Monday, May 30, 2016

Twenty-two Weeks

So this has been a fairly slow week with a lot of other small things going on so I don't really have that many cool stories to share this week. We did do divisions though (where we switch companions for a day) so I did get some cool experiences from that. I got a lot of suggestions in ways that I can improve teaching and be a bit more effective at finding people to teach (which I really appreciated), but we also had a really awesome lesson with someone who is only recently a member named Carlitos (Carlos, but people call him Carlitos which would be little Carlos, but kind of a term of endearment). Carlitos is the same age as us but living on his own in a little tiny house about the size of a garage, working and providing for himself. When he was really young his mom abandoned him and then his dad passed away when he was about 15. As a result, he was into a lot of drugs and alcohol at one point until one night he prayed for help from god. Later that week missionaries showed up at his door and started teaching him and now he is baptized, drug and alcohol free and has goals to serve a mission as well. He hasn't been to church in a few weeks though, but as I said we had a really great super spiritual lesson with him and he made it to church this sunday.

We also were able to do some service for my first time here in the mission by helping an investigator clean out their garage, so that was super enjoyable. We planned service this coming week for Familia Suarez too, so I am really looking forward to that as well. We planned it with the father of the family, so we will pass by when the mother is at work and clean up their front yard so that when she comes home everything will be super neat, clean, and organized - it'll be awesome to find out how she reacts.

Other than that though, not really anything else, so I'll attach a few photos as well:

The first is a photo of our area (at night once we were back in the pench)
The second is my desk for planning - my hands were kind of cold so I bought a candle to warm them up and was drinking Mate (Argentine drink) while planning.
The third is a giant pot of Locro (stew) that was made for an activity in the chapel that I had to grab a photo of because of the amount that was made.
The fourth is a photo of Mantecol, which is more or less a kind of giant Peanut Butter bar that we bought because it weighed about one pound and was only $3 dollars. It was super tasty.

That wraps it up for this week though, so until next week I love you all and hope everyone is doing well!


Elder McCollum

Monday, May 23, 2016

Twenty-one Weeks

Hello everyone! So this last week has been somewhat interesting, but it'll be more in a bunch of little tidbits than any one large story or anything like that.

First of all the people we are teaching:

Familia Suarez - the couple that we have been teaching that are living together and have been living all the commandments since before they even really had a testimony - decided to get married! They are going to the civil court this next week so that they can start the papers and in about a month they can get married, and after that they can be baptized. :D They were on the fence for the longest time about staying together and getting married or splitting up but we got them to read the scriptures and pray together (instead of just alone) and it made a HUGE difference for them. They also helped volunteer their time for some service for a few hours, just the two of them together (without their kids) and now they want to try and do it every week and that helped them strengthen their relationship even more as well. It was awesome when they told us they are going to get married though. They're such capos.

Also, we are teaching a man who is about 50 years old that is super receptive to what we are teaching and soaks it up like a sponge and his eyes almost started watering when we gave him a Book of Mormon. He is a bit of a unique situation though because he was in Prison for a time for committing Homicide. Sooooo, in order to be baptized he would really need to show that he is truly repentant of what he did by going to church for a long time (6+ months) living all the commandments and doing all the things he should, and then my mission president can ask the first presidency of the church if he can be baptized and the decision falls on them whether he is worthy or not. So oops. We have high hopes for him though and whenever we come over he always gives us food and he has a super nice girlfriend that lives with him (another thing; they'd need to get married) and they have two young kids that run around too and are super fun so there is no need to worry for us teaching there. Just an interesting situation.

Also, we were trying to get in touch with a member of the church who hasn't been going for a long time when we decided to visit her house and knock on her door. She came out and then told us that we surprised her because not 5 minutes before she had been watching some religious video of some sort that said that "If god knocks on your door, you better let him in". We're going to visit her today though so an update on how that goes potentially next week.

Now for some fun tidbits that come from having a companion from Chile:

He knows English pretty well at this point but just needs to work on speaking but still he likes to poke fun at random things about the language. For example, there is an instrumental music track we listen to titled "Summer Jam" and he said (knowing what it meant), "Oh, so ¿Verano con Marmalada? (summer with Marmalade?).

He also saw a dog with golden blonde hair once and said "look, it's a gringo!" Due to that, I now have goals to name a dog "Gringo" if I ever have one with that color fur. I was chuckling at that one for a good few minutes.

Also, spanish is a little bit different in Chile, and there is one word in particular that I found very amusing. Normally, baby would be "bebe" or "nena/nene" in spanish. In Chile however, you say "wawa" for the sound it makes.

