Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 17, 2012

I heard about the shootings this week. So so bad. The news find of really affected me this week. I saw a few articles that were sent to me about the shootings and I just ended up feeling angry and sad. My initial feelings are that guns should not be available to citizens anymore. Guns are the worst. One Hermano in the ward asked me what i thought about what has happened and I told him what I thought about guns. His response was both chilling and true. He said, "But, Elder! You don't blame spoons for getting people fat, do you?" I thought about his comment for a while afterwards. The problem does not have as much to do with guns as it does people. The problem will not be solved until people choose good over evil, light over darkness, and love over hate. I feel lucky to have the gospel in my life and wish that all others had the same help. The gospel, in my life, is the motivating force to choose light over darkness and love over hate. It has the power to save the world from every social and economic problem. The only thing we can do is to make sure that we are active in the matter and do our best to always choose good and help others to do the same.

This week was really really good. I was working in a lot of different areas on exchanges this week, and it was really refreshing. Being on exchanges kind of makes you feel like a new missionary again because you don't know anyone, know where anyone is, etc. That feeling new again was exactly what I needed. Sometimes, it's kind of easy to fall into the routine. When one falls into the routine, all of ones relationships become emotionless and kind of empty. I believe that was happening with me in Tolosa. It was good to take a few deep breaths and get my perspective back.

We had a baptism this week. Remember the family of daughters who were kidnapped? We have been teaching one of the daughters of that family named Macarena. (It's a name here, not a dance.) We were walking past thier house the other day and saw a girl crying outside. We went to talk with her. She told us her name was Macarena and that she was 16. We had seen her a couple of times, but never really talked that much. She started telling us that her family was always doing bad stuff and she was sick of it. She said, "I want a new start." boom. In her house, almost every night, there are huge, nasty cocaine parties. Even the kids who are 7 and 12 years old are constantly walking around drunk. It's just a bad atmosphere. But, Macarena couldn't take it anymore and asked for our help. We have been teaching her in the house of a near by neighbor ever since. It has been amazing. Macarena has eaten up every word, lesson, scripture, testimony that we have given her. She read the Book of Mormon twice already. I have never seen such fierce hunger for the gospel in a person. After a few weeks of amazing lessons and days at church, she has a new shine and even looks different. So good.

The baptism was planned for this Sunday. The font takes about 4 hours to fill up, so we got to church a little early. We started filling up the font, but after about 2 minutes of filling up, the water stopped. I couldn't believe it and almost lost it. All I could think was, "When there is water, the people don't come and when the people come, the water doesn't." I was so angry and wimpy about the whole situation. Luckily, Reynolds is still rock solid and has way more faith than me. He just told me not to worry and that we would fill the font with buckets. I didn't think it would work, but followed Reynold's lead anyways. For the next three hours of church, we missed all the meetings and slowly tried to fill up the font carrying buckets from an outside spicket to the font. Eventually, we got about one foot of water in the font. Yet again, I decided it wouldn't work, but Reynolds, yet again, said it would be fine. Reynolds did the baptism and Macarena pretty much had to lie down flat in the font, but she was baptized on the second try. It was a special baptism. Macarena was beaming with new light. In the end she received her new start that she was looking for. 

Do good things. All is well. Life is good.

December 10, 2012

Right now there is a huge wind and rain storm outside. There is tons of chapa (I don't know what you call it in English. Google it up y'all.) flying around in the streets and cutting peoples heads off. Only slightly kidding. The storms here are never really that bad, but the people are so dramatic. It's super funny. One drop falls and everybody runs as fast as they can and don't leave thier houses for the next week, not for church, not for anything. 

Meanwhile, Elder Reynolds and I walk around soaked and loving the cool weather. I know the thermometer doesn't show it, but it has been so so hot lately. The thing is that even if it is 75% outside, it's totally uncomfortable because of the constant 98% of humidity. Lots of sweat. None of my shirts are really white anymore, more like a greying cream tone with a tint of green (of mold). I think I will be leaving pretty much all of my clothing here when I go home, just the clothes on my back will be making the journey. And Mom, there is no way I am leaving my sleeping bag here. I love 7 day a week sleeping bags. I have found a better way. You don't even need sheets!

Remember the family who didn't come to thier baptism? We went to thier house a few times this week, but it was all in vain. I don't know what happened with them, but it seemed like all of the good desires that we helped them to develop have dried up. We told them that we would be back in 2 or three weeks. Hopefully that will refresh thier minds and spirits. Bummer, but what are you gonna do?

As a result of dropping the Alvarez familia, we have lots of time to look for new investigators. Finding in Tolosa is a totally different experience that I have not had in my mission. Almost all of Tolosa is pretty wealthy, so doing contacts is not affective at all. In other more humble areas, 1 out of every 4 people will let you in. So Elder Reynolds and I are doing our best to work through the members as much as we can. I am starting to feel like less of a missionary and more of a personal mission work coach. We have been visiting a lot of members and helping them feel brave and calm about inviting thier friends to visit with us. We are having mild success, but surely it will pick up later on.

This week we had a little bit of a scary and in the end funny experience. Last Monday, we got a call from one of the pairs of sister missionaries in our zone at about 11:30 at night. I answered the phone and the Hermana just started screaming in the zone that something bad had happened with her companion and that we needed to go to thier apartment as fast as we could. At that point in the conversation, the phone cut out. My comp and I dressed as fast as we could, a little scared ourselves from the phone call. We called a remis(kind of like a taxi) that took us on the 40 minutes trip to the Hermanas apartment. While in the remis I called President and told him what had happened and he told us to move as fast as he could. We also got a hold of the Hermanas again, who were still freaking out and were not able to communicate to us what exactly was happening for thier hysterics. I stayed on the phone with them trying, without success to calm them down. We eventually got to thier apartment and realized that the power was out in the zone around thier apartment. The Hermanas were waiting outside, in there pajamas with a flashlight and crying. Apparently they had just talked to a schizophrenic investigator who said a lot of mumbo jumbo that the Hermanas interpreted as a voodoo spell. They left his house, went home, and got ready for bed. They were both still really scared and decided to sing hymns to calm themselves down. Right as they started to sing hymns, the power went out, and they freaked out and called us. We gave them blessings and blessed the apartment. They felt better, and thanked us, and we made the long trip home. It was just funny because they were freaking out and scared each other more than anything. Now that I write out this story, it sounds less funny and more scary, but it was funny. I promise.

Other than that, things are going well. My biggest worry right now is if my last pair of shoes is going to make it for the past two months. Other than that, I'm good. All is well. Life is good.

December 3, 2012

This week was good, but kind of rough. We have not had any luck in finding a new place to live, but that doesn't concern me that much. This week we had the baptisms of Brian and Brenda lined up for Saturday. We spent most of the week preparing things for the baptism. (ie. Baptismal Interview, organizing the bap service, calling and inviting members to the service, getting the clothes ready, getting the kids ready, filling out the paperwork and so on.) Saturday rolled around and we spent all day filling up the font. The plumbing is kind of ancient in the church, and it takes about 7 hours to fill up the font. We had arranged that the kids come to the church at three thirty to come and get ready for the service at four. The kids didn't come at three thirty. The members started coming at four and the Hermanas prepared a lot of refreshments. We called the kids about 500 times and no one answered. Finally, I called the Mom of the kids who is not a member and she answered and just started shouting telling me that the kids had been fighting, so she wouldn't take them to the baptism. I tried to talk to her, but she wouldn't hear any of it. I hung up the phone and was totally sad and embarrassed. I went in to tell the members that there wasn't going to be a baptism and apologize. I did, and they were all kind of bothered, but they were nice about it. My face must have showed that I was really discouraged because the bishop cane up to me and hugged me for about 17 minutes. He's great. It was frustrating but oh well. I talked to the kids and they still want to be baptized. I just how to figure out things with the Mom. Luckily I have rock solid Reynolds at my side. He;s the best. 

