Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Long and Winding Road

You might think I’m running out of blog titles.  Not to worry, I have over 500 songs from the sixty’s on my I-pod.  I haven’t even got started.  Last week was one of the busiest and involved the most travel of any week that we have had in the mission.  We were asked to help with flu shots for the mission.  They had planned to give them when they had the big zone conferences but the vaccine did not arrive in time.  We had to cover essentially all of the mission in about 10 days.  Oh yeah, lots of driving. A week ago we did the La Costa Zone that is less than a half hour from our house.  Last Monday we had inspections scheduled for the Este and Maronas zones so we drove all day Monday to get this done.  In the middle of the inspections we were asked to pick up some missionaries from the hospital and take them to their home in Pando.  Pando is part of the Maronas Zone so this more or less worked out.  It was a long day.

Tuesday we drove the nurse back to the Este and Maronas Zones for the injections.  We had to make two trips because the inspections are at each house vs. the injections were done at the Church.  We completed this about 11:00 A. M. which was nice.  Just in time to go back to Pando to take the Sisters back to the hospital for more tests.  Pando is more or less an hour drive from the hospital.  We were about 10 minutes from the hospital when we found out the test had not been cleared yet by the insurance company so we stopped at the pharmacy and picked up some drugs and took them back home.

Wednesday is when the real fun began.  There are three main routes north in our mission, Route 5, 8 and 9.  On Wednesday we took off for Route 9 to visit the Maldonado and Rocha zones.  Sister Paul is our mission nurse.  She and her companion Sister Steenblik accompanied us to do the shots.  The missionaries were there and ready for us so we were able to do it real well.  This was about a 300 kilometer trip each way.  Along the way we were able to help with a few apartment repairs and stop at the panaderia in Rocha for some treats.  I’ll bet that was a surprise that we stopped for treats.

Thursday we traveled to Florida, on Route 5, to finalize the house for the missionary couple that is coming next month.  We were able to make a deal on a good house, so all we need to do now is get the contract signed and get the stuff moved up to Florida.  Florida is about 200 kilometers each way.  The best part of this day was spending it with the Zone Leaders, Elder Vallecillos and Elder Johnson.  They lined up appointments for us and showed us around.  They were extremely helpful and real fun the be with.

Friday was the big day.  We took off for Route 8 to do the shots for the Minas, Treinte y Tres an Melo zones.  Lucky for us, the Melo missionaries came down to Treinte y Tres.  This made it 400 kilometers each way instead of 500.  On the way home we stopped in Minas to have pizza.  This is a local joint that makes pizza as close to USA pizza as we can get.  We really enjoyed it and even have some for another day.  So with all the running around we drove about 2000 kilometers or about 1,250 miles mostly on 2 lane highways without cruise control and a lot of hills, curves and big trucks.  When we got home Friday night I was tired.

One neat thing happened on one of our trips to Pando.  They needed a new front door knob and lock so I took the old one off and went looking for a locksmith.  I found one a few blocks away.   There shop was about 6 feet wide and 15 feet long.  Even though it was small they had everything they needed to help me.  As they were working on the old door knob I had a chance to talk to them about what missionaries do.  They were very friendly and said that they would be glad to visit with the missionaries.  I can’t wait to see how the Sisters do with Fernando and Nico.

Saturday we were beat.  We needed a rest, especially from driving.  We got up at a decent time and while I did the house cleaning, Renee did the cooking for the dinner that we have for the missionaries that are leaving the office for transfers next week.  She started cooking at 7:00 A. M. and was ready at 1:00 P. M. for lunch.  She served roast beef, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, orange jello and homemade rolls.  That sounds pretty good until you get to the pear pie for dessert.  The Elders ate like “ravenous locusts”.  After they finished their first piece of pie, Renee offered to let them either eat a second piece of pie or take it home for later.  Guess what, they didn’t want to wait.  Like that was a surprise!

We just got back from visiting with Humberto and Cristina.  She was sitting at the table and talked to us for awhile.   She can move her left arm now and is able to walk by herself although it doesn’t hurt to have a little help.  She really wants to go home.  That is a good sign.  We were so worried that she would not recover but now it looks like she will be home by the end of August.  That will be wonderful.  Humberto states that she really started to get better after she received the Priesthood blessing.  We feel that way too.  The Priesthood is such a blessing in our lives.
I hope you can see from the pictures just how good and happy and fun the missionaries are.  We enjoy every minute with them.  It is especially good when they tell us about the people that they have found and how they are progressing in the Gospel.  Today for Sacrament meeting one of the young mothers spoke about her conversion about 12 years ago.  She found a Book of Mormon in her house and started reading it.  She was able to find the meeting house and the missionaries where she was taught the discussions.  Just as she was about to be baptized, her father died unexpectedly.  In spite of this she was baptized and now is married in the Temple with a wonderful young family.  It was a really neat story.

