Elder D. Andrew Greenman

Our son, Elder Andrew Greenman, has been called to serve in the Mozambique Maputo Mission. He has asked me to create this blog so that you, the reader, can read his letters to home. His current writing address is found below along with the most recent letter.

Monday, September 30, 2013

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. —Aristotle

I find it very interesting the changes that we go through over a long period of time.  We don't notice in our day to day life but after a few months we notice how much we've changed, or not changed.  I have noticed how much I've changed on my mission.  Especially after about 9 months I looked back on how much I've changed.  Just this past week I've looked back on my mission since those 9 months and have realized that I've kind of stalled.  It’s a sobering realization, but I feel as if I haven't been progressing as much as I need to. One thing that everyone needs in life is time to reflect on his past.  The more often we do this the sooner we are able to correct our course and make goals and plans to progress.    This week was one of reflection and commitment to do better.  

We've dropped several families, but we have found some new ones, and the Lord has guided some families to find us.  This week we found a family with 9 kids who are all of baptismal age.  Only 7 of the kids are at home with the parents, Chibante and Agusta.  They all accepted baptism.  That was a miracle.  We were walking in our area near a big catholic cathedral, and down a dead end path we saw a beautiful red brick home with delicious looking grass.  (Mother's note: I don't think Andrew was hungry to eat the grass, only hungry to see it. I believe it is a rare sight for him in that part of the world.) Out of curiosity we took the path.  As we came to the gate we saw the mansion and were satisfied.  This house apparently is where the leaders of that Catholic Church lived.  We started walking away, but then felt we needed to go back.  We did.  As we came to the gate of the house again, we looked to our left where there was another small gate that belonged to a small humble house.  We looked in and asked the people in the yard if we could enter.  Forty minutes later we walked out, all of us edified.  The Lord had brought us to a wonderful new family to teach.  They didn't come to church, because they were all traveling that day, but they will come next week. 

Another family that we have started teaching is Charles and Judite.  They have been investigating the church for so many years.  He has a major addiction to alcohol.  His wife is always at church, we thought that she was already a member, but now that we know she isn't we started teaching them again.  The one lesson we've had with them since was very powerful.  We talked about faith in Jesus Christ, to the point of changing our lives.  They were both at church, and participated fully.  Charles is a very intelligent man, has a good understanding of the restoration, and even has a good position in the Police Department where he works.  (Mother's note: see last week's picture of Andrew and Charles in his policeman uniform) He becomes such a different man with the alcohol,  we are helping him recognize who he truly is, and how he can become who he is.    He is making large steps of faith.  He is working on their marriage documents, and they have accepted a baptismal date for the 26 of October.   We will need to act quickly because one of the marriage documents alone can take up to 20 day to obtain.   

Sunday went well.  The three families that were baptized in our branch were all confirmed.  It was a beautiful thing.  Ten people were confirmed during sacrament meeting and the spirit was there confirming to our souls the acts of righteousness that were taking place.   I don't think I mentioned it last week, but last Sunday when Elder Mason and I arrived the first counselor pulled me aside and asked if I could give a 10 minute talk during sacrament meeting.  I told him I would, so I took my place on the stand and started organizing my thoughts on Faith and the Atonement and how, coupled together, our lives can and will be changed.  There were going to be three speakers,  A recent convert, the first counselor (Elias Joaquim) and Me.   When they announced the first speaker, Helena came up to let the branch presidency know that she had never been asked to give a talk and had nothing prepared.  Brother Elias turned to me and said that together we'll take up the meeting.    I was so grateful for the opportunity I had to speak.  I know I learned so much.  I was also able to tailor my message to my investigating families who were present in the congregation.    One specific point I stressed was that, not only is it possible to change our lives, but that change can begin happening immediately.  I shared how when Christ called his disciples they, too, left their nets immediately and followed him.  I guess the branch presidency liked my talk because after church they asked my companion Elder Mason who had been here for less than a week to give a talk next Sunday.   Elder Mason accepted.  And this Sunday he gave a wonderful talk.  His language is coming very well.  He participates actively in lessons and does a phenomenal job at sharing personal applicable stories that the investigators can relate to.  I love my companion.  He and I have committed to do better every day.  

