Friday, November 11, 2011

November 7, 2011   Tartagal   Argentina

Hola!

This coming Saturday we all go to the city Salta to hear D. Todd Christofferson and a couple members of the 70! We have to leave Saturday morning in a bus at 1:30 and we get there about 8 am, then we will get home at about 11:30 at night... going to be a long day but I am excited! The whole mission will be there for it. I have to go now to eat lunch but I wanted to get these pictures off to you!

I love you all very much!
Alex

A good friend of ours (Argentine with Irish background) We aren't the only blondes!

Saturday Chapel cleaning in La Loma

Bishop Moya and his family in La Loma

 
I call this the daffodil tree

Familia Reales (he served in Hollywood!)

A really cool family we had been teaching forever


Elder Beukers and I right before I left La Loma(Salta)
 
My companion and our truck (not really)

Zone conference in my new area

Service project at a school. Reminded me of taking paint off boat bottoms!

Lulu


Elder Puello, Patricia, Elder Galvez and I
 
More of the crew
 
The bathroom when I arrived in Tartagal


I might have to find a bidet for my own house. They are great!
 
What a lot of families use to wash clothes here - count your blessings!






Elder Beukers eating tacos

Normal Oczkewicz tacos

Hamburguesa

The perfect burger

Oczkewicz style (yes, the meat is in it - inside joke)

Soccer in La Loma
 
FHE at the church in La Loma

My district right before I left La Loma

Dia de Ninios right before a baptism at the church

October 31, 2011   Tartagal   Argentina

Well here I am late again in the internet place... We are visiting this family (except the mom who has no interest yet)  who has been listening  and going to church almost the whole time. Anyways, The man can't get married because he has no papers here in Argentina and nothing in Bolivia where he used to live. It's an expensive process for him to get papers for him and his wife and he barely is putting food on the table for his 5 kids. He shared his testimony last time we were there and how the church has helped him in so many ways. It is so hard to see someone with such a strong desire to be baptized and not be able to yet. We have a baptism date for two of his kids in 2 weeks. They are the only ones over 8.

Isaac mentioned he went to the temple the other day. I would love to go to the temple again but I know that when someone else is feeling the spirit for the first time in a lesson and tells you how they feel, it's pretty close to being there. Then you picture them in the temple and it feels pretty amazing!

This Friday a less active (now active) and his girlfriend are getting married! They split up and are living in different homes so that she could be baptized sooner and it has really strengthened both of them! We visited with Adrian, the soon-to-be husband, yesterday and he was sharing with us some of his scripture study experiences and fasting experiences. It was so cool!  He also mentioned how the talks at church (district conference with our mission president, his counselor, and wife) helped him put a goal to go to the temple in one year after the marriage date! The people have to sacrifice alot to go to the temple here! I feel so blessed to have one so close to home.

We went to 3 different houses an hour before the meeting on Sunday to get them (people we are teaching) up and bring them for the first time but they didn't make it. When we got to church we were blessed to have other investigators sitting with members! It was really nice!
  
So I bought a sealed bag of oatmeal today and got home and noticed there were bugs crawling around in it. Not many just a couple little ones... Part of the Argentine experience! Ha ha

It was so hot the other day and then the wind started blowing really hard and we could barely see because of all the dirt and sand in the air! It was nice to shower after that. I was cleaning my eyes out for awhile! Still isn't raining much but it should start here soon.

I love you all very much.

Alex!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

October 17, 2011   Tartagal  Argentina


Well I am waiting for my new companion right now. It was really sad to see my companion go. Another missionary from Columbia left from our apartment today to go home also. One other in our district left in the group too!

My new companion hasn’t arrived yet. They should be getting here in an hour or so. We are a companionship of three until they get here.  Anyways my new companion is named Elder Stevenson. That’s all I know. He was actually the comp of my companion who just went home. Sounds like he is really nice!

So about 4 months go I lost a plaque [name tag] and so I ordered a new one from the offices. They have to order them from Buenos Aires so it takes a while. It came in but I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce it... give it a try! They spelled it Oczkktnicz!!! They had my name in the office so I don’t know where it went wrong. haha. Guess I might get one spelled right before I go home!

So on Friday we had a zone conference with Elder Aidukaitis (a seventy from Brazil) and it was really good! They changed a few things that will take a little getting used to but I am sure they are inspired to make these changes. Oh, he has a really funny but cool accent too! Part of it is his voice but now I want to hear other Brazilians talk Spanish! Haha.
So right now we have lunch, depending on the family, at like 12 or 12:30 and we have 1 1/2 to 2 hours for lunch since we don’t have a dinner break. Now they are saying 1 hour for lunch (which is how long we wait for it to be ready sometimes) and we are to have a snack or dinner while planning at 9:30 or 10. I never liked eating at that time since I can’t sleep well but they also suggested grabbing a snack while working in the evening.
We study at 3 till 5:30 and between lunch and study we can’t tract because of the siesta here. Most would be eating lunch at that time. We are to go back to the apartment and use the time to clean and if we can get appointments for 4:30 or 5 then we will study sooner. That’s about the time the siesta is over. It’s also the hottest time of the day so it will be nice to be able to be inside during that time! I will have to get a sombrero soon. It’s required during the summer here in this part of the mission.

 We are working with a few people who have family in the church right now. Between them and references we have the best success here. We were walking out of the church the other night after a lesson there and a guy stopped us and wants to talk to us about how he can stop using drugs. It’s so cool when people contact us instead of the other way around! Haha. He didn’t come to church and we didn’t make it to his house yesterday so we are going to try and find him tonight if it’s not too far out of town.
Well I have to write the mission president and go to the bus stop! I love you all!

