Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Elder Gilmore Returns With Honor

We are anxiously awaiting Sean's arrival at the Billings, Montana airport

Can you see that Mom didn't forget the maple bars?

Sean finally arrives, coming down the escalators

Sean flew all night from Buenos Aires to Atlanta, then to Salt Lake and arrived in Billings at 12:30 p.m. He had a long night and day of travel, but looked great. After lunch in Billings we headed home to Powell, where he was released by the Stake President.

Well done, Elder !

Monday, June 14, 2010

Parque Leloir- Email #103

The Last Epistle


I will start with your questions. I am not panicked, although it is a little surreal sitting here writing my last email in the mission. Next week I won’t receive your emails, because I will be in transfer meeting all day, then go straight to the mission home for my exit interview with President, and then to the airport. This week I won’t be in my area very much, but I plan on working hard until the end. On Wednesday I go on the tour of Capitál with all my group. After that President has given Elder Sabey and I permission to go visit all of our converts in Ramos Mejia together, so I am WAY excited about that. We will spend Wednesday night doing that, we will be seeing Bryan, Fiorella, Carmen and Luis, all of them. Remember them? I do. Then on Thursday, Elder Sabey and I are going to be hitting up Villegas together, so I can see the Fernandez family, and he can see all of his converts from when he was there. He was there at the start of our missions when I was in Merlo. Then on Friday, Elder Hinton and I will be with the Henderson family (senior couple) looking for a new apartment for Parque Leloir. Just a few hours in the morning. So it is going to be a packed week, but there will be time for the work. Yes, we go to the Boca (colorful village place) where supposedly tango was born. World Cup fever has spread and infested the country. People can’t understand how we don’t watch the USA games. It is like a sin for them. “How can you not watch your own country in the Cup?” Even the members who know we don’t watch TV question us. “Yeah, but you can’t even watch your countries world cup game?” People were not satisfied with the Argentina game, they thought they should have won 5-0, and everyone can’t believe how lucky the US got with the goalie error. But life goes on. I probably won’t call in the airport…that would kind of be anti-climactic…if I had to request a food waiting for me in the airport…I think we all remember my nickname from my childhood…1 dozen donuts please…I will have already bought the root-beer in Atlanta. I have no preference for first meal back.

This past week has been probably one of the most eventful of my mission. It started with interviews with President on Tuesday. Great stuff but no time to tell right now. I did some divisions in Rivadavia with a new missionary who I predict will be AP someday. We had been trying to have the baptism of Maxi but the whole Dad situation was impeding him. Well, after he fought with me that one night I wrote about last week, he started to see black demon spirits in his house that were driving him crazy…Elder Hinton offered to bless his home so we kneeled in prayer and dedicated the home. After that he was our best friend… until the next time we went over…haha I am sure he is bipolar or something. So we were trying to get him to sign the slip giving permission to Maxi to be baptized. Elder Hinton battled with him for a good 40 minutes, was unsuccessful, and basically condemned him saying that he didn’t love his son and the sins would fall on his head…so we were walking out and he said to me, “You seem to understand me better than the other guy.” At this point I just wanted to get out of there, so I just rubbed his shoulder and said everything was fine and not to worry about it. He said he wanted to show me something, and brought out all of Maxi’s birth certificates and stuff. I told him they looked great…and then he said, “Can he get baptized if you have all of these documents?” “Yeah…” “Oh ok, well, I will sign your paper then…” I was confused, but didn’t ask more questions. So we showed up yesterday to pick Maxi up and his Dad was crazy again, and said that they were moving that day and he wouldn’t be getting baptized. It is just a sad situation, because Maxi is completely normal and loves the gospel, but his dad is a loony bird.

