Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cut your hair super short

Querida familia,                     24 de Diciembre 2013

So this Monday we went looking from Omar because we had heard that he came back early from working in the fields, but we had some troubles getting a hold of him. We got to his house, but when we walked up to gate, his mom walked in the house at the same time and wouldn't come outside to talk to us. We clapped (even though she knew we were there) and still wouldn't come out. She then started sending little kids out to see if we were still there and she even sent a little girl out to say, "my mom isn't home." I told her that I just saw her mom walk inside and that we just wanted to talk for two minutes. She still wouldn't come out. The ridiculous thing about the situation is that we could see Omar sleeping and we considered just being loud enough to wake him up and get his attention, but it seemed inappropriate. A little bit later, a little boy of three years walked out and we told him, "hey, can you wake Omar up for us?" The boy looked inside the house and then responded to us, "my mom won't me." So we actually didn't get to see Omar this week with everything that has been going on.

Tuesday night, however, we got the call telling Elder Miramontes and I that we would no longer be together. Elder Miramontes was sent to another city called Goya and I was told that I would be training two new missionaries; Qui-Gon can't take on two apprentices, but I sure can.

So we left at three in the morning that same night to go to Resistencia. While I was there I only got my first of the companions, but he is Elder Diaz from Iquitos, Peru. 

It was funny because in the mission office, President Heyamn was making everyone cut their hair to be super short and when he told me I had to cut my hair I tried to convince him to let me cut it myself the next day. I told him that I have my way of cutting to conserve my style and he told me, "your style is representative of Jesus Christ." The next day I talked with President Heyman by phone and asked how the hair was because he "was worried that it had messed up my style."

I'm really short on time, but we'll be talking tomorrow.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lootings, pillage and plundering

Querida familia,                       16 de diciembre 2013

So I need to explain what has been happening in Resistencia in order for the following to make more sense. In Resistencia, the capital capital city of Chaco (the province where I'm located), the police have been on strike and as a result people have been looting stores and committing all manner of crimes. So, in order for our own protection, President Heyman has changed our schedule so that we our in our apartment well before it gets dark. As of yet, absolute nothing has happened here in Campo Largo where I am, but in the surrounding cities there have been lootings and even deaths (but only in Resistencia).

One of the sisters in the branch told us that this whole thing had been planned by the police so that the lootings would happen; they didn't just want a pay raise. Now the police that are in the streets are only working and protecting people who pay them a fee to protect their store. And it just so happens that I was reading about the secret combinations among the Jaredites the same day that we heard about this. 

So what happened is on Monday morning, our zone leaders called us to tell us what was happening and then said that we had to be back in the apartment before dark (which is about 7:30-8:00 at night).

We waited to see what was going to happen and we didn't hear anything that sounded like riots or chaos. I talked with Elder Humphries in a nearby city, Villa Angela, and he said that there were lootings happening and people were breaking and entering into stores there.

I guess that things had gotten worse the next morning because we were once again called by the zone leaders early in the morning, but this time we were told that we were not allowed to leave the apartment the whole day due to what was happening. I told our zone leader that I wasn't afraid, but he said that I still had to stay inside anyway. So we passed the day writing letters and cleaning the apartment.

The next day on Wednesday, the leaders once again called us to let us know that until Sunday we would be required to be in the apartment at seven. So we've been passing the days barely getting to meet with the people and having very few lessons this last week. However, we have done a great deal (Last night we were told that this schedule of returning to the apartment at seven every night would continue for the next week as well).

So in our search for the new branch president, we've had some ups and some downs. First of all, Luis, the twenty-three year old Elder, was offended in church last week because one of the sisters in the branch said that the Priesthood holders were cowards for not fulfilling with Priesthood duties, and as a result he didn't come to church yesterday. When we talked with him last Monday, he said that he "can't serve such false people." I understand; he doesn't want to submit himself to the service of people who don't support him. However, he, just as much as that sister, are in the wrong and both need to make changes. We told him that he needs to talk with her about why he is offended and resolve the issue, otherwise there will always be discontentment and anger in his heart. 

We did, however, have a good  visit with Epifanio Machado. He used to be the branch president years ago, but has since been less active in the church. We shared some scriptures with him about foreordaination and the Priesthood covenant and gave him the invitation to prepare himself. In response he said, "Maybe God is calling me once again... the last calling." Yes, God is calling. And rather loudly at the moment. Epifanio, unfortunately, didn't make it to church yesterday, but we don't know why. His work requires him to work through the night for some thirty-seven hours straight (he makes bricks), so we're guessing that that is what happened.

This week we also had a couple of activities with the branch. First, we invited everyone to come and listen to the Christmas Devotional from the first presidency and to wrap copies of the Book of Mormon as gifts while they watched and listened. The message was, "Salvation is the greatest of all God's gifts, so the greatest gift that we can give is the Gospel that makes Salvation possible." It was cool because there were three kids who came with their member friends that each took a Book of Mormon home to share with their families. 

