Sunday, May 29, 2016

Okay, So It’s Not Always Paradise

It has been pretty good weather the last couple of weeks as we have not had much storm, but today it is rainy and cold.  We are staying inside and with the help of our heaters, we can stay warm.  We have a great deal of respect for the missionaries strength as  they go out in weather like this.

Last Monday we had Elder Torres and Elder Childs over for lunch.  Elder Torres is going home next week and we wanted to have him over for dinner before he goes.  Elder Childs is actually in our “group” and will go home when we do.  Elder Torres is from Ecuador.  We have become real good friends.  We kid that instead of going home, he is just going to stay with us.  He is a tremendous missionary and a great friend.  We will really miss him.  Based on how much they ate, I would say that they enjoyed it.  I mean, three plates full indicates a preference, right?

Wednesday was a busy day as we went to “Treinte y Tres”  (33) to move the Sisters into a new house.  I have mentioned this before, that this town is named after thirty-three men that launched an attack as part of the revolution.  To me, 33 also stands for three hours up and three hours back.  It is mostly on 2 lane highway with a lot of slow trucks and other vehicles.  Anyway, when we get there is it always fun.  The missionaries are always enthusiastic and helpful.  It didn’t take us long to move and get them settled.  We did make a couple of trips to the store to purchase the things that they still needed.
There was one neat thing that happened.  While we were moving, a couple of the Elders had to leave for an appointment for a “charla”.  We saw them as they returned and they were all excited.  The person they met with had several questions and issues.  They were able to answer her questions and understand the Gospel better.  This was really positive for them and in turn for us.

Saturday night we put on our first “Capilla Abierta”(chapel open house).  It was held in the Las Piedras Ward which is about an hour away from our apartment.  The members were very enthusiastic at the meeting we held to discuss the Capilla Abierta, so we were pretty optimistic.  The missionaries met us early to put up the posters and get everything ready.  I have included a picture of the Christus which was taken in the visitor center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.  The tour starts in the Chapel with this picture with the missionaries playing a CD of the words of Christ when he visited America in the Book of Mormon.  From there they take the people to various places around the meeting house to explain the other parts of the Gospel.

It went very well with about 50 people coming including 10 people that are not members of the Church.  We expect to have some good discussions with them in the coming weeks.  Doing the Capilla Abierta is one of our duties and we expect to do more in the coming months.  We would like to show more pictures of the people but are trying to be careful of what we put on this blog.

We continue to take care of the business end of the mission as we help maintain the housing for the missionaries.  In the last week we have had one clogged drain, two bathrooms that needed new fixtures, a broken gate and a house that needs to be painted.  That is a typical week.

We love serving in the mission.  It is not easy and we have challenges every day.  But, the Lord helps us overcome them and help the missionaries be successful.  We love the Lord and consider it a privilege to serve Him.  We love each of you and appreciate your support.

Gordon and Renee

Monday, May 23, 2016

Another fun week at the office

The pictures that are included may look like all we do is eat, but actually we do get a little work in.  Monday was our quarterly visit to inspect houses in the Maldonado Zone.  When we called the Zone Leaders to confirm they said they were planning to do an” asado” for us so we had to oblige.  After doing the house inspections and changing a lock on one of the houses we were off for the asado.  Elder Anderson and Ontiverous did the cooking and the rest of us did the eating.  They bought 10 kilos (22 lbs.) of meat.  Asado meat is kind of different.  It is mostly waste meat from the backbone of a pig or cow.  It is delicious.  We had a great time with the missionaries.  It is great to hear about the people that they are teaching.  They are so fired up.  I had to include the picture of the four coats hung up on the door.  It has been cold so they have had to bundle up.  I love all of the hard work that these coats represent.  Our trip to Maldonado included a visit to Rocha to drop off some food to the missionaries up there.  It was a full day.

We helped the missionaries in the office for part of the week but we did get a chance to get in on some real missionary action.  On Wednesday night we were invited to go with Elder Peterson and Rodrigez to teach.  We started at Hermana Nilda’s house.  She is a relatively new member that fed the missionaries dinner.  She has a strong testimony and is so supportive.  She served us empanadas and a torta.  After our meeting with her we went to visit Oscar.  Oscar is from Peru and has some members of his family that are members.  The missionaries have been challenging him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon.  As they talked to him about what he has been reading, he said that he woke up in the middle of the night the other night and decided to do some reading.  After reading the Book of Mormon he prayed to Heavenly Father.  He stated that he had a real warm feeling inside and feels real good about his decision to join the Church.  We reviewed Moroni 10:3-5 with him and he agreed that had received and answer to his prayer that the Book of Mormon is true.  What a neat guy.
 On Thursday night we went to see Humberto and Cristina again.  We had a great visit as they told us about their vacation to the north of Uruguay.  Cristina made a special cake or torta where you make a crust and smear dulce de leche all over it and then bake it.  It was delicious.  We had a chance to visit with Cristina about her belief in God and Jesus Christ.  We had another wonderful evening.

