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Monday, November 29, 2010

First Baptisms!!

Querido Familia y Amigos,

Well this week I am doing fabulous!!! Except for this morning... in our Pension we have a sink and shower and everything, but the heat is so crazy so sometimes it wont be hot and other times it will be the hottest thing known to mankind... Haha. So this morning I was just going to wash my hands and I turned the water on hot and it totally burned my hand, like pretty bad... SO that wasn´t fun but its fine, its not that bad I just exaggeratted haha, but not fun.

SO we had interviews with President Lindahl this week, and he is back and healthy which is a great blessing!! They were great, he has such a love for all of us missionaries. The interviews are interesting because he just likes us to talk about everything, but you can see how much he cares that way. He asked me how I was doing and I said I was doing great and he was so happy to hear that. He asked me what I wanted next transfer and I thought it was a test or something so I had no idea what to say. I ended up saying a change would be nice, so he wrote that down haha. He also asked me if my companion was ready to be Zone Leader and I told him I thought he was. It was a hard question because when you are someones comp you see all of their imperfections, but he has a talent of teaching and taking over leadership positions. I think that he is one of those people that when he is asked to lead, that is when he excels more. He isn´t the most ´´personable´´ person, but he is a good Elder. Anyways the interview went great and President made some amazing promises to me. He is a deeply spiritual man who has a unwavering testimony. I have a feeling that I will be moving this transfer because of what I said, but I really don´t know. I have grown to love the people here in ´´Rodeo de la Cruz´´ (name of the city), and I will be sad to leave but who really knows. We find out Dec 6th and will leave the 8th depending on what happens.

OOOHH while I was at the offices I got your package!!! Thanks so much Momma it got here safe and sound without being rifled through that was a blessing :) I loved all the things in there and I needed those bleach pens, my mom sure knows me... haha. Also the pictures were great and all the yummy treats, thank you so much I loved it!!!! This last Saturday all the Elders in our Zone sang at a primary function for those who were going to enter young mens or young womens. We sang, ´´Yo trato de ser como Cristo,´´ Llamados a servir, Quiero ser un misionero ya, and some others! It was great and at the end we went up to one of the kids, gave them a paper with our testimony and one of the missionary planners that we use so they could see what it is like. It was great :)

SO thanksgiving was uneventful haha, but to celebrate my companion and I bought Lomos sandwhiches which were really really good!! Its like a steak sandwhich sort or except supposedly Lomos is the best part of the beef or something. It was a small little celebration but nice. I eat these little things called tortitas a lot, its like a small little biscut and there are a lot of types, but its simple cheap and tastes good. They have Panderias everywhere that selll them, or a bakery.

SOOO we finally had our first baptisms on Sunday after church!!! :) I had the opportunity to baptize Rocio a ten year old girl with a really hard life. It was a sweet experience for me, and it will be always remembered as the first person I had the opportunity to come closer to Christ. My companion baptized her brother or ´´cousin´´ so that was great. We have worked a lot with this family and they are coming back to church and feeling the SPirit again in their lives. That is the joy of the mission. Someone wrote a fourth verse that i had never heard until this week to the famous hymn, ´´Because I Have Been Given Much´´ the fourth verse goes like this:

Because of thy life´s mission Lord, I too must serve,
And leave the comfort of my home to teach thy word
I´ll find the sheep who´ve gone astray, and those who´ve never known the way
I´ll make thy work my work today

I really loved that. As I have now passed three fast months on my mission I have come to understand more the divine call of a missionary and the Heavenly comission by the Savior to bring the sheep back into the truth path of the Lord. The last couple days I have felt the SPirit so strong and have had special experiences which continue to give me the unyielding testimony in this Gospel. I am not a blind follower, but have personal evidence for the faith I am excercising everyday (Heb 11:1). Im so astounded at the hope the Gospel bares and gives me everyday I live it right, and try to magnify my calling. I know the Gospel is true, that Jesus is the Christ, even the Great Jehovah, and that God our Father,that Man of Holiness is the literal Father of our Spirits and we are his offspring (Acts 17:29). I am grateful we have a personal God, one who can hear, speak, eat and drink (Deut 4:28). I love you all and I am doing phenominal!!

Elder Passantino

Sunday, November 28, 2010

El Capo

Familia y amigos!

Well I think I should explain the subject line first, (El Capo). It basically means stud here in Argentina and the Elders say it all the time about good Elders, we say, 创Que Capo创 it's pretty funny. This week/today we went to the zoo in Mendoza! Lets just say it was a lot different than the Zoos in the states. I didn't see one worker in the whole big park, only at the beginning where you pay... And the cages for the animals were big enough that you could go in and reach your hand in and feed them. So many people at the park were feeding the monkeys and stuff it was crazy. I don't think the maintenance there was very good becuase as we were watching the monkeys a bunch found a way out of this huge fence/cage and stole some things right out of this guys backpack next to us!... We were like what in the world!!!! They all started going crazy and then just started jumping through all the trees in the oark wherever they wanted, and there wasn't a worker in site. It was actually pretty fun, but a little crazy. Its a big zoo that overlooks the city of Mendoza, because it is on a hill and its really pretty. We went with lots of the Elders in our Zone so it was a lot of fun. I have made some really good friends already with lots of the Elders so my funny personality has started to come out here finally in Argentina haha!!

This week I went on my first splits or 创divisiones创 with an Elder named Elder Mamani. He is from Buenos Aires also, but his family is Bolivian. We went on them because he is companions with the District Leader and the DL needed to come to our area and do the baptisimal interviews. SO I stayed the night in a city called San Jose with Elder Mamani and the Zone Leaders! It was a lot of fun and a good change for a day. The zone leaders are awesome too and very spiritual and loving. They are from Buenos Aires and Paraguay! So I have had a lot of opportunity to practice and continually refine my Spanish!!! I am feeling much better with everything in the language, (dont get me wrong It's still incredibly hard, and I still don't understand a lot) But I can really feel my improvement a lot more. I got to help Elder Mamani write his sort of 创farewell创 letter from the mission with his life goals, and what he felt he has accomplished in his mission. It has to be written in English so it was interesting trying to decipher what he was writing in English and correcting it. We all had a good time together, and at the end he awarded me with my first tie in the Mission that is a special tie with the Argentine colors from Buenos Aires!! I was very grateful and it was just awesome of him!

This last Saturday a counselor in the Bishopric talked to me and asked me to give a fifteen minute talk(in Spanish obviously) the next day at church. Now Saturday was already a very busy day for us, and I was a little nervous, but I had faith that it would all work out. It did :) I prepared the talk on one of the missionary lessons called the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a little shaky, not going to lie, but I felt like I said the words that needed to be said, and that everyone could understand what I was saying. I was very grateful for my Heavenly Father and the mercy he shed on me to help me out with that!!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ really is so simple. It is Faith in Jesus Christ, Repentence, Baptism for the Remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and ENDURING TO THE END! Basically our purpose as missionaries is to invite people to live that, and reap the blessings of following the example the Lord put forth. I think the reason that we don't receive more and more revelation sometimes is because we haven磘 mastered the basics. That's why we are constantly learning the first principles over and over again, because they are vitally important. When we understand and apply those pricipals we are able to comprehend the greater and deeper doctrines of the Kingdom of God. When we exercise our faith in the little things, the Lord sees it fit to reveal greater things. We can learn more through mastering and putting to practice the basic principles, rather than reaching beyond the limits of our current understanding. When the basics become our basics the complexity and greater grandeur of the Gospel takes root in our souls inter the enlarging of our understanding of the greater things. How grateful I am for the simplicity that becomes the depth of eternity through diligent obedience to the basics. I don't
think I explained that very well, but there is a much better explanation by Hyrum Smith about the first principles of the Gospel in P.M.G. that you should look up!! ANyways I am beginning to find myself more and more in the service of my fellow men, and I am starting to understand greater things through the Spirit. The mission is amazing, hard though it may be, it molds the boy out of the man of God. I磎 so grateful to be a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ at such a young age! I am so happy and grateful!

