Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas, New Companion, New Area........week 74

Lorena's baptism

Dear family,
Well, we had our changes today and everything went really smooth. I am super excited to be in this area. Everything is flat and it is a small town. It is the total opposite of Acapulco. I feel as if I was back in Cualta. Elder Gosnell is a rockstar and I can´t wait to get working with him. My area is called Insurgentes and it is found in Iguala. Its about 40 minutes from Taxco. We are really excited to get some people baptized. We are seeing that there are a few people that we are going to prepare for baptism this week. But as of right now, you know just about as much as I do.
It is really funny. There is a younger missionary named Elder Bergen who was from Costa Azul who is working in an area right next to mine. As we got off of the bus he stopped to tell me, ¨Elder Russell, its flat here and its dry!¨ He is a very happy missionary :)

Well, I just about talked about all of the recent experiences that I have had in the past few weeks so I imagine that you all are well caught up. Therefore I took the time to send a few of the pictures of our most recent baptisms. The young woman is Elizabeth, the woman with her husband is Minerva, the short lady is Leticia, the woman wih her family is Lorena, and the tall skinny one is Luis. They are so great. The older woman is named Maria del Pilar. She is one of the coolest people I have ever met. We passed the night before Christmas with her and her family.

I hope to send you some pictures of some baptisms this week and a bit of the area. I love you family and I am so grateful to my Father in Heaven that I have such a wonderful family. May God continue to bless you.

Elder Russell

Maria del Pilar

Monday, December 19, 2011

Forget Yourselves even More........week 73

My dear family,

The fact of the matter is that I don't even realize that it is Christmas. We are working as if it was any other day. But I enjoyed your comments and I thank you for all of your support. I believe that I am going to call the family Sunday at 4 in the afternoon. We are going to call from the church so it is just going to be a phone call.

This week we had 2 baptisms. One from a woman named Leticia and another from a younger man named Luis. It was really special. We have 2 baptisms for Saturday named Jimmy and Evelia, 2 more for Sunday after the services named Ana and Fernanda, and we are going to visit some 3 or 4 other families to see if God wants their baptisms for this Saturday (I know that I sure do :) ). The work has been progessing a lot in this area as well as in the Zone. We are seeing miracles in our area as we have given our best portion to the Lord. I love it. We went to prepare the church for the baptismal service Thursday morning and there were two people sitting outside. We invited them into the church and they followed us inside. To our suprise, one of them had gone to church and Guanajato and was already ready for baptism. Therefore, we did a mock interview and asked him if he wanted to be baptized. He said yes. They were in the process of moving so he didn´t show up but whenever they are settled, he is ready to be baptized. So cool!

We got a lot to do and very little time. I am going to get moving but take care my dear family. I hope that everything is well. Enjoy this season of Christmas to forget yourselves even more. Lose yourself in this great work. It is the secret to happiness.

Elder Russell

Leticia's baptism

Baptism of Luis

Monday, December 12, 2011

"I am going to baptize this woman whether you like it or not!"........week 72

Dear family,

It sounds like everyone in doing wonderfully. I am glad. I hope that you all continue to have such experiences.

Well this week there is a lot to tell. First off, we had to marry a woman named Minerva which was one of the craziest things I have done in my mission. In December, nobody wants to marry people. The judges get tired and trunky for vacations. We ran all around Acapulco looking for someone who could help us. We found our miracle in the form of a contact from one of our investigators. We were blessed with miracles after miracles with the right people being there at the right time. From Monday to Friday we were seriously running from one place to another until they were married. We had her baptism Saturd ay at 8:00 PM. The funniest part was that we were running back from a service project and we raced into our apartment to change and get to the baptism on time. As I was showering all the sudden everything began to shake. I knew that I had been really stressed out but when my companion told me ¨hey, we're in an earthquake!¨ I started laughing for the irony. I thought to myself ¨Satan, even if you want to kill me while I'm showering its not going to happen. I am going to baptize this woman whether you like it or not!¨

We got dressed quickly and we enjoyed a very special baptismal service.

Minerva's baptism

Apart from the miracles that had been happening for Minerva and her baptism, the Lord blessed us with a lot of people who are already ready to be baptized. We told the Lord this week that we are here for Him. We are here to baptize. If He wants us to baptize, we are going to do all we can but He´s got to do His part. Well, He did it :)

One experience really special was Friday in the afternoon. After the wedding, Minerva and her husband invited us to go eat at McDonald´s (its a big thing here :) ) As we were eating a member family greeted us and sat at another table. After eating I wanted to get to know them and I presented myself to them. They told me that they were the Nuñez family. The father said that he had served a mission in Honduras in 2002 to 2004. I asked him what mission and he said Comayaguela (if I spelt it right) I then asked if he knew an Elder Russell. He paused, looked me in the eyes and told me, ¨Your brother is Elder Russell?¨ He then explained, ¨ I am Elder Nuñez, your brother was my Zone leader in an area named La Paz. It is a privilege.¨ I have to tell you the truth family, I was deeply honored. I thought you would like to know Troy. Brother Nuñez lives here in a ward named Coloso that pertains to our Zone/Stake. After making the connection, he welcomed me to his family and wanted that his family would know who I was. As Mom always says, ¨That´s right, I´m cool.¨ It was a great honor to know that the Russell Family extends all the way to Acapulco Mexico even before I ever came.

The work is progressing a whole lot. God is doing His work through us. It is evident. We are working with a lot of families that we have planned for Christmas. This week is going to be huge to see if they will be baptized.

I had a very special experience this Sunday. One of the biggest lessons that I have taken from my mission is how to administer in the Church. I am always anxious and very excited to learn more about how to better bring about better the work of Salvation. Something that I have always wanted to know is how to effectively coordinate the work of salvation within a meeting like Ward Counsel. We were invited to attend ward counsel for other issues but the representative from the High Council who works with missionary work in the Stake (a really good friend of ours :) ) came and showed how it should be done. I was so excited to see that it is easy and it works. It was a tender mercy of the Lord. I understood clearly how an organization could function effectively within a ward to bring about the salvation. I saw clearly that this was a capacitacion (training) from the First Presidency and I received a testimony that it was so. So sweet!

Well family, take care. May the Lord continue to bless you as you work in His vineyard. It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Russell

Monday, December 5, 2011

A White Christmas in Acapulco?.........week 71

Dear family,

I have very little time but thanks for the last letter. We are running to train our district leaders and pick up a missionary. I already received the package but I'm waiting to open the good stuff until Christmas. Congratulations for the baptisms in the ward. Invite those converts over to dinner in our home. They can have whatever they want from my stuff.

The work is exploding and we are getting this missionaries to work. We are going to marry a family tomorrow and we have their baptism for this Friday. We are working and we are expecting a very white Christmas.

We visited an inactive family this Saturday and the Grandma said that she had been pondering about be baptized in the Church. She is going to be baptized this month. So Sweet! Another man came to church who had already read the Book of Mormon thoroughly and the missionaries were asking themselves in Gospel Principles ¨Is he a member?´ The answer is no and we are going to invite him to be baptized for Christmas. There are many others who are progressing as well.

Everything is super good here. A whole lot of work to do but we are going to get it done. I love you family and invite all to come unto Christ. In this way you will literally be Saviors in this world.

Elder Russell

Monday, November 28, 2011

There are goals to complete, people to meet, sun to beat, and souls to keep........week 70

My dear family,

It's good to hear that all is well. The truth is, I didn't even realize that we had Thanksgiving and much less that we are approaching Christmas. It's really funny because its hot, and it stays hot.

There are goals to complete, people to meet, sun to beat, and souls to keep. We hardly even notice the days or the weeks.

Well, finally we had a baptism this week. Her name is Elizabeth. We were super grateful for the baptism. It was an answer to our prayers. She had been waiting for her baptism for over a month and finally could be baptized.

