Our friend, and branch member, Jorge has been in the hospital now for two weeks trying to recover from frostbitten feet and legs. He drank for two weeks straight and didn't realize his heater wasn't turned on and just about died. The landlord finally called the police and they got in and took him to the hospital. We have visited him just about every other day now and are even showing church movies to the other two guys who are in his hospital room. He has read half of the July Ensign (Liahona) and has committed to come to our Family Home Evening after he gets out of the hospital. He is walking again with the help of a walker and is in good spirits. The members have been very supportive and he has had lots of visits. This is good for our branch to see what happens when you forget about new members and stop fellowshipping them.
About ten minutes after getting home on Sunday after district conference, we were notified that our branch's oldest member (93 years old) had passed away three hours earlier. We had just started dinner and decided to go ahead and finish cooking and eating before running over to his house to talk things through with his daughters. A few minutes later, our building maintenance rep called and asked if the family could use the building for the viewing and of course we said yes. About thirty minutes later we had finished eating and decided to head on over to the deceased member's house to help the daughters make funeral plans and sort out what they wanted the week to look like. As we drove to his house we passed the chapel and there was a large van unloading a coffin. Holy Cow, what is going on here! We stopped and sure enough they were taking him in to start the viewing. He was still warm! From that minute forward the church was swarming with people. They would have stuck with tradition and held a candle vigil all night long, but we instructed them that the Church does not allow all-night vigils in our buildings and so we shut it down around 11:00 PM and told them to come back in the morning. During that afternoon vigil we hurried to put together a plan because they had nothing and there are no "do-it-all" services like Berg Mortuary around here. So we made assignments for speakers, musical numbers, prayers, etc and created a printed program. Then we went to their house with a niece and pulled photos from their computers to make a slideshow with music that the friends and family could enjoy. We were so tired you could have pushed us over and had a double funeral. The next morning we opened the chapel at 9:00 AM (which by the way, is VERY early here) and instantly the church was full again. We tried to help it be more of a happy time with pleasant music (Tabernacle Choir, etc.) rather than the traditional mourning experience that is typical in these parts. It shocked a few people, but hey the daughters told us to put together a funeral the way their dad would have wanted - so we did. Then at 10:30 we sent the friends out and passed around the microphone so the family members could share their favorite memories. At the conclusion, we let the friends come in to pass by the casket for one final good-bye and then excused them again so we could have a family prayer (offered by an Evangelist grand-daughter in law) and have the children close the casket. We started the funeral at 11:30 and took the opportunity to explain the plan of salvation. Every time any of us said "Heaven" or "Jesus Christ" some people in the audience would exclaim "AMEN!" It was awesome. Can I get another AMEN??? At the conclusion of the funeral service we all got in the cars and drove to the cemetery where we sang a hymn, had another prayer (offered by his Evangelist grandson) and then dedicated the grave. The coffin was placed in an above-ground cement box (made by the grandson) and then covered with a six-inch layer of cement as we all stood and watched. The entire process from last breath to cement enclosure was about twenty-seven hours. WOW! His daughters had him buried holding his oil vile in his hand and were touched by the last song, "Families can be together forever" which was his favorite song. They are now taking discussions from our sister missionaries and both daughters came to church today!
We celebrated the "Day of Friends" this week with a party in our chapel. We had a lot of youth come out to participate - even six or so from the neighboring city. It was a four-hour party and was great. One of our youth created a multi-functional Book of Mormon to put on the wall. We ate hot dogs - they don't use ketchup and mustard but mayonnaise instead.
Gustavo was baptized yesterday and confirmed today. He will receive the Aaronic Priesthood within the next few weeks. We hope to have mission papers processed for him before we leave next year. The sister missionaries found and taught him, but he belongs to all of us :)
Key learnings this week:
1 - Always call to confirm appointments an hour before
2 - If investigators are not reading the Book of Mormon they are not progressing
Earlier this week our investigator said, "I know the Book of Mormon is true because I have read parts of it and listened to it on CD." We are now helping him understand the blessings of keeping the Sabbath Day holy. Today is the first time he has not worked on a Sunday. We are making progress.
We had a three-day youth conference for the three branches in our district. We had a lot of kids attend and four of them are not even members. It was a huge success and the youth made a lot of new friends with the other youth in the neighboring city. I got to do a little jig in the talent show on Friday night with a young man from our branch - we danced to Duelin' Banjo.What we learned this week:
1. "Mission rules protect you from the lack of emotional intelligence of the people you work with."
2. "The Lord is sustaining us and our family in many ways."
3. "We have nothing to complain about - now or when we go home."
We taught a Family Home Evening (FHE) at the home of a less-active family this week and talked about media and how the adversary puts a little bit of garbage into our ice cream a little at a time so we won't notice. We used a real cup of ice cream along with a gift from our neighborhood cat. The kids were shocked by the demonstration - probably traumatized for life and ice cream will never be the same again. We served ice cream for dessert that night (two kilos - that is a TON here) and we hope the lesson sticks. The mom tasted the ice cream which is called Bariloche Chocolate and said, "This has whiskey in it." Hmmm...how would she know? We were concerned about that because we love the flavor so much, but after further research it has been proven that the ice cream is whiskey-free!We went to teach our investigator family in the mountains and ended up helping him put together a chain saw he was repairing on his kitchen table for two hours before we could give the lesson. Once he got the chain saw put together, which by then it was 11:00 PM, we prayed really hard that it would work so he wouldn't have to take it apart and start over. Miracle of prayer...it worked and at eleven o'clock at night he was out there in the front yard running around, happy as a lark, with a chain saw going full blast. I'm sure the neighbors wondered what was going on.
Ambar was baptized on July 4th. Everything went perfectly and the font was like a hot tub it was so warm.
I did a baptismal interview for a nine year old boy from another city this week and as soon as I got him in the interview room he said, "Where are you from?" I told him the USA and he said, "That's what I thought because you don't speak Spanish very well - none of you from the US do." Later on in the interview he told me again that I didn't speak very well so at that point I said, "Fine, we will do the rest of your interview in English," and I immediately switched over and started asking the baptismal questions in English. He was lost in an instant so I went back to Spanish and he didn't make any more comments about my poor Spanish after that.
We did a service project for an inactive family this week and made 192 empanadas for them to sell to raise money for their son's school. It was a good experience.
Today we got a first counselor in the branch. The bishop who moved in accepted the call and his wife is our new young women's president. How lucky can we be?
We had an activity yesterday for the youth and we went and picked up two less active boys who are usually a real handful. By the end of the activity everyone wanted to tie up the older boy who is twelve because he was so distracting to the other kids who were trying to pay attention to the movie we were watching. We took the two boys home along with Ambar and her two brothers at the same time. Once the boys exited the car, every one of the three Cañiu kids said, "What a relief." I asked them what we should do with the older boy and Amber piped right up that we should "roast him over a BBQ pit!" Kind of funny coming from an eight year old girl who was baptized two days ago.