Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy almost December

November 30, 2009 (Putting up the decorations!)

Wow, where did this year go? It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating my first Christmas in the mission, and here we are again!

It has been a really eventful week here in the mission and in the mission office. We've been working hard and enjoying life!

To start out, I guess I should describe some of the many pictures I'm sending. The first are of our apartment. This week we went crazy with the Christmas decorations! It was fun putting up the tree and all the lights. Are apartment is really cozy now and fun. Every night we get together before going to sleep to sing a few Christmas carols and enjoy the Christmas spirit here in the hot, summer desert. It sure is a different experience, but it sure is great! I still can't believe that Christmas is almost here -- my last Christmas in the mission!

The next set of pictures are from the birthday luncheon that we threw for my mission president, President Urra, and his wife. Their birthdays are really close, so we cooked them an awesome meal on Saturday. I helped cook, clean, and serve. It was lots of fun but lots of work as well. But it was definitely worth it! We had a little salad and a lentil soup to start out, then an Argentinean dish for the main course -- crepes filled with beef and ham with a tomato sauce (baked in the oven with melted cheese on top, of course). I was in charge of the dessert (like the good ol' days at home) and made a great pan of brownies served with ice cream. They turned out really well! It's a good thing that there are a bunch of Gringo stores here in Antofagasta. ;) And, all the food and drinks that we had were homemade! It was a fun little party.

The last pictures are just a few of the office that I took this morning. We recently decorated the office as well with Christmas decorations, and it makes it a lot less stressful as we deal with angry renters and complaining missionaries. :)

Other than all the festivities, sports (we played básquetbol, fútbol and fútbol americano this morning), and fun, the work has been going really well in our sector as well. Our companions have been having lots of success with baptisms, and I am so grateful to see so many people at church! We've also had lots of success, especially with our work among the inactive members. In church, the attendance was up to 165 people (from an average of 130) with 20 inactive members in the sacrament meeting! How crazy, huh? It was a great blessing from my Heavenly Father.

We've also seen lots of progress with the investigators with whom we're working. One investigator, Paola, is progressing a lot and wants to be baptized! She has felt the spirit really strong in church and as she prays and reads in the Book of Mormon. She is just a little hesitant at the moment to set a baptismal date. I think it might be because she is studying at the moment, and I don't think her family know she is coming to church. We'll be teaching her tonight, and I hope that everything goes well!

We're also continuing to teach Silvestre, our investigator who is a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses church. He is amazing; I especially love how much knowledge he has of the bible. We can use fun examples from the bible to teach him the doctrine. We're planning on getting him an LDS version of the Spanish bible to clear up some of the doubts he has at this time. It should be a great little gift for him!

Anyways, I hope you all know how much I love you and will be thinking of you this Holiday season! I hope you enjoy the pictures, and let me know how everything is going!

With tons of love and a cherry on top!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving--I love the desert!

November 21, 2009 (Buenosdas)

I got my Thanksgiving package! It was amazing! Thank you so much to all who contributed. I'm in the process of breaking in my new shoes, and they are awesome. I thought I wouldn't like brown because my pants are black, but I was mistaken. Brown is amazing. It's especially great for the desert because, no matter what, our shoes end up brown with dirt at the end of the day. :) Hmm, I should take some pictures of that. It's pretty funny; I have to stop many times in the day and, instead of bending down to tie a shoe, I use a little cloth to clean off all the dirt. But I can't complain. I love the desert! It's really pretty, especially now as we're entering into summer and living by the sea. I really do love it here in Antofagasta...

We had an amazing Zone Conference this week too! Elder Zeballos, a member of the First Quorum of the 70 and Chile's area presidency, came to speak with us. He is from Antofagasta, and he is super awesome. He taught us a lot, not only about how to improve our teaching skills, but also about the organization of the Quorums of the 70 in Christ's church, the discovery of the biggest copper mine in the world (La Escondida, which is 2 hours from Antofagasta and brings in more than $11,000,000,000 USD every year in copper!), a bit of physics and mechanics, etc. He spoke for a good 2 hours, and by the end we were all filled with the spirit to go out and teach. You can really tell when a person has been commissioned and ordained unto a sacred calling; they radiate the power of God. It's amazing!

