Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First week in Bella Italia

August 30, 2010

Dear Family,

Well at least I’m still alive I guess. This place sure ain’t the old Minas I’m used to. I now live in the city and life is much, much, much different! This place is a little more bravo than I really thought and we have made a commitment to follow the rules of the mission with 100% exactness so that we have the blessings of the Lord’s protection.

The capilla (chapel) in Bella Italia is at mile marker 12 on the Ruta 8 or (Camino Maldonado). We live a few blocks from there. It’s pretty much in the middle of a bunch of chappes (tin shacks). People here are poor and most of the neighborhood is run on drugs. Our house however is very, very nice. We are pretty much in the middle of the ghetto, but we are protected at night by a 10 ft wall with barbed wire above and pieces of glass cemented into the top of the wall. I don’t have pictures but when I get brave enough to take out my camera (I don’t know really when that will be), I will take some pictures and send them to you.

The barrio apparently had some problems with Elder Young’s old companion and so all I heard yesterday was, “Finally, President Da Silva sent us two gringos who want to work!”

Elder Young is awesome! In the past few days we’ve had tons of success and already have two baptisms planned, one for the 11th of September and the other on the 18th of September. It’s looking really good and the Bishop here seems to be very satisfied. Finally, I have a companion who enjoys following the rules and enjoys being a missionary. It’s been a wonderful week in that aspect. Elder Young has been out 8 months and I am out a year now. It’s pretty incredible and by the time Austin’s sister (Megan Lundskog) gets here, I will only have 6 months left, it will be crazy!!! I’m actually super excited to meet her and with the way things work, there is no doubt that I will run into her.

There is nothing too unique about this area and zone of Bella Italia. All of the missionaries here are Elders. It’s just too bravo to have Hermanas here and its way too bravo to have couple missionaries here. I have a great group of awesome elders in my district and they are all working super hard and just doing the right things.

Here is how things will work when you come to pick me up. I will finish my mission on a Tuesday night here. You guys will fly in on Wednesday morning and when you get off the plane here in Montevideo, I will be free to do as I wish. I will help you get a rental car and we will head out together and tour the country for about a week a week and a half or so. I will probably have to drive because you won’t be able to understand too much. During that week, we will visit with my converts and also probably go to the sealing of Federico and Virginia (my convert family from Minas) here in the temple in Montevideo. So make sure that you are worthy to hold a current temple recommend!!!!!! (At all times) It will be quite a memorable experience, so yeah get excited too.

Well I love you all so very much! I’m doing just fine with money, don’t worry about that now. I love you all so much. I’ll see you all in just a little bit

Con Amor tu hijo
Elder Sluder

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Week... A New Place!!!!!


Dear Family,

What a week I have had!

Well first off, yes some things did happen with the money problem. I’m extremely sorry. It all comes down to bad planning on my part and some really stupid situations that left me having to spend more than I had originally planned. I’m okay for now and I do not plan to spend much more. I will get better at this! But thank you so much for your support. You really helped out in a tight situation.

I have now been serving in Minas for almost six months. It’s become my home! I asked the President for a fifth change there, but he just looked at me in my interview like I was crazy. On Sunday night I received the call I kinda didn’t want to receive. I was told that my new area was to be San Jose de Mayo. I was to be whitewashing (they pull both missionaries out and put two brand new ones in) and my companion was to be Elder Taylor. I was really excited and I got my self all prepared to go. I even printed out a map of the city and was dead set on this place. Then last night at 11 O’clock, I received a phone call from the AP’s. They said there had been some problems and there were to be some emergency changes with some problematic missionaries and that I am now the district leader in Bella Italia MoraƱas Montevideo. I couldn’t believe it! I was so mad because I really don’t like Montevideo. I don’t like the city! And I’m now going to one of the roughest areas in the entire mission right in the middle of the freakin’ city. My new companion is Elder Young. I still haven’t met him, but I hear he’s great. I’m slowly warming up to the idea and so we will see how it goes.

Last night we had a special noche de hogar (family home evening) with a family in the ward in Minas and Federico and Virginia. They are the couple who plan to get married and baptized in September. Virginia told me some things that made this whole mission totally worth it. First, she told me she had been praying like crazy that I would stay and when she found out that I wasn’t, she knew that the Lord knew best. Second, I asked her what the difference in her life has been since I found them and started teaching them. She said that now she believes in God and knows he loves me. She also said, “I know God loves me because every morning when Federico goes to work, he kisses me and tells me that he loves me. I have lived with him for five years and we have a child together and he never did that until you taught us about the eternal family”.

It was night full of tears. They have a goal is to marry in the temple in one year. If everything works out right we might be able to attend their sealing.

Minas was wonderful and I will miss it! A lot.

I have a question… Are you guys really planning on coming in a year to pick me up?

Dad your Spanish is perfect! (With Google, keep practicing)

I got my shoes fixed and I’m ready to go!

I love you,
Elder Sluder

Thursday, August 19, 2010

From Punta Del Este


Dear Family,

The pictures you guys sent to me are great! Thanks! I really loved them! I’m so happy to hear that you had a successful reunion and that all went well!

I have had a very difficult week myself. I am currently down here in Punta Del Este and today I have been going around with my district seeing the sights. I hope you guys like the pictures. If you can zoom in on some of them and you’ll see a lot of interesting things.

John on the famous Hand in the Sand sculpture. Thumbs up on the thumb!

Backpack on the beach

John and Hermana Kleinman

An artsy shot on the beach with his nametag in the foreground.