The next morning on Saturday, we did some serious weeding in the back yard of the church. As you can see in the pictures, it hasn't been done in a while, so we got organized and got all those plants pulled and stacked. After we had finished, we bought chorizo and bread to make sandwiches and everyone got to eat some lunch.



We also have a new family that we're teaching. The mom's name is Sandra and the dad is Diego. They have two kids: a twelve year old daughter name Milagros (Miracles) and a ten year old son named José María (Joseph Mary).

So Sandra is the daughter of a member that we met the other week actually, but we had only one lesson with her. This last week, we've taught her a couple of times and her husband once (we haven't been able to talk to him more because he is only home at night and we've been shut in). But Sandra and Milagros both came to church yesterday and they (at least Sandra) liked it a lot. So now she is going to get her husband to come next week. 

The incredible thing that happened with her is the dream that she had. Her dream was divided into two parts: a sad and ugly part, and a happy and joyful part. In the good part of the dream, she saw her mom, family, and friends living in a nice community and everyone was happy and had everything that they needed. After walking around, she walked into a large house and entered into an empty room. From the other side of the room, she said, my companion and I walked in. she said that I then asked her, "Is this the life that you want, or do you want this? She then woke up (in her dream) in a hospital bed. She got up to walk around, but wasn't allowed to leave. Everywhere in the hospital she just saw all the people she cared about sick in bed and in worse condition than she was. Suddenly she was in that room again with us. I again asked her, "which life do you want?"

I can only imagine that the interpretation of the dream would have to do with her decision to accept the Gospel and live with her family and friends forever, or to reject it and live a life that isn't in the least bit desirable. So far, she is making good decisions to get the life from the good part of the dream. 

os amo,
Elder Burt

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Finding a Branch President

Querida familia,                       9 de Diciembre 2013

So this week President Heyman called to give me news and a somewhat new assignment. On Thursday afternoon he called to told me that we have until the twenty-eighth of January to find a local member who can be the branch president or else they're going to close the branch and take the missionaries out of the city. That doesn't mean that we have to have someone set apart by that date, but it does mean that we have to have someone who is willing and available to accept the calling and is preparing them self to become the branch president. On top of this search, President Heyman said that he would be taking action according to my recommendation.

So we've been on the search, looking for all the Priesthood holders in the city, telling them what the situation is, inviting them to come back to church and inviting them to prepare themselves to become the future leaders of the Church here in Campo Largo. It sounds so easy, but it's turning out to be much more difficult than expected; sometimes we just can't find the people when they're home and sometimes other people get in thew way of us talking to the Priesthood holders.

So far we've been able to talk with and invite to Melchizedek Priesthood holders and talk to them about what is happening: Luis Perez and Elias Cardozo. With each of them we had very different experiences.

We first talked with Luis Perez. We eat lunch with him every Thursday and he's twenty-three years old and a really cool guy, but he's been pretty wayward for the last year. However, we've been working with him and he's come to church for two weeks in a row (a new record since who knows how long).

Well on Thursday night, after receiving the news, he was the first one that we talked to about being a leader. We shared a couple of scriptures with him and talked to him about his duties as a Priesthood holder. At the end we shared this scripture:

And now my beloved brethren, I have said these things unto you that I might awaken you to a sense of your duty to God, that ye may walk blameless before him, that ye may walk after the holy order of God, after which ye have been received. (Alma 7:22)

He accepted the call to prepare himself; to give up the things that he shouldn't be doing. He said that he always knew that this day would come because it's written in his patriarchal blessing. His motivation to change is definitely the members, because he said that he was going to do it for the branch and not for himself.

When we met with Elias it was a less successful meeting. We went accompanied by Sister Duarte, one of the sisters from the branch who teaches seminary and young women's class. There in the conversation present was also his wife Martha. Elias was previously the branch president, but was released from the calling years before (not for reasons of unworthiness though). However, he is now much older and has trouble hearing and isn't up to traveling around to go to meetings.

Really we were just hoping that he could be a counselor to help whoever would end up as branch president because he already has experience, but his wife already said that she didn't want him to be branch president again and that she wouldn't support the idea. So that puts us in a tough situation because he was supposed to be our fail-safe. 

As far as the rest of the members are concerned, we've been letting them know what's happening one family at a time; we figured it was better that way than announcing it in sacrament meeting. So not everyone knows yet, but we're gathering everyone who already knows to help in the search. As we tell the members, however, they've all had different reactions. One of the young women cried and walked away, one of the sisters said that we should just shoot all the men who don't want to come back to church, some are more realistic and say, "well that's obviously what's going to happen if no one wants to work.

I'm going to finish this week with a short story:
We went to go visit a less active family (the father could be a potential leader as well) and when we talked with the mom we set an appointment to go back the next day. So we went back the next day at the designated time and knocked on the door. We waited for a bit and then some woman who we don't know stuck her head out the window and told us that the family wasn't home. She then proceeded to leave the house by putting a chair outside, stepping out through the window, and then putting the chair back in the house through the window. Now we knew that there were other people in the house and they were just avoiding us, but I wanted to stop the woman and say to her, "So you're telling me that there is no one home and you're here leaving the house out the window. What are you doing, robbing the place?"

