Monday, March 28, 2016


General conference (aka missionary Christmas) is THIS WEEK. WOOT WOOT!

Two things about Elder Ryan (my trainer): 1, He is writing to his family right now, right next to me. 2, His little brother is going to Dallin Jared’s mission on the same day, as well. Wow.

Last pday, the elders from the 2 zones here gathered into one house and we had an asado (barbeque). We made choripan. Best pday I’ve had in the mission.

The days are blowing by. I snap my fingers and then I find myself kneeling for my nighttime prayer again. Wow. 

A contact called us charlatans. I don’t know what that means. But I only know that it is a sophisticated insult, and I’m grateful that I have been blessed with the gift of tongues to the point of understanding those. 

I’ve been having of lower back pain. This week I’ve been carrying my scriptures in my hands to relieve the backpack weight, I’ve been icing my back every morning, heating it every night, and took some pills (mission nurse recommendation). It has improved a bit. They said it could be because I’m tall. IDK. The other thing it could be is weight gain. I weighed myself and I’m 200. So looks like I’ve only gained 10 pounds in the mission, woot woot! The mission nurse said the average weight gain is 12-20 pounds. 

This week we had a leadership council. They shared the parable of the sewers. Like the seeds falling in the path, in stones, in weeds, and finally in good dirt. I felt the Spirit tell me I just need to keep on spreading seeds. Keep trying. Don’t stop. Keep working. Just be patient with my current circumstances. The area. The progress. Everything. That helped me a lot. Elder Torres always said something that is helping me right now. He said "It’s not going to be easy, but it isn’t going to be difficult either". That applies so much to me right now. And I’ve seen it throughout my life. I just have to try. It won’t be impossibly hard. It won’t be so uncomfortably hard to the point of tears every time. Yeah it will require effort. But it is possible, and God always helps. 

We also had a zone conference with Presidente Obeso. I felt the Spirit give me a personal package of information. I felt it confirm to me what Presidente Obeso said that his own mission president always told him: "The most important thing I will ever do on my mission is deepen my relationship with my Father in Heaven and with Jesus Christ." It doesn’t matter if I teach 100 lessons a week or zero. I’m working on that. I know that is what I need to do.

To find more people to teach, we leave Saturday mornings in normal people clothes with an axe in hand. We go door to door offering to cut people’s wood for free. People are super receptive. Once they see we are there to serve them, they are friendly. They point us to neighbors who could use help, and they smile and laugh. Also, if I was a Chilean and 2 gringos, in normal clothes, with a massive axe in hand, and very obvious neck tans knocked on my door, I would open up too. We made a contact with a nice old lady. She talked with us for a bit, gave us a pear, and then we asked her about her family. She got emotional, and then with great heaviness in her voice, she told us about how all of her immediate family is dead. Her kids are grown up and have basically forgotten about her, and her husband is sick in the hospital. She feels alone. We testified of the plan of salvation. We plan to pass by her again.

The hermana that washes our clothes, went to the temple with her husband and was sealed to him. They were given a time in sacrament meeting to talk about their experience. They glowed. They were so happy. I could feel how they are enjoying the greatest blessings that God has in store for them. I miss the temple. I ache for it. I need to go. I’m learning to love the temple. For those of you who can go, please do. There are HUGE blessings in just going. I would give anything to just feel of the Spirit that is in the temple. I love it.

I just remembered that, in Quellòn, Eliacer and Nivia should have been baptized two days ago. I’ve been praying for them. I hope they made the decision.

On Sunday morning, I was feeling discouraged. I opened up to Luke 22. I read until the end of the book. It talks about Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, dying on the cross, His resurrection, and walk to Emmaus. I felt the Spirit very strong throughout testifying to me of Jesus Christ. I know that as I come to know Christ better, and my testimony is stronger, I will be able to serve better in my callings and help others. 

We made a contact with a less active returned missionary. We set up a cita. In the cita, we planned to teach him the restoration, ask him for a reference, and then invite him to church. We taught him the restoration. It went well.  Then I was thinking, "How on earth am I going to invite him to church? He already knows that is the next thing coming." I didn’t know any other way than to just say it. But it would be really direct. As I was opening my mouth, Elder Smith asked if he could share a scripture. He opened up to Jacob 5:71-72 where it talks about the laborers in the vineyard. He read it and then told him, "We need you. God needs you." The Spirit was strong. I loved how Elder Smith invited him with so much love. Then he opened up to us. He wants to comeback so much.

