Monday, January 30, 2017

Fifty Seven Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been a very interesting (and a very long) week with something crazy or notable happening pretty much every day so I will split up the letter like that.

On Monday we went to visit Kevin, who was doing great after having been baptized a little over a week prior (the previous Saturday), going to the temple last Saturday, and hearing an apostle on Sunday. It was a nice surprise then when we showed up and his mom said that he wasn't there; He had gone to EFY for the week, a summer camp that the church puts on for the youth that is supposed to be super fun. That was a nice surprise, and so when we finally  were able to visit him again yesterday (Sunday) he was happy as a clam, minus a sore throat and pretty much having lost his voice haha.

Tuesday rained. A lot. A whole lot. It was supposed to rain for the afternoon, and so I had gone the whole day carrying my umbrella (my small one broke with the end, and so I had to buy a bigger beefier one the size of a cane so that it would actually last) and my rain coat, but we had gotten up until 7:00 without a single drop of rain. Well at 7:00 we got on a colectivo (public bus) to go to a different part of our area and once we got on, it started to pour buckets. I felt like  a spy that went to a secret phone booth or something to change because we got on, it started to pour and then I pulled my rain coat out of my backpack and put it on, put everything in my pockets in a plastic bag, change my nametag to my jacket and pretty much as soon as I got ready to go out in the rain, we got off, opening up my umbrella as we stepped off. Unfortunately though, it was pretty much all for naught because within 5 minutes we were completely soaked from head to toe and my waterproof shoes were once again filled with water, with the waterproof lining holding it in so even if I was on dry ground, my feet were wet haha. I got a couple pictures and a short video with the phone (sorry for the terrible quality, it's not a smartphone) so I hope you enjoy. I apoligize beforehand though for the annoying singing.
Also on Tuesday after the rain stopped, we heard a firetruck going by and as you remember, here in Argentina Santa drives around on christmas eve on the back of a firetruck. Well there was also a mom and her very young daughter walking by and the little girl stopped, all excited, and said "Mommy, it's Santa Claus!". The mom said, "No I don't think so" as she kept walking and it definetely gave me a good little laugh.

Wednesday had nothing particularly special.

Thursday my world in the mission got turned upside down. There was a worldwide missionary training that had some pretty big changes. So for the last who knows how long Missionaries have had to follow a very specific morning schedule, getting up at 6:30 and going out to work at 10:30 (12:00 if you are training) and then coming back at 9:00, planning the next day that night, and then going to bed at 10:30. Well, now we still have to get up at 6 :30, but we have more time to get ready in the morning, we now plan for the morning, and then we can be out to work at 10:00. There is one more hour of studies besides (2 hours if you are training) but you can put them wherever you want during the day to accomodate it as you need. You are also back in the pench at 9:00 but you now don't have to plan at night so you can be to bed earlier if you want to get more sleep or you have a little bit of extra time to write in your journal, etc. P-day also changed from the previous schedule (10:30am-6:00pm) to starting now at 8:00am, so we now have 2.5 hours more to do everything that we need and relax a bit, which doesn't actually normally happen on P-day, and so that is nice. Another big change too then is that before we had to report how many lessons we taught, how many referrals we recieved from people, etc. but now we only report new people we find to teach, how many people we bring to church, how many people were baptized, and how many people have a baptismal date programmed. It might seem like a small change, but it means a lot less number counting and allows us to be focused on what can really help us help others instead of just teaching someone that might not actually even be listening to us and then counting it as a lesson.

Friday we visited our investigator Esteban and he is doing great. He said that whenver he is feeling down he grabs the Book of Mormon and opens it up and it almost always has exactly what he needed in that moment. He also told us that last fast sunday he fasted so that his wife would also listen to us because he has been able to see huge differences in his life already by reading the scriptures and praying every day, and that she later in the week told him that she would listen to us too once her sister was no longer visiting them and so we are pretty excited for that. 

Saturday we visited our investigator Diego and he is also doing great. Diego ahs been sharing bit by bit with his wife as we go teaching him as well and though his wife doesn't often listen to us, she is starting to warm up to us a lot and says hi to us as we go in and since Diego is hard of vision, she has actually been handwriting in larger print the 2-3 verse assignments that we leave Diego to read from the Book of Mormon so that he can read them easier, but it means that she too then is also reading. Diego said that she asks him questions from time to time to and so we are hoping to be able to teach her too. Diego professes seeing big changes in his life too since he has started going to church and now wants to share it with everyone haha (which is awesome) but I really haven't had such great investigators now in a little while and it is awesome.

