Friday, March 25, 2011

Week 8 in the Mission Office

In which we (the family at home) were at Disneyland—hence the late posting of this letter.  In fact, we received the letter on my phone while waiting for the Aladdin show to begin….

Great information on investigators this week! (but no new pictures…)

Subject: “Where’s she going?” “Well, wherever it is, she’ll be there by ten o’clock tomorrow.”

This week, on “El Salvadorans Say the Darndest Things”: One lady tried to explain to me that the United States had built a top secret machine that creates earthquakes. Then, when they had some disagreement with Japan, they unleashed it on them, followed by a tsunami-creating machine. And it’s easy to prove, since they did the same thing to Haiti a few years ago. Wow. That’s up there with, “The lunar eclipse last night was caused by some planet coming in between the earth and the moon, but I don’t remember which planet.” And who could forget, “The United States is an ally of El Salvador because they know that there’s a mineral that can only be found here. This mineral is really special because if you rub it on something, that thing turns invisible. They want to mine it here and rub it on their planes so they can be stealthier.”

So I enjoyed all of the updates about Disneyland, although I am a little sad to have missed it. You were there for four days, too? If I recall, when I went with the family we had two. We’ll talk about that later.

By the way, President Lopez didn’t get mad at me at all for the board blunder. In fact, I’ve been getting everything done a lot faster than Elder French and with more accuracy, so he’s pretty happy with me. Not to brag, but there it is.

As you were all probably aware, President Obama visited El Salvador for a couple days. What you may not have known is that that was a huge, huge deal here. I don’t know why, but it was. Everywhere you went you could see billboards, signs, posters, etc. with big “Bienvenidos Presidente Obama!” on them. Nobody worked those two days, either. It was basically two vacation days. And as if that weren’t enough, streets were completely shut down around where he would be traveling, and soldiers were everywhere. Someone told me that there were even tanks, although I didn’t see any. They also told me that he had some couple thousand troops protecting him while he was here. Ridiculous. Oh, and for a lot of it he was within a couple minutes drive of the mission office, so coming and going was very difficult. We’d have to drive basically up and around the road blocks. Oh, and I remember I went to a recent convert’s house during this and they were watching the news. What they were showing was basically a 24 hour Obama watch. They had the camera scanning up and down the street waiting for him to leave whatever building he was in at the time, like he was some huge celebrity. Which he probably is down here, actually. Which brings me to a very small side-note: people’s sense of politics down here is basically limited to: Left Side=Helps us, Right Side=Bad. I’m not supposed to be political, but I have talked to one or two people about it. One guy was like, “You were a republican before the mission? And a member of the church? Do you believe in the church? And you still are republican? Wow…” It’s quite frustrating. And then when they talk about why they like Obama and hate Bush it gets even more so, because they just spout of stupid things that clearly show they know not of what they speak. Gah! Okay, enough of that.

As far as investigators go, everything has been pretty good. Actually, I feel like this week has been better than usual. Elder Gonzalez is my comp now, and we both worked in Monserrat before, so we each kind of inherited each other’s’ investigators, so we each have twice as many now. We’re teaching a girl named Marleni that we’re going to try and get baptized tomorrow, but honestly I’m not sure if she’s ready yet. We’ve got faith, though, so we’ll see how that works out. Then we have the Diaz family. They’re a bunch of fun. I might have mentioned them before, but oh well. The husband, Rene, is the brother-in-law of a member, so that’s how Elder Gonzalez and Oliverson found them. The wife, Wendy, was the first to be taught. She prayed to know if it was true, and had a dream. In the dream, she said, she was in a beautiful paradise and some angels came down and told her that the reason she was having the dream was because she had prayed in faith. I’m not really clear on the rest of the details, but hey, that seems about good enough for anyone to get baptized. Her husband is taking a little bit more time, but he’s basically converted, too. The only thing missing is them getting married, but we’re working on that. Their son, Carlos, is eight, and he has been going to church with this member family for years. He already wants to get baptized, and is super excited about it. I love it when a plan comes together.