We have our first three baptisms this week and I am so excited :) :) They are either Saturday or Sunday, but keep these amazing people in your prayers, Rosio, Luciano, and Ornela! I love you all keep smiling through the hard times, and know that the Gospel is true!

Elder Passantino

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hola my family and friends!

Dear Family and Friends!!

So another week has come and gone! This week has been really nice, because my companion and I are starting to get the hang of things and knowing where things are in the town. We have had a lot of cool and interesting experiences! Yesterday when we were walking home, I got spit on for the first time so that was fun :) haha. Just some punk teenagers who drove by on a motorcycle. I didn´t give him the satisfaction of turning around though. You just have to let things like that go. That´s something else I learned. I could have turned around and started yeling at him and stuff, but I don´t think I would have exactly been following the Savior´s counsel on the Sermon on the Mount if I did that! When we got back to our pension, I told the other two Elders about it and they lauged and said so you are finally a missionary ;) haha I thought that was funny, because we all get experiences like that. Oh the wonderful life of a missionary, it´s definitely worth it!

I talked last week about a family named the Quirogas and how they wanted to come back to church. It has been one of the first real blessings of my mission to see their change and wllingness to follow the path of the Lord. They have one son named Luciano who is nine, and they adopted another daughter named Rosio who is now ten, from the sister of the father. (If that makes sense). Rosio´s mom is a big drug addict and stuff so they adopted her to help her have a better life. This week as we were teaching their family, and focusing on Rosio and Luciano, we could just see that they were genuinely happy. Rosio is this beautiful little girl, who when you talk to her more and more has seen and been through a lot of things a little girl shouldn´t have to endure. You could tell when we first started working with her that she had a certain fear of something. It has been a miracle to see that fear in her eyes set free as she has been exposed to the truth that God is her Father, Jesus is her Savior and Redeemer, and that she has a special purpose in this world. We have personally seen the light fill her eyes. When we first talked with her about the possibility of baptism she said no, but after working with her for 2 and a half weeks ago she has made the decision to be baptized, following the example of the Savior and being baptized by someone who actually has authority (Heb 5:4), not someone who has called themselves to have that power vested in them. It was one of the happiest moments of my mission yet, as we went to visit their humble home, and she saw of coming and ran up to me and said, ¨I made the choice to be baptized all by myself (her parents were very adament about that, so they didn´t influence her at all), and I want you to baptize me!´´ It was a tender mercy of the Lord to me to know that he had touched even the heart of a child to change and to feel the love and the fruits of the Spirit. It filled me with so much joy and I can´t describe how happy it made me :) So my first baptism on the mission is November 27th, where her, her brother, and another girl named Ornella, who is in a similar situation to the other children are getting baptized. We are so excited and give God the glory, and thanks for letting us be his instruments to bring to pass exceeding happiness in the lives of these three children!

We ended up not having interviews with President Lindal, because he had to go back to the States. I guess he had a heart murmur and needs to get it checked out. All the Elders are praying for him and hoping that he can made it back swiftly without any problems. As I have said before, there are four Elders in our pension, Elder Arrua from Uruguay, Elder Aparcana from Peru, myself and Elder Morinico my companion from Buenos Aires, so it is quite a diverse group. It helps you learn Spanish better though, because the only means of communication, is obviously Spanish! They are such great men as well. Elder Aparcana is 24 and was baptized about two years before he decided to go on a mission, and he always is there to lift people up. He is very cheery, kind and spiritual. Elder Arrua is the same and has a really hapy and funny demener which is nice. He also is always doing service, like cleaning certain things and giving us food and stuff so that is awesome! I´m grateful for such nice rommates!

