Monday, August 29, 2016

Like Floating in the English Channel

August 28, 2016

We have been looking forward to the arrival of another senior couple to help with the Florida District.  We have known for over two months and have been waiting to sign the contract for their apartment for over three weeks.  Meanwhile we have had a bunch of furniture and other things lying around the mission office and other locations waiting to take it up to the apartment.  While we have been waiting it made me think of all the times that we were working to get a big task done as a family and dad would always say, “It makes you appreciate Eisenhower.”  Meaning, D-day was a big project as they had to get thousands of ships and men and cargo all lined up for the Normandy invasion.

Well, we were kinda like that on a little bit smaller scale as we had everything ready to go and were just waiting for the contract.  It finally got signed on Monday.   The Walls arrived on Tuesday.  We did not have time to take anything up until Wednesday as we had several other things on the agenda.  So Wednesday we took the first load up.  We took the van that we drive with a trailer and the mission van filled with furniture.  On Thursday we took up another load and at least had the things that they will need.  We arranged to have the water heater installed and had the water and lights transferred to our account.  On Friday we tried to get them set up with the internet but still need to work on that for them.  We have another trip planned for tomorrow to take the rest of the furniture and hope to get them completely settled this coming week.  They are a great couple and have some great ideas to help the people in Florida.  We look forward to working with them.

It just amazes me how many steps it takes to complete a task and also how long each of the tasks take.  It has definitely taught us patience.  I am not sure I have learned much patience but at least I have been taught it.

Here's a picture of the Eagle and the missionaries.  Notice Renee photo bombing in the corner.
On Monday we took some things up to the missionaries in the La Costa Zone.  They were having a zone activity at “El Aguila” or the eagle.  This is a cool house facing the ocean that is made in the form of an eagle.  Pretty cool and I especially like the picture of the missionaries on the beach.  We love spending time with the missionaries.

Great picture of the La Costa zone on the beach.  Elder Mecham is the big on in the grey sweatshirt.
Friday afternoon we finally finished with our office tasks were able to head for the good stuff, i.e. Castillos.  We met the Elders about 4:00 and went straight out to visit with Juan and Lilian.  They are a retired couple with a lot of experience in the Church.  They are having some problems that are making it difficult to come to Church.  We had a good visit with them and all of us bore our testimonies.  We have become real good friends with them and are sure that they will be able to help the branch.  From there we dropped off the Elders for a charla and went out to see Rosanna.  Rosanna has several grown children that are members that live around her.  We talked to her about the activity that we had planned for Saturday night and then walked over to visit with her daughter and her family.   For some reason we had to talk about fishing.  Tito, the husband, showed us several videos of their son David catching catfish.  It was fun and we became good friends.  We talked to them a little bit about the Church and invited them to the Saturday night activity.  It was fun and we hope that we can get them to take us fishing.

This is our friend, Fortunato
Saturday we woke up to a rain storm.  We refused to let this dampen our spirits.  As we came into town we stopped off to see Fortunato.  What a great guy!  He shared his story with us that included some problems but also a great testimony.  He stated that the branch needed to have some home teachers and that he was willing to help.  We asked him if he wanted to go visit some of the members with us.  He said just a minute.  He soon appeared in a white shirt and tie, prepared to serve.  We visited two widows, Emma and Zulma.  Fortunato was the key to these visits as he helped fix a door at the first house and offered to help fix things at the second house.  What a great example of service.  On the way to taking him back to his house he asked if we could give his house a blessing.  What a great opportunity.  He has a humble home but you could feel the Spirit.  We had a wonderful time with him.

