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.