Sunday, March 20, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011--Gomez Carreño

It has been a long week, but a good one.  The bus ride from La Serena was long, but passed quickly (if that makes any sense).  It was hard to say goodbye to my first area, to the members and especially those whom I taught.  However, I enjoy my new area and there is a lot of work to be done here in my new area.

My new area is very pretty.  It sits right on the top of the hills that surround Viña del Mar.  The view is incredible—on clear days, we can look down from our cuico eighth floor condo apartment and see the bay lying beneath us and the sprawling city stretching out across the hills. (Cuico is Chilean for "expensive" or "rich.") Whenever I see the view I always think to myself, "How many people are there out there waiting for me?  How many people are looking for the truth, looking for true happiness and I have what they want?"

Elder Lecaros is a very interesting lad.  He is from Santiago, Chile!  He will end his mission in August of this year.  Like everyone else, he has his interesting personality traits and perks, but I am very excited to be working with him.  

One thing that Elder Lecaros is really good at is talking!  On my part, I am not much of a talker, but his jaws keep flapping (in a good way).  Let me tell you, it is never boring with him as my companion.  However, as he is so good at talking, it is very useful for contacting people in the street.  It could be that he is Chilean (but I don´t think so)—but the people always seem very comfortable talking with him.  He always finds something to talk to them about and then they just open right up and talk to him.

My new ward is el barrio [neighborhood or ward] Gomez Carreño.  The work in the area is pretty dead right now, but that is why I am here right?  Elder Lecaros and I are going to work hard and bring this area back to life.  This week we did an activity with the members involved in the activity.  We did a "dynamic demonstration" using lights, music, chairs, the stage, cultural hall, and chapel to teach them about "The Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ." (I will have to explain more about it next week).  At the end of the presentation, the Spirit was incredibly strong and the members were crying and I have to admit that I too shed some tears.  It was an incredibly powerful moment. 

What a blessing it is to know that the Gospel has been restored.  Because of one simple prayer by a young boy, we are able to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ, where His authority is found.  I know that this is His Church.  I know that Joseph Smith was called of God and that Thomas S. Monson is the present-day prophet.  I love them.  I love you all!!! I love my mission!

Monday, January 31, 2011 — I Will Be Serving in . . .

This week flew by. Being the last week of the transfer, we were working really hard to leave the area better than we found it--just in case one of us was transferred. As always, when we work hard and lose ourselves in the work, time passes by extremely fast.

Also, this last Tuesday, we went to Coquimbo (the large neighboring city to La Serena) to have our usual zone meetings over there and a special meeting with President Gillespie. It was a very short meeting, but a very powerful meeting. During the meeting, we discussed a few mission rules and then studied about our power, authority, and responsibility as missionaries and representatives of Jesus Christ. One of the things that we talk about is living on a higher level (un plano más alto). Right now I am living on a level, higher than any other level I have lived in my life. My calling and authority depend on this way of life.

However, this way of living will not end when I "take off the tag." I like to think as the mission as "boot camp for life and eternity." The principles that I am learning and by which I am living right now will be carried with me throughout all time. I am so thankful for this opportunity that the Lord has given me to serve, to learn, and to grow.

Yesterday was Daniel´s baptism! The baptismal service was truly beautiful and powerful. Daniel was baptized by Andreas, a [Church] member with whom he has become close friends, and Ingrid (an investigator from Brillador B was baptized by one of the Elders from that part of the ward). Daniel´s mother and father who both are not members (yet) came for the service along with Daniel´s niece and nephew who have come to church with him these last two Sundays. The Spirit was so strong in the chapel, you could really feel the powerfulness of this sacred ordinance. When Daniel came up out of the water, he was literally glowing with happiness. He and Andreas embraced in a tender hug as they both were affected by the joy of the moment. I have to admit, I shed a few tears as I witnessed this moment and thought about all that Daniel has done and how far this man of miracles has come.

Now for the moment that you have all been waiting for.......transfers. I will be getting on a bus at one fifteen tomorrow morning to head down to Viña del Mar to serve in the Achupallus zone with my new companion Elder Lecaros. I am very excited to head to a new area. I have heard that Achupallus is one of the most beautiful areas in the mission and the work is progressing well there. Of course, it is hard to say goodbye to my first area, to those I have taught and guided, to the members and to the missionaries that I have worked with, but I am very ready to leave and find the people waiting for me down south.

. . . I love my mission!

Monday, January 24, 2011 — Short, But Sweet

Greetings from the "long, skinny country." I am doing very well, working hard and loving life.

Yo creo que mi español esta mejorándose. [I think my Spanish is improving.] I work really hard to learn all I can about Spanish. Many
missionaries took Spanish in high school, so I have to make up for taking Latin and Japanese. The Latin has helped me a little, but I still fill like I have had to catch up to a lot of the missionaries. I do not want to speak average "missionary Spanish." However, having Elder Jimenez as my companion has helped me so much with my Spanish. Poor Elder Jimenez gets asked probably a hundred questions a day, like, ``How do you say this? What does this word mean? Why did you say it this way?´´ We do not have trouble understanding each other at all. The Lord has really helped me and blessed me with the gift of tongues. We walk and talk the whole day and I can now speak fairly fluidly.

Elder Jimenez and I cannot believe that this is the last week of this transfer. Our time together has flown by. We have worked hard, had fun, and learned a lot together. He and I have shared some pretty powerful experiences together and have become good friends.

Daniel had his baptismal interview on Saturday. While he was being interviewed by Elder Blake (one of the Zone Leaders), Elder Jimenez, Elder Blake´s companion and I waited in the chapel. When they came in, Elder Blake had a sad look on his face. Following Elder Blake was Daniel, trying to fake a sad face, but couldn´t help smiling. Elder Blake told us that Daniel "drank tea the night before and would need some more time." However, Daniel cannot lie and his smiling face told us the truth. He passed! Daniel will be baptized this Sunday!

He is very prepared for his baptism and already is a powerful missionary. He began this week to go with us to visit other investigators (he has been wanting to help for a couple weeks). In the lessons, he always bears powerful testimonies and invites the Spirit with his words.

This week I tried a Chilean dish called pastel de choclo or "corn pie." I had previously tried potato pie, but not corn. Both dishes are the same with the exception of mashed potatoes and "mashed corn" (they somehow mash and cook the corn so that it has the consistency of mashed potatoes). To make the dish they fry hamburger meat and onions with spices (like taco spice). They then place this in a glass pan. On top of the onion/meat they scatter olives and grapes and then finish off by spreading the mashed potatoes or corn on top. They then put this in the oven to add a little crisp to the top. I still have not grown to enjoy the olives, but other than that I love pastel de choclo. Another food that we eat here a lot is called "fake eggs." They put half a canned peach in a bowl with some of the juice/syrup from the can and then in the middle of the peach they place cream. Simple yet delicious.

. . . I love my mission!

Monday, January 17, 2011 -- Adventures in Vicuña

This week has flown! It feels like there has been a lot going on this week and thus time has greedily picked up its pace.

We have been working a lot with Daniel this week. He is truly a "golden investigator." When we first began to teach him he would say things like, "I have strayed so far from God, it will be so hard to come back" or, "I know that it will be hard, but I will try it." Also, when we first began teaching him, he told us that he had some "bloody posters" in his room. Now, these posters have been replaced with pictures of Christ. His walls are covered with moments taken from the life of Christ. About a week into teaching him, he miraculously changed. He went from "Why does God ask us to do hard things," to "I will go and do." For example, when we taught him the Word of Wisdom, he told us, "I can see why we shouldn´t drink, smoke, or do drugs, but I do not understand why we can´t drink tea or coffee. However, the Lord knows more than I do, so I will obey." His example is incredible. He is one of the most faith-filled persons I have ever met. Almost every visit now, he asks us when we can go out with us to teach other people.

Which brings me to another subject. During one of our lessons, we saved about twenty minutes at the end to talk to him about his life and the goals that he has. During the discussion, he brought up the fact that he had been thinking about going on a mission some day. He told us that he has always loved talking to people and that a couple nights before he had dreamed that he went on a mission! At the end of this lesson, he said in his prayer, "Lord, thank you for giving me the revelation to know what I need to do with my life. Thank you for helping me discover the talents that I have that will enable me to share the happiness I have found." He is truly incredible. One more thing that he said in another lesson, "Don´t tell God how big your problems are. Rather, tell your problems how big your God is!"

Yesterday we had eight investigators in church! Eight!!! Daniel came. The two niños came. Olivia, her daughter and her husband (the Spanish paragraph below talks about him a little) came. Also, the grandparents of some members moved in a week ago and they both came yesterday.

However, after church yesterday, Elder Jimenez and I traveled out to Vicuña (about 1.5 hour drive inland). Elder Jimenez is district leader and therefore had the opportunity to interview four investigators for their baptism. We spent the night there in Vicuña and then this morning we went as a district to the neighboring city of La Serena--Coquimbo. There we went to the monument, The Cross of the Third Millennium. After which we came back to La Serena and ate some good American KFC!

My letter is kind of short, but I did send a lot of pictures. If each picture is worth a thousand words, then do the math . . . this letter is actually really long!

. . . I love my mission!

Monday, January 10, 2011 -- Children

This has been an extremely fast week in time, but a very slow week for the work. Not much has happened this week, we haven´t been able to teach a lot of investigators, and therefore spent a lot of time looking for new investigators, but didn´t have much success.