Now it was time for lunch with Hermana Narda aaaaand  CANELONES!!!!!!!  That’s what we had for lunch.  I was so excited.  They are so good.  We had lunch with Narda's son and daughter-in-law.  He is an inactive member and she is not a member.  We talked about where they are with the Church.  I hope that one day they can come to the Gospel.  Renee planned to learn how to make empanadas by helping Narda make some for the branch activity after lunch.  We asked Hermana Narda if she would go with us to visit some of the members of the ward before they started on the empanadas.  She offered to take us to visit the Lopez family.  She disappeared for a few minutes and came out dressed in a Sunday dress, ready to serve.  Can you see a trend here?  Even though these folks live a long way from the center of the Church, they still have a reverence for the Church and respect the opportunity to serve.

Rolling out, filling, and cooking the empanadas with Narda, Renee, and Daniela
We had stopped by to visit the Lopez family several times but they have never been home.  This time they were home.  What a neat visit.  Johnny, the dad, is an artist.  They have a huge picture that he painted on the wall.  It was so beautiful.  They have good testimonies and will be a real good asset to the branch.  They are not quite ready to return.  While we were there a wonderful thing happened.  Narda asked Daniela, the wife, if she would like to help make the empanadas.  She jumped at the chance.  Is that a good idea or what?  Soon, the three of them were at the store buying the supplies to make the empanadas.  I left them to go visit a few other people.  When I returned they were busy as can be, Narda was rolling out the dough, Renee was adding the filling and Daniela was cooking them.  Guess where I fit in?  Well someone has to be in charge of quality control!  They made about 100 empanadas.  Not only did they make plenty for the branch activity but Renee learned how to make empanadas.  Hurray!!  Guess what we are having when we get home?

Now it was time for the branch activity.  Elder Stewart and Hayden had been working on this for about three weeks.  They passed out invitations and had several members lined up to come and help with games and other activities.  Did I mention it was raining?  Did I mention that it was rained really hard?  How would you like to go out on a night when it was raining and blowing and you would have to walk at least 10 blocks to get there and 10 blocks to return?  Well no one else wants to do it either.  All we had for the activity was the missionaries, Hermana Narda and us.  I told the missionaries to not be disappointed.  The Lord knows how hard they worked and they will be blessed for it.  First, they have quite a few empanadas to eat.  We had a good time anyway.  Renee had us do the Olympics, using a wad of paper for a shot-put, a plate for a discus, a straw for a javelin and the standing broad jump.  After this was over we watched “Meet the Mormons”.  We had a good time together and all of us felt the Spirit.

Did I mention that it rained?  Good thing this was not the way home!
Today, in spite of the rain, we had several people at Church that we have not seen before. The numbers are still few but we are seeing and feeling progress.  Renee gave a talk on Temples and I gave a talk on the Book of Mormon.  Priesthood and Sunday School were really good as all of the members had a chance to share their views about the lesson.  We love being missionaries and the opportunity to serve and share our testimonies.  I really enjoyed speaking about the Book of Mormon and the blessings that come from reading it every day.

We love you all,
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, August 21, 2016

You Say it’s Your Birthday

August 21, 2016

The big deal this week was to prepare and have Renee’s birthday today.  We spent the week making secret combinations with the missionaries so we could have a real good party.  But before that we had to do a little work.

Elder Nielson and I received our Driver's licenses.  Now we are truly Uruguayos

And a little bit closer :)
One of the things we have been working on since we arrived is to complete our legal documents.  We can go on a tourist visa for only so long.  As you may remember we spent about 3 hours at the immigration office a week ago completing our documentation for our cedula or residency papers.  After we completed that we received a “ticket” that allowed us to come back and get the cedula a week later.  So, last Tuesday, Renee, Elder Nielson and I returned to the immigration office and after a short wait received our cedula.  We are now full fledged Uruguayos.  One Wednesday we went to a medical clinic and completed a health test for our driver’s license.  This test included a blood pressure test, touching our nose with our fingers with our eyes closed and standing with our feet close together and our eyes closed for a while to see if we are coordinated.  Now we were ready to get our license.  So on Thursday we drove to the municipal building to get our license.  Notice, we drove the car to the driver’s license office to get our license.  Once there we took a number to get in line to pay the fee.  After that we went downstairs to take another number to stand in line to get our license.  After reviewing our medical information and the receipt for the fee for the license they took our picture and soon we were walking out of the building as crazy Uruguayo drivers.  What a great day.  You know it is a somewhat complicated process but I can see how it all fits together and can see why they do it.  Now I know how to do it I won’t have to do it anymore.

