Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Life is good... Spaghetti batidas??! - Dec 15, 2015

With regard to the Christmas call, I know zip, save that it will probably be done from a ward member´s house. I will keep you posted. As for the Christmas cards, (we sent him some cut out nativity cards that we thought could be a conversation starter) they have sat in the house because we have been focusing on the Church´s A Savior is Born initiative, and because I keep forgetting to bring them out with me. The mission as a whole has a goal of having 2000 distinct investigators attend church at least once this December, and we have yet to have even one (with the exception of the P**** family we baptized last Saturday).

What can I say? Life in the DR is pretty good right now. We´ve been hitting the gym (almost) every morning, been making batidas from spaghetti (yeah; spaghetti cooked, then blended with sweetened condensed milk, sugar, banana, vanilla, and cinnamon) every other morning, and everything temporally has been quite alright. The last few weeks, although a lot has happened and I am grateful that I see the Lord´s hand so much in my life, have been a little bit discouraging when looking at the numbers. We have had days where we´ve only had two or three lessons, because in the mornings we´ve had to go somewhere or help another companionship or go to the mission office or go get my green card (that was hectic) or lo que sea, and in the afternoons half of our investigators are NEVER home, and the other half are a little frío. Not cold in that they don´t like us; cold in that they don´t keep commitments. We are within the first lesson still with almost all of our investigators, because they never read. We haven´t even been assigning scripture to some, just a paragraph or two from a pamphlet, but in two days they somehow forget. 

However, despite how bad that sounds, I really don´t feel discouraged day-to-day. We have to walk a lot between appointments anyway, so the extra walking when one falls through feels like nothing new. We have big plans for the coming weeks, though. We met with the ward council, as well as the Bishop individually, to help the ward leaders recognize that missionary work is their charge, and that as missionaries we´re just here to visit people who they can´t always be visiting, and to be a 2nd and 3rd witness of the truth that they´re sharing with friends and family. We have plans to go out with members every day, with at least 5 different members every week. We have names and times set. We have plans to visit 3 members a week, one from each organization (Young Women, Elders and Relief Society one week, Young Men, High Priests, and Primary the next, rotating as the month progresses), teach them simply the first lesson, practice teaching with them, ask them for a reference, and invite them to set a time when they can accompany us to visit that reference. The ward is even going to have a missionary night, where the members are going to go out in groups contacting friends and family, marking addresses, sharing Christmas messages, and turning the info over to us, this coming Saturday, which should be amazing. I posted the ward goals, the zone goals, companionship goals, and investigator goals on the wall above our table, so we keep them in mind when planning. I am really excited to see how many lives we can touch this week, members and nonmembers alike.

I don´t know that there´s much else new out here. The day-to-day is interesting and funny, but mostly in the moment. Elder M***** and I are really getting along. We´re a lot alike, in tastes in music, what we were studying in college, our sense of humor, etc. The only thing we´re super different with is tastes in food. He likes salty stuff more than sweet, and whenever I make pancakes he is flabbergasted by how much syrup I add (and I don´t pour on all that much, by our family´s standards *cough* Elijah *cough*). When he tried that candy cane bark, he couldn't eat it. He took one bite and said "oooh wow, ¡dulcísimo!" Funny story real quick, and then I´m done. Thursday, after the zone meeting, i was going to transpose I Know That My Redeemer Lives down a key so Hermana P**** (Brasilian professional singer who left her career to serve a mission, BTW) could play guitar along with for a special musical number for the Noche Blanca. I would need about an hour to write down the transposition, and then we would practice all together (all the zone would sing). We needed to leave at 8 to get there on time, so after going to the gym Elder Martinez and I were laying on our beds with fans cooling off and doing stretches for a few minutes when we get a call from the mission office at 7:15, saying we´d needed to be at the office at 7. WHAAAT!?! We scrambled over there late to find out that I was getting sent over to immigration to get my green card (apparently they do it in the MTC here, but I didn´t go here, so I needed it). That took up the whole day. Lots of sitting. That was Thursday, and the Noche Blanca was saturdayFriday (can´t believe this slipped my mind until now) we got to go to the temple with three other zones, and actually got to have a meeting in the only Solemn Assembly room in Latinoamerica besides the one in Mexico City, DF, Mexico. Also, that was my first time through the temple here, and because it was dedicated only a year before the Columbia River temple, it has some similarities in color and design inside. Suffice it to say, that took all day, and I spent an hour (from 8 to 9 pm) that night in our chapel plunking out a transposition on a cheapy electric keyboard so we could practice the hour before the Noche Blanca. It all worked out, but it was a little crazy. Also my zone is awesome. They´re all light and funny when it´s appropriate, and *most* know when to be serious. Also also we got to go to Sambil (a mall chain--look it up) for P-Day, and I got to have my first (and second, and third) dulce de leche-filled Krispy Kreme (WOW).

I hope everything continues to be well back home, and I´ll keep ya posted on the Christmas call thing.
Hasta Luego, 
Élder Rowe

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Interrupted... Dec 8, 2015

Hi there everyone,
I feel the love! Thank you for the stories and thoughts you share, and for the thoughts and prayers you all continue to send my way. 
So, before I talk about anything else, I need to mention the miracle I´ve been living the past few days. My first Sunday here in the Los Tres Brazos ward, we met a guy named Fr*** who had been investigating the Church a bit on his own, and even attended Gospel Principles. He asked us to stop by his house that night, and we obliged. The first question he asked after the opening prayer was "What do I need to do to be baptized?" --FOOM-- Elder M**** and I were stunned. We had been struggling all that week (and Elder M****, apparently, much of last transfer) to find investigators, old or new, who were showing enough interest and progressing enough to be prepared to be baptized for the Noche Blanca this coming Saturday (12th). The Lord really relieved us there. However, the trial and the stress were not to end there. Fr*** wanted nothing more than to be baptized, but had to marry his "wife" that he was living with (number one problem here in the DR). He lacked the money to do so, which is not uncommon, but his wife was another thing. They had never had contact with the missionaries, but Fr***´s wife, C***, is the sister of the past bishop of the ward, Hermano E***. However, she had been attending another church, where another of her brothers was a pastor (I think it´s an Evangelical church, but I´m not sure). As we taught Fr***, we tried to involve C*** as much as possible, and she would sit amicably and listen, but didn´t want to attend church for fear of upsetting her brother (who always looks for her in his congregation), didn´t want to get married (because she thought it would mean she would be obligated to be baptized), and at first didn´t want to be baptized, again for fear of her brother and for complacency in her (Evangelical?) church. However, once we told her that baptism is not obligatory, but is rather up to the individual to decide when, she seemed to loosen up and listen more intently. We showed up to the third lesson with them, only to discover that they, of their own free will and accord, had been FASTING about the decision to be married, and about whether or not C*** should be baptized. We kept teaching, and they have joined us, together with their kids, the last two Sundays. Despite a few "fire and brimstone" visits from her brother the pastor, C*** has sincerely developed, for herself, the desire to be baptized. Anyway, back to the first lesson: Elder M****, upon hearing that they were not married, felt prompted to invite them to be married in a week. They were shocked, what with all the paperwork and planning, but after explaining that it would just be the formal paper signage (and that they could plan out a more formal boda fiesta), and after laying out a specific plan of how it would go down, they accepted. They actually had all the paperwork they needed, except Fr***´s birth certificate. We sent the word to the Mission Office, where the APs have legal connections, and after two days of stress (because Fr*** couldn´t remember what hospital he was born in) the APs informed us that yes, they had found it. Unfortunately, his second last name had one letter different from his ID. The odd thing was, it had never been that way the last 3 times he´d pulled out birth certificates AND the last 2 times he´d lost and received another ID. When they digitized the books at his hospital sometime in the last year or two, they used a copy of a copy of the books for transcription, and the cross in the T in the middle of his second last name disappeared between copies and became an L in the computer system. On top of that, because he didn't have any prior correct copies of his birth certificate (the last one was in his wallet when it got stolen), and because his mother was Haitian and had absolutely NO documents to correct the second last name (since that name comes from the person´s mother), Fr*** couldn´t correct it unless he wanted to spend months searching for proof. On top of that, the birth certificates of his daughters all had the old, correct second last name. GAAH! What we had to do was have Fr*** change his ID to match his birth certificate, then get all the documents for his wife and kids, then turn them in. The marriage is set for Wednesday, yesterday they had their interviews, and they and their oldest daughter N*** will be baptized the 12th. 
What kind of Internet shop closes in the middle of the day? What the heck? Gotta go.
Love you all, 
Elder Rowe

And that is all we got.  Blehh!!!  It sounds like a wonderful experience full of miracles.  He apparently didn't get a chance to finish or answer any questions.  I am sooo looking forward to talking to him on Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Exact Obedience - Dec 1, 2015

Funny, how in the campo we had 5 internet centers, and in the city we have ONE, and it´s ALWAYS completely full from 5 to 6pm. Thus the emailing today.

I´ll start by streamlining the Q&A:
I wish I was in a 4-man house, but alas, I am not. It has been sweet to have a latin comp though.
By barrio I mean inner-city. There really is no such thing as suburb out here (unless by suburb you mean 2-story buildings instead of 3 or 4); you get campo towns (of varying sizes) or you get buildings and houses crammed into every square meter of space. There´s Gazcue, the city center, which is all nice and touristy and stuff, and about 30 mins in any direction that ends. If you look on a map, you´ll see that the river Ozama makes a sideways u in the middle of Santo Domingo-Everything within that U is my area.
Gua-guas are, as much in the campo as in the city, for transport to and from meetings only (along with occasional trips to Megacentro or Sambil (the two big malls here I have yet to visit formally) or to P-day activities). Within my area, we walk. It´s about 45 mins walking from our furthest investigator downhill on one half of the area (the perpetually alive, poorer half) to our furthest investigator in the upper half (closer to where we live, in the nicer, quieter part of Los Tres Brazos).
In the city I am still always wet, but with sweat. It hardly ever rains, and the sun is more potent.

Jessica, this week I have really gained a testimony of exact--and I mean EXACT--obedience, as well as the portion of the baptismal covenant relating to obedience. This week Elder M***** has been sick, and because we´ve started going to the gym daily (for the first time in my life), I have been über sore (elder M***** goes hard--he´s acting as my ¨trainer¨ as to how to develop a good workout and workout schedule). Thus, we´ve been 10-15 minutes late to begin study, haven´t gotten ready for the day until the end of study, and stuff like that. As a result, I have felt less clear in teaching, less able to keep my Spanish brain turned on, and so on. However, as I took the Sacrament Sunday and covenanted anew to "always remember Him," I decided to better turn my time over to the Lord. Even in just two days of doing so, I feel the Spirit having a much bigger influence in my teaching, and I feel much more energetic and focused despite having exercised and missed an extra half-hour of sleep to do so.

Good to hear that Thanksgiving was crazy as usual. I didn´t even notice anythign different Thursday until I thought about in the evening how much I missed spending the weekend of madness with everyone. I love you all!

We had a ¨Mission Tour¨ Friday with President Cornish (Area President of the Caribbean, member of the 70). Wow. We talked about developing a true love for our investigators and passion for conversion--both of ourselves and of others. He has a science brain like me, so when he started sharing about space and time and eternity and how we will outlast even the multibillion-year-lived stars in the cosmos, and how short our time here on Earth here really is, and how our time in the mission is even shorter, it really caught my attention, and keeping those kinds of marvelous and wondrous thoughts in mind has been helping me develop a sincere desire to help others develop, for themselves, a need to turn to Christ and a desire to be perfected in Him.
(also, president Cornish shared in his talk about his grandson, A****, who´s in the Mexico MTC. Funny enough, after seeing a picture of him I was reminded that he was one of my buddies at BYU this summer, and lived on my hall and was in my elders quorum--small world, eh?)

Que pasen una semana buena,
Elder Rowe