Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mormon MIssionaries--Newspaper Article in Uruguay

This is the article that was linked in the last letter we posted from Ben. Thank you Brother Remali for translating the article for us. It is a great story about the missionaries. Ben is not interviewed in the article, but a picture of the office missionaries was included in the article, so you can see Ben's smiling face.


Rite of passage
Around 250 Uruguayans come out into the world as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. More than 100,000 Mormons are living in Uruguay.

Written by: Alejandra Pintos Anelosáb July 12, 2014

The day begins at 6:30 in the morning. Sister Zegarra and Sister Schaelling devote the first hours to the study of the sacred books. They dress in the typical style of a Mormon missionary: skirt below the knees to cover the body modestly, shirt and flat shoes. Makeup is to be delicate and feminine, but to be neat. They remain dressed this way until the end of the day, at nine in the evening.

Once ready, they go to "proselytize" as they say. They carry in their backpack all they need: repellent, water, umbrella, a snack, camera, brochures, images of Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures, ie the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known simply as Mormons) has 15 million members worldwide. 101,449 of them live in Uruguay where there are 152 chapels. 

There is only one temple. It is located in Carrasco and there only the baptized members of that faith can enter, it's a place they consider sacred.

Missionaries must be single and between 18 to 25 years old or retired couples. The unmarried men serve as missionaries for two years and unmarried women for 18 months. In 2012 the minimum age was lowered. "Since the age was lowered,  it rather increased the number of missionaries," says Luis Ferrizo, president of the Eastern Zone of Montevideo. "This speaks to a more fervent desire of those young people wanting to serve a mission. Parents encourage their children to be missionaries."

Worldwide it is estimated that this increase in missionaries was 50% since the age was lowered. The church estimates that 60,000 young Mormons leave to serve missions every year. Some 250 leave from Uruguay.

Sister Zegarra and Schaelling are 20 years old and about a year ago came to Uruguay to serve a mission. Sister Zegarra is Peruvian and was born into a Mormon family. Every Sunday she went to church, but without much conviction. "At 17, I realized I had to do things for myself, so I read the Book of Mormon and prayed to see if it was true," she recalls. "God answered me and now I know the Church is true."

Two years later she decided to leave the medical career, her friends and family and go on mission. "I wanted to share the joy I feel with others, so that they too can feel it," she says with a calm smile. A few days before receiving her "calling"-the letter with the destination of their mission from the Prophet, her sister dreamed that she would go to Uruguay. When she opened the letter, she knew it had been a premonition. The only thing she know of Uruguay before coming on her mission was their sweet milk, which her fathers friend had brought back after a trip to the country.

Sister Schaelling was born thousands of miles away from Peru, in Utah (the heart of the Church), but also had a premonition about her fate. "Uruguay was a country I knew only by name, because my sister and I took Spanish lessons in the high school” she says. "I did not learn anything, only that Uruguay is said to be U-ru-cool. Me and my sister loved to say that, because it's different. About three days later, I received my call. We were joking and I do not know why, but I said..: . Uruguay `` Just because we love the word. And after I received my call I read. "Uruguay, Montevideo."

Their shoes are worn from walking. The soles have lost their original designs, and are now only smooth paste. Their legs are marked by mosquito bites. But nothing seems to remove the smile from their faces. Everyday walking their area of Carrasco and Punta Gorda, they are looking for people to talk about Jesus, the Church and the Gospel. They greet each of the people they meet with a 'hello, how are you?'" says the young Peruvian.

"Something I have seen in my 15 months in Uruguay is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ can do in people," says Zegarra. She and the other young missionaries are convinced of one thing: everyone who reads The Book of Mormon and prays about it, knows that is true and discover the changes in their life.

They are near the temple looking for people who "want to know Jesus Christ." A few blocks away a young man walks by at full speed, the sisters try to talk to him but he rejects. "If they see someone with nametags" says Zegarra pointing to the plastic plate in her chest that bears her name, "They should know that we are here to serve." Not discouraged, they keep walking.