Elder Rodriguez cleaning the apartment
We have several apartments that we are trying to get changed in the mission.  This requires getting the legal documents completed and moving the furnishings into the apartments.  It is much more complicated and time consuming than I like.  The biggest challenge we have had is to get ready for the Wall family to come next Tuesday, August 25th.  We have had the contract ready for the real estate company to sign for over two weeks and still do not have the contract signed.  We hope we can get it signed this week so they can get settled.  Meanwhile we have furniture stored in several locations waiting to move it to Florida.

If you are going to move, you have to have cookies
One of the things that I have worried about is getting the furniture moved around in our apartment and the other apartment.  The doors are small and I have tried to move some of it alone with no luck.  Well, we asked to missionaries to help.  I dropped off four of them and went back to get the others.  All the while I was hoping that they would get it done without me.  When I got back with the other missionaries, guess what? It was already done!  I was so relieved!  We have some real good pictures of the missionaries helping us move.  Too bad I can’t put more in the blog.  They are so helpful and fun to be around and we have found out that they will do anything for Renee’s cookies.  We completed that on Friday.

Birthday dinner with the Temple Missionaries
On Saturday we cleaned the house, cut my hair and got ready to go out to dinner with the Temple Missionaries for Renee’s birthday.  In the middle of that we had the chance to drive a few missionaries around to help one that was in the hospital.  Saturday night at 6:00 we attended a graduation ceremony for some of our friends in the Malvin Ward that graduated from the Pathway program.  This is an online program that members can take from BYU that helps them learn English and other skills to be more successful in business.  At 7:00 we picked up the Temple Missionaries and we went out to dinner for Renee’s birthday.  We went to a little restaurant on the beach called Salmuera.  It was better than good.  I had the rib eye and Renee had the Salmon. Both were excellent.  We had key lime pie for dessert.  Then, the waitress brought out a brownie with ice cream and sang happy birthday to Renee.  It was a fun evening and we plan to return.

Now it was time for the real festivities to start.  After Church we went to lunch with the Temple missionaries at their apartment where we had Indian Tacos.  We finished dinner with German Chocolate cake that is Renee’s favorite.  After we finished that, the office missionaries, zone leaders and Sister Missionaries showed up with another cake and a video that they made for Renee.  I could tell by the tears in Renee’s eyes that she really liked it.  I wish I could really show how fun it is to spend time with the missionaries like this.  They are so happy, helpful and great to be around.  Their enthusiasm is very engaging.

Elder Rodriquez bakes a cake
Well, you would think that we would be about done with fun for the week, but the real good stuff had just started.  As we were waiting to go to lunch, Elder Stewart called from Castillo’s.  He was excited to let us know that they had several new people at Church today.  Their efforts are really paying off.  We are so looking forward to going up there this weekend.

After lunch we dropped the sister missionaries off at a charla.  It was right near Humberto and Cristina’s house so we decided to see how they were doing.  You may remember that Cristina had a stroke about 45 days ago and after staying in the hospital for about a week was taken to her daughter’s house.  When she arrived at her daughter’s house she could not walk, talk or use her left hand and arm.  To our surprise Cristina is now home.  She can walk and use her left arm and hand and can also talk.  She was in very good spirits and we were so excited to see how much better she is doing.  She seemed pretty excited to get better so she can make us some more empanadas.  (I love missionary work)

After that we were more than half way to the hospital and so decided to continue to see how our sister missionary was doing.  Our little sister missionary is recovering very well from having her appendix out and hopes to be back working in the near future.  They were in such good spirits and make us want to serve them more.

