Monday, December 12, 2011

December 12, 2011

This week was half bad and half good. On Monday night, Elder Jolley and I were preparing to give an object lesson to one of our investigators, Pablo. Pablo lives in his Dad's house with his girlfriend. Pablo knows the church is true and wants to be baptized, but he can't get baptized until he either lives separate from his girlfriend, or marries her. He wants to get married and baptized, but not until he has his own house. His plan was to wait two years, while he constructs his house, and then get married and baptized.

The plan of the object lesson was to fill up a container with sand and then give Pablo the container and about 4 golf ball sized rocks and have him try to fit the rocks in the already full container of sand without having the sand overflow. The plan was to then fill the container the opposite way than we did the first time, first putting in the rocks and then the sand on top. The bottle was to represent us, the rocks=the important but simple things the Lord asks of us (i.e. keeping the commandments with exactness, reading the scriptures, praying often, attending church weekly) and the sand represents all the little tasks we have to do in our lives such as building a house and so on. If we put the little tasks first on our lives, we will not be able to push in the things that the Lord asks of us. But, if we first make the simple things the Lord asks of us as the base of our lives, and then do the little tasks, we will be able to do all we need to perfectly.

As we were walking to the lesson, we started gathering all the things we needed for the lesson. We used my water bottle as a container, scooped up some sand from a sand pile in the street, and found four little rocks on the street. We did the example, and it went perfectly. Pablo finally understood that he needed to get married first, and then build his house. It was great. Pablo proposed to his girlfriend that night. Then the whole week kind of went bad. As we were leaving, Pablo asked me if he could wash and fill up my water bottle that had been formerly filled with street sand. I said, "Sure, thanks!" He did, and I drank out of my water bottle right away. With just a little swallow, our whole week was hosed. The next morning, I was feeling not so good, but we left and worked anyways. While we were in the street, I started to have tunnel vision and it felt like there was litter of puppies fighting in my stomach/intestines/bowels. I started to sweat real bad and felt weak. We were a least an hour or two walk from our pinch. Elder Jolley noticed that I was feeling bad and we started heading to the church. I don't really remember the rest of the night very clearly, but we got to the church and I puked and used the toilet for the next hour or two. I don't really remember much after that, but Elder Jolley said I started to say lots of things that didn't make sense and asking a lot about Tim Tebow. haha Poor Elder Jolley was pretty scared and shaken, but luckily the Bishop arrived at the church and he called us a taxi. He said I had a bad mixture of sun exposure, dehydration, and food poisoning. We spent the next three days in our tiny apartment, and more specifically in my case, the bathroom floor. It was so bad. I have never been more sick in my life. It was almost comical. I had to use the bathroom every 15 minutes for about 70 straight hours. I spent one and a half nights sleeping on the bathroom floor. (Good thing we just washed it and it is clean =) hahah It ends up that Pablo did not wash the water bottle very well, and little bits of the sand stayed in the water that I drank.
The thing about the sand that I drank is that it was from a pile in the street that was probably 54 dogs and 23 cats bathroom. In result, I lost more than ten pounds and none of my pants fit anymore. But now I am better now and I have learned my lesson to be more careful with my water consumption.

We have a baptism of a complete family coming up this Saturday and I can't wait. I am happy and love what I am doing.

December 5, 2011

I can't believe it is Christmas time. Sometimes I try to close my eyes and feel the Christmas spirit, but then a drop of sweat rolls into my eye. I have never sweat more in my life. I feel slightly wet all the time. It is SO hot and SO humid. I can't believe just a few months back I was wearing three coats and a scarf every time I went out. Every time we say, "It's so hot!" to anyone, they laugh and tell us that it is just the beginning. I hit 10 months this coming week!
This week was really tough, but really good. I don't have tons to talk about this week because most of the week was taken over by Elder Aidukadis. Everyone in the mission has been pretty scared ever since we heard that Aidukatis was coming. His name was kind of synonymous with Voldemort. Actually meeting and talking to Elder Aidukadis was a little bit different. The lesson with Aidukadis was six hours straight. During these six hours, I don't think it was hard for me, or any other person in the room to pay attention. Aidukadis ended up being so so funny and so so good. He is just so excited all the time and wants everyone else to be as excited as he is. In the process of trying to make everyone as excited as he is about missionary work, sometimes he is just a little too truthful. At one point during the lesson, he asked us to pull out our agendas and open them to the page where we write our weekly goals every week. He walked over to an Elder an asked what is goal for baptism in the next week was. The Elder told him excitedly, "Three!" Aidukadis then asked, "And the next week?" and the Elder less emphatically told him "Zero." Aidukadis then asked him "So you don't wan to baptize anyone?" The Elder started to tell him that he did and Adukadis, still smiling, kept on telling him that if you don't have a baptismal goal for a week, you don't want to baptize anyone and then said to the whole room, "This Elder does not want to baptize." Everyone was just scared that he would come to them next. Aidukadis just ended up being really crazy and inspiring and a little scary. At one point he would be shouting and laughing good-naturedly, and the next he would be whispering mean things in your ear. He kind of reminds me of a Brazilian Jim Carrey. At the end of the meeting, I walked out feeling like I don't do everything I can to be a good missionary, and can do so much more. That's a good thing. As a missionary, I am constantly re-evaluating the things I am doing and trying to figure out if there is a better way I can do them. I feel that same feeling 100x ever since Elder Aidukadis speech. I can be so much better and have lots of hard work in between being the best I can and right now.

At this point Elder Jolley and I don't really have any progressing investigators. Just a few weeks back, we had a ton, but we either baptized them, or dropped them. So at this point, we are doing our best to find new investigators. Finding new people means clapping a lot of houses. We have been walking a ton (all day, everyday) and finding a lot. We are being so blessed and really guided to the people who are prepared to hear our message. We have been having so much fun, but are exhausted all the time. Walking in the streets a lot involves a lot of laughs and a lot of getting to know your companion more. I am so thankful for Elder Jolley. He is such a good companion. All of my companions have been good companions, but I feel like Elder Jolley helps me be the very best I can be. He makes me laugh all the time and LOVES the gospel so much. (More than anybody ever) Today he wanted to spend P-day reading the scriptures and I told him "No." haha

Monday, November 28, 2011

November 28, 2011

I have not really missed home as much as I did on Thanksgiving. I was pretty distracted all day long and just kept on looking at my watch and thinking, "Everyone is probably eating and watching football right now." Luckily I had Elder Jolley here to keep me focused. On Thanksgiving night we felt like we should do a least something little for Thanksgiving, so we bought a little chicken and cooked it and ate it together as our little American family in Argentina. The chicken was kind of gross and was more bones than anything, but it was good to feel at home for a little bit with my hijito of the mission.

This week was relitavely calm compared to last week. When Elder Jolley got here, he was terrified at the lack of cleanliness in Argentina and most of all, our pinch. He came from a clean freak family where they had spring cleaning every Thursday. To see Elder Jolley so horrified at the cleanliness of our pension was an eye opening experience for me. I think I have just slowly gotten accustomed to toilets that only flush half the contents, showers that half mysterious piles of hair in all four corners of the floor, 2 inch dead cockroaches in all places, and odors that make one shed a tear and feel disoriented coming from the refrigerator. I have become a Laminite savage. Because of Elder jolley´s constant pleading, this morning Elder Jolley and I cleaned the bathroom. I'm fairly sure that it was the first time the bathroom has been cleaned in the last year. I think at least 20 missionaries have used the toilet, bidet, and shower prior to the last cleaning. Needless to say, it was sweet. I will spare lots of the details, but I gagged so hard and so often that I had a really bad headache afterwards. Now the bathroom floor is worthy to be eaten off of.

This next week, Elder Aidukaitis of the Seventy is coming to our mission to review everything. This next week, I will be in meeting with him from 2 in the afternoon until 7 at night everyday. When we heard that Aidukaitis was coming, the mission broke out into a panic. The name of Aidukaitis is kind of infamous among missionaries. He is known for tearing apart agendas and making good Elders cry. I am kind of excited, but mostly scared to talk to him tomorrow and see if he lives up to his legend. I will let you know next week. I am sure he will say lots of things that the mission needs to hear, being a General Authority and all. 

