Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Adios hermanos

Osorno cathedral

Osorno cathedral

So I'm now writing on a very nice American laptop, inside of an American house.
Yeah, I went home for my back.

But I'm going to treat this email like any other.

For my last pday in the mission we had a barbecue. We make hamburgers, and I had my first can of root beer in the mission. You can only find it in Osorno.

In Chile the word for traffic is "taco."

In this last week I just chilled in the office and read a lot from Jesus the Christ. Elder Shobe, the mission financer asked me if I was bored. I told him I was REALLY bored, so he showed me to a massive stack of old important documents and a very ghetto paper shredder. So I passed my last week shredding paper for the Lord. Haha. 

Some of my first impressions from being back in the States is that all of the streets are SO wide, there is grass, and it is perfectly manicured. Just like an island resort. They have big stores here and there are no dogs in the streets. All of the cars drive without making loud noises and aren't falling apart. There is carpet, showers that aren't molding, and I don't have to duck to make it through door frames anymore. It has been pretty rough and frustrating having to speak English all of the time. It is so weird to hear everyone speaking it. 

I should be meeting with the doctors towards the end of June to find out what is wrong and the best way to help me out.

I have seen very many tender mercies this week:

-On my last day in the mission, we had a district council. I found out that Elder Jarman could sing tenor, and Hermana Tripp could sing alto, so we made a quick trio and sang Nearer My God to Thee in Spanish. It has been so long since I have sang like that with other people. It completely relaxed me and I felt so refreshed.

-In the office, Elder Germann, the AP, was printing off the new mission bookmark for the month. I saw the templates and there was a pretty cool one. He asked me if I wanted him to make me a special bookmark. I asked him to put Alma 8:15 on it. I found that scripture in my personal study Sunday morning. It gave me a lot of comfort. Elder Germann replaced Alma's name with mine to make the scripture say "Blessed art thou, Jacob; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou has great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from Him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you." That really touched me.

-The day that I received the going home call from Presidente Obeso, I was pretty depressed. Towards the end of the day, I hopped onto the office computer to print off a document that we were going to show to an investigator to help her come to church. I pulled up the church's web page, and the first thing I saw was a video link titled "A mission was supposed to be the greatest experience of my life." It's about a brother in the church who had to go home early for mental health problems. Once I realized the video was for early returning missionaries, I felt the Spirit wash over me along with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. It was no coincidence that the day I receive the going home call that that page hops onto the church's website. For me that was the Lord telling me "I see you. I know you. I love you."

-Driving home into our cul-de-sac, it was lined with yellow balloons. Sister Olson, a great neighbor, wanted me to feel welcomed home and loved even though I was returning early. It worked. I did feel very loved and I felt the support of the members. I was kind of worried about what the members might think of me for coming home, even though everything was out of my control and it wasn't for worthiness issues either. But all of the members have been so supportive and understanding. I have felt the Savior's love from all of them. That has been a tremendous blessing. 

Those are many of the tender mercies that I have seen throughout this week. 

I was with the comisario of the mission in Correos Chile (Chilean mail office) when he got a call from President Obeso. He told me that he had talked with the doctor in Santiago about if I could stay and get better in the office. The doctor said it would be impossible to heal unless I went home, plus the doctors in the States can provide me with better medical care. He wished me the best and told me I was an excellent missionary with strong desires to do the work. After the call, I was in shock. I remember staring out the window from Correos Chile in Osorno, and seeing people walking in the plaza and on the busy sidewalks, and my heart swelling for them. I love these people. The gospel can bless their lives. They need it.  

In my last cita in Chile, it was with a recent convert family. We started to re pass the lessons with them. We taught them the restoration. I wouldn't have wanted to end my mission in any other way- testifying of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I especially felt the Spirit strongly as Elder Haddad testified. He is a convert to the Church. I know he knows it, and when we testify with an actual personal conviction and testimony, the Spirit adds a spiritual power to our witness that can be felt. 
Me, Elder Haddad and our blind ward mission leader
For a missionary who is returning home for health related issues, one of the most difficult questions is to be asked is "Will you be returning?" Even though it is always asked with good intent and just an effort to make conversation, it is still very hard to hear. It is hard just because I don't know a lot of things, and I'm already feeling confused and emotionally distressed about the whole ordeal. Anyway, Elder Germann asked me with the best intent in the office "We'll see you back out here, right?" I answered "Well if the doctors clear me, and my stake president encourages it, and if I spiritually feel that it is the right thing to do, then...Man, I just don't want to leave it." And then I started crying. He gave me a big hug, and told me that he had a long talk with Elder Wertner, a missionary from my group who also went home just two weeks earlier for back problems. Elder Germann told me that he felt impressed to tell me the same thing that he told to Elder Wertner: "It will all be OK." It seemed to me like a normal thing to say, but in the days that followed I had many hard moments. That phrase came to my mind every time and gave me comfort. 

