Hello from Argentina!!!!!
That was easily the fastest week on my mission so far. I cannot believe how fast the time is flying. Anyway! So last week we had Zone Conferences! Which when you’re in the Caleta Olivia Zone means traveling to Comodoro! Yup, that’s pretty much the norm in our mission: you spend a ton of time in coach busses. We had our P-Day and District Meeting in Pico last Monday and headed out to Caleta Olivia that night. There are 12 missionaries in our Zone. (See picture!) And 8 of them are elders, all of which we managed to fit in the tiny apartment of the Zone Leaders. 2 mattresses were in the kitchen, and one was in the bathroom, but that’s beside the point. We got up at 4:30 to have time for breakfast/showers to make it on time to the bus at 7:00. Needless to say I slept the entire time in the bus to Comodoro!
The Zone Conference was the best? Why? Well first off, I was able to have my first English conversation in two weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I love Castellano! It’s a beautiful language, but I must confess, it is still a bit exhausting to never be able to speak in English. That and the natives here sound so different than what I expected. But hey it’s a learning process right? Anyhow, I loved the conference. We don’t’ have Mission Conferences here in the Patagonia because we’re so spread out so Zone Conferences really are the pinnacle event for us. Can I just say that my mission president is the best? Eh, I’m not waiting for your permission. He is. Done! Most of the conference was spent on how we can invite others (especially members) to help with the conversion process. In reality retention is a make or break process on the hands of the members, many of whom have problems themselves with inactivity. Oh well! The work is true!
So because we had 3 hours of bus travel after the conference we weren’t able to get to LH Tuesday night. We spent the night in Pico and left first thing in the morning. When we got back to the Pension, (Mission lingo for apartment.) we discovered that we had absolutely no indoor water! Quick ‘splanation. The vast majority of houses in Argentina get their water from a hose spigot outside which runs into a tank which contains around 1000 liters. A pump is connected to the tank so that there is pressure throughout the residence. Anyways, E’ Lobato and I had no clue what was wrong, and as fate would have it our landlord was on vacation. It wasn’t until Friday night that we discovered the problem. In the tank, at the bottom where the outlet drain is was some random bag filled with dirt that had lodged inside the drain. Lovely right? Anyways, we took it out, and problem was solved! And no, for those of you wondering, that water is not at all safe to drink. Everyone here, including the locals, drink water that comes out of water cooler jugs. The best though was after two days of having no water to shave with, we brought the hose from outside the house into where the sink was so that we could shave and wash our hair. I love the Patagonia. Everything is an adventure here!
So a little bit more about living in LH. Our pension has three rooms, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the bedroom. It’s not too bad compared to most of the other places here. All the floor is tile, but there’s so much dust that whenever you open the door it might as well be a dirt floor. Luckily the bedroom functions as a dirt/dust free sanctuary. Apparently Elder Lobato’s last companion was not the most organized or neat person. After a morning of attacking pretty much every surface in our Pensh we got everything clean. We have pretty much all the normal amenities that you will find in Argentina. Which does not include a dryer. (No one even knows what a dryer is) I’ll throw a picture up of our washing machine next week though! It’s really just barrel with a motor in it and an analog timer. We fill it up with water from the shower, throw in our clothes and detergent and let it go. Afterwards we have to manually drain it and fill it back up again. After two or three rinses we hang our clothes up on a rack. I also indeed do have a bed! We have a double bunk and it is tiny! I’m not really that tall and I barely fit, so naturally I have the top bunk.
