Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

Because Mara's p-day was switched to Friday last week, we were fortunate to get another letter two days later.

 Here I am again!  I have officially decided that I will never again agree to do P- Day on a Friday.  It messes up your mind and body like nothing else.  Not to mention, it was the slowest darn week.  We hardly got to work at all.  When the boat comes, we have to be down there on the dock, anxiously awaiting our boxes as they unload giant wooden crate by giant wooden crate and little  cardboard box of rice by little  cardboard box of carrots.  And everybody is so stressed and angry that they have to wait there all day that we can´t even do contacts or offer our service. 

We had our P-day Friday and planning that night.  Saturday and Sunday were General Conference.  At first, I was frustrated about that too, until we began to watch.   Most amazing stuff I´ve ever seen in my whole life!  I couldn´t even believe the power of this conference.  Can you believe that one year ago I was filling out my papers to serve a mission?  And a couple days before I said that never, would I ever serve a mission?  The coolest part was when President Monson began on Saturday morning, telling how the Church was first established with 6 people.  In our teeny little chapel, in that very moment, we had 6 people (granted, 4 were missionaries and the other two were the ex-Branch President of 27 years and his wife... but either way, we were SIX).  And then how they gave a shout-out to the islands of the Pacific in the Sunday afternoon session.  That was awesome too because we had an investigator there!  WOOT WOOT! His name is Loco-Bruno.  Well, that´s what the town calls him anyway.  But he´s really not that loco.  He´s actually the coolest old man I know.  And he´s so going to be baptized.  And then he will even be cooler.

We received word yesterday that the Chirinos (couple serving on the island with the girls) will be replaced in January by the Jennings - an American couple.  This is serious news.  It most likely means that at least one of us will accompany the Chirinos back to Santiago.

Yesterday we had two beautiful lessons with two people who are neighbors and searching for truth.  It is the coolest thing.  Last week as part of our planning session we chose, according to the Spirit, two sectors in which we would put all of our focus.  Since then, every investigator with serious potential that we have found lives within either of the two sectors.  It´s awesome.  Sorry I don´t have much time to write today, but thank you, each of you for your emails and for, as Justin says, being "AWESOME."
I love you so much!
Sister Thomas

Happy Discovery of La Isla de Juan Fernandez

November 22, 2013

Happy Discovery of the Island Juan Fernandez Anniversary everybody!  Woot Woot!  

The boat came this week and wow are we stocked with food for like 6 years!  Woohoo!   The boat had to come a little bit early for the fiestas of today, so that was a little bit awesome because there was nothing left here and families with young children were living on a diet of pure noodles. (I am thrilled the boat came but I am still not ok with starving children on the island!)

We need to set something straight right now.  Please don`t freak out, but you all need to be aware that the likelihood of us being able to communicate at Christmas is about a negative 99%.  It`s better to just say that it`s not going to happen and be happily surprised than think that it will happen and end up devastated.  But it`s fine!  I`ll just ask to have my call time moved to when I get back to Santiago and then it will be even more special!!

Elder Holland came to Santiago.   Sister Essig took notes and read them over the phone to us while I translated and everyone else took notes... so I didn`t even get to take notes.  But... oh well.  For something, God does his things.  (uh... that doesn`t really make sense in english does it.  Question:  do you understand my letters?  Sometimes... most of the times... I forget my own native language.  People always ask me how to say stuff and I seriously never know.)

We get to watch General Conference tomorrow and Sunday wooooohoooooo!!!  I`ve never been so pumped for a General Conference before!

 President called last Friday.  He NEVER calls.  The last time he gave us a compliment was because we called him with a list of six questions.  BUT HE CALLED US WITH A COMPLIMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  WOHOOOOOO!  Seriously couldn`t believe it.  He said we had the highest numbers he had ever seen in the Isla Juan Fernandez and that he was excited for us.  So that was cool because the day before that, we officially decided to never again focus on numbers.
 And here`s the story about that.  It was Thursday.  Thursdays are our Weekly Planning Day.  Weekly Planning should never ever go beyond 4:00 in the afternoon unless there`s a serious problem between companions or something like that.  Welpt, there we were planning away, and extremely tired. Tired of our circumstances, of the island, of not seeing success, of each other, and the list goes on.  We began to talk about what we needed to do to fix this place up and ourselves and how we were going to really start seeing success.  Realizing that we were and still are completely incapable, we turned to the Lord.  We began to pray.  We prayed  telling the Lord that we were no longer going to think about the pressure we feel from the  rest of the world, about the numbers, about how everyone`s last hope for this place is us, about how if we fail, this island will fail, but instead about what God wants us to achieve.  That`s all.  Just what He wants.  We got up at 5:00 and went out to work.  We went to an appointment with a less active, and found her nonmember husband there as well.  He has been atheist for three years- ever since the tsunami took away his 8 year old son.  It was the most power-packed lesson I have ever experienced as he began to explain how our Talent Night opened his heart and how that night, for the first time in 20 years, he knelt down to pray, how he is ready to accept God in his life again, and how he is ready to change.  I cried.

The next day, we had a similar experience with a woman named Yasna who we found outside of the police station.  Within 15 minutes she was telling us her whole life, how she used to have to beg on the streets in Santiago, how she hardly has anything to give her children these days, but how she works, throwing rocks on the beach, in order to feed them.  The next day we taught them and she and her older son immediately accepted a baptismal date.  The Lord just needed us to humble us a little bit and refocus our thoughts and attitudes.  We have been so blessed. 

Love to all!
Sister Thomas

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November 4, 2013

This letter is basically Mara  answering my many questions I had for her.  It is nice to finally get some reassuring news.

