Monday, May 29, 2017

Seventy Three Weeks

Hello everyone!

This has been a really good week, nice and full of lots of stuff but somehow easy-going at the same time. 

First of all, the area:
This week was really awesome working in our area, we were able to find a lot of cool new people to teach and I had the chance to meet some people that my companions found while I was doing something else for the offices. Our area is awesome and I really love it. Some things that happened this week (in no particular order):

We have a couple investigators that have been coming to church for a long time now named Graciela and Armando (an older couple, with Graciela blind). Well this Sunday Armando turned 68 and so the day before (Saturday) he invited us over and made an Asado to share with us. It was super tasty and had chorizo sausage, blood sausage, a couple nice large portions of meet, potato salad, and various other things. It was pretty awesome (and very tasty) and a really cool moment to be able to share with them. They can't get baptized at the moment because Armando still needs to get a divorce worked out with his ex-wife who now lives in the states in order to be able to get married to Graciela, but we are hoping that things can get sorted out when his ex-wife plans on visiting Argentina at the end of the year. 

Another person that was super generous with us is a man named Juan. He is perhaps one of the most humble persons that I have met (humble of heart that is), and super awesome. While visiting with him, he was explaining to us how his wife was in Santiago del Estero (another part of Argentina) helping to get a farm set up to help people with drug problems be able to recover and leave their addictions behind. He said that he wanted us to go there for a couple weeks to be able to teach all the people there and that he would even pay all our travel and lodging to do so (after saving up the funds). We had to explain with him that we couldn´t, but we had a really awesome visit with him all the same. As we were finishing up too then, he stepped into the other room of his house (it was literally just a bedroom and a kitchen) and came back with a scarf that he gifted to me since he saw my companions were both wearing one but I wasn't. I was blown back and said that I was just fine, and that I actually had a scarf but just hadn't worn it but he insisted all the same and so now I have a new tan scarf to wear everywhere. He said the next time we come, he will prepare us something to eat too and it just amazed me how generous he really is.

Lastly, we were visiting with Cristian and his family on Saturday, and two more of his cousins showed up to listen to us too, making the grand total 6 youth that we are teaching in his house, now from age 8-18 with most of them 13-15. It was super awesome, and it kind of blew my mind as I looked around and there were 9 of us there together (including my companions and I) in a lesson. It was more people than I had ever taught at one given time before, but it's an experience I won't forget. What was even more incredible is that the 8 year old girl that was there also understood everything perfectly and was able to teach it all back to everyone else too as we went over it again real quick as we finished up. Everyone was left amazed, but that too was a really awesome experience to just see the simple and pure understanding that comes from a small child.

Oh, and also we contacted a poet on the street one day that started reciting ballads to us there on the corner. It was pretty interesting, but he said that we could come by and visit him later and so we will see how that goes.

As far as office stuff goes, there was a lot that happened this week but somehow it seems to have gone by really quick and seems to have happened weeks ago. Mixed in with everything, we had transfers, a meeting for all the leaders in the mission that we had to help out with, as well as all of our normal things that we have to do. Perhaps the most fun thing though was driving out to the very farthest point of our mission that still has missionaries on Friday, and in the process going through my first area that I hadn't seen since I had left last year. 

What happened though is that there were a couple of missionaries that were sick and so had to stay a couple days after the meeting for missionary leaders to recover. We had to take them back to their area though (Bragado), which was about 3 hours away in car, and so we took advantage of the trip to drop of some copies of their apartment keys to the sister missionaries right next to my first area (Chivilcoy) (they had them robbed while traveling) and take new bikes to 9 de Julio. If you can believe it, the old bikes they had were much much worse than the bike that I had. I don't even quite know how they were using them. After all that then, we got to drive all the way back. We left at 9:30 in the morning and with stops, eating, unloading bikes, and everything we ended up back at the offices at 8:30 at night. It was a fun trip. Included are photos:

1709 - The first view we got of entering Chivilcoy for the first time in almost exactly a year. :)
1714 - The main plaza of Chivilcoy.
1717 - Also the main plaz of Chivilcoy.
1723 - The group of us that went out. Elder Huber (up front) is the one that was sick, and Elder Millett (the blonde one in the back) was his comp. We dropped them off in their area and then just Elder Venecia and I came back. It was fun though, because both of them had also been office Elders in the past (Elder Millett was an office Elder when I got to the mission).
1724 - A flooded out field/river turned into a lake that was on the highway there. It was pretty. If you look closely, you can see just the top of the fence sticking out above the water.
1731 - A weasel skin (complete with feet and nose and eyes) that Elder Huber found in the pench upon arrival (it was there before hanging up as decoration, just that he was new to the pench). He promptly put it on as a fancy scarf and posed for a good picture. Elder Venecia decided to join in with the picture too. 