So my dad wanted me to include what a normal day in LH is like. We get up at 6:30 and exercise in the kitchen until 7:00. E’ Lobato isn’t quite used to the yoga, but that’s ok. 😛 We shower and have breakfast from 7-8. Usually for breakfast I have oatmeal and yogurt. Be proud of me dad. 😉 From 8-9 it’s personal study and 9-11 it’s comp study. (The first presidency has all new missionaries do two hour comp studies for the first 12 weeks in the field.) From 11-12 we have language study. I study Castellano, E’ Lobato studies English. From 12-1ish we usually get in a lesson with an investigator before heading to lunch. We have lunch with members every day. And I believe I’ve written about how lunch is the big meal of the day. The food here is incredible. My favorites so far have been Milanesas, Empanadas (my mouth is watering as I type this) and the Beef. Oh the beef! This last Sunday we had ribs right off the bone. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! From 2-9 it’s all work. On an average day we teach 7 lessons, one or two with a member present. Everything in this mission is walking, and LH is no exception. Which usually isn’t a problem. Until the wind picks up. I thought I knew what wind was having lived in Highland. I was wrong. It is so much crazier here! Because of this, we have had next to no contacts at all because no one is in the streets, or is willing to open their door. Oh well! We get back to the pensh around 9 and have a small dinner. Usually it’s just more breakfast food. We plan for 30 minutes, write in our journals, clean up a bit and hit the hay at 10:30.
Ugh out of time! As I said, things are going great! I’m loving being out here, even though the language is a bit tough. I have no problems teaching because my gospel vocab is pretty good. Otherwise not so much, but hey I’m learning! The real challenge is the listening. The Argentine accent is very light and a bit slurred, so it’s definitely taken practice.
Anyways I wanted to leave a quick scripture that we shared on the street last week with a man who was convinced that The Book of Mormon is heresy and that Latter Day Saints aren’t Christian: 2 Ne 25:26
Farewell for the week from the Patagonia! Love you all!
Ok so sad story of life, I wrote part of my letter last week expecting to be able to write the rest when we got back to Las Heras after our District meeting but alas the internet cafe was closed! So so so so so so Sorry!!!! I am, however, indeed alive! And at this moment in Pico Truncado for the day before we head to Caleta Olivia tonight and then Comodorro for the Zone Conference! Anyways I´ll start off with my letter from last week.
I cannot believe that I´ve already been in Argentina for an entire week! Time is flying by so fast it´s ridiculous! I have so much to write this week, so let´s see how much I can get done. Travel was crazy!!!! It took a total of 3 flights over 20 hours or so (about 15 hours in the air) to get to Neuquen. It was so bizarre being on the bus up to SLC. Seeing Utah Valley again for one last time was just freaky, because I had practically forgotten that I was in Utah still. The MTC can do that to you.
We first flew to Dallas, and there I got to call my family. Best. Thing. Ever. Crazy though because I didn´t have much time because the first flight was delayed and our flight to Buenos Aires wasn´t. Anyways we got on the plane, and for the last time in two years my feet left US soil. I´ve gotta say, simply because it was the first time in two months to just sit still, the plane ride was so nice. That and I got tons of quiet study time. Bwaha. I´m such a nerd. Missions do really funny things to you. Really quickly what happens is that you can never get enough study time in. Anyways I fell asleep, and literally the next thing I new we were landing in Buenos Aires. The craziness did not wait for a minute after we got off the plane. First off, it´s summer down here. Entonces, it is so incredibly hot. And in Buenos Aires, it´s also incredibly humid. Nasty. Then came the customs. Talk about shellshock, I could hardly understand what the agent was saying, but luckily I got through. And so did all of my luggage! From the first airport we went straight to the other airport for our domestic flight. One thing to say about the streets here. The drivers are all crazy! I am so glad that I don’t have to worry about having a car in this mission because I would probably die. Any person who thinks that driving in Utah is bad needs to come and try out the roads in Buenos Aires. Anyways we passed the BA temple on the way! Absolutely beautiful, even though it´s under construction. We made it to the next airport and sat around for the next 4 hours in the Food Court waiting for our plane to Neuquen.
