Sunday, November 12, 2017

One Mo’ Time

So here we are writing our first blog from the good old USA.  It is so good to be home but we are still a little teary eyed about all of our friends that we left in Uruguay.   For those that may be interested we will be speaking in Church on November 26th at 11:00 A.M. in the Blackfoot Stake Center.  I think we’ll be serving mondongo stew for lunch afterward.  I hope you realize just how sarcastic that last statement was!!

So our last week was real busy.  First, we had to get our apartment ready to close including cleaning and boxing everything up.  It was quite a chore.  Then we were part of change week that starts with planning and prep on Monday.  On Tuesday the Oros came in without a hitch.  They seem to be a good group.  Too bad we won’t be around to see them grow.  I would like to say that one of the real special highlights of our mission was watching the missionaries grow up right before our eyes.   They grew up while we more or less grew out.

This change week was a little different as we had a mission conference on Wednesday with both missions to listen to Elder Dean Davies of the presiding bishopric.  That made it a little more complicated but it was worth it.  He and his wife gave very timely messages to inspire and encourage the missionaries.  It was real good.  It was even more special because we got to see all of the missionaries one more time.  It was special and also quite sad to say our good byes.  We already miss them a bunch.  We hope and pray we will see them again although we know that for too many of the Latinos we will never see them again.  Another reason to be quite sad.

We ended the conference about noon with a full mission picture and passed out a sack lunch that included a subway sandwich.  It was my last time to order from subway.  200 sandwiches is a lot of sandwiches.  As we were passing out the sandwiches it started to rain.  It actually rained quite hard for a minute.  Another highlight from the conference is the help we got from three of the young men from the Malvin Ward.  I love the pics of them in their casual clothes and then their Sunday clothes.  They really are a fun bunch and we hope they will eventually go on missions.

After the conference ended we got back into change week.  We attended the Temple with the missionaries in the afternoon and then had supper with them in the evening.  It was a special experience to be part of the group and give our testimonies for the last time.  Through it all we were able to spend some time with our dear friend Mary.  We have become so close and it hurts to even think about her.

We spent our last night in the apartment and then helped say good bye to the missionaries that were leaving for Latin America in the morning.  Our airport run started at noon where we were able to check in without any problems and say our final good byes.  Our friend, Gabriela, came to say good bye, so that made it quite special.  You’ll note that the missionaries that were asked to take the pictures with our I-pad couldn’t resist the temptation to take some selfies.  I put about 20% of the pictures they took in this blog.

So then we started the long ride home.  From the time we arrived in the airport until we touched down in Idaho Falls it was 28 hours.  That included a 3 hour flight from Montevideo to Sao Paulo, a 5 hour layover in Sao Paulo and then a 10 hour flight to Atlanta.  Then we had to go through customs and board a 4 hour flight to Salt Lake City.  We had just enough time to get on the Idaho Falls flight.  By the time we got home we were completely shot.

But it was SO GOOD!  What a blessing to be reunited with family.  The hugs and hugs were so good.  A few of our family couldn’t come but we sure enjoyed the ones that could come.  After being gone for so long we thought we better do a little fishing on the way home.  We didn’t catch anything but still had a great time.  Our mission ended with a very special time with our Stake President.  The spirit was strong as he gave us a blessing to release us.

Saturday, November 11 was Veterans Day.  I have fished that day every year except last year as I have always had that day off.  So to keep the streak alive we took the grand kids fishing to a local pond.  The weather was great and we really had a great time.  Most everyone got in on doing a “little catching” instead of just fishing.  We had some of the fish for dinner tonight.

I think we got home just in time as we have been able to visit several friends and family with health problems.  We also have some things to be done on our home to get it ready for winter so the “good rest” will have to wait.

Looking back I have pondered what we have gained from our experience.  First, a wonder cultural experience as we enjoyed all of the traditions that Uruguay has to offer.  Second, we have gained so many eternal friendships with the people of Uruguay and the missionaries.  I don’t know how we could count how special these friendships are.  Third, we gained a deeper understanding and testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  What a blessing it is to have Jesus Christ in our lives.  We know he lives.  We know he is our Savior and died for all of us.  We know that His Church is established on the earth today and is lead by Prophets and Apostles that have the authority to say, “Thus sayeth the Lord”.  And finally we learned that the key to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is service.  The more we serve the more joy and happiness we have in our lives.