Another family we’re teaching is the Caminos family. I actually found them with Elder Gonzalez while we were on divisions one day a couple weeks ago. The husband, Manuel, has been a less active member most of his life. Something happened a long time ago and he left the church. His wife, Maria, didn’t know anything about the church. We talked to them, though, and they’re super interested. They even came to stake conference last Sunday. We were teaching them a few nights ago and had left 2 Nephi 31 for them to read. They both had, so we were talking about that. We got talking about baptism, obviously, and how that is the first step to following Christ. Oh my gosh, by the time I asked Maria if she would follow Christ and be baptized, she was basically jumping out of her chair. It was like she couldn’t wait for me to ask. It was super cool. The only problem is that Manuel is married to another woman, with whom he wants to get divorced, but then he doesn’t want to marry Maria yet. We can’t figure out why. We’ve talked to him and her about it, and about being together forever, and things like that, and they both keep telling us that they want to be together forever as a family (they also have a 2 year old daughter named Gaby), but he doesn’t want to marry her yet. Oh well. I’ve heard it’s usually the wives that are hard to convince, so we’ve got the hard part done.

And then we’ve got Adreana, who is a friend of a really active family, the Vasquez family. She also has a ton of friends in the church already. Really, that one’s just a matter of time. With the kind of support she has from the members, she hardly gets to choose to be baptized. It’ll happen. She was working Sunday and couldn’t come to conference, but she’s been going to all the other meetings, including a single-adults stake fireside, and she likes it.

That’s about all the super positive ones, but I have a quick little story to share. On Sunday we were kind of lost. Our appointments had fallen, and just about everyone was in this stake meeting thing. So we were trying to figure out what to do, when out of nowhere someone passed by and said, “¡Adios, Elderes!” Now, that might not sound weird, but there are only two kinds of people that say that: members, and people who have listened to the gospel before without getting baptized. And when there are only those two options and you don’t recognize the person, you get excited. We stopped and talked to this guy, who was with his wife and one year old daughter, and come to find out that he talked to the missionaries a few years ago and then moved, so nothing came of it, but he liked the message and now doesn’t go to any church. So we set an appointment with him. That was cool. It’s like God knew we had nothing to do, so he threw a family at us. I’m not mad at all.

Also, on that note, we got a referral from some members named Manuel, and this guy is huge. His forearms are about as big around as my thigh, I think. Maybe it’s an exaggeration, but still. And it’s all muscle. In fact, we went to teach him on Wednesday, and it turns out that he has several first place trophies for some weight-lifting national tournaments or something. Crazy. But the lesson with him was really interesting. He had all these different beliefs that he had found on his own, like how we have a body and a spirit, which each want to do different things, and we can make positive choices or negative choices, since we have agency, so we need to teach our spirit to overcome our body’s wants. He kind of just went on and on about stuff like that, or how the Bible is not as important as what God could tell us now, and stuff like that. They’re things that totally fit exactly into the gospel, mostly just with different names. He even kind of created his own word of wisdom. As it turns out, his mom is an inactive member who was at one point a mini missionary, so that might have helped him a bit. We’ll see where that goes.

Last night was kind of interesting as well. I went on divisions with Elder Ballard, who just became an assistant, and we contacted in Santa Anita, one of the other areas. What we ended up doing was talking with members to get referrals. The first family, we had a testimony meeting and then talked really briefly about how the spirit that we were feeling right then could help us think of people that are ready to hear the gospel. Then we asked. And what did we get? I think 11 referrals, 5 inactive families, and 4 part member families to visit. Cool! But then we went to another house, and it was completely different. Only the dad was there, and the whole time it just felt weird. When he bore his testimony, we couldn’t feel the spirit. It was kind of empty. We could feel it when we read the scriptures to him, but then there was kind of nothing. We both felt weird and left kind of quicker, and afterward Elder Ballard told me he had a distinct impression that that man had issues with pornography. I don’t think I realized before that moment how completely destructive that can be, I guess, but there was definitely a huge difference.

Alright, that’s about all I have time for right now. I love you all, and hope you had fun in Disneyland or at home with your newborn children, whichever the case may be.

Elder David Arrington

Friday, March 18, 2011

Week 7 in the Mission Office

In which David is now on his own as General Secretary, demotes the former secretary, and doesn’t start driving.  Cracks me up.  But then the fines are cheap….