November 21, 2011

Right now in Buenos Aires its in the 80s or 90s everyday, and I am always always sweating. My shirts armpits are gradually turning yellow.....mmmmmm.  Thanksgiving doesn't exist in Argentina. I asked President if we do anything special for Thanksgiving and he said, "You work. Working is always special." I said, "Ok, sounds good." Maybe Elder Jolley and I will cook a chicken or something.

This week was so good and so wild and so stressful. Elder Jolley got here on Tuesday. He looks almost exactly like Elder Borgersen, and everyone we have been visiting have been saying, "Elder Borgersen came back!" Elder Jolley is so great. Everyone says that in the mission, one is bound to get lots of companions that one doesn't get along with. I have been getting so lucky, or I don't know what, and getting so many companions that are so great. Elder Jolley is from Highland, Utah and went to Lone Peak High School.  He speaks way better than most yankee newbies because he worked a few summers on a golf course with all Mexicans. He is crazy nice and makes me laugh and the time and tries to help me not be stressed on Sundays. The first few days with him were so fun. It was fun watching Elder Jolley see everything about Argentina and react about it. I now realize how clueless and lost I was as a newbie in Argentina. Things that every new yankee missionary figures out once he comes to Argentina: milk comes in plastic bags, that toilets don't have automatic flushers but buckets instead, cars don't stop in any case for pedestrians, you clap houses instead of knocking doors, not drinking out of any water fountains or sink unless they have filters, everyone shouts even if they aren't mad, 3-inch cockroaches and so much more. I'm just glad I don't have to go through it again.

The week was pretty normal up until Saturday. We worked and found a lot of new people to teach, there is a weird phenomenon in the mission that Nuevitos and Trainers always have way more success than other people. This week I figured out why. Coming from the MTC, missionaries are so on fire and ready to work that they have a super strong spirit about them that no one can ignore. At this point in our companionship, I teach the majority of the lessons, but Elder Jolley does more of the work, because people feel so different around him. There were a lot of times this week where he suggested that we clap a certain house or when he bore his testimony that resulted in us finding a new investigator, or help someone feel the spirit. I feel lucky to have him.

Most trainers play little jokes on their newbies. Some of the jokes are really mean, like staging a fake robbing with one of the members acting as the robber. I decided to do just a little joke. We had just finished eating at a members house and told Elder Jolley that he should now say, "Hermana, la comida fue un asco." or "Sister, the food was really really gross." Elder Jolley took the bait and confidently told the hermana that her food was really gross. She immediately looked at me and told me that I was mean.

When Saturday rolled around, it was like the week hit a different gear, and everything sped up and got a lot more crazy and stressful. On Saturday night, we got invited to a birthday party at Oscar´s family's house. Once we were close to the house, I started to smell asado and felt kind of scared for me to eat another asado, but kind of savagely happy to see Elder Jolley to eat his first asado. I started to explain to Elder jolley what an asado was, and what it would do to his stomach afterwards. We ate the asado including blood sausage and intestines, and Elder Jolley threw up. But only a little. haha I felt like the experienced, old missionary as we walked home and I told him that he would probably be sick for the rest of the night. The whole next night, I got really sick and rode the porcelain pony as Elder Jolley slept comfortably. Talk about humbling. =( I guess I just have a weak stomach.

Sunday was one of the craziest days of my whole mission. As we were walking to church on Sunday, in a pretty nice area, a guy ran up to us and robbed us. He kept on reaching in our pockets and screaming at us to give him our phones and money. We don't know if he had a weapon or anything, but he kept reaching in his pants and acting like he was about to pull out a gun. Luckily we forgot our phone in the pension and I threw 60 pesos (15 or so dollars) at him and he ran away. In this situation, you would think that the newbie would be the scared one, but yet again Elder Jolley was cooler than me. haha After we got robbed, I kind of hyperventilated and got really pale while Elder Jolley rubbed my back. Humbling Experience part 2. We got to church and started the crazy process of getting sacrament meeting going. In the middle of sacrament meeting, two police when walked into the chapel and asked to talk to the two missionaries who were robbed. The bishop talked to them and told them that we would go to the police station after the meetings and baptismal service. (The baptism is another story.) After church, we went to the police station, waited in the lobby for 2 hours, and then were questioned for a good hour or two. In those two hours, we talked to every person in the waiting room, and took down about 11 addresses to visit. Who knew the police station was so good for contacting? They then told us that a man had seen us getting robbed and had chased the robber down, beat him up, and taken him to the police station. (I like to think this man was Batman.) We got to identify our robber. I asked if we could take pictures with him and Elder Jolley wanted to tell the robber that he forgave him, but they wouldn't let us talk to him or anything. hahaha When Elder Jolley asked me how to say "I forgive you." and told me that he wanted to say it to the robber I laughed so hard. The police men thought we were so weird because we were happy and laughing about the whole situation. We settled with taking a picture of the woman cop who interviewed us. Elder Jolley started doing a contact with her, and we ended up taking down her address. I guess ever moment in a missionary opportunity.

The baptism we had yesterday is a different story. We baptized a woman named Norma, and her son Lautaro. Norma is so humble and shy and good. She accepted the things we taught so quickly and has such a strong want to do good. What she didn't tell me before the baptism was that she has an intense fear of water. The whole baptismal service went well with a few talks and singing and then we headed for the baptismal font. Once Norma saw the baptismal font she started crying and saying, "no, no, no no, no" I had no idea what was happening and asked her what was up. She then told me that she had an intense fear of water. We decided to baptize her son first and have her watch to know it was okay. That made it worse. She ran into the women's bathroom where a few nice ladies from the ward tried to comfort her. I felt awkward and didn't know what to do as all the people waited for about 10-15 minutes for the baptism to happen. She eventually came out from the bathroom, still crying, and I led her with both of her hands in my hands to the baptismal font. She cried the whole time. I performed the ordination and started to put her underwater while she screamed "NO NO NO NO NO NNO!" I just kind of pushed her under water anyways. She came out screaming and crying and ran out of the baptismal font. I didn't know what to do and was so nervous. All the people watching the baptism were kind of scared. The ladies in the word comforted her as she changed and Elder Jolley and I went to change too. When I came out of the bathroom, I saw Norma with a little group of kids around her giving her kisses on the cheek one by one. Norma smiled at me and said "I'm so embarrassed." I was so relieved that she didn't hate me and the church because of the baptism. She then expressed that she knew it was a good thing that she did, she is just scared of water. I let her know that the good thing is that you only have to be baptized once. She is such a great lady and I'm sure she will remember her baptism forever. Crazyyyyyyyy!

November 14, 2011

I got a call from president a few days back and he told me that I will receive my companion, Elder Jolley, tomorrow. I am a little sad to leave Elder Cardenas, but mostly excited to meet Elder Jolley.  

Yesterday we had the baptism of Oscar. I was super surprised how smoothly things went. The water worked, everyone was happy, there was a visitor in the ward who could play the piano 100x better than me. It was great to have a Sunday where I can actually go to a class and learn something. I usually am running around during church giving blessings, setting up lunch, making sure investigators are comfortable, filling the baptismal font, making sure the sacrament is ready, and so on. It was good to have a chill Sunday. The baptism of Oscar was real good. I gave him the only baptismal clothes that would fit him, a white jumpsuit, and he refused to put it on because he "looked like a telly tubbie" in it. We negotiated for about 5 minutes and we agreed that he would wear the jumpsuit if he could put a white shirt over the top. Thank goodness he agreed. I always love the feeling of baptisms. It's just so warm and reminds me, in the best way possible, of primary for some reason. Oscar was so happy, and you could see it in his countenance.

This week was real good, but really different and hard. Up till this point in my mission I have had companions who have been totally easy to get along with. Elder Cardenas and I didn't really have that same fluidity together. I have always felt and believed that I can get along with almost anyone in the world, no problem. To clash a little with a companion was a totally new and foreign experience for me. It taught me so many things, the most important being that I have so many faults and imperfections that need work. Elder Cardenas is a great guy and he is gonna be a great missionary. Luckily, we were able to work out our differences, and there is a better understanding between us now. When I talked with President the other day, I told him about my experience with Elder Cardenas and he told me two things that helped me a ton.: 1. "Thinking that the other person is the problem is the problem." and 2. When every Elder is about to go home, he has a final interview with the mission President. In this interview, the mission President always asks, "Which of your companions helped you grow the most?" he said that he is always surprised by the answer that he gets to this question, because almost every time he asks this question, the missionaries tell him the name of a companion that he knows was difficult for them. When we are stuck with someone who is hard to get along with, we are constantly trying to make small improvements that will help the situation. If we make all these small improvements always, eventually we will have made a huge change for the better in our lives. I only had one week and 5 days with Elder Cardenas, but I believe that I learned a ton in this short time and made a change in the way I treat other people. For that reason, I am a little sad to see Elder Cardenas go. But for the same reason, I am a little happy to see Elder Cardenas go. 