"It's very interesting thing. Everything depends on it, if they want to talk to us, they'll keep talking," says Schaelling. "In talking with many people we've realized what works and what does not. Overwhelming them is not going to want to have anything to do with us. If we only start talking, to talk with them, to tell them of our lives, who we are, what we are doing here, they respond well. "

A few blocks later, they arrive at a security checkpoint. "Hi, how was your day?" salutes the American blonde. The guard, in his 50s, was happy to be able to talk to someone and strikes up a conversation with the young. He explains that he already has his faith, but that does not detract from the mood to talk. Minutes later goodbyes are said and they continue walking.

Elder-name for male missionaries-Eraso is 21, and is from Colombia. He left almost a year ago his family, work, friends and girlfriend to serve a mission in Uruguay. "Now I devote myself to forget myself and think of others," he says.

For him, getting used to the word "no" has been difficult. "This time in my mission, I have received more rejection in my life then I have ever experienced before," he says. "But I always gave me strength to remember that Jesus went through the same things. God helped me to have faith that the next day would not be all that bad. 'Cause always, every day, someone was listening and I focused on the person that cheered my day. "

To face these difficulties the missionaries are prepared spiritually, physically, emotionally and academically. For three to six weeks, depending on whether they speak the native language, they attend a Missionary Training Center (MTC). There they learn the gospel in an orderly way, part by part. They learn how to approach people, the language (if necessary) and how to deal with failure.

It also begins a process of loss of privacy, an important thing to get used is to constant presence of his fellow missionary companion. During their mission, they are with their assigned companion 24 hours a day, without exception.

Contact with family and friends during the service period abroad is limited to letters and phone calls on special dates. While on the mission they avoid recreation, festivals or other activities other than serving others and teaching them the gospel.

Missionaries see these sacrifices something positive as well as necessary. The mission is to Mormons, almost a rite of passage between childhood and adulthood. The goal, beyond teaching the word of God, is that young people learn values , such as savings-they must pay $ 12,000 to go on a mission. They have to have perseverance and humility and learn how to be with a partner all day, which ultimately prepares them for marriage.

"The church has advised those that return from a mission to not just dwell on the memory of their mission, but to start to fulfill the purpose of life. When they come home, they are to raise a family, develop, grow and study. Mission work is a step and then begins an even more beautiful stage of life. " says Luis Ferrizo.

Every Monday, for Mormon families, is "family day". For an hour or two in every home, they are engaged in reading the Holy Books, to pray and reflect on religion. Some families are at home to researchers, people who want to be baptized and become members of the church. These meetings also come the missionaries to evacuate in case of neophytes and to help the integration of family researchers.

The sisters arrive at the home of Claudia and Maximus, where also resides the couple’s son and the investigators, two Dominicans, Heidy and Danely. The are received into the home with food and fruit tea; cannot be black tea. After briefly sharing how each of them have spent the day, missionaries propose a game. Everyone must wear a blindfold and receive an object in their hands. Without seeing the item, each person feels it, smells it and touches it to know what it is. The objects include a stapler, a comb, etc. This object lesson is related to Jesus Christ. Just as no one has seen Jesus Christ, we know He is real.  They explain how we can know of these things. They take away all doubts from Heidy and Danely sweetly, and like every good Mormon, with a smile on his face. Then, they their scriptures, which are full of notes and underlined passages and turn to Alma 32:21 ask the question "What are you willing to sacrifice for Jesus Christ?” It seems appropriate, because they have sacrificed all to be here on their mission.

For Sister Schelling and Sister Zegarra, the end of their missions are nearing and they are anxious to return home. There are the same girls who left Peru and Utah, but both agree they are better than those two girls who left their family. "I learned to love some more people. I want to continue studying, start a family and share with other people the Gospel. Now I have a vision of how I want my life," says Sister Zegarra dressed in sober uniform, with worn shoes and face makeup worn as recommended for missionary. She says this with enthusiasm, despite the distance from home, the many rejections and mosquito bites.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Companion-Elder Galeano

So good to hear that everyone is doing so well. Congrats on getting school shopping done early this year. 