Thanks to all those that have supported us for the last two years.  We love and appreciate all of you.  To the parents of the missionaries that read this blog, thank you so much.  I hope you will someday realize how much we love your children.  May God bless you all.

Love, Gordon and Renee

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Eating, We, We, We, We, All The Way Home

Sorry for the “three little pigs” reference but we have been eating a lot.   This is our last blog from Uruguay.  The next one will be our last one when we get home.  Just so you know the next one is going to be really “trunky”.

We started off the week in the usual manner having staff meeting Monday morning.  You could take this shot every Monday but we thought we would add it just for fun.  You can see me on the phone.  I’m texting some missionary about a house problem.   So, not much new.

On Tuesday we had the office Elders over for lunch.  Renee made enchiladas.  One of the Elders ate 10 of them.  Yes ten, and then he had two helpings of the chocolate fudge cake and ice cream for dessert.  I have no idea how they eat that much.  The pictures show them laughing.  It was almost “blow milk out your nose” laughing except we did not have milk.  We all had a great time.  We are going to miss them.

Wednesday was “okay I’ll paint one more house” day.  We agreed to go up to Prosperidad and help paint the house for a couple of reasons.  One, Elder Yardley is relentless and second, we really like the dueño.  The fact that the house is close and pretty small made it even better.  The Elders really pitched in and stayed on task.  It was really quite a bit of fun.  We had it all done before noon and enjoyed Renee’s black bean salsa and banana cake.  If you think the pictures of the Elders indicate that they are little crazy you would be correct.

The worn out gym shoes have an interesting story that is based on a family story involving hunting boots made in China.  You have to ask me about it.  So when I finished the last paint job I decided to leave them on the side of the road just like we did in the olden days.  They lasted less than 10 seconds.  These Uruguayos really like worn out gym shoes.

Wednesday we went out to eat at the restaurant by our house called La Salmuera with the Duffins.  It was a lot of fun.  Renee and I both had Salmon which was excellent.  The Duffins are so delightful.  We are going to miss them.  We didn’t take a picture because the light is not very good.

Thursday we took off for Santa Lucia to repair some broken windows in the house.  We arrived just in time for District meeting to end so we took advantage of the moment and took a picture.  This is really a great bunch of missionaries.   You can see they are successful by the smiles on their faces.

We had to replace four window panes in the back door of the house.  I had the sisters measure and let me know the size I needed to get.  Too bad I didn’t instruct them that the measurements need to be a little less than the actual size.  So when we got to the house the panes were about 1/32 too big.  No problem, because there was a glass store in Santa Lucia.  That closes  for the siesta at noon.  We got there about 12:15 so we had a nice little wait.  The sign said they reopen at 2:30.  It turns out that this is a lot closer to 3:00.  So we had plenty of time to clean out the windows before we could get the new ones.  Anyway after we waited for the glass it was about a fifteen minute fix to install them.

We decided to go home through San Jose as it is a better road.  So we took the Elders to their house.  On the way they told us that the water heater was leaking.  Good thing they told us so we could get a new one for them.  It really ended up being a good thing.  We drove home in the rain and got home at pretty good time.

We were glad that we had time to feed the Sisters that live around the corner from us on Friday.  They are really happy and are working hard.  So that was our last meal with the missionaries in our house.  Kinda sad.  We are going to miss the opportunity.  On Saturday afternoon we were able help the Missionaries from the Minas Zone do baptisms for the dead in the Temple.  As the Elders were taking turns in the font it came to mind that it sure would be good if my granddaughters were able to latch on to one of them.  Wishful thinking, I know.

So if you think we should have about been sick of eating, you would be right.  Except we were invited to Humberto and Cristina’s for lunch Saturday.  They said they were going to feed us Empanadas but it ended up being an Asado or BBQ.  Do you notice all of the meat on the grill?  They had beef, chicken and chorizos.  They also had what they called “Pamplona” that they cooked in the oven.  This is chicken wrapped around ham, cheese, bacon, peppers and olives.  Wow, it was really good.  We ate way too much and enjoyed every bit of it.  We are certainly going to miss Humberto and Cristina.

Good thing it was Fast Sunday as we did not really need anything else that day.  Today we went to Church for the last time at the Malvin Ward.  It was a really good meeting with a lot of great friends.  Even though we may never see them again, they will always be our friends.  We finished off the day with our last “break the fast” lunch with the Temple missionaries.  It included birthday wishes for me as my birthday is later this month.

