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 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!