Sunday, June 26, 2016

Change Week Again

June 26, 2016
Cooking and eating the "Asado"
Change week started with a bang as we were invited to an “Asada” by our zone, the Este Zone on Monday.  They asked me if I would help cook.  Let’s see fire, smoke, cooking, that sounds like a scout trip so I’m in.  The picture of the Asada or barbecue was taken at the asada stand at the Malvin Church.  These little houses are everywhere and are really handy because the fire is up so you don’t have to lean over to tend it.  While I was building the fire I sure wished I had my good pocket knife and hatchet.  There was plenty of meat and it turned out real well.  The missionaries had fun and so did we.
This is my number one souvenir 
We have stated before that motorcycles are everywhere.  They cut in and out and I believe that they want to be killed.  Well, the law makes them wear florescent orange so we have seen a lot of vests etc.  Since it started to get cold we started to see heavy coats also.  All of my “redneck” friends can already see where this is going because a coat like this would be real good to hunt deer and elk.  I have asked several people where I could buy one but so far we have not been able to find one.  As we stated in other blogs, we have had workers in the office doing some remodeling.  We have become good friends and I hope they come to the Capilla Abierta on Saturday.  The other day I asked them where I could buy one and Alvaro told me he had one for me.  I understood this to mean that he sold them.  Well, it turns out he brought me one that he had used and gave it to me.  It fits and is just what I want.  I tried to pay him for it but he would hear none of it.  Guess what is going home in my suitcase instead of white shirts and slacks?

Tuesday is the day the new missionaries come in.  Typically they arrive from Buenos Aires about 10:30 A.M.  This time we had missionaries coming from the MTCs from Buenos Aires, Sao Pablo, Bogata and Mexico City.  The first ones were scheduled to arrive at 11:30 A.M.  Sister Wankier and I got to the airport about 11:00 A.M.  As we walked up to the front door, two Elders were standing outside looking around. They took us to the rest of the group. Their flight got in early and they were already out looking for us.  As we were the first ones there we pulled them off to the side and took them all for lunch at McDonalds.  Over the next two hours, the other three flights came in and we were able to gather them all up and take them to the mission home.

Things went pretty smooth after that.  On Wednesday Sister Wankier helped cook breakfast for the new missionaries and their trainers.  In the afternoon she helped cook dinner for 22 missionaries going home.  It was quite a big project with so many missionaries.  Thursday was flight day.  We had missionaries leaving from about midnight until the middle of the day. There was a fog that caused delays in the flights.  It turns out the early morning flights were about three hours late and the middle of the day flights were about four hours late.  One of the sisters heading to Paraguay had to wait and go home on Friday because her flight was canceled.

left: Elder Torres   right: Sisters Ramos, Hollander, Anguino and Bagley on the way to the airport 
Changes are getting harder and harder to do as we get to know the missionaries.  This change we saw several real good missionaries go home.  Sister Ramos spent several months in our zone so we got to know her real well.  One of the highlights of our mission is her and the other Sister missionaries singing to us on the way to the airport.  I have it recorded but we are not able to send it so you can see it.  Hopefully we can figure out how to download it so we can share.  Another Elder that we got to know real well was Elder Torres from Ecuador.  It was sad to see them both leave.  We hope we can see them when we get home.

Last picture before boarding
Thursday night we stopped by to see Humberto and Cristina to invite them to the Capilla Abierta.  To “celebrate” our visit, Cristina popped out some Canelones.  Wow, are they good.  I wonder why we don’t stop by there every night.  Humberto is going to help us set up the Capilla Abierta in the Malvin Ward and Cristina is going to make some treats.  We are looking forward to this for next week.
Friday we spent the day working in the office and then went to the ward dance at night.  There wasn’t much dancing but there was a lot of visiting and eating.  That’s my kind of dance.  They did have a couple in the ward do a folk dance that was real neat.  The highlight of the night for us was when the missionaries sang some songs.  After they sang a couple of songs, Elder Peterson played a couple of pieces on the piano.  He is a tremendous pianist.  Just off the cuff he played two really special songs that were incredibly difficult.  It makes us feel so good to see the missionaries do so well.

