Friday, December 30, 2011

Twas the day after Christmas


Hi all,
It feels really, super weird to have a pretty bad sunburn on Christmas...  That's not normal.  I loved hearing your voices yesterday and I do understand the hardship in communication.  My companion had the same trouble with his parents back on Mother's day and again this time.  In fact, his parents couldn't even reach him, though they tried for a couple hours, so they reset a time through the mission offices for later today.  I hope he gets to talk with them.  I'm pretty sure that I'm going to try Skype next time, but it'll depend on where I am.  If I'm still in Pilar, then I know a place now where I can do that.
Anyhow, last week was a really slow week, workwise.  A lot of our appointments fell through and we had to improvise on the spot, trying to follow the Spirit as to whom to visit.  A lot of the time, we can't really have a lesson either.  There still haven't been any baptisms here since I got here, which is the only month this year that there haven't been any.  That discourages me a little, but I'm trying as hard as I can to get things going.  That's just difficult when you still can't understand most of what people are saying to you.
Since entering the MTC, I've been trying to read the Book of Mormon in Spanish.  This last week, I finished 1 Nephi and began 2 Nephi.  I love the part in the first chapter of 2 Nephi 1:20-21, where Lehi tells his sons the words of the Lord that "Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land... And now that my soul might have joy in you,...arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart..."  It is every boy's dream to be a man, and here we are told how to be men (and women):  keep the commandments.
In my English reading, I'm in Alma and read (I think just this last week) 8-16.  These are chapters I've never thought much about before, but now they mean so much more.  Especially when Amulek comes on the scene.  Here is a junior companion in a missionary companionship, and also a recent convert/less active member of just a few weeks who accompanies Alma to preach to his people.  There's a saying in Argentina when someone is being reproved or gets in trouble and is being chastised (I think chastised is a better word for it): bajar la caƱa, which means "drop cane".  Amulek and Alma here are dropping cane, chastising the people for their wickedness, and calling them to repentance.  My heart pains for Amulek especially in chapters 14-16.  In there, the men who believe are cast out of the city, and the wives and children of the believers, along with the sacred records and holy scriptures, are cast into the fire.  Amulek asks Alma, "How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames".  They are bound with strong cords and forced to watch this holocaust.  The emotions present must have been rending on the heart and soul, especially to Amulek when Alma says these words: "The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand."  WHY?! must have been the thought of Amulek, which Alma answers before it is asked, "for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day."  Here, I wondered.  Amulek and his family lived in Ammonihah.  While he was bound and forced to watch, were his own wife and children led to and cast into the fire?  Was Amulek forced to watch his own family be murdered by the madness of the mob?  In his anguish for the people, Amulek says "perhaps they will burn us also."  But Alma says, "Be it according to the will of the Lord.  But behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not."  Alma is consigned to die, if it be the will of the Lord, but he knows that he still has work to do, so he knows that they will not die yet.
Following this, Alma and Amulek are beaten and accused, the people saying that God could not save those who believed in him, and neither could Alma or Amulek.  Not only were they beaten, but they were starved and left without water for days in prison, and every time someone came to question them, they maintained their silence.  After who knows how many days, the cheif judge in Ammonihah, along with several other teachers and lawyers, all, one by one, smote them on the cheek and sayd "If ye have the power of God deliver yourselves from these bands..."  Alma then cries unto the Lord, using similar words to those of Joseph Smith while in Liberty Jail, "How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ even unto deliverance."  It is granted.  They break their bonds, and as the people flee in fear, they fall before they can leave the jail, and it collapses on top of them, while Alma and Amulek leave the building, untouched by the crumbling walls.  In the following chapter, we learn that almost all of the friends and family of Amulek, including his own father, rejected him, and were later destroyed by the Lamanites, in fulfillment of the words of Alma in chapter 10, verse 23.  Amulek lost everything for the Lord.  Until I just read this, I don't think I had fully realized the pain that he must have felt.  After their work was done among the believers in Sidom, Alma took him back to his home in Zarahemla and "[administered] unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him in the Lord."
Here we read find that Amulek is a wonderful example of one who kept faith, even after losing everything, in the Lord Jesus Christ.  My trials now are small in comparison.  I struggle with a language, with a sunburn, with the occasional blister, and with minor rejection from a few people here.  I still have my family, and a large support system from home and the other missionaries here.  Amulek lost it all.  Sometimes I wonder what I would do it something like that happened to me, and I would like to say that I would keep the faith like him.  I yearn to have that kind of faith.  Five years ago, I don't know that I would have.  With how much I have been studying and learning, I believe that now, as hard as it would be, I would be able to continue moving forward.  And that is what I am trying to do now: Keep Moving Forward.
I've heard an example that being a member of the church is like walking up the down escalator.  If you stop moving, you go backwards.  If you casually walk, you will stay in the same place, never really moving.  You have to move quickly and against the natural direction in order to move forward.  The things that help us to run up are found in the scriptures, in prayer, and in keeping the commandments of God, even in the midst of affliction.
I know this letter didn't have all that much news in it, but I thought that it was more important for me to share this with you: my family.  I thank you for your support, love, and prayers.  I can feel it.  I love you all.
My Christmas was spent in Church, talking with you, and in making visits to members and investigators.  It didn't feel like the normal Christmas, but it was very much a day of celebration.  Every day here can be that way, as long as I keep my view down the road, and not in the rearview mirror.  My past is not as important as my future, and my future depends on my service here.  I know this church is true.  I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son, and that through the Gospel, and living the convenants we have made, we have the promise of returning to live in their presence.  Again, I love you.  I think of and pray for you.  Keep your own eyes down the road, and always look for opportunities to bring others onto the same road.
With love,
Elder Matthew Dewsnup

