Monday, October 21, 2013

One day, I'm going to learn this freaking language.

YES! English time!

Man, what a week. My mind is kinda scattered right now, because we're in what they call a "Locotorio" which is where everyone goes to use the internet. So there's some weird latino music in the background, and pretty much everyone is playing Grand Theft Auto. Basically, it's the opposite of where I'd feel comfortable writing about spiritual experiences. But I'm trying to make the most of it.

So, we've been having a lot of trouble with our investigators progressing. They are still awesome, and I love them so much. They're generally really excited to have us talk to them about the gospel, and are really sincere when making commitments, but they almost never follow through. Once again, we had none of them show up to church, or even be home when we came to pick them up. I get the feeling that they think talking with the missionaries is all the spiritual guidance they need, even though we're blatantly telling them they have to act. As of right now, we have no progressing investigators, and there are only two Sundays left this transfer, which means no more baptisms. I'm kind of bummed, because like I said, I love these people, and I want to see them progress. But it really shouldn't matter how long it takes them to do so, as long as they do come unto Christ. We're trying now to focus on getting them to keep their commitments.

So I still have hardly any idea what people are saying. But I keep running across scriptures in my Personal Study about opening your mouth and speaking. For example here's a nice and humbling one: Doctrine and Covenants 60:2. Yep. So I've been trying really hard at saying everything that I'm prompted, and it's actually been pretty awesome! I've been praying during Personal Study that I could find something to share with an somebody, and lift them spiritually. During one lesson, a less active woman shared that she feels like something is missing from here life, even though she is praying and reading the scriptures often. I shared a scripture that I had studied that morning about how the people were filled when they partook of the Sacrament. Then I explained in slow, broken Castellano about how even though the Sacrament is only a crumb of bread, and a drop of water, they were filled. Not with the food, but with the Spirit. I told her that by taking the Sacrament, we show our willingness to live all five parts of the Gospel: Demonstrating our faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, being worthy after repenting of our sins, renewing our baptismal covenants, feeling the Holy Ghost testify that our sins are forgiven, and doing this whole process every week. I told her that's why she feels something missing, and she liked it so much that she asked for the reference and marked it in her own scriptures. In Doctrine and Covenants, it also says that when moved upon by the Holy Ghost, the words of the Lord's Elders "become scripture". (Doctrine and Covenants 68:1-4) It's been really amazing to see that happen.

I've also been praying like crazy to understand the people. I try really hard to understand what they're saying, but it's easy to get lost in the discussion. Also, there's a new problem: some of these people are just down right insane. Haha, it doesn't help that I have to fill in the holes myself, so sometimes I'm just left utterly confused. For example, we have an investigator named Segundo, and we were teaching him the Word of Wisdom. The whole time he would say "Oh, logically" as if it made perfect sense. Then he would go on about how "we shouldn't eat potatoes that aren't orgainic because the preservatives are addicting and bad for us." Or better yet, "we should only eat fruit from trees that have roots that are a certain length. Anything different than 40-50 cm will bring bad fruit." ...I don't even know. The important thing is that he agreed to live the Word of Wisdom. As long as He abstains from the five things we discussed, and tries to eat his organic potatoes in balance with the other fruits and grains of the field, than I guess there's no harm.

I have another crazy story. The other Elders in our area are Elder Fuentes and Elder Marchant, (the Chileans). They're in the nicer part of San Ignacio, and they still had their bikes when I got here. But while they were riding, they were jumped by 10-15 guys who kicked E' Marchant's tire from underneath him, grabbed his backpack, and he and his companion had to take off running. They were at the police station reporting their stolen bike and backpack pretty much all day. Then an officer started talking about religion to them, and asked about, of all things, the Law of Chastity. They talked about it, took out the pamphlet, then somehow moved into the Restoration. She was so interested, she gave them her contact information, and they told the missionaries in that area about her. So, with all said and done, the Lord let them be roughed up by a bunch of thugs, so that they could report it to an officer who is interested in the Church because of the Law of Chastity. Uh, what? Yep, the Lord sure works in mysterious ways. But whatever works, right? Hahaha, it still makes me laugh.

Okay, finally, I want to share one of my journal entries this week, attached as a picture. Most of the time my journal is just the ramblings of a lost 19 year old in a foreign country with a few recognitions of spiritual experiences. But this entry in particular is special to me. As I began writing, I felt inspired. By about half way through, I felt as if God was talking to me by direct revelation through the things that I was writing. My testimony really grew about my purpose as a set apart missionary. It was a really cool experience for me.

