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Monday, January 16, 2012

Another Crazy Week!

Hello, hello! I hope you guys are all doing great. Like always, I have
quite a bit to say and not as much time as I'd like. It's all good,
though. :). And basically, I was thinking about my past messages, all the things I still
haven't had time to share with you guys, what you might like to hear,
and what would be fun for me to share with you all. So after all of
this, I realized that we have had seven baptisms, many of which I've
never really explained very well. I could just talk about baptisms for
a whole email, actually. So guess what? That's what I plan to do today
because there are so many details and small parts that I've never been
able to describe completely. Ready? :)

1) Juan and Mikaela (mee-cah-el-a) on 10/30/11. This was my first
baptism in the mission field, and it really hit home with me. Juan is
eight years old and Mikaela is 14. They live in a very humble house by the
outskirts of our area, and we found them as a reference from some
members. They were a semi-active family who now are really strong in
the church. The mom had been a member for a long time who is about 50
years old, has tan skin, and is always smiling. She speaks Spanish
just as fast as her kids run around the house. Haha. Sometimes,
especially at the beginning, she was hard for me to understand. Eight
people live in their small two rooms, and every time we visit, we get
bombarded with cards, small toys, and jokes. They are one of my
favorite families, and I've grown to love them. As we began teaching
them, we realized that two of her kids hadn't been baptized, despite
their ages and willingness to perform the ordinance. So, of course, we
taught them all of the lessons and shared simple scriptures that the
kids could understand. We also would just play games with the kids for
short periods of time after the lessons, which always made me smile
:). After about three weeks, we had taught all of the basic doctrinal
lessons of the church from PMG, and they had attended church twice. In
other words, they were ready for baptism :). Both of them passed their
interviews with ease, and the Bishop felt like they were ready. So
we prepared the program and had the baptism directly after a Sacrament
Meeting, which is the last part of the block on Sunday. When I stepped into the
water and motioned to Juan to come join me, a bright smile crossed his
face and he came into the water by my side. I muttered a few
instructions to him in Spanish, just to make sure he remembered what
we were going to do, and then raised my hand and did the baptism. The
feelings in the room were powerful and there were some tears in our
audience of about 15 people. You have to remember that the church is
still developing here, so we don't have any where near as many members
as in the state wards :). Afterwards, Elder Birky baptized Mikaela,
and then we all went to change while the Bishop talked to everyone.
The program went really well, and I really truly enjoyed my first
baptism here in Argentina. I want to give mote details but have to
move on, else I'll run out of time :).

2) Pedro and José on 12/4/11. Pedro is sixteen and José is fourteen.
Both of them are sport junkies and play soccer like ALL day. I really
mean it. One of them recently got asked to try out for a national
league in Buenos Aires. We messed around with a soccer ball for about
fifteen minutes one night at a ward activity and they could do SO many
cool tricks :). But yes, their mom is a member and comes to church like
every Sunday to listen and to help with some of the classes. She told
us one day that she really wanted to bring her sons to church, but
they always had soccer tournaments, especially on the weekends. So, to
help her out and to get to know her and her family better, we started
visiting their house about three times a week, usually in the morning
:). They live in the nicest part of our area in one of the very few
two-story houses made of all cement. They always gave us homemade
bread, and we would talk about soccer a lot--maybe a little too much
sometimes :). But like always, we would set apart some time to share a
spiritual thought or to teach them about the Restoration. At first
they never really showed that much interest, but with time and through
our testimonies, they realized that we were serious and really believed
that the church could help them in their soccer-filled lives :). One
morning while we were teaching them, they told us that they had
thought about it as a family, prayed, and had decided that a baptism
was right for their two kids. The father chose to remain Catholic but
still completely supported his wife and kids with their decisions. So
we put everything together and had another great baptism. We held this
one on a Saturday, just to see how it would work, and guess what? We
only had eight people show up from out ward!! It still went really
well, and José and Pedro were really exited. I gave them one of my
white shirts ans ties, and Elder Birky did the same because they both
didn't have white button-down shirts. I gave Pedro my tie that is blue
and gold, the same colors of his favorite soccer team, Boca! He loved
it and wears it every Sunday when he comes to church with his mom :).
Overall, it was a great baptism, and we all went to their house
afterwards to eat and celebrate a little bit. I loved it. We still
pass by them about once a week to see how they are doing and to
share a quick message. Alright, once again, gotta move on :).

