Monday, June 24, 2013

And now they're Seminary Teachers

Querido familia,                               24 de Junio 2013

This week, we have been trying to work more with the youth and members of the branch so that we can reactivate people as well as help those who are investigating the church stay active after their baptism; the goal being that the recent converts will have support from a host of people that will be available to help them. So to get started on that, we went out with one of the youth this week to go and visit some of the less active members this last Tuesday.

The member that we went out with is named Imanol and he is kind of an interesting character. When we first went to his house to ask him if he could go out with us to visit some people he said that he could go out with us later that very same night. so we said to him, "That's great. Do you want to go right now?" He then answered that he couldn't in that moment because he still had two more hours of "doing nothing time" and his soap opera would be starting in an hour. He was serious about that soap opera, because when we went back a few hours later to pick him up he was watching it.

So we got started on our reactivation operation and went out and visited with some a family before going to visit another one of the youth in the branch, Enrique. So with them we made a plan to have a meeting with the youth to see what it is that they wanted to see from the branch and what it is they can do to help other families come back to the church.

So on Thursday, we had a meeting with all the ringleaders for the youth. They said that the things that they wanted most were seminary and mutual again. So, we got a schedule together that would work for everyone and then made invitations for them to give out to the other youth in the branch, as well as their friends who aren't members.

On Wednesday, we went to visit a man named Felix. I've mentioned him before. He's the friend of Daniel who came in a bit tipsy one day during our lesson with Daniel right as he was telling us that he knew that the Book of Mormon was true. Well, we went to Felix's house and had a lesson with him. It wasn't long because he was kind of stressed and in a hurry to get something done, so we just taught him about prayer and invited him to church. By trade, Felix is a leather worker, so we got to see all these things that he was working on and see a couple things in different stages of development.

Earlier that same day, we went to visit the Castillo family (the ones that are rebuilding their house because it fell down during an extended trip to Buenos Aires). While we were there, there was a guy who was a city worker that had come to help build the house and he started saying a bunch of ridiculous things to us like, "you abandoned your family to help people that don't even want you," or "the scriptures say to help your neighbor, not bother your neighbor." I wanted to ask him, "and who is my neighbor," and see if he gave the same answer that Christ gave when asked the same question. Somehow I don't think that he would have.

We spent a lot of time trying to get people invited to the activity that we had this Friday in the chapel with the branch. Thursday was Flag Day here, so they had Thursday and Friday free. So the branch had torta frita and hot chocolate in the chapel and everyone just hung out for a couple hours. We had two people come to the activity, Lisandro and Milagros.

Lisandro, Milagros, and Ramon are all brothers and sisters that we've been  teaching. We actually found them because Ramon, the oldest brother, came up to us in the street one night with a group of his friends to talk to us and to ask us how to say things in English. So, we met Ramon a few more times in the street and eventually we met his younger brother and sister.

It's really funny, because in this area there are tons of kids that have come up to us to talk to us in the street, so we'll be walking down the street and someone will yell from the soccer field or farther down one of the cross streets and say, "Hey Burt! How's it going?" Sometimes I'll hear people ask, "Who's Burt?" and they start to explain that we're the missionaries. Most of the people that call out to us I don't even recognize, so my fame is spreading I guess.

Lisandro, Ramon, and Milagros all came to church on Sunday, which is great, but we had just one issue: Milagros was kicked in the shin by a seven year old boy right after church got out (not because they were fighting, but that's just how he "plays"). So she left in tears and we were super worried that she wouldn't want to come to church again, but when we went to visit them afterwards she said that she really liked church.

On Friday, we found a really cool guy named Lisandro (not to be confused with the previously mentioned Lisandro). We didn't actually meet him on Friday, but rather a couple of weeks ago he came up to us (Elder Medrano and I during exchanges) and started talking to us about his conversion to Christ. He said that he recently got out of jail and during his time there he had a mighty change of heart as he learned about Christ. He even said that he used to answer the door with a machete to scare away any type of missionary that knocked on his door. So that's how I explained him to Elder Reynolds before we went to see him for the first time, "a guy who recently got out of jail and used to threaten missionaries with a machete when they came to his door, but he's cool know because he had a mighty change of heart."

