Vol. 5 No. 2, 14 February 2001
Click here for ADDRESSES.
Family Focus on the Internet!
Thanks to Jon Gardner, son of Norman and Maggie, you can now read Family Focus on the Internet!
Name of Web site: www.gardnerz.org
User name: gardnerz
When you reach the Web site, simply click on the issue you want to read. While you are visiting gardnerz.org, you'll also find lots of other fun stuff, including Grandpa Gardner's family history! If you would like a gardnerz.org email address, email Jon at the address below. Way to go, Jon, and thanks!
Jon and Sara Gardner
2619 Alexis Ave., Apt. 43
Arlington, TX 76006
Grandma and Grandpa Gardner
Grandmas of My Childhood
13 February 2001: Dear Family, Time for another Family Focus, and do you know what? Of course you don't. But let me tell you what I did. I started by writing two sentences, put that valuable document in my outbox, and later sent it to Marvin the Patient. So this morning he sent me a note saying that part of my Family Focus offering did not get through to him, would I please send it. Then he called me and told me to look in my e-mail department and send him the whole family letter.
I looked in my sent folder and there were my two sentences shamelessly not added-upon. I had sent Marvin two sentences. I had forgotten to complete my letter. I sent it anyway. And do you know why?
It's because I'm nearly 79 and am full of pain killers, so my normal thought patterns are disrupted. This is the first time I have failed this badly, and I hope I won't do it again, but I can't be sure.
By the time I was 11 years old, I knew that I would be 78 when the next millennium rolled around. That was in 1933. I didn't think to wonder what shape I'd be in. By that time I had no grandfathers, but I still had both grandmothers. One was tall, straight, and 62; the other was short, wide, and 67. To reach 78, I'd have had to hold out 16 years longer than my tall grandmother and 11 years longer than the roly-poly one, and I figured I'd never see 2000 because they both seemed incredibly old way back in 1933.
Both grandmothers have now gone to their rewards, bless them both, the tall one in 1945 at 74 and the roly-poly one in 1949 at 83. I will soon turn 79, about midway between their ages when they died.
I don't remember their losing track of things or forgetting important commitments the way I do, but maybe my recollections of them all those years ago are a bit hazy. I do remember my dear little roly-poly Grandma Smith was in bed for long periods of time. I read to her then, and in her healthy times she read to me, and we walked together to our church, where we cleaned the big candles and threw away the faded flowers from the altar. I remember the squeaky floors and the indescribable smells of wax and incense and freshly laundered altarcloths.
My tall Grandma Mallory used to bake us small loaves of bread that sliced into tiny pieces to be coated with fresh butter and jam and eaten with delight. She could recite long poems that she said she and her sisters used to memorize in front of the fireplace on the farm when the weather was too cold to go outdoors.
The temple work is done for both those dear grandmas of my childhood, their husbands, and their children. Grandma Mallory had put together a small photograph book of pictures of her little boy John who died of polio when he was three. I think she was still grieving for him when I knew her many years after those pictures were taken. He was waiting for her, I'm sure, when she came to find him there. They may both be there when I come.
I'm a grandmother now myself, and my grandchildren have given me a few more months, or maybe years, to live in this world, when they prayed for me when I was too sick to know what they were doing. Later, I was told, and I was grateful for the added time of life, for their prayers, and for their love. Thank you.
Love from Grandma Gardner and from Grandpa Gardner who has been with me since then.
DeLynn Decker is an honorary member of our family.
The Ole Initiative Comes Through Again
24 January 2001: I have a very exciting thing coming up this Friday and Saturday. I have finagled my way into being Provo High's faculty person for coordinating some projects with the Olympics. Two kids and I are going to a SLOC sponsored leadership meeting at the Marriott in Ogden for training. Earlier they had training in Park City, but no one was there from our school. We actually have a person who is supposed to be coordinating these things, but she has cancer and has been having treatments. I found out about this and asked the principal if we had someone going»ta da! The ole initiative comes through again. We are supposed to get "Olympic memorabilia" at this conference. Wahoo!
I supervised at the Provo/Timpview basketball game last Friday. In, out, in, out -- kids were just cruisin', not paying a lot of attention to the game. My bishop's son plays for Timpview, so when he came in and sat in the bleachers to watch the end of the girls' game right before theirs, I went over and said, "Excuse me, I'm going to have to ask you to leave." Just to hassle him. It was fun. (We lost.)
