So the numbers on these emails make me feel really old…. I miss the days when that number was way smaller and I didn´t have that much time in the mission. This week went by ridiculously fast! It doesn´t really help that I´m writing a day early, but seeing as we are headed out for a zone conference in Rio Gallegos this weekend, I will be quite literally out of the office. Surpreese. Haha, It´s really just not funny how we´re never here in the office ever so when we actually have time to be here, we have to sprint to get done all of the things that we need to get done. More on those details in just a minute.
So this weekend was incredible. And when I say incredible, I mean off the walls. Why? Because on Sunday we went out to Las Heras. One word: bliss. It was AMAZING to go back to my first area! President Rogers still is going strong with visiting all of the ward and branches during their sacrament meeting so Sunday morning we got up early hopped in the truck and drove out to the oil fields. Sunday just happened to be election day, which complicates having public meetings of any kind, so the turnout wasn´t as great as it has been in the last few weeks. When I arrived in Las Heras the first week we had an attendance of 24. By the time that I had been transferred we were starting to climb past 40 every now and then. Yeah, now the average attendance is 65. 😀 So you can imagine how incredibly happy I was to go and see the families that took care of me as one of my own as I started my mission. It was pretty entertaining to be able to talk to and understand what the members were saying. So many of them haven´t changed a bit. And even better than that, many of the less active families that I worked with last year were in attendance! Hoorah for Israel! Including the Gonzalez family! Their son in law is also going to church, Guillermo, and he is going to be baptized at the end of the month! I have to say the most merciful blessing I have had in my mission has been to go back and visit each one of my areas and see, even if just in a small part of how the work has progressed since I have been there. It has been so humbling to know that my works, small or great as they may be, have had an effect on those incredible wards and branches. I love this work! and I hope against hope that I can come back to the Patagonia someday and check up again on the amazing people that I have come to love as my own.
Hmm…. How on earth am I going to top that one? Well after church we headed back into Comodoro and had to stay in the pension for the afternoon until the elections were over. We then got to work in our area for a few hours! Hallelujah!!!!! I love our members here. It´s tough for us to find the references that they are giving us at times, but they are so willing to work with us! I am excited to have a couple solid weeks to stay here in Comodoro so that we can start working the area a whole lot more. There is so much to do here in Kilometros!
On Monday we had a missionary that was headed home to Mexico that arrived in the bus terminal at 4:30. So after picking him up and making the best of the short hour and a half of sleep that we had left, we spent our day with Elder Hernandez. He was one of our zone leaders up in Trelew that has just been on fire for the last couple months. When the missionaries go home they have one last p-day that has lunch, dinner, an interview with President Rogers, and a testimony meeting with President and Hermana Rogers, and the assistants. It was a bit of a change only having one missionary going home this time, but he has to get back for school. So we teamed up with the Rogers and Elder and Sister Carter to make a pretty cool last day for him. He wanted to go up to the top of Chenque the hill that looks over the city so we hopped in the Ranger and went straight up to the top to take some killer photos. I´ll have to send those. 🙂 The best though was when we went over to have dinner at the mission home. Right as we were putting the plates on the table the power went out. So what we ended up doing was hang headlamps on the chandelier above the table and we ate dinner in semi-darkness. By the time we had our testimony meeting there was still no power. So we got around the gas fireplace, turned it on and had a campfire style testimony meeting. Which was awesome. There is nothing like testimony meetings with missionaries.
The next day we got up early to send Elder Hernandez on his plane to Buenos Aires. After getting him sent we headed straight up to the north end of our mission to Puerto Madryn. We have three companionships up there and we´re going to open an area of sisters in a couple of weeks. This is one of the more touristy towns due to the incredible beach there. The city is really well known for the aquatic life that passes by throughout the year, especially the whales. We saw about six or seven of them as we stopped to eat lunch on the boardwalk. Pretty darn cool. That afternoon we made our way back south to Trelew to do exchanges with the zone leaders in Trelew South. The missionaries there are just burning the place down. They have baptized almost every single week this last month and are setting up to have a month straight of baptisms. The zone leader´s area Union 1 is incredible. So although we were only there for a few hours of work, we managed to get out on two appointments with investigators that are getting baptized! I even got to meet Guillermo and Bianca a couple that is getting baptized after four years of knowing the missionaries! Success! The other appointment that we had was with Valentina who is a 9 year old genius! We went to teach her the Plan of Salvation and she already knew everything. Gotta love teaching kids. They usually end up teaching you a whole lot more.
