Monday, December 30, 2013

Libertador General San Martin (Ledesma), Salta - December 30,2013

Hello Family!
I´m gonna see how much of this stuff from the past two weeks I can fit in in the time I have.
My last time with Elder Whittier
So first off, there were transfers today. I´m going to be passing New Years with my new companion, Elder Burr from Spokane, Washington. Elder Whittier headed off to San Salvador, close to where I started. Elder Jara, one of the other elders in our apartment, finished his mission, so yet another elder from the district of Elder Whittier and Elder Lyman came to replace him. It´ll be a fun transfer! And probably one of the hottest times I´ll ever pass in my life. I think it hit 110 or 120 this past week.
Cool minimiracle. Two weeks ago I forgot my notebook with all my studies and notes from meetings and stuff in the cyber. Later that day we thought about going to send a package to Elder Whittier´s family, but weren´t sure about it. We decided to go for it last minute, so we went back to the cyber cafe to get his address. And they returned my notebook! We ended up not being able to send the package, but had we not gone back to the cyber, who knows where my notes would be now?
I did divisions with Elder Fuentes, a cello-playing Chileno up in a place called Embarcacion. We did service moving the walls of a house. It was really hot up there. But it was really fun to get to know the elders up there while doing service!
Going back from exchanges there was some confusion, so we ended up having to take a taxi for two hours. It ended up being kind of expensive, and no one had money. I ended up being able to use a bill that I´d been keeping as a souveneir (It´s a special edition Eva Peron - you could probably google it). It was sad, but had I not thought to bring it, we would have been in a bad situation, since none of the ATMs were working that morning. Thinking back on it, it very well could have been a spiritual impression.
Haha! So I did an interview with a little girl with 8 years. During the interview, she said yes to everything. When I asked her why she believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet, she looked at me and said in a very matter-of-fact way "Because they teach me about him in church, and when I go to church, I feel good and happy." It was just really cool hearing that kind of conviction and testimony coming from an unusually short 8-year-old. Who needs all kinds of classes, knowledge, and miracles when you have a spiritual witness like that?
We had a really cool moment with the family of some converts - Family Balbino. Only two of their kids got baptized, and have since stopped coming, but there´s a lot of issues with their older son and the dad. The mom was almost in tears, so we decided to change the lesson plan to family prayer. Wow. It´s amazing the peace and tranquility that can enter a home with so many problems when the members of the family just kneel down and pray.
On a less spiritual note, we had the Christmas devotional. The first half was mostly fun - they gave us all toasters and blenders, and Elder Jara played the part of a wise man, since they give the presents here, not Santa (Even though they generally don´t come until the 6th of January). The rest of it was a lesson on faith. Kind of a cool Christmas celebration!
We did a service project where we took stuff to the "dump." I´m glad to be an American, where our dumps aren´t river beds where they take all the trash and throw matches in periodically. And where they don´t teach all the recently baptized Mormon kids to be Catholic in school. It´s the little things that make a country great.
Christmas is celebrated terribly here. Lots of drinking and cumbia - the music here that consists of... it´s like... rap mixed with electronic dance clubbing music and a Mexican mariachi? All night long. Then carrying virgins with really loud drums in parades at 1 in the morning. What better way to remember the Savior´s birth, right? Happy to be a Mormon!
We met an athiest this past week. He was interesting, but one of the things he said that I loved was that people don´t recognize the miracles that there are today. It reminded me a lot of 4 Nephi, when the people marvelled less and less at the signs and wonders. He said, "For some people, it could be a miracle that you guys can stand here peacefully talking to me about Jesus while I try my best to get rid of you and convince you that I don´t want to talk. Or it could be a miracle that a family is unified." It was just interesting to think about all the miracles that are almost commonplace, but even so, are great blessings from God!
I wanted to ask on Skype, but forgot. How are the missionaries in the ward / stake?
Elder Whittier always pet cats when we saw them. In one lesson with members the grandma of the member came, asked to take the cat from my comp, then threw it out in the street. Nothing like a senile, cat-hating grandma to interrupt your lesson on reading the scriptures daily!
I have not been getting along with dogs this week. One bit me and another bit my suit jacket and tore it a bit. Oh well. Life goes on!
I used the Christmas Cards you guys sent me in Oregon! I sent them to my conversos... converts with the translation of the quote up above. It was great! Thanks mom and Cait for thinking to send them!
J dubs came to our door! It was really fun! I asked them what was different about their church than the others. The idea of the trinity being three, no worshiping idols, world wide church, etc. Yup. We have all that. They left us with some pamphlets. I was disappointed. They ask lots of questions, but I couldn´t find the answers anywhere! Where did we come from? God created Adam and Eve! Where do we go? Some people go to live with God and the rest stay here. When was Christ born? Not December! I compared it to the answers in our pamphlets and was again, grateful to be Mormon.
Wow. I had lots to say. Hope everything goes well this week! Love you guys!

