Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Merlo- Week #35

¡It's Raining Emails!

Hello once again family and friends,

This week was a pretty good week, but still had its minor hiccups. We had ZERO investigators in Sacrament...first time that has happened to me in a while. It was raining all day Saturday and Sunday, and I am pleased to report that the REI umbrella that Dad bought is worth the 100% guarantee of extra wind guard thingy it came with. So anyways, the rain might not seem like a big deal...but to Argentines it is...also, our area is at a lower level than the rest of the area and all the water seemed to flow into it. There were actually streets we couldn't pass because there was a full-blown river raging across the intersections...current and all...but we still made it to church...unfortunately not many other people did. I counted 19 people in Sacrament meeting...including us...also including small children and infants. No joke here people. So that was fun. We still have one more baptism planned for sure this transfer, with other possibilities still, but for sure Margarita Roa is going to be baptized on the 7th of March. There is a big stake activity that day in Padua (where the stake center is) called the sabado blanco (white Saturday). All the baptisms that day are going to be in the Stake Center in a Stake wide baptismal service. There are already about 15 planned for that day, so Margarita will be a part of that. Alright so that you know who Margarita is, she has been going to church for almost a year now, but she got offended (happens a lot with Argentines) and to pay the woman back she decided not to be baptized...after a year now, she has mostly forgotten about why she was offended and we explained to her that she is only hurting herself by not being baptized, so we are good to go with her. She has known Elder Arriola a lot longer so she will probably choose him to baptize her, so I probably won’t be wearing white in the big 15 person picture, but oh well.

Glad to hear that Castillo is doing so well! I saw in the weekly newsletter this week that they only had two baptisms this weekend not three...but I bet it is just because Roxana wants to get baptized with her daughters. I don't think I will be going back for all the baptisms. I am in this area now, and I don't want to push it asking President to be going back and back and back again, but I am really happy for them, they were a great family to work with, and I spent quite a bit of time in their house. Also all the other investigators that are getting baptized there it is amazing. It definitely is a strange feeling. I am not mad or jealous, but it is definitely a bit of a hit to take to not be able to see all the baptisms of the people you taught, prayed for, fasted for, cursed Argentina for, but not cried for, I never cried...I AM A MAN I don’t cry! Maybe that is where I went wrong...haha no just kidding, but seriously. All I can do now is keep working here in Merlo, which is what I plan on doing.

So, in answer to questions, I have taken part in one zone activity my whole mission...my first transfer. The other transfers, either we didn’t have one, or I was in Ramos in the offices with Elder Shields one time when his uncle came...but yeah so that is how that is. We have interviews not tomorrow, but next Wednesday, and then in two weeks from today we go to the temple again. The pig picture is actually from about 2 months ago in Castillo, my first week with Elder González, during New Years. Everyone cooks lechon...(baby pig) for New Years, so upon finding an investigator cooking one, we took the opportunity of taking pictures and sampling...highly recommended. Tasted great. No there are only mailboxes to put mail into at the post offices...so yes...you have to go to the post office for all postal needs...I still pretty much eat everyday with members, the food is the same. The zone leaders are Elder Steele from Orem, and Elder Mackay from Cypress/Buena Park California, and sometimes we just talk about places we used to go as kids and we find out that some of the places are the same...he goes surfing in Seal Beach a lot...they are cool, and it is fun to not have the responsibility of a zone leader, but have access to the continual influx of information that they receive, such as datos (numbers?) data? Basically I know what everyone in the zone and other parts of the mission are doing, and how hard they are working. Kind of fun. I don’t know why the area is so small people. It is the boundaries the Church set, I am sure there is a reason. I didn’t make the boundaries; I just do the Lord’s work within them. Everything is going pretty well right now. Now is clutch time for the transfer, and we need to hit is hard this week. I love you all, and thank you for your prayers and support. Time is up already. Keep reading and praying...I challenge everyone to send me a handwritten letter this month about what they have learned in the scriptures lately...mostly because mail has slowed down and I want some letters...haha so now you have my challenge for the month of February.

Love, Sean

p.s. also i forgot to add in my main email that i wish myself a happy 8 months of the mission, and I want everyone to know that the separation we have experiences we will witness two more times...and then you are stuck with me again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Saturday Baptisms and more

The Figueroa Family Baptism in Merlo

Then off to Rafael Castillo to be at Ciris' family Baptism

Looks like Elder Gilmore has found dinner !