Which brings me to the climax of the week. I just want it known that without a doubt the greatest souvenirs that I will be bringing home are the relationships that I have with my converts. I love each and every one of them like my own family, and with some of them I feel like we are best friends. Remember Raquel Lobo that just got baptized in April. She is like my best friend in Parque Leloir. In the words of Anne Shirley, we would be “kindred spirits”. She is 73 but it really feels like we are both 5 years old when we are together because we make each other laugh so much. I will probably miss her most of anyone here in this area. She always gives us food when we go over there. We ate lunch with her on Friday, and she invited us over for an “asado” on Saturday, so we were pumped. The buzz was in the air for the Argentina game as we headed to her house. It was so crazy. Fireworks were going off, gunshots; people were running past us to get to their houses before the game started. It was kind of exciting. So we got to her house and the gate was open as usual so her dogs could run in and out, and we clapped. She didn’t answer so we clapped again. With all the fireworks she probably didn’t hear us, so I walked in the gate and knocked on the door. It was pitch black inside, but I could see that the back door was open. It was obvious that she had run to the corner to buy bread or something getting ready for us to come over. We went back out into the street to see if she was coming, but didn’t see her. Then it dawned on me that her grill is in the back yard, so she was probably out there cooking the meat still. So we went around back laughing about something, and got to the back door that was open. The smile on my lips slowly faded as I saw her feet, and then her hands, and then the blood…SHE WAS DEAD ON HER KITCHEN FLOOR!!!!!!! I felt my heart sink into my stomach and I almost started screaming just out of shock. It was the most eerie thing that has happened to me in a long time. She was just lying there. My hands were clasped over my mouth and I couldn’t believe what was happening. I yelled to the neighbor and he came running over and slowly all the neighbors made their way over. The ambulance and police were called. She was dead…but a neighbor had just seen in buying some food a few hours before. We had just eaten with her the day before. We found her body! We had to give a statement to the police and they took down our information. It was a natural death so we aren’t suspects. She had a heart-attack. It must have been right when she got back from buying the food and she walked into the door. I still am in shock a little bit. So we called President, and he told us to tell our bishop and offer our help with the funeral and stuff. It reminded me a lot of my experience with Garland Fairchild, and Elder Hinton and I became once again “the church boys”. All the neighbors and family members were talking about how much she talked about us, and the church, and how happy she was these past two months she has been going. They said she has been a fanatic, and she invited everyone to come over with the “muchachos” were over to listen to the message she had found peace in. Just a few weeks ago I gave her some pictures we had taken together, and the niece said that they were her most valuable possessions, and that every time they visited her she showed them our pictures. They were looking for them like crazy to put into the casket with her. She kept them hidden I guess so they wouldn’t get ruined haha, but the picture of her baptism was on her nightstand. In Argentina they don’t do the whole embalming process so they bury the people right away before they start to decompose. Before Church started yesterday, she was buried. That is less than 24 hours! Her grave was dedicated by the bishop. I can’t really believe it. We are kind of the celebrities of the neighborhood now because we found a dead body. In church the members kept praising us saying how we were guided by the Spirit to find her…I had no idea what they were talking about, why would the Spirit guide us to find a dead person? To say the least, it was an interesting way to end the week. It just happened two days ago! I just saw her and she was fine! What a blessing it is to know that she accepted the gospel in her life and found joy in the church these past two months. I can’t wait to see her again. I know we will see her again, and the plan of salvation was created so that we can have this hope. So in answer to the question, how are my emotions holding up? All over the place…haha. Well, I will see you all soon! Remember the donuts; my favorite is maple bars…

Love, Elder Gilmore

Monday, June 7, 2010

Parque Leloir- Week #102

The Aidukaitis Effect

Hey there family,

Well, this week was certainly an interesting one. It started with the Elder Aidukaitis conference. Let's just say that he took the mission by surprise with a complete cane dropping on everyone. Back story: Since President Benton came two years ago the mission has seen a huge spike upward in the datos, obedience, diligence, baptisms, and really just everything. He really has been inspired by the Lord to take the mission to a new level. So in the mission we have felt pretty good about ourselves as the most successful mission in Argentina. We were all kind of expecting a pat on the back from the member of the Seventy visiting us. It was more like a slap on the back of the head...haha, but in a good way. The theme of the conference was, "God is happy with your work, but He is not satisfied!" It was intense! He is way energetic, raises his voice a lot, and is very direct. Another direct quote translated into English: "Can I speak with you clearly and directly? Yes? Ok, just know that I am not mad, but I will speak frankly. If the sisters start to cry, I will start to put some more sugar on my words." I really wasn't sure if that was a moment to laugh or not but I did, and then the repentance process began. Elder Hinton and I were called on to give our presentation of the zone's datos first of the three zones there. So we got up and started to give our datos. We said that our baptismal goal for the zone is 30, and that we ha...we were interrupted..."Elders, how many areas are there in your zone?" We answered ten. "Ten? Do you believe that God can work miracles in your missions?" Of course! He then directed himself to the whole audience. "Do you believe that you can baptize every week in this mission?" A unified "Yes!" sounded from the crowd. He then looked straight at me and asked me, "Elder, do you believe that you can baptize every week?" "Yes." "You believe that?" "Yes." "You really believe?" (And then he used some piercing gaze that left me disabled for a few seconds) "Yes?" "Elder, you don't believe that, and neither does anyone in this room." "Oh..." hahaha Let's just say that I think I saw everyone's jaw hit the ground, including President's, the Assistants', the missionaries', and my companion's. "If you really believed that, you goal would be 60, meaning each area would have at least 1 baptism a week. But with a goal like 30, there are weeks when the goal must be zero, and tell me Elder, why would God give you more than you desire?" I think Elder Hinton and I were just the guinea pigs. It wasn't personal. I could feel his love, and his desire for us to improve.
So he gave us a ton of great ways to improve, which I cannot write in this email because they are too numerous. However, I have copious notes in my study journal which I can share with you later. Anyway, so we got a call on Saturday that there was a secret urgent emergency meeting with all the zone leaders in the office Sunday night. So we showed up in Ramos Mejia Sunday night and President and the Assistants revealed the new vision of the mission. Everything has been revamped! I am kind of bummed that I am going to miss this new era of the mission. The new focus is baptizing every week. Everything is changed now. I am still trying to process it all, but I will follow the counsel of my leaders and put it all into practice these last two weeks.