We were not able to teach Olivia until Saturday. When we finally taught her, we taught her about keeping the
sabbath day holy, hoping that she would attend church. She told us that she would attend church with us. On Sunday we called her in the morning and woke her up to go to church. However, she did not come. In fact of our investigators, only Daniel attended.

Daniel is progressing steadily and slowly leaving his ``depression-like´´ ways and finding true happiness. This was Daniel´s second time at
church. Just like the first time, yesterday he stayed for all three hours. He is a great investigator. At church, we don't have to worry about him because he involves himself in the lessons and has made friends with a lot of men from elders quorum. His original baptismal date was for the fifth of February, but this week we moved it up to January thirtieth.

Even though Daniel was the only
investigator at church yesterday, we had others that attended. Let me explain. This week we were knocking doors in some apartments and a little girl (9 years old) saw us and said I want to go to church with you! Her mom, a very cynical woman, laughed at us and told her that she should go and swim in the pool, referring to the baptismal font. There were also two of her friends (7 and 12 years old) that said they wanted to go too. We passed by Saturday and told them that we would pass by on Sunday to bring them to the church (they live right behind the church). They told us that they were excited to go swimming.

However, yesterday we were not able to pass by them because we were running late. The meeting was about to start when I looked up and saw the three kids walking in by themselves, all dressed-up for
church. It made me think of how the children have a light and they know the truth. Christ invites us to come unto him as little children. We need to have a childlike love, trust and innocence, placing our faith in Christ.

. . . ¡Me encanta mi misión! [I love my

Monday, January 3, 2011 -- ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

¡Feliz año nuevo! Espero que hayan pasado bien. [Happy New Year! Hope you had fun.] . . .

New Year's was pretty cool here. Our missionary schedule did not change, so we worked really hard during the day and into the night. However, towards nightfall things started to get a little weird. As we knocked around the neighborhoods, stuffed, scarecrow-like, life-size dolls began to appear, lining the streets in front of the houses. It was kind of eerie to walk down a street and have these dolls watching you, holding signs that said, "Chao 2010. Bienvenidos 2011." This is one of the ways that they celebrate New Years here in Chile (and in Colombia says Elder Jiménez). On New Year's Eve, people make these dolls that represent the past year, in this case 2010. Then they put them out on the sidewalk or in the street. (What they do with them will come a little later.) However, these creepy scarecrows did not scare a man such as I, for I did press forward!!!

We arrived at our house at the usual time and planned and went to bed at the usual hour (bedtime is 23:00 hours). However, we got up at midnight to celebrate for a few minutes. Fireworks over the bay on one side of the house and above the mountains on the other side, marked the ushering in of the New Year. The loud noises from the exploding fireworks and handheld "confetti poppers" had all the dogs going crazy and they ran down the streets as fast as they could trying to escape. The night sky was brilliantly lit as the colorful bursts of fire fell from above. However, the night was strangely bright in another sense and the city was lit with a reddish-orange glow. I looked down from my balcony to the streets and saw the reason. As the clock stuck twelve, the year 2010 was symbolically burnt away and every life-size doll was now engulfed in flames. Instead of eerie personifications of the year, the streets were now lined with fires. What a way to usher in a new year!

Elder Jiménez and I are working hard and seeing the results. Last change [or transfer] I wrote a few times about how the Lord was trying our faith and that the witness would come. Well, this week we recieved the witness. We now have seven investigators with baptismal dates and we will be putting [or setting] dates with at least three more of our current investigators this coming week.

To start off, I don´t believe I told you that we found Fransisca a couple of weeks ago. Elder Brady and I were tracting and he felt that we needed to go somewhere else. On our way there, we ran into Fransisca. However, we have not been able to teach her until this week. This week we taught her twice. She still has the desires to be baptized. Also, her reasons for wanting to be baptized are pure and true and we were therefore able to put a baptismal date with her. She will be baptized on the 23rd!

Elder Brady and I contacted a teenage girl and her mother in the street and they let us in there house. In the lesson, her brother Daniel was also present. However, in that lesson Daniel didn't really participate. Also, I hate to say it but I thought that he wouldn't be very receptive because he is what we call in the states "emo" or what they call here "pokemon." He has long black hair that covers his face and dresses in darker clothes as well. This last week, Elder Jimenez and I passed by their house to teach the sister and the mother. Daniel answered the door and told us that they weren't there. I told Daniel thanks and was just about to leave when my companion asked him if we could teach him. He eagerly let us in. In the lesson he was very attentive and asked amazing and thoughtful questions. In that lesson with Daniel, he accepted a baptismal date. Since that lesson we have taught him twice and he attended church yesterday! He really is the perfect investigator and completes with all his commitments. It was a very humbling experience for me, and I am trying to work better on "looking upon the heart."

