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