Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Santiago - October 13, 2014

Well... Hi Family!
This is my last letter. Kinda weird to think. I just spent most of my day celebrating with Cristian and his family in the mansion house. It was pretty fun. I wanted to buy a couple more souvenirs and such, but for Columbus Day everything shuts down here. Oh well. That's life.
After leadership conference on Tuesday, we missed the bus. The good news is that it gave me time to have a temple recommend interview (I was without one for a few days there) and President was able to help me with my BYU stuff, which was good, because I was totally lost. In addition to that, the financial secretary of the mission was able to take some time to put in all my reimbursements. It's kinda nice to have around two hundred dollars that the mission owed me. It's mission money, and I'm not gonna need it all, but it's nice to have in case of emergency! I've been kinda scrimping these past couple months, and I can start living comfortable for a week! Overall, it wasn't so bad missing the bus.
On Tuesday we got a message that Cristian's dad died. He's been sick for a few years - diabetes, dialisis, all kinds of problems like that. It was rather unexpected. It's been amazing to see how they've stayed firm, though, especially compared to the other family members who don't have the gospel. The plan of salvation is truly a help in moments like this.
Monica Gramajo is the lady that has all the kids that are drug addicts that got baptized about a month ago. Her older daughter was the first to take interest in the family, but after the first lesson, went very cold very suddenly. During that time, she said all kinds of terrible things to her mom, and did all she could to keep her younger sister from going. The other day, she listened. For the second time in the four months we've been going by. Miracles do happen.
We went to barrio Autonomía the other day. It's a somewhat better off part of town very far away from the chapel. Missionaries don't usually go there exactly for those reasons. When we went, we found a lot of great people! It's amazing the small faith it takes to ask someone you can come in when they give off an "I don't want you here" vibe, but it's incredible to see how many let you in and then listen attentively. Faith is so important in the work of the Lord!
We had a zone training. A sister passed out a hand out that picked apart all the different things we do as a missionary, and calculated that for a male two year mission, there's only 6 months of proselyting time, if one is exactly obedient to the schedule. Kinda nuts. It reminded me of the quote in Preach my Gospel at the end of chapter eight by Elder Oaks about really making your time count. Nice principle for me to remember.
We passed by a creepy virgin parade. It completely fulfills the prophecy in Isaiah that people will carry their idols over their shoulders. There was kind of a dark presence around that scene. I was so happy to be able to turn the corner. Makes me happy to live in a place where you don't see that kind of stuff, and to have the true gospel. Satan is so astute in his lies that he can bring people to do whatever. For that reason, it's so important to just stay in holy places.
Marcela, a convert from June, gave her testimony for the first time yesterday! She has some health problems and has a very innocent mental state. It was so inspiring to hear her testimony. They have such a power, especially when it's someone who you know, who you've seen progress, and gain their own testimony.
We had an awesome stake meeting yesterday! The church organization is so cool! I love it. I never realized just how big of a deal stake conference is. They spent the meeting with all the ward councils there having somewhat of a mass council. I'm kinda sad I won't be here to see the conference. Even so, the way that they got everyone moving to make plans to get every recent convert to the conference was so cool. Ward councils are powerful. God truly is the divine organizer of His true church. The programs He's made are so effective, and work on pure love. I love the church!
Anyway, I hope you all have a great week, and that you can all keep going with the family prayer and scripture study! I'm excited to participate!
Elder Willey

Santiago - October 6, 2014

Hey Fam!
So I'm very pressed on time right now. I'm sorry. I skimmed your letters. We're going to see how much I can write in fifteen minutes before my bus leaves for Salta for leadership council.
This week was incredible! I'll try to hit the best highlights.
I cried this week. Mario and Martina, the older couple waiting for Martina's divorce to go through so that they can get married, walked to the Saturday afternoon session of conference. We also got started on constructing their bathroom on Thursday. It was so cool to see the members get on that. We have a few recently reactivated members that just happen to work in construction. They had a lot of expertise in that little bathroom. They started re-doing the whole room - leveling out the floor, making a small bathing space, etc. Amazing. It was so cool to just kinda watch, since I felt a little useless. They're going to try to finish it this week.
Mario and Martina loved conference. Mario came out and said, "Wow, they focused a lot on the family." We were able to talk to Martina a little. She took home a different message, more about forgiveness, helping the poor, etc. She's very closed off to religion - she listens, but has made it clear that in order for her to join, it would take a lot of time. Her sister joined the JWs and died for lack of a blood transfusion, so her closed off-ness isn't so unjustified. She said that in the conference, she just felt her heart open up during Elder Holland's talk. She said that she just felt desires to get on her knees and repent. Then she picked up the Book of Mormon and told us, "And this book? I'm going to take it to work and read it in every moment that I can. I can't wait until my papers come through so I can get married to this man and baptized with him!" Wow. And we just asked how it went in conference. Miracles.
Another miracle. In all the bustle of conference, I kinda forgot to ask the sisters in the branch for food. The problem is that I felt bad asking them last minute and the people I would think to ask had recently covered us when lunches fell through... so I kinda was just thinking about trying to find time in the crazy conference weekend to cook. Then, on the way to the first session, a sister who lives next door said, "Elders, you want some pizza? It's fresh!" In between sessions, when we ran to go remind people to repent and get to the next session, another sister said, "Have you eaten lunch?" We replied that not really, and in less than 15 minutes she whipped up a type of parmesan chicken with tomato salad and noodles. Incredible. On Saturday night, a sister came up and said, "Do you have lunch tomorrow? I was thinking about making up some big sandwiches and thought you might like some." God knows our needs. It was amazing how he inspired three different people to help us.
I loved Elder Scott's talk. It was my most favorite, even though there were many that compete. I love the part where he said, "Doing these things may require that you reorganize your priorities. If that's the case, do it." The way he said, "Do it," was just so firm and great. I loved it. Other favorites included Klebingat, Cook, and Esplin.
Anyway, That's my time. Sorry! I hope you all have a great one!
Elder Willey

