Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Less...awkward robot, more...servants of God (week 31)

Woah. so this week was something.  First off, none of our investigators came to church on Sunday and Argentina lost the Copa Americana finals in soccer yesterday. Secretly, Elder Wihongi and i were rooting for Chile to win yesterday in the Copa Americana. It was done out of spite that none of our investigators came to church. hahaha. Don't worry, I've already repented.
That's all the bad news, and theres not a lot, so thank goodness!! Besides those two things, this week was pretty sweet. We were able to meet alot of our goals this week and we are super stoked now. Also we have been getting progressively better with our teaching. I'm proud to say we're teaching less like awkward robots and more like servants of God!! 

So, now I know that I don't just have bad luck with the bikes here, I also have train issues! we had to go up to a little town in our area called Gowland which you can only reach by a 50 minute train ride. So we took the train up there and we visited all the less active and investigators we know and none of them were home (of course) so we went back to the train station to go home. As we're sitting on the train platform waiting, a guy comes up to us and says the train workers have gone on strike! Huh? So in the one hour that we spent in Gowland, the train went on strike!! My comp and I are thinking "oh good, we were hoping the train would go on strike today!!!" "Hope we can find some sketchy bikes to ride so we can get home by nightfall." So, we found some sketchy bikes and we started the LONG bike ride back to Mercedes. Sadly, we took some weird route that ran along the train tracks and we were on that trail FOREVER. The whole time i was just waiting for some random thief to jump out of the brush and rob us of our candy and cameras but luckily we had luck and that didn't happen. Instead, we were just chased by random dogs!!! But, because we got lost, we found out that we have a small lake in our area, a bunch of brick making Bolivians, and also another small town that we didnt know existed. So it was all quite eventful. 

Its Steadily getting colder here and its also coming into to the rainy season. Yippee. So there always seems to be a constant wind blowing and it always seems to be blowing against us, no matter what angle or direction we ride our bikes!!! haha. 

We visited a less active family this week and it was funny because at the end of the lesson the fathers uncle walked in and we met him and then we asked the family for references of other people we could visit and as we writing down some references we asked if there was anyone else we could visit and the uncle was like "Umm...you can visit me!" We looked at him and looked at eachother and were like, "Oh man! We are so lame!!" Did I say we were "less awkward robot and more servants of God?" Haha. Anyway, we quickly covered our awkwardness and asked the uncle if we could come tomorrow? It was super funny afterwards, as we were thinking about it because it was so random. So we visited him the next day and we managed to set a date for him to be baptized! Crazy.

Elder Wihongi and i have been sharing messages alot about the Atonement lately. The moment in Jesus Christ´s life when he suffered for all the sin of the world and sweat drops of blood for you and me.  We have really been trying to drive home the supreme importance of applying the atonement. I forget sometimes the significance of this, the ability to throw off my burden and guilt and to feel happy once more is not something to kept to oneself. We teach of the neccesity of praying on bended knee to God To receive this gift and not to wait but to apply it in our lives and apply it now!
I know that the atonement is of supreme importance and it is, in reality, something real. Jesus Christ really does exist and He Did do that for me and my family and all the people past, present and future. This knowledge of the Atonement is mine and no matter what happens i know that it is true. 
I love you guys and i love this work!!
Elder Ren Porter

The first pic was taken on the train platform right before we were told they were on strike! And the other two pics were taken on our journey home from the train!

Member Missionaries (week 30)

So this week was pretty awesome. First off, I ate A LOT of.....potatoes, eggs and onions (just like last week)!! Second my area, Mercedes, was created into a Ward which is Awesome because its been a branch since 1944!!! And the district of Lujan, Argentina was made into a Stake, we celebrated by eating A LOT of..... potatoes, eggs and onions!!! Lujan is an area that covers about 230,000 kilometers (i dont know how much that is in miles but i assume alot). Elder Texeira presided over everything and with him was Elder Carter (mission President right before President Robertson), who was called as a 70 this last General Conference and also President Benton-Current MTC president In Argentina and our current Mission President (Robertson). It was a great experience. The Ride home was fun, we all rode on a sketchy bus. I was able to sleep a little bit and we only had to stop once because of a car running into us and shattering its window. Good times.

Also the first group of missionaries that came here with President Robertson (current mission President) left for their homes today. It was quite a big group of missionaries. They made up a big chunk of great leaders that we had here. Also, we received transfer calls yesterday and I am..........staying here in Mercedes!!! AND....I am staying with Elder Wihongi!! Yes!! Anti-climatic, but Awesome. We have been knocking on wood for two weeks now, none stop, Hoping we would stick together again this transfer. We celebrated by eating A LOT of potatoes, eggs and onions!! Elder Lopez and Elder Sales and Hermana Cheever are all staying too, but Hermana Sierra is leaving. 

