Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Very Not White Christmas

Holy cow. I honestly don´t understand why so many people decide to live here. It is so dang hot and humid. Here´s a quick rundown of the day to help you all understand why. In the morning when the alarm clock rings, you wake up with sticky arms from the sweat you sweated during the night. You workout and that only worsens and intesifies the sweating. You get in the shower sweating. You get out of the shower still sweating. You eat breakfast and the food in your belly makes you sweat more. You study and the pages of the scriptures stick to your arms from the sweat. When you leave, you sweat even more from being outside and walking a ton. If you put your arms on the table during a lesson, you can´t take them off quickly cuz the sweat from your arms will have already stuck to the table a bit and it makes a loud noise. You get back to the pensh still sweating. You go to bed with the fan on full blast, but you have to be under a blanket cuz the mosquitos will eat you alive if you aren´t. I guess you get used to it after a while, but, I´m not sure why anyone would move here.

I really do love this place though, even though it may seem like it in the first paragraph. Christmas was great. It was such a party. People started drinking in the morning on the 24, and didn´t stop until the 26. In the afternoon, everyone started cooking asado. We ate lechón (pig asado) with the Branch Pres and his family. I wasn´t too impressed, especially since we had to pay like $100 for it ($100 in US dollars, like $1000 Argentine pesos). Everyone else liked it though, so I guess that´s what´s important. At like 7 pm on the 24, people started setting off fireworks, which didn´t stop until 3. On Christmas, I called my family in the morning, and, while I was calling, the other Elders in my district made asado. We bought like 10 pounds of meat for four Elders. It was gone in 15 minutes. The meat down here is way better than any meat I have ever tasted in the States (and we´re gonna eat asado again tonight cuz some members want to celebrate Elder Yaques´ birthday from two weeks ago). Then we had to go back to the pensh for the rest of the day for safety reasons (drunks don´t tend to stay in their homes, nor mind their own business).

Calling home made me realize a few things. 1. I miss my family, and it´s only been like 5 months since I´ve been with them. 2. I haven´t seen my Heavenly Father in almost 19 years. How much more should I miss him, and want to see him again? It made me think about things with a more eternal perspective. I asked myself two questions, that I invite all of you to ask yourselves also.
1. In this moment, am I living in a way such that, if it were my time, I had to die, would I be excited to see my Heavenly Father again, or scared?
2. What am I doing to make that reunion with him a joyous one, and not a moment of fear and regret?
Ponder those questions please, and if you would be scared and full of regret, ask yourself what is needed to be excited for that moment you see him again? Because you will see him again, we all will. If you would be excited, what are you going to do make that moment an even better one? I invite all of you, and will do so myself as well, to continually work to make that improvement.

A scripture came to my mind while thinking about all this on Christmas. It is in the New Testament. In 3 John. A little tiny book of one chapter.

3 John 1:4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."

If that was written by a mortal man, although inspired by the Holy Ghost, how much more excited and joyFUL (with extra emphasis on FUL) would our Heavenly Father be to know that we, his children, walk in truth? Can you imagine the joy you would have if he, a God, our Heavenly Father, is excited and joyful to see us? Can you imagine a God rejoicing to be and live with you? He will rejoice if you make the choices to be worthy and ready to live with him. I invite and encourage each and everyone of you to prepare yourselves to be worthy to and ready to stand joyfully in his prescence. I promise you, as a representative of Jesus Christ, that Heavenly Father will help you to prepare yourself to come back into his prescence IF you are willing to put in the effort. Because he wants to live with you again. He wants to see you FULL of joy, and will help you. It won´t be easy at times, but, he will always give us the help we need. I testify of this, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Brown

3 John 1:4

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Long Blur

This week flew by, but it took forever to fly by.
So during the weeks when we had no time to teach anyone because of all the other stuff that was going on, we had tons of people to teach, and all of these people were making obvious progression. Now that we have time, none of our invesstigators are progressing at all, and never can visit with us. So, we did a ton of contacting this week too. So we have been pretty dang tired every night again.
That aside, this week has been awesome. Up until Firiday, every single appointment we had set up fell through. On Friday morning, we went to visit a lady from the old investigators list. I think that visit was the best visit of my entire mission. The spirit was so strong. This lady`s sister died a year ago almost to the day, and she was pretty upset and mad at God and at life. When she told us this, and tons of other trials that she is going through right now, we got exacited. That prolly sounds really wrong and messed up, but, we could tell that she was totally ready to talk to the missionaries. Anyways, every since her sister died, she has been searching to figure out why what happened happened the way it did. She has talked to tons of different people from many different faiths during thios last yuear, and nobody has been able to figure it out. Elder Yaques told her that we could in two weeks. Then the words spilled out of my mouthd that she can too, and that all she has to do are three simple things. 1. Watch the Christmas video the Church published 2. Read the Plan of Salvation pamphlet. 3. Read a chapter from the Book of Mormon (I don`t remember which chapter we assigned). So we made some pretty big promises, that hopfully were from the Spirit. We straight up felt like Daniel and Joseph. We felt so good after tthis lesson. It felt great to finally teach again.
Later on, that night, we went to the Fonavi (really run down apartment complex`s in Argentina). Didn`t start off too well. The lady we contacted the other week when everything went perfect basically told us she`s not interested. So that`s that. But, we were funally able to contact two less active men that live there. One who we are gonna go back to visit tomorrow, and the other we had a great lesson. He we invited him to come to church this week, and this was his response, "Oh I always come to church. Every week. I only couldn`t this week because something came up with work So of course I`ll come this Sunday." I found his answer rather interesting because in the almost four months I`ve been here, I`ve seen him in church a total of zero times. But he come though, and it was awesome to see someone finally pull through with their commitment to come to church.
I wanna testify of the goodness of God. Like the scriptures say, "God is love." I 100% testify of that, and that he is really patient. He waits for years and years and years for us to progress. Here in the mission, sometmes we get upset because we can`t see our investigators or less actives progressing at all. It really teaches patience. It made me think of my own life, and how loving Heavenly Father has waited for me to make tiny progressions. For that I am really gratefull. I love my Father in Heaven.
Elder Brown
P.S. Sorry if this email has a lot of words spelled wrong or doesn`t make sense in some parts. This computer is a hunk of junk and spazzed out in the middle of the first paragraph and I can`t really see what I am writing.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Contacting, Contacting and tons of Joda

This week, I have done more contacting than in all the rest of my time in the mission combined. Just about every single teaching appointment fell through (and there were a few days when literally every single appointment fell through), so we have knocked and clapped and rang more doorbell´s than I could count. Found lots of old ladies who invited us to come back, and had forgotten that they invited us back when we come back. Also found some teenage girls who invited us back, and we have gone back. I´m just gonna say, that after our return visit´s, we have found sufficient reason to not return a second time to these teenage girls. Anyways, every night this week when we have gotten back to the pensh, I have been more tired than I have been in any other given night of my life. As soon as my head hit the pillow every night, I´ve been out, despite the never-ending "joda".