But, things are good. Like I said in the last email, I almost always am totally okay with whatever is going on, and the failed bap didn't change that. Today we had a zone activity and just had a big water balloon fight. I forgot to bring extra underwear and am now sitting in wet wet underwear under my shirt and tie. Que va a hacer. It was totally fun. All is well. Life is good.

November 26, 2012

This week was super tranquil and almost boring. I accidentally told you all that Pres. Arnold was coming last week. He is really scheduled to come this coming week. But, We received the announcement last night that President Arnold had been relieved as the area president and was in the United States to receive a new calling. What that calling is, I have no idea. When the announcement came out, I almost heard the deep breath of relief throughout the mission. Instead of Arnold, it looks like Pres. Giovanni or someone of the seventy will be coming on Thursday to take a tour of the mission. I don't know who he is, but I will let you all know next week how it went. 

Elder Reynolds is a great guy. He is just really chill and doesn't have problems with anything. We figured out the the other day that we are the oldest companionship in the mission. Or that we have the most combined time in the mission out of all the companionships. We will do our best not to be trunky ever. 

Thanksgiving was so good. Even though no one celebrates/knows what is Thanksgiving here. I totally felt the Thanksgiving spirit. I even made a list of the things/people I am most grateful for. But, this Thanksgiving was way special. There is a family in my ward, Familia Dolder, that used to live in the United States that knows what Thanksgiving is and invited us over for Thursday night dinner. Hermano Dolder kind of invented the computer in Argentina and The Dolder family has the nicest house I have ever been in in Argentina. It was kind of strange. I am used to houses with cement and dirt floors, and I felt kind of awkward being in this huge American like house. But I quickly overcame my awkwardness and it was such a good night. The Family Dolder are the nicest family in the whole world. I don't know how they figured it out, but they made us pumpkin and apple pie. I couldn't believe it. I had never before seen a pumpkin and less an apple pie since I left the US. We also ate a rotisserie chicken with chicken noodle soup. So nice and good. I totally felt with family with them. I'm glad they made a special time for the extranjero american Elders.

Other than that, almost nothing happened this week. Elder Reynolds was sick almost all week, and we couldn't really leave the apartment that much. So, we spent a whole lot of time sleeping, and I read almost all of Jesus the Christ. It's the worst when your companion is sick because you have to stay with him 24/7 and there isn't much you can do as a missionary to combat boredom. The scriptures are great, but after 6 straight hours of scrips, I kind of feel like I am going crazy. After that I found and named all the spiders in the pinch, cleaned the bathroom 4 times, did as many sit ups as I could, drew pictures of dragons, and so on. Luckily he is doing way better know, and we will be working more this week.

Our apartment is the worst I have had thus far on the mission. We call it the poverty hut because it is so small and has a tin roof. When it rains, it sounds like everyone is throwing rocks at the apartment. It is about the size of my room at home with a kitchen and a bathroom squished in. There is tons of humidity and mold everywhere. EVERYWHERE. (walls, floor, clothes, roof, beds, my ear(not kidding)). It's a totally funny experience though, and I don't mind it at all. Elder Reynolds and I were talking this week, and neither of us understands why we are happy all the time. Even if things are going really bad and we are in really uncomfortable conditions, we don't feel mad or sad or anything. I decided that's what happens when you LIVE the gospel. Your happiness starts becoming independent of your conditions, your happiness becomes unconditional. That's the best. The reason you are happy is that you are. All is well. Life is good.

November 19, 2012

Things are way good here in Tolosa. This weekend we had transfers, and Elder Romero got shipped out. I feel like we were companions for almost no time, but six weeks have already gone past. Today I received Elder Reynolds from Layton, Utah. I have known him pretty much my whole mission. I was his District Leader when I was in Longchamps. He is way different than Elder Romero, but still way way cool. Elder Romero probably speaks 212 words a minute, Elder Reynolds 40. He is just way chill and will be a good buddy. He will most likely be my last companion. He only has six weeks less than me in the mission. He is the first American companion that I have had in a year. haha In the few hours that Elder Reynolds and I have been together, I have noticed that my English is so so bad. My last American companion was Elder Abbott. In between him and Elder Reynolds I have had: Elder Ramos, Elder Ruvalcaba, Elder Villalba, and Elder Romero. As much as I love Latins, there is always something more comfortable to be with someone from your own country. I am happy to have Elder Reynolds for the next three months.

Things are moving along in Tolosa. It's kind of easy to feel frustrated here because I feel like I am the best missionary I have ever been right now, and I am really not finding the type of success that I would like to. But, when I start to feel frustrated, I just have to calm down and let my self know that I am doing my best and then I am satisfied again. 

This week, President Arnold from the Area Presidency is coming to do a tour of the Buenos Aires South Mission. Every time a General Authority comes to the mission, a wave of fear goes through the whole mission and all the missionaries start going crazy. Elder Arnold is famous for shouting at missionaries and breaking thier agendas. I kind of think that is a total myth though. They said the same thing about Audukadis, and he was totally cool and funny. I will let you know how it goes.

This week I have thinking a lot about my food experience in Argentina. I thought very profoundly about the subject. But for real, I was thinking about how much food people have given me in my mission. I would say that about 3 out of every 5 lunches is given by someone who has to sacrifice to give that meal. And the people are so set on making that sacrifice. There is an Hermana in our ward who lives in really humble circumstances. She gives us a lunch once every fourteen days. I didn't really think much of the lunches as we walked in and out of her house. The other day, and Hermano from the ward came over and told us that the Hermana budgets and saves her money every week to be able to give us food. In that moment, I felt a bone shaking wave of shame and gratitude. I had always thanked the Hermana for the food she gave us, but never really made an extra effort to show her my gratitude. I decided that for the rest of my mission, I will write a thank you note for every meal I am given. I have also decided that I am going to make a large effort for the rest of my life to be a generous person. I am so thankful for the families who have sacrificed so much to make me a little more chubby. They are so so good. They have taught me an important lesson for thier service that I will not forget. 

This Thanksgiving, a family invited us over for dinner. They told me not to expect an American style Thanksgiving dinner, but they were going to try to imitate one. Totally nice.

I am grateful for every one of you. I am so grateful to have been raised in such a good, solid, loving family. I am grateful for the mission. I am grateful for my companions. I am grateful for all of the God given blessing I receive every second of every day. I am grateful for Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made for us. All is well. Life is good.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November 12, 2012

This week was way good. It kind of seemed like everything worked out. There is a homeless drunk guy who always sneaks in the church when anyone leaves the gate open. He doesn't do anything bad, just kind a corner and sleeps there.  (corner=baptismal font, underneath the sacrament table, in the cleaning closet, on the benches, etc.) He always sneaks in on Sundays especially and sleeps though the Sacrament meeting. The members kindly delegated the duty of waking up and helping the homeless man out of the chapel to the missionaries. Usually it is kind of a fight to wake him up.You have to poke him in the ribs really hard, and then he wakes up a little bit, looks at you, mumbles something understandable, and then goes back to sleep. You have to repeat that process around 6 times to get him up. This week after sacrament meeting I poked him once, he shot up and RAN out of the church.Tender mercy. That's just the kind of week it was. 

