Monday, February 20, 2017

Sixty Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been a pretty fun week, though nothing too out of the ordinary to tell.

Diego and Esteban are both doing great - they both made it to church again and they both now have baptismal dates set, but they have to get their marriage orders arranged before they can get baptized but here's to hoping that they can get it all done. :) We left Diego to start reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning two weeks ago as well, and has already made it to 2 Nephi 5 (about 80 pages in), which is awesome. Esteban has also already read all of one of the church's Books about the life of Gordon B. Hinckley, the last prophet before Thomas S. Monson, and both are actually sharing all that they learn and inviting all their family and friends to church as well of their own accord (we hadn't even asked them to do so) because as they both have said, they can see the huge changes that living the gospel has made in their own lives (and their wives has seen it too in them) and they want others to be able to benefit from it too. They're both awesome. :)

Kevin has been doing really good too, though it has been difficult for him to keep up in reading the scriptures, but he did have some questions about Joshua, the prophet from the Old Testament. (There was a HUGE novela about Moses here for the last year, with more than 200 episodes - a new one each night - that everyone loved, and watched all the time regardless of age or religion. It was actually pretty surprising. Well they made it to the end of the life of Moses, and so now it has ended but they are going to keep going with the next prophet, Joshua, which is what peaked Kevin's interest). As we explained who he was to Kevin though, we opened up to Joshua in the Bible and there in the first chapter was just the scripture that Kevin needed to explain to him why it's important to keep reading the scriptures and it was super helpful. Small miracle, but it was cool enough to share.

Other than that though, just little tidbits here and there (with a photo for each one):

1) My comp has in-grown toenails and so he has to soak them in a bucket that has a mixture of water and magnesium sulfate each night to soften the nail, and then shove little bits of cotton under them to lift them up. Well on the 15th, the day before my birthday, he decided to make me orange cupcakes (vanilla cake mix in an orange peel) as a birthday cake, and so I nabbed a picture of him doing so while soaking his feet. Also included is the finished result after baking them the following morning. They were tasty. Bonus photo - just him with his feet in the bucket. His expression about says it all haha.

I caught a gecko while out proselyting. He was a pretty big one and actually didn't even really run when I went to grab him, but I don't think he was too happy with it all the same. He was a cute little guy though, so enjoy a picture.

Also grabbed a picture of the Dad of the Week - one day is was downpouring super hard and I saw a big guy walking down the street getting soaked without an umbrella and then a very big umbrella going down the street right next to him with pretty much just a pair of little legs sticking out beneath it. It must have been twice as big as the little kid holding it.

Also, I made potentially the biggest hamburger I have ever eaten in my life this week, but it was super tasty. The layout was thus (it helps to see the picture too):

Bread Heel
-Mashed potatoes
Bread slice
-Mayo, Hot Sauce, Cheese (a lot), Patty (fried in butter), Fried Onions (fried in the patty butter), Fried Egg (also fried in the patty butter), BBQ sauce
Bread slice
-Mustard, Fried Egg (also fried in the patty butter), Fried Onions (also fried in the patty butter), Patty (fried in butter), Cheese (a lot), Hot Sauce, Ketchup
Bread slice
-Mashed Potatoes
Bread Heel

It was super tasty and most certainly filled me up. Doing the math between the patties, cheese, and eggs, I am pretty sure that it was at least 60 grams of protein. Didn't bother counting up the grams of fat though. Also, I had two glasses of milk to help get it down so that was nice. 

Also, the recent convert of Elder Jacobson and Elder Pinheiro, Yessica went on vacation for a week to Santiago del Estero (where she is from in Argentina) and so she brought back a few small gifts for us Elders, and I ended up with a small little drum. It's super fun. :)

Other than that though, nothing too crazy new. Thank you all for the birthday wishes, and other than the orange cupcakes, I didn't really do anything special. I didn't want to make it a big deal, so I didn't even mention it to any of the members and slipped by under the radar. :)

Hope you all have a good week though and love you all!

Elder McCollum

p.s. Here is something that I found in my personal studies that I really enjoyed that talks about "True Happiness". It obviously has a religous tone to it, but it is pretty applicable to anyone and seemed pretty impacting to me. I put it here instead of the main body of the email because it's not that important that you read it, but I would reccomend it:

