Sunday, April 29, 2012

March 5, 2012     Tucumán    Argentina
This week was better but I am still getting to know the people and area(s) haha. I feel like I am getting to know it unusually fast so that might be the Lord helping me get to know it before my companion leaves. He will have been here for 7 months by the end of this transfer (April 2). Time is going so fast. It motivates me to try and do everything faster but actually we just have to work more efficiently. That’s one thing that can be deceiving in the mission because if we are doing something a good way and there is a way to do things better, we can be slow to change because Satan will tempt us not to progress.

This week we had some great experiences with different families. We have some investigators who are reading a ton but just aren't looking hard enough to receive a testimony. A few are in 2 Nephi and Alma and the end of 1 Nephi. It’s just they aren't sure yet. They all say they feel it’s true but maybe we haven't helped them fully understand what it means when it’s true. Others aren't going to church yet so we have lots of work to do.

It feels like in every area there are new challenges that you have to figure out how to get around and over. It's very interesting because I know it will happen but there is just something we have to learn first. As we continue searching together as a companionship what lessons we can learn, I am sure we will find out what they are with the help of the Holy Spirit. 

This week our president of the branch (one of them) asked us what we think he can do to help the ward get excited to fulfill their callings and have the desire to help in the Lord’s work. We mentioned the things which the area presidency had asked us to do in order to have the most success. So we should be working pretty closely with him for a while to get going in this area. The other presidency members are all converts in the last year and a half.

They are excited but feel a little overwhelmed (which I could imagine) since there are not enough priesthood holders to fill the needed callings. Basically there is alot of search and rescue to be done. I guess we will learn the best way to work together with the few people we have in the ward. 

Right now I live on the  Pasaje  cabildo (street) right by the universitario (university). The city from what I have seen is similar (more or less) to Cabo only here there aren't any huge hotels. Also here the big supermarkets are pretty rare. You get a couple but nothing like Home Depot. The other day we were walking down the street and this guy had a machine for making cinder blocks. It was this thing that when the form got set on the ground they would fill it up and then it would vibrate. Then when he hit a lever it lifted the form straight up so it wouldn't ruin it. There were few big rows of them drying. It was pretty cool to see. 

We went into the city a little deeper in order to find an ATM that had money in it. At the intersections there are no lights for people on the sidewalks telling them to walk or not. We found out nobody likes to wait either. That part of town was pretty upscale though because it actually had stop lights and not just a free for all. It had to have them though because they had 2 lanes coming and going from each side. 

Some guy walked up to the other missionaries and reached in the one’s pocket that had his cell phone and a little money while they were knocking a door. He turned around and the guy took off running. I guess he had just paid for a new cell phone recently and didn't want to pay for another and they took off after the guy yelling at him to stop! After running and catching up to him in a couple blocks the guy held the stuff out as he was running and when the missionary grabbed it and stopped the guy kept running. By now everyone was out of their houses watching at 9 in the morning and an old guy came up and asked what happened and they said the guy robbed them. He pulled out a gun from his pants and took off in the direction the guy was running. I guess the robber lives right there on those couple blocks and might not be liked by the neighbors now. Members 4 blocks away knew about it later that day just because news travels so fast in these neighborhoods. 

A missionary a little while back got robbed and the guy tried to stab the missionary but when the knife hit his stomach/garments it bent! It didn't go through the garments. And when the guy saw the bent knife he got scared and took off. I thought that was pretty cool. Heavenly Father really is watching over us here. I am grateful I haven't had any problems but I know that Heavenly Father is protecting us. It’s a great comfort to have him on our side. I have never really even gotten scared in the streets yet which I feel blessed for too. I always am trying to keep my eyes open for groups of people and or singles that walk toward us. I then go to the other side of the street. It has worked well. 
Well I better get going. I love you very much!

Take care!

February  27, 2012   Tucumán    Argentina

My area now is the outskirts of a bigger city but it’s still not like a sky scraper city or anything. Not that I can see anyways. I have some dirt road area in my new area too. I guess it’s pretty dangerous but it seems less so than my last area and nothing ever happened there. Today on our way to the store a guy tried to stop us four missionaries in
the street for us to break a hundred peso bill. I never get money out in front of anyone in the street but my new comp had his out before we could say anything. He exchanged the bills and then when we got to the store and tried to use it he found out it was fake... so now we know how to look for that. He still has the bill for a reminder.

I got word from my comp that on of our investigators in my last area died of a heart attack at the age of 22... he was the son of the guy that died while we were at the house. He didn't quit drinking and smoking. It really took a toll on him. It was very sad to hear. That is the 3rd kid in that family to die and not including the dad...

My new apartment is tiny compared to my last one and the layout is kinda weird which makes it seem smaller but we get by with 4 there. We have small areas to study and no AC but the hot weather is coming to an end. At least the extremes.

