Sunday, March 26, 2017

Groundhog Day

I got this title from the movie with Bill Murray where he had to do the same thing over and over.  That’s kind of how this week went.  Monday and Tuesday started out simple enough.  We did a little office work and tracked down some things that needed to be fixed in some of the houses.  This is a never ending battle.  We have also been working to get several of the houses painted.  The key to this is if the members will help because we just don’t have the manpower to paint them all and we also don’t have the budget to hire it done.

What works out the best is if the members will team up with the missionaries.  This is per the direction of the area office so we are actually following orders.  Kind of new for me, I know, but I’m working on the obedience thing little by little.  So, on Tuesday we went out to the Las Piedras Zone to meet with the Elders that serve in the Obedelisco Ward.  The members of the ward have offered to help so we went out to help coordinate it.  Hopefully we can get it done in the next couple of weeks.  I hope you like the picture with the Elders with all of the empty cereal boxes.  This picture explains their diet a lot.  I do think Elder Cole and Christensen look a lot alike, just like Elder Perez and I.  I decided not to show the stack of empty toilet paper rolls.  Actually, Renee decided and I followed.

Tuesday night was a neat opportunity.  Elder Roquemore and Yardley had to come into Montevideo for some business.  They worked Tuesday evening with the finance Elders of the office.  We figured that they needed dinner so we invited them to come after they got done working.  Well, you can’t invite them without the finance Elders.  And you can’t invite the finance Elders without the Secretaries.  So pretty soon we had a full house of Elders eating pulled pork sandwiches, sliced peppers, carrots, cucumbers, cantaloupe and watermelon.  They finished dinner off with peanut butter bars.  It was like ravenous locusts had descended on our house.  There was not much left.
Wednesday we met them early to take them to their appointments.  We also met some other Elders at the bus station, Tres Cruzes, to take them to some appointments.  After we took the other Elders home to La Capuera and went all the way up to Rocha to pick up an Elder to bring to Montevideo.  We were on-the-go all day.  When we got home Wednesday night we found out that all of them needed to do some more stuff so we spent a good part of Thursday doing the same thing, just like the movie Groundhog Day.

We did get done in time to go on a Charla with the finance Elders.  We stopped off to visit an inactive member that has family in Blackfoot.  What are the odds of that?  We had a good visit and then went to a Charla with Jorge and Veronica, our pizza shop family.  We had a real good Charla on the importance of gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon.  It was really neat.

Friday we got a few things done at the office and then attended the Temple in the afternoon.  We went to a session and then attended a sealing or marriage of one of the Temple workers.  It was really a peaceful evening.  After the Temple we needed to do something for dinner so we stopped by Jorge’s Pizzeria and picked up a pizza.  They really like to put on the cheese.  What a great custom.  We were very satisfied.

Our plan for the weekend was to do a Capilla Abierta on Saturday night and then drive to Rocha to do the presentation for a Capilla Abierta there in two weeks.  But, Thursday afternoon we received word that the Rocha Capilla Abierta was cancelled.  This was too bad because we already had hotel rooms booked for these two weekends and we could not cancel them.  Renee suggested that we see if we could do one in Chuy.  This is quite a bit farther but would work with the hotel rooms.  We made a quick call to the missionaries in Chuy and the set it up.  So we were back in the money.

Saturday afternoon we went to the El Bosque ward of the La Costa Stake to do the Capilla Abierta.  The missionaries were very enthusiastic and did a good job inviting the people to come in.  I got a pretty good shot of the Elders meeting with people on the street. There were a half a dozen new people that showed quite a bit of interest.  We got done about 8:30 P.M. and then drove to La Paloma to stay in the Hotel.  We arrived about 11:00 P.M.  A little late for a couple of old people.

