Monday, September 23, 2013

Interesting lunch appointments... and so much more!

September 23, 2013

Dear Family,
I love you all so much.  Thanks for all of your prayers.  We have been having a hard time this week with getting people to open their doors, answer their phones, or being home when they say they will.  Normally we get in to about 16 houses every week, but this week 7.  It is challenging, and our ward mission leader could almost be classified as inactive.  We have some ideas, and we are going to make the best of it. 

One thing that strengthens both members and helps find investigators is such as this, you talk about the last 2 paragraphs of the introduction to the Book of Mormon with the member, help them realize the 3 things that they had to do to gain their testimony of the book, and the 3 things that a sincere reader of the book can do to get a testimony.  We then have them write their testimony of the book on the blank page at the front.  We then have them write on a piece of paper all of the people that they know that could use this book.  We then ask them to pick 1 person who could use this book the most, and we have them commit to give the book by to the person by a certain day, and then we will plan a time to visit the person with the member.  We haven’t done the second visit with people yet, and we ran out of books, but it is an effective finding method, and we want to do it with all the kids, 9 or so, at Seminary.

Story.  Lunch with Sister Flor-  I had eaten lunch here earlier, and it was a pretty big lunch that first time, steak, french fries, bread, and salad, and I think there was soup.  This week we ate there again, the 19th of September.  At the beginning we were served 2 small empanadas and 1 big empanada.  We were full and thought that was all, but then she goes back into her kitchen and comes out with steak and potatoes!  In all we had empanadas, bread, steak and potatoes, a little bit of salad.  The crazy part is what I was drinking.  Apple Vinegar.  She had been using a 2 liter pop bottle to store vinegar, but didn`t take off the Canada Dry ginger ale label.  I poured a tall glass, and amazingly I was able to drink it all.  I prayed that I would be able to down that stuff.  Later into the meal, one of the zone leaders who were eating with us that day thought that the Canada Dry smelled funny.  The other 3 elders were drinking coca-cola and didn’t taste it.  I had never before drank ``Canada Dry`` so I didn`t know how it was supposed to taste.  I didn’t make a fuss about the flavor, not wanting to hurt the poor widow`s feelings.  Sister Flor then realized that she had served vinegar, and quickly fetched ginger ale that was swallowable.  Drinking that glass of vinegar was hard, and I know my prayer was answered that I would be able to drink it.

We had transfers this past Friday.  My companion, trainer, and district leader, Elder Catròn went to Parral to serve as a zone leader.  He was awesome.  He loved my Minnesota Vikings shirt, because that color is hard to get a hold of in Argentina.  He traded his rugby jersey for it, and was so happy about that.  My new companion, trainer, and district leader is Elder Vàsquez, from Ecuador.  He is good at the things Elder Catròn had trouble with, such as using the area book, so hopefully I can be trained a little bit of everything.  Because of things the Argentine military did, Elder Catròn despised anything and everything about all armed forces.  Elder Vàsquez on the other hand attended a military college from age 5 to 18.   He says he hated it, but it is obvious that he picked up some good habits.  He is very organized, which will be nice.

I love you all so much, and thank you for all of your prayers.  I love you more than the number of all the dogs I see in the streets.  I am glad to hear district conference went well, good luck with cross country.
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
This week has been great!  Ha, funny....but great!
The other night we ran into an older man who we see all the time.  He speaks Spanish, but as if that language wasn't hard enough to understand sometimes already.....this guy doesn't have any teeth.  Not a single one.  So his Spanish comes out as a mumbled jumble of words that make no sense.  This last week my companion was able to pick out the words that asked us if we were going fishing...she gave out a little chuckle and said, "Yep, fishing for souls!"  I don't know why that guy asks us if we are going fishing....because we never have fishing poles, we are in skirts every day, and fishing isn't really the beloved past time like it is in Minnesota, but it's fine (:

Also, it should be documented....that the ice cream trucks here are awful.  They play Christmas songs endlessly and will snake up and down a parking lot at the rate a toddler could out run.  You can hear them for forever and I am ready for it to either be too cold for ice cream, or for it to actually be the Christmas season.

One of our dinner appointments this week was with a sweet recent convert named Rosa.  She is from El Salvador, so so so generous, and so classically Hispanic.  Her walls (all of them as far as I could see) were painted a very melon yellow.  There were dozens of pictures hung up in all sorts of random places, several glass display cases full of all sorts of know the kind you get from touristy and antique stores, and she kept putting more and more food on our plates.  There was a rainbow striped hammock right in the middle of the family room, and her floors were a dry, scratched. and, unpolished hard wood floor, like a deck.   She was also one of the most friendly and generous dinner appointments we've ever had.  Unlike so many other members who have basically everything, she has so little.  She works long hours, and it was refreshing to be in a simple home with a normal person who doesn't have it all perfectly put together all the time.  She was so so so so kind.  The more time I spend with Hispanics, the more I am loving their culture and personalities.  My favorite thing about her walls though, was she had this large beautiful painting of the last supper hanging above her dining room table.  It was neatly hung in between the gallery of her other random pictures, but she hung this one up on the wall with the cardboard protection packaging stuff still on the frame.  It was awesome. (:

Somewhat random.....but the squirrels here are huge.  They jump from tree to tree and I sometimes get startled thinking that it’s a cat because their size is so comparable.

