Monday, September 11, 2017

Eighty Eight Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This was a pretty interesting week. There were some changes in the mission with the new mission president that were perhaps a little difficult to swallow at first, but we have since been getting used to them and have had a pretty successful week - finding various new people to teach that are really great.

One such person is an 18 year old named Ulysses. He is a really awesome youth that lives in a pretty humble area, but regardless has already finished his secondary education (suprisingly uncommon, but even more so that he is already done at 18 years old - normally people finish at 19 or 20 years old) and is preparing himself for college. He´s super easy-going though and way open to us visiting with him and so we hope to be able to help him keep progressing in this coming weeks. 

On another day then we contacted a house and a 15 year old (more or less) opened the window. We presented the Book of Mormon to him and asked if he had seen it, to which he responded "Yes, I actually have a copy. Dan and Jeremias (two youth from the church) gave me one." It was really cool to just by chance have come across someone with whom the members (especially the youth) had tried sharing the gospel with. He was home by himself though (and busy) so we weren't able to teach him, but we are going to pass by again this week to hopefully find him with his parents.

Two more funny stories from this week:

One takes place in a meeting with all the ward leaders as we are talking about people that we are visiting and teaching. There was one person that we asked them to be able to visit that lives in an area a little more lively than maybe the other neighborhoods in our area. One of the women asked us though "Isn't that area dangerous?" My comp and I both responded in unison without even thinking "Eeehhh...." That got a good laugh out of all of them. Hopefully we'll be able to get them to go with us though at some point during the day (when it really isn't problematic at all). 

The other story has to do with a person named Santiago Maldonado. It is someone that people for various reasons thought that the governement had abducted and nobody had heard from him or even knew what was going on with him, which lead to a few small riots against government buildings and pickets and all that kind of thing (more in capital than where our mission is at). It has been one of the main news topics for the last couple of weeks though. Turns out in the end though, that he had just gone on vacation to Rio and didn't have a phone or any sort of technology with him and so he had just slipped off the grid for about 42 days. It was pretty entertaining to see the anti-climatic resolution of it all though haha.

Other than that though, threre isn't really all that much new for the week. Yesterday we visited Pablo again (the stay at home dad) and this Friday we are going to have lunch with them (supposedly homemade ñoquis - a delicious type of Argentine pasta). Everyone else that we have been teaching has been doing really well too so no need to worry about them either.

I hope that you all have a great week though!


Elder McCollum 

2081 - So in Argentina there is a cracker branded Don Satur that is about 30% grease, but somehow tasty all the same. The other day while shopping though, I found that they have now started making Yerba too (for making/drinking mate). I really wasn't disappointed. The two of them make a pretty killer combination since the crackers really were kind of meant for eating with Mate.

2088 - Elder Dosdall, the missionary that I trained now made it back to the mission! I didn't even know that he was coming back, but just came across him in a zone conference this week. I was pretty happy to find him. (He had gone home to have a few different ingrown toenail surgeries).

2095 - "How's your week going so far?" Take note of the Mate that ended up on the floor (by accident) and the spinner in hand. (Spinner is a spinny toy that is super popular here and supposedly stress relieving). It was a pretty funny moment.

2099 - Well this week we found a bike that had a built in popcorn machine. It got our minds thinking of what it'd be like to see said bike compete in the Tour de France (or any bike race really). It'd be pretty entertaining to see...

2101 - We found a Yankee mailbox this week. Honestly not something that I expected to find in Argentina. Thus we contacted the house. We'll be going back to teach them later this week (the guy is Argentine though).

2104 - A vehicle that we saw that had an interesting match up of decals. On the back window was Joker (from Batman) and on the side was a catholic Virgin Mary with the name of a church - fountain of blessings. It got a good laugh from us.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Eighty Seven Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been really easy going week. To be completely honest, there hasn't been all that much exciting that has really happened and so this email will be kind of short. 

Two fun stories to share however:

First: I did divisions again in Loma Hermosa this week (an old area of mine) and we went and visited Transito (the person's name) and it was a really awesome experience - he was super friendly and super receptive to the missionaries and had lots of great memories of them from the past. What made it really interesting though is that I had passed by for him before when I was in Loma Hermosa and he did not let us in (he mentioned it while we visited with him, not realizing that it was me he had rejected, but said that a few days later he felt really bad about it and then kind of felt bad too when they never passed by again). The problem was that he really got to know the missionaries but shortly thereafter there were various flashes (out of the normal changes) and various missionaries passed through the area in a very short amount of time and he got tired of them always changing without letting him know and told us to just not pass by anymore (and really wasn't too happy about it). Well now, 8 months later the Elders found his name and passed by and he let them in, and so it just goes to show that everyone has their time I suppose.