Happy Monday morning to all!!
( On Friday morning, an earthquake in Santiago registered 6.5.  For those wondering, yes, panic struck in me....not because of the quake but because of the tsunami potential that comes after the quake)
 The earthquake:  Nobody told us anything.  One day we were teaching in a home where the news was on and saw for like 20 seconds that something had happened, got worried for about 10 seconds, and then forgot all about it.  We´re still alive and all is well.  And yes, after the 2010 earthquake, every house, building, and structure in general was built to withstand whatever shifting the earth  desires to make.
Package:  I mentioned a package because I would really prefer  not to receive anything.   I don´t want my companion to think I have more money than her  and it would really be best that you just send me your prayers for Christmas instead.  Plus, we can´t give out our address. All mail that we receive must go through the mission office.  This week, they sent us a package to make 72 hours kits (reassuring??) and in mine was my birthday candy bar, so I will definitely be here at least through January anyway.
But really, prayers would be preferable.  Thank you! (She IS getting a Christmas package as well as her companion!  I mean, really?? Does she know her mother at all?)
Cash: It came!  We are no longer in extreme poverty.  Extreme cold, maybe, but poverty, no more.  Our house is basically painted plywood.  And so, without, heat... it gets dang cold with the humidity levels here.  At night we tuck ourselves in and turn on our hair dryers inside our sheets.  It´s so funny.  And so warm.  Try it.  Seriously.
Elders:   They left quite a while ago but we got an update from one of them today that he found the family of an investigator here and is teaching them there in Santiago!  So cool!
President: Knows quite a bit. (I asked her if she was communicating with the mission president about her situation.  Mara has a tendency not to want to trouble other people with her problems) He was EXTREMELY feisty with us for the first few weeks.  Not that we did anything wrong... I think he was just nervous for us being so far away and having so many problems and what not.  We were really quite terrified of him for a while there, but this week we called him to ask him some questions and he gave us a real live COMPLIMENT!  It seriously made our whole week and gave us strength to keep going. 
Chirinos: We see the missionary couple almost every day. They are so wonderful.  Angels.

Companion: (I asked how her companion is doing because I know she had been struggling some)  We are  the of best friends and doing so so well together!  She struggled a little in the beginning and just had to work through some things in her head.  Luckily, I was just the companion necessary to help her work those things out.
 Just so you know the Island Anniversary is the 22nd of November.  Our P-day for that week will be changed to that day (Friday?).  So, don´t freak out on Monday when I don´t write.  Most likely I will still be very much alive and well.  Haha.
Church:  Yesterday, a wonderful Peruvian man named Miguel went to church.  Unfortunately, it´s a little complicated because he leaves to the continent this Friday.  We never even taught him, we only invited him to church.  And he came.  And he loved it.  And he wants to keep going and share with his family and find the missionaries there in Santiago. He will be coming back in January, and I have absolutely no doubt that he will be a priesthood-holding member!  Woohoo!
Island Complications:  If someone gets sick, pregnant, or hurt in anyway, they have to fly to the continent.  Imagine!!  At 7 months pregnant, every woman has to fly to the mainland and be there, alone, until at least two months after the baby is born.  If someone has a heart attack,  Darn.  Hope you make it in the 5 hours that it takes to get a plane here and get them back there to a hospital.  And if it´s a rainy day?  Welpt.  Stinks for you.
Island Bonuses:  ALL healthcare is free.  Granted it´s junky.  But it´s free.
Elder Holland IS COMING!    Well, he is coming to Santiago.  I am bummed I can't be there but I think we at least get to listen over the phone, assuming that the connection is good that day.  We and the missionaries from Isla de Pascua (Easter Island) are going to tune in on the phones of President and Sister Essig.  (The best part about this news for me is knowing that she actually has access to a phone and I might get the Christmas phone call after all)
Conference:  Still haven't seen it.  We will get to watch it in a few weeks....I think.
Satan:  Has had a powerful grasp on this island for WAY TOO LONG.  It gets scary sometimes.  Really freaky things happen here.  But the clouds are truly beginning to part (literally too, the rain is beginning to stop!) and the power of God is breaking through.  It is so beautiful to watch day after day.
I love you so much and pray for each of you daily!

Sister Thomas

Monday, October 28, 2013

3 Letters along with pictures of the island!

                            THE BOAT CAME!!

 October 29, 2013

Yep, that very day, the boat came... which means that we wasted the majority of our week down on the dock awaiting the unloading of food and construction materials and whatever else they unloaded from that crazy old boat.  It was good in some ways because we could meet people, but wow it sure seemed like a whole ton of wasted time.  Unbelievably frustrating.  But also fascinating.   We are doing quite well.  It´s just that everything here is MUCH more complicated than anywhere else.  For example, we have been waiting for a shipment of money to, you know, buy stuff, for two weeks and still haven´t received anything.  I literally have two dollars left.  So... hope there´s no emergency or anything.  Even though, if some emergency were to occur, we could probably just trade an avocado for some crab meat or something.  Unfortunately, the elders did our request list from Jumbo (Jumbo is the online site where they order food.  Before they left the island, the elders put in the food request for Mara and her companion.)... and it is a pretty darn unfortunate list.  Enough to survive healthily for two weeks and then we are going to be back to rice and noodles.  They barely ordered  any fruits or vegetables, so the first day, when they unloaded the vegetables from the boat, we went to one of the two homes that sell vegetables, made a list of what we wanted so the man could save us some, and returned that evening the second he opened.  (At least they will get to eat for the next two weeks)I´m not kidding when I say that within twenty minutes, he had sold every last vegetable.  It was  absolute mad chaos.  Many many people were left without healthy food.  As a result, about half the island has diabetes and those who don´t develop it.  Sister Chirinos developed it within a month of being here.  It terrifies the bejeebers out of me, but I´m sure we´ll be fine.  Because people have been inviting us over so much, and because when people invite us, they give us the very best of what they have, we have been doing fine.By the way, Los Chirinos are truly wonderful people. I think they requested me on facebook. If you get the chance, they also speak English (are American citizens in fact), and it would be neat if you could maybe thank them. They have treated us like their own daughters and are so genuinely caring.  Actually, all of the members here treat us like their own daughters.  The following story is not to scare you, just to show you that we are well-cared for and protected here.Two weeks ago, a man who is not isleno (los islenos never ever ever get mixed up in delinquacy) started showing a little too much interest in me.  One day he found us while he was drunk and gave us a little scare.  I didn´t want to tell anyone, because it wasn´t a big deal.  We just ran away and all was fine.  But my companion told Los Chirinos who then told Hermano Poncho and his wife Sandra.  Hermano Poncho is HUGE and has a bit of influence here because everyone loves him.   Turns out that he scared the absolute bejeebers out of that guy,  telling him he´d beat the crud out of him if he so much as looked at us ever again.  His wife Sandra told the guy´s boss, and it looks like he will be shipped out of here soon.   Anyway, just so you can see that we are well-treated and protected.With regards to Christmas, don´t send me anything.  My companion has never received a single package (one card for her birthday from her mom), and I think it would be best that I not receive anything.  If you insist on sending something, make sure it´s teeny and just for her.  Or maybe some of those "futuro misionero" tags or HLJ rings (CTR) to give away to kids.  I hope you enjoy your Halloween week and eat lots of peach rings and dark chocolate!  I love you all so so much!!
Sister Thomas
This is a little extra that she put into a personal email answering a few of our questions we had for her. 

