Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Before the call... and pictures!

Dear family,

I don´t have too much time now because of the photos, but I´ll answer what I can.

The church building is quite large. It is two stories because it was built to be a stake center, but never became one. It doesn´t have carpet, carpet doesn´t really exist here in Argentina. It doesn´t have quite the homely feel I´m used to, but it is nice nonetheless. I know, I´m terrible at describing things.

Right now we have several investigators who need to get married. 4 to be exact. Andrea Pereira is the sister of a recent convert and went on a temple visit with the family and came to church this Sunday. Getting investigators to church is one of the hardest parts of the mission. There is always an excuse. She is 25 or so and has a son. We haven´t met the father yet, ut they are working through a marriage.

We also are working with José Díaz. His conyugé is a member, but went inactive when she moved to Argentina from Paraguay and started living with him. But, they are in the process of getting married as well. They have some problems paying the $45 pesos in order to do so, but we found a way they can do it for free. We´re hoping they will go and set date soon. They both came to a ward dinner that happened friday.

To answer Jessica´s question about the schedule and what I do on a daily basis. I´ll try to give a quick overview.
6:30 Wake up and Excercise (run and stretches) and prepare for day
8:00 Personal Study (not enough time at all)
9:00 Companion Study (prepare for lessons, practice, etc.)
10:00 Language Study
10:30 We leave to work. We take a bus to our area and visit various investigators and members (especially recent converts and inactives)
1:00 We eat with a member. Although, more than half of the time, we receive a vianda, or a tupper full of food. We go to the Capilla (church) or the pensión to eat. It is very nice to have this every day.
2:00 Back to work. We walk a ton. Talk with people who are sitting or working outside their houses (everyone has a fence along the road)
9:00 We have to be back in the pensión and plan for the next day
9:30 Prepare and relax
10:30 Sleep

Oh, can´t forget this.
I will call about 2:30 Local time. So in the morning for you. It will probably be the best if I buy a phone card here. I can get International Direct for 10 pesos that lasts an hour. So, I think I´ll do that. Sorry for your trouble. I look forward to it.

I can answer your other questions then.

I love you all,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ranquist Christmas letter!

Feliz Navidad 2008

In honor of our missionary son, Elder Drake Ranquist, in Buenos Aires, Argentina (West), I’ve used a Spanish title to this letter (in fact I had to confirm with my wife that the Spanish was correct). Stephanie translates the Spanish in his letters for me since I am the only one in the family who is so culturally ignorant. Drake is still struggling to learn Castellano, the Spanish dialect there. He left on July 30, 2008, spent 2 months in a Missionary Language Training Center and now has been in the country 2-3 months. It has been a struggle for him to learn a new culture, language, how to hand wash clothes, and to live with a companion 24/7, but he relies on the Lord and seeks His Spirit to grow and improve. If you wish to follow his experience, our daughter Jessica updates a blog weekly at as well as some of the few pictures he has sent (none from Argentina yet!) He will return in Aug 2010.

Sending a son on a mission has been a bittersweet experience, while you are excited and know this is where our Lord would have him go, it is hard to say goodbye. As it was Drake’s last year with us for a while, we decided to make the most of it by going on a two week cruise in the Western Mediterranean including Italy, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Portugal, France and England. In addition, we were all able to go as a family to Utah to celebrate my mother’s birthday before he entered the Missionary Training Center. As we prepare for the celebration of the Savior’s birth as a family, our prayers are with and for our son. Knowing that he is teaching the Gospel to the people of the world brings us great comfort and joy, especially when we hear that his 2nd convert is to be baptized on Dec. 12, 2008. What a wonderful way to experience this season!

I am still flying the old DC-8 for UPS. As new aircraft arrive, my airplane is being used less and less, thus my time home this fall has been in great abundance. Since the contract to fly all of DHL domestic cargo has fallen through, there is talk of parking this old aircraft. If that happens, I will go back to the Boeing 757\767, but I love my old airplane and will stay with it as long as possible. I have also joined the Critical Incident Response Program (CIRP) for my pilot union in which I counsel pilots who have been through a traumatic flying experience to help relieve their stress. I have only been called upon a few times thus far, but have found it rewarding.

Stephanie has had a busy year as Relief Society President for the women in our church congregation. Not only have there been the usual welfare needs, there have been 3 funerals, 2 fires, one with an 8 member family whose house burned down, and lots of visits to homes and hospitals. It has been a wonderful growing experience. The support and love that she has received from the Lord, family and others has been a great blessing. She enjoys her book club and has been a member of her Bunco group for 15 years now.

