Friday, September 23, 2011
Happy Tuesday! You are all probably wondering why I am writing you today instead of yesterday. Well, I thought about making up some grand adventurous story about facing a pack of drunk laminates with their ravenous hounds at their sides and that kept me from writing to you. Although that reason is slightly true (for that happens every day and especially this last weekend—no worries mom) I did not write yesterday because yesterday was a holiday and everything was closed so our preparation day was changed to today.
As Benson told mom, this last Sunday, the 18th, was Chilean Independence day. During the last couple weeks, the beautiful Chilean flag has appeared and now garnishes almost every house, car, and any other place possible. The people have been dancing the Queca (the traditional Chilean dance involving waving handkerchiefs in the air—see youtube), singing folksongs, eating traditional foods (and barbeques) and playing traditional games. One of those "games" is kite flying. The Chilean kite is very different from the kites that we know. They are a simple square sheet of paper supported by a straight stick crossed with an arch stick glued to the back. These kites require technique and practice in launching, catching flight and staying air bound. However once they are in the air, the fun begins. The game is to try and cut somebody else out of the air. To do so, you have to cross lines with someone and skilful cut their string using your own. Once the line is cut, people will run for twenty minutes to catch the kite, because the fame of catching a fallen kite is grand! This last weekend as I looked out from the top of our hill I saw hundreds of kites combating to rule the skies.
On Sunday, the eighteenth itself, we ate lunch at the Bishop´s house. He fed us a huge plate of steak, pork, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and onions, and much more. I was stuffed! That was the physical feast.
However this last week has been a spiritual feast and my soul feels fatter than ever. On Wednesday, we held a special conference with a spiritual giant—Elder Corbridge, member of the Seventy and President of the Area of Chile. Even before that conference, Elder Corbridge has had a great impact on my mission because of a talk that he wrote called "The Fourth Missionary" (you should read it!)
During the meeting he talked about the Most Important Thing (MIT). He talked about the greatest gifts that God has/will ever give us. They are the Holy Ghost (in this life) and Eternal Life (after this life—obviously). Everything that we do focuses on those two things. (Time is short so I will talk more about it next week). However, I left that conference uplifted and excited!
The special conference that we had with Elder Corbridge impacted me greatly and has already helped me to be a better missionary. Elder Corbridge talked about "the most important thing" (eternal life/gift of the Holy Ghost). As I have studied this last week I have noticed how the scriptures always come back to those points. As I have taught and prepared myself to teach I have focused my efforts. My teaching has already improved as I think about the roadmap of where I want the investigators to arrive and to feel and to know. I have been able to promise better and more specific blessings relating to the MIT.
After the conference with Elder Corbridge we had a very special lesson in which we extended a baptismal date. We had set up an appointment to pass by a future investigator named Eduardo. In that lesson we put into practice what we had learned about in the conference and training and we boldly and powerfully promised him blessings pertaining to the Holy Ghost and eternal life. He became very interested in the lesson and as we taught, he asked all the right questions and had many correct answers. We told him that he had to be baptized, as Jesus was, by the proper authority and only by so doing he could receive all the blessings related to the Gift of the Holy Ghost and eternal life. The Spirit bore witness of our words and Eduardo accepted a baptismal date for the 15th of October.
Cesar, Claudio and Valesca came to church this week!!! Now we have to help Eduardo and Paulina to do the same.
The Lord is truly guiding me and supporting in the assignation that He has given me to be a district leader. This Sunday I had the blessing of interviewing four different baptismal candidates. As I prepared to fulfil this great responsibility I pondered on the importance of the interview and my role in their eternal progression. During each of the different interviews I was able to see the different conversions of the four people. As we discussed the baptismal questions and their testimony, the Spirit of the Lord bore witness of their readiness. The Lord is guiding me and helping me to be better everyday. I am so grateful for this opportunity that I have to learn and grow.