We were planning to visit them on Friday night but Humberto told us we had to change it because there was an Elder’s Quorum activity on Friday.  I think us gringos could learn a little bit about how this party was organized and how it was carried out.  We heard through the grape vine that they were going to cook hamburgers starting at 7:00 P.M.  We arrived at 7:00 P.M. to an empty Church except for the office elders.  About 7:30 P.M. we saw some hamburger buns and stuff show up.  About 8:00 P.M. some of the members started to come in.  About 8:30 P.M. they started to fire up the grill and at 9:30 P.M. we started to eat.  During all of this, the men of all ages played soccer, ping pong, foosball and other activities in the gym.  No one seemed to mind about how things were planned and carried out.  Everyone had a great time.  It was especially good because Oscar, who we visited on Wednesday came and got to meet a lot of good members in the ward and had a great time.  The missionaries had another investigator come also and he had a good time.  I sometimes wonder if we would all be more happy if we just slowed down a little and enjoyed life a little more.  By the way, I can just see my family members rolling their eyes at this comment coming from me.

Our day was filled with a multi-zone conference on Friday.  We had three zones together with about 60 missionaries.  President and Sister Cook delivered wonderful messages and the missionaries were inspired.  The highlight of the conference was the video.  The Assistants asked all of the zones to make a video so they could compile them for President and Sister Cook for their last zone conferences.  It will be sad to see them go the end of June.  The video was a hit and the feelings that the missionaries have for the Cooks is incredible.

Saturday, we were off to Castillos.  This was one of the neatest experiences of our mission.  We had trouble deciding when to go.  This week end was District Conference in Rocha so originally we decided it would be better to go another week so we could attend to the Branch meetings.  But this was the only week we could do it.  As last week we had the Capilla Abierta presentation at Las Piedras and next week we have to do the Capilla Abierta.  We had our usual lunch visit with Hermana Narda.  She told us that she was not going to go to the District Conference.  We invited her and hoped that she would come.  After that we stopped to visit the Branch President.  He had some family issues and was afraid that he was not going to make it either.  At that point we wondered what was going on.

Well Sunday came and both Hermana Narda and the Branch President were able to come.  The conference started off with a primary choir singing "If I listen With my Heart".  What a wonderful experience to see these 15 wonderful little children sing from their heart.  At that moment it struck me that I am not in Uruguay just to Preach the Gospel, I am here to help build the Church for these little ones.  The Church in Rocha and Castillos needs to grow so that these beautiful little children have the opportunity to grow up with the influence of the Savior in their lives.  If you don’t know this song you can click the link above to watch it on you tube.  It has a very powerful message.

Next we heard from President Cook.  He spoke about the need to forgive and how important it is that we forgive others.  This is the last address that he will give to the members in Rocha.  What a wonderful message.  The other messages were also very powerful and touched everyone.  After the meeting, Hermana Narda had tears in her eyes.  She felt so good being in Rocha and meeting her friends.  It was then that we realized that we came this week so we could help invite the Castillos members to come to this wonderful conference.  I remember what Elder Bednar told us a couple of months ago.  He said that we should not be sitting waiting for the Spirit to strike us and tell us what to do.  If we feel that we should do something, then we should do it.

We continue to love serving as our testimonies are strengthened each day.  We love the missionaries and the people of Uruguay.  Most of all we love the Lord and know that he is our Savior.  What a wonderful blessing to be able to serve Him.  We love you all.

Gordon and Renee

Sunday, May 15, 2016

You Can’t Make this Stuff Up

May 15, 2016

There are two missions in Uruguay, our mission and the West mission.  We both have 10 passenger Hyundai vans that are operated primarily by the office Elders.  The other mission van got a flat tire during the Easter Holiday week which was also change week for them.  All of the tire stores were closed for the Easter Holiday.  As they did not have a spare, they asked if they could use our spare.  When they, arrived, for some reason that I am not sure of, they put our spare on our van and our good tire on their van.  This was a joint effort of the office elders from both missions.  We understood that we would get the tire back as soon as the tire stores opened the next week.   Well Easter was the last week of March. 

After several weeks we started asking about our tire, we even sent them a bill.  No answer.  Finally a couple of weeks ago the Elders from the other mission showed up to get their old wheel to put on a new tire.  At that time I told them that I was going to hold one of the missionaries, Elder Jara, in our office for collateral until we got our tire back.  That would have been a good idea, as they took another two weeks to get our tire back.  Finally we got our tire back.  We have had it for several days and have not put the good tire back on yet.   Oh well, maybe this week.

