Today I have been in Chascomús for 4 months. The time really has flown.
Yesterday it rained a lot here, and almost no-one came to church. It just happened to be the Sunday it was being announced that we are joining with a stake, and the stake presidency, the stake secretary, and all the auxillary presidents came to our branch. Before they showed up there were only 12 people! Most of the streets that aren't paved were flooded. One sister told us later in the day the the water came within a meter of her front door! Because of that, Camila wasn't able to make it to church, and so we are moving her baptismal date. We are going to see her tonight to make a new goal. The stake president was going to assign a new 2nd counselor yesterday, but decided to leave me. So at least for a while longer, I will be serving as 2nd counselor. It takes some time away from missionary work, but it is a good learning experience.
Here are some more interesting/random things that I heard, saw, or experienced this week:
While teaching an inactive member named Norma, she told us she doesn't like to take the sacrament because the water makes her feel sick! I have to admit, the water tastes gross here, but that tiny amount should be fine. Of course, she hasn't been to church in 3 years so not liking the sacrament water is the least of her worries.
There is a church here called the Universal Church. They are famous for there requirement of donations. They have a system of paying for better seats. For example, to sit on the front row, you have to "donate" $100 dollars. The second row, $90, and so forth. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they have their meetings, and the people are asked to donate $50 pesos each time. They call this "tithing". It is amazing that every single member just happens to earn $1,500 per week! People who don't want to pay, or can't are allowed to enter, but as sort of outcasts, and have to sit or stand at the very back. These are some of the only people that actually are happy to obey the law of tithing that we teach. They end up paying less! haha
While teaching another inactive member, my companion shared this example: A home teacher went to visit an inactive member. They sat in front of his fire, and the inactive brother told him that it had been so long since he had gone to church, that he didn't feel the "fire" of his testimony anymore. He felt cold. Without saying a word, the home teacher took the fire poker, and removed one of the coals from the fire. He let it sit there as it slowly cooled and turned white. He let it cool to the point that he could pick it up with his hand. Then, he broke the coal in half with the poker, and turned off the light. There, in the very center, there was still a faint orange warm glow. The home teacher put the coal back in the fire, where it shortly shone again with heat. Still silent, he left the house, leaving this inactive member to his thoughts. Moral of the story? Even when it seems like someone is completely inactive, and completely cold to the church and their testimony, there always remains the soft glow in their heart from when they received their first testimony. All we have to do is put them back in the "fire."
On Thursday night we had a Family Home Evening with the family of the 1st counselor of our branch. It was stormy and raining, and shortly after arriving, the power went out. We were using candles and the flashlight from our cell phone to see and cook. (It was already dark outside, about 8:00). Our cell phone was about to run out of battery, and it was the light in the kitchen. I saw on a table a couple of chargers, and asked her if she had one that fit our phone. She replied that she did, and so I asked her if she would plug it in so we could keep using the light. She just looked at me like I was an idiot. Then her 10 year-old son looked at me and said "Duh, Elder Stobbe, the power's out!" I couldn't help but laughing at my own moment of stupidity.
This last week we went to go contact a reference we had received from a street contact. She had told us that her mom used to go to our church, but never got baptized. When we got there, we met Margarita. She is 78 years old. About 3 or 4 years ago, her and her "husband" (they were not married but lived together as a couple for over 40 years. He had a previous marriage and had never gotten a divorce) were investigating the church with their two children. The kids got baptized, but Margarita and Ceferino couldn't, because of their marital status, or lack thereof. In the time between then and when we met her, she had had some incredibly difficult trials. In the space of 3 years her daughter was hit and killed by a car, her house burned down, her husband died of a heart attack, and her left leg was amutated from the thigh down due to complications with diabetes. The last one happened less than 3 months ago. She is currently using a wheelchair, and waiting to get a prosthetic leg. In spite of all of this, she is positive, and knows that God has his reasons for allowing things to happen to us. A huge blessing she had was that she had almost gotten baptized before, and therefore has a testimony of the plan of salvation, and knows that she can be with her daughter and husband again. She was so happy to see us, said she has felt even better and positive since we visited. Right now, the only thing in the way of her baptism is her leg. We have to make sure she can be immersed, and then there is the issue of physically performing the baptism. My companion told her that we would be her missing leg --- http://www.lds.org/pages/mormon-messages?lang=eng&query=dayton's+legs#daytons-legs ---. She told us in our last meeting she told us, "¿Con pata o sin pata, me voy a bautizar!" "With our without my leg, I'm going to get baptized!". We have a tentative date for her to get baptized on the 10th of March, but we will have to see.
Another common sight in Argentina. 3, 4, and sometimes even 5 people riding on one scooter! Small familes use their scooter like we would a minivan. Mom, Dad, and 2 or 3 kids all on the scooter! I will try and get a picture of this at some point.
I have a goal of learning new words in Spanish until I finish my mission. Specifically, I want to learn a new word my last day in Argentina. I have been writing down words I see or hear and asking what they mean. I have realized that there are so many that I don't know. Even though I can speak great, and always understand conversations, every once in a while there are specific words that I don't quite understand. Hopefully I can keep learning.