Me and Elder Wihongi are super excited we're staying here because that means that we will both be here for the wedding and baptism of Augustina. Coolest lady ever!! 
I feel like I`ve done alot more this week but i cant remember anything that happened...hahaha.  I'm sure it was all good though!!

I want to say some things about the  importance of members in missionary work. I have not realized, until now, how important members are in missionary work. I know now that, for an investigator and recent convert to have a member-friend will not only help them feel welcome in the church but will help them not leave the church. I wish i could be there all the time for my investigators and recent converts. When they are feeling lonely, distressed or confused, I just want to stay with them 24/7, give them a hug and tell them to hold on, have faith and don't give up, but as a missionary I can't do that as it will hinder the progression of the `person. I have never realized truly what it feels like to walk into a new and exciting experience full of new words, new people, new concepts and new cultures. The closest example for me would be....walking into a new country. The work progresses everyday but I feel sure in saying that the work would progress so much faster if members participated as well. 

I do love all the help we do receive out here, it helps alot more than people think it does for us missionaries!!!
Love you all, 
Elder Ren Porter

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I love this work! (Week 29)

SO this week we had Zone conference and President Robertson and his wife, the Assistants and a Missionary Couple shared some words of wisdom with us. The Hermana Missionary taught us the proper way to conduct music. Before her instruction I had thought that conducting the music was pretty simple, but I quickly realized I had been wrong all this time...haha...even with my 10 years of piano lessons, I basically knew nothing about music!!. Usually if I led the  music, I just did something like "okay on three 1...2...3..." and then start waving my hand around to signal that it was time to start singing. I usually drew my name in the air instead of an actual structure but now they’re inviting the missionaries to start learning how to actually do it. hahaha. It’s so hard!!! Moving on, I got my first haircut in Argentina (not done by another Elder).

We are super excited because this area is kicking right now. Ever since started working with Jorge Quevedo (recent re-active and father of recent convert). We have been receiving a lot of work from the Lord. We have started working with Jorge's family now, to re-activate them and also working a lot with his girlfriend Augustina who wants to be baptized. 
Jorge had a surgery on Saturday for his Hernia, so he is trapped in bed until he heals.  We gave him a blessing and we hope he will heal quickly because he and augustina have already shown a truck load of faith. 
We also found a lady this week who we think is awesome. She is friends with some active members in the ward and also has talked with missionaries in the past. We taught her a lesson and it went super great, we even managed to get a baptismal date with her for next month and we have high hopes she will progress well.
ALso we have been working with a man named Luis who is a special case. He is a special case because 1. he smokes and drinks, 2. he has almost no family and lives alone, 3. WE can barely understand him, 4. he can barely understand us, 5. he has talked with elders in the past but they were never able to help him and ,6. He wants to quit smoking but has no faith that he can. Me and my comp are praying all day and night that he will have the strength he needs to overcome his addictions. We have a great hope that he will progress because he seems to sincerely want to change. We just have to be patient with him. 

My favorite part of the week was last night. We had a lesson that I loved a lot and that I want to tell you guys about. There is this family here in our area and they´re less active and super nice, and their family is huge, consisting of the mom and dad, a lot of Brothers and one sister who are all married now and have kids and for one reason or another they either hate the church or just have no desire to return, though if we show up and share a scripture they always say that they feel spirit and realize the need to return to church. Elder Wihongi and I have been working alot with this family and we visited one of the brothers yesterday night. Probably not the smartest decision because they were watching soccer and also this happened to be a night where almost the whole family was there with all the brothers and their families and in the mix was some non-members, baptized (but inactive members), genuine people who wanted to change, people who don't know what they want in life, and people who genuinely hated the church. And we were in the midst of them and they were loud. hahaha. One guy was making sarcastic remarks to offend us and then the wife or sister would hit him and tell him to go away. Some of the people asked us questions about ourselves and other people were trying to make their fellow family members mad by telling us where they lived so that we could visit them because as they were saying "this sheep is super lost"! They would laugh uproariously about that. Eventually they let us share our message. This is the part I absolutely loved about this lesson. Up to this point it had been extremely loud and raucous in this home, but When we started the prayer the room immediately got quiet and everyone listened to the guy saying the prayer. The silence continued during scripture we shared. We shared Ether 12:27 with them and we testified to them quietly and simply about what they had to do be happy in this life. The spirit was present in that moment and my testimony grew tremendously from that moment when I saw these people silence themselves in respect for our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. I know that wickedness is weakness and that righteousness is might. 
This week was amazing. 
Love you guys,
elder ren Porter

