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Saturday, June 23, 2012

We've Arrived!!

We left the MTC early Monday morning and arrived in Buenos Aires Tuesday morning a little tired. Our supervisor Gustavo Berta picked us up from the airport and gave us a mini tour to part of this huge city. Ít's amazing! We were going to go directly to the office but realized we needed to sleep, so finally he took us to our Hotel. We thought we would be moving into an apartment but it´s not ready so we have a very nice Hotel. The food here is great! We think we might be moving into the apartment at the end of next week. They are in process of getting it furnished. It will be nice to get settled.

Everyone here has been super nice to us. Later that day David Frol, the Welfare Manager, came to the Hotel to welcome us. He spoke to us in halting English and I spoke to him in halting Spanish. Bill speaks excellent Spanish. Yeah!!!  After our meeting, Elder Bigalo (he's the area assistant to President Arnold) picked us up in a taxi and took us to his apartment for dinner. He and his wife are great and were very good about emailing us to help get ready before we left home. We had a great time getting to know them. We came home and finally slept.

Wednesday morning we walked to the Church Office Building. It is really nice, beautifully furnished and decorated. This is where we will work every day unless we are out in the field or traveling to projects in other countries. David took us on a tour and introduced us to many people. They are all very welcoming to us. Here they hug you and give a little kiss on the cheek. I like the custom. Since then we have been organizing our office, getting training (in Spanish) about the Humanitarian Work and trying to figure out what in the heck we are doing!

There are so many ongoing projects and many more planned for the year in both the Major and Area Initiatives. We are a little overwhelmed but with time we hope it will get better. There are a lot of changes going on right now with Chile coming into our area. Both counselors in the Presidency are being changed. One will be Chilean and the other will come from Uruguay. Also the manager of the Welfare Department will be changed in two weeks. There are several new senior missionaries who have just arrived. We think we will still have Gustavo to help us. We love him already.

When Friday came everyone in the office seemed quite happy. We went to dinner with three other couples to Las Caleras, a very colorful local neighborhood restaurant with tables outside. The food was excellent. It was great to get to know some of the other couples, the mission doctor, mission counselor and reactivation specialists. There are about 100 people working in the Area office so it will take us awhile to get to know everyone.

Saturday is P-day so this morning we went for a long walk and then found the church we will be attending. It is about a mile and a half from our hotel (about the same distance to the office but in another direction). It is a nice neighborhood near the church and there are a lot of American brand outlet stores. Rain is forecast for tomorrow so we may have to take the bus or a taxi to church. Did I mention we don't have a car. We can check one out from the office fleet when we have to travel in Argentina outside of the city.

After our walk we got cleaned up and then walked the opposite direction to meet the Bigalo's. They took us to see some of the sights and helped us start to learn how to navigate the City. There are about 15 million people in BA. We rode the subway, saw some government buildings, a beautiful cathedral and then an amazingly huge shopping center - indoor and outdoor. The ceiling of part of the center looks like a small part of the Sistine Chapel (see attached pic).The architecture is very European and interesting. There is a large Italian population here. You can also hear it in the language - kind of "sing song". I like it. Before we left the shopping center we saw an older couple dancing the Tango (see pic). It was really a fun afternoon and such a welcome experience after a challenging week.

We will probably just stay in our room tonight and eat fruit and try to find our clothes for tomorrow. We have been eating so much that Bill is freaking out and my clothes are getting tight. Aye, yae, yae! We will study our Spanish, the Book of Mormon in Spanish and our Humanitarian work and fall into bed. This has been a week of lots of adjustments but the Lord is blessing us so much. We feel very grateful and close to the Spirit.

Today on the subway I sat by a lady who is 96. I was brave and spoke to her in Spanish and gave her a pass along card with a picture of Christ. She was very happy. It was a sweet experience.  On the way home Elder Bigalow gave one to a woman who happened to be a singer and she gave him one of her CD's. Who knows what may happen. Many people here seem to be familiar with the Church.

Bill and I are so grateful to have this experience and be able to serve at this time in our lives. We are really depending on the Lord, each other, and on your love and prayers. Thanks for your emails. We appreciate each of you and hearing about what you are doing. In our next update we will send you our apartment and area office addresses. We love you all and pray the Lord will bless you according to your needs and righteous desires.