 I`m back!   GUESS WHAT?!  LUIS GOMEZ SE BAUTIZOOOOOOO!!!!  Our investigator from Lo Zanartu is the newest member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints!  Wootwoot!

The food orders are all online and take 7 years because the internet is so darn slow.  With regards to cash... stilllllll waiting.
Not gonna lie.  My feet hurt.  A lot.  But so do those de my companion, so I´m not too concerned.  It´s just that these crazy hills are hard work.  Anybody´s feet would hurt.  After the Tsunami, everybody wanted to build their houses up as high as they could... so we´ve gotta go up there too.  I seriously don´t know how these people do it,  climbing up and down and up and down all day everyday. It´s just not right.  Someday, I´m going to come back here and build them three gondolas: one for each main road. (Again with the high ambitions.  It is hard to slow her down.) The good thing is that we have discovered lots of hiking trails that act as shortcuts.  If you guys could see some of the trails that we take, you would die.  So, just know that we are protected and that if we fall, angels will pick us up. 

Dad, last week I also gave my first unscripted talk.  I went WAY over my time... but it went well.  That´s the only problem with being unscripted: the timing.  But I agree.  That´s the whole theory behind Preach My Gospel.  Follow the Spirit.  Don´t rely on memorized words.  Rely on the promptings you receive as you teach.
Love you so much,

Sister Thomas

Exploring Life on the Island 
October 21,2013 
DARSIEL SE BAUTIZOOOOOOO!!!!!!!  WOOHOOO!  I just read the Mission Newsletter, and Darsiel, the kid that I picked out for Jess to marry got baptized this weekend!!  Jessica, darling, you can thank me later.

Things are going very well here on the Isla Juan Fernandez.  This week was easily one of the hardest I´ve experienced, but it ended yesterday with one of the best days of my life.  We left our cabin early to go pick up a less active young man who had committed to go to church.  We arrived and he was sleeping.  His grandpa let us in, woke him up, and he came with us anyway!  This young man, Fabian, will be the key to getting his family reactivated and to the temple.  There is a temple trip planned for this March, so we are working hard to prepare everybody possible to be able to go.

Anyway, Fabian came to church with us.  He is 16 and is now officially preparing to receive the Priesthood and serve a mission.  It was pretty funny, it took him four times to try to enter the church.  He was so nervous because he hadn´t been in so long, but we pretty much forced him and he loved it.  It was especially neat, because Saturday and Sunday we held a special fast for the island.  I was asked to speak to explain the reasoning for the fast and afterward we held a break-the-fast luncheon for everyone.  But that´s not all.

This week we have been working with a man named Hector Torres Padre who has known the missionaries forever but has never been fully committed because he thinks he already has the Priesthood.  This week, we lovingly explained to him the truth, put him with a baptismal date, and committed him to church.  He didn´t come.  We were devastated… until… HE CAME!!  He arrived late, but he arrived, with suit and all.  It was absolutely beautiful to see him there.  And then he went to our luncheon afterwards.  But that´s not all.

This week, we went to visit a sister who has been recently reactivating.  Things were going wonderfully, she was truly making a change in her life, until out of the blue in the middle of the lesson, she absolutely BLEW UP AT US.  I mean blew up.  Like a crazy person.  The truth is that she is mildly crazy and that she was recently drugged by some friends but we didn´t really understand all of that in the moment.  I was a mess for a solid 3 days.  She occupied every second of my thoughts.  Camila, Camila, Camila.  How did we lose her so quickly?  By day 4, I got over it and decided that I couldn´t let her ruin my life like that.  I tried to force myself to forget about her and focus on other people, consoling myself in that, some day, she would come back to church.  How great was my joy when, a few minutes after the Sacrament, in walked Camila with her baby.  It was in the middle of my talk (my talk suddenly became focused on a very different topic) and I was just… so happy.  An indescribable happy.
By the way, we go to church in a tiny rented cabin.  We have about 13 consistent attendees but we are in desperate need of Priesthood. We have a branch president, 1st counselor, elder's quorum president and a mission leader.

The lunch after was a smashing success and all felt the power of the special fast that we had asked of the branch.  Clearly the reason for the success we saw at church yesterday.

We literally spend our days in a full sprint because everything is so far, but we are getting accustomed to the life here. We are running while the locals move with about the speed of turtles.  Life on the island is s.l.o.w.  It seriously reminds me so much of Vancleave.  The boat should arrive today with food so people can quit starving for a little while.  It´s honestly so sad.  The little shops are out of everything except noodles and rice.  The fridges from which these humble people offer us whatever they have are completely bare.  There are only two places in the whole island in which you can pay with credit card: the farmacia and we heard that there is some restaurant really far away, but we haven´t seen it, and we´re not sure if it´s true.  

We are officially in a little cabin and out of the hotel (yes, we also had to pay the hotel in pure cash… we paid with practically every last peso we had because the money takes so long to get here.  We´ve got about 10 bucks to last us until who knows when.  But the Lord is blessing us in so many ways.  Even though nobody has any food, we have been invited to lunch every single day in some miraculous way.  Even investigators have been inviting us.  Our cabin has running water and even has a washer and dryer so we are living large.  

Thank you for your prayers and your concern.  I hope you know that I love you so so much.  I´m so glad that you loved your vacation!  I can´t wait to bring you on vacation here!  (Definitely gonna want to pack tuna packets for that one.)

Sister Thomas

P.S. The boat SHOULD come today!
P.S.S.  Still haven´t seen conference.  I´d love to hear from each of you what your favorite parts were!