Chuy is on the coast and actually straddles the Brazil border.  It is about four hours from Montevideo.  We took off from La Paloma for Chuy as soon as we could in the morning and arrived in plenty of time to do our presentation.  We had no sooner arrived and we could feel that we had been led in the right direction.  The people were so open and friendly.  They were excited to participate and anxiously asked for invitations to invite their friends.  The Church building also sits right on the major plaza so we should have a good crowd in two weeks.  We can hardly wait.  It is amazing how the Lord leads us in the right direction.  Chuy is not what we planned but it is what needed to be done.  We are so grateful to be able to be led in the right direction.

We got home about 5:00 P. M. today, tired but happy.  It was a pretty fun week.  We have had some good opportunities lately to teach and to bear our testimonies.  That is what makes the mission worthwhile.  We are looking forward to Easter and General Conference.  It is a fun time to be missionaries.  We love you all.

Gordon and Renee

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Kind of Like Missionaries

March 19, 2017

Our original plans for this week were to go to Durazno on Tuesday and fix some things for the missionaries.  They ended up coming to Montevideo to attend the Temple so that gave us a free day.  We took advantage of it by attending the multi-zone conference with the Este, La Costa and Maronas zones.  It was really a treat to hear from the assistants and the Mission President as they taught the missionaries.  The Mission President spent quite a bit of time on the importance of obtaining the Spirit and following it.  I really enjoyed listening and feeling the Spirit.

The Este Zone Leaders were assigned to provide lunch.  They asked us to help.  We did so by ordering 58 foot long subway sandwiches.  We do this quite often.   We are good friends with the folks at the Subway Sandwich shop.  They treat us real well.  Anyway after lunch the missionaries were off to work.

On Wednesday we took off early for Durazno.  We made a quick stop in Florida to talk to them about painting the house of the Zone Leaders.  After that we stopped and had a good visit with Elder and Sister Wall.  We arrived in Durazno just in time to see the tail end of District Meeting.  It was fun to spend time with the missionaries.

Our main purpose for going to Durazno was to fix the stove of the Zone Leaders.  All of the stoves in Uruguay run off propane tanks.  None of the four burners worked.  My first question was whether they had checked the gas.  It was fun to see the look on the Zone Leaders faces when I asked that question.  Apparently they had not.  I guess you could also ask why I didn’t ask them this from Montevideo to save the trip.  Another good question, but hey, I’m asking the questions.

So we changed the tank and the stove still did not work.  I took some time to clean each of the jets that feeds the individual burners.  I asked Elder Oroche and Ruiz what the Spanish word for jets is.  They responded, “la cosita de la cosa”.  Or in other words, “the thingy of the thingy.”   That really helped.  I thought how much fun that would be to walk into Standard Plumbing and ask Jason for the “cosita de la cosa”.  In reality, Jason would probably know what it was and would have one for me.  We did get three of the four burners working with instructions on how to fix the other one.  We could not buy the parts as it was during the siesta.  Shopping for things like that from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm is really quite fruitless if you are in the rural part of Uruguay.  Long live the siesta!

We then hurried home to fix dinner for Mary and Javier.  Hopefully you remember that Mary is the Mission cook.  She is a trained chef, so Renee was pretty nervous that her meal would pass the test.  Well, she solved that problem by serving my favorite Idaho dinner, Tinfoil dinners.  I think they turned out great as they ate every morsel.  I love Tinfoil dinners.  I can’t wait until I get home so I can make one over the fire.  Renee topped off the meal with apple crisp.  You can’t get any better than that.  Mary and Javier are such great people.  They are about our age.  Javier is a returned missionary and has served as a Bishop and about everything else.  Mary has too.  Renee and Mary are best friends.  We will really miss them when we leave.

Thursday we ran out to Los Ceibos to fix another stove.  Maintenance on the stoves and other fixtures in the houses is a constant battle.  We also stopped at the store to get the paint etc. for our little painting project in Minas on Friday.  We had to hurry because we had been invited to a Charla with Elder Cheney and Montiel.  We got back just in time.  Our first Charla was with Marcela.  She is a real neat lady.  The missionaries were so prepared with their message.  It went very well.  After our discussion, Renee and I helped her move some furniture in her house while the missionaries mowed the lawn.  Quite the lawn mower, I must say.  It is such a privilege to be able to bear testimony.

