Monday, November 30, 2015

Week 22 - Puerto Cisnes ends

My time in Puerto Cisnes is over now. This week we saw dolphins, a wild piglet, and found a dead armadillo hanging up by someone’s door.

Dogs: in Cisnes there is a dog with a messed up eye. It can only see through the other so it walks around with its head sideways. Reminds me of the joker. Another dog is super fluffy and fat and looks like a pig. Puerto Cisnes reminds me a lot of that little village in Walter Mitty where he meets that big drunk guy in a bar.
I gave a talk in church. Next week the zone flies to Puerto Montt to listen to Elder Teixeira speak. We will find out transfers this Sunday.
Mom and Dad, prep yourselves to skype for Christmas. Yyyyyeeeeaaahhhhh!
A lot of people here think I’m German because I’m tall and blonde. Because I’m a gringo a lot of people, as we passed by, would say "hello hello" and then slap and tickle each other and think that they are hot stuff. I don’t think it is funny. We also had little kids screaming profanity from the States at us as we passed by. It was super bad and super funny at the same time.
We found a super prepared guy but he travels a lot. Missionaries will get him down the road.
The guy that has us cut his grass with a machete (super old and humble and funny) told us that some people explained to him that we are false prophets, but he straight up told them they were wrong. I don’t know why but that really got under my skin. I then gut the grass with my machete in hand with more vigor.

On Saturday we bought bread and cheese and chilled on the beach as we ate dinner. The waves, sky and boats really relaxed me. Then a mom and her daughter sat 75 feet away and texted and drank beer together. Weird. Two dogs joined the party.
For thanksgiving we bought some chicken and cooked it in water, oil, salt, and barbeque sauce that Elder Harris had. Suuuuper Goood. We also had instant mashed potatoes. We bought those the day before and talked to the store owner. He had shared before with missionaries a lot. We set up a return appointment.

Rejection: we heard one couple fighting inside their house about who would answer the door and tell us to leave.  Of our 12 citas [appointments] that we made from contacts this week, 11 of them fell through. A lady we found and taught the restoration to told us as we came for our second appointment that she doesn’t like our religion because the Book of Mormon. I shared my testimony of the Book of Mormon with her and then we left. Frustrating. An investigator we had with a baptismal date is moving and he will leave with his girlfriend (sister of the elders quorum president), he told us he is not going to change.
These are the things of the mission that tear you apart. We have been giving lots of people their agency. It just motivates me to use mine better.
By the time I had 4 days in Cisnes, it felt like I had knocked every door. Yesterday, I did a contact. It was with a guy’s wife who had already rejected us hard. She was more open, but her phone went off and she answered it. Her 2 kids were with her. Then her husband came out. I started talking with him again. I was just trying to be obedient. I was just trying to help him because he doesn’t know what he is missing. He told me to leave. To go away. That he had already told us no before and he just wants to be left in peace. He told us to never come back. Then he left with his family. He did it with such venom; like I was a burden in his life; like he was so irritated with what I was doing; for talking to him. We went to branch council. As I was seated down, I noted in my planner that he was contact number four. Then I saw on the page before, written on the top "Dad’s birthday." Then I lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. Here I am, truly treated by many people as "a hiss and a byword", as a grievance to the people. And I’m just trying to obedient, to help the people and show my love for Heavenly Father. I went in the bathroom and collapsed to my knees and prayed for the man and his family through my tears because that is what Jesus would have me do. I loved that man. I want to help him. Missions are hard.
Then there are good people. We taught a man named Nicholas. He is in a wheel chair. He is willing to be baptized but will leave before Christmas. A legitimately good man.
Missions are so hard. But I am growing so much.

Elder West

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Week 21

Hey. Super stressed out because I just had a very difficult conversation with this librarian here in Puerto Cisnes to get a password or something. Took a while; choppy communication. Haha.

OK. Puerto Cisnes RAINS. It just dumps it here. Yesterday was the first day without rain. Everything in my backpack got soaked. We use shopping bags to wrap our scriptures in and such. Crazy. My first day here I was walking with shoes full of water. And then I found out because my feet have been so wet that I have foot fungus. Looks like athletes foot. I’ve been using a cream and it is leaving. Phew.

The members here are GOLDEN. So close knit. There are about 30 that come to church. We taught the second hour class.

