Sunday, September 24, 2017

Choking Down the Bread

Have you ever had bread get stuck in your throat and had a hard time swallowing it?  Well, that’s how we have been for a few months.  There are two houses in Melo that need to be painted and we were not looking forward to the project.  But it is finally over.  Yippee!!!!

We started off Monday with the simple task of getting ready for the paint project.  All we had to do was go to the store and purchase the paint.  Until Humberto called….Sunday afternoon and asked if we could take him to the Doctor on Monday at 3:00 P. M.  No problem we had plenty of time to do that.  We also wanted to help the Duffin family get their phones set up.  But we had plenty of time to do that in the morning, until we also decided to take a de-humidifier to the Sisters in La Paz.  We still had plenty of time to do that and still go to lunch with the Duffins.   We took the Duffins to the phone company and then dropped them off at a shopping center on our way to the La Paz house.  About half way there we found out the appointment was at 2:00, so now we were in a big hurry.

We were able to make it work but had to skip lunch.  When we arrived to pick up Humberto they were making empanadas but they weren’t done yet.  They sure looked good about 2:00 in the afternoon when I was already hungry.  After the doctor appointment took way too long we were in luck with the empanadas as you can see.  They were made with hamburger and grapes inside… way delicious.

We picked up the paint and supplies on the way home.  Wednesday we took off for Melo, a 400 kilometer drive, at about 8:00 A. M.  We got to Melo at about 1:30 P. M. and got to work with our crew.  It only took us about 2 hours to paint the Centenario Elder’s home, a fairly large apartment.  The missionaries were exceptional and did a wonderful job.  They then went to their apartments and got ready to do real missionary work for the evening.

After that we had headed for the Zone Leader house which has four bedrooms, 2 baths etc.  The Zone Leaders had to take off to travel to Rio Bronco overnight to do a baptismal interview so they left us the keys so we could paint the front room that evening.  We got done about 7:30 P.M. and headed to the motel.  We hit the hay tired and exhausted.  I was very grateful for Ibuprofen.

Wednesday morning we met the missionaries at 8:00 A. M. to finish the Zone Leader apartment.  They arrived ready to go and really jumped into the task.  The Zone Leaders got back from Rio Bronco about 9:00 A. M. and helped us finish.  By 11:00 we had it all done except two small bedrooms.  We had to get to the motel to get changed for the ride home so the missionaries agreed to paint the other two rooms later.  What great missionaries.  They work so hard to be successful.  It is a privilege to work with them.  That left us nothing more than a 5 hour drive on a two lane highway clogged with semi trucks and we were finished for the day.  But we had finally choked down that piece of bread, it didn’t go down easy but it did go down.

Thursday we were pretty tired but we still had the energy to take the Capilla Abierta kit to the Colon/Ferrocarril building for their Capilla Abierta.  We finished out the day doing inspection in two of the houses that are close to the office.  Friday morning we finished the Este zone inspections and headed to Castillos for the weekend.  On the way we dropped off some stuff at the Rocha house.  The four Elders were in exceptionally good humor and we had a great time talking to them about their areas.  I think I’ll ask the mission president if he’ll transfer us there.

Friday afternoon and evening we had a dinner appointment with the Lopez family.  I remember that in my first mission that we were counseled to spend only 45 minutes on charlas and an hour and half tops for dinner and charla.  Well, we spent a little more time than that.  We started out with watching Jhonny finish our painting.  What a great artist!  You can tell how much he loves to paint in his work.
Then we went shopping.  We had a good visit while dinner was being cooked and then feasted on an asado or BBQ.  It was delicious.  We ate too much including the meat, salads and Renee’s hot fudge cake dessert.  There wasn’t much left over.  We are really going to miss the Lopez family.  We got done about 10:00 P.M.  It was a great evening.

Saturday we made some really good visits to some of the members.  Lunch was at Narda’s as usual where she served us “pastel” or something that is more or less a cross between Sheppard’s pie and chicken pot pie.  I can’t figure out why I keep gaining weight?  Saturday afternoon we again helped with the branch activity that included a scavenger hunt and ping pong.  We finished off the night at the home of Tito and Patricia that included a video of the song, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”.

