Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Another Tuesday letter - Nov 24, 2015

Hello there,

I have an infinitely deep and wide well of things to say since last week, and a rather short half hour left in which to compose my thoughts. We´ll see how much I can summarize. 

Born in the campo (country) to an American (a Utahn, to be specific), raised in the deep city by a Panamanian (I say deep city because it is very much city, but not nearly as nice as the city center). What a whirlwind. It still feels odd to be teaching lots of lessons after dark, since out in the campo most of the night appointments tended to be longer or to fall through because of a lack of power. We are very much in the city though--it´s super rare to see a building that isn´t at least 2 stories tall, and there are a lot of neighborhoods and houses crammed into the cracks between big buildings. I haven´t taken any pictures yet, but I couldn´t get them to you anyway because when we went to La Sirena (Walmart of the DR) I forgot to look for an SD reader, and we spent nearly all of our apoyo so we could have food, because ELDER M***** CAN COOK! I´ve been learning by watching a bit about cooking without measurements and such, since it is much easier to just buy fresh veggies and fruit, frozen meat, and pre-mixed seasoning than to try to keep flour, sugar, baking powder, etc. always in stock.
Anyhow, I can always add more about our physical status later. As for spiritually, I have felt a lot of things this week. Elder M***** is a MACHINE with the New Testament, from which we´ve been teaching most of our introductory and foundational lessons (at least, before introducing the Book of Mormon). His proficiency actually inspired me to start studying, not just reading, the New Testament and marking the heck out of it. To answer Jessica´s question, having been a dedicated student and learning good study/note-taking habits, as well as praying for general emptiness and clarity of mind before every study session (and praying after that I can remember everything I´ve studied) has massively contributed to my effectiveness as a missionary, and our unity as a companionship. As we´re teaching, maybe Elder M***** remembers a New Testament scripture that illustrates our point. The Spirit reminds me of a BoM scripture that affirms and/or clarifies said point. We can then not only testify to the truth of what we´re teaching, but also to the truth of the Book of Mormon, that it is another testament of Jesus Christ, and that it is written ¨unto the convincing of both Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God¨ (at least, I´m pretty sure that´s how Mormon words it in his explanation at the front--I´m translating from Spanish here, so bear with me). See, like that. I had no plans nor thought that I would think to mention nor remember that bit of the portada of the Book of Mormon, but the Spirit is bearing testimony through me. There´s another scripture I was just studying in Matthew 10 that goes something like that: basically, that ye are not they who speak unto thine accusers, but the Spirit of God which beareth testimony through you (again, I have that ringing in my ears in Spanish, but I don´t remember the english form, so the errors are ¨the errors of men; wherefore judge not the things of God¨ (again in the part before the introduction)).
Today we talked again with H****, who has apparently been an investigator for a median length of time. He goes to some kind of Metaphysical-Spiritual-Revivalist something-or-other church, which has led to some interesting and rather deep conversations. Unfortunately, as we´ve tried to teach about the Book of Mormon, although he´s been willing to read it, I don´t think he´s been truly understanding the significance thereof. You see, H**** is of the persuasion of the literal interpretation of the first line of 2 Timothy 16, or in other words that basically anyone can claim to have seen an angel or had writings miraculously appear on a desk overnight and affirm that it must be from God and is therefore scripture. Thus, while he´s been open to reading the Book of Mormon, he has also been rather obstinate in his declarations about other books of scripture being true (like the Book of Life, the Revelation of George Washington, and many others). After he explained to us how Jesus never died and spent time in India recuperating before reappearing to his disciples, how Paul and Mary the mother of Jesus attained a perfection like unto Christ in this life and were thus translated, and how there were three human races on this Earth that lived perfectly before the imperfect race of Adam and Eve, we figured we needed to share about authority and prophets. After an hour and a half of discussion, we realized we were getting nowhere and ended the lesson. It saddens me to see how much confusion there is out in the world because of Satan´s continual game of ¨Two Truths and a Lie¨ amidst religious theory. Be ye warned. Christ set up his Church the way he did and made sure the Book of Mormon could testify and support the Bible so that we would not be ¨carried about by every wind of doctrine by the sleight of man, and cunning craftinesss, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.¨ (Eph. 4:14). But, He does not intend to give us all knowledge without trials of our faith. That is why the Bible is imperfect (or at least partially) and why there is so much withheld from us in the Book of Mormon as well as with regard to so many things in this world which have happened, which will happen, and which need not yet be known: TO TRY OUR FAITH. Without a foundation of faith, (not as a belief, but as a principle of ACTION (James 2:17-18) we cannot come to know anything, nor can we become any better or more perfect, whole, or complete than we already are.
Love you all, and hope you´re all healthy in body as well as in Spirit,
Elder Rowe

He sent an additional email a couple minutes later...