1 & 2. A typical home in the "campos" or farmland of Mercedes. The Campos are a very humble area of my mission. 
3. A typical rooftop of a home in campos. They have to use heavy garbage to hold the roof down.
4. Me walking down a typical alleyway in the campos. They use tarps to cover walls and windows because they can't afford to buy more. It's very cold in their homes. 
5. On a lighter note, this is the "city" part of Mercedes. I call this picture, "Elder Wihongi....Island princess....lost in Argentina." Hahaha

Ride on the handlebars?? ...Ok!! (Week 28)

SO this week we had a baptism. We didn't think the baptism was going to go through, so we were a little unprepared and surprised, but also super happy. Bianca was baptized by Elder Wihongi and I was able to confirm her and bless her with the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday. This was my first time ever doing that blessing. It was such an amazing spiritual experience. I'm so grateful that I got to be a part of this family's joy. Bianca is the daughter of Jorge Quavedo. Jorge is a member but he's been inactive for years and he has a girlfriend who is not a member. We've been teaching The Quavedo family since I got here to Mercedes. The Baptism was awesome, as well, because Bianca and her Family showed up, score!! But also, some less active people that me and elder wihongi have been working a lot with lately showed up for the baptism and they happen to be friends of  Jorge's. Also, Jorge´s parents were there. They are active members. The spirit was so strong and they cried during the last part of the meeting when Jorge got up and bore his testimony about the restored Gospel and about how he knew that the covenant Bianca had made was extremely important and that he was Extremely happy in that moment for her. Amazing experience!! Elder Wihongi and I are SO Happy for Bianca and her family. Jorge has an operation on his leg tomorrow so we are going to pass by and give him a blessing and we have a hope that we will heal rapidly so that he can marry his now fiance Augustina and so that she will be ready to be baptized this next month as well.

WE have also been working with some other people who we believe have some great potential. We’re focusing on one family in particular because they are a family of girls about the same age as Bianca. We are trying as hard as we can to start building up the young women's program here because, as of right now, it only consists of Bianca!!

This week was also super crazy because of the never ending problems with our bikes!! This week my tire exploded twice. I had to get a whole new wheel and then the guy insisted that I get new brakes because my bike hasn't had any brakes since I got it! Haha. Then I had to get a new tread because two days ago the tire exploded again!! My bike is almost perfect now, except the wire for my new breaks is too tight so i've been riding with the brakes on the bike wheels for a few days. It's fine though. My legs are super awesome now like they were when I was on the swim team! Haha. 
Also, elder wihongi and I were heading to a lesson/lunch appt. this week and Elder wihongi had just fixed his bike but as we started going we realized there was another problem. His chain kept falling off! haha. We didn't want to be late, so we walked to a recent convert´s house and dropped off his bike and started heading over again. And what do you do when you have miles to go and a short time to get there and only one bike for two people? Yip, you decide who is stronger and bigger and you have that person pedal while you jump on the handlebars!! I jumped up and held on for dear life!! Poor Elder Wihongi had to pedal my bike, with the brakes that were rubbing against the wheel, and my 6'4, 145 lb. body, for several miles,  against the wind! On the plus side, we made it to our appointment AND we got a video and pictures of our unprecedented journey to lunch (video attached below!). ELder Wihongi and I are probably one of the most unified Elders in our mission. It's been a great experience serving with him. 

Another reason This week was so awesome is because of how much food I've been eating! We don't get fed very well by the members in this area, but the food is really cheap so me and my comp buy tons of food and cook it ourselves. Remember last week how I told you I bought a ton of food? I ate 30 of the eggs I bought this week and 2 kilos of potatoes and onions. In other words I’ve been living in Luxury!!!!!!!

This week was awesome!! Loved it entirely. 
I love you guys.
Elder Ren Porter

1. Elder Wihongi, Bianca, Me (at Bianca's baptism)
2. Me, Elder Sales, Augustina (future wife of Jorge), Bianca, Elder Wihongi, Jorge (at Bianca's baptism)
3. My district--me, Elder Lopez, Elder Sales, Elder Wihongi, Hermana Cheever, Hermana Sierra

Dogs....again??? (Week 27)