Monday, September 29, 2014

Santiago - September 29, 2014

Hello Family!
So this week started off really great! We had two surprise family nights.
We'd recently completed our candy land temple game and went out, when all the appointments we had fell through. Then we saw a member in the street. We talked to her and asked if they'd already done their family night. Since she hadn't, we went in and got started! Before we could say the first prayer, they said, "Wait, wait, wait! We're going to go invite friends!" So the seminary-aged kids went to go get their friends. When the friends got there, they told us an awesome Book of Mormon story. Vanesa, the friend invited to the Family Night, had been feeling bad, so the daughter of this family, Fernanda, had gifted her a Book of Mormon. Vanesa read, and things got better! After that, a friend of Vanesa started feeling bad, so Vanesa told her that she was reading in this Book that made everything better. So she passed the book along and everything got better for her friend! It was like one of those stories that shows up in a church magazine! And an awesome testimony of the power of just reading in the Book of Mormon. Plus the family night was really fun. Everyone loves candyland, and even moreso when the doctrine of Christ is involved!
Our next family night we'd programmed with a couple of recent converts and their mom. Their parents are really great, but they need to get married, and the dad is never home to teach him, so they don't progress a whole lot. Just as we were about to start the family night, the dad walked in. Miracle! We all played and the mom and the dad just happened to be the first two to get to the temple. The kids were super excited and said, "Hey! It's prophetic! The temple is where you get married!" The parents felt very awkward in a spiritually guilty kind of way. It was absolutely wonderful! Afterward the son said, "Wow, we never play games as a family. That was really fun!" Truly, family night is an inspired program.
I had a good study on the Book of Mormon and how it helps us to develop faith. I was studying in Preach My Gospel in the section that I referred Libby to last week. I realized that it was never meant to be easy to accept the Book of Mormon. It was supposed to be an obstacle so that we might develop faith. Once we know that it's true, it's much easier to trust in God and we can have a lasting testimony. Preach My Gospel is just great. I hope your study goes well! I'm half expecting Elder Ballard to just talk about that again.
We helped Christian and his mom get started on their family history. It was awesome. We started talking about it early in the week and gave them a booklet. Then we showed them the church website another day. Yesterday we passed by and helped them create a family history account. That was cool. They just got started like crazy. There were three generations there just dumping as much information into the computer as they could. When they couldn't, his grandma just pulled a file out of no where with a bunch of old documents. No clue where that came from, but they just kept going. We had to leave due to time, but it was just awesome! The room was full of the Spirit of Elijah. There was such an excitement! I can't wait to go the next time and start reserving ordinances.
We did splits with the assistants this week. It was a surprise when they swung by the apartment just before bedtime on Thursday. Elder Merrill and I had a great day! We weren't planning on doing much proselyting, but rather going to a baptismal interview. My companion ended up taking a wrong bus and ended up pretty far from our area, but pretty close to the interview! As a result, I just started making up plans for the day. It was kinda hard in a success sense. Not many people seemed to want to listen. Even so, we were able to have a good attitude about it. For every person who didn't want to listen, there was a neighbor or someone else that lived close by! We ended up visiting a member who asked if we'd been able to visit her reference. We'd passed by, but still hadn't made contact. So we went by again. And they were home! It was a family whose father had been wrongly accused and illegally beaten to death by the police. She started by saying that she didn't believe in God and that she didn't have time, but with a little insistence we got in. We spent most of the lesson just listening to her tell the story and cry. From there we opened up the Book of Mormon and talked about the atonement. It's amazing the consolation and help that a testimony of the atonement can give. It's moments like those that make whatever trial on the mission totally worth it.
Saturday was so full of miracles that it's hard to remember them all. We started off and passed by a less active's house. We ended up knocking on the door just to see how they were. The lady came out and said, "Hey, I'm not doing anything. Do you want me to go do visits with you?" Okay! So she did. In lunch, I'd totally spaced that it was the sister's birthday. In the beginning of the mission, mom sent me a bunch of LDS and seminary scripture marker pencils. I thought, "What am I going to do with all of these?" Well, now I know that they make great emergency gifts! Unique and they help people remember to study their scriptures. What could be a better missionary gift?
Later, we went to Mario and Martina. There's still not much progress there for the divorce issue. Martina's always a little reluctant. We brought a member with us who's a contractor. They'd mentioned before that their bathroom was almost finished (so that they don't have to use the outhouse they have), and just needed a little more, so we thought it would be great to go by with him. Well, it was. He looked at the bathroom and started correcting things. Turns out their bathroom wasn't as close to finished as they thought. He said a couple times, "You know, I've got some extra tile in my house that I'm not using. I could bring it by here. This toilet isn't going to work with the way the pipes are set up here. I think I've got a new one just sitting in my garage." Martina just brightened up! On the way out she said, "I'm going to go to church! And I'm going to go on Monday to see what's going on with my divorce papers." Service, or even the thought of service, can soften hearts so much.
From there we were kinda just aimlessly wandering. We had planned a branch activity that got cancelled, so we didn't really have plans. Then this little girl said, "Hey, when can I go back to your church?" That tends to call the attention. She presented us to her family, and turns out two of her sisters are members with unregistered addresses in the ward directory. Kinda cool. The parents are also very receptive. That was another of those really cool miracles.
Last one for Saturday - and my personal favorite. We were going back to the apartment and I went to cross the street. I think my companion thought that I was going to a house on the other side and said, "Who lives there?" The house just happened to be a large, rather rich looking house. I replied that I had no idea, but that we could find out. We knocked the door, fulling expecting to get rejected. That's just kinda the expected with rich people houses. A younger guy came out and we explained who we were and asked if we could go in. He said, "Sure, why not?" Turns out that Julian is a fighter jet pilot with the Argentina Air Force home on vacation. He spoke English during the majority of the lesson. He actually was really interested. His prayer at the end was very sincere. On the way out, he said, "It's really crazy that you guys got here tonight. Any other night my dad - who's REALLY catholic - would have been here and would have slammed the door before you had the chance to talk." The Lord is just so interesting in the way he works. And some spiritual impressions can be really weird, but have really great results.
Sunday was also really great. The stake president gave a talk. I love when he gives talks. They're always very simple, with a base in his obvious study of Preach my Gospel and the Liahona. This talk was a mesh of Lesson One with Roots and Branches - Elder Cook's conference talk - with his own personal experiences to demonstrate the importance of the family. I was just thinking about how important the family really is. The gospel has been restored in its full plenitude so that we might be sealed and receive all the blessing of an eternal family starting now, if we do all the things we should. It's like one of the prophets said, heaven is just the continuation of an ideal home.
Last miracle for the week! Yesterday we went to contact referrals and we had one that had the direction "10th street between Saenz Peña and 391st passage." Somewhat vague. Generally when contacting something like that, you just start asking around for that name. We decided to start with a house that I'd received as a referral three months ago that had answered the door with something like, "Oh no, I don't have time for this. Just move along and leave me alone." To that effect. Not sure why we decided to start there. We went and contacted the guy in the store and he told us where the referral we were looking for lived. We explained a little about who we are and what we do, and he said no because he's busy. I thought, "Okay, they had their second chance," and got ready to just leave them with a pass-along card. As I invited them to church my comp asked again, "Can we go in and pray with you?" The guy's wife from inside said, "Ah, just let 'em in." So we went in. And it was actually a great family! She said, "So what is it exactly that you guys preach? Two guys came to my house a few months ago, but I was having a really bad day and had a terrible headache." Very receptive. And she wants to invite her neighbor for when we come back. It was another one of those really unexpected and easily recognizable miracles.
Anyway, that was my week. I hope you all have a great one!
Elder Willey

Monday, September 22, 2014

Santiago - September 22, 2014

Good afternoon my Beloved Family!
I'm so glad that you all let me know about how we're going with family prayer, scripture study, home evening, etc. It totally made my day. Something I love about our family is that every time we, as missionaries, talk about stuff like that, I can give my testimony from personal experience. Even though we've never really been very consistent in every moment, we had our times when we were, and those times stick in the memory. So thank you guys for all you're doing. I'm excited to get back and help, even though I know it'll be hard. Even so, I don't really want to leave... especially after a week like this past one. 
Monica T. got baptized! She went totally cold turkey on the cigarettes. She was planning on quitting little by little,
starting two weeks before her baptism, but a good friend died in her arms and her husband had an infected toe, and she couldn't deal with the anxiety, so up until the weekend before her baptism she was smoking 10-15 per day. And then she stopped! We called her every day to see how she was doing. It was hard to visit her since she has a house very far away and another closer where we visit. On Tuesday we didn't have plans to pass by, but we called and just as we were passing the house, she let us know that plans had been changed and that she was home. Had we not known that, we would have lost the lesson Wednesday and not been able to see her until Friday. As it was, we were able to visit her Tuesday, reschedule the lesson for Wednesday, and see her Friday as well. Little miracles. Thursday we had a lesson by cell phone. We called just in a moment when she was feeling depressed and her husband had told her that she couldn't do it. It was the first time I've had a lesson by phone. It was kinda awesome. Technology rocks. At the baptism her mom gave a testimony of her conversion and reactivation. It was a great baptismal service!
Mario is just an awesome guy. I've mentioned him before - he has a lot of health problems, but he loves how he feels in church, so he'll do anything to get there. His problem is that he can't get baptized until he starts living the law of chastity. He and his wife have more of a best friend relationship, and they've been together for 30 years. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why she wouldn't agree to marry him. On Tuesday, we visited him and he made me feel all sad inside when he asked, "If my wife won't marry me, can I still be baptized?" I felt so bad for him! Then on Thursday we decided to bring Alejandro and Gisela to give testimony of how great marriage is, having gotten married two years ago themselves. Unfortunately, Mario's wife wasn't there that day. Saturday we got there and he and his wife, Martina, were waiting for us! We talked about the ten commandments and when we got to adultery, we talked more about the law of chastity. She starting giving some strange reasons for why she doesn't want to get married - that she wants to be sure about it, to be sure that it's really a commandment, stuff like that. As we continued talking about it, she finally confessed that she was already married. I felt so great! Divorces can be really hard here, and it means that I probably won't be here when they get married, but I just felt so good knowing why. I finally understood. She had felt bad for doing something she knew was wrong, but hasn't been able to get a divorce for lack of time, money, etc, and that's why she never got married in 30 years. I was so confused, because they love each other so much and understand perfectly well why marriage is so important, and understanding that last piece just made everything make sense. Now we're going to be able to help! We know members that have government contacts, so everything's going to work out great! Mario's so excited to get baptized, too! And Martina is as well - she just wants and needs a little more time. Long story short, understanding people and their problems really gives you a capacity to help and serve that you won't have if you never listen long enough to really comprehend the issues they have.
We had a fun lesson with a less-active family - Maira and her dad. Neither one wanted to do the prayer in the beginning, so we read in 2 Nephi 32 where it talks about how the evil spirit teaches you not to pray. We talked about how that comes in many different forms - I'll do it later, I'm tired, I'm too busy, etc. It applies to any one of the little things we have to do in the gospel, like scriptures, family history, etc. In the end, we asked her to say the prayer. She said no. We reminded her that she was listening to Satan's teachings. She started to explain that she felt embarrassed, uncomfortable, etc., but then stopped herself and said, "NO! I've just gotta do it." And said the prayer. Little truths from 12 year olds - Sometimes, ya just gotta do it - maybe with a little encouragement and help from others, but there's no substitue for just doing it.
We're working a lot with Andrea, Monica G.'s daughter (Monica G. got baptized not this past Saturday, but the week before). She's a tough one... She's definitely got ADD and it's tough to keep her attention long enough to teach her something. I'm using every family home evening and game that I've ever seen in my life to try to get her interested - Plan of Salvation figurines, bleach in colored water, my don't-eat-pete tithing game, brushing teeth vs. scripture study - honestly, it's been really fun. Today we're planning to make Candyland into a temple trip game. It should be fun. I'm kinda running out of ideas, but I think little by little we're helping her learn the doctrine at a level that she understands.
We had an awesome lesson with Maria, a less active recent convert! We started by asking if she believed that the Book of Mormon was true. She said that it could be, but that she wasn't sure. We talked a little about it and she started talking about her conversion - about how things were in the time that the missionaries passed by, how her family reacted, what she'd read - she started tearing up a bit, too. Then, in the end, she said, "Elders, I'm sorry for what I said at the beginning, I KNOW that the Book of Mormon is true." It's amazing how much power giving your own testimony can have.
We talked to a member who "didn't really feel the need to go the temple." She explained that she grew up in the country, where her parents taught her about God, and that she felt the spirit growing up, even without any kind of chapel or building, and that she didn't understand why the church had to build giant buildings when they could use the money on other things. A couple things came to mind - the story of Jesus and Judas and the ointment, and the story of the saints in Kirtland breaking their china plates, but my comp beat me to the punch with a scripture from some scriptures from the Old Testament. It talked about how the Jews had to bring the best of everything they had to build the tabernacle, then in another part about how Solomon bought the best of the best to build the temple. Really, the saints making sacrifices for temples isn't anything new. I've decided that that is a part of a temple - the sacrifice that it takes to build it and get there. It's something that God's always required because it's not just any other building - it's a building built to support the presence of God. That's what really made it click for this member we were teaching. God's spirit can always be with us, but the temple is literally his house where he comes. Temples are so amazing. I can't wait to be able to go again! I can't wait to remember how incredbile it feels. I wonder how the saints in Moses' time or in Kirtland would feel knowing how many temples we've built or how close they are. We truly are a blessed dispensation. I get to go through the Buenos Aires temple on the way home. They always put the flight plans to give us just enough time for a session.
Anyway, it's been a great week. This week will be great as well. That's just how it is on the mission, despite all the stress and problems and the constant feeling that you need to improve - everything is still just great!
Hope you all have a wonderful week!
Elder Willey

