Sunday, May 11, 2014

May 2014 - Scott & Ann (Final Post)

So where do we begin and how do we even explain what a life-changing experience this mission has been – not only for the people we served and blessed, but also for each of us personally and together as a couple.

We went to Argentina with the intent to help others – to bless them with the light of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to serve and love them. It really never occurred to either of us that we would get more than we gave.  We knew we would have the opportunity to help other people change, but never thought that we would be the ones to experience a change. God has been so kind to us and has taught us so much about ourselves.  He has personally tutored us through a variety of learning experiences during this mission that have increased our capacity to love, taught us about our reliance upon him, and strengthened our testimonies and our faith in his son, Jesus Christ.  He has given us profound insights regarding pride and humility, trusting in the arm of flesh and trusting in God, bondage and freedom, the principle of grace, patience, compassion, mercy, sacrifice, faith, holiness, revelation, and the true worth of a soul.

We will be forever grateful that the Lord gave us this gift and forever grateful to those who helped to make it possible.  We are not the same people we were when we started this mission and our lives will never be the same.  It was not easy and there were days we would have rather been back home but we would not trade the experience, the friendships, and the insights and personalized tutoring for any amount of money for anything in this world.

Apr 2014 - Scott & Ann

7 April 2014

We taught more lessons than normal this week and are working with a few investigators.

We made a new friend, a Welsh woman named Marilyn, who makes decorative wooden spoons.  She lives in a cabin way up in the woods with her husband Jorge de Oro who is a well-known musician.  We visited them and learned how she makes beautiful Welsh spoons.

We taught a workshop at the monthly Zone Training this week for the third month in a row.  Somewhere along the way the zone leaders decided it would lighten their load to have us do some of the teaching so now they call us each month.  We have enjoyed sharing some of the Gospel insights we have gained while serving this mission and hope they will benefit the other missionaries.

On Friday night the branch threw a surprise birthday party for Ann.  The branch council organized it and had everything ready to go with two barbecued lambs and authentic music with guitars and an accordion. There were between fifty to sixty people there and we danced and partied all night (it was really only until 11:30).  A lamb costs about $75 here.  The weather was rough so instead of the traditional BBQ over an open fire, we ended up having it cooked in the oven of a bakery around the corner from the church.

Conference was great.  We had a lot of investigators attend all four main session.  We prepared a chicken and rice lunch for our branch members each day and kept them together between sessions to socialize and drink mate.

14 April 2014

We are freezing here.  It is already winter as far as the temperatures go but the heavy rains have not arrived yet. When it rains here it rains for days on end with no break and the streets are like rivers of water.

We had a little get-to-know-you lesson to Norma this week and then later in the week had a lesson on the Restoration.  She was really excited to learn that we don't worship or pray to Joseph Smith like some of her friends had told her.  She has come to a few of our activities at the church and since it is a small town some of her friends have seen her hanging out with us and have been giving her a hard time and telling her false things about us.  She just told them to leave her alone because real Christians love everyone and so she will not turn us away but will listen to what we have to say.  

We made fried chicken for Lujan and her children, Ramiro and Melina. They hear about fried chicken in the American movies they see and have always wanted to taste it.  The pieces of chicken were huge and required extra time to cook so it was more of an "extra-crispy" version in the end. We also worked on a budget and get-out-of-debt plan for their family. Everything in this country is done on credit with monthly payments - even the groceries you buy at the store.  Each time we go to buy bread at the grocery store they ask us, "how many payments?" Of course, we always say "one," but they will allow you to pay up to six months on a loaf of bread. Pretty scary!

We finished Gustavo's family history in this week and now his deceased grandparents are ready for all of their temple ordinances, including being sealed. We printed out the paperwork that he will take with him to the temple in July.

We have worked for over six months now to make patriarchal blessings available to any of the members who are ready and worthy.  It has been a big project and has taken a lot of time but this week we saw the fruits of our work.  We took  three members (Setimio, Gustavo, and Ramiro) to Bariloche to receive blessings from the Patriarch who lives in the closest Stake.  It was a four-hour drive.  We had everything set up for Saturday afternoon, but when we arrived nobody was at the church.  We made a few phone calls and determined that there had been some confusion and that the appointment was really for next Saturday.  On top of that, the Patriarch's recording device was broken and he couldn't do it that same day even if he wanted to.  Well, our problem was that two of the three could not come back the next Saturday because of work and family commitments surrounding Easter.  We told the Patriarch that we were willing to get a hotel and stay overnight if he could give the blessings on Sunday.  He agreed and turned the misfortune into a little vacation for friends (Gustavo and Ramiro had never been to Bariloche before).  On Sunday the blessings were given and everyone had a wonderful experience.

