Monday, May 19, 2014

Santiago, May 19, 2014

Hello Family!
So I bought a creme for my feet. It's really great. I no longer have dry skin down there and what not. It's so appropriate that Isaiah talked about the feet of those that preach the gospel.
I did exchanges with Elder Parada... Again. This was the third time on my mission. The cool part was seeing how much we've changed over time, from having a couple months on the mission to now. The work is much easier now, but it's still just as fun!
Our counselor is moving this week. Flavio, even though he's called as the second counselor, is acting branch president, EQ president, Ward Mission Leader, and just about everything else. We're going to miss him, but it'll be interesting to see how the branch reacts to make everything work out. We went this week with President Levrino and his wife to visit the family of the real branch president. I was kinda expecting a lesson on fulfilling responsibilities, or something to that effect, but instead they shared about faith and hope. It's interesting how the solution to all the problems in the church and in your personal life don't have to do with correcting them directly, rather just living the gospel and letting everything work out. The Spirit will guide you through the rest.
We had a really cool family night with two of our investigators - two girls that got baptized. We had planned to watch Finding Faith in Christ, but we couldn't get the remote to work in order to change the language. Then, out of nowhere, the language changed. Miracles happen. The mom hasn't been too keen on giving them permission, but she had a change of heart! Two miracles in one night was pretty great. Then, yesterday in the baptism, the water heater worked! It was around the first time in weeks that it worked. In the zone conference on Saturday, Sister Levrino talked about the privilege of seeing miracles every day. They really do happen every day.
The sister missionary leaders also worked a miracle of their own. They had an idea of something to do for president, since this was his last zone conference in Santiago. They asked us all to bring a written testimony and a picture of a baptism. In the 30 minutes before the conference and in 30 minutes of their lunch, they made an amazing scrapbook! Not gonna lie, it was impressive - between collecting all the stuff, helping the missionaries that forgot to do it, and doing it all without president knowing while he was in the same building was really cool. Just goes to show that like Elder Ballard said, the sisters really are God's secret weapon.

One of the parts that stuck out to me from the conference was when president shared 1 Nephi 3:7 - a scripture that I think everyone has heard hundreds of times. He focused not on "I will go and do," rather, "the Lord prepares the way." He said that if we say that we couldn't go to church or we couldn't talk to everyone, or we couldn't fulfill whatever commandment, we're saying that God was wrong. That kinda hit me. There really isn't any excuse for not keeping a commandment, because God is never wrong.
In stake conference this week, they talked a ton about the basics. President gave a talk on the Book of Mormon, and how important it is to read every day. He talked about the part in Moroni 10:3 when it says "if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them," and how it's a privilege to read it. If we have a Book of Mormon, it'
s because our Father decided that we would treasure it and make use of it. Makes ya think about just how important it is to make use of what he's given us!
Anyway, that's what happened this week! I hope you're all doing well!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Santiago, May 11, 2014

Hello Dearest Family!
It was such a pleasure to talk to you guys yesterday! And I do not have an accent. Anyway, here's the stuff that went on this week.
I love talking in church. I've had lots of chances to do that lately with my ward-hopping. My talk yesterday was super-well prepared (they never tell the missionaries that they're going to talk, but you can just kinda assume when you get to a place), but they ended up cutting my time, so it turned out a little meh. Anyway...
First off, are you guys studying Preach My Gospel? My comp did a follow up with his family the other day and reminded them that it was a prophetic counsel from Elder Ballard. So I figured I'd just pass along the reminder! It's such a great manual! I hope you put the time in to study it!
So on the way here I already told you the majority of my bus ride, but I missed a part that made my journal. I really had to go to the bathroom when we got to Tucuman. There was one on the bus, but I figured I'd wait until Tucuman. When we got there I got off and started taking a couple steps toward the bathroom, when I felt compelled to stop. I had no clue why. I tried taking another step, but something just felt off. After about 5 feet I realized what it was. I didn't have a companion. I was travelling with a sister missionary, and she was still on the bus. I kinda stood there for a bit, looking like an idiot, then decided to just get back on the bus. I always laughed at those stories of RMs that want someone with them when they get home, but I gained a new understanding of it.
We have an automatic washing machine and a super great shower here! It's amazing! Yep... Just wanted to share that. I'm happy.
I love being with an Argentine! He understands all the dialects and the culture. It's my first time with a real latino that hasn't lived in the US. It's great!
Our baptisms this week are named Rocio and Ayalen. They're two girls that have gone to the church for a ton of time, but their mom hasn't let them get baptized. She's holding off to give them permission because there's a lack of respect there. It's really not hard to find a reason every week to be grateful for my amazing parents. Like really, I feel so blessed that my parents aren't crazy or anything like that.
Planning was really fun this week. I didn't really have to do much. My comp already has a ton of time in the area so he knows the area well. It's relaxing.
I found out something awesome! Elder Purser is in the area next door. He also started in Almirante Brown. I found out that my last baptism there, Manuel, got the Melchizedek Priesthood recently! That's so cool! I love hearing stuff like that!
I was given a second chance this week. We were looking for a direction and asked at a store - the stores here are the same as the people's houses who sell stuff out the window. She didn't know where they lived. I thought about contacting her, but we ended up just moving along. We went to another store. She didn't know the person we were looking for either. Feeling bad for not having contacted the last one, I contacted her. At the end, she gave us the reference of the first store owner! We went back and the family there was super great! God knows his children, and he'll make sure that the gospel gets to them, even if the missionaries are a little dense and slow to respond at times.
Church was really great. The attendance wasn't so wonderful, because in the words of President Levrino, "Elder Willey, you'll have to help the people in Santiago. They're a little affraid of the rain. And the cold." It wasn't raining Sunday, but the clouds did look a little threatening. In their defense, the majority of the streets here are dirt, so they get really muddy, which can really complicate driving or walking. Even so, during the sacrament, the very strange Santiagueno accent made me listen a little closer to the words. The part about ALWAYS remembering Him stuck out to me. I promise it every week, but I never come even close to remembering Christ in every moment. I put it as a goal for this week. Also, the stake president visited and gave an awesome talk on the sealing power. It was a nice reminder of the fact that we really do have the only weddings that don't include the divorce papers.
Today I spent a lot of money. There was a sale on ties and I gave into peer pressure. I bought three nice ties for what normally would be 50 dollars for 25 bucks. I felt pretty good about it. I also bought a really awesome carved mug! It was only twelve bucks. I was kinda on the edge - you know me, I'm cheap - but they offered to personalize it with my name and the name of the mission for free. So I bought that too! Then I went to a restaurant for the second time on my mission. Calzones! They were pretty delicious!
Anyway, that was my week! I hope you all have a wonderful post-mother's day week! Don't forget to read PMG!
I love you guys a ton! Especailly you, mom! And happy mother's day again!

