Monday, January 27, 2014

Libertador General San Martin (Ledesma), Salta - January 27, 2014

Hello Family!
This week started well. We had a slow Monday where no one was home, but on the way back to the apartment, we saw a lady sweeping up, so we asked to help and she let us! Then we taught the whole family the restoration. Only to find out the next day that her brother is an inactive member that had moved from the address registered in the church! It was just a rather cool experience.
I had an interview with President Levrino. It's always cool to see how ecclesiastical leaders can give you direction and advice as if they knew everything about your situation. I love it!
I left my sombrero in the taxi up to Yuto. I was very sad. Then Elder Allan told me that we could go look for it. We just happened to be able to find the taxi driver. He told us my hat was in the back! It was a great miracle. God cares about the little things.
The Book of Mormon is great! We had a meeting about that on Tuesday, and we've been using it all week. Instead of going in and teaching lessons, we just read with them, and the lessons come on their own during the reading. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that that book and Preach my Gospel were made at the same time in the same factory. It's just hard to express how cool the change was! I love the Book of Mormon. I know it's true. I know that it fits perfectly with the Bible, and between the two of them, we have everything we could ever want to get to the celestial kingdom.
I went on exchanges with Elder Allan. He's a smart jock from Springville. It was really fun to get to know him better. Yuto is a tiny pueblito out in the middle of nowhere. Kind of a change from my other areas! The nice thing is that they have great AC up there. It was hard to come back to Ledesma.
We talked to an investigator that hasn't been able to get married because her future husband lost his job and they didn't have the cash to tie the knot. She prayed for help and found a job the next day! God answers prayers!
So yes, I finished up all my paperwork on Friday and I'm legal again! Also, I hit my one year mark since the time I came to Argentina (which is why I needed to renew my visa). I went down to Salta and saw all my MTC district (I can't believe I didn't take a picture). We went down and waited outside the migrations office for a couple hours. Then they told us that they'd lost all our paperwork and that we'd have to start over again. I was kinda scared, because when you have  to go to Salta, the work in your area starts going really slow, since that's what happens when there aren't missionaries. Luckily they found them and after six hours of waiting just to be present, they gave me a paper and told me I was done. No picture, no signature, nothing. I'm not complaining though! I also saw Ashley Hanks who went to Swing club with me down there! Always an adventure in Salta.
I had three baptismal interviews that I did this week. The first two went well, especially since the guy had overcome smoking and drinking addictions, but they ended up not being able to get married due to the crazy paperwork necessary here. The other got baptized on Saturday! It was really great, even though the kid scared me a ton when he said that he'd gone to jail before. Turns out that it wasn't because he'd done anything bad. Plus we had three investigators show up to the service! That's always great.
Anyway, I hope you all have a great week!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Libertador General San Martin (Ledesma), Salta - January 20, 2014

Hello Dearest Family!

So something that was different this week - I ate Trix almost every morning. It was delicious. Argentina is a little behind in its development in some areas, but their Trix are really good. The classic kind with the shapes. Yum!
I went to Salta... again. And I'm going back this next week... again. I can't imagine being the missionary in charge of paperwork for this mission. We went and stood in line for an hour and a half while they reviewed our paperwork and visa, then they gave us something that had to be paid in the bank, and told us to come back tomorrow. The problem is that we had to go back to our respective areas, so I´ll be heading back Tuesday or Friday to stand there while they do more paperwork.
Nora went to church! Nora is a lady who works kinda like a maid in the house of the brach president. We've been teaching her for who knows how long, but she's never gone to church. We tried a lot of different things, but nothing worked. We tried just dropping her, but the branch president told us that we couldn't. So this week we called her Sunday in the morning and told her to go. And she went. I love missionary work in the 21st century! And having a phone.
I heard the first good excuse for not going to church. We met a lady that a former branch president told us used to be super active. We went by, and found out that she stopped going to church because a motorcycle ran her over and left her with mild amnesia and brain damage. She was never home because she was in the hospital, and when she finally got out, she was living with her very Catholic parents who were taking care of her. Because of that, the members couldn't visit her (they didn't know where her parents lived), and her parents started taking her to the Catholic church again in her wheelchair. It was interesting to visit her. Elder Burr's dad is a neural sergeon, so he knows something about brain damage. It's like she has her testimony in there, but she doesn't like thinking about it because there are so many parts missing. Even so, lots of time has passed now, and it'll be interesting to see what happens as we continue going by.
I learned something cool this week. It's always bugged me that Paul talks about how it's better not to be married in his opinion. That goes against gospel principles. Then someone told me that he was married. According to the Bible, he was part of the Sanhedrin, and a requirement to be on that is to be married. So when he talked about how it's better to be single, he was talking to the widows and widowers about his personal feelings of his own condition. Always cool to see how whatever doubt you have about the gospel will be resolved with enough patience, scripture study, and conversation with smart people.
Our star investigator that went to church last week has an evil step mother. His evil step brothers tried breaking into his house on Saturday, claiming that they were the rightful owners and stuff like that, and it resulted in a fight, in which his stepmother beat him with a stick. He doesn't look very beat-up - I think he got the better of them - but it left him a little preocupied and he didn't make it to church. Even so, he's really committed to his baptismal date, and I'm really thinking that he'll make it, despite the fact that Satan always turns up the heat when you get close.
I got a Christmas card from the bishop! He's really cool. I was thinking the other day of all the great bishops that I've had in my life. There are so many people here who leave the church because they don't know how to get along, the leadership is still learning, and lots of little things happen to the point where they start letting it affect their relationship with God and His church. It just makes me happy that my leadership has always strengthened my testimony instead of making me quesiton it.
Last little miracle for the week! We went to go visit a less active because his active daughter was here visiting him, and we figured we'd take advantage of the opportunity. On our way, we saw his daughter talking to a friend. Turns out that the friend is a less active lady that went to church about 6 weeks ago with her boyfriend, who she wanted to introduce to the church. We tried to find that house so many times, but we could never find it due to falty directions and the fact that everyone knows the streets by nicknames. And now we found it a month and a half later! When God wants you to hear the gospel, you can't get away from it!
Anyway, I hope you guys have a great week!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Libertador General San Martin (Ledesma), Salta - January 13, 2014

