Monday, February 22, 2016

Lots of Leaky Faucets

We have had a very eventful week.  One of our responsibilities is to take care of the houses where the missionaries live.  We need to open new ones, close old ones and maintain the ones we have.  There are about 80 of them so we have plenty to do.  Last Monday we traveled to Durazno to close a house.  It was located in a small village named Carmen.  The Elders moved out about 3 months ago so we were afraid it would be really a mess from mold.  The Zoned Leaders, Elder Gomez and Elder Ford volunteered to help us.  What angels!  We left Montevideo at 6:30 and got to the house at 11:00.  It wasn’t as bad as we had feared.  More importantly, the Elders are great workhorses.  They jumped into action and after two hours we had it cleaned up and ready to move out.  It just amazes me how good the missionaries are.  They are so kind, helpful and have such great attitudes and smiles.  They were smiling all the time they were cleaning up.  They truly are the “Army of Helaman”.

After we cleaned up the mess we took the Elders to lunch.  They suggested a local grill in the middle of town called “El Gaucho”.   We all had a “Bauru”.  This is a great big hamburger (12” in diameter) with ham, cheese and various vegetables and sauces.  It was great.  Renee and I could only eat half of ours but the Elders devoured all of theirs.  We had such a good time that we are looking for excuses to go back and visit.  We ended up getting home a little after 9:00 P.M.  We were tired.

Tuesday and Wednesday we did office work and prepared water and power bills to get paid.  That is an interesting process and we are starting to get the hang of it.  On Thursday we had to do repairs.  We started in Paso Carrasco with a bathroom faucet.  I took a new one in case we could not get the old one to work.  But, Elder Neal from Malad helped me and we got it done.  Come to find out, there was no rubber washer in the tap.  I wonder why it didn’t shut off?

While we were doing that we got a call that another bathroom faucet would not turn off.  We told them that they would have to wait their turn.  Off we went to the next house in “Ferro Carril” to inspect a metal gate that was coming off its hinges.  While we were there we put screen on the windows to protect them from mosquitoes.  We also bought a new hose for the shower wand.  From there we went to the Zone Leaders house to inspect the roof that leaks when it rains.  I told them to just pray that it doesn’t rain.  They weren’t really sold on that idea.  We also put screen on their windows.

Then it was down the road to the house in La Paz where four sisters live to put screen on their window.  They already had it on the main window so we put some on the bathroom and also inspected the toilet that doesn’t function as it should.  Our next stop was to Santa Lucia where we traded washers and put on mosquito screen.  We also had to go to the store and buy a new faucet for the hose that feeds the washer.  We have a picture of the Santa Lucia sign.  This is a beautiful little pueblo and we hope to go back and visit again. 

Now remember the other broken faucet?  It was on the other side of the mission so off we went to help.  It took about an hour and a half to get there.  Once we got there it was an easy fix and I took off the old faucet and put on the new one including new hoses.  It was getting to be about 7:00 P.M. by this time so we headed home.

Friday we took some Senior Missionaries to the doctor and took the finance missionaries down town to get the checks to pay the water and light bills.   Another fun day with missionaries.  Yesterday we had p-day so we cleaned the house, ironed shirts and cut my hair.  One of the finance missionaries, Elder Cuessy is headed back out to the field so Renee made lunch for Elder Cuessy, Elder Xavier that will now be the Senior Companion and Elder Peterson who is the new finance missionary.  We had meatloaf, baked potatoes, beans, homemade rolls and banana cream pie.  I think the Elders liked it.  Renee is getting the hang of cooking in Uruguay and that makes her happy.  It makes me happy too.

We got a new Temple Mission couple named the Jensens.  They got here on Saturday.  We had a little get together with them and the other Temple Missionaries last night.  It was fun.  We are having dinner with the three Temple couples later today and then having ice cream and brownies at the mission home later as the final send off for Elder Cuessy.  This mission stuff is a lot of fun but not a great place to be on a diet.

We are really enjoying our mission.  Every day we have the opportunity to help some really great missionaries.  One really neat thing is that whenever we need help there are a bunch of really good and able young men in white shirts to help.  We feel so blessed.  The language is starting to come for Renee as she is feeling more comfortable talking.  She went to a Relief Society social last night and had a great time.  She was able to communicate info about her and her family and felt pretty good afterward.  We see the hand of the Lord in the work each day as we associate with all of the missionaries and help them with their work.  Our testimonies are strengthened each week as we are able to listen to others successes and challenges.  This really is the work of the Lord.  It makes us so happy to be a part of it.   We love you all and pray for your health and safety.  We know that this is the Church of Jesus Christ. Testify that the Savior lives and loves us.  May the Lord bless you.
Gordon and Renee

Monday, February 15, 2016

Good Old Air Conditioning

We have done a lot of traveling this week.   We traveled to Minas, Piriapolis and Castillos besides several trips around Montevideo.  One of our great trials was the fact that the air conditioner stopped working on the mission car.  I’m saying that the heat and humidity are something that we Idaho kids are not used to.    Without air conditioning we may have to come home.  We were unable to get it fixed because all the mechanics were on vacation for Carnaval.  On Thursday I noticed that the engine was getting pretty hot also.  Then it occurred to me to check the coolant.  Well, after two liters we have a cool engine and cool occupants.  It looks like we are staying.

