Friday, April 29, 2011

Week 13 in the Mission Office

So, now this mission stuff is turning out to be a little harder.  He couldn’t even think of a good movie quote for a subject this week!  Hah!

Subject:  Some kind of generic movie quote

Wow. This stuff is hard. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that before, but it is. This last week was a lot more mentally hard than I think just about any other week in my mission so far. It was changes week, so Monday we didn’t even work in our areas. The Monday of changes week we always work all day in the office. There’s just too much to do. But then on Tuesday we had the new missionary meeting. Everything that I personally had to do went really smoothly, but things just kept coming up and people kept forgetting things, or not listening and causing us problems. For example, all of the zone leaders were supposed to stop by the office and drop off their baptismal records. Not a single one did. Since that was for a report that was due on Thursday, there were problems. Also, an Elder called us from our house, while we were thirty minutes away at this meeting, angry at us for not being at the house to give him a fridge. Since we knew absolutely nothing about that, we tried to calm him down and figure out what happened. As it turns out, one of the assistants had told his zone leader that he could have our fridge. The zone leaders told this Elder, who apparently took it to mean that if he showed up at our house during the new missionary meeting we would all be there waiting for him, holding the fridge, likely filled with candy and ice cream, on our shoulders. Since that was obviously not the case, we had to deal with that.

The point is, the meeting was stressful. And then after it, we went back to the office and worked for several hours. It meant that we left super late and only worked for one hour in our area. Wednesday we worked in the office like normal, but just as we were about to leave President asked us to do some more stuff. And then Hermana Lopez asked us to do some stuff. We ended up leaving the office around seven thirty or eight, so we didn’t even have time to get to our area, let alone work in it. We tried working in Campestre, where we live, but the members we tried to contact weren’t home. Thursday we left late as well, but actually got to work in our area for a couple hours. The problem Thursday came when we tried to take the bus home and ran into construction. The bus took a detour, which apparently in Spanish means cutting a huge chunk off of your normal route and not stopping until you make sure that you’re about an hour of walking away from the missionaries’ house. Now, on top of all that we had ten missionaries staying at our house one night, six more the next night, and twenty two the night after. And we were receiving some Elders from the East mission (about 40) to start the transition over. And a bunch of Elders got emergency changes into my area because President decided it would be good for them to learn the area and work there all day. And we’re going to be moving into the tiniest house I’ve seen in my entire life, and will have at least six missionaries there. Just picture Lindsay’s old tiny house, but a little smaller and minus the hot water, washing machine and dryer, and in El Salvador. And to finish it all off, I can’t think of anything to write as my subject line. Oh well. I’ll probably end up putting up some kind of generic movie quote. So that’s the stuff that happened this week. I don’t like referring to it as the bad stuff, though. I think it’s more like the stuff I’ll use for my stories when I’m a grandpa.

Now for the other side of the coin. Last P-Day we went bowling, which was super fun. I won the first game (Latins aren’t too good at that sport, as it turns out) and Elder Oliverson won the second. But just barely. And it was cool because they turned it into a cosmic bowling kind of thing, so you can just imagine how awesomely black lights mix with white shirts and ties. We got a bunch of pictures and videos and such. I didn’t get the chance to upload them, but I will soon. And I was also thinking about sending home a DVD with all of the videos and pictures that I’ve taken so far, so I’d include it all on that. We had some good times in the office. That was another cool thing this week. Elder Oliverson got three packages and has been sharing the goods so to speak, so that’s also a plus. I also finished my second journal now and am still faithfully writing every day. And by every day, of course, I mean that I make sure that I write a full one page entry for each day, even though I sometimes do it the morning after. I have two things that I just thought of that I want to mention really fast. First, my belt broke the other day, so that might be a good thing to send off in the Christmas package. And some more of those Dri-Max socks. I really like those socks, but they’ve been slowly disappearing lately. The other thing that I would mention is about the whole Mother’s Day thing. I think that this time I will only be able to use a phone, and it will be some time on Sunday. I’m really pretty flexible about the time, but it will either be in the morning or at night. I just need to know about what time would work best for y’all. In this case a conference call might also be worth looking into. But obviously I’d have to make a Mom call first.