Jessica (17) is a senior in High School and is having the time of her life. Between having a boyfriend, being a Pre-Professional ballet student at Louisville Ballet, dancing with the professionals in the Nutcracker, going on a “girl’s night out” bowling in old prom dresses, sleepovers, etc, we don’t see how she has any time left to keep her 4.0 in school. But, somehow she seems to be able to accomplish it all and even has a few (though rare) nights home with family. College applications are out but she will not commit (to us anyway) where she will attend this fall. Mom & Dad are still pulling for BYU, but ultimately it is up to her. We’ll all have to wait and see what happens.

Jonathan (15) is a freshman in the Honors program at his High School. He loves his teachers and is finding the coursework to be challenging and time consuming. We are amazed at how hard he is studying while still keeping his sweet personality, especially since he now also goes to a 6am Church Seminary with his sister every morning. All he has left for his Eagle Scout is the project, so we are always open to any ideas. Intramural basketball will start soon so he will have something to do besides studying, working for our community Lodge, and taking piano lessons.

We are all healthy and happy and hope the same for each of you. We recognize the Lord’s hand in our lives and the many blessings that he has given. Stephanie’s parents live just a few blocks away and bring us much love and opportunity to serve. We pray this Christmas season will find each of you closer to Him that gave all He had that we might each return to our Father in Heaven as families to be together forever.

All our Love,

Alex, Stephanie, Drake, Jessica, Jonathan Ranquist

Merry Christmas!

16 Dic 2008

Mi Querida Familia,

Primeramente, perdónenme por no enviar fotos hoy. Tuvimos una reunión y llegamos acá tarde y sin tiempo para buscar mi camera. Entonces, voy a escribir lo que puedo.

Sorry I´m not sending pictures with this email. We had a mission-wide activity and returned late. So, we came to write email first, before we go to the apartment. So, I don´t have them with me. Actually, I have a CD full of pictures with me, which we received at the meeting, but the CD drive won´t open either. Sorry. I´ll try next week. And thank you for the pictures that you sent me. And by the way, my hair isn´t like what it was in the picture I sent last week. I´ve had it cut and I use gel to keep it down for the most part. I think it is an improvement.

The main reason that we didn´t go to la pensión first is because we moved this week. Our contract expired and the owners of the house wanted to double the rent. So, the pensioneros (don´t know the Word in english) sought a different place for us to live, which is farther away. It is the same price as the doubled rent, but a lot, lot nicer. We have a shower that keeps a consistent temperature from day to day, and is much better kept. There are a few problems with it. It really wasn´t designed for four missionaries to live in it. All four of us sleep together in the large living space and we have seperate rooms for our studies (we got stuck with the smaller room). The kitchen is a lot smaller, but it is a nice place to live. The major problem my companion and I have is that it is about another 10 min. from out area. So we lose an hour and a half almost in travel time every day. That is a ton. Especially tonight for P-day when we only have 3 hours of work time. Pero, es lo que hay. (In the words of Dad´s mission, Well, you´ll have that).

Thank you once again for the new shoes. I´m going to wait until Christmas to start using them so that they can be a real gift. My other shoes are destroyed yet, I´m going to continue using them for a while yet, but they are showing the wear and tear that they´re put through. I got the same as my companion (a ton of missionaries he says has these same shoes) and he says they are really comfortable. So, I can´t wait to start using them.

I can really see that my language is improving. One thing I notice is that sometimes it is hard to write in English. I don´t speak in English at all, except in interviews with the mission president. And I try to think in Castellano as much as possible. Today at the activity, I had the opportunity to talk with Elder Nieres a bit, to tell him about how the people he came to love in the area of Villa Amelia are doing, and he said that I speak a lot better now. I was also talking with some other missionaries on the way back and they asked how long I had been on the mission and they were surprised that I only had 2.5 months here. I can also understand better. But I still have a long ways to go yet. One of my major problems, which I´ve had throughout my life, is my mind has a hard time deciding what to say and how to say it. Even without the language barrier. So, I don´t do much of the talking in lessons or other occassions.

