Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I will work a great and a marvelous work

Querida familia,                                         25 De Febrero 2014

This week we've seen lots of ups and downs with Isabel in her personal progression. Monday started out with her having little confidence in herself and having a greater need to increase her faith.  In her life, she has never really ever participated in a religion, so this is all new to her and she never really had to do anything "hard" as far as spiritual things are concerned; in other words, she has ever really had to show her faith in the way that she is having to show it now. So it's been quite an experience. 

A day later when we went to see how she was doing, she said that we were losing time with her because she wouldn't be able to change. I asked her if she felt that way because she didn't want to continue or if she just thought that it was a hard path to follow. She responded that it was hard. We told her that it is hard, but it isn't impossible.

So we've still been teaching her and she came to church last Sunday too. Now she is down to one cigarette a day when she used to smoke anywhere from six to fifteen a day. She wants to be baptized, but quiting smoking is proving harder than expected.

On Thusday we were walking down the street when we saw a man sitting outside and decided to talk to him. We chatted for a while and started talking more about the Church and eventually he confided in us that his wife had died exactly one month ago that very day. We shared about the plan of salvation and the Book of Mormon. 

We set an appointment to see him again to talk about the importance of the Book of Mormon and how it helps us in life to understand what God's plans are for us in the earth. I shared this scripture with him to help him understand,

"For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal" (1 Nephi 14:7)

We talked about how the Book of Mormon offers peace and understanding and how he can apply it in his own life.

On Friday we had a Priesthood conference for all the Priesthood holders in Chiloe, Paraguay, Argentina, and Urugauy that we lead by some seventies and Elder M. Russell Ballard. It went really well and Elder Ballard gave a really good talk that was actually really spiritual and funny at the same time. It was so unexpected to him that the elder next me turned over and asked, "Why is this so casual?"

Elder Ballard was talking about what we are doing with our time and he said, "All of the things that we work so hard to have - the car, the house, the computer - can't go with us when we pass on to the spirit world; I guess that you could put them in the casket with you, but by the time that you resurrect it will already be way outdated anyway. The only thing that we get to take with us is our friends and families if we are sealed to them in the House of the Lord."

os amo,
Elder Burt

P.S. Sorry this is short, we had a meeting yesterday that didn't leave us time to write, so we're in a bit of a hurry today.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Seek the kingdom of God

Querida familia,                                  17 De Febrero 2014

This week we've been working with a youth named Marcos Ledesma. The missionaries were teaching him before, but he never went to church, so they stopped passing by to teach him. Well we went by this week last Monday and started talking with him. I guess he had been keeping most of his commitments to read and pray, but just never made the effort to go to church on Sunday.

His problem is the same as any other youth's in this city though (or in Argentina in general for that matter): they all go out to party and go to dance clubs on Saturday night and no one goes home until eight o'clock the next morning.
So we talked to Marcos about what he wants to do in life and where he sees himself in five years down the road. At first, a lot of his goals sounded more like a bucket list of things to do and didn't have any real aspiration; I was talking about it later with my companion and I said, "If all of your goals can be accomplished in a week, then you don't have any direction in your life." But then later Marcos said that he wants to be some sort of engineer that works with petroleum. So that was a good goal.

We talked with him for two lessons in a row about being obedient and how God will help us to accomplish our goals if we will put Him at the top of our priorities. To go with this point, I like that scripture that reads,

"Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (3 Nephi 13: 32-33)

We also talked a lot about how this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God and not merely for fun and games. We talked about the importance of acting in the moment and not procrastinating the day of our repentance. We shared with him,
"For behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you." (Alma 34: 31)

As well as,
"I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed."(Alma 34: 33)

We told him that if he would decided to be obedient then, like the scripture said, he would be immediately blessed, but if he choose to wait then eventually his time would run out.

Sunday came around and Marcos came to church with us.

We've also been teaching another youth named Matía who is nineteen years old and is in the same situation. This Saturday we also met all of his friends (they all play on a soccer team together). They all showed up while we were talking to Matías and they were kind of shy around us, but didn't want to how it. But after a few minutes they all started talking to us, but they didn't want to be serious until one of them, a twenty year old named Darío, asked "Who is God? Or what is God? I heard people talk about Him all the time, but I don't even know what that means."
It was interesting that he had asked that question because I was assigned a talk for sacrament meeting on Sunday about prophets. As I thought about his question it made me think more about the importance of prophets in our time and just how important it is that the prophet Joseph could reopen the windows of heaven to bring in a steady downpour of new revelation while at the same time correcting all of the false doctrines of the time. While there are many who are in darkness because they know not where to find the truth, we know that God is not some spirit or great energy, but rather a loving Father in Heaven who desires that we become like He is.