Today, we went and played basketball in the morning. Then, it being a beautiful summer day, my companion and I ran back to our apartment. It was like 5 kilometers or so (3.3 miles), and it was great. Now I feel exhilarated with lots of energy -- reminds me of the good old days running the Academy! We're planning on taking all of our P-day today and buying Dominoes pizza for lunch. It should be great. :)

Sunday was amazing as well. I really don't understand my ward (Antofagasta Centro), but the attendance is really variable. We have had everywhere between 97 and 140 people attend. This last Sunday, 163 attended! It was especially great because we had 3 investigators there who felt the spirit and progressing. I hope that we can keep working hard to help everyone to have more faith in Christ. I really do love working as a missionary. It's great!

We have been having lots of success as we have worked more with the members and have striven to gain their trust. Just last week we had tons of miracles as we found 14 new investigators, taught 13 lessons with members, and worked hard in the office and in our sector. We are also closing a lot of pensions and opening a lot of missionary pensions, so I've been busy writing contracts, paying bills, and all that jazz. I still can't believe that I can actually do all of this work effectively AND in Spanish! If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is...

Well, I don't have too much more time to write, I just want to let you know that I'm grateful for every one of you and your examples. I think of you a lot and pray for you always. Have a wonderful week, and I'll write again on Saturday!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Patience and Faith

November 14, 2009 (Friday 13th is lucky in Chile)

It has been a truly amazing week, but I'm sorry because I didn't take any pictures. So, I'm sending some pictures of the baptism we had a while back. Hernan Ramos is such an awesome convert and strong member of the church! It was a real pleasure to teach him a while back and seem him enter into the waters of baptism. :)

It started out as a week of patience and faith as every single appointment we made fell through, and we didn't enter into any houses. I really enjoyed reading Jacob's letter about his mission and the things they did because their appointments always failed. It helped me see that we're not alone in this! We almost started teaching all the dogs in the streets for a lack of people who wanted to listen to our message (and for the fact that there are 10 dogs to every person here in Antofagasta).

Like you might remember, we have a goal in our mission to baptize 4 people in this last trimester of the year. We have one so far, but it's been really difficult finding more people who want to hear what we have to say. As we got home the other day, after a long day of walking, knocking on doors, and talking with tons of people who rejected our message, we talked about what we could do to help these our brothers and sisters even more to be more interested in the gospel. We thought about the goal that we had, and the answer came in a quiet thought that entered our hearts.

We set goals to make us zealous, to excite us and help us serve with more diligence and love, to help us save the beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. If our goals become a stone of stumbling, a source of discouragement or doubt, then the goal we set is not fulfilling its purpose. Or we, as people, forget what the goal represents -- not a number, but a precious soul, one of our brothers or sisters that needs our help.

As Élder Rivas and I both felt the same things, that we did not fail in our purposes, but we were helping and serving a lot of people in a lot of little ways, we began to have lots of success. The miracles were about to come, and on the one day least expected: Friday the 13th.

Here in Chile, Tuesday the 13th is unlucky, not Friday, so our Friday went super well. Every single appointment we set went through. We received 3 new investigators through member referrals and 3 new investigators as we went to appointments we set just talking to people in the streets. As we felt a little discouraged earlier this week, we were really just planting the seeds of success for later on. We do not waste any effort as we work and serve those around us, those whom we most love. Our Heavenly Father loves us and each one of his children. He blesses us with His love, and everything that happens in this life is just to help us return to His presence again. I hope that we can all remember the "why" of what we do and continue forward with steadfastness and faith in Christ! I love Mosiah 2 when it says: "He doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth IMMEDIATELY bless you..."

