Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas plans, and Police strike in Argentina

Dec. 16, 2013

Dear Family,
Cambios (transfers) came!  I am staying here in Barrio Libertador (Liberator Ward), for a third transfer with Elder Vasquez!!  It will be cool to have Christmas with somebody who has a Christmas tree up year round.  

The members are awesome here.  Familia Arsola has invited us for Christmas Eve dinner.  The mother and father both served missions, and they wanted to have the missionaries over for Christmas Eve because their 3 kids all left the house within a period of 3 months.  Their 2 returned missionaries got married with other returned missionaries, and the other kid left for the mission.  (a very mission oriented family, especially here in Chile)  It will be their first Christmas without their children, so we will be happy to be there.

Thank you for all the birthday wishes.  You guys are awesome.  My testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon has grown a ton lately.  I am excited to Skype with you all.  

I love you more than the number of electrons that made this email possible.
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
Sorry to hear you are all freezing......on the flip side of the equator we are melting, crazy to see such a drastic difference in climate!  

This week was an adventure!  I think I say that every week, but this time it really was.  On Monday, the police all went on strike.  In some towns the police kept on with business as usual...but here in La Paz they went on strike.  So the day was a little interesting.  More than anything the day just felt eerie....EVERYTHING was closed and shut down (more locked up than in the middle of the siesta!)  And in the evening we were going to go out and work like normal, but we made it about a block from our apartment and both felt very strongly to go back and stay for the night.  It felt weird and in a way disobedient to be in the pension (apartment) so early in the evening, but it was the right thing to do.  We stayed there reading our scriptures, listening to hymns, and just trying to pass the time quickly.  In the end, nothing dangerous or super dramatic was just one of those things where the Spirit told us to go back so we did.  I didn’t know why then and I don’t think I will ever know, but it was right and I am so grateful for the Spirit.  Later that evening we got a call from the zone leaders with a message from President that all missionaries are to be in their apartments before dark.  Which for us means around  8pm.  It cuts about an hour and a half from our work time each night, and it’s weird having so much time in the evenings.....but until President says otherwise, we will keep doing it.  I have learned that obedience will always bring more blessings than impressive numbers.  

On Wednesday we had our Christmas party in Santa Fe with all of the other missionaries from the northern half of the mission.  And it was soooo fun!  We watched the First Presidency Christmas devotional, had an absolute feast of some kind of food but I have no idea what it was, and got a gift from President and his wife (a mission flag and a candy cane).  It was fun to see Hispanic missionaries who didn’t know what a candy cane was.  There were slideshows with pictures, skits, Christmas music, visiting, and just lots of fun.  When the day was over, I think we were all in denial that we had to go back to reality.  

And summer has officially started!  We are finally to the point where the heat and humidity are about as hot as it will get.  There will be some days that are worse, but we have finally hit the "normal".  No more of the locals saying horrible things like, "oh it’s going to get sooo much worse, get ready"....we are finally to the "worst" and it’s pretty hot, but not so bad as I let my imagination think it could get.  It’s hot and sticky, but it’s bearable.  I think when the people were telling us to be ready; I let my imagination fantasize it being so hot that you couldn’t even walk.  Maybe I am finally adjusting?  Who knows, but I think I might make it out of this summer just fine!  

I am not going to have P Day on Monday because President changed it to be on Wednesday for Christmas day.  

 I gave my first talk as a missionary in Sacrament meeting....and it was great!  I talked about Christ and serving him during this Christmas season by serving others.  And serving Christ by sharing our testimonies with others!  The whole having to talk in Spanish thing really helps me slow down when talking in front of people, so that is good too.

I love you more than all the bites of food I eat at lunch appointments even after I am demasiado (completely) full.

Hermana Withers

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Planning Christmas Skype and living with insects!!

December 9, 2013

Dear Family,
Extremely short on time today, about 15 min to write and read.

Yes, we have Skype.  We have an hour and a half to Skype on Christmas day.  3 way Skypes are possible, so I can see Rebecca too.  I can coordinate it to work any hour Christmas day.  Jorge, a recent convert, is a computer whiz, with all the Skype know how, and jet fast internet.  
I love  you all.  I will print your letters and read them.
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
This week was full of all sorts of exciting things....and normally in my letters I try to have some sort of logical thought process to write everything out, but today I feel like a this letter is probably just going to be a list of random things that happened and that I need to tell you.  

First and foremost before I forget, HAPPY BIRTHDAY THIS SUNDAY CHAD!!!!!  You are my favorite missionary serving in all of Chile, I hope you have a wonderful birthday.  Your miracle with the taxi was a cool story.  

Christmas is on a Wednesday this year, and president has changed our P day to just be all of Christmas.  We have been asking around this week to see who doesn’t have 12 thousand people scheduled to come to their house for Christmas, and we have found our top investigator, who is getting baptized in January, as soon as she gets married the beginning of January.  She has a big laptop with a webcam, internet, and a calm house… and I am so excited to see all of you!  

This last week Chad and I passed our 5 month mark!!! So crazy!  

