Monday, June 27, 2016

Week 55: Sticks and Stones....but words can still hurt too!

THIS PLACE IS NUTS!!! It is so much different than what I have been used to for the past year. I have had so much culture shock. People just walk around in animal skins sometimes! Whoa! The culture is way different than Mozambique. The people are also WAY different from Mozambicans. People are definitely much more reserved and "keep to yourself"-ish. Dogs here are extremely dangerous. On more than one occasion I have found myself in a foot race with a mean dog or two, and it is only my first week!

As far as the missionary work goes, it isn't too hard, it is just different. I am used to people begging us to come into their home and they bring out chairs and are attentive and are so willing and ready to change their lives. Needless to say, I am not in Mozambique anymore. Everyone has a fenced house, with a nicely pruned yard and a mean guard dog or two to keep everyone out. So as a missionary you need to work in a different way. I won't say anything bad about the former missionaries in this area, but I will just say that I feel like I am "whitewashing" or starting from scratch. So we have been walking a lot trying to find new families to teach and help come to know the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As a result, I have had the most trying week of my mission thus far. I have had more doors shut on me, more rejections, more cold-shoulders, and more English curse words spat at me in one week here in Swaziland, than I ever had my whole year in Mozambique.

Just a couple of nights ago, we had an encounter with a group of men about my age that pushed me to the edge of hitting someone. I can't remember wanting to hit someone that bad before. We were knocking doors at about 6 o'clock and we came to this one gate. Now, I was tired of running from dogs, so I asked the group of men across the street if they knew if there were dogs at this house. No one replied, so I asked again. The "ring-leader" of the group (obviously trying to look tough in front of his buddies) replied, "Do I look like their cousin to you?!"

"No," I said. " But you look like a neighbor. Do you know if your neighbors have dogs?"

Clearly upset that I had the courage to reply, things started getting heated. To make a long story short, I bit my tongue, and walked away with very colorful language being spat at me from behind. I had never felt so disrespected before. As we walked away, the hatred and anger just kept welling up. Finally, I threw off my beanie in frustration and prayed. I begged for the Spirit to come back. I pleaded for forgiveness. I was at my ropes end and I needed help and comfort. As we said Amen, we continued walking and the Spirit guided our footsteps to a few houses where we knocked on the door and were warmly welcomed.  We took their contact information and marked to sit with them this week. Looking back on it, I am reminded of Mark 13:13.

So that is pretty much how my week went. But there were also a couple of really precious moments.

We have an investigator woman that has been taking the discussions for 6 months now. She is a very special woman, very opinionated, very open, bold, and plainly spoken. Plus, she is white. Her name is Sister Zelda. She is 52 years old, and she has an extremely interesting, painful, spiritual, and difficult past. Her biggest problem that she has is her addiction to smoking. She has been smoking since she was 11 years old. Before meeting the missionaries, she was smoking 2 packs of 30's!!!!! In one day!!!!! Through the gospel, she has weaned herself down to only 3 a day, which is an improvement, but there is still a little ways to go. She LOVES the scriptures. In fact, her grandchildren call her scriptures her "suitcase" because she takes them everywhere with her. Sister Zelda and he grandchildren are so full of faith. Even the 5 year old grandchild will fight with his siblings and cousins over who will pray. The whole family has had a very rough past full of awful things full of drugs, rape, crime, deaths, addictions, and cancer. Sister Zelda was diagnosed with cancer many years ago, and it has continued spreading. She now has Bone Cancer. She just lost her cousin last week to the same cancer. It really hit her hard. Her and her cousin were they only relatives that had a close relationship and she had to watch her suffer for months in a hospital, and then to go through that. But she did take comfort in the Plan of Salvation. Knowing that she will see her again, and that her suffering is now over.  Last night we took Brother Wesley with us to visit Sister Zelda.  Brother Wesley is the branch clerk that has a similarly painful past as Sister Zelda. He opened up to her, they connected, he strengthened her, and I saw a new desire from her to give up her addiction. I know that she has the desire, and I know that she will quit, she just needs a little help.

I have seen the atonement of Jesus Christ work miracles in peoples lives. I know that the Atonement can change people. I have seen it in my own life as well. I know that Christ suffered for all so that we don't have to. I love this work. I love the people that I am serving. I feel the love that God has for his children.

Now to answer a few questions that the family had:

1. We only cover 1 branch, and the area is MASSIVE! There are 3 companionships here in this branch- Elder Chirchir and I, Elder Nunes and Elder Cardoso, and Sister Ross and Sister Santos. My area is bigger than my last area, and it is even farther away from my house than my last area was. We take a 45 minute Kombi ride to get to our area up in the mountains. A kombi is the equivalent of a Chopa.

