Dear family and Friends,
Mission to the end of the earth and back: Complete!!! Frustration that I don´t have my card reader with me to show the proof: Begin!!!
Well, here I am another Saturday evening back in our lovely office in Comodoro. Remember when I said that this week was going to be insane? Yeah it was. 🙂 But of course in the best way possible. Serious happy miracles are abounding here in the newly-opened-mission field.
So have to mention Sunday. Or maybe I should start with Saturday. On Saturday last, we had an esteemed guest here in Comodoro. Elder Costa, the area authority in charge of our mission´s coordinating council came by to spend the weekend with Pte. Rogers. What did that have to do with me? Not much. I got to enjoy my p-day. But when Elder Costa and Pte. Rogers had a meeting with the stake presidents of the north, I had to fix their computers so that they could do their skype call. Hooray for IT work! And their meeting started just in time for us to cross the hall and be at Juan´s baptism! It was AMAZING!!!! Juan has such an incredible story. I met him last month when Elder Wagstaff and I were here in Comodoro on the first part of the Neuquén interviews tour. He has been an investigator for 6 months now. He lives alone and his family lives up in Rawson four hours to the north. He ended up meeting other members in the ward here in Kilometros and has come every single week to church. He immediately gave up the alcohol and the girlfriend when the missionaries taught him the commandments. But when it came to the tobacco, the battle really started. Back in May the missionaries challenged him to be baptized at the end of the month. When the date for the interview came it was decided that he should wait a bit longer to be baptized so he had more time to stop smoking. A week and a half later I met him. We went over to the house of his member friends to visit the family and he also swung by to have lunch after church. It wasn´t long before the conversation was focused on him and he told Elder Wagstaff and I his story. It was easy to see the discouragement and the uncertainty that he was feeling. Not passing a baptismal interview can do that to you. But as we kept answering questions we asked him one that really made him think: ´´what is it that you truly want right now?´´. He told us that personally he wanted peace and spiritually he wanted to be baptized. He just had faltered in wondering if he really could get that last one. Right then and there we testified and promised that through baptismal covenants we can retain peace in every moment of our lives. And that not only was it possible for Juan to be baptized, but that he had all of God´s help to do it. So we left him with the challenge: ask Heavenly Father when He will prepare you to be baptized by. Well we got here in Comodoro a few weeks later and heard that he was super excited to be baptized and that since our visit with him, he had completely stopped smoking. So Elder Larsen and Elder Martinez went over and challenged him to be baptized on the 6th. And baptized he was. There is a quote that I love from Pte. Lee that says:
´´The greatest miracles I see today are not necessarily the healing of sick bodies, but the greatest miracles I see are the healing of sick souls, those who are sick in soul and spirit and are downhearted and distraught, on the verge of nervous breakdowns. We are reaching out to all such, because they are precious in the sight of the Lord, and we want no one to feel that they are forgotten. ´´
(President Harold B. Lee, CR, April 1973, p. 178)
When you look at someone right after they are baptized, if you look closely enough in their eyes you will see a light that cannot be denied. Juan came out of the font with tears in his eyes. I know that indeed the greatest miracle is a soul that is healed, changed, and bought for a better life. Juan has such a special and humble testimony that simply tells him that the Church of Jesus Christ is where he needs to be. It was such a special moment to share with the rest of the missionaries here in the office, and happily the elders who had taught him last transfer were both able to come to the baptism as well.
And then there was Sunday! Saturday night President Rogers shared what his vision is for our mission with the stake presidents: A temple here in Comodoro. His emphasis is to strengthen the wards and branches that we have right now so that we can sustain a temple here in the south. And we´re not far off. So a major thing that we are planning is to go to as many ward sacrament meetings as soon as we can. Last week we went to a ward conference. This week´s Sunday stop? Barrio Roca. Yeah…President Rogers said that I looked like a kid in a candy shop. I was smiling from ear to ear to be back in my old area with that ward. Some of my greatest growing experiences were had there with those incredible members. What made the meeting even better? One of the less active families had a baby blessing. Result? Four of the less active families that I spent months teaching last year came to the meeting. How did that feel? Read Alma 26. It´ll give you a good idea. Such a special spirit was there in the testimony meeting as the members testified of the Spirit recently felt in the temple the week before and of the blessings that families can only recieve by participating in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The meeting was incredible. 🙂
And then there was Monday! Last week we received a call from the district president in Rio Gallegos asking us if we could make it to south by Monday afternoon at 1:00 to set apart a missionary who was going to go to Brazil the next day. Being so far away from the mission president in the past, this was the first time in the history of the district that a mission president was able to set apart the missionary with the entire family present. Fun part? It´s a 8 hour drive from Comodoro to Rio Gallegos. So we had to leave at 5 in the morning. Hooray! We did make good enough time to take a pause in the middle of nowhere and look at the stars before stopping for breakfast in Puerto San Julian. But we made it to the setting apart with plenty of time to spare! And then after a late lunch we went out to work with the zone leaders! It was so great to get out and work for a few hours! We managed to have an incredible lesson with some new investigators, and they even committed to go to church? Our secret? Tell the mother that she could drop her kids off for two hours where they would sing and talk about Jesus. Gotta love the Primary!!!
