Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week 21 in the Mission Office

And what a week it was!  First, we almost got on a plane to go down there because we heard nothing from him on Friday.  Apparently he was too busy for PDay?  What’s that about?

Then we hear what it’s about.  Talk about long hours and hard work!

Subject:  The prodigal son returns...

I'm pretty sure that's a movie quote. Mostly I just felt it was appropriate, given the lateness of this email.

My P-Day got moved this week, which I will explain in a little bit. So sorry for not letting you know. But I didn't even know until like two days ago. So here I am with a Saturday P-Day.
The past week has been by far the most busy week of office work I've ever even heard of missionaries doing. It was rough. All of it is revolving around the mission president change, which happens on Tuesday. Things are nuts.

So last Friday, after writing, I went to go eat with the zone, as we always do (on normal P-Days). Then we got the phone call of death from President Lopez telling us that one of the area presidency, Elder Martillo, was going to stop by the office and the house to inspect them, so they had to be cleaned. That's usually a several hour process, but when the office looks like what it looks like in the pictures P1000431I just uploaded, it's a whole lot more intimidating. We spent upwards of nine hours unpacking and cleaning in there. We didn't leave until after ten. And then we got home, and guess what we found out? The assistants, who conveniently couldn't show up to the office to help ("We have a couple appointments...") had done nothing more than organize their own desks. And keep in mind that the house looked almost as bad as the office, because all of the extra stuff from the old office got moved there. So we spent a few more hours cleaning and unpacking. At about one in the morning we literally just gave up and decided that it would be better to tell Elder Martillo to his face that we just couldn't get it done in time. That's how tired we were. I have never ever been so tired. At least definitely not in the mission. And that's saying P1000435something. So we went to bed, and then had to get up at four to get ready and leave to work in the office some more by five.

We ended up getting a few blessings for that, I guess. Elder Martillo decided that he didn't have enough time to see them all, so he wanted to do it Sunday instead. So a lot of the day Saturday was spent working on that some more, but we did get out to see some of our investigators. I can't honestly remember who. Probably William. Or that might have been Sunday.

Sunday we had to get up around five to leave and invite people to church. We had very little success in that regard. We got to church and greeted the bishop, who asked me to play prelude. Then he asked me if I knew that my companion had been asked to give a talk. I didn't but I figured it would be funny watching him scramble for it, since he didn't know either. After playing prelude, the meeting started and Elder Gonzalez leaned over to me to let me know that, at the last minute, the bishop had decided to have us both speak. And I was the first speaker.

P1000465...Shoot. So I had about two hymns to prepare. I literally just wrote down a couple scripture references and a couple keywords to remember some stories and experiences, and then got up to talk. It was an amazing experience, though. The talk came out very well. Surprisingly so. And my Spanish seemed a little smoother than normal. That was obviously the spirit giving me a little boost. I remember that I started with a story (actually talking about Naham and Elijah or Elias or whatever Elaias is in English) and was going to talk about one thing, but when I started to say it it kind of got changed, and suddenly I was talking about something completely different. And something I hadn't meant to say. But it guided my talk into something good, I think. My companion also did a very good job, by the way, although he did have two speakers before him. So it was kind of cool.

We went home after church and literally slept for the entire lunch hour. We were super exhausted. Then we got up and went to visit some more members, less actives, and investigators. Again, I don't completely remember who. Sorry. It's been a long week.

P1000520Monday morning, there was a multi-zone in Sonsonate for half the mission. We had to get up to get stuff ready for it beforehand, so that meant another four-thirty morning. And then we worked in the office all day, until about nine. Tuesday we had to get up around four thirty and work in the office until about nine. Wednesday we had to get up around four thirty and work in the office until about nine. Thursday we had to get up around four thirty and work in the office until about nine. Yesterday we got up around five (nice break) and went to a multi-zone here in Santa Ana. The whole point of the multi-zone is that it is President's last one, so it was kind of a farewell kind of thing. All of his kids bore there testimonies, then Hermana Lopez, and then President. I won't even lie, I was crying. And then at the end we all got to go up and give President and Hermana Lopez hugs (they actually changed that rule to let us), and then give hugs/handshakes to the kids. I feel a little bit bad for noticing this, but President and Hermana Lopez were not crying at all at this point (during their testimonies they had cried a lot). They were just saying goodbye to everyone. But then when the office, us, got up and started saying goodbye, they started crying hard. And the kids did, too (Kristal, Carol and Pablo... I know them pretty well). And then when we had left they kind of settled down a bit. It's a little bit weird to talk about that, but it makes me feel good to know that the four of us have made some kind of difference to them all.

