Saturday, December 29, 2012

A birthday feast!

Querido familia,                      24 December 2012

I decided to have an American birthday lunch so I got Coke and a hamburger with bacon and onion and then opened half of the package (saving the other half for Christmas).

This week we've been teaching a lot of new people. How many of them will continue on to the waters of baptism, I'm not sure; but, that is how we do the work, teach as many people as we can and then see who has been prepared to move forward and accept the Gospel.

We've been teaching Domingo and Lorenza a lot more this week than we have in the past and they're really starting to move forward in their progress. We actually found them because they were in a binder of old teaching records from people that past Elders had taught before, but were never baptized. Maybe they were not ready to receive the gospel before, but they are now. Surely, a big part of that is what the previous Elders did to teach them. So, we've been learning that while the things we do now may seem insignificant to us in the moment, it will have an impact that will effect eternity. I read a quote the other day that said, "We always look forward to that great day when we shall be reunited in the heavens, but we have to remember that today is still part of eternity."

We've been trying to get Domingo and Lorenza's kids more involved in the lessons, but also with the other youth of the church. This week we're probably going to have an activity in the church so the youth can watch 'Josepth Smith: Prophet of the Restoration' and we will make churro (deep fried dough covered in sugar) for them to eat. But so far, their yougest daughter, Sofía, has come to church with them a couple times and she really likes the Primary. Their son, Jaquin, will be a bit more of challenge because he has some smoking problems, but we asked him if he wants to quit and he said yes, so now we're going to help him do it; it wouldn't be the first time I've seen people quit smoking for and because of the Gospel.
Last week we had planned to have the baptism for Belen and Exequiel, but we had to change the date because they didn't make it to church enough times to qualify for baptism. So this Saturday is their new date. We have hit a bit of a snag in their progress though. Belen is still going strong, she came to church yesterday and everything, but Exequiel has now decided that he no longer wishes to be baptized. We're thinking that someone said something to him that cause him to change his mind, but he hasn't sat down with us to talk about what happened. When we visited them yesterday, he was his normal self with us until we asked him why he doesn't want to get baptized now. So we shared a scripture with Belen about being the example and how her family will be blessed because of her righteous decisions.

Hernan Galarza, Juan Pablo's little brother, is going to get baptized this coming Saturday with Belen, but not at the same time (I only say they both asked me how I would be able to baptize them both at the same time). Hernan is really cool though and is always excited when we come by to visit. Because of his enthusiasm, his older brother, Rodrigo (who is eleven), also wants to be baptized, but he will have to wait until January. Now when we have lessons with them, Hernan will be starting his prayer and might stumble a little as he tries to offer a prayer and then Rodrigo will just say that he'll pray for us and then he offers a prayer instead. Afterwards, we'll say something like, "Hernan was doing good; just be patient." and then Hernan will say something like, "It´s alright. I'll just practice more by myself." So we're glad that he is having personal prayers as he develops a relationship with his Heavenly Father at the very least.

Earlier in the week, we had a Christmas devotional with President Di Giovanni, his wife, and the district presidency. We started off by having a brief message from both Sister and President Di Giovanni and then finished by having pizza and soda and talking with one another. Sister Di Giovanni was asking everyone what Christmas dinner is like at home and all the American Elders spoke about turkey, ham, gravy, rolls, and so on.

Our Christmas dinner is a bit different this year though. Tonight, we are going to be with a family from the other branch that invited us and the other Elders to have dinner with them. We're going to have an asada (the Argentine version of a barbeque). What they do is take the metal guard from a gas stove that the pots sit on while you cook and put it on the ground and build a fire under it. From there, they cook the meats on top of the makeshift grill.

I got the package from Halloween and ended up opening half of it for my birthday, saving the other half for tomorrow morning. I was told it was too late to hang up Halloween decorations, so I found somewhere else to hang them. It was really funny eating the pumpkins because Elder Sharapata and I were talking and ended up saying the same thing at the same time. He began by saying, "I really like pumpkins because they're like candy corn..." and then I joined in and together we said, "but they're better cause they have honey in them."

Other than that, things have been going well with Elder Waldron and I. He would prefer to walk a little less, but we also have the biggest area in the mission. I´m making sure he finishes his mission strong though.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, December 24, 2012

New Companion - Elder Waldron

Querido familia,                           17 December 2012

We'e had a few different things going on this week from baptisms to transfers to finding new people to teach.

So on Tuesday night, we got a call from our zone leaders while we were out working and they told us that Elder Clark would be leaving in the morning at five to go to Bella Vista. We weren't really sure if they were being serious because they've pulled the prank before, so we talked about it for a minute and then called them back to confirm. On the other end, Elder Garcia, one of our zone leaders, said that we could use the rest of our time for the day, about an hour, for Elder Clark to say his good-byes. So we visited the people we could and he called some others. We got back to the apartment and started packing and then the next morning he left at five.

We weren't the only companionship that got changed in our zone though. Elder Mojica left from Vera, so his companion, Elder King, and I were together on Wednesday so that we weren't alone. The plan originally was that we would work until a little later in the afternoon and then Elder King's new companion would arrive and I would be companions with a member from the branch until my companion arrived. That wasn't quite the way it happened because of the bus schedules, so Elder King and I were together the whole day. It was actually good that we didn't split up that day, because if we had then we never would have found the family that we taught that night. We had a really good lesson with them, but we haven't been able to visit them since, but we're going there today at a better time, so hopefully we can sit down with them.

So it wasn't until late on Wednesday night that I was finally able to meet my new companion, Elder Waldron from Philadelphia. He is a convert to the church of four years and is already twenty-three years old, having started his mission at twenty. He just hit his twenty month mark and only has four left, which has me a bit concerned because he already is starting to have that 'I'm ready to go home' attitude, but I'm gonna keep him busy and focused.