Santiago, May 4, 2014

Hello Family!
So I kinda already mentioned that I'm here in Santiago now. What I didn't say is that I was assigned as a zone leader down here. My companion is Elder Sandoval from Cordoba. It'll be a fun transfer! It was a really long bus ride... plus a three hour delay because there was some kind of a problem with our engine and they had to change buses. The fun part is that I'll get to make that trip every month to go to Salta for Leader's council! Oh! And Elder Parada is my new district leader. I've been with him in every province I've been in. Kinda funny.
So I think I've mentioned Jesica before. She was our only investigator that was really making any real progress. The only issue was the law of chastity. We talked about it almost every time, but she and her boyfriend didn't seem too hot on getting married and when we mentioned separation, they didn't really seem too hot on that either. Finally, on Wednesday we passed by and asked. It was kinda a slow day. We asked Jesica if she'd decided and she said yes. She wants to get married! Thursday and Friday were holidays (Labor day and we-want-a-long-weekend day), so I never got to go to the city offices to see when they could get married, but it was such a joy! From Wednesday on they just seemed changed. The decision to fulfill that commandment just made them much happier. Plus it's marriage. That's just a happy thing! I know I won't be there for the baptism, but it was still awesome to see the evolution of that couple.
We got everyone with a cell phone looking up the gospel library application. Plus we were getting everyone their membership numbers so that they could get onto family search. Wow! The technology of the church is just so awesome! I'm not trunky, but when I get home, I'm SO getting that app!
We had an investigator, Fabiola, that had a light bulb that burned out just before I got there. This past week we had enough of it and went to buy a new bulb. The switch board was in the locked evangelist church next door that shared the electricity, but we decided that it wasn't necessary to just replace the bulb. When I went to turn the bulb, something didn't feel right. It had gotten humidified and was all bad. When I turned, the bulb came off, but the metal part didn't. It caused a spark that did something to the electrical system and all the lights went off in the little house. We felt so bad! But here comes the miracle - we were all praying really hard. The church goers just happened to show up to clean the church and we were able to put the light back on and fix it all up! God loves us.
I noticed as I was watching my last companion, Elder Inman, what really makes him a great missionary. A lot of times we talk about what the missionaries do, the skills they have, stuff like that. For example, there was a really huge missionary here a little time ago that really demanded attention and was able to teach without many interruptions, mostly because he looked like he could run a marathon carrying you without breaking a sweat. With Elder Inman, I noticed just how much he felt what he was doing. It's not so much your knowledge or the skills you've developed that make you a good missionary or that give you a strong testimony - although that helps - but more important is what you feel, and really understanding the importance of the work we as latter-day saints have to eternally save the children of God. There are a lot of missionaries that know that, but I realized when Elder Inman was talking that there aren't as many missionaries that really feel that inside. It's a goal I have.
We found an awesome lady named Ana! Very humble, and just sat and listened. She accepted a baptismal date, accepted to read and pray, everything. When we got to the end, she didn't want to give the closing prayer. We tried a couple times and she flat out refused. We tried a little bit more and she finally agreed. It was a long prayer, even though it was only four phrases long. The feeling that came into that room was so wonderful. The Spirit was there to testify of what we were teaching, and she felt it. After the prayer, we were able to identify it. The Spirit is so key in this work. It's nice to remember that there are always people who have prepared themselves to be able to feel it.
I got to testify to an excommunicated member about the Atonement. That really is a powerful doctrine. It's sometimes hard to imagine just how powerful the atonement is, but really, it has the potential to erase even the most horrendous sin, or the worst hurt that someone could feel. I love having a knowlege, and somewhat of a comprehension of what Jesus Christ really did for me. I'm so grateful to have felt its effects in my life to be able to testify of its power to others.
I realized something during my study. A big emphasis in the mission right now is opening the mouth and talking to everyone. Elder Ballard really drilled it into the mission presidents when he came. I found a talk from him from the 80s where he said the same thing (funny how the gospel never changes, right?) He cited a passage from D&C 24, where it says if you open the mouth, you'll have strength. I found it interesting that the promise wasn't that the people will listen, or that you'll find the prepared people, rather that you'll have strength. It's hard, but it really does make you feel better. On Friday, I tried talking to as many people as I could. There wasn't  a single street contact that even so much as showed interest, but somehow, we still found various new people to teach - more than all the week combined. They didn't come from where I expected, but they were there. The Lord fulfills all his promises. That reminds me of point two from my good missionary formula - start being a missionary now. When we asked Elder Acey Mangum the best advice to prepare for the mission, he told us to just start doing it now. Even though in Utah there are a lot of members, just start talking to people. He mentioned in the line at the supermarket, on the bus, etc. Wherever you are, just talk to people. There was a great article about that in the March Liahona. Anyway, I was thinking about that for the newsletter.
I found an awesome scripture the other day! 1 John 3:2. It's so stinkin' clear! I know there are a lot of plain and precious parts that were taken out of the Bible, but when I find scriptures like that, sometimes it surprises me that we're the only ones with some of our doctrine. Even so, the Book of Mormon is still clearer. We read 2 Nephi 31 with some investigators this week. I really didn't appreciate that passage before the mission. I thought it was just overused. But wow, does it help investigators to just get it! It's so clear! And all over the place in the Book of Mormon it's like that! It's the exact same thing that's in the Bible, just much clearer. 
One more story! Not so spiritual, but it was great. We got a reference and we went to contact him. He answered and said, "I'm sorry, but right now's really not a good time. It's my sister's birthday and I'm very... drunk. I'm not quite sure the word for it... I'm not... conscious? But I really do like religious things! Can you come back... Friday?" The funny part? He said it all in English, with an Argentine-English accent hybrid. It was kinda hilarious. I couldn't stop smiling. There's just something about a drunk, well-educated Argentine recognizing that he's drunk... in English. It kinda made my day.
Anyway, that's my weekly report! We're getting started a little late in the area due to the whole bus issue, but it'll be a great day! Thanks for all writing me! I love you guys! We'll talk on Sunday.
Elder Willey