I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY! I´ll just start with that. I love speaking Spanish! I love working, I love seeing miracles every day, I love having best friends from countries all over the world. I love serving people, I love seeing changes come into their lives because of the doctrine of Jesus Christ. I love being a missionary. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I think that makes it the most worth it. Working hard at work worth doing!
First, some things about Argentina life. I do all my laundry by hand in our kitchen sink. I´m getting pro! We have a clothes line on our balcony and laundry soap next to the dish soap. It´s an adventure every week to get everything clean, in and out of the sink and on the line to dry. Some people have washing machines, but they are tiny compared to the states. no such things as dryers here, tampoco.
Another thing about Argentina--everyone has a hard time just letting goodbye be goodbye, even if you´re going to see them again in the same day. The Hermanas always give 2 or 3 besos, and the men and women alike say Ciao, Hasta Luego, or Nos Vemos multiple times. Or all of the above. The person that makes us laugh the most is Marcello, who at one point (we always count) said ciao a total of 10 times in a row, un interuppted. It´s the best, always makes us smile.
Well, so much to tell you, like always. I´m going to take an entry from my journal again,
"Sunday again. I can´t believe how quickly time truly flies, more especially when we´re having ´missionary fun´as Sister Young used to say. I love being a missionary when we´re obedient and seeing miracles.
I don´t know where to begin for certain. I´ll start by telling you about Mario. August 24th, a Saturday, Hermana Alicea and I met the Elders (Elder Vergara and Elder Alvarez) at the church for Marcello´s baptismal interview. They brought Mario B. with them and came 30 minutes early. Mario was an investigator of Elder Vergara´s and Elder Martinez in July, but he moved to the campo to work for a month. He previously had a baptismal date and everything for July 20th, but fell through when he moved. Anyways, he moved back into Venado Tuerto, but within our ward boundaries. He is 25, about 5 foot 1, and a total fireball (in a teddy bear sort of way. I wish I could describe it.). Anyways, he came on into the church with the Elders and his Yellow bicycle. I had previously asked Edler Vergara if I could have a blessing--this was the beginning of the transfer, and I was a little overwhelmed. He pulled up a chair in the Relief Society Room for me to sit in, invited us all inside, and he and Elder Alvarez laid their hands upon my head. It was a beautiful blessing, and my first priesthood blessing in Spanish. I was blessed with comfort ad blessed to bea able to speak freely, and be able to offer or render service to all who need my help. After I shook their hands in thanks, Hermana Alicea asked if she could have a blessing as well. I took quiet notes during the blessing, not knowing if she would understand and wanting to translate later if she needed me. It, too, was a beautiful blessing of comfort. Mario, our new investigator friend, watched quietly and reverently closed his eyes. After the blessings were offered, I turned to Mario and asked if he´d ever seen a priesthood blessing before. He explained with wide eyes and his fast paced Argentine accent that he hand´t. I explained a little about priesthood power, and that this power of God is what sets the church apart from any other organization. I was astounded and pleasantly surprised when he began to explain "Me encanta la historia de José Smith" and proceeded to tell me the story of hte first vision, and his testimony of it. In that moment, I truly felt a unique spirit of the reality of miracles. He expressed to us that he wants to be baptized as soon as possible, September 7th if he could, especially because it was Elder Vergara´s birthday, and he wanted to celebrate by his baptism. We asked him to pray to see if this was the right day."
Our first lesson, he expressed he felt very strongly that he should be baptized on the 7th. This gave us only 5 days to teach all of the missionary lessons before his baptismal interview (which is always at least a week before the baptism)--needless to say, we felt a little stressed. During our weekly planning session, we took it to prayer, not wanting to discount Mario´s personal revelation but feeling very much responsible for him as the Missionaries over his education. We felt very strongly that the 7th was indeed the answer. We set to work having lessons with him daily, sometimes twice daily, for the next 5 days. He did great in his interview and kept all his commitments, even though it is very hard for him to read. He reads at about a 1st or 2nd grade level, I´d guess from my Elementary Ed days before the mission. He reads the Book of Mormon every day out loud to try to improve his reading skills. The brethren in our ward reached out to come to every single lesson.
Mario´s baptism was a tremendous experience, only a week after the spiritual powerhouse of Marcello´s baptism. He came an hour early to help set up the church for his own baptism and to greet everyone that come. He also made pan casero, one of the most delicious things I´ve ever eaten, for Hermana Alicea and I as a baptism present . . .but for us, as the Missionaries. It was a beautiful experience to see him all in white, finally at his baptism, ready to enter into this covenant he wants so much.
As far as other experiences, this past week was a little weird because we had 2 trips to rosario in the same week, to visit governmental buildings and sign papers to keep our visas as well as a special conference and training from the Area 70, Elder Giovanni. Don´t worry, we got everything signed and worked out with our passports and visas. I have a visa for 1 year, and Hermana Alicea has a tourist visa for 3 months. We´re praying that her visa will continue to come through just fine every 3 months so she can stay. WE´re also praying with all our hearts that we have one more transfer together--next week is transfers, and we´re freaking out! Heads up, I´ll be writing on Tuesday, not Monday. We´re such a team. I honestly feel like she´s an appendage of family or something. We are always laughing and scheming ways to help our investigators and who we need to write a note for to lift their spirits and whatnot. It´s the best. She reminds me so much of the person I used to be and want to be again when it comes to animals, she adores every single stray dog we meet in the street and keeps bread in her pockets just to give to them. I think after my kitty Keiko died I accidentally closed a part of my heart that loves every critter that breathes. She´s helping me soften that part of me back up again.
So many miracles, so little time. Remind me to tell you a year from now! I love you all, and thank you for your prayers. Keep the faith! I read this in my personal study this morning and want to share it with all of you,
"Miracles are a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If Miracles cease it is because faith has ceased."
Never lose the faith. The Gospel of Jesus Christ will forever be true, and he has miracles in store for every one of us. Never underestimate the little things that mean so much and enable us to be warriors and soldiers for our God--service, obedience, reading the scriptures, and praying with earnestness of heart. I know he hears me. I know he loves me. And whats more, he does the same for every one of you. Keep the faith!
Love, forever and always and to the moon and back,