Today we had pretty good attendance at Church and then took some pictures afterwards.  We really love the people in Castillos and it is going to be difficult to leave them.  Renee gave a talk in Church on the Tree of Life and did a real good job.  To round out the day we had another asado at Narda’s.  It’s kind of a long story, why we got fed twice by Narda, but let’s just say that we really didn’t need the food, although we didn’t turn it down.  That would be crazy talk!

This week was spring break so the roads were packed coming home.  It took an extra hour but we made it okay.  Now we are ready to get a good night’s sleep so we can be ready for changes next week.  We had a wonderful busy week and really enjoyed all the time we were able to spend with the missionaries.  We look forward to another one.

The highlight of the week was hearing one of the missionaries tell us that his parents are getting baptized at home.  I told him that was one of the highlights of my mission.  He said it was one of the highlights of his mission as well. Go figure.

Thanks for all of you support.
We love you all.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fair Week and a Whole Lot More

We had a lot going on this week as we come to the end of a change.  We spent Monday and Tuesday in the office getting some office work done and also getting ready for some Capilla Abiertas.  We have some shots of us making the invitations for the Colon Capilla Abierta in a couple of weeks.  We had to write the time on 400 invitations individually so the help from the missionaries was really helpful.  They were waiting for interviews so it helped both of us.

On Wednesday and Thursday we did inspections.  We started off in Florida on Wednesday morning.  The first house was the Zone Leader house.  It really looks good after the paint job last month.  We really appreciate it.  You can see that the Elders are happy.  We were equally pleased with the other houses.

Wednesday afternoon we hurried out to Trinidad to see the Sisters in the Durazno Zone.  Again we were not disappointed with the way they take care of their house.  On Wednesday night we had a meeting with the High Councilman of the Durazno Stake to teach him how to do the Capilla Abiertas.  He was very receptive and helpful.  We look forward to a strong relationship with him.
We stayed at the Hotel Cristina in Durazno on Wednesday night.  It was very comfortable; I mean a lot of hot water in the shower and a good bed comfortable.  On Thursday morning we took off for Paso de los Toros.  The Elders were waiting with a clean house and smiles from ear to ear.  We probably spend more time than we should in some of the houses but the missionaries are so anxious to let us know how things are going we love visiting with them.

So if you have been following the blog you know what we were going to be doing for lunch in Durazno.  That’s right, El Bauru at El Gaucho!  We had it with everything on it.  It is a super hamburger with more than everything on it.  It may be our last one.  I’m going to miss it.  After lunch with the missionaries we took the Zone Leaders to buy them a new stove.  Good riddance to the old one.  Then we were off to Sarandi de Yi.  Elder Palomino and Elder Watson had an especially clean house.  They were excited about the work in the area.  Then we had the long ride home through San Ramon to finish the job.  We got home a little after dark.

So after a pretty busy week we got to the weekend.  Friday was Oro Conference.  Renee spent the day cooking as usual and I did some more invitations for a Capilla Abierta.  Again we had a good day with the missionaries.  Saturday is our day to relax, clean the house and get ready for another week.  We spent it by first cleaning the house and getting a haircut.  At 1:00 P. M. we fed Elder Fix and Elder Bazaes along with our good friend Gordon Little.  Elder Fix is leaving the office and it was good to invite Gordon Little over.  He is leaving soon to live next to his daughter in Mexico so it may be our last time to have him over for lunch.  What a wonderful man.  He is very friendly and knowledgeable on all issues.  A real joy to spend the afternoon with.

I had to put in a picture of a banner on the road in front of a Catholic Church.  It advertises for “the French Fry Club”.  I must say the French fries in Uruguay are really good and they even have a club. 

So as if we were not too tired already, we spent the evening at Expo Prado.  This is essentially the state fair for Uruguay.   They have livestock, tractors, food and a bunch of other stuff.  It was fun to see how they do it in Uruguay.  I wish we had had more time to visit.

