Monday, October 20, 2014

Week 2 in La Paloma

Hola Familia,

So glad to hear that you are all doing well and that everyone is doing well. We're doing great here in La Paloma. Fun fact of the day: today the 20th of October is officially 365 days until my official release date. But... far too early to be thinking about that.

We are doing well in the branch. We had a rather successful week. We had different people in the chapel, but some of the people that normally come didn't come, so the church attendance didn't change. We had 18 people in the chapel, including the 6 little kids in the primary. The Canadian tourist Joshua Thom came again (he is a recent convert) so I got to translate for him in combined priesthood/relief society and for the Sacrament meeting. I taught the Sunday school lesson about Hosea (Mildly cryptic, and a little difficult to understand it, let alone explain it to a class of mostly less active members in a different language), then I gave a 25 min talk in sacrament meeting because the two people who were going to give the others didn't come. My companion also gave a great talk and it was almost completely understandable. It looks like every week at least one of us will be giving a talk if not the two.

This next week is the week of elections. In Uruguay, everyone needs to go back to their town of birth to vote (sort of like the taxing and census in the times of Jesus). Since the majority of our members are not actually from La Paloma they will be traveling that day to make the vote. That includes the Branch President, 2 of the active members, and the sister that has the assignment from the district to teach Relief Society/Priesthood hour. We're going to have to pray real hard that everyone else comes and we can have at least the sacrament meeting with the few people that can come. 

We are spending a lot of time outside looking for more new people to teach. We had a good list of people to pass by when we got here, but it seems like the majority of them are only accepting us to be polite and to talk, but are not really keeping up their end of the commitment, such as reading the materials. We will need to express to them the importance of keeping their commitments with regard to their investigation. We can only make sure that we teach with power and authority so they can feel the Spirit, but if they are not going to act upon those feeling they might just need a little time before other missionaries pass by. We're going to keep passing by every once in a while, but less often and instead use the time to search for people that are willing to do their part. 

Every day we see more and more miracles. This area has been a big change. It has been and still is a big learning experience, and I am loving every moment. My companion is teaching more and more and taking more and more initiative to speak up in the lessons. It's so fun to see him grow in his language and be come a powerful testifier of the truth. I know without a doubt that this transfer cycle was inspired and I just want to take advantage of every moment I have here to learn from my companion and from this branch.

In other news, my English is getting way worse (I put everything out of order and sometimes forget the subjects of the sentence and forget basic expressions in English). I don't know how this happened, especially being with an American companion. Hopefully when we talk on Christmas it won't be completely gone.
Well everything is doing well here. I miss you so much, but I love you even more.

Things to send:
More maple syrup flavoring (it's been great) and chocolate chips (if you can) and gram's chocolate chip cookie recipe. Chocolate chips don't exist down here.


We don't receive lunch here in this branch because there are so few people and the other people that would like to are very humble. It might be possible that eventually I will need to take out money for food and travel, I won't take out more than I need. Just advising you in case you see that I take out money from my card unexpectedly.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

La Paloma-Training a New Companion in a Brand New Area

Hola Familia,

This last week and a half has been super fun. I'm finally out of the offices and I am here in La Paloma training my pro (new missionary from the MTC) Elder Rollins. Elder Rollins is super funny and has a great attitude about everything and he's working really hard to learn Spanish.

I hope everyone enjoyed conference, I loved it! 

I am now in La Paloma. This will be probably one of the best experiences I will have on my mission. 
This is a map of the southern part of Uruguay. Ben was in Montevideo in the mission offices for the last 6 months, which is at the center bottom of my map. He is now on the southeast coast of Uruguay (red marker)
It is a super small branch located in a super small touristic beach town.
Here is a close up image of La Paloma
The average attendance every week is about 12 people (including two missionaries) There is one Sister who is on special assignment from the district (not stake) to teach the Sunday School classes and run all the Women's Auxiliary functions, and a member from the district presidency who visits us every other week. 

As far as priesthood holders, it's the missionaries, one young man and the branch president (85 yr old man who was inactive most of his membership and just 2 years ago reactivated and was sealed to his wife). Yesterday I taught Gospel Doctrine and blessed the sacrament and gave a 25 min talk/testimony because everyone had already gone and we still had a bunch of time in our testimony meeting. 
Ben in front of the Chapel

My companion did his very best to talk in Spanish but eventually ran out of words. In order to help him to continue and take up more time, I translated for him while he taught some more during the fast and testimony meeting. It's a really special place, and the people are so kind. I translated everything else from Spanish to English for some tourists from Canada that were visiting with us.
Elder Rollins in front of the Chapel

We arrived in White-wash (both of us were new to the area) and have been spending a lot of time just in the street trying to find new people to teach and trying to get to know the area. The streets rarely have names, and not a single house has a number (sometimes the owners give the house a corny name like captains give their ships). We took some pictures this morning of the lighthouse here in the town. It is turned on every night and is super pretty.

