Sunday, March 27, 2016

Off to Melo

This week we traveled to Melo to fix houses and get to know the Elders.  Melo is the most distant part of our mission.  We traveled over 900 kilometers in one day on windy two lanes roads with no cruise control.  That’s over 560 miles for you gringos.  We left at 7:00 A. M. and walked in the door at 11:00 P. M.  It was a good day as we saw many missionaries and were able to help them with their housing and listen to the great experiences that they are having.  One of my favorites is about Rio Bronco.  This town is on the border with Brasil and is the farthest area from the Mission Home.  The four Elders pictured have worked hard to help the Sacrament attendance increase from about 20 per week to over 50 per week.  This takes a lot of work.  No wonder their shoes are worn out.  They are so positive and good to work with.   We always feel better when we are with them.  Melo is a wonderful town.  It has a Stake and several buildings.  The missionaries have great attitudes and are so good to work with.

We are in the middle of changing some houses for some of the Elders.  This is quite the process as we have to complete new contracts and finish the old ones.  We do this through the Churches attorney, President Eduardo Viera.  He is a Stake President in one of the local Stakes.  He is very helpful and is good to help me understand the Spanish that I need.  Business Spanish is quite a bit different from Church Spanish.  We did have a good experience in changing the house this week.  The Real Estate agent is a widow named Diana.  We got to know her quite well and shared family photos.  She was quite impressed with the picture of our family from the funeral of Renee’s dad.  This gave us a chance to talk about families.  She lost her husband about 12 years ago.  We were able to bear testimony of eternal families and gave her a card to invite her to see the Easter Video. 

Inserted by blog administrator as example of picture from Grandpa Matheson's funeral
On Friday we helped with Oro Conference.  This is for the missionaries that have been out for one transfer.  The Mission President holds a meeting to help review what they should be learning.  It is a good chance for them to learn from each other.  Yesterday we had the chance to listen to Women’s Conference that starts at 9:00 P. M. our time.  Next week we get to listen to General Conference over the internet.  We are looking forward to it.  Today is Easter and we had dinner at the Mission Home with the Mission President and his wife and three other Temple Missionary couples.  We ended the day with an ice cream social to say fair well to the missionaries that are leaving the office.  It was a full day and enjoyable day. 

We are so grateful for Easter and what it represents.  I can’t imagine what our lives would be if we did not know that the Savior suffered in Gethsemane and died on the cross for our sins and to make it possible for us to be forgiven and return to live with our Heavenly Father.  I cannot comprehend the wonderful blessing of the resurrection.  Because of the sacrifice and resurrection of the Savior, all of us will be resurrected and have the opportunity to return to live with our Heavenly Father in Heaven with our families.  We know that this is true.

Thank you for all of your love and support.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Paso de los Torros

Another busy week.  We started Monday by going to Florida and Durazno to do mosquito screens and visit houses.  It was a long day but good to rub shoulders with the missionaries.  We also changed a tap and did some other minor repairs.  One of the highlights of our day was the visit to Paso de los Torros.  This is the town in the Durazno province that is the farthest from the mission home.  This is a large town that has a good ward established.  The Elders there are really ready to go.  Paso de Los Torros is right next to the Bonetti dam.  I wanted to go take a look.  It turned out that the Elders were planning to go visit it that day also.  We had a good trip and took a few pictures.  If you look on the map it backs up a lot of water.  It has a 180 mega watt capacity.  It is not real tall because they really don’t have big mountains in Uruguay to build it around.  That being said it was quite impressive.  We also took a picture of the Torro statue.  It is quite cool also.  Just as we went to bed we got a text that one of the missionaries shower faucet did not work.  On Tuesday morning we fixed it pretty quick.

We spent part of the rest of the week helping in the office and moving missionaries around.  One of the Sisters had some serious health problems and had to go home.  We helped move Sisters around to complete the transfers and also took a Sister to the Dentist.  Seems like we spend a lot of time driving.  It is so good to spend time with the Elders and Sisters.  They are so positive and happy.  They are real good to share some of their experiences with us.  It is amazing to see how the Lord helps the work along and helps people to find the truth. 

On Friday we helped bring a Sister to the chapel for her interview to be Baptized.  She was excited to come.  On the way we passed our friend, Humberto, out for a walk.  We visited for a minute and told him we would be by to visit.  We showed up about an hour later and they have made more treats for us.  We had a real neat visit.  It is amazing how we have come to love each other and how close we feel.  We have included some pictures of the birthday party that we had the other night.  The cake looks really good but actually tasted even better.  We are going to invite them over to our house in the next week or so.

