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.