Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Missionary work is moving along

November 18, 2013

Dear Family,
Yes, I have received packages!  A box and a big envelope.  Thank you so much for all the Christmasyness you sent.  It wa really cool to receive a big box from the far north, and open it in the far south. Muchisimas gracias.  I have opened up some really neat stuff out of the box, but I haven’t opened everything yet because I want to save some stuff to open on my birthday and some on Christmas.  I also got a large envelope with Christmas stockings.  There were 2 Christmas stockings, 2 wrapped gifts, and a lot of really nice handwritten letters.  I gave Elder Vásquez one of the stockings and one of the wrapped gifts.  Thank you so much.  I haven’t read all the hand written letters quite yet.  I also got a lot of dear elders, and a letter sent the normal mail method.  I read all of them, and really enjoyed it.  If I could respond to all of them I would.  I will try to summarize a response to every dear elder I have gotten from you guys lately.  Summary:  Good job, I am proud of you, you are the best.  Keep up the good work. I love you.  I also have been getting dearelders from Grandma Hill ever since the MTC.  Please tell her thanks a million.  Her letters are always so funny, and have such thoughtful   “thought of the day’s”.   

We also had a surprise visit from the mission president.  He and his wife came to the Libertador ward baptismal service.  Carol was baptized and confirmed.  Her 10 year old daughter was baptized about a month ago by other missionaries.  The other companionship in our ward baptized an elderly woman and her thirty year old daughter.  It was a really happy Friday.  The Copihues ward missionaries were planning to have a family of 3 get baptized the same day, but the mother got extremely sick, is in the hospital.  The 3 baptisms of Copihues are delayed at least a week.  I don’t know how she is right now, but I hope the family can be baptized this Saturday, along with Jorge.  Jorge is one of our investigators.  His mother, Magdalene was inactive for a long time, but she is active once again.  Jorge is 14 years old, and is progressing well towards his baptism this Saturday.  

I love you all,
-Elder Withers

Dear Family,
Hola from Argentina!  This week was another great one.....and just as a for-warning, there are probably a bajillion spelling errors in my emails because this computer is in Spanish it puts a red squiggly line under every single word, and I don’t have time to go back and read it to find them.....sorry more editing for you to do.

Here in La Paz, everything is quiet and peaceful.  And we are working a ton with less actives.  Some years ago, the Rosario mission baptized a lot of people....and retained very few of them in the church...and so now our President is very concerned with retention and it feels like we are working in the aftermath of all those baptisms....working hard to reactivate people who once had a testimony but just need a reminder and invitation to come back.  It’s a bit of detective work to find some of them, but its fun!  Throughout each week we rally as many menos activos (less actives) as we can and get them all excited to come to church, and on Sunday leave for church about an hour early to go pick some of them up.  Yesterday it felt like we were waking up all of La Paz by clapping outside some of the members houses....when you start clapping, the nearby dogs start going nuts, and when one starts barking he can get them all barking and it’s just a domino effect.  We were able to get quite a few people to church yesterday though, which is awesome.  The rain first and foremost was cooperative, and the branch is starting to grow ever so slightly.  

The church isn’t very strong here in La Paz.  There was one big branch about 3 years ago, so they split it and now have 2 fairly weak branches.  We like to explain to people that the church is a hospital for people to go and get spiritual healing....but on the same side we need nurses and doctors to help take care of people.  So we are really trying to help this branch grow.  People have callings, but don’t fulfill them, if people are asked to give a talk....they might show up if it’s convenient, but the drive to show up in order to fulfill a commitment doesn’t exist here.  There is just a different attitude about church here...that it’s important to go if you can, but if you can’t (can’t meaning you would rather sleep or cook) then it’s okay to skip.  It’s frustrating to work with this aspect of the culture....but we have also been mighty bold these last 2 weeks...reminding them of all the blessings they aren’t receiving and are never going to receive unless they go to church.  We show our genuine love and care that we really do have for these people....share 3 Ne 18:1-12 that talks about the sacrament or Moroni 6:9 which explains that sacrament meeting is never boring because it is directed by the spirit....and that each message every Sunday is the exact lesson that we need to hear.  It’s a slow struggle, but we feel like its growing.  We go to the mutual activities to show our support for the youth programs, are holding weekly noche do hogars (Family Home Evening), and if you have any more ideas to get people to the chapel please share.

In other news.....sunsets here are beautiful.  And the mornings are the best, because its not too hot and a lot of people are still sleeping.

Schools here are worth basically nothing.  Most kids have school in the morning or in the afternoon....but not usually both, and never during the siesta.   So each kid has between 3-5 hours of school.  Schools also aren’t divided by boundaries....a family chooses a school like you would a doctor’s office or something.  All the teachers and kids have to wear uniforms, which are white lab coats over normal clothes.  It looks like Argentina is breeding a bunch of mad scientists!  The playground area outside the school is a patch of grass surrounded by a barb wired fence.  I am not even kidding when I say that the first time I saw kids in their uniforms just walking around in the grass outside their school....I legitimately thought it was a juvenile detention center or something.  Their schools and playgrounds literally look like prisons.  

Mayonnaise is served with EVERYTHING and salads are lettuce with vinegar and salt or oil.  They have the funniest condiments.

When we get groceries, we have to get 6 bags of milk.....SIX!  The bags are about the size of a powdered sugar bag....and we just go through them quick.  My favorite treat is chocolate milk (they sell Nesquik here) and that helps our milk storage move along.  For breakfast we have corn flakes because that’s the only cereal that is affordable here (everyone just drinks mate...so breakfast foods are interesting to find) and we just sprinkle sugar of the cereal and milk to make it sweet.  

We have scheduled lunches with members every week....and we eat SO MUCH MEAT.  So much.  It’s all really good, but I think for Christmas I am going to splurge and buy some real lettuce to make a real salad.  I really miss fruits and vegetables.  Also bread is served at every meal.  So we eat a lot of bread, meat, and pasta.  It’s excellent.  I just wouldn’t eat their salad here, it’s not too good.  

After one member meal last Sunday....we were getting ready to share a spiritual thought.  I had the verse ready to read, Mosiah 2:41 which talks about the temporal and spiritual blessings from keeping the commandments (ahem...going to church!) and handed the book to the member named Pepe and asked him to read it.  He gets up, goes to his bucket of glasses, dumps it out, and starts trying on every pair.  I told him, It’s okay....I can just read it!  But he was determined, and when he finally got to the pair he wanted he started reading.....it was just really funny to see this old man trying on all of these glasses.  I don’t know why he doens’t just keep the ones he likes out, but it was a funny experience anyway!

We are going to Rosario tonight for an Hermanas conference with President.  I am really excited!  We will be back Wednesday morning, so a nice fun little adventure.  It’s a long ways for us, so it’s a big deal when we travel.

I love you all lots!  More than all the chickens and roosters who run in and out of people’s houses (sometimes during lessons and member meals!)

Hermana Withers  

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