Sunday, May 2, 2010

Studying, reading, baking, eating, apologizing, etc.

April 26, 2010 (Companion sick)
This week has been really great, but we have been stuck many days in our apartment as my companion was sick to his stomach and couldn't stand being in the light. We still don't know what he has, but he seems to getting better slowly. We're going to start working little by little, especially since we've already missed a lot of appointments that we set up! We'll have a lot of apologizing to do this week... While I was in the apartment, I got a lot of studying done, read the entire book of Matthew, perfected my cake-baking skills, ate the cakes that I baked, and did a lot of pondering. I'm so ready to get out there and start teaching!!!! :)
It seems like everyone here in Diego de Almagro also got sick this week. My companion believes that he started an epidemic. He also believes it to be some "gringo disease" that has come out of remission since I'm the only one that still hasn't gotten sick! I guess all my time spent with sick people in the hospital paid off at the end... Yesterday, only 8 people went to church, including us, because everyone called and said that they were sick. It felt kind of weird being up at the podium with so few people, so we decided to move it in closer and held sacrament meeting in a little circle. Even though we were few, I felt that same sweet guiding spirit that accompanies us in larger meetings, and I knew that the Lord was with us. I decided to give a talk on a lesson that Alma gave in Alma 37 about the small and simple things, using the same example that Alma uses of the Liahona and the tools that our Heavenly Father gives us that lead us through this world to Eternal Life, namely scriptures and prayer. I also used the example of Naaham and the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 5. I really enjoyed preparing the talk, pondering on the doctrines, and being led by the spirit to explain those doctrines to the few members in our Sacrament Meeting.
For the short time we were able to work this week, the Lord really blessed us. I do love being a missionary, even through some of the trials we have to face! It is the greatest calling ever! :)
I'm also excited for the Mother's day call in just a couple of weeks! Though I'm not sure what number you should call yet (I need to talk to a few branch members to see who has a phone!), the call will be Sunday, May 9th from 5-7 pm Chile time (that should be from 3-5 pm your time). I'll be sending a few more details next week, like the number to call and everything. :)
There's not much new going on here. We're still working hard in the branch to reach out to members who have, for one reason or another, lost their footings in the gospel and need our help to return and receive our Heavenly Father's promised blessings. We're sharing the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with many people, and I can tell that our prayers have been answered and the Spirit has been poured out on this little town. I can testify that the Priesthood power that was restored through living prophets is real, and God loves his children and desires our well-being; for that reason there is a law and commandments, that through the law we may be blessed.
Well, I guess that's it for this week. I was going to send another picture this week, but I left my camera in Diego de Almagro and we're sitting in a little Internet place in Chañaral waiting to take a bus back to Diego (we had an activity with the district today -- turns out that I'm the district leader!). Sorry...
I love you all so much! Take care, and know that you are all in my prayers. I am so grateful for each one of you, and I know that our Heavenly Father has blessed us so much as a family! Let's keep doing our best!

Baking for the RS!

April 19, 2010 (Care package joy)

Hey my awesome family!
I just want to thank you a TON for the box that arrived last week! Right after sending out the email, I got the box and started taking some pictures. It was awesome to receive a nice little package from the States! :)
I'm also sending a picture of my companion and I in our pension after throwing together an awesome little cake. It was really good! My companion's a chef, so he's always cooking and I have the assignment to help him. We also made brownies a couple weeks ago, and they turned out really well. The Relief Society president asked if we could teach the relief society sisters this coming Friday, so that should be a fun little branch activity! The only bad part is that the materials are pretty expensive, like walnuts and things like that, but it's alright. It's worth it! :)
Wow, I can't believe that Jessica is having a baby boy! I'm so excited! That's crazy... It'll be fun to see my little nephews when I get back home in September! :) We have the best family ever. I'm so thankful for all of you and all of the wonderful blessings that we have as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Well, I actually am running out of time, so I have to get going! Since I don't have much time to write anything good, I'll send you my letter to my mission President, President Urra. I hope you enjoy it!
I love you all!
Elder Hobbs
La primera semana de este cambio fue un poco difícil con respecto a los números. Tuvimos algunas lecciones con miembros presentes y otras lecciones, pero no logramos los 100 contactos ni los 4 nuevos investigadores. Pero, todavía estamos animados y vamos a seguir trabajando. Esta semana, ¡sí lo vamos a lograr! :)

Siento muy agradecido por tener a un compañero tan bueno como Élder Howard. Me ayuda en muchos aspectos de la misión, sirviendo como maestro, 2do consejero en la presidencia de rama, secretario, director de música, etc. Siempre está dispuesto a servir, y su español está mejorando poco a poco. Su ánimo es contagioso.

También, esta semana estaba llena de milagros. Estoy especialmente agradecido por el Espíritu que nos acompañó en nuestras lecciones y las visitas que hicimos. Esta semana, conversamos con una hermana de la iglesia que ha tenido muchas dificultades en su vida y está alejado de la iglesia. Ella compartió su historia con nosotros y sentí la distinta impresión de ofrecer una bendición. Entramos en su casa y ofrecimos dos bendiciones -- una por la casa y una por ella. Literalmente pude sentir un cambio en la casa y el poder de Dios fluyendo de mi y mi compañero a esta familia. Cuando nos fuimos de la casa, la hermana estaba sonriendo a pesar de sus lágrimas y nos agradecía por pasar por su casa. En este momento, sentí el gran amor que Dios tiene por todos Sus hijos, y sé que ésta es la obra de Dios. Sin Su ayuda, no podemos lograr nada, ya que el Espíritu es el maestro y el poder que tenemos no es nuestro sino que es de Él. Cada puerta cerrada, cada contacto fallado y cada rechazo no es nada cuando sentimos el gozo de llegar a ser instrumentos en las manos de nuestro Padre Celestial.

