Elder Gardner

Elder Gardner will enter the MTC on Wednesday, June 23rd. We will keep this blog up-dated every week with his letters and pictures. If you would like to write to Elder Gardner, please click on the "write a letter" link on the right hand side for directions and his address. If you don't know much about Mormon Missions read the "about missions" page to learn more; it may help you understand some confusing terms in the letters.

Monday, November 29, 2010

IT IS HOT!! (Cazador Week 2)


Well, it is hot. In case you didn´t know, it is summer time in South America right now. And it is very humid and there isn´t a whole lot of shade out in the suburbs. But it´s all good. I´m here to serve the Lord, I can handle a little heat.

It has been a pretty good week. Adrian and Rocío (the blind man and his wife) are going to get baptized this Saturday! We are pretty excited about that. They are great people, they have a ton of faith and are willing to do anything to follow Christ, and being baptized is going to help them a lot. The ward also has really started to help them become part of the family of the gospel by inviting them to activities and making them more included and comfortable. I´ve really come to appreciate the importance of friendship within the church. It is so much easier to live the gospel when you have friends who are there to help you.

But besides Adrian and Rocío we don´t have a whole lot of people to teach. We have been focusing a lot of finding people this week. Last Sunday we fasted to be able to help the ward with getting members to come to church and finding more investigators. That day when we went to our lunch appointment we met a friend of a member who is an amazing person. He is twenty years old, lives alone (not with a girl), doesn´t smoke, doesn´t drink, has faith in God but doesn´t attend a church. We taught him one time this week and was really receptive. I know it was a blessing from God that we found him. The power of fasting is real, and too often over looked in the church.

We also found a boy of an inactive member who is really smart and really liked the church when he went. We found him because all of our plans fell through on Saturday and we just went to a different part of the area to see if we could talk to someone. Finding him was another blessing. Both him and his mom came to church this Sunday which was awesome! The only problem is the mom is kind of weird. She is looking for a husband and we are pretty sure she thinks we are good prospects. It´s pretty akward talking to her sometimes, but she needs to come to church anyway.

So it has been a great week. God is really starting to bless us and the church in this area. We are trying to be worthy of more miracles and more blessing from Him. Our goal this week is to find a complete family that we can bring into the church and baptize on Christmas. So far we haven´t found the family, but we are praying and know that we will.

It is almost December! Almost Christmas time! If anyone wants to send me a Christmas present, don´t even think about it! It is way expensive to send packages here. Instead invite the missionaries over to your house. Give them lunch, dinner, a cold drink, or a snack; however you feel like helping them. And listen to the message they have to share with you. I know that this message is true: that God truely loves His children and that Christ is our Savior. The missionaries are servants of God, and when you accept the servants of God you are accepting Him. That is the present you could give to both me and to the Lord.

Hope you all have a great week. Keep up the good work!

Elder Gardner

Friday, November 26, 2010

El Cazador Week 1

Well, I´m not in Kansas anymore. Actually I feel a lot more like I am in Kansas now than before. My area is a suburb of the city Escobar. The city is about an hour and a half north of Buenos Aires (the city). So I am in ´The Province´ (outside of the city Buenos Aires but inside the province Buenos Aires). It is a lot different from my last area. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Parque Chacabuco (specifically Villa 1-11-14) is one of the most dangerous areas in the mission. El Cazador is one of the safest.
2. In El Cazador there are dirt roads and people actually have yards.
3. There are chickens and roosters and ducks and horses all over the place.
4. At night time there are fireflies.
5. People here are actually from the Argentina.
6. Parque Chacabuco has an average sunday attendance of 140. El Cazador: 70.

My companion is Elder Merrill. He is from Idaho Falls, Idaho. He is the district leader here and is a very good missionary. We are teaching a couple that is going to get married and baptized in two weeks. The husband is blind and the wife is 18. They have a one year old little boy. We are also teaching two kids whose grandad got baptized a year or so ago but no one else in the family. The kids want to get baptized in a few weeks and we hope to baptize the rest soon enough.

Besides that this area has a ton of inactive members. We are working hard to get them back to church and help the attendance on Sundays. There is a lot of walking involved here. People don´t live all close together like they do in the villa.

Well, this week is Thanksgiving. I hope everyone remembers how blessed they are to live in the United States of America and to have the lives that they do. I am more thankful now than ever for what I have back home.

That´s all I´ve got for this week. I hope to have pictures of some chickens or something for the next time. For the first time of my life I am living outside of a city. It is weird, but I love it. Have a great week!

