Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New Area and New Companion (week 25)

Dear Everyone,  I am now in Mercedes. It is one of the oldest missions in all of south america. My new comp is Elder Wihongi. He's awesome! He is from New Zealand, he's 6'5 (and probably 3x my weight), and he's big into Rugby. We are quite the sight to see walking down the streets of Mercedes. A 6'4, skinny, white Yankee and a 6'5, buff, Polynesian. He speaks English with a really cool British accent and he speaks Spanish about as good as I do, it's made tracting a little difficult, but what we lack in verbal skills, we're trying to make up with sheer determination.  

We have bikes here, but so far, it has NOT made my life easier.  I got a flat on my second day here, so I changed out the tire and went on my merry way. Next another flat. We stopped and I filled it up with air. Later that same another flat!!! At this point it's 6:30 in the evening and we're about 7 miles away from the train station that would take us back to our apartment, and the train was going to leave at 6:45. I had to ride on the handlebars of Elder Wihongi´s  bike while he pedaled and I tried to hold on for dear life. The best part was seeing peoples faces as we passed them!!! Haha! 

This area is huge!!!!! We literally have a cross section of all walks of life. We have a giant, rich, historic city. Then we have farm fields and dirt road towns. We have apartment buildings, the embassy and huge, beautiful giant catholic cathedrals. And then some really poor areas. We have random towns that can only be reached by taking a train. We have people who live in Huts and on farms and are very poor and then people who live in homes and apartments and are very wealthy. It's very diverse. Its awesome, but huge!!! Which makes the bike situation so frustrating. We've had to do a lot of walking because of the bikes, but hopefully Heavenly Father will bless us this week and I'll have nice, full tires! If not, I'll have to get comfortable riding on Elder Wihongi's handlebars. I just wish my legs weren't so long. They drag on the ground unless I hold them up. Oh well, the Lord will provide a way. 

So, Elder Wihongi has been here for ten months. And I've been in Argentina for 5 months. There are two other missionaries in our apartment. Elder Sales and Elder Lopez. Elder Sales is from Brazil, he's been here for 6 months. Elder Lopez is from Guatemala and he has been here for ONE WEEK. We have to sister missionaries in our district also, ones been here for 7 months and the other 4 months. Elder Sales is the district leader and I think we have the youngest district in the entire world!!!!!

But anyway me and Elder Wihongi worked super hard this week and visited a bunch of people. We found some new people and we have 4 people right now with a baptisimal date. We also have alot of great other possibilities! Also, and the ward here LOVES missionaries. It's awesome here and I'm super excited for this area. I was sad to leave Villa Tesei, but Mercedes is going to be amazing! Sorry I can't send any pics. I forgot my adapter for my camera. I'll send a bunch next week.

Elder Ren Porter

I stalked blogs and Facebook and found some random pics of ren's new comp on the "Buenos Aires West mission" Facebook page. This is Elder Wihongi...these are from the MTC (sorry to whoever I copied these pictures from!)
In this pic, from the MTC, Elder Wihongi, is the one on the very end (in case you hadn't figured that out on your own)

The Parable of the tie! (Week 24)

First things first,  Happy Mothers Day!!! Not only to my mom, but to my grandma's, and aunts, and to my second mom (sister Betz). Thank you for loving me and teaching me.

Seeing my family yesterday was awesome, especially because Gerardo, Belen and Nefi, Franko, Enzo, and Gustavo were there. Who are all the people I baptized or helped convert here in Villa Tesei. Super fun. They got to meet my family and talk to them. It was so cool. 

Also, the other Big News is we had transfer calls yesterday and as totally expected, by everyone and their dog, Elder Porter got transferred to the farm fields (campos) of Mercedes section-A. I was talking to president Robertson and he asked me if I thought I'd stay in Villa Tesei a little longer? I jokingly said "Ya, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be here my whole mission." (I've been in Villa Tesei the whole time I've been in Argentina. I've never been transferred.) He jokingly said back to me that "He thinks I need to workout those long legs on a bike for awhile." Which kind of gave it away that I'd be going to the "campos" or farm/country area, because that's the only place they use bikes. Everyone else stayed in Villa Tesei and we think Elder Rojas´s new companion is a Latino, which means now the number of yankees to latinos will finally be tied in our apartment. hahaha. Unfortunately, none of us could understand our zone leader when he called or we just weren't listening, so I have no idea who my new companion is, but vamos a ver, we´ll see, his name sounded latino, which would make sense because I've never had an American comp so far. I'm excited to see who it is. Awesome!!! Also Enzo Se Bautiso´!!!!! Enzo was baptized on saturday by his cousin Franko (my very first convert)!! It was such an amazing baptism. The spirit was so strong and Franko did the baptism perfectly. Capo! President Robertson ( our mission president) came to the baptism and he told us, "wow that kid looked really happy. I have no doubt he's going to be a future missionary." And Franko is about to put his mission papers in!!  I told Franko that no matter what, I'd fly to Argentina when he gives his homecoming talk after his mission. I can't wait. He's going to help so many people. 

