How was Easter? I had a great one. I gave a talk yesterday in church. I used a talk given by President Hinckley from 1995 http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/04/this-glorious-easter-morn?lang=engIt is interesting to read. First he talks about his plans as Prophet of the Church (He had been sustained a year before) It is interesting because he did exactly what he said he was going to do. Kind of like a... a prophet! Plus the second part about Easter and the Resurrection was great.
Camila was confirmed yesterday as well. It was such a great experience. She and her mom could not stop smiling the whole hour of Sacrament Meeting. It was also a momentous day because her mom, Paola, got her patriarchal blessing. They were definitely very happy yesterday, and still are, I imagine.
Elder Narvaez and I were able to visit one of the less active families in our branch this week, and it was a wonderful experience. I don't even remember what scripture we shared but we all felt the spirit so strong. The dad has been the root of their inactivity, and was planning on leaving the church for good. He had not been reading or praying either, so he was not enjoying the companionship of the Spirit. While we were there, we testified to him of the importance of activity in the Church and the Gospel (thanks, Donald L. Hallstrom) On Sunday, they came to church, and told us that they had read and prayed as a family the past few days! It is amazing the work the Spirit can do. All we had to do was show up and testify!
Our Branch President, who is single, and the First Counselor and his wife all went to the temple last week. They were all baptized within the last 2 years or so (well, the first counselors wife has been a member since she was 14, but reactivated when her husband got baptized.) They all had a wonderful experience. They all received their endowments, and the Ferreyra's (first counselor) were sealed as a family. On Sunday, there were so many faces shining with peace and joy. It was amazing!
Today we are down in Dolores for a district activity with the Zone Leaders. Basically we are just playing ping pong, eating, and watching Kung Fu Panda 2. I am actually missing part of the movie right now, but it's ok. I will see it in English when I get home. This might be the last time I see Elder Benavides, one of my Zone Leaders. He has been my Zone Leader since I got to Chascomús, and has been my Zone Leader for longer than any other. He has been a great example and leader for me these past 5-6 months. He is going home in two weeks, to Colombia. I am so grateful for all of the great missionary friends that I have made on my mission. There are some that I will never forget, and some that I will see often after my mission. It makes me happy to know so many good faithful servants of the Lord. I feel honored to be part of this missionary force, now numbering over 56,000!
Dad, thanks for sharing that story about Matt. Members helping members is such a huge part of success in the Church. And we are all examples, whether we know it or not. Thank you for being an example for good! Also, I love that video of Mr. Bean! It is one of my all-time favorites, because it is something that happens to all of us, especially the part with the candy. ha-ha
I am not sure who Trace and his wife are. But I am glad Martha is still our Sister/Aunt/Second Mom! I miss her, and all of you so much!
I know that this Church is true. I know that you all being good member missionaries. You probably don't recognize the huge help you are to those who see you. But as a missionary, we see it all the time!
It was 7:00 on Thursday night. My companion and I were on our way to visit a less active member. I felt our cell phone vibrate in my pocket, and taking it out saw we had received a text from Camila. I stopped my bike, and Elder Narvaez pulled up next to me. "Listen to this," I told him as I read the text. "Elderes, o me bautizo el sábado o nunca.".... "Elders, either I get baptized Saturday, or never." This was very interesting to us, seeing as we hadn't been able to talk to her for about a week. I thought it was a joke at first, because her mom (Paola, you'll remember) had her phone for a while, and I wouldn't put it past her to joke with us like that. My suspicions were heightened when we immediately called Camila's cell phone, and Paola answered. I asked her what was going on. "What do you mean?" she asked. I asked her if Camila was with her, and she said that she was. I asked to speak with her and she passed her the phone. "So, you're getting baptized on Saturday then?" "Yes" was her response. "Ok," I told her. "Don't go anywhere. We will be there in 15 minutes." She had to run home (she doesn't live with her mom) but she said she would meet us at her mom's in half an hour.
