Sunday, October 26, 2008

We got pics!

Dear Family,

Happy Birthday Jonathan! Sorry I couldn´t do anything for you yesterday, but I wish you a happy birthday now. You are now 15. Que bueno! In only one year, you´ll start entering the world of adult life. Becoming excited for the ability to drive and to date? It is still a year away, no need to fear just yet. I hope the day went great, that you not only received good presents, but received of the love of your family and friends. I send my love as well. The messages that I sent you in the birthday card of last year still apply. Continue to grow into the wonderful man you will become, for a wonderful boy surely has the potential to grow into a wonderful man. Once again, good luck with school. I have to say, especially Spanish because I of all people know how hard it is to learn another language. Have a great year and enjoy your time. I give you my love my brother.

Ok, now for the rest of my letter. Just in case it wasn´t known before, I can receive letters from anyone outside of Buenos Aires. And I´d love to receive letters from people (especially from a few people I know at BYU right now). To let you know, works here. Every district meeting (Wednesday) we receive the letters that were sent to the office, whether by DearElder, pouch, or other means. I guess since it seems like the delay of mail is three weeks, I might start receiving mail tomorrow…I hope. And I can respond to anyone who mails me, although I have to have another Elder in my district mail it out for me. I don´t have much time to write, so I might have to pick and choose who I write each week. Sorry, forgive me. Oh, and by the way, I think I asked for this once before, but haven´t heard anything yet, Could I have the addresses of some other family members, especially of my Augason cousins? I`m sure they would all like to hear from me. (I´m sure you also have made known the work of Jessica to many people as well).

The mission has so many ups and downs throughout every day it is hard to keep up. I haven´t experienced so many emotions in my life. One minute I´m happy and bright, the next frustrated, and then feeling good about everything, all in the same day, sometimes in the same hour. It´s exhausting. Actually, so much more about the mission is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting, but yet there is always that little bit more to help me continue. I know that the Lord continues to support me and that I´ll have so many experiences here to learn from and to grow and everything. Things still aren´t perfect with my companion, but I´m working on it, trying to love him. One of the things I realized is that I do need this experience to prepare me for my future companion because I know things won´t always go perfectly, so I´m learning now how to try my best to get along with someone whom I didn´t choose and someone I have an extremely difficult time communicating with. So, what I learn from him, I can put into practice in the future.

I know that the Spirit helps to teach people, but also that when people are on the verge of gaining more Spiritual knowledge, Satan works so much harder against them too. We found a lady, Natividad, last week that was very accepting of everything we taught, very excited about it. She told us that she believed all of our words and kept asking when she could go to church. She told us that everytime we came by to teach, she felt so much better about all the difficulties in her life. She came to an open house of the church on Saturday and many of the relief society members showed her around and introduced her to what happens in the church. We´re not sure what happened, but she didn´t come to church on Sunday (it is slightly frustrating when none of your investigators come to church, the most important part of the week) and we passed by that night and she told us that she didn´t want to have anything to do with us anymore, that she is Catholic and doesn´t want to change. We´re going to pass by her sometime soon to offer our love and to see if we can resolve any doubts and fears that she has because we know how blessed the Gospel will be in her life.

Sunday was Mother´s day here in Argentina, so my companion called his family. He still has 5 months, but he said they all talked about preparing for his return. I talked with you all three weeks ago, which was nice. I´m looking forward to the call in two months.

The climate here is a lot like Louisville I´d have to say. It is Spring time and the weather is different every day. Last week it was a little chilly. I carried around the inner lining of my coat with me (at least half of the northamerican missionaries have that exact same coat. Mr. Mac´s earn a killing off of it.). Yesterday, it was probably about 75 or so, a little hot in the sun all day. Yes I try to put on sun protector (because I´ve realized here that when I don´t, I get really itchy rashes). And right now, it is a bit stormy. Today, while getting a hair cut, the barber told me that they get the warm climate of the north and the cold climate of the south, so it is always different. That is exactly what I say about the climate of Louisville. It gets the cold winds of Canada, and the warm winds of the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, also, we had a time change on Sunday, so I think I am now 3 hrs different then you because we had to set the time forward an hour, where you put it back an hour. (How terrible to lose an hour of sleep on Mother´s Day!)

