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!

Santiago, June 16, 2014

Hello Family!
Happy father's day dad and grandpas! I hope you had a great one! Here it was nuts. No one was working, which I guess is good because it's Sunday and the Sabbath, but there weren't any taxis or buses to get around, which makes proselyting a pain. On top of that, Argentina played in the world cup. I've never seen the streets so deserted. Not even during the siesta. Everyone was watching the game. The members even came to the chapel to watch it. Kinda nuts.
I did exchanges with Elder Williams this week! It was really fun being with a super greenie. He made me feel really old. He has 2 months on the mission. When I told him I had 20, he said "Wow! You're like, on your deathbed!" It still hasn't hit me yet. I prefer it like that. I still have plenty of time to keep doing what I'm doing! During the exchanges we did a service project where we took apart a car. That was pretty dang fun. It was all old and rusty. We spent all morning taking out screws and such.
The Book of Mormon is great! We contacted a lady super evangelist. She didn't want anything to do with us. She said that the missionaries had already come by, that she'd listened, and that she wasn't interested - it's the same thing that her church taught and she didn't want to change. We pulled out a Book of Mormon and started testifying. She let us in, and commited to read it. I love the Book of Mormon!
I did a baptismal interview this week. The kid was named Leandro, was around 17, had a haricut with everything long on top and shaved on the sides, and dyed purple, and an earring. He was super converted. We started and I asked if he'd been able to go to church. He said that he'd never wanted to go, but his sister took him to the stake conference, and from there he knew that the church was true and wanted to be baptized. He had a testimony of every principle, and at the end when I asked if he had questions, he asked how long he had to wait to get the priesthood to be able to baptize his friends. Judging by appearances doesn't always work very well. He's gonna be an awesome missionary!
I met the old branch president here. It's interesting how people leave the church for little things. He said that he'd never imagined how someone so firm in their testimony could leave until it happened to him. He's the oldest member in Santiago, and left because they didn't give a recommend to his son when he didn't pass the interview, and because after helping the branch so much, other leadership came that hasn't been quite as involved. It's sad. there are so many people that let stupid little social things get in between them and their relationship con God.
I ate a monster factura (pastry?) this week! I'm now kicking myself that I didn't take a picture. It had creme, chocolate, jam, and dulce le
leche, and it was giant. I guess I'll have to buy another one since I didn't snap a pic.
Ledis got baptized! She's Oscar's mom, Oscar that got baptized a couple weeks ago. She has epilepsy, and the members have fallen in love with her. Sister Barreto, the relief society president shared her testimony on how they got to know each other. She was always worried about her 12-year-old daugher, that was always hanging around boys. Then her daughter told her she couldn't complain if she never met the boy. So she met Oscar. He came to church. Then she met his mom. She came to church. She shared her testimony about how missionary opportunities can come from the most unexpected places, and how we should work together with the missionaries so that we can recognize those opportunites. It was a really special spirit there. And to make things even better, our font finally worked! With hot water!
Anyway, to finish off, we had transfers. I'm now with Elder Ceron, from Vera Cruz, Mexico. It'll be a great transfer! I haven't slept much. The fun part about being a zone leader is that you get to be there in the terminal all night making sure that everyone gets on the right bus at the right time. I feel very blessed that no one missed their bus!
Anyway, that was the week! I hope you all have a great one!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Santiago, June 9, 2014

Hello Beloved Family!
So the week started off with Bolivian fried chicken and a 7 hour trip to Salta. I sat next to a chemical engineer. Not too interested in the church, but it was really interesting to talk to him! Plus there was banana bread on the trip. It flew by.
In the leader council, the things that stood out to me the most were when President talked about the fact that commandments are non-negotiable and when he gave his testimony of the Book of Mormon. Hard to describe why the testimony was so great - mostly just because of the Spirit that was there and the fact that he cried, which is something that no missionary I know has seen more than twice, this last time included. When he talked about how strict the commandments are, he mentioned how in the temple, you can't even move a plant without receiving permission from the first presidency. Kinda crazy. It made us all think that having a new mission president might not be all that different after all.
On the way back to Santiago, we realized that we'd forgotten my comp's scriptures, our clothes that we'd brought, and the keys to the appartment in Salta. We had to get in through a window. Luckily, the sister training leaders had stayed there an extra day to do visa paperwork, and were able to bring us everything Wednesday. Tender mercies!
Wow... Estefania had us all over the place this week. We've been visiting her since I got here, but the missionaries have worked with her for a couple months now. The issue has been the law of chastity. This week was going to be her wedding. Since we weren't here in the beginning of the week, we asked other missionaries to help us out in the city offices. With the contacts of the member, we were able to take out an appointment for this week! We got all the paperwork filled out and everything! We had one last paper on Thursday that we had to deliver. When we went, the boyfriend came out and told us that he didn't want to get married. It's hard to take him seriously with his two lip piercings and the other holes that he's put in his head. We tried everything to try to help him understand, but he was pretty set in his decision. Estefania decided that she was going to leave him. She went the next day to live with her mom, but there wasn't an available bed there. She tried with her aunt as well (and brought her a Book of Mormon to read), but her aunt was hospitalized. She ended up moving back. We got permission from the mission to give her one of the old beds we had in the appartment, and a member helped us deliver it! That was pretty great. When we went on Saturday to confirm the baptism, she said that she had a work appointment in the evening, but that she didn't know what time, and couldn't commit to be baptized that night. We ended up pushing the baptism back later so that she could be sure to go. Then came more issues with the font. First, we had to clean it. All the water from last week had left the font a grimy mess.
The grimy font

From there, we turned on the water. After about 2 minutes, the pressure started to go down until it cut off. NOOO!!!! We had to go to the other chapel again. We let all the members know and frantically started filling the font, despite the water of that chapel sporadically turning on and off. Then we got a call saying that one of the young women had gone missing and that all the members were out looking for her .That didn't help things (they found her in the end). The members were able to pass by Estefania to be able to bring here to the baptism, but she wasn't there when they went. She had gone to a friend-of-her-2-year-old-daughter's birthday party. That bummed us out a little, but even so, I learned a ton from the experience - don't let the obstacles keep you from trying. From the marriage to the schedule to the bed to the font to the missing member, there were so many chances to just give up and leave it for later. I feel good knowing that we did just about everything so that she could get baptized, and in one of these weeks, she'll get there!
I finally got to know Fernando! He's a recent convert of about a month that's been on vacation in Cordoba. And he's super rich. And smart. The first thing he said when we got there was, "Well Elders, what do I have to do now to keep progressing in the gospel?" During the lesson he bore his testimony of tithing, and pulled out a pizza he'd made for us. It was pretty awesome. From there we went to a meeting to talk about recent converts with our former second counselor who we won't be seeing much anymore (he was called as bishop in another ward). During the conversation, we excitedly told him that we had a male convert with a testimony of tithing. He replied like this, "That's really great that he has a testimony of tithing, but has he paid it since his baptism?" That was a very good piont. It reminded me of when President was talking about Matthew 7 and the wise and foolish man, and that if we don't do the things, it won't do us any good to have a strong testimony of it.
I got sick this week for the first time since Oregon. Luckily, it was planning day, so we were going to be in the pension for a while anyway. When it came time to work, I was all better! Thank goodness for over-the-counter drugs in Argentina! God works in mysterious ways, right?
We played the Don't Eat Pete tithing version for a family night again this week. That game never gets old!
I gave a talk on family history this week based out of the primary song. I love primary songs! They teach doctrine so well!
Patriarchal blessings are really cool. The Gospel Principles class on spiritual gifts inspired me to review all those mentioned in my patriarchal blessing. God really does have a ton of blessings in store for us. Every time I read through that, I feel like I've got a lot left to do before I can really say that I'm living up to my potential.
We had a stake meeting yesterday. I was somewhat frustrated. They presented the new plan to help activate male recent converts in the age to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. It started off really well and then we split up and the meeting started talking about whatever. In Preach My Gospel and in almost every trainging with President Levrino, we're reminded to always stay focused on the goal and the commitment we want to leave during the teaching. I've come to realize that this advice applies to just about everything. The point of the meeting was to present the plan and help people understand what they had to do to help get the converts to the Melchizedek Priesthood. In the end, we were talking about the Holy Ghost and how old is too old to go to church by yourself. It made me realize just how blessed I am to be on a mission. There are so many lessons learned here that help in every aspect of life, especially to help further the purposes of God. The mission really does change your life and help you in so many ways. I'm so grateful that I've still got time to keep going!
Well, thanks for all writing me. I love reading your letters! Have a great week!

