Monday, December 21, 2015

The end of the begining: The last Email ever

Although that title is deceptive, seeing as I will probably send a few more emails after having finished this one.

Well, this will also be my last quarterly update.

That's right, this past week I hit two years of mission time- 19th of December 2013-2015- And I didn't even realize it until I was about to go to bed. But it is true- Two years have come and gone, they really have. Such is the time that passes.

So what has happened in these past two years? well, let's go over the last six months first...

A whole bunch of letters that must have been stuck in customs SUDDENLY ARRIVED thanks to Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina, AKA Santa Clause for Elder Backstrom.

That's a total of 19 letters- yeah! that is a GOOD Christmas present for a missionary!
Thanks to everyone who sent me letters that never ever ever seemed to arrive. Because they didn't until now, but even though they are from as far back as February, they are still good as gold to me. We'll see if more are not liberated by MACRI FREEDOM JUSTICE,see goofy photo created by my mediocre "paint" cut and paste.

rick mercer would be proud
Christmas also decided to come early in the form of terrible ice-snow known as hail. it was actually pretty devastating to the crops in the area... however I went out and took photos after it stopped ~ 1am, and it looked almost like a white Christmas. photos attached, also two of la aconcagua, our normal everyday super huge mountain scenery. It didn't come out as well in the pictures as I would have liked it to.

Next, let's talk baptisms- Who got baptised?

1- Gisela Muñoz
2- Chagua Family (six in total)

That actually also works out to be the mission totals for me, since the first baptism I ever had was Gisela's; However, it's great to think that I have been able to contribute to the baptisms of at least these people.

Lets see, lists of areas-

Progresso, San Juan
San Martin 1, San Martin
Amppya, San Luis
La Favorita, Mendoza
Maipu, Maipu
Tres Porteñas, San Martin

Six in total. I have had 7 total apartments.

Lists of favorite foods-

1- delicious empanadas
2- buttery asado
3- giant raviolies


1- expensive creamy ice cream
2- english pudding
3- Alfajores

Well, I'm not quite sure what else to include.

Buses are not very frequent in Tres Porteñas.

This week I started desperatly writing letters to all of the people that I have known almost, saying goodbye to them and urging them to live the gospel. It is a little shocking to think that this is the last time I will ever write to those people in the role of a representative of Jesus Christ, and so I took as much advantage of the situation as I could to urge them with all the words I have to stay (or to get into) the path of the gospel.

I am very glad for the months and years of service that I have been granted to have. It has been an experience of growth and learning. I love the quote, "Never look back", But I'll make an exception today and say, looking back, it feels shorter than it was. I can't remember, almost, how long the days were; I only remember selectively the things that feel important- the visits, the people, the companions, the places. And the most important things that I remember are the small, simple spiritual experiences that help me to grow in my conviction of the living reality of the gospel, and to know that God has not given up on me, but that he is always helping me to become a better missionary, and a better person.

I know that this work that I have been doing for two years, has been worth it. I know that it is the work of God, and the most important work that is going forth upon the earth. there is nothing more important than to live the principles of the gospel, because there is nothing else that can cause us, in the last day, when all will have to answer before God for our acts in this life, to be received pure and worthy in his kingdom.

I would like to thank everyone who has writen me, really, it has been great. Thanks so much for your support.

I really don't have basically any time left in the mission- since this week is Christmas, and five days out of the week will be occupied with various Christmas activities- and so I'm sort of entering into the days that are not days. It's real for me for the first time that I'm actually going home... It's sort of like I'm living borrowed time. most missionaries don't have two whole years, and I have a few days more. But it will be so weird to go back to a life that I've forgotten how to live.

Well I can say that I am glad for every day that I have had. I can say that I dedicated myself to Tres Porteñas as though I would be staying here, and now I don't want to leave... But such is life in the mission.

Look, take care of yourselves until we see eachother;
here is a scripture from Jeremiah that is very applicable to what the mission president desires that we study right now,which is hope, and also very relevant to the vineyard experience in Tres Porteñas-

 7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

I think that hope is very important; it is our attitude; it is the way that we can remain green when there is drought and put forth fruits of repentance through hard times as well as good. Hope is what will eventually save us, as Paul declared, "they are saved by hope..." And for now my hope, which will water the tree of my faith, is that I will return home and be able to continue in the love of the gospel of Christ, and find all of you well and firm in your minds and spirits.

That you have hope of a better day, a day in which you will see me, (haha)
Elder Backstrom
for the last time


Monday, December 14, 2015

Penultimate email from Elder Backstrom

Another week means another weekly email update, at least for one week more.

Well that was heavy. I guess it really is just one week more. This is my penultimate weekly email in the whole mission ever.