A shot of the city from the beach.  
The Hand in the Sand is in front of the buildings

I will be down here until tomorrow, head back to Minas and then on Wednesday morning there is a special meeting with a Seventy in Montevideo. So I’ll be traveling down there… again.

This past week Elder Mangleson and Elder Lopez didn’t get along at all! It was horrible. Elder Lopez just about called it quits and headed home and it really made for a rough week with a lot of drama. The truth is they don’t agree much about anything and don’t really like each other.

Federico and Virginia, our best investigators are still on schedule. They will be getting baptized the 11th of September. They are awesome and maybe, just maybe when you guys come to Montevideo to pick me up, they will be going through the temple and we will be able to join them. That’s my hope at least.

Changes will happen on Tuesday, August 24 and I’m almost positive I will be leaving Minas; six months in one area is a long flippin’ time! And to be honest, after this week I feel that it is time for me to go. The time seems to be flying and in the next little while I will be out one year in my time on the mission. It’s going quick!

Well have a great week. I love you and miss you guys a ton. Enjoy the pictures

Love, Elder Sluder

Monday, August 9, 2010

In Pan de Azucar

Note from Dad: We've gathered our family together this week for our second annual Sluder family reunion in Wellsville, Utah. I emailed John last night and included some pictures of the family that were taken last night.

August 9, 2010

Dear Family,

Wow… I can’t believe the family I have! This week I’ve been dreaming a lot about all of you. It might sound weird, but I keep having this same dream where we are all together at a family reunion function. The strange part is, I totally forgot that this week you were all meeting together for this reunion. I realized it and it really hit me hard when I saw you all together and happy.

I’ve had a heck of a week. Everything that we planned seemed to just not work out and at times was it very difficult to be content with the situation. We did however keep our three fechas bautismales and the family that we have planned to baptize is still on schedule. However, I do not think I will be there to see their baptism. They can’t get married or baptized until after the 10th of September. The change will end on the 24th of August and from what I hear from President Da Silva, I will not be in Minas a fifth change. He has other plans for me. I have an interview with him tomorrow, so we shall see.

Tonight I’m in Pan de Azucar. We had a zone activity today and we went and climbed the cruz It’s a cerro (hill) above Pan de Azucar. Anyway, because we’re already half way to Maldonado, we are just going to stay the night here and head on our way tomorrow morning.

I had a very interesting conversation today. While I was coming down from the cruz at the top of the cerro, I was talking with one of the oro hermana missionaries who is really struggling with her new life here in Uruguay. She is from Salt Lake City and is a convert to the church of only two years. I asked her what her parents and her family thought of her decision to serve a mission. She replied that her parents were furious (they’re not members) and when she left her mother at the airport, her mother told her not to ever come back. I couldn’t believe it and I immediately felt horrible for this sister missionary.

I first though about you Dad and the last moments I had with you in the airport and how life changing to me they really were. And Mom, I then thought about how much you really didn’t want me to go, but you always knew how important it was, so in a sense you gave me the push and support to leave. I then thought about my awesome brother, my loving sisters, their great husbands and wife and all of the rambunctious, loud and sweet nieces and nephews I have! I am so grateful to have all of you. I really miss every single one of you so much. I love you all even more! You’re the greatest gift that God has ever given me. I will keep you all in my prayers. Be safe and enjoy EVERY moment together in your family reunion this week.

Love your son, brother and uncle
Elder John Sluder

P.S. Tell Juan and Jackie thank you so much. I will soon be writing them a letter and send them my love.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Climbing Mountains & Teaching the Gospel in Uruguay

August 2, 2010

Dear Family,

Well how’s it going? I'm doing alright for now. Another week has passed and we seem to be coming along just fine. Today we had an awesome p-day activity. We climbed the Cerro Verdun here in Minas. At the top is a giant Virgin Mary. Yes, it’s another Catholic icon, but that's what they put here on the tops of mountains.
I have included several pictures.

First is my district; from right to left is Elder Lopez from Paraguay, Elder Mangleson from Centerville, Utah (he will be finishing his mission in about four weeks), Hermana Bull from Arkansas (also about to finish her mission), Hermana Kleinman from Orem, Utah, my companion Elder Thornton, and of course me.

In this photo you can see the city of Minas behind me.

 Here is one of me and Jose Merola. Jose is probably the coolest guy I’ve met here in Uruguay.

And here is one of the Virgin Mary shrine at the top of the hill.

We have set a marriage date with our investigators Federico and Virginia!!!! WOOOOO HOOOOO. They will get married on the 10th of September and we will probably baptize them on the 11th of September. Were baptizing a whole family and I can’t even describe how awesome and happy I feel. The next changes will happen on 23rd of August. I fear that I will be long gone for the wedding and for the baptism but I still feel super good about it. I am planning though to ask the president for a fifth change in Minas, but considering that I have already served here five months, I highly doubt that he will say okay. Four changes in one area is rare enough, but five is really just unheard of.

We definitely had a much better week. My reimbursements won't be here until Friday and I had to pay bills right off the bat, so I didn't get the chance to really use my monthly allowance for anything. I did take some money out of my account so I can eat for the next few days. Sorry. But thank you so much. I'm really trying to just be super cheap and so far having to take responsibility for all the small stuff has been really killing me.

Well I love you all. I'm doing great and I'm having a blast. Don't really have anything to else to tell ya. Thanks for the information on the people and please send my concerns for Kolby Crampton. That is just unbelievable.

Love ya!
Elder Sluder