During my last personal study in the mission, I was reading in chapter four of Preach My Gospel. In that chapter there is a study box that has the question of "What should I do?" listed with scriptures to answer it. I looked up those scriptures while thinking about whether or not I should come back to the mission after I have recovered. The scriptures said that we receive answers to our questions as we study the scriptures, pray, and listen to the spirit. That all gave me a lot of comfort. I didn't need to worry about making that decision while in the mission, and God would help me make it at home through study, prayer, and the Spirit. 

I drove with the APs on Friday to the Puerto Montt airport. On the road to Puerto Montt you pass by three volcanoes. I could see the massive Osorno volcano looming in the distance, with the Calbuco volcano on its right, and a smaller and very pointy volcano to its left. Beautiful. The prettiest spot in the road is where you pass by a town called Llanquihue that is situated on the side of a beautiful lake with Volcan Osorno and Calbuco on the other side of the lake. I'm going to forever remember watching Volcan Osorno on that car ride. When we got to the airport, I boarded the plane right away. I was at the very back of the plane, left side, with a window seat. As the plane started to taxi on the run way, I was overcome with emotion and fought tears. I started a prayer. As the wheels lifted off of the runway I ended my prayer by saying "Que tu voluntad sea hecha." or "That thy will be done." I'm doing my best to put my trust in God's plan for me. 

All of my flights went very well. I flew from Puerto Montt to Santiago. While waiting in the Santiago airport a man walked up to me. He introduced himself, he said he was the first councilor in his branch, that he was a returned missionary, and that he had doughnuts for me. That was a miracle. With all of the craziness of traveling and getting to the airport late, I wasn't able to eat lunch. Later, a brother from Missouri started talking with me. He was in southern Chile for business. He served in the Dominican Republic, and had also been a stake president for 9 or 10 years. We shared mission stories and talked about the miracle of a mission and we both felt the Spirit very strongly. 

On my flight from Santiago, I sat next to two Argentinians. I again had the window seat so I was only able to talk to the wife. I had brought with me a Book of Mormon to place on my flights home. I prayed that God would bless me with an opportunity to share it with someone. This lady was nice. She offered me some chocolate, and then we started talking a bit. She was catholic, a mother of 7, and traveling to Miami for a vacation. I asked her if she liked to read. Once she said she did, I gave her a Book of Mormon. I explained what it is and a super brief outline of the Restoration. It went well. She was legit interested and asked questions. Then we talked about the roles that religion has played in our lives.

On my flight from Miami to Dallas, I met a kid from Venezuela who was travelling with his grandparents to Nebraska to visit family. We just talked and became friends. He was 19, and like any other 19 year old young man, totally noticed a very beautiful girl sitting across from us. He started talking about how she was super cute, and I felt uncomfortable so I just tried to talk about other things. And a good thing too, because a little bit after she started talking to us in Spanish. She was visiting family in Nebraska as well before she graduated next week. Her dad is half Mexican, so that is how she learned Spanish. I was able to talk to both her and the kid about how I was a missionary in Southern Chile and that is how I knew Spanish. After I talked to a cool kid and his mom who were coming back from a vacation in Florida before the kid went off to a Coast Guard academy. They told me about some Mormon friends they had, and I was able to explain what I had been doing in Chile. Great people. On that flight I sat next to a 22 year old Venezuelan who was an evangelical turned orthodox Jew. Yeah, that like never happens. We were both genuinely interested in each other’s beliefs, so we talked that whole flight and became way tight. We took a picture together, and I was able to grab his contact information to talk to him more a little bit later. Man! People in airports are honestly the most receptive people on the earth! 

Me and the Venezuelan that is an orthodox Jew

I started traveling Friday at 12 in the afternoon, and I got to Utah at 4 on Saturday. During it all, I had about 2 hours of garbage airplane sleep. I couldn't sleep because of my back pain and the super small airplane seats. Landing in Utah was awesome. I could see the Salt Lake City temple. The symbol of Zion! I'm not going to lie. Once I hopped off the plane, I was pretty nervous. I was scared to see my family, but I was pumped. I speed walked to meet them. Hugging my family has never felt better. They all said I smelled like airplane seats. 

At 5 pm I had my interview with the stake president. He read me a bit of a talk by President Packer called "The Least of These", where it quotes Doctrine and Covenants 117:12,13.. I felt the Spirit. He told me that my sacrifice will be made sacred, that I have served an honorable mission, and that the Lord is happy with me. He told me that the process to return requires 6 months at home before I can talk to the missionary department to go back out again. He emphasized that going back out or staying home was completely my decision and that it was between me and the Lord. He then released me. I took off my name tags as I walked out to the car with my parents. I felt so light. Like a mantle of responsibility had lifted. I felt like a normal person. 

The next day was Sunday. I had an interview with my bishop. He gave me great council. He told me two things that the Spirit drilled home to me. 1) I need to make a decision to go back out or stay home. I have done what was asked of me, and the Lord will respect my agency. I need to tell Him what my decision was and then ask for his blessing and confirmation of that decision and move on. 2) He told me that he felt impressed to tell me as a representative of Jesus Christ, as my bishop, and acting in the same way and saying the same things that Jesus Christ would say as if He were sitting across from the table with me, that I will lose no blessings that the Lord has is store for me if I chose to stay home. 

