Sunday, June 25, 2017

Jumping On The Gravy Train

We had a special week in the mission as President and Sister Eddy’s son Joe came home from his mission in the Dominican Republic.  The family was excited to say the least.  Joe helped me with a little water cooler repair.  We took it apart and couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but when we put it back together it worked so I guess we fixed it.

We just passed the shortest day of the year so we are in the middle of winter.  Last year it was pretty cold.   This week it has been unseasonably warm.  It was almost 80 degrees today.  This is much better than freezing like we did last year.

We are trying to get some apartment inspections done before changes in two weeks so we took the time to do the Maroñas Zone.  This included cutting the grass on three apartments.  Most of the apartments look pretty good.  We think they are making an effort to keep things clean.  We have threatened to send pictures to the mothers of a few of the missionaries but so far, they do a pretty good job.

I wanted to include the picture of Elder Fix with the “high heel” phone.  It’s your basic missionary clowning around photo.  I also wanted to put in the picture of the plumbing job.  Our handyman, Marcelo Fontes, had to move the water heater and redo the electrical wiring in one of the houses as they were getting shocked.  This is a never ending battle.

On Friday we had a conference for the new missionaries.  They come in for more training after about a month.   This group is especially happy and ready to go.  I was having too much fun to take any pictures.  Lunch was chili on baked potatoes with corn bread that included honey butter.  That’s when the overeating started.

From there we headed to Castillos.  Friday evening we shared brownies with Jhonny Lopez and his family and they shared homemade alfajores and biscochos with us.  Everything was real sweet.  I could feel the insulin racing in my veins. Biscochos are treats made a variety of ways with bread, chocolate and dulce de leche.  I love them way too much.

 Saturday morning started off with biscochos for breakfast at the Hotel.  These are really good.  For lunch we had Canelones at Narda’s.  I should have only eaten two, but she gave me three so I had to do it.  Again, way to full.  For supper Saturday night, we had way too much to eat at the branch party.  The food included empanadas, sandwiches and biscochos.  They were all so good.  I had “one more” about 20 times.  Not too good for the waistline.  Instead of taking it easy today, we started out with the biscocho breakfast at the Hotel and then enjoyed lunch at the Eguren home where they served us Uruguayan Lasagna with dulce de leche filled crepes for dessert.  Uruguayan Lasagna is made a little differently.  They put ham, cheese, corn, peas, lettuce and spinach in between layers of crepes.  An excellent meal.  So now we are eating nothing for the next week.

Along with the great food we had some real good experiences in Castillos this week.  Friday night as we enjoyed the treats at the Lopez family we also had the chance to talk about the power of the Priesthood.  We read and discussed 1 Kings 18 where Elijah calls down fire from heaven.  I know of no greater example of the power of the Priesthood than this.  Too bad we weren’t able to call down fire from Heaven that day in White Clouds when we almost drowned from the rain.  After that scripture we talked about Malachi where Elijah will come to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers.  We finished it up with D&C 110 where Elijah comes to give the keys to Joseph Smith.  The Spirit was there to testify of the importance of families.  It was a neat experience.  The Lopez family is such a great family.  We love going to see them.  We have an appointment in two weeks to share some more treats.  This missionary work is pretty neat huh?

Video of Games from the Branch Party

Saturday we made some good visits to various members.  The people of Castillos are so kind and friendly.  In the evening they held a branch party to coincide with the branch conference on Sunday.  It started off with a video that had a good message about working together.  Then we had the games.  The shouts of joy are still ringing in my ears from the kids.  They had so much fun.  And because they did, we all did.  We love the feeling of love between them as they play and enjoy the food.  They all lingered to enjoy the night as much as possible.  After, everyone pitched in to help clean up.  It was done in no time.

So that set the stage for today.  We had 28 people in Church.  That is a record since we have been there.  The lessons were so well presented and the members participated with their thoughts and testimonies.  It was a real special day.  After the meetings, everyone lingered to visit some more.  The Missionaries and the members are working together to build the branch.  It is so good to be able to go and share the love they have for one another and for us.

After Church we had lunch with the Eguren family.   The food was excellent but the feeling of love they have for us was even better.  It does take extra effort to go to Castillos twice a month but it is so worth it.  We are grateful that we are able to go and strengthen our testimonies as we share them with others.  It is the highlight of our mission.

