Friday, September 25, 2015

Villa Elisa: July 3, 2000

¡Hola, familia!

I have some interesting news.  I escaped transfers, but my comp didn't.  Yup.  Elder Erickson is gone.  Why?  It seems that President Cheney felt that he needed Elder Erickson more than poor, little me.  Elder Erickson is the new mission secretary.  My new comp is Elder Martin.  He's from Fremont, California.  He's going to die here in Villa Elisa [ed: Meaning that he will finish his mission in Villa Elisa, not that he will actually die].  He's got three months left.

Other than that, I don't really have any special news.  I didn't get a letter—no, not one—this week, so I don't think this letter will be very long.  There really isn't much to say.  I'll say it anyway.  Here goes:

Tuesday.  Zone Meeting.  They didn't have the transfers yet.  Arg.  The zone leaders told us to call them that night.  We did and they still didn't have them.  Arg again.  I spent all day with butterflies in my tummy.  Not fun at all.  I've decided that I don't like transfer day.  Too much worrying.

We got our surprise Wednesday morning.  We were actually expecting a change, but me, not him.  This is my greenie area, and I've been here three months already (wow…).  Elder Miller was transferred out of his greenie area after only two months.  Anyway, the surprise was compounded by the instructions, "Call President Cheney."  Hmm…  We were certain he [ed: Elder Erickson] was going to be asked to be a district leader.  We didn't find out until after lunch.  Secretary.  Told ya he's a good missionary.

Thursday wasn't special except for the change.  We spent all morning getting Elder Erickson packed up.  That afternoon, during the transfer meeting, we had another surprise, but this one was a good one.  It seems that there was only one missionary leaving (an hermana [tr: sister missionary]), so President Cheney was able to be in the meeting.  Normally, he's too busy with the dying missionaries.  Anyway, he talked for about ten, fifteen minutes.  It was incredible.  He didn't have any kind of notes or plans, and I was absolutely riveted.  This guy is amazing.

I took Elder Martin around to the members on Friday to get to know them.  That's about all there is to that.  Really.  And Saturday was more of the same.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Well, not exactly.  We were initiating a program to help the members help us.  It tells them exactly what they need to do to fulfill their member-missionary responsibilities.  Pretty cool program.  I'd send you a copy, but it's all in Spanish.  Sorry.

It rained Sunday morning.  That really doesn't mean too much to us, but I think it alters the Paraguayan mind.  Apparently, they don't think that we have meetings when it rains.  There were a whole 32 people in sacrament meeting.  Pathetic.  Oh, well.  Afterward, we came home, I made some spaghetti, and then both of us fell asleep.  I woke up first and did some personal study.  When Elder Martin woke up, he sounded terrible, so I made him stay home.

So.  This week's been kind of hectic.  A lot of nothing.  Oh, well.  I think I'll get along with Elder Martin.  I wouldn't say that he's as incredibly awesome as Elder Erickson, but he's a heck of a lot better than Elder Handy.  An interesting point: my Castellano is better than his.  He has 21 months as a missionary; I have five.  I don't know.  Oh, I'm not saying it to brag.  I'm just stating a simple fact.  Anyway, enough of that.

Paraguayan Peek: Schools.  Most of the schools around here are private Catholic schools.  There's one right across the street from my house.  It's called María Auxiliadora.  Anyway, most of them require uniforms, which is expected of a private school.  There are diverse uniforms, though.  Some require a tie for everyone, slacks for boys, skirts for girls.  Others have basically a jumpsuit with the school name on it.

I'm not quite sure how the kids are divided up, but I'll see what I can do.  They're in grades until fourth grade.  It seems that fourth grade is divided into nine courses, then followed by fifth grade.  I think fifth grade is split into three parts, too, but I'm not sure.  The students attend for four hours a day, six days a week, with Sunday being the day off.  Some students begin at around 7am, and others end around 9pm.  Elder Martin told me once, though, that he calculated the number of hours of schooling here and compared it with that of the States.  A student here who just completed all his schooling would have studied the same amount of time as a fifth-grader in America.  Hmm…

Well, that's all my head wants to do.  Plus, my feet are cold.  I'm going away now.  Bye bye.

¡Les quiero!


PS  That's a "Love you guys!" up there.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Villa Elisa: June 26, 2000

A la famila, (To the family,)

Well, nothing much new this week except for one small thing.  I had a baptism yesterday.  Nothing major.  Ahhh!  I HAD A BAPTISM!!! :)  Their names are Wilfrido and Lilian.  They've been waiting for at least six months.  They needed to get married and couldn't because Lilian didn't have a necessary document.  Turns out that it's not necessary.  They got married yesterday and then baptized.  I baptized Wilfrido and Elder Erickson baptized Lilian.

Okay.  I received two letters this week.  The first is dated June 6.

I hope you are getting your packages.  I have sent three so far.
Three?  Woo hoo!  I've gotten two.  I got the one with the bug spray and the one with the Fizzies.  I hope the third gets here soon, and that it has PICTURES.

Cassidy Trimble got his mission call.  He's going to Chicago, Ill!!
Wow.  That's… indescribable.  Wow.  I have no response to that.  I am utterly speechless.  [ed: I have no idea what I was talking about here.  Cassidy was a good guy and was called to serve the Lord in a good place.  *shrug*]

Sarah was extremely excited to get your letter.
Well, every time she writes me, I'll write her back.  She'll get a letter of her very own.  But she's gotta write first!

She said she wished it was six weeks instead of four days!  (Sounds like jealousy over her brother's summers, doesn't it?)
:P  [ed: I think she was going to a camp or something.  My summers were usually spent at boy scout camp.]

The second letter was actually an email, written on June 12.

Last Sunday, there was a fund raiser dinner to help Esmeralda Rodriguez with her medical expenses.
Great!  It's always nice to see the members joining together to help someone else.  I'm assuming it was at the church, anyway.  I have only one question, though.  Who is Esmeralda Rodriguez?

Only the roses aren't doing all that great.  But then I have a "black" thumb instead of a green one.
Maybe you and Dad should switch.  Let him take care of the roses, and you take care of the crimson orbs of corruption [tr: tomatoes]. :D

It is not about baptisms, it is about planting seeds.
That's right.  Do me a favor and keep your black thumb away from my seeds, okay? :D

That's done.  Now I'm going to bore you with my week.  I hope you don't fall asleep.  I'll start with Monday evening, because that's the beginning of the week.  We taught a charla [tr: discussion] one.  It went very well.  Very well.  The husband was so totally into it that it was incredible.  We were able to share things that are kind of side notes that clarify better.  Normally, we don't because the people don't seem to care enough.  These people were so cool!

Tuesday was a finding day.  We did a lot of clapping.  Well, not really.  Only ten charla cortas [tr: short discussions], but we did teach three charla ones.  It went quite well.

Elder Erickson and I did splits with the district leader on Wednesday.  Elder Napoleon (not the district leader) came to my side of Villa Elisa to work with me.  We had a tough time, because he didn't know my area, and I don't know how to guide other missionaries around.  I'm just a three-month-old!

Thursday wasn't very special.  We did some service for an inactive member.  It was pretty fun.  We packed sugar in little packages to sell to the despensas [tr: corner stores] (see below).  We didn't say much about the church, though.  Just "See you Sunday; if not then, Tuesday."  We made arrangements to go back again Tuesday.

We had a battle Friday night.  We had a charla one with a Pentecostal lady who knows the Bible really well.  I shot her down on one part, though.  She threw Revelation 22:18 at us.  I was ready.  I fired back with Deuteronomy 4:2.  She had no response.  Ha ha.  That charla lasted three hours.  No joke.  Three hours.

Saturday, we taught a charla one in the morning, then cleaned the baptismal font.  After that, Elder Erickson made some brownies (yum!) and I swept up a bit.  Then, we had a charla four.  That's really all we did.  For real.

Sunday was action-packed.  We went to church, and stayed after to do a bit of preparation.  Then, we went home to eat lunch.  I prepared some noodle shell thingys with peas and ham.  It would have been good if we could have eaten it.  We took off to go to the baptismal service right as I finished cooking it.  Then, we had the baptism of which I've already spoke.  After that, we, as in Elder Erickson and I and the two newest members of the church, went to see the prophet's birthday party.

