Monday, November 11, 2013

Mighty Pioneers, First Week in Argentina

November 11, 2013

Happy afternoon!!!
Well, chuta, I don’t know what to write.  Chuta is a Spanish word that means dang it/freak/ouch/yah tu hey/(insert whatever word you want to say)  This week has been a good week.  We only found 7 new investigators, and none of them went to church.  We have been working a lot with less actives.  Last week there were 17 of them in church, this week 2 showed up.  I really have my fingers crossed that Carol can get baptized this Friday, depending on how goes the baptismal entrevista manaña (baptismal interview tomorrow).  Carol is the mother of Catalina, who was baptized a few weeks ago by different missionaries.  Catalina was a reference. References are awesome.  The son of a reference, se llama Jorge (named George), should hopefully get baptized next week.  There is a member in the ward who is awesome for generously giving references.  She has a small little business, and she talks with her customers.  She tells them that she is a member of the church and just holds a simple conversation about the church, and if they take interest she lets us know about them.  It is awesome.  I invite all members everywhere to read 2 Tim 1:7-9 and then just be happy about sharing.  “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

It honestly hasn’t been too eventful of a week.  One of the ward missionaries in our ward got his mission call to Porte Alegre, Brazil.   

My Spanish has gotten a lot better.  There is still a lot of room for improvement and a lot of words to learn, but I can get a point across, and can actually understand what people are telling me. 

There is a person who works in the family history center, his name is Gonzalo.  He has an assignment to work in the family history center, and has keys to the church.  Normal member right?  Nope, he is not a member.  He can explain the blessings of temple ordinances and has an encyclopedic knowledge of church history.  He has been going to church for 8 years, but refuses to be baptized until he feels a need to be baptized.  He also attends a Catholic church, and doesn’t want to give up his Catholic way of life.  It is odd, because he believes the Book of Mormon to be true.  That is what happens when people are convinced, not converted.  Based on logical reasoning, he believes the church to be true.  He has not allowed the spirit to penetrate his heart.  However Gonzalo is a really nice guy and he printed me my family tree up until the 7th generation on a nice glossy paper.  I taped it to my wall.  This week I was thinking a lot about pioneers, and how they wouldn’t have done what they did if this wasn’t the true church.  People don’t sell everything at lower than wholesale, load their family into a tightly packed ship and sail to a different continent, buy a handcart, and then trudge 2000 miles over the American plains, through the snowy Wyoming high country, and then, with nothing left, head into the Rocky Mountains.  People wouldn’t do that in this life, unless they knew that they would be eternally rewarded in the next life.  I am grateful for the pioneers, and their example of sacrifice.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is indeed the Kingdom of the Lord established here on the earth.  

I love you all,
Elder Chad Withers

Dear Family,

This week was kind of long, but it was also really great.  Here it is just barely starting to go into summer..... and there were some days this week that were sooooo hot.  I thought I was going to die.  And the thought that it’s really still spring and that it’s going to get even hotter kind of scares me sometimes..... but we also had a terrific storm towards the end of the week that cooled everything down for a bit.  The Lord really loves his missionaries.  If you had to pick one thing that controls everything here in La Paz.... it’s the rain.  When it rains the dirt roads turn to mud, and when there is mud their cars or motorcycles can’t go anywhere.  And no one wants to walk anywhere because nobody has everyone just stays home.  Everyone knows that if it’s raining....the day immediately turns into.... take a business cut and break from life day.

Storms really are fun, but I don’t love them so much on my mission.  Mostly because we can’t just stay inside and watch it rain.... we have to go out in it.  On Saturday night there was the most insane lightning storm.  The window was literally lit up nonstop for several hours, thunder nonstop, and absolute torrential downpour.  I couldn’t believe it and the whole time while lying there in my bed I was just praying that the members would have the drive to go to church in the morning... even with all the mud.  There was like a mini Parana (name of a river) flowing outside our pension (apartment), and mud so thick you sunk an inch or two with every step.  We got to church and there were only 2 members.  TWO!  We were a little defeated.  4 more showed up about an hour late, and with us four missionaries.....we had a total of 10 people at church.  It was kind of rough, but the Elders did a good job with their talks that Pres. asked them to give 2 seconds before the meeting started. (:  

