Friday, August 26, 2011

Week 30 in the Mission Office

Apparently David loves his job in the mission office and gets to do many things that most missionaries don’t get to do.  This week we hear more about that and get a couple pictures.  Are those his shoes that are so worn out?

Also, the Temple in El Salvador is dedicated!

Subject:  “Can I have your watch when you are dead?”

This week was the week of the temple dedication, which was super cool, but that means I have to start back on Saturday. After going to write, we got permission from President to go to the stake center and watch the temple cultural event, but only if we went with an investigator. So we were super motivated. We had invited other people to it before, but we never actually had permission to go if they did, so this changed things. But almost all of our investigators were out of town. Never discouraged, though, we went to Corina's house.

Here's a quick note about Corina and her circumstances: She lives with only her husband and daughter in a very big, very under-construction house that they do not own. Her husband is not married to her, and likes to smoke and drink a lot. This house has a gate, but they only have one key to the lock, so they generally have to stay home while the other is gone. Also, she has a habit of telling us that she wants to go to church and such up until 8:00 Sunday morning, and then just makes a mountain of excuses. But this time, even though we only had half an hour to do so, we pushed and pulled and manipulated and did all manner of iniquities to get her there, and it finally worked. I think it only did, though, because of all of the solutions that we gave to her excuses, so she had none left, because we called a guy to pick her and us up to drive us there and back (and he was on his way before she even went to go get ready), and because of the pupusas with which I bribed her. Yes, people can be bought. But I heard Elder Bednar talk once about that situation with him and Elder Packer, where he gave Elder Packer some money for food on the train or something and he used that to bribe the guy to keep his wife from getting arrested, and he said something which I'd like to invoke here. Said he, "Now, Elders, that's not a bribe. It's a righteous exchange."

The cultural event was basically a watered down version of the dance festival that we did a few years ago, and was a little bit slow at first, but it was good. And that was Saturday. Sunday was really a relaxing day because of the dedication. Since only members were invited, there was no need to go get any investigators before it. We just went by ourselves without backpacks, scriptures, or anything. Just a hankercheif. Yeah, spelling English words is stupid. I'll just write a white pañuelo and we'll all just know what I mean. And the dedication sessions were awesome. Elder Christofferson lead the meetings, and he, President Eyring, the Area Presidency, and a few others gave talks. They were all really good. For the prayer, President Eyring read it while Elder Christofferson read the translation. Very cool.

At the end of the last session, President Eyring got up to give the last talk and started out with, "I feel impressed to say something that I wasn't going to say..." and you could just feel everyone in the stake center lean forward. He started going off talking about President Kimball's first meeting after becoming prophet, discussing how the church will expand. He said that he had a map made with arrows coming out of the western United States spreading to Asia. But at the last minute, he had it changed to have arrows coming out of Central America and South America as well. People called him crazy. Well, maybe not since he is the prophet, but they at least raised an eyebrow. But President Eyring said that that prophecy is going to start coming to pass, and he talked a lot about the incredible potential that the church has in El Salvador, and all kinds of stuff. It was cool. But the coolest part was that President Cordon was in the celestial room for the third session with his son, Oscar. Oscar just got his mission call. He's going to China, Mandarin speaking. Which makes him the second person from Central America to be called on a mission to Asia. And the first was actually an Asian that moved to Guatemala and his last name was Chang, so it doesn't even really count. And he was in the room with President Eyring when he felt impressed to talk about that. Very cool stuff.

So now the temple is dedicated. I'll get to do some temple work in Spanish after all. That's fun.

P1000867On Monday I had to go with Elder Gonzalez to the airport to drop off a couple Elders who finished, so I had to get up at 4:00 and drive for three hours or so round trip. But it was totally worth it, because I ran into, of all people, President Lopez and his family! They had come for the dedication and were dropping off Cristal so she could make it to BYU in time for classes. That's BYU Utah, by the way, which is another reason why that family is awesome. They speak English AND go to BYU. Anyway, it was super fun to see their family again, and I uploaded a picture from it. President Lopez is always in a suit, I swear.

Another fun thing that we did this week was have the farewell dinner for Elder Oliverson. Normally it's a tradition in the office that when somebody leaves President has a big going-away dinner for them. He didn't do that when Elder Oliverson left, so he just got around to it. But the Cordon family is really great in one very, very important way: they know how to spend money on us. That makes Elder Huaman a little uneasy, since he's the financial guy, but I enjoy it. Hermana Cordon always has a few treats for us, but this lunch was crazy. Gummy worms, Snickers and Hershey's Kisses sitting on the tables. Fillet Miñon and Chicken Cordon Blue (that can't be spelled right, either) and Ratatuilli (I give up). Tres Leches cake to finish it all off (that's Three Milks, translated, which is basically a cake that has been soaked in milk. Kind of weird, but once you're used to it it's delicious). Fantastic lunch. And from what Elder Huaman told me, way way too expensive.

P1000857Also, the other day for lunch I ate cow's tongue. I don't know if I told you all that. It was good, but I kept cringing, imagining that feeling when you bite your tongue while it's numb. I thought I was eating my own tongue.

