26 January 2015

"Capilla Abierta" aka Open Chapel

26 JAN 2015

Hey Mom!

I know it is a lot later than last week but I don't think we have scheduled times; it is just kind of when we get around to it. Anyway, I realized that my letter last week wasn't all too positive so I'll let you know some of those shortly, haha.

Well yes we are in a very poor area, I have been told multiple times that this area is the poorest and most dangerous in the mission. Needless to say, I don't ever take my camera out because of that, so if you want to post pictures of the area I would go to the Lovell's Blog and look up San Lorenzo, Neuquen Central as the zone. In general I feel better about the language, and as of today our two districts have a total of 15 baptismal dates, about half and half! So the work is going great!

As far as day to day it is all walking and teaching. The days blend together really easy. Today has been good though, we played futbol as a zone and I was actually able to make a few goals (the more we played of course). After that we walked to McDonald's! It was pretty far and it was in a mall so I kinda felt like I was in the States again, haha. I ordered a "triple mac" which they obviously don't have in the U.S. I was glad to be eating something other than rice with a really thin steak (that is the typical meal topped with mayo/mustard mix). Don't get me wrong, it is good, but we eat that a lot. We drink juice all the time too! So I haven't had to use my filtered water bottle. I have felt good with the food and all.

The other day we had a "Capilla Abierta" or an "Open Chapel" and Elder Villanueva and I ran the baptismal portion. We basically teach about baptism for 5 minutes to a group of people, members and investigators. It is a way to get a lot more investigators or spark more interest in the church. Its pretty cool! The church is testing these out in a few missions before making it a normal thing.

Anyway, that is basically the highlights of the week. I don't know if I can send pictures from this particular computer but I'll try, if not expect them next week I guess. I love you Mom and tell everyone else I love them too!

Hey Dad!

I definitely had a better week (better, not easier). I have been working already on praying more sincerely. It's hard not to be repetitive! Especially when you want the same things for the same people but I know when we pray for specific things, God gives us specific blessings. I told Mom about the "Capilla Abierta" we had. It was a really cool experience. We taught about baptisms to groups of people at a time and it was me and Elder Villanueva (one of the Spanish speaking Elders in that original group). It was the part where we were supposed to reel them in haha. We wore our baptismal clothes and I realized I didn't get shoes so I'll have to order some, and some knew white socks too haha.

Well, I'm glad to hear that no one has forgotten about me back home haha. I love you Dad. I pray for you guys too. I'll talk to you next week, and thanks for the pep talk, they do help haha.

Typical house in Barrio San Lorenzo

Neighborhood street in Barrio San Lorenzo

19 January 2015

Mission Home - First Assignment and a Frightening Experience

19 JAN 2015

Hi Mom!

This is so crazy!!!! So I have a lot to tell you but I'm not sure where to start.  Well I guess I'll start with the flights.  So my whole group traveled together all the way to Buenos Aires.  I told you about our stop in Georgia, well Elder Russell accidentally put his passport in his checked bag so we had to leave him there.  He had to wait until the next day.  We had a four hour layover in Buenos Aires and when we finally got to Neuquen we met the presidents and did a bunch of orientation stuff.

So on Thursday we got our new companions.  I'm sure you saw the picture, but my companion is Elder Carlotta.  He is from Santa Fe, Argentina and he speaks little English.  There is only one other English speaker from Texas in the district and in our zone.  Elder Coyle (the one from Fresno) is there.  I just now saw him for the first time since Thursday.  We are about 30 minutes by taxi east from Neuquen and it is REALLY poor.  There are literally people who live in houses smaller than my room back home, made up of logs or bricks.  The nice areas, I guess the suburbs of Neuquen are about as nice as the ghettos of Stockton, but safer.  It is definitely a humbling experience.

So I have a story from my first day...so be prepared and just know that I'm fine and safe.  So on Friday morning we had a district meeting and it was kind of hard to understand but I got through it pretty well.  The Elder from Texas said after the meeting that if I need to talk in English I can just talk to him anytime.  Anyway, we had to drop stuff off at the pension (apartment), which is not really big and just as we were about to leave, we open the door and 3 guys were standing there, saying they were the police.  The next thing I knew, Elder Carlotta was pushing the door so I started pushing too (the men were trying to get into their pension). It was super hard because here, the floors are either all tile or dirt, so we were sliding back on the tile and somehow we were able to shut the door and lock it.  I know there were a few angels pushing with us, because we should not have been able to.  My companion told me that they were thieves.  We stayed around a while but ended up moving into another pension temporarily with another companionship (where I am the only English speaker) so that's where we are now.

On Saturday, I was starting to feel really homesick.  That morning we started building a brick house and I got pretty sunburned.  On top of that, while we were at the Mission Home the first few days, I got 40 mosquito bites, including the bottom of my foot and big toe.  So needless to say, it was a rough day.  I wasn't understanding anything. We ate lunch at a member's house and watched the RM (in English with Spanish subtitles) so I just wanted to speak English even more.  When we finished one of the Elders shared a scripture about enduring to the end and I know it was for me.  Ever since I have felt better and I have been understanding more.  Obviously I can understand church talk because that's all we studied at the MTC really.  So I'm fine teaching, I just struggle with every day talk.  I can definitely tell I'm doing better though.  Today I think we are going to see a man named Mario (which is weird because he kinda does look like Super Mario) but we are going to commit him to baptism today, and by "we" I mean me.

So that's about all of the important parts.  Just know that I am doing better now but I still have a long way to go.  Keep me in your prayers, I need all the help I can get.  I love all of you guys so much and I'm sure this will go by in no time!  I'll talk to you next week!