Where is the Food?

October 14, 2013

I live in a paradisiacal Vancleave. 
That´s really the best way that I can possibly describe this place.  It´s Vancleave.  Fishermen, farmers, front porch gossipers, and pie.  But in heaven. (For the non-Lippincott's reading this letter, my mom and dad live in Vancleave, MS.  Mara has spent A LOT of time there while growing up.  It is a very small town off the Gulf Coast of MS.  She described it pretty perfectly- lots of fishermen, farmers, front porch rockers, and pie. ) We have 3 paved roads, a waveless ocean with crystal blue water, cliffs lined with the most beautiful trees in the world, and more flowers than I have ever seen in my life.  I have never been more tired in my life: mentally, spiritually, physically,  but things are going well.  We are already beginning to see serious miracles.  For example, the whole week we invited every young man and young woman aged person to play soccer on Saturday morning.  We expected, with a whole ton of hope, about five players.  How shocked we were when, one by one, 30 people showed up.  2 less actives, and the rest was the future of the young mens program of the island.  It was easily the most fun   I´ve had in my entire mission.  Seeing all of those kids show up and then playing with them!  Shoot, they´re good, too.  Really, really good. 
Tomorrow we will be moving into a little cabin that we have to hike to, so we´ll have a nice little home to stay in.  We are always either hiking up a mountain with all of our might or sprinting down because it took so much time to hike up and we are late for our next appointment.  It´s pretty crazy.
There is a serious problem with the island in that they receive shipments of food and everything else for that matter once a month.  We are now at the end of the month, and there is literally nothing. (I'm hoping their monthly delivery cycle is mid-month considering she said they are already out of food and she sent the letter on October 14. If they are out of food already and they still have two more weeks to go.......????) People are starting to have to eat rice everyday, three times a day.  There is not a single fruit or vegetable or slice of cheese in the whole island.  It´s really sad.  The children are pretty malnourished and they are trying to do an intervention program to help them. (Hopefully, with spring and warmer temperatures, all those farmers she talks about will start farming and putting their skills to good use.  If anyone could benefit from having a garden, those people certainly could.  And hopefully, they will share with the cute sister missionaries!!)
 They´re kicking us out already.  Chao!

Much love,
Sister Thomas

Monday, October 7, 2013

La Isla de Robinson Crusoe!! I'm Here!!

October 7, 2013

She arrived!!  I'm so glad I didn't know what day she was flying over.  I would have worried all day long.  Now that I know she is there safely, I can hopefully relax and enjoy the experience along with her!!  

WELPT!!!  Here I am!
The secretary called us Thursday night to inform us that we would actually be leaving the following morning.  Because I had prepared well, I was ready by the time it was time for bed.  Unfortunately I had to stay up with my companion until two and then wake up at 5:30 to finish all her mess.  But, we finished, and we left for the office.  There, the historian and financiero drove us to a little private runway run by LASSA (I think?).  We flew in a plane that seats five passengers, but there was only one other besides us.  You better believe she was taught lesson one.  She´s the mom of the lawyer here. (She makes it sound like there is only one lawyer on the island. Maybe so?)  When we got here, turned out that the lawyer is an investigator of the elders.  Small world.  Anyway, it was an amazing adventure.  As we neared the island... it was a sight absolutely indescribable.  Utterly beautiful.  It was a sunny day with a few clouds touching the peaks of the cliffs.  It literally looked like the island of Neverland when Peter Pan and the kids are flying over it.  Absolutely breathtaking.  And you know what, my camera died right in that instant.  But that´s ok, because I was able to enjoy it and marvel in the beauty of the earth that God created.  When we landed, they drove us down to a dock in a lagoon that was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.  Cliffs hundreds of feet tall with crystal blue water, and hundreds of seals.  Hundreds.  Playing in the water, flopping around on the rocks, welcoming us to their beautiful home.  We got in a boat and made our way around the island. (Awww dang! I was sort of hoping she would get the donkey experience.) I´m not kidding it was the most amazing thing I´ve ever done.  I cannot wait to be able to take you all here someday.  Can´t wait.  When we arrived, the elders ran down to greet us.  Los Chirinos, the matrimonio misional, had prepared us a lovely lunch, and we all sat down to eat fish.    I´ve eaten fish everyday.  That´s about all they eat here. (Good thing she loves fish.  Brenna would starve to death.)Los Chirinos have got to live in the best place in the whole island, on top of a hill where you can literally see everything.  The elders live in the house that we should have moved into, but instead we are in a hotel.  Either way, when they leave, we will not be living in that house.(Not sure where she will be living.)  But anyway, we came well-prepared.   We came with serious plans and began putting them into effect immediately.   I am quite tired, in every respect, but I am doing well.  To get anywhere you have two options: hike up a mountain or hike down a mountain.  Both of which can be pretty tiring after a while.  But that´s ok, because we´re getting stronger each day. (I pray her foot holds up with all that up and downhill walking.)
I love you all so much and hope that you absolutely LOVE visiting the  islands for fall break.  If you see any poor missionaries that are sick of fish, buy them a steak. 

Much love,
Sister Thomas

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Boat Or Donkey?

Comments in red by mom

Monday, September 16, 2013

Not sure if you received an email from President saying we would be writing tomorrow, but nobody told us P-Day had been changed, so we got permission to write today... otherwise, we would’ve had to wait until Thursday and I told him my dear mother might fall over and die.                    (I appreciate her looking out for her mother)
Not sure if we will be able to communicate in la isla.  We heard from one elder that we have to handwrite our letters, send it on the once-a-month boat, and hope for the best.  But we hear a lot of things so who knows. (I am still praying for internet on the island but I think that is pretty far-fetched at this point.)

Turns out there was a bit of drama with the sisters over the whole island situation.  Not entirely sure what went down, but I guess people were praying, even fasting to get sent there.  Some felt like they had received spiritual assurances that they would be "the chosen ones."  The only ones who KNEW they didn`t even have a chance so didn`t ever think about it are the ones who are going.  I guess some of the sisters were really mad.  Not really sure how you can be angry over the Lord`s decision of where you will serve, but I guess that`s their problem.

Today we had a Zone Training where we learned about how to better maintain our recent converts.  Guess how many of Chile`s many, many church members are active.  Guess.


