Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A new companion, Elder Reynolds

Querido familia,                     27 de Mayo 2013

So this Monday our cell phone was cut and Elder Rivera and I had no idea what was going on. We tried going to the chapel to use the phone, but there was no answer from any of the other Elders in our zone (we tried calling three other companionship's multiple times each).

The next day, we still had the same problem, so we went to a cabina (a place where you can rent a telephone for an overly exaggerated price for every minute) in order to see if we could get a connection to someone. None of the Elders answered again, so we tried calling President Heyman and he didn't answer either. So we then called his wife and luckily she did answer. We explained what was going on and she told us that she would pass the phone to her husband. So we spoke with President Heyman and he explained that all the cell phones in the mission are being replaced and that everyone has new phones and new numbers (which explains why we couldn't contact anyone).

The real problem was that that Tuesday night was the last day of the transfer and that we had no idea if we were going or staying. President Heyman said that he was aware of that issue and that our branch presidents had already been informed of the changes that would take place. So we went to the chapel in order to call our branch president and he said that no one talked to him and he hadn't heard any news about  transfers. So we went back to the apartment thinking that we weren't going anywhere and that Elder Rivera and I would be together another six weeks.

Well, we thought that until there was a knock at the door at ten twenty at night when Brother Omar showed up at our apartment with his wife. He said that some Elders from the the other area were calling him trying to get a hold of us. So we called them back on Brother Omar's phone to find out what was happening. Our zone leader then informed us that Elder Rivera was going to be transferred to a city called Apostoles in Misiones. He then told me that I was going to be staying in Mercedes, but to train a new missionary.

So we left at three o'clock the next morning to go to another city called Corrientes where we parted ways. He had to stay there in the bus terminal and I had to continue onward to the city of Resistencia. 

Once I got there, I and the other Elders who would be training were given a brief presentation from the assistants to the president and then we waited as all the new missionaries started making their way into the room. President Heyman then started to read off all the new companionship's and it just so happened that I was named second to last. Talk about suspense.. 

My new companion is Elder Reynolds from California and he also had some time in Texas before coming to Argentina, but not nearly as much. He already speaks Spanish really well due to the fact that he had a companion from Ecuador during his time in Texas that really helped him out. He is a really nice guy and is just super excited to be here. He lacks a little bit of boldness sometimes, but that's alright; we'll work on that. He seemed kind of worried when a guy asked us if his baptism didn't count in the Catholic church, so I went ahead and answered that question.

Right now we've actually been finding a ton of new people to teach and I've been learning a lot of ways that I can improve my own teaching skills as I help Elder Reynolds with his. So it seems like a pretty good deal; I teach him how to be a super cool missionary and I become even better myself.

I had so much more that I wanted to say, but I'm already out of time., but I guess I can tell more stories in just eleven months. I have no idea where the last month went.

os amo,
Elder Burt 

Elder Joshua Burt
Argentina Resistencia Mission
Entre Rios 435
HP3500AKE Resistencia
[Mission Office]

Monday, May 20, 2013

Worshiping Saint Death

An old building that just sits there in the middle of a field of grass next to a broken railroad track.
 Agustin, Silvia Fernandez, Daira, Maira, Elder Rivera, me. It was Agustin's birthday, so we bought an ice cream cake to share with them. They're all members except for Agustin... for now.

 Elder Rivera forgot to thaw his meat in the morning, so he had to improvise a little when lunch time came around
Me, Elder Rivera, Silvia Gonzalez, Soña, Alex (in front). We usually have lunch with this sister every Wednesday. My first lunch with them, the son, Alex, was convinced that I was Spider-Man.

Querido familia,                        20 de Mayo 2013

This Tuesday we had a meeting in Paso de Los Libres until three and when it was over we had to hurry to the bus terminal to get on the bus back to Mercedes at three thirty. However, when we got back to the terminal we found out that the last bus left at two, so we had to spend the day with our zone leaders in Paso de Los Libres. Once the day had ended, the four of us, Elder Rivera, Nish, Medrano, and I, had to wait until almost midnight to get the next bus. So to pass the time we started doing challenges. Things like trying to eat a spoonful of dry cinnamon or a bunch of the sour stuff on Sour Patch Kids. We got them all on video, but I won't be able to send them; the internet is just too slow here. 