As far as other interesting things/fun stories for the week, we saw a car flooring it in reverse down a street last Monday (with the direction it was heading in reverse being the wrong way as well). That was a fun sight.

Also, people here are normally shorter as a general rule so I smashed my head on the metal awning outside a store as we were walking down the sidewalk one day. It gave the people around a laugh but I had a little but of a headache afterwards.

Also, it is getting to be pretty cold now. I am now wearing a sweater and a light coat, as well as a beanie and gloves. That, and both me and my companion have been sick since Friday but working regardless so the days have been long and tiring but bringing lots of success so I can't really complain.

I do believe that is all though, other than the pictures: The first is a somewhat cool looking car that is outside of our pension (that doesn't run or drive). It's the first sight we get to see when we leave for the day and the last sight we get when we come home at night, and when we can see it from down the road then we know that we are close. The second is the patch that I made in our washer with packing tape. Still holding up :) Lastly is our dryer. Kind of boring this week haha but I had to grab photos of something as I was heading out the door to share so don't judge too hard haha.

Hope everyone is doing well though and love hearing from you all! 

Until next week,

Elder McCollum

Monday, May 16, 2016

Twenty Weeks

Hello everyone! So far it has been awesome being with a Latin American companion (Elder Quezada, with a Z not S)! We joke around a lot but work a full (a lot) and have better lessons than I have before had here in the mission. That's not to discount my older companions - it could just be the area or the fact that I'm not so new anymore - but I am loving it. I am getting a whole lot better at speaking spanish for one and for two I can help him as he's learning English (he's learning English) so it's a mutual trade off. I can learn and grow a lot while also providing a service. It's great. The first picture is of the two of us together. 

Now for some fun stories/updates before I get to talking about the people that we are teaching (there are a ton here, it's awesome):

First of all, the Police Cars here say "La Matanza" in the back just behind the passenger door, which translated means "The Killing". Not sure how to take that, but it's pretty funny at least (and not a need for worry, the police here are actually somewhat lazy compared to other places).
Second of all, the new pension (not the one I helped move all the stuff too, but rather the one where I live now) is really nice on the inside. It even has AC because apparently in the summer it gets really hot. The only sad part though is that it is now Winter so it's not all that useful at the moment, especially since the building is made of hollow bricks that are super common here (and aren't very insulated) and some of the cold gets in on it's own. Nothing too unbearable though. I'm also super excited though that we have a washer and dryer in this pench, but they also aren't your typical washer and dryer. The washer worked up until two weeks before I arrived because a hot water tank fell on it and left it with a couple holes in the side and water so it can't be filled. I really wanted a washer though so I patched the holes with packing tape and now it holds water just fine. Also, the turbine thing in the middle was all kinds of cracked/broke but for that there was glue. Now it works great, and I was finally able to wash all of my clothes without spending hours doing it by hand. The only other funny thing about it though is that it has no knobs or switches or anything. You just fill it up with water (from a hose), put your clothes in and plug it in and it starts chugging away until you unplug it and then drain it (from a hose attached to the machine). The dryer is also super useful but again, not something you would find in the states. It's a centrifuge, which means that you just put the clothes in (and make sure the weight is distrubuted really well, sometimes you have to try like 5 times) and then plug it in and it spins really fast so that all the water gets pressed out of the clothes, then you take them out and hang them up. Those two things really are some of the best in the world for me right now though, but discourse over, sorry for taking so much time talking about a washer and dryer haha.

Two fun adventures of the week as well:

1) Placing Argentine coins on the railroad tracks and letting a train run over them. They turned out awesome (picture number two) and my comp thought it was the most genius thing ever.

2)Eating tongue. Maybe not an adventure, but I had never done it before and it was actually pretty good. Probably not something I would make for myself but I appreciated the flavor and can easily see how others would like it. Didn't have my camera though so I didn't get a picture (sorry).

Now on to the people that we taught this week:

First of all my comp and I practiced teaching together using a DragonBall Z action figure that we taped a face onto. It was rather amusing (picture 3).

Real people though, first up would be Familia Suarez. They are both capos. They are a couple living together (for about 3-4 years) and they both came together already having kids (and now have one together as well). They need to get married to get baptized so we're working on that (they're unsure if the marriage would last, but want it to be so that it will) but Elder Quezada has been teaching them for a long time. He said that they didn't even believe in god for the longest time but still wanted to follow certain commandments, such as the Word of Wisdom (no Coffee, Tea, Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drugs) regardless - I would have that without having a testimony of god that you wouldn't be worried about his commandments too much either then. They now have that testimony though and want to pay tithing too now, even though they still aren't baptized. Hopefully next month though they can be baptized (marriage papers here take a month to go through). They talk to us and confide in us with their problems though as though we have know them for life. It really makes me realize how much service we are providing people as missionaries when we talk to them (as well as others) with how much confidence they have with us and with how much look to us to help guide them. It really is kind of crazy but awesome at the same time to both have that responsibility but also to be able to truly and sincerely help them.

