Tuesday, August 15, 2017

LAST EMAIL (Basically) - Aug 15, 2017

Well, here we are. Basically my last email home in the mission. It has gone all too fast. I have learned, grown, and changed so much. I really struggle to find what to say. That's why I dedicated my personal study a few days ago to "WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?" and came up with this (sorry it'll be short for time's sake).

All that I have learned and changed has to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
1. Faith--Exceptional, Exceedingly Great Faith
     It has power to bring about miracles, change lives and perspectives, and is in general the key to success in life. It requires dedication, effort, works, and trust in the Lord, but all efforts are worth it.
2. Repentance--Humble, Sincere, and Continuous Repentance
     Without repentance the atonement of Jesus Christ has no effect. Without repentance we cannot progress temporally nor spiritually (nor eternally). It brings about a change of heart--not just of what we feel, but of what we desire and what we aspire to become. It is the pathway to total consecration unto the Lord.
3. Keeping Covenants--Exact Obedience
     See Alma 57:21, 25-27. There are no blessings without obedience. The best kind of obedience is obedience for love of God and because of a desire to serve Him, thought it is not at all bad to obey for the blessings at first. Unconditional obedience is the first law of heaven, and is the law by which all things in the universe are governed.
4. Receiving Personal Revelation through the Holy Ghost
     The Lord can take the goals we set and the plans we make and make them sacred "promises" toward which we can exercise exceptional faith and turn the plans into "instructions" which we can strive for exactness in following and which give us opportunities to repent. Also, if we are willing to share with the Lord our deepest desires and thoughts, He will reveal to us if they are good and how to bring them to pass, or He will tell us what would be better. We need only be humble enough to follow His instructions.
     This one is still hard for me, but it applies in EVERYTHING. In any field of work, study, games, social stuff, etc. talking to everyone is the key to success. Just as two heads are better than one, 20 heads are better than 2.

In general, the changes that have been wrought in me and in the mission are summed up by 1 John 3:21-24. I don't have time now to explain how, but I'll tell you next Thursday or Friday. ;D

I love you all so much. i am so very grateful for the opportunity I've had to serve the Lord for these 2 years, and I know that all these experiences will be for my good. I know that Jesus Christ is my savior, and that He has felt all things and knows how to succor us according to our weaknesses. I know that our Heavenly Father has a plan for each nad every one of us, and that He wants to help us fulfil our deepest desires so long as we consult with Him first.

See you all soon!
Elder Rowe

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Home Stretch - Aug 7, 2017

Hello there!

I don't have much time today, because I didn't get time to write yesterday. I went to Villa Esfuerzo with Elder W***** and we got caught in traffic on the way there. It was great to see all those people, take some pictures, get some WhatsApp numbers and FB addresses, and drink TONS of juice (literally every person gave us fruit juice to drink as we passed by).

Thus came to an end my last free P-Day in the mission field. Next Monday I have a self-reliance course they give to outgoing missionaries (I'm going to do it with the group that leaves the 15th because some guy from the Area has to come do it and won't have time my last Monday), and the Monday after that I will buy some touristy stuff in El Conde and watch the eclipse.

We have been without the bikes all week (they were super broken down so we sent them off to the capitol), but we should get them back between tomorrow and Thursday. Also, on Thursday last I gave my last testimony in the mission leadership council meeting (that was weird). Nothing else all too exciting this week. 

Sorry, no time for pics now. Love you guys!!

Élder Rowe

25 Days and Counting - July 31, 2017

Okay, I'm counting. Sorry. XD

Mom, YOU feel out of touch? (I told him that I had been at Girls Camp for 3 and 1/2 days and felt out of touch...) I've never had a smartphone, almost never had social media, and have been in a moderately advanced country for 2 years where everything gets here 6 months late and where I only have communication with anyone once a week, and at present I live in a town of under 500 people with minimal phone service and no internet access. xD Haha Then again, when I get back and the worldly things creep in I will probably feel the same after a week of camping. I was just realizing the same thing being out in Gonzalo in connection with the mission (or rather, the lack thereof). We are so far from everyone and everything that I know next to nothing about missionaries in other zones and the progress of the mission like I used to. Also, not having texting anymore means I can't just ask people stuff that easily (zone leader benefits).

This week was INSANE. At the beginning of the week we had 5 people committed to be baptized yesterday (Sunday the 30th). We lost Wednesday because we were in the capitol so Elder O**** could get his Dominican driver's license (they are doing that with all the missionaries that can drive now just in case they get called to the office in the future, but they haven't bothered with me because I'm old). Funny enough, the driver education and testing program is sponsored by the national brewery, and Elder O**** said that in the video they basically say that it's okay to drive drunk if it is only a little drunk. BUEEENO... cómo te digo... Over the next few days the parents of 3 denied permission and the grandmother of another one discovered an advanced cancer in herself and died within the week (specifically Saturday, and the funeral service occupied all of Sunday). In the end only one girl got baptized, but she got to bring all her friends with her--her friends in church that brought her, and some friends who are not yet members who she is now planning to bring to church. Although there was a TON of opposition in general, President Corbitt and President Smith have taught us to try to ride the opposition like a wave, and to seek the growth opportunities that the Lord is extending to us. I had honestly thought that I would have grown more at the beginning of my mission than at the end. At the beginning of my mission I became and obedient and a more diligent missionary, but at the end of my mission the Lord is refining me by opposition into a more faithful and more humble missionary. I am really coming to realize that this work is the Lord's and that there is nothing I can do of myself to bring it about. It is only when I keep the Lord's terms and conditions that He blesses me with the opportunity to participate as a tool in his work, as a laborer in the great harvest. I feel like while my actions were most changed at the beginning of my mission, it is my attitude that the Lord has wanted to change, and since I hadn't changed it sufficiently yet He has decided to put me back into the fire of opposition. This time, however, I don't get discouraged as easily, because I know the WHY of the opposition. Before I would always just see it as me failing or something I had done wrong, but now I see that it is for my good, for the growth of others, and perhaps not for what I said or did but for what I thought. It is our whole selves that the Lord wants, not just our appearances and actions. He wants us to turn up our convictions and our desires to Him, to share the deepest thoughts of our souls with Him in confidence so He can make our righteous dreams come true. The Lord is really out for OUR happiness, not his own. Thus should we all be out for the happiness of our families, friends, investigators, etc.

I love you guys so much! See you all soon, and have a great week!
Élder Rowe

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Little Miracle - July 24, 2017

Hello there! 

Great to hear from you all back home. I am glad that summer is going well! This week we were SUPER busy. We had a zone conference on Tuesday (actually i wrote home Wednesday so I may have mentioned that already...) that, while touching on a lot of topics, had a great focus on obedience for no reason. In other words, obedience because we've made a covenant to be obedient, not obedience because we desire some blessing or obedience for fear of a curse. I felt affected by it. President and Sister Smith both speak Spanish, so they taught their discussion together. It was a great example of teaching by the Spirit and in unity as companions.

Our miracle this week started Sunday. We met the younger sister of two active members whose name is B*****. We found out from our branch president that she had wanted to get baptized over a year ago, but that her mother had denied her permission (she is 14 years old). We decided to give it a shot. We went Wednesday night to talk with her and her older sisters, who all saw B***** being baptized as impossible. After a little while, B***** finally expressed that YES, she did want to be baptized, but that she thought her mother wasn't too hot on the idea. Thursday afternoon we went to talk to her mother, and after talking about the necessity of baptism and the importance of agency, she said that her daughter could be baptized upon receiving a spiritual confirmation that she should do so. Right there with her mother we committed B***** to pray that night and tell her mother in the morning how it all went. (The mother was super nice to us the whole time, I should add.) We showed up Friday afternoon, and B***** was super excited to see us. She said she had already obtained permission from her mother, and Elder W***** (my son and Zone Leader, who I was with on exchanges) did her interview right then and there. We filled out her records and the mom signed them, and B***** passed her interview EVEN THOUGH WE HAD NEVER TAUGHT HER (she had known everything for a long, long time). She was then baptized yesterday (Sunday) afternoon. The Lord really can open and change hearts. I have been able to see it time and time again out here, just as much in my area as in other areas. ESPECIALLY here at the end of my mission.