Merlo- Week #34

Valentine's Day and Drama

Hello Family! Also friends…

First off, I feel the need to tell all of you that communication just got a little slower in Merlo. Unlike in Castillo, here in my area there isn’t a post office...so I have to wait until our Monday District meeting to send my mail when we are in a different area. Also, that means the letters I wrote last week just got sent yesterday, and the letters I write today won’t be sent until next Monday...kind of lame but oh well. By the way, I figured I should start telling everyone when I get their mail so they know that I got it. So this week I got Valentine’s cards from Grandma, also you can tell her that I did get that German card I am just bad at expressing my thanks...if she wants an excuse, tell her I am lost in the work and sometimes forget to write...haha, I also got letters from Amber Thomas(GO STORM!), pics from Natalie(sa-WEET), and a card from Dad with the picture I requested in it, but unfortunately dad there was water damage or something and ink got all over it...so if you could send another one... The false doctrine has slowed down. He now looks over hesitantly at me when he isn’t sure about a principle, and I give him an encouraging nod and he usually gets it right. The only thing I had to correct all week was when we taught about Christ’s baptism...just so everyone knows...Peter didn’t baptize Jesus...it was John...the BAPTIST...but it was only a minor error ahaha, the investigator actually corrected him before I could...but it is all good. Also that song by Gnarles Barkley song “Crazy” is on and Elder Arriola is singing along, but doesn’t know any other song but “crazy”...but that doesn’t stop him from singing every part of the song... Also I sent pictures to Kittye, Nat, Emily, and Alex a while ago and I was wondering if they ever got there...maybe not.

Let’s just say...best Valentine’s Day of my life...8 baptisms...So this week has been pretty sweet, as you can see from the pictures! You know it has been a good day when the white clothes you are wearing in a baptism picture are still wet from the baptism you had earlier in the other picture. The Figueroa family we taught everything and accepted everything, and got baptized Feb. 14th 2009! I thought they would all want Elder Arriola to baptize them because they have only known me two weeks, but the two youngest daughters chose me because they said I talk to them more. So I got to baptize them, and then on Sunday I confirmed them too, which was the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever had to do in my life, but it went really well! So Saturday, Castillo had the baptisms of Ciris’ family and so I called President and explained the situation, and he just kind of chuckled and said, “Take lots of pictures Elder, you deserve it.” So after the baptism in Merlo I called a taxi and it took Elder Arriola and me over to Castillo for the baptism. Ciris (the son) wasn’t there because he was really sick, so I didn’t get to see him, but I still had a great time seeing everyone in the ward. The bishop came up to me and thanked me for all I have done in the past six months, he said that the first Sunday I was gone they broke the record for Sacrament Meeting attendance, 110! And when I showed up six months ago, they were averaging around 60. That made me feel good too. So it was a pretty good Valentine’s Day.

So you would think that being a missionary you would be free from the middle school drama that always seems to envelop the youth program. Well, usually we are...until we have investigators who are youth age. Alright, so Jennifer Figueroa..., who I baptized and confirmed, went to a dance on the Friday before her baptism. Well let’s just say, all the girls in the ward are crushin on Rodrigo, and now Jennifer is too, but Paula, who just happens to be the Bishop’s daughter has unofficially claimed him as her territory...but Paula was found crying at the dance because Jennifer was dancing with Rodrigo, and sources now report that Jen and Rod kissed at the dance, throwing the whole young women hierarchy into chaos...and somehow the girls are trying to drag the elders into it, because we visit Rodrigo because they are recent converts...we quickly shut down any kind of attempts to use the teaching of the gospel as a way to advance the love lives of the mia-maids...but it was kind of funny trying to calm everyone down. By the way, my source is Camila, the youngest of the Figueroas, who I also baptized and confirmed, and little sister to Jennifer...and basically Camila answers any question I ask which is pretty funny if Jennifer is sitting in the room too. Anyway that was how the baptism went in a nutshell. Also I forgot to mention that in the Castillo baptism, the person giving the talk on the Holy Ghost didn’t show up so I was the lucky candidate to share my thoughts about the difference between the power of the Holy Ghost and the Gift of the Holy Ghost...and have now learned that my “talking off the top of my head” skills have fully developed in Spanish because the Bishop asked me for a copy of the talk I gave...and he was surprised when I told him I didn’t have notes, I was just talking...I considered it a victory.

