Sunday, May 28, 2017

Baby Bombers

The Baby Bombers
It is time to confess that I am a Yankee Fan, third generation at that.  The Yanks have always had the nickname of the Bronx Bombers for all the home runs they hit.  Last fall they brought up several rookies that can really hit and started calling them the “baby bombers”.  So when they just called eleven new missionaries as an Assistant, Zone Leaders or Sister Training Leaders, I thought it was time to call them “baby bombers” too.  This “rookie” class is really special.  I had to include Elder Paulson, as he has been a Zone Leader for one change now and felt left out.  Sometimes you have to make the children happy.  Oh, and by the way, the Yankees are leading the American League East by three games.

We had a pretty busy week taking care of business with the change of missionaries.  As usual, the new missionaries or Oros came in on Tuesday.  We had a good time with them as they received their training.  It was fun to see the missionaries come in as trainers.  They are so enthusiastic and anxious to help the new missionaries.  I didn’t get as many pictures of them this time as I was trying to get some other things done.  I did include the picture of Elder Richmond and Elder Hunt with their matching ties.  I hope they don’t have to wear the same thing every day like seventh grade girls.  They will get pretty tiresome.

I put in a lot of pictures of the missionaries going home.  They are a special group.  First there are three that served in the mission office as financial secretaries, Elder Xavier, Elder Petersen and Elder Caudle.  We have included many pictures of them in the last 17 months.  Elder Xavier also just finished serving as the Branch President in Castillos.  I could go on for several paragraphs about our exploits with them.  I also wanted to mention Elder Silva.  He is from Brazil.  He is always helping.  On several occasions, he took the initiative to fix things in his house and also in the house of others.  You notice that he had to help fix the final dinner.  What a great missionary!

Next is Elder Vallecillos.  He served as a Zone Leader for most of the time we have been here.  We have had many good experiences together.  Elder Lang is one of my favorite missionaries.  He has been very diligent in all of his areas.  He seems to be everyone’s favorite companion.  I really like the picture with Elder Leano, Elder Bustos and Elder Cruz.  They have been some of the most helpful and respectful missionaries that we have had.  Elder Bustos is from Cordoba, Argentina where I served so we always had a special bond.  We are going to miss Sister Harpole and Sister Rich as they served as Sister Training Leaders.  But, we do expect to see them at Utah State next fall.  Go Aggies!

After a week of getting up early and going to bed late with the change week the last thing we had the energy to do was go to Castillos.  But after we finished helping with the Zone Leader Conference on Friday we took off for Castillos even though we did not have as much time as we wanted.  We arrived in Castillos about 5:30 P. M. and made a couple of visits to some of the members we know real well.  Our first visit was to one of our favorite Sisters.  She has not been feeling well and we could tell that she was really ill.  We are praying and hoping for her to get better.

Next we went to see the Lopez family. We have become very good friends.  We had a good time trading recipes and sharing other experiences.  Elder Perez and Elder Terasas came also.  Elder Perez is the new Branch President in Castillos. He had such a good message to leave with them.

Our latest foto with Narda and our Bolivian missionaries, Elder Teraza and Elder Perez
On Saturday we made some other visits and also had a great time at lunch with Narda.  She is such a good lady.  We have become very good friends.  After lunch we did some more visits.  We have been waiting for two weeks to see a less active family that we just met two weeks ago.  They are such a good family and we were very anxious to return and invite them to Church.  When we showed up with the Elders, they would not let us in.  The dad was sleeping and the mom would not let us in.  How disappointing!  We had been waiting for two weeks and then were let down.  I reflect on how often this does happen to the young missionaries.  Their lives are filled so much hard work and disappointment.  I am so grateful for them and the great efforts they make to bring the Gospel to the world.

We also made several visits to some of the widows in Castillos.  It is very rewarding to listen to their life stories and the successes and challenges that they have had.  We concluded the week by doing a presentation for a Capilla Abierta in Rocha.  The branch was very receptive and we had a real enjoyable time.  On the way home, we stopped to drop off a heater for Elder Rodriguez.  We had a good visit.  It was so good to see him.

Now we are trying to get rested up for another week.  As it gets warmer at home, we are seeing it get colder down here.  We are preparing for our last winter.  We appreciate all of you.