Mom and Dad’s emails were really plump full of juicy information this week. I quite enjoyed that. It seems like things have been quite lively the past week. Happy Birthday Michael, by the way. 18 is ridiculous. It’s a fun age. You’ll have to let me know how that’s working out for you. I kind of want to see some pictures of this crater in the McDonalds’ driveway. That sounds pretty awesome. I also had a dream last night that we went to visit them, but the twins were like two years old, so that also is weird. As is the random bumping-in-to of Sister Pappas’s parents. I don’t know her super well, but I do remember when she came in. That was my first change in the office. And I also happen to know off the top of my head that she is in Sonsonate with Elder Duzett and has at least one package and three letters in the office right now which I will send off to her on Tuesday. There might be more, but I don’t think there are. I’m usually pretty on top of that. Also, it’s super crazy that you ran into Sarah Miskell there in Seaside. Say hi to her for me, by the way, if you randomly run into her and Brian again.

Wow. It just started raining and storming (is that a verb?) super hard all of the sudden. It’s kind of freaking me out. That’ll be fun to work in today. Which reminds me that I should probably buy a new umbrella. The one I have is rusted shut. Oh, and that gives me the perfect time to comment on the tornado business that’s going on. It sounded super scary that that is going on over there in good ol’ De Rurange County, but I think we all came out of this as better people. But seriously, I’m glad everyone is fine.

Okay, I’ve got to go. I hope you all have a great week, and I’ll definitely remember Grandma in my prayers!

Elder David Arrington

Friday, April 22, 2011

Week 12 in the Mission Office

Has it been nearly three months in the office?  Time does fly.  In fact, David’s been out for 10 months now.  We’re already almost half way!

Pictures this week!  Although it would have been fun to see those videos.  I guess they’re just too big.

This week we learn of the birth certificate challenges, especially when mixed in with what are apparently ZLs not delivering their stuff.  Ah, to be 20 again.  And don’t send  mail via UPS.

Subject“Normally you look real pretty. You just don’t now.”

Dang it, I feel kind of bad. I had a couple random videos and such that I wanted to send to you all, but I don’t think that there’s any way I’ll be able to on P-Day. They’re like 300MB each. It takes about the full hour and a half just to send 100MB.

DSCN9603Regardless, I really did upload stuff this time. Some are pictures of Marlenyc, our baptism, and there are a couple other random ones. Like the ones of the little Latin kids playing pogs. The main one, by the way, is part of an investigator family (Diaz) that should be getting ‘tized soon. And there’s a couple with the Vasquez family, who are awesome members that just moved out of our ward. It makes me really sad. They even spoke perfect English.

In the office this week I was kind of busy. There was a multi-zone conference on Monday and Tuesday, so I didn’t even work in the office Monday, which is bad because I had to send three different reports and a letter draft that needed approving to President Lopez. Just a side note, you’ll probably get that letter once it DSCN9604gets approved. It just talks about how you should never, ever use DHL, UPS, or FedEx to ship things to El Salvador. So on Tuesday I had to get all of that together while also getting the emergency backpacks and binders ready for the fifteen new missionaries coming in. And the East mission was bugging me about a birth certificate that they needed. Here’s that story:

To get married, you have to have a birth certificate, which is something that people here don’t ever have on hand. So you have to go to the city council building where they were born, look it up, and buy a copy. I don’t know why they let just anyone take out anyone’s birth certificate for like two bucks, but they do. But occasionally these people are born in other missions’ boundaries. So it’s my job to get that taken care of. Baptism is on the line, and when this week is holy week or whatever, meaning everyone is on vacations, there’s not much room for error with baptisms this week.