Here, the dogs eat rocks. They like it when we kick rocks to them. They chase them and then chew them. More with dogs: we found dog poop in our house, and after a thorough search, we didn't find any dogs.

The other day I totally cut a guys "grass" (more like a jungle forest floor) with a machete, and then we chopped his wood. The Lord is making me a man out here.
For some weird reason, I’ve seen a lot of people here with dinosaurs in their windows; like the little toy kind.

Cisnes is tiny, and so is our investigator pool right now. We are working hard with lots of contacts. The people here don’t have a problem letting me know that they would rather not. But my contacts are improving so much. I’ve made contact plans, so I actually have something to say. It is going well. But here are the weird contact stories of the week:
-One guy wouldn’t talk. We used our hands and signs. Reminded me a lot of that part in Walter Mitty when they are just doing a lot of pointing to communicate and all you can hear are their coats squeaking. We just left him with a pass along card. He had a backpack full of kelp from the beach. Weird.
-Another guy was pretty shafty. As I was asking him if he knew anyone else we could visit, he lost his patience and slammed the door and we hear him yell, “Chao no más!", which I guess translates in this situation to "forget you" or something more mean.
-We talked to a sailor. He was cussing like one too.
-A drunk guy called us swearwords as we walked past his house.
-A lot of people just shake their fingers like "nuh-uh" and we laugh because it looks like they’re a sassy lady trying to be like Beyonce or something.
-During a Chile soccer game against Uruguay, no one was answering their doors. We were calling "ahloo" at an investigators house so we could make a cita, and they weren’t answering. So I tried the Chile soccer cheer. I yelled "chi chi chi" but no one responded with the "le le le." We left.
-One house was playing the drums. They weren’t answering, so I drummed on their door and they still didn’t answer. Fun though.
While we were waiting for a door to answer, Elder Harris was leaning against the hand rail. The wood was so rotted that it broke, and he fell onto the grass. Super funny. He reminds me a lot of my cousin Christian, just with the way he laughs and jokes around. So that is a tender mercy. We laugh a lot about the contacts we do. Also I cut his hair this morning. After, he tried to trim his eyebrows with the hair cutter. He comes up the stairs and looks at me on the bed, and he is like "Elder West, I just shaved off my eyebrows." HAHAHAHA; I died laughing for about 5 minutes. I guess he tried it out a little bit, went too far, and then had to finish the deed. Super funny. He has also been with Latino companions his whole mission. So when we read the mission manual together in companionship study, he has a Spanish accent. And that gets me every time, too.
This one drunk guy let us into his house. He had a buddy there who was suuuuper tipsy with his wine. We sat down. The guy served us sopaipillas. He was talking about anything and everything, and the whole time he would pour some wine, drink, talk, drink, talk. After a bit he was pretty loose. He showed us pics of his family. One was of him surrounded by a crowd of 50 people after he had just split a huge knotted tree trunk in a wood cutting competition. His lips were puckered out and everyone was like "oooohhhhhh." Super funny. Then we saw in another picture that he had that he had an accordion. I asked him if he played. Before we knew it, he was playing the accordion for us and singing. We started clapping, stomping our feet, and providing backup vocals. Meanwhile, his drunken Argentine friend would change from clapping, to doing the robot, to merengue dancing, to chopping the table. Then he would repeat. We had a rolling time. Haven´t laughed so hard in a while. God is blessing me with these funny experiences.

We stopped one lady’s house to invite her to church. It didn't go well. We were testifying and sharing scriptures. But she was denying every effort. It was sad to see her deny the Spirit. She wouldn’t pray either. We went home sad that day. Then she came to church the next day. So that didn’t make much sense. But it ended up well.

But the best experience of the week came in one of my scripture studies. This week my mind has been at home a lot because Great-grandma West died. I was so concerned with my family; if they were comforted; how they were feeling; how my other family, who aren’t members of the Church, would take her death. I was super concerned. Stressed. I had two dreams where other siblings died. And the new sector stress was humbling me too. I prayed hard, and God answered. I followed the advice in Alma 37:37. I counseled with the Lord in all my doings. I knelt and let Him know exactly how I was feeling. I felt like I just needed to keep working and have patience. In my scripture study, I was reminded of the promise in Doctrine and Covenants 31:5 where it says if I work hard as a missionary, my family will live. The Spirit comforted me that the Lord is holding my family in his hands. Tender mercy. God gives us comfort according to our needs.

