Saturday, April 13, 2013

February 4, 2013

This last week was great. I continued in my ongoing battle with the Argentine government officials to have a visa. I only have to go one more time tomorrow, and then I think it will all be done.

Missionaries are only supposed to have one free day a week and I am going on a tour of Capital with all the other Elders who are going home on Saturday. So today I didn't have a p-day and had to work.

This coming week is going to be a little wild. Tomorrow I am going to Capital to do paperwork for my visa for hopefully the last time. This last Sunday, the bishop announced that I only have one week left in Sacrament meeting. So after the meeting, about every family in the ward asked me when I could come past their house for a goodbye dinner. This week I have a lunch and two dinners almost every day. Lots of asado. The members are Tolosa are way too nice.

I don't really know what to say about my closing week. It kind of just seems like I am going to continue on being a missionary. I don't really think it has hit me that my mission will end at some point.

I love you all tons. Thanks for all you have done to make it possible that I could be a missionary. I can't wait to see everyone in the next few weeks. I love you all. See you on Tuesday. All is well. Life is good.

January 28, 2013

I think this might be the last email I send home. I'm not really sure yet. Next week, all the Elders who are going home have a guided tour of Capital and I don't know if I am going to have time to write home. So....if I don't write next week, don't freak out and I will see you at the airport!

I don't really know what to write....this week was good. I am having more and more trouble focusing myself as the days go on. Every once in a while, I find myself staring into space thinking about airports. But, in those moments I do my best to real my focus back to La Plata. I also started to pack my bags this week (I'm bringing my sleeping bag home, there is no negotiating on this one) and buy souvenirs. So I guess I am officially trunky. No worries though, I still am working a lot and doing my best to find new people to teach.

This week I had a lot more problems with my visa. I drove around all of Buenos Aires with the office Elders, trying to get my visa figured out. It didn't really work, and this week I got kicked out of another government building. We have to run around for two more days this week to try to figure out the visa. We will see if I leave Argentina legally or illegally.

This week I have the final zone leader counsel of my mission. In the zone leader counsel, the Elders who are going home always bear their testimonies. I have seen 11 months worth of missionaries giving their testimonies, and this week it will be my turn. I don't think my brain can fully understand that its my turn, instead my hands start to sweat and I get kind of confused. But, since you guys wont be there to hear me, I thought I would share a little tiny bit right now.

The mission has been something really really weird for me. Weird in the best way. Before the mission, I kind of never liked to listen to people bear their testimonies. In fact, in kind of made me a little bit uncomfortable. I remember, several different times, looking at people who had given themselves to their devotion in religion and Jesus and thinking, "Whaaaat? What are those people feeling that makes them act the way they act and say the things they say?" I really didn't understand. During the mission, I feel like I have been forced into many situations where I have had to pick in between throwing my pride to the side and taking part in the weirdness or keeping my hubris and my spiritual allergy. I feel like that is one of the functions of the mission, to force you really to decide who you are and what you want to do. I was lucky enough to have the help from my companions and the Spirit to be able to, in some degree, drop my hubris and experiment what all the testimony givers were feeling. It was in those moments when I really began to feel, recognize that the feeling was good, and to understand. Little by little, moment by moment, feeling by feeling, I feel like my pride went leaving my heart, the feeling got stronger, and I began to change. I began to become one of the people who had previously made me uncomfortable. That is all Heavenly Father really wants us to do. He wants us to lay aside our pride just long enough for him to make a change in us. We actually do very little in the process. He does most of the work. I have learned many things while I have been here. I have learned that our best chance of happiness in this life lies in living the gospel. I have learned that Heavenly Father loves everyone so so much. I have felt it. I have learned that I have many many weaknesses and that I can correct them if I want to. I have learned that no matter how many weaknesses I correct, I will never be close to finished in ridding myself of all of them. I have learned that bedays are much better than toilet paper. I have learned that companions are the best. I have learned that if there are problems in my life, there is a 99% chance that they are my fault and not of anyone else. I have learned that you can be happy in any situation, it just depends on your attitude. I have learned that my family is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I better stop there. I'm out of time.

All is well. Life is good.

January 21, 2013

This is my third to last email I will be sending. Writing these emails have been kind of strange. I have been fairly lazy as far as writing in my journal goes, so I think these emails will be valuable for me in the future. When a seventy´s wife came to teach us, she said, "The best journal you will have for after the mission will be the letters that you have written to your mother." I hope that is true.

This week was pretty busy. Elder Reynolds and I had to run around doing a couple different activities, so we did not spend as much time teaching as we would have liked. On Tuesday, we had interviews with the President. Whenever we have interviews, the zone leaders have to do a workshop for every companionship of missionaries. Giving the same 1-hour workshop eight times in a row can be kind of tedious, but it was funny thanks to the company of Elder Reynolds.

On Wednesday night, the office Elders called me and told me that I had to be in the mission offices to do visa work the next morning. The mission offices are on the other side of the mission. (Two buses and two trains). We got to the offices on Thursday morning. There, they told me that they couldn't find my passport and were frantically looking for it. The mission Presidents wife and all of the office elders were fasting so they could find it. I asked them what it means if I don't have my passport and they told me that I would have to stay in the country for another 2-3 months while the embassy made me another passport. That notion was very bittersweet for me. More bitter than sweet so, I started to pray too. Meanwhile, they told me to go to a nearby government building and try to do some paperwork to get my visa current and to ensure than I leave the country legally. At the government building, I talked to a not very friendly lady (who reminded me of one of the ladies who works at the post office, except meaner) who asked me for my passport. I told her that I did not have it. She shouted at me for a little, and in short told me to get out and come back when I had my passport. I went outside for a little bit and called the office Elder whose job is to organize the visas. He told me that the lady didn't know what she was talking about and told me to sneak back into the building, avoid the mean post office lady who had just finished shouting at me, and try to do the paperwork with a different mean post office lady. I sighed and said, "okay...". I tried to sneak back in and was promptly discovered by the same shouting post office lady. She asked me, with lots of expletives, what I was doing. I told her, in a faltering, frightened, and higher voice than normal, that I was there to retry my visa paperwork. She blew up. She started screaming about how if our situations were switched my country would have deported her years ago and how Yankees are always acting like they own the world and something about my mother...She just caused a big scene and everyone stared at me. I just tried to smile. She then called the policewoman who was stationed at the government building and told her to take me out of the building. The police woman (a lot shorter than me) grabbed me by the upper arm and ushered me out of the office. sweeeeeeet. I then made my way back to the mission offices, feeling rather defeated and embarrassed. When I got to the offices, the office Elders told me the bittersweet news that they had found my passport and that I could go back and face the screaming menace once again to finish my visa papers. I went back and the lady had left, and the papers went smoothly. It all ended well and for the moment, I am not to be deported nor exiled.

The best part of the week, by far, was the baptism of the Sanchez kids. I wish I could send the picture, but this computer is not cooperating. (I will show you them in a few weeks.) I don't know why, but it seems like something goes wrong at every baptism. The Sanchez baptism was an exception. The water worked, the clothes fit, the family arrived on time, the members brought refreshments, it went well. The kids were so happy and the family too. It was especially special because Hermano Sanchez, who recently re-activated in the church, was able to do the baptisms. Everyone was beaming, and the whole experience was real good.

All is well. Life is good.

January 14, 2013

On the Argentine news I hear that there is a horrible, freezing storm that is debilitating the western United States. Based on how they usually report happenings in the US, its probably kind of cold in a few places. I'm not jealous. I would take overwhelming heat and humidity over freezing cold any day. I'm not excited to be cold again. For everything else, yes, I am excited.

Things this week were severely normal. That does not mean that they were bad, (in fact this week was great) just that they were pretty normal. Once a month, Elder Reynolds, President Stapely, the Stake President, and I have a meeting. We usually sit and watch the two Presidents talk, but it's good nonetheless. This month, the meeting finished a little early and the President asked us if we had any investigators that we would like to visit with him. We decided to take him to The Sanchez Family. The Sanchez family is a part member and inactive family. We are teaching and planning the baptism of two of the kids in the family, Celste, and Jonny. The Mom of the family, Laura is not a member, and is friendly and cordial, but doesn't really want to hear anything. When President got to the house, the whole family was super honored and a little nervous to have the Mission President in their house. But Stapes is awesome and calmed them down with friendly, easy conversation. Then he focused totally on Laura. We have been trying to figure out what Laura's doubt is for some time. After about 8 minutes of sincere chatting in between her and President, she spitted the doubt out. I was blown away. I guess President holds a little more weight than I do. Being an old missionary, sometimes it is easy to make the mistake in thinking that you have finished progressing as a missionary. Thanks to President Stapely, I know I have lots of room to grow, even in the last four weeks. and the rest of my life....