So, Most of the people here live in very humble circumstances. They don't have money for things we take for granted. One of the things they don't always have money for is church clothes. All of my converts and friends I've made in this Ward and area are always admiring my ties (my mom has good taste). I knew I was going  to get transferred so I brought a bag with ALL of my ties to church on Sunday and let them all pick their favorite one to keep. It's pretty funny because Enzo wanted the one I wearing, which was actually my most favorite tie, but I was happy to give it to him. What do I care about a dumb tie anyways? It's amazing how UN-superficial you become when you're surrounded by such humbleness. It was a simple thing, a seemingly inconsequential thing to you or I, but they were so grateful and happy. It made me realize how many things I've taken for granted in my life. I've never had to go without, and I'm grateful for that. But I'm even more grateful that my eyes have been opened. That I got to learn and see, firsthand, how blessed my life is and has been.  It fills me with immeasurable joy to think of Enzo passing the sacrament for the first time in my "favorite" tie, or Franko wearing my tie on his mission, or Gerardo wearing my tie when he and his wife and son are sealed for eternity in the temple. 
Funnily, while we were skyping my family on Sunday, Enzo was just in his regular street clothes but he was still wearing my tie around his neck. My mom saw it on the screen and said "hey ren. That's your favorite tie."  Haha. (Down below is a picture of Enzo's baptism day, where I'm wearing said tie....for the last time.)

What a great week, seriously. We tried hitting some areas we don't usually work in because the work is so hard in these areas. We were blessed and able find some new people and re-find some other really awesome people. There were some days, as well, where we were looking for people for a solid couple of hours and found nothing! But I'm grateful for those moments because it made us appreciate the miracles that DID happen.  We were walking all around one day looking for some people we had planned to contact and we weren't getting anywhere. And then bam we got a lesson and then after that one we got another one. It took us all day but we managed to get 2 lessons. Those lessons, for me, were very special lessons, filled with spirit. You feel so much more gratitude for things when you have to work hard for them.  And I know that finding and teaching those people after so much walking and searching was the Lord's blessing to us for just pressing forward and not letting discouragement get the better of us. That day was awesome. 

Also, all the elders  and sisters in my zone had a meeting yesterday morning with the stake president, his counselors and president Robertson and it was Great. I especially liked it when one of the Counselors talked about the newly baptized youth named Enzo in the Villa tesei ward who was baptized by Franko (Hey! They're talking about my spiritual brothers! I perked up when I heard those names). But something really awesome he said, as well, was that we need to start talking to more youth in our areas, which is a great invitation. There are ALOT of youth here and they need ALOT of help. It is really hard to be a youth here in this area. There are so many kids here that are starting to drink and smoke at 13 or 14 years old and then by 15 or 16 alot of girls are already pregnant. Most kids here don't finish school and there aren't a lot of jobs, so a lot of the youth just stand around outside harassing people. It is really sad stuff to see and there is so much need for help. There is so much need for leaders. So much need for kids to join the church and leave on missions and come back and become the future bishops and stake presidents and so on. Sometimes its really hard to talk to the kids here because you're  never sure if they are serious or just joking around with you or stringing you along for their own amusement. So, I'm so grateful he invited us to do that because from what I have seen from the youth that HAVE joined the church here is that they are stalwart examples to me of perseverance and faith and they have the most powerful testimonies and such strong spirits. We need more of them because they have SO Much potential to do good and I can see that they are already so much better than me and I feel so humbled by the youth here, especially when they are the only members in their family. 

I consider it a miracle that I got sent here at this time in Villa Tesei to help people come unto Christ and by having the opportunity to see such progression and strength happen in such a seemingly short time. I'm freaked out honestly by how happy I feel just seeing someone I've come to love realize that God´s love is real and attainable and then feel the confirmation of the Spirit whisper into their hearts that these things are true. To witness the change of their countenance as they except the gospel into there lives. It makes up for all the heat, exhaustion, dehydration, frustration, sadness, and pain....a hundred fold. I'm very sad that I'm leaving this area and these people that I love with all my heart, but I am also excited to go to my next area and meet new people. Franko says it best. He said "its sad that you are leaving but I know this is God's Will for you to do this, because there are other people, like me, waiting for you.  I'm just happy you came for me too!" 

