Sunday, June 27, 2010

Feliz Dia del Padre!

21 Jun 2010

Dear Family,

Happy Father´s Day Dad!!! I love you, Mom, and the rest of the family so much. Mom said that she felt bad that she couldn´t "pamper" you on your day, but I have learned that spending such a day serving her can make it a much more happy and memorable day. Thank you for the example you give us, your children, and the care you give to our Mom. I hope your day went well and that happiness and joy can keep entering into our family.

Mom, I hope that you can keep getting better. This past year has really taught our family that this body is fragile and that life is passing. But gives us even more appreciation for the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He died and was resurrected for us so that we might one day rise again. How much greater joy will you have for passing these trials faithfully, submissively, and happily! I will keep you and the entire family in my prayers.

And thank you very much for my birthday package. I am very grateful. I have to inform you that the Prego Sauce broke open inside, causing problems with it all, but I got it well. I normally wait until my birthday to open it, but it got to me already open. So, I started enjoying the trail mix immediately, but I have not yet opened the cards. I also took out the blue tie and started using it, but I left the brown one in the ziploc bag. A week later, I looked at it again and there was mold all over it. Apparently some of the sauce got inside that too. So, I´m really glad I took out the blue one when I did! And thank you for the snickers too. And my companion is very grateful too (and I also enjoy the packages he receives).

I felt quite strange today. We had transfer meeting and I am now officially a "pastor." Elder Gilmore and Elder Sabey return home today. So, I´ll see them again in BYU afterwards. And so do a lot of other missionaries with whom I´ve worked. There are also a lot of changes in the mission, like always, but I stay with Elder Berglund in San Justo. There was a surprise with the Elders in my district. Elder Mather and Elder Barrios (two of the best newer missionaries I´ve seen. During divisions with them, I truely felt that they were teaching me.) were both transfered. I didn´t think that would happen. And Elder Fuentealba and Elder Hobson are training. So, I´ll use the end of my mission to help them train their new companions so that these new missionaries can grow with the new visions for the mission. Another interesting thing is that Elder Chamberlain, who was in my MTC district, is the new Assistant to the President. He only has the next 8 weeks (he´s extended 2 weeks) to be the Assistant (one transfer). That was very interesting. Probably to let the next Elder that the President has in mind to have another transfer as zone leader and have the necessary experience (I think Elder Brooks who started in Castillo 2 when I was with Elder Rivas). Yeah, the mission has become my life and I love it. I´m also enjoying a lot more than I used to being District Leader. It is a lot of work and effort and at the end I will have fulfilled that assignment for a third of my mission, but it really has taught me to serve and love the other Elders. Every time I see Elders that were in my past districts, as with my past companions, I feel a love for them and a desire to be with them again. I´m glad I could have helped each one of them. And I´m happy to keep doing it.

Yesterday was a day that was kind of hard for me. Being Father´s day, a lot of people went on visits. So, we didn´t have any investigators in Sacrament meeting. When Elder Aidukaitis came, he said "Rule Number 1: A missionary does not assist sacrament meeting without and investigator. Rule Number 2: A missionary doesn´t fault sacrament meeting." So, we broke rule number 1 (not rule number 2). We could have worked harder during the week to have one. We did leave during the first two hours to invite everyone we could to enter the church to learn about it, but no one entered. But, instead of let me get it down, it means that I´ll work even harder so that it doesn´t happen to us again. To make this the best transfer I will have. To prepare this mission to baptize every week.

I love the Lord and I love you all. This is the work of the Lord and when we forget ourselves, God gives us strength even when we are tired and stressed. He gives us the relief of happiness and joy. He will be with our family so that our faithful service, which we will do all of our life, will prepare us for life eternal. I know He is there for us always.

Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, June 20, 2010

La Entrevista Trunky

14 Jun 2010

Dear Family,

I´m glad that the week went well for you guys and congragulations in finding a job Jonathan! It isn´t nearly as easy as I thought it was. When I first went looking for a job, I had the idea that I could just walk in the place where I wanted to work and that I would be hired there. It doesn´t quite work that way. And it was a good thing that you said a prayer. There have been several times on my mission that we taught our investigator to pray to find a job and they would find one (but the sad part is that many times we didn´t teach them about the sabbath day soon enough and found a job where they work every sunday and can´t go to church).

