Monday, December 28, 2009

The Work Continues

December 28, 2009

Hi Dad, Mom and family,

Hey what’s up? It was great talking to you on the phone for me also. Thanks for the money you put in my account. I really do appreciate it. They got a new ATM machine in Sarandi this past weekend, so I decided to try and use it this morning. Luckily it worked and I still have my card.

Dad thanks for the advice on the fireworks. I actually feel bad about the whole fireworks thing cause the rule in the missionary handbook says no fireworks. So I don’t plan to light any more off for my mission and neither do I plan to buy any. It’s really just a waste of money anyway. So thanks and yes I’m going to be really careful this New Years Eve.

After I got done talking to you on Friday, we went to visit the Barreto family. We were out on the street playing soccer and about two blocks up the way a man who was drunk tried to dart in front of a taxi on his motorcycle. Well the taxi driver had the right of way and I don’t really think he saw him. But needless to say, this man got hit pretty hard by the taxi. My companion and I watched the whole thing happen and immediately we ran to the accident. The man was about 50 years old, overweight and wasn’t wearing a shirt. Luckily he was wearing a helmet. He got really badly injured with road rash and a possible broken arm. So I did everything I knew I could do to assist this guy until the ambulance showed up. I was really careful cause I know with something like this, you can get a blood born sickness like hepatitis. So I really didn’t touch him. It really reminded me of my EFR training and was kinda fun. The ambulance crew said that they were surprised that I was able to help as much as I did.

Anyway a lot of people have been really sick in the ward these past few days, so every night we have been out late giving blessings and trying to help them as much as we can. Well anyways, yesterday in church I started feeling sick myself. Ever since then I have had stomach pains and dysentery. I have talked to the mission president and his wife and even the mission doctor, so I know I’m in good hands. I’m just taking it really easy and drinking lots of liquids. Besides these minor discomforts, things have been pretty good.

Thanks Dad for your letter to Paula Barreto, it was perfect! And yes, the grandfather of my companion is that guy, Miguel Rostaing. He actually died in an airplane crash with the rest of the Peruvian team and my companion’s uncle. At least that’s what my companion tells me.

I had no idea about the man on the flight with a bomb, that’s crazy! Yes, there are still things that are going on every day in this world that are crazy. It’s kinda scary, but I know that if we just live right and obey the commandments and try our hardest every day, in the end all will work out. Well, I love you all. Thanks for your support.

Your Son, Brother and Uncle

Elder John P Sluder

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day Phone Call

We got a very short email from John this week. He was busy and we knew we were going to be able to speak on the phone. The phone call was really awesome. We were able to conference call the whole family together and just about everyone got to say hi and Merry Christmas to John. He demonstrated his Spanish speaking skills and amazed us all. It was good to hear his voice after four months. We are so proud of him and his progress as a missionary.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Change of Companions but Still in Sarandi Del Yi

December 15, 2009

Dear family,

How are things going for you? Wow! Christmas is already here and time is going so fast. This past week was very, very difficult. We had lots of rejection and lots of investigators who aren’t keeping commitments and having a whole lot of problems. I also had two pretty good bike wrecks this week, to but all is well and yes, I was wearing a helmet. (The Lord does look out for his missionaries.) But at the same time, there have been tons of miracles and I know that in the end, things will all work out.

Anyway, today is p-day because it’s the day of changes. So this is what is happening. Elder Vargas is no longer my companion. He is now my zone leader and was transferred to Durazno. Right now I am with Elder Moncada and we’re waiting for our new companions to arrive in Durazno. My new companion is named Elder Rostaing and he’s from Peru. That’s all I really know. Since I’m the only missionary in Sarandi who will know the people and the area, I will have a much bigger responsibility. So, I’m kinda nervous.

What’s nice is, I finally feel that my Spanish is good enough for this. They tell me that this change was very unusual and since President Da Silva is new, things have really been changing all over the mission. President Da Silva is awesome.

Anyway, life has been good to me. I have learned so much about the way people are in this world. It seems that every where there are a whole lot of really messed up people. The experience so far has been so great and awesome. And I’m so grateful to all of you guys for your encouragement and support. Thanks!

I hope you enjoy the pictures of Uruguay and Dad; I’m going to try to send my SD card out this week.

This week is going to be so crazy. Tonight, I will be going back to Sarandi Del Yi with my new companion. We have a few lessons planned and then tomorrow morning we have a planning meeting in Durazno, so I’ll get back on the bus for another hour and a half ride back to Durazno. Then on Friday, I’ve got to go into Montevideo for our Christmas reunion. I’m so excited; it’s going to be awesome.

But because of the bus schedule, I will have to spend the night in Durazno on Thursday to make the right bus for Montevideo on time. So yes, busy, busy week!

Hey Dad, I did make all of those transactions. All is well and they were all me. But I do need more money put in my account. I’m sorry, but things have been kinda expensive for me in the small town I’m in and I had more repairs. I’m trying so hard to be careful and not spend much at all. I did take more money out of my account out yesterday. It’s been hard cause of all my traveling. I receive reimbursement for all of the trips I take, but it takes several weeks before I see that money.