After that we went with them on another Charla to visit Jorge and his wife.  Jorge is a member and his wife is not.  Again, the missionaries had a real good message prepared that touched their hearts.  I can’t wait to see how they progress. By the way, Jorge owns a pizzeria.  Guess we need to make some more visits.  I hope my waistline can stand the “service” we have to do.

On Friday we arrived at the Minas house about 9:00 AM and the four Elders were ready.  The first thing we discovered was that the paint we bought did not work.  So we drove to the paint store and bought some more.  It ended up working great.  Elder Leano, Bio, Munoz and Cristobal were such good help.  It was a pretty big job but we managed to get it done.  It is not perfect but the walls are now clean and white and they look so much better.  My favorite part was spending time with the missionaries.  I was able to visit with them and get to know them better.  They come from a variety of backgrounds.  Some have families that have been members for generations.  Others are the only members in their families.  It is so neat to hear about how they decided to come on a mission.  We love listening to them.

I am real tired just telling you about our week.  But, we still had the weekend.  We took a little time Saturday morning to clean the house and then were off to Treinte y Tres before noon.  We dropped off an iron and ironing board in Minas on the way up and arrived at the chapel in time to set up for the Chapel Open house.  The open house was held at the Central/Plaza building in the Treinte Tres Stake.  I was so impressed with the preparedness of the members.  They brought several friends to the open house.  One of them even attended all of the meetings today.  Usually the Sisters do the tours, but, last night we only had two sets of Sisters so I was invited to do a couple of tours also.  It is such a blessing to testify of the Savior and the Restoration.  We had a great time with the missionaries and the people of Treinte Y Tres.

After the open house we went to dinner with the Bishop of the Plaza Ward and his wife.  Bishop Martinez has become a real good friend as he helps us with housing problems when needed.  We had a special time talking about our families and the Gospel.  Once again, if we lived in Treinte Y Tres I am sure we would be good friends.  I am sure I could teach him how to fish.

We got to bed a little late Saturday night and then were up for Church today.  It amazes me how organized the Church is.  The lessons that we had today were the same as all over the world.  The teachers taught with the Spirit and taught wonderful principals to help us throughout the week.  I love going to Church in Uruguay.  We were asked to speak in Sacrament meeting.  Renee did a good job with her Spanish and always brings a special spirit.  I talked about missionary work, quite a unique idea I know.  After church they had a special meeting for a young sister to open her missionary call.  She is going to Brazil.  It was another great experience.

What a great week of special experiences.  Our testimonies and friendships have been strengthened.  We continue to love the opportunity to serve.  Thanks for all you do.

Gordon and Renee

Monday, March 13, 2017

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is

March 12, 2017
Starting our tour of Colonia

So you better like Chicago and Rock and Roll from the ‘60’s era to get this title.   This morning we woke up in Castillos and were confused with the time.  We were excited that it was daylight savings time in the States so now we only have a three hour difference to talk with our family.  But, our “Uruguayo phone” showed 6:30 A.M. and our US i-phone and i-pad showed 7:30 A.M.  To settle it I looked at my regular watch and it said 7:30 A. M. so we settled down a bit.  This week’s blog is going to seem a little disjointed for two reasons: 1st it is 10:00 P. M. here and I am ready for bed and 2nd, we had quite a variety of things happen this week.

Our week started with a trip to Colonia de Sacramento which is a city about two hours away.  It was the first settlement in Uruguay and has a lot of history and museums.  I hope you like the photos.  We spent the day with the Temple Missionaries and the Nortons from Buenos Aires.  We went over and back on the bus.  It was a fun day.

Next we have the results of the Sisters “using” our i-pad.  They had several poses such as, “look happy”, “look sad”, “look scared”, “something tastes bad”, and “something smells bad”.  I put up about 10% of the actual pictures.  They are quite entertaining.