I love what I am doing, and know I am where I am supposed to be.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November 7, 2011

This week was pretty good, and mostly crazy. I feel more and more everyday like I am in one of those old, silent British films where the characters chase each other in fast motion. Non-stop, we are running from one place to another.  I received my mini-missionary this Friday in the mission home. Every time new missionaries come in, there is a little bit of a ceremony in the mission home. The new missionaries sit on some couches in the mission home and feel awkward while all the trainers come walking into the room in a line, singing and clapping "Called to Serve". Then the President lets everyone know who the new companionship's will be and everyone has a big meal of pizza and empanadas. The whole ceremony was a huge blast from the past for me. The last time I was part of it, I was sitting very awkwardly on the couch and wondering what I should do with my hands while a bunch of sweating wierdies came into the room singing. This time it was the opposite hahah. And this time, I'm totally in love with the cheesiness of the whole ceremony. Now that I am in love with the cheesiness, I officially know I am a missionary. 

My new companion is Elder Cardenas. He is from La Plata, and will be with me for the next one or two weeks, as I wait for Elder Jolley. Elder Cardenas has his call to Mendoza and will be starting his real mission in January. He told me that he is doing the mini-mission to stay out of trouble until then. I totally understand. Just in the dew days that we have been together I have realized how little I knew about being a missionary at home, and even when I came out of the MTC.  I am sure we are gonna have a good week together, and we are both gonna learn a lot.

I learned a little more about Elder Jolley, my future companion. He is from Lone Peak, Utah (I don't know if that is a place, but that is what President says. President said he is a really good Elder.

This week, we were scheduled to baptize Oscar, the man I talked about in the past couple emails. We were all really excited, I had made the programs, basically everything was ready. When Sunday morning came, I had my usual crazy three hours of church when I run around everywhere like a crazy person, except for this time, I had to fill up the baptismal font. Oscar came to church with his whole family and was so excited to be baptized. The plumbing here is the worst, and it takes about 2 and a half hours to fill up the baptismal font. The switch to turn on the water to the baptismal font is in the women's bathroom. I don't know why its in there, but it is. I planned really well, and let everyone know they would not be able to use the women's bathroom this day at church and started to fill the font about three hours before the baptism. When I turned on the water, nothing came out and I wanted to die/throw up. I kind of freaked out, and frantically asked the Bishop why there was no water, and he told me that the water pump had broken, and there would not be water in the church until Friday. Water pumps are turning up to be my worst enemy. We had to postpone the baptism until this coming Sunday. When I told Oscar and his family they were all pretty bummed, but way less bummed than I was. I was super relieved. I talked to Oscar later on and he said that his is more determined than ever to be baptized now. After the whole ordeal passed, I know feel kinda foolish for how much I freaked out and was nervous that the baptism could not go through right then. I guess that's a lesson for almost all situations. In the moment of problems, we feel like the world is ending and it is so easy to get angry, sad, stressed. In these moments we have to really look at the situation in what it really is. About 99.9% percent of all situations are not worth freaking out about.

November 3, 2011

This week was really wild. For Me, Sunday is the craziest and most stressful day of the week. I have to make sure everything goes through with the sacrament, make sure my investigators come to church and feel comfortable there, organize my lunches for the week, choose and play hymns for sacrament meeting, teach the gospel principles class, etc. Basically I run in circles all day. By Sunday night, I just want to sleep for 14 hours. Last Sunday night, we got to the pinch, exhausted and so very ready for Pday. Just as we were going to sleep, we got a call from the Zone leaders saying that we would not have Pday the following day like normal, but on Thursday. I wanted to cry and almost did. I still don't understand why the change was, but it happened and that is the reason why I am writing today and not three days ago.

We also got transfer calls Tuesday night. Elder Borgersen and I were almost sure that we would stay together for at least one more week, so I didn't even really think about transfers. On Tuesday night I got a call from the President and he asked me how I was and if I had plans to be obedient for the next two transfers. I was just really confused and thought he was trying to say that I had done something bad and then he asked me if I was willing to train a new missionary for the next two transfers. I really wasn't expecting that, and probably sounded so dumb on the phone, but I managed eventually to say that I was willing to do that. He then let me know that the situation is a little complicated because the Elder that I am going to train is having visa issues and is gonna arrive almost two weeks from today. It looks like in these two weeks when I am without companion, I will receive a mini-missionary. A mini-missionary is not a dwarf or anything. A mini-missionary is a 17 or 18 year old kid who is preparing to go on a mission, and lives within the limits of the mission. My mini-missionary is from La Plata, where I was before Longchamps. So tomorrow, I will go meet my mini-companion in the mission home and work with him for about a week and a half. After this week and a half it looks like I will receive that Elder that I will train. His name is Elder Jolly and he is from the United States and already knows Spanish and I don't know a single thing more about him. Elder Borgersen and I at this point knew that we would not be staying together, so we were both pretty sad. I think he was a little more sad than me though because in the next two weeks we have 8 baptisms scheduled, and he is gonna miss out on all of them. He called President to ask if he could stay for just one week more and received a firm "No." I'm sad to see Elder Borgersen go, but I know he is needed by lots of people in other places. He is such a great guy and I love him tons. So long Tim Tebow clone.

Right now, I am tagging along with Elder Oporto (my old companion) until tomorrow when I receive my mini-missionary. It good to spend time with him again. He is still goofy and says scary words in Spanish I don't understand.

I am super excited to train even though I feel barely older that the new Elders. Hopefully we can help each other learn a lot of new stuff together.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October 24, 2011

A pretty normal normal week this week. Real good, but real normal.  The picture is of lots of the Elders Quorum of our ward just after finishing digging a bathroom hole for the Familia Acuña. The house behind us the the Familia Acuñas house (the one where I always eat bad meat that makes me sick). The Acuña family just got baptized, and now they are the superstars of the ward and everybody loves them. Francisco is a really outgoing, charismatic guy, and within his first three times going to church, he had the whole ward in love with him.

In the Longchamps ward not many of the members want to do activities, service, or help with the missionary effort. As a result, the ward has an insane number of inactive people. There are 700 people on the Lonchamps record, of which about 70-100 are active. People usually get baptized and have two friends in the church...the missionaries. As soon as the missionaries are transferred, the new members would go inactivate without any support from the ward. Needless to say, there has been a pretty bad pattern established here in Longchamps. When the members of a ward don't help, it's pretty tough to have any success.  Right when Elder Oporto and I got here, we did our very best to animate the members and more than anything, establish a really good relationship with the Bishop (Bishop Godoy, farthest left standing up in the picture). At first we didn't have any success at all, and lots of the members gave us the cold shoulder. When Elder Borgersen came and we started baptizing more and more people, the ward started to trust us more and more, and we started to ask them to do more and more things. For about five straight Saturday mornings, we and lots of the elders from the ward have been digging the familia Acuña a bathroom, and the ward has really rallied around them and these activities. Now, the members of the Longchamps ward are beginning to be the most active and helpful members. More and more inactive members, who have not been to church for years are returning to church and loving it. We are receiving more referrals to teach friends of the members than we can handle. There is almost a line of people waiting to help us with teaching. Longchamps has turned 180 degrees and it's way too good. It all started with the baptism of the Acuña family.