Anyways, love you all. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I’m so excited to talk to you all on Christmas. I will have about 45 minutes to talk, so I’m getting pretty excited. Love you all.

Elder John P Sluder

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Slow Week and Some New Pictures

December 7, 2009

Dear family,

How are you all doing? I’m sure you’re great.

Well I’m in Durazno today. We are having a zone activity and earlier today we went to the zoo. Zoos here in South America are much different than America... much more ghetto. I’ll try to include some pictures for ya.

This has been a pretty slow week. No baptisms scheduled and no plans for baptisms. We have been contacting like crazy this week and really have had no luck, just rejection, so that’s been tough. But I am having a ton of fun and learning new things every day. My Spanish is getting much better, but I do still struggle with understanding people who mumble their Spanish.

Well dad, I didn’t buy a bike. I went to the bike shop and picked one out, went to pay for it and my card didn’t work. So we ran down to the bank to check my account and the money was in there, but it wouldn’t let me withdraw the amount that I needed. So I took this as a sign and didn’t buy the bike. Well, I guess I really couldn’t. So instead, I bought a new helmet, a new watch, some ice cream and dinner for me and my companion. When we got back to Sarandi Del Yi the next day, we went to the bike shop and I had them replace a ton of stuff on my old bike… all the bearings, new tires, and new cambios (gear shifters). So it has the appearance of an old junky bike but, to be honest, it rides like a new bike and I’m very satisfied. I will be using this bike my entire mission and it was much cheaper.

I’m really missing the snow right now! Sorry dad I don’t have any investigators or stories that have been significant enough to mention, maybe next week. Glad to hear that YESCO is doing well and has work, that’s so great!

Time has been going so fast… Wow! At the end of every day I can’t believe how fast the day went. Well next Tuesday is the day of change. I won’t know until Sunday night if my area or my comp will be changing, but Tuesday is our next p-day. Don’t be expecting an email from me until then. I love you all so much, thanks for all.

Love you all,

Elder John Sluder

Nice picture... but what does it mean???

I'm guessing that this is a picture of John's zone, but I'm not really certain.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Baptism and a New Bike

November 30, 2009

Dear Dad, Mom and family,

What a week… let me tell ya!

My bike is really falling apart. I need to buy a new one that will last my whole mission. Last week when I went to my district meeting in Durazno, I also went bike shopping. The average price for a decent bike is between 250 and 350 American dollars. They don’t have Wal-Mart here. Can I spend this much on a bike? There is a very good chance that tomorrow in my district meeting in Durazno, I will receive my debit card. So while I’m in Durazno, can I have your permission to buy a new bike? I feel I really do need it. If so, you will need to put some money into my account to cover the expenses. I love you. It’s a great Christmas gift. Ha-ha-ha.

Well anyway, last night was the election of the new president in Uruguay. The winner is a guy named Pepe Mujica. He’s a lot like Obama, so I’m not too happy, but the people were sure partying in the streets last night.

I had my first baptism ever in my entire life last night. I had to do it twice because the first time I didn’t get his name correct. His name is Luis Rodolfo Zaidan Ogando! It was very difficult and yes, all in Spanish!

The work’s been great here. I am so glad to hear that you had a great Thanksgiving. I miss you all and love you a lot. Dad, if you can respond ASAP to my email that would be great. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Love, your son
Elder Sluder

Note from Dad: I responded to John’s request with some advice, telling him to be frugal and not over do it. We did put enough money into his account to cover the cost of a new bike. Later in the day I received this short note:


Thank you for your advice. I appreciate it and do respect it. When I go to Durazno tomorrow, I will try to do what is right and what the Lord wants me to do. Thank you very much. I love you and appreciate all that you do. And Mom… happy birthday! Sorry I couldn’t be there to celebrate it in person.

Love, your son
Elder Sluder

P.S. The people in the picture from left to right are: Elder Vargas, Hermano Barreto, Daniel Haverio, Luis Zaidan and me. Love ya.

Note from Dad: John apparently did find a bike since his debit card was charged the next day!

My first baptism!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Missionary Work is Challenging!

November 23, 2009

Dear Family,

Wow! Another week has gone by so fast and what a crazy week… let me tell ya. Well, last Sunday night one of our investigators got into a fight in the park. The police showed up and he decided to run. They tracked him down to the river. I don’t really know why, but they drew their guns and shot at him. Since it was dark, they didn’t really know if they shot him or not. And so they just declared him missing. On Wednesday night, another one of our investigators, a ten year old boy named Georgie found his body in the river. So it looks like the police killed one of our investigators. Since his mother, his aunt and almost all of his cousins are members, it has been a very difficult week for our ward here in Sarandi. But life goes on. It has opened doors for us here and has kind of helped us with the work. It’s funny how things sometimes work out that way.

Well anyways, I’m kind of upset that my letter still hasn’t arrived with my Christmas list. Anyway, there are some things I would like. Chocolate! Good American chocolate. Top ramen noodles. If possible a two liter bottle of Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper. That might be kind of expensive. And lots of candy and sweet stuff! Oh and my comp loves my English hymn book. So maybe you could go to church distribution, buy him a small hymn book and put his name on it. That would be so awesome. His name is Juan J. Vargas. That’s all and if I need stuff I’ll just buy it here like you said. Thanks so much.

