Excerpt from May 31st email: ". . .there is a lot going through my mind but it wouldn't make much sense to anyone else. I am excited to see you all, sad to leave a place I have called home for the last 17 months, nervous to start a new life but also hopeful that it will all be okay. The Lord hasn't let me down yet, I don't expect Him to now. I've grown so much here, I love this place, love the work I do everyday and will miss it. BUT, it's time. I have come to terms with that. "
Excerpt from May 24th email: This last week was full of rain and rejections. No one wanted to even open their door for us, but the trials brought a lot of blessings. That is something I have gained a really strong testimony of in the mission. If we do our part, try to have patience and just keep going even in times of trial, the Lord will bless us. We had an especially tough day on Wednesday, but when we went to the church for our meetings everything turned around. I got to do a question and answer session with the mission prep class and it was really fun. They asked lots of really great questions like, "What do you love about being a missionary?" but then there were also some really bad ones like, "what do you miss most about home?" and "Why didn't you just stay home and get married?" In the end it was really nice to be able to give them advice and think of all the things I have learned in these 18 months. THEN, when we got home that night our branch president called us and said that he put a baptismal date with one of the young boys that comes to seminary and plays soccer with our branch. THEN, his mom traveled to Buenos Aires and we don´t have her signature to sign the baptismal record...so the blessing still comes with some trials. But I might be seeing another baptism before I come home. Abigaíl got baptized on Saturday and it was really sweet. The other ward we share a building with also had baptisms and it was very nice. The primary (well 4 kids) from Parque plus me sang "I am a child of God". They wouldn't do it without me...which is kind of endearing. That is kind of the motto of Parque, "not without Hna. Schmutz!" I don´t know what they will do when they for some reason don´t have missionaries one day.
Excerpt from May 17th email: "This last week we had zone conference and it was my last which gave me the opportunity to bear my testimony. I didn't cry, but felt very overwhelmed with many emotions. After I sat down Presidente del Castillo got up and said how much he was going to miss us (there was another elder that bore his testimony as well) and how we were a part of his family, etc. Then he said, "I remember when Hna. Schmutz got here. She was very sweet and quiet...I don't know what happened to her now!" It´s true, I´m kind of a monster now. The Zone Conference was great and totally powerful."
"I am really doing great, enjoying some cooler weather and some RAIN! I think I will miss the rain storms in Argentina. When it rains here it really means it, nothing like the sprinkle showers we get in Utah...that is so pansy. Anyway, things here are good and I am adapting to having a new companion. She really is perfect for helping me finish out my mission and we have already seen a lot of success together. The miracle of the week is that the branch leaders decided that they wanted to help us get 5 baptisms on the 15th of May and they all worked really hard to follow through. It looks like we will have at least 3...and we are very happy and busy. The members have also been giving us great references lately and it is exciting to see progression in Parque. I can't help but think about all the changes that have been made here in the last 6 months...it almost brings me to tears just thinking about it. Yesterday in church, Vanesa gave the closing prayer and Juanchi (an 18 year old who used to be inactive but is now preparing to be ordained an elder and then HOPEFULLY go on a mission and no that isn't his name it's a nickname) gave the opening prayer. They also both shared their testimonies and I felt like a proud mom...it makes me so grateful to have been a part of their conversion/progression process. The Lord is able to help us do so many things if we just rely on Him. My testimony of fasting was once again strengthened this week. We fasted with one of our investigators who has been waiting to get divorced for a really long time. He has been an investigator for almost 11 years and hasn't ever had the opportunity to fast. He started on Saturday and in doing so had to turn down an invitation to a BBQ...I think it was hard for him, but the Lord does bless us for the sacrifices we are willing to make. We haven't seen the divorce come through, but I saw him a lot happier and calmer yesterday in church. My companion and I also saw some of the blessings in our work, and it gave us the strength we needed to finish out our week strongly. Presidente del Castillo once told us in a Zone Conference that we should be fasting once a week as missionaries...I thought that was kind of a lot to ask and decided not to do it at first because I didn't want to "abuse the power" of fasting. Then, he repeated himself on another occasion and I decided to put it in practice. I have seen a big difference in my diligence and in my desire to be obedient. We are asked to sacrifice so little, but in the end we are blessed in more ways than we can explain. It's worth it every time."