Dad asked about my job. I'm the records guy, which means that I sit at the computer and enter baptismal records into the church's database. Not an easy task when you're in one of the highest baptizing missions in the world. But I actually kind of enjoy it for some reason. It's relaxing. I have a few other things I do, like getting the release packets ready for missionaries, but mostly it's just the records. And I should be in for at least one more change, or six weeks. We just found out (actually just me and Elder Huaman know, so it's still kind of secret) that Elder Huaman is going to Belize next week. So that means that I will be the only member of the office that knows Trebol. That, with my recent re-assignment, rugged good looks, and position as the one of the two people remaining in the office with licenses that feels comfortable driving (Elder Gonzalez and I are the only ones with a license, and the first time he drove a car was for his driving test. He's a little rough, to put it lightly), means that I probably will not be leaving the office this week. And, yes, I'm a little excited to be a regular missionary again, but at the same time I don't want to be. The office is way more fun than I would have imagined it being, and it brings with it a ton of great perks. I just know that when I leave I'll daydream about all those great times when I'd be driving in the air-conditioned car eating an ice cream cone and honk as I pass the regular Elders, walking in the hot winter days here. Good times. Yeah, I've got the cushy job.

Oh, and I was going to say that the mission got a letter from some lady in Utah, which she sent out to all of the missions in the world. She apparently got excommunicated, which is a no-brainer when you read the letter. It talks about a "messenger" (it never says his name) who has been called to be the actual prophet now because our prophet is false, and how this messenger translated the 116 lost pages and the sealed section of the gold plates, and how he wants to try and incorporate all of this into our church because of our resources and missionary program and such. And she said that, as even more evidence that he is who he claims (without actually identifying himself), he's almost done writing a book entitled "Without revealing my identity--the official, authorized biography of Joseph Smith as delivered by the resurrected Joseph Smith" Or something like that. I don't remember exactly. It was highly entertaining to read, although complete garbage. It's amazing how far off people can get from true doctrine. It just gets all twisted. That's probably why we have to study every day; so we can continuously refound ourselves on the basic, beautiful doctrine of Christ. If you go too long without doing that, maybe you're straying from it a bit. I've seen that happen to Elders. They start focusing so much on the deeper doctrine that they stop studying the Book of Mormon, and next thing you know they'll believe the most ridiculous things. Just an interesting observation.

P1000866As far as investigators go, there isn't much to talk about. There was one thing that kind of stood out, though, and was really quite sad. We were teaching the Mojica family for a while, who were a reference from some recent converts. They seemed like a pretty good family. They went to the temple open house and liked it a lot, and were very receptive. One of their daughters had died at a very young age, so the Plan of Salvation was interesting to them, and the husband had had a bunch of really crazy health issues and was just kind of a nice, humble guy. But just this last week we went back and things had changed. I was on divisions with a member the last time we went, and it wasn't good. The husband was super weird suddenly. He started off by telling us that he had stopped reading the Book of Mormon because he had several issues with our doctrine, such as baptisms for the dead. Really, that's not a hard principal for us to teach with the Bible, Book of Mormon, logic, or any other tool, so I explained it very clearly to him, and he just wouldn't accept it. It was probably the closest to Bible-bashing I've ever gotten with an actual investigator. I didn't want to, but he did. But it was even worse, because he definitely did not know the Bible very well at all, and was misquoting all kinds of things and saying that the verses that we pulled out and read were not true because "the Bible has to say something four or five times before it's true." Even though those are quotes, it's a paraphrase. By the end, we finally worked around to the Book of Mormon again and I was basically begging them to just read it for a couple days and pray, but they wouldn't. So we said a prayer and left, and they gave me back the Book of Mormon.

I feel kind of bad for the priest that was on divisions with me, because he didn't really say much for the entire lesson. He bore his testimony once or twice, though, which was probably the best part of the lesson. Oh well. That is not the first time that that has happened to me. I don't know if I've shared any of the other experiences like that, but they're all sad. The worst part, though, is that I love that family and want them to come to church and be baptized and have the gospel, but they don't. What we're pretty sure happened, based on a lot of other clues in the weeks leading up to that, is that the church that they used to go to noticed that they were meeting with us and decided to go visit them, too. And so they talked about how evil baptism for the dead is, or something like that. It happens. But now they go to that other church, which is stupid.

Quick side note: I've heard stories that actually kind of make me laugh from missionaries who have visited a family for the first time, had a super spiritual lesson, and when they go back the family says something to the effect of, "Wow! When you guys came we just felt so great and felt the spirit so strong that we decided to start going to our old church again!" You see it's funny, but it also makes you think.

But enough about that sad depressing stuff. We're also teaching a couple other families, like the Linares family. They are a little bit less positive, but the wife seems pretty interested. The husband is the intellectual kind, though, and just thinks that what we're teaching is really interesting and fun to learn about. They might progress.

Okay, that was a pretty good, long email. So I'll just wrap this up with a thank you to Mom and Dad for writing me. Home seems like such a strange place now, with all of us moving around and changes happening with jobs and whatnot. It'll be good to go back someday. But it's still a solid nine months away, and then some, so I'm not yet baggy. But nine months goes fast. Wow. If one of you told me suddenly that you were pregnant right now, I might be home before the baby is born. Maybe not, I guess, but it'd be close.

Elder David Arrington

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