So with that little meeting, we figured we needed to baptize someone this weekend. We had everything ready to go with Maxi to get baptized, and I went in divisions with one of our District Leaders, Elder Callejas, from Chile, to do the interview. We show up and the member in front told us an awful story. Earlier in the day she had gone back to Maxi's house to get the rent money or something, and there was music playing really loudly. She knocked on the door and it swung open and she saw Maxi on the floor with his Dad beating him senseless. He had the music blasting so that no one would hear Maxi screaming. So the member ran back to her house and called the police, the whole while Maxi's dad trying to break her door down to stop her. He said they were just "playing". It made me sick. So we went back there to talk to him, and he opened the door and was really nervous. He can easily beat up a 13 year old, but he was pretty small standing next to us. He was out of his mind talking about how we were obligating Maxi to go to church, and how they are going to baptize him in the Catholic church whether he likes it or not. We told him that would be obligating him, but there was no reasoning with this man. So Maxi didn't get baptized, and we aren't really sure what is going to happen. I think it is in the hands of the legal authorities. Hopefully they can help Maxi out of the nightmare he is living. I thought Elder Callejas was about to wail on the guy...I saw his arm flinch once, so I moved in front of him because we didn't want the throw ourselves into the mix. But it was a really sad ending to the week.

It is starting to ding at my heart that I am leaving. I don't like it. I am afraid to go back into the world. It is too easy to fall, but at the same time, I thank my Father every night for this mission that has prepared me to take on the challenges that will come to me in the future. I would have surely fallen long ago if I hadn't decided to serve this mission. It is no coincidence that Heavenly Father has his 19-21 year old sons spiritually remove themselves from the world and dedicate two years to the studying and preaching of the gospel. I love Him for the uncountable times He has stretched forth His hand in these two years to encourage me, to correct me, to lift me, and to heal me. I know He lives. I know that I am His son, and I know that the precious blood of His Only Begotten Son was spilled for me, so that I could have these experiences, and help my earthly family, as well as my spiritual one, in our progression back to Him. As a child of God I know this truth: A family is forever! I am going back into a dark world, but as President Monson said, "The future is as bright as [my] faith." I think that was President Monson anyway. Well, I am going to close this one up...until next week when I will be writing my LAST EMAIL ON MY MISSION OH MY GOODNESS I CANT BELIEVE IT CAN YOU? I AM NOT TRUNKY THOUGH IT JUST KIND OF DAWNED ON ME RIGHT NOW I HAVE TO THINK OF SOMETHING PROFOUND TO WRITE NEXT WEEK 14 DAYS AHH....dad gum caps lock got stuck. I can't wait to type on real keyboards.

Love Elder Gilmore

Monday, May 31, 2010

Parque Leloir- Week #101

Well family,

This week went really well for us here in Parque Leloir. The bicentennial thing was crazy. There was no one in the street on Tuesday. We walked into one house and they wouldn't let us talk because in downtown Capital they were putting on a huge artistic parade of the whole argentine history. I learned a lot at least. Also I watched Maradona live say that he was going to the obelisk naked if Argentina wins. Except he used some vulgar slang and everybody just thinks it is funny, and the doctor’s advice to the team is all in the news as well. Everyone is pumped about the Canada thrashing that occurred. I totally know who Gary Coleman is and we used to watch Different Strokes on Nick at Nite...also there is an Elder Gary Coleman in the Seventy. I already got some magnets. I got the Pringles. I bought Ebin and Rhainanainainain Messi jerseys for the Cup, but I don't have any idea if they are going to fit. I am actually not trunky, despite last week's email. A sister missionary at zone conference told me that it is a girl car, and she drove it before the mission, I told her she was just jealous that she doesn't go home until 2011. She apologized, and I accepted.

