How are ya? Thank you for your emails and support... We had a super great week last week in Rio Negro! So, transfers happened. Are you guys ready for a curveball?? Im not Elder Miles anymore.. Im President Miles. I got transfered to a place called Estanislao del Campo and I am the new branch president. (That means like bishop. Like back home how we have Stakes and Wards, here in Argentina where the church isnt very well established we have Districts and Branches. Districts and Branches are smaller than stakes and wards. When the branches in a district reach a certain number of people, the district becomes a stake.) Here in Estanislao del Campo, a missionary is always the branch president because there is no worthy priesthood holding men that could be the president. There is only one other area in our mission where the missionary has to be the branch president. So there are only 2 of us in our entire mission. So it is a pretty big, sacred responsability that President Franco and the Lord have given me. My new companion is Elder Jauregui. He is from Uruguay. He has 9 months in the mission. I was already really good friends with him because I befriended him when he first came to the mission. He is a very cool guy, he is very smart and he knows how to run the branch really well! So for right now, he is basically in charge because he has to teach me how to do everything. He is my 1st counselor. He has already been in this area for a transfer and he was the 1st counselor for the last missionary that was here, so he knows how to do everything and he is going to teach me. Basically, we do EVERYTHING here. I do almost everything that our bishop at home does... We plan the sacrament meetings on sunday, we give people callings (and we help the people here understand what they need to do to fulfill their calling), we collect, count and put tithings and fast offerings in the computer every sunday, we plan and do all the branch councel meetings, we organize and clean the chapel, we give lots and lots of talks in the sacrament meetings, we order hymn books, cleaning supplies, everything and anything that we need through the internet and by calling salt lake city, I do interviews for temple recommends, interviews to see if someone is worthy and willing to recieve a calling, and many many more things that I dont even know yet because its only my second day here! haha.
Estanislao del Campo (where I am) is clear out in the middle of NOWHERE. It is in the providence of Formosa, which is the providence with the most poverty in all of Argentina. It is the hottest and most humid providence probably in all south america. I am in THE JUNGLE. Its a place where kids dont every really go to school, so there arent very many educated people here. That last word in the name of the place, "campo" sounds a little bit like the english word "camp", right? Because that is what it means. Its just like one big giant camping place for a city. Its like everyone is just camping, but just a little bit more permanent because their tents are made out of metal and tin sheets instead of tarps. The people cook all their food by making fires and cooking the food on the fire. Even our apartment where we live.. to be honest is a wreck. But I dont really want to focus on the negative. I will perfectly fine and I am very happy to be here, so dont give yourself a tumor. (mom ;) )
Also, we arent only in charge of Estanislao del Campo, we are in charge of helping the branches Las Lomitas and El Portrillo progress as well. Las Lomitas is a place where there were missionaries there like 20 years ago but the mission president decided to take the church and the missionaries out of there, but recently, like 9 months ago, President Franco put missionaries back in the area and called a branch president over there. The chapel where they do sunday meetings is just in the living room of the branch presidents house. Elder Miles, my companion like 2 months ago, was the very first missionary to go to Las Lomitas when President Franco opened it up. He LOVED Las Lomitas, so I am excited to go over there to get to know the few members that there are. AND THEN, there is Portrillo. Portrillo is a very special place. A year ago, when the missionaries here in this area were walking down the street one day, they found a man who said that there was a tiny little town of indians like 4 hours away where they were all members of the church and were meeting every sunday underneath a tree to read the book of mormon together. Missionaries like 20 years ago had taught them and bapitzed them all. Theres like a 100 of them. But for some reason they were forgetton about for like 20 years and the missionaries never went there again. Anyway, so this guy that was kinda like the leader of this group saw the missionaries that day and told them that they had to go out to this little town so that they could baptize all their children and friends and stuff that hadnt been bapitzed yet. So the missionaries went out there with president Franco and the baptized A TON of people. But they dont have a branch president over there, they just have a group leader. So the responssabilites of doing interviews for them and all of that stuff is mine. So I guess we go out there like once a week to do interviews and other stuff, I havent been there yet but I am excited to go. From what I hear, we drive for like 4 hours down a road until we get to the town, and they are all native indians and are really really poor, and its really humbling to go there and be with them becuase they LOVE the missionaries and the church.