Hmm, I guess that is it for now. I love you all so much! Oh, maybe you'd like to read what I wrote to my mission president this week. It's pretty much the same as I wrote this week, but it's in Spanish. I hope it wasn't too boring, but that's what's been happening this week. Okay, so here's the letter:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Estimado Presidente Urra,

¿Se acuerda cuando hablamos el otro día, y yo dije que era un día de mucha paciencia? A veces no podemos ver con nuestros ojos naturales los numerosos milagros que vendrán si podemos seguir viendo con nuestros ojos de fe. Después de algunos días sin lecciones con investigadores, Élder Rivas y yo estábamos un poco desanimados. Pero, le recordé a mi compañero de la razón por la cual utilizamos metas en la misión - para animarnos, alentarnos, instarnos, ayudarnos a servir con más energía y ganas de obrar en rectitud. En el momento en que la meta llega a ser una cuota, en que pensamos más en NUESTRO propio éxito en vez del PROGRESO y SERVICIO de los demás, nuestra meta será ineficaz, y a nadie le servirá.

Recordando el consejo que muchas veces recibimos para disfrutar la misión y encontrar gozo en el servicio de los demás, salimos ayer, viernes el 13 de noviembre, con todas las ganas de servir y disfrutar el rechazo. Después de una semana de paciencia, Dios nos concedió todos los deseos de nuestros corazones, si, el nos bendijo más que nos imaginamos posible. Logramos y pasamos cada meta que pusimos en el día, y los milagros no cesaron de venir hasta que terminamos nuestras labores. Recibimos 3 referencias de miembros: Alberto, Paola y Bárbara, y todos se comprometieron a ir a la iglesia. Cuando enseñamos, el espíritu estaba en abundancia, y sé que Dios estaba con nosotros.

También, encontramos a una familia con quién hablamos el otro día. Pasamos, y aprendimos que esta familia ha sido preparada para recibir el mensaje que nosotros llevamos como representantes de Jesucristo. Uno de ellos, Cristian, dijo que no creía mucho en Dios antes pero nunca negó la posibilidad de un Dios. En este mes pasado, el dijo que tenía muchas manifestaciones que le dijeron que hay un Dios. El sintió que nuestra visita era una de estas manifestaciones, y el tiene todas las ganas de seguir aprendiendo y progresando en el evangelio. Estoy muy agradecido por la oportunidad de ser un instrumento en las manos de mi Padre Celestial y el ángel que Él envía para ayudar a sus hijos. ¡A mi me encanta estar en la misión!

Sé que Dios nos ha bendecido muchísimo en este día, y vamos a seguir trabajando con una fe sumamente grande que Dios contesta nuestras oraciones y que podemos lograr la meta que tenemos en la misión, para efectuar 4 bautismos en este trimestre para la salvación de estos nuestros hermanos.

Así que, estoy muy feliz, sé que vamos a lograr la meta. Se siente especialmente rico no sólo enseñar a los perros en las calles porque ¡por fin estamos encontrando más investigadores que pueden progresar y que quieren compartir con nosotros! :)

Con mucho aprecio y ánimo.

Babel fish translation:

One remembers when we spoke the other day, and I said that I was a day of much patience? Sometimes we cannot see with our natural eyes the numerous miracles that will come if we can continue seeing with our eyes of faith. After some days without lessons with investigators, Élder Rivas and I was a little discouraged. But, I remembered companion to him of the reason for which we used goals in the mission - to animate, to encourage to us to us, to insist to us, to help to serve with more energy and desire us to build in uprightness. At the moment at which the goal gets to be a quota, about which we thought more in OUR own success instead of the PROGRESS and SERVICE of the others, our goal will be ineffective, and to anybody it will serve to him. Remembering the advice that often we received to enjoy the mission and to find joy in the service of the others, we left yesterday, Friday the 13 of November, with all the desire to serve and to enjoy the rejection. After one week of patience, God it granted all the desires to us of our hearts, if, it blessed to us more than we imagined possible. We obtain and we passed each goal that we put in the day, and the miracles did not stop to come until we finished our workings. We receive 3 references of members: Alberto, Paola and Bárbara, and all were committed to go to the church. When we taught, the spirit was in abundance, and I know that God was with us. Also, we found a family with whom we spoke the other day. We happen, and we learned that this family has been prepared to receive the message that we took like representatives of Jesus Christ. One of them, Cristian, said that it before did not believe much in God but never it denied the possibility of a God. In this last month, it said that it had many manifestations that said to him that there is a God. It felt that our visit was one of these manifestations, and has all the desire to continue learning and progressing in the gospel. Very I am thanked for by the opportunity of being an instrument in the hands of my Celestial Father and the angel who He sends to help his children. it enchants to me to be in the mission! I know that God has blessed to us very many in this day, and we are going to continue working with an extremely great faith that God answers our orations and that we can manage the goal that we have in the mission, to carry out 4 baptisms in this trimester for the salvation of these our brothers. So, I am very happy, I know that we are going to obtain the goal. One feels especially rich not only to teach to the dogs in the streets because finally we are finding more investigators than they can progress and who they want to share with us! :) By far esteem and spirit.

Let the Christmas caroling begin

November 7, 2007 ¡Feliz Noviembre!

Wow! Christmas is coming! Can you believe it? I remember last Christmas, recently arriving in a strange land, not being able to understand anything but still feeling the love of the people here in Chile. I'm already pretty excited for the Holidays. We've started singing Christmas songs before going to bed, and it's starting to get hot! Finally! I love the sun. We're finally walking around in short sleeves, and it feels great to be able to sweat and feel like a "real" missionary. :)

This week has been amazing! We've had to have a lot of patience as almost all of our appointments fell through, but we still have had a lot of success. We've started just having fun with the trials here in the field. We talk to EVERYONE on the streets, do magic, sing for them, and even dance. :) I especially like talking to the little kids and doing magic for them. They always stare at you in awe as you walk away and say, "Wow! He did magic!" We have even had a couple of references from the little kids as they have run to their parents saying, "Look! Look! They can do magic!" It's really funny.

We've started having lots of work here in the office of the mission as well, but we don't worry too much if we don't get it all done. There really is way too much to do to have a proselyting sector and work in the office, so one of the two jobs has to be the priority, and our investigators will always be our priority. I absolutely love teaching and helping all the people here in Antofagasta. I have met some of the greatest people here, as well as some of the most tragic situations that I have ever seen. But one thing is sure: no matter what the circumstance, the gospel of Jesus Christ will ALWAYS help us, never hurt us or take away what we hold most dear, that is, our families. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what gives us happiness and peace now and in the eternities.

One strange miracle this week that happened is that I called up our old investigator who belongs to another church that has some really strong doctrines against our church. He is awesome, but randomly he stopped coming to church and we couldn't get a hold of him. I think that one of the members in our ward offended him with some hasty remarks about the wife of this investigator, who, with his daughter, had kicked him out of his house. Well, when I called him up, he told me that he was really bad. He said that his wife had passed away the week before because she overdosed on some medications. This investigator is now living again in our sector and needs a lot of help. He wants to continue attending our church, and he really wants and needs help during this difficult time in his life. We have an appointment to meet with him again after his month or two absence from church. I don't know why everything happens the way it does, but I do know that God works in mysterious ways and that He is always willing to help His children in need.

Let see, what else is new? Here in the office, Elder Galli returned, and we have a pretty weird transfer. Elder Galli is Elder Madrigal's companion but also assistant to the president. Elder Romero is basically rotating in sectors here in Antofagasta and traveling with President Urra. And Elder Rivas and I are companions again. It's lots of fun. :) I'm sending some pictures today of our P-day. We invited a few youngsters to play basketball and soccer with us, so we played in the morning and then watched "Madagascar 2" in Spanish (which President Urra approved for this transfer). It was fun. We watched it in the office and ordered pizza. Now, we're going to get off and start proselyting soon. I'm excited because we have some great appointments today. I hope they don't fall through!

