Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Old Ladies, Christmas, Spiritual Things, Miracles

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 6:24 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Old Ladies, Christmas, Spiritual Things, Miracles

All: So, we got 121,670 steps this week (that's 94.90 KM).

Ah. First off. The office here in the mission has moved. The new address, the place to send me letters and packages right before my mission comes to a close, is this:
Cēsu iela 31- 2K2
LV 1012 Rīga

As in the previous address, "iela" is 100% optional.

Top: My rad companion and I opening our stockings by the Christmas-in-July tree (basically, we just stuffed everything we could into the socks and called it Christmas) on and I'll explain a little more.
Middle: We had a really good branch activity last Sunday. As part of that, we took flowers and made them into a decoration (you see it hanging on the board behind us). The people are (left to right): Elder Gray, Elder Wendelbo, A. (our investigator), Elder Thompson (my companion), behind him is Brālis Pravains, then our creation (everyone was quite impressed with the hot glue gun Māsa Šulca brought to stick the flowers to the paper), Jūris, in front of him is Māsa Broča-Čapa and her little 'un, beside her is Māsa Šulca, and behind her is our investigator D. and her friend E. (also investigating), then on the far right is Brat Sebatovačius (or something like that...that's a way hard name for me) and Māsa Bernšteine. There were also another two investigators (who will be baptized next month!!) who had to leave early.
Last: Also at the branch activity, we decorated pancakes with smiley faces. It was thought that the branch's kids would be there--but Māsas Janavičas son got engaged, and Māsa Zērvena was sick, so most of the kids weren't there. This little one was the only one there. Isn't he cute? And, we enjoyed making faces anyway.

So, we had a ridiculously amazing zone conference. And I am now officially freaking out: the sister missionaries who came to Latvia when I did have all gone home. All the Elders who led me and inspired me when I was a younger missionary will soon go home. And Sister Wilson, who has probably been the most powerful motivation and inspiration to me out of any of the missionaries, gave her last testimony as a missionary at zone conference. I'm not sure what to do--time is so short!!!! I'm not too terribly thrilled. But, I still have several months. That's still enough time to do some good.
A few things especially at that zone conference:
1) Elder L. Tom Perry (yes, one of the apostles) and Elder Rasband (of the presidency of the Seventy) and President Powell (who is in the East Europe presidency) will all be in Latvia next month. This will be the first time an apostle of the Lord has been in Latvia since President Faust dedicated Latvia for missionary work. That's over 15 years ago! There is a special conference for missionaries with them 29 August. And there will be a special fireside or talk or whatever-the-heck you call a pair of hours for members to listen to him. So...that was way exciting to hear! Poor Sister Wilson--she'll be leaving right before it happens. I'll have to take good notes for her.
2) President Dance talked about the covenants that we make in temples. As a little background, the way we grow closer to God here on earth and obtain all He has promised is through covenants with God. The first covenant (or promise, if you will) is made when we are baptized with proper authority (proti, that authority that God gives to prophets and then authorizes them to use). That is an oath to always keep God's commandments (to the best of our abilities). God promises in return that we will have His spirit to be with us. It is keeping these covenants that brings us the fullest measure of the Spirit and the life changing power of the Atonement.
The temple is a place where we make more covenants. In order to make those, we must be spiritually ready. That is why only prepared members of the Church who have shown that they are ready can enter. One of these covenants is, once again, obedience. Another is a covenant to consecrate our time and talents (basically, everything) to the Lord and the forwarding of His causes. is down right now, so I cannot link you to the verses Pres. Dance used. I'll just put them here, and you can look them up if you like.
Basically, he showed that obedience and sacrifice (also a covenant from the temple) are both included in consecration. He further showed us that sacrifice is not a celestial law. In other words, when we live with God, we will not live the law of sacrifice. Consecration is the celestial law. And, as is clearly shown by D&C (Doctrine and Covenants) 78:7, 88:22, and 105:5, we must learn how to live this law if we are to live with God again. We discussed how to do that a little, and I basically had revelation all over the place to help me know how to apply that covenant in my missionary service better. Because all missionaries live the law of sacrifice. That's good. God blesses them for that. But to really be a tool in the hands of God, we must consecrate ourselves.
Sacrifice: to offer something valuable or precious. In other words, to offer something up; to give up something you value, such as time to serve a mission.
Consecration: to dedicate/develop something for a specific, sacred purpose. This is offering something for a specific cause. Such as focusing 100% on teaching people the gospel, and in doing all you can to be a better teacher, finder, and so forth.
Basically, it was a really good lesson to me. Add to that the testimonies of so many amazing missionaries, and it was a fabulous conference.