Oh… and we do ride bikes because our mission president has approved it. So, I really need a new bike, no matter what they tell you in the office. I’ll let you know when I find one, how much it’s going to cost me. The exchange rate here is about 20 pesos to 1 American dollar. A half liter of milk is about 27 pesos, so maybe that might help you out.

Okay, anyway, on Friday we had a special meeting with both missions in Uruguay and Elder Bednar spoke to us. Flippin’ awesome! It was a question and answer type meeting and so I raised my hand and asked him a question. I don’t have too much time for the details, but I will write you all about this experience in another letter (if you’ll ever get it). Ha-ha-ha. So we had an awesome reunion with both missions. I’ve included a picture of Elder Tippets and me. His dad is in the stake presidency in Wellsville. I went to school with him and it was awesome to see someone familiar from home. We had a great time together.

Well, we still have two baptisms planned this weekend for Saturday and I’m way excited. I don’t know who is going to perform the ordinances exactly, but I’ll let you know how everything went next week. The work has been great, even though it has rained very hard every day this week and the streets are rivers. Also, the rivers have risen an incredible amount and now there is only one bridge left that is accessible to leave the town.

Anyways, I love you very much and yes Uncle Phil, I have lost a lot of weight. I have only been eating once a day and it’s always lunch because that’s the main meal here. It’s always with members too. Love you all, have a great week and God bless you.

Love Elder John P Sluder

Here is a picture of John and Elder Derek Tippets at the meeting with Elder Bednar. Elder Tippets is serving in the Uruguay Montevideo West mission and graduated with John from Mountain Crest High School.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bicycle Woes and Pictures... YAY!

Wow, another week on the mission gone by! Well family, I’m doing pretty good even though I’m dirt poor broke and very tired. For the past few days, I have been in Durazno. My companion and I have been working with the zone leaders. We are here because this morning at three o’clock, I had to go all the way to Montevideo for some medical testing. The way the bus schedule works, we had to stay in Durazno. The testing was part of getting my visa to stay in the country legally. So my new companion for the day has been Elder Moncada. He’s also an Oro and he’s from Chicago. (They call all new missionaries here "Oros". Oro means gold in Spanish) He speaks perfect Spanish because he’s Mexican. Well anyway, this morning when we went to get on the bus, they said they had no more seats. We had to stand up for the whole two and a half hour trip to Montevideo, so I’m pretty darned tired.

I’m getting pretty skinny. At my check up, the doctor said I’m 180 lbs. All of my pants don’t fit me anymore and my belts are on the last notch. While at the clinic, I met the new president and his wife from the Montevideo temple. They were there for the same reason I was. Interestingly enough, she is from Bakersfield Ca, so we sat and talked about lots of stuff while we waited for hours in the clinic. It was awesome. Your choir got brought up dad and she was just thrilled to hear all that I knew about it. Sorry, I don’t really remember their names.

Hey… I need to know why the pin number got changed on my account. Is it a new account? I’m very confused. I learned that for safety precautions, here in Uruguay, the ATMs will keep your card if you type in the wrong pin number. If you can send me another email, I’ll just check it again in the next few days. I still haven’t received my new card. I kind of wish you could have over-nighted it to me because I’m really hurting for money. My reimbursements haven’t gone through yet.

I found out that it takes a month or two to receive packages here, just so you know. I sent you a hand written letter with my Christmas wish list. If you can’t send all of it, that’s fine. What I really need is a new bike! Maybe instead of all that stuff in my letter, you could just deposit money in my account so I could buy a new bike. The bike I have right now was made in the 1980’s and I’m constantly fixing it. It has become a money pit. Please give me some counsel on this matter. I’m dying for a new bike and if I buy one here it will go with me to all my different areas throughout my mission.

About the church here; there is only one ward of about 150 members in Sarandi Del Yi. It’s a great little ward and they take great care of the missionaries. The bishop is a firefighter and is an awesome guy. He actually reminds me a lot of Trevik Jenkins dad who was also the bishop in Las Vegas. But of course he only speaks Spanish… ha ha ha.

Our baptism fell through this weekend. In two weeks, we have two more baptisms planned for Saturday, so it was okay that things didn’t quite work out. Right now, we’re teaching a guy named Luis; he’s awesome. Luis completely quit smoking and is so eager to get baptized in two weeks. He has gone to all of the church meetings and talks about how badly he wants the priesthood. It’s awesome. We are also trying to get a young couple married right now too. It’s been kind of hard, but I have faith that it can be done.

We have a church building that is actually really huge for Uruguay. It’s on the corner of Garibaldi and Oribe if you wanna look it up on Google Earth. My shack is just down the street from there. Well I don’t have much more time and I’ve got to go. I’ll write another letter concerning more spiritual things. Later you’ll have to tell me how long it takes to get a letter from me through the mail. Oh hey, because I’m short on money, I will be including other letters with the letter I send to you guys. So sorry, I know you guys are busy, but if you could distribute them that would be awesome.

Love you,
Elder Sluder

Elder Sluder

Elder Vargas

The kitchen (check out the stove and sink!)

