Monday, December 11, 2017

Mon., 12/11/2017 (Neuland)

It's been another week here in Neuland. There is always something to learn from being a missionary, whether it be from conferences, companions, people, or whatever! This Tuesday we had Zone Conference, which was great! It was a little different this time around than normal, because they used a lot of visual examples. Normally we read a lot of scriptures and learn in kind of a class setting, but this time we were out and about, including sanding and spray painting blocks for kids to play with, relay races, a few videos, and to wrap it up a white elephant activity! We learned a lot about service, and also enduring to the end and never letting up. There were a lot more things we learned but I can't write them all because there isn't time! It went a lot longer than normal, but it was okay because we had a lot of fun. Monday evening we had received the news that we were supposed to get white elephant gifts (our district, the Chaco always gets news a little late), so we had to go find gifts in Asuncion that are worth 2 dollars (approx) or less. I found a nice pair of duck swim goggles for about a dollar, so I got those (hopefully the recipient can be protected from soap in his eyes while showering! We got Mexican food for dinner (Elder Ruiz approved), then got on our colectivo home. The rest of the week not too much happened, just working with the people. Sunday we had a really good day in church; 40 people came in Neuland! That's the most I've seen here in my 4 months! I gave a talk and led the music, then we taught Sunday School. After church we had a small capacitacion meeting with the branch President and Secretary. Were excited to be here helping the people in Neuland! I have been able to learn a lot about myself and my companion this week! We are preparing a lot for the coming week; hoping to make it even better than this week! I have learned a lot about attitudes, and having a positive mentality. If you have a positive attitude, you can do all things, but if you are pessimistic or don't have faith, it holds you down, and can to others too! But if you have a positive mentality you can raise others up! Please go look for someone else to lift up! This world has a lot of people that are sad but don't need to be sad! Show them the light! Light the world! I hope y'all have a great week!

1 painting blocks

2 same

3 Elder Ruiz from mexico, with Elder Mejicanos

4 Elder Tesucun and those he trained (or finished training) in order 1 2 3

5 The recipient of my goggles: Elder Castellaw from Virginia! Someone else from the southeast, finally! He knows what Cookout, Bojangles, NC barbeque, and all that good stuff is!

6 It was multizone this conference, so I got to see Elder Cartagena!
7 The zone (new name change) Limpio A. Interestingly, there are only 2 Hermanas in the whole zone!

8 Elder Ruiz really wanted the sombrero picture!

9 at 8.30 pm there's our temperature.. its hot and right now, HUMID!
10 Sunset!
11 We got a fridge!
12 The trees here are fat!


Q:  What do you use for music at meetings?

A:  We use our portable DVD player with a speaker to play CDs of the songs.

Q:  Was the roof ever replaced that flew off during that storm?

A:   The roof still isn't on. 

Q:  You mention several towns in which you work and serve.  Do each of them have a branch of the church?

A:  Neuland is a Branch with Paraiso being just a group. Abundancia has 2 branches (1 for Spanish and 1 for Nivacle).  Filadelfia is a branch, with Loma Plata as a group. There is also a branch called Mistolar that has a group called Campo Ampu, but they only receive occasional visits from the missionaries.

Q:  What did you do for Christmas last year and what are your plans this year?

A:   I was in Asuncion for Christmas last year. Here they just have a cookout I guess. 
Mon., 12/4/2017 (Neuland)

Here I am again in Neuland for my 4th change here! It's been a busy week as usual. We started out with changes. Sunday we received the call that Elder Castañeda was getting transferred. President had already told us that that was the 99 percent probability, since we had been together for 3 changes (4 months). Monday night we took a colectivo to Asuncion, where we waited for changes. Elder Castañeda went to Horqueta (an area close to Yby yau, my old area), and will be finishing another Elder's training. I received Elder Ruiz from Mexico as my new companion! He was born in Tijuana, but has lived most of his life in Durango, Mexico. We were supposed to go back to Neuland on a colectivo that night, but there was a problem with the schedule and the office Elders got us to the bus stop a little too late, so we stayed the night and took a colectivo to Filadelfia at 6am the next day. Wednesday night we were able to get back to our area. We spent the rest of the week showing Elder Ruiz around. Neuland is his 2nd area in the mission, and he has 4 months here in Paraguay. He's excited to get back to work, and it's going to be a good 6 weeks. Sunday we had church, with a solid 32 people that came. A lot of people bore their testimonies, and it went really well. Everyone's been asking when we will sing Christmas songs, so we sang a bunch during Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School (we're now up to 2 hours of church these days, which is another advance!). We worked hard these last few days and Elder Ruiz has been working so hard to get accustomed to life here in the desert! He even has a couple of blisters from us walking too hard! hahaha It's a little different here in the Chaco. He is excited and willing to learn English, which is also awesome. Last night we took a colectivo to Asuncion for Zone Conference, which we will have tomorrow. We got in around 4 am. This morning we had interviews with Pte Evans. My interview with him went well. Its always great having a 1 on 1 with President Evans, because he has a lot of great ideas and support. He is definitely called of God to help us. Other than that, that's my week! Thanks for the emails and prayers! Make sure to be reading scriptures, praying and go to church!

