¡Hola de Argentina!
I am 99% sure that this was an awesome week. I can only be 99% sure because I only understood about half of what happened... I am not even sure that they taught me Spanish in the MTC and definitely not Castellano (still Spanish, but Argentines will not say so... it´s pretty much the same though. Just a different accent). So ya... Spanish is a work in progress, but every day is a bit better. I understand concepts and ideas, but then I get really behind in conversations and so I don´t participate all that much. I am getting better. It´s hard for me because I love to talk and I love to be with these people... they are seriously amazing... but I am struggling to express myself. But it´s ok. I am working hard and praying harder and I have faith in the gift of tongues.
The plane ride here was forever long... not the worst I have had, but long. We had 4 hours to Atlanta and then 10 to BA. There, President and Sister Gulbrandsen met us and we went and picked up the natives from the CCM (MTC here in BA) and then headed off to the mission home. We had interviews with President, an info meeting, and then lunch. We had empanadas and they were soooo good (more on the food later). Then, we watched a video about helping native companions learn English and it was time to meet our trainers. They all came in singing "called to serve" and President went through and told us the companionships one by one. So remember the Hermana that I blog-stocked??? Ya... totally my trainer!!! haha. Her name is Hermana Gonzalez and I love her already. She is a great missionary and a really good example to me. (again, more on her later). We had a training about how everything we do is to invite people to come unto Christ. It was really good. President Gulbrandsen is super in tune with the Spirit and it was a powerful meeting. Then we were off to our area to get to work.
Our area is Congreso, which is in the middle of Capitol. It´s CRAZY... so here is the whole deal... it used to be an Elder area and we are doing what is called "white washing," where BOTH missionaries leave and 2 new missionaries come in. It´s pretty much like reopening the area. And it´s hard. Very hard. We got here and the first thing we did was look through the Area book to find that we only had 1 investigator. BUMMER. So we made a plan. We needed to get to know the ward council and get a LOAD of references and then go visit past investigators to see how we could get them to come back. The first night, we went to visit the Bishop, Obispo Valle, and his family. The Obispo is so wonderful! They have an amazing ward mission plan that just needs some life in it. His family is so awesome. Even though I didn´t understand much, I felt the Spirit very strongly in the home and that´s when I knew that I would be alright. His children are amazing and they are both helping me with my Spanish. sweet! The next few days were all about trying to figure things out and getting the work moving. We visited the ward council members and some other active members and got to know them and contacted their references, which is great. The ward has never had Hermanas before (this has always been an Elder area) and you would think it was Christmas when they found out! haha. And of course, news travels fast in the Church, and lots of people found out and sought us out. It´s really fun to be a Hermana! We also visited past investigators and taught them. We now have 6 investigators, which is definitely still a work in progress, but a step up. The area is pretty big and very diverse. It is 8 blocks by 30 blocks, which probably doesn´t sound big, but the blocks are really big here and trust me, it´s huge. We have not even made it all the way out the the end of our area. Like I said, it´s super diverse. Our area includes the pink house (like our white house) and other government buildings, which is in a really wealthy AND touristy area, sky scrapers and NY style life across the river, and the rest is very humble, relatively poor. It´s so humbling to see their living conditions. Most people live in apartments where you ring the bell on a door that is squashed between 2 buildings and then you walk down this sort-of hallway/alley and then all the way behind these businesses are these tiny apartments, usually only 1 room for EVERYTHING. Bed, table, etc. Still, every place we go, they offer us something to eat or drink, etc. They are so kind. They live in humble circumstances, but they are happy. Very, very happy. It´s not an area where we can really knock doors, because you have to push a buzzer for the one room out of 10 plus and then you get to enter if you know them... some places we can just pick a bell, but others, no. We need lots of referrals and appointments for sure.
So some funny Spanish things... pretty much all I´m good for on the street is to say "hola, buen díahola, buen día" like always, and the member looked at me like I was crazy. The other lady left and we went in the building to the member´s house. We had a good lesson with her and a friend (both less active), contacted and investigator, and left. Well, we got outside and Hna Gonzalez told me that the lady I had said hello to had been threatening the Elders that came before us and the reason that the member had pulled out her phone was just in case she had to call the police! haha. Oh boy... I guess I should try to figure out what is going on. It wasn´t dangerous (don´t worry Mom) just funny!