Paraguayan Peek: despensas.  Despensas are basically little supermarkets.  You can usually find one within three blocks of wherever you are.  Some carry large amounts of stuff, or rather, a large selection, while others don't.  They all generally have basics, like milk, flour, sugar, and stuff like that.  Some have veggies, meat, and cheese.  What I find rather interesting is that, in the areas with more despensas, the owners usually complain that they don't sell much.  Well, duh.  Plus, a lot of them close for the siesta (between 1pm and 3pm).  They lose money there, too.  Especially when two missionaries want some cookies to finish off their lunch.  However, in areas less populated with despensas, there's quite a bit of business.  Once again, duh.  There's an area on the, uh, thatway-end of Villa Elisa with two despensas, but they are far enough apart so as to prevent competition.  I go to one of them all the time.  It's run by a member (the stake primary president, in fact).  She doesn't sell alcohol or cigarettes, and doesn't open on Sundays.  That wins my respect.  Plus, she sells PEANUT BUTTER.  There aren't many places in Paraguay that carry peanut butter that tastes good and is reasonably priced.  I live above a fairly good-sized despensa.  If they keep their cookies in stock, we'll keep them in business. :)

Okay, I'm gonna go now.  Elder Erickson and I are going to pick up our new mail.  Wee!  Mail!  Bye bye for now!

Love ya!

Villa Elisa: June 19, 2000

Hey guys!

Wow!  Not, one, but two packages!  Woo hoo!  Ahem.  I mean, thank you for sending me the candy and the bug spray.  It is greatly appreciated.  I… candy, candy, candy, candy!  :)  Heh.  So much for dignity.  Hey, you can't expect too much from me!  I just got candy!  Okay, I got it a week ago, but that's not important.  Oh, by the way, the pictures I requested?  That's what I wanted more than anything else.  ¡Y no hay!  ¿Que pasó?  (And there aren't any!  What happened?)

Well, I also received two letters included in the packages.  The first is dated May 26.  First, I want to say this: Very funny, Mom.  This one is the one you cut up.  You're a scream.

Last night, we went and saw Kay graduate.
Wow.  Graduation.  Wow.  Wasn't it February just yesterday?  What happened to the time?  Hey, wait… Whoa…  I've been a missionary for almost five months.  That's almost half a year!  Wow.  Time flies.  Oh, I guess I better get to my point.  Tell Kay I said congratulations!

Aunt Ellen said we should all hold our arms straight out with palms facing the podium—that way we could receive the Braille version.
Uh.  Okay.  Aunt Ellen is officially weird now.

We got more tomatoes—so we ended up with 70 quarts!
Mom!  These letters are supposed to be uplifting!  Arg!  Excuse me while I go and puke my guts out.

April Dawn got home from California yesterday.
Te voy a creer al recibir una carta de ella.  Pasale el mensaje.  (I'll believe you when I get a letter from her.  Pass her the message.)

Okay, that blabbing is done.  Now I get to blab about the other letter.  'Twas dated May 31.  On cool blue paper!  :D

It's hard to believe—two more days and you will have been gone four months!
Two weeks and it'll be five months!  I can't believe it either!  I'm probably going to be transferred this month.  I hope not, but four months in the greenie area is rare.  We'll see…

The big reunion has officially been cancelled.
Bummer.  I wanted pictures!  Boo hoo!  Well, I guess I can ask for pictures from you people.  I doubt I'll have to twist your arm too much to get you to go to the Homestead. :)

We went to the Homestead last weekend…
I rest my case.

…until I put the OFF on…
Only in English…

Keep up the good work!

I get to talk now.
Oh.  Great.  Siesta time!  Wake me up when she's done, okay?

…on September 2, 2000, the United Nations will declare a One World Government.
Why September 2?  Why not an important date?  Like December 24?  :D  Actually, I'd like to know what this so-called "One World Government" thinks it's going to do, and how it's going to work.  If it's really what it's name implies, then it won't work.  Don't call me pessimistic, though I'm no pessimist.  I'm a realist.  If the Saints weren't able to do it, the whole world won't, either.  Good idea, but I think it's doomed to failure.  That's politics according to Joe.  If I'm wrong, tell me.  I'd like to know what's going on.

Christopher won't eat tomatoes!  He says they are EVIL!!
Good boy!  Tomatoes are the bane of my existence!  We must avoid them at all costs!  Unless, of course, we're chucking them at a comedian.

I wonder where that came from!?!  Hmmm?
No clue.  Maybe a little birdie told him?  Oh, hey, by the way, I have a nickname in Guaraní.  It's Kokoro'o karape.  That means "short rooster."  Elder Erickson gave it to me.  Don't understand why.  (Hope you caught the correlation between "Kokoro'o karape" and "a little birdie.") :P

Okay, that's what I got this week.  Now I'm going to blab more!  This time about my week, beginning with Tuesday.  The biggest thing was Zone Conference!  Yay!  It seemed, to me, that the theme this month was the Holy Ghost.  Anyway, let me pull out my notes…

Hermana [tr: Sister] Cheney said, several times, that "it is the Spirit that teaches."  Very true.  She also said that conversion doesn't come until the person has been touched by the Spirit of the Lord.  However, in order to have the Spirit with us, we must seek it and, upon finding it, we must hoard it.  She presented four steps to have the Spirit with us.  I'll talk about nothing for a bit so I can get to the next page because I don't want to break up the steps.

Okay, here we go:

  1. Cultivate a desire or will
  2. Study and search the scriptures
  3. Engage in humble and sincere prayer
  4. Work, work, and work

She then impressed this important point (is that how you say it?): After doing these four steps, LIVE BY IT.

After Hermana Cheney was done, we had a special musical number.  A group of missionaries sang "The Spirit of God."  They sang in English.  None of them were American.  It was very cool.

President Cheney got up next and told us that there is nothing more important than what we do every day.  But, if the mission is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, I'm doing it wrong.  I hope I'm doing it right, then, because I've never done anything harder.  He also told us that the number of baptisms (88 in May) is not sufficient.  Ouch.

Then the assistants of the president proceeded to tell us how to use our most powerful finding tool: the members.  They took an example from Lehi's dream (1 Nephi 8).  Lehi got to the tree of life and ate the fruit (the gospel), then he had the desire to share it.  Hint, hint.

After nearly all was done, we had the testimonies of the new missionaries and the ones leaving.  One greenie hermana started off in the fresh-out-of-the-MTC Spanish that I remember so well, but then slipped into English.  There was a Paraguayan stake missionary sitting next to me.  I translated for him.  Then, there was a Latin hermana who bore her testimony in English.  The Spirit was so strong right then that I almost cried.  After the meeting, I thanked her for it.

Wednesday was a lot of nothing.  We went to the house of a member to have a charla [tr: discussion] one.  No good.  She never let us talk!  Plus, she said that her husband is inactive because he drinks and smokes.  That's nothing something an investigator needs to hear.  To make matters worse, she tried to tell us how to do her job.  Right in front of the investigator.  And then Elder Erickson asked the investigator when we could visit her in her house and the member said, "She'll talk to her husband."  Arg!  It was just a disaster.

I had my interview with President Cheney on Thursday.  Way cool.  He told me there was a glow about me that wasn't there before.  I guess I had lost that "fire in my eyes" that Mom wrote about, and I seem to have found it again.

Friday and Saturday both were a heck of a lot of nothing.  We gave three charla ones in these two days, but only one of them will amount to anything.  One of them didn't even want to take a Book of Mormon!

Sunday was the pits.  There was a huge attendance at church.  Forty.  Yup.  Forty.  The stake president was there, raised us from branch to ward, and there was forty people there.  That night, we went to Jorgelina's house.  She told us to go away.  We've lost her.  She went from "I want to be baptized" to "I don't want to talk to you any more."  It wasn't very fun.  As I said, Sunday was the pits.

This week was tough.  It's getting to winter, which means it's cold and rainy.  And Paraguayans like to sleep when it's cold and rainy.  Not good for missionaries trying their hardest to share the gospel.  Oh, well.  Nothing we can do except for what we're already doing.

Paraguayan Peek: tereré and mate.  These are typical drinks.  They are identical except for one thing: tereré is cold and mate is hot.  They involve filling a cup with green stuff called yerba, pouring water in, and drinking the water through a straw.  There's more to it, of course, but that's the important part.

Paraguayans love drinking tereré and love sharing it, too.  Just the other day, we got in to a house by saying, "Ah, you're drinking tereré.  You want some company?"  The more people in the circle, the more they like it.

Okay, Mom, don't flip out.  Everyone uses the same straw.  After you've slurped down your bit of water, you pass the cup (called a guampa) back to the person serving, who refills the water, and passes the guampa to the next person.  Not very sanitary, but it's good.

All righty.  I've blabbed enough for one day.  My hand is getting tired.  I'm going away now.

Love ya!

PS Send pictures!

PPS Plus, I'd like an ink refill thingy.  I don't know if I can find them here or not.  I need a Sheaffer ballpoint refill.  It says "Medium" on it.  I hope that's enough information...  Thanks!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Villa Elisa: June 12, 2000

To my Simper family:

There's more than one, ya know.  I have good news.  I really enjoyed this week.  I was merely happy before, but this week was really good.  Actually, number-wise, it wasn't, but I had fun.  Why?  I'll tell ya in a minute.  I want to keep you in suspense a little while longer.  :D

Now that I've said that, I'll blab a bit about the letter I got.  By the way, cool blue paper.

