Monday, March 31, 2014

Sick Companion--Long Week for Ben

Hello family!

Sorry, this week I don't have very much time or any photos :(

But here's the week:

So, we had all those baptisms this last week of the 5 people mentioned in my previous email, so we knew that our main focus for the next 2 or 3 weeks would be retention, assignments (for each convert), making sure that they can make it to their confirmation, and continuing fellowship with the members.

Starting on Tuesday, Elder Aguilera got quite sick. He suffered through almost the whole day but then we had to retire about 1 hour earlier to the house. The next day, we called the mission nurse and we stayed at the house and only left to get lunch and buy a medication at the local pharmacy. 

You can buy almost any medicine without a prescription here. If you go to the local pharmacy and say 'I have this and that symptom', the person claiming to be a pharmacist just goes back and gets you something. I'm pretty sure the pharmacist was younger than me! It was pretty sketchy... then the next two days we stayed in the house. While my companion was dying in his bed and in the bathroom, I just read. I read the lessons like 12 times each, I read the scriptures 7 hrs each day, then I read Jesus the Christ half way through.

I had no idea how boring it is when your companion is sick. All the times I was ever sick, I had internet, and TV, and a full pantry of yummy comfort foods. It was way different just doing nothing. We did leave two other times for Family Home Evenings we had planned already. We left for only 45 min each time.

But midway Friday, he felt a bit better, so we left for him to do some interviews for the Sisters in our District, then we went to a baptismal service. 

Almost all of our contact during the sick days with our Recent Converts was by telephone and prayer. But then we were able to pass by each one on Friday and Saturday. Thankfully, everything was fine with them and they all came to the church this Sunday and were all confirmed. 

Also this week is my first General Conference in the mission. In our building there is one other English speaking elder, In the other ward; so we're going to get to watch conference in English in the office of the Bishop. Yay!! I genuinely miss English so much. It's starting to slip, and still my Spanish isn't quite fluid yet. So now, I'm starting to get a little frustrated because I don´t really have a language that I feel comfortable speaking anymore.


I love you guys! I hope JT gets feeling better. Happy spring break!!

Élder Benjamin Taylor

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Five Baptisms in Lomas de Solymar--Looking for more investigators!

Hey guys.

This week was absolutely crazy. I realize I say that all the time, but this time I actually mean it! haha! There are now officially 5 more members baptized into the Lomas de Solymar Ward. It's amazing to see how these people have all been prepared in their own way. I´ll give a small bio on each person.

Melany: She is the daughter of an inactive member of the church. But we didn't meet that way. She started talking with the missionaries about a close friend that lives next door. She is 15 years old, and is now really active in the Young Women's organization and has found quite a few friends in the class. She has very strong faith in Christ and really only wants to do the right thing. 

Gustavo: He just recently married a member who also just became active. He is really interested in religion. He was raised in a family where his father was a practicing Bandista leader. That's a religion that has a lot of interesting practices. They are like a melting pot of all different religions, plus native Brazilian religions, and believe in sacrifices to calm the evil spirits. This is all my understanding from what has been told to me since I've been here. Very often, especially near the holidays these people will put out sacrifices of chickens with popcorn chunks of potato and various liquids and oils spread around the corner of a street to appease the evil spirits.... anyways his dad at one time wanted to sacrifice him as a small child, but his mom wouldn't let him. And now he's learning super fast and has a wonderful testimony of Jesus as our Savior.

Ana Laura: Ana is the mother of the two children, Edgardo and Mateo. They're a very special family. She was an investigator about 2 years ago and never really progressed, so the other missionaries had to leave her. My companion and his companion before me found her while contacting at the bus stop. She invited them back over, but again didn't really want anything and was only being nice. The elders eventually came back one morning dressed in service clothes as a surprise and offered service until she gave in and let them help her. They worked there one morning, befriended the two boys and won the mothers heart. She is super awesome. She currently lives with her two boys and her mother. Her mother is a member who has been inactive for 60 years (we are still working with her). She is super awesome and has probably the  most genuine desires to follow Christ of almost anyone I've ever met. 

