Monday, December 28, 2015

Diciembre 28, 2015

Hey. So Christmas happened.
On Tuesday before our leaders meeting in Castro we were able to go to Líder. Líder is Chilean Walmart. I entered and I wanted to cry. The halls were clean, the produce was fresh, and they had PEANUT BUTTER. Bought that in a heartbeat. While we were there a lady stopped us. She just moved from Santiago. She has been a member for 30 years and was wanting to get in touch with the missionaries so they could have Christmas dinner with them. We exchanged information and helped her know where the church is. God knew we would be in Líder. It is cool seeing those small ways that he is involved in our work.
For Christmas Eve we had a noche de hogar [family home evening] with la familia Eramos in the branch. When we got there were two other families from the ward there. It felt like a family reunion. We sang Christmas hymns and had a spiritual thought. Then we all shared our feelings about Jesus Christ. Afterwards we ate. There was a table full of cookies, candy, soda, everything unhealthy. They made a gingerbread nativity scene. They also had a drink called colamono which translates into monkey tail. Colamono is basically eggnog. Tasted just like it. Tender mercy. They cooked a giant 3’x 3’ pizza. They grilled meat. After we were sick from eating food from the table, they sat us down and threw a massive steak in front of us with a potato, longaniza, and a hotdog. Wayyyyy too much. Throughout the whole night, Hermano Alexis kept telling me "eat" whenever I stopped. He is a super funny guy. They had the elders wear Santa hats. Mine didn’t fit over my head. Then they gave us a Christmas stocking with candy, deodorant, soap, and a pair of socks (they know what missionaries need). Super happy night. When I got home I cut the last ring off of my Christmas countdown chain.
Christmas Eve

For Christmas we visited a family that lives at the top of Quellón. Super high up. Their house burned down about 6 months ago. They have had to rebuild everything. We shared a spiritual thought. Then we cooked an asado. An asado is basically a barbeque. They had already butchered a lamb, and it was just chillin on the table right next to us. Kind of distracting during our message, but funny. We put the lamb on a giant asadadore. An asadadore is basically a 12 ft long metal shish kabob. We built a bonfire and then put the asadadore next to it.  It cooked for about two hours while we turned it. While it was cooking we explored around the house. They have roosters, ducks, geese, everything. They showed us a house [barn] where they keep 20 pigs. And I’m talking PIGS. They are more like triceratops. They come up to my belly button. Huge. As we got near the house where they keep them, I could hear shrieks, grunts, everything. It sounded like they were housing dinosaurs. I took pics with some. A beast of a pig almost bit me in the back. As we left, I had splashes over my nice white shirt. We laughed pretty hard over that. With the asado, we would spread salt water with herbs over it and then cook it again. After, we sat down to a fat dinner and just ate. Super good. Love that family.
Christmas day

This week, I had an intercambio with my zone leader Elder Vega. He is serving in Castro. It was super good. It was raining super hard, but we still worked hard the whole day. We did so many contacts and walked till my legs fell off. The highlight of the day is that we were able to visit a hermano that had recently lost his job. We shared the Christmas video and a message about how Jesus Christ knows our struggles. I felt the Spirit.
After skype, I was super trunky. We went home, and I cried and wrote in my journal. This week, I have also been seeing a lot of my weaknesses. I feel weak. The mission isn’t easy. I’m anxious to learn, apply grow, gain members´ trust, do contacts, improve my Spanish, lose weight, be focused..... The list goes on and on. I was in a hole. I had a "collapse to your knees" prayer. I told God everything. After, I asked Him what he wanted me to know. I felt an overwhelming "I LOVE YOU" course through my veins. I also felt that God could see the sacrifices I have made to be here on the mission, that He appreciated them and that He saw them. I also felt Him reassure me that He will always fulfill promises that He has made. I felt prompted to ask for a blessing. I did. Elder Weech helped me out so much. I was blessed to know that my mission to this point hasn’t been a failure; I have touched and blessed lives in big and small ways; that I have changed significantly; that my family has been blessed; that I just have to do my best and I will grow, learn, and “become” in the Lord’s own timing. This church is true. I know it is. God loves us. I know He does. And He is working with me from where I am right now. Even when I feel week. Pondering Doctrine and Covenants 123:17 is helping me.
Elder West

Mission meeting in Puerto Montt with Elder Teixeira

Monday, December 21, 2015

Week 25 – Ho, ho, ho

In the campo

Miracles. This week has been full of them. But I’ll start with the less spiritual stuff first.
The other elders here had an investigator pray and asked if he should be baptized. In the next cita, he told them that he received an answer that he the evangelical church. Haha. The other elders left him with the commitment to pray again.
Dogs: our elders quorum president has a dog that loves the missionaries. He hates it when we leave. When we stand up he barks. So I played around with it. I stood up and then sat down super-fast multiple times, and every time I stood up, it barked. Kind of like a light switch.
I’ma skype with you guys this Christmas!! Woot woot.
The city of Quellón is a giant hill that begins on the seashore. Elder Weech and I started on a road and kept following it. We never got to the end. But after a while, we were out of the general population. It is called campo. Super pretty. Not a lot of houses. A lot of countryside. We took some pics, knocked some doors, and enjoyed the nature. 
Road out to the campo

While we were there:
We saw a MASSIVE pig. The little piglets were nursing.
Pig with piglets in the campo

I also saw several horses. My favorite encounter was a dad, and a mom walking, with their young daughter mounted on top of the horse wielding a chainsaw.
While we were walking to a cita we had with a family that lives on the seashore, we saw a van covered in balloons handing candy out to kids. Sketchy. But as we got closer, we saw the people inside were wearing Santa hats, and there was a man in a Santa suit passing the candy out. He called to us, "Elderes, vengan por acá y tomen algunas dulces!" He told us to come and get candy. Confused, we took the candy while trying to put his face with a member’s face. We couldn't. Must have been a menos activo. But we scored candy.
So what is going down for my first Christmas in Chile is this. We don’t have a zone conference anymore. Instead we will be proselyting. But we still get to skype. Grateful to be a missionary.
This week, we have district conference, consejo de líderes [leadership council], and an intercombio in Castro. Each trip is 4 hours in a bus. We will be tired this week :)
I’ma transition now. This week a guy contacted US in the street. He asked us when church was. And he actually came! Wow.
Miracle stories:
-We had a cita with the familia Piedras. They have been investigating for a while. I arrived. We decided that they didn´t know why the missionaries have been passing by or what our purpose is. In that cita, we spoke with the Spirit. We knelt with them in prayer to ask if the Book of Mormon is true. We bore powerful testimony. Many times I cried. I opened my mouth to speak and I felt my words change into words that weren´t my own. That brought the Spirit ever more strongly. My mouth was filled.
-We knocked a menos activo´s door. We found a lady named Claudia. She was baptized 6 years ago along with her husband when they had two little kids. Then they fell away. They went through a rough patch where they didn’t want anything with the Church: threw away their scriptures, stopped going to church, hid from the elders in the streets haha. Everything. We found them at the suggestion of the branch president. Claudia wants to return so bad. She was so happy when we came. She treated us like angels, she presented her kids to us: ages 6 and 10 (potential baptism), and we prayed with her. She told us she wants to return, that she knows it is her duty. I felt the Spirit so strong. Right there on her doorstep, she was crying and I was crying. But a problem: her husband. He was an elder. But after falling away didn’t want anything to do with the church. He was mad when he heard they wanted to go to church. Claudia was afraid he would see us on her porch. She gave us her number to call her when we wanted to come by to make sure he wasn’t home. The other day, we passed by her work and visited with her. As we were talking, her husband entered the store. Elder Weech and I froze. She introduced us. Once we realized he wasn’t there to kill us, we loosened up and were ourselves. We joked around and laughed and built a relationship with him. He gave us permission to pass by, accepted a family home evening for tonight, and said he would go to the branch activity on Tuesday! MIRACLE. He is pretty chill. I could tell he was uncomfortable thought. But HE offered the prayer before we left. Tonight is the family home evening. We have a killer plan. We are going right to the point to tell them we want to help them come back, baptize their daughter, and help them go to the temple. Then we will sing Christmas songs. Too perfect.
-Last miracle. Our investigator Silvia. She is filled with faith. She actually completed her reading assignment and prayed. But not to ask if the Book of Mormon was true. So we knelt with her and she prayed. After, we explained the fruits of the Spirit. She said, "When I asked I felt something warm inside, is that the Spirit?" Again, after we picked our jaws up off the floor, we told her yeah. Then we taught her the law of chastity because she isn’t married with her pareja. We committed her to talk with him about marriage. She asked, "Would you like me to do it right now?" Again, after we picked our jaws up off the floor, we were like "YA WE DO!" What faith!! She brought him in the room. Then it got awkward. He asked us what we wanted. Haha, what do we want? I chose to give him an intro before directly responding to that question. He didn’t see the point in marriage and wasn’t on board. But we knelt with them and Silvia prayed to know if they should get married. Then we left. We need to have another cita. She is golden.
The two citas with familia Piedras and Silvia were back to back. We followed Elder Teixeira´s advice and attacked the need. After like 2 hours of intense Spirit, focus, and worry, I was exhausted in every way. We sang Christmas hymns in the church as practice for a special musical number. Sitting down that night, I reflected on the day. This is bliss. I have never been happier. I am happy with myself. I am growing. I am helping others improve their lives. I am happy.
Doctrine and Covenants 123:17