After that we stopped off at the Temple apartments to meet the new Temple Missionaries.  Elder and Sister Duffin are wonderful people.  Turns out that he was a companion to President Cook forty-eight years ago here in Uruguay.  It is really a small world.  We had lunch with them today and had a great time getting to know them.

I do have one real neat story that one of our missionaries shared.  He started his mission almost two years ago as a new convert and the only member of his family.  Since then, his brother and sister have joined the Church and his parents feed and entertain the missionaries every week.  He was so excited.  I can’t think of a more wonderful blessing.  We hear many stories like this every week and it really helps strengthen our testimonies and makes us grateful for our membership in the Church.  We appreciate all that our friends and family do for us.

We love you all,                                                                     
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, September 10, 2017

And More Rain

Last year we had a lot of rain and cold from May through August.  We weren’t really looking forward to the winter again.  Well, this winter it has been really quite nice.  Not near as cold and not near as much rain.  That is until the last couple of weeks.  We have had a few good days but also some really stormy times.  I’m pretty much tired of it.  The missionaries are well equipped for the rain.  I really like this picture of Sister Hatch with her “dairy boots”.  She is such a happy sister.

Monday we spent the day helping in the office and running errands. Monday afternoon we did some work to find a new apartment for the Elders in Aero Parque.  We met with the real estate agent and got the ball rolling.  It usually takes a month to get the contract completed.  It was especially fun to do it in the rain.

 On Tuesday we went to the Temple.  We were in luck as the Las Piedras Zone was on the same session.  It was really enjoyable to attend with them.  We are starting to feel comfortable attending the sessions in Spanish.  I hope I can remember what to do in English when we get home.  While we were in the Temple it was warm and sunny outside.  Wouldn’t you know it?

Wednesday was “feed the Elders” day.  We have spent a lot of time with Elder Bailey but have not been able to have him come to lunch at our apartment.  Now that he is closer, he managed to do a pretty good marketing job on Renee so we invited all four Elders from the Aero Parque house.  It was an interesting mix.  A Texan, a BYU basketball player, another varsity basketball player and a professional soccer player from Argentina.  Renee made enchiladas.  They were really good but a little too hot.  No let me change that, they were a lot too hot.  The North Americans ate about five a piece.  My Argentine friend almost died as he was not accustomed to the hot spicy food.  He was a good sport and even though he was not used to this type of food he still ate quite a bit.  He especially liked the how the red jello helped cool off his mouth afterward.  To say they ate too much was an understatement.  We had Elders standing up and jumping up and down to try to find more room to put dessert.  With butterscotch pie they fortunately found some space.  Boy was I excited when Elder Knell offered me courtside seats to a BYU basketball game!  I can’t wait!

Thursday was another rainy day.  We spent the day going to San Jose to complete the inspections in the Las Piedras zone.  Elder Texiera and Elder Harrison have a clean house and were fun to talk to.  That trip set us up for our trip to Castillos.

We have now been going to Castillos for about 20 months.  We know the people quite well and have enjoyed getting to know them.  We had several charlas planned and most of them went off as we hoped.  We showed two videos as part of our charlas.  One is the song Glorious that is sung by David Archeleta for the movie, Meet the Mormons.  We have the Spanish version and it leaves a real good Spirit.  The other is a video of the song “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”.  It’s a pretty good way to bear your testimony.  We really enjoy bearing our testimonies and encouraging the members to work together to build the branch.  Along with the Charlas, we had another good branch activity.  Renee and I were assigned to teach them how to lead the music.  This is a lot more complicated than we realized.  It went pretty well and we had a lot of fun.

One of the highlights of the weekend was our lunch at Narda’s.  We had an “Asado” or barbeque.  Uruguayos put more emphasis on meat for BBQs than we do.  We had the chance to eat a lot of good meat and chorizos.  It is always good to spend time with Narda and her family.

So I thought we would end up the blog with another picture of the rain.  We have more in the forecast for the coming week.  Good thing we have umbrellas and rain coats.  We continue to be busy and we hope productive.  We are working to transfer the things we do to others.  It has been a challenge but we hope we are succeeding.  We love you all and appreciate the support we get.