Then follows several miracles. I'll save those for the end, because I have a mess of funny stories:
Old Ladies:
So, babuškas (old ladies in Russian) are very interesting people. Here are the things I saw them doing this week (odder than normal):
An old lady stopped us to tell us, in Russian, how wonderful we were, and how good it was to slava Boga (give glory to God?) and to preach and what not. For about a minute she told us of the value of what we are doing, and how wonderful we are for doing it, and good luck! Never saw her before that, nor have I seen her since.
Another lady on a bike was headed home after a day at the market. She still had some kabicis (squash) that she hadn't sold yet, so she just gave us one for free. She told us how great it was that young people have come to Latvia, learned Latvian, and so forth.
Another lady just started going off to us in Russian, after we told her that we do not speak Russian. But she kept going. Her talk was not related to gospel things, because I understood almost none of it (I can usually get the general jist if it's about gospel stuff).
Then we saw another lady bent over 90°. Turns out that a lot of older people have very bent backs. I have not seen a full 90 degrees before, though. And she did not straighten entirely the entire time we talked with her. It looked very painful.
Last one: she told me she believes. She then asked, "What church are you from?" I said, "From Jesus Christ's Church." She responded, "Oh, that's something different. I won't listen to you." "Do you believe in Christ?" "Yes." But, she didn't care what Christ would say today--she was fine with what she already knew, and she didn't want to hear any more of Christ's words. That was way odd to me.

Which brings me to another totally random thing. We're walking home, and we pass two young girls leaning on a fence. They say, "Atvainojamies, bet vai gribat kaķēnu?" which is, being interpreted, "Excuse me, but do you want a kitten?" Huh? I go over there, and sure enough, in this under-10-year-old's hand is the tiniest kitten I have ever seen. I pet its head a little with my finger, thank them, and tell them that we won't be able to take care of it. That was just so random.

As some of you probably noticed, the 25th of July was this last Saturday. As fewer of you probably observed, it was Christmas in July that day. My comp and I celebrated that "holiday" with stocking opening by our little tree and Christmas music. I'll have to explain after my mission why I celebrate Christmas twice a year, but it will be a tradition in my family to celebrate Christmas every July (thanks Cassandra!).

I'm way out of time, so a quick hit on miracles this week. Last week was rather hard. I was very worried about the branch, and I didn't work as hard as I should have for other reasons as well. Plus, it seems we just weren't where the ready people were and could meet. So, we ended the week with few lessons, and things all skiwampus. Then we had that rock-awesome zone conference. So, I've been thinking a very lot about one member in particular, who seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth and about whom the Holy Ghost would not stop reminding me. I did all I could to let her know she was loved, appreciated, and that she is needed, but she never answered anything I did. I had been earnestly seeking a way to talk with her. And, on the way to an investigator's house, we found her working. We had a good talk. I found out what had happened to her. And then there's another member who, as far as anybody knew, had run away or even killed himself. I had no way of getting a hold of him. But, he came to church full of smiles and such last Sunday. I was thrilled. God really does answer our prayers--there's another pair of examples right there. That set the pace for this week--we taught an amazing lesson to V., (the policeman who lifts weights), who is really making progress despite feeling that he isn't able to overcome the world around him. Brother Pravains (a member) actually knows him from school, so he was a good choice of member to take with us when we taught. Then yesterday, we just had lesson after lesson, including a lesson with an amazingly ready kid named N., who has never agreed with the doctrines of other churches. He made one of my favorite comments after our lesson that I have heard. It went something like this: I wasn't sure if an organization like yours even existed on the planet--that's why I stopped believing. But it does exist: an organization that believes in God, not in church. I really like that.

Yesterday, we taught 5 lessons--that's more than half of what we did all last week! It was amazing! We taught a younger mother who just loved it, and is very anxious to read the Book of Mormon. I also have started reading it again (I got my book back that I had marked all the references to Christ in and such--I had left it in Rīga when I moved), and I immediately felt the power that comes from reading it. If you aren't reading it every day for a little bit (even only a few minutes a day, like 10), then you're shorting yourself of that Spiritual power and insight. Lauris, who was baptized after Elder Thompson the first and I taught him in Center, is not very learned about God. But he told us that he felt power when he read the Book of Mormon. He became like a "strong man," full of energy. When he didn't read, he didn't have that. You don't need to be a scientist to know that the sun has power.

That's all. Sorry this is so jumbled, but I really have no time left. Loves and such!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 21: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Miracles, Storms, Really Hot Weather...Overall a Great Week!

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Tue, Jul 21, 2009 at 5:40 AM
Subject:Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Miracles, Storms, Really Hot Weather...Overall a Great Week!

All: Actually, we walked a lot less than last week. Maybe because we had one less day this week? (because of Zone Conf.) But 93,352 (72.81KM).

Q+A: Yeah, we still live in the same place. Summer here is WAY hot, humid, and deathly hot. As you may know, once it's above 75° (farenheit, in dry air) it's too hot for me. So, 80°+ here the air was...well...way hot. It's also REALLY SUPER RAINY here. It goes from sunnier than a Californian beach to stormier than the Bermuda Triangle in about 20 minutes.

Pics: The bottom one: We changed our water filters this week. The water here definitely would give you your fair share of minerals unfiltered. Note the new filters on top of the old ones (for comparison's sake). The rest are explained in the narrative below.

