It turns out that I only have 13 days left to work here in the mission! Isn't it crazy how fast time flies? But, it's kind of strange, but I feel more focused than ever as we have worked diligently to bring others unto Christ. I really love working as a missionary and feeling the guiding influence of the Spirit in abundance, and I hope that I can always feel close to the Lord and be able to be led by His Spirit! I love seeing progress: in my life, in our sector, in our zone and in our mission. This week was just awesome as we worked non-stop and loved every minute!
In our zone, we are working a lot doing companionship exchanges to teach and train our missionaries. In the past, the missionaries looked down at Vallenar as one of the hardest places to baptize: it's a district and we missionaries have callings and assignments in the branches, it's not very big, etc. They just seemed like excuses to Elder Shim and I, so we started our work to be an example for the rest of the zone. Under the direction of our mission president, President Bruce, we started holding companionship exchanges 3-4 times a week, meaning that we hardly ever sleep in our own house! But it is a great experience to work with so many missionaries and see the progress not only in their lives but also in the lives of their investigators. We feel that their success is our success; we rejoice with them when they are blessed, and we share the burden with them when things start getting hard. For this month of September, we have 3 baptisms in the zone (5 companionships) and 5 more scheduled. We have seen miracles and a HUGE increase in many of our missionaries' numbers, which numbers represent souls and God's children. We're excited to keep on working in the Lord's vineyard!
While doing companionship exchanges with Elder Zaracho, a new Argentinean missionary, we were walking towards an appointment that we had. I heard some yell "Élder!", which isn't too uncommon here in Chile. I looked around and got a distinct impression that I should talk to the young man, whose name was Yohanny. As we started talking, we found out that he always played soccer with the past Elders but never learned about the church. So, right then and there, we sat down in his patio and started teaching him and his friend, Alexander. As we taught, the Spirit testified strongly of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. When I shared the first vision of Joseph Smith, we paused and looked at these two teenage boys. I asked Alexander, "Do you feel that?" He said, "Yeah -- What is it?" I then asked, "How do you feel?" He said, "I just feel different. But it's not bad. When you talked about Joseph Smith, it was like a movie -- I could see it happening in my mind. I feel something different, something peaceful and good. What is it?" We testified that it was the Spirit of the Lord telling us that it was true. We said that God answers prayers in the same manner, through the still, small voice of the Spirit. Then we committed him to being baptized, and without hesitation he said "Yes!"
As we continued teaching, we shared some great experiences together. We invited both young men to church, and they accepted. Sadly, Alexander got the flu-bug the night before and couldn't come, but Yohanny went with one of the young men from our branch, and he loved it. Last night, we met with him and talked about what he learned. We talked about the importance of baptism and the Priesthood keys. I asked Yohanny, "Will you be baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the 9th of October to be cleansed and forgiven of your sins?" He paused for a bit, and then he said, "Yes." He looked at his friend Johan, the young member of the church who came with us, and said, "But you had better be there with me!" The Spirit was there, and a miracle was wrought in the life of one of God's children. Though I'll be home before he's baptized, I'm so happy to have helped him find the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and feel the power of our message, for I know that it is true.
This week, we also travelled 9 hours to Antofagasta to be in a Leadership training meeting for 5 hours, and then we came straight back to Vallenar for 9 hours. Even though we've been travelling a lot lately, the meetings are excellent, and we've been doing our best to apply what we learn and teach the rest of the missionaries in our Zone. President Bruce went deep into the doctrine of the Light of Christ as he taught us about the role of the Holy Ghost in conversion. We also practiced and learned about receiving revelation through prayer. It was an awesome meeting -- I wish I could have gotten it on tape! :) Working with many different missionaries has reminded me of many parts of my mission: working with Latinos, North American missionaries, new missionaries, ones with experience, ones that have struggles, ones that love the work, ones that feel a little down, etc. It has been an amazing week as we have strived to lift where we stand and raise the level of excellence of our entire zone. And it's working! The mentality of the missionaries is changing; Vallenar is no longer a zone that doesn't baptize. It is the most beautiful part of the entire mission, and God is aware of all of His children in this wonderful place. He has blessed us and wrought miracles here. I know that I was sent here by revelation through my mission president, and I will always remember what the Lord has done for us!
I love you all so much and am anxious and excited to see you in a couple of weeks. But, before then, I'll just keep on tearing it up here and enjoying every minute!
Élder Sam Hobbs