After church on Sunday we had district meeting.  I gave a training called, Born for Greatness.  I talked about our divine potential.  Our capacity and how to obtain it.  During the training we had a mini solo time where each elder reflected on his mission and defined the things he needs to do to become that Christ-like missionary that he committed to be.  It was a very spiritual meeting.  At the end we made goals for this transfer.  We have three companionships in our district and branch.  Last transfer each of us baptized a family.  Currently one of the Companionships has another family ready to baptize, Elder Mason and I along with Elder Galland and Kanaga do not.  But we made a goal in faith that we would do another collective marriage on the 25th of October and we know that the Lord will help us all have at least one family for that date.   I'll keep you all posted on that in next weeks email.  I love you all!
-Elder Greenman

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Speculating About the New Companion

     This week seemed to fly by so incredibly fast, up until Friday.  From Friday on… the week just crept by at a snails pace.  On Friday we had a zone service project at the Chapel where we deeply cleaned all the areas that are usually not cleaned by the members.  It went really well.  We did the project in preparation for the Marriage that was going to happen the next day.  Surprisingly, I did not feel very stressed,  I knew everything would turn out well.   I received a call from the assistants later that afternoon letting me know about the new elders that would be coming in.  Of the five new Elders who came this transfer two of them came to the Manga zone. The assistants did not tell us what was going to happen in transfers, but just told me with whom the new Elders would be. One of them, named Elder Mason is actually going to be with me.  Elder Thomas has finished being trained and he is getting transferred to the Manga 3 district where he will finish training another Elder.   I am so grateful to have been Elder Thomas' companion.  He is honestly one of the hardest working companions I've had.  The good news is that I'll still see him around, he will still be in my zone.  There were not a lot of changes in the Manga Zone, so we'll be able to keep going with the same momentum.

     Elder Mason came Friday night at 11:30.  Elder Thomas and I just waited in our rooms until he came.  We really couldn't sleep.  To pass the time we took turns guessing what Elder Mason would be like. I guessed that he would be from Utah, would have brown hair, and I even guessed that he graduated from Davis High (in Kaysville).   Elder Thomas lived in Farmington and went to Viewmont. We got a call from the Snelsons saying that they had arrived.  We started out the door, but then Elder Thomas stopped.  He was wearing some Davis dart shorts that he had found while on the mission, and he took them off and switched, he said it was just in case that Elder Mason did graduate from Davis.   Well as soon as Elder Mason was in and settled we asked him where he was from.  He said Farmington, we asked where he went to school and he said Davis.    Elder Thomas and I looked at each other and just laughed, I couldn't believe that I had guessed right.

     The next day was Saturday so we woke up early and headed off to the chapel to get things ready for the marriage.  The marriage went really well.  I'll send pictures.  The week went well.  We are teaching two awesome referral families, and I'm sending a picture of one of them.  Joao e Louisa and their kids.  I love you all, until next week.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Interviews Schminterviews