Pleasure Versus Happiness.—“The present is an age of pleasure-seeking, and men are losing their sanity in the mad rush for sensations that do but excite and disappoint. In this day of counterfeits, adulterations, and base imitations, the devil is busier than he has ever been in the course of human history, in the manufacture of pleasures, both old and new; and these he offers for sale in most attractive fashion, falsely labeled, Happiness. In this soul-destroying craft he is without a peer; he has had centuries of experience and practice, and by his skill he controls the market. He has learned the tricks of the trade, and knows well how to catch the eye and arouse the desire of his customers. He puts up the stuff in bright-colored packages, tied with tinsel string and tassel; and crowds flock to his bargain counters, hustling and crushing one another in their frenzy to buy.
“Follow one of the purchasers as he goes off gloatingly with his gaudy packet, and watch him as he opens it. What finds he inside the gilded wrapping? He has expected fragrant happiness, but uncovers only an inferior brand of pleasure, the stench of which is nauseating.
“Happiness includes all that is really desirable and of true worth in pleasure, and much besides. Happiness is genuine gold, pleasure but gilded brass, which corrodes in the hand, and is soon converted into poisonous verdigris. Happiness is as the genuine diamond, which, rough or polished, shines with its own inimitable luster; pleasure is as the paste imitation that glows only when artificially embellished. Happiness is as the ruby, red as the heart’s blood, hard and enduring; pleasure, as stained glass, soft, brittle, and of but transitory beauty.
“Happiness is true food, wholesome, nutritious and sweet; it builds up the body and generates energy for action, physical, mental and spiritual; pleasure is but a deceiving stimulant which, like spirituous drink, makes one think he is strong when in reality enfeebled; makes him fancy he is well when in fact stricken with deadly malady.
“Happiness leaves no bad after-taste, it is followed by no depressing reaction; it calls for no repentance, brings no regret, entails no remorse; pleasure too often makes necessary repentance, contrition, and suffering; and, if indulged to the extreme, it brings degradation and destruction.
“True happiness is lived over and over again in memory, always with a renewal of the original good; a moment of unholy pleasure may leave a barbed sting, which, like a thorn in the flesh, is an ever-present source of anguish.
“Happiness is not akin with levity, nor is it one with light-minded mirth. It springs from the deeper fountains of the soul, and is not infrequently accompanied by tears. Have you never been so happy that you have had to weep? I have.”—From an article by the author, Improvement Era, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 172, 173.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Fifty Nine Weeks

Hello Everyone!

So this has been a pretty easy going week. There has been rain, a little more rain, and then maybe just a touch more rain, though I did not soak my shoes this week. There haven't really been any special crazy occurences so mostly just a few short tidbits to share.

First of all, on Tuesday our investigator Diego made us an Asado for lunch which was super super tasty. Argentine asado is basically the same as grilling, just a lot slower and so instead of cooking with coals that just had the fire die down and with smoke, you cook it open air right when the coals (usually from wood instead of charcoal) have actually finished burning all the way through. The result is that you get a lot more of the wood flavor, and a lot less of the smoke flavor, the meat normally stays a lot lot juicier, and it is cooked the same all the way through. I really enjoyed it, but my vegetarian companion was left eating potato salad, cucumbers, and regular lettuce and tomato salad.

As we go teaching people as missionaries, we also have a set of lessons that we are expected to teach so that the people we teach learn some key doctrinal points to get them started. After someone gets baptized, we then go over the lessons again to make sure that they understand, accept them, and can progressing and growing. Well this last week we finally finished reteaching Kevin all the lessons and so now he knows it all. (Well he still has a lot he can learn, but he has learned all he needs to from us at least).

Once again with Diego then, we left him to start reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning this week instead of assigning him a part to read here or there and in 3 days time he read all the way from 1 Nephi chapter 1 up through 1 Nephi chapter 15. It was awesome when we visited him again and found that out. It is definetely a huge change from when we first found him and started visiting him. It is really awesome to see the growth and change in people here and I am loving it. Diego is also from Uruguay but right on the border with Brasil and so he can speak both Spanish and Portuguese. In response to something that I said though he addressed me (and my companion) as "Meu anjo" which I was able to tell was portuguese and thought I knew what it was, but I asked him just to confirm it and he explained that it was, in fact, portuguese for "My Angel". There are a lot of people that talk about the missionaries that have taught them, visited them, or helped them learn and grow - especially those who start teaching them or are the ones there when the get baptized - as their "Angels" but I had never had someone directly say it to me. I was stunned for a moment but it certainly felt really good, and is definetely not something that I imagine I will forget.

In church then we had Diego and Esteban once again, though their wives still haven't been. We have been teaching another couple though that also needs to get married in order to get baptized, the Familia Ibañez, that have been learning a lot too, but at a slower rate. They haven't made it to church yet but have promised to make it next week and so I am really hopefully that we can get them there too.

Other than that though, there is not all that much new, other than a couple of funny quotes from my companion:
1) As an apology, instead of saying "I'm sorry with all my heart", he decided to show a deeper remorse in saying "I apologize with all my internal organs".
2) As it was raining really hard one day there was a strong patter of rain in the storm drain when my comp said "I hear a lot of dogs" as if concerned there were a lot of them off in the distance barking. (He's not a huge fan of all the dogs that there are just roaming the streets here in Argentina). He quickly learned it was the storm drain though and that was the end of that. 

Hope you all have a good week though and love you all!

