Monday, August 29, 2011

Impromptu talks

Helloooooooooo family!

I hope you are all doing as fantastic as I am. I know I probably say this a lot, but this week went by sooooo fast. It was such a strange thing. We didn't have anything too big this week so we've mostly been working on this program in Excel to help with the baptismal records that we have to send to Buenos Aires. It used to be that when someoen got baptized, the missionaries would take a picture of their baptismal record and send it to us. Then we'd have to try to read the sometimes bad handwriting through the sometimes bad quality pictures and fill out an online form that we send to Buenos Aires. A week or two before I came here, the old Historian came up with a program in excel that made our job a lot easier. Instead of taking pictures the missionaries could fill out this form and send it via email. The problem is a lot of people still aren't filling them out right and it makes putting them into the online system a lot harder for us. For example, the missionaries are supposed to fill in the name of the stake and ward they're in, as well as corresponding numbers which were on the right side of the sheet in a chart that they could look up. But some missionaries were too lazy and still didn't fill it in. One person put "nose" (instead of "no sé" which means "I don't know") which I thought was pretty funny. But, when people do stuff like that it means we've gotta get out a sheet and look up the number. And when you have a lot of missionaries doing that it takes up a lot of time to look all of those numbers up.

So this week we've been working on making that program a little better, which has been way cool because before I knew hardly anything about excel. I came with a way so that they can select their stake from a drop down menu and then the corresponding number automatically gets filled in. Then, depending on which stake they selected, they can select a second drop down menu with all of the wards in that stake, and when they do so, the cooresponding number for their ward also automatically gets filled in. That's the biggest change we've made, the rest of the other stuff has been pretty minimal. But we've got a couple more programs in mind that will deal with other tasks that we have to do and hopefully will make those a bit easier too.

Alright, story time. Once upon a time, Elder Lounsbury was sitting in church on a normal Sunday in Argentina. He was happily sitting waiting for the priesthood meeting to start when suddenly the bishop comes up and says to him, "Hey, you know you have a talk today, right?" Elder Lounsbury pleasantly laughs at the joke. And then his laugh turns to sobs when the bishop continues talking and he realizes it isn't a joke. Okay, maybe not sobs, but they definitely weren't laughs. And yup, that's basically the story. So I spent the next two hours of church furiously trying to think of a topic/come up with a talk on that topic before sacrament meeting. Luckily we have preisthood and sunday school beforet sacrament meeting but still, even in english I like taking a lot of time to think through and practice a talk, and I definitely didn't have any time to in this situation. In the end I spoke about the scriptures and how we can recieve answers to our prayers or problems through the scriptures. I told one story about when it happened to me and one story about when it happened to a companion, both through completely random scriptures that seem normal but that in certain situations were a specific answer to a prayer or problem. It was a pretty cool talk if I do say so myself. haha. But I was definitely way nervous... Apparently that sort of thing happens a lot when you're a missionary and someone doesn't show up who was supposed to give a talk, ect. So it was good practice I guess.

Oh, also, my ward is pretty big. I think it's the biggest one I've been in so far. And we even have two wards that meet in the same building, which I've never seen before so that's also pretty cool. We have some way cool families and I think I'm really going to like working there.

Welp family, that's about all I got for now.

With all the love of an oreo,

Elder Lounsbury

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Office(s)

Alright family. This has been one of the weirdest weeks of my life. Maybe the most bewildering week of my life would be a better term. Remember that one time I was in San Martin and expecting to stay because I had only been there one transfer? Yeah, me too. It didn´t happen. Not only did it not happen, but I got transfered to a little place called the mission offices. I was expecting to maybe get someone who has less time than me and start being a senior companion; the offices didn´t even cross my mind. Elder Guillen and I seriously thought our Zone Leaders were playing a joke on us until they came home and told us it was for reals haha. Everyone else here in the offices is going home in the next 4 months....haha. We think that I got chosen because in the picture that the mission uses for everything (they take it when we first get here) I´m wearing glasses.. It´s the only thing I can think of.

Anyways, you´re probably wondering what I do all day now. So am I. My offical title is "Historiador." My first thoughts were "I have no loving feelings towards history" but it turns out it´s not quite as I was thinking. Right now the old Historiador is training me and teaching me what exactly it is that we do here. So far, I´ve picked up on a couple things. One thing I do is fill in a form online and send all of the mission numbers to Buenos Aires. For example, all of the new investigators, lessons with members, baptisms and confirmations, etc. for the whole week get reported to the Area. I also make sure after someone is baptized that we get their records. I fill out a form online for every person that gets baptized, and then I make sure the real record gets sent to Buenos Aires. Apparently I also do a lot of stuff when new missionaries come, like getting these binders ready and I don´t really know what else. I also do something for Zone Conferences, but I don´t what that is either haha. I'm also in charge of random translations between Elder and Hermana Packer (who are a senior couple from the states who work in the offices) and President Avila and his wife. The first few days were absolutely insane, but I think I´m starting to get a little more used to everything.