Elizabeth's baptism

I would like to comment a bit about the past few weeks. The fact of the matter is that the Lord has stretched me a lot these past few weeks. Elder Smith and I have been working hard, harder than I have ever worked in my mission. We did everything that we felt that we could or we knew how. However, the best part about missionary work is that you work and you work and as you sweat, ponder, prayer, strive, plan, teach, and plead, your mind, vision, and in the end of it all, you change. I have learned so much in the past month that I am amazed of what the Lord has been able to do through me. I have thought a lot about the trials that we have. It is almost impossible to see why in the moment but when we look back, we never regret it. I don´t know why but I love the fact that you never learn by your successes, you learn by your mistakes. We could have talked and talked about what it would be like to live on earth in the Pre-existence. Nevertheless God said that we had to get a body and live it for ourselves. You have to go and do it. You have to make a lot of mistakes but you learn. You can talk it and say it, but until you have to do it shows your true understanding.

In all of this time, I have gained a strong testimony that God grants unto men according to their desires. The questions of my soul are answered as I diligently seek the answers from the Lord. As I work and pray, I see how my vision expands and becomes more clear. I become a more diligent and effective servant in the hands of the Master. I am amazed at how the Lord knows everyone of us perfectly. I see the signs of that love every day.

I had a rather funny experience this past week. I was talking to one of our District leaders and he passed a name of a person that is preparing for baptism. He told me the name and mentioned that I knew her. I paused and thought about it and I remembered, ¨hey, I taught her!¨ I remembered that I had taught her in an exchange that I did with a few missionaries about 5 months ago. I was so excited for her baptism. As well as this woman who was named Angeles, I was talking to our other District leader and he told me that they had another woman who was being prepared to be baptized in area. He said that I knew her. I paused and thought about it and I realized that she was another woman who I met and taught in that area when I went in exchanges about 4 months ago. I remember the story because I went on divisions with a District leader to help him find the elect and bring them to the waters of baptism. We went to one lady´s house and we sat down to talk to her. As we were talking to her, I realized another woman who was in the other room. After talking to the first lady, I presented myself with the second. I said that I was a missionary and I´m here in Mexico to baptize people. I remember that I asked her if she knew about the church and she said that she did. I then asked her if she wanted to be a member of the church. She said that ¨sure, I like the church.¨ I told the district leader to write down her information. She said that she was going to leave for her home town and wasn't planning on returning. I was sad but we left cordially. The point of the story is that the current District leader who is in this area told me that he encountered this woman again and said that she asked if he knew an Elder Russell. This Elder said ¨umm, yeah, he´s really crazy.¨ From this comment she said ¨He asked me if I wanted to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. I want to be baptized.¨ When this Elder told me this story, I was so pumped. It was a tender mercy of the Lord. I turned to Elder Smith and I told him, ¨ya ve, no puedo bautizar en mi propia área sino que en todas las demas!¨ (I can´t baptize in my own area rather that I do it in all of the others!) It was rather special for me.

This is the work of the Lord. Let us always be a part of it and that we realize that He is in charge. It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Russell

Monday, November 21, 2011

My dear Acapulco........week 69

Dear family,

Busy busy busy busy. I love it. There is no time to be sleeping. I echo the same feeling. Send my congratulations to Grant for being accepted to Business School. As well as Troy in his following section and Tyler, well, for being married :) They´ll do great.

My dear Acapulco. What do we have to share this week? We are working like crazy from all sides trying to get our work done here. We are teaching a bunch of families and there are a whole lot more that we are going to teach this week. We have a ward activity this Friday that we have involved the whole ward. The members are excited. We are leaving every day looking for those who are ready and we are being so blessed. This week we stopped by to visit a part member family that we didn't know. We entered into his house and the father of the member began to explain how he wanted to be freed from the weight of his sins. It was a super powerful lesson. We were lead by the Spirit in every word. We left his house and we stopped and looked at one other and commented ´Whoa, how cool was that!` It has been super funny here. We are working and getting everything done so that we can baptize but the results don´t come. We are learning the divine principle of patience.

This week I believe that we met the most crazy lady that has ever lived. We went to find a family to teach and an old lady opened the door to tell us that she had gone to church before and that she would like to listen to us. We asked if we could come in and she said no. We offered to help her clean her room and she let us in. We began to fold old clothes and clean this room. This woman didn't stop talking for about an hour. She left the room and returned as if we had followed her throughout the house. She began to climb the cabinets as if she was 18 to put the folded clothes away. After we finished, I asked if she had a wet rag to clean the mattress that was there. When she heard my question, she grabbed an old shirt and began to beat the mattress. As she was beating the mattress she began to shout. As she did so, Elder Smith and I turned to each other and with our faces in shock we mouthed to each other `she is blessing her mattress!` It was true, she blessed her mattress so that the demons would leave. I couldn't stop laughing. We taught her and invited her to church. We are going to visit with all of her family this week to see what happens.

We have a whole lot of work to do. We feel that we are just getting started. We have a baptism for this Saturday named Elizabeth. I send you the photos.

Elder Russell

Monday, November 14, 2011

This was a week of giving it all..........week 68

My dear family,

It sounds that you all have had some spectacular past few weeks. I am grateful that the Lord is protecting and guiding our family. Send my love particularly to Joy and Josh. I feel that they need it.

Well, where do we start? This past week was a week of giving absolutely every part of your heart, might, mind and strength to the Lord. We had a our Zone Conference, a lot of people to find, a lot of people to teach, and changes in the Zone today. This week we absolutely crashed as our heads hit the pillow. However the Lord blessed our efforts and we had many people come to church this week. In fact, more than I have had come to church in all of my mission.

This week a sister in the ward taught me something so simple but so powerful. We have been trying some new ideas about how to help the people that we are teaching to come to the point where they will progress on their own. We are seeing many positive results but this Sister taught me something so amazing. We have been thinking about how to help the members to take away their fear of doing missionary work. The Sister was talking about how she had shared the Gospel with others in the past. Don´t laugh but you know what was the great secret for her? Food. When an activity of the Church whether it be service, a devotional, a youth conference, or even a wedding reception has food, the people come. It was for me the secret to missionary work within a ward. I realized that it is so true. Just about every time when we have found someone through a member, it has been because there was an activity, a spiritual aspect, an invitation, and food. This has become a formula for us as to how to help the members to participate. I think in my own life. The truth, why did I ever go to a wedding reception? It was because there was always food. And even in my missionary efforts in the past, what were the easiest situations to help my friends learn about the church? They were the times when we ate at home or there was food in a church activity. From this, we are planning such activities within the homes of the members and with the ward. We are really excited and we feel that they will help us to find many more people to teach. And the best part, the members here in Mexico are never reluctant to invite someone over for food nor are they reluctant to go wherever there is food.

Apart from my revelation about food, we are seeing the Lord`s hand in our work. I would like to share a quick story of a young woman named Fabiola. She is a single mother who we met Tuesday. We set an appointment to talk to her Friday and we passed by. Elder Smith and I have been working on ways that we can better express our love for the people whom we are teaching. We have decided to write cards and letters to the people whom we come into contact. We made a card for Fabiola and when we gave it to her, her face shown with gratitude and sincere love for our consideration. We didn't say much about the church but by our simple act of interest, she wants to go to church and learn more of us. Through this we are seeing miracles in our investigators and the members of our ward. We are excited to get the rhythm going.
God lives. This is His work and His church. The Lord instructs those who diligently seek Him. We will come to know Him as we diligently seek to do so. May we do so more fully is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Russell

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Dear Family........week 67

My dear family,

What a weekend for everyone. I send all of my love from across the miles to Tyler and Alisha, my new sister in law. As I was getting ready for bed Saturday night, we planned the following day and got busy before 10:30. I sat in my bed looking up at the ceiling and I laughed to myself ¨I have a sister in law!¨ I send my love and excitement from Acapulco. May they enjoy all of the wonderful blessings that come from a temple marriage. Oh, and tell Grant that he looks like a MTC teacher. I laughed :)

Well, another week has passed in which the Lord takes Elder Russell by the hand and teaches him that he is nothing. We have had a lot of work around here. We have been running like crazy trying to get everything done. We worked and worked and worked and tried different things but our results came out the same. I have to laugh because if not I would go crazy. It happens about once a month in which I sit down in my chair and I start to have a conversation with God. ¨Well, you saw that we did everything that we felt that we should this week. What else do I need to change?¨ It makes me laugh because I always hope that the words will come ¨Elder Russell, good work. You are doing great.¨ Nope. Never happens. It's always ¨Well, you achieved this, but you can do better.¨ Dad, I love you so much. I will always attribute this lesson to you. ¨Son, well done, but you can do better.¨ Like this week, when I think that I had done all that I could, God likes to inform me that I still have a lot to do. I love being a missionary! We are working with the Valencia family and we are preparing the baptism of their daughter named Xochitl for this Saturday. We are praying that everything will go well. The Manuel family is leaving behind alcohol and they are already excited for their baptisms. There is a young man and a young woman named Petrolino and Medelia that we are preparing for their baptisms this month. Although the last week was a bit rough, we are going to hit the pavement running.