Monday, September 15, 2014

Santiago - September 15, 2014

Hello Family!
So yet again, no one told me how we're going on the family prayer, scripture study, home evening, etc. I mean, don't get me wrong, I LOVE hearing about all the fun stuff you guys are doing, but I'm a missionary! I love the way everyone always sends something spiritual in their letters and their insights and what not, but I LOVE verifying how you're doing with the prayers and stuff as well! While Craig's in Cali you can take advantage of the use of phones. It's what we do here in the mission - every night we're having a district prayer and we all kneel down and pray together with the phones on speaker phone. I like it. We've seen miracles. And we need to keep seeing them, and I shall tell you why.
Cristian - the really, really rich investigator we baptized a few weeks ago - has a mother, Monica, who's been listening a lot. She's so prepared! She already had a dream that answered her prayer if Joseph Smith was a prophet. She just has to stop smoking. Her baptism is planned on Saturday, so this week is critical. She was down to three yesterday and hasn't smoked since then. We're praying a lot for her!
On that note, they invited us to their country mansion today. It was completely and entirely awesome. They cooked us an asado, showed us the pool and where they host dances and tennis matches and such. They also showed us the shoe factory where they made the fortune. Who'd have thought? The house was beautiful! Oh! And Monica convinced her athiest husband to go to church for a bit! He was only there for about a minute in the middle of a prayer before he left, but he surprised all the family by stepping foot in a church! The gospel really does work miracles and change people.
Speaking of people named Monica, our other investigator named Monica got baptized this week. We almost weren't able to see her during the week, due to a trip to Tucuman to see a seventy and a brief fight with sickness, but she persevered through the rebellious behavior of her kids and got baptized! And even convinced a couple of them to come see the baptism. On Sunday when we went by after church, every one of her kids that was home listened and committed to go to church and pray to ask if Joseph Smith was a prophet. Little by little, but with a member in the family, it's going to be even easier for the spirit to be there!
Elder Vera's is very cool! Not really sure what else to say... He doesn't eat much peanut butter? And he cooks! Not that we have much need. But yep!
We had an awesome lesson with an investigator named Juan Carlos. He's been a social drinker all his life, and he's very receptive. We realized, though, that in order to better understand the message, and to have more willpower to go to church, he's going to have to start living the word of wisdom quick. When we tackled that, he was a little reluctant in the beginning. He started talking about how he'd always been a drinker,  but that he'd never drunk very much, and very rarely was drunk. As he talked, you could feel the spirit in that room. I think he started to realize that maybe the alcohol had done more damage in his life than he'd realized, and he said in the end, without any further prompting from us, "You know what? I think it would be better to just leave it behind." YES! I love the spirit. It truly is the real teacher that converts the people. Prayers are more powerful than anything else, because they invoke the divine power that we need so dearly.
Mario came to church! He's the older guy with all the health problems. It was his third time. We went by to pick him up on Sunday and he was in bed, but when he woke up and saw us there, he was out the door in less than 5 minutes. We'd only been able to visit him one time during the week due to our crazy schedule, but he is just so prepared! During church, it was all so perfect for his needs. In both classes we talked about eternal marriage. He left very edified.
The conference with Elder Zeballos was great! He talked a lot about love, and how humility, hope, faith, everything relates back to charity, which is the pure love that Christ feels for us, which we should try to emulate. He also talked about the benefits of being bilungual after the mission. A little trunky, but it was a great conference!
One more thing! Gisela and Alejandro gave talks on Sunday! They were so wonderful! Gisela gave a talk about really receiving the Holy Ghost through study, prayer, and obedience. I loved the beginning of her talk when she talked about the importance of coming to church to have the spirit, and she read the story of Martha. I love where Christ says "Only one thing matters." It's so easy to get our priorities out of wack, but when we put them in order, everything turns out well! You never would have guessed that she's been a member for a month.
Alejandro talked about the importance of helping the less actives. He was recently reactivated and said that even though they often don't realize it, those who are inactive feel very ugly inside, and often just need a hand to get them back to church. He is so excited to go and do his home teaching!
I realized the other day that I have great parents - I know, something I do commonly here, but still. In the class of Gospel Principles, we were talking about families. Almost everyone there came from a broken family. I realized that my parents are awesome. I can't remember a single time having heard them fight. We always were trying to do our family prayer and scripture study and such. And we always did our visits! I just have a great example at home.
Anyway, I love you all and hope you have a great week!
Elder Willey

Monday, September 8, 2014

Santiago, September 8, 2014

Hello Family!
So there were transfers! I'm starting in on my last one with my last companion, Elder Levi Vera from Grantville, Utah, despite the very latino name. He seems very awesome. I'm excited!
I know I've talked a little before about the difficulty of avoiding movies in the buses here. In the bus to mission leadership conference they put on a lot of movies, including Avengers. With the Elders it was a lost battle, however, the sisters stayed much stronger in avoiding watching it. Half of them were going home this week, so they talked a lot about what President told them in their last interview, that while they stay focused on the work, they should take some time to "plan their lives with purpose," as President Monson recommended to avoid falling apart when they get home. He suggested that they make a list of goals and resolutions of things they want to change when they go back home. Listening to them talk about that, I realized that I've already done a lot of that in my "trunky journal" that Craig recommended from the beginning of my mission. It's interesting to see all the things I've learned on the mission, and remember the experiences that I had that prompted me to put those things on the list. Makes it easier to focus on the work!
We went by Cristian's mom this week and talked very directly about her smoking habit. She committed to prepare for the 20th of September! When we talked to Cristian two days later, he said that from that moment on, he hadn't seen her smoke. It's going to take some preparation, but she'll make it!
During splits I went with a guy that recently moved here from Buenos Aires and wants to reactivate himself! Throwing yourself into the work is the best way to do that. We found a lady that had so many problems - a son with Leukemia, smoking habit, recent separation from her husband, etc. It's just great to see how the gospel can invite the spirit and hope into a life like that!
We found another great guy! He's a taxi driver, and we contacted his daughter looking for a referral. We never really got around to going back until he found us one day and told us that his daughter had commented that we'd gone by, and that he was waiting that we'd come back, but that we never did. The priority to pass by became much higher! He accepted to be baptized in the first visit!
Brother Suarez, the second counselor here is the only member in his family. The missionaries have worked almost unceasingly with his wife and kids, who are all older now. This Saturday, they went to a baptism! After the baptism, his wife came up and asked us when we were going to go by the house. What a change! A week ago they all seemed to want to disappear from the house when we got there, and now we have an appointment to go by on Tuesday! Little by little, the gospel gets to people!
Joaquin, the kid that got baptized this last Saturday gave his testimony shortly after being confirmed. It was kinda great. He's the one that found the Book of Mormon in his grandma's house and hasn't missed church nor seminary since. He talked about how happy he was that he could finally get rid of the title investigator that people put on him and become a member of Christ's church. It's amazing how quickly he prepared - seminary can work miracles. I love how in the church they invite you to really investigate deeply into everything, because like I heard while rereading a talk from Elder Perry recently, we're the only church that has the statistic of the more you know, the more converted you are, while in other churches, the more secular knowledge you have, the less likely you are to go to church. I love the knowledge available in church!
Anyway, it was a great week, but I'm sure this week will be even better, especially because Monica (the one that has all the kids that are drug addicts) is going to get baptized this week! She's really started to see little miracles in her family. Even though the situation hasn't changed much, she's grown so much in her faith and in her desire to get closer to God, and realized just how far away she's been from God. Again, the gospel has such a powerful effect on people!
Well, have a great week! Here's some pictures of Joaquin (a week after meeting the missionaries) and my new comp, Elder Vera.
Elder Willey

Santiago - September 1, 2014

Hello Family!
Wow... I really love how all of you guys are writing me like, every week. It's so cool! My family just rocks.
I had an awesome priesthood experience this week! During exchanges in Frias (a tiny branch that lies about 2 and a half hours away from the capital where I am), I got kinda sick out of the blue. I felt totally great, then my stomach started feeling a little nautious, then a half hour later we were in the branch president's house and I threw up. Yuk. Luckily, that place was the only place in Frias where there were two worthy melchizedek priesthood holders. I had a blessing of health, passed the night in the bathroom, and the next day everything was just fine, like nothing had happened! Priesthood power works. I'm very grateful for it!
Gisela is really awesome! I think I say that every week, but every week she does something new. This week in a lesson she said, "A couple nights ago we were up until one with our family scripture study with my husband. So we decided that we'd start waking up twenty minutes earlier to have more scripture study! And even with that we keep staying up late reading." Wow! She's really discovered the joy of reading scriptures. Then on Sunday in church we invited her to plan a family night for that same night. So she did! She invited the whole neighborhood and her family. Like always, not everyone showed up, but we had a full house. She gave a great family night on repentance and everyone enjoyed it. If you throw yourself into the gospel, it'll just make you happy!
We've seen a lot of miralces with the example of family members this week. Monica, the lady that is this close to getting baptized whose kids have drug problems, finally succeeded in getting her kids to sit down during a lesson. And brought another to church! On Sunday, her oldest son (who looks like he could lift up a train without a problem) stormed in looking super angry and obviously fairly drugged up. When he saw us, the tension seemed to leave him. He sat down and started crying, saying that God couldn't help him. What a great moment to be able to help him! We promised her in the beginning that if she showed the example first, her kids would be better. And... well, I love when people actually act upon the promises we make them, and they always get fulfilled.
Cristian is also seeing some success. His mom came to church again, and both he and his grandma have committed themselves to help her to stop smoking. Plus he convinced his sister to sit in for a lesson. Families have so much power in God's plan!
I really like hymns. During exchanges this week I sang a bunch with Elder Rogers in the lessons. There's just an added spirit when there's hymns involved.
I tried again to remember the atonement more often this week. I loved a talk from Elder Bednar about the enabling power that was in the April 2012 Ensign. He said that too often we don't remember that side of the Atonement, asking to be strengthened instead of having our circumstances changed. Apostles are such a blessing.
A young woman came with us to visit some of her friends this week. We told her to share the scripture and with a little urging, she agreed. She surprised me. She pulled out Alma 34 about not procrastinating repentance. Very direct. Effective. They came to the family night activity Saturday! Plus she literally pulled her friend out of bed. Members just have a special power with the people they know that missionaries could never have. Also, missionaries have a special power that members don't have. The both together make an incredible combination, almost like God arranged it like that or something!
I used the Holy Ghost game where you put a bunch of chairs scattered around the room and everyone yells where to go for the family night activity. I'm grateful for primary for teaching me that game. Primary rocks. And you're never too old to do primary stuff.
Our branch president gave an awesome talk on Sunday about having a positive attitude. He used a scripture from 3 Nephi 19:25 - "And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them." If we take the time to smile in our trials, we can help others a lot and show them the example. I'm trying to smile more now :)
Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful week and help dad to celebrate his birthday!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Santiago - August 25, 2014

Dear Family,
Thank you everyone for your birthday wishes!
The weather here is nuts. It's gotten up to 95 degrees. Now the cold is coming back. We'll see what happens. 
Did you guys every answer my question about the family mission plan? I don't remember... Also, do you ever get the chance to accompany the missionaries in Utah?
A fifteen year old that recently got reactivated came with us on Monday to visit people. On the way back I asked what she'd learned. She said that she learned to be grateful for what she has. I was kinda suprised, thinking she'd say something about what we'd taught in the lessons. I guess I've just kinda gotten used to really small beat-up houses. It got me thinking and I started realizing that usually, if they're a gospel-living famlily, you don't realize if they're poor. When you have a strong home, the house you live in doesn't matter much.
Technology is great. We were able to help a member look for President Monson's October talk on her cell phone on the anniversary of her mother's death. And we loaned Cristian - that got baptized this week - the one hour version of the restoration video. He loved it. His mom too. Crazy awesome how God has prepared technological things that help us to feel his spirit.
I had such a good day on Wednesday. We did splits and I stayed in the family history center with the stake consultant and a couple of our converts. For the first time ever, I witnessed the reservation of ordinances in the temple. For 12 people! Something I love is when Ariel, the family history consultant said to Marcela, that got baptized a couple months ago, "If you go to the temple, well, when you go to the temple because I know you're going to go, you can just click here to print and take these papers with you." I've never been so sure that a convert is going to go to the temple! It was so great! Afterward he got talking to me about the importance of family history - that it's a work of patience and faith. That when we hit the barriers, that's when we have to develop the faith to keep going, even when we have no idea how. In the world today we're so used to just getting things like that, that sometimes we don't have the patience to keep moving on. The spirit that was in that room was so strong. I just loved it. Family history is of God. It prepares us to have even more powerful experiences in the temple.

My birthday was great! Alejandro and Gisela gave us an asado. He also showed me his sugar cane out back. I've never sucked on sugar cane before. It was delicious! She also made me a really yummy dulce la leche cake with a mickey mouse candle!
I did a service during exchanges with Elder Escobar. We walked out about 40 minutes, passing the edge of the city. We watered an old guy's street (people do that a lot so that the dust doesn't get thrown up into their house). We also weeded a bit. And fed his mosquitos. Apparently gringo blood is pretty sweet!
During those exhanges, we visited a ton of recent converts, and talked a lot about doing the little things - reading, praying, family night, and going to church - all in family. I was surprised by how many were actually doing it, but even so, they lacked consistency. I loved sharing the scripture in 3 Nephi 18:12, that if we really want a sure foundation, we have to do these things ALWAYS. More or less doesn't cut it to have a rock-solid foundation.
Gisela gave a talk in Cristian's baptism on Saturday. I never would have guessed that she was a convert of less than a month if I hadn't known it. Something I love that she said was, "I can't wait for Sunday to come so that I can go to church. I've even gotten to the point where I just want work to end so I can go home and study the scriptures with my husband." She's really taking advantage of the gift of the holy ghost, receiving it every day like Elder Bowen told us in the MTC that we had to do. It's just so interesting comparing that with other recent converts. We all receive the same gift from God when we get baptized, but it's what you do with it that decides what kind of blessings you'll get from having it. Family night, family prayer, and family scripture study are so powerful!
I went to the area next door and ate with a really great latter-day saint in their ward, Sister Maidana. I'd eaten with her about 2 months ago and she'd said, "Elders, I'm sorry. I keep looking for people so that you can teach them, but no one seems to receive you when I pass the referral! But don't worry, I'll find someone!" In lunch this Saturday, her less active daughter and her boyfriend were there. She totally arranged that. When we got talking to him, he said, "The Mormon view of death amazes me. When someone dies, you're sad, but at the same time, you keep on happily along. I saw that when Sister Maidana invited me to a funeral. I wish I had a perspective like that." It was just really cool to see the way that she'd prepared him, and then made arrangements so that he met the missionaries. That's member missionarywork!
This week we're praying a lot for Monica, who was planning on getting baptized this Saturday, but is doubting for the opposition. The first time we went there, it was her daughter that greeted us and let us in. On Sunday, her daughter said to her, "If I would have known that you would think about getting baptized with those Mormons, I never would have let them in the door!" Every time we go, someone new tells her how crazy the Mormons are, and that she can't keep listening to us. There is definitely an opposition in all things, but we know that God always wins in the end. Despite all the things people tell her, she keeps going to church, and went to a couple of activities this week. It reminds me a bit of President Monson's talk about courage that he gave in conference. I'm grateful to have her example.
Anyway, that was my week! I hope you all have a great one!

Santiago - August 18, 2014

Hello Family!
So Zion's Youth in these latter-days is pretty awesome. Oscar, a recent convert, is getting right along on his Duty to God. We also had lunch on Saturday with a young woman, Fernanda, who's about to turn 18 (it's crazy to think that she's the same age as Libby! Blew my mind). She took advantage and asked us as the missionaries something about faith that it talks about in personal progress. She's also doing a lot of her family history, even though her dad left the family on bad terms. During the scripture afterward, her non-member step-dad said, "Yeah, it all sounds sweet and happy, the little mormon family in their garden, but you go out into the real world and it's not like that. Everyone gets robbed or shot or has problems in the family." I was going to say something about how we all experience trials, but we can still be happy, but Fernanda answered first, saying, "The members of the church don't have as many problems. If they keep the commandments, they have the guidance of the Spirit, which will help them avoid all those problems. I can't count the number of times that I've come home alone from seminary and felt prompted to take a different street only to find out afterward that something bad happened where I was thinking about going. It really is sweet and happy when we live the gospel!" She shut her step-dad right up. Then she gave us a referral. Then she brought her miracle investigator to church on Sunday (unfortunately he's on the sisters' side). Wow... Joaquin. He found a Book of Mormon in a pile of old books in his grandma's attic and started to read it. And he liked it. So he read it more. Then he saw the BAs temple and wanted to go in, but felt like he had to be more prepared to do it. Fernanda invited him to seminary, and he went all week, walking more than 30 blocks to get there. He showed up to church in a shirt and tie. Miracles happen!
Talking about miracles, I was with Elder Connolly from Arizona this week. We went to a house where they'd passed by a lot and the lady just wasn't progressing. There were members of the family very anti-mormon. As we got to the door, he said that he just didn't feel good about going there, so we didn't. We went around the corner and asked for a referral from another investigator. He gave us one. We went to contact it and Elder Connolly said to the lady, "We're representatives of Christ. We're here because He sent us here to bless your family." She said, "I'm really needing that right now." I love those classic miracle moments! You always hear about them, but living them is so great!
Wednesday was an interesting day. In the morning I was with Elder Arendarczuk, from BAs. In the evening we had interviews with President. I did exchanges with the assistants and stuck around with Elder Trinidad from Uruguay, "directing" interviews. We basically just sat there telling people when the other was done. Something that impressed me from the interview was the revelation that someone receives in their callings. President Chaparro has only been here a couple months... if that. Yet he already knows so well the missionaries, their problems, and what they need. He shared Hebrews 6:10-12 with me about diligence. I'm not slacking off, or at least, I like to think that, but it was nice wake-up call that there's always things that we need to be improving, and that we can't stop with the little things.
We have so many great investigators right now! Cristian is getting baptized this week. He's so awesome! His mom told us the other day that his brother and sister are heckling him a ton about how he's not clubbing or drinking anymore, but how he keeps firm anyway. The gospel can sure do a lot with your life when you're willing to change.
Monica is another. She came to church for the second time this Sunday. Her children are all drug addicts, and she has a lot of problems in the house. The other day we gave a blessing to her son. She's also receiving a lot of flack from coworkers and friends, but I just love seeing the determination of these people to keep moving forward with what they feel is right!
We also have Mario and Martina, an older couple. Mario went walking 20 blocks to church this past Sunday even with severe diabetes problems (he has to go in for dialysis three times a week). I love that about being on a mission - seeing all the things people do to follow Christ.
The Celiz family (Marcela, Oscar, and Hector - all recent converts during my time here) - they're just awesome. Every time we go they're inviting someone new to church, but up until now, they haven't had much success. On Friday, Hector invited one of his buddies to come to the lesson. At the end, they said, "You're going to church with us, right? We're going to be there bright and early at 8 in the morning, so be ready!" And Mauro, his friend, went! In church, Hector was saying, "So now you're going to get baptized, right? You need to go talk to your parents about it! We can do it next Saturday!" They're truly fulfilling Elder Ballard's prophetic challenge to get someone to church every three months!
I gave a talk on prophets on Sunday. I love talking about prophets. I was reading in PMG this week and I rediscovered this quote that I love! "As you study the doctrines in the missionary lessons, you will come to see that we have one message: Through modern prophet, God has restored knowledgeabout the plan of salvation, which is centered on Christ’s Atonement and fulfilled by living the first principles and ordinances of the gospel." There are so many oportunities to receive and put into practice revelation from God that the prophets receive, but all to often, we don't remember to do it. I'm glad being on a mission has helped me understand that.
Anyway, those were most of the highlights of this week. It was just a great week. I hope you all have a great one!
Elder Willey

Monday, August 11, 2014

Santiago - August 11, 2014

Hello Family!
Anyway, it was an interesting week. I spent 14 hours in a bus on Monday and Tuesday, but I surprisingly didn't lose much sleep. The bus miraculously left on time (after the guy in the ticket booth played a really mean joke and told me that it left early), and we got to Salta earlier than usual. The leader council was really short - we usually went from morning until around 5 or 6, but we finished with lunch this time. Instead of getting back to Santiago at 2 in the morning, we got back around 11! The bad news was that I left my backpack in Salta with my scriptures, my toothbrush, my deodorant, etc. It gave me a good chance to focus on the Book of Mormon though! Without much more to study it was kinda great! I especially loved in 3 Nephi 19:1-3 when it talks about how everyone got together in their families, then shared the gospel all night long. Family mission plans were all over the place this week: First mom said last Monday that the missionaries invited the family to make one, then in the leadership council we watched a movie from "Hastening the Work of Salvation" where the family shares the scriptures, then I read it in the Book of Mormon, and it popped up in a couple other places as well. Oh! Like the Mormonad of the August Liahona. So just out of curiosity, do we have a family mission plan? If so, what is it?
The organization of the church is so perfect. I think in almost every ward I've been in, they've attempted an "emergency rescue activity," where they decide on a few families during church, and decide on a meeting place and a time to get together and go and visit people. It's never worked before. Always a couple of leaders come late and then they get discouraged because no one else comes and in the end no one goes out to visit. When they were talking about doing it in Elders Quorum this week, an ex-branch president spoke up and said something along the lines of, "Brothers, this isn't the church's program. According to what the prophet has asked us to do, we shoule be home teachers. Our leaders should assign us companions with a spirit of prayer and with the help of ward council, decide on the families that we should be in charge of visiting. That's the Lord's system." I got to thinking about it afterward and thought how true it is. How often do we try to do things faster instead of doing it how the Lord wanted? During the week I saw an example of that in Duty to God. When the branch president had an interview with a couple of our young men converts (Oscar and Hector), he gave them Duty to God pamphlets. We went over the pamphlets with them, and explained what they had to do. When we came back for the next visit, Oscar told us, "I was planning on trying to do it all really fast, especially since I'm starting a little behind, but then I read this part in the beginning that says 'Don't do it fast; it's not a list of things that you have to do. Rather, it's a way to make your testimony grow.'" That program really is inspired. Seeing it from a missionary perspective was like understanding it all over again. It's a guide to strengthening your testimony with parent and leader help, setting goals and helping you to focus on doing the most important things. The church is just great.
Talking about that, I love the Liahona! It's so great! I've been reading the August edition and I just love how it makes you feel! The gospel is so true. When I read words like "covenant, eternal marriage, family, saving grace, and the gospel of Jesus Christ," it just makes me feel good inside. That's what the gospel's for.
We had a great eternal marriage lesson with Gisela - the recent convert from last week with the shop. As I was testifying of eternal families, it made me realize just how grateful I am for mine. It's kinda sorta really incredibly awesome being on a mission. I remember saying in the begining of my mission that I've never felt my family's love more than on the mission. It's still true! Maybe it's just because I never paid as much attention before. I love hearing from my family every week and hearing how they're progressing in the gospel. There's a powerful spirit that comes with families.
Something interesting - I was reveiwing notes from the MTC (that feels like forever ago), and was rereading my notes from the talks from the general authorities. I can hardly believe that I wrote that stuff - I didn't understand it at all in the MTC. In some cases, it was word for word what the general authorities in our area are telling us now -to name a few, work with the converts, "talk to everyone, even your waiter," baptism is sacred, and should be practiced, etc. You'd think they're prophets or something! Just goes to show that God doesn't change, and if you're paying attention, he'll tell you all you need to know long before you even understand what in the world it means.
Our two investigators that came to church were pretty cool. One was Cristian. I know I've mentioned him before. I just love the way he is! He's a 29-year-old bachelor, something similar to a pro tennis player, whose friends are not even remotely interested in religion, has a sweet Toyota Corolla and yet he just really wants to get baptized! Not the usual demographic. It kinda reminds me of Alma's words, when he's talking to all the poor, humble people in Alma 32, and says something like "I don't want to say that all you people are humble just because you're poor; there are some I'm sure that would humble themselves in whatever circumstance." Well, we found one of them! Pretty great.
Our other investigator was Mario - the older guy we found last week that has to go to dialysis three times a week, can't see very well, and is almost always sick. He showed up alone, without his wife. Sunday was Children's Day in Argentina, where all the kids get presents and the parents drink a lot. He works selling gifts, so he was super busy all week. We passed by two or three times, but he was never home. Due to the fact that he doesn't have a phone either, we had zero contact with him all week. And he just showed up at church, even though his wife was busy doing other things. There really are people out there that God has prepared!
Anyway, that was my week. I hope you all have a great one!
Elder Willey

