Starting November 7, 2013 I will be serving a full-time mission in Montevideo, Uruguay. I am so excited to serve the people of Uruguay in the Spanish language. I will leave all worldly distractions behind and will work to bring people closer to God. At home I try to be an example to my friends, I let my standards be known to all around me. I am proud to tell anyone around me that I am a Mormon. For the next 24 months my mom will update this blog.
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. MORMON MISSIONARIES
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.