From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 6:32 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Last Week's Tales, New Tales, Exciting Tales of All Kinds, Randomness, and Trials
All: Whew! So, we're 108,641 steps (84.73KM) farther than last week.
We'll start with the catch-up from last week: We were walking out to an area called "Satiksmes." We, naturally, were talking to everybody that we met on the way. And one guy, a "čigān" (gypsy-man) invited us to their "place." He walked about a block with us to a little camp, wherein were a bunch of čigāni. They had built themselves a bathhouse (sauna) (pirts in Latvian), and the guy there invited us into the sauna for a little bit, and it was a lot nicer than any sauna that I've been in before. Diemžēl, we can't go back and use it again. But he said that we're all welcome, any time, to come and share in the word of God, for they are all religious there. We haven't yet taken him up on that, but we will, no worries. It was just so random...
Then, I think that same night, we knocked into an old lady who invited us in. She was in tears as she told us that her dēliņš (little son--son in diminutive) was dead. He was found dead some time ago. She's still really sad about it. Her name was Anasta.. There was also a lady named Mar. there, who was interested in a Book of Mormon in Russian. So, while I taught the more 'with-it' Mar., my comp talked with Anasta.. She wound up loving him so much that she pulled out a bunch of silver spoons and gave him three, then realized that he had a friend with him, and gave me one. She also gave him a spring-scale for up to 10KG that she made with her dear son. So, probably one of the last keep-sakes of her deceased son she gave to my comp. It was, overall, one of the most interesting lessons I have ever taught: one lady who's a little tipsy, but still thinkin' alright sitting on the bed, another lady bursting into random tears and giving us all kinds of keepsakes, telling my comp how much he looked like her son. Way interesting.
Then, the day that the Čakstes party was going on, we went out to find people to teach. Now, I want to use this story to testify to the power of prayer, and especially the prayer of faith. We were knocking, and hadn't had any success or even nice people for a few floors (not unusual), but I was starting to feel a little hopeless. So, I, in prayer, told my Heavenly Father that I knew there was somebody in this stairwell waiting for us, because we had felt prompted to knock in that building. So, we kept going. I told the Lord that I needed help focusing, so that when we found that person, I'd be ready to teach. And, as soon as I finished my prayer, Ines. opened the door. She cheerfully invited us in. She pacienāja us with cookies and tea and was spiritually minded, and ready to accept that there may be a prophet today. She told us that she'd pray about it. She's way nice, and looks as though she will prove to be a great strength to the church here. She's tough to meet with, though, since she's a cop (like Viesturs), but we'll work something out.
So...that's from last week. Q+A from this week: We're moving because I'm the assistant group leader, and our current apartment is actually quite scary in the dark (since there are no lights in the back and there are often drunks), so we'll be moving to the basically-safer area wherein the new church is located. I'm not too happy to tell the nice landlady of ours that we'll have to leave, but we'll try to work out a compromise so that she still doesn't get hosed.
4713: From the bridge going into Aizupes (just a little farther than Ozolnieki). It was a gorgeous day, and the river was calm and the scene unbelievably quaint.
4740: The same view, but that night as we walked back to the bus stop (we decided to walk to the stop across the river, hoping that another bus would come by there. We wound up having to take a taxi, but had a very good conversation with a nice lady who is interested in English and probably in the Gospel--I couldn't tell...)
4761: This is a funny ad hanging up at bus stops. We couldn't help ourselves...
4767: We found this behind a bunch of domes (mājas), and again, we couldn't help ourselves.
Then, we found a very interesting person this week. Mār., by name. He's 100% sure that the Book of Mormon is authentic, citing about eight other cases where metal plates have been found containing ancient writings. He talked also of Hebrew carvings that were found in South America, and it's obvious from some other half-dozen factors that they were a holy, God-fearing people. He, when we showed him the Book of Mormon, and he opened it to check its spiritual value, he was surprised. He said, "It doesn't matter to which page I open, when I put my hand over it, it burns my hand! I don't want to blaspheme, but I believe this book is more powerful than the Bible!" He then told us how large its spiritual aura was, and how large our auras were. It was quite interesting, because he also said that there is a feeling about our churches (meaning the people in the church) and church buildings that he has not felt anywhere else before. And that he verily believes that we have the most powerful force out of anything he has ever encountered. He's a seeker of spiritual knowledge and a hunter of spiritual artifacts, by the way, so he knows far more about more churches than I ever thought anybody would know.
P.S. he LOVED the Doctrine and Covenants, too.
Other than that...we've started up visiting teaching here in Jelgava. There are two programs of immense importance in the church--we call them Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching. Home teaching is done by the priesthood, and visiting teaching is done by the women. It's basically the same thing: two people from the congregation visit another family or two in the congregation and find out how they're doing, teach a spiritual lesson, and are available to help if the family ever needs anything. This is the way that the Lord has provided for the saints to care for one another and strengthen one another. We haven't enough priesthood to start home teaching, but we just started visiting teaching. So, since it is just beginning, my companion and I went with Māsa Šulca visiting teaching--yes, we were visiting teachers. Cool, huh? Overall, it went pretty well.
Another exciting tale: there is a tirdziņš (little store) just across from our apartment, and while looking at it quickly before we went in, I found something I've been searching for my whole mission: a Latvian-to-Latvian dictionary (like the ones in English that explain English words in English)!! I quickly bought it! And, I found a thesaurus, which is another thing that I've been hunting for for a long time.