Yep.  That`s all. Ten Stinking Percent.  Not for long.  All we need is one extra zero on the end.  That`s all.

My companion and I are doing very well.  We understand the weight of our new calling and are doing EVERYTHING within our power to strengthen our testimonies, relationship, teaching abilities, etc.  We understand that this is not going to be some tropical paradise with pina coladas as all of the other missionaries and members seem to believe.  We set very specific goals to strengthen ourselves in every way possible before our departure date which we received today: October 1st.  We are allowed to bring one bag with everything (books, clothes, everything) that weighs NO MORE than 10 kilos.  Not sure what the math is on that, but it`s basically a backpack. (I knew she wouldn’t be able to bring much after watching several tiny, 6 person planes land on the island….thanks to youtube.)  President stopped by the zone training this morning before everyone else arrived (by chance my companion and I arrived early... or really exactly on time)  and he explained  a little bit more about everything regarding the island.  On our list of things to bring, the only thing that says IMPORTANT is a Patriarchal Blessing... which is of course the only thing I don`t have. (I mailed it to her about two months ago but apparently it still hasn’t arrived) The mail strike is officially over, but things are coming in very slowly.  Could you scan it to me this week please?  Anyway, the tickets are bought for our tiny little plane ride for Oct. 1st, but it depends on the weather.  They will tell us the day of if we will actually be going or not.  If not, we will anxiously wait each day after hoping that the weather clears up. (The airstrip is very small with mountains surrounding it so the weather has to be absolutely clear or they will not be able to land)  When we arrive, we have two options to get to the city: donkey or boat.  We opted for the boat, but if it doesn`t arrive we will go by donkey.  BY DONKEY. (The airstrip is on the south side of the island and the town is on the north side with mountains in between.  The boat ride is two hours.  I can’t imagine how long it would take to arrive by donkey.  Oh, how I would love to witness that experience!! He says that certain rules are a little more lax on the island, but that all rules apply unless we call to change them.  We explained to him that we are not going to the island to relax and that he doesn`t need to worry about that.

When I arrived in Quilicura this week, I arrived to a companion rather... disanimated.  She has been here for about 9 months and feels as though she has talked with every person, knocked every door, etc.  We did not have a single appointment lined up.  Welpt.  I (we...?) changed that REAL fast.  We now have tons of appointments and excellent investigators with real interest.  I think it was good for her to see that it doesn`t matter if you`re tired, other people are looking for truth and we are the ones who have it... sooooo we`ve gotta give it to them!  She did have one solid investigator, Veronica who had a baptism lined up for the 29th of September.  We taught her Saturday and she had some serious doubts.  Not about the Church or anything, but rather that she wanted to push back her baptismal date two more weeks so she wouldn`t be tired and she would be more prepared.  In this lesson we were also teaching with two recent converts present.  I looked around expecting someone to answer (including my senior companion) and everybody just looked... tired.  I don`t even know.  So I just opened my mouth and began to speak and beautiful words came out and the Spirit testified to her what she needed to do.  We told her to pray and ask specifically what date the Lord wanted her to be baptized. The next day at church she came up to us and said, "Just so you know, I`m going to be baptized the 29th."  I may or may not have cried.

Lots of long stories short. I learned a lot this week about how being tired... is not ok.  It`s just not.  We can be tired in the Celestial Kingdom.  Our time here on earth (and even more so in the mission) is just way to short to get tired.  If you think you`ve knocked the same door a thousand times, knock it again.  But for Heaven`s sakes do it with the Spirit.  What good does it do if you do it tiredly?  It was also a good lesson to prepare us for the islands.  We learned today that there is an attendance in church of 12, 4 of whom are missionaries, but that the elders recently found one investigator that they have been teaching and his family.  One is good.  659 is better. 

I received a letter from Grandma today!!  A delicious recipe!  Woohoo!  Thanks so much!  Not sure if there is other mail or not, but if there is, they say it`s trickling in a little bit at a time.

Lots of love,
Sister Thomas

P.S. we now only have one hour to correspond with family and friends instead of an hour and a half.  That does not mean write less.  If I have to I`ll spend the money necessary to print. (As I previously mentioned, if you email Mara, please remember to keep it somewhat brief.  Highlights are best.  It looks like her already short amount of time on the computer just got shorter and we want her to use most of her computer time writing.  We also realize how important it is for her to receive mail so please don’t stop writing her.  Just remember short and sweet!!)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Super Exciting News!!!

We received a letter from Mara this morning which was a surprise because she usually doesn't write until after 12:00 p.m. On the subject line it said, "MOMOMOMOMOMOMOM- READ RIGHT NOW!!"  Of course, you can imagine how my heart skipped a beat when I read that.  This is what followed.

Doing things different today.  I have serious news so I´m going to share and ask that you send me all the info you can find in the next hour and a half.    President Essig called us Saturday night... which never happens unless it´s something really important as we learned the last time I had a change.  You will never guess where I am going.  For the next three weeks I am going back to my first ward - Lo Zanartu in Quilicura.   Then me, and my new Mexican companion Sister Antunez, will be the very first sister missionaries of all time to preach the gospel in the Juan Fernandez islands.
I AM GOING TO LAS ISLAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chris and I  got on the internet and frantically searched for all the information we could about the island of Robinson Crusoe where we assume she will be serving since the other Juan Fernandez islands look like they are uninhabited.  After sending her all we could find about the island plus some amazing pictures, I included some questions of my own.  I ALWAYS have questions.  Most of them she couldn't answer but I did find out a few things.

I do not know much. This is what I know.  There have always been elders out on the island. The church has something like 16 members and 10 active.  But never fear, they will all be active when I convert them.  The elders say that the work is impossible and that you basically just do service all day.  And I say pish-posh.   That´s going to have to change.