Elder West

Jacob's attempt at coloring an Easter egg with vinegar and food coloring

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Life is good—March 21, 2016

Quellón, my previous sector, is a giant hill. Everyone lives on the coast, and the countryside is on top of the hill. I remember seeing there a mom that would always roll into town riding a horse with her daughter, they both were wearing ponchos, and the little girl was always holding a chainsaw.

For Saint Patrick’s Day we cooked green pancakes. 

There is a saying in Chile: "dar palos" or "give sticks." It is used to reprimand someone or tell them to change. Funny.

In Valdivia, my current sector, some preachers set up a speaker, microphone, and preach on the street. I heard one around the corner, and I thought his congregation would be out listening to him because he was pretty loud. As I rounded the corner, I saw the guy. He had a crowd of two little kids on bikes that were watching him from 5 feet away.

This week we contacted a nice old guy outside of his house. We chatted a bit. He was pretty chill. I asked him if he had any religious beliefs and he told me he belonged to a church.  But he didn’t pursue the topic and still seemed pretty chill. I asked the guy what he believed. I then spent the next 10 minutes trying to avoid debate as he just railed on us. It took a lot to juggle around keeping my temper under control, be polite, and escape all at the same time. I laughed about it later.

This week has been a good one. And very hard. This sector has 2 eternal investigators (investigating for years and still haven’t been baptized) and that’s it. We have been doing lots of contacts. It has been hard. Wednesday morning, I was doing sit-ups and bawling my eyes out at the same time because this is so hard. I prayed hard. At the end of my sit-ups, I felt a prompting from the Spirit tell me I just need to be patient. I felt better. That morning, I had a powerful study on how we can find more people. The relationships with the ward leaders and members here isn’t the strongest so we are going to improve that. I fasted for this sector, for success, to help God’s children here. I feel a lot better now. 

As part of improving relationships with the members here, we have been passing by their homes and teaching them the restoration. I absolutely love it. It helps us practice, and helps them feel the Spirit. And we can ask them for references. I love teaching it to them because they already believe it and we get to have a spiritual experience together. Afterwards, we always feel more enthusiasm for the work.

We taught a less active members this week. They are unmarried and have a daughter. We are going to help them get back to church, and start living the gospel again. Living the gospel is true happiness. I feel so blessed to be on a mission. I have felt true happiness. 

During our leadership council we did "mirror preaching." We treat ourselves like an investigator. We pick our need, what we see that we need to change to improve, create a 10 minute lesson outline with a commitment, and then teach ourselves in the mirror. At first it was weird. But once it became comfortable, I felt the Spirit very strong. It is the same format we use in the Duty to God program. I love it. 

I’ve been practicing gratitude a lot more. I’m ponderizing Doctrine and Covenants 78:17-.20. Look it up. I had an experience with it. I was in the street. I was hot, tired, and wanting the day to be over. And I was tired of walking. I remembered my goal to say a prayer of gratitude. I did it. The Spirit filled me up with joy and I realized how blessed I was. As we are grateful, it allows the Lord to show us how much he loves us, that he is a merciful being, and that he actually is blessing our lives a lot. I especially love thanking Heavenly Father for gospel truths. I cherish this gospel. I have grown to love it so much more on the mission. 

We made bread with a member family this week. A little family home evening. Elder smith had the idea to have the members teach us how to make bread, then we take it to their friends with them. It is a soft way to build better relationships with their neighbors and friends, give them more exposure to the Church, and help the members do missionary work. After we made bread with this family, they took it to a sister in the ward that has a hard time getting along with others, and an elderly man whose wife is in the hospital, and he limps around and has hard time doing things. He told us we were the first visit from the members of the Church. I felt great joy. That is such a good feeling. Later in the week, we cut the elderly guy’s wood and just talked with him. I encourage you all to find small ways to serve others like that. It feels really good. 

We passed by a less active this week. His son fell from a tree and is now paralyzed waist down. He really wants his son to be able to serve a mission. His son went to Santiago this week to meet with doctors. This brother is also having a hard time financially. We talked to him and cut his wood, during which I asked him about how he joined the church. We talked a bit. He told us he had an uncle who was a member. This uncle always gave away copies of the Book of Mormon and Liahona as presents. His uncle gifted him a Book of Mormon, looked him in the eyes, and told him "this book has changed my life." Then the brother paused and there was a silence. He looked down as he started to get emotional and I felt the Spirit. He looked up at me and with tears filling his eyes he said "Hermanos, the book changes lives. It changed mine. Keep preaching. The book changes lives." I felt the Spirit very strong. I can add my testimony too. The Book of Mormon has changed my life. I know it is the word of God. I know it contains the fullness of the gospel. I know that by applying it, we will grow closer to God. I love that book. 

Even though this week has been rough, it has been good. I feel that God is pleased with what I am doing. I feel I am a good missionary.

Elder West

Me, hypnotizing a dog with a rock

Monday, March 14, 2016

Cambios and exhaustion

Cambios--so we got the call Tuesday morning. Elder Torres is now training in Quellón, Chiloé and I’m now in Valdivia, in the Calle Calle stake in Los Encinos. 

Tuesday, I was in a bus all day and stayed the night in Osorno. And then Wednesday I bussed up to Valdivia. My new companion is named Elder Smith. He is from Colorado. His family now lives in West Valley. He is the district leader. There are 8 in our district. This is Elder Smith’s second to last cambio in the mission. We get along great and laugh a lot. He is obedient in a balanced way. Super good. Elder Ryan (my trainer) is my zone leader, and he is in my district. Crazy!

I’m going to miss Quellón. I saw a lot of lives change there.  I’ll miss the Familia Carrillo-Lemus, Nicol, Hno Felipe Colivoro, and a bunch of other great people. But I won’t miss throwing slugs out of the bathroom window every morning and mold on our ceiling, and more dogs than I’ve ever seen in my life. Haha. It is pretty hot here, with less dogs, and less drunk people. But I’m still getting eaten alive by fleas.

Here in Valdivia there are giant wood piles in front of everyone’s houses. Preppin’ for the winter.

Los Encinos is a ward of about 65 or 70. My first ward! Here we have a ward mission leader! He is the best, super full of energy. And we also have ward council.
The mission focus of the month is contacting. In our leadership council we all brought a creative idea to do new contacts. There was an idea to ask for references, film them and ask them questions for a video (our idea), start the contact in English, haha (ZL idea), give them a balloon and then pop it? (hnas idea), and sing a hymn with a harmonica backup. We are trying new ideas out.
Our neighbors are pretty cool. We live in a green apartment. Our neighbors downstairs are always booming the latest rap music, reggaton (Spanish rap), and any other kind of party music. We call it the green and spacious building.  
If I could describe this week in one word it would be: contacts. And sore muscles. And walking. Haha. Forget one word. One day we did so many contacts I was losing my voice.
In my contacts, I have been focusing more on bearing my testimony in 2 or 3 sentences with all the sincerity I can muster. I have felt the Spirit more in the contacts. But it also hurts more when I’m rejected. But I know I am filling more of my purpose. I felt to knock a street. We did. Straight rejection except one house. We asked the lady something called "questions from the soul" (Preach My Gospel chapter 5). She responded and was very open. She has a 4 year old son and wants us to come back.
We also met another woman. We asked her how she was, and she said that she wasn’t doing well. Her grandma is on life support, and just a month earlier her baby died. It was a very late term miscarriage. We testified of the plan of salvation and the atonement. She said she is seeking spiritual help. We are trying to set up a cita with her.
With all of the walking, knocking, and contacting that we have been doing in the sun, we are pretty beat up. And there are times during the day when we are bummed out. I like the new rule that we have to carry a Book of Mormon in hand all the time. I can open up to scriptures in contacts and also read scriptures of comfort when it is hard and we need to keep going. There was one time this week where I had had it. I was tired, sore, and it was only like 6 in the evening. I remembered something Elder Bliss (my last district leader) told me. He said that the Holy Ghost gives us energy. I remembered a story he told us. He had been knocking doors ALL DAY and was done. His companion looked him in the eyes and said, "We don’t have the Spirit with us. We need it with us. I am going to bear you my testimony with all of the power and authority that I can. Then you will share yours." His companion bore his testimony, and the Spirit was strong. Then Elder Bliss shared his and started crying in the middle of the street. Afterwards, they were full of the Spirit and felt energy to do the work. As I remembered that story, I found myself in the same situation as Elder Bliss. I told Elder Smith, "Elder Smith, I’m tired. I don’t have the Spirit. I need it with me. I’m going to bear you my testimony." He was kind caught off guard. But he listened. My testimony was short. But it held all of the truths I absolutely know to be true. I felt the Spirit very strong. Afterwards walking in the street, I felt the Spirit burn within my chest, confirming to me that what I said was true. That Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. I choked back tears. I know this gospel is true. I know it. Sharing our testimonies helps us realize we know it and provides the Spirit with the opportunity to confirm our testimonies to us.

Elder West

Elder Smith

A dog

Monday, March 7, 2016

Craziest week ever, for real

Yeah, so this week was crazy.

We went to Osorno for Elder Torres’ second visa. We were in a bus for a solid two days. I ran into Elder Ryan while in Osorno.