May God continue to bless you my dear family. I love you so much. Mom, thank you for understanding the plan of salvation, the importance of the family, and for teaching us the Gospel all of our lives. Dad, thank you for always honoring your priesthood. You have always placed the bar for our family. Joy, you are an exceptional example of the attributes of Christ. I draw from your example. Josh, I aspire to love and care for my family as you do for your family. Your love for the Savior is evident. Troy, God will hold you up due to your faithful diligence and pure heart. Your prayers have changed mine. Tyler, thank you for always teaching me to find joy in the service of God. There is always a time to laugh and give thanks to God. Alishia, I admire your desires to create an eternal family and live worthy of a temple recommend. May God bless you in your desires to do so. Grant, thank you for teaching me what it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Truth is the same no matter what the world says.

Thank you. Family, I am who I am because of you. May God bless you always.
Elder Russell

Monday, October 31, 2011

Let's get to Work........week 66

Dear Family,

Here we are a soaking up every minute of our work here. I send my love and excitement to Tyler across the miles. What a marvelous blessing it is to be able to go to the house of the Lord to be sealed for eternity. Is there something more special than that? I don't believe so.

The work here has been going really good. I want to share a really funny story from this week. We went to the tops of the mountains looking for a family. We started from the top and worked our way down. As we were walking down one of the streets, two men stepped out of one of the houses. One was carrying a machete and the other was following him. The man who wasn't carrying anything saw us, paused while he looked at us and then told his companion ¨Give me the machete.¨ Elder Smith and I turned to one another and we began to walk a bit faster :)

We have various families that we are teaching right now that are progressing very well. We are really working hard to do everything for the one. We work through numbers, goals, and objectives, but in order to really achieve what we need to achieve, these numbers have to be people with real problems, challenges, and desires. When we use the records of the Church, we begin to find how the Lord works among His children. It is a topic that we have been developing and we are going to give a capacitation (presentation) to the Zone the following week.

Above all, we are very happy. As we are diligent the light comes to break apart the clouds of ignorance through disobedience. We learn, we repent, we become better, and repeat it. We are really excited to get going in this next month. We have many projects that we are going to put into practice to start to bring about more fruits here. Nothing is going to get us down!

Two weeks ago we met the Valencia Family. They are so special. We have been talking to them and we were able to share with them about how their precious daughters are alive in Christ. We explained the plan of Salvation and they were nodding and saying ¨It was because I didn't know this that I was arguing with my Pastors.¨ We are preparing them for their baptism the 13th of November. The Manuel Family for 20 of November and a young woman named Elizabeth for 27 of November. These families are progressing rapidly with other whom we are preparing for these dates. Let`s get to work!

Elder Russell

Monday, October 24, 2011

Learning every day........week 65

My dear family,

I have to tell you the truth, I´m sorry that you had transfers Dad. There is nothing worse than seeing enthusiasm and afterwords see it go. I pray that the following missionaries will be just as excited to get to work.

Well, here in Acapulco. Where do we start. I believe first and foremost, there is a lot of work to be done. Each and every day is a life lesson. When we think that we are doing a good job, there comes an experience that teaches us that we can do so much more. Elder Ballard says it in this way ¨there are two places where we can never say that we have done everything we could: in the Church and in the home.¨ I have felt that more and more every day.

I have been very impacted recently about the importance of counsels in the Church. The work of salvation is wrought about through counsels in the church. We are trying to work so that our missionaries will be baptizing every week. It is a great endeavor. We are trying to help our Zone and our missionaries through more efficient counsels so that they can baptize weekly. We feel more and more that we can bring it about each day. I have made comments that I feel that I am in a constant learning process. I learn and learn and when I have learned, I learn more. It never ends! Its so great :)

Something I learned this week has to do with our investigators when they come to church for the first time. We tried something new this week. We always invited the families to come at 9 in the morning for the services and we made arrangements with the members so that they would have somebody to sit next to. We invited the Valencia family to come to church this week but we told them that we were going to give them a tour of the church at 8:30. It was something very small but it allowed us to familiarize them with the Church, present them with the members, and help them stay the 3 hours. If someone stays during all the hours of church Sunday, they are much more apt to progress faster and have a lasting conversion. By giving a tour before the services we were able to really help this family. They had a great experience.

We have been thinking a lot about our area and the Zone in what ways we can help the people to progress in these areas. Elder Smith and I are going to speak to our District Leaders to teach them how they can better use their meetings with their Districts as if they were counsels in a ward. We are working with the leaders in the Stake so that the missionaries in this Zone will be able to plan and have assignments from their District meetings and they will be able to bring these needs to the ward counsels and to the ward organizations. We are working so that the missionaries will be working through counsels in their Districts, Wards, and Ward organizations. We feel that it will help us to have much more faith, commitment, and results as missionaries and as a Zone. We feel that through Counsels we will be able to strengthen unity and we will be able to distribute the work in the hands of everyone. We are working a bunch and we are praying a bunch so that this process can function as we feel the Lord has revealed it unto us. We have this week as a trial run before our Counsel of Zone Leaders and another week after before Zone Conference. Send your prayers that the Lord will provide the wisdom that we need to bring this work about.

The work is true. I know that the Lord places the means so that His work can be wrought about. I love this work. It is my greatest joy. I hope and pray and change so that I can be the missionary that the Lord desires of me. Let us go forth is such a great cause!

Elder Russell

Monday, October 17, 2011

I am Trying to Be Like Jesus........week 64

My dear family,

Well, I send you my love and utter joy this week. Our prayers were answered this week and we baptized the Mateo family. After a long wait, they were finally baptized. Their baptism was one of the sweetest experiences of my mission. I decided to sing ¨I´m trying to be like Jesus¨ from the Primary. As I sang it, the sun beamed through the clouds of the week in Acapulco and fell upon my face. The Spirit filled my heart and it was even stronger as we saw them be baptized for the remission of their sins.

We had the privilege to speak to the 1st Counselor in the Stake Presidency about the missionary work in the Zone and in our ward. We spoke about the challenges we are facing and the help we need. He is an returned missionary and he got super excited. He told us, ¨Elders, we are going to do this work of salvation together. Tell what your investigators need and we will do it.¨ Oh how I love the faith, conversion, and energy of returned missionaries!

Well family, I am a bit busy but I love you so much. Thank you for your prayers and your faith. We are working crazy here. I hope to keep sending photos. Love you most!
Elder Russell
The Mateo Family

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grandmothers Don't Always Know What's Best........week 63

Dear Family,

It sounds like the family is doing wonderfully. I realize more and more how the Lord is in charge of His children. He knows who they are and what they need. I am eternally grateful to God that He gave me my family so that I could live up to the potential that the Lord has for me. Thank you Mom and Dad. As I talk to people every day, there are constantly experiences in which I pause to myself and I say, ¨thanks Dad¨, ¨thanks Mom¨. I thoroughly enjoyed your letters this week. Thank you. You are my greatest joys. As good ole´ Abraham Lincoln ¨All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother (and father)¨. How blessed I am to have you all.