We are still in winter.  We do have some good days with the sun shining and then other days when it is cloudy, windy, rainy and cold.  It is sometimes a little chilly in the chapel so we and all the others come dressed warmly.  We think that it is supposed to start warming up in about a month.  It won’t be long before we start complaining about the heat.  Such is life.

We love you all and are grateful for your support.  We love the Lord and the Gospel that has been restored on the earth today.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sometimes We Are Actually Missionaries

Good news from our friend Cristina.  We went to visit her last Tuesday at the home of her daughter.  She is doing much better and can now talk some and move her left arm.  It is truly a miracle.  While we were visiting I was able to have a real good conversation with her daughter.  In other visits she has not been interested in visiting about religion.  This time she mentioned that she likes to read the bible. I suggested that she read 1 Kings Chapter 18 where Elijah calls down fire from heaven to help her understand the power of the Priesthood.  She gladly accepted our invitation.

We left Humberto with Cristina for a about a half hour to drop some stuff off at the Zone Leaders.  When we returned, Elder Peterson gave the daughter a Book of Mormon and invited her to read it.  She said she liked to read so we will see how she does.  We are going back this week so we hope we have some success.

One of our favorite activities was going to the Zone in La Costa for Chilean Hotdogs.  They are big hot dogs that include tomatoes, guacamole and lots of mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup.  They were good.  Renee really enjoyed hers.  I enjoyed all three of mine.

Thursday was an interesting day as we started with a trip to La Costa again to take the nurse to give flu shots to the missionaries.  When we got there, the doctor that attends to all of the missionaries was there to help.  Both the nurse and the doctor are very friendly and supportive of the missionaries.  After the shots were completed, I asked the doctor where she lived.  She said she lived in El Pinar.  I mentioned that we were going to have a Capilla Abierta (chapel open house) on Saturday and invited her to come.  She readily accepted.  The nurse then asked if she could come also.  She lives quite a distance from El Pinar so I did not directly invite her.  But it was neat to see their enthusiasm.

Well, the night of the Capilla Abierta, the doctor came. The nurse could not come because she had to help her family.   Renee and I accompanied her as the Sisters gave her the tour.  It starts with the picture of Christ and follows through with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Apostacy, and Restauration of the Gospel by Joseph Smith.  It was really enjoyable to bear our testimonies to her.  She took another Book of Mormon and we expect her to read it.  We are optimistic that we can teach her more.

Another thing we did last week was go to Florida to look for housing for another missionary couple that will be coming down next month.  This included visiting several houses in Florida to try to find one that is suitable.  We have some good options and plan to go up this week to finalize it with them.
We continue to stay busy with all of our little jobs.  It seems we are either fixing an apartment or helping some missionaries all of the time.  We really enjoy it.  They highlight for us is bearing our testimonies.  We are so grateful that we know that the Savior has restored his Church on the earth again.  The blessings we receive from Modern Day Prophets is tremendous.  We want you all to know that we know it is true.  We are thankful for all or our friends and family.  Thank you so much for your support.

We love you
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Dairyman

I need to start this blog out by telling you a little about our Zone Leaders, Elder Poulson and Elder Mitchell.  They are so strong and positive and are two of the best leaders in the mission.  They set very good examples.  That being said, they are also two of the craziest Elders.  When President Cook put them together as zone leaders in the zone that surrounds the mission home I thought he may be messing with the new mission president.  Turns out he did it for me.  They are so kind and positive and always make me and everyone else feel better about themselves and their missions.  Which brings us to milking Alfajores.

Alfajores are basically two sugar cookies with a dulce de leche center like an oreo.  They can be anywhere from two to four inches in diameter.  Some of them are dipped in chocolate which is good because those are the ones you can milk.  You take this chocolate covered treat and bite off a little from both sides.  Then you dip it in milk and suck the milk up through the cookie.  Elder Poulson and Elder Mitchell are two of the best and have elevated it to new heights.  They grade each cookie on milk flow, milk retention and taste.  You can see that they taught us and gave us some excellent tips as we drained our milk.  Now you know why we call them “the dairyman” because they are experts at milking alfajores.

