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