Yesterday, we had our interviews with the President. This was one of the more "trunky" interviews because from now I have to start thinking about several things for after the mission. I have to set a bunch of goals. I´ve been avoiding thinking too much about the future, but I think that now is the moment when I need to give a bit more attention to that business. But, I´m not going to let it interfere with my work.

I have to think and set goals about 4 things in particular. What am I going to do, specifically, over this next year so that I can just start life shooting off? What are my goals and dreams for my life? What are some attributes I want my future wife to have? And how am I going to maintain this same level of spirituality? They are very important questions that will take some thought. I already have a lot of the answers (and on many of them I can just quote my patriarcal blessing). I want to put into practice a lot of thins that we do here on the mission. I´ll probably be made fun o for that, but I think the idea of excercising, studying, planning daily and weekly, adequate sleep, and other things could really help me in my life. So, I´ll have to think how to apply those things in daily life. And probably the thing I most dread about going home is getting back into the dating pool. I´m excited to get back to studying and learning and working and serving in the church, but I don´t really want to go courting. Hopefully that desire will return when I get back home. For the moment I think it is alright that I don´t have that desire. But I´ll do what the Lord desires me to do, even in that regard.

The president also said that I should be studying spanish well enough to be able to take a test when I get back to school and take the class Spanish 321. He says I can get a lot of college credits doing that (up to 16), but I´m not really worried about the credits (I already have all of the elective credits I need). But maybe it would be good to change one of my classes to study more spanish. I have a good a grasp of the language, but I want to be able to have the ability to give scientific forums and workshops in spanish in the future. I don´t know if there are some upper-level classes to help me with that or not. So, maybe I´ll drop one of my 3-4 credit classes (maybe the Science and Civilizations class and I can do that later on) to take that Spanish class as the President says. I think I´ll worry abotu that when I get back home too.

This next week we have transfers, so I had my companion (because there wasn´t time in my interview to ask) ask if he thinks we´ll be together or not next transfer. I wanted to know if I´d have more time to help out my companion or if I needed to get him to know the area really well to prepare for a new companion. Usually the President will tell us what will probably happen. After the interview he pulled me in with my companion to ask if my thoughts were and I told him what my thoughts were. He told me that he wasn´t sure, which kind of surprised me because he usually has in mind what will happen. But I feel that I will stay here. My companion still needs me a lot. He´s great, but I´m not sure he´s quite ready for the shock of having a new companion and having to teach him the area. It is very common for the missionaries coming to this area to get very discouraged at the beginning, especially when you come here to be an "uncle." So, I feel that for this last transfer, the Lord needs me here with my companion. I´ve always had thoughts and dreams of finishing my mission as a zone leader or opening an area and training at the same time or doing something like that, but I think the most important thing for me is to "take care of this little plot of land" (as the poem you sent me a while back said Dad).

Another reason why I think I need to be here is because of something that happened yesterday. I don´t know if I wrote about José Cosentino a few months ago. He was a member that had several mental problems and we started teaching his wife. But we felt that she lost control of him when we would go because he would start talking about how they need to be more spiritual and we decided not to go back for a while. This morning we found his wife in the supermarket and she said that José had commited suicide yesterday. I know it wasn´t coincidence that we found her today, for the first time in 2 months. She had received a lot of help from the Bishop yesterday and we were there to help console her. There isn´t much we can do for the moment, but I feel that I will stay here to do some good for that family. I just hope that her son takes this well. Her son has a few mental problems as well and I don´t know what this shock will do to him. I am so glad that we have the knowledge of the gospel for such moments.

This week was a bit tough in that I felt that my energy level was falling again, but I am determined to give my all in this work until the end of my mission, until the end of my life, and afterwards. As President Eyering states, we shouldn´t ever feel that we deserve a rest from gospel service. When our body begs for a rest, we should remember the example of the Savior and we will find strength. And we will have perfect bodies one day that won´t impede us from giving our all contantly. I love him for that and I feel joy in his service--for what I have done, for what I do, and for what I yet have to do. I love you all and hope the best.