Mi compañero y yo también agradecimos mucho a nuestro Padre Celestial por bendecirnos tanto en la iglesia el día domingo. Antes, compartimos con una investigadora con la intención de darle una fecha bautismal. Ella aceptó la fecha pero ¡después nos contó que se iba a mudar a la Serena! Ella ya se fue, pero todavía había 28 personas en la reunión sacramental. Sin los misioneros y dos visitas que llegaron, había 24 miembros e investigadores de Diego de Almagro. Somos pocos, pero hay un aumento definitivo en la espiritualidad de la rama y el ánimo que los miembros tienen al recibir el Espíritu y compartir esta felicidad con los demás, especialmente los miembros inactivos de la iglesia. Estamos capacitando a los miembros en lo más básico del Evangelio -- la lectura familiar en el Libro de Mormón y la oración familiar -- y en la orientación familiar/maestras visitantes. Estoy aprendiendo mucho sobre la administración de la iglesia y la revelación, y estoy muy agradecido por el sagrado privilegio de ser Presidente de Rama y poder servir más a los queridos hermanos de la iglesia. En realidad, ésta es la asignación que más me gusta.

Diego de Almagro

April 12, 2010 (Week of miracles)

It has been a truly amazing week here in Diego de Almagro with my
companion Elder Howard. We’ve been working really hard to help our
little branch and its members. One of the greatest blessings is to
work side by side with some of the most amazing leaders of the church.
This past weekend, we had a Branch Counsel and President Dinamarca,
our District President, came. President (or Elder) Dinamarca is a
senior missionary serving with his wife. They’ve been serving missions
for a really long time. This is their fourth consecutive mission, and
they are just filled with energy and love for the people. As Elder
Dinamarca spoke during our Branch Counsel meeting, the spirit was
there to edify all of us. It was amazing to see how all of our branch
members were just drawn into his presence and could all feel the
spirit that he brought to the meeting. We left, excited to start
working and serving here in Diego de Almagro. Though we are few, we
are strong, and the Lord is with us. I know this is true! :)

This week was literally filled with miracles. The members started
working along side of us, and we had one of the best weeks that we’ve
ever had here in Diego de Almagro! What has impressed me most is the
sweet peace that the spirit brings as we work diligently, striving to
serve as Christ would serve if He were here working by our side. And
though He may not be in our presence physically, I know that the
Spirit is here guiding our steps. I have to admit, being Branch
President has been one of my favorite assignments here in the mission.
It’s not at all about presiding at meetings or anything like that;
it’s about the quality of service I’ve been able to render – not only
to investigators but also to the amazing branch members here in Diego
de Almagro!

One amazing experience was when the Spirit prompted me to make an
appointment to interview a non-active member of the church. I did so,
even though I had my doubts that he’d show up to the chapel for the
interview. When the day came, to our great surprise and joy, he showed
up. At first the interview was a bit slow. He spoke. I listened. As he
spoke, I felt the spirit so strong as to overcome my frame, and we
began to converse and read in the scriptures. Though I will not say
everything that was said between us, at the end of the interview this
inactive member told me this (though it was in Spanish): “It’s a bit
strange. I came here today with the intention of telling you
everything and leaving the church forever. But, I felt the Spirit
speak to my soul. I commit to saying my prayers every day. I know it
sounds like something so small! But I know that it’s what God wants me
to do.” In this moment, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love towards
this inactive member – and I know that the Lord had reached out His
kind and merciful hand to one of His children in need. After a
blessing of comfort and strength, this member left my office smiling
through his tears. It was an edifying and spiritual moment, and I know
that God reaches out to all of his children in love.

I wish I could express everything I have felt through words in this
email. But, I know that this would be impossible. Instead, I want you
to know that I know that this church is true. We have the most amazing
gift available to mankind: the gift of the Holy Ghost! We can be lead
and guided to help those who are in need, and as we see the Lord’s
hand in our life and theirs, our joy becomes perfect. God loves his
children. We are so blessed to live in a day of miracles!

Well, I don’t have much more time to tell you how amazing the mission
is or how much I love you all. I’m looking forward to hearing from you
next week! Sorry I don’t have any pictures – I’ve really been slacking
off. I guess today I’ll have to take a bunch so I can send them to you
next week. :)

Happy Easter

April 5, 2010 (General Conference)

