3 Feb 2014
This week we taught a FHE lesson on the Atonement. We used a backpack and filled it with rocks to show how we carry the weight of sin in our lives and then how the Atonement of Jesus Christ can remove that weight and burden from us. We also had them dirty their hands with charcoal and then used soap and water (repentance through the Atonement) to make them clean again.
We had the oil changed in the car this week. Here people don't just drive into JiffyLube and get an oil change. First they have to line it all up with the repair station and then if the local car supply store doesn't carry the kind they need (which is the case with most new cars) they have to drive fifteen miles to Esquel to purchase the oil and bring it back along with any filters they want replaced. They leave the car in the morning and it is finished around five or six in the afternoon. Our oil change ended up costing us about $95 - we would hate to think how much a serious repair would cost.
The boy we have been teaching English to all week passed the test so now he will move on to the next grade!
On Tuesday we prayed that the Lord would bring someone new to us so we wouldn't have to go looking for them and sure enough later that day we were parked on a corner deciding where to go next and a man walked up to the car and knocked on the window. We talked for a bit and he invited us in to his house. Turns out he is married to a super nice woman we see at the grocery store every week. He invited us back to talk to his wife and daughter too. We will be seeing them this week.
Brother Vera recently found a job at a new brick-making factory. He is in an administrative position and is helping other members to get hired. Today is brother Mario Jara's first day on the job with the factory and that is a miracle because they fast every other day due to not having sufficient and they were considering leaving the city to find work in a larger city. The branch is desperate for them to stay because they do so much to help the branch.
Erica Rivera was baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday. She is Candela's mother. She has three little girls (8 and under) and another child on the way.
10 Feb 2014
This week one of the highlights was a visit to a small village in the campo way up in the mountains called Sierra Colorada. We went with a member of our ward as part of a clothing drive for the people. Many of our ward members donated clothing (boxes and bags) for these people who are very poor and basically live off the land along with a few sheep. They were super friendly and we played games with the kids while waiting for the other vehicle to show up with the rest of the clothing. We distributed the clothes at their community center.
We made German pancakes for the Primary activity this week. Most of them didn't care for them because of the maple syrup - they really don't like really sweet things in this country.
We started teaching Melina (almost 11 years old) last night and taught her the first two lessons. Her mother, Lujan, is our new young women's president as of yesterday. We are excited and know she will help us get the young women's program up and running.
The cost of living continues to decrease for us in Argentina. When we arrived, the exchange rate was five pesos to one dollar and now it is over eight. That is a 60% rate of inflation in less than one year. Prices are starting to creep up and we expect to see some fairly substantial price increases in food, etc before we leave. Gas for the car is the one thing that adjusts daily and has not lagged behind at all.
On our way home from the combined youth activity on Friday night (after 11:00 pm) we were stopped at the police checkpoint which is a fairly common occurrence around here. I had Gustavo (our Young Men Advisor) in the front seat along with three young men in the back (Ramiro, Irving, & Sharo). The policewoman could tell that I was not a local (not sure how she knew....) and instantly considered us a potential risk for drugs, or whatever they were looking for that night. She drilled me for a bit on where were were coming from and where we were going while other cops with their drug-sniffing dogs were checking out other cars. After a while, she looked over at Gustavo who hadn't said a word the whole time and wouldn't even look at her. He just sat there in typical Gustavo style staring off into the dark night. Gustavo is of from the Mapuche native indian tribe and stands out from the typical Argentine. She looked over at Gustavo and asked him if he spoke spanish. He said yes, and then she told him to get out of the car. About then, Sharo yelled from the back seat something about alcohol thinking it was funny. The other boys told him to shut up. Gustavo got drilled for a bit and then she pulled Ramiro out of the back seat and did the same. We were lucky she didn't pull Sharo out or we may have all spent a night in jail. In the end, she determined that we were just a few church boys coming home from an activity and let us go.
17 Feb 2014
We spent a good portion of our week running back and forth between Trevelin and Esquel with the Jaras to visit various doctors and the hospital. Brother Jara is not well and may have cancer so he has to have lots of tests to figure out exactly what he has.
We got to weed and cut a lawn this week for service for the Alarcon sisters. It felt good to work outside again!
We had a great lesson with Raul. He has been taking lessons from the Hermanas now for over four months and attends church regularly but is still trying to gain his own testimony. We taught him about the origins of the Bible and the Book of Mormon and how both are ancient records of prophets who testified of Jesus Christ. He is very intelligent and is now very excited to dig into the Book of Mormon to see what these ancient American prophets had to say.
We took the young men fishing and had a great time. We caught three fish.
We taught the last two lessons to Melina Rocha this week and she is set to be baptized near the end of this month.
24 Feb 2014
We have had another rough week with the Jara family. Brother Jara has pancreatic cancer and it doesn't look good - we will know more this week. We have lived between here and Esquel for a couple of weeks now with over seventeen trips to doctors or hospitals.
We rode a train this week called La Trochita. We took our good friends and kind-of investigators Elena and Amelia Alarcon. The train is about 100 years old and takes you out in the middle of nowhere to little towns that probably wouldn't exist without the business the train brings them. It used to be a major source of transportation and shipping but now is used primarily for tourists.
This week Cirilo Gomez was baptized. The Elders have worked with him for a couple of months. The first time he came to church I gave the 5th Sunday lesson to a combined Priesthood and Relief Society on how to strengthen the family and used the Church's publication called "The Family" as the basis for the discussion. After that he told the Elders that he wasn't coming back because "that old guy talked the whole time and didn't use many scriptures." Luckily he came back and didn't base his eternal salvation on some old guy trying to give a lesson in a foreign language.
We had two devotionals with Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Rasband this week by satellite. They were in Buenos Aires and did trainings for all of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile. Elder Ballard told us that the revelation to lower the age of missionary service rivals the First Vision and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and marks the beginning of a wonderful era.
The Church has started a new open-house program that is slowly being rolled out to every mission. We were trained for our upcoming chapel open-house yesterday - the big day will be March 15th.