Sunday, September 25, 2016

On Top of the World

September 25, 2016

This week started out pretty uneventful as we did our part in the office.  I have thought many times that now that I am retired I really don’t want to do all the stuff that I used to do while I was working.  Well, after 38 years in the business world I now get to do it in Spanish.  And let me tell you, my Spanish isn’t good enough to keep things going.  So far, I don’t think I have bought or sold anything that I shouldn’t have.  We got things pretty much under control on Tuesday so we could go see some missionaries.

We stayed in a hotel in Treinte Y Tres. Here Vanna is
showing off the fancy TV.
The apartment the farthest from the mission home is Rio Branco.  It is located on the Brazilian border.  A few weeks ago, their washing machine broke so we have been trying to get another washer for them and find time to deliver it.  On Wednesday morning we took off for Melo with a washing machine in the back of the van.  On the way we stopped to look at possible apartments to move some of the Elders.  This is more complicated than I thought it would be as we usually have to go several times to find a good spot.  It also gave us a chance to inspect the houses of the missionaries.  We were really pleased with the work the missionaries have done to keep their houses clean in Melo.  I wish I could send pictures of all of the missionaries as they bring such joy to our lives.  This week we’ll have to settle on a picture of Elder Ruiz and Perez picking lemons for us.  We are planning to have the lemon bars that Renee made from some of them for a treat a little later.  Wednesday night we arrived in Treinte Y Tres about 8:30 P. M.  We were tired but had had a great day with the missionaries.  Thursday morning we did inspections of the houses in Treinte Y Tres and headed home.  On the way, we stopped to inspect the Minas Elders' apartments.  So in two big days we inspected all the houses on Route 8 and had a great time with the missionaries.

Elders Ruiz and Perez picking lemons from their back yard tree
Friday was more office work but also included helping with District Leader Conference.  It was another great opportunity to visit with the missionaries.  Friday night we went to dinner with President and Sister Eddy at the little restaurant on the beach.  They don’t open the kitchen until 8:00 P. M. so it was a late dinner.  The food was great and we had great time learning about the Eddy family.  President and Sister Eddy are so right for the job.  They are happy and positive and provide great leadership.  It has been fun to watch them put their mark on the mission.

So, Saturday is supposed to be our P-day or the day we rest up and prepare for the week.  This lasted until about 11:00 A. M. as we got up and cleaned the house, ironed shirts and got ready to do our weekend Capilla Abierta program.  We took off for Sarandi del Yi about 11:30 A. M. and met the missionaries in Durazno at 3:00 P.M.   It was after 4:00 P.M. when we arrived at the chapel.  We were really looking forward to this Capilla Abierta as the Ward was really enthusiastic a couple of weeks ago when we did our presentation.  We were not disappointed.  They were just finishing up with a convert baptism when we arrived so there was a real good crowd.  After we set up the displays we had a little prayer meeting to start the open house.  The Chapel was pretty much filled and the people were really excited to help.  We had eight sisters and four elders to help with the tours.  They did a good job but for the most part just sat back and assisted the ward members.  All of the ward auxiliaries had displays of their various organizations.  We have not seen it done better.  The members were front and center in helping with everything.  The food was incredible as we learned of two of three new ways to prepare treats.  So we had a sell-out crowd and a great time.  There were 19 investigators that attended.  We were scheduled to finish at 8:00 P. M. but there were more people that wanted to do the tour.  And then all of the ward members wanted a picture in front of the Christus statue so we were quite a bit later than expected.  The picture with me and the Bishopric is a prized possession and one that I will treasure as one of highlights of our mission.  We still had at least two hours of driving to get to our hotel but instead of getting in too much of a hurry we realized that this was exactly why we came to Uruguay.  To help share the Gospel with the people of Uruguay.  So after we loaded up the stuff we had a one hour trip to Durazno to drop off the Elders and then another hour round trip to take four Sisters out to Trinidad.  It was a wonderful day and one that we will always remember.  We got to bed about midnight.

Which was fine except we had to be up at 6:00 A.M. to make our appointment to do the Capilla Abierta presentation in La Paz at 9:30 A. M.  So we slept fast and had a real pleasant early morning drive.  We were looking forward to the visit to La Paz as they have had some baptisms lately and were pretty enthusiastic.  We were not disappointed.  They had over 100 people attending including a man that was baptized last night and confirmed in Sacrament meeting.   A recent convert gave a talk in Sacrament meeting and there were several investigators in Church.  You could feel the enthusiasm.  We expect another good Capilla Abierta in two weeks.

