Sunday, January 24, 2016

Busy Times

From our pictures it looks like all we do is play.  Actually we are busy doing mission stuff.

We had dinner Monday night for a Temple couple, the Hokansons, that are going home this week.  They are from Star Valley.  Great people and we had a great time with all of the Senior Missionaries.  I hope Ken Wixom sees the picture of me eating rack of lamb and a rib eye steak.  It was real good but not in the budget every night.

One of our responsibilities is to make sure the rent and utilities are paid on the 80 or so apartments that we rent.  This is a picture of me with the finance clerks in front of the "Obras Sanitorias del Estado  (OSE).  We had to go down town to pay the bill.  It is kind of a complicated process.  First we look the bill up on the internet and create a batch of utility payments.  They we have to go to the area office on Tuesday or Thursday and pick up a letter of credit.  From there we go to Citi Bank down town and pick up the check.  After that we take the batch and pay it. We are working on systems to streamline this process.

The biggest part of the week was spent helping with "Zone Temple Conferences".  The zones come in one by one and have training and attend the Temple.  We help with the meals and other logistics.  We will be doing this for the next few weeks as each of the twelve zones comes in.  They can only do so many because the Temple only holds 48 and the Mission President interviews each missionary.  Guess how tired he is at the end of the day?

We have also been running around treating apartments for BED BUGS!  Yikes!  We spray the mattresses with a bug spray and wrap them in plastic for 24 hours.  If possible we put them in the sun.  Pretty big job.  We also are busy doing other repairs and things for the missionaries.  Several nights we did not get back to our apartment until after 9:00 P. M.  That's pretty late for old people.

Friday night we were able to go out with the missionaries.  Renee went to two discussions with the sisters.  She understood a little and was able to bear her testimony.  She really enjoyed it.  I went out with the office elders.  We had some other things to do so we did not get out as soon.  We made a few contacts and tried to find a referral, but were unsuccessful.  The Elders reported to me today that they did contact the referral last night and left a Book of Mormon.  They are going back Monday night and I invited myself to go.  I'm looking forward to it.

No question, the best thing that happened this week happened on Thursday.  We received a call from some of the Senior Missionaries that there was a bus from Salta, Argentina doing Temple work at the Temple.  They come here because there is a "Hostel" where they can stay very reasonable.  We stopped by the Hostel about 6:30 and found a group eating cake.  They definitely looked Salteno with their dark complexions.  We introduced our selves and were immediately made welcome.  I told them when I had been in Salta and asked them about some of the families that were members and that were baptized.  They remembered most of them.  It was incredible to feel how much they loved us because I had served there.  We talked about the members that I knew.  One of the members later became the Stake President.  They remembered Isaac Garcia and stated that he had been faithful in  the Gospel and died a few years ago.  They also knew the Lenz family and said that the Son, Marcelo, went to the US.

It was real fun talking to them about the growth of the Church in Salta.  When I was there in 1974, they had one chapel and two tiny branches.  Now there is two and almost three Stakes and 9 chapels.  That is incredible growth.  They are very proud of what the Church has done and they should be.  It was wonderful to talk to them and bear testimony and feel of their Spirits.  It was definitely one of the highlights of my life and worth the trouble to come to Uruguay.  I hope things work out so we can go there at the end of our mission.  

Well that's it for this week.  We love you all very much. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Branch in Castillos

Another very busy week.  I don't know if I have said much about what we do in the Mission office.  We help with the mission finances.  There are over 80 apartments that the Missionaries live in.  We help pay the rent, water, and electricity each month.  We have to make sure everyone gets paid.  We do most of it on line.  The missionaries are real helpful and have shown us a lot.  Every day brings us joy as we have a chance to serve.  

Besides the office stuff we also help with apartment repairs.  In Uruguay, a renter provides their own water heater, stove, frig, light fixtures and everything else.  If the toilet or a faucet breaks, we need to fix it.  Also, there are no screens on the windows so if you don't want the mosquitoes to get you at night we need to put screens up.  We have been instructed to do that for the apartments that still don't have them.  We did three on Saturday and have about 80 more to go.  

The other day we bought some canned beans, at least we thought they were beans.  Turns out it was canned celery.  YUM!  It tastes just like you would think.  Nothing.  We ate them and told ourselves that we were going to like it.  I did have to chase it down with some dulce de leche.  That's just like medicine.  

We had transfers last week also.  The new missionaries come in on Tuesday and stay until Wednesday for training.  On Wednesday they are paired up with their new companions.  It kind of reminded me of when you have to "mother up" the calves after a cattle drive.  There was a lot of bawling from the young ones.  One Wednesday the missionaries that are going home start to arrive and are treated to a session at the Temple and dinner with the mission president and his wife.  We helped move missionaries around and do the meals.  It is "three continuous days, just like the Ute Stampede"!  Those that know my dad will appreciate that one.  

One of the new missionaries asked how the food was.  I told him, "Elder, I brought my own cook."  Sometimes you just need to tell it like it is. 

The mission President asked us to help a struggling branch in Castillos.  This is a town about the size of Blackfoot about 4 hours north of Montevideo.  We stayed in the town of La Paloma which is about an hour away because they have a good Hotel.  I should say it is better than good.  It is as good as any Hotel we have ever stayed in.  One interesting thing.  When you enter the room you have to put the "card" you use to enter the room in a slot so the electricity will turn on.  That's kind of interesting.

