Monday, August 17, 2015
This week was an interesting one. There are a lot of delays in the progress of our investigators, and for now at least, no one is progressing. Gastón´s got caught in some kind of rut that he can´t figure out. He knows he should be baptized, he wants to be baptized, he has permission to be baptized, he knows that Heavenly Father wants him to be baptized, but he just couldn´t take the leap of faith. I love that kid, and I´m praying my heart out for him. But I´m trying to keep the bigger perspective and remember the need to work in the area until the end. The work in Derqui 1´s not going to end just because I do, so I´m not going to stop working until I´m forced to.
I can´t get a hold of the Bravo Family to know if they have an appointment for their sealing, and I can´t even get a hold of the missionaries in Liniers. The offices told me that if I can´t get a hold of them today, I´ll have to come home on the 30th. Neither one is answering. I think the fight to extend the mission is over. See you all on July 30th. :´)
President called me on the phone this morning to talk about some stuff with the zone and paused at the end of the call. He said. ¨Wow. Elder, are you really at this point?¨ I quietly muttered ¨yeah.¨ ¨I can´t believe it,¨ he replied. I can´t believe it either, President. I´ve been denying it for a long time. But it´s sinking in now, and it´s as bitter-sweet as a WarHead.
I have to tell you all that your emails and support have been an incredible blessing. I´m going to be straight up and just say that I don´t want to end. Everyone in the mission knows that. But you guys, Heavenly Father, and even me- deep down- all know that I have to come home and start the next part of the Lord´s work. The miracles that I´ve seen on the mission are too many to count, but the miracles that I´ve read in your letters remind me that God is the same God back in Highland, Utah as He is here in la Gran Misión Argentina Buenos Aires Norte. He´ll still love Brother Goff as much as He does ÉlderGoff. And both of us will be forever grateful for this incredible opportunity to serve the God of Israel. ¡Hurra por Israel!
0343 and 0345- Even at this point in my mission, the humility of these people astounds me. We were teaching a lesson with a really humble family in what they call the kitchen (lean-to shack, lacking a wall, with a tarp as a roof with a campfire in the middle of the floor, no refrigerator, no pantry, and a small, little stove.) At the end of the lesson, the mom stood up and shyly told us that she wanted to share a dinner that she made for us, and gave us a deliciously bland guiso. I will never forget the meekness on her face, and Elder Cunningham and I couldn´t stop telling her how good her plain food was.
0348- I´ve been pretty much the only fan of San Lorenzo my whole mission. Today we showed up to play soccer with the zone, and what do you know? Three San Lorenzo fans! Woohoo!
Here I am in Capital, after a great day of President-approved sight-seeing and souvenior shopping. This is gonna be a quick one, because I´ve only got about 15 minutes before the train here leaves back to Derqui.
This was a pretty great week. That stud Alexis was confirmed this Sunday. His whole family was going to go and support him, but then at the last minute decided to stay home- even those who have been taking him to Church in the past. He woke up by himself two hours early, went to his neighbors who are members to be taken to Church. After he recieved the gift of the Holy Ghost, he gave a big handshake to everyone in the circle, and a big hug to Elder Cunningham and I. When we sat back down, I asked him how he felt. He gave me a faint smile, and said simply enough, ¨¡Feliz!¨ I love that. That´s how the Holy Ghost feels for me too.
AHH!! The train left! Sorry the letter´s so short, but I can´t be on the computer anymore (It´s technically not P-day anymore). I didn´t even I have time to read your letters. I love you all!
I´m going to talk again to the mission office about the time I´m coming home. August 7th is the most probable right now.
206- Walking on the newly paved roads in Derqui. Pretty soon it won´t be Barrolandia anymore! :O
251- Remember Kid History? ¨BUT! If you want TWO completos, it´s only two dollars. BUT! If you want THREE completos, it´s only three dollars!¨Well this is what they´re talking about. Thanks to the chilean hermana in our ward.
254- The classic Buenos Aires Obelisk.
262- Capital in all its craziness. Lemme tell you, I´m no city slicker.
269- We ate lunch in the Villa 1114! Finally I´ve been to all three of the big three villas in Buenos Aires. Elder Cunningham and I agree. After the mission, we´re moving back to Buenos Aires for a year.
282- The San Lorenzo Stadium! This little kid is adorable. I don´t even know him, but he took a picture with us anyway. :)
I´m running out of creative subject lines. But this was a really good week. We were able to go to the Temple as a zone, and I´m amazed at how profoundly deep the Spirit is in there. It´s been way too long since we´ve been able to go, and I´m so grateful for the House of the Lord!
