28 June 2010

Tough Week but Optimistic

How is everyone doing?

Well, it's been a crazy usual week on the Mission. So much to say in so little time, right? Well the whole week in general has been a slow hard week, and I´ll explain why later in the email; but I looked at last week's stats for the whole mission and everyone was having a hard week. I think it is due to the World Cup. We planned to have two baptisms this week but they fell through. Gabriella and Rosa just don´t think that they need to be baptized again in the church. We have tried so hard to explain the Priesthood and how the Authority was taken from the earth! No luck but we aren´t giving up on them so we´ll see how the future goes. Our strongest baptism date for next week WAS Eliana. A couple days ago we stopped by on a routine visit to her house and she wasn´t really excited to see us as usual but she still enjoys to have us over. She has doubts about Jospeh Smith and really doesn´t have a real testimony of the Book of Mormon. We testified and taught her about everything but she still was doubting so we had to push her baptism back a week. I think one of the main reasons is that we can´t baptize her in the river, but we found out that she doesn´t have a testimony of the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith.  I'm dissapointed but at the same time glad we found the missing keys because I don´t want to baptize her without her having a testimony. After that lesson I felt so down because she was progressing so well and we were preparing for her baptism. Seriously, on the way out of the house I bore her my tesimony so hopefully I planted a seed. I felt so angry, sad and didn´t want to work anymore. We wanted to just go back to the pench!! It was the worst feeling ever. Even when we just wanted to give up for the day we still worked hard and hoped for a miracle but still got rejected a bunch of times.  We met some nice people, though. We´ll see what the future brings with them.

So this past week has been downright hard but we are going into this week with optimism. Even with the hard week we had some great times too. We had a Noche de Hogar with the ward this Saturday. Around 50 members showed up and we had a great time! The moms and daughters were cooking in the kitchen while we were setting up the tables and games. The teenagers were on the computer listening to music hah and the dads were talking about soccer. It was so awesome to see everyone just have a great time together and be united as a ward. Just spening the night with everyone and having a home evening was a great feeling. An ex missionary, Leo (who always wants my ties) taught about unity within the ward.  For the games, me and Elder Latorre started a game of Pictionary with gospel topics. We ended up in a ¨tie¨ to keep the unity hah. I loved being there with them, they feel like family and they really are opening up to me as a missionary because I´m not new anymore. Every Sunday I am so stoked to go to church because of the members and I always am so happy to see them. Our relief society pres is a stud and I wrote her a note telling her thanks for everything you do for the missionaries and the ward. She told me thanks so much and her face lit up and she always talks to me.  She even sneaks some primary dulces to me. She´s a stud! She is a hard worker too. She does so much for the ward.

Sunday was crazy with the soccer game. During the game no one was outside. When tracking all you can hear is the game and every house we pass the game is on. I´ve never seen so many huge Argentina flags in my life!  When they won, the town erupted for like 20 minutes with shouts and fireworks and the soccer blow horns. Then during the day sporatic fireworks go off.  But these are like M80´s going off. Haha awesome. Reminds me of the times on Balboa Island with M80´s.

Well that's about all I can recall about last week. There is such much that goes on in a week that it  feels like a year, but at the same time it feels like it's going by too fast.  Hope everyone is having a great time at home and enjoying the summer. Have a great time in Newport and enjoy the beach for me. Just expect me to live on the beach for a couple of years when I get back off the Mission! hah. Since it is cold here I don´t really think about the beach right now but I do miss surfing and the beach, dont get me wrong... I'm loving my time here!!!

Always read your scriptures and be grateful for everything you have. This gospel is everything and enjoy it! The gospel is something to enjoy but always be thankful for the blessings!

Elder Shepherd

21 June 2010

First Transfer/Farewell to Elder Gneiting/Scary Encounter

Happy Father's Day Dad!

Redrock Elders - Brooks, Gneiting, Hart and Shepherd
My first transfer, and everyone is staying!  I have the same companion, Elder LaTorre, and the same elders in my pench.  This transfer is going to have much exito!  Wow, so today was the last time I am going to see Elder Gneiting for 2 years.  We woke up at 5 am to take an hour bus ride to the transfer meeting.  It was nice to see everyone and had a great time.  Everyone leaving to go home tomorrow bore a super strong testimony, but Elder Gneiting's was the best.  It has been great to see him in the mission field and I can't believe we had a couple of contacts together one night in Argentina.  Pretty crazy right? I bet he'll be happy to be home tomorrow.  At transfer meeting I ran into some of the guys from the Redrock Stake serving in the same mission as me.  See photo.