This week we received a refererral from another set of missionaries in our zone. We received the referral at about 9:30 in the morning and the told us that they had set up an appointment with him for 10:30 AM that day. Elder Jimenez and I had to skip some of our studies and we ran to the other end of our area for the appointment. The man lived alone in a small house and did not have chairs, so we sat on one end of his bed and he sat on the other as we talked. Manuel (the man) is in his thirties and has lived a hard life. He is a very hard or tough man and works as a guard in one of the mines. After discussing with him for a couple minutes why he wanted us to come to his house, I picked a hymn to sing and we sang "Families Can Be Together Forever."

After the hymn I asked him if there was something specific that I could ask for him in the prayer that I was about to offer. He looked up at me and asked, "How do you choose the song to sing?" I was a bit confused and responded, "We go into a house and I pick the song that comes to my mind." Crying, he said, "Because that is exactly what I want--to be with my family forever." His son and his ex-wife (separated, but not divorced) live separately and were recently baptized. Manuel eagerly accepted a baptismal date. This man is a blessing from God for Elder Jimenez and I.

Time is short, but very quickly I want to tell you about Olivia. Olivia is an investigator from November, I believe that I wrote to you about her once or twice. Elder Jimenez and I passed by her this week. She always has told us that her problem is that she loves the virgin. However, we discussed this with her and her doubt was dismissed. Also, she always had told us that she didn´t need to ask God if what we said was true, because she had no reason to doubt us. However, Elder Jimenez challenged her to pray to God and ask. On our return visit, she told us that she couldn't sleep because she kept seeing Elder Jimenez in her mind, saying that she should ask God. She told us, tearing up, that she had stayed up all night and prayed and that she received her answer and knows that it is true. We weren´t able to put [or set] a baptismal date for her this week, but we will in a couple days!

. . . I love my mission.

Monday, December 27, 2011 -- Fechas


It makes me so happy to hear . . . that my family is playing a part in missionary work. As I wrote in one my previous letters, members are vitally important in the work. President Gillespie [my mission president] has said that the doctrine is not as important as friends (for investigators). With friends, they will come to church and stay firm and will learn the doctrine. I am so happy that she has a baptismal date. There is nothing like the feeling of putting [or setting] a "fecha" (date) and having the investigator accept. I will have to work hard to make sure that my family doesn't baptize more than I do this transfer!

Speaking of fechas, we put [or set] a fecha bautismal [baptismal date] yesterday. A couple of weeks ago, we were working in the feria [or fair] when a young lady (of about 28 years old) walked up to us and asked us why we hadn't passed by her house yet. Apparently, she had previously written her name on the list, but we had not gone by. We wrote her address down again and promised to pass by. When we went to go teach Andrea, she was very receptive. She was so happy that we had come to "help her grow closer to God." In that lesson, we taught her about baptism, hoping to extend the baptismal commitment. However, we found out that a year ago, she was baptized in an evangelical church, and then our time ran out. So in the lesson yesterday, we taught from 3 Nephi 11 and how Christ gives his authority to baptize. We emphasized the need for proper authority to make a baptism valid. The Spirit was strong and we extended the commitment. She accepted and wants to be baptized on the twenty-second of this month! Elder Jimenez and I are very excited for her and we have another appointment with her tonight!

Elder Jimenez and I get along really well. As you already know, he is from Colombia. He is going to help me a lot to improve my Spanish and to be the best missionary I can. As they say in Spanish, "we fall well together."

Thank you for all that you do for the Lord. I know that I am receiving blessing for your diligence and love towards the Lord. I love him with all my being!

I love my mission!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Monday, December 20, 2010 -- The Second Change

The Christmas Concert with MoTab [attended by the Rowley family] sounds like a blast, but it probably pales in comparison to the Chile La Serena Stake Christmas Concert. Our concert was last night. It was so much fun to be able to play the piano for the choir and be able to participate in such an event. The program was very successful. The cultural hall was filled to capacity with members. They loved the program and cheered "bravo" so much that we sang an extra song at the end. I however did not get to play my piano solo, but that is alright because I had a wonderful time nevertheless.

Right now we have two investigators with baptismal dates. We extended the first date on Tuesday to a lady named Claudia. The second, we extended on Saturday to a golden investigator named Catalina. I will tell you more about them another time.

We found out changes [transfers] this weekend. I will be staying here and completing my six month mark here in Brillador Ward. However, my "father" [trainer] and companion, Elder Brady will be leaving me. Taking his place tomorrow, will be Elder Jimenez from
Columbia! I am excited to be speaking Spanish 24/7 with him.

I love my mission!

Monday, December 20, 2010 -- Pictures

Pictures from the baptism of Jorge and Pia.