The "shack" (nice ladder)

The Sarandi sky after a thunderstorm

Monday, November 9, 2009

First Email From Sarandi del Yi

Dear family,

How are you doing? I’m sorry to hear about Zwieba’s father and grandfather. I pray that they will recover and get better soon. It’s good to hear about Kolton Mitton and that he’s alright and doing much better.

Well family, I’m a real missionary now. There’s so much to tell you. I don’t know if I have the time though. Yes Dad, Sarandi del Yi is a farming community and it’s much like Wellsville. But it’s different too. I now know the true meaning of poverty. A lot of people live in small shack things and most of them have dirt floors. So it’s been kind of interesting to see that. I wash all my laundry by hand and my house is tiny. It would definitely not pass the building inspections in the United States.

I’m so looking forward to getting my debit card; hopefully it will get here soon. I had kind of a bad first few days. My bike is a piece of junk and kept breaking. I have now had to replace my handle bars, my crank and sprocket and my seat. So I have had to use a lot of my monthly funds for this and I can’t get a reimbursement for it. So yes, I’m excited for my card. Thank you so much. I fixed all these things with just my Leatherman that I brought with me. I guess this impressed my companion. Whenever we see someone with a broken down car or a messed up bicycle he tells them that I’m the best mechanic in the world and that I can fix it for free. Ha ha ha

I also found out that on Friday nights we teach English. So now I’m an English teacher too... it’s pretty fun actually. I found out that I’m the only person in this town that is fluent in English. Everyone wants to talk to me cause I’m different I guess. They all call me “el Aleman”, which is “the German” in Spanish. Besides all that, it’s definitely been a humbling experience overall.

You asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I don’t know what I really want. I would like a hymn book in English for my comp, preferably a small one and another SD card. And I’ll think of some other stuff later and write it in a letter when I’ll have more time.

Mom, it’s a good thing you don’t live here, because horses are the big thing here! There are so many animals just roaming around freely; it’s crazy.

Yesterday at church we had 13 investigators go to church with us. It was awesome! Our first baptism is this Saturday and we have families planned to be baptized later this month. We have had a very successful week and it has been awesome.

Well I love you all very much; thank you for everything.

Elder John Sluder

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Email from the Mission President

We received the following email from the Mission President along with this picture of John and his new companion, Elder Vargas. John looks great!

Dear Sluder Family,

Today we went to the airport in Montevideo, Uruguay, to pick up Elder Sluder and welcome him into our mission. He arrived a little tired, but full of excitement and enthusiasm to get to work.

We have spent the day with him, getting to know him and we have recognized that he will be an asset to us here in the mission. With this time that we have had with him, he has shown many talents that will be put to use in blessing the lives of many wonderful people.

Today was the day of transfers; he met his trainer and then headed off for his first area so that he could start ¨ [bringing] to pass the immortality and eternal life of man¨.

We are now sending you a photo that we took with him this afternoon. As you can see, he is extremely excited and ready to start. We are so excited to have your son with us and hope that you receive this photo with excitement and pride in all that your son has done to prepare himself for the opportunity that he now has to serve the Lord for the next two years.

The Da Silva´s

Elder Sluder is in Uruguay!

Family and Friends,

I knew that John was transferring to Uruguay sometime this week, so I decided to email him last night. It was a good thing I did, because I received the following email from him this morning. He is now in Uruguay and is on his way to his first assignment. His first area will be in Sarandi Del Yi, a town in the district of Durazno. I did some checking and found out it’s a small farming community along the Yi River, about 120 miles north of Montevideo. If you want to see some pictures of the area, start here: Sarandi Del Yi. According to one website, this is a town of less than 8,000 people. I believe he will fit right in! Enjoy his email…

Love Dad

Date: 03 November, 2009 10:15 AM

Dad, Mom and family

I did it! I made it through the MTC in Buenos Aires, Argentina! I’m now in a small computer place in the bus stop in Montevideo! This mission is awesome! My flight was okay, but the plane seemed pretty rickety. I just kept telling myself that the Lord takes care of his missionaries!

I had another bout of bad luck! Ha-ha-ha I tried to take some money out of my account and my card got sucked into the machine. I don’t know if I typed my pin in wrong or what, but the machine ate my card. So you will be getting some information from the mission office in another email tonight. Sorry… So you should probably go to the bank and make sure the purchases made with that card are valid. The purchases you told me about are right, so that’s all I’ve used my card.

Well besides that, I got a new companion. His name is Elder Vargas. He’s from Honduras and doesn’t speak much English, but he’s great! I have really come to love these people. We’re getting shipped to an area of Uruguay called Sarandi Del Yi, Durazno. Its right in the middle of Uruguay and it’s just a small little town, so I’m very excited! I can’t wait. I was told by my companion that we have our first baptism on the 14th of November! Plus tonight we have to teach four lessons, so I’m so excited. This just rocks.

We never were able to find time for the taped interview thing from Salt Lake, so I never got to do that. But I did meet Sister Julie Beck, so that was kinda cool. I did send you a letter, so you should be getting that sometime this week. My p-days are on Monday, so I’ll be emailing you on this day. Oh, and in our new area we get bikes! I’m loving it!