Excerpt from April 26th email: "I have a new companion. I was sad to see Hna. Herrin go, we really did enjoy our time together, but I am happy that she gets to start another adventure in the mission. I remember being sad to leave my first area, but also excited when I was able to see how much I had grown. My new companion, Hermana Karras, is from Ogden and has already graduated in Journalism. . . I am excited to be able to learn a lot in these last weeks of the mission. The Lord really knows what we need to keep us on our toes!"
Excerpt from April 5th email: "This week Esperanza Baéz had her 1st birthday and I wanted to buy her something that she would ALWAYS have to remember me...so I bought her a stuffed turtle. It was really cute, and scared her to death. She would be fine until she saw it´s huge eyes and then she would push it away screaming no no no. They named it Celia-cita in my honor and finally she has grown to like it. I love the Baéz family, such a good example of a humble and happy marriage and family..."
Excerpt from March 8th email: "On Tuesday the YoungMen have mutual and they never start with a spiritual thought...which tells us a lot about why only 4 of our 25 youngmen are active...anyway, we decided to start teaching them before they go out and play fútbol and it was quite the experience. We went to the church and waited for all the boys to arrive and then one by one they filed in with really confused looks on their faces. The branch president explained to them that from now on, if you didn't listen to the missionaries you wouldnt play fútbol. They seemed a little bit ticked but once we got into the lesson the non-member boys started participating and all committed to pray to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet. Tomorrow we will see how it all turned out."
Excerpt from March 22nd email: "Things are still great with the boys that come and play soccer on Tuesdays. Last Tuesdays lesson was our best yet and it was fun to see all the non-member boys participate. At one point we were talking about the 5 steps of the Gospel that we need to accomplish in order to live again with Heavenly Father and when I asked what the 5th one was one of the boys raised his hand and said, MARRIAGE??? We all busted up laughing and I explained that even though that was VERY important, it wasn't one of the steps...in a way it is, but I didn't want to get into too deep of doctrine. We have seen some good results with the boys who are members as well and they are coming to church more frequently. It makes me happy to see Parque progressing."
Excerpt from March 1st email: "The baptism of Mabel was the hardest I have experienced in all my mission, but also the most rewarding and sweet. We went to get her on Saturday and it all went really well. There was another man from the ward that shares our building getting baptized, and so about 45 people showed up. The spirit was very strong and we were really happy. . ."
"After a long night of being baptized. . . Mabel was in a lot of pain and almost didn't make it to church to receive the Holy Ghost. I was totally beside myself when we went to pick her up to go to church and we had a good cry together. She asked again for a Priesthood blessing and Hno. Baéz came running to help. We left her with the money she would need to take a taxi to the church and told her if she could make it, receiving the Holy Ghost would be something that would help her be more calm and peaceful everyday. Normally, you need to receive the Holy Ghost before the Sacrament is blessed and passed and she didn't make it on time. The poor thing was in so much pain and I just thought to myself, "something has got to work out, we have made it this far!" When they finished the Sacrament and we entered the room with her, the branch president called her to the front and she was able to be confirmed without problems. She was still in a lot of pain so we paid for her taxi back to her house and promised to pass by and see her after church. She felt a lot better when we saw her later and thanked us for helping her. I wish I could say I feel like the fight is done, but we still have a while to go. Her son Rodrigo is being kind of difficult, but we are hoping that with the help of the Young Men he will also be baptized. I feel so strongly that Heavenly Father has great plans for them, and that is why we have had to fight so hard to beat the opposition. The best part is that i know that my Heavenly Father is also much more powerful than the opposition and so if I am obedient and do all I can, the Lord will be able to do what it is He needs to do."