We landed in Neuquen finally at 700, and spent the night at the Casa Grande with the assistants and the office missionaries. The next day was full of training, and even 3 hours of proselytizing. Let me just say that the Argentinean accents are so tough to understand. Compared to other Latin countries in the north, the people here speak so quietly and softly, and every now and then cut off the last letter or two from their words. But all was well! It was tons of fun to finally be out in the streets. Next day (Thursday) we had our interviews with the President and a little while later our Trainers showed up. As soon as they arrived we were assigned. My trainer is E´ Lobato from Cajamaia Peru, and nope he does not speak any English! He´s a convert to the church from about 3 years ago, and has been out here in the field for 8 months. I´m his first esfuerzo, and he also happens to be our District Leader. Outside of the mission he loves music and dancing. Two passions that aren´t so conducive to Mission Life, which I can more or less sympathize with. After we were assigned we hit the streets for contacts for a few hours and then hopped on the bus at 2230. The way that everyone travels long distances in Argentina is double decker busses. They´re actually not that bad to be quite honest. But the trip from Neuquen to Las Heras took from 2230 on Thursday until 2030 on Friday. Ouch. 17 hours in a bus does a number on you. But hey I finally made it safe and sound after 3 1-2 days of traveling to my first area!
Las Heras, oh wonderful Las Heras. It´s in Santa Cruz, and is in the Southernmost zone in our mission. We´re about 80 miles inland in the middle of the desert oil fields. Everyone here is mostly here for the work in the petrol industry. This town is tiny to be so far from everything else. (Pico where our district is, is about 50 miles or so to the east.) There´s supposedly 10,000 or so people here, but I´m pretty sure there are way more dogs in the city than people. Seriously, they´re everywhere. We´ve got a small branch of about 60 or so here and it´s absolutely wonderful. The work has been a little slower here since the church isn´t so big, but E´Lobato and I, along with the Branch President have big plans for the future. Unfortunately I got decently sick the first couple days. The food here will do that to you when you´re not used to it. Or so people say. Either way the first couple days were a bit tough being dropped in a desert town where I could barely understand the people.
By Tuesday I had gotten back up to full strength again and we headed out to Pico for our District meeting and back to Las Heras. The big thing that has happened this past week has been that from the Area Presidency down to the Mission President and District President, we missionaries have been asked to redouble our efforts to work with the members. Inactivity is a huge problem everywhere in Argentina, especially when it comes to Sacrament Attendance. So most of this last week was spent setting up meetings with members and less actives. The big thing we´re doing though is over the next three weeks we´ve invited all of the families in our Branch to come up with lists of all of their friends who are ready to hear the gospel. It really is amazing what can happen when members help the missionaries. There is only so much that 2 young men can do in a city of 10000 other people.
Ok we have some incredible investigators right now. This week we found 3 different families, 1 of which we set the baptism date for Feb 5th! Ahhh!!! The family is a daughter of a current member named Norma and her kids Christian and Sonia. Sonia´s turns 8 on the 4th so the date actually clicked quite perfectly! We taught Norma the Restoration on Wednesday, and on Friday we taught the Plan of Salvation, and the entire family committed to baptism and came to church this week! We´ve still got a little to teach them but holy cow I´m excited. I love teaching families. Nothing beats being able to look a father or mother in the eye and testifying of the truthfulness of eternal families. Plus the kids are cute. Bonus! We also are teaching another couple named Christian and Anna, the latter of which is a less active from Bariloche. Christian has a bit of work to do before he´s ready, but when we stopped by his house yesterday, he was the one that asked what he needed to do to be ready for baptism. Totally wasn´t expecting that. Oh I love this work. It´s been so crazy adjusting to being in the middle of the desert, especially after being cooped up in the MTC for two months but oh do I love it. I promise I´ll keep up on the updates from now on!
Love you all, have a great week!
Surprise! It’s only Saturday!
AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! I only have 49ish hours left in the MTC! I cannot wait! And owing to the fact that I’m leaving on my p-day, we have the day to do laundry and letters. 🙂 Anyways this week has been absolutely crazy, but so much fun!