"Joda", pronounced "hoda", is an Argentine word that basically means crazy and excessive partying. And that is exactly what has been going on here in Casilda this last week. Well, now that I think about it, ever since we moved to our new pensh. Last Sunday, there was a HUGE concert two blocks from our pensh. The two biggest bands in Argentina both originated in Casida, and they both came to perform last sunday. It would pretty much be the equivalent of a One Direction and Twenty One Pilots being from, and coming to, Gilbert to perform the same night in the same venue, for free. It would be insane, and this concert was insane. The concert lasted from 3 in the afternoon to 3 in the morning. Pretty loud too. Unfortunately, we did not do a lot of contacting this day, so it was pretty tough to sleep that night. Every night since, there has been some sort of blockbusting party going down. People yelling and laughing until 3 or 4 in the morning, fireworks every other night. But, luckily, every night since Sunday, despite the unceasing partying, I have been totally pooped and have had no problem crashing and sleeping all night.

On Thursday, our lunch appointment was scheduled for about an hour and a half later than most are, so we were looking for some to do in that time between weekly planning and lunch. I was looking through the list of members, and just felt an urge to visit the last name on the list, Rosa Zorzenon. Less Active lady that we hadn´t met. So I suggested it to Elder Yaques, who shrugged his shoulders and said "Why not?" So we went. Turns out, she is and 85, and hasn´t been able to go to church for a number of years for health problems, and nobody from the church has visited her since 2006. So she thought she´d been forgotten. It was really cool to help her realize that her Heavenly Father has not forgotten her, nor ever will. This is something we can all apply, if you ever feel like you´ve been forgetten, know that you haven´t. God has not forgotten you, nor ever will.

I guess I´m really learning to appreciate the little miracles. With so much disappointment in investigators telling us they aren´t interested any more, with literally evrey single teaching appt failing, with the only people inviting us back being girls who only have flirting on their mind, it gets tough and tiring. However, it really teaches one to focus on the little things. The little miracles. We don´t need to baptize weekly. We don´t need all the promotions in work. We don´t always need to win the game. What we should always do, however, is focus on the the little things. Be grateful for the little things that might have always been there, that may seem really insignificant. I think we miss out on a lot of blessings because we are too focused on the big ones that we don´t pay attention to the little ones.

That´s not as much as I usually write, but, nothing too out of the ordinary happened this week. Just learning to appreciate everything.

Elder Brown

Doctrine & Covenants 78:19

Happy Thanksgiving

San Martín, basically the George Washington of Argentina

My Thanksgiving feast

The Casilda sign

Our Christmas tree, standing atop it´s throne of toilet paper, perched above the stove

First off, happy Thanksgiving! Ate the least this Thanksgiving than any other of my entire life. Our lunch appointment bailed, as usual, so we called this less active family who always feed us when we ask. So they gave us some take out food. So, my Thanksgiving feast was a handful of salad, four tiny dry chicken breast, and two dry hamburger patties (we don´t have any sauces because our fridge doesn´t work cuz we don´t have electricity), some popcorn I made, and some gluten free cookies I bought for way more than they were worth.

So transfers came in this week. 25+ newbies came this transfer, and another 25+ will come the next. So pretty much the entire mission will be somehow involved in training. As far as this transfer goes, Elder Yaques..... stays in Casilda for another transfer! And Elder Brown....... also stays! 3 transfers together. Four and a half months. That´s a really long time. Most people aren´t in an area for that long, much less with the same companion. Super uncommon. It´s fine with me though, we get along pretty well. He reminds me a lot of my brother Zach, except even more outgoing. So I´m pretty excited to work with him for yet another transfer. During the last transfer, we thought for sure one of us would leave, so while were working on the Plan of Action for December and trying to think of more ways to find new investigators, we realized one thing we have yet to try is singing. So we joked a bit and said that if we stay together in Casilda we would contact with singing Christmas and other hymns. Then the transfers came in. And we are staying together. So this transfer is gonna be really unforgettable.

Yesterday we contacted for about 5 hours straight. So 5 hours of straight walking standing, and climbing stairs. My legs were killing me when we got back to the pensh. Luckily, we have an elevator, we we didn´t have to scale even more stairs. Found 4 new investigators though. We feel really solid about 3 of them. The other was a young woman who seemed more interested in the prospect of having two good looking young men come back to her home to talk to her than what we will be talking about.

Awesome contacting moment though. We were contacting in what are called the Fonavis (these run down arpartment complexes). We passed this little kid playing in the dirt, and he told us his mom was there. He told us this like three times, so we asked which house was his, and he pointed and told us the door wasn´t locked and to go on in. But, that would break many rules, both legal and of the mission. So we went up and knocked. The kid ran up from behind us, opened the door, ran in to his mom yelling "Moommmm! There are some men at the door!" and ran back out to where he was playing and as he passed us said "She´s coming." Really unique start. When she got to the door we started talking about the plan of salvation, and Elder Yaques started talking about how families can be eternal, and that she could live forever. At the moment he said that, this lady´s 8 and 7 year son and daughter that were in school arrived home at a sprint, and gave her big hugs. I think her 8 year old said "I love you" or "I missed you" or something like that. Might have been the 7 year old. It was awesome. She invited us to come back Friday morning and is gonna read the pamphlet of the Plan of Salvation. I don´t think this all happened in the timing that it did by accident.

