Sunday, April 30, 2017

Trying To Make Things A Little More “Snappy”

I heard from my publisher/editor last week.  She told me that my blogs haven’t been as “snappy” lately.  Well, after about 70 of them and a couple of long weeks we sometimes get tired and run out of things to say.  So I’ll try to do a little better.

This was the week of inspections.  We inspected the Este, Maroñas, La Costa, Florida and Durazno Zones.  That is almost half of the mission.  We drove well over 600 miles.   We did this while we were also doing some office work.  We took some pictures of some of the missionaries.  They make us so happy.  They seem to really like Renee’s cookies.

One of our stops was in Paso de Los Toros.  These Elders really have it going on.  They just got through painting their house.  Doesn’t it look nice?  I am so proud of them.  The feeling in the house was incredible.  Too bad it is such a long way from Montevideo.  We also couldn’t pass up a chance to take a picture of the bull.  It’s a cool statue.

One of the things that we do when we inspect the apartments is to check the smoke alarms to make sure they are operating and that the missionaries are reporting it correctly.  The missionaries are supposed to check them every month and report it to the mission president.  It is pretty important.  We have had some problems with alarms failing so we take extra just in case.  Elder Holland and Cuenca have a weak alarm so we left them a new one.   One problem that showed up this week is evidence that someone may be losing a little hair on top.  I guess that’s why the Yankees and John Deere make hats.

So when you hear Durazno you should immediately think of El Gaucho and a “Bauru”.  We have featured it in the blog before and made sure we stopped this time also.  I think this is my third time at El Gaucho with Elder Ruiz.  I can’t think what I like more him or the Bauru.  Good that I don’t have to pick; I can enjoy them both at the same time.

In the middle of the week we had to work on a contract that needed to be renewed.  There were some problems.  The Real Estate guy was super nice even though we had some significant problems with the Utilities.  He gave us the stuff that we needed to fix them so that made us happy.  Normally we go into downtown Montevideo, take a number and wait and hour or so to get helped.  Then we usually forget that we need a photocopy of my identification to complete the transaction so we have to go around the corner to make one.  Then after another hour we go through the song and dance again.  Well, this time we just stopped at the local water company and they fixed it in a hurry.  Of course, we still had to go down the street to get a photocopy of our documents but still it was really slick.
I was feeling pretty good about how slick we got the water changed so we stopped at the power company too.  They wouldn’t let me change the power to my name because we have a couple of bills from other houses that are due, not past due, but due.  So, using inspiration, I had them use Renee’s documents.  Great idea, right.  Now I was really on a roll.  In past blogs I have talked about how hard it is to find an allergy medicine I take.  I still needed one prescription to fill so I stopped at the pharmacy right next to the light company.  We were in luck!  So with the water, lights and the prescription, I had completed the trifecta!!!  It was a great day.

Thursday evening we finally had time to visit Humberto and Cristina.  They are doing great.  She made “Bondiolo” for us.  It is basically deep friend apple bread.  We made another great sacrifice eating it to make them happy.  She is such a good cook.

Friday night and Saturday night we had Capilla Abiertas.  First in Canelones and then in Pando.  Both branches were very well prepared.  Between the members and missionaries they were able to teach the Gospel to quite a few people.   We show the “Prince of Peace” video that was prepared for Easter.  We could tell that several people were very interested.  This is a great chance for the missionaries and the members to work together.  We really enjoy them.

Today we went to Church in the Malvin Ward.  This is our “home ward” or where we go when we are in town.  It is the first time we have been there in about two months.  We were able to go to Sunday School with Humberto and Cristina and visit with many of the other members.  It was a good day.  I even made Elder Child’s day by letting him think that we had twin ties.

Elder and Sister Wiberg are Temple missionaries.  They go home in the next week or so.  We finished off the week by enjoying lunch with them and our friend Gordon.  It was quite a treat.  We spent over three hours talking about life in general.  We are going to miss the Wibergs when they go home.  Good thing we still get to see our friend Gordon.

So I hope that is snappy enough for you.  We have some rather big things coming up so stay tuned for more exciting blogs.  We are having a great time keeping busy helping out the missionaries.   We appreciate all of the support we get from home.

