Sunday, March 22, 2009


17 Mar 2009

Querida familia,

Another transfer is gone. I´m now beginning my fifth transfer here in Argentina. A transfer occurs every 6 weeks. As I thought, E´Gonzalez and I are still together here in Castillo I. I wouldn´t have it any other way. We work really well together in a ward that is just amazing.
We had our transfer meeting yesterday and our mission is seeing miracles. We really are working our way towards doubling the baptisms. Every transfer since I´ve been here, we´ve had more than 100 converts. This transfer, we saw 179! I´m in the zone of Catán and we really are seeing miracles here. This is the “heart” of the Buenos Aires West mission and has always baptized the most. The most I believe it has every baptized in a transfer is 28. This transfer we had mountainous the goal of 44. During the transfer, we fasted as a zone to help us acheive this goal, and we did, with 48. The Lord is working miracles as we work hard and are humble before him. We hope this number will keep growing.
Also in the transfer meeting, we saw another acheivement of this area of Rafael Castillo 1. Every area receives an efficiency rating based on the key indicators as found in Preach my Gospel (I so want to say los datos de Predicad mi Evangelio). E´Gonzalez and I received the highest rating for this transfer. Now, I say it is an acheivement for the area because, yes we work hard, but we have a ton of help from the members. This ward is absolutely amazing with how willing they are to accompany us to lessons with our investigators. We also have a ward mission leader with his wife who are hosting family home evenings for the recent converts and will go out to do the lessons that should be done after baptism. And there are a lot of people in this area who have been prepared by the Lord to receive this message of great joy. We´re going to make this next transfer even more successful than the last.
Two of our best investigators right now are Veronica and Vania, sisters of Romina, a member, and friends of Roxana. Veronica is a school teacher and she is just eating up all of the Gospel knowledge there is to be found. Last monday, we showed her the guide for studying the scriptures (the Spanish version of the Bible Dictionary and Index) and I believe she was studying baptism. She amazed us when we were talking about the theme and she said, quite naturally, “and in Alma 5 it says this...” We just starting laughing because it sounded like she´s been a member for 20 years! She also pointed out the reason we don´t baptize babies, practically quoting a part of Moroni 8. They absolutely love going to church, especially to Gospel Principles. They have a baptismal date for the 28th of this month and are getting ready for it quite well.
Ana María continues strongly in the church. She and her daughter Florencia could get baptized this Saturday, but we would rather the entire family get baptized together. Gabriela, her 18 yr. old daughter, came to church and really liked it and accepted a baptismal date with the rest of her family for the 11th of April. We might have to work a little harder with Federico, the 16 yr. old son, who hasn´t come to church yet because he works on sunday at times. But he is really interested still. And Ana María wants me to come back in four years to baptize her 3 yr. old son Pablo.
Oh, I wanted to write about this a long time ago, but kept either forgetting or running out of time. I had my first opportunity to give my first unwritten blessing with the confirmation of Juan, the youngest of the sons of Ciris Cásares. I was a bit nervous, but certain I would have the guidance of the Spirit to say what the Lord would have me say. I have faith in that what a worthy priesthood holder says during a blessing will come to pass. That it is bound in heaven as on earth. And I did feel the Spirit strongly. I had a really hard time playing the sacrament hymn afterwards because my eyes were all watered up. I know I´ll have many more opportunities to be the mouthpeice of the Lord in blessings.
I wish the best for all of you and hope that you´ll seek the Lord to guide you in all that you do.

Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, March 15, 2009

He can't spell anymore! The Spanish is really taking over, hehe

10 Mar 2009

Querido familia,

¡Buenas tardes de Rafael Castillo! Esta semana ha sido otra buena semana. Espero que todo esté bien con ustedes.

We didn´t have a baptism this week, but we have some more great investigators that are working their ways towards that ordinance. But, first I´ll answer Dad´s question that came through Mom. What am I eating now? Or what is my standard diet. Well, every morning I start off with a bowl of cereal and milk (I drink the milk in the bowl). It is always either copos de maíz (plain corn flakes) or aritos de miel (honey rings). I also like to eat a banana in the morning when I can. The problem is that bananas go bad really quickly. They don´t last the week from P-day to P-day. Lunch of corse, coarse, course (I can´t remember how to spell that, I think it is my last try), is the main meal of the day. I have expanded my stomach and can eat more in one sitting than I could before the mission in order to get all the energy I need for the day. Argentines tend to eat a lot of fried food and pasta. On a regular basis we eat what is called Milenesa, which is really quite good. It is a kind of thin chicken pattie coated in a flavored flour, usually fried. This is either eaten plain or in a sandwich. Often accompanying this is potatoes with mayonaisse, tomatoes flavored with salt and oil, or a salad (lettuce with oil). My companion and I are glad when we get served healthy food. It doesn´t happen all too often. We also get served hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, and empenadas regularly. My favorite and probably the easiest and healthiest is pasta. I also make sure to eat my three fruits a day. Usually a banana, an orange, and an apple. And I substitute with something else every once in a while, this week was peaches. I absolutely love fruits of any kind.