Definitely the hardest thing to do this week: Say goodbye to my teachers. Rough. Hermano Grow and Hermano Salisbury have been the absolute best and I cannot believe how much I have learned from both of them. I will always look back to my time in the MTC, because let me tell you, learning a language can be tough, and it takes so much diligence and such much effort. Then you throw in the fact that you also have to learn how to use PMG, not to mention the Book of Mormon, and the pamphlets, and the teaching records and the… Well there’s just a lot to learn, and 9 weeks is not enough time to learn it in. However, for the most part (as long as we’re talking about the gospel) I’m fluent in Spanish! Tada! Well sort of. I’m at least confident enough that I can speak it to most people, so we’ll see how I’m feeling a week from now in Argentina.
I cannot believe how grateful I am for the MTC, and how refined and detailed they are here. After 181 years of doing missionary work, we’ve gotten pretty good at doing it. The new program here has missionaries teaching pretty much every single day in their mission language, and I cannot imagine what I would do without PMG or the language study program here. Ah! The church is true, and the Lord really is behind this work. (If you didn’t know, the Provo MTC is the most efficient and effective language training center in the world. It must help when you have the gift of tongues I’m sure. 😀 )
And wow: quick shout out to the snow! I was so sad because I thought I wouldn’t see any snow before I left. I’m happy to say that this is not the case!
I believe that the biggest things that I’ve learned about (you can never truly learn everything about either of these two) have been diligence and humility. I thought I was a decently hard worker when I got here, and boy was I wrong. But although I’m still anything but completely diligent, I can definitely say that the most rewarding times in the MTC and mission life are those opportunities that come right after you want to give up. Some of my best lessons in the MTC have been when the only thing that I wanted to do before was just sit back and veg. But I can definitely say that one lesson that Heavenly Father has taught me and I’m sure will continue to teach me are that the truly miraculous and inspiring events can only occur after the ordinary and natural man would have already given up. You can have a great attitude, an incredible testimony, or a compete grasp on the language, but if you don’t have the diligence to actually do the job until the end, there’s no telling on how many people more you could have brought in.
On the last Friday (yesterday) in the MTC, we have what’s called In-Field Orientation. It’s an entire day where we have workshops about planning, making goals, working with the members, exercising faith, and a few other things that are pretty hard to simulate here in the remote island of the MTC. But yesterday we watched dozens of short clips from General Authorities, and one of the videos is from President Gordon B. Hinkley in the 90s when he said that not only can we, not only should we, but we must double the amount of baptisms and conversions in the world. That still hasn’t happened yet. But with the new training, I’m hoping that I can do my part to help progress the work. Ah! I’m so excited to be in Argentina! I know that there are people who are waiting for me. I know it!
I would definitely have to say that I have absolutely loved my time in the MTC. It has had it’s fair share of really tough, really hard days. But nothing so far has gotten me closer to my Savior. Many people have asked me before my mission, and since arriving here why I am here. I am here in the MTC and I am going to Argentina, because I know that my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ lives. And I know that as one of His missionaries, I stand as His witness. I know that I will be representing, testifying, and acting in His name. I am giving two years of my life, because I know that He loves me. But I know that He loves my brothers and sisters in Argentina too. Because He has shown me His hand in my life so abundantly, I know that there is not a single other place that He would rather have me then where He has called me. I know that on my own, I am not much more than a 19 year old boy that loves to rock climb, and happens to know a little bit of Spanish now. But with Christ, whose name I have had the honor and privilege of carrying on my chest for the last two months, I know and firmly believe that I am going to invite people to come unto Christ through their own faith, repentance, and baptism. Through that they can receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, whereby they will have the guidance to endure to the end until the kingdom of God our Heavenly Father will be established. I know that I have been called by a prophet, and that I am going to build the Kingdom of God. I know that this church is true. I know it with all my heart and soul.
I love you all! I am so grateful for your support and prayers! Next time you hear from me, it’ll be from Argentina!