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.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mission Tour (Offices week 3)

Well, this week was a lot calmer than the last one. I´m not sure if there is even anything exciting to write about. I´ll probably just end this letter right now...

The biggest event of the week was the mission tour with Elder Foster (of the 70). President was down south from Sunday until Wednesday with Elder Foster. The office is a lot calmer when President is in the south. Even though he is never in the office, he calls several times a day to have us do stuff; but when he´s in the south he doesn´t as much. But it also makes my job hard because President has to sign all the contracts, and I had four contracts ready to sign on Monday. So I had to tell all the housing agencies that ¨el seƱor Gulbrandsen¨ was out of town and that he would be back on Thursday. But he didn´t have any time to sign contracts Thursday or Friday so I had to explain once again that we would have to wait.

Wednesday President got into the airport around 7:30 pm, so we had to leave around 7 to get there on time to pick him and Elder Foster up. At about 7:15 we were at the gas station filling up the car when President called to tell us his plane had landed and now they were just waiting for baggage. Uh-Oh, we still had to drive to the airport! Fortunately my companion Elder Nielsen is good at driving really fast on the freeway. Unfortunately, I was sitting in the passenger seat. It took a lot of effort to not scream out of fright, he was driving so close behind the other cars at such a high speed. But we got there safely and so did Elder Kelly in the other car. President called right as we pulled into the airport to ask where we were. President drove his car and took the Fosters home, so we missionaries drove home by ourselves; no chance to chouffer a seventy.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we got a new car! Our minivan was way beat up and president wanted a nice new car for the mission tour. So the area offices delivered us a two month old 2011 minivan. It is way nice, lots of sweet technology, really shiny, easy fold down chairs; the only problem is that it is a stick shift. And I don´t know how to drive stick shift. President was actually kind of mad when he found out, he doesn´t want a stick shift since lots of Americans don´t know how to drive one (like me!). But almost all of the cars in Argentina are stick shift so the area offices say there isn´t much chance of us getting an automatic any time soon. So it looks like I won´t be driving a whole lot any more. I should have learned to drive a stick when I had the chance, Rachel was going to teach me....

Thursday the conference was in capital so we stayed in the offices and worked. Pretty uneventful. But on Friday the conference was in our chapel and we went to be part of it. It was a really good conference. Elder Foster is learning to speak spanish, but he gets his point across well enough. He started by dividing us into four groups, one group was stake presidents, one group mission presidents, one group missionaries, and one group members. He then talked about a problem we have in Argentina and it seems like world wide. Using a specific stakes numbers: in 2005 there were 497 people attending sacrament meeting. In 2010 there were 452. So he turned to the stake presidents: ¨What happened? Why did you lose 43 members?¨ He then said in those five years there were 343 baptisms; so he turned to the mission presidents, ¨What happened? Why are none of those baptisms attending church?¨ He asked each group who is to blame for the problem, and each group blamed a different group. So then we counseled together about how to fix it. It was really interesting. Elder Foster didn´t give us a direct solution, he just said we need to work more with the members and help them do missionary work and coordinate our efforts together.

The ward were I´m at is amazing. I´ve never seen a ward (branch) in Argentina were the members work so much. The elders quorum president called us to ask the address of the man who got baptized last week so that he could assign home teachers. That never would have happened in any of my other areas. So we are doing pretty good here. The majority of the recent baptisms go to church every week. And the members help us a lot as we look for more people to baptize. This week we have been looking hard for new people to teach, and we found a few. Hopefully they will progress in their testimony and love for the savior.

That was about it for the week. Now we are here writing the family after attempting to go fishing. I need some more fishing practice before we go to one of the big rivers in Argentina to get some big catches.

Hope everyone has a great week. Talk to you next time!

hasta luego baby,
Elder Gardner

It was really bright.

I was getting ready to go body surfing...

Me, Elder Nielsen (in the chair), Elder Johnson (left), Elder Unrau (back)

Ward activity. Open house in the church.


This is what happens when you´ve been in the offices for too long...

An investigator gave me this shirt as a present when I left Loma Hermosa.

My Christmas present to myself, anyone surprised?

Christmas phone call home. I figured this would be the closest we have gotten to a family picture in the last four years.

Yeah, I was kind of bored while my comp was talking to the family on Christmas.

Baptism of Miguel (this was December 23)

This ones just cool looking.

This is me and Elder Carroll bowling. Yeah, we´re that cool.

That´s Elder Stronks bowling. Pretty legit.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Transfers (offices week 2)

Hello family,

Well, it has been a pretty intense week, I´m not going to lie. Definitely the week where I´ve gotten the least sleep in my mission. I´ll try to be really descriptive and detialed in my descriptions of the week. That way all the females out there will be happy. Guys you can just take a quick nap.

Last saturday, after I wrote home we had an activity in the church. It was a special open house thing that a senior
missionary couple is trying to get working in Argentina. Pretty much we set up a fake statue of the statue of Christ in the Salt Lake visitors center in the sacrament room. The visitors would sit there and listen to the same recording that is played in Salt Lake. Then there was a little display where sister missionaries taught about the gospel. The senior couple tried this a month ago in a different church and it totally failed; Only ten people entered. So president was determined to make it work this time, and so were we. We invited all the members and their friends and then when it started we all stood out on the street corners (the members too) and invited everyone that passed by. I was out there for about two hours and didn´t get a single person to go inside. Finally I saw some teenage girls walking my way so I thought, ´sweet, this should be easier.´ I guess they thought I was cute or something cause when I said I would go with them to the church they agreed. They told me they don´t believe in God, but they went through the tour. My comp and I then got some fourty year old women to go, then another elder and I got an old man with his little puppy to go in too. In the end it was a success.

On Sunday church was good, but then came the fun part: transfers. We had to make sure all the zone leaders knew what the changes were so they could tell their elders. We had to call everyone who is flying south or coming up from the south so they knew their flight plans. We had to update all the systems with the changes, update the baptismal information, etc. Let´s
just say Sunday night we left the church at 2 am. Then monday all the changes happened. All the elders came here to the offices, met up with their companion, then left. Well, two elders took their cell phone with them from their old area to their new area, one cell phone got stolen and two got lost. We added elders to three areas, none of which had enough beds for more people. People showed up late, others early, others left stuff at the church. Finally at 3 pm we were able to eat lunch. Also, two of the APs went home, and the two older office elders both left. With just a week and a half of training I was left to run the apartments by myself. (The elder I replaced was trained for a month before the other elder left.)

On Tuesday the new elders flew in from the states. So we spent the whole day in the mission home (president´s house) helping out with that. During that time one of the new elders had his luggage get lost in the flight, one of the elders coming up from the south missed his flight and so did one of the elders that was going home to Chile. So Elder Nielsen made lots of phone calls while I sent emails to the new missionaries parents so they knew they got there safely. Tuesday night we drove to the airport at midnight to pick up some elders coming up from the south. The flight was delayed by an hour so we went to get some McDonald´s, but it was closed, and it was raining. We got to bed around three.

Wednesday things mostly calmed down. I was able to get some work done with the new apartments we are trying to rent. In the night time we went to pick up another elder from the airport at midnight. When we got there the flight had landed half an hour earlier but the elder wasn´t there. Almost an hour later he still was no where to be found. We searched the airport inside and out (fortunately it is pretty small). Right as Elder Nielsen dialed president´s number the missing elder showed up out of nowhere. Close call. This time I got to drive on the way home. My international drivers license came and now I can drive. Sometimes it is scary. They d
rive like maniacs here, but it is fun. I had forgotten how much I enjoy driving. We got to bed around 2 again.

Thursday was nice and calm. We had interviews with President. It was a good interview. He shared a scripture with me in D&C 33:16 and promised me that if I focused on the gospel and on teaching that the spirit would ´quicken´ the office work. That night was the first and only night of the week that we got to sleep at 10:30.

On Friday president´s promise about quickening the work came true. We have been waiting for new cell phones for over six weeks. And on friday one of the APs cell phones stoping working right. President likes to say things like, ´we need that done yesterday.´ That means you get it done NOW. But the person I have to work through at the area offices for cell phones has never really pulled through for me on short notice. This time I sent him a few emails, made a phone call, and within an hour the APs phone was working and the new phones were on their way in a taxi. That was as quick as you get.

The best part of Friday was afterwards though. Even with all this craziness happing, we had a baptism. He is a 70 something year old man named Roberto who is probably one of the most humble and nice men I have ever met. He is the friend of a lady who got baptized about a month ago. He got baptized by a 21 year old kid who
got baptized a few months ago and recieved the priesthood last sunday. It was one of the best baptismal services I have been part of. It helped me remember that I am here to teach and share the gospel. Sometimes it is easy for me to get lost in the office work, but the whole reason I do the office work is so that the spreading of the gospel can go forward. This is God´s work, and it will not be stopped until it covers the whole earth. It is awesome to be able to be a part of it.

Friday night we were in the offices until midnight working on things for a mission tour next week. Elder Foster (a member of the seventy in the area presidency) is coming on monday to tour the mission. So the mission president is pretty focused on making it a good tour. Today in the morning we went over to his house to eat pancakes (yumm, real maple syrup) and work more on the mission tour. So that was this week. Just one more week in the offices. Things should calm down soon, they say transfer week is the worst part.

I hope everyone has a great week and is enjoying all the fun activities. Make sure to study your scriptures, pray, and go to church.

Elder Gardner

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Offices Week 1

Hi family! I hope everyone is doing well. This week has been crazy, mom asked me some questions, so I`ll answer them and try to explain what it is like here in the offices.

Here is a normal day: wake up, do some exercise, shower. So far pretty normal. Then we study for about an hour before we head over to the church to work in the offices. Get to the office and check the email to see if anything has happened (usually by now some of the elders have already called about some problem with their fan or their cell phone or their bed or what not). If there is nothing to do yet I go through my checklist of apartments. I have a list of every apartment that we need to renew the contract, change apartments, find a new place, etc. I look to see if there is anything I need to do with these apartments or if I am waiting for the other people to respond. If I need to do something, I call or send an email to the housing agency about the contract. That`s the most common thing I do. Call and email housing agencies. I guess I can explain the steps to getting the apartments.

First I go online and look around for an apartment, then call the agency and set up an appoitment to see it. I send the missionaries that live there to go look at the place and take pictures, which they then email to me. I then have to show the emails to the senior missionary that works in the offices who is in charge of the money, and he approves or rejects the apartment. If he approves it I call the agency and tell them we want to reserve the apartment, then I call an ex-bishop guy we use to carry money around for us. I give him the money and the paperwork and he makes the reserve for the apartment. Till now it has only been a day or two. Now I wait (I mean call almost every day and bug them until they do it) for the agency to email us the contract. When I get it I send it to the church area offices so the legal guys can look at it and make any changes they feel are necessary. I wait (I mean call and bug) for them to send it back to me then I send it back to the agency and tell them to make the changes on the contract. If they accept the changes then everything is great, if they don`t then I get to call and argue and negoitate. This whole contract part can take weeks. Once the changes are made I print out the contract and go with the mission president to a notary place where he signs the contract. Then I give the signed contracts and a lot more money to the bishop guy who goes and gives it the agency in exchange for the keys. Then we give the keys to another guy who works for the mission as the handy man. He helps the missionaries move then fixes up the old apartment to get it ready to give back to the other agency. If all goes well the agency gives us back our deposit, if not I get to call and argue some more. Then I update all of the records we have in the offices and finally am done. It`s pretty intense. As of right now there are about twenty apartments on my checklist. It`s a lot to keep track of.

That`s usually what I do all day. On top of that, if anything breaks in any apartments or if something happens to a cell phone (like robberies) the elders call me and I get to deal with it. And I get to keep track of people paying rent. We just recently changed the way we pay rent, we used to do it all through computers electronically with no hassle. Because of legal problems we have to now give the missionaries the money and they pay the rent in person. So that`s always a big mess because for some reason or another they don`t end up paying the rent. Jolly good fun.

Then there are other random things that pop up randomly. For example: on Thursday we recieved an order of carbon monoxide detectors. I called the mission president to ask how he wanted to distribute them, I thought the easiest way would be wait till transfers on monday. President replied by saying, ¨not to put any stress on you elder, but if you don`t get them all out today you are personally responsible for anyone who dies tonight.¨ Let`s just say I called some taxis and got those detectors out as fast as I could. It took a while though, I had to call alot of companionships and figure out when they would be home to meet the taxi.

Then things like last night when I was on the phone talking to the owner of an apartment for about 15 minutes. Basically she is just old and wanted to complain about how she doesn`t like the elders that are living there. Not much I can do about that.

So sometimes it is kind of stressful, but I am really enjoying it. I get to play around with google earth a lot. We have a map of the whole mission with all area limits drawn in and the apartments marked. It`s really cool. And I`m learning a ton. I think it is a lot more like a real job than normal missionary work is. At five thirty I have to leave the office and go teach. Sometimes it is hard for me to stop thinking about the stuff going on in the offices and focus on the people we are teaching, probably similar to coming home to a family after a long day at work.

This has already been a really long letter. But I still need to answer some of mom`s questions. As of right now there are four elders in the offices, while both the current office elders are training their replacements. For sure one of them leaves on monday (it`s transfers), but we don`t know yet if the elder I`m replacing is going to stay another week to help me out or if he is leaving already. There is also a senior couple that works in the offices with us. As well as the APs (there are four right now after monday there will be two, one of which is my MTC comp) and another senior couple that come and go all day. Us four office elders live together, right now there is another elder living with us while he waits to go home on monday. In the ward (it´s actually a branch) there are the office elders and also zone leaders. Another ward meets in the same chapel as us, and the APs are in that ward.

So I think I answered all the questions. This was a really long letter. Hope you liked it. If you have any more questions, tell mom and she can ask me. If you ask soon enough today I might even answer you today. Have a great week everyone!

Les amo,
Elder Gardner