On Tuesday we had to drive up through Florida and Durazno to sign contracts.  It was very difficult to get them all signed but we did get the two that were the furthest away completed.  Hopefully we can get the rest completed this week.  We needed to go from Sarandi Grande to Sarandi Del Yi.  We could either take the longer route and stay on the well travelled roads or take a shortcut to “save some time”.  Guess which one we took?  When we turned off the main road the shortcut was high quality asphalt.  We soon started seeing patches of gravel in the pavement and eventually it was all gravel.  We made one wrong turn and ended up on the “less traveled road” that is shown in the blog.  We finally had to turn around as we came to a creek that didn’t have a good bridge.  We didn’t take a picture of the creek as we were too busy trying to figure out how to turn around and get out of there.  When we finally got back on track we had to go through a sheep herd.  You can tell it is winter here by the heavy wool.  We did make it to Sarandi Del Yi and were helped greatly by Bishop Lemos again.  He is such a good man.

Wednesday and Thursday we spent time getting things done at the office and looking at a few apartments.  I had to take a picture of Elder Brumble being held in the air by Elder Cabrera while he wiped the mold off.  The dismount was a little tricky.  How can you not enjoy a day with Elders like this?

Thursday night was one of the highlights of our mission.  You will remember our friends, Humberto and Cristina.  Well the other day, Humberto called to tell us that Cristina had a stroke and was in the hospital.  Thursday we took Elder Peterson and Elder Rodriguez to the hospital to give Cristina a blessing.  Cristina shares a room with another women.  We were able to give the blessing in front of several non-members.  After the blessing we were able to explain the Priesthood and blessings to the folks in the room.  It went very well.  Humberto just called to let us know that Cristina has been released from the hospital and will be staying with her daughter.  That is exciting.  We expect to go see her this week.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday we traveled to Castillos.  The Mission President has asked us to spend more time there.  When we arrived on Friday, we met Elder Delgado and Elder Hayden who had a list of members.  We started going through the list and trying to see whoever we could.  Most of the names do not have good addresses so it was quite challenging.  We were able to meet a few members and invite them to Church.  We also stopped to talk to a few people in the street and had good conversations with them.  We even handed out a few pamphlets.  Wow, just like real missionaries.  Our visits ranged from members that have not been to Church in years, to inactive returned missionaries and others.  We have a lot of work to do but it is a start.  On our next trip we are going to take the list to some of the active members and have them help us with the addresses.  Several have volunteered to go with us to meet the other members.  We are making progress.

We received special help from one of the members, Oreales.  On our last visit she was just back to Church from an operation.   We felt that we needed to stop by to see her to see how she was doing.  This was more than a coincidence as she had a book that she wanted to show us.  It is the history of the Castillos Branch and includes pictures and testimonies of most of the members that we had been trying to find.  It showed pictures of the branch with more than 40 members in attendance and there were a lot of youth.  It was wonderful.  Now we can see the potential of the branch and are seeing ways that we can help.  We believe that we were sent to Oreales’ home to help us catch the vision of Castillos.  We also went with the missionaries to the property that the Church owns that is on the top of the hill in Castillos.  We were able to see the whole town and see the potential that this little town has.  We are anxious to do “real missionary work”.  We love to bear our testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ .  That is why we are here.  We are so grateful that we can be here serving the people in Uruguay.  We love you all and appreciate what you do for us.

Gordon and Renee

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Doing What We Do

Last week was one of the busiest we have had.  We were out late every night and had a hard time getting everything done.  It started on Monday as we worked to get the office stuff done and get ready for the Zone Leader Conference on Tuesday.  Sister Eddy asked us to do the breakfast for the Conference as she would be busy with her family.  We ordered some breakfast quiche at the local grocery store and rounded it out with oranges and liquid yogurt.  It was simple and easy.  Monday evening we had a little 4th of July celebration with the Temple Missionaries.  It was good and patriotic and made us all trunky.  The highlight for us was hearing our granddaughter, Madeline, sign the National Anthem for the West Jordan 4th of July parade.

On Tuesday we helped with the Zone Leader Conference.  The cold weather has brought the mold inside with a vengeance.  We did a presentation about how to clean the walls with bleach including the garbage sack raincoat.  We tried to make it fun.  After the conference we took three trips to Tres Cruzes, the bus station, to get missionaries on the bus back to their areas.  Traffic was heavy and it took quite awhile.  After we got done with that about 7:30 P. M. we took the Este Zone Leaders to order dinner for their zone conference the next day.  We purchased fruit, drinks and chips at the grocery store, Tienda Inglesa, and then left to order the pizza from a pizza place next to the church.  Things were going real well until we found out that they do not open until 5:00 P. M.  Not much good if you want to eat at noon. So at 9:00 P. M. we were in a fix.  We had the Subway phone number so I called and ordered sandwiches from them.  That really saved the day.

