Sunday, August 27, 2017

Happy Birthday to the Birthday Girl

And again at Zone Leader Conference

I can imagine that one might think that Birthdays are quite bland in the mission field.  Nay not so!  Renee’s birthday was last Monday.  To celebrate we went out to dinner last Saturday night.  We enjoyed some good food at a local restaurant.  On Sunday, Renee decided to make a birthday cake.  You might wonder why I didn’t do it, well it’s because she does have standards.  She made a German chocolate cake to celebrate.  We had some old bananas so she made a banana cake too.  On Monday for our staff meeting, the Mission President brought lemon muffins.  Monday night was family night with the temple missionaries and they made a big cake for Renee and another sister.  And just to be sure, Mary made a cake for her on Tuesday to celebrate with the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders.  With the muffins, that’s five cakes.  Thank goodness we had help from the missionaries.  Needless to say it was a happy birthday.

Tuesday was the Zone Leader/Sister Training leader Conference.  Renee cooked and I did some office work.  We welcomed some new missionaries as leaders.  I wanted to take a picture of all the new ones but it was too hectic so all I got was Elder Cole and Sister Wickel.  Elder Cole also got a new microwave for his house this week so he had a pretty good week too.  It is one of the best parts of our mission to see the missionaries arrive all nervous and anxious and then grow to be leaders.  We really appreciate them.  Elder Cole and Sister Wickel have really helped us a lot.  We really appreciate them.

Wednesday was new District Leader training.  Again, Renee, helped cook and I tried to stay out of trouble.  We both succeeded more or less.  Again, a new batch of district leaders to help the mission.  Thursday was a multi zone conference for the Este, Maroñas and Las Piedras Zones.  Renee and I were able to attend.  President Eddy taught how you need to have the needs of your investigators drive your personal and companionship study.  It was great council and we used it as we prepared for Castillos.

I put in a picture of the new mall in Las Piedras.  There are actually horse drawn carts outside this ultra modern mall.  It is quite a sight.  We also found out that Sister Balbino had a birthday the same day as the Zone Conference so we invited them for dinner after they finished Thursday night.  Renee did grilled tuna fish and cheese sandwiches and we finished off one of her cakes.  I love that kind of food.

I rained most of the day on Friday and Saturday so we were not too excited about going to Castillos.  We have a saying in the mission that, “all of the great miracles happen while it is raining.”  Well you might be able to fool the young missionaries with that one but I’m not sold.   That is until we got there.  In spite of the rain we were able to see quite a few people.  And like we said in the preceding paragraphs, we prepared messages to fit their needs.  It was really neat.  I can’t remember when we had more charlas that had a good message.  I guess we’ll pray for rain more.   Not really, I am just fine preaching in the sunshine.

On Saturday afternoon we had the branch party.  Renee and I were in charge of the lesson.  We tried to come up with a video or something but really struggled.  Renee suggested that we play hangman for the activity.  We then decided that maybe we could make that the lesson.  We had a lot of young people there and they were very active participants.  After each word, we discussed the meaning.  The words included Holy Ghost, Book of Mormon, heart, baptism, golden plates and Jesus Christ.  It ended up being a real fun activity that taught some important principals of the Gospel.  I guess we might catch on to this missionary thing yet.

Today was a regional conference that included all of Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina.  There were over 100 stakes and 40 districts represented.  The meeting originated from Salt Lake City and we saw it over the internet.  The speakers included Elder Gavarratt from Minas Uruguay.  We all thought that was pretty neat.  Elder Rasband presided and gave a great talk about reaching the one.  He even referred to a family here in Montevideo.  What a wonderful conference.

We arrived home safe, mostly dry and tired.  Ready to rest up for another week of missionary work.  It is starting to warm up in spite of the stormy weather.  Most days are really beautiful.   We appreciate all of the love and support we get from home.  It is indeed a privilege to wear the Saviors name on our missionary badges.  We know it is true.