Elder y Hermana Ashton

Our Heads are Spinning

June 9, 2012

Wow!  We have learned so much this week if feels as if heads might pop, and it’s all been a wonderful experience. Monday we went to Welfare Square in Salt Lake.  If you’ve never been there we recommend it.  It is amazing to see the complexity and the organization of the church welfare system.  We toured the facilities and received excellent instruction.  We also were given some of the goods produced on-site, homemade bread and jam.  Yum!  It would take several pages to describe all the operations so sufficeth to say it was amazing. Next we were taken to the Joseph Smith building (the former Hotel Utah), had our pictures taken and then were treated to a fabulous lunchby Elder Rudd at the top of the building.  The views are wonderful and so was the food.
In the afternoon training we were introduced to some of the Major Initiatives, which are approved and funded at Church Headquarters.  There are six areas, Vision Care, Neonatal Resuscitation, Water, Food, Immunizations and Wheelchairs.  We also learned about the Church’s Emergency Response Program.  Hopefully we won’t be involved in that but who knows when natural disasters will come.  Then we were introduced to the Area Initiatives which are smaller projects to be determined locally under the direction and approval of the Area Authority.  We will be finding, designing and managing these projects.  There is a huge range of possibilities according to the local needs.  We will also be hands on with the Major Initiatives.  There are two or three scheduled for this year. Life will not be boring, that’s for sure.
One of the things that impressed us the most was a greater understanding of how the Welfare Program really works in the Lord’s way.  The Humanitarian or Welfare work is not a give-a-way program.  It is designed to help people help themselves, to work toward independence and foster feelings of
 worth.  We saw many videos where people, communities, villages, etc. were changed for the better.  When they contributed to the project that made life better there was such hope and joy on their faces. It was very touching.  We feel so blessed to have this opportunity to be a part of this life changing work.
Hope you all are doing well, as well as you can whatever your circumstances.  We love you dearly and pray for you. We truly all are in the Lord’s hands.
Love, Elder and Sister Ashton

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

First Week of MTC

June 3, 2012
Well we finally made it to the MTC.  Yeah!!!  We absolutely loved our first week.  Upon arrival we were greeted by an enthusiastic group of strong and willing elders who helped us get our 300lbs + of luggage to our room.  We are very fortunate to be in a brand new building.  Our room is great, they really have thought of everything to make our stay as nice as possible.  Then we were escorted to our check in area, got our pictures taken and received lots of different materials and schedules for the week. This week we are being trained in “Preach My Gospel” and next week will be Welfare/Humanitarian.   We are the largest senior group so far – about 110 missionaries this week.  The number of seniors has doubled in the last two years.  Awesome!  Everything was very organized.
When we went to lunch we were overcome with a feeling of gratitude to be a part of this great missionary effort.  Being among all these young missionaries (about 2,000+) and the seniors all here to do the Lord’s work is so wonderful it’s hard to describe.  The spirit and enthusiasm is infectious.  We want all of our loved ones to experience this and especially our grandchildren as they approach mission age.  After lunch we started our training.  One of the things that stood out for us was when Brother Stock promised us “Your mission will be an enormous blessing for your families, beyond anything you can imagine.  He also said that the Holy Ghost will touch their hearts and your families will be blessed for generations and for eternity.”
Bill is so cute, he keeps saying over and over “We are really missionaries now”!  I think he likes it. (I do too!)  Here is a typical day. We get get up at 6:00 am, exercise (Bill runs around the MTC Campus 4 x), study, eat and report to class at 8:00.  Classes go until 12:00 and then a lunch break.  We have classes again from 1:00- 5:00 pm and then an hour for dinner.  We have language training from 6:00-8:00 pm except for Tuesday night which is the Devotional (a general authority comes).  After language training we take a walk to the temple or to the BYU campus.  Then we do our homework, say our prayers and fall into bed. 
It has all been so great especially our simulated teaching experiences. Thursday night after language instruction we had a testimony meeting for the missionaries going foreign, where we bore our testimonies in the language where we’ll be serving.  It was a little scary but so thrilling to hear all these humble seniors bearing testimony with some barely able to speak the language.  We have missionaries going all over the world.  We both bore our testimonies in Spanish.  It was a major accomplishment for me (a piece of cake for Bill).
The other senior missionaries are wonderful people.  We have made a lot of friends already.  Many of the class instructors are returned missionaries.  They are outstanding! We have felt the Spirit so strongly in each class.   I said to Bill the other day that I was loving this whole experience so much that it will be hard to leave.  However, we are both looking forward to getting to Argentina and officially start our mission in the field.  Saturday is P-day, however we did have Welfare training in the morning.  We went to the temple Saturday night.  When we came out we marveled at the beauty surrounding us with the mountain behind the temple, the view of the lake and the flowers and fountain on the grounds.  There is so much evidence everywhere of Gods love for us.  Sunday we had testimony meeting with the young elders and sisters, followed by an outstanding Mission Conference. 
A final thought:  Last night as we walked home we talked about how we can read the same scriptures over and over many times and yet not get the full impact.  Yesterday as we studied D&C 31. Thomas Marsh was concerned about what would happen to his family while he was away on a mission.  This was the Lord’s response to him.   We both had a powerful witness that these blessings are for all of us.  We encourage you to read  the 13 verses and to and put your name in place of his in verse 1.  These are amazing blessings!
We love you all!!!
Elder & Sister Ashton
Arriving at the MTC