We finished off the week with a great Argentine/Uruguayan tradition: the siesta.  And I have to mention that the Lemon bars were excellent.
The end of a perfect day
It is incredible to be able to serve in so many ways.  Our testimonies grow each day as we find new ways that the Savior has blessed our lives.  We love all of you and really appreciate hearing from you.  I have to say that I have enjoyed some real good hunting photos but they do make me real trunky.

 We love you all.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Making Changes

September 18, 2016

This is the chapel under construction in Pan de Azucar.
It will be really neat when it's done.
Last week was change week so we had plenty to do.  We started out on Monday, taking some furniture up to “Pan de Azucar”.  This is a pueblito about an hour out of Montevideo.  The Wibergs, one of the temple couples, went with us.  We had a good day and got to see four of the sisters.  The trip included a stop at the corner Panaderia in Pan de Azucar to buy Empanadas and torta for lunch.  For some reason we just don’t seem to be losing much weight.  I included the photo of the renovation of the Pan de Azucar Capilla.  It looks like they are more than doubling the size.  It will be fun when they are done.

Young and Hungry missionaries!       I think the sister on the bottom right looks like Sabrina. I love the smirk!
Tuesday we received the new missionaries.  They are remodeling the Buenas Aires MTC so we are getting missionaries from other MTCs.  We received missionaries from Colombia, Peru, and Mexico this week.  They arrived at different times and so we had a little more to do.  You can see from the photos that they enjoy eating.  Renee helped with the meals.  The mission provided lunch and dinner on Tuesday and breakfast on Wednesday for the new missionaries.  By now they have probably realized that they are not going to get that kind of food every day.

Taking Elder Alvarez to his area
One of the missionaries that arrived was Elder Alvarez from Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  He comes from the same ward where Sister Park from our Ward back home and Sister Quakenbush, the daughter of our niece served.  When I asked him if he knew them he was excited to say yes and couldn’t hardly believe what a small world it is.   Elder Alvarez has already been in our mission.  He left a few months ago because he needed to get his knee fixed.  He has now returned and is fired up and ready to go.  I have found that the missionaries that return after going home to get something fixed are some of the strongest and best missionaries.  Going home and returning is a big challenge and the ones that come back have proven that they can meet that challenge and any other.  It will be fun to see Elder Alvarez continue on his mission.  When we dropped him off at his assignment there was no one there to meet him.  It appeared that nobody let the missionaries know that we were coming.  He did eventually meet up with his companion so all is well.

The missionaries that are going home arrive at the mission home about 11:00 A. M. on Wednesday. They have a little training and then head to the Temple for the 3:00 P. M. session.  Renee spent most of Wednesday afternoon preparing dinner for them.  I am so proud of this group.  Most of them were Zone Leaders when we arrived and all of them have served well.  The mission is going to miss them and the leadership that they provide.  Wednesday night they are served a special dinner with the Eddy family and we are invited.  It is fun to eat with the missionaries.  They are so happy and excited to talk about all of the neat things that they have accomplished.  We are also invited to the testimony meeting after.  I love to hear them express what they have learned in the last 18 months to two years.  It is also very sad as we will probably not see some of the missionaries again, especially the ones from Latin America.  One thing for sure is that they are returning with strong testimonies of the truth and are ready to be leaders at home as they were in the mission.

I have to tell this story.   Even though I can see the great growth and leadership in the missionaries some of them look a little young.  Let’s says that some of them don’t look like they have had too many razor burns in their life.  Well, one of the missionaries that is going home remarked the other day that he has had to charge his electric razor twice during his mission.  That pretty much explains it doesn’t it?

Thursday is when the missionaries go home.  We had one sister leave in the middle of the night.  My first trip to the airport was at 6:00 A.M.  I don’t have any problem getting up at 5:00 A.M. to start the day but those of you that know me know that I usually prefer to go hunting or fishing vs. go to the airport at this time.  Oh well, that time will come again.  Our next trip to the airport was at 10:00 A. M, when most of the missionaries left.  Everything went smooth until the missionaries that are going to the USA checked in.  That is when we found out that there is not only a weight limit on the checked bags of 23 kilos; there is also a limit of 10 kilos on the carry-on bags.  Almost all of the Elders' bags were overweight.  They had to trash some of the things they really wanted to take home.  It was a sad time and hard to see them have to do it.  The airport was also real busy so it was quite a hassle.  They eventually all made it on the plane and home.