My schedule goes like this: Monday is a normal P-day, we are free until 6 o´clock and then we go out into our areas and start to work. Tuesday - Friday we're in the offices at 10 after personal and companionship study and we work until 4, then we go out into our areas and work. And Saturday and Sunday we spend the whole day working in our areas. It´s been really tiring so far because President is hoping that we keep lunches to 30 minutes and usually we had an hour for lunch and then an hour and a half of language study, so we got a little bit of a break during the middle of the day and then work straight until 9. It´s interesting because you have to balance two worlds, all of the projects or things you need to get done in the office, and all of the people you need to visit and teach. But I love all the Elders that are here and we´re having a lot of fun. I´m going to learn a lot and that´s what I want!

A couple benefits of being in the office is that when new Elders are coming we get to eat the awesome meals they get. We also have Hermana Packer (who is the mission nurse) who loves to cook. She made Chili on Friday for all of the Elders here. It was heavenly. I´m so stoked to be here during Thanksgiving and Christmas (since it´s practically guaranteed that the office Elders will be here for 6 months).

Welp, as usual, thanks for all the love!

With all the love of a geek,

Elder Lounsbury

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

La tour de Argentina

Welp, this week is the last of the transfer. Once again, time is going way too fast. Can you believe it's been a year since I got my call? It all seems really weird. Also, did you know Madeline is going to be a junior? That just blows my mind in 17 million pieces. Noah is starting kindergarten and Caleb just got the priesthood. . . Time is such a strange thing.

This week I got to ride a bicycle! Which is a really rare thing because a couple years ago they made a rule that we couldn´t. (Which is weird right? since I´m sure white shirts and bikes are what everyone thinks when the picture a missionary) Anywho, I guess we have special permission or something because there´s a barrio (neighborhood) that is super far away. Last time it took my companion and his old companion almost an hour to get there, so you can imagine how long it would take walking. And there´s only like two buses a day and if we miss it we´re in trouble, so bikes are the solution. This time we made in there in like 30 minutes, but we were booking it. I think the last time I rode a bike was when I was like 9 haha, so my legs were burning like the entire time. But Lance Armstrong never quits and neither does Elder Lounsbury.
I think this week we taught one of the poorest people I think I´ve ever taught. We had actually talked to him in the street before and we saw him again and he said he had some time so we walked to his house (if you can call it a house). We didn´t actually go in because there wasn´t room. He basically lived in a tent. There were like four wooden posts covered in plastic that were maybe about half the size of my room and like two pots outside where I guess he cooked when he could. It´s incredibly eye opening and sad to see the difference in living conditions. You definitely get a new perspective and new appreciation for everything you have.

On a different note, we find out tonight if Elder Guillen is going to leave or stay another transfer. And we´re pretty sure one of the Elders in our pench is leaving so either way I´ll be getting something new. But I´ll let you all know about those next week.

I hope everything is going splendid,

With all the love of the Jamaican bobsled team,

Elder Lounsbury

Monday, August 8, 2011

Keep Moving Forward

This week we moved apartments! It was a pretty big project, it took us two full days to pack and clean up everything and actually complete the move. Thursday we started packing and cleaning and then Friday we actually moved. Packing didn´t really consist of putting things in to boxes, instead we just had random stuff shoved into about every plastic bag we owned. It was quite the difference experience than what we get in the states. Moving trucks like we have with nice little ramps to walk up don´t exactly exist here. You can either get what´s called a flete, which is pretty much just a regular truck, or you can get a camion which is more like a dump truck. We would have had to take multiple trips using the flete so we settled for the camion. But, it meant that loading up everything included lifting it up about 4 feet in the air and then sliding it on to the bed of the truck. Two dressers, two fridges and an oven. Luckily one of the zone leaders (who we live we) is an Elder from Panama who wakes up half an hour early just to work out more and easily resembles the hulk.