It's been a little difficult to find people that live here the whole year. Honestly, in our 4 days here, we've talked to a German, Texan, Canadians, Brazilian, a bunch of people that live in Montevideo and even an Italian.

We have been lucky to see the Lord work a lot of miracles. For example, yesterday we went after church (2:30-5:30 pm) to give the sacrament to a few of the people in the branch that can't attend for health problems. Afterwards, we only had about 55 min in the street to do regular proselyting. Normally one in every seven people we talk to will give us time to say anything. Yesterday we had put the goal to find 2 new people to be able to pass by in the future. We were able to find three! 

The La Paloma Chapel
Of the 5 people we spoke to in those 55 min (everything is very spread out and the town is almost deserted this time of the year) 4 of them listened, 3 promised to read and gave us a description to be able to find their house along with their contact information, and two said that they would give a serious effort in praying to receive an answer of the truthfulness of what we were sharing and said that if they receive an answer that they would seriously consider being baptized by someone who possesses the restored priesthood authority of God.

Our branch is amazing and I'm so happy to be here, and humbled by the trust the Lord has in my companion and I, by putting us here.

I'm sure you already realized, but the church that we meet in is actually a house donated by the last branch president when he died. It's located about 50 steps away from the beach. Yesterday the primary (the teacher and a little girl) went to the beach to go talk about the creations of God.

This whole experience is going to stretch me a ton; training (someone who is still learning Spanish), giving a talk a week, teaching a class a week, doing almost all of the home teaching, and meanwhile finding more and more people to teach. It's going to be amazing!

I love you all so much, I am always praying for all of you. Take care!

Élder Benjamin Taylor

Monday, October 13, 2014

Last Week in the Mission Office

This is Ben's letter from October 3, 2014

Hola Familia,

I'm so happy to hear that everything is going so well for all of you. I hope you are all making great memories and that everyone is excited for conference. 
Pretty soon I will be going to a new area in the mission. I'm super excited to see where and with whom I will be. The offices have been a wonderful experience for me. I've learned so much being here. I've learned to love to serve my fellow missionaries. It has not been easy at all, but I am sure that the lessons I've learned will be a blessing for my life in the future. My companion Élder Galeano is doing great getting ready for his next companion.

Last p-day we had a surprise party for Hermana Burnett (the senior missionary/adoptive mother of every missionary) for her birthday. 
Ben says he has become addicted to making Derby Pie

We all love her so much and it was nice to recognize her for once. Élder Galeano and I made her two pies and the other 6 missionaries that have p-day on Saturday also prepared something sweet to share. I'm starting to have to say good bye to all the members here in Malvin. 4 changes is really long, but it has gone by so quickly.
Saying good-bye to Herman Herber Moretti

This last week we got out to work more than we have this whole change. Wednesday we were super swamped with work and honestly had no intentions of leaving. In the chaos of everything we received a call from our district leader. He realized how stressed out we were and understood that we had a lot to do; notwithstanding he invited us to take an hour out of the offices to go proselyting. We thought about it a little bit, and decided that we could do it. We put aside everything and left. 

We were less than two blocks from the chapel when we found ourselves with a woman (Her name is Karen) of about 32 years walking her little daughter home from school (about 16.45 hrs). We stopped her to talk and we had a beautiful lesson about the restored gospel and living prophet. She is very religious (studied to be a nun--her plans changed when she had a daughter) but has been searching for a church to meet with. She told us that she knows that there can be only one true church, but she doesn't know which one it is and for that reason she has been praying to God to help her find the truth. She really was a miracle. She has obviously been looking and has had a real hunger to find the word of God. When we were testifying to her my companion mentioned that the families can be together forever, in that moment she looked at her daughter with such sincerity and love and immediately asked us where she could learn more and if just anyone could come to the church.

We keep in contact and she is preparing to come to conference. We asked her to meditate over the pamphlet we left her and promised her that if she comes to conference with a sincere question and desire to learn the will of God for her that she would receive her answer. 

I'm not going to be here for much longer, but I know that if we (the missionaries) do everything necessary to help her and if she is her own agent sincerely seeking the will of God that she will receive her answer this weekend in conference. I am so grateful that my District leader was able to help us. It was a very humbling experience to see all the miracles that the Lord is preparing every day. People with sincere and contrite hearts seeking to do the will of our Heavenly Father.

Love you a lot,
Élder Benjamin Taylor

P.s. My next p-day will probably be the 13th of October. so don't be alarmed if I don't write before that.

This is the World Trade Center in Montevideo where all of the banking was done while Ben was in the Mission Office. He spent a lot of time at this building

This is where most of Ben's proselyting occurred in the last 6 months

Friday, October 3, 2014

Montevideo Granizo-Golf ball size hail storm

Here is the letter we got from Ben on 9/27/14

Hola Familia,

I'm super happy for you two. It's a WELL deserved vacation. You are always so busy and working so hard, I hope you all can take this time to enjoy yourselves and relax. Ben was commenting on the vacation that John and I were going on to Florida. We left the kids at home to go to school and spent almost a week all by ourselves. It was fun!