Throughout this whole process I have felt very calm and good about moving forward with my life, and that that is the right thing for me. On my walk home I felt so light. I prayed and told Heavenly Father that I decided to stay home, I thanked him for the growth and experiences I had, and asked for His blessing and confirmation of my decision.
That interview helped me a lot.

This morning, Tuesday morning, I went to the temple still with the question on my mind, and seeking a confirmation of that decision. While in the celestial room, I felt the Spirit confirm to me my decision. It is done. My mission is behind me. I am to move forward. The Lord is pleased with my service. I read Doctrine and Covenants 117:12,13 again. The Lord has accepted my sacrifice. And then verse 6 about how God holds the destinies of all the earth, and He holds mine. Then I read Doctrine and Covenants 100:12 which says "Therefore, continue your journey and let your hearts rejoice; for behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end." I know it is time for me to continue on with God's plan for me. I know that I need to move on. The hard part is just accepting that I'm not serving a 2 year mission, and that that is OK and the right thing for me.

I am so grateful for the blessing I had to serve a mission. It changed my life. I love the people of Chile. I love this Gospel. I know that God has a plan for each one of us. I Know He is a merciful Father. I know He only gives us what is going to bless us the most and make us the happiest person in the long run. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church that has the priesthood authority to perform saving ordinances. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he really did see Jesus Christ and God the Father in person. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and powerful testament of Jesus Christ. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's prophet today. I know that the Gospel blesses lives. And I am so grateful to have been a missionary. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Elder West

Monday, May 23, 2016

I'm probably going home

Hey! Right now I’m writing in a ciber (internet cafe) on the oldest computer in the world, hearing cheesy 80s music being played from the radio, and there is a dirty dog sitting 10 feet away from me barking. Yes it is just chilling in this ciber.

We have been working hard with the 4 hours I’ve had to work daily. In one day we contacted 5 references and received 2! That has never happened in my mission.

Elder Hobbs and I were calling at a door. No one was coming out. Elder Hobbs was petting their dog through the fence. Then I tried, and it chomped at my hand. Then he started petting it again. Then I tried, and it tried to eat my hand again. I’m not a dog person.

For my therapy they always do 3 things that don’t help. They give me electric shock therapy [electric stimulation therapy] on my back, they put hot pads on my back, and they put an electromagnetic machine on my back.

Yesterday, Elder Haddad and I went to the house of a woman he had taught once before. She lives in a very poor area. The house is just wood thrown together and freezing. The fog from the river and the smoke from all of the people’s fires make a very thick fog. The lady looked about 35 and lives with her husband who looks extremely old. I thought he was her dad. He smokes and drinks so much to the point that he got cancer and had to have the smoker’s hole in his neck [tracheotomy] so he can breathe. To cap the hole, he has something that looks like a film canister shoved in there. It wheezes. All of his breathing sounds labored. When he talks, it is just a wheezing sound. I felt short of breath just seeing him. He is completely dependent on her and has zero responsibility and is mentally handicapped because of the alcohol’s effect on his brain. Sad. We tried teaching the plan of salvation but the husband kept interrupting. We arrived at their house in the middle of a fight. And then a drunk friend of the husband showed up. We closed with a prayer and left. We’ll teach them in a better moment. That was one of the most weird and impactful citas I’ve ever had.

OK, now dealing with the subject title, "I’m probably going home."

On Friday I got a call from the AP. He told me I was having a sobre cambio (emergency transfer?) to Osorno, and that Elder Haddad would be my companion. Elder Haddad works in the office and is the mission secretary. Elder Ryan also trained him. We bussed down to Osorno Saturday evening. We went to the office. Elder Hobbs got a new comp who was in a trio in Chiloè. They went back to Valdivia. Bussing down, I was thinking why I would be going to be with Elder Haddad in the office if all of the office positions were already full. Then it hit me. I’m going home. I was uneasy the rest of that bus ride. I couldn’t nap. In Osorno, Presidente Obeso pulled me in for an interview and told me that one of the doctors in the church offices in Salt Lake City reviewed my MRI scan and said that I need to come home. He said that my back injury can only be healed with rest, and I can’t get adequate rest in the mission. He asked me how I felt about that. I started crying and told him that I didn’t want to go home, but if it was God’s will that I go home so I can get better and come back out I would be willing to go home. He told me he will talk to the doctor, and see if there is a chance that I can work in the office until I get better. I asked him when I will know for sure if I stay or if I go. He said we should probably know by Tuesday (tomorrow).

Afterwards, I went with Elder Haddad to our ward’s talent show. It was the best activity I’ve ever seen in Chile. It was amazing. This ward is amazing. They have the best bishop ever here in Overjerìa.

Later, I talked more with Elder Haddad. He said I’m probably going home because of how the cambios are working out. He was just with Elder Wertner, who also went home for back problems. He said we seem to be in the same boat.