We are trying to get a good rest tonight so we can be ready for a big week ahead.  We have several moves and a big weekend planned in Castillos.  It seems like the missionary works gets more fun, more busy and more rewarding each week.  We are so grateful for this opportunity.  We love the Lord and his Gospel.

We love you all.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Taking Care of Business and We Can Be a Missionary Too

August 14, 2016

We have stated before that one of the most interesting parts of our mission is that we do a lot of different things.  Last week was no different.  One of the things that we do is help take care of the business side of the mission.  There are a lot of details in providing housing, utilities and transportation for 190 people.  That does not count the emergencies.

Monday we started off by going to old town Montevideo to sign some papers for our documents.  They call the identification card a “cedula”.  Nacho, is our legal assistant that helps us get through all the hoops.  Our trip started with Nacho being about 20 minutes late.  We got through the line just in time for the computer system to go down.  Three more system delays and two and a half hours later and we had our “ticket” to get our cedula next week.  After we get the cedula I can get a Uruguayan driver’s license.  I am looking forward to this as it will be quite the souvenir.

Tuesday we helped with the Zone Leader Conference.  Renee helps cook breakfast and lunch then we all help serve 36 missionaries and the others that come.  While Renee was doing that I was off buying stuff for missionaries.  The mission president requested that we get 4 new bikes for the missionaries in La Capuera and Piriapolis.  It took me three trips and over three hours to finally get the bikes purchased.  Now, how do we get them to the missionaries over an hour away.  I could just see them all scratched up in the trailer.  Well, we also had to take some beds that way so we took the pedals off and sandwiched them between the mattresses.  It worked great.  Our plan was to pack up Wednesday afternoon and head up the coast on Thursday.  As we were getting the last stuff together we found out that we needed to go to Canelones to bring a Sister in for some tests on her ankle.  So about 6:00 at night we took off for their apartment.  We got them in to stay with the sisters about 8:00 P.M.

We finished packing the van and trailer Thursday morning and off we went.  First we stopped at Piriopolis.  The missionaries were happy to see the new bikes.  We gave them the “be careful and don’t hurt yourselves or get the bikes stolen” speech and off we went for La Capuera.  One of the bikes was still in the box so we had to put it together.  Turns out Elder Oroche is quite the bike guy.  He jumped on the bike assembly with a vengeance and soon we had both bikes going strong.
It was getting close to lunch as we headed to Maldonado to take some furnishings to the sisters.  When we got there we still needed to purchase a couple of things so Elder Silva and Ontiveros went with us to get them.  Word to the wise, “don’t let the missionaries carry the mirror!”  So we have seven more years of bad luck.

Putting beds together with Elder Fonseca
From there we took off for Rocha to deliver a bed frame.  Seems as we have a few bed frames that are broken in the middle.  How could that possibly happen with these precious little souls?  I’ll tell you why, they like to jump on the bed!  So we put the new bed together and made them all swear that they would not jump on the bed anymore.  We know that that won’t change anything but we are at least trying.  It was getting late but we still had another bed to deliver in Chuy.  We got it done about 8:00 P.M. and headed back to La Paloma to spend the night.  We got in about 10:00.  I think it was about 450 miles.

Our hotel room in La Paloma
Friday we started the fun part of the week.  We attended the Rocha Zone Conference which was very enjoyable.  The Zone Leaders did a good job leading their zone and encouraging them to be good faithful missionaries.  Friday afternoon we went to see the Elder’s quorum president, Juan, and his wife, Lilian.  Juan was not there but we had a good talk with Lilian.  We talked about the challenges in the branch and gave words of encouragement.  We had her read Doctrine and Covenants section 112 verse 19 where it states that and effectual door will be opened if we are ready to enter.  It was a good visit.

Saturday was our funnest day.  We had a list of people to go see and started down the list.  We parked the car and walked from house to house.  We were able to meet several members and had a real good visit with them.  It was like being real missionaries.  As always the best part of the day was having lunch with Hermana Narda.  We are going to have a branch activity on Saturday night in two weeks when we go back to Castillos.  Hermana Narda is going to show Renee how to make empanadas for the activity.  That is so good in so many ways.