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Message from Pilar


Alrighty, here's the Scoop!
Dad sent me an email asking what a normal day is like so here we go.  Wake up time is 6:30 and we have until 8:00 to eat, exercise, and prepare for the day.  At 8:00 we have Personal Study for an hour, following which we have about two hours of Companionship Study.  Depending on other things that happen, we may have more or less time than that.  After companionship study, we're supposed to have an hour of Language study for an hour, but I've only been able to do it twice thus far in the last three-ish weeks. we've had a lot of other things that have needed to be done, but we really enjoy our study time.  During each companionship study, we do a practice of introducing the Book of Mormon to someone using the first and last two paragraphs of the introduction to the Book of Mormon, which explain what the book is, three things we should do when we receive it, and three things we'll know once we know the truth of the book.  The two hours of companionship study will only last for the first twelve weeks of my mission while I'm still in training.  There is a relatively new training program called In-Field Training that happens now.  I think it was introduced to missions within the last year or two.  Anyway, after the study time, we prepare for the day with any other last minute things then head to whichever member's house we have lunch with in that particular day.  After lunch, we go to work, most of the time having lessons, but often having to imrovise when appointments fall through.  The proselyting day ends whenever we need it to in order to return to our apartment by 9:00; 9:30 when we're teaching a lesson.  Once we return to the apartment, we plan for the next day (first), afterwhich we prepare for bed, write in journals, etc., to be in bed by 10:30.
Often enough in the last three weeks we've had to change this schedule to accomodate (spelling?) traveling to and from conferences, training meetings, and today I had to go to Capital to register for my two year Argentine papers, as the visa will expire soon.
Dad also asked what kinds of food I normally eat.  So, here's a description of some of the foods:
     1) Empanadas.  These are like turnovers that Dad makes, but instead of being filled with jam, they're filled with meats, potatoes, etc. and baked or fried.  They look like stuffed semicircles of yummy goodness.  Imagine half a jelly-filled donut, but instead of jelly, finding shredded chicken and baked potatoe, or ground beef and a veggie mix.  Anything can go in them.
     2) Dulce de Leche.  This is like Mom's carmels, but creamier.  Dulce de Leche doesn't harden like the carmels we've come to love, but remains creamy.  I'd say the consistency is somewhere in between cream cheese and yogurt.  Maybe closer to yogurt, or the creamy honey that Dad likes to spread on bread.  But it tastes heavenly!
     3) Alfajors (pronounced ahl-fah-hohr).  These are made in a number of different ways and are the most prevalent candy/dessert that you find in gas stations or other stores.  It is made like a sandwich with Dulce le Leche in the middle.  I've seen it like Oreo's, like Ice Cream Sandwiches, etc.  But the way I've liked them best has been a home made variety by a member, where the Dulce de Leche was spread between two wafers (like Nillas, but softer) then rolled in Coconut shavings.
     4) Milanesa.  This is similar to chicken fried steak, but thinner.  The only way I can really describe it, would be a mix between a soft beef jerky and Dad's Chicken Schnitzel.  Sometimes it even is made with chicken, but it is generally beef.
     5) Churi.  This is a type of Sausage similar to Brauts, but sweeter.  When split in half and stuck between two hunks of bread... yum!!!  That is called a Chruipan (Churi being the sausage and pan being the word for bread.
     Other foods are very similar to what it's like in the States: pasta, fruit salad, salads, etc.  There is no really spicy food here, the rare taco at a member's house (which has happened once in my companions' mission, last week with a member family who spends a lot of time in Utah. He's been out for almost 9 months).  There have been no rice and beans dishes served, and the pizzas are lacking for sauce.   But on the whole, there a lot of similarities in the foods.
 Dad, you said I may have received some news in duplicate from both you and mom.  This is true, but I like it, because the two of you tell it a little differently.  I'm pleased about your new guitar and amp!  I hope to hear what it's name is in the next email ;)  The new oven and reupholstered chairs sound like nice Christmas presents too!