One of our best players is my junior, Danny Robertson. You may hear of him professionally. He is a modest, quiet boy, but has incredible drive and ability. It's so nice to be able to brag about him and keep our class informed on how many points he's made, because he would never mention anything about himself. Rare breed.
I have been on a card-making binge. It is something I can do when I don't feel well. I spent $40 at the craft store and felt like I was in Fat City!
My puppy, Pepper, has been a joy. He stimulates the other two dogs -- most of the time they enjoy it! He is such a tease, and of course has all the energy in the world. He can walk across the kitchen on his hind legs and does somersaults. I call him "circus boy." He has a lot of rawhide chews because he is teething, so I feel like I pick up after a two year old at the end of the day. He is still lanky and skinny, but he has gained four pounds (from ten when I got him) and has plenty to eat. It has been such a good thing that I adopted him.
Brent, son of Brent and Kris Gardner, has completed his mission in Recife, Brazil.
Fastest Two Years of My Life
14 February 2001: Hi, everybody! Wow, it is so strange to think that I have already returned from my mission and that now I am a student at BYU. Thank you for being supportive to me while I was in the mission field. I felt the strength of prayers daily, many of which I am sure came from you.
I had a wonderful mission. I still can't believe it is over. Those were the fastest two years of my life. I am a better person for having gone on a mission. I have grown to love my family more, my testimony of the gospel is much stronger, and my desire to share the word is much higher than before. It is hard to find the opportunity to be a member-missionary up here at BYU, so I would like to encourage all you to share the gospel.
After I spent a few short days with my family, they brought me up to BYU. I can't believe I am up here realizing the lifelong dream of being a Cougar. It is great being up here with so much of my extended family so close.
Well, I am currently a freshman/sophomore (I am one credit away from being a true sophomore) and am taking 15 credit hours. I am fairly busy. Although my major is open, I am planning on following in my father's footsteps and going to law school.
Hopefully I will see you all soon. I wish you all luck. I wish success to my cousins who are currently serving missions.
Love, Brent Jr.
Benjamin, son of Brent and Kris Gardner, is in the MTC in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A Courageous Victory Cry
16 January: Last Friday, we went to Casingul, which is the area of town right next to the temple. On the temple grounds are apartments where members can stay if they have traveled far to attend the temple. We went there to practice speaking with Brazilians. I think they sent us there to compel us to be humble. I talked with a gentleman for about 20 minutes and understood maybe 5 percent of what he said. All I got was that he was from Manaus, that his son was on a mission, and that it took him four days by water and three days by bus to get there. This constituted about 30 seconds of the 20-minute visit. I sure have a long way to go.
In class the other day, we recorded ourselves making a contact and starting a first discussion. I guess I did okay, but I have a bad accent and stumbled over a few words. I liked being able to see myself talk and see what it sounds like. Give me another six months and I will probably be okay with the language.
Sunday night we watched a video of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaking at the Provo MTC. It was very powerful. He says that not a day goes by that he doesn't think of his mission»just like Dad. It was a great and inspiring talk.
We had a huge storm this week. It started pouring rain and hail. In the streets below, there was a flash flood so deep I almost thought it would pick up the parked cars and carry them down the street. It rained more in five minutes than we probably get in a year at home. The thunder during these storms sounds like exploding bombs and always seemed nearby.
I love you guys and miss you a lot.
23 January 2001: This has been a long week. On Monday we went to the Brazilian police to get fingerprinted for out Brazilian IDs. Mostly it was just a long wait in line. On Friday we went to Ipiranga, which is a famous Brazilian museum. It is a huge colonial building. Inside are many paintings. The most famous one was of Don Pedro declaring Brazil's Independence from Portugal. It was huge and took up an entire wall in the room it was displayed in. The museum also had cannons, guns, and armor from the colonial period.
I wrote Presidente de Marques (my mission president) a letter in Portuguese. I told him all about Grandpa Gardner coming to Brazil in the 1930s on his mission and how he opened the city of Rio de Janeiro to missionary work. I also told him about Brent returning just five days before I left. It cost only one centavo (about 1/2 cent) to send.
Two or three times a week we have time scheduled to practice with the Brazilian missionaries. It is a lot of fun, but they speak really fast. I have about 1/2 of the first palestra memorized. When we talk about gospel topics, I can kind of understand what they are saying. However, if we are trying to build a relationship of trust and start talking about futebol or something like that, I get lost.
I have really started to enjoy reading the scriptures and that missionary collection of books I brought. The time is flying. By the time you get this, I will have been gone over a month.
