Monday, February 25, 2013

I got my moldy fudge!

Querido familia,                   25 de Febrero 2013

Because of all the new missionaries that are going to flood the mission field, many missions have been divided and made smaller in order to have fifty-eight more missions worldwide. Our mission is one of them that is getting divided and will no longer be the Argentina Resistencia Mission. I don't quite remember how the line is going to be drawn, but one of the new missions being created will include a part of our current mission and either Uruguay or Paraguay. So whichever missionaries end up moving across the line will be serving in two countries.  

With these changes, we need more missionaries, but the problem is that the new missionaries didn't arrive from the MTC, so now they are temporarily closing some areas in the mission. One of the areas is ours, so both Elder Waldron and I will be leaving Reconquista and going somewhere else. For now, the Sisters are going to take our area in addition to their own. So Wednesday morning I'll be going to somewhere new, but won't know where until tomorrow night. The news about Elder Waldron and I leaving Reconquista without any new Elders coming to replace us was supposed to be a secret, but Elder Waldron told all the youth in the branch on Sunday and by the end of the day every member in the city knew.

We had an interesting morning though on Sunday. So we've been having these problems with leadership in the branch with our branch president and so President Heyman released the branch president and called Elder Brimhall, the senior missionary, to be the branch president. The only problem with that is that he won't have any counselors because the Elders are the counselors and now we're leaving. So Sunday morning we were preparing the program and who should walk into the chapel but none other than the former branch president, Luis Alegre, for the first time in three months. He came up to me and asked me, "Who is going to preside over the meeting: one of you two or me?" Apparently he still had no idea that he was released and we were going to sustain a new president that morning. So I told him that we need to talk about some things. He seemed to take the news pretty well; he may have even been a little relieved. Elder Brimhall, now President Brimhall, asked him if h would be the Elders Quorum president, but he said that for now he is not ready, but in two weeks.The change went over well though and we didn't have any problems. 

To help the Brimhalls be ready for us to leave and take care of the branch without us, we've been meeting with them and going around town with them showing them how to do things like pay the tithing money and get things into the computer to send to the Church. One time we met with them in their apartment and Sister Brimhall gave Elder Waldron and I cinnamon rolls that were really good (but not as good as yours obviously). But we're going to spend a good chunk of our day tomorrow in meetings with them to get the prepared for our departure.  But it will be a very easy way of leaving the area behind; being in meetings that will help the branch progress instead of out looking for new people to teach when we're going to leave anyway.

I'm a little worried that most of the people that we are teaching aren't going to be taught for a while, because the Sisters probably aren't going to be able to attend to the entirety of the area that we're leaving, but maybe that won't be too bad. Domingo and Lorenza were baptized four years after they stopped seeing the missionaries, so maybe a little ways down the road these families will meet the missionaries again and by then will already have desires to follow in the Church.

So all of everyone's packages came last week on Monday night. The package was super cool and we had a debate as to whether the presents belonged to Elder Clark because they have his name on them and he was my companion during Christmas or whether they should go to Elder Waldron because he is my current companion. In the end it was decided in favor of Elder Clark, but Elder Waldron shouldn't care too much because he is going home in six weeks and can buy all the toys that he wants. The fudge was still good and soft, but we could only eat half of it because it was growing a fluffy white mold on the surface.

Because today would be one of our final days together, we went out and bought a bunch of meat and had an asado on our balcony for lunch today. We just placed all the meats that we bought on top of a metal rack that sat above some burning carbon for an hour. 

On Friday night we had another activity for the branch. This time it was a little bit different because the majority of the time was spent on the spiritual part of the event. What we did was we had a ping pong table set up outside for people to play while everyone else was arriving and there were papers for kids to color and for the adults to write short letters to some of the less-active members of the branch. The main part of the activity was that we had six stations set up throughout the church where the members would rotate to in groups and learn about the station. The stations were things like, the Sacrament Table, the Baptismal Font, the Relief Society room, and so on. At each station, there was a puzzle piece that had the name and a picture of the station and once you went to each station you had six pieces, but needed seven to finish the puzzle. The seventh one came at the very end after a short talk from Sister Parker about the Sabbath Day.

I was in charge of the Sacrament, so what I did was bring a spool of red thread and a pair of scissors. I gave a short explanation of sin and how we are bound by sin. I then asked for a volunteer and had them put their hand together, and then tied one thread around their wrists. I explained how we aren't really free if we have sins, and then I asked the person to break the  thread. Obviously, it was very easy to break one thread, but I talked about how we have more than one sin. So, I rewrapped the person's wrists in ten threads and then asked if they thought they could break it. No one could break it. So from there I explained the Savior's role in breaking the bonds of sin so that we could be free. It's not something that we can do alone, but if we come to church and take the Sacrament we can be liberated.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, February 18, 2013

My sewing project

 I had a couple pairs of pants that needed some mending and these are the before and after pictures. Sewing sure takes a long time to do, but once I figured it out it went a lot faster.