The other night, we were teaching a nine year old boy, Jonathan, who hasn't been baptized, but has parents who are members. So what we want to do with them is reactivate the parents and then have the dad baptize his son if he can get ready fast enough.  Teaching them we noticed something in the corner of the room on a shelf. He had a picture of the Holy Death, or Saint Death, (the Grim Reaper) and a candle burning next to it. So we asked him if he  worshiped the Saint Death and he started telling us how the Holy Death is a just god that gives to everyone no matter who you are. So we starting teaching him about obedience and blessings and how Christ is the only One who has the ability to bring us true blessings and how all those who serve the Devil will be abandoned in their hour of need and then speedily thrust down to hell (Alma 30:60). So things aren't looking too good for Jonathan's progress since he depends so much on his parents still. They weren't in church yesterday, but we'll be checking up on him to make sure that he gets rid of that from his house.

There were a lot of people that messed with that in Texas and we had to give a few people some blessings and bless a house because of things like that. No one should ever look anything up about it or even wonder about. Just know that it's not of Christ and will only cause problems.

There is a man that we're teaching named Francisco Soto and he is about sixty-five years old. Right now, we're helping him quit smoking and he's progressing pretty well with that. Last week he was smoking twenty a day and now he is down to just a few daily. We taught him about prayer and fasting and how it can help to overcome his addiction and before we could even explain everything to him he was already asking if he could start fasting and or if he had to wait for something special. 

The other night when we went to visit him it was really interesting because he was there in his front room talking with two boys of age fourteen, Allen, and nine, Rolando. It was an interesting group of friends and an interesting lesson. Rolando was kind of a fireball, but not in a bad way. Francisco was pretty eager for them to listen and understand, but mostly it was Allen who took anything in. They didn't really know anything about the scriptures or God, so we just taught them who Christ is and who God is and Francisco helped us out a bit too. 

Elder Rivera and I have been reading a book called, "In Defense of the Truth." It's not very long and Elder Rivera already finished it. It's a true account of these two missionaries in the United States who were confronted by multiple leaders from multiple churches. What happened is the Elders and all these different heads of other churches got together in a session of court, lead by a judge, and had a scriptural debate about the Bible. Obviously it was all the leaders from the other churches against the Elders in an effort to prove the Church false. Obviously it they couldn't do it and the Elders were able to show that it was every other church present that was in error and that everything the Bible teaches is supported by the book of Mormon and is upheld in the Church of Jesus Christ.

Right after we are done here, we are going to a member's house to help them out with a few things and this family is just one example of how blessed we are in the United States. First, we're going to do some repairs to the chairs in their house, because as of now they don't have any that work. So Sister Anyelen bought some nails so that we could put everything back together. We're also going to help her out by buying some of her food. Right now, she has been making a desert that is similar to an empanada and has been going door to door taking orders and then making people's orders for the next day. Yesterday after church, we went to visit them with the branch president because they are also asking for financial aid from the Church because their two boys, Diego, 7, and Javier, 5, don't have shoe's that fit them. They have to either wear their dad's shoes or Javier has a pair that are already fallen apart. Despite of all their problems, they are still doing the best they can with what they've been given instead of complaining along the way. Count your many blessing, name them one by one; and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

os amo,
Elder Burt 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Get your hair cut shorter...

Querido familia,                             13 de Mayo 2013

During our zone meeting we had last week with President and sister Heyman, President Heyman said that he wants all the missionaries to have shorter hair and told all the missionaries there, except for three, that they needed to get haircuts. So I bought an electric buzzer to have instead of having to borrow one from members or from other missionaries. So from there, I gave Elder Lopez and Rivera a haircut this week.

Saturday was the birthday of one of the members here named Felix. He is the member that can't hear or speak. So we went to his house to visit him and while we were there he asked us if we could share a spiritual thought and a prayer with him and his brother, who is not a member. His brother is also deaf, so to share a thought with them we had to have them read scriptures and sign things out. Felix has one of the Book of Mormon story books that has pictures to go with the verses, so that helped out a lot to use the pictures and then have them be able to read it too. At the end of our lesson, Felix's brother, I don't remember his name right now, said that he believes in the Virgin María, but that he would think about getting baptized in our church.

The next day, Sister Baldovino, the branch president's wife, brought cake for the members to celebrate Felix's birthday and we gave him a tie as a present.

This Tuesday we had exchanges with Elder Humphries and Elder Lopez, but this time and I went to Curuzú with Elder Lopez while Elder Humphries went to Mercedes.

While we were there, we ate dinner with the Villaba family one night, milanesa and salad, and the night before they made us torta frita (like scones, but flatter) and hot chocolate. The salad dressing that everyone uses here is also an oil with just a little bit of seasoning in it and it's homemade. They don't have anything like ranch or italian here, but the dressing they make isn't bad either.