… so Dad made me stay down and is feeding me Smack Ramen and Kool Aid.
Aww, poor baby.  Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?

… if W.C. refuses to replace the knee, we plan to have it done under our regular insurance…
That would be "Workman's Compensation", not "water closet", right? :)  Anyway, it's good to hear that Dad's (finally) going to get better.  You've been down almost a whole year, haven't you?  Yikes.  What happened to the time?  Oh!  There it goes!  Right out the window!  Catch it!  Too late…

It was good to see that you guys are talking to Jorgelina again.
Um.  Yeah.  Well, we'll see how that goes.  She found a book.  Yeah.  One of those.  I think it's title translates to "God Makers."  Anti-LDS garbage.  Blarg.  Hopefully, we can take care of this little problem.

Aunt Edwina… called to tell me she got "a sweet-sweet letter from your dear missionary."
Um.  Cool.  Did she happen to mention what I said?  I don't remember.  I've written too much and it's been too long; probably about a month and a half.  Something like that, anyway.  I guess whatever I said struck a chord, eh?

One of your letters said, "We got hosed out of three appointments that Elder Kump and I made."  Then you said, "On Friday, we were hosed by five people.  Joy of joys."  What is this "hosed"?
Well, actually, I assumed you people would already understand.  Just goes to show what happens when you assume.  It's actually something I never say.  What we say here is "fallared."  The verb "fallar" means "to miss" or "to fail."  And, being Americans, we made it past tense with the -ed.  Remember that.  I'll use it from here on out.  By the way, it has nothing to do with water, unless it's raining.

A simple, but firm, "No thank you" would be sufficient.
One would think so.  However, Paraguayans are too nice to say, "No, go away and leave me alone."  They always say things like "Otro día" (other day), "Puede ser" (could be), or "Estoy ocupado" (I'm busy).  Arg.  All of those mean, literally, "I can't right now, but come back later."  No Paraguayan really means that when they say it.  They mean, "Go away."  But they don't say it!  I like getting the "otro día," because we can fire back with "¿cuál?" (which?) ;)

Sarah thinks cookies would stay good if we vacuum-pack them.
Watch out for that one!  She's getting' too smart for her britches! :P

Hopefully, by the time you get this, you will have a new companion.
I do.  Elder Erickson.  I talked a bit about him last week.  He is really cool.

I am praying that he will be just the right match for you.
To put it simply: Mom, I would wager that your prayers have been answered.  And I would never gamble unless I was 100% sure of victory.  Thank you.

God bless you daily, son.
He does.  I can see it.  Not only is my command of the language improving, I can understand the people most of the time.  Plus, reading the Book of Mormon every morning is a little thing that brings great blessings.  I suggest you try it.  Each of you.  And to top it off, I have your prayers and support.  What more could I ask for?

What is—

Okay, we'll give Mom a little time to wipe her eyes… :P  All better now?  Okay.  Here we go.

What is "going on splits"?
Splits would be where two companionships swap companions for a day.  That day, with Elder Kump, he came here to Villa Elisa, and Elder Handy went to La Floresta with Elder Christenson.  Simple as that.  No bananas involved.

Oh, by the way, the smiley faces are a scream!  We all get a big kick out of them!
I'm glad you like them.  I like them, too.  A heck of a lot easier than drawing a little goofy face.  They should last a while, too.  The original package had… uh… 320 little faces, twenty different ones.  I've used, in two months, only thirty-five.  I'll beg some more if I start getting low.  I doubt it, though.

What is "Noche de Rama"?
"Rama" is "branch," and "noche" is "night."  So.  Branch night.  Think Mutual night with more than just the young folks there.  It's pretty fun.  I like it.

Bandit [ed: my dog] says, "Ahowwllll."
Um.  Okay.  So, Mom, how long did it take you to figure out how to spell that?

I hope vociferious rambling is acceptable for letters.
Well, that depends.  What the heck does "vociferious" mean?  Rambling is good.  News from home, spiritual stuff, and good other stuff (like Bandit talking) are what I like to get.  And anything else you can think up.  Like nummies.  :D

Hey, love the Arizona temple stickers!  They're really cool!  Um.  Gonna blab about this week now.  Yeah, really.  No, there's nothing you can do abo—hey!  Quit folding this up!  I'm not finished!

Ahem.  Let's see.  Monday.  I did absolutely nothing of note.  I spent all my free time writing letters.  Our landlord fixed our electricity, which was pretty durned friendly of him.  Before, the shower would go out, so we wouldn't have hot water.  He fixed it, though.  Yay!

Tuesday was zone meeting as usual.  Afterwards, our day just crumbled.  We planned six charlas [tr: discussions].  None of them were there.  Well, some were there, but couldn't talk to us.  We also planned to do our contract.  We went to the notary person's office and waited for about twenty minutes.  We got in.  We left.  We needed the title for the house.  Grrr.

We went back the next day and got it all cleared up.  Yes, that would be Wednesday.  One noteworthy… uh, note: our landlords invited a friend to hear the first charla with them.  Her name is Celeste.  She showed up wearing practically nothing.  We set a time to come back (oh, by the way, this was a while ago, not on Wednesday).  On Wednesday, we went back and had an awesome charla one with her mom.  Her name is Cornelia.  She's one of those who likes to talk.  And talk.  And talk.  The charla lasted an hour and a half, about twice as long as usual.  That's okay, though.  They're cool.  Oh, and Celeste wasn't all snakey this time.  Snakey is a missionary term for females who try to attract us North Americans.  The name comes from the hissing sound they make to try to get our attention.  Snakes have many methods, of which the most frequent is small clothing, and flirting.  Well, a one-sided flirt, anyway.  They're quite annoying.  Hmm… that'll be this week's Paraguayan Peek because I'm too tired to think of another one.

Thursday, we did a lot of clapping.  We had some good contacts, too.  The best part was, during the correlation meeting that night with members, the branch president told us that Rama Villa Elisa is now Barrio Villa Elisa.  "Barrio" means "ward."  Yay!

More of the same on Friday.  A lot of running around like chickens with their heads cut off, without a lot of visible results.  Elder Erickson made some good pasta, though.  Highlight of the day.

Saturday we went by a lot of the people with whom we talked.  Not charlas, but charla cortas [tr: short discussions].  They said to come back Saturday.  Some did.  They said come back Saturday or something along those lines.  One lady, who we had given a charla one to, told her son to tell us that she went on a trip.  We caught him in the lie, and he 'fessed up.  We commended him for his honesty and continued on our way.  The cool thing about Saturday was I received a nickname in Guaraní.  I am kokoro'o karape, which means short rooster.  Don't ask me.  Elder Erickson gave it to me.  His means bald monkey.  He's a little thin on top.  Just a little. :)

Sunday was cool.  Celeste and Cornelia went to church, as did our landlords.  Also, Juan's brother, Lorenzo went.  That was a surprise.  I haven't talked to him in like a month.  He was there for charla two, and he accepted baptism.  After church, we proceeded to get fallared.  How lovely.  We went to a member's house, and planned a really, really cool thing.  She doesn't ready very well, so we are going to go by her house once or twice a week to read the Book of Mormon with her.  It's going to be very cool.

Today was very crazy.  We left the house and dropped our less-than-clean clothes off, then went to San Isidro.  That's the barrio next to Villa Elisa.  The hermanas (sister missionaries (get used to it)) there are part of my district and invited us to the ward activity.  It was cool.  I played volleyball and ping pong, and ate food, too.  Mmm… food…  As we left, we were going to buy food, but the supermarket was closed!  Arg!  So we came home.  I borrowed a Guaraní-Castellano dictionary from a member.  That'll be helpful.  It says how to pronounce the letters, so I'll be able to ready my Book of Mormon in Guaraní.

And that was my week.  A lot of nothing.  But why am I so happy?  Because Elder Erickson is AWESOME.  Last night, for instance, we talked 'til midnight about some cool doctrinal points, and we shared scriptures.  It was really cool.  Elder Handy and I never talked about anything.  What little I know about him, I picked up from him telling investigators and members.  Elder Erickson and I talk about all sorts of stuff, all the time.  Plus, I feel that my talents are actually being used.  I feel like I'm actually learning.  I consider Elder Erickson my trainer.  Anyone can be called to be a district leader (as Elder Handy was).  Anyone can be called to work in the mission office (as Elder Handy was).  Anyone can be assigned a new missionary as a companion (as Elder Handy was).  However, to be a trainer, you have to actually train.  I feel that I'm learning, and my boundaries are being stretched.  Just the other day, I gave half of a charla three.  I haven't even studied charla three yet.  That's the sort of thing a trainer is supposed to do.  Elder Erickson does it.  And so, Elder Erickson is my trainer.  He is a great guy.  I'm really happy and extremely blessed to be his companion.