Elder West

There were more dogs hiding under the bus

Monday, December 14, 2015

Week 24 -- Quellón, hospital, mission conference, etc.

On the ferry to Chiloe Island

Mother Dearest: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!
For Christmas this year we have a zone conference in Castro, Chiloe. So it isn’t a legit Christmas, but we will feel the Spirit so we are good. Still don’t know about skype.
So we left Coyhaique early Tuesday morning, I’ve had like one day of normal sleep since then because of all of our traveling. I’m now in Quellón Chiloe. I saw the sun yesterday!!! It is just pure rain here! Learning to love it. I’m praying for our investigator Andres in Coyhaique. He was really an elect person that just had an addiction to smoking.
There is a goose coop from our neighbors right next to the window by my bed. They also have a rooster. Every morning from 5:00 am until 7 it crows. It makes me think of the movie Happy Gilmore when Adam Sandler is ticked at the mini golf clown because it won’t take his ball and he says "You’re gonna die clown!" then hacks its nose off with the golf club. I feel like that every morning. Learning patience. :)
My new companion is named Elder Weech from Pima, Arizona. He reminds me a lot of my friend Chandler Jenks. This is his last cambio in the mission. He is a great example to me. I am learning a lot. He has had an illness for a while. The mission nurse doesn’t know what it is. Basically his stomach is always in pain. So he can’t do his exercises super intense, and while we are walking we sometimes have to stop so he can rest a bit. But he fights through it so hard with a good attitude. I love him. Already I am learning how to work through the members (answer to prayers) and how to be chill, reasonable, and balanced while still working. I need that.
The Elder Teixeira conference was straight up amazing. I felt the Spirit super strong. His had us list all of our mission, personal, investigator, branch, and spiritual problems on a white board. Then he told us stories from his son’s mission and other personal experiences to answer every point. He emphasized contacts like crazy. It all starts with contacts. And they can be stupid simple too. We don’t have to stress about teaching a ton or saying something well-rehearsed in a contact. Love it. I felt the spirit teach me. Elder Teixeira said something and the Spirit taught me: "This is the Lord´s work, I’m not in this alone. So why am I doing it alone?" I can involve the atonement so much more in overcoming weaknesses and fears in this work. The atonement is for that too.
In Puerto Montt, I visited the mall there with Elders Watson and Strate because we traveled in two groups and Elder Lawton wasn’t with me. It was like swan diving back into Babylon with all the music, noise, images, and shopping.
While staying in Puerto Monte, I worked one evening with Elder Jepson. We entered a contact’s house. He was drunk. He showed us a Book of Mormon a friend gave him with the steps of prayer in the back. Then he piled a mound of medals and newspaper articles showing that he was a successful weightlifter when he was younger. Because he was drunk and it was going nowhere, we asked if we could leave with a prayer. He agreed, but brought out statues and put them on the table. He said if I was going to pray, I had to pray to them because it was his house. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to make a drunk guy angry. I prayed. Then I told him I would like to use the steps in the back of his Book of Mormon and just went for it. WHILE I was praying, he left the room and piled his weightlifting medals on the table so I could pray to them too. I ended the prayer, and we left the house safe.