We had a couple of things that didn't go down so well our first couple days between us though. First of all, Elder Clark and I walk very quickly from place to place so that we have plenty of time to find people and teach as much as possible; Elder Waldron does not like to walk at all. So we spent part of our Thursday morning looking for apartments because he is going to try to get us moved closer to our area (it's a thirty minute walk from our apartment to get to the neighborhood where we work the most). The problem with moving is that the Elders used to live where the other apartments are, but the church moved us because those apartments just aren't good at all. I really wouldn't even mind that we have to slow down for him, but the thing is that he has no health problems or anything like that, but rather that he simply isn't willing to walk at a faster pace in order to facilitate our schedule. For example, we already had plans made before Elder Waldron arrived to go to visit a family before church in the morning so that they could be awake in time and prepare. This plan included leaving the apartment at seven in the morning. Well, Elder Waldron said that he isn't going to do that, so our other zone leader, Elder Sharapata, walked in our room and said, "I was listening and you have to do it." So we did it and they people we visited came to church.

I don't want to make Elder Waldron sound like a bad guy, he is a nice guy, he just needs to make a few adjustments in his willingness to serve the people. So for now, we're all good and we're making plans that work for both of us.

Saturday we had the baptism for Juan Pablo and it went pretty well. His mom couldn't make it, or just didn't come perhaps, but his younger brother, Hernan, did. A good amount of people came to support Juan at his baptism and I was able to get in the, somewhat frigid, water with him. As we taught Juan, he didn't really have to make any changes to his lifestyle in order to comply with the commandments, but his mom says that he has changed quite a bit since we started teaching him. We're told that now he goes home and helps take care of his siblings and cleans up the house and things like that instead of doing his own things.

Juan's younger brother, Hernan, is really cool too. He wants to get baptized now and has already been taught a couple of things (he can even name some of the ten commandments by their number because we taught them signs to make with their hands in order to remember them). Hernan even came to church for the first time yesterday to see Juan's confirmation. Hernan is only nine, so he was in primary for the rest of the meetings, but he said he really enjoyed church. After church, he asked me, "When can I get baptized?" I told him that he can get baptized whenever he wants, we just need to teach him a little more first. So yesterday later in the afternoon,we talked with Hernan about what he needs to do to be baptized and he said that he'll be wherever he needs to be so that we could teach him. So now we're planning the baptism for Hernan on the twenty-ninth of December.

Just as a side note, Hernan calls me Elder Capo, which would either translate into Elder Stud or Elder Cool depending on how you´re using it.

There are two people hat we've taught a few times already named Domingo and Lorenza. They have four kids, three that live with them. Domingo and I have an interesting problem in that I have a hard time understanding him and he has a hard time understanding me, so I´ll say something and he will kind of just be like, "uh-huh..." and then Lorenza will explain what I already said. They were the ones that we left early in the morning to visit before church, but it was more than worth it because they both came and had a good experience. They only stayed for sacrament meeting, but they said that next time they're going to bring their kids and stay for the classes. Even better, they found out that they have friends who are Mormon and go to the church too.

So for our call home for Christmas, this is what we've been told so far: That we have the option of either thirty minutes on Skype or a forty-five minute phone call. But it will be on Tuesday, Christmas day and we'll be writing home on Christmas Eve, so we can have more confirmation on what is going to happen before then. For now, send me a Skype address just so that we can be prepared either way.

os amo,
Elder Burt

P.S. I havn't recieved my package yet, but I think I will get it today when the zone leaders come back from their monthly trip to the mission office in Resistencia

Monday, December 10, 2012

Running Naked through the streets

Querido familia,                        10 December 2012

I think I've spent a fair amount of time talking about David Leiva by this point and his story is about to come to a close. I think I mentioned before that he told his neighbor, who is a member, to tell us that he doesn't believe in Joseph Smith and that he no longer wants us to come by. Well, we spent all week trying to find him and the only contact we had with him was to leave a note outside his tent that said, "David, why weren't you in church last week? We missed you." Apparently that brief and simple note hit him quite hard. On Friday morning, Sister Melbe Nuñez called us to tell us that, "David came by and told me that I need to tell you that he has been praying and he knows that this is the path the Lord has laid out for him and the he is going to be baptized."

So we went to the house of David's father to see if he was there before moving on to his tent. He was there in the backyard, sitting in a circle with his brothers, sister, and grandma. When he turned and saw us standing there, he got a smile and waved for us to come back, We we got back there, he gave us the usual cool guy hand shake that we normally exchange and then a hug (which is a big deal for their culture). He started telling us his story about how he has been avoiding us at the beginning of the week, but then started praying after he saw our note. He did a whole a lot of praying and from what he described it sounds like he had finally experienced forgiveness from his Heavenly Father and received a powerful witness from the Holy Ghost of what it is he needs to do. So we're listening to his incredible story of his own personal conversion to the Gospel and then he asks if he can get baptized in the coming Saturday. Then his brother said something: "You're already baptized like the rest of us." To which David said, "Yeah, but I was only thirteen and didn't know anything, so it didn't count." Well, that's when we have to explain to David that you´re only baptized once, but the feelings that he experienced were as good as a baptism because he was baptized by fire and with the Holy Ghost.

So David isn't going to be baptized because he is already a member, but being a member of the church isn't enough; you have to be a follower of Christ, Now that he has had these experience. hopefully he will follow with more exactness. However, his youngest brother is not a member and he said that he would like to be baptized. Whether he said it just because he was surrounded by his family who are all members or because he really does, it can't  hurt to have the example of David and his recent conversion as well as some positive peer pressure from his family. So we're going to start working with him with David as our assistant teacher and support.