30 January 2001: We got a new mission president last week. His name is President Hanks. He is instituting many reforms. We can now go out on the street during P-day.
The most excitement this week by far came on Friday. Every Friday we do some sort of special activity. This week we went on splits with the missionaries in the field. I went with Elder Grover from Logan who serves in the Sao Paulo Norte mission. We went tracting. Here it is done a little different than at home. Instead of knocking on doors, you clap your hands at the door. It was pretty fun. Way fun in fact. Elder Grover had me introduce ourselves and explain who we represent. Then he would take over and talk about the Book of Mormon.
Finally, at the last house, he asked me if I wanted to talk about the Book of Mormon. An old man answered the door, and Elder Grover introduced us. Then he turned the time over to me. I opened my mouth, and words just flowed out. The only problem was that I didn't know what the words meant, my companion didn't understand what I was saying, and the gentleman at the door started laughing. It was pretty funny from my point of view as well.
Today I am going to attend a temple session in Portuguese. That will be interesting.
Well, I love you all and will see you in a very long time.
6 February 2001: This week we did a lot of sitting in class. Of course, that is what we do every week here at the CTM. I learned a whole lot this week. The language is coming, slowly, but I am far from fluent. I only have three more weeks here, so I need to make good use of my time. I almost have the first palestras memorized. I hope to have the first and second memorized when I leave.
Again I went on splits this week. It was a lot of fun. I think I did way better, too. Overall, I probably understood about 25 percent of what was said, but I think I did fairly well when I spoke. Nobody laughed at me this time anyway. My companion had some different ideas but knew what he was doing. I can't wait until I know what I am doing.
Another interesting thing happened this past week. I had a rather bizarre dream. I went to Sports Authority to say hi to my old friends. After speaking with Vance for a few minutes, I went and talked with two new workers they had hired to take my place. They didn't speak English, however. They spoke Spanish. I answered them back in Portuguese. It was really weird. I have never had a trilingual dream before.
I have a huge favor to ask of the boys. Five minutes of your time each Sunday. That's not a lot. And Jesse, don't waste your time. When high school is over everyone goes their separate ways and you might never see them again. Remember, there is joy in the journey.
I am working hard and trying to lose myself. Sometimes it is hard since few people here take it as seriously as I do. Well, I need to go run a few laps. I love you guys and will see you again sometime.
Here is a poem I wrote:
Nineteen years I have waited
Your missionary, Elder Benjamin Franklin Gardner
to have this chance to go.
As I wait here at the gate
I bid my friends farewell
and promise I won't forget them
if I never see them again.
The plane is here so I tell my brother
I will prepare the way for him
to come and serve when I return.
One last time I hug father
as he whispers, "I love you, son."
I walk down the ramp, then turn.
I raise my fists above my head
and yell a courageous victory cry.
For I know that I shall soon return
when once my Brazilian mission's done.
All eternity I have waited
to have this chance to go.
As I wait here in the spirit world
and bid my friends farewell.
I promise I will come
and teach the way to return.
As time grows short I tell my Brother
I will prepare the hearts of men
for when in time He comes again.
One last time I hug Father
as he whispers, "I love you, son."
As I go down to earth, I turn.
I raise my fists above my head
and yell a courageous victory cry.
For I know I shall soon return
when once my earthly mission's done.
Jill: daughter of Robert and Janice Gardner, is serving in the Chile Santiago East Mission
8 January 2001: I'm finding it hard to find a good P-day to write a good letter! So far they have all been filled with activities for the mission, moving, etc. Today we just finished a class that Aunt Rowena taught to help us know how to teach basic music skills to the members here. Time flies here! I wake up, and before I know it, I'm getting back in bed, and then getting up again!
We continue to work with Elena Belmar. She is ready for baptism -- but has now decided that she wants to wait until February to be baptized. Too long! We had transfers this week, and we survived the cuts -- and two more elders transferred into our ward! We're excited to have more missionaries come into the sector. We are working with quite a few people. Things are going well.
It's kind of fun to be in this pension. Inside, especially in our room, I feel like I'm in Grandpa and Grandma Clement's home. I look out our bedroom window, and the view makes me feel like I'm looking out the window of Grandpa and Grandma Gardner's home (their old house in Provo). So it's really fun!!