And the members don't come to church...

Querido familia,

President and Sister Heyman are now back from the United States. Sister Heyman is doing incredibly well and doesn't even seem to have any side effects from her stroke or therapy; and she still manages to speak in Spanish with the missionaries.

This transfer though is a little different. Instead of the regular six week cycle, this one is five weeks, so we have transfers coming up next week. We really have no idea who is going to go and who is going to stay. We've been having some problems in our branch that will probably play a big part in what happens. For the last two months our branch president hasn't come to church because he has found that it is too difficult to get up in the morning when he has a hangover from Saturday night, so we've been running the branch without any help from him for a while now. We're thinking that a missionary will be called as the branch president next week after the transfers pass until President Heyman can figure something out. The problem we have is that we have four hundred members and only thirty in the chapel every week and the only worthy Priesthood holders are the Elders.

We were knocking on doors one morning when we saw a girl down the block who kept looking at us and then whenever we looked at her she would quickly turn away, so the obvious move was to go talk to her about the Gospel. It was a little bit different than the usual contacts we do because she was a seventeen year old girl who was more interested in the twenty year old men from the United States than the Gospel. Nevertheless, we shared with her a short message on the sidewalk and she was actually pretty interested and said that she didn't really like her church and wanted to see what else there is. Then we told her that would like to meet her parents and talk with them. She then informed us that they might not like that very much. Well, we got her address and then a few days later we found the house and talked with the mom. It turns out that they're Evangelist and are very firm in their beliefs. So we talked for a bit, gave her a Book of Mormon and she gave us a pamphlet. After reading their pamphlet it seems like they have a lot of things correct about the Gospel and are just lacking the authority. The dad is a pastor at their church, so it will be an inteersting discussion when we go back.

The Sisters have an interesting calling in this area because they are assigned to work mostly with the members and then spend a little less time on actually finding new people to teach, so they'll probably be trying to finish a lot of part member families in the branch. But as part of their calling to strengthen the branch they organized an activity last week that seemed a lot like what we do during our camping trips. The Sisters made a bunch of clues on slips of paper that had scriptures on them that would lead to the next clue. There were two teams and they both had to find their clues (they were in a different order) before the other team and find the treasure (The Book of Mormon) first. It all went really well, so they're going to have an activity every week now. [893 and 904]

So I don't know if anyone will remember because it has been so long, but a month ago we were teaching a girl named Anahi, but she never came to church (I guess the rest of her family didn't either and they're members) and she never could get baptized. Well, Sister Parker and Baker started teaching her again and finally got her to come to church, so last Saturday I was able to baptize Anahi. She had a bit of nerves and didn't want lot of people to be there, so it was just her family and the missionaries that came (including the senior missionaries). [928 - Anahi and her family and 929 - Everyone]

So Elder Sharapata and Elder Waldron were having their usual 'who is right' conversation the other, but the topic was a little different than usual. Elder Waldron insisted that it is inappropriate for parents to talk about their kids because it is pride and pride is an awful thing. So, Elder Sharapata's argument was more of a question really because he continued asking, "So are you not ever going to tell your kids that you're proud of them?" Well, to make a long story short, I ended the conversation by asking the inspired question, "What would have happened if God had never talked about His Son?" Cheers came from Elder Garcia and Sharapata and Elder Waldron went to brush his teeth,knowing that he was defeated, so that we could go to bed.

We'll see if I'm in some new location next week or in Reconquista, but until then.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, February 11, 2013

Spiders in the church

11 de Febrero 2013

Querido familia,      
Right now, there is a guy who is watching some Catholic propaganda or something like that next to me. He has the volume loud enough that everyone in the room can hear, but all it is is just a guy yelling things like, "I'm catholic! I'm catholic to the bones! The Bible is the word of God and nothing else!" We actually talked to a guy kind of like the one in the video my neighbor is watching right now. We were walking around looking out for people we could teach when we saw some brothers sitting outside with their dad. So we walked up to them and introduced ourselves and the dad went inside and brought some chairs out for us, but then he went back inside and didn't come out (he must not have wanted to talk to us). So we started talking with these four guys and we find out that they are three brothers and a friend who all play in the band at the evangelist church a couple blocks away. Well we started getting into a discussion about the Church and why there are so many churches in the world. Well at this, the dad came back outside and started telling us all about his church and how much he knows about the Bible. He then made the very common move in that he quoted a verse from the Bible that the Evangelists use in an effort to disprove the Book of Mormon. So I told him I knew exactly what verse he was talking about, told him about a similar verse the Old Testament, and then explained a couple things. I never told him he was wrong, but he got the point that he didn't really know what he was talking about. So he never gave us a chance to teach and his sons weren't really sure what to do in that situation as they watched their dad act like a zealot who was being corrected by two people their own age.