In my reading about the island, I discovered that they had a tsunami there in February of 2010 that seems to have destroyed much of the main town of San Juan Bautista. Not really something that a mother wants to read about so I am trying to not go there in my head.  They seem to still be rebuilding from this disaster which is fine because Mara has always loved to get down and dirty and help pick up the pieces from a good disaster. We sent her some pictures of the island that look absolutely beautiful- at least the landscape does.  Very mountainous.  The pictures of the town look incredibly poor and humble.  We are super excited for her.  Apparently, this is quite an honor as sisters have never been allowed to serve on the islands.  She and her companion will be the first sister missionaries to ever serve out on the island.  The mission president announced a few months ago that in September, he would start sending sisters out to the islands.  Since then, Mara  said that the chatter among the hermanas has been high and that everyone wants to go. After a few exchanges back and forth with island information, this is the letter that followed. 

Ok- now I finished reading everything so I´ll write my real letter.
I´m still in utter and compelte shock.  I cannot for the life of me understand why or how the Lord decided to choose me to take on this task.  I feel so humbled, in a way that I have never felt before.  How can I, the nuevita, that only has three months in the mission and makes  mistakes every single day, be chosen to serve in this calling?  It´s almost unbelievable.  There are so many other deserving sisters that wanted this opportunity with all of their hearts.  They prayed for it, fasted for it even, and I, the only one who KNEW it was an impossible option for me, was called to serve there.  I´m just.... speechless.
I am so filled with gratitude.  A year ago, the thought to go on a mission had never even crossed my mind.  Three months ago, I thought that my mission had ended in the MTC and that I had failed.  And now...
Wow.  I´m just honored.  That´s all.  Truly honored.
I´m also a little bit devastated to be leaving my beloved Renquita.  I am just so in love with Renca, with our little branch that sometimes has 70 people in attendance and sometimes 25.  I am in love with Renca hill that says RENCA LA LLEVA as if it were Hollywood.  I am in love with Hornitos de Renca, the panaderia (bakery) that we visit WAY too much.  But mostly, I am just in love with all of the people.  I should be getting a  ton of facebook requests right about now (She has received many FB requests from all her friends in Renca).  Wow- I am just in love with them.  Sister Mora and I have worked so darn hard, and it literally hurts to leave it all behind, but I know that I am leaving it in the hands of the most capable missionary - Sister Mora.  She will be training another gringita like me who has six weeks in the mission.  Hermana Antunez, my new companion, has been in Lo Zanartu for nine months and will serve as my senior companion for the entire time that we are together.  I met here when I was there, she seems like a really great girl.  I am excited to go back and see the families in Lo Zanartu again.  I was only there for one week so I really didn´t get to know them.
Sister Mora and I have been together for 8 weeks.  And we have been through a lot together.  A whole lot.  I am going to miss her SO SO SO SO MUCH.  Like I can´t even explain how much.  She is such an amazing person and missionary.  When I come home, I am going to do everything in my power to help her and her family achieve their goals and dreams.  She deserves it.   I just love her.  I know that she will take good care of our work here and not let any of it go to waste.
This past week we had a pretty interesting expereince.  September 18th is  Independence Day for the Chileans.    Turns out independence is a pretty huge deal here.  LIKE HUGE.  People take off the entire week of work and just drink and party.  Unfortunately, other parts of September are used to protest and demonstrate and be angry.  Sister mora and I accidentally got caught right in the middle of the whole shabang this week.  We know that on 11 of September, we are not allowed to work after 7, because it´s not safe.  Look it up.  It´s pretty crazy.  Turns out that 40 years ago, there were tortures and murders and an absolute disaster, so every year people decide to do demonstrations again.  Don´t worry, the sisters are always in safe areas, but we just have to go inside in case the police cut the lights to avoid more problems.  Anyway, what we forgot about was that they were going to do some demonstrations downtown on the 5th and 6th... just in time for our very well planned exchanges... oops.  The bus ride that should take 30 minutes took two hours (People were literally peeing in bags), went outside of our mission, and dropped us right in the middle of a war zone.  There were police with shields and masks and armed vehicles and crazy people.  And every one was looking at us and wanted to be near us and said "Hey look at those rich kids" (why think we´re rich is beyond me...).  But anyway, we took off running without a clue of where we were going, searching for any metro.  Yep.... turns out there weren't any.  (Oh- P.S. missionaries, under no circumstances are allowed to be near demonstrations or protests.)  So we kept running until we realized that we were very lost and would have to pay for a taxi (those things are DANG expensive).  But we paid anyway and arrived three hours late for our exchange.
Sister Mora left me with another gringita who doesn´t speak or understand very well and is also tall and blonde.  Talk about attention callers.  We went back to our normal bus stop and the place was trashed with fire in the streets and whatnot.  We waited with about a million other people for a bus, any bus to come, and it never came.  After about a half hour, I felt really strongly that we needed to go try another stop that was far away but could be worth it.  As we started walking who showed up but an angel.  IGNACIO.  You know, Brenna´s best friend?  He was coming home from English classes and helped us find the other stop (I didn´t actually know where it was).  You all know how stressed I get when I don´t know where I am or what´s going on.  Like throw up sick.  He literally saved us.  We were protected by a Chilean  who knew his way around.  Even though he is only 18, we felt safe.

Anyway, the bus  never came and after waiting and waiting we decided we would have to travel in Colectivo.  So we went to a corner and waited and waited for a colectivo that wasn´t full.  They were ALL full with people trying to get the heck out of there.  Without Ignacio I literally would´ve been bawling.  He suddenly remembered that there was a collectivo "station" or corner where we could find more.  We walked... quickly... through the craziness, including through a tear bomb or something of the sort (still not really sure what it was that we passed through) and arrived at a line about a million miles long for the collectivo.  But in the end, we boarded and now I have a cool story to tell.  It was pretty interesting.  Crazy but cool!!
And we were super blessed because we had just barely taken out cash.  Wow.  Seriously, we are so blessed.  God sent us many blessings that day.  And really every day.  I´ve got some crazy weeks up ahead of me, but I am super excited to see what the Lord has in store. 

I am so proud of you and everything you have been doing to advance the work of the Lord.  Much love to all,
Sister Thomas

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

September 2, 2013 Surprises and Joys

Happy Labor day to all!  I hope you are thoroughly enjoying Grand Lake! 