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, December 2, 2013

The release date!!!!

Querida familia,                          2 de Diciembre 2013
There is a member named Carmen who has been a member for of the Church for about twenty-five years and is now about sixty years old. She is really active and always wants to help, but her thirty year old daughter, Veronica, has been inactive for a while now. 

So this week we've been working with Veronica, having short visits here and there, to help her come back to church. It was funny though because when we sat down to have our main lesson with her that was a little bit longer he mom was whispering to me suggestions of what to share with Veronica. She was saying things like, "Elder, drop the cane on her... something really strong." (the phrase "drop the cane" means something like "tell them how it is without restraint")

So we had a pretty good conversation with them both, but towards the end Veronica started trying to "find the line" or in other words, she wanted to know to what extent a person could do certain things and still be ok. So we talked about how repentance isn't true if a person has intentions to return to their old ways and that we can't just repent and sin and repent and sin. To make the point, I shared Revelations 3:15-16 which in Spanish is worded a little bit differently, but says, "I would that ye were hot or cold, but because thou art luke warm I will vomit thee from my mouth." She actually really liked that scripture and then decided that she would begin her repentance after all the Christmas parties. Well, that just wasn't a good enough goal, so I then shared Alma 34:32-36 which says that we can not procrastinate the day of our repentance.

Veronica didn't come to church yesterday, but she is starting to get back into the habit of reading and praying daily. In other words, progress.
So on Wednesday I received some papers regarding my travel plans that I need to fill out and send to the mission. For now, my scheduled release is planned for the 22 of April, which falls on a Tuesday. I'm pretty sure that date is going to change because I'll be leaving the mission field a week before then because on the Thursday before I have my exit interview with President Heyman and then the temple trip to Buenos Aires and I can't imagine that we will be in Buenos Aires for more than a day. I'm guessing that I will be home on Sunday or Monday, rather than Tuesday.
On Monday Omar and Martha were going to go in to do their blood analysis, but it was a federal holiday, so apparently the hospital was closed. So they said that on Tuesday morning they would go in to do it. Well on Wednesday afternoon, we went looking for them to see how things went and they were no where to be found; not in their house nor in the Martha's mom's house. It wasn't until the next day that we found Martha again and she told us what had happened. 
It turns out that there had been an argument between them and thy had since separated; Omar going back to live with his mom. The argument was that Martha doesn't like it when they go to visit his mom because all of Omar's brothers smoke and drink and then encourage him to do the same. So Omar took it hard and basically walked away feeling like he was being told that he wasn't allowed to see his mom. Obviously other things occurred and the argument escalated until it had gone way beyond what was ever necessary, but that was how it started.

So later the next day when we finally found Omar, we came across a sad sight as we saw him sitting in a big circle with other people, smoking and drinking. He stepped away from the group to talk with us and of course the rest of the crowd tried to discourage him from talking to us, but we had a pretty serious conversation. We talked about what he is going to not only do about his baptism, but his whole life; if he really was content to just go back to drinking, smoking, and generally not doing anything productive or meaningful. He said that he wasn't sure about getting back together with Martha, but we told them that even if they don't get married that he still has an obligation to be better than the person he was in that moment; I told him, and he also knew it, that he looked physically different from before from just a few days of drinking and smoking. The question to make him think was this: are you really happier now with these "friends" than you were a week ago when you were reading the scriptures, praying, and spending time with your family?

He said that he might go to work in the mountains for three weeks and while he's there he will think and ponder about what he wants to do. We're just hoping that he will make good decisions; not just for the short term, but rather for the eternities.

Through all of this, Martha has become rather downcast and sad because of the events that transpired; she didn't even come to church yesterday. We've been trying to cheer her up and encouraging her to keep reading and praying, but she still needs more time. Some members are going to be passing by her to offer their friendship and help too.

Sunday went well though. We had a good group of less active members come back to church for the first time in a while that we've been visiting, so that was nice to see them there. We also got some pretty good activities planned for the coming weeks to help the members share the Gospel with their non-member friends and family.

os amo,
Elder Burt



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Blood money

Querida familia,                  26 de Noviembre 2013

We had a pretty solid week of finding new people to teach as well as having some great progress with one of the people whom we´ve recently found.

It all  started on MOnday night when we had an appointment to visit with a member, Nelly Lezama, who was going to invite her non-member sister to come and visit with us. When we to to the appointment, however, the sister wasn't there and wasn't able to make it. There was present, however, a friend of Nelly's named Monica Garrido. Nelly invited her to come into the room and talk with us and as we got to know each other and answer her questions about the church we ended up having a great conversation. 

At first, she was kind of closed, so we asked her about her family, work, and day to day life as well as answer the questions she had about the church. With a little bit more time, she told us that she had actually been searching for the right church for years and has studied with many different religions. As she began to trust more in us, so began to tell us us more until we finally got to the thing that really bothered her: she felt like God just didn't answer her prayers. 