PART II - THE HELP OF AN ANGEL
As you can imagine, we were very excited. We had worked and prayed for her so much, and just days before, it seemed like she wouldn't be getting baptized any time soon. We immediately called the Zone Leaders, who were going to have to come down here on Friday to do the baptismal interview. We got to Paola's house and talked with her for a few minutes while we waited for Camila to get back. She told us what had happened that had made Camila make that decision. To explain it we have to take a step back. There is another member in our ward named Cholo. Well, his real name is Eduardo but everyone calls him Cholo. He is almost 90 years old and one of the best people I have ever met. He doesn't know how to read or write, but has a firm, strong testimony of the gospel. He got baptized about 30 years ago, here in Chascomús. Because he is old, and can't get around very well, it is hard for him to go visit other members, even though he really wants to. He had been wanting for some time to specifically visit Paola and Juan Cruz, who live on the other side of the city. He has a car but neither him nor his wife can drive. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, he decided he just needed to visit them and took a remis (taxi) to their house. When he arrived, Camila was also there, visiting her mom. Unless we had a fixed appointment with her, she only went to her mom's house about twice a week, and normally in the night. That day though, she had decided to go earlier. (Chance? I think not.) Cholo talked to them both for a while, then asked Camila how she was doing. He knew that she had had a baptismal date, but that she was struggling. He talked to you about her problems and doubts. One big stumbling block for her was being afraid her friends and other family who aren't members would make fun of or reject her for being a "Mormon." He told her how he went through the same things when he got baptized. He had a group of friends that he worked with, drank with, and did whatever else together. When he got baptized, they laughed at him and rejected him. He was sad because they had turned their backs on him, but he knew he had done the right thing. Camila also was waiting to receive a solid answer that the Church is true. Cholo helped her see that she had already received that confirmation while we had been teacher her. Her heart was softened, and she realized that she could find reasons to put off her baptism forever or she could go with her heart and just do it. It was right after Cholo left the house that she sent us the text.
PART III - THE STRUGGLE
When she got back, we talked with her about her baptism, did a pre-interview, and asked her again why she wanted to get baptized. She said she wanted to change and that Christ would help her if she took this step. We explained that other missionaries would be coming to give the interview, and she was really nervous. She doesn't like meeting new people (just like her mom) and felt like it was going to be a test. She said she couldn't remember everything we taught her, which we proved wrong by giving her the pre-interview. She may not have been able to just spout off all that we had taught, but she remembered with just a few words to remind her. She still told us straight up that she did not want to get interviewed by other missionaries. In the end we asked her if she would make this one last sacrifice before her baptism to have the interview with a stranger. If she would, she would be blessed and comforted. Finally she agreed, and we set the interview for Friday at 7:00.
PART IV - DIFFICULTIES BECOME BLESSINGS
The next day at about 4:00, we got a call from the Zone Leaders. They were in the bus terminal in La Plata about to travel down here to do the interview. But... there were no tickets. The whole Easter week and the weekend before are busy tourist times, and it is extremely hard to get a bus ticket the day of. They had one more bus line to check, and in the meantime, I called to see if they could take a shared remis, but there weren't any spaces left with them either. Elder Narvaez had the idea to call our mission president, and ask him if the branch president, President Cignoli, could do the interview. So we called him and explained to him the situation. He met Camila when he came to our area one time and we went and visiterd her with him. We asked him about the branch president, but he said he didn't think that would be a good idea. I thought then that we were doomed, because it was highly unlikely the Zone Leaders would make it down. (There were no tickets for Saturday either.) We would have to postpone the baptism, and as we have noted, Camila wanted to get baptized Saturday or never. We probably could have helped her get baptized down the road, but we knew she could fall into the same doubts as before. Then President Stapley told me something that surprised me. He told me I had better do the interview myself. I reminded him that I had taught her from the beginning, but he told me it was ok, and as mission president he was making an exception this time. He reminded me of the purpose of baptismal interviews, a few key things to check for, and wished me luck. This was very strange, but I immediately realized it was an even bigger blessing than it had seemed at first. Not only was Camila going to be able to get baptized the next day, but the interview would be a much more pleasant experience for her. That night, when we got to her mom's house, we have her the news.She was still nervous, but she was glad I was the one interviewing her. As an interesting note, she had a small problem with the Word of Wisdom. She drank tea every day and every night. It is pretty common here. When we first taught the Word of Wisdom, that was the only thing she was worried about. Along with deciding to get baptized, she stopped drinking tea overnight. She told me that she was going to miss it, but she felt it was right.