We had the Zone Leader and District Leader Conference on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I like the pictures of the Elders helping and getting ready to eat.  I especially like the picture of Elder Montiel and Cheney “begging” for food.  This is really a good tool.  With this photo, they not only get more to eat, but they also get more help with all of the missionary work.  They have really got things popping in the Carasco  Ward.  This is the one that surrounds the Temple.

My favorite part of the conferences was eating lunch with the missionaries.  Elder Ruiz is a Zone Leader in Durazno.  I have never seen him without a smile on his face.  He can also put the groceries away, if you know what I mean.  (See our blog a few weeks ago about the bauru in Durazno)  So for lunch they served roast pork, mashed potatoes, rolls and green salad.  As he sat down with his second full plate he said, “I only want a little butter on my roll because I am on a diet.”  I almost fell off my chair laughing.  I am already sad because he leaves in a few months.  I will miss him terribly.

 Consejo is training received each change for Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders.  There are a few, older, and  extras in the photo.  They love meeting together and renewing friendships.

The picture of the Sisters with the fan tells several stories in one.  First, this house had terrible walls with the masonry falling off and mold all over them.  The members of the Pan de Azucar branch banded together to help the Sisters repair the walls and paint the house.  It looks so good.  On top of that the Sisters received a new fan so now they get a little relief from the heat.  Their happy, positive smiles are what make our mission so great.

Now for Elder Childs.  Here is the four month story in one sentence.  Elder Childs arrived in the office, received his cedula or Uruguayan documents, got his health test for a driver’s license, found out his US license had expired, started driving school, somehow got his license renewed in the states, stopped driving lessons, waited for his license from the US, received his license after three weeks, got another health test, went to the driver’s license office to get his license, found out it was closed for a strike, returned the next day, got his license and finally passed his driving test from me.  You think he was happy?  We sure were, if for nothing else than not to have to listen to the saga anymore.  His picture actually shows how much fun it is to work with him every day.  We love him.

Next up on the list is Cristina’s birthday.  If you check out our blog from March 20, 2016, you can see pictures of Cristina’s birthday party with all of her family.  It was a real fun party.  Since that time she has recovered from a stroke and been baptized.  This year the party was not as big partially because she has to be careful about how much she does so she does not get so tired.  Instead of a big party, we were able to enjoy a fun evening together and talk about what they are doing to prepare for Humberto to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and be sealed in the Temple.  We concluded with a Priesthood Blessing to help her do a little better.  It was different evening than a year ago but a very special evening.

Elder Lockhart and Gomez enjoyed the ride
On Friday we headed to Castillos to help with the branch.  As we were driving into Rocha, we found Elder Lockhart and Gomez walking down the highway on their way to a charla.  We picked them up and took them out to Laguna Rocha to the charla.  This is 10 kilometers each way.  We really wanted to stay and give them a ride back but we had things scheduled in Castillos and needed to be going.  What a sacrifice all the Elders make to bring the Gospel to the people of Uruguay.  I have not had a chance to see how the charla went but we are praying for them.

I wish I had more time and space to talk about our weekend in Castillos.  We had several good visits and we feel that each time we go we are definitely led to the people that we meet.  Progress is slow, but you can see the efforts of the missionaries paying off in increased faith and work of the members.  The highlight of the weekend was Renee’s talk in Sacrament Meeting.  She did a real good job.  She still struggles with Spanish but is making progress every week.  One thing that is for sure, the people in Castillos love her.  They appreciate all of her efforts to learn the language and share her testimony with them.  We leave Castillos every week with a heavy heart as we love the people so much and can’t wait to go back.

Lastly was a Capilla Abierta in the Los Ceibos branch.  It was very well attended by the members and they were able to give a strong message to several people interested in the Gospel.  The missionaries were great and did a good job inviting people and sharing their Testimonies.  Because of the Capilla Abierta it is now 10:30 P. M. and I am tired and ready for bed.  Next week does not appear to be quite as hectic but it still should be fun.