Sunday wasn't anything too crazy. Diego and Esteban both went to church, which was great, and in the afternoon we were able to visit Kevin and his older brother Nico. The two are doing great and I have grown to really care for them both. We are trying a lot now to help Nico get back into the swing of things going to church again too and he's right there and so I am hoping for a little push that might be able to help him out, because I really do want the best for him and Kevin both.

Other than that though, not all that much else new and I feel like I have rambled enough, so I hope you all have a great week!

Elder McCollum

Monday, January 23, 2017

Fifty Six Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been yet another interesting week in the mission haha.

So in our ward there are 4 missionaries, Elder Dosdall and I in our area, and Elder Pinheiro and Elder Jacobson in the other area. Well, Elder Jacobson somehow got Pneumonia in the middle of summer, and so he was pretty bad off with a super high fever and pretty serious sickness and so on Wednesday they took him to our Mission President's house where he could be better looked after for the first little bit of the sickness, which tends to be the worst and so Elder Pinheiro stayed with us in a trio until today when we picked Elder Jacobson up and brought him back to his area where he can continue recovering in the apartment there. And so, once again we had some fun adventures together in Trio.

Being in trio, we had to work in both areas and so one of the people that we visited was a recent convert of the other Elders named Yesica (pronounced almost like Jessica in English because the Argentine Y is pronounced "sh"). She is super awesome though and on Sunday we had dinner with her too, which was super tasty.

On our side, one of the most fun lessons that we had was with Kevin; Kevin is doing great. We are going over the same lessons that we had to teach him before baptism and he remembers everything and then some. As we teach, he goes sharing stuff that he learned from poking about in the scriptures too, when at the beginning one of our biggest challenges was being able to read with him. For one of the lessons then we were able to make popcorn and watch a movie about the Restoration, which was a super fun time. On Saturday too then, exactly one week after his baptism he was able to enter the temple and do baptisms for the dead, which was super awesome. (Baptisms for the dead being going to the temple and performing the ordinance of baptism in favor of those that have already died without the opportunity to be baptized or who were baptized by someone who didn't really have priesthood authority to baptize, thus making that baptism invalid).

One of the coolest things this week though was that there was a Special Stake Conference called where one of the 12 apostles came to visit and speak with us. (In the church there is a Prophet and a Quorum of 12 Apostles, just as in Christ's day and it is not very common that you get the opportunity to hear one of them in person). It was a really cool experience though because Gary E. Stevenson (the apostle that visited us) gave a really awesome talk about some of the most basic gospel principles, such as that God is our heavenly father and that we are all sons and daughters of him, and as such we really need to help one another, both inside and outside of the church. What was even more cool though is that Kevin and his mom were able to make it there to hear him in person, as well as two other investigators that we are teaching. At the end then, we were all able to pass by and shake his hand and so it was a nice cherry to top it all off. 

Other fun tidbits:

Here in Argentina you can buy 3 kilos of oranges (6.6lbs) for 20 pesos ($1.25 USD) and so last Monday me and my companion bought 3 kilos each and made our own orange juice. It took about an hour to squeeze them all and made only about 1.5 liters but it was super tasty and I might do it again. We also then put vanilla cake batter in the orange shells and cooked them in the oven like cupcakes and some super tasty orange cakes were the result. I definetely enjoyed them. :)

I now have a membership card (free) to Dia, one of the most common supermarkets here in Argentina and so now I get discounts on a lot more stuff. I got a picture of it with my Vea card (another less common supermarket). Now I am really only missing Carrefour, but I'm not sure if they have a card...

I hope you all have a good week though and love and miss you all!

Elder McCollum

Monday, January 16, 2017

Fifty Five Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been a very awesome week! (There was a baptism involved) :)

So first of all we had divisions on Tuesday and so I got to go work in Villa Tesei for the day. It was a cool experience but something that was really cool is that I got to say hi to a member that I knew from a previous area. Durning the time that I was in Libertad there was a member named Hernan that would go out and teach with us from time to time, but he got married and moved to Villa Tesei with his new wife and I hadn't really seen him since. Doing divisions in Villa Tesei though, I was able to see him again though, so that was pretty cool.

Another super fun thing that we did this week though was a Family Home Evening with Kevin, his mom, and one of his older brothers, Nico. We made tacos and tortillas (they don't have tacos in Argentina, it's a mexican thing) but I made a couple of salsas to bring along too. We had a good time cooking and everything came out super tasty, and it was a really fun way to spend the evening. I included some pictures of it, including me in an apron cutting up a potato (so my comp could have some vegetarian tacos).