Fortunately, by the way, we'll still be very close to President for the next couple days. And then President Cordon gets here.

P1000525You may notice, by the way, that in a couple of the pictures I'm uploading I am wearing a new suit. Where did I get said suit, you ask? Fun story. So President is super worried about leaving everything perfect for President Cordon, so he basically said to Elder Guevara, one of the APs, that he was going to buy him a new suit. The one he had was this ugly greenish and kind of worn out, so he needed it. And he couldn't just buy one for one of the APs, so he got one for Elder Hosman, too. Elder Huaman, the financial secretary, was kind of the one paying for it, so he found out. Through various butterins-up, he got us in on the deal. And it was crazy. We were sitting in the office working late one of the nights, and he got a call from President. The call was basically this: "So, I was talking this suit matter over with my wife, and I've decided to buy you one as well. And tell Elder Oliverson, P1000474Arrington, and Gonzalez that I'll get them one, too. Just make sure that you get it done before Tuesday." Elder Huaman was just sitting there on the phone with his mouth hanging open. Very unexpected. But that meant that we had to go down to San Salvador again to get measured and pick out the fabric (these are very tailored suits. President goes there for his suits, so you know it's classy). Then we had to go down again for the secondary measuring or something. All in all, I am quite content right now. Not many people can say that their mission president bought them a suit before he left. And a hand tailored one at that.

I forgot to mention it, but we also worked all day yesterday until about ten thirty. Then today we were in the office until about five thirty. And here we are, writing. I wish I still had P-Day in the mission. I haven't had a normal one in months, I think.

P1000491Also, for all of you keeping score, I think that may make a total of six days working in my area. Maybe a little more. But we're three weeks into changes already.

Not that I'm complaining, by the way. I love working in the office, and I'm learning a ton here. It's incredible to be so close to President Lopez and his family. Very cool.

Speaking of cool things, I heard Steven is doing some very cool things with sports now a days. Three sports is usually pretty hard to do, but he's doing them all at the same time? I don't think I could handle that. However, I've decided that he can be the little brother that ends up playing for the Jets or something. I'd be okay with that. "Wait, you're the brother of that one guy who just got drafted to some team?" "Why yes, I am." That's me.

I loved the play by plays, by the way. The games are intense. You'd better keep it up, kid, so I can go to your high-school games next year.

Michael, I hear, is risking his job to have a fling. That's my boy. I would've done the same thing. I guess I've been raising him right :) Let me know how the high adventure goes.
Wow. I just had one of those moments where I realized that it's the middle of summer there. Here the weather hasn't changed for nine-ish months, so I haven't even noticed. I still feel like it's the beginning of March or something. Crazy how time passes.

Thanks again for all of the emails and the support. I've been loving the work out here, so rest assured that I'm getting as much out of it as possible.

Elder David Arrington

Friday, June 17, 2011

Week 20 in the Mission Office

AKA week 1 in the new mission office.  AKA President Lopez’ last week as mission president.  AKA David crosses one year out as a missionary!

And get this, he tells us his actual release date.  Presumably since he’s the mission secretary, he can see the calendar that far forward.  Oh, and we get the new mission address.

Note that the name of the mission has changed!  Now it is the El Salvador, Santa Ana/Belize mission….

Subject“Our reward is that justice has been done.” [Gotta be Three Amigos]

Julie, that'd have to be Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I haven't been out THAT long. (Oh wait, yes I have. A full year).

And for the rest of you, I wasn't just now referring to my subject line quote.

P1000359We kind of really got settled into the new office this week. It was a lot of work, and there is still a lot of unpacking to do, but we're getting there. I'll send pictures next week, since I forgot my cable today. But the office is nice, and things are going great there. President Lopez only has a little bit more than a week left, so that's super sad. In case you are all sad for him. He's been a really great President.