I hit 21 months this Friday. I only feel trunky during email time. 

This week we got a call from a student from the University of La Plata that was looking for the Public Relations representative of the LDS church. She asked us if we would be willing to have an interview with her for a documentary on the 5 biggest churches in La Plata and their stances on sexuality and homosexuality. We called President and asked him if we should and he asked us, "Do you know our stance on sexuality and homosexuality?" We said yes but he reexplained it to us anyways. He had the interview on Wednesday in the church. The girl and the group were totally nice. They brought a camera crew and everything with them. They said that they had already interviewed Catholics, Evangelists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Buddhists. They asked us some pretty basic questions and we just tried to focus on the family the whole time. Elder Romero loves to talk, especially in interview type situations, so I let him answer the majority of the questions. I was kind of nervous to speak about such a sensitive subject on camera, not knowing who all would see the video. As we testified of the family and the love that God has for everyone of us, I felt really good and sincere about the things I was saying. I felt sure. The students (who were obviously very liberal and didn't agree with the things we were saying), were totally nice and respectful and told us that we had a "sweet spirit" during the interview. It was a way good experience to wear my beliefs even more on my sleeve.

A lot of the investigators who were formally not progressing made huge steps this week. We had about 12 investigators in church. It was way good. 

I have basically decided that extending is not something I want to do. I love the mission so so much, but I feel more and more that when February comes around, it will be time to finish things up. That, and I don't really have any options of companions to extend with. (The extension companion has to be someone who would be going home in your group. My group is only 5 missionaries.) So...no extension. But its good! I feel good. 

November 5, 2012

Everyone and their grandma came up to me this week and told me that the United States was being torn to shreds. It kind of scared me in the moment, but it calmed my fears that no one who lives on the east coast, or was there visiting, even mentioned the storm. The Argentine news is super super dramatic and kind of uses whatever excuse it can to make The United States look bad. I blame the nws that everyone here always is freaking out about things that have happened in the US. 
This week was way good with a few tinges of frustration. I still look really stupid 85% of the time because Elder Romero is always making me laugh really really hard without trying. We will just be walking down the street and not be talking and he will say something (with all sincerity) like, "I hate cougars. All of them." I don't know if the humor is completely communicated by a medium like email, but he is really funny. I live in a Nacho Libre world.  

Remember the two girls who disappeared that we were looking for? They were found! But, the story kind of ends sadly anyways. The girls made it home, but it came out that the whole kidnapping was kind of set up. The girls parents both use a lot of cocaine and got into debt with the drug dealers. To pay back their debt, they arranged a deal with the drug dealers that the dealers could have the girls (13 and 14 years old) for a week, and the debt would be forgiven. It was kind of a prostitution deal. When we found out, we were both pretty upset. The police didn't really want to get involved. We decided it was probably best if we don't go to the house of the girls and parents anymore. 

Remember the Family Cora? We tried working with them for the past few weeks, but they don't really want to hear anything. They are pretty satisfied with Umbanda. Oh welll.... They are a totally cool family anyways.

We are kind of going back into the looking for new investigators phase. It's kind of frustrating to regress, but it's what we have to do. This coming week we will probably be walking a lot.

All is well. Life is good.

October 29, 2012

Right now it is misting outside and had been misting/raining for the last three days. When it rains, a ton of water leaks under the front door of the apartment and floods everything. This morning I jumped off the top bunk (where i sleep) and there was about 1cm of water all over. The worst is that all the water is sure to convert into mold everywhere in a few hours. It's okay though we hardly time at all in the pinch.

Today we went to the Cathedral of La Plata. (I took lots of cool pics, but the computer seems to think my camera is a virus and won't let me download any pictures.) It's so so cool and big. Supposedly it is the biggest cathedral in South America. It's kind of strange though because I think the typical Cathedral experience is that of being in a really old old building. Not so in La Plata. They just finished constructing it in 2007. Kind of new, but way way cool. I went with all the Elders in my district. As we walked into the cathedral, some Elders started whistling and singing "The First Vision". I felt really embarrassed and ashamed and tried to get away from them as fast as possible with another Elder, Elder Smoot, who felt the same. Elder Smoot is one of my best buddies in the mission. I lived with him for 3 months in Longchamps when we lived in a four man pinch. He reminds me of Josh so so much. He and I are the two Elders who have been robbed the most in the whole mission. (Me-8 Smoot-6) He lives in the Uinta Mountains in Utah. He said he lives 50 minutes away from the closest town and didn't have friends, besides his parents until he was 15.  I invited Smoot to live with Matt and Rick and Kyle and I some day. Hopefully it work out.

This Sunday, the two biggest soccer teams in Argentina, Boca and River, played for the first time in more than two years. When Boca and River play, it is called the Super Classic. There are lots of games that are considered Classics, but only Boca vs. River is the Super Classic. There isn't real a comparison in United States sports. It's like the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the NBA championship all in one. It was wild. We had lots of appointments planned during the game, but none of the people would even open their doors, not even the members or the bishop. Noooo one. And there was no one in the streets except for when a goal was scored. We could always tell when one of the teams scored a goal because all the people would come out of their houses, scream bad words for a little bit, shoot a gun in the air, or dance, and then go back in their houses to watch the rest of the game. After the game was even worse. The game ended up in a tie and all of the fans of both teams came out of their houses to fight. There were fights everywhere in between groups of Boca and River fans. Hundreds of people were injured in the actual stadium after the game because they had a huge rock fight after it finished. Not kidding. Wild. We didn't accomplish really anything for about 4 hours on Sunday, but it was super memorable and funny anyways. 

We have been teaching a 11 year old kid named Guillermo (Geeshayermoe) for the past few weeks. One day we were walking down the street and a barefoot, really dirty, and little kid starting shouting at us. He went over to talk to him and he asked us when we were going to come over to his house to show him a movie about God. We set up a appointment for the next day. We went to his house and it was kind of a sad experience. Guillermos parents are both mas o menos drug addicts with about 10 kids. Guillermo is the youngest of all of the kids and his parent just don't really pay him much attention, so he just kind of runs around in the streets all day doing whatever he wants. He never wears shoes, not because he doesn't have them, but he doesn't like shoes. The bottom of his feet are totally leathery. hahahah He is totally funny and mature for his age. He think that whatever we say is the coolest thing he has ever heard and always drops his jaw out of surprise while we teach. I have never laughed so hard in the process of teaching anyone before. (Except Antonio-the crazy guy in Solano who punched me in the crotch at church)  We have been taking Guillermo to church for the past few weeks, and we had it planned that he would be baptized this last Saturday. But, we passed by Guillermos house this Wednesday and Guillermos Mom came running out of the house bawling hysterically, gave me a huge hug and bawled into my chest while talking really fast and not really making sense. Eventually we got it out of her that two of her daughters had been abducted the previous night. The two daughters (13 and 14 years old) had gone to the street corner to smoke cigarettes at 1 in the morning and never came back. Both of the girls were/are really crazy and are always hanging out with men who were way older than them and that did lots of bad things. This week we spent lots of hours walking around with Guillermo and hanging up fliers. It's kind of normal for young girls to disappear here. It's kind of in style for teenage girls to run away with boys for a few days. That's where I personally think and hope the girls are. We will keep on looking and praying for the girls. We were a little sad that Guillermo wont be able to progress and be baptized for a while, but a lot more sad about the missing girls. 

We are also teaching a man named Alberto right now. Alberto is about 50 years old. He has a disease where he can't grow any hair at all; not on his head, nor eyebrows, nor eyelashes, or anywhere. Alberto is one of the best people I have ever met. He is so so friendly and eccentric and loving. He is the kind of person that you have lots of energy and motivation to go and do good things after you talk with him. We found him because his Mom invited us into her house one day and he was there. (Grandmas always always invite us into their houses and just want us to be their grandchildren for a few hours.) He is a very happy person. He has an awesome family, a way good job (owns a mechanics shop), and not a lot of problems. It's a different experience teaching him. Up till this point in my mission, I have mainly taught and had success with people who have a lot of problems and need help in their lives. I have had much less success with the people who are already happy and don't have many needs. Alberto is happy and doesn't have a lot of needs, but loves the gospel also. The experience had been totally different with him and I don't really know why. He said the other day, "I feel like what you guys are teaching me is the missing piece of my life that I never knew was missing." I guess that is how it is. The gospel is for all people happy, sad, fat, and skinny. 

October 22, 2012

Things are going really really well. I feel like I am in an area that I like with a companion that I love, so I can't ask for much more. This week was really successful for Elder Romero and I. Sometimes I feel like the more I search and put lots of effort into finding new investigators, the less I find. And sometimes when I have a good group of instigators and am not particularly looking for new investigators, they come out of all places. (holes, rivers, trees, inside of playground equipment) This week Elder Romero and I were walking down the street in an area where we had never been before. Two kids ran outside of a house and told us that the missionaries used to play soccer with them. We asked if we could go in their house and they said sure. The family ended up being a family of 11 kids from one dad and one mom. (I know, right?!) They were totally nice and gave as dinner and asked us 345 times when we would be coming back. The only thing is that they are members of the Umbanda Church. The Umbanda Church is kind of the Argentine version of Voodoo that came in from Brazil. Lots and lots of people here practice it. They sacrifice chickens and dogs and stuff to I don't know who, but it's just a little strange and kind of scary for me. The Umbanda church would always do sacrifices in front of the chapel in Avellaneda and rub blood all over the gate. We will see how the things go through with the Familia Cora this week. 

Mom asked me what my plans are for when I get home. Not that it has been something that I have been thinking about a lot, but here is the plan. 1. Get home and eat all of the pancakes and Mexican food that I can in 48 hours. 2. Run and exercise off the 10 missionary kilos that I have been carrying around. 3. Get two jobs and earn money for school. (Start looking for a job for me! Not GV please.) 4. Work until June and then go to BYU for the Summer term. 4a. Matt told me that there is a spot saved for me in the apartment for summer term. 4b. Work at the MTC during summer term and for as long as I can. 5. Go to BYU in August. Steps 1-5: Search for beautiful young women to court.

October 15, 2012

This week was real real good. As much as I love and am going to miss the villa and its lifestyle (seriously), I am happy to be here in Tolosa. This week was a huge eye opener for me. My idea of Argentina in the last few months has become one of danger and robbings and dirt and poop and guns. But I had never been to Tolosa. There are flowers everywhere and the people are all really educated and nice and give you strange things to eat that you don't get in the ghetto. There are three universities close to my area, so there are tons of students walking around all the time. It's so so different. It's actually kind of refreshing.

Not only is Tolosa really beautiful, but it is full of work to do. This week we visited so many intelligent, interested quality investigators who were all so ready to accept baptism. It was amazing. Generally in my mission, I have kind of avoided wealthy areas because less people listen to you there. It's different here. All the people have money, but are just open to listen. It sounds strange, but the people here even reject you well. In Avellaneda, I was used to the typical Argentine reject, which consists of lots of bad words and asking why I feel the need to infringe of peoples privacy. The people here just tell you that they are very thankful for the notion, but they would really appreciate if we came back another time. Obviously, they don't really want us to come back another time, but they are so nice about it. It's refreshing. The members in Tolosa are pretty self-motivated and give a lot of references. So Elder Romero and I are not spending much time clapping doors or anything. 

Elder Romero is so so funny. This week he told me that he respects no man who doesn't have a mustache and that it caused a deep, searing pain in his soul everyday when he shaves. He is so Mexican and it makes me laugh so hard. I feel like I am living in Nacho Libre. Dream come true. He is 27. He finished all of his studies and is a professional architect. Even though I have a lot more time in the mission than him, I kind of feel like a little boy with him. He is totally cool though and lets me take the lead anyways. 

Our pinch is smaller than our family room. hahahah I can pretty much go to the bathroom, cook some eggs, take a shower, and lay in my bed at the same time. Seriously. It is just one big room and a tiny tiny bathroom attached. We do have hot water though. A hot shower felt so so good after four and a half months of cold showers. I don't really mind the tinyness of the pinch anyways, we are almost never inside of it. But a member did invite us to come and live in a house that they rent out behind their house. We went to check it out and it is so so big. We will see though. The member asked a lot of money for the rent, and I don't know if the mission will accept it or not. 

This week we had a baptism! It was a little strange because I had only taught the girl three times, but it was exciting anyways, We baptized an 11 year old girl named Ivanna. She is a granddaughter of one of the members. Ivannas parents are members, but inactive. She is super super smart, and goes to a special cool for genius children. She always tries to explain really complex math to me. I act like I already knew was she was explaining, but really have no idea whatsoever. I would send pictures, but this computer is not behaving.

I just got an email from the mission asking for some dates for the plane ride home. WHhhhhhaaaa?! Very strange.

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8, 2012

General Conference is the best Holiday there is as a missionary. Better than Christmas. Way better. The Stake President set apart a room with a TV in English, so all of the gringo Elders had a room all to themselves. It was way too good. We said the Pledge of Allegiance before every session. But we were not allowed to go to Priesthood session since it starts at 9:00 Buenos Aires time. It's cool though. That's what the Ensign is for.  I loved the talks of Elder Bednar, Elder Uchtdorf, and Elder Holland. I liked the talk by Elder Bednar especially because he basically just gave instructions to those who are making their way through their own conversion and what role testimony has in conversion. Conversion is just the natural effect of righteous living. Our testimony alone is not just enough, it is only the first step of conversion. Our conversion is never over, but we must work always to progress. I liked Elder Uchtdorf's talk so much. I always love his talks. It helped me especially because of the moment I am in right now and finishing my mission. The joy is in the journey and not in the destination. Can't wait till I want to bike race my wife and instead she just gives me sweet advice. jk Elder Hollands talk blew me away. He had actually given the same talk in the MTC right before I got there, and the missionaries who had heard the talk were still buzzing about it. We must all leave our nets behind to be true disciples of Christ. It was a little weird that Elder Hales kind of gave the same talk (except a little more boring) a few minutes later.

Well, I write you right now from my new area, Tolosa. Tolosa is a part of La Plata, and bordering my first area in the mission, City Bell. President Stapely called Elder Villalba and I on Friday night and told us that we would not be changing, but stay together for another transfer. This is what I excepted, and was totally fine with it. A few minutes later, President called us again and told us that he had just had a strong prompting that I should be sent to Tolosa. I thought it was kind of strange, but was thankful for the little reminder that Heavenly Father has me personally in mind. It was kind hard saying good bye to Avellaneda, but by far the easiest goodbye to an area yet. I didn't cry once. (Chest hair.) I got to La Plata this morning, and it was a totally strange experience. I have not been here since the start of my mission about a year and four months ago. La Plata is so different than the rest of the mission. It's kind of far away from the rest of Buenos Aires, and something happens in the little space between BA and La Plata. The people get nicer, wealthier, and whiter. It's strange. As I walked around the streets here, I just felt different. I don't feel like anyone is trying to kill me. After being in three areas in a row (Longchamps, Solano, and Avellaneda) that are famous for Elders getting shot at and robbed, it's kind of a relief to be in a calmer area. I will probably finish my mission here in Tolosa. I'm totally cool with it. I feel like I might finish my mission with a grand total of robbings of 8. I feel like it's good there. 

My new companion is Elder Jorge Romero. He is from Mexico City, Mexico. Now I have had 2 Argentine comps, 2 Peruvian comps, and 2 Mexican comps. He is famous in the mission for being really funny and dancing all the time. He is a young zone leader at 13 months. I'm totally happy to have him as my new comp. I already love him lots.

I feel like there are a few things that I forgot to write, but I don't have any more time. I will write them down for next week.  

October 1, 2012

This week was very normal. Elder Villalba and I are trying to get along without a cellphone. Whenever a phone gets stolen, the mission takes about 2 months to replace it. So for the next little while, we are without phone. Its kind of frustrating because investigators and members are usually constantly calling us and moving our appointments around. Since we don't have a phone now, we go to a lot of appointments, and the people are just not there. Its kind of frustrating. I have no idea how missionaries made it without phones before. There is a new rule in our zone (we get robbed more than any other zone) that we have to carry our phones in our socks. Mmmmmmm Walking in humidity and sweating so so much and then taking your phone out of your sweat soaked sock to put it on your face is the best. 

I love the spring. The winter is finally done, and everyone is excited all the time. I feel like it's easier to do missionary work in the spring and summer than in the winter and fall. This week, the mission baptized more than it has baptized in a month in like 5 years. I accredit the success to the change in weather.

Changes are coming up on this Saturday. It's kind of a toss up for me. I have been in Avellaneda for 4.5 months. I could finish my mission here, or I could leave this transfer. We shall see. Maybe next week I will be writing from a different area. I would be happy to stay and I would not be mad to go.

This week, I did an Intercmbio with some of the Elders in the zone. I had never been to their pinch before, and it blew me away. Elder Villalba and I live right next to a villa and we don't have gas or hot water. The pinch that I went to this week has a shower nicer than ours with like 5 spouts that never runs out of hot water. They have an exercise room with weight sets. haha The disparity between the pinches is funny. 

September 24, 2012

This week was a little wild. On Friday, Elder Villalba and I were walking down the street of the villa when we heard running behind us. I turned around a little bit and saw two guys running towards us shouting at us and telling us not to turn around or look at their faces. I am kind of used to being robbed at this point, I had an idea of what was happening. My companion and I just stood still as the two kids reached in our pockets and backpacks and took everything that was worth anything. They put something up to my back, I don't know if it was a gun, pipe, or their fingers. But they told me not to move and I was happy to obey. They took our phone, my comps wallet, and my backpack. Again. I am on the fourth backpack of my mission. The people at the backpack store love me. The funny part is that I had a totally junky pack and my comp has a totally nicer pack, but they stole mine anyways. But, in the end, we walked away totally fine. I was pretty frustrated, as was my companion. But the important is that we are totally fine. We talked to a member who lives close to the place we were robbed, and he said he knows the kids, and would get our stuff back. Just another story to tell.

Funny Story: I did an intercmabio with an Elder from the district, this week, Elder Talbot from California. We both woke up on Thursday morning with really bad allergies. I looked through my baggage and found some pink pills that I am pretty sure were allergy pills. We both took two of them and went out to work. I don't remember very much more of the morning. Either we both reacted to the allergy pills really strongly, or the pills were sleeping pills, because we both fell asleep in the next three appointments. It was pretty embarrassing. 

We also had a baptism this week. Eric, the investigator that I told you about, got baptized. We had to do the baptismal service early Saturday morning because there was Stake conference in the evening. It was really simple with just family members. Eric is a stud. I had the opportunity of baptizing him. After the ordinance, we were leaving the water and he said to me, "I feel way better now!" I just smiled and laughed. I am always surprised how quickly one can come to love another person when you are really trying to focus on how to help them. I feel like that is something that really comes with the calling, and I hope it is something that doesn't end when the call does.

September 17, 2012

I have less time than usual, so this email is going to be just about the most important things that happened this week.

As I walked away from the computer last Monday, I remembered that I had forgotten to write about the actual re-dedication. It was too late. Oops. The re-dedication was broadcast to all of the Stake Centers in Argentina. There were three sessions, but the missionaries were only allowed to assist one. We went to the first session and it was amazing. President Arnold of the Seventy, Eyering and, Ballard all spoke. They all spoke about blessings of the temple and all cried. I honestly don't remember one thing that was said that I really liked, but the feeling when they spoke was good and happy. I don't know how else to explain it. Real good. Elder Villalba and I forgot to bring white handkerchiefs to wave at the end of the ceremony. Luckily there was a member handing out toilet paper for those who had forgotten their handkerchiefs. We waved that instead. Hope its okay.....

This week had its ups and downs. Remember Malena? This week she told us that she didn't want to get baptized anymore. She told us that we could keep on passing by her house and teaching lessons, but she wasn't going to get baptized because she wasn't ready to keep all of the commandments. I was pretty bummed. A lot. I had never really help someone get so close to being baptized and then not do it. I blame the change in decisions on the month when her Mom went out of town. In that month, a lot of parties went on in the house, and I think some poor decisions were made. Afterwards, I spent the next few days trying to think what I could have done to help Malena more. I was kind of beating myself up about it until Elder Villalba sat me down and taught me two good lessons: people will feel the spirit, know the message is true, and still reject it. In those moments, you cannot be sad because you and the Spirit together have done all you can do. The other lesson: when you are about to make a big and good choice, don't delay. Don't give time to other influences to change your mind. Go and do. I am still a little sad, but I know i did all I could. 

But, like always, the good news outshines the bad. We have been teaching a couple named Eric and Liza lately. Eric is a non-member and Liza is inactive. They are both 19, unmarried, and live together. Liza is pregnant. They are both totally nice and humble. They don't have much money, but are always shoving food down our throats. We have been teaching them, more than anything about the importance of the law of chastity and the family. Eric plays soccer with us every Monday. Usually when you are teaching unmarried people who live together, its kind of a dead end. its really hard to get married, and no one wants to move out of a house especially when the couple have children together. This week, Eric and Liza told us that they decided to start doing the paperwork to get married, and in the mean time, Eric was going to move out. i couldn't believe it. That had never happened in my mission, in fact, I have never heard of it happening in our mission. Eric will be baptized this Saturday. 

Second good story this week. Different Eric. Eric is a recent convert who lives in a nasty villa. He is 21. He was baptized about 6 months ago with the Elders before me. He is one of my favorite 5 people I have met in my mission. He was formerly a robber and a drug addict/dealer. Since he was baptized, his life turned around. His girlfriend (I know I shouldn't say this because I'm a missionary, but its just something I noticed.) is very very beautiful. This last week, she was pressuring him to do things they he knew he shouldn't, so he dumped his girlfriend. After he dumper her, he called us and asked us to come over. He was kind of sad, but knew it was the right thing to do. We just tried to reinforce that thought. While we were talking, i felt the subtle prompting to ask him if he was planning to go on a mission. I did. He paused and said, "I can be a missionary?" We told him he could and started to talk about the mission. He then asked me how he could pay for it and then said, "I will sell all of the little that I have, i just want to do it." My comp and I both cried. 

