Monday, February 29, 2016

The Juan´s pull through!

Pig herd that passed right across the street from us during studies

So Juan´s are just capos. In Casilda, all my best investigators were named Juan, and that is no different here in Empalme. We have three totally golden investigators, two of which are named Juan and the other is the wife of one of the Juan´s. And there´s a less active Juan who is trying to get active again and wants to baptize his wife.

Juan José.
The type of person you think of when you think of a golden investigator. He is a 45 year old man. He was a reference from some other Elder´s that met him in an internet café. He sneezed and one Elder said "Bless you!" and Juan José was just super touched and goes "Thank you so much!" They got to talking, and he accepted the invitation to have the missionaries over. So Elder Ostler and his old comp went and started teaching him. After their second visit, he handed them a paper bag and told them not to open it because it had all the inappropriate videos and pictures he had had in his house, then he put his earings in and said watching and wearing those kinds of things and wearing earings makes him feel farther from God. This was about 3-4 weeks ago. We didn´t teach the law of chastity until this last Friday. He literally reads the Book of Mormon side by side with the Bible from 9am-1pm every day. He studies and reads so much he knows more about the Gospel than I do. He comes to church every Sunday. Also, he´s single, so we don´t have to worry about a girlfriend that doesn´t want to get married. But he tried to share the gospel with his ex so she would get interested in this and then they would be able to get married in the temple after both getting baptized. She wasn´t interested, but, he´s a boss.

He went to stake conference with us this last weekend to meet Pres. Zanni and when one of the speakers started asking questions and the guys walked around with mic´s, Juan José raised his hand to share. He gave a really awesome and copado response to the question. I can´t believe that guy. I have never even raised my hand in a class to share, much less in a session of a stake conference, and I´ve been a member my whole life! This dude´s been an investigator for 4 weeks! But afterward, Satan made sure to hit us with temptation. The session got out at 9:30, and our bus didn´t leave from San Nicolás (the city where the stake center is) until 11. So we got on the bus, just us three and another member from Empalme. But holy cow. That bus got sketchy, fast. It was the last Saturday night before school starts, and all the night clubs in Rosario had huge parties. That bus got totally filled with girls in super tight and revealing clothes (every bus going to Rosario passes through Empalme). Then the driver turned the lights off. I don´t think I´ve ever felt more uncomfortable as a missionary. This even topped when I was conducting the music in sacrament and the lady in the first row started breastfeeding without a blanket. Then, the next morning at 8 we got back on a different bus to go the morning session in San Nicolás, and ALL the same girls were on that bus going home. That bus reeked of puke, alcohol, and sweat. Plus all the girls were staring at us the whole time, trying to attract the attention of the two handsome nicely dressed guys.

Juan Carlos and Ely.
An awesome couple. This Juan is probably the best example of a loving father I have seen in Argentina. We went over on Friday for the second visit and the first thing he did when he got home was kiss his wife and then go say hi to his kid (don´t worry, we weren´t alone with a person of the opposite sex). Most people don´t read what you leave them the first time, but, they read Moroni 10 together and then prayed and totally understood everything they read and understood their answer from God. And Juan looks exactly like Kevin James.

Juan Pablo and Romina.
The less active guy. We stopped by last night and started sharing a spiritual thought that Elder Ostler felt like we needed to share from Enos. Then Romina (the nonmember girlfriend) asked why we always share scriptures from the Book of Mormon and not from the Bible. Then we had a bomb lesson about the Restoration and Juan Pablo clarified everything our limited spanish kept us from saying and bore his testimony to her so many times. It was awesome.

Anyways, that´s about all the exciting news I´ve got from this week, hope you all have a great week!

Elder Brown

Alma 5:59-60

Pig herd that passed right across the street from us during studies

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Us with Juan and his girlfriend. Prolly the two coolest people in Casilda

Saying bye to pres

Elder Brown and Elder Ostler

So 6 months of service came to an end in Casilda. That was a really fast 6 months and I will really miss the people in Casilda. My new area is a city even smaller than Casilda. The whole city is smaller than the neighborhood San Tan Ranch. It´s about a mile long and a quarter mile wide. We are in the middle of nowhere, and there isn´t any unit of church there. We have to take a bus to another city to go to church. It´s gonna be pretty interesting. My new comp is Elder Ostler. He´s from Virginia. He played a lot of soccer before the mission so Argentina was a great place for him to get called to.

