Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mon., 12/25/2017  (Neuland)

Merry Christmas everyone! What a week! I'll keep it short and sweet because I don't have much time! It feels like yesterday that I was in Juan de Salazar with Elder Bridge, sick as dogs but grateful for our Savior's birth. Elder Bridge was a good example to me that Christmas, giving a talk even though he really shouldn't have gone to church he was so sick. It reminds me of what our Savior did for us, many years ago. He didn't deserve all the treatment he received, but he suffered it out of his love for us. In his memory we celebrate Christmas every year, in every part of the world, in every language of the world. Seeing Elder Ruiz's face when he got to talk to his family for the first time in 5 months was another testimony to me, about the family. CHRISTmas is for Christ and families, so think about those things for a little while! Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pics: (YAY!!!! Elder Olson's brother Mike helped his mother download pictures!  She will work on adding pictures to all of the other pictures from the other blogs!)

1: Paraiso AKA African Safari

2: Merry Christmas from the Neuland Branch (maybe it wasn't a white Christmas, but it was cloudy! That was a Christmas blessing!)

3: With Family Duarte from Paraiso. They're recent converts and ALWAYS go to church, no matter if there is rain or heat or whatever in Paraiso!

4: On the way to Abundancia to Skype!

(ELDER OLSON CALLED AND TALKED WITH HIS PARENTS AND THREE BROTHERS FOR AN HOUR FROM ABUNDANCIA.  LATER, ELDER RUIZ WOULD CALL HIS FAMILY.
ELDER OLSON LOOKED GREAT AND SEEMS TO LOVE THE WORK AND THE PEOPLE.
HE TALKED ABOUT THE WEATHER, THE CHALLENGES WITH BEING SO FAR FROM THE REST OF THE MISSION, AND THE HIGHER EXPENSE IN THE AREA. HIS SPANISH IS NOT BAD, SINCE HE HAS HAD LATIN AMERICAN COMPANIONS MOST OF HIS MISSION.  MOST OF THE PEOPLE WITH WHOM THEY COMMUNICATE SPEAK SPANISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE AND SO HE HAS HAD THE CHALLENGE OF TRYING TO UNDERSTAND GERMAN SPANISH, NIVACLE SPANISH, AND GUARANIAN SPANISH.  ELDER OLSON NOTES THAT PARAGUAY IS A MELTING POT OF OTHER CULTURES.
HE BORE HIS TESTIMONY TO US IN SPANISH.  GREAT VISIT!)

We got picked up by the 2 Elders from Filadelfia in their truck and they dropped us off in Abundancia, where we have our skyping. As I write Elder Ruiz is next to me doing his skype call. His family hasn't been able to email him at all, so it was awesome seeing him able to talk to them. Christmas is a time of miracles!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Mon., 12/18/2017 (Neuland)

Well y'all know the routine, not much time but we'll make it quick. We have hit some warm weather, and when I mean warm, I mean warm! A few weeks ago we had hit 53 Celcius one day, well we passed that and hit 55 Celcius this week (that's about 130 degrees Fahrenheit)! Let me tell you, that's a blessing because we can see we're being protected by God. I mean honestly, we walk around outside all day in a shirt and pants sharing the gospel. (The houses here aren't big enough to go into, so all of our lessons are outside!) The fact that we haven't gotten dehydrated at all is plain evidence of divine intervention. The Lord protects his missionaries! Neuland really is a super cool place.
Fun stuff that happened this week: It got windy and a tree fell over so we helped our recent convert Nicacio cut it down! So much fun. Elder Ruiz found refried beans and jalapenos in a store in front of the house, so he is jumping for joy! He loves his Jalapenos (imported from Mexico). WE cleaned the church! Still no roof, but one of these days! Sunday in church was realllllllllllllly good; well only 17 people showed up because it was voting day and that's a universal excuse to skip church, but those that went were great! Sunday school went well. Today for Pday we watched a movie called Errand of Angels about a sister missionary in Austria. I thought of Mom (Happy birthday by the way!). Also, I translated since nobody else here speaks much German. The Zone Leaders came up to do divisions tomorrow with the Elders in Loma Plata, so we played soccer, 5 on 5. This week really went by quickly. We are getting to Christmas, one of my favorite times of the year! It's going to be a fun Christmas, and I'll be able to talk to the family this week, so exciting! I hope you all have a good week, and go serve someone for me! Light the world with your examples!

Pictures:

1: Contacting in the German village Neuendorf! Not too many people talked to us, but it was fun!