Other than that though, there has been a lot of rain this week. It rained a whole lot on Friday, to the point where I couldn't even really see in the rain, and my companion and I got soaked. I had on a raincoat and my shoes were supposedly waterproof, but somehow I got wet somewhat even through the raincoat and my pants and socks got so soaked that it dripped down into my shoes, leaving water inside of them that couldn't get out because they were waterproof and left me walking in waterlogged shoes for the rest of the afternoon. What made it hysterical though is that while visiting someone I stretched my legs out (thus tipping my shoes back) and some water poured out on their floor (luckily it was concrete though - carpet does not really exist here). My shoes took some time to dry though the rest of my clothes dried quick and so meanwhile I wore my other pair. Yesterday though it was raining fairly hard again and so my other pair of shoes got wet too, though not as bad. Luckily though, the first pair were by then dry so I am now wearing them again haha.

Another fun photo then is what happened when my comp forgot that he had put a couple of Soy Hot Dogs in the oven for lunch and then we went out to work, coming back at night to a funny smell. Lesson learned - don't forget your Soy Hot Dogs in the oven for 6 hours - they come out Black and Hollow...

And now for the coolest part of the week - KEVIN GOT BAPTIZED!!! :D

It was a super awesome experience. We had to be in the church for the entire afternoon to fill up the font, as the service was at 7pm but when he showed up, he showed up in a vest and suit jacket, with dress shoes and his mom showed up in a nice dress (he has only made it to church thus far in a nice button up shirt and jeans). There was a good turnout of other people to though to be there and support him, which was awesome. He asked me to be the one to baptize him, and so we changed, got a few more photos and went to the service. He was super nervous, but his baptism went really well and he has really learned and grown a lot. I have seen a good amount of change in him, but not just him but rather his whole family. They as a whole are doing a whole lot better than when we had just first started visiting them and it really testifies to me of the truthfulness of what we do. I know that this is the path to be able to have lasting happiness, and to be able to get on just fine, no matter what life throws at you. I know that by following the things that we teach that you can grow closer together as a family and that you can really find a purpose in everything that you do. I have seen it time and time again since being here in Argentina, but it was awesome to be able to have such a blatant reminder with the baptism of Kevin, and I just wanted you all to know that.

The following day Kevin was confirmed a member of the church (once again is his suit and tie) and recieved the gift of the Holy Ghost. The family was doing great when we visited them later that afternoon but Kevin said he didn't want us to go (get transferred to a different area) and so I was a little scared of that with transfers happening today. Luckily though I will be staying in this area for at least one transfer more with Elder Dosdall (so we were informed today) and so I am looking forward to another awesome six weeks ahead of me.

Love you all though and hope that everyone is doing well!

Elder McCollum

-Tacos with Kevin, his mom, and Nico
-Kevin, his mom, my comp and I dressed up for the baptismal service
-Just before the baptism
-Turnout at the baptismal service
-My companion's burnt soy hot dogs

Monday, January 9, 2017

Fifty Four Weeks

Hello Everyone!

I realized last week that in almost every email I say "It has been a really interesting week" so I am determined not to say it this week haha. I don't know why I do it, maybe I just don't know how to open a letter haha but I have enjoyed this last week.

First of all we can talk about a few people that we have been visiting I suppose. First of all we have Kevin, who is doing great. Talking with him and preparing him for his baptismal interview he said that he had prayed about whether or not the Book of Mormon was true and recieved his response that it was. He keeps up with all the commitments that we leave him and has a lot of friends in church already, and him and his mom came to church on Sunday without us even having to go to their house to head there together. This week we hope to have a family home evening with them to make Tacos and watch a church film and so we are super excited for that. (Side note is that Tacos don't exist here and tortillas don't really exist either, they're from Mexico and so they are just as excited to eat Tacos as we are).

This week we also got to know the Hermana Castillo, a member that is a little old and frail now and so it makes it hard to be able to go to church. She has a heart of gold though and so though we weren't able to because of the rain this last Sunday, we hope to be able to get her to the church (about 10-12 blocks away) in her wheelchair, and she is excited for the idea as well. 

On Thursday then we had to go to the mission offices so that my companion could get his DNI (Argentine identification) and so as he went to Capital federal to do all his tramites (paperwork) they sent me on divisions for a few hours with the Elders of San Justo, an area close by and right next to my second area. It was a lot of fun to be able to do that too, and my companion certainly enjoyed running about in Capital.