Love,  Alex!
October 10, 2011  Tartagal   Argentina

Hola Familia! ¿Como andan?

They use that alot here instead of como estan. They actually use them both about half and half.
I will be excited to keep speaking Spanish with everyone that wants to when I get home! I was reading the German Ensign magazine and I have forgotten how to pronounce things... I really don't want that happening with my Spanish!

I would say in learning Spanish you need to listen to it as much as possible so just start throwing in the cd's even if you don't know what they mean. Listen, listen, and listen, to get the sounds in your head. Learn how to read Spanish because that will help you pick out words.

So this week was really cool! As in great, not cold... ha ha. It was so hot out! It hit 45 C  (113 F!!!) which I think is up there anyways! Yesterday it was actually too cold for a short sleeve shirt and now today it’s back in the mid to upper 30s! On Saturday we had a baptismal service for two of our investigators and 5 from the area next to us that use the same church building! The two that got baptized were Norma and Melina.  It was so nice! We had an investigator there who is really excited! The only thing is she works Sundays. She goes by Cele because her name is really long and I forgot it... oh here it is, Seledonia. Getting used to hearing all new names is hard but I always try to write them down and that helps alot! 

Well today is another vacation day for everyone here so alot of the internet places were closed and the ones that were open were packed... had to come back later to get in and so I just got a few pictures ready to send and the email will have to be short. Next week!  

Oh, so we were walking and some random kid threw a rock a little bigger than a golf ball at us and we didn't see him throw it so it passed my face and hit my companion in the belt! The Lord is definitely protecting us! We had passed them and were almost through the intersection (dirt road of course) and it came out of nowhere. It didn't hurt my comp and he didn't even really realize what happened because the belt just took the brunt of the hit. I guess when Argentina lost against Germany in soccer a year ago my companion got hit in the butt from a slingshot but his notebook was in his pocket so it didn't hurt. His companion at the time got hit in the belt right after! They thought we were Germans. But we aren't sure why they threw the rock at us the other day. The nice thing is that I have never been afraid of anything happening because I know that we are on the Lord's side! 

My companion goes home in one week!  

I love you all and thank you for the emails! I will read them this week and respond next week! 

Love you all!!!

Alex
October 3, 2011   Tartagal   Argentina


This week we had a baptism for Patricia! It was really great! She didn’t think she would be ready for it this date when we first met her. But, as we motivated her to keep reading and praying she came to know it was true and wanted to get baptized. So she had asked her parents what they thought about her getting baptized. Her mom thought it was really quick so Patricia didn’t go any farther with her about it. She’s 18, so she just wanted to do it and tell them later. Her friends at church tried to get her to talk to them beforehand and invite them but she didn’t want to. Anyways her dad came right in the middle of it and didn’t seem mad but didn’t stay to watch it. He just came because they were wondering why she was there so long with conference and the baptism. I think it’s all good but we’ll see. She still came the next day for conference and loved it. We have a couple people we are trying to get ready for next weekend too! Anyways I love you all so much and hope everything is going well there at home! I love you! Take care!

Love, Alex
Sept 26, 2011    Tartagal   Argentina

It’s been pretty nice weather wise. Meaning, cooler. Today it got kind of hot while we were playing soccer with some members then we went to eat lunch at their house and all got a good soaking with the hose! Felt pretty refreshing.

So about some of the people we are teaching; Patricia is going to be baptized this weekend between conferences! She is 19 and works at her family’s taxi business. I think they have two cars and she is always sitting outside during the time she isn’t in school. Just so happens that my companion and his companion before always walked by there and she always said hi and so did they. Eventually she stopped them and asked about what they believe. That happened the Friday before I got to the area. They visited with her once and she came to church. I got here the Monday right after and we taught her three times that week. She had a few doubts but started reading and we always have members with us so they became friends. She makes friends very easily with everyone so she has come to church every Sunday since (4 total) and will be baptized this weekend. She said that she used to argue more and fight more but in the short time that she has been listening to us and reading the Book of Mormon she is amazed at her desire to change for the better and not argue and fight! She is really talkative with everyone and when she came into church right at nine, everyone was sitting waiting for sacrament meeting to start and she said HOLA BUEN DIA! I am sure everyone heard her but we were all smiling because it’s just her personality. haha. I don’t think she will do it again but it didn’t hurt anything.

Franco is 11 years old and is going to a special school to become a police man. He is the nicest boy I have ever met! He is the oldest of three and his sister who is 8 or 9 has a talking disability or something. She is always happy and smiling and walks and plays like everyone else but she can’t talk. She tries but it’s just things nobody understands. I am not sure what it is but Franco is always praying for her to be able to learn to talk. Franco’s dad is a member but inactive. He won’t come to church and it sounds like part of his family is JW and he seems to be leaning towards their church. He said Franco can be baptized but the mom says no for now. She didn’t mind them teaching him and when it came time for the interview she decided that he needed to wait a year. We haven’t talked to her again yet but Franco always comes to church and it’s about a 30 minute walk! His family invited him to go to the JW church and he said, “No, I know the true church is the Church of Jesus Christ!” I would have to say he remembers everything we teach him better than any investigator I have ever had! He is just so sharp! We have him praying in all their family prayers that he can be baptized and to ask his mom when he feels prompted to. I think he asks every week. He has been coming to church for a couple months I think.