During the last week of every transfer, everyone has to deep clean their pensh, and the Zone Leader´s come and inspect the pensh´s of the District Leader´s, and they in turn inspect the pensh´s of all the Elder´s in their district. We cleaned and got inspected Friday. So we had to devote the whole morning to cleaning, and postponed our studies for the afternoon. After we finished cleaning, I felt pretty empty and kinda down. So I said a prayer to find out what I needed to do to pull out of this, and felt like I should read a verse of the BOM before we left. So I did. Was one of those moments when the scripture is exactly what you need, whether or not you have already read it dozens of times. Testimony really grew in that moment.

That´s all I got for this week. Take care!

Elder Brown

2 Nephi 4:28-30

Monday, November 23, 2015

November showers bring December flowers

I seem to have some memory of learning the seasons in elementary school with some trick "April showers bring May flowers" (which really confused an Arizona boy like me, because in Az, there isn´t rain nor are there flowers). But down here, it would be "November showers bring December flowers". It has rained 13 out of the last 14 days, literally. The only day it didn´t rain, thankfully, was P-Day last week.

Been hailing too. Hail here is a lot bigger than the hail in Arizona. Still doesn´t top the softball sized hail I got during the year I lived in Texas, but hail here is about the size of ping pong balls. Pretty solidly sized.

We moved this week. We had one of the worst pensh´s in the entire mission, and, now, we have one of the best. It is in a an apartment building. Not too high up. 3rd floor (I guess 4th, but, in Argentina the don´t count the main floor as a floor), which is perfect for the view. We get a view that is higher than all the houses, and a bit higher than all the trees, so we can see the hole town from our balcony. The day we moved started off a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. When we helped the other Elder´s move, the clouds started coming in. As soon as (not an exaggeration in the least) we put the last thing in their new pensh, it started to rain. And not just rain, it was dumping, hail was coming down too. Pouring harder than anything I´ve seen in Arizona. More rain than any monsoon. And it was our turn to move. So, we drove to our dumpy old pensh, (which is surrounded by dirt, which was now mud with an inch of water over the mud) and began to carry our things through the downpour of rain and hail. I have no clue how our stuff didn´t get damaged at all. Our new pensh got all dirty. But it´s a lot easier to clean this new one and keep it clean cuz it´s not surrounded by dirt. Really the only downside is that we don´t have electricity. And won´t for two or three more weeks. So I don´t think I´ll get to enjoy it with electricity, cuz this upcoming week is transfer week, and, based on some things an AP told my comp, and the finance clerk of the mission told me, I am pretty sure I am going somewhere else. But, the Lord has blessed us with a lot of cool weather and rain and wind, when, normally, it would be super hot at this time of year.

Spent a whole day doing this thing called Tramitres. Was super boring. We just sat around for hours to sign 3 pieces of paper to say that we are here legally.

Had stake conference. 2 members of the 70 came to reorganize the stake. That was pretty cool to be there as a missionary to see two of the 70 come and give council specific to 500 active members of the church.

GOT FED FOUR DAYS IN A ROW! It doesn´t matter that one of these times was the mission office giving us food, that is a new record since I left the MTC. So awesome to actually get fed. This must be something similar to what stateside missionaries feel.

Pretty much everyone in town knows us. It´s pretty sweet. We´ll be walking past a construction site, and everyone will stop what they´re doing to say hi to us. Or someone will be driving by, and will wave and yell "Hola chicos!" "Hey kids!" Not many people are interested in the Gospel, but like the two Mormon boys that say hi to everyone.

Remember that man I emailed about last week that scared me into keeping all the commandments for the rest of my life? Well, he is really teaching me something more. He is teaching me that everyone can change. That God loves each and every one of us and wants us to return to him. His crippled state has taught him humility, the hard way. And he has commited to baptism and told us he will do anything he can to grow closer to the Lord and will keep any commandment that the Lord gives. Woah. I was way wrong about this guy. I stand 100% corrected. He wants to always feel the love of God that is available through the Restored Gospel. So, I invite all of you that already have it, to enjoy it. To use and feel it to the fullest extent possible. Do all you can to extract every last drop of the never-ending happiness the Gospel of Christ has to bring. Also to not judge people, in my mind, I marked this man as a man who would not want anything to do with us. Wrong. The Lord knows his sheep. He knows all of us perfectly. Luckily, this man´s friend who we are teaching didn´t give up on him, and told us to go visit him again. So we did. And I learned a lot.

That´s all I got I got for this week. Well, also that real Chinese food is not nearly as good as Panda Express.

Elder Brown

John 10: 14

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why aren´t we preaching?

Isabel got baptized!
Worlds smallest bananas, that taste like little banana candies

Modeling photoshoot awaiting the bus in Arequito
Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get away from the geese!

Backflips in the mission home and a well timed selfie

I feel like as a missionary, the thing I do the least, is preach. Totally contradictory to any perspective I´ve ever had to missionary life before, but, I feel like we don´t spend a whole lot of time preaching. I´ll explain why (it´s not just because we´re super lazy).

Monday- P-Day. Usually only proselyte for 3 hours, but, we did some service for 30 min, and after that we had to go to Rosario to make it on time for Interviews with President on Tuesday morning. We would have left in the morning, but, the only bus that would get us there on time leaves before we wake up. So we just headed out the night before.

Tuesday- Interviews with President and various meetings with the AP´s and President. We weren´t able to leave until 2, the bus left at 3:30, and we got back to Casilda around 5. So we only had four hours to work.

Wednesday- Normal day, actually had time to work.

Thursday- Weekly planning. Chao to the opportunity to proselyte in the morning. And we had to postpone our studies until the afternoon, so chao afternoon. We could only proselyte from 6-10 pm.

Friday- We went to a "pueblito" (little town) that is in our area. (Apparently we have tons. Who knew?) Something I learned about the buses for these pueblitos, they are never remotely on time. The schedule said it left at 5:30. It showed up at 6. The family we were planning on meeting at 6 had already left by the time we got there at 6:40 (we couldn´t call them because we aren´t allowed to go out with our phones cuz so many people rob missionaries for cell phones). So we went contacting for an hour, and went back to the bustop for the "7:45" bus. Showed up at 8:10. When we got back at 8:45, we had to go to a meeting with our new Unit Mission Leader (Casilda doesn´t have a ward or branch, we have a Unit, the smallest group there is.) We were actually pretty excited for this because he is the first Mission Leader here in Casilda. So we proselyted/ preached in the morning for 2 hours, and in the evening for 1.