For the rest of the day, we just kind of snack. We receive cookies and other bits every once in a while from investigators and members. And in the night, there is never enough time to cook anything, so we just eat fruits and other snacks that we have. Yeah, my diet is all thrown out.

Continuing with the food, yes I have had an asado, or “BBQ.” One family in our ward seems to eat this nearly every weekend. But usually it is reserved for the holidays. It is good and nice to get out of the rhythm of what we eat, but it isn´t everything that people said it would be. But I don´t think we´ve ever been served some of the choice cuts, like are served in resteraunts. This meat is boughten from a regular carnicería (butcher shop I think), that can be found in nearly every other block.

Ok, now that I´ve spent a lot of time talking about food, time to talk about the investigators. Right now we have several investigators living close to the chruch, all within a block of each other. I think I´ve told you about Ana María. Well, this week we were able to talk with her two older children, Gabriela (18) and Federico (16, who really reminds me of J.D. Noelck). They remember when their mom investigated the church 10 years ago. And they want to participate too. Ana María really likes the church, but has a bit of a hard time progressing spiritually because of all the rancor she holds against her mom, on whoms property they have no choice but to live on. She doesn´t think that it is possible that she could have possibly chosen in the pre-existance to come to Earth and face all the trials we go through. I hope she´ll find the peace and rest she so needs. And I know it will come through the Gospel.

I absolutely love it when I see investigators take ahold of the opportunities of the Gospel and run with it. When for us as missionaries, we just guide in the process instead of nudge in every step. This has happened with two of our investigators, Veronica and Vania Dumos. They are sisters of Romina, a member who is reactivating, who asked us when we were going to pass by a few weeks ago. We have helped her and found that her sisters really have interest, especially since they are good friends with Roxanna and they have seen the change in her and her daughters. They came to church for the first time Sunday and absolutely loved it. They said they were a bit apprehensive when so many people welcomed them so freely. They´ve never really seen people acting so good so naturally. What we really loved hearing was that they are trying to apply what they learned in church. In relief society, they talked about speaking good with other people and controlling language. So, now they are helping one another cut bad words out of their language and speak good of one another. Also, Vania was so happy to tell us that she figured out why the Liahona is called what it is. We gave a Book of Mormon with dibujitos, um... pictures?, to their younger autistic sister and she was reading through it and found the part about the Liahona. They are reading, pondering, and praying and progressing. It is so joyful to see.

Gah, I´m almost out of time again. Well, I want to update you on my language abilities. I starting to feel I´m getting the hang of Spanish! I can understand my companion nearly always and other people most of the time. I can also speak with more fluidity. I still have a long ways to go, but I think I´m finally overcoming a major hurdle. I don´t really have to translate all of the words. The words fit with the meaning and feeling in my head. I don´t have to spend the time and effort to translate. I´m finding that when I do try to speak in english, I have a really hard time because I try to push myself to speak in spanish as often as possible. My voice sounds weird when I speak in English too. Yeah, I´m going to be one of those returned missionaries who needs a translator when he gets home.

Time to get heading onwards.

Con cariño y amor,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tons of Pictures!

3 Mar 2008

Querido Familia,

Disculpe si otra vez no tengo tiempo para leer las cartas primeramente y entonces responder. Pero, ¡Tengo fotos!
(basically Drake will write later. He doesn't have time to respond because he has pictures!)

I think I´ll list the photos by their file number.

77. From right to left, Noelia, Ricardo Diaz (her brother who baptized her), Karen (whom I baptized), me, E´Gonzalez, Alexis (an eight year old kid from Castillo II, son of converts), Florencia (who was baptized by E´Gonzalez), E´Gonzalez (the other one, often known as E´Gonzalez Hijo because he has less time than me in the mission), and E´Lloyd.

78. Las Mellisas (the fraternal twins) with their Mom Roxanna, who was baptized last week (sorry, I´m not able to send photos of that baptism right now, they were taken without the chip in the camera; I forgot to put it back in. So, I need to bring my camera with the link to be able to send them), and us. It was truely a hassle to help give enough courage to Karen and Florencia to get baptized. I was so relieved when they showed up for the bautismal interview Friday because we weren´t sure if they would come.