Romina Watson and Brenda Cayul, who are sisters, were both baptized on Saturday. 

21 April 2014
Gustavo submitted his mission papers this week.  He put September 1st as his eligibility date.  He has read the Book of Mormon three times now from cover to cover since he was baptized last July along with the Doctrine and Covenants and the New Testament.  We are excited for him and know he will be a great blessing to many people.

We spent the entire week on transition activities making sure the branch leaders and full-time missionaries have soft-copies on the church computer of everything we have created since we arrived.  We also drove the missionaries around the town introducing them to and pointing out members and friends that they need to connect with.

We also worked hard on gathering birth and death certificates from Trevelin and Esquel, along with data from the local cemetery, for a special family that is really excited about their family history and want to have their deceased parents and grandparents sealed in the temple.

The city of Trevelin was settled by Welsh settlers over one-hundred-fifty years ago and many of the original traditions still exist.  One of the favorite Welsh traditions of the community is five-o’clock tea after the siesta.  We didn’t want to be here this long and miss the experience so we invited some of our best friends in the world, Elena and Amelia Alarcon, to one of the local tea houses for five-o’clock tea.  As we entered the Nain Maggie Casa de Te we were greeted by the owner (whom we had met previously) who seated us and told us that she had Mormon relatives and knew that we didn’t drink tea but that she would prepare hot chocolate and a drink with berries that grow by the side of the road in this part of the Patagonia.  We had a delightful time with our friends eating pastries and reminiscing over the past year.

Another trip was made to Bariloche this week for three more members to receive patriarchal blessings.  This time it was Prosperina, Mario, and Analía that were able to make the trip.  Again, it was a beautiful experience and a wonderful gift for each of them.

27 April 2014

We have had one crazy week.  We said our good-byes to everyone.  We wrote personal letters to all of our non-member friends in the city, investigators, and all the members of the branch.  It's an emotional experience because we know we will never see some of these wonderful people again in this lifetime. We were originally supposed to leave on Monday afternoon, but we simply could not spend time with everyone we needed to see before leaving and do it by Monday. We left Trevelin on Friday at 1:30 AM, snagged a hotel in Esquel where we slept for three and a half hours and then drove to Bariloche where we had to be by 10:00 AM to process the required documentation to allow us to leave the country.  On the way back to the mission home we were able to travel Route 40 and see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world including Villa la Angostura and San Martin de los Andes. We finally arrived at the mission home and, after a nice dinner with President Lovell and his wife, spent the night packing and repacking in an effort to get our bags to weigh just right for tomorrow’s flight to Buenos Aires.

2 May 2014

We spent two wonderful days at the Buenos Aires temple performing ordinances for the family in Trevelin that had worked so hard to research and document their family history so that their parents and grandparents could be sealed for eternity.  We also received word from the First Presidency yesterday that the Jara family has received approval to be sealed before Analía’s one-year baptismal anniversary (December) due to his rapidly failing health with his cancer.  We called to give them the good news, but brother Jara is in the hospital and is too weak to make the trip from Trevelin to Buenos Aires.  The temple was beautiful, beyond anything we had imagined, and was a wonderful way to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  We arrived home today and are grateful for the blessing it has been to serve.

4 May 2014

Brother Jara just passed away with pancreatic cancer.  What an incredible man he was and how blessed we were to have known him.  Surely he and his family are one of the main reasons we were sent to a small little town in the Patagonia.  Nothing with the Lord is a coincidence and we are grateful to have been a part of the reactivation of brother Jara and the conversion process of his wife Analia, daughter Micaela, and son Erni.  He died with a current temple recommend and as an active member of the Church serving faithfully in his calling as the 1st counselor in our branch.  Our lives and theirs will never be the same because the Lord granted us the gift of walking on the same path together for a few short months.

Mar 2014 - Scott & Ann

3 March 2014

This week Gustavo and Raul taught Family Night - it was awesome.  Raul is about 26 and has a baptism date for this coming Saturday, March 8th. He is from Bolivia and the first time we met him (about ten months ago) we felt like he needed to hear the message of the Restoration and that he would be open to it.  He attended some of our Family Home Evenings with the Montesino family.  Little by little, the hermana missionaries have been teaching him and he now has a testimony.

