Thursday, July 31, 2014

Two sons in the Mission Field

Well, I just received Nate's email. He's arrived safe and sound to his destination at the Argentina MTC. Everything went great in preparation to his drop-off at the airport. It was an early morning, but we did it. We really all felt so much excitement and cheer. Some of the children commented on how our family just chooses to be happy rather than sad. Of course I shed a few tears, but more so felt proud and blessed. We celebrated as a family at one of our favorite restaurants after his setting apart as an Elder the night before. Pictures, hugs, good-byes, and more pictures were taken. In the morning on the way to the airport I had to laugh that Nate was still watching "The District."  This was the last requirement on his to-do list in the missionary booklet to prepare for this mission. Ha Ha

Still watching "The District!!"

Three other Elders traveled with him to Argentina. They all looked so happy and yes, I admit very young. The church is true. It's a phenomenon to me that a bunch of young men can bring the light and truthfulness of the gospel to the world. It's because the message is true. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and it is what converts people to this wonderful gospel. Jesus is the Christ and this is his church.

Monday, July 28, 2014

more meaning now

whoops I forgot to forward this to y'all last week... sorry (last week's lupdate)
So, this week we had transfers and Elder White got transferred (he just finished his 12 weeks of training so we weren't too surprised). I'm training another companion now. He is so awesome! His name is Elder Theis. He is a great teacher and has great desires and loves to work and wants to work hard and is willing to be obedient (from what I've seen, if you get two missionaries together with those things they always get along and things go great). I'm excited for the next 12 weeks with him. We've loved things so far this week! We've seen a lot of great things happen already. On thursday we had dinner with some members in the ward named the Garcias. They are awesome! They are Peruvian and don't speak a lot of English, but I don't know if I have met more loving, hospitable, Christlike people on my mission. They are so nice. When we come in their apartment they immediately have us sit down and they are always laughing or smiling when they talk and then they set up the table just for 2 (me and my companion--I don't know exactly why only us, I think it has something to do with the culture), then they are just so polite and nice. When we share our lesson with them they listen carefully trying to understand our English but they feel the Spirit and are so grateful to us for sharing it. They have amazing testimonies. Whenever we leave Sister Garcia says, "wait, wait..." then she runs into her kitchen and makes a snack bag with water, granola bars, and pudding or something else in them and gives them to us. I imagine that God's Kingdom will feel in many ways like their home does, full of people like them and like many of the great people I get to know out here and know back home. Anyway, they're amazing! We had a cool miracle the other day. We were walking over to one of our investigator's houses to give here a Book of Mormon on CD because she has difficulty reading at her age (her name is Virginia and she's preparing for baptism pretty soon), and we came across a parking lot and a lady got dropped off by a car that then drove away and we talked with her and she started telling us how she was just telling her friend in the car about God and how she needed him in life right now. Then she remembered she forgot her keys in the car and hurried and called her friend and asked her to bring back the keys in her car. She then hung up and told us to follow her back. We went back and the when her friend got out of the car she said, "alright, thanks. Now you guys can talk, I'll see you later." We started talking to her friend and she said that she has been pretty depressed in life and felt confused and needed guidance. She told us that she was pretty amazed that she was talking to us at that time because she had prayed the night before for the first time in two years that she would be able to find some kind of help or guidance. Prayer works and God blesses us with miracles. Those are two things that have really been confirmed to me this past week. We've seen a lot of other miracles this week. One member we had asked to join us at a lesson and he had a lot of complications come up with his car so he fixed one thing and another came up until it got to a point that he rode his bike to meet us at our lesson. (he's awesome and really loyal obviously) He told us when he got there, "I told you I'd be here so I just decided to pull out the bike." It had been raining the day before and most of that day, but he said he was praying that even though a lot of things went wrong that while he did what he could and rode his bike that the rain could hold off long enough to get to where he needed to go. When we walked over to our appointment we walked up and knocked on the door and as soon as we got under the side of the roof of the house the rain just started pouring down. It was kind of funny but amazing. Sometimes it may seem insignificant to one person hearing these but in a personal experience of them they mean everything to you. 
Life is great. I love my mission. I love my companion. I love this ward and the members in it. I love y'all.
love, Elder Russell