I just got through with another incredible week here in the mission. Didn't you just love General Conference? I thought it was awesome what Elder Anderson said, that the talks at General Conference aren't assigned themes, but that everyone is to share what they are inspired to share. I noticed that, in all of the sessions of Conference there was a general theme: The Family. Isn't it just great to know that the family is eternal? I'm so grateful to have a wonderful family and share the gospel with all. I know we aren't perfect, but there's love, so we must be doing something right.
Today, we spent the day in Copiapó. We came, bought some awesome soccer shirts, and played for a bit. I liked playing basketball more at the end... But I won't complain. Everyone has their likes and their dislikes. What I like more than anything else is just doing my best and serving others. I have come to love the amazing members in the little town of Diego de Almagro, and I know that I am where I am meant to be. This week, I started doing the first administrative work here in Diego de Almagro now that I finally know more about the members and their individual situations. I've interviewed almost everyone, and I know that we have been exceedingly blessed as a branch here in Northern Chile. This week, we got together the new Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching companionships and assignments (that was a lot of work), and I started giving the first callings that I've given as Branch President. Though I can't share everything that I've learned here and that I've felt, I testify that this is God's work and that He works with power by faith among His children. I know that our Heavenly Father loves and knows each of us personally. Though I have little experience in life and am still really young, it is a great assurance to know that the Holy Ghost has all experience and all wisdom, and that I can work in the office to which I have been appointed because I am not the one giving callings or counsel; this is God's work, and He works through us as long as we strive to obey and to understand the bounds of the callings and offices to which we are appointed and ordained.
Also, a fun little experience was getting to go through a few other little towns: El Salvador and Potrerillos. President Urra and the assistants called us up on Friday afternoon and asked if we had appointments and if we wanted to join them to get to know the parts around Diego de Almagro. We, of course, jumped at the chance, and Friday afternoon we went and saw these awesome little cities. As we drove, President Urra described the desert scened that we saw and the history of what had happened before in these areas. He talked about the old-fashioned mining communities, showed us around ghost towns, and drove through the most arid desert of the whole world. As we got to Potrerillos, a factory where they purify the copper that's mined, we marvelled at the fact that it's built at the top of a huge hill, and it looks impossible for a train to go up and transport copper. But, the people who created this facility were really intelligent and creative. In really steep hills, amazing roads were cut out and built. The train tracks actually pass around the facility in order to climb the huge hill. I wish I had taken pictures, but we didn't have time to go back to our house and grab the camera! I think I'll ask one of the assistants for pictures because it truly was beautiful.
Also, my companion Elder Howard and I were tracting the other day, and as I looked through the door crack, I noticed some weird looking devices on the table. I said "Wow, Elder, I think it's a meth-lab." He then looked in and corrected me. "No elder, it's just a hairdressing place." We had a good laugh about that, and then went on tracting.
I'm really loving the work here in Diego de Almagro, and I know that this is where I'm supposed to be. I hope that I can serve with all my heart, mind, and strength so that when I leave this little city, the members are much better prepared for the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I know that Jesus Christ lives, that this is His church here on the earth. I also know that the Gift of the Holy Ghost is an amazing gift that we should always use and be grateful for. The greatest promise is the one that comes as we partake worthily of the sacrament: That we can always have His spirit to be with us.
It is my hope and prayer this day after Easter that we can carry with us always the amazing Gift of the Holy Ghost and enjoy a knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He suffered for US, that no matter what, we can turn to Him and have salvation. I am so grateful for this knowledge -- it is what brings joy and satisfaction to my life every day, it is the power that helps me to endure to the end, even when the going gets tough.

Elder Howard

Mar. 29, 2010 (Branch audit)

orry about writing a little later than usual this week. It has been a pretty eventful P-day for us here in Diego de Almagro (actually, we're in Chañaral right now, a little city on the coast about 1 hour away from Diego de Almagro).
To start off, I'm sending a couple pictures of last week when my new companion arrived here in Chañaral. His name is Elder Howard and he is an amazing missionary! He's still pretty new in the mission, about 4 months here in Chile, so it's been fun to work on him with his Spanish. I have been speaking a lot more in English nowadays, which is bad (I know!), but at least I won't have so weird of an accent when we have the Mother's day call. That should be nice! Wow, can you believe that my last General Conference in the mission is coming up? And the Mother's day call is my last call home in the mission. How insane! Where does all the time go? It seems to be speeding up every day...
Here in the branch, Diego de Almagro, we've had quite a bit of work to do. Just yesterday, we had our 6 month audit, which was kind of fun. I'm just glad it only lasted 2 hours; the audit we had in the mission office last year took 2 full days! But everything went great. I learned a few things that I can do better in the administration aspect of the branch, and I definitely have got my hands full of things to do. And I'm loving it! It's a great experience to learn from amazing leaders and to be able to love and serve the members in our little branch. Today, we had a district meeting with 3 branch presidents and the district president, and we went over a few things (such as study materials for the church for this year) that we can do to help strengthen the branch. I'm excited to start putting it all into practice. We're in the middle of the long process of interviews and callings. When I got here, the branch really didn't have any kind of organization, so we're starting from scratch calling all the presidencies and organizing home and visiting teaching. It's a great experience to plan, interview, feel the spirit guiding our decisions, and strive to serve the members. I'm really enjoying the work here in Diego de Almagro!
We also found a lot of new investigators this week. It's always a bit of a struggle to balance all of the administrative work and the missionary work, but I know that the Lord is blessing us exceedingly for the sacrifice we're making. I really love my Heavenly Father and am so grateful for His help every day. I could never do this work without Him! We have a great vision of the progress of the work here in Diego de Almagro, in the district Chañaral, and I know that all that we do is help people come unto Christ by helping them receive His restored gospel. Right now, we are working to put the foundation of the Church in, to build it up so strong that, no matter what happens and what temptation might befall the members, it will stay strongly rooted in the faith of Christ. Though we are few (20 people attended last Sunday), I can feel the strength of the members that we have in the branch and I know that together we can start seeing miracles.
I love this work here in Chile and in all the world. Though I love all of you and miss being with you, I know that I am where the Lord wants me to be. I know that this great work is true and that we are in His true Church. I have felt the overwhelming love and peace that only my Heavenly Father can provide, testifying of the truth of these things. I hope that you all have an amazing week and that we can enjoy General Conference. I'm really excited to hear what the prophet has to say! :)
I love you all very much, and I hope that all is well. Thank you for always writing and letting me know how everything is -- I really do appreciate it!

Man's best friend

Mar. 22, 2010 (Elder Butch)

Sorry, I didn't take any new pictures this week to send... I'll try to do it next week! So, first off, I guess I'll let you know about something I found out just this morning while I was cleaning our house -- I'm going to have a new companion! Elder Smith is leaving me, and Elder Howard (another new missionary) is going to be arriving here in Diego de Almagro. It should be fun, though I'll really miss Elder Smith -- he is my great friend. But, such is the mission. Lots of changes and transfers, all of them unexpected. I'm pretty excited to get to know Elder Howard a little better (I met him in Antofagasta when I was serving as financer) and work with him here in our little branch.
Well, I'm loving life here in Diego de Almagro! We've had a ton of awesome experiences, some funny, some spiritual, all amazing. Let's see, yesterday we were cussed out by a drunk man, and another drunk man came in our defense, shared his feelings with us, thanked us for our work, and then gave us both a really big, slobbery kiss on the neck. That was pretty funny. We also tried to tame a wild dog. We named him Butch, and he came in our defense and started attacking other dogs that were in our path. I've also had fun with the train that passes by the mines around Diego de Almagro. You can put coins on the tracks and get them smashed up! I've always wanted to do that... :)
But those are just the little joys of life that we have to enjoy. The greatest part of missionary work here in Diego de Almagro is getting to know the amazing members and helping them out in any way possible. It's strange being in the position of Branch President and having to interview the members and help them with their individual problems, but I really do enjoy it. I found out that the interviews can be really spiritual experiences, if we seek to receive guidance and only help others in reaching their goals. I am really loving the work here in Diego de Almagro.
Well, my time has ended already here in the internet café! So, I guess I'll have to end my letter here. Thank you all for your love and support. I am really excited to speak with you more on Mother's Day and see how you are. Take care, and I'll see you in six months!

Branch President Hobbs

Mar. 15, 2010 (Special Transfer)

So, I've figured out that here in the mission we are just preparing for our life afterwards, which means we have tons of transfers and things like that. Well, I'm still working here in Diego de Almagro as Branch President, but now my companion, Elder Aguilar, has left to Vallenar and I'm with a new companion! My new companion's name is Elder Smith, so people seem to ask us every day, "Are you related to Joseph Smith?" I'm pretty sure that my companion is sick of it by now! :) Elder Smith is from Conneticut and has been in the mission for about 2 months. But, he speaks Spanish really well! We're working hard here in Diego de Almagro, but it's a little tough for me because I still haven't gotten very familiar with the town! We are the only missionaries, so we have the entire city to work in. It's actually really great -- I'm loving every minute of the work here. I'm sending a picture of me and my new companion, and also of the sunrise this morning that we saw as we were walking to the bus stop (we are actually in Chañaral right now; we have zone conference tomorrow).
Just to let you know about some of my new responsibilities (to answer some of the questions I got), I am still a missionary, but I have to coordinate everything for sacrament meetings and things like that. I am starting the interviewing process to get to know all of the members here in Diego de Almagro. It's a lot of work with the members, but I really do love it. We have been working a lot with inactive members also, and guess what? Two inactive families attended church last Sunday! There were 20 people in all in our little chapel. Which is really great for Diego! Both of these inactive families is really great. The mother of one of the families shared a powerful testimony last week, and she is sticking with her commitment to come and share with others. The father of the other family is a Melchizedek Priesthood holder, and his wife is endowed in the temple. It was amazing to have them in church and to have them participate in our Gospel Principles class and bear testimony of the Gospel and the Book of Mormon. We have a lot of strength in our little branch, and I know that our Heavenly Father is working a lot with us so that we can build up the faith of the members and His kingdom here in Chile.
Sadly, I don't have very much time to write today! I guess my time is cutting shorter and shorter every time I write... I don't know why that is... We watched Ice Age 3 in Spanish for our P-day activity here in Chañaral with Elder Zúniga and Elder Rodriguez. It was great fun. And, we're getting ready for lots of training meetings with our new district president, Elder Dinamarca. It is amazing to be here in the mission!
Well, I really do wish I could write more! But, I guess this will have to suffice for today. Thank you for all of your letters and notes and pictures. I loved it! I love you all, and I want to share with you my testimony that this is the true church, that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. I have never known that as sure as I do now!

Old camera from dad!

Mar. 8, 2010 (living in the middle of nowhere)

I'm sending you a bunch of pictures to make up for all that I missed before! Thank you for all your letters and notes of encouragement and support. I am so grateful to all of you for your prayers and for all that you do for me. Thank you!
Okay, to let you know what pictures I'm sending... I am sending pictures from dad's old camera! I got the package last week! Thank you so much -- I can finally go running again and take pictures and eat lots of candy! :) The first pictures are with my son, Elder Christensen. He's the tall, blond one. And, there is also a picture of me in front of our little house. How cute!
Well, transfers have come and gone, and now I'm living in a tiny little city in the middle of nowhere! My Mission President has called me to be branch president of Diego de Almagro, a little city about 2.5 hours away from Copiapó. We belong to a district, and we have recently received a new district President: Elder Dinamarca, and his wife Hermana Dinamarca, from Valparaíso, Chile. They're a missionary couple who have been serving for many years, and now they have a special assignment to help the district Chañaral (of which we are part) to become a Stake. It's going to be a lot of work, but I'm loving it!
Yesterday, we had 16 people in the chapel, and I was presiding! Isn't that crazy? It was a really neat experience to start to organize Sacrament Meeting and strengthen the members. I've gotten to know all of the active members here in Diego de Almagro, but there are 193 members in our branch and an average of 12-14 attendance every Sunday. But it's alright because I know that we're going to have a lot of success! I also am including a photo of me and my new companion, Elder Aguilar. He is from Honduras and is serving as my second counselor in the Branch Presidency. I also have a couple of photos of our chapel, which is really pretty!
Let's see, to tell you a bit about Diego de Almagro.... There are about 9000 people who live in this town. Every day, we eat in an awesome restaurant and can choose whatever we want to eat! We only have to pay for drinks, and the rest is paid by the mission. It is a really small town, but at sunset the hills in the distance shine pink just like the mountains in Albuquerque! The first time I saw it it reminded me of home. :) Just yesterday, we traveled one hour to Chañaral, where there is another branch and the bigger chapel, for a special Priesthood meeting. We met with us four missionaries, President Urra (our mission president), President Castro (the first counselour in the Mission Presidency), President Dinamarca (the new District President), and a few Melquisedek Priesthood holders. It was an amazing meeting where we trained and taught to start working more effectively in the branches here in Chile. It is going to be an amazing transfer, I can just feel it now!
Now, this morning we traveled from Chañaral to Copiapó (2.5 hours) where we're going to have an activity in a park with the rest of our zone. We'll be traveling back to Chañaral this evening, then have our district meeting tomorrow and travel back to Diego de Almagro in the afternoon tomorrow. It's a lot of travelling, a lot of training meetings and a lot of work, but I'm loving it! We're starting up a bunch of activities, and we're planning a lot to help build up our little branch in Diego de Almagro. It really is great being a missionary!

Earthquake in Southern Chile

Mar. 1, 2010 (Earthquake gets people out to church)

Well, this has been a pretty eventful week, with the earthquake and all! It turns out that the earthquake was one of the stongest in the history of the world. The epicenter was about 1200 miles from where we are, and we still felt it! But, it is really a miracle that nothing worse happened here. With the intensity of the earthquake, there were relatively few deaths, especially compared with what happened in Haiti. And, the only thing that happened to us is that the power went out all morning, and in a few parts, the the water pressure dropped almost to nothing.
But, life is already back to normal! I was thinking that the whole earth quake would get more people to church, but I think everyone's waiting for 2012. Too bad... We were really protected here in the North, and I know that our Heavenly Father is watching out for all of us. One of the members of the branch told us about how she was traveling to the south the day before the earthquake. She felt the Spirit telling her to get off the bus, so she did, being left in the middle of nowhere, in the Atacama desert, with nothing but a huge suitcase with her. She called her husband, who picked her up and took her back to their home in Paipote. She didn't know why she felt the prompting until she heard the news of the Earthquake. We really are protected as we come to understand and follow the promptings of the Spirit!
I think the only thing that really happened with the earthquake is that it caused all of the transfers to come to a halt. None of the 18 missionaries who were going to arrive can come in to Chile as of yet, and none of the missionaries who are leaving can go out just yet. So, all the transfers have been delayed, which means I'm staying here in Paipote! Yay!
We have had a lot of work here in Paipote and have seen many miracles. Our English class went really well, and we had one awesome investigator come to church. And, since all the vacations finally ended, we'll actually be able to find people at home starting this week!

Earthquake in Southern Chile

Feb. 27, 2010 (Earthquake)


Estimados familias de nuestros queridos misioneros:
Es posible que ya estén informados del terremoto acontecido en Chile. Para su tranquilidad nos apresuramos en escribir este correo a fin de informar que el movimiento sísmico afecto la parte sur de nuestro país, por lo cual el área que cubre nuestra misión no sufrió daño alguno, sintiendo el movimiento levemente ( grado 2 ), incluso nuestros misioneros durmieron sin darse cuenta de lo acontecido.
El epicentro fue a 2000 kilómetros de Antofagasta.
Este correo tiene como propósito despejar cualquier temor por el estado de sus hijos.
Aprovechamos la oportunidad para agradecer el que ustedes nos permitan trabajar junto a los maravillosos hijos que ustedes han formado, con años de constante dedicación.
Rogamos a Dios le recompense por la ofrenda que ustedes han ofrecido autorizando a sus hijos venir y servir a los hijos del Creador.
También oramos por la protección de nuestros consiervos que sirven en esa área. La información que tenemos es relacionada con el daño a la estructura pero no a las personas lo cual nos trae tranquilidad a pesar de lo acontecido.
Que Dios les abrigue con su paz.
Con gratitud
Juan Urra y Hermana Soledad Urra


Dear Families of our loved missionaries:

It is possible that you are already informed of the earthquake that occurred in Chile. For your peace of mind we hurried in writing this e-mail in order to let you know that the seismic shifting affected just the southern part of our country, therefore the area that covers our mission did not suffer any damage, only feeling light movement (2nd degree). Our missionaries actually slept without realizing what had even happened.

The epicenter was about 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers) away from Antofagasta.

The purpose of this e-mail is to dispel whatever fear you may have for the condition of your children.

We would now take advantage of this opportunity to thank you for allowing us to work together with the wonderful children that you have raised, with years of continued dedication.

We pray that God rewards you for the sacrifice that you have offered allowing your sons and daughters to come and serve the children of our Creator.

We also pray for the protection of our fellow servants that serve in that area. The information that we have is related to structural damage only but not to the harm of the people, which bring us peace in spite of what happened.

May God cover and warm you with his peace.