We have a new mission rule to always have a Book of Mormon in our hand when walking around.
I had an intercambio with my district leader, Elder Bliss, in Castro. We did 31 contacts and then slept VERY well that night :)
The mission has changed the day of when they tell us our Cambios [transfers]. So we find out tomorrow. Elder Torres and I have the same amount of time here in Quellòn, two cambios. So we will see what happens.
We can see the massive Volcano Corcovado basically the whole time we are tracting, along with two others. So that is a blessing.

Remember that guy who was always looking for his "horses", who was drunk? So we were passing by his house to visit an investigator yesterday. We hear a scream, look back, and see him. He comes up to us, and the next thing we know he has us seated on his couch inside his house. We attempted to teach lesson one. But he told us some pretty neat stuff too, such as:
- he is a gringo from Germany
- he has 2 hearts
- he has 5 horses that have been lost for months. That’s why he always walks with lassos.
- the carabineros (police) hauled him off to the jail in Castro because he was drunk. As he was trapped in the back, he belted out an epic braveheart scream: "Vive Quellòn!!!" ("for Quellòn").
That was a fun cita.

On Wednesday morning at 3 AM, I woke up to sirens. The first thing I thought was "Oh shoot. Tsunami!" I opened the curtains in our room and saw a massive ball of fire. I woke up Elder Torres. First thing we did was grab our cameras and started taking photos and videos. A house on the street next to ours was on fire. And I mean ON FIRE. 
Our dueña (the person we rent from), ran to us and told us to be careful with the cenisa (ashes) that were falling. The wind was blowing all of the ashes our direction, and they were landing on the rooftops. Everyone and their dog were on top of their roofs spaying water to prevent the ashes from catching their homes on fire. We could see the silhouette of our neighbor, valiantly spraying water on his roof while smoking a cigarette at the same time. The bomberos (firefighters) arrived. A crowd watched from an evangelical church just up the hill.  The fired then spread to 3 more houses, and then we got pretty freaked out. So we ran in and packed our bags. By 4 AM, the bomberos managed to put out the fire. We slept for 3 more hours. The next day we learned that two people had died- the albino DJ that is pretty well known around here and his girlfriend. Hna Claudia knew him well. So she has been pretty shaken up. We met a man in the street the other day who was a friend of the man who died. We testified of the plan of salvation and felt the Spirit.

On Saturday, we knocked a door, and a lady who was willing to talk to us came out. Turns out she is an atheist. But that wasn’t a problem. Atheists are normally very willing to listen, and we both leave respecting each other’s beliefs. We shared with her our testimonies, and then she started to tell us all of our testimonies are just human feelings that we invent to have our minds rest, and because we need to have something to hope for. It reminded me in the Book of Mormon, of the antichrist who taught that no one can know of spiritual truths because we can’t see, and that testimonies are just the results of a "frenzied mind." I’ve never had my testimony more challenged, picked apart, tried, and blasted than in my mission. But God does not fail us.

We had interviews with President Obeso this week. I’m telling you all about the following and opening up about my weaknesses because I want to help any other currently serving or prospective future missionary. President Obeso sat me down and asked me if I was enjoying my mission. The man has the gift of discernment. I started to cry and told him “sometimes.” I’m trying so very hard to be obedient, but I’m not perfect. I want to do my mission to the best of my ability and serve with everything I have, because I don’t want to let the Lord, myself, or my family down. And all of that has created a lot of stress for me. And to be frank, I am very hard on myself. Always thinking on how I can improve, and how we should have acted in that situation, and how we are going to act in the future. Anyway, President Obeso had me open up to Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-46. He explained that Christ is kind, and we show love for our investigators, and we are kind to other people, and we are so forgiving to other people. All this because we want to follow Christ and because they are commandments. But that those things also apply to ourselves. We need to treat ourselves the same way. We read the Doctrine and Covenants scripture and told me to have those same attributes with myself.  President Obeso told me that I’m doing the work well. That helped me a ton with being less hard on myself. Tender mercy. For fast Sunday, I fasted for help in being less hard on myself and to have help with this weakness. My fast and prayers are being answered. After a study, I felt I just need to be patient with myself and have faith. I hope this helps you guys.

One of our investigators said she wants to be baptized. She and her husband came to church again.
Hno Mario came to church without his family because they had the funerals to go to. But he came by himself. He is serious about getting sealed in the temple.

We taught a less active member. We were very direct and invited him to live the law of chastity, because he his living with his partner. I used to be very squeamish about being direct like that. But as I understand more about the power and authority of my calling, it has become natural. It is such a blessing to help others.
I know God answers our prayers.

Elder West