Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cambios (Changes)

Ben's email arrived again on Tuesday instead of Monday. We were very anxious to find out if his first baptism happened. Enjoy his letter and see what changes are happening in his life.

Hola Familia,

As for the news on Richard... He is the newest member of Bario: Libia, Estaca: Maroñas. Richard's baptism was awesome!

We told the bishop to announce the baptism for right after church so that way we could have more people there. He told us that we needed to choose another time. So we decided 8 o'clock (p.m.) on Saturday (20:00 hrs). The bishop announced 8 a.m. Sunday morning instead, so that was kinda funny. 

The biggest problem we have with our members is getting them to church at 9 o'clock (for this reason we have the sacrament service at 11). So our goal was to find people to participate in the baptismal service at 08:00 a.m. One of our speakers slept too late and did not make it to the service, so Elder Gardner gave the first talk before the baptism. The the member doing the baptism was about 20 min late also. Everything worked out last minute though. 

The service was very special, and spiritual. It is  very apparent that Richard made this decision for the right reason. To change, start over on a better, more fulfilling path. Later, in sacrament meeting, he received the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We talked with him the day after and he said he has already felt a huge difference in his life. 

Right now we are focusing on teaching him about the Priesthood, so his home and his grandmother can have access to the wonderful blessings that come with it. Also, we are starting a small family history with him. So he can go to the temple with his grandmother. It's amazing to see such a changed man, to see the happiness and joy this has brought to him and his grandmother.

Elder Gardner, Richard, Richard's Grandmother and Ben before Richard's baptism
This week is also the end of my first 6 weeks. Elder Gardner and I received the call last night...   (The English translation was provided by Ben--thank goodness--as this would have been way beyond my capabilities)

"Élder Gardner: Se Va, por Malvin como Líder de Zona"
(Elder Gardner is leaving, and he´s leaving to Malvin as the Zone Leader)

"Élder Taylor: Se Queda en Libia, como compañero menor con Líder de Districto Élder Ve´e"
(Elder Taylor is staying in Libia as Junior Companion to District leader Elder Ve´e)

Elder Gardner says that Elder Ve'e lived part of his early life in the Polynesian islands. Other than that I still haven't met him. I´ll give you more accurate information next week.

Also in the way of mission news. President and Sister Newsome, because of business problems and other problems back home, had to return home. So now we´re in between Mission Presidents. We have an Area Seventy filling the spot. 

I forgot to tell you last week. That's why the schedule got changed last week and I emailed on Tuesday. (We were worried last week when we did not get an email from Ben on Monday, but he did not mention anything in his previous email. He also emailed us on Tuesday this week, but maybe things will get back to normal soon) The name of my next Mission President is President Cook, I think.

I hope everything is going well back home and y'all don´t get too much snow. (We have been sharing with Ben about all of the lovely weather he is missing this winter in Indiana. I don't think he is missing it very much)

Elder Taylor (back row) with his District
Back left to right: E Pachas, E Ashcraft, E McFarland, Me, E Gardner, E Reynolds
Front left to right: Hma Jines, Hma Cardona, Hma Rodriguez, and Hma Louder

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

More Miracles in Uruguay

Ben's P-Day is supposed to be Mondays, so like clockwork, we have a letter every Monday afternoon, except for this week. We checked our email over and over again yesterday and as dinner time approached, we realized that we would not be getting an email from Ben that day. I don't know why he emailed Tuesday instead of Monday--I am sure there was a good reason--but I did not realize how much I depend on the weekly email to know that Ben is doing well until I did not get it yesterday. 

I am happy to share this email with you and let you see how Ben has come to realize the Lord's hand in what he is doing. The miracles that he is seeing, even the small things, are helping my testimony of missionary work as I know that they are helping Ben grow in the gospel and recognize the importance of what he is doing. He is truly on the Lord's errand!

Happy Week Family!

So, we have scheduled this week.... a miracle.... We have a baptism scheduled for Sunday. He is the grandson of a recent convert (of 3 or 4 years). His name is Richard, he is about 30 years old, lives in the fondo (word for the back addition of a house) of his grandmothers house (Sister Ana Maria). He had listened to the missionaries before when his brother and grandmother were investigating.