Con Amor,
Elder Gardner

Elder Merrill standing in their room.

Doug and Elder Merrill

The stairs. I think they are awesome cause they are spirally.

The bottom story of their apartment. Kitchen/other elder´s room.

I am attaching a letter. ¡You are not allowed to open or read it until thanksgiving! It is about some of the things I am thankful for. You can have Dad read it before you eat on thanksgiving or something. I am going to be very jealous of the great food. There isn´t really turkey, mashed potatoes, or stuffing here. So have someone eat extra for me. But don´t eat too much mom! You got to watch your health.

Having lived outside of the United States, especially outside of Irvine, Ca, I have come to be thankful for a lot of things we take for granted in the States. Among many, the main three are: my house, my religion, and my family.

1. My house. I have seen all sorts of houses here. Most of them are just cement and brick. Many of them are literally smaller than my front room. They share a kitchen and a bathroom with other ´houses´ that are close by. The people here don´t have the ability to go to their room to be alone, to have a nice table where they eat, couches are almost non-existent, a lot of people don´t even have chairs, just stools. There are also people who don´t even have that much, all they have is the clothes on their back. It is so hard to walk by people sleeping on the street and not just want to cry. To have my own bedroom with my own bed, a fridge, a kitchen, a couch, a tv, a computer, carpet. All of these things I am so grateful for.

2. My religion. There are so many people who don´t know why they are on the earth. Who have no purpose, no foundation. When something bad happens in their live they have no where to turn for comfort or guidance. That is why we have the gospel. That is why we have Christ. So that no matter what happens we know who we are and we know why we are here. It gives meaning to live and a reason to get going enough when life is tough, which it always is.

3. My family. There are tons of broken families here. Girls that got pregnant as teenagers, dads who left, kids who live on the street. The strength and protection that a family gives is invaluable. To have parents who love me and will do anything for me. Siblings that care about me and are always available to give advice or hang out with. It is a great blessing to have a strong large family that loves eachother. Even though there will be at least one more nephew that I don´t know when I get back, I love him too. Though there will actually be at least one more neice/nephew, because Rachel is pregnant.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. I love you all. May God be with you till we meet again.

Les quiero mucho,

Elder Gardner

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

6 in one apartment (Par. Chac. Week 12)

Well, this week we had some interesting things happen. On Thursday we heard that the elders of Nueva Pompeya were going to move into our apartment with us. They were the ones that used to be here last transfer but left at the beginning of this transfer when we got two more in Chacabuco. The place they were living in was really small and there were four elders there, so they moved in with us; six elders in a bigger apartment. Elder Jimenez and Elder Hallett moved in Thursday afternoon. Now the entire district is in the same apartment. It has been crazy. There isn´t a whole lot of space anymore and there is a lot more of people to talk to / things to do while we are all home at night. It´s been a lot of fun.

On Saturday we did service for a member that lives in the villa and we moved a bunch of dirt up some stairs. It was pretty tiring and I still have a blister on my hand from it. But I got some pictures of the villa that I am sending so you can see more of what it is like.

On Sunday we had Stake Conference. It was really good. The mission president and his wife came and spoke at the meeting. Sister Gulbransen is really fun to watch speak spanish, it makes me feel a lot better about myself. She doesn´t really know any spanish, but she is trying really hard to talk anyway which is awesome. After church we went to an investigators house; José and Inese. They were the ones we found that were going to get married but never did. We found out that Inese has debt and José doesn´t want to marry her and inherit the debt. And José told us that he resells stolen items in order to make more money. We were pretty shocked by that. It seems they still have a few things to fix before they get baptized, but they believe the church is true. That´s good.

On Monday I went on exchanges with Elder Jimenez (the district leader). He is going home tomorrow and yesterday was his last full day in the mission field. He did a great job and didn´t slack off at all. We worked hard all day and taught quite a few people. He is a really good teacher and a really fun guy; even though I don´t always understand his Mexican accent. It´s sad to see him go. And also weird to think that someone can actually go home. I never would have thought that was possible. It feels like I´ll be on the mission forever, but that is a good thing. I´m loving it.

O yeah. One awesome story. We were walking through the villa on Wednesday when we heard something fall and break right behind us. At the same time I felt something hit my leg. I looked behind me and saw a broken egg on the ground and egg yoke on my pants. ¡Someone threw an egg at us! That was pretty funny. We are pretty sure it was one of the drug dealers. But a member saw it and talked to the person and took care of the problem. I never expected to have an egg thrown at me on the mission. Crazy stuff happens in Villa 1-11-14.