This work is true and the evidence is found in the members of this church. I know that God´s Love is real and He is a God of miracles.

Love you guys,
Elder Ren Porter

Baptism, me (with THE tie), elder rojas, franko, enzo, angel, enzo´s mom, enzo´s brother elias 

Baptism. All the same people from above PLUS  fransisco and president robertson!

me and brother omar our old mission leader. coolest guy ever! I love him alot.

Friday, May 6, 2016

W.W.M.S (What Would Mom Say) (week 23)

First let me tell you about my week and then I'll explain the title of my email. 

Bueno. Entonces. This week Elder Rojas and I killed it. We met a new family named Lorena and Maxi. They were a reference and they are golden. They came with us to mutual and we taught them the Restoration and Plan of Salvation. Lorena asks the best questions and she is studying the church so much and already has been studying Relief Society on LDS.Org and studying all the other books of scripture. Maxi has already read, in the first week, to chapter 18 of Nephi. What a capo! And he also really hit it off with Franko and Enzo. Enzo is about to be baptized this next weekend and Franko (my first convert in the mission field)!! Awesome stuff. 
Something cool happened to me and Elder Rojas yesterday. We decided to work in our Yellow and Orange zone which is a really hard part of our area. We call it the deadzone because there is not a lot of work done there. It's hard to contact people there and people have a little more money or are more wealthy in those areas. And for some reason this greatly effects the work in those areas. I much prefer the poorer part of villa Tesei, even though it's more dangerous. But The people are just so humble and nice. But we made a decision that we would dedicate a sunday there. So we did! We made some plans for this past Sunday and at about 7:30 all of our plans fell through. hahahaha. As expected, but hey, what can you do! But as you will see, "our" plans are not always "Heavenly Father's" plans. So we should never get discouraged. He is always guiding the ship. So we tried looking for someone we had contacted the other day to see if we could get a second lesson with her that day, we weren't able to find her. So as we're walking around, we see this guy working at a kiosk and we start talking to him. And We had a fairly good conversation, as well. And then some people interrupted our conversation to buy something from the kiosk and they were also very friendly and nice and not what I had expected for this area. That's what I get for prejudging this area and the people in it!!! So we finished our conversation with this man and left a pamphlet and continued on. We then tried to look for this random girl from the ward that the bishopric wanted us to go by and visit.  The problem with this plan of ours was that 1. I wasn't really sure what her name was 2. we weren't sure at all why we were going and 3. I had no idea where she lived haha! I know my mom is rolling her eyes right now because all three of those things are "classic Ren moves". Anyway, we still moved forward and hoped Heavenly Father would guide our steps. We started walking down this one street and I suddenly remembered that we had a reference on this street and we could try contacting them. I stopped for a moment as this thought hit me and then I realized something else! We had stopped in front of a house that I recognized because I had contacted it with my previous comp, Elder Ortolano about a month ago. So, I thought, hmm...maybe we're suppose to ask these people where the contact we were looking for lives. So we went up to the house and I had about a 1 out of 10 on the hope scale that we would get an answer. But then a man came out and I recognized him as one of the people we had contacted here the other month. We started talking with him and we said we were looking for so and so that lived on this same street. He said he had no idea where that person lived, but then he said "My wife is super sick. Will you come in and see her"?  We said "yes" and entered into his house and met his wife. She was super sick and laying in bed. Two of their friends were there as well and we were just talking warmly with all of them and we asked if we could bless this lady. We asked for olive oil and consecrated it and anointed it. And then we blessed this little hermana. The spirit was strong and it was a sweet experience. Afterwards we taught them a little of the Restoration and they invited us to come back and visit them. For someone looking from the outside in, It was really something random. Some might say that was just weird luck or a coincidence, but I know it was a miracle. Who guides this ship?? I have no doubt who! Our plans fell through for the night because Heavenly Father is aware of ALL his children. We met people at that man's kiosk who were nice and friendly. This helped change our attitudes towards this area, which spurred us on to continue walking. Our bishop asked us to contact this woman, but we didn't know how to find her so we walked, hoping to be guided. We ended up on a street I actually remembered, in front of a house I actually remembered. They opened the door to us and invited us in. And we were able to bless this man's wife, this beloved daughter of our Heavenly Father. Is this random? No. Heavenly Father and our Savior know us all. He loves that sweet little Hermana and her family. We were led to that house to bless and comfort her in her time of need. Of that, I have no doubt. 