** [Cultural note: A family, instead of moving away from the house of their parents, simply builds an addition to the house somewhere on the property. Some of the older members will have 3 or 4 additional cement houses connected to their own property that will house their children and grandchildren.]  

The way we found him is a real miracle. We had set up to have his grandmother come visit an investigator we had that was about her same age. We went to the investigators house to confirm the appointment and she came out yelling at us, saying she didn't want us to come back any more and that she hated what we represented (which is weird because we had had two charlas with her before and she loved our message, especially when we talked about eternal families, because she is a widow and has lost two children earlier in life). We were really upset because she was an awesome investigator. So we went to Sister Ana Maria´s house to let her know the charla was called off.

Miracle 1. So Sister Ana Maria invited us in to share a small message with her and her grandson.

Miracle 2. He had attended the church the week before to listen to his grandma give a talk.

Miracle 3. We sat down chatted for a few minutes, then we asked Richard what he thought of Church. He said he loved it, but didn't quite understand what the Gospel Principles class was about because he entered late. 

Miracle 4. The topic of the class was baptism.

Miracle 5. He asked if we could explain it for him. We explained why baptism is so important, how it a starting over to a better life, how it is the key to the personal salvation of each person, how we show that we are willing to follow Christ, and how it opens us up to all kinds of opportunities to receive more blessings. The spirit was so strong, and we asked him if baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was something that could help him. 

Miracle 6. He answered without hesitation, yes. He wanted to get baptized as soon as possible.He said that he´s been going through a lot of difficulties in his life and he thinks that this change could really turn his life around. He already had listened to almost all the charlas 3 or 4 years back , but we still needed to go over everything. So, now he has had almost all the lessons. We pass by to see him every day, since he only has 9 days before his baptism. 

Miracle 7. He quit smoking in 2 days. we were going to give him a little longer, but he wanted to quit even quicker. He pretty much only needs his interview with the Zone Leaders and he is good to go for Sunday morning. 

Right now we are mostly working on finding him some people to be a friend. He's a bit older than all the YSA's (Young Single Adults) and a bit younger than all the other Single Adults, and there aren't that many members here anyway. He's awesome and will be a great addition to the church. All I ask from each of you is for prayers for him. He is making a huge change in a short time. Even if something comes up this week, I know that he'll work though it and he will eventually join the church, but we are doing everything possible to help him make this step.

Well that´s all I have time for. Love you all!!

Élder Taylor

p.s. I got the Dear Elder package, thank you so much! (we sent that package a couple of weeks before Christmas and worried that it might not ever get there. Hope the cookies weren't too old or hard :)

p.p.s. I got the package from Grandma, thank you so much! (she sent her package the day after we sent our Christmas package, but it took a lot more time to get there for some reason, but at least he has gotten everything)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Miracles in Uruguay

So this week flew by. My compañero and I have really seen a lot of miracles this last week. Last week we had to leave our area to be able to email home. I don't remember if I told you guys last week. 

It was Dia de Los Reyes that day and quite a lot of places were closed, including the internet café we normally go to in our town. ( I did not know what this was, so I looked it up--Dia de Los Reyes (known as Epiphany) is celebrated on Jan 6 to honor the Three Wise Men. This holiday represents the day the Three Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus Christ. The day closes the Christmas festivities and is the day the people exchange gifts. Christmas might be over, but it doesn't mean the gift giving (and receiving) is over. Children in Latin America and Spain receive the majority of their gifts from the Three Kings rather than Santa Claus at Christmas. Before going to bed, the children place their old shoes with a wish list on top for the Three Kings. In the morning, the shoes are filled with toys and gifts from the Three Kings.) We weren't about to let that stop us from emailing back home. We got on an omnibus for a 25 min to ride to another area to use another Cyber Café with some other missionaries in our district. 

Today our Cyber Café was closed again so we made the trip again. One thing I absolutely love about Uruguay is the massive amounts of buses  always passing by. Often times we have to take the bus to go from one appointment to another since our area is so large.

Anyways, back to those miracles I was talking about. We were given a list of prospective missionary aged young adults by the stake and were asked to seek them out, and try to reactivate them. So the 30 names on the list have been our backup plans for when a charla (visit/discussion) falls through. 