We have had some really neat experiences this week.  Besides spending each day with some really great missionaries, we have been able to go on discussions.  On Friday we accompanied the Sisters to teach two investigators, Kristina, who is a non member of a less active member husband and her niece, Chirra.  It was taught at a member’s home with three members, the sisters and us.  It was a full house.  They taught about the importance of family.  It went real well.  It was “a little muggy” in the house.  After the discussion we took them home and met the inactive husband.   He is recovering from an accident where he cut off most of his left thumb and part of his hand with a hand grinder.   Seems if it slips and you grab the moving blade with your hand it is really going to hurt.  We had a good visit and plan to return to have them teach Renee how to make Empanadas.  They are going to teach me how to eat empanadas.  This missionary work stuff is really getting fun. 

On Saturday we headed to Castillos.  We had lunch with Narda Molina and her husband.  Narda insists that we have lunch with her when we go to Castillos.  She served Nocchis and Chicken.  We had cantelope and “Dulce de Leche” for dessert.  It was really good.  We are going to learn how to make it.  Narda is a very strong member and one of the keys to this branch.  She can assert herself and lead others.  After lunch we visited the Branch President and his family and three other members.  We were well received and enjoyed our visits.  Another of the strong members on the Branch is Adelis.  She is retired and a strong member of the branch.  She can also lead the branch. 

On Sunday we had better attendance at Church with 18 people.  The Elder’s Quorum President even came and taught the Priesthood lesson.  I have to work hard to understand him but it is good to learn from him.  I volunteered to teach the Sunday School lesson.  It was about how Lehi’s son, Joseph, was named after Joseph who was sold into Egypt and how the one that brought forth the Book of Mormon would be named Joseph also as well as his father.  The members participated real well and I could understand most of what they were saying. 

Just as Sunday School was getting started, two of the sisters got into an argument.  I could not understand exactly what they were saying but I could tell it had to do with me.  It seems that they were upset that I had visited one and not the other.  Come to find out, we did stop by the other sister and she was not home.  I think things got patched up but I hate to be in the middle of a fight.  On another high note, Renee gave the prayer in Spanish in Sunday School.  She did well and the members were very kind to compliment her.  She is on her way to learning. 

Sacrament meeting went well also.  I was asked to speak and gave a talk about Elijah calling down fire from Heaven.  It is one of my favorite stories.  I am starting to feel more comfortable speaking and talking to others.  It is a challenge to understand what is being said.  I understand more from some than from others.  After a day of listening to Spanish I have to admit that I am exhausted.  It takes everything I have to listen.  Renee understands more each day but it is also very taxing on her.  I would like to translate more for her but I have a hard time doing that and still being able to concentrate well enough to get it myself. 

We have had a good week and are ready for another.  We appreciate our friends and family and all they mean to us.  When we talk to people we like to say that we came to Uruguay because we love the Lord and have a strong testimony that He lives and loves us.  We also want them to know that we came because we love the people of Uruguay too.  We are so grateful to be part of this work and help people gain and strengthen their testimonies. 

We love you all
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Another Great Week

Another great week.  We had several assignments and things to do.  First, we help pay the water and light bills for the 80+ apartments.  We build a file with all of the bills attached and then process it so we can get the check to pay the bills,  We pay about half on the 1st and half on the 15th.  Uruguay has an interesting system to pay utilities.  They have stores called "Abitab" all over the city.  People go in to pay the water, light and phone bills.  We take a check for all of the bills and they pay each one with one big check.  It works pretty well.  We just got a phone plan for Renee's i-phone that we will pay each month the same way as everyone else.  The gas bills are easy.  We buy gas for the stoves (all the stoves are propane) in propane tanks just like the ones in the states.  When we run out we call a number and someone delivers it and sets it up for you for about $15 per bottle.  It works pretty slick.

We also changed two water heaters.  I don't know if you can see in the picture but they are electric and hang on the wall.  They hold from 20 to 50 liters, that's 5 to 20 gallons.  We use the same hoses that they use in the states with a lot more goop to stop the leaks.  In the water heater picture, Elder Parmenter is the tall one.  He is Dave Parmenter's nephew.  Small world.  As I state in the caption for the water heater, I wish Jason from Standard Plumbing were here.  He is such an expert.  I hope someone shows him the Blog (that would be you Dave).