But Baptism photos! Elder Rogers sent me this photo of the baptism of the Chagua family, which I told you about last week; there you can see; front, left to right; Julian Chagua, Gaston Chagua, Julia Chagua, Silvina Chagua, Abisag Chagua; Behind, left to right; Elder Puyol, Elder Rogers, Ruben Sosa, Elder Backstrom, Franco Chagua, and Rafael Genem. They are a few people, no?

Anyways in other stories for this week, We went to Mendoza today and I purchased a high-quality replica "Boca" jersey for my Dad, it's pretty nice but unfortunately they didn't have quite the model I wanted,

so I got one that looks like this

but with the lighter blue from above.
(Looks like a Swedish flag? you bet it does.)

so, spoilers on what I got for you, dad. Pretty great though, I found you the Argentine football team with the colours of Sweden. Grandpa Backstrom would be proud.

Hm, another fun story is that today on the bus back from Mendoza ( now you understand why I told the other story, it was just an instrument to get to this story) we were four elders and we sat in the back of the bus which has five seats, and so my companion took the window seat, and I sat in the middle, and the other two beside me, leaving a one seat gap between my companion and I. And so really quickly, before we can talk about shuffling over, a lady sits down in the open seat and I make a commentary to her about how my companion is racist (evidently a joke) because he doesn't want to sit next to the Canadian. anyways my companion and I started chatting with her, and, since the bus ride is about an hour, ended up having a fairly large conversation. Her name is Emilce, and she told us that she was headed out to the Jehovah's Witness church in San Martin to do some service cleaning. we had a polite conversation about the things that she believes, and she asked us if we believe in the bible, and so we showed her our bibles and told her that we do indeed believe in the bible, and a little bit about what we do as missionaries. When we got nearer to San Martin, she left us her email and phone number so we could get together to talk about the scriptures one day, and after that, I also gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon, with a challenge to read and pray about it, which she accepted.

So I comment that story why? Because it's great to share beliefs in a respectful way. We had a very pleasant conversation in which we were able to share and testify of some of the things we believe without being pushy or rude about the beliefs of another person. it just goes to show how nice it can be to talk about faith with someone who is willing to converse about such things.

Anyways, have a good week everybody,
Elder Backstrom

December Everyone!

Here we are, into the month of December! How emotioning!

First things first, photos.

Elder Puyol, Dallin's companion

A pepsi sign?

Elder Bluebird Backstrom

Another Blue headed missionary

The district

Goofy missionaries

El. Backstrom selfie

We have in there a zone photo, and some other photos of regular stuff like my companion and other missionaries.

Well, this week we had the baptism of the Family Chagua, (6 in all: Julian and Julia, and their four children, Abisag, Franco, Gaston, and Silvina.) I wish I could send the photos but they will be for next week since elder Rogers (senior couple missionaries) took the pictures and has to email them to me.

It was really great though. it was well planned, almost the whole branch came out, we made little programs that were very nice-looking, and the speakers shared very spiritual messages. I baptized Julian, Elder Rogers Baptized Julia and Abisag, Brother Sosa baptized Franco, Brother Genem baptized Gaston, and Elder Puyol baptized Silvina. They were confirmed on Sunday. It was really a beautiful thing to see those humble people emerge from the waters of covenants that they made with God. Their faces where shining and you could really see the difference in them after having received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Christmas is also a thing that is happening soon, so, here is a little Christmas video if you haven't seen it yet. Yes it is different than last year's, and you should all watch it because the little kids are very cute.

Here are some Christmas scriptures that I like a lot:

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

John 6:51
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Hm, so what else can I tell you? I've basically already described tres porteñas and sent a few photos so you can understand it. I'm really enjoying journal writing recently, I've got a lot of pages (or what for me are a lot of pages) done in the past few weeks.

Also a fun fact: I sign all of my journal entries, and it is interesting to see how my signature has gone evolving from a furniture hand-over scribble to a much more refined and slightly more loopy cursive initial. When I get back, if I work in Ikea again, it might just transform back, but, cool to see.

Well I'm going to have to practice Spanish soon.
Also French.

See you soon everybody, find new doors this week, don't run with scissors, always return the things you borrow.
Elder Backastrom

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

In a world where bike tires are unpopable!

So, can I just say, that Tres Porteñas might just be* the most absolutely beautiful place in the entire world to take a leisurely bike ride on a lazy cool summers evening with the stunning view of la cordillera de los andes as you meander through lovely vineyards that seem to stretch forever. pictures included.

*if your bike had unpopable tires

Irrigation maybe?
bike with popable tires
alright everybody! here we are at the beginning of another week in tres porteñas! how exciting! the Familia Chagua who where going to be baptized this week decided to push the date to this coming Saturday in order to invite more people and better coordinate the baptism, so no pictures because it has not happened yet. However! I do have a few pictures of the gorgeous scenery though, and in different dimensions than before (tell me if they are better or worse looking).