GET THIS, their native language is Nibacle. Like most of them understand spanish, but they all speak nibacle. WHICH, if you remember, is the tribe of native indian that the missionary (Elder Toledo) that I started training was from. (He was the native indian missionary that I started training but went home after 2 weeks, remember). Yeah. All of Elder Toledo´s family members live in Portrillo, he had even been there to visit his family a few times himself. So I am sure that will be an amazing experience when we go. Im sure this is a lot to understand in one email, huh? And I am probably leaving out and forgetting so many things!
But we are mainly working in the branch Estanislao del Campo. It has a typical attendance of 25 people. Thats why there isnt a branch president or anything, because the branch is struggling to keep its head above water. Those 25 people that do come.. Dont really understand how the church works or how to live the gospel. They cant read too well for the lack of education, and not to be mean, but there are basically all children. They dont undertand that they need to read and pray every day and basic stuff like that. So we barely have a relief society president, and a primary president. Little kids make up the majority of the 25 people that come because people here typically all have like 8 or 9 kids. So theres lots and lots and lots to do here. I still dont really know anyone yet and I dont know what I have to do to be a branch president yet.. but I am sure that I will learn lots over these next weeks. I thought that I was going to end my mission nice and easy.. But this will probably be the time in my mission where I willl work the hardest and stress out the most! But I super excited to be here, I am so excited to learn how to be a branch president. I think being here in the mission is a sweet time to learn how to be a bishop.. When I get back home to the states I will already know to be a bishop and I will understand a lot of things about how the church is organized and ran. So I am sure it will be hard for me my last 2 transfers here but I am sure that I am going to get experiences that I wouldnt change for the world.
Being a branch president, I go to read the book "Manual 1", which only branch presidents and bishops can read. Like its forbidden for normal members to read it. Because it explains what procedures to do when people confess grave sins to you. So I get the great priviledge of reading this book and learning lots! So thats an experience that I might not have ever gotten. So thats exciting.
We have a different schedule than the rest of the missionaries do, because we have to always be planning and diong lots of stuff in the church. So we are here in the office a lot but every chance we get we go visit the members and less actives of our branch to help this branch grow. We have our very own little church! I will attach a picture. Its small but nice. Its super cool, Its like I have my own little church that I am in charge of.
Anyway, my writing time is already coming to an end. I probably wont be able to resond to many of your personal emails, sorry! I will try next week. There is lots that we have to do here right now. Nothing too exciting happened my last week in Rio Negro.. Just the same old. I LOVED being with Elder Grover, it was proabably the best transfer of my mission. He was just a simple easy going hard working guy. It was really sad for me to say goodbye to all the members that I loved there after being there for so long. I gave a pair of my shoes (shoes that I have never used before nor will I use because my shoes that I have used my whole mission will last me till the end of my mission) to one of my really good friends named Ezequiel. He is going to go on a mission in a year and he doesnt have any money to buy himself good shoes and stuff for his mission, he lives with his aunt and doesnt have much. And I had a nice pair of shoes that I wouldnt want to take home in my suitcase with me anyway because they are heavy and take up space, so I just gave them to him. He was so happy and thankful, I will never forget that experience. He is going to be a truly incredible missionary.
I bare my testimony to you all that I know that Christ has called me to this important assignment.. I know that he will help me and my companion every step of the way. The Lord qualifies those he calls. I know that the church is true, I know that it is Gods church and his organization to bring salvation unto his people. I am grateful to administer in this great work. I KNOW that God lives and he has restored his church and his gospel to the earth today.
I still dont have a picture of me and my new companion together. I promise next week I will send one!
I hope you all have a great week, thank you for your support, please be praying for our tiny branch here! We need extra prayers.
Love, Elder Miles
This is Ezequiel, who I gave my shoes to! Super cool kid.
This is our tiny apartment! Its probably the nicest apartment in all the town. I would venture to say that it is the most humble gross apartment in all the mission. But I am cleaning it little by little everyday and I am very happy to be here. There is only a little kitchen, a little bedroom, and a little bathroom. We burn our own garbage because there isnt a garbage system here.
This is the church! It has a little soccer field in the back.