As I´ve said, I know that this work is moving forward with the help of the Lord. We are the weakest of the Earth going forth to serve. I still can´t understand a lot of what is being said, nor can I speak very quickly or very well (but I do see some improvement…I think). But, I take comfort in the words of Moroni in Ether 12…I want to say 27, that we are given weaknesses to be humble, but that our weaknesses will be made strong. I know how deeply I need the Savior´s help in this work and in my life in general. And I know he fulfils all of his promises, thus I know that I will have His help. Also, I know that I and you are being blessed through this work. My favorite section of the Doctrine and Covenants, section 6, has a promise towards the end that we are blessed when we are rejected. But they are blessed when they accept and we reap of the joy and fruits of our labors. I can´t wait to see what experiences I have ahead of me to see of the greatness of our Lord and I will try to put forth all of mi “corazón, alma, mente, y fuerza” to accomplish the purposes of the Lord. I know that the message we present, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored, is true. I feel it. I know that Christ suffered for us. I bear testimony of that. I know the promises of the Lord when we heed his counsel will all be fulfilled.

Thank you for all of your prayers on behalf of me. I will need them continually throughout these two years.

I sincerely express my love,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Learning to be a Jonathan's birthday!

Tomorrow is Jonathan's 15th birthday! We celebrated it today because it was when we had time. I can't believe that in only a year he'll be able to date! My little brother is growing up! (i'm sure he just loves hearing that)Happy Birthday Jonathan!

So I haven't updated in a while, sorry! A lot has happened recently.

Querido familia,

Wow, so many things have been happening in our ward since I left. I don´t ever remember such events as a school being out do to power outages or a fire destroying so much of a member´s house. It is kind of hard to believe all that. If I were there, I would want to help with whatever I could, and I´m glad that the ward and you all getting together to help one another in times of crisis. It really shows that we accept our covenants of baptism given in Mosiah 18. Give the Piña´s my support. ( A few weeks ago we got the after effects of a hurricane. The city was out of power for a week, and we were out of school! Then just last week the house of a family of 8 in our ward burned down. It's been a difficult thing, but the whole stake has pitched in to help. Luckily, everyone's all right)

And I´m glad to hear that all is well in our family. I hope there haven´t been any more terrible incidents with Grandpa, that he is better. And continue to work hard Jonathan in school. It is difficult to learn, I know that, but the efforts you put forth are very rewarding.

The baptisms went well. I stumbled through the baptismal prayer with Juán, but I made it through and it was a joyous occasion. Elder Nieres baptized Cesia. So I´ve had my first baptism! I can´t wait to have more. We don´t have any baptismal dates planned yet, but I hope we´ll make some this week. It was sad that only Cesia was confirmed on Sunday because Juan was late. One thing we might have to work with is that when it rains here, many don´t attend church. I don´t know how large our ward is supposed to be, but it felt pretty small this Sunday. It wasn´t rainy terribly, but was a little miserable. We need to get more members and investigators to church on sunday, even if it does rain.

That day, we went contacting and door knocking and it was amazing! We taught about half of the houses we approached! That´s about as much as we´ve been able to teach in total. And many of them really seem like they will keep the commitment to pray. We don´t give The Book of Mormon in the first teaching (which I´m not sure I agree with), so the commitment is to read the pamphlet about the restoration and pray about Joseph Smith. One lady, Natividad, has stray children (about 30 or 40) and wanted to know how she could help them. We know that if she lives the Gospel of Christ, her children will see the difference in her and want to know more. And she´ll be a lot happier. She basically asked, “when can I go to church?” Hopefully, we´ll go back today.

Oh, I had my first split this past week so that the district leader could be here to do the interviews. So, I went to another part of town, Moron 2, and spent the day with Elder Willie. It was a great experience. We taught a lot and with the power of the Spirit. We also gave a blessing. I realize that my area, Villa Amelia, is a lot poorer than Moron 2, but that doesn´t matter to me. It is actually better here because there are more people outside in their yards to talk to.

I´ll admit, things aren´t going the greatest with my companion right now. He´s a bit upset with me at the moment. It doesn´t seem to me that we always do the most we can do, or be perfectly obedient as I´d like to be. Also, I like to know where we are going and why and when and he doesn´t really like me asking, especially the when part. So, I asked him about it last night. I try to do it with love, but I´m not exactly the best at that. In order for us to teach and have the Spirit, we need to be unified in purpose. It is hard when I don´t always understand what his purpose is. I want to serve my hardest and help this people the best I can. Have any suggestions about how I can love my companion to bring unity? In what ways can I serve him? I look for ways, but I have a hard time seeing them.