PART V - CONFERENCE AND A BAPTISM
In our mission on conference weekend, there are normally anywhere from 0 to 5 baptism. Most people don't set baptismal dates for these weekends because the newly baptized persons have to wait a whole week to get confirmed. Interestingly, this is the second time I have had a baptism on conference weekend. Both times, our investigator just didn't want to wait any longer! Camila was baptized in between sessions on Saturday. For us, that was about 4:00 in the afternoon. She was nervous through the whole first session and couldn't sit still. She was walking back and forth between where I was watching in English, and the rest of the branch watched in Spanish. Finally the time came, and we had the baptismal service. 8 weeks ago, when she first decided to be baptized, she requested that I perform the baptism. I was grateful for the opportunity, and was happy to do it. Right before entering the font, I asked her how she felt. She answered, "Ready." After, you could tell just be looking at her that something was different. She had that light of a person who has just washed away all their sins and started a new life. She told her mom that she couldn't describe how she felt other than that she was very happy and peaceful. When President Stapley went with us to teach her, he had asked her what she wanted out of life. She had responded with two things. Peace and Joy. He promised her that after her baptism she would feel these things, and his promise was fulfilled.
Mom, I mentioned to Paola that you had been praying for Camila. I think you said you put her name on the prayer roll as well. Paola was overcome with gratitude and told me to make sure I sent you her thanks and love. That includes everyone who has prayed for her, or my investigators in general. It was definitely an answerd prayer this week. (Mom and Dad, you will be able to meet this whole family when you come down!)
Needless to say, after last week we feel very happy and blessed. Another interesting thing throught this whole experience was how clearly we could see the Lord's hand in all of it. From Cholo going to visit at the same time as Camila, to the bus problems and me ending up doing the interview. We know without a doubt that the Lord was involved.
I have uploaded pictures from before her baptism to DropBox. Dad, can you make sure that Matt and Rob get ahold of those pictures?
I also loved conference. It seemed like every talk was another small piece of my growing faith. I especially liked Elder Donald L. Hallstrom's talk from the first session. I have seen evidence of what he talked about so much in my mission. As members of the Church, we must be active in the Gospel. It could be said that that the Zoramites in Alma 31 were active members of their church. They went to church every Sunday, and each got up and said the prayer of perverse thanks on the Rameumptom. But we read in verse 23 that "...after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their home, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again..." Let's not be like these Zoramites, or in the vernacular of today's youth, let's not be "Sunday Mormons." Elder Hallstrom gave us three keys to help us. 1. Deepen our understanding of Diety 2. Focus on the ordinances and coventants 3. Unite the Gospel with the Church.
Mom, for the record, when you finished preparing for the relief society activity at 12:30 am, I wasn't sleeping. That is only 9:30 my time, so I would have been in my pench planning for the next day! It sounds like it was great experience. I am looking forward to one of those cupcakes when I get home. I also wish I could have some spinach dip as well. I had forgotten about that stuff.
Thanks for the Easter money. I will use it well. I have pictures of my belts and pants, if you still think it's worth it. I will survive regardless, but let me know. Oh, and you can already download the conference talks and put them on your iPhone.
We made conference waffles on Sunday in between sessions. The cream didn't really work out, so we kind of just poured in on over the pudding. But it was delicious anyway. My companion was very impressed, even though mine were mediocre. Too bad he can't taste the ones from home!
Well, I think that is all for now. I love everyone and I hope you all have a great Easter!
This week was... tough and slow. We didn't have very many appointments set up after being out of our area for almost 5 days. Not to seem melodramatic, but it seemed like very little went well this week. People weren't home, people rejected us, investigators weren't keeping their commitments. Our three investigators with Baptismal dates are struggling especially with keepin the commitments. We need them to read! Please pray for that specifically in the prayers you are already offering.
We did have some good lessons with inactive members. A big part of our work here is with the Rescue Plan given to us by the first presidency. It is the plan where each organization (RS, Elders, High Priests), gives 5 names of inactive families (preferably part member) to visit and reactivate.
Mom, there was an activity for the Relief Society birthday, but we made it an all-inclusive birthday party for those who had their birthday in Jan/Feb/March. It was pretty much just some food and a big cake. And we played ping pong.
Dad, thanks for the sports updates. When do the NBA playoffs start?
I was very glad to hear about Shered. I can't wait to get home and hang out with him. I realized the other day that I have had 4 companions in a row that don't have any brothers. I don't know what I would have done with all those girls if Shered hadn't been around.
I am very excited for General Conference. It is coming at a perfect time to give me a boost! This time I will just be with my companion instead of a whole group of missionaries. (Well, he will be with the branch while I am off to the side listening to it in English) So I will have a lot less waffles to make!
Dad, I will have the final budget for you next Monday.
Martha, if you are reading this Happy Birthday! I was thinking about you the other day without remembering it was your birthday! Oops. I hope you are doing great!
