Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31, 2012

Hello again!

Good week this week, minus the fact that it´s been raining almost everyday and it´s gotten cold! It was something like 6 degrees yesterday (in Celsius of course, but still). Today we are planning on going out into the mountains about an hour outside the city to play in the snow.

Other news from the week: we´ve been working with Albert a lot this last week. We have taught him the first 3 lessons and set up a date for baptism for the 17th of November. He is such a miracle for us. He is the picture perfect ¨golden investigator.¨ When we invited him to be baptized he said ¨Yes, when?¨ Who says that?! It was awesome! He has been so prepared by the Lord.

Albert has been our main focus this week, but we have been meeting with Kancho and Carlos and Andres (who´s name is actually something else that I can´t spell). Our lesson with Tatiana fell through because of the rain, but hopefully we´ll see her again soon. They all seem to be doing well and the work is going well.

Other highlights from the week: we went on intercambios (exchanges) for the first time. I went with Elder Pluim who has about 9 months in the mission and is our District Leader. We did all of my appointments together and it was a little rough. I realized that Elder Rigtrup has been handling all the logistical stuff and that I am terrible at it. We were late to a bunch of appointments and I was really stressed out all day. But we got a date with Albert and we got to eat amazing Dominican food with a recent convert so it all turned out okay.

I gave my first blessing in Spanish on Thursday. We visited a member family and gave 3 blessings with oil. I anointed the first 2, but on the last one I decided I wanted to try the sealing. It was difficult, because my Spanish is not that great (especially because blessings are given in the informal and we always talk in the formal), but it was a really good experience. I found out after the appointment that the father, Carlos (who I blessed), is not actually a member, so we are planning on working with him. We are having dinner at their house tomorrow, so we´ll see how it goes. They also told me later in the cita that my Spanish sounded better than Elder Rigtrup´s, which he is still mad about, but it made me feel pretty good.

And that is the news for the week. Things are going great here. The Lord is really blessing us with a lot of work and with incredible people to work with. I know your prayers are a big part of that, so thank you.

Let´s see. In our apartment there are four of us: Elder Pluim, Elder Peña, Elder Rigtrup and myself. Elder Rigtrup is the oldest with 1 and a half in the mission and he likes to cook and talk about flying for the air force. Elder Pluim has 9 months and is in his first transfer out of the Canaries. He is a really cool guy and a good leader. Elder Peña is from Cadiz in the south of Spain, so he talkth like thith (except in Spanish). He entered the mission at the same time as me, but technically has less time because he was only in the MTC for 3 weeks. So I guess it is kind of a ¨trainer apartment.¨ We do live in an apartment building, which is 13 stories tall, so it´s huge-ish I suppose. It´s about as tall as the buildings in Madrid get. There are a total of 4 skyscrapers which constitute the entire skyline of Madrid. It´s pretty cool actually. In the states it might be common to live with members, but I doubt it would happen here. There really aren´t many members. The church is just starting it´s second generation here in Spain. Maybe I might outside of the big city. We´ll see.

I´m glad Erin had a good birthday despite the delays (life in the Cousins family, no?). Also, I got a talk that I believe was from her, so tell her thanks for me. I haven´t had a chance to read it yet, but I´m sure I will love it. Everything she sends is amazing.

Congrats to Bekah on her test scores! It sounds like a crazy hard test, but I knew you would do well. I hope you find the program you are looking for. 

Your Halloween costumes sound awesome! You´ll have to send me pictures next week. 

Well I have to go, but it´s always to good to hear from you and that you are all doing well. Thanks so much for all your love and prayers. I couldn´t do this without them. I love you all! And Mom, I love you a million Peruvian pancakes (they´re good, trust me).

Elder Cousins

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 24, 2012

E-mail time! How is everyone back home? Well I hope. Well let´s get to it.