A neat thing happened during the zone leader conference.  We had one sister coming to the conference that has some special diet needs so Renee brought some bread and boiled eggs just in case.  She ended up not needing them.  Well right after the conference started a young man showed up and asked for some help.  He is a member from Brazil and was looking for his mother.  He could not find her and needed some help to get home.  I called the Bishop of the ward and he agreed to meet with him later in the evening.  It was then we realized that we had the food Renee had brought and we gave it to him.  He was able to rest in the Church and be comfortable until the Bishop came.  So now we know why Renee felt like she needed to bring some other food.

Wednesday was our biggest day.  We needed to go to Melo and 33 to sign some contracts.  That is a 500 mile round trip.  It rained most of the day to make it even better.  The landlord we met with in Melo has rented to us for several years and had some questions.  The face to face meeting was very helpful and we got everything taken care of.  After that we wanted to take the missionaries to lunch.  Elder Rodriguez and Escobar said they already had lunch so they passed.  We picked up Elder Rollins and Montiel, the Zone Leaders and headed to a Chinese Restaurant.  After two phone calls and three trips around the block we found out that they were closed for good.  Plan B was to pick up Elder Rodriguez and Escobar and go to a local hangout.  We were literally sitting in the family front room having lunch.  We ordered a large pop and the guy had to go out to purchase it.  That being said, it was delicious.  As we were finishing, Elder Escobar told us that he was not that hungry because he has just had lunch.  Imagine two meals in less than an hour.  Who said missionaries can’t eat.

We have mentioned the Temple Missionaries a few times in the blog.  The last time we met with them, Elder Ness gave us a gallon plastic jug full of change that he wanted us to give to the missionaries.  We have been passing out 100 pesos to everyone we can think of.  On the way home we stopped to get a contract signed in 33.  The Zone Leaders, Elder Holmes and Lawson helped us.  When we gave them their pesos they went straight to the panaderia to purchase biscochos.  They seemed happy.

Thursday was another full day at the office.  We helped the missionaries with the finances and several other jobs.  It seems we get busier every week.  Thursday night, our friend Gabriela came by to help Renee with Spanish.  It was fun because she stayed for dinner.

On Friday we helped the missionaries pay the rent.  We had to go to several banks and make the payments.  This takes quite a bit of time.  We also had to go down town to get some checks cashed and make other deposits.  We got back about 3:00.  After that we loaded up the trailer and helped the missionaries move into the 18 do Mayo house.  We got home about 9:00.

Saturday was a much needed day of rest and we got our house clean and made ready for the coming week.  In the afternoon we headed out to Las Piedras for another Capilla Abierta.  This really went well.  The members showed up in full force and the missionaries were really prepared.  The weather was good so there were a lot of people on the street.  The members and missionaries went out on the street and invited people to come in.  In all there were 20 investigators that came in and listened.  They received several real good referrals for the coming week.  It was really exciting.  I was so impressed how strong and willing the missionaries are to go out and invite people to come in a listen to our wonderful message.

The week ended with us doing a presentation for a Capilla Abierta in El Pinar today in their Church.  We are planning to do this one on July 23rd.  Renee did her presentation again and did real well.  This is a real active ward.  They have 9 ward missionaries.  We are really looking forward to the coming weeks as we get more and more Capilla Abiertas scheduled.

The weather has been interesting.  The temperatures are usually in the 50’s.  When the sun is shining it is beautiful. But when it is cloudy and rainy it is quite uncomfortable.  Because it is good weather most of the time, they do not have central heat in the homes and most of the Churches.  Even though it has been nice and sunny today, the Church was quite cold.  The members come with real warm clothes and some of the sisters even wear pants.  Based on how cold it is in the buildings, I don’t blame them.  As we were sitting in the Chapel today it felt like we were in a duck blind in January.  It was quite chilly.  We were glad to get in the car and warm up on the way home.  I guess we need to dress a little warmer in the future.

In the Zone Leader Conference on Tuesday they played a talk by Elder Holland about being converted.  He based his talk on the last chapter of Matthew where Peter took the Disciples fishing instead of doing what the Lord had intended.  We all have to make that choice.  It has been really good for us to be in the mission field and have a chance to dedicate our lives to service.  We really do love it here and are grateful that we have the chance to serve.   We know that this is the true Church on the earth today and that we are led by living prophets.  We appreciate all that you do for us.