This has been a pretty wonderful week - as all weeks here are.  I officially completed 5 months in the mission.  As Sister Mora recently learned how to say ¨Wha da ayck?¨ (What the heck)  I seriously almost started crying yesterday when I realized how fast the time flies.  How can this be possible?  I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO AND SO LITTLE TIME!  I guess it´s the same in real life too.  Granted, this is real life, isn´t it.
Cool experiences:
1. Last week we were headed toward an appointment when two little girls ran up to us and gave us fresh picked flowers that they had found.  Their mom came up and  we began talking.  She said we could come by some other day.  A few days later we passed by and she let us in.  Turned out that her family had been taught by the missionaries many years ago when she was little, that nobody had been baptized , but that it remained in her memory as the only church in which she felt happy and peaceful and comfortable.  We taught the Restoration.  After, we extended the invitation  to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Sister Mora asked Victoria, what she will  do when she receives her answer. She said, "Well, I´d really like to be part of your church.¨ We were like ¨Welpt.  We can help ya there!"
2. For quite some time we have been paying visits to an elderly woman who has a  bedridden husband  and very close to death.  We´ve never really taught her because she always just wants us to pray and sing to him.  We figured it was best to just let the husband die first (I know that sounds terrible... but she had been waiting a long time and was absolutely exhausted from taking care of him 24/7) and then begin to teach her. 

 As we were heading to our lunch appointment on Thursday, we passed the giant Catholic church in our neighborhood.  All of a sudden we heard ¨Chiquillas! Esperen chiquillas!¨ Everybody calls us chiquillas by the way. We turned around to see the daughter of Oreana (the elderly lady) chasing after us.  She told us that her father had passed away the night before and invited us to attend the funeral later that day.  It was sort of an open house funeral.  You walk in, sit down, pay your respects, and walk out.  When we walked in, I was a little shocked to see... not very much respect.  Everybody was in sweats and talking loudly and it just wasn´t very... respectful!  Not wanting to step on anybody´s toes... especially not in a different church, we asked Oreana if we could sing a song.  We sangHasta Ver (God Be With You Till We Meet Again).  It. Was. UNBELIEVABLE.  My companion and I sing hymns in lessons  about a million times a day.  But this time was like nothing I´ve ever experienced.  Absolutely beautiful.  It felt like the room was filled with angels, which of course, it was.  And they were all singing  with us, which of course, they were.  Then she asked if I could say a prayer.  I felt a little uncomfortable at first, because, again, I didn´t want to step on anybody´s toes, but wow. The words that came out of my mouth were most definitely not my own.  It was honestly all just so beautiful.  When we left, my companion and I were so filled with warmth we were literally sweating.  It was a freezing cold day and everyone kept telling us to put on our jackets and we were like umm... no thanks we´re burning hot.
3.  We are teaching this one family that has been having problems with fulfilling their commitments with the exception of their youngest son Darsiel.  Jessica is officially destined to marry Darsiel.  He is 14 and the neatest darn kid I´ve ever met.  Even though his family doesn´t read or pray or go to church, he does it all.  Yesterday at church I asked him how he was and he said that the night before they had had a HUGE party - 60 or 70 people- and that EVERYBODY had been drunk.  He said he refuses to ever participate in such nonsense and that he was so frustrated with his family for being so foolish.

 We love him.
  And Happy Anniversary mom and dad!  I hope it was the best one ever!  I´ve been thinking a whole lot about true love this week and how the truest of love is shown to us in the atonement of Jesus Christ.  Charity is the pure love of Christ, but such charity requires action, just as does faith.  If we truly love someone or something we are willing to DO anything for him/her/it.  Love is more of an action than a feeling.  Or perhaps a feeling upon which we act. 

As a missionary I´m supposed to be an instrument in God´s hands to let others feel the love that He has for them.  I have been working so hard on loving EVERYBODY.  Sometimes it´s difficult when the person you want to love tells you you´re going to burn in hell and that you´re dragging down people with you.  But I´m trying to love them too.

Fernando.  Our golden Peruvian investigator.  Let us down.  Hard.  Yesterday he was unable to go to church because of a work conflict.  Which we were fine with, because there is a WONDERFUL WONDERFUL law here in Chile that does not allow people to work more than 2 Sundays every month so that they can go to church.  So we went to visit him last night to teach him a little and fill him in on what he missed (he loves the classes).  Turns out he had been drinking.  Also turns out he´s not sure if he wants to be baptized.  We were devastated. We began to pray in our hearts and let the Spirit guide us.  In the end we were all tearing up and the Spirit was so strong.  Still not sure if he will be baptized.  But we know that we have done our part.  We showed him love in its truest form and that he can feel more and more of that love through the healing power of the atonement.  Fernando knows that this is the Church of Jesus Christ.  He knows what he needs to do, and he knows that the Lord loves him in a way that is indescribable.  Will he be willing to submit himself humbly to the will of the Lord and leave his past behind?  I guess you´ll find out next week!
I love when dad talks about the disciplinary councils filled with love and peace.  That´s honestly how we felt yesterday.  We truly felt the love of God pouring from our hearts to testify to Fernando.
Sometimes, as missionaries, God allows us to feel a little teensey weensey bit how He feels about His beloved children.  But it´s the same in all callings. Mothers and fathers feel it with their own children.  Wives with their husbands.  Husbands with their wives.  Etc. etc. etc. So thanks mom and dad for being such a wonderful example to your children of true love.  Showing us charity, the pure love of Christ, and how, when a home is built upon the rock of Christ, it will not fail.

Not sure if all of that made sense.  I have a whole bunch of thoughts in my head, but anyway.  I´m just grateful  for your patience with one another and with us and with the world and for teaching us through your example how we can best exemplify Christ and be lights unto the world.

Mara answered some of the  questions I asked her in my letter- 

 1.  What is the weather like? The weather is scorching hot some days and absolutely freezing others.  I guess September is always really windy, and we´re beginning to see that already.
 2.  Are you eating with members often or do you cook for yourselves? We are now eating every day except Monday with members and for free!  Woohoo!  Before, some members made us lunch but charged us because they had to do it every week.  When we do have to cook, we usually make rice with vegetables and eggs or spaghetti or something like that.
3.  What is church like?  Do you teach Gospel Essentials? We usually get to church in time to participate in mad chaos.  We are constantly running around helping investigators and less actives and greeting members.  (If only every missionary throughout the world had the opportunity  to experience the "mad chaos" Mara describes!! Isn't that what every missionary prays for?)The thing here is that if you don´t greet every single person with a kiss, you´re super rude.  So that´s difficult when you´re frantically sprinting around trying to help everybody and everybody insists that you stop and kiss them.  Yesterday I taught Gospel Essentials.  We have it every week.
4.  Do you have pianos in your buildings? Do you ever get to play? There are electric pianos in every building and I have played in every meeting that I have attended since I arrived here.  It´s getting relatively old, but the people just LOVE it... so I keep doing it.  (All those years of piano lessons were worth it just for that statement.) 