I am also very greatful to be working with and training (even though it often feels like he is training me) Elder Sliffe. He truly is an incredible missionary and just wants to work, work, work. We are working hard together and I love him so very much.
*** I love my mission!
My companion and are doing so very well. Elder Sliffe has all of the excitement and power of a new missionary and a recent convert. We tell and show each other how much we care for each other. We both have our eye set on the glory of God. I truly am so grateful to be with Elder Sliffe and I hope to be with him for a long while.
This has been an excellent week. One of the highlights was a training meeting that we had with President Gillespie. We talked about the importance of commitments. In PMG it says, "When you ask for commitments as part of your teaching, you are inviting the investigator to repent." Commitments are key to our purpose as missionaries. We practiced extending bold, clear commitments and promising blessings using the power and authority of our calling. I learned a lot and was able to see that I have a lot to improve on. We are representatives of the Lord and as such we are to call people unto repentance and we have the authority and the responsibility to promise them blessings for so doing.
After a lot of hard work and urgent prayer, we have been able to find quite a few people who are ready to accept and listen to the Gospel. It is time for you to get to know a few of our investigators:
Firstly, we have Valesca. Valesca is 29 years old (even though she looks 15) and was first contacted by the missionaries way back in April she was taught for a little over a month back then and then was not taught (because they combined the areas). Her big impediment was that she never went to church. We decided to pass by during our first week here. She accepted a baptismal date and said that she would be going to church with us on Sunday. However, that Sunday (last Sunday) she did not show up. This last week we have focused on helping her to keep her commitments of reading, praying and especially going to church. We changed her baptismal date and she is now preparing to be baptized on the 9th of October. On Saturday she came to an activity that the stake held to celebrate Chilean history using its different types of music and dances. She promised to go to church. See below to see what happened. We are praying hard for her.
Next we have Claudio. On Friday, Elder Sliffe had an interview with President Gillespie, so we had to go down to the mission office. On the bus over, I started talking to Claudio. I asked him if we could visit him and he told us to come by the next day. On Saturday, we didn't have very much time, so we taught him about the Book of Mormon and invited him to church. He told us that he would come. See below to see what happened.
Finally, we have Cesar and Paulina. They were references from other missionaries. They are a fairly young couple with three children (all under the age of 8). They have had a lot of hardships in their lives, but they have also had a lot of contact with the church in their lives. On our first visit they told us that they really wanted to go to church and participate as much as they can. We focused on having powerful spiritual lessons with them and extending powerful commitments. In one of our lessons this week, they accepted a baptismal date for the 9th of October!!! I pray that they can continue on this path. They too committed to go to church…
This week we had many opportunities in which the Lord´s hands were seen. However, I will just name one of those experiences. Throughout this week we have been focusing on finding people and helping our investigators (especially those who have a baptismal date) to come to church. The entire week, we have begged our Heavenly Father to help us know how to help our investigators to come to church. We followed His promptings. Yesterday, as we walked to church, we walked with a prayer in our hearts. The Lord´s hand was seen first as we walked up to the church—we saw our investigator with baptismal date, Valesca, walking to church with her non-member boyfriend and her recent-convert. As I said before, Valesca was an old investigator and we were about to drop her (because she had not been to church once in the months of previous teaching that she had). However, the Lord brought her to church and she even invited her boyfriend who was in town visiting. Then we went and passed by Claudio who we had found in the bus on the way to our interview in Viña on Friday. He came to church and there in the chapel accepted a baptismal date for the 9th of October!!! After that, Cesar and Paulina arrived to church along with their three children. I know that it was the Lord´s hand that guided His children to his house yesterday.
I love this work so very much. This is my life. I have not felt such a strong feeling of love in my life. I truly love this people. I truly love my mission.
I love you all so very much. I am so thankful for all the people who are helping (and over the years have helped) me to be here.
What a crazy week this has been and I´m sure it was for you as well. Were you affected by the earthquake(s)?