That night, I couldn’t fall asleep just thinking about it all. Yesterday in church helped me out a ton. I felt the Spirit extremely strong as I took the sacrament. Also in priesthood meeting, a lot of things touched my heart. An hermano said something that helped me and it made me think: "God has a vision so much grander than mine. He’s only giving me what is going to make me the most happy and help me become the most like him."

I feel calm. I trust in God. Some scriptures that have helped me are 2 Timothy 1:7 and Doctrine and Covenants 68:6.

The night I received my sobre cambio call, we taught a recent convert in the ward of Martinez de Rosaz named Juan. He is amazing. We went to go over the plan of salvation with him. He told it to us perfectly, like as if he was a missionary. We were amazed. We invited his non-member wife to come and listen. She asked the question of what happens to kids who die, what happens to them when they die? We were able to show her Doctrine and Covenants 137:7-10 where it talks about that. What joy! I felt the Spirit. Then I felt the Spirit prompt me to ask them for a reference. They said their neighbor’s first grandchild was a stillborn child. That happened pretty recently. We took their address. It feels so great to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands.

Earlier in the week, I was reading Jesus the Christ. On page 519 and 520, it was narrating John 12: 27-36 and talking about Christ’s last week of life. He was in Jerusalem teaching, healing, shutting down all of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes’ attempts to trap him in his words. And he was thinking about the end of his life. He was weighed down with the thought of atoning for the sins of the world, suffering scourging, being betrayed and rejected, and being lifted up on the cross and crucified. He cried out to God in a prayer and asked for strength to follow along with God’s will. He finished his prayer saying, "God, may thine name be glorified." Then God’s voice came from heaven and all the multitude heard it. God said, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again." I felt the Spirit very strong. Christ was pleading for comfort, and God gave him the assurance that he could atone for the sins of the world. That he could do it. And that whatever happened, God’s name would be glorified. I felt that applies to me right now. I don’t know what is going to happen with me. I feel that I am going home. But I know that God is going to glorify his name with whatever happens. Whatever happens will be the best thing for me and for everything else, and it will only serve to move God’s work along. Only good things can result from this. I trust in God. I feel like that was something that was drilled into me from my time in the house, full of fear, and worry, and wondering if I’ll go home or not. I learned that I just need to trust God and that he has a perfect plan made for me. So I can just relax.

I share that with you Mom, Dad, and kids in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder West

Me, Hobbs, Garcia and Davis.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Be not afraid, only believe

This week has been great. I’ll start off by talking about my back.
I had a cita with the doctor this morning. The mission nurse traveled 2 hours from Osorno to give the zone shots, and she also came to this cita I had. The doctor told me that we are going to start doing physical therapy. I go every morning. This will happen for two weeks and then I’ll have another cita with the doctor. After, the mission nurse told me that the church’s doctor that supervises Chile had looked at my MRI, and if the results of my doctor appointment weren’t good, I would be going home. SO GLAD I’M NOT GOING HOME. I said many prayers of gratitude and had survivors shock for a while. I’m starting off by working 4 hours daily this week, 5 hours daily next, then 6 hours the next, until I’m better.
Last week we went to Hiper Lider. It is like a Walmart from the states. That was an amazing experience.
REAL soup cans that we saw in that big Líder.

I caught 2 flies with my hands this week. Hobbs is my witness.
Saturday, we did our first weekly planning as a companionship because we can now work. We ended with companionship inventory. That was the best inventory I’ve had in my mission. We are both really good friends. He is such a good missionary. Obedient. Happy. Working.
On Sunday, we had lunch with our ward mission leader. Afterwards, we shared a scripture, and he then showed us a ton of scriptures he has marked up. Then he told us he wanted to show us a knife. We said we had to go and asked if we could say a prayer. He insisted and we consented. Then he whipped out a sick EAGLE TALON KNIFE. The handle was literally an eagle claw.
During personal study, I flipped to Exodus 4:10-12. As I was reading, it talked about Moses and how he was worried about his speech, because he was of a slow mouth. He didn’t feel capable enough. Then the Lord told him, He made man’s mouth and makes the dumb and the blind. Halfway through my reading of this scripture in Spanish, I remembered that this scripture comforted me with all of my "Will I ever learn Spanish?" worries before the mission. And I just read that very scripture in Spanish and understood it. A miracle. I then thought about other times in my life where I was scared, and it all turned out well in the end. I realized this applies to my present situation with my back. That comforted me.
Also before my cita with the doctor this morning, I was feeling pretty up tight. I was anxious about what was going to happen. We got there 20 minutes early, and the gates weren’t open yet. So we stood by the river bank enshrouded in fog. I started to sing Jesus the Very Thought of Thee and Master the Tempest is Raging to myself to calm down. As I sang quietly to myself in the fog, the Spirit comforted me. Everything shall obey God’s will, so peace be still. And the 3rd verse of Jesus the Very Thought of Thee comforted me a lot as well. I’m only doing my best, and Jesus looks kindly upon my efforts. A tender mercy. I felt at peace afterwards and ready to face the uncertain future from that doctor’s appointment.
In my personal study this week, several scriptures have helped me a lot.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:2; Doctrine and Covenants 98:3; and Mark 5:36
An hermana in our ward learned about my back and was very kind to me and asked me questions. She was legitimately concerned for me. She came up to us just before sacrament meeting on Sunday with a jar of jam in her hands. She made it for us. She wished me well. During the sacrament, I was pondering on how I’ve seen Lord's hand in my life. I thought back to that experience. I felt so loved and cared for. I felt important. I felt that someone was thinking of me, and served me. I felt God’s love through that hermana. Receiving that jar of jam was like God saying to me, "I see you. I know you. Don’t be afraid."
During the week, we went to the church to prepare for a church activity. That morning, the mission nurse told me she would be coming to my cita with the doctor. That stressed me out because all of a sudden, that cita was a big deal. I was worried. Sitting in the chapel, as others were setting things up, I bowed my head in prayer and told God how I was feeling. The words came to my mind, "Jacob, do you trust me?" I said "Yes, I trust thee." Then the words came, “Then don’t fear." Accompanied with an overwhelming feeling of love. God has been nothing but merciful to me. He comforts us. He doesn’t want us to fear.
On Saturday, I asked Elder Hobbs to give me a blessing of comfort for the upcoming doctor’s cita. In it, he told me that whatever the results of the cita were, I could be at peace, because it would be God’s will. And whatever the outcome was, God knows me and he knows I will try my best. He doesn’t want me to fear.
Wow. Just writing this letter, I’m realizing how much help and comfort God has given me. I guess I just want you guys to know that I know that we don’t need to fear. God has a perfect plan for us. He loves us. I’m so grateful for Him. He is merciful.
Thanks for helping me through this time Mom, Dad, and kids. I love you all so much.

Elder West

My view of our big screen TV J

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Still on house rest

Happy birthday Melissa! Happy mother’s day Mom (again)!
Video call, on Mother's Day, from a kind member's house in Valdivia
This week we had another division with Los Encinos. I was with Elder Smith again. We were looking through a Liahona and saw a pre baptismal service picture in Africa. There was a group of about 20 people all dressed in white. Standing with them were just 2 elders. JUST TWO. Haha. Elder Smith said "Wow, they probably had a line." Then thinking a little more, "They had a line." Then raising his voice, "They had a line!"  That made me laugh pretty hard. I know we can still baptize here, and that we are called to specific missions for specific reasons. But it was still funny.

I’m so sick of chess. We play it a lot, and Elder Hobbs massacres me EVERY TIME. I’m on a 8 game losing streak.

We made 2 foot long completos with Elder Smith and Elder Salazar.

We made brownies for the whole zone.

At that once (dinner) we had last night, I ate raw meat. It was a slice of bread, with raw ground beef spread over it, a little bit of lemon juice, diced red onion, and a mayonnaise cilantro sauce. It was alright. That night, I had diarrhea. That’s the weirdest thing I’ve eaten in Chile. They told us it was a German food.

Yesterday, we gave talks in church. Elder Hobbs spoke on doing missionary work as members. I spoke on how we can bear the burden of our responsibilities as we remember the Lord (1 Nephi 21:14-16), don’t fear (Doctrine and Covenants 6:32-37), and turn to the Lord in prayer (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63). I just told personal experiences from my mission to explain the point. The Spirit was poured out, and it seemed to strike well with the members. They all talked about it in the following classes. After the sacrament meeting had ended, an hermana in the ward came up to me and shook my hand. She told me, "Thank you Elder West for your message. It is what I needed." Then, joy poured through me. I was so happy. Bliss. Those are the moments you live for on the mission. I had blessed someone’s life and had been an answer to someone’s prayers. A miracle.

As I knelt by my bedside to end the day in prayer, I was thinking again about my back. I had the faith to be healed. I know God can heal me. I want to be healed, and it would be for a good purpose, too. But then the Spirit brought to my mind the thought, "But Jacob, do you have the faith to NOT be healed?" Or in other words, "Do you have the faith to follow God’s will and plan for you, if that includes a recovery that isn’t immediate?" A teaching moment for me.

Saturday, I was studying the stories of the people of Limhi and the people of Alma (Mosiah chapters 21-24). They were both in slavery. But one group was righteous and the other group was wicked. They both drew closer to God, and God freed them both. I was thinking about the people of Alma. They had done nothing wrong to deserve slavery. They were building up a city to God. They were growing and progressing. But then they were put under the bondage of slavery, and given a death sentence if they were caught praying. Why would God let that happen to a righteous people? Then the Spirit helped me see the application of this story to my own life. The people of Alma probably felt that they weren’t progressing because they were in slavery (house rest). But they really were a whole lot (in learning how to deal with stress and growing spiritually). That helped me a lot.

