As I sit to write the weekly letter it occurs to me that this is #20 and represents about the ¼-point in our missions (in spite of Heidi having us out here for six months). Each week seems to go by so quickly it’s over before we know it. We haven’t had anything momentous happen to us this week but it’s been another good week for us both in the office and in the piso. We received some very nice letters during the week – including one from our #4 daughter (not naming names here) – that we appreciate and enjoy very much. We get the sense that, while no one has money to give away, everyone is doing well and enjoyed their Thanksgiving activities. We had a very nice day and the leftovers stretched it out over another 2-3 days.
On Monday I discovered I’d lost the back on my cell phone so I searched the office, the car and our piso trying to find it – all to no avail. Tuesday morning, when Pte Clegg came to the office, he gave the back of a cell phone to E Anderson saying he’d found it on a table at his home and E Anderson brought it to me – I’d apparently dropped it when we were there on Saturday. And on Tuesday morning I went again to the dentist for another session of the root canal – he went down into the tooth again, did some filing with his tiny files and told me to make another appointment – that it’d be the last one. So this Wednesday I go to get the remaining work done – I assume some final cleaning and a permanent filling to plug the hole in the tooth - and find out what it’ll cost (I’m hoping it doesn’t take all your Christmas money!). After my trip to the dentist Pte Clegg and I spent most of an hour on the phone with the HELP desk in SLC trying to figure out why the password to the temple entry system was no longer valid. When we got past that hurdle and I was able to get into the system to activate a batch of temple recommends. A while later, Pte came into my office with his laptop and asked me to get him onto the office internet – I had no clue what was wrong. I worked with it for a while and E Anderson joined me in trying to solve the problem but we got nowhere. I finally hooked him to the internet with the Ethernet line and he was able to do some of the things he had to do. When he still couldn’t connect on Wednesday, I called the HELP desk again and had a marathon session with a guy there (about 2-3:00 AM). Eventually he connected to my computer remotely then did the same with Pte Clegg’s laptop and got us set up to again connect to the internet. I asked what he’d done and he told me he’d ‘changed a few settings’ – by then he probably was convinced he was dealing with an illiterate and it’d be a waste of time to try to explain. In my mind the mystery is how the settings got messed up – Pte Clegg is not one who’d go in and customize the internet settings on his laptop.
Elder Anderson (financial secretary) found a couple of different errors in our proselyting data reports that caused invalid results (not in baptism stats, just teaching data) so we had to go in and find those. It turned out that both of those had occurred before my time as the data enterer so he took responsibility for those but it’s only a matter of time before I mess up in a similar fashion. I think we’d be better off to simplify the spreadsheet than run the risks we do with the complex formulas and sheets in the workbook. Since the errors carried forward into subsequent sheets, it took me quite a while to go back thru 2-3 months of data to get them corrected – maybe that’s why they have couple missionaries.
Wednesday morning we got ready for the office (except I dressed in my sweats), took our shopping cart and went in. I loaded a set of tools and some materials into the cart, Flo and I caught the Metro and rode into Bilbao. We met Hnas Johns & Fitches at their Metro station and they led us to their piso to try to do something to reduce the cockroach traffic there. Their piso has a small patio off the kitchen and there’s a 10” opening into the wall for access of plumbing – the little door to close that hole was missing. I cut a board to fit (chair for workbench, backsaw for tool), mounted it to the hinges that still were there and sealed up the edges with tape – I think that’ll help. But I’d not understood the other part of the problem description: under the sink there’s open area leading to a hole in the wall so any bug in the wall can come thru the kitchen cupboard into the piso. I’m going to try to find some fiberglass insulation to stuff into the hole to plug that. The apartment business must be good here because we’ve pleaded in vain with the landlord to do something about the cockroach problem. He says they’re the only ones with a problem but the Hermanas tell us every neighbor they talk to has the same cockroach infestation. It’s a little humorous for us to hear the Hnas tell of these ‘huge’ cockroaches and hold their fingers 1/2 – 3/4” apart – that’s the WIDTH of an Arizona cockroach! They had to leave for an appointment before we were finished but we successfully made it back to the Metro station and to the office. We had early mediodía that day & worked in the office for the rest of the day.
Next week is transfer week again in the mission and Thursday, after the decisions had been made about who goes where, Pte Clegg made the calls to each of the affected missionaries. I’m pretty sure that triggers a lot of ringing phones throughout the mission and wonder if the news of the first calls spreads faster than he can make calls to the last ones.
We, the office missionaries, had been assigned to have a game prepared for a traditional ‘night of the branch’ social. We had talked about what to do and made a tentative decision but we reluctantly went to the church Friday night at 8:00. 20-25 minutes later they got started and, by then, had 20+ people there – including some investigators – for the evening. The Assistants taught a short lesson about Christmas, we had a closing prayer, played our game (Heads Down, Thumbs Up) for half an hour and they had refreshments. It turned out to be a good evening for us and a good opportunity to hear and practice our Spanish with (mostly) young people.
The Cleggs have started a tradition of having breakfast with the office missionaries on the Saturday before transfers – i.e. last week. We had to get up earlier than normal to be there by 8:00 and we helped in the preparation of French toast, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, bacon and juice, the Elders came and the breakfast became sort of a going-away time for Elder Moore – he’s being transferred to Gijón and is being replaced by Elder Dredge (I think he’s from Cottonwood Heights) as an Assistant to Pte Clegg. Flo and I helped clean up, Flo got a hair trim job and we stopped at a grocery store on our way home. I went to the office to enter a baptism recommend from the preceding weekend and we had time to relax for a couple of hours then got ready and took the Metro to Bilbao for a baptismal service – an 8-year-old from the Bilbao Ward and a young women the Assistants have taught here in Las Arenas. They set up extra chairs and people still spilled into the overflow areas – it was a very nice service. The little girl was baptized first and was trembling as she entered the font and, wouldn’t you know it, had a foot come out of the water as she went under – she refused to be baptized again. So they baptized Neyla (a truly remarkable young woman), dropped the curtain on the font and persuaded the little girl to be baptized again. While they dressed we watched a couple of segments of ‘Reflections of Christ’ that created a very special spirit that most seemed to feel. There were several investigators there and most seemed to feel and be moved by the Spirit.
Today was another moving experience in our F&T meeting – the chapel was nearly full (more so than we’ve seen it before) and the meeting was filled with good testimonies (including Neyla). At the end, our branch president bore his testimony and totally broke down in tears – he’s a humble, quiet man and we aren’t sure what triggered the emotion but we felt his love for the Lord. Flo gave the closing prayer for the meeting (in Spanish) and did great. I’ve observed that our prayers in Spanish are either very short or have lots of mistakes (sometimes both) but we’re getting better. However, each time we think we’re making significant strides, someone speaks uninterrupted for a minute or two and we’re quickly lost. We’re not discouraged though, just wish that we were good enough to understand what’s being said and participate in a meaningful conversation.
We’re having a great experience here – it is so good to see the changes that come to people as they accept and strive to live the gospel. Being around so many who don’t have the gospel and knowing what it could do for them (so many people smoke and the amount of alcohol they consume is staggering) is motivation for working hard. And we see enough members who still are struggling that we know there’s a lot to do even within the church. We’re really thankful to be here and love and appreciate each of you so much for your emotional and spiritual support. Flo had found some Christmas decorations that appear to have been accumulated over time and she put those up in our piso yesterday so we’re getting into the Christmas spirit. Hope everything is going well for each of you – I’ve tried to hint that we love to get letters – and we send our love and best wishes to each of you again this week.
Love to all, E&H Belnap