DSCN9595So the East mission had me get a birth certificate from La Labor. I talked to the zone leaders there, and they got it. Monday night I called them and said that I needed the certificate on Tuesday. They said they’d come to the office. In the morning, I called the zone leader and asked him when he was coming in. He said later in the day. When he didn’t show up by noon (with the East mission calling me every half hour to ask about it) I called him. He said that he and his comp decided not to go to the office. Wait, what? This is why zone leaders are frustrating. I kind of yelled at him a tiny bit, and he told me that he’d bring it in later in the day. Repeat the above couple sentences to find out what happened with that. And, I’m not even kidding, the exact same thing happened on Wednesday. We eventually drove over to his area, found him, and forced him to go get it and give it to us. The sad thing is that this is not an uncommon occurrence. For example, On Saturday night I called all the zone leaders to tell them that I needed a report on Monday or Tuesday, depending on when their P-Day was (they were changed to accommodate the multi-zone). I then called them Sunday night and said the same thing, reiterating how important it was. And on Monday night I called the zones with a Tuesday P-Day to remind them a third time. How many reports did I get? One. And three more that were not the reports I asked for. Out of fourteen zones.

DSCN9608This week was a little bit tough working-wise as well. We lost a lot of investigators and a lot of our dates fell, which is always super discouraging. On Sunday the meeting schedule was changed to 10 instead of 1, so as you can imagine our attendance dropped dramatically. By about 40 people, as it turns out. Which is almost a 30% drop. We did divisions so that we could invite more people to church, and nobody was there. I went to Ana and Marleni (who needed to be confirmed) and neither were there. Maria Caminos didn’t come for some unknown reason, either. Some members were supposed to bring her. Elder Gonz├ílez went to the Diaz family and Manuel. Manuel wasn’t home, and he said that Rene Diaz had apparently been drinking a little bit. That’s super not productive if he and his family are going to get baptized. So Sunday hurt.

From there on, it wasn’t too bad. We taught Ana a few more times and she’s progressing, but it is really hard to teach her because her son, Daniel, is crazy. He loves me, though, since I spent like two hours just showing him magic tricks. But as soon as we start teaching he goes crazy. We’ve re-committed the Diaz family, and they’re progressing better. A few of our investigators just kind of had to be dropped, though, for various reasons outside of our control. Like Adreana, whose family is super determined to not let her go to church. They’re super catholic. But we’re moving along. We might even have a few baptisms next week.

DSCN9599The one that’s still super frustrating to me, though, is Manuel Caminos. He just still will not marry Maria. She is super ready, reads the Book of Mormon and Principles of the Gospel, and is just awesome. Manuel, the first time we passed by this week, was smoking. We had a super powerful lesson with them the other day, though, where we really just hammered Manuel with the spirit. And we were really direct, telling him that not getting married is a super serious sin in this case, that he’ll be condemning his family because he won’t let them progress, but that he’ll be even worse off since he’s already been baptized and has the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on. It got super intense because at one point Maria was just talking about how badly she wanted to get married and baptized and go to the temple and so forth. Then we kind of all turned to Manuel and you could just see that he was close to giving in. Eventually, though, he refused again. Maria started crying and had to leave the room. It was one of the most disappointed I think I’ve ever been in someone. But I can at least remind myself that, in the worst case scenario, they’ll all eventually die and be separated, and Maria will have all the necessary ordinances done for her and be just fine. But that’s still kind of an ugly thought. Especially when you throw their three year-old daughter into the equation.

Alright, enough about that. Time for real-world events. I can’t believe, Stacey, that your story actually included gun toting midgets. I am deeply impressed. That’s also a rather intense story. Mom, you quitting your job is kind of sad. But regardless, I’m sure we’ll all keep in touch with your friends there. Doctors trips with Michael and Steven should be a hoot. The choir tour sounds like it was great fun. I remember mine was awesome. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch the video or hear the clip that Dad sent, but I will when I head in to the office. And I’m glad Lindsay and Reese had a good weekend at grandmas. I am also a little bit sad that I will not see her or Darcy or James until they’re a little bit growed up, but that’s life. I plan on finishing this first, and then I can start worrying about other things.

I think I have been rapidly running out of things to say, so I will bring this to a close. I appreciate as always your support. It was especially nice to hear that Mom was forcing people to write me. It’s kind of a type and shadow of that whole “Satan’s Plan” idea, but I’m not complaining.

I love you all! Have a great week!
Elder David Arrington

Friday, April 15, 2011

Week 11 in the Mission Office

In which we learn of another baptism, another new investigator, and the important rules for bible bashing….  Still no pics.

Subject:  “Looks like we’ve got a Mexican standoff. Only we don’t got no Mexicans.”

I’m trying to think of how I can start this email in an interesting way, but I can’t. So here goes my email for the 15 of April, which, thanks to Mom’s mathematical date calculation formula thing, I have realized to be a Friday.

I had a baptism on Sunday, which was very exciting. I even had a few pictures and stuff to upload from it, but I forgot my camera cable, so I will have to do it later. Sorry about that. But her name is Marlenyc or something crazy like that. It’s hard to spell. She’s a twenty-one year old single mother of a four year old boy. Not unusual at all in this country. The service was really awesome, and it went smoothly. The only problem that we had was that Elder Perry didn’t fill out a baptismal record for her when he interviewed her, so we had to do that ourselves yesterday. It was kind of fun.

We have still been teaching the Diaz family, who is now getting ready to get married on the 27, their son’s birthday. And then they will all three get baptized. I’m pretty excited about that. The only problem with them is going to be keeping them set on that for the next week and a half. It’s a kind of far away, so we’ll have to be careful with that. They live right above a member family which is helping them. We had a mixed FHE with them on Monday and talked about the family and that whole proclamation thing.

We found a new investigator named Ana. She is also a single mother, although of slightly more age, and her son is really crazy. He’s got some ADHD and is hyperactive and I’m sure could easily get diagnosed with bipolarism, not to mention being allergic to more things than the Bennett family. Basically the only things that I know of that he can eat is rice with milk, cheese pupusas, and chicken. And fish. Oh, and all that milk and cheese has to be the special dairy-free kind, as ironic as that sounds. Plus he’s four, so it’s just hard. Teaching Ana is generally pretty tough. I went on divisions with Elder Oliverson the other day, though, and he taught her while I was off to the side keeping Daniel, the kid, entertained with some magic tricks. And then we tried to have a dinner with her and a family in the ward, but after a quick lesson when we were about to eat, Daniel started freaking out and they had to go home. Oh well. She, at least, is really positive. She came to church on Sunday, although she barely missed sacrament meeting, and she said she really enjoyed the classes. Cool beans.

Maria Caminos is so ready to get baptized it kills me. But Manuel still won’t just marry her! It’s irritating. The other day we went to visit her and didn’t even teach her a lesson. She spent the entire visit telling us about what she had learned in her two hour Book of Mormon study that morning, and then after when she had had some questions about why babies aren’t baptized, so she read that whole chapter in Principles of the Gospel. Investigators just don’t do that. Members don’t even do that.

Denis still has a date for Saturday, but I don’t think that’s going to go anywhere to be honest. We haven’t interviewed him, and last time we talked he had super serious issues with the Book of Mormon. The hard part is that we can’t teach him very often because of his work.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. Dad gave me a pretty entertaining story about confounding some kid who basically came just to argue. That was fun. Now you know what my day is like. But in times like that, I like to turn to what President Hinckley said on the matter. Paraphrasing him, he said: “You should not Bible bash. It is not productive, and the spirit can’t be there if that’s what you’re doing. But, if you do it, make sure you win.” I like that a lot.

Funny story that shows how powerful our position in the office is: Elder Ballard, one of the assistants, thought that he saw something on Elder Oliverson’s computer that looked like connect four or something, so he called President and told him that Elder Oliverson had been playing video games on the computers. That’s a very serious thing that would likely make him lose his computer, and his position as records secretary. So President came in with a rigorous investigation. The investigation went something like this. “Elder Oliverson, Elder Ballard says you’ve been playing games on the computer. Is this true?” “What? No, that’s kind of absurd.” “Okay, thanks. Keep up the good work.” Ha ha yeah, President definitely trusts us more than the APs. And he’s told us that. That seems like the kind of power that I will end up misusing. :)

Alright, time to wrap this up. I hope that all of you have a fantastic day, and that the choir tour goes well. Dad, I have to warn you that when I went we ended up playing Xbox all night, so watch out for that. Teenagers are crazy with all their raging hormones and rap music and afros.

I love you all!
Elder David Arrington

Friday, April 8, 2011

Week 10 in the Mission Office

No pictures again this week, but David is getting more complete in his descriptions, especially when it comes to his investigators.  Oh, and he’s getting stronger—exercise is good!