Saturday- All morning, service. All afternoon, prep for baptism. Evening, baptism. Night, surprise dinner appointment.

Sunday- Normal Sunday. Which means we went to church from 9-12, our lunch appointment bailed, and in the evening we taught two lessons.

Monday- P-Day Especial en la casa de la misión (Special P-Day in the mission home). We were there from 9 am- 6:30 pm. Got back to Casilda at 8:45. Had 45 minutes to proselyte.

I don´t think it´s an accident that the mission life works like this though. The Lord understands that we are doing everything we can, and is blessing us for it. Here´s some very few ways:

Monday- Not a whole lot happened, but, we did our best to the best of our ability, and we had the spirit so strongly, and we laughed more than we usually do. Also, we were able to safely travel through Rosario (city with the highest homicide rate in all of Argentina, which is really saying something because in Santa Fe it´s a rare occasion to not hear gunshots multiple times a day) at night. The most dangerous thing that happened was certain women on the streets trying to attract our attention.

Tuesday- Taught some Golden Investigators. A member finally gave us a reference, and these people are so ready. They ask questions that are more than perfect. For example, when we were teaching the Restauration, when we explained the Apostasy, the husband asked "And how has the true church been brought back?" They even gave us a reference too. He´s not so golden, but taught me a lesson I feel like I should share.

The Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity are there to protect us, literally. This guy has more health problems than I can count. His liver had ruptured the day before, and wasn´t anything out of the ordinary. He used to drink all day every day. His eyes are straight yellow, and is missing several teeth because he used to smoke a ton. He can´t walk becuase of (not too sure I understood this right) various diseases that accompany not living the law of chastity. He was juntado (living with someone w/o being married) seven times. He is always in and out of the hospital. So he basically scared me into living all the commandments (word of wisdom and law of chastity especially) for the rest of my life. And I implore all of you to do the same. Believe me when I say, that you do not want to end up like this man.

Wednesday- Had lunch! Felt like the Isarealites when they came out of the desert! Our lunch appoinment didn´t bail and fed us a ton of fried chicken, fries, and intestines (which are actually really really good)! Also taught 2 lessons to less active families who are super humble, and the spirit told us to take totally different approaches than we had planned. And the spirit was super strong and bajó la caña to one family a bit. But it still was an awesome feeling.

Thursday- Visited with the golden family again. The spirit testified a ton about the Plan of Salvation, and, once again, they asked more than perfect questions. The told us they wanted to attend the baptism Saturday and church on Sunday, and we hadn´t even invited them. They just felt the spirit telling them to do it. Leaving was tough though, literally. It had rained a ton that morning, and they live in the ghetto area of town, which is all dirt roads. Which, after rain, are swamp roads. At 9:30 at night, without streetlights, we were trying to slush our way through the swampy roads. My comps shoes broke haha. So he was basically walking barefoot through a swamp.

Friday- Dogs down here pee on whatever they want that isn´t moving. Which, apparently means other dogs. We went running in the morning, and saw our neighbors dog walk up to our neighbor´s other dog, lifted up his leg, and just let loose on the other dog. Which just sat there and took it. Haha didn´t even flinch. Anyways, when we went to Arequito, we just went contacting and found a family. I don´t know what will become of them, but, it was sweet to find a family.

Saturday- Had a baptism and a dinner. Which was sweet. The meat they gave us was more fat than meat, but it was still free food.

Sunday- We had planned to go to Rosario early to make it on time for P-Day especial, but, we couldn´t because the Zone Leader´s had already told other Elder´s they could stay there. So, we went to visit less active family, and taught a lesson on cleanliness. Before Sunday, I had never, not once in my life, ever borne my testimony on cleaning. But we did as the spirit directed, and really touched the mother who is going through a rough time with her family (who wasn´t there so we taught her on her front porch). It was both comical and spiritual.

Monday- P-Day Especial. Had a blast. Apparently, there´s a tramp inside the mission home. Like, what?! That´s so sick! Had a pretty good time doing flips and (not at the same time) eating about 20 chorizos.

Anyways, I testify that God only gives us commandments to bless us, and that he really wants to. But, he can´t interfere with our agency. He wants to bless us, and will, but only if we choose to follow the commandments. He truly loves. Please keep the commandments, all of them, so he can bless you.

Elder Brown

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Old People

Here, there are tons of crazy old people, and awesome old people. We met another crazy old lady with alzheimer´s when we went to contact Old Investigators. She asked us about 5 times or so how old we thought she was. Every time, Elder Yaques said 60 every time, and every time, she made some weird wave gesture with her hand that I think meant "higher". After a few "guesses," she would tell us that she was 71, but turned 72 in October. We we gonna teach her something, until the second time this happened. So we just decided to listen to her repeat her stories about where she´s from, how old she is, and how her husband was in the Navy. I think the Spirit prompted us to go there and pay a visit to a lonely old lady whose kids and grandkids never visit. Our Heavenly Father loves all his childern, whether or not they are all there mentally, or have the Gospel in their lives. He wants us all to be happy. And with his 72 year old daughter with memory loss, he sent two young kids to visit and listen.

On Sunday we went out with the Elder´s quorum to help them do home teaching, because we are trying to get this all organized here. So we did some splits. I went out with Elder Wagstaff and a man named Javier. We went to visit his friend he´s been trying to get to be interested in the church. We had a great visit with them, which kinda surprised me, cuz the friend´s dad was there, and he was wearing nothing but some super shorts. He had the biggest potbelly I´ve seen in my life. Not too fat anywhere else, just a massive belly. He honestly looked like he was pregnant with at least triplets. It was pretty gross. And he just agreed with everything we said. But I think his son, the friend of Javier, had a really good experience. Hopefully the other missionaries can continue teaching him.