Monday, July 28, 2014

Santiago, July 28, 2014

Dear Family,
I love reading your letters! Between all the letters I got today, I just feel so great to know that my family has such firm testimonies that it doesn't even leave room for doubt!
We had tranfers. I'm staying here. At this point, I don't want to go anywhere. I like the area. And the apartment. And I REALLY don't want to pack. I'm a little crazy from sending everyone to their new areas, but hey, who needs sleep?
Hastening the work is much easier when there's a really friendly less active with a really new Ford Ranger. That thing is a beast. He's taking us all over the place in it. I love it. Gisela is going to get baptized this week. She spent this last Sunday helping out in the primary, even though she doesn't have a calling... since she's still technically not a member. Her husband is the guy with the Ranger. It's great!
I went with Elder Slighting to the Palermo Ward this week. It's a stronger ward. We ate with the stake president (including free ice cream from his ice cream place!). When Elder Slighting went to share something from Preach my Gospel, every member of the family ran to get their own personal copy of Preach My Gospel, and then made sure they had the copy that belonged to them. The kids have 4, 8, and 9 years. It was great! I was impressed. What a way to respond to Elder Ballard's invitation to study daily! I recently reviewed that talk and noticed that it said that we should be sharing what we learn in our daily study with our families. I love Preach my Gospel. I was reading a lot about the importance of testifying this week, even if it's something small. The important part is really having a personal witness, and bearing it based in your own belief, and always looking for chances to bear it!
Later that day we found a recently returned RM. He said that the quorum president hadn't made home teaching lists, so he decided to look for his own companion and start looking for as many member families as he could to visit. Can you imagine if every member had that kind of initiative!? Our branch president recently shared with us his goal to visit a family every day, even if it just means taking 15 to 30 minutes out of his schedule. Visiting people is so important!
We're visiting a former investigator named Delicious. What a name, right? She said in the second visit that she'd asked, but hadn't gotten her answer. I love 1 Nephi 15! It's so direct! I think I already talked about that last week, but it worked again! She hadn't read nor gone to church. Now she's going to do it! As we talked to her, my companion out of nowhere started testifying about eternal families. It was nowhere in the lesson plan, but a spirit so special entered into the house. Sometimes, after talking to so many closed off evangelists, it's tempting to think, "Hey, it really is almost the same, just they don't have the authority," but NO! There are so many truths they don't have and so much happiness that they're missing! I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!
I really like the plan of salvation pictures my first companion gifted me. It's surprising how few missionaries use images to teach it. For me, it's really hard to comprehend the plan of salvation without the little earth, sun, moon stars, etc. Plus when you mix them all up and see who can assemble it fastest, it's a great family night activity! More truths that only we have!
I went to Borges this week with Elder Purser. We talked with a lady that used every possible excuse to not get baptized. Every time we challenged her to baptism, she asked a new question or something. But in the end... she accepted! Persistence is important.
Hector had such a beautiful baptismal service! Carlos, a 40-year-old recent convert baptized him. He was ordained to the priesthood last month. It's so cool to see the power of God manifested in the ordinances. In the week, I saw two baptisms, a couple of confirmations, a blessing of health, and we ordained a convert to the aaronic priesthood. I think that's one of the best parts of being on a mission - seeing all the saving ordinances.
Anyway, I hope you're all doing well! It sure sounds like it from your letters! Have a great week!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Santiago, July 21, 2014

Hello Family!
I went to Frias this week! It's about 2 and a half hours south of Frias, right there on the border of Cordoba, and close to Catamarca as well. The bus to go there is terrible. I think I talked about that before... Coming back it was full, so we had to wait another 3 hours before coming back. Fun fun! I really like being in the city. There are a lot more people here.
While I was there, we talked to an inactive lady with a delicious bakery. When we asked why she didn't go, she said it wasn't for work, nor because she got offended by a member nor a leader, nor because she slept in. That left us fairly puzzled - those are the reasons why everyone else is less active. She said that she wanted to talk to the branch president about why she didn't go. Fine by me! He's got keys. Priesthood keys are better. Never hurts to refer cases there.
We talked to an old lady who was one of the only non members in her family. She said that she didn't want to get baptized until her grandson got baptized. He's been dead for 3 months, and she wants to wait until the temple work is done for him. It's interesting how Satan will use whatever excuse he can to prevent people from getting baptized. The dumbest thing can be used, even something really important and special, like the baptism of a dead relative. Sometimes we just have to keep an eternal perspective. I was reading in 3 Nephi 12 and thinking about just how important it is that we always keep focused on the the things of the next life, because the things of this life don't last very long.
We talked to another lady living with a member of the church. When I asked why she hadn't gotten baptized already, she said that she was waiting for her answer - that she'd asked around a month ago, but she still hadn't gotten anything. When we asked how long ago it was that the missionaries had taught her about the law of chastity, she said about a month ago. We read in 1 Nephi 15 and talked about how we can't hope that God guides us if we don't follow his guidelines. They're going to take out a turn to get married this week!
With the new focus on converts that our president is asking us to do, I noticed a new application of Alma 59:9. I'd always thought about it in terms of repentance - it's easier to avoid the sin than to sin and repent. Now I was thinking that it applies to new members, too. It's easier to retain than to reactivate. The members that are active of our converts are those that from the beginning visited with the missionaries, got a calling quickly, and fulfilled it, and had a sustaining influence of church members, who promptly asked what was going on if they missed a Sunday. Those who are inactive were greeted well by members, but never got a calling, never really got involved, never made good friends in the church, etc. Interesting to think about.
We met a really awesome 7 year old. She was reading in the Book of Mormon a ton, had some great questions, and could spit back at us every detail we taught her. That's usually something really sad, but the best part is... she's turning eight next week! I love that primary song about turning eight. I'm just sad it isn't in Spanish.
I always love thinking about how the things of this world help us understand God and his laws. We were talking to a really catholic lady who said that it doesn't matter what church you're in - all of them go to God and it's all good. It's a really common view here. Thinking about building a skyscraper, or baking a cake, or doing your math homework, or just about anythying else, if you do it in a different way from the blueprint, recipe, answer key, etc, will it turn out the same? NO! I love the scripture that's in Matthew 5 that says if we break one of the smallest commandments, we'll be very small in God's kingdom. Just a fun thought.
I love the sacrament. This week I was feeling fairly stressed for a few different reasons and taking the sacrament just reminded me that we can't do it all on our own. It was such a peaceful moment thinking about what my Savior did for me. I'm so grateful for that sacred ordinance, and I can't imagine going a week without it for the rest of my life.
Hector's getting baptized this week! He's Oscar's brother and Marcela's son - our last two baptisms here. It's so cool to see how he's changed! In the beginning it was a pain to get him to sit down and listen. He's 13 years old, but looks like he's 9. He didn't go to church the first couple weeks because he slept in or went to go play soccer. He refused to pray, or only prayed when his brother told him what he had to say, for around the first 5 visits. On Saturday when we went to visit him, he was waiting there with the chairs ready, was super willing to pray, and on Sunday, came to church without a problem. The gospel changes people. And now he's getting baptized! It was interesting to see the role his family played. When we started talking about the word of wisdom, his mom said, "I tried telling him the other day when he was about to drink coffee that he couldn't, but he didn't listen!" Even so, when we taught him about it, he already knew. It was just reinforcement. Yay for parents!
Anyway, it was a pretty great week. Hope you all have a great one! Love you all!
Elder Willey