Libertador General San Martin (Ledesma), Salta - December 16, 2013

Hello Family!

It was a pretty cool week. Yesterday it rained a LOT and we only had about 50% of the attendance that we normally have. I don't really blame them too much. There are a lot of streets that turn into rivers. Even so, the investigator with his really old girlfriend, Ferdinando, was able to make it! Very wet, but he came! The only sad thing is that due to the divorce system here they have to wait until his girlfriend's husband dies to get divorced... Oh well. At least he's doing his best to keep the commandments!
There's been some crazy stuff here. It's like legalized robbing. It's not really legal, just the police have threatened to go on strike, and if there's no police, people take advantage. It's kinda nuts. A lot of stores have been closing at random times to avoid the damage. Luckily it seems like it's ending.
The Ensign is so cool! I was really a really cool article on the birth of Christ where one of the seventy was explaining the significance of when he was born and such. I'm so grateful for modern prophets! Plus I just downloaded the Christmas devotional to listen to later. Woohoo!
We had a conference with Elder Ferreira from the seventh quorum of the seventy this week. He was pretty cool! Getting there was a pain. Oran is about 90-100 miles away, which is where we go for conferences. The bus times were not convenient. The advice from our zone leaders was "Pray hard and make a decision." We ended up getting permission to pay for a taxi. Much better than going at 4 in the morning and waiting until it started at 11! Something I didn't realize before is that the seventy have a special witness of Jesus Christ. It was really felt when he talked that his testimony wasn't run-of-the-mill. It was just a cool meeting. Especially since he served in this mission when it first opened 27 years ago, and was making all the fun comparisons. They talked a lot about having faith and filling out the right forms in the meeting. Sister Levrino talked about how a lot of times when we go to share the gospel, we think "Nah, they'll never accept." She invited us to have more faith in our family, friends, and people we see in the street. Then President Levrino talked about how we have some wonderful forms that show us all the commandments we have to keep. It's a lot easier to keep track of everything when it's on a piece of paper.
Another fun thing about the meeting is that I saw Elder Howard and Elder Seitz from my MTC District! It's always fun to see them. Crazy to think that 75% of my district is here in northern Salta / Jujuy!
Anyway, I hope you all have a great week and a half! I'll talk to you on Christmas, and hopefully see you! Be sure to have ready to show me what you got for Christmas!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Libertador General San Martin (Ledesma), Salta - December 9th

