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]

Monday, April 11, 2016

Testimony, fleas, and sink showers

I had an intercambio with my trainer, Elder Ryan!! Super fun. He tried to pull a leaf off of a tree, but the whole branch came down. 
Elder Ryan trying to get some lunch
We have an investigator that reminds me so much of my uncle Nick. Same personality. Fleas are eating me alive. I have 8 bites just on my left bicep. My legs are like bleeding. This was our second week of taking sink showers. The mornings are frigid and the water is cold. A drunk guy talked with us and was 6 inches away from my face. He was falling onto me the whole time and I had to keep him standing. My companion told him we are here to share the gospel and the drunk said, "Chill out gringo!" My back is worse, by a lot. Wednesday, I’m going to get a scan, and then talk with a doctor next Monday. This whole experience has helped me be more humble. 

Spiritual experiences:

We were walking in the street and I didn’t want to do any contacting. I hadn’t done one in a while. So to break out of the shell, I just talked to the guy coming towards us. He looked pretty hard and like he wouldn’t want anything. But I just had to start. It was one of the best contacts I’ve had. HE CAME TO CHURCH!!! He wants us to visit with him. He has a wife and an 8 year old daughter. We found out he lives in a different sector so we will pass on his information as a reference.

On Sunday, a less active lady we are working with (she reminds me so much of Aunt Andrea and Uncle John, like personality wise) bore her testimony. Another less active member came to church. Mini miracles that made me really happy.

On Monday, we were knocking doors. I was frustrated. And missions aren’t easy. And I was bummed out. I opened up to some scriptures I have tabbed for times when I am down. I opened up to 1 Nephi 21:14-16. It is where Isaiah is speaking about Israel saying that the Lord has forgotten them. Then the Savior says that as absurd as the thought that a women might forget her nursing child, even more absurd is the thought that Christ will forsake us, because he has me, Elder Jacob West engraven in the palms of his hands. The Spirit hit me so hard. HE HAS NOT FORGOTTEN ABOUT ME. 

The next day we had a zone council to talk about the new mission focus for the month. It is about becoming a better disciple. We focused in on the atonement. We broke into groups. My group read scriptures on the resurrection. I was asked to present what my group had learned. As I shared, I told the zone about my experience from 1 Nephi 21 and bore my testimony. The Spirit was testifying to me so strongly that Jesus Christ was resurrected and that He lives. A very special experience for me. Later in the consejo, we took a moment to ponder individually on how we felt as we heard God’s plan for us, that we would need a Savior, and that Jesus Christ would do it. Again, the Spirit testified to me. I felt so grateful for the choice I had made to come on the mission and be having this special spiritual experience, strengthening my testimony of Jesus Christ.

A youth that is preparing to leave on a mission here told Elder Ryan, after a cita, that they should just testify all the time. He said that when they teach, it is good and all, but when they testify is when the Spirit comes very strong, and the power and authority of their calling is manifest. Just testify. I’ve been seeing that throughout this week.

Elder Smith and I knocked a door. It had been a long day. A guy came out. Obviously rich. I could see his pride. He told us he didn’t believe in religion. I had the strongest prompting to share my testimony with him. I testified that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church upon the earth, that the Book of Mormon is true, that God has a plan for him, and that He loves him. I felt the Spirit very strong. I started crying in front of this guy as I bore my testimony. I didn’t resist the tears. I kept testifying. After, the man let us in, and I had one of the most powerful restoration lessons of my mission. We testified with power and authority. Earlier that morning, I had been feeling weak in my testimony of the restoration, that this Church is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I prayed and asked for help. I then studied all of Joseph Smith History and asked for an opportunity to bear my testimony of the restoration. God answered my prayer. I left that cita feeling the Spirit so strongly. I know through our testimonies the Spirit brought the message of the restoration to that man’s heart. It is his choice to open his heart and accept the message. But we did our part.

We taught a less active man whose son is paralyzed from the waist down. After sharing a lukewarm plan of salvation lesson with him, I remembered the words of that youth who said we should just testify. I told this hermano that I wanted to share my testimony with him. I testified that God knew him and his situation, that He loves him, and that his son will be resurrected with a perfect body one day. As I testified, the Spirit touched his heart and tears came to his eyes. Man! What a blessing it is to be a missionary!! Elder Ryan said he loves his mission because this is the only time that we will ever have to be a missionary like we are now.

