Sunday, October 30, 2016

They Call the Wind Mariah

October 30, 2016

This past week was change week.  It was real busy and made even busier by the fact that we had 60 mile per hour winds for Wednesday and Thursday.  It was so bad that the North American Missionaries could not leave on Thursday and had to wait until Friday.  It was a big hassle but they finally did get to go home.  I hope you can see the before and after pictures.

Butcher shop and Veterinary office next to each other.
One of the locals said "you better be careful with the "chorizos"
I love this picture of the Carniceria or “butcher shop” next to a vet clinic.  I guess either way you get your dog back.  Yewwwww.  We don’t buy chorizos from this carniceria; in fact, we don’t buy them from anywhere.

I want to do things a little different this week and share some neat experiences that we have had.  First, on Monday night we had family night with the Temple missionaries.  Several of them shared their testimonies and they were really good.  One I especially liked was from Hermano Reyes.  He spoke about how he and his wife joined the church and a couple of years later went inactive.  About six years after that, they received a knock at the door and it was the primary president.  She wanted to take their daughter to primary.  By this time they had three children and he told her it was all or nothing.  So she agreed to take all of them even though one was only in nursery.  The kids got up early on Sunday and got ready themselves to go because they were so excited.  This went along for a while until one Saturday the good sister said she could not take them.  Brother and Sister Reyes decided they would take them and leave them at the door.  Well, as they arrived there were a few people at the door and they were very friendly and invited them in.  After a little coaxing they decided to go to Church.  Now after 40 plus years of activity and service as a Bishop, President of the Relief Society, Temple Wedding and a family serving in the Church, the oldest daughter is now the Primary President and this good Sister is the Nursery leader.  What a great lesson of faith and service.

Next, on Wednesday night during the testimonies Elder Solano shared a real neat story.  He said that one day he and his companion worked all afternoon and evening and were not able to find anyone to teach or talk to even though they tried really hard.  That night while he said his prayers he pleaded to know why he wasn’t successful.  A feeling came to him that he had done exactly what the Lord wanted that day and that he should feel good about his efforts.  This story made me feel real good.

Also during the testimonies Elder Stewart gave a very special Testimony.  He has spent the last three months in Castillos where he served as the Branch President.  They had the first two baptisms in almost two years while he was there.  His hard work has really paid off as several inactive members have started to come back.  In his testimony you could feel the love that he has for Castillos and the blessings that he has received through his service.  There is no question that the Lord is pleased with his efforts.

A tree that blew down in Castillos

Friday, Saturday and Sunday we visited Castillos.  We were able to make several good visits on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.  Some of the people that we visited actually came to Church for the first time in months.  But on Saturday afternoon we had a day like Elder Solano where we looked for several people with no luck.  It was kind of like Elder Solano’s experience.  One of these was named Irma.  Her address was “Gonzales Street almost to route 9”.  That should be easy to find.  At the end of Gonzales we asked someone.  They told us to go to a house around the corner. Around the corner we found an old man that reluctantly admitted to being Irma’s dad.  He told us she lived on the other end of town and gave us a vague idea of where she lived.  I told Renee that if we find her with that address, it would be a miracle.  We went to the area where we thought she should live and stopped at the house we guessed would be hers.  The lady told us she lived next door.  So we went next door and knocked with no luck.  As we turned around we decided to ask another guy that was outside.  He said that she did live where the last lady said but that she was in the hospital with her son.

So off to the hospital we went.  We picked up the Elders on the way in case we needed to give a blessing.  At the hospital the nurses told us that no one was there by that name.  We decided to show the Elders where she was supposed to live.  As we drove to the house, Renee remarked that we just passed a lady that was at the hospital.  She was heading in the direction of the house.  So we turned the car around and asked her if she knew Irma.  She said that was her.  We were invited into her house and had a good visit.  The Elders have a charla scheduled for next week.  Now we know that the blessings come after the trial of our faith.

Today was branch conference in Castillos.  There were 24 people in Church.  That is a record.  This was due to the hard work of Elder Stewart and Castillo.  Thank you Elders.

