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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hoooola Hola Hola, Chamigos. December 31, 2013

Well, you can call me "Bed Bug" now...because I'm pretty sure I have bed bugs. Woke up one morning, legs were just done for. Totally got pwned. Haha anyway...I'm just like one walking mess. Some weird rash on my arm, probably have lice, I look like I just got out of a pool because I'm sweating so much. It's wild. But I am glad to be here in Clorinda.

Where do I even start...So my area is on the border of Paraguay, so a ton of people speak Guarani (?). So thats weird. A lot of them speak it better than Castellano. Crazy stuff out here, man. ANYWAY. I literally always forget everything I want to say to you when I sit down to email. Fetch. Oh yeah, I never thought I'd be a "fetch"guy. Always hated that word. But all of the Latinos say it, so it just catches on haha. So this week, Elder Murphy and I had a real week full of walking and finding. Since we are white washing this area, we have nothing. And we still don't have a pension, so we are living with the zone leaders. It will be way nice once we have our own place so we can organize all of our stuff. We dont have hardly any active members, so references are hard to come by. We spent all of Sunday afternoon and evening using MLS, which is the program where you have all of the members names in your area. You pray about which ones to visit, visit them, find out why you were guided there, either reactivate them, help them with whatever it is they need, or get referrals. Totally struck out. Couldn't find any of the people on our list. Just walked and walked and walked. We asked a ton of people if they knew the family or which house it was, but they all just pointed us in different directions. We tried our best to find them, but we just got pwned haha. Kinda discouraging, but that's okay.

Earlier on in the week, we taught some good lessons. We had this one guy who was saying he liked our church and that he belived faith could move mountains. He then went on to say that his work schedule wont permit him to come to church or meet with us. I reminded him of what he had just barely said...that through faith, all things are possible. He kinda dug himself into a hole there haha. But he said he would meet with us if we are in the area and he happens to be outside.

We had another funny lesson with a lady who is Catholic and doesn't plan on changing. We talked to her about baptism and about needing to have the proper authority and what not. So then we asked her if she would pray about what we had taught her and if she received an answer if she would be baptized. She said no. So we were like...Okay, pretend Jesus was right here. Sitting right next to us. If he said to you "Hey! This is the right church. This is my church. You need to be baptized into this church." would you be baptised? And she goes, "No." Hahaha it was sooo lame. She was super nice and wants to learn more though. She was saying how she learns more from us than she does from her own church. Anyway, we will see how that pans out.

My FAVORITE part of the week was this. We received and investigator from the Hermanas who used to be over our area. The family is the Benite family. The moms name is Romona and she has three daughters and one son. We didn't know about the son until we picked them up for church on Sunday. He can't talk, and I think he may be deaf. Not sure. Anyway. They are super poor. The kids are always outside just playing in the dirt and stuff haha. And they LOVE it! They have a mattress laying out in the dirt that they play on and what not. The daughters are 11, 9, and 4, I think. Romona and the two older girls have baptismal dates, so we get to baptize them! We also are teaching them and preparing them. It has been so neat to teach them and hear how Romona has progressed. Her prayers are straight GOLDEN. Soooo good. I used that wooden Plan of Salvation puzzle when we taught them last. I guess her husband died like 8 years ago, so we taught them about eternal families and what not. The kids loved the puzzle. Solid tool. I believe we are baptizing them on the 11th of January! I'm so excited. It'll be wonderful. It's super humbling to see how they live. The kids are just happy as heck because they don't know any different. It's just incredible!

Gosh dang. So in sacrament, we didn't have a pianist. There also weren't that many people, so you can imagine how it was. Like the worst singing I have ever heard haha. Everyone is starting at different times and with different notes because we didn't have music. We sang "God Be With You Til We Meet Again" or whatever the title is. Hahaha holy smokes, I was hitting up the low part, and I was the only person so it was super hilarious. Ohhh my goodness. Sounded like a bunch of pregnant dogs going into labor. But it was awesome and the people in the branch are great. We also had the Benite family with us at church which was sooo great. Romona originally said she was only going to come for an hour, but ended up staying the whole time with her kids! So cool. I can't wait to baptize them.