Okay, well, it's rolling onto 11pm, and I'm exhausted.  I can't go to bed, though, 'cause I still have to write President Cheney and answer another letter.  I'm going away now.

Love you!


PS I'm gonna have a book by the time I get home!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Villa Elisa: June 5, 2000

Hey whole family,

This last week has been pretty darn hectic.  We moved to a different apartment, Elder Handy left, and I have to guide my new senior companion around.  His name is Elder Erickson.  He's from Phoenix.  Cool guy.  But before I get into that, I have a few words to say about your letters.  The first was from Dad.  No date was specified.

I was sorry to hear about your week you wrote about in your letter of April 24.
Thanks, but what did I write?  It's been too long.  I don't even remember what I wrote last week.

Work hard and love the people you are teaching.
I do.  I love these people.  Even the ones who reject me.  If I didn't love them, their rejections wouldn't hurt so much.

Our prayers are with you.
And mine with you.

Okay, this one's from Mom, dated May 5.

I am going to send this by regular mail to see if you get it sooner than pouch mail.
Doesn't look like it.  It took about a month both ways.

…the Catholic church is crumbling.
I probably shouldn't be happy about that, but I am.  Now all we have to do is get the Paraguayans to realize it.  I feel that a lot of them use "soy católico" (I'm Catholic) as a shield.  They are afraid of change, and that's what I bring.  It frustrates me when the people reject us without even hearing what we have to say.

And although we have kids who run wild also, the vast majority do not, or if they do, it only lasts a short period of time.
Maybe in the United States it's that way.  Here we have kids who run wild from 8am when church starts to 11am when it's over.  We missionaries usually have to herd the little br… I mean, darlings into their classes.  I haven't beat any of them yet, but I have taken my belt off.  Yes, really.  The parents think it's funny when we do stuff like that.  I miss the tranquility of church in Holbrook 1st Ward.  Now watch.  When I get back, the bishop is going to call me to teach seven-year-olds [ed: I'm currently teaching children who are between six and eight years old—and I love it.].  So much for tranquility.

I also thought you might like a copy of the picture we had made in Silverton, Colorado.
Yeah!  That was cool.  Now all I have to do is find a place to put it… hmm…

The photo you sent with your first letter—is that your mission president and Sister Cheney?
Nope.  It's a picture of a typical Paraguayan tree.  It would have been really nice if those darn Mormons hadn't gotten in the way!

Now I'm going to talk about my week.  I don't remember what happened last Sunday.  Sorry.  Monday we moved from our old apartment.  This one is nicer in most aspects.  The other wasn't too bad, just always dirty dirty.  There's a few things we lack, though.  We need a sink in both the bathroom and in the kitchen.  Also, we're going to get hot water installed next month (rare in Paraguay) and in four months, a bidet.  This place will be awesome when it's all finished up.  It's too bad I'll be gone by then.  I won't be here in my greenie area for six months.

Tuesday, during the zone meeting, we found out that Elder Miller would be transfered to Encarnación.  This is about as far as Phoenix.  I won't get to see him any more until we're both in the Asunción area again.  After that, Elder Handy had to go to the office for his final interview.  Then, the branch had a good-bye thingy for him.

Elder Handy slept in until noon on Wednesday (he was sick; it's okay).  Then, we spent the day doing about nothing.  He went around to say bye bye to everyone.  I had to go along.  Quite boring, I must say.

Thursday, we went back to the office to send Elder Handy away.  We took a picture of the two of us together (the only picture he took in two months with me in it), then I killed him.  No, not really.  He went home and so died.  I was his companion at the time and so I killed him.  My new comp is Elder Erickson.  He's from Phoenix.  Cool guy.  I said it twice, so you know it's true.  I really think things will look up from now on.  Not only does he have the same desires to work as I do, we work together to do it.  I don't feel unimportant any more.

We had to go back to the old house to clean it on Friday.  As I said earlier, it was horrible.  But now it's all nice and clean.  The landlord only pulled out 100 mil [tr: thousand] [ed: guaranies, the Paraguayan currency] of the deposit.  We were certain he was going to try to take it all.  We did some real missionary work after that, but I don't recall anything cool.

Saturday was actually the day we met with the landlord.  When I gave him the keys, he said there were three more.  I didn't know what to do.  I had given him all that Elder Handy gave me.  Then an idea popped into my head: maybe the keys are in the doors.  The three doors were the interior doors, and I didn't even know they had keys.  We looked, and lo and behold, they were there!  Guess what.  The idea didn't pop into my head.  It was put there.  I've noticed little things like that all week.  I was on the bus Tuesday reading the Ensign, and the bus driver turned the interior lights on.  About a minute after I had put it away, he turned them off.  Wednesday morning.  I opened my study guide for the first time in Paraguay.  I chose (did I choose?) to study the Restoration, or more specifically, the prophecies concerning the Restoration.  That night, someone had questions about… what?  Yup.  Prophecies concerning the Restoration.

We gave a charla [tr: discussion] two to our new landlords on Sunday.  It didn't go too well.  Visitors came in the middle of it, then he had to leave for a bit.  Neither of them accepted baptism, but said they'd pray about it.  We'll see.  We dropped by Jorgelina's house, and found out that she's been reading an anti-LDS book.  Grr.  She said she's going to pray, also.

Oh, by the way.  I should have a baptism this week or the week to come.  Finally!  Their names are Wifrido and Lilian.  They had all six charlas before I got here, and we found out that they were found by the elder that Elder Handy replaced.  Elder Handy was here for six months.  Long time.  They have to get married before they can be baptized, and that's why it's taken so long.  She needs identification.  However, Elder Erickson told us that they could be married with a birth certificate.  Yay!

This week's Paraguayan Peek is going to be short.  This is my last page in this notebook.  The topic: newspapers.  It appears that there are no regulations on printed material.  Elder Handy told me that sometimes they show pictures of people who have been brutally murdered.  One newspaper line always has a picture of a woman who is, shall we say, scantily clad on the front page.  I guess they need something to get people to buy.  Plus, a lot of the stories aren't true.  Hmm.  Worth buying?  Nope.  Worth reading?  Nope.

Um.  Yeah.  Bye?  Love ya!


Villa Elisa: May 27, 2000

Simper people,

Yeah, I'm writing early.  We'll move on Monday, and Elder Handy leaves on Thursday, so I took time to write tonight.  This means that this letter will be a bit short because Sunday and Monday will be left out, plus the fact that I didn't get a letter from you this week.

Tuesday was action-packed.  We had zone meeting, which went as usual.  My agenda has three names on it for all day long.  Two of them weren't there and the third told us to go away and not come back.  Oh, well.  It's his immortal soul.  I've done my part.

Wednesday was cool.  I went on splits with the zone leaders again.  This time, I was in their area.  We did a lot of work.  Nineteen charla cortas [tr: short discussions] and five charla [tr: discussion] ones.  Plus, he told me a lot about being a good missionary.  Oh, yeah.  "He" is Elder Osmond.

Thursday.  Um.  We had a charla one with the people who are going to be our new landlords, and that's about all we did.  We had our first correlation meeting with the new mission leader, which went well.  The greenie (that'd be me) had a good idea, too!  The others talked a lot about the investigators and the new members, but I brought up the inactive members.

We didn't get much accomplished Friday either.  We had a good discussion with a lady named Margarita.  She's what I would consider gold.  She needs to get married before she can be baptized, though.  For that, her… uh… guy has to get divorced.  This is a predominately Catholic nation, so it costs the equivalent of $250 to get divorced.  A marriage is only about $20.  Not very nice.  Anyway, we also had a good charla five with Jorgelina  I think she's gold, too.  She just needs to figure out what she wants.

Today was rather pathetic as well.  We walked clear across Villa Elisa, called the landlord to tell him we're moving, and then walked all the way back to our pensión [tr: apartment] to meet with him.  Grr.  We had a good charla four with Juan (the guy whose kidneys don't work).  Elder Handy snuck a charla six in there, too.  Crafty.  We came home early because, as I said earlier, we move Monday, and we need to get stuff ready to go.  So here I am writing a letter home.  ¡Que malo que soy!  (I'm so bad!  (sort of))

With the exception of Wednesday, this was a slow week.  Next Tuesday, I'll learn who my new companion is, and I'll meet him on Thursday.  Maybe things will pick up after that… (not a nice thought, I know)

Anyway, I'm gonna go away and figure something out.  I'm thirsty, so I'll probably go drink some water.  Yeah, definitely water.  Then, I'll do something else.  But before I forget…

Paraguayan Peek: animals.  There aren't really weird animals here.  I've seen three parrots and a monkey and a lot of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.  My point today is… um… never mind my point.