Gordon and Renee

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Looking Forward to Winter

The weather has been very good.  We have not had too much rain and it hasn’t been too hot.  Since the middle of March the weather has been really nice.  That is until the last couple of days.  The cold started last year about this time so we were ready for it.  We have spent the last couple of months making sure the missionaries were prepared with heaters etc.  We really had an interesting week.  We started the week off taking some time on Monday to catch up.  We also had to get ready for our visitors.  Noel and Carol Johnson are from our Stake in Blackfoot.  They used to be in our ward.  They served a mission like ours in Neuquen, Argentina and got home in 2011.  Now they are on a mission, teaching English on the Church Farms in Santiago, Chile.  They had meetings in Buenos Aires last week so they took an extra couple of days and came over to see us.  It was really fun.
They arrived on the ferry on Tuesday morning.  We were right by the Independence Plaza so took them to see it first.  After that we had lunch at the Mega mila pizza place.  This is a pizza that is built on top of a milanesa.  It has a lot of meat, cheese and other deep fried stuff.  It is served on a bed of fries to make us Idaho spuds happy.  We purchased one for all four of us.  It was more than enough.  After that we had to drop off some Capilla Abierta invitations to the sisters in Pan de Azucar so we took them up the coast to see Punta Del Este.  I have said before, that this is basically Miami beach in South America.  It was a beautiful drive and we had a wonderful visit.

On Wednesday we went to the Temple which is always a good way to start the day.  After that we kept busy doing some things for the missionaries and other sightseeing around Montevideo.  On Tuesday they wanted to try and catch up with one of the missionaries, Santiago, that served in the office with them in Neuquen.  We stopped by his office in Montevideo and they were able to visit with him.  We agreed to meet for dinner.  As we were visiting he said something about serving in Comodoro Rivadavia.  I asked him if he knew Jared Montiel.  He said that his family served him an asado or barbeque the last night of his mission.  He still keeps in contact with them.  You may remember that Elder Jared Montiel spent 6 months in the office with us.  They remember each other.  It is definitely a small world.

On Thursday morning we said good bye to the Johnsons just in time to go to the mission conference.  Elder Allan Packer is in the Area Presidency and came to our mission last week to visit.  We had a conference with him on Thursday and Friday with about half the mission coming in each day.  We were able to meet with him individually on Thursday morning.  It was really a good experience.
Renee helped with the cooking as they served chili on potatoes on Thursday and Stroganoff on Friday.  The missionaries ate and ate and ate.  I can’t believe how much they can eat.  Elder Packer and President Eddy taught some real important principals.  They emphasized the need to teach family history as we teach the Gospel.  Many people are interested in their ancestors so it really helped.

They had a leadership conference on Friday morning for the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders, so the missionaries that were on hand for the Thursday conference stayed over for Friday morning.  They worked with some of the local missionaries and then stayed in the Hostal by the Temple for the night.  Renee and I were asked to pick up the pizza.  It was fun to spend time with the missionaries.  You can see from their faces that they are so happy and so full of the Spirit of missionary work.  A special blessing that we received as part of our assignment is we picked up the pizzas from “Papa Jorge”.  You may remember that we have been stopping by to visit him and his wife from time to time.  He told us how he enjoyed doing the Priesthood lesson last week.  His testimony of the Prophets and the Gospel is really inspiring.  We love him.

Back to the weather.  We woke up Friday to a heavy rain storm.  As we walked up the ramp to get our car out of the garage I pushed to button to open the garage door.  It turns out that the garage door is also a dam.  The water came pouring out and filled our shoes.  What a great way to start the day!
Friday night we are pretty tired and ready for a good P-day.  Too bad we didn’t get one.  On Saturday morning instead of relaxing, Renee had to get ready to feed the Assistants.  Elder Mora is going home and we wanted to feed him and his companion before he left.  So at noon Elder Richmond and Elder Mora showed up for lunch with the new assistant, Elder Hunt.  You can tell from the pictures that we had a great time.  Renee made stir-fry.  It was excellent and a good beginning for the banana cream pie.  I think they liked it.  Who wouldn’t?