Besides the missionaries leaving on Thursday, we also received a visit from the new Area President, Elder Texiera, who came over with his wife to do some training.  They had a meeting for about half of the mission on Thursday that included feeding over 100 missionaries and a meeting for all the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders on Friday.  Renee did meals for all of these meetings as well.  I didn’t get to hear the conference as the mission president asked me to go to the airport.  They were real good meetings and the missionaries learned a lot.

After a busy week we headed for Castillos Saturday morning.  We had lunch again with Narda and her family.   We really enjoyed the milanesas and rice.  What a treat to eat at her home.  On Saturday afternoon and evening we went on several visits with the recently released Branch President, Pablo Eguren, and Fortunato.  We had some amazing visits.  On one visit that the missionaries lined up for us, we taught a group of six that included family and friends.  We talked about the tree of life and where they fit on the path.  We invited them to come to Church.  After that we visited a single sister that is really a ball of fire.  She stated that she became inactive 14 years ago when her 2 year old son was killed in a car accident.  What a tragedy.  We talked about how the atonement was not only to pay for our sins but also to help with all the pains and trials in life.  The Spirit was strong in all of our visits.  We are praying for our friends in Castillos to see their way back to Church.

Today was a pretty day and there were 21 people in Church.  There were many new faces as the many hours of hard work are paying off for the Elders.  When we walked in the door of the Church you could feel the enthusiasm and excitement.  Several of the returning members are stepping up and taking an active part in the branch.  As their testimonies grow, the branch grows as well.  Elder Stewart, the current Branch President was really excited.  We are excited to see what is going to happen in the coming weeks.

We are grateful for a full week that was filled with the Spirit.  What a blessing to be able to participate in such a wonderful work.  We are grateful for all of you and appreciate your support.

We love you
Gordon and Renee

Here we are on the busiest street at the busiest time of day and these two are washing cars. 
That's what I call capitalism.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Let’s Talk about Heroes

For all our kids and grandkids
September  11, 2016

We need to talk about something a little different this week.  Our week was full with office stuff as we work to get all of the contracts set and organized.  This is important but pretty boring to talk about so I thought we could talk about something a little more interesting, like MISSIONARIES!

Our Zone Leaders in Este, which is more or less our zone, are some of my heroes.  If you have been reading the blog, Elder Poulson and Mitchell are the ones that taught us how to milk alfajores.  For that they are now known as the dairyman.  They are also the ones that made the video for Renee’s 60th birthday.  They should get an Oscar for that under the category of “best missionary video for a 60 year old lady”.

Well, this week, they topped that.  We have a vacant apartment next to us that was vacated when a senior couple went home in February.  We have used it to house missionaries when they come into Montevideo but mostly it has been vacant.  When the Wall family came, we took all of the furniture out of it and moved it to Florida.  Now we have a chance to terminate the contract and need to clean it.  It has a balcony that has become the home to two pigeons.  Picture the worst case scenario and then make it a little worse.  To forever be on my number one list, Elder Poulson and Mitchell agreed to come and clean it for us.  What a terrible task.  They jumped on it with the same enthusiasm that they do everything else.  I love them and appreciate them so much.

You would think that cleaning the bird poop would be the best part of what they have done for us this week.  But no!  They topped that!  They shared some great experiences that they have had in the street.  The other night they were out working and got out of a charla about 8:50 P. M.  That is pretty close to 9:00 P.M. when they should head for home.  Instead of packing it in they decided to knock a few more doors.  A lady answered the first door and said, “Come on in Elders, I’ll go get my husband out of bed.”  When the Husband came into the room he said, “Hello Elders.”  This couple had received the lessons a few years before but had not been able to come to Church for health and other problems.  They told the Elders that their life was now more stable and their health was good so they could come to Church.  Last Sunday they came to Church and were really fired up.  So were the Elders.  What a blessing to work until the end.  They also told us that they had 6 other investigators in Church that were from a family from Colombia.  Elder Mitchell finishes his mission this week.  What a way to end!  I can’t even think about how sad it will be to see him go.  Thankfully we have Elder Poulson for two more changes.
Elder Peterson playing the piano.  He's the best!
 We had to go to Canelones to pick up a contract so to make a trip out of it we stopped off at San Ramon on the way back to listen to Elder Peterson’s piano concert.  It was amazing.  He played most of the songs by memory and even made one up from a request from the audience.  It was so good to see him again.  I think he and his companion, Elder Lane enjoyed the Pear Pie Renee made for them.