My companion, Elder Spendlove, and I are very different in many ways. Which at times is a blessing, at times an obstacle. We have very little in common to talk about. He was an international economy major and is very interested in politics. He really likes namebrand clothes. He has a twin who is serving in Ascensia, Paraguay (I believe, it might be in Uruguay) and 5 other brothers. He only has one sister of his family of 10. He is nearly the youngest of his family. He has some health problems because he was in a faultless carwreck that damaged his hip and back. But, if he ever is in pain, we won´t let me know. He´s as stubborn as Grandpa Ranquist with his difficulties. So, he´s often tired because he can´t sleep well with his back. But, he works hard nonetheless. He really is a good missionary.

Oh, I can´t forget this. It is very possible that I will call at 7 PM local time, so 4 EST because Elder Spendlove is making his call at about 6. But, I will talk with him to see if I can call earlier to get it within your time frame. I look forward to the 40 min. I have to talk with you.

It looks like my time is up again. Jessica, don´t worry if you lose valedictorian. Just do your best. I´m surprised I made it. But also remember, that at the end of every semester, the grades magically appear higher than they were during the semester. And good luck Jonathan with all of your finals. And enjoy winter break. (By the way, have you tried flying again? Is being a pilot still your dream? Or are you thinking about something else. You have time yet to do whatever you wish). Sorry I don´t have time to answer questions about the la capilla (church building) or the people. I love you all and wish you a Merry Christmas. That you´ll have the pure love of Christ, the charity that only comes through diligent prayer and the grace of Christ, in your lives in this time and always.

Elder Drake Ranquist

Monday, December 15, 2008

Look at Drake!!!

9 Dec 2008

Dear Family,

It sounds like everyone is doing well now. I´m doing fairly well too. I have been improving a bit in my work as a missionary and I always feel better with good work. Right now, I´m actually in Moron, a city near Villa Amelia. My companion and I decided to come out here for our P-day because he especially wants to go shopping for some new clothes and ítems. We have hardly anything in Villa Amelia, so it is nice to have such a good bus system to get us out here.

I spent the first part of the morning (after studies of course) replying to letters from Sarah Lemmon and Elder Bryan Rees. Elder Rees was my home teacher at BYU and is at the MTC now preparing to go to Poland. It was great to hear from him. One of his major questions was whether the field is like the MTC or not and I basically told him not at all. The MTC is a school like environment in which we are used to and thrive, whereas the mission field is much more like real life. He had been reading the blogs that you have been keeping for me befote he left for the MTC and received strength from them, so thank you for helping him. I also received the package yesterday. We found a small fake christmas tree in our apartment, so I put it together and put the package under the tree to wait for Christmas. My companion is surprised that I´m going to wait until Christmas to open it.

A bit about Christmas. I have the opportunity to call home on the 25th. At what time is a good time for you? I can´t promise anything. We have transfers the 22nd, and my companion isn´t sure whether he will stay or not, so it might be difficult to plan now. But give me the times you are available and I´ll give more information in the coming weeks. I believe we are three hours apart.

There is one thing I´ve decided I kind of want for Christmas as well. I´d like another pair of shoes to work in. I´m in Moron today where I can get another pair, so I might use the credit card to take out some money in order to buy a pair. As a missionary, it is nice to have a pair of shoes to keep nice for zone conferences, interviews, and the temple. So, I´ve only really been working in one pair of shoes. But they are wearing through fairly quickly. We do a ton of walking on rough surfaces, dirt roads littered with rocks, gravel, bricks, and other items. I can already see a shiny metal piece in the center of the sole of these shoes. Also, the day that it poured, these shoes got soaked and I had to work in my other pair of shoes a few days. They too got a little moist. So, a third pair would be really nice. Sorry I didn´t ask permision last week. I didn´t know we were going to come to Moron today. And as a side note, I iron my shirts now! Water, with its high heat index, works miracles! I learned to spray my shirts with water before I ironed them. They still aren´t perfect, but are a ton better. And yes, my pants are starting to get a little tight. Soy flaco todavía, pero estoy ganando peso.