-Map of the drive, 530 kilometers (330 miles). We got about halfway out into the actual province, so that was a lot of fun.

Other than that though, there isn't all that much new that has happened this week. These coming weeks should come to be even a little more crazy though as we have transfers again and get a new mission president, so there will surely be some fun stories to follow. Love you all and hope you have a good week though!

Elder McCollum 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Seventy Two Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been a really awesome week! We have transfers in 2 days, and so all of us in the offices have the opportunity to write home today since Monday we are going to be loaded up with tons of stuff to do. Needless to say, life has been really busy here in the offices, but we have been able to get out to our area some and have some cool experiences all the same.

Okay, so first normal missionary stuff and then office stuff. 

There was one day that Elder Durfee and I were headed to our area and we decided to talk to a guy that was standing there outside of his car letting his dogs run around and get some exercise in the park. We started talking to him though and he was just a super cool dude in his mid to late 20s and when asking about his priorities in life, he said he just kind of wanted to be a father, and that him and his girlfriend were even considering adopting in the not too distant future. Well we ended up talking with him for about ten minutes and then he kind of disappeared for a moment to take care of something with his dogs, and so as we waited for him to come back, his girlfriend got out of the car, walked around back, propped herself against the back of it, and said "I´m Mormon." It was a pretty unexpected twist but we ended up just talking with her (and her boyfriend - Diana and Jesus) for about another 30 minutes more, and it was one of the most spiritual and also coolest conversations I had since I have been here. It turned out that she was 26 but wasn't really going to church. What had happened is that she had an older sister that had gone a mission, done everything right, and that had always tried her best but all the same life didn't turn out all that great for her and so Diana got kind of confused on how that could happen and kind of stopped believing. It was really cool though, because we were able to share a lot on just different points of view and things that both of them could do to bring themselves closer to god and have a better relationship just between them as well to be able to be more prepared for whatever life gives them too. As we walked away, Elder Durfee and I were just kind of awestruck. We didn't end up getting their address, but we left them our phone numbers. Maybe one day we'll hear from them, but I wish them well. They were pretty awesome.

Last week as well then, Elder Smellie was in our area with one of the Assistants and they found a new investigator that was super awesome. She was super excited to listen to them and really wanted to get her entire family to listen but she was home alone at the moment, and so to do so we would have had to come back later. All the same, they taught just her and left her a Book of Mormon with a part to read. Well Elder Smellie and I went back a few days later, and she had actually read it and loved it! Again she was home alone though (and this time cooking) so we weren't able to teach her, but we plan on passing by in the next few days to visit her and her family when they are all together.

Also, we have an investigator named Tamara who had her birthday this last week and so Elder Durfee made cookies bars and we took them to her on her birthday. Elder Smellie and Elder Durfee then passed by the next day as well when she actually had a little more time to visit, and she hooked us up with some of her leftover birthday cake and so that was a fun little win too. :)

As far as the office adventures go, we had perhaps our most fun one this last Monday night. At 10:30 (the time we normally go to bed), the Hermana Robertson (the mission president's wife) called us and asked us to arrange a remis (a form of taxi) to take a couple sister missionaries to a health center that same night since one of them had been sick for a week and was developing bronchitis, which was causing problems with her asthma. She said we'd also need to go get the truck from the offices and just leave it parked outside of our apartment so we could pick them up from their appointment when they finished and take them to a nearby apartment we have for Hermanas when they have to come in and stay the night. Well, upon calling the remis, they said it´d be 30-40 minutes before they could get a car even headed out that way, and so after consulting with the Hermana Robertson, it was decided that we could just pick them up and take them there ourselves. Thus we were on our way. By the time we got them, got them to the health center, and then got back to our own apartment it was already 1:30 in the morning. We were able to get a couple hours of sleep then, but at 3:30 the hermanas called us so that we could go and pick them up. Thus, we were on our way again and after picking them up, dropping them off in the nearby apartment for hermanas, and getting back to our apartment it was 4:30. President Robertson luckily gave us permission to sleep in a couple hours more to make up for the lost sleep, but it was quite the adventure. I just about died laughing at the point when we were walking down the street to the offices at 10:40 at night, and Elder Smellie came out and said "Well, I did not think I'd be doing this 20 minutes ago." I thought it about summed it up perfectly.