At about 4:00 P.M. we picked up Hermana Oreales and she took us to visit three families that are partially active.  It was so good to visit them with a member.  All of the visits were warm and encouraging.  First, we visited a Sister that is a returned missionary.  She actually served in Mendoza in several of the areas that I worked in.  Next we visited her Grandmother.  Lastly, we visited a young family with three girls, age 5, 2 and 9 months.  Our night ended about 9:00 P.M. as we got back to the hotel.

Today was a good day at Church.  We are seeing more new faces and are seeing some progress.  It is exciting to see.  Once again, Renee and I were able to teach primary.  We taught 5 year old David and 11 year old Cristina about the Creation.  We drew pictures and had a video.  It was a lot of fun.  Renee gave the prayer in Relief Society and I gave the closing prayer in Sacrament meeting.  We are glad to be home but grateful for a faith promoting experience.

To end the blog I have to tell about the funniest thing I have seen in Uruguay.  Yesterday we were on the main street in Castillos and there is this old guy getting on his motorcycle with a BYU hoodie.  We could not believe it.  Elder Stewart ran up to him and asked where he got it.  He said he bought it at a street fair and that it was from China.  Yeh, right.  It was brand new and even had the cougar emblem on it.  I would like to know how a $100 sweatshirt got from Provo to Castillos.

We are so excited to be able to go out in the street and meet people and bear our testimony of the restoration.  We love being part of this wonderful work.  Thank you all for what you do.

We love you.
Gordon and Renee
This is one of our favorite Milanesa stands in Punta del Diablo

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Magnificent Seven

August 7, 2016

We could have called this “Cheaper by the Two Dozen” but I kinda like this title.  This week was change week.  It was a probably one of the hardest weeks we have had because of the schedule.  Monday we ended up running missionaries to and from Doctor appointments.  This got pretty tiring.  The changes started Tuesday morning at 12:35 A.M. when eleven missionaries arrived from the Mexico MTC.  They were all from the USA and looked like a real good group even though it was the middle of the night. I have often said that the Holy Ghost is not awake at that time of the night but they did seem in good spirits.  We took them back to the Hostel and put them to bed.  Renee stayed home so she could get some rest as she was going to be cooking all day.   I got to bed at 2:30 A.M. and then up at 7:30 A. M. to take Renee over to the mission home to cook.  I also did another missionary doctor visit before the 11:45 A. M. flight from Argentina with the other 12 missionaries.

Missionaries from Argentine MTC
 They were supposed to touch down at 11:45 A.M. and come through the gate at about 12:15 P.M.  Well about 11:25 A.M. they came waltzing through the gate.  I was the only one there.  I grouped them up and waited for the President and the Assistants.  This is another strong group with missionaries from several different countries in South America and even two from Spain.  We finally got our little band of 24 new missionaries together, got them fed and into their training.

Renee helped to prepare six large meals for the missionaries.  It is a big job.  She loves it and does a really good job.   I took several pictures from the first meal.  I think there are a few of their mothers that may be following the blog so the pictures are for you.  By the way, comments to the blog mean more treats for your children.  This is a large group.  I am very impressed with them.  I can see most of them as leaders in the mission.  On Tuesday night they had a little cultural presentation that is really just a fun game about things in Uruguay.  At the end each team had to send up a spokesman.  As I looked at the two young missionaries, I thought that some day they will be companions as zoned leaders.  That’s good because most of the zone leaders go home in the next couple of changes.  Oh yeh, Tuesday ended with another trip to take missionaries home from the Doctor.  We pretty much had our share of the doctor visits.

We got home about 9:00 P.M. which was good because we had to be at the mission home at 7:30 A.M. the next morning.  Wednesday morning starts with feeding breakfast to all of the trainers at 8:30 A.M. while the new missionaries go to the medical exam for their documents.  The new missionaries arrive from the doctor are fed and paired up with their companions and sent to their areas.  This is just in time for the missionaries that are going home to arrive at the mission home.  This is a great group.

