Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

This morning I was taking photographs of the jungle outside our room when the sun shone through and gave me this colorful Easter gift...

Then Diane gave me this one...

I asked her where in Argentina she had purchased the tie and she said she bought it back when we were in the United States. With all that was going on I asked her how in the world she thought about Easter gifts ...her response, "I was thinking of gifts for you..."...I learned a little lesson in thinking of others...

With my new tie, my new appreciation for my wife...and my best Easter present of all...going to church with Diane in Puerto Iguazu. Easter had a different meaning for us this year!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Few Random Facts About the Mission

Here are a few facts that you might not otherwise know about La Gran Mision Argentina Resistencia:
1. There are missionaries serving from 20 (soon to be 21) countries in the mission.

Everywhere from Canada, the United States, Spain, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Panama and New Zealand. We are waiting for a missionary from Australia to get his visa and arrive. It is amazing to think that Diane and I have hundreds of adopted sons and daughters from all over the world.
2. The missionaries speak more than just castellano (and english). We have missionaries who also speak Utahn (ok, that is just a joke), Portuguese, Guarani, Toba, German, French, Samoan, Russian and Korean.
3. Some of the missionaries were students before their mission, but we also have missionaries who have been engineers, teachers, musicians (one was even in a rock band), hypnotists, nurses, sociologists, chefs, models, contractors, tax preparers, warehousemen, lawyers (not just me, another one, too), etc., etc., favorite is the missionary who was responsible for creating new ice cream flavors...a close second (only because I do not think that it was his full time job) is the missionary who was a ninja. We all thought he was joking until he did a 360 degree standing jump...yes, he jumped upside down from a standing position and landed back on his feet. We told him never to do that again while he was here.
4. You can not travel from one end of the mission to the other by car. There is a point in the Province of Formosa where the road ends. It becomes a trail and then just sand. When it rains you can not even get to where the road ends. For 200 or so missionaries there are just 2 cars in the mission both based in Resistencia. The Toyota Hi Lux that Diane and I drive and keep getting stuck in the mud. And, the Ford Ranger that the Assistants and Office Secretaries use and must have an invisible bulls-eye attached to it as it seems to attract frequent contact with other vehicles and scooters (19-25 year old drivers might have something to do with that).
5. We lease 98 apartments for missionaries and about 10 other buildings for small congregations. Guess who signs the leases for all of those? Yep, I am a pretty good friend of the notary publics in Argentina. Although we do not have official branches on the several indigenous reservations we still have several old wooden buildings that were built years ago on leased land. The Church owns outright many other buildings in the 5 provinces that make up the mission. We also have about 100 cellphones (the number is constantly changing as missionaries lose their phones by one means or another) and dozens of computers.
6. At one point last year we had 212 missionaries. As some missionaries have returned home and others have been scheduled to come we have actually decreased our number to 172 right now. But, we have about 40 who are in other countries waiting for their Argentine visa to come through so that they can enter the country. They come normally with two days' notice.
7. We have various missionaries who knew each other before the mission...some from the same high school...some from the same college...some from having competed against each other in sports...and two who are cousins and actually served together as companions for a while in the mission. We also have missionaries who have had relatives; parents, brothers, uncles, sister...and even a son (ours, Chris) who have served in this mission. It is a small world.
And, since our arrival in July 2011, we have seen missionaries return to their homes and finish their college degrees, start careers, marry, return to Argentina, travel to other countries to study, teach at Missionary Training Centers in at least 4 countries and continue to amaze us. Being with these missionaries really is a privilege and to see their lives unfold is one of the great rewards of being here.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


This week we had some visitors come to the mission. From the Young Women's General Presidency, Sister Ann Dibb. From the Primary General Presidency, Sister Cheryl Esplin. Here they are with Diane...

But I am getting a head of myself. They also came with Elder and Sister Zeballos of the Area Presidency and Elder and Sister Avila of the Seventy. Add a few other security people from Buenos Aires and, of course, Diane had (HAD) to make 12 welcome bags, mission logo and name tags included. The bags had banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, trail mix (all made by Diane), an apple ("blogs are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree...") bottled water, a hand fan and embroidered handkerchief for the women and a handkerchief for the men, mints, hand gel and a laminated "Family Proclamation/Testimony of the Living Christ" in Spanish, photo of Christ (Mark Mabry) with some Kleenix.