These two stories made deep impressions on me. It is amazing that people are so willing to make drastic changes in their lives just because two 21 year old boys said so and they believed. So much faith, so much humility. I want to be more like them. 

As we were walking down the streets to the apartment on Saturday night, there were parties and friendly gatherings all around us. While I was listening to the loud conversations and laughing, I funny thought came to my mind. There was a huge contrast between us and the people in their houses. I don't really understand why I am so happy on the mission. I don't spend time with friends, I never see my family, I don't have anything to do with girls. It doesn't make sense. But it's what I feel. Nothing else matters. 

September 10, 2012

What a fantastic week. Te digo la posta, real good. Real real good. We really did not have that much time to do missionary things (walk,talk, teach, and eat),  but we did a lot of other things. 

On Wednesday, we had the zone leader counsel (similar to Jedi counsel) where we pretty much took care of the final arrangements for the temple celebrations. It only took 10 hours.

On Thursday, Elder Villalba and I talk a workshop to the zone about taking of the sacrament. The idea was that we cannot help other people to feel the importance of church attendance, if we do not feel and understand the importance of church attendance. So, this last week, I spent the majority of my personal study on learning more about the sacrament. I had never really realized how profound and sacred the sacrament is. There are lots of symbols and little details that I never knew.

On Friday, we had the Fireside with President Eyring, Chistopherson, and Ballard. To start off the day, we all went to a chapel in our mission that is really close to the mission home. It was the first time in my mission that the whole Buenos Aires South mission had been together at one place at one time. It was so funny and cool. All of the missionaries (including me) were so nerdily excited. I remember one time when we went to a Rockies game, and all the missionaries were there. I remember looking at them and thinking they were all so dumb because they were all nerdily excited. Well, now I understand. Anything outside of the mission routine is greeted with a plethora of nerdily excitement to any missionary. From there, we took a bus to a chapel in the Buenos Aires West mission for the fireside. There were 18 busloads of missionaries there. 600+ I think. We were all filed into our seats an hour and a half early while the mission presidents all ran around like crazy people, making sure that everything was ready. Then the apostles came in. They were all so smiley and funny. Each of them talked for a few minutes. Elder Ballard talked mainly about how is grandfather had dedicated the South American continent for missionary work and told us how a prophet had prophesied that the missionaries would have success here. Elder Chistopherson mainly just told us how great we were. hahaha He was super nice and talked about his mission in Cordoba. He also told us how his mission president was Richard G Scott. Who knew? President Eyring's talk was the best. He just talked about the importance of being happy. He told us that he was a little worried because there were too many solemn faces in the crowd. He said there is basically never a good reason not to smile. He told us, with a smile on his face, how his granddaughter had just been born 3 months premature. He said he wasn't going to frown or be sad, because he had the promise of seeing her again after this life because of the temple. That was a lesson for me. You are never sad when you truly understand and live the gospel.

On Saturday, we had the cultural event. It was amazing. You will probably be able to find it on lds.org or something. But there were about 5000 people performing including 600 missionaries. All the youth had prepared all the traditional dances from Argentina. The crowd went wild. I love Argentines. There is a dance called the Chacarera. It is the most traditional and famous dance in Argentina. When the youth started dancing the chacarera, the crown went wild, and everyone stood up, started to dance in the stands, taking off sweaters, or whatever they had to wave in circles in the air. i laughed so so hard. Elder Villalba went nuts too. He is Argentine through and through and was dancing and screaming all night. The 3 apostles all received traditional gaucho ponchos and wore them the whole night. They all looked pretty goofy and so happy. We marched onto the field and sang "Called to Serve." It was very very memorable. 

I am out of time. This week was great, I will never forget it. The main message in the end for me was to be happy, no matter what the circumstances. The apostles were a good example of that. I love and miss you all. All is well. Life is good.

P.S. I turned 19 months yesterday.  

September 3, 2012

This week was real good. The winter is just starting to turn into winter and I like it a lot. Almost every day this week was real sunny and would have been perfect if it had not been for absurd amounts of humidity. But way good anyway. Elder Villalba is so funny. He has different ways of speaking. He is so proper and refined when he talks to adults, the bishop, and so on. But when we talk to our little thug buddies on the corners, he transforms. He sounds just like any other villa boy and breaks out his ghetto vocabulary. It's so funny. I only wish I could keep up. I am at the point in my Spanish where I can speak almost perfectly in a formal situation, but when I try to speak in ghetto-speak, I am just another white boy rubio. Maybe someday....But the point is that we are having lots of success with all the villa folk. 

This coming week will be a little wild. On Wednesday I have the Zone Leader counsel all day. On Thursday, we have a zone meeting that Elder Villalba and I have to teach. On Friday, we have a special fireside with President Eyering, Ballard, and Chistopherson with the North and West missions. There will be 600+missionaries there. On Saturday, we have the cultural event that will be in the soccer stadium of the team Independiente. All the missionaries will enter the stadium singing "Called to Serve". On Sunday we have the temple re-dedication. I don't really know what happens in a temple re-dedication, but I am excited to find out. I feel like this week is kind of holiday week for the missionaries.

This week was really busy. Elder Villalba and I were running all over the place trying to find new investigators. We are kind of short on investigators right now, so that will be the theme of the next few coming weeks also. I love the feeling of working hard. In my little missionary quote book, I found a quote that said, " One of the most satisfactory feelings is to lose ones self in ones work." It's true. The mission is one of the most stress free times there is. I have a very defined purpose, and I don't really have to worry about anything else. Its only the Mondays when I start feeling a little bit trunky...just for a few minutes.

Remember Malena? The daughter of the tango dancers? This week was supposed to be her baptism. But, we had a long talk with her and her parents, and they think it is best if she wits to be baptized until after her quinciƱera. (15th bday party for girls-its a big deal in Latin America and the families save up for years and then spend thousands and thousands of dollars on it) We protested as much was appropriate, but in the end, unfortunately (joke), it is her choice. So, We will be postponing the baptism, once again, until the end of September. It will be great.

This week, we discovered this nasty nasty villa in our area that is probably the worst worst place in the world. The moment you enter the villa, a crowd of 6-13 year old boys who are high on crack with knives start asking you for money and poking you with the knives. I never leave the apartment without a pocketful of monedas to give to the little kids so they don't stab me in the kidney or something. The parent of the kids are all crack addicts too and aren't even conscious to the fact that they have a child. The kids don't even have a slight chance at good or even normal life. We walked down this passageway past two dead guys who had overdosed on crack a few days earlier, and no one had bothered to move them or anything. There is a new fad in the villas for the men to cover their women in alcohol and burn them to death if the woman cheats on them. And a lot of other bad things that I probably should not say in this email. In the villa, i talked to a 10 year old girl for a long time. As I talked to her, I just was filled with pity and angst. It made me think a lot. Why am I so lucky? Why are the kids who are born in this villa so unlucky? What chance does this little girl have at a good life? What is the difference between us? How can a happy/full life and a life like theirs exist in the same world at the same moment? Its just so bad. So depressing. But weirdly, it has bolstered my faith in God. There has got to be some equalizer after this world. His name is God.