Here we are on another Monday, starting a new week.
This week I remembered something that I did early in my mission, which was write in my daily planner little things to share on Mondays. So here goes:
We clapped a house and did a contact with a guy, and he let us in. He lives with his brother, and they are both very poor. We started teaching them and immediately realized that they didn't understand us very well. We found out that one doesn't know how to read, and the other has about a 1st or 2nd grade reading level. It is sad sometimes the level of ignorance we find. We continued teaching, because obviously you don´t have to be able to read to accept Christ and repent. We finished the very short lesson on the Restoration, and invited them to Church. One of them, who was evangelist, told us that he didn't want to go because he didn't believe in us. Then he said something that made me want to laugh. We asked him why he didn't believe, and he said "You know how in the Bible it says that there will be false prophets?" "Yeah..." we responded. "Well I'm not saying you guys are false prophets, but you know...." So it turned out to be an interesting lesson. When we left they told us they did not really want us coming back.
Teaching an inactive member sister, my companion asked the question "Who wants to be like Christ?" Everyone but this sister raised their hand. When we asked her why, she said "Well, wasn't Christ a man? I don't want to be a man!"
Teaching a group of kids the 10 commandments using our fingers, we got to number 4: Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Or in modern terms, go to church every Sunday and keep the day holy. We were reviewing and it was one kid's turn to say what number 4 was (these were all members). He yells out confidently, "Go to church every Thursday!"
Another thing about Argentina that I don't think I have shared is that there are a lot of frogs. At night they come out and often they get ran over on the road. It is a very common sight to see flattened frog bodies in the road as we ride by on our bikes.
I was talking to Elder Martindale the other night (he was in the MTC with me) and he knows that I love Apple products. He asked me which of them I want to get when I go home. I told him, a MacBook Pro, iPhone, and maybe and iPod. Then he tells me; "No, wait. I know which one you really want. It's not the iPod or iPhone, or even iPad, but just the "i" (eye). I was laughing for about 5 minutes. He is the same elder who gave me the nickname Stobbe One-Eye Kanobi.
A member told us this short story: There was a man who was a faithful member of the church almost his whole life. But when he turned 80, he decided he had done enough, and wanted to rest. He had had church callings, gone to the temple, served a mission, and raised a family. Now he just wanted to rest, knowing he had done his duty. A few years after, he passed away. When he got to heaven, there was a little group of people gathered around St. Peter, who was getting ready to show everyone to their mansion. The man was very excited, knowing that his manision must be very large, and very nice. The started out, and one by one, the people were shown their mansion, and the group dwindled to just him. They finally approached his mansion, which as he expected was huge! He went in leaving St. Peter to himself. He look around at the beautiful furniture and craftsmanship, and was very pleased. But then he look up, and with alarm ran outside to catch up to St. Peter. "There has been a mistake" said he. "My mansion is missing the roof!" "There is no mistake" replied St. Peter. "The angels who built your manion worked just as long as you did. They were about to put on the roof, but when you decided you had done enough, and stopped working, so did they!" Let's all remember that instead of worrying about the size of our mansion, we should make sure it has a roof when we get there!
Proof that the Book of Mormon answers all of life's questions: Think of any question you have always wanted to know the answer to, that you haven't figured out. Then go to 1 Nephi 13:22 for the answer.
Mom, I am doing much better. I just got trunky for a few days. I feel great now, have been healthy for a few weeks! Thanks for the Valentines Day Gift. Listen to that CD! It is awesome!
At least where I am, there is no custom to use the table cloth as a napkin. Here they use paper towels. Very rarely do they have normal napkins. In fact, the word in Spanish "servilleta" is used for both napkins and paper towels, at least here.
Camila is doing great! We had 4 lessons with her in the last week, inluding that first one on Sunday. On Monday night we talk about her desire to get baptized. When we asked her when she wanted to get baptized she said "ya" which is means "already". They use it to mean ASAP! So we challenged her to be ready in 3 weeks, and she agreed! She is going to get baptized on the 25th of February. She is reading and praying. Last night, we went to teach her but she was very sick. She had a stomach ache and was feeling nauseous. Her mom, Paola, asked us if we could give her a blessing. So we briefly explained priesthood blessings to her (luckily we had already taught her about Priesthood Authority) and gave her a blessing. It ended up being a miracle, because 20 minutes later she was feeling fine! We told her to rest, and we could teach her another day. She left smiling!
I have a temporary assignment as the second counselor in our Branch for a week or two. We are about to join with a Stake (we have been part of a district, which is the equivalent of a branch to a ward) and the Stake President is going to assign a High Counselor to be the Second Counselor. It was interesting to count tithing yesterday, and see how it is all done!
Dad, I loved your thesis. I have already used it in my teaching. Thank you for your wisdom!
I love you all. Have a great week, and feel the Love of the Savior, as well as the love of your spouses, families, etc.
I am writing this letter on one of the worst computers I have seen in argentina. It only has Internet Explorer (won't let me download anything else), runs Windows XP only in the basic, gray ugly mode, and the internet is slower than molasses. Because of all this, my email account is acting weird, so I hope this gets there ok.