Well time is up again, but just know that this week ROCKED, and the following week should be pretty good too. Hoping everything is going great for everyone else.

Love, Sean

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Merlo- Week #33

Doctrine 101

Hey Fam and Friends!

This week has just been chalk full of experiences. But seriously, I almost don't think it is possible to tell you everything that has happened. I'm glad to hear everything at home is going well, and this Erik person sounds like a good guy. Also, that’s crazy you already got the March ensign, because we just got the February issue yesterday here. Alright I will start with the week of experiences. First my comp is way cool, and he is really funny, but he doesn’t quite follow all the rules or understand all of the doctrine. I will just give a list of a few short examples of things I have had to correct in the middle of the lesson:

1. Cremation: So we were sitting in a lesson with a inactive member and he was talking about how his brother died and his parents want to cremate him and keep him in an urn in the house. Then the member asked us, “Is that alright?” I was about to answer, we Elder Arriola chimed in and said, “We don’t cremate people in the church because we know from revelation that if we are cremated we won’t be able to resurrect.” FALSE!!!!!!!! WOAH DOGGY hold up for one second. I immediately interrupted and explained that Resurrection is a gift that ALL will receive who have come to the earth and received a body regardless of whether they are good or bad. I got blank stares from my comp and the member, so I resorted to the scriptures, and read in Alma concerning the resurrection, then I opened to the part where the Lamanites burn women and children alive for being believers, and proceeded to ask to all sitting in the room if those women and children would be denied resurrection for having been burned alive by evil men. Elder Gilmore and the scriptures: 1 False Doctrine: 0
2. Kingdoms of Glory: This is a direct quote of my companion concerning the three kingdoms of glory, teaching to a family who has never heard this doctrine. “We know that there are the stars, and the evil people live there. Then there is the moon and the sun, but only people who live in the sun live with God, and the moon is in the middle, and that is was heaven is like.” Ok you might laugh now reading that, but I couldn’t believe my ears, I am quite familiar with the doctrine of the kingdoms of glory, and I didn’t even understand what he was teaching. I explained that the stars, moon, and sun are symbolic comparisons to the glory of the kingdoms and the joy we will feel. I just can’t get over the blank stares he gives me when I teach correct doctrine.
3. We have walked into numerous houses of investigators where he looks at me with that blank stare and asks what we are going to teach, or says, it is your turn to share something....this isn’t just scripture sharing time....we have to teach a lesson that helps these people progress. I have never seen this person before in my life, and have no idea what you have taught them in the past haha how do you expect me to just start up a lesson. So I always resort the First Vision, Lesson 1 is always the fallback...always...
4. Daddy Yankee: We walked into the house of an investigator and before the lesson started my comp asked the woman to turn on the music videos on TV. So she did and he started flipping channels and watched music videos for twenty minutes...I was pretty frustrated and just played with the kids while he watched, then resorted to just look at me to teach something when the videos were over....let’s just say, the spirit wasn’t in the lesson. But I am learning, and he is changing, I really think that he just didn’t know how to do the work. He has one year in the mission, and he doesn’t understand, but I am willing to help, and he is a great guy, with desires to serve the Lord, most of the time.

So we still have our baptisms this Saturday, the Figueroa family. When I first met them they were cold...they miss the elder I replaced...but then I made a personal goal to win their affection and went to work, smiling every other second, joking around with them, and just trying to be their friend. Mission accomplished! Sunday when we visited them they couldn’t remember the name of the last Elder that was here. BUAHAHA! I asked Elder Arriola what we still need to teach them, and he said they already have been taught all the lessons. I had a feeling I should ask anyway. Tithing? Nope. Word of Wisdom? Nope. Law of Chastity? Nope. Ten Commandments? Nope. Yeah...that isn’t falling on my head; we now have scheduled many lessons where they will be taught ALL of what we believe.