Also, something totally out of the blue. I was looking through some of the old copies of the Spanish Liahona, and in the May 2013 edition, on Page 121, there's none other than Haley Brunsdale! I don't know if she's left on her mission yet or not, but somebody please tell her for me.

¡Hasta la próxima semana!

"The Argentina Articles" :P (Sent Oct 14, 2013)


Man, what a crazy week! I forgot my notes of all the things that I wanted to tell you, but I'll just list what I remember.

So for P-day last week, we all went to the zoo as a mission. I still don't know why. It was super random. But I had a great time! It turns out that there are plenty of yanquí missionaries, but they're all in the other zones. It's about half and half Latino and American in my zone, with a few more latinos. I sent some pictures of the zoo. They have the weirdest animals. But that has nothing to do with the work, I just thought that it was hilarious.

So I'm slowly picking up Castellano. It still sounds so strange. It's like they're mumbling and singing at the same time. The other day I was talking to a missionary from Mexico, and I could totally understand him! Oh, it felt great to actually be able to speak Spanish and understand it. So far I can only understand gringos and Mexicans, (and sometimes Chileans or Peruvians). Argentines just speak something different. They say that they can understand me, and often compliment me on my Castellano, but I still can't understand the context of the conversation, or specifics for that matter. I had an interesting experience the other day. I was praying while we were walking down the street, expressing that I was frustrated, and couldn't do anything so long as I couldn't understand the people. I got the impression that I can still do plenty of missionary work while still getting used to the language. As long as I have faith that the Spirit will compensate for my inability, and open my mouth and say whatever I'm impressed to say, the investigator will hear what they need to hear. I repented and kept working, and had that experience several times later on.

So the Latinos continue to be fascinated with all the profanity and racial slurs of English. They think it's hilarious to say them around me. (Yeah, they're missionaries.) Their logic is since it's in all of the movies and on TV that it shouldn't be bad. What?! What kind of logic is that?! I've never hated the media more. I haven't truely realized the success of Satan in the media until now. I keep trying to express how dangerous it is, but they insist that I'm being too sensitive. I still denounce poor language, but I have come to realize that I'm the only one who can be offended by it. Like I said before, I'm one of maybe 75 English speakers within miles and miles. They aren't using them with a malicious intent, and they don't even really understand the meaning. If I shouldn't be offended by the things the borrachos are yelling at me on the streets, why should I be offended by the things people say which they don't even understand themselves? Offense is always a choice.

I want to specifically mention one investigator: his name is Luis. We talked to his son Diego, who brought us to his house. He told us that he didn't know if God existed, and didn't seem very interested. Then suddenly he said "pasen", telling us to come inside. I don't know what happened, but we did. Elder Pirez was talking to him about something I couldn't understand. Then I realized that it was about politics. I was thinking "Elder! What are you doing?! That's something they explicitly tell us not to do!" Somehow it seemed to make Luis comfortable, and he was extremely receptive to the lesson on the Plan of Salvation. He, like pretty much everyone else, owns a Kiosco (a small store in the house), which we bought some things from, including some mediocre empanadas. But he was so ecstatic to have the visit, the lesson, and the sale. Those were the best mediocre empanadas that I've ever had. Haha, I love Luis. He's awesome!

Yesterday was kind of hard. Firstly, we had none of our investigators that said they were coming to Church actually come. (I don't understand Argentine schedules, but the only things that aren't flexible to them are soccer games. Everything else can wait apparently. We have to go to our appointments like 45 minutes late, and sometimes they still ask us to come back 15 minutes later.) Then later in the day, a girl asked me to seal a blessing we gave her. Of course in Spanish. I felt the Spirit so strongly of what I needed to say, and yet I couldn't find the right words. I knew that I should say the word "sanar" or to heal, but I convinced myself that it wasn't right, and said something like "recieve blessings". She didn't seem to feel the Spirit as strongly as I did, and I still feel so bad that I didn't use the gift of tounges when it was offered me. It's hard in the moment, but something I've learned as a missionary is to have 100% faith at all times. If you make a mistake, have faith that God will compensate. Just always do what the Spirit tells you to do.