This week we had ´Cambios´ (transfers). This last Sunday I received my newest companion. *Drum Roll*... His name is.... Élder Galeano! 
Ben with his new companion Elder Galeano

He is from Paraguay. He is super fun, humble, and a very hard worker. He has been on his mission for 6 months (he arrived the cambio after me). He is from a little north of the capital Asuncion. 
These are pictures from the presentation they do when there are new missionaries in the office. It took looking at them a few times before we got this one, but if you notice, Elder Galeano is shredding "very important" documents

Ben is agonizing over the shredded documents that should not have been destroyed

Culture note: In Paraguay the accent is quite different. The ´Rrrrrroled Rrrrrrr´ sound is not pronounced as a sharp rolled ´R´. It is very round like when an English speaker is first learning Spanish. This has a lot to do with the second official language of Paraguay, Guarani. It is rather amazing to me. The language is one of the only native languages from South America that has been thoroughly integrated and maintained in the society unlike the majority of other South American Native Languages. So needless to say, his accent is awesome! 
Here is Ben with Elder Munoz, his old companion on the left and his new companion Elder Galeano in the center.
This week was super busy with changes. We had 20 Oros (new missionaries) and 15 Valientes (missionaries going home). Aside from the conference that was held with the whole mission, we also spend the day before taking care of the documentation of the Oros, feeding them, training them, training their Trainers. Then, we spend the day after that, getting everything ready for the Valiente's flights home. 

Normally the secretaries would take care of almost everything, but with so many, it required a lot of time and some lost sleep. It was really fun. It's always great to be in the presence of the new and old missionaries. The new missionaries are so ready to learn, full of excitement, and so delicate (like a new born). It makes me think a lot about when I first started the mission and how much I've learned since then. Then, in contrast, being with the Valientes is always a wonderful experience. They just have this polished off and refined spirit about them. 
This is the Montevideo Temple on the morning of transfers. What a beautiful picture!

The Élders from my ward (Malvin) and the Sisters from Carrasco (the chapel next to the temple in the same ward as the mission president) were featured in a newspaper article. I have a link to it if you want to look at it (it´s in Spanish btw). 

There's a picture of Me, Elder Muñoz, Élder Quezada, Élder Gallagher, Élder Gardner, and Élder Eraso.

Anyways, I love you all. I hope that everything is going well back home.

Love Ben

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Three Valuable Lessons Learned & Saying Good Bye to Elder Munoz

Here is the letter that Ben sent on 7/12/14. Sorry for posting it so late, but there was lots of photos and not a lot of time available to get it all up. Enjoy!

I'm so happy to hear that everything is going well back home. Congrats Will on the fish, and for keeping up with the tradition!! 

As you can tell from the pictures, William caught his first fish all by himself. 

We have a family tradition that you must kiss the first fish you catch before you release it back into the water. William did not want to kiss the fish, but once we told him the Ben, Justin and Lily as well as all of his older cousins had done the same thing, he decided to go for it. 

That's a shame that Mrs. Cumberworth retired, she was the best, but I'm sure Justin will still enjoy the class. Justin was upset that for his AP English class he had to read a 600 page book and write a report as well as take a test from another book all before the summer was over. I guess the new teacher just wants to get a head start on the school year. Ben took the same class from a teacher who just retired and did not have any summer homework. Got to love a new teacher who is excited to teach lots of new things & challenge her students.

This week has been good. I made a mistake when depositing a check. I forgot to endorse it on the back, so a large majority of our time was taken up going to Ciudad Vieja to the central banks to clear up the problem. 

There was a lot of confusion because President Cook is the person responsible for the account, but the check was deposited by me. It required about 5 trips to 3 different banks, a thumb print and a copy of my passport just to release the check from the bank to the person that I had sent it to. From there we had to take it to City Bank (where the mission's account is) to have the block taken off the check. The president had to sign a piece of paper authorizing me to endorse it after having been blocked, unblocked and signed by the whole world. It all worked out in the end but it taught me three valuable lessons:

1) Never forget to endorse a check and then deposit it in a foreign bank under another name

2) Have patience with yourself; there are almost no problems without a solution. The ones that don't have a solution aren't worth stressing out about because there is no solution.

3) Make sure you are complete with every detail, no matter how small and simple it may seem. 
The source of all of Ben's headaches this week--one of the 47 checks he prepared and deposited this week to pay the rent for the appartments this month.
This really is something that I would like to carry away from this experience. Every little thing that our parents have ever taught us, the Sunday School answers (read the scriptures, pray, go to church) are all seemingly small and easily omitted steps in our everyday lives, but in the grand eternal perspective, these are the three pillars that support our divine purpose here on earth. 
It reminds me of the talk by President Gordon B. Hinkley entitled  "Switches in Your Life"

"Many years ago I worked in the head office of one of our railroads. One day I received a telephone call from my counterpart in Newark, New Jersey, who said that a passenger train had arrived without its baggage car. The patrons were angry.