Another funny thing. After 2 days here, I decided that I needed to at least pretend that I knew what was going on, so that I wouldn´t come across as unfriendly. So Hna Gonzalez helped me with some key phrases that I could say after she said a certain key phrase. So we decided to try it. Well, it went really well and people started looking at me more, rather than just talking to Hna Gonzalez and me being a tag a long. Well, the problem is that when people think you understand, they start asking you questions... ooops. That was interesting... I have to listen really actively, pray that I DO have the right idea, and then TRY to answer. Usually I am right or close enough to right that my response makes sense... but sometimes not. Like the time that a Sister asked what my parent´s callings were and I told her that you met in Utah at school. oops. Please pray for my Spanish.
One day, we were teaching a man outside of his retirement home and it was going pretty well. I got up enough courage to teach a principle (I don´t even remember what) and in the middle he asked me if I knew anyone in the Mafia because the Mafia is really big in America....... ¿Cómo? haha. Good times. He actually ended up taking a Book of Mormon and when we happened to pass by again, he was out reading it! Cool... I shouldn´t have judged Mafia Man.
A great lesson this week was with Isabel. She was a referral from our ward mission leader and so we went to visit. She had already been reading the Book of Mormon and was even telling other people about it! She accepted a baptismal date and we have another appointment with her on Wednesday. The work is beginning. Even though it´s hard to start both in a new area where we don´t know anything and were we don´t really have investigators, we have a lot of faith in the Lord and we just EXPECT miracles, because we know that God is a God of miracles. We have a TON of work to do. Pray for us.
I love Hna Gonzalez. We get along great and she works really hard. I even confessed that I had rad her blog pre mish and it was all super funny. She´s from Utah and is pretty much just super awesome.
I LOVE our barrio (ward). They are such wonderful people. I especially love the children. The Obispo´s family is especially amazing. Their daughter, Saríah told us that she studies the scriptures every day because she doesn´t want a weak spirit, and then their son, Fabricio started quoting scripture to us and told us all of the story of Nefi going to get the plates and building a boat... he´s 7! Wow... what an example to us! Back to the barrio... church this week was great. It was fast and testimony meeting because last week was the primary program so they switched it. Well, the counselor in the bishopric stands and bears his and then says how excited they all are to have Hermanas serving in the ward and would like to invite us up first to bear our testimonies before others came up! I was nervous, but it actually went pretty well. Later in the meeting, a Sister said that when she met me on Wednesday, she didn´t think I understood a thing (which is mostly true) and that now, I was more confident and she could see that I was receiving the gift of tongues. Tender mercies. Then we went to the gospel principles class with our investigators. One of the bishopric members always teaches so that they can get to know the investigators and Obispo Valle taught this week and it was awesome. Our investigators seemed to really enjoy it. Then relief society was... interesting. The sisters are AMAZING and I feel like I have a bunch of Argentine Moms looking out for me. The teacher was our oldest sister, and bless her heart, she had some interesting ideas about death and life after death... let it suffice to say that there were lots of tears, and not the happy kind. At one point, I leaned over to Hna Gonzalez and asked if I was understanding correctly that we were talking about Satan´s spirits being able to enter our bodies if we weren´t careful... all she could say was "yep." haha. We laughed later. Then there was one part that the dear sister said something along the lines of "and we´re so glad to have Sister missionaries. And if they died right now, they would just keep doing their missionary work." Cool.
So a big problem here is that people aren´t married and just living together. 3 of our 6 investigators need to get married before they can be baptized. It´s not difficult, but people get comfortable and don´t want to do the paperwork. We have to have some miracles. Especially because one dear sister has a "husband" who doesn´t want to be officially married. That´s hard. We pray and work and pray and work.
The food here is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good!!! They only thing that is keeping me from weighing 300 pounds is that we walk EVERYWHERE, which is great! I love empanadas and alfajors (probably didn´t spell that right), and EVERYTHING. It´s all very good. we have breakfast at the apartment, a big almuerzo with members around 1 and then we just have a piece of fruit or something at the apartment when we get back around 9. Something that I have to get used to is that they put Mayo on everything... and you know how I feel about mayo. I am getting used to it. Also something to get used to is how much Pop they drink... I just get a half glass and then drink it slowly so that I don´t offend but don´t have so much sugar. If you finish it, they fill you right back up and like every house offers us soda.
Sounds like the changes in the Stakes will be good. Thanks for the update. It is so weird that Harmony ward isn´t in our stake... one street over and a new stake. Crazy.
Friends who read the blog- Anyone can email me, so feel free firstname.lastname@example.org BUT I cannot respond through email, so include your mailing address and I will write when I can (we don´t have a load of time, but I still love you all and appreciate the mail).
I love you all SOOOOO much ! Thank you for your love and support. It really is so wonderful. I feel your prayers and we definitely need them. This is the Lord´s work and I see His hand in it every day.