First of all, some bad news. We had another lesson with Beatriz and Kancho last Thursday (we are trying to visit with them a lot) and it turns out Beatriz is actually going to Barcelona now and won´t leave until November. So we had to push the date for Kancho back. Acutally we don´t have one set as of now because we don´t know when Bea is leaving exactly. So that´s too bad, but we are definitely going to baptize Kancho still. It turned out to be a really good lesson and I think we found out why he has been a little hesitant. He said he wanted to make sure he knew everything before he made the commitment to baptism. This is from the guy who has been investigating for over a year! But it was awesome because we were able to testify that baptism is just a step, you don´t need to know everything there is to know. We still don´t know everything and we are teaching people! I told him that I was baptized when I was 8 years old. I didn´t know hardly anything when I was eight years old, but I knew God wanted me to baptized and knew I wanted to follow Him. I told him what an amazing blessing baptism has been in my life and we were able to tell him how much we love him and want these blessings for him as well, but in the end it is his choice. It is between him and the Lord. It was a really heartfelt lesson and the Spirit was powerful. I´ve been praying everyday since that he will make the decision to be baptized. Thank you for your prayers as well. I know that they really do help.

Some better news, we have found 3 new investigators since last Wednesday! Albert, Carlos and Andres. The first, Albert, speaks perfect English and prefers talking to us in English to practice, so it has been like cheating talking with him. We actually haven´t had a lesson with him yet, because he is super busy everyday, but he told us he had time Sunday morning so we invited him to come to church. He came (about a half hour late) and seemed pretty into it, even asking questions and making comments. He balked a bit when we explained it was 3 hours long and said he had to leave for something after the first 2 meetings, but when it came time for the last hour (sacrament meeting) he said he could stay. We went into the chapel and while we were waiting for the meeting to start he said: "I feel good today. I feel really good." It was awesome! He had told us earlier that he didn´t believe that there was a God per se, and I was able to explain then that those good feelings came from God. It was an amazing experience! We have a lesson set up with him tomorrow, so we will see how things go. We´re really excited about him.

The others are 2 jovens (teenagers) who are cousins. They live with a couple of members and Andres´ mother. We had a second visit with them on Sunday. We have only shared spiritual thoughts with them so far because we want to have the mother there as well before we start teaching lessons, but she is always busy. They said she wouldn´t be available until the end of next month, so I´m not sure if we are going to wait any longer. But the boys are awesome! They come to a lot of the ward activities and they have showed a lot of interest in the messages we share. I´m excited to keep working with them.

Finally we had a lesson with Tatiana who has had one lesson before I got here. She has a 14 year old daughter who was baptized recently and she is really open as well. We taught her the Restoration and I realized it was my first time teaching it to an investigator. We taught maybe the best we have together, it was really smooth lesson and she was really interested. The best part is at the end we soft committed her to baptism (without a date). She didn´t hesitate to say yes and even said she wanted to, she just wants to know more. We assured her that we would teach her everything she needs to know and be with her every step of the way. We have another appointment with her for next Tuesday. The Lord is really blessing us with people who are ready for the gospel. I´m just realizing now how true that is and how grateful I should be. We have some good things going on here. 

On Saturday the ward put on a "day of countries" activity. There was a presentation from every country represented in the ward and traditional food. It was super fun! The traditional dances were awesome and the food was amazing! The missionaries of the ward (me and Elder Rigtrup, Elder Peña and Elder Pluim - our piso-mates - and the Hermanas Cassinat and Johnson) represented the US. We made cookies and brownies and the sisters made an incredible peach cobbler. For our "traditional dance" we did the YMCA, the Cotton-eyed Joe, and some EFY dance. We also dressed up (I was a cowboy). It was terribly embarrassing and a lot of fun. The crowd was cracking up and we got a lot of compliments after. It was a fun night. 

Oh, something else super important that I almost forgot. On Monday I made lemon chicken from the recipe Mom sent me and it actually tasted like it is supposed to! Elder Rigtrup even said it was "delicious." I´m pretty proud of myself.

I did get my package, thank you very much! I´ve already used my sweater a ton and the Sour Patch Kids went fast. I didn´t have any trouble getting it (it was actually in our mailbox) so I think that´s fine. 

Yes! I was so worried the letter wouldn´t come on time! I´m glad she liked it. 

Woot, ranging is a. . . blast. Luckily it doesn´t take too long. Good luck Sarah! (Does Bekah have her own car now?) 

