Monday, October 31, 2016

Forty Four Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been a very eventful first week in a new area, with plenty of stories to tell. I am pretty excited to be here, and my new comp and I get along great. I look forward to the time that I'm going to have here and it should be awesome. Now, on to the stories:

1) Man with a box of wine 
So one day we were walking down the street when a man sitting on a low fence at the edge of someone's property drinking a box of wine called us over. We got as close as the edge of the street because he was really poorly dressed, missing teeth, and drunk. He then proceeded to ask "Where are you from, English?" (Argentines hate the english, but that is a different story. He also said "English" in english and not spanish). I said no, and so he asked "Where then, USA? (USA in english as well instead of spanish). I then said that I'm from Arizona. "Where?" I told him Los Estados Unidos.  "Oh, USA." "What do you think of Trump?" I told him sorry, but I don't talk about politics. "Why not?" So I told him because I am hear for two years to share the gospel and talk about Jesus Christ, not politics. "What does Jesus Christ have to do with the USA then?" I told him the same as the rest of the world, he is the savior of mankind. "No, die USA! It's your fault that we are all down here in the state that we are." was his response. My comp (who is Argentine) almost told him that it was his fault that he was sitting on a corner drunk on wine instead of working, not another country's but bit held himself back and we thanked him for his feelings and we kept on.

2) I predicted it all
So there was one day that we had just really terrible luck. We had five appointments planned (coordinated with the people, with the hour and everything) and we went to the first and they weren't there. I then told my comp: "Watch, all the rest are going to fall now too, and the new investigator that we plan on visiting later is going to live outside of our area." (The new investigator was someone who worked in a store close to our pench that we talked to that invited us by to teach her in her house instead, but we weren't sure if her house number was in our area so we planned on visiting her at the end of the night to see). Well it happened exactly like that, and we didn't enter a single house that day but we walked the entire area (a lot) and couldn't even feel our legs anymore, so I decided I wanted to buy a pizza to share with my comp at a pizza place close to our pench to finish off the night. On the way there I said "Watch, it's gonna be closed and after all that we aren't going to be able to get one." It wasn't closed, but the line was way too long for the time we had, so I said that we could make smoothies instead, but I'd need to buy a box of milk and fruit to do so. "Look, after all that bad luck, the grocery store is going to be closed." We got there and made it in, but there was a huge line for the register, and the lady locked the door behind us to close for the night with only the people she already had. Thus, we left and kept on our way. "At least we can buy fruit though, given they aren't closed" I said. The fruit shop was right in front of our pench though and as we turned the corner they were also closing up for the night. We asked if we could still buy though, and they let us so at least we had that, but I learned to not be so negative with my predictions haha.

3) Contact in the street
Yesterday we saw a man sitting on a bench resting and I felt the need to talk to him, but we kept on walking. At the end of the next block though I told my comp and so we walked back and contacted him. He said he doesn't go to any church, for no particular reason, but we gifted him a Book of Mormon and he opened it up on the spot and read two verses (2 Nefi 4:33,34) before closing it and thanking us. He said that he would try and make it to church this next week but wouldn't give us his exact direction (though he did give us the street and the general area where it is at) and though I don't know if he'll make it or not, it was a really cool experience.

4) Baptismal Date
On Tuesday when I first got here, we didn't know who our district leader was so we called our zone leaders to ask them and in the same call, they gave us a challenge to pull out a baptismal date/appointment with someone before the end of the day, and to call them back and let them know once we had done it. So, we immediately went and visited one of our investigators (anamed Enrique), told him that we felt he was ready to be baptized, and said we were planning a service the 26th of November, and asked him if he would be baptized that day. He accepted, and so at the end of the lesson, we called the Zone Leaders back and told them, and they were super surprised because not even an hour had passed, told us we were capos, and to keep it up. It was very satisfying hearing the surprise in their voices though.

I have a few other stories as well, but not that much time left so if next week isn't as eventful as this one, I'll see if I can share a little more. More or less though, they involve other contacts we made, seeing a couple having a very intimate moment on the porch while leaving their baby in the stroller facing the other direction on the sidewalk, and a member pulling a prank on me. Nothing too crazy though. Hope you all have a good week and love you all!

Elder McCollum


1) Me and my new comp, Elder Dominguez. He's from San Juan, Argentina.
2) Me, my comp, and the two other elders from our ward. They stayed the night in our pench last night so that we could make pizza together and have a little fun going into P-day.
3)Our sleeping arrangements - I strung up my hammock between the framing of the closet and the bars on the window and slept there, with Elder Aguirre (also new to this ward, from Salta) sleeping on the ground and Elder Pulli (very new to the mission, with not a whole lot of spanish experience) sleeping in my bed. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Forty Three Weeks

Hello Everyone!