This week we had lots of miracles. We have been teaching a man named Oscar for about 6 weeks. He is 26 years old. He is the youngest of 16! He was born in the villa (ghetto), and in his own words, "was raised by the street". From 14-23 years old he was totally addicted to crack and in general has had a pretty crazy life. He has scars all over his body from different fights he has been in. We found Oscar while standing outside of one of the Members houses, trying to talk ourselves into the house, (they were giving us the cold shoulder and wouldn't let us in) when Oscar walked by and asked us, "Hey, are you the guys with the Book of Mormon, or is that somebody else?" We were initially pretty scared to talk to him because he looks like the typical pibe who tries to rob us everyday. I just told him yeah and asked him why and he pulled an old kind of the Book of Mormon out of his backpack (light blue with an Angel Moroni on it) and told us that he was looking through his Mom's old things and had read a little part. We made an appointment to come to his house a few days later to talk about it. It ended up that he lives in the house of a member who had been inactive for 20+ years and that his Mom had been a really active member of the church before she died when Oscar was really little. He started to tell us that he read a little bit of the book and then started to feel a heat in his chest and it scared him, so he hid the book back into the box. A few days later, he decided to try to read it again. When he started to read, he felt the same heat, but this time it didn't scare him, it made him cry. All he wanted to know was why he had felt what he had. Over the last few weeks, we have been teaching Oscar all we could and letting him know that this feeling he feels when he reads the Book of Mormon is a confirmation that what he is reading is right and true. It was pretty hard for him to accept that explanation because he has about zero religious background and doesn't really understand what/who God is. So we have been teaching very slowly, basically, and clearly to help him understand. He has progressed so much, and it was so good, but he still lacked something. Oscar has a pretty tough time expressing himself and letting us know what he is thinking. Because of this, we have had a really hard time figuring out what he needed to know in order to get baptized. He knew it was all true, but something was holding him back. It was super frustrating for me to almost probe him to remove the doubt that was hindering him. The other night one of the 23 year old kids in our ward, who is getting ready to head out on his mission, invited Oscar to go to a church dance. I was foolishly kind of irritated at the kid because Oscar is very timid and I have seen what a Mormon dance is for a timid person, yet alone a timid investigator: torture. I thought we were about to loose Oscar for sure. The morning after the dance, Oscar called me and said, "Elders, we have to talk." I thought, "Well, that's it. We lost him. He wants to talk because he was horrified by the other worldly atmosphere of a Mormon dance and now doesn't want any more to do with us." I was so so wrong, and never more happy to be it. We got to Oscars house and he ran out of the house and gave me a big, lingering hug and said, "How about the 6th of November?" He was obviously referring to a baptismal date and I shook him off me and shouted "¿Que?!" right in his face. It ended up that everyone at the dance was super nice to him and he loved it. The way the members of the church treated him with such respect and love stood in stark contrast from what he was used to in the streets of the Villas, and it was the best thing in the world for him. All Oscar needed was to know what kind of change the church can bring him, and he found that in the behavior and example of the members of the church. Needless to say, I cried. Like every other moment in my mission. Now we are preparing to baptize Carlos on the 6th of November. The inactive family that Oscar lives with are activating to, with the help and encouragement of Oscar.

The way we behave and express ourselves is always sending a message about what the church is, and what it can do for us to the people that are watching. Sometimes we don't know how far a little bit of kindness and respect can go. Be nice to investigators. Give them hugs when they come to church. Let them know how happy the church makes you. This is the best way we can help the missionary effort. I once heard a quote that I really liked about sharing the gospel, "Don't waste words trying to convince people what the gospel can do for them, spend your time showing them what it has done for you."

October 17, 2011

Elder Borgersen and I have just been running all over Longchamps, laughing all the way. Unfortunately, last night la Familia Acuña invited us over for asado once again. When they do that, I know they are trying to show their appreciation and love for us, but it makes me cry a little bit. Last night the asado consisted of morsilla or blood sausage. (A sausage filled with cow blood and floating bits of cebolla and then cooked until the blood hardens) For me, eating a morsilla is like eating a big cow scab. Elder Borgersen and I ate the absolute minimum amount of the morsilla that would be polite.The eating of the asado came with the same results as the last time, but not quite as fierce. We were only tied to the toilet this morning for a few hours. Better than i could have hoped for. 

The pictures that I sent are of: this is not an orc from Lord of the Rings, this is a kind of dog that I always see in the streets but have never been able to take a picture of.  I call them them the zombie dogs, but they are really dogs with a disease called sarna. Sarna is pretty much when the skin gets so dry and scabby that all of the dogs hair falls out. Most dogs in the street have a little bit of sarna, but there are the select few who have no hair at all, just zombie. The thing about sarna is that it is contagious. I try not to even get close to the dogs for this reason. But, apperantly earlier in my mission (in the first few months in Argentina) I was less diligent in avoiding the zombie dogs because I got sarna. hahah I don't know if i sent the picture, but I got a really big rash on the whole right side of my body (shoulder, hip and thigh) that was totally gross. Parts of my leg hair were falling out (blessing in disguise, I have too much leg hair), and overall it was just gross. I went to an American doctor in Buenos Aires capital and he gave me a special soap that made the rash go away after one washing, but what he didn't tell me was that the rash was sarna; the same disease of the zombie dogs. Gross, huh?  

The other picture is of a hole that the Elders in my district and I dug for the Familia Acuña. Its about 5 meters deep, and we did it over the course of five or six weekends. It's for their bathroom. I don't really understand exactly what it is, or how it will function, but I think it is where all of there waste will go when they flush the toilet. Every Saturday morning we help him dig the hole and every Sunday, I can barely move I am so sore and sunburned.

Right now Elder Borgersen and I are working with a lot of different investigators who are almost almost ready for baptism, and just need another nudge or two, whether that be getting married, stopping smoking, leaving their 14 dogs for the three hours to go to church, or whatever. I will let y'all (By the way, I think I am slowly adapting an Oklahoma drawl because of Elder Borgersen. He is the only person I speak English with, so it is gradually taking over.) know what happens. Make sure to lend your prayers to them.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 10, 2011

Yesterday we baptized a man named Carlos. He is such a good man, and I am sure he will be a Bishop someday. He talked to missionaries and was almost baptized 20 years ago, but a few things popped up to keep him from getting baptized. He lost contact with the missionaries and didn't really pursue the church after that, but kept on reading the Book of Mormon and all of Jesus the Christ. Needless to say, he had a pretty strong testimony of the church and its teachings long before we found him. But one day a couple walked into the church during a ward Family Home Evening and said that their names were Pablo and Natalia and that Natalia had been a member of the church her whole life but was inactive at this moment, but were looking to come back to church.  We set up an appointment with them a went to their house to meet Carlos. Carlos is Pablós Dad and was pretty excited to see us so we invited him to accept the discussions. He accepted and a great two weeks of teaching later, Carlos was baptized. One could feel that it was a really special day that was long belated. I had the privilege of baptizing Carlos and it was not very easy. Carlos is a pretty big guy and we couldn't find pants big enough for him until the night before the baptism. When we got to church early to start filling up the font, we turned on the fountain and nothing come out. We started freaking out and filling up cooking pots in the kitchen and running them to the baptismal font one by one. I swear I ran up and down the church hall in between the kitchen and the baptismal font 300+ times. This lasted all three hours of church until a plumber got there and saved the day. When it came time for the baptismal service, about 13 members showed up and I was running around like nuts trying to get everything ready, people into the chapel, and my own clothes changed. The actual baptism was a little rough. The water was pretty low and Carlos is a pretty big guy, so it was pretty tough. I did the ordinance, tried to put him as far as I could under water, saw that his tie was floating on the surface, and then tried to put him a little farther underneath the water. When I did this, it through off my balance and I almost fell into the water with him, but at the last moment caught myself and brought him out of the water. The rest of the service was buenisimo and Carlos gave an amazing amazing testimony of the church and of the missionaries. Sometimes as a missionary, I run from house to house doing my best to speak Spanish and teach with clarity. In these times, I don't realize how much the person is being changed by our message. This work is huge and I love it, and thanks to people like Carlos, little by little,  I realize how big what missionaries do really is. It was really obvious to see that there was a lot of opposition coming from someplace against the baptism. Someone didn't want it to happen. But it did happen and it was too good. I am so thankful for that.

1/3 through the mission! All is well. Life is good.

October 3, 2011

This week included lots of running around and laughing and eating delicious food; three good things. Elder Borgersen had ended up to be another awesome companion. I have had lots of good luck up to this point. He has a little bit of a hick accent and keeps me laughing all the time by saying weird sayings that don't exist anywhere else except in Oklahoma like, "its all gravy" and "that's dirtier than pond water" and "You are tougher than a leather boot with the heel kicked off". I can't really tell, but I think I am gradually adapting a little bit of hick accent day by day.