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bautismo de Elsa Cruz

7 Jun 2010

Dear Family,

This was quite a week. I´ll start with the most important. This saturday we were able to participate in the baptism of Elsa Cruz, the mom of Celeste Soria (who was baptized a little more than a month ago). Elsa was really happy to do so. Her decision really began when she came to the baptism of Celeste (getting people to baptisms is the best way to prepare them). We had also helped her family with moving all of the soda inside as an act of service and I believe that helped to soften her heart too. So, she accepted to start listening to us afterwards. The second lesson with her is especially memorable. I think I explained it to you before, but maybe I`ll do it again. She has a 14 year old daughter named Romina who, when she was a kid, had a sickness that caused her to go deaf and mute (she can hear really loud sounds and make noises, but not well enough to listen and talk). 2 years ago Elsa signed up for a government program to get her hearing aids, but a while ago they said that her papers had expired and that she wouldn´t receive them. She got upset saying, "It isn`t my fault that they went out of date, they were sitting there in your office for the past two years. You have the blame." While we were teaching her about the Book of Mormon, she received a phone call with a miracle on the other end. They told her to bring Romina in to have some tests to receive the hearing aids. We had the opportunity in that moment to explain that this occurance was due to the prayers that she has made and that God always listens to our prayers. She kept fulfilling all of her commitments (even if she didn´t understand much of what she read) to the point that she read the entire book of Gospel Principles before she was baptized. She stopped going to the casino, stopped drinking tea, and stopped working on sunday (after church) easily once she learned the commantments. But, she kept saying that she wasn´t sure if God could forgive her for some of her sins. After a joyful interview with President Benton, she was found worthy and learned for herself that God can forgive the sinner who repents.

The baptismal service was excelent. There was a good turnout (the members here are very supportive) and all was prepared well. Celeste gave an excellent talk about baptism for her mom (we helped Celeste learn how to find a good scripture to use). Celeste was really happy because she has the desire that her entire family can receive the gospel and she said in her talk, "I never imagined that it would happen so fast!" I was asked to do the baptism and it was an honor. Elsa, even though she didn´t want to, consented to give her testimony and explain why she decided to get baptized. It turned out really well. Faithful service really does bring joy.

This week, Elder Aidukaitis also came. And Wow. He sure did help us raise the bar and raise our faith. First off, he let us know that we should be baptizing on a weekly basis and in a work of miracles and with faith that it is completely possible. And I do really feel that it is possible to work with faith to be able to baptize every week. He is an expert missionary who gave us a ton of great insights of tactics we could use to improve things or basically bringing to our attention things written in Preach My Gospel that we could do better to receive miraculous results. I know that God fulfills his promises and that the field is white already to harvest. This mission has improved a lot. During my time here, we have basically doubled the baptisms. Elder Aidukaitis let us know that "El Señor está feliz con su trabajo, pero no está sastifecho. El quiere más." (The Lord is happy with your work, but he is not sastified (a spanish word that also means full as from eating). He wants more.) This mission is going to continue seeing great miracles.

With that energy and faith from that conference, I started looking for who would be able to be baptized this next saturday. Hma. Farías came to church with her sister from Paraguay, named María Elena. She already knows everything and has a testimony, but hasn´t ever gotten baptized due to opposition from her family. I felt that it is her time to be baptized and that, through prayer and fasting, that her family would be softened. She has harbored the fear that if she gets baptized, her family will reject and exile her. But, through a powerful lesson guided by the spirit (and a bit of help from Elder Riggins, my zone leader who was with me during divisions), she could increase her faith and trust in the Lord to do His part. Her sister, Hma. Farías (a really good, strong, active and faithful member) gave a really good testimony about how "sometimes you just have to be a bit more Kamakaze." María Elena desires now to get baptized soon, but she wants to do it in Paraguay so that her family doesn´t feel that she escaped to Buenos Aires to be baptized. I agree with her. And I feel that her baptism will be the key to open the locked hearts of her family. I can´t do too much more for her now, but I await to hear the good news when she heads home.

The work continues forth, but during the week I read some of the articles in the new Liahona. I absolutely loved the talk by Elder Bednar that he gave in a devotional at BYU a year ago (in may of 2009) about the dangers of technology and how it can make us lose sight of "things how they really are." I hope to really improve on not wasting time chatting online and doing other such things on the computer so that I can focus on real relationships with people. I know that will bring me great happiness throughout my life, especially in my later years when I see that the friends I have made are real friends and not just there for entertainment.

I know this work is true and that God leads our leaders. If we follow, we will see great miracles in our lives and greater joy, peace, and happiness.

Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, June 6, 2010

La Felicidad

31 May 2010

Dear Family,

I feel kind of strange in that yesterday, I fulfilled 22 months on my mission. No, I´m not counting down. Actually, I wouldn´t care if I were asked to stay for another 2 year mission, but I know that the Lord has other plans for me in the future and things will just keep getting better. The strange thing is thinking that I only lack now the time that I spent in the MTC. That my companion Elder Berglund now has more time on the mission than I lack. But as I tell everyone, "I´m still young in the mission." I have hopes that these last two months will be my best two months.

