Sunday, January 31, 2010

Salud y Bautismo

25 Jan 2010

Dear Family,

Thank you for the support that you give me as I continue on this mission. This week, as I´ve told you, I have gone on this diet to do a physical study. I´ve been very surprised with the results. This week I have felt better than I have felt in a long time. It is possible that I don´t have a parasite after all and that it has just been a reaction of my body against eating a diet full of fats and oils. This past week I have been eating mainly rice, boiled or grilled meat, crackers, and fruit. And by eating so, I´ve had a lot more energy. I´m thinking about asking the members to continue serving me like that. I did the other studies this morning and I´ll have the results next week. But, I now have a greater testimony of the Word of Wisdom, in that eating grains, fruits, and vegetables, with little meat really does help the body.

This week, it felt like we were hardly in our area, but we had a lot of success anyways. On Wednesday, we were surprised with interviews with the President. I wanted to ask him in the interview who is going to leave Jardines out of E´Cuberos and me and he beat me to it. He started out by telling me that I have done some really good things in Jardines the past two months and that he think he´ll send me somewhere else next transfer. He scared me by saying, “I´ll think I´ll make you a…I won´t go into that yet.” He´s done that kind of cliffhanger statements before with me, so I think it is something he normally does. I´m afraid the next words are “zone leader.” I don´t think I´m quite up to that yet. Recently, the zone leaders have been averaging 40-50 lessons per week and it is assumed that they do all of their contacts. I´ve never been able to push myself enough to have such success. I feel bad that I still haven´t even come close to doing all of the contacts I should in a transfer. But, as I´ve always said, “I´ll go where you want me to go, Oh Lord, I´ll be what you want me to be.” Then on Thursday we had a great zone conference and divisions on Friday.

But, most important was that on Sunday, we were able to witness the baptism of Yanina Escobar. It went really well. She is the best friend of Soledad Leyva and they supported one another a lot as Soledad became active again and Yanina started the conversion process. Yanina often prayed asking to know if the church is true and always felt a peace that helped her sleep, but didn´t recognize it as a response of God. But, after it happened time after time, and a little explanation from us, she realized that God was answering her prayers. She loved coming to church and going to our piano lessons. I have found that even though they don´t really learn much in our piano lessons, it helps the converts make friends with other youth in the ward.

This baptism was a baptism for the youth. Jonathan, our ward mission leader who has sent in his papers to go on a mission, directed the service. Daniel, who is also preparing to go on a mission, gave the first talk. Soledad, her friend, gave the second. And we sang “Count your many blessings,” the hymn Yanina was learning to play on the piano. Diana and another friend gave the prayers. And my companion did the baptism.

The baptism was especially good for her parents to see. Julio has a baptismal date for the 7th of February, but her mom has been on the edge. I feel that the Mom felt more of the spirit during the baptism and saw the joy on Yanina´s face. At the end, and for the first time in my mission, we asked Yanina to give her testimony. She did so, thanking everyone for their help. And said, “And I know this is the true church.” It was simple, but pure. Rita, her mom, said that when we go on Tuesday, she will have a lot of questions for us.

I wish we could have had the baptism of her with her parents together, but we felt it was necessary to do it now to help the progress of her parents.

We also had a new investigator in church—a 91 yr. old woman named Aurora. We found her about two weeks ago and I didn´t think much of her. We went back a second time and she wanted a healing blessing. We gave the blessing and returned another day. She felt better and was excited to come with us to church. A member with a car came with us to pick her up. When we got there, we found out that her son is a friend of a member, so his wife sat with Aurora the entire time. I´m not sure how much she understood, but she felt really good and said that she might want to come back next week and the week after that. She accepted yesterday a baptismal date for the 13th.

I know this work is true. I know this is the true church. I know that the Spirit leads and guides us when we look for him. And God, as our father, will always love us.

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Las victorias y los desafios

18 Jan 2010

Dear Family,

I received two letters this week noting that I have been sugarcoating my letters a bit. Yes, it is true, I like to share about the good experiences a lot better than the bad ones. And I don´t have much time to write each week, so I make sure to get the good experiences down first. So if I have time towrite some of those other feelings, I will in this letter, but I will talk about the good stuff first.

One of the most impressing stories that I have heard on the mission is happening in Moreno 3, another ward in our district. A few weeks ago, the bishop saw a man and said, “You want to talk with me.” He replied, “Yes, I do.” This man is named Arey. Since he was 14, he has been a Catholic monk. He has travelled all over the world working on projects for the Catholic ministry. One day, he met a missionary in the airport who was finishing his mission. This missionary gave him his spanish triple, with all of the markings he had for his entire mission. Over the past 5 months (I think), Arey has read it completely 5 times, has read every single reference to the Bible, and memorized many key parts. He knows that it is true and was inspired by God. He now knows that his baptism is worthless to him and that he must be baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ. He actually lives in a Fransiscan Monestary here in Jardines and his only clothes are his monk robes. He is now in the process of renouncing the Catholic church and will have many trials as he enters the world in which we live. But, with faith in the Lord, he will be guided and supported. I find that story absolutely amazing.

