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
( >/°¥< )

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