So we talked about prayer and how it is that our  Heavenly Father answers and listens to our prayers. We taught her how to recognize an answer from God how the Spirit talks to us. We shared some scriptures and some experiences and then towards the end of our conversation she said, "I feel like God spoke to me through that verse." 

We haven't been able to see her since last Monday because she lives so far away, but we're just waiting for the opportunity to visit with her again.

We had a district conference (like a stake conference) this weekend in a nearby city called Saenz Peña. In order to help the members attend the meetings, I sent a letter to the super intendent of the state asking him to provide us with a small bus in order to transport the members from Campo Largo to Saenz Peña. 

Now this wasn't some crazy idea that I had come up with, it was actually a very plausible and good idea. Here in Argentina, the politicians always do favors for the people so that the people will re-elect them the next election.

So I sent the letter in and then two days later I went in to his office to check for the answer that our letter received. We were then told that he would have been given the bus to us, but the problem was that it was broken down in another city that wasn't even close. The super intendent's secretary asked if we wanted it for the next week, but that didn't really help us as much.

So the majority of the members went to the conference in train and some took a travel bus- We had to be to the conference a day early because I had to be in the session for Priesthood leaders with the other branch presidents in the district. 

So we had that session for leaders in the Priesthood and then a session for adults later that night. The next morning on Sunday we had the general session. It was pretty crazy to see that many people gathered together in a church, but it was before the session while talking to some other American missionaries that we realized we have more people come to our regular Sunday meetings every week in every ward back in the States. We are all just so used to seeing only thirty people at  church every Sunday that when two-hundred showed up it was incredible.

The conference was really fun though because we got to stay with a bunch of other missionaries, including one of my previous companions Elder Humphries. On Saturday night, we had ten missionaries sleeping in one apartment and we had borrowed mattresses from nearby members so that everyone could sleep relatively comfortably.

I don't think that I mentioned last week, but we found a girl and her sisters who had previously been taught by the missionaries. Their names are: Deborah, Ivana, and Rocio. We only have taught all three of them once and that was the very first lesson, but since them we've taught Rocio a couple of times. 

Initially, they we are very hesitant to accept a baptismal date, but when we had our second lesson with Rocio some things had changed. I asked her if she had prayed about the things hat we shared with her since our first visit, in which we taught about faith, repentance and baptism, and she said that she had prayed the night before. She then described how she felt after praying and she had indeed felt the Spirit. When asked how she feels about baptism she said, I'm getting more desires to baptize me."

So we proceeded to teach her about the Church and the prophet Joseph. At the end of the lesson we invited her to pray to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet and if he, in reality, restored the original Church of Jesus Christ. Two days later we went by to see how she was and to teach a little bit more. I asked about her prayer; if she had done it and how she felt. Of her experience she said, "it was as if God gave me a sign." She knows without a doubt that Joseph Smith is a  prophet and that he was the chosen servant to restore the Church.

Unbelievably, but somehow not surprisingly, we've hit even more obstacles in the marriage of Omar and Martha. 

On Monday, Martha went to the court house in the other city, Las Breñas, and was able to get all of the documents and updates that she need. So that was really great, but the next step proved to be a new challenge. They need to get a blood analysis before they can get married, but it would appear that the doctors and hospital are corrupt. A blood analysis is a free service provided by the government, but when Martha and Omar went to submit their papers, they were told that they needed to pay an additional hundred pesos or otherwise there could be "complications." 

So I talked to President Heyman about what had happened and he said that we shouldn't pay the money. So we'll just turn in the papers and see what happens. I can't imagine that the staff would just refuse to do their job since we didn't pay their blood money (that pun was intended).

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, November 18, 2013

Building a house and clearing the ground

Querida familia,                                                      18 de Noviembre 2013
In our efforts to make the marriage of Omar and Marta a reality, we've hit some obstacles. On Monday we tried sending her documents that need to be updated to the city where her records are and the Elders who are there received them. So they took the documents to the court house and while they were there they received some disappointing news: there are no existing records of Marta in the court house. But they noticed that on her birth certificate that she was actually born in another city, so they called to the court house there to ask for information about Marta and they answer that they gave was, "we don't have anything about her." So it was quite the dilemma and we came to the conclusion that there are errors either in their records or in the documents that Marta has (both of which are very possible options).

So in order to remedy the situation, Marta personally went this morning with all of the personal documents that she has in order to see what can be done and if they can maybe find some correlation among her documents that will lead to finding her original records.

Last week on Monday night, we watched the movie, "The Testaments," with Omar, Marta, Rosa (Marta's mom), and Yanina (Marta's eleven year old sister). It's about a family living in Ancient America waiting for the coming of Christ. At the end of the movie, the father, who has been faithfully waiting for Christ's coming his entire life, is blind and can't see Christ when he finally does come, but the Savior heals him during a sad moment. So after the movie I asked if anyone cried and everyone said, "yes."

