Monday, February 22, 2010

Continuing to Heal and Getting Back to Work

February 22, 2010

Dear Family,

Well another week has gone by and I’m still here in Montevideo doing the same old stuff. It’s interesting that you shared my email with the Stake President and he’s sharing it with the Bishops now. I’m also glad to hear that they have hope for Kyler and I too hope that he can get better and back out. I’m living in the mission offices in the Carrasco neighborhood of Montevideo. We are only a few blocks from the temple and it’s almost like being in America again. The houses here are very American-like and nice. It is known as the nicest area of Montevideo. Here in the office, I live with five other American missionaries and one missionary from Mexico. They all speak English; we have had a great time speaking English together. The other day they asked me if I would pray in English before we left the house. I think it was my first English prayer in public for a while and it was horrible. Ha ha ha

I don’t live in the mission home with the president. He lives a few blocks down the road on the same block as the temple. Last Tuesday was the office workers p-day. Presidente Da Silva called and asked if anyone was up for a game of futbol. It was pretty awesome. Of course, they didn’t let me play, but it was still fun to sit and watch them duke it out. The truth is, my 50 year old Mission President is a whole lot better soccer player than all of the American office missionaries combined. I watched him make several goals and every time it just made me laugh. I think growing up in Latino America automatically makes you a great soccer player.

Last week I also went out to start working. It was great to get out once again. My first days were a little difficult and by the end of the day I was definitely ready to go home and get in bed. But I have slowly gotten used to it and yesterday I worked my first full day and I came home feeling great. My health right now is great and the doctors tell me that I’m making a miraculously fast and successful recovery and that I can soon return to my area of Sarandi Del Yi. My old companion is still in Sarandi. They gave him what is called a corto plazo. That is a young man who is trying the mission out to see if it’s what he wants to do. It’s also known as a mini-mission. Luckily the Bishop in Sarandi found a great kid in the ward and from what I hear, they are doing well.

I have not yet received your package dad, but I figure it will be here in the next few days. I received Jennifer’s package about a week before I had surgery and it helped out a ton and I loved it so thank you! I really do appreciate it.

Yesterday I went out and worked with Elder Carlock who is the secretary here in the offices. He’s from New Jersey. We started out by going to church. He is in the same ward that both my Mission President and the Mission President from Montevideo West are in. We also have the Temple President and about 4 American couple missionaries in the ward. We have several families also from the United States that work for the U.S. embassy here in Uruguay. All in all it was really almost like being in a Sacrament Meeting back home in the U.S.A. Really the only difference was that it was still in Spanish. It was great and I really enjoyed it. We then went out in the afternoon and contacted and sat down with several people and did missionary work. It was great.

Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment to remove my stitches and then I might be able to go back to my area. I figure if they do let me go back to Sarandi Del Yi, it won’t be for very long. The change is coming up in about two weeks. It has been my assigned area now for three changes and usually missionaries don’t have more than that in one area. I figure when I do leave, I will be kind of sad. It’s now been the place that I have called home for some time and I have grown attached to it. To be honest though, I don’t really know. It all depends on where I’m supposed to go and who I’m supposed to meet and talk with.

Anyway, I’m alive and I’m doing great. When this week ends and we go into March, I will be starting the 7th month of my mission. Time has gone by ridiculously fast and I can’t even believe it. That’s a 1/4 of my mission! I feel very blessed and I know that the Lord has helped me every step of the way. I love it here in Uruguay. I’m having the time of my life. Thank you for all of your support, prayers and love. I hope that you all have a good week.

Love, Elder John P. Sluder

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Surgery and the Things I Have Learned

Note from Dad: An incredible letter this week. I am really proud of my son.

February 15, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Dad… Happy Birthday!!!!!! WOW, one year older and wiser too. Felizidades!

Well I’m alive and doing fine! Dad, I’m kinda sad to hear about Kyler, but like you said, things happen for a reason and we always can learn and grow from all of our experiences. Wish him well for me, would ya? Dad, my surgery was not laparoscopic, but to be honest I’m not in too much pain. The nice thing about my situation is that with my time in Montevideo, I will get all my mail and packages faster. The mission president gave me permission to open whatever I wanted to, any day of the week, not just p-day. So everyone… send me mail.

Wow… what a week and an adventure I’m having! Most of you know there have been some things that have happened. I really don’t have any idea how much you all know, so I decided to write this letter to clear up any misunderstanding you might have over this entire situation. I hope this clears up everything and that you completely understand that I’m doing very well and have no more worries about my situation. I guess I’ll start….