I also went to the hospital. About a month ago, I accidentally kicked the corner of the bed while hurrying to the shower. My toenail died. So we went to the hospital so they could rip that baby off. In Chile, you go to the hospital for ANY kind of medical problem. They don’t have family clinics. You just go to the hospital. The hospital was super old and looked ghetto. After an hour or so, they bring me into a curtained off room. I can see two other patients in beds. The guy checks out my toe, tells me "I’m ripping it off," and the next thing I know he has his fingers gripping my toe nail. I was thinking "Bro, what are you doing???!!" My breathing accelerated rapidly. Then he tore it right off. Didn’t hurt too bad because it was mostly dead. But scared me half to death.
In a cita, I played with a little kid to keep him reverent. He was just like my little brother Tyler. Tender mercy. While he was tugging on my jacket, I testified to them of how God has helped me to be obedient even when it was really hard and uncomfortable. I felt the Spirit.
We also knocked on a future investigators door. She answered and was crying. She let us in and we asked her what was wrong. She was crying because she had a super bad headache. But she also poured out to us all of her life stresses with work, money, being a parent, and being overwhelmed. She told us she had just offered a prayer for comfort and help. Then we knocked on the door right after. After Elder Weech and I picked our jaws up off the floor (such a textbook missionary experience), we shared Alma 7: 11-13 about Jesus Christ and then invited her to baptism. It took a bit of explaining, but she agreed to prepare for baptism for the 23 of January.
Yesterday, we ate lunch with a returned missionary and his nonmember mom. Biggest lunch I’ve ever eaten in my life. After the first plate heaped with rice, potatoes, and meat, I had broken the word of wisdom by too much. Then we had another plate. Then ice cream. Then two bowls of jello. I tried gagging myself with a spoon afterwards to make myself throw up. Didn’t work. I just felt more sick. We took a nap and then were able to leave and work.
I have improved my personal studies with better planning. They have lifted me up. The mission is so hard, then my personal study picked me up. I have been able to receive answers for my personal questions and for investigators. During my study today, I was thinking about desire and obedience. Being obedient is enough sometimes. Jesus Christ didn’t want to drink the bitter cup, but he wanted to be obedient. So he did it. It is OK to obey out of the desire to obey, even when we don’t want to because it is hard.
I felt today that I have developed a greater depth of character in my mission. They are so hard. But I have never grown in this way before. I love you all. We are so blessed.

