Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sept 2: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Mixin' it up! AMAZING Conference, Investigators, and the Kivadapapple

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 4:59 AM
Subject:Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Mixin' it up! AMAZING Conference, Investigators, and the Kivadapapple

All: 89,857 (70.08 KM).

So, I find that when I write a lot of emails, the longer I go, the less good they get. So, I wanted to start to everyone. This week was amazing. I'm struggling to know if I should go chronologically, or by order of impact......Impact. Here we go.

This Saturday, a prophet, seer, and revelator (karoče--in short, from Russian--an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ) was here. L. Tom Perry, by name. He was accompanied by President Rasband, who is the senior president of the 70 (just like in Christ's time, we now have quorums of 70. See Luke 10: 1, 17), and President Paul, who is the president of the East Europe area. That means that we had a lot of priesthood keys in Rīga this weekend. Add to that the mission president and several branch presidents, as well as Latvia's district president, and you had keys to preside over this part of the world in every single way (about keys: that's the authority to preside over the use of the priesthood. We know that apostles were given this power anciently--Matthew 16: 18-19--and we know that those powers have been restored today. For more info on the integral need for priesthood keys and how to know where they are, read this talk by Elder Holland, called Our Most Distinguishing Feature). The missionary meeting was amazing.

First, they had missionaries from every single country in this mission (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia). That means I saw all my MTC chums from a very long time ago. And I realized something: every single missionary who I have met here has very powerfully influenced me for good. Every one. I recall writing about Sister Wilson a few weeks ago. She indeed had a strong impact on me, for we spent a lot of time serving together. But I felt Saturday that every single missionary here has influenced me as well. In fact, I would say that they have all had almost as powerful an influence on me at one time or another. Starting from the MTC, I began to take the good from those amazing people around me, and that continued with each person with whom I served. The end result is that I am about 5% like I was before I entered the MTC. I have almost completely changed my thoughts, my actions. I still am the same person; I have just been improved to a degree I never thought possible before now. And it is in large measure because of the caliber of missionaries with me. Another very large part is due to the work that I am doing here. You cannot truly serve from your heart to teach people truths of eternity and not be impacted.

The actual talks that these priesthood leaders gave were inspired, and very powerful. I left my notes back home, so I'm just going off of memory (and my memory is a lot worse for who said what when than it used to be). President Paul explained how the Book of Mormon is a filter for missionary work. If somebody won't even consider the Book of Mormon as scripture, or be willing to honestly search it to know, then they are not open enough to the Spirit of God to be taught the gospel. He strongly suggested that we must use the Book of Mormon early and often to understand the readiness of people we teach.
President Rasband explained very nicely about finding people. He said a lot of missionaries have an elevator view of missionary work--they find somebody, teach them, and keep moving up as much as possible, then go back down and find another person. But he suggested an escalator view--we find somebody who is searching for truth, teach them, and while we are teaching them and they are progressing towards God, we still are adding more new people. That way, we always have people to teach. It was cool. Elder Perry talked about how missionary work hasn't really changed. He went through what he had as a missionary--the 13 Articles of Faith. He showed how those teach the same things that we now teach from Preach My Gospel, the missionary handbook. He also talked a lot about the importance of companions, and the power that is only found in a companionship. He spoke not only of missionary companionships, but also marriages, and organizational heads (like presidencies or bishoprics), and how it's critical that we have unity and companionship in those groups, because we are much more together as one than combined, but separate. He's a really good speaker, and was very fun to listen to. He also has really good humor.

Then we took a mission photo. That'll be the first picture. That is every missionary in the Baltics. What an amazing group! The last picture is one that I had taken of us all in the chapel in Rīga center. It's quite a view! But, some people aren't in the pic. Sorry...I've got a cheap, old camera. And some people still hadn't gotten there yet, so...moving on.

Then, we rushed to Jelgava, ate with the other elders here, and then drove back up with four people--three investigators and a member. We were joined later by a few more members in Rīga. We went to the World Trade Center, (yes, there's one of those here too) to the conference room, and we arrived about two minutes ahead of the general authorities there. So, we greeted them and invited them in at the doors.

When I walked in, I had a very, very sacred experience. I will share it in part with you. I ask that you do not taint it in any way. That hall seats about 450-500. Every seat was full before the meeting started. And there were still people for whom there was no seat. That means that there was from 450 to 550 people there. There were almost 200 from Estonia and Lithuania. That means that they traveled more than 12 hours to get here. I could feel their faith when I entered. And seeing the hundreds of Latvians who I have grown to love with all my heart in my short time here, I was again overpowered by emotions of love and joy. I have never been so carried away by emotions before in my life. Especially when I saw many members who used to not come to church, and told me that they won't be coming back, or those who had problems keeping them from enjoying full activity in the church. There were many such at this meeting. That caused my aforementioned emotions and spirit to soar still higher. I have had powerful spiritual or emotional experiences like that before, but never to this magnitude. I didn't even know what to do, and the Spirit was burning inside of me like only twice before in my life that I can remember. If ever I had doubts about the truthfulness of this work--they were all obliterated, and were counted as an ice cube in the hypocenter of a thermonuclear blast. Karoče, they evaporated. I have never felt that much collective faith before, either. I would venture to say that the experience cannot be paralleled with anything I have lived through in my short life up to this point.