Two weeks ago it started to rain in Sarandi Del Yi. And it rained and rained and rained. Sarandi Del Yi was built between two rivers, the Rio Yi and the Rio Malvajar. These two rivers come together and make one river just south, right outside of town. There’s a famous primary song that says the foolish man built his house upon the sand. But here I like to think that the really stupid man built a city between two rivers and when the rains come down, the rivers go up. And that’s exactly what happened. 200 homes in my small town were under water. In a town of 8000 people, 200 homes is really a lot. It was one of the crazier things I have seen in my life and reminded me a lot of the video footage that we all saw on the news of New Orleans when hurricane Katrina happened back in 2005. We spent several days last week doing what ever we could to help. The thing about it is that the poorest of the poor are the type of people who live closest to the river. So now these people, who didn’t really have much to begin with, don’t have anything anymore. This whole experience has been a humbling, life changing one. But it was really nothing compared to the adventure that I was about to be going through this week.

It all started on Friday, February 5th 2010. Friday was a very long day and we worked all day in the rain doing what ever we could to help people. We got home about 9:00 o’clock that night, wet, cold and tired. As I was getting ready to call it a night and head to bed, I went into the bathroom to finish cleaning up. This was when I first noticed a problem. There was a strange looking lump sticking out of my lower stomach. I was kind of confused and it really didn’t hurt, so I pushed it and it went flat and the lump was gone. I just thought “whatever” and continued brushing my teeth. Well, it soon came back and that’s when I started to get a concerned.

I talked with my companion about it and then started making phone calls trying to figure out what the heck was going on. After talking to my mission president, the mission doctor and a medical physician in the ward, they all agreed that I had a hernia and that I needed to see a doctor right away. So the next day Saturday, I went to the hospital here in Sarandi Del Yi. The doctor checked me out and said he had never really seen one like this and that I needed to go to Montevideo on Monday and see a specialist, and until then I am not to do anything, except just lay down and take it easy. He even told me that I really shouldn’t go to church on Sunday for fear that it would get worse and really cause me some problems. So that’s what I did all day Saturday. Nothing. I’ll be honest, it really wasn’t fun.

Sunday morning I woke up and I felt very strongly impressed that I needed to go to church. So I did. I got dressed and went. The word that Elder Sluder had “something wrong with him”, got around the ward really fast. Everybody kept pulling me aside and asking if I’m alright. It was really kind of funny.

It was fast and testimony meeting, but for me it wasn’t just my typical. For what ever reason, every testimony was very spiritual and I think I can honestly say that it was the most spiritual testimony meeting I have ever attended in my entire life. Right before it ended, I got up and I had to bear my testimony. It was just an amazing experience. After the meeting I talked to several different families and they all wished me well. I was just getting ready to walk out of the church when one of the brethren in the ward asked if I could talk with him privately in one of the rooms in the church. When I entered the room, I realized all of the priesthood holders in the entire ward were in there also. They told me that they wanted to give me a blessing and have a special prayer. So we did. I cant really describe the feeling of it but, when we finished there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and I felt comforted and ready for whatever was about to happen.

Before this event, I really had never felt anything special for most of the people here. My ward has had serious problems with unity and to me they were not together in spirit. But this experience changed all of that. For the first time in my mission, I felt the feelings of Christ-like charity and love for the people I am serving and especially from the saints of Uruguay. It was something that changed me and I will now always have a special place in my heart for these people.

Monday morning, my companion and I woke up super early to catch the bus to Montevideo. After a four hour bus ride, we finally arrived and saw the doctor about ten o’clock in the morning. He immediately referred me to a surgeon and the surgeon referred me to a sonogram specialist. The sonogram specialist confirmed that in fact it was a hernia with photographic evidence and that I need to go talk to my mission president and make a decision.

We took a taxi to the mission home and by the time we arrived, my mission president had already talked to the doctors and knew much of the situation. He called me in his office and sat me down and this is what he told me. “Elder Sluder, you have a medical condition that if left alone, will definitely get worse and will cause you problems for the rest of your life. With this condition, I don’t want you out doing missionary work. You have two options; you can go home now, have the surgery, and rest until you get better. Or you can have a surgical operation here and when you recover, you just will get right back to work. I’ll give you sometime to think about it.”

At this moment my head was spinning. I thought a lot about home. I was confused and my mind was being flooded with all sorts of thoughts. But then something came to mind that was clear and more profound than anything else. It was the scripture mastery I had memorized my sophomore year in high school. “I will go and do the things that the lord hath commanded me. For I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he hath commanded them.“ (1 Nephi 3:7)

The powerful words of Nephi were my answer and I have fallen back on to them many times over the course of these past few days. The Lord commanded me to serve a mission for 24 months, not for just six and call it good and go home. I knew what the lord wanted me to do and I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but it was necessary. I shared some of these thoughts with my mission president and his answer was, “Good, I’m proud of you.” He picked up the phone and called the doctor and they made plans for surgery Wednesday evening. It was just two days away, so he sent me quickly back to my area Sarandi Del Yi to get some things and to say goodbye to some of the members.