Last picture at the Mission Home
There were 13 going home.  We have come to know all of them really well and can tell some pretty good faith building stories about them.  For example, Elder Delgado served in Castillos and helped a lot in finding people to invite to Church.  Elder Martinez finished his mission as assistant and helped us and the new mission president get going.  I decided to focus on 7 of them for a few reasons.  First, it makes a good title for the blog.  Second, all of them were Zone leaders when we arrived and played a very important part in our first seven months in the mission.  And third, I was able to spend some time with them Wednesday afternoon and they really built up my spirits.  I came into the Chapel at the Church next to the Temple.  They were waiting for the time to go to the Temple session. Instead of goofing off, they were singing hymns.  I was able to hear them sing several. They started out with “Each Life That Touches Ours For Good”.  That’s a good way to start if you want to have tears in your eyes.  They also sang “High On a Mountain Top” and “If You Listen With Your Heart”.  I could not sing because I have this little problem with tear flow under these circumstances.

Magnificent Seven Singing
I want to say a little bit about each one of these Elders.  Elder Rollins was one of our cheerleaders.  He served in several zones and always supported us and helped us.  Elder Worwood was probably the most grateful of all of your missionaries.  He always thanked us and supported us.  Elder Carroll spent his last three changes in Rio Bronco where he helped increase branch attendance from 20 to over 40.  He also had several baptisms. Elder Olivier and Bauer were zone leaders in Rocha when we had to close a difficult house.  What wonderful support they were.  Elder Cannon served as assistant and was really a strong help to us.  Probably one of our closest missionaries was Elder Brumble.  He was part of the legendary companionship of Elder Brumble and Elder Vallecillos know as Brumblecillos.  What a great leader!  One time Brumblecillos boarded a bus and asked the bus driver if they could give a message.  The bus driver lowered the music and Elder Brumble taught the truth about Christ while Elder Vallecillos passed out pamphlets.  Another time, he stopped several cars on a main road and passed out invitations to a chapel open house.  What great missionaries!  We already miss them a lot!  We better see them when we get home or there is going to be trouble.  Also, if they comment on this blog, they can win two free nights at the Wankier fun ranch when we get home.

Wednesday night we helped with the dinner for the missionaries going home.  Sister Eddy insisted that we come in for the meal and also attend the final testimony meeting.  What a wonderful Spirit.  It is so good to see these great leaders as they receive “Well done thou good and faithful servant” from the mission president.  I am sure they have also felt this from the Spirit of the Lord.

 We finished the change by saying goodbye to them at the airport.  There is a very unusual part of this change.  President Eddy’s daughter Jessica left with the missionaries so she can go to BYU.  As she was giving her mother a hug before she left, President Eddy came up and grabbed them both, lifted them off the ground and gave them a big hug.  What a great blessing to see this wonderful expression of love.  It is not too hard to tell which one is Jessica in the last picture.

Guess which one is Jessica
So to rest up on Friday we drove about 3 hours to Colonia to help the Crocketts move to Montevideo.  They have our job in the other mission and asked to help.  This gave us a chance to go into the other mission and see what it was like.  From Colonia you can see Argentina.  It rained all the time we were there so we did not get a chance to see it.  We hope to get another chance to go over and see it.

What a faith promoting week.  We started out with a very large group of new missionaries that are young and willing to learn.  We finished off the week by sending the finished product home.  You just can’t describe the growth that these young people see in the time they are in  the mission field.  Their faith is strengthened, they learn leadership and more importantly the come to know for sure that Jesus Christ is our Savior and died for all of us.  Each day in the mission field we come to know more surely that we have living Prophet on the earth.  The truths of the Book of Mormon are life changing.  The teachings are timeless.

Once again, we are grateful for all of you and especially grateful that we can be part of this wonder work.  We love you.
Gordon and Renee.