And some new pictures, without explanation.

Subject:  Gizelle! We shall be married in the morning!

If somebody told you that this was just a normal week, if somebody told you I was just a normal every-day general secretary without a care in the world, somebody lied.

This week was crazy. And I can’t say I have a ton of time to write because Hermana Lopez came over to the house this morning and had us clean for over four hours. And I promise you, the house doesn’t look THAT much better than it did before.

100_0067Last Saturday I went with Elder Gonzalez to the driving school to let him take his driving test, which he failed last time. He passed this time, but I tried to take it, too, and kind of failed. I blame it on not understanding a few of the questions. You might all get a kick out of this, though. If you are caught driving without a license in this country, you know what they fine you? $11. That’s a regular offense. Then there’s grave offenses, things like driving in zigzags down the street, running stop lights, etc., that come up to a whopping $32. If you do a super grave offense, of which there are only a couple, which are probably things like punching a police officer, driving while trying to inject illegal stashes of heroin into your system, etc., you MAY be fined up to $50, and your license will be suspended for a time, which doesn’t matter because that’s only another $11 down the drain when they catch you driving again. No wonder nobody obeys traffic laws around here.

100_0068I forgot to mention last week, though, that I found out my blood type finally. I had to get a blood test to get my license. As chance would have it, I’m O-. If I’m not mistaken that makes me the universal donor. Which is tough for the Red Cross, because last time I tried to donate they wouldn’t take me, and now they won’t because I’ve traveled to El Salvador. Well it serves them right.

The new people were coming in this week, though, so Elder French and I had some fun times there. We had everything basically ready for that, so it wasn’t super bad, but it got worse after they got here. More on that in a minute.

Sunday we found out about changes. Elder Vasquez went to Belize, which we already knew, but he got a super lazy companion that’s just a really weird guy. He was definitely not stoked about that. Elder French was the big one, though. We in the office get calls from the assistants while they’re in the president’s office telling us what changes are like, and it was rough. They said that president had Elder French set as the ZL of Ahuachapan (not bad at all) and was finishing the rest of the changes when he saw one of the cards that wasn’t done right. That’s our job, so he 100_0075called Elder French and basically said in a much more harsh way, “I can’t believe that after however many months you have in the office you still can’t do this right.” Then he told Elder Aguilar, one of the APs, to drop him down to a DL in Armenia, probably the hardest area in the mission. Ouch. And then he was super angry at me, because the card that was messed up was on the half of president’s wall that I did. What do you say to that?

As it turns out, we went into the president’s office the next day to fix everything, and Elder French had missed way more stuff than I did. Therefore, not my fault. Plus, as everyone knew, Elder French is not the best at remembering to do stuff. Regardless, he’s gone, and I am now the solo general secretary.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the news came in and spent the night at our house, as they always do their first night. The next day we brought them all to a meeting where they were to get orientated or something. I got to speak about things like how to email, that they need to learn English, etc. Something that I’m sure you already know is that Elder Duzett was training, so I got to talk to him for a bit at the meeting. His new missionary, which I’m sure you don’t know, is named Elder Di Fini, who is from Argentina. He’s a good Elder, I think. On the way to the meeting we had all the news contact, and he got two referrals, which he gave to me with their names, numbers, addresses, times of day to contact, and a few other notes. Most of the ones I got had just a name and phone number. So his parents should be excited about that. By the way, he’s doing awesome out here.

102_0100My investigators are doing well. I’m now companions with Elder Gonzalez, who was already in Monserrat, so we’ve kind of inherited each other’s’ investigators. His were a lot more positive than mine. We have the Diaz family, where the wife’s sister is the sister in law of a member, so she’s kind of acquainted with the church. She prayed to find out if it was true, though, and had a dream basically saying “Yes, it is.” So her, her husband, and their 8 year old son, are all really close to having dates. We just have to get them married. We’re also working with the Caminos family, the husband of which has been a less active most of his life, and the wife never really knew anything about the church. They’re awesome, though. Very positive.

Okay, I’ve got to go. Time is just about a running out, and I still have one more really quick email to write. Oh, and Dad, thanks for the heads up several times about the Disneyland thing. And I can’t watch Youtube videos, so if you can send that to me in an email that’d be a lot better. Thanks!

Elder David Arrington

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

David’s Next Mission President

FYI, this information was in the Church News in early March:

T. Lorena and I. Poloski Cordón

Iván Poloski Cordón Orellana, 43, and Tirza Lorena Espinoza Barrios de Cordón, four children, El Salvador Santa Ana/Belize Mission; Canajuyu Ward, Guatemala City Palmita Stake. Brother Cordón currently serves as an Area Seventy in the Central America Area and is a former area family history adviser, stake president, high councilor, counselor in a bishopric, ward mission leader and missionary in the San Salvador El Salvador Mission. Temple Recorder, Guatemala City Guatemala Temple. Born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to Ovidio Cordón and Ema María Orellana Casasola.

Sister Cordón serves as a Relief Society teacher and is a former area adviser for a special multi-stake youth conference, Young Women president, counselor in a Young Women presidency, Relief Society secretary, Relief Society president and seminary teacher. Born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to Oscar Espinoza and Enma Isabel Barrios Maldonado.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Week 6 in the Mission Office

In which David has a chance to have dinner with the Mission President who apparently is a “really chill guy when he’s not cutting our heads off for something.”  Reassuring.

That, and the house he lives in is haunted.  There you go.

More pictures this week!  Note that I updated last week’s blog with some of the pictures from last week.

Subject: “I resent that. Slander is spoken. In print, it’s libel.”

First, this week was crazy. I love the emails you all sent me, which were fun, but I feel like most of what I will write here will be about me. Sorry about that.

Dad, the talk. I loved it. We all kind of listened to it in the office, which was awesome. Really, it cleared up how I felt about it before. What actually happened is that the version I sent you is the English version of the Spanish talk I read, and lately there’s been another Elders Oliverson, Arrington, French, Gonzales, Huaman, VasquezSpanish one floating around the office that is much longer and goes a lot more in depth, but some of the things it says just sound like apostasy. Really, we have absolutely no way to prove that it even came from him, and it doesn’t feel like it did, so we just have to be careful. But the actual audio version has been much, much better. Thank you for sending that.

You also mentioned in your email to me a guy you talked to that was really crazy and kind of apostate. It made me laugh because that’s how a lot of people are down here, especially those of other religions. Most Catholics, for example, haven’t been to church in years and their Bible is covered in dust, but good golly they still believe it! Have they read it? Probably not. Anyway, it reminded me about this time we were at the multi-zone with Elder Falavela last week, and he asked all the Elders, “What is agency?” Easy question, right? Well one American Elder, who has a history of being very frustrating to us office Elders, got up and said straight out that it is the ability that God gave us to choose goodDSCN2498. He didn’t give us the ability to choose bad. We have no right to choose it. And he kind of just went off on that apostasy for a second to a member of the first quorum of the seventy, in front of half the mission. Quite funny. Elder Falavela just stared at him for a second and then was like, “Okay, thank you for that, but does anyone ELSE have an idea of what agency is?” It was great.

Another funny story: A lot of mornings we get up early to play soccer as the office. On Tuesday Elder Huaman had to get up early to drive President somewhere, so we decided to get up at 5 to play. My leg was still pretty messed up (more on that in a minute) so I decided not to, but I still woke up. We all sleep in the same room on bunk beds, and Elder French DSCN2505started getting everyone up, and he and Elder Vasquez opened the door to go downstairs and heard a really creepy noise from downstairs. It scared them, and they ran back into bed. Then those two, Elder Huaman and Gonzalez were talking themselves into going for like half an hour. Finally, Elder Huaman decided that he’d go to the bathroom and then they’d go. While he was in there, we heard footsteps running across the roof, but not rat type footsteps. Like actual ones. When he got out, they opened the door again, and the noise started again, but louder. I can’t even describe to you how fast they shut the door and jumped back into their beds. They were done. Not worth it. That’s a quite funny story, until you realize that our house really is pretty haunted. Elders have literally seen ghost-like things walking around (especially on the roof. That’s a common one) and just strange stuff happens. President has even come a couple times to re-dedicate it. It’s like a serious thing. But there you go. Cool story, Hansel.

Quick note on my leg: While it was healing, I didn’t want to get blood on my pants, so I wrapped it. What that did is make the scabbing grow into the gauze I used, so every time I changed it I literally ripped off everything that had healed and it started over. And the pulling of the gauze on my wound got me to a painful point where I could hardly walk. It hurt worse than any similar injury I’ve had in my life. But then I gave it some time to heal without the gauze, it scabbed over, and now I hardly notice it. Also cool story, Hansel.

DSCN2519Since people are leaving the office, I got the chance to have a dinner with President to farewell them. It was super nice. Free, nice dinner, and I was next to president and his family, so we talked all night. It was super fun. President is a really chill guy when he’s not cutting our heads off for something. But this week he also came into the office super mad about something and took our heads off for it. Actually, it wasn’t anything that I did, or any of us there, so we didn’t get beheaded, but he was very worried about this issue and very, presidenty. He also told us that if he found out that we had told anyone outside of the office what happened, he would find out, and we would be sent home. So you don’t get to know. Sorry. Just know that the Elder that actually did something is very sorry he did.

Also, there are suddenly two Elders living in our house for the next few days. I believe what happened is that they did something really stupid, and they’re waiting there until President decides whether or not to send them home. Their suitcases are there, though, which is a bad sign. Really, it’s rough to see things like that happen. But they do.

So that’s mostly it. We found out that the office is moving to Santa Ana at the end of May, but just so we can get to know the area before the new president comes. I will officially be the only general secretary on Monday, after which Elder French will be leaving. And I get to go get my license today, which is about four weeks after I wanted to have it, but still it’s cool.

I’m sorry if I forgot to answer any questions, but I have to go. I have an email to president to write. I love you all!

Elder David Arrington

Note:  Remember the story about the so called “legal contract” about a flash drive and a frosty?  See the Feb 18th post “Week 3…”.  Here are the pics from that.  Note the “notary” signature by David.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Week 5 in the Mission Office

Good email this week, although David does mention that he tried to upload pictures and our server wasn’t working.  Not sure why.  It looked like it worked to me, but maybe there was some kind of glitch when he tried.  Maybe next week.

Be sure and read the addendum below on the “novia” comment…

Subject:  “You idiot. How could we be in a matchbox? Where are all the matches?”

I think I definitely forgot to say for the last couple weeks, thanks for the birthday packages! I totally appreciate the old but still good DVD player thing, which I haven't had a chance to use with investigators much, but likely will next change. Also, all the food you all sent was amazing. And I never knew Propel would be so good. So anyway, thanks for that.

Julie, I apologize for not mentioning the Jack Handys in my last email. I didn't have much time to actually get on and write. Let me tell you, though, I printed those off and me and Elder Oliverson read through them together. It was hilarious. We are still quoting them. However, I didn't see a couple key ones that I thought I would. I noticed the one about the guy telling the long story at the airport about buried treasure wasn't on there, nor was the soldering iron of justice, nor the golden hammer one. I just used nor three times straight. Nonetheless, thank you very much for those. They definitely made my day.

Here's a couple funny conversations Elder Oliverson and I were remembering that I didn't tell you about:

“Hey Elder, could you equip this plate with a tortilla?”

“Would you like a regular tortilla, or a tortilla with plus one resistance to fire damage?”

“Hey Elder, you know what would be God's greatest Christmas gift to me?”


Funny times.

100_0064So this week I got a little bit more comfortable in the office. I think this coming week it'll basically just be me running the show, and Elder French will just kind of sit around. The one thing I'm still worried about is not having my license. I was supposed to get it the first week I was here, but the office Elders are kind of baggy since they'll be leaving soon, so it hasn't happened. As of now, I just need to give my current license to the lawyers to do something, which will take a few days to do, and then I can get it. But we can't start that process until Monday. Which means that, if I'm lucky, I'll get it two days before Elder French and Elder Vasquez leave. Not much time to learn the area at all.

“WIDESCREEN! Left side: brrrrrrrrrrrr. Right side: brrrrrr... hey, what? What are you doing there?” “Oh, I've always been here. In fact, I think I'll live here.” “No, if you lived there you'd have a lot less non-broken bones, and more crushed spirits.”

We found a new investigator this week named Gustavo, I think. I don't completely remember. We taught him at this one member's house, which was good. He actually seems really positive. He's fifteen, and his brother got killed by gangsters a few years ago, so he had some questions about the plan of salvation. We taught him a little about that, but mostly focused on prayer and how we can get answers through it. We committed him to pray, and he accepted a lot more solidly than most investigators. We left him a pamphlet and a “soft” baptismal challenge (When you get an answer, will you get baptized kind of thing), which he accepted. Cool beans. The only kind of weird thing is that this lady that was there kept saying weird things. For example, Elder French (his comp had some stuff to do with the assistants, so he was with Elder Vasquez and I that day) was explaining to him something about prayer and testifying, and the spirit was great, and while he's in mid-sentence the lady jumps in and says, quite loudly, “Hey Elder Arrington, that bread that you're eating is called a novia.” Wow. Thanks for the FYI. There were also a couple points where she would mention doctrine that we weren't planning on teaching that day. Like Joseph Smith, outer darkness, who Moroni is, etc. It made the lesson a little harder, but it was still good.

Elder Falavela (I don't know how that's spelled) from the first quorum of the seventy came to give a couple multi-zones and meet with president, so on Tuesday president told us to have the office spotless and leave early so they could meet in there. We worked super hard and got it super, super clean and organized. We put the nice chairs in the conference area, we swept and mopped the floor, organized the books and boxes, threw away trash, etc. We basically redid the whole office. And got our normal work done. And left two hours early. And you know what thanks president gave us for our effort? He decided to have the meeting somewhere else and never saw it. That's lame. But we had the multi-zone with him yesterday, which was really good. He talked a lot about agency and obedience, and I think just the way he said things made me understand them a little bit more, and want to apply them. So there you go. That's a little growth there. Also we learned a few ways to get more referrals and such. It was good.

“And then I saw his hanky. I mean, he's not snarling. He's sneezing!”

DSCN2525That's about all I got today. Oh, but this morning I went to play soccer with the office Elders, like we do sometimes, and it was fun. They play on a concrete court thing, though, so it's a little lame. The point is, I was running to get a pass and shoot, and one of the Elders pushed me a bit, causing me to step on the ball, roll over it, across the ground, and into a ditch. My knee got pretty scraped up and I had blood dripping from it, but I just got up and kept playing. Because that's how much of a man I am. I took a picture of it and was trying to upload a few others, but the server seems to be down. But let me tell you, showering with that afterward was fun. It definitely took my mind off the cold water.

Thanks for the weekly updates and emails and such. Also, that is horrible about BYU, but that really will give us some more publicity. As a missionary, I tend to think that the more people see us and think, “why do they have those super strict rules” the better. Also, that means that they won't go win some huge national title while I'm gone. They should wait until I get back.

I love you all, and am super happy that James is finally home. The talk, by the way, was really good and insightful, but I think I either don't understand or don't agree with a couple parts of it. I want to listen to this thing that Dad sent me, though. Maybe it'll clear up a couple things.

“I have never said heck you son of a gun.”

I can't even type it right.

Elder David Arrington

Dave Frogley adds this clarification:  Hey all, just a quick note. The fact that the bread David was eating was called a "novia" is (I believe) supposed to be funny/ironic because "novia" means "girlfriend," "fiancée," or "bride."

To which David actually responds again:

Also, funny note about that: This is the conversation that sprouted from that (In Spanish originally)

"Hey Elder Arrington, did you know that bread is called a girlfriend/bride?"

"Oh. I didn't. But I guess I now have had more girlfriends here than in the states."

"And the bread that Elder Vasquez is eating is called a prostitute in most areas."

"So I've got a girlfriend, and Elder Vasquez is stuck with a prostitute. Fantastic."

It was quite funny, but as I explained, kind of at the wrong time.

Elder David Arrington

I know just what he means.