So it was a really interesting week to finish off my time in Casilda.

As the title suggests, we exorcised. Without going into too much detail, a lady in the ward called us and told us her friends sister was in the hospital and her friend wanted a blessing for her sister. So, we went and wound up exorcising. The elder´s in Casilda are gonna start teaching the Mom who was really interested and felt really good when we were there.

Had a great lesson with Juan Acosta and his girlfriend (I´m still not quite sure what her name is). The first time we taught them, the spirit told me that they would get baptized, but I wouldn´t be there when that happened. This lesson that prompting got reaffirmed, that they will get baptized, even though they have doubts about getting baptized. I´ll definitely miss teaching them.

One thing the Branch Pres in Casilda does, is the last night before a Casilda missionary leaves, he invites the missionaries over for dinner and then dumps flour on them when they least expect it. I, having seen this happen to many missionaries, was not about to just stand there and let him freely dump flour on me. So, I came prepared. I brought my own package of flour. When we went outside to take pictures (almost 100% of the time this is where he dumps flour on the missionaries), I reached into my bag to grab the flour. He didn´t suspect a thing. I am sure he thought I was looking for my camera. The look of surprise on his face when I whipped out a bag of flour and the flour came flying out of the bag on him was priceless. Prolly my proudest pranking moment ever.

Had a great first day in Empalme yesterday. Taught some BOMB lessons to some new investigators. One guy (who looks just like an Argentine Kevin James) told us he never let´s missionaries in his house, and doesn´t really know why he did this time but just feels really interested in our religion right now. Another lady, whose parents recently died, totally opened up to us and we had a great lesson. With her, there were several times when I felt like the lesson was missing something, and a thought would come to my mind about a question I should ask her, or a comment I should make. Every time, she would answer the question without being asked it or my comp would make the comment. It was really sweet.

Also, Elder Walker and I dropped a lot of cane this last week. That always brings a really strong spirit.

I hope you all have had a great week, I know I have.

Elder Brown

Alma 5:16&22

Monday, February 15, 2016

Is it really Valentine´s Day?

It´s so weird to think that it´s Valentine´s Day. Here in Argentina, it´s just another Monday that is dreaded by workers, whether they be single, married, or dating.

It´s Elder Wagstaff´s (our District Leader) last Monday in the mission, so, naturaly, we made an asado. I love the meat down here. I wish we had these cuts up in the states.

Things are finally starting to change here in Casilda. Kind of a bummer that it took so long because Pres. Zanni sent me a text the other night and said "Start saying good-bye to people, but don´t get trunky!" (trunky is like homesick, or when a missionary gets it in his head that he´s about to leave and looses his desires to work). So I think I´m going to get transferred this next week.

One thing in particular is we finally have an investigator that we can totally count on to keep her commitments and not bail on our appointments. She is a super loaded 50 year old psychologist (psychologist´s down here are really respected and make a TON of money). I find her proffession to be really interesting. I say that because the first time we met with her, she totally opened up to us and told us everything. Every problem she has. Everything she´s gone through. Everything. The mission is a really interesting place, I doubt there is any other setting in the world where a rich middle aged woman would tell two 18-year old kids all her problems, and expect them to know what to do to help her out. It blows my mind.

Another thing is the church attendance. We have been stressing the importance of coming to all 3 hours of church a ton, and finally just switched the schedule, so now we have sacrament the first hour, and priesthood the last (most wards in Argentina have sacrament last). We thought that there would only be 5 people (Branch pres and the 4 missionaries) in sacrament last week when we started, but, we have about 30ish people last week (we´d been hovering around 20) and we had over 40 yesterday. That hasn´t happened since November. It was really awesome to see so many people show up to take the sacrament and renew their baptismal covenants. Thinking about those American wards with 400+ people seems unreal and dream-like to me. 40 seemed crowded and full.

The pride cycle is real. Every time I humble myself, I find myself thinking something really prideful, and then I end up killing the spirit and just damaging myself. I think that´s the thing about pride, it hurts us more than anyone else. That´s one thing I´ve learned here, pride hurts us more than anyone else. Everytime I get prideful, I always do more harm to myself than good. So I recommend to all of you to not get prideful.