We have been super busy running from one side of our area to the other several times a day and teaching lessons. It's always good to be busy, but when we get back at night, we are so beat that we plan and then go straight to bed. This week we got permission to start entering into Villa Paris (the area where we got chased by a guy with a gun) again. We were a little nervous at first, but we started finding a lot of people in the area, and everything looked pretty tranquil. This Thursday we a Noche de Hogar with a menos activo family in Villa Paris. As we left the house at about 9 pm, I told Elder Borgersen that we were in a pretty sketchy area and needed to walk the five blocks to the bus stop pretty fast. At this point we were both pretty on edge and a little bit scared. We started walking at a pretty brisk pace when Elder Borgersen said, "Walk a little faster, someone is following us." I looked behind us and sure enough, I saw a guy following a little too close for my liking. We started walking faster and so did the guy. I was just thinking, "Oh jeez, not again." when I heard the guy behind us start running our way. We started to sprint as fast as we could towads the bus stop. Along the way, we saw another group of pibes (gangsters, punks) and they too started to run after us and shout. I was just thinking "Oh great, now there are two different groups of people trying to rob us." We kept on running till we got to the bus stop on a lit street. (The pibes don't really follow people into the more high traffic areas.) It was only then that we realized that the first man who had started following us was only running to catch an oncoming bus. We looked back and he was about a 40 year old man with a briefcase. We felt pretty stupid for running and I said to Elder Borgerson, "Well, at least we escaped the other group of pibes who were trying to rob us." He looked up and said, "You mean that group of pibes who is coming towards us right now?" My stomach dropped a little bit and I saw the big group of pibes who had chased us just a few minutes earlier walking down the street towards us. We were about ready to start running again when one of the pibes shouted, "Hey Elders! Elders! Why are you running?" I looked up and realized in relief and a little bit of embarrassment that the other group of pibes who had chased us were young men from the ward. They had seen us running, assumed we were being chased, and ran after us in an attempt to help us out. They asked us who had been chasing us so they could go beat the guy up and we told them a little sheepeshly that it ended up that no one was chasing us. They laughed and made fun of us for a second and then bid us good night. Elder Borgersen and I still feel a little stupid for running, but I think it is better to run from someone than have the chance of getting mugged. We laughed the whole bus ride home.

It ended up that we were able to watch all the sessions of conference except the Preisthood session. The Mission President decided that all the missionaries needed to see all the general sessions and no one complained. Conference is only broadcast at the stake centers here, so all the Elders from our stake got to have a little reunion and it was quickly evident that conference weekend is a holiday weekend for missionaries. It only got better when the Stake President told us that he had set up a different room where all the American Elders could watch the sessions in English. It was as close as I have been to a party in almost 8 months. It was great to rest and listen to all the conference and be with people from my own country.
I loved to hear all of the messages, but my favorite talk by far was that of President Uchtdorf. I loved the stat that he told that there are 10 times more stars in the night sky than every single grain of sand in the worlds beaches and deserts combined. God has an infinite number of creations, but knows and loves every single one of them. As we all know, the value of every soul is great in the eyes of God. This, for our mortal minds, is a paradox. The devil tries to use this paradox by making us think that we are either worthless or more special than others. But President Uchtdorf ensures us that we each have a divine plan and divine potential. I took this as being especially applicable in the mission field. One needs to try to maintain the perspective that every person is oh so valuable at all times. But at the same time, we must avoid pride at all costs. Pride causes us to value the things of this world. "All the combined currency in the world could not buy one loaf of bread in the economy of heaven."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 26, 2011

 Fransisco and Maria's baptism

Fransisco and Maria got married on Friday and baptized on Saturday. To be baptized, unmarried couples who are living together need to either get married or move to separate houses. This is a big problem in Argentina. There are many laws in Argentina that make it easier and more convenient to stay single than to marry and getting married is really expensive. As a result, almost no one gets married here, but just ends up living together. So we spend about half of our visits trying to help people get married. I really don't know that much about marriage, so I just end up testifying as to how much the marriage of my parents has blessed my life. Maria and Fransisco got married this Friday and we were allowed to attend. The Argentina government does not recognize marriage by churches, so everyone who chooses to get married has to get married first civilly, and after that in their chosen church. The civil marriage is carried out in the equivalent of a DMV in the United States, except for way more dirty and full of people shouting in Spanish. Amidst all of the shouting and dirty DMV atmosphere, Maria and Fransisco had an awesome marriage service. It was super peaceful, and one could feel that they were doing the right thing. After the service we threw lots of rice on them.

The week was surely highlighted by the baptism of Francisco, Maria, and Rocco. They were all so excited for the few day leading up to the baptism. It was way too good to see how much the Acuña family wanted and felt the need to be baptized. The baptism was so great. Elder Oporto and I planned for days to ensure that the baptismal service was a good one. We made programs, called every member of the ward, washed all the baptismal clothes, cleaned the church beforehand etc. But when Elder Oporot and the family Acuña got to the church one hour before the baptism was scheduled to start, we could not find Maria's baptismal clothes anywhere. Elder Oporto and I frantically searched  in every little closet and everywhere else in the church for something that Maria could use as baptismal clothes; a tablecloth or bed sheet or anything white. We eventually found a dirty little baptismal jumpsuit, that was meant for little boys. We washed it as fast and well as we could and gave it to her. She was so humble and cool about it and told us that she would get baptized naked if she had to. We told her that that would not be necessary. The baptism ended up being super nice. Lots of the spirit and lots of tears.

On Saturday we got transfer calls and were shocked to find out that Elder Oporto was being to transferred to La Plata. We only had one transfer together, and for sure thought that we would be companions for a good amount of time. I was super sad to see Elder Oporto go. He is always just super tranquil and happy to be where he is. I will miss him. But today I received my new companion Elder Borgersen! He has been in Argentina for about one month and is still learning a lot as far as the Castillano goes. Nevertheless he is awesome. He reminds me a lot a lot a lot of Tim Tebow. He is from Oklahoma, so he has a killer hick accent, has sweet Tim Tebow hair, talks about Jesus all the time, plays football, and is just generally super nice. I can tell that we are gonna have a good few transfers together. I'm a little bit nervous to be the older companion, but I'm sure all will go well.

Right before he left, Elder Oporto showed me a Mormon Message on Youtube that impressed me a lot. It's called "Come what may, and love it." by Joseph F. Wirthlin. In the message Elder Wirthlin talks about the importance of loving your life independent of the situations you are in. When I first heard the phrase "Come what may and love it", it really hit me and I decided that this needs to be the theme of the rest of my mission. "Come what may and love it." Our happiness should be independent of our situation, whatever it may be.
All is well. Life is good.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 19, 2011

Kind of a crazy week this week. This Saturday we are baptizing a complete Family se llama La Familia Acuña. They are a super super humble family who live in a wooden house smaller than most sheds. They are some of my favorite people that I have met here. The parents are Fransisco who is 24 and Maria who is 30. They have four kids; Rocco 9, Leo 5, Jeremias 2, and Melodi 1. They are always trying to give us all of their food even though they can't afford it. This Tuesday they insisted on giving us lunch and we accepted. The whole week I was hoping that they would make us anything but asado (pretty much a bbq). When poor people give us food, they want to make it something really special, and the special food of Argentina is asado. When poor people here make asado, they don't have enough money to buy the good meat, so they end up buying all the meat they the other people don't want, like the fat, small intestines, large intestines, stomach, liver, blood sausage, and some kind of mystery sausage I have not figured out yet. But as soon as we got close to their house, I smelled the asado, and almost broke down in the street. I literally started to get really nervous and my hands started to sweat. Poor Elder Oporto had to drag me the rest of the way. Right before going in, I said a little desperate prayer to help me enjoy the food and to remember that the familia Acuña was sacrificing a lot to give it to me. The asado was the typical poor person asado and I ate as much as I possibly could and did my best to put on a face like I was enjoying it. It turned out to be better than a lot of other asados I have had and I left the house feeling lucky. As we walked away from the Familia Acuñas house, Elder Oporto leaned over to me and asked me if I knew were the bathroom is in the Familia Acuñas house. I had not really thought about it until then, but the tiny little shack that is the Familia Acuñas didnt have a bathroom. And then Elder Oporto asked me if I saw where Fransisco (Dad Acuña) was cooking the asado. I then remembered that Fransisco had been cooking the asado in a little enclosed area of the Acuña house lot. I asked Elder Oporto what the point of all these questions was and he told me that Fransisco had cooked all the asado right next to the bucket the all of the Acuña family uses as a toilet. I didn't think much of it, but just thought it was kinda gross. The night after eating at the Familia Acuña, I woke up at about 4 in the morning with the feeling like seven people had just kicked me all at the same time all over my body, but especially in my stomach. I ran to the bathroom and got real sick in every way possible. I stayed in the bathroom for the rest of the night and into the next day too. Elder Oporto woke up just like every other morning and was totally fine. haha. I slept on the bathroom floor as close to the toilet as I could for about 8 hours. Needless to say I was using a lot of water, flushing the toilet every few minutes. This would be okay in the United States, but in Argentina, every house uses a water pump. Whenever someone in the house turns on a faucet, or flushes the toilet, or uses the shower, the motor has to pump water into the house. If you leave the motor pumping for too long, the motor burns out, and you don't have water anymore. This happened to me. All of the sudden, stopped working all over the house and I wanted to die. haha. There was still a lot of sick to be had. We called the missionary who takes care of all of the missionary housing and he said that someone would come to fix the pump in 3 days. I'm not giving anymore details as to what happened to get rid of the sick, but it was gross. Luckily we have a nice neighbor who let us use their toilet.  We can bathed at the church and bought bottled water. Overall it was such a bad experience, but luckily it is over.