After we left, we went to visit a less active lady, who just talked at us for 45 min about how terrible all the members here in Casilda are. She told us all the members she´s met in other places, like Buenos Aires, Bahía Blanca, and Rosario are great people. But, the members here are just terrible. So I said something like "It seems to me that you have some issues/ problems with the members here in Casilda, but, your Heavenly Father still wants to bless you, and you can recieve these blessings by..." And she said that she has no problems with any members here in Casilda, just that the branch Pres, and Quorom Pres, and Relief Society teachers and presidency, and her ex husband (see how this whole marriage/ divorce thing I talked about a few weeks ago comes full circle?) are terrrible people and gave us an extensive list of reasons why, and that she´ll throw bricks at the branch pres if she sees him by her house, but, she doesn´t have any problems with any members here in Casilda. 

Anyways, we did exchanges this week. Did it twice. Both times I got to be with other English speakers. That was awesome to be able to speak in English for two days straight. Also, both times I stayed in our area. Which means that I had to do all the planning twice. Learned that I´m not very good at planning without my companion doing basically all the work. So I´ll try to participate more during daily planning. Told myself that 6 days ago exchanges started. He got back 4 days ago, and since then, I´ve basically only said that we shouldn´t schedule a certain appointment for a certain time, but for a little later. Real progress.

We found a CD with a ton of Disney songs in our pensh! So we called the Zone Leaders to see if this was contraband or not. They said as long as there aren´t music videos, it´s fine. So we´ve been singing a ton of Hercules and Frozen. Hercules songs are better in Spanish, but Frozen is just crazy fast and confusing to try and nail down.

We are gonna have another baptism here on Saturday! We are pretty excited because this lady, Isabel Cañiza, is totally prepared. She has been a golden investigator. She always asked the right questions. She fulfilled all her commitments. She read every pamphlet. We got to the point where we just gave her the pamphlet for the next lesson the lesson before, and she would basically memorize it. Then, she would pretty much teach us. For example, with tithing and fast offerings, we started off by asking what she knew about tithing, and almost recited, word for word, the entire tithing section. With fast offerings, I think she did recite, word for word, what the pamphlet says, and then bore her testimony on why these donations are important. We have also been able to see and feel that she is doing this 100% because she knows this path is the best to grow close to God, and that is her only goal. I honestly think she has taught me more than I have taught her, and not just because my spanish still is pretty weak. She has been a great example of loving "the Lord thy God as thyself". It has been awesome to watch her progress and witness the Atonement totally bless her and lift her up.

Pretty glad I made the choice to come out here. It is changing me in ways I never imagined were possible. Learning how to love like Christ is awesome. Every day, I come to understand more and more of the Atonement and that, in itself, is a priceless blessing. I was thinking the other night, and I imagine, that when Heavenly Father was making commandments, he was sooooo excited. I truly think he was gettting way pumped with all these ways he was designing to give us, his beloved children, blessings. He truly loves us more than we can know. It´s such a privilege to know what I know and to have this chance to learn and feel everything I am learning and feeling. The mission field is so awesome!

Elder Brown

Mosiah 2:41

Monday, November 2, 2015

Dulce o Truca

Teaching English Class
Happy Halloween! Dulce means "treat" or "sweet" and truca means "trick." And that´s what´s the kids say here on Halloween. It´s not as big down here, but some people dress up and go out. Here are some of my dulces and trucas:

The Area President, Elder Gonzalez, came and talked to the three Rosario Zones (Rosario, Rosario West, and Rosario North). He is a pretty funny guy. He had a lot of good stuff to say. He told us to do a lot of things our Branch Presidency said not to do. So we´re gonna talk with them and give them and "bajar la caña" a bit.

I was directing the music during sacrament meeting this Sunday, when this lady started breastfeeding without anything to cover her. She was sitting literally 4 or 5 feet in front of me, front row, not even behind any chairs or anything. There was nothing I could do. I tried lifting the hymn book so I couldn´t see that happening, but, when I did that, I couldn´t see anyone in the congregation. When I lifted my head up to try to look at other people in the congregation, I could see her out of the corner of my eye. If I was looking at the hymn book, I saw her over the top of the book. I don´t think I´ve ever felt more awkard or uncomfortable in my life!

Taught some insane less actives on Thursday. It was one of the most histerical lessons I´ve ever had. I prolly shouldn´t write too much about them, but I´ll say a few things.
1. The husband had memorized the drill that missionaries go through. He answered every question before we asked. "No I do not have my Book of Mormon handy, and no, I do not want another one because I´ve already got about 10." "I don´t say prayers in front of missionaries. I know you´re gonna ask me to say the prayer, so I´m telling you now, you (Elder Yaques) are saying the first prayer, and you (me) are saying the closing."
2. They literally believe anything anyone religious tells them (except that we shouldn´t work on the Sabbath). He whipped out his wallet and showed us his various cards. One of baby Jesus and the virgen Mary, one of Jesus on a cross, one from some Evangelist church, on that had the Jehovah´s Witness logo, and one that has a picture of the apostle Peter. He said "Call me crazy if you want, but, when I have these cards in my wallet, I always have at least 5 pesos in my wallet. You may think I´m nuts, but, it works. Do you two have any cards I could put in here?"

Two weeks ago, we went to a family of investigators to teach a lesson. We committed all 4 of them to baptism. The second oldest son has some sort of phobia complex, and is terrified of strangers and going outside. Elder Yaques promised him, that if he prayed every single day until we returned, he would be able to go out with us, and not be scared at all. So, Sunday, (yesterday) we stopped by to give him that chance. His mom answered the door. She started talking to us, unfortunately, I understood every single word. She said, "I´ve thought a lot about what you two have said to us, and, I don´t want to change my life right now. I also don´t want you to waste your time. So you don´t have to come back if you don´t want to. If you want to come back this week, you are more than welcome to and we can chat." 😢 Dagnabbit. Freakin Satan is a tool. We felt the spirit so strong during our lessons with them. I don´t know how Satan convinced her she doesn´t need this, but my guess is she hasn´t read anything that she´s said she´ll read, and hasn´t prayed either. And I know she hasn´t come to church.

Had several really spiritual lessons this week. Don´t want to describe them all. I would like to describe a few though.

Taught a less active youth. We shared Mosiah 3:19. His answer to literally every question was "Uhhh, Jesucristo." For example, "Franco, what does the natural man mean to you?" "Uhhh, Jesucristo." "Very good Franco. Jesucristo can help us overcome the natural man, can´t he?" Another, "Franco, to you, who is the Holy Ghost?" "Uhhh, Jesucristo." "Yeah Franco, they´re both in the Godhead, aren´t they?" But it really was a great lesson. He confided a lot of stuff to us, and then showed up to seminary later that night. It was pretty sweet.