With thankfulness,

President Juan Urra and Sister Soledad Urra

Saludos elderes y hermanas,

Missing the ocean

Feb. 22, 2010 (with Elder Christensen in Paipote)

Well, we're heading into the last week of this transfer! Can you believe it? It seems like just yesterday that I started training my new companion, Elder Christensen. It has been a great transfer here in the little town of Paipote. We have had a lot of success and we're starting to see a ton of miracles. Here in Paipote, there's a little more green than the other cities here in the north. There are a lot of grape vines and fresh fruit, so that's nice. But, the ocean is about 2 hours away, so we don't have any nice views of the water... But that's alright because the sunsets and sunrises are always spectacular -- when I get a good camera again, I'll send some sweet pictures!

We're going to be changing our house soon and moving in to live with a member family, only to make sure that no one will break in to steal our stuff again. We should be moving at the beginning of March, and it will be a really nice location. As for now, we eat with members every day of the week. We eat with the family of our branch mission leader during the week (Hermano Ronny Astorga) and then with other members on Saturday and Sunday. We don't really have too much time to cook for ourselves. In the afternoon for "dinner" (there really isn't dinner here in Chile), we sometimes eat sandwiches with some members or buy ourselves completos (loaded hot dogs) or churrascos (beef sandwiches). Sometimes we also buy empanadas, but there aren't many places that sell emapanadas here in Paipote, sadly.

This week, we've been finding tons of new people and teaching lots of lessons! There are also many people interested in learning English, so we'll be starting English classes on Wednesday this week. It should be fun. :) But, transfers are coming up way too fast, and I don't know what's going to happen! It makes it a lot more exciting than it was when I was working in the office and knew everything beforehand.

This week, we also had interviews with our mission president, President Urra. He is really awesome! We learned some really efficient ways to give away books of Mormon and to set up followup appointments. I've been thinking about everything I've learned here in the mission, and I'm sure that all of it will help me a ton when I come home and have to start working and studying again. The mission really is the greatest university for us missionaries, not only for our investigators whose lives are changed.

Well, I don't have any more time to write, but I just want to let you all know that I love you and am thinking about you! I love being here in the mission as well, serving my Heavenly Father, and I can feel His love in my life and in all of our family. We really have been greatly blessed -- I only wish that everyone could enjoy these same blessings!

Happy love day!

Feb. 15, 2010 (Suicide intervention)

How's everyone doing this lovely Monday? Here in Paipote, it's pretty hot and dry, like always, but it sure is beautiful! We had an amazing week filled with miracles and lots of blessings from a loving Heavenly Father. We have had our difficulties, almost all from being in the middle of the vacationing season, but I know that we are on the Lord's errand to help His children receive salvation. It is great work. :) I'll be sending some pictures in just a bit...

During this week, as we were walking towards an appointment we had made, a few young men stopped us and tried speaking to us in English. They told us that they were anxious to learn and were willing to pay for classes. So, we took advantage of the situation, saying that we didn't accept money but the only thing that we ask is that they listen to our message. We started having English classes with them, and as we teach, we use church pamphlets and the sciptures. It's really a fun way to share the gospel, and when we give them homework they are ready and willing to do it! I hope that these young people, Kallen and Hans, can feel the same thing that I do as I read in the scriptures, even if they're just doing it to practice their English!

We had a really neat experience the other day also as we were hurrying to an appointment we had. As we were walking, the spirit told us to turn back. I didn't really understand why, but the prompting was clear. We stopped, and we completely missed the appointment. Instead of going, we went back to where we were before and just started knocking on doors. As we approached one door, a lady answered who told us to come back the following day. As we did so, we entered the house and started teaching. We learned that this lady had had many problems and wanted to kill herself because of the trials in her family. We taught about the Plan of Salvation and shared about our purpose here on the earth. We taught many things, and this lady thanked us for our time. We are now sharing the message with her, and I sure do hope that she can accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that we were literally guided to her door to help in a time of crisis.

We have tons of amazing experiences here in the mission, and I am so grateful for the Gospel in my life! We've been working really hard, and though we still haven't had too many people come to church or want to be baptized, I know that we have been in the service of God and of our fellowman. I can see that we have helped many people in their lives and have done much good among the people here in Paipote. This is surely a marvelous work!

A Little Note from Paipote

Feb. 8, 2010 (Translated Zone conference to English for all the new missionaries)

id you know that the mission really does go a lot faster after the first year? I can’t believe how fast it’s all gone! We’ve been working hard here in Paipote, and though the work has gone a little bit slower than usual (everyone is leaving for vacation to finish off the summer), we’ve had a lot of success and have learned a lot together. Elder Christensen and I are making an awesome companionship!

Elder Christensen is working really hard to improve his Spanish, and he’s doing great. The other day I looked up a few of my old journal entries and really enjoyed seeing how much I really have progressed since I began the mission more than a year ago. My companion still can’t really understand anything, and though at times it is a temptation to take advantage of the situation and a play a few little jokes, I have to remember when I got to the mission and how hard it was. Wow, I can’t believe that I can actually speak chilean now! :)

The past week was our zone conference, and President Urra had me translate the entire conference to English for all the new missionaries. It was a lot of work, and at the end of the 6-hour conference my head was hurting a lot. But, I felt so exceedingly blessed with understanding and the ability to speak. But you’ve got to admit – it’s quite the miracle! And, though I didn’t have too much time to take notes and enjoy the sweet spirit that the conference brought, at the end I felt the warm comfort of the Holy Ghost, and I know that my Heavenly Father blessed me with the gift to speak and translate. I also know that it is His bountiful hand that leads us and teaches us in this miraculous work. I love being a missionary!