Earlier in the week, we sat down with a man and his three grandsons who were sitting down together outside. The guy's name is Antonio and he had some interesting things to say. He mostly just had questions about America and what missionaries do. He thought that the reason Americans serve missions is because it exempts them from the mandatory military service that the U.S. government requires from each citizen. Needless to say, we cleared a couple things up for him. He wasn't really to up to changing his church though, mostly because he didn't even go to his own. So we left them with a pamphlet about the Restoration and the invitation to read and pray and then decide if he wants to start coming to church. So, we passed by a couple days later and he hadn't read nor prayed, but his grandson, also named Antonio, read the pamphlet and told him about it. He had a couple questions about life after death, but he got uncomfortable once we started teaching him and so he said that, "I won't be going to your church." So again, we left him with the invitation to read and pray and then decide.

We spent one afternoon with the senior missionaries, Elder and Sister Brimhall from Mesa, Arizona. We already had everything planned so that they could meet some of the members in our ward. Obviously we had to take the bus to our area because they wouldn't be able to walk that far, but we had never used the bus before and had no idea what to expect. Nothing went wrong with our trip, but the driver basically drives two routes, so it took an hour to get there by bus. We were also concerned about what would happen if they missed the last bus out of our area (we walked back because we had more people to visit once the senior missionaries left) because the buses just come and go as they please basically. The bus came ten minutes late, but we were there ten minutes early, so we didn't have any issues there. So Elder Brimhall served a mission fifty years ago in Peru and still remembers some Spanish, but Sister Brimhall is learning for the first time. 

So our visits all went pretty much the same. Elder Brimhall would ask the same questions to every single person and then at the end he would say, "Well I think my wife would love to give the prayer to finish." Sister Brimhall ended up praying at the end of every visit and after the second time she would look her husband and in English would say, "but I gave the last one; why don't you do it?" They're just a funny couple; they always call each other by their first names.

So before each visit we would tell them about the family we were about to visit and what they have going on and then whatever else they wanted to know. So if there was something that they needed to change in their lives to live more in harmony with the Gospel, Elder Brimhall would immediately bring it up. For example, we visited a girl who is about twenty-two years old, has two kids, and isn't married to her boyfriend (who isn't a member). So the first question Elder Brimhall asked her is how  long she has been a member of the church and then how long she has been married. Then when she said that they weren't married he acted surprised and then said, "Well you ought to do that because we want to see you in the Celestial Kingdom with us." That is about how every visit went with them - Elder Brimhall calling all the members out for what they weren't doing.
On Friday we had an activity with the branch which was cleaning the chapel and then eating rice with milk after (rice boiled in milk and mixed with sugar). Only a few members came, so it took a lot longer than we planned on being there, but it needed to be done. As the Sisters were dusting behind the curtains they would find spiders and scream every time. Once we got things wrapped up, Elder Waldron and I went outside and shot goals with the kids who were using the soccer field the church has. All the kids are really good here; I kicked the ball so hard and had it go as high as it possibly could without going over the top of the post and the kids were still stopping it. Granted, it was a smaller goal than normal, but still.
While we were walking home on Saturday night, a guy driving down the road pulled his car over and started to walk over to us. When he got a little closer he said, "Hey, I have a question for you," in English. He started talking to us and then asked if we could speak Spanish, so we switched to that. He just wanted to know if we were teaching English and we told him that for the moment we weren't, but he gave us his contact information just in case we ever started up. The thing is, we were going to teach English in the chapel, but we have to have a list of twenty names of people that are going to attend or else we can't start the class and the branch members never got a list together for us, but they always wanted to know when we were starting.

But I'm out of time until next week,
os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, February 4, 2013

And they threw rocks......

Querido familia,                    

4 de Febrero 2013

This week has been an interesting week for us as we look for new people to teach. Our area is so big that we are now working on the other side of the area (about an hour walk from the area where we normally work) and it's just like opening a new area that hasn't seen missionaries for a while. The trouble is that we usually look for new people to teach by visiting those who were previously taught and never reached baptism for some reason, but in this area there really aren't any people that have really been taught more than once or twice by the missionaries in the past.