That reminds me. Normally, when mission presidents get changed, the old one leaves, the new one comes, and that's that. They have a really short meeting (an hour, maybe) to hand over the keys and cell phone, and that's it. However, President Lopez and President Cordon are actually pretty good friends. They've worked together a lot. So they arranged a video conference Monday morning for us, the office, to meet him. It was really cool, to P1000361be honest. He speaks very good English, and his wife speaks almost perfectly, from what I could tell. But the point is that, talking to him (he said I speak really great Spanish, by the way :) ) did not feel weird at all. He already feels like a mission president. And he's super excited to come work here. It'll be fun. He actually is in the MTC right now, if I'm not mistaken.

My new area is called Independencia, in the zone/stake Modelo. It's basically in the heart of Santa Ana, which is one of the largest cities in El Salvador. That's not saying much. San Salvador is pretty big, and very modernized, but the rest of El Salvador kind of isn't. But I love it here. We went to meet the bishop, his counselors, and some presidencies on Saturday, and then went to church on Sunday to meet the rest of the members, and it was really interesting. The bishop and several of the members told us that, even though we work in the office and can't dedicate a ton of time to the area, they're super happy that we are here. One of the other Elders that was here before us was kind of not one of the good ones, and they all knew it. But now they're ready to work. Several of the priests even told us that they stopped doing divisions with the last set of missionaries because of this one Elder, but now they want to go with us. P1000370On Sunday we found several people who are attending the church and haven't been baptized, and the members were literally throwing referrals at us. I'm not saying that we'll baptize like Sonsonate or anything like that, but there is a lot of work to do, and the members are really willing to help us.

Quick story. On Saturday we asked the bishop if he knew of any inactive members that he wanted us to fellowship. He gave us the Blanco family. So that night we went to visit them. And then Sunday morning we got them to church. The bishop, needless to say, was very happy with us. And that was cool.

P1000371I was stuck in the office all day Wednesday and Tuesday, so I didn't work in the area at all, but yesterday we visited William Garcia. His wife is the primary president, and his family is super active. He himself is actually super active. He goes to church, all the activities, and was even supposedly greeting the members for Stake Conference. His problem is that he doesn't have a desire to be baptized. He used to be agnostic, which basically means that he believes in science more than anything else. He's been reading the Book of Mormon, but keeps analyzing it too much to get anything out of it. We really have to work hard to help him feel the spirit. I think if we can do that, we'll get him. And we have to. His wife, Rosa, told us that she felt like we were special missionaries, and that we would be the ones to finally baptize him. But no pressure, right?

P1000372Here's a quick story about Zone Leaders. I needed some reports a while back, so I called all of the zone leaders two nights in a row before I needed them so that they would remember. The day they were supposed to send them, I got one. Out of twelve zones. So that's not good. This week, we had some training meetings in Santa Ana and Sonzacate (which just became a stake), and I asked permission from President to take a few minutes to ask for some pictures that I needed from all the zones. I even told them the story about how horrible the participation with the reports went. After I sat down, President himself got up and machettied them all for their lack of participation, and told them that they had special permission to send me the pictures the next day. So the next day, guess how many pictures came from the zones? I got half of a zone's pictures. We're digressing here. So I called up all the zones, machettied them a ton, and told them to get me the pictures yesterday (the next day). They all told me they'd do it. When I left the office I had gotten less than a third of the pictures I need. This isn't working very well.

P1000377That's basically how my days have been going in the mission. Now on to my responses from you all. Lindsay, I am super glad you have eaten at a pupusaria, but my guess is that you didn't like it (you only told me it was "different"). That's okay. Not many people like their first pupusas. I think because nobody is really expecting what it is. But I love them. And 1.60 for a pupusa is ridiculous. Really, really good pupusas here cost, at most, 60 cents. I used to not pay more than 25 cents for one. And for the record, you have to eat them with the salsa. And your hands. None of this fork business.

Julie, I quite like your new house. I can't say I love it, since I have only seen the front, but it looks perfect from there. Congratulations on that. And James is getting quite fat. You should get a camera with a wider view so I can see all of him in it :)

P1000398I have, as you all know, hit a year, but I feel kind of exactly the same. Time did go pretty fast, though. I have a little bit more than a year left, though, still. I officially get released on the 19 of June, and my flight home will be on the 21. Just so you have a little time to prepare.

Baseball sounds awesome, Steven. I hear you've been playing more shortstop, and that you're rocking it, but you have to be careful not to let that affect your batting. Just remember what a prophet has said: "No shortstoply success can compensate for failure at home plate."

We also had a blood donation here in Modelo. Apparently missionaries can't donate it. So that's the end of that story.

And as far as the letters from the mission go, I'm the one in charge of sending them. Sorry about that. We have the right address, I just haven't sent any of them. The last couple general secretaries were even worse because they actually never sent them. The letters that I have to send are only the ones that they should have sent. But I'll get them off. Don't you worry your little heads.

Well, that's all. Thanks for the emails and the support, and I'll see you all in 369 days (BAGGY!).

Elder David Arrington

Friday, June 10, 2011

Week 19 in the Mission Office

It appears the move to the new city (Santa Ana) is complete, and the situation is quite positive!  I think he likes it.  And then there’s this soccer game against the other mission.  Who, really is the better mission?  And who will play goalie?  They must win at all costs!

SubjectJanet, don't make me crawl around you. This sand is too hot! [Even I know that quote]

I have a few comments about your emails that I want to make, first. So here we go. I kind of had one of those oh-my-gosh-I-can't-believe-that-all-is-happening moments while reading your emails. Michael graduated. Steven graduated (It's not a graduation! He's moving from the fourth grade to the fifth grade). And he's starting high school sports. Michael is fixing my car (thanks, by the way). And so forth. Crazy. The graduation sounded awesome, and I wish I could have been there. So congratulations, man. And the baseball games get more and more intense every time. I love it. Also, just so you know, it cracks me up that Sarah went with you to the one game. And the confusedness that I can imagine ensued. She is quite brilliant, as you all surmised apparently from her talk (and her 3.9 GPA), but I don't think that she is that into baseball.

Julie and Dave! Congratulations as well on finally getting out of Ohio. I'm pretty excited to come back home with you all living 5 hours south. Medford IS south, right? The move sounds stressful, but I'll talk about that in a little bit.

Stacey and Kyle, congratulations on graduating as well. And the new iPad. We were trying to kind of hint to President Lopez that he should get us some, but he said no. Too bad. Also, it's good to hear that you're getting into some missionary work as well.

Now. I apologize for the complete lack of investigators stories, but I have none right now. The week was too crazy. But, interestingly enough, I think I have three baptisms later tonight in my ward (Independencia, part of the Modelo stake). Huh. I've never even met them. But I think I can still count them, since it IS my area (and only my area; there's only one set of missionaries here now). And word on the street is that we have two more next week. I should really go say hi to them at least.

However, there was still some good progress. We went to say goodbye to the Diaz family, and it was super hard. They were crying. That's a really awesome feeling, by the way. Having the family you taught and baptized cry when you leave. I love it. But, with luck, they'll get sealed in a little less than a year, and I'll be able to come to it!

I loved hearing about the Te-somethings that got baptized and their progress in the ward, but I have to one-up you here. In the meeting with the new missionaries that we had in Santa Ana, I got a little surprise. Remember Herson Castro, from Atiquizaya? (My second baptism, in October I think). He has been working on his missionary papers for a while, and almost has them ready to put in. In the meantime, he's been called as a mini-missionary in our mission! He's being trained by two very good Elders I know (In a trio), and is currently serving in Centro, Molino (very close to my zone, but still a different one). Now how cool is that?!? My convert is a missionary! In my same mission! I'm still freaking out about it.

Okay. More than that, there wasn't too much eventfulness that happened. But I have a couple more stories. Before leaving Monserrat, we had to fill the pila [Dave Frogley translates this as “baptismal font among other things”] for a baptism of the other ward. While we were there, the bishop asked us to go pick up 40 pupusas for an activity. So we went to the pupusaria just above our house and ordered them. While we were waiting, some twenty-something guy came up demanding pupusas, and for reasons I won't go into got into a fight with the owner of the pupusaria. This is happening less than a foot in front of me, by the way. So the guy starts pushing the owner, so he reaches behind the desk and pulls out a machete in a sheath, and starts chasing down the guy. He calmed down and came back, but the other guy came back to argue again. The owner then unsheathed the machete and chased after him, literally shouting "I'm going to kill you!". I definitely saw him connect once with the guy's back before Elder Gonzalez and I booked it out of there (we can't be witnesses to crimes, and it was a tiny bit dangerous...). After ten minutes or so, we came back to get the pupusas. By then, everything was calm. Cool story, Hansel.

So Julie. I feel your pain about moving. I have spent the last four days packing up my house, packing up the entire office, moving to Santa Ana, unpacking all of it, looking for a new address, letting the 200 or so missionaries and their families know about it (you'll get that, by the way), finding new banks, worrying about the stuff that we are loading into trucks, finding out that some of my stuff got broken when other people were moving it, etc. etc. Moving is not fun at all. And it's super tiring. But satisfying. The new house in Santa Ana, like I said before, is awesome. I'll send some pictures next week of it all. The new office is now basically complete. We moved most of the stuff in, and it was awesome. The office is actually part of the Paraìso chapel, and is much much bigger than we thought it would be. It has a ton of perks, such as a mail room, automated gates, a security system with cameras and such, a way better desk, better interaction with the rest of the office, etc. By the way, I get the security system and such. It's mine. I love my job. I hope this power stops going to my head.

IMG_0445There was probably a lot of things that I forgot to mention in all of this since the week was so dang full. But I have to finish up, so I'll just let you all know what happened today. We came back from Santa Ana to San Salvador, where I'm writing now, because President Lopez set up a soccer game against the office of the east mission. So the six of us in the office played against the six in their office. It was quite the heated game. President Perez, the other president, also came, and both presidents played with us. That was a ton of fun. And then we ate at this really nice restaurant together, the two offices and the presidents and their families. But here's the play-by-play, as closely as I can remember it.

So I actually played really well. The problem was, that nobody on my team was very good at goalie. I'm actually pretty good, somehow, so I got unanimously voted to be there. I did very well, and blocked a lot of shots, but let two in. The score was 4-2, with us up, so I switched out with one of the other Elders. In the ten-ish minutes that I was out of the goal, they scored three. That's why I was in the goal, I guess. But, in that time, I also scored one and had a really awesome assist. But they threw me back in the goal. Actually, one of the goals that they scored was right after the kick-off and a really bad move on my part, so President Lopez told me to get back in the goal. It actually made me laugh. Even on the soccer field he's the President. I was there most of the time, until after half time when we were up 8-6 (I had let one more in). Then I just went out and had fun with it. We ended up beating them 10-9, but the last goal they scored was after the time we had agreed on, so really it was 10-8. Super fun. And satisfying to win. But after this week, and then a really long, fun soccer game, I'm beat.

Thanks again for the emails and all the support that you give me. I really love knowing more or less what is going on at home. Hey, that's fun. Next time I write I will have more than a year in the mission. That did pass fast. And slow, but fast.

Elder David Arrington

[Follow up in another email] Ha! I was going to tell you as well (save this until after you read the email) that President had been planning this soccer game with us and the East mission with us at the new people's meeting (while other people were presenting. I forgot to tell that, by the way. We got the new missionaries in Santa Ana for the first time. It was super crazy, but good. My presentation was good. And the entire thing was stressful, but successful. I think I will coin that phrase. "Copyright that name! I want a quarter every time somebody says it!") But he was telling us that he was a little worried because half of our team would be gringos. That made me laugh. He just kept telling us that we could not lose. We had to win. He even told the assistants, "You six of the office have permission to go. But find out if the East mission is going to bring more players. If they are, then find the best players that we have in the mission and they have permission to go, too." President cracks me up sometimes.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Week 18 in the Mission Office

In which David drives us crazy by not sending an email until late in the day.  He was checking out the new mission area.  But you can read about that.  And we learn about the beauty of art.

And we got a couple new pictures!

Subject“Matching denim?” “On bales of hay.”

I'm not really sure if any of you were freaking out about how late I'm writing, but if you were, sorry. It's been an interesting day. I think I almost always start by saying that it's been an interesting week or day or something, but it really has been.