Hello beloved family!
It's really hard to imagine the thought of snow right now. It's really hot here. And humid.
So this week we went to a few church meetings. I learned that Mormon Standard Latino Time is even worse here. On the plus side, I was able to enjoy some wonderful ice cream and practice a little on the piano as we were waiting for everyone to get there! It was really quite relaxing.
Fun story from the week. A lady passed us in the street and said, "Hey Elders!" We have a habit to talk to everyone that says hi, but she quickly hid in a nearby store. We creepily waited by the entrance "knocking the neighbors doors" until she came out a couple minutes later. She left really fast, so we kinda followed her to her house, where we found that she's a less active that moved from another ward with unbaptized family members that want to listen. Creepy persistence can pay off!
There was a bat in the apartment. I couldn't get a really good photo, but it was fun.
I now understand the phrase "Walking through your shoes" at a whole new literal level. I'm going to spend a good chunk of today looking for a place that sells soles in my size.
Another fun story! We left Thursday and clouds quickly rolled in. It rained a little. Then it rained a lot. Just as the clouds were starting to burst, we were knocking at the door of recent converts we'd never met before. No one answered for a bit when they came running from the other block and invited us in. And there was an adult male in the house! Tender mercies of the Lord. We were able to pass protected from the worst part of the storm and teach while we were at it!
I did a fun exchange with an Elder from Buenos Aires this week. He's really cool, and almost done with his mission. Plus he just happened to serve in Villa Muñecas for four months, so that made for a fun topic of conversation. He said that he really loves being a convert, because when the people say, "I can't change. I can't leave drugs behind. I can't get a testimony," he tells them that they can! Because he did it all. It was a really cool story how his friends just encouraged him to go to church until he went and changed.
I got to do two baptismal interviews this week, both really far away. First we went an hour north to Yuto. The lady was quite interesting. She was ready in almost every sense. She had a couple doubts about the restoration, but nothing uncommon. What killed the interview was that she didn't want to live the law of chastity... I'm so grateful for an understanding of the gospel. She was very concerned that if she obeyed that law, that no one would ever want to marry her and she'd never be happy in life. It's wonderful to realize that true happiness - both immediate and long-term - comes through obedience to the commandments, even though at times it may not seem like it.
The other interview took place in San Pedro, an hour in the other direction. The poor district leader there is in a district with three companionships of sisters. We're the closest elders around. That kid was much more prepared, but still didn't want to get baptized. I'm not entirely sure why... He put up a lot of excuses - his grandma was coming to visit, he wasn't sure if he was willing to commit or if he could deal with the temptation, etc. The good thing was that I was able to testify a lot about the Holy Ghost, and the power and strength we get from receiving that grand gift from God. I realized just how much help, protection, and guidance I've received in various different situations from that member of the Godhead, from relationships to school to resisting temptation. I'm just really grateful for the gospel in my life, and the testimony that I've been able to develop.
This week is going to be good. We'll hopefully have a baptism (assuming they can get married - we've had all kinds of issues with paperwork and doctors on strike and stuff like that). We're also going to hear from Elder Ferreira of the Seventy. It'll be a great experience!
I hope everyone is trying hard to complete Elder Ballard's challenge to bring an investigator or less active to church before Christmas! We're encouraging every member we find here to do that!
I hope you all have a great holiday season! I'm enjoying listening to the CDs you sent me back in Oregon, because the Kings Singers just don't go really well with MoTab.
Anyway, done rambling. Love you guys!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Libertador General San Martin (Ledesma), Salta - December 2nd