Juan Pablo is going to get baptized this coming Saturday though. We've been working really well with him and showing him that the church isn't just something we do on Sunday, but it's a lifestyle. He has been spending a lot of time with the family of Sister Nuñez and all her kids (they make up about half of the youth in the branch). His younger brothers are really progressing well too with the lessons, even though we don't have the opportunity to teach them much. The only problem we have with them is that they don't come to church, mostly because they don't have a way to get there unless they go with their brother, Juan (and Jaun Pablo doesn't want his little brothers to tag along with him). We were talking to them and the Tortarolo family (the kids of Sister Nuñez are all Tortarolo) and invited them to come to the Christmas devotional and the two younger brothers of JuanP, Hernan and Rodrigo, both immediately asked their mom, who was also there, if they could go too. Juan looked at his mom and said, "I don't want them to come." So I guess it's good that Juan feels like the church is something that he is part of, but he needs to share it too.

Belen and Ezekiel Quintana are going to be baptized on the twenty-second still. We've been teaching them and they love having us over, but similar to Juan Pablo, they don't want to 'share us' with their friends who live next door. We'll encourage them to invite them to come to church with them, but we'll see what happens. They're kind of crazy to teach without their parents their, they are ten and twelve after all, but they love to learn and pray. Omar, their father, is still having troubles becoming active again and it is severely effecting the progress of his wife. Hopefully when they see how much their kids love the church they will become a part of it too.

There is one member in the ward who has caused a bit of trouble for the church this week though. It's not really his fault though in a way. He has some Mantle conditions that require some medication, some pretty powerful medication. Well, one day he didn't take his pills and ended up running naked through the streets. When he was picked up, the radio interviewed him, while he was still in his delusional state, and he told them that the Mormons are crazy and that they make you do crazy things to be a part of their church. So, for the next four days we heard about this event from various people. But it seems to be dying down pretty calmly, so we'll see what happens.

On Sunday, we had a District Conference with two members from the Seventy, Elder Ávila and Elder di Giovanni (who is now acting as our Mission President while President Heyman is in the States). After the meeting, Elder Clark and I were invited to stand in with Elder di Giovanni to set apart a member in our branch, David Simonini, as an Elder and give him the Melchizedek Priesthood.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Diego and Mirian's wedding and baptism

Querido familia,

So it has been raining here for two days now. Yesterday, we went to a ciber to write and while we were there the storm got really bad. It sounded like hail was coming down on the roof. About ten minutes into our writing session, right as I was about to send some pictures, a crash of lightning knocked the power out. So for the next four hours, no one in the city had power; except for some stores that had emergency lights. So, we wen and bought ice cream from a shop just a block away and then got some pictures with the trees that had fallen in the park.

In our area, we're not allowed to be out if there is no light because that's when it becomes dangerous. So yesterday we ended up walking to one of the neighborhoods in our area and we just talked with a member for a few minutes before we had to go back to our apartment because there was no power in the city. Once the storm calmed downed and moved past us, it was really impressive to see. There was huge amounts of orange lightning that streaked across the sky and lit everything up.

On Friday, Mirian and Diego finally got everything they needed to get married, so they invited us to come and witness it with them. It was just a small group of their friends and Diego's mom that came, but it went really well. It was one of the few times that Diego has worn a smile before, so hopefully he will recognize the happiness that these changes bring.

On Saturday, we had the baptism for Mirian with only slight problems. We went to the chapel to have lunch that day for two reasons: to eat with David and President Alegre, the branch president, and to start filling up the font. However, once the font filled up to knee height, the water stopped flowing; not only in the font, but the entire chapel. So we tried a couple things, but we weren't able to finish getting it ready until about thirty minutes before we were supposed to start. We had a pretty good turnout of people from the branch that came to support her, but Diego couldn't come because of work. I was able to get in the water with Mirian and I was able to do the prayer and ordinance without any problems, getting it done correctly on the first attempt.

So the Quintana family that we are now teaching has two kids who are ten and thirteen. The one who is thirteen just had his birthday, so we gave him a white shirt and tie and told him that he could wear it to church on Sunday. Omar, the dad, is still having problems with returning to the church, so he didn't come this week and because of that his wife didn't either. However, as Elder Clark and I were out walking on Sunday morning, we passed by the chapel at seven in the morning and saw the two kids standing outside the gate, ready for church to start. We asked them why they were there two hours early and then she looked at her brother, Ezekiel, and said, "I told you it started at nine and not six thirty." But they really enjoyed church and got along well with all the youth there. So right now, we're planning their baptism for the twenty-second of December, but we want the whole family to be active, not just two kids. So we're going to put some focus on Omar to get him excited to come back. The problem with him is that he is letting his own personal problem affect his wife, so she has some doubt too because of him that wasn't there before.

We've also been having some problems with David. He doesn't have a cell phone, so he sends us messages through a member, but this member told us that he said that he doesn't believe in Joseph Smith and doesn't want to learn anymore. So we were thinking where this problem came from, because before he had no doubts and loves to read conference talks that we give him. So we think the problem is these new neighbors is that they like to drink; which is a problem because they invited David to drink with them and he accepted the invitation. So we're thinking that they must be telling David things, but we´re going to talk with him today about it.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Yummy Thanksgiving Dinner

Querido Familia,

This week we started teaching two new families. One of them is the brother of Ivana and the other is the family of a friend of a member we have been teaching.