15 January 2001: Elena was baptized yesterday!! What an incredible process it has been with her. Last week she told us she wanted to wait until February. We knew that was too long to wait. So we prayed and prayed and thought. We taught her the 5th charla on Tuesday. She was very open through everything, and when we finished she said, "I'm going to pray the rest of today and tonight about my baptism." We left and decided to fast.
On Wednesday we had a family home evening with her, and when we arrived to see how things went she said, "I was able to concentrate. I thought a lot and I prayed, and I feel good about baptism . . . this Sunday!" Hallelujah!! (chorus of angels!) Elena is our miracle baptism. I will never forget her face as she came up out of the water yesterday. She had a look of such joy and contentment. The best part is that I will be able to go through the temple with her in a year!
This has been quite the week. Wednesday we had the one-month "Eagles Nest." All the new "eaglets" met and had an activity with President. We went to San Cristobal, had a good view of the city that is sprawled out everywhere, and had a good talk from President on the faith of Naaman. He gave us time to think by ourselves, in which time I set some goals. Then we went to the mission home, met Aunt Rowena, and ate spaghetti and cake and ice cream. It was wonderful.
On Thursday we got two mini-missionaries. So I have been with Hermana Astorga since Thursday afternoon. She is 17 years old, like Kim. It's been good, and hard, and fun, and scary. Hermana Heiner and her companion are staying in another pension for this time --
but we meet every day after lunch to plan and talk. It's been good because I am learning a little better what Hermana Heiner feels as a trainer. I have to carry the load now as the missionary who is supposed to know what to do. Okay?! But it's fun too. I keep thinking, "This is sort of like serving the mission with my little sister!" I'll be with Hermana Astorga until January 25th.
Our investigators are progressing, but slowly. The main problem for one is that her husband is in the hospital. Apparently, the hospitals here don't give food to the patients -- well, very little -- so the families have to take in lunch and also have to bring clothes and wash clothes, etc. So it is a big stress on them when someone is in the hospital.
That's about it for this week I guess. We keep working. It's hot here. For zone class on Friday, we met with another zone and after class had a water fight. It was supposed to be zone against zone. But as you can imagine it quickly became elders vs. hermanas. About 30 to 12. It was a lot of fun though! Thanks, Mom, for the water balloons!!
As always, I love you all with all of my little heart -- more than my heart can hold. Until next letter!
Love, Hermana Jill
Edythe: daughter of Bruce and Becca Gardner, is serving in the Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission
Polishing My Shoes
12 January 2001: This has been a good week. A few days ago I had a routine visit with President Winwood. It was the first time I had interviewed with him since my initial interview when I arrived here. As soon as I sat down in his office, he began polishing my shoes. It was so humbling for me! I couldn't believe my mission president was polishing my shoes. I immediately thought of Peter, who didn't feel comfortable letting the Savior wash his feet. But I remembered the Savior's response to Peter, so I bit my tongue and learned a great lesson.
I sure love President Winwood. I will miss him so much when he leaves in a few weeks. In the interview he told me a great story about Daryl O. Smith. He also took time to tell me about his job as mission president. We talked about other things, too. It was a choice experience.
The missionary work is going really well. I love watching people's countenances change when we testify to them. I love you so much.
19 January 2001: Well, let me start by telling you the big news of the week. I found out when I will most likely be going to another mission for three to six months. I'm scheduled to leave on May 30 and then come back to Temple Square around the first of October. It was kind of a shock for me when I found out because I didn't think they sent anyone away during the summertime because it's so busy then. But evidently it should be just as busy when I get back because of the Olympics, and it will be more important to have the sisters here for the Olympics than the summer before. I won't know where I'm going until probably a month before I leave.
It's been another great week. Last Sunday I took several guests on a tour right after the Tabernacle Choir broadcast. One of the men on the tour was from Israel. It was neat for me because he brought back so many memories from the time I spent in Israel this past summer. It made me think especially about a great teacher I had there, Brother Chadwick. When he taught, I felt so empowered. When some teachers teach, they make you feel so intelligent. How do good teachers do that? As missionaries, we teach all the time. I want to teach on my tours like Brother Chadwick taught us, so the people feel the sense of worth I felt when Brother Chadwick taught.
When we give tours to people from Israel, we're not allowed to invite them to hear the missionaries or have a Book of Mormon or anything. It's because of an agreement the Church made with the Israeli government. However, if the Israelis are on a tour with other people not from Israel, we can invite the entire group, as we normally would.
Even though it's so cold here, the Lord still POURS out the blessings, and we continue to have some great experiences. Thank you for all your love and support.
25 January 2001: We've had a lot of changes around here lately. We had transfers yesterday. Sixteen sisters came from the MTC, and 30 sisters came back from other missions in the field. There are so many new faces it's like a different mission! I am a trainer now. My new companion is Sister Vsianska from Czechoslovakia! I am really looking forward to working with her. She's 24 years old and has a twin sister named Edita (the Czech version of "Edith," she tells me). Her entire family joined the Church about 10 years ago. Before that she didn't even know about God. Her family is very athletic. Before her mission, Sister Vsianska taught physical education and biology. She's really an outdoors girl -- canoeing, repelling, you name it, she's avid. We went running this morning while it was snowing. I really enjoy having European companions. There's something about their culture that I really like.
I know I'm going to enjoy being Sister Vsianska's trainer. I feel like we have a lot in common. I must admit I'm feeling a lot of pressure as a trainer. I want to set an excellent example and prepare her the best I can for the people who will come to Temple Square to hear the gospel from her.
We took a tour yesterday that was really interesting. Most of the time was spent answering a question or two (or should I say "issue") a man had about the Church. It was interesting to watch his inactive friends defending the Church. I've noticed that many inactive members love the Church and know it's true but are just struggling to overcome their own weaknesses. To the man who wasn't a member of the Church, the Lord helped me to bear a powerful testimony about the Holy Ghost and how He confirms the truth of the Book of Mormon. I failed, however, to invite him right then -- when the Spirit was the strongest -- to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. I hesitated, and when I invited him later, he said no. When the Lord tells us to do something, we must obey immediately!
My new roommates are Sister Sopocga, a Samoan from California, and Sister Kupanagi from Japan. I'm very excited to be living with them.
I love you and thank you for all your support. Please pray for me that I will have the inspiration and strength to train as He would want me to. I love you!!
7 February 2001: Oh, my goodness! I had so much to tell you about this week, but just no time. We had a mission devotional this morning with President and Sister Winwood, who will be released by the time you get this letter. President and Sister Cook will be coming in the next day or so.
My companion and I took a tour last night that lasted about two hours with William, a man from New York, and Derek, a man from California. They were really searching. They wanted to know, "How can you know all
the things you say?" I told them about the Holy Ghost, but they had concerns. They were genuine concerns. They really wanted to know how I could think the way I think. They were just confused by worldly philosophies.
For example, in the Tabernacle I read from the Family Proclamation, "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved
when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ."
"How can you know that?" William said. "Wouldn't you need to experiment with all the possibilities before coming up with such a definite conclusion?"
A couple of times in the tour, William asked me if I really knew the truth of my message. At the end of the tour I said, "I want to conclude
by telling you that I KNOW that what we have been telling you tonight is true, even though it may be hard for you to believe. I know it is true."
Well, I'm out of time and I've got to go! I love you so!
Love, Sister Edythe Gardner
Bruce: son of Bruce and Becca Gardner, is serving in the Denmark Copenhagen Mission
How to Experience Denmark in Your Own Home
24 January 2001: I'm doing just great! Ăldste Brown and I have had some awesome discussions lately, and we have another very busy week. Things continue to go better and better. One of the most enjoyable experiences of life is watching somebody recognize and feel the spirit of God for the first time in their life. We have a couple of return appointments scheduled that I'm really looking forward to.
My Danish is coming along very well and everybody compliments me on it, but I still get frustrated when I get lost in conversations. I can follow very well and have a good idea what's going on, but I still can't lead one. I wish I was speaking it all day long like I did with Ăldste Haibrock, but my companion now is a great friend.
Well, sorry this is going to be a short one. There's never enough time to do all the things I need to do. I'm fine. I'm cold and wet, but very happy. Denmark is such a wonderful place! I love you all.
P.S. I figured out how you can experience Denmark right from your very home! Just turn off all the lights and take as freezing cold of a shower as you can with a fan blowing full blast on you! Now try sharing the gospel and see how many people listen! Being a missionary in Denmark is the best!
31 January 2001: Thanks for the letters and the pictures! It looks like Christmas break was enjoyed by one and all. It was good to see Arizona in the background with green trees, short sleeves, people squinting in the sun, leaves on trees, etc. It's still cold and dark over here, but it's not as bad as it used to be.
Ăldste Brown and I are doing very well. We've become very good friends. Our calendars are also starting to get filled up. We still get burned a lot, but we also do some teaching.
We've got a couple people that we're focusing on right now. Fatima Seven and William Carr are two of them. Fatima is a non-practicing Muslim lady, and William Carr originally came from England. We've had only one appointment with Fatima, but the Spirit was so incredibly strong there. It's neat because she actually recognized the Spirit for us. I feel really good about her.
We're going on a joint teach with William Carr on Friday so I hope that goes well. Ăldste Brown goes home in Oktober and hasn't seen a baptism yet. I'm going to try my hardest to try and get things going for him. He's just not excited. I hope we can change that.
I can't remember if I told you or not, but I'm teaching English at a school. There's close to 50 students. There's a beginner's class where we teach in Danish, and an advanced class where we teach in English. It's very fun, even though I have no idea what I'm doing. i kant teech englesh 4 da lif ov mee. For crying out loud, who cares what a "conjunction" is? Teaching your native language is a whole lot harder than you think. It's fun, though. We've made a couple of new friends and have gotten questions about the Church, so it's helping.
Well, that's all for this week. I hope y'all are doing okay and that everything's under control. I'm still adjusting to living on my own. Meals are always interesting. I'm still just pulling out of the cupboard everything that looks good and just putting it all in a pot, but I'm getting the hang of making stuff match. Well, I love you!
7 February 2001: This past week has been incredible! Ăldste Brown and I have had some glorious experiences. Most noteworthy would be the appointment we had last Friday. We went on a "joint teach" and taught a man named William Carr the second discussion. ALL during the appointment the Spirit was incredibly strong. Ăldste Brown and I had been praying that William would finally see the importance of what we're trying to tell him. His heart was touched like never before. I love it when that happens!! At the end of the discussion, the Spirit was incredibly strong so we challenged him to baptism. He took about 10 seconds to think about it. He didn't want to
commit himself, but the Spirit was working his heart over. He finally answered, "Yes!" Woo hoo!!! He hasn't set a date yet; he wants to be absolutely sure before he gets baptized. So we're praying for the Lord to confirm the truth to him. We've got an appointment with him tonight.
The very next night, we had a follow-up appointment with Fatima Seven. She's Muslim but is very open and sensitive to the Spirit. She keeps interrupting us while we're teaching to say, "Ohhhh! I'm getting goose bumps!" I love the way the Holy Ghost works!!
During this appointment, we found out that she was on page 46 of the Book of Mormon. She wanted to read more, but her sister stole the book without her knowing. Her sister called Fatima a few days later, crying, saying that she had read the entire Book of Mormon and would like to talk to the missionaries! We haven't talked to her yet, but I can't wait to!
It's absolutely amazing the ways the Lord blesses us just for being obedient. When we're doing what we're supposed to, we're blessed for it. The blessings don't always come while we're doing what we're supposed to, but the Lord drops them into our hands every time.
I'm teaching English to a bunch of Muslims who barely speak Danish. It's quite a challenge. I'm on fire, doing awesome, physically fat*I mean fit*and loving life.
DENMARK RULES!! Love, Ăldste Bruce E. Gardner
Mandy: daughter of Wayne and Rowena Gardner, is serving in the Chile Santiago South Mission
Paul: son of Marvin and Mary Gardner, is serving in the Paraguay Asuncion Mission
My Debut as Branch President
8 January 2001: Last week, I got transferred very far away to the southernmost part of Paraguay. I'm now in a German colony named Obligado. My companion is from Uruguay, and the two other elders here are from Uruguay and Paraguay. This area is gorgeous -- it rains a lot and is very green.
On Sunday I was set apart as president of the Obligado Branch. It was so humbling to see about 30 humble, faithful Paraguayan Saints raise their hands to sustain and support me. I bore my testimony and expressed my gratitude.
My main goal is to track down member records from Chile so Hermano Clemente can be set apart as branch president with Hermano Valiente as his counselor -- or vice versa.
We're teaching Hermano Clemente's son, Adolfo, who is the driest Mormon on the planet. He pays tithing, fasts, preaches the Book of Mormon to other nonmembers, and arrives to church every Sunday with his recently baptized wife at 7:55 a.m., even though they live in Hohenau, which is about an hour's walk away.
Last week, Elder Coiti˝o and I decided to do some serious finding. We taught 15 charla ones and 5 charlas 2's. I am happy because we are teaching a lot. However, nobody is really progressing. The main doubt people here in Obligado have is modern revelation. Everyone is either Baptist or Evangelical or Adventist instead of all Catholic like in Asunciˇn. So I'm getting some different questions -- but they're all solutionable.