On the Saturday before change week we invite the elders that are leaving the office and their replacements to lunch.  Elder Bio is from Mexico and asked for Tacos for lunch.  Renee prepared hamburger, beef, pork and chicken to put in them.  They topped it off with Oreo Cheesecake and Pear Pie.  They are plenty full.  It was a great time.  They were a little slow to get up.
Here we are in front of the Sarandi de Yi chapel
Saturday night we headed to Durazno to stay in a hotel so we could go to Sarandi de Yi on Sunday.  We attended their meetings today to give a presentation on the Capilla Abierta in two weeks.  Even though Sarandi del Yi is a long way from Montevideo, we know many of the members as they have helped us move missionaries.  Immediately upon arrival we could feel a strong Spirit as all of the members welcomed us with open arms.  Our presentation went well and we also were invited to speak in Sacrament meeting.  We can hardly wait for the Capilla Abierta as the enthusiasm was really high.  Even the young people came up asking for cards to hand out.

Having lunch with Bishop Lemos and his family
After the meeting, we had a three hour trip to get home for lunch.  That is until Bishop Lemos invited us to lunch.  It was so good to have lunch and visit with them.  He is a very strong Bishop and you can feel his love for the ward members and their love for him.  Lunch was wonderful as we had “fideos con tuco”.  This is a staple down here and consists of macaroni and a meat sauce.  Some are better than others and this meal was at the top of the list.  I ate macaroni for the full two years I was in Argentina and am still not real fond of it but this meal was especially good.   I did get a little sleepy on the way home but what do you expect on a warm Sunday afternoon after a real good meal.

I hope you can feel some of what we feel everyday as we work with the missionaries and hear their stories and share the love of the Gospel with them.  We are so grateful to be here and learn something new every day.  We definitely feel your love and appreciate your support.  We love you all.

Gordon and Renee

Monday, September 5, 2016

Reaping the Harvest

September 4, 2016
Captain America towel with Elders Vallecillos and Johnson
We have had several projects that we have been working on and last week was the time we needed to finish them.  It included moving more furniture up to Florida for the Wall family, moving Elders from a house in Maldonado to San Carlos and completing a contract on a house in 33.  We started Monday by taking some couches up to Florida for the Wall family.  This was a pretty slick trip up Route 5.  We got there in time for the awards ceremony that the missionaries had for their  P-day activity where the competed in the Olympics.  It included tacos for lunch.  They gave me a Captain America towel for being an American.  It is quite the requerdo.  We decided to take Elder Peterson and Lane home to San Ramon on our way home.  It was a little out of the way but not too much trouble.  That is, until we were about 3 miles from San Ramon and found out the bridge was covered with water and had to take a 60 kilometer detour.  We always wanted to go through the pueblo of Tala.  We got home about 6:00 P. M. which was just in time to have dinner with the Sisters.  Sister Sierra Young went home a couple of months ago and returned to visit.  It was good to have dinner with her and the other Sisters.
Having dinner with Sister young and the other Sisters
Tuesday we spent most of the day in the office catching up.  It was good to review the “to do” list and make plans.  Wednesday we were on the road again.  We took off in the morning for Maldonado which is about 150 kilometers up the coast to pick up Elder Lang and Brasil to move them to San Carlos.  They were all ready to go so it really worked out well.  We had the fridge, washer and water heater in the car with the trailer.  When we got to the apartment, the Dueno was there to meet us and sign the papers.  Then we moved in the stuff in the car and went over to the Sisters' apartment to pick up the beds, tables and other stuff.  All in all it was pretty smooth.  What we had accomplished so far should have been a pretty good day.  But no!

On the way home we stopped off at Pan de Azucar and picked up a wardrobe to take over to the Wall family in Florida.  Instead of going up the normal routes we had to cross the country.  These roads are a little sketchy at times.  It wasn’t too eventful as we cut across the country.  We were able to go through Tala again and stop to see Elder Peterson and Lane one more time in San Ramon.  We dropped off the furniture and made it home about 10:00 P. M.