This week was amazing. Something we've been doing as a mission is we've been trying to have a prayer each day that lasts at least 15 minutes. Honestly, prayer has been something that I have struggled with a little bit--not the part of actually saying the prayer, rather, the understanding of why we need to pray and how to pray and what the purpose of it is. I've really pondered about prayer and about God and His plan and I couldn't understand exactly why an Omnipotent, Omniscient God, who governs all things, would be influenced in any way by a mortal, imperfect, person who not only lacks knowledge, but judgement as well. I figured that to say that God is governed by or influenced by the prayers of us would be to say that He wouldn't be sufficient to produce and fulfill this perfect plan that He has made. Anyway, these and many thoughts have really occupied my mind a lot throughout my mission and I couldn't make sense of a lot of things. I tried to keep doing it because the Spirit has directed me that it is good and it is right although I don't completely understand it. But as I have participated in this challenge of our mission--to pray daily with at least one prayer that lasts for 15 minutes or longer, I have developed a more intimate and personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and my prayers have become less of a checklist and less of a series of rote statements that are repeated without meaning day after day and night after night; instead, now I have begun to talk to Him in a way that I would talk to a friend. He is our Father, I know He wants to hear us and that's one of the biggest ways that we can establish and build a relationship with him. I wouldn't say that I had serious problems with prayer and that I wasn't doing it before, I prayed a lot every day--I gained so much from my prayers throughout my mission and without them I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I'm at and I wouldn't be anything close to who I am--but my prayers have really improved. They have more meaning now. I was recently reading in Ether 3:2 where it says, "O Lord, though hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires." I think Prayers play a necessary role in us exercising faith and gaining strength and gaining blessings and help in our lives. I noticed that we really were led a lot this week and as we prayed to be led to those who needed our help it really happened. On saturday we ended up biking down a rode that we don't travel on much and we hardly ever have biked on it, but as we rode down the rode we ran across a less-active women who was having a really hard day. She had her phone broken and a few other things come up including a really deep cut on her hand that had happened earlier that day and she showed us and it definitely needed stitches. a lot of things had happened that day and she had work pretty soon and she was so stressed out and crying and we were able to help her and everything ended up working out. It was such a miracle to be in the exact right place at the exact right time. I love this gospel and I know that prayer works and God knows each of us. 
-love y'all, Elder Russell

Monday, July 14, 2014

the room got brighter

Well a lot of things happened this week and it went by really fast! Time is flying by!
So, Jeremy has gone through a lot this past week. Sunday he was doing great. A couple days past and he heard some things about the church from some people that weren't positive towards the church and he was confused and he texted us asking for the address of the temple. He went up the next day and was able to talk to some of the temple workers. They answered some of his questions that he asked. He obviously wasn't able to go in and he was still confused after that and headed over to family who lived nearby the temple. They told him a lot of things negative about the church and they don't really like the church. He called us and we tried to help him. We prayed so much. Elder White and I didn't realize how much we cared about Jeremy until this week. It's so sad seeing something like that happen--someone so pure and doing so good be influenced by evil or have confusion brought into their life through such trials. We each prayed often for him with everything we had. We lined up a time for him to join us at a member's home for dinner and to talk. We were eating with him and were able to help him feel the Spirit again. We had a testimony meeting and the Spirit came in. Jeremy at one point during dinner said, "why would I leave such a good church?" After the testimonies sister walde (one of the members) needed a blessing so we helped her husband give it to her. I wondered what Jeremy would feel or think because he hadn't seen a blessing before. I prayed that he'd be able to understand the spiritual significance of them and that he'd feel the Spirit. After the blessing he told us, "during that I felt that the room got brighter. I seemed to see a light grow from y'all until it hit the ceiling." The power of the Priesthood is true. (James 5:14-15) On Saturday I we later found out how Jeremy had been thinking a lot and still taking everything in. He told us yesterday, "I was driving around on Saturday and I got really lost. I didn't know where to go and you know how you told me to think about things and pray intently about them? I did that. And I asked God to help me find my way home. I felt better every turn I took and as I continued I noticed I ended up at a church and I got closer and saw it was the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." We told him how God loved him and we talked about what a miracle and clear answer to his prayer that was. So there were a lot of miracles with him this week.
There were a lot of miracles in addition. After one lesson we had we opened the door to leave the appointment and first people we saw were struggling to lift a heavy couch. The younger of the two (who was the son) said, "hey dad look it's some of your friends" (we later found out this was a less-active member we didn't know about). We were able to help them out. It feels so good to be at the right place at the right time. God is so loving and perfect that He gives us little and big assurances like these to give us confidence and enable our faith (alma 58:11; cf. Heb. 11:1).
Well I don't have time to write more but I love y'all and hope you have a great week!
Elder Russell

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

prayers from y'all

This week we had Jeremy's confirmation and he is amazing! It was fast and testimony meeting and he was one of the first to go up and bare his testimony. He is on fire! I love him. He's taught me so much about what a true conversion is and what a true disciple of Christ is like. he's so willing to help others and has such a pure heart. He received the Priesthood on Sunday and was ordained to the office of a Priest. He's so fun to have around and the ward loves him. He just got called as a ward missionary as well. He came and helped clean the church on Saturday and is just a blessing in so many ways. We're looking forward to going to the temple with him to do baptisms soon. 
The fourth of July was great. We ate dinner with an awesome family and they made ribs and then we ate ribs on saturday too (God bless Texas). We also had zone meeting this week and it went great! It's amazing how much other people's testimonies can strengthen you and help you. 
Elder White and I are loving this area. Things are going so good. It's a good time of year. I can't believe it's already July! 
We had a really great lesson last night with a man who has an active member wife and his daughter also has a strong testimony and is a member. They're all really great people. We talked about forgiveness and then his daughter bore strong testimony to him. He's really close to joining but he still just is waiting for a witness or assurance that's strong enough for him to lean on. He's not a very "spiritual guy" he says. He hasn't had very many dramatic experiences yet he's a really strong christian in a methodist church. He could really use some prayers from y'all. His name is Brother Tincher. 
Well I gotta get going. love ya'll!
Elder Russell