Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Utilities (Part 2)

Here is part 2 of Hermana Merkley's account of our exploits with Argentine bureaucracies!   Enjoy!

Dear family and friends,

I promised you the rest of the story in getting our utilities changed into our name so here it is!

Day 1
After finally getting the gas changed into our name, we felt confident as we walked down to the public services which bills for electric/water/garbage. With copies of our rental contract and passport in hand and an approximate address on Kirchner, the main road downtown, we were ready to tackle this next errand. After wandering around and asking at least two people for directions, we finally realized we had passed the building twice, not knowing what we were really looking for. Feeling somewhat humbled, we walked inside and took a number. Most businesses here run on this system. If you want service, you take a number and wait for it to be called. There were at least twenty numbers ahead of ours with four boxes, or attendants, so we knew it would be a long wait.

The room was filled with people, with more people entering than leaving. It was just after 12:00 and many people were on their lunch break. Most of the businesses here actually close for lunch and the cultural siesta. The public services stay open until 1:30 p.m. but does not reopen later in the day. Soon I felt perspiration pooling on my forehead and running down my back. (That is the other thing we have noticed here; many people keep their homes or businesses very warm.) After feeling like we were starting to cook, we decided to step outside to cool off. We wandered down to a craft store and checked out the yarn prices. (Yes, Elder Merkley is very supportive of my wishes.) After a few minutes we headed back to the public services, hoping they would get to our number before they closed. There were still about seven numbers to go so we waited, anxiously watching the clock. Finally, our number was called. We went up to the attendant and presented our documents. She took one look at the copy of our rental agreement and told us that it wasn't sufficient. She needed the original certified copy. We left feeling discouraged because our certified copy was at the mission office in Comodoro Rivadavia, around 500 miles away.

Days 2-5
After talking with Elder Carter in the mission office and explaining our dilemma, he decided to send us the original document by certified mail. Three days later we received a notice in our mailbox that we had a certified letter waiting for us at the post office. The mail system within the country seems to be very efficient. Since the post office closes early, we had to wait until the next day to retrieve our letter.

Day 6
The next day we walked down to the post office and waited in line, thankfully a very short line, and showed the postal worker our notice. She politely told us that we were at the wrong place. We needed to go downstairs to a different room to request a certified letter. After finding the room, we were relieved to see that only one person was ahead of us in line. We proudly presented the new postal worker our notice, and he went to find our letter. We waited, and waited, and waited. I was starting to wonder if he had taken a lunch break when he finally returned with our letter. We left clutching the document, knowing that we would have to return to the public services another day since they were now closed.

Success at day 7!
Our second time at the public services the line was shorter and the room wasn't quite as hot. (We are learning to be thankful for small miracles.)  When our number was called, we showed the attendant our original certified copy of our rental agreement. She quickly looked it over and then told us we needed to give her a copy of the certified copy that she could keep on file. We handed her the copy we had made days earlier, puzzled by why she had to see the orginal copy in the first place. She then told us that she couldn't transfer the utilities into our name until the final bill was paid by the previous tenant, a bill that hadn't even been sent out yet. Not wanting to go through this process all over again, we agreed to pay the previous bill which was about $6.50 USD. The government heavily subsidizes the public utilities which is a blessing to those who are really struggling financially. The attendant gave as a hand written copy of the bill and showed as the window where we could pay it. And yes, you guessed it, we had to wait in another line. We paid the bill and went back to the first attendant. She verified our receipt and quickly and efficiently made the changes. She then told us we were good to go, but reminded us that when the next bill came in the mail in a week or two for the $6.50, we should ignore it since we had already paid it.

Love Hermana Gwen Merkley

Thursday, March 6, 2014

His Grace is Sufficient

Here is another of Hermana Merkley's emails.   She writes much better than I do.  Maybe someday I'll get the comma thing down right so she doesn't have to correct it all the time . . .

Dear family and friends,
Lest you think we spend all our time doing mundane things, I thought I would share some of the other kinds of experiences that we are having.

We have spent a lot of time with people who are in a great deal of emotional and spiritual pain. It is often hard to know how to help or give any comfort. We often leave these homes feeling frustrated with ourselves, wondering if we made any difference in the lives of these people. Other times we definitely feel the hand of the Lord. The other day we were visiting with an inactive sister who was recently separated from her husband. During our visit she had an emotional breakdown. It was hard to know how to give her any comfort since I knew that I didn't have any answers for her. The only thing I could tell her was that God knew her and loved her, and that Christ's atoning sacrifice covered her pain and anguish. (Alma 7:11) Elder Merkley offered to give her a blessing for comfort and strength. It was amazing to feel the power of the Spirit come into the room and fill it with peace where just moments before it had been filled with pain.

We had a much harder experience with an inactive brother our first week here in Rio Gallegos. While still living in a hotel and spending a great deal of time apartment hunting, we tried to spend a little time each day contacting members. We had a branch list so we started knocking on doors of members in the area closest to the church. The second house we tried, a man opened his door and came outside to talk to us. At first he would not admit to being the member that we were looking for. After a short conversation where we thought at any moment he would tell us to get lost, he finally admitted to being a member of the church. Elder Merkley asked him if he remembered his baptism and the missionaries who taught him. He replied that it was a long time ago. His body language was still very antagonistic. We were getting ready to walk away, when suddenly something changed inside this man, and he invited us into his house. We sat around his table where he proceeded to tell of all his struggles and some of the reasons why he hadn't been to church for many years. His pain was so great that it hurt to be in the same room. It was one of the few times I was very grateful that I didn't understand a word he was saying. But I felt his emotional distress. Elder Merkley promised him that God still loved him and again asked him if he remembered his baptism. This time he responded by telling us the names of the missionaries that baptized him almost 20 years ago. He spoke of them with great love. He then told us he had been a former branch president. Then he walked over by his TV and picked up a magazine there. It was the last Liahona he had received in 2006. He showed us a picture of President Hinkley and we felt of his great love for this prophet of God.

We still don't really understand all the reasons why this man hasn't been to church for years, but we do know that God wants him to come back. We've tried stopping by several other times, but he has never invited us back inside. He seems almost embarrassed about having let us in that first time. But we keep running into him in the grocery store. The last time we ran into him, Elder Merkley mentioned an article found in the Liahona that we thought he might be interested in reading.  Last week we dropped off a copy of "Su gracia es suficiente" and he agreed to read it. We haven't managed to catch him at home to see if he has read the article, but we don't think it's a coincidence that we keep running into him.

Our days are filled with many small miracles like the examples above. We haven't really seen anything that most people would recognize as truly miraculous, yet we have felt God's hand in our lives time after time. We know he is there, and we know that he cares about the people here in Rio Gallegos.

Sister Gwen Merkley