Well, this week has been a pretty crazy week and I'll try to recall and write as much as I can:

(Top L to R) Elders ?, Selena,  ?,  Shepherd;
(Bottom L to R) Elder La Torre, Elder Kupihea
First off we had a baptism on Saturday.  We baptized a 9 year old girl named Selena.  Another elder was visiting her family, who are members, and found out Selena was never baptized.  During the whole week we were unable to see her because her parents were at work whenever we went to their home.  We finally got the mother's phone number on Friday night, were able to talk with her about having Selena baptized.  She gave the okay and we met the mother and Selena on Saturday morning to go through the interview questions, and Selena was baptized that night!  It was an awesome baptism but sad at the same time, because the mom just dropped Selena off and wasn't there for her baptism.

We have a strong baptism date with Eliana, a 30 year old mom with 4 kids.  She is really determined to be baptized in a RIVER hah. Like she won't be baptized if she isn't baptized in a river.  We were kinda shocked but it sounds pretty cool (literally).  We had a lesson on the priesthood to try to explain that it's not where you are baptized but it is how and by whom with the priesthood authority.  We will see what the future brings.  Her baptism date is next Saturday, so I'll update you about the river next week.

Alright, so since the World Cup is going on it is pretty much a mad house down here in Argentina.  It's like the Superbowl x100 every partido (game) Argentina plays.  It's exciting!! Argentina is winning their matches.  We sometimes catch the matches at a member's house if we stop by for a lesson or even at an investigator's house!  Everything is blue here.

We had a crazy experience with an inactive member this week.  His whole family are drug addicts, but he wants to stop but is having a lot of problems.  We have been teaching him because some of his Jehovah Witness friends are talking to him and causing doubt in his mind if the church is true.  He really wants to know which church is true.  So during one of the lessons I'm sure he was high, it looked and felt that way.  He was trying to explain one of his dreams and went into the kitchen and came back waving a butcher knife at us and explaining his dream.  It was pretty intense!  Sorry mom, I know you are probably freaking our right now, but it's all good.  He was explaining a vivid dream he had.  Later he broke down in tears and confessed he just really wants to be happy.  We want to help him, but with caution.  It's so hard to see people like that.

My companion was sick this past Wednesday so we stayed in the pench all day.  It was soooo boring but I got in a lot of reading.  We tried to go out for a bit but he couldn't handle it, after seeing a few contacts we went back to the pench.  Later in the week I got a little sick so these last couple of days were hard but we still worked and had success even with one day of no work!  It's been bone chilly too.  It's like when we lived in Park City plus the humidity of Newport Beach.  Not a good combinations, right!  This morning I was freezing but survived.  I'm learning.

This coming Saturday we have a ward family home evening planned and I'm really looking forward to it.  The members here are awesome, even if only 40 show up for Church on a good average day.  They are amazing.  I can't wait to show you pictures and explain who everyone is and their unique story.  They have all had an effect in my life!  I love these people and I want to serve them with all my energy.  The people in this area are really humble and everyday I get humbled because of what I see around me.  We have it so nice in the United States! One of the hardest thing for people attending church here is because the building is pretty far away for them.  Just be grateful for everything.

Tonight (Monday, 6/21) we are going to a member's house to help their daughter.  She wants me to teach her English because she has a test tomorrow!  That will be super exciting.  They live in the Villa which is the poorest part of the city, but the family are studs.  Elder Gneiting said in his testimony today, "There is no greater feeling".  I have felt that way too, and have tasted of the most rich joy in the world, right up there with my family and loved ones.  I can't wait to work hard this week.  Missionary work isn't easy and is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it is all worth it when you see the smile on some one's face after they have felt the spirit and eventually get baptized.  Nothing better than that.  Even if you are the hero of Game 7 of the World Series, hah!   I know....crazy right but it is true!!!!

Alright everyone at home... read your scriptures, be the best you can be everyday, and be grateful for everything you have.  We are so blessed!  We know of this gospel and we have to be grateful for that knowledge.  I want everyone to know this is really the true church, and I have witnessed miracles already that I can't deny.  I've only had a couple of months into my mission, and 3 weeks in Argentina, but if I didn't know this church was true, after the first day here I would have been home because this IS hard.  I do have a testimony and I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church and that is why I am on my mission, to share it with others in the land of Argentina.

Well, time to get in a short 1 hour nap before planning for the next hard week of work.  I heard some Bob Marley and a bunch of American songs in the internet cafe today.  It's pretty funny.

Enjoy the photos!

Love, Elder Shepherd

14 June 2010

First Baptism and World Cup Fever

Hey there Family!

