Sunday, May 24, 2009

El Templo Hoy!

19 May 2009

Dear Family,

I love hearing about the mission progress in our ward. I don´t really remember there ever being very many converts in our ward throughout my life. Maybe I was too young to know that there was someone new or that they fell away too quickly for me to get to know them. So, I´m really glad that it is growing and that the spirit of missionary work is entering the ward again. And as you said, missionary work runs 100 times better when the members participate in the finding and teaching. The people more readily accept the gospel and have the support system to remain active. Although my companion doesn´t agree at times, I like to try to have a member in every lesson after the first. It works miracles.

Jessica, I don´t really recognize you in this photo. I recognize Aaron and the house behind a little easier. I´m glad you had a good time and hope that you savor your final moments in high school. I can´t say that college is too much different (compared to Manual), but it is a change. And Jonathan, good luck with your finals. I know that you´ll do great.

This week went fairly well. Viviana and Lionel along with Veronica continue to amaze me. We had the lesson about the Word of Wisdom and it went really well. We found out that Lionel doesn´t drink, but he does smoke just a little. Never in the house, but a little at work. But the day before, he smoked half a cigarette and felt that he should stop, so he threw it away. All of the alcohol that they have in the house is just for display. We will see if they get rid of it all sometime or not. During the lesson, Lionel was about to offer coffee to Veronica (who accompanied us) and his wife said “But we don´t drink coffee now!” “Oh yeah, oops.” They also brought their two daughters to church on Sunday. They each have a daughter from their previous marriage (so neither one shares the same parents) and only come on the weekends. One is 10 (I think) and the other 7. We went to teach them a little to prepare them to come to church the next day. I felt like I was in a lesson with a member present with the help of Viviana, especially when she said “There are beliefs and things in this religion that you will have to put behind you from your old religion” (because the daughters are being raised in a Catholic school). They are getting ready for May 30th along with Sara.

Dad, I don´t think that our ward has an employment specialist. Here in Latin America, the Relief Society outnumber the Elders Quorum 3:1 or more. Every worthy male is called into a leadership position to fill the necessary callings. The left overs have to go work in the Stake. The bishop has only been in the church 6 years. My companion was the ward Secretary for 2 years before the mission, after being in the church only 2 years. I´m just glad that this ward is full of young men who might be able to fill out the leadership positions in the future, if they commit themselves and go on a mission. Leaving on a mission isn´t as set in this culture as it is in ours. We´re trying to help reactive a few of the young single adults so that they can serve missions.

Today we went to the temple. I´m really glad that we have one in this mission. I felt like the actors in the session were speaking a lot slower this time because I could understand nearly everything (and also because E´Rivas speaks a little faster). So, yes Mom, Sr. Fallon can send me a letter written only in Spanish. I´m pretty sure I´ll understand everything. My main problem will be knowing the words that she uses in her version of Spanish. There are a lot of differences in Castellano (like Ananá is pineapple instead of piña, which means a punch in the face). It was also a good time to be revitalized and receive vital instruction in how to become a better leader. This is the first time in my entire life where I´ve ever had to make a decision that directly affected someone else. In group projects I´ve always given my ideas and allowed the other person make the decision. I never made the decision myself. And I would do as they wanted. I like following, I don´t like leading. So, I´m getting a crash course in leading now. I do some things well, and I make a ton of mistakes. But I´ll learn little by little, just as I´m learning the language. All I need is time and experience. I also have my interview with President Benton tomorrow, so I´ll receive even more instruction and training.

I´m glad you could meet E´Harmon. He was a great elder in the MTC. I don´t remember that much about him, but he always has a good feeling about him. And I also agree with you mom, most of the time when I see a member with their eyes full of the light of Christ, I feel like I recognize them.

Oh, I was trying to remember what more I wanted to write. Here it is. I received another letter from E´Reese, who is in Poland right now. I feel really sorry for him. It sounds like his mission is really rough. This one is a ton easier. I sent him our standard of excellence (the goals that we try to reach, and is possible, but really difficult). He showed it to his companion, they “laughed and the cried.” We try to do 30 lessons (I´m doing more like 12-20 now) and 8 lessons with recent converts and inactives. They have 7 lessons per week with 1 other. One per day, and that is when they have a great week. I can´t imagine being rejected so. I´ll have to write him a letter to help him always be animated because I know that the field is white already to be harvest in all places.

Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Los Milagros

12 May 2009

Dear Family,

I have a bit more time to write now, but as you all, not too much more to say. It was good to speak with you on Sunday, even if the 40 min. seemed to fly by in 5. The reason Mom that I didn´t call until 8:15 was because I got to the church, where the phone was, and found that the door was locked and the bishop wasn´t there. He arrived a little bit later than we expected, but it all worked out fine. And you´re right, my English isn´t too terrible, but I have another year yet to forget it. But when I do speak, I feel that I have a really heavy accent (not that I speak much differently than I did before, I just realize now when speaking with Latins the accent I´ve always had, saying things like “why´dja …” instead of “Why did you”).