We love you all.
Gordon and Renee

Sunday, August 20, 2017

An Evening with Lindsay Stirling

I don’t get to use that title much.  Lindsay Stirling is on tour through South America and Uruguay.  As a favor to the people of Uruguay she did a “Face to Face” event last Monday night in the Chapel where the Mission Home is located.  To say it was spectacular is an understatement. She performed a few pieces on the violin and also answered questions.  Her message was very clear.  If you want to be happy you have to decide to be happy and then do things to make yourself be happy.  Great advice for people that are thirteen or sixty-three.  One of our friends was able to come for part of it.  It was wonderful.  You can see her perform on you tube.

This is one of those weeks when we just have too much to tell.  I’ll try to keep it short.  This was change week.  It usually starts off with the new missionaries coming in on Tuesday.  This time we got to start it off by saying good bye to Sister Campbell on Monday afternoon.  I could spend several blogs just talking about what she did for our Mission.  We will miss her.

We had nineteen oros or new missionaries that arrived.  They came in on 5 flights that started about 2:00 A.M.  The last ones came in about 2:00 P.M.  It was a lot of trips to the airport for the mission president and the assistants.  We did not have to go to all of trips which saved our old tired bodies.  This is quite an animated bunch.  It was fun to see how excited they are.  I hope you can see what a fun group they are.  It will be exciting to see them grow.  Too bad we won’t be around much longer to see them.  They really got into milking alfajores.  That’s a good sign.  They were also pretty excited when they met their trainers.  It was fun to see their enthusiasm for the work.

Right after we sent the oros off with their trainers, the Valientes or missionaries that are going home come in to the mission home.  This was very difficult as we remember when most of them came and can see how much they have grown.  We had three missionaries in this group that served in the office with us.  Also, Hermana Nava and Anderson were in the group.  They are the missionaries that taught and baptized our friend Cristina, so we are especially close to them.  Elder Montiel wanted to get some more alfajores to take home so I gave him and Elder Rodriguez a ride to get them.  It was our last trip of many.  I already miss them terribly.

We enjoyed dinner with the Valientes on Wednesday night and then said good bye to Elder Filigrana and Sister Lizarazo as they had a flight to Colombia at about 5:00 A.M.  We didn’t start until 7:00 A.M. when we picked up Elder Montiel for his flight to Argentina.  What a great friend he has been.  It was hard to say good bye to him because we may not see each other ever again.

We no sooner sent him through security when the next bunch arrived.  These were the Latinos.  Elder Rodriguez was headed home to Panama and Elder Ruiz to El Salvador.  It was hard to say good bye.  Luckily we have face book and other ways to communicate.   Then it was time for the North Americans to come.  We sent them off about 5:00 P. M.  In all we were in the airport for more than 10 hours, mostly waiting.

I want to say a little about the task of a mission president.  President Eddy started Tuesday in the middle of the night.  Then, besides all the meetings to teach the new missionaries he did 19 interviews with the new missionaries.  After the meetings ended at about 9:00 P. M. he got together with the assistants to make the final assignments of the new missionaries.  Wednesday was filled with meetings and final interviews of the missionaries going home.  Then Thursday he and his wife were at the airport starting at about 5:00 A. M.  He made at least three different trips to the airport through the day and finally was able to go home at about 5:00 P. M.  What a schedule!   We appreciate him and his wife so much.

In the middle of the Missionaries going home we also said good bye to Elder and Sister Jensen.    They just completed their Temple Mission.  That leaves us the only North American Senior Missionaries serving in Montevideo.  It’s going to be kind of lonesome.

Friday we had a more or less normal day as we did inspections in the La Costa zone and also cut the grass for three of the houses.  The La Costa houses are interestingly enough on the coast where it is the most humid and has the most problems with mold in the houses.  We were please to find out that for the most part the missionaries are working to take care of the mold.  We really appreciate it.
As part of the inspections, Renee always makes cookies.  She made lemon bars Thursday after we got done with the “rodeo” we call changes.  I guess it’s a complement when a missionary likes the cookies so much that he takes a picture of them.  But, that is Elder Larson.  He is a very fun and happy missionary that just happens to like lemon bars.

Yesterday was finally P-day for us.  We cleaned to mold off our walls, cleaned the rest of the house and just relaxed while it rained cats and dogs outside.  We were glad for the breather.  Our testimonies continue to grow as we have a chance to serve.  We appreciate the opportunity.  We appreciate all of the love and support from home.  We love you all.