So we went to his house and started talking to him and he is a really cool guy. It was kind of hard to get a lesson in with him because he does this thing where he shares his favorite scripture or will read something and then say, "I know a scripture that is like that," and then will start to get off track and just start reading other things. But he really knows a lot about the scriptures and he even had a Book of Mormon before, but he only used the dictionary at the back as he studied the Bible; so we gave him a new Book of Mormon and had him read Third Nephi Eleven for homework. At the end this first visit with him, he said, "I'm really sorry, but I have to go. My church is about to start. Could you come back tomorrow so we can keep talking?"

So we went back the next day and taught him about the Restoration and we're worried that he just isn't getting it. He seems to think that there was an apostasy, and that it did end. However, he doesn't yet understand that the Priesthood is only found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints (La Iglesia de Jesucristo de Los Santos de Los Últimos Días). So we're going to do everything we can for him because he is a super cool guy, but well just have to see what sticks with him.

I forgot to mention, we were also assigned to teach seminary to the youth by the district president.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, June 17, 2013

Reactivating the members

Querido familia,                 17 de Junio 2013

The Luke family that we  are teaching (Luke is their last name) has been progressing, but at the same time it's really interesting to hear what they have to say. Last Monday, we watched the Joseph Smith movie that is about an hour long and we talked with them for a bit about the Restoration. They say that they know that Joseph was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true (Daniel, the dad, even taught his friend that the Book of Mormon is true), but they say that they don't want to feel pressured into baptism. They told us that the last time the Elders came to teach them just felt like they were being pushed into the water. So now, Elder Reynolds and I are trying to figure out how to help them realize that they are already prepared enough to be baptized and they just need to take the step of faith to get over any fear that they're holding on to. It's one thing to tell them that they're ready, but it's another to help them feel like the Spirit tell them that it's time to get baptized. Right now, they're set for a baptismal date of July thirteenth. They really are a great family though; very industrious. Daniel has been building, by himself, two new houses behind his own so that he can rent them out. We offered to help with the project, so maybe one day soon we'll be mixing concrete to raise some walls. It's a good thing I got so much practice in with construction right before leaving by remodeling the kitchen.

Our focus though has been trying to find part-member families and help those who aren't members to get baptized. So in our efforts to find these people, we came across one member named Cesar Zorrilla who is a less active member that is currently living with his mom while he builds his own house. This Tuesday was the first chance that we've ever had to teach his mom, even though we've met her before; it went well though. His mom, I can't remember her first name, but that's alright because we just call everyone either "sister" or "brother" anyway. Her last name is Luke though (although not related to the aforementioned Luke family). Cesar told us that she was pretty closed off to the elders, but when we met her she was pleasant with us, but even then we didn't want to make her seem like we were closing in on her. So, we went to their house and talked with Cesar and told him that we had brought the Restoration movie with us and asked him if his mom would be interested in seeing it. As it turns out, she was and she came in and watched it with us. It was kind of funny during the movie because Cesar would frequently ask questions about what was happening and then his mom would answer them. So we know that she was paying attention. We didn't get to talk to her very well after the movie, but another day when we went by, Cesar said that his mom enjoyed the movie. So now at least she has a visual idea of what happened and that will make it easier for her to understand in the future. She did have a question, as well as Cesar, about the Priesthood and the healing power, so we're expecting to have a good lesson with her when we go back again.

On Thursday, we had a multi-zone conference with President and Sister Heyman; which is basically a mission conference, just with one third of the mission instead of the entire mission. Both of them chose to speak to us about love and charity. The thing that I thought was the most interesting was that President Heyman said that love is the most powerful force in the universe because it is the very force that compels God Himself to act.