Doggys here fall into one of two groups: really nice or really mean.  There's some dogs near my house that aren't nice doggys.  Elder Handy stuck a good sized stick through the fence, and they snapped it in two.  Yikes.

Okay, there's two more groups: really, really sick, or just with fleas.  Really, really sick involves bugs that cause the poor puppies to lose their hair.  Makes 'em look horrid.  The other group, just with fleas, don't look bad but they are dirty-dirty.

I have no clue why, but everybody calls kittys "meechies".  I don't know if it's Guaraní for cat or not, though I don't think it is, but everyone uses it, so I've picked it up.  Meechies are also either really nice or really mean.  Think Smokey and Evil Kitty.

A quick note about… cows!  They are black and white like cows are supposed to be!  Yay!  Those brown cows that live next door to you are ugly.  Nyah.  Cows here are pretty.  They still stink though.  Kinda funny thingy: I've seen baby cows eating grass in the median in the main road of Villa Elisa.  This isn't exactly a modern city.  There's also chickens running everywhere.  I've only hit a few with rocks (but not for lack of trying!).

Okay.  I'm done for sure this time.  I go bye bye now.  Probably gonna go read the Bible.  Don't know just yet.  At any rate, I'm gone!

Love ya!


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Villa Elisa: May 22, 2000

Querida familia [tr: Dear family],

Yet another week has blown by, leaving me in the dust.  Not really, but it sounds good.  This letter's probably going to be pretty hefty.  I've got my week to talk about, a page from Dad to respond to, and a massive seven-pager from Mom.  Plus, I want to start a "Paraguayan Peek."  Each week, I'll pick one aspect of life here in Paraguay and blab about it.  Good idea, ¿no?  Now all I have to do is remember it.  Oh, by the way, up there on top means "Dear family."

Here's Dad's letter first:

… your new area.  It sounds great!
It is great!  The people are so nice.  I've yet to have a baptism, but that's okay.  It's not the number of baptisms that matters.

Our health is about the same.
Sorry to hear you're not better, but glad to hear everything is at least okay.  I don't want to hear that you've taken a turn for the worse!  Actually, if you do, I want to hear about it, but I don't want you to.

We now have the house plans for the cabin.
Could you send me a copy so I can have an idea of what it will look like?  And pictures, too?  I mean, pictures of the stages of building.

Please more details in your letters.  Mother likes that.
And you don't?  You can't tell me you don't, Dad!  Mom already told me that you always want to be the first to open my letters!  Too late!  :P

Okay, that was Dad's letter.  Here's Mom's now:

Do you need me to send you some stationary?
Um.  I don't think I do.  If you want to send it anyway, go for it.

I think it's pretty ironic that someone who has done as little physical stuff in their life should get a walking mission.
Hmph.  Exactly what are you saying?  I've done physical stuff!  I walked a lot at camp.  I, uh, helped Dad do weird things with weird things. I, uh, um… I see what you mean…

Tell us about him.
Him = Elder Handy.  Well, he's tall as me, but I outweigh him by twenty pounds.  Uh, he leaves in a couple weeks.  Other than that, I'd rather not say.

What happened to Elder Miller?
He's in La Floresta right now, which isn't far from Villa Elisa.  This puts him in my zone, so I see him every Tuesday.

(stupid Americans!)
Heh.  Americans aren't the only ones who are stupid.  There are some Paraguayans that make you say, "Why?"  Some of them make me think that their parents should talk to the bishop because they (the parents) sinned by bringing them into the world.  [ed: Wow, I really wrote that?  I'm ashamed.]

… living accomadations.
Um.  Apartment.  The two of us.  We're leaving it next week.  Exciting.

And food—what's it like?
Good.  I like almost everything I eat.  Almost.  I don't particularly care for sopa paraguaya and mandioca is a sin.  [ed: Yet, I look back on them fondly now.]  Other than than, tranquilo [tr: it's all good].  And I haven't had cereal or Smack Ramen once.  Cereal is expensive and I've yet to see the other.

So [your letters] take a while to get here.
Yeah.  What happens is I write them on Monday, give them to the zone leaders on Tuesday, who in turn gives them to the cartero (mailboy, basically), who stamps them and mails them.

Can we send things to your physical address?
Sure!  My physical address is the mission office because the mail system down here, well, isn't worth anything.  I probably shouldn't call it a system…

Will they get there?

Are the postal authorities… uh… "sticky-fingered" in Paraguay?
You could say that.  If a package is under two kilos, it's probably okay, but if it's over, it goes through customs.  I have heard of missionaries getting a package labeled "2.2 kg" but the box weighs half that.

What would you like me to send you?
Hmm… this could be useful…  I'll have to remember this…  Ahem.  I can't think of anything right now, so surprise me!  :D

Any chance of getting email?
Yes, I get email weekly.  If you mean from me, no way.  The rule is "Missionaries are not to have access to the Internet."  Okay.

Will you be allowed to call home on certain occasions?
Yes.  Christmas and Mother's Day.

So who "looks after" you besides yourselves?
Nobody.  We're big boys, Mom.  :)

Do you have a bishop?  Branch president?
Branch president.  The branch here in Villa Elisa is about eight months old and meets in a rented house until a chapel is built.  Yesterday was branch conference and we had no less than 142 people there.  That's twice as many as some wards with chapels!

Is Craig Cheney nice?
Huh?  I thought his first name was President… oh, well.  Yeah, he's awesome.  Really great guy.  Sadly, I don't get to talk to him very much.  Zone Conference and monthly interviews.  And Hermana Cheney (sorry, "Sister Cheney" just doesn't flow) is nice, too.  Great cook!  I had a chicken salad a while back.  Yum!  I actually don't eat there (the mission home) very often.

Charlie is starting his training for assistant manager at the Best Western.
Cool!  It's good to finally hear what he's up to.  It sounds like he's been doing good!  Keep me posted!

Whoa.  Four pages, and I haven't even done my own writing!  Well, I'll do that now.

Let's see… Tuesday… Ah!  Zone Conference!  Four pages of notes, all in Castellano [ed: what the Paraguayans call their dialect of Spanish] (aren't I proud of me?).  Last month, my zone (#3) baptized eight people, and there were a total of 99 baptisms in the mission.

President Cheney spoke about the Holy Ghost first.  He gave seven scriptures about it; both about teaching with the Spirit and that it is required to be a member.  Without the Holy Ghost, the baptism is worthless (Acts 19:2, 5-6).  He also said that this time isn't mine; it's the Lord's.  He told us that we aren't a bother to the people.  We are a blessing to them.  He invited us to have 100 charla cortas [tr: short discussions] in one week.  Elder Handy and I are going to do it this week.

The APs [ed: assistants to the President] were next.  They talked about using the Book of Mormon to resolve doubts.  They pointed out that doubts about anything are based on modern revelation, no matter what it's about.  And that means that if the Book of Mormon is true, then we have prophets today.  If we have prophets, we have revelation.  Good talk.

Since it was Mother's Day, Hermana Cheney talked about mothers.  She told us that we have a Heavenly Mother also, and had some elders sing "Oh my Father".  Then, she shared some stories about mothers.  Very powerful.  Also, I have written down this next sentence but I don't remember where it came from.  "God be thanked for the prayers of my family."

President Cheney talked again.  This time it was about Abraham and the covenant made with him.  I wrote a lot, but on reading it, I didn't write anything.  To put it simply, this talk wasn't too fascinating.  No, it was, but not enough to relate.

Well, that was Zone Conference.  Afterwards, we didn't really do anything so I'll just end Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the zone leaders inspected the new charla cortas and a charla [tr: discussion] one, of which I gave half.

My agenda on Saturday is full, too, but I don't remember doing anything.  Nope.  Nothing.  Well, that night we had dinner at my neighbor's house to celebrate Elder Chaston's (Elder Napoleon's comp) birthday.  They work the other half of Villa Elisa, by the way.

Sunday was good.  Branch conference with 142 in attendance, four of whom are my investigators.  It's cool when investigators attend church.  After that, we did some stuff and then took the new landlords to a fireside.  It would have been really cool if I could have squeezed in.  I spent the time studying charla two.  They liked it, though, and that's the important part.

It turned out that I didn't get to go shopping with Elder Handy after all.  He went with Elder Chaston instead, who is also leaving.  Oh, well.  That just means I won't get to buy any illegally imported electronic equipment.  Well, I don't know if it really is illegal or not, but I've seen a really nice stereo with a 3-CD changer for about $40.  Contraband?  I'll let you decide.