In the mission you work with lots and lots of less active members and try to meet their needs. It is hard sometimes to understand the reasons why, but we have to try. I told the story of my Great Grandmother Nane Angela who would always want to give us something when we went to her house (like all my sweet grandmothers) like fresh cookies or bread or something to that affect, because she loved us so much and wanted to give us something. And then how the last time she ever saw us, she was in the hospital and had nothing to give, so she called the nurse over to give us some ice, as a final act of giving and kindness. This act alone has had a profound affect on my life, and has helped me in understanding a little bit more about our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Their invitation is always the same. They beckon,¨´´come follow me.´´ It is always an invitation. It is our free agency that chooses whether or not we will receive the promised blessings of their rest. I think that my Great Grandmother taught me about how much God wants to bless us, all we have to do is come unto him and receive the blessings. Jesus Christ suffered for everything, gave us the only way we could live with Him and our Father again. He trod the path that none other could, becuase he loved us enough to give us all we had, if we could only forsake the world, and come and follow him. People try to justify every which way for ´´sort of following him´´ or ´´I know he lives, but his teachings aren´t convenient with my way of life,´´ or ´´I don´t have time because of work,´´ or whatever. If we just make the decision to always follow him, we will live a life of no regrets. I cannot think of one time that I regreted going to church, reading my scriptures, bearing my testimony, or making the right choice, but I can however remember times where I didn´t follow him and I have suffered, regretted and payed the price. Satan makes it seem that the wrong choice is always easier, but with Satan´s path is the consequence is always harder. God gives us peace rest and tranquillity, while Satan gives us immediate pleasure for eternal painful consequences. As a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I boldly declare that Christ´s invitation is open unto all who want the good consequences. As missionaries our purpose is to invite people to come unto Christ by helping them receive the Restored TRUE Gospel of the Lamb. We are his instruments in inviting, and I am humbled and grateful for this opportunnity and responsibilty. I wouldn´t want to be anywhere else, but in the service of God. I love you all and my prayers are continually out for all of you!

Elder Brian Passantino

Monday, November 8, 2010

Crazy Weather in Mendoza

Querido Familia y Amigos,

So another week down and lots of things happened!! Well I guess first I´ll give you all a little more about the culture here in Mendoza and in my area Rodeo de la Cruz. I guess I didn´t really say but there are wild dogs all over the place so that is sort of weird for me, but I´m already used to that haha. I have almost stepped on so many because they just sleep in the middle of the sidewalk so thats been funny. None of the ones I have seen are aggressive or anything so that´s nice. Oh we do clap at lots of the houses/doors instead of knocking because lots of houses are gated off or they just dont really have something to knock on. It´s sort of hard to explain, but ya we clap and knock on doors. Every window in everyones house or building is like jailed off, I can´t think of the word right now, like bars haha. Oh man I think my writing in English is getting worse now, I'm going to be bad in two languages!!

So yesterday I experienced what it was like to have a real dust storm. When the wind comes over the Andes from Chile it's really cold supposedly, but when it comes back down it gets really hot here in Argentina. So yesterday it was really hot, and there was like a sharp heat wind. The wind was the strongest I have ever walked in, and it was a fog of dust. There was one point later in the day that my companion and I were walking to a house to go visit a family and the wind and dust got so strong that we couldnt even see five feet in front of us, and so much dirt got in our eyes and hair. It was crazy!! We had to find shelter then because the wind was pushing us around too, and it was so dang hot! My companion told me that after there is a really windy day here with that hot air, the next day would be cold. And now I am a witness that today is COLD! It´s so random, but its fine. It has been getting hotter and hotter though here as we start summer so today has actually been kind of nice. I am in the Center of the city Mendoza right now because my companion wanted to show me around here and go shopping and stuff. We ate at Subway, which was fairly similar to the one in the states, except it´s better in the States. Then we got some fries at McDonalds. That is a popular place here and the prices are way high, but it´s like a resturaunt here so its a lot nicer, but it was nice to get some good old American fires and food, something I have missed. I bought a little mini Bible in Spanish today that I can carry around, becuase my other Bible was just way too big so I am happy about that. In Rodeo there are a lot of Evangelicals, and people from this church called the Universal Church. I guess there has been a huge scam with them and people are all upset because they are like robbing the people blind of their money, and do some really strange things. The people here are pretty superstitious too and have some ´´interesting´´ views on life, but it´s fun talking to them.