Next would be Hermana Viamonte - she is an elderly lady in the Ward (congregation) here that had here husband pass away 3 years ago and only recently started going to church again. That entire time though between when her husband died and she stopped going until now the missionaries always kept passing by no matter what and so when we were there she thanked us because in her words "Nobody has really visited me, and so for the last 3 years it has just been me, god and the missionaries, and I thank you for that". That was a pretty ridiculous moment too that made me also realize what it really means to be a missionary and again the service and help that we provide while we are here serving. It's pretty awesome.

Lastly would be Familia Lescano - A brother and sister that both served missions about ten years ago (and the wife of the brother, who is a member of the church but didn't serve a mission) that we have been to a couple times to eat. They are the ones that gave me the tongue to eat and they are always super fun to visit and talk with/hear stories from.

Other than that, I don't really think that there is all that much more to say for this week that I can think of off the top of my head. I will try and get more photos next week but I haven't been carrying my camera around this my first week in the city because I wasn't sure how secure it would be but I think I should be fine carrying it around every once in a while to grab a photo here or there.

Love you all and hope you all have a great week though!

-Elder McCollum

Monday, May 9, 2016

Nineteen Weeks

Hello everyone! Sorry for the extremely short email, but the time that I have to write this week is extremely short because I will be leaving in less than an hour to Capital because I am going to a new area this transfer (transfer = 6 weeks) that starts today! :D My area is called Atalaya and it is a city area (and thus I will be walking instead of having a bike, but I got one last picture with my [not] trusty steed to send out to everyone). My new companion (I will meet him tonight and tell you more about him next week) is named Elder Quesada and is from Chile so he speaks super fast spanish (And presumably no English) so I am way looking forward to it. It's gonna help me a ton with the language and I was actually really hoping for a Latin American companion. As I said though, it will be in the city so it will be a way different experience than out here in the Campo in Chivilcoy. I also heard that in my new area members normally provide lunch and dinner to the missionaries every single day of the week (or at least almost every single day) compared to here where it's a pretty small branch and we get to eat with members about once a week. So that will be pretty cool. Again, I'll let everyone know how it is next week. 

In other news, we spent this entire last week finally moving to the new pension (which means that we only got about 10 hours of missionary work in our area). The first half of the week we were running errands and paying bills to get everything set up, as well as cleaning and packing, then we moved the Hermanas (sister missionaries) to their new Pension on Thursday with just a small truck (so it was a pretty awesome workout and I slept super good that night), then we spent Friday cleaning the pension that they left behind (just my companion and I),Saturday we got to do missionary work and Sunday was Church (and skyping home for the first time for me, we get to do it twice a year :D) and then we finished moving everything else this morning and got the new pension set up and the old one mostly cleaned. It was a lot of work, but I'm sure the next missionary to come to this area will enjoy it hahaha.

That's pretty much it for this week though that I can think of right now. I'm sorry I can't really send out individual emails this week for lack of time but I love you all and will talk to you all next week!


Elder McCollum

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Eighteen Weeks

WOOOO!!! Exciting news of this week: I am no longer a refuerzo (reinforcement in spanish, what "greenies" or new missonaries are called in this mission instead of greenie)! So real quick how the system works: Mission time is separated into transfers more so than months, and one tranfer lasts for 6 weeks. At the end of a tranfer, you can get transferred to a new area (or your companion can) or you can stay right where you are at, but you don't know until the day before you will get transferred to a different area. The training program for new missionaries then lasts 12 weeks, or two transfers. Due to a change in how missionaries will be leaving the MTC though, my first transfer lasted 7 weeks instead of six (which is abnormal) but that means that I finished my 12 weeks of traning now, a week before the end of this transfer so I am no longer a refuerzo! (And transfers are next week, so I might end up going to a new area, potentially without bikes - or my comp might go but it is unlikely that we both will stay here, so next P-day might be delayed one day late because of travel). The picture of me holding the Book of Mormon is me about 10 minutes after I finished the last training segment, so it is the first picture of me as a non-greenie missionary.