Paraguayan Peek (hey, I remembered) for 22May2000: Coletivos.  This is the Castellano word for bus.  Since bus is a heck of a lot shorter, I will call them buses.  Anyway, since practically no one has a car, everyone rides the buses.  They cost a mil (mil = 1000 guaranies [ed: the guaraní is the currency of Paraguay]) to ride.  That's about thirty cents or so.

Have you ever been on a roller coaster?  I have, and after riding these buses, that roller coaster ride was nothing.  The roads here are terrible.  Most are a rough cobblestone called empadrada.  In addition, the bus drivers drive pretty fast.

Remember when I said everyone rides the buses?  Well, I really mean everyone.  Sometimes all at once.  Just the other night, I rode home standing on the last step.  I could lean back just a bit and be outside.  The bus was packed.  That was actually the most fun I've had on a bus before.

Okay, I've written enough for one day.  I'm going to stop now.  Good bye!


PS Love you!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Villa Elisa: May 15, 2000

Hey fam!

Another week has flown by.  They say time flies when you're having fun.  Well, they're right.  Plus, when you're in the service of the Lord, it's even faster.  I've been a missionary for three and half months, but it seems like only a few weeks.  Anyway, I got an email from ya'll, so I'll talk about that before I tell you about this week.

This is a test to see if this gets to you.
It passed the test.

... the experience [committing people to baptism] has got to be extremely uplifting.
Yeah, well, just a little bit. :P

I am going to print this out and send it to you in the snail-mail also in case it doesn't reach you this way.
Uh.  Okay.  Go for it.

Your letter said that whatever you did on Pres. Cheney's computer "didn't work."  What were you trying to do?
Pass the time.  I didn't know what I was doing, but I did some looking around and messing, but nothing major.  I didn't know what the problem was, nor how to fix it.  I was bored, though, so I started playing.

How often will you receive your e-mail messages?
Every Tuesday.

Is it easier to reach you this way or regular mail?
Email is faster.  That's all.  Whichever you want.  It doesn't matter either way on this side of the world.

Okay.  I'm just gonna jump into my week now.  I had zone meeting Tuesday.  Elder Kump [ed: one of the two zone leaders] left for home, so we got a new Zone Leader, Elder Osmond.  He gave a really good talk on working hard.  It was really inspirational.  He invited us to give over 100 charla cortas [tr: short discussions] in a week (which we didn't do), and also to memorize the Creed (which I did).  As for the rest of the day, nothing really exciting happened that I can recall.  Wait.  I ate something new.  Mondongo.  Cow stomach.  It actually wasn't too bad.

Wednesday was cool.  The three district leaders had to go to a meeting, so their comps got stuck together.  Three greenies [ed: slang term for new missionaries] Me, Elder Miller, and a Uruguayan named Elder Rodriguez, who's been in the country for two weeks now.  We had some charla cortas and a good charla [tr: discussion] one.  We also got a "come back on Sunday."  I wasn't too enthused about that, because she didn't give me her name.  Wouldn't give it, rather.  We talked with Jorgelina again, with better results than before.  I wish I knew what was bothering her.

Thursday morning we went to San Isidro to give an interview (the district leader [ed: my companion, Elder Handy] has to interview all baptismal… uh… yeah, whatever they're called.  This wasn't too special.  What was neat about it was the sisters and I talked without much difficulty.  They're from Chile.  The rest of the day was bland.  No one wanted to talk to us!

Friday was more of the same.  We gave an interview for the other elders in Villa Elisa.  We wandered around, finding.  Well, trying to find.  We had a good chat with Margarita, but then, we always do.  She's ready for baptism.  She needs to get married, though, and for that, her… uh, guy needs to get divorced.  It costs about $20 for a wedding and $600 for a divorce.  Not nice.

I made my final decision on Saturday.  We're going to move.  The landlord is so much cooler, and the pensión [tr: apartment] is much better.  He gave us lunch, and we didn't even ask!  We also gave a charla four and a charla three.  The charla three was to a guy named Juan.  He's got some problems, physically.  His kidneys don't work.  He has to go to the hospital three times a week to get his blood changed.  It's a two hour ride.  However, he's agreed to baptism, and wants to go to church.

Sunday was nice.  We didn't have any investigators show up for church, but three inactive families did.  Plus, that lady I mentioned on Wednesday actually did let us talk.  It was a good charla, too.  Her husband was there, asking questions.  Questions are good.  They show that the person is listening.  After all the work was done for the day, I called Mom to wish her a happy Mother's Day, but you already know about that.

I ate lunch at Burger King today and I was Ren and Stimpy!  It was sooo cool!  One of my favorite restaurants and my favorite cartoon!  It was in Spanish, so I didn't understand all they said, but I was still laughing my head off.

So that's what's been going on.  Nothing major.  I'll go to the office tomorrow for Zone Conference.  I'm excited for that.  It's really neat, there.  Full report next week.  Until then, love you and bye!


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Villa Elisa: May 8, 2000

Um… hi…

Well, this is gonna be pretty hefty.  I've got my week to talk about and also I got two letters from you this week!  Finally!  Er.  Well, with that said, I'll talk about your letters.  I'll go in chronological order 'cause it's always good to start at the beginning.  The first was written on April 9, 2000 and the other I'm assuming was written on the 12th (of April).

… to see what Paraguay is like …
Um.  Well.  Er…  I've done a lot of talking already, so I think I've already answered this one (in previous letters). :P

… what kind of living arrangements you have.
Ahem.  I live in the top floor of a two-story building.  This means that sometimes there isn't enough water pressure to take a shower in the morning.  Our pension (no idea why it's called that (it makes a lot more sense to call it an apartment)) consists of three rooms and a bathroom.  We converted one room into a kitchen.  It is a mess, but not my fault.  'Twas terrible before I arrived.  The next room is the one we sleep in.  It's gunky, too.  Also, we've got a big window, which is bad because there's a street light right outside.  We've covered the window with a sheet.  This room has an air conditioner/heater.  Poor me.  The third room is where our… um… whatever they're called are.  You know.  Those things you put clothes in, but they aren't dressers.  [ed: I believe they're called armoires.]  Anyway.  The bathroom has a sink, a shower, a toilet, and… a bidet!  Yes, really!  All three rooms leak when it rains, so I'm probably going to move out in the beginning of June when our contract here expires.  We'll see.

It was wonderful to see you, if even for a very short time.
I know.  I mean, er, it was wonderful to see you, too. :)

Um, well, the rest of the letter is about weird stuff, so I'll just jump to the other letter now.

[Big picture of Smokey kitty]
Aww…  look at the cute kitty.  Aww…

I do not know if this is legal or not.  [ed: referring to sending the photo of the cat via pouch mail, which is supposed to be for just letters]
Neither do I.  I don't think it is bad.  If it is, though, you can just send neat-o pictures directly to the mission office (see return address on envelope).  That's also the address to use to send PACKAGES.  Just a little note on the side.  Nothing is required, of course.  But, if you want to send me, oh, a little bit of good, old-fashioned American candy, I wouldn't complain.  No, not at all.  :D

I do not have a lot to say this time…
No, no, no.  That's not the way it works.  I get to say that.  Me.  No one else.  You guys have to write lots and lots.  The great Joe has decreed it.  So let it be written; so let it be done.

… I am sending you copies of the letters that Heather Ferguson sent me on April and Eldon.  [ed: April and Eldon are friends of mine who were also serving missions at the time.  Heather is their mom.]
Thanks, but it's unnecessary, because Mom Ferguson sends them to me, too.

Yes, that's really how the letter ends.  No name.  Sheesh.

Okay, that's taken care of.  Now I get to blab about nothing in particular.  Actually, it'll be about my week, but, as you will see, my week and "nothing in particular" are one and the same.

Anywhen, Monday was kinda just there.  Oh, that's May 1st.  P-Day [ed: preparation day], but we really didn't do anything.  We were in the house all day long.  All I did was some reading.  Well, a lot of reading.  About six hours of it.

It rained Tuesday.  All day.  What fun.  It started when we were in the panadería (bread store--basically a bakery).  We go there every morning to get breakfast.  Anyway, back to the story.  We sat down under the canopy and waited for it to calm down a bit.  Neither of us had a jacket or umbrella or anything like that.  We got a little wet.  Just a little.  Okay, we were soaked from head to toe.  We got to zone meeting, with nothing special there expect the fact that I got six letters.  The rest of the day was blah because the people would stick their heads out the door and say "Go away, it's raining.  Come back some other day."  I was very certain it was raining.  It was for this reason that I wanted in!  Oh, by the way, we went back to the house after zone meeting and got our jackets.  Don't worry, Mom.