I love you all.

Elder West

Monday, November 16, 2015

Week 20. Me voy a Cisnes!

This week...
Every day at noon the bomberos (firefighters) sound an alarm. Sounds like we are about to get bombed.
For my birthday Elder Watson made me a Mickey Mouse pancake (cute), and Elder Lawton bought me a pan con chicharron. I bought two berlins [jelly filled donuts] and we ate them at lunch. Then we knocked doors all day! But it was a really good day, and I enjoyed it a lot. Forgot my camera so next week = double pics!
This week we needed to buy more gas. They sell them in metal containers and you call for them. I called for like my second time, and I was leaning on Elder Watson and Elder Godoy for the vocab because I don’t speak Chilean gas company Spanish. They were giggling with every word I said. Then after the call they exploded laughing. I basically told the guy on the phone that "we need a 15 kg balloon of gas right now you slave." Haha, love those clowns.
There was this one door contact that lasted for like 20 minutes and he was going on and on about everything anti-American. He said we are super racist. He said he is brown, Elder Lawton is white, and then he called me yellow. Haha. He was short, fat, and super animated with every gesture. Then he talked about Barack Obama, and I lost it. I turned around and laughed so hard. The guy kept talking to Elder Lawton while I fought to not laugh. That made my day.
Elder Lawton and I were at a gate and calling for someone in the house *aaloh. No one came. But there was a big dog in our face. We started talking to the dog in Spanish. It went like this: "Hey, how is your day?" Bark. "Bad? We are sorry." Bark "Is there anything we can do for you?" And then the dog ran away from us. We both said at the same time "Have a good day." It was super funny because we had been getting shafted all day long, and the dog contact went just like every other human contact.
We had one contact where I understood about 5%. Then I was talking two days later with Jose for about an hour in Spanish. I’m living a bilingual paradox. Elder Lawton said the guys were speaking weird and it was even hard for him to understand them so that made me feel better. I’m basically fluent, woot woot. The Lord totally has calmed my fears looking back on my pre mission language fears.
We talked to a 96 year old woman who was pulling nails out of wood and picking up garbage. Wow.
The district mission leader spoke to us at zone meeting. He switched the labels of a can of tuna and a can of strawberry and had two missionaries pick which one they wanted to drink. They were fooled. Then he compared that to his mission. He said that the truly sweet results are found in what first appears to be hard work (tuna). It was powerful.
After interviews with President last week, the zone leaders told me I will be having a two week intercambio [companion exchange] in Puerto Cisnes. My bus leaves in like an hour, so I gotta be pronto. But Puerto Cisnes is beautiful, and tiny tiny. The work there is HARD and it is easy to get disanimated. President said that Cisnes needs an Elder West. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve with all the enthusiasm I can muster in Cisnes. It’s a four hour bus ride. There are like 2,000 people there.

One guy stopped us on the street and told us he wants to feel closer to God. We have a cita with him this week. Another guy with 15 years [15 year old] told us in a lesson that he wants to be on the right path because his family isn’t religious. We are finding a lot of prepared people here.
One day I felt like we needed to pass by the house of some former investigators. On the way we ran into a recent convert who we found the other day. (I felt like we should knock the house and we did and we found her.) She has 4 months in the church and just moved from Concepcion. She told us when we ran into her again that she moved more into lower Coyhaique. She will now be with the hermanas. It is cool to see how the Lord guides. He didn’t want that sister to slip through the system and not be back at church.
The other day I was organizing our area book and I saw all the people we have taught here and all the new people we have found. I saw the fruits of our labors. It felt good. We are growing this part of the vineyard.
We passed by the house of Hermana J. to pick up our lunch. I shared Mosiah 2:17 with her to thank her, and she had tears in her eyes. It was so tender to see that the Lord communicated to this hermana through me (a complete rookie) something that needed to touch her heart. I’m so grateful to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands.
I heard that Great-grandma West died. I cried. I love her. Mosiah 16:1-7 talks all about the bad things that would be if there was no Christ. I LOVE verse 8 because Abinadi totally lays his testimony out on the table. Verse 8 begins with "But" and in the following verses he testifies of Jesus Christ. I know we will see Great-grandma West again. Moroni 9:25-26. I am praying for you guys.
This week we have tried so hard to do all we can to leave the house on time. As we have, looking back I realized that as we have been more and more obedient, the more I am enjoying the work. I love obedience. It only brings happiness.

Elder West

A picture of Puerto Cisnes from a travel website (

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Week 19 - Toes, blessings, and hot

Thanks for all the birthday wishes.
This week has been HOT. Like I mean leaving out in a t-shirt and sunscreen hot. It got up to 26 °C one day. But it don’t know what that is in Fahrenheit. But it is humid here too, and we are all used to freezing. Hot.
I heard from an RM [returned missionary] at mission prep that a mission is just 2 years of awkward experiences. One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever received.
In my morning routine, I was hustling around and WRECKED my toe on the sharp bed corner. It cut under my toe nail. It hurt super bad, but I could still walk. So I limped everywhere and gritted my teeth. Elder Lawton had his right foot hurting him too this week because of his exercises. So all of these poor confused Chileans saw two white kids in church clothes hobbling around all over Coyhaique. Funny, but at the same time it isn’t.

Because of the heat and my toe, I had a very powerful spiritual experience. We were walking to the highest part of our sector to meet with a lady for service. We were dying of the heat, my toe hurt so bad. And because I had to adjust my walk into a shuffle, I was using different muscles so my calf was hurting too. I don’t know. Just the combination of all the physical and emotional stress and other things, it was hard. I wanted to respond positively to opposition and challenges like Nephi. So I started to pray as we kept walking up the hill. I turned to Heavenly Father in the pain and I said "I love you." Then I started to cry. I knew He heard me.
As we started to serve the lady, my thoughts turned outward. I really enjoyed the service. We built a leñera, which is something that keeps your wood dry. It was so hot, but I lost myself in the service and had relief during that time. Service is great to relieve our own pain. I'll attach a pic of the leñera.

Elder Lawton can play the piano, so he is a very well used resource here. We were practicing with the primary “Families Can Be Together Forever”. As I listened to the children sing, I felt the Spirit very strong. Tender mercy. They sang great at the district conference.
At district conference, Presidente Obeso came and spoke in every session. I felt the Spirit very strongly testify to me in priesthood session that God always answers our prayers. I know that is true. After district conference, I had an interview with president. This was my second. Up to this point, I have cried in every one. Haha. This time, I laughed and cried. But it was crying because I felt the Spirit. Love his advice and help in my personal struggles on the mission. I can feel God’s love through him.
We have been having DTRs (define the relationship) with a lot of our investigators. We are no longer visiting investigators that don’t want to progress to baptism. It is hard. It takes faith to do that and trust that God will put people in your path. But on a happier note, we have taught 2 people about family history. Family history gets everyone amped out of their minds and it is super fun to teach and show them pics of my ancestors.
Andres chose the 30th of November to stop smoking. His fecha de bautismo [baptism date] is December 12. Please pray for him. We had a powerful lesson with him. I felt the Spirit. In a very powerful moment, I promised him that he will be able to stop smoking if he goes to church, reads, and prays. In the end, Elder Lawton and I both felt prompted to ask him if he would like a blessing of strength. I knew it would be me who would give it. He asked me. I was filled with the Spirit and with faith. No I don’t know Spanish perfectly, but I know enough. I laid my hands on his head and gave my first priesthood blessing in Spanish. I feel so grateful to be in the Lord’s service. I love Andres so much. He is in every one of my prayers.

Yesterday, we saw a guy smoking on the corner. He was white. I felt like we should talk to him. We did, and it turns out that he speaks perfect English and his grandpa is from Italy. He took us to his house that was secluded a bit at the top of the hill by the mountains and let us in. I felt like I was in a house in Alpine, Utah. That hasn’t happened since I left Utah. Wow. He could play the piano and the guitar super well. They even have a cabin! We taught him half of lesson one in English, mixed with Spanish sentences because we are both at the point where speaking church in Spanish is easier than speaking church in English. We will meet again with him tonight at 6:30.
Missions are hard. But looking back over the time I have, I realized how much of a great time this has been. I have my own crazy stories, times of discouragement, happy lessons, and everything in between. God helps us through it all.
Jacob 6:12