We decided to have the baptism last Saturday. So, Benjamin Vera is now a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hmo. Vera, his father, asked us as we were leaving from a lesson with Benjamin Wednesday why we were treating him so much like an investigator. He was born under the convenant and is part of an active family. He had a point, so we decided to push the baptism up a week. It went really well. He had to be baptized twice because his feet flew up the first time, but there is nothing wrong with that. My companion said that baptism was one of the most tranquil and smooth baptisms he had seen. Things worked out well. We also had a non-member family member come, which was great. They asked me to give my testimony about my baptism, so I prepared something for that. Then when Hno. Carabajal, the ward mission leader, arrived, he told me I had the talk on baptism. So, I stumbled through a 5 min. talk about the covenants and my testimony of baptism. I had to change it to teach more about the baptism than I had prepared. I don´t remember too much about my baptism (I should have written it down as I had been counseled to do). What I do remember was that the water was warm and I told Dad I wanted to be baptized again someday. I didn´t know about baptisms for the dead at the time. I remember more my confirmation. I remember a force entering into me and a warm sensation in my chest. I had a testimony of the Holy Ghost in that moment at 8 yrs. old.

I haven´t been asking to put something on my facebook in a while. We heard an anouncement from the first presidency at church yesterday about I looked at it a little bit before my mission and a little at the MTC and it is a great site. So, Jessica, could you put a link to that on my facebook in the about me section and also in the status.

I want to wish you the best with introducing Aaron to the gospel. It is a great opportunity for you especially if he decides for himself to truely seek. The church needs as many strong and dedicated priesthood leaders as possible. Dedication only comes through a testimony and testimony only comes through truly seeking for it. I learned that for myself in gaining my testimony. You can´t compel him to seek diligently, but I know that if he decides to he will find and know. As he seeks through reading and praying, he will find and bring to you all greater joy and happiness. It is a great opportunity.

I´m sorry I haven´t sent pictures home yet. I have the ability, but it is very difficult and slow. I only have an hour with the computer, so if I send photos home, it means that I won´t really have time to write a letter to you all. But a picture can describe things a lot better than my limited ability with words, so I´ll try to send some next time. I should probably purchase a SD to USB converter today in order to do it to connect it to the computer. It isn´t advised to have the camera out and visible (I haven´t had any problems, but we still have to be careful. I don´t wear my metal watch from home, but a watch that I bought here in Argentina for 5 pesos. It is a really fake watch, but doesn´t look too bad and it functions. It died once because I accidentally did laundrey with it on, but after 2 days of drying, it was resurrected). So, I think I might try to do that next week. I don´t take a ton of pictures. And I only really have my camera for special occassions and in the pensión (apartment) so I don´t have pictures to show what a lot of where I am and what I´m doing.

You too have permission to send pictures. I can receive pictures by email. And as a special request, could you send a picture of the family by mail at least every 6 months. Jessica and Jonathan are still growing up and I´d like to see them as they grow up and change. And I don´t want to be entirely blown away at Jessica´s beauty, or Jonathan´s height and fortitude when I get back.

It is really weird being a little bit tan. I´m still really, really pale compared to everyone around me, even compared to other Norteamericano missionaries, but my skin is darkening a bit. I look at the back of my hand and htis is what I think, “My hand looks dirty.” I don´t mean that I think that with other people, I´m just not accustomed to my hand being darker. I wonder what I´ll be like after a full summer out in the sun.

Well, I give you my love my family. I am so grateful for all of the prayers (and for the package). My testimony of this gospel is growing although it was strong when I left. I know that through the simple acts of daily prayer and scripture study and weekly church attendence we can receive the strength of the Holy Ghost to fulfill any commandment that the Lord has given us. I am gaining a stronger testimony of those basic principles, the primary principles. I also know that Jesus is the living Christ, the head of His Church, and Savior of the World for all those who repent and come unto him. I love Him. That, more than anything else, is important to remember.

Elder Drake Ranquist

Friday, December 12, 2008


Sorry I didn't post Drake's, or I should say Elder Ranquist's, letter last week. Nutcracker has now started and is keeping me extra busy. I'll try to do better though!

2 Dec 2008

Dear Family,

I think I´ll start by responding to Mom and Dad´s letters, then I have something to ask, and then some great news. I´m glad you are feeling better Dad and I´m glad you all enjoyed thanksgiving. I completely forgot about Thanksgiving during our lunch that day and didn´t really think about it too much throughout the day. To be honest, Thanksgiving was never a big holiday for me. I don´t know. But, I´m glad that you could enjoy it with the Lemmons. I recently received a letter from Sarah redeclaring that her family is moving. I´m glad that Bro. Lemmon could find a better job, but I´ll miss him as the music director.

