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 ├írea 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