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.