Funny story: So, Sunday we headed out, and it was way too sunny, hot, and I felt gross. So, I looked up with some malice at the sun and said, "Could you do me a favor and just go away and stay away the rest of today?" About five seconds later, clouds rolled over the sun, making it that bright, barely-cloudy-diffused-sunlight kinda thing. We talked with a few people (miracles there...see below), and by the time we hit the railroad tracks on the way to a lesson, it looked like the top picture--pitch black clouds right behind that. As soon as we got to the family we were teaching, a MASSIVE storm broke out and it dumped! There was even lightning and thunder--lights flashing during the lesson and all. It was really cool. But that wasn't the best part. Here are the miracles. So, back up to my comment to the sun.

I had seriously been looking at the branch (a small church congregation) list I made, trying to figure out how I could help the branch out. There are several members that are less-active to inactive, and they won't let us talk to them or do anything for them. I am also really trying to get the information on the list accurate, so that maybe members could help them out. So, as we left the house, one of those missing members came up to us (he saw us crossing the street), and told us his new phone number and his address. He was one who I had seen a few times, but had no way of getting in touch with. I was able to invite him to the branch activity this weekend, and church, and things. And while my companion talked with him, another guy came up and asked: Are you missionaries? What do you talk about? I told him about the Book of Mormon and he asked, "Can I have one?" So, I got his number, gave him a book, and he said he'd read.

Then, we headed across the bridge (remember, it was fully sunny only 20 minutes before that.) The second picture shows a glance from the bridge towards the oncoming storm. It poured a lot, and we taught this family. This family consists of: Wife (member, teaches Sunday school and does, in my opinion, the best job teaching), Husband (not member, open to the church, though, and really loves his family), Teenager (member, but is a teenager, and therefore sometimes hard to predict or inspire), and Toddler (a normal toddler--all over the place). So, Wife has been trying to get Husband to pray for a long time. He hasn't wanted to. At the end of this lesson, he prayed. I don't know if I can accurately describe the feelings of the Holy Ghost while he prayed. Basically, it was breath-taking. Most definitely the highlight of my time in Jelgava. And he felt it, too. He actually had a hard time speaking, because of the feeling stirring inside of him from the Holy Ghost. Wife looked at him after, and said simply, "Tev sanaca," that is to say, "It worked out for you." He then offered us a ride into town. He's never prayed in lessons with us before.

You'd think that was it for miracles. It's not. Another one: we were on a contacting spree, and again a guy walked up to us and asked us when we could meet. He told us that he had seen us when we came to his place a while back, but his mom wasn't interested and ripped up our info. He asked for it again, and told us that he'd obtained a Book of Mormon in Russian from his friend and had already gained a testimony of its truthfulness! He said simply, "I need to talk with you guys." I liked that!

OK, so, remember Family from above? Well, we took Teenager bowling last week, with Brālis Pravains (our Melchezidek priesthood holder in Jelgava). That was fun. And the bowling alley is right next to the ice rink (it's called Ledus Halle in Latvian). So, we had a snowball fight with the zamboni-ed snow after as well. The third picture shows the climax of the event. Left is E. Wendelbo, and behind him is E. Gray. I forgot how badly I suck at bowling...oh well. It was fun.

I haven't had one of these sections in a while. I guess I'm way overdue. This week was way good for investigators.
Ag.: is really thinking about what we've been teaching him, and really starting to dive into the Book of Mormon. He understands that he needs to really desire to act on the answer God gives him for him to receive an answer.
V.: is the cop that can lift quite a lot (of weights). We finally were able to meet with him again, and had a wonderful lesson. He's really an amazing man! We left him a Book of Mormon, and he's reading it. I hope we can teach him again soon, because I'd love to show him how that book has helped me!
We've also spent a lot of time in a place called "Aizupes" (Behind the River, if you translate the word). That's a lot of houses, so knocking is weird (because we don't normally do houses--we do domes/apartment buildings). But, we had many amazing lessons, and gave away five Books of Mormon while we were there over three days.
Ane.: is a young lady who was Christian once, but thought about it a lot and decided that it wasn't scientific or logical. But, we're teaching her how we can learn though other methods, not just by scientific means (for proof of this and a deeper explanation than I can offer in my limited time, read or watch the talk Testimony, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, who is a living apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. And look at Alma 32: 21, 26-43, and the record of how another prophet taught people a similar principle, or learning through faith.
Lili.: is an older lady, whose husband just had surgery and who doesn't know exactly what to expect for the rest of the year. Work is very scarce here, and she's not sure she'll have money soon. But, she really wants to draw closer to her Father in Heaven, and we let her know that the way to do that is by studying about Him (from scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon), and praying to Him to know from His Spirt. This is truth that works for everybody.
A Few Others: But I'm out of time. There are others, but I'll talk about them more when we teach them again. Basically, it was a way good week.