We stopped at the house of this one kid named Jesus, He had been baptized about 3 or 4 years earlier. He wasn't living there anymore, but his dad answered. He invited us in. We talked for a while about what he already knew about the church. He was pretty well versed in church history and used to read the Book of Mormon. He said he would listen from the other room when his son was receiving the charlas. His only hangup was with organized religion/ a physical church.

He had some concerns about pride entering in a church, like what happens so often in the Book of Mormon. We shared some scriptures in 3 Nephi that talk about this, and shared some excerpts from Pres. Uchtdorf´s talk "Come Join With Us"; the part that talks about how, the church is run by men striving to be perfect. The Church and Doctrine of Christ is perfect; but we as mortal men, we falter sometimes. 

He's progressing extremely well and we've addressed a lot of his concerns. We are going to try to invite him to be baptized the next visit, if we receive the prompting. He is well versed in the Bible, and has shared with us some Book of Mormon verses and has testified that what they say is true. Fingers crossed that he will continue without any huge stumbling blocks. 

We've also gotten some references from members that I can really see going far. It's so cool to look at someone and see them in your mind getting baptized, going to the temple with their family, going on missions, having callings. I hadn't really thought about how much all of these things affected peoples lives. To see recent converts making these steps is so amazing. 

Unfortunately, we have an investigator who is not progressing at all. She has received all the charlas plus an additional 5 or 6 visits just with us and members bearing testimony. She doesn't really have much interest in our message. We are only invited to come back by her husband, who is a member. It's rough, because I can see her as an awesome member, I can see her, her husband, and her little boy in white; going to the temple to be an eternal family. I can see her son serving a mission. We´ll probably stop by every once in a while just to share a spiritual thought and just see how the family is. 

It´s just rough because, I would never just want her to be baptized just to please her husband or us. I want for her to know for herself, the joy she could have with the blessing of an eternal family. I suppose only time will tell. We can always pray and hope.

Sorry that got so sad at the end. Well I hope everything is going well at home. I love you guys.

¡Les Quiero!

Élder Taylor

P.S. To answer some questions: 
Are you in the city or out in the country?
I am in a populated area, Mostly suburbish residential area (think the residential part of indianapolis like driving to Indy from 40 before you get to White River). Lots of houses, tiny, close together. It´s a little nicer though (Like I would feel safer walking down this road). Then we have a main road that runs through from Ciudad Vieja (30 min away by bus) way out to the Campo (rural area).
How many weeks between transfers? How many weeks will you be with your trainer?
The transfer cycle is 6 weeks, but because I'm being trained I'll more than likely be here for 12 weeks.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Happy New Year Uruguay!

Hola Familia!

So this week was the first week of the New Year. Back home I don't ever remember us making a big deal about the New Year. Here it's practically a 3 day event. Everything closes halfway through the 30th and doesn't open till the afternoon on the 2nd. 

We had permission to stay up late again to watch the ´Fuegos Artificiales´ (fireworks). The mission manual say holidays are the best to contact people because they´re with their families. I'm sure that works well some places, but in my Libia Uruguay, not so much. 

We set up a day full charlas (visits) with some investigators and some in-actives, but all but one fell through because they were visiting family, going to the street fair, or something else like that. So a lot of our day was knocking doors as a back up plan. 

The people here are awesome, kind and loving. But come the holidays, they all love to party, and when they party it's the day before the holiday, through the holiday, and a little into the following day.  So that day was a little rough, but the one charla (visit) we ended up having was really awesome. 

It was with one of our investigators who is recovering from a pretty heavy duration of time using drugs. He's completely turned his life around and is now a spiritual giant. He has had most of the discussions and attends church every week. He and is girlfriend are planning on getting married in a few months. She is also participating in the charlas (visits), but doesn't really have a background in religion, so were still trying to explain to her the need of God, a Savior, a church. We ended up coming back home that night (the 31st) dead tired and slightly frustrated. 

The other Élderes en our house received a huge bucket of Asado, chorizo, rice, empenadas, and fresh bread. Élder Gardner and I pitched in a couple of our leftovers and we had a great New Years feast. After the dinner, we went up to the roof and took a mini 1 hr nap waiting for the fireworks. It was actually pretty chilly out and really windy (first time since I've been here). 

The fireworks were a little different from Christmas. Christmas was just a lot of fireworks for probably 2 hours continuously. New Years, there were a few people doing fireworks about an hour before midnight, but within about 30 seconds it seemed like there was a war going on. There were easily at least 50% more fireworks than from Christmas. 