We never get tired of seeing horse drawn carts in the street
Saturday was a much needed rest day.  Today we traveled to the Obelisco Ward in the Las Piedras Stake to do the presentation for the Capilla Abierta to be held on July 9th.  Sister Wankier did a good job on her presentation and the ward members seemed real enthusiastic.  We had an enjoyable day with them.  As I stated, this was change week.  This next week is “the Change” as we get a new mission president.  It should be quite a week.

We needed to take the missionaries somewhere, but forgot we took out the seats.
Change weeks highlight what missionary work is all about as we see the new ones show up, kinda scared and wondering what to do and contrast this with the missionaries that have been here for 18 months to two years and see how much they have learned and grown.  It is an amazing thing to watch the growth in their testimonies and also see our testimonies strengthened.  We continue to be grateful for this experience and we both enjoyed bearing our testimonies today of the truthfulness of Christ’s mission on this earth and the blessing that we have in our lives because of Him.  We love you all.

Gordon and Renee

Sunday, June 19, 2016

“Por la Balsa” or “No Bridge Over Troubled Water”

June 19, 2016

Aloe Vera grows all over the place down here.
It's in bloom right now.
Last week we wrote the blog from Chuy which is on the border of Brasil and right next to the coast.  We stayed there after our trip to Castillos because it is geographically much closer to Melo and Treinte y Tres.  By doing this we could save a lot of time for the inspections in these zones scheduled for Monday.  We stayed in a nice hotel that kind of reminds you of the hotels in Bolivia from “Butch Cassidy and Sundance the Kid”.  We got a good start and made good time to the town of Cebollati.  When we got to this town the paved road kind of ended and we could not figure out what road to take to go on up to Vergara.  We stopped to ask a guy on the street and he responded, “Por la Balsa?”  I thought that this must be the name of the road so I said yes.  He gave us the directions and off we went.  After about 15 minutes of driving on a dirt road we came to the river.  There was some concrete that was more or less a boat ramp going into the river.  It was then that I realized that “balsa” means barge or ferry.  We needed to cross the river on a ferry but there was none in sight.  We found a sign that said the ferry was not working so we had a little problem.  The little problem turned out to be about a 30 mile back track and an extra several hours to the trip.  Well at least I learned another word.

Our trip through Melo and Treinte Y Tres was long but good.  The Melo Zone even had a Zone activity to cook French Toast for us.  We saw most of the missionaries and had a good time.  We arrived home about 10:00 P.M. having covered about 1,500 kilometers since Saturday morning. That’s about 900 miles.

This is what happens when you leave the ipad unguarded
Tuesday and Wednesday we spent the time in the office helping with the utility bills and arranging to get repairs on the apartments done.  On Wednesday night we helped the office missionaries put on dinner for the mission president and his wife.  It was a real good evening highlighted by the Elders doing the dishes.  At least that was what they were supposed to be doing in that little dance.  To see the dance, click here.

I am standing on the point of Punto del Este
Thursday was another travel day as we had a couple of houses on the coast that we had not inspected.  So off to Piriapolis and La Capuera we went with two of the Temple Couples, the Jensens and Nesses.  The missionaries were in good spirits and ready to tell us about the families that they were teaching. These houses are close to Punta Del Este so we took the missionaries up there to show them around.  There are two bridges that are tourist attractions in this area, the wavy bridge and the circle bridge.  The picture of the wavy bridge is pretty good but our pictures on the circle bridge really don’t show much other than that we were on the bridge.  You can google “circle bridge Uruguay” and it shows a good aerial view.

Circle Bridge on the top, Wavy Bridge on the bottom
Friday we helped in the office and took one of the Elders for his driving test.  We have a rule that when the Elders receive their Uruguay drivers license they also have to pass a safety test with me.  Well, some of the tests are quite interesting.   Some of the Elders have never driven a standard transmission and most of the vehicles here are standard so it can be quite eventful.  This one was quite uneventful and Elder Martinez is going to do well.

We just finished lunch with the Secretaries
On Saturday we did our usual apartment cleaning and had the Secretaries over for lunch.  Elder Jensen is leaving and Elder Neilson is taking his place.  This is a real good chance to say thanks and et to know them better.