Anyway...trying to think of other things. It was Elder Murphy's birthday on Saturday, so that was cool I guess haha. Elder Sotelo is one of the ZLs and he is from Peru. So is the other ZL. But ohhh my heck when they speak English it is the funniest thing ever. They know little phrases and things, so Elder Sotelo always says, "Take it easy, cowboy." It is claaaassic. We all have fun with each other, but we need our own place haha. Elder Murphy and I, since we don't have a ton of members and are brand new to the area, have to pretty much buy lunch and dinner. We have had like one lunch with the branch president. So we bought milanesa and I cooked that for us. We also made egg burritos two nights in a row. We are pretty much the Lord's hobos hahaha. It's so classic. We cook with my Leatherman. The ZLs only have like 3 spoons, a knife, and 1 spatula. We use my leatherman to cut stuff and to grab hot pans. The struggle is soooo real. La lucha es super real. I gave him the rest of my peanut butter M&Ms for his birthday. He was so happy because you can't get that stuff here.

Totally forgot. So one day last week we were walking in our area and this guy comes out of his restaurant and goes "Hey, amigos! Come here!" So it turns out its some American guy who has a restaurant called "Guacamole." He has American food and Mexican food, but the Mexican food is a little different because Argentines don't like spicy stuff so he has to change it a little. Anyway. So we talk with him for a while. His parents are both from Buenos Aires. He moved down here for a girl haha. He is originally from Florida. Super nice guy. Now he has a different lady. He also originally came here to export beef to China, but that went south so he istrying to do whatever he can for money haha. His restaurant is kinda expensive, but we were so stoked. We both ordered chicken quesadillas and a big thing of fries with cheese and bacon. I'll try to send pictures. Aaaaanyway...everything is great! It has definitely been hard, especially because we have to walk extra since we aren't currently living in our area. I am sooo grateful for all of the stuff we have back in the States aha. It's nuts here. OH! One more thing. So when we were heading back from Resistencia last night, we got on this bus. The entire dang bus was full of mosquitos! Whaaaat the fetch, right? Soooo awful. So we sit there and sit there then finally start going. Then we turn around and go back I guess everyone needed to switch buses haha. Anyway...super disgusting. But it was funny. I keep seeing all of these cool little bracelets and rings I want to buy for Ally, but I'll probably do more of that stuff when I only have a couple months left. Also cool necklaces and other things for Kyle. And stuff for Mom and Dad and all of you. Hmmm. What else. I'll hopefully get that package this week. Dang secretaries. Trying to think of other crazy things. Hit me up with more questions, dang!

Just a helpful tip with packages - there really isn't a limit to how many you can send. But I know it is expensive for you to send them. But if you are going to send one, make sure you put like a piece of paper in there that says everything in it is only worth like one dollar. They have to open it with one of the secretaries and if you already have a paper in there saying it's worth a dollar, that's how much they'll charge me to get it. So, don't worry too much about packages! Also, the bubble wrap envelopes don't count as packages I think. So yeah! Also, please let the Dastrup's know I got their card and letters on Christmas Day! Thank them for me and tell them I'll write them back as soon as I can.

Flip, guys. It still doesn't seem real that I'm in another country. In all honesty, it has been super hard. Total change of lifestyle. But the lessons we teach and the people that we talk to make it all worth it. There was nothing better than seeing Romona understand the Plan of Salvation. I am so excited to continue to teach people and tell them about this wonderful Gospel that we have been blessed with. I love all of you so much! Sorry if I missed anything. I have to go, but feel free to ask me questions and stuff! Looooove you all so much and I hope you have a baller New Years!


Elde Sipple

Friday, December 13, 2013

Alright, family. Here we go. I have to try to be brief haha.                                             December 12, 2013

It has been a good week! It's my first and last week as Zone Leader since I'm leaving next week. Our flight plans got changed from the 16th to the 18th. Kind of a bummer, but at least we haven't been reassigned like some other elders. Hoping for the best! I'll be able to call while I'm at the airport. So if I can get you all on the same call, that would be great! If there is anyone that can't be there, send me their number or something.