We discovered that the train had been properly made up in Oakland, California, and properly delivered to St. Louis, from which station it was to be carried to its destination on the east coast. But in the St. Louis yards, a thoughtless switchman had moved a piece of steel just three inches.

That piece of steel was a switch point, and the car that should have been in Newark, New Jersey, was in New Orleans, Louisiana, thirteen hundred miles away.
So it is with our lives—"

Here we learn that these small moments are critical for us. I'm grateful for the learning experiences that the Lord offers me. I plan on looking more at the details in life. My studies, my attitudes, how I can better represent the Savior in every moment. He himself, the Savior of the whole human family, took time to heal the one, took time to let the children come unto him, took time to think of every single one of us in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I was honestly frustrated beyond belief every time I was missing another signature or stamp, but I'm glad for having received this experience to teach me the importance of the little things in every aspect of our life.

So outside of that we also had a going away party/Family Home Evening with some of the recent converts in the ward for Élder Muñoz.

Romina and Carla made the snacks and a poster (with pictures they stole from my blog and from Élder Muñoz´s Facebook)

Hermano Pablo (the bald one) made some Tortilla de Papas (it's basically cubed potatoes with a bunch of onion and pepper cooked all together in a pan then you take it off of the heat and pour in a bunch of beaten eggs and cheese and bake everything in the same pan until it´s all solid.

Édler Muñoz was invited to share the lesson.

It was a great night and a great opportunity to say goodbye (he has been here for 6 months).

Hermano Fernano was also there, he´s the recent convert of Élder Gallagher and Quezada.

Well, I love you all!

Send everyone back home a big hug from me.

Élder Benjamin Taylor

Funny Package

Funny package that we got. Like the english on the outside would help prevent theft. Just a good laugh!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Saying Good-Bye to Elder & Sister Pugmire

Here is Ben's letter from July 5th


Great to hear that everyone is staying super busy. Sorry I didn't email on Saturday. The zone is having an activity here in the capilla de Malvin so we changed the p-day for today. 

Today is also the day that Elder and Sister Pugmire go home. 
Elder Gallagher & Elder Quezada with the Pugmires

Ben & Elder Munoz with the Pugmires

Elder & Sister Burnett with the Pugmires

They are one of the senior couples here in the mission. Hermana Pugmire was the nurse for both the ´Uruguay Montevideo´and ´Uruguay Montevideo West´ missions. 

Élder Pugmire was facilities maintenance guy for the mission; he prepared houses to be opened and closed, bought and transported any kind of appliances and furniture for the mission, and a whole potpourri of other really important tasks. He worked a lot with us (as financiers), seeing as we are the ones who find the houses to rent, coordinate the contracts and pay for any necessary repairs or supplies. 

Tonight we will be able to go to the airport to see them off. They're very sad to leave, but I'm sure they can't wait to get home and see all of their grandchildren (some of which they haven't even met in person). 

I think it would be amazing to serve a mission with my future spouse. Every time I think more and more about how amazing the Church´s organization really is. After seeing just my little portion as financier, the church is amazing. One of the largest and strongest volunteer organizations in the world. That there are tens of thousands full time missionaries that not only are volunteering time, but personal, and family funds to serve the lord.

What a wonderful and inspired organization.

This week was really fun. Élder Gardner (on of the zone leaders that I live with), he was also my first companion and my trainer, had an operation on his foot so he is not going to be able to walk for the next two weeks or so. We've been having intercambios between us the secretaries and Zone leaders. We learned a lot getting to go out with the other Elders. 

This last week and a half President Cook was in the conference in Salt Lake where they gave training to all of the new mission presidents. I was on and saw a picture of him in one of the conferences. (See link:
He´s the bald one in the Brown suit in the front row. In other fun news they changed our card management system for all senior missionary cards. It´s a big change, but not that exciting to write back home...

I hope that everything is going well back at home. I love you all so much.

