Russian when studying language. So, he'll leave a dual language speaker. He's not so excited, because he knows how much effort it's taken him to get to where he is now. He's rad. Both Spears and Farnsworth have been here (Jelgava) for a good, long time, and they know the areas pretty well.

Udi--He's the only Russian speaker in Jelgava (as far as missionaries go). He's a great cook, and reminds me a lot of Adrian (my cousin). He has a lot of good ideas, and I really don't know him very well at all. He did give us a bunch of great ideas for our vegetarian meals.
And that's Jelgava (well, add me in there).
So...yeah. Jelgava was the first place that I served, together with E. Doane. It's different in that only one member from when I was here (of the six) still comes to church. That'd be Māsa Bernšteine (who's actually a Belarussian), and she's gradually getting more senile. It is, though, the same quaint little town it was. People are a lot more friendly, and they generally are more open. And we still walk everywhere. At church now, there are anywhere from 12 to 24 people (and we have 17 church members (and kids too young to be baptized) here), so that's a really good change. They are all AMAZING!! Some have some odd quirks, but that's totally normal. We also teach English here, and our English students are wonderful!
Our apartment is not too bad. Could be better. It's a lot worse than my last one in Center. Ah, well. We're actually looking to move. But one random thing--I slept at the apartment where I lived the first time I was in Jelgava while we were waiting for Udi--and as soon as I entered, it smelled like Jelgava. It was crazy how nostalgic the smell was. Jelgava is about the size of half of Pļavnieki (which is one of the districts of Rīga). Jelgava is pathetically small in comparison to Rīga. Overall, yes, I love Jelgava. It most certainly does have personality and charm. It is not even remotely close to being as pretty as Liepāja. But, it's not too bad.

As far as teaching goes, we've been a little slow recently, so we don't really have a lot of investigators. But, people have been quite a bit more responsive while we've been contacting, so I think that we'll get some new ones quick. And we have a really good guy (A.) from English class who sincerely wants to know truth. So, next time (Thursday), we'll be teaching him how to pray so that he can find out from God what's true. And we gave him a Book of Mormon, so he can start reading about the powerful truths that were lost. If you'd like, you're welcome to read what I gave him. It's about God's plan for His children. I gave him the introduction to the Book of Mormon (so he knows the purpose of the book); 2 Nephi 2, which talks about the God's plan (in details hard to understand elsewhere); from 2 Nephi 31, about Christ's gospel (what we need to do in this life) through chapter 2 Nephi 33, which are just great chapters (and short); and Alma 42, which is more about God's plan. This guy has no job any more, so he has time to read. And he really wants to. So, I gave him chapters where it's really easy to feel God's spirit testifying of the truth of the content. I would recommend to all of you to read it, and then pray to God (in your own words!) to know if what was taught in those chapters is true. If you do it, God has promised that He will answer you. By the Holy Ghost. That's the only reason I'm here on a mission--I prayed and know that it's true from the Holy Ghost. It's possible for anybody who really is willing to act on that knowledge.

I didn't really have any distinct impressions last week--I'm just still testing the waters, and getting used to this land called Jelgava.

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