The baptism of Celeste and Jonny will be this Saturday. They are super great and fun to teach. Should be good. I will try to send pictures next weeks.

Elder Reynolds and I are holding on and trying not to get trunky. I am searching for a good quantity of quality experiences in my last few weeks.

All is well. Life is good.

January 7, 2013

It's getting harder every week to read these emails and stay focused. It's great. When I first started my mission I carefully looked through all of my ties and choose a different one everyday, depending in how I was feeling that day. Some days I wore one tie for the first half of the day and another for the second half. It was a big deal. Now, I usually wear the same time for a week or more and when it comes time to change because someone comments on the fact that I have been wearing the same tie so many day in a row, I grab one randomly off the tie rack. I am looking pretty good with dirty ties, yellow shorts, holy pants, and moldy shoes. I guess its all part of the experience though. I welcome it.

Today was a special day. I forgot to tell you all last week, but today, all of the missionaries from the BAS mission went to the temple. It was the first time I had been to the temple in about 22 months. The missionaries can only go to the temple one time a year or if one of their converts is going to the temple to do their own work. The reasoning for the rule is that missionaries are here to do the work for the living, not the dead. I guess that's right. It looks like a family that I taught and baptized in Longchamps, the Acuña family, will be going to the temple before I go home with them. Also, all of the missionaries get to go to the temple the week before they get home, so I will be going yet another time before I come home. I might soon be translated. Naw, it will be real good. Walking away from the temple today I felt real good and ready for the next few weeks.

Everything is going pretty normally. Elder Reynolds and I are teaching a part member family right now named Familia Sanchez. They are all super well-behaved kids (hard to find in Argentina) and love when we come over. Two of them have baptismal dates for the 19th of this month. Should be b-e-a-utiful.

Remember how strange people always sneak into the church if the doors are left open?  Welllll.......the other day Elder Reynolds and I were teaching English classes in the church with a few youth and the Hermana missionaries from the bordering ward. Elder Reynolds was teaching when I noticed a guy walk by the door with a big plastic bag. I recognized him right away as these cheesy, and usually drunk or high salesman who walk door to door and sell super random things from plastic bags. I went out of the classroom to talk to him and usher him out of the church, as is custom. I asked him if he needed any help. He right away started pulling electrical cords, highlighters, cd booklets, paperclips, and a punch of random stuff out of the bag to sell me. It was obvious right away that we was pretty drunk and I told him I didn't want anything. It was at that point that he pulled out a knife, pointed it at me, and asked me if I wanted to buy the knife. I think he was showing me the knife half as a solicitude and half as a threat. I said, "Sure! How much is that highlighter, I was just needing a highlighter." I gave him ten pesos and he left. Lesson: Always lock church doors.

All is well. Life is good.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

December 31, 2012

My Christmas was fantastic. After talking on skype with a few of you, Elder Reynolds and I went to Juanitas house to celebrate. There we had some good food and laughed for a long time with Juanita and her equally old roommate, Regina. They are my favorite old ladies. They always tell lots of old people jokes that wouldn't make me laugh unless the jokes had come from Regina and Juanita. And I laugh soo hard when I am with them; to tears. They gave Elder Reynolds and I shaving cream (for sensitive skin, I don't know how they knew I have sensitive skin) and after shave. I have never used after shave in my life, so we will see how it goes. After shave just makes me think of Home Alone when little Macaulay Culkin slaps some burning after shave on his face and screams. I am hoping that my first time after shave experience is a little better. But, the point is that Juanita and Regina are great, and they helped make my Christmas perfect. Hopefully I helped them have a brighter Christmas too.