So, today Elder Hinton and I went golfing. It was really fun. We had to go onto an Air Force Base. It was intense, and we were going to take pictures, but were afraid that they would shoot us with their big guns. It looked almost exactly like Barksdale, except it is a lot easier to get into...haha...we just walked up and the 20 guards looked us up and down and asked what we were doing there. I said that we had heard there was a golf course nearby and asked if they knew where it was. They said, yeah it is on base...oh...it is open to the public? He was like, yeah just go down a few blocks and to the right. It was weird. Basically anybody could just say they wanted to play golf and get onto a national air force base. Luckily we really did just want to play golf, so we did, and I had a lot of fun. The course wasn't very good and it just rained a ton last week, so it was interesting, but served our purposes.

Tomorrow we are having our meeting with Elder Aidukaitis. I am kind of nervous, but it is going to be great. Right after the normal meeting, we are having a meeting with just him and the zone leaders. So this should be a really good week. Yesterday I was also pleased to baptize Leticia Rojas. It was a great service, and she looked so happy all day in church. We are hoping to baptize her parents as well before I leave, which would be great. We also have another date with a kid named Maxi who we just found two weeks ago, but already has come to church twice and wants to get baptized. He is 13, and understands everything! He should be getting baptized as well before I go home, so we are looking at some success to end my mission. I am kind of living in a surreal moment. It doesn't feel like I am leaving in 3 weeks, so I am not sad yet, but I guess it has to hit me sooner or later. I would prefer later than sooner, but it’s all good. I don't even know what to write anymore...I am doing great and will have more to say next week about the Elder Aidukaitis visit!!!

Love you bye

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy 21st Birthday, Sean

This is the reason Sean is so excited in his letter today. He will get to drive it in 29 more days!

Parque Leloir- Week #100

My birthday is a national holiday!!!!

Hey family!

I think Elder Hinton's arm is bruised pretty badly from how many times I hit him in the arm from the pure excitement that was running through my body as I looked at the pics of my birthday present. Now just put some beautiful spiritual girl in the front seat that is willing to marry me, and I think I will be set for eternity. You outdid yourselves parents! Thank you! Also, I took some money out of my 1st national bank account. I don't think I will be taking any more out. Also, FELIZ DIA DE LA PATRIA!!! It is the 200 year anniversary tomorrow of the start of the revolution here in Argentina. Let’s just say it is a really big deal right now. So that mixed with world cup excitement is making the end of my mission pretty interesting. We just got back from the ward party they were throwing and it was pretty fun. I love this ward. I am blessed that it is my last ward. The members are just great. We had permission to play soccer with the members so I jumped in and showed them how I won a trip to Disneyland from my Dad. They also had an improv talent show where they pressured people to get up and sing something acapella. They obviously twisted our arms so we gave them a little show on the spot. They wanted to hear songs in English, so we sang My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion to show them our range, and then Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles for some novelty. They were screaming for an encore. Everyone knew it was my birthday, and I got a ton of birthday wishes, so that was nice. President Benton called me to wish me a happy birthday, as well as the assistants, and then the secretaries called me and told me that Elder Sabey called them to call me and tell me happy birthday as well. So it has been a good day.

Yesterday wasn't the best day of my mission, but life goes on. The baptism didn't happen, but it will happen this week or the next. Everything was going perfectly. She passed her interview and everything, but on Sunday Andres showed up and said that the mom, Alicia, got mad at Leticia and so for punishment they went to a friend’s house instead of church so she couldn't get baptized. Juvenile? Yes, but what can you do? So we will be trying to work everything out so that Alicia calms down and realizes that this isn't a game. IT IS ETERNAL SALVATION!!!! Plus, Leticia is bomb! She already has started Personal Progress in Young Womens, and wrote a 5 minute talk on Faith without help that she is going to give. I think she is ready for baptism. So that is how that went. Other than that, the week went well.