This past week was change week and had it usual wrinkles.  It started on Tuesday with the Mission President going to the airport to pick up missionaries for a 4:30 A. M. flight.  The plane did not actually get in until 8:30 A. M.  Needless to say, the Mission President was tired.  Most everything else went about as planned and we busied ourselves with feeding and busing missionaries for the week.  We really appreciate all that the Mission President and his wife do.  They have a big job.

One of our responsibilities is to sponsor Chapel Open Houses.  They call them a “Capilla Abierta”.  We have been slow to get them going as we have had so many other things to get going.  This is a formal program of the church.  We go to a ward and give a presentation during Sunday School about the program and then come back in two weeks to do it on a Saturday night.  Our first Sunday program was today in the Las Piedras Ward which is about an hour from our apartment.  We are supposed to do a slide show that tells a little bit about our family and then discuss what we do on the Capilla Abierta.  Renee started first and told about our family including pictures of Idaho and our family.  She did it in Spanish and did a real good job.  I then took my turn and explained the process to set up the posters etc.  It went really well.  The members of the Ward were so friendly and helpful.  We could feel their excitement and enthusiasm.  We expect a real good program in two weeks.  It is so wonderful to have the opportunity to bear our testimonies of the Savior and what we know to be true.  When we do it we feel the love of the Savior and the love of the people.  You will have to stay tuned for how it goes in two weeks.

The weather continues to be pretty chilly.  The temperature is in the low 50’s and the wind is blowing.  It has also been raining most of the day.  We really have a lot of respect for the missionaries that are out in this tough weather.  They are so strong and are so committed.  We love you all and are so grateful for all of the support. 

We send our love from Uruguay, 
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Did I Mention That We Spend a Lot of Time with Missionaries...

We started out the week with apartment inspections in the Norte and Las Piedras Zones. These zones are fairly close so we were able to see about 10 places before it got too late. These are special days for us as we are able to associate with the missionaries and see how they are really doing.  For the most part their houses are clean and tidy.  They could be better but they certainly can be worse.    One of the highlights of the visits was the pictures of the rats that one of the apartments has that they had taken from outside their house. Don’t worry, they have not been inside the houses.  I wish I had time to tell you about each of the companionships.  They are so enthusiastic and anxious to help us and also the people in Uruguay. 

On Tuesday the Mission President asked me to speak to the Zone Leader Conference about finding people to teach.  This was really scary because these are the 34 leaders of this mission.  Each of these missionaries has a lot of experience in the street and if anyone can talk about finding people to teach it is them.  I started my talk with my experience about steelehead fishing.  For those that don’t know, you can fish all day and be lucky to catch even one fish.  I told them that the reason that you work so hard is because you never know when one day will be “the day”.  I compared this to missionary work, that even though we prepare and study and practice we don’t find someone every day.  That is because this work is difficult and just like catching a big fish it is also very rewarding.  Well I kind of got an idea of how my talk went when I received a text from one of the Zone Leaders the next morning that said, “Goin’ fishing!”

The next day I was called by the Norte Zone to talk at their Zone Conference.  I really enjoyed this.   After the meeting the Elders all wanted to talk about fishing.  It seems that I am not the only one that likes to do this.  My favorite part of this meeting was when the Zone Leader, Elder Fernandez, asked Renee to speak about conversion experiences also.  She spoke about her friend, Patsy.  Her Spanish is still getting there buy she was able to communicate how she felt.  The missionaries were very kind.

Now to explain the pictures.  The first one of the Montevideo sign is a classic.  I don’t think any blog of Uruguay would be complete without it.  Elder Xavier leaves on changes this week and we are very sad.  We will really miss him. The Montevideo sign is on the way to the bank so it is real easy to stop and take these shots.  We have one of the Assistants, Elder Cannon leaving on this change and Elder Xavier, one of the financial secretaries leaving.  With this changeover we had lunch with the Elders at the mission home and dinner at out house.  Between the hamburgers and chips at the mission home and the sloppy joes and potato salad at our house I am pretty full with beef for awhile.  I just can’t explain what neat experiences this is for us.  The missionaries are so loving and helpful. 

You will notice that there are several missionaries with a sign like a pistol.  This is really a sign for a smile.   The Uruguayans do this whenever they want to show that they are happy.  As you see a lot of signs like this in the pictures, you can tell that it was a happy week.

To finish off the week, we had mother’s day dinner at the mission home.  The men cooked the meal.  It was delicious.  My steak was excellent and all the stuff that went with it just made it better.  So now after hamburgers, sloppy joes and steak, I won’t need to have beef for about three years. My contribution was “Pear Pie”.  I even helped make it.  Not to the point that anyone would trust me to make it but, I did help, a little.

