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.

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