Loading everything up wasn't too bad, but hauling everything to the second floor of our new apartment proved to be a little difficult. Especially since the normal stairs we use have like two corners. We barely got the first dresser up and in the process chipped off some of the new paint in the stair case and broke a hopefully insignificant bottom piece of the dresser haha. The second dresser was much bigger and heavier. Luckily there's a second staircase in the back of our apartment, and the owner of the panaderia (bread store) let us take this giant dresser through his store because he has access to the yard where our back stairs go to. (That's one of the pictures I sent). This is where the moving gets a bit unorthodox. We figured it would be easier to put the dresser on its back and use the stair railings to push it up, rather than carry it up the stairs like normal people would. So, we flipped the dresser so the drawers were facing up, set it on the railings, and began to push. Then we got to the top and couldn't push it any longer because the stair railings connected in the middle of the gate (I think there's another picture I sent that will help you get the idea of what I'm talking about.) So some of the Elders lifted up the front part of the dresser so we could make it past the gate and me and one other Elder pushed from the bottom. Haha. I was so scared it was going to fall back and I was going to get decapitated. But we pushed it over the gate and once we got it past the middle it flipped down just fine. Seems like some kinda crazy idea Dad would have, but it works, and I'm alive. You can thank Elder Guillen for the pictures, while we were barely holding this thing up he was busy documenting it for our future children haha.

We also had zone conference this week. It was the first one with President Avila. He´s only changing a few things like now our district meetings are on Tuesday morning instead of Monday night. He talked about planning and how to me more effictive with that. He hasn´t made any big changes yet, we can still drink coke and pepsi and play soccer on P-days haha. Oh, one interesting thing is that we´re getting DVD players for our apartments now. Like apparently this is a world wide thing, but now we´ll have those to watch this DVDs called The District which are like training DVDs on how to do pretty much everything you do as a missionary. How to work with the ward leaders, the members, how to teach, how to plan, how to study, it pretty much has everything. So the church must think those are going to help a lot.

Another weird note, you remember how it was snowing last week? Yeah, well it pretty much feels like spring now. I was getting hot the other day in just a long white sleeve shirt. Hopefully it stays this nice haha.

Love you all,

Elder Lounsbury

Monday, August 1, 2011

August Snowfall

Hello family, how are you all doing? To start off the period button on this keyboard is horrible and either doesn´t work or puts like a huge line of periods. But that alright, maybe I´ll just try to use long sentences that never end.

As you can probably tell by the title, we´ve been getting a little bit of snow here. Even though today was actually really nice and we played soccer with short sleeves etc, on Saturday and Sunday we got about one inch of snow. Elder Guillen was excited because it doesn´t ever snow in El Salvador, but I have to admit, he is a terrible snow man maker. Haha. The mountains looked way cool and I´ve got a couple cool pictures so I´ll try to send you some soon. This week was pretty good. We´ve found a lot of people and have had success entering in houses and teaching people, which is a giant improvement from my last area, but we´re struggling in finding a way to have people progress. It´s almost as if we have too many investigadors. We have like over 20 people that have let us in and we´ve taught once or a couple times but it´s hard to focus on any of them because then you leave the other ones out. And a lot of times we pass by and their not home or something so that´s kind of where we´ve been lately.

But we´ve had several people just this week accept baptismal fechas. On Saturday we were looking for an old investigador but ended up running into someone else who had talked with the missionaries before and has a book of mormon. She goes to an evangelical church but she seemed way prepared because she had really cool answers to our questions and told us that she´d pray and that she´d get baptized if she got an answer. Later that day we talked to a different old investigador who had a guest over and at first the guest seemed kinda closed and uninterested but after we started talking a bit he opened up and after the prayer he told us that he´d actually listened to the missionaries before and has a book of mormon as well and that he wanted us to come by. There´s a lot of people here like that, they´re willing to listen and seem really prepared but getting them to follow through on their promises is a bit harder. For example we had like 5 people tell us they were going to come to church last week and none of them came haha. But they have good desires and we just need to learn how to work with those a little better.

I´m trying to think of cool stories that I have for you all but I can´t think of many this week. I´ve learned to play chess and I actually really like it. But maybe that´s just because I don´t have many other forms of entertainment right now haha. I´m also learning how to cook super awesome Argentine food because we don´t have lunches like 3 days of the week and one of the Elders we live with knows how to cook really well.

This sunday was kind of funny. I was supposed to give a talk but on Saturday the bishop told me he had assigned someone else so I was going to have it another week. Then in the first hour of church (we have sacrament meeting last) he told me that person hadn´t come and asked if I could give it. I didn´t have any of my notes or materials so I spent the second hour trying to remember everything I had written down and where all the scriptures were etc. I don´t know why but I was pretty nervous just trying to get everything together. Finally I finished everything just before sacrament meeting started. Andddddd then the first speaker spoke for like 45 minutes. I´m not joking. She took up the entire time, literally. I did not have to say one word because the bishop signaled to me I would just do it another week haha. It was funny because I was supposed to give this talk like 3 weeks ago but for some reason or another it´s just kept getting put off for longer. Also, in the first hour we talked about things we should and shouldn´t do in a talk because people had been just reading old talks or taking too much time (which we talked about) and then this hermana spoke for like an hour. Haha. It was a really really good talk though, and it saved me so I was grateful.

Welp, thanks for all the updates and I hope everyone is doing fantastic.