Excerpt from February 15th email: "I love being a missionary...have I told you that before? I am really happy to be here and everyday my desire to learn and progress grows even more. Frequently as I think about this experience the song, "I will follow God's plan for me" from the Primay songbook comes in to my mind:
My life is a gift, my life has a plan my life has a purpose, in heaven it began my CHOICE was to come to this lovely home on earth and seek for God´s light to direct me from birth...
We chose to come here, and I think that means that we knew it would be worth it. All we are asked to do is be obedient, and that isn't even that hard considering the blessing we receive in doing so. I love it."
Excerpt from January 31st email: "My new companion is great and we get along really well. Her name is Hermana Alyssa Herrin and is from Idaho Falls. She studied Opera at Idaho state for a year and then studied drama education at BYU, she has already sung 3 solos in her five days here…her voice is beautiful and I get embarrassed having to sing hymns with her. She really reminds me of me when I got to Argentina: totally lost and uncomfortable with the fact that the mission is nothing but glamorous. I am really proud of her though, she is a trooper and everyday complains less. We are really going to enjoy this time together, I am sure of it."
Excerpt from January 25th email: "Yesterday church was really great. Mabel came with her two sons. If you haven´t heard about Mabel, she is the woman that stopped the missionaries in the street and asked them what would happen to her husband who had died 4 days earlier. She had neighbors who were members of the church and were very good examples of Christ-like people. She remembered that the boys with name tags and ties were always at their house and decided when she saw the elders that she wanted to know what it is they taught. Her boys are really great, and made friends quickly with the young men in the ward. Rodrigo, is 14 and Junior (Rubén) is 6, and after Sacrament Meeting was over Junior ran up to my companion and hugged her and said, "I loved it! We are coming back next week." The boys seemed to remember almost all that was taught and began to ask us questions about prophets, Nephi, and the Holy Ghost. Mabel told us that she would spare us all the questions for right now, but that in our next appointment we had better come with some answers. Tonight we are going to visit them and try to answer all their questions while eating mangos..delicious. (Our house has a mango tree, but the mangos are mangos/peaches and I have never tasted anything like it.)
Then, tomorrow we are going to help her build a little house for her family. We got permission from the president to go and do this service for her. She is really thankful and we are kind of sad because she is leaving our area...but happy because we know that it doesn't matter in which ward she gets baptized, as long as she can have an eternal family."
Excerpt from January 31st email: "We had transfers on Tuesday and finished this last one off by building a house for Mabel. It was hard work but really fun and with 8 missionaries and one recent convert we were able to finish the house in four hours. We had to walk almost two hours to get to the house because it was in the middle of NO WHERE Formosa close to a community called “el Pueblo de Dios”…it is a branch of the Catholic church, and have decided to live away from civilization. Lucky for us they need to go into civilization every once in a while because as we all walked back sun burned and tired a man gave us all a ride into town on the back of his truck. It was quite an experience in the end. Mabel was extremely happy to have a house and we were extremely happy to have helped. Mabel is one of the women I most admire here on my mission. Not only did she recently lose her husband, but she has breast and lung cancer and holds herself together so well for her sons, and still smiles, I don't know how she does it. We taught her about eternal families and she told us later that her son had said, “so what are we waiting for, let's get sealed.” After her surgery for her cancer they are moving to their new house and will be part of another ward, but I am confident that she has been prepared to be baptized so it doesn't matter where it happens. We will be able to teach her almost everything and so that makes me happy. I love the plan of Salvation, I love the idea of an eternal family. Who doesn't want to be with their family forever? I know that each family is really different, we all have trials and difficulties, but we are blessed. This life we have is amazing, such a good opportunity to learn and grow. We all must have known that in the end it would be worth it because we decided to come here gain a body and be tried. We are never given a trial we cannot overcome, of that I am sure. I know with all my heart that this plan is perfect and our progression is dependent on our efforts."
Excerpt from January 11th email: "Things here are good, it was a really hot week and today we had a pretty killer rain storm. We were lucky to get caught outside when the downpour came...the thunder and lightning here is incredible and after five minutes of walking in the rain we were up to our ankles in muddy water. I liked it.