For my last experience, I was walking. This has been a hard area for me, with the circumstances and everything. I’ve grown so much here. But I was frustrated. I started a prayer. In the mission, the missionary you train is called your hijo (son). I started praying for the future hijo I might have in the mission. This cambio has really helped me become a better missionary. As I was praying for my future hijo, the word slipped and it changed to hijos (children). Then through the Spirit, the idea dawned on me that this hard time in my mission is preparing me for my future hijos (children). It is preparing me to be a father. I thought of my Dad with hard areas he had and how it prepared him to be my father. I started praying for my future family. I felt that my future kids were looking down from heaven and feeling grateful that I’m having these experiences here and going through preparation. 

Elder West

Elder West & Elder Ryan

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sink Showers

I went to the doctors this week for my back. I’m taking some medication now. It has helped a bit. Patience and time, baby! That’s all I need.
Tuesday morning, water started leaking into our bedroom from the shower. We are in the process of getting it fixed. But this whole week we have been taking "sink showers." #ghetto
This week has been full of many great spiritual experiences. My time here has been very hard. But I feel so grateful for it. Looking through my journal, I have realized how God has been guiding me through all of it. Like ALL of it. I just have to look to see it.
I’ve been asking myself a lot if God is happy with my efforts in what I’m doing. I said a prayer and asked for guidance. A few days later in my personal study, I decided to make a list of all of my sectors and write in what ways I grew/changed and in what I learned. After, as I looked at the list and pondered, the Spirit helped me see how I have changed. I felt that God is happy with me. Elder Holland’s talk from general conference helped me a ton as well. His talk was like an answer to a lifetime full of prayers. And a comfort to an Elder West that has been too hard on himself all of his mission. God is guiding me. He loves me. I’m growing.
We had a bishop from another ward come and check our shower because he works in that kind of stuff. Afterwards, we chatted for a bit. He expressed to us some of the stresses of his calling. We talked about missionary work. Talking about the gospel, he said that "If the members don’t want to share it, it is because they aren’t living it." That hit me hard. As I have thought on my life before the mission, I realized the times when I was actively applying the gospel in my life is when I was the happiest and had the greatest desires to share the gospel with others. I knelt and prayed for opportunities, for courage to act, and for discernment to recognize the opportunities. And I was blessed.
In Chile they have things called "micros." They are basically short buses with a whole lot less leg room. They cram as many people into them as possible. As we rode to the doctor’s for my back, I was seated next to a guy in his 50s or 60s. I didn’t say anything. That bugged me. I should be talking to this guy and sharing with him the most important message in the world. Literally. But I was scared. So I said a prayer. I said, "Heavenly Father, I want to talk to this man but I am scared. Please bless me with the courage to talk with him as I act and open my mouth." I felt filled with faith after the prayer, but still a little nervous. I acted. And as I acted, I was blessed with courage. I know God blesses us as we pray with faith (action).
Miracles of the week:
-We passed on our golden contact’s info to elders in Antofagasta. Sad because she was so prepared. But it is great that others will be blessed to see her conversion process.
-We passed by a store and a lady called out to us. She told us she is inactive. But she has a friend who has been investigating multiple religions and just hasn’t found the right one. She gave us her friend’s info because she has been asking her lots of questions and wants to meet with the missionaries. We passed on her info to the missionaries in her sector.
- Last night we passed by a cita we had made. As we were shouting "allooo" for her to come out (that’s how you knock doors when they have a fence), a young lady popped her head out of a nearby car and called out to us. We thought she was just trying to cat call or mock us because that happens a lot, so we ignored her. Then she gets out of the car and approaches us. She asked, "What do you guys even believe? I see you outside ALL DAY LONG trying to talk to people. What do you believe?" Then she told us how she has been passing through multiple difficult things in her life, and she asked us so many questions of the soul (Preach My Gospel, chapter 5). We were stunned. We took her information, and we will follow up. Sometimes, we find the prepared people, and sometimes they find us. It was also cool to see that God puts people in our paths, and guides our plans, even though citas fall. He knew the cita would fall, and we would be there, and Javiera would see us and talk to us. It all works out.
Well, that’s it for this week. I love you all. This is God’s work.

Elder West