15 January 2001: Last Saturday Adolfo was baptized by his father! Ah, it was great. Even though they live about an hour's walk away, we would visit Adolfo and his family two or three times a week, sharing scriptures, reviewing charlas, eating real cooked food.
Adolfo's wife, Ingri, was baptized by my companion, Elder Coiti˝o, in November. But since then, it's been no dice with Adolfo. He had many serious doubts, but was offended by his LDS parents more than anything. During almost every discussion we had, Adolfo and his father would end up arguing and bringing up past problems. But we had other wonderful visits, and the visit that did it was last week while we*and they*were fasting.
It had been raining off and on throughout the afternoon when we set out for their house. There are no buses on Saturdays, and the rain came more and more. When we arrived at the big highway, it began to pour. We hoped somebody would have pity on us and give us a lift, and luckily somebody did. We hopped into the back of a pickup truck, and it got going about 55 mph in a downpour. We were basically swimming in the back of that pickup*and swimming is against the rules! After the nice man dropped us off, we walked the rest of the way to Adolfo's house. The streets were nothing but mud. When we arrived at their house, they started laughing at us and threw us a towel, and we wiped the mud off our shoes.
It was obvious they were fasting, because normally they would bring us a ton of food and juice. But not this time. We began by reading scriptures, and then we began to share our feelings for Christ. We left Adolfo thinking.
After that visit and their fast, they all came to church on Sunday as always, making a great sacrifice. On Tuesday, after continual prayer and thought, we shared several scriptures with them, including my new favorite because it's the one that got Isabel and her kids baptized: Alma 7:11*15. If you recall, Isabel read verse 15 twice, looked up at me, and said, "Is it all right if I get baptized tomorrow?"
With Adolfo, it was another classic missionary moment. My companion was so nervous, but he showed his faith and stuck to the game plan. After explaining the verses, he said, "Now I'd like to read verse 15 again, but I'd like to change one word: 'Yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him THIS SATURDAY by going into the waters of baptism.' "
Everyone started to laugh when he said, "Saturday." But then Adolfo said, "How about 9:00 p.m.?" We both just stared at him. My companion said, "Are you serious?" Adolfo said, "Yeah, 9:00 or 9:30." Then I said, "This Saturday at 9:00?" Adolfo then said somewhat impatiently, "Yes."
At that point, my companion lost it. He tried to talk and to bear his testimony, but he got one of those lumps in this throat. I was in shock. I thought Adolfo was just kidding around. But he wasn't.
Thursday we made another visit to them, and Friday Adolfo had his interview. On Saturday, he was baptized by his father, Clemente. It was one of the most special experiences I've ever had. The font is outdoors, and it was a beautiful night. Hermano Clemente got into the font and helped his son get in. I stood next to Elder Coiti˝o, and we watched it all, recording every detail in our heads. Hermano Clemente said the prayer and baptized Adolfo. When he brought Adolfo back up out of the water, they grabbed each other and gave each other a big, long, strong hug. I put my arm around my companion and just smiled. It was a moment of pure joy -- an unforgettable experience.
Hermano Clemente bore his testimony. He was filled with joy. After he and his wife had been members for 24 years, one of their four sons had finally joined the Church!
Then came Sunday, my big debut as branch president. It had rained a lot, and when I started the meeting I counted 16 people, mostly kids. I conducted the meeting, directed the music, helped confirm, gave a long talk, and taught the Gospel Principles class. I love serving in the Church. I'm excited to have future callings in the Church. I know I have a life mission to help build up the kingdom of God here on earth*which means a lifetime of happy service and blessings.
I'm having the time of my life. I refuse to end my mission this year. Being a missionary is too exciting, rewarding, and fun. I love it. There were only 23 people at Church last Sunday, but what we learned in those three hours is the truth about God. Whether there are 23 people in the Obligado Branch or 23,000 people in the Conference Center, we're learning the truth about God. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living Church upon the face of the earth. I know that.
Back in Asunciˇn, the Church tore down the Moroni chapel, the oldest LDS building in the country. Not two days after it came tumbling down, big billboards and TV commercials announced, "It has fallen! The great and abominable church has fallen! The end is nigh at hand! The prophecies are being fulfilled!" Unbelievable. Just wait until they see what gets constructed there in its place. A temple in Paraguay!
Argh! I'm so excited! I love this country, these people! I love this work! I love my family!