Santiago, June 2, 2014

Hello Family!
I met Hermana Paiva this week from Brazil. It's kinda nuts. They didn't teach her much Spanish in the MTC. Portuguese and Spanish aren't all that similar. It's really funny to hear her talk. It reminds me a lot about Craig. Kinda makes me want to learn Portuguese when I get home.
The other day I was on exchanges with Elder Ramirez from Mexico. We went for a follow up visit with a lady I'd found last week on exchanges. There was no male. I'm still kinda new to the area, but I'm getting to know it better. After finding the house of the lady, we found out that there wasn't a male in the house. We set another appointment and left kinda sad. Later in the day, we had a member acompanying us and the appointment fell through. I was about ready to go to the next plan, when Elder Ramirez told me, "Elder Willey, we have to go back to that lady!" I never would have thought of that. In my mental map, it was really far away. Turns out it was only a couple blocks. When we followed up on her reading, she said she'd read what the other missionary had left her. It was Moroni 8. In the first visit she'd said that she was very Catholic and didnt' want to be baptized again. I never did see the part of the Book of Mormon that my comp that day had left her. She took it really well though! It's incredible the power that the Book of Mormon has!
Elder Ramirez is a red belt in Taekwon-Do. That made for some fun exercises! His conversion story was really cool. He said his dad was looking for a church, and they tried a bit in every one. He said when they went to the Mormon church, they really liked it, but that no one even said hi to them. There were six of them there in church, and no one even recognized that they were investigators. Fellowshipping and saying hi is so important! Luckily his mom turned out being a secret less active and they all got to church a few years later!
We had a member present lesson the other day and talked about fasting. When we asked for a testimony, the member admitted that she'd never fasted. It's interesting how many members don't know very well the doctrine - that you have to pay a fast offering, that it's generally 24 hours, or even that it's a commandment. And that's just for fasting. I love that invitation from Elder Ballard to study Preach My Gospel daily, even if it's just a little bit. The basics are SO important!
On that note, we talked to a lady that said that she only got baptized because her mom got baptized. It surprises me how many people here get baptized without ever having asked God in prayer if the church or the Book of Mormon is true. Again, going to PMG, I love the part in chapter 5 where it urges everyone to ask every once in a while, even if they've already received a testimony. I know that every time I've asked, God's answered me.
The bus ride to Frias (almost Catamarca) is really long. And the bus really stinks. Luckily, since I couldn't sleep, I had lots of time to read! I chugged through around 15 chapters of the Bible. There's a ton of great stuff in there! Especially in Spanish were the words are more common without losing the sense of antiquity - unlike English where there's quite a few words that I never realized that I don't understand. It's interesting that the rest of the world doesn't get that the Church of Jesus Christ is the same now as it was before...
We had a baptism! It was the fastest I've ever seen anyone get to baptism. His name is Oscar. Came to church with a friend, liked it, came again, we passed by, taught him a few times, and he got baptized. Kinda awesome!
The dumb part was the font. I'll have to send pictures later. They'd recently replaced some parts in the water tank for the chapel and the water came out black. We ended up changing to another chapel to do it. Even so, it all turned out very well, and the members all miraculously found a way to get there!
There was a stark contrast in church between the class of Priesthood and Gospel Principles. In priesthood, the teacher had not prepared. At all. We started talking about whatever. A couple of the things I learned is that in final judgment, the only thing God will ask us is if we loved our wives, and that Joseph Smith got baptized when he was 14 years old. It reminded me a lot of Cait's "What I learned in Sacrament Meeting." Then in Gospel Principles, it was great! They opened the class up to commentary, but had the topic very focused on the Holy Ghost. Something that a convert of a month said was this, "Something I never realized until today is what a privilege it is to have the posibility to seek the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. If it's a privilege just to SEEK it, how valuable it must be, and how blessed we are to be members of the church." How true it is! It's such a blessing to be a member of the church, and have all the blessings God gives us.
Well, until next week!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Santiago, May 26, 2014

Dear Family,

So I bought new insoles. There was no change. Today I figured out that I put them in upside-down. That could be part of the reason... Either way, I think I'm going to go resole my other shoes. Ah, but you have no idea how hard it is to find insoles here! I looked for more than an hour! The greatest part is that five minutes before P-Day ended, I found a place that sold insoles - and even though they didn't make the difference I hoped, it was still much more comfortable than my old ones. God loves me!
I realized how important it is to teach members this week. Since we almost don't eat with members in this area, we kinda stopped doing it. During exchanges (which we do basically every week), I realized the importance of it. We ate with the branch president. As we shared the scripture it came up that he wasn't doing his family night. We talked about the importance of doing it to show the example for the branch so that they might all follow his example and be strengthened. We also had the chance to share with quite a few recent converts this week. It's just so critical that as members we continue progressing and perfecting ourselves. After all, that's the point of the church, right? (Ephesians 4:12)
I always love talking about the little miracles. They're always fun! A less active fell through the other day, and we didn't have any more plans, so we decided to knock the door of the neighbor! That's always great. He received us well and has a great little family! God will always lead us.
I had a few great studies this week. One was on the importance of accepting correction, because it's just God showing his love for us! I also read about the importance of kneeling prayers, and being completely committed to follow through with what we promise and what we ask for. Then in church on Sunday I gave an impromptu class on chapter 10 in the JFS book. The topic? Scripture study! I loved the quote about reading at least 15 minutes per day. As President Smith said, it really isn't anything, but the blessings are huge!
We had an awesome day... Thursdayish. I think. A member came with us and brought his car. Missionary work in cars is really fun! We visited Estefanía, who's kinda just been there on the back burner since I got here. She's really great, always reading and praying, has a testimony and is going to church, but she's not married. Then when we went, she said that she'd talked to her husband and said,"Either one of us goes, or we get married," because she's not going to live in sin anymore. She's getting married! I love when people decide to get married! It's so great!!! We're planning her baptism for this week!
I filled up the last pages in my journal. It was somewhat of a sad day. Oh well. The new one I have is huge. Journal writing is a pain, but it's so worth it.
Haha! We talked to a guy that told us something to this effect - "Most people around here are Catholics, but recently there are some Mormons that have invaded and are going around here making all the women go around in skirts!" My comp and I were laughing so hard inside, but we never did get around to telling him that we were Mormons. He'll get it when he reads the pamphlet.
I spilled hot chocolate on my new tie and shirt just before going to church. It was sad. The greatest part is that with a little water, it came right out! Again with the little miracles.
I confirmed for the first time on Sunday. It was the first time in a long time I participated in an ordinance for the first time. It happened a ton in the beginning of my mission, but it's been months since I had that experience. It was really awesome!
I love all the lists in the church! We updated our ward directory and went to go visit people on Sunday. We found a family that had stopped going for all the other stuff that happens in life and just never got around to going back. They said that no one had visited them in that time, and when we invited them to come back, they accepted! It's always so great to have a reminder like that that there are people just waiting for an invitation to return!
Anyway, that was my week! Hope you all have a great one!