Sunday, July 25, 2010

Preparaciones demasiado trunky

19 Jul 2010

Dear Family,

You´re right that now I am facing really mixed feelings. Every day the weight fall stronger onto my concious the fact that I´m going to have to leave the mission behind. Part of me is excited to experience the new adventures of going back to school and life as a return missionary. But for the most part, I want to keep serving the Lord as I am. I have seen so many of the tender mercies of the Lord that it pains me that I will have to accustom myself that they be fewer and farther between. I want to keep seeing the triumphs of the families here and help them in their trials. I love trying to do good things constantly. I´ll sincerely miss it. But I can´t wait to see you.

One of the strange things that has happened in my mission is the way that I´ve grown. I feel I´m a lot better person and I´m much better prepared to face life. But I don´t feel like I reached my potential as a missionary. Actually, I feel farther away from my potential than when I started because my vision has changed. But yet, I still face the same weaknesses. I realize that is what will make me stronger in my life, having to constantly fight those weaknesses and not having them magically taken away by the Lord. Another way I´ve grown is physically. When I got here, everyone thought I was 16-17 years old. Now they think that I´m 23-25 years old. So much stress tones the face a little more (but it might also be due to the way I act and the improvement in my language abilities). I feel that my personal progress will be a lot slower after the mission and I´ve always liked being on the fast track in learning.

In preparation to go home, I´m going to have to start being truely "trunky" and start packing my bags because next P-day will be our zone activity. I´m going to have to decide what to take home and what to throw out and what to give away. A lot of my clothes aren´t really worth keeping (the shirts are going yellow, holes in all of the shoes including the tennis shoes, my black suit coat got ruined with the rain a while back, socks, etc.). I´m planning on bringing the iHome back, but E´Cuberos asked if I could leave him the iPod full of the tabernacle choir. I´m thinking about leaving it with him with the commitment that he give it to another missionary when he goes (so that it can stay among the missionaries). What do you think about that? And is there anything specific that you know you sent me with that you want me to keep and bring home? And when you come out, it would be nice if you brought an extra empty suitcase to be able to use.

So about the day you come here. I had interviews with the mission President this past week (which was especially trunky as he talked about dating techniques to be able to find my future wife and that I need to do something at least twice a week to find her) and he asked me if I were planning to pick you up. I had thought that the mission offices were going, but maybe I´ll come to the airport. That is yet to be determined. Depends if we have to look for many investigators or not too. But I think that I´ll be coming to help you find the church and get around. I´m not sure if it would be better to rent a car at the airport that day or not because we could take a Remis to church and they´d know their way and we´d get there in 30 min. If we rent a car, I´m not sure exactly how to get to our ward (but I have a map that I could possibly figure out). By doing that, we will be able to visit some converts in Moreno that are only home on Sunday using the rental car. That day, I´m not sure if I´ll go to the hotel with you to sleep or if I´ll stay with my companion. I think it is our decision.

Also, for the other days, I was basically planning on using most of the time to visit all of the converts. I think that would take up all of our time and we might not even have enough time to do that. My last week I´ll go to see the capital and I´m not sure how much touring we will have time to do, but we can try if there is something in particular that you want to see. Tell me about your ideas. But I want to use most of the time trying to strengthen the converts. And one night the mission president suggested that we need to go out into the country to see the stars at night. I hadn´t thought about it but I need to see the southern sky. And if there is anything else that you want, let me know. I´ll try to be the best and fastest translator that I can be, but I can´t promise to provide the best services.

This week we are faced with a difficult decision. María Elena, the sister of a member who came from Paraguay, has been wanting to be baptized for years, but her husband is completely against the idea and always threatens her with a divorce if she gets baptized. Throughout the years, she has suffered many things due to him (causing her to attempt suicide twice in the past). Her greatest desire is to be able to be baptized so that she can be sealed to her parents (who were faithful members that were sealed) and her sister. On sunday, she called her husband saying that she was willing to face the possible consecuences to be able to be baptized. I´ve never seen anyone have so much faith, courage, and desire. So, we will have to make the decision with the Bishop and the Mission President if we allow her to be baptized or not. But I sincerely feel, through prayer, that this decision will unify her family more, even if not at first.