There is a district in our zone that is having some issues. They've had problems since day one and still haven't been able to get their act together. There's just a lot of contention and pride. It's a district of just 4 elders. They've had meetings with President Pickering and still are just not working well. I'm friends with all of them, but it's hard to know how to help them. They know how they should be behaving and they know how they should be acting. It's all up to them - no one else can make them change. That's something that I've come to realize here. The type of missionary I am is entirely up to me. I can choose whether I want to be lazy or whether I want to take advantage of the time I have to serve the Lord. I want to be able to look back on my mission without any regrets. Gosh dang, I'm so excited to serve. It's weird haha. I know I'll get to Argentina and sound like a total dummy, but that's okay. I'm not scared...just excited for this experience. 

Also, I've been thinking about how people get kind of upset that people come back from their missions and behave differently. It's totally understandable now haha. When you're surrounded by the Spirit for that long and constantly in the Lord's service, it'd be weird to go back to how you used to be. I'm not saying that I want to lose my personality or anything like that. That would be the worst! But I can see how people change. I think about all of my family and friends and I just want them all to be as happy as possible! I'm grateful to have such supportive people in my life.

Dad, Mom, and Grandma - Thank you so much for the wonderful letters. I love reading about what y'all are up to. Grandma, thank you for the sweet card and the money! You are the sweetest grandmother in all of the land. I love you so much! I always look for Jesse and other family members when I walk by their house! Dad, thanks for writing me! I'll be writing a response later today and I'll send it in the mail tomorrow. Mom, that article you sent me was waaaaay cool! Thank you so much for that! Gosh I hate feeling like I'm forgetting to write something...who knows. 

I'm definitely learning to have more patience and to love people unconditionally. I've found the most effective way to help and serve others is to first establish a great friendship with them and then try to be an example. We should seek first to fix our own faults and THEN seek to help others. I'm trying to make everyone here feel welcome and loved. It's hard having to sometimes get involved in some of the zone's problems, but I know it's a valuable experience to have.

My purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ. There are people that are counting on me to bring them the Gospel and help them to progress in this life and in the next. That's hard for me to comprehend. A lot of the speakers in our devotionals have mentioned things pertaining to our purpose. I'm so excited to share this message about eternal families, faith, hope, repentance, love, and God's plan for all of us.

Alright, so some last things. I will attach some pictures, and one will have my new flight info. If I'm forgetting anything, please email me, because I can check pretty frequently now. Also, I've heard some whisperings about riots in that true? Let me know haha. Also, I got a nice treat-package from Grandma Jean and Grandpa Dennis today, complete with a wonderful card and some money. I need to write them!

I love all of you so dang much! I love this Gospel and I love the feelings I get when I teach it and learn it. I am in the right place, doing the right thing, preparing to teach the right people. We are so blessed to have this Gospel in our lives and we need to share it with others! Aaaaaand guess what else is crazy...I'll be in Argentina for my next P-Day...holy smokes! Okay, I have to go.

Hope y'all are doin' well and I hope you have a fantastic holiday season!

Paz y Amor,

Elder Sipple
So cold, so stoic. 

Elder Juanson and I today at Burgers Supreme!

West Campus after the snow! The snow made me homesick haha. I miss the Christmas season with all of my family. Also snowboarding...but I'll be back just in time to shred in two years.

Elder Sandquist and me hangin´at Jamba Juice. 

One of my favorites - this is on Sunday night when our ZL's district left. From left to right: Elder Williams (ZL), Elder O'Barr (ZL), Elder Howard (Kind of ZL...), Elder Earl (Louisiana boy), and Elder Taysom from St. George. The one who gained 30 lbs at the MTC.

Elder Juanson and I with the Nutella Elder Williams gave us!

Say hello to my new blaster. And my best tie. I traded for that beauty, and it is one of the most coveted ties here at the MTC.