One of the problems is that I still have a really difficult time understanding Castellano. I can get bits and pieces, especially when they speak slower and with some spacing. I try hard to understand, but my mind doesn´t work that quick. I´ll continue to study and listen carefully. I know I´ll be blessed with understanding through the Spirit in my times of need. I´m decent in speaking. My companion says that some of the members say that I speak better Castellano then his last companion, who just returned home. I´m not sure if that is a good thing or not. Well, at least I know I can make my thoughts known without taking an inordinate amount of time. It is still slow and imperfect. But I´ve only been here two weeks? I still have some time yet, but I want to speak and understand like a native as soon as possible.

We had a special opportunity yesterday. Elder Nelsen came. We all had the opportunity to shake his hand, which was particularly special for many of the missionaries. His wife gave a great example in her life of following the Spirit. She learned that if you take a question to General Conference, you always get an answer. She felt she needed to go to BYU to teach, which she didn´t want to do, but she did anyways and was blessed. She also stated that it doesn´t take much to impede us from being all that we can for the Lord. Elder Nelson answered some questions. One question was “This is my birthplace (born here, grew up in Chile), why am I here?” He then spent most of his time speaking about how but unsual means, the Lord accomplishes the impossible. That we are all here for a reason, to do what is impossible for any other to do. Some cool points of his talk were that Christ was baptized at the lowest point of fresh water on Earth and that when Gideon of the Old Testament went to fight against the Mideonites and they had the “drinking” test to reduce their numbers, their ratio became about 1:500 and they defeated their enemies. That is about the same as we are today, about 1 member to 500 others in the world (very roughly). It was great to listen to him.

Oh, I have a lot more respect for the mothers of the world. I had to wash my laundry by hand for the first time last week. And it is difficult and time consuming. I´m going to have to do it again today, and every other week I´m here (at least in Villa Amelia). And also, either I cannot iron or irons really hate me. I burnt two of my short sleeve shirts to a rusty red. I´m going to try to use bleach or something to wash it out. Hopefully they aren´t forever gone. They´re quite important. I think if I use the iron my companion has, instead of the cheap one that was left behind, it won´t burn. Hopefully.

Oh Jessica, this week, “Drake Ranquist knows that Christ suffered for us and gave us the perfect example.”

Thank you for all your support and love. I know that by being here, you are being blessed, a promise of the scriptures and Elder Nelson. I know that this work is the work of God and that we will be blessed and helped to find and teach those that seek and are humble. I know in whom I trust. I know that Christ suffered for us and that we need to repay him in any minor way we can. I know that the church of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God, has been restored upon the Earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. I declare this with faith and joy. I know that the Gospel blesses families and that we´ll be together forever if we are faithful. I can´t wait for that day.
With my love,

Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, October 5, 2008

He's There!!!

Drake is now in Argentina and loving it already!

He went down on Monday. My family was just as excited for his travels as he meant that we got a phone call! I wasn't going to be able to talk to him because I wouldn't be at home, but luckily, he remembered my cell phone number (just one number different from his own) and called me in between school and dance! I'll just say that his accent has gotten a lot better...I thought it was one of my Spanish friends playing a prank on me until I heard him say "Elder Ranquesto" (the Spanish last name that Drake and I made up years ago). We talked for about 30 mins about how the MTC was, how my life was going, and college! (AHHHHH!!!!! I can't believe college applications are here!) You'll have to ask my parents about his phone call home.

Then wednesday we got our first email. Though my mom doesn't seem to care for technology all that much, I'm sure she was grateful for it then. What could have taken weeks to recieve took a few seconds! It is a great letter, though Drake did manage to leave out important details like exactly where in the country he was. Hopefully we'll get that information soon.