I don't know if I have talked about Juan Pablo before, but he is a friend of a member family (all of them are recent converts of a few months) and one day Sister Melba Tortarola, the mom, told us that their friend JuanP (pronounced like Wampi) watched their Joseph Smith video four times and was interested in the church. So we started teaching him at the member's home and he has been to church twice now; he missed last Sunday. 

Just a few days ago, we ended up going to JuanP's house to teach him, instead of teaching him at Sister Melba's house. We figured it would be good to, at the very least, get to know his family before he got baptized into the church. So we met his mom and she was really nice and invited us in to have a discussion in her living room. We started talking to her and actually ended up teaching her the Plan of Salvation because she had a cousin who died recently as well as a daughter. The highest point of our lesson with her was when we told her that she will be able to not only see her daughter again, but live with her family for eternity. Tears filled her eyes and she just wanted us to talk forever (I think we too often forgot how much of a difference it makes in life to have the knowledge that we have compared to someone who has always lived thinking this life was the end). 

So now, JuanP's mom, Beatrice, and his two brothers are all going to be baptized in December. The original plan was for the fifteenth, but now we're thinking it will be the twenty-second. The only thing we're missing now is their dad, whom we havn't had a chance to meet yet.

This other family that we're starting to teach is the brother of Ivana and the son of Margarita Guzman. His name is Omar and he lives with his wife and three kids. Two of his kids are old enough to be baptized and they're both more excited about baptism than Omar is. The reason for that though is because Omar has been inactive for years and doesn't feel like he is worthy or ready to go back to church, but when feelings like that come around there isn't a better time to go to church. His wife is pretty excited and attentive too (she'll be the first person I've ever helped get baptized that has a tattoo of a dagger going through a scorpion). Their thirteen year old daughter (who wasn't present during our first lesson with the family) actually asked us if she could get baptized before we invited her to be, so we're thinking that she is prepared and ready. At the end of the second lesson we had, we asked who wanted to pray and she immediately volunteered. We said we'd love to have her give the prayer and then she ran into the house and then came back out a moment later with a Catholic Saint prayer card. Her aunt, Maria (Ivana's sister), and dad hurried and explained that we don't pray like that, and then we explained prayer to her. I had to laugh to myself later because she used her Catholic prayer card to mark a page in Ether about faith. But it was a cool lesson we had with them because they were all marking their scriptures with higlighters and pencils as we read with them.

So from those two families, we have seven people who are basically already in the water and our just waiting for the font to fill up a little more. 

Other than that, we're still teaching David who hit a rough patch after that time we found him drunk. It turns out that he has an ex-girlfriend in another city and he thought that she was waiting for him, but that turned out not to be the case. So, we talked to him about Faith and how part of having faith is knowing that our Heavenly Father always has the best of the best planned for us. Other than those few days, he is doing really well and learning a lot. We gave him a General Conference talk from President Uchtdorf titled, "You Matter To Him" and he really liked it and asked for another talk that he could read.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Our Zone Leaders, who live with us, both hit their year and a half mark, so they bought a kilo and a half of ice cream

Our Thanksgiving dinner which consisted of chicken, gravy, corn on the cob, bread, mashed potatoes and ice cream
 Enjoying our Thanksgiving dinner

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pictures from day trip to Corrientes

Josh at Rio de Plata in Corrientes

A Man Juggling in the street, blocking the traffic, to try to make some money

      It only made sense to make a stop here...

A field of sunflowers that we drove past on the way        
          from Resistencia to Reconquista...

McDonalds was closed!

Querido familia,                              19 Nov, 2012

This week I had to go to Corrientes in Chaco in order to finish some things up with my visa. Elder Clark didn't need anything for his visa, so I went with Elder Mojica to get our passports and visas taken care of while Elder Clark stayed in Reconquista with Elder Mojica's companion, Elder King. 

We had to be there at eight in the morning, so Elder Mojica and Elder King came to our apartment the night before to make things a little easier to make our companionship exchange (they live an hour outside of Reconquista). The next morning, Elder Mojica and I awoke at two in the morning so we could have time to get a taxi from the apartment to the bus terminal. Luckily, the bus was going straight from Reconquista to Corrientes so we wouldn't have to change buses at any point, but nevertheless it was still a five hour bus ride. I was planning on going straight to sleep as soon as we sat down on the bus, but Elder Mojica wanted to show me all six hundred pictures on his camera first.

We arrived at Corrientes a little early, but we still needed to take a taxi over to the Immigration Office where some Elders from the Mission Office were waiting for us. We had to wait in for about twenty minutes before we could get up to the desk (there were some nuns ahead of us in line), but it wasn't bad because there was a small group of eight Elders, so we all just traded stories while we waited. Once we got up front, all we had to do was get our picture taken, confirm our identity, and scan our fingerprints.

We had everything finished by a little after nine and we didn't have to leave Corrientes until eleven, so that left us with a little bit of time to do something in the city. Elder Mojica and I grouped up with two other Elders so we could take a taxi over to the shopping mall where they had a Wal-Mart and a McDonald's (the only one in the mission).

The mall was closed when we got there at ten, so we went over to the Wal-Mart to look around and see if there were some good things that we could get from the States. Most of the things they had were the same things that all the other grocery stores carry, just at that unbeatable Wal-Mart price. They did have some things that were different like M&M's and Twix, but most Elders want to find things like Peanut Butter (which is a little harder to find outside of Wal-Mart). While we were there, we called the Elders back in Reconquista to see if there was anything they wanted while we were there that we could bring back to them. We got requests for things like refried beans, aji picante, Reese's and Nutella, but we could only find the picante peppers.

After that, we went over to the mall to grab some lunch from the McDonald's, but unfortunately it wasn't open for lunch yet.