Instead of coming straight home this afternoon from Castillos, we stopped in Maldonado to talk to the Stake President about doing a special Capilla Abierta.  The Stake President was very helpful and it was even more fun because we were able to see Elder Rodriguez again.  We also were able to meet Elder Bailey and Rios on the way home and go to a Charla with someone that we know.  It was real fun visiting with one of our friends.   There was a real special spirit of love and friendship.  Going to discussions is certainly on the top of our list of wonderful things to do.

It is a priviledge to be able to serve on a mission.  We love the chance to teach and to testify.  We know more than ever that this is His Gospel and that He lives.

We love you all.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Called to Serve

October 23, 2016

Our mission has a lot of different facets but the real neat part of our mission is that we are called to serve.  We do a lot of different things but the thing we like the most is when we are with the missionaries.  This was one of those weeks.  On Monday, we needed to deliver a mattress and other stuff to Durazno so we took advantage of this and inspected all of the houses.  We were impressed with the cleanliness of the houses.  They have really been working.

Taking Elders Guerra and Holland to Oro Conference
The new missionaries were coming back in for training on Tuesday so we were able to bring Elder Guerra and Holland back from Durazno.  This saved them a 4:00 A. M. appointment with a bus.  We also stopped off and picked up Elder Peterson and Batte.  It was too late to get a picture of them, but we all enjoyed a big hamburger in San Ramon.   The hamburgers or milanesas here include assorted vegetables and meat that have different seasonings from mild to real hot.  It is an adventure every time we eat.  Tuesday we spent most of the day helping with the conference.  It was another good chance to be around the missionaries.

Nothing like ice cream on a cold, rainy day 
Wednesday was another eventful day.  It rained all day which always makes things more fun.  When it rains it is cold even though the temperature may be in the 60’s.  We had to go to Los Ceibos to buy some supplies to fix a house.  We ended up putting bags of sand, cement and other stuff in the back of the van.  On the way home we dropped off a new cell phone to the sisters.  They were right by a shopping mall so we took advantage of it and went to McDonalds for ice cream.  I think you need to be from Utah or Idaho to eat ice cream when it is cold.  The Uruguayos look at us like we are crazy, and we probably are.

Visiting the Zone Leaders in Melo.  Elder Padilla goes home this week and Elder Montiel is coming to work in the office
Thursday was a big day.  We had to go to Melo which is about 400 kilometers away to look at a new house to rent.  The Zone Leaders from Melo were in Montevideo for training so we took them home with us.  Again, this saved them quite a bus ride.  I think they especially liked the fact that Renee packed a lunch for them.  It was fun to talk to Elder Montiel and Padilla.  Elder Padilla goes home from a successful mission this week and Elder Montiel is being transferred to be a finance clerk in the office.  You may remember that Elder Montiel was one of the missionaries in Castillos when we first arrived so we know him real well.  We are looking forward to the next six months.  On the way home we also needed to stop in Lescano to check on a house.  This is about 30 minutes off the main route which adds some extra time.  But the road is terrible.  Remember the pictures of us driving through the river?  Well this is the road.  It was not flooded this time but the potholes are terrible.  As we were bumping along, hoping not to have the car fall apart, Renee remarked that we might find a car or two in the holes.  I think we actually drove over a couple of them and that made the road a little smoother.  I don’t care if I don’t ever go over that road again.

Friday we did a lot of office work and got ready for Saturday.  Saturday was a big day.  First, we had to do our weekly cleaning of the apartment.  This doesn’t take too long but when you add my haircut and a few shirts to iron in the mix it is a busy morning.  Renee spent the morning getting ready to feed Elder Rodriguez and Caudle as Elder Rodriguez leaves the office this change.  I hope you can see just how much fun the missionaries are.  They make us feel young and part of the group.  Elder Rodriguez came into the office a little apprehensive about his assignment.  He soon settled in and made his mark in the office, just like the others.  We are going to miss him.