I can also add Tīrkultūra to my list of interesting things I've put in my mouth. That translates to "pure culture," whatever that is. It's a milk based product that has fruit in it. It tasted a little bit like kefirs (rotted milk), but not as strong, and I actually liked it.
Now, on to my spiritual thought:
I am frequently asked a question similar to the following: "How can God exist if there is so much bad in the world?" The question is asked as though God, if He really existed and loved us, would never allow anything bad to ever happen to us. So, since bad happens, many narrowly think that means there is no God, which supposition is quite far from reality. I tell people asking/stating this that God does exist, and that He loves them as He loves me, and that He desires to help. They almost always make some gesture or sound that shows that they cannot believe such things about God. I hope that with the following explanation, it will be clearer.
First, Christ knows exactly how we feel. He has "borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 53: 3-5). He has literally felt all of those things--including physical, emotional, and spiritual pains and discomforts (Alma 7: 11). Why? So that He will know, physically, truly, how we feel. It allows Christ to be even more merciful--because He's not just sympathetic, but empathetic (Alma 7: 12). By "descend[ing] below all things" (D&C 88: 6), Christ gained power over all those things (Alma 7: 13) and understands all those things (D&C 88: 6). Thus, because of the atonement of Christ--His suffering for all our sins, weaknesses, temptations, and His overcoming death, as well--we all have the ability to repent, change, and improve (Mosiah 3: 19; Helaman 14: 15-17) if we will follow His will and repent (Helaman 14: 18; Helaman 5: 11; D&C 19: 16-19).
Now, from a God who would allow One of His children--Christ--to suffer so much for us, so that through Him we can overcome our weaknesses, we can expect nothing that is going to be for our ill. Everything God does, and all that happens to us, helps us learn and grow (2 Nephi 2: 2). But, people are not perfect (Romans 3: 23), and often cause others to suffer. And often, bad things just happen--we live in a world that is imperfect. We all have a lot of problems and unpleasant occurrences (in Latvian called nepatikšanas), but we don't need to worry--God is there to support us (Psalms 34: 19, 17; Exodus 3: 7-8). Remember, we have no reason to fear, for Christ has overcome the world (John 16: 33) . Knowing this, we can trust God, and He will deliver and support us(Alma 36: 3; 2 Nephi 4: 18-20).
These things (nepatikšanas) happen so we can learn, perfect ourselves, and grow. God uses such times to refine us. Gold and silver are heated in a furnace to very high temperatures when they are refined. This heat allows the impurities (dross) to be separated out, and then removed, leaving behind the pure metal. We are likened to precious metals, and God is the refiner (Malachi 3: 2-3). Sin and imperfection is the dross (Zechariah 13: 9). God can and will deliver us from that furnace, if we have faith in Him (Daniel 3: 17, 23-28, Mormon 8: 23-24). Thus, God uses moments when we can grow to improve us and refine us (Ezekiel 22: 17-22).
These problems we have come from our choices, what life gives us, and what people do against us. If we keep our faith--or trust--that God will help us, and if we do all we can, then God can bless us and delivers us (Alma 4: 12-14). During hardships, we can pray for help to endure them. Note in the following prayer that the prophet Alma doesn't pray that he'll have no trials, but for strength to endure trials WHEN they come (Alma 31: 33, 35, 37-38). We will have afflictions (D&C 24: 8), but our loving Father is with us; if we do not forget Him and remain constant in our actions, He helps us palpably (Jacob 3: 1-2).
How many of us have prayed like Joseph Smith did in prison (D&C 121: 1-6)? That is, prayed that God would change everything for us or for others. The Lord's response is very instructive (D&C 121: 7-15). "Afflictions shall be but a short moment." And the persecutors will receive justice (D&C 121: 24-25).
Two stories to illustrate how this works. First, from the Bible:
Acts 12: 1-11; Acts 16: 22-26. Granted, these are two stories, but they are very similar. Note their feeling. Note the displays of faith from the church and from the Apostles themselves (remember faith in=confidence and trust in). God delivers them. They still have some unpleasant things that happen to them (like getting beaten with many stripes or guarded by 16 men), but because of their faith and steadiness, God delivers them.
The second is a little more illustrative, so there is a lot more detail in it. These people strongly believed in God. They had already fled from a wicked king who would have had them all killed. But still, bad things happened to these people.
Mosiah 24: 9-24. I want to point out that God did not free them immediately--but He did visit them in their afflictions, and strengthened them. And because they never lost their trust and continued strong, God delivered them.
I end with the following from God to the prophet Joseph Smith, while he was in prison: D&C 122: 5-7. Wow! Those are horrible, horrible things. But they will be consecrated for his good (2 Nephi 2: 2). Then follows this powerful statement: D&C 122: 8. Again, wow! And God comforts His son: D&C 122: 9.
I know that we will have afflictions and trials, and that we all have weaknesses. I also know, that God knows this. If we allow Him to use these opportunities to help us grow, then we will become more godlike with each affliction. That is why Paul gloried in affliction (2 Corinthians 12: 8-10). I know that God will strengthen us and support us. And I know that He does. Faith really does call forth miracles. I have seen that in just the last week or so plentifully, and I know it to be true. And I have felt His patience and love while I struggle with weaknesses, addictions, and problems. He does help us overcome.
Keep reading, working your faith, and growing. God lives. If you don't know that for sure yet, you can find out!
Ar mīlestību (With love),
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