Later on, I gave Omar and Marta some scripture marking pens to highlight the verses that they like and Omar immediately started turning to the things that he's already read to mark them. They've learned so much and are just waiting to get baptized, but the government of their country just isn't very efficient at getting things done.

We also met Marta's dad on Saturday night. He is rarely ever around because he basically lives in the fields where he works; he goes there for fifteen days and comes back for a weekend and then goes back to work in the fields. The only trouble with him is that he spends all his time drinking and doesn't want to learn anything from us. He started off by asking us how old we were and then told us that he is seventy-two years old and because he is so much older than us, there is nothing that we could possibly teach him or do to help him. He did, however, invite us to the party, but just as friends (there was no party, he was just drunk). He then bid us farewell with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

We've also been trying to help a bunch of kids get baptized and their parents reactivated. Right now, there are five kids, ages eight to nine, who are all related and wanting to be baptized. So we've set the goal with them that they can all be baptized together on the same day. We're just going to need to find a lot more white clothes for kids than what we curently have.

We're about to get really busy though with things pertaining to the branch. The tithing settlements have started, so now I have to interview every single member that we can find, show them their tithing records that are recorded on the church's records, and decide if they're paying a full tithe. I got started on it yesterday, but there is still a ton to do (there's two hundred members in the branch).

We also have the district conference this weekend, so I wrote a letter to the superintendant of the state asking him to provide a small bus so all the members can travel to the next city where the conference will be held. That way, the members won't have to pay and we won't have to worry about everyone not being able to make it because of a lack of available seats on the commercial buses.

We're also trying to get everyone ready to go to the temple next month; getting interviews for recommends, making travel plans, and setting appointments.

So the pictures I sent are of the service project that we did on Saturday morning. One of the members is building a house, so we helped him with some heavy lifting and preparing the land. I was put to work cutting down the weeds and clearing out the grass of where the floor was to be put in which is actually a lot harder than it looks; it is, however, as inefficient as it looks. 

Afterwards we had some trees to get rid of. There was two of them, so we each cut one down and then dug up the root. I was actually surprised that the machete was able to cut down a tree. 

I have a video of my cutting and hacking (which I can't send) in which I finish off the tree with a solid kick. Unfortunately, the tree nearly fell on the neighbor's fence, but luckily it didn't.


 Afterwards I was left with a missing chunk of skin from the handle of the machete.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Looking for a reason in Campo Largo

Querida familia,                       11 de Noviembre 2013

This week we had transfers and... we continue without any changes. Tuesday night, Elder Marilaf called us and asked, "so do you know who is going and who stays?" I just told him that neither one of us would be leaving and suprised he said, "who told you?" No one had told us, I just knew. So Elder Miramontes and I are going to be together until the fifteenth of December, if not maybe a little longer.

So we were in a member's house,waiting for them to get ready to go out to do visits with us, when a man walked out of the house who is a friend of their dad. I greeted him by saying, "hello brother, how are you?" and we shook hands, but he answered me back and said, "I'm not your brother." "Actually to the contrary, we are all children of God." The members just said that we "don't have to talk to him."

This week we've been really focused on Omar and Marta; we're hoping to get the marriage done this week and maybe the baptism as well. But once they're baptized we won't be needing to teach them so often, so we have been working with them to help them invite their friends and family to participate in the Gospel and the Church.

On Tuesday evening, we talked with Marta and Rosa, the mom of Marta, about missionary work and sharing the Gospel with everyone else. Marta had the idea that we start teaching Omar's sister and mom. So we talked about how they want to approach them and what things they want to share with them; Marta specifically asked for pamphlets of the Family Proclamation because she and Omar like it so much.

Hugo and Belqui have also been in missionary mode, but more so Belquis. But a few weeks ago we gave Belquis some pass along cards that have the Articles of Faith and she gave them out to some friends and family and then asked us for more because there were more people that were asking about the Church. So we might be starting to teach some brothers of Belquis here soon; we have planned to show a movie in their house this Wednesday and they are going to invite some  people to come see it and also to meet us.

It was actually really funny what happened the other day because apparently the culture here is that if someone says that they liked the movie that you watched with them, then you are supposed to let them borrow it. So Belquis said that Hugo was upset because we watched the Joseph Smith movie and didn't leave it with them to borrow it and watch it again. But even if he didn't get to see it again, at least he liked it and now we know for the next time.

The weddings have been an interesting thing though. We need a more updated birth certificate from Marta so that we can get their papers ready for the marriage, but we have to get it from another city. So this morning we sent the necesarry documents to Las Breñas where two other Elders recieved the papers and took them to the court house for us; tomorrow when we go there, they're going to give us the papers that they received so that we can bring them back with us to Campo largo and make this wedding happen.

This last Thursday we got some service hours in a brick making place. There is a member named Epifanio who makes and sells bricks for a living and we helped him with the processes of carrying the bricks and loading them into the oven to burn them (so that they become hard and durable). We didn't do everything that he had ready to go into the oven, but he said that we had loaded up about 2,850 bricks (the oven holds about 14,000).