Love, Gordon and Renee

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Taking Care of Business

This week was the week before changes so we spent time getting ready for changes and taking care of some of the issues in the mission office.  We started out Monday with lunch for Elder Ucañan and Elder Poulson.  Elder Ucañan completes his 4 changes in the mission office so we had a little lunch of Chicken Stroganoff and rice to celebrate.  He is a gifted Elder.  He is from Peru and speaks English as good as I do and speaks Spanish quite a bit better.  Imagine that!  It is fun to get to know the missionaries and find out about their families and other things in their lives.

This was also the week of water problems.  Last Saturday night we received a call from Sister Wickel and Sister Southway from Vergara.  They had water all over their floor.  We made some calls Monday and the owner of the house sent a plumber to investigate.  Turns out the galvanized pipes inside the concrete walls are rusted out.  It is going to be quite a job fixing them.  The owner was good to work with so we hope it gets resolved this week.

We also have been working on a few high water bills.  Two of the houses had repairs done on the leaks in the bathrooms.  We also found out that another house had a high water bill because there was not only our house on the meter but two others also.  We have a good Bishop in Sarandi Del Yi that was so helpful in getting this resolved.  I don’t know if you noticed but there was not a lot of “preaching the Gospel” in these last two paragraphs.  But if we don’t keep the houses repaired then things really go south.

Monday night we attended family night with the Temple missionaries.  It was Elder and Sister Jensen’s last time.  They invited us to their house beforehand to have omelets.  We never pass that up.  Afterward, they lead the lesson on listening to the Spirit.  They taught it by blindfolding one of the people and then having one talk them through the maze while the rest of us yell at them.  It was a pretty good object lesson.  Then we enjoyed treats, which are always good.

Wednesday night we were able to have dinner with our friend Gordon Little again.  We love him so much.  He is going to move to Mexico with his daughter about the same time we go home, so maybe we can go see him.  He told me there was fishing so that helps encourage us to go.

On Friday we took off for Castillos.  We inspected the Rocha Zone houses on the way including going all the way to Chuy.  The houses were being taken care of okay although a little bit more love wouldn’t hurt.  This also gave us an excuse to take Elder Ruiz to lunch before he goes home next week.  He is the only Elder from El Salvador.  He has such a happy spirit and makes the room light up when he is with us.  If you look back at some of the other blogs you will see that we tend to eat lot when we are with him.  I guess he and I are soul mates.

Friday evening and Saturday we visited several families in Castillos.   Some of the members are under the weather so it was good to visit with them and cheer them up.  We also were able to talk fishing with some of the families using John Chapter 21.  This is where Peter decides that now the Savior has left that they might as well go fishing.  It is a real good chapter to help us understand that we need to keep serving.

Friday and Saturday came with a lot of rain so it made things a little more difficult.  In spite of that we had a few come to the fellowship activity on Saturday afternoon.  The Elders had a good lesson on the Priesthood and then we played games.  We started out with the balloon game where you tie a balloon to your ankle and then try to pop each other’s balloon.  It was wild.  Then we played the game where you put a ring or washer on a string and then pass it around while someone tries to guess who has it.  This was a lot of fun also.  We finished it off with treats.  All in all a good time.

Today we enjoyed Church in Castillos.  Renee helped with Primary and I blessed the Sacrament.  We love spending time with our friends.  We are going to miss them.    So this week was the calm before the storm.  We have 14 missionaries going home next week and 22 coming down, so it should be interesting.  We love all the help and support we get from home.  We love you all.
Love , Gordon and Renee

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Great and Spacious Building

For the last 19 months we have been curious about a big red building on a hill next to one of the main routes we always take.  It seems like we are always in too big of a hurry or it is dark or something.  Well this week we had time.  It turns out it is a large Catholic Church built in 1919.  You can see that it is quite the building.  We made the stop on one of our trips to deliver stuff to the missionaries.

This week did not include quite the travel as last week.  We started out Monday by going to Florida to pick up the paint supplies from the Elders.  We are so impressed by the good job they did.  I can’t thank them enough.  It takes quite a bit of leadership and desire to go the extra mile and paint your house.  Elder Johanson and Elder Zacarias are the Zone Leaders.  Elder Waite and Elder Rivera are the other two Elders in the house.  I can’t thank them enough.

