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