This week went by so quickly that everything just kind of blurred together and I can't really remember what we did and when we did it. We've been trying to find lots of new people to teach, but it's been difficult; sometimes we make jokes that every righteous person has already been found or we compare Campo Largo to Sodom and Gomora in the sense that we can't find any more righteous people than are already with us. But I know that there's a reason that we're here, even if it's only to help the branch grow and continue; without us, the branch would most likely close. That would be really sad too because there are some really strong and faithful members; one of the young women said that she was going to be moving to another province called Entre Rios in a city called Chajari and she asked us to ind where the chapel was so that she could attend the meetings. Well we looked it up and the closest chapel is eighty kilometers away (there's one in Argentina and another in Uruguay).

os amo,
Elder Burt

Pictures of district meeting

4 de Noviembre 2013
 Elder Humphries, Me, Elder Sacalxot, Elder Miramonts (two previous companions and my current companion are all in the same zone now)


 We had what might have been our last district meeting together last week, so I said that everyone should bring jerseys to wear for the picture

 We both wore our Argentine gear to the activity on Saturday


Pizza for Mother's Day

Querida familia,                                        5 de Noviembre 2013

So we've been working with this girl named Gisel who is twenty-five years old whose mom was baptized just a few months ago and her grandpa a few years ago. Well in order to help her feel more comfortable in the church and to know more members besides her mom, we started asking the young women to accompany us in our visits to go and teach Gisel. So far it has been really great; the one lesson that we've had with her with another member was great and Monica was a big help. So for the next lesson we asked Monica's sister, Abigail, to come with us and she said that she would be happy to come. So then we told her that we would be teaching the law of chastity and the next thing she said was, "actually I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it; maybe Monica could go with you." She was totally joking, but the next day she did send us a message saying that she wouldn't be able to make it.

The lesson with Gisel went well anyway. We explained why it is that she can't live with her boyfriend if she is going to be baptized on how living the law of chastity will prepare her for marriage and will allow her to also marry in the temple after a year of being a member. She seems like she really wants to be baptized based on the questions that she asks us. She had a concern that maybe her boyfriend would brake up with her if she told him that she wanted to live separate, so we told her that if that's the case then maybe he isn't the guy for her. She didn't like the idea to much at first, but as she thought about it become more and more clear that it was actually a good idea.

That was the last time that we were able to talk to Gisel however, so it's been almost a week since we've seen her. We're going to be going over on Thursday to keep teaching and see how she is progressing.

As far as Omar and Marta are concerned, they've been doing really well. We taught them about the temples and the work that we do there. They both really want to go so that they can be sealed, but Marta especially wants to go because she has a brother that died young and she wants to be baptized for him. Omar asked if he could baptized Javier, his one year old son, in the temple when is eight years old, but we explained that the baptisms that we do there are only for the dead, but that when Javier is twelve then they can go and do baptisms for the dead together.

On Thursday, Marta and Omar had their baptismal interview with Elder Marilaf and they did really well. There was only one problem, Omar has been having more trouble giving up smoking and had smoked one cigarette on Wednesday night. So on Saturday afternoon we talked to Omar about quiting smoking, but it wasn't the usual fun and happy conversation that we usually, but was rather serious. We talked about how his smoking hurts him physically and spiritually, but more than affecting him it also damages the people around him in the same way: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. During our conversation, Marta began to cry and started telling us how she was had arrived at the point of leaving from the relationship because Omar was such a different person after having smoked; that he was short tempered and angry and would yell at everyone, including their one year old, Javier. So the real hard part about trying to teach and be supportive at the same time was making sure that Marta felt comforted and had hope while at the same time supporting and encouraging Omar to be better without making him feel horrible. A seemingly impossible task, but we did it. The key was what Elder Holland taught, "he was charitable with both his sons and his expressions of love towards one did not require a withdrawal of love for the other."  

So we made plans with Omar; we talked about his weaknesses and what caused him to fall. Then, we made plans on what he is going to do, where he is going to go, and who he is going to be with so that he can avoid and protect himself from that evil at all times. As part of the plan, Omar has new employment and has already started working there in order to avoid the people who had previously invited him to do things that he didn't have to do.

The next Sunday Omar and Marta both came to church and stayed for the classes for the first time. So we got them the books that they needed and helped them get to where they needed to be and they really enjoyed it. Javier even went to the primary, even though he doesn't have the age to be there. He didn't cause problems though, but rather just played and colored.

With Hugo and Belquis things have been interesting, but not bad. Well, kind of bad, but not because of them. The letter that we sent about a month ago to request the forms we needed for Hugo to get married was returned to us because it never actually arrived at it's destination. So now we're not really sure what's going to happen. They people in the courthouse said that we should just deliver it personally, but that's kind of impossible for us to do and very difficult for anyone else to do it. We're looking at our options to see what we can possibly do.