I'll answer some of the questions that you asked in your email first:

Q. Give us a run down of your day from start to finish:
A. We wake up at 6:30am, exercise till 7, after that everyone takes a turn for the shower. 8:00am we start personal study till 9, then we have comp study till 10. 10:00am is usually language study then we get ready to head out. We usually have a lunch at a member's home. We hardly ever eat dinner. So all day we are working, tracking, lessons, etc., etc., then we get home around 9 to 9:30, plan for the next day, then RELAX!

Q. McKenna wants to know what you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
A.  Breakfast we usually eat a bowl of cereal or nothing.  Lunch we eat at a member's house. Usually homemade pizza, rice and chicken, empanadas, noodles.  Dinner we usually eat little treats from the families we visited. They usually give us bread.

Q. Do you cook for yourself or for everyone?
A. Usually at night if we are hungry.

Q. Do you do your own laundry?
A. We take it to the lavanderia on the corner! Its nice 16 pesos.

On to my letter...
I saw Elder Gneiting today and I´ll see him again tomorrow. It's great seeing him but at the same time it is hard because he's leaving for home next week.  I feel like I have a mountain of time to go!  I have so much to say, it's hard to put everything into words when you are on your mission. So many experiences are just for yourself. But I'll try to fit everything I have done this week into one email!

Well the most important news is that we had two baptisms this Saturday!  I baptized a 10 year old girl just like McKenna hoped for me. This was officially my first baptism in Spanish and the experience in that baptismal font is the most crazy, spiritual, nerve racking, awesome experience ever. It came close to when I baptized McKenna (which is my favorite baptism ever!! and the most amazing!!).  She is 10 years old and reminds me a lot of McKenna. Her name is Marcela Andrea Rocha. I'm still stoked that I baptized someone this Saturday.

The week has been great. We have worked super hard and and you can see the miracles happen. During our baptism service everything went wrong! The bishop showed up late, the speakers didn't come and I ended up giving a talk. Just one of those missionary moments that you have to do everything. But everything worked out and we had an awesome baptism that I´ll never forget.  It seemed like everything was working against us. Even the font drained right before the baptism, but we hurried and filled it up in time hah.

We have an investigator name Eliana who is soo awesome.   She and her boyfriend set a marriage date and she wants to be baptized right after they are married. She is so interested in the church and their family attended this Sunday. They had a great time and the ward members were super nice to them. We usually have to tell everyone to go and introduce themselves to the new investigators. The kids loved primary and Elaina and Herman loved the whole thing. They have 4 kids, a super cute 6 year old daughter, a 4 year old daughter, a two year old boy and a 4 month year old baby.  Their family is so awesome!

During the week we had a lot of lessons and had a pretty normal week. We have the goal to baptize every weekend. We have plans to do so, so we are working hard on doing our best to accomplish this goal!

Wow so much to say and I always feel rushed in these emails sorry! This week it rained quite a bit and that sucked because you get soaked! We were actually at a member's house for lunch and it was pouring outside and I forgot my rain coat.  They made a trash bag raincoat for me. The kids loved it and we had a great time. It was kinda funny walking around in the trash bag but you don't care at all when you are on your mission hah.

Saturday was crazy when Argentina played in the World Cup. No one was outside, everyone was glued to the television.  I´ve never seen so much Celestial Blue in my life. Argentina soccer is the most important thing in the world for them hah. We actually got to go to a member's house when it was pouring rain and catch a little of the game, and we still left with a message hah.  When Argentina scored a goal fireworks went off and the whole place erupted. It sounded like a war zone when the match was over.  Just think of it x10. Yeah. It was awesome. I can't wait for the next game and hopefully the championship. The members keep me updated on EU soccer.

The members here are so awesome. I really do love these people and care for them so much. It makes my day to just be with them for a lesson or at church. It's great to actually be able to communicate in Spanish with them hah.  I'm still learning but I can´t believe how much I have learned.  Im talking with people everyday, learning, and having awesome mission experiences here in Argentina. I still can't believe I´m in Argentina!

I'm emailing from the Internet cafe with Credence Clearwater Revival playing in the background, it's kinda funny because you hear a lot of American Songs here in Argentina. The bishop's house is always playing Bob Marley which is soo awesome. The bishop's wife is the coolest person ever here. She is always so happy and just amazing. I have to get a video to show you how cool she is.

These past 5 weeks have been the most life changing weeks in my life. I can´t wait to see what the next 2 years do to me. It;s hard, really hard but you just do it and after the day is over you know you've worked hard for the Lord. I've born my testimony a lot here and every time I do I feel the spirit so strongly.  I  love the people here.  I want to do everything I can for them. This work is so true and this Gospel is everything to me. I have seen milagros everyday.