After lunch we had to go to the Capilla Abierta in Belloni.  It was the best one yet.  The members were really involved as were the missionaries.  Elder Parmenter and Elder Johanson, along with Brother Garasa stayed in the street all night and invited people to come into the open house.  In total, 24 non-members attended and had the opportunity to learn more about the Church.  It was exciting!  The Chapel was full all night with people that had come to learn about the Savior.  We can’t wait to hear how they have progressed.

Today we went to Toledo to do the presentation for the Capilla Abierta for them in two weeks.  What a warm and friendly branch.  They have a beautiful chapel and the members are exceptionally warm and friendly.  We had a good time and can’t wait for the open house.  We finished off the day with lunch with the sisters.  Sister Gambarte goes home this week.  She is from the Guaymallen ward in Mendoza, Argentina.  I served in this ward for five months on my mission 42years ago.  She is a special sister and has served well.

One of the things we have learned while we have been in Uruguay is just how difficult it is to serve.  Too often there are missionaries with health problems that are unable to stay even though they really want to.  The physical challenges of a mission are great and too often the missionaries are not able to keep up with the strain.  One of our favorite missionaries had to go home last week as the challenges to their health were too great.  They left with a resolve to get well and return.  We have had some that are able to come back and that makes us really happy.  One of the things I have learned is how hard it is to go on a mission.  But, it is many times more difficult to come back after going home for health reasons.  Those that are able to return seem to be some of the very best.  Passing the test twice makes them much stronger and able to serve.  Of course any time we are able to see the missionaries succeed it makes us real happy.

Another week has gone by with the opportunity to grow and learn.  We are learning so much.  Just like the young missionaries the work does take its toll.  So far we are holding up pretty well and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.  We love you all and look forward to hearing from you.

Gordon and Renee

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Living in the World but not of the World

October 16, 2016

I’m sure we have all heard this statement many times.  Well this week we have a real good example.  Monday was the 10th and we needed to pay the rent on some of the houses.  The banks don’t open until 1:00 P.M. so shortly after 1:00 P. M. we took off for the bank.  The first bank was closed and we could not figure out why.  Then one of the Elders remembered that it was “Feriado” a federal holiday.  Not being plugged into the real world does have its draw backs.  So on Tuesday we did the trip over again and made all of the payments.  We even got a neat picture with Elder Rodriguez and Caudle at the Montevideo sign.

Elder Wankier, Elder Rodriguez and Elder Caudle
Tuesday we were able to catch up on some more office stuff so that was good.  On Wednesday we met the Elders in Los Ceibos and cleaned up the old apartment.  I expected to have to do a lot of work on the walls but they weren’t too bad so mostly we just cleaned up the floor.  We still have to do some more work on the house to turn it back but we should be able to get it done this month.  While we were in Los Ceibos we needed to get some parts for a water heater.  As I was trying to make a turn on the main road we had an accident and were hit by another vehicle.  We were not hurt and there was not much damage to the mission car but it was not pleasant.  I felt real bad because I could have done several things differently to prevent it.  Initially the guy we had the accident with was not very happy.  I totally understand this.  As we were waiting for the police and the insurance companies, we had a chance to visit and he became more friendly.  Turns out he has an appliance store near where we had the accident.  After we took care of business we purchased a water heater from him for the Elder’s apartment.  He even gave us a discount.  I will probably shop there again.

After we cleaned the Sister’s apartment last week we were not real happy with how the walls looked even though they were clean.  So we decided to paint the apartment on Thursday.  We showed up at 9:00 A. M. ready to paint it ourselves but the sisters would have none of that.  The four sisters pitched in and really made things go faster.  We had to move all of the beds, tables, etc. to get it done but it really went well. We were so impressed with how the sisters dug in and made the job go real smooth. I hope you can see the difference in these pictures and the ones from last week.
Elder Sarkady and Elder Brasil
Friday we were off to Castillos.  On the way we dropped off a microwave to Elder Cary and Ontiveros in Maldonado.  When we arrived we were very pleased that their apartment was clean and neat.  We were so grateful.  They told us of some people that they are teaching and seemed real excited about their area.  Good for them.  After that we dropped off new bikes to Elder Brasil and Sarkady.  They were happy to get them.  They have a huge area in La Paloma and the bikes will really help.  The first time we ran into Elder Brasil in the field it was a cold rainy night and he was very cold and hungry.  He told us how much he wanted rice and black beans.  Well guess what they were eating when we arrived?  You guessed it.  They were full and happy.  We were also real impressed with the cleanliness of their apartment.  They were also happy to tell us about some people that they were teaching.