Sorry this was short. I love you all. Have a great week, and enjoy General Conference!
Sorry there was no email yesterday. This week we have had transfers! We were traveling all day yesterday and didn't get a chance to write. After only one transfer, Elder Tejada has gone to a new area and I received Elder Narvaez from Guatemala. I have now been with 7 Americans, 2 Chileans, 1 Mexican, 1 Argentine, and 1 Guatemalan. It is possible that Elder Narvaez will be my last companion. I am looking forward to working with him this transfer.
Your trip to San Diego sounds great! I enjoyed all of the pictures and descriptions. Thanks for the notes in the sand. Dad, you're translation was a literal one. I understood because I speak English. The translation app almost got it right. It would be saludos with and "O" instead of an "A" in saludas.
I forgot my planner from last transfer today so I don't remember all the experiences I was going to share from this last week. This email will be short anyway because we don't have much time today.
Next week I will be sending pictures, and a nice long email. For today, I will just send this one of my new companion and I.
First off, I uploaded some pictures to DropBox, with descriptions. I hope you enjoy them.
Mom, I hope you are doing better. I did not like to hear about you being sick, but I am grateful you had Dad to take care of you.
This week we had a two days of meetings. Because we are far away, we "had" to go stay with some other missionaries for a few days. We left Wednesday afternoon, and got back Saturday morning. Then we had Stake Conference on Sunday, and had to travel again. That, plus we were travelling last Sunday and Monday as well. We are all travelled out!
Dad, we could always consider shortening your stay, right? Would that drop the cost enough? We'll see what happens!
For now, Camila's baptism is on hold. We weren't able to see her at all this week because of all the travel. We have a goal for her to get baptized on April 7th, along with Margarita.
Mom, I have actually been thinking a lot that and am very excited to do Family Home Evenings when I get home.
I am so happy to be here with you today. I would like to thank my mission president for this opportunity to speak.
Yeah, so... how is everyone? I got letters from a whole slew of people today. Thank you all for writing! It makes my day so much brighter (even though it is raining right now.)
Aubri, I am so happy for you! Have a great week! I wish I could be there, but I'll see you when I get home.
Today I am feeling very happy. This is the last P-day of the transfer, and one of the Sisters is going home on Monday. We are going to miss her, but today we are enjoying ourselves. We went in the morning to a sort of carnival, but it was already closed. But then the Sisters told us that there is a maze close by that is made with bushes or hedges, like in Harry Potter, except that it is only about 4 feet high. So we did that and then went to a park and took pictures and then came back to the church to eat, play ping pong, and write our families! Also today one of the Elders in my district, Elder Jarvis got a video of his little brother receiving his mission call. He is going to Chile. It was a lot of fun to see another future missionary receive his call!
This last week we had some great contacts. We were able to talk to some people who are very promising that we are going to visit again this week. Margarita and Camila both have baptismal dates for the 24th of February right now. They both need your prayers! Camila told us yesterday that she has been praying every night and is waiting for an answer that the Church is true and that she should get baptized. She is worried that it will never come. She has the doubt that maybe the Church isn't for her, so Heavenly Father isn't going to answer he prayer. We have faith that she will in fact receive it. Margarita just needs to go to church. She was sick this weekend and couldn't go, but she told us she knows she needs to and will go this week.
Some experiences from this week:
After leaving a members house (the family of Ludmila, who got baptized in December) we were riding our bikes down the street when her little 3 or 4 year old brother runs out screaming something. He was screaming "¡Un Beso! ¡Un Beso!" "A kiss! A kiss!" In argentina they say hello and goodbye with kisses, and we only accept them from little kids. I left with "saying goodbye" and he wanted to tell me goodbye!
On Tuesday I did an exchange with the elders in Dolores, and while we were out clapping houses, we saw some Jehovah's Witnesses. This is common, but they usually avoid us and go down a different street. But this time, we were in front of a house waiting for a guy to come out, and they went to the house right next door and clapped it. It was interesting to be doing contacts side by side with them. They may have some strange ideas, but at least they are out trying to share an important message!
After lunch on Wednesday we were sharing a scripture with the family, and they had their grandkids there. My companion asked Sofia, who is 10 years old and a member to read 1 Nephi 1:1, but to replace "Nephi" with "Sofia". Now to understand what happened next we have to explain a little Spanish. When is says "born of goodly parents" in Spanish that is "nací de buenos padres". So "goodly" is "buenos" in this case. But when she read it, she changed it more than expected and said "Yo, Sofia, nací en buenos aires, y recibí por tanto..." This may not be funny or make sense in English, but it was pretty funny when it happened!
