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 www.familysearch.org 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.