     Sometimes I think I have it hard, then I think of the pioneers.  This week the breaker in our house kind of blew up.  So we have been out of power for a few days (hello hot sleepless nights).  Oh, and bucket showers as well.  
     This week has been pretty exciting.  This past week I did a total of 33 baptismal interviews (including the 17 I did last Sunday).  This past Saturday 21 people were baptized and our zone still estimates another 23 people being baptized this next Saturday and Sunday.   We'll have the collective marriage this Saturday at 11.  You are all invited.  We will have a total of 6 families married that day and then baptized on Sunday after church.  Three of the six families are from Dondo; the other three come from my district.  Each companionship in our district will have a new family, even Elder Galland and Kanaga who opened up a new area this transfer.  Their family is Titos and Ana.  They were found my first day here.  Elder Galland was waiting for his companion so he walked with Elder Thomas and I in our area.  By the end of the day we decided to go to Elder Galland's new area and knock some doors.  We found a man who said he was a traveling pastor.  He let us in and we had an okay lesson with his family.  At the end of it, Elder Galland was a little doubtful on coming back, I told him it was worth a shot.   And now, that family is getting married and baptized this Saturday with 4 of their kids.   
     This week I've been slammed with a lot of things in preparation for the collective marriage and also the baptism we had last Saturday.  Last Saturday the majority of the baptisms were of young men and young women who did not have family in the church.  President Kretly's focus is Families.  But many missionaries are now scared of baptizing anybody who doesn't fall into the category of mother, father and kids (a full family). The missionaries feel as if they will get judged if they baptize anybody out of that category.  Because of that, there are so many jovens (young men and women) that have been coming to church for 1-3 years and have been wanting to get baptized.  When I got here I thought to myself, who am I to say that they cannot be baptized because they are not considered a full family.  Well…..they were baptized this past Saturday, see picture.  I told my zone that the focus is still families, that we shouldn't be looking and contacting single young men and women but if they come to our church invite them lovingly to continue learning.  Our solution is that they will be taught by the ward missionaries until they are ready.  I'm glad that those young men and women were able to be baptized.  It is kind of sad that in the case of some missionaries they are too scared to baptize someone who may be totally ready, just because they aren't a family.  In my eyes they are still children of God, and their worth is great in the sight of Him that created us all.   
     This next week we'll probably have the same amount of baptisms we had this week but they will be families so that is another miracle.  Can you imagine having 3 or more marvelous families being baptized all at once into your ward? 
     This week I went on a division with the Dondo district leader.  I wanted so much to go to Dondo and see my first area but I felt that I needed to stay in Manga while Elder Thomas would go walk with Elder Ndala (from Angola) there in Dondo.  I would walk with Elder Fernandes.  This was my second division with him, because when I was in Maputo and he was in magoanine, we also went on a division.  On Thursday afternoon Elder Thomas and I went to Dondo to do 13 baptismal interviews.  After the interviews I left Elder Thomas there and showed Elder Ndala some families in the area book worth going back to that had fallen through the cracks in the past year.  
     Elder Fernandes and I then headed to the chapa stop to head back to Manga.  Good news bad news…..  Good news is that on our way to dondo Elder Thomas and I hitchhiked and saved 40 metacais.  Bad news…When Elder Fernandes and I got to the Chapa stop it was full of people but empty of chapas.  It was getting late and we knew it would still take 40 minutes to get to manga. We walked to the highway and started using our thumbs. Nobody would stop.  I glanced at my watch. It was 8:53.   We needed to be home by 9, or at the latest 9:30.   Finally a big semi truck stopped.  The driver was kind and let us in.  On my way, I felt we shouldn't go in.   I went in anyway (how many times does that happen?  When the spirit tells us to do something, we hardly ever heed it the first time). The feeling came again and then we stepped down and off the semi apologizing to the driver, saying that we had forgotten something and that he could go his way.    I don't know why we were told to go in there, especially because semi drivers don't drive crazy, they drive slow and safe.  Well, then we went back at it, asking for other rides.  It was almost 9 and we were convinced that we would have to stay in Dondo for the night and go to Manga early early the next day. Then out of no where came this Speeding car and actually stopped several yards further.  We asked for a ride to manga and he said to get in.   I don't know why, but I felt the impression that we could go in.  As soon as the doors were closed he sped off at an insane velocity, especially considering the terrible roads and fog that hid the potholes.  He was going 150 km per hour.  Long story short we got to Manga in 14 minutes instead of 40.  And we made it home in time with even more to spare.  To this day I still do not know why we were told not to get into the safe semi, but were told to get into the speeding car.  If anything God just wanted us to get home on time (and boy we did).
     The division went well with Elder Fernandes; we were only able to teach two lessons because the rest of the time we were running around with our heads cut off fixing the baptismal font and getting things ready for the baptism and collective marriage.  Thanks to the Snelson's, we were able to actually have enough towels.  With over 20 people getting baptized, 4 towels were not going to cut it.     
     Elder Fernandes and I had a great lesson at night with a member.  We Taught Jose and Julia the Law of Chastity. They are a new family that we found this week, that are progressing rapidly.  Julia has 5 children with another man who has since died.  The lesson went well. They understood, but were a little skeptical about getting married since they had only been together for 5 months. Then our minds got blown, the next day, Saturday, we called and invited them both to church, he said he would come but he wasn’t sure about Julia.    Later that evening we got a text from him that was very interesting.  It said,  "Good evening missionaries,  I confess that I have sinned before you and before God Almighty, for not having revealed to you, that knowin about adultery and its dangers, I have been with Julia who is a widow with 5 kids, to be my secret lover.  But I have a wife and two kids and it will be with them that I will be at church" We were truly surprised by the message he sent us.  We were so happy that he had decided to change and repent of his sin.  I'm so glad that we taught the Law of Chastity and that he's decided to be honest with us.  He and his true wife and two kids did come to church, and they loved it.  Sadly his real home is not in our area, so we have passed it on to the other missionaries in another branch and with the Best to Jose and Maria (his wife). The Lord works in mysterious ways, I believe that the Lord put us in Jose's path to be able to teach him the Law of Chastity to decide to follow it. 
     Alexandre is starting to go more downhill.  He has begun avoiding us, but his family continues stronger, ever stronger.  I'm so saddened because Alexandre hasn't opened his eyes to see the wonderful family he already has.  He continues with his mistress and he's drinking.
     This is the last week of the Transfer and I'm determined to make it the best.  I've decided to make it the best.   More next week on the collective marriage.  Stay tuned…….
-Elder Greenman

Monday, September 9, 2013

Reactivate the Deactivated

Life's good.  Oh, and the keyboard i'm using is stuck on Portuguese, so there may be slight punctuational errors because for the life of my I can't figure out where the apostrophe is. (Editor's note: I think I fixed them)   