2: We made it to the end of the Neuendorf road and took a pit stop in the shade. Man it's hot here!

3: This picture shows grass! I haven't seen grass in a looooooooooong time!

4: There's the tree we took down!

5: Mexican food!

6: Our clean chapel! You can see at the back where there are just plastic flaps where the roof was. Honestly its kind of cool having a chapel that doesn't have a full roof

7: If y'all hadn't heard, Sam Jorgenson got reassigned and his mission touches mine! (He as scheduled to go to the Portugal Lisbon Mission.) Actually it touches my area, Neuland but that is just because my area is HUGE hahaha! But it's cool that he's going to be my neighbor here in South America.

That's all! Have a good week!

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!

Pictures:  (Elder Olson's Mom:  Pictures 9-12 refused to be uploaded once downloaded.  Sorry!)

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.. it's hot and right now, HUMID!

10 Sunset!

11 We got a fridge!

12 The trees here are fat!





























(Elder Olson sent these on 12/18 but they look they are from Zone Conference, so they are being added to this blog.)

ELDER OLSON ANSWERED QUESTIONS FROM HIS MOTHER

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.

Pictures:

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.

It's Rain in the Chaco.
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!

SORRY, MOM HASN'T FIGURED OUT HOW TO DOWNLOAD PICTURES!

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!

DEAR BLOGGER READERS, I STILL CAN'T UPLOAD ELDER OLSON'S PICTURES!  SORRY!

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!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mon., 10/30/2017 (Neuland/Paraiso)

It has been another busy week. If I remember quickly, I last wrote as we were sending off the members to the Chaco right after they left from the temple. The kid that got sick in the colectivo has pneumonia, but we were blessed to have a children's hospital on the road we were on. We wrote, then that night we spent in Trinidad (close to the mission office). Wednesday morning we had small division in Trinidad, then we went to the temple. It was lunchtime, so we stopped by Pizza Hut just down the street. They have a really cheap all-you-can-eat deal, so we ate them out of house and home (just think about 6 missionaries who never get fed by members walking in the door and ordering all you can eat). We then went to the temple. We had been told to be early for our temple session (you can't reserve seats here) and had nothing to do so we decided to be sure and get there 3 hours early at 2 PM. The temple workers were all there and they asked permission from the Temple President to get us doing initiatories, so we did that for 2.5 hours or so. We then went through to do a temple session. It was great; it's been a year since I've been to the temple. After the session, there were a TON of people waiting to do baptisms for the dead and confirmations, so we were asked to help out (the temple closed this Saturday so the last week was PACKED). Elder Whipple and I did confirmations, with Elder Castañeda as recorder. We ended up doing a couple hundred (1.5 or 2 hours). As usual, the temple was a great experience. We proceeded to stop by Burger King, then the office elders dropped us off at a bus stop and we traveled all night back to the Chaco. Elder Castañeda and I then went back to visit everyone that we hadn't been able to visit for the last week and a half. We had a lot of opportunities to serve over the last few days, including burning trash, carrying water to people's houses, and so on. Sunday we had a good day at church, we had Sacrament Meeting and I had the priviledge to give a talk about the temple and it's blessings for us. Elder Castañeda and I decided that we need to start working towards having all 3 hours of church, so we taught Sunday School, and it went really well.This week really was a very good one. It can be challenging to be trying to cover 2 areas (Neuland and Parasio) and at the same time have to run everything for the church (planning activities and such), but I really like it. We are working to help the members know how to do everything on their own, which is really important for them. That and steering their vision to the temple and the blessings associated with temples. Please every one that has a temple nearby, take advantage. Not everyone has that opportunity! Try to go every week, or for those in Utah, more that 1 time a week!


Y'all have a great week! Thanks for the prayers and emails!

BLOGGERS READERS, NO SUCCESS YET WITH ADDING PICTURES!  SORRY!

1 Prep work for the temple is tiring
2 We fit 17 or so people in that van to get to Abundancia. That's the driver, his name is Friesen
3 We regularly make juice in buckets when we have to feed a lot of people
4 This dog entered the Abundancia Elders' house 3 times during the night when we were there for the temple trip. We thought it was a person at first. The house in Abundancia doesn't have the capability of being locked from the inside so dogs (and or people) sometimes just walk in.