Another major highlight:
Ivita, that girl in Rīga Center who's been battling smoking and whatnot, was baptised. Sister Wilson, who is teaching her, writes a newsletter each week that I get, usually while at the internet place. Which is where I am. I'll just quote her record of the baptism:
"Probably the most beautiful baptism that has ever happened on the face of the earth.. She has worked SOO hard and overcome so many things in order to prepare for her baptism, and it was well worth it. She couldn't stop smiling and couldn't stop talking about how free and clean she felt and how cool it was...
"The few days before her baptism (starting actually right after e-mail last Wednesday) were quite the roller coaster ride.. Let's just say Satan attacked that amazing girl from every single angle before she entered the waters of baptism. Friday night she was waayy upset with some stuff concerning her family, and we prayed HARD (Ivita, I and other missionaries) that everything would just work out, but in order for it to all work out, a miracle needed to happen. Well, Saturday morning at 7am I got a call from Ivita and she sounded really happy.. and I was like, 'so.. what happened...?' and she answered.. 'let's just say a miracle happened. God answered our prayers.. He loves us!' It was SO cool.."
"I seriously can't tell you how incredible that experience was.. I have had answered multiple times to prayers, but nothing ever so specific and SO huge.. We were literally on our knees pleading with the Lord.. It set the pace for an incredible day..."

Yeah. I was filled with joy, because I've been studying sometimes for Ivita, and I'll send her verses to read via the sisters and thoughts and encouragement and such. I was way bummed that we couldn't be there...

For my spiritual thought, I'll quote myself a bit: "read or watch the talk Testimony, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, who is a living apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. And look at Alma 32: 21, 26-43, and the record of how another prophet taught people...[how to learn] through faith." And, I might add, how to know that something is true.
Wow, gotta go! I love you all!! Keep READING AND PRAYING!!!!!!!!!!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 15: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: The District, Things @ Church, Lessons, Finding--My Thoughts and Randomness

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 4:05 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: The District, Things @ Church, Lessons, Finding--My Thoughts and Randomness


All: 105,519 (78.40KM--that's 49 miles, so that you staters can relate). Not too much walking this week. But, next week, we'll be walking more. I think. I'll keep you posted.

So, I was asked to introduce my district. Here they are:
E. Thompsen (my former comp was E. Thompson, so there's no way you can get confused "))--My comp now. He loves musicals (as do I) and has spent a healthy amount of time on the internet watching random cartoons and things (as have I), so we randomly will quote something or connect a thought to one of them, and just bust out laughing. Or we'll turn what we are doing into a musical. Or...whatever. We work together very well. He is VERY anxious (you could say ļoti gauži) to talk to everyone. Meaning he'll cross streets, cut through obstacles, and not cross streets while people are walking across them so that he can talk to people. He especially goes out of the way for families. I find myself stretched to keep up! It's a pleasant shift of the work, I must admit.
E. Gray--I was with him once with E. Palmer, long ago. He's way cool! He's very witty, and hilarious, and very down-to-earth. I find that I greatly enjoy working with him. He's a wonderful teacher, as well.
E. Wendelbo--The noob (new guy). He's really willing to go out and work. He's had a rough first week--Pentecostals praying "in tongues" after a lesson with them, a lady with half her head on the floor in a big pool of blood, crazy people, and the like. But he's a good one. I don't think these things will stop him from rocking people here with the Everlasting Gospel of Truth. The best part--each of my district members are fired up and willing to work hard! I'm actually finding that I need to push myself to keep up with my companion!! It's so wonderful to be really into the work!

Pictures: Top-There's a big festival going on here right now. They have sand sculptures in the park, but I didn't cough up the lat (cash) to get in. But there were people all over the roads and in the parks from former soviet-block countries, all celebrating their culture. America doesn't have that kind of culture, so it's really neat to see. Here's some singing stuff with the kids in traditional clothing, which I think looks really cool. And the bottom picture is Jazeps and Anja, who are Māsas Janavičas kids, up in a tree. This is Jazeps treehouse. I love these kids. And...I didn't take too many pics this week. Next week.

So, on to church things. I'm trying to start up a Primary here for the kidlets that are kinda bored during the lesson. I called the pro in Rīga center (Māsa Treiģe-Treide), and she told me everything that I'll have to do, and will send me everything that I will need to get that done. She's way good. We also had a lesson for the Sunday school teachers. We now have four of them: Māsas Zervēna and Suleimanova, and Brāļi Pravains and Skvorcovs. I taught them about loving those you teach. I introduced it as "the most important part of teaching." It was probably the best lesson that I have been in, because the conversation was really good, it didn't come all from me--it was mostly discussion, and they do something specific. reach a decision, or to make up ones mind. Yeah, that's a decent translation. That takes so much more time to say in English...

Anyway, there's a lot of things that aren't so good happening in the branch as well. A lot of people are having a very hard time. The global crisis is VERY felt here in Latvia. Especially when people keep buying worthless things with their money (i.e. cigarettes, alcohol, food for the cats and pigeons when they cannot feed themselves...and the like). I think the soviet mindset really messed up a lot of people's abilities to manage their money. But, a lot of members are having it rough, and I'm hoping that the Sunday school teachers, being as amazing as they are, can help the branch out. I must admit, I'm often pained a great deal for the welfare of the people I know, especially those in my branch. It's amazing how, just looking at people's posture and eyes--their countenance--I could see which ones are having problems and hardships. Anyway, pray hard for those here, please. They need it.