2. Investigators that we have had for some time... We only have about 3... Like I said, I feel like I am whitewashing.

3.The problem with marriage is not as big as a problem, because traditional marriage is legally accepted here. So if a couple gets married traditionally, then it is accepted by law, and they are keeping the Law of Chastity. But here, for traditional marriage, they do it "Johnny Lingo" Style. One guy in our area paid 160 cows for his wife!!!!! HOLY COWS! But some other guy only paid 18 for his wife.  Mahana you ugly! (quote from "Johnny Lingo" movie)

4. People have normal jobs. This place is much more structured and set up. So there are many more jobs and income. A lot of people have jobs as mechanics or as construction workers.

5. There are hardly ever problems with Power or Water.

6. I am not too sure about the members strength yet. I only have one week here, but I'll let you know as time goes on. But we have 204 registered members, and an average attendance of about 85. But that 204 number is probably wrong. Sidwashini just became its own branch about a year ago, and there may be a mix up with records from the Mbabane Branch.

7. I am about an hour away from where the king lives with his 26 wives.

8. I don't know about going on a Safaris.

9. So that I don't lose my Portuguese, I still have a lot of opportunities to speak Portuguese because there are  so many Brazilians serving here, so I don't think I will lose it. My companion does not speak Portuguese, so that it a little rough.

10. Swaziland is tiny, but my area is massive. Two of the areas that I cover are called Makhohlokohlo, and Ngoyoyo (Pronounced Makolo-kolo, and Go-yo-yo)

11. My companion is Elder Chirchir. He is from Uganda/Kenya. He speaks many African Dialects including, Swahili and Lugandan. He is 6'5". He is really funny. He is extremely ticklish. He just turned 22 this last Saturday. I don't know what else to write about him. I wish you could meet him, though. I will try to download a couple of videos next week of him. He has 7 months on the mission. He came out with Elder Perez.

12. We use the public transportation system to get to our area, and we walk from there. Bikes were used in the past, but got banned after a missionary took a pretty nasty spill off a small cliff... Woops...

Oh, I forgot about the language. Here they speak Siswati, which is pretty much the same as Zulu, which is what Devon will be hearing. In Zulu they use 8 types of clicks, and in Siswati they use only 4. I have actually met quite a few people that have served in Devon's mission, and to spare Mom some worry, that is all I can say about that. Devon, if you want to hear some wild stories, just ask.

I was able to walk with Elder Larsen on a division and that was SO NICE! Even though we hadn't been comps since the MTC, our teaching was such in sync. I felt as though we had been teaching together for months! We were on the same page in the lessons, we taught together, we built off of one another, and everything just ran really smoothly.

Well, I have now run out of things to write about. I hope that pleases you Mom. This took up my whole 2 hours to write, so consider yourself as special. Alright?

*Elder Ryland Rash*

"Everything the light touches is ours...." Silly boys!

Found a cemetery on the side of a mountain.  Elder Rash thought his dad would be interested.


Storm rolling in

Elder Chirchir

I can't believe how bundled up he is!!!  He must be REALLY COLD!

Blisters....all part of the job!

Member family

Monday, June 20, 2016

Week 54: Good bye Mozambique...HELLO SWAZILAND!!!!!

I AM NOW IN SWAZILAND!!!!! I got a call on Wednesday night telling me to pack my things and that I would be flying to Maputo on Friday morning and driving down to Swaziland on Saturday morning along with a few other Elders. Elder Nielsen is also down here in Swaziland as a District Leader. Other good news, we are all back together, Elder Nielsen, Elder Watteyne, and I! We aren't in the same district, and the two of them are in a different Zone, but we will still see each other quite often.

I am serving in the Mbabane Zone, Elder Larsen is one of my Zone Leaders- which is Super Cool that I get to see him a lot. He is a great leader and I love working with him. So I am in the Mbabane Zone, and I am in the Sidwashini District (good luck pronouncing that). My area is Sidwashini C, which is pretty much at the top of a couple of mountain ranges. It is so mountainy here and it is a hike every time we go walking in our area. My companion is Elder Chirchir who is from Kenya/Uganda. He was born in Kenya, but raised in Uganda. He was in the MTC with Elder Perez at the same time, and he is a very tall, humble, fun loving, kind, and respectful Man. I already know that we will be getting along very well and we will get a lot of work done. He is extremely hard working and I already love him. He has spent his whole time here in Sidwashini and he is the only person in our District that isn't new. There are 3 Companionships in our district: Elder Chirchir and I, Elder Nunes and his Brazilian Trainee, Elder Cardoso, and Sister Ross (from Chandler, Arizona) with her Brazilian Trainee, Sister Santos. 5 of the 8 areas in our Zone are being "white washed" which is absolutely NUTZ! But the Lord knows what he is doing.