Wednesday was more of the same.  Rain all day long, and no one wanted to talk to us because of it.  We did manage to give two charla [tr: discussion] twos, but I can only remember one of them.  Wait, no.  The other was a review for a family has already had all six charlas.  Anyway, we set a baptismal goal date thingy for four people.  Hopefully, we'll actually be able to baptize them.

Thursday was not a good day.  Cold and wet.  Our numbers for charlas total a big fat zero.  No charla cortas [tr: short discussions], no actual charlas, nothing with present or new members.  Also, Noche de Rama [tr: Branch Night] was packed.  Oh, yeah.  Not counting the four missionaries, there were four people there.  We had a good hour of reactivation, though, with an inactive member.

Friday started off very interesting.  I met a member from Buenos Aires.  She was visiting her cousin here in Villa Elisa.  That's not that strange.  I thought it was odd that she had no problems pronouncing my name, until she said that there's an Elder Simper in her ward.  She knows Dallan!  [ed: my cousin who was serving a mission in Argentina at the time]  Isn't that weird?  She took a picture of me so she could prove to her friends that she met the other Elder Simper.  Then, from there, the day sluffed off into nothing.  We had half a dozen charla cortas, but they didn't amount to anything.

Saturday was probably the best day, workwise.  The rain quit (finally), so people were willing to talk to us.  Ten charla cortas with two charla ones.  Then, we went to help the other missionaries with baptismal interview.  The investigator didn't show.  Again.  Blarg.

I really don't want to talk about Sunday, but I'd better or Mom will go postal.  We had one investigator come to church.  That was the highlight.  We had three people on Saturday tell us that we could come on Sunday.  "We'll be here all day."  None of them were.  Not one.  And then we visited on of Saturday's charla ones.  Her husband gave us the Book of Mormon back and told us to bug off.  Not nice at all.  He didn't want to hear anything.  As we left, I said, "Well, kiss your soul goodbye."  [ed: not proud of that…]  We had someone scheduled for every hour, on the hour.  We left the house at 2:30p, and by 3:15 our schedule was ripped open to 7pm.  It was not a nice day.  We had a nice chat with Jorgelina, though.  We're going back on Wednesday.  Hopefully, we can talk…  We had also set up an appointment to watch a few church videos with some investigators at a member's house.  No go.  I got to watch a bit of Home Alone 2 in Spanish.  That was interesting.

So as you can see, this week was a lot of work, without a lot of fruit, or even seeds.  It was hard.  But I knew it would be before I filled out the mission papers.  I'm very happy to be here, so don't worry your heads about that.

One final note:  last week I talked about the difficulties I'm having with my companion.  Well, I've spent all this week praying and trying my hardest.  I'm not yet to the point where I can honestly say I love him.  I can, however, say I like him as a person.  As a missionary, that's a different story.  To me, it seems he's decided to slack a bit now that his mission is nearly over.  I could whine and cry, but I won't.  I'll just grit my teeth and bear it for another three weeks.  Yes, of course, I'll be praying for help.  I know that I can't do anything without the Lord's help, especially not this.

Anyway, love y'all!


Villa Elisa: May 1, 2000

To my family:

Hi!  Um… now what.  Uh… well, this week hasn't been all that great.  A lot of walking and talking, but not a lot of charlas [tr: discussions] given.  There was this one pretty cool thing that happened, but I'll talk about that in due time.  There's other stuff to talk about first.

Last Monday, the 24th.  I passed off charla one to Elder Handy.  This entails memorizing it and reciting it to him.  Other than that, Monday was pretty blah.

Tuesday was okay.  We had zone meeting, which was just sort of there.  Nothing spectacular to talk about.  Later that afternoon, we visited a lot of our investigators, with really nothing to show for it.  We did give one charla one to a lady and her daughter.  Both agreed to read and pray.

The cool part happened Wednesday.  We went on splits with the zone leaders.  This was originally a tough thing for me because I didn't know my way around very well.  Elder Handy told me he would show me on the map.  We had a map this whole time and he never told me.  I'd been lost for three weeks, and we had a map!  (Yeah, I'm a little bitter about that).  Anyway, I was able to guide Elder Kump around in the end.  We had no less than seventeen charla cortas [tr: short discussions], three of which I gave.  For comparison, Elder Handy and I have had maybe twelve for the other six days of the week, none of which I gave.  Anyway, we had three charla ones result from the charla cortas.  Unfortunately, this day affirmed my fears about Elder Handy being flojo [tr: lazy].

Thursday was not nice at all.  We didn't do hardy anything.  We were hosed out of three appointments that Elder Kump and I made.  That wasn't the worst part.  We went to talk to Jorgelina, and she told us that her husband was getting upset with her because she wasn't helping him do whatever it was he was doing.  We were told not to return.  This from the coolest investigator yet!  But, there's nothing we can do.  We left a Family: a Proclamation to the World pamphlet, and said our goodbyes.  If I wasn't sure before, I am certain now.  Satan does not like this work.  Jerk.

Let's see.  On Friday, we were hosed by five people.  Joy of joys.  We gave charla two to that lady and her daughter (Magdelena and Luisa).  Both accepted baptism.  That was good, of course.  Highlight of the day, obviously.

Saturday wasn't too bad.  We had a charla one with a snake (a girl about our age who tries to flirt with us).  She was so bad that we didn't set a second appointment.  She told me that I talk like a little angel.  Blarg.  If she goes to church, then we'll talk.  That night we had an awesome charla with Carmen, a lady who might as well be a member for her beliefs.  She recognized the hypocrisy in the leaders of other churches, she doesn't smoke or drink, and reads the Bible.  In fact, she was able to recite John 3:16.  Impressive.  She wasn't able to go to church this week (her idea; we never invited her), because her daughter in Buenos Aires was going to call Sunday some time, but she said that she'll definitely go next week.

Sunday was tough.  None of our investigators came to church; we had four who said "I'll be there, no matter what."  Plus, it seemed like no one was home.  We reviewed charla one with a guy, and that's all we did.

Tough week.  Going on splits with Elder Kump was the best part of the week.  It showed me why we weren't having any success to speak of.  I still haven't participated in a baptism.  It really opened my eyes.  I discovered, when I looked deep inside myself, that I don't love Elder Handy.  I know that I should, but I don't.  I try my hardest, but I just can't do it.  I've been praying my heart out these past few days to overcome this problem.  I can't do it alone.  I can't find an aspect of him to love.

For an example: last night, we were at a house of an investigator family who was slipping away.  Instead of offering to help them, he reads scriptures that aren't exactly nice.  I asked him if slamming the investigators will really do any good.  He said, and I quote, "No, but I want to do it anyway."  Plus he hasn't helped me learn anything.  In a month, we've done a total of an hour and a half of comp study [ed: companionship study.  Missionary companionships were supposed to study together for at least an hour every day.]  It's really difficult.  I haven't learned anything new since I got here, except for a little bit of stuff that I did on my own, but, once again, I can't do it alone.  This is not a good thought, but I think it's a blessing to both me and the people of Paraguay that Elder Handy leaves next month.  I feel really bad about this, but it's really how I feel.

As I said earlier, this has been a tough week for me.  I know this work is the Lord's and I'm doing his will by serving this mission in Paraguay, so I'm not getting discouraged at all.  I'm here to learn and grow, and, in order to overcome this problem I have with Elder Handy, I will have to.  Don't worry about me, though.  I'll be fine.  I've got divine support and help.

I love you all!


Villa Elisa: April 24, 2000

Greetings and salutations!

How goes everything?  Well, I hope it's good.  It gosh darn better be!  Or else I'll have to… uh… never mind.  There's nothing I can do about it from here.  Come on!  Gimme a break!  I'm halfway across the world, for cryin' out loud!

Um.  Yeah.  I'm going to talk about my week now.  Don't hold your breath for anything spectacular, though.

Okay, Tuesday the 18th.  I attended my first zone meeting.  This was different than Zone Conference.  Zone Conference is with all five zones in Asunción.  Zone meeting is just my zone.  We did a bit of talking about various things, none of which struck me as awesome, then the Zone Leader, Elder Kump, passed out mail.  I got a letter!  Wee!  It was really nice.  And, no, it wasn't from you.  :D  Other than that, Tuesday wasn't that great.  We gave a charla [tr: discussion] about the plan of salvation to an inactive family.  That's about it.

Wednesday wasn't much better.  We gave nine charla cortas [tr: short discussions] (basically, just an invitation to listen to the first discussion) to various people who live near the branch president's house.  A few people even agreed to listen, but later.  We gave a charla to another inactive family, and got to ride in their clunker.  This car is a piece of junk.  There's no other way to describe it.  The front seat is basically broken in half.  Often, the car has trouble making it up hills.  Plus, there's a hole in the floor.  Not a little one, either.  There was a piece dragging on the ground that caught on a rock as he was backing up and stopped the car from going any more.  Pretty pathetic, eh?