Hello family!
One of my favorite quotes from Elder Holland's Thanksgiving talk from the MTC (Which can be found in the December Liahona - it was given for the first time like 20 years ago) was "I hate it when missionaries say that they're going to go home and return to real life. Well guess what? This IS real life! Your life won't get any more real than this. The life you left behind was your fake life." Ya gotta love Elder Holland!
So I went to Salta this week to do paperwork, and I'll have to go back tomorrow to finish up the rest of the paperwork. Woohoo for paperwork! It was fun to see a bunch of guys from my group that came with me. Plus we now have a cell phone! I no longer have to use crappy phone cabins! It's wonderful.
I found a bread store that sold doughnuts. Still not quite US quality, but better than the ones I found in Tucuman!
We had a cool miracle Tuesday. We were trying to get all the details worked out for the Salta trip in the morning, which is always fun without a phone. We lost a lot of time there. We also weren't going to have much time in the evening because I was on a bus for around 3-4 hours. During that hour or two that we had to work, all of our plans and appointments fell through. We decided to swing by the house of converts that were almost never home. And guess what? They were home! Including one of the converts that had moved to a nearby city without missionaries! It was a great thing to talk to them and try to rekindle a little their testimonies.
I found a baby scorpion on my pants. Not dangerous at all, but kinda cool!
So on buses it's really hard to avoid the movies. They turn them up really loud, so you can't sleep, and they turn out all the lights, so you can't read. The landscape is all the same, so you always end up catching something of the movie. But I was able to notice something really cool! In the two movies they played (one called Jump the Broom and another I remember seeing commercials for - Killers) the characters got married! It was kinda cool to see that in Hollywood the Law of Chastity isn't completely dead!
This past week we had something of a bug going around. Nothing bad, but longer bathroom visits for all of us. So of course our neighbor decided to give us a TON of chocolate cake. It was delicious! And the pieces she served were huge! But it made for an interesting day to be sure.
We stopped by unplanned to visit a Sister that used to be really active a few years ago. The last time I swung by she said that she didn't like the people in the ward, and that she was going to move to Salta soon anyway. This time we swung by again and we got a little deeper into the reason she went inactive. After serving her mission, she came back and worked a lot in the church. She made some sacrifices to be able to fulfill her calling and things like that. As the years went by she had relationship problems and issues with studies, and in the end, she decided that the blessings that she was promised on her mission never came. It just made me realize that no matter how much good we do and how much dedication we put in our service to the Lord, we won't always be blessed immediately. In fact, we may recieve trials instead of the imagined blessings. But something I know is that no matter what comes, God will fulfill his promises. Sometimes we'll have to put in practice our patience, but the blessings come. It was nice to feel the Spirit testify to all of us there when we talked about that of the truth of that prinicple.
Right after that we went to a guy who has a testimony, wants to join the church, but doesn't want to leave his girlfriend. It was amazing to see how Elder Burr was able to use one of his past experiences to help him see the importance of putting the Lord first. It's just a nice reminder that where we are assigned in the mission and the people we talk to aren't things of chance, rather that all is divinely orchestrated so that our Heavenly Father can use the experiences we've had to serve his other children.
It rained again really hard! Luckily it was Saturday, so it didn't affect church. We walked out of lunch and somebody up there must love us, because a taxi passed by shortly just before the rain picked up. Plus I used my boots for the first time. I felt awesome, like I could step on anything.
I love the little miracles! We left in the evening Friday and it was really hot. We went to contact a reference and he said, "You guys look really hot. Have some free bottled water!" God is good.
Pablo went to church! Pablo is a really cool investigator that we've been teaching since my first day here. He's been completing every commitment, except for church attendance. Everytime it was a different excuse, and there were a couple times when I was on the point of giving up, but yesterday he went!
Argentine Political Correctness
I had a surprise talk on Sunday! Our branch president has gotten into the habit of telling the missionaries during Sunday School that they're going to talk. I ended up talking about home teaching, using a little of President Monson's talk, but I think what really got the members' attention was when I talked about my own home teacher and how cool he is. I told them that for my birthday, I received a letter from Russell, which he would have had to have sent two months before. It really is a pretty inspiring example of the dedication of a home teacher. He really is a really awesome guy. What's he up to these days?
Anyway, I hope everything's great back there. How's the cold? Everyone's asking me if my family´s dying in -50 degree temperatures. Looking forward to hearing from you next week!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Libertador General San Martin (Ledesma), Salta - January 6, 2014