December 5, 2013

Cello, all -                                                                                                               December 5, 2013

Lots of changes here in the MTC, both physical and spiritual. Some of the physical changes: My mustache is growing back faster than ever, which is annoying as heck. I think I'm filling out a little. I do like 5 push-ups a day or something so I think it's making me pretty swoll. I also play a lot of 4 square...I'm not sure what muscles 4 square targets, but I think it's doing the job. Or something. I've probably put on like .79 lbs. of pure muscle. I weight myself at Main Campus sometimes. Spiritual changes: I just love being here. I love studying the Gospel. I love learning about my purpose as a missionary and preparing to serve. I love sharing my testimony and hearing other people share theirs. It's the best. I love feeling the Spirit everyday. I'm so lucky to be here! I love reading the Book of Mormon. I'm really getting into it. It's so cool! I was thinking about how wild it would be to be Joseph Smith, translating the plates, and there are straight up prophecies about YOU! It's also cool to read because there are prophecies about us in these latter days. Just awesome stuff.

Ohhh I meant to tell you. One of the new members of our branch presidency is Dr. Hartman. The guy who wrote that color personality book. SUPER sick man. So spiritual, so doctor. Haha he really is way cool.

Okay, some things I forgot to write about. Choir has been so cool! We sang "Jesus Once of Humble Birth" a couple weeks ago which was baller. The Spirit was soooo strong and I just had chills the whole time. "Hope of Israel" was another powerhouse. Then last Tuesday, we sang "Angels We Have Heard On High," and that was killer. Gosh dang I love singing in the choir. I probably drive everyone nuts because I have zero experience singing in choir and the whole "4 part" thing really throws me off. But it's cool because I get mad camera time. AND the Spirit, of course. So, on Tuesday, we were supposed to hear from Elder Nelson, but he couldn't make it because of the snow. So Bruce C. Hafen spoke to us. He delivered such a powerful talk. It was incredible. His emphasis was on not fainting in the day of trouble! He talked about how he's been friends with Uncle Jeff for pretty much his whole life. He said he remembers Uncle Jeff coming to his birthday party when he was three! So that was neat. He also talked about how when Jeff was of mission age, he wasn't sure about going because he was afraid Pat wouldn't be there when he got back. It was cool to hear that about an apostle because sometimes we tend to view them as these perfect beings who have never made a mistake or grew up being perfect. Anyway, super awesome devotional.

It's been fun here. I have a lot of fun with all of the missionaries. Elder Juanson (or Hijo de Juan) and I are good friends. ALSO, Josh Sandquist showed up yesterday and he is in my zone! I'm so stoked. I just love being friends with everyone here and all of the positivity I feel. Hopefully we get our flight plans this week. I'll let y'all know.

How did I almost forget this? Elder Buhler and I got called to be Zone Leaders. We are currently in training, but we will be the official ZL's on Sunday. It's bittersweet for me because I tend to dislike having added responsibility and having to be held accountable for other people. That's just the natural man in me, and I'm more than willing to serve with all of my heart, might, mind and strength. But I'm not one who seeks those leadership positions. I would've never thought that I'd be called to be a ZL. I know we need to be loving and act the way Christ would. We need to help others and build them up. Anyway, so that's kind of exciting! What else...hmmm. OH!

Okay so last week something crazy happened. One of the hermanas in our district has had some health problems that she has told me about. Well we were all in class and about to head home for the night when she said she was feeling dizzy. She put her head down for a bit, then we had district prayer. Right after district prayer, she started getting way worse. She was on the ground hyperventilating and shaking. We asked if we could bless her, and she said yes and to hurry. She thought we had left because she wasn't really aware of what was going on, so she said it was awesome for her that we were right there, ready to bless her. So I grabbed my oil and Elder Coates annointed her and then I blessed her. We were all on our knees around her as she was shaking. I felt her calm down during the blessing, but after she got a lot worse. We ran and got security and they came in. They decided it was a panic attack, but like the worst they've ever seen. Her whole body was tensed up and her hands were in super tight fists. It was awful having to watch a member of our district lay there and go through that while we stood there without being able to even give her a hug. She was taken to the ER and we called President Pickering. Everyone was shaken up. Elder Buhler and I went over to where the tie-trade was going on and got everyone's attention. We told them we needed to pray for Hermana Eye right now. So, everyone stopped what they were doing and knelt in prayer. The whole living room was filled with elders, as well as the entire hallway. I offered the prayer. It was incredible. 