79. This is the huge family of Noelia. She and her Mom live in Tucuman, a different province in Argentina, in a rural area far away from any chapel. So, she was never able to get baptized. But she was already living as an LDS before, including reading the Book of Mormon and fasting when she needed more spiritual strength. Nearly all of her uncles and aunts are members living here, with their families. She had a lot of support.

86. This is a picture of me with a golden sword made out of a tie and wood. It is really cool. E´Gonzalez and I got it for this past week during our district meeting from the Zone Leaders for working so well with the members. We comply with the 10 weekly lessons with a member present, because of the work that E´Gonzalez puts into calling everyone and the willingness of all of the members here in Castillo I. In this picuture you can see the cheap 5 peso watch that I bought in Villa Amelia, a part of the pensión (that´s the side of E´Lloyd and E´Gonzalez hijo), how I´m a bit tanner than I´ve ever been in my life, and sorry Mom, my goofy smile as well.

89. Our small district/pench dwellers (pench is an anglicized version of the word pensión) at the temple today. This also shows E´Gonzalez hijo with a moustache. (He cut his lip shaving this morning and had to put on a band-aid).

83-85. These are all photos of an approaching storm that we took from the roof of our pench. I love the sky here. It is so flat, we have such a huge horizon; you can see out forever from a high place. This storm was pretty bad, with a bit of hail and all. It kind of came out of nowhere too. My companion has been a bit sick recently, so we stayed in the pench to rest a bit when we saw this storm approaching rapidly. He said that they were “las tinieblas de afuera” which literally means misty darkness of outside, but also refers to Outer Darkness. Luckily, we weren´t outside working when it hit.

...And now to write a bit about this past week.

First of all, the baptism went really well. There was a ton of people! We did a joint baptism with Castillo II, so with them, la Familia Díaz, and everyone else, it felt like an active ward...being about 50-80 people. To make it even more grand, President Benton decided to show up. The only problem was there wasn´t as many refreshments as usual.

Right now, we are without baptismal dates, but we have several good progressing investigators who could very well get baptized next transfer. First and foremost is Ana María. She has been attending every activity and meeting she possibly can (spending all day at the church Saturday) and is constantly asking good questions. Daniel, the husband of Roxana, came to the baptism and then came to church and could turn into a good investigator again. Walter, the conyuge of the couple that was having problems last week, really is showing his desire to have a better family life and Silvia said that they are going to go to the lawyer today in order to get the papers necessary to get married. We also found an interesting investigator a few weeks ago, but yesterday was the first time we could find “him” with time to teach. Miguel is a cross-dresser that we taught the first lesson with the spirit present and challenged him to change. He said that he would love to change and have a family, but he´s been like this his entire life (and he looks and sounds like a woman now). If he can change, it will probably be one of the biggest changes I´ve seen on the mission, but I know it is possible through the Gospel. Friday we taught an investigator, who hasn´t read in the Book of Mormon yet, but we decided to read parts with her and she said “I don´t know, but I felt something strange while we were reading.” We immediately explained the feelings of the Holy Ghost again. We have a few others I´d like to talk about, but I´m out of time.

I love you all and I wish that the Spirit of change can constantly mold you into who you are to be.

Elder Drake Ranquist

Washington D.C. and Figs!

Sorry I didn't post last week, I was in Washington D.C.! I went with a group of school friends to an environmental convention called Powershift. It was really neat, 12,000 students (mainly college) met at the Washington D.C. convention center to listen to speeches by proffesional environmentalists and congressmen, to discuss environmental issues, and suggest ways to improve the environment in their hometowns.
Anyway, now to Drake...