The last lesson of the day on Sunday was to a girl that has been taking the lessons for a long time. She believes that everything is true, but she doesn't want to change her life right now, and so she keeps refusing baptism. Elder Pirez shared a scripture with her, testified and challenged her to be baptized: No. He did an object lesson about the Gospel of Christ and Eternal families, re-challenged: No. Another scripture, testify, challenge, rejection. Finally I decided to try. It was really hard to find the right words, but I felt the Spirit so strongly. I spoke what was in my heart, and ended powerfully. Elder Pirez for the final time challenged her to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone possessing the authority of the Priesthood of God, and... no. She didn't even hesitate. Are you kidding me? Do you realize how hard it was for me to testify? Do you even realize how important this all is? Your whole family could be together, forever enjoying the glory of the Celestial Kingdom, and you don't even want to change a few things in your life to experience the most pure and everlasting joy available to you?

Of course I'm not new to rejection. We're rejected more often than not as missionaries. But every now and then I experience it in a different way. I try to see these people as Heavenly Father sees them. I study the importance of the five parts of Gospel of Jesus Christ every day, and realize and re-realize the essential nature of each in the salvation of mankind. I try to testify powerfully, having perfect faith so that this precious son or daughter of God can come and enjoy the blessings of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. When they use their agency to instead choose the vane, carnal, and temporal pleasure of the world, it breaks my heart. I prayed in repentence once again to my Heavenly Father for my stubborness, and came to recognize how sacred Human Agency is to Him. He understands the importance of this work infinately more than I do, and yet He has made an unalterable vow to never tresspass it. Violating our agency is something that Heavenly Father will never do, but offering His love is something that He will never stop doing.

Just some of the wisdom God shared with me this week. I love you all! I hope you're still doing well! Until next week.

This is Manuel, who I baptized last week and confirmed this week. Also Elder Fuentes and Elder Marchant the other companionship in San Ignacio

Sorry, this computer is so picky about picture uploading, so I don't know if they're in the right order, or the right pictures for that matter. :P

1. Just in case there were any doubts that I'm happy. :)

2. Empanadas at the zoo. Yep! Welcome to South America.

The one with the missionaries and the monkey didn't turn out too well, but it was supposed to look like they were teaching him. :)

And of course the strangest exhibit of all, the Mormons!

Also, the last one is a picture of a safety sign. Who else would be better to demonstrate the safety steps than the SLENDERMAN!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More from down South (Sent: Monday, October 7, 2013)

Querida Familia,

This week was crazy! To get the shock out of the way, last night was a huge rivalry game for the two big soccer clubs of Buenos Aires. Let's get this straight: to everyone who thought, like me, that Argentines were basically all Catholic, we were wrong. They're religion is soccer, and Boca vs River is their Holy War. But luckily South Americans are known for their sportsmanship and understanding when it comes to Fútbol, so they kindly joined in the culturally-enriching experience while "celebrating" in the streets of San Ignacio. To my sacrastically illeterate friends, they were rioting. Alot. During General Conference there were some desperate screams outside the window, and we had to get back to the apartment early because the game was about to end. I put my stuff on the table, and sat down to write in my journal just as I started to hear the shouts and explosions. Yep. Meet the sports fans of South America.

I want to ensure everyone that all of us are okay. We never talk about sports, or mention them. We know when all of the rivalry games are, and don't leave the apartment after them. My apartment is perfectly safe away from the streets. The only colors that the rioters see are red and blue, for River and Boca respectively. They don't see black tags or white shirts. Missionaries and bystanders are generally safe if they stay out of the way.

I guess I´d better fess up about something else to. We were mugged last Sunday. I didn't know what was going on for the first 10 seconds, and thinking that it was another contact, just stood there smiling. When I saw the gun, I realized what was happening. They only took my bag, which had my spanish scriptures, travel Predicad Mi Evangelio, agenda, hymnbook, and teaching materials. Basically all the things that I need, and they likely don't want. But who knows, maybe they'll take a look at them, and realize that they just stole the most valuable things that they could have taken.

