Monday, December 28, 2009

First Christmas in Argentina

Hello family and friends!

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and will be having a fantastic New Years this week! Christmas down here was unlike anything i´ve ever experienced... and not just because it is HOT and humid! We had a great dinner Christmas Eve with our neighbors who live in the house behind us (we had to be "in the pension" at 6:30) and watched Joy to the World and sang some Christmas hymns. After that it was straight to bed at 10:30... I slept really great until midnight when it sounded like we were being bombed! At first when I woke up I thought it was just a really big Thunderstorm. The fireworks here are super loud, and not even that exciting to look at, and EVERYONE was outside doing them. Apparently New Years is going to be worse. We watched them for a couple minutes and then went back to bed and did our best to try and sleep.

My first Christmas in the mission will probably be a day I will always remember, and luckily it will always be a GOOD memory! We had our interviews with President Asay in Banfield (have to take a bus and a train to get there) that morning which went really well, he is an amazing man! After we finished up with interviews and district meeting we went to the mission home a block away from the chapel and had a Christmas FEAST with President Asay and his wife as well as his sons family who is visiting for the holidays! I´m not going to lie one of my favorite things about being in the mission home is being able to walk around in socks ON CARPET! The food of course was fantastic, everything a Christmas feast should be. We had ham, potatoes, different salads, desserts... and most importantly cheesecake and pumpkin pie! We concluded our little celebration having each of the districts share a brief message about Jesus Christ to celebrate the reason for the season as well as singing some Christmas hymns. We also had a quick white elephant gift exchange which was very entertaining with a group of 20 missionaries. I was very grateful that Pres. Asay let us into their home to share that special day with him and his family. There is nothing like Christmas at home, but then again there is nothing like Christmas in the mission either! When we finished up in Banfield it was time to be back in the pension and we got to call our families! It was so good getting to talk to all of you and hearing your voices! I´m already looking forward to getting to call again for Mothers Day!

The past couple days we´ve been working really hard to catch up on the work we missed out on during the holidays. We have some great investigators and we are going to have a couple more baptisms this Saturday! Jorge received the Aaronic Priesthood this last week and hopefully will be blessing the sacrament next week! It has been amazing to see how the gospel has changed and blessed his life. This week we watched The Testaments with him and his family, and the wife seems a lot more receptive now! The only challenge now is to get them to church! This Sunday I also gave my first talk in the mission! Luckily it was a very easy first talk... 3-5 minutes about missionary work! I wasn´t nervous at all and it went really well! The Branch Pres. wife complimented me on my spanish afterwards as well, so that made me feel pretty good too! Hopefully we will have some more luck getting people to help us with the missionary work here in the Branch as we still don´t have any ward missionaries!

That´s all for today! I hope you all have a fantastic week and a Happy New Years! This is the last week of my second transfer so there could be some news about some changes next week!

¡Les Quiero Mucho!
Elder Ian Wheelhouse

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Feliz...Merry Christmas!

Hello Family and Friends!

Merry Christmas Eve! Here in Argentina I guess the biggest fiestas are today to celebrate the "Noche Buena". I don’t know how many people will be out celebrating tonight unless the rain clears up because it has been raining most of the night and all morning. Anyways, as if there wasn’t enough to talk about for a single week like usual, today I get to try to tell you about what has happened since the last time I got to write a week and a half ago!

I received the packages from home and from Kristine this last week, and I just want to say THANK YOU for keeping them small! The envelopes were perfect sized and I didn’t have to pay ANYTHING! My companion and some other missionaries have already spent 400-500 pesos to receive their packages (100+ dollars) which is ridiculous! Thank you so much for everything and I am very excited to unwrap some presents tomorrow by our little Christmas trees! :) We had another baptism this week for Alejandra! She asked me if I would do it and of course I said yes! We had the service on Saturday, which unfortunately was a rainy day so we didn’t have too many people show up from the branch. The service went great and it was a very cool experience to do a baptism in Spanish! (The water was even nice and hot, but not as deep as I was expecting!) She has a strong testimony and has made some good friends in the church. We had a big fiesta with our branch and one of the other wards in our stake that she came to which was a great chance to get to know the members. It helped even more that the party didn’t really even start until 9:00 which was when we had to leave so she was forced to make some friends. :) We would love to have her 4 kids and her mom come to church as well, but she says it would be too difficult even with our help. We’ll see what happens with that...

Sunday, like most of the rest of the world, we had our Christmas themed sacrament meeting. We share our church building with another ward and their sacrament meeting starts at 9:30. We arrived to church a little late (9:15 or so) and when we got there the other ward asked if I would play the piano for their big Christmas program! I said I would... and I did, and it actually didn’t turn out so bad. I hadn’t ever played any of the songs with people singing before, but somehow I was able to make it through without too many problems. I love the Christmas hymns and I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to share them with this other ward. In our Sacrament meeting we had Alejandra’s confirmation which went really well! Our ward mission leader did the confirmation, and it’s always amazing hearing the things that are said in blessings that are exactly what that person needs to hear even though they barely even know them.

For Christmas we also got to get together as a Zone and do a service project. For our project, the hermanas arranged for us to go play with the kids at an Orphanage in their area. It was a little sad but we had a great time playing with the kids! We also had several bags of toys that were donated by members, and it was awesome handing those out as well! We had a couple Elders who took guitars and played and sang primary songs, people were playing ball, swinging on the swings, reading, drawing, and I was the "caballito" for a little kid named Seba who rode around on my shoulders for about an hour and a half. The kids had a lot of problems, but we all had a lot of fun and it was very sad leaving! The workers were very grateful, we were very grateful as well for the great opportunity, and it really is amazing what they do for these kids every day.

That’s all I have time for today, but I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and I am very excited to call home tomorrow! (I will call tonight to let you know what time I will be calling tomorrow).