5 We prepped some rice and such for the members from Neuland to eat while they waited Sunday in Abundancia for the colectivo to come; basically the church chartered a colectivo for the transportation.
6 Halfway through cleaning the Abundancia house
7 Eating "genuine" Arabian food
8 The sign should say "we are interested in your opinion" but the s in nos fell off and it now reads "your opinion doesn't matter"

9 With Nicacio and Fiorella (2 recent converts) in the temple! They were so excited, and even brought names!
10 We were so busy getting the people to the temple (it's harder when they don't all speak Spanish) we forgot to take pictures of the temple trip, but when we remembered and had time we tried to get one
11 A little time spent in Asuncion, featuring the scary bridge made out of 2 strips of metal and wood pallets
12 With Elder Castañeda at the temple
13 All 6 of us at the temple
14 The temple of Asuncion, Paraguay. It will be closing for a year and a half for construction to make it bigger!
15 They are always burning stuff here. Paraguay is blessed with the fact that fires DO NOT SPREAD! If you light a fire and there is a lot of flammable material nearby, it doesn't spread anyway.
16 Service for Fm Martinez cutting down a couple of trees. This is Jose Armando, their son, who is one of our investigators. He supervised the yard work!

17 We had to break the piggy banks to survive this week, in that we are waiting to get reimbursed for a lot of transportation for the temple trip and a few other things
18 We had to get creative with the food. This is ham, egg, tomato sauce, and a couple veggies. It wasn't too bad but I wouldn't recommend
19 UPDATE: there still isn't a roof on the chapel.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mon., 10/16/2017 (Neuland/Paraiso)

We had a busy week! Well I guess it always is! Monday we had P-day as usual, then district meeting, where Elder Singer, an Elder in our district, went home. He spent over half of his mission here in the Chaco, which is admirable because let's just say it isn't for the weak-hearted. He also was one of the key workers in getting all the Nivacle natives to the temple. As a tribute we sang God Be With You Til We Meet Again and waved white napkins (like hankerchiefs). Tuesday through Thursday we were back in Neuland trying to teach and find new people to teach. Friday we went off to Paraiso (paradise in Spanish). Friday was payday and Saturday was soccer-game day in some other community, so there were very few in their houses. WE did use that time to go contacting and also look for some members that we've never seen at church, so the time wasn't too awfully spent. The bugs and such were ALL over; we found a couple black widows, a lot of other spiders, 4 wasp nests (we went to war with them), some kind of cardinal, a frog, herds of goats in the road, but thankfully, not a single mosquito. Saturday night we got a call about transfers, and WE ARE... staying together another change! It's exciting. We are glad to get back on out to work together for our 3rd change together inviting ALL to come unto Christ. Sunday we had church then came home to Neuland. In the evening we took a colectivo to Abundancia, where we are waiting for the new Elders in the Chaco to come. Elder Castañeda and I are excited to be working together for our 3rd change. This week we have really seen a lot about challenges. Some places, life is hard because of environment conditions, other areas because of the temperature, others because of social issues. In every place, there are problems. You know what we should do? Be grateful for what we have, and be grateful for the challenges we have. If we have faith to follow God's will he will give us a way to do what we need to do. Think of challenges as an opportunity to show our faith, not an obstacle!

Thanks for your prayers and emails, and have a good week! I love you all!

1 Boqueron (the Chaco) district in our last district meeting
2 With my amigos Emer and Denil (both in yellow and black) and a couple other little guys
3 we found some deadly spiders this week in Paraiso
4 Our Book of Mormons and nametags

5 We found a frog too
6 Soup for dinner
7 One of 4 wasp nests we had to remove
8 LOOOOOOOTS of spiders

9 Paraiso is beautiful!
10 Very beautiful!
11 Me with the Paraiso sign
12 Our house in Paraiso. The brick box looking things are our 2 water tanks, that each have about 3 to 5 thousand liter capacity

13 Us with the house in Paraiso
14 The bedroom
15 The kitchen
16 Goat crossing!

17 The truck kicking up dust on the way back home
18 we could not see for about 30 minutes for how much dust there was behind other vehicles
19 Service during P-day in Abundancia: Moving water from here...
20 to here
21 Elder Starks went from Loma Plata to Abundancia (both are in the Chaco)! This is him and Carlos Colman, who lives with his family right next to the missionaries of Abundancia. He brought in 1000 liters of clean drinking water, so we helped move it to a new container at their house. Pte Colman (he is in the district presidency) filled up buckets, handed them to Elder Starks who lifted them to me, and I dumped them into the other container. Elder Castañeda and Elder Salazar cooked in the meantime
22 Me dumping water into the container
23 Service projects 1 meter from the missionaries' house is pretty convenient
24 Elder Starks was a little hungry after that service!