Subject: Get a wardrobe over here immediately. Take the Amigos’ clothes!

Time is all out of whack here. I feel like I’ve been just about out for ten months for like three months. The months move slowly, but the days move fast. But the weeks no. And sometimes it changes. Really weird being out here.

So this week I had some cool times with my investigators. We have had seven dates for a little bit now, and with only a couple hours of working time every day it’s hard to juggle them. We’ve been trying to visit all of them at least every other day, and for the most part we’ve succeeded. The Diaz family is getting baptized next weekend because we won’t have their birth certificates ready until then, so they can’t get married until then. Marlene is progressing quite well, and she should be getting baptized on Sunday. Dennis has some issues with the Book of Mormon that I don’t think he’ll be over before his baptismal date, but if he is, that’s awesome, and he’ll get baptized next week. Adreana is still really positive, but she needs to actually come to church this week or her date for next Saturday falls. But the most interesting one is the Caminos family. The wife, Maria, is incredibly super awesomely ready to be baptized. It’s ridiculous. Manuel is married to someone who broke his heart right after he got married, so he doesn’t want to go through that again with Maria, especially because they also had been having a few issues. However, we had an awesome FHE with them in the house of the Stake President, which I think I mentioned in my last email, and it helped them a ton. They had had a written contract between the two of them that if they were still together in 2021 they would get married, but then we went to visit Maria after the FHE and she was super happy. She said that, while they still aren’t getting married yet, she and Manuel have seen a huge improvement in their home since we’ve been teaching them, and they want us to keep coming by, more often if possible. And now Manuel is saying that if things keep improving like this, he’ll totally get married. Wow. The spirit changes people. I don’t know if you knew that, but it does. Now we just have to help him overcome his smoking addiction, and they’ll be an eternal family forever!

Last week was a little rough, so sorry about that. On P-Day we spent most of the time stranded in a super far away part of San Salvador getting our licenses, and we almost didn’t get back in time to write. In the end, though, I passed two written tests and the driving test, along with another driving test proctored by President Lopez, and I can drive. Which, I didn’t realize before, I’ve really missed. Although, people here are crazy. Super horrible drivers.

Oh my gosh, conference was amazing. We were all just sitting there taking ridiculous amounts of notes, and it was awesome. We unanimously agreed that priesthood meeting this time was the best priesthood we’ve ever heard. I can’t, off the top of my head, remember any talk that I would say is my favorite, but there it is. And they seemed to talk a lot about not stalling and just getting married. That was interesting. A lot of Elders here were surprised by that and said it changed their outlook on getting married. They used to want to just hang around for a few years before finding that super perfect wife, but the prophet kind of machettied that a bit, so it changed. Honestly, I think I was going to get married pretty soon off the mission, as a few people have already predicted, but nonetheless it was cool. And that’s kind of far off, so how can I apply that to missionary work?

I’d kind of forgotten that it’s only the things that I write here that you find out about my mission, so I’ve got to get better at writing the good stuff. In my defense, though, you guys kind of leave out juicy tidbits (yeah, I said tidbits) from time to time. Somebody mentioned that I am doing an exercise program, which is true, and me and Elder Oliverson are actually being really faithful to it. Our goal is 100 pushups, and having that goal is really helping. We started out with only being able to do 25, and we have our progress test tomorrow, so I’m not quite sure how many straight I could do now, but I’d be willing to estimate around 45 or 50. This morning we did five sets, with about a minute of rest in between, of 23, 28, 23, 23, and maxing, which for me ended up being 33. And all that in just a couple weeks. We started with sets like 12, 17, 13, 13, and max or something like that. So there’s a paragraph about my body. In case you wanted to know.

Also, I definitely started recreating the system I was using, which was sorely out dated, and I’ve been having fun with that. I learned how to use Microsoft Access, which I now quite enjoy, and I have to say, I’ve kind of outdone myself. I’ll have to send a copy of this to you all when I finish so you can admire my genius.

More than that, I have to take some more pictures and stuff. I had just thought of something to write to y’all, but then I just forgot due to some general secretary stuff I had to do just now. By the way, you might not have known, but I have access to everyone’s membership numbers, which is what you use if you lose your email password, so I technically can login to anyone’s email. Now that’s power. “Tell me about it. Every time I hear that name I shudder.”