The drivers are all really bad in Argentina and even worse in the bigger cities, but bad driving isn't the only thing that happens in the streets. While we were riding in the taxi to get to Resistencia from Corrientes, a man walked into the street at a red light and started juggling and then when he was done he went from car to car asking for money.

We've been teaching a lot of people lately, picking up a lot of new investigators (some more promising than others). The way things are going right now, we're planning on having six baptisms in December. We had to push Mirian's back to December instead of November because there were delays in geting her documents ready for marriage.

We've been teaching David as much as can, every other day if possible, and he is just golden. He understands everything and hasn't had a single problem, that is until Saturday. We went to find him and ended up discovering him drunk. We haven't taught him the Word of Wisdom yet, but he already knows that drinking isn't good for him. physically or spiritually. So we sat down with him and started talking about how he could improve and resist the temptation to drink in the future. He cried a couple times during our discussion and kept repeating, "I fell, I fell, but I don't want to fall again." At one point he said, "I know I can do better. because I am a child of God and He has sent me here." (Yes, he was singing that last part). His grandma and brother are both members, so he said he has a hymn book and I Am a Child of God is one of his favorites; that, and Praise to the Man (Praise to the Prophet in Spanish, just a little different, but doens't ever mention Joseph's name).

There's a lot more to be written, just not enough time to do it.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, November 12, 2012

Garbage masher on the Detention Level

We had to kick some people out that were living in the pool.

After a long day's work, it's nice to enjoy a little refreshment.

Well, there's your problem, you seem to have a duck in your pool.
"Shut down all the garbage mashers on the Detention Level!"
"Can I get you some?"

"It's a little strong at first, but it's really an acquired taste."

Conference in Resistencia

Querido familia,

This week we had a conference in Resistencia with President Heyman and an Elder from one of the Quorums of the Seventy, Elder Viñas. In order to get everyone there on time, we had the two elders from Vera, an area about an hour away, came to our apartment the night before so they could leave with us in the morning, so we had six people in our apartment that night. The church sent us a travel bus big enough for twelve, so our three hour ride from Reconquista to Resistencia wasn't uncomfortable. President Heyman spoke to us first about the relationship between faith, hope, and charity and after he spoke, Elder Viñas spoke to us about how the Atonement can strengthen us as missionaries and the importance of repentance. All of it was in Spanish, but it was easy to understand President Heyman; however, Elder Viñas was a bit more difficult because he has lived all over the Spanish world and his accent is more of a Spanish from Spain than anything else, but it was all good all the same.

After the conference, Elder Garcia and I had to go to Vera with Elder King and Elder Mojica, The two Elders from Vera, in order to do some baptismal interviews with the people they were teaching. So once the bus dropped us off at our apartment in Reconquista, Elder Garcia, King, Mojica, and I all went to the bus terminal while Elder Sharapata and Elder Clark went to work. During our bus ride this lady was walking down the aisle, handing out fliers that said, "I am deaf and can not speak or hear. Please buy this card so everyone can learn sign language." (It had the universal symbols for the alphabet on the back). I only had a one hundred peso bill with me, but Elder Garcia had a two peso he could give her.

A little bit later on this bus ride, about thirty minutes in, Elder Mojica and Elder King started looking for their keys that couldn't seem to be found. After a length of time, they finally came to the conclusion that they had left them in our apartment in Reconquista. So this left us with a couple of options. They could either come back to Reconquista with us and then leave in the morning, with their keys, or we needed to find someone that would drive for two hours to bring the keys to them. Luckily, Elder Garcia knew just such a member in his branch, so he gave him a call and explained what was happening. The member who he called agreed to bring the keys with him.

So after all our interviews were done, all we had left to do was wait for this member, accompanied by Elder Clark and Sharapata, to arrive with the keys so Elder King and Mojica could get into their apartment. So while we were waiting, we went to get hamburgers at a place close to our apartment and then bought a pizza for the member to compensate him for his troubles. Once they came with the keys, Elder Garcia and I got in the car with them and we all rode back to Reconquista, not getting back to the apartment until eleven-thirty (needless to say, we decided to do our daily planning in the morning).

There is a family that got baptized not too long ago, but long enough that only one member of the family is still active. In this family, there are two brothers who, for some reason, never got baptized (and never really listened to the previous Elders either). So we decided that it was time for them to get baptized, so we went to visit them and see if we could teach them. We didn't get to have a lesson, but we did have a good discussion with them and we were able to build a relationship with them. During that visit, Sister Montenegro, the mom, invited us over for lunch, but also asked us to bring the food. So we came with stuff to make pizzas and churro and everyone had a good time. After lunch, we sat down with them and decided to talk about faith and charity. After the discussion, we invited Mario, the oldest brother at twenty-two years, and Omar, the middle child with sixteen years, to be baptized in December. Mario said he would read and pray, but Omar doesn't seem to sure, but he also didn't say no. We're thinking that once he sees Mario's progress and example that he will follow too.

We went to visit a member in the branch just to see how they were doing the other day. While we were there, Sister Tortarola, the mother, said that one of her sons friends was there with them and he was interested in the church. She said that he discovered the church because of a DVD that we had left with them family about Joseph Smith's life. She said that he watched it four times in a row. So she invited us in, gathered the children, and got out the Books of Mormon. We had a good discussion, which was mostly Melba, Sister Tortarola, sharing her testimony. We also talked about prayer and the Spirit and then asked Juan, their friend, if he wanted to be baptized. He said he would read and pray and if he received an answer that he would be baptized in December.