All in all it has been a good week, just tiring, with worrying about the baptisms and all, I am more tired than I was in Castillo, but that isn’t a bad thing. Castillo called me and is having like 8 baptisms, and we are trying to get things scheduled to see if I can go, but nothing official yet so I don’t know what is going to happen. We had zone conference yesterday and every conference everyone has to write a little talk, well yesterday I was called on by President to give mine...it went fine, and got compliments. Also, we met a woman who named her two cats, Obama and Michelle, but she really likes the Obamas, it wasn’t like a negative thing, but I thought it was interesting.

Alright my time is up but I love you all and hope you all have a great week!

Love, Sean

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Merlo- Week #32

Goodbye Castillo, Hello Merlo

Hey Everyone!

Well, this past week was my last week in Castillo! Yesterday we had our transfer meeting and I have been moved from the Rafael Castillo 1 Ward of the Gonzalez Catan stake to the Altos de Merlo 2 Ward in the Merlo stake. My new companion is Elder Arriola from El Salvador! He is one of the few missionaries in the mission from Central America. So I guess I am going to be teaching a lot of English in my mission with all these Latin companions. Elder Fox got called up to the big leagues and is the new zone leader in Lujan. I arrived by taxi to my new pench this morning, and I noticed I'm not really that far from Castillo, it was about a 30 minute ride, and cost me 30 pesos. I live in another 4 man pench and it is big like my last one, and the other two elders are the ZONE LEADERS of Merlo. haha it is the only zone in the mission that the zone leaders live with other Elders. So Elder Steele and Elder Mackay are our zone leader roommates, and they are cool. I have done quite a bit of blessings in Spanish, at first it was awkward, but now they aren’t too bad, once you can express your thoughts it is easier, because I don’t know how it is supposed to be, but the Spirit still prompts me in English, so I have to translate for him haha.

So I'll start with leaving Castillo. I need to say one thing first, yesterday I saw who would be replacing me in Castillo 1, and his name is DRAKE RANQUIST! As in, Drake from my BYU ward hahaha it was crazy to see his picture up there in the slideshow, and this morning he got to Castillo before I left and we got to talk for a little bit, it was kind of fun. But yeah, basically I miss Castillo. I haven't really been talking about this in my past emails but we have a ton of baptism dates in Castillo...7! 6 for the 14th and 1 for the 21st, and I left 2 weeks before. Ciris' family is getting baptized on the 14th along with an older woman we found named Lola, and the twin daughters of Roxana. The catch is Ciris and his family want me to be there for their baptism, and even more President gave me permission to go back to Castillo to participate in the baptisms (because I have known that family for 4 months now, and they are finally getting baptized!) IF it doesn’t impede the work in my new area....well Elder Arriola told me what is going to impede it this morning...we are having 5 baptisms in this area on the 14th! I have mixed feelings...to say the least. YEAH 5 baptisms! That’s awesome! Also, I don’t even know who they are so it feels like I am stealing them from the Elder that worked for them, but then again, Elder Ranquist is stealing my 7 baptisms in Castillo, and more than that, I really wanted to be there with Ciris and his family...but we will see what happens. I felt really out of place here this morning in the new pench. Everyone is nice, but after six months in Castillo with a routine it will take some time to adjust. It feels like the first day I got to Argentina, and it isn’t a happy feeling hahaha, but it will get better once I can get to work, the work will always be the same and familiar.

Alright, let’s just say, Altos de Merlo 2 is the SMALLEST area in the whole mission. Literally, it is the smallest area of missionary work in our mission. I counted on our map, it is 5 blocks by 15 blocks...yeah...that is like working in a small caged box...I will tell you more next week when I have actually worked in the area, but I went from small Castillo to smaller altos de Merlo... I got the package and the videos and pictures were great! The videos don’t work on my camera so I saw them once on Elder Fox’s before we left Castillo. It was SWEET seeing the Ludwigs! Looks like you had a fun weekend. Also, thanks Kittye, Nat, Alex, and Emily for the video...also the mail is way slower than I thought it was, I just got our Christmas Poem and Card from our family this week, I think the Dear Elders get here faster than regular mail, Dear Elder takes like 2 weeks, and regular mail like 4 weeks or something. Well, that is all the time I have this week, love you everyone and have a great week!


P.S. I already like this Eric character...