Other than that we have having a lot of fun and success. We are baptizing a lot, and I am doing really well. Funny part of week: I still don't know why, but there was a stampede of sheep in front of our house.  Hundreds and hundreds of running sheep. It was like Jumanji. And it just so happens that my companion is strangely deathly afraid of sheep. He hid in the farthest part of the house from the street for a long time after the sheep stampede.

September 12, 2011

This week we spent a lot of time visiting less active members. I always like visiting less active people because lots of the time they are really eager to have you over to their house and also eager to listen to you. It seems like the people who know how it feels to be in the church, and have since left the church have an intense desire to have something or anything from the church in their lives. So usually when we visit less actives, they let us into their house really eagerly, or tell us, "Soy Catolico". But also when we visit inactives, we get to teach a lot about the how families can be together forever and length of eternity. We have eternity to feel the affects of our actions that we have made in our short short time on the earth. Whenever I have a time where I am visiting lots and lots of inactives, I find myself thinking of how I live my life and how it is going affect me forever. And then I think that I should just not worry about it, and keep myself busy trying to be nice to everyone all of the time. It's funny how you can ensure the welfare of your being by doing really simple things like trying to be a nice guy.

I love and miss all of you! Thanks for all the prayers and support. All is well. Life is good.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 5, 2011

Elder Oporto continues to be a great, hilarious companion. The other day we were at a railroad crossing as a train passed. When the train is passing, it is so loud that you can't hear anything at all. While it was passing, I looked over at Elder Oporto and he was just shouting at the top of his lungs. He kept on shouting until the train had finished passing and then walked away normally like nothing had happened. I couldn't stop laughing for a long time.

This week Elder Oporto and I organized a Ward Family Home Evening. The theme of the activity was "Families can be Eternal." Prior to the activity, we handed out little fliers at every house we entered. We were super surprised to see that almost every person we gave a flier to came to the activity and filled up the little cultural hall. We started out the lesson by stringing a string around the whole chapel. We told the people that the string represented our existence as spirits and then asked the people how much of the string would be taken up by our life here on earth. People started shouting out things like " a fourth!" or "a meter". I then took our a marker and made a little dot on the string and told them that the dot represented the duration of our life here on the earth. We have this much time to do all the things we need to in order to be happy and together with those we love for the rest of our existence. With this perspective we can lead healthier, more peace filled lives. Everyone seemed like they understood so Elder Oporto and I were pretty satisfied. We then went on to do a few other fun activities for the rest of the time. But as soon as the meeting ended, person after person came up to Elder Oporto and I to ask for further explanation of what the string meant. It seems like lots of people thought that the string represented how fragile our lives are. hahaha. Oh well, we did our best.

Elder Oporto and I are being really blessed and investigators are falling out of the sky all over the place. It looks like we might be running from lesson to lesson once again, and not because we are being chased by armed men. I have realized that your happiness as a missionary depends a lot on how busy you are. If the days are filled with lessons, the day seems about an hour long.

I have been thinking a lot about family lately. In Argentina, the family is almost nonexistant. Most girls have their first babies between the ages of 15 and 20. The lack of a family upbringing is really obvious through lots of the behavior and attitudes here. I have been thinking a lot about how lucky I am to have the family and parents that I do. My life is so much easier than the majority. I am thankful for my friends, family, and especially parents for giving me the life I have. All is well. Life is good.

Friday, September 2, 2011

August 29, 2011

A super good week once again in Longchamps! Longchamps is a lot more humble than my other area was, so we are having a lot more success than I am used to. Almost every house we clap lets us into their house. It's a shame that the receptiveness of an area is dependent on money. But I'm not complaining because we are having lots of success.=)

This Tuesday I had my birthday! I actually didn't remember it was my birthday until about 1 in the afternoon, so the day was pretty much normal. We worked. Our last appointment of the day was with a less active familia named the Familia Meneses. We have been visiting them a lot lately a they are close to returning to church. They have a son who is 20 years old and Elder Oporto and I made it a goal to help him get out on a mission. When people get to know each other here, they always ask when your birthday is. When I first met the Meneses family the first day I was here in Longchamps, I told them my birthday and didn't think anything of it. On my birthday when we got to the Meneses Familys house, it didnt look like anyone was home so we were about to go back to the apartment for the night. Right when we were about to leave, someone from the house shouted, "Come in!". We thought it was kind of weird, but went in anyways. Right when I walked through the door, all the lights turned on and the whole family shouted "Feliz Cumpleanos!" and then started to sing. They had made me a little cake and prepared a tiny party for me. I couldn't believe that they had remembered by birthday, let alone baked me a cake. The dad of the family works in a cracker factory to support the family of 8, so they live pretty humbly. I felt so special and at home because of all the love for an hour or two. They are a family who loves so much and I'm so thankful for them. And they all came to church for the first time in 7 months this last Sunday. =)

I feel like the most important thing I have learned on my mission so far is the strong correlation between love and the gospel. The gospel is really centered around love. When the gospel and love are given to people on the same plate, they tend to love in return. I feel so lucky to play this part as a missionary. As a missionary, I have the oppurtunity to offer love to every person that I can, and as it so happens, I feel loved so much of the time. I don't know if I am explaining my feelings clearly, but the point is that I am so happy being a missionary and being in the position to give, recieve and feel so much love for every person. It's good. It's oh so good.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August 22, 2011 - Happy Birthday Elder Lewis!!

I don't really have any birthday plans and I am not really planning on telling anyone it's my birthday either. haha! There is a tradition in Argentina to throw eggs and flower at someone when its their birthday, so I will be doing my best to keep it a secret. I hope the age of 20 brings lots of wisdom, a fuller beard, and lots more chest hair. Can"t wait.

Crazzzy week this week. First of all, Elder Oporto is awesome. I must have done something right because I am getting such great companions thus far in the mission. He is pretty quiet and conserved, but is known to break out a sweet dance move every once in a while and loves to play tricks on me. (The other day I got into my sleeping bag and it was full of Chastity pamphlets from the church.)  He helps me with Spanish all the time, and I love him tons.

Our apartment is a big step up from the box we lived in in City Bell, but still on the smaller side, especially for four Elders. We live above this super nice, but crazy, old lady who is menos activo. She gave me a kiss on both of my cheeks when she met me and then told me I looked like I would be in the movies and took a picture of me. I don't know if any of you have seen the movie Madagascar, but she reminds me of the old German lady from Madagascar. (Except Argentine.) The apartment looks like a big cabin and is super nice except for the shower and the cold. But it has a electric keyboard. The apartment is so cold you can see your breath at any time of the day. It is designed to keep the cold in in the summer, but the problem is that it does the same thing in the winter. Usually it is colder in the apartment than outside of it. In result, we all wear coats, gloves and hats whenever we are in the pinch. I have named the shower "The Catholic Baptism" ever since I got here. It has very minimal water pressure and no hot water. Whenever I shower here, I feel like Will Ferell in the movie Elf when he tries to take a shower in the shower that is way too little for him. The shower kind of just dribbles on your chest. Because of the combination of the cold in the apartment, the cold of the water, and the lack of the water, the shower is super unpleasant and quick. I thought that there was going to be a time issue with four people using one shower, but its not really a problem because each shower averages about 65 seconds. All the other Elders in the apartment are all pretty quiet and to themselves, so I don't think there is any danger of things getting too wild.