We love you all.
Gordon and Renee.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Flash From The Past

When I started my first mission to Argentina forty-four years ago, my companion was Nick Mazanis.  We ended up not only spending the Mission Home and Language Training mission together but also our first three districts, Cordoba, Tucuman and Jujuy together.  To top things off we served as Zone Leaders at the end of our missions.  He is my closest companion to say the least.  They started a mission in Salt Lake City the same time we did.  As missionaries, they found a man named Roberto from Uruguay.  They started to teach him but he had to return to Uruguay for a time.  Nick gave me his name and address and we sent some missionaries to visit.  Elder Rodriguez and Elder Guerra were the Zone Leaders in the Maldonado Zone and taught him while he was here.  On his return to Salt Lake, he was married last week and baptized yesterday.  I have included a picture of Elder Rodriguez and Elder Guerra when they found out.  They were real excited.  That’s what I call team missionary work.

The past week was fairly typical of our assignment.  On Monday we helped a little with the Zone Leader Conference.  Renee helped with the cooking, while I was busy in the office.  On Tuesday we spent time catching up in the office.  This is important work but not really the stuff that gets into the blog.  To make things more exciting I included a picture of us with the Temple Missionaries in the Peruvian Restaurant.  Peruvian food is a little different than Uruguayan food.  It is very delicious.

Wednesday we inspected the Las Piedras Zone.  I really like this zone.  They have some of the best areas and the missionaries are always excited.  It is so fun to hear them tell us about their experiences.  We capped off Wednesday by stopping with the missionaries to buy pizza from “Papa Jorge”.  I included a picture of him cutting up the Pizza to show the unique way he cuts them and also to show you how much cheese they put on the Pizza.  The other toppings, ham and pineapple are under the cheese.  This is really good.

On Thursday we had to work on some water problems in three of the houses.  They had problems with toilets and also broken pipes in the walls.  Good thing we have some people that can help us.  The highlight of Thursday was going to the charla with Papa Jorge and Veronica with Elder Cheney and Elder Fix.  They had a good message and it was a good lesson.  At the end of the lesson, Renee asked Veronica if she believed the Gospel was true and if she felt the Book of Mormon was also true.  She said yes.  It was kind of an “ah ha moment”.  Veronica is making progress and we hope she continues to move forward.

Friday we were off to Castillos for the weekend.  We had to do some work on the water problems and also had to stop off in San Carlos to fix a bed and drop some other stuff off to the Rocha Elders.  I probably should have taken some pictures of the missionaries but we just ran out of time.
The weekend was filled with visits.  We were lucky to have Oreales and Rosanna go with us to visit some of the members.  It is so much better when members go with us.  We were able to talk to several different families.  It was good to share our testimonies and hear from them.  I wish I could tell you more about how they are doing.  It is sufficient to say that everyone has challenges and the good people of Castillos are working to meet these challenges.

Today was an exciting time in Castillos.  Twenty-four people came to Church.  It was one of the best Sundays we have seen.  We have come to love them so much.  They are working hard to come and participate and help the Church grow.  Elder Xavier is serving as the Branch President.   He was serving in the office when we arrived and helped to train us.  It is so good to work with him and the other missionaries.  It is amazing how much we have grown to love the people in Castillos.  We are truly a family.  We pray for them continually that they will continue to progress.

To end the week we made a detour on the way home and picked up some propane tanks from La Capuera and delivered them to Los Ceibos.  This added a couple of hours to our trip but it did get a few things off our list of things to do.  We are now home and hoping to get a good night’s sleep to do it again next week.

We continue to be grateful for this opportunity.  We love the missionaries so much and love to serve with them.

Gordon and Renee

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Welcome Home

First, we hope you all had a wonderful Easter.  It is such a good time to get together with family and enjoy the love we share.  We can hardly wait to get home to do it next year.  I must say that the Jelly Beans that I received from home are soooo appreciated.  Also, I hope we appreciate the blessings the Savior gave us through his Atonement and Resurrection.  As I said today in Church: “where would we be and who would we be without the Savior."  I hate to think of it.