Lujan Silva’s daughter Melina Rocha was baptized this week.  She was baptized at age eight but the branch leaders at that time failed to record the information into the Church record-keeping system (MLS) and we could not find witnesses who could remember who performed the baptism and confirmation so we were forced to start over and baptize her again.  If it isn’t recorded – it didn’t happen.  She didn’t mind at all and was happy to get baptized again thinking she had sinned plenty over the past two and a half years :)  

The Jara family left this week for Trelew where they have great cancer treatment programs.  His life might be extended some with chemo-therapy treatments so they are going to give it a shot.  We said our good-byes because without a miracle of some kind we may not see them again.

Macarena bore her testimony in church today.  She is the little twelve-year-old girl we buy homemade cakes and doughnuts from.  We started buying from her about six months ago because we felt that she was a special girl and wanted to help her and her family.  Everyday she sells baked goods on the street and in the Plaza.  She gets two pesos for each twenty-peso budin she sells and if she sells at least six a day she gets an extra six pesos as a bonus.  A peso represents about fifteen cents.  Her sisters are all too embarrassed to be seen out in public selling things on the street but she is a determined little girl and is not afraid to make a living by hard work. In her testimony today she said that she knows the church is true and that she has investigated three churches now and this is the true church.  She considers herself a member now, even though she is not baptized, because this is the church she has chosen and plans to continue coming until her parents eventually give her permission to be baptized.  Her mother is a devout Catholic and her father is a member of an Evangelist church. She is a very special girl and will make a great member and a wonderful missionary.

10 March 2014

We went camping in the mountains with the youth as a district youth conference and had a great time.  It was super cold at night but they all survived and want to do it again.  We ended up with three active youth, two less-active, and three non-members.  Macarena came to church again yesterday and we now have an up-and-running young women's program so they had their first class and lesson yesterday.  Even though she is not a member she may end up being our class president because she is a real go-getter and will go out and find the other girls and bring them in.

We worked a lot with Raul this week and had two lessons with him and Gustavo to help him get ready for his baptism which took place on Saturday.  He is really converted and took his time to learn the Gospel and gain his testimony.

The weekends are rough here because we live on the Avenue and everyone parties all night.  On Saturday night we only had three and a half hours of sleep - we are still trying to recover.  

We cleaned the church on Saturday to get ready for our open house on the 15th.  We scrubbed years of smoke and soot off of the yellow walls.  It seems to be a combination of volcanic ash from the volcano eruption a few years ago along with the gas heaters that leaves a black film on the walls. The difference was amazing and you could see black and white every time anyone wiped the wall with the detergent-water mix.  