Wednesday we had kind of an unusual day.  Sister Marreiro, from Brazil, had to go home early on the change so she could get enrolled in college.  Before she went home she wanted to do some Temple Work for her Grandmother as her home is a long ways from a Temple.  We picked her up about noon at the bus station and brought her to the Temple.  We decided to help her so I ended up baptizing her for her Grandmother and also several others.  It was kind of fun to do this again, as I haven’t done it for quite some time.  After the baptism, we went through the session with her also.  On Thursday, while they held Oro Conference, Renee and I were able to take her to the Airport.  We remember when she arrived.  She has grown so much and done such a great job.

Also on Thursday, while Renee did the cooking for the Oro Conference in the morning I ran the finance elders to the bus station to buy bus tickets for the return trip for those that were attending Oro Conference.  Are you kind of seeing a trend here about going to the Bus Station?  I seem to do it about 20 times a day.  So Thursday was a busy day of service.

Friday we had the Minas Zone Scheduled for inspections.  This zone only has four houses.   They were four of the worst houses in the mission with walls filled with mold and other gunk.  But in the last couple of months we have painted three of the four so now they are bright and happy.  There was a little mold starting on some of the walls but we got that off pretty quick.

If you have followed the blog you will remember the term “Minas Pizza”.  There is a pizza shop in Minas that makes pizza just like in the states.  It is really, really good.  You can see from the picture that we didn’t need to push the Elders to go with us.  They also helped with the painting so it was kind of a pay back.  We had a good time.  Three of the four Elders go home about the same time we do.  Let’s just say things got “a little trunky”!  It started with one of them saying, “So what is there to do around Blackfoot?”  Wow, the flood gates opened.  But enough about that.

After that we stopped at the Pan de Azucar.  Look how the bright smiles of the Sisters are highlighted by the bright white walls.  I hope you can imagine how much fun it was to visit with them.  They don’t have pizza in Pan de Azucar so they had to settle for Renee’s lemon cookies.

After that we stopped at the Piriapolis house.  Elder Rodriguez and Elder Mereles also had a clean house.  I didn’t take a picture of them because I have some from them from a couple of weeks ago when we cleaned out the La Capuera house.  Also, Elder Rodriguez served in the office and I probably have more pictures of him than any other Elder.  I have to say his face likes the camera and my camera likes his happy face.  When he served in the office we would often stop at McDonalds to eat or at least get a treat.  Instead of saying McDonalds we would always say the jingle, Buda bump bump bum!  So when I called and told him we were coming I asked him what we should do and he sang the jingle.  It made this old guy pretty happy.  Sad news though, the McDonalds in Piriapolis is closed for the winter.  So we settled for another ice cream shop.  It was still a lot of fun.

Saturday is supposed to be our P-Day.  I think that means we are supposed to relax.  Elder Richmond went home on the last change.  His parents came to get him and brought us Maple Syrup.  That meant we had to do Wafflemania ll.  We did wafflemania l about a year ago with Elder Brumble and Vallecillos.  This time we did it with all the office Elders.  Renee mixed up a mixing bowl of pancake batter and a bowl of waffle batter.  They ate all of it.  They can really put it away.  It was a lot of fun.

We had to hurry and scoot them out the door so we could go pick up Sister Campbell, Sister Ortega and Sister Parada at the bus station.  Sister Campbell came to Montevideo from Melo with the other sisters to attend the Temple with a family she baptized a year ago in La Paz.  What a fun day for them.  So we picked them up about noon and then took them back afterwards.  They had a little extra time so we brought them over to our house to relax for awhile.  Sister Parada is in the middle in the picture.  She is from Santa Cruz Bolivia and remembers Emily Park who served there about a year ago.  Small world.

We finished off the week with Church and the monthly Fast Day lunch afterwards.   We certainly have some good friends.  I have started to read Jesus the Christ.  It really helps build my Testimony and understanding of the Savior.  I think that is one of the reasons we are here.  We love and appreciate you all.

Love, Gordon and Renee