We left on Friday and came home this afternoon, Sunday.  We were able to meet several families.  The Branch President has only been a member for 4 years.  He is quite young.  He and his wife have a little boy, Thomas, named after President Monson.  They were told that they could not have children, but through prayer and much faith, they now have a son.  This little branch needs more members.  Today there were 14 people in Church. The Branch President is young and does not have any counselors or clerks.  The Elders Quorum President hardly ever comes.  In spite of the small attendance, it was amazing to feel the strength of the members. They bore very strong testimonies and were willing to do whatever they could. 

I gave my first talk in Spanish about the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.  It went better than I expected.  Renee also gave a prayer.  We are both learning.  

 Some have bad feelings but this is what I feel.  I remember when I was in Salta, Argentina over 40 years ago.  There were two little branches about like this one.  Well today there is more than a Stake in Salta and it has its own mission. I am sure that this little branch is going to grow into a ward and then a stake.  Its going to grow with the missionaries and members that are here now or it is going to grow with some others, but it is going to grow.  We need to decide whether we are going to be a part of it.  We had such a great feeling there and we are sure that we will feel other great things as we go back each month to help.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

I Knew That Agreement Was a MISTAKE the Moment it Left My Mouth...

I have made a few mistakes in my life.  The first big one was when I agreed not to watch TV on Sunday when we first got married.  The second is when I agreed to iron all of my shirts in the mission field.  But, a deal's a deal so I'm ironing the shirts.  I may get to where I wear a shirt several days in a row.  Ewwwww!

Renee tried her hand at cookies in the super kitchen.  She is spending quite a bit of time trying to adjust her recipes for altitude and humidity but I seem to eat them just fine.  I could not tell if the missionaries like them or not, their mouths were full.

I don't know if there is a Home Depot in Heaven but there is a SODIMAC in Uruguay.  This is their answer for Home Depot.  It really is a nice store except everything and every one is in Spanish.  How do you say air conditioning tube in Spanish?  Ya, me neither.

We helped on  two meetings this week.  The first one was the monthly meeting of all the Zone Leaders and the Training Sisters.  I am amazed at how strong the missionaries are.  When one of the assistants to the president is speaking I catch myself wondering if he is the president.  I am amazed at their wisdom.  The other meeting was training for the missionaries that have been in country for 6 weeks.  There are native English and Spanish speakers and some that speak a native language from Peru.  

Throughout the training I was getting maybe 60-70% of what was said.  I wondered how much everyone in the room actually understood.  I think that is the key to help everyone get to a level in Spanish so we all understand.  I'm getting there a little at a time, so is Renee. Renee's job is helping cook the meals.  She spends a lot of time with two other ladies from Uruguay that don't speak much English.  It is interesting but Renee is doing well.  The cooks are wonderful.  Next week we trade some old missionaries for some new ones.  That should be fun, especially now that we have two weeks in the country so we are "experienced".

We were able to get into the mission finances last week and start to learn what we do.  It was interesting and something that we both have experience in doing.  The office Elders are really good help.  They also help old people keep their laptop running.  One interesting thing that happened last week is that on Friday all of the mission cell phones went down.  It was traced to the fact that the area office did not pay the bill.  Many missionaries were calling the office blaming the office.  I told the missionaries that they should forward the complaints to me, as they are not getting paid enough to take guff from the other missionaries.

Another one of our jobs is to take care of the apartments.  On the second day in country we visited our first apartment.  It was a site!  I think one of the problems is that the Elder was bragging that their apartment was one of the good ones.  That scared me.  Since then we have visited several apartments and the are quite clean and tidy.  The living conditions are not the best and they really work at it.  Saturday we drove to Sarandi Grande, which is about 2 hours north of Monte Video to help some sisters with cockroaches (cuarachas).  We bought some Raid and off we went.  They did not know we were coming because of the phone problem.  We had to stop and ask someone for directions to the apartment.  The store owner was very good to help.  When we got there, they were excited to see us.  We sprayed for bugs, fixed the leaky faucet in the shower, leveled the bed, put screen on one of the doors and put calking around the pipes coming in.  They were really appreciative and it made us feel good also.  I think keeping the missionaries taken care of will be a very important part of our mission. 

 On the way home we stopped to eat at Burger King.  Uruguay doesn't like to use salt and it tastes like it.  I went to our ward today for the first time and we met the Bishop.  He is making a list for his ward and we expect to get some of the ones that need a little visit.  We are really looking forward to visiting people.  We also plan to go to Castillos again this coming weekend to help in the small branch there.  It's going to be fun.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

First Week in Uruguay

Things have gone by so fast we don't know where to begin.  First, after a 22+ hour flight and no sleep we arrived in Montevideo and the first thing we noticed is that everyone here speaks Spanish!  Now what?  We are learning little by little.  Elder and Sister Anderson have been our guides and have shown us around.  We have been to two Zone Conferences and spent some time in the office with the finances.  It is amazing how complicated and yet how simple the mission finances work.  I am sure we are going to enjoy it.

Uruguay is famous for their fire works display on Christmas and New Year's eve.  Were able to go up on the roof the other night and see it. The whole town was shooting them off. I would describe it as if everyone could have the fireworks that Dave Tanner wished he had.  It was quite a show.  Thousands of rounds.  I wish we could have taken decent pictures.

We visited one of the mission apartments the other day.  They were proud of how clean it was.  I told them that it was about 50% of what I expect as clean and 0% of what Renee expects.  I hope we can teach the missionaries that if they are clean that they will be better tools for the work.  It looks like the food here is going to be pretty close to the same as in the US.  First, I brought my own cook and second they have markets with the same things that we are used to.  We haven't seen any mountains move yet or other miracles.  But, I did lose my i-Pad on  the way down so we are hoping that it does show up.  The mission President has talked to us about some projects that he wants us to work on so we are excited to get going and get in the game.