I woke up Wednesday morning really early once again to catch the bus. I was told to go back to Montevideo solo and leave my companion with an assigned member until I was to return. It was the first time in all my mission I was alone. I felt so lost, strange, and very alone. When I arrived in Montevideo, the assistants to the presidents showed up and gave me a ride to the hospital, helped me check in and get my hospital room. The nurses soon came in, put me on a stretcher and rolled me into the operating room.

Surgery in a South American hospital 5000 miles+ away from your family and loved ones is to be honest, somewhat scary. For me there was a lot of unknown. I didn’t really know what to expect, and up to this point I had not even talked to my parents about it. I did the only thing that I knew that I could do and that was to put my trust in the lord. The operation went great and was very successful. I did wake up with a four and a half inch gash on my lower stomach though, which really wasn’t too fun. I’m sure it will leave a pretty nice scar and it will always remind me of my decision to just do what the lord wanted me to do when I was 19 years old serving a mission in Uruguay.

The real truth of it all is, even though it’s been a little trying and at times painful and difficult, it has ended up being a huge blessing in my life. There have been countless lessons that I have learned and I know there are still more to come. I feel that it has changed me so much and someday when it is time for me to come home, I will be a better man and the Lord will be able to trust me with responsibilities to continue this great work, because I have proved him here.

I’m currently living in the offices of the mission in Montevideo with six other missionaries. It’s kind of nice; I’m not going to lie. I’m going to be here until the end of February to fully recover and then I have plans to go back to my area. So for now, I’m just going to enjoy this time that I will get to spend here. In the evenings I go hang out with my mission president, Presidente DaSilva. Before he was called as our mission president, he was in the first quorum of the seventy. He’s good friends with Thomas S. Monson, the first presidency and the quorum of the twelve apostles. So it’s been really cool at nights, when we have dinner together, to just listen to some of the things he talks about.
Oh and yes, I have now been more than well counseled on money. I made a promise to my mission president, and now to you too mom and dad, that my new goal for my mission is to no longer rely on my personal debit card during the month and to budget my mission money correctly. I will not spend stupidly any more. I plan to no longer carry my card with me and only use it when I’m really, really, really having problems. But at the same time, if I do and budget right, I should really never have any problems. So that’s the conclusion that we came to on that matter. I’m truly sorry for any inconveniences.

On Saturday February 13th, several members from the ward in Sarandi Del Yi went on a ward temple trip. Well, since were only a few blocks from the temple, they decided to walk over to the mission offices and pay me a visit. I was sitting typing letters on the computer when I looked out the window and saw the ward walk up to the home here. It was another amazing thing that has now happened. All in all, I feel loved and I feel that I’m in good hands. Dad, If you would or could send a letter to the Barreto family somehow again (in Spanish) and just tell them how much they helped me out and also how much I appreciate them for all that they did for me. That would really be nice. They really deserve it and yes they played a big part in this whole thing.

Well, so you don’t spend more than an hour reading this short story, I better close it soon. Thank you for your letters and your support. I feel the influence of your prayers and I’m so grateful for all that you do. Life’s interesting huh? At times, you feel that you have complete control over everything. Then something happens and you realize that you never had much control over anything. Our best option in life is to control the one thing that we do have; our attitude. We must always try to find some positive in every situation. If not, we will not just end up destroying ourselves, but also the others in our lives that we share this time with. If you come to a crossroad in life and don’t know where to turn, turn to the Lord. I know now without any doubt, that the Lord exists and helps us in this life. I have felt him at my side and his hand of comfort in my life over and over again this past week. I know if we will just put faith in him and rely on his help, he will carry us through the roughest of times and someday we will look back and realize it was the best of times.

Love your, son, uncle, brother, and friend,
Elder John P. Sluder

John is Doing Great!

Family and Friends,

I got a great email from John this morning. I will post it once we get home, but suffice it to say that he is healing and doing great. He will be in the mission home in Montevideo through the end of February. This would be a great time to send a letter, because he can read it right away. It takes about 10 days for a regular letter to get through the mail. Please note that his email address has changed slightly. His new email address is:

Steve Sluder

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All is Well

February 10, 2010

I received a phone call today around 3:40 from a man speaking Spanish. I told him I couldn't understand him and then he said, "What's the matter Dad, don't you recognize your own son?" Of course, he got me! We were able to speak for a few minutes and he sounded great! He will spend the night in the hospital and then go to the mission home while he recovers. We also spoke to the Mission President and he assured us that John would be well taken care of. It's hard not to worry about your kids.