For me, this was nothing short of a miracle and a reminder that God is directing the work and every setback or trial has a purpose. It was amazing to me and in reality I still can't really believe that it happened, but it did and I cannot deny it. I am so glad that God directs this work and that He is a God of Miracles. This work is true. 

Now, about my email title.....
Something I have really been focusing on this last month is maturity and love. To be straight forward, its this, every time I do anything lately I think about you mom. I think about what you would say to me. If I ever think about something or am wondering if I should do something or not, I would wonder about you and think to myself "What Would my Mom Say." Whether it's something dumb, like should I say this joke or not? Or if it was...should I listen to this or not? Or should I do this or not? Whenever there is a thought from satan to be disobedient or to do something unworthy of myself, I think of you and what you would tell me if you were standing right next to me. My mind always thinks, "what would mom say"! And I'll tell you what!...It has made my life tremendously easier. I haven't had to worry about whether what I was doing was good or bad because I always knew what my mom would say. "Yes ren, that's okay." or "no ren, thats ridiculous"!! I love it. Thanks mom! You are still my mom even out here. I'm so thankful for you. I'm also so grateful for all the service you had me do before I left for my mission. I know I didn't act like I liked it, but it had a huge impact on my life. Going everyday with you to serve at the child crisis center was so hard and I didn't want to do it most of the time, but I couldn't help but feel grateful for all the blessings I've been given after spending time with those kids who had nothing and no one. I am so blessed. Thanks for making me do that. I love you mom!

So, a month ago my mom said that what she really wanted for Mother's Day was for me to pray about someone I could do extra service for. Something separate from my service as a missionary. She wanted me to look around me, pray about it, and do a random act of service on my own. 
So, I don't know if this is what you had in mind but here we go. I have also been working on my charity and patience. Especially with my comp. My mom doesn't know any of this because I'm the "suffer in silence" kind of guy, but these past couple of months have been really hard with my comp! We have argued A LOT and I have been close to strangling him many times. My patience has been tried A LOT these last 2 transfers, because I was just hoping that one of us would get transferred so I wouldn't have to deal with him anymore. And I have no doubt that he felt the exact same way towards me. I'm stubborn and have many qualities that probably drive my comp crazy! Don't get me wrong though, there were days and sometimes even weeks that it was the complete opposite and we have been closer than any two people can be, but it has been a very slow progression with us.  But, after I read your email a couple of weeks ago about serving someone, I immediately thought of My comp. I didn't even have to pray about it. It came to my mind immediately and I decided to change our companionship. I knew I couldn't change him. But, I COULD change myself!
I was tired of being miserable and angry all the time and I just wanted us to work unified and be happy. So I made the decision to not care about who was right or who wasn't and to stop focusing on the things that bothered me about my comp. Instead, I would just look at the good, important qualities of Elder ****. Basically, I was trying to look at him with Christlike eyes instead of my dumb mortal eyes. As I did this, I saw, in him, a great missionary. I saw someone who has and will do lots of great things in Buenos Aires. And  I saw someone who will do great things in the church in the future. What a difference this has made! We have been such a unified unit lately and missionary work with him has been such a joy, it's unbelievable. 

Something special that happened between us as well is that we were talking one night and he told me that I have been his comp longer than any other companionship throughout his whole mission, by a large amount. He also said that I had had the most patience with him than any other elder he had served with before and though we argued sometimes, he thought we had a really good companionship and that he had learned alot from me about patience and humility. I told him he was a great missionary and a great example for me and I was happy to be his companion. This is something that would've been so hard and nearly impossible for me to say a few weeks ago. But because my mom had challenged me to be of service to someone and Heavenly Father had put it in my heart that I needed to serve and love my companion, right then in that moment, saying those things to Elder ***** was something easy and a pleasure to say and was the truth from my heart. I learned a great lesson. The more you serve someone, the more you grow to love them. When you let go of pride and the natural man and try to see someone like Christ would see them, it's impossible not to have your heart and mind changed...for the better. 

Happy Mother's Day! See you over Skype on Sunday!

Elder Ren Porter

Elder Rojas, Garardo (our recent convert), Nefi (his son), and me