We love you,
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Big Change

Every 6 weeks we have change week where we trade old missionaries for new ones.  Even though we have only been here for six months, this has become quite routine.  Well, last week we had the big change where we changed mission presidents.  This is quite the process.  For the last month or so President and Sister Cook have been saying good bye to all of the missionaries as they went from one conference to another.  It is quite the process to see them take stock in the growth of the mission and the missionaries.  They have done such a good job and have seen countless missionaries grow and develop as they gain stronger testimonies and teach the Gospel.  President Cook has a wonderful knack for being serious with the missionaries and at the same time having fun.  I believe like he does that the Gospel should be fun.  The missionaries are so strong and willing to help the work move along.

The week started with dinner at Garcias, the best steak house in Uruguay on Monday night.  We had dinner with all of the senior couples which includes the Temple couples.  It was a wonderful evening.  We have become real good friends with all of them.

The big day was Wednesday.  We started out by meeting President Eddy and his family at the airport.  They came through the gate about 2:00 P. M.  To welcome them to Uruguay, we took them to lunch at McDonalds in the Airport.  Nothing like authentic Uruguayan food.  After that we helped take their luggage to the mission home where President Eddy and President Cook visited for awhile.  About 6:00 P. M. we took the President and Sister Cook to the airport.  We had plenty of time to visit and enjoy our last visit.  We celebrated with a milkshake at McDonalds.  Wohoo!  It was sad to see them leave and we could tell that they had some real mixed feelings as they were so looking forward to seeing their family but also knowing that they were saying good bye to Uruguay for good.  What great people.

Thursday and Friday were filled with two mission conferences so that the new mission president and his family could meet all of the missionaries.  We had zone conferences with seven zones on Thursday and five zones on Friday.  The conferences started off with the President Eddy and his family greeting each of the missionaries individually.  I was so impressed with how personable they were with all of the missionaries.  We are excited to see what is going to happen as they take the reins.  One of the real neat things about change is even though things are still the same, they sound different coming from someone new.  Sister Eddy spoke at both conferences and introduced the family in Spanish.  It was really neat. Each of the children bore their testimonies which were also really good.  I don’t know if we realize the sacrifice that a family with children makes to go on a mission.  The teenagers are right in the middle of their junior high and high school years and give up the fun times with their friends and everything to come down.  What a neat family.  I’m sure they will be blessed for this sacrifice.  Sister Eddy also gave a real good talk about missionary work that is a good guide to follow for the missionaries.

One of my favorite things about the scriptures is to read and ponder the words of prophets at the end of their lives.  For example, Nephi at the end of second Nephi and Mormon and Moroni at the end of the Book of Mormon.  There is a lot to be learned from someone that has a lifetime of experience. President Eddy was called last August so he has had about ten months to prepare this first talk.  I was very curious to see what he had to say.  I was not disappointed.  His talk was rich with council and teachings to help us all be better missionaries.

He had four main points
1.       We follow.  In other words we are obedient and follow all of the rules exactly.

2.       We learn each day from Preach My Gospel.  He emphasized the last page that summarizes all of the book.

3.       We work hard with love.  I am sure that he is going to spend more time on this as all mission presidents do.

4.       We teach repentance and baptize converts.  This was what Dallin H. Oaks taught at a missionary conference in February.

Lastly he emphasized that we need to use the Book of Mormon.  It is very important that we make sure all of the people we teach have the opportunity to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  He stated that if we come back for a visit after giving the Book of Mormon and the people have not read it that we need to read it with them and emphasize its importance.  This is really good council.  Now the Mission President is going to go to all of the zones individually to interview all of the missionaries.  It is going to be a full month for him and his family.

On Saturday night we had a Capilla Abierta at our home ward in Malvin.  It was rainy and cold and attendance was not very good.  In spite of that we did have three investigators come and they seemed very interested.  Who knows what will come of it.

Well we are starting on a new chapter in the mission.  We enjoyed the Cooks so much and are now looking forward to some more fun with the Eddy family.  They are so strong and so good, we are really looking forward to getting to know them better.

One more thing.   The Sisters in the apartment next to us had a key to our apartment but have not been able to find it since the last sister left. So if she reads this as she promised she would and knows where the key is, maybe she could let us know.

Thanks so much for the support you give us.  We love all of you so much.  Our testimonies continue to be strengthened as we labor in his vineyard.  We know it is true.

Love Gordon and Renee