I’m so sorry to hear about Colton Mitton. Give him a hug for me and tell him I love him and I know he was a great missionary! Well family, I love you and you will hear from me later. Love ya lots… oh and don’t worry, I have plenty of money still, but I will probably need you to send me a new debit card!

Well, have fun! Elder Sluder!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Less Than a Week to GO!

Ninth Email from the MTC

Date: 29 October, 2009 1:00 PM

Hi family!

Well it’s finally here! It’s so exciting… I’m ready to do the real thing! I just finished going through my last session in the Buenos Aires temple and it was great! The place is hopping as they are trying to get as many people through the temple as fast as they can before it closes! I met a lot of people from Utah who are volunteering to help out!

Tonight I have a special opportunity to be interviewed by a group from Provo and members of the Quorum of the Twelve. They are evaluating the difference in progress between North Americans that go through the Provo MTC compared to the missionaries that come out of the native land MTC’s. So all I know is I’m supposed to sit in front of a camera and answer about forty questions in Spanish. I’m pretty excited! Besides all of that, this weekend sister Julie Beck, general Relief Society President and Sister Vicki Matsumori (she spoke in General Conference) are staying with us. So that’s pretty cool too!

Well the swine flu hasn’t hit hard here yet. I’m so sorry to hear about it in Utah! I don’t know if they gave me that strain of flu shot, but I know I got a bunch of shots and I know that one of them was some type of flu shot.

Dad, I did receive your package and your letter today right when I had to go to the temple, but I haven’t had the chance to read the letter yet because I have been so busy. But I’m so excited to read it; thanks so much! Thanks for the package, I loved it and the CTR rings were so awesome. I can’t wait to give them out! It was so perfect and appropriate!

Well I’m getting pretty darn fluent at Spanish and I just love this culture! I have really come to love these people and I really do love this work! I really love the Book of Mormon! I feel that for the past nineteen years I have taken for granted this wonderful piece of literature! I love to share this with people! And recently have really studied it and in doing so have gained a great testimony of it! I’m so excited to go to Montevideo this upcoming week to share this with more people, it’s so awesome!

Thanks for supporting me in all the many things that I have done in life. I love you all! May God bless you and look after you.

Love, Elder John P. Sluder

P.S. Congrats Mom on you new job… that’s so cool and dad congrats on you new truck if you get it. That’s so cool… what a blessing this crazy company that we all have worked for has been in all our lives!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Moving the Temple in Buenos Aires?

Eighth Email from the MTC

Date: Thu, 22 Oct 2009 1:20 PM

Subject: Your son in Argentina who’s excited to leave. (I thought this was cute, so I had to include it)

Hey family...

How are you all doing? I hope well! Well by the pictures it looks like Luke is learning to weld at a young age! That’s just great! Well besides all that, it sounds like you all are doing very well. Thanks Dad for that thing in Spanish. I pretty much got the gist of it, but you should send it to me in English so I can check myself. Thanks for spending all the time looking for addresses for me. I really appreciate it Dad!

I’m getting so excited to get out of Argentina and go to Uruguay. Last week for tracting was an amazing week. We were able to teach and share the gospel with a ton of people. I’m gonna be kind of sad to leave this place. My companion, Elder Stilwell has been great and now I’m dreading getting a comp that I may not get along with at all.

Next Saturday they are shutting down the temple here in Buenos Aires! Lots of people are very sad about this, but they’re gonna do a complete renovation. I will be leaving the Tuesday after next weekend, so I will be able to go through this temple one more time before it closes. My mission president, President Wilson, is going to be receiving about 90% of the furniture and art from the temple! He’s so excited; he won’t stop talking about it. Ha-ha-ha The president asked my district if on that Monday, we would spend the whole day moving things from the temple to the MTC. So my last full day here in Argentina I guess I’ll be moving the temple… interesting huh? I’m so looking forward to this! I haven’t done manual labor for eight weeks now and to be honest I miss it! Well, you will receive one more email from me from Buenos Aires next week and then I’ll be a real full time missionary. I’m so excited!

Funny quick story dad… my MTC teacher, Hermana Davila served her mission in Southern California. She told me about this Gladys Knight choir thing they did that was an awesome missionary tool. So I told her that you were a member of the choir and in fact, you sing with her. Small world huh? Well my time is running out. I love you all so very much. Have fun be careful. And Steven and Beth, keep an eye on Luke… he seems to be a handful.

Elder John Sluder

P.S. Oh and dad, I did purchase some stuff from the pharmacy here. I will probably be making a big purchase at the church distribution center too. I need some stuff for Montevideo… is that okay? Love you

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Proselytizing in a Tough Neighborhood

Seventh Email from the MTC

Date: Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:15 PM

Hello family,

How’s everything going? I hope well. I’m still here at the MTC in Buenos Aires-Surprise! Ha-ha-ha

Well, my English seems to be getting worse and sometimes I feel that my Spanish isn’t getting any better! Right now I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of a high level stupor (if that makes any sense). I can’t seem to express how I feel very well in English or Spanish! Besides all of that, I’m well.