On Monday night I had my final lesson with Lucia. She is amazing. Her faith is so strong and the Gospel has already changed her life. Even though I will not be there to see her baptism, I am so happy to have been able to see her faith grow and feel my own be strengthened with her.
On Tuesday, Elder Rowett and I headed down to the mission office early in the morning. We had a nice long meeting about training missionaries and abou the great responsability that it is.
The new missionaries got caught in traffic on the way from Santiago, so we were left with about five hours with "nothing" to do. Elder Stringham (lives in the same apartment and works in Rodelillo A) took me over to our apartment so we wouldnt have to deal with my luggage and the luggage of our "children" (Elder Stringham is also training).
Then later that day we met our companions. My companion´s name is Elder Paul Sliffe from San Diego, California!!! He could have been from anywhere in the world and he is from nearby San Diego. Elder Sliffe is an incredible person and missionary. Elder Sliffe was baptized two years ago. Before being converted, he, along with his family, were members of an evangelical church. However, through his girlfriend he got to know the church. He was baptized when he was 18 and was kicked out of his house. Since then he has been working and renting and just trying to get by, but everstrong in the Gospel.
As we are opening a new area, there was practically nothing here for us when we got here. It is a huge area, all on the side of a very long steep hill. However, this is an excellent ward, with awesome members.
Throughout the last week, I have truly felt the Lord´s hands and angels supporting me. It is a great privilege and responsibility to be training Elder Sliffe, to be a district leader, and to be opening this part of the Rodelillo ward. I know that the Lord is helping me and I have learned so much already. One thing that I have felt strongly this last week is love. I can feel the love and prayers of the elders in my district. My love for them and in general has been stronger than ever.
I love you all so much and can feel your love and support and prayers.
As you have passed heat waves in California and the east coast has been beaten and bruised by a hurricane and an earthquake, I have been blissfully oblivious—lost in the Lord´s work!
This week we did have quite a bit of rain. I always enjoy working in the rain. It gives us a chance to show ourselves, those around us, and the Lord, what type of men and missionaries we are. As we talked to people huddled under bus stops, they all made comments about how dedicated we were to be walking and working in the rain.
Among all of the wonderful experiences from this week, was the opportunity of having interchanges with the Assistants. On Wednesday, they came up to work with us. I spent the day with Elder Jaquier (the brother of missionary from Robyn´s mission). As I spent the day with him I was able to learn a lot. He is such an incredible man (he is almost 27 years old!) and a loving missionary.
Good news!!! Lucia has a baptismal date! She is so awesome. She talked with Guillermo (her ex) and he will not be living in the house anymore! Also, even though she enjoys smoking, she knows it is wrong and has almost completely dropped smoking. Lucia has changed and progressed quite a bit. About a month ago (when we began teaching her) she held parties in her house every weekend (parties with alcohol and the works). However, Lucia has not drank anything in weeks and has also left those old "friends" behind for new and better things. She will be baptized on the 17th.
Jacquelyn is doing great too. She is so very excited for her baptism and is determine to do all that is required.
Marcelo is worrying me. He is an interesting person. We haven't been able to teach him at all this week. I just pray that he is okay and will continue progressing.
This weekend is the end of this transfer. Elder Rowett and I really had no idea which one of us would be leaving (all we knew was that one of us would be leaving. On Saturday night, Elder Brady (my zone leader) called me and told me to pack my bags. I was so sad. I love this branch. I love the members. I love the people that we are teaching. I do not want to go.