To finish off a great week, the missionaries showed up at our apartment to sing “Mother I Love you” to Renee.  When they asked me I told them that they would make her cry.  I was right.  She really loved it.  As they can’t give her a hug, I had to do it for them.  Hey, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

We love you all and hope you have a great week. 
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, May 1, 2016

This Country Is For the Birds

If you are going to follow the blog of a farm boy, it just makes sense that sometimes we are going to talk about farming.  As we passed through San Bautista we noticed a lot of chicken coops.  This is obviously where they grow a lot of the eggs and fryers for the country.  We could see that the facilities are modern and efficient.  I have to admit that the chicken statues are among my favorite attractions.  But, then again, I live in a town in Idaho where they have a giant potato on main street.  I have to admit that these are some of my favorite pictures.

We took the pictures on one of our trips through San Ramon.  We took this route on Tuesday on our way to Sarandi del Yi.  We have Sister Missionaries there that need to change houses.  It was quite a trip.  The Sisters there are very positive and happy.  The ward is very cooperative to help us with the sister’s needs.  This is really good as they are a long ways away from Montevideo.  The picture of the plaza is as good as any plaza in Uruguay.  We both love the picture of the three horse drawn wagon that was taken just outside Sarandi del Yi.  This guy waived to us and seemed very friendly.  We love the simple life that the country people, (campesinos) live.  Sarande del Yi is named thus because it is on the banks of the river Yi.  Sorry I can’t tell you how to pronounce it in English.  It’s like “ya” in Spanish only with an “e” sound. 

On the way home we stopped by this cool castle.  It appears that it was a Jesuit Monastery or something about 150 years ago.  Now, I think it is a big ranch and it looked like a family lives there.  Pretty cool.  I especially like the rows of palm trees out in the middle of nowhere.

We have had a big week of travel.  On Tuesday we did the Sarandi del Yi trip.  This is about three and a half hours each way.  It was a big day but oh so beautiful as the countryside is very green from the rain.  On Thursday we had to move some furniture.  We started in Las Piedras which is about an hour north of Montevideo where we picked up beds, tables, chairs etc. from a house that we just vacated in the town of 18 de Mayo.  From there we drove about thirty minutes east to Los Ceibos to store the furniture.  We picked up a closet there and took it to Sarandi Grande which is about two and a half hours north west from Los Ceibos.  We made pretty good time and got home before dark.

Saturday we tried to close the house in El Pinar.  The law is in favor of the landlord so in order to give the keys back you need to fix up everything that they require.  This included painting the house inside and out, fixing locks, walls and gates.  It is quite costly.  Thankfully we have people that can do it for us.

We learned two good things from the missionaries this week.  First, we learned leadership from the Zone Leaders in Este, Elder Brumble and Vallecillos.  The zone set a goal to make 700 contacts in a week.  This is a very lofty goal.  To teach the missionaries the zone leaders took the lead in contacts.  I am not sure how many they ended up with but I am pretty sure it was over 700.  To show leadership, Elder Brumble and Vallecillos, jumped on a bus with over forty people with pamphlets in hand.  They asked permission to speak to the people on the bus.  The driver turned down the radio while Elder Brumble gave some information about the Plan of Salvation and bore his testimony.  Meanwhile, Elder Vallecillos passed out “Plan of Salvation” pamphlets to all the people on the bus.  I am impressed with what this does for the spirit of a zone.  I am proud of the Elders. 

Second, we learned about gratitude.  The weather has turned off quite cold.  It is only in the 50’s but with the humidity it is quite cold.   Plus the temperature is the same inside the house as it is outside the house.  We have been wearing sweaters and coats for a couple of weeks now.  Today was a little warmer but it looks like we are going to have weather in the 50’s for awhile.  So in the middle of this cold we found out that the propane heater, (estufa), for the companionship in Paso Carasco didn’t work.  I stopped by Friday afternoon after two nights of cold and gave them one that works.  Elder Cary and Anderson looked very grateful.  I didn’t even give them cookies and they were still very grateful.  I have to add that this is one of the things you notice every day and that is that the missionaries are grateful.   They are so sincere and grateful every time we meet them.  It is so wonderful.

We attend the Malvin Ward most of the time.  They have had two baptisms in the last month or so, Victoria and Raquel.  Both of these sisters were able to take names of their ancestors to the Temple on Saturday to have them Baptized for the dead.  They both bore their testimonies today in Church.  They are so grateful and so sincere.  It’s stuff like this that makes our missions so meaningful and wonderful.  We are grateful for the Savior and the wonderful blessings that come into our lives because of his sacrifice for us.  We love the Gospel and each one of you. 
May God bless you all.

Gordon and Renee