Cool facts about my new companion
1 He's from Durango, Mexico.
2 He's 26 years old and is a convert, the only member of the church in his immediate family.
3 He's been companions with Elder Baez and Elder Tesucun.
4 He knows how to cook Mexican food like tortillas.


1 With Elder Ruiz, my new companion! Well the other photos aren't working, but I'll try sending some more if I can find out how they work!

2 Out here in the middle of nowhere.

3 Terere (crushed up plants and water) is pretty popular here, even the babies drink it!

4 Digging a trench for service project

5 Fun stuff really, digging trenches

6 The banner for Neuland's Weihnachtsmarkt aka reading the story of Christ's life in German and singing a lot of Christmas songs

7 Elder Ruiz wanted a photo in front of every possible sign that says Neuland

8 The kids like cards

9 They like them a lot, and run at us yelling tarjeta! We stop them for a second, and teach them basic things like showing a picture of Jesus Christ and teaching them his name, then give them their tarjetas

10 literally every sign in Neuland hahaha

11 That sign is kind of cool too

12 There's a map of Neuland too, its kind of small

13 Neuland has 2 names- I like this one better but I guess nobody else does

14 Elder Ruiz cooking chile relleno

15 Elder Ruiz really likes granola, so we had some bowls after church on Sunday. Cool fact- here everyone fasts from lunch to lunch, not dinner to dinner. Its actually a little more practical

16 With Elder Ruiz, Elder Brower and his new trainee, Elder Peña from the Dominican Republic (he reminds me a lot of Nic Clements) during changes

17 So there's a place half a block from the mission office that's a food court, and there's a really good Mexican food place called Pinche Cabron (that is a phrase that in some other Latin American countries is/could be considered vulgar, but it's got good food so the Chaco district always eats there when we go to Asuncion. We went to the food court to grab a bite to eat, and an Asian guy walks up to the food truck, and tells the guy he was going to pay for everyone there- a bunch of starving missionaries. It turns out he is a member and works at the US embassy. He's an MVP, because we all ate free. What a nice guy.

Well that's the week, have a great one all of y'all!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Mon., 11/27/2017 (Neuland/Paraiso)

Sorry everyone! We don't have much time today, and the computers here in Abundancia are sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow. Anyways I'm glad I have a little time to write. This week was a bit slow with Elder Castañeda and I at the hospital with a shoulder problem he had. We also went to Paraiso this week from Friday to Sunday. Imagine a community of about 85 houses in the middle of NOWHERE, and everyone decided to leave for the weekend and not tell us so we were in the middle of a ghost town for a couple days!! A few people stayed home to play soccer all day Saturday, so Sunday we had 10 people in church. Kind of a bummer but it was awesome and here's why:
1-We taught Isabelino and Adriano how to bless/prepare/pass the Sacrament and they did it this week!
2-For the first time ever we had Sunday School in Paraiso.
3-These members hardly even understand basic Spanish but they read their scriptures, pray and go to church>>>>> that's a lot of faith!
4-One of our investigators and a couple recent converts from Paraiso went to church in Neuland.
5-Not a very large percentage of missionaries get the opportunity to preside and/or conduct Sacrament Meeting.
6-Well this is in Neuland, but since I lead the music I get to pick the hymns! I always pick really good ones that only I know, and then they learn the songs! They're learning so many hymns, its awesome!
7-These people are really so humble its great!

We received change news, and I will be receiving a new companion here! It's kind of sad that Elder
Castañeda has to go, but we have been here for 3 transfers together. It was a good 3 changes, and I think I'd describe it as Pte Evans said this week; we were a "Dynamic Duo." I think Dad, Steve and Davy will get that reference! Thanks for all your prayers and emails! Have a great week!


