Vol. 5 No. 3, 16 March 2001
Click here for ADDRESSES.
Benjamin, son of Brent and Kris Gardner, is in the MTC in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
On Eagles' Wings
13 February 2001: We finally got a General Authority here. It was Elder Lance B. Wickman of the First Quorum of the Seventy. It was the best talk I heard since I got here. He made the comment that in two years it would be as hard for us to leave the mission as it was to leave home. He talked about obedience and overcoming your fear to open your mouth. It was muito poderoso.
Last Friday we didn't go on divisions as usual. Instead we went to a Casa de Resposto, a rest home. The old people we met were so excited someone had come to visit them and sing to them, but it didn't really help us with the language.
Everything here is progressing well. I have the first palestra memorized and have started the second. I am cramming a lot of stuff in my head in a very short period of time.
Look at the sky sometime and see the stars. There is only one star visible at night here. I am happy and content with life. I am doing the right thing. Eu amo voces.
20 February 2001: In seven days I will be in the field. That is scary, but I am excited to get out there. I wish I had a better grasp on the language, but that will come quickly.
On Friday, we went on divisions as usual. This time we went to my mission, Sao Paulo Leste, to an area called Penha. We had two references so we didn't clap doors. We looked for the first one for about an hour and a half, but the city had recently changed all the addresses on the street. This made it impossible to find the right house, and no one we met on the street knew him. I got in some good exercise hiking up and down hills, though. The other reference wasn't at home. So this time out we only got one reference on the bus ride back to our group. On the bus, people just flocked to us, wanting to know who these white boys were, and what they were doing here.
The other bit of excitement came on Sunday, when I attended a Brazilian ward. It was held in a small church house. We passed the sacrament, and the missionaries in that area blessed it. I could understand enough to follow the talks in sacrament meeting and gospel principles class. Priesthood was different, though. All the priesthood met together. I guess it was like high priest quorum, because they all started arguing about something and I got lost.
Afterwards, we went to a member's house for lunch. Naturally the main course was arroz and feijao, rice and beans. We also had frango (chicken) and some kind of crunchy powder, guarana, and for dessert peaches and cream. It was pretty good. If all the food I eat at members' houses is that good, I will do okay.
26 February 2001: Well, my beloved family, this is the absolute last letter you will get from me from the MTC. I have had a great time and am kind of sad to go, but I am looking forward to the adventure ahead in the field. The past week was the shortest week I have ever experienced. It just flew by. It was cram time before we leave. I am almost done with palestra two, but I still have 1/2 principle to go. Of course, I don't have it down perfect, but it will get polished in the field.
Speaking of palestras, I taught my first first discussion on Friday. As usual, I went on splits, even though Friday was Carnaval. In my mission, Carnaval is just another work day. My companion was Elder Santanas, and we had an appointment for a first palestra. I took the 1st, 2nd, and 6th principles. It was the neatest thing I have done here. And the lady we taught was so excited about the message. She is searching for something. I invited her to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. She said "Eu vou." It was great.
It also rained very, very hard. It's a good thing I brought my umbrella. If I didn't, the top of my head would have been as soaked as the rest of me.
I am excited to leave. I will get to teach the gospel 24/7. I am also a little apprehensive. I will figure out what is going on soon enough, and I will have a senior companion for when I don't understand.
Well, family, the Church is true. That fact will make it so much easier to teach people. I love you all. Thanks for everything you have done to get me to this point. This is such a great adventure.
This poem expresses my feelings:
The time has flown on eagles' wings,
And now end the weeks of training.
Surrounded by Babylon, yet shielded by the prison walls
I have toiled and often failed,
Yet now I rush off to face it.
And unprepared am I, and incomplete my training.
I go to face Babylon, like Luke to face Vader.
But my saber of truth is bright
And my shield of faith impenetrable.
I can feel the Spirit of God.
It controls my actions, and I obey its commands.
My friends, I will help them
And sacrifice all to the cause for which we fight.
I shall fear no enemy, for the Lord is my strength.
I will overcome my anger, my fear and aggression,
For of the Devil's side are these.
But I will cling to peace and give heed to the Lord.
As servants his power surrounds us and binds us
And with his light, we cannot fail.
Jill: daughter of Robert and Janice Gardner, is serving in the Chile Santiago East Mission
Teaching a Catholic Priest!