The work is amazing. Its really funny right now. We are working like crazy and bringing about a lot of fruits. I am achieving results that I have not had in my mission. But all of these results have gotten close to baptism but they have not reached it as of yet. But as I have learned in my mission, before you can stop to think that you have done a good job, the Lord lets you know that you still have a lot to learn. Right now, I feel that the Lord is going to teach us a bit more and with His help, we are going to become super baptizing machines! I love missionary work because it is a mirror of oneself. Missionary work is so great because everything is one´s fault :) Elder Ballard has said it this way on one occasion. ¨There are two places where we can never say that we have done everything we can, they are in the home and in the Church.¨ If I achieve a good outcome, you have to have a great one. If you have a great one, an excellent. If excellent, extraordinary. And in this way strive for perfection. I absolutely love missionary work and this time that I have here. In the missionary conference that we had with Elder Ballard a few weeks back he told us that there is no other place where it would be more exciting to be today than in the mission field. I am a witness of that.

To sum it up, I am having the time of my life. This past week with Elder Smith, I have felt that the line by line and precept upon precept are starting to make an image of what I should do.

This week I was really impacted by I Nephi 18:1. He´s building the boat and he says something along the lines that the Lord from time to time showed Him the way in which He should work. I renewed my testimony of the Book of Mormon with this scripture this week and I give my testimony that it is true. When the Lord sees it pertinent, we are blessed. It is true.

Oh, I want to share a funny story with you from this past week. We had an appointment with a family that we were preparing to baptize this past week. They didn't show up. I felt that their Grandma had said something incorrect about the Church and they felt reluctant to hear from us. So we came to their house. And you want to know that happened? It was the first time in my mission that someone really chased us out of their house. It followed something like this:

Elder Russell-¨Good morning, how are you¨

Grandmother-¨Get away from my house, no one is home.¨

Elder Russell-¨It's OK ma am, I am going to speak to your daughter¨

(talking the daughter)

Elder Russell-¨So what have you thought about your baptism this Saturday? You didn't want to go to the appointment, right?¨

Daughter-¨It's that I don't know if its would be a good idea¨

Elder Russell-¨It's OK, well, we want you to follow the example of Jesus Christ. That's really all that it comes down to.¨

Grandma - ¨Tell them that your busy¨

Daughter-¨Elders, I´m a bit busy right now¨

Elder Russell-¨It's OK, can we talk with you and your family in the evening?¨

Daughter-¨Sounds good, we can .....¨

Grandma - ¨You stupid missionary, she said that we are busy, get out of here.¨

Elder Russell-¨I'm sorry ma am, I imagine that they have commented to you about their baptism. Could we come by and explain more about that to you?¨

(Now comes the kids of this family to greet us with smiles)

Grandma -¨Now I am mad, get out of my house. You do everything wrong.¨

Elder Russell-¨May we help you with the laundry, we would really like to speak to you without any hard feelings¨


Elder Russell-¨OK ma' am, we are going to leave. It was a pleasure in meeting you. ¡Hasta Luego!¨

I don't know if I did it justice or not but this Grandma was serious business. I left and I began to laugh. I thought to myself ¨the church is so true. Why else would there be crazy grandmas who want to kill us?¨

May we find joy in our service for the Master. It is an inexplicable that comes from giving one´s heart to God. May we do so even more in our lives. It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Russell

Monday, October 3, 2011

"I've got your back"........week 62

My dear family,

Wow, where do we begin. What a spiritual feast this weekend. We have had a lot of changes and a lot of improvement. This was the last week for Elder Zepeda, we had Counsel for the Zone Leaders, General Conference, baptisms, and changes in the mission. We have been working a bunch. I have a new companion called Elder Smith. I knew him from Cuautla, an excellent missionary. I am very excited to see what the Lord has to teach me through him. I would like to share a few experiences from this week that have really impacted me.

This week we didn't have much time to hit the road but we left to work Tuesday in the morning. We went to a place that we had never been to and we began to speak with the people. We didn't feel that we were having much success in this place and we thought that we should look for another place to work. However, we felt that there was someone who we needed to find in this place. As we continued talking to people, nobody seemed to show much interest. We felt that we should go down a certain street. As we went down this street, there were two houses. We went to the first and nothing. As we looked at the last house, we thought to ourselves, one more and we are going somewhere else. As we talked to these people, we found a wonderful family of 3 which the parents went to church to see General Conference. This is a very humble family. They don't have phones nor do they have reception in this part of Acapulco. We couldn't communicate with them to be able to go to church with them. And in this part, it costs a lot of money to go up there and return. To be able to go to church would be a very great sacrifice. But they did it. From a public phone, they called us to tell us that they would be there at 11:00 to see the prophet speak. I was astonished by their faith. They taught me a great lesson about the importance of the Spirit in this work.

I love being a missionary. I see how the Lord teaches me line upon line and precept upon precept. I love it because when the Lord gives me a piece of comprehension, I have the opportunity to apply it and thus gain wisdom. When this process occurs, I feel that I can do anything with the help of the Lord. As I demonstrate to Him that what He will give me, I will do it, I am blessed with more. In such a way, the Lord can prepare me to do better His work.

Today I had a rather miraculous experience. Today was the last day in the mission for my companion Elder Zepeda. As we woke up this morning, I noted a certain sadness in my companion. The first words that he spoke were these. "Today I am the most miserable man in the world." I was shocked by his comment. But I sat pondering about it. It was the last day that he had to be a missionary. He felt it. Wow, a heart ripper for sure. I gave my thanks to God for another day to be His servant. I am so grateful for this priviledge to be a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ. He lives. You are all His children. He loves you. He has given us a plan so that we can return to live with him. As we understand it, we are filled with understanding, comfort, and purpose. I know that it is the truth because God has made it known to my heart and my mind. For which, I cannot say nothing rather than the truth.

This General Conference, I felt a very special connection with the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ. I felt very strongly that they were not people so distant but fellow workers in His vineyard. I felt that it truly was a conference for the workers of the Lord. I learned so very much. I would like to comment on something rather special for me in this General Conference. Elder Jose Alonso of the Seventy gave a taught about going to the rescue of those who are lost. I was rather moved by his talk. He is from Cuautla. His father lives in Amilcingo. My companion and I had the privilege to help activate this faithful servant of the Lord. He told us in our visits, "Elders, I know that the church is true. I always knew it. I had been looking for a way to come back for a long time. I thank God that you came to visit me." As Elder Alonso spoke, I felt as if I was saying to him, "Don't worry Elder Alonso, I got your back :) ". Alongside the talks of Elder Ballard, President Monson, Eyring, Uchtdorf, Elder Packer, Holland in Priesthood and many others, I felt very much this comment, ´Dont worry President / Elder _____, I got your back. You can count on me.¨

As Abraham Lincoln says, Everything that I am and every hope to be I owe to my angel mother. I will change it a bit. For everything that I am and ever hope to be I owe to my dear family who taught me the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you. I owe it all to you.

Elder Russell

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Work Goes Forth, Jump on Board........week 61

My wonderful family,

The work here is going excellent. Elder Zepeda and I are getting some serious work done. We have been bringing about 2 - 3 new families to church every Sunday and the ward is responding very well. Tell the missionaries at home that if they want to get a family to church, a friend or neighbor who is an active member has to offer to go to church with them on Sunday, pass by for them, and sit by them through it all in a lesson before Sunday. The members are the key to finding, bringing to church, baptizing, and retaining. Bring out the minivans!!! President Spannaus says it this way. He says that if the missionaries want to change the attitude of a ward, its not by passing by and teaching them. Its by bringing a huge mass of people to church on Sunday. If that happens, everything gets better so that the ward becomes more involved.

Elder Zepeda and I are teaching 18 families here in Acapulco. We have been working really hard but the fruits haven´t come yet. We are being diligent and by doing so, we know that the fruits are going to come. We are expecting a family baptism this week. We are working to get that done this week. There is much to do, much to learn, and much more to become. I´ll keep you all posted.

I love you all so much. May you begin to rejoice once again in the work of the Master. There is nothing better. I am working here what I can. If the missionaries say that they don't have anybody to teach, let me know. I´ll rack my brain until I can get some references for them.
Elder Russell

Monday, September 19, 2011

Be Thou an Example........week 60

Today we played email tag. Sean got on at 9:30 AM our time, earlier than normal. I was in the middle of checking emails and started writing him. When I looked at my emails....there it was....his email for today....OH NO! I wasn't done yet. So I quickly send off 3 emails hoping to send him something. A broken up conversation for sure. Here is his email I received at 10:10 AM.