Contacting this week was interesting. Just yesterday, there was a little girl (like, younger than 8) who asked what we always ask people, and told us that we'd been to her place once not too long ago. She then met up with us a little later, farther down the road, and I jokingly said to her, "I think that we've met before..." She answered, "I was just over there by that church. Do you not remember?!" It was funny to me. And I found out something else, not so wonderful. Most people have somehow logicked out in their minds ways to make them ineligible for God and talking about Him. Either they're religious already (and we need to spend our time talking to those who don't believe), or they know everything (and therefore can't learn anything new and it is pointless to try to talk to them about religious things), or they aren't interested in God (and we need to spend our time talking to those who believe), or some other excuse. I don't understand why everyone is so afraid of talking about religious things. I understand if you aren't interested. I don't like talking about those things that don't interest me, either. But the rest...just kinda silly to me. I would strongly disrecommend that you turn away somebody before you hear what they want to talk about. If they directly oppose your thoughts, then maybe it's better not talk to them. But if not, then you could probably learn something from a shared conversation.

Anyway, I know that the Gospel is true. And I know that you will know truth when you honestly pray about it. Keep reading! You should be almost done with the book of Alma by now (if you've been reading a chapter or two a day from when I invited you all to do so). If you're not there, then I invite you to step your reading up a notch. 10 minutes a day will get you a chapter or two. And time spent with the scriptures is time well spent!

Love you all!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 9: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Transfers, Miracles, Interesting things. BAPTISMS!!!

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Thu, July 9, 2009
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Transfers, Miracles, Interesting things. BAPTISMS!!!
All: So, we walked a lot. 125,933 steps, to be exact. That's 98.22KM. That's a long way.
So, I want to start this week off with a little story:

It had been a normal day. Nothing too good, nothing too bad. We entered a 12-story monolith to go knocking. On the way in, a man began to jeer at us from the upper three floors. He "invited" us over to his place, after just telling us how unnecessary we were. So, we took the elevator like normal, planning to just explain to him what we were doing, and since he wasn't interested, we wouldn't bother him. But, we heard him on the 10th or 11th floor say, "...but they WILL be here. Just wait." We decided that we didn't trust him. As soon as we hit floor 12, we hit the button for floor 10 (hearing them start for the stairs). We arrived to find nobody. We cautiously continued out, and, finding the coast clear, began to knock.
We encountered various people. Most of them thought we were somebody else, and didn't want to spend the few minutes to speak to us about something that didn't interest them. Or, they thought it didn't interest them. Too bad they don't know what it actually is we talk about...Anyway, most of the doors were that way. One nice lady invited us back the next day. Another, determining that we were not from around here, asked us where we were from. On hearing we were from America, he ragefully told us to "Go back to your land and leave us alone!!" A few more cheery people who didn't want to talk to us, and then one guy who had told us he isn't interested came back out to tell us how angry he was that we knocked on his door. "I'm Catholic! What are you doing bothering people, trying to force your religion on them?! *Etc.*" We explained that we don't do that; we talk to everyone to know if they are interested in learning what we know and what has helped us immensely, and if they want, then we teach them. If they don't want it, then we leave them be. That's what we do. We don't force anything--we're just sharing what has helped us.
Then, after all of this silliness, we finally knock on Vies.'s door. He didn't answer right away. When we were at the elevator, he opened his door. We hurried back and told him we're missionaries, to talk about God. He said simply, "Come on in." We got to know him a little bit, and then taught him about prophets and the nature of God. He invited us back, and it was an amazing lesson! He's a policeman who lifts weights for fun. He squats 285 kilos (that's 627 POUNDS!!), and is one of the most humble people I have ever met. He has really looked at life, and understands a great deal. He also agreed to a baptismal date for the 1st of August. It was an amazing miracle that really helped me out!
OK, so. We now move on to transfers. I'm the only one still staying in Jelgava. Elders Gray and Trainee are coming (so, they are being "whitewashed," meaning that they have no previous experience at all in the area where they will be serving), and I'm serving with Elder Thompson the younger (he's from Elder Spear's group). So far, I like him a lot. I'll let you know more about him next week.
I took notes this week. I will start with the baptism. It was a gorgeous little family--a husband and wife--and Helvijs's mother! It was really exciting!!! The first picture on here (4018) is Helvijs and his mother. The service was beautiful, the the investigator we had (Andr.) liked it. Helvijs performed the baptisms, so he was able to baptize his mother. How cool is that? And many of the youth and other church members that I love were there also, so after the baptism I was able to talk with them. That was way amazing! I love people here in Riga. So much. I'm really going to miss seeing them, even if right now I only see them every so often...
Then, to celebrate the 4th of July, when we got back from the baptism we had a little BBQ. That's pic 4039. We got a little grill, and we grilled up chicken, hamburger, and potato things (but the heat was all gone by the time the potatoes made it, so...kinda gross). That was fun.
Earlier this week, I woke up in the middle of the night to a thunderstorm. Lightning was going off every few seconds. It was one of the most amazing things ever, because I love, love LOVE thunderstorms, and they happen very rarely where I have lived here.
Sunday. I had just had a great spiritual and emotional "up" the day before (baptism, seeing my dear friends in Rīga, and Independence day), so naturally a big down would follow. I felt really heavy, and...odd in general this Sunday. Since it was Elder Thompson's last Sunday, a few of the branch (group) went up to Rīga to see him off. So, we had almost nobody at church. Well...until about five minutes before church started. Then, WAY more people than I ever thought came pouring in. I want to list those people for you:
Brālis Pravains--He's the only Melchizedek priesthood holder in Jelgava. He takes care of the sacrament for us.
Māsa Šulca--Yup, the same one who invited us over for Līgo. She's way good! And
Brālis Kolikovs--Māsa Šulca's husband. He comes off and on, and so I was quite excited to see him Sunday.
Māsa Janaviča--She is one of the most interesting people in the world, and perhaps thinks too much about other people sometimes. She's charitable to a fault, and loves learning from the spirit. She was pretty sure she wouldn't be able to come today.
Anja, Jazeps, and Rebeka, Māsa Janaviča's children--Love them!! Anja is only six, but she is WAY smart. She sees something once, and she remembers it forever. She's very friendly, and a super cute kid! Jazeps is seven, super active, and enjoys being with us. He's very creative, and a great artist. Rebeka is super shy, and doesn't talk much, but has been opening up a lot more because of all the activities that we have had. She's going to be amazing when she trusts us and the group (branch) enough to actively participate! Oh, and she threw us a party as a farewell for the ones leaving. That's pic 4085. Here's who's in that really quickly, from left to right:
E. Farnsworth, Jazeps, E. Udy, Anja, E. Spears, Kristina (from our English class--she's become good friends with M. Janaviča), Māsa Janaviča, Rebeka. And between Rebeka's feet is Kokoa, their dog. Back to who came on Sunday:
Māsa Bernšteine--is a Ukrainien. Or, maybe some other country. It turns out that nobody really knows. She doesn't remember her birth language, so she speaks Russian and Latvian with a REALLY heavy accent. She doesn't know her birthday, so she picked a day. We are guessing that she's around 89 years old, but nobody really knows for sure. She's old, that's for sure. She's strong in the faith, and really fun. And funny. I love this lady. She is the only member who is still here that was here more than a year ago when I first served in Jelgava.
Verns.--He's one of our investigators who knows it's all true, and wants to be baptized. But his mother had a dream wherein she saw her dead sister (or daughter) who told her that she and Verns. have to be baptized in Canada. So...he's waiting until then. He's actually really cool. He's also super busy, so I didn't think that he'd be able to come to church.
A.--He's our investigator with a date for baptism. He's in our English class also. He's really fun, spiritual, and enjoys church. We haven't been able to meet with him for over a week now. That's way not good.
D. and friend--D. is an older lady that we knocked into a while back. We went to see her on Saturday, and invited her to church. I actually wasn't expecting her to come. And she brought her friend, to boot. She herself was quite quiet, but her friend was very outspoken, very fun, and very involved in the lesson. I liked having them there.
U. and T.--these two amazing women are from English class. They haven't really heard anything about the Restoration yet. They have powerful testimonies of God and His hand in their lives, though.
This Sunday was a fast Sunday. For those of you who don't know what that means--the first Sunday of each month, all members of this church are to fast if they so desire. This means that they go without eating and they pray to consecrate that time to God. During this time they focus on spiritual things, and open themselves more fully to the Spirit. And, during sacrament meeting (the main meeting at church), everyone who desires is able to stand and state what they know to be true. We call this "bearing our testimony." And since one of the Holy Ghost's purposes is to testify of truth (1 John 5: 6, John 15: 26), He is almost always quite powerfully at these meetings. Another of His roles is to comfort (John 14: 26, D&C 35: 19). So, basking in the great Spirit that was there, I felt greatly comforted. When I left church, I felt amazing! I have a little more to say on that in a moment. First, one more thing that happened this week.
There is going to be a YSA (Young Single Adults) conference, and a youth conference this August. I just found out about each of them, and there are several here in Jelgava who'd want to go. So, on Tuesday night, I spent a good amount of time finding out info about all of these things to make sure that everyone who wanted to would be able to make it. I was on the phone about this thing for well over two hours. It was way stressful, but for some reason, I think I enjoyed it. I called basically everyone in leadership positions in Latvia (only the mission president and the district president themselves exempted). It was like a crazy, wacko puzzle to solve. So, that was rather nuts.
Oh. Right. The rest of transfers: So, E. Spears is going to my city of dreams (Liepaja) to be with E. Hansen, a Russian-speaking Elder whom I greatly like. I have been secretly hoping to be in a "hybrid" companionship--a companionship where one speaks the country's language (like Latvian in Latvia), and the other speaks Russian. Companionships like that are way totally normal. But I've been hoping to be in one, and my top pick was E. Hansen. E. Udy is in Imanta with an E. Reed (don't know him very well), and here's the craziest of all. Daugavpils is a city in Latvia. It is inhabited mostly by Russians. Very few people there speak Latvian primarily. E. Farnsworth is a Latvian-speaking missionary. He was asked by President Dance to start learning Russian this last transfer. He was transferred to Daugavpils. He's not overly thrilled about not being able to use his Latvian much anymore. Poor dude. But, he's thrilled to be the first Latvian in D.pils since a good, long time ago!
Thought really fast: Several people testified of miracles. More than a few of those were what many would say are big miracles (how to do you put miracles into gradients of big or small? They're all miracles...). Anyway, they were the saving of a loved one or self from death. Two of those were a saving from cancer. In each case, that miracle helped them to see God's hand in their lives, and they turned to be more faithful, and to seek to learn more of God. To me, that tender mercy of comfort was a miracle. I want you all to know that God, our Father in heaven, is a "God of miracles" (Alma 37: 40). Take a look at the folling verses. Miracles come through faith on His name. Remember that faith is more than saying "I believe." Faith requires action and a trust. Faith is actually quite a complete package, covering every aspect of life. But, see what our faith (sometimes desperate faith) called from a loving Father: Life. Comfort. Love. A second chance at life. A fuller life. A person to teach the gospel to when it seems there isn't one. Please prayerfully consider the following passages:
Ether 12: 12, 18; Moroni 7: 27, 35; Acts 2: 22 (remember Joseph Smith and miracles wrought to him--the Book of Mormon itself being a great example); Mormom 9: 10-11, 15, 19-20. Read Moroni 7, Mormon 9, and Ether 12 in their entirety. There are powerful teachings about miracles, and the faith that leads to them. I know that these are true principles. I know, because of the Spirit of the Lord God, the these things are true, that God works by miracles today, and that He loves us.
I love you all! Keep reading and praying, and God will grant you even more knowledge (2 Nephi 28: 30), and so it will continue your whole life. Come, and receive what your Father offers in fullness!!!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 1: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Jāņi, Baptisms, MEAT!, Baptist Church