Second: As we were contacting somebody in their front door the other day, somebody walking down the street saw me and shouted ¡Polaco! (Pollack!) Both me and my comp, as well as the guy we were contacting just went quiet for a second as we watched him keep walking down the street grumbling under his breath. As he turned the corner though we looked back to the guy we were contacting (who apoligized for his neighbors and gave an explanation) and just kept on with the conversation. It was pretty entertaining haha.

Other than that though, there isn't really anything else new that happened, so I hope you all have a great week!
Elder McCollum

2020 - An interestingly branded box of hamburgers I saw for sale here...
2021 - (Same)
2075 - Divisions in Loma Hermosa with Elder Winward

p.s. The mission offices asked me today for my information to program my flight back home. The official date (unless something happens) will be December 18th (leaving Argentina) and December 19th (landing in the USA).

Monday, August 28, 2017

Eighty Six Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been a lot more easy-going week than last. 

We got to spend most of the week in our area, but on Tuesday I did divisions with the Elder in Loma Hermosa, which was an old area of mine. It was really interesting because there were some things that I remembered just as well as the Elder currently there, and was able to guide myself around just fine as well even without a map. What was really cool though is that we were able to visit a couple of people that I knew from before - including an investigator named Esteban that is super super awesome but that I haven't seen since I left. It was really cool because when Elder Dosdall and I were there we taught him all the lessons and he made it to church every Sunday without fail, but for paperwork problems in getting married he didn't make it to be baptized while I was there. Well, he still isn't baptized but all the paperwork is just about finished up so I might even be able to go back and see his baptism too. It's really cool though because since I have left he has almost entirely finished the Book of Mormon as well as other books published by the church and he loves it all and keeps going just as strong as ever.

Back in our own area then too, there is a family of brothers and sisters all living together in the same house without any parents (the oldest being a little more than 25, and the youngest being about 15). They are all members, but haven't been to church in a long time, but we were able to get two of them to go with us to a youth activity on Wednesday to play soccer and they really loved it and it got a lot of good memories flowing back to them. It was pretty cool to be able to help them out though and hopefully we can get them to go again this week too.

We also found a cool new investigator in our area this last weekend. He is married to a member, but he himself is Evangelist. Both him and his wife were working but they have 3 young kids and it made it really hard for them to get time together as a family (or for the kids to have their parents really present in their lives) and so he left his job for the wife to keep working (she had a better job) and is now a stay-at-home dad. He is going to be starting making things out of wood though in a workshop at home to be able to sell but I thought it was neat that they were that dedicated to their kids (super not common in Argentina). We had a cool visit with them and then the next day he called us to have us over for hot chocolate and to visit and so we are going to be going over today - it ought to be pretty awesome. We'll have to see.

Other than that though, there isn't really all that much new to tell - my companion woke up one morning pretty sick and so we had to spend a day in our apartment for him to be able to recover (which was pretty boring actually haha) but other than that it was a normal week. I hope you all are doing good though and hope you have a great week!

Elder McCollum

1993 - A cool old building right next to the train station where we always take the train.
2000 - It was raining a lot this week. One day the intersection right outside of our apartement also flooded out.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eighty Five Weeks

Hello Everyone!

So this was a very crazy week indeed. There was lots of stuff going on. There are a lot of fun quick little anecdotes that I want to share, so hopefully I can get them all in.

First of all, there is a recent convert in my new ward that is super awesome. He is 22 years old and got baptized just before I got here, but speaks perfect English and went from being atheist to now being a member of the church. He spent more than a year investigating but is now a stud. He went visiting to Rosario this last weekend and came back on Sunday (taking a train starting at 2am to get back) and once he arrived, the first thing that he did was go to church without even stopping by his house first. It was pretty awesome.

On the other hand too then, we have another recent convert that hasn't been going to church all that much that confessed to us when we visited him this week that he now doesn't believe in god (but that he wants to). He first asked us what we would say if he told us he didn't believe in God though, in the form of a rhetorical question, and so we were just sitting there thinking for a split second, and then he said "because I don't". It caught us totally off guard, but that ought to be a fun issue to address here in the future.