My dear family,

Well, I apologize for not being able to communicate with you all this past week. We have been running around rather busy the past few weeks and my time has been leaving me faster and faster. Forgive me for my inconsistency. It sounds like the family is doing very well. I hope and pray that the Lord will continue to bless you and guide you in your paths.

Well, I'm going to let you in on the statistics of our work here in Acapulco. We have been working really hard these past few weeks so that would could baptize every week. The past 3 weeks we had baptisms scheduled each week. However, each of them has fallen through for fears of their parents. It's okay, with every experience, we find another way how not to baptize :)

Right now we are teaching 15 families and we are preparing a family for this Sunday. We are teaching a mom with her 5 sons and all of their grand kids. There are about 5 families in this family and about 30 members. We are preparing the whole family for a baptism this 9th of October. I´ll let you know how things go. Pray for them so that they can prepare themselves for this day. We are working hard so that we can baptize at least one family every week. We´ll send you the photos when they come ;)

I would like to share with you one of my new favorite scriptures. It is found in DC 58:35. From Spanish, it says that ¨to me it is necessary that my servant Martin Harris would give an example to the Church, giving over his money to the Bishop of the church.¨ Okay Elder Russell, what does this scripture have to do with anything? I have reflected much about how to inspire those whom I serve. Here was the answer for me. You must give your example to the Church. God, knowing the needs of His church, calls on men and women to give their examples. Why? So that others can see their works and be better. I learned that the success of one is found within.

When the Lord calls someone to a calling, He is not asking them to do something, He is asking them to be something. As it says in DC 107:99 "Learn every man his duty and as to work with all diligence in the office in which he has been called". We are called and it become critical that we learn what are the duties of such responsibility and we obey them. In this way, we become the servants that the Lord requires us to be. If there is much work to be done, we must learn our duties and fulfill them with all diligence. In this way we become leaders and inspire so that the work can spread into more hands and thus bringing about more fruit. If the master desires more workers in his vineyard, He must become great so that he will have more workers. This process is in the hands of the master if we allow it to occur. DC 64:34 ´For behold, the Lord requires the heart and a willing mind...¨ They are the requisites. The heart and the mind. Desire. And as the scriptures explain further on that those obedient to their duties will have the abundance of the land or success. Everything depends on us. As Paul says it, we are only constrained by our own hearts.

I know that this is the work of God. I have no doubt of it. My life is this work. I thank my God that I have such opportunity.

Elder Russell

Oh I didn't tell you, last week we met with Elder Ballard, Elder Jensen, Elder Benjamin de Hoyos and Elder Gonzalez of the Area Seventy. Ill talk more about that latter :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mission Conference in Cuernavaca........week 59

We didn't hear from Sean today but I did receive an email from a fellow missionary mom. She sent this photo.....that explained everything. Until next week.....

Fourth row on the right in the window seat.....a familiar face.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I picture images of them in the Temple........week 58

My dear family,

What a week we have had here. I am amazed at all of the blessings that we given each and every day as missionaries and as members of the Church of Jesus Christ. I hope to be able to comment about some of my experiences this week.

The Lord is mindful of His children. I feel of that protection each day of my life here. This week has been a week of a lot of training on my part and training other missionaries. I was working in a lot of different areas and running all of the place. I think I was here in Acapulco for one day. Its okay, I learned a lot and we are helping our missionaries so that we can elevate the faith that is found in this Zone. There is something very special about working in the service of the Lord. I would like to comment about something that has caused me to reflect repeatedly. The Lord takes people who are imperfect with many defects and calls them to His work. In this process, He molds these people to be His servants. I have felt this process many many times in my mission, particularly in my time here in Acapulco. The Lord will always instruct those who diligently seek Him in faith. I know that. I have found that with problems that come forth with investigators, members, missionaries, etc., I find that a personal weakness is highlighted and the path towards its solution is revealed. Only when my life´s work is His work do I really receive guidance. It is something that I am deeply grateful for and I know that I am here in this area, with my companion, president, missionaries, members, investigators, and others so that can learn how I can more fully bring about the work of the Lord. It is a spectacular process which brings eternal rewards. There is nothing that matters more to me than the salvation of my brothers and sisters. I have dedicated my life to this cause. There is no going back. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I had a very sacred experience this week. We left for a Conference of the Zone Leaders in Cuernavaca. On our return, I sat pondering many things. I contemplated about the time that I have had as a missionary and how much I have grown under the tutelage of my Father in Heaven. Thinking about this, it came to my mind the thought of the families that I have taught and the image of them in the temple. A flood of emotion came over me like I had not felt in my life and I fought not to tear up. I pled with my Father in Heaven that He would help me to bring these people to His house. I made a promise with my Father in Heaven that from this day I would do all in my power to bring as many of His families to the Temple so that they could live eternally. I reflected about the people I know. How many are baptized for the remission of their sins? How many hold His Priesthood? How many have served missions in His name? How many have entered the temple to be married for time and all eternity? A great sense of guilt swept over me. Oh how I had neglected the salvation of the children of God! I made another covenant with my Father in Heaven. I am my brother´s keeper. I am a steward of this body and my time here on the earth. Why? To bring about salvation. I repented in my mind and in my heart. Its was time to really get to work :)

My dear family, this is the work of God. Be a part of it. Bring those who you know to the make covenants with God. You will find no greater joy, knowledge, and peace. May we dedicate ourselves even more to this great cause. Shall we not go forth? I know that the Kingdom of God will grow until the Gospel has sounded in every ear and all will confess before God in the last day that Jesus is the Christ. We are here to bring that about. Let´s get it done :)
Elder Russell

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's Great to Be a Missionary........week 57

My dear family,

What a week. I can't believe how fast it went by. It is so great to be a missionary. Good work everyone. In a few words, if the Russell family is not working, studying, raising a family, or fulfilling a church calling, it means that they have died. I will never forget the talk by a young man in the 6th ward who said that the church doesn't have a symbol like a cross. There is the honey bee if you insist. He made a joke that the only honey bees that he had ever seen were either working or dead. It makes me think of my family :)

Well I am super pumped to be a missionary right now. I am completing the prophecies of Troy who said that the missionaries really begin to work when they have a year in the mission. I feel this way right now. I am beginning to understand how to find families in the mission field. It is so much better when you teach a family. We are teaching some 12 families right now with another 5 that we already have appointments the following week. WHOO! When a family learns and accepts the Gospel, they strengthen one another and they work to enter in the temple. There is nothing better than that. I am very anxious to hear from some of my converts in Amilcingo as they will be ready to enter into the temple as families in January. My goal as a missionary is to help unify as many families as possible.

This week has been a week filled with revelation and life changing lessons. I learned this week that the success of any endeavor consists in 3 things; the basics, your diligence, and your ability to do it when you don´t want to do it. I realized that I am always trying to reinvent the wheel. I don´t have to. God has already revealed His Gospel to His prophets. I just have to master the basics, be diligent, and work when it is hard. This week an excellent example of this for me. My companion has always helped me with this. He always quotes the movie Glory Road in which the coach says that we master the basics because more than that is dangerous. I want to baptize. How can I do that? God has already explained how. I just have to master the principles of how, do it, and stick to it always. It has been a life lesson for sure.

We are preparing a baptism of a girl Luz this Friday. We are very excited. We have others that we are teaching so that they can be baptized the following weeks.

I want to share with you a very basic formula of how to do the work of salvation. To bring people to Christ through baptism, you need to present them to the missionaries. To help others to become active again, you need to bring them to church and present them to the bishop. To help them stay active, you need to present them to the members. That´s all. It's really simple but it will bring more joy and happiness in your life than you can imagine. I have my personal goals to do everything I can so that I can do that with those who I know. There is no greater joy. And with what end in mind? The temple. My life´s goal is to say hey, look at my awesome eternal family and all of those whom I played a part so that they could have the same. That´s all. My life in a nutshell. I am a very simple member of the Church of Jesus Christ. But I am super happy. Remember, stay to the basics because more than that is dangerous.