Currently Elder Chirchir and I live by ourselves in a little 2 person house that has our room, a small living room/kitchen, and a bathroom. It is a small house, but it is just perfect for a companionship of missionaries. Our house is right at the bottom of massive gorgeous mountains.

Swaziland is such a different place. It is cleaner, more civilized, more structured and established, and everyone speaks ENGLISH!!! That is probably the hardest part. I have been speaking Portuguese for a whole year with people and communicating with people in English is extremely difficult. But I'm told that it only takes about 3 weeks to get accustomed to the English. But the people of Swaziland don't speak English to one another, their first language is Siswati, which is a lot like Zulu, and it uses clicks!!! So it is really weird and I feel like I am back in my first month here when I couldn't understand anything that was going on around me. But with time I should pick it up a little.

Also, it is really really cold here. I haven't had to use a jacket or a sweater my whole mission, but my first day here I was told by everyone that a sweater and heavy jacket was a must, so made sure I went and bought one my first night here, and I was so grateful that I did! It is freezing here! We don't have A/C in our house, but we have space heaters, and electric, heated blankets that we use at night.

It is like America here. Malls, paved roads, nice cars, parking garages, sidewalk, nice restaurants, everything is just like America. Well, I've got to go... If you've got any other questions about how it is going here, feel free to ask.

Now, to answer all of the questions that Mom sent me...

1.My cooking skills...

Well, seeing as how I am forced to cook for myself and/or my companion at times, I have learned ALOT about cooking and the tricks and trades of different ingredients. But we also cook very simple meals. Pasta, rice and beans, chicken, burgers, a few traditional african plates, burritos, pizza, sandwiches, just a lot of simple stuff like that. At times we can get pretty creative with meals, but it is typically just a simple meal. We don't eat dinner ever, we just stay out in the area and work for that hour, so we just eat a big lunch.

2. How often do I cook?

Every dang day.

3. Who do I cook for?

My comp and I cook together and eat together. Occasionally we will get together as a house and have a big house meal. But those are rare.

4. Do I eat with people in the area?

Rarely. It has happened a couple of times where we didn't want to be rude or offend people or we were starving, so we accepted their food; but it is usually wise to stay away from native cooking (even though the food is heavenly and amazing), you run the risk of getting pretty sick- which has not happened to me yet.

5. Clothing- How is it holding up?

Shoes- My first pair of shoes got absolutely destroyed, but I took them to a guy on the road and he sewed pieces of old mud flaps to the bottom, so I am still using them. But I also got out my shoes that I haven't used yet and I use those sometime as well. All of my pants and shirts are doing just fine. In fact, because it is my year mark, I dipped into my luggage and pulled out 5 new shirts and 4 new pair of pants that i haven't touched my whole mission. My garments as well are still perfect. I don't know how people manage to destroy their clothing on the mission. If you are mindful of it and take care of them, they will last you two years, no problem.

7. I can't think of anything that I need from home, I'm in a place that if I want, I can get most of the commodities of America.

8. I got my Portuguese Scriptures from the Distribution centre here.

To the family.

Mom- so there is a man here that makes customized Swaziland CTR rings with titanium and giraffe hair. It is dope!!! So everyone that passes through Swaziland gets one, but, it is 40 US dollars. so if you could deposit about 100$ into my account, I have a feeling that I will need to use a bit of money until I get settled in here. I already had to take out some personal money for the jacket and sweater, and I spent about 500 Rand, which is roughly $40. So I may have to buy a couple of other things as well, (winter gloves, beanie, etc.) I hadn't planned on spending so much, but with this change, I realize that I may have to as I get settled in here.

Dad- HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!! I wish I could have been home to give you a nice, hour long foot rub as you lay in your chair and watch The Hunt for Red October, or some old guy movie like that, and you fall asleep after 30 minutes. I love you so much Dad and hope that you got all that you needed and a lot of what you wanted. But good news, this is the last Father's day that I will miss!!!!! See you next time!

Devon- I am literally about a 2 or 3 hour drive away from you mission, Man! Crazy! I'll likely still be here when you get here.