Furthermore, while these inspired men and their wives spoke, to my mind came concerns, questions, and problems that I know are brooding in the hearts of the members. I have spent a lot of time working with the members. I know those things, at least to a shallow degree. And I felt that what they were saying was led by the Spirit, for they answered every question or concern, and discussed every problem that I knew about. I knew without even the slightest doubt that those men are called of God, that this is truly Jesus Christ's church. It is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There's a reason that the Lord called His church that in these days. It truly is His church, first of all. It was stressed more than once that He is the head, and He leads the church, not the apostles or other leaders. They are the instruments through which God works. Then, the members, if they truly understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are saints (see Mosiah 3: 19 and cross-references from that verse). And these are, as the scriptures call them, the latter days, or the last days (Acts 2: 17 (I know people here who have dreamed dreams, and who have seen visions. This is truth, my friends), 2 Timothy 3: 1-5 (I have also seen all of this personally, first hand. cf. Joseph Smith History 1: 18-19. This is when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph in answer to his prayer), and you can find many more through the Topical Guide under TG Last Days). Thus, it is His church, His saints, in the last days before His coming again unto the earth.

I will now move on to other things. Suffice it to say that Saturday was a good day.

So was Sunday. We taught about temples, and even though only one of the members I was planning to teach it to was there, she left saying that the class not only helped her understand, but totally explained why the temple was important! And some of our investigators are just FLYING forward. I have never seen people so willing to change their lives to accord with God's counsel. I was pleased.

We also lost Elder Gray to America. This means that Elder Brown and I are the oldest Latvians left in the mission. And our days are numbered. That's a little nerve-wracking. We got an amazing elder here in Jelgava to replace Gray--Elder Johnson. He came out with Elder Wendelboe, so this is his second transfer. But he speaks Latvian better than some in the group before him. He understands how to tear words apart to get their meaning, and he's ready to go! He also teaches quite well. He's now my companion. So, Elder Thompson, I loved our time together, short though it was! I'm really excited to serve with him! So, E. Thompson is with E. Wendelboe, and I'm with E. Johnson.

As an announcement: I am no longer group leader here in Jelgava. Elder Carson, a senior couple missionary here with his wife also in charge of the education stuff here, is the new group leader. I am his counselor! I'm way stoked to not have all that mess to worry about!!! I can just get out and work! It's great!

I feel very strongly that I should mention this. I don't really like to talk about things like this. But, as the Spirit directs, so shall I do. With powerful spiritual experiences comes the strength to face larger challenges. We had two meetings this week that left a great impression on me. One was with a pair of very sad, pitiful people who were so addicted to narcotics, alcohol, and crime that they could not break free. When we asked one not to drink or use drugs until the next morning (that would be some 16 hours) he told me that if he didn't use those things, he would die. He was very serious. And very convinced. He told us he wants more than anything to break free of those things. But when his dad handed him a bottle of beer shortly after his apgalvojums (affirmation), he could not stop himself from drinking from it. I knew for a fact that they were under the captive power of Satan, and they couldn't free themselves. They need the infinite power of deliverance through Christ (see Alma 7: 13), but they need to begin to repent to receive it (see Helaman 5: 10-12).
The other one was with an investigator. Remember the weight lifter? After a month, we finally were able to teach him again. When he opened his door to let us in, I...uh...nobijos. I was afraid. He was literally surrounded by a dark force that was dragging him down and destroying him. I could feel the corrosive power. And so does he. By the time we finished talking, the terrifying energy had left him, and he was visibly different. He had allowed the spirit to work on him. But I not only know that God's power surpasses anything else, but I know that man is not, by himself, strong enough to stand against the power of the enemy of all righteousness (Alma 34: 23). If you'd like, you may go read about Saturday again. That leaves a much better feeling.

In other news, I added another interesting fruit to my list. In Latvian, it's called a Pitaija. No idea what it is in English. We decided it was a pineapple crossed with a kiwi, and then the inner skin was like an avocado--really soft and slimy. So, we called it the Kivadapapple! You'll see what I mean when you look at the picture. It basically tasted like a kiwi, but less strong, so it really didn't have any flavor at all. I mashed it up, and added some sugar to make a jam-like thing. Then I had a peanut-butter and kivadapapple-jelly sandwich! It was really good.

We're also looking for a new, bigger building for church meetings in Jelgava. Wish us luck!

G.: Not quite serious, but he's going. I'm sure he's learning, but he's not really applying. Probably going to have to let him go soon. Sigh.
An.: Amazing! He changed his diet, and everything else. Elder Thompson now teaches him. He came to the conference, and he felt something as well. He also had really good thoughts and some things became clear to him during church on Sunday.
I and E.: Also came to the conference. They had a very good experience as well, and they are moving along quite well. E. is a little bored of spiritual things sometimes, but otherwise all is well. There may be some difficulties with I.'s boyfriend--let's pray for them, eh?
Ag.: Acting, but very slowly. I'm not sure how to help him progress. He's doing things, but I feel he's not really progressing. Odd, huh?
V.: He's the weight lifter. He feels he cannot overcome the negative influence of his workplace. We tried to help him see that he can. It's been a battle. Pray very hard for him, please.
Kids: So, we had several random meetings with kids who just walked up to us. It was really good! Hopefully, they'll be able to meet with us again later this week! There's more of a story here, but I've been here way too long typing what I feel I had to type.

I love you all! Have an amazing week, and keep reading! God will answer your inquiry about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

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