Other than that, we've been teaching them things outside of the normal lessons because we've already taught them everything that they need to learn from missionaries. So we taught them about family home evening and the purpose that it carries. We also gave them a huge book called "the Manual of Suggestions For Family Home Evening." It looks like a book that the Church put out thirty years ago, but nevertheless it should be helpful for them to start teaching their kids the Gospel.

On Wednesday night, while Elder Marilaf was with my companion doing the baptismal interviews, Elder Beach and I went to do some service for Hugo and Belquis. They have an oven made of bricks and glued together with mud that they wanted to move so that they could add a bathroom onto their house. So we took it apart brick by brick (so that it can be rebuilt in another location) and got rid of the extra dirt. Of that occasion, Elder Marilaf said,"I never thought I'd see that day that I'd see two Americans working physical labor." He thinks everyone just works indoors in the United States at a computer.

On Sunday night, as part of our continuation of teachings outside of the missionary lessons, we watched the movie "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" with Hugo, Belquis, Omar, and Marta. They all really liked it, but I think Omar payed the most attention; afterwards he said that the movie was very emotional for him.

On Saturday night, we had an activity in the Church for Mother's Day, which is in October here. It was simple enough, all the sisters wanted was basically a pizza party. So we got everything together and made and ended up with some sixteen pizzas and tons of sandwiches. The next day in church the youth and primary had pizza for a snack between classes and we had lunch for Sunday and Monday.
  
It was during this activity that one of the young women said that she wanted to have an interview the next day on Sunday. I really wasn't sure what she wanted to talk about, but the next day we met together in my office to talk. When we first sat down I asked her what was on her mind and she asked if we had a copy of the Liahona because she wanted to talk to me about an article that she had read. I figured that maybe she had a doctrinal question about something she had read and maybe didn't understand, but that wasn't the case. She opened up to an article entitled, "Confessing to lift burdens." She then began to tell me about something that had happened almost two years ago just after she had been baptized. So we talked about it and the efforts that she has made in order to correct her mistakes. On my part, I was so unsure of what I needed to say and fervently asked that the answer would come, but as we approached the end of our interview I was able to tell her that she had been forgiven for what had happened and that now it was required of her to continue in righteousness and sin no more. I felt like that was what I needed to tell her, but even as I started to say I was still unsure, but after I had told her the Spirit filled the room and there could be no doubt that her repentance was sincere and complete. Afterwards she said that she could feel a heavy burden that she didn't even realize that she was carrying be lifted away.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Who pays the power bill?

Querida familia,                  30 de Octubre 2013

We've been having some interesting problems this week with our land lady that all started on Monday. Just a few hours after waking up, the power in our apartment went out, but we thought nothing of it because the power always goes out in Argentina. So we carried on with our day and saw that other places also had lost power and so we figured that it was nothing more than a city wide issue. Well when we returned later that night there still wasn't power, but everywhere else had lights; including the land lady whose apartment is ten feet from ours.

So the next morning we went to talk with our land lady and found out that she doesn't actually pay our electric bill, but rather we are the ones who need to pay for it. Well that was new information for us because no one had previously told us that. What's more, every single apartment that I've been in has the land lord pay the light bill and we just pay him the rent to cover the electricity. So we went and payed for the electric bill and got our lights back.

Well the next day on Wednesday, the land lady had sent an electrician to come and do maintenance on our air condicioner and he was supposed to come at a certain time, but never showed up. So we wasted time waiting for him. Then he showed up unexpectedly the next morning on Thursday during our studies and made it impossible for us to get any of our own work done. On top of that, he took three hours to do a twenty minute job that I could have done myself. On one point during the cleaning of the air condicioner, the land lady came to see how the progress was going and also to ask how much he was going to charge. Fifty pesos he told her.

Well once he was finished he told us that it was going to cost one hundred pesos; fifty for his labor and fifty for a part that he installed. So we told him to go tell the land lady that he needed to be paid, but he insisted that we were responsible for any repair in the apartment. So we made him give us a receipt of what he did and we took it to the land lady to get reimbursed. 

So we studied the contract of our apartment and found that she indeed does have to pay for maintenance of the apartment. So we gave her that receipt and asked her to reimburse us, but she told us that we had to pay any fees like that. So we told her that the contract says otherwise and she demanded to know where we had come up with an idea like that. So we showed her right where it says that she is responsible for repairs and maintenance  She knew she had to pay, but instead said, "How about this: we'll pay half and half."

Well half and half just didn't cut it when she has to pay in full, but to make it worse the next day she asked us, "why did you ask that electrician to come and do maintenance without authorizing it with me?" What an incredible lie she had concocted. She was now denying that she had even requested the maintenance and was not going to pay a single cent.

We were so bothered by the situation that we started looking for  a new apartment, but the problem is that the apartment we are in is nicer than any of the other apartments that we saw. So we decided to just be meek and accept the charge. If she loves money that much well she can keep it, but it won't serve her at all in the next life.

The strange thing that happened was that we just keep being nice to her and completely dropped the topic. We have since had our usual conversations with her and on Sunday afternoon she said that she feels like moving to Buenos Aires and that if she leaves she is, "leaving us in charge of the door because she has never had problems with us." In other words, she would leave the apartment to us or the mission.