Ok, questions. We get fed fairly often, it really depends on how well we do setting up appointment with members the Sunday before. We eat every Tuesday as a district (and usually the Hermanas cook so it´s good!), and every Thursday night we have an eating appointment with a recent convert´s family. We´ve eaten 4 times since last Wednesday, just for an idea. Not too often, but I´m learning how to cook so it´s ok. 

The ward is great and I´ve been told it´s best in the whole mission. The members are great (I´ll be honest there are some weird people) and they are pretty helpful about missionary work. We are just working on getting to know as many of them as we can and we hope to set up a Question and Answer activity for people to bring their friends to while we are here. 

So far for the Metro I´ve had to buy 10 trip tickets (I think I´m on number 8 right now) but on the 30th I get my card. With that I´ll just add money on to it whenever I need to. Luckily I get all my travel reimbursed so I should get something like 150 euros back next month! And I do have a Himnario.

Thanks for checking up on me and letting me know what´s going on back home. I love you and can´t wait until next week! Bye! 

(PS I included some photos for you guys and for the blog)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17, 2012

¡Hola, Madre! Y todos. ¿Comó estáis?

Man, I have so much to write about today! It´s insane how much happens in one week in the mission. Let´s get right to it. 

The most exciting thing is that we have a baptismal date! Holler! I´m super excited! It´s with Kancho for the 27th of this month. We visited them again on Friday, I think, and asked if they had made any decisions about the separation. Turns out Beatriz had already bought a ticket to Paris (I guess she has a job opportunity there) for the 22nd. So we committed Kancho to that Saturday. They are both so ready for this next step of baptism and I´m so excited I get to be a part of it! They are both incredible and so ready to be full members of God´s church and enjoy His blessings. I pray that they will go through with it and in time take the next step of temple marriage. They deserve it. It was an awesome lesson. Also, Kancho brought chocolate and churros for us to eat, which is the most amazing thing you´ve ever tasted. Believe me. 

Second story. Earlier the same day we had a lesson fall through or something, I don´t remember, but for whatever reason we were left with nothing to do for an hour (this happens often, by the way). Normally we go street contacting, but we wanted to shake it up a bit. We had been talking that morning in the piso about early missionaries in the church and the Book of Mormon and the incredible success they had, and we were like why can´t we do that? So we decided to pull a ¨Dan Jones¨ in the Metro. Dan Jones was one of the very first missionaries of the Church and he baptized something like 2000 people on his first mission. There is a picture of him in Preach My Gospel standing on a box and preaching to a crowd. So that´s what we did in the Metro. We stood in the middle of the car and held up the Book of Mormon and testified to everyone. We only did it a couple times, but it was pretty thrilling to just declare like that. Everybody just looked at us like we were crazy, but we did place one Book of Mormon. We decided it isn´t the most effective way to contact, but it felt awesome!

Something fun for the family. Elder Rigtrup was telling me a story about his dad´s mission in Korea and he was saying something about one the guys he served with Gordon Flake, and I went ¨stop! I´m related to him!¨ Turns out it really is the same Gordon Flake and he knows the family and everything (he is from D.C.). Pretty cool, eh? 

I think that about covers all the cool things from the last week. P-day we went and played soccer with some other missionaries and today we played basket-ball (blech!) and we don´t have anything else planned, because Elder Rigtrup has no money left. We had zone conference yesterday, which was good. We ate in the temple afterword. And that´s about it. So on to my reply.

No worries about the 2 e-mails. Sorry,  I should write the girls more, it´s just hard to have enough time still. I´d don´t get other e-mails, but I do get letters from several of my friends and I finally got one back my from friends at school so I´m happy. :) 

I haven´t gotten my package yet, but thank you so much for putting recipes in it! I am in desperate need! My companion cooks pretty well, but he hasn´t really shown me how to make anything or what I need to buy. And I´ve learned I´m a disaster in the kitchen. I´m getting by and I´ll learn with time. 

Elder Rigtrup says there are Spanish nativities, but they take up a lot of space. Small figures, but a lot of them. I´ll keep asking around and keep an eye out. 

I honestly didn´t notice the game [France vs. Spain World Cup Qualifier in Madrid], but it is a big city. Really big.

Well, I´ve got to run, but I love you all! Thank you for keeping me updated. Thanks for your prayers and letters and love. I couldn´t do this without it.