Hola y Bienvenidos a Argentina,
Ok, I probably won´t be able to say all that I want or all that you might want (especially because this keyboard is sticky and doesn´t want to type) but I arrived perfectly fine with about 6 hrs. of rest on the plane (but not a lick of sleep I think. I really like our mission president and hope to follow his example siempre. I wrote a letter about this at the mission home which I hope you´ll receive in soon.
I´ll skip right to my companion, E. Nieres. He´s great, although he is a native of Chile. He is really going to show me the ropes and he serves others very well. He wants to go into mechanics and if he can, aeronautics. We´ll work hard together side by side.
Oh, one of the rules of the mission that I should say immediately is that I can only use email with family members. I don´t remember the address to reach me right now. I´ll get that to you on Tuesday, our P-day. Oh, and Jessica, can you change my status to the one I sent you about General Conference? Gracias.
We live in a fairly nice apartment. Nowhere has carpets, but we have a tile floor. It isn´t the nicest of places, but I like it nonetheless. This place is different than I´m used to, but I´ve grown to love it already, and I´m sure that will grow exponentially.
My first day was yesterday. We did a ton of walking. We use the bus for larger distances (and we´ll use the train today because my companion is going to a sealing of one of his converts!) but we walk a lot. A lot of the streets in our area are paved but there are a lot that are not. I don’t mind walking at all. We also do a lot of contacting. And we taught a few lessons yesterday. I think we´ll do more of it all as time progresses as well.
Ok, time for the difficult subject, Spanish. I can´t really understand anything. When someone is talking to me, I just nod my head and act as if I understand. Now, during lessons, I at least can get the topic and the generalities because I´m more familiar with that vocabulary, but while on the streets, I have no clue what is going on. Luckily, it seems like they understand me, even if it is slow and broken. It is also difficult since my companion doesn´t really know any English, so I usually have a difficult time understanding what he is trying to tell me. And I don´t know the best method of trying to learn. But, I´m sure the Lord will bless me in my efforts.
My companion had worked hard in this area before we came. We have two baptisms the Saturday after conference! Juan and Cesia. I haven´t met Cesia yet, she wasn´t home yesterday, but I really like Juan. He is abut 16 years old and is a great kid. He was studying English when he came, so I got to help him a bit with his homework. His homework wasn´t the easiest either. We shared a message about the scriptures (he really likes the Book of Mormon) and I shared how when I was younger I didn’t get much out of the scriptures because I´d do it when I was too tired, but now that do it during the day and focus while reading, I learn a lot. I can´t share too much in a lesson because of my Spanish, but I can testify that I know they are true.
Oh, Ranquist is extremely difficult to pronounce in Spanish. I try to simplify it for them by saying Ron-keest, but even that is extremely difficult for them. I´ll respond to Elder.
Guess who is in the other companionship that lives in our apartment? Elder Born! We are still together after the MTC! We get to continue to grow and learn from one another´s experiences and examples.
Not only am I learning a new language, learning how to preach the Gospel, and learning Argentina, I´m learning how to live on my own. I´m very familiar with dorm living, but I´m glad I´m being taught what I need to do in order to go out on my own. Elder Nieres has been helping a lot and has been sharing a lot of stuff to get me started. When we go to the store, I never know exactly what I need or how much of it. Luckily, we have lunch given to us every day. Yesterday we just picked it up from one of the members and went and ate at the church (I kept wanting to type, en la capilla). It was really quite good. And I haven´t had any beef yet, which kind of surprises me. Maybe it isn´t as large here as I thought.
Hmm…what else? I have more time to write email than I did in the past. A full hour instead of just 30 min. Of course, I´ll use that to read your email as well, so in the future I won´t have as much time. What do you want to know about Argentina? I´m not the best at just rambling on about stuff.
So, I tell you that I love you. And I know this is the work of the Lord. I have been amazed that while contacting and door knocking (actually, clapping outside the gate), that often people are standoffish, but polite enough to listen a little, but at some point, often after just one sentence my companion says, they soften some and give us their address or let us teach them then. And the folletos (pamplets) are amazing. They always help spark interest in listening to us. You can be talking and pull out a pamphlet and you can see in their eyes, “I want to read that.”
But to continue with my testimony, I know this work is the work of the Lord. I know that the Spirit will speak through us with power if we open our mouths and the person is willing to learn. I know that we have a living prophet and living apostles and I can´t wait until I get to hear from them on Saturday. I believe we as missionaries get to listen to all of the sessions (a change). And I hope that I can understand them, but I´m afraid I´ll have to listen to it all in Spanish.
I know the scriptures contain the word of God and we can draw nearer to God through prayer. Prayer is what we ask every investigator to do. Always. The 3 major commitments to developing a testimony is olas (orar, leer, assistir la iglesia, siempre) (pray, read, attend church, always). I have a testimony of prayer and you know that.
I hope all is going well with you and I can´t wait to have all the experiences that lay before me. But most of all, I want “Invitar a las personas a venir a Cristo a fin de que reciban el Evangelio restaurado mediante la fe en Jesucristo y su Expiación, el arrepentimiento, el bautismo, la recepción del don del Espíritu Santo, y el perseverar hasta el fin.”

Again with love,
Elder Ranquist