Well, that is all of my adventures for this week. I´ll have more to tell next week, I promise. Toon in next time, same place, slightly different time. Have a great week everyone!

Hasta Luego,
Elder Gardner

Here is Doug's answer to my questions about how transfers happen and what his new area is like:

Well, my prediction was half-way right. I left Parque Chacabuco, but Elder Ludwig is not district leader. I am currently in Escobar, about an hour and a half north of the city Buenos Aires. So I am out of the city.

Well, at 10:15 last night we got a call telling me I was leaving. We went to bed at 10:30, at 6:30 woke up, packed, and left at 10:15. We all went to the mission offices (about an hour away) and there met up with our new companions. From there I went to Escobar and Elder Ludwig went back to Chacabuco with his new comp. I have no idea what the area is like, we just got here about a half hour ago. It is a smaller city and our area is a suburb of the city. So it is very different from the capital were I have been. My comp is Elder Merrill from Idaho. He is the district leader. I don´t know a whole lot else, but he seems really cool. We should get alone great and work hard together.

Here is what Doug said about the taking the pictures:

We did service for a member family in the villa. We moved a big pile of dirt up two flights of stairs (they are adding another floor to the house). I shoveled the dirt into buckets and the other three took them up the stairs. I felt comfortable taking my camera since we were in normal clothes. I tried to get some pics of what it is like in the villa. You can´t really tell what it is like from the pictures, but it is better than nothing.

Doug and Elder Ludwig with Elder Jimenez and Elder Hallet

Doug and Elder Amasio in our matching jerseys (he paid 50 for it; Doug only paid 40; he wins)

Elder Jimenez with his arroz chaufa and hat that a member gave him. That arroz is sooo good!

Doug on top of the roof with the villa in the background.

The view from the roof of the house. You can´t really see a whole lot because there are houses all around. Practically every window is a different family.

Another view from the roof.

Drinking soda after the service, a favorite Argentine pastime.

The ground view of a typical manzana (alleyway). This is one is bigger than some of the others, but this is what it is like.

A door. There are two really, the one on the left and one on the right.

The inside of the members hose, you can´t see a whole lot in this picture, but you can see some.

Elder Amasio moving the dirt.

Yo y Elder Ludwig. We pretend like we can play the guitar sometimes; but the only one who can is Elder Amasio

Monday, November 8, 2010

The work moves on (Par. Chac. Week 11)

I don´t really have much to say this week. Not a whole lot happened. We spend most of our time trying to find more people to teach. And we find people without too much of a problem, people are willing to listen. But when we set an appointment to come back they are never there. They like to learn about God and Christ but they don´t want to act on what they learn.

Monday of the past week was ¨Day of the Dead¨ which sounds like it would be about ghosts or something but it is actually about paying respect to dead relatives. The tradition is that the spirits of the dead come back and visit the family members, and that this is the only day of the year that they can leave the world of the dead. The families make food that the dead person liked and leave it for them to eat. There was one investigator that was really sad because she forgot to make the food; but we explained to her that it was just a tradition and that the spirits of our loved ones can visit us whenever we need them. She was a lot happier afterwards.

On Friday my companion had to go to paperwork. He´s been here a year and a half and still doesn´t his DNI, the thing he needs to live here legally. Afterwards we went to Florida Street and ate at California Burrito Company. It was pretty good, a nice american burrito; kind of like Chipotle but not as big or as good. Man, if there is one thing I miss here it is Mexican food. The same day (about an hour later) we ate lunch with the Bishop and our district leader came and made tacos. Since he is from Mexico they were ¨real¨ tacos; but they were exactly the same as the ones us Americans made a week ago. The only difference was that he made some special salsa that was pretty good. It was a nice Mexican food filled day.

There isn´t much else this week. The work is moving on. Sometimes I wish it would move a little faster, but it takes time for people to change their lives. Hay que tener paciencia. Sorry for the not too exciting letter. Hope everyone has a great week.

Con Amor,
Elder Gardner

Monday, November 1, 2010

I weigh 67 kilos! (Par. Chac. Week 10)

According to our conversion tool on our cell phone, 67 kilos is 147 pounds. That is still pretty skinny for my height, but it is the most I´ve ever weighed in my life! I´ve gained about 8 pounds since I got to Argentina.