17 March 2014

We spent the week scrubbing walls at the church getting ready for the open house.  We also made a few small repairs and improvements, one of which was a new bulletin board.  The old one had a carpet surface and we could never get anything to stick to it - it has driven us crazy for a year now.  We decided to install corkboard.  Wow, this is where it gets interesting.  We first asked the properties manager to send it to us because the last time we purchased a 12 X 18 inch piece of corkboard for the primary room we paid over 100 pesos which was equivalent to a little under $20 US dollars.  We needed about five pieces to complete the job and since we only get about 1,800 pesos per quarter in branch budget we didn't want to spend our budget on it.  It took a bit of coordinating but they purchased it in Bariloche and sent it to us on the bus and we picked it up a the terminal.  When we went to install it, the pieces they sent were of various thickness and we didn't have enough of any particular size to complete the job and make it all lay flat.  So we went in search of additional pieces to match the ones we had.  It was very educational, corkboard is not a simple thing. It comes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses.  It also comes with or without gomaeva (a type of rubber) mixed in.  And depending on where you go they sell it by the kilo or by the cut.  The large sizes ( 24 X 36) are preferable because they result in fewer seams but are next to impossible to find.  In the end, we couldn't find anything in Trevelin or Esquel that matched the pieces we already had.  Additionally, each place must have had a different manufacturer because the sizes were not consistent from one to the other. The pieces they sent us from Bariloche were stamped "5" but the other options for sale that were size 5 were much thicker and the smaller sizes 2.5 and 3 were way to thin and of course you had to fly to Buenos Aires to find a size 4 which may or may not work in the end.  So, we broke down after about three hours of searching and just bought all of it from our favorite hardware store in Esquel.  As we were walking out the door to leave, I had the thought to ask this fellow if the two small tubes of glue we were sold by another hardware store in Trevelin would be sufficient for all of this.  He laughed and said, "No, you need some serious glue to make this stick to the already existing carpet."  He showed us two sizes of some super-duper glue that would do the job - a quart and a half quart of glue - one costing about $9 (64 pesos) and the other about $6 (46 pesos) and told us that the half quart would just barely finish the job but that the quart would leave extra for other projects.  We purchased the quart of headed home.  Once at the church we laid everything out and cut the pieces perfectly with our Leatherman knife so that everything was beautiful and snug.  Then we opened the glue.  The glue had a terrible smell that gives you a headache just like the Kilz primer we use back home.  We spread the glue with a spatula and laughed as we did it that the two small tubes of glue we bought from the first hardware store would have hardly been sufficient for one piece.  About half way through we realized that we were almost out of glue and that created a problem because once applied to both the cork board and the carpet, the glue only needed to dry for ten to twenty minutes before being pressed together.  We ran to the hardware store across the street and paid over 100 pesos for the exact same bottle we had just purchased in Esquel a few hours earlier for only half as much.  We finished the job and were left with about half an inch of glue in the can.  We stacked books it to apply pressure and left for a few hours to run other errands. When we came back and took off the books the board instantly bubbled up in about five places where it didn't want to stick.  We determined that the moisture from the glue had caused our perfectly sized pieces to expand and that the only way to make it fit would be to trim a few centimeters off around the edge of the entire board so that it would lay flat.  We borrowed a razor blade and went to work scraping and separating the cork board from the carpet in the areas that had already dried firmly so that it could be cut and lay flat again.  It was at this point that we both looked at each other and said that whatever amount of pain and suffering these people would have incurred over the next ten years of having to deal with a carpet bulletin board was small in comparison to what we were dealing with.  A couple of hours later it fit perfectly again.  We placed heavy books on it again to hold it in place and left it over night.  The next day, as it dried, the cork board contracted and shrunk back to it's original size now leaving gaps in the seams and around the edges of the board.  We looked at it and simply said, "it works and it will be full of papers and announcements so maybe no one will even notice." What an adventure!

We handed out over 55 invitations to our non-member friends in the city. We have made a lot of friends at the various businesses so we went out and invited them all personally to our open house.  

The open house was a HUGE success and we ended up having 32 non-members attend.  Many of them were contacted on the street during the open house and ushered in by our missionaries who stood out on the street greeting everyone who passed by.  Five of the people we invited came. We received many referrals and our missionaries are going to be very busy for the next month.  

Our sister missionaries were called as young women advisors last week and we called Macarena to be our Beehive Class President yesterday.  She is very excited.  Even though she is not a member yet, she is our only active girl in the entire young women's program.  She is anxious to go out and help us bring the other young women in.  

24 March 2014

This week we taught FHE again.  We based the lesson on Mosiah 4:30 and focused on thoughts, words, and actions.  For thoughts we rolled up colored pieces of paper (bad thoughts) and pushed them into a toilet paper roll (our minds) and then pushed in white pieces of paper (good thoughts) to get rid of the bad thoughts.  Then we had someone squeeze a tube of toothpaste and then try to put it back again to show how words are difficult to take back after having been said.  Then we had a row of dominoes that represented our actions and how they affect others and how we can stop a chain reaction by just pulling out one domino or by changing our actions. To top it all off we popped popcorn and said that those who followed this counsel were like the beautiful pieces of popped corn and those who did not would be like the kernels at the bottom of the bowl that never flourished or amounted to anything but to be tossed out.

We did a lot of branch work this week to try and wrap up the loose ends.  It is all coming together.  We act as both counselors, the executive secretary, and the financial clerk all in one so there is always a lot to do.

On Saturday we held our YM/YW activity taught them to make bread.  They played ping pong and foosball and built popsicle stick homes while it was rising and baking.  They enjoyed it so much that it turned into a four-hour activity.  We used the bread on Sunday for the Sacrament.

31 March 2014

We did a Family Home Evening with the popsicle stick housed the youth built on Saturday to demonstrate the difference between a house built on a rock and one built on sand - it was a hit.

We are having lots of success from the open house and already have baptisms set for April.  We want to do it every six months!

We took three investigators to the General Women's Meeting on Saturday and then went out for ice cream after - they had a great time.   

Ann gave a great talk in church yesterday on missionary work and I did the 5th Sunday combined lesson on finances and budgeting which is an important part of self-reliance that needs to be taught in this area.