We did divisions on Sunday so that my companion Elder Dempsey could go to church in the morning and I could go later in the day. It worked out well but we have to get more people to church. There were 20 in one branch, 30 in the other.
We stopped by a less active member and the guy said he knows it’s true and needs to come but the last time he came with his daughter who is a member the mom came and screamed at them at church in front of everyone telling them they can't go. She let two of her kids get baptized because they had a strong desire but now she has changed her mind a year later. The wife forced her son this last Saturday to get baptized in her church and he didn't want to since he was already a member of ours and still believed that it was true. The daughter got punched by the mom because she didn't want to get baptized... it’s been a hard time for the family but they really have strong testimonies. We’ll see how they can get over these problems which have only been getting worse. I left feeling super sad for them and for the mom and how confused she is and what it’s doing to their family. But it also made me so happy for the blessing I have in my life and my wonderful family.

So we found someone this week who stopped us in the street when we were
near their house looking for someone else. Supposedly she was dead for 7 days and then came back. We will find out more next time but it was a very good experience with them because they want to get baptized already.

Well I have to get going. Thank you for everything and I love you all! Say hi to Aleta Bray and everyone else! It is so true what you said about the mission. I think about how I would be progressing or at least the rate of progression if I hadn't come on the mission and it scares me! The mission is the greatest experience for my life or for the life of
anyone without a doubt!

Take care!
Love, Alex
February  20, 2012     Tucuman    Argentina

So... I got transferred. I am in my new area right now. After we got home Sunday night I had to pack up and leave in 2 hours. It wasn't very fun and was pretty sad but I feel good about how the area was going when I left. Definitely better than when I got there - thanks to the members' help and all that I was learning from my companion. I will really miss him alot. We had our times but worked them out. I think we worked really well together. I am now in Tucuman. I got here at 1 this afternoon so it was about 12 hours in the bus. I was very blessed and woke up very few times and it seemed like a very short ride. I was so tired from this last week. On Sunday I was studying and was talking to my companion when we both went out like light bulbs. I thought it was a few minutes but it was an hour! We couldn't believe it but there was nothing we could do about it after it happened. It was very hot and we had just eaten. I guess I’ll go get my head wet with cold water when I feel it's about to happen again. 

I am just outside of Central from what I understand but I’ll let you know as I learn the area. The interesting thing is that I came from a branch that had 4 missionaries and there was alot of work. Now the area I am in we are in charge of 2 branches. One meets at 9:30 Sunday and the other is at 5 in the evening. I am really excited but I can see there being alot of work working with 2 different leaderships and confusing them all until I have been here for a while! We are really close to the college here in Tucuman, if that helps you find out where I am on the map. It’s a pretty small area and there are about 30 people going to each of the branches with lots of less actives. The ward close to us has fewer members assisting but they will grow. It’s just a matter of getting the members we have excited and getting inactive people excited through teaching friends and kids who aren't baptized.

Tartagal had a couple lower assistants this last 2 weeks because of all the carnival stuff going on. This last week was an awesome week in that area though! We had 6 or more people receive the Aaronic priesthood and we had 3 more baptisms. My comp and I had the mom of one of our recent converts and the little brother of the kid we baptized last. The other missionaries had the mom of the two boys that just got baptized and now the dad decided he will do it this next weekend! It’s really blowing up in that area!
Some of the kids who got baptized recently have been waking up early to go out with us every day of the week and a couple have already given talks in the other baptisms. They have amazingly strong testimonies and all want to serve missions so badly. One is 19 so he will prepare right now. The others are 14 and 12 so they have a while but they are getting to church early to greet people and get them to seats. They also have an amazing influence on their friends with the activities they have been having. A few of their friends want to have Book of Mormons and listen to us. Before they weren't excited about it but they all came to a couple baptisms and came to church and have much excitement to learn more.
With the reactivated 16 year old and the recently baptized 19 year old we have been able to do divisions a couple times during the week and it has been working wonderfully.

We also were talking to the family of the kid that has been doing really hard drugs and they have been reading a lot in the Book of Mormon and feel that it is true. They have to work on their own tobacco and drinking issues but they seem excited and confident that they can get rid of those problems. I am excited to see them on the list of weekly baptisms in the future. They do have to get married first though. The work is really moving forward in that area and I am confident that it can be the same here!

 Well I have to go.

Love,  Alex! 
February 13, 2012     Tartagal   Argentina
 Wow! Alot is going on back home! It is so amazing how fast Monday goes and we still didn't get everything done we needed to... the house is very clean though! I get up and clean in the morning. I have come to realize that it is therapy for me. ha ha
This week was a crazy one! I got bit by a dog too! ha ha it didn't bleed or rip my pants so I was happy but it stung a bit for a while. I threw a rock at it when it came at me again but missed by a mile. My companion is quite good at it and got another dog really good that is always a threat. There are so many dogs here!