This week was pretty funny and different. I don't know why I always end up talking about the shower in these emails, but it always just seems to pop up. Our shower is the best I have had thus far in my mission, but the water heater has the sneaky habit of turning off if there is even a little bit of wind outside. I jumped into the shower on Friday morning without really testing the temperature of the water beforehand. The water was so freezing, but I am kind of a pro in taking cold showers lately, so I didn't turn it off. I just shouted to Elder Reynolds and asked him if he could light up the water heater again. I didn't hear an answer, so i just assumed that he had been busy with something and couldn't light the heater again. I just finished my cold shower. When I walked out of the shower, I just saw that Elder Reynolds was laid out on the bed and his face was all pink with hints of black. Apparently Elder Reynolds had gone out to light the water heater, stuck in a match to light the pilot light, and light a pocket of gas or something that caused an explosion to come out of the hole and burn his face. He was in kind of a lot of pain in his eyes, so we called the mission doctor. The mission doctor told us that he probably had a flash burn on his cornea and that we just had to buy some special eye drops and stay on bed rest. In the end, Elder Reynolds was totally fine, but we were obedient to the doctor and stayed in the apartment for the rest of the day. So, I spent another day counting bricks and drawing dragons. Sweet. Elder Reynolds is fine now. It seems like we have weird accidents every week.

In between leadership meetings, burned corneas, and holidays, we did not have as much time as we would have liked. But I did have a lot of time to think. As I was thinking, I realized that most of my thoughts were directed towards home, friends, family, school, girls, future jobs, pretty much everything that is happening outside of my missionary life. That realization made me kind of sad. My mind was more in the United States than it was in Argentina where it needed it be (with my body). I opened up a book Mom and Dad sent me with a bunch of good quotes in it. After a little bit of flipping through, I found a quote that was perfect for my situation and motivated me a lot. It was something along the lines of this, *ahem* "Every dog, when you put it behind a fence, will cry and bark and squeal to be let out. And most dogs, upon being let out or digging out of the fence will simply lay down next to the fence that had previously enclosed them. The dog was focused on getting out of the fence, but hadn't thought about what it would do once it got out." I don't share this quote to say that dogs are stupid or anything, I share it because I think we humans are exactly the same. Too many times we think, "I will be fine once I finish school", or "I will be happy once I am out of this relationship", or "Everything will be fine once I get this job". Or in my case, "Everything will be sweet once I am done with my mission, area, companion, etc." When we resort to such thinking we are making our happiness conditional and robbing ourselves from the joy that could be garnished from the moment we are in presently. If we make such thinking a habit, we will find that we have run through so many good experiences without learning the lessons or reaping the happiness. It's so very hard and so very important that we learn to be present. I feel like the happiest people, the people that everyone wants to be around, the successful people are the ones who have learned to never leave the moment, but to take it for all it is worth. There is a word in Spanish that doesn't really exist in English. it is aprovechar, or pretty much take advantage of something and use it for all it is worth. I want to do that. I want to aprovechar every moment I have left in the mission, and in broader scope, my life. I don't want to look back and see a path of missed opportunities. I promise to do my best to aprochevar the next six weeks. I invite everyone else who reads this email to do the same. Aprovechar every moment. Be Present. 

All is well. Life is good.

December 24, 2012

I am running late and I have to get inside pretty soon. On Christmas eve, pretty much everyone just gets really drunk and shoots fireworks everywhere, so the streets are pretty dangerous and we have to get back to the apartment pretty early. But, I will share the few highlights of my week.
    1. Confirmation of Macarena-Real good. She was shining.
    2. We were helping a lady paint the inside of her house on Wednesday. First we had to clean the walls that were covered in mold. As I was cleaning the mold, it kind of turned into a dust and I breathed a lot of it in. I started to have a really intense allergic reaction and my throat closed up almost all the way and I couldn't really breathe or talk at all. Luckily Reynolds was at my side and calmed me down. We were about to go to the hospital, but we got a hold of some liquid benadryl and that fixed me up pretty well. I'm totally fine now, it was just a funny moment.
    3. The Christmas party for the mission was today in the mission home. It was super good and chill. It is the hottest day this year today and everyone was sweating and dying. Pres. Stapelys face was so so red and everyone was making fun of him. I love the mission and have made a lot of good friends here.