The Lord calls us to do His work. He is capable to bring about His purposes without us but He calls us to find joy in being part of His work. There is no greater work. If you are reading this letter and you are not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, contact the missionaries and be baptized. If you are a member but you don´t feel super strong, talk to the bishop and do what he tells you. If you see a new member of the Church, present yourself and invite him over for dinner. I promise you that the Lord will touch your heart and you will feel of His love. As the prophet Alma said in Alma 31:35 "Behold, their souls are precious, oh Lord, and many of them are our brothers; therefore, grant us, oh Lord, power and knowledge so that we can bring them, our brothers, again to thee." I offer the same prayer to my God. I know He answers the prayers of those with humble hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Russell

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fulfilling the Doctrine of Christ........week 56

My dear family,

How are you family? It always sounds that the Lord blesses you in more ways that we often realize. Good work to everyone. Thank you family for everything you have done for me and all of the prayers in my behalf. They are very much appreciated.

Right now I am very happy. Why? Because we are bringing souls unto Christ. We had 2 baptisms this past Saturday and 9 in the Zone. When we complete with what corresponds to us we are happy. When we fulfill the Doctrine of Christ which is baptism, we are happy. I feel very much like Thomas Edison who said that he didn't fail, he only discovered 999 ways not to make the light bulb. I do not feel like I have failed, yet that I have found 999 ways how not to do missionary work. I feel that I am starting to understand how to really be a missionary. I want to give my testimony that God knows us perfectly. I absolutely love missionary service because God changes you to become a greater instrument in His hands. I love it because the righteous desires of my heart are considered line upon line, precept upon precept. For example, I believe it is Elder Ballard who teaches that the study of the Gospel will change behavior faster than a study of behavior will change behavior. I have seen how a defect of mine which I have had for all of my life is taken away in an instant when the Lord grants me a portion of revelation. I have learned that if the desire really is righteous and correct, God will grant you the knowledge and the capacity to bring about His work. President Spannaus always says it in this way: when a missionary finally realizes how to be a missionary, he already ended his mission. I feel very much in this way.

We had a baptism of a young woman named Hortensia who is amazing. She came to church, listened to us, accepted everything and was baptized. She is such an inspiration for me. Elder Zepeda and I have been praying and working very hard these past few weeks and we are beginning to see the results. We are preparing for 3 baptisms this week, 1 the next week and another the following week. We hope to add to these days and the following weeks as we are praying for opportunities to find choice families and changing a bit our way of working. There is such joy in the work of salvation. I cannot express what it means to me to be worthy to work side by side with the Lord. Every true joy and happiness is found in the work of salvation. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by angels of the Lord. I am continually reminded how I learn and how I have become who I am. How do I know this or that about the Gospel? Because my parents taught me and I have had teachers throughout the years who have given me knowledge. How have I learned how to be a missionary? Because I have an excellent companion, President, and Preach my Gospel. There is truly no greater call than that of a teacher of the Gospel.

I have learned an amazing principle in my missionary service. When there is a problem, we seek the counsel of the authorized representatives of God and we do what they say. Period. It is the success. When we accept our responsibilities and we look for the answers through the prophets and the Spirit, we will obtain the success we need. For example, I have a problem with my work commitments and the church. Great question. Let us look at the words of the scriptures and of modern day prophets with the Spirit. I promise you that there will be the doctrine and various suggestions that if followed, will give you the balance that you need. Try it. Exercise your faith. I need to find people to teach. Where are the words of the prophets for that? Preach my Gospel. And what can I do? Oh wow, here are a bunch of ideas. I have learned this lesson and it has changed everything for me. God knows everything.

Our problems, situations, and worries are nothing new. And besides, He has already had an eternity to practice. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. We just need to accept responsibility, learn the doctrine from the prophets, and follow their counsels and suggestions. It's everything. Elder Maxwell explained it in this way "Those who live the Telestial Law blame others, those who live the Terrestrial Law wait until someone teaches them, but those who live the Celestial Law accept responsibility and learn." What law are we living? In our work? Family? Church? Marriage? Callings? I love it!

May we always accept our responsibilities and trust in the Lord that He has revealed, reveals, and will reveal everything pertaining to the Kingdom of God. Let us accept, trust, and get to work. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Russell

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Photos from Monday

Visiting a local tourist church on P-day

Looks like Elder Russell has had the chance to hold a guitar again.
Jamming on P-day in Mexico?

Monday, August 15, 2011

God Answered our prayer........week 55

The baptism of Adelina

My dear family,

Here goes my fast letter. Wow, good work family. I laughed about Troys experience. Congratulations to you Grant for your results in your Econ class.

This week was a week of miracles. I would like to tell the story of my first Eunich in the mission. She is called Adelina. We met her this week, invited her to be baptized, was baptized this Saturday and was confirmed this Sunday. It was so amazing! She was telling all the world that she had been baptized and how wonderful it was. The Lord is beginning to shed his blessings over our area. We have many baptisms lined up for the next few weeks and we trust in the Lord that He is going to let us begin to baptize every week. There is nothing better than baptizing every week. Here we come.

Other experience really special. Saturday night, we knelt in prayer as a companionship and we prayed to God that He would touch the humble in heart to come to the Church solos so that we could prepare them for baptism in three weeks. We worked all week long but we didn't feel like we met anyone who would be baptized in this week. It was this night that we commanded the humble in heart to come to church. We came to church and there were two people, one for our area and the other for the other area of the ward. They came with members. We didn't know them nor had we taught them anything. God answered our prayer and we are going to prepare these two people for baptism in 3 weeks or less. How grand is my God!

God lives. He governs His children and will always work miracles as we show our faith to Him. I know Him and I want to know Him even more. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Elder Russell

Monday, August 8, 2011

True Faith in Jesus Christ....week 54

My dear family,

What a week! We have seen the hand of the Lord in our work daily. We find ourselves giving everything that we have to bring about the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In this letter I would like to talk about a subject very sacred to me. I feel impressed that it will benefit someone who may read this.

I would like to call it true faith in Jesus Christ. It means that we are willing to do whatever the Lord asks us to do. We are so desirous to change our hearts and our lives that we are willing to give everything to the Lord. I am imperfect. I am tried and tested every single day. Day after day I think in my mind who I am and who I am going to be. Through these thoughts I create my desires. These desires create my priorities. These priorities shape the choices that I make. The choices that I make change my eternal destiny. I have learned in a very powerful way that my desires shape everything. I find that I am not the same person I was a day ago. I am not the same that I was an hour ago. I am constantly changing and becoming better. I have thought on various occasions about what it truly is that I want.

What are the deepest desires of my heart? If I can identify them, I will know immediately if I am happy or miserable and if I will be happy or miserable in the future. I have thought much about how the Savior of the world grants unto all according to the desires of their hearts. I have pondered much of the laments of the Savior and His servants through the ages. I find that the majority of their sorrows are when they see that the hearts of their people are placed in the vanities of the world. They openly choose to reject the Savior as they follow the after their own desires. And why? They do it as they believe that their desires are good and they understand how to achieve such goals. However, their desires, even if they are good, if they are not acted upon by doing the will of God, will not bring them happiness. I have seen this repeated times in my mission and I understand more and more who my Savior Jesus Christ really is. If you want to be happy, strong, humble, bold, courageous, intelligent, thrifty, have faith, success, loving family, etc, do the will of God. If you have righteous desires and you really want to complete them, do the will of the Father. Christ gave the perfect example of this.

What were the aspirations of Christ? What were His goals? It was the salvation of His brothers and sisters. How did He accomplish that? It gave His life to do the will of His Father. This is the difference. This is what changes someone from mediocre to exemplar. When our righteous desires dominate our minds, the will of God will dominate our actions. If this is the case, we will achieve what the Lord desires of us and we will become who the Savior desires of us. If the desires of my heart are the same as those of the Father and I am willing to give my life to do the will of my God, I have become one with God. I have become a Disciple of Jesus Christ. When this occurs, the powers of God are shown amongst His children because there is someone who will do His will. God will change our hearts, our families, our relationships when we become the means by which He will work. I call this consecration or true faith. There is nothing that will separate me from the love my God, only my own heart. I will never that that happen. My desires are His and my will is His. If my desire changes for a moment away from what they should be, pray with all the intensity of your heart so that they will return. Is it not miraculous to know that the Savior of the world was about to turn away from the cup of the Atonement. Yet He gave His desires to God. ´I finished my preparations unto the children of men´. And as the pain came with greater force, He prayed more intently. We have much to learn from our Savior Jesus Christ.