Here in Jardines, things are going well. There are difficulties constantly, but we are seeing progress. Things go really well for the Salazar family. The father is loving going to church again and is helping the rest of his entire family go as well. The mom, who was a little bit more hard hearted, felt the spirit more and decided that she would start praying again. They are bringing two of their children with their “future” spouses (with whom they already have children). They are great and have real desires to be married. I´m hoping that I´ll be able to participate in the marriage of my investigators at least once in my mission. And Daniel is being strengthened as well.

This Sunday, Nieves came with her granddaughter to church and really liked it. And she is putting forth the effort to stop smoking. Her daughter, Cynthia, was really interested at first and had received an answer to prayers, but we see that she has a doubt about something. We just need to learn what it is. Gonzalo also received permission from his parents to come to church again. We´re teaching his grandma and she likes us and I think she is having a small influence on the parents now.

While talking with Olinda, Gonzalo´s grandma, I´ve had verified again the truth of this gospel and the safety it brings us. She tells us about all of her life stories, everything that has been stored up for years and years that she won´t tell to her children, and what she has learned from those experiences. Sometimes I think, “It took her her entire life to learn the things that we already know.”

So, now for some of the difficulties. First off, this week I´m on a special diet. The past few months I have been having digestion problems and I have felt weaker than usual. Some people say that I look skinnier, but I haven´t really seen any drop in weight. So, I have been afraid that I contracted a parasite and that I have had this extra companion with me for these last few months. So, the mission doctor said I should go to the clinic to do a study. I went this past week and to do this study, I can´t eat anything with fats, anything fried, oil, butter, and potatoes. Basically, I can eat rice or noodles plain and boiled meats. So, I´ll have a better appreciation for food with taste next week. This study, at first I thought the mission would pay for, but then Hma. Benton said that they wouldn´t. So, I had to take money out of the account again. I´m sorry if I´m doing that more, but it seems that everything here is a little more expensive now and we use half of the money we receive on bus passes here in Jardines. I´m hoping I´ll be able to get all of those problems resolved.

Yes, I have trials, especially feelings of being inept and that a lot of the things I do or plan seem to fall through, which can be stressful, but I know that the Lord strengthens the weak back. I know that He is with us and will guide us. He is guiding us.

Elder Drake Ranquist

P.S. Yes, it is alright if you sign me up for an apartment in Campus Plaza.

Monday, January 18, 2010

El espirito

11 Jan 2010

Dear Family,

I´m sorry Dad that you are passing through so many difficulties with your mortal body right now. Sometimes when I feel tired or sick, it makes me even more anxious for when we receive our resurrected bodies and we´ll never be sick, have pain, or be tired again. That is the biggest trial I think I´ll have in my life, that of not having as much energy as I´d like. It´s always been something I´ve fought and I´m learning more about that disability here on the mission. But I rejoice that I´ll only fight it during this life.

This week was a good, full week. I´ll start by recounting our experience with the Salazar Family. We were doing contacts one day after a lesson and I saw a man in front of his house and felt strongly within me “I Want to talk with Him!” But, my companion beat me too it. He told us that they were the inactive parents of Daniel, a 21 yr. old kid that is preparing to go on a mission. He asked us if we wanted to come in and usually I would probably set an appointment for another day to talk with an inactive family, but I had this strong impression, so we went in.

The spirit was really strong in that lesson as we showed him the movie “The Restoration.” I was asking God what he wanted us to say after the movie ended and I felt, just give your testimony with all your soul. And we did just that. He said afterwards that our testimonies might be just what he needed to return. At the end, we found out that they are actually excommunicated and haven´t gone back to church in 4 years. But, they have had desires to return to support their son.

With my experience trying to overcome my own difficulties, I´ve learned that it usually takes more than just one testimony or one visit to make big and lasting changes, so we decided to go back on Friday. On Friday, we asked if the new bishop could come with us to visit them. That touched them a lot that the bishop would come with us to get to know them. With another spiritual lesson, they were able to take the step and return to church on Sunday. The entire family came and we felt really good about what we had done. One of the other sons told me after talking with the bishop, “You were right when you said that repentance is sweet.” I was so grateful that we were able to be instruments in the Lord´s hands in helping this family. And I think we´ll continue seeing the fruits of that effort because they said that when they left the church, a lot of families followed them. If they return, they can help many inactive families return and we could possibly baptized the children that now are older than 8.

This past Sunday, President Benton decided to come and visit Jardines. He had a special class with those preparing for the mission and it was good. It was also really nice that they took us back to our apartment after the meeting.

I know that this church is true. It is nice that when people ask us questions, looking for our errors, they feel the power of our simple truths. I love being able to help others feel this spirit. And I know that the Lord will always back us up when we are worthy of it.

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist

P.S. Yes, I´ve seen siblings come with their parents to pick up the returning missionaries. That is the decision of you guys. And I think I´ll receive the papers and notices about preparing to return home in about two and a half months.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Una Decada Nueva

4 Jan 2010

Dear Family,

Congragulations Jonathan! Receiving your Eagle is a huge accomplishment, for the which you will be grateful for the rest of your life. There are very few people that acheive their Eagle and even less that don´t do it right before their 18th birthday. You did it in great time. And will always be able to say that you were the last Eagle in Louisville in the first decade of the third millenium. I´d like to borrow from the words of Grandpa Ranquist, “Attaboy!” (I don´t know how to spell it, but I should probably learn one day because I really like that expression).

This week went fairly well, especially since we were able to have the baptism of Diana Leiva. She is 10 and came with her mom to church 3 weeks ago. Her mom was working on Sundays, so they hadn´t come to church in 3 years, but her mom realized that working wasn´t providing for her family as she would like, so she decided to obey the Sabbath day again. Diana wanted to be baptized since we met her, but she didn´t even have a good knowledge of who Jesus Christ is. So, we started from the beginning and taught everything she needed to prepare her.

She asked me to baptize her and it was an honor (although I really wish we could have had a member do it), although it came with a price. There is no gas in the church and the bishop hasn´t received the card to make the payment necessary to replace the empty tank. So, I got to have the frigid baptism experience. It seems we always have trouble with the water here. But, Diana was too excited to let it bother her. And it was a hot day, so I didn´t come out shivering. It was actually an interesting experience, because while I was in the water and not moving, my legs felt really warm due to the blood my body sent down into them to protect my legs. I took pictures, but I took them without my card and haven´t transfered the photos from the camera to the memory card yet. So, I´ll have to send them another week.

This is the start of a new transfer for us. I continue with E´Cuberos in Jardines. I think we´ll have a pretty good transfer. We´re both more animado (excited…?) to work hard and to focus. Some of the past transfer we didn´t work our best, but we improved a good deal last week. The changes of this transfer were actually made to prepare for the next transfer. 17 missionaries are going home (about half of the zone leaders are pastores) and I think we´re receiving about 20 missionaries to replace them. So, next transfer we´ll see a ton of changes. And what makes the suspense worse is I have no idea if is E´Cuberos or me that is leaving next transfer. I really don´t want to train or be zone leader (I don´t think I´m zone leader quality either), but “I´ll be want you want me to be, O Lord.”

New Year´s went really well. We received permission to stay out until 10 to be able to have a dinner with a family and we received an invitation to go eat with the Ferreyra family. It was nice because the father has an interest in Astronomy and UFO´s. I´m not big into the latter, but it made for fun conversation. We ate tacos for the third time in the transfer and the fourth time in the mission. Exmissionaries like to serve us tacos. At 12, we woke up to the sound of fireworks and watched a bit.

So, Mom asked if I have any New Year´s Resolutions. On the first, I wrote down in my journal a list of things I´d like to do in the year. It was kind of weird because I had to split the year into two parts, during and after the mission. For now, I´ll focus on working so that at the end of the mission, I feel like I did my best. I can´t always say that I feel I´ve done my best, but I want to feel that way as I leave the mission. I want to write in my journal weekly and stop chewing my fingernails and cracking my knuckles (I had it for about a month and then a new stress wave came and I lost all of my fingernails). I also have the goal of finishing the Book of Mormon and the New Testament. Then I set some goals for when I get home, but I think I´ll worry about those later on.

I love you all and I hope that this next week becomes a good start to the new decade. I´m sorry that things are being tough on you Dad, but I remember you telling me, “The Lord wants a tested and tried servant.” He could be preparing you now to have the compassion and understanding necessary to fulfill His purposes. He knows what He is doing. I know He loves us and does the best for us, even when it is hard. This is His work.

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Se termina la navidad

28 Dec 2009

Dear Family,

I don´t have too much time left because the computer restarted twice and the other computer froze on me while reading your letters. So, I´ll see if I have better luck with this computer. Luckily, I hadn´t started writing. But I think I´ll use the majority of the time left trying to send photos.

We did a service activity, painting a house, on Wednesday. So here are some photos of what we did. We mainly painted the front and it turned out really well. Our mission president told us to find some people to serve to make this Christmas more memorable. And so we did a lot of service. But what probably gave me more joy was when I was in the bus, I would use the bus ticket and make paper cranes and give them to people. One time, there was a little girl sitting close by and I gave the crane to her and said “Merry Christmas.” It felt good to see her face glow as I got off the bus.

And, thank you for your package. We loved it. While eating some of the candy, my companion said “Why is American candy so addictive?” The candy here just isn´t the same. So, thank you very much. Eating some of the candy and nuts made me feel at home a little bit.

This Sunday, there was a baptism in the ward. It was of an 8 yr. old girl, so it didn´t count for us, even though we basically took care of everything. The bishop even asked Elder Cuberos to do the baptism. It was good. And we are now preparing for the baptism of Diana Leiva. She is the 10 yr. old daughter of a member that used to work on Sunday, stopped, and is now coming to church again.

I know that this is all true and that we need to just keep on trucking. I hope that new years goes well for you all.

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist