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.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Miracle Baptisms (Cazador Week 6)

Bueno. This email is going to be short and to the point. We are going to Temaiken today and want to be able to spend as much time there as possible, so I need to be fast. Temaiken is a very famous zoo in Argentina, it isn´t open on Mondays so the only chance we get to go is on transfer days when p-day switches to Tuesday. And in case that didn´t give it away: I am still in El Cazador and still with Elder Merrill for the next transfer. There are no longer four elders in our apartment (one got sick and the other got called to the offices and they closed the area) so it is just us two. The other elders in our district are the same, but now their area is twice as big since they got the other area that just closed.

This week has been tough. With all the Christmas decorations and everything it is hard to keep focused on the work. And when you start thinking about Christmas you think of home then start to get homesick. I´m actually kind of glad for Christmas to be over so I can focus easier. It was also tough because Christmas Eve our golden family dropped us. This is the family that we found last week that was way excited about everything. We´ve had several lessons with them and they seemed to be progressing really well, reading the Book of Mormon and praying. But Christmas Eve they told us they felt ´impresionados´ (how do you say that in English, ´pressured´?) and wanted to take things more slowly. They don´t want us to visit for at least two weeks. And our other golden investigator, Cristian, told us he is way to busy and won´t be able to find time for us until after the fiestas. So it was kind of a sad day, but we are confident that there are people here who are ready and we are working to find them. We realized we need to work a lot more with the members, all of our investigators we found through contacts on the street, which isn´t nearly as effective.

But along with all this disapointment came a miracle. The elders in our district have been trying for four months to get two girls baptized but couldn´t get the parents permission. On Sunday they finally got permission and decided to do the baptism Monday (yesterday; it´s pretty weird to have a baptism on Monday but they felt that they needed to). So Monday we went to the church at 5:30 so Elder Merrill could do the baptismal interviews. We got there and the elders were literally running around trying to get water. The baptismal font had filled up about a fourth of the way and then the water in the chapel stopped working. We tried for about 40 minutes and couldn´t get water. Elder Merrill then had to do the interviews and the other elders continued running aroud looking for water; the bank next door had water but wouldn´t let them use it, they called the bishop, the city matience people, the firefighters, but nothing worked. At about 8 we still didn´t have water but the family was there and waiting for the baptism. So us four elders knelt and prayed and asked for a miracle. After looking around for a few more minutes we were talking about how we felt during the prayer. One of the elders said he felt very peaceful that it would all work out. The instant he finished talking the door opened and a member walked in. We told him the problem and he fixed it in about 45 seconds. So it was now 8:20 and we had 15 minutes to fill the font and get the girls baptized. We found as many hoses as we could and started filling. I got a bucket and filled it up from a faucet in the bathroom and threw the water in the font. Finally at 8:45 we were ready. The girls changed into white, we had a prayer and a short talk, then they got baptized. It was the craziest baptism I have ever seen, but it happened. And it truely was a miracle that the member arrived just at the time he did. It was interesting. The entire time we were thinking, ¨what do we need to do to get water?¨ It never crossed my mind that we could cancel the baptism and do it another day, the whole time we were just focused on getting water. And at the last possilbe minute God blessed us with what we needed.

This work is true. God lives. 2010 years ago His son was born into this world, and today that Son lives. Miracles still happen, you just have to look for them. I hope everyone had an awesome Christmas and has a great week.

que Dios les bendiga,
Elder Gardner

p.s. that was a bit longer than I meant for it to be, but I had to tell that story.

¡Feliz Navidad! (Cazador Week 5)

Well, this has been a pretty good week. Just another week in my craziest transfer of the mission. I won´t go in to much detail, but the wierd news of this week is that one of the elders in my apartment has been in the hospital during most of it. He has had some weird health problems and the doctors couldn´t figure out what it was. He is currently on a plane headed back home to the states to get medical care. He will stay home for a few months until he is better than get assigned to another mission in the states. It was pretty sad to see him leave, but for some reason that is where God wants him to be.

Besides that it has been a week of walking. Lots and lots of walking. My legs are exhausted. We have been working hard but not very many people let us into their houses this week. However we did find one family. They are awesome. A husband and wife and four young kids. I talked to the husband on the street a week or so ago and we set up an appointment. When we went looking for his house we got a little lost, but he came up to us and told us where it was. We taught the husband first by himself and he was really interested. We gave him a Book of Mormon and set up another appointment. By the next appointment he had already read several chapters of the Book of Mormon and explained to us the story line (first time I have had that happen). We then taught him and his wife and the wife was interested as well. Yesterday we had another lesson and we taught the kids as well this time. We read 1 Nephi 8 together about the vision of the tree of life and had the kids draw a picture of it. They are an amazing family and we are excited for them to come to church and get the blessings of God in their lives. The only problem is that they are not married and the husband has no intention of ever getting married. But we´ll fix that.

On Wednesday we had a zone conference in the mission president´s house. It was a Christmas party/Zone conference. We talked about the importance of involving the members in the work. Then we played white elephant but all of the presents were ties (what else are they going to give missionaries?). There were lots of bad ties and a few really nice ones. I ended up being near the end so I was able to steal a nice tie from someone, I was pretty happy.

That´s all the news I have for this week. It is almost Christmas which is pretty exciting. I hope everyone has a great time this Christmas and remembers the real reason why we celebrate Christmas.

Que tengan una feliz navidad,
Elder Gardner

"Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn´t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Don´t freak out!

I´ll explain in the next email.

Semana Loca (Cazador Week 4)

Well, this has been one of the craziest weeks of my life (I think I say that every week, but it´s still true). Let me tell you a little about it:

First some good things. On Monday we went to visit the brother of Adrian (the guy who got baptized a week ago). The brother´s name is Claudio and his wife is Sonia (they aren´t married but they live together and have a kid). We went to their house with Adrian and Rocío and talked and it was clear there were relationship problems. They were on the verge of separating, mainly becuase of Sonia, Claudio still wants to stay together. We taught them about the gospel and how it can help their lives and Adrian and Rocío told them how it had helped their relationship. It was a really good lesson and we helped them come closer together. We gave them a Book of Mormon and asked them to read it together. Claudio said he would. Sonia said, ¨si no me voy antes¨ or ¨if I don´t leave first.¨ Wow, that´s harsh. But we are sure that God can help them overcome their problems and if they will just read and pray together they will be happier. They are still together and doing a lot better. It is awesome being an instrument in God´s hands to bless people´s lives like that.

Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was the real adventure. Before I tell this story let me preface it with this warning: Do not freak out! We are all safe and all fine. Don´t worry! (That got your attention, right) We woke up at 2:30 in the morning because our doorbell went off. It was the middle of the night and I didn´t understand anything that was going on so I was just about to fall back asleep when Elder Merrill said, ¨There is a fire outside the window.¨ I looked and sure enough there was! It was just a little fire on a tree about 5 feet away from the door. I figured it was no big deal (I was tired remember) but it would be nice of us to go put it out. So I put on a shirt while Elder Merrill put on his contacts. We opened the door to see if anyone else was outside and a woman yelled, ¨chicos, ¡salgan de ahí!¨ or ¨Kids, get out of there!¨ The fire was a little bigger and we thought it might be a good idea to leave just in case. So we closed the door, woke up the other elders in the apartment, all of us used the bathroom, we got our important things (cameras and journals) then left. We still didn´t think it was a very big deal, but we were wrong.

There used to be a lumber yard right next to our house. The key word in that sentence is used to be. As soon as we left it caught fire too. So we called the mission president because there was a pretty good chance our house was going to burn down. He told us the assistants were going to come and make sure we were safe. His last words, ¨Enjoy the experience Elders.¨ The roof of our house caught on fire, but fortunately the firefighters came in time to save our house, and we live on the bottom story. The assistants came and after a while we decided there was no way we were going to get back into our house and there was nothing we could do. So at about five in the morning they dropped us off at the church and we slept on the benches in the chapel for a few hours. Until about nine when a female member came into the chapel, that was awkward. We woke up and left because an activity was about to start.

We went back to our apartment to see what happened. The door got burned and we couldn´t open it, so we jumped the fence and came in through the back. The window shattered because of the heat and the house smells like smoke, but besides that everything is fine. The only thing that got even a little burned was my flag that was in front of the window. Thankfully Argentines build their houses out of cement and brick so it is pretty fire proof. But now we are fine. We are still living there, things smell a little smoky at times but every thing else is normal. The only real difference is we have a much better view out the window. :)