Élder Benjamin Taylor

Ben made a pineapple upside-down cake for breakfast and it looks like it turned out well.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

New investigators and an exciting bus ride

  1. Here is the letter from Ben we got on June 21st. 

    So great to hear from you guys. Trek sounded like it was a success this year. I hope everyone had a great time and will remember the experience. I tried to explain what trek was to my companion and a few members and they didn't really get it. They understand the whole pioneer thing, but they don't quite get the whole period clothing. I think if someone could start this down here it would be rather successful. There are lots of just open  fields here in Uruguay. Out in the interior of the country you could walk for days and only see cows.

    So I'll update you on what we did this last P-day. First is Belka and Humberto.They are one of our favorite families right now. Humberto is a member of the church, was baptized at the age of 14 way up north in the country in Artigas. Then afterward when he was still young moved and couldn't find the Church. Fast forward almost 60 years and by now he has forgotten a large majority of what he had learned when he was a youth. 

    Élder Muñoz and Élder Oliviera found him in the street one day walking his dog and invited them to come by another day. Now for the first time in almost 60 years he has returned to the church. Getting to know his past. He talked to the ward secretary and asked him to look for his membership records. They sent a request to Salt Lake and about 4 days later they found his records. He was so excited to see the names of the missionaries who taught him, who baptized him, familiar but forgotten names. Now he is having a spiritual rebirth getting reconnected with his own personal history. It turns out that he never received the priesthood so that is his next goal; to have an interview with the bishop and to see what he needs to do to be ordained.

    His wifes name is Belka. She is probably one of the nicest people I've met on the mission. She is a nonmember and is currently listening to the charlas. Every time we come over, she stops everything and makes us a steaming, creamy hot chocolate to fight away the cold outside. This last Pday we went to their house to make some lunch and to hang a "hood" above the range in their kitchen. Elder Muñoz cooked fried shrimp and fish Panamanian style with a delicious mango and papaya juice. It was so fun and a great opportunity to get to know them.

    Belka is someone who believes a lot in God, but like most people doesn't have any way of showing it outwardly. You must remember that it is not a custom to go to church here. The people just aren't used to it. We're trying to help her understand that her relationship with her Father in Heaven is made so much stronger by the way that we live. By going to church and by making covenants with our Father in Heaven we show him that we are ready to receive more light, knowledge and insight in our lives.

    I forgot to tell you that story that Édler Muñoz shared. So we were waiting to take the bus (our most common type of transport). There is one bus that is the 64A and the 64B. Flagging it down Élder Muñoz asked me if 64B worked for where we were going. I said I wasn´t sure and figured we would just wait for one of the others that we knew worked. 

    The bus stopped for someone else and next thing I know Élder Muñoz is half way up the steps to get on the bus. "Ok", I say to myself, "I guess we're taking this bus." I make my way to the door (within arms reach of my companion) put my foot up on the first step and the doors close and I loose my grip on the handle inside of the bus. 

    So I'm standing in the bus stop, my companion had turned around and was looking at me through the glass with the biggest look of terror. (keep in mind, we are literally in the middle of the city right now full of people, basically chaos and confusion). It took about 3 seconds to register what had just happened, and I started running the 4 blocks to the next bus stop, hoping that my companion could get off in time for the next stop. Thankfully he was able to pay for the bus ticket (22 pesos or about a dollar) then get off in the next stop and run towards me. 

    It was ridiculous. We just sat down in the street breathing heavy from our sprints and adrenaline rushes, and just started laughing. Who knows how many members that were in that crowd saw me running like a wild man alone through the streets without my companion; But oh well, we did the best we could. And now I have a great memory of taking the bus.

    well. I love you guys. Thanks for all of your support and love.

    I love You Guys So Much,

    Élder Benjamin Taylor

    P.s. I got the letter from Dad with the first presidency message. Thanks, And by the way. The Open House was not just successful because we are in south america. Montevideo is basicaly the exact same culture as the states. They're no more receptive nor unreceptive than the people back home, it was successful because we had 6 missionaries and all the members inviting people at every opportunity we had for 5 weeks. 

    If anything it would be easier to get people to go to church back home because they don't need to take a 35 min bus ride and pay 7 dollars to take the bus to get to the church building. If they don't have a car, a member can give them a ride. In our congregation of 150 people, there are probably 6 cars in the parking lot every Sunday. Anyways that's my 2 cents on the subject.