So this week was pretty sweet! We had a strange/amazing, experience. Elder Wihongi and I were heading to a lunch appt. with a member, when the wheel of my comps bike broke and we were forced to walk the rest of the way. Right when elder Wihongi picked up his bike to start walking, the intertube exploded inside.....right next to my ear. It was super loud and it scared me for second. Luckily it also happened to scare all the dogs who had been barking and chasing us! Yes! We walked, tranquilo, to the lunch appointment. When we left, we started heading back to the apartment to drop off our now dead weight. As we were walking down a road we saw this little chihuahua being confronted by three big dogs. They were barking at it and lunging at it. Then this bigger dog came out of no where and grabbed the chihuahua by the neck and started throwing it around like a ragdoll. Elder Wihongi immediately dropped his bike to the ground and chucked a rock at the dogs. They scattered and the little dog ran off yelping super loud. I have to say, as much as dogs have bugged and annoyed me here, I was slightly traumatized by what I just witnessed. It was so mean and unfair. That chihuahua is super tiny and there were 4 big dogs trying to kill it. So, as I said, Elder Wihongi jumped right in while I just stood there for a second like a loser. I came to my senses, dropped my bike as well, and chased after my comp, who was running to rescue the chihuahua with a giant rock in his hand. I started yelling "basta" and "cucha" at all the other dogs that were now gathering around the commotion like vultures.  Eventually we managed to grab the little chihuahua. We then headed towards the crowd of people who had come outside because they heard the whole thing, from their houses. We started asking around to see if people knew who this dog belonged to, but we couldn't find an owner. The people who had come out of their houses told us to go try some lady who lived around the corner to see if it was hers. But then another lady said "I'll take the dog to one of my friends house down the street, she likes dogs." So we were like "sweet. take it." Elder Wihongi and I were starting to walk away when some random kid came out and said  "Hey, I can fix your wheel for you!" Before we could say anything, he had changed the wheel. We were like, "well...we don't have any money, but we will come back later and give you some candy and your wheel back". We started riding away again when someone ran to catch us and told us to come back. So we turned around and went back. We started talking to all the people. We met the friends of the lady who took the dog. As we were talking with the lady who took the dog and her family, it turned out that this person, who we had just met, was an old investigator of the church and her son had been baptized in the church many years ago!! Say what??  We were like "wow! Can we teach you something?" They said "yes. But you are not allowed to convert us." We said "ok. We'll try not to." hahaha. They were a super cool family. The next day we returned to the house of that kid who helped us, to give him candy and we were able to meet his mom. We asked if we could share a message. She accepted. We taught her and set a baptismal date, right then, on our first visit with her for the next month. So...because my comp got a flat tire, which forced us to walk, we happened upon the dog attack, which drew a crowd, said crowd witnessed my comp bravely throwing himself into the fight to save that little dog and also witnessed me, standing traumatized, until eventually stepping up to yell "Cucha" (not as brave, but still). So from that, we met two really awesome families. Coincidence? I think not. By small and simple things. haha. I don't know why Heavenly Father does things the way He does, but I trust His eternal wisdom. Maybe it HAD to be dramatic, in this situation, to catch the attention of certain people? I don't know. All I DO know is that I am on the Lord's errand and I need to be ready to testify and teach in any and all situations. 

We set a baptismal date with another girl that we've been teaching for a few weeks as well. She is getting baptized this next Saturday. She is super excited. All in all, this week was completely unexpectedly awesome in the extreme. 

It has been a little hard at times as well though. One thing I love about new experiences is that when something new does happen, you get to see yourself react and see where you are lacking. You also get to see where you are progressing. I realized, for example, that I don't like dog fights! Who knew? I'm actually mortified by them but when called to action I can yell "doghouse" to the biggest dog!! I think a lot about Ether 12:27. I love that scripture!! The knowledge that I won't be stuck with the frailities and weaknesses of life forever, gives me so much hope. It helps me remember my God and my Savior Jesus Christ more. And it helps me remember how much I need them always in my life. This week was awesome and I learned a ton about how I can be a better person and missionary. I'm so grateful to be out here. 

Love you all,
Elder Porter

This is our investigators. The family Quavedo and a young girl we're baptizing this next Saturday. We were making lunch with them in the picture. It was delicious!
Look Ma....no hands!!!

So half of our area is in the "city", and the other half is "farm lands". This is the NICEST "road" (I'm being generous by calling it a road) we've found, in the "farm lands". Most of the "roads" are waaaayyy worse than this one AND most of the roads have dogs that jump out at you as you ride down them. 

And for my next trick....lesson charades!! (Week 26)


SO this week me and Elder Wihongi did great. I feel like this area is progressing a lot right now and the Lord is preparing the people here, for the conference coming up, which will turn this branch into a ward. We have been getting lots of great possibilities lately in this area. One family in particular we are working with is the family Quavedo.