Now that all the danger and excitement is out of the way, I´d like to share some revelation that's come to me. I've been worried about everything that is happening at home and to my friends in the field, or at college, etc. I've spent alot of time praying, and have come to realize a fundamental truth about my setting apart. I'm set apart from the world for two years. My entire world. And though I'm not isolated from my family and friends, and I can still communicate, my responsibility for them falls to the Lord. All of my focus and worry should be on missionary work. I think the same goes for all of you. Of course crazy things are going to happen to me. I'm in a foreign country, with a culture that I don't understand, and customs that I've never seen before. But as a part of my setting apart, all filial and parental responsibility falls into the Lord's hands while I'm His missionary. I promise you that He is protecting me. I don't want you to worry about something that is out of your responsibility. I'm being 100% obedient, so you can be sure that God is 100% aware of the things that happen to me. He is not going to allow unneccesary danger harm me.

On a lighter note, the latino members are still awesome. I had lunch with one family who was really excited to watch me eat a Chili pepper. Now remember that Argentines are not big fans of spice, but they have this weird conception that gringos have never tried it. They excitedly watched me eat their "spicy" food and kept asking if it was hot. I politely said yes, but it was delicious. They laughed, I think more out of disappointment. They expected me to freakout, but I love spicy food! It was nothing compared to the hot sauce I've tried, 100% pain, Total Insanity, or After Death.

So, General Conference was fun! First Session: solo en Castellano. ... ... I didn't catch a thing. I tried to be humble and follow along the best I could, but admittedly it was really frustrating to be so close to hearing the words of the prophets that I've been proclaiming, and missing the inspired revelation that I've been looking forward to for six months. There were a few other Elders in my boat, so they got a room set up for the English broadcast for the other sessions. SO much better. Even some American Elders who have been here for nearly two years joined in the English session. I was surprised by how much was about missionary work, probably because, to me, that's what everything relates to. There were alot of things that I found interesting, but in particular is something that Elder M. Russell Ballard said. When talking about the age of the Church, he said that we've been proclaiming Christ's Gospel for 183 years now. I realized that means we would have had to been acting as missionaries every minute after we recieved the Gospel ourselves. I know that I'm set apart to do nothing else but preach the Gospel, but I really got the feeling that as a member of the Church, this is what I should be doing anyway. Not necesarily proselyting, but always "inviting others to come unto Christ by helping them recieve the restored gosepl through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonment, repentence, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."

I also came to closer realize the truth that God Himself is out working with us, just as it says in Jacob 5:72. In the middle of the day during this week, we had been running into a lot of brick walls. Appointments kept falling through, and contacts kept rejecting us. Elder Pirez decided to knock on a random door. The man politely declined our message, but told us to try his neighbor next door. We taught Omar, Shovana, and Andrea who all received the message of the Restoration gladly. I told the story of Joseph Smith and bore my testimony about the Restoration. They each took the Book of Mormon, and promised that they would read, ponder, and pray. All but Omar, who had to work, said that they would come to church the next Sunday. (Not General Conference)

Finally, I want to talk about Manuel. He's an investigator who is really good friends with Dora and Rodrigo who were confirmed last week. He's 70 years old, and a little crazy, but he's a really good man. He's been taking the lessons and was committed to baptism since before I got here. For some reason, I ended up being the one to baptize him, which was an incredible experience. I kept praying that he would feel the Spirit during the service, and he said that he did. The water was frigid, and he kept slipping in the font, but he couldn't stop laughing. He was so happy to have been baptized, and was just as excited as the other two noys who were baptized at the same time, Pablo (9) and David (14).

Even though I didn't know Manuel very well, I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to baptize him. Like I said last week, there is absolutely no way for someone to make it to the Celestial Kingdom of God without it. It's symbolism of letting your old and carnal life die, so that you can be reborn as a humble, pure disciple of Christ is so essential, that even Jesus Christ Himself had to participate in the ordinance. If an investigator doesn't understand that baptism should be their main goal in investigating the Church, than that missionary hasn't been doing his job correctly. Christ even summarizes His entire Gospel in the word of baptism when He tells the apostles to go forth after His ascension into heaven. I'm so glad that Manuel made this important choice, and may he keep growing the faith that he's gained from here after.

I still don't understand a thing, but I know that I'll catch on. My mission president pulled me aside today at a meeting and said "Elder Goff, don't worry if you can't understand your companion. Elder Pirez is an incredible missionary, but he speaks a really strange Spanish. Even I can't understand him at times." He assured me that everything will click, and told me to keep trying. I love you all so much. Thank you for your support and prayers. I pray for all of you everyday.

¡Hasta la semana próxima!

P.S. I can´t get pictures to work yet. I´ll keep trying, but if I can´t get them to work, I´ll send double next week.