I think I even have one picture in the car of the Rogers, the missionary couple that I told you about before.

Inside the fancy car
Also this week I learned to be a farmer (so that's to you Ceris) by pulling up weeds in a muddy hectare of onion. it was probably the hardest service project I've ever done, but the work was rewarding the three mornings we went to help with the work.

So there we are with Tres Porteñas!

I'm also taking lots of videos and photos that will not fit in these emails, because no, so. Have a great week everybody!

Greetings from Elder Backstrom in Tres Porteñas

Elder Backstrom

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Weekly email from Tres Porteñas

Well hello everybody!

Here we are in Tres Porteñas , San Martin, Mendoza, Argentina! And with bikes! I'm going to get home fit & skinny after all!

What a blessing! we have the matrimonio (senior missionaries) Rogers as our  branch president, and they bring us around in their luxury Peugeot 408 all the time- It's almost like having a car, with private chauffeur! since the area is so huge, it's super duper helpful.

Wow vehicles

I don't even remember anymore. are there Peugeots in Canada? It's a french car brand, and I think I remember having seen some, but maybe not.

In more relevant photos,
there is a cool multi photo panorama, my new companion (elder Puyol), and the Australian (elder Debono,)

Me and my new companion

Me and Elder Debono
 Have a great week everybody!

Oh wait! I need to tell you about the area! Well, look on google maps and find Tres Proteñas. it's in the middle of a lot of vineyards and farms that grow veggies. It is a very very small town, and everyone knows everyone. we have the whole northern area of the San Martin district (I'm not sure if that shows up on google, gut its about 45x80km if my memory and map guessing skills serve me right.

I just did a little square in google maps and it says that my area is  (Approx.) 1200km square.
so it's big.

Anyways, we are teaching some families, I'm still getting to know them, but it appears that a family of six who were already coming out to church when I arrived might be getting baptized this Saturday. So that would be pretty cool.

Have an even better week now that you know more of the life of elder Backstrom!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The begining of the end: The last bag pack

Well, today I am beginning the end. I am packing my bags for what should be the very last time before I come home.

I am going to Tres Porteñas, San Martin (close to my other area, San Martin 1). Maipú will be washed. One last area, one last companion- elder Puyol, from Argentina- and officially I will have no gringo companions my entire mission since my trainer.

Included are some photos of the baptism of Gisela Muñoz. She got baptized on her own steam, really an admirably self-sufficient person. The bishop baptized her, and then there are some pictures from afterwards and with me, Gisela, sister Trigo (bishop's wife), Florencia and Camila (bishop's daughters).

Well, I wish that I could write more, but I really don't have the time. We have to pack today because tomorrow we are having a meeting with the entire mission and two seventies in which the transfers will also be effectuated which is CRAZY also really soon after receiving transfers, so we have to prepare for that.

Okay well Look forward to my next quarterly report in about four weeks, that's going to be a great email surely.

The Happy Elders with Gisela

Elder Backstrom, the bishop's wife and daughters with Gisela

The Bishop and Gisela

Weekly Email Tuesday?

Well everyone, Here I am, in a strangely rainy Mendoza Argentina- on- Tuesday of all days. we had interviews with the mission president yesterday so p-day was moved to today.  I'm also writing in the afternoon because I woke up today with a really sore throat and congestion, very suddenly- and so I was resting in bed in the morning. Hopefully it will go away soon though.

So, we have some exciting news- Do you all remember that I told you about two weeks ago that a young lady named Gisela had arrived all on her own at the chapel, and that we had started teaching to her the gospel? Well, she has accepted a baptismal date for this coming Saturday, the 14th. It has been quite the miracle- we've hardly done anything except for teaching her the missionary lessons- and she has put in her part and has progressed amazingly. It's not very often that you find a person who is so auto sufficient- who does things for themselves proactively. It's inspiring to see someone finding joy in the gospel and immersing themselves in it.

Apart from that we also had the experience this week of talking to a lady who is confined to a wheelchair after falling down some stairs and also recently lost a brother, and to a young fellow who repairs photocopy machines- both of whom invited us to come back to their homes to teach them more about the message of the restored gospel.