On Friday then, we had normal divisions with our district leader and my companion stayed in our area to guide it by himself for the first time, though it was very easy going because our district leader had to do two baptismal interviews (one for Kevin and one for Yesica, someone the other Elders in our ward were teaching that got baptised and confirmed this last weekend, and so is now a member). Both interviews passed, and so Kevin is going to have his baptism this coming up weekend and we are very excited for him. It will also be my companion's first baptism and so he is even more excited for that as well. I worked for the day too then in Hurlingham with Elder Hammond, our district leader's companion. It was a super cool day for us too because everything seemed to line up perfect and we were able to teach pretty much one lesson after another, finishing the day with 9 lessons. I had never before taught that many in one day in the mission up until now, but it was a super cool experience and I got to visit with a lot of really cool people.

Sunday then would be the last day of the week and that went really well too. In church we had two investigators show up (Kevin and Esteban) which was super awesome, as well as a few less active members that we like to visit from time to time. Afterwards too then we had lunch with Kevin and his mom and then went out to visit some families with the Hermano Le Pera, and that was a lot of fun. As we were visiting one family though we were sitting outside and a kid came up to us saying that he got baptized a good while ago but that he had stopped going and had fallen on some really hard times (losing parents and falling into addictions as well) and asked us to visit him some time. We went to where he said his house was afterwards but he wasn't there and so at the end of the day I looked it up in the ward directory and it checks out that he is in fact a member. Member or not I would have helped him, but it was kind of tough to see such a young person (20 years I think, or younger) that had fallen so hard. We are going to see if we can get in contact with him this week though and try and help him out so I'll try and give any updates on that later.

Sorry that this week I don't have any photos, but I hope all of you have a good week and want you to know that I really care for you all. 

Elder McCollum

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fifty Three Weeks

Hello Everyone!

So this has been a pretty interesting week again, but this time not so much for the holidays.

First of all, I can share about Kevin - a kid that is 15 years old that is progressing towards being baptized on the 14th of January. He is super awesome and super excited. The majority of his family (he lives with his mom and his siblings) are members but don't really go to church all that much anymore and a few of his brothers are going to a different church, but he was never baptized. We visit him almost every day though and he loves learning, and as we teach him he goes remembering things from when he was in the Primary as a little kid. We also passed him a bunch of cartoon videos that tell some of the major stories of the Book of Mormon (Living Scriptures, you can also find them on YouTube) to help him as he reads it to better understand and he has gone through and already watched almost all of them. The other day we visited him as well and his friend was over and so he went inside and found an extra Book of Mormon that they had and tossed it his way and made him sit there and listen to the lesson as well, which was super cool. His friend (Ian) enjoyed it though so we left him with his own copy of the Book of Mormon as well. 

This week we also had interviews with President Robertson and so that was really cool as well. We had to travel on a super hot day though in a public bus wearing a suit jacket so that part was maybe less cool. This Thursday though we get to go back to the offices because my companion has to get his Argentine ID and so I might be able to make yet another trip to Capital. We'll have to see though if it works out though that I can go too.

Speaking of heat though, it has been right at the 40 degree mark here for the last few days, peaking on New Years Eve at 41 (105 fahrenheit). That day we were outside in the sun from 3pm until 6pm more or less and I drank between 2 and 3 liters of water (from my Camelback :D ) and didn't have to go to the bathroom once, having pretty much sweated it all out since it's also super humid here too. Since it was New Years Eve though we had to be back insde earlier to avoid all the drunks and people in the street that might cause problems and so we were in the AC at around 7:00 at least. 

As far as new years then though, we didn't do all that much though they once again set off a lot of fireworks outside. They set off less than at christmas but I did find one in the street with the name "Lord William" on the side that had between 200 and 300 shots to send off (and fireworks here are frequently the kind that shoot into the sky as well, which was the case with this). It was massive though and so I nabbed a picture to share. 

One last thing too though is that I saw a drawing that I liked that a member was working on (he is learning to draw people/faces and started with the eyes, and is now working on learning how to draw noses better) and so I decided to give it a shot starting with an eye and I think it came out okay. Maybe I'll give it a little more practice to help me relax if we have a little more free time here or there cause it was kind of fun to do, but I included a picture so you all can judge for yourselves too.

Other than that though, there isn't all that much else new, so I hope you all have a good week and love you all!

Elder McCollum

The eye I was working on learning on drawing as a start. The graph paper was attempt number one, my agenda was attempt number two but I'm not sure which actually turned out better haha.

New years even was so hot that even my legs were sweating. Included are photos of how wet my pants got. (I would have just taken a general picture, but you couldn't really notice it on my shirt since white looks the same wet and dry.)

The Lord Williams firework. Not sure who bought it, but I'm sure it was expensive and I'm pretty sure it probably made a pretty big boom.