1 Elder Castañeda and some meds from the doctor.
2 Sunset in Paraiso.
3 from Left to Right- Adriano, Silvestre, Isabelino, me, Elder Castañeda, and Donatelio
4 Fun times in Paraiso! We did have 10 people (and 3 dogs) in church. It all worked out though because someone took all the seats while we were gone but we recuperated 12 in total so there were enough.
Mon., 11/20/2017 (Neuland/Paraiso)

This week has been a really busy one, and I don't have much time so I'll make it quick. Last Monday after writing home I got a little sick, and as such the rest of the day and Tuesday we were unable to do anything. Wednesday and Thursday we went ham in Neuland as usual. Friday Elder Whipple and Elder Parker came for baptismal interviews, and Saturday we had the baptisms of Fredalia and Feliciano. It was a big day and here is why:
1 As usual the guy with the water came hours late so we had to postpone the baptism, but we did get to watch Mormon Messages with all the people that came and it was awesome.
2 Fredalia understands everything we have taught, and is pretty far into reading the Book of Mormon. She even marks her favorite scriptures! Her grandpa is a member and helped us teach her.
3 Feliciano is also a cool guy. He used to have a lot of bad stuff going on in his life, but is now sober and learning how to be a better dad and teach his sons!

4 Y'all remember Nicacio, our convert that got baptized last month and went to the temple? Well he got the priesthood so he could go to the temple, and we asked him to baptize his brother-in-law, Feliciano. We turned to the page in Doctrine and Covenants where it talks about how to baptize, and guess what? He already had it memorized! Great guy, They were so happy. Us too!

During personal time we also watched the last part of The Testaments (where Jesus Christ comes to the Americas) in
Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, Finnish, Mandarin, Russian and English. Believe it or not, we as usual felt the overwhelming feeling of love and testimony for the people we are serving here every time we saw it. Even in Mandarin when we understood 0% of the words, we still were able to feel that testimony of Christ. I encourage you all to watch that movie and reflect on the fact that what happened really did happen, and you don't have to rely on my words. You can pray to know it's true, and God answers prayers. I hope y'all all have a great week!

[PICTURES didn't upload.  Sorry!]

Monday, November 13, 2017

Mon., 11/13/2017 (Neuland/Paraiso)

As always it's been a really fast week! Here's the latest! Sunday we went to Asuncion for Zone Conference. We learned a lot about a lot of stuff, but the highlight is the Ilumina el Mundo video! The church every year has a campaign for Christmas so that people can think more about the real reason for the Christmas season. This year the theme is "Light the World" with your service! Zone conferences are always the best. I always get to see other missionaries I haven't seen in a long time. We traveled back to the Chaco in the night Tuesday, and got home Wednesday, but we had a division and I went with Elder Parker. It was a good day and allllllmost rained but never really opened up. He is a new missionary and was excited to be in Neuland. Thursday we had to end that division and start another one, this time Elder Whipple (our district leader) and I, but we were counting on 2 buses crossing and stopping so we could get off one and on the other. It's a long story, but we didn't make it and were stuck in Filadelfia, so we went contacting with the Filadelfia Elders a bit. I spent the day with Elder Hermansen. It was a lot of fun. Friday Elder Whipple and I left for Loma Plata for our division. We contacted a good amount, but also visited a lot of their investigators. They only have a group that has been open for 3 months, and they have a 1 room house/apartment with the chapel next door (another 1 room house/apartment). After the division, we went back to Filadelfia on Saturday really early, but there were no colectivos. We were saved though, because Carlos Colman (the maitenaince guy for the chapels in the Chaco) gave us a ride home, as he was in the general vicinity. Sunday we had 31 people in church, and we had 2 hours of church! (I gave a talk, led music and we taught Sunday School, and we got the opportunity to show one of our recent converts how to bless the Sacrament. Church went really well! Today for P-day we are here in Filadelfia.

Lessons learned this week:
-Always look to serve others. The new video Ilumina el Mundo shares that message, it should be coming out soon.
-Prayers are answered; I lost my wallet in a colectivo and we couldn't find it, but we said a prayer and someone else found it in about 20 seconds.
-Always look to be a missionary; the gospel is that important.
-Sunday is a day of rest for the Lord. It is NOT a day of rest for US, its a day of rest FOR THE LORD. That is because we are doing his work for a day. Our mission president, Pte Evans, made it clear with doctrine from the scriptures. If it isn't focused on the Lord, it isn't ok (i.e. using phones during Sacrament Meeting). Just being there in church isn't enough,. We have to be focused on the Lord.
-Drugs, including alcohol and smoking, are bad. They ruin lives, they ruin families, they're just bad stuff, OK?
-God loves us and wants us to be happy. It's honestly 100% true! Have a great week all of y'all!