We love you all and hope you are enjoying summer.
Love Gordon and Renee

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Baptism Crashers

Saturday we had a Capilla Abierta in Norte in the morning and then needed to go to Trinidad to do the presentation for the Capilla Abierta that is set for July 1st.  To make it an easier trip we decided to leave directly from the Capilla Abierta to stay overnight in Durazno.  This was going to make it a pretty lazy Saturday afternoon and evening.  It also gave us the chance to drop off a few things.   After dropping off a propane heater in Florida we called Elder Holland and Ponce in Sarandi Grande to drop off a package.  They were just leaving for Durazno to attend the baptism of one of Elder Holland’s former investigators in Durazno.  We had just enough time to make it at 5:00.  They had a great turnout of about 50 people.  What great support.  While we were waiting, the Zone Leaders told us that the Sisters in the Hospital Ward had a baptism at 7:00.  So we decided to crash that one too.  Instead of getting into the hotel before 6:00 we ended up getting in at 9:00 after a great time with the members and the missionaries.  Nothing brings smiles to the faces of missionaries or members like baptisms.

Now for the rest of the week.  We finally had the chance to invite our friends over to eat.  On Tuesday night we invited our good friend Gordon Little.  Renee served meatloaf and scalloped potatoes, my favorite meal.  We have talked about him before.  He was born in Uruguay with parents from England.  He speaks perfect English and Spanish.  He is such a delight to have over.  We enjoy talking about a broad number of topics.  He is such a kind and thoughtful gentleman, a phrase I reserve for a very few.

On Wednesday we had Humberto and Cristina over for lunch. Renee served hamburgers with mushroom gravy.  We had a great time visiting and enjoying each other’s company.  During our visit Humberto looked out our window and commented that as a teenager he used to swim out to the island with his friends.  He then told us that the island was called Monkey Island.  When he said that, Cristina said, “He swam out to visit his family!”  I love that!  As the time passed we could see that they needed to get back home to sleep the siesta.  What a wonderful tradition!

We also spent some time inspecting houses and cutting the grass.  I especially like the photos of the Elders using the weed whacker to cut the grass.  The Elders are really good to help rake the grass and clean up.  It is so fun spending time with them.

The weekend was definitely the best part of the week.  We have been working to train members to take the lead on the Capilla Abiertas.  On Friday we drove to Minas to train the public relations specialist in the Maldonado Stake.  The Villanueva family is a treat.  Both parents are return missionaries and have served in all of the leadership positions.  It is amazing the strength of the members and what they are able to do to help.  Our visit started out with a lunch of roast pork and potatoes.  I ate way too much!  After we had lunch and discussed the training, Tomas gave me a tour of his “man cave”.  Yes, they even have them in Uruguay.  It is amazing how you can meet a family for such a short time and it seems like you have been friends forever.  I hope we can have them come to Blackfoot for a visit.  We got done in good time Friday afternoon so we took a detour so we could drop off packages in Pan de Azucar and Piriapolis.  We got home late but were able to deliver some packages and provide heat for some more Elders.

You already know we had a Capilla Abierta on Saturday morning.  It started at 10:00 A.M.  We were afraid that it was going to rain but the weather turned out quite nice.  The missionaries worked real hard to invite people to come to the Capilla Abierta.  We didn’t have a lot of visitors but they were still able to talk to a lot of people.  I have so much respect for all the work they do. Instead of the lazy Saturday afternoon that we had planned we ended up going to the two baptisms.  It was a busy day but a fun day.

Today we went out to Trinidad to do the presentation for the Capilla Abierta.  Trinidad is one of the outposts of our mission.  We arrived early and were met by several members that welcomed us with open arms.  In less than a minute we felt like we had been there for years.  By the time Church started we thought we better stick around to wait for our calling.  We felt so at home.  This ward has so much strength.  There are many families that have more than one generation in the Church.  They were anxious to help us. We can hardly wait to go back in two weeks.

Our afternoon ended with a pleasant drive home on route 3.  We have never been on this road before so it was a real fun trip.  We also had fun talking to our family for Father’s Day.  It is so good to be able to talk to our family by Facetime.  We are so grateful to have the Gospel in our life and be able to share it with our family.  We love you all and hope you had a wonderful week.

Gordon and Renee

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Going to the Aduana

This is not a blog about reptiles in the Southeastern US.  The Aduana is the Spanish word for Customs.  It’s where we have to go to get packages that are shipped to missionaries.  Before I talk about that I want to talk about our week.