To get there from Derqui, we gotta take two busses, a train, and another bus. We REALLY underestimated how long it would take us to get there, and the train was going slower than 15 year-old me with a driver´s permit in the Excursion and Mom in the passenger´s seat saying ¨Go faster, or I´m gonna get out and push!¨ I said a prayer that we could somehow make it to the Temple for our scheduled session, even though it was a longshot. I had barely said Amén, when the train doors opened, and 10,000 people entered. I was about two inches away from Elder Guy´s face, and pinned from the shoulders down. I heard someone say that the train wasn´t going to stop for 8 stations until Liniers (our stop). We walked into the Temple, got changed, and sat down with the rest of our zone right in time for the session to start. It was a little strange, but I´m so grateful that the Lord provided a miraculous way for me to go back to my favorite place on earth!
There´s been a lot of opposition against our investigators on their path to baptism, but despite it all, Alexis, was able to make his first eternal covenant on Sunday. I love that kid. His aunt is now in a similar situation as Maxi, and we´re going to keep working with his uncle.
President Ayre has challenged us as a mission to read the entire Book of Mormon in 24 days, ending on Pioneer Day. In Spanish, that´s about 26 pages everyday. Phew, it´s rough with all the extra assignments that Elder Cunningham and I have, but I love what it´s doing to my testimony. The Book of Mormon is the most incredible book on Earth. I´m so grateful to the Lord for it´s miraculous coming about.
This last Sunday, at lunch, the Casco family surprised us, and their other lunch appointment (a group of old friends) by scheduling both of our lunches at the same time. The friends tried to act nice, but weren´t interested in us at all and kept to themselves for the most part. So Hermana Casco, thinking fast, but on Meet the Mormons probably knowing that eventually they´ll soften up and start asking questions. I went to the bathroom right before the Missionary Mom, and when I came out, everyone was fixed on the TV, and the Spirit hit me so strong. We had a sweet little lesson as the friends faintly smiled, and we all bore testimonies about the purpose of missionary work. High five, Hermana Casco!
I love you all so much! Thanks for all that you´re doing! ¡Hurra por Israel!
48- Service. I don´t know why, but lately a lot of people have been asking us to rip out trees. We´re getting pretty good at it, and it gives us a good excuse to play with machetes. :)
67- Zona Austral at the Temple. (Except two Elders who were deathly ill. They´re better now. :) )
99- Alexis´ baptism
You know how many people came to Church on Sunday? 33. In a ward that normally has 100 or so attendance, you could look at that synically like ¨What, do the members think that after baptism, they should never get wet at Church again?¨ or like Elder Guy said, ¨Wow, what a miracle that 33 faithful members came to renew their covenants in such terrible weather.¨ I´ll try to look at things as positively as that from now on. Also I made a promise that I will never make an excuse to renew my covenants on Sunday, even if it means walking in puddles to Church knee deep, wondering if the leaky roof back home is going to collapse and flood the house. (´Cuz that´s what I thought on Sunday.)
It´s been wet. But we saw miracles anyway. We have three investigators progressing well towards baptism: Gastón, Alexis, and Tamara. They are awesome, and in their prayers always ask that ¨the missionaries can come and teach us more.¨ I feel so loved. :´) We sometimes play a game to see who will say the prayer that goes like this: We go around in a circle naming bodies of water (ocean, river, waterfall, etc.) the idea is to go until one of the investigators who is usually too shy to pray says lago (the word for lake, but also a pun for la hago, or ¨I´ll say it¨ [the prayer]). When that happens, Elder Cunningham, and I say ¨oh, okay, great!¨ And bow our heads while all the kids snicker. Well we were playing that, and I thought Elder Cunningham said ¨Seattle¨ as if it were a body of water. Remembering how rainy it was when we lived there, I about died laughing. Hahaha
Maxi´s parents haven´t budged in their stubborness, and when we tried to talk to them, they refused and left us out in the rain. I sincerely pray for Maxi, but there´s not anything we can do at this time to help him get baptized. We´re still going to give him a CD with the Book of Mormon in Audio, and hope that time will soften his parents´ hearts.
Heavenly Father loves us. He really does. I testify to you all the most sincerely that I can through this lifeless, digital, text that our Father in Heaven, and His glorified Son Jesus Christ, are anxiously awaiting for us to apply the Atonement and come unto them. I know that this Church is true. It´s the greatest honor I´ve ever had to be a representative of it, and invite people to enjoy the fullness of the restored Gospel. I love you all. Hasta la próxima semana. ¡Hurra por Israel!