Whenever we have an odd number of missionaries, we request part time missionaries from the Stakes.  I often have the opportunity to pick them up or take them home.  It is one of the best parts of our job.   Our friend Pablo served for a month and did a great job.  You can tell how happy his family was to see him.  He plans to put his papers in this summer.  Some mission president is going to be real grateful.

Another one of our jobs is to keep the missionary apartments in good repair including appliances.  For some reason, the missionaries really like blenders.  Here the assistants were more than excited to get a new blender.  They couldn’t stop talking about it.  I guess it doesn’t take much to keep them happy.

The new missionaries came in on Tuesday.  Well, they were supposed to come in on Tuesday.  One of the sisters leaving from Salt Lake had airplane trouble in Miami and didn’t get here until Wednesday.  We only had four missionaries this time including one Elder from here in Uruguay that is waiting on a visa to serve in the Salt Lake City West Mission.  So the change went pretty smooth.  The new missionaries were enthusiastic and excited to get going.  I made a few shots of them milking alfajores.  This has kind of become a tradition to show the new missionaries how to do it.  You can also tell that the office missionaries don’t have any problem taking part.

I decided to put in some extra pictures that I call “the faces of Elder Childs”.  A few things you need to know about Elder Childs: 1. He loves being a missionary. 2. Loves milking alfajores and 3. We love him.  These shots show just how much joy there is in the mission.

Now for the ones going home.  We only had a half a dozen going home.  The sad part is that all but one of them is from South America, so the chance of seeing them again is diminished.  Sister Mejia and Sister Alonzo both lived next door to us.  We attended several charlas with them and fed them a few times.  They are great missionaries and we will miss them.  Next we have the Elders.  We managed to work with them several times and became very close.  In fact, as I have said before, it gets harder and harder to say good bye each change.  I can’t think of them without tears coming to my eyes.  I hope you can see how much we love each other by the pictures.  We didn’t get the usual airport pictures as they left on several different flights and we were not there to see them all off.  I’m telling you, it gets harder every time we say good bye.

As we were waiting to send off some of the missionaries there was some commotion at the arrival gate including TV cameras.  It was the Peñarol soccer team coming in.  This is real big news in Uruguay.  About 90% of the people in Uruguay are Peñarol fans.  The rest are just misguided.  Maybe we can convert them at the same time we baptize them.

To end the week we spent Friday inspecting apartments in the Maronas zone including cutting grass on some of the apartments, checking heaters and smoke alarms and doing general repairs.  I took another picture of the “bird of paradise” flower.  This is so cool.   I really wish I could grow it in Blackfoot.

Saturday we took a much needed rest and cleaned the house.  And I had nine shirts to iron.  It was good to take a break.  This morning we were on the road by 8:00 A.M. to do a presentation in Canelones which is about an hour from our apartment.  This is a community in the country.  The people are so friendly and eager to help.  Our presentation went well and we look forward to an exciting time in two weeks.  Renee not only did her normal presentation but also spoke in Sacrament Meeting.  She is getting braver all the time.  I am proud of her and all of her efforts.  I would say that our Spanish is not quite ready for General Conference but the people do seem to nod once in awhile indicating that at least they act like they understand.

So how do you end off a perfect week?  How about a turkey dinner with the Temple missionaries in the afternoon and dinner with the Sisters at night?  Ya, it works for me.  The Wibergs and Atkinsons go home next month so this may be our last hoorah.   We try to do the dinners with the Sisters when the Sister Training Leaders come in for training.  It is always good to see Sister Campbell and Sister Luker.  It doesn’t hurt to have Sister Perales and Sister Anderson here also.  We had so much fun.  It was so good to hear about the people that they are teaching.

Well another change is passed.  We have a lot to do in the next change that will keep us hoping.  We hope we have the energy.  We love you all.

Love Gordon and Renee

Sunday, April 9, 2017

All Smiles

Our two 8-year-old Grandsons

I’m starting this blog with a picture of two of our grandsons that got baptized yesterday in Blackfoot.  We were able to see it through Facetime that made it a little easier.  Also, one of our dear friends received her endowments on Saturday.  This kind of puts into focus some of the things we are missing.  It is good that we can fill our lives with other good things to take some of the sting away.  Either way, do you think I want to give these two a hug?