It was good to get a good night’s rest as we were at it again on Thursday to go the 33 to sign a contract.  This was pretty fun as we were able to take Elder Holmes back to 33.  It was fun to visit with him and he got the rare privilege to go with as we dropped a bed off to the Elders in Lescano.  This would normally be uneventful except for the fact that the river was running over the road for about a half mile.  We followed a truck through and could tell that it was only about six inches deep and there was not much current.  Please forgive us Brother and Sister Holmes.  We are not trying to drown your son.  I was really happy when we got back across the flooded road.  The contract signing went without hitch and we were on the road in pretty good time.

We still had the Oro Conference on Friday.  We call the new missionaries Oros which means gold.  They have a conference for them about a month after they come to the mission to give them a few pointers and see how they are doing.  Based on how much they ate, I would say they are doing well.  We fixed a lot of food and they ate everything.  You can tell by the pictures that they are doing well.  They all had bright eyes and happy smiles.  I was able to talk to most of them and could tell that they are excited to be here.  It also looked like they get along well with their companions.  I have received a few letters from parents and tried to get a picture of them in the blog.  It is exciting to see them grow from newbies into leaders.  I can’t wait to see their progress.

After the conference we were dead tired but still needed to do the utility bills for the first of the month.  We went to the office and completed this by about 7:00 P. M.  From there we went to bed.  What a big week.  It made me tired again just telling about it.

Now for P-day.  We had probably the most interesting P-day of our mission on Saturday.  On Wednesday I received a call that one of our friends from Blackfoot, Paul Thompson, was at the Temple.  What a surprise!  Paul operates a real good potato farm in Blackfoot.  I have worked with him and his five other brothers for about 27 years.  It was good to see him.  He was here with his son, Kyle who is an opthomalogist.   Kyle had been invited to come to Uruguay on a Humanitarian mission for the Church to help with some medical procedures.  They arrived on Tuesday and spent the week in Montevideo attending conferences, doing operations and other medical stuff.  They were accompanied by Elder and Sister Huling from the area office in Buenos Aires.  Come to find out, the Hulings are from Virginia and were in the same Spanish Branch as my old missionary companion and his wife, Nick and Patria Mazanis.  Small world.  We faced timed Nick and Patria and showed them our guests.

They had been able to do most of the tourist sites during the week so we took them on a tour of “missionary Montevideo”.  This started with going to Pronto Pollo to buy milanesa rellenos.  This is a chicken cordon bleu sandwich on a bed of French fries.  This is great missionary food and has absolutely nothing to do with eating healthy.  I really enjoyed mine and based on the fact that not one bit of food was left, I think they did too.  After that we took them to a local panaderia to purchase alfajores and other stuff that is not good for you.  About this time we may have been having a little trouble with blood sugar, but hey, we had a doctor with us.

From there we drove them down to the “Montevideo” sign on the beach.  I think that it states in the Doctrine and Covenants somewhere that you have to have your picture taken at the sign or you can’t go home.  From there we did a little shopping and ended up at an ice cream shop.  A pretty good day!  Paul and Kyle didn’t fly out until 1:30 A. M. Ugh! So they all came over to our house to visit until it was time to go.  It was so good to see them and talk about how things are in the farming community.  Good friends, and they even took a few alfajores home for the family.

A little bit about Kyle’s visit to Uruguay.  Kyle was invited by the LDS Church to come to Uruguay on a Humanitarian Mission to help with health care and specifically retinal eye surgeries.  He was involved all week in seminars, conferences and actual operations.  Also, the Church has donated equipment to the hospital where he went to help Uruguay.  The medical community is very appreciative of not only the equipment but the hands on help from Kyle.  He has had several real good experiences with the medical staff and was able to give out a Book of Mormon to one of the doctors and discuss our beliefs.  I was very excited to hear about his experiences.  There are a lot of ways to share the Gospel.  Some do it by knocking on doors, others do it by fixing faucets and doorknobs and others do eye operations.  Somehow we need to give everyone the chance.

Thanks for the great support from home.  We love all of you.  We are too busy to be homesick but at this time of year we do think about the fair, fall hunts and other good family times.

Love Gordon and Renee