0102- Omygosh! Sister Ayre, President´s Wife, brought some medicine for my companion the other day. Do you know what else she brought? Sunshine and happiness wrapped in chocolate: REESE´S! FROM AMERICA! :)
0109- Elder Gutierrez (from Chile) with his ¨cake¨ made out of Chilean Ding-dongs
0111- La familia Casco. They give us dinner every Sunday. They´re getting sealed in a couple of weeks. They´re awesome!
I don´t like being negative in my letters home, but I have to get something off my chest: I hate Argentine winters. What´s the point of it being cold if there´s no snow? My nose is running a marathon. Hahaha, alright, it´s all smiles, sunshine, and lollipops from this point of the letter, on.
Tita was baptized and confirmed this weekend, and there was great support by her family and the ward. She came out very happy. If I were her, I´d want to go home and get warm, but she stayed after to make homemade alfajores with the Relief Society, wet hair and all. She amazes me with the sincerity and simplicity of her testimony, and her willingness to participate in all the Church activities. I pray that Tita is here to stay.
You know whose sense of humor I admire more than anyone´s? Maxi´s. Not only does he have the world´s greatest one liner jokes, but he really knows how to look past, and even enjoy his disability. After Church the other day, he came up to us laughing his head off, saying, ¨Elder, do you know how I got this mark on my head? I just ran into a wall!¨ I felt so bad, but his laugh was contagious. When life gets dark, and we can´t see the obstacles, we can either scream in pain, wonder why we can´t have the same privilages as everyone else, or we can just laugh it off. Maxi is incredible. We haven´t been able to teach him for a while because his Mom decided to stop supporting his decision to be baptized, but he still comes to Church, and even to Tita´s baptism! Before we filled the font, he wanted to just stand inside and imagine there being water in it. Thinking about his sincere desire to be baptized makes me choke up a little. I wanna fight for this kid. Continue to pray that his Mom´s heart will be softened.
Last week I had the opportunity to give a surprise talk in Sacrament Meeting. I fumbled through my scriptures as I remembered that the Bishop warned me a few weeks ago that something like this might happen, and that if it did, he´d like me to speak about not becoming offended. I shared a few thoughts about how if someone offends us in Church, we shouldn´t take it out on our Father in Heaven. A great Book of Mormon example of looking past offensive remarks in order to focuse on a more important cause is that of Pahoran. Captain Moroni in the chapter before accused him of treason, neglect, and a ton of other stuff he didn´t do. But here´s Pahoran´s response (Alma 61:9):
¨And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.¨
I love that. I hope I can always keep a perspective like Pahoran. We´re fighting for a great cause, and we don´t have time to cause smaller contentions amongst ourselves because our pride was hurt. I love you all so much. If I´ve ever offended you because of a careless word or action, and ask your forgiveness so that we can focus on our main cause: ¨Let us resist evil... that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God.¨ (Alma 61:14)
Love you guys. Hasta la próxima semana. ¡Hurra por Israel!
0076- Tita´s baptism
0082- Elder Cunningham and I with two studs. I have my arm around Maxi, and Maxi has Lucas (his member best friend. in a headlock. Did you know that blind people can wrestle really well? Maxi never ceases to amaze me.
0090- The Derqui Elders with the newly set apart Ward Mission Leader
0091- Elder Gutierrez with Marco, the Bishop´s son. We couldn´t help but have a quick Nerf war after lunch on Sunday.
Transfers came. I get six more weeks in Derqui! Elder Bassett left, and Elder Gutierrez from Chile is the newbie in the pension; it will be good to get this English-speaking apostasy out of there. I´ve realized that my accent evolves depending on who I´m around most often, and I´ve been around good old Yankees for too long. I can´t really play the whole ¨guess where I´m from¨ game anymore. Poor old Elder Gutierrez though. My prankster natural man convinced us to ambush him as he arrived to the apartment with Aerosol Artificial Snow that they sell here for Carnaval. (I took a video, but it´s too big to send.) Luckily he was a good sport, and we helped him soak his companion.
Elder Cunningham and I were analyzing the last transfer: 0 baptisms, and 6 confirmations. How does that happen? We couldn´t help but laugh. Satan worked hard to postpone the baptisms, so we found the people who were baptized, but didn´t have the gift of the Holy Ghost, and confirmed them. Basically we slapped Satan in the side of the head while he wasn´t looking and ran off with some of the people he thought he´d lured off. As far as we know, the baptized-but-not-confirmed crisis in Derqui has been taken care of. Heavenly Father has been good to us.