First, I'll have to explain why I am writing so late. President gave us a last minute assignment yesterday: Scope out Santa Ana. I think I've mentioned this before, but our office and mission and everything are changing. It's kind of a big deal. President Cordon gets here in less than a month, and we have to be ready. So we went to Santa Ana today to see the new office, our new house, find the post office, lawyers, migration, etc. First, we got on a bus for an hour or so (it was what's called a special bus, which means it costs more but is way nicer and has air conditioning. They even play old Van Damm or Steven Segal movies from time to time. Rumor has it that they once showed a Chuck Norris movie. And I meant that in a non-Chuck Norris joke way). Then we went and found the new house. It looked really tiny from the outside, and it made me sad. We have to live there with the six of us (four in the office and the APs) and often have to house upwards of twenty missionaries who are coming in or leaving. Thus my sadness. And then we went inside, and it was huge. It was like two houses put together. We literally could not figure out what to do with half the rooms. And it has a backyard, which does not happen in this country. In fact, in the backyard is another two story mini house. And the halls and such all randomly open into these mini outside garden areas. I'm quite surprised. I even got lost in it, which may not be due to the size. I think the floor plan is really weird. There are random dead ends. But still, it's fun.

P1000254The office, as it turns out, is going to be inside the chapel in Paraíso. That means that it will be nice, but small. They were originally going to build it across the street, which would have meant it would be bigger, but they told us that if they did that there would be no bathroom in it. Strange architectural choice. But the office won't be finished until next week, so we won't actually move there until next Thursday.

We found the mail place, ran some more errands pertaining to different functions of the office, and then got on another special bus to go home. And here we are, super late. There goes P-Day. Dang it. We were going to go bowling.

P1000281The actual week, though, was really strange. On Saturday, the Diaz family got married. Then we baptized them on Sunday. A couple hours later, in church, they got confirmed, and in priesthood meeting Rene got the Aaronic Priesthood. Oh, and he and Wendy wanted Jonathan, the little baby, to get a baby blessing, so they did that as well. Elder Gonzalez baptized and confirmed Rene, I baptized and confirmed Wendy, and Hno. Pastul baptized and confirmed Carlos, the son. And he did the baby blessing. It was a super cool experience to baptize a family. We have gone back to visit them only once since due to various factors, but they are studying the scriptures and want to learn as much as possible. Rene especially wanted to know what the priesthood exactly is and what his new responsibilities will be. This week they're going to get callings. Super cool.

P1000288It is really hard to type this email because somebody has been playing a Backstreet Boys CD the entire time. Just so you know what I sacrifice for all of you.

Other than that, we haven't had much time to proselyte. The office has been completely crazy this week. Almost every day we've left after 6, and sometimes as late as 8:30. With half an hour or more to the area, that doesn't give you much. And mostly we've just been teaching the recent converts and members to try and get a good missionary spirit type thing for the other mission. I'm not going to lie, by the way. It's kind of hard to work in an area when you know that everything that you are doing will all be for another mission to reap. Nonetheless, we are doing our best. And eating a lot of pupusas while we're at it.

As for the goings-on at home, it sounds crazy. I can't remember a time when 20 people have been in our house. But I'm kind of really jealous as well. I'd imagine you've had some crazy times there. Like a Mario Kart bracket. That's just genius. And Dad, I want you to know that I am equally upset about what that coach said, and that he is putting Steven at center. Honestly, following Steven's baseball has been really fun. It'll at least tie me over until football season.

DSCN0979The orange cracked me up. Especially with the very artistic orange-on-the-bench picture. But I'm wondering, is that me sitting by myself on the bench? Why am I by myself? I like to imagine that, instead of sitting on the bench, I'm laying down for a nap on top of it. Or maybe standing on it pretending to trek adventurously across vast wildernesses. I guess that's up to the interpretation of the onlooker. That's the beauty of art.

Alright, my time is a-slippin’ away. And can I just tell you all that Elder Oliverson is great? That's random, and you're all great, too, but it's so so nice to have someone here who will willingly finish the quote: "Kathleen! You...are a lone reed." I think I would go insane otherwise. Movie quotes. They're great.

Elder David Arrington