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 3:58 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Ligo/Jāņi, Baptisms, MEAT!, Baptist Church

Hey. 121,532 steps this week (94.74KM)! That's quite a beefy distance!

Pictures: Top: These are the stuffed peppers that Elder Spears made. They are stuffed with broccoli, cheese, onion, and spices. They were WAY good, and everybody loved them!

Next: Also at our Līgo celebration: This is me being Zacchaeus from the New Testament. It was kinda fun. I was acting out waiting for Christ again, after I had changed. The kids liked it.
Third: This is the group in Iecava celebrating Līgo. From left to right: Spears, Farnsworth, President Lepešs, Elizebeth (their daughter), Ilze Lepeša, in the back there is Māsa Šulca (at whose house we are), then me, and Udy. The girl in front is Rebeka and the little one is Anja, and the lady in the very front is Māsa Janoviča. Rebeka and Anja are her daughters. She also has a son who was there, but he ran out of the picture, so we don't have Jazeps in there at all. It was really fun. These people are AMAZING!!!

Last: Us digging a ditch-type thing at the Baptist church. Left to right: Udy, Farnsworth, Spears, and Briggs (the Baptist preacher).

Q+A from last week:

This week was a lot better. Almost everything was resolved or I felt a great peace about it. It's been really good. President Senkāns with his wife came for church and gave a killer talk, and President Dance came down for our district meeting, so it seems that all knew we needed some extra something. And all the members of my district are now more focused, and have a goal to stay that way. Rad.

I think our landlady is desperate for money, and she knows, because our church has a good reputation here, that we'll hold up to our end of the bargain. She's Jewish, it turns out, and she's way nice. There are people here who are doing OK financially, but they are definitely in the minority. Actually, most people could survive, if they just budgeted and thought about what they did with their money before they acted. And didn't waste so much of their money on alcohol and cigarettes.

Our new apartment is on the first and a half floor (meaning it's a slightly elevated first floor), there is no elevator at all, and it's right by the church. We changed because the apartment we were in was really gross (floors were sick, and the bathroom was less-than-savory), and because we could get better now that the economy here is bad. Basically, we could live wherever we wanted, because practically everybody needs money, and would accept almost anything we offered for their place. I've only met two of our neighbors--people here aren't overly friendly that way. In America, when you move in someplace you spend some time getting to know the neighbors. That doesn't really happen here. But one, when I was coming in, saw I was a missionary and asked, "Do you have an invitation to be here?" I said, "Yes." He asked, "Who?" I said, "In number one." "Oh, well then, good luck!" The other neighbor was a nice older Latvian lady that I helped carry a bunch of stuff up to the fourth floor.