Thank you so much, mom, for sending a package and also for your beautiful email. I’m not sure when the box will arrive, but I’ll be anxiously awaiting its arrival! It will also be great to get a camera and some shoes that actually fit! :) Today, my companion and I went to the feria (it’s kind of like the flea market) and bought lots of little things. We also got a little camera for my companion to take some pictures of this transfer, but we still haven’t got it to link up with the computer, so we’ll have to wait to send pictures!

Wow, this week was pretty hard but also really fulfilling. I wish I could write more, but I really don’t have any time left to write. Please forgive me! I’ll try to send off a letter in the mail when I can.

Thank you all for your letters and your support. I always look forward to reading about what’s going on back at home – it’s the highlight of the week! I especially enjoyed Jessica’s story about Andrew – poor kid! Haha!

Size 11.5 is as big as they get here in Chile!

Feb. 1, 2010 (Working and studying hard)

Here in Paipote, we just finished an awesome week. We've been working hard and studying hard, and we've had a lot of success. I really love working with my new companion, Elder Christensen. He's struggling a bit with his Spanish, but I guess that's normal for being here in Chile for only 2 weeks! I recently recently read through my old journal entries, and it's amazing to see the many miracles that have taken place in my life. It's especially hard to believe that I can kind of speak Spanish -- who would of thought? I really do love my time here in the mission, and I know that I have been exceedingly blessed by my Heavenly Father.

Today, Elder Christensen and I went off to Copiapó to do some shopping for the things that were stolen. I found a nice suitcase (dufflebag style) for around $8000 CLP, or $16 USD. I went ahead and bought it, along with a pair of cheap tennis shoes for $15000 CLP, or $30 USD. It was pretty funny as we were looking for tennis shoes because there wasn't any place that had my size! I would say to the vendor, "Do you have any shoes size 46 (12 in the U.S.)?" And then they'd just start laughing, look down at my feet, and suggest another store to go check out. Finally, we found some shoes in Líder (Chile's Wal-Mart) that were size 45 (11.5), and though they're a little small, they're comfortable enough. Can you believe that they don't even sell my shoe size here? I didn't think I was that abnormally big... It must be from all the hormones in the food sold in the states. :)

So, after an exciting day of shopping and almost losing my jumpdrive with all my pictures, and then a miraculous save by Elder Kneisly, my zone leader, who found my jumpdrive, here I am with my companion writing this amazing email from the Internet café that our Mamita has in her house. (Excuse me, I mean our "Hermana del almuerzo." President doesn't want us to use terminology like "mamita" now, but it's alright). Here in Paipote, there is a lot of green. The only thing I kind of miss is the ocean -- I really love living by the beach! But, there are grapevines here, and it is all really beautiful. The people are wonderful. Sadly, everyone is leaving on vacation right now for the rest of the summer, and the work might slow down abit. But, it should pick up speed once school is in session, starting in March. I guess we'll see.

To answer some of the questions about the mission right now: I have had a mamita in every area. In every sector of our mission, members provide food and do our laundry (except for the assistents, who only have their laundry provided but have to cook for themselves). The members are always very loving and want to help and serve in any way possible. It makes the mission a lot more enjoyable, especially after a hard day of tracting and proselyting. The attendance in our little branch is steadily rising, and last week 36 people attended. Our goal is to make Paipote a ward instead of a branch before leaving! And don't worry -- we're going to make our goal a reality! ;)

Well, we're out of time again. I hope that all is well - you are all always in my prayers! Thank you for your emails today; they made me smile. I really enjoy reading and hearing about what's going on back at home. I still can't believe so much has changed in just 16 months... Is that crazy or what???

Robbed in Paipote!

Jan. 25, 2010 (Lost money, camera and shoes!)

Wow, can you believe I’ve been here in Chile for so long already? I know almost all the missionaries in the mission, and they all say that I’m about ready to go home! But it’s not true. I’ve still got a good 8 months left, which means that we’re going to get off to work like crazy!

I think I’ll start off with the sad part of the week, but it didn’t really get us down too much; it just means more work and that we’ll have to spend more money. :p The first week here in our new sector, our house was robbed! Here is what was taken: our cameras, 3 of my companion’s t-shirts, our tennis shoes, a little suitcase of mine (that I bought for real cheap in the airport in Provo), and about $50 USD from my wallet (my “Emergency Funds”). I think we were really blessed because they didn’t take anything that can’t be replaced, like our passports, photos (they are all on our jump drives), journals, or anything like that. But, it means that I won’t be sending any pictures for a while, at least until I buy myself a little cheap camera. I spoke with our mission president, and we’ll be changing our apartment shortly. We’re living in a little house right now, and I think we left the bathroom window open. The robber must have entered in by there after jumping our fence. But, it’s alright because we put protections on the windows, and we’ll be moving shortly. That was a bit of a bummer for my companion, who recently arrived from the United States! We’ll also be receiving an extra $40,000 CLP ($80 USD) to replace some of the things that were stolen, at least so that I can get a pair of tennis shoes and another suitcase. I think I’ll have to buy the camera with my own money, so could you let me know how much I have in my account? Thanks! :)

My new companion is Elder Benjamin Christensen, an awesome missionary from American Fork, Utah. We are working a lot to get the work going here in the little town of Paipote. Our goal is to have a ward here before one of us leaves! I know we can do it. The members here are few but are amazing. They are helping us a lot, especially in giving us referrals and showing us around the sector. It’s really green here, compared to the other cities where I’ve been. My companion is struggling a bit with the language; it reminds me of when I recently started my mission! The Chileans speak really fast, so it’s kind of fun to translate what they are saying for my companion. It's crazy how much I've learned in the past year and a half! I’m trying really hard not to speak any English with my new companion, but every now and then it becomes necessary. It is an amazing experience to train a new missionary! We had a lot of success this week, and I know we’ll be having a lot of amazing experiences here in Paipote.