August 26, 2013

I´ve got lots of exciting things to talk about this week! 
First, we are very well protected now with a fence higher than all of our neighbors with lots of scary, pointy, hurting things sticking up.  Mom, you say you don´t remember, but a while ago I wrote about how sometimes, if you´re not careful, and you buy your gas from the ice cream truck drivers, those very same gas (ice cream) truck drivers come back to rob you of your gas in the night time and make you have a cold shower in the morning.  It makes pretty good business... I suppose.

Funny story.  Sorta.  Saturday, Hna. Mora and I made a bunch of cutsie invitations to ensure that all of our investigators and less actives and part member families went to church the following day. We passed by Jazmin and Diane and found that they were all working in their disastrous garden.  We dropped everything, stole their pick-like-shovel-junky-tool things and worked for a solid hour.  Skirts, sweaters, lots of heat, partly-messed up backs, and all.  When we finished what was seriously good, hard farm type labor (grandpa and grandma would have been so proud), we were unbelievably sore and our hands were covered in blisters (they are still sore by the way).  Daniela, the mom (did I tell you it turns out she´s actually a less active that was baptized at 13?!  Yeah the other day she was like, "oh yeah.  I was already baptized.”  And we calmly explained that there are certain requirements to be baptized in the same way as Jesus Christ.  And she said, "Yeah, I know.  Somebody named Elder baptized me when I was 13." Our jaws dropped. She asked what she could possibly do to repay us. We said, "We are here for your service andwe only ask that you keep your promise and go with your daughter to church tomorrow.”  The next day we went to church after collecting several investigators and waited for them outside... for a while... then we called and what did they say "ES QUE... we are really tired from working in our garden all day yesterday and so we´ll have to come next time."


En SERIO?  WE worked in the garden, finished it, and walked to church EXTREMELY tired.  But I´m over it.  My hands aren´t.  But my head is.  Haha so darn funny.

Anyway, other investigators.  I can´t remember which ones I have already talked about. 

Our Golden Boy is Fernando.  He´s from Peru and is a, as they say here, "si o si" baptism.  He´s seriously so awesome.  Fun, dynamic, hard-working, and hungry for spiritual enlightenment.
  He went with us yesterday to church and had a GREAT experience.  He loved how kind and loving everyone was and felt like it was a giant family.  Which it is.  Everyone is so kind and loving and awesome with our investigators.

Sebastian:  He is our miracle boy.  One night, a while back, we were coming home and found this young man who looked about Bren´s age and was locked out of his house.  The poor guy couldn´t find his keys for the life of him until we had finished introducing ourselves and presenting him our message and making an appointment.  Then he found them, entered his house, and we never saw him again (he wasn´t home for his appointment).
  Friday night, we were coming home late from a lesson (we enter at ten unless we´re in a lesson, in which case we can enter no later than 10:30) and I recognized him and stopped him in the street.  I didn´t remember who he was, just recognized his face.  He told us that he wanted to learn more and had called us but that we hadn´t answered.  He said his mom doesn´t allow religion in the home so we would have to go somewhere else, but that he was willing to meet us anywhere we wanted.  Sister Mora said, "Well... whatcha doing on Sunday?"  "Want to come to church with us at 9:30 in the morning?"  "Uh, yeah, yeah I think that´d be fine."  "Great we´ll pick you up at 9."  Well, we say stuff like that all the time to people and they´re never home and they think were just being nice because I´m blonde. I know, weird!  But he was HOME!  And ready to go to church when we passed by!  We were dumbstruck.  Seriously couldn´t believe it.  We picked him up and off we went to pick up Fernando.  Turns out Sebastian is 22 and Fernando 26 and they´re practically neighbors so they´re going to be the best investigator friends ever.

Mauricio:  Mauricio and his family are my personal "favorites" even though I really don´t have any favorites.  It´s just that I´m in love with their family.  Mauricio is a less active who married a lovely Catholic and they have three of the cutest kids I´ve ever seen in my life.   There is so much love and happiness in their home.  I could just spend all day there.  The mom is a truly good Catholic woman who wants the best for her kids.  She has a lot of interest in the Church and  likes the values that it teaches.  We took them a little by surprise with our first visit and asked them to be baptized, but they know if this IS the true church after all, they will want to be part of it so that their family can live together forever.  We are going to have a special Family Home Evening with them tonight!

Vilches:  The Vilches family is a family that was once very strong and is now inactive because of some unfortunate things that happened (the husband had an affair with some chica in the branch and her dad told him that if he ever caught him at church again he´d kill him... so that´s unfortunate).  But anyway, we went to visit them a few days ago and as we were about to leave, I had a sudden impression that we needed to have a mini testimony meeting right then and there.  So we did.  And it was UNBELIEVABLY powerful.  Even as a missionary, I haven´t felt the Spirit like that in quite some time.  I mean... tangible.  So cool.  Granted, they didn´t go to church this Sunday, but at least we were able to help them feel the Spirit again.

Looks like I won´t be training!  Thank goodness. I feel so wholly unworthy for something like that.  I´ll probably continue with the normal course: companera menor, companera mayor, entrenadora. 

We went to the doctor today again. Hna. Mora continues with insane back pain.  We went to get her tested for urinary or kidney infections.  It would appear that the logo of the Church has a whole lot of power.  Chilenos love to complain, right?  They especially love to complain about their medical system and how awful it is.  Well, we were in and out with all of the tests and everything complete within 15 minutes.  It was pretty interesting.  We just gave them a document with the logo and wha-la.  Prime service.

Anyway, it´s so wonderful to hear about how great you are all doing.  I can´t tell you how happy it makes me to hear all of your successes and even your difficulties