This last Friday, I was also able drive Elder Dosdall to his medical appointment for his in-grown toenails and all went well. He is recovering fine. I did want to include though a picture of perhaps the craziest intersection that I have seen yet in Argentina (and that is saying something). It was the second time I have been through it, but the first time was actually worse. Basically though, you have 3 lanes of traffic coming from 3 different directions into the middle of the same intersection and all are turning to go out the 4th direction onto a metal bridge that is only 2 lanes wide. It would be crazy enough in and of itself, but what makes it worse is that there are no stop lights or even stop signs and so everyone just floods it at the same time and goes for it. As I said, this time wasn't as bad but last time there was less than a foot of space between me and the cars around me on all 4 sides (including in front, because if more than that opened up, another car would wedge itself in there). This time there was a little more breathing room, but I hope you enjoy the picture.

Lastly, last P-day as stated I was able to go to the Zoo in Lujan with the other office Elders and pet a Lion, a Tiger, and hold a 2 month old Tiger Cub. We also enjoyed the other animals, but it was a really cool experience. The way it works though is that all the big cats grow up with humans handling them from the moment they are born, and then they grow up with puppies and dogs. Thus, the puppies and dogs act as though they are bigger than the cats and the cats stay super passive, even when they are older. It is really interesting though to be able to see that when the big cats can't even see their true potential or see themselves for how big and powerful they really are, they just kind of make not a lot of themselves. I imagine the same happens a lot with people when they really don't realize all that they can make of themselves, and so I thought it was kind of something interesting to note.

Other than that though there hasn't been all that much new, so until next time I hope you all have a great week!
Elder McCollum

01. Us on our way to the offices Monday night.
02. The same.
03. Us in the health clinic waiting room at 1am, waiting to find out if it'd be better to wait for the Hermanas or go back to get some sleep. 
04.The crazy intersection that I mentioned on the way to the clinic with Elder Dosdall.
05. Selfie with a tiger.
06. Me petting a tiger.
07. Me holding a two month old tiger cub that was falling asleep cuddled into my arms. :)
08. A 21 year old elephant. She was fun.
09. Us feeding said elephant.
10. A very expressive monkey.
11. Same.
12. Same.
13. Same.
14. A sad looking chimpanzee.
15. One of two hilarious llamas that liked following us around.
16. A bear.
17. Me petting a lion. (It's yawning).
18. Same.
19. Same.
20. Same. (Once again yawning, they are more active at night.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Seventy One Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This has been yet another easy-going week. We have transfers in a week from now, and so the offices should be a lot busier than they have been, but somehow we have been on top of everything and so it has been nice and peaceful. Our area as well has been pretty easy-going - all the people that we have been teaching have been doing super good, especially all the youth. Cristian and all his cousins have now been to church over 6 times and in 3 weeks, his sister (Selene) has read the Book of Mormon from the beginning all the way to 2 Nephi. Their parents didn't want them to get baptized before (they wanted to make sure that they would actually be committed to it and weren't just going through a phase). We hope to talk to them again though either this week or next and if we can get the permission from all of their parents, we might have a decent number of baptisms coming up in the next few weeks. We can only hope. :)

On P-day last week too though, we went with the Assistants and played a game of bowling. I was able to get a few strikes, but still barely broke 100. It was between me and my companion Elder Smellie to see who would win but in the end he ended beating me by a decent margin. Once he finished though, it was really entertaining because the two Assistants were left, and they were competing to see who didn't get the lowest score. Elder Siale was ahead by 9 or 10 points, but then Elder Suarez got a spare and ending up passing him up at the very end. It was pretty fun. Today we are going to the zoo too in Lujan, and we'll get to pet a tiger there. :) It will be fun. 

Also, I don't know if you remember, but Elder Dosdall (my hijo) started getting some pretty hardcore in-grown toenails about halfway through his first transfer with me. Well, last week he had a surgery for it finally and has to go two weeks without walking. Since he can't work, they sent a different missionary to his area, and then he gets to hang out with us in the offices for these two weeks. As we have stuff to do, and he has to be laying down, he pretty much gets to spend the entire day laying down on the couch in President's office. When I was going to leave at the end of our time together, he said "It´d be nice to spend some time together in the mission later on, to be able to work together again". Well that wish came true, just not quite in the way that maybe we were expecting.

Other than that though, there isn't all the much new that has happened, and so until next week!

Elder McCollum

Monday, May 8, 2017

Seventy Weeks

Hello Everybody!

This has been a pretty easy-going week, nothing too out of the ordinary. 

One day I found a food menu/flyer on the sidewalk outside of our apartment that had pretty good prices so I brought it to the offices and it turned out that just that day we had to order food so we decided to try it out. We ordered a couple of milanesa sandwiches, and when they got here they turned out to be huge. We were more than happy and quite enjoyed them.