Wednesday we had our zone conference with the Trelew South and North zones. We hadn´t realized before then how incredibly young both of those zones are. Gives us a good snapshot for how our mission is going to be pretty soon when half of the mission has less than six months in the field. Hooray for the incoming flood of missionaries! Doing zone conferences is exhausting, because there is so much that needs to be done. But I love nothing more than getting to sit down and hear from the other missionaries as they teach and testify. Elder McCalister and his companion Elder Varas did a training on sacrament meeting using banana bread as an object lesson. It was perfect! And Elder Almiron and Elder Carrol had a great message to share about teaching the Gospel with charity by having missionaries try to fill plastic glasses with just their hands. To the last missionary they gave a spare glass to use to fill up and said that the second glass was charity, and that when we have it, our investigators are filled with the doctrine instead of getting a bunch of doctrine thrown in their face. Food, or shall I say, water, for thought. 😉 I love our zone leaders. They are incredibly reliable.
Afterwards we got back on the road, but not until after Hermana Rogers found the only mall in Trelew. Poor Hermana Rogers. She´s still coming to grips with how little the Patagonia resembles the states. We had to stop by there because we had totally forgotten to grab some food for dinner, and we just happened to be passing by the mall that had the food court. After some tasty sandwiches we hopped back in the truck towards Comodoro. And when we had arrived home, the Carters had surprised us with having dinner prepared! I love living with the Carters! And happily they love that Elder Martinez and I are living with them.
Yesterday we had most of the day in the office and running around downtown taking care of things that we´ve been putting off. It looks like Elder Martinez is going to need some intense surgery soon after getting home to remove a bone spur growing off the back of his knee. The poor guy can hardly walk too far without pain. But the soldier in him isn´t going to let him cut a day out of his mission so he is here to stay until the end in three more weeks. Yikes. I can´t believe he goes home so soon. We also sat down with President to iron out the next couple months on the calendar as well as decide which areas we are opening this next transfer. We are opening a total of 10 areas!!!! Woohooo!!!!!! Who cares about how much work that is going to be, it is going to be incredible to have 20 more missionaries in the field! I´m way excited for this next transfer. Just need to keep praying that we get all the visas we need this go around.
We also had a bit of a Seinfeld moment last night when trying to leave the office. All of our appointments fell through, and we were just about to leave anyway to go and find some people when we found that we couldn´t lock the office door. The wind here the last couple of days has been INSANE, and we figure that yesterday the wind slammed the door open and caused it to come a little loose so that the deadbolt doesn´t enter the door frame quite right. So President came over and of course our first idea was to fix the lock with man´s favorite tool: the hammer. Well that didn´t work so well and it ended up leaving the door worse than before. So we figured that we should call properties and see what they had to say. My buddy Hno. Lipari called back to tell me that a friend of his was on his way over to fix the door. And we were just about to take a drill to the door frame to open up the deadbolt holes a bit more when Hno. Lipari called again telling us not to try to do anything by force. Well the locksmith came over and asked the three of us why it looked like someone had attacked the door with a hammer, and Elder Martinez came right out to throw the blame on President. You should have seen the look on the locksmith´s face. In the end he took out his drill and did exactly what President Rogres wanted to do in the first place. So yeah. living a Seinfeld life here in the office.
On a Spiritual note, I would like to mention the chance that I had to share my testimony one more time in Las Heras. President Rogers asked if that could be put in the agenda, and I must say, few times have I felt such incredible joy to be a missionary. I cannot put in words how strongly I love the areas I have served in. I love those people. And the times that I have struggled and came out on top or on bottom with them has made me the man that I am. I love how in just 21 months I have been given just a small vision of what incredible growth is in store for this blessed land. Standing in front of those families, in that small little garage that functions as a makeshift chapel, I could not hold back from sharing my testimony and my love for Las Heras. I talked about there last February I gained an unshakeable conviction that my Heavenly Father knows me personally and that He is ever conscious of where I am, what is happening to me, and what I need. He had to send me to the end of the earth in the middle of the oil fields, but I finally got it through my head that He is always with me if I but open the door to Him and His Son. How I love this Gospel. How I love my Heavenly Father, and my Savior Jesus Christ. I love being His representative. And I love laboring my strength away that my brothers and sisters here in the Patagonia can come to know and believe what I cannot deny.