Then there was a member who recently decided to go inactive after being an active member since her baptism more than six years ago. So we went to talk to her and decided it would be best to just listen to her and see what the problem was. So it turns out that she doesn't want to be in the church because she is tired of hearing about eternal families and eternal marriage when she feels like she is never going to get married and is too old to get married. Our whole discussion with her was almost two hours long, but we were mostly just listening to her. So I asked her if she had received her patriarchal blessing and she said that she had not. So we started talking to her about getting her blessing and that there was a patriarch coming to the district center in a couple of weeks and she could prepare herself to get the blessing. During the course of the conversation her attitude completely changed from almost not wanting us to be there in the beginning to almost in tears by the end.

While I was in Curuzú with Elder Lopez, we had an interesting encounter with a guy who had a little too much to drink. While we were walking down the street, this guy walked up to us and started to talk to us, but it as kind of hard to understand him because he was pretty drunk. He had wine in his beard and we could smell it on his breath. He started off by telling us how he is from Spain and will only be in own for a few days and then he started telling us how awful he thinks Argentina is. After a little bit of talking, he pointed to me and said, "You are going to give me a hundred pesos," and then pointing at Elder Lopez he said, "and you are going to give me a hundred pesos." We weren't sure if he was trying to rob us or if he was just asking for a donation; either way, he wasn't very good at either of them. So I told him that we didn't have any money, but if he liked we could give him a pamphlet about Jesus Christ and then before he had time to respond I asked him if he knew who Christ was and by then he had completely forgotten that he had asked us for money. So Elder Lopez went to give him a pamphlet and he said he didn't want a pamphlet from him because he was from Mexico and that he would only accept one from me.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bus rides and bus strikes

Querido familia,                       6 de Mayo 2013

We have this stone basin type thing to wash our clothes in the courtyard of our apartment.

This last Tuesday we had interviews with President Heyman in Paso De Los Libres, so Elder Rivera and I had to leave from our apartment at three in the morning in order to catch the only bus that would work for us to get there on time (there are bus strikes right now and there aren't very many schedules available) and that bus left at three forty-five. Well, we had everything ready the night before, but there was just one problem: I had accidentally set the alarm for three thirty instead of two thirty and we woke up an hour later than we needed to. So, we got ready a little bit faster than possible and then ran to the bus station. Luckily we got there on time and didn't have any troubles from there. 

Once everyone got there, we all had lunch together with President and Sister Heyman and afterwards he interviewed each of us and then Sister Heyman talked to us while our companion was with President Heyman. There hasn't been a baptism here for a while and people haven't been coming to the church meetings either, so in our interview President told me that the reason he sent me here was to be an agent of change and to do things differently then they've been done before. 

So I was trying to think of how we could get people to church when we've already been doing everything that is considered to be "every possible effort on the missionary's" and then I had the idea of having the branch president go to pick people up for church. He has a car, so he went to their houses and offered them a ride to church and as a result we had five people come to church; one third of the congregation.

After our meetings with President and Sister Heyman, we had to hurry back to the bus station to get back to Mercedes, but once we got there all the buses had already left until the next wave came in. So, Elder Rivera and I waited with Elder Humphries and Lopez. After a bit of waiting, we came up with the plan to go to Curuzù with Elder Lopez and Humphries and then take a bus from there the next morning to Mercedes. That way, we weren't getting back at three in the morning and would be able to get a good night's sleep. So we all got tickets on the same bus and went together to Curuzù. The next day however, we ran into a slight scheduling problem and wouldn't be able to leave until the next day. So we spent a day in their area and split up until the end of the day when we all met up at sister Villaba's house to eat dinner together. 

Then Elder Humphries got a call that said he needed to be in Resistencia Friday morning and the only buses that go to Resistencia leave from Mercedes. So on Thursday morning, all four of us left from Curuzù and went to Mercedes together where we again did splits.

One day, the district president called us and asked me if I could do some of the reports that were missing from our branch that the previous Elder needed to do while he was branch president. So we went to the chapel and I had to do the trimester report of everything that was done in the branch for the last trimester. It took about two hours to do all of it and just for a branch with two hundred members. I could't even imagine doing all that for a ward that has at least two hundred active members. 

President Heyman has always been saying that we need to start working with the member list more; knocking on doors of everyone on the list whether to accomplish one of two things: find out of the address is accurate for the name given on the list and, if they're a less active member, to invite them back to church, or if they're not members, to sit down with them and teach them about the church.

So we started doing that and we ended up looking for a couple named Carlos and Susana Zarate. We couldn't find the house, so we asked these two guys who were standing on the sidewalk if they knew either one of them or where they lived. They told us that Carlos had died and then one of the guys we asked said that he was now with Susana and that we shouldn't come looking for her again. He didn't confirm the address for us to change in the records.

os amo,
Elder Burt