Surely you could easily see how big our area is in Google Maps. Just search for Reconquista, Santa Fe, Argentina. Our area is everything south of the calle carente-siete (street fourty-seven). Before the recent arrival of the sister missionaries, we also used to cover everything West of the ruta once (Route Eleven) and North of the carente-siete (street fourty-seven).

Part of the reason that we are starting to work in this "new" area is that the area that we have been working isn't seeing as much success as we've been used to having there. One of the sisters in the branch, Margarita Guzman, gave us a reference to go and teach her grand kids who live just a few blocks away from her and right next door to another member in the branch. Well we went over there one day to talk to them and it was just one of the three boys who was there, or at least that was awake. So, we told him that we'd come back at a different time so that we could talk with the whole family. So we went back last Tuesday and there were three little girls, the oldest being no more than ten, and two of the three boys that we were looking for. The three girls weren't relatives of Sister Guzman, but rather cousins from some other side of the family. Anyway, the girls told s that no one was home right as the two boys walked outside and told us that their mom was sleeping. Well that didn't make any sense because we could see a women walking around inside trying to sneak a look at us without being seen and the boys and girls both gave a conflicting story. So, Elder Waldron just spoke in a loud voice, not to the kids, but to the women walking around inside, and said, "Hello, Sister! Can we can talk with you for a minute?" Well her reply wasn't nearly what was expected because she more or less shrieked something that was barely understandable. She then repeated her response, but this time we understood. She told all those kids who were outside with us (her sons and nieces) to, "you´ll throw rocks at them and I'm going to call the police!" So we called back, "We´ll just come back another time when it´s better for you," and we left. A little ways down the street rocks started to land near us, so I don't think we'll be going to visit them anytime soon.

Later, we were talking with Sister Guzman and she asked us if we had a chance to visit her daughter and grand kids. I told her that we went by, but that she didn't want to talk to us. Sister Guzman then said that, "that doesn't mean we have to quit trying; she'll come around." I left out the part about her daughter being somewhat crazy.

We've just had a lot of sad experiences in that neighborhood this week though. Not sad for us, but sad to see. We went to visit a member who wasn't home, but her daughter was there with her boyfriend, who isn't a member. So we talked with the daughter for a bit and then at length asked if we could sit down with her and her boyfriend to share a scripture. The two of them have a baby together, but that's not really surprising (that only describes half of Argentina), and so we decided to teach them about prayer and having daily prayers as a family. Her boyfriend, Luciano, didn't really say much during our lesson on account of he being very shy (which is also why they don't go to church with her mom apparently). We didn't really want to take a long time in that lesson because we were told that Luciano was about to go to work and was just waiting for his ride, so we made the lesson short. Afterwards however, we were waiting on the corner of the neighborhood to meet a member from the other branch who was going to accompany us to our next lesson and we saw Luciano across the street hanging out with a bunch of vagos (bums that don't do anything; punks is another good word to describe them). Then we saw him sit down with them and start to get high by putting glue in a shopping bag and inhaling it. He saw that we could see him and kind of tried to hide, but not really. I'm pretty sure his girlfriend doesn't know a thing about it and Elder Waldron thinks that she knows and just has no idea what to do about it.

As Elder Sharapata and Elder Waldron continue in their quest to prove that their own city is better than the other, Elder Waldron has gone to a whole new level of arguing. The other day he was trying to explain how the restoration of the Gospel would never have taken place if it wasn't for Philadelphia and that we owe the restored church to his city's existence. It was funny because he was so wrong, however blasphemous it might have been. 

So in this newish area that we are working in we found this family of two, a mom living with her daughter of sixteen years. So far, we´ve only had two lessons with them, but they have been really good. They're just very easy to talk to and we've had good conversation with them. They were going to be in the church yesterday, but they couldn't go because Laurea, the daughter, was sick with a fever that morning. 

We taught another women with her daughter in this new area Sunday afternoon about the Plan of Salvation because she told us that she had a son die three years ago when he was thirteen. She told us that someone told her that one day Jesus would come to her door to give her son back, but then said that what we taught made more sense and felt right. 

We were teaching Doming about the Priesthood, but he said that he doesn't want to receive because he doesn't feel ready. After talking with him for a bit he said that he doesn't want to have to bless the sacrament in front of the congregation because he would feel uncomfortable in front of everyone (we have a massive branch of thirty to forty people every week). So were going to keep working with him to help him feel prepared.

os amo,
Elder Burt