The Hermano is menos activo but his novia right now is not. He's the only baptized member in his family. We started visiting them to try and re-activate the Hermano, but after we started teaching him we realized that the Hermana was interested as well. So we started visiting Sergio and Augustina more (that's their names) but for some reason we always showed up at the worst times, right as they were leaving so we were only able to share a quick scripture and plan another day to come back and teach the first lesson to Augustina. Every time we went back they told us about something interesting and spiritually impacting that happened to them that week. Augustina told us, one time, she already knew our message was true and wants to join our church and we still, at this point, had not even taught a her a full lesson!! haha. it was awesome. And Sergio helped us so much, as well. He would answer her questions about the church when we weren't there and then tell us the answers he gave her to make sure he told her right. Finally when we had time to sit down and talk with them, we taught them the first lesson, and Sergios daughter (who was an old investigator) was also there. We Managed to set dates and goals for them for baptism. The best part was that me and ELder Wihongi barely had to do anything with this great family. They had already decided, in their hearts, they were going to follow Jesus Christ and do what was necessary to start their path of discipleship.

Also, Me and Elder Wihongi have been growing more unified as a companionship and missionary work has become more enjoyable than ever. Elder Wihongi is a capo. He is hilarious and we quote "lord of the rings" lines to each other all day. So, As I mentioned last week, me and elder Wihongi are about equal in our Spanish speaking skills. This has made for some rather interesting lessons and situations. But, since me and Elder Wihongi are both struggling with the language right now, our “charade abilities” have skyrocketed! Elder Wihongi is particularly good at it. I feel like we could teach a whole lesson together, right now, without saying anything at all. Just letting our bodies do the talking for us!! If they ever have a ward or stake talent night…...watch out!

Mercedes is awesome and I’m super excited for the next couple weeks here. It's starting to get cold. I busted out all my winter gear. We'll see if we got the "right" clothes and shoes for this area during the next couple of months. It's not TO bad yet, but I do have to apologize every single time I shake someone's hand here, because they always go "oh geez, your hand is like Ice!" Haha. 

This might sound strange, but i love how difficult some of the people we've been meeting here are. I love it because my personal study has become so much more focused and has been so much more effective. I have to be on my “spiritual A game” here in Mercedes because we’ve come across some very difficult situations. We met a family the other day and were able to teach the first lesson. Everything was going good. Nice and normal. Then afterwards, they asked us to bless their house because they were being haunted by spirits. haha. Awesome. We also met another lady and some of her family last week. She belongs to a bizarre religion. We've been begging and pleading with her to give up her religion because it superbad and crazy!! They basically worship spirits and sometimes sacrifice animals. We were super blunt with her. We were like, “Hermana this is wrong. You're not going to find peace in this at all. You need to throw all your religious trinkets outside your house and not practice for two weeks and see the difference." She declined because she said one of her “religious holidays” was coming up and so she couldn't stop because the "Saints" of her religion were coming down soon (from the sky) to do some ceremony with the practicers here. Hmm...We´ll go back in a couple of weeks and try again. But her family is really cool, if not a little loud. 

We also have been working with a guy who believes all we have said so far, Like everything. BUT, he can’t accept a latter-day prophet. Oh man, that was such a frustrating lesson!!

So…….Bikes are Awesome! So much faster than walking. But the dogs are also a little more brave when you're on a bike! There’s nothing scarier than a big black dog coming out of the shadows of death and trying to bite your feet! Though, when you're in this situation you can do a number of things. I have created a list of evasive maneuvers that I am testing out.
1) Pedal to the metal and get out of their.
2) Kick it in the face….while you continue pedaling with the opposite foot. (Sorry dog lovers.)
3) Yell “CUCHA” at them, which means “doghouse” in spanish.
4) Get off the bike and start fighting them, with  said bike.
5) Pick up a rock (which usually works because they are smart enough to figure out that THAT means something...)
6) Throw the rock.

All very useful and very effective. My personal favorite is the "CUCHA" technique, its simple, but effective. 

For some reason we don't get fed here in Mercedes as well as we did in Villa Tesei. That has been difficult, because Elder Wihongi and I LOVE to eat!!!! Luckily the food here is super cheap, so me and Elder Wihongi have been buying and making our own great food lately. I bought two kilos of mandarins today for $1.50. AWESOME. 

But anyway, this area is awesome! I love it here and I love you guys!

Elder Ren Porter

#1 & 2- me and Elder Wihongi (all bundled up for warmth)
#3 & 4- some of the awesome Catholic Cathedrals
#5-the “farmland” part of our area
#6- a road near our apartment