Last week, they opened a new area for proselytizing that has been closed for years. It’s been closed because it was deemed too dangerous and ghetto for the missionaries to enter. Well, they decided to assign my companion and me to the area. If you can imagine the most ghetto place in America and multiply that by 4, it’s about what it was like. Our day of proselytizing was very tough. Nobody wanted to talk to us. We didn’t have very much time to actually proselytize because it was an hour walk from our drop off point. We spent two hours just trying to walk there and then back. Here in Argentina, at about one o´clock every store, shop and home closes up for two to three hours for nap time. This is called siesta! I’m about 100% sure you already know about this. Well, when siesta hits, it’s very hard to do missionary work. So needless to say, Saturday was very, very hard; full of rejection and all sorts of other things!

A funny story… while we were out, I had to use the bathroom. We were looking for somewhere to go and this was during siesta time. Well, we could only find this bar/saloon like place that was well lit, but the company inside wasn´t so righteous. We decided to try it out. As we entered, the music was turned off, everybody shut up and just stared at these two gringos who could barely speak Spanish ask for the bathroom. Don’t worry, we were just fine and it was kind of a cool experience to have. I realized that we really do stand out.

Well besides that, things have been pretty good and fun. I have a little more than two full weeks until I become a REAL missionary and I’m dying to get out of here.

I love you ALL. I hope things are going well!

Elder John Sluder

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Just the Same Old MTC

Sixth email from the MTC

Date: Thu October 8, 2009

Dear Everyone,

How is it going? There’s really nothing new to tell ya, it’s just been the same old MTC and another week down. I only have three more weeks here and then I’m off to Montevideo. Dad, last night I received your package. Thanks so much it was so awesome to get it. I love the picture frame you sent, it’s so cool. Same with the CD! Thanks also for the address.

I’m very glad to hear that all is well. I just got out of the temple and it was an awesome session. On November 2, they will be closing the temple here in Buenos Aires for a while, so I’m glad that I’ll be in Montevideo by then. I received a bunch of letters from the Mittons this morning, it was so awesome. If you run in to them, tell them thanks from me. My companion hasn’t changed; I’m still with Elder Stilwell. In answer to your question, it is a regular thing to be released as a district leader after four weeks of being here.

It’s so exciting to hear about home. I do miss it, but I’m having a ton of great adventures here. Last Friday I spoke with a woman on the street who works for the Catholic Church. As me and my companion testified of the Book of Mormon, she began to cry. It was such a powerful moment for me. So we left her with a prayer and the spirit was so strong. Then when Elder Holland spoke about the power of the book it was amazing! This book changes lives! It really does! This Saturday we are going over to her house to teach her lesson 2. I’m so excited! I hope you are all doing well and I’m praying for all of you too. Once again thanks for the package. I loved it and it was just the perfect size so if you want send another one… It’s kind of like Christmas! Ha-Ha-Ha Oh and Dad… I’m sending you a written letter. You should get it sometime this week. Write me back in response to that letter, not in email, but with a pen and paper. It means more to me that way, thanks. But also send my weekly email. I love that too.

Well love you all,
Elder Sluder

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Little Down This Week

Fifth Email from the MTC

Date: Thu 1 October 2009  10:00 AM

Dear Everyone,

Thanks for all you have done. I didn’t hear anything about the tsunami, but I will tell you that for this past week, for whatever reason I worried about Kyler Mitton! Is he okay? Crazy! Well, things here have been interesting. They released me from being the district leader and we had one of our missionaries get sent home this week from our district. His name is Elder ----- and he is from Garland, Utah just over by Tremonton. So, it has been a pretty down week and very difficult because it made us all kinda homesick. Besides that, I haven’t had any new opportunities to go out proselytizing again, so no real new stories. I will go proselytizing tomorrow, so keep me in your prayers that I might be able to do some good. I have come down with a pretty bad cold, but it’s not too bad. Life’s tough, then you die, right? Oh and from what I hear, I probably won’t be able to receive that package you sent me. But I should hear from the customs office this week sometime to confirm that. But if you wanna try sending me some candy or something it needs to be in a big mailing envelope. Priority preferably, I guess, so I will let you know the final verdict on it next week. It’s crazy to think that today I have been in Argentina for a whole month now. My testimony has grown so much and I have learned so much about myself. This mission thing is kinda neat, but I can’t wait to get out into the field to do some real work! It’s hard to live, eat, study, go to class, and sleep all in the same 8,000 square foot building. But I think I’m starting to get used to it. The people here are great. I love you all so much. We are getting kinda excited that on November 20th, Elder Bednar will be coming to visit us in Uruguay. I’m very excited for conference! It will be a nice break from our usual routine. I love you Dad and I have learned so much from you and I think about you all the time. Mom, I love you too and miss our long conversations that we would have until the late hours of the night. Thanks for all the things that you guys do and I love you all so much.

Elder John Sluder

P.S. Let me know how Kyler’s doing!

NOTE: Elder Kyler Mitton is a good friend of John's from our ward in Wellsville. He is serving in the Pacific Islands. I spoke to his Dad who told me that Kyler is safe and well. The island he is serving on was not affected by the tsunami.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The First Injury... Already?