In the interview with the president, he exemplified what my last transfer in the mission, coming up next Sunday, might feel like. he said, when a runner runs a marathon, or a swimmer swims long distance, they have to conserve energy or they will not be able to finish the race. you have to pace yourself throughout in order to not fall down in the middle. however, when the finish line comes into sight, when the last hundred meters are near, the last reserves of energy that the athlete has saved through the entire race can be expended to bring them to the end in the best time possible. ironically, in the moment in which they are most tired, they can afford to expend the largest amount of energy, since when the race ends they can rest and recuperate from the tiring event. He told me, "Elder Backstrom, these are your last hundred meters. Make them count. Don't listen to the adversary, who will try to tell you, "you are tired, you are almost done, just don't work." make the best of your last hundred meters." I can say that I sure plan to.

When I first arrived in the mission, it did not seem real that I was a missionary; that I was one of the guys with white shirts and ties that I had seen all my life in church; now it does not seem real that there is a date that will be the end of all of this. Well, there is, and it comes. So I will make the very best of what is left.

Elder Backstrom

Monday, November 2, 2015

Found: Canadian money in Argentina

Well, we have no photos this week.
unless of course you would like photos of my gas bills that I have to send to the mission office.

This week we had a pretty great time- we found three great new investigators (Milagros y Daniel, y aparte Gisela), we had three investigators come to church, and today we are going to eat asado. It's just all round good.

Alright! Well, I don't know exactly what stories to tell.
Hm, here's one- an investigator in another area- colonia bombal- found out that I was from Canada when I did the baptismal interview for her and said that she had found a ten dollar Canadian bill in a university textbook, but that it was way old.

It was one from 1981 or something like that. It was real, though, had the raised printing and everything. It was quite goofy. Who'da thunk? I bet it's worth a bit more than ten dollars if you could sell it to someone who collects old currency.

This week we had a lesson with Gisela in the bishop's house and that was quite great. I just appreciated how important it is to have members contribute their thoughts and testimony to be able to strengthen the teaching that we impart.

Well, have a good week everybody, we're off to eat.
Elder Backstrom

Argentina experiences a second winter!

Sorry, there are few photos this week because it rained last p-day so we did basically nothing. (Due to the big earthquake in Chile, apparently the seasons got pushed back because the ocean currents were affected dramatically or something to that effect- pretty crazy! it's like it's winter again [Argentina winter, which is more like fall])

But on another note it was a great week! quite fantastic to be honest! We had a companion exchange with colonia bombal, a very agricultural area that is one of the few in the mission where we use bikes- it's a place dominated by immigrant families from Bolivia and Peru mostly, lots of people who work in la cosecha (and make a lot of money doing it, too!) they have the biggest trucks of anyone here. A lot of people are racist against them though, because they consider them uneducated or something because they are willing to do that hard work with their hands. Ironically, they have their reward- farm work pays well, and, while the rest of the county suffers economic shrinking pains, they, and their families, are fine.

Hm, we also had a way cool miracle this Sunday- A young lady named Gisela arrived at the chapel after some friends in university invited her. We had no idea that she was going to come, but apparently her friends had given her a Book of Mormon and found out the address of the chapel so that they might invite her to church. One of the bishops' daughters, who has about the same age and is also in university, sat with her in the meetings and they seemed to get along quite smashingly so we planned to meet with her to share our message in the bishops' house on Saturday. Quite the occurance!

​Here is a picture of a mate cup or  matero that I obtained in the supermarket recently. Mate is a traditional herb infusion drink (composed principaly of the mate herb that grows close to the borders of Brasil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, but usually with several other herbal additions depending on the type of  yerba that you buy) that is drunk hot from the matero using a metal bombilla (straw-type thing); the mate is prepared placing the herbs directly in the matero and pouring boiling water onto the pile of yerba that should be about half of the matero. sugar can be used or it can be drunk bitter. the wood used in materos is porous, so that with time, it goes absorbing the flavour of mate and contributing to the flavour of the drink as well.

We're not allowed to drink it while in the mission, so, for home....

Anyways, I hope you all have a great week! later everyone!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Photos from El. Backstrom!

Alright, here we go, read, set...

yeah, that's right, this week is super many fotos week. because finally the computer has granted itself to recognize the usb.

In other notes, I've found a new passion: journal writing. this and past weeks for about the last three to six months I've been going much more journal keeping, and have enjoyed many new insights into the learning experiences I have that only come as I write them down. it's been quite phenomenal. Since 4 this week much didn't happen of too much note, I thought that I would mention that, since it has been something ongoing.

(Wow amigos se nota que estoy viejo en la misión- hoy abrí mi correo y tenia solo 6 correos, la mitad de los cuales eran informes de los oficinas... son pocos los que perseveran hasta el fin escribiéndome fielmente)

so, I am now going to put the photos here, however, they need to pass through the machine first and that takes a while...

so! dancing bear:

there are some zoo photos and some photos of my new and old hair cut and some other photos of things that are important like dulce de leche and pumas. sorry if they don't all arrive, it's not my fault.