We are pretty excited for Omar and Marta though. We taught Omar about the Priesthood and its functions. We explained that it's the power that we used to give him and his son a blessing, and that it's the same power that we will use to baptize him and his family, and it's the same power that Jesus Christ Himself used to work miracles among the people. After teaching and explaining to him how the Priesthood holder only has power based upon his own personal righteousness and obedience, we invited Omar to receive the Priesthood after being baptized. Without hesitating he said that he would like to receive it and even asked if he would be able to baptize his family (his brothers, sisters, and parents) after receiving the Aaronic Priesthood. We asked Marta is she could support Omar in his Priesthood duties and help him to stay clean and pure in order to always have Priesthood authority and Priesthood power.

On Friday night we did a baptismal interview practice con Marta and Omar in anticipation of the real interview that they'll be having this coming week. Omar's reaction to what we told him we would be doing was, "oh, is that when we have to confess our sins or something like that?" Somewhat jokingly, but somewhat seriously, I asked him "why, what did you do?" He quickly responded, "nothing, nothing.... it's just that one time I found a toy tricycle in the road and couldn't find the owner, so I brought it home and gave it to Javier." So we explained what the interview was, did the practice, and they both did just fine.

What was a really great story that Marta told us while Omar wasn't there was this: Omar is always trying to help his family out and trying to get them interested in the Church, but they're more interested in drinking and not really doing anything productive. His family has even started making fun of him and trying to tear him down for what he is doing. Omar has really come a long way in a short amount of time; he stopped drinking, smoking, works harder, is happier, and has a more positive and hopeful outlook on everything. But now his family is telling him that he will always be the same and that he is never going to be able to change. So he told them, "I'm going to be baptized, and I'm about to get married too."

While things have been great with Omar and Marta, we've been having some problems with Hugo and Belquis, but more specifically with Hugo. Hugo has been having some problems with giving up drinking, or a better saying would be, he's gone back to drinking. He hasn't been reading the scriptures nor has he been praying, but instead he comes home from work and goes out to hang out with his friends who invite him to drink during their get togethers. So on Monday night, just two days ago, we talked with Hugo about what's going on. At first, he was angry and didn't want to talk about it, but as we talked, shared scriptures, and expressed our concern he changed and became more and more open until he had made the resolve to stop drinking. The problem is really his friends, so we made a plan with him of what he can do instead of being with his "friends" (using the word loosely here). 

When we first suggested that he stop hanging out with those friends of his he asked, "what, do I just tell them I don't want to be around them anymore?" "Well no," we said, "but you can tell them that you won't be joining them for the night because you prefer to pass the evening with your family." He said that he only drinks with them when they invite him because he doesn't want to offend him, but we taught that he needs to be even quicker to not offend his Maker.

At the end of our conversation, we gave him a Priesthood blessing and Hugo was more fortified with a greater resolve to do what was expected of him. 

We've also been working with the twenty-five year old daughter of a recent convert named Gisel. Her mom was baptized just a few months ago and her grandpa was baptized about six years ago. She has a pretty good knowledge of what we teach since she has already heard basically everything over the years, but now she just needs to put a few things into practice.

She really does have desires to be baptized, but her issue is that she has been living with her boyfriend for the last five years and he doesn't really have much of a belief in God. It's not that he is against the Church, but rather is just somewhat closed off. Gisel says that he won't change anytime soon, but we told her that if she wants him to participate in the Church and be baptized then she has to invite him to church, pray, and read scriptures with him.

We also went to talk to a boy who comes to church, but doesn't show up in the records; his name is Mauro. We asked him if he had ever been baptized, because he already is eleven years old, and he said yes. So we asked him where he was baptized and he said, Buenos Aires. So we asked him how he was baptized and he said that the pastor put a little bit of water on his forehead. Well all of the sudden it made sense why he didn't show up in the Church's records. So we explained why he needed to be baptized again and how baptism is supposed to be done. His brother, who is a member and was actually baptized, said that the two of them would start coming to church together. When we asked them if they were going to invite their parents, who are also members, to come as well Mauro said, "Sunday is their only day off from work, so they stay home and rest."

os amo,
Elder Burt 

Apoyarle

There is a sister here in the branch whose daughter wandered away from the Gospel and moved out of the house and the mom was rather upset and distrught, thinking that she had failed because her daughter didn`t make the decisions that she had been taught to make. It wasn`t until she accepted that her daughter would always be the only one who could make her decisions and all that she could do as a mother was teach, instruct, and advise, then she was able to find peac knowing that she had done her part.

In his suffering and anguish after long months of being seperated from his family, the prophet Joseph cried out to God in prayer asking, "O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries? Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppresions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them? O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us."

In respons eot Joseph the Lord said, "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.

On an earlier occasion, the Lord reminded His servants of the sufferering that he endured in the garden by saying, "how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink."

In His divine love, the Savior has said to us and invited us, "I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer. Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. I am Jesus Christ."