I love this work, I love the Lord, I love the people, I love life, I love you all, and I know it to all be true.

With love,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Empujando La Piedra

12 Jul 2010

Dear Family,

¿Puedo hablar en español con ustedes? No, I´m not that inept at speaking English now, but this week we did find a lady from California who wanted us to speak in English with her and it was really difficult for me. It was just as difficult for her because she´s been here for 20 years. It was weird talking with her in that I´ve come to love many parts of the Argentine culture that when so much of the Californian gestures and culture came from her, it made me a little uncomfortable.

I´m glad that you got through this past week well. This past week had a few highlights in our week too. 9 de Julio (July 9th) was the independence day of Argentina and there was a fairly good activity that the ward hosted. There were some games, an explanation of the independence, and a demonstration of a folkloric dance by the youth. Then there were empanadas and choripan (a sausage sandwich that is really good, but full of fats and grease). But the highlight was when a professional folklore singer came (I think he was from one of the neighboring wards). He made me want to learn to sing like that. And an interesting thing was that I was able to understand the words to the Mexican song "Cealita Linda" (I don´t remember it well right now, so I don´t know the name exactly).

The other highlight was a step of courage that we made. After the visit of Elder Aidukaitis, President Benton started doing contacts in the buses when with the zone leaders. I decided that I wanted to try one with Elder Berglund. The first few times that we decided to do it, when we got on the bus and saw so many people, we chickened out. But, on Tuesday, after zone conference, we got on and I started saying loudly to everyone, "Brothers and Sisters, if we could have your attention please. We want to sing a hymn from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While we sing, imagine your own children singing this song to you." And then we sang the first verse of "I´m a Child of God." And then we talked with every person individually. It took a lot of guts, but we were able to do it. It helped me feel that I had fulfilled part of my patriarchal blessing where it says, "I bless you that you will overcome your fears and inhibitions to declare loudly that the gospel has been restored, that there are living modern prophets, and that the priesthood is on the earth once more."

Thank you Dad for getting ahold of those "collection items" for Hmo. Guzman. I´m sure that he´ll be quite happy, even if it isn´t in pristine condition. But, this week he also asked another thing. He wants a biography of Davy Crockett in Spanish. He loves to learn about whatever.

And I hope you recover well Mom. I await your coming, but I don´t want you to do anything that would perjudicate (is that the English translation of perjudicar? Maybe jeopardize is the right translation) your health. So just keep getting better and I´ll pray for you.

This sunday was ward conference (the first since they were a branch). I loved it and one of the stories that the Bishop told really helped me. "There was a man that was praying and his room filled with light and Jesus Christ appeared to him, saying `I have a great work for you to do. There is a rock outside that you need to push with all your heart, might, and strength.´ So, the next day the man went out and started pushing this rock as hard as he could all day long. He finished the day tired and weak and retired the next day. He went out and pushed with all his might the next day. And thus he did for a full year. Then he started thinking, `I´m not getting anywhere with this.´ That night Satan took advantage and came and said, `You´re a failure. You haven´t even so much as pushed that rock one millimeter. It isn´t worth the effort. You should just give up.´ Even more discouraged the man decided that he would go to Christ, explain how he had failed and that he wouldn´t do it any more. The next day Christ appeared and consoled him, `My brother, I never once asked you to move the rock. Look at your strong back, your toned muscles, your tanned skin. You have been faithful to me in pushing the rock and done as I´ve asked. I will now move the rock.´" I´ve kind of felt that we have´nt gotten anywhere with the investigators for the past month. That help me realize that even though the rock isn´t moving, I should keep pushing. And I know it is worth it.

Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dios tiene un sentido de humor

5 Jul 2010

Dear Family,

Mom, don´t worry if you think that your letter was a bit silly because this past week, we felt that God taught us again that He too has a sense of humor. It happened yesterday on the 4th of July. We were so happy that we had a surprise investigator at church. We had gone in search of all of the people that said they´d come with us and none of them answered or were there. We got back slightly discouraged. But, as we were in Gospel Principles, the second counselor called us out and an investigator had arrived. We had had hope in him a while back, but we could never find him and he always said he´d come to church, but never did. So, we had basically given up on him and hadn´t taught him in a while. So we were happy to see him. The funny thing about him arriving on the 4th of July is that his name is Americo.

Saturday was a difficult day for Argentina because it was the day they got eliminated from the World Cup. They had so much hope that they might win, but they were beat by Germany 4-0. That morning we had received permission to go see the game if we did so in the house of an investigator and we ate lunch with them. We wanted to see it, but we decided to stay in the pench to get several things done and to go to lunch with the member we had planned. In a way, I´m glad that I didn´t see them lose that way. We were afraid we were going to have some problems during the day because everyone was mad at Germany and we look and talk like Germans, but we didn´t have too many. Only a few people yelling at us from across the street. We were careful anyways.

Another reason why it was important that we decided to go to lunch with Hermana Zelarayan was for a little small miracle that we had at the end. The mission had a program a while back to be able to receive referrals where we write down 100 names that the person knows and then they pray and select one or two to take action to visit with us and invite. Well, Elder Aidukaitis (he´s still in all of our minds) showed us a better way. We make a list of all of the names of the people we can (not worrying about where they live for the moment) and then all of those become referrals. 100 referrals in 30 min. We leave the sheet in our area book and future missionaries can over time ask for the addresses and go visit them or send them to other areas.

So, we decided to make the big list with Hma. Zelarayan and her son Adrian Aguilera. We started talking about their family members and they talked about some that lived far away in Mar de Plata. We took down their names anyways. And as we continued with the list, the door bell rang. The very family of whom we were talking about walked in! Adrian hadn´t seen her cousin in 14 years! They had no clue that Hma. Zelarayan and Adrian were members (they were baptized within the past 3 years). So, we taught about the restoration and her sister-in-law really liked it. It truely was a miracle and we hope that we can get the address soon so that the missionaries can go by out there. And we decided to that we´ll finish the list with them another day.

Oh, and a member here, Hmo. Guzman wants us to ask you something. He collects coins and money from different places. And he wants two things. First of all, a new 5 dollar bill. Any old (well new) crisp five dollar bill. And the other thing he wants is a silver dollar. I´m not sure if they make those. I know they have the silver half-dollar, but he already has that. He want a silver (not gold) coin with the value of one dollar. He says that there is probably a silver commemoration dollar. If there is one from 1976, he´d absolutely love that. So, I don´t know if you can find it for him or not (maybe on ebay or something). He said he is willing to pay the amount it costs for it. So, that is his request.

We have been spending a lot more time recently with Hmo. Guzman, which is a good thing and a bad thing. He is the 2nd counselor in the Elders Quorum he is really excited about that. He is a convert from 3 years back and he works in the government and used to be in the Air Force officer. So he loves organizations and things like that. He loves reporting about the visits that he does and he was received the assignment of working with the missionary work of the quorum. We are trying to take advantage of this exhuberance the best we can to contact all of his friends and to do visits with him. And we were able to find a good family to teach through one such visit yesterday. But, one of my problems is that he talks a lot about things that really interest me. He knows a lot about missiles, space, Air Force, history, and a little bit about everything. I really haven´t known anyone like that her in Argentina. Everytime we try to leave the house he says, "I have something I want to show you." I admit that I´ve probably wasted too much of my time with him. I´d really enjoy my time with him after my mission when I can use it a little more leisurely.

I know that this work is true and I am going to push myself to the limits these last few weeks. I know that we can see miracles as we move forward into the unknown with faith.

With Love,
Elder Drake Ranquist

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Los Partidos de Futbol

Dear Family,

Thank you for the nice letters that you sent me for my birthday. I enjoyed them as I ate breakfast. I also saved the Gardetto´s to open up that day too. So, thank you for all of your thoughts and well wishes.