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are the work of God. His greatest creation. We are made in His image. I know it. Christ is my Savior. I love Him with all of my heart. Have righteous desires. Know Him. It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Elder Russell

Getting my feet wet in the work

Preparation Acapulco? Who knew?

"Is this Heaven? No, It's Iowa...."
But not today, it is heaven in the mission. Warm climate, beautiful beaches,
a companion in the work, and a badge that bares His name on my shirt.... doesn't get much better than this!

"O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of my heart,
that I could go forth and speak with the trump of God,
with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people."
Alma 29:1

Tracting the beaches of Acapulco?
You never know who the Lord will put in your path.

Sean's smile, still makes me smile.
Contagious even across the miles.
He is so and miss him.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What have I learned over the past year?........week 53

My wonderful family,

Well, I am going to dedicate this email to answer those questions that you gave me. The reason that I didn't write beforehand is because we had Counsel for the Zone Leaders and we were in Cuernavaca yesterday. I am going to do my best to answer your questions and I pray that I can do so in appropriately.

What have I learned so far... that it is an excellent question. I am come to understand in a very powerful way that was and still am nothing. I am come to realize how the Lord knows exactly who I am and gives me companions, investigators, members, leaders, and a President who teach me. I have learned and realized all of the defects that I have. Something that may seem very small becomes huge when we serve as missionaries. We are with people all day long. We are with a companion all of the time. I am learning more and more to invite others to come unto Christ more boldly and receive correction more humbly.

How has my perspective changed? Everything about my perspective has changed. I believe that I can explain all of this very simply with the word consecration. God gives us power and we become like Him when we are fully dedicated to bring about His work: which is the salvation of souls. It is a very simple concept yet it moves me deeply. God gives us families so that we can return to live with Him again. He invites them to live the Gospel of His Son Jesus Christ which is an invitation to become consecrated in His work. God knows of our problems. We all have them. To change them, we become consecrated through the Gospel of Jesus Christ by helping others do the same. Or in other words, we invite others to be baptized. I don't know a whole lot however I know the source of my eternal happiness and how I am going to achieve it. As my family invites others to be baptized, we will obtain such joy that we will not be able to explain. My perspective has changed as I know exactly who I am, where I am going and how I am going to do it. I was not born in this time, within a family of the Church to waste my time worrying about money and the problems of every day. I was born in this time to learn the Gospel from choice parents of God, to receive the Priesthood, and within my calling and authority, invite everyone to come unto Christ through baptism. The Lord prepares His children to change a young man like me so that his worries of grades and future can be changed to inviting all to come unto Jesus Christ. It consists of the tutelage of the Lord and the decision of the student. The Lord will never leave us without His tutelage but I have already made my decision and there is no going back. There are two roads, one less taken. I have taken it and it has made all of the difference.

If I could change anything in the past year, I would want to focus more in my calling and my responsibility than try to change everyone else. I love this principle. I have learned that the most important thing that I can do to have a successful mission, career, and family is do with all of my heart what relates to me. For example, if I find that there are problems in a ward, although I may be teaching in the primary, I am going to teach in the primary with everything I have. If I want to help a brother, son, wife, father, mother, friend, etc to be better, I must focus myself in my own responsibilities. By so doing, I will help them to realize their own potential. I find that it really can be defined like this. Instead of criticizing someone, I am going to inspire them. The latter shows a personal responsibility and a deeper faith. If I want to have an excellent family, ward, work group, etc, I am going to inspire them. Simple, but only the Lord knows why I took so long to learn it :)

This is all that I have time to answer right now but I hope that you can feel what the mission has meant for me so far. I was rather emotional when I realized that it was already half over. I love you family, but I don't want to go home. I will return but I promise you that I am never coming back (to who I was before). God lives. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. I know it. Share it. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Russell

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Be something and then teach".......week 52

My dear family,

Congratulations mom on being called in the Primary. There is no other calling better than the Primary. It is good to hear that the work of the Lord is going forth at home as well as abroad. I would like to make some comments about how it is going abroad.

This week my companion came down sick with the flu. We were locked up for a few days. As such we had a lot of time to talk, pray, and seek the Spirit as to what we can do to be better missionaries and leaders here in Acapulco. We had interviews with President Spannaus and he gave us a very clear direction as to how we should help the missionaries. I learn each and every day here in the mission things that change the course of my life. I don't remember if I mentioned this to you but I love how Elder Campos described the mission. He said that his Stake President in his interview said that his mission was to baptize and in the process, the Lord is going to teach you everything that you lack. I am a living witness of that. I recognize that habits of years are changed in instants as they are put before the altar of God through humble prayer. I feel of the divine guidance of a loving Heavenly Father as He speaks of eternal potential. I also feel the deception of the adversary who is ever so subtle to say that we cannot.

In this week of reflection, study, and prayer, the Lord has taken habits and utterly changed them. He has taken someone imperfect and thrust him in the fire to see the latter brilliance of his journey. I have reflected about my mission so far. If I am not mistaken, I am already half way. I must tell you the truth, I made me a little bit unsettled. I offered many silent prayers as if to say ´no, I cant go back.´ As I thought about this I came across a quote from President Monson. It reads ´My dear brothers and sisters, no do fear. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.´ In this moment the Lord taught me a very powerful lesson. I felt a very strong comfort come over me. There is no fear. There is only faith. The degree of my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is what will ultimately give me the light which I desire. Do not fear.

In talking with President Spannaus he taught me another very powerful lesson. I asked him what I could do to help the missionaries in our Zone. He said, "Elder Russell, worry yourself for your companion and your area. Be something and then teach." I felt humbled and determined. Elder Russell, your primary goal is be the missionary that you must be for the other missionaries. After, and only afterwards, can you teach them. But be something first. It was a lesson of great humility. I have repented and I am determined to achieve what the Lord wants me to achieve.

I would like to share another experience which was powerful for me. We went to visit the sisters of the Zone to speak a bit with them. They have felt very uncomfortable in their area as they feel that Satan has a very strong hold on the people, their home, and even on the sisters. We were informed that we should go talked to them and bless them as well as their house. We spoke to them and we shared a message with them. As it says in Ephesians 6:12 that we do not have a fight against flesh and blood rather spiritual forces. It is true. After giving a blessing to both the sisters, we shared our message. They felt better and we knelt down in prayer to bless their area. They live in a rather rough part of Acapulco and we felt it appropriate to bless their area. As we knelt, I offered a prayer to my Father in Heaven to bless and protect this area and that the preaching of the Gospel would be done with power and authority. As I prayed I felt the Spirit guide my words and as Christ describes it when He healed the woman with the issue of blood, He says that he felt virtue, or power, leave Him. I felt the same as we blessed this area. I felt power leave me. I knew that the Sisters were going to be fine and the work of God would spring forth in this place.

I know that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ. I know that the Lord loves all of His children and offers them His Gospel. Let us appreciate and live it. As it is states in Romans 1:16 "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is the power of God unto salvation." It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Elder Russell

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Time has flown by

Today is the one year mark for Sean on his mission. It's gone fast, but some days it seems so slow, but he is doing well and enjoying the work. My thoughts go to his departure early on that Wednesday morning, July 21st as the sun peeked over the mountains, the air crisp, and my son (a newly set apart missionary, ready to tackle the world) with emotion in his face raised his hands one last time to say..."Hurrah for Israel, thanks mom and dad for everything, here I go...I've waited my whole life to do this". He has been missed, but I have enjoyed the rich blessings of watching him grow under the Lord's guidance in bringing eternal life to many in the cities of Amilcingo and Acapulco Mexico. The reality of how quickly time is going has hit, and I hope and pray that he will continue to press forward, never missing an opportunity to share the Lord's message of salvation with anyone he meets.

This is the Lord's training ground for the rest of his life to come. I pray he passes boot camp, with honor, strength, and eternal vision.