Us in front of the world map

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saying Good-Bye In Utah

May 27, 2012 Mission Update
We made it to Utah by the skin of our teeth. The last few days were so crazy trying to get everything packed for the mission and get our house packed up and in order. We didn't make it to bed the night before we left. I had to leave about a third of all the things I had planned to take. Just too much weight. I realize now that it will all work out - really no big deal. It was really great to have dinner with our families in Camarillo (thanks Elizabeth,) and to have them come to our setting apart and say goodbye. Our dear home teacher and former Bishop Johnson took us to the airport (thanks Skip). We got there is plenty of time and then of course the flight was delayed due to mechanical problems. At least we finally got to go. We arrived late Friday afternoon, May 25th. Since we didn't have to report to the MTC until Monday we had the opportunity to spend the weekend with our family in Utah.
Lisa Ashton (Bill jr.'s wife) picked us up from the airport and the boys helped us with all the luggage - ugg! We had such a wonderful time with our Utah families, The Bill Ashtons, The Swains and The David Ashtons and Jessa, Wes and our newest great granddaughter Mina. I got to see my sister Carolyn Friday night. It was very nice to catch up with her. On Saturday we had quite the adventure - hiking in the canyon in the rain. After a little moaning and groaning it really was fun and quite beautiful. We warmed up with hot chocolate and soup after. That night we all went to the temple together. It was the highlight of the weekend. We had a great dinner at Lisa and Bill's Sunday after church with everyone. Thanks Jesa for all your help on the i pad and Blog. Hopefully I'll get it figured out. Monday morning Bill jr. took us down to the MTC in his truck. It was so cute to see the kids waving us off. Thanks Rachael and Emily for the beautiful letters and pictures. They are a treasure. Thank you to everyone for making that weekend and send off so great.
We love you all
Elder and Sister Ashton

Saying Good-bye

Mission Farewell
Mom and Matt, Tacoma
Our Mission Farewell. The Geringers, The Steve Ashtons, and The Wrights came to support us. The Wright family sang and Bill and I gave talks. We had a lot of music. Elizabeth gave the closing prayer.

I went to Tacoma to say good-bye to Matt. I helped him move to his new apartment. It was really good to be together. Onward and Upward Matt!

Next Stop: {San Francisco}. Had fun with Katie and Ethan. He loves to laugh and his other favorite is "golfing".

We then drove to Sacramento to see Liz and her family, and Jenny and her family {my daughters Liz and Jenny}. While in Sacramento we got treated to a dance recital by a dancing dolly. (Kadence). Liz's baby Elea is ten months old and walking. She is so much fun.

That evening Jenny and her family came over for dinner. It was great to all be together. and we bid our fond farewells.

After a mad dash at packing we were off to say good-bye to all our Utah Families!