I hope you didn’t count how many “going away” dinners we had.  I’m not.  We have had such a wonderful time here in Uruguay and made so many eternal friends.  It is really sad that we have to leave.  But we do have a few that we are looking forward to seeing this week so I guess it balances out.

As I said at the beginning, this is our last blog from Uruguay.  We get home on Friday the 10th and have a very full life ahead of us.  We really appreciate the love and support from those who have commented on the blog.  In case anyone is interesting we will be speaking in the Blackfoot 7th Ward on Sunday, November 26th at 11:00 A.M.

Thank you so much.

We love you all,

Gordon and Renee

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The 100 -300 Club

I noticed that this is the 100th blog.  I also passed 300 straight days of duo lingo this week.  Probably the most important thing you have to do to reach this milestone is just show up.  So here we are.  Apart from that we had a pretty busy and interesting week.  We spent Monday working in the office helping   get things adjusted.  For lunch we invited Humberto and Cristina to our house.  It is now warmer and Cristina is feeling better.  We had a fun time at lunch.  We met them right after we arrived in Uruguay and have become especially good friends.   One thing I really believe is that we are sent on missions to meet and help certain people.  Humberto and Cristina are the ones for us.  We have become very good friends and are going to have a terrible time saying good bye.  On Monday night we went to the Family Home Evening group with the Temple Missionaries.  We have become good friends, and we will miss them.

On Monday afternoon we went to the phone company, Antel, to work on getting our phone and wifi turned off.  We ended up going to the Antel office three different times and still have another visit to hopefully get it turned off.  It is quite a challenge.

On Tuesday, we headed up to Minas to do inspections.  We managed to get there just about lunch time so we could go do the Minas Pizza.  We don’t seem to have much trouble getting the missionaries to go with us.  The Minas 1 Elders also have a “monument” on the wall celebrating all the Alfajores they have eaten.  There are over 100.  That represents quite a time and financial commitment.  We also had an interesting experience with the Elders in Piriapolis.  After we inspected their clean house, they asked us if we would take them to the Chapel to get a box of Book of Mormons.  That seemed like a good idea.  On the way, Elder Ucañan asked if we had been to El Faro.  Well a faro is a lighthouse so I said we had been to several.  Then he said that “El Faro” was an ice cream joint in Piriapolis.  He stated that is was the Eddy family’s favorite.  About that time he said, “Hey look, there it is!”  So guess what, we went to get ice cream.  It was good to share the time with the missionaries.

On Wednesday we did inspection in the Maldonado zone.  First we did the apartments in San Carlos.  They were both clean and tidy.  We then headed to Maldonado with two of the Elders to help them with the exchanges they were doing.  When we go to the Zone Leader house no one was home so we headed to lunch to get a “tortugon”.  This is a large milanesa with everything on it.  When I say large, I mean over a foot in diameter and everything means everything.  Renee and I had a quarter each and the elders finished it off.  We will certainly miss the days we spend with the missionaries.

Thursday was kind of a rest day as we went to the Temple with Elder and Sister Wall.  It was good to attend a session with them and we did lunch afterward.  We finished off the day with another trip to Antel.

Friday was Oro conference or the conference for the new missionaries and their companions after being here for a month.  It was a little different as I had to stay in our apartment to wait for the plumber to come and fix a leak in the toilet.  So while Renee left to cook I stayed behind.  When the plumber came they had to pound a hole in the concrete wall and find the leak and fix it.  It is quite complicated.  Afterward I went to lunch at the conference.  It was fun seeing the new missionaries and their companions.  Lunch was especially good.  Oh, and afterward we went to Antel with a bunch of letters etc. to try and get our phone shut off. 

Friday night was one of our favorite activities.  We went to dinner at the Francis restaurant with Dr. Bregante and her husband, Alejandro, and the Duffins.  We had a great time.  The food was excellent and the conversation was great.  We have become such good friends with Dr. Bregante and her family.  We hope that they can someday come and visit us in Blackfoot.

Saturday was our P-day so we took the morning to clean the house and iron shirts.  At noon we took off for Minas to do our final Capilla Abierta.  We took the long way there to pick up the Sisters from Pan de Azucar.  The road from Pan de Azucar to Minas is one of my favorite.  It is a pretty good road through rolling green hills.  It kind of reminds us of home except it is about 500 feet above sea level instead of 5,000 feet.