And to answer the question I said I´d have to think about, I wish I had learn to chat with people better. I lack the ability to just talk about topics of their interest. I also still need to gain the ability to ask questions. I can talk just fine about science and music and school, but outside my own nerdy realm, I have difficulties. So, that is what I wish I had known before my mission. But it was alright anyways. I know enough, as spoken of in the conference in November. I have a testimony which the Spirit accompanies.

Yesterday, we went to the house of Viviana and Líonel, the couple that showed up out of nothing on Saturday. We went in and their apartment, although much smaller and cramped, reminded me of the apartment of some of the Dental students of our ward, especially of the Larsen´s (who I home taught). They was of dress and grooming and speaking makes me think that they are Mormons already.

Well, we went by and Viviana had written up a nice list of questions that she had, many of which were really good. She wanted to know how many commandments there were, who were the apostles in Christ´s time, who was Jehovah(in the Spanish Bible, every time it says the LORD in our scriptures, it says Jehovah), and the best question was “What is the function of the Holy Ghost?” While speaking about that we learned that she did pray to know and that she felt those feelings of coming close to crying. They are wonderful! There are very few people who will read everything and especially pray to ask God if our message is true after the first lesson. Líonel said he didn´t pray because he already knows it is true.

We continued answering questions about the temple and about tithing (which we taught and he wants to pay even before he is a member). We were saying a lot “And after you are batized, you will…” and after about the 3rd or 4th time of saying that, they on their own asked, “And when can we be baptized?” We said the 30th and they replied, “ok, we will be baptized the 30th then.” They have really been prepared by the Lord.

But, no baptism is that easy. We already know what will be their trial of faith. In their apartment they have a lot of alcohol as decoration, they kept offering us tea or coffee, and he works in a bar at night. We are planning on talking about the Word of Wisdom on Wednesday. But I know that with the help of the Lord, they will be able to make the necessary changes to live according to His gospel. I´m not too worried.

So, we have plans now for four people to be baptized on May 30. I hope that all will be able to progress to be ready for that date. Sara is progressing well. The only thing is that she is giving us a few problems about the same subject with which we´ve had problems with the Bishop before. She wants me to baptize her (E´Gonzalez if he could make it, but he´s too far away). She understands that the Bishop will make the decision. We´ll be passing by with different members throughout these next weeks (as well as with the Bihop) and I hope we´ll be able to avoid the same situation that we had before.

Oh, your announcement about Sister Whitfil reminded me of another set of good news. Vania will have a child! The news is recent, so I probably won´t see the child (unless my hope that Carlos will follow his wife as well, get baptized, and that the whole family will be sealed in a year), but I´m sure that everything will go well. Also with that family, Ludmila, the 3-yr old daughter of Romina, has been sick with bronchitis, so they asked us for a priesthood blessing (the second time in my life where I did the sealing). This morning went we went by to drop off our clothes to be washed (it is amazing how much they serve us), Ludmila was up and running about. She still had some of the coughs, but is doing a lot better. I hope your back gets better as well Dad.

And attatched is a photo of me and my companion as you wished.

I love you all,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day!

So my Mom is all smiles right now because she just got off the phone with Drake. She was a little nervous that there would be some silences, so she wrote down questions that she wanted to ask before hand. It went really well! I was a little dissappointed as it turned out that he didn't have as much of a problem with English as he had claimed. I only caught a few understandable mistakes, like he didn't know how to say "set up an appointment" in English and he could pronounce Wilford Woodruff's name. Drake was allowed 40 minutes, which went by way too quickly in everyone's opinion. We gave him updates on our lives, heard some stories from him, and had a good time!

On to the letter...

5 May 2009

Dear Family,

I guess I don´t need to tell everything that I have to say now because I get to speak with you Sunday. I thought that mother´s day was later on in this month for some reason, so I didn´t bring it up last week. But I think it will be fine to try to call at 8 my time (7 EST). I can´t be certain as to the exact time that I´ll be calling, but right around there should be fine. My companion, E´Rivas, will probably call home at 7 and when he is done, I´ll call. Remember, I´m only supposed to be on the phone for 40 min. And don´t laugh too much at my failure to speak english. I really am forgetting many things. And saying the R´s in english feels so uncomfortable!

Oh, mom, I completely forgot last time to answer your question about the interviews with President Benton. All of the missionaries absolutely love the interviews because of the love that he expresses for us. I never really feel that he gives too much direction to me. Usually says that I´m doing just great and that I should keep it up. I usually bring him a list of questions that I have throughout the transfer.

Thank you Dad for the letter. I will keep those things in mind. I know that there were a few things which we didn´t handle the best, which we could have done better ourselves. And I know that I will receive a lot more experience in how to handle such situations in the future, whether it be in the church or in work.