Well, this was by far the most interesting week on the mission so far. On Monday night we went to the villa to visit some people and there were cops in full body gear all over the place. We were in one house teaching a lesson and five of them walked in. I was worried they were going to search us (not that we have anything, just that it would waste a lot of our time) but they just wanted to use the bathroom. Then we went to a family home evening with an investigator family at a member family´s house. But when we got to the member´s house there were police blocking the entrance to the manzana (alleyway) where they lived. Apparently they arrived at about 2 in the afternoon and started a drug search of all the houses in that manzana. They didn´t leave until about 9 at night and during that time no one was allowed to leave or enter the manzana. They ruined our plans.

Tuesday was fairly normal, except that the villa was really quiet and empty. There weren´t the normal drug dealers and there wasn´t music blaring in the street. It felt entirely different after the whole drug bust thing.

Wednesday was the Argentina National Census. In Argentina it is pretty different from the states. Instead of filling out a form and sending it in or whatever we do, Argentina shuts down the country for a day. No stores were open, there was no school, everyone had to stay home and wait for the census workers to arrive. The census workers went to every door in the country and got the information they needed. So we had to stay home all day. It was so boring! There is only so many times you can play monopoly in one day without going crazy. But I was counted in the Argentina National Census, which is pretty cool. I´ll be on the stats for ten years until they do it again.

Also on Wednesday the ex-president of Argentina died of a heart attack (I´m not sure if he got counted in the census before he died or not). He was the president before the current president, and the current president is his wife. I guess there are the Clinton couple of Argentina. So everyone has been watching the funeral services for the past few days.

Thursday we had a member take to a restaraunt for lunch (which has never happened before). I got pizza, which was a mistake. Argentine pizza isn´t that great, they cover it in way too much cheese. I wouldn´t mind not eating pizza again for the next two years, but I know that won´t happen.

When we went to the villa on Thursday there were a bunch of people walking down the street right outside the villa. We asked some members and it seemed to be some sort of protest connected with the ex-president´s death. A lot of people went to the funeral services so the villa was kind of empty and we were advised to stay away for a few days until things got back to normal.

On Friday the ward had an activity at the church were the members made food from their native countries. There was food from Peru, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, China, and the United States. We were asked to make food from the states so we made tacos. Everyone made fun of us for making "fake tacos" but they all liked the tacos. They don´t know what real tacos are here anyway so what do they know. And the best part was that members don´t let missionaries pay for things, even when we try to. (I think it was five pesos for a dish) So I got some free food from Peru, Paraguay, and Bolivia; it was all pretty good.

On Saturday and Sunday Elder Ludwig and I took turns not feeling good, and the members were still saying we should stay away from the villa, so we didn´t do a whole lot. We had lunch on Saturday in the villa and we walked through without any problem. From what the members were saying I thought it was some sort of disaster in there; they just worry too much about us. It seems fine. But we have stayed away anyway just in case.

So that was my week. There wasn´t a single normal day during it. Of course normal on the mission is still crazy. We didn´t get to talk to a whole lot of our investigators. I hope they are all still doing well. Hope everyone has a great week! Stay safe, work hard, have fun, read your scriptures, pray, and go to church. That´s my best advice.

Con amor,
Elder Gardner

Those are our tacos in the finished version. I prefer a little less lettuce, but they were still delicous. Members asked us for the recipe... Ummm, we used seasoning packets that Elder Clarke´s mom sent him from the states.

Empanadas! The Argentine clasic. I really like empanadas, they are kind of like tacos all wrapped up, but better.

Elder Amasio and Elder Ludwig making the tacos. Elder Clarke (you can see his arm) got chewed out for putting the lettuce on with his hands. This is Argentina!! The food they eat is ten times more dirty, why did they care!

This is the Peruvian booth. Most of the members who feed us are Peruvian, and their food is really good.

I believe that was the Bolivian booth.

Elder Ludwig and Elder Clarke at our booth in at the ward activity. Ours was by far the least decorated booth, but at least we had some cardboard to draw a flag on.

The view from the roof of the apartment builing. Sometime I forget how big Buenos Aires really is. My area doesn´t feel like a huge city, but seeing those buildings reminds me.

Some ghosts the 9 year old girls in my home ward sent me. Thanks! The best part was the kleenex, they were so soft! Everyone here just uses toilet paper and it is not very soft at all.

A package my companion got from home. The mail is pretty safe, the decorations aren´t necessary, but they are funny.