So, after that, I was kind of wondering, "Why didn't she immediately calm down? Why didn't my blessing seem to help her?" I was kind of concerned that maybe I wasn't worthy or I said something wrong. I know that it's based upon the will of God, but I was just letting my mind run wild. The next day, she showed up at lunch. She had gotten back to her apartment at midnight and slept in with her companion because they were obviously exhausted. She came up to me and thanked me for my blessing. She couldn't even remember the blessing, but she remembered that when she thought we had left her, we were still there, ready to help. She wanted to know what I said in the blessing because she had some cool experiences. So later on, we talked more about it. I told her that what I remember is just that I said her mind would have peace and that her health and strength would return. I remember saying she has been and will be blessed for her service to the Lord. There were other things, but honestly I don't remember them. All I know is that I felt the Spirit with such strength while I was blessing her. She then proceeded to tell me how that was like the worst panic attack that they've seen and that she should be in a lot worse shape after that. One of the coolest parts - her dad died when she was very little. Apparently while she was in the hospital, she kept saying, "My dad is dad is here." She doesn't remember saying it, but she knows that he was there with her and that angels were present. She talks about how grateful she is for our Priesthood and worthiness to hold it and use it. She hasn't ever had that present in her life, and she absolutely loves it. I was just shocked at all of was incredible to hear. Not for my own selfish reasons, but that through the Priesthood, she was able to be protected and watched over. She bears such sweet testimony of the power of the Priesthood. As a Priesthood holder, it really bolstered my testimony and desire to worthily hold the Priesthood. I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to hold the Priesthood and serve others. I'm grateful to be in the service of the Lord and my fellow men. I know that through the blessing she received and through faithful prayer, she was able to receive heavenly help. Such an incredible experience to be a part of. I love being a missionary and I cannot wait to get to Argentina and serve. This is where I am needed. "I Can Go the Distance" keeps coming to mind haha. Total missionary song. 

Anyway, sorry for the biggest email I've ever sent! But there is just so much I want to tell all of you! "Come Thou Fount" has been stuck in my head every single day. I want to share my favorite part of the song. 

Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above

I get all choked up when I read that. "He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood." Estoy muy agradecido por mi Salvador. Estoy muy agradecido por Su Expiación. Yo se que vive mí Señor!

I love you all so much and pray for you always. Thank you for all that you do on my behalf.

With much love,

Elder Alec Sipple

Happy Thanksgiving!                                                                    November 28, 2013

I am currently at the Main Campus for the Thanksgiving activity. We had the devotional at like 9:30am, which Russel M. Nelson spoke in! It was awesome. The spirit you feel when an apostle walks in the room is incredible. He spoke about a lot of things, but something that I really liked was that we need to put ourselves aside and serve the Lord. Our missions aren't about us, they're about being His servants and bringing salvation to His children.This is something I've tried to remember and work on. I notice that when I'm focused on my purpose as a missionary, I am so much happier and I am so much more receptive to the Spirit. 

So, as I've been thinking about family and friends, I've come to a realization - I don't miss you! And I mean that in the best way possible. I guess it'd be more of a "happy-miss" haha. I realized that the work I am doing has made up for the emptiness that comes from being away from loved ones. I also know it's only been three weeks, but still. That feeling of peace and comfort, in spite of being away from everyone, is how I know that I'm in the right place doing the right thing. There's no other explanation as to why I'd be happy to be away! I know our Savior loves us and is mindful of us.