So we had a lunch appointment on Saturday with a member.  She is a retired employee for the government and she is sitting on a lot of money (at lunch we found out that she was an auditor for the Army).  Anywho....she picks us up for the appointment, but instead of taking us to the restaurant that she reserved 3 weeks in advance, she took us to her house so we could get "all gussied up".  She marched us through the front door, down the hall, and into her "dress up room."  She went from ward member to sister missionary fashion director in a matter of seconds - opening stuff up, fumbling through drawers and closets.  She made me wear a purple blazer with red hats on it, a purple feathered hat, a purple scarf with red hats on it, diamond earrings that were huge, a diamond necklace, and a super sparkly bracelet.  I looked in the mirror, acknowledged how completely ridiculous I looked, then looked at my companion and realized I got lucky.  She was making her wear all sorts of pins and scarves and belts.  And the two of us looked at the other Hermana's going out with us and smiled in gratitude that we didn't have to wear the big feathery boa scarves she was making them wear.  We all looked like total idiots, but Robin the member thought we just looked so cute and she kept asking if we felt like we were dressed up enough or needed more sparkle.  After obeying Robin's fashion commands of "Put this on" "No that looks bad, tilt it this way"  "Come on Hermana....give me some attitude, you have to wear hats with attitude"  we make it back outside.  And it felt like dressing up for a tea party until she made all four of us pile into her sports car.  You know, one of the impossibly small ones with only two doors and the back seat was slanted down for we had to slant down too - to accommodate the huge hats that made us too tall for the car.  We finally got to the restaurant called Lighthouse, we walk in and everyone stared.  We ordered our food, ate our food, she made us order dessert, we ate our dessert....and throughout the whole process, nearly everyone stared.  Our waiter was nice but you could tell he thought we were crazy.  Robin pulled the red hat purple dress look (apparently there is a society that she belongs to that wears red hats and purple dresses) way better than the rest of us, but we just rolled with it.  I know we are here for members too, and not just investigators.  So if making a lonely old lady feel loved by wearing her crazy clothes for an hour does the trick...then so be it!  We can do that.  Truth be told though, I was happy to get out of those extra layers and just be my normal self again.  Every part of that outfit distracted from the message of Christ, it was good to leave the appointment and be myself again.

The other night we helped a family with their English a little bit.  We didn't have much time, but the Dad read a book in English with my companion and I helped the mom translate papers from the mail.  And my job was sad.  I had to tell her that her medicaid insurance was ending for her kids because she didn't renew it.  And also a letter from Kohl's showing her credit score (which was bad too) and that because she doesn't have a SSN, her application for the in store credit card had been denied.  People are so open with us here, which is surprising because they are essentially running from the law....but I'm learning a lot. They also asked us to sign a paper saying we knew them so they could apply for citizenship, but we definitely said no.  We aren't getting mixed up in legal matters.

Also, another family started a casual but somewhat awkward conversation on the steps outside their apartment.  They made small talk for a minute and then asked if we could purchase them a trailer home out in Luckett's Virginia since they don't have social security numbers.  They promised to faithfully make payments and work hard.....and all we could tell them was sorry, we can't.  We pull the "As missionaries, we have rules" card all the time.  Even so, the idea is completely crazy.  As much as I would love to help this family out, I don't have 20 grand or whatever it is to blow on a trailer home!  We're broke missionaries!  I think people just see us as the white American girls, and assume that because we were born and raised here, that we have money to hand out.  I love these people, but it is also hard to determine who really is your friend or interested in the gospel....and who is being nice to you only so they can use you for legal issues.  But, so it goes.  We are just pressing forward, being nice to people....and absolutely under no circumstances are we ever going to sign papers for anything!

At church, we are still working with the primary to learn I am a Child of God in Spanish for the program. My favorite thing though, is their piano player.  He is an older guy, very tall, and never makes any facial expressions.  He wears thick glasses and just recently had eye surgery, so he is wearing an eye patch. He is so nice, but you can tell all the kids are little bit creeped out by him.  They all call him the "primary pirate piano player" and he just goes with it.  It's kind of funny (:

The other day, someone asked us (actually the same lady who wants us to buy her a trailer home) if we have ever had cantaloupe juice.  We say....."uh, nope!"  She freaks out, goes into her kitchen, and comes back out with two HUGE glasses of this juice.  What it was.....a cantaloupe she beat the daylights out of. It was mostly cantaloupe chunks with some juice she was able to squeeze out.  But because she loves this stuff so much, and poured us these huge cups, we had to drink the whole thing.  And I felt weird the rest of the night, but was fine by morning.  Hispanic people think of some of the strangest things sometimes!

I am learning lots here and really love it here.  We have a lot of meetings this week, which means we will be traveling a lot and not getting as much teaching done, but it’s okay.  I'm learning that meetings are important too.  

Oh...last story.  So it was like 8:30 at night, and we were starting to meander our way home.  But we were going kind of slow in case we saw one last person we could talk to.  We were walking in the light and all was normal, until this huge car van thing drive really slow past us.  He goes about 10 feet past us, then puts it in reverse, and comes back to us.  When I saw the white reverse lights kick on, my heart started beating a little bit faster....because big white vans don't really symbolize Christianity or large families out here.  He comes back and yells out, "Hey sisters!  You should probably get home, it’s getting late!"  Come to find out he was a member (at least we think he is) and that he was driving an animal patrol car looking for stray dogs.  All I could think was, "Thanks for your concern, but do you have any idea what you have done to my poor nerves!"  Ha, I was a little spooked. But I have also always felt safe, the Lord is looking out for us, and I know that if we are obedient and follow the Spirit....we will be fine.  

Thanks for all of your love and support!  I am working on letters for all of you, and they should be sent soon!  Thanks for the package.  I am beyond excited for a new's like Christmas! Thanks for everything. You are all my favorite!  The church is true...

And, I love you more than all of the number of people who have their door mats upside down,
Hermana Withers

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