Saturday and Sunday we spent in Castillos.  We had lunch again with Hermana Narda and her husband.  They cooked chicken and chorizos on the barbeque (asado).  Once again it was really good.  She told us that the District President had been to visit and told the members that the Church had some property that they would like to use to build a Chapel.  They have had it for several years and the branch has not grown to justify it.  They were told that they have one more year to grow the branch or the property could be sold.  We spent quite a bit of time talking about how we all needed to work to grow the branch.  In the afternoon we drove out to see the Elder’s Quorum President, Juan and his wife, Liliana.  We spent time talking about how we all need to do our part to help the branch grow so they can get a new chapel.  It was a real good visit.  I really love these people and what they bring to the branch.  I feel certain that they were sent here by the Savior to help because they have a lot of experience.

They live in a little hamlet next to the ocean called Esmeralda.  They retired and moved here from Montevideo.  They bought a lot with a small house on it and are building another one just like it so their kids have a place to stay.  It is really a cute house.  It is about 12 feet by 20 feet.  On the ground floor they have the kitchen, dining room and bathroom and then have their bedroom in the upstairs.  It was really neat and everything that you could ever need.  You could tell that they are happy and pleased with what they have.  This is a good lesson for us.  It is true that happiness is being satisfied with what you have. 

Probably the highlight of the week for me is that Renee was asked to say several prayers in Spanish.  She did a great job and the people were very supportive.  She was also asked to read a few scriptures in the Sunday School lesson.  Her Spanish still needs a little work but she is growing in knowledge each day.  We are grateful for your prayers.

Every day we wake up to a new adventure.  We have several lined up for next week.  We can hardly wait.  We get home every night completely exhausted but happy and content with what we have been able to do.  Thanks to all for your love and support.  We really do feel it and appreciate what you all do for us.  We are grateful to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives and to have the opportunity to serve.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

On the Road Again

Monday started with us driving about 120 kilometers (75 miles each way) to Maldonado to clean a vacated apartment and put screen on windows.  With the help of 16 missionaries, it took longer to eat Sister Wankier’s cinnamon buns than it took to clean the apartment.  That’s when Elder Cuessy made fun of my driving as he drove in the mission home and so he had the right to point out how bad my parking was.  Oh well.  From there we took a short trip to the beach at Punta del Este.  This is a huge vacation spot where tourists from all over South America come during the summer.  We could sure see why.  From there we stopped in Piriapolis to put screen on the Elder’s apartment there.  You can see why we had to take another picture.

On Tuesday, we drove about 300 kilometers (about 200 miles each way) to Treinte Y Tres.  This is a real neat town.  We delivered food to some of the Elders and did some more mosquito screen.  We got home about 11:00 P. M.

Wednesday and Thursday was spent in the office where we helped pay the bills.  It is amazing how much needs to be done to keep a mission going.  Wednesday night we were invited to a Birthday Party for Humberto’s wife Cristina, who turned either 18 or 81, we could not be sure.  We had a real neat time talking to his family including two of her daughters.  The birthday cake was one of the best I have ever eaten.  To make sure, I ate two pieces.  We hope to send you some pictures of our friends soon.  They make us feel so welcome and we enjoy them so much. 

Friday was a real neat day.  We needed to drive to Rocha to close a house.  It was a complicated transaction and took most of the afternoon.  Elder Olivier and Elder Bauer helped us a lot.  After we got it closed, they showed us to one of the best little bakeries in Uruguay.  We took advantage and bought empanadas, sandwiches and biscochos.  Biscochos is a Uruguayo word for “real good baked goods”.  I have mentioned it before but need to mention it again, spending time with the missionaries is a real special event for us.  They are literally Helaman’s Army fighting to bring truth to the world.  They are on the street every day, rain or shine, taking the good with the bad.  Elder Olivier and Elder Bauer are some of the best.  They have such great leadership ability to go along with their great attitudes and spirits.  We love being around them.

The highlight of my week was our food delivery to Castillos.  We were in a hurry as we had other things to do but had a chance to visit with Elder Montiel and Elder Chavez for a bit.  When we fasted at the beginning of the month we made a special point to fast and ask Heavenly Father to help the Castillos Elders to find some good people to teach.  We were more than excited to find out that they have found four different people that are interested in the lessons this week and that they are progressing.  We know that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers.  To go along with that we asked one of the Sisters who is going home what she had learned from her mission.  After some thought she told us that she had learned that Heavenly Father keeps his promises.  She then related how, early in her mission, they promised a man that if he would study and come to Church that he would be blessed with more work.  We he did and his business changed overnight.  What an answer to prayer and to the promises made by the Lord’s servants.

The weekend has been taken up by Stake Conference.  We sang in the choir.  It was a lot of fun but challenging to sing in Spanish.  We are just hitting our three month mark and are really getting into the swing of things.  The weather has cooled a little and we are getting to know our way around and our place in the mission.  We love you all and appreciate your love and support.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Things are Heating Up in Uruguay

Things are heating up in Uruguay.  We included a picture of the downtown area in Montevideo.  We live about ten miles from the center of town.  It is typical to see big trees lining the streets.  What is unusual is the empty streets. We shot this late on a Saturday so there wasn’t much traffic.  