Friday afternoon we met the Elders at the chapel in Castillos for a “ward correlation meeting”.  When you have a small branch this includes the Elders Quorum President, the new Primary President and the missionaries.  These are the only callings in the branch right now.  They spent most of two hours planning an activity for the branch.  They ended up making plans to involve several of the people in the branch to make it work.  It should be fun.  We hope to have some good pictures and stories in a few weeks.  After that we tried to visit a few members but did not have much luck.

Saturday morning we met the Elders at the Church at 10:00 A.M. to plan our activities and to start filling the font for a baptism.  The first thing we found out was that the valve on the font did not close so we had to do a little plumbing to get it fixed.  What a wonderful blessing that we fixed it and it didn’t leak.  Wooohoo!  This took most of the morning as we stayed to watch the font fill while the Elders went on a charla.  We did the usual lunch date at Hermana Nardas and guess what, we had Canelones again.  Double Wooooohoo!  They are so good.  We had a good visit and a great meal.
For the Siesta we took off for Chuy about a 45 minute drive to deliver a box of Book of Mormons.  It was hard to just drop off the box and not talk to the Elders.  Elder Anderson, Newman, Fonseca and Saeteros were in great spirits.  They were excited to tell us about the people they are teaching.  We expect baptisms from them.  As we left it started to rain real hard.  We had to drive a lot slower because of all of the water on the road.  We got back to the Chapel just in time to go get people for the baptism.

Sister Sonya was so excited to get baptized.  Even though it is difficult to get in and out of the font she was eager to become a member of the Church.  What a special experience!  After the baptism she commented several times that she felt so warm inside.  She bore a real special testimony afterwards.  It was so good to be a part of it.  Today they confirmed her in Sacrament meeting and welcomed her into the ward.  It was one of our most treasured memories to share this with the Elders.  Elder Stewart and Elder Castillo have been working so hard to make things work in Castillos.  One of the highlights of the baptism was the fact the Nalia, another investigator who is going to be baptized next week attended with her friend Zulma.  When Nalia found out that her good friend Zulma had been a member for two years she exclaimed, “Why didn’t you tell me?”  That’s a good lesson for a lot of us.
So we had a busy week, did several things that we had not planned but still feel good that we were doing what the Lord wanted us to do.  We do receive many rewards each day and look forward to serving the mission the best we can.  We love you all and appreciate all the support you give us.

Here is a picture of our fishing trip.  Never underestimate teenagers with photoshop
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Things Are Cooking Now

October 9, 2016

It’s always nice to have a secret weapon.  Our secret weapon is Renee’s cooking.  We have used it to our advantage several times.  Last Monday we scheduled inspections in one of the zones.  We had heard that one of the houses was a real mess.  No actually we had pictures emailed to us to show us it was a real mess.  We called the zone leaders to let them know we were coming.  We were so grateful that all of the houses were for the most part clean and tidy.  For this the missionaries were rewarded with cookies.  This week, Renee made peanut butter bars with chocolate topping.  I am not as big a fan of peanut butter as some others, but they were real good.  Also, the Latinos are not real familiar with peanut butter so sometimes they don’t look too enthused to eat them.  But after Renee gave them to one of the Latino sisters I asked if she liked it.  She gushed, “It’s the best thing I have ever eaten!”  What made it more special to us is the fact that this sister probably needed a little pick me up, so we kinda killed two birds with one stone.