Love Gordon and Renee

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Cooking in the Kitchen with Mary

If you’ve followed this blog at all you should have learned two things about our mission.  1st, Mary is a great cook and 2nd, we like to eat it.   Renee helps Mary cook several times a change as they work to feed the missionaries.  They are the best of friends!  I mean cry all day when we leave friends!  So it stands to reason that they would cook up a day to teach Renee how to cook.  That day was last Monday.  After our morning meeting I dropped Renee off at Mary’s house for the day to learn how to cook.  While they were busy cooking up a feast, I did inspections in half the Maroñas zone and cut the grass on the Los Ceibos and Toledo houses.  I had a good day as I was able to meet with the missionaries and see what a good job they are doing with their houses.  I even got a little help from Elder Newman as he tried on the weed whacker for size. 

At the end of the day I arrived to a feast.  Renee and Mary had made about nine different things that we of course had to eat.  I can’t begin to tell you how good it was.  Everything was incredibly delicious.  I have eaten food before where the cook couldn’t quite get it right so they compensated by putting more spices in it.  Well not with this food.  All of it had just the right flavor.  I could name all of the different foods they cooked but decided that you all better just come over when we get home and Renee can practice on you.  It will be a lot of fun.  We ate leftovers the rest of the week.  What a sacrifice!

We spent the next few days helping in the office.  This included helping a few houses with repairs and getting some contracts in place.  Not too eventful.  We were able to go on a couple of charlas.  On Tuesday we went with the Sisters to visit Papa Jorge.  They changed the Carasco area from the office financial clerks to the Sisters that live next to us.  It was our first visit with them.  We love this opportunity as Papa Jorge has such a sincere testimony.  We also went to visit Humberto and Cristina.  We had a good time talking about getting ready to take them to the Temple.

Friday was another big day as we scheduled the inspections of the houses in the Las Piedras Zone.  This is a really good zone.  The members are really strong and help the missionaries a bunch.  They are always excited to see us.  We were excited to see very clean houses.  I think some of the missionaries are actually starting to like having a clean house.  We took a few pictures to show you how happy they are.  Elder Cheney always makes the pictures good. 

As we were heading to the first house we received a call that the Sisters in La Paz needed a new microwave.  This was on the way so we stopped and bought one and delivered it on the way.  They also showed us that the ladder to climb up to top bunk of one of the bunk beds was broken.  We have extra so we told them we would bring another one later.  As it turned out the Zone Leaders had an extra one so we back tracked about 15 minutes and took them one.  This added to a fun day.

As we finished the Santa Lucia house we called the Elders in the last house in San Jose to tell them we would be there in about 20 minutes.  Then we turned the corner to cross the river and saw that there was about 3 feet of water going over the bridge.  We called to tell the Elders that we weren’t coming.  It had not rained for several days but the Santa Lucia River was still running real high.  It’s not the first time we have had to change plans. 

On the way home we talked about how we are going to miss the fair food of our second state fair.  We really enjoy all the different types of food.  Then we got to thinking that a lot of the food in Uruguay reminds us of fair food.  Just then we passed a “tortas fritas” stand that is close to our house.  We turned around and had to buy some.  If you have ever gone to the fair in Blackfoot you know about the “tiger ears” or scones they make.  This stand makes essentially the same thing.  The scones were great but they paled in comparison to the entertainment of the couple operating the stand.  We had a lot of fun visiting with them.   They have been married or 37 years and are still happy. 

Saturday was a much needed P-day.  We were able to catch up on our house work.  We also got a call from some of the Elders that needed a ride to get a prescription from Dr. Bregante.  This gave us the chance to go see our friend.  It is fun visiting with her.  Our Saturday was topped off by going to a baptism in the Belloni ward.  Both sets of Elders had a baptism so it was fun to participate. 

And so another week is in the books.  We continue to be busy and hopefully productive.  Our love of the Uruguayan people continues to grow as does our love of the Savior.  We are so grateful to serve.  The love and support we receive from our friends and family has been tremendous.  We love you all.