5 February 2001: I'm going to write as much as I can. I'm in the mission home right now. I am going to play a duet tomorrow in our mission conference, and we came up so I could practice with the elder who is going to play the violin. It will be fun--not quite the same as playing with Edythe, but it brings back memories.
This week was good--we had interviews with President. That was great. It always is. It's fun because we talk, he gives me advice and encouragement like a president to his missionary, we finish the interview, and then we talk for a little bit about the family.
Thank you, Uncle Marvin, for the Family Focus! We are grateful for it! Congratulations Kent on your engagement! I was so excited to hear the news. Last time we saw each other we were speculating but unsure.
Good to hear that Brent is home and doing well.
Benjamin--that first day, first bit at the MTC, seems like your entire life. But hang in there. The mission is awesome. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Something really fun we did on Saturday was teach the first discussion to a Catholic priest. It was great. He didn't commit, wouldn't accept anything, doesn't like Joseph Smith, but he was very kind and we had a good talk. In the charla, I kept thinking, "We're teaching a Catholic priest!"
I finally figured out how to describe my sector. Most of it is like the older parts of Provo. The streets are narrow, lined with huge trees, and then the sidewalk. It took me awhile because the major difference is the walls/fences around every house. But take away those, and it's just like Provo, with about 100 times more dogs. The street that runs through the middle of our sector, Larrain, is more or less like Center Street in Provo. But no one drives 15 mph or even 25 mph. They drive at whatever speed they want.
Uncle Wayne and Aunt Rowena are great. It's so wonderful to have them here--it is such a blessing. I love you all very much and am praying for you!
12 February 2001: I have to tell you about the huge changes that are being made in the mission tomorrow. I will still be in La Reina, but I will have a new companion, Hna. Escalona. She is Chilean, and that's about all I know of her. I know her by sight.
I'm excited and nervous. Like Edythe said, I can't believe my training is over! I will be changing pensions. You see, I will be in a zone of ALL hermanas!! It's a change President is making. 14-16 of the 35-40 sisters will be in the Zona La Reina (yes, the Zone of the Queens!). We are all very excited about it! We will be able to leave in divisions more often and help each other out with ideas, etc. The traveling sisters will be our leaders. We won't have zone leaders. Hna. Heiner is going to be one of the traveling sisters. I am still going to live in my sector (ward) also called La Reina, but we will live with two other sisters from a neighboring barrio to help with pension expenses, etc.
We are still pushing with Silvia and Chiara, and with Angelica and Sonia. We also found Leyla and her mom, Maria this last week. That makes four sets of mother-daughters we are teaching! It's great.
All my Love, Hermana Jill!
Edythe: daughter of Bruce and Becca Gardner, is serving in the Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission
Danes on Temple Square
21 February 2001: We have a new mission president, President and Sister Garfield Cook. I'm excited to get to know them.
Next week we will start giving tours in the Conference Center. I'm excited about it. Sister Vsianska and I have already given a tour there to a newspaper photographer from Canada.
I love the feeling of heritage on Temple Square, of the pioneers' faith and devotion. But the Conference Center has a great spirit about the here and now that is also exciting. It is a great missionary tool to tell people that God has followed the pattern He established for revealing truth in our day through a living prophet.
The key features of the building, including the auditorium with translation and broadcast facilities, allow the Conference Center to be a platform for prophets of God to speak the word of the Lord to all who will listen worldwide. It's also a place where uplifting cultural arts events can occur. It is huge and beautiful, but nothing is meant to draw attention to the building itself. Everything is designed to make us think of the Savior. I love it.
Thank you for your letters. Robert, how does it feel to hold the Savior's priesthood? I talked to a philosopher the other day who told me John the Baptist was his hero. I got to tell him about when John the Baptist came to restore the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
Mom and Dad, thank you for everything you've taught me. I'm sure as parents you wonder sometimes if you've done enough to teach your children. I wonder that all the time as a trainer. I want you to know you do a great job. You taught me so much. I don't know what I did to deserve parents like you! I'm learning so much here and things are going really well. I'm learning a lot about prayer. I'm so grateful for the power of prayer!
28 February 2001: It has been a good week for me. The highlight was Sunday when my companion and I took two Danish tours. [See Edythe's letter to Bruce, below, about teaching the Danish people.]
