On New Year's Eve we had another BBQ, this time it was pig and cow with the Jara family. After that we hosted a New Year's Eve party at the chapel. It was lightly attended for the first four hours while people came and went eating and playing games. But then at a quarter after midnight, everyone showed up. Fortunately we still had two full cakes left and a piñata that the kids loved.
|Argentine Piñata - a huge balloon filled with candy!|
On New Year's Day guess what we did? We ate ASADO, again! This time it was with the Estrella and Vera families. What a great way to start the new year. We had pig, cow, and lamb this time and ate until we rolled out the door. Its a funny thing that for nine months we have searched for the highly acclaimed "Argentine Asado" and have been unable to find it until now, and now it is everywhere we turn. It could take months to work off the last week!
We spent the afternoon picking current berries in the Alarcon's garden. They have tons of current bushes. They harvest the berries and sell them to a famous "Casa de Te" just down the road where they use them all year long to make cakes and pastries. It was just like being home again working in the garden.
On Friday, we had a wonderful lesson on the Plan of Salvation with the Alarcon sisters. They were deeply touched to understand where their deceased mother and father are right now and have asked us to do temple work for their mother when we go to the Buenos Aires temple next month with the branch.
Saturday morning was our YM/YW combined district activity. We hiked the "Llama Trail" next to La Hoya (a famous ski resort in Esquel). We saw a mother llama (guanaco) and a baby llama (chulengo) on the trip and hiked a great distance to where we almost reached the snow.
We worked a lot with family history this week. One by one, we visited everyone who is going to the temple next month and gave them the new pamphlet called "My Family." We worked with them to start filling out the pages with information about themselves and their ancestors and then we created log-ins to www.lds.org and www.familysearch.org so they could enter the information and create their family trees. The Jara family already has five deceased family members on the dad's side that are approved and ready to go to the temple.
Mario "Erni" Jara decided during the week that he wanted to be baptized on Saturday. He had attended church more than what is necessary over the past three months so all he had to do was finish up a few lessons on the commandments to be ready. Erni's entire life has changed since he came to Trevelin and it has been a miracle to see. The first week in October he and his girlfriend had a fight and she told him that he couldn't see his daughter anymore. He left the city with the intention of committing suicide and wandered around for a couple of days until he bought a bus ticket to Esquel thinking that he may see out his father and talk things over. Once he arrived, we were in the middle of giving lessons to his father's new wife and their daughter (Analia and Micaela) and he listened in on our lessons from a distance with a lot of skepticism. Little by little he came a closer to the table and participated more each visit until one day we suggested that he start from the beginning and take the missionary lessons so that he would at least know what his father believed and be informed about what the Mormons believe. He said that he had studied just about every major religion in the world and was yet to find one that he really felt was God's true church, but that he had never looked into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was willing to see what was different in our teachings from all the rest. Our first lesson was about the Restoration and we gave him a Book of Mormon. He later told us that he took the book with the intention of reading it to find all of its errors so he could prove to us that it was not true. We set up weekly lessons with him and taught him the Gospel from the beginning. Before long, he realized there was something to this and really started doing his part to read and pray. His prayers were answered over and over and he gained a testimony. He is now in the Book of Helaman in the Book of Mormon and gets up early every day to read because he loves it so much. He was baptized on Saturday - January 11, 2014 - and it was a very special day for the branch. It was a very spiritual baptismal service and a strength to the entire branch.
The Young Men had an activity of food from other countries and we made Ceviche from Ecuador, Peanut Butter Sandwiches from the USA, and an Eggplant dish from El Salvador. Each young man had his favorite but the one they really loved was the eggplant.
The main speaker for church didn't show up yesterday so President Estrella asked me if I would give a twenty-five minute talk just as Sacrament Meeting was starting. Sure thing...president...whatever you need! It went well, in fact, even than the talk I prepared for hours and gave in our Ward Conference.
We reorganized the home teaching for the ward this week and did more work on family history for the families of those going to the temple. We have a little snag with the temple trip - apparently the reservation didn't really get tied down and now they want to charge us twice as much as we were originally told to fly to Buenos Aires. We are looking at other options including a bus and we may end up holding off until April so we can get cheaper flights. We should know this week.
We are finding a few new investigators here and there. One twelve-year old girl we befriended a few months ago named Macarena came to our movie night on Saturday where we showed "Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration." She also came to church the next day.
This week we took Gustavo to his home town to gather family history data so he can do temple work for his deceased ancestors. A month ago, he asked his sister to help him gather information from their parents (she lives with their parents) so he could baptize their dead relatives - she freaked out and told him no. We collected a bunch of scriptural references from the Bible that he could share with her regarding baptisms for the dead and he went back and shared them with her and his mother. He explained how everyone of Heavenly Father's children that have ever been born on this earth will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ (whether in this life or in the spirit world) and choose to follow him. In the end, Gustavo's family understood and he now has a lot of information along with the photos we took of tombstones at the cemetery. Things are moving along for his family's temple work now.
We postponed our temple trip until April because there was a problem with the flights and the cost we were originally quoted. We plan to go on a bus in April and it will be a twenty-six hour ride. This will work to our advantage because it will allow some people who were not quite ready to go in February to be part of the trip.
On Thursday the sister missionaries called to tell us that the husband of a member had died the day before. From our previous experience with funerals we knew that it was all but over, but we made some quick calls and discovered that the viewing was over and that the cemetery service was scheduled for five o´clock. It was about four at the time so we made a few adjustments to our appointments and ran over to the cemetery. We arrived a half-hour early and watched a few children and grandchildren gather. When they saw us they thought we were tourists, but once they realized we were missionaries they asked us to offer a prayer. We took the opportunity to dedicate the grave.
We spent a lot of time this week helping a widow in our branch. She is 77 years old and struggles with the shower because of her size. We installed support bars in her bathroom and shower along with a new hand-held shower and a special shower seat so she can sit while showering. She has used it twice and is really happy!
We also fixed water heaters and unstopped plugged toilets this week for two of our elderly investigators.
We are working hard to transfer everything in our heads and in our computers to the branch before we finish and spent a lot of time this week organizing and updating forms and systems to be put on the computer at the church where everyone will have access to them after we leave.