Love, Gordon and Renee

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Happy Birthday to the Birthday Girl

And again at Zone Leader Conference

I can imagine that one might think that Birthdays are quite bland in the mission field.  Nay not so!  Renee’s birthday was last Monday.  To celebrate we went out to dinner last Saturday night.  We enjoyed some good food at a local restaurant.  On Sunday, Renee decided to make a birthday cake.  You might wonder why I didn’t do it, well it’s because she does have standards.  She made a German chocolate cake to celebrate.  We had some old bananas so she made a banana cake too.  On Monday for our staff meeting, the Mission President brought lemon muffins.  Monday night was family night with the temple missionaries and they made a big cake for Renee and another sister.  And just to be sure, Mary made a cake for her on Tuesday to celebrate with the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders.  With the muffins, that’s five cakes.  Thank goodness we had help from the missionaries.  Needless to say it was a happy birthday.

Tuesday was the Zone Leader/Sister Training leader Conference.  Renee cooked and I did some office work.  We welcomed some new missionaries as leaders.  I wanted to take a picture of all the new ones but it was too hectic so all I got was Elder Cole and Sister Wickel.  Elder Cole also got a new microwave for his house this week so he had a pretty good week too.  It is one of the best parts of our mission to see the missionaries arrive all nervous and anxious and then grow to be leaders.  We really appreciate them.  Elder Cole and Sister Wickel have really helped us a lot.  We really appreciate them.

Wednesday was new District Leader training.  Again, Renee, helped cook and I tried to stay out of trouble.  We both succeeded more or less.  Again, a new batch of district leaders to help the mission.  Thursday was a multi zone conference for the Este, Maroñas and Las Piedras Zones.  Renee and I were able to attend.  President Eddy taught how you need to have the needs of your investigators drive your personal and companionship study.  It was great council and we used it as we prepared for Castillos.

I put in a picture of the new mall in Las Piedras.  There are actually horse drawn carts outside this ultra modern mall.  It is quite a sight.  We also found out that Sister Balbino had a birthday the same day as the Zone Conference so we invited them for dinner after they finished Thursday night.  Renee did grilled tuna fish and cheese sandwiches and we finished off one of her cakes.  I love that kind of food.

I rained most of the day on Friday and Saturday so we were not too excited about going to Castillos.  We have a saying in the mission that, “all of the great miracles happen while it is raining.”  Well you might be able to fool the young missionaries with that one but I’m not sold.   That is until we got there.  In spite of the rain we were able to see quite a few people.  And like we said in the preceding paragraphs, we prepared messages to fit their needs.  It was really neat.  I can’t remember when we had more charlas that had a good message.  I guess we’ll pray for rain more.   Not really, I am just fine preaching in the sunshine.

On Saturday afternoon we had the branch party.  Renee and I were in charge of the lesson.  We tried to come up with a video or something but really struggled.  Renee suggested that we play hangman for the activity.  We then decided that maybe we could make that the lesson.  We had a lot of young people there and they were very active participants.  After each word, we discussed the meaning.  The words included Holy Ghost, Book of Mormon, heart, baptism, golden plates and Jesus Christ.  It ended up being a real fun activity that taught some important principals of the Gospel.  I guess we might catch on to this missionary thing yet.

Today was a regional conference that included all of Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina.  There were over 100 stakes and 40 districts represented.  The meeting originated from Salt Lake City and we saw it over the internet.  The speakers included Elder Gavarratt from Minas Uruguay.  We all thought that was pretty neat.  Elder Rasband presided and gave a great talk about reaching the one.  He even referred to a family here in Montevideo.  What a wonderful conference.

We arrived home safe, mostly dry and tired.  Ready to rest up for another week of missionary work.  It is starting to warm up in spite of the stormy weather.  Most days are really beautiful.   We appreciate all of the love and support we get from home.  It is indeed a privilege to wear the Saviors name on our missionary badges.  We know it is true.

We love you all.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, August 20, 2017

An Evening with Lindsay Stirling

I don’t get to use that title much.  Lindsay Stirling is on tour through South America and Uruguay.  As a favor to the people of Uruguay she did a “Face to Face” event last Monday night in the Chapel where the Mission Home is located.  To say it was spectacular is an understatement. She performed a few pieces on the violin and also answered questions.  Her message was very clear.  If you want to be happy you have to decide to be happy and then do things to make yourself be happy.  Great advice for people that are thirteen or sixty-three.  One of our friends was able to come for part of it.  It was wonderful.  You can see her perform on you tube.