And from this week:
The branch activity was amazing! More details on that later. Ligo/Jani is basically a two-day drunken fest. The entire country almost is shut down on the 24th (excepting some of the huge stores, like Maxima and Rimi and some random places...most transport still runs a little bit, too), and everything closes early on the 23rd. You could say the whole country just closes down, yes. It seems to only be in Latvia. I mean, they celebrate it in other countries, but in the Baltic States, it is by far the biggest deal in Latvia.

Maxima is an interesting store. Basically, they still do things here like they did in the Soviet times--little grocery stores. But they now have a bit of capitalism in a communist application--they have little versons of Maxima and Rimi and Iki and the like, along with a lot of little stand-alone stores. These resemble most gas stations in America. Then they have mid-sized stores for the big-name places (for Maxima it's the XX, the rest keep the name the same), and these are like convenience stores. And then you have the Hyper-veikali (hyper stores), XXX Maximas and the like. These are like superstores in America, and the XXX in Pļavniekos in Rīgā feels just like a Walmart--capitalistic, and only cares about you because you have money. (Jordan's mom says--Jordan has strong feelings about Walmart-type stores ")).They have basically everything that is available, and some things you can't get elsewhere. And because it feels like a warehouse made into a store, things are cheaper there. That's how stores here go.
They do not have anything like Slurpees. And their doughnuts would cause any doughnut-loving soul to cringe at the pathetic imitation. But, there is one place in Rīgā on Aleksandra Čaka iela that sells Virtuļi--doughnuts. And those are basically jelly-filled doughnuts that are better in my opinion than anything I've eaten from Krispy Kream, or however you spell that place that people go all goo-goo for their doughnuts. Something in that last sentence was gramatically wrong, but I can't figure it out. Ladna. Moving on.

So, Jāņi. The Līgo activity went well. We had 11 people, including the branch president from Rīga center. He's so good. Anyway, we ate delectable stuffed peppers, while everyone else had Šošliki. Also, I jumped through the fire (it's supposed to be over, but I decided to jump over it when it was still really high), and the conversation was great. I love the branch here!! We even made it home safely from Māsas Šulcas place. Afterwards, finding people to teach was weird, because there were so many people elsewhere. But, not bad.

So, our meat fast is over. Now, we'll go back to normal eating habits. It's harder to be creative as a vegetarian sometimes...but it was all good. I just realized that I forgot to write last week about what I ate. Oh's not important enough for me to remember, sorry. But it was basically more of the same/similar from the weeks before.

I'm basically stoked out of my wits. The sisters in Center have been teaching several people for a long time. Ivi. is that amazing girl who has had a really hard time quitting smoking. She just decided to go for it, and she's doing very well!! She'll be baptized in a few weeks!!! And everyting else that she has had problems with have just solved themselves--work on Sunday, family situations, and all else. I'm so excited for her!
Evi. also has been taught for a long time. She hasn't been able to be baptized because she's not married to the man she lives with. She's been waiting for her divorce papers to go through with her husband so that she can marry the guy she's with now. They will be going through in six weeks, and the wedding is all set up. The day after her wedding, she'll be getting baptized. That will be Sister Wilson's last week here in the Baltics. Crazy! But I'm way excited for Evi. also.

Helvijs is a member here. His mother has been investigating the church for years, watching her son go on a mission and all else. I just found out that she's going to be baptized this Saturday!!! That is something I've been waiting for my whole mission!!!
And, our investigator, Agris, has a date for baptism! It'll be the 11th of August. He's a rock-solid guy who is amazing, and he really has thought a lot about what he will do. He's a student from our English class, and he speaks quite well.

So, basically the work is just exploding with all the people that I love and have been praying for for a long time. It couldn't have come at a better time, because last week through this Sunday were really, really hard on me. And now I've witnessed again that if you just stay strong through the hard times, it all works out. My hopes are so high right now, and my faith is going to help me teach so many people!!
Quick note: We went to the Baptist church again, this time to dig a ditch. It was really fun, and we got to talk with the preacher for a while. It was a great Saturday morning, and he's a remarkable fellow. That's him in the last picture on the far right.

My spiritual thought is this: God loves us, and He always has His hands extended towards us. All we need to do is come to Him. It may not be easy--it's never been easy for anybody who is religious. Ask anyone who has faith, and they will tell you that their lives aren't perfect, and that they have problems. However, they have the strength of the Lord to aid them. And when we hold out until the end, we see that we have received the best that we could have. Those who don't believe in God because they have not seen His help or influence in their lives are too impatient, and/or they simply look over the grace of God in offering His help and power to them, and attribute it selfishly to themselves. But I know, now again from personal experience, that persistence in the path of God yields blessings. Great blessings and benefits. And it is thusly with all. So, I again invite you all to keep reading in the Book of Mormon, learn about God, and PRAY TO HIM to know from the Spirit. Without that, all that knowledge is meaningless. It does nothing for you. I again promise you that you, like so many others I have spoken with, WILL RECEIVE AN ANSWER to your prayers. I know this is so. I have lived this. So can you. Try it.

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

July 1th Pics Again for the Baltic Chŗonīcļe

July 1: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Jāņi, Baptisms, MEAT!, Baptist Church