We also included a shot of Renee’s dinner in La Paloma.  There were several types of fish that were quite good, but neither of us had the courage to try to baby octopus.  We told some of the native elders that we had been served octopus and they seemed a little disappointed that they were not offered the chance to eat them.  That being said, we are still not going to try them.

We have had a some real neat experiences this past week.  We added another chapter or two with Humberto and Christina.  We stopped off to visit them Thursday night.  They were ready for us as they had a “Peonono con Dulce”ready. This is basically a jelly roll with blueberry jam and dulce de leche inside.  It was very delicious.  In fact, I think this missionary stuff is really going to my waistline. 

Well, when they served the dessert, they wanted to have a prayer and asked Renee to say it.  She did a great job even though it scared her pretty bad.  The family was very appreciative and you could feel the love that they have for us.  After another good discussion about their family and also about what crops they grow in Uruguay we got ready to leave.  They wanted to say another prayer and Humberto said, “well, I guess it’s about time that I said the prayer.”  He did a wonderful job and the love that we felt for them and from them was really strong.  Afterward, he thanked us again and again said, “mi casa es su casa”.  I told him that I really do feel that we are brothers.  What a wonderful night. 

So, we get to Church today and he is there.  What a neat surprise.  He participated in all of the meetings.  In the Gospel Essentials class, we discussed the role of Joseph Smith in the Restoration.  We had a few members including Humberto and three people that were being taught by the Elders and Sisters.  They were amazing as the visitors essentially taught the lesson.  We really enjoyed how they taught each other and bore testimonies of modern day Prophets.  I really liked that one of the new visitors stated that having Prophets and Apostles on the earth just made sense and seemed so logical.  To that Humberto bore his Testimony that it was true.  Some of you may think that I came to Uruguay just to eat Dulce de Leche again.  Even though that is true, getting in on experiences like this is even more of a reason to come.  We have been invited to come over Wednesday night for Christina’s birthday.  We are going to be bringing a treat.  We can’t wait.  In the meantime we will be visiting apartments and helping the missionaries do their job.

We are so happy to be here.  Serving others really makes our lives better.  Our testimonies are growing stronger every day as is our love of Uruguay and its people.  We know that the work we are doing is God’s work.  We know that we are helping the kingdom of Jesus Christ on the earth.  We are so grateful to be here.
We love you all.
Gordon and Renee

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Change Week

We are late getting the Blog posted this week as we were in Castillos and Chuy, Saturday – Monday.  Last week was change week.   That is when the new missionaries come in and the old ones go home.  It is a very busy week.  We started out Tuesday morning by meeting the plane with the new missionaries at 7:30 A.M.  We put the bags into the trailer and off we went to the mission home.  The new missionaries are fed and given some training.  In the afternoon, they are paired up with the missionaries and go tracking.  I have a real neat story.  Sister Townley, one of the missionaries going home took a new sister to visit a prospective member in her area.  They taught a lesson and gave her the baptismal challenge and the prospective member accepted.  Is that a cool story or what to give a baptismal challenge on your last day and first day in the field.  Sister Townley is one of the best.  We went on several discussions with her.  She has a wonderful spirit and everyone knows that she knows that this work is true. 

On Wednesday morning we got up early and to help feed the new missionaries.  The new missionaries are then paired up with their companions and off they go.  I like this time in the field.  I reminds me of a cattle drive when the mothers are paired up with their calves.  There is a lot of milling around and bawling. 

Wednesday at noon we headed to the bus station to pick up the old missionaries coming in from the field.  We threw their bags in the trailer and headed to the mission home.  That evening we helped serve a dinner for them and President and Sister Cook.  We got home at about 9:30 that night.  On Thursday we took two different trips to the airport.  All in all a pretty busy week. 

These were the assistants until the last change.  Honestly, when they spoke to the missionaries I thought they were the President.  They are great leaders.  Elder Martinez went home last week and Elder Olivera goes home the end of March.  They will be missed.  We got to know Elder Martinez real well.  His mother joined the Church while he has been on his mission. She was the last of his family to join. He is looking forward to being sealed to his family when he returns home. 

I want to say something else about how missionary work can be.  Elder Martinez who is pictured above spent his last change from being an assistant to working in the field.  He and his companion Elder Cary worked real hard and ended up with 5 investigators at Church.  Several of them are getting ready for Baptism.  That is a great way to end a mission.  I really look up to both of these Elders for their hard work. 