August 27, 2012

I don't have very much time this week at all, so this will be a short one. I included the photos of the baptism from a week ago. As you can tell, I am getting kind of chubby again. I don't know what it is about Argenitne food, but it makes your face get fat first. I'm totally sick of chubby cheeks. I have been trying to do workouts in the mornings, but they are pretty week. I usually do about 14 push ups and 4 sit ups and then feel extremely exhausted and quit. It doesn't help that Elder Ruvalcaba made me delicious breakfast almost everyday. (Rice, a fried egg, a hamburger patty, and lots of mayonnaise.) Oh well. I will surely sweat off 15 lbs. once summer comes around. Just like last summer. 

My b-day was good. Really calm. hahah I didn't really tell anyone it was my b-day. I didn't even remember it was my birthday until I walked out of the shower and saw a big poster that said, in English, "Happy Birthday Elder Lewis! I love you sooooo much." Thanks Elder Ruvalcaba. Then he made me another sweet breakfast and gave me a tie. Gloria, Ingrid, and Adelida (the ladies who just got baptized) gave me a backpack. Its huge and will be perfect to take home with me. They are way way too nice. I totally satisfied for the rest of the day.

This week Elder Ruvalcaba went home. I was sad to see him go. I know more and more everyday that each of my companions was put into my life at the moment they were put in for a very specific reason. Elder Ruvalcaba helped me be more exact and thorough in all I do. Just what I needed. I'm gonna miss him.

My new companions name is Elder Villalba. He is from Entre Rios, Argentina. His family lives in Solano. Yes, the same Solano that was my area. hahaha He was called to a mission In Colombia, but his visa didn't come through, and 18 months have passed by, and he will finish his mission in February. We will be going home at the same time. (Unless I extend). He is a stud. He grew up in the villa and acts like it. hahah he gets along really well with all the villeros. He promises that we will never be robbed again. Elder Villalba is here to protect me. I will send pictures once I have a camera.

My backpack hasn't turned up, and I still haven't seen the kid again. Its cool though.  Another Elder just offered me a camera for $400 pesos. That's real cheap and i will probably buy it soon.

August 21, 2012

Sorry I couldn't write yesterday. I was running late to get to the temple. I got to the mission home right in time for President to drive us to the temple. 

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! Honestly, I had kind of forgotten that my birthday was so close. I don't know if it has to do with American culture or something, but I feel like the 21st birthday is a big one. Thanks for the birthday wishes, especially the videos. I showed my companion the video of all the Colorado family singing and he asked me why all Yankees go, "Wooooooooo!" after they sing Happy Birthday. I could not give him an answer. I don't really know what I'm gonna do for my b-day. Probably the same thing as always, but that's good enough. I'm being very careful not to make last years mistake of telling people that its my birthday. Last year, when I told people that they all started throwing raw eggs and handfulls of flour at me. I'm still not sure why.

The temple was really good once again. I was in the welcome tent once again. That means another 11 solid hours of talking to anyone and everyone that I could. It was fantastic especially because the Longchamps and Solano wards were there. I was able to see a lot of my converts and members that are good friends of mine. Real real good. 

Before I forget: this upcoming Monday is transfers and my companion is going home, so I will be receiveing a new comp. We will see who...

This week was really eventful. On Wednesday night, Elder Ruvalcaba and I were in the secretary's office at the church, making the program for the baptisms of the following Saturday. Before I went into the office, my companion and I set our backpacks in the front room of the church on a chair, right around the corner from the secretary's office. I didn't really think anything of it because there were was a single adults activity going on in the chapel. As Elder Ruvalcaba and I were preparing the baptismal program, I just started to feel really nervous about by backpack. I don't know why, and it was really weird. But, I ignored the feeling. Another 15 or so minutes passed and I went to grab something from my backpack. I went out to the front room, and it just wasn't there. I then searched the church for about 30 minutes and didn't find anything. It was a huge bummer because I had just spent the night in another area, so my backpack was full of things: all of my bathroom stuff, slippers, flip flops, a soccer jersey that one of my mission buddies gave me, shorts, my marked mission scriptures, my camera, my memory card of my camera, the photo album that Megan sent me, my mini-hymn book, and a few other things. The ironic part about it is that just earlier that day, I was walking around, with my full backpack, in one of the worst villas in Argentina that is famous for robbings, and nothing at all happened. But, I came to the church, and they took everything. I'm just curious why they took my backpack and not my companions. my backpack had had its better days; it was chocolate brown (it was black when I bought it) and the zippers are broken. it looks like a homeless mans backpack. I was pretty mad and sad about it at first, but I got over it pretty quick. Luckily i had just filled up my last memory card, so the memory card that got stolen only had about 2 months of photos on it, and the most important ones were already sent home.

Throughout the rest of the week, different members kept on calling me and telling me that they had heard that my backpack got stolen and that they were going to find the robber and kill him. I told them not to do that and not to worry about it. But, one of the single adults that had been at the activity called me and told me that they thought they knew who it was that robbed me. The member told me that a less active 16 year old from the ward who comes to the church to play soccer every once in a while had taken it. I told them thanks and didn't really plan to confront the kid or anything. The kid has a really tough life and is addicted to a lot of different drugs. Two days ago, on Sunday, church had just ended and I was saying goodbye to everyone at the door when the 16 year old kid walked in the door. I was really suprized to see him because he never comes to church and decide to take advantage of having him right in front of me. I took him aside to see if I could get my stuff back and just started out by asking him how he was and he just looked at me with a really profound sadness in his eyes and said, "All bad." He then started to tell me all his really complex, horrible problems with drugs and his family, and crime, and how the church was his only hope to having a good life. After about 10 minutes of hearing that, I was not all that ready to make an accusation. I just listened and then told him that I loved him and that God loved him too and then invited him to come to the temple open house with me. He cried and accepted. I was about to say goodbye, but without me saying anything, he grabbed my arm and told me that he had heard what happened with my backpack the last Wednesday. He didn't admit that he had been the robber, but promised me that my backpack would turn up within the week. I didn't ask how he knew or for any details. So we will see if the backpack turns up someday. but that is less important, I hope the kid keeps on feeling the strength that comes from being in the church, and doesn't drop the church entirely for the shame of the robbing. My runners roost bag works great as a backpack anyways.

This last Saturday we had "El Gran Dia de Bautismos" or the mass baptism of the whole zone. The goal for the day was 15 baptisms, but in the end we could only have 10. But it was still real real good. All those who were baptized were congratulating each other and smiling a whole lot. Ingrid, Gloria, and Adilaida, Elder Ruvalcaba and my investigators were baptized. They were all real happy and cried. I baptized Ingrid (the 11 year old girl). They are the type of converts that you are sure are gonna be active for a while. 

This upcoming Wednesday, the stake has rented out a bus to the Temple Open house, exclusively for investigators. Malena, the daughter of the tango dancers, and a few other investigators of ours will be coming. This will be the last time in the temple open house.

August 13, 2012

The pyramid of missionaries is made up of all the missionaries from my zone. The picture is after about 48 tries.

Today I burned my 18 month pants. I feel like an old missionary now. But I just have to take advantage of the last few months I have.

Today, our district went to a all you can eat pizza place. In between the 10 of us, we ate 19 pizzas. To conserve stomach space, none of us ate breakfast and none of us ate the crusts of the pizzas, but rather made a tower out of them. I don't think the restaurant employees will ever let us enter their restaurant again.