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving! Because that isn´t a thing out here, either. :( 

I saw this email 3 minutes after it was sent so I took a chance an emailed him back with a few questions.  One was why he was writing on Tuesday as opposed to Monday and the other was about a package I recently sent him. Here is his response...

I got the package Friday; we had a surprise meeting for trainers and trainees, and I got it then. THANK YOU for EVERYTHING! Also, the Candy Cane Bark was a nice touch :) I wrote today because yesterday we had someone come by to see about buying the house we´re renting, and so we had to stay in extra, and then we went to the ONLY internet center in our area (or at least the closest--20 mins walking from the house), then waited 20 minutes for a computer to open up just so we could send in our weekly numbers and hurry out the door to our first appointment. Thus I wrote today.

Monday, November 16, 2015

1st Transfer: Out of el campo and into el barrio - Nov 16,2015

¿Qué tal?
(Soo....I tried to load pics on with my cord, but.... the computer couldn´t recognize it. I guess I need an SD card reader. I will let you know if I can´t find one out here.)
How goes the life? We had a wild week. After getting back from Salto Socoa, Elder Fr***** felt just AWFUL. He had a fever of 39° C (you do the math), and Sister Corbitt advised us to stay inside ALL DAY Wednesday. I was mildly sick too, but by the end of the day and after 7 hours total of personal study, I started to go a bit stir-crazy. But, it was what Elder Fr***** needed, and now all is well. Also, with his heart thing, the doctors in the capitol were saying at first sight that they thought he had ventricular hypertrophy and a complete right valve failure, but they were over-exaggerating and over-assuming. All that happened was that Elder Fr***** was a HUGE energy drink drinker before the mission, and drank at least a couple of cokes a day along with a zipfizz water bottle every day (crystal light with more vitamins and a bunch of caffeine), and has recently been trying to quit. For some reason, over a few days the last of the caffeine in his body wasn´t processing correctly, and it all got released at once, causing the crazy blood pressure, fever, and heart rate. He said that Dr. Regan (the mission doctor) told him the specific medical name of what happened, but that he couldn´t hear very well and so just went with the explanation. 
I was hoping to get to stay out here for Hainamosa Stake´s Noche Blanca and to finish my training and to enjoy Christmas here, but... I´ve been transferred! (er, I will be transferring Tuesday). I will be in Los Tres Brazos, Ozama (which is a barrio of Santo Domingo)...Out of the campo straight into the heart of the city. My new companion will be Elder M*****: he´s Panamanian (like my bro Elder Ch***** who came out the same transfer as me and who has become a great friend since he´s been in my district), he´s a district leader, and he likes to work out (he has permission from President Corbitt to get up a half hour early to go to the gym). I´m excited to be in the city to finish my training, and to hopefully be in a house with more than just the two of us (most of the city houses are for 4 elders). I´m definitely going to miss Elder Fr*****, though; through our adventures we´ve become pretty good friends.
On Friday we were in companion study and I was feeling pretty down. Even though our zone meeting the day prior had been with President Corbitt and I got to do a role play with him to answer a question I asked, I was feeling kind of rough looking at how little (seemingly) we´d accomplished with spending Monday at the clinic, Tuesday as P-day, Wednesday as a sick-day, and Thursday in the capitol. I had felt all week like I was missing something, and that the Lord was trying to teach me what that was (and I wasn´t being a good listener). We studied about prayer, and read about the meaning of praying with real intent. In the little "The First Twelve Weeks" guidebook thingy (that is intended to guide the additional hour of daily companionship study during my two training transfers, with the intent that thereafter I´d be ready to train someone if the Spirit so desired) it notes that praying with real intent involves "being willing to act on and accept the answer [I] receive." That struck me. I had been praying as missionaries normally do (immediately upon getting up, before and after both personal and companionship study, before leaving the house, beginning and ending lessons, before meals, before going to bed, and at any other time I need or want some help or guidance), but my vocal prayers had been more focused on not saying the same things twice but still saying what I meant, and during silent prayers my thoughts were easily distracted. However, I have taken that counsel to heart, and already I feel ALIVE. Every prayer has meaning, besides just doing it because I´m supposed to. I am receiving more direct revelation as to how to help our investigators and less actives. I feel truly blessed to have a companion who helped point that out to me.
Anyway, gotta go. Love you all
Elder Rowe
(the gringo who´s not a gringo)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nov 10, 2015 - Busy Busy...

By Monday at 7pm I had pretty much accepted we wouldn't be getting a letter this week. Then on Tuesday late afternoon this arrived in my inbox...  I did receive a text from a Utah # saying they in the DR doing humanitarian aid and had picts of Elder Rowe and wanted to FB message them to me.  They wanted to make sure they knew my full FB name. I haven't seen any picts yet but maybe they are waiting until they are back in the US before sending them.  I hope that is the reason...

¿Qué lo que? Díganme a ver.
Bueno, ya me han dicho mucho. I feel like I could never respond to everyone and everything I´m receiving. For those of you who shall read this and are awaiting a personal response from me, it will be sparse and come in spurts. We are just so busy! Also, P-Day always seems to put us far enough from home that we´re scrambling to get to start emailing in time...
(also that means no photos this week, I don´t think; let me finish this and then I´ll see)
I can´t believe I´m almost at the end of my first transfer already! This thursday is my last district/zone meeting this transfer, and next sunday I find out whether I´m getting transferred or not (I think). Time has really begun to fly out here: at least, as long as we´re occupied. We worked really hard this week, but we didn´t have much success. Over 3/4 of our appts. fell through, and both Elder Fr***** and I fell sick (minor tropical gripe (cold) -- don´t worry about it). He had it worse, but I really admire his leading by example and his desire to work even when in pain or exhausted. We did a LOT of walking this week: with stuff falling through, we´d try to visit other less actives or investigators nearby, only to find them not at home, or to find a houseful of women we couldn´t enter, and would then either move on to others or try contacting references or new people. I feel sometimes like we´re in over our heads a bit. Up until 2 transfers ago, this area had 4 missionaries--that seems more reasonable. The area is huge, and for having average sacrament attendance of 50 it has 250 members on record. Ya know what, I need to stop complaining. I really have no need. I recognize that this week the Lord has been teaching me something, as well as the companionship I´m a part of. As companions, we have recognized the need to study together less of the training stuff and more of specific scriptures and topics for our lessons, and that we need to set more firm appointments (and remind people of them, even if we have to go to the point of annoyance a little bit). As for what I´ve needed to learn, I need to respect the missionary schedule more. I never thought I´d say that, but not exercising in the morning (because Elder Fr***** hasn´t) has allowed me extra study time. Thus, I dig into my later personal study time by showering, getting ready, and ironing as late as possible. As I work on this, I have received an answer that not only will I find more success, but that my study will be much more effective.
Yesterday we had a group of 50 US doctors (mostly Utahns and all LDS) come down to Bayaguana (about 2hrs away by gua-gua (bus)) to do a free medical clinic, and we got permission to have P-Day moved to today so we could go translate for them all day. It was amazing to get to help people out like that. I was with a doctor who was just doing general prescriptions for colds and stuff, but I had no free time. I had a 15 minute break to cram down a sandwich and chug some water, and then we were back to seeing patients. It was about six hours of translating total. They´re gonna be here all week, but other elders and hermanas from our zone are taking turns going down and helping out.
Today we went to a waterfall called Salto Socoa (The Socoa Leap or Jump). It was a good 30 ft or so tall. It rained. A lot. We were all completely drenched from when we got there at 11 to when I just got home and changed. It would be really cool to go back sin placa to swim there--they even had ropes to help shorter people get closer to the falls without getting sucked under at the base. We ate cookies and took a ton of pics.
OH! Our zone is having a Noche de Blanca December 19th, which will be something of a mass baptism of people who are READY to be baptized and who have CHOSEN FOR THEMSELVES to do so. It will be up in Hainamosa (one of the outer barrios of Santo Domingo) at the stake center, and our stake president has set the goal of 30 baptisms. That´s 2 (or more, if we like) per companionship. We have two dates set. One is C****, Y**** (recent convert)´s cousin (but raised as her brother), who is super excited but super shy. He has 11 years (er... is 11 years old), and is really receptive and retentive of everything we´ve taught him. S***** (Ch***) is Y****´s father (but she´s been raised as though he´s her uncle--their family story is really complicated and I still have no idea what any of it means), and he´s a different story. Every morning (except sundays, thankfully) he goes out super early to the sugarcane fields. He gets back around 2, goes home to eat, shower, and rest, and then sells chorizo on a street corner from 4 to 10 every night. Thus, while he is receptive to eveything we´ve been teaching (although he cannot read or write), it has been difficult to find when he´s open to have a lesson or to pull him away from his chorizo stand to do so. We have high hopes for them both, and with an eye of faith, we see both of them with Y**** in the white garb of the Temple in the future, and as such we will do everything in our power to help S***** see the value of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want so dearly for him to recognize the joy which is to be found therein.
Alright, I gotta go. No pics for now. (also I don´t trust the internet cafes out in the campo--I really dont want to get a virus on my camera memory card) I love you guys. Study the scriptures, pray SINCERELY, and the Lord will work miracles through you. I know that.
Elder Rowe

Monday, November 2, 2015

Still No Pictures - Nov 2, 2015

I´m in Megacentro (a mall in the Capitol) for P-Day, so I dont have my camera with me. Dropboxing of photos will begin next week, then.

Wow, this week went by way too fast. We were in the capitol most of monday and all of tuesday finishing up medical testing of Elder Fr***** (who´s from Farmington, UT BTW), and then we had activities and full schedules to speed up the passage of time like crazy. Our zone (Hainamosa Stake) is having a Noche de Blanca the 19th of November (a big baptism night where we want to have 30 PREPARED people be baptized together), and we already put one of our investigators up to being baptized that night (two per companionship in the zone is the goal). Church attendance has been stable around 50 for the last couple of weeks, but there are 250-something members on record in Sabana Grande... We have our less-and-inactive reactivation work cut out for us. We also had an investigator attend both the Noche de Amistad activity wednesday night and sacrament meeting Sunday in the second week that we´ve known her: her name is R*****, she is actively involved and interested in religion, and loves to ask questions for us to answer (YES!). I have really developed a love for all our investigators and less actives here, and it pains me when they don´t make it to church or don't keep up with their reading assignments. They all have so much potential, and I am saddened that sometimes they don´t see the happiness they´re missing--especially the less active members.

We finally had time to deep-clean our house, and I feel much better about living there now. It was more than kinda bad in some areas--Elder Fr*****´s past companion , Elder S**** (who´s from El Salvador, BTW) was in his words ¨an animal¨ in some of his living and cleaning habits (ha!). But all in all, life has been amazing out here. We seem to have new investigators every day, and I feel like we could fill each day´s schedule twice over with people to visit and still not get to everyone each week. I just wish more of the lessons out here were interactive--we´re trying our best to ask inspired questions, but we´re not getting many responses beyond general assertions of belief in God and keeping His commandments. One of the lessons we´ve been teaching most out here is what faith is, because so many people here claim to have faith but they sit on it instead of letting it grow and refine them. At least most people out here are religious and active in their religions--I´ve heard stories from the capitol of how hard it can be to show people the negative influence of the nightlife and its activities on the soul, or even that people have any relation with God at all.

The fruit here is all amazing. Zapote, 3 types of Guayaba (guava), Guanabana (I don´t even know, but its delicious in a batida (think smootie - fruit with sweetened condensed milk)), Lechosa(papaya), tamarindo, carambola (starfruit), and goodness knows how much more--ALL FRESH! One of the youth we go out with a lot, E****, is trying to set me up for a day when he can have all of the fruits available here at his house for me to see and try. I swear I´ve had a batida every day--they may be somewhat sugary, but at least I´m getting my fruit!

I got to have Taco Bell today. Doesn´t taste much different than in the US, and for how little it cost I felt like a king compared to the tostadas and empanadas out in the campo (but both of those are good too). I love you all, and hope you continue to let the Spirit guide you. As you turn to the Lord and promise to give Him the glory for what you achieve, I promise you will do great things--I´ve been studying and working on humility the last week, and even in so short a time I´ve seen incredible changes in the Spirit that has accompanied our lessons.

Hasta ver,
Elder Rowe