I'm all out of time already for this week. Suffice it to say that we brought three less active members to church this week and one of them is a part member family, so we could see a baptize there in the future. Also, we had an investigator in the church this Sunday as well. His name is Lisandro. His brothers and sisters were going to come out this week too, but they left early in the morning to go to their grandma's house to prepare for their father's day activities.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Catching up with Cristian

Querido familia,                       10 de Junio 2013

So we have been teaching, or at least trying to teach, this lady named Norma Luke (I think I mentioned her last week). Well she went on a trip to Goya to visit her mom and we've haven't been able to find her this week. So we went to her house last Thursday in the hopes of finding her, but she wasn't there. We did, however, find her husband whom we've never met before. When he greeted us at the door he didn't even hesitate to invite us in (we almost didn't even have tie to introduce ourselves he let us in so fast). So we sat down and started talking with him and he said that before he used to go to our church and that he was learning about the things that we teach, but he felt really pressured to get baptized because the Elders were trying to get him in the water when he didn't feel ready. So on this particular visit with him, we didn't get to teach him anything because we were short on time, but we set up another day to meet him.

So a few days later on Saturday, we went back over to talk with Daniel Luke (the guy I was just talking about) about the Book of Mormon. We started going over it with him, starting with the cover, and talking about the history of the book, where it came from, and why we have it. It was really interesting because he has already had some experience with the Book of Mormon and what was even better was he said that he already had a testimony that the book was true and was inspired by God.

Unfortunately, right as he started to talk about his testimony of the Book of Mormon, his friend who was in the back, and a little bit drunk, walked into the room and sat down with us and kind of killed the moment. So Daniel started telling his friend that he needs to stop drinking and start doing something productive because it isn't worth being in the state that he was in. But what was even better than his sound advice to his friend was that Daniel then began to teach Felix, his friend, about the Book of Mormon. He started saying things like, "Look, Felix. This book was written here in the American continent, but it contains the same Gospel as the Bible that was written in Jerusalem because they were both written by prophets called by God."

So it seems like Daniel is already pretty solid on things, so in the coming days we'll start to see what it is that he needs in order to get baptized, but so far he has already cleared the hardest obstacle which is just to have a knowledge that the book is true; because from there then you already know that everything else that we teach is true and that the church is true.

At the end of our second visit with him, he asked us if we could come back the next day and we did, but he didn't answer the door when we knocked. So we went back later the same day and tried again and he did answer. Turns out that he was sleeping and by the time he had gotten up and arrived at the door, we had already left and he could see us walking off in the distance. So we just rescheduled for tonight; which is good because his wife, Norma, and their son, Frederico, should be back from their trip.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned him, but we've been teaching a youth named Cristian. He has been taught before and was going to get baptized, but then something happened where his mom didn't want him to get baptized. His mom has been real pleasant with us ever time that we've seen her, so we'll see how things end up this time for him. This week, however, we've been struggling to find Cristian at his home, but we've been lucky enough to start teaching his brothers that also live there. 

It was really interesting the way we got in the door for one of his brothers, Hugo, because he was about to send us away. What happened is that we knocked on the door and he answered and told us that Cristian wasn't home, so we started talking to him and he was aware that we were trying to get a conversation going with him so that we could get inside and teach him, so he started trying to get a rid of us a little bit by saying that he already knows what we share and so on and so forth. So,  asked him if we could leave him with a card and he said that would be fine. So I gave him a little business card that has a picture of a family on it and says, "Can we continue living together as a family even after dying?" After giving it too him, I asked him the question, "Have you ever asked yourself that question?" He took a few moments to look at the card and just think. After a minute, he looked up and invited us to come inside.

So we sat down with him and started talking about his family and he told us more about his brother who is a member and all the changes his brother made and how much better his brother's life is since he started living the Gospel. He also talked about how he is married and has a one year old son. So we started to talk to him about the Plan of Salvation and his role in this plan. 

If the next few weeks go by like this, we are going to baptize all of Cristain's family before we can even get any time to teach Cristian.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Taking back the pamphlets

Querido familia,                                4 de Junio 2013

Sorry that I'm, writing late this week. We came to write yesterday, but the internet wasn't working, so we just came today instead.

We had an interesting experience that I've never had before with the pamphlets that we use the other day and the lesson was kind of interesting from the beginning anyway. We started talking to these two guys in the street and at first they were acting like they couldn't really understand us because they said that they only speak Castellano and that they don't know the language that we were using. So I started talking to them a little bit about soccer and then all of the sudden they had the ability to understand us because it was a subject that they liked. So they offered us a chair to it down with them and talk and from there we were able to work our way back into a conversation about the Gospel. At the end they had some questions about the purpose of life and what happens in the end, so we gave them each a pamphlet about the Plan of Salvation. What was interesting though was that one of the guys started to look at all the pictures very carefully and then said, "Wow, look at all these beautiful girls!" (Because some of the pictures aren't of Christ, but rather people and some of them are girls). He just seemed way too interested in the pamphlet at that point that I almost considered asking for it back, which would have been a first.

On Saturday night, we were looking for a member to visit and while we were waiting for someone to the answer the door, the neighbor came over and told us that he wasn't home and just left his light on. So, we started talking to the neighbor about his life and what he did and his family. His name is Ricard De Los Santos and he started telling us about how he grew up as an orphan, but was able to because successful and provide for his family and now his kids are already grown up and he has two grand kids. He is a really nice guy, always helping out his neighbors and serving others when he can. So we left him with a copy of the Book of Mormon and he said that he would read it before going to bed that night.

So yesterday, we went by to see him just to see if he had actually read and ask him what he had thought about the book. Our plan beforehand was to go and to explain the history of the book and what it contains and why it's important, but he already had a pretty good understanding of all that; which was surprising.

What happened is that when we sat down with him we started off by talking a little bit about his family and seeing how things were and then he started talking about how he had actually been reading the book. He then starting asking questions like, "So Moroni is Mormon's son right?," and, "Mormon is the prophet who wrote the plate of gold?" So we started asking him what he remembered about what he had read and he starting saying, "there was this son named Nephi and he had two brothers who were bad and didn't listen to their dad and there were a bunch of prophets named Helaman, Mosiah, Ether..." So as it turns out, he had read the title page, the introduction, the testimony of the eight and three witnesses, as well as the testimony of Joseph Smith, and then the first three chapters of First Nephi.

So then we started asking him about his feelings towards the book. He said that he feels like he is reading from the Bible, but that he knows that it's something more, something different, but good. Most importantly he says that he knows that it comes from God and that it is a something divine and sacred. In other words, he already has a testimony of the Book of Mormon and we've only spoken with him two times now.

After a little bit of talk about the Book of Mormon, he started asking question about what happens after we die and where we come from. He also had questions about the resurrection. So we told him that we couldn't answer all his questions in that moment, but that we would like to come back and teach him some more. So at the end of our visit with him, he invited to come back on Wednesday to have dinner with him and his wife and to talk more about the Book.

There is this lady that we've been trying to sit down with and teach for a couple of weeks now, but we haven't really been able to catch her at a time that works, but we finally sat down with her this week. This lady's name is Norma and she had been taught by the missionaries just a few months ago, but never got baptized even though she was coming to church. Based on what the teaching record for her said, we decided that the previous missionaries didn't put enough importance on the Book of Mormon, so we decided that that would be our first lesson with her. 

What we did was first explain a little bit about the book and then we read a passage with her. In Mosiah 18, we read about some of the reasons that we get baptized and the promises we make as we do it. We then skipped to verse twenty-one where it talks about, "having one a single view, looking forward, and having your hearts knitted together in unity and love, being baptized in Christ." It was then that I was sure she was about to cry, but she didn't. The Spirit was obviously working with her quite a bit in that moment. I imagine that she has quite a bit of disharmony in her home based on what she has said and what the previous Elders have written. Her son that was there with us during the lesson was previously a soldier and he had attempted suicide, but survived. Before we left, she asked us if we could send missionaries to her mom who lives in another city and we said it would be no problem. So we got her address and sent it to the Elders there.

Other than that, we've been working with a family that is getting ready for baptism, but there is just one resolved question. We know that the oldest son, who no longer lives here, was baptized. However, we have no record, nor do the members remember, that the mom was also baptized, but she thinks that she is a member. So if she if then we'll just pull her records from wherever they are and if she isn't then she'll just get baptized with her kids. 

os amo,
Elder Burt

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