The area of Longchamps is great. I know already that this is gonna be a really great area. Neither Elder Oporto or I know the area, members, or investigators, so we spent a lot of this week just walking around and figuring things out. As we were walking around, it became a lot more evident that Longchamps is a lot more humble area than City Bell was. About the worst houses in City Bell are the very best in Longchamps. The culture is very different, and we have to be a lot more careful. The area is divided up into different neighborhoods or barrios. Each barrio has a different feel and culture. One of the barrios is called Villa Paris and was formerly closed to the missionaries because it was thought to be a little to dangerous, but was recently opened again by the president. On our second day in Longchamps, and our first day in Villa Paris, Elder Oporto and I were walking down a random street when we passed a guy standing on a corner. Right when we passed him, he turned and started to follow us really close. We both noticed, stopped talking and started walking faster. The guy started walking faster too, so we started to kind of trot. As soon as we started to trot he started saying, "Hey guys! Hold up for a second! Come here, come here, come here!". We both looked back and he was taking something out of his pocket and Elder Oporto just shouted "Run!". We started to run and the guy started to run after us with gun in hand. He chased us for about six blocks and then stopped. There was about a blocks space in between us. At this point I was just shocked and angry that this was actually happening. We looked back at him and he was shouting something we couldn't hear; and for some reason, I don't know why, probably because I was angry, I blew him a really big kiss and made sure he saw it. Right when I did this, he started chasing us again for about two blocks more, but luckily we caught a bus out of Villa Paris and lost him. We called the President the next day and told him the story. He told us that there were angels protecting us. He also told us that we are not allowed to go to Villa Paris anymore. We were pretty okay with that. The rest of our area is super calm, so I don't expect to have any more troubles for the rest of my time here.

Other than that, LongchampsOporto and I have talked and expect to see many miracles in the next little while.

The other day we were visiting the Bishop of our ward, Bishop Godoy, and getting to know him. He asked me "Do you play any instruments?" And I told him that I play the piano, but badly. He gave me a little grin and I didn't think anything more of it. Yesterday in our first sacrament meeting in Longchamps, the bishop stood up at the pulpit at the very beginning of the meeting and announced "Elder Lewis has been called as the ward  pianist and will start today for our opening hymn number....." I couldn't believe it. He had not asked me or anything beforehand, but I accepted anyways. I then stumbled through the hymns for the rest of sacrament meeting, but everybody seemed happy enough. I guess they had been singing A Capella since the last Elder in Longchamps who could play piano. I guess I have to start practicing with the electric keyboard in the apartment. I never thought this would happen, but thanks mom for making me take piano lessons.

All is well. Life is good.

August 15, 2011

Lot of changes this week. Having just finished my third transfer in City Bell, I got a call on Saturday night letting me know that I am to be transferred. I was kind of sad to be leaving City Bell and all of my new friends there, but mostly excited to move along with the mission. Elder Vergara and I just two days earlier moved into the apartment that I sent pictures of last week. I was secretly excited not to have to live there any longer too. On Sunday we spent the day saying goodbye to the people who I had gotten to know and love the most. That was a little rough. I didn't cry though (for once). I was also sad to see Elder Vergara go. He taught me so much and he loved everyone around him all the time. I'm going to miss his laugh and patting his chubby chubby belly. I'm going to miss City Bell, but I know I worked my hardest while I was there. In Preach My Gospel it says that a missionary's goal should be to simply leave an area better than you found it. I feel like I did that, and I feel like I gave my best effort while I was in City Bell.

My new area is called Longchamps B. I am going to be part of a whitewash (when both of the Elders are taken out of an area and two new Elders are put in). My new companions name is Elder Oporto de Areqapui, from Peru. He is famous in the mission for being a really really good cook. He was in a Nirvana cover band in Peru and loves music. On the train ride back from the transfer meeting, we got to know each other a little bit better, and I'm really excited for my time with him. He is super laid back and seems like he is gonna be easy to live with. The President told me that he is a really hard worker. I feel lucky yet again to have a great companion who is fun, obedient, Latin, and loves to laugh. We have a lot of work in front of us because neither of us know the area or the investigators. Longchamps used to be one area but the Elders there had too many investigators, so they decided to split the area into Longchamps A and Longchamps B. We live with two other Elders named Elder Smoot from Utah and Elder Chavez from Chile. Living with three other missionaries should be interesting and a little bit crazy. The apartment is bigger than the one in City Bell, but only has one shower and is almost too small for four people. We all had a meeting with the President and he told us that the apartment "is not a Fraternity House" and that we need to remember our sacred calling as missionaries. Obviously there were problems with big groups of missionaries living together before... nevertheless it should be fun. :)

All is well. Life is good.

August 8, 2011

 The outside of Jordan's new apartment
Checking out the new bathroom

This week I am celebrating my 6 month mark! Woot. 18 more. Can't wait.

The office Elders told us that we have until the end of August to find a new apartment, so we spent about half of our time looking for a new apartment instead of proselyting. I was not to happy about that, but it has to be done. We only found one option, so it looks like we will be moving there at the end of this month. I sent a few pictures of the apartment. Its really not much to see, but I'm kind of excited to live in it. It only has one big room which constitutes where we will sleep, cook food, study, and everything else, and a chiquitito bathroom. It doesn't have hot water or gas or heating..or a shower, so we will see how it works out. To shower it looks like we will have to heat up a five gallon bucket, stand over a drain in the ground, and pour the bucket over ourselves. It doesn't sound like the best, but it was the only thing we could find for 1000 pesos(about$250) a month.

This week we had interviews with the President. He pretty much just encouraged me to work hard and said that I should write my homecoming talk right now, and then try to live up to it for the rest of my mission. The advice has really helped me. In the mission, there a lot of opportunities to not work and just do whatever. It's the easiest thing in the world to be a lazy missionary. Whenever I feel tempted to act in such a way, I do my best to think about how I want to feel looking back on my mission once it is over. When I look back on my mission, I want to look back on what I did with pride and to know that I did my best with everything that the Lord has trusted me with. If there is anytime I was lazy or did not give my best effort, this memory is going to bother me for the rest of my life. I know that the President is inspired in all that he does and says because his advice helps me to work hard everyday and not rest even for a little.

All is well. Life is good.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August 1, 2011

 Bernardo and me. You KNOW his name is Bernardo because it says so right above his bellybutton
 Baptism with Cristina and Lilly Marcella
 The horse and buggy Bernardo and Cristina use to collect trash in, and now to got to church in =)
The other day right after we got caught in a monsoon on our bikes

This morning we had a really strange service experience. There is a sweet old guy who we baptized earlier on in our Rama named Marcelo. This past Sunday we saw him in Church and he told us he had a favor to ask of us, but we couldn't talk about it at church, so he asked us to come to his house sometime that week. I was kind of wierded out, but Marcelo is a good guy, so I was not too worried. Later that week, when we passed by his house to talk to him he told us that the cemetery where his wife is buried just increased the rent and he can't afford the new prices. So he asked us if we could help him dig up his wife's coffin and move it to a tomb that is cheaper. My initial reaction to his favor was, "Can I wear gloves?" and my second was "Is this legal?" It ends up that moving your deceased wife is legal, so early this morning Elder Vergara and a few other Elders from our district met Marcelo at the cemetery and helped him dig up his wife and move her to a new spot. Cemeteries in Argentina are really different than the cemeteries that I am used to. All the graves are about 6 inches away from each other and super shallow. As a result, digging up the coffin was easier than I thought it would be. The whole ordeal was just really weird.

On Saturday we had Cristina and Lilly`s baptisms! Before the baptism, I was really nervous because I was going baptize Cristina and Cristina is not a small lady in any sense. She is an awesome awesome woman and probably my favorite investigator up to this point, but she literally weighs about 300lbs. I was afraid that I physically would not be able to baptize her. I said a few silent prayers while I was walking into the font that all would go well. Luckily the water was pretty high, and I was able to successfully baptize Cristina on only the second try. The service ended up being really special and full of the Spirit.