We have about 8 others who are good but sometimes don’t make it to our appointments and what not. They are reading and progressing but slower. They will make it though. 

The other missionaries told me Saturday at 10:30 right before bed that I had a talk the next day! I figured out what I was going to do and woke up a few minutes early and put it together. It turned out really good, I thought, for that short of notice. That was my first talk in the mission besides the MTC and sharing my testimony. 

Last week we saw some thunder clouds coming and sure enough it poured right after we got home! We then had about a 30 minute lightning show and it was non-stop! All over the sky you could see bolts! One of the missionaries in our house got some good pictures with a feature on his camera. 
  
Well I better get going! I love you all very much and I will send some pictures next week! We got here a little late today.

Love, Alex!   
Sept 12, 2011 Tartagal   Argentina

Hola!

So my new area is about as big as my last one and about 40 minutes from the border of Bolivia. There are missionaries closer to the border in Salvador Mazza (a town) who we played soccer with today up there. Not really much of a difference except it's hot here and the streets are mostly dirt. It’s a branch I am in [smaller than a ward] and there are 4 missionaries for the branch (including us).. There are no boundaries for us or the other missionaries so we sometimes pass each other during the day. We live with them right outside our area. I guess three years ago a flood came through and washed out the old missionaries’ apartment and the missionaries were house hopping away from the flood! Pretty crazy! It will be a perfectly clear day and just start pouring they said. I am pretty excited! The river nearby the missionaries’ old house is now alot bigger to hold the water so we shouldn't have any problems with it. We do live pretty close to it though. The part through town near where we live is all cement so that it doesn't wash away anything unless it goes over the walls. 

My new companion is from Arizona and is going home after this transfer so yes I will be ¨killing¨ someone else. ha ha. He has been here for 5 months and has loved it and says that I will love it here too. I really do love it so far! The people are great - just like my last area. But I think there are a few less people attending church here even though there are the same amount in the register.... meaning lots of reactivation work to do. This one family we visit with (who aren't all members) have about 13 kids and there are about 100 cousins! They aren't members and aren't the closest to their cousins but we’ll see what we can do! I am really excited to go visit with them all! We have some great investigators right now but not too many so we found some more this week who seemed really interested but they didn't make it to church. There are alot more people here who aren't married but are living together so we might have some more weddings!
  
I have to go now but I love you all and hope everything is going great!

Love, Alex
Sept 5, 2011   Last email from Salta Argentina

Hello!

We had a baptism this last Saturday! It was really nice! There was a kid's day (holiday) party at the church right before it which brought in a  few people who might not have come to a baptism otherwise, and they really liked it! The next day we had 7 of our investigators at church and there were still alot that didn't make it. It happens.... these last few weeks have been so crazy here! Like I said before, our area is big for 2 missionaries and no bus system. At least it never helps us at all.  Every day we are running or walking as fast as we can between appointments. I think that might be why the sole on one shoe cracked on the inside. I have to get it fixed... there are cheap shoe repairs here because it's normal still to fix things here and not always buy new. Missionaries get new soles and repairs done alot and it's always good and fairly cheap!
Anyways we are still finding new people who are really interested! It's so exciting when the spirit guides us to people. Sometimes we knock on a door and the people are never there except that one time and then we know it was not just luck. It’s happened alot with members who haven't gone to church for a long time who aren't on our records or who are but haven't been contacted forever! Our ward is doing alot better now!
   
  I should have known that I was going to get transferred... I am going to miss everyone so much here in the area but I am sure it will be the same in every area. My companion is going home tomorrow so that means two new people are coming into the area. The area will have a fresh person and a good leader so it should continue to get better. Last night as we were running to a few of our investigators to teach the last few things we had planned and visit a little I found out I was going to a new area too. I hadn't packed or done anything to prepare to leave, so when we got home right at 10 I threw everything in my bags and was almost ready before bedtime. We were supposed to get a call early in the morning to know what time I had to get to the bus station so I finished packing expecting it to be an early bus trip. I heard Tartagal (my new area)(province of Salta but almost on the border of Bolivia) is between 5 and 8 hours away. At 8:50 we hadn't heard anything yet so I called while my companion was in the shower and they said to get there in 15 minutes! We hustled and didn't make it there in time so now I have to wait until 2 pm for the bus ride... won't get to work tonight in my new area but I got a little time to write you and relax.

I have a couple more things than when I got here so every bag is topped off. I bought a water filter from a missionary (who was leaving) to be used in areas where the water doesn't come out clear. Some areas, I have heard, the water comes out tainted and so having the filter should be nice. It’s a pretty big thing that I will pass on to someone when I leave the mission field so when I come home the bags shouldn't be a problem.

I heard that in the Tartagal area there are groups of natives who speak different languages so I might learn some other words! 

There are these trees here that don't have any leaves but are filled with yellow or pink flowers that are almost exactly like a daffodil! They are so pretty but are only out for a little while before they all fall off. It looks like more will come out after they fall off but I'm not sure. I happened to have my camera yesterday to get pictures with some of the people after church so I snapped a picture. I forgot to bring my camera to the internet place though so I will send it next time.

It's not summer yet but I hear it rains 3  to 4 days out of the week in alot of the areas in the summer! My companion said you will be in ankle deep water and soaked to the bone more than once for sure!

The new president thinks it's better if we are in areas for a little longer so the norm might be 5 transfers in each area. I can't believe I have been in this area for 24 weeks!!!! It feels like a month or two that I have been here!