I have a new companion! His name is Elder Tejada, from San Juan, Argentina. He has been on his mission for 8 months. I have now had companions from the 4 major groups in our mission: American, Argentine, Chilean, and Mexican. He was actually in the same ward with me in Adrogué for 2 transfers, so I know him already. Chascomús is going to be weird without Elder Lopez, but we'll just have to get over it. We are in Banfield right now (where the mission home is). We are traveling back later tonight. Mom, I have pictures but my camera is in my area, so I will probably send them later tonight or tomorrow morning. I don't want to use up my full writing time here because it is a very uncomfortable experience (did I mention the keyboard is horrible as well?)
Dad, I'm not sure what you mean by the 3:00 testimony thing. Is that on Monday? President Stapley said he was going to send you an updated letter about parents coming, did you get anything like that? Can you send me a copy if you did? If not, then the way it is done is that on Monday, you can go to transfer meeting at 9:30, which is where all the missionaries going home bear their testimony, and then you have to go do something else for a few hours while we eat lunch with President and Hermana Stapley, finish up some final administrative things and do some other stuff..., and then when the other missionaries are ready to be taken to the airport, you come back and pick me up. As far as Sunday, I would like for you guys to at least go to church once here, for the experience. If you want to fly in on Sunday morning and miss that one, it might be better because after church you have to go "away" again while I finish out my last day of missionary work anyway. The next Sunday though, we choose where we go to church, and stay together after. So that is my opinion. Today I had the opportunity to talk with the parents of Elder Taylor, who was my Zone Leader, who came to pick him up. They came on Saturday, and apparently just cooled their heels all day. They told me some interesting things, like the fact that you each will have to pay about $140 USD to enter the country when you get to the airport, just so you know. Also, it cost them quite a bit to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel. For them it was over $100, but they brought their other two kids with them, so they had to take a little shuttle bus type car. For you, it will be less with just the two of you, where you can take a normal car. They said the only reason they didn't rent a car is because it would be too hard to find their way around. With me, that's not a problem. Everything would be much easier and faster with a rental car, but cheaper to do it the missionary way. I believe we already decided against renting, as it is expensive. Maybe Lance knows more about that, and can shed some light.
Ok, I am going to cut this, and finish it later. I can't handle this computer!!!!
Dad I just got your note where you realized about the meeting Monday. I stick to my opinion stated above. If we were to to use a rental car, we would not need a GPS for things in the mission, and some places in the main city of Buenos Aires. I think we could manage with my knowledge and Google Maps. Going to Iguassu falls doesn't seems worth it to me, but who knows. They it's pretty impressive, but for some reason, flying and spending money and a whole day or two for a waterfall doesn't seem too exciting. If it's something you guys really want to do, let's go for it. If not, I say skip it. We could save that money and go to a tango show, and visit other historical places.
I am working on a budget for food. I should have it done next week. I think you meant the mission home and church, not the mission office, when you mentioned getting there by train. I think you could handle getting there by train. You just have to know where you are going, which I can help you with.
Mom, I am normally fine for food money. My only money problems are with little unexpected expenses like fixing a bike, or having to travel for a meeting. And anyway, I am used to living off eggs and rice towards the end of the month.
As far as who we are teaching, our teaching pool is kind of dry right now. We are working on getting it back up, and with my new companion, we are going to work harder than ever to find new investigators. One who we met recently is a friend of a recently reactivated member. He just showed up to church a few Sundays ago saying he hadn't been to church in years, but decided it was time to go back. Then we had a sports activity to play soccer, and he brought his friend. At one point his friend (Daniel) told me he didn't actually like soccer, so I told him (honestly) that I didn't really either, so we sat and watched. Then I sneakily snuck out some Restoration pamphlets and taught him the first lesson right there! We are waiting to hear from his member friend (Ernesto) for when we can go by his house to teach him more. He seemed interested, so we will see where that leads.
We are also teaching a friend of a member family named Fernando. I may have mentioned him before. He has a lifestyle completely oppposite of the gospel principles, but wants to change. He has addictions to recover, and quite a change to make, but we are working with him to show him that it is indeed possible. He also went to our sports activity.
We are also working several inactive members and families. Since a few weeks ago that we talked to her, we haven't been able to find Rosa Alluson, the inactive sister I told you about. We have a list of more names to go and find that the branch gave us, so hopefully that brings about some fruit.
I'm not sure if I mentioned our Ping Pong Playing to you guys? We play quite a bit, every P-day and after district meetings. I never really like ping pong, and it has been more difficult since my accident, but it turns out that it is really fun, and I only whiff it once in a while! (And that may not even be because of my eye!) We have all gotten pretty good, and we have little tournaments. We play doubles alot, and it is way fun! Herman Rios and I were teamed up two weeks ago, and at the end of the day, we had 9 wins, while everyone else had 2 or 3! It is one of the only things we have to divert ourselves down south. So that is what we do!
Well, I just had to finish this up, and I will "see" you all next week.
I would like to send a huge thank you to the Summit Ward, and the Andersons. I got two amazing packages last week! And thank you to everyone who writes and contributes to my mission. I love you all.