All the other missionaries here left yesterday, so it is just the seven of us here. One good thing about that--we have all afternoon to email, so I can finally write back to the rest of the family. I am excited to meet all the new people coming in. It will be interesting to see how they adjust and to remember how we felt coming in. We have come along way in three weeks. But it remains to be seen if we will all know enough Spanish to have Latino companions in three weeks.
Proselyting went well this last Saturday. We gave out all three Book of Mormons! It is always interesting to see who is willing to listen and who is not. One of those was to our friend Luís, the preacher. He was very receptive because I testified that it was a book about Christ. I don´t know if it is good or bad that he is one of those people who just accepts all Christian religions as true. Hopefully he will read it and understand that there is only one true church. We´ll be in a new area next week, so I may never know. We also did not get a chance to see Marisela, the first lady I gave a Book of Mormon to. Oh well. We are learning to speak better, and sometimes we can understand what people are saying. It took us 10 minutes to figure out that Claudio, a storeowner we talked to last week and this week, was asking if the Book of Mormon was about the end of the world. He was going on about this movie that said the world would end in 2012. Finally I told him we didn´t believe in that, and he realized that I could undertstand some of what he was saying, and my companions got almost none of it. Usually they pick up on quite a bit, but he talked so fast. That is a principle we have found to be true from the moment we entered Argentina. If you tell someone you speak even a little Spanish, they assume you´re fluent. Without fail. Maybe the word "poco" actually means "please talk faster." Do we do that with foreigners in English? I think I usually try to speak slower and clearer.
Anyway, Claudio was a great guy with a lot of cute little kids. He was also Evangelical. We seem to be having more success with families and with Evangelicals. We have a joke that we have yet find a practicing Catholic. Many people use that as an excuse not to listen to us, but seriously, we have not found a single Catholic who actually attends church. Few have even read the Bible. I don´t understand that at all. Hopefully we can help them. The past few days we learned something really important. I have heard it explained before, but now it finally clicked. We need to explain our purpose right up front, every time. Otherwise people wonder why we are coming back to talk to them about our church. If you are selling TV´s, you will ask the people if they want to buy a TV. If not, you will explain why they should. It´s pretty much the same with baptism. We need to tell them right up front that we want them to be baptized, that way they have a goal to work towards. They´ll have a reason to keep commitments.
We also learned about the importance of lesson outlines. It is really hard to balance not planning anything at all and writing out your whole lesson. It´s not a big deal when you are writing a talk for yourself, because you know your own thoughts. But to get two people on the same page as to the lesson plan without planning it out bit by bit, and being ready to adapt to any changes your investigator or the Spirit may dictate is not easy. (And we have to do it with three--being in a trio might be my biggest challenge here). Yeah, just about every four days we learn something that shows me how wrong my previous teaching approach was and how much I have left to learn. It´s pretty humbling. And we get to do it in another language. It is a good thing we have the Lord on our side, or I would not believe that this worldwide mission effort could work this way. Last Sunday we watched a video of an MTC Devotional from David A. Bednar. We watch a video every Sunday-- either a talk by an apostle or a church video like The Testament--one of the highlights of my week. In that talk, he shared a lot of great stories about following the Spirit, definitely what I needed to hear. One of the things he mentioned at the end was pretty insightful. He said he has talked to many converts worldwide, and the overwhelmingly most common response about the missionaries--no matter the language or culture--was this: "I had no idea what they were talking about. It was the most confusing story I had ever heard. But I felt that it was true so I let them keep coming." The point is, we are never going to be grand speakers. I can testify that missionary work is a miracle because I cannot explain how it is so successful. But I know that it is. And I am so lucky to be a part of it.
Thank you for your emails. That is very sad to hear about Everett and Clayton. I do remember him; I was reading his entry in Dad´s book a few days before I left. Interesting to hear about the NBA finals. And I don´t really care about So You Think You Can Dance. I would like to hear if anything big happens in the presidential campaigns. Stamps: sounds like Hermana Openshaw told you that you can send an envelope with stamps in it through the pouch? I would just like to write to my fellow missionaries so I can tell them about my unique experience here and make sure they have my mission addresses. I was also planning on replying to any letters I got...but that has not happened yet. So it is not that big of a deal if they don´t get here. Letters do get here fairly quickly, as do bubble-wrap envelopes. it seems like it takes about a week and a half for both of those, although it can take up to a month. Packages often get opened in customs, so I think that is why Hermana Openshaw did not think anything could get here.
Let´s see, what else do I want to tell you about the CCM? Well, you should probably know that it stands for Centro Capacitacíon Misional (Missionary Training Center in Spanish). It was originally intended for Spanish speakers going to Argentina, Paraguay, or Uruguay, but they are starting to open it up to more English speakers. We are the first group of Paraguay-bound missionaries to be here all 9 weeks, did I already mention that? We are right by the temple, and we are just one of the rectangular buildings on Google Maps, I believe. There is a field and a couple basketball courts next to it; that should help you identify it. The temple is gorgeous, and we will get to go inside! The open house starts a few days before we leave, and so they are trying to make sure we get a chance to get a tour. None of the General Authorities will be here by then, but that's okay. It has taken 3 years to do this "remodeling." Some temples are built that fast, so people have been waiting a long time.
I´m glad you got to hear from President Openshaw. He is a great guy. I don´t always agree with his teaching style, but we can talk more about that in 23 months. Hermano Gomez-Paz is also great. He is one of the Adminstrators, and he speaks fairly good English. We agreed that he looks like a James Bond villain: he is lighter for a Latino, he has this evil smile, and he has piercing blue eyes. Yeah, he´ll probably be in the next movie. Like I said, I really like our teachers. I also love getting an hour of physical activity each day. I try to do some running and a short workout so I don´t gain weight here, and then we play volleyball, basketball, football, soccer, or even 9-square. It willl be a lot more fun to do all those when we have more people here. Our third "transfer" (three weeks) here, there will be about 80 missionaries! That will be exciting. Don´t be fooled by this long email, next week it will be back to skimming quickly over your emails and typing as fast as I can. I love and pray for you all. And if you have some free time, read something in Preach My Gospel. That book is amazing.