As we finished with them we took off for the Capilla Abierta in Pan de Azucar.  They have a new Chapel that was dedicated today.  They had a special Capilla Abierta to show it off to the community.  Included in the guest list were the mayor and Deacon from the Catholic Church.  Both men were very friendly and respectful.  They spent quite a bit of time learning about basic beliefs of the Church.  It was another good night with the spirit of the missionaries stealing the show once again.  The newspaper was there and took our picture for an article to be published this week.  Butch and Gene Jones would be so proud of me!!  Too bad I don’t have time to explain that one.
After that we took the Piriapolis Missionaries home, just because we could.  We got home about 10:30 P.M.  We had another good day at Church as we get ready for another change week.  Look for some more fun pictures next week.  Now we are sitting in our apartment with a sweater, slippers and other clothes as it is cold inside and outside.  Looks like winter is on the way.

We love the opportunity to serve and help the mission.  We are so grateful for the love the missionaries have for us.  We sure love them.

Gordon and Renee

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Just This Side of Normal

After the trip to Iguazu Falls last week it is time to get back in the swing of things.  One thing I forgot to mention from last week was what we did with money.  I purchased some Argentine Pesos and Brazilian Reales to go with the Uruguayan Pesos and Dollars.  It was kind of like playing monopoly.  When they would tell us the price I would put a bunch of money on the counter and let them pick what they wanted.  It also helped when we could use the credit card.  At least we looked like we knew what was going on.

We said good bye to our good friends the Wibergs this week.  We had a game night on Monday night and then said good bye at the airport.  We really enjoy getting together with the senior couples.  It won’t be the same without them.  The Jensen’s are still here and I am sure we will spend some fun times with them.

We are getting close to the end of the change and we wanted to invite Elder Childs and his companion, Elder Ucanan to lunch.  So we did that on Monday.  Elder Childs wanted hamburgers and hot dogs.  They each ate two burgers and a hot dog, including the buns.  Lunch also included macaroni salad, chips and milk shakes.  I honestly don’t know where they put it all.  As Elder Childs completes his four changes or six months in the mission office it is going to be hard to see him go.  He is so happy and fun to be around.  He kind of likes to boss me around and I get a kick out of it.  I don’t listen or do what he says but I do get a kick out of it.

We had one last big trip to finish the inspections for all seventy houses before the cold comes.  We had to go on the Minas, 33, Melo trip.  This is a long two day trip.  Normally we start this trip before 8:00 A. M. but left later so we could get in come exercise.  Our first stop was in Minas at the house of Elder Munoz and Elder Cristobal.  I want to mention them especially because their house was so clean.  The cleanest I have ever seen this house.  I just love how they respond and take care of things. 
From there we went straight to Melo.  This is over 400 kilometers or about 250 miles.  The houses in Melo were clean also.  We are so grateful.  One of our stops was to visit Sister Campbell and Sister Luker.  They were in the middle of preparing food for a “pioneer night”.  We picked them up at the church and took them back to their house.  They had a lot of food including corn bread and honey butter.  I asked them how they planned to get all of the food to the church.  Sister Luker put the little smirk on her face and said, “We were hoping you would take us.”  That’s what we are here for.  We love helping.  I hope you can see the happiness in their smiles and in their eyes.  They are a great companionship.

Now we had an unusual assignment.  There is a small town about 45 minutes from 33 named Vergara.  We have had missionaries there, but not for six months.  We decided to stop and see how the house was doing.  But, first we had to find the key.  Step one, call the Zone Leaders.  They had no idea where the key was.  Step two; call the Elders that left the house.  They said they left the key and phone with the Plaza Elders to give to the Zone Leaders.  Step three, call the Plaza Elders.  They have no idea where the key is.  Step four; call the owner to see if he has a key.  Step five; stop at the house at about 8:00 P. M. to see if the owner has the key.  Nope.   Step six; search the zone leader house with no luck.  Step seven, go to the Plaza house.  They have a set of keys that might fit.  Step eight; drive out to the Vergara house to try the keys.  Step nine, become very happy when the key opened the door.  I was very very happy.  I mean biggest fish you ever caught happy.  I mean, the Yankees won the World Series happy.  This saved us so much time and money that I can’t even count.
The picture of Elder Cole and Andersen doesn’t even begin to show how happy I was.   When I called to tell Elder Andersen the key worked he was quite happy too.  I told him that to celebrate, they needed to find a family to teach.  Well, about 9:00 P.M., Elder Andersen called.  He was excited.  He told us that they were teaching a lady and two teenagers came in to listen and were real excited about the Book of Mormon.  It was definitely a great day for all of us.

Friday morning we helped with the Oro Conference and then headed off for Castillos.  This weekend was District Conference so we concentrated on visiting as many members as we could to invite them to come to conference.  We had some real good visits.  We are good friends with the people of Castillos and enjoy our time with them.  I wish I had room to tell about all of the neat experiences that we had.