Our travels took us to the Durazno and Florida states this week.  Durazno is peach in Spanish.  Funny, we didn't see one peach.  We did see a cool fort and a big pile of logs.  When we left to come home we took the wrong turn and ended up about 25 miles north before we turned around.   It cost us at least and hour.  Reminds me of what John Wayne said, "Life is hard, its even harder if you are stupid." 

This was the last week for our good friends and helpers, the Andersons.  They went home a little early for health reasons.  They were such a good resource.  We hope they get settled and solve  their health concerns.

One thing I wanted to mention this week is something that I have noticed about the members in Uruguay.  They pray with all their hearts.  Sometimes when they are praying I want to open an eye and sneak a peak to see if Heavenly Father is actually here.  It would not surprise me.  Well, actually it would be way more than surprising.  But, the members here have such a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father, that you know that they know who their Father is and that he hears and answers their prayers.  

Each week we have a chance to meet more and more Missionaries and learn about them.  They come from many different backgrounds but all have the same purpose.  There are a lot of missionaries from Peru, Chili, Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia and Brasil.  They have such strength and most of them are Lamanites.  You can tell that the Book of Mormon has spoken directly to them.  I really enjoy seeing the new ones come down and imagine how successful they are going to be.  It is wonderful to see them lead and take care of things in the mission.  It makes us younger and stronger in the Gospel.  We really are grateful for this opportunity.  Every day we have the chance to serve someone.  It makes us feel so good.  Imagine leaving home every day with the opportunity to help someone in a special way and then come home every night to Dulce de Leche.  This is what Heaven is, only we could stand to have the humidity reduced a little.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Weekly Update

This is a picture of Renee after we got home from shopping.  In her right hand is a quart (liter) of milk in a bag.  That's how they sell it.  We buy the "Semidescremada" which is still real creamy.  I really like it but Renee thinks it is too rich.  I think it has something to do with liking things with cream and sugar.  She is also holding eggs that come in flats with plastic over them.  You can buy them as 6 or 15.  I think we are the number one customer for the little "Almacen" shop next to our apartment.  An Almacen is a little store where you can purchase the necessities of life.  We buy all of our eggs, milk, water and bread there.  We buy the other groceries at stores that are a little bigger but still have a good selection.  We have been really happy with the quality and availability of the food.  That coupled with bringing my own cook has made the food really good.  

We have been involved in "Temple Zone Conferences" for the last two weeks and have more in the next two weeks.  Each zone comes in a few times a year to have a zone conference and attend the Temple.  We help bring in the food and clean up.  We also have been going to the Temple with them once a week.  Last week there was four conferences so we were busy.  We also are busy with taking care of houses.  One of the houses has been plagued by attempted break ins.  The owner doesn't want to call the police because he is in trouble with them also.  I wonder if his "friends" are the ones doing the break ins.  Either way, we  are looking for a new house to move the Elders.  This is a complicated process that involves getting approval from SLC.  I still think it will be easier than getting a loan approved.

Our "tour guides" have been Elder and Sister Anderson, another senior couple that teach self sufficiency to members to help them improve their lives.  They have been very helpful in showing us around and helping us get used to where everything is.  They were scheduled to go home the end of April, but last week, Sister Anderson, had some problems with her heart so they are going home this week.  We really hate to see them go.  They are good friends and really know the country.

We have now been in the country a month and are feeling quite comfortable.  We have a GPS that tells us where every apartment and chapel is located along with other things we need so we can get around.  We are also getting to know the missionaries and really enjoy their great Spirits.  The other night we were putting screen on the sister's apartment when they came home for a discussion where the person accepted the challenge to be baptized.  They were real excited.  We also have some other meetings scheduled with the missionaries that we are looking forward to.

One of the things we are looking forward to is the visit from Elder Bednar the end of February.  We were in the middle of cleaning up some junk in the Mission Office last week when the Area President, Elder Gonzales, showed up as the head of the planning team for his visit.  I guess we will have to repent of the mess and realize that the worst they can do to us is send us home.  Anyway, it will be cleaned up when Elder Bednar gets here.

Every week we come to know a little bit more that this is the work of the Savior.  We see it in everything we see and do.  It is so wonderful to be on a Mission and feel His Spirit every day.  We know it is true and love to share it with all we meet.

We love you all and appreciate the support you give.  Thank you so much.

Love Elder and Sister Wankier

p.s.  We all knew it was only a matter of time until I had my first Pepsi.  This is my first one since I started the mission.  It was pretty good but I doubt I'll have them too often .