Elder West

Monday, December 7, 2015

Week 23 -- Cambios, Christmas, Perros

Chopping wood
This week while we were sitting on a bench, a guy asked us if we knew a place that sells marijuana. So we showed him our secret suitcase we carry around...NAH! Who do you think we are??? Ha-ha funny!
Cambios: I AM GOING TO CHILOE. The city is Quellon. It is the exact same sector that Elder Lawton was in before he came to Coyhaique. My new companion is elder Weech from AZ. I will become his companion after the mission conference in Puerto Montt. I’m killing him (meaning his last comp in the mission). So excited! Apparently Chiloe gives tons of food, and our house is the second closest house to the beach.
I will miss Elder Lawton. I have learned so much from him: exact obedience, supporting leaders, dealing with stress, focus on the work, growing grace by grace, patience, love, & desire. A ton. I know God will continue to bless me. Elder Lawton is like an older brother to me.
Elder Lawton’s feet have something wrong with them. They are all super red with spots and stuff. We went to the doctor and afterwards called the enfermera [nurse] in our mission. So we have been under house arrest for this week. We have been reading lots of the Book of Mormon, listening to conference talks, and even watched “17 Miracles”. We don’t leave often, but if we do leave anywhere, Elder Lawton has to wear sandals, NOT shoes. Because his feet need to dry out and rest.
Elder Lawton with sandals
His sandals have seen it all! The registro civil, in exercises, the shower, to church, p-day errands, in colectivos, even to a baptismal interview! He has been doing a lot of explaining.
While walking home one night, we passed by a fence. It went like this: I see big angry black dog. Big angry black dog sees me. He is ticked. I see open fence. I think that the fence shouldn’t be open with angry black dog. Big angry black dog is waist high. I move to shut gate. Little annoying angry dog appears. I kick-shove little angry dog away so I can shut open gate. Oh shoot, big angry dog is here. And then the next thing I knew is that I had this beasts jaws latched onto my glute. It fell off and Elder Lawton (after a very loud scream) starts throwing rocks. The dog runs away. After further inspection, my pants are ripped.  I’m not bleeding, and it didn’t pierce my garments. That is never a coincidence. Dog bite number 2 has been checked off my experience list.

Christmas devotional: we were trying to catch a colectivo so we could make it to the chapel in centro to see it. So we arrived 15 minutes late, at the end of a seventy’s talk. I really enjoyed the following song by the Motab choir, especially with that guy shredding the organ. So good. All the lights and music, and temple square shots made me trunky but put me in the holiday mood. We sang silent night in English. As the words appeared on the screen, I imagine I was singing it right along with my family at home. I remember last year’s devotional. We had just eaten Dutch cookies and milk. My feet were kicked up on the fireplace with a pillow behind my head. So comfortable with such great food that I fell asleep. Good times.
Scriptures that have helped me a lot this week: Helaman 12:23. It let me know that God sees me and is aware of my desires even when it doesn’t feel like I’m close to heaven. 2 Nephi 6:12 --I felt the Spirit as I shared this with a family here after lunch. I know God fulfills his promises to us. I just need to be patient with mine that will come.
Also during a lunch, we had a sad experience. We were sharing the spiritual thought/mini lesson to the recent convert. The husband was taking silly selfies and cracking jokes as we taught. The son was watching soccer and playing the guitar. The daughter wasn’t willing to participate, and this GOLDEN sister had just served us with a lunch and was listening to us. The husband was not giving us respect as representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ. He snapped a pic of me while I was giving my testimony. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who saw it.  But the hermana’s head was down for a bit. She was fighting tears. So sad. She is so good. God is showing me who I need to be and what I want in my family after my mission.
Everyone here wears these hats

After another lunch with a member who has basically the same situation with a less active husband, she asked us for a blessing. We had just shared a spiritual thought and felt the Spirit guide us in our words to the point that she was crying. I knew I would give the blessing before she asked me for it. As I gave it, I felt the Spirit. I felt I was saying what Christ wanted her to hear. I could feel God’s love for her. She was told what comfort God wanted her to hear. I felt that the Lord was happy with me too, because there isn’t a feeling greater than being able to answer when the Lord needs us to. Missionaries live for experiences like this. That is why we leave the house when we don’t want to.
God is good. Christ is everything. This church is true. I love you all.

Elder West