Another really neat thing that happened was that I met a man who Uncle Wayne taught in Argentina years ago. The man, Victor, has been trying to get in touch with Uncle Wayne for years. He wanted to tell Uncle Wayne that he and his wife are still active and that their three married children were all married in the temple. He told me to tell Uncle Wayne that he loves him very much. Victor's wife just happened to see my name tag, and she stopped me and asked if I was related to Wayne Gardner!
Last week we took a young couple on a tour. The husband knew the Bible well and brought up many questions. We listened carefully and showed him that it didn't bother us that they had concerns and that their questions were quite valid. Then we would testify of what we believed. They had a problem, for example, with marriage in heaven, as well as with modern-day prophets. The wife brought up the scripture in the Bible that speaks of false prophets in the last days. She asked me how I personally know that the modern-day prophets are true. I told her that was a good questions and that the scriptures also tell us, "By their fruits ye shall know them." I told her how the Book of Mormon strengthened my testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith and committed them to have a copy of the Book of Mormon delivered to their home. The husband said, "I don't see how a book could hurt anything." I had to work to control my trembling, because the Spirit was strong and they were really listening.
Yesterday we took a man and three of his children on a tour. At the beginning the man was really cold. He told us they were very happy in their own faith and were interested only in the history of Temple Square. We showed love to him and his children and asked the children lots of little questions to make them feel smart. We tailored the tour to the children and answered their questions. We all felt the Spirit. It was neat to see how it affected the children. They were so kind to each other. One girl tried to get a drink of water out of a drinking fountain that didn't work, and her brother offered her his water bottle. She turned to me and said, "See, I told you he was nice." I think the man's heart was softened. At the end of the tour he said, "Thank you very, very much."
I am coming to understand what it means to say, "The Lord leads and guides this Church." When I serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength and turn my will over to the Lord, He works through me. Sometimes I look back on the day and marvel at how the Lord used us to do the work. As I see the Lord work through me, my testimony is strengthened that He works through the prophet and every other humble servant.
P.S. I met part of the German Olympic bobsled team.
Note from Becca: Edythe sent us a copy of the letter she wrote to Bruce in Denmark, telling him of the Danish people she met on Temple Square. Following are excerpts:
28 February 2001: Sister Vsianska prayed for a miracle Sunday morning, and boy did we get one! Shortly after the choir broadcast, we were standing by the flagpole. Three people walked up to us. One of the men was Nathan Ricks, a member of the Church from St. George. The other three people, two men and a woman, were from Denmark. The woman, Laila, now lives in the U.K. One of the men, Christian, is probably in his late 20s, and the other man, Kaj, is around 50. They spoke great English, so communicating with them was not a problem.
This was the most amazing tour I've ever been on. I repeat-THE MOST AMAZING TOUR I'VE EVER BEEN ON! It was so powerful and spiritual. It lasted almost two hours. (They typically run 30 minutes).
We talked about what the Spirit feels like and gaining a testimony. The three Danes listened so intently. I felt we all connected with one another.
At the end, all three of them said they would like a copy of the Book of Mormon brought to them by missionaries back in Denmark and the U. K.! Christian and Kaj wanted me to give you their phone number. People from Europe usually don't give us any personal information. At the Seagull Monument, however, Laila explained how wonderful it feels to get an answer to prayer -- "goose bumps all over!" And in the Tabernacle, while they were filling out the referral cards, Christian shared with me and my companion his feelings about prayer. His wife has a brain tumor, and they have been praying a lot lately. I was so happy after that tour.
Later that evening, I happened to contact two more Danish people, a husband and wife named Jan and Louise. We took them on a tour that also felt SO good. They listened intently. By asking them questions and building on what they said, we developed a great relationship, and the Spirit was strong. Louise told me that she and most Danish people are brought up to not believe in anything, including themselves. She believes that God is everywhere, however. She was especially receptive of prophets being a channel to God for us. They also wanted to have a copy of the Book of Mormon, and they expressed a great interest in learning more about the temple open house in Denmark. I told them you might be able to talk with them.
Later, I saw Christian, Kaj, and Laila again. They had seen Legacy and had come to attend a piano concert in the Assembly Hall. I was so happy to see them again, and they were kind and personal. Christian said, "I look forward to meeting your brother." I told him you may not be in his area, but he's still planning on meeting you. He talked about how small Denmark is and how easy it would be to meet someone anywhere in Denmark. He said that if you ever need anything, he wants to help. I told him I would write you and tell you about the tour. He told me how impressed he was with the sense of self worth that the Church seems to bring me.
He, Laila, and Kaj were planning to come back the following night to see Testaments and the Conference Center. They waved and smiled as they left, and I had to bite my lip to keep from crying. I was so happy. I pray that you get to meet the Danes I talked to on Temple Square. They are all wonderful and receptive.
6 March 2001: It's absolutely beautiful here. Most of the flower beds have been uncovered on Temple Square, and the bulbs are starting to come up. I'm so glad, because winter sure is long here!
Believe it or not, I'm done being a trainer! It went so quickly! I learned a lot as a trainer. It allowed me to really see my weaknesses. Now I better understand what I need to work on and that I need the Savior SO much. I was called to be a district leader, and I'm really humbled by that.
Love, Sister Edythe Gardner
Bruce: son of Bruce and Becca Gardner, is serving in the Denmark Copenhagen Mission
The Lower End of Enjoyable
14 February 2001: This week was towards the lower end of enjoyable. We had teaching appointments set up every single day with various people. We taught exactly . . . none of them. The man who we just committed to baptism canceled a couple times because of work, travel, etc. He seems to be scared. Also, the Muslim lady's kid just got sick, and she took her to the doctor. They're both not feeling too good right now, so it will be another week before we come in contact with them.
Our other investigator gave us quite the surprise when we showed up for our appointment. We rang the doorbell, she walked up, looked though the window, and then locked the door. Our previous appointments with her went very well, so we were very confused.
Such is the life of a missionary. As the rooster put it quite nicely in Robin Hood, "Sometimes ups outnumber the downs, but not on Danish ground." (Not a direct quote.)
We had zone conference yesterday, and as usual it went very well. We learned a lot about personal revelation, which is interesting because Ældste Brown and I had been talking about that recently. I came to realize during conference that I still need to work on patience and not push appointments onto people. They've got to make the choice themselves and take things at their own pace. I can't convert them. I can only help. It's frustrating making such slow progress sometimes, but at least it's progress.
I'm fine, love the Church, love you, love life, love my friends, love Cami [our dog], love Valentine's Day.
20 February 2001: I'm doing SO awesome! We had zone conference yesterday, and President Tobler came and talked to us. It was exactly what I wanted it to be about, and he said the exact things I wanted him to -- about consecrating ourselves to the work and being disciplined and not just obedient. We also discussed some doctrinal issues as well as the importance of focusing on the Spirit. I was loving every minute of it!
I've been trying to consecrate all my thoughts, strength, studies, energy, and focus on missionary work, but it's hard when everybody else just settles for being "good, hardworking" missionaries. It's time to step it up. It seems like people are satisfied with teaching only two discussions a week. All the books I've read, including the scriptures, give me the idea that there are more people out there needing to be taught. I think only when a companionship becomes consecrated to the work will the Lord trust us enough to show us the way. I'm also trying to work on strengthening the spirituality in our companionship and turning to the Lord a lot and not just guessing and trying to be logical. I'm forgetting Bruce Gardner and consecrating into Elder Gardner. I've never really noticed how much of an enemy the natural man is until now. Anyway, that's just something I've been thinking about and working towards for a long time, and yesterday was like gold.
After zone conference, Elder Brown and I were starving because we hadn't eaten anything all day. It was 7:00 p.m., but we decided to go out and work anyway. We taught the best first discussion we have ever had! This lady was just awesome! She opened up a lot to us and was drowned by the Spirit. She has three children, too. Elder Brown and I walked away from that discussion simply on fire. Now I know what "fireballing it" feels like!
I'm doing fine. Life is going great for me. I'm loving life, very happy, and excited to be here. Thanks for all the letters and support. You guys are the best! Love you tons.
21 February 2001: I can't believe I have been out for six months. In some ways, it feels like I just got here, yet it also seems like I've been here for ages.
This week has been pretty good. We had an appointment with William Carr finally after about two weeks. It went very well. We've definitely got trust and honesty going between us now. Even though we found some concerns, we were able to dig to the bottom of it and make some good commitments. I've been studying and reading like mad for the past few days trying to find answers and references to William's questions. I'm amazed at how much I learn!
We also had an appointment with the Muslim lady, Fatima Seven. She told us she was thinking about telling her father she is investigating the Church. She said her father would forbid her to come back to her house if she told him. Switching religions isn't tolerated at all in the Muslim religion. Fatima said if she was alone, she wouldn't care; she'd jump right in. However, she has a daughter. She's scared that something might happen to her. It's a sad situation to be in, and I'm lost as to what we can do to help. She did tell us to call her before church on Sunday so she can come.
I love you all and appreciate your prayers and letters. Have a glorious, sunshine-filled, dry, warm, quiet, no wind, bright-for-a-long-time, pleasant day.
28 February 2001: Things are going well. William Carr came to church on Sunday. It took some work, but we finally got him to come. It was a missionary's farewell so it wasn't the normal sacrament meeting. Things are going very slow with him, but at least they're going forward. Fatima is sick, so we are giving her time to recover. They both should get visits today, though.
I think spring is trying to come. Flower shoots are starting to come up. However, it also snowed again last Saturday, so we'll see. I hope it comes soon!
7 March 2001: Ældste Brown and I have been very busy and hard at work. We've found a couple new contacts that we're going to teach this week. This next week is going to be incredibly busy. We've got teaching appointments and other meetings to go to. Stake conference is on Sunday.
Since Denmark has only two stakes, half of Denmark's members will be meeting. Of course, not everybody is going to pay to travel to conference, but Ældste Brown and I are going, and it looks like William Carr will be coming as well. That will be really good for him. Things are still going slowly forward with him. I think we finally got him to start keeping his commitments. He also told us that he doesn't get any urges to smoke while we're together. He's a good man, and I like teaching him.
A new investigator is a woman named Charlotte. She's an atheist, but not totally. She believes in God, but just doesn't know she does. She gets too caught up in the tiny things like what color hair does God have, what language does He speak, what does He eat, etc. She hasn't closed herself off to the Spirit though, so there's hope for her.
Ældste Brown and I will be together at least until the 28th of March. We're very good friends and get along well together, and we're both hard workers. I hope my new companion will be as fun to get along with.
LOVE, Ældste Bruce E. Gardner
P.S. I made pancakes from scratch all by myself today!
Mandy: daughter of Wayne and Rowena Gardner, is serving in the Chile Santiago South Mission
February 2001: A new month has begun, a chance to start again with goals and drive. I'm not sure how to explain it, but I've managed to knock everything up a notch. All I want to do is work so I can be worthy to see a change in this sector. I've realized that what happened in San Fernando can happen here too.
I was flipping through my journal and read my entry from December 9. That was the peak of my time in San Fernando. I was so happy, and everything was flourishing. I think that had a lot to do with the driving force of Hermana Anderson for the full three months before. She was dedicated, diligent, and strictly obedient. She was worthy to receive inspiration. She was focused. We worked and loved and served.
Now it is my turn to be the driving force here in San Francisco. It's time to shake things up and push things forward. This town seems to be in a deep rut. But I know Hermana Perez and I can work miracles. So here we go!!! All your prayers are greatly appreciated!
I received a letter from the family that I taught and then they were baptized the week after I left. The dad is now the Sunday School teacher, the daughter is still practicing the piano, and they are focused on reaching the temple. That was a boost, to say the least. An eternal family!!
Hermana Ferghman from San Fernando showed up at church on Sunday to visit me. I cried when I saw her. It was an answer to my prayers (in a roundabout way.) She just brought so much love that it touched me deeply. I really felt that it was Heavenly Father's way of giving me a little extra love and support. A little more drive to move forward.
Heavenly Father is taking care of me. And He is also very patient with me. As I expressed in my last letter, I am learning about following the Spirit and about repentance. But with these lessons comes the wonderful realization that I am nothing without my Heavenly Father. It is only through Him and with Him that I can ever become anything great. It is a humbling fact that sweeps away the pressures of the world and the strata of society. Oh, to be a worthy daughter in the eyes of my Heavenly Father and Mother. To be pure, spotless, perfect, full of love and charity.
This gospel is amazing. This gospel is pure, full truth. I know that this is the only true church, and I know that there is a force working against us. But we push forward.
I love you all dearly. Eternally yours, Hermana Mandy Ann Gardner
Paul: son of Marvin and Mary Gardner, is serving in the Paraguay Asuncion Mission
I'm Just Getting Started, Baby!
5 February 2001: Another wild and crazy week! Woo hoo! I love being a missionary. Here are some highlights:
- I had an old lady throw a Book of Mormon at my face. Luckily my hands were free and I could block it. Even luckier that it landed in my lap and not in the mud so I could go give it to someone else.
- I gave a charla one in English. It went horribly. Oh, my word. I killed the English language. I was teaching a Peace Corp girl from California, and she just laughed at me and said, "I understand Spanish, if that would be easier for you."
- WE SERIOUSLY FIREBALLED IT! We taught 54 short charlas and 21 charlas, worked 70 hours, and had 8 personal study and 7 companionship study hours. I love my companion, Elder Coiti*o. He is the perfect companion.
- I have so many goals that will be accomplished -- but they won't without 100 percent effort and focus. At zone meeting, our entire zone signed a paper that said "35, 20, 70, 7, 7," referring to the weekly mission goals. We accomplished that goal last week, and it feels great.
- It has rained every day for three weeks straight, and the town of Obligado has never seen a paved road. My shoes are good for nothing! Both pairs are shot. Every night I wash mud off my feet because my shoes have big holes in the bottom and my socks are a joke. But who cares! I've never worked harder or sacrificed more than in these past few weeks. My body is feeling it, but the Lord requires my all.
- We're being obedient and sacrificing much, but no one -- no one -- will accept our message. Lately, no one will even touch the Book of Mormon. We got "handed" back four or five last week. I've never born my testimony so much in my entire life. We had so many doors slammed in our faces and backs turned this week. We were ignored and laughed at. I lost count of how many times parents sent their kids out to lie for them.
It makes me cringe every time someone mentions my release date. I'm just getting started, baby!
- Adolfo is doing great. He will be called to be the mission leader for Rama Obligado and also the teacher of the Gospel Principles class. I know you're saying, "But isn't he a new member?" Yes, but he basically teaches the class anyway.
12 February 2001: Onward, ever onward! Yee haw! The fireballness continues. My new companion, fresh from the MTC, is Elder Spilsbury from Sierra Vista, Arizona. He is a BRO, and we love each other already. We are the exact same people. We love to eat, work out, play b-ball, teach, . . . and he can't cook, just like me. It's weird speaking English again.
The groundbreaking for the Paraguay Asuncion Temple was on February 3, and President Cheney helped break ground. I know he brought this temple to Paraguay. Only a chosen man like him could do what he has done and is doing.
I'm doing great. I'm healthy, happy, and fireballing it. I love each one of you with all my heart.
19 February 2001: Paraguay is really going to have a temple soon! An article and a photograph about the groundbreaking were published in the national newspaper. We're starting up a temple preparation class here in Obligado Branch, and everyone is excited to have the Lord's house here in Paraguay.
We taught 20 charlas last week, and we're working with a great couple that was a member reference. I'm working with all I have¯and basically I'm exhausted. I love doing the work of the Lord. I know He is helping me every day and that He loves me. I know He is pleased with our family and that He loves us. Thank you for your prayers.
26 February 2001: On Tuesday, five of us made the seven-hour bus ride to Asuncion for two days of training. When we arrived at the office, President Cheney pulled me aside. He showed me the shovel he used in the ground-breaking of the Paraguay temple and asked how Obligado Branch is doing. He asked me to play the piano for the training meetings. Then he took me into his assistants' office and asked me to help them out with computer stuff. I guess I never really got released as mission secretary. We stayed up all hours of the night preparing for conference the next day. It was all too familiar. I even answered a few phone calls.
The next day, we had the conference. All my friends were there. It was wonderful.
After conference, we loaded everything up and headed to the bus station. Our bus was to leave at 5:30 p.m., and we got there at 5:35. We ran upstairs to ask if it had already left, and they said it was loading up the mail about a block away. So we flew downstairs, jumped into taxis, and barely made it there as the bus was pulling away. Then I settled in for the long bus ride back home. We pulled in at 12:00 midnight, and I met up with my companion. Then we rode home for another hour. I was beat and fell right to sleep.
The next morning, we woke up and decided we seriously needed to fireball it this week if we were going to teach 20 charlas. Here it was Thursday, and we hadn't had time to do any proselyting. Well, now it's Monday, and we ended up with 18 charlas.