Also, I'm so stoked to be out of the social media game. PHEW. I just love learning and being around amazing elders and sisters every single day! Every time a teacher or leader talks about their mission, this awesome feeling of excitement washes over me. I want to tell people about the joy they can have in their lives! I just cannot wait!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to give out some "thank-yous." Mom & Dad, thank you so much, SO MUCH for everything you have ever done for me. I can't believe where I am today and a lot of the credit goes to you. Thank you for never losing hope and always remaining faithful. I want to be just like you two. Thank you for always making sure I knew how much you loved me. Thank you for helping me when I was in trouble, instead of being angry with me. Thank you for making sure I knew that you loved me unconditionally. Thank you for being my friends. Thank you for not pressuring me into serving a mission, but letting me choose for myself. there is nothing I want more than to serve the Lord, and I'm glad through my challenges and trials that I've been able to learn and grow. I love you both so much and can't thank you enough for everything.

Grandma Marda (she's been living with us) - you are INCREDIBLE. I don't know how I am so blessed to have you in my life. The love and kindness you have shown to EVERYONE is so amazing. Your genuine desire for everyone to be happy is something that I want and try to emulate. You are an incredible example of someone who loves as the Savior would love. Thank you so much for your cards and your Thanksgiving message! I always love getting cards and letters from Grandma Marda. The effort you and grandpa have made to be in our lives makes me so grateful and makes me remember how blessed I am. Thank you for always loving me, my friends, and whoever it may be that you came in contact with. I hope that I can be like you one day.

Boy, my hand hurts. I'm going to have such strong hands in 2015. Probably will be recruited by massage schools from all over the world. Gosh I can't WAIT to speak espanol with mis padres!! It's going to be so so so cool. Soooo now after we write letters, we're doing a humanitarian service project. It'll be sweet! I am just so excited for the future. Thank you for your most recent packages! I love getting all of that fun stuff. The Christmas lights are sooooo FLY. I wore one around my neck and everyone loved it. Hehe. I'm having so much fun here. Our most recent purchase as a district was a couple of spray bottles. We've had battles and shoot outs a couple times. We like to pull pranks on each other and other districts in our zone. My favorite district to mess around with is the district of elder Johnson "Juanson," Elder Brush, Elder Carmack, Elder Clark, and Elder Romeril. Romeril reminds me of the turtle on finding Nemo haha. He's hilarious. Elder Juanson and I are companions today because Elder Buhler wanted to go do some other activity.

Gosh dang I can't wait to leave the MTC. Kind of bittersweet...

This will probably be really broken Spanish, but oh well....Yo se que el Evangelio traera muchas bendiciones a nosotros. Yo se que Jesucristo es una persona real. Yo se que el Expiacion es muy real y mediante el Expacion, podemos recibir perdon por nuestros pecados. Yo se que mediante el Expiacion, podemos regresar a vivir con Dios, Jesucristo, y nuestra familia. Familias son eternas. Yo se que. Yo so que el Espiritu Santo puede guia nosotros si invitamos lo. (*note from Suzette, Alec's mom: This was a handwritten letter that I typed up just as it was written. I speak Spanish and know that there are grammatical errors, but didn't change anything. I think Alec's doing great for just 3 weeks! It will be fun to look back and see his progress with the language.)  

Hope that made sense! It's one thing to speak, but another to write. I've been thinking about all of you all day, and man, I'm so blessed. I'm writing this last part at about 11:00pm. Got back late from Main Campus. We put together meals for our service project (*they assembled 350,000 meals that day!). Disaster relief stuff. Way cool and fun! Oh also, we sang "Hope of Israel" for the choir number during the devotional. SUPER powerful. And we also sang that hymn that't not in our Hymn Book - "Come Thou Fount." We opened the meeting with that song. I LOVE IT. It's been in my cabesa toda dia. Whistling that tune por DIAS! 

I have anxiety about not writing about everything I want to. But I have to sleep. I love you all so so so much. Sipples, Storrs, Hollands, Mendenhalls, Bursells, Martins, Jana, Parks, Hartvigsens, Adams, Ganowskys, James/Hier...ALL OF YOU!

Paz y Bendiciones,

Elder Alec "The Dairy Drawer" Sipple