I will mention one.  We had heard several members talk about a certain family but we had not met them because we did not know the address.  We finally got the address and stopped by to see them.  They welcomed us and we had such a good visit.  Both Renee and I commented on how peaceful the house was.  We visited for about an hour and really got to know them.  We expect to see them in Church the next time we go to Castillos.

On Friday night we went to the adult meeting of District Conference.  President Eddy asked us to bear our testimonies.  Renee did a good job with her Spanish.  It is definitely a learning experience.  We love the people of Castillos and can see the changes that are happening over time.  It was such a wonderful experience to enjoy conference with them.  Each time we go we look forward to the neat experiences the Lord has in store for us.  We are never disappointed.

I hope all the mothers had a great mother’s day.  We love you all and appreciate your support.

Love, Gordon and Renee

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Big Fall

Last week was a little different as we took a few days and traveled to Iguazu Falls.  But first, I thought I’d let you in on what else we did.  A week ago Saturday we were in the mall getting some stuff for our trip and ran into the Zone Leaders.  They were going to buy Subway Sandwiches for the Zone Conference on Monday but couldn’t as, May 1st is Labor Day in Uruguay and everyone was going to be closed.  So Renee helped them purchase the stuff for BBQ beef sandwiches and they were all set.  On Monday we attended the Conference and were able to hear some real missionary stuff from President Eddy.  It was real good.  I think the missionaries liked the BBQ beef sandwiches as most of them ate three.  They also liked the peanut butter bars she made for dessert.  In the evening we attended FHE with the Temple couples where we led a discussion about the early leaders of the Church.   That got us ready for our trip.

We left Tuesday morning and took a flight to Buenos Aires and then to Iguazu.   The airline, Aerolinas Argentina, had a reputation for long lines and late flights when I was in Argentina forty-two years ago.  This has not changed; in fact it is probably worse.  In spite of that we had a good time.  The Iguazu River is the border for Brazil and Argentina.  On Tuesday afternoon we took a tour of the Brazilian side.  This is a pretty short trip and was really interesting.  From the Brazil side you basically can look across to all of the falls.  Our tour guide was named Roberson and we were the only two on the tour.   As a picture is worth as thousand words I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Tuesday night we ate Argentine food at the restaurant “El Quincho del Tio Querido”, or the roof of the beloved uncle.  I thought it was real Argentine.  It was excellent.  We took a taxi home and our taxi driver had been an investigator of the church some years ago.  We are going to send him as a reference and hope they make contact again.

Wednesday was the big day.  We took off early again with Roberson and four others.  Again a small group.   It is a long walk but we handled it pretty well.  On the Argentina side you walk up to the side of the falls and also on the top.  It was incredible.  The main fall is called the “Garganta del Diablo” or the Throat of the Devil.  My favorite part was when we were right up next to the Garganta with all the water.  It was really impressive.  To put it in perspective, in the ‘80s there was a flood in Delta and 5,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) were coming down the river.  There is about 20,000 cfs going over Shoshone Falls in Idaho right now with the high water.  The average at Iguazu is 61,000 cfs with a high of 100,000 cfs.  It is quite a bit of water.

I had to include the coatia in honor of Bart Gardner.  This has got to be a cousin of Raccoons in the USA so you already know how much I liked them.

Included in the tour was a boat ride up under some of the falls.  It is like the shower from hell.  A good thing to do once but I don’t need to do it again.  They also took us on a ride down the river and then on a jungle tour.  It was a real neat day.  For dinner we ate at the smorgasbord at the hotel.  On Thursday we headed home.  The flights were mixed up again but we still managed to get home.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.

We were afraid that we would be behind on taking care of apartments when we got back but it really wasn’t too bad.  We spent Friday and Saturday taking heaters to some of the missionaries and mainly had time to catch up.

One important note, two of the Temple couples leave this week.  The Atkinsons and Wibergs are completing their missions.  We had lunch with them today to send them off.  We are going to miss them.  So this week we are back in the saddle.  We have several things planned and hope we have time to get them done.

The mini vacation was a real blessing as we were able to appreciate some of the wonders the Lord has created and also get a little rest.  We are so grateful for the Gospel and the chance to serve.   We appreciate all the support we get from home.  We love you all.

Gordon and Renee