25 Arroz chaufau, thanks to Elderes Castañeda and Salazar.
26 While making the 40 yard walk to the chapel, unlocking it and walking inside to the computers, ALL of our ice melted.. it does get hot here!
27 With some friends in Paraiso about 30 minutes before church! They always come early!
Mon., 10/9/2017 (Neuland/Paraiso)

It has been a good week, and a fast one too. We started out with Monday, and celebrated 1 year in the mission for Elder Brower, Elder Whipple and I, and 2 years for Elder Singer with Shish kabobs! This district we have had for the last 2 changes was awesome! We stilll aren't done yet, but changes are coming up next week! Tuesday Elder Castañeda and I got back to business. It has been HOT lately, and our water bottles last us about 10 minutes until we have to ask for water, but it's awesome. Friday night we got some rain in which was awesome, because it is really dusty here and the rain cakes it down. Saturday we had a big day. Nicacio and Fiorella, a couple we have been teaching, had their baptismal service planned. The assistants of the mission came to do the interviews. Nicacio ended up having to have an interview with Pte Evans, but Pte Evans also just happened to be there! Nicacio is a man that had a lot of stuff happen in his past, and was very joyful when we taught about Christ and repentance. He has had a lot of miracles happen, and has changed so much in the time we've known him. He and Fiorella wanted to get married to provide a better home for their daughters, and be closer as a family. He read Moroni 10:3-5 on his own, and did what it says. He asked God what the truth was and received an answer! We are honestly so happy for them-. Anyways, since it rained so much and we are in the middle of the Chaco, the judge was unable to come Saturday because the roads were impossible to travel for his moped. We did however have a barbecue with all the members, and postponed til the next day. Sunday we had their marriage, their baptisms, and then church. This week we have been very focused on trials. We will always have trials and problems, but it's more important to think about what we do with the trials that we have. Will we be like Nephi and Sam, or will we be like Laman and Lemuel? I personally want to be like Nephi. Life is hard, but we just have to dig in and put in work. I love you all and hope you have a great week!

1 Shish kabobs again!
2 The whole Chaco district!
3 We burned a shirt for our year mark!
4 And let me tell you it has been a FAST year! Fun one too!
5 Nicacio and Fiorella got married! Also pictured is the judge that came from 55 km away to marry them!
6 They then got baptized!
7 It was a good day!
8 Nicacio and Elder Castañeda
9 Fiorella and I
10 Hermana Evans dropped us off a bag of oranges because they are super expensive in the Chaco
11 The Elders from Loma Plata decided to bike to Filadelfia for P-day and district meeting, which is about 20 miles of dust dust dust and more dust. Their new bikes were recently taken out of Yby Yau (my old area)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Mon., 10/2/2017 (Neuland/Paraiso)

It has been a really great week! Not so busy in Neuland but everywhere else, yes. We started off ending P-day with some really good chipa in Asuncion, then we went to stay with the office elders for the night. Tuesday we had zone conference about Justice and Mercy. It really went well with the general conference topics which will be mentioned later. We took a colectivo of 43 and 44 seats back to the Chaco. That's unfortunate because Elders Stark's and Whipple's tickets were for seats 45 and 46. The bathroom occupied that space, so they stood the whole way. That's a feat, as it left at 11 pm and got in around 6 or 7 am. We got back to Neuland Wednesday afternoon (we had to take a second colectivo) and we went to all our investigators really fast since we didn't have much time for the week. Friday we got the chapel ready for general conference, and got the computer ready, because we went to Abundancia to watch conference in English. That evening we got a ride from the building maintainence guy to Abundancia. We stayed there for general conference til Sunday, when we walked 4 or 5 km to get to the closest place where the colectivos stop. We are in Filadelfia for the day today, with cinnamon rolls for the year mark of my mission! And also Elder Brower and Elder Whipple who are in the district. That's the week!

