Soldado de Dios

March 5, 2012


We had a weird week of…a lot of run-ins with critters? An alacrán is a scorpion-like creature with long pincers at the front. It is venomous and found in the deserts of Catamarca, and in the sister missionaries´ pensión because we live next to an empty lot where all the neighbors throw trash and so all manner of creatures find their way into our pensión.

This week Hna Steward got stung by an alacrán! We went to the guardia, the free public hospital (everything in Argentina is free and public—hospitals, universities, housing…). The doctor who attended us didn´t even look at Hna Steward´s skin (which was breaking out in huge peso-sized lumps and a weird rash), but instead shamelessly hit on us. When we told him that we were missionaries de la Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Días, he proceeded to warn us about “los Mormones,” who pretend to be missionaries but are actually U.S. government spies who gather information about the poor class of people, because the poor people don´t know any better but to answer their questions. It´s always funny to tell them that we´re the Mormons.

So that was sketchy Argentine hospital round one. Between Hna Zabala´s eye surgery, Hna Adair´s dog bite, and Hna Master´s tendonitis and subsequent physical therapy, I have gotten pretty good at managing Argentine hospitals. So I decided just to take Hna Steward to the nicest sanatorio in Capital, and we got better service there (the médico there only asked a few creepy questions, which is pretty good for an Argentine man). The diagnosis was that Hna Steward was having a severe allergic reaction to the alacrán venom, so she needed a shot. What I understood, but got lost in translation for Hna Steward, was that the shot had to be in her bum. When I broke the news to her she busted out into uncontrollable laughter, which continued all through the administration of the shot and the bus ride home. She was a way good sport about it. When we got home I made her a bread pudding (budín de pan) while she slept it off. Poor traumatized compie.

Also, the other night I got up to go to the bathroom. The bathroom door was open a crack; I reached in and flipped on the light and waited a minute to give the cucarachas a chance to scatter, like I always do. Then as I opened the door and walked in—I felt something land on my head! It had fallen from the door frame or the ceiling above! I reached up and flicked it off, and a six-inch long lizard landed on the tile floor. I then spent about twenty minutes trying to catch it to throw it outside, without success. In the morning it was gone. I think it crawled down the shower drain.

Remember the crazy cucaracha house I moved into when I first arrived in Catamarca? We did the service project of helping to clean it out. It was really gross and surprisingly fun. The oldest daughter Bianca (who dreams of going to BYU, and who I promised to invite over for Christmas and drive around whenever she needs a ride) blasted her “cool” American music—Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber, while we all cleaned and swept and scrubbed everything.

Okay enough about gross bugs and critters. Once in a while we actually do missionary work too.

Our incredible investigator Carlos Verandi came to our pensión to fix our calefón so that we wouldn´t die of a gas leak. We offered to pay him, but he insisted on doing the work for free. I can hardly believe he is getting baptized on Saturday! He participated with great comments and insights in the Principios del Evangelio class, and afterward I overheard him talking to someone about how excited he was to be a member and be able to work in the kingdom. He said, “You know, in the world I´m not worth much—once you´re over forty, no one wants to hire you because you´re too old. But here in the kingdom of God, I´m fifty-one and I´m still worth something. I can still be a good soldado de Dios, a soldier of God.”

Carlos has had to make a lot of changes in his life—including separating from his live-in girlfriend, his pareja, and quitting smoking to be baptized. I think the happiest people of all are Nildo and Silvina Ledesma, his good friends who introduced him to us. They´re so happy that their friend and neighbor of eleven years is finally going to be part of the church they love. The joy of teaching Carlos has been worth all the difficulties, including putting up with Nildo Ledesma´s jokes about how all women need to learn their place in the creation. My rebuttal is usually, “¿Porque Dios creó a Adán y después Eva?” Why did God create Adam and then afterward Eve? “¡Para tener un borrador!” To have a rough draft!

I can´t believe I´ve lived in Argentina for a year! I think this has been the greatest year of my life (and craziest, for sure). It really blows my mind that the Lord lets people as imperfect as me participate and help out in his work of salvation. My testimony of the Lord´s power in our lives has grown so much. In the past two weeks I have seen him work so many miracles in the lives of my investigators—twenty-year-old David was able to quit smoking and gain a testimony of the Restoration. Natalia and César were able to put aside their differences and their history and decide to get married and form a family together. Carlos was able to separate from his antagonistic pareja Liliana. This is the Lord´s work, no question.

Love you kid.


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