Hna. Tau is great, we get a long really well...she is only 17, but she really opened up with the people this week and is doing a pretty good job calling them all to repentance.. It just seems a lot less harsh when coming from someone who is still in high school I guess, it works for her." "Tonight we are going to teach Mabel about the Plan of Salvation. She was a reference from some elders who she stopped in the street. She explained to them that her husband had died 5 days earlier and she wanted to see him again. they gave us her address and information and we went and visited her to put another appointment, she is great. She is someone trulyprepared at this time to accept the Gospel. I feel like the Lord is really blessing me at this time in my mission, because Mabel isn't the first reference we have received that is really prepared, or has a lot of potential. I am so glad for the Gospel and the joy and comfort it brings, even in times of extreme pain and suffering.We had zone conference this week and it was great. The focus was on our Savior Jesus Christ and developing attributes that He has. Presidente del Castillo challenged us to read the entire Book of Mormon before the first week in April, marking all the references that there are to the Savior, I am only in 1st Nephi and it's pretty incredible what I have already marked.. The conference was really nice, I needed to remember who it is I represent at this time and what I am here for. To be like Him, we must also know Him"
Excerpt from December 28th email: "I am doing really well here in Formosa, without a companion and surviving the heat. I have a really nice surprise…. RODOLFO GOT BAPTIZED!!! Last Sunday we met with our branch president and he told me that he felt like we needed to visit Rodolfo again. He asked me what I thought about Tuesday in the afternoon and we fixed an appointment right then and there. We found Rodolfo in his house, with his family and he accepted us with a smile. He said he was glad we came to take away “his punishment” as he called it…and he wanted to start over, but this time he wanted to learn for a bit more before committing to baptism. We agreed that it was probably best that way and promised to be patient if he promised to follow through on all his commitments and be honest with us… THEN, our Zone leader called us and told us that President del Castillo had extended that challenge that all zones have 3 baptisms this weekend. They already had a couple that was ready to be baptized and asked us who we could commit. After saying a prayer, my companion and I both felt that it needed to be Rodolfo…we started a fast and prepared a lesson extending the baptismal date for Saturday the 26th. We prepared the lesson with what we would say if he said “no”, what scriptures we could share, and I was pretty nervous. We passed by his house, and he accepted without a problem. I was still really scared it might not go through, but my sweet companion told me that I just needed to be positive and it would all work out. We passed by every day leading up to the baptism. It was pretty stressful for me, because my companion went home on Thursday, but it all worked out in the end and it was a beautiful baptismal service. Sometimes we are ready to take the next step in our lives, we just need to trust in the Lord and go for it. It was amazing to see the change in Rodolfo even preparing him for only three days. It was a miracle that I was needing to see at this point in my mission."
December 21st email: I want to wish you a merry Christmas! I want to wish you a merry Christmas, I want to wish you a merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart! I taught this song to my companion (Hna. Hernandez) and when she sings it, it sounds a little something like this: I want to wesh you a miri critchmash...from de butum of mi hirt! I am not making fun, I love her from the butum of mi hirt...but it a little reminds me of "A Christmas Story" when the family has to go out to eat at the Chinese restaurant...
Another transfer come and gone...and full of more changes! Hna. Hernandez got transferred to Terminal (the area right next to mine) and I was given a mini-missionary (or a local missionary)...I am with a sweet girl named Josefina Barrios and she is 18 years old, just finished high school. She is a really great missionary and we get a long really well. I am not going to lie, I was scared to death when they told me. But, once again the Lord has given me an opportunity to learn and progress. Having a mini can be pretty tough, mostly because they get no missionary training whatsoever, but she has been a big blessing! Unfortunately, she can only be with me until the 24th, so the mission is looking for another companion to replace her. I may have to wait until the 1st or 2nd of January...in which case I will be with Hna. Gilman and Hna. Marilaf to work for a few days. I get to spend Christmas Eve with the family of Hna. Barrios and I am really excited, it has been really fun working with her, and I will def miss not having her as a companion.