We've taught so many people, so many families, half of them with members. But nobody will come to church. It hurts every time people break their promises. We made a long trip to go pick up a family we had taught, but nobody came out. It rains every day, and I guess people just like to stay in bed when it rains.
This coming week, we're going to work harder and more diligently than ever before. We're determined to find, teach, and baptize a family in the month of March.
I still have a lot of work to do here in Paraguay. I'm going to teach until it's impossible to teach anymore. We're going to establish this branch and get it ready for a chapel. I'm excited to get out there this week and just flat out FIREBALL IT!
I love being a missionary. I love representing the Lord and Savior of the world. I love being a Paraguayan. I love all of you, family. Be happy! Count your blessings! We are exceedingly blessed. Thank you for your faithful prayers. I love you all!
Love, Elder Paul J. Gardner
Paul will arrive home on Friday, 23 March. He will report his mission in sacrament meeting at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, 25 March, Bountiful 16th Ward, 721 East 550 North, Bountiful, Utah. Everyone is welcome.
Wayne and Rowena: Wayne is president of the Chile Santiago East Mission. Rowena is the "Mission Mom"
He Moved the Earth for Me
12 March 2001: This is the feminine version -- from Rowena. Last week we were in Puc*n, a small town in southern Chile, for a conference with all the mission presidents in Chile. Presidents Miller, Oveson, and Harris (the Area Presidency) were there also. They were the main presenters because there were no authorities from the States this time.
We had an incredible time. My mind is swimming with all kinds of things I need to do now that we are home. The lectures and classes were so thrilling. We laughed and cried and felt all sorts of inspiration with regards to our various responsibilities.
I've decided I definitely need to redo my wardrobe. After losing about 25 pounds, nothing fits quite the same way, which I am grateful for! It is so nice to have shed the weight that the prednisone piled on. I finally feel I have passed through that stage of my life forever.
Puc*n was so very interesting. One day we drove out to look at some waterfalls, and on the way we passed a couple of markets where they were selling huge, bright flowers. They were beautiful, and I was amazed that they could grow such beautiful flowers there. The next day a few of us went into town to check out the shops. They had been telling us about all the beautiful things that they did with wood in that area. One of the things they kept telling me about was the wooden flowers. I envisioned something carved and painted. Wooden flowers was not what I had in mind for my home -- they were right up there with pink flamingos -- but I decided it would be fun to at least go and look with them.
When we pulled up in front of the markets with the beautiful colorful flowers, I was surprised to find out that these were the wooden flowers they were talking about. They weren't carved but shaved wood. The wood is shaved into very thin strips, then gathered or formed at one end and glued on a base. They are dyed beautiful colors and look like open roses, carnations, mums, lilies, pompoms, all kinds of flowers. I had to touch some to make sure of what I was seeing.
Well, 17,000 pesos later (1000 is around $2.00 -- it keeps changing), I had yellow, red, pink, and white flowers. They were around $1 to $2 each. If you mix them with real greenery they look real. Now my flowers won't wilt and die!
I also found some beautiful carved ducks. These have personality! It's something you have to see to appreciate. "Ducks" sound dreadfully dull, but these are interesting!
As we were flying along the coast of Chile, I could look out the window and see the ocean and the cordillera (mountain range) below us. It was an incredible realization to know that we are actually on the other end of the world from all our family and friends. Seasons are reversed, the sun is in the other half of the sky, the stars don't look the same, I still don't know which direction is which, and the water swirls the other direction in the bathtub. Sometimes I feel like we have been here forever, and other times I feel like we just got here. There is so much to learn.
One of the main things we have learned is that Heavenly Father is there to help us whenever we need Him. There have been so many times when we have had to speak in conferences or meetings, and somehow the words just seem to come. There have times when we have not had time to prepare, but things just fall into place. When we have felt so terribly alone and forgotten, a quiet assurance comes that He is there beside us and things are going the way He wants them to.
This is an experience that has changed our lives forever. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God lives and He hears and answers our prayers. When I have cried out in anguish for help, I can look back and realize that He moved the earth for me in a very quiet and gentle way -- not a big flashy miracle, just a growing, moving, expanding sort of thing. Words seem so flimsy when I try to express my feelings about things like this. But I know that I have more love for Heavenly Father and my Savior than I have ever imagined having. I know God lives. I know Jesus Christ is here beside me. When I slow down from the confusion of life, I can feel Him.
We love you all. Wayne and Rowena