Well that´s it. In a few hours we hop on a plane, and there will go by another weekend. But we´re looking forward to doing exchanges with the zone leaders in the evenings all weekend so it will be nice to go out, hit some pavement and do some good old fashioned teaching! I´m loving the mission. And although things are crazy, and I am incredibly exhausted, the work is so fulfilling that none of the side details really matters. I hope that you all are well, and thank you for the prayers and support that always come my way. I´ll be writing next week when I find the chance to do so! Love you all!
So I´ve pretty much just lost track of time. This last week seemed to go by in a day. Probably because there is just way too much to do and never enough time to think twice about it. Here in Comodoro the cold is finally starting to let up. This week was full of rain to begin with. Which had its bit of irony….
Well, I suppose I´ll start with last Sunday! We decided to go with the Carters to their new ward in Centro. That´s the ward that they live in and that is where they will be helping out in their spare time for now. The ward has recently had a few awesome members move in, the least of which is their new ward mission leader. Mission leaders are the best. If you have a hard working committed mission leader it makes all the difference in working in an area with the members. We attended all the meetings with centro and spent the rest of the day meeting with President Rogers and planning out the next two big events: Mission Leadership Training Council with Elder Zeballos, and Zone Conferences. It was a pretty long meeting. What is awesome though is that we´re all learning a lot about how to do all of this stuff that needs to be done.
Monday was quite the happy day for Elder Martinez and I as missionaries. It was my baptism anniversary, which is cool if you wear the black nametag, but it was also the anniversary of when his family was sealed one week before he headed off to the MTC. Yeah, Elder Martinez and his family have a great conversion story. 🙂 Monday was really a random day with really random things that we had to do. But they got done. That´s what is happy!
On Tuesday we had to run around downtown in the morning, run off to lunch and then run out to the airport to look for all the missionaries that had arrived a day early for the Council the next day. We sent everyone out to do exchanges for the rest of the day and met back up in the office for a short bit to do some more work. We then ran back downtown to look for one of the Sister Training Leaders that arrived in a bus that needed to stay with the Carters. Then it was back in the truck to go change and head off to the airport. Again. To get Elder Zeballos. We walked into the airport 30 seconds before his plane started unloading. Talk about timing. Elder Zeballos is awesome. He´s a general authority from the first quorum of the seventy from Viñas del Mar, Chile, and right now he is in the area presidency of South America South. What we didn´t know is that he started having health problems a few days ago and came very close to needing to cancel the trip out to Comodoro. So when he arrived he seemed rather tired, but quite happy to be here. Right off the bat he started talking about how excited he was to be out here in the new mission, and how excited he is to do a mission tour with us in November. Just in time! Pte Rogers took Elder Zeballos to the hotel and we headed back home for the night.
Wednesday. Early start. Why? The missionaries from Rio Gallegos and Caleta Olivia arrived at 6:30. Elder Martinez and I got up at 5:30 to go and pick them up and take them to the office where we would be holding the Council. Hooray for early starts! Sometimes I have no idea where my stamina ends up coming from. The council was really awesome. After getting all of the business aside I did a training on the duties of a Zone Leader, with the focus on caring for and training the district leaders in each zone. Our group of zone leaders is incredibly strong and they are all incredible missionaries. Problem is that more than half of that group goes home by December. So we have the task these next few months to prepare the leaders who will come after us. My companion trained on the duties of district leaders. Together the two of us conducted an analysis of the last month of proselyting in the mission, and we set goals and standards for the next month. Hermana Rogers then spoke on the duties of Sister Training Leaders and the importance of councils in the church. President Rogers spoke on the importance of prayer in all we do. That we are not here to do what we want to do, but to receive through prayer the will of our Heavenly Father and go and make it so. And then Elder Zeballos talked about the importance of the character of Christ and how we must apply it to ourselves in our ministry. So amazing. I love Mission Leadership Council. It is way stressful from my side of the table to prepare for it, especially so when there is a general authority presiding. I can now say that I have taught in front of one. Like I said. Stressful. But worth it.