So the big news of this week is that I will be going to a new area - Loma Hermosa B! It is located in the zone of Caseros, and is an old area of my current comp and so he told me a little about it. It is divided up pretty evenly, but to explain how it's laid out, if you can picture a 3x3 tic-tac-toe grid, starting with the top left corner it is wealthy, then the next two sections beneath it are super wealthy, in the middle column, the top section is a military-type base or something like that, and the two sections beneath it are more average to humble neighborhoods, and then with the column on the right side, the top corner is a villa that you do not want to go into, and then the two sections beneath it are then more humble to average neighborhoods, so I should be getting a good mix. My companion will be Elder Dominguez, and Argentine, and so I am super excited to have another Latin-American comp to keep improving my spanish even more (6 weeks pretty much english free, oh yeah!) and it will also be my first time as senior companion, but there really isn't that much of a difference if I'm honest, other than he has less time on the mission than I do, which is a first for me. I'm looking forward to it though.

As I am going then, I said goodbye to a lot of the members, and then got a photo with one of my favorite families (Familia Monzón) which I'll share with you all since I've been pretty slack on the photos recently. The Hermana is also from Paraguay and so goes to visit her family from time to time and so she gifted me a handmade tie from Paraguay (and you can't find the style anywhere else, not even replicated) as a going-away present for leaving this ward so I was super happy with that (I also will include pictures).

Other than that though, there isn't really all that much else new that I wouldn't have shared before but it is a really weird feeling knowing that I'll be leaving Libertad. I realized yesterday that I had two transfers in Chivilcoy (my first area), 1 in Atalaya (my second), and 3 here in Libertad (not counting the two weeks that I had in Parque San Martin) and so I have had pretty much half my mission in Argentina up until this point here in this area. I have definetely gotten used to it and don't even look at my map at all anymore, but it'll be a fun experience getting to know a new area, and a new part of the mission as well. 

I hope all is well with everyone though and that everyone has a great week!

Elder McCollum

Monday, October 17, 2016

Forty-Two Weeks

Hello everyone!

So this was a really good week. We didn't have as many count-able lessons but we have been passing by a lot for all of the active members in the ward to animate them more to help us out, and so we have had a lot of really cool experiences with that; we have been able to animate them more to visit other families that aren't going since they really can offer them more help and more friendship than we can, and since we passed by all of the 200ish families that are in the ward directory since I have been here, we have been able to help them out with knowing who they can visit, who is receptive, and more or less what each person they plan on visitings situation is so that they can help them out in the best way possible.

Something else that I really enjoyed is that this Saturday we had an activity called MTC for a day (MTC being Missionary training center, like where I was at for 6 weeks learning spanish and how to teach before coming to Argentina), where we taught all the youth how to start sharing the gospel with someone and how to more effectively be able to share their testimony, and then we went out with them for an hour to do contacts (a fairly common missionary activity involving knocking on doors, or approaching someone in the street to start talking with them out of the blue in an attempt to be able to share the gospel with them.) Needless to say though, just approaching people and talking to them out of the blue isn't something that people normally do from day to day and so it was really cool to be able to help them out, and it reminded me of when I first started in the mission as well and still had no clue what I was doing.

The last cool story for this week then is that we finally had an investigator show up in church yesterday, which was the first time in about 3 months now, so we were super excited. One of the youth brought her friend which was someone that was investigating the church before and almost got baptized, but then moved away. She is now back though, but we had no clue who she even was (there is no record of teaching for her) and so she just literally appeared out of nowhere, showed up to church and said that she loves going, and so we are hoping to be able to pass by this week to visit with her and teach her, and so we are pretty excited. One of the other youth then came up to us and said that she has a friend that she has been sharing the gospel with that really enjoys it, and then a second that she gifted a Book of Mormon to and she wants to invite them over to her house so that we can pass by and visit with them/share a little bit as well in a type of easy-going family night, and so now we yet another thing to look forward to.

This coming up week is transfers though, and so now that I have 3-4 months here in Libertad, it's probable that I might go to a new area, but we'll have to see. I'll be sure to let you all know on Monday though. For now though, I hope you all have a great week!

Elder McCollum

I'm not sure what order they are in, but one is a group of us on a public bus (we were the first ones on, so there were actually seats), another is a giant field/public park 8 blocks large in our area. My comp wanted a photo together there. Lastly, one week's serving of Bananas. Yum!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Forty-One Weeks

Hello everyone! 

Again a very easy going week. We managed to get 17 lessons in but the majority of them were with less-active members, so there aren't that many awe-inspiring stories to be told. All in all a good week though. I don't have that much to tell, but I do have a few small anecdotes:

1) I have officially run out of all of my Yankee supplies (other than floss, but I'm not sure how much longer I will have that either). So, I am now having to use Argentine spray on deodorant (bar deodorant isn't that common here), I bought my first tube of Argentine toothpaste today, and my first razor from Argentina last week. So now I am fully immersed I suppose.