We visited with one of the druggies (the son of Lucia Lopez (the mom of a lady we baptized here)). Lucia is progressing amazingly and has received an answer and will be baptized this weekend. She is having a very hard time with her son who is in the drugs. I guess the same day we came and talked to her they had verbally fought a bit and so she picked up her book and opened it to a part about repentance which we had planned on talking about. Later, the spirit directed our lesson very smoothly. Then she left to go next door to her mom’s so we could knock on her son’s door and talk to him. It was a very positive lesson but he had just been smoking too. This drug makes people look like a skeleton in a week depending on how addicted they are. They just lose all the fat and muscle on their bodies. He knows he could die from it soon and wants to quit but he didn't go to the meeting his mom had planned for him at the rehab place. She wants us to see if he wants to go to it and we would then take him. I guess up on the hill where they live (their house is in the picture of the soccer field I sent you) alot of kids go there at night so it’s all very close and very hard for him to give it up. His mom found him asleep the morning after we came with the book of Mormon on his chest so we are hoping that is one way he can get the strength he needs to quit. 

The member we have been taking with us to these appointments had a similar lifestyle before he got baptized. He came to church the first time randomly in October to the general conference. His little brother just got baptized and so will his mom and dad. One of the missionaries was waiting for a family outside the church and invited this kid and his friend in to listen. The other one left and wants nothing to do with it but Cristian stayed and wanted the missionaries to come over to his house.  He didn't come to get confirmed after his baptism because his older brother took him out and pressured him into drinking and he fell back into it all but then started going out with the missionaries to their appointments so he could have something to do and got confirmed this weekend. He even got offered to smoke and chew on the way home from church with his little brother who just got baptized and turned it all down. We took him to all the people we are visiting who have kids in the drugs and he was a huge comfort to the parents and families to know that it’s possible. He also felt the pain that the families were going through and didn't want it for his family again. He bore his testimony and is super excited to prepare for a mission. He is 19 years old so that should be possible in the coming year! 

Along with the baptism of his little brother, a little kid got baptized who turned nine that same day. He should have gotten baptized a while back but his mom never told him what he should do and just let him stay home from church all the time. The family is getting a little bit stronger now but the dad is still inactive. He has a chewing problem he doesn't feel he can give up. The funny thing is that his grandson didn't want to give him a kiss because he said he eats weeds. The grandson is in the picture I will send. He is the one with the toy gun pointed at his head. The kid that got baptized is quite a handful. None of us knew he had it in the pictures. ha ha. 

We also got to do some service on a farm where we are visiting a kid (Walter the uncle of Franco who got baptized in November). It was really cool. I love going out there to teach him because the breeze comes through his farm. It’s so nice and quiet. They have huge avocado trees which will be ready in a month. And they have a couple fig trees too which I got to try. It was almost all the way ripe. What we did for service is we ground up, by hand, a bunch of corn for the chickens so he could come to church in the morning. It was fun! They gave us a juice called "chicha de maiz". They bake some dried corn just right then they grind it up really fine and boil it for 2 days! And then strain it a bit. It looked like water with D.E. in it! Or like mud but it was actually pretty good. The corn is naturally sweet so it doesn't need any sugar.
Before leaving we took a few pictures with my companion’s camera so you can see what the farm is like a little. Also before leaving I went to the bathroom... that is a very misleading word to use for that "outhouse" or whatever you want to call it. I first asked my companion if I should use the "outhouse" or the cactus plant... he told me to use the "outhouse". Reluctantly I walked over and opened the wood door that was about the height of my neck and ready to fall off... I ducked in and looked around the 3 foot square wood-floored room only to find a hole in the floor... I thought "where do they go?"... Then I saw a clue half way hanging in the hole and the other half on the wood floor. I was then hoping with all my heart the floor was not rotten because I was a good 30 minute walk from home... luckily it wasn't and it turned out to be a pretty entertaining discovery. I guess they just squat and there was no sign of paper so I really didn't want to ask. When I left it I told my comp. we aren't leaving until he checks it out. He came out quite entertained as well! ha ha Sorry to gross you out.
It was really hot so I washed off afterward to cool off. That’s why my tie is undone and my hair is all messed up. Don’t worry, I don't walk around like that. ha ha
In some of the pictures you can see the house they live in but not the outhouse. We’ll get one next time. We just happened to have his camera for the baptism later that day.
On our way out to the farm this kid on the corner jokingly told me to run away fast and then I realized he had a big knife in his hand. Then all his friends started laughing. I don't know what he was doing with it but I wasn't wanting to find out. Looked like he was thirteen years old! 

I’ve got to go. We stayed a bit late cause we went to find someone at the hospital today during visiting hours. I love you all very much!