24 Feb 2009

Querida Familia,

This week has been a bit bitter-sweet. That´s how it seems like a lot of life is. We are happy for one reason and sad for another. But before I get too much into the past week, there are a few questions to ask.
First of all, I received a letter from Adam Leonhardt a little over a month ago (he wrote it back in November), but haven´t had a chance to respond to it until today. I wrote the letter, and when I looked for the return address, it wasn´t there. So, in order to send the letter, I need the address, so could you send that to me?
Next, I was talking with one of the members of our ward and she has Danish heritage. Her maiden name is Abligaard. Mom, do we have any relation? I have no clue.
Oh, I think next week, I´ll probably take out about 200 pesos from the bank. First of all, I´ve been having to buy some new socks. These socks aren´t worn out yet, but after 4 months of being washed by hand, they´ve lost all their color. They are either more white or red than black. To maintain my appearance, I´ve had to buy some new ones. Also, I bought a little adapter so that I could put my camera chip into the USB port of a computer. I borrowed the adapter from my companions in Villa Amelia, but my companions here in Castillo don´t have one, so I decided to buy it myself. I´m also planning on buying more sun protector and vitamins. Their about 40 pesos each, which is quite expensive. I decided that Mom would rather me not go without those things (even though most missionaries do). I still have some money left over from what you gave me before I came and I feel that I manage the money I receive pretty well, but I just like to be sure.
Just another sidenote. Last week, I tried a fig for the first time. I´ve always read about them in the Bible, but I´ve never really known what it is. To be honest, I imagined little tumbleweeds growing on the trees. But I knew they could be eaten as well, so I didn´t know what to think. Now I´ve learned that they are a fruit and are very sweet. I believe that in most of the representations of the tree of life, from Lehi´s dream, the fruit is a fig. There are various types, but these were growing on a tree of a member´s house and are purple. You don´t eat it straight, you open it up and eat the insides, which look really interesting. It is like a whole bunch of red, juicy, strings from the outside pointing inward. I´m definitely eating them again if I have the chance. And now I have a better understanding of the Bible and some of its stories.
Now for the news of the week. We had another baptism! I had the honor of baptizing Asunción de Dolores Medina and my companion baptized Roxana Gutierrez. They were so happy. Lola (the name Dolores goes by) is an elderly lady and I think she has great-grandchildren (the generations here in Argentina are a little shorter due to many of the problems with the law of chastity). She is extremely faithful. After teaching her the law of tithing, the next time we came by, she had two pesos in the envelope and was asking us how she pays her tithing exactly.
Roxana was extremely happy as well. She overcame her addiction of cigarettes and really feels the change and happiness of the Gospel. We´re having some problems with her two daughters Florencia and Karen (remember to pronounce it in Spanish). They are 13 and laugh at everything. They keep switching back and forth whether they want to get baptized or not. They´ve been going to church regularly and are ready. But they keep switching between “Yes, we´ll get baptized” and “No, we want to wait more.” It is a little tiring as we keep trying to animate them. But during the baptismal service of Roxana and Lola I couldn´t stop smiling. I felt really happy for them.
Now for the sad part. Maxi, one of the best investigators I´ve seen, wasn´t able to get baptized. Just as is promised in the scriptures, as soon as someone finds the truth, Satan works all the much harder to prevent them from receiving its blessings. A few times an Evangelical woman passed by trying to convince him of the “evils” of Mormonism. When he said that he was getting baptized and that he had already sent out the invitations, she said “You are making a contract with the devil and trying to bring others down with you.” But he stood strong against these attacks. But then, thursday night, the night just before his baptismal interview one of his female friends popped out of nowhere and decided to live with him. He hasn´t seen her for more than two years and was living with another man, but was thrown out of that house. So, she decided to live with Maxi. So, he wasn´t able to get baptized and now feels really disheartened. He feels ashamed and doesn´t want to come to church. He doesn´t want to get baptized now because he´s afraid he´ll just make another mistake. And also, he doesn´t know how to nicely get rid of this lady. I wasn´t there for his interview, I was on divisions, but my companion recounted that he said the devil sent her. This is really sad, but it came with other consequences. Maxi was the support of his neighbor Osorio who was in the process of quitting drinking wine. But with the problem and the desanimo (I can´t remember this word in english, disheartening...depression...gah, I know it but, oh discourgement is the word!) of Maxi, he feels that there are too many restrictions, doesn´t want to continue fighting his addiction and is back to drinking a ton of wine. So, we have our work cut out for us to help them more, to not give up, and pray sincerely for the Lord´s help in this situation.
Another event occurred that was really sad. If there is one thing that pains me more than anything else is when the parents of children say they are thinking of seperating. Yes, this is one of the options to comply with the law of chastity, but so much better it is to get married and save the family. We as missionaries learn that the family really is the most important part of life, the secret of happiness. And when we hear of the destruction of it, it pains us. We went to one family where the mother and children are baptized (when the mother was living seperated from the father, but now are back together again). In order for the father to get baptized, he needs to get married and commit to not drinking again. They are in the process of getting married, but they need to talk with a lawyer first about a paper and he isn´t available until March. But when we went this Sunday, the Silvia was really frustrated and was seriously wanting to seperate from Walter. We stayed and listened for about an hour, hour and a half. After helping them calm down a little and teaching of the importance of the family, the need of having family goals (like we have goals as companionships), and the role of the father in the family, they both changed a little, felt more love the one for the other, and put in their hearts that they wanted to change for the benefit of the family. In the end, Walter gave the prayer on our knees and afterwards, we missionaries always have the habit of hugging after the prayers (we always greet other missionaries with a hug, not a handshake). So, that is what they did. It was beautiful to see. I hope that they´ll be able to maintain what they felt that night in order to work for a happy family.
Ok, I´m out of time again. But I want to express my love and my gratitude for having such a wonderful family. Thank you for everything you´ve done to help us be happy.

Elder Drake Ranquist