July 25, 2011

We did NOT find a new place to live this week. hahaha! We looked for a solid two and a half days and found a total of zero possibilities. A really old lady in our branch offered us a shack in back of her house. We checked it out and found a family of about 14 cats and an even bigger family of rats inside. We politely declined. I don't know what we are going to do, but it looks like we might move in with the Elders of a neighboring area for a while until we can find something. The apartments here for Missionaries are usually about the size of a pool table, thus already crowded, so it might be interesting. I'm not too excited at the idea, but if that's what we have to do, I'm game. It better than under a bridge.

This week we are going to baptize a couple named Bernardo and Cristina. They are two of my favorite people I have met yet in Argentina. They also have the most humble house I have seen yet in Argentina. Bernardo is a trash collector by profession and built his house completely out of things he found on the street. It's actually pretty cool. Both Bernardo y Cristina just got out of jail six months ago. That's where they met too! (Over the phone) They are both full of crazy stories about jail and I love to just sit and listen to them talk. Bernie has a huge spot on his head where somebody in jail stabbed him with a sharpened toothbrush. B&C are both COVERED in tattoos that they got in prison. At one point Bernie told me that he wanted to get "Elder Lewis" tattooed into a free space on his calf. I wanted so badly to tell him yes, but restrained myself. All in all, I love them so much. It's always a treat to go to their house. They always try to give us lots and lots of food, but we always decline both because we don't want to take from what the little they have, and because all they eat is pokeria chorizo. Pokeria chorizo is all the little scraps of skin and fat and tendons and spare meat the butcher doesn't use and then squishes it into a sausage shape. Last night they told us that if we did not accept their food, they would be offended. So I grudgingly took a porkeria chorizo and ate every bite. It was actually not that bad, but wrecked havoc on my bowels/body. I bet you can guess where I spent most of my morning this morning. The best part about Bernardo and Cristina is their willingness and desire to change. In the Argentine justice system, if you kill someone, you go to jail for like 5-7 years. Bernardo and Cristina were in jail for a combined 28 years. I still don't know what they did to get in jail, but obviously they were not in good places. But today they have changed 100%. They both love so much. They both have so much desire to do right. And this Saturday they are going to be baptized and just get better. It's all too good. Can't wait.
I love being here. I am having so many experiences that I could not have had in any other way. I really do love being a missionary. Nerdiness and pocket protectors and cockroaches and all. All is well. Life is good.

July 18, 2011

Another super good week with Elder Vergara! We had to do a lot of traveling around this week because Elder Vergara is a District Leader so we did not spend as much time as I would have liked on the work. But traveling is still fun and an adventure. This week we spent a lot of time on trains. Trains in Argentina are like nothing you would ever believe. I have never been more crowded in by people in my life. When the train is at its most crowded, your arms are stuck at your sides, all you can see is black hair, and all you can smell is BO. Its kind of like a mosh pit. The other day on the two hour train to the center of Buenos Aires, this probably 300lb. Bolivian woman pretty much sat on my lap for a solid two hours. I know I am supposed to have charity for all men, but I wanted to kill her nearer to the end of the train ride. I could not feel my legs.
This week Elder Vergara and I were given permission and money from the mission to buy bikes. We only received about 50 bucks each for the bikes so we bought these two bikes that remind me of the 50s bikes that the kids rode at the beginning of the movie Jumanji. They are probably like the bikes that Dad rode when he was on his mission. But they are sweet and have only broken twice this week. I am just happy that we do not have to run to appointments anymore.

We also found out this week that the rent on our apartment went up again, and the mission office told us that we have to find another cheaper apartment and leave ours by the end of the month. So for the next few weeks we will be searching feverishly to find a new apartment with rent that is less than 200 dollars a month. If cant find a place, the mission office told us that there is space underneath a bridge near to where we live.

The work is changing a lot with the arrival of Elder Vergara. We are concentrating a lot more of our efforts on including the members in the work because the members really are the key to our success. It seems to be working because we have a whole lot of baptisms coming up at the end of this month. When the members help, we do a lot more of teaching than we do looking for people to teach. It is like there are 70 Elders in City Bell in stead of just us two. Lots of special things are happening. Yesterday at church this girl came up to us and said, "Hi! I came to church when I was a little girl with my grandma and I looked up the church on the Internet. I really like it here, is there something I can do to become a member or something?" We had to hold back our giggles because we were so surprised. She is getting baptized at the end of this month along with a few more of our investigators.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 11, 2011

Jordan and his new companion Elder Vergara in front of the famous obelisk in the middle of Buenos Aires

Jordan had to go into the heart of Buenos Aires with some other Elders from his mission to run some errands for his visa. One of the Missionaries in his group was named Hermana Price. He got to talking while he was waiting and it came out that she was a niece of Barb and Rod Price from the Greenwood Village Ward (where Jord grew up). He was happy to know someone there who has some connection, however obscure, to his life outside of Buenos Aires.  As soon as he finished talking to Hermana Price, some Elders from the Buenos Aires West mission walked into the visa building and he started to talk with them. One of them, Elder Shepard, is from Las Vegas and he used to be in Paul and Erin´s (Jordan's sister and brother-in-law) ward and Paul was his Priests Quorum Leader. It's kind of silly how small the Mormon world is.

"The first week with Elder Vergara was way too good and also really different. With Elder Stokes, we had a lot of immature fun (amidst all of the very mature missionary work of course). Elder Vergara is really fun and easy to get along with, but its a totally different dynamic than I had with Elder Stokes. Seeing as to how Elder Vergara is almost 26, the immature fun on my mission has kind of evolved. But its probably for the best. Elder Vergara is teaching me so much. He is super hard working and loving and warm and has the laugh of tinkling bells and makes me want to be better. I need to send out a recording of his laugh. It's way too good. Seriously. He is such a stud and the only member in his family. He was baptized about four years back, and since then he has been as solid as a rock in the gospel. It's also awesome for my Spanish to have a Latin comp because now I am obligated to speak Spanish 100% of the time. I love it. My Castillano is getting way way better and my English is getting way way worse. Today I was talking to some other American Elders and they were having a lot of trouble understanding me. It gave me a strange feeling of pride not to be able to speak adequate English. Anyways, Elder Vergara is such a great guy. I have been so lucky to have such great companions I can't believe it."

"This week I pretty much just took Elder Vergara around to get to know the area and all of our investigators. Everyone loved Elder Vergara so fast and easily.  One experience especially affected me this week. We are teaching a 50 some year old man named Gustavo. He has been a non progressing investigator in our area for probably a year and a half. Usually when investigators don't progress, the Elders stop visiting them. This should have happened a long time ago in Gusatvos case, but he loves the Elders so much and the Elders love him so much that none of the Elders, including me, have had the heart of wants to drop him. He always says that the Elders are his family since he has none, and treats us as such. He has a hard time believing in God because his whole family except for him (wife and two children) was killed in a bus crash about ten years back. Whenever I have talked to him about the crash, I have had a really hard time expressing why God would let such a thing happen. Elder Vergara and I went to his house this Thursday simply for Elder Vergara to get to know him. As he does with everyone, Elder Vergara got to know Gustavo unnaturally fast and Gustavo told Elder Vergara the story about his family. As he told the story, all three of us started to cry. After Gustavo finished the story, the room was so quiet and intense for what felt like 2 or three minutes. With tears in his eyes, Elder Vergara started to talk and tell Gustavo how his Father had died unexpectedly the third day of his mission. I did not know this before the lesson. Elder Vergara then told us how at this point in his mission he wondered if he should go home and this was a time of a lot of prayer for him. Amidst all the sorrow and prayer Eder Vergara thought of the words of the song ¨"A Child's Prayer", especially the lines "Heavenly father, are you really there?" and "Some say that Heaven is far away, but I feel it close around me as I pray". He said that at this point he felt the presence of Heavenly Father so strong and knew of a surety that his father was alright and that he should stay on his mission.He then gave a testimony of the reality of Heavenly Father and his love for us that siphoned the Spirit so thickly into the room like I have never ever felt it before. Elder Vergara then asked Gustavo if we could kneel together in prayer and have Gustavo offer the prayer. He accepted and Gustavo then gave the most humble and sincere prayer. After he finished we all just sat in silence for a few minutes until Gustavo started saying over and over "Me siento tanto amor, tanto amor, tanto amor". He knows has a testimony of God´s reality and where his family is. It couldn't be better. The whole experience was so intense and real."