Tuesday and Wednesday we spent time in the office getting the utilities paid and helping with some of the filing.  One of the desserts that we really like is called pasta flora.  Renee describes it as more of less sugar cookie dough covered with dulce de leche and then criss crossed with more cookie dough.  It was good but not quite what the Uruguayos make.  No problem, we took it to the office and the missionaries gobbled it up.  They appeared not to notice that it was different.  What makes that even better is that Renee will have to make another one.  The job that I have with the office elders to be taste testers.  It is really a pretty good gig.

I don’t remember if I have mentioned that there is a major mold problem Uruguay.  With the humidity and the colder winters it really sets in. We have harped about it a lot and are working to get some of the homes cleaned up.  One that is particularly bad is the sister apartment in San Jose de Carasco.  It is right on the coast and doesn’t have good ventilation.  The walls and ceilings were black from several years of neglect.  Even though it is every missionary’s responsibility we didn’t think that the four sisters that are there right now should have to clean up years of neglect.

So we volunteered to help them cleaned it up on Thursday.  Wednesday night we got a call about 9:00 P. M. from one of the sisters that we know real well.  She asked, “Are you still coming tomorrow?”  I told her we were.  She then said, “You know we don’t have any lunch planned for tomorrow.”  I said, “Are you begging?”  She sheepishly said yes.  I handed the phone to Renee and the wheels started to turn.  They requested an American meal.  Before Renee was through she had whipped up a meal consisting of hamburgers in mushroom gravy with boiled potatoes, mixed vegetables and homemade rolls.  Dessert was lemon pie.  The sisters seemed to eat it just fine.  I included a before and after picture to show you the change in the mold on the walls.  To finish this off we need to paint the apartment with some better paint and then they can keep it up better.

The Sisters running late for the Capilla Abierta

Friday we did more office stuff and got ready for the Capilla Abierta in La Paz.  This is a real strong ward in the Norte Stake.  We had high hopes and were not disappointed.  There were nine investigators that came with a willing heart.  The missionaries did a great job explaining the principals of the Gospel to them.  Elder Guanuna and Manzanares were responsible for dressing in white and explaining Baptism and Receiving the Holy Ghost in front of the font.  They are both gringos.  Elder Guanuna has three and a half months in Uruguay and Elder Manzaneres has three weeks.  They worked real hard to put together a strong presentation and it was a great success.  It is so wonderful to spend time with the missionaries and take advantage of their testimonies.  I really like the group photo in front of Christ.  What a great group.

Today we had another presentation to do a Capilla Abierta in Belloni.  Renee is getting more comfortable with her part of the presentation and we both could feel the Spirit.  Renee has a few slides that shows our family and tells a little bit about us.  I then take over with some slides that explain the Capilla Abierta and everyone’s role.  I had a real hard time today after Renee got through.  I started out by saying that there are three reasons we are here.  First Dulce de Leche and explain that this means we love to learn and take part in all of the customs of Uruguay.  Second, because we want to serve and third because we want to bear testimony.  Today, after seeing all of the pictures of our family I also stated that it is very difficult to leave a wonderful family like ours and that we could only do it because we have a testimony of the truth.

 And that pretty much sums it up.  We are both happy and busy but also missing our home, family and friends.  It is a little harder this time of year as the hunts are starting tomorrow and I really miss doing this with my family.  We do appreciate all of the support from our family.  We face time one of our daughters every Sunday.  What started out as a 20 minute visit has now stretched into more than an hour.  The only way we could do this mission is because we do have a great love for our Savior and want to serve him.  Actually, I have probably shot my share of deer and pheasants and caught my share of fish.  That being said I wouldn’t mind going with my family and share those great experiences a little more. But that time will come again.

We love you all.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Choking On a Piece of Bread

October 2, 2016

Have you ever got a piece of bread caught in your throat and had trouble swallowing?  Well that is how we have been for the last couple of months as we have struggled to change the utility bills on some of the houses in the mission.  It seems like every week that something would come up that would prevent us from getting it done.  Well that changed this week.

