Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Got the package!

December 19, 2009 (Hurray for Christmas!)

Thank you so much for the box that you sent! I loved it! It got here this week, and I felt so loved! It was awesome to open it up and put all the presents under our little Christmas tree. It really feels like Christmas now! Thank you so much for all the love and sugar you packed into the box – I’ll wait until Christmas to open the gifts, but I gave into the temptation and started eating the sweets early! I hope you don’t mind!

Can you believe that Christmas is already here? It didn’t really sink in until we were talking with some people in the street and we made an appointment to visit a family on Christmas day – less than a week! I remember waiting for this day anxiously every year, and now it seems like we were talking on Christmas day just yesterday. It’s crazy how fast time flies, doesn’t it? It is especially strange here in South America because it’s starting to get really hot, and the typical Christmas gift exchange includes water guns and swimming pool accessories. How strange, huh?

This week has been really awesome and filled with lots of miracles. Today is the baptism of Paola Vega, our awesome investigator who has been progressing like crazy since we met her 4 weeks ago. And I’ll be baptizing her! I’ll send some pictures next week. This mission is just great, always filled this miracles and the tender mercies of a loving Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for the many blessings that we have received as members and as we strive to follow Christ. It’s true that our Heavenly Father only wants us to be happy!

This week, we had an awesome Zone Conference (and gift exchange) where we were introduced to a new teaching model as taught by Elder Bednar at a recent Mission President Seminar (it’s really just a clarification of what Preach My Gospel already says). As missionaries, we are a little bit too focused on giving commitments and not in teaching the doctrine. That is, if we give a commitment that someone doesn’t understand, it doesn’t make any sense to the person to keep the commitment. We learned that doctrine is a group of principles that answers the question “Why?” Why should I listen to the missionaries? Why do I need Christ in my life? The principles are points of truth that act as a guide to help the person keep a commitment, which is usually the question “How?” We’ve been studying this teaching model and have seen lots of success. For example, the other day we had a lesson with a member who had many questions. One of his questions was: How can I better feel, recognize, and understand answers that God gives me? As we haven’t taught all the commandments yet to this investigator, I thought it would be neat to give this new teaching model a try. To answer his question, we taught the Word of Wisdom. We taught that the spirit can dwell inside of us, which is what gives us answers. Then we taught that our bodies are sometimes referred to as Temples because the spirit can reside in us. But, the spirit can’t reside in impure temples. That is why God reveals many things that we can do to maintain a pure temple where the spirit of the Lord can reside. We then taught why it is so important that we take care of the bodies that we have. At the end of the lesson, we testified that if this investigator wanted to better understand the spirit of God, all he needed to do was start living some of the commandments, like the word of wisdom. And, there is a specific promise that we can receive treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures. That sounds like a clearer answer to me! He accepted our invitation without hesitation and told his wife: “I don’t know if you want to do this with me. But if you offer me something like a drink or coffee, I’m not going to do it. It’s not because I can’t; it's just that I don’t WANT to now.” It was really neat to see how this teaching model can help in lots of different situations.

We’ve been really busy and working hard here in the office as well. We’ve closed out 10 apartments and opened up a lot of new ones. I think Elder Mortensen is getting a hang of his responsibilities, but it has been hard for him because there is always TONS of work to do in the office – even with 2 people instead of 1! But I do enjoy training a new financer. It’s been lots of work, but it’s awesome to see how much I have learned in the past 6 months and pass all of that knowledge on to someone else.

Well, I have to get going now, but MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! I love you all and am thinking of you lots this week. Thank you for writing and thinking of me as well. I have the best family and the most amazing friends ever – it’s true!

With all my love this Christmas week.

12 Days till Christmas

December 12, 2009 (happy middle of December)

Wow, I can't believe Christmas is on it's way so soon! It's pretty crazy... :)

I'm sending some pictures that we took this morning, but we were shooting into backlight a bit, so they didn't turn out too great. But, it's better than nothing!