Monday, July 14, 2014

Santiago - July 14, 2014

Hey Family!
I'm sitting here on Family Search trying to figure it out a little better to be able to fill out this booklet thing they gave me. It looks like we're not quite as far along as I thought... Or at least my account isn't linked to all the information. We'll see how that goes.
I hurt my fingers this week. We were playing soccer and the ball hit my thumb. Then while cleaning the bathroom I rubbed a bit of skin off my knuckle. Just wanted to complain a bit! :) It's all better now.
We found such a cool lady on Monday! Her name is Delia. She's the referral of her evangelist sister whose mother the sister missionaries contacted at a bus stop. Funny how the Lord works, right? I LOVE it when people read and pray after the first visit. It's all we really ask. The spirit does the rest. We just invite them to open the book, read a little, and ask God if it's true. Yet so many people don't do it. But Delia did! Her little daughter pulled the marker out of the part we left her, so she ended up reading in the Spanish equivalent of the index under "Commandments." She said that as she read and prayed, she felt so loved of God, and knew that she needed to be baptized. It's like President Levrino said, it doesn't matter all that much where they read, they just have to read and ask if it's true!
President Chaparro seems a little more laid back than President Levrino. Maybe it's just the first appearance. The zone conference was really weird. He just talked about all the same things that he talked about in the leadership conference. President Levrino usually left the zone leaders to train on that and trained on something different during the conference. Even so, other than that, things keep on going the same. The work is still great!
Family night is really great! We had one with some recent converts this week. The Spirit in the family is just so powerful! On Sunday one of the sister missionaries told the story about how her mom got converted because her neighbor invited her to family night. Even though it's something small, following that commandment God gave through his prophets fortifies so much the family! It's one of those little things that helps our foundation in Christ. I'm so glad I have so many great memories of my family home evenings!
Something I hate about not having too much time left is that everything starts to fall apart. A few weeks ago I started finding holes in all my socks. the zipper on my prosyliting bag isn't working anymore. On Wednesday I kept going to give people pamphlets and I couldn't open the stinkin' bag. Oh well. At least my shoes are holding out! For now. I'll keep praying. Maybe a little harder.
Gisela is SO AWESOME! I think I mentioned finding her last week - when we went to find the really far away referral that ended up not existing, but ran into the member that had moved there from another ward. She asked us the other day, "So Elders, do I know enough now to go to church?" Yes! And she went. An RM went with us to visit her and left with his eyes wide open, "Elders, she's so golden!" She's been super prepared to meet the missionaries. When we talked about the sabbath day, she said, "Ah, so I need to close my store on Sunday." And she's prepared to do it. She also gave us lunch, today. On Saturday, she invited her sister to her baptism. Her sister asked, "But you've never even gone to that church! How could you think about getting to get baptized there?" She replied that she felt so sure about it. And sure enough, when she went to church, she loved it. There are people prepared out there! We just have to find them.
We found a guy named Cristian the other day. He was so willing to listen to us. Almost too willing. It was almost kinda weird. He talked about how a month and a half ago, he activated himself in the catholic church and was going every Monday to worship San Cayetano. Yet he accepted baptism just like that. When we asked if he knew anyone else, he said, "Yeah, my grandma would be so willing to get baptized. Put her down for that day as well!" The cool thing about that is that it was after the soccer game on Wednesday. We almost didn't go out, thinking that it would be too crazy, but it ended up being really great! When we went back on Saturday, we met his grandma. Turns out that she was so willing to get baptized in that church that she'd already done it 30 years ago! It's always fun to find less actives. And she came to church yesterday! The Lord's work is just so great!
We starting praying every night by name for the people that could get baptized this week in our zone. We're also fasting continuously, one companionship per day. This week, of the seven people possible to get baptized, all seven got confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fasting and prayer really do work. I know it. And my testimony keeps growing!
This week we ordained Oscar, who got baptized in May, a teacher. His brother also came to church, and is planning on getting baptized next week. Ordinances are so awesome! The power of God truly is manifest there. Must be why going to church and the temple are so wonderful.
Yesterday we couldn't go our in the evening, so we stayed inside planning and organizing stuff. We also had time to make a peach cobbler and played "Book of Mormon Baseball." Basically you open up to a random verse, and you have three strikes to guess the reference. It was surprisingly easier than I thought.
Anyway, that was my week. I'm still here renegando with family search. It shows up as if Craig, Caitlin, and Libby don't exist, or that they haven't created an account or something... I dunno what's going on there. Have you guys used that? Have you put in your info? Our mission president asked that we fill out a booklet of my family. I'm gonna need pictures of everyone (if they exist) from me to my great-grandparents, stories about them, dates of birth, death, and marriage, and where all that stuff happened. I'm sure that information is around there somewhere... I just can't find it on internet. Please help me out! I love you guys a ton!
Have a great week!
Elder Willey

Santiago - July 7, 2014

My fourth of July was very normal. Very rainy. Nothing like the weather must be up there.
So we had our leader council this week. That means lots of time on a bus and trying to avoid the movies that they put on there. President Chaparro is pretty cool. So far, it's hard to tell if it'll be very different. We'll get to know him better tomorrow in zone conference. In the council, he transmitted some points and changes that Elder Nelson taught them in the MTC - basically working more with converts, but it wasn't any more different than the changes President Levrino taught us every conference. They really aren't "changes," since everything can be found in Preach my Gospel if you read it well enough. I loved the focus on saving souls and not just baptizing people. It's always important to remember that there are various ordinances that we need to be saved, including for members of the church. It seems like things might change a little more when it comes time for transfers. He asked us how often zone leaders were moved to be trainers or senior comps. Really, it hasn't happened a lot. I've only seen or heard of it twice. He said that depending on how things go, that might change. Also, there was a rule with President Levrino that you could only use one computer at a time to write the family. He decided to change that. It was really funny when it came up in the council. I think every missionary in the room was thinking about that, wondering if he would change the rule, but no one wanted to bring it up. I don't even really remember how it came up... But thank goodness! We now have an extra hour on P-Day! Other than that, it's still the work of God and he doesn't really change all that much.
On the way back to Santiago, we just happened to sit next to a couple from the UK, living in Vietnam, traveling south america. Man, English is hard. Luckily the sister training leader - the only other one that spoke English, was there to take over. I'm a little worried for my English now... Something cool that happened during the conversation about forty minutes in was that the lady asked, "So what exactly in the name of your church? The Mormons?" Her husband responded, "No, it's the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." We just kinda looked at him with our mouths hanging open. He explained that he liked family history, and had used family search.org before, so he knew at least the name of the church. How great the church is!
Speaking of family search, President Chaparro gave us the assignment to fill out a booklet of My Family. I still haven't gotten a hold of one, so I can't tell you exactly what I need, but I'm gonna need help with that. So be ready!
We went to go contact a reference really far away that we've had since May. I'd put plans to pass by a long time ago, but we never got around to it. (If you're expecting one of those classic miracle stories, well, you're right!) We got out there and saw a little store and thought, "Hey, they must know where this person lives." When we got in, the old guy greeted us with a nice, "Hello Elders!" Turns out he's a member that got baptized in the ward next door in the 80s, but that hadn't gone to church since he'd moved more than 15 years ago. When we met his wife, she explained that she'd always wanted to go to church with her husband, because he always refused to go to church with her, saying, "No, my church is prettier and better." She thought that she couldn't go until she'd prepared in some kind of way. She soaked in everything we could tell her about the restoration, and by the second visit, she'd already read 1 Nephi 1 and prayed, and knew that it was true! The coolest part? They'd lived together for 20 something years, but never got married. Then, two years ago, they decided that it would be a good idea. The Lord is preparing people! We just have to find them! In the end, we never did find the reference, but now I know why we had to go over there.
Having a friend in church is really important for converts. Oscar, that got baptized around a month ago, is more converted than I thought. We didn't get to teach him a whole lot before his baptism - he was hard to find, so we only covered the basics and the necessary. We went to go teach his brother, and he remembered the plan of salvation so well! He was there with his brother, saying, "You think that church is boring, but it's not! It's so great! It makes you feel really good and you learn a ton!" We only went over the plan of salvation once, but family nights with his friends and continual church attendance have done him well!
I did an interview with an ex-navy, really smart dentist - Brother Paiva. I think I've mentioned him before. He drinks up information as fast as he can. He was so happy when he got his hands on a tripple. Before the interview he showed me his garden (those are SUPER rare here). He had a fruit tree of just about every kind you could think of - grapefruit, grapes, apples, and a bunch of other weird ones I don't remember. Something we talked about a lot was repentance. He said that he still didn't feel like he'd fully repented. We read 2 Nephi 25:23 - after all we can do, and he said, "But I think that there's still more I could do." That got me thinking. It's true that it's through the grace of Christ that we can repent and change, but it could be that too often, we forget that the scripture doesn't say, "after a really big effort on your part," rather "after ALL you can do." I think sometimes I take repentance too casually, especially for the little things - like not talking to someone about the gospel, not putting into practice the things that I've learned and been commanded to to. The purpose of the church is to perfect us - that's why God organized the church. But in order for that to happen, we really have to do ALL we can do!
Speaking about that, I had an awesome study in Ephesians 4:11-15. It explains so clearly the church and why it's there! Sure, the Book of Mormon is very clear, but there are some parts of the Bible where I have to ask myself if the other churches really read there.
Yenny got baptized! Back in Tucuman! I taught her so much! Like all my six months there! This is the second time in a month that one of my eternigators that I taught has gotten baptized. It's so great how the work keeps going after leaving!
Anyway, I hope you all have a great week!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Santiago - June 30, 2014