Mom, you asked me to give more information on my address and the church and the streets I work on.  Sadly, I'm not supposed to send that information, and even if I could, I don't know it.  I only know where they are in the city.  Suffice it to say our apartment is located near a field by a round-y-round, and the church is between our apartment and the highway, more or less.  Our proselyting area is mostly the casitas between Champagnat and Dr. Thomas de Anchoren, and goes as far north as the Calles there, but we also have the neighboring areas.  We just don't currently have anyone in the other areas that we teach.  The neighborhoods we have are: Las Margaritas, Agustoni, San Alejo, Peligrini, and all inbetween.  All of these are North of  the highway.
Something that we've shared and taught with several investigators and recent converts, and even inactive or less-active members, this week has been the contents of Alma 36 and Helaman 5.  These chapters deal with the counsel of fathers to sons as well as repentance.  Alma 36, of course, is Alma's personal experience with repentance as told to his son Helaman and accounts how it was only after he cried out to Jesus, after he pleaded for the Lord to "have mercy upon me, who am in the gall of bitterness," that he was delivered.  And oh, what joy did he experience!  He says that there was nothing as exquisite and bitter as was his pain, but on the other hand, nothing as exquisite and sweet as was his joy after repentance.  It was from that moment on that he labored with his might to bring souls unto repentance and a deliverance from their sins.  In Helaman 5, we read about the advice of Helaman to his sons Nephi and Lehi, to remember (said 13 times in I think 10 verses) the things and lessons of the past and to always build upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ the Lord.  Later on we hear of them being cast into prison, where a mob came to kill them.  Nephi and Lehi were surrounded by a protecting wall of fire while the mob was surrounded in a cloud of darkness.  Among the mob was an apostate Nephite who remembered the words taught to him in his youth about repentance.  In that moment, he repented, and when the mob cried out pleading to know what to do, that repentant dissenter, named Aminadab, told them what he had been taught, and what they all had been taught by Alma, Amulek, and others, all of whom they had rejected.  The mob numbered about 300.  All cried unto God for a repentance, and then they were surrounded by the fire as were Nephi and Lehi, all witnessing the glory that those two had witnessed.  So great were the experiences of those 300, that they then went out and preached the word, as had Alma, and they brought nearly the entire Lamanite nation unto repentance, to the point that they were more righteous that the Nephites.
That is a message we take.  The message of repentance; a message of hope.  That hope is in Christ, who is mighty to save, and has suffered for our sins that we may not suffer, "which suffering caused I, God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed from every pore" Christ already paid the price.  We don't have to if we come to Him, paying the price of a humble heart and a contrite spirit, willing to make a change in our lives to do whatever it takes to choose the right, even if that means hardship.  Even if we fall, that is why we have repentance and especially the sacrament; to allow us to continually better ourselves and try to be as He is.
We shared the above chapter of Alma with one of the men who dropped us after we attended his wedding.  The next day, when we went back, he had read the chapter and asked us questions.  Then he asked us for more to read.  Hopefully we made an impression to the point of him coming to Christ through the waters of baptism and eventually the sacred covenants of the Temple.
I love you all, and I'll talk to you in a week!
With love and prayers,
Elder Matthew Dewsnup
P.S. The picture attached is me after we returned home from working last night.  I don't think I've ever sweat this much in my life.
P.S.S.  Mom and Dad will be pleased to know that for the first time I ate mushrooms, green olives, and dark meet without a single face of distaste.  I even (surprisingly to me) enjoyed them.
P.S.S.S.  Let Sister Hicks know that I got the package last Friday from the Activity Days girls, and a big thank you to them.  Dad, your letter arrived at the same time.  We had a leadership training meeting at with we all got mail, but if anything else has been sent, as yet I have not gotten it.  Again I'm sorry to all I haven't gotten letters to yet.  Time is of the essence and I don't have much of it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Week 10 {and a half}