Yesterday was another great day at church. Even with transfers, being with a mini and the holidays, we had 6 investigators come to church. One of the investigators, Pedro, was really excited after because all the members invited him to activities. He is really shy and doesn´t talk much, but he is really starting to open up to us. He is friends with a recent convert named Alejandro who is preparing to receive the Priesthood this coming Sunday. In my short time here I have seen him progress a lot and he is even talking about serving a mission, so that is exciting. He comes with us to teach investigators and also introduces us to all his neighbors...It makes me happy to see him progress so well. In the middle of church the lights cut out because everyone was using their ceiling fans and air conditioners. It was extremely hot and hard to concentrate...then Martín Martinez, one of the Young Men (he is 14) got up to give the opening prayer in Sacrament meeting and asked Heavenly Father to please let the lights come back so we could enjoy the meeting. I thought to myself, that was odd...and then as soon as he said "amen" the lights came right on. Everyone was pretty surprised and I am pretty sure I heard someone clap...not sure if it was an adult or a child. Anyway, we could all enjoy the meeting with air conditioning and a microphone...then, the branch president got up to give his message and compared the humble and faithful prayer of Martin, to the prayer of Joseph Smith. Both asked to receive light, and it was given in one form or another. He also pointed out that only a child (or young boy) would be humble enough to ask for something like electricity in a Sacrament Meeting prayer. As adults we believe that it is inappropriate to ask for something so simple in a formal prayer to begin a meeting. It was incredibly strong the spirit that was felt. It seems so small and simple, but I learned a big lesson. He testified very boldly that the Lord answers our prayers and that this was a testimony to him that the Lord answered the prayer of Joseph Smith as well. The spirit continued very strong throughout the meeting. It was the most reverence I had ever seen in a Sacrament Meeting in Argentina.
We are having a dinner/service activity as a ward to celebrate Christmas in a orphanage for girls. My companion and I are in charge of the decorations and singing a song, and a member is dressing up like Santa to give out presents.. We have a girl in our ward who used to live in the home and is going to share a spiritual message...I will be sure and send pictures. The spirit of the season is strong here in Argentina! I am happy, healthy and trying to keep up with all the Lord has given to me. I hope you are all able to look around you and find ways to serve, ways to love and lift those who have fallen. We are all in need of something, and we all have something special to give.
Excerpt from December 14th email: "Today as a Zone we went and sung in a rest home. It was really fun and involved a lot of clapping. It was really funny because almost everything that was said deserved applause. At one point one of the elders asked why we celebrate the Navidad and one of the women responded, "for the divino niño" and the director said, "muy bien, aplausa!" and we all started clapping. Then the elder asked if anyone there had read the bible...Pedro had...applause again! It was really fun and they seemed to really like it...well, almost everyone. One of the ladies (who is 104 years old) screamed during almost all of our singing...there may have been a few swear words, and it was awesome. To calm her down they gave her a lolipop, and a little massage...All in all it was a fun way to bring the spirit of Christmas. I am grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ, who came into the world to bring hope and establish a Gospel of peace. Last night in the Christmas devotional the Mo-Tab sung "O Holy Night" and it made me tear up a bit...I love my Savior, I love serving Him in this wonderful work. I hope we can all let him in even more this year. Love you all!"
Excerpt from December 7th email: Sunday was great, very simple and sweet. It was pouring rain but we managed to get 4 investigators at church despite the weather. There were no members from our branch at first, so we went to the Sacrament Meeting of the ward that meets in our same building. Almost all the members had to get up and share their testimonies, and the lights kept cutting out…but it all worked out and the spirit was present. By the time we finished some other members had shown up and we had Sunday school with our branch, then finished by holding another Sacrament Meeting so the members who couldn´t before, could partake of the Sacrament. There weren´t very many of us, but it was a moment in my mission I will never forget. Everyone had the chance to bear their testimony and it was very personal and extremely peaceful. There is a part in Preach My Gospel that says that there is nothing that brings the Spirit more powerfully than a heartfelt testimony, because people can´t tell you that what you believe is a lie. I now understand better why that is true. Rodolfo came to church with his daughter. She and his two other kids are going to come to the baptism on Saturday. He is doing really well, and of course, I have really grown to love him. He is hard to describe, because there is just no one like him. Sometimes teaching him is like teaching a child, and then other times, when we just let him talk, I can see who he might have been before his wife died. Every time we see him, we see him more and more “normal” (and I only use that word for lack of a better one). It´s a strong testimony to me that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is very real, He loves us so perfectly. We cannot judge others, because we don´t know what they are going through. We can´t relate to them, but He can.