First, we had a trip to the temple

I could fill this blog with a lot of real boring stuff like cutting grass and working with apartments.  That is what we did for the first part of the week.  It is important but not interesting.  So I think we’ll move right onto Thursday.  This change all of the missionaries came in to go to the Temple.  Because the office missionaries schedule is a little different, they went Thursday instead.  We decided to tag along.  It was really a neat experience.  The Montevideo Temple is a tremendous blessing to the country.  I can see it in the lives of all of the members.
Then we had the birthday party
Then we had another birthday party
Including lemon pie
Thursday was also Elder Cheney’s Birthday.  We started with a little birthday party at the office where we ate cake from Sister Eddy.  This included a scented candle that was blown out by Elder Cheney.  We finished off the day with dinner made by Renee for Elder Cheney and Elder Montiel.  This was for his birthday, to also thank Elder Montiel for his six months in the office and to have a Charla with one of our friends.  Kind of a multiple use dinner.  The meal included tin foil dinners, jello and lemon pie.  The Elders ate a lot.  We had a real good Charla where the Spirit was strong.

Then we had inspections, including cookies
These Elders won the prize for "the cleanest this apartment
has ever been."  Thanks Elders Hemeyer and Riscanevo
We couldn't decide which picture was better, so we included both
Friday we took off as soon as we could for Castillos.  On the way we stopped at the Maldonado Zone to do inspections.  We were so impressed.  All of the apartments were very clean.  Elder Hemeyer and Riscanevo’s apartment was especially clean.  We had never seen the apartment like this.  It really shows in their apartment and their smiles.  In fact, all of the missionaries did such a good job.  You can tell they are happy and doing such a good job.

At the Capilla Abierta
We also did inspections in the Rocha Zone.  Again we were so appreciative of the work the missionaries have done to keep their houses clean.  I didn’t take pictures of them in their houses because we had the Capilla Abierta with them on Saturday.  The Capilla Abierta went real well.  The missionaries contacted hundreds of people and invited them to come in.  There were not a lot of people attending but two of the ones that attended accepted an invitation to be baptized.  I’d say that was a pretty good night.

My job was to show the video on “The Prince of Peace” and invite the people to view the other videos at home.  From my vantage point I could see the Elders working as they explained the various parts of the Gospel and invited the people to learn more.  What a wonderful blessing!  They are so knowledgeable and express such strong testimonies.  I love to be a part of it.  One of the things that I noticed about these pictures is how happy the Missionaries are.  You can see it in their faces and feel it in their presence.  We love it.

Including "the old Man" Elder Vallecillos

I had to include a picture with me and Elder Villecillos.  He has been a Zone Leader for most of the time we have been here.  He also served in the zone that includes the mission office so we have seen him a lot.  He goes home soon and I am already sad.  We make such good friends with the missionaries it is so hard to see them go.

We also spent the weekend in Castillos again.  We love serving in Castillos.  From Narda’s lunch on Saturday, to the individual visits, to Church on Sunday.  This little branch is trying to grow.  It is rewarding to visit the members and support Elder Xavier and Elder Ramos in their efforts.  Each time we go we try to listen to the Spirit to be directed to visit the right people and support and help.  We always come away feeling rewarded for our efforts.  Most of the experiences are a little too personal to share in this blog, but we continue to feel the Spirit and are rewarded for our efforts in so many ways.

We just had one last minute thing.  Just as I was getting ready to write the blog, we got a call that a set of missionaries had lost their keys.  This is a challenge on a Sunday evening.  As I headed out to help them I remembered that we have some copies for some of the apartments in the mission office.  As an answer to prayer we had an extra set for them.  This turned a difficult problem into an easy solution.  We were so grateful.

Thanks for all of the support we receive.  We love you all.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, April 2, 2017

You Know It Don’t Come Easy

One of the first things I noticed when we got here was that most of the lawn mowing is done with weed whackers.  It is very common to see several guys on the highway median with weed whackers, cutting the grass.  At first you may think it is quite inefficient but you begin to notice that they do a pretty fast and good job.