1 Us eating watermelon thanks to our investigator Heinz Braun

2 Some of the Book or Mormon languages used here in the Chaco

3 Ilumina el Mundo part 2 with my good friend Elder Schmidt (he was in the MTC with me and is now a Zone Leader)

4 Elder Silva, my Zone Leader from when I was back in Pedro Juan. He will be heading home to Peru when he finishes his 2 years at the end of this change

5 Elder Grey who was my Zone Leader in Juan de Salazar a long time ago

6 Elder Pereza who is from Guatemala and I had to get a photo with our
German name tags. He's the Cartero (Librarian?) for the mission

7 Elder Villacresses and I have been at Zone Conference together for just short of a year now. To follow the tradition, here is a picture with him. He is still an assistant to the President

8 Elder Parker from Loma Plata came to Neuland for a division. He is really new in the mission and is from Utah. He's learning spanish and we had a fun division

9 We went contacting in Neuendorf, one of 20 German aldeas (communities) that is part of Neuland. We contacted for a little while and left when someone let out their dogs

10 I have no idea how it doesn't just rain! (It drizzled for a few minutes though!)

11 Sunset in Filadelfia

12 I had a division with Elder Hermansen in Filadelfia because Elder Whipple and I weren't able to make it to Loma Plata on time for our division

13 There weren't actually bike locks so we made it look like it and nobody stole the bikes!

14 So the cheese here isn't exactly the best, but the missionaries here have learned that a bit of salt, cumin, and other spices make it taste not too bad in a frying pan. Elder Whipple (our district leader) and I cooked up a bunch because they didn't have any more food in the house. We call them Cheese Fritters

15 This last one isn't my picture but I thought it was kind of cool. One of the other Elders from my MTC group, Elder Lovelace, is a Zone Leader in Pedro Juan Caballero. Do y'all remember that place called Santa Clara from a loooooooong time ago where they just had a little roof on poles for the church? Well they built them a tiny little chapel like some of the ones in the Chaco! It was pretty cool for me to see that. Those members are really cool!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tues., 10/24/2017 (Neuland/Paraiso)

We had a very busy week this week. It's been kind of crazy. Sorry for writing on a Tuesday, but I can explain hahaha. Last Monday we got a call from one of the counselors in the mission presidency, asking us how the planning on the temple trip was going (at this point we hadn't heard anything about said temple trip)...... Well, needless to say, we got to work. They had a list of names for sealings and we had a list of 9 or 10 recent converts that they wanted us to take to the temple, one week later, meaning yesterday. Abundancia also had a list of names, and they have all of the District leadership in their area, so we spent the week on the phone with Pte Colman (one of the counselors in the mission presidency), on the phone with the Abundancia Elders, and on the computer. The records of marriages, names, families, kids, honestly whatever you can find on the church records for people, needed a few changes, plus the Branch President's (credit?debit?) card got blocked, and many more details. Let's just say it was crazy and we didn't teach very many investigators this week. We were told that if we could get the members from Neuland and Abundancia to the temple, we could go too and, we wouldn't have any responsibility in Asuncion other than help out a little. We'll get to that later. How it all worked out is we had 46 members in total that came on the trip. We had to send a truck to get a handful of members from Paraiso. We then fit everyone from Neuland and Paraiso into a small van and got to Abundancia Saturday night (oh and the Branch President didn't go so Elder Castañeda and I were the leaders) where the counselors in the mission presidency were there doing interviews and paperwork. They talked with all the members for a while then everyone went to the school there to sleep. Elder Castañeda and I stayed with the Abundancia Elders. Sunday we had church, and we prepared all 3 meals for the Neuland members. A lot of the members from Neuland didn't have the Priesthood, so we had 4 people sustained and ordained so that they could go to the temple. Monday around 8 a.m. we set off on the 7 hour or so ride to Asuncion. We got to the hostel (there is a place kind of like a hotel at the temple since many people have to visit from way far out) and went inside to meet the other people to let President Evans and the Office Elders know we were there, since we were told they were handling that part. Well.... nobody was waiting for us and they had space for 30 people, not 46. We were alone (Elder Castañeda and I, Elder Starks and Elder Salazar from Abundancia, and Elders Whipple and Parker from Loma Plata, who didn't have members but thankfully went along) but got right into action. It was a lot of work, but we got the members situated, fed, and we let them get rested for the later afternoon hours. We went to go eat Lomitos because we were all hungry. There was a ciber really close to the temple so we tried to go and write home, but it didn't work so we obtained President's permission to write today. We slept at the house of the Office Elders. Today we got up at 5, rushed to the temple, and got the members all ready, helped with recommends, and thankfully got all 4 families sealed and a bunch more did baptisms for the dead. We got to be there for the sealing session, and Elder Castañeda and I got to be the witnesses for 2 families: Fm Gomez from Neuland and Fm Paclusi from Paraiso. The temple was PACKED since it is closing this week, but that was cool because I got to see a bunch of missionaries from the earlier days of my mission we were all doing sessions. Due to our situation with helping out, w missed the last session, but we are going to the temple tomorrow, so we will be going home tomorrow night. It doesn't stop there! So we got everything done, and still hadn't written y'all, so we had the colectivo that took us all to Asuncion drop us off near the only ciber that we knew about BUT before that, some little kid had some kind of medical problem and wasn't breathing right so we detoured to a hospital. We waited there for a little while, then decided to have the other members go home and we write home while they're treating the baby. Hopefully he will be ok. It has honestly been a really busy week everyone, but it was fun, worth it, and we are going to the temple tomorrow.