Steve Sluder

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

John Needs Surgery

I was notified today that John has a medical problem. He injured himself a few weeks ago and now needs surgery to repair a hernia. He will have the surgery in Montevideo. It is scheduled for Wednesday February 10 at 5:00PM Montevideo time or 12:00PM Utah time. It's expected he will spend the night in the hospital and then be released to the Mission President who will put him up for a few weeks in the mission home while he heals. He should be able to return to his assignments in about two weeks.

Steve Sluder

Monday, February 8, 2010

Short and Sweet

February 8, 2010

Dear Mother, Father, family and friends,

Well I’m going to make it short this week. It’s been a little hectic and I’ll just have to let you know more about it later. For now it was another week. I have seen more miracles this week. I feel that I have served with all my heart, might, mind and strength. I also realized this week that I do have a love for the people here in Sarandi Del Yi, Uruguay. I too bore my testimony yesterday in fast and testimony meeting. We had a very special spirit in the meeting and it was very clear to me the things of this world that are true.

We have had rain every day this week also. The rivers all rose above the banks and left hundreds without homes. On Friday, my companion and I went around looking to just serve in any way that we could. Uruguay never ceases to amaze me. One day I think this place is under control and the next thing I know, something happens and I realize that this place is wild.

We have a baptism planned for this Saturday at 7:00 pm. I’m very excited and I feel like I’m making great progress as a missionary. Well like I said, for now I’m going to keep this one short. I’ll let you know more later. I love you all so much, be careful. I’m also being careful… very, very careful… I promise! I’ll keep you all in my prayers as I know you have with me.

Elder John P. Sluder

Monday, February 1, 2010

Heavenly Father Listens To and Helps Us

February 1, 2010

Dear Family,

Another week has now gone by. It’s been a tough one, but I have learned many things.

Dad, congrats on your success with the choir and good luck. That is so awesome. I’m proud of you and your persistent ways. I wish I could be there to hear it myself in person. Way freakin’ cool...

To answer the question about mail and packages... Every Tuesday, when I go to Durazno, I receive mail and packages. The mission home gives it to the zone leaders in their weekly meeting in Montevideo with the President. So I’ll receive them whenever… Thanks

I still haven’t received my crazy phone bill, but when I do, I will probably need to use the money that’s in my account. My companion and I do have plans to split it because there is a call to Peru on the bill also. I think it’s just easier to give the money to me through my account… thanks and I’ll let ya know.

This week was technically the last week of my second cambio and today marks the first real day of my third cambio. It was a pretty plain, dry boring week. Nothing really exciting happened, but we were able to secure a good date for a baptism from one of our investigators. We have plans to baptize a 26 year old woman named Patricia on the 13th of February. We have been teaching her now for only about two weeks. We found her in the old book of records or area book (carpeta de area). Yes, I have been starting to see miracles in this aspect.

This past week something else happened and I saw another kind of miracle. My companion and I had not been getting along very well. It was really over some of the most stupid things. Everything would be alright and then it seemed out of nowhere, he would get angry at me. And in return, I, being hard headed would fire back. It would just escalate. On Friday morning we had weekly planning. Everything was going great at first and we were on the same page. Then for what ever reason, I don’t really know if it was something I said or just something he didn’t agree with, but we started to fight. It really got bad and I was able to keep my patience and it didn’t get physical. He got up from his seat and yelled some stuff at me that I didn’t really understand. So I just replied. “No se” (I don’t know). Then he stormed out of the room, telling me that I was a stupid gringo. He went outside and started his washing clothes. I was pretty upset and just figured that it was a complete day ruiner and that this last five weeks in Sarandi were going to be horrible and a real challenge. I was really confused. I really felt alone. I had feelings of hopelessness and homesickness, which to be honest, I don’t get very often. Then, I did the only thing I knew I could do. I did the same thing that I teach to all of my investigators. I turned to my Father in Heaven for his counsel and asked for a miracle.

After about an hour of sitting in my house alone and reading, my companion came in with tears in his eyes and in very broken English he said “I’m sorry Elder Sluder, I love you, please forgive me”. It was a miracle, not because he won the fight or I won the fight, but because I know that when we turn to the Lord for help, he helps. We had a really good talk and he explained a lot of things to me and I now have a little better understanding of my companion. Since then we have set new goals. We have plans and are unified in our work. These past few days have really been great. Everything happens for a reason. This was definitely one of those cases. I’m so grateful that we have a Father in Heaven who listens to us and does help us. I thank you all for your prayers and support.
I love you all.

Your son, brother, and uncle

Elder John P. Sluder

Hey Jen, I got your email. Thanks, I’ll try to reply later and I’ll just write you by hand. It’s kind of easier that way. Sorry I haven’t written. I’ll try harder.

Your long lost brother,