Oh, last week I heard something great about an occurance in Villa Amelia. I always ask during transfer meetings what happened and how things are and one of the seeds I helped plant sprouted! Remember when I wrote about Carlos? He was the guy who showed us a leaf of marijuana, but we decided to teach him anyways. Well, E´Spendlove told me that he completely changed his life and was baptized last month. I always felt good about him and knew that he had the potential. The main problem we had was helping him go to church. He never went while I was there. It was also really hard to find him, because he wasn´t home very often when we went. I hope that he´ll remain active and become a strong leader.

This week has been a bit difficult. The major problem we have is that we don´t have very many investigators at this time and as Preach My Gospel says, “Nothing happens in missionary work until you find someone to teach.” (The quote isn´t exact). I´ve been unsure of where to go and what to do to find more investigators. But, we are having a bit of success with what we call “fruta baja” or the fruit that is low on a tree and is easy to pick. These are the family members and friends of members, especially recent converts. Right now we are teaching Sara and Carlos, the parents of Veronica and Vania. Sara especially really likes it, but has some fears of commitment. We also were able to teach Cristian, the spouse of Vania. The main difficulty with him will be his irregular work schedule and helping him go to church.

Ok, I attatched a few more photos. The first is of a pair of socks. As you can see, the outside is pretty grey, but inside out they´re still pretty black. So, I wear them inside out now. The next is of E´Gonzalez and I with our tobagans. He always wears one in the morning and he received more in his package from home, one of which he gave to me. I look like I´m jewish with that tobagan. And the last one is of the zone of Catán.
I hope you get over your flu Mom and that all goes well with the family. Talk to you Sunday!

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More Changes

28 Apr 2009

Dear Family,

My mission will never be the same. We had our transfer meeting yesterday and my companion, E´Gonzalez is now in Lujan. I hope that my best moments in my mission haven´t already passed. He truely is a great friend. I don´t say that because of all the success we had together, but because we truely grew to become good friends. He has a manner of loving the people and helping them that I haven´t seen in another. He also finds everything intersting, but especially the sciences. He was a walking Discovery Channel, having always watched it before the mission and was always really interesting. I hope to be able to maintain contact with him throughout my life. He wants to go to BYU, but I´m not sure if his English is good enough yet. But I´d love to be roommates with him afterwards.

Yeah, I´m a mix of emotions right now because not only has E´Gonzalez left, I am now Senior Companion. My new companion is E´Rivas. He is also from Santiago, Chile. E´Gonzalez didn´t have a Chilean accent, E´Rivas does and speaks a ton faster. I have a bit harder time understanding him. I can understand him and will grow used to how he speaks, but it is a little more difficult. Before the mission, he was in the Chilean army, so he has a bit of that discipline and possibly that flair to fight. We arrived in Argentina at the same time. I think that the only reason I´m Senior companion is that I had an extra month and a half in the MTC, which really doesn´t mean anything in terms of mission experience. We´ll see how things work out. He does have an interest in science at least. He was asking me about Black Holes.

The family of Ana María were baptized this week, but it wasn´t the happiest of occassions. I felt really bad for the fight that occured. The Bishop was set in his way that he was the one who decides who does the baptisms and that if there are worthy priests available, that they should do the majority of the baptisms. The family wanted us to do most of the baptisms and the Bishop didn´t agree with that. All of our mission leaders, including President Benton, agreed with us, that we should do the baptisms so that they have a memorable, spiritual experience. We tried to fix the situation before the family caught wind of it, but one morning, the Bishop went to Seminary to tell Gabriela, the oldest daughter, that the missionaries shouldn´t baptize and that the Priests were going to do the baptisms. This didn´t go over well at all, especially with Ana María, because she said why did he go to my daughter instead of to me two weeks ago. Why now? We did our best to help them maintain a good image of the Bishop. Because really he is a great bishop. We just don´t agree about a few points concerning missionary work.

We tried to fix the problem before the baptism. We called the stake president and he told us we were right, that we should baptize, and that he would talk with the Bishop. So, we followed his counsel. But nothing happened. At the baptism, my district leader, zone leaders, and the assistents to the president came to help. President Benton himself didn´t come because he had a conference. Eight missionaries. There was a lot of arguing and after an hour, the family themselves decided to allow to of the priests to baptize two of them. So, E´Gonzalez baptized Ana María, a priest Gabriela (18 yr-old daughter who wanted another priest who didn´t come to baptize her), another priest baptized Federico (16 yr-old son who wanted E´Gonzalez baptize him), I baptized Florencia (13), and Elder Lloyd (our district leader from Castillo 2 who lives with us and knows the family) baptized Victor (9 yrs old who wanted E´González baptize him).

I felt especially bad for the investigators that we had there. Who had to wait an hour for it to begin and surely heard a bit of the arguing. But I´m glad the family felt and decided that more important than who does the baptism is that they be baptized. To try to solve this problem, we will have a reunion with the Bishop in a few weeks with President Benton. I hope that all will be resolved and that we won´t have any more problems. I would love someone who had a calling like you dad to help us resolve this problem.

With Love to all of you,
Elder Drake Ranquist