22 January 2001: You should see me in sacrament meetings. I conduct the meeting, then announce the hymn, step aside, count to three, and sing a solo in front of everyone. (There's no piano.) Nobody knows how to sing, but they all follow along as I sing. Last Sunday we had 40 people at Church! It was great; the room was full. Adolfo was ordained a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood by his dad. It was really special.
We're preparing other families for baptism. Even though not everyone accepts the gospel or reads the Book of Mormon, teaching a charla one is such a rewarding, spiritual experience. Even though the people sometimes laugh in my face and call me the anti-Christ, I'll never get tired of teaching about the glorious manifestation of God the Father and Jesus Christ to the boy Joseph Smith. I know the truth has been restored. I know Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God and a powerful witness of Christ.
In zone meeting, everyone was asked this question: Are you enjoying your mission? I was called on to respond, and I know why. I love my mission! I love serving the Lord full time. The thought of not being a missionary anymore frightens me to death. I love Paraguay and the wonderful people here. I'm Paraguayan, and that's all there is to it.
Well, I'll stop crying all over this paper.
29 January 2001: In zone conference, President Cheney announced that on Saturday, 3 February 2001, la palada inicial (the ground-breaking) will take place for the construction of the PARAGUAY ASUNCIËN TEMPLE! This is the year of the construction of the temple in Paraguay! I will one day be able to enter the temple with my converts! What a wonderful opportunity that will be!
The world doesn't understand the importance of this work, but I love talking to everyone. I feel bad when I get rejected, but not for myself. I feel bad for them, because they're rejecting happiness and eternal salvation and the love of their Savior. I love this work more than my life. What would we do without the true gospel of Jesus Christ, family? I never want to leave this blessed land of Paraguay. I want to wear out my days in the service of the Lord right here in Paraguay.
I had a long interview with President Cheney and asked him if I could please stay until May. I told him I was dedicated to the work and that there is nothing better for me to do.
He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Elder Gardner, you give it all you have every minute of every day these next eight weeks." Then we gave each other a big hug, and he told me he loves me. I love President Cheney, and I know we were both called to Paraguay at this time for a reason. So I will have to leave Paraguay on 22 March 2001. It won't be easy, and I'm not going to leave without first seriously fireballing it. Please pray extra hard for me.
Love, Elder Paul J. Gardner
Wayne and Rowena: Wayne is president of the Chile Santiago East Mission. Rowena is the "Mission Mom"
The Work Is About to Explode!
5 January 2001: I long for more time to study the scriptures. It is a constant fight to have the uninterrupted time to study. I study every day -- it just isn't as much nor the quality that I would like. The schedule is rigorous.
Last night I could not sleep. The Lord is trying to tell me something. The work is about to explode!
27 January 2001: It is a privilege to be associated with such excellent missionaries. Why am I so lucky?
Today marks seven months in the mission. I celebrated it by finishing the Book of Mormon in Spanish. I love reading the scriptures. It was wonderful reading and studying it in Spanish this time.
I am so very grateful for my best friend, Rowena. She is wonderful. The mission affords us more time together. It is wonderful being involved in the Lord's work with her.
4 February 2001: We ended January with 189 convert baptisms. This is short of our goal of 200 convert baptisms, but is nonetheless a record for four Sundays or weeks of baptisms. It also leads the Chile Area. The mission with the next highest number of baptisms is Antofagasta with 133 baptisms. This makes the second month that the East Mission has led the Area in number of convert baptisms. It is beautiful to see the number of men and families that are entering the waters of baptism. This is His work and He is directing it.
I did something different this week. Rowena and I took the Assistants to Farellones, a ski resort in the Andes. We took time to meditate, to discuss the work, and then end with some teachings from the scriptures. It is beautiful atop the Andes in the summertime. Then we concluded with a picnic lunch and watermelon. Then the elders and I mounted bikes and took off for Santiago some 16,000 feet downhill. It was like coming off graveyard hill in Duncan -- only bigger. Another nice difference -- there isn't a highway at the bottom of the hill. I remember when I would come off graveyard hill in Duncan that about halfway down I would start praying that I would not meet up with a car at the bottom, because I was out of control and could not stop.
Sister Jill Gardner has brought some beautiful people into the Church. She is doing a super job. Rowena and I visited her ward today. We met a beautiful investigator family and some other investigators she is teaching. Sister Jill Gardner is one fantastic missionary.
It is wonderful to work with so many exceptional missionaries. I don't know why we are so blessed.