This week has been great. One thing that was super strange was that we had a huge hail storm. Élder Eraso is still recovering from his surgery so he can't walk large distances. He came to the offices to stay with my companion, and I left to proselyte with his companion (Élder Pin). We left to their area and it was raining really, really hard. Like I couldn't see anything at all, the rain was so strong. 

We got to the house of their investigator and she wasn't home. So, we continue out even farther to the project housing to look and see if another person was there who would receive us. Then all of a sudden, someone threw a ping pong ball (at least that's what I thought it was) at us. I was really surprised when after a few seconds another one falls, followed by 3 more, followed by a downpour of buckeye sized hail. 

Naturally we're freaking out (we didn't have an umbrella). We start running to the nearest door, clapping our hands (that's how you knock a door down here) begging for someone to open up the door to no avail. [Important Detail: all of the doors are flush with the side of the building and the only way to escape would be by someone inviting you in] 

We ran from door to door for about 2 min. clapping our hands begging for someone to open up the gate to their patio. Finally a nice old lady opened her gate for us and we sat out the following 6 min or so waiting for the hail to stop (it was still raining really strongly). Once it stopped, we ran back to the church (about 12 min from where we were). 

In this poorer area there isn't any good drainage on the roads, so on our way home so we were walking through 2 foot deep icy rivers the whole way. It was probably one of the funnest memories I think I've ever had here in Montevideo with the weather. Afterwards it looked from a distance like it had snowed, but upon further inspection you realize that it was just marble and buckeye sized balls of ice. [See uploaded video in my DropBox account called ¡Graniso! that should actually be spelled ¡Granizo! It's in my folder ¡Granizo!  . This is the video that Élder Galeano and Élder Eraso took while they were here in the offices working.

Afterwards the city drainage system went crazy and exploded a tile from the floor in the reception area in the chapel. The chapel and gym filled up with water, so Elder Pin and I got some giant floor squeegees and got got rid of the 2 inches of standing water. For 2 and a half hours we pushed the water, ice and garbage back down the hole where it came from. 

Now everything is back to 70° and sunny skies like nothing had even happened
It was a funny experience and I'll make sure to send better photos next week. (you could search google "Montevideo Granizo" and that should give you an idea as to what it was like)

The mission Corolla got a little dented up and the crack in the windshield got a little bigger, but other than that we all survived with minor bruises on our hands from when we were covering our heads with our hands.

We're into paying rents now and my companion is taking on a huge load and can do almost everything in the offices without my help, I think he's ready to train the next Financial Secretary in the next few weeks. And I am definitely super ready to get out into the field again.

I love you all so much and Hope that everything is going well with band school and work. Happy birthday Lily!!!

Love ya,

Élder Benjamin Taylor

Ben is better & Elder Galeano's Birthday

Here is Ben's letter from 9/20/14:

Thank you so much for your prayers on behalf of me. My cough is almost completely gone along with the gunk in my lungs. 

The medicine is working great (I finish taking it tonight) along with the priesthood blessing and the many prayers.

This week was just as busy as the last one, but a little easier because I could actually help with a lot. We had a conference every day except Monday. Elder Eraso (one of the elders in my house) was in the hospital for a minor surgery a few days this week. Between my companion and I, we traded off staying with him and leaving with his companion so he could bathe and eat. Now he's out of the hospital but can't climb the 3 flights of stairs to get into our apartment, so he's staying at the Burnett's home (Hermana Burnett Mission Nurse/part time financier and Elder Burnett the mission maintenance/go to guy for anything). 
Picture from P-Day--Ben is sitting on the M

They are some of the most humble, caring, and service oriented members that I've ever met. They have helped us so much and have been like adoptive Grandparents while I've been here.

So today is my companion's birthday and he is 19 years old now. He's a great companion and now one of my best friends. We work very well together and are always laughing. Today I made him Empenadas for lunch, and tonight I'm going to bake him a derby pie that I started this afternoon. The Burnett's gifted me Chocolate Chips which are impossible to find down here. 

I'm super happy to hear that the family is good, and a little sad to hear the the explorer is having a hard time. The 1996 Ford Explorer Ben got to drive during his senior year has stopped working. We had to tow it home and it is sitting at the side of the house waiting for our decision to fix it or replace it. But it´s awesome to hear about your classes. Study hard and be sure to participate. I had a class like that one year where we had to participate on a discussion board and I really didn´t like it at all. John and I are participating in the Pathway program which is done through BYU-Idaho. We were sharing with him how hard it is to participate in the Discussion Boards, which are a big part of online classes. 

I hope you enjoy the pictures, It's been a long time since I've sent any, so I figured I'd make up for that a little bit.

I love you all So Much!
Till next week,

View from the Jewish Holocaust Memorial
Ben and Elder Galeano at the park

Elder Galeano

Ben tells us the symbol he is making with his hand means to smile from ear to ear

More pictures from the park

Another view of the park
This is from the Jewish Holocaust Memorial