Well I love you guys so much and hope that all is going well over there!

Elder Ryland Rash
Last meal with all the missionaries in Biera

Leaving those he loves in Manga.....

Departure day...leaving his buddies in Manga

His shoes after one year of walking....


I can't even.....

The drive from Maputo to Swaziland

He said the drive reminded him of the drive on the Beeline Highway up to Payson

Felt like home....

At the border of Mozambique into Swaziland

Don't worry, Elder Rash will be back!


His companion Elder Chirchir from Kenya/Uganda

He is going to love his time in Swaziland!!!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Week 53: Alive and Preaching the Good News!

Well, every week when I sit down to write an email I try to think back to the most important and/or exciting parts of the week... To make a long story short, this week was pretty mediocre. Nothing too exciting happened and it was just super rainy and pretty miserable. Well, I guess that could spark some interest- how miserable I was. For example, we woke up Sunday morning and saw that the sky was pretty cloudy, but we didn't expect any rain, and another missionary lost my umbrella, so we left to church not being too worried. As we showed up to church it started sprinkling a bit, but we still weren't too concerned. As church ended, the trickle turned into one of the biggest downpours I have yet seen since being in Mascarenha; but, we had lessons, so we marched into the rain. One word, MISERABLE. It was windy, wet, and cold. I know other missionaries around the world might have it worse than I do at some points, but being accustomed to the 100 degree humid heat that we typically have here, the rain and cold was extremely painful.

Other than the rain and cold, nothing too special happened this week. I wish I could think of something... But I'll try to do something cool this week to make my letter a bit more exciting.

But I'm still alive and preaching the Good News!

Elder Ryland Rash

* note from mom - no pictures today.....

Monday, June 6, 2016

Week 52: HUMP DAY week....but no mention of it, as he would like to forget that he only has 1 year left!

Well Hello Family and Friends all over the World!

This last week has been full of spiritual experiences and a lot of revelation! Here we go.

So this week we had the Beira and Manga Zone Conference with President and Sister Koch and it was very enlightening! Zone Conferences come at just the right moments. Just when I'm feeling on a Spiritual Low, Zone Conference comes along and gives me just enough spiritual energy to make it another 3 months! We learned a lot about Diligence and Planting Seeds. That was the theme of the Conference. I wish I could just download all of my thoughts and feelings into this email so that you could all truly feel and understand the change that it made for me and in my Discipleship to the Lord. In the end, I made it a personal goal to knock on the doors of the most rich houses in our area. So one night during a division, I took the opportunity to hit a bunch of rich houses in our area. Just last night we sat down with this quite wealthy family and I was sweating bullets because I was so nervous. When I saw that the husband is white, I became ever more nervous. Here it is once in a blue moon that you can find a humble white guy that it willing to accept the Gospel. But as we started the lesson I just kept praying in my heart that I would be able to help him recognize the spirit and be touched. As the lesson progressed, I recognized a shift in his countenance and I everyone felt much more open to share what they were feeling and thinking. We invited them to pray about our message and they accepted. As we were just conversing after the lesson, we came to find out that they had a 3 year old son pass away no more than 2 months ago, and it was really taking a toll on them as a family and individually. I am really excited to sit down with this family again and teach them about the Plan of Salvation and how families can be together forever and that his Son is not lost. Francisco and Louisa are their names and they have 3 awesome sons, 2 of which are above the age of 8. The whole family is just full of geniuses and I can picture them progressing very well in the gospel as they continue making commitments with the Lord.

I know that God lives and that he sends his Spirit to testify of truth to help all of God's children recognize what is true and make and keep covenants so that one day they can return and live with God again. I know that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet that received the Priesthood Authority once again on the Earth to perform Sacred Saving Ordinances. I know that God hears and answers prayers.

Have an enjoyable week in America.

Elder Rash

P.S.  I got Reese and Melissa's letter- thank you so much for that, BTW. it meant a lot to me and I really appreciated it.

Mom, I talked to President and Sister Koch, and I will most likely be able to go through the Temple with Devon in Jo'burg on my way home! so I am super pumped for that!

Found a piece of home....FEAR THE FORK!!!!

He must love taking pictures of the kids this picture!

He loves putting a smile on the kids faces!

What a cutie pie!!!!

Zone Conference - being physically fed

Manga and Biera Zone Conference

Love these missionaries

Being spiritually fed!

These AMAZING people are taking such good care of my boy! (Pres. and Sis. Koch, Bro. and Sis. Wilkins)