Several of the apartments have yards with grass that needs to be cut.  We try to get members to help but sometimes that is difficult.  No, actually, it is always difficult.  So we end up with either a rather expensive bill or yards that look like the people have moved.  To help with this, the mission purchased some electric weed trimmers.  They are mostly burned up so we are now trying to do it with a gas powered weed whacker.  We have one in the storage unit but it has not been operated.
I decided to see if I could get it going.  The first step was to buy a gas can.  It took three stops but we finally found it.  We had to present the new gas can with the receipt at the service desk to get the cap.  That’s kind of a security thing.  With fresh gas the weed whacker didn’t start.  I pulled on it quite a few times including the time I didn’t notice how close I was to the wall and whacked my elbow.  We’re talking tears-in-your-eyes whacked.  It really hurt.

Next step was to buy a spark plug.  So, how do you say “spark plug” in Spanish?  Bujía.  It was on the tip of my tongue.  First, I went to the hardware store.  They said to go to the service station.  No luck there.  They said to go to Cymaco.  You can see by the picture that this was the right store.  It is on the corner of the two most common streets in our mission.   I have passed it well over 100 times.  With a new spark plug, still no luck.  I then went to the service store for weed whackers.  They sold me the little bulb for about $3.  It still did not work.  They told me they would give me 10% off on a new one.  When we went back to buy the new one, they said they couldn’t do the discount with a credit card.  So now we have a new weed whacker and an old one that is in the shop until at least April 26.  This week has made me really appreciate my friend LG at Mr. Mower.  You can also tell from the pictures that I really miss my John Deere Mower.  “Nothing Runs Like a Deere!”

After that we made short work of several of the houses.  The missionaries were good to help rake up the cut grass, especially when I remembered to take a rake.

Friday was Oro conference when they bring the new missionaries in after 4 weeks and give them and their trainers more training.  It is a fun time to see how the new missionaries are doing.  This is a really fun group.  You can tell that the new missionaries are doing well with their trainers.  The new Latino elders are even learning English from Elder Newman.  So far he has taught them, “Oh Yeah”.  He is quite the teacher.

Our favorite part of the week was the Charlas that we have been able to attend.  Elder Montiel and Elder Cheney have invited us to several.  It is a highlight of our mission to be able to attend these charlas and feel the Spirit.  We had a real special experience on Thursday night.  We had a charla with a part member family that went real well.  Elder Montiel ended the charla by inviting them to General Conference.  We are very hopeful that they will come.  Then we dropped by another lady that they have taught but have had trouble finding again.  She was home and invited us in.  She was very quick to tell us that she was not planning to change religions.  We’ve never heard that before.  In the middle of our discussion Elder Montiel invited her to General Conference.  In the middle of talking about modern day prophets, she stopped him.  “You mean there are Prophets on the earth today that speak to God?” she said.  Her whole countenance changed.  She became very interested in what she could learn from them.  We are hopeful she will come to Conference today.

We also went on another charla to another lady that was about to be baptized a couple of years ago but decided not to.  The Elders found her on the street.  She is reading and praying and attending Church.  Her home was filled with the spirit.  We are expecting a baptism this month. What an exciting time to be in the mission field.

We are ending off the week with General Conference.  We go over to the Temple Missionary apartments to watch Conference with them.  We really enjoyed the messages yesterday.  The sessions start at 1:00 P.M. and 5:00 P.M. here so we have all of the morning free.  The time change makes the 9:00 P.M. Priesthood start time a little late but it was so good.  Like dad always said, “they always bring out the big guns for Priesthood meeting.”

Yesterday we had “Mega Milla Pizza” for lunch.  This is a 12” diameter milanesa with pizza toppings.   It is served on a bed of French Fries.  It is very delicious and low calorie.  You can tell that by the grease dripping down your arms.  I’m sure we all lost weight yesterday.  Today we are having omelets, thanks to Elder Jensen.   They are extremely good.

I better get ready for conference.  We love all of you and miss you more and more.  Thanks for all of your love and support.

Gordon and Renee