We are starting to eat more salad here now! I am so excited! They eat soups - usually vegetable - during the colder season and salad in the hotter times. It’s good soup but I have been craving fresh veggies for a while now! ha ha. I almost didn't fit into the baptism pants (I bought at the MTC) the other day... they are 33 so they fit perfectly with no room to grow when I got them... I guess I have grown a little in the other direction. I have been a little more firm with members recently in that I don't want any more after I am full. I just never feel good working right after lunch when I am stuffed. ha ha! You never know how much is coming. Sometimes you have a three or four course meal and the next time you have one. It’s different but really good! Lately I haven't been eating anything at night when I get back and have been sleeping like a rock even though I am a little hungry.

I have to go now but I love you all so very much and am excited for all that is going on! (new members of the family) =)

Love Alex
August 29, 2011   Salta   Argentina

It’s amazing how when the gospel is first in our lives that the other things will just fall into place and how useful the spirit can be in helping with those decisions and just successfully moving forward in life. One can really feel Heavenly Father’s love for his children when receiving guidance in all parts of life and receiving answers to prayers. I have had a few things happen lately as direct answers to my prayers. It’s been a great experience here and I know it will only get better (continue learning more). I was praying with my companion and alone for help with the ward. We have about 50 people coming to church and it’s been difficult getting enough help for them. We started really focusing on this a couple weeks ago and this last week a general authority came here to Salta and had a meeting with the missionaries and all the bishoprics in both stakes. He gave a really good short talk then we split into stakes (2 from Salta and one from a bordering state) and had a workshop with the presidency and our bishops. I think it will help alot. It was all about how we need to work together more and how to have good ward council.  It was a big answer to our prayers. We had no idea what it was going to be about until we got there. Then Sunday we had 6 investigators in church! I have found that sometimes the people you need to talk to are people we have contacted and just not had time to get back to yet. Makes me focus a little more on newly contacted people to try to meet with them at least a few times so that we can really tell if they are interested. Alot of the time we aren’t in the areas they live in or nearby during the times they are in their homes so it makes it difficult sometimes but we are getting better at it. This guy who smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day is wanting to quit. He read the stuff we gave him and understood it well so we are meeting with him again. He came to church 10 minutes early in a suit! It was great! He had to leave a little early for something but we passed him on the street later that day and he said he loved church and figures he will just go till he dies! Haha. We were shocked and really excited at the same time. Things are going great and when they aren’t I am usually learning something good! Haha. Like you said Isaac, the mission is tough but you would never give up the experience for anything.

Love Alex
Aug 22, 2011  Salta Argentina

Hola Familia y Amigos!

This week was a huge party here because this weekend was the Virgin Mary's birthday (the Bolivian one). There are a ton of different Virgins for the different countries. It’s pretty crazy in September I guess cause there is a celebration most of the weekends. It just so happened that right across the street when we got home Saturday night the people where setting up these huge speakers and a table all decorated with the Virgin Mary doll on it. At 10:55 the music started... our bed time is 11. This mariachi band started playing in the street then after that a Bolivian dance group did a performance. I could see it from my bed and since I couldn't sleep I enjoyed it. It lasted about an hour and then they all went in since it was really cold out. Up in the hill there was a little snow this weekend! It was freezing. Last night the neighbors had another party too... it’s been quite the weekend. We also saw a pickup truck with a Virgin Mary statue in it and a huge group of people dancing and following it down the street before we got back to our house. The Book of Mormon really comes to life after seeing all of these parties for the Virgins here. One lady said when we knocked on the door that she is "Catholic and believes in the trinity, the Father, Son and the Virgin... oh, and the Holy Ghost" There is so much tradition of the grandparents and so on here and it talks alot about traditions of the fathers of the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon. 
It’s pretty interesting! There are also a ton of fireworks for all of these celebrations! Almost more than on the Indian reservation back home for the 4th of July. My companion said that at Christmas the whole city will be filled with smoke because every family goes out and lights off a bunch! 

Anyways, for a more spiritual side of things, we have been teaching a guy once a week (since that's the only time he had), and he has a page (at least) of questions for us every week! It's great! He came to church the other day and is pretty interested and excited. He has alot of good questions! He is learning German and English on his own too! He is quite an interesting guy! We have a General Authority (church leader) coming this weekend to talk to south America and it will be right here in Salta! Marcelo, who I just told you about, might be going with us! A couple other investigators might be also! 

Recently we were trying to find someone and they weren't there so we knocked on a door nearby. The guy who answered just got home from work and said 3 or 4 times that we could come back another time but not now. He finally went and asked his wife. I might have told you this before but we found out that the wife had told her husband the night before that she wanted to go back to church. I think Heavenly Father heard her say that too because we just happened to knock on their door. They aren't on our papers for this ward because they moved here from pretty far away. Their son isn't a member so we are teaching him and have to be there in 15 minutes. So I’ve got to go! I love you all very much and hope things are going great!
  
I love you all! 
  
Love, Alex 
Aug 15, 2011  Salta Argentina

I have a bit of a cold but it's going through its stages. The weather is changing back and forth so fast that everyone gets colds. I guess it's normal close to the end of winter. It’s really warm out today which is nice.