This week we found ourselves spending a lot of time with less actives.  They are everywhere, and we had a nice group of people rounded up who promised they would come to church...... but the rained scared them.  We met with one lady though, who is pretty inactive and last transfer was walking down the street smoking.  She has a brand new grandbaby who is 2 weeks old, and her son was desperately looking for work.  We read some of the Book of Mormon with her, and felt prompted to promise her that if she reads the Book of Mormon and commits to come to church EVERY Sunday, her son would find a job.  She whole heartedly promised she would come, and despite all the rain (I wish I could sufficiently explain how much rain it really is, if it didn’t affect church attendance I might not hate it so much) she came!  She walked into class a little late, but came and sat down by us and with the biggest smile on her face said, “He found work!  He found work!  I promised to come this Sunday, and promise to come every  Sunday from now on..... even with the rain.  She was so grateful, and it was cool to see her happiness as she learned how to notice the blessings the gospel brings.  

The church isn’t very strong here in La Paz.  There are a handful of faithful members, but the majority only come when it is convenient.  We are really working hard to make this branch strong.  We like to tell people that the church isn’t a museum to display all the faithful, righteous, and perfect people in the world... but rather a hospital for people to come and get treatment and spiritual medicine.  In order for this hospital to work though we need good leaders.  Good nurses and doctors to help everything stay together.  It’s going to take some work, but I’m excited to see it grow!

La Paz is a cute little fishing town right on the massive Parana River.  Our pension (apartment) is 1 block from the river, and there are fishing stores everywhere.  It’s really common to see people walking down the sidewalks with a fishing pole over their shoulder and a bucket of bait.  When it rains, no one has carpet or rugs so people pull out cardboard boxes to create a makeshift rug.  

At grocery stores, to prevent theft or something (I’m not really sure why they do this) but they make you put your bag in a locker up front as a collateral.  And each plastic bag you use you have to pay for.  

I think I started to come out of culture shock this last week.  The smell of dirt floor shacks and dogs everywhere isn’t so startling anymore.  And the sight of kids without shoes, garbage EVERYWHERE, and jalopies so old you can’t even understand how they got the thing started.  It’s getting better.  The people really are nice, and my Spanish is coming along more and more each day.  We had a member with us for a lesson though, and she thinks my American accent is so bad that she started translating my Spanish into her Spanish to help our investigator.....I was just like, Ha... thanks.  It’s all moving forward though.  

One adventure we had this week was at the bank.  Something Argentina doesn’t have is customer service.  Because next to nothing gets shipped into this country, everything is produced here.... and there are only a few brands and types of each thing which means there isn’t any competition.... which means businesses don’t think it’s worth it to have customer service.  Anyway...... last Monday Hermana Sainsbury and I went to the bank to take out money for the week to pay for groceries and the bus and so forth.... and the ATM literally ate her whole card. Consumed the whole thing, and didn’t give it back.  We pushed cancel a dozen times, and nothing.  So we go into the place where there isn’t customer service to try and find someone who can help us.... and we got an irritable lady who said to come back Thursday to pick up the card. We went back Thursday and there was a long line of people.  We didn’t have a ton of time to pick it up, but the line was moving so impossibly slow that we ended up standing in line for an hour and half.  Just to find out that the ATM actually snapped her card.  Bust.  We had a moment of panic, because I don’t have a card but we called the office, and they just put the money on our District Leader’s card.  My card was originally stuck in customs, but we have since found out that customs threw it away.  Awesome, hopefully it comes soon (:  

Today is my comps birthday, and when it’s your birthday you ask for permission to watch a movie.  So today we are going to watch Monsters University which will be fun!  

We had a baptism last week for a sweet little girl, lots of miracles, lots of rain, and lots of mud.

I love you all lots...... more than all the dogs that run around without an owner (we had to run away from a few this week.... dog taser I have does nothing, but rocks work pretty well!)

Con Amor,
Hermana Withers

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