A few days earlier, I was pretty bummed out and feeling useless because I wasn’t able to work. I felt responsible for being in the house. I felt guilty for it. Because if I had just dealt better with things, I wouldn’t have ended up having this back pain. I talked with Elder Hobbs, and he was guided by the Spirit in what he told me: God’s perfect plan for me will be carried out. Whatever happens, it happens for a reason. God’s plan will be carried out. The only thing that I can do is be righteous. If I’m being righteous and everything is bad, crazy, etc., then that is perfectly how it should be. Am I being obedient? Yes. Then there is nothing else I can do. Just wait on the Lord. I only need to worry if I’m sinning. Being in the house is part of God’s plan for me. I’m worthy, so it is all working out right. With weaknesses, we try. If you aren’t trying, that is wrong and we should feel bad. We should feel bad if we sit there and do nothing. But if we are trying then we shouldn’t feel bad.
That all helped me a ton!

He was also telling me about something he read in the book Our Heritage. It was about George Albert Smith. He was bed-ridden and terribly sick. He had been fighting an illness for years. He felt frustrated. Then one night, he had a dream and his grandpa asked him if he had done anything that would dishonor his name. George looked over his life and realizing that he hadn’t done anything to merit shame for his grandpa’s name he proudly told him that he had not. After the dream, he felt very happy. He hadn’t done anything wrong so he shouldn’t feel bad. Then a few weeks later, he beat the illness. It feel good. I hadn’t done anything wrong, so I shouldn’t feel bad about being in the house.

God is guiding and teaching me. He is so merciful (Doctrine and Covenants 112:10).

Elder West

This is one of the millions of slugs that infest our house. It is in the sink.
This store is appropriately named.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Getting better

Thanks for all of your fasts and prayers for my back. It is getting better. I feel good. Hermana Obeso reads radiographs and she looked at mine. She said it all looks healthy. The zone also had interviews with Presidente Obeso. Anyway, we know that this all went down with my back because of the weight of the backpack (which was normal, the same amount of weight all of the other missionaries use), not the best posture, and a whole lot of stress. Presidente just talked to me about stress. He just helped me with that. The muscles of my back were, ugh, I don’t know how to say this in English, like flexed a lot? Because of stress. And so that put strain on my back. So Presidente basically told me my special assignment right now is to just chill out and enjoy life to the maximum. Sounds great to me!

I just want to over emphasize how OK I am. My back is getting better.

The hermanas in my district made me a banner with a kind note on it and Mosiah 24: 12-17. It is something so small. But it helped me so much. I just felt loved by my Father in heaven, so grateful for the kind gesture. Wow, that meant so much! Ministering angels are people too.

Our zone leaders are literally our next door neighbors. There is just concrete wall that separates us so we chat all the time. Haha. Elder Davis has some primary songs that are mixed up and sound pretty gangster. It makes me laugh so hard. We had divisions with our zone leaders (Elders Davis and Garcia) and district leader (Elder Smith and Elder Salazar) this week.

This week, Elder Hobbs cut my hair. This time, I followed the cutting length suggestions on the box and they were way short. So that scared me to death when he took a picture of my hair and showed me.

I’m now 10 months old in the mission. Woot, woot.

So before I start talking more about my back, I want you all to chill out. It is all good. But I imagine we have shared a lot of the same thoughts. At the beginning of this week, my back hurt a lot (it is improving a lot!), and I was thinking about if I would have to go home. I was bummed out hardcore. I read Doctrine and Covenants 6:32-37. As I read, the Spirit punched home the phrases "no temáis, no tengáis miedo, y no temáis." "Don’t fear, don’t be afraid, don’t fear." God wants me to be at peace. Everything is part of His plan, and all will be well. Hearing the lyrics to I Know That My Redeemer Lives comforted me too.

With all of the time I have been in the house, and reading Jesus the Christ, it has been totally awesome. Yesterday I bore my testimony in church. Now as I talk about Christ or read about Him in the scriptures, I feel a deeper relationship with Him. Like I know Him as a person. My testimony has been growing.

To help cope with stress better, I started a study and told God that I was going to make a plan to help. I told Him that I was thinking of praying or reciting a scripture or singing a hymn to help. Then the Spirit reminded me of an activity I saw in the Adjusting to Missionary Life book that would help. It was a testimony to see God is helping me in my plans.

Yesterday in fast and testimony meeting, Elder Hobbs also bore his testimony. He said that if we are feeling discouraged, angry, hopeless, frustrated, or anything else, we just have to do the things to that will help us feel the love of God. I felt the Spirit very strong because I have been frustrated with my own weaknesses. I thanked him after.

Elder West

A micro

Monday, April 25, 2016

Let the house rest begin

So here are the details about my back and what happened with the cambio. 

Cambio: Presidente Obeso made some changes. I did not go to Punta Arenas. I went to a neighboring sector- Martines de Rosas. Like literally the neighboring sector. I walked to it. It is in the same district as my last sector (Los Encinos). 

My back: I am on rest. That means I don’t leave to work for 30 days. I have permission to go to church, meetings, and scheduled appointments. We basically never leave the house. I normally don’t even go to scheduled appointments because my back hurts really bad after walking. After going to church, my back hurt from the walk. I can’t walk or stand for extended periods of time. I’m not doing exercises. I’m not chopping wood. But I can walk around the house just fine and without really any pain. I can always feel my back. But it only really hurts after walking or standing for more than a little bit. This week my back has gotten worse. Haha. I totally feel like Betty White in that Snickers "You’re not you when you’re hungry "commercial. "My baaaaaaack hurts!" And then she gets tackled. Hahaha

To pass the time, I’ve basically been gratifying all of my disobedient missionary desires I’ve ever had. For example: after lunch naps, studying Spanish for longer than I’m supposed to, and watching movies (mission approved of course). But we are going crazy. We are also making a division calendar with the members and other missionaries in our district so Elder Hobbs can work in our sector.