So about the patience thing... I have been praying for help and am being blessed with MANY opportunities to work on it, ha ha. I don't know if I am just seeing situations differently now that I am trying to change or if I am really getting more opportunities. This lady we are teaching brings her two kids to the church during the week when we have lessons with her and they are a handful! The little girl is 6 and the boy is 8 or 9. They both love grabbing our stuff and running off with it while we are teaching and also digging through it so we have to go get the stuff and bring it back. They took all the tithing slips and crumpled them up in their pockets and went through everything they could. The other day the boy went out and got a bunch of red current berries or something (they are like small blueberries and I don't think they are edible). Anyways, he started throwing them at us during the lesson and then was throwing them around the room until my companion told him to get a trash can and practice shooting them in. With his short attention span that worked for two minutes and then he was back at trying to get our attention. He did ha ha. He got more berries after his mom took them away and then he was in the other part of the church. Finally we were able to talk. They left and she will be ready the 27th for baptism and is very excited! We went and got lunch and came back to the church since that day a family gave lunch to us in a container. We ate and started picking up the berries. We got to the only carpeted room in the church and yup... he had thrown them all in there and walked all over them! I took a deep breath and we cleaned it up laughing at how that kid can think of every way to get under your skin! The stains blended into the carpet well so you couldn't notice them after we cleaned it with a rag as well as we could.
Like I said, I am being blessed with many opportunities to practice! ha ha

We are teaching a lady who read the Book of Mormon a long time ago and loved it but never pursued it. We passed her on the street and said hi as we walked by and because of her enthusiasm in saying hi back we stopped and started talking to her. It was quick but we got her address and she was excited to have us come over. After weeks of trying to find her home and not sick we connected! She told us she had one question about the Book of Mormon and everything else she loved. She said she didn't understand the part where Alma talks about the spirit world or life after death. We talked to her about it and she was so happy and believed it all, that she wanted us to keep coming back! She has been reading it over again and has said that as much as she loves the Virgin Mary and the Catholic traditions she is going to have to let it go and not look back like the story in the Bible when Lot was walking away and commanded not to look back. She knows the Old and New Testament like the back of her hand and since she has been reading the Book of Mormon over she is finding that it is so true just by proof and also how great she feels about it! She ends up teaching us more than we teach her! ha ha. She has studied all the different types and translations of the Bible but just feels like she learns so much more when she reads the Book of Mormon! She also had a dream in which I told her "plainly" that "I KNOW THAT WHAT WE ARE TEACHING IS TRUE!!!" and woke up feeling something that she couldn't describe inside her! We know that it is the spirit and that she is receiving answers to her prayers. She not only has been reading the pamphlets we give her, she does all the questions in the back of them by searching for the answers in the verses listed. She said while she was doing these she felt like her understanding was enlightened! It is so amazing to be present while the Lord is doing his work! We found out that a bishop a long time ago stopped at their house at 10 at night and knocked on the door. Clara(who we are teaching) said that her mom(now passed away) was mad that someone would knock that late but when she opened the door, the guy(a bishop in the LDS church) said that the spirit told him that he was supposed to stop here at this house and do something for the family. He then asked what it was they needed and Clara's mom said that she was trying to build a school and had been praying for the funds for 3 months! It was a Catholic school but the bishop paid for every part of the school and told them not to tell anyone who did it. Clara now wants to know if it would be OK if she could put a plaque on the school that says 'built by a Mormon bishop'! ha ha She never forgot that moment and has wanted to do something about it but couldn't because of what he said. He passed away a few years ago and she wants to do something now. She was blown away that he would do that for another religion!

Another guy we are teaching read a ton the first time we asked him to read the Book of Mormon and he had a bunch of questions written out including asking about the trinity and many other things! It was a great lesson with the spirit and he loves the book! We can only meet with him Saturday though because of work so that is the only bad thing. He is excited to keep learning!

We are being blessed with alot of people who are interested and progressing including many who we were teaching who we haven't been able to meet with for a while. One of the recent converts we had, now has a wife who is really interested in learning more. She never wanted to listen while we were teaching before because she knew she would just start crying. She told us that her husband said (before he got baptized) that maybe it's the spirit trying to tell you something! We are being blessed with many amazing experiences and tons of walking! Our area had 4 missionaries before but then they took two out a few years ago. It’s been two ever since and it's huge! I might be here for another transfer because my companion goes home at the end of this transfer.

Well I hope everything is going great back home and that you're getting some of this fabulous sunshine!

Love you all!
Alex

Monday, October 3, 2011

Aug 8, 2011   Salta Argentina

Hello!

One thing I have been trying to work on is how I react to different situations here in every aspect of the mission... I have a hard time but I am really focusing on it alot. We have appointments fail so many times I think if I made three for one time I might get lucky and have one of them be there. We just have to keep going and learn what we can from it. My companion has been a great example for me in his patience with the people but he has been here for 2 years! He is surprised though, with how many do fall through. We are trying to do everything we can but sometimes it feels like we have tried everything. There were more members – some less-active and investigators at church this week so that was a blessing. We are trying some new stuff at ward council to get more help with the work so we will see how that turns out. We have a wonderful bishop and counselor. Our elders quorum president was released due to alot of work and not making it there most of the time. We are teaching his wife now after 6 years of the missionaries trying to even talk to her! It’s turning out well but slow which is fine. Everybody goes at different paces.

 It’s my companion's birthday today! He turned 21 so we made hamburgers hoping they would take less time. But no... it was about the same after cleanup as the tacos took. We also made Joe Joes which were really good. We also made some sweet potato. Well we just cut them up and cooked them in the oven like we had at a member's house. They were good just plain with a tiny bit of butter. They have alot of different types of them here it seems like. 
Anyways we made cookies and banana bread for a Family Home Evening with a recent convert and investigator (2 families of 3) at the bishop's house. We tried to do one last week but the wife of the member didn't make it. It was good for the member though because he just came back to church after being inactive for 5 years. He’s 22 and has a 1-year old girl. He is really sharp and comes to church early and his wife (soon to be) likes church alot! He can’t wait to get sealed in the temple and has a really strong testimony! We are hoping that everyone makes it to the Family Home Evening though cause they are both new parents and excited about the church. 