Elder West

Monday, November 2, 2015

Week 18 --Perros y Halloween

Dog story of the week: Elder Lawton and I were walking to a hermana’s house with a bag full of her lunch Tupperware. We heard a really low and angry bark behind us. As we turned around, a dog was lurching at us. I remembered Elder Ryan’s advice to me to never run or you will get bitten, that you have to fight back. Instinctually, I cranked the Tupperware bag and clocked the dog right in the face. It ran away. I’m straight out of Coyhaique. We laughed because it was super scary and it was weird that Tupperware did the dirty work.
Cambios [exchanges]: Elder Lawton and I stay together for this cambio. That made me happy. We are getting work done and I’m learning a lot from him. Elder Peterson is dying [going home from his mission], so he will fly to Osorno and elder Godoy will replace him as zone leader. I’m now a normal missionary. My last day of training was yesterday. We ate a birthday lunch with the familia Quinteros. They are angels.

Halloween made me trunky for home. Seeing all the little niños made me think of home. I’m never going to miss a night of trick or treating with my little siblings after the mission. Also on Halloween, there was a baptism of the hermanas [sister missionaries] in centro. Elder Lawton and I killed ourselves for two days trying to find investigators who could go. None of them showed up so we had to leave the baptism. But I was happy and felt good because we did all we could. So it is in God’s hands.

On Tuesday, I left the house only wearing a long sleeved white shirt; first time in my mission. But I had to whip out the coat for after like 6 o’clock. I have 4 months in the mission; woot, woot. Dang that seemed like a big deal. But as I wrote it, I just realized that it is nothing. But I have grown and learned A LOT.

Jose, who is a recent convert, received the Aaronic priesthood on Sunday!!! It is crazy cool to see how the Lord has totally prepared him to go out with us in our citas [appointments].

On Halloween, Elder Lawton and I were writing down information from a contact we just had made, and the next thing we knew there was a bloody scream mask in our face that was screaming. The teenage girl ran away laughing. Weird.
In a cita with Jordana, her 99 year old grandma and I made eye contact. Her grandma then made the sign of the cross. I don’t know if that was a good or bad thing.

While we were knocking doors, I had an insight. As missionaries, we want people to read pray and go to church SO badly because we know the joy that just a little bit of sacrifice to be obedient will bring them. Then I thought about how Heavenly Father must feel the same way about me. If I just sacrificed a little more and completely embraced all the rules and everything with complete obedience then how much more joy could I experience?

Coyhaique after sunset
We knocked on a door and the guy shafted us and was like "hah, go visit my neighbor." Then he shut his door on us. We were going to leave, but Elder Lawton was like, “Let’s just go check it out even if it won’t be anything”. We went. A 25ish year old let us in. We had a textbook how to begin teaching lesson and I felt the Spirit super strong. He came to know God after he was in a coma for 8 months because he saved a guy’s life from some thugs while he was drunk and they beat and cut him up pretty bad. He has some gnarly scars. After that lesson, I said "oh my gosh" and "what just happened" like 100 times. We passed by later in the week and talked about baptism, and he said he doesn’t like the idea of going to church or baptism. But we’ll see how he turns out. Once he keeps commitments, the Spirit will work with him and change him.

We visited Andres. We put him with fecha [baptismal date]. He is so prepared. He just has an addiction to smoking. So we will work with him on that but he really wants to be baptized and have an eternal family.
This week has been hard with lots of walking and sore muscles. Sometimes, I’ve thought "It doesn’t make sense. I don’t have to be planting seeds this whole time. I should also be harvesting seeds that have already been planted." I know God is over all. He guides this. I had a personal study this week where the Spirit very clearly showed me how merciful God has been with me and how He has so perfectly placed everything to work out this cambio with my personal growth and in answering my questions. Questions I have had that seemed like a big deal 2 weeks later are worked out through experience or are no longer important. So much of life and receiving answers is just patience and trust.

The sacrament has become so sacred and precious to me. It is like the temple. Hermana Juetra, after a lunch this week, talked with us. We were talking about the temple. We asked her how she felt when she made her temple covenants. She looked as us with tears in her eyes and choked out "maravillosa." I was about to cry. Afterwards, we were cutting wood for someone and I just sat there as the Spirit worked me over testifying of temple covenants and the family. I’ve never yearned for something more in my life. I ache to visit the temple again and to be with my family, and to go to the temple with them. But all is in God’s timing, and I am focused here.

I love you all.

Elder West
Jacob in his apartment with some aviator glasses he found.