We have 3 dates right now, so we are looking good for this last month. Oh yeah, really important news. Remember that story Dad always tells about his mission and the Member of the Seventy that visited his mission a couple weeks before he went home? Well, guess who is coming to our mission on June 1st? Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis! Unlike Dad I will be sure to shave and put an extra glob of gel into my hair. I am really excited. What a great way to end my mission. Elder Hinton and I will have to give a small presentation for him on the zone and how we are doing. Uh...things are looking up? haha no just kidding we are doing well right now, so I am excited. I got all of Grandma's letters, and they made me smile because I could totally hear her voice as I read it. Tell Grandma Sherry not to worry. I am not judging her, and she is missed and loved and see you in a month and I love you and bye. All of that. Also, how big are Ebin and Rihahanahonohn, because if they are going to spend quality time with me it will be watching the World Cup and they will need Argentina jerseys. I am loving every minute of this time that I have in Argentina. I kind of wish I could start my mission over with the attitude I have at the end of it, because I have learned so much and come so far, but now it is ending, and I have to say goodbye. Ok well this is the most random email ever, but I couldn't help it. you ruined me with those pictures haha. but I am still working hard. Love you bye

Elder Sean Mazda 3 Gilmore

Monday, May 17, 2010

Parque Leloir- Week #99

Don't get trunky...

Hey Mom and Dad,

I got your package! Thank-you, and I already ate all the mango licorice…don’t send more…or the addiction might get worse. Well, today I am pretty trunky…we made the mistake of going to Jumbo today and there is a movie theater inside, where I saw the posters for all the cool movies coming out…next month…when I will be home…anyway, I also went to a sweet store and dropped some major cash on souvenirs. Elder Mackay wrote me and said he is engaged. I think he gets married in Newport in July. He wanted me to go, but we will see what is going on. Dad, my jersey has Messi on the back, and everyone is very displeased with “Diego”. They say he should go back to playing and give up the coaching bit. Elder Hinton and I had a great week. He is a pretty relaxed guy, and a big Beatles and Bob Dylan fan, which kind of sums him up in a nutshell. We are going to have a great transfer. I don’t see anything that will be a problem as far as getting along goes. Also, my grandson is Elder Shepherd from Las Vegas, who is from the same ward as Elder Gneiting (in my group), which is a ward Elder Naylor served in during Christmas of 2008…small world…also “Shepherd” is “Pastor” in Spanish…which is what we call all the missionaries going home, but with Brett, I’ll digest.

We had the zone leader’s conference on Friday, which was interesting, and my last one. Everything this transfer is going to be “my last one”. Sometimes that is exciting, but most times I don’t like it. Everything in the area is going well. I was honored to confirm Beatrice on Sunday, which she really enjoyed. It is really so amazing to have converts. Well, they are the Lord’s converts, but you know what I mean. After her baptism last week as she was walking out of the chapel she turned around just before leaving and said thank you again to Elder Hinckley and I, and said, “You two really are my angels sent from God.” No better feeling!!!! So we went by this week from Elder Hinton, and she was telling him about her conversion, and she said, “I didn’t want anything to do with religion a few months ago, and then he (points at me) just started to talk to me one day about religion in the street, and it all started making sense. So many times I wanted to argue or prove them wrong, but he is more convincing than a Nike salesman!” (That is an Argentine thing. Everyone sells fake nike socks here and they just keep bugging you until you buy them, so they say that like you can sell anything if you are better than the nike guys. Also I bought the nike socks once, they are nice.) I was just laughing the whole time, thinking of her weird random doubts she always had that we always answered with the Book of Mormon. So she got confirmed, and I felt really good after the confirmation, like I had really said what the Lord wanted me to say.

The Rojas family came as well, and they are still trying to get their papers together for their marriage. It is coming down to the wire. However, drumroll….their daughter Leticia is going to be baptized this Sunday!!! We walked in this week, and the first thing she said was, “This is going to be my third Sunday, so I am getting baptized, right?” RIGHT! I have a theory that the Lord makes it easier for the missionaries going home, or else we might say that this is too hard and we are going home soon anyway so we will just give up now. So my fear of not having a baptism my last transfer could be soothed by next week. It would be like a birthday baptism. My last day of being 20, I could be down in the water performing a saving ordinance, or Elder Hinton could. Alicia was completely fine, and she gets better every time we go see them. I think the influence of the Spirit is really chipping away at the bad influences in that family. Also, they feel really bad because we went by last week and while we were clapping at the gate, someone threw a huge rock at my head, and it whizzed past my ear…close one. I guess the neighbors make fun of them and stuff for going to church, but they are intent on staying in the Church. So a few more rocks to the head shouldn’t do too much damage in the long run. Well, that is it for this week. Elder Hinton and I are making some great birthday plans for next week, besides the baptism. I love you all!

Elder Gilmore