Eating pizza and lemon bars after the move in Los Ceibos.  I love the Aggie shirt on Elder Johanson
But first, we had to move some elders.  We have been working on changing the house in Los Ceibos for a couple of months.  Monday afternoon we were able to get it done.  We had four Elders along with Elder Parmenter and Johansen to help.  It was a close move and we got it done in a couple of hours.  We also got great help from the members as they helped us move and also changed the water heater.  After the move we bought some 12” pizzas at the store next door for a $1 each and added some cheese.  After heating them up, they were really good.  Elder Johansen is from Tooele and does a good job getting noticed with his “Aggie” shirt.  He is new and has been fun to get to know.  He has asked Renee for some ideas on cooking and is now quite the cook.  He even made some lemon bars for the move that were quite good.  Too bad Renee made some also.  When he tried one of Renee’s lemon bars, he asked her, “Is this the same recipe?”  They were.  To be fair to Elder Johansen, he does not have all the ingredients and things Renee has.  Also, even though they were different, they were still good.

I wanted to put in a little about the flowers.  It is spring here and the flowers are starting to bloom. There are many different varieties and they really do make it wonderful.  Uruguay is such a pretty place.  It is turning green again and we are looking forward to a wonderful summer.  It is starting to get a little warmer.  I am starting to wear short sleeved shirts again and hope to get a little tan.  Most days are pleasant and we have not had to use too much power to heat our house so that is nice.
Tuesday, we were able to swallow the bread.  We took Elder Caudle and Rodriguez to the water utility, named OSE, to change the water bills.  It took over an hour to change 6 apartments.  Elder Caudle and Rodriguez did a real good job and we are so grateful for their help.  After, we had to have our picture taken in front of the OSE office.  Oh, and we celebrated a little early as we had Pronto Pollo on the way down.  Pronto Pollo, as you may recall is a place where you can buy a chicken milanesa that has ham and cheese inside.  Think of a thin chicken cordon bleu sandwich on a bed a French Fries.  You bet it’s good.
This is after we got done changing all the water bill numbers.  I was happy!!
We killed two birds with one stone on the OSE trip as we were able to take the Nortons with us.  Elder and Sister Norton are from Utah Valley and are in charge of all the Capilla Abiertas in our area, including Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile.  They visited us from Tuesday to Thursday to do some trainings with the Stakes.  So on Tuesday night and Wednesday night we did training in two locations.  We had representatives from most of the Stakes that are close to Montevideo.  Renee and I gave our presentation and then the Nortons explained how the stakes could help.  We work pretty good as a team and got a lot of positive response.  We’ll now follow up with the stakes to help them do their own.  It should make us quite a bit more efficient and give us time to visit Castillos more.

Here we are with the Nortons after a temple session
Speaking of Castillos, on Thursday morning we dropped the Nortons off at the airport, bought a couple of bikes for the Elders in Aeroparque and then took off for Castillos.  With our Capilla Abierta schedule we have had trouble making time for Castillos so we went up to visit on Thursday and Friday.  It was kind of a fast visit but we felt that we needed to go.  After we got there we found out why.

We tried to visit several families with no luck. After several strike outs we stopped to visit the Lopez family.  The dad is an artist and we asked him if he would paint a picture of Castillos for us.  We had a real good visit talking about how it should be done.  We had a real good visit about the Gospel and could feel the Spirit real strong.  After that we were about finished for the day.  On Friday we met with the Elders and talked about what we could do to help.  We had one of the members, Rosanna, take us to Aguas Dulces, which is about 7 miles East of Castillos, on the Coast to visit a member named Maria.  It was a good warm visit.  We also found Silvia at home and had a good visit with her.  She committed to come to conference on Sunday.

We were excited for conference and met with the Temple missionaries to watch conference.  For Saturday lunch we had Pronto Pollo again, kinda seeing a trend here aren’t you.  What can I say about conference.  They spoke directly to us.  The messages were exactly what we needed to help us grow in the Gospel and do a better job.

We love the Gospel and the chance to serve.  It is exciting to be part of such a wonderful work.  We hope all of you had a chance to listen and receive inspiration for your family.

We love you all.
Gordon and Renee