In the last letter, I had mentioned Alexandre and Bete's family.  They are still doing well, but Alexandre has still not been open or talked to his wife.  He told us he did, but later when we spoke with her she said she hadn't.   The family came to church together, though. I'll see if next week I can get a picture with them.   Tonight we have a meeting in the chapel with just Alexandre and Bete, without the kids.  We will be sitting with them, with either the branch or district President.  Hopefully we'll be able to help this family decide to have a happy united one.    Another family we are teaching, Fransisco and Daina have opened up the marriage process!  They are set for Sept 21.   So far there are only 3 families in the Manga Zone who have the marriage process open.  There should be about three more who open it up this week.  I'm hoping to have another collective marriage on the first week of October.  

The Collective marriage idea was great, and has worked a lot until now, but elder Thomas and I have been working with our branch president, Abdala.  We feel that things need to be done differently.  Currently the district pays for the party and ends up spending a lot of money, and because of the quantity of families getting married, those families have a limit on how many people they can invite to their own marriage.  This limit has ranged between 18-20.   Personally I don't like restrictions if we don't have to have them.  Together in branch council this week we talked of ways that we might find a solution so that the world outside of our church doesnºt see us as so restricting.  (I'll keep you all updated on how that goes)  

This week we went to Francisco and Daina's house to teach them.  It had been a while since we went.  When we got there they were super busy doing the equivalent of a spring cleaning.   So we offered to help.  We stayed there for about an hour as together we worked.  I imagine that it was incredibly funny for other people to see two white guys working.  (I think for some reason here they don't think that we actually work doing physically straining work.)   When Elder Thomas and I walked off with a lot of buckets to a nearby well to draw water there were many amused and surprised faces.   When we got to the well we started filling up the buckets. As we did so, and as we looked at the not-so-clean (more on the side of dirty) water we looked at each other, saying can you imagine using this water to drink or to cook?  When we got back, most of the work was done.  Daina had left because she was late to something and Francisco was cooking something for us.  We told him we didn't need any food but he insisted.  By the time he finished he placed the food on the table and said, enjoy, its made by a man.  Haha.  We laughed, (the men here hardly ever cook, it's always the women so we enjoyed his little sense of humor)   As we ate Francisco kept working on a few last minute things.  Elder Thomas and I looked down on our plates and smiled, well the joke was on us, because we are eating and drinking from the same water that we went and pulled.  

Sunday was marvelous.  We had a record of 221 for the frequency in our branch.  And another miracle happened.  At the beginning of the Transfer we had a meeting with President Abdala to ask him what we could do to help his branch. He gave us two inactive families. The one that lived in our area had not been to church since their confirmation, and apparently didn't want anything to do with it.    

On Wednesday when I was on division with Elder Peterson we passed by his house, and he happened to be there. (In the past we have tried so many times to go by their house but he has never been home.)   When he answered the door he had a bashful smile on his face (I'm sure in his head he thought, blast they found me again!)   We smiled back, for some reason I felt we should take a different approach.  Instead of going in with the purpose to help reactivate him we decided to pretend like we didn't even know that he was inactive.  I explained to him that we are the new missionaries in the branch and that we are getting to know the members.  I explained to him that we really need his help in teaching a family nearby.   It went SOOO SOO well.  He relaxed and said he was happy to help.  It was a really good way to break the ice.  We sang a hymn and left with a prayer on our knees.  We had marked for the next day to go teach a family with him.  That day when the time came, he was home he let us in and we sat there while we thought that he was getting ready.  Then he came and sat down on the couch.  (Yes, he has a couch and few people do!)    We asked him if he was ready to go and he asked, where?  Haha, so yeah, there was definitely a confusion, he thought we were bringing the family to his house.  But it was no problem, we just stayed there and sat with him a little longer because we weren't able to leave the house. He had to stay with the kids because his wife was out at school.  His little daughters are so cute and great.  For the opening prayer he had his daughter Belmia give the first prayer.  In her 11 year old voice, she humbly asked the Lord to help his Dad and Mom come back to church.   It was such a sincere prayer.  At this point he kind of let us know that he was inactive and we kind of responded like, oh yeah? We didn’t know.  We had a great talk with him about what he believes made him inactive.  We committed him to come to church with his whole family and he did!  To me, it was such a miracle. It had been months and months since he was baptized and now he's back.  Also his neighbor who was inactive who we've been working with received the priesthood yesterday.  Rescuing the lost is just as important as converting new families.   