Elder McCollum

p.s. Included is a picture of the African (satanic) temple that I mentioned last week.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Fifty Eight Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been a pretty fun week. I have some fun random tidbits to share, and then some cool experiences. I will share the tidbits first though:

Last P-day, after leaving the ciber I had the desire to make apple pie (now that we have a little more time on P-days) and so I did. :) It came out super tasty. (I made two, and then shared with some other Elders. They confirmed that it was, in fact, tasty.)

Another fun thing is that we have a residential gecko in our apartment. Last week my companion called me over to point him out on the wall so that I could see him, and he was very tiny. He ran off pretty quick though and I'm not sure where he got off to, but after eating lunch one day in our pench, I looked up and saw him chilling on the ceiling close to our AC. I grabbed a picture to share. He makes me happy.

Walking down the street on Wednesday we passed a house that had a car parked out front playing loud music, with some people sitting out in front of their house drinking mate. (Nothing unusual). I was beyond surprised and super excited though because I recognized the music of the song though I couldn't hear the words. I didn't think it could be, but as we got closer I confirmed that it was the song I thought it was, one that I know very well in English, but had never ever before heard in spanish or imagined that I might hear in spanish, much less in Argentina: They were listening to "Country Roads" by John Denver. For those that don't know, the song sings about West Virginia, a place that I lived for a good chunk of my life and it's pretty much the theme song of the state; you hear it all the time there, but not all that much outside of West Virginia. It put me super content though to hear it.

One of the other interesting things that we saw on Wednesday too though was a satanic temple. It had a giant plaque saying african religion (because it's a nicer way to say it; those religions originated there). It had a giant pyramid though on top of two tall pillars, with two black stone statues in front of them. One had a man with a bow that had a dead wild cat slung across his shoulders (the religion in question is known for a lot of animal sacrifices while playing african drums) , and the other was a man holding a baton with a smaller man pegged to it. It also had a lot of black ceramic tiles around the door depicting a bunch of other crazy things that I didn't take enough time to make out. It was also flying two flags up top. One was the argentine flag, and the other was a deep maroon color that I don't even want to know how it was died. We got away from there pretty quick though, but it defenitely stands as a testament to me that there does exist a god, because there is no way that that satan could exist if there did not also exist a god. On friday then as we were heading back to our apartment at 8:30 at night (in a different area) we heard loud drums as we passed by a certain house on the block we were walking down. My comp looked at me and asked "Is that?..." and I just looked at him and said "Yup" and kept walking. It's kind of weird that it didn't freak me out or the concept isn't abnormal to me anymore like the first time I heard about it when I was new here, but I guess that comes with the time that I have already in Argentina.

Another fun anecdote is that it once again rained a lot on Saturday. We were close to the chapel right as it started to pour (only about 5 minutes away) and so we bee-lined it there but pretty much as soon as we got inside the downpour stopped and went to a light drizzle. My shoes were once again already soaked though, and so that was that haha. My comp that same day though had bought what must be the worlds biggest umbrella. I attached a picture, but he couldn't even open it in the hall of our apartment without it touching both walls. He ought to stay nice and dry from now on...

Cool stories though for the week:

First of all, we had 3 investigators in church on Sunday, which was super awesome. Esteban went for the 4th time (and also already wants to pay tithing despite not even being a member yet), Diego went for the 5th time (and is asking the members too now for help to get his wife to go to church with him so she can see the blessings as well), and then a member brought a friend that is interested in the gospel for the first time, which makes the three that were there. It was super awesome and all the meetings were also super good and so it turned out phenomenal.

Another super cool experience was that Kevin passed the sacrament for the first time this sunday, and it just so happened that he passed it to me and my companion. It was the first time that I was able to take the sacrament from one of my converts, but it was a super awesome experience and something that I am never going to forget. We have also been able to help Nico out a lot recently and he almost went to church this last sunday but I gave him an extra triple that I had (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price all combined in one book) with a personal note for him written inside hoping that it would be the small push he really needed to come back (he has been right there for a few weeks now) and after recieving it he said that sí o sí (yes or yes, an argentine expression) he is going to come this next week. I hope so, as he is really awesome but it is really cool to be able to help people my age too.

After church we then visited Diego and his daughter was also there, as well as a friend of his wife who had a lot of questions about who we were and what we did, as well as certain questions about what happens after this life. We answered them, teaching her a little in the process, and explained the Book of Mormon, leaving her one that she was very excited to read. We are going to talk to Diego again the next time that we visit him to see how she is doing with it so that we can maybe visit and teach her as well. After we finished that though, his wife's friend left (as well as his daughter) but his wife and him stayed and we watched the 20 minute video of the Restoration. We haven't been able to teach his wife all that much but he has been sharing a lot with her. While watching the movie though, she was more intently focused on the TV than a small kid focuses on a computer screen. It was super awesome, and if we are able to get her to go to church as well, it will be a lot easier to help the both of them get married and baptized as well.

Other than that, there isn't all that much new this week, so I hope that all goes well for everyone!

Elder McCollum