The Capilla Abierta was a huge success.  There were 27 new people that came.  The majority were friends and family of the members.  They really did a good job inviting people to come.  We only had two companionships of Sisters so Renee and I also had the chance to do some of the presentations.  The presentation is more or less an abbreviated version of the first two discussions or charlas.  It was fun to teach them again and feel the Spirit.  We returned through Pan de Azucar which is a few more kilometers but takes about the same amount of time as the traffic is so much better than going up Route 8.  I don’t think I'm going to miss that road at all.

Finally we included some scenery shots of Punta Del Este.  This is a very upscale resort about 150 kilometers from Montevideo.  I would say it is very much like Miami Beach.  The hotels etc. are very upscale.  I also included a shot of a gas tank in the back of a car.  It looks like the guy took a 6 liter water jug and made a gas tank.   I can’t figure out how he keeps it from spilling.  We also like shots of the dog walkers.  Maybe I can get a job like that when we get home.

So number 100 is in the books.  We are still having a wonderful time.  We have learned so much and continue to learn more each week.  We are grateful for all our friends and family.

Love, Gordon and Renee

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Trying to Finish Strong

We had an interesting week in the office that included several things that needed to be fixed in the mission houses.  The Sisters in Pan De Azucar had a broken washing machine but were able to get it fixed by a member.  At the same time we have been working on a broken water heater in 33.  We called the plumber on Monday and after several calls and encouragement it got fixed on Friday.  So that was a fun week of cold showers for four elders.  Don’t you wish you could be them?  Brrrrrrr!

We have made a lot of lifelong friends while we have been here.  We invited another group over this week.  On Monday night, Martin and his family came over for dinner.  Martin is the high councilman in one of the Stakes and has been in charge of the Capilla Abiertas for them.  He has done such a wonderful job.  He and his wife are both return missionaries and they have the cutest children.  Their smiles are precious.  It was fun to get to know them better and learn how they have helped to grow the Church in Uruguay.  We will miss them.

On Wednesday night, Marcelo and his wife came to dinner.  Marcelo is the guy I call when we need something fixed around Montevideo.  He served his mission in Cordoba, Argentina, just like me, so it has been fun to talk to him about our missions.  He has helped us out of a jam numerous times.  For instance, Friday I get a call as we were headed to Castillos.  Most of the houses have a cistern on top of the house that holds the water and helps with the water pressure.  One of the companionships called to say that the float was not working right so they climbed up on the roof to fix it.  That was really helpful.  Problem was, as they were fixing it they kicked the water line coming out of the tank and broke it.  They house is very old and the pipes rusted, so I called Marcelo to go fix it.  He is a life saver.

For the weekend we did inspections on the Rocha zone houses on our way to Castillos for the weekend.  The missionaries were very good to welcome us and for the most part had clean houses.  It was hard to say good-bye to them for the last time.   On the way back from Chuy we stopped at the “Forteleza de Santa Teresa” or Fort Santa Teresa.  It was erected in 1762  by Spain.  It traded hands several times between Spain and Portugal and finally ended up with the Uruguayans.  They had some good exhibits, and it was fun to learn a little bit about the history of Uruguay.  We finished our day with several good visits with members of the branch to say our goodbyes and bear our testimonies one last time.   On the way to the hotel we stopped to get a milanesa to share.  It was huge and delicious.  It could be our last one.

On Saturday we made several more visits to members and had a chance to share our testimonies with them.  We also were in charge of the games for the branch activity.  We played the paper bag sack game where you have to reach down and pick up a paper sack with your teeth and then cut some of it off until it is too low for anyone to reach it.  When I say “we” I mean I was the one that cut off the top of the sack because I can’t remember the last time I could bend over that much.  I have a hard time bending over and picking it up with my hand when I am on one knee.  Renee was a little disappointed as it is kind of hard to do in a dress.  We also played the game where you pass a washer around a circle on a string and then someone has to guess who has the washer.  Everyone had a good time and had a lot of fun.

Today was our last Sunday in Castillos.  It was good and bad.  Good in that we could feel the love of the members and sad because we will never see them again.  Renee was asked to bear her testimony and I gave a talk.  I read several scriptures from Prophets' last council to their families.  I also read two scriptures from the New Testament where the Savior tells Peter to “feed my sheep” and preach the Gospel throughout the world.  As I study the life of the Savior it is clear to me that he taught us to serve others more than anything.  The more we serve the happier we are.  It has certainly been true in our mission.

The weather is really nice with sunny warm days most of the time.  We are really enjoying our mission in Uruguay.  It will be hard to leave.  We love you all and appreciate all you do for us.

Love, Gordon and Renee