I think that most of the people are really nice here. They beat around the bush a lot though, like they aren´t very straitforward people. That´s a little different, because if someone doesn´t want to talk or something, they won´t hardly ever say that! It´s funny. Ever Monday we get together with our Zone/District which is called Guaymallen and we have a District meeting. My whole District is latino so it is pretty interetsing sometimes. My Spanish is still getting better, but it is frustrating not connecting with people sometimes. That´s the hardest part is trying to connect, become friends, and especially be funny with people. The people here in Mendoza are really funny, and when they see a missionary from the States they always try to say something in English, it´s pretty hilarious sometimes because they will mess with me for not understanding them or not saying something right, and then I just say, ´´try to pronounce this word´´ and I show them a word in English and they totally torture it haha. So when someone gives me a hard time, I know how to respond!!

On Wednesday we are going to have interviews with the President so that should be awesome!! Oh I forgot to tell you all, you know how you told me there was someone in our family history from Mendoza Argentina? Well he thought that was awesome, and he said like six months into the mission or so he would give me and my companion a free travel day anywhere in the mission to go and find them or who it WAS!! I thought that was really cool of him, so if you could possibly find anything about that person let me know! Oh most of the cars here are Fiats, Peugots, trucks(lots of Toyotas called Hillux). We ride the bus basically everwhere we go(out of town) and yes its just as crazy as it was in San Fran or Oakland haha.

There is a sweet lady in the ward who washes our clothes, and can cut our hair so that saves us a lot on expenses and is so nice of her. Her name is Sister Moreno :) Well the Gospel is true and I´m so grateful for that knowledge! I wouldn´t be here if I didn´t know that. The mission is a tough experience filled with lots of hard work, but the things that it teaches you are eternal principles. Such as, how to follow the Spirit, patience, diligence, love, how to work with someone else, how to listen and meet peoples needs, how to pray and react to answers, how to balance your life between the things that matter and the things that don´t, how to deal with rejection and persecution, how to give glory to God and not to yourself, how to change your way of doing things rather than try to change someone else´s, and how to come to know God the Eternal Father and Jesus Christ our Saviour. It is a molding experience that prepares yourself and others for living with our Father in Heaven. I have realized how many things and behaviors I need to change in my life, and how I can better balance it. You are more aware of the aching state of the world, and the hope that the Gospel has. Something I have had to do, is rely solely on my faith and testimony rather than on the knowledge of the Gospel. That is one of the reasons I know I am here to bare testimony of truth and let the Lord do the rest, rather than drown someone in all the things, (good as they may be and true) that aren´t as important. Its been amazing so far. Also by far the hardest thing I have done physically, spiritually and emotionally though too. It is a sweet sacrifice of two years that will culminate in blessings which I am sure will come.

We are teaching an inactive family named the Querogas and they came to church again after ten years! They talked about how happy they felt and how much better they felt. It was something amazing to be apart of. They have two children that are nine and eleven who both want to get baptized. It is such a sweet Gospel of Peace that I love. I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve, hard as it may be, but I get to see the Spirit light up the eyes of the hopeless, and bring a spirit of truth and love, unlike anything else on this earth. I love you all so much! Keep the faith, and come to know who God is and his Son, Jesus Christ. I have the greatest family and friends in the world! I love you all and I am doing great!

Elder Brian Passantino

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Day After Halloween!!

Dear Fam and Friends!!

So ten days in Argentina already its going by pretty dang fast so I have to make the best of it all! Yesterday was Halloween and you wont be able to guess what I was... READY... A missionary! lol. With an orange tie :) haha so I guess I had some of the Halloween Spirit. I wore it with my black suit so that will work for me.

So how are things going here?? Well they are going very well. Its been a hard first week, just with the culture shock and everything but I'm doing great still. The language is very difficult and frustrating, but I take comfort in knowing that every missionary who has had to learn a new language has gone through the same thing I have and all that is going to help us My Father in heaven, diligent work and study of the language, and a patience I have never had before, but which the mission has really taught me and helped me develop. Its been a great blessing to be able to receive the gift of patience in all things. I feel like that is one of the refining things that I have needed to learn and develop. So Im grateful for learning that now, early in my life.

The members here are so kind and nice. They are always willing to help and give the missionaries some food or Talca. Basically Talca is Coke just a bit cheaper than Coke here. Coke is way expensive here but the people love it haha. So basically our schedule is that we get up at 630 pray and work out, then from 7 to 8 we eat breakfast and take a shower, basically get ready for the day. The at 8 its personal study, 9 its companionship study and then we are usually out of the door at 10. We usually have people to go and visit and talk to, or we will do 创ALB创 which means Abrir la boca, or open the mouth to people on the street. We have Lunch every day with a member at around 1 to 130. It is weird though becuase usually when we get there, they start cooking so we are usually there until about three. After that we go back to our 创Pension创 Which is the word for our apartment, during the Ciesta. The Ciesta is from about 1 to 530 and all the stores close down and everyone goes home from work and goes to sleep or just chills in there house with there family drinking Mate haha. Its pretty funny actually! After we get back to the pension, I do an hour of language Study, and my comp helps me with it for about 15 min and then I do it by myself, while he goes and takes a nap.

Everyone is so tired during Ciesta time its really funny. Especially since my comp is from Buenos Aires he dies during that time. But that time for about an hour or hour and a half is sort of like a planning and relaxation time for the ELders here. SO its a good time to have language study. I need it!!! The hard part with the language is trying to help people out and connect with them, but its so hard when you cant understand the little parts of what they are saying. Its ok though my companion helps me out and I usually get the jist of what is going on. All I need is time and that will come. We leave the pension between about 430 and 500 and go out and do similar things. We walk a lot!! Probably close to ten miles a day. The city is pretty spread out so we have our work cut out for us when we start walking. But its nice we can talk to people outside their homes and things and on the street.

It is amazing how the Lord puts us in the path of people when they need help. Like right now we are teaching this Lady named ALicia and her husband died about five months ago. She loves when we come by because she says she can feel the Spirit. She is also trying to quit smoking and so we are helping with that too. The World is a really troubled place sometimes, but Im glad we have a Savior that knows what they went through, because heaven knows I cant understand things like that. Luckily though we can bring the good news of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and that there is an entire perfect plan of Salvation that is in itsleft an absolute miracle. We meet many people who are struggling with the loss of a loved one, addictions, abuses, and really anything that is bad or horrible. Many of them go to church but just cant feel that hope and peace. Its an amazing feeling when we talk to them and you can see their eyes light up becuase of the message of the Restoration and that there is a way away from the pain and suffering. Even those we teach and talk to without terrible problems, know that we are there to help show them the way of Jesus Christ. Its a humbling and great responsibility but I am very grateful for the opportunity.

The Miracle of this Church and the Gospel is that they don't have to believe us. The only thing we do is teach and help, but God will answer their prayers. We present the truth and it is their responsibitly to find out if it is true. You could explain away anything in this world with logic, but the power and the beauty of this restored Gospel is that we invite others to read, ponder, and pray and we KNOW they will receive an answer. That is why I am here because I have done the same thing, read, pondered, and prayed and have gained a witness that Jesus is the Christ, we are God's children, and that the same church Jesus organized while he lived on the earth is again here, in La Iglesia de JesuCristo de Los Saintos de Los Ultimos Dias! Its true, and thats my testimony. If people want to feel more happiness and joy than they ever had all they need to do is ask God sincerely, not thinking they already know the answer, but that through the prayer of the humble and faithful seeker they will be given an answer in the affirmative that it is true. Im so grateful for that knowledge.

Missionary work is tough and anyone who has ever served knows that. But that is where the power in it lies. In the grind, in the constant tiredness for the cause of Christ. That is where we find ourselves and our potential. And its all worth it when you can help someone else see that in themselves. If someone doesn磘 believe in miracles, come serve a mission, and Im sure your perspective will change. Im so grateful to be here and I love my mission and the people here. I hope and pray that everyone is doing amazing and Im grateful for all your love and support! I love you all!!

Elder Passantino