Anyways... the weather has been warm here again. I think winter is coming to an end. Don’t know if I'm excited or not... ha ha. Right now it's perfect out, but still kind of hot. This area is one of the more mild areas in the mission too. There are a few areas that will be 50 Celsius and very humid!

 We found a guy who is trying to teach himself  English and German and is really interested in what we have to teach. He read the whole restoration pamphlet and we read some of the Book of Mormon together and he is very interested. The more I read the Book of Mormon, the stronger and stronger my testimony gets of it. It’s really amazing how many stories in it apply so many different ways in our lives. With all the less actives we have been teaching we are trying to use the stories and read them with them. It is really helping as long as they keep reading every day.

Well I have to go now! I love you all!
The book of Mormon IS the most perfect book in the world and will bring any person closer to Christ if read everyday.

Alex
Aug 1, 2011   Salta  Argentina


Not alot of new things happening here. We made tacos again today and it was so good! I think we are going to make hamburgers next week!
  
The weather got really warm for a few days and we were in out short sleeves all day! It was really nice and then a cold front came in and changed it overnight. It also rained yesterday which added to the cold. 

I am learning alot about listening to the spirit right now. I learn alot when I don't realize it was the spirit and find out afterwards! ha ha I have really been thinking about the atonement more and how faith leads us to repentance and after repentance brings a change of heart. I was studying it a bit and it is true for us everyday. If we exercise our faith by studying and learning and having a desire to learn more, it really shows us the things we need to change. 

Well I have to go now sorry it's short! P-day flies by with everything we have to get done.

Love you all!

Alex
July 25, 2011  Salta  Argentina

I made it through transfers without having to pack! I was expecting to go because it was a rumor that 6 months max in an area was a new rule from the prophet. I guess it was just the president's rule. I don't know if I mentioned this, but we got a new president in the mission 3 weeks ago or so. He is really good! The new president is from here and has 5 kids under 15 years old!  Yes, he has his hands full. The secretary of the mission takes them to school in the morning sometimes so he has a new title... baby sitter. ha ha
Anyways, my companion  goes home the first week of September. We were hoping to stay together to get alot better at teaching together. We have recently been trying hard and talking about the lessons and how we can work together through it. I am learning alot and working it out and changing the way we are doing things to have the spirit more in the lessons will help me down the road. We are so blessed to have the spirit guide us in our lives as long as we are living righteously. I am so happy with everything and what I have been learning. It is so true that the times that aren't just easy are the best times because we learn to rely alot more on the Savior and his help. If everything were easy, I wouldn't be learning anything. We learn so much more with trials and tribulation!

So there is this member who served here in Argentina a long time ago and learned how to make tacos like we make them at home. They aren't common here cause the food is so different than Mexican food. They don't like hot foods here so when they say something is really hot you don't have to worry about a thing.
Anyways, we ate with them yesterday and they were so good, we made some more today and it might just become a Monday tradition.... another kid in the apartment with us loves Mexican foods cause he's from Arizona and has a lot of Mexican friends. The tacos ended up so good but the tortillas we have to improvise since you can't just buy them ready here. We buy these little empenada crusts which are smaller than a corn tortilla and role them out to be a little bigger than a corn tortilla but it's a flour tortilla. They were delicious! That’s the one thing I miss is tortillas ha ha. Pat Forcum was right about that - at least the Costco-ready tortillas.  

Oh I don't know if I told you, but last week, I think it was, we found someone while knocking on doors, who was inactive and we set a time to come back and it landed on the lady's birthday. We found out from a member it was her birthday because it was her aunt. She had been praying for them a long time and it just happened that we were walking by and we had just about passed when I turned and reached out and knocked on the door. It was weird but felt like I wasn't in control. The spirit once again. So we came back and found out that her husband received the priesthood from Elder Richard G Scott when he was mission president here! They enjoy singing the hymns again and his favorite was the lighthouse one. They still know the church is true but quit going for some reason 25 years ago. It's great to see them excited to get back.

  
I love you all!

Alex
July 18, 2011   Salta  Argentina
 
Hello!
We got here to the internet place really late because we were both feeling pretty sick last night and today. We stopped to help a lady do some work on the side of the road and afterwards she gave us some water... it was either that or lunch but we are alive and moving. ha ha Like I told Miles. It's part of the adventure.
 
 Last week a 22 yr old kid came to church for the first time in 5 years and is on fire! He came with his girlfriend and 1 yr old daughter this Sunday and when we talked to him last week he wants nothing more then to go get married in the temple. We will be teaching them tonight because his girlfriend isn't a member. She participated alot in the lessons at church and seemed pretty excited! It's so neat to be working with families who are excited about the gospel and making the temple a goal. There is a strong spirit with him and his family!
 
I have to go now though.
 
I love you all and hope everything is going great!

