This week we had the normal stuff - activities and lessons. We went to the local lake with our district on P-day last Monday. We did a little reprioritizing of our members and investigators to make sure the frequency of our visits are appropriate and achieving intended results. This will now allow us to squeeze a few new families into our teaching pool as we lessen the number of visits with those who don't need as much attention now.
On Wednesday we found a new investigator - the sister of a member who happened to be visiting her sister when we dropped in to tell them about some of our youth activities this week. Ann showed no fear and went in for the contact while I spoke with the member for a few minutes. Next thing I knew we were tying down a time to take the Elders to her home for an introduction. It was exciting especially since we had prayed specifically that morning to find someone new that we could invite to hear our message.
We had a lot of lessons this week on the Plan of Salvation. We knew this lesson was coming up with the Gough family so we read Preach My Gospel and studied the recommended scriptures and made a lesson plan. Turns out that we taught that lesson (or parts of it) to five families within a three-day period.
We made pancakes for the Alarcon sisters, but the ingredients really are different here and they just didn't turn out quite like the ones we make at home. We know that Thanksgiving is approaching and don't want to be mistaken for wild turkeys so we are increasing the exercise. It doesn't seem to make a difference though, we both weigh more now than before we increased the mileage. We are thinking that the controlled substances need to be sugar, meat, white bread, pasta, cheese and a host of other things, but that doesn't leave us much to eat rather than beans and rice of which we already get plenty. :)
Lujan Silva invited all of the missionaries over to her home this Sunday for dinner as a going-away meal for Hermana Obando who has been here with us for six months and will be finishing her mission and going home next week.
9-16-2013 & 9-23-2013
We have been blessed with a new family from Buenos Aires that is active. We just made him (Walter Estrella) a counselor in the branch presidency and his wife (Teresa) a counselor in the Relief Society presidency. He knows a lot about the MLS and will be a great help to the branch. We can see things lining up so that when we leave next year the branch will be strong enough to press forward and continue growing.
We had a great service project at the "old folks home" last week. We provided a program with music, singing, stories, skits, and food. We fed them pizza and sandwiches and it was touching to see the missionaries and branch members feed the people who were not able to feed themselves.
On Saturday we had a three-hour talent show. It included paintings, drawing, ceramics, woodwork, etc along with the traditional singing and playing of instruments. We (the missionaries) did a skit called "A Day in the Life of a Missionary." It involved working together where one companion worked the arms of the missionary and the other worked the legs. We had to wake up, prepare for the day by shaving or putting on makeup, exercise, and eat breakfast. It was funny because the person working the arms could not see anything while trying to shave and feed the other companion.
We are working a lot with the less-actives and with the Elders and Hermana's investigators.
One of the biggest challenges we have in this area is people living together. There has only been one marriage in the entire city so far this year (2013). We know that because we are working with a couple that plan to get married next week so she can be baptized. When they went down to the city to see how long the wait would be they just laughed. Apparently, there is no line and therefore no wait and they can be married the same day they walk in and pay the fee.
We discovered a new game for FHE. We set up two chalkboards on opposite sides of the chapel and played Book of Mormon Pictionary. They loved it!
We have had so much rain lately that it has had a negative effect on the economy of the city. The streets were turned into rivers and many homes were flooded. When it rains like that everything just grinds to a halt and nobody goes to work. When we go into stores now everyone is complaining that business is slow due to the heavy rains and that nobody has any money to spend. In a few weeks things will get back to normal, but right now it is very common to talk with people (even branch members) who say they are working today for the food they will eat tomorrow.
The spring blossoms came out this week so there is hope that the nightly frostings will end soon.
Last night we invited three young single adults to go with us to Esquel to see Elder Nelson speak by satellite from BYU Hawaii. At the last minute two of them bailed on us because one had to go to a doctor's appointment the next morning around ten o'clock and the other had to go to work at seven thirty in the morning. As we were driving to the devotional we asked the kid (Gustavo) in the car with us what time he had to get up in the morning to go to work at the panaderia. He said four thirty! Amazing how he had to get up earlier than the others but still considered it an honor and a privilege to go listen to an apostle and was willing to make the sacrifice. He has only been a member for two months. We love people like that!