On Wednesday night, we had a Family Home Evening for the branch in the church. My companion organized it all, and was a great success! We watched the Testaments, did the "Seminary Doughnuts" lesson but with Alfajors, played a game where you had to pick up a candy with your teeth from a plate, but it was buried in flour. Then we played hangman and had a piñata. The phrase in hangman was "Appearances can be deceiving" and they got to break the piñata when they guessed it. The piñata was filled with paper and flour (appearances can be deceiving) and we taught a lesson about how the devil tries to make sins appear good, and how we can avoid falling in his trap. Then we had chips and soda and candy to finish. It was really fun, and we had about 4 or 5 inactive members come who haven't been to church in more than 6 months! In two weeks we are having another one about the Plan of Salvation.
I love you all so much! Thanks for your prayers and love.
This week I wrote down things to tell, and I realized today that they all have to do with death, or something related. Weird, right?
First, an update. We had several great lessons with Camila and Margarita this week. They are both progressing, but at different rates. I wish that we could just have lessons with them all day every day, because we feel the spirit so strong and care about them so much. It is a great experience. We started taking members with us to visit Margarita, and she loves it! She said she remembers from before when she was investigating the Church that members would always go and visit her, and it made her feel so good. So we are trying to help with fellowshipping that way. Camila is trying to change. Even though she is only 14, she lived a very worldly life before. She knows it is for the best to live in accordance with God's laws, but it is hard for her. One night she wrote her mom and told her that she didn't want to meet with us that day because we talked about God too much. haha. We explained to her the next time that we don't really have anything else to talk about! We are trying to organize an activity where she can just enjoy herself with the members and us so she sees that the Church isn't just missionary lessons and sacrament meeting.
Speaking of sacrament meeting, we had 12 people total yesterday, including the two missionaries and Camila. It was the smallest I have ever seen. I gave a talk, and I felt like I was teaching a sunday school lesson because there were so few people.
So this week my companion and I were looking for some addresses, and we stopped to check our map. We look on one side of the street and there is a preschool. Then we looked on the other side, and there was an old folks home! haha. My companion was like, oh look, the beginning and end of life! I wonder if someone planned to put them next to each other, or it just happened?
We were with Margarita talking about the Plan of Salvation, and she said something interesting: "The only thing you need to die is to be alive!"
Unfortunately this week in Buenos Aires there was a terrible tragedy. There was a train accident and over 50 people were killed, and over 600 injured. The brakes were not functioning correctly, and when the train got to the final station where the tracks end and there is a barrier, it crashed. The first two cars smashed together like an accordian. It has been very sad this last week. Luckily, we know that all those people are ok, and that death is not the end. It was a great experience to be able to share the Plan of Salvation with people who asked us if we had heard about the train accident.
We had a leadership and secretary training meeting on Saturday for Bishoprics and Branch Presidencies and all the presidents from each ward or branch. It was with Elder Avila, who is an area Seventy. At one point during a question and answer session, someone asked what to do in an emergency when a member needs welfare help. The answer was "Follow the spirit" But he used the example "If the spirit tells you to cut off a head, you just get up and cut it off!" It was a great example! Then he clarified by saying that that only happened once, so don't get any ideas.
This next part is specifically for the Montes Family, so can you make sure it gets to them?
En esa misma reunión, estaban hablando de qué tipos de alimentos se deben dar a los miembros necesitados. Decían que solamaent deben ayudarlos mantener la vida, y no mantener un "estilo de vida". Entonces, nos dieron unos ejemplos de alimentos que son "necesarios para sostener la vida" ¡y los primeros que dijeron eran Yerba y Azúcar! ¡Me dió tanta gracia! Me encanta estar en Argentina!
Dad, Congratulations on your sale! I am glad things are going well.
I am glad to hear Jessie is getting better at church. It makes me so happy to hear about his experiences.
In almost every email I get, I am told that you don't want to repeat each other, so sometimes you leave out stories because someone else is going to tell me. I think it might be better if you all say what you want, and I'll deal with repeat stories! Remember that I read really fast (I did a test the other night with my companion and I was at roughly 700 wpm.) So don't be afraid to repeat stories!
I love everyone. I am so grateful for your prayers and love. I know that I am doing the Lord's will serving a mission.