Then last night, we were waiting for another call. Since, Elder Rowett was staying in the area, we were expecting him to get a call from the assistants to tell him that he would be training. Well, last night, as we waited, they called. Elder Rowett answered the phone. A voice was heard asking for me! Elder Brillones (the new assistant) told me that president trusts me a lot and has an assignment for me—I will be a district leader this next change. He then asked me how I felt. After that he told me that the Lord really trusts me and that I will be training this next transfer!! I will have a "son"!! That means that I will be a district leader, opening a new area (in Rodelio, Valparaiso) with a new missionary. I am so very excited for this new transfer. I feel very grateful and humbled by the opportunities that I will have of being a district leader and of training. I know that you and the Lord trust me and I will not let anyone down… However, it will require true faith. I say true faith for the following: If I have true faith, then I the Lord will be able to work miracles through me and around me. If I have true faith, I will be (and will want to be) exactly obedient and diligent. With that true faith I will be like the brother of Jared and will cry out to the Lord in repentance of my sins and will have the faith to see his fingers and hands in this work. I know that it will take a lot of work and a lot of prayers, but I will be the Lord´s pen (as Pres. Uchtdorf stated) and will not complain when, for what, or how the Lord wants to use me. By doing so, I know that the Lord will give me the promised success, "for behold, the field is white already to harvest."
I love you all so much! I love life! I love my Heavenly Father! I love my mission!
Thank you so much for all of your birthday wishes and notes. I truly am the luckiest and the most blessed missionary in all of Chile! Thank you for making this the best birthday on the mission in Chile that I have ever or will ever have! :)
Speaking of being my birthday, last night we were going to a family night that we had scheduled with an awesome member family (the daughter just so happens to be turning 20 today as well). They surprised me by having a little birthday celebration waiting for me with completos, cakes, and even brownies (a rare commodity around here)! As you can see by my huge smile in the pictures, it was a very happy surprise.
First things first. Last week, I left you hanging, waiting, and anticipating to hear about Lucia. Lucia is awesome. She is also a miracle. More than a month ago, we were walking down a street in our ward. As we walked, a cute little five-year-old girl poked her head out of the window and started talking to us. We talked with the little girl for a few minutes and she told us to come by another time when her mom, Lucia, would be there.
Elder Rowett and I passed by multiple times but she was never there. When we finally found her in the house, we didn´t have another man with us to be able to enter the house, but we left her a copy of the Book of Mormon with 3 Nephi 11 to read. When we came back the next day, we asked her if she had read. She told us that she had. We then asked, what did you read about. She then responded, "Well, there was a group of people gathered in the city of Nephi. They heard a voice, but didn´t understand it until the third time. Then Jesus came and let them all touch his hands and his sides…." We were completely shocked. Nobody ever answers like that.
Since that visit, she has continued to show her faith and desires to learn. She has come to church the last two weeks. She also came to the English class that we began on Friday night and she came to the ward activity on Saturday. The only thing that impeded Lucia from having a baptismal date was the fact that her ex-boyfriend had a bedroom in Lucia's house. They did not share it. He had no other place to go so Lucia, being kind let him have a room. However, he has not slept there in a while and he has a new girlfriend. Also, Lucia was planning on kicking him out anyway, so we plan on giving her a baptismal date this week.
Marcelo is doing really well. He also came to church yesterday. He is very sincere in his desires to learn more and be baptized.
This week, we had a miracle. We were in lunch with a member and we asked them who they knew that we could visit. The member told us that her neighbor, Jackelyn had recently told her that she wanted to go the church. We called over to Jackeyln's house and she came over to the member's house. We then had an awesome lesson in which Jackelyn accepted a baptismal date. She has been wanting to be baptized for the last five years and over the course of time listened to the missionaries many time. However, she was living with her boyfriend and he did not want to marry her and also did not want her to be baptized. He was very abusive to her and finally after many years of dealing with him, she called the police and he was sentenced to prison for family violence. That being said, there is nothing that will stop Jacky this time. In fact, in the closing prayer of our lesson, she began to cry and said, "Lord, I know that you have placed the Elders here again---and nothing and nobody will stop me from finally being baptized!"
The Lord is preparing the hearts of His children—"behold the field is white, already to harvest." I am so grateful to be a servant of the Lord, working with him in His vineyard. I know that this is His work. I glory in Him. I glory in His Gospel. I love you all so very much. I love my mission!—Especially on my birthday! :)