Thursday was more of the same.  It seemed that our lunch appointment (lunch being the primary meal here, rather than dinner) forgot we were coming.  This wasn't nice of them.  We walked literally forty-five minutes to get there, and no one was home.  Arg.  The whole day was like that.  It was only 6:30p and we had exhausted our resources and had no idea what to do.  So we went to a member's house to bum some food, which, by the way, we didn't get.  We went to Branch Night (kinda like Mutual, but everybody shows up (well, that's the theory anyway)).  That was okay.  Elder Handy taught some English, and I sat in the back singing hymns to myself.  He had planned a big ol' lesson, and I wasn't part of it.  Okay…

Friday was… interesting.  I'm assuming it was Good Friday, 'cause everybody was closed.  We had a charla with a woman who's son was annoying beyond description.  He's two and not yet potty-trained, and doesn't wear diapers or anything like that.  Yum.  Plus, she didn't seem to understand quite right.  We asked her if it would be important to be baptized like Christ was and she agreed.  We asked if she had been baptized this way and she said yes.  "Like this?"  "No, not like that, but I was baptized in the Catholic church."  Gr…  It was just a little trying.  Also, we had our interviews with President Cheney on Friday.  Remember when I said everybody was closed?  Well, this includes the bus lines.  We waited for an hour for the bus that would take us directly to the mission office.  No good.  We ended up taking two buses.  Oh, and neither of us had small change.  It costs a mil (1000 guaraníes [ed: the guaraní is the currency of Paraguay]) to ride the bus.  Both of us had 50000 bills, and nothing else.  We had to borrow a five mil from the other elders in the area.  We didn't get back to Villa Elisa (my area) until 8:30p.  We started waiting for the first bus at 1:30p.  We only spent about three hours at the mission office.  Yuck.

Saturday: We had four charlas set due to the charla cortas on Wednesday.  Three of them were no-shows and the fourth said "My husband doesn't want to talk to you.  Blah, blah, blah, Catholic, blah, blah."  Too bad.  We did manage to give a charla one to three children of this one lady.  I'd be willing to bet a few mil that she didn't care about the message.  Oh, no.  The oldest daughter is nineteen.  Ya get what I'm sayin'?  She didn't try anything funny, though.  The charla went well.  It seemed that all three understood and they all agreed to read the Book of Mormon.  This was the highlight of the week.

Sunday was back to the same blah as before.  We went to church in the morning.  It would have been great if I could only understand what was going on…  We gave Jorgelina the third charla about the Restoration, which went really well.  It seems that she's been looking for the truth, and we're the ones who brought it to her.  We don't have a definite baptismal date yet, because she wants to learn more, but I'm pretty sure she'll get baptized.

And that's my week.  Pretty slow.  The reason is because this week was the Semana Santa (Holy Week) and a lot of our regular investigators had traveled elsewhere.  So we had to do a lot of tracting, without much success.  There were moments when I felt a little discouraged, but I told that meanie Satan to go away and leave me alone.  I felt better immediately after.  Gee.  Is this work and this church really from God?  I wonder.

Anywhen, love you lots and lots!


PS  Don't know if I've already shared this one or not, but... 3 Ne 5:13.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Villa Elisa: April 17, 2000

¿Que tal, familia? [tr: What's up, family?]

Well, I've been here for a week and a half and I am just lovin' it.  This week has been great.  Well, as I look at my numbers for the week, maybe it hasn't, from a missionary point of view.  To me, however, it was great.

Let's see… Monday.  We spent all day in the mission office, messing with the computers.  Then, we went to the mission home, where President Cheney and his family live, and messed with their computers there.  I'm not pleased to say that we failed, but we got an amazing chicken salad.  Yum!

We had a district meeting Tuesday.  Nothing really big there, except I met the other missionaries in the district.  Two elders and two hermanas [tr: sister missionaries].  We talked about stuff.  I think I might even have understood some of it!

The highlight of the week was Wednesday.  I don't remember if I told you about Jorgelina, so I will.  This next little bit happened last week.  Sunday, I believe (not last night, the 11th).  Anyway, we had made an appointment with her neighbor, but when we clapped his house (it's rude to enter the yard without an invite, so instead of knocking on their doors, we clap outside the fence), he wasn't there.  His neighbor, Jorgelina, came out and told us he went to play some game or another.  We were kinda bummed, but introduced ourselves to her.  She let us in and we started teaching.  She was accepting everything really well.  Then, we got to my part.  Joseph Smith and the First Vision.  When I started, "Vi una columna de luz…" (I saw a pillar of light…), her eyes got really big and it was obvious to me that she was paying attention even more than before.  She was literally crying by the time I was done.  Such is the power of the Spirit of our Heavenly Father.

She agreed to read the Book of Mormon, which she did.  Well, not all of it, just Moroni 10:3-5--La Promesa (The Promise) and 3 Nephi 11--La Visita de Jesucristo (The Visit of Jesus Christ).  She also started reading from the beginning.  She related a story to us about it.  I'm not certain about the details because my Castellano (they don't call it Spanish down here) isn't good enough yet, but I got the main part.  She knows the Book of Mormon is true.  She was reading, turned the page, and was staring into the face of the Savior.  That night (this is Wednesday, the 12th), we taught both Jorgelina and her husband, Andres, who hadn't received Charla 1 [tr: Discussion 1].  Both of them agreed to be baptized.  My joy at that very instant is indescribable.  As we left, I said to Elder Handy, "And that is why I am here."  I'm certain you remember my other letter.  The one you shared with everyone, where I said that I want to share this with all my Paraguayan brothers and sisters.  I have done it once, and how great was my joy.  "And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!"  (D&C 18:16).

Thursday was Zone Conference.  The five zones in the Asunción area met together and we had an awesome meeting.  Hermana Cheney [tr: Sister Cheney] talked about ten things to take home.  They weren't gifts or things like that, but they were Gospel stuffs, like a greater knowledge of God and Jesus Christ.  It was pretty amazing.  Another one was a greater love and appreciation for your family.  I've already felt that, and I've only been gone for two and a [ed: yes, I forgot to write "half" here] months.  She added a scripture that I'd like to modify a bit and share the first couple of lines with you:

"I, Joe Simper, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father…" (1 Nephi 1:1)

And I thank you for that.

President Cheney talked a little about temples.  He said that, at the end of this year, there will be 121 temples in operation, under construction, or announced.  He also mentioned that, only two and a half years ago, there were fifty in operation.  We've doubled the number of operating temples in that short amount of time.  The coolest thing he said was a story about a Paraguayan family who sold everything they had (yes, everything) to attend the temple in Buenos Aires.  Talk about faith.  He also gave all of us a picture of the planned temple here in Asunción.  I'm not sure exactly where he got it, but it was from the Internet somewhere.  I snagged one for you, but I posted it in our chapel instead.  The people here have more need of it than you do.  :P

Nothing spectacular happened on Friday, but Saturday…  Elder Handy got sick.  He's got some weird thing called dengae fever.  It seems to be pretty common around here.  It's transmitted by (surprise) mosquitoes.  He had a burning fever, diarrhea, and said his entire body ached, even his eyes.  Needless to say, we didn't go out.  I spent all day reading or studying something.

Sunday rolled around, and he wasn't feeling much better.  We stayed home again.  I've read 57 Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, an entire book for missionaries, started Jesus the Christ, and spent about four hours with the Spanish Book of Mormon, looking up words I don't know and writing them down.  I got to 1 Nefi 3 [tr: 1 Nephi 3].  Anyway, I'd like to share this scripture with you that I found, altered a little bit, of course.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Elder Simper, even as you desire of me so shall it be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation.

"Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed." (D&C 6:8-9, red added).

Incredible, ¿no?  This passage really touched me (obviously).  I do desire to be the means of doing much good in this generation.

Elder Handy seems to be doing better this morning.  That's good.  Maybe we'll go out tonight.  I hope so… ¡Oh!  Guess what!  Nope!  I got my first Paraguayan thunderstorm this morning!  It was cool.  It was going on at 6:30 when I woke up, and was still going at 8:30 when I woke up again, but when I woke up the last time at 9:30, it had run it's course.  It was nice, though.  I haven't heard a thunderstorm since leaving the house so long ago.

Well, that's my report for the week.  Hurry up and get letters to me so I can write more stuff!

Love you!


PS Feel free to email me, and definitely spread my address around!  It's [ed: email address removed to fight against spam bots] with Elder Joseph D. Simper as the subject.  Have them include their mailing address, too, so I can write back.