One more really ...interesting... teaching experience from this week too then was while contacting a house. We clapped outside and there was a young woman that came out that told us that she had a friend that was a member that was actually currently sharing the gospel with her, and they had just been talking about the Book of Mormon. We asked her then if she had one, and she said no and so we dedicated one and gave it to her. We didn't teach her in the moment because her parents weren't home, but in church the next day her friend was pretty excited and we got her excited to keep sharing with her and hopefully we'll be able to do some follow up this week with how things are going. The really interesting part though is that in the house that we contacted, there was a dog on the roof (not uncommon in Argentina, roofs are normally flat here and so they often have stairs going up onto them to use as a workspace/storage space, etc. and often dogs will be up there too). This dog though was sick and super super skinny, but still muscularly defined on it's legs and chests. It was barking at us a little bit, but as we were talking to the girl it wasn't so bad. As we were talking though, we just heard a fleshy splat on the ground next to us, and the dog was laying on the hard dirt just next to the sidewalk; it had fallen off the roof. My comp and I were in shock - we had no clue what to say (thinking the dog had died in the fall), but after a second it stood up and started walking around, eating grass and using the bathroom. The girl dismissed it - explaining to us that it was sick as if nothing had happened, but that she'd have to wait for her dad to get it back in since it was still super strong - but it took us a couple more seconds to process what had happened and just keep talking with her too. As we were walking away though after we finished talking to her, my comp and I just about died laughing from the astonishment.

This week we were also able to perform some service for a less active family that we visit quite a bit. They had a dirt walkway between all their houses (about 5 houses with all the family living there) that often got washed out and muddy every time that it rained, and so they got a day off together and poured a new concrete sidewalk there. We showed up as they were partway done, but we were able to help them out mixing some more concrete and putting on some of the finishing touches, which was awesome. Afterwards, we sat around a small campfire they had built for the wheelchair-bound grandpa as he came down from his house to watch and just talked a little bit (they had some crazy stories to tell - including some ridiculous fights they had been in when younger - one of which was 20 versus 20 and involved a couple people with machetes and another that was swinging a doorframe), and then finished singing a the hymn "How Great Thou Art", which was really awesome and set the spiritual mood perfectly there with the campfire (it had already gotten dark when we left). It was a really awesome moment.

This week too then, we had a meeting where we got all the mission together to have a meeting with a member of the 70, Mark A. Bragg, which was a really cool experience. There was a lot to be learned, but it was also really cool being able to see all my old comps and friends from the mission that are still here. Even that meeting though had an interesting happening - there was an Hermana that sang a special musical number while an Elder played his violin (and it turned out super pretty) - but at the end as she was walking away from the microphone, she fainted. (In front of everyone the poor thing). She recovered quickly though and was just fine.

Other than that, since leaving the offices 3 of 4 wheels were robbed off of the car while it was parked outside, and the truck has been in two crashes, losing both side mirrors and doing a little damage to one of the fenders. It made me feel side, but I am loving being out in an area again and so it is all good.

Really not too much new besides though. We gave some treats to Relief Society for always giving us lunch and they were super happy to recieve them, and then yesterday there was a family that made us Tacos for lunch (that were super tasty - tacos don't exist in Argentina and so I have only had them once since being here and I made them myself). I hope you all have a really good week too though, and hope you are all doing well!
Elder McCollum

1978 - Train tracks that run through our area - more or less sets the mood off how it is to be here - super easy-going.
1981 - A picture of part of our area so you can get an idea what it's like.
1988 - Me, Elder Jarrin (He was my district leader before in the mission), and Elder Bragg with his wife
1989 - A hilarious ad we saw for "chinese karate classes" that was very poorly edited and had the very not chinese stonehenge in the background... 

0083 - The walkway we were helping to put in
0086 - Another part of the walkway we put in, as well as the grandpa with his campfire
0090 - Argentine sunset (taken from the same place where we were putting in the walkway)

9904 - All of the mission together in one photo

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eighty Four Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been a pretty great week in Hurlingham. On Tuesday I had to give my first district meeting (where you "train" the missionaries in your district how to do something better and then do practices of it")- it was pretty interesting haha. I had to prepare it on Monday night and Tuesday morning because I had no clue what to make the topic about, having gotten there just Monday. I think it turned out alright in the end, but we´ll have to see if they can get better in the future (and prepared with more advance notice haha).

Other than that, I have been pretty much just getting to know the area that I am in. The members are great; it´s a very Yankee ward. There are lots of people that speak English fluently as well as Spanish, and the kind of jobs that they tend to have are a lot more American than Argentine. 

It's a very easy going neighborhood though - there seems to be almost no danger or delinquency at all, which is a bit of a change from where I have been at before, but it ought to be a pretty fun time here.

There isn't all that much else to tell but I hope that you all have a great week and that things are going great for all!
Elder McCollum

1146 - My new companion, Elder Gonzalez. He's from California and actually arrived to the mission in my same group.
0010 - My comp and I on divisions with the Zone Leaders
1977 - More or less how our area looks. (Taken from aboard the train we use to travel from one point to another.
0291 - A hilarious car that we saw. Translation: (Come, Holy Ghost!). You can tell Argentina can be a pretty religious country at times...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Eighty Three Weeks

Hello Everyone!