After the council we had an incredibly delicious lunch, and sent the zone and sister leaders back off to their areas. We spent the afternoon finishing preparations and schedules for the zone conference tour, and at the end of the day Elder Martinez and I moved! So as fate would have it, we´re actually living in the bottom floor of the Carter´s house! Our room and bathroom are rather roomy and will be used whenever there are missionaries passing through Comodoro needing a place to stay. (Like for example during Mission Leadership Councils…) So, I can happily say that for the first time in two months I have my own apartment, with a bed that isn´t just a mattress on the floor! Happy day! I love helping to open and establish the mission. But it is nice to finally have some personal space. Elder Martinez and I both are quite happy with the move.
Thursday was fun work days that took us all over the place. We did more work on the zone conferences and bought some more furniture for our new place. We´ve started the training for the Carters and it looks like Sister Carter will be our historian and Elder Carter will be over materials. They´re going to be great! The not so great thing that happened this week was not having internet access almost all of Thursday. Not very much happens in the office without internet… But found the problem! Our firewall just needed to be reset. That was easy. Now finding keys to get to the firewall before the Buenos Aires IT department went home at 4:30, that was exciting. Love our Bishop though! Always ready to come through for us!
Yesterday we had our first zone conference with Comodoro and Caleta Olivia. We didn´t realize how huge those two zones are until they both showed up at the stake center yesterday. We have 26 missionaries in Comodoro and 14 in Caleta Olivia. They are the two biggest zones in our mission, and I remember when Caleta Olivia was the smallest zone in the Neuquen mission. Oh how times change… Our zone conference is really good. My companion had a doctor’s appointment yesterday so we did a bit of rearranging. Our theme in this conference is to go back to the basic tools that we know work in the mission field. Sister Rogers started off by teaching about adobe bricks and how when made in the right order with the right ingredients can last for thousands of years, and showed a photo of Joseph of Egypt´s storehouses. (Made of adobe of course.) It was then my turn to do a training on the importance of receiving inspiration and revelation through studying and applying Preach my Gospel. Love teaching that manual. We had our Zone Leaders take the assignment of teaching the Doctrine of Christ and the importance of inviting others to baptism, and the Zone Leaders of Caleta Olivia shared about Revelation in Sacrament Meetings. My companion did a training on weekly planning and President wrapped it up with a lesson of obedience with the correct attitude. He loves breeding and riding horses, and he used his experiences to teach the object lesson with a bridle and reins explaining how a horse is trained to be obedient to its rider. We also read 1 Samuel 15. We have amazing missionaries here, but to do the work we must do to get a temple here we must have the right attitude when it comes to being perfectly obedient. It was a great conference. But after every day starting early, we were all exhausted. Elder Martinez and I had just enough energy to finish off the day. By the time we got home with the Carters last night it was all we could do to crawl in bed and fall asleep.
And here I am on a bright sunny August day in Comodoro. I love this mission! This week we have a missionary that is finishing up his two years and going home, and then we head out on the mission tour. We will be stopping in Trelew on Tuesday and Wednesday. And on Friday we take our flight down to Rio Gallegos for the weekend. It is going to be a really good week! Oh! And we´re scheduled to go out to Las Heras tomorrow for church!!!! Yeah… I´m ridiculously excited. The branch attendance is starting to shoot through the roof, and lots of families that I worked with last year are coming back in droves! So, yeah. I am exhausted, and so happy that it is P-day. But I am really excited for this week. We should be able to get out and do some work finally in our area for a few hours on Monday and Thursday and next weekend we are planning exchanges with our zone leaders down there. It´s gonna be fun!
Hope you are all well. I am loving the work from down here at the end of the world. This is the most satisfying work I have ever done, and I am so grateful for every day that I have to be a missionary. Have the best of weeks! Enjoy the last little bit of summer!
Dear English speaking world!