2) I managed to get my hands on a blender, and so now I have smoothies every morning for breakfast and don't really eat that much junk food anymore. My weekly groceries now include a couple small things to eat here or there, but more than anything 2-3 liters of milk, 3 kilos (6.6 lbs) of Bananas and 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of Strawberries, and so I guess you could sum that up to a good pound of fruit every day, with a hearty glass of milk thrown in. I enjoy it, a lot. As we get closer to summer I'll throw in more fruits here and there as they come into season.

3) We had interviews with our mission president this week, and so we took the opportunity to ask for another box of 36 copies of the Book of Mormon to bring back to our pench with us (we give out a lot and we were starting to get a little low), but the thing that I didn't think about too well is the fact that we had to take public transportation to get back, which was about 15 minutes walking, 30 minutes in train, and another 10 minutes in bus. Also, just to mention, the box weighs about 40 pounds (20 kilos). Yup, I had to carry it the entire way. It really wouldn't have been that bad though, but we got to the train just at 6:00, which is the hour it is the most full. Also, full for Argentina is very different than full for the USA. First the seats fill up, then the aisles and standing room fill up, then they fill up more, and then they fill up even more. To get on at 6:00, normally you put your backpack in front of you (so you don't get robbed), put both arms in front of you like a boxer does, and then shove as if you are in a football game. A lot of the time the doors can't even close, and at that point normally one person has to get off, and then when the doors do close, everyone relaxes a little and people end up pressed against the walls and glass and you can't move two inches in any direction. I would have gotten a picture to show you but I didn't want to get my camera stolen. But we can say it was a fun journey with a 40 pound box of books, and I slept very well that night from being nice and tired.

4) Last one for this week, but I have also discovered that Argentines very much enjoy ping pong as well as soccer. Today is a Holiday in Argentina (I don't know what holiday), and so all the men from this ward got together to play soccer, eat breakfast, and have fun together. My comp and I passed by to have fun for an hour, and found out there was a ping pong table in the chapel too, and so we pulled it out and started playing with some of the members. We lost every single game. It was a lot of fun though.

Other than that though, nothing else really new. Sorry for not having any super cool or exciting stories to share, and sharing about my deodorant instead, but hopefully this coming week we can share about some cool lessons we have had too. Hope all is well with everyone though and love you all!

Elder McCollum

Monday, October 3, 2016

Forty Weeks

Hello Everyone!

Not that much that happened this week, other than general conference (where all the church leaders get together and do a broadcast of a bunch of different talks that is super spiritual and way uplifting). As such, I realized that I never shared my testimony in a group email and so I will do that this week instead of sharing cool fun stories (cause there weren't really any that happened, as I said it was a very easy going week).

I just wanted to let you all know that since being here on the mission, I have learned and grown a lot. I have grown to a surety through both changes and experiences I have seen others go through, messages that I have helped share, and personal growth from my own studies and experiences that what I hade faith or hope was true before the mission I have grown to sure firmness is true. We, each and every one of us a child of a father in heaven, god, or deity (the "something bigger out there", whatever you would like to call it). We are not just a creation that appeared out of nowhere, with no purpose, but he loves each and every one of us and has sent us here to earth to help us learn and grow. Before we came here, we lived with him as parents here on earth live with their children, and in the same way that kids here on earth can only grow to a certain point at home before they have to move out to be able to keep progressing and growing in life, we had reached a point where we could no longer progress or grow and so were sent here to earth to recieve a body, to learn about the difference between right and wrong, and to be tempted and pass through trials and difficulties so that we could learn to make our own decisions, and make the right ones. Sometimes we pass through hard times that we aren't quite sure how to make it through, but as that deity, or god, is our heavenly father, he wants to help us, and he wants us to be able to overcome those difficulties and so if we look for him he is always there to help us. We can find that guide through prayer, which is literally just talking with him (even something as simple as asking for a confirmation that he is there), through the scriptures, and through small things that we see and experience each day in our lives. Rarely ever does he talk with us through big huge glorious manifestations, in fact, almost never, but he helps us to know that he is there and that he loves and wantes to help us. When we die then, we are able to return to his presence, but not just us alone - we also have the chance to come back and live with our families again after this life. Thus, there is life past this short time that we have here on earth, where we can continue living in peace and happiness forever with those that we love. I have grown to learn that this belief, or teaching is more than just a fanciful story meant to give men hope, but that by studying the scriptures (the Bible and the Book of Mormon) and following the teachings that they give us, we too can see the difference that they make in our lives, and can grow personally to that surety of ourselves, feeling that love that our Father in Heaven has for us. 

I'll get off my soapbox now for this week, but next week I should have some fun stories (and hopefully photos) to share with you all again. Until then though, I hope you all have a good week!

Elder McCollum