Thursday night we were able to do real missionary work.  We were invited to go over to Humberto and Cristina’s house for dinner.  They are about 70 years old.  Humberto was baptized when he was 13 but still does not have the Priesthood.  We started off with a Pionono.  This is a specialty sandwich with lots of real good things.  We then moved to the empanadas.  They were ham and cheese or beef and cheese.  I ate about 10 of them because I could not decide which ones I liked the most.  We finished off with a fruit cocktail style dessert.  It was so good.  Afterward Humberto told us that he was reading the Book of Mormon and wanted to get the Priesthood.  We discussed Section 13 of the Doctrine and Covenants and visited about the importance of the Priesthood.  Humberto is really working on this.  As we left he told me, “mi casa es su casa”, meaning my house is your house.  He also told us that we are welcome anytime.  We could really feel the love that they have for us.  It was wonderful

On Friday we did some work fixing apartments and got ready to listen to Elder Bednar, who came to speak to both missions.  He was wonderful.  He spent a lot of time teaching about listening to the Spirit and following it.  He stated that the Apostles never go anywhere by accident and always go to reach one person at a time.  He emphasized that we as missionaries are the same.  We need to be sensitive to the Spirit and follow it to be an answer to some ones prayer.

On Saturday we headed to Castillos again.  We were able to meet with most of the rest of the members who come to Church.  I am so impressed that most all of them have been to the Temple.  They have great Testimonies and a great understanding of the Gospel.  Their participation in class is some of the best I have heard.  I least I think that is what I understand.  I am still a little sketchy on some of the Spanish. 

A few things that really stand out.  Norma is the Relief Society President.  She has been the President for 15 years.  Saturday, she and another sister cleaned the Church by themselves.  Sister Norma is 77 years old.  So from now on, when I think I am a little picked on, I am going to think of Sister Norma as an example.

We also were able to eat lunch on Saturday at Sister Narda Molinas.  We had Canelones.  They were so good.  I can’t believe how good the food is.  We told her we had to leave early try to see the funeral.  When she found out about the funeral she was so kind to Renee.  When we told her about the big dinner afterward and that our meal with her was our meal after the funeral, she had tears in her eyes just like we did.  It was wonderful.

On Monday we spent the day driving to Chuy to help them with their house.  We got home after 9 P.M.   We had a wonderful week.  Thanks to all of you for your love and support.  We are grateful to have the Gospel in our lives and can see it bless the lives of all the people in Uruguay.
Love Gordon and Renee

The Lord’s Tender Mercies - by Renee

This has been a special week in the mission field.  Last Sunday my father returned to our Father in Heaven after a life of service to his fellow man.  The story from the mission field goes as follows:

A few weeks ago, I could not sleep.  At around midnight I got up and face-timed my brother.   His wife said he was at Dad’s house.  Sensing something was off I asked if Carolyn was with Ivan.  She was, along with Elma and Angela.  All the family was gathered.  I face-timed Angela just as my siblings had gathered to plan our Father’s funeral.  He had taken a turn for the worse and would probably not survive.  Though I was thousands of miles away, I joined with my siblings to plan our father’s final mortal tribute.  A tender mercy!

As Dad’s condition declined over the next week or two, I frequently e-mailed or face-timed my siblings, keeping up to date on His condition.  Because of the blessing of technology, I was able to be with the family for our final good-bye as the life-sustaining oxygen was removed.  I was once again blessed to share with my family in a sweet and special moment.  A tender mercy!

On February 21st, as I returned from church, I once again face-timed my family to check on Dad.  Angela slipped into the hall at church as Sunday School ended.  She told me they were heading in to check on Dad.  She then asked me to wait just a minute.  Ivan had just received the call from the care center that Dad had passed.  I was with my family at a special moment.  Once again, A tender mercy!

The Saturday of Dad’s funeral, February 28th, Gordon and I were in Castillos Uruguay visiting a small branch.  When we finished lunch with Sister Narda, Gordon explained we had to leave to face-time Dad’s funeral.  We thanked Narda for serving us our “family funeral lunch”.  We truly felt her love and support as we shed a few tears and shared a very special moment with her.  Her parents are both gone and she had lost a child.  She truly felt our loss.  A tender mercy!

As we got to the church to use wi-fi, it did not work.  We drove around town trying to find the best signal for the phone’s hot spot.  As we sat in the shade in a high point in Castillos, Uruguay, I joined with my family for the funeral services.  Natalie shared my tribute to my Father with such grace.  I felt an overwhelming sense of unity, peace and love though far away in Uruguay.  A tender mercy!

On Sunday I was blessed once again with an out pouring of love from the Relief Society Sisters of Castillos.  Though our languages are different, their love warmed my heart and reminded me of the great blessing of the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Christ’s love is everywhere, if we choose to recognize and embrace it.  I am so grateful for the opportunity I have of learning and being reminded of the Lord’s tender mercy in far away Uruguay.