Greetings Family!
I got bored of hello.
Wow. It's hot there. It's cold down here.
I made Root Beer! It was delicious! I loved it. I forgot how much I love root beer. I accidentally froze it, and it lost all the fizz, but it was delicious even so!
I love the atonement. I studied it almost all week. During one of our lunches, the non-member sister of a convert came in and we were able to share about the atonement with her after a fight she'd had with her husband. It always invites the Spirit really easily when you talk about that, and she seemed a lot better afterward.
We asked a mom for permission so that her son could get baptized. She said no - that he was too young, that he was already baptized Catholic, etc. We explained that he didn't have sins as a baby, and she agreed, so she stuck to the "he's too young" argument. My comp said, "Sister, wasn't he younger the last time he got baptized?" That flabbergasted her. Even so, she didn't give permission, but the promise in D&C was fulfilled - the enemies of the truth will be confounded.
We talked to a former investigator the other day. When we asked him if he'd read in the Book of Mormon, he replied very rapidly and very calmly, "I know it's true." It was kinda awesome. And he accepted to be baptized next week! Yay for formers!
We taught a transvestite prostitute this week. It was kinda weird. At first when she started telling us why s/he works like s/he does, I felt kinda repulsed and sad, but as we started bearing our testimonies about the first principles of lesson one, I think I got to feel a little about what God feels for his children. I was sad that he had chosen to make those decisions, but even so, I knew that God loved him, and that through repentance and obedience to the commandments, he could still obtain glory. You're never too far gone to receive blessings and the love of God.
There were quite a few baptisms that didn't happen this week in the zone for various reasons - the parents decided to retract their permission the day before, the water in the font stopped working and they couldn't fix it on time, and another that was on her period and couldn't be convinced to enter in the font. I realized that Satan really doesn't want us to do what we're doing, and he'll use whatever dumb excuse to stop us. Luckily, God is more powerful, and with patience and trust in the Lord's timing, all will work out in the end. We just have to make sure to never fall for any of Satan's traps, however small or stupid they may be.
Sister Barreto, the Relief Society president came with us Saturday in the morning. We visited a member who had recently had a baby. It was amazing to see how she could relate to and help the sister. We as missionaries have a special power and authority that the members don't have, but they have a power to relate and friendship like we don't. Just goes to show how important it is to work together members and missionaries!
There's an investigator who lives in the other half of the branch - the side that belongs to the sisters - that's so very prepared. He read through the whole Gospel Principles book and is trucking through the Book of Mormon. He had a date for the 12th, and didn't want to change it. Between classes on Sunday we got talking to him and some of the members. It's amazing what peer pressure can do! Now he's very happy to get baptized this next week!
We watched Finding Faith in Christ with a part-member family. It was Sunday and the neighbors decided they wanted to put their annoying music very loud. I was somewhat worried, but the spirit was so great! I didn't even notice the music. Even the daughter that never wanted to listen to the missionaries came and watched with her... concubine is the word they use here. Testimonies of Christ bring the spirit, and if it comes in the form of a well-produced video, it's no different. Plus it lays the groundwork for some good committment in the invitations!
Anyway, I'm now off to Salta to meet the new mission president. I hope you all have a great week!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Santiago, June 23, 2014

Hello Family!
The world cup is kinda nuts here. There's almost always a TV near by where you can find the games. The missionaries don't watch the games, but the majority carry around their little scorecards and ask people what the scores were. When Argentina plays, it's a different story. The whole world shuts down except for a few taxis, and there's a bunch of fireworks every time they make a goal (all two or three of them). Even so, the work goes on.
The Spirit is really cool. This week we ate with some recent converts. They said that in the beginning, going to church was kinda weird. The boyfriend went just because he thought it was great that his girlfriend was going. Then as they kept on going, they started to notice the difference in their home and in their lives and they started to realize that instead of thinking, "We have to get up now; it's Sunday." They started thinking on Wednesday, "Is Sunday here yet?" It's crazy how the gospel can change lives and people. Just the feeling in that tiny little house was so wonderful! I think as members we sometimes lose that sense of how special it is to have the Holy Ghost because we're so used to it, but it really is something special.
On that topic, we talked to a new investigator we'd found the other day, Raul. He said that he wasn't really in a mood to do anything because his aunt had died. We started talking about the plan of salvation and asked him how he felt. Better. Comforted. That's the mission of the Holy Ghost!
We talked to a lady whose dad was an evangelist prophet. She really started to show interest, and we were testifying about the first vision and the Book of Mormon, etc. When we challenged her to go to church, she said that she wasn't sure. Well why not? She mentioned that her dad was a prophet and didn't really know why, she just felt like she couldn't go. I realized what a blessing it was to be born into the church. Clearly, one has to take their own decision and gain their own testimony, but parental influence can have a really strong pull on a person. Luckily, we know that we have one Father whose influence is even stronger! We'll see how things go.
We went to visit a member this week. I'd gone to visit her one or two times with Elder Sandoval, but we'd dropped a few investigators in that neighborhood and hadn't really gone back. During weekly planning, I thought, "Hey, we should probably visit Hermana Castillo eventually." The day before, we had a contact that told us that she wanted us to come tomorrow, so we'd made a plan to be close to that neighborhood. The plans we had all fell through and Hna Castillo came to mind. So we went. She said that she'd been praying and praying for someone from the church to come visit her the day before, and we came! God orchestrates things so that prayers get answered, even if there's a whole lot of plan changing that needs to happen.
We had a leader meeting in Tucuman. Every district and zone leader in the four zones in Tucuman and Santiago was there. We ate lasagna. Turns out there was a bacteria in the meat that they used for the lasagna, and almost every leader in the south of the mission had diarrhea on Saturday. I was saved. But it's interesting the tactics that Satan uses. Be careful with the meat you buy!
We committed a ton of people to church - more than I've committed in the past few months. And no one came. Sometimes, that happens. There's a quote from president that I love - "We have to do all that we can. From there, God will show us that we haven't really done all we can, and will help us find out what more we need to do to get there." He gives us weaknesses so that we become strong, and the testimony comes after the trial of the faith!
Church was fantastic! I learned a ton! In priesthood, as we read the oath and covenant of the priesthood, I realized that to fulfill that covenant, we have to magnify our office or calling. Fulfillling the basics of the calling isn't enough. To really gain all the Father has, we have to magnify. Which doesn't just mean to make bigger, but also to make more magnificent! In Gospel Principles, I realized that in the 10 commandments, the Lord didn't tell them to keep the sabbath day. He just reminded them. It's a super-old commandment, because it's really important.
In sacrament meeting, the stake president took five minutes at the end of the meeting and gave a testimony of the Book of Mormon. It was awesome. He started talking about the Abrahamic covenant, that Christ was to appear to his descendants. That's why when he came and the samaritans and others asked for his help, he explained that he'd only come for the Jews. As part of that, he had an obligation to visit the rest of the house of Israel in the Americas, hence the other sheep scripture. I'd never put those two things together before. He also explained about the patriarchal blessings that Jacob gave to his sons - That Judah was going to have the Savior as a descendant and that Joseph's sons were going to gather Israel. He explained that it's another reason why the Book of Mormon was written. They were descendants of Joseph, and had that responsibility. That kinda blew my mind, too. Going to church is just the best!
In my personal study, I was reading a little about the definition of commandments. They're orders from God. I looked up the word order, which also has the definition of a state of peace and traquility - the result of following God's orders. It also said that orders were directions given from someone who had authority or a better view to reach a common goal. God and eternal life definitely fit that description. Interesting how even language testifies of the gospel!
A recent convert gave an awesome testimony yesterday. We were teaching him and his mom and we asked him if he'd read and prayed about the Book of Mormon. He said that he had. He said that after praying, he didn't receive an answer immediately. Rather, when the missionaries came and gave their testimonies the next time, he felt a burning in the bosom. Afterward, in seminary, he felt like his mind opened up, and that he was learning more than ever. Then in church, he just felt comfortable and peaceful. God always answers. If people just bother to ask, he'll reply. And if he doesn't reply, if "the Lord maketh no such thing known unto" you, then it's because you're not trying to keep the commandments or you don't have faith. It's really simple. That's one reason why I love being a missionary. We don't have to convince anyone to change their religion or change their life. We just have to convince them to pray and from there the Lord takes over. It really is a great work!
Have a great week!