Edgardo: Edgardo is either 13 or 14, he is now super active with the young men, and actually had the Young Men's President baptize him. He also likes to come with us to perform service when he doesn't have school. An awesome kid!

Mateo when he is not being crazy

Mateo: Mateo is 8 yrs old. He is probably one of the most squirrelly kids you've ever met. He cracks me up. We just need to help him find more friends in the Primary, so that he will stay in class, so that way his Mom can stay in class. Sort of like Will. Will got a new teacher in Primary in January and had a hard time adjusting to the new teacher. His previous teacher had developed a great relationship with him and he was not ready for the change. It took a few weeks but now he is staying in his class the entire time. This week we have him promised to stay in class the whole 2 hours.

So now what... We just baptized all of our investigators, so we need to find more and retain the others by helping them be active and firm, I guess that's not the worst problem to have, haha! 

I love you guys

Élder Taylor

Selfie of the companionship on our way home from the marriage we went to. The marriages here are a lot like a Las Vegas ceremony. You sign some papers, the official says 30 words, kalazam! you're married. Like getting married at the DMV/BMV, I actually think that we might have been in a DMV/BMV.

Here are some photos Ben has taken with Flat Stanley for Will's 1st Grade Class

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Greetings from the Coast!

Hola Familia

So my new area is super nice. It reminds me a lot of Duck Island, North Carolina, where we went on vacation, just not an island. We live rather close to the beach, less than a 7 min walk, so of course I had to take some pictures this morning to show you guys. It's super pretty!

Sorry! I got sand in my eye, and I didn't have a better picture!
The fields in front of the hills of sand, separating us from the ocean

The path to the beach

This is a normal road in my area. All the roads are sand roads. 
Super chill, vacation home style living here. 
We have to sweep the sand every day out of our house, It gets everywhere, haha!

My companion´s name is Élder Aguilera. He is from Viñas del Mar, Chile. He has an enormous personality. Like, you have no idea! I was afraid I wasn't going to get along with him at first, but we actually get along really well. 

He told me that his goal for this change was to not just get me talking more fluidly, but to get me a personality. Can you imagine someone saying that to you? I would have loved to see Ben's face when this was said! He told me that since were in a rather rich area you need a big personality to have any kind of success. 

Elder Aguilera

He´s right! We've been working on finding new people to teach. It's amazing how no one wants anything and he can just talk his way into their heart. I know stereotypes aren't good, but I've been told that the majority of Chileans are like that. Big personalities, fast talkers, and a little proud. He has a lot of characteristics that I would like to have, that I´ll be working on during this companionship.

The ward: The ward is super awesome! They are all super behind the missionary work here. The youth program is huge! There are 12-15 Young Women and 10-12 Young Men. And also almost 2 to 3 times we have family home evenings with members where they invite investigators. The ward is super supportive!!

Yesterday, I got to give an introduction of myself to the ward. Then, the Bishop came up to me 3 minutes before sacrament meeting started and asked me to give a talk--a 10 min talk on Diligence. 

Somehow it worked. I don't know how focused on diligence it was, but it was good. I talked about diligence in our personal lives (scripture study), family lives (diligently raising our children in righteousness; luckily I had a copy of Family: a Proclamation, with me), then I talked about our external lives (callings, missionary work, etc.). I some how worked that into an 8 minute talk. Miracles exist! haha!(Remember this is in a foreign language, and I had to think of all this off the top of my head.)