My district leader, Elder Higginson was in the same district as’s so fun to meet people Thomas knows and have the same mission friends.  For district meeting, the Elders made a pizza during P day and then brought it to share.....and the toppings they used were lunch meat ham, tomato sauce, cheese, pizza seasoning, and sliced apples.   And it was surprisingly good, everything but the apples were normal for pizza here....and the apples just made it interesting!

It is sooooooo hot and humid here in La Paz.  We are the most northern zone (so north we don’t even have anyone from the mission presidency EVER come up here....and so small that we don’t have a box for mail in the office....we just have our stuff on the floor, in corners, and where ever.....pray hard that my package not only gets to Argentina, but from the mission office into my hands!)  My body is slowly adjusting little by little to the heat, but the humidity is impossible to escape or adapt to,  I feel like I am always in the shower.  

We tried dulce de leche with bananas, apples, french toast, tortas fritas, and crackers.....I reccomend it for all of them!

One of our recent converts who was 73 years old and baptized in September passed away from a heart attack....sad.  He didn’t have any family still living, and he was able to find the gospel in this he is definitely happy on the other side.

With all the heat, uninvited guests try to come into our pension (apartment)....and its awful.  We have killed a cockroach, several spiders, and a scorpion.  Yes, a scorpion.  For some reason most doors don’t go all the way to the floor here, so whatever wants to crawl in, can.  Hermana Giuliani sent us a paper of tips, tricks, warnings, and advice, and my language study yesterday was translating all of the words I didn’t know because it was sort of important to me to know what she had to say.  I might be a little more precautious than necessary. I spray the door and windows every night with our bug killing raid like stuff, shove a towel rug thing in the crack of the door each time we leave and it’s always there, never walk barefoot, cover the shower drain always, and pray often for the safety of our pension.  Sometimes I feel like I am living in a jungle with all the humidity, rain storms, and creatures....but we take it all in stride and count our blessings that we aren’t living with a dirt floor.

Yesterday at church we had a three minute warning to teach the lesson in Sunday School. I don’t know what chapter we were suppose to teach out of, but the one president wanted us to teach was the law of chastity.  No problem, it’s just the 3 minute warning thing isn’t so cool.  It was all fine, and they all participated and we had a great discussion.

I make sure we stay full and hydrated.  More than anything I am praying we can find Gatorade or PowerAde powder....or something similar to it for the summer.  We sweat so much and I want to make sure we stay hydrated with electrolytes.  

The Christmas party for the northern part of the mission is this Wednesday in Santa Fe...and I am so excited!  Its going to be all day, with lots of missionaries (but not Thomas - sad) but I am so excited.  We leave tomorrow in the evening!

There was a power outage last night, and we have learned that in the summer those apparently are common.  About 1 -2 times per week the power will go out if there is a storm coming or if it gets really hot.  Sweet.  Bring it on summer!  We are ready for ya!

And you made it to the end of the letter!  Sorry it’s so random and unorganized this time....actually they are probably like that all the time.  (:  I love you all lots and hope you are enjoying the snow.  Sometimes when we are walking down a road and the humidity is beating us up, I start to wonder what it would feel like to roll around in snow right then.  I won’t be lying when I say I am scared out of my mind for this summer.  It’s already so hot and it’s not even officially summer.  January and February will be a test of mental and physical strength, but I draw a lot of strength from the fact that I only have to experience one whole summer here.  Only one, I can do it. 

Thanks for your emails from everyone, for being awesome, and making me laugh with your stories from Minnesota.

I love you more than the number of bugs I am going to kill this summer!  (if I see it, its dead.)
Hermana Withers

Monday, December 2, 2013

Small miracles and a memorable Thanksgiving dinner

December 2, 2013

Dear Family,
The small miracles are awesome.  Yesterday, we had a dinner/teaching appointment with the family of a recent convert and a strong investigator, and it was about 10:05 pm when we got out of there.  By foot, we were an hour from our pension (apartment).  I did not know what to do, and we didn’t bring enough pesos to pay a taxi.  Although the mother was completely unaware that we were without pesos, she called a taxi, and slipped a 5 mil pesos into my companion`s hand when he shook her hand.  It was awesome, and we made it back well before 10:30.  My prayer was answered.   

The language is slowly coming along.  I am grateful for my companion and my sector.  

Chile is awesome.  It is really hot down here, and I have been told by everyone that the ozone is weak down here, and that without sunscreen you are going to burn.  I am not burnt yet, but I think I am going to get some sunscreen, even though I really don’t like using it.  The other option is a great idea, in accordance the rules of this mission, just not very popular among other missionaries.  Sombrero!  Traditional Chilean style.  I would love to beat the sun by wearing a big hat, but I don’t want to dress different than my companion.  I might buy a sombrero the next transfer. 

We had stake conference, and about 800 people showed up.  Two people took our bench, even though we put our scriptures there, we were saving the bench for investigators.  Only one investigator showed up though, and he sat in the choir.  We stood in the back for a while, and then put up some more chairs and sat in the row furthest from the pulpit.  It was hard to hear, and nobody in Chile tells their kids to be quiet, but it was a good meeting.  

