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!