Fourth Email from the MTC

Date: Thu 24 Sept 2009 1:00 PM

Hello family,

Well everything has been pretty good. Last Tuesday I did something really stupid, so stupid I don’t even wanna tell ya… ha-ha-ha. But I will tell you that my shoulder got hurt pretty badly. The MTC president’s wife, Hermana Wilson has been taking care of me, so it’s gotten a lot better. Well, this week has been crazy. Last Tuesday we said goodbye to an awesome group of elders and today we received a big group of new elders. I’m now the District Leader with the most time here. I get to conduct all the big meetings and teach a lot of lessons, which is awesome. My Spanish has been improving tremendously! Because of all the commotion and craziness of this week, they changed the schedule around a little bit. So yesterday we went Proselytizing! It was awesome. I taught the first lesson in Preach My Gospel 13 times to investigators on the street in Spanish! We were out for seven hours and were able to contact a ton of people. Out of the 13 lessons, I had about ten people commit to going to church this Sunday and I was able to give away three Books of Mormon and have people commit to read it! It was so awesome! I am starting to get used to this place, but sometimes it’s hard! For instance, yesterday I watched a pregnant dog get hit by a train and its back end was cut in half! It was pretty gross to watch. I wanted to help it, but there was nothing I could do and fearing I would get sick, I didn´t even touch it. So if you’re wondering if this place is different, the answer is YES! I didn’t think I liked the EPA until I got here where people just dump their trash all over the place and the streets smell like death. So I guess the government in America isn’t so bad when it is in moderation… ha-ha-ha. Well besides all of that, it’s been pretty good.  I’m having fun. I love to see the pictures you send me. I hope that package that you send me is small enough to go through customs without them seizing it. If it is too big, they will make me pay and the church doesn´t want to really bother with that, so I will never receive it. So I will just pray that I can get it and I’m sure it will come! Yes, if you’re wondering if my testimony has grown, I assure you that it has. This world we live in is amazing and so are all the billons of people who are on it. So amazing that I know that there had to be a God who made it all possible for it to happen! This gospel is amazing. It changes lives. I love you and I’m still alive. Today is the start of my fourth week on a mission. So keep me in your prayers and I will do the same.

Love your son, brother, uncle and friend

Elder John Sluder

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Butterfly Knife Saga Continues!

Third email from the MTC

Date: Thu 17 Sept 2009 1:07 PM

Hey guys what’s up!

So here’s what’s going on this week in my life. Every Saturday I get to go out tracting on the streets of Buenos Aires. Well last Saturday was crazy! My companion and I got sent to the most ghetto area! It seriously looked like a war zone! This apartment we were walking by caught on fire and people were running around really frantically, but no fire department showed up. There are packs of dogs everywhere and nobody speaks English which makes it even tougher. But it was still a blast and I loved being able to testify to those people who were willing to listen.

Argentina is crazy. Dad, if you thought Las Vegas traffic was bad; you should come check this place out. There are 13 million people here and there are no intersections, just round-abouts.

Well, pretty much besides that nothing really too exciting has happened. I can look forward to serving six more weeks here and then I go to Uruguay, which I’m much anticipating.

I can’t see any of the pictures you have sent me, but if you wanna send me a package here to the MTC do it. It just needs to be small, like very small. I see people getting packages here all the time. Put a couple of Snickers bars in it and also my butterfly knife please. A lot of missionaries are receiving knives from home, so don’t think I’ll be the only one to have one.

The people here are so kind and I love to serve them. I know that even though this is the hardest thing I have ever done, that I’m in the place the Lord intended me to be. I´m having a blast! Thank you for all your emails and your support. I love you all!

Elder John Sluder

P.S. Dad I did check my account, but I don’t really have any big purchases planned. I can’t really check my blog, but I think that’s great. I don’t think for now I can send any pictures, so when I get to Montevideo I’ll send you my memory card in the mail and then you can send it back or whatever you wanna do. I love you; oh and please send me my knife.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Elder Danger

Second email from the MTC... Sweet!

Date: Thu 10 Sep 2009 19:58:58

Hello every one,

How are you all doing! So this is my weekly thirty minute update to how I’m doing in the Argentina MTC. To be honest this experience has been the absolute hardest experience of my entire life. Every day I spend 8 to 12 hours learning Spanish in a small class room. Well the first night that I was here, the MTC President pulled me aside and said that he was inspired to call me as a District Leader. Wow! What an honor that was and what a blessing it has been in my life through this past week. I’m in charge of 7 elders and 3, soon to be 4 sisters. Me compañero es elder Stilwell and so far he seems to be absolutely great!

I no longer pray, testify, conduct class, speak in sacrament meeting, or teach in English… so everything in Spanish! I just got done going through my first session in the Buenos Aires Temple. It was done in Spanglish and for the first time I had to be pretty self-reliant. The people here are great and the food seems to be okay also... sorta... I have now eaten tons of cow tongue (the gift of tongues) and also lots of crab. The Latino Elders, who don’t speak any English, seem to like me. They call me Elder Peligro, which translates to Elder Danger. They claim that I’m the roughest fútbol player they have ever met! I play soccer with them every day and their foot work is just absolutely amazing, Fútbol is their passion. Me on the other hand, I run around and try to just kick the ball any direction as hard as I possibly can. But they say I’m pretty good for a North American and I’m always their first pick. I usually end up being one of the only white guys on the Latinos team. The people here are amazing and they are so funny.