Another day, as we were leaving out of our apartment, I noticed something purple in the bush outside of the apartment. It turned out to be a little toy beetle placed just so. It put a big smile on my face, so I figured I´d share a couple of pictures of it.

Yesterday too then, we had lunch in the Fuerte Apache with a family that had some returned missionaries (Fuerte Apache being the most well known villa in all of the mission), and so I grabbed a couple pictures to share of that too.

As far as spiritual experiences go though, one of the coolest ones that I have had thus far in the mission has happened this week. It goes as thus:

About a month and a half ago, we contacted a few youth just hanging out right outside of a Kiosco (like a mini-mart type deal), and after coming back a couple of times we met somebody there that attended the Kiosco most days named Carolina. Over time we have gone teaching her and she has really enjoyed it - she has read pretty much every piece of material that we have given to her, marking it up and rereading it to better understand it, including multiple chapters in the Book of Mormon. She promised us that she would go to church one week but that Sunday she ended up having to go out of town. She was supposed to have the next off though, and so she was excited to go when her boss told her she had to work that day. She tried to ask him if she could have the morning off to at least go to church and he ended up firing her. Thus, for learning about the gospel and asking to go to church, she lost her job. When she told us we were dumbfounded and didn't know what to say. That was the first time that I had heard of that happening since I have been in the mission. Well, a few days later she was home alone and of her own she just picked up the Book of Mormon and started reading it from the beginning. She got about 14 pages in and stopped to ask a prayer to know if it was true. (That is what we invite people to do - ask people to pray to god to know from him if it is true, so that they can receive their own response from him instead of just having to trust our word on it. It's really awesome because he does answer, and people find a lot of faith in the response they receive). Anyhow, she prayed to know if the Book of Mormon is true, if what we taught her was true, if Christ's true church really had been restored to the earth after all the time that it had been lost following his death, and if it really was the path she needed to follow. She was expecting some kind of feeling to be able to get her answer (often a feeling of warmth or comfort is the way that you receive your answer), but she didn't really get anything. She then went to bed, perhaps a little disappointed, but she actually had a dream where she received an answer through someone talking to her and telling her that yes, it was true, and that it is where she needed to be. She is now super excited to learn more and really put forth her best effort to apply what she learns, and we have an appointment to teach her tomorrow at 5:00, right when we finish in the offices for the day, and I am super excited for it. 

The only catch of it all though, is that we are going to have to pass her on to the other office Elders because though she works in our area (and we always visited her in her work in downtime) she actually lives in their area and so they need to be the ones to teach her. Thus, the appointment tomorrow is with them as well so that she can get to know them too. It's kind of sad that we have to pass her on, but I am super excited for her and that she received her own response and am really excited to how she learns and grows.

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

Elder McCollum

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sixty Nine Weeks

Hello Everyone!

This was a really good week, but to be honest it was because there wasn't all that much going on haha. It was a nice week where I was able to get everything done in the offices that needed to be done without worrying about it, and then in our area we had just normal days. There isn't that much to tell this week - Elder Venecia and I one day had to go deliver 5 new bikes to various different areas and following that we had to help some missionaries in yet another area move to a new apartment. Miraculously, we were able to make the move just loading the truck up twice, and both times we got the tailgate shut. Things included that we carried though were 2 mattresses, 2 beds, 2 desks, 2 book shelves, a couple nightstands, a table, a fridge, luggage, food, and miscellaneous other things. I didn't get a picture of it (I should have, it was pretty entertaining) but there ought to be more moves in the future. Elder Venecia did get a picture of the super pretty sky though as we were going down the road though, so there's that. 

As far as normal missionary stuff, we have been finding a lot of new people that we can end up teaching this week. A couple of the more interesting ones go as following:

One day as we were walking down the street, a man shouted to us and came walking over to talk to us. He said that he wanted a Book of Mormon to read, and asked how much one was. We gave him a copy (we don't ever sell them) and he was super surprised it was free. We then explained it to him a little and ask we were about to ask for his number to be able to call him and visit a different day, but before we even  he said "Well are you going to note down my number or something?" We have high hopes for him, we'll be passing by for sure.

Another one that was hilarious this week was an old lady burning leaves is the street - there have been an insane amount of mosquitos this last week and so she was doing it to drive them away with the smoke. As a friend of hers was walking down the street then, she shouted over asking if the smoke bothered her. Upon her friend's response that it did bother her, she then shouted back that if it was an Asado (a BBQ) then nobody would be complaining and kept burning them. It was pretty funny seeing two little old ladies shouting from one side of the street to the other at each other. It ought to be fun going back to visit her too.

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

Love you all,
Elder McCollum