I really do love this missionary experience. We have had some pretty crazy experiences, but the greatest part is becoming an instrument in the Lord’s hands to bring about His work here on Earth. I sure do love being here in Chile and working for my Heavenly Father! There are many wonderful people who are prepared and ready to hear the message of the Restored Gospel, and I sure do love sharing it with them! My companion is also working hard so that he can express himself, and I know that together, we’ll work miracle here in Paipote.

I love you all so much! Thank you for all that you do for me, your support and your love. I really do appreciate it all. If there is anything I can do for you, or something you’d like me to share in my next email, let me know!

Transfered and Training

Jan. 18, 2010 (Transferred and Training)

Wow, this has been an incredible week filled with changes and lots of new experiences. We were working like crazy in Antofagasta Centro at the beginning of the week. On Tuesday night, we received a call from the assistents telling us to go and buy a few bus passes, so that night we went to TurBus and bought the bus passes. We got back to the apartment, and handed the passes to the assistents. Elder Romero looked at the bus passes and told me to take one. He said: "Here's your next transfer!" I looked at the bus pass and didn't understand:

Antofagasta - Copiapó
Thursday, January 14th
9:30 am

I looked at the pass and said, "Thursday?" I was about to leave to Copiapó in one short day! I got all my things together quickly and got ready to get off. It turns out that I'll be opening a new area in the mission: la rama Paipote. So, on Thursday I was off!

I got to Paipote and started working a bit with Elder Bórquez, a missionary who's about to leave the mission this week but who's had a lot of experience working in Paipote. He tried to show me the house of all the members and investigators he new, but it was a lot of new information to take in!

This morning, monday, I got a call from the assistents -- I'll be returning to Antofagasta tonight to pick up my new companion. I'll be training a new missionary this transfer! So it should be really exciting. Last Sunday, only 16 members attended the branch, so that was really fun. I gave a talk, and I had the special musical number with the viola. It went really well, and I'm excited to work here in Paipote. When my son and I get through with this branch, it'll be a ward! That's my goal. ;)

Elder Eddenfield, my companion in the MTC, has been called as assistent to the president, along with Elder Cárdenas and Élder Lamprecht. It should be awesome. Both Elder Romero and Elder Galli, the past assistents, are leaving to work in the mission field. It'll be great. And, Elder Brandau will be working here in Copiapó with me! He's also training and opening up a brach.

The work is going really well. I'll have to get accustomed to not having a truck to drive and quick access to everything in downtown Antofagasta, but I'm really excited for the change. Thank you to everyone who wrote to me this past week, I really love reading everything! Hopefully on my bus ride back to Antofagasta I can write a few letters to send out. :) But, I should be really busy here in Paipote.

Just to let you know, you can continue writing and sending things to the mission office address, that's fine. If you want to know anything else, please let me know!

I love you all so much, but I already ran out of time on the internet! You all mean so much to me and are always in my prayers. Thank you for your thoughtful emails and notes of encouragement. I really enjoy staying in touch. Until next week!

Baptism of Lyha and Phya

Jan. 11, 2010 (Happy middle of January 2010!)

Wow, this year's already going way too fast. In just one week we'll have transfers in the mission. 18 new missionaries are arriving, and 12 are leaving the mission. Also, this past Saturday, the new missionary couple arrived here in the mission - Elder and Sister Richardson! It's been lot's of work getting their apartment ready and starting to train them in the office, but it's is a great blessing to have them here in the mission. We are really excited to start working with them and having them here with us. :)

So, how's everyone doing back at home? How's Jessica doing with a new little life in her? Is she still getting nauseous a lot? That is so exciting! And how's little Mario doing? Is he talking a lot now? Whenever there are little kids here in the mission, I love talking to them and thinking of my little nephew that was just a baby when I left -- he's going to be HUGE when I get back!

Here in the mission, I'm getting ready for my transfer next week. There's still a lot of work we have to do here in the office, and I only hope that everything goes well! I spoke with our mission president the other day, and he told me that the financial secretary is the most stressful assignment in the mission. He said that after next week I'll be sent somewhere where I can relax a little bit more and focus entirely on missionary work -- so I'm excited to see where I'll be sent! I'll let you know on Saturday (or Monday, depending on how much work we have in the office).

This past weekend, we had an awesome baptismal service for Lyha and Phya, two sisters who received strong testimonies of the restored gospel. They are the David Vasquez's sisters, a recent convert. And, the rest of the family is now coming to church! Almost all of the adults are members of the church, but they stopped coming for many years. It is amazing to see the progress in this beautiful family and feel the love of God working miracles in their lives. I was going to send a bunch of pictures today, but I forgot my camera in our apartment! So, I'll just have to send double the number of pictures next time. :)

Well, I want you all to know how much I love you and think about you. You have all made such a difference in my life, and I am who I am because of your examples. I hope we can all stay strong and firm in the gospel of Christ and firm to the faith of our fathers. It is a wonderful time to live, and I love every minute I have to learn and grow! Take care, and have a wonderful 2010!