Alex
July 11, 2011  Salta Argentina
Hello!
 I have been eating oatmeal with vanilla, cinnamon, and a banana and a little milk  and it hasn't gotten old. I sometimes have cornmeal or cracked wheat but mostly oatmeal. I love that stuff! I made a double batch of cookies today... I think it will be like 80 or something when I am done... the dough is in the fridge. with only one big cookie sheet it's hard to do it fast but everyone likes them. They are good treats for the members when they come with us and help us out.
I learned alot this week on listening to the spirit. We have been starting to sing more when we enter homes to teach and it seems to be really helping! One night this week, we both were thinking we should start with a hymn in this one home but neither of us brought it up. So afterwards, we learned we had each been thinking the same thing and realized it was actually the spirit and that things would have gone better if we did what it told us. Sometimes it's hard to tell, but we are always learning. Whenever it tell us both the same thing you know for sure it's the spirit! Such an amazing gift! But it takes time to learn how to listen. Everything is usually good but what decision is the best?... anyways they were good experiences and my comp who is going home in September is still learning alot. He is always asking how we can make things even better and it has really paid off. We are always thinking about how we can do better and we have been finding out! He has been such a great example to me in everything! He has trained 2 people which says alot because it takes alot of patience and love - which he has.
I have to get going but I love you all very much! Thank you Ruth and Paul for the email! it's great to hear from you guys!
Love, Alex
July 4th, 2011  Salta Argentina
 
 This week we planned to meet a member on a street corner after lunch(yesterday actually) and we were on our way there and just about 10 minutes late. We were rushing but we found out that there might have been a reason for being late! We were approaching the corner and there were a bunch of riot police there blocking the streets, so we walked around the block to see if the member was anywhere. There was a big pickup truck with a bunch of people standing in the back and the police were talking to them. They were fans of a soccer team that had just lost and were driving up the street from the game throwing rocks, bricks, and beer bottles(which are about like a brick here) at cars houses and anything they could use as a target, including a fan of the opposite team who is a son of a less active member. He got hit in the head but was fine, I guess, just really mad! If we were waiting on the corner we probably could have seen it coming but better just not to have been there like it turned out! The houses are all brick and cement so it didn't do much there but the cars were all dented and had broken windows.
 
I don't know if they do it every Saturday but the Gauchos here all get dressed up and put their leather chaps on(ones that actually sit on the horse and look like a hole cow hide dried to a form that looks like wings or something) that are made to protect them from cactus and brush. I will try to get a picture of one sometime for you. I guess they get together and carry the Virgin Mary statue where everyone walks down the street and sings and prays. It's interesting how much it is in the culture here. There are alot of Catholic schools too.
Some of the members on the record we have found are now Catholic... I think it's just easier or something. They tell us they have their religion but are usually very nice about it and invite us in to talk anyways. They usually have good memories from the church though.
 
This lady who we have been meeting with for a long time just came to church Sunday. She has hurt legs that don't heal because she has diabetes or something and the blood doesn't flow to her legs very well. I didn't know exactly what was wrong but she fell at work one day and somehow hurt them both. She walks around the house slow but she has a wheelchair so we had a member volunteer to pick her up before church. We met him there and brought her to church. She loved it and wants to come back because she feels like she has a family there. She has yet to read very much but is starting to a little now which we are thrilled about. It was really nice to see how well the ward welcomed her and made her feel like part of the family. 
  
A stray horse walked down the road out front of our apartment while we were studying! ha ha
 
It is so cold here! I am using my gloves I brought, scarf I found, 2 sweatshirts. my heavy jacket and a headband. They keep saying it's going to snow but I don't know yet. It was 3 degrees at the lowest so far but I think it's been hanging around 8 or 9 or something. I really don't know though.
 
 
I love you all so much! Take care!
Alex

Monday, June 27, 2011


June 27, 2011  Salta  Argentina
Hello!
It has been so cold here! I really don't know how cold but no ice or snow yet. It's really close to it though. I am using two sweatshirts and my big coat, a scarf I found in the apartment, gloves and headband! The cold really affected the number of people at church! They missed out though. There was one of the members of the stake presidency there and he gave a really good talk. One of the stories was (in my own translation - ha ha - don't know if it's exact but it gets the point across):
One day a father decided to take his son, who was always asking for things, out to a poor farm in the country, far away from their house. After spending a day out there on the farm and seeing how life was, they came home and the father asked his son what he learned about the rich and poor. His son started off saying that he learned alot! He said, "We have one dog and they have 10! We have a garden and they have a whole farm and fields! We get our milk from the fridge and they have a herd of cows! They go to the creek whenever they want to go fishing, and we have to wait for you to get vacation to go." The father then realized that he was just taught a much needed lesson. Sometimes we need to slow down and think of the important things in life. 
It was a really good story and I thought I would share it. Who knows - it may have been traveling around the different churches throughout the world but it was the first time I heard it.
This week we helped a family move a bunch of bricks back around to the other side of their house to start their second story (on the house). The father is the most interested in the church and is a very talented tile worker! He showed us a magazine with very expensive homes which he did the floors in. He is a go getter! He has to go to Buenos Aires for the week to get a checkup on his kidney transplant but he wants to get baptized when he gets back! 
We just found a family of about 9 people who listened to us, and the parents and one of the nephews are very interested and are set on coming to church this Sunday! They had the missionaries in their home about 20 years ago and loved the Book of Mormon but never got baptized. The mother was going to if she could see a baptism, but who knows. They have a ton of babies in their house now and maybe they have a different perspective on life. Anyways, they are loving the lessons!
We found another guy, about 30 years old, who wasn't interested really, but then he read 3rd Nephi 11 in a Book of Mormon that other missionaries had given him with that spot marked and he said he wants to get baptized! It was amazing! We just try to help them find direction and overcome their doubts.
I found a German Ensign magazine in the apartment while cleaning today, so I might take a look at that here sometime. I read the cover story titles and didn't think anything of it until one of the others said that it was a German one - after I had set it in the pile to save. I had to look again and, sure enough, it was!
I made cookies today! They were good but didn't turn out like the ones at home cause I didn't spend any money on nuts and raisins and stuff. I had some shredded coconut I put on some which was good though.
Things are going great here! I love what I have been learning from my new companion! 
We just had our last zone conference with the President (Northcutt) and his wife. It was really good and we will miss him, but the new president should be great too! He is about 40 years old and has 5 kids between 5 and 15 (I think). He is from Santa Fe,  Argentina. 
Well I'd better get going! I love you all!  
Alex

Baptism Day




  
At Stake Conference


Visiting Oscar and Family
 
Oscar's Baptism


Transfers - Elder Serey (leaving) and Alex

June 20, 2011  Salta Argentina
 
Hi!
 