We finally updated the MLS with the current address and phone number of all the member we know - we also marked all of them on a huge map. It was a big job that we started almost six months ago and we are happy to have it done. Now we will go out and start looking for more people on the branch list that we have not met yet.
We found four bullet holes in the church windows this past week. The police came and documented. Nothing will really happen because there is no proof, even though everyone knows it was the kid next door who shoots the neighbor's dog with his pellet gun all the time.
A few weeks ago we almost burned down the church. After an interview, I left the office and just pushed the vinyl chair off to the side. We had Sacrament Meeting and then brother Vera went back to the office to give someone a blessing. When he opened the door the room was full of smoke. Apparently the chair had pressed up against the heater and was being melted. We were lucky because another five minutes and we would have had a chair on fire which would have caught the drapes on fire and then the ceiling.
We have a new mission rule that all lessons, be it with investigators or less-actives, must have a member present. It should help to get the members more involved in the work and help them establish friendships with investigators more quickly.
We did a service project for the Uribe family and helped them lower their ceiling so they could build another room in the attic. It felt good to put on jeans but painful at the same time to see that they don't fit like they used to. We really enjoyed the physical labor and want to find more.
It just rains and then it rains some more. We are looking forward to summer with the warm weather. As a branch in a district, we don't have a bishop's storehouse to send members with needs to so we go to the grocery store a lot to buy food for members who are trying to get through the winter months until the tourists return in the Spring. Each time we haul out of there with a grocery cart FULL of food. The people who work at the grocery store must think we eat at TON because we are in there a couple of times a week.
Our branch baptized a boy (Eric Aguero) who turned eight earlier this week. His grandfather was the branch president before we arrived and his mother is less-active. He is one of our most faithful members and has been since we arrived. Sometimes he has been the only kid in Primary on Sunday!
We dropped by Elena & Amelia Alarcon's home (Dionisio's daughter) to give Elena a birthday gift and we ended up having two-hour party with TONS of desserts. At first they brought out the hot chocolate and cake, but then they just kept coming out of the kitchen with plates full of various pies and desserts - the table was full - you really could have fed twelve people with the amount of food the brought out for us. After eating about five pounds each they sent us home with a heaping plate of cake and pie for the next day. That ended up being our dinner that day - how cool is that to have cake and pie for dinner?
The next day was a whirlwind with taking the Hermanas to Esquel so they could take a bus to Neuquen for the transfers, a baptismal interview for Eric, interviews with the new family that just moved here from Buenos Aires, a meeting with the Jara family and reviewing their plan to send the dad to his hometown to personally pick up a birth certificate so they can be married, a lesson with Gustavo Painenao on patriarchal blessings, and a FHE with the Uribe family where our friendship is deepening and progress is being made. We ate on the road and had Lays Potato Chips and Doritos for dinner! Thats two nights in a row now of really healthy dinners around nine o'clock at night.
Friday was spent picking up the Hermanas and the new Elders and showing them around a bit. The new furniture for the Hermana's apartment arrived but it will all have to be put together. We also have a new family where the man is a member, but his wife is not. They have two cute little kids (6 & 1) and have invited us back next week - we are hoping the wife will be interested in taking the lessons.
Saturday was spent putting together Sauder furniture for about seven hours. Two book cases, two desks, and two closets. The mortgage company gave us years of good practice to prepare us for this moment. Our hands still hurt from driving in so many screws. Finally we rented an electric drill from a guy who was doing work on the house next door or we would still be there trying to put them together. The ten bucks was well worth it!
We had 45 people at church yesterday and spent the evening with the missionaries splitting the town into two areas along with the fifteen families and lunch appointments.
We are excited to have Elders and know they will be a great help to us in getting things up and running in the branch.