The only problem with teaching kids like that is that we have to have parental permission for them to get baptized. So we talked with Melba about it and she said that she would talk to his mom about it. On Sunday, She came with her kids and Juan as well and then told us that Juan's mom had actually come to visit Melba the previous day and said that she was happy that Juan was going to be active in a church, even if it wasn't a catholic one. So now, we  are looking at having five baptisms in the first two weeks of December.

Os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, November 5, 2012

Math homework and a duende....

Querido familia,

This week has brought us new companions, Evangelist kids, new people progressing towards baptism, one more step forward in marriage, math homework and a duende.

Tuesday and Wednesday were really busy days in our apartment because Elder Sparks finished his mission and headed off to Resistencia to do all his exit interviews before heading off to Buenos Aires. Apparently at the end of the mission here, all the Elders get to go to the Buenos Aires temple for a day before they return to the States. So, Elder Sparks left in the morning, but his replacement wasn't going to arrive until later the next night and then one of  the two Elders, Elder Farnbach, from Vera (the other area in our zone) was transferred.

A couple weeks ago, we talked to some people sitting outside and didnt have a lesson with them, but rather just talked with them for a few minutes and asked if there would be a better time that we could sit down with them and talk about the Gospel. One of them said that he would listen to us, but the problem was that he lived in an area where there aren't any addresses, but he said to just ask for him and we'd find him eventually. So on Thursday we went into this place looking for him and we knocked on a house to get directions and it just so happened that it was his house.

The place where he lives has an interesting story to it. His house is more or less a shelter of tarps and blankets supported by boards and logs. It's basically a big, one room tent made of whatever he could find. Around his house he has a posts that stand three feet tall, linked together by barbed wire and string to create a make shift fence and gate. Now his isn't the only house like this, there are tons of them and they are all on this huge piece of land that is actually government property. What happens is people build these forts on the government land and then once they leave the government comes and takes them down, but after a while the government will get tired of trying to kick everybody off (there is about fifty of these dwellings) the government property and they will just release the land to the people. For that reason, everyone builds really cheap forts (so if they get taken down it's not too big a deal) and has a fence to act as a border of where they are going to build a real house once the government gives up the land. 

So David, this man we were looking for, just happened to be the very first house we knocked. We sat down with him and talked a little bit about the Atonement and showing forth our faith. After our discussion, we left him a copy of the Book of Mormon and an assignment to read 2 Nephi 31, which talks about the Savior's baptism. We then set a return appointment for Monday to come back and teach him.

A few days later,on Saturday, we were going to go and visit him just for a few minutes to invite him to come to church and see if he had any questions about what he read. On the way there, he rode up to us on his bicycle and starts telling us about what he read. First off, he read the whole chapter we left him and then had a dream later that night and he said that he saw himself standing in the water dressed in white and then asked us if that meant he needed to be baptized again. After that, he said he read the Introduction to the Book of Mormon and Moroni's promise, neither of which we left for homework (so we know that he's been diligently reading on his own). Then he said, "I did what Moroni said to do and now I know that what you are saying is true."

So we're listening to him and thinking, "This is about as prepared as you can be to receive the Gospel; he had a vision and a spiritual confirmation", but he doesn't stop there. He went on to say that he wants cut his hair and that he wants to come to church and meet our leaders. 

He didn't come to church, but that's because he went to a funeral service for someone that drowned in the river recently.

We are now also teaching the daughter of an inactive member named Maria Ruiz-Diez. The first time we sat down with her, we went planning on her being there because we just went by to talk to her mom and younger sister (both of whom are members). But she sat down with them and listened to our spiritual message, so we invited her to be baptized and she said ´yes´. So we left her with her own copy of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Enos to read as an assignment (because she had questions about prayer).

Next time we went by to teach her, we asked her what caught her attention as she read or if she had a favorite part. She started showing us some verses in Enos, but then keep going into other books. It turns out that she had read all the books  between Jacob and Mosiah just because she wanted to. So she is starting off really well, but her biggest obstacle is going to be quiting smoking, but she has the desires to do it. So for our first lesson with her, we taught the Word of Wisdom and how we can accomplish all things through our faith and actions. It was kind of a struggle to teach her, not by any fault of her, but because her mom was always trying to talk about something else (just an attitude of "I'm a member, I already know this").

Maria also did not come to church because she was at the service for the person who drowned in the river, but we are going to teach her again on Tuesday.

Last night, we went to visit a part member family who is also inactive. The mom is going back to school to graduate from Secondary (their equivalent to high school), so when we asked if there was anything we could do to help out the family she asked if either of us knew math. Elder Clark just pointed at me and said, "He does." So she went and got her binder and showed me her math homework: geometry.  It was kind of a slow start trying to figure out how to solve the problems for two reasons: First, it was all in Spanish so all the math words are different. Second, I havn't had geometry in five years. But once I got going it all came back. Then explaining it was the hard part, mostly because her son kept trying to jump ahead in the explanation and he was explaining it wrong, but we got there in the end. The assignment was writing the equation of a line when you only have two points.

So there is this family that is inactive that we visit about once a week to try to get them excited about the church again, but they never come. Just recently; however, their son just got out of prison and his girlfriend wants to get baptized, so we figured we would go and try to find them and see how promising her desires really were. She, nor the son, were there so we just had a spiritual message with them as usual. Their other son who lives with them is twenty-one years old and he just has a huge collection of random stuff. So during our visit, he gave Elder Clark a golf ball and he gave me a Duende (A duende is one of their mythical creatures, but the story with them is that they are supposed to be charms that you carry with you). He said that if I carry it around that I will have luck and women. So I said, "Perfect, those are the two things I need the most as a missionary."

os amo,
Elder Burt

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spiders in the shower and ducks in the pool...