Alright, I have to get a couple more emails off (one to President), so this is farewell for now. I am quite enjoying getting your emails every week, so keep that up. This week I got an email from the Arrington family, Condie family, De Rurange family, and Leybas family. That’s almost 100%!

In conclusion, always, no wait, never, no, always keep a trash bag in your car, because if it gets full you can just throw it out the window.

Elder David Arrington

Friday, April 1, 2011

Week 9 in the Mission Office

In which we get settled back in at home, and David provides a few international driving tips….  No pictures again this week Sad smile

Subject:  Okay, why does she even HAVE that lever?

Before I forget, I want to comment on Dad’s comment to me about Alma 57 when the 2000 stripling warriors were acting as a diversion. It reminded me of a true story I heard about an army battalion in WWII that was made entirely out of actors and artists. They had giant speakers playing various machinery noises and literally had inflatable tanks and jeeps to confuse German intelligence. Which not only worked, but it was a major factor in the success of D-Day. Look it up, it’s true. I’m not sure how that ties into the gospel, but maybe you could say that Satan makes “inflatable tanks” to confuse us in our lives, letting him win when our “D-Days” come. And then some other stuff could happen and it could be like the gospel. Whatever. At least it would make a good movie.

Since last week, not that much has happened, honestly. It’s been a busy week office-wise, though. We got new computers on Wednesday and upgraded to Windows 7, which is cool except that it means that my old software now doesn’t work. On Thursday, then, I was in super crisis mode trying to get my stuff done at least in a semi-working way, which I did, but it looks like I’ll have to put my programming knowledge to good use and recreate the entire system. That isn’t as big of a job as it sounds, and I was kind of planning on doing it anyway because the old system was super lame, but now I’m kind of forced to.

The Caminos family was cool, though. That’s the one where the husband wasn’t super on board with getting married. We found out that it’s because he was with his last wife for two years before getting married, and then just a little after they got married she cheated on him. Now he’s scared to do that again. But we had a family night with the Stake President, ironically enough named President Lopez, and it was super, super good. The only thing is that we haven’t been able to talk to them since, but they’re coming to conference, so we’ll see them there. It’s mostly our schedule, by the way, that’s been packed, not theirs.

Marleni did not get baptized, by the way. She passed her interview, but felt like she needs more time. So we set a new date with her for the 10 of April. We now have six dates for the 10th.

I am kind of really short on time today to write because a ton has happened today. Basically what you need to know is that I have been wrestling the last week or so with the El Salvador government to get my license. Everything should have worked perfectly, but hey, its bureaucracy. So I eventually gave up and went to the various places and did the driving test and two written tests necessary to get my license. Those were quite hard in Spanish, just so you know. But because of all that my time is running out fast for P-day, and I still haven’t bought anything, eaten all day, or really done anything else.

On that note, I went with Elder Huaman to drop some stuff off in Santa Tecla this morning. On the way back we got stuck in super, super heavy traffic. A couple blocks took us more than an hour. And it was a lot worse behind us. Throw in some round abouts, angry bus drivers, etc., and it was a horrible, horrible experience. We got through our Motab CD like five times. And when we got through, what did we see was the cause? Someone had gotten rear-ended, super minorly (I could hardly see a dent in the bumper) and they had decided to leave the cars in the middle of the road while they got out and talked about it. GAH! After we passed them, the road was almost deserted. Driving tip: Don’t be from El Salvador. Or a woman. Let alone a woman FROM El Salvador.

Mom mentioned something about working on getting back into a workout habit. And Julie mentioned something like that, too. So I figured I’d tell you that I also am doing something like that. Elder Oliverson got our hands on a workout program that helps you slowly build up to 100 straight pushups over six weeks. We’ve been doing that, and it’s hard, but it’s super satisfying.

Wow. My comp just kind of got up and started paying, so I guess that means we’re leaving. And we probably should, since we now have almost no time left in P-Day. Thanks again for all of your support and emails and such! I quite enjoyed all of them. I love you all!

Elder David Arrington

PS: I definitely didn’t know the twins got their mission calls. Congratulate them for me. And let me know what language they speak there.