It is not even funny how exhausted I am right now! That´s what you get for having the first transfer of a new mission under your belt. After writing last week we started sending out the emails with the transfer information to the zone leaders and the weekend went by pretty fast. On Sunday we hopped into President´s truck and headed down to Caleta Olivia and Pico Truncado for their sacrament meetings. On the first part it was so incredible to be back in Caleta so soon. It´s such an incredible branch, and it is so easy to love. The testimonies there are so incredibly strong. And being that it was a district the branch was so excited to see and meet Pte. Rogers for the first time. Having Pte. Rogers so close is going to be such a huge thing in helping the district move forward to becoming a stake. And the crazy happy thing is that quite a few of the youth in the branch are getting ready to get on their missions. Lucas is one of the youth that worked with us back when I was there and he got his call recently and is headed out to Columbia this month! The branch also had two rock star missionaries come back from missions so that´s really helping out the morale. Just as good as going to Caleta was going to Pico. That poor branch is still in a rented house because they can´t get ahold of property big enough to build a decent sized chapel. In the mean time they are having an average attendance of 107 in a little tiny room where most of the men stand up in the back. Oh and 25 of those attending are primary age children. What´s amazing though is that the branch is starting to realize just how much it is causing them to be more and more united together. They are more than happy to bear not having a large space because they realize that there must be some lesson that they need to learn. It was pretty dang cool to be able to translate Hna Rogers´ testimony there. Back when I met all of those members I couldn´t speak the language at all. But here I am a year and a half later translating talks off the seat of my pants. It´s pretty incredible to see all the changes that can happen to you in a year and a few months of being a missionary.
Then on Monday the real fun started. We got up nice and early to go and pick up the missionaries that had left their areas to get ready to go home the next day. We picked them up, let them have a laid back morning exploring the downtown area of Comodoro and picked them up for lunch and then they had their final interviews with Pte. Rogers. After another walkaround in centro and a testimony meeting afterwards we dropped them off to spend the night at the Zone Leader´s pensión because there simply is no space anywhere else. Luckily this time around we only had one sister missionary to worry about because we´ve found out that the mission home only has space for two. The next day we got up again early early early to take the missionaries to the airport. There is just something about late nights and early mornings that will always remind me of my old theater schedule. Maybe that´s why I´m enjoying myself so much. 😛 We got them all on the plane, and on the same plane that they got on arrived the brand new missionaries. So we only got 5 instead of the expected 14 because of complications with getting the visas for all of them. Which kind of worked out because it gave us a good chance of figuring out how to do all the logistics of their training and orientation in the mission home and office on a smaller scale. If all 14 had arrived on time we probably would have been hard pressed to find room for them all, and transportation would have been a beast. What can I say the Lord works in rather mysterious ways. 🙂
Being with the new missionaries is the best! They´re for the most part filled with excitement and anticipation. The five missionaries that we got couldn´t have been more different. Backgrounds and personalities, you name it. We spent their first day getting to know them and introducing them to the mission office and home. They even had a bit of time to go to centro so that we could quickly run a few last minute errands. This was about the time that we received notification that the Carters, a senior couple that has been assigned to the office, would be getting to Comodoro on Friday night. So we started to move fast to fill all extra time with getting everything in place to receive them well. I got a call from the office as we were running around downtown that they were coming and I´m pretty sure that the new missionaries that were with us got the gist that we were quite excited. New missionaries get pretty tired really fast though, and the poor guys had been up since 3:00 so Pte. decided to give them a break and send them back to the zone leader pensión a bit early.
Even better though than being with new missionaries is being with them and their trainers at the same time. That´s probably one of the most exciting days to be an assistant because everyone is excited to be there. After bringing in the trainers we had a training meeting in the morning to talk about the training program The First Twelve Weeks and how important it is to train in the most effective way possible. So many missoinaries are coming in in the next few months that those who are training now soon will be trainers themselves. My assignment was to teach about having righteous dominion and stewardship in companionships basing most of what I taught out of D+C 121. Such an incredible chapter. I refer so much of what I do back to the last few verses. Those verses are ones that can be studied over and over again and you´ll never run out of ways to continue applying it to the responsibilities you have now and will have in the future. Then we got the missionaries together and introduced the companionships! That was pretty exciting. It was fun to watch how the assignments fell into place, and it will be even more fun to see the companionships grow together. We had a delicious lunch of canelones, and finished off the training with some combined presentations. Elder Martinez and I taught about the importance of receiving God´s vision for our missions and also about how to receive and recognize revelation. These days I haven´t been able to get out of the office or the mission home too much due to sheer lack of time, but it is so wonderful to be able to teach the missionaries and work with them. It just builds you up just as much all at the same time.