We started out by doing inspections in Florida and Durazno on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Elder and Sister Jensen are on Temple recess so they were able to go with us.  It was a fun trip.   The houses were quite clean and neat.  We are proud of the way the missionaries take care of the houses.  I suggested at one house that needed a little more help that we could send a picture of the house to his mom.  He didn’t seem too excited about that.

We were able to take the Jensens to the dam by Paso de Los Toros.  It was a lot higher this year and water was going over the spillway.  The foam in the river is caused by the turbulence from the spillway.  You have to know that if we are going to Durazno that we are going to have a Bauru at El Gaucho.  The Jensens liked it too.  At the Sarandi del Yi house we discovered that they could not buy propane for their heater and could not get a fire started in their wood stove.  They only had large pieces of wood and they were kind of wet so we went looking for wood.  We found some and after a little work we got a fire going.  After I called their Bishop and he said he could help them get propane for the heater.  We got home about 9:00 P. M.  A little late for old missionaries.

Thursday we needed to move bikes from La Capuera to Parque do Plata.  We borrowered the mission van and did the trip in about three hours.  We had to take a detour and get the tool box for the bikes as the missionaries from Maldonado “borrowed” it.

When we got back to the office we were asked to help the missionaries go get a package from customs.  When the missionaries arrive they are told to have their family ship packages by US mail and not to use Fedex or UPS.  They tell them it is much more difficult to get them through customs.  Now I know why.

Here is what we had to do:  We started at customs at the main airport.  They told us to go to the other airport.  At the main customs desk, they told us to go down the hall.  This guy told us to go further down the hall.   That guy sent us back to the first desk.  The first desk told us we had to have the passport and permission slip to take out the package.  After receiving this by email on my phone, they directed us to the Fedex office out the door and around the corner to make a copy of the shipping invoice.  After getting the copy we went back to the first desk and were then sent back to the second desk.  They charged us $19 and gave us a receipt.  With the receipt we went to the third desk and got the package. What did we learn: DON’T send packages by Fedex.

We spent a wonderful weekend in Castillos.  It is amazing how the Lord directs the work to help us find the people that we need to find.  We had several great experiences with wonderful people that are too personal to mention.  Included in our trip was family night with the Lopez family.  Renee took fresh lemon pie and cookies and they did homemade pizza.  We had a great feast that included a neat message from the Elders.  On Saturday we had some other neat visits.  Usually we have lunch at Narda’s house.  She was in Montevideo on business so she had her husband, Pocho, fix us lunch.  We helped a little and it went real smooth.  We do miss Narda and look forward to seeing her in two weeks.

Saturday afternoon we did a Capilla Abierta in Rocha.  There were a lot of people in the streets and the Elders had a great time inviting them in to see the presentation.  In all there were 21 new people that came into the Chapel.  We were able to help with some of them.  It was a very special night.  We finished it off with dinner with Elder Limas and Espinoza on the way to taking them to La Paloma.

Today was a neat day at Church.   There were 24 people in attendance.  We can feel the Spirit strengthen in Castillos each time we go.  The members and missionaries are working real hard to build the branch.  You can feel the love of the people grow.

The day ended with visits from home.  Besides our usual family visits we received two more calls.  The first one was from Sister Berlynn Hall and Sister Rachel Finklea.  Rachel is visiting Berlynn back east and gave us a call.  It was so fun.  They are so happy and continue to be anxiously engaged.  What a wonderful blessing for us.  We also got a call on facebook from Joseph Brumble and Franke Vallecillos.  They were known as Brumblecillos to me.  We had a hard time talking to them when they were at the ballgame but had a short visit this afternoon.  It is so good to hear from them.
We always have a good week when we can go to Castillos.  We are excited to see the growth in the people and the blessings that come to us as we serve with them.  We come to know more each week that this work comes from our Savior.  It is wonderful to be able to be part of the army.

We love you all and appreciate your support.
Love, Gordon and Renee

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Variety of the Call

This week probably had more variety than most any other week of our mission.  We had several projects that needed to be completed including sign contracts, fix houses and do things for the Capilla Abierta program.  We started out Monday calling several landlords to line up contracts.  We also talked to several missionaries about repairs in their houses.  This never ends.  You kind of get gun shy about phone calls as most calls are a call for help.  We have built up a pretty good network to get things fixed so the repairs are going much smoother.  Monday afternoon we drove to La Paz to pick up a contract.  It was all ready.  Now we are down to one contract that does not pay electronically.  We also stopped to see the new mall.  Pretty snazzy huh?  Just like in the states only with a lot more Spanish.