3) Sergio (ssss--air--he--oh) on 12/10/11. This has probably been the
most interesting one that I've had so far for two main reasons: (1) it
all happened in about two weeks, and (2) he got baptized on his
birthday! Alright, I'll try to explain everything with the time I
have. First off, to find him, we went through a pretty lengthy
process. Two other Elders were out working when a woman stopped them
and told them she needed some help in her life. After talking with her
for a few minutes, these two Elders realized that she lives in our
area and not theirs, so they wrote down her address and passed it to
us that night. Then Elder Birky and I, pumped and ready to teach,
visited her the next day, basically as soon as possible. While we were
visiting this woman, we found Sergio, who lives right next door and is
18 years old. He tracked us down in the nighttime dusk and told us
that he had heard about our church before, knew the woman we had just
met, and had wanted to learn more about what we do as missionaries for
quite a while. Could we have met a better person? Probably not! haha.
People really are prepared. They are ready to hear our message. They
are ready to receive the blessings that come from Christ through the
church. Anyways, to make a long story short, we began to teach him and
his neighbors the very next day, explaining the Restoration and other
basic principles of the gospel. He accepted everything and walked into
the waters of baptism about 13 days later. And yes, we scheduled the
baptism on his birthday intentionally, just as he asked :)

4) Leonardo y Nelvis (Nell--vee--ss) on 1/8/12. Favorite. Baptism.
Yet. Oh man, I'm gonna run outta time, but I can't think of a better
way to end this message than to talk about these two incredible,
amazing people. Though it may sound kinda surprising, we found both of
them while contacting one night toward the end of the day. We
introduced ourselves to them, like usual, and then asked if we could
share a quick message with them before leaving. And that's how it
went. They chilled in their seats out on their patio and received
their first quick message about the church, not knowing it would
change their lives in just a mere few weeks. :). They were Jehovah's
Witnesses and knew the bible well--really well. They are incredibly
nice and always gave us snacks and juice, which always felt great after
having walked in te scorching heat. You guys gotta remember that it
hits 90 degrees or higher every day here, and sometimes I forget it is
January :). Haha. But yes, we actually learned a lot about their
church, and they learned a lot about ours during the first few visits.
Basically, we just treated it as Q and A and didnt want to offend them
or anything, but rather show respect and really try to discern their
needs and help them whenever possible. Eventually, they told us that
they had always had a few doubts about their church and that they
actually really wanted to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-Day Saints. Plus they liked talking to us since they both
are in their sixties and get a little lonely. This happened about the
fourth visit, and from that point on, we really began having great
lessons. We watched some of the church movies, read the scriptures
together, and sometimes we just went over to eat dinner and to share a
spiritual thought :). They always had a lot of questions and wanted to
learn all of the basic principles really well before baptism. This was
great because they always kept their commitments and promises,
sometimes even studying even more than we asked :). After just over a
month, they told us that they really had studied, prayed, and even
done a fast to know if the church really contained the plentitude of
the gospel of Jesus Christ. We love to hear this because we never
obligate anyone to do anything, but instead ask them and invite them
to pray so that they can know for themselves. It really is powerful
because we share a few massages and ask them to pray and study the
Bible and the Book of Mormon. Because of all the talk and much of the
time wrong information about us, people sometimes don't realize that
we are asking them to pray and ask God. Really it isn't our church, it
isn't the prophet's, and it isn't the Mormon church. It's the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, run and directed in the same way
as Christ's in the ancient times. I love it when people realize this
concept. They told us that they really feel like it's true, even
though they had gone to like five other churches during ther life :).
This would be the best translation from Spanish to English: "Elders, we
want to get baptized and help with your church as soon as you guys can
put it together." Wow! There progression and everything really has
amazed me, and they know the Bible SUPER well--way better than me and
Birky. They are just great people. So, to fulfill our part, we cleaned
the baptismal font and prepared everything. We held their baptism
right after Sacrament Meeting, and this was the best--and most
hectic--Sunday I've had here in Argentina. I don't have much time, but
during this Sunday I was able to do the following: set up the
baptismal font and room, give a 5-min testimony on missionary work in
Sacrament (Bishop's request), direct the two songs during the baptism,
baptize Nelvis, and help Birky baptize Leonardo. This is a story of
its own. Leonardo had hip surgery recently, so he can't support
himself very well. Plus he is old, around 70 years of age. During the
baptism we had to bring a chair in the water, just as an extra support
for him. Elder Birky said the prayer, and then we both had to work
together. Elder Birky held his legs, and I put my my arms through his
arm pits. We slowly kicked out the chair and lowered him into the
water. His toes still stuck up out of the water, so we had to do it
twice. It was a great experience and we really had to be sensitive
with this old and tender man. With time, we completed everything :).
Then I was scheduled to give the talk on the Holy Ghost, but luckily one of
the members volunteered to share it while we changed :). It was a
powerful experience, and they had tears in their eyes. They are
getting callings in the church next Sunday, and Leonardo and Nelvis have their own triples,
Bibles, and copies of other church literature. We visit them at least
every couple of days, and we actually had some ward missionaries called
who should go over and reteach them the basic doctrines of the church

Alright, I gotta end. These baptisms really are why I am serving here
in Argentina, the best country in the world. :). It's just like my MTC
teacher said: "We don't go to learn a new language or to just increase
our numbers in the church, but we go to share a special message--a
message that has blessed our own lives and will bless many lives to
come in these, the latter-days." :).

Gotta go soon, but these baptisms really have blessed my life.

Please keep sending mail! I love it, just like I love all of you.

Goodbye for another week,
Elder Jones :)

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