As far as the rest of the work is concerned we've been having some troubles working with the long-time members here. They all are very hesitant to trust the Church again because they feel like they were abandoned ten years ago when the branch was closed by the Church and all of it's leaders. So the members don't actually want to help their friends and family get baptized because they don't want them "to feel abandoned if the Church leaves again." So we're working hard with the leaders from the Church in the other city to develop trust and confidence between the members and the leaders.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Friday, February 14, 2014

Struggling to strengthen a branch

Querida familia,                                         10 De Febrero 2014

We've been thinking about what it is that we're going to do in order to get this group going so that it can be a branch and eventually a ward and this week we've been working on a couple of things that we want to get started.

This first thing that we needed to start having more success was support from the branch leaders (who live an hour away in another city) as well as the district leaders. So on Tuesday we had a meeting with the branch president to talk about the needs of the members in the group and what the leaders can do to help out. The district president (who was baptized only three years ago) doesn't really know what we need to do because this is a new experience to him and to everyone else involved. So we're trying to just apply principles that are simple and understandable to produce good results in our experimental group that we hope to make a permanent branch.

Something that was helpful and an interesting teaching experience was this Wednesday when two of the young men from Saenz Peña (the city where the branch is) come to work in Quitilipi with us for a day. Their names are Amil and Aldo and they're both preparing to go on a mission, so they asked if they could spend a day with us doing missionary work. So they came in the morning and we spent our study time teaching them how to be missionaries and teaching them about the Priesthood. We also talked about foreordination and premortal callings that we're expected to finish on Earth.

So Aldo, who is the branch president's son, went with us during the day and Amil went with the other companionship of Elders for the day. We had some good lessons and Aldo was a little bit quiet with the people, but if he wasn't talking I would just ask him questions about what the person that we were teaching needed to hear. So we had some good experiences during the day and when we got to the end and had to go back home they said that they wanted to come back every week if it was ok with us.

Just a funny story, but we were teaching this girl who had apparently just got back from walking (dressed up in her work out pants and tank top) and says to us, "I'm just so tired from my hour walk." In my mind I thought, "yeah, it must be tough to walk for an hour after the sun goes down; we just walk around all day under the sun."

So there is a woman that we're teaching named Isabel Portillo. She came to church last week, but when we talked to her on Wednesday she said that she knew that the Book of Mormon and the Church were true, but still wsan't sure about Joseph Smith. So we explained a little bit more and invited her to pray about it, but her other obstacle is that she has to quit smoking.

So on Friday we went to teach her more about the Word of Wisdom and how she can quit smoking. The next day we went by to see how her progress was and also to make preparations to go to church. She said that in the morning she went to smoke, but when she started smoking it made her body tremble and she couldn't continue. So she just threw her cigarette away and kept going with her morning. A little while later she tried smoking again, but this time it made her sick when she tried to smoke.

Yesterday she came to church and she really liked it; the plan now is for her to get baptized this Saturday. She said that she is going to save all the money that she would have used on cigarettes to save up for her trip to go to the chapel in Saenz Peña where we'll have the baptism in a nice font.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, February 3, 2014

One last area

Querida familia,                                2 De Febrero 2014
We did service for a family moving bricks from the street to their back yard so they can start building some stuff. 

This last Monday we had another visit with Ana Rivero, the friend of two of the girls from the young women that we've been teaching. She is really doing quite well and will be getting baptized soon; we're really excited for her. What is even better is that the members are starting to so the fruits of their labors, or at least the labor of others, and it's getting them excited to do their own missionary work with their friends and family.

Ana's family owns what essentially is a farm, but it isn't really a farm and the people just call it a field, but it has animals and crops that they cultivate and harvest, a cabin, and other things. It's about five kilometers from where we live and so she invited us to go there with her and some of the other youth from the branch. So we set a time to go early Friday morning to go and do service with whatever it is that they needed us to do.

Unfortunately this plans, as well as many others, come to an abrupt halt this last Tuesday when when got the transfer call. Elder Diaz was told that he would be staying in Campo Largo for a time longer, but that I was going to be moved to a different area that is actually really close by (the city is still within the same district as Campo Largo) called Quitilipi.

Quitilipi is a brand new area that has been closed for years and was recently opened up three months ago. So now I'm here as the group leader until there are enough members, as well as a place to meet (because right now we just have a sacrament meeting in member's house every Sunday), and then I would be the branch president here (unless by that time we already have someone here who can do it).

So for now we have some really great plans to get things going here and leave the foundation for a very successful and active branch that can become a ward. My new companion Elder Valverde (who is also from Peru) is really great and we have a shared vision of what we want to do and how we are going to do it. 

So I actually had some time to say goodbye to the members in Campo Largo before leaving because the bus didn't leave until 1:30 in the afternoon. So we went to visit some of the members and then some of the youth in the branch came to the bus terminal to say a final goodbye.
But we have some really great members here in Quitilipi, but the group is desolate of youth; they're all adults because the work has been dead for at least six years and there haven't been any new members.

Also here with us is another companionship that lives right next door to us and shares half the city with us. So we're going to be coordinating our efforts with them to help focus in on the members and making this a strong group that will evolve into an active branch. 

os amo,
Elder Burt