I genuinely have no words to describe it other than, there is no such thing as illegal fireworks here.

Well, I hope everything is going well at home. Don't forget to hug each other for me.

¡Les Amo!
Élder Taylor

Happy 2014 Uruguay!

Nap time on the roof-waiting for fireworks
New Year feast

Ben and the Elders he shares a house with eating their New Years feast

Ben and the other Elders waiting on fireworks New Years Eve

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Uruguay Mission President Letter

Dear Taylor Family,

Tuesday, December 17th, we went to the airport in Montevideo, Uruguay, to pick up Elder Taylor and welcome him into our mission.  He arrived full of excitement and enthusiasm to get to work.

We have spent the day getting to know him, and we recognized that he will be a great asset to us here in the mission.  We know that he will bless the lives of many wonderful people.

Wednesday was transfer day and after meeting with his trainer, he headed off to his first area so that he could start ¨ [bringing] to pass the immortality and eternal life of man¨.

We are now sending you a photo that we took with him and the mission.  As you can see, he is extremely excited and ready to start.  We are so excited to have your son with us and hope that you receive this photo with excitement and pride in all that your son has done to prepare himself for the opportunity that he now has to serve the Lord for the next two years.

The Newsomes

Uruguay, Montevideo Mission
Can you find Ben? He is on the right, in the back in front of the wall near the gate--his companion has his hand on Ben's shoulder making a thumb's up.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas 2013 Letter


It was so fantastic to Skype with you on Christmas. It was definitely the highlight of the week. The rest of that day was just like any other day. 

One funny thing though--on the computer we were using, (the Bishop of the Libia Ward); there was a picture of 4 missionaries, one was probably a relative of the Bishop. I looked closer and saw Ian Forsythe (my cousin Dallin Seguine's friend from Philadelphia) was one of the missionaries. I believe he is serving in Brazil. What a small world!

We left the bishops house and taught a few lessons and did some spiritual thoughts with members. The craziest thing though were the Christmas fireworks. We had permission to stay up until 12:30 am to watch the fireworks. Our house has an access point to the roof, so we set up our chairs on the roof (it`s flat and cement, don't worry) and watched the fireworks. For as far as we could see there were fireworks going off. 

People were in the street outside dancing to loud music, catching stuff on fire in the streets, setting off hundreds upon hundreds of dollars worth of fireworks. There are now laws here to limit the amount you can set off, so everyone goes crazy. When midnight hit, I couldn't hear someone screaming in my ear next to me! It was 10 straight min of absolute deafening, smoking Christmas Spirit! I have a few pictures, but the computers at this internet café don´t work, so I´ll try next week. 

It has been getting hotter and hotter by the day. I wake up, dehydrated soaked with sweat, so now the cold showers aren´t so bad, haha. Ben was telling us on his Skype call that their bathroom in their house is pretty interesting. There is a small sink, toilet and bidet. The shower is in the middle of the bathroom, so everything gets wet. If they want hot water, they have to turn on the hot water heater. It sounds like it is not an easy process. Now it sounds like a cold shower can be a good way to cool off. Maybe when he gets home, he won't use all the hot water in the mornings :) 

One of the members told us that the street temperature (asphalt, humidity, lack of wind) was at 43ºC, I'm not sure what that is in ºF, but I'm pretty sure that´s over 105º. We are going to have to send Ben a chart with conversion for temperatures. 43 Celsius is 109 Fahrenheit. That does not sound fun. One blessing of the heat is more people invite us in to have a Coke or something. 

We are teaching one investigator who has been attending church for the past  10 months, has accepted all the teachings, lives all the commandments, etc.... He just expressed to us a doubt as to whether or not he would really fit in with the church, so he didn't feel ready to commit to baptism. He comes from a humble background and is worried that because he doesn't have a cookie cutter family, that he doesn't fit this mold that sometimes people think of when they think of Mormon. We shared with him the talk, "Come, Join With Us," a great talk by President Uchtdorf in this last general conference. He was very touched by Pres Uchtdorf´s words. We have a chat set up for this week, so we´ll see how the spirit has directed him since we last saw each other.

Love you guy so much. Happy New Year!!!

¡Les Amo!

Élder Taylor