Well, I hope you all know how much I love you. Keep being amazing, and stay strong! Life is good. :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Crazy Week

October 31, 2009 (Happy Halloween)

I'm really sorry, but this week I haven't taken any photos! I feel pretty bad about that, so I hope that you can forgive me. :( We have just finished what is called the "Crazy Week" ("La Semana Loca") here in the office. It was especially crazy because 3 missionaries showed up that we didn't know were coming to our mission (they were reassigned from other missions, and one came early from the MTC in Provo). Also, I had to make all the payments for rent, the mamitas that we have, the missionaries, etc., etc. We also had lots of work organizing the transfers, buying all the bus passes, changing our system with the new transfer information, and finishing up the auditing materials from the week before. It was tons of work, but we got it all done, and now I am just relieved that we can be back to do more work in our sector! I only have a few things left to do (terminate a few contracts, write a few contracts, reclaim security deposits on some apartments we are renting, etc.).

I have learned a ton in the past week, especially from my awesome mission president, President Urra. I called him to get some advice on a few things, and he called all of us secretaries to his office just to motivate us and teach us. It was amazing to sit there and feel his spiritual power. I wrote a lot of his counsel in my journal, but oh how I wish I could have had a camera and have recorded all of his words! He is really an amazing person that is full of love and just wants to help us have a successful mission. One thing that I have learned is that every experience in the mission is to prepare us for what is to come. If we have difficulties with something, we can be sure that those same difficulties with arise after the mission. Now is the time to overcome our weaknesses and be who the Lord wants us to be! But I'm sure you all know that already... Still, it is always a nice reminder. :)

Today, we have a baptism. Yay! We have been teaching Hernan Ramos for a couple months now, and he will be baptized this afternoon. He is awesome, and he has really found a lot of happiness and peace in living gospel principles. So, after today we will have 2 baptisms from the beginning of this trimester (October), and the goal (for us) is 8 baptisms by the end of the year. We can do it! I'll be working like crazy to reach this goal. But even if we don't reach the goal, I know that if we do all that we can and strive to help the people here in Antofagasta, we will be successful, no matter what. The true measure of our journey is not in reaching the goals that we set but in making a true difference in the world, fulfilling the great commandments in the law: Love God with all your heart, and with all your strength and all your might, and Love your neighbor as yourself. How amazing the world would be if only we all could live this command perfectly!

Thank you to all that wrote me! I really enjoyed reading your words and looking at the pictures of Halloween. I sent a couple to my mission president. I don't know why, but it's kind of taboo for adults to celebrate Halloween here in Chile. Halloween is still pretty new in this country. Just two years ago, the evangelical church added a new holiday to Chile, which just happens to be on Halloween. So, there is a mixture between super dramatic, religious folk on the street (here in Chile, they are called "canutos") and little kids dressed up as monsters. It's pretty funny. But then again, Chile has more holidays than any country I know! I think it's just an excuse not to work... Though I'm not complaining. It means that the people are in their home more so that we can teach them!

Right now, Chile is on another teacher's strike (the second this year), which also means that there are a lot of youth roaming the streets without going to school. Politics and money just do weird things to a society. I'm just grateful that we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ to hold us in place and guide us in a sure way, the way to eternal life. This experience here in Chile sure is colorful! I really do love the work that we are doing here. It is amazing to be a representative of Jesus Christ, to enter into homes and teach families, and to help unify and strengthen family relationships.

Well, I think that's about it for now. We're gonna get off soon to do some service in a cemetery (a perfect activity for Halloween!) and then get off to the baptism. Have a wonderful day, and know that you're always in my prayers!