So, other than that my bike held up really well all week. Until today when I went to get on it this morning and it had a flat tire. My comp and I are riding around on just his bike for now then with the pegs until the bike place opens up later today so we can take it in and get the tube patched. I'm curious to see how many patches it has though; the last one had 4 before they finally just put a new tube in.

Another fun story is that we were out trying to find people to teach and were knocking on the door of a house when a couple kids kicking a soccer ball in the street ended up kicking it way far away from them and towards us, so Elder Wolfe being the nice person he is, walked over and kicked it back to them so they wouldn't have to run all the way over and get it. The problem is though that he kicked it straight into a tree and it bounced back in a different direction even farther away from them than it had originally been. It was pretty funny too see, especially seeing the kid change direction mid run to go retrieve it. What can you do though?

As far as cool experiences though, we had an activity on Friday night where we set up a movie in the chapel to show to people investigating the church and less active members (Meet the Mormons - cool movie with some cool stories about cool people that explain some of the viewpoints of the church and actually better than I expected [it was the first time I saw it too] : Anyway, we had 3 investigators and a less active we are working to reactivate (or help be more active in the church/go to church more often) show up and it was a way cool experience. We made popcorn and juice as well, and if I'm still in Chivilcoy, it's something that we will probably do again in a few weeks. 

This week we have also had a good bit more success in finding new people to teach. We've pretty much gone through all the old records of people that had been taught before (and not very many of them actually had interest) and so now we pretty much just have to find people si o si (yes or yes, a spanish phrase pretty much meaning non-optional). We had three really cool experiences though in following the spirit in guiding us where to go. We were riding down a street that we had never really been down before when we got the feeling that we should stop at one house in particular we saw (it was red) and we actually found a really nice old couple there that we were able to teach a lesson to, and they were the first new people that Elder Wolfe and I have found this entire transfer. Later on in the day we also planned to visit by somebody that was noted as a Less Active (one of the last in the area that we hadn't gone to yet) and he actually let us in and explained that his brother who now lives in capital as well as his mom were members and not him (he was 40-50 years old) but that she (his mom) had passed away about a year ago, around the same time that his woman left him (he said it was his fault but didn't give any details), his dog died, and to top it all off he got hit by a car around then on the corner of the street too and almost died of asyfxiation from his own blood had someone not taken him to the hospital. After that, he had to be in a wheelchair (and his apartment is on the 4th floor of a building where the elevator is currently broken, I'm not sure how he managed) and only recently started walking again. We talked with him a little bit and left him a Book of Mormon to start reading and he said we can come back at whatever time to teach him. That same night then (both those events were on the same day) I felt as though we should visit the family Zunino for some reason, even though we can never go in because there is almost never a man in the house (the mom and dad there are separated and the dad always works on top of it) but we went anyway. When we got there though, Hugo was there (the father, and the one I said showed up to church last week and was greeted like an old friend by everyone) with a few of the kids (but not the mom, who really doesn't have that much of a desire to come back right now) and so we were able to have a great visit with him. I always feel good talking with him and helping him out, especially since he wants to do good and take care of his kids as well but isn't really that educated and has a hard time reading for himself (though he is finishing elementary school for adults right now to help him out). He always has really cool insights and advice though. For example, he said his arm/wrist was sore from work but he actually didn't mind because it reminds him that it's still there and it still works, when there are plenty of people in the world that don't have limbs or have some kind of illness or disease where they can't use them. To top it all off then, yesterday we visited a family that we always visit (and so have a lot of other missionaries) and were able to teach one of the young men that is always around the house (which doesn't happen too often) and were able to clear up a lot of questions and doubts that he had and he committed to read some of the Book of Mormon (namely the introduction at least) and then we are going to go back on Wednesday to teach him more and answer any more questions that come up. We were also able to bond a little bit talking about cars, so there is that too - gaining trust and building up a relationship with them really helps teaching, and it was fun to talk about cars in Spanish.

That's pretty much it for this week though, other than a couple random other tidbits:

1) I found powerade flavored cough drops/hard candy here (it's all the same to them, they put menthol in a lot of stuff, including gum, shampoo, and shaving cream that I've bought so far). It tasted... interesting.

2) Most of the cars here are super small, but I saw my first USA sized dodge minivan here. Unfortunately they went through the list of things to not do to a minivan and did them, for example:
-Don't put a spoiler on a minivan 
-Don't put a body kit on a minivan
-Don't put a hood scoop on a minivan
-Don't put aftermarket blacked out headlights and tail lights on a minivan
-Don't put aftermarket shiny chrome wheels on a minivan.
It was amusing to see though for the least haha.

That really is all for this week though! Love you all and talk next week!

Elder McCollum