Elder Cousins

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 10, 2012

How are you? It´s so good to hear from you! I actually got to hear almost all of conference. We missed the last session because of the time difference. But I did hear the news! It´s crazy! All of us missionaries were blown away! That changes so much! Remember when I was deciding if I wanted to go to school or even do a full year or just work? No more worries with that anymore! And the Hermanas at 19! That´s wild! So many more of both are going to go now. That´s pretty cool for Addie, I´m glad she wants to go. I bet the same thing is happening with a lot of other parents right now. Actually the first person I thought of was Tiffany. She has always wanted to go as soon as possible, so I bet she is going to do the same. You should ask her mom about it.

The rest of conference was amazing, too! I loved it! I felt like there was a lot about missionary work as well, and a few things I could relate to. It was wild how every time they talked about the ¨full-time missionaries¨ I could think ¨that´s me.¨ Oh, and did you hear the Chariots of Fire story? That was pretty awesome. It made me think of Erin and how proud I am of her for making the same decision to not play on Sundays. I know how hard that must have been, but I know the Lord is blessing her for it. I´m proud of you Erin.

A typical day, huh? Well, I get up at 7:00, which is different than most missionaries. It´s also the winter schedule. Last week we got up at 7:30. We have a half hour of exercise and then an hour to get ready for the day. Studies start at 8:30 and last until 1:00. Then we go out and work for an hour which is a cita (an appointment) or else contacting. At 2:00 is mediodía, or siesta time! We have 2 hours to eat and we can take a half hour nap during that time. At 4:00 we go back out to proselyting work. We usually have a lesson with a recent convert or less active member (larc) and they feed us sometimes (depending on what time it is) so that´s pretty great. We are trying to meet with one member everyday to try and get to know some people and to get referencias. We spend some time calling referencias that we´ve gotten and we do contacting in the street. Honestly we have had one other lesson with an investigator since Andres. We are having a really hard time getting the few investigators we have to set up a cita with us and we need more people to teach. But, we are working hard and we´ve gotten a good number of referencias in the last few days so I´m hoping we get a new investigator out of at least one of them. I´m still confident I will get baptisms while I am here. We return home at 9:30 and have a half hour of planning and then an hour of whatever we want (last night it was P90X but that may change). And that´s a day.

I love you Mom (and you have no idea how good chocolate chip cookies sound right now. Chocolate chips don´t exist in Spain.) Oh, that reminds me, could you send me mucho más recipies please? My food is crap. I need to learn how to cook and what to buy. Thanks, I love you. 

Hey, Dad. (My keyboard is broken or that would have been an exclamation point)
I´m glad you got the pictures. Thanks for keeping them for me. I´ve gotten to see some pretty cool stuff, it´s true. Most of that is the downtown nice stuff. Around where we live and teach it´s mostly tall, red brick apartment buildings. But they are pretty nice, I don´t mind living in one anyway.
There are 9 wards in Madrid and we are Barrio 6, so we cover roughly a ninth of the city. It´s a pretty big area. Lots of walking and riding the metro. There are a lot of immigrants from South America though, and they are primarily who we teach. They are a lot more open to us and the gospel. Definitely a lot of people struggling from the crisis. Which is good and bad, some people are more humble and some are less interested.
No worries about the money, I just have the 200 in travel money left over and the 100 I got reimbursed for my luggage, so I am using that cash for anything I want to buy.
Yeah, I´m keeping pretty busy so far. Lots of contacting to do. We have actually only had one other lesson with an investigator since I last wrote, but it was pretty awesome so I'll write about that and then I have to go. They are actually una pareja (a couple), Kancho and Beatriz, who have been investigating for something like 3 years. They are awesome and want to get baptized, but they are not married and living together. But, when we visited them they said they are going to separate in order to be baptized. It was incredible. I´m so amazed by their faith and testimony. The sad part is Beatriz is moving to Barça so we won´t be able to baptize her, but Kancho I am hoping we will. They are planning on splitting in November, so we´ll see how things go.
Other than that we are just looking for people to teach. We´ve had a couple of cool experiences where Elder Rigtrup says he feels like we should go to an area and contact and we´ve gotten some great references. 
Well we´ve got to go eat so I will talk to you later. Thanks for writing. I love you all and I hope all is well.