Querido familia,
We had a whole lot going on this week ranging from cooking empanadas to service to baptisms.
There´s a family in the ward that is inactive that we've been visiting and having short ten minute spiritual thoughts with them in the hope that they will start coming again. They have three little kids, a girl who can´t be more than nine and two twin boys who are about three or four. We don´t have problems with them as missionaries, but as branch counselors they put us in a tough spot because they ask for financial assistance from the church, but they don't come to church and they also buy a lot of nice things, mostly expensive clothes, and they just bought a moped. So it´s hard to give them the assistance they want, and need, when they don't follow the commandments and aren't budgeting wisely. But we always do what we can and don't want them, espècially their kids, to go without. So, this last week they asked us if we could do some service for them and help them clean out their pool. So we said we'd be happy to help with what we could, but we only could devote so much time to the project because we have to be out teaching, So we showed up with our change of clothes (jeans, a t-shirt, and knee high rubber boots) and walked out back to see what we were getting into. Now the thing to remember here is that this isn't the United States, so of course the pool isn't lined with a soft rubber material and a filter system, but what we found was a more like a garbage masher from Star Wars than a pool. So we took a look at what were dealing with, talked about how we were going to get it all done and organize the mess, but most importantly: how to get rid of the duck. So, we put our gloves on, got in, and start tossing all the plastic bottles into a pile for recycling, setting the bricks (and some other interesting items) to the side and putting the rest of the trash into bags. Eventually we got the duck out, as well as three toads (we never could find the frog once he got away the first time) and had to start using buckets to get rid of the water. In the end, some of the interesting or strange things we found included: mate cups, tea pots, shoes, and a jawbone from a dog (which was obviously not too old because it wasn't just bone...). We got everything out and lowered the water level quite a bit, but there was still a ton of dirt in on the floor when we left, but they asked if we could leave our boots for them to use, so we're assuming they're going to wrap it up.

The house that Mirian and Diego currently live in isn't actually theirs, but his sister's house, so what they are going to do is build their own house on the same lot. So they asked us if we could lend a hand to get them started. What they needed done was to get the ground ready for building, which meant getting rid of weeds up to our knees, using shovels to tear the ground up, and hauling it away in a small trailer. It was a ton of work, but we got a lot done in the hour that we were working. Walter, their three year old, helped by watching us, giving us some encouraging words, and bringing us sweet bread and orange pop.

This last Saturday we had two baptisms: Augustina Pereyra and Ivana Guzman. Augustina isn't anyone we taught, but rather an eight year old girl ready to be baptized in a branch where there are no Priesthood holders. So we were happy to help her get baptized and get everything ready for her. We wanted to help one of the youth, Walter Silva, start becoming more active and use his Priesthood, so we asked him if he would baptize Augustina. He said yes, but he had a panic attack in the water and Elder Clark had to go in and do it. We felt really bad for Walter and had a prayer with him, but hopefully this won´t be a bad experience for him that will make him not want to participate in future events.

These are desserts we had after the baptism. Augustina's mom made the peach cake and we bought the pie cake for fifty pesos.

 After a few weeks of teaching, Ivana was finally ready for baptism. Elder Clark got in the water with her and I confirmed the next day on Sunday. I was nervous about giving the blessing in Spanish for the first time, but I was able to do it without any problems and did everything just fine. There was a dispute afterwards though because President Alegre blessed Augustina and he said, Recieve the Gift of the Holy Ghost" when the phrase is "Receive the Holy Ghost" so we're trying to figure out if we need to do the blessing again.

The district is having a temple trip for all the members so they can get their endowments, but the problem is that is is kind of expensive for a lot of the members. So to raise money, Sister Guzman (Ivana´s mom) made empanadas to sell at twenty three pesos a dozen (about fifty cents each). So we got to go help her make the empanadas the other day right after we did service with Diego and Mirian (that is why we are in our service clothes). to help out, we bought a dozen and then ate them while we prepared the chapel for the baptism later that day.
The view from our apartment when it rains. When it rains, it pours.
This is the street in front of our apartment that becomes a river every time it rains.

This was waiting for me when I went in to turn on the hot water.

Computer problems- fixing a computer is a hassle enough in English but it's worse in Spanish.
os amo,
Elder Burt

P.S. I´ll have to send the pictures from the pool service next week because they´re on Elder Clark´s camera

Monday, October 22, 2012

Josh gets spaetzle

Querido Familia,

This last Friday, Elder Clark was sick again, but this time with food poisoning (I didn´t eat whatever he had because we had exchanges that day), so we stayed in our apartment all day. It was good in a way because I was able to get a lot of things done that needed to be, but even then it would have been better to be out doing the real work. During my time in the apartment, I was able to: update our records (we have three massive binders, two are for old records and one for current), which includes throwing out years of old records that shouldn´t have been there to begin with, and moving papers around to be where they actually should be. I also organized all the members (about four hundred and fifty) alphabetically and into groups based on where they live. I set up a map on the wall for us to use, did some cleaning and organizing around our apartment, and then just studied until the end of the night (which was only about an hour).

There is one thing that we did avoid by being home on Friday, which was eating at a member´s house. Normally, eating with members isn´t bad, but this is the member that made us the spinach and broccoli crepes a few weeks ago. So what happened when they found out we couldn´t come over for lunch was that they bagged it up and brought it to us. It was another spinach dish. Last Friday when we had lunch with them, they made us these bombas de papas (potato bombs) which are almost a kind of corn bread roll with hamburger meat on the inside. They weren´t bad, but it was the side dish that was tough to eat. We´re not entirely sure what it is, but it´s basically some kind of vegetable that has been breaded and deep fried. They wouldn´t even be so bad, but they taste like grease and they go down like grease.

Yesterday was Mother´s day here in Argentina and we didn´t have anyone to speak in Sacrament meeting on Sunday, so on Saturday night I was assigned to give the Mother´s day talk. I had about twenty minutes to prepare, but I think it went pretty well. I started off by reading in John 19: 25-27 when Jesus is on the cross and asks John to watch after his mother and then went on to more fully explain what was happening in the verses (the scriptures are written in a different form of Spanish that is never spoken among the people) and added some more depth and emotion to the brief story. Then I read a story from the Miracle of Forgiveness that President Kimball shares about mothers, so I was reading in English to myself, but speaking to everyone in Spanish. Then I finished up with the example of the Helaman´s army and how they were so successful in their endeavors because they listened to the teachings of their mothers. During the entire talk, all the women shed a tear at some point, so it went pretty well.

Mirian and Diego either didn´t go to, or missed, their appointment for their blood exam they need before they can be married, so now we´re going to have a bit of a delay on their marriage, which means we´ll probably be pushing Mirian´s baptism back to November.

Ivana is still looking good for her baptism. We went through the baptismal interview questions with her the other day and she was able to answer everything. The only problem is that she has a problem with praying in front of people, which she will be asked to do when she is interviewed for baptism for real.

The Guzman family (Ivana´s mom and her old sister) had us over for lunch this week. We sat down waiting to get everything started and in the center of the table was the meal. I could tell there was chicken in there, but there was something that I thought was diced up potato, but I wasn´t sure (it was all mixed together in on a big skillet). We started to eat and Maria, the older sister, started explaining what the little potato looking things were. I had already eaten some and though it tasted really familiar, but as she explained it turns out that it was spaetzla, just a different shape and a different sauce.

os amo,
Elder Burt
P.S. Elder Clark has requested Flake bars.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Teaching Walter about Jesus

Querido Familia,
It was raining really bad today and we had to walk through it to get our groceries this morning. I took a couple pictures, but I forgot to bring my SD card to the cebaro. It's was really bad during the storm, turning the streets into rivers in no time.

The cebaro is the place where we do our emails here. It's really just a large room with rows of computers that you can use for ten pesos an hour. All the computers have tons of games on them and headsets that you can use, so there are lots of kids that come through to play games here.

We've been working a lot with Mirian and Diego this last week, almost every day, in order to get them married. Mirian does really well with all the reading assignments we give her to do between visits and she writes all the scriptures down that we read during lessons that she really likes.

At the end of last week, we got them all the papers they need in order to get married and set up their appointments to get everything taken care of.

One day while we were teaching them, this women walks into their house (who is the mom of one of their friends who was also present) and starts to throw things off track a bit. We gave their three year old son, Walter, a pass along card with a picture of the Savior on it and she came in and took it from him and then lectured us for five minutes for giving it to him, She said that little kids shouldn't have pictures of Jesus because they don't understand who He is and that little kids will just disrespect him by having it (She is Evangelist). Halfway through her speech, Elder Clark just said, "Well, we better teach Walter who Jesus is then." Then we sat there while she talked and then when she was done, we just continued the lesson like she didn't say anything. A few minutes later she apologized for what she said and then left.

Elder Clark was sick for a day, so I spent half of the day with Elder Garcia and the other half of the day with Elder Sparks and we rotated on who stayed home with Elder Clark. So Elder Garcia accompanied me to go teach Mirian and Diego and Elder Sparks went with me to teach Ivana Guzman.

The next time Elder Clark and I went to teach Diego and Mirian, Diego told us that he really likes Elder Garcia's Mexican accent and that he doesn't like the way Elder Clark and I sound when we talk.

The most recent visit we had with Mirian, she said that she felt like everything was getting rushed and wasn't sure if she was ready. Undoubtedly, the Evangelist lady has been talking to her about our church (The Evangelists preach anti-Mormon). So tonight we're going to teach her the Restoration of the Gospel again to make sure she understands that this is the only true church and that no other church will give her that eternal family that she wants. We're hoping that that Evangelist lady isn't there, but if she is we can easily show her (if she tries to argue or cause contention), using the Bible, that her church, and every other church, isn't true; ideally that won't be necessary.

So when Elder Clark got sick last week, he stood up from our table during our studies and just laid down on the floor and said that he didn't feel good at all. A few minutes later he decided that it was pretty serious pain, so Elder Sparks, the zone leader, took him to the hospital to get him checked out. They think it's something with his kidneys, but he goes in again tomorrow to get his analysis done. He's been doing well though since that day.

Ivana is kind of difficult to work with because of her childish attitude, bur her mom is great. She brings her to church every week and they went to conference together. Ivana also can't read, but that might be in our favor because her mom will always make sure that she does the assignments that we leave her because she reads them to her. Sister Guzman (Ivana's mom) runs a kiosco and usually sends us off with some candy and an alfajor or a drink. She has kind of a sarcastic and joking attitude, so we decided to get her a present to thank her for her kindness. We were going through the store tyring to find something we could give her when we found it. High School Musical place mats for her table featuring Troy. We havn't been back since we gave them to her, so we´re not sure if she is actually using them.

Everything is going well though. Right now we're looking to have about two or three baptisms this month on the twenty-seventh. There's also two more kids who can get baptized, but not until their mom gives them permission (they go to church with their grandma, but her mom isn't a member). So we could have four baptisms this month.

os amo,
Elder Burt


We have an oven in our apartment with two burners, but the oven has a problem with the dial that makes it turn off unless you hold the dial in place, so we don't ever use it.
Also, candy corn pumpkins sound really good and they don't exist down here.

Whenever the next time you send something is, make sure to include a copy of my patiarchal blessing.