As far as some of my plans and goals for the next few weeks, I have been trying to work hard on being more sincere in prayer and striving to be more dedicated in my study of the scriptures. I never have had difficulty with desires to study, but I have gotten lazy recently with how effectively I do so. I am reading the Old Testament all the way through, and it is really intriguing (LOTS of death in the Law of Moses, and lots of what would today be cruelty in the era before the coming of Christ--also the Psalms and Proverbs have more doctrinal value than I originally thought). I am also trying really, REALLY hard to not think of home. I really feel happy and content being here in the mission and not having worries, but me being me I am already drifting into trying to plan things out for next month and decide what kinds of things i will be doing and stuff like that. Time will be short before getting to BYU... GAH! Stop that! ;)

I love you all so much! I hope summer continues to go well. My companion and I are SUPER EXCITED for the eclipse, even though we won't get to see it.

Élder Rowe

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Photos! - July 19, 2017

1- Zone Photo (my companion and I are in regular clothes because we biked there and got all dirty, while the others all got together and came on a bus)

2-The Waterfall

By the way, I don't have much time to write because we went to the caves again this Monday and got lost along the way, so I am cutting into lunchtime to write some stuff home.

We showed up early and found the path up to the top of the waterfall. Elder O**** and I took and hour nap up there, and it was the most relaxing experience I've had in some time.

3-Nap spot

We made Snickerdoodles in the form of a brownie (we lacked Cream of Tartar, though) and it came out AMAZING

We had a baptism on Sunday--her name is L*****. Her son, J****, the larger man next to her, is waiting on papers to get married to his wife and get baptized

4- Baptism

I figure I'll just unload my week via pictures, for time's sake.

There were TONS of bats in the cave this time. Also, I don't know if I've expressed before the magnitude of this cave. It is HUGE. Like, 3 stories tall in most of it (and then there's the 3 story drop within it to an underground river) and it has got to be 20 yards or so wide throughout. Elder W***** is a big nature/exploration/adventure guy, and he said this was probably the biggest cave he'd ever been in.


ALSO and last of all we had our first zone conference with the Smiths yesterday and it was SUPER powerful. They teach as a companionship, and have a big focus on the importance of the Spirit. We talked also about exact obedience and how it is probably best of all to obey not for fear nor for knowledge of the blessings it brings, but for NO REASON ALL. As in, Adam offering sacrifices "I know not, save the Lord commanded me" obedience. Covenants should be the driving factor for what we do and how we do it.

8-zone with new Mission Pres and wife

Love you all so much! See you in 37 days (but who's counting? XD)
Élder Rowe

Waterfall Devotional - July 10, 2017

Sorry, no pictures until next week--I left my SD memory reader home thinking we'd pass by the house before writing (we didn't have time because we were at a waterfall all day as a zone :D).
Good to hear you enjoyed 4th of July. Elder O**** and I found in the capitol some cheese-stuffed hot dogs, so we ate those on the 4th, ate the leftovers in mac & cheese on the 5th, and didn't actually sing the national anthem until thursday the 6th.
The whole world is changing so fast! I forget how much stuff happens every summer--Katie leaving, Abbie and Jace working on papers, visits from family, sheesh. For how many changes are going on, the world sure is small. The fact that a good friend of mine in the mission, M*** A******, is in Jessica's ward, and that the girlfriend of another missionary that I know lives on her floor, was almost too much for me to take in my tired, sweaty state. The humidity has been real today.
That is particularly because yesterday we went to Sabana Grande de Boyá (20 minute bike ride) to help the zone leaders prep for their baptism and let Elder O**** do the interviews. We did an intercambio to get more done, and it started POURING while we were looking for a kid who was supposed to get baptized who had left the lesson we were teaching him. To make a long story short the baptism went through, but Elder O**** and I didn't stay to see it because we had to get back to Gonzalo before dark, and it was already raining and there was no power in town. We got into Gonzalo and it started raining sideways and we could barely see. We got SOAKED. It rained through the night, but has been clear all today. However, the humidity has hung around. Elder O**** and I biked out half an hour down the highway to get to the waterfall for the zone activity devotional/picnic we had. It was AWESOME. My companion and I arrived early, so we took an hour nap on top of the waterfall in the shade (pics to come). I felt more rested after that therapeutic hour than I have in the last month of sleeping in my bed. The bed was way more comfy, but, who cares? At the activity we made ham sandwiches and shared testimonies together. It was super special.
This week we talked a lot on intercambios and in general about "exceedingly great faith" and making our goals into divine "promises" from the Lord via personal revelation. While it is something better explained in person, I will talk about the goals a bit. When you ask the Lord about a goal before you set it, and through revelation you get an answer, you then have no fear to fulfill that goal and to sacrifice anything for it because you know that the Lord has confirmed it and that with teh eye of faith it has already come to pass. This works for baptizing people and finding new investigators, but also can be applied to other goals, like studying, doing homework, finding a job or advancing therein, financial goals, marriage goals, and pretty much any other situation where you plan to do something but don't exactly know how yet.
Love you guys so much! Thanks, Dad, for the solar eclipse info--I will enjoy my last P-Day so much more now!
Élder Rowe