This week was a blast. After church I did a just a few baptismal interview's for Elder Peterson, the district leader in Manga 3. Just a few of them. I started at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and 17 interviews later I had finished at 8 o'clock in the evening.    It was really special to interview all of those people who are going to be baptized next Saturday.  Well….that s about it.  I love you all and you all have my permission to write me.
-Elder Greenman

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Being Honest

This was definitely one of those (hard weeks).  I like to look at those kinds of weeks as the weeks that I grow the most.  I have grown a lot.  I've seen the Lord's help in our area so many times.  On Sunday we passed by Alexandres and Bete's house on the way to church.  When we arrived it didn't look like they were really getting ready, and Alexandre was nowhere to be found.  His wife Bete said that he hadn’t come home last night and she had said that she thought she knew where he was.  It was a huge curveball thrown right into our face.  From what we gathered Alexandre has someone else and has had for some time.  We didn't pry into the situation we just invited those that were there to come to church.    The moment we arrived and entered the sacrament meeting room I felt so much more peace.  Alexandre and his family were still on my mind, but I was more focused on feeling the peace inside the chapel.  I was so ready to take the sacrament. That morning we all woke up to a lot of clouds.  It looked like it was going to rain.  And we all know that people here do not like rain.  That may explain why our sacrament meeting frequency dropped by almost 30.  (It didn’t rain, it just looked like it was going to rain, and just because it looked like it would, less people came.  We're going to have to work on that.)    After church we came home for district meeting where I gave a training based off of 3 Nephi 8:1     We discussed how we need to sanctify ourselves if we want to see miracles happen.  Our whole district is now more committed to be happy and be clean, and be extraordinary missionaries.  This week we had one of our investigators who has no job come work at our house, to cut our grass and do some other yard work.  Interesting thing is…that he found 4 black mambas in our yard, and they are still there….alive and hopefully not too hungry.   For those of you who don't know what black mambas are,  they are snakes.  Very poisonous ones.   We also have a lemon tree in our back yard and yesterday we made lemon leaf tea.  It was SOOOO good.  
      Later on Sunday evening, on our way home, we decided to stop by Alexandre's house just to talk with him.  I don't know how to describe my feelings.  I was frustrated, sad, determined to get to the bottom of things, and find a solution.  Elder Thomas and I thought that we would just be passing by and ask Alexandre to walk with us where we could talk to him and ask him if what we heard was true.  When we arrived we felt we needed to go in and talk with the whole family.   We sat down and said a prayer and we began talking about the family and how important it is.  We asked a lot of good questions that helped them express their feelings.  I asked Alexandre if there was anything aside from the marriage documents and money that would make it hard for them to follow the law of chastity.  He said no, that everything is fine and said,  I don't know if my wife has anything but as for me, no.      This is when Bete spoke.  I'll have you know that Bete is pretty shy and I haven't heard her say very many words at all, but at this moment you could see the love in her eyes and the pain that she was feeling in her heart and she explained that she wanted a happy unified family, where everyone was united and not off doing their own things.  She did not directly accuse Alexandre but explained the desires of her heart.  From there we opened the scriptures to Moroni 10:32 and we read 33 as well.  We talked about the atonement and how God will forgive ALL who come unto him.  We committed them to do as the scripture says to come unto Christ and deny themselves of all ungodliness.   The spirit was strong and Alexandre said, "I'm ready….Iºm ready to follow this commandment." We ended with a prayer on our knees. Then we left. 
    It is part of Mozambican culture for the host to accompany those who visit, so Alexandre left with us and walked with us for about 5 minutes.  Throughout the walk we explained that not only is God willing to forgive him but we saw the desire that his Wife has to forgive him as well.   Bete is such a sweet angel.  We told him that he could trust us, and that we were there to help him.   He then told us everything, how he has been visiting this widow who lives in another neighborhood.  He said that he had compassion on her and would help her out occasionally around the house, and sometimes with a little bit of money.  That eventually just escalated and inappropriate feelings were created.   Alexandre asked us how he was going to fix his situation.  We explained that he needs to continue reading the Book of Mormon and Praying as a family, he needs to be completely open with his wife and ask his forgiveness and stop having relations with the other woman.    Earlier that day the curve ball had been thrown, but with the Lords help we were able to get some bat on that ball and now it's soaring high and Alexandre's family is on it's way to a grand-slam.  The spirit was super strong during that lesson. I'm so thankful for getting to know Alexandre's family and I know that they will grow so much from this experience. 
      If I've learned one thing on my mission (and trust me I've learned more), it is that if I want to be happy then I just need to choose to be so.  The mind is an incredible thing.  

-Elder Greenman