I know that Christ is our savior.  I know that this church is the true church.  I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet called of God, and that he translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God.  The Book of Mormon is true.  I know that President Thomas S. Monson is the Lord`s personal representative, our prophet.  I know these things because the Holy Ghost testifies to me, and to you, that these things are true.  I love you all.  

I love you all more than the number of toothpicks you could make out of the Minnesota North Woods. 
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
What a week!  This week I completed one month in Argentina.  It was the fastest, and in some ways the longest month of my life....but mostly fast.  Sometimes it scares me how fast time is flying.  

Last P Day we spent decorating our apartment for Christmas and then exploring downtown La Paz.  Even though everything was closed for the siesta, it was still fun to take pictures!  The big cathedrals in the central part of town sometimes looks like Europe.  On Monday night at like 10:20pm, we got a call from the District Leaders saying we had to go to Parana for new missionary training, because this is my first transfer in this mission....and that we both had to be on the next collective (bus) that left at 6:00am....oye.  We did as we were told, traveled the 4 hours by bus.  The meeting was excellent, and at the end they brought out some of the mail that had been sent.  I got all of the dear elder letters (thanks to everyone!!) and the package with Christmas decorations.  I haven’t opened any of the presents but I absolutely love the decorations.  I will definitely keep those for the rest of my life, the tree and stockings for sure.  And reading all of those letters was like heaven.  My response to them all.....keep up the good work, and know that I love and appreciate you all!  

After the meeting we went to lunch and had some pizza and then to the terminal to start our journey back to La Paz.  When we got to the terminal, it was about 2:00pm, so we purchased tickets to leave at 2:25.  We went to the bathroom, into a cool little shop where my companion got a mate cup, and then we were headed to the collective (bus) to get on, but my companion had to go to the bathroom again.  So we made a quick trip to the bano, but bless my companions heart.....she just took her sweet time.  I was a little worried about time and making the bus but thought we might still be okay.  By the time we got to where our bus was supposed to be, we saw it pulling away onto the main road.  Oye.....ciao bus!  The Zone Leaders who were traveling with us said later that they tried to stall the driver, but it was no use.  Ha......oh the adventure.  It wasn’t really a big deal.  We just had to get another ticket and wait in the terminal for an extra hour and a half.  Nothing was really damaged except that we lost some time.

Then Thanksgiving comes around, and that day was a whole new set of adventures.  The day started out with our toilet breaking and an investigator dropping us, and our member lunch appointment cancelling....all within a matter of 20 minutes.  Before we even had our studies, we had no bathroom, no morning appointments, and no lunch to count on.  We took it all in stride, went about with business as usual and then for lunch went to work in cooking something with our gas stove.  

Also it should be noted that every lunch appointment cancelled on us this week, up until Friday.....every single one!  By Thursday we were tired of cooking the only thing we really know how to do here (which is fried chicken and instant potatoes) so we got adventurous and thought we could try making pasta.  How hard could it be?  We started out with boiling water to cook the noodles, and in a matter of 2 to 3 minutes they turned to soup.  The sauce mix we bought tasted like watered down baby food and we bought canned peas to mix in with the pasta, but realized once we got home that we don’t have a can bust.  We tried to mix the noodles and sauce together thinking they could be tolerable...but what a joke...they were almost worse together.  As a last ditch effort to save our Thanksgiving dinner we thought of blends so well with rice and basically everything else here, why couldn’t it go with pasta?  In retrospect I can see how horrible of an idea this was....but we were desperate and it made sense at the time.  What a disaster, it was so gross!  We honestly couldn’t stand to eat it.  We were about half an hour into our lunch time and still without we decided to toss it and just have breakfast over again!  Cornflakes covered in sugar.  The first part of this day went so horribly wrong in so many ways, and it would have been a fun experience if it were just any other day.....but the fact that it was Thanksgiving makes it so much more memorable. And while so many trivial things went wrong with this day, it was still a fun adventure.....and I don’t know if I will ever forget eating cornflakes for Thanksgiving this year.  At the end of the day, we went to Gridos for our favorite ice cream and got a big 3 scoop cone to end our Thanksgiving with a little bit of sunshine.  It was a fun day, and really forced me to look at all the things I am truly grateful for.  

And Friday, our favorite family to have lunch with went all out this week (sometimes they go extra fancy just because they are nice) and it was an absolute feast.  They always make us feel so special and we joked that our Thanksgiving meal was actually Friday this year (:  Even with the occasional ups and downs....we are doing great! 

I have gotten pretty good at playing charades.....when people can’t understand me, I try and use my hands to explain it.....and when I can’t understand others, sometimes they start using their hands too.  The process of learning how to communicate with people is progressing nicely!

I am going to send a letter by snail mail today; we will see how long it takes to get there.

Thanks for all you do for me.  I have so many blessings and am learning so much.  I love you more than all things I am grateful for!

Hermana Withers