We have it so lucky back home. Be grateful for everything we have. We are so lucky to be able to go to church. The people here live so far away from the chapel and they are not able to attend. It's so hard to see people that want to go but are not able because they live so far away and have to work on Sunday to live.  People wake up at 3 am to go to the flea market and work until late in the evening.  We have it so nice in America.

Well I love you guys and miss you everyday! I love love love you guys and I´ll talk to you next week with another update of life in the mission field!

Can you send me more ties in my birthday package?

Elder Shepherd!

07 June 2010

School Bus to Church

Hey Mom, Dad, and McKenna!

Well this week has been a long, amazing and difficult week. I cannot believe I have been in the field for a month but at the same time I still feel like I just arrived. I love being here though. I feel like I am at home, well as much as you can be, and the culture is a part of me now. The area we live in is mostly inhabited by Argentines but the areas we work in are mostly inhabited by Bolivians.  But we experience a little bit of both cultures.

Here's the lowdown...

Paula is a 14 year old girl who is ready to be baptized. She is going to get baptized this week and that's awesome. She is really strong and comes to church on her own. She's had some problems with her alcoholic father but he is allowing her to be baptized. It is a miracle because for a week we didn´t hear anything from her or her family, even if we stopped by.

Marcela is the daughter of Elizabeth, a recent convert. She is 10 years old just like McKenna! She's awesome and their family is the best. We love going over there to teach and just be with them.  They love to have us over. We always have hot chocolate because they think 60 degrees and humid is freezing cold like the next ice age. They always laugh at me because I tell them I'm kinda hot haha.  I can´t wait to send you some pictures, but I'll do that next transfer because I don't want to carry my camera around.

We have a new investigator family that is progressing like crazy. They are a member referral and they have been having the hardest time. The dad is really inactive but he is super cool and loves to have us over.  He and his girlfriend are going to be baptized after their marriage in early Julio. They committed to get married and she is really interested in the gospel.  She is solid! She follows up on her commitments and she actually has the Book of Mormon out on her table to read instead of in a pile of stuff somewhere in the house.  I can´t wait to see them tonight, they are awesome and have the cutest 3 little daughters. They love to climb all over me hah.

We have been working with inactive members and strengthening the ward this week. The ward is really getting stronger. We had 4 investigators at stake conference this week and a member of the Quorum of the Seventies (don't know how to spell his name) talked at stake conference along with Pres Benton. I love President Benton. He is so enthusiastic and loving.

Haha...a ward member drives a school bus.  So he came around and picked up everyone in the ward and drove them to church.  It felt like we were in the 70´s on the Partridge Family bus. Totally rad!!! The members were all having a great time, I loved it, it was tight.

Ahh, I have so much to write about. On a normal tracking day we always pass by the rich high rises and it's always surrounded by old people. They never want to listen so we call it the ¨Old People Street¨. We have to walk through it to get to the real tracking area with the people.  So we just contact them and try to be super nice and have a good time with them, even if they always say ¨Yo soy Catolico, o, Estoy Ocupada..¨ We always here Ocupada/o.  The word of our lives here in the mission.

I always hear this cart guy come around with a microphone yelling, "We have chickens, eggs...". It's super annoying. I saw a Beagle that looked like Ollie, too! The bishop's house is soo sweet because out of nowhere I found a Bob Marley CD. Soo sweet. I remember the first time I passed their house. It was bumping Bobby. We have a dog too that roams around the streets but he always ends up in the pench walkway. We see him about a couple times a week.

Well that's about it for today. I always want to say more but I gotta save some experiences for after the mission right?!  I´ll send some pictures with this email.  The pench is super small, as is the shower. The pictures will make the pench look a lot bigger than it really is, ha!

This work is true, it's hard but Salvation isn't cheap. You see miracles everyday and the lives of people change. I can´t believe it has been a month. Time does fly and you have to take every moment to do your best while on your mission, but still have fun. That's one thing I have learned to do,  work hard but also find a way to have fun even when it's with someone you don't relate to at all. This gospel is true, I have had too many experiences already in my life and especially on my mission to deny the truth. Always read the scriptures, pray and live a good life and have fun! This gospel makes you happy. It really does.

Hope everything is going well in the ward and back home. Give everyone a shout out for me and thank the Hambrechts for their letter.

Can you send some pictures of Las Vegas?  All the members here want to see more pictures of Las Vegas and my family.


Much love, Les Amo
Your Son

Elder Shepherd