The work has been quite hard and I’m trying to adjust to the fact that I can’t just do anything I want any time I want any more. But I will get better, that’s for sure. The spirit here is so strong and I have never felt so comfortable to pray. In fact I have never prayed this much ever in my life as I have here. Congrats Dad on your new calling! I know that they called you to be in the YM for a reason and I’m so happy for you. I have kept you guys in my prayers and I love you so very much! Mom and Dad, you are the best parents I could have ever asked for and I miss you. Once again I love all of you and miss you and thank you. God bless you.

Love, Elder Sluder

P.S. I only have thirty minutes a week to check and reply to your emails, so sorry if I didn’t respond to your emails, but keep sending em it was great to hear from you and instead I’ll write you back through the real mail system. Love you guys.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The First Email

The total flight time to Buenos Aires was about 13 hours. The first leg of John's flight departed Salt Lake at 3:00 PM and arrived in Dallas about 6:30 PM. He then transferred to his flight to Buenos Aires, which departed at 7:35. About 3 hours into his flight, he used the airphone to make a quick call home and let us know that he had made his flight and was on his way. In the morning, I was surprised to receive his first email saying that he had arrived. Here is the text of the email:

Hey Mom and Dad

I have landed safely and I'm now at the MTC. It's pretty interesting here! There is alot of stuff going on and everyone but me and my companion Elder Stilwell are busy, so now I have just a few minutes to email ya. Sorry about the knife thing in the airport... ha ha ha. It's just typical me I guess. I really had no idea it was in there at all. Well, I love you a whole lot and I'm doing well, even though I'm very tired. Well, thanks for everything. I will be able to email you every Thursday (which is my p-day), so just be ready for em I guess. Well, love ya and have fun!

Love, Elder John Sluder

Short and sweet, but very much appreciated by Dad.

Departure Day

Wednesday, September 2 was the dreaded "big day". We left the house about 8:00 am and drove into town so that John could say his goodbyes to Steven, Beth and the kids. Here is a cute picture that Beth took of John holding Luke.

We then headed south to Alpine, Utah for a quick visit with Pete and Terri. After leaving Pete's house, John wanted to go to Del Taco for his last fast food meal in the USA, a Double Del with Chili Cheese Fries. We got to the airport and checked in and still had an hour to kill, so we found a place to sit down near security. John's missionary traveling companions were also there. We got to meet Elder Stilwell's family from Provo. We also met the sister Missionaries and their families. I so appreciated the extra time we had to chat, but I mostly just sat there and fought back tears. The time finally came that we had to say our final goodbyes. As John entered the security check-in line, a very nice woman TSA employee said "Goodbye and thank you for your service!" to each of the missionaries. We watched as John went through the scanner and then noticed that the TSA agent had taken John to the side and was going through his carry-on bag. We could see John shrugging his shoulders, but we knew he had something in his carry on that was not allowed. It turns out that John had placed his butterfly knife in his scripture pouch a few weeks earlier and had completly fogotten about it being there. The agent brought us the knife as John mouthed the words "I'm sorry". I am so glad they were understanding and didn't arrest him.

Family Reunion and Temple Trip

In preparation for John's departure, we held our first Sluder family reunion August 3-8, 2009.
On the morning of Saturday the 8th, we went to the Logan Temple where John received his own endowment. In the afternoon, the entire family (including all 21 grandchildren) met in the historic Wellsville Tabernacle for a family testimony meeting. We had a wonderful time honoring John for his contributions to our family.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saying Goodbye you know on the day they are born that someday they will reach that magic age of 19. You talk about it from the time they can talk. You start a mission fund. It's mentioned in every ordinance they receive from confirmation through the offices of the Priesthood. You know it's coming and yet when the day arrives, you're somehow not quite ready to say goodbye. Well... at least that's the way it was for me!

Bittersweet is the right word. Bitter and sweet at the same time. Bitter to realize that my little boy has become a man. Bitter for the sense of loss I feel from his absence from our home. Bitter to think that it will be two long years before I can hug him again. Bitter because everything I see around me reminds me of him.

And in the midst of all that bitterness is the sweetness. Sweet from the joy I feel at his worthiness to serve the Lord. Sweet for his willingness to leave every comfort he has to go to a foreign land. Sweet for his obedience to follow our savior. Sweet for the wonderful experiences I know he will have. Sweet because I know in my heart that he is ready. Sweet because I know there are people out there who have been waiting for Elder Sluder.

This blog is my way of dealing with the bitter part. It's dedicated to my son, the missionary, but it's really for me and my therapy. I will post his weekly emails and letters. I will post pictures that will help to document his adventure as a missionary in Montevideo Uruguay.  Family and friends are welcome to share as well.

Some of the greatest things that have ever happened to me began with a goodbye to someone or something. I have trust in the Lord that this goodbye will lead to some of the choicest blessings in our lives.