Things are good, I am happy and healthy. Another year has come and gone, and it has been a good one. The fastest but most productive year of my life…"
Excerpt from November 9th email: "This nice hot and summery day finds me in Formosa Capital with my new companion, Hermana Hernandez. . .I had a nice long trip on Wednesday from Posadas to Resistencia and then Resistencia to Formosa, and I am still tired from the trip. Hopefully I will find ten minutes today to catch up on some lost sleep. My companion is great, she is from Concepción Chile and we arrived in Argentina together. I didn't really have a chance to get to know her then, since my communication skills were very limited, so we are making up for that now that we speak the same language. Formosa is the hottest part of the mission...but these past few days have been pretty cool and rainy. The only problem with rain is MUD. This is a city full of unpaved and ridiculously muddy streets...with the last name SCHMUTZ I fit right in.The people in Formosa are great, very loving and kind and humble. It is kind of like the midwest of Argentina. All the people have a very distinct accent and are just kind of "Drop Dead Gorgeous"-ish. Let's just say I already LOVE it!"
Excerpt from October 12th email: "We had the wonderful priviledge of seeing José Balmacera's baptism this past Saturday. He is a gaucho from the campo who recently was diagnosed with congestive heart failure at the young age of 55 and is searching for God in his life. He was such a joy to teach, I feel like he taught me much more than I have taught him. Not many people were able to attend the baptism, but it was sweet and simple and full of the spirit. He is such a good man, and I've never seen such a desire or sincere effort from anyone else I have taught. Everyday we passed by he would ask us if we thought he was ready and what else he could do to prepare. He still reads his prayer off a paper, but everyday understands better and better how a prayer works, and the spirit speaks through his sincerity. He doesn't understand it all perfectly, but this Gospel isn't about that. It´s for everyone, and we are all different. I love José and admire his faithful desire to be closer to our Heavenly Father and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to teach him and learn from his example."
Excerpt from September 28th email: "We got the new Bibles here. It´s really exciting for the members and the Bibles are really big, but the blessings outweigh the weight. Plus, carrying around the thermos that Nora gave me has really built up my muscles..."
Excerpt from September 21st email: "It´s officially the first day of spring here in Argentina, and winter really didn´t go out silently. We had rain and thunderstorms on and off almost all last week. Rain here can be inconvenient for the work but we are never discouraged, walking in a storm can be quite entertaining. It has made it so that all of the short cuts we take have turned into marshes, so we usually take the long way right now. Yesterday, though, we were late for an appointment and my companion suggested that we walk across a field we usually take when the weather is dry. The sun had been out the few days before so we thought it would be harmless. Halfway through I took a big step and sunk into dirty marsh water up above my ankles. I turned around to warn my companion right as she did the same. Needless to say, we had to get to an appointment and we were already half way, so we tromped through the muck and laughed as we did it."
Excerpt from September 7th email: "Probably the best birthday gift I received was the baptism and confirmation of Nora and Oscar. It was so special and they were so happy! They ended up having to baptize Nora twice because her hand came up out of the water (poor thing kind of has a fear of water…) and then, after they had finished the service and they were changing out of their wet clothes, one of the witnesses realized that they had done it all with the left hand…so Oscar was baptized twice and Nora three times! She was a good sport about all of it, and announced after that it now she was super clean. . . . The Branch was very supportive and it was just a very happy day. There is really nothing better than to hear someone you have taught, bear their testimony and say they know that this is the true church of Jesus Christ. The confirmation was actually on my birthday and that was extremely wonderful as well. They are just such good people and I love them immensely. Nest week Oscar receives the Priesthood and can pass the Sacrament…at the ripe age of 69."