On Tuesday we lined up an appointment with Bishop Dominguez to help us with Capilla Abiertas in the La Costa Stake.  He was recently released as a Bishop and is now on the High Council assigned to Missionary work.  We took the Elders from his ward in El Pinar with us.  What a wonderful time, talking about the Capilla Abierta program and how to help his Stake.  Bishop and Sister Dominguez were very willing and helpful.  We expect to see some good things come from our visit.  Of course they invited us for lunch.  Sister Dominguez made green salad and milanesas.  Lunch was excellent.  I should have only eaten one milanesa but you have to be neighborly so I made the sacrifice and ate two.  They were so good.  I wish I could express better the love the people in Uruguay have for us.  They are so kind and grateful.  We love them so much.

We have been working on a contract renewal in 33 for over a year.  I have had a hard time understanding what they wanted and also getting them to work with us.  Finally we had the contract ready to sign and an appointment to get it signed.  We took off early on Wednesday for 33; remember 33 stands for three hours up and three hours back.  We took advantage of the trip to help the Sisters in Vergara.  They needed mosquito nets.  I love this picture as they are so excited about their area.  It also shows the contrast between the Uruguayan Soccer team Peñarol and the USA custom of BYU Idaho.  We arrived to sign the papers only to find out that the guy that was supposed to sign was not there.  We left the papers with hope they will get signed.  We are praying that we will get them this week.  Then we will have all of the contracts on electronic payment.  It has been a big job.  We got home after dark on Wednesday after driving Route 5.  This is a two lane highway with lots of hills turns and trucks.  It doesn’t help that there are crazy drivers too.

Last week when we were in Castillos we stopped by to see Tito and Patricia.  We had a great visit and they gave us come Cornish Game Hen eggs.  You can call them what you want but they looked like Chukars to me.  Anyway, they gave us a bunch of them and the other night we cooked some of them up.  They were really good.  I don’t think you could tell the difference.   Well, if you fried them you could because the yolks are really small.   We look forward to eating the others and also going back to beg for more.  Actually, you can buy them in the store but they are quite expensive.  Quite a bit more expensive than free.

On Thursday we attended Zone Conference with the Este, Maroñas and Norte Zones.  President Eddy’s message on the importance of the Book of Mormon and how to use it was great.  Our main assignment was to go get lunch.  The Zone Leaders ordered 53 Pronto Pollos!  We have talked about them before.  It is essentially a deep fried chicken cordon bleu sandwich on a bed of fries.  So good!  I think you could see the grease dripping under our car with all of those sandwiches.

Friday was District Leader Training where all of the new district leaders come to a meeting.  Renee helped prepare a great meal of stir-fry while I did some stuff in the office.  After the meeting we bought some stuff for one of the houses and delivered it with the Elders.  In the afternoon we drove downtown to renew another contract.  It was a busy day, but productive.

Saturday was P-Day.  Our day to rest, clean the house and do other chores.  So we got up at 6:30 A. M. and headed to Minas on Route 8, my favorite drive, to help the Elders paint a house.  It was a big house and really needed to be painted.  The Elders had the house ready with all of the furniture moved so we dug right in with the help of a member and had it pretty much done by 2:00 P. M.  It is so good to see the houses painted with the mold under control.  The ride home was pretty smooth.  I guess logging trucks take Saturday afternoon off.

Today we drove out to Barrio 13 to do the presentation on the Capilla Abierta that we will do in two weeks.  We now have three Capilla Abiertas to do in the next month.  It is a busy time but quite productive.  Due to the blessing of technology we were able to participate in the Cultural Celebration for the Idaho Falls Temple Dedication.  We did see some of our four grandkids participating so it was real good.  Today is the dedication.  We feel bad that we are missing it but know that we will get our chance to go when we get home.

So another busy week gone by.  Winter is setting in with colder outside and inside temperatures.  We are better prepared this year so it hasn’t been too bad so far.  We appreciate all the great support we get from home.  We are grateful that we are able to serve.

Gordon and Renee