Anyways, sorry this letter is kinda weird. Kinda rushed cuz our time for P-Day got cut, and we didn´t find out until we sat down and read the letter of the president.

Hope you all have a great Valentine´s-Day!

Elder Brown

D&C 43:35

Monday, February 8, 2016

Holy Cow!

Ate a cow this week. Not like a burger, or a steak, or ribs or anything, but a full on cow. On Friday, we ran into the branch pres in the street, and he said, "I think we´re gonna eat the asado tonight." Elder Walker and I had no clue what he was talking about, and thought he was just joking and trying to get our hopes up to tear them down. So we played along, and found out he was serious. The other Elder´s had sweet talked their way into getting us an asado. We didn´t up eating the asado on Friday, but we did on Saturday. Not just any asado either, but literally every part of the cow. Intestines (large and small), stomach, heart, kidneys, and appendix (we would have eaten the brain, but, president dropped it in the dirt, so we left it there for the dogs, several dogs sniffed it, but none seemed to be starving enough to eat brain, so the flies did). I say "Holy Cow" because it was bought and cut up by the branch pres, and cooked and prepared by missionaries. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I´ll send a pic next week after the other Elder´s give us the pic.

Taught a total of 4 lessons sitting down this week. So we contacted a ton. Found a lot of crazy people. One guy in particular said, "There are 3 Bibles. 1. The Bible you two have. 2. The Bible the Catholics have. 3. The Bible the Roman Catholics have. Which one is the true and real Bible?" We didn´t really know how to answer that, so he went on to tell us that we don´t believe in God because we didn´t know what to say to that question, and then to explain how the Bible written in stone that the Roman Catholics have is the true Bible, and again how we don´t believe in God, and his wife was saying "amen" and "that´s the truth" every few words that he said. 

Talked to one lady who was really surprised when we started talking because she had thought Mormons can´t talk to people with dark skin. She seemed really interesed in our message though.

In other news, it was really hot this week. It´s really weird to see pics of state-side missionaries bundled up in coats with scarves and snow pants, with snow blowing all around them. Down here, we are always wet, weather or not it´s raining. Not really sure what to think of the rain, because it feels really nice outside while it´s raining, but, after the rain, we get totally slammed with humidity. I guess I´m really glad that when they split this mission in July, they cut out the really humid parts of provincia Santa Fe and all of provincia Entre Rios (which, as the name suggests, is filled with rivers and the humidity levels never dip below 90%).

Taught Lorena Avalos (the lady that got baptized my second week here) with the Branch Pres´s wife and his niece (an RM), and wow, girls talk alot. They talked for 75 minutes without even a 15 secod pause anywhere before Elder Walker or I said anything. Then, when we started to teach, Elder Walker and I said about 10 minutes worth of stuff, and they said about 45 minutes worth of stuff. I suppose that´s good though, it´s better for recent converts to develop solid relationships with members than listen to missionaries that they already are close to.

The mission is a really insane place. I am about 100% sure, that there is no other setting in the world where middle aged men and women open up and tell 18 year old kids about all their problems, and expect these 18 year olds to know how to help them. During this last week and a half, we saw more than one full grown adult (meaning someone much older than us) totally open up and bawl while tellling us about their difficulties in life, all of these instances happened just from street contacts. One such was a lady who I had just thought was a nut. I had always seen her yelling at one kid and dragging the other kid by the had whilst that kids was kicking and screaming. I really got humbled when she started crying though, and I realized that it´s not important to God if someone´s got a few screws loose, cuz they still have problems and challenges in life, and God loves them just as much as he loves me.

Speaking of that love he has for me, a popular hymn has been in my mind a lot this week. It goes, 
1. I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
2. I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
3. I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
   Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
It really amazes me the love Jesus has for and offers me. Even with all my sins, all my shortcomings, and all my dumb choices that I make, he still loves me more than I can imagine, and is too merciful with me. Even when I feel like I mess up big time, I still feel his merciful hand lift me up and provide a way. Sometimes I wish I could do better and help more people, but, I feel like the harder I work, the harder the hearts of the people get, and the less I can do to help. Oh well, Just gotta keep pushing and working and loving

Anyways, hope you all have a great week up there in the nice cool air, without crazy mosquito viruses. Hasta luego!

Elder Brown

Mosiah 28:3-4