Today we did the “Capilla Abierta” (chapel open house) presentation for our ward, the Malvin ward.  Renee gave her presentation again and is gaining more confidence.  We expect a good turnout in two weeks.  This afternoon we had a Father’s day lunch with the Mission President and the Temple Missionaries.  It is kind of sad as President Cook and his wife leave the end of the month and we get a new president.  This week is change week.  We have about 20 missionaries going and coming so we are going to be busy.

We love you all and appreciate all you do for us.
Love
Gordon and Renee

We had a Father's Day lunch with all the Senior couples

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Do You Know The Way To San Jose?


June 12, 2016
Anyone for a "new" van?
Corn Dog Fest with the missionaries
Last week we wrote that we had a lot of real big things that were finished so we expected a little bit slower week this week.  That was a dream.  We started out the week by attending the Corndogfest with the Este Zone.  Sister Wankier put the brakes on my title for this week’s blog of “The Missionaries Are Going To the Dogs.”  Kinda catchy but not real reverent.  Anyway, you can see that the missionaries had a good time.  I only had three.  I guess that is because they tasted real good.  The Zone Leaders, Elder Vallecillos and Elder Mitchell are good corn dog cooks and do a good job uniting their zone.  I couldn’t decide which picture so I put all of them on.

Dinner with the Nortons and Crocketts 
Next we had the visit from the mystery Missionaries.  About two weeks ago I received a call from Sister Norton.  She stated that she and Elder Norton were coming to Montevideo and wondered if we could pick them up.  She was not sure where or when.  After the call we still did not know why.   We did have some limited contact and figured to pick them up at the bus station at Tres Cruzes (three crosses).  As soon as they arrived we had to ask them the three questions, where did you come from, why are you here and where are you going.  On a side note, while we were waiting for them, two other missionaries from our mission showed up.  Seems as though they were on their way to the doctor and needed a ride.   We are going to call that, “listening to the still small voice”.
Anyway, the Norton’s supervise all of the chapel open houses for the South America South area.  This includes, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile.  They came over to give a presentation to the other Uruguay Mission.  They stayed from Monday afternoon until Wednesday morning.  We had a good time with them including dinner both nights.  Tuesday night dinner included the Crocketts.  They do essentially the same thing we do in the other mission.  The Nortons are from Utah Valley and currently live in Spanish Fork.  We discovered that Elder Norton’s Grandpa Norton lived on 5th South and Main in Nephi.  This is a few blocks from where my Grandma and Grandpa Warner lived.  We both remember going to Clark’s Market to buy treats.  His Grandma Francum is from Levan and would have been a little older than Dad.  No doubt that our grandparents knew each other.  I expect we will see each other on Memorial Day each year as we decorate the graves of our families.
Left picture is the bridge going into San Jose, on the right are the dairy students. They said they wanted to be famous
On Wednesday we had the trip to inspect four houses, Canelones, Santa Lucia, San Jose and San Ramon.  To make it even more “Saintly”, the Elder in San Jose is Elder Santa Cruz.  It was a saintly day!  These apartments are off the main route and are very picturesque.  The highlight of the day was meeting with the missionaries.  They are so positive and excited.  Their warm smiles and grateful attitudes make us feel very happy.  I think they really like the treats that Sister Wankier takes for them.  No question that the best part of these trips is being able to hear the missionaries tell us about the people that they are teaching and all the good things that happen to them.  Included in our trip was the stop to take the pictures of the bridge.   The teenagers were right on the road where we stopped and were very fun to talk to.  They are taking a dairy production class at the school and were feeding the calves.  I think I have fed no less than a million calves in my day so I could kind of relate with them.
These guys are remodeling the mission office.  They have been here for two weeks.  They are real good guys, just like the picture shows.
Thursday and Friday were spent helping with the rent and utility payments in the office and supporting the missionaries for the Oro Conference.  The new missionaries are called “Oros” or gold.  They bring them in at the end of the first change to teach them and support them as they get used to being in the mission field.  They are so strong and their companions are some of the best in the mission.  It is so good to spend time with them and watch them grow.  I kid all of the new ones that they could be the one that drives us to the airport when it is our time to go home.