Isabel is a golden investigator who, like all, has marriage problems that impede baptism. She got married, seperated, and started dating another guy. This breaks the law of chastity. So, we helped her figure out a few options, and then we, Elder Yaques and I, fasted. The next lesson we had with her, she told us that God is more important than her boyfriend and broke up with him. Heck yeah! We were so pumped to hear that! I testify of the power of fasting. If you need something, like really need it (not just wanting a Ferrari or anything like that), and fast for it, I testify that God will provide a way that is in accordance with his will.

Taught a less active older couple and their granddaughter. They used to be a really prideful couple, but, Pres. Zanni came to sacrament meeting, "bajó la caña," and they totally changed. They recieved us really humbly, and learned a lot from the scripture we shared, I believe it was D&C 107:8, or, it was D&C 108:7. Don´t remember which.

Taught Lorena, with Matias watching a soccer game off to the side. We shared a message about family prayer that Pres. Eyering wrote for the Ensign/ Liahona in September. When we started, it was obivious that Matias didn´t have a care in the world. If he could watch soccer or listen to us, soccer would win all day. But, by the end of the lesson, he was intently listening and focusing on what we were saying, and accepted the commitment we extended to them. We went back last night to cut his hair, and, when we shared a scripture, he actually turned off the soccer game to listen and bear his testimony about prayer. Which was cool cuz he is a die-hard Evangelist. And down here, die-hard means doesn´t go to church, by too die-hard to listen to the mormon missionaries.

Played some basketball. Never, in my entire life, have I ever once felt like a good, or even decent, basketball player. This week, I felt like Lebron. We played basketball with some of the young men and some teenage guys on Monday afternoon, and we wrecked. I felt like me and the two other American missionaries were James Lebron (me), Charles Barkely (Elder Cook), and Michael Jordan (Elder Wagstaff). Argentine´s, well, are trash at basketball, and Elder Yaques told me the guys we played with and against were really good by Argentine standards, and that Argentina is the best at basketball out of all the countries in South America. Oh well, I´m sure the way I felt playing basketball with them, is exactly how they feel playing soccer with me haha.

Carrot from the health nut down the street:
We started teaching an English class. It´s pretty entertaining to find out what people do and don´t know. They know some phrases from movies and whatnot, and try to put together what they know with the Spanish language rules they learned in school. I´m sure I talk just as humorously in Spanish as they do in English. But that´s fine.

Learned something that they said about 100 times in the MTC, maybe more. Out here in the mission field, we work as hard as we can to help bring other´s to Christ. We work, hope, sweat, and work some more to help other´s change their lives for the better by accepting the restored gospel and repenting. As stated by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2, converts are our pride and joy. But, ultimately, we can only bring ourselves. We have to be our most solid convert. Our selves are the only people we can actually force to have this unmeasurable happiness available through the Atonement. We can work all day, do everything the spirit says to do, and, yet, the only person we can truly change, is ourselves. We have to learn to love Jesus in a way that we won´t stop after the mission. In a way that we will be determined to push through, and endure to the end. We want to baptize hundreds, but that number won´t be of much good if they don´t stay active. Likewise, our service won´t matter if we don´t stay active for our whole life. If we just go ham for these two years, and then just stop. What good does that do? Answer: none. We really have to be our own first convert.

The weather has been nut´s here. Rainy and freezing one day, the next, humid and 95. That´s about all I got for this week.

Elder Brown.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Keep Loving

Got 5 people to commit to baptism this week! It was awesome! The spirit was way strong and definitely did not just help out the people we taught, but helped me out a ton too. It seems like whenever we teach something, no matter how strong I feel like my testimony is about the subject before we go and teach, the Holy Ghost always strengthens my testimony while we are teaching. It´s pretty cool. I definitely enjoy living the missionary life.

Our schedule got changed. Seasons down here are flipped, and, in the winter months, we get to sleep for 8 1/2 hours cuz of a lack of light and high stress levels or something like that. Now that we are going into summer and get more light, we only get 8. Oh well, every other missionary in the world only gets 8 so I prolly shouldn´t complain.

Presidential elections here were yesterday. So, Pres. Zanni sent out a message to all the missionaries saying that we could only leave our houses for church, so that we could "avoid surprises". Glad I didn´t get to find out what kind of "surprises" he was referring to. So this week we basically get two P-Days. It was sweet just kickin it in the pensh and hanging out. Of course we cleaned a bit and studied, but, that still left us with a few hours of free time. It was nice.

So down here, with pretty much every single golden investigator, there is some sort of marriage conflict. Either they are living with someone and aren´t married, they are married, but separated and living with someone else, or, they are married, separated, and dating someone else (or their spouse is). So, it is really tough to baptize these investigators who eat up everything we teach and follow through on their commitments. Mostly with the investigators that have to get divorced though (marriage is cheap and you only have to wait 20 days). To divorce here, you have to pay anywhere from $12,000 to $16,000. This is a lot of money by American standards. By Argentine standards, it´s pretty much a year and a half to two years of salary. And the process takes anywhere from 1-3 months. It´s tough.

I think their is definitely something to be learned from this though. I think that God is really trying to get a message to me through the difficulty of divorce here: that he disapproves strongly of divorce. This church is family centered, and we know that, as stated in the Family Proclamation, "children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and mother who honor their marital vows with complete fidelity..." Parents, give your children this right that they have, whether or not your parents gave you access to this right. Those who are not yet married, when you get married, make absolutely sure to give your kids that right, and to honor the vows you take at marriage so that your kids can recieve the happiness and support system they deserve. Remember, "Children are an heritage of the Lord" Psalms 127:3. I understand that tough times will come into marriages, that there will be times when you, as a spouse, will be angry with your spouse, or think that they are wrong and you are clearly right, or that there will be times when you do want to quit, to take the easy way out. But, guess who didn´t take the easy way out: Jesus. He could have walked away from the Atonement at any moment. He had every right. He had no sin. He did not have to do anything that he did. But he endured. He pushed through the pain, the agony, the suffering, for one reason: he loves us. And we aren´t even his kids. We are just his brothers and sisters. So, parents and future parents, no matter what, please push through for your kids. No matter what happens in your marriage, do everything in your power, and then some, to give your kids what they deserve, because Jesus gave us something we don´t. When you want to quit, think of the effect it will have on your children. Think of how much it could harm them. And remember that Jesus didn´t quit. He endured, and he will help you to endure too.

I am so grateful that my parents gave me the opportunity to be raised by parents who honor their marital vows, and, more than that, the ability to forgive each other. To take the high road and let things go, and to be willing to admit when in the wrong and yield to the other. I hope to provide the same opportunity to my kids, no matter how tough it gets.

Sorry if I "baje la caña" ("bajar la caña" is an expression that basically means to be straight up or speak boldly or directly). I just felt really strongly that I should share what I have learned this last week. That marraige truly is ordained of God, and that divorce is not. Love is the answer. Just like in Harry Potter, love is the strongest force their is. Because of love, Heavenly Father sent his son to bleed, suffer, and die in the most excruciating manner possible, being nailed to wood and hung up like a flag. Because of love, Because of love, Jesus died willingly pushed through the pure agony of the Atonement. Please use his sacrifice to the fullest extent possible. I know that as we use the Atonement, we can overcome ALL things, no matter how tough it or insurmountable it may seem. It is there to be use. So please use it. It will bring unimaginable joy.

I guess I´ll stop being super preachy and whatnot. This week really was great. Elder Yaques and I are getting along great, he´s a pretty funny guy. Some of his jokes are getting old though, but mine are too so that´s fine.

That´s it for me this week. ¡Chao!

Elder Brown

John 3:16

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

This dumb mouse climbed into an empty mouse trap. There wasn´t even food in it. It climbed in. Died. And we found it later  (Editors note:  GROSS!!!!)

Action pic while brick smashing with the brick I just smashed flying past my hand

The bus ride back from watching conference in Rosario

Making asado. My tie is off so charcoal wouldn´t get all over it

 Lunch in the house of a lady who goes way out of her way to make me-friendly foods

Why you don´t leave tupperware on a hot stove

Warming up for the Talent Show

Alexia's Baptism

Blessings and Miracles

This week was pretty great. Had another baptism. Alexia Avalos, the daughter of Lorena, got baptized on Saturday. The spirit was so dang strong. My comp had me conduct the meeting. I was pretty nervous, and forgot what all the abbreviations I wrote down meant. So I just kinda winged it. Which doesn´t work to well in a language you don´t know. Oh well, I didn´t kill the spirit, and she got baptized, which are what are important. My companion baptized her and I confirmed her the next day on Sunday. It was scary as heck. I messed up 4 times. But, as they say, the fifth time´s the charm. After conducting and the setting apart, both the Hermana´s and Elder Yaques told me that I sounded just like our mission pres. Idk if that´s good or bad. He is from Argentina, so it might mean I´m getting the accent down. But, he is from a part of Argentina where they speak really funny. So idk if I should be happy or try to change it.

Broke bricks for 2 hours this week as service. Our branch president is building a new house, and is gonna use the broken bricks to help fill in his foundation. Not the best construction method, but, it was pretty fun to just smash bricks with a hammer for two hours.

Elder Yaques and I hosted a talent show for the ward, well he hosted a talent show and I stood next to him and smiled. But it was cool to get a taste of the Argentine culture as people danced, sang, and acted.

Had prolly our best lesson so far this week. We went to talk with an investigator, who couldn´t at the time, and I felt like we should try knocking on the door of a family who kept saying "Come back later" and eventually just stopped answering the door, But, we tried anyways. And they let us in. I was kinda wary at first, cuz the whole house smelled like smoke, and there was still a cigarette burning in the ashtray. But, during the lesson, we couldn´t smell the smoke at all, and the spirit was just flowing. One thing the mother said that really stuck out to me, is that her son (who has some special needs and some sort of phobia complex), told her he feels something really special when he sees us, and we are the only people outside of his family and internet friends that he wants to talk to. They accepted a Book of Mormon and the mother commited to read it with her son and pray with her son and ask if it and our message are true. It was awesome.

The lady who we had tried to visit, turned out to be the shortest and strangest visit out of all others on my mission. She is a caretaker for an old lady, and asked us to meet her at the old lady´s house. So we met her there. The old lady has alzheimer´s and her voice sounds just like the voice of Kermit the Frog, except a bit higher. She told us the same story about moving into her house for about 5 min, starting over about every 1. Then, the caretaker told her to go get her harmonica. So the old lady said something to her dog, and went and found her harmonica. While she was looking, her daughter showed up, who hates religion. The caretaker tried to mouth to us to leave, but not before the old lady came back with her harmonica. She began to play it, and stopped about every 20 seconds or so to remind us she was playing for the "perrito", the "little dog". When the daughter left the room for a sec, the caretaker kinda pleaded with us to leave, and so we did. I don´t think we´re gonna be going back any time soon for a follow up visit.

Something I forgot to mention last week. Last week, on Sunday, a lady showed up last minute with her super sick granddaughter. She isn´t a member, nor anyone in her family, but, she heard that the Mormon´s can perform miracles. So she decided to try her luck. Her granddaughter had a really bad cold or something, and couldn´t breathe really well, and basically just spent all of her time crying because she feels so bad (ironically, her name, when translated, means "want miracles"). She asked us for a blessing, and we gave one to her granddaughter. Afterwards, she was fine. I don´t think I had ever felt so much purity in my life as when I placed my hands on her head to give her a blessing. It was so sweet to be a part of that.

Starting to finally feel charity. It is awesome. Charity really is awesome. Loving feels so much better than judging and teasing. I truly love the people here. The men are hilarious and literally always joking, even during super serious moments in meetings, they are still cracking jokes and trying to enjoy themselves. The women are super sweet. Not as funny as the men, but really nice and sweet. I am really grateful for the opportunity I have to serve them and learn to love everone, no matter what. Charity is awesome. I invite all of you to follow the advice of Moroni, and pray "with all the energies of the heart", for the gift of charity, and then work to get it, because it really is the greatest of all the gifts of God. It is truly amazing to feel nothing but love for everyone.

Moroni 7:45-48

Elder Brown

Monday, October 12, 2015

No time but lots of things to tell

Have the least amount of time so far, but the most to write.

Literally got smoked out of the guy´s house on Friday. We were teaching when one of his friends lit up a blunt of marijuana. Turns out, he has marijuana plants and sells it too. So we found the first opportunity to leave, and we bounced. Don´t think we´re going back.

Then, later on, we got stoned. Some people thought it would be fun to throw rocks at the missionaries. Others thought it would be fun to try to hit them. But we just kept going with smiles on our faces. And, miraculously, we found 5 new investigators later than night. In the whole rest of my time here, we´ve found 1. God blesses those who work hard and sacrifice in his service.

Accidently asked one of the sister´s in my district if she likes kissing. She and her companion were talking about one of their investigators who hits on them, and I asked "Le gusta besar?" Which, in my mind, meant "Does he like to kiss?" Which is a thing down here, people kiss instead of shaking hands sometimes. But what I really asked was "Does kissing please you?" Haha, I´ll get spanish down eventually.

Ponderizing is really awesome. I invite all of you to do it.

Anyways, I gotta go. Just wanna testify that the Lord truly does bless those who do his will with a cheerful heart.

Elder Brown

Alma 5:5

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Zone Conference

More Pics!

Elder Brown's First Mission Companion

Buenos Aires Temple

Drive from Airport to Rosario

Minions are EVERYWHERE down here!

Casilda District

Great Conference and Terrible Food

So the food here, for the most part, is really, really good. For the most part. Some food, however, has made me wish that I was eating gluten free bread (which literally tastes like cardboard). Hígado, is a meat that my comp had me buy (cuz he bought the fruit and vegetables) that he said is really good and tastes amazing when fried. It wasn´t until he was cooking it that I learned what it was: liver. Liver is the grossest meat. I have no clue how my comp thought it was good. He had me spend 40 pesos on liver. We didn´t even eat half of it because it was so gross. So we threw it over the fence to the neighbor´s dogs, who didn´t like it too much either. They ate it though, prolly cuz they are super skinny and starving.

Another disgusting food: berenjena rellana. Lorena invited us to come over on Friday night to celebrate her birthday with asado. Asado here is amazing, so I was really pumped, especially cuz my liver lunch didn´t fill me up. When we got there, she was making pizza and empanadas. Which was fine by me, I just thought this would be served in addition to the asado. So we helped her make the empanadas (which I knew I wouldn´t be able to eat but wanted to be nice). Then her parents showed up and her mom told us to just take a seat and she would help cook. Lorena asked me if I like berenjena rellana, and I said "I´ve never tried it. Why?" (but in spanish). That´s when I found out there wouldn´t be any asado. To say I was bummed would be pretty accurate. I masked it well though and accepted the offer of berenjena rellana. So she turned around, and made something and put it in the oven. When she brought it out, I realized it was eggplant with a bunch of veggies on top. I had never tried eggplant, but I´d heard things about it, very negative things. It smelled really good though, so I tried it. It is worse than liver. I choked down the two she put on my plate with a smile. But that smile vanished when she put down 6 more. I smiled and politely told her I was full. When I got home that night, I was hungrier than when I had left. Luckily, we had some lettuce to give me another 15 calories.

At 8:45, we said we had to leave to make it home on time. Then her dad offered to drive us home at 8:55. It was cold and had been raining, so we accepted the offer. Then he disappeared for a little bit and returned with a box of wine (here, all liquids are in boxes, wine, milk. spaghetti sauce, you name it, it´s in a box). He had drunk all of it with coke by 8:55. If wasn´t a missionary, and my senior companion, trainor, and district leader didn´t climb in the truck before me, I would have walked home and been late. I have no idea how we didn´t crash. The windsheild was all fogged up from the cold and the rain, and he drunk a bunch of wine. He almost hit someone on a bike, three parked cars, and two cars pulling out of parking spots. I don´t think imma do that again, ever.

Conference was good. Everyone had been saying there is nothing like conference as a missionary, and they were right. We showed up at the stake center to watch conference (because people can´t afford internet nor BYUtv down here), and they said the English room was down the hall and to the right. I was so pumped that I would be able to understand what was going on, and to be surrounded by other missionaries who speak english for 10 hours in one weekend. Then conference started, and the guy with the amazing voice didn´t announce which conference it was. Some guy speaking spanish did. I got kinda nervous, but everyone said this was normal, and the speakers would be in english. So I calmed down. Then Pres. Eyering started to speak, and the first few words were in English. I was so excited, and then the voice over kicked in. I felt like a deflated balloon. The only thing in English was the choir. When Pres. Utchdorf started to speak, and the voiceover kicked in, I wondered whether it would be worth it to try to understand. I decided that it would be, so I started to try to understand. I understood every word. I have know idea how, but I did. I testify that the gift of tongues is real, and that God is aware of us, and wants us to gain knowledge and light. After Uchtdorf, the stake secretary came in and told us he had gotten English working in another room. I was so relieved. The rest of conference was amazing and really powerful.

We also had zone conference this week. I didn´t understand much. That made it kinda boring. But what I did understand was awesome and spiritual. My mission president really likes to focus on repentance and held a public repentance session. He put a chair in the middle of the room and invited us to come sit in it and repent out loud. I had no clue what was going on though until an Hermana from the states with a really "Yankee" accent that I could understand went up. There was only time for 3 people to go. But, the spirit was really strong and it was the first time I felt a positive spirit of humility. Usually it I get a humble feeling when a 4 year old makes fun of my spanish, but this was very spiritual and powerful. So that night, I repented, and did my best to feel that same spirit of humility. He is definitely on to something when he says "I have never found such great joy as repentance" (but in spanish). I´m pretty sure he was quoting a scripture but I´m not sure which one, nor have I remembered to when I have had study time. I testify that repentance truly does bring unimaginable joy. Jesus already suffered for our sins, and already died for us, so let´s take advantage of it! That´s what it´s there for! It is there for us to gain joy and to feel relieved and spiritually rejuvinated (idk if that´s spelled right, I don´t have English spellcheck here). I invite all of you to repent daily, with all the energies of your soul, and, to feel, as described by Alma, joy such that nothing is as exquisite as your joy. I testify that there is literal power in repentance, and it´s amazing. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Brown