Sunday, December 27, 2009

Recordando el nacimiento de Cristo

22 Dec 2009

Dear Family,

First of all, I want to ask forgiveness for not writing yesterday. We had our P-day Christmas activity as a mission, got back kind of late, and when we went to the cyber to write you, the page wouldn´t open. I think the server had crashed because all of the missionaries were trying to sign on at the same time. But, we´re taking time now to write.

This Christmas, I believe I´ll be calling around 5 o´clock, Argentine time. I think there is a two hour difference, so it would be about 3 there. But I don´t remember very well. We didn´t change the hour for day light savings time this year. These are my plans for Christmas. First thing, I´ll open the package you sent me (I received it last week). Then, we´ll head out to Trujui to have our Zone Activity in the morning (because all of Argentina is asleep Christmas morning because they celebrate at midnight). We´ll eat tacos and completos (hot dogs with avocado and tomatoes). Afterwards, we are going to go do service for our bishop, cutting a bunch of tall grass (at least we´ll have weed wackers this time instead of do it all with machete). After this service, we´ll go to the church to call. So, I´m not sure if there is a specific hour when we´ll be able to call. If we finish after 5, I´ll probably let my companion call first, meaning that I´ll call closer to 7. And it will be 40 min. as in past occassions. I´m looking forward to hearing your voices too.

In talking with President Benton, he wants to let you know Dad that he understands what you are going through. He had a similar back operation and that it took a good while to heal. He says, just as I know you´ve heard a few dozen times, that it just takes patience. It will all turn out for the best in the end and is more for your spiritual progression than for physical or economical progression. He also wants to know if you know Jim Heck. He is/was head of human resources of UPS and was a counselor in the Bishopric with President Benton in Park City, Utah. To the president´s knowledge, he is inactive now, but would like to know if you know anything about him.

With the holiday season, I´m also trying to get my shoes repaired to be able to last until the end of my mission. I´ve already taken the shoes that had the hole worn through the sole to be repaired. I think I´m also going to have to buy new insoles for them too. And I have a hole in the side of the shoes that I bought for christmas last year. I´ll have to take them in. So, I believe I´ll have to take out some more money from the bank to make such reparations.

Sorry Mom if I haven´t taken pictures of Jardines yet. It really isn´t the lush gardens you might have thought. It is very similar to many of my past areas with half of the streets asphalted and the other half with dirt roads. They make the asphalted roads just so that the buses can pass. And I´m really not sure when I will get around to taking photos of the area either.

Yesterday´s P-day Navideño was really great. We started off listening to the testimonies of the missionaries that are going home today (2 weeks early so that they can be with their families for Christmas), like E´Lloyd, E´Willie, and E´Cumrine. I´ll miss them. And Jessica, I think that E´Willie will be at BYU next semester studying civil engineering. He´s an RM I approve of. I´ll always remember the kindness he gave me on my first divisions at the beginning of my mission. I also approve of E¨Lloyd if you every run across him. So, anyways, then we listened to the First Presidency Devotional. It was great to hear. Then we had a fun competition of asking for references and we had skits. I´m grateful to have a loud voice, because it was really hard to hear the other people. We had some really good laughs.

I know that the Christmas time is to remember our Savior. I know that he is the Christ, the living Son of God. I am constantly testifying of him because it is the knowledge that I value most. I´ll never forget when I came to know for myself. I know this work is the work that God has sent us, imperfect and inexperienced youth, to do. And I know that true joy come in and only through His Son and the commandments that he gave to us. I know that, even if at times I feel like a rebellious soul. But we will move forward always.

Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, December 20, 2009

La confianza del Obispo

14 Dec 2009

Dear Family,

Wow, I can´t believe I´ve been here in Jardines 3 weeks already. But, I like this ward. Our main objective when we got here was to gain the confidence of the Bishop. I think we´ve already acheived that goal. He´s a great Bishop and is enjoyable to be around. I really liked it yesterday when we were in ward counsel and he was talking about how having all of the organizations work together to further missionary work, the ward would be strengthened. He said that it was necessary that they work to do so because we the missionaries leave. He said, “We never want the missionaries to leave, but especially not these Elders. I don´t know, but there is something special about these Elders.” That made me feel really good, especially when it shows that we are accomplishing the objective President Benton gave us.

This transfer, we have been praying and fasting to be able to find a family to bring to church. Especially a father that would make a good leader in the home and in the church. We think we found him this past week. On wednesday, while we were walking, (wow, a lot of w´s), we passed by a house and my companion said that he felt we needed to talk with them. So, we went and taught a good lesson. When we went back on friday, we didn´t have time to stay and teach, because we had a Family Home Evening activity for the ward, so we invited him to come. We weren´t expecting him to come to much, but he did! Not many members came, so we turned the activity into a lesson for him about the plan of salvation. At the end, I asked, “What are you willing to do to enter the Celestial Kingdom to be with God and your family forever?” With that question, he told us about how he wanted to give up drinking because it was ruining his family. So, we talked with him about it and I asked “So, when you´re with your friends and they invite you to drink, what are you going to say?” He said, “No.” “But you drank with us last week, what happened?” And he replied, “No, I don´t drink anymore.” It was good to see that resolution. We invited him to come to church, but he said that he had a small work to do on Sunday morning.

But, Sunday came and Julio Cézar Escobar came too! He was able to arrange it so that he could come to church for the last half an hour of the primary presentation of sacrament meeting. We found out that he is married and that yesterday, when his friends invited him to drink, he said, “No!” We don´t know his wife yet, and haven´t been able to teach his daughter yet, but we feel really good about Julio.

A few kids are also coming to church, but they don´t yet have permission from their parents to be baptized. We´re doing what we can and we have hope.

Oh, and when would be a good time to call on Christmas?

And thank you for your letters and thoughts. I will keep searching for the view of the Lord to understand this life and the universe. I hope that your back/hip will be returned to normal soon. And also give my congragulations to Jayme. I remember my time with her in primary a bit still. I love you all and I hope you enjoy the Christmas season.

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Friday, December 18, 2009

La semana y metas

7 Dec 2007

Dear Family,

This has been another fairly good week. Nothing really eventful happened, I think. We went to church for the first time with the rest of the ward. It is a really good ward. I just wish that they had a larger Elder´s Quorum. The group of High Priests is fairly large, which is good, but in the Elder´s Quorum, there was the President, the ward mission leader, and a recent convert, and us. I´m glad that the bishop and several of the members already have confidence in us as missionaries. We did divisions with the Elder´s Quorum president, Brother Severino, and he said that he really wants to do them as often as he can with us. It is also nice that a lot of the priesthood holders have their own work, so they can accompany us in almost any moment. So, the work is moving on well enough here.

Right now, our best investigator is a kid named Joel. He is 15 and actually lives in La Reja, part of Moreno 2. But, comes often over here to the house of his friend, Bryan, who is 18 and is preparing for his mission. The bishop said we should teach and baptize him here, so we will work on it. The only difficulty is communication with his family, but he says that his Mom will have no problem giving him permission. After praying to ask if these things are true, he said that he felt that he already knew that all of this was true. He enjoyed church on Sunday and accepted a baptismal date for December 26th. He´s a great kid and reminds me a lot of Joshua Augason or JD Noelck in his appearence and personality.

This sunday, there were three investigators that came that just need to get married, a huge problem here in Argentina because it is just so difficult, especially for the foreigners. To get married, you have to have all of the correct documents, go to the government office in Moreno at about 4 AM to hopefully get a number to be able to wait the rest of the day to try to get a day that you can get married maybe. And that´s if everything goes well. Many times, they say you are missing a specific document or that there aren´t any open dates. And it is 100 times harder if either you are from a different country, you are a widow or a widower, or you have to get divorced first. At least, we have the good example of Brother Severino here who was patient and active in the church 4 years before he could get married and baptized. So, if you wonder why we often baptize more kids than we do parents, that is one of the big reasons.

But, we have hope anyways. Especially with Julio Flores, who is living with Silvana, a member who is reactivating. He feels good about getting married and getting baptized because the first time he went to church, he felt a peace and saw that a lot of the marriage problems that they were having where smoothed out. So, he has interest. But Silvana is absolutely sure that he is getting baptized. That´s not a question for her. She talks often about the baptism of Julio. I hope that his own testimony will grow strong instead of just go along with the flow of what Silvana says to make her happy.

Oh, and mom wrote that she was surprised that there were missions doing 20 lessons a week. The following is our standard, or what we are working to acheive, but often is difficult. And I´ll also put what I think we usually do per week.

Baptisms – 3 per transfer (3 per transfer)
Investigators with baptismal date – 5 (2-3)
Investigatros in sacrament meeting – 5 (3)
Lessons with member present – 10 (5)
Other lessons – 25 (17)
References Contacted – 10 (1)
New Investigators – 15 (15)
Lessons with recent converts and inactive members – 8 (5)
Contacts – 140 (110)

So, we have about 20-25 lessons per week with investigators. So, we teach a good bit. But the average is going up. There are Elders that are teaching 40-50 lessons per week here. The work is moving forth with greater rapidity.

I know these things are true and that is why I´m here.

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jardines tiene buenos miembros

30 Nov 2009

Dear Family,

I did have a lot of worries going into Jardines, but after a week of being there, I think I will have a good time there. This past week went to visit a lot of the members that we know of and they are all really good. The members in Jardines are much better than most of the members I have known on the mission. There are many ex-missionaries in this ward and they are very willing to help out. We met the new bishop on tuesday and when we went in to talk with him, he said that he felt that we were the missionaries that needed to be there.

You don´t have to worry that we are receiving anything to eat. We have lunch with a member every day and they all have been great. The owner of our pench (the Yankee version of the word “pensión” or apartment) is a member that lives next door. Our stove doesn´t work, so she has brought food over to us in the night several times. She is really nice.

One of our difficulties about this week was that it was Stake Conference in the center of Moreno. So, when we went, we still didn´t know who was from Jardines and people from Moreno 2 wanted to talk with me the entire time. We weren´t able to stay, but it was a joy to see Patricia preparing for her baptized, which occurred about an hour after the conference. It felt good to know that I left the area with something for Elder Runolfson and his mini-misionary (a 19 yr. old kid that hasn´t received his calling yet that came from a different Stake to work for a transfer). It was good to see them all again, but hard to say bye.

The conference with Elder Bednar was amazing. There was a stronger spirit there than I think I have ever felt before in a church meeting. He is a master at teaching by the Spirit and helping learn by faith. That was the theme of the meeting (I can´t say talk because it really wasn´t a talk). He taught by example more than anything. His goal was to teach us how to listen, observe, and discern to allow the Spirit to tell us what we need to say. He taught so and demonstrated it masterfully. It´s hard to describe.

What probably touched me the most were his teachings about putting off the natural man. One elder asked “What can we do to put off the natural man to be able to give 100% of ourselves to the work?” He taught about how the atonement of Christ not only cleans us but helps to perfect and strengthen us. The moments that we think we have missionary work down are the most dangerous moments of our mission. Only by relying on the Lord can we receive of his power. He gave a challenge to this missionary to get a new Book of Mormon and mark all of the parts where it says “by the power of the Lord” or something like that, and that he would more fully understand how to receive of the power of the Lord and would teach better his investigators to rely on the strength of the Lord. I´ve decided to take that challenge because I need so much more of the Lord´s help. I still have no clue what I´m doing.

He left us with the apostolic blessing of a greater measure of faith. He pleaded that we be true to that faith. And I hope to be. And I hope to be able to follow his example of teaching. I hope that my investigators can feel that strong spirit that he brought.

Oh, and you asked about my companion? Elder Cuberos is from Berranquilla, Colombia, the same city where Shakyra the singer is from (I don´t know how to spell her name). He has 6 months on the mission. (I realized that today I complete 2/3 of my mission. Faa. (The Argentine expression for Wow). I keept telling myself and everyone that I´m still young on the mission. I´m still young.)

I know that this is the Lord´s work and that He is with us when we do what we can to obey and follow Him. He is the worker of all miracles. By none other are the miracles of salvation manifest.

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist