Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pigeon in the water tank....yuck

Querido familia,                               30 de Julio 2013 

This week we started by looking for a less active member whom we didn't know named Oscar Alvarez. We found his name because his wife isn't a member and she was being taught by the missionaries before. We also found out that he is an elder in the Priesthood, so we wanted to find him to see where they were at and why they stopped coming to church.

So when we found him he was home alone and so we just talked with him for a bit about his family and how he came to know the Gospel. He told us a story about how he was baptized eighteen years ago when he was still fourteen or sixteen, but it wasn't until after his baptism that he really gained a testimony of the church. One day after church, not long after his baptism, he was walking down the street and heard a voice that said, "You're clean." Looking around, he found himself alone and knew that the voice was that of the Spirit telling him that his baptism was indeed the ordinance that he was taught it was.

So we had a really good visit with him and before we left he asked us when we could come back to meet his son, who is also a member.

So we went back to visit them on Wednesday night and he presented us to his oldest son, Damian. He has one other son named Ezequiel, who is not a member, but is eleven years old. they have an interesting family tradition, all three of them are named Hugo for their first name and all the men in the family, all the way back to the dad's great-grandpa are named Hugo Something Alvarez.

It wasn't until Friday that we actually met his youngest son, Ezequiel, that still needs to be baptized, but we had a really good chat with him when we did met. So we invited Ezequiel to be baptized on the twenty-fourth of August and now he is getting ready for that day. I don't I'll be here for that because I've already been in this area for four months and I think that I'll be moved in two weeks or so to a new place.

So we actually just done gone with a lesson with María Soto and the assistants to the mission president stopped by to give her a baptismal interview to see if she was ready. She passed it and is gong to get baptized this Saturday. So we've actually been doing a lot of preparation for her baptism; things like  making and handing out invitations as well as making the baptismal program.

(I attached the baptismal program and invitations that I made)

The hardest part of the preparations were done by the branch president. We've had problems with the water tank in the chapel for a long time and the water has become undrinkable. Well obviously we didn't want to fill up the baptismal font with nasty water and everyone is getting thirsty in the chapel on Sunday, so President Baldovino, the branch president, climbed up on the roof to see what was going on with the tank. Turns out that a pigeon had fallen in the tank and died. Tasty. So he spent some time getting it all cleaned out and then decided to run bleach through the pipe system to clean everything out (I'm not sure that that was a good idea, but we'll see what happens).

On Saturday we taught an interesting lesson with a man named Maxi Galván and his girlfriend Natalia Rivero. They both were born and baptized into the catholic church, but they don't believe in it. Maxi believes that after we die, we become energy (kind of like the Force) and that God can't have a physical body because that would limit Him. It was really tough to teach them because they had some many questions and they just kept jumping around from topic to topic that it made it very difficult to answer their questions really well. Elder Reynolds had the idea that we just have them write down their questions and every time we go to visit them we will answer one question from each of their lists. I really like what Maxi said though during the lesson. He was talking about the great example that Christ was and how we should try to do what He did; he then finished his his thought by saying, "Christ was a boss."

With them, we finally got it down to where they understood that in order to be happy you have to follow Christ and keep the commandments. So we invited them to follow Christ by being baptized like He was and they both said that they were already baptized in the catholic church. But they already said that they don't believe in the catholic church, so I'm not sure what they're thinking.

Yesterday there was a mission conference for all of the new elders in the mission, so Elder Reynolds went to Resistencia and I stayed in Mercedes with another Elder named Elder Otterstein, who just so happens to be from Pocatello. So we talked about some things like the Blackfoot fair and what happened in our schools. We also found a less active family that was kind of an interesting visit. We only got to speak with the son, Gaspar who is eight teen years old, but he wasn't really so interested in the scriptures or the church as he was hanging out with us. In fact, at the end of our visit he said that we were more than welcome to come back, but that it wasn't necessary to talk about the scriptures with him; we could just come and play PlayStation with him and drink juice.

We were walking down the street on Wednesday night when a couple of horses ran past us in the road and stopped half a block ahead of us; they were running from some dogs and once they got away they stopped and went back to eating grass. Then one of the horses stepped out into the street to move to the other side and at this same moment, a man came by on a moped and he almost hit the horse, both of them dodging each other. The man then turned around, apparently upset, and started chasing the horse on his moped yelling, "guilty! Guilty!"

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, July 22, 2013

Still working hard...

Querido familia,                    22 de Julio 2013
After a party at the church, we went in and in the kitchen we found a mysterious pink shirt and cowboy hat.
So we are kind of bummed out about Milagros and Lisandro. Their step dad isn't allowing them to have anything to do with the church and now he is taking drastic measures to make sure that they can't be involved with the church.

On Tuesday, Milagros said that she couldn't keep meeting with us and wouldn't say why and then just muttered something about how she has to do what her parents say. Later we asked Lisandro what was going on and he said that their aunt said that we were going to kidnap Milagros and take her to another country, so now she is scared. And on Thursday when Elder Medrano and Elder Reynolds went to see them, there was a lock on the gate and they had been locked into the house. Elder Medrano tried to talk to the dad, but he just said that he was catholic and didn't want to talk to them. So Elder Medrano said that they just wanted to talk to Milagros and Lisandro then and their step dad said, "They're catholic too," and that was the end of it.

So it's a tough situation and now we're just hoping that nothing will happen to them and that one day when they don't have to live with their step dad anymore they will find the missionaries again and can get baptized. For now, there isn't really much that we can do; even though their mom is on our side and likes that they are in the church. It's really sad too, because they always refer to their step dad as "evil" and I don't want to think that he is a bad man, but I can't help thinking about how he is completely prohibiting them from coming unto Christ and is actively working against us as well as them.

On a funnier note, we went to visit our friend Cristian and when we got to his house we found that he was there with his brother, Guillermo, and they had been drinking a little. So Guillermo was really friendly towards us and asked why we never came by to teach Cristian anymore. The reason is that he wasn't really ready to progress and was just kind of stubborn, even if he was always welcoming to us. So we figured that maybe Guillermo wasn't really asking why we stopped seeing Cristian, but rather, when are we going to visit him. So we set an appointment with Guillermo for a few days later.

During this exchange with the two tipsy brothers, Cristian was texting this girl on his phone and he kept asking me to send her a message in English for him. So I finally conceded and asked him what he wanted the message to say. First he said something that wasn't very gentleman like, so I wrote, "I've been thinking that I would like to get married in the temple, but I need to find someone with whom I can get sealed." When he asked me what it meant, I told him, "it basically means that you want to be with her forever."

So that happened on Tuesday and we met with them again on Friday. We talked about the Gospel of Christ and what they have to do to follow Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, receive the Holy Ghost, and continue to the end). At the end of our lesson we invited them to be baptized, but Cristian is still where he was before, just not really ready to change. Guillermo, however, was all over what we had to say, but he wouldn't accept a baptismal day. He says that he needs to pray and study still, which is fine because we know that if he is legitimately seeking then he will find.

The other day, we were talking to Marcos and Alan Castillo, two kids that we're trying to get baptized. Their parents are members, but they don't come to church. But we were walking down the street and they called out to us to come over and talk to them,. They were in a friends house, so we walked over and they were on the other side of this fence with their friend and this massive dog. After talking for a bit we went to leave and I took a bad step off the tall sidewalk because my foot landed in something smooshy, so I twisted my leg and kind of stumbled. So then I had to do my best not to limp away because at that same moment that I fell the dog started barking and I didn't want them to think that the dog had scared me (it really hadn't).

On Thursday we had splits, but in a different kind of way. Elder Reynolds and I both stayed in our area, but Elder Kimball and Elder Medrano both came and we worked as two companionships in the area instead of four for the day. So while Elder Kimball and I were together we started to play marbles with some kids in the street and then ending up teaching them before playing another game and leaving.

I´m all out of time until next week.

os amo,

Elder Burt

Monday, July 15, 2013

Return of the Prodigal Son

Querido familia,                                15 de Julio 2013

This Tuesday, we were walking down the road on our way to go find some people when a man, who was sitting on the curb with his family, called over to us from a half a block away. We had no idea who it was, but he called us "Elders" so we went over to him to see what was going on. We started talking to him and he told us that he is a member who had recently moved from Córdoba and that they were looking for a place to stay. I was a little suspicious, wanting to help them, but I had remembered what the district president had just told us a few weeks ago: that there are people who go around trying to deceive the elders into giving them lots of stuff and they always say that they are members of the church and they know all the words that we use that other people wouldn't know what they mean.

So we talked to him for a while and we found out that his wife wasn't a member still, but she wanted her husband to prepare himself so that he could baptize her. So we talked to them for a bit about repentance and then we invited his wife, Maria, to be baptized (his name is Walter Nieto). We she said that she would most definitely be baptized, we told her that we want to set a goal with hew that she gets baptized on the tenth of August and she said no because she wants to get baptized on April sixth because that was the day that Christ was born. So that's kind of a tricky date to work with seeing as it's next year, but we'll see what we can do with her.

It's kind of a tough situation for us though because they are homeless for the time being (we think they have a place now because we haven't seen them in the spot where they have been hanging out) because we really can't do much to help them as missionaries; we can only inform people who can help them and then share with them the Gospel. We gave them all the contact information they needed to find an apartment and we've been keeping our eyes open and working with other people to see what can be done.

I requested his church records from the general offices of the church and we just got them a little bit later on last week and it had a message that just seemed powerful for some reason. It said, "Dear President/Bishop, The church has not been able to find this member for some time and as a result they have most likely not received the blessings of the church or the blessings of being fellow shipped by other members. Please do everything appropriate to fellowship this member into your branch/ward." As I read it, it made me think of the story of the prodigal son; even though the son had wasted his father's fortune and a good chunk of his own life, when he returned with desires to actually make something of himself his father received him and gave him the very best of everything that he had.

We've been teaching a lady named Maria Soto that is the friend of a sister in the branch and she has been progressing really well. Just the other day, one of the members was telling us that after every lesson with have with Maria, her friend Sandra (the sister in the branch) takes her inside to watch a bunch of church videos and share more with her.  When she came to church yesterday she even brought with her her mom that is deaf and she was signing the talks to her during the meeting. But we're really excited for her because she is definitely going to get baptized and then the rest of the members will hopefully start to have the desires to invite their friends to church so that they can get baptized as well.

On Sunday there was a homeless lady sitting across the street from the chapel that we've seen around town before, but today we decided that we'd try inviting her to church. So we went to go drop some things off in the chapel before coming back outside to go talk to her and as we did so she started to yell at us and I had no idea what she was saying; I was convinced that it was Portuguese. But we came back outside to talk to her and saw that she had started to get up to leave, so we kind of had to chase her down just a little, but when we invited her to come to church her faced brightened up and she started walking with us to the chapel.

When we got to the chapel she said that she wanted to leave her things there for a bit while she went to do some things. I wasn't sure that I had understood her well because she said, "I need to go to the butcher shop to get sugar before the manager closes down the sales." So we asked for the help of the members to understand what she was trying to tell us and it turns out that she is actually just a little crazy in the head. So she left her stuff while she went to go buy her sugar and then never came back during the church meetings. So, we put all her stuff in plastic bags and carried them with us until we found her and gave her stuff back.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, July 8, 2013

Teaching with a parrot

Querido familia,                               8 de Julio 2013

There is a family here that always tells us the experiences that they've had with sharing the gospel with the friends and co-workers, but as missionaries we would like to share the gospel with their friends and co-workers as well. What usually happens is people will think, "well, I need to get them warmed up before I introduce them to the Elders," so we haven't actually gotten a ton of referencias from the members; we'll ask for referencias, but they will usually say something like, "I've already sent the missionaries to everyone that I know."

However, we had a great experience with a member's friend this week. One of the sisters in the branch, Sandra Ferrau, told us that she was talking to a friend of hers that agreeed to meet with us. So we made arrangements to meet Sandra's friend, Maria in her house (Sandra's house). So we went a little bit ahead of when Maria was going to come so that we could talk to Sandra and talk about what we wanted to teach and how she could help us teach. 

We decided to teach her the plan of salvation for our first lesson so that she can understand what her purpose is in life and how she can accomplish her purposes by living the gospel of Christ. We also explained to her that by doing all the things which we are asked to do, we can inherit a place in the celestial kingdom and live as a family forever. 

It all had a very strong impact on her and she was worked upon by the Spirit. At the end of the lesson, we gave her a book of Mormon with a passage to read and an assignment to have personal prayers before going to bed at night. 

When we met with Maria and Sandra again on Sunday we had another great lesson. We taught her about the Restoration and how we have living prophets on the earth to guide and protect the families. We also explained the importance of the Priesthood and how she needs to be baptized by someone who holds it. So we invited her to be baptized and she accepted without hesitating and now we're planning on a baptism for the third of August.

This last Wednesday, we went to teach Daniel Luke the word of wisdom. We already knew before hand that he had a problem with smoking, but we want to get him off smoking as soon as possible. So I thought that it would be kind of funny and yet still totally appropriate to read the first chapter of Daniel with him where the young Daniel in the story refuses to partake of substances that the Lord had already said were harmful and because of his obedience he was blessed with success in work and had a great knowledge and understanding.

The lesson went really well, but the tricky part of the lesson was the parrot that was climbing up my back the whole time I was trying to teach. Daniel has a small parrot that is really cool, but it kept climbing up my backpack on the floor, making its way to may lap, and finally attempting to scale my back. Finally, I just picked it up and tried to put it on the table, but the parrot didn't want to get off my arm, so I just kept teaching with a parrot hanging out on my arm. Once it got comfortable there, it started licking my arm and that kind of tickled, but it was still a great lesson. He is already committed to quit smoking and then he will be living the word of wisdom. 

os amo,
Elder Burt

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I love you my Brothers

Querido familia,                          1 de Julio 2013
Boxing with Elder Cerecedo

On Saturday, we were trying to find a member who was on the records, but we've never met him before and we only had a two cross streets as a reference for his address. So after a little bit of searching, we found his house, but not him. So, we said that we'd come back another time to try to meet with him. So after a bit of searching, we found his house, but not him. when we went back, he was there, but was sleeping. So we started talking to his mom, Zulema, and it turns out that she also is a member, but she was baptized in a different province and she just didn't show up on our records. so we started talking to her for a while and she told us how she had been baptized in five churches, the fifth and last being ours. Naturally, we invited her to come back to church, but she was a little bit hesitant to say yes because she ran a kiosco (a little shop run from our home) and she couldn't leave unless her  son would run the store for her. So we told her that she could just close the store on Sundays, but I don't think that she got the hint. We finally got a "maybe" from her because we had to eliminate every doubt she had and offer her a ride in a car with the branch president. In the end, she said that we could call her to see if she wanted to be picked up in the morning. So we called her son, Carlos, the next morning to see if she would like us to like us to come pick her up. Well, Carlos started saying a bunch of reasons why she wouldn't be able to go and ended the call. A few minutes later, however, we got a text that said that she wanted to come and was waiting for us. When we came in with her, the members we very excited to see her and one of the members, Brother Omar, was very content with us for having brought her.

We've been working with Lisandro, Milagros, and Ramon Avalos for a baptismal date of the thirteenth of July, but there is just one problem: they are minors and need parental permission to be baptized. So we've been trying to meet with the parents, but their step-dad won't even talk to and their mom is always working. We're actually going to go over there tonight to try to find their mom and talk to her. we've met with her once before and she already understands that we see our visits with them and their church attendance ending in baptism.

The other day while we were walking down the street, there was a drunk man who came up to us and started talking to us. Well, he really more of stumbled up to us as he was finding it difficult to walk in his current intoxicated condition. But he started talking to us and then asked if we could help him get back to his house. So we asked where he lived and it isn't far, but what happened is that I ended up carrying this guy back to his house. I was trying to talk to him the whole way about his family and what he does for work, but he would start talking and then would just go into gibberish. After stopping a couple times along the way, either to rest or to avoid cars going by, we got to his house and I helped him into the chair he had out front. We didn't want to stay too long however, because there really isn't too much that we can teach to a man when his mind is clouded in such a way, so we gave him a photo of Christ and wished him the best before heading off. As we left, he called out to us saying, "I love you my brothers!"

It's always interesting when drunk people want to talk to us. There was one man who kept talking and didn't seem to have an end in sight to his conversation, so I gave him a photo of Christ to distract him from his speech long enough to say that we had to move on, so to thank us for the picture he kissed each of our ties.This particular man always calls us, "his dear brothers," whenever we see him.

We've been really trying to focus on the Luke family, and we actually learned that Daniel, the husband, was going to be baptized, but couldn't quite get there because he couldn't quit smoking; and that his wife, Norma, wasn't really as serious about getting baptized as he was, and we've seen that to be true even now. Daniel has been keeping his commitments to read though, but there is always something that comes up that keeps them from going to church. 

The other day, we taught them the ten commandments and then a couple days later when we went back to visit them, they asked if we could mark the page where the ten commandments where so that they could read them again later. So we were more than happy to help them along in their reading and the next time after that that we went to visit them, Daniel had gained some personal revelation. He was telling us about how he was thinking about the first and second commandments, "Thou shalt have one God and none other" and "Thou shalt have no grave images," and he had come to the realization that, "the saints (like the Virgin Mary and every other things like it) are pointless and don't make any sense."He then told us that he had before had a Gauchito Gil statue, but had since thrown it out. I'd call that progress, Even if they aren'

t coming to church for now, they, or at least Daniel, is coming closer and  closer to Christ.

os amo,
Elder Burt