With regard to Flat Stanley, I received him today. I just opened it today so I haven't gotten to take any pictures yet. I´ll find something super Uruguayo (Pronounced oor-uh-gwyshz-o). William is in first grade, and his class recently read the book about a kid named Stanley who got flattened in an accident, so his family took advantage of his new shape and sent him in the mail all over the place. All the kids in Will's class were asked to send their flat person to somebody and then send him back with photos. The class is going to track on the map where all of their flat people have gone. We sent one to Connecticut to Uncle Jim & Aunt Cheryl for opportunities to be found there including photo ops with their pet pig. We also got an extra flat person to send to Ben, so he could take some pictures that would be unique to Uruguay. I am interested to see what Ben comes up with and how he explains to the investigators or ward members what Flat Stanley is and why he is including him in pictures.

The house I live in is super nice. It's a little cottage thing behind the house of a member. It's just me and Elder Aguilera, so it's not that big.

With regard to your questions, "do you have enough food?" and "are you starving?", etc. The answer is I have plenty of food and no, I am not starving. I am eating so much! i just lost some weight. Walking most places is probably causing the weight loss. It sounds like we have no need to worry when we look at the photos and see that Ben is slimmer than when he left. He looks happy and healthy!

Love you guys!

Élder Taylor

PS:  we are teaching, 

Ana Laura
Those three are a family

Gustavo and Melany.

Prayers are appreciated on their behalf.

My last zone in Maroñas

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ben is getting transferred!

 Hola Familia

I hope everything is going well back home. Everything is going super well here. This week was strange, we had a lot of baptismal interviews, service projects, stake activity, meetings... and we also got changes for this next transfer!!!!

We had a service project with Hermano Castro. He had a house out back that he needed help removing the roof (by roof I mean corrugated metal sheets, what all the roofs here are made of). Then afterwards we had an asado (roast or BBQ) with him. It was super awesome, and we had a few missionary experiences with some family members of his that aren't members. He cooked beef, a few different types of sausage, one was pork and another type of blood-sausage. It was super good!!!

Normal/typical asado

pday activity earlier today, Asado at "the other elders we live with"´s Ward mission leader´s house,

youre gonna need to fix that last sentence, I have no idea how to say things anymore.
This made me laugh. Getting better at the language and not speaking english anymore is making it harder for Ben to write letters to us. Here is what I think he meant to say 

"Here is a picture from our PDay activity earlier today. It was an Asado (BBQ) at the house of the Ward Mission leader for the other set of elders they share a home with. You can see both sets of elders in the picture below.

At the asado, there´s always some kind of salad, rice, and potato salad kind of dish. the meat isn't seasoned very strongly. It almost always has some kind of chimichurri (a piquant sause or marinade traditionally used on grilled meat, typically containing parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil and flakes of chili pepper) afterwards to put on it. The meat is always super fatty so that's where most of the flavor comes from.

Then after, we had our stake activity. The missionaries of the Maroñas stake put on an "International Night." 

It was very successful. We had 4 less actives and 2 investigators show up. Our stake had over 8 distinct countries represented that got to present something to do with the culture of their home country. 

Since there are so many missionaries from the US we decided to share something from our states. I shared about Snow, Corn, and The Indy 500. Everyone was super interested in the racing aspect. 

Afterwards we had food. I got volunteered to make the American food. I didn't have time or the patience or the money to buy the ingredients for something so I just made Pigs in a Blanket with hot dogs and pre-made empanada wrappers. It worked out pretty well. It certainly wasn´t the same as croissant roils, but it was good none the less. All the Uruguayans really loved them, and were all asking me what this food was called, Some things don't translate super well. It was really funny, because they already don't think I know what I'm saying most of the time anyways, and then when I say something like that, they get super confused. 

This week we also made my very first Empanadas (a Spanish or Latin American pastry turnover filled with a variety of savory ingredients and baked or fried).  Apparently it´s like a huge stepping stone/right of passage here for missionaries. 

We went to the store one day when we didn't have lunch and got all the stuff. It was super simple, just ground beef, onion, boiled eggs, green pepper, Empanada crusts, and hot oil. This is definitely a food I'm going to make back home.

Now the good stuff:

Transfers! So last night we got the call from the Zone Leaders. 