Movies we have watched: God’s Army, The Other Side of Heaven, Legacy, The Saratov Approach, The Work and the Glory 1, 2, and 3. 

I’ve also been able to cook a lot: frog eye salad, brownies, scones (twice), sloppy joes, cookies, muffins, chicken noodle soup, chicken Alfredo pizza and normal pizza. And we have also boiled chestnuts with sugar (that’s a thing in Chile). 

Last pday we watched the sea lions on the river side, made a pichanga as a zone. Today we had Elders Griffin and Camargo from Paillaco come over. Elder Griffin and I got our calls in the same week while at Lone Peak. We took the same AP psychology class. So it is way fun to jut chill with him. We made pizza and scones. 

My new zone leader that replaced Elder Ryan is Elder Davis. I spent my first day in the mission with him.

I’ve made some goals for the time I’ll be in the house. I’m going to read Jesus the Christ all the way through. I’m reading 22 pages a day. I’m also studying an hour of Spanish every day and memorizing 30 words daily. 

I absolutely love my new companion. He is from the group that arrived right after me. His name is Elder Hobbs. He is from Taylor, Utah. Tyler Anderson is serving in Hooper. My comp’s grandparents live in Hooper. Cool connection. My companion went to Roy High School, and played football and basketball. He has a scholarship to play as a receiver for Dixie after his mission. He is super fun. We get along great. 

The former mission nurse just ended her mission. She was serving in the same ward as I was. When she heard about my medical rest, she told me not to be down. She said a lot of times when missionaries have rest like that, they feel disobedient and want to work really bad. She said right now, obedience for me is resting so I can work later on. That has helped me a lot. Because when I got the news from the doctor on Monday about the rest, I was pretty depressed the rest of the day. I felt worthless. Especially because I didn’t go to the office where I could do something even as a "broken" missionary. But I’m good now. I’m growing still. That advice from Hna. Laguna was a tender mercy. 

On the day of Cambios, Elder Ryan was feeling sick. He had thrown up all of the night before. He asked me for a blessing. I’m so grateful for the priesthood. I felt the power of the priesthood in that blessing. 

While watching The Other Side of Heaven this week. A part hit me. Feki was talking about how the missionaries taught his drunk dad and he turned around. Feki then thanked the missionaries for their sacrifice for leaving their families and traveling a huge distance to teach his dad. The missionaries than told Feki that their sacrifice was small, and that there were other missionaries who were injured, or persecuted, or living in worse circumstances. I felt the Spirit. I felt included for a minute with that "other missionaries" group. I have walked until I can’t. Like, literally. Because now I am in the house. I have walked until I’ve had back problems. I felt good.

This week, I found some scriptures that have helped me. Doctrine and Covenants 61:36; Isaiah 41:10; and 1 Nephi 21:14-16.

I have had a lot of time to think this week. I was thinking about how we grow by grace to grace as we have faith and humility. I feel like I have humility. But the faith had me thinking. I could have more faith that the atonement can help me with MY weaknesses. I felt distanced a bit from the enabling power of the atonement. Like could it help me with MY weaknesses? I read in Jesus the Christ how Christ healed multitudes of people. And I thought that if I could only be in those multitudes, He could heal me. I would see Him face to face, and He could help me. Then I remembered how Christ healed a man’s son. The man asked him to heal his son who was hours away, and Christ said his son would be healed without even going to him. And it happened just like that. He also healed a Roman gentile centurion’s servant with just His word. He healed him from a distance. And here I was feeling a bit distanced from the atonement. And the Spirit taught me that I don’t need to be in direct contact with Christ to receive His healing. He loves those in the multitude just as much as those who are in a house in southern Chile.  Christ can heal me from a distance, just as if I were there in the multitude.

Elder West

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Tube

I’ll start with the less spiritual, move onto the medium spiritual, and then end with the actually spiritual.
Less spiritual: It rains a ton here. It rained for 3 days straight this week. 
Foggy morning
Our shower is fixed so we now don’t shower in the sink. #blessings. This week, I cooked onion rings and Dutch cookies. Super good. There is a plant that everyone and their dog have that is used to make an herbal tea. While we are tracting, I always snatch a bit off and then make a great tea for the night time. I met a dog this week. It is a mix between a wiener dog and something else. We became friends. This dog has huge ears and bugsy eyes and is super funny. It reminds me a lot of Dobby from Harry Potter. So I named it Dobby.