Hello Dearest Family!
That´s really nuts about Brother Merritt. I wish I could have been there to hear Sister Merritt´s testimony. Home teaching in Utah´s weird. Here it´s basically trying to rekindle testimonies and help people to understand that they have to act upon what they know. I feel like my experience was more training the Aaronic priesthood holder on how to do visits while the older, more experienced people teach him all kinds of great doctrine. As for New Years, it really is kinda pointless, but it´s fun to have time to think about how the last year went and what things you want to do differently in the following year. It´s always a good time for goal setting, or "planning life with purpose," like President Monson said.
Elders Burr and Willey
Anyway, so Elder Burr is a musically inclined medical student at the U, but lived half his life in Washington. He also has 10 months on the mission. It´s really different being with someone that already has time on the mission. In a good way. I feel like there´s someone there to compensate for my mistakes and take the lead when I don´t know what to do. It´s really nice.
New Year´s was lame. People here lit off fireworks, but not as much as Christmas. I was able to sleep pretty well. Just another excuse to get drunk.
So I really wish I could just help people to understand that they need to forget the other people and just go to church! It really drives me nuts when we ask people why they stopped going and they say "It´s that, I know this member of the church that did such a thing, and I can´t go to a church with people like that." When I ask them if they´ve seen Elder Uchtdorf´s talk, they always say no. If you have any doubts as to whether or not prophets and apostles know what´s going on in the world, throw them out. I swear, the members unknowingly quote him almost word for word sometimes. That´s when it´s fun to quote the rest of the talk and help them to understand that our personal relation with God through the sacrament has nothing to do with the fact that we are all hypocrites. Doctrine rocks.
Cool miriacle! We have lunch every day, but every once in a while a member forgets or has an emergency and stuff like that. So Wednesday, our lunch fell through. We went to go buy something to cook up when a member we met a week ago from Cordoba that´s here visiting his aunt yelled at us from his house. We went over to chat and he invited us in... for asado! Which is really delicious always. Elder Burr and I looked at each other and decided that God loves us.
Speaking of asado, we had a great branch New Years activity with an asado. They´re always so delicious...
I´ve been continuing with dog problems this week. Two decided that my leg would be a good place to do their business this past week. One of the joys of missionary work!
There was a testimony that the words of Bill Clinton and his book are true. I thought I heard wrong, but I verified it with the other elders when we got home. It was worth a good laugh.
I got to teach young men´s! It was quite a cool experience. It was spur of the moment, and I had nothing prepared, but the new manuals are really cool! I just wish I´d have had time to look for the talks and other resources it refers you to. It was especially cool because we had an investigator in the class. The lesson was like a training from Preach my Gospel, but in Young Mens! How cool is that!? Modern curriculum rocks.
So another cool situation from the week. We were teaching Elio, who´s gone to church a couple times now and is a sometimes athiest, and his mom had a question about whether or not baptism had to be done in a river. We started talking about the symbolism of baptism and how the running water wasn´t important, rather the covenant, when Elder Burr started talking about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I was thrown off for a bit, but in a short while I realized how strong the spirit was, and the words of President Benson(?) came to my mind - The only doubt the investigator has to resolve is if the Book of Mormon is true and if Joseph Smith was a prophet. Everything else falls into place if we know that. It´s nice having Elder Burr here in the area to give a new perspective, and try new things, and it´s fun seeing how our talents and mesh and complement one another. I´m so grateful for the restoration of the gospel, and that with that restored knowledge, we can grow closer to our Father in Heaven, and understand better the atonement of His Son.
I love all you guys a ton! Have a great week!