This week was really good. I was able to go to the Temple Open House two times, once on Friday and once on Saturday. It was so so good. On Friday we accompanied Adilida, Gloria, and Ingrid to the Open House. It was so funny and good. Adalida is a typical, eccentric, Argentine grandma and kept on making really dramatic reactions as we passed from room to room. She was so impressed by all the art work and kept on going up to the pictures of Jesus and kissing them and stroking them. I don't think you are really supposed to touch the paintings, and I don't think our tour guide was too happy. Part of the tour was that when you reach the celestial room, the guide gives you two minutes of silence to sit and ponder and feel. At this point in out tour, Adalida, Ingrid, and Gloria were all bawling and so happy. It so so peaceful and so nice. Even though the temple still isn't dedicated, you can feel that it is a very special place. Adalida just kept on telling me over and over again, "I never thought i would get to a place like this. I just never knew!" When we were in the sealing room, she took a deep breath and grabbed me by the arm is good grandmotherly fashion and told me that she wanted to die and be born again so that she could be married in a place like this. I told her that there is still time, she is only 72. 

On Saturday, Elder Ruvalcaba and I went to the temple to be the guides. When we got there, they let us know that we wouldn't be guides inside of the temple, but rather the guides who greet the people just as they are coming out of the temple and finishing their tour. All of the people, as they finished the tour were guided into a huge tent with couches and church music and cookies. My job was to sit in the tent and talk to all the people I could, especially people who were not members, and try to help them to feel comfortable. I was kind of disappointed at first, but after a while of greeting the people right as they came out the temple, I realized what a blessing it was to be in the spot I was. The people coming out of the temple all had the same look on their faces, and the same good feeling about them. Even though the majority of the people were members, it was so good to hear over and over again how much peace is to be felt inside of the temple. The hardest part was trying to figure out which people were members and which were not. I mainly tried to talk to the people who were sitting alone, dress differently, or acted differently. People came in huge buses from all around the country. During my shift, 4 huge double-decker buses from Santa Fe and Bahia Blanca came in. The people in these buses drove 12 hours, through the night to take a 45 minute tour, and then take another 12 hour bus ride back to their homes. Talking to these people was my favorite part of the day. They were all so happy and all told me that it was worth it to visit the temple, even for a little bit. In a sense, I imagined them as modern pioneers. After about 10 solid hours of being in a tent and talking with lots and lots of people, I did not here a single negative comment. It was such a positive and loving environment. So good. I feel so lucky to have been there. My next turn in the temple is the coming 20th and then I go back again on the 22nd. Can't wait.

Going back to the temple this week with a whole lot more knowledge, testimony, and excitement for the gospel made for a completely different experience that i had about 2 years ago. Even the Temple is still not dedicated, and I did not do any type or ordinance inside of the temple, I gained a deep appreciation for the temple. I love the temple. I cant wait to go back when into a dedicated temple. I, for the first time in my life, am excited to make the temple and what we do there the base of my life. I, for the first time in my life, am excited to be married in the temple. Whoa there, I am not saying that I want to get married as soon as I get back or anything close, but I am excited to prepare for that step that will come in the distant future.

August 6, 2012

The picture is proof of my new 3rd and 4th chins.

I just got finished watching Cars 2 with the rest of the zone. Twas sweet. My thoughts after watching the movie have been focused on trying to figure out why I liked the movie so much. Was it really that good? Is any movie going to be fantastic when you only watch 1 movie every six weeks? I think its a little bit of both.

This week was real real good. In our mission right now, there is a big focus on having the members be more involved in sharing the gospel. The ideal situation is that the members find and fellowship all the investigators/new members and the missionaries only teach and baptize. Missionaries helping members. But, almost always, its the other way around; members helping missionaries. The missionaries find, teach, and baptize, and the members fellowship. So, this past week, Elder Ruvalcaba and I did our best to get to know every one of the members a little better, and help them with their personal missionary work. It was real good. There is always a difference in the way you feel when you are talking to a church member, and someone who knows nothing of the church. I will get to that a little later in my email.

Lately, we have been teaching a 15 year old girl named Malena. She lives in front of the church and is a friend of a lot of the member girls. We met her when she came to church alone one day. We invited her to seminary, and since then, she has 200% attendance. 200% attendance because she goes to both wards seminaries. (There are two wards that use the same chapel.) It wasn't hard for her to decide to be baptized. We were planning on having her baptism for last Sunday (yesterday). But, Malena was sick and couldn't come to church. After church, we went to her house to give her a blessing of health. There, we talked to her Mom who told us that she and her husband was leaving the country for 20 days to work. (They are professional tango dancers and perform all over the world. Who knew, right?) Malenas Mom wants to be present for the baptism, so we are going to have to delay the baptism 20 days. Usually, I wouldn't be too worried for a 20 day wait, but Elder Ruvalcabab and I are worried because when the parents leave, they are leaving Malena and the house in the care of their 18 year old son who is always drunk and having huge parties at his house. A rager is not exactly the best environment to prepare to be baptized. haha But, the Mom asked us to go to the house once a day to make sure that the house stays intact and no one dies. She also gave her her phone number and keys to the house. It's strange how much trust can be one just be being a missionary. But, we will be working especially hard to help Malena be ready for her September baptism.

This coming week, Elder Ruvalcaba and i will be tour guides for the temple Open house on Friday and Saturday. I'm a little nervous, and still feel a little unprepared, but I'm sure it will be real good. 

Every Thursday night in the church, Elder Ruvalcaba and I host a movie night where we show different church movies like "The Testaments" and "Joseph Smith:Prophet of the Restoration". It has been really successful; usually 50-80 people come. We have a big sign outside the chapel advertising the movie night, and usually 2 or 3 people come just out of curiosity. This week we showed "The Other Side of Heaven". The whole movie was really good, but I liked one part especially. When Elder Groberg is "dying" of starvation, he writes a letter to his girlfriend. In his letter he says this, "There is a connection between heaven and earth. Finding that connection makes everything meaningful, including death. Missing it makes everything meaningless, including life." I love that quote. the difference between those who have a connection to heaven and those who don't is that those who do have this connection also have purpose. When you meet someone, it is easy , even in the first seconds, to see if the person has meaning in their life or not. I think everyone of us must spend all our time and energy trying to access this connection. 

July 30, 2012

This week was real real good and productive. On Tuesday, one of the old lady ward missionaries called us and told us that she had met a woman in the park and the woman had accepted to meet with us in the ward missionary's house. But, when we got to the house, we found that it was not only one lady, but her daughter, and her daughters daughter. It was very obvious that they were very prepared to accept our message, and we took out three baptismal dates right away.

Remember the guy who shouted us down on the street and told us that he wanted us to go to his house? We had a hard time finding him for the last two weeks, but we finally found him yesterday and were able to set a baptismal date with him also. Lots of good things are happening in our area.

Elder Ruvalcaba and I are organizing an activity called "Gran Dia de Bautismos". We gave a challenge to every companionship in our zone to have 5 people preparing to be baptized on the 19th of August. On that day, all the people who are prepared to be baptized are going to meet in the stake center, and we will have a giant baptismal service. The missionaries were all real excited, and it is looking like the 19th of August is gonna be a real good day.

Today, all the zone leaders and sister missionaries from Buenos Aires South, North, and West met at the temple to be trained to be tour guides at the Temple Open House. We watched a few videos and did a few practices to prepare to be tour guides, and then we all took a tour of the temple. It is so so nice. After being in dirt and cement floor houses for more than a year, it was really shocking to walk around the marble floored, oak furnished temple. Even though its not dedicated, there was a special feeling wherever we went on the temple grounds.

The theme of this week for me was eliminating things that impede you from feeling the spirit or sanctification. The Spirit thrives when love and respect are present.  I love you all a ton! All is well. Life is good.
   Elder Lewis