I received cambios. I will become senior companion in Punta Arenas. But that might not happen because of what the doctor told me this morning. I had a radiograph [MRI] this week (see later on in the letter), and he told me the marrow in my spine is inflaming from overuse and carrying too much weight. He said I need to rest for 30 days. If I don’t the bone marrow will continue to swell and my spine from overuse will start to have fractures. Wow. Snap!
There a lot of English words that people use here in Chile. Whenever I hear them they make me laugh:
-pat time  -nuevo loook  -cofie brek  -brek   -stahnd bi  -inovaytion tat exsites
-beh beh chower -vul time  -and a whole bunch of other funny words.
Riding the micros here is straight up nuts. They drive so fast. iI call it public transportation that resembles more of a blender. If you’re standing, you get thrown onto other people, you levitate on turns. They always are break checking everyone and doing jerky accelerations. You just have to hold onto for dear life. It reminds me of pretending I was surfing as a little kid when I stood up in our van when we went over curbs.
Medium spiritual: On Monday, we ran into the elders from the other sector. That was a miracle because we didn’t have any way to contact them to send them the golden reference we had (the guy who went to church last week), and we had made a cita with him for the next day. The Lord put the elders in our path and the guy is being taught right now.
Another contact we made came to church! I taught a kid in an internet cafe about what happens after this life while my companion checked the computer for references. We taught a college student. He accepted a baptismal date!! After the first vision lesson, we asked him if he had any questions and he said, "No, I don’t. But that (first vision) is so beautiful!"
The hermanas in our ward reactivated a family. Our ward mission leader said that it is the same as a baptism because you helped someone renew their baptismal covenants. That hit me hard.
I’ve been studying grace a lot this week. I’ve learned that the end goal of this life isn’t perfection, but rather improvement. Salvation can’t be bought by obedience. We don’t give up trying. We try our best out of our love for God. And living the gospel faithfully is not a burden.  That has helped me out a lot this week.
Spiritual stuff: This week, I fasted for God’s will to happen for the cambios. I fasted that if it would be according to his will, that I could stay in this area. That was a massive leap of faith. It was scary. But I have felt God’s hand throughout this whole cambio. That is why I love writing you guys every week because it gives me an opportunity to reflect and see that God is totally guiding everything and that this is totally His work.
One day after lunch, I was doing the dishes. I was pretty ticked and frustrated with some things. After I went into my room to blow off some steam. I was going to write how I was feeling down onto paper because that has helped me before. But I felt I shouldn’t, rather instead read Jesus the Christ. So I started to read, but I couldn’t focus. I kept trying to read and trying to read, fighting the feeling to pray. I finally knelt down at the side of my bed and poured my heart out to God. Afterwards, I felt the Spirt. I felt love.  I felt at peace. From this I learned that the Spirit will guide us in small ways from step to step until we are ready to do what we need to in the end (in my case it was prayer). I also learned that prayer is a COMMUNICATION WITH GOD. Do you realize that??? You are talking with God! Nothing in between the two of you. We can communicate and talk to the most powerful being in the universe. The best father. The perfect counselor!
This cambio has been probably been one of the hardest of my mission. But I have grown like never before. My conversion has deepened, I’ve learned the power of kneeling down and turning to God in prayer, patience, and charity. I feel more independent spiritually and emotionally. I feel I have become a man in this cambio. And I’m always growing in becoming a man of God.
The tube. So I went to the hospital for a radiograph [MRI].  It is basically a giant tube. I thought they only used it on cancer patients, and I’ve only seen it on TV. Imagine a giant Twinkie without the frosting, and Elder West is the frosting. They laid me down on a bed and slid me into the Twinkie (tube). I’m not a claustrophobic person, but this was a whole another story. The ceiling was about 4 inches from my face, and it progressively heated up. It was stuffy in there. They designed the thing to blow cool air on your face so you wouldn’t feel so claustrophobic. But I’m taller than the average Chilean so the air was blowing on my chest. The tube is in a separate room with a massive bank safe looking door. How it checks me out is by using sound blasts. I had to wear headphones to dull the sound. They sound blasts started. At first I laughed because it sounded like really bad dubstep. But after a while, it became more like a Chinese water torture. I was in there for 20 minutes.
I was hot, uncomfortable, with back pain, claustrophobic, and a little bit distressed. They slid me out. Then they told me that they were going to inject me with a liquid so they could see the results more clearly. "Oh crud, now I’m going to get stabbed." I lay there as the inserted the needle into my vein. Just like an IV. Then they slid me into the claustrophobic Twinkie, shut the bank safe door, and started the bad dubstep again. I was pretty wound up. So I started so sing "Jesus the Very Thought of Thee" to myself to calm me down. And it calmed me down as my thoughts turned towards the Savior.
And then I felt the Spirit very strong as I thought how Jesus must have had a lot of back pain after carrying the cross to Golgotha’s hill. How He was very hot from the walk. How He had laid down on the cross. How He must felt panic when He heard he was going to get an IV, or rather, nails put through his hands and wrists and feet. How He must have been very uncomfortable as they slid him into the tube again, or rather, lifted Him up on the cross. But Jesus was calm. And that helped me be calm. Christ had been there before, and He was there with me. I feel so grateful for my Savior.

Elder West

1 Corinthians 15:10

After the tube [MRI]