At the hotel, while we were waiting for the guests to come into the Lobby, Elder Avila saw the grand piano and decided to round up an impromptu choir with his wife, the two Sister Missionaries (who we enlisted to provide translation for the guests) and a familiar looking pianist.

We split up in two vehicles and visited some families that live in Resistencia. We were with Sister Esplin and had an amazing time making "it is a small world" connections. For example, our niece Lisa lives in her son's ward in California and just happened to be picking up Sister Esplin's granddaughter to take her to school. How did we know? Lisa posted this for us on Instagram!

And, Sister Esplin's son Brian and our son Curtis served their missions together in Campinas Brazil, etc., etc. A quick call to Curtis confirmed Brian was, "a great missionary and good friend". We were able to visit with some wonderful people. Here is one family we will never forget.

They are all talented, too. Among other things, they love to draw and wanted Diane to have a keepsake to take with her.

We had some training and leadership meetings with local members and Diane and I were very proud of our Sister Missionaries who were the translators. Here is Sister Elizabeth Sweet in action.

And, of course, Resistencia and Corrientes put on quite a show. From the fresh fish...

To the fresh vegetables sold from the farm wagon...

to all of the great people. It was a great visit for us. Thank you everyone who came!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Decided This Needs A Broader Publication Than Instagram

It was raining. We were walking out of Church to our car. Rather than wait for me to take her arm, she pulls a Wallenda on me and starts walking the tight rope of the curb to get to the the high heels. PEOPLE, THIS WOMAN COULD NOT EVEN WALK BY HERSELF 3 MONTHS AGO!! She had NO sense of balance or equilibrium after her stroke. She saw double. She has no sense of feeling on her right side, still. I can't even balance myself to walk on the curb without falling. Diane is a modern day miracle. I can hardly wait to see what her next little spunky move is.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

If I Had Not Seen Them With My Own Eyes...

I decided that today I was going to do surprise visits to the apartments where some of the missionaries live in the provinces of Chaco and Corrientes. I loaded up my Assistants and told them what we were going to do. They were excited...I knew this was going to be a learning experience for them. I can not do justice to what I saw...but I will say that there will be some follow-up visits! Here was the best experience of all...

I knocked on the door of an apartment on the second floor of an old building. The shutters of the window down from the door open and a missionary sticks his head out and says, "Hola Presidente, ¿Cómo esta?" I say, "Fine, Elder. How about opening the door?" He says, "Sorry, I can't. We lost the keys to our apartment last night." So, I say, "We'll, Elder, how am I going to get in and out to visit you?" I will let your imagination fill in the rest of the conversation that took place over the next 15 minutes. Here is a little help for you...

Entering like a thief in the night!

Luckily, there was nothing cooking at the time.

Might as well leave with the same dignity with which I entered. I could not make this up if I tried!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mission Conference 2013

This is an event that I dreamed about and meticulously planned. It turned out to be a great meeting and everything was flawless.

182 missionaries from 5 provinces all together in one place! Some were new and neither Diane nor I had met them yet. Others had not seen Diane in 7 months. So we started the meeting by having each one come by and shake our hands or receive un abrazo.

Then we started the meeting and were treated to a special musical number by 6 sister missionaries who actually live in 3 separate provinces.

Diane then spoke for almost half an hour in Spanish and shared her experiences, feelings and lessons learned from suffering her stroke and all that goes with that.

After a few other speakers (members of the mission presidency), all of the missionaries stood and sang, "Llamados a Servir", (Called to Serve). It was a great and impressive moment.

I then spoke for a few moments and then opened the meeting up for questions and answers...we were scheduled to end at noon, but the missionaries were enjoying the Q & A session so much we went half an hour longer! When missionaries are willing to forgo food for something, you know you have a good thing going!

Then we saw the mission video, took the official and unofficial mission picture and ate the famous sack lunches Diane and others put together (ham and cheese sandwich, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, potato chips, apple, two chocolate chip cookies, mustard, mayonnaise and your choice of soda, juice or water!). I have to give the Mission Office Secretaries and the Assistants to the President a lot of credit for transforming this blank canvas...

Into this...

The official picture...and this, the unofficial picture of the mission!

(You can click on the pictures to enlarge them). One last tribute to the Mission Office Elders...

And it is off to the next adventure!