{This is Megan... Sorry it's been a while since I've really posted any updates. It's been really busy with the holiday season so I'll just go head and post the actual letters...}


How to begin...
These last two weeks have been some of the most discouraging and uplifting of my life.  All of the baptisms that we had planned for the last two weeks fell through and we had two investigators drop us last week.  Our ward has in its records between 600 and 700 members, but in the last two weeks only about 80 on average have attended and Elder Black says that's the norm here in our area.  The retention rate is our killer.
I still can't understand the language as much as I'd like (meaning I can't understand it perfectly yet) but I know that I need to be patient and continue to listen.  My understanding has improved, but the speed at which some people talk still astounds me, and some of the idioms don't translate perfectly in English, so it's hard for my companion to explain what they mean.  We got our bicycles fixed up and are now riding them pretty much all the time, so the blisters I had are healing over and now my thighs need to be stretched each night, so they don't cramp up.  But as they say in Meet the Robinsons, Keep Moving Forward.  More on that in a minute.
Mom asked what my living quaters were like, though she didn't use those words.  I live in an apartment complex with three other elders (one, of course, is my companion) which is about a mile to a mile and a half south of the Pan Americana highway that runs through town.  The apartment has a front room, kitchen, two bedrooms (though we only use one with four bunks, the other is our study room), and the bathroom.  Conditions aren't as clean as I'd like them to be, so I try to spend a little time each day (more on P-Days) cleaning up a bit.
Mom also asked about meals.  The biggest meal here is Almuerzo, or lunch, which is normally eaten during the Siesta.  The Siesta is a period of the day that lasts for about three hours as a period of rest for people during the day.  They eat and take naps!!  How cool is that!  But we usually eat a large meal with members and then go to work.  The proselyting day ends whenever it needs to for us to return to our apartment by 9:00, so after nightly planning, we then either eat a snack, or go without.  So usually the only meals we do are breakfast and lunch, with a little before bed.
And Mom asked about whether or not I have played piano in church yet.  Seeing as I seem to be the only person in all of Pilar who knows how, yes I've been playing.  I have played in both sacrament meetings and at the ward end-of-the-year social last Thursday.
Right now, while I'm in training, our proselyting hours begin right after lunch, but once I'm done with training, there should be enough time to have one or two appointments in the day before lunch.  The proselyting area that Elder Black and I have right now is the area north of the Pan Americana, which is a poorer section of the town, except for the Countries (gated, walled, and protected neighborhoods, at which there are gaurds and specific things needed to enter).  We don't go into the Countries unless we have a referral to contact, a lesson with a recent convert or lunch with a member in one of them.  Thus far, I've only been in one.
I just looked at the clock here and realized that for all of you at home and in that time zone, it's almost 8:00, which means Joseph just started classes for the day, mom likely has headed off for Curves, and Dad's at work.  Meg and Marving are probably at their separate jobs.  Sarah is teaching her first class of the day and Brandon is probably either spending time with Annie, or has started his own classes (I don't know what your schedule is like as well as I know the Missoula schedule).  That's a really weird thought, seeing as for us, we're approaching our lunch time.
Mom also mentioned that she found Pilar on a map from National Geographic.  If any of the rest of you want to see the town, I'd suggest either using Google Earth or the map section under tools on  If you sign in, you can see mission boundaries and such, boundaries of your ward and stake, a stake directory, and other cool church related things.  On that map, the Pan Americana is called Ramal Pilar.
In one of my personal study sessions this week, I was studying out of Preach My Gospel, chapter five, which deals with the Book of Mormon.  I looked at the section where there are a bunch of questions and then places where answers can be found in the Book of Mormon, and I loved what I found there.  I looked at Alma 22 and 38, and 3 Nephi 13 and 14.  Alma 22 talks about when Aaron is conversing with the father of King Lamoni and the King asks Aaron what he can do to have eternal life (v. 15).  Aaron answers in verse 16 with what I have termed "how to get an answer"  He says "If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest."  This told me that when we want to know the answer to a question or when we want something, we need to pray about it.  The first step to a prayer like this is to have a desire; we really have to want to know something.  Then we bow down before God, repenting of our sins, in prayer, calling on His name in faith.  We approach Him in prayer with a repentant heart.  Then, most importantly in my mind, we have to believe that we'll receive an answer.  Only after that will we receive the hope we want.  I like the fact that it says "receive," because it's not going to be given to us if we're passive about it, or if we don't really want it.  We have to want and then we will obtain.
Alma 38 is where Alma is talking to his son, Shiblon, and many of the things there are great for investigator, member, and missionary alike.  In verse 8, he talks about how his sins caused him "the most bitter pain and anguish of soul" because he knew that he had done wrong in trying to destroy the church and in leading many people to do evil and wicked things.  The best part is that he then says that "never, until I did cry out unto the Lord Jesus Christ...did [I] find peace to my soul."  It wasn't until he reached out to God and to Jesus Christ in prayer, feeling truly repentant, that he was healed.  This to me just talked about how we won't receive forgiveness of our sins without first reaching out to God and asking for it.  We have to humble ourselves and feel truly repentant in order to be forgiven ourselves.  The beginning of verse 12 is wonderful for missionaries too: "Use boldness, but not overbearance."  We need to be bold, as missionaries, in helping people to come to Christ, but we also need to do so with love and kindness, not forcefulness.
3 Nephi 13 and 14 were reiterations of Christ Sermon on the Mount to the people of the Americas, but I found it interesting that the questions asked in Preach My Gospel in connection with these chapters were: How can I balance my career and my family? (13, compare Matthew 6), and How can I improve my relationship with my spouse? (14, compare Matthew 7)
I love the scriptures; there is so much in them that we can learn from and apply that will be us become better people.  I know what I'm teaching is true, and I know that the Gospel can help everyone I teach.  This message is one for the world, and soon all will know it, for the day soon cometh when Christ will appear.  I don't know where that is in the scriptures, maybe Dad can help me with that reference, but we don't know when it will happen, all we can do is prepare for it.
I love and miss you all!!!  And you are in my prayers, as I know I am in yours.  Until next week.
Elder Dewsnup
p.s.  The pictures attached are of my first companiona and I, and then two pictures of my sunburn, one with my shirtsleeve and watch on and shown, the other with the shirtsleeve pulled up and the watch taken off.
p.p.s. at the termination of this email, we are now approaching 9:30 your time, the pictures have taken a
long time to load.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

First Week In the Field

We got an email from Elder Dewsnup on Monday. He has arrived safely!!!! (Well, we knew that from his Mission President but it was nice to finally hear from him.)

His first area is called Pilar, but more particularly their area of town is north of the Pan Americana Highway (where ever that is ;)) and his trainers name is Elder Black. He's hoping that he'll be able to send some pictures soon. When he does I'll try and post them, if he sents them through email.

He says that Dewsnup doesn't exactly translate well into Castillano which is the Spanish dialect where he is at right now. But he said that everyone that he has talked to so far is surprised with how much that he understands and can speak so far.

They are in a biking area. So, and this is for my mom, please pray that they stay safe. My mom read in the Desseret News a few weeks ago that two missionaires got hit by a car when they were biking around dusk and I know one for sure has passed on. He had just extended his mission 3 weeks and so I can't imaging how his parents felt. So please, keep him and his companion in your prayers.

The most important information is regarding when and how he receives letters. He said "...we receive them (letters) no less frequently than at transfers every six weeks. If we were in the states, you could just send things straight to our apartment adress, but here they have to go to the mission home first, where they are kept until there are either meetings with the president or we are transfered, so if I don't reply to things for a really time, chances are I haven't received it yet." So... please don't stop writting. Continue to write him. There is nothing more depressing then to find out on transfers (or whenever he gets to meet with his Mission President) that after 6 weeks he hasn't received any mail. We've gotten pretty close with the missionaires in our area here in Montana and well, it really does affect them when they don't get a letter for a week or two or more. It's important for them to recieve those letters. And better yet, they don't even have to be LETTERS but notes. Send postcards, quotes, inspiration scriptures, it doesn't have to be a long drawn out letter, but it means the world to them when they something!!!

He wanted to also apologize to those he hasn't hand written to yet. He doesn't exactly have a lot of time to write letters like he thought he would but he is doing his best. Like I said above it is more important that we write him and encourage him and are there for him then to recieve a personal response back. You can always continue to check here for his progress.

He can't believe that the last 10 weeks have flown by so fast but now that he is in Argentina he is even more excited to push forward and teach the people.

Until Next Week....