Although the work isn´t progressing as fast as I might like it, I´ve learned to be patient and to give every moment to the Lord. I used to look for moments to rest and complain that I don´t have enough time to do anything, but I´ve now learned to give every moment I can and even when tired, those moments will be fruitful and provide happiness. We´re here to be happy and I am. I like being able to tell the people that living the gospel will make them happy. Ask them "Do you think we´re happy?" And they tell us that "Yeah, you do look happy." We don´t have to fake it. As long as we´re doing the best we can, we have the secret to happiness. And helping others be happy makes one more happy. Even if they have to struggle for a moment. And then we can be happy together, which is better than being happy alone.

I try to help Elder Berglund speak as much as he can during the lessons, but it still means that I have to do most of the talking. I´ve learned that I can pretty much give a 30 minute talk, by myself, about any gospel topic. And I have problems cutting back on what I want to say at times. Yesterday, we taught a recent convert and the active family that lives with her about geneology. This family really hadn´t done anything on their family history, so we taught them about it. Due to all of the stories that you have taught me Mom over the years, I could help them have a desire to do it and learn about their ancestors. I could talk about doctors, musicians, astrophysicists, and religious rebels who have made me who I am. And nearly any other topic I feel I can now give a talk full of scriptures, personal experiences, information, and testimony to complete it. My only problem is I need to learn how to make better questions. I´m inquisitive, but that doesn´t help me form questions that help others learn for themselves. I still need to work on that.

We are really excited for the baptism of Elsa Cruz, Celeste´s mom, this Saturday. She´s excited too. We always tell people to read and she read all of Gospel Principles. I´m not sure how much of the book she retained, but at least she read it. She really surprised me when she said she read the entire thing in 2-3 weeks. Now she needs to do the same with The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. (I learned that we really should say "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" every time we talk about the Book of Mormon, especially with non-members. But I understand if it is really long. That´s why most of the time we just say that we are from The Church of Jesus Christ. Also because a lot of times when they say "of Latter-day Saints" they get us mixed up by saying "of the seventh day" instead "of the last days" or in spanish "del séptimo día" en vez de "de los últimos días"). So, we are hoping that her entire family will be able to come and enjoy it.

I´d love to read that new book of Tony that you wrote about. But my problem will be that when I get back there will be so many books that I´ll want to read. I´ll want to read our entire bookshelf all at once. I want to read all of the gospel books written by the prophets and apostles (Miracle of Forgiveness, Articles of Faith, The Great Apostasy, The first several thousand years series, Doctrine of Salvation, Teachings of the Prophets, etc.), books about astrophysics (The universe in a nutshell by Steven Hawking, 5 ages of the universe, and other books on grandpa´s bookshelf), review past textbooks and new ones, and all other good books and literature. I guess I´ll have to pace myself somehow. I´m glad that during these 2 years, I could just focus on the scriptures and the doctrine I truely need for myself and for others. I still read really slow, but that is my decision. You asked about the speed reading course I took. It is possible that it has helped me in the moments that I want to speed read, but one has to take the concious decision to want to read faster. And I never took that decision. I went through the motions of the class (and I´m not really sure if the class did all that great of job of teaching), but without the desire to apply it to what I read. I like to think alot while I read, to analyze. I find reading a good moment to learn and not just pour information into my mind. That is why I read so slow. And by making the connections with what I already know to what I am reading, I learn a lot more and can remember it alot better. But there may come a time when I won´t have time to do so and speed reading will be necessary. It came in handy a bit on friday when I had to print something out and I didn´t have time to read it, so I sped read it and could take out all of the things I needed in 30 seconds. So, there is my feedback. And I look forward to being able to spend hours again reading (and playing the piano).

Tomorrow, we´re going to have the privledge to listen to Elder Aidukaitis of the Seventy. He wasn´t sure if he was going to be able to come, but he decided he can. So on quick notice, we are preparing everything. It should be a great experience. I love to listen to our leaders. They are truely men of faith and have the spirit of revelation, just as the Nephite leaders were chosen.

I know this work is true and it will roll forth until the earth is wrapped up as a scroll. I know everything we are taught to do brings us happiness, even geneological work. I know that as we do our best, we won´t have regrets and we avoid self-blame. And I know that the Lord makes up for all of our faults.

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist