Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Michelin Man - March 28, 2016

Hello there everyone!

I GET TO STAY IN LOS 3 BRAZOS! Woot! AND I GET TO STAY WITH MY COMPANION! Double woot! Life is good here. A snippet of my letter to president for time´s sake:
It is truly a blessing to be able to stay here in Los Tres Brazos. I will FINALLY get to see C**** and A**** (and now their daughter C**** and their grandson A****) get baptized this 24th of April! They are ready and eager to be baptized, but C**** still wants to get out of his cast and they still need to look for some paperwork before they can get married. Next week (after general conference) we, C****, and his family are going to dedicate our fast (C**** and family´s first fast) to his leg, that it may be sufficiently healed to have the cast removed that week. R*** A****(the mother of the bishop of Capotillo) has also expressed desire to be baptized the 24th of April, has already stopped drinking beer (because it gives her stomachaches) and is working to leave behind coffee. She too is ready and willing to be baptized; she just needs a review of everything (it´s been 2 or 3 years since missionaries have visited her) and she wants some help answering a few questions. We will happily continue forward on that note. That´s a total of 5 firm baptismal dates, the most I´ve had for a single month in the mission. I feel truly blessed as I am seeing the results of exact obedience but even more so of faith, and of the Lord´s angels preparing the hearts of the people we´ve met.

I am also deeply grateful to be able to continue with Elder D****--he is an amazing missionary, and he has a way of connecting with people and of teaching families that only a Dominican could have. We´ve been getting along splendidly, and are really looking forward to this coming transfer. We received 4 new references from the system which we´ll contact this week, and we received a reference from C**** (his niece, I****). We need only help E**** C**** obtain a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and he too is willing to be baptized (on the condition that he obtains that testimony). We will be sure to focus on him and teach him more about how one gains a testimony but also about how one need not have a "road to Damascus" or "Alma the Younger" moment to take a step of faith.

So, yeah. Life is good. It is the culture here that everyone has their birth name and their nickname, and EVERYONE knows the nickname. It could be just a different name your parents call you, or it is based on something you did, do, say, or have said. For example, Elder D**** knew a "Papi Shampú" because he was always combing his hair and gelling it and messing with it, and another kid, just for hanging out with him all the time, is known as "Papi Rinse." Culture is always funny. Thus, I made the mistake of saying that although I´m skinny, I used to be really chubby as a baby, so... now around the house he calls me "michelín." Dangit. XD

I still can´t believe General Conference is this weekend! The cool thing is that we already have 5 investigators firmly set to be there for all the sessions, and a couple more who will show up for at least 2 or 3. It will really be a great opportunity to share the reality of prophets today on the earth.

Also we made Habichuelas con Dulce for the first time in our lives. I had already tried it a few times, but never made it. It turned out all right, but we threw in too much clavo dulce (¿sweet cloves?), too much nutmeg, and forgot the salt completely. We´re going to try again this week, since the materials are cheap and we already shredded two coconuts to make coconut milk, so we won´t have to go through that painful mess again (painful for the muscles, messy in that it took an hour and a half to clean up the mess we made. If we manage to (nearly) nail it this week, I will send the recipe so you guys can try it. It is a complex flavor, but it is really, REALLY good. (it also makes less mess and is faster if you just buy coconut milk, but Elder D**** wanted to save money.) Speak of recipes, man, will I have some foods for you guys to try when I get back. Mangú, Moro, Lócrio, Guandules, Pollo Guisado... I am learning a little bit of everything with Elder D****. The benefits of having a mother who cooks and teaches how to cook--it´s easy to learn how to make new stuff! :) (Thanks Mom!)

Pero na. Love you all! I miss you. Read your scriptures, and mark them up. Pray openly and sincerely every day. The simple things change lives--they´ve certainly changed mine. I feel the Spirit present in most every lesson (working on that) and almost all the time as we´re in the street (dembow kinda ruins that). I feel blessed when appointments don´t fall through, and I am equally happy when they do, giving us another chance to visit someone else. References are a HUGE blessing, no longer a hindrance (yeah, I used to think references were a waste of time, because all the ones I´d contacted didn´t want anything to do with us). In fact, every investigator but one who is progressing right now (and almost all those we´re teaching) are references, and they show the most interest and the most progress out of anyone.

Until next week,
Élder Rowe

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ups and Downs and Easter Week - March 21, 2016


Well, this week was a downer and an upper at the same time. Our two baptismal dates for this Sunday, R**** and A*****, fell through the same day. A*****, because we lost contact, and R***** because he still needs to overcome coffee (and then, coincidentally, we lost contact). I figured that a lot of losing contact would happen, since here in the DR Easter is not just Sunday but a Holy Week, and most everyone gets the week off from most things, and like Christmas they spend it out in the campo with their parents and grandparents or they have people visit them in the city. Also, like Christmas, people become generally more open to talking about Christ and about God, and I am hoping it will be easier to meet some new people. Also also, because everyone has the week off there will be a lot of partying in the streets, and we may have to head home early a few nights this week. It doesn´t help that elections are coming up in may here and that makes everything crazy. 

The good news is that General Conference is coming up, and I get to watch it live (and potentially in English)! Also, we put a baptismal date with C**** and A***** for the 23rd of April, and are praying that C**** will continue to heal rapidly so he can get his leg out of a cast and they can get the things together for their marriage.

A miracle this week: A**** smokes, and since the Sunday before yesterday has not picked up a cigarette. She´s been sick all week, but happy and determined to leave smoking behind. Saturday she said she was thinking about not going to church, since she´d be ashamed of her raspy, almost inaudible voice from the sickness. We explained the power of faith and of the Priesthood, and I gave her a blessing. The next day she showed up to church with C**** and three of their kids happy, healthy, and unashamed. The Lord really does support us when we internally want to change, and not just say we do for someone else´s sake or for what our head tells us. Both C**** and A**** used to drink around 8 cups of coffee a day, but because they have a testimony of the Word of Wisdom (and not because we asked them to--they said they were already on it when we taught them that lesson), they have dropped almost cold-turkey to one cup every other day, and hopefully will not be drinking coffee at all by next week. 

I REALLY, REALLY hope I don´t get transferred next Tuesday--there are SO many people with SO much potential who will be baptized next month, and I SO want to be a part of it! We will see what happens--the Lord´s will be done, I will go where I am sent, or stay where I am kept.

Love you guys, and happy easter! #Hallelujah (#Aleluya)

Élder Rowe

I told Jacob I wouldn't go as far as saying he is tan so he sent a picture to prove me wrong.  I stand corrected...He has a tan!  Such a Jacob face!

Monday, March 14, 2016

A "Normal" Week - March 14, 2016


This week was actually what I might consider one of my first "normal" weeks in the mission field. Nothing huge or immensely different happened until Saturday, but... I´ll get to that.

Wednesday we stayed home all morning so they could fix our shower, since it´s been leaking water to the lower level and bubbling and peeling the paint of the neighbors´ kitchen. We tried to study, but the jackhammer he was using to break open the wall (cement and cinder block houses, remember?) was ridiculously loud, so we ended up playing chess for the hour (really?) that he was making the hole in the wall.

Friday we tried to contact a reference from a less active (some of his friends) and found 3 new investigators who were not any of the references (we met family members). Sunday we actually contacted them, and thus found 6 new investigators this week from that reference alone. XD

Saturday I had the privilege of listening to Richard E. Turley, Jr.--Assistant Historian of the Church. That was a pretty sick meeting. First he compared missionary work to an avalanche--even if we don´t have a lot of success, 
we´ve been a "stone cut out of the mountain without hands" and that eventually the people who have rejected us will accept someone. He mentioned (as well as many of the missionaries who are converts who he asked to tell their conversion stories) that people ALWAYS remember the first missionaries, who they rejected. He also talked about Parley P. Pratt´s mission to Canada, and the hundreds of thousands of lives it´s blessed and brought to the Gospel (including John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, M. Russell Ballard, and himself). Brother Turley also talked a lot about the importance of reactivation. He then took out an hour to learn about the missionaries and the mission by asking us questions. He opened up the last hour and a half for people to ask him ANYTHING they wanted--which got interesting really fast. Some snippets:

Did you know that Joseph Smith, when translating the plates in order, started with the Large Plates, (Lehi, then Mosiah-Moroni), then got to the small plates (Nephi-Words of Mormon). Thus, in the 116 pages which were lost (and are presumed to have been burned, because nothing has ever been found about them) was the book of Lehi AS WELL AS Mosiah 1-2. What is our Mosiah chapter 1 is actually Mosiah chapter 3, because words of mormon "just so happens" (the Lord knew the 116 pages would be lost) to fit perfectly with Mosiah 3 as a transition.

Other topics mentioned included polygamy, re-baptism´s origin and abolishment, and why we don´t know the locations of where exactly the majority of the Book of Mormon takes place.

Anyhoo, not much time left. Love you guys! Until next week,
Élder Rowe

We also got PICTURES!!! So good to see this guy!  He does have more color (I won't go as far as calling him tan...) and his hair is definitely sun bleached.

This is his first companion and his first area...

This is the "sick" bag that he had made that he referred to last week.

This is a past companion who taught him to cook using the local ingredients and who was his "personal trainer."

Jacob just being Jacob!

Monday, March 7, 2016

"There never comes a day when you have nothing to improve." - Mar 7, 2016

Hi there guys! ¿Qué lo que hay de nuevo?

This week we reestablished contact with one of our firm fechas for the Noche Blanca March 19th, A**** and his girlfriend C****. He knows a lot about the Gospel already--he was meeting with missionaries regularly in Los Guandules a year ago--but we don´t know much of the status of C****. They have 2 kids (ages 5 and 3) and are all but married (they have an "Acta de Unión Libre," signed by a lawyer and everything else short of a legal marriage). Unfortunately, it seems A**** is a little afraid of commitment--he loves his "wife" and kids and all, and he likes talking about the Gospel, and even reads his assignments, but even upon asking him on a Saturday night if he would attend Church the following day, he told us a huge backstory about building a house in Las Americas and needing to check on it (even though he said it´s not progressing because he´s been out of work, and even though they went there last week). However, we have a Noche de Hogar planned for this evening (about which C**** is SUPER excited), and we are going to try to visit them every other day this week, if not every day.

We´ve been looking for our other firm baptismal date, R****, but we´ve been unable to find him. His cell phone is damaged, he never gave us the house phone, and passing day, afternoon, and night he has not been at his house nor at his uncle´s house. We´ll keep trying, and we managed to get his brother to take an #Aleluya passalong with our number on the back and to promise to have R**** call us. We will see what happens there.

We have another investigator, E*****, who is all but firm for this coming Noche Blanca as well. He is husband of a member who lives in New Jersey, and he wants to be baptized, and he reads the assignments and more--he just won´t commit to a date yet. We´ve tried 2 times now, and we´ll try again this week. On Sunday we asked the questions for a baptismal interview to show him just how much he knows and to give him (and his daughter M*****, who has also been in the lessons most of the time) the opportunity to bear testimony of the things he´s been praying about. He still says he wants to be "completely convinced," so when we return we´re going to talk more on prayer and faith.

Cr***, his "wife" A****, and this time 3 of their children were able to come to church this Sunday, and again they loved it. They too are almost completely ready for baptism, but they need to get married, and every time we ask we get a different reason from each. We´re going to focus on marriage and the law of chastity (again), and we plan to let it be after that. By that I mean, let the Lord speak to their hearts so that it´s not pressure from us to get married, but rather a desire and conviction from within that they feel.

We´ve almost lost contact with Ce**** and his wife L****. L**** is having a tough time with her pregnancy and is sick many of the times we pass by. Ce**** has friends all over the place, so it´s been difficult (even at night) to catch him at home. We´re going to refocus on them this week, because L**** shows a lot of potential, because she was progressing when we were able to visit with them regularly, and because they live with 3 or 4 nonmembers who could be potential references. We need to focus a lot on getting Ce*** reactivated first, because if he doesn´t become active, she won´t have an example to follow for getting to church, and they won´t be able to reach their goal of a temple marriage. We will definitely make sure to focus on that point this week.

So yeah. Life is pretty good out here. We even have a couple more investigators than that progressing, which is the best I´ve had in the mission insofar. We even had 7 investigators at church today! 7! That´s more than all the investigator attendances in my entire first transfer. Also we got to go to the temple this week, and I learned a lot more than I think I ever have to this point. TEASER: when we cover our sins, inadequacies, or lack of effort with something other than the Atonement, we don´t "hide" somehow from God. Complete and open honesty and accountability (in prayer and to Him though leaders) is the only way to have our "weak things become strong" and to have joy in EVERYTHING we do, not just in the good stuff that happens.

Elder D***** and I are getting along super well. Better, I think, than I did even with Elder M****. We both do the cooking (I now know how to make a whole lot of Dominican standards), and it´s been a great feeling to be able to help him out with District Leader responsibilities where I can.

This week I´m going to start "ponderizing." I´ve been wanting to do it for a while, but I have been working on other stuff first. That´s the really cool thing about a mission--there never comes a day when you have nothing to improve, and there is always material to study if you study deeply and slowly enough.

Also, there´s a guy in Santiago who does bags for the missionaries here. I´ve been communicating with him to get a sick custom bag with a waist strap and everything--and it´s less than 50 bucks! It will be green camoflauge (he is out of straight-up green) and will have my last name, a US flag in leather, and a DR flag in leather. My other bag will still be used, but for meetings and intercambios where I need more stuff, since it´s bigger. I will send pics when I get it.

Love you guys! Study your scriptures. Pray honestly and openly. Ponder LIKE A BOSS. May the Lord bless and guide you in everything you do.

Élder Rowe

Frustrations - Feb 29, 2016

Hey there guys,

This week was good, but as usual as I come to write I am not feeling the best (the picapollo fried chicken I had for lunch isn´t sitting so should pass quickly, though). We worked really hard on getting members of the ward to go out with us and visit and meet our investigators, especially those who have not yet been to church. We still had a lot of fallen appointments, as usual, but we managed to go out with one or two people every day. We didn´t get even near our goal of 35 lessons with members present (we hit 11), but that is much better than the 4 we´ve had the past 2.5 weeks combined. 35 was really a goal we placed with a lot of faith, but was more realistic than the 45 the zone leaders told us we needed to have. One of our zone leaders is really concerned with numbers and baptisms, especially since as a zone we weren´t even near our goals for the month, and it seems to me sometimes that he passes the mark. However, I understand that every person has a different way of looking at the mission, and he has had a lot of success and a lot of joy from all the conversions in which he´s been able to take part. I need to let that frustration go a bit more.

We have been trying and trying every night to pass by Ce****, a less active, and his wife L****, and only got to share with them once together, and once when it was just Ce****. She seems really interested, and he is happy that she´s interested, but neither has come to church yet. First they were sick, then one of Ce****´s grandparents died, then this week the 27th of February is the Dominican Independence Day (and also the last week of Carnaval), so everyone parties Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night until super late, and does nothing but sleep in between. We´ll keep trying, and we have a lot of hope in that respect, but...GAAH! :) It would be so easy for them to come to church--they live practically in the same street!

Cultural note--did you know Carnaval is a celebration of when Africans first reached the island, and that some really weird costumes and customs therefore come with it? Also, did you know that while the DR is part of Latin America by language, it is part of the Caribbean by race?

We had a baptism this week--the grandson of a member in the ward who just turned 8. I would give more details, but there´s no time for that. Suffice it to say our finding and baptizing him this week was miraculous.
We also had one of our most rapidly progressing investigators come to church this week, despite the cast on his entire leg. He, his wife, and one of his daughters were able to get a ride from a ward member. That was really great, and the best part was that they had a good experience. Even though another "investigator" showed up to church and in Gospel Principles started arguing about the Day of Pentecost with the Ward Mission Leader, our INVESTIGATOR bore his testimony of the book of mormon and its necessity in that class, which nearly brought tears to my eyes. We hope to have a baptismal date with him and his wife for the 19th of March, and we need to extend that invitation again, because last time they weren´t so sure about it. 
Anyhoo, I love you guys and miss you. Best wishes for the week!
Élder Rowe