For those who haven't been to one, temples are really cool and really important. They are where we make important promises with God, and where we receive a lot of blessings. I encourage all of y'all to think more about temples and go to them more! We spent the whole week focused on the temple, and it was a great blessing for me, especially seeing the members being sealed as families forever. Speaking of that, I love my family, and everyone else reading. Have a great week! (USB wasn't working, so no pictures.)
Mon., 11/6/2017 (Neuland/Paraiso)

I'll just have to start by saying, sorry but there aren't photos today because the computers here in Asuncion aren't the best.

This week was a fast one, but a lot less busy than previous weeks. We spent the week in the lower to mid 40's (105 to 115 celcius, approx). Monday, to end P-day, we went and bought little tiny green pumpkins to carve as a district. Tuesday we got right back at it in Neuland. We had a lot of lessons with a lot of people, including Nivacles, Latinos, Germans, and even a South African. We found this cool family in Neuland that is from South Africa and they are members but don't speak Spanish and haven't been to church in years. I hope to share more next week. We have an investigator named Heinz Braun that reminds me of Grandpa Riding. He is ahead of the Neuland Mennonite colony's archives, and has tons of stories about their pioneers and has a lot of photos too.. He even gave us a watermelon this week and we took him to the church Saturday to show him around! We kept teaching my home boy Nicacio and his family. He's really cool and actually understands when we teach about the atonement, plan of salvation, repentance, etc! We've been working with the Branch President, helping him learn about his responsibilities as Branch President. We've been talking to Feliciano , who is Nicacio's brother-in-law and wants to get baptized in a couple of weeks. We've been talking to so many people! Talking to people is important. If you see someone having a bad day, go talk to them!

We also had a couple of service projects, including moving dirt and making a garden. It's fun stuff. Also a lot of cooking since we never have people give us food (not including the occasional watermelon).

UPDATE ON THE CHAPEL ROOF: we still don't have one (but that doesn't matter, everyone still goes!)

Sunday we had fast and testimony meeting. It was really cool this week because last month we told everyone it's their chance to testify and this week there were a loooot of people that gave testimonies. The meeting went an hour and a half long! That was a long meeting but it was cool because everyone wanted to share their testimony. Sunday night we went on a colectivo back to Asuncion for Zone Conference. We left Neuland at 8, and with a stop in Filadelfia we got to Asuncion around 4:30 am. I am glad I brought a blanket because it was FREEZING.  Colectivos are always fun when you get close to Asuncion because you see all the street, house, and business lights whizzing by. Due to interviews with Pte Evans, we stayed in the office for a long part of the day, but it was awesome. I got to talk to all of my companions I've had since after I was with Elder Bridge (a year), because for one reason or another, they were all in the office. Interviews with Pte Evans are always really uplifting. He is called of God to be the President and helps us all so much. Of many topics covered, we talked about how Elder Castañeda and I were here in Neuland for 3 changes together. Pres. Evans said that raaaaaaarely happens. I am glad that Elder Castañeda and I have had this opportunity to work together so long. He's a great companion and Neuland is a great area. Tomorrow we will have our Zone Conference. As usual, we are planning for a busy week and a busy end to this change. Busy is tiring, but always awesome.

This week we have been learning about having patience and love for others and ourselves. As the scriptures say, if you don't have love/charity, you don't have anything. Try to be kinder to others this week! Have a good week! Thank you for all your prayers and emails!