Hey! Well, it's transfer week, and I have worked in my area for four and a half months now. In other words, there is a good chance that I'll change locations and send my next email from a different part of Argentina! We'll just have to see what happens, and I'll let you guys know a soon as possible. Like always, there is the chance of me staying here in my current area too, which would be alright. I really would like to visit a different part of the country, though :).
Anyways, we have had another busy, hectic, long, and service-filled week. To brief you guys a bit, the Bishop called a new ward mission leader for us named Alejandro Cocentino, who has already helped us a bunch! He is pretty cool, about 45 years old, has a family of 7, and kinda looks like a wrestler at his height of 5'5". He works out a lot haha, and I'll try to send a picture if there's time, just so you guys can get an even better glimpse into my mission :). But yes, he works really hard for the church and his family, especially at nights after he has finished his shift at his job.
One night during our ward counsel meeting while we were brainstorming, he came up with an idea to help us with missionary work in general: service. At first I didn't totally understand, and Elder Birky and I didn't know how much time we should invest since we already had many plans. After thinking it over a bit and looking through our agendas, we decided to set aside our evenings for service, despite out busy schedules. And guess what? It has worked out great! Through service over the past week or so, we have formed better relationships with some of the members and have received some strong references! To explain a little better, I have decided to talk individually about each service activity and its benefits. Ready? Haha.
1) The Duran Family. We gathered a group together of about nine people and went to their house to start the process. A brick wall in their front yard, which had served as part of the fence, had collapsed, leaving crumbles of brick and rock everywhere. With our shovels, buckets, and carts ready, we went to work. They didn't have wheelbarrows, so we had to use this bike with a huge metal basket instead. Yep, it was pretty interesting. :). We would put shovelfuls of the earth into this huge bike basket and then wheel it out to a nearby field and dump it. Since we had a decent size group of people, we finished in about an hour and a half. We also cleaned up the big trash pile in the backyard. This part of the service almost killed me haha. It smelled horrible and we had to pick up all these random articles of trash covered in moss, dirt, and bugs. It still felt great to help out this family, even though we had to do some pretty nasty stuff!
2) Gloria's House. She is a member who lives alone in a small, two-room house by the church. We had a bigger group gathered this time, and since she had a pretty big project for us, we used all the help we could get! In her backyard, nothing had been maintained for over a year. So yeah, I'm sure you guys already have a pretty good mental image of the forest we had to work through that night haha. The grass went up to my knees, the weeds alongside the fence and in the flowerbeds were HUGE, the patio and small shed had really weird bugs crawling everywhere, and it was just interesting haha. Nobody had a lawnmower, so we ended up cutting the grass with sharp shovels and long knives, which actually isn't that uncommon here :). We also cleaned her patio and helped tidy up her garage, both of which were pretty nasty. It was just a huge process and took like two hours with everybody working hard. She really thanked us for our work and helped whenever possible, which is pretty impressive since she is about sixty years old! It was just a good experience :).
3) The Italo (ee-tah-low) Family. This project = most interesting. Haha. He has a small little stream by his house full of weeds, frogs, and minnows. It actually looks pretty good and adds to the appearance of his house. When it rains, however, that's another story. Since the drainage here practically doesn't exist, any kind of rain makes his little stream flood and go EVERYWHERE. So this time with a small group of about five people, we went to work. We dug, dug, and dug some more, adding a couple extra inches in width and a foot of depth to the stream. We also pulled out the majority of the weeds and just tidied everything up a bit. This family is one of my favorites in the ward, and I enjoyed helping them :). This project, though a bit nasty, was probably my favorite. We had to move tons of mud and bend over a lot. Ya know what that means? I was SUPER sore the next day. SUPER SORE!! Haha. Oh well, that is just how it goes. I'm not in the best shape ever right now, as many of you know :) Afterwards everything looked really good, and we gazed at the newly designed stream for about a half hour while sipping lemonade on the porch. Alright, gotta move on.
So we performed service like this to help out some of our members, and we really reaped some rewards from doing so. Just to let you know, we did six of these projects :). With my time to write to you guys, I decided to describe the three most interesting! That's not all, though. After every service activity, we held a testimony meeting to end and close out the night, the final part of our mission leader's plan.
For example, we gathered together after cleaning and extending the stream by Italo's house that one night. Everyone sat in a circle, filling every chair within sight and enjoying the break from labor :). We chatted for a while before starting the testimony meeting, which Elder Birky and I directed with the assistance of our mission leader. To the small group of about ten strong members, Elder Birky and I explained the purpose of missionary work and testified of its power. We then each gave our testimonies of the restored gospel of Christ and its light that we had seen manifest through these members during our time here. These members then bore their testimonies and beliefs too, one by one, until we had gone around the entire circle. We could all feel a special feeling in the air as we all listened to one another that night under the starry sky. I really enjoyed the testimonies, and once everyone had finished speaking the mission leader gave a short speech. He explained that we all have our own testimony, or knowledge, of these truths. As missionaries in the ward, we wanted to share this grand message with the members and to help them out by doing a bit of service. At the same time, we wanted each of them to think of somebody--a neighbor, friend, relative, or anyone--who could also use some help. We left the members with a promise that night. If they could think of someone in need, we would go and help that person out however possible. We promised that the same blessings they had received as members in the church (including the service that night) would be seen in the lives of their references too. We then offered a prayer and left them with a copy of the scriptures to gift to this friend/future investigator. I really had powerful experiences during these meetings. This illustrates just one example of what we did SIX TIMES!! Yes, we did the same in every home. Everything was really similar each time. First we did a church service activity, which isn't that uncommon, and then held this testimony meeting directly afterwards, which was a little more uncommon :). And guess what? We have already received some references from some of the members and have worked hard to teach them or at least introduce them to the church :). Our mission leader rocks and has helped us tons.
Editor's Note: Most Recent Update-second email:
AAAAHHHHH. I am going to Paraná, a city close to Santa Fe. One of the Elders I live with has served there. He says that it is super nice compared to here and that there are a bunch of hills!!!!!!! I actually have two wards this time. My wards are called San Agustìn and Anac Medina
I have tons of packing to do tonight and I have to say goodbye to investigators!!!
Love you guys!
Hasta Next week,