19 JAN 2015

Hey Dad,

You might be up now, its only 1130 am here.  I sent Mom the story for the blog, you might want to read it first though, haha.  Well I'm doing good, I was struggling a little these past few days.  I'm getting better, I can teach fine, I just can't hardly have a regular conversation.  I don't know when you'll get this but I just thought I'd tell you that I love you and I miss you guys.  It's not easy here.  We are in the San Lorenzo area, about 30 minutes east of Neuquen, its super poor.  I like my companion, he kind of reminds me of a mix of me and Robbie.  Because of what happened my first day (I talk about it in Mom's email) we are living with another companionship and yesterday we were doing language study and none of them speak English or at least very little.  Anyway, I was teaching one of the Elder's who was with us at the mission home some English and we were downstairs and he was like "Come here Bishop!" and the others were like "No you came here!"  It was super funny and lifted my spirits a little bit haha, anyway, I'll talk to you soon, I love you.

25 New Missionaries with Presidente y Hermana Lovell

Teaching eachother: Darren teaching English, the other teaching Spanish

MTC Companions - Elder Bramell and Elder Lyman

There is a lot of training

There is time for meals too.

More eating

More language training

Role playing with new pass-along cards

These two are going to miss eachother

Meeting his new companion - Elder Carlotta from Santa Fe, Argentina

New Companionships

Elder Bramell, Presidente Lovell y Hermana Lovell

The 25 new missionaries with their new companions

Elder Darren Bramell

15 January 2015

Arriving in Neuquén

14 JAN 2015

Hey Mom! Sorry I didn't call yesterday, we were going to call from the Atlanta airport but literally none of the pay phones worked, so I couldn't call.  I can't talk long but the Mission President is letting everyone email once today to let our families know we are doing alright.

So yes I'm in Argentina and I'm doing good.  I'm not too overwhelmed yet haha.  We were traveling yesterday for over a day total, including 6 hours of layovers, but it is all going really well.  We split into groups and spent the night with other missionaries, which btw we didn't have water so I'm wearing a lot of deodorant right now haha.  Anyway, I think our P-day is Monday so I'll tell you more about it then.  I love you and make sure to let everyone know how I'm doing!  I'll talk to you soon!

25 new missionaries arrive in Neuquén, Argentina - Presidente Peron International Airport

Meeting Mission President Lovell

Headed to the Mission Home!

First dinner in Argentina - Empanadas

Not much rest...right to business.

13 January 2015

Last Week in the MTC

Elder Bramell had a great last week in the MTC.  We are grateful that he had such wonderful companions while in the MTC.  This group of missionaries really hit it off.

He left today for Argentina.  He was able to travel with his District to Buenos Aires.  From there, 3 missionaries are headed to Posadas, while 4 missionaries (including Darren) are headed to Neuquen. Their trip included an approximate 3+ hour flight to Atlanta from SLC.  From Atlanta they embarked on a 9+ hour flight to Buenos Aires.  He should arrive by 3:30 a.m. (PST) or 8:30 a.m. Argentina time.  From there he has more travel to the Mission Home in Neuquen.  We can't believe our son is actually in South America!  We hope to hear from him soon.

Wearing the ties and matching scarves Brandee bought/made for them.

Screen shot of Elder Bramell's actual flight over Bolivia and Paraquay

02 January 2015

New Year and Preparing to Leave

01 JAN 2015 - New Year's Day

Hi Mom,

Thanks for sending the pictures! I got the Christmas package you sen the day after Christmas because the mail room was closed, so it wasn't your guy's fault :P  Anyway, I'm glad things are going so well! Spencer told me he's getting braces next week! He seemed a little worried about it, haha. Well hopefully I can catch you, but if not oh well, just know that I am doing awesome! And you guys should be too, I pray for you guys all the time too.  We talked a lot about setting goals this week since its the new year so just tell everyone that this year, we follow through!

So obviously we have been having a lot of lessons.  One of our teachers was our "investigator" and he was poor with a drug problem so he couldn't "pay the electricity bills" so we taught the entire lesson in the dark.  Obviously we couldn't read anything but we followed the spirit well and I felt like I was talking the most but it was awesome.

We have grown super close and we joke around all the time.  We got to host yesterday and at the training meeting Elder Lyman saw dried chocolate on his sleeve and did one of those quiet screams and we all started busting out laughing haha.  Its just one of those things where you had to be there I guess.

Anyway, we got ANOTHER district yesterday!  It has four more Elders and four more Hermanas.  They are kind of quiet but awesome too, I know we were all the same way at first.  Well that is the highlight of this week so far.  I can't believe it is already the 5th week!  Anyway, hopefully you get this soon, I love you Mom!

Darren's District with the Argentine Flag

Fun in the snow

Not as much fun in the rain...well except for Elder Bramell.
Hanging in the laundry room on a Personal "P" Day.

How did Darren find so many people as cheesy as he is?

Elder Bramell excelling in the "light saber" portion of his training.

02 JAN 2015 - We Are Go for Launch!

It takes several months for missionaries traveling to South America and particularly Argentina to receive the necessary visa to proselyte.  Darren is required to obtain a passport, visa and FBI clearance prior to traveling.  It is not uncommon for missionaries serving in South America to be delayed while visas are processed.  Some wait several months and end up serving state-side for a while before receiving the necessary clearance. We began this process back in August 2014.  We had concerns that paperwork could delay Darren's departure date.  It looks as though, he will be leaving as planned.  I knew with Brandee as his mother, all paperwork was going to be in order!

Darren writes:  Just a heads up, we got our travel itineraries so we are leaving the 12th for Argentina!