This week has been pretty crazy. Along with transfers in the mission, 15 missionaries left the mission, 10 missionaries arrived, we closed out 10 missionary apartments, we had the Zone Leader Conference, and now we're preparing for all the Zone Conferences next week and Christmas! Tons of packages are arriving every day; it was especially crazy yesterday when like 40 packages arrived and the elevator broke, so they had to carry them all up to the fifth floor by hand! Poor package carrying guy...

It's been fun but challenging to start training Elder Mortensen as the new Financial Secretary. However, I am learning a lot with him, and I can finally see how much I have really learned as I have been here in the office. It's incredible to see the progress in my life and in the life of others. And I finally understand finances and all that jazz! Economy, laws, and all in Spanish!

And some good news is that a new missionary arrived that we didn't know was coming, which means I'll have more time to train Elder Mortensen (I hope) and be here in Antofagasta Centro. I have really grown to love the members and people in my ward -- they are so awesome! It's amazing how much love we can gain in such a short span of time as we spend our time in the service of others.

One miracle that we had this week is as we left to teach in our sector and all of our appointments fell through. We walked around and didn't know what we should do, so we stopped by the house of an old investigator, Bastian, who is 11 years old. We shared a Christmas message, sang, and then felt impressed to speak about baptism. We challenged him to be baptized this month (he had attended church for a lot of time before), and he enthusiastically responded in the affirmative! His parents support him, and he will be baptized shortly. I love the many miracles here in the mission field.

Thank you for all your love and support. You are all in my prayers always. I hope that you have the greatest Christmas ever and that you can feel the same amazing Christmas spirit that I can feel here in the Atacama desert. This really has been the greatest year of my life, and I am so grateful for the many miracles that we witness daily. This is God's work.

Training a new financer

December 8, 2009 (Sorry I didn't write sooner)

Sorry I didn't write sooner! We've been super busy in the office and in our sector, especially working with the upcoming transfers. 15 missionaries are leaving the mission, and there are 10 arriving. It's been lot's of work, and the craziest part is that our internet service in the office died the other day! We still don't know what happened, so here I am in an internet café for the first time in 6 months of being in the office. It's kinda fun!

Sorry I don't have any pictures! But I sure do have lots of stories to tell! Just today, I started training a new financer! The new financer is my good friend Elder Mortensen from Salt Lake City. We were roommates in the MTC! How crazy... This change means I'll finally have the chance to burn a little bit of the fat I've been gaining here in the office, but poor Elder Mortensen will have to endure Christmas in the office. :) However, we had a special transfer because one missionary won't be coming who we thought would. So, that means that President wants me to train Elder Mortensen in 2 WEEKS and then work in another sector here in Antofagasta for the rest of the transfer. I'm not sure if it'll be possible, especially because we still don't have internet for the majority of the office work, but I'll try my best! We'll see how everything goes...

This week was filled with work and stress, but tons of miracles as well! We had one baptism last weekend, David Vásquez Jamet, an awesome young man. But I don't have the pictures with me! We also have one investigador, Paola, who has been attending church for some time now. We went to her house on Sunday (she lives with a member family), and the family told us that Paola had some bad news. She was going back to her own family for the Holidays in Iquique and didn't want to be baptized before leaving. We were pretty bummed, but then we looked at Paola and she was just smiling. The whole family burst into laughter and screamed, "JUST KIDDING!!!!" Paola had received a really special answer to her prayer and will be baptized on December 19th! We were full of joy to hear this news.

The rest of the day we were elated, and as we worked we just found miracle after miracle. Everyone we talked to wanted to hear our message. The Lord really does put people in our paths for us to find, but we can help these people only as we are ready and willing to listen to the spirit and then ACT upon the impressions we receive.

Well, I don't have too much more time to write. I wish I could write to all of you individually! Thank you so much for your letters. And Jenny, the crazy part is that I understood everything you said in your letter! I guess that means I speak Spanish now... Crazy... Well, I'm off to the office to train the new missionaries.