We don´t hear much about US politics here other than that Obama will be the next president. So no, there have been no problems on the stance of the Church. We teach often that a man and a woman need to be married in order to conform with the teachings of Christ. We don´t have any problems with our stance on gay marriage. It hasn´t come up. And there is a baptismal question about if they have assisted in abortions, which we often have to answer questions why that question is there, but we haven´t had many problems with those “hot” issues of the US.

No, we don´t get to see the First Presidency fireside. Maybe if we find an investigator to take to the stake center, but I don´t think so. And about where we live, we are actually moving apartments Friday, but close to where we are now. So, we´ll still have to take the bus to our area. We have to plan about 30 min. of travel to and from our area every day. We pay a lot in bus fares. It is about a 30 min. walk to the beginning of our area, but our area is quite large so we take buses most of the time to get there and walk around the rest of the day.

This week it has rained quite a bit. My first experience of working in the rain. The past two months, it always rained during the night or during our studies and then let up as we went out to work. Friday we got caught in a downpour and were drenched. We eventually found a member´s house in which we took shelter for a little while. We didn´t have our umbrellas with us because the morning seemed nice. We don´t have news sources to warn us of the day´s weather. To be honest, I found it kind of fun. It annoyed my companion, but I liked it.

It continued to rain Sunday, but the primary program still went well. There were more members in attendance than the last time it rained because of the program. It was nice to hear and play the children songs I recognized. I liked it. And yes I play some of the music I brought on occasion, whether it be for preludes for zone conference or just to play while waiting for district meetings to begin. But, I don´t play too much. It is very possible that Jessica and Jonathan will improve to be a lot better than me after two years. (I plan on it!)

Sunday night we went to a less active family and talked about family goals. (lol, I read "goats" there) The mother left the family, so they have some problems because of that, but they want to come back to the church and be active. The two sons are preparing for missions now and we talked about what they need to do. It made me think about some of my goals and my plans. First of all, I´m not quite the missionary I want to be. I still have a ton of difficulties just opening my mouth to speak much less having good sensible sentences come out. But, I want to make December the best and hardest working month of my mission yet. Also, I realized how much many missionaries sacrifice in order to be on a mission. It made me wonder what more I can do to serve the Lord.

So, Dad, I think it would be appropriate if I paid what I can for my mission. There is still money in my bank account that could be used to pay for another portion of my mission. I know I can´t pay for all of it, but I´d like to pay for what I can. I was going to save that for when I returned so that I didn´t have to rely on you. But relying on you now to pay for the mission is the same thing. So, I might need a bit of help after my mission to get my life started, but I think that would be better than letting the funds I have now sit. I wasn´t able to describe that well, but I think you´ll understand my logic. And I know the Lord will bless me with what I need for the sacrifices I make now.

On the same theme, did UofL ever send the rest of the money I earned during the summer? I understood that I would $250 each week and I worked for 5 weeks. If you have questions about that, you can email Dr. Williger. You can either find his email address in my gmail account or on the UofL website.

Now for the great news. I have another baptism planned this transfer! We made a list of all of the members in certain areas and we are trying to pass by as many as possible to get to know them and to help the inactives and teach nonmembers of the incomplete families. One member of a family that makes up half of the active ward complained that we always pass by one member of the family and never them (one reason is because the mother is the Relief Society President and the father works with the young men and also because we are invited to eat there every Sunday), so we decided to pass by. We started talking and found out that their 9-yr. old son, Benjamin, wasn´t baptized.

So, it is kind of a freebee (I don´t know how to write that), but we have a baptism planned for two weeks from now (12 Dec). Once a child is 9, they fall under the jurisdiction of the mission. He wasn´t baptized at 8 because he has a surgery on his ears and the doctor said he couldn´t enter water and would have to wait a year. He has to receive the lessons and prepare for the interview, so we are working on how to present the information simply so that he can remember. He has some learning difficulties, so we will work with pictures, videos, and activities as much as we can. We will go to their house about every other day to make the preparations.

And just a tidbit about me. I am now using gel in my hair to keep a part and also I´m trying to stop crack my knuckles, especially my neck because it really bugs my companion. (that'll be the day) I learned a lot more about him this week and maybe I´ll have time to describe him a bit more next week.

Sepan que les amo a ustedes, mis padres y hermanos. Quiero que sean felices. Sé que este Evangelio es verdadero y que puede darnos la habilidad de enfrentarnos contra cualquier problema de vida. Jesucristo es nuestro Salvador y nuestra roca. Cuidense.

Con Amor,

Elder Drake Ranquist