We are so grateful for the chance to help in some small way.  We love the mission president and his family.  The missionaries are so wonderful.  We hope we can rest up enough to get a few things done this week.  The Gospel is true.  We are grateful for it.

We love you all.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, March 5, 2017

You Don’t Know What You Got ‘til It’s Gone

March 5, 2017

So another change week has come and gone.  It was busy and fun.  We do a lot of the same things so I try not to duplicate what we have talked about.  Our weeks are filled with fielding calls to help missionaries with their homes and working on contracts.  This continues to be a real challenge as we work to understand Spanish and work with the different individuals.

This is one of my favorite pictures! Everyone is full and Happy
I decided to put the “supper picture” first because I love this picture.  It was a highlight of our mission to eat dinner with these special missionaries before they went home.  We are so sad to see them leave.  We know that some of them we will never see again.  I write this with tears in my eyes as we love them so much.

Just like other change weeks, we start with the arrival of new missionaries on Tues.  We had nine new ones come in which is just about the right size.  They are a happy and energetic group.  It is fun to get to know them.  We participate in the training as Renee helps with the food and I run things around and help Sister Eddy with translation.  I have to say that Sister Eddy is very patient with my translation skills.

I really like the picture of the new missionaries eating.  You can tell how happy they are.  I had to sneak in the picture of the office elders sneaking some cake from the kitchen.  They always seem to be good at “cleaning up”.  After training and the evening meal the office missionaries sponsor a “cultural show”.  This includes a “jeopardy game” with facts of Uruguay as the answers.  It is really fun.  At the end program, the office missionaries show the new ones how to “milk alfajores”.
Alfajores are a cookie with dulce de leche or creamy caramel in the middle and covered with chocolate.  You milk it by biting a little off each end and then putting it in a bowl of milk and sucking the milk through it.  If you do a good job you can get the milk to come all the way.  It is really quite tasty.  As I said they are a happy group.  Well, as one of them was working on his alfajores, he exclaimed, “That’s life changing!”  We all laughed and went back to milking.

Wednesday morning I spent my time picking up missionaries going home.  I dropped off Renee at the mission home to cook at about 7:00 A.M. and then picked up two of the missionaries that are going home and live close to the mission home.  After that, I took the mission van and the trailer to the bus station, Tres Cruzes, to pick up the rest.  I had all of them at the mission home by 11:00 A. M.  Then we started the process of getting ready to send the old missionaries home.

Our evening dinner was wonderful.  The food was excellent.  I was amazed at how much the missionaries can put away.  You can tell by the picture at the top that they are happy and feel very good about their missions.  I am really sad because we have come to love the missionaries so much but realize that we probably won’t see a good share of the Latinos ever again.  We really enjoyed the testimony meeting as they have learned so much and are so full of the Spirit.

Thursday was quite hectic as there were five flights for nine missionaries.  The Peruvians left in the middle of the night so we were not able to say goodbye at the airport.  I am so happy that they have already joined us on Face book so we can keep in touch.  One of the twists to Thursday was that Elder Orme did not leave until 8:30 P.M.  So he had the whole afternoon to wait.  That worked just fine for us as we had some errands to run and took him with us.  That gave us more time to spend with him including dinner.  Elder Orme quickly became one of our favorites as he was so good to fix the things in his house.  Instead of calling to tell me what was wrong, he would call and tell me what he had fixed.  He did a lot of things with his Leatherman.  That’s why I called him “MacGyver”.  He made us twin ties that are really a great souvenir for me. His late flight was due to the fact that he is flying to Guam to meet his family.  His dad is a career Air Force Officer.  So his final salute was really appreciated.

So another change has come and gone.  We are still feeling pretty bad that our friends have left.  We love them so much.  We are looking forward to another fun week.  We expect to make some more contacts with people we can help along the way.

We love and appreciate all of you.
Gordon and Renee