This is where we stay when we go to Castillos.  We love the Proa Sur Hotel.  Too bad the picture isn't better!
Saturday we were off to Castillos again. Normally we take Saturday as preparation day or “P-Day, to iron, clean the house and go shopping for groceries.  So when we go to Castillos, it changes our schedule and we usually don’t get a P-day.  Usually we head to Castillos knowing that we have something to do but don’t know what it is.  This time we inspected all of the Rocha Zone houses too.  They are mostly clean and provide a good launching pad for the missionaries to share the Gospel with the people.  We had our usual visit and lunch with Hermana Narda which included Noochis.  Noochis is a secret word for really good.  They have them at Olive Garden but I like the ones down here a lot more.  Lunch was really good and Hermana Narda shared some real good experiences that she had recently had with less active members of the branch.  We love listening to the faith promoting experiences that she has.  After that we visited the Branch President and two Sisters that have been having some health problems.  We always feel good as we visit those in need and feel the love that they have for the Gospel and for us.  I have said this many times that it doesn’t take much to be appreciated and you surely feel this when you are able to visit.

Sunday we had a pleasant surprise as the District President came to visit.  President Aguilar is a great leader and did a tremendous job teaching the Priesthood/Relief Society Class on living the Gospel by doing the little things.  I was assigned to teach Sunday School.  Then in Sacrament Meeting Renee and I both had to speak.  So Renee gave her first talk in Spanish.  It was scary but the people in Castillos love her so much that you could feel how much they enjoyed it.  We really do love the people and have such a great time when we visit.  Two pretty neat things happened.  First, Sister Oreales has been sick.  We tried to visit her in the hospital the last time we went but could not find her.  Today she came to Church for the first time in a month.  You could tell that she was recovering from her hospital stay.  She bore her testimony about the power of receiving a Priesthood blessing.  She is a wonderful lady and we pray that she will get well.  Second, we stopped to see the Elder’s quorum president after the meeting.  Juan has not been able to come to church because of the some problems in his neighborhood.  We had a real good visit and you could tell that he was grateful that we stopped by.  We are praying that he can get things working in his neighborhood so that he can come to Church.
This is a statue in the Plaza in San Jose de Mayo.  This is on a highway that is the end of the road for our mission.
I put in a picture of the Proa Sur Hotel.  I did this because it is such a wonderful place to stay.   It has been quite cold in Uruguay and we have a hard time keeping our apartment warm and keeping enough hot water for both showers.  Well at the Proa Sur Hotel, it is warm and there is plenty of hot water.  It is at least as good as Little America.  Couple that with a breakfast that includes all the Dulce de Leche that you can eat and we are truly blessed.  Tonight we are staying in Chuy.   The Brasilian border is just out the front door of the hotel.  This Hotel is not quite as nice as the Proa Sur but is still comfortable.  We are going to visit the Treinte Tres and Melo Zones tomorrow.  It will be a full day.

We love the horse and cart action!
This is the beach at Punta Del Diablo.  Even gringos should be able to translate that.  You can never have too many beach pics.
We love serving and spending time with the missionaries.  We love what we do and feel a great deal of satisfaction in serving.  We love you all and are grateful for what you do.
Love Gordon and Renee

Monday, June 6, 2016

Super Bowl Week


June 5, 2016
This is a street scene in Trinidad.  Pretty typical of this time of year.

This past week was one of the biggest weeks of our mission.  We have been working on several things and we completed the last one this week.  First, one Monday, we did apartment inspections in Florida and Durazno.  This is an all day affair but is a lot of fun because we are able to meet with a bunch of missionaries in their apartments.  They are always so fun an appreciative.  We are getting to know most of the missionaries and are able to visit with them about many things.  We are also impressed by how much the missionaries help us.  For example, Elder Silva, in Florida had a list of things he was willing to fix from bathroom problems to locks.  What a great help he is.  Next in Durazno we were able to help the missionaries with a bunch of things including putting in the smoke alarms that have been sent from the US.  Durazno is more spread out so it takes longer to see everyone.  For example, Trinidad is off the main road and takes about 40 minutes each way.  The Sisters there are so wonderful and full of love for the work.  I really like the street scene in Trinidad.  It is so Uruguayo.