Elder Ve'e is... staying in Libia.
Elder Taylor is... Going To... Zone "La Costa(The Cost)" in the area "Lomas de Solymar (Banks of The Sun-and-Sea)." 

So my next area is going to be up on the coast of Uruguay (if you look real close to Uruguay on a map, there are a few islands east of Montevideo, then you look directly north of those islands and that's my area). I have no idea exactly what it is like there, but I'm super excited. I've heard that the coast is a very beautiful area though.

The Yellow Box is approximately where Ben is right now. The marker by the word Ciudad de la Costa is the area I think Ben will be getting transferred to.
My new companion is named Élder Aguilera. I've been asking around about who he is, but no one really knows. Some one said he might be from Chile. I guess we'll just see tomorrow in cambios (transfers).

I think if you want to look up my city online, it's called Lomas de Solymar, Uruguay.

Also, it's also starting to get cold here. Yay! We've had a couple days were I've actually worn a sweater, Whoo hoo!

I love you guys! Thanks for all the pictures. I hope everything continues well back home.

With Love

-Élder Taylor

This is the street that Ben lives on and is what the area looks like where he has been serving.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hola Familia-More Photos!

We got lots of photos from Ben this week. His letter was fairly short, but all of the photos and explanations made up for it. It is great to see him so happy and loving Uruguay and the people!

Just another great week in South America. I took a ton of pictures this week, I'll send as many as I can. This first one is me and Élder Ve'e wearing Lava-lavas in the house for fun (remember that his family is from Samoa). I think Ben looks pretty good in his :)

All the people have giant paragalas (I dont know if thats the name). It is these grapes and their vines that they use for shade. Almost no one actually eats them, so we always ask if we can take some right before they go bad. I looked online and found that the most common variety of grapes in Uruguay is Tannat, which is used for wine making. These look like them.
P-day activity: Me, Élder Ve'e, Élder Lord, Élder Lambert, Hermano Castro (white shirt), and Hermano Agustín (black and white shirt)
Hermano Castro and I at the P-Day activity. We played fútbol, football, and basketball. I actually enjoyed it! (If you know Ben, you know that before going on his mission, you would never find him playing any sport--he was all about music. It is so good to see him embracing the activities available with the other Elders and members of the Ward and "enjoying it".)
This week was crazy. It was fun though. I don't have as much time as normal to send emails, but I hope you enjoy the photos.

This week started Carnaval. We aren't allowed to go to the actual festival area in our town to do contacts or anything, and almost all the people are either at carnaval, or out visiting family.

We're having a little bit of a hard time finding people to talk to. This week we also got to do some service with the Élder's quorum. An hermano (brother) is building a house for his son-in-law, who just had a grave accident.  We went and pretty much worked with concrete all day. Remember that there are not houses made of wood here. Only concrete. They made all the walls out of concrete then they chizzle out holes to put the windows. This was my job all day, I chizzled out window holes in the size they wanted.

It was crazy. I was covered in so much dust from the cement. This week was awesome! Sorry I don't have more time to email, but just know I love you guys so much. I'm learning so much.

P.S. This week my goal is to have an English fast. Hopefuly I'll have the Self-discipline to do it all week, Haha. It's not very fun, and not very easy but it's something I know I need to do if I want to improve. I understand everything (96%), no I just need to work on the whole talking part. 

P.P.S. This last week I finished the Book of Mormon in Spanish for the first time. I started about 4 weeks into the CCM. I didn't really understand anything until I got to 3 Nephi, but hey, now I get it! and I´m excited to start over again to get even more. 

Love you guys,

Élder Taylor

Conference earlier this week in the chapel at the Uruguay Montevideo Misión. It was super informative and very helpful. We had it with our substitute Mission President and his wife, Pres. Etchegaray (they are native Uruguayos, and I think he is either an Area Seventy or was in the past). We learned a lot about retention and working with the ward.

The chapel where the Mission offices are