This is one of those weeks when we just have too much to tell.  I’ll try to keep it short.  This was change week.  It usually starts off with the new missionaries coming in on Tuesday.  This time we got to start it off by saying good bye to Sister Campbell on Monday afternoon.  I could spend several blogs just talking about what she did for our Mission.  We will miss her.

We had nineteen oros or new missionaries that arrived.  They came in on 5 flights that started about 2:00 A.M.  The last ones came in about 2:00 P.M.  It was a lot of trips to the airport for the mission president and the assistants.  We did not have to go to all of trips which saved our old tired bodies.  This is quite an animated bunch.  It was fun to see how excited they are.  I hope you can see what a fun group they are.  It will be exciting to see them grow.  Too bad we won’t be around much longer to see them.  They really got into milking alfajores.  That’s a good sign.  They were also pretty excited when they met their trainers.  It was fun to see their enthusiasm for the work.

Right after we sent the oros off with their trainers, the Valientes or missionaries that are going home come in to the mission home.  This was very difficult as we remember when most of them came and can see how much they have grown.  We had three missionaries in this group that served in the office with us.  Also, Hermana Nava and Anderson were in the group.  They are the missionaries that taught and baptized our friend Cristina, so we are especially close to them.  Elder Montiel wanted to get some more alfajores to take home so I gave him and Elder Rodriguez a ride to get them.  It was our last trip of many.  I already miss them terribly.

We enjoyed dinner with the Valientes on Wednesday night and then said good bye to Elder Filigrana and Sister Lizarazo as they had a flight to Colombia at about 5:00 A.M.  We didn’t start until 7:00 A.M. when we picked up Elder Montiel for his flight to Argentina.  What a great friend he has been.  It was hard to say good bye to him because we may not see each other ever again.

We no sooner sent him through security when the next bunch arrived.  These were the Latinos.  Elder Rodriguez was headed home to Panama and Elder Ruiz to El Salvador.  It was hard to say good bye.  Luckily we have face book and other ways to communicate.   Then it was time for the North Americans to come.  We sent them off about 5:00 P. M.  In all we were in the airport for more than 10 hours, mostly waiting.

I want to say a little about the task of a mission president.  President Eddy started Tuesday in the middle of the night.  Then, besides all the meetings to teach the new missionaries he did 19 interviews with the new missionaries.  After the meetings ended at about 9:00 P. M. he got together with the assistants to make the final assignments of the new missionaries.  Wednesday was filled with meetings and final interviews of the missionaries going home.  Then Thursday he and his wife were at the airport starting at about 5:00 A. M.  He made at least three different trips to the airport through the day and finally was able to go home at about 5:00 P. M.  What a schedule!   We appreciate him and his wife so much.

In the middle of the Missionaries going home we also said good bye to Elder and Sister Jensen.    They just completed their Temple Mission.  That leaves us the only North American Senior Missionaries serving in Montevideo.  It’s going to be kind of lonesome.

Friday we had a more or less normal day as we did inspections in the La Costa zone and also cut the grass for three of the houses.  The La Costa houses are interestingly enough on the coast where it is the most humid and has the most problems with mold in the houses.  We were please to find out that for the most part the missionaries are working to take care of the mold.  We really appreciate it.
As part of the inspections, Renee always makes cookies.  She made lemon bars Thursday after we got done with the “rodeo” we call changes.  I guess it’s a complement when a missionary likes the cookies so much that he takes a picture of them.  But, that is Elder Larson.  He is a very fun and happy missionary that just happens to like lemon bars.

Yesterday was finally P-day for us.  We cleaned to mold off our walls, cleaned the rest of the house and just relaxed while it rained cats and dogs outside.  We were glad for the breather.  Our testimonies continue to grow as we have a chance to serve.  We appreciate the opportunity.  We appreciate all of the love and support from home.  We love you all.

Love, Gordon and Renee