This is the Catholic Cathedral in Paso de Los Toros
Durazno includes Paso de Los Torros which is at the end of the road on route 5.  They are not on the way to anywhere.  This ward is real strong and gives the missionaries a lot of help.  The missionaries love working here.  They highlight of the day was our dinner.  Sister Ramos has lived by us for four and a half months.  She was transferred to Durazno for her last change as she goes home in two weeks.  On the way home we went to dinner with her and her companion.  They had to go early as they had charlas for most of the evening.  This is so typical of the missionaries.  They are so good to teach the Gospel.  Well our dinner was real special.  I think I am going to take a video of Sister Ramos’ laugh so I can play it back when she is gone.  It always makes me feel better.

This is on display at the bus station.  It commemorates Uruguay's 250 year anniversary.  It's made with 6 penny nails. I'll bet I could have a great time making this with my grandkids!
Tuesday was a real big day.  We have been working to close a house in the 18 de Mayo area since March.  Several delays, contracts from attorneys and other issues have made it difficult to get done.  Well, Tuesday at noon we finally got it done.  Woohoo!  We were more than happy.
We had an interesting experience on the way home. We decided to take a short cut home instead of the usual way done the ruta.  We stopped in Las Piedras to gas up the van.  As I got out I saw two Elders, Elder Santa Cruz and Elder Ruiz.  They were on their way back to their area from Zone Conference.  We talked for a minute but they had to get moving to catch their bus back to their area.  After gasing up we headed home passing by the Las Piedras Stake Center.  In front of the Stake Center were the Zone Leaders.  We rolled down the window and yelled the obligatory “Mormones” as usual.  Well about a block later we get the phone call.  The Zone Leaders had a problem.  It seems as though Elder Santa Cruz and Ruiz didn’t have enough change to get on the bus (and yes we wondered why they just found this out too).  Well we just happened to have enough change to help them out.  It’s kinda interesting how these things work.
These two pictures are of the move in Sarandi Del Yi.  What I like best is how much the members helped.
They even put in the water heater for us!

Wednesday was another big day as we had to move the sisters in Sarandi Del Yi.  This is about three hours away from Montevideo on Ruta 6.  This is a less traveled road.  We stopped at one of the other apartments on the way and picked up some furniture that they needed.  We arrived about 12:30 and to our delight the members had all of their stuff ready to load.  We had about ten members helping clean out the old apartment and move into the new one.  They even put up balloons in the new apartment.  The help included lunch for all of the missionaries by Bishop Lemos.  What wonderful members we have down here.  It is so neat to spend time with them and listen to them share their testimonies.  The Zone Leaders and District Leaders came from Durazno to help with the move.  We took them home so they didn’t have to buy a bus ticket.  It added about two hours to the trip but it was worth it.
Thursday and Friday we spent time in the office, helping with the finances.  Also on Friday, they had Zone Leader Conference and we helped with the meals and moving missionaries around.  Those are really fun days.  I like the picture of the Assistants laying on the floor after the Zone Leader Conference.  It takes a lot of planning to pull that meeting off and they were tired.

The assistants after an all-day zone conference
The weather here remains chilly.  We have been able to go for a walk most mornings but we do bundle up.  It has been about 50 degrees, but when it is cloudy and the wind is blowing, the cold goes right through you.  We have now been in Uruguay for 5 months and are starting to learn our duties.  We had a real neat conversation with Elder Vinas of the Seventy last week.  He was the first mission president of the Salta Argentina mission.  We were immediate friends when he found out I served there.  We discussed the difficulty of customs of managing the apartments.  It made me feel a lot better when I let me know that he had the same problems that we have.  I guess that is why they call it missionary work.  If it was always fun, they would call it play.  Every day we find new challenges and learn new things.  It is not easy but we do receive a lot of satisfaction knowing who we serve and why.  The missionaries continue to bring us joy.  We love them and are always made to feel better when we are with them.

We are grateful for our Testimonies of the Savior and the wonderful things He did for us so that we can spend Eternity with our families.  We love you all.  Remember, a little comment on the blog earns a lot of “points.”

We always have lunch on Fast Sunday with the Temple Missionaries.  This is President and Sister Cook's last one.
Gordon and Renee