So after sending off the missionaries to their areas we started back to the work that had piled up. This being our first transfer, we have spent alot of time learning this week on how to prevent problems from happening in the future. We had a ton of complications with trying to fly missionaries from the south to the north of the mission. From canceled flights to canceled reservations, to overweight fees, to the airline not even having room to check in the baggage…Oi ve… There has gotta be a better way than this. So we´re considering either not sending any transfers in planes at all or sending the missionary in the plane and ship the baggage by land. We´ll see what happens in the next month. Hooray for public transportation!
Thursday and Friday we spent the entire day dedicated to figuring out what in the world we were going to do to find a living space for the Carters. Luckily we finally secured a rental home on Wednesday and did all the paperwork on Thursday so that the utilities would be connected. After that we mostly spent our time buying all of the furnishings and every item from a spatula to a toilet brush so that they would be able to start living comfortably from the get go. We´ve been waiting for them for the past two months and because of their visa finally working out they received an itinerary to get out to the field. Getting everything purchased was quite the brain buster because it´s so hard for us to get to mission funds because President Rogers is still doing legal paperwork to get his bank accounts straightened out. But with all the complication it was quite the fun experience. Yesterday afternoon everyone in the office geared up in service clothes and headed into centro to help finish cleaning up the apartment and to organize the kitchen as well as receive and assemble the furniture. If only we were able to do that as a team building exercise earlier. One thing I am realizing is that it´s pretty tough to be stuck in the office trying to figure out how to do things. It can be so therapeutic to just get out and go and get it done. It´s quite the happy fact, therefore, that we´re finally starting to find solutions to the tasks that we´ve had piling up this last month. Speaking of theater it felt a ton like that last sprint getting ready to open a show when we were putting the last few touches on the apartment for the Carters just an hour and a half before the plane landed. Luckily we had plenty of time to get changed and go and grab them. Poor things were also just as tired after two whole days of travel. Elder and Sister Carter are simply wonderful. She´s our mission nurse and Elder Carter actually served here in Argentina as well! Even better, he spent four months of his mission in General Roca! Small world right? After getting them settled in last night we got back home and got off to bed.
Today has mostly been helping the Carters get to know some things about the city. We made the last minute shopping and had lunch together as an office and now here I am back in the office trying to get some administration work done that we´ve been putting off for lack of being in here. But I´m quite happy to say that it was an incredible week. It was so much fun to be around the new and not so new missionaries. Weeks like this remind me of how unique my position is. But it is a pleasure to be able to teach so many well prepared and well trained missionaries. Something that has been on my mind lately has been the example of Nephi in receiving personal revelation. This week I taught alot about the visions of Lehi and Nephi, but instead of the contents, I focused a lot more on what Lehi and Nephi were required to do to receive such visions. I love 1 Nephi chapter 10. After having spent these last few weeks with Pte. Rogers and hearing him express the vision and goal of our mission to have a temple built here, it´s been interesting to see what it takes to get on board with such vision and mentality. Almost all of the changes that I have made on the mission have come from having the direction given by knowing and studying more the teachings of the Gospel. I love what has taken place in my life as I have diligently sought after the Holy Ghost testifying to me that these things are true. And as a missionary I find the way that Nephi ends chapter 10 to be quite apt:
22 And the Holy Ghost giveth aauthority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.
I love that my calling is nothing more nor less than the noble call of the missionaries that have gone before. How truly great of a cause it is to make these good news known among man. I love that I have the opportunity to be here at the end of the earth sharing these good tidings that there is indeed hope to be had in Christ our Savior. He has helped me become a much better servant of my fellow man. I have learned so much from Him as I have sought His divine help as His representative. And through all of the struggles and all of the trials of my mission, I cannot help but raise my head up and smile remembering all of the times that He has straightened the path before me. Higher along the path of the mountains that He would have us climb we can look down the path and see how Christ has strengthened us. How he has lifted us out of sorrows and pains and put us on a better path. I have so much hope and excitement over what is to come not only for this great mission, but also for me. I know that as I do my part in coming closer to my Heavenly Father, He will come even closer to me. I know that. It has happened far too often for me to deny it.
Thank you for all your prayers. I really feel it when I have so much energy on weeks like this. Mission work would be impossible if we didn´t have so many loved ones back home praying for us and showing their love in countless ways. I love you all and am so grateful for all you do. Have the best of weeks!