¡Les Quiero Mucho!

Elder Wheelhouse

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baptism in Fiorito!

Mon, 14 Dec 2009

Hello family and friends!

It was great hearing from so many of you this week and I wish I had more time to email you all back! Sounds like some exciting things happened this week, and I have learned it is so much better to be busy than to have to try to find things to do. I am doing really well but very sick of being sick! I´m trying to accept that maybe that´s just part of being a missionary and trying hard not to complain too much. :P Just a heads up, I will not have another P-day until next Thursday (Dec. 24) so you probably won´t hear from me until then. But here is a little bit about my week.

First off, we had our first baptism this week! Jorge Rodriguez (44) was baptized and it was great to have his whole family there for the service! He is setting a great example for his family and hopefully they will follow it soon! The service went really well and we had great support from the members in our Branch. Elder Spence did the baptism, I was a witness and played the piano, and the Branch did everything else. What a great experience to see him take this essential step in his life and make this covenant with our Heavenly Father. The confirmation took place in church the next day, which unfortunately his family didn´t come to, and he met with our Branch President after to have a priesthood interview. He is very excited and already feels very accepted in the Branch.

Coming up this Saturday we have another Baptism. Alejandra (26), the aunt of the baby that died, is very excited to be baptized and has progressed really fast. She has 4 kids and lives with her mom, so it would be great if all of them could come to her baptism! More about this next week.

This week I went on my first intercambio with a Latin companion. It was a great way to evaluate my spanish and it actually went really well! I still have a lot to learn, but we were able to talk all day and he said he could understand everything I was saying (he does have some practice listening to other Elders try to speak his language though). I have learned a lot from Elder Spence and from studying the language as well, but there is nothing better than talking to people that already speak the language perfectly.

Sorry it´s so short this week, we are headed back to the pension to rest for a little bit before we go back out for work. Also, lucky me, I get to wake up at 430am tomorrow morning to go to Capital with the rest of the Elders that came down here with me to fill out some more Documents! I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Les Quiero Mucho
Elder Ian Wheelhouse

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hello again from Argentina! (7 DEC 09)

¡Querida familia y queridos amigos!

Good news, myldsmail account is up and running again and I recieved your emails from last week. Good to know all is well and it´s always great to hear from you. We have yet to enjoy an entire week without a rain storm, maybe that´s just how it is here, but today is a beautiful day. We have developed a new system for rating how nice the weather is by how many Testigos de Jehova are out in the streets. The higher the number, the nicer the day. Rainy days = 0. Along with the weather Elder Spence and I have been a little sick which isn´t any fun, but the work goes on despite the weather and I´m learning how to be better about not complaining.

This past week we had our Zone conference. It´s always fun to see the other missionaries from our area and I got to talk with Elder Hinton and some other friends from the MTC for a bit. There is so much to learn and we have some great leaders. One of the senor missionaries had a son who was visiting and he shared his testimony (in Spanish) with us which was pretty cool. Also it is always great to hear from Pres. Asay and his wife and I have no doubt he is called of God to direct this work here in Argentina Buenos Aires South! Also, we found out that because Pres. y Sis. Asay live in our Zone in Banfield, our zone gets to have our interviews for the transfer on Christmas day and eat Christmas dinner in the mission home! Nothing like being at home... but I suppose it would probably be the next best thing! :)

This week there was a very sad accident that happened in our area. There is an area with housing of 2 storie, very narrow, brick houses that are all smashed together, kind of like what you might call a condo? Anyways, apparently a 3 year old was playing with a lighter and started something on fire and it burned through 4 or 5 houses (luckily didn´t hit the shared gas line that runs through all the houses). Everyone made it out safely except for the baby brother of the kid that started the fire who was upstairs sleeping. Very sad. We later found out that the baby that died was the nephew of one of our investigators (Alejandra) whom we recently started teaching the plan of salvation. What a blessing to be able to teach her the second part of that lesson, that life is more than just this very brief existance on the earth. It was amazing to see her outlook change on the whole event, that even though she was still very sad, she felt a great comfort and peace in the knowledge that families can be together for ever, and that her and her family will see that baby again. In Testimony meeting this Sunday this event was brought up because several members live close to where it happened. Alejandra showed up for the last 15 minutes or so of Sacrament meeting (we passed by her house in the morning but she had been up all night with the mother of the baby and was sleeping when we got there) and Elder Spence shared a very powerful testimony of the plan of Salvation, couldn´t have been more perfect. After the meeting she told us that she really wanted to bring her sister and her whole family because she recognizes the comfort the gospel can bring.

It doesn´t even feel like Christmas is close, but even the stores in Argentina go all out with decorations and stuff for Christmas and I have even seen a couple houses with Christmas Lights. Apparently Christmas is also a pretty dangerous time of year, and we have some special rules to help us stay safe! The last couple weeks I have been playing the piano in sacrament meeting and have had some time to practice. It´s been fun playing some of the Christmas hymns, but wow, nothing makes you miss home more than thinking about Christmas. At the same time this made me realize the great opportunity I have to refocus myself on the true meaning of Christmas. Last night the mission put on a Christmas program called "noche de luz" that they have done the last several years with singing and a story/movie all put on by the missionaries. It was fantastic and was a perfect way to remember and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas through honoring the life of Jesus Christ. There were lots of members and investigators there and it was awesome how they tied in the message of the Restoration as well. There was a great spirit there and I know everyone there had to have felt the same. I would challenge you all to do something a little extra this year to remember the life of our Savior at this time of year and to follow the example he has set for us.

Anyways, that´s all for this week! Have a fantastic week and be careful with the snow and ice while I enjoy some sun!

¡Les quiero mucho!

Elder Ian Wheelhouse