Then to top things off it has been raining off and on the past few days. Before you think I´m just a whinner, remember that about half of the roads here are dirt. Or maybe I should mud. It isn´t very easy to walk around on a mud road. But whenever there are big problems it is because great success is right around the corner. And that was true this week. On Friday we taught an amazing young man (about 22 years old) who told us he truely wants to change his life. We read the story of Alma the younger in Alma 36 and talked about how the gospel can change his life. He told us that he wanted to go to church but instead of us picking him up at his house he would meet us at the bus stop by our house. Usually we don´t like to do that becuase if they don´t wake up there is nothing we can do, but he said he would call us when he left so we would know. Sunday morning he didn´t call us. But we went and waited anyway. Twenty minutes later he still wasn´t there and we were about to take the next bus to town when we saw him walking down the sidewalk! We were so excited and happy that he came. He really liked church and is excited to go next week. The gospel is truely for this type of person, someone who really wants to change their life. That is the whole reason I am here, to help people change and find more happiness.

So this has been our week here. We are working hard and starting to see some real success in this area. Elder Merrill is a great elder and has a ton of faith. We get along great (he likes to sing songs from musicals, what else need I say?) Spanish is coming. I´m working a lot on my accent and it is getting better. I still can´t roll my r´s but that´s ok.

Thanks for reading my really long email this week! I hope you enjoyed it. Fire is always fun (in case you were wondering I did not start the fire). Have a great week everyone!

Nos vemos,
Elder Gardner

Monday, December 6, 2010

¡Bautismo! (Cazador Week 3)

¡Que buena semana! ¡Tuvimos un bautismo!

Alright I´ll write in English now. It has been an eventful week. When I first got to this area Elder Merrill told me not to get too comfortable because we were going to move in a few days. Well, three weeks later we finally moved. Wednesday night we got a call saying the dueños (landlords) were going to kick us out if we didn´t move. So Thursday we packed everything and moved. Our new house is in the suburbs, away from the city. Which means the road outside our house is a dirt road, and there is no grocery store near by, it is pretty different. But it is in the middle of our area which is nice, less walking for us. We also have a patio and an area to plant things; sadly we never have time to actually use the patio.

So, Thursday we spent almost all day moving. Friday we went to a wedding. Adrian and Rocío got married (the blind man and his wife). Argentine weddings are not romantic at all. We went to a government building, waited in line, then got led into a little room with 20 chairs or so. A lady walked in dressed in normal clothes, sat down, and said the marriage thing they say (´do you take so and so to be your wife....´ but it was in Spanish). During the whole time everyone was sitting down: including the couple getting married and the lady performing the marriage. When the lady finished talking the couple kissed (still sitting) then signed some papers. Then the witnesses signed some papers. Then we left. It took about 8 minutes in the room. No wonder no one gets married in this country. It´s not all that of an exciting ceremony.

Then Saturday was the really important day. The day they got baptized! The baptismal service was really good and a lot of members came which was awesome. Adrian asked me to baptize him and Rocío asked Elder Merrill to baptize her. So I baptized a blind man, it was a pretty cool experience. And they are truely converted to the gospel. I didn´t do anything to help them on their journey to the church, I just happened to be the missionary here when they got baptized. They fast every week, already paid their tithing, read the scriptures and pray every day, are already planning on going to the temple, have shared the gospel with their friends. They are really going to help this ward.

On Sunday Adrian and Rocío were confirmed members and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. That was also a really awesome experience for them. Then they bore their testimonies (since it was fast Sunday) and each talked about 10 minutes. They are caupos. After church we taught an investigator that we haven´t talked to in three weeks and also taught his son for the first time. The dad is still very interested and excited about the gospel and the son also was very interested.

We are starting to have some great success in this area. Now we just got to keep it up.

I´ve officially passed three months in Argentina. As for my spanish, I can understand almost everything. I still don´t know all the words they say but I can understand what they are trying to say, unless they start talking about cars or something random. And I can communicate almost anything I want. Not in perfect Spanish, my accent is still very gringo, but I can express myself. So it is going pretty good. God has blessed me alot to help me communicate.

That´s all I got for this week. I´m sending pictures of the wedding and baptism. ¡Que tengan una buena semana!

Hasta Luego,
Elder Gardner

This was our Thanksgiving dinner that we had last p-day. We made mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and chicken (turkey is way expensive).
It was way delicious and I ate a ton.

Siging the marriage paper. ¨Till death do you part¨

Us missionaries with the bride and groom. This is a nice little garden to take pictures in outside the marriage building.

Adrian and Rocío at the temple getting married for time and all eternity....
to come in one year.