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Regular Week - July 3, 2017

That's what we had--a typical week. Nothing too crazy (except when we biked like 10 or more kilometers up and down hills on rocky roads in one day to try to give follow-up to investigators all over the area; we usually try to work one little village per day, and visit a few times each week).

Updates on campo life:

(Brad asked him these questions and these are Jacob's rapid fire answers...

How is the food different out in the campo?...had any unusual or weird stuff to eat?...wondering after seeing the cow head last week! (Jacob sent us a random picture of a cow head.  It was dead. we weren't sure if it was on the side of the road or what...)
Are the needs of the members changed or does it seem the same everywhere?
What are your typical sabbath day activities?...do you find yourself "subbing in" church teaching a lot or "putting out fires" or do the members pretty much handle it?  Do you have dinner appointments? Has the transition with Pres Smith and his wife started to affect the mission yet or too early to see that? (The new mission Pres just got there on Saturday...)  What is the word on the street about the transition?  We read their bio and it sounds like they are two pretty accomplished and great people...! )

Food is all rice, beans, and chicken. They butcher a cow once a week, but I don't know if I trust the conditions enough to buy there. There are no supermarkets or even slightly large stores, so we have to buy everything in bulk elsewhere and bring it on bikes or in a rented pickup-truck-taxi. Sometimes we eat with a member or investigator, but not too often. And here, it's lunch appointments, not dinner appointments. There have been many, many days in my mission that I've gone without dinner because the biggest meal here is lunch. The weirdest things I've eaten here have been some fruits that actually aren't all that weird. It was in a poor Haitian town that they were cleaning the cow head to split it up and cook it, and we don't eat there. We had a member who we'd pay to cook for us, but she moved to the capitol, so we cook for ourselves. Another campo fact--all the Dominican campos are dying, little by little. EVERYONE has plans to move to the nearest big city, because there is little-to-no power, no running water (bucket showers for the win!), and no nearby convenient bus routes. They save up for YEARS to move, even if they have to go into debt for a house and the father has to go a few months early to look for work.

The needs of the members out here are summed up in two F's: Friends and Follow-up. If a member out here has friends in church, they will keep going, no matter the age. Well, unless the branch president or someone else offends them, but that is another story. That is why the follow-up is necessary. We try to pass by all the members each week in between our visits with investigators to keep them excited. We have also been trying to reactivate adults. Our branch is almost entirely children as far as its active population goes. We have an average attendance of 45 people, but only 2 adult members besides the branch president (one is the primary president and the other is the elders quorum president). My companion and I are serving presently (by asignation, not by setting apart) as 1st counselor and secretary, respectively. We have some adults investigating and showing up at church every Sunday, but they are waiting on papers because NOBODY has money to get legally married out here and many people aren't even declared when they're born (they have to go through an extensive and expensive declaration process to be able to have a birth certificate and ID).

At church we do everything--I accompany, my companion and I prepare, bless, and pass the Sacrament, we teach 2 hours of Gospel Principles (because there is no Relief Society and because the adult members still need basic doctrinal support), we help the branch president plan for the following Sunday's meetings, etc. The only thing we don't do is deal with primary, and suffice it to say I am exceedingly glad (Dominican children are rather insolent and noisy, but in the hilarious kind of way). In Sabana Grande de Boyá, my first branch, there are now 6 missionaries--2 teach gospel principles, 2 sit in to help, and the 2 sisters literally hold the 2 doors to the primary shut for 2 hours because there are so many children in that branch now. XD

We still haven't met or heard from the Smiths. They showed up late Thursday night and the Corbitts left Friday morning. We will see how all that goes. Personally I am super excited to meet and work with them, even if it is only for 2 months.

Love you guys so much!
Élder Rowe