This last week was slowish. We´ve met some good people, and are in the proccess of filtering through those who God gave to us to plant a seed, and those who are truely prepared to accept the Gospel. Nothing breaks my heart more than dropping an investigator, but I know that Heavenly Father constantly has all of His children in mind, and if we act faithfully and follow the Spirit, we will do His will and find those He needs us to. Luckily Maxi, Tita, and a few others who are stuck in a rut on their way to baptism are still coming to Church, reading the scriptures, and praying. I´m praying hard for this transfer to be their time.
I´m starting to come to terms with it, and I think I´ll admit it. Yes, this is my final transfer. (Plus the little few day extension bonus for the Bravo family sealing.) But just because I´m admitting it now, please no count-downs. I´m still fragile. :) Last night I made the renewed resolve to be 100% obedient. I´ve never been what you might call ¨disobedient¨, but this time I´m throwing all the possible excuses away, and exact obedience is going to be my number one priority. (Okay, Moroni says it should be number 2. Moroni 7:46) But I want this last transfer to be a gift to my Beloved Father in Heaven to show Him my infinite gratitude for my favorite two years of the life He´s given me.
I love you all so much. Thanks for your love, support, and patience with my spiritual growth. I hope this week is spectaular for all of you. ¡Hurra por Israel!
P.S. I got a new Camera! It´s a Kodak, so I hope it´s built to last.
0051- All the food people gave me from the Despedida. I´m really grateful, but this is getting ridiculous.
0033- Alfredo, a stud I taught in the Villa 31. He´s since been baptized, recieved the Priesthood, and continues to be active. I love this guy.
0039- Elder Zollinger ends today. :/ I´ve shared a ward with this guy for half the mission. He goes back to West Point right before I get home, so I probably won´t be seeing him again. Good luck, buddy.
0048- Elder Sanderson and I were buddies in High School. He ends today too, poor guy. (Someone called me right as we were taking the picture.)
This week was even awesomer than the last! So awesome, that it makes me forget the little English grammar that I remember! The less awesomer part of it all was that we traveled a LOT. Derqui´s a little out-of-the-way, so we have to wake up early when we want to go anywhere. But on one of these occasions, after a Zone Conference, President Ayre pulled Elder Cunningham and I aside. We asked him what was up, and he simply said. ¨Nothing, I just wanted to know if I could come to your area for the day.¨ The first thing I thought was ¨oh no. Did I make my bed this morning?¨ Joking, I always make my bed. *Ahem*. President was so hilarious, but at the same time, incredibly focused on the work. I was impressed how while we were talking, several times he could answer a phone call, solve a problem with a missionary in a matter of minutes, hang up, and pick up the conversation immediately without even asking what we were talking about. President Ayre is the most incredible multi-tasker ever, but he also knows how to hone in on each person he talks, and make them feel like the center of the universe. More than anything, I learned from his humility. The members acted as if he was the greatest celebrety of all time, and by the end of the night, he looked at us and meekly said ¨it makes you feel really small when people treat you so big.¨ He always throws out little golden one-liners like that.
All of the bus drivers in Córdoba went on strike, and left poor Tita stranded. So her baptism has been postponed a week. Pray that the stress won´t make the temptation to smoke any greater. Maxi´s Mom needs a little clarification on the doctrine of baptism, because she suddenly changed her mind about him getting baptized. Please also pray with me that her heart will soften and be receptive. Maxi wants to be baptized so bad.
Quick funny story about Maxi: We were teaching him the 10 commandments, right? We have hand signals that make them easier to remember, but that wouldn´t really help at all in this situation, since he´s blind. But Maxi´s member best friend didn´t make that connection, and said ¨show him the hand signals!¨ Thanks for the awkward moment, Fede. :P Luckily Maxi´s the greatest sport I´ve ever met, and shook it off.
One of those people that were stuck in between baptism and confirmation was baptized this last week. Luz struggles a little bit because she can´t read at all, and is often teased about it. Once I had a strange prompting to teach her the basic sounds of each letter for about an hour with the Book of Mormon, but when we ended she was so excited that she read the front cover, and a couple of practice words, including the long word ¨extremadamente¨. She´s a great example of perserverance.
I wish I could explain how happy I am out here, but even with 1 1/2 languages, I still can´t find the words. You´re all amazing. I love you so much. ¡Hasta la próxima semana! ¡Hurra por Israel!
P.S. Today´s the day. I´m getting a new camera, or resurrecting the old one. I promise.