This week was full of its ups and downs. One of the things that gives us hope is that on Monday, we found a lady named Eugenia. She is the daughter of an inactive member and the neice of another with whom the ward is working. She is a bucket full of problems, but the gospel is helping her a lot. She was separated from her husband about 8 months ago and has had a ton of governmental problems with regards to her children. Right now, her two kids live one day in the house of the Dad and the next day with their Mom. With all the problems, Eugenia lost 20 kilos (50 lbs. I think) within 2 months and had a 14 day stretch without sleeping.

So, basically, when we got there she really needed someone to just listen to her. I´ve learned that I can calmly and patiently listen to someone´s problems, but that isn´t always what we want as missionaries because we are always running against the clock. The next time we went, we had a member to accompany us and she prayed at the end of the lesson and she said that she felt like something entered into her. She felt peace and aliviated (I couldn´t remember how to say "Ella sintió una paz y un alivio" in english).

In the next visit, we decided we wanted to do something fun for her and her children. She said that she hadn´t smiled in about 2 years, so we decided "We´re going to make them all laugh and smile" (while teaching an important lesson of course). So, we did what we call in the mission "Señor Huevo" (Mr. Egg). Where we have a hard egg that we want to put in a bottle. So he needs faith in Jesus Christ (so he gets on top), repentence (he falls and cracks and we take off the shell), baptism (we put the egg in water), and the Holy Ghost or baptism by fire. To do "baptism by fire" we do the physics trick or putting alcohol in the bottle, a match, there is a flame that reduces the pressure within the bottle, we put the egg on top, and the bottle sucks it in. It was really fun and they really enjoyed it. She smiled and laughed.

But, there was a problem with the dad the next day because he didn´t react well when his excited children told him that we "baptized eggs with fire." He already thought incorrect things about "the Mormons" and now probably thinks that we are doing some kind of witchcraft. But, Eugenia is getting better and we are going to keep helping her. We´ll see what this next week brings for her.

This past month, the entire nation has been into the World Cup. It is crazy here. The Soccer World Cup, which happens every four years, is 5 times bigger here than the Super Bowl. When the game starts, you her a bunch of fire works. And everything is deserted. There aren´t any open businesses because everyone is inside watching. And trying to preach during a game is worse than trying to preach during the siesta. Not even the strongest members would listen to us (ok, I´m not sure if they would or not, but it is very probable that they wouldn´t). Every time there is a goal for Argentina, there are more fireworks and everyone runs outside to blast horns and make noises with pots and pans. And when Argentina wins, a lot more fireworks and noise. A lot of people get in their cars and drive around honking their horns. It is really quite exciting and I´d like to participate in watching with them (which is something coming from me to say that I want to watch a soccer game). But, we go back to our pench for more study time. Last tuesday we had our district meeting in the afternoon instead of the morning. When we tried to get back to San Justo, the game had just ended and a bunch of high school students had flooded a major road blocking traffic. Argentina has won the past 4 games and I think they´ve now made it to the final four. The next game is Saturday. So, we´ll see if Argentina comes out champions.

My birthday went well because we did divisions with the young men to go visit some investigators. And in the evening there was a ward activity that our ward mission leader put together. It wasn´t nearly as successful as the last activity and I´m afraid it scared off one of our investigators that was present, but it was alright. At the end, when the members found out that it was my birthday, they put a candle on the cake brought for refreshments and sang "Que lo cumple feliz" and "Happy Birthday."

And Yesterday, Alejandro, the Dad of a recent convert finally came to church. He has become more and more interested in the gospel as we have taught him the past month. He only stayed for priesthood meeting because he had to go do something at 11 (I think he had to go watch Germany play England in soccer), but he wouldn´t tell us what. And he said he wanted come next week with more time.

I know the Lord blesses us daily and that we have hundreds if not and infinite amount of things to be grateful for. I know that he will keep blessing our family through our trials and tribulations. (I´ll admit that some of the problems you have gone through has helped me teach others with more power about how to face difficulties in life). I love you and keep praying for you.

Elder Drake Ranquist