I love you Sean,

Monday, July 18, 2011


This is my friend Elder Colby Gschwend who is serving in Samoa. We have been friends for 11 years. It's fun to serve with him....across the world. My other friend Elder Alan Christopher is serving in the Philippines. We are certainly "all over the world".

All is well...........week 51

Dear family,
I don't have any time but all is well here. Sounds like there are a lot of changes. Change is good. I pray that you will always turn to the Lord in fervent prayer, diligent study of the scriptures and meaningful fasts. I so pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Elder Russell

Monday, July 11, 2011

Watching the Lord's hand in the work........week 50

My dear family,

Wow, it sounds like the family is doing great. Tell the family that if they are doing what they feel the Lord wants them to do, then I give all of my support in their efforts. I know that the Lord continues to bless each and every one of you. Keep me updated on the changes of the family and the ward, I love to see how the hand of the Lord works in the lives of the people.

Ok, due to the fact that I haven't said many stories, I am going to fill the time I have with nothing but stories. We were walking in the street one day this week and we needed to teach some people. As we were walking Elder Zepeda offered a quick prayer, we spoke to the next lady that we saw and we talk her and her family. The next day I did the same, we found a woman who accepted her baptismal date and is really interested. The same day I offered a quick prayer to find someone and 3 seconds later a car pulled over and a young man got out and started to talk to us about the Church. A few weeks ago we met an inactive man who was really depressed. We invited him to come to church but didn’t want to because he put pretexts that the members of the church didn’t care about him. I loved this comment. The same Sunday I mentioned the situation in Priesthood meeting in which he wasn’t there and the brethren decided to end to lessons early and serve this man. The best part of the experience was that this man was in his house and as it began to pour rain, outside of his house were around 50 men and young men in white shirts and ties, soaked from head to toe, waiting to see what could be done to help this man. Priesthood is so cool! Right now he is making drastic changes in his life and we are preparing to teach his family.

Other experience was about a few weeks ago. We had one week left to meet our goal for the month in the Zone. We sat down as a Zone and in the same spirit of a Priesthood Quorum, we made a plan, presented it to the Lord and set forth to work. We had planned 3 baptisms for the week and we ended up baptizing 8 people. The Lord knows His children. We just need to find them and teach them. This week as we were trying to find people to teach, we worked but didn’t have much success. However, the last few days, people have commented about certain families and many came to church on their own. The Lord is very conscious of us. I have no doubt of that. We are preparing a family of three named Sylvina, Jonathan, and his son Jonathan. We are preparing to baptize them in the following weeks. We have many families like theirs that need to be married. I think we are going to have a super wedding in the ward. Their family is really special. I like to play in the Nursery with Jonathan.

These are all the stories that I have for the moment with the time but the work is moving forward with great success. Elder Zepeda is very talented in music and has been teaching me a lot. With this we have been doing performances in baptisms and we are preparing Family Home Evenings and I am preparing to start the ward choir. I have seriously dedicated myself to learn the piano as I am preparing to lead the ward choir and play in the ward meetings. I spent time today and learned ¨Nearer my God to thee¨. I hope to be able to play in sacrament meeting 2 or 3 songs in 2 weeks. I have a lot of prayers to offer but I know that we have been and will continue to animate this ward. Missionary work is so cool.

I love you family. Thank you for all of your prayers. Trust in the Lord and He will not leave you all comfortless. It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Elder Russell

Monday, July 4, 2011

I felt a prompting........week 49

My dear family,

How are you all? I did not have the time as we left for a capacitacion (a training week) in Cuernavaca this past week. Thank you for all of your letters as I am very grateful for all of your support.

Well, I don't have much time but I am going to tell you the facts that I haven't had the time to talk beforehand. The work here is very distinct in Costa Azul. Elder Zepeda told me about his experiences the past few months in which he told me that what I was doing here was I was doing in Amilcingo. I have learned so much from Elder Zepeda in these past few weeks than from any other companion. We are working. We don't have any other worry rather than work. I learn every day from him a great lesson. I continue learning what I means to be a leader in the mission. An adjustment for sure but I feel that the Lord is very aware of where I am and what I am doing.

I want to share a story with you about an experience I had in a small town named Alpuyeca near Cuernavaca. I was working with an Elder Blair during the training week and we went to visit with a young woman named Victoria. She was very frightened that he ex husband was going to come to her house to claim her young son. She was so afraid that she hadn't left the house and wasn't able to go to church. We came to visit with her and we sat in her house as she spoke of her fears that he will come to take her son. We sat and listened and as we were listening I felt a prompting very subtle to share a scripture about the stripling warriors. I thought to myself, ¨really?!?¨ I opened the scriptures and I shared a scripture that was exactly what she needed. As we talked we learned that her real fear was not so much her son rather that she was upset with God believing that He wanted to take away every beautiful in her life. We shared our testimonies and some scriptures and we closed with a kneeling prayer. I do not believe that I have heard a more sincere prayer in my life. It was beautiful. I was deeply moved as I heard the words of a precious child of God plead for comfort and assurity that God truly exists. The spirit filled the room. I will ever be thankful for such an experience.

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When you have a problem or a doubt, read the book of Mormon. It was written to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Plan of Salvation, and answer the questions of your soul. Read it, meditate what it says, and pray to Heavenly Father to know if it is true. I promise you that He will give you the answers that you need. It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Russell

Monday, June 27, 2011

Meetings in Cuernavaca........week 48

We didn't hear from Sean this week. He had what is called a capacitacion in Cuernavaca. It is a week of training. Looks like they separated companionships, went out to work, and learned better how to serve as missionaries.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Our Personal Relation with Jesus Christ........week 47

My Dear Family,

Wow, it sounds like the family is really busy with a lot of projects and working hard. As President Grant says, "we must re throne work as the guiding factor in the lives of the Latter-day Saints." I have no doubt that my family has no trouble with the principle of work.

I appreciate all of your thoughts and the comments in the letters that I have received. I am grateful for all that you do and I know that the Lord guides the steps of His children. I am astonished each and every day how the Lord places people in our paths to teach, lead, and guide us. I know that I have been taught by goodly parents. I am eternally grateful for you my dear family. May the Lord continue to bless you as you seek to do His will.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in this world every single day. We talk, walk, hear, communicate, run, feel, understand. We worry ourselves with a lot of things. We begin to stress ourselves over things that really do not have much importance. I have thought much about a quote from President Monson which says that ¨we should never let a problem become more important than a person to be loved.¨ It has given me a perspective much deeper about what I desire to accomplish as a missionary and as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Speaking of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I know that it is the only way to return to live with God again. As we exercise faith, repent of our sins, show God the reality of our faith through obedience to His commandments, make covenants with God to do more so that He can bless us to greater degrees, we can obtain success, peace, and eternal life. The only way that we can receive eternal life is through our personal relation with Jesus Christ. He is the only person who is capable to give us salvation. Taking from President Monson, I have thought about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this way. ¨Elder Russell, never let a problem become more important than your love for Jesus Christ.¨ Why? Why would someone neglect themselves of vanities to follow Christ? I like the word vanity. It means something that appeals to be worthwhile or correct but in reality it is not. It means a trap. They are counterfeits of blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each and every one of us yearns for success, peace, and a security of who we are and where are we going. If the Gospel of Jesus Christ did not exist, there would be no reason for us to be here. If the Gospel of Jesus Christ did not exist, there is no reason for this earth. But we are here. We life in this earth and we live in this day and age when the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is here on the earth. We search and search and search for complex answers and instantaneous solutions. They are vanities or counterfeits of the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no solution nor situation that God does not understand nor has He already dealt with it millions of times. We are talking about the Eternal God who does not change who is the Mediator of all mankind. Learn of Him. Trust Him. Follow Him.

It is my testimony that we are members of the family of God. We were not reserved for this day and age so that we could waste away our time thinking about being baptized or receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We were reserved to so that we could be baptized in this day and age. We were not selected for our excellence in money management but for our diligence in the Priesthood of God. Follow Christ. It is the only real success. It is my prayer that we can make and better keep the covenants that God has given us. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Elder Russell