Tuesday morning we had interviews with the Rio Gallegos zone. I was able to run into a couple missionaries that were in the MTC with me back in the day. It´s crazy how much a mission can change you in a year and a half. And then that afternoon we headed out on the four hour drive to El Calafate. AAAAAHHHHH I am so stinking frustrated that I don´t have my stinking card reader! Why? Because I took the most incredible photos!!!! We came up on the outlook point that overlooks the Andes Mountains of Glaciar National Park and I saw one of my dream sites: El Chalten and Cerro Torre. Yeah. Two of my dream mountains. In the Sunset. President Rogers again said that I looked like a kid in a candy shop. Acurrate? Yes. Photos on monday!!!! We then quickly arrived in El Calafate. What is El Calafate like? An Argentine version of Jackson Hole. President and Hermana Rogers were happy to see the tall pine trees. The city is ridiculously huge and we only have two missionaries there…for now… We had a quick interview meeting with the missionaries and called it a night heading over to their pension to stay the night.
Then there was Wednesday, the day of surprises. We got up worked for a couple hours with the Elders and then met up with the Rogers to take our flight from El Calafate out to Ushuaia. We managed to get to the airport (which is in the middle of nowhere, mind you) and after waiting around for an hour were told that the national radio system had crashed and that there would be no flights for the rest of the day. So we got on the cell phones and called everyone and their dog to change the plans for the rest of the interviews, hotels, and travel itinerary. We ended up taking a bus back over to El Calafate with just enough time to go to the artisan fair and call it a night. The happy thing is that while we were at the airport Elder Martinez and I had an hour long conversation with a man named Cristian that ended up with him being super interested in reading the Book of Mormon. One of the most interesting conversations I have had on my mission but it was amazing to be able to say multiple times that I know that the work that I am doing is true. Now it´s his turn to find out by reading the best blue book in the world! Other surprise? The airline offered to pay for a hotel for all those that were stranded in the airport. Score! Not to complain about my living circumstances, but the hotel we stayed in? Super nice.
Thursday we had plenty of time and nothing to do, and no one to visit. And seeing that we wouldn´t make it back on Friday as planned, we decided to take our P-day and go to the world famous Perito Moreno Glaciar. It. Was. Gorgeous. If you don´t believe me google it. The Rogers were super excited to be able to go and see it. We took tons of photos! But as I said, I can´t send any of them right now. Get my frustration yet? In the afternoon we made it back out to the airport and checked in just before the rest of El Calafate showed up to check their bags. And guess what! Our plane came!!!! Problem with planes? My companion has the hugest phobia of dying in a plane crash? His solution? Reading the Book of Mormon before and during the flight. He even started reading in English! It was weird being on a plane. Especially on one that was taking me even further south. But let me tell you, Ushuaia is one of the most amazing cities on earth. I can finally say that I have been at the end of the world. No, it´s not Cape Horn, but it´s certainly close enough to count. Look at a globe. But both President Rogers and I agreed that of all of the places in the Patagonia, Ushuaia is most like home. Why? Huge towering mountains on one side, a large water body in the middle, and smaller mountains on the other side of the sound. Top the mountains of with snow and Ushuaia looks just like Provo! President Tossen, our mission counselor who works with the districts in the south took great care of us as he showed us the sights of Ushuaia after running us to the chapel for an evening of interviews and meeting district leaders. That night we stayed in the tiniest pensión with a total of 8 missionaries. How we got all to fit in there is still a mystery.
The next day we had a jam packed morning of interviews with the Ushuaia and Rio Grande zones. It was really interesting to see the mix of missionaries and attitudes, but the consensus is that like every other area in the mission, it´s time to get some real growth in the south. It´s nice to be able to say that I know all the missionaries in our mission. And although teaching each one during the interview meetings was quite the varied experience, it´s a pleasure to be able to listen to all the testimonies of our missionaries. They are all so different, but it is amazing how strong their faith is. We´ve got a few missionaries that need some help, but that´s why we´re here. To serve and help them to be successful. We finished up our time by running to a few places for some last minute introductions and sprinted off to make our flight back to El Calafate.
What did I do when we took off? Closed my eyes and checked out. The lack of sleep and constant movement had left me exhausted. By the time we had rolled in to El Calafate for the night to find another night paid for in the hotel I was just ready for bed. We had a quick regroup meeting with President Rogers to end the day and turned in for the night. This morning we got up and with another meeting to start off the day we were able to solve all of the fun little logistics of the next few days. We also go some really good news! Elder and Sister Carter, a missionary couple that was supposed to get here last month is coming to the mission next week! They have been assigned to the office so we will see a few changes here in the next little while, but it is going to be great to have them!
Well this week should be its own adventure. We have to get started on the changes to be made at the transfer date at the end of the month. I´m excited to see what´s going to happen when we start mixing the missionaries from the two missions. Great things are in store for our mission! I suppose that I´d simply like to end this email on the note that I love this Gospel. This week I have had some unique opportunities to bear my testimony, but I simply love being a missionary. The Lord has been very kind to me on my mission. This week I have been built up and strengthened by people and missionaries that I hardly know. But I have truly felt the love of God as I have come to love the people of my mission. Our mission scripture is now Matthew 28:19-20 which says
I love this promise. He is with us always if we but fulfill our missions. I have been called to go and teach all nations. I have been called and sent, and have now even gone to the end of the world. And every step of the way I have been filled with joy over the blessings that I have seen poured out upon those that I have the blessing to serve. I could go on for days about how much I love this gospel and how much I love this work. But I simply wish that all who read this know that I know that it is the very work of God. It is true. I am a representative of Jesus Christ. And I will labor every day that He gives me to do so in bringing souls to Him. It is such a great moment to be about my Heavenly Father´s business. Thank you so much to everyone who writes me and is always praying for me. I love you all!