Sorry for not writing on Saturday, but biggest news of the week is that I am now out of the mission offices, so my P-day is back on Monday (and that´s why I didn´t write). I was given the notices that I would be training somebody early in the week, but I was expecting to be able to train them up until transfers (one week from today). Well, President thought that he could have him just come in and replace me without any training (not realizing that it was necessary to be trained) but ended up calling him in on about Thursday to the offices and telling me that I had until Monday to train him and then I'd be going to a different area. Well, because of that I didn't get to get out all that much this last week to work, but I got Elder McLaughlin trained (hopefully) and now I am back to being in the field full time. It was kind of sad to say goodbye to the mission truck, but it´ll be a lot of fun being able to spend all my time visiting and teaching without having to worry about office stuff quite so much.

There was one last fun adventure though - since I was going to have P-day on Monday anyway, I got to drive Elder Suarez (AP - another Elder I was able to spend a lot of time with these last months since I have been in the offices) to a surgery for an ingrown toenail on Saturday, along with the mission nurse and her companion so that she could see what the treatment was like. It was a fun last little hurrah.

Other than that though, there wasn't really all that much new for this last week to tell you all about. Our investigator Serefina is really warming up to the idea of baptism, stating "one of these days I´m just going to surprise the missionaries and tell them that I want to be baptized." Her 8 year old son has really been loving going to church too every Sunday and asked her if they could keep doing so forever. On his second sunday he even sang with the rest of the Primary in Sacrament meeting. I hope that they will be able to be baptized here in the near future, but I´ll have to leave that up to Elder Cespedes who is still there.

My new area though is Hurlingham - only about 20 minutes from my old area in car, but supposedly it has lots of potential. It is a pretty good sized area too though, and has two trains that cross through the center of it in an X that we sometimes have to use to go from one point to another. It ought to be a really good time though, so I'll keep you all up to date in the coming weeks. Also, I´m going to be district leader for the first time (which basically entails helping to give a small training once a week to another companionship or so of missionaries, going on divisions with them and helping them to improve, and performing baptismal interviews for those they are teaching for baptism) so I am pretty nervous for that. It ought to be a very interesting learning experience for sure.

Other than that though, there really isn't all that much else new, so I´ll talk to you all next week!

Elder McCollum

1946 - One day for lunch this week, we recieved an entire rotissery chicken from a member to split between me and my companion. It was awesome (and delicious). :)
1955 - Elder Suarez and I waiting for his medical appointment.
1958 - The whole group of us that went to Elder Suarez´ surgery. (Last office adventure for me).
1959 - Goodbye to the mission truck - I got to drive it for the last time this morning. I liked it. (If it wasn't already obvious).

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Eighty Two Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been a pretty easy-going week. We have a new schedule of when we are in the mission offices, and so that has been interesting getting used to it but now that we are doing so it has allowed us to spend some more time in our area. As such, this week we have been finding lots of new people to visit and teach and have met some really awesome people that we plan on going back to visit as well. 

One really cool thing that happened though, is that the security guard that sits in a little booth on the corner of the block the church is on (his name is Cristian) started sharing the gospel with a friend, despite the fact he's not even a member. He tends to be a little of a goofball, but at some point in the past some missionaries had given him a Book of Mormon (with a guide of how to pray written in the front to help people who don't know how to say more than just a recited prayer) and it had sat in his booth for a long time. As far as I knew, he wasn't really interested in the church, but the other day he asked my companions for another Book of Mormon, with the same guide written in the front to give to a female friend that he has. He had explained it to her as a good book with things to help you written in it, and the guide on how to pray was especially helpful. With that, she wanted a copy to read for herself and thus we got to where we are at now. They gave him the copy and hes going to be giving it to her here in the next couple of days when he sees her, but we´ll see what comes of it. It was really cool for me though to see how someone that wasn't even a member of the church was able to see how beneficial the Book of Mormon could be in someones life and shared it just like that with someone else because "It´s a good book."

Other than that, there isn´t all that much new for this week. Last Sunday we didn't have lunch with a member, and so Elder Cespedes (from Argentina) taught us three Yankees (the rest of the companionship) how to make empanadas. They were completely homemade, including the dough, and they turned out nice and tasty. I enjoyed them. Photos will be included. 

I hope you all have a great week though and love you all!

Elder McCollum

1921 - A pretty cool quote in spanish we saw grafittied on a wall. "They won't pass into history those who speculate, but rather those who most play (take action)."
1925 - Us making empandas. It involves rolling the dough into a disc, scooping stuff onto it, then folding it in half and crimping the edges by folding it to seal it shut.
1926 - Making empanadas.
1932 - We visited a member whose son is into real world sword fighting (and has traveled to Russia and Spain to participate in tournaments for it). My comp took advantage of his sword being there to grab a picture.
1937 - Our district (as of right now - next week it is going to change :/ )