Things are going great with my new companion! He is such a great example for me! I am sad that we will only be together for one transfer but I'll just have to learn as much as I can while we are working together. On Saturday, I got to baptize our investigator, Oscar, who we lost contact with for a little bit. He is SO Happy and Excited.  He is a really great guy and is loving the things he is learning. We talked about family prayer and he said he had never thought about that but said he was going to do it for sure. His wife goes to another church with her mom but she came for the baptism and really felt good about it. They said they want to have us over for  another BBQ too! The last one with them was so good! The corn on the cob here is pretty good! 
 
This week we found a big family who were interested. We came back last night and they were waiting for us with more family and some cake from Father's Day! They are really excited to start reading the Book of Mormon and to learn more! The kids all have kids of their own and one of them was reading before we left and asking more questions! It was great! The dad and mom had a Book of Mormon a long time ago but hadn't read it or found it yet. The mom said she loved reading it but I guess they lost contact with the missionaries.
 
We are teaching a Gringo that doesn't know any Spanish! It is the weirdest thing to be teaching in English. When we are with investigators, it's like my mind goes 100% Spanish and I don't know the vocabulary in English because I pick it up in Spanish as I hear it used. My companion, who has been here for 21 months, was having a harder time switching to Spanish!
  
 
I love you all!  
Elder Oczkewicz

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 13, 2011  Salta Argentina

This transfer flew by! I lost my trainer, Elder Serey, but don´t worry, I did get a new companion! =) ha ha. His name is Elder Beukers and he is from Utah! We had to wait a bit today so we got here late. I will fill you in next week.
One thing I found pretty funny this week was one day we were studying and saw a stray horse walking down the street. Nobody was with it. The next morning we saw it about the same time walk by our apartment in the other direction... we were laughing for a while cause it's just weird stuff like that that happens everyday here! ha ha!
June 6, 2011  Salta Argentina
 
So transfers are next Monday... I am not worried about it but it would be nice to stay here so the area doesn't get white-washed (meaning two new missionaries take over the area). My companion is for sure leaving because he has 6 months in this area and already found out. He went to a zone leader training last Friday in preparation for his next area. He has been district leader for a transfer. He will be a good zone leader! He has been a great companion! I have learned so much from him! 
 
On Sunday we had a baptism of a 9 year old in a non-active family. The mom and sister came to church and her baptism after church (it was after so her dad could come - he didn't show up). Alot of the relatives are very active and the whole family and relatives are sealed in the temple. Hopefully they will make their way back to church now. 
 
We were supposed to have another baptism on the 4th (Saturday) for a guy who we had get married on Wednesday but Thursday he never answered his phone and wasn't at his house when we had an appointment... Friday, the same, when his interview was going to be and Saturday too. We tried from other phones to see if he wasn't answering ours but nothing still. He was one of our best investigators, so we are thinking that there was an emergency or something. Hopefully we will find him this week. 
 
We have found some more great people but none of them made it to church. Most, because of something they already had going and committed for next week. This week we still had 6 people at church so that was really good! One was an investigator who said she would, but had flaked out on all of our appointments for weeks. You just never know what they are feeling. The JW family had been having some issues and 2 weeks ago the wife told us that she was more content with her church. She told us she wasn't a member because she couldn't memorize the scriptures needed to be baptized but still went to study with them. This Sunday her husband was supposed to come but she and her 8 year old daughter came instead! We were blown away! We went to her house that night and her husband was doubting there was a God like he has many times, but after we talk to him he is always excited to read again and go to church and feels good about what we are teaching. The wife said she just felt like she needed to go today and that she had been reading the Book of Mormon after having said she didn't really want to. It was Fast Sunday and she felt really good about all the people's stories about how they have changed so much because of the gospel. She loved it and said she was going to go again. I think she has gone 4 times now. The 8 yr-old wants to come early like they did once before because she absolutely loved Primary. I think she will be key in getting her parents to church and baptized! We watched Together Forever the other night with them and they both loved it and felt that the families in the movie had some of the exact same problems that they were and are dealing with.
 
Another experience we had this week was with someone we heard about from a member. We stopped by 5 weeks ago and had a GREAT lesson with him! He was so excited but he works a ton and we just got to meet with him again this week. We just started visiting with him and asked how he felt about the church when he went there a year ago once and he told us he felt good there and never felt that at the other churches he visited. He told us that when we talked about Joseph Smith and him seeing Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ that he felt an amazing peaceful feeling similar to that which he felt in church but much greater! He couldn't stop thinking about it that night and talked to his wife about it (this was 5 weeks ago). He had something going Sunday but said he was going to for sure come next week. He isn´t actually married so we have to get him married too before we can baptize him.
 
These experiences have confirmed the truth of the gospel to me 10 times more than it already was! Its truly the work of the Lord!