General conference was great. The speakers were all direct, and it was awesome! Really so awesome. They talked a lot about how we are all not perfect, how we all make mistakes but we need to do all we can to try to be perfect. They talked a lot about faith and how we need to have it and strengthen it. We heard about how it is IMPOSSIBLE that the Book of Mormon isn't true. It's impossible. If you don't believe me watch conference again because it was in SO many talks, especially Tad R Callister's talk. I think it is quite clear that how the church is, it is and nobody is going to change it. The doctrine is simple and pure, and people trying to change it are wasting their time. The best part, personally for me, was when Elder Hallstrom asked us if we have the faith to be healed. He then asked us IF WE HAVE FAITH TO NOT be healed. Wow that is a good question. Do we? Do I? Do you? If that answer isn't a yes, make it one! Also, another interesting point is that President Monson was not there in person. I don't know about y'all, but I heard his name and voice in Every single talk. Our prophet has counseled us to read our scriptures. Let's do it! Robert D Hales also passed away. It's sad but not, at the same time, because he was a great man and taught us a lot. Russell M. Nelson, who skipped part of conference to be there with him, is also a good example, of leaving what's important to you to serve others. Service was also brought up a lot. We need to love others and serve. This was by far the best conference I have been to, and I didn't miss a single talk! We watched it all, and I agree with everything every speaker said. The book is blue, the church is true. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. Have a great week!

SORRY BLOGGER READERS!  I CAN'T COPY AND PASTE LIKE BEFORE!

1 Eating chipa in asuncion
2 A 6th consecutive zone conference with Elder Villacresses (assistant now)
3 Elder Hermansen and I both have name tags in german (you have to be able to bear your testimony to qualify)
4 I saw a few elders from past zones
5 My old zone leader Elder Pace is going home this change
6 My old zone leader Elder Grey
7 It got a little warm in Neuland... That's 46 degrees... Celcius
8 Elder Castañeda cutting trees down during a service project
9 And there I am up in a tree cutting them down too
10 We cut down a few trees right next to the Nivacle Catholic Chapel (the neighbors are members)
11 As we cut trees down, a small army marched past with flags made of bags and shouting (translated to English) Champions! Wee Oh Wee! Champions! Wee O Wee!
12 This tree wouldn't go down! And yes we cut them down with a machete
13 There is the Nivacle Community Monument
14 They "fixed" the chapel
15 Conference in Abundancia in English with Elder Brower, Elder Starks, and Elder Whipple
16 We had to cook out for priesthood session
17 We ate Peruvian lomitos(Mike, show this to the Romo family please)
18 The Abundancia chapel at night
19 And by day
20 It got cold for the other elders who all had blankets last night in Filadelfia, but there weren't enough blankets so Elder brower and I suffered it out with wet towels hahaha
21 We all made cinnamon rolls for p-day
22 Elder Brower wanted to roll some connamon rolls too
23 There's the cinnamon
24 Word is on the street that Elder Brower and Elder Castañeda are just going to switch when we have changes... well that's not true but it's what we all want so we can all stay in the same district more time together
25 Prepping for the oven
26 Ready to raise
27 I stir the icing, I eat it, right?
28 Elder Starks and Elder Whipple, sleeping
29 cool baptism photos from Abundancia
30 same
31same
32 The Abundancia Elders house's doorknob...
Mon., 9/25/2017 (Neuland/Paraiso)

It has been a fast-paced week, and we are out of time so here's the week.
We cooked some shish kabobs for P-day. The rest of the week was spent teaching a lot of great people. We had Elder Whipple and his companion Elder Starks come in Friday for baptismal interviews. Saturday we had the baptism of Rosilda. She is 10 years old and is a cousin of our convert, Jose Julian. We thought her parents were members, but found out this Sunday that they aren't, so hopefully they will also be progressing. Rosilda was really excited, even though the water was COLD hahaha. Saturday before the baptism we took advantage of realllllly nice weather (clouds) and got in some yard work at the chapel. Sunday we taught Primary (first time we have had it) and got ready in the evening hours and traveled all night to Asuncion. The 8 elders from the Chaco were all together with the office elders and Assistants today, and they asked us if 2 elders could help with a service project. Service projects are fun, so we volunteered (Elder Castañeda and I). It ended up taking all of P-day and we still haven't eaten all day, but it was a lot of fun. We moved boxes, fans, mattresses, and a lot of other things for hours for a dental (nonprofit?), from a military hospital to another building. Sorry I'm out of time, but I hope you all have a good week, and don't forget to look for someone to serve this week!

Pictures:

1 We had a cookout for P-day (the Filadelfia Elders' landlord supplied the materials)!

2 Shish-kabobs!

3 Peach pie and ice cream included!

4 President Evans asked the mission to cover up all the graffiti in our houses so we got to it with the spray pain

5 Yard work

6 We trimmed a few trees

7 Baptism of Rosilda

8 That water was COLD.

9 VERY COLD but the spirit was strong.

10 Our colectivo yesterday had some weird party bus lighting going on.

11 Service project deep into the south mission, for "Operation Smile."

12 We got t-shirts! (with the Assistants)