Dearest Family,
So, this city is actually called Libertador General San Martin. Really long. Ledesma is the name of the super company that basically everyone in the city works in. It's really hot here. Especially these last few days, but it's not nearly as hot as some other places in the mission, so I'm counting my blessings.
As for Caitlin's comment, our will isn't the only thing we can give Him. There's also referrals to the missionaries! Don't forget about Elder Ballard's challenge! They're making a big deal about that here.
Speaking of Elder Ballard, how are the missionaries in our ward / stake / wherever they are? Have you met them?
So we taught a guy named Ferdinando. He's gone to church every Sunday since who knows when, but isn't baptized. My comp told me he had chastity problems. When we went to teach him, I kept looking for his girlfriend that was supposedly living with him, but I didn't see anyone. Turns out that she was the lady I thought was his mom. She's got 30 years on him. Reminded me of that picture Craig sent us on his mission. We'll have to see what happens in that situation.
We had travel plans that were cancelled twice. Elder Whittier has to go do paperwork in Salta, and since we're out in the middle of nowhere, I'd have to go with him. Unfortunately, Argentina lost his paperwork, so we're waiting a bit longer. Our zone conference that's 2 or 3 hours away was also pushed back, but I'm not sure why. It sure is different being out here!
We were going to have a baptism, but there was a paperwork problem in the marriage process. I'm really grateful for the paperwork in the states. Divorces and marriages aren't NEARLY as bad up there. It all happens in hours in Vegas. Here it takes weeks or months... or years. Even so, everything should be good for this Saturday!
There's an investigator that had a really messed up book that talked about the Mormons - how we worship Joseph Smith, stuff about polygamy, how all matter is energy which is God, how Adam is also our God, and how blacks are children of Satan. And those were just the "core beliefs." It was fun to set him straight.
I had floss issues. A piece broke off between my teeth and I couldn't get it out for 25 minutes. Just wanted to share that.
We had some light issues. Apparently it's hard to get stuff paid here since the offices are far away and no one ever comes out here. Luckily I have a whole bunch of money saved up from past months' allowance and was able to pay it. Woohoo!
Poor Elder Whittier. We're writing a little later today because he was sleeping. Last night he got really sick and threw up a few times. The members were quick to send him to a doctor and somehow got an injection approved that was given in a very painful manner from behind. He's doing a little better now.
I was very grateful for our ward the other day. We went to a nearby branch that the missionaries around here kinda share, since there aren't missionaries assigned there. Church started more than an hour late because the branch president didn't show up until then. After buying the sacrament bread, we had a quick meeting. It was us, the branch president, and a guy who's assigned to go there from another branch 30 minutes away. It just made me very happy that our church started on time and was always good. And that members always go. It really is cool to think about just how strong the church is in Utah. What a blessing!
Anyway, that was my week. Hope yours is great!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Libertador General San Martin (Ledesma), Salta - November 25th

Hello Family!
You're all really awesome, and I'm very grateful for all of you, even though there's no Thanksgiving here this week!
So I lied. I'm not in Salta. I'm in a zone that's based in Salta, but Ledesma is actually in Jujuy, just very far from the capital where I was before. It's a city based around a huge factory with crazy hours where everyone works. The work is about the same, although here it's a rama... branch. Even so, we had the same church attendance yesterday than I had on a good day in my last ward. There aren't too many differences between wards and branches. However, being a little bit smaller of a city, the siesta is more respected, and so this writing earlier thing will be consistent.
As for leadership, I'm still district leader, just with a new district. It doesn't really imply much for right now, as I don't have a phone. All calls we make we have to do from pay phones. It's kinda a pain, but at the same time, it's nice not having to call the zone leaders every day to tell them how everyone is!
We're currently sharing the apartment with two other elders. It's kinda fun, because one - Elder Parada from Colombia - has been in all my zones - plus we got here around the same time, and Elder Jara from Buenos Aires was in Villa Muñecas for a long time, so we know lots of the same people.
Being here in Ledesma, we're also currently in charge of the cities of Calilegua and Fraile. There's a little branch in Fraile that consists of the branch president and 200+ less acitves. We go every Wednesday. Lots of travel!
It's been a pretty chill week. Always interesting to try to orient yourself in a new place. It's also weird because it's my first time being senior comp and the guy who's new to the area. My comp, Elder Whittier, is super cool. He's from the same MTC group as Elder Lyman, and speaks super well. He also has a ton of great habits that I'm working on developing!
We talked to a JW this week. Finally he explained why the JWs never let us pray with them - "You don't pray using God´s name. You have to pray to Jehova for the prayer to count." Whatever. I'm good praying to my Father. It was kinda fun talking to him, but they don't listen very well...
I got to give a talk on Sunday! The bishop told me a couple minutes before sacrament meeting. I was given the topic of families. I thought it turned out pretty well. It doesn't hurt that I have some great subject matter to work with. I was able to talk about our family nights, the activities we did together, and how we always went to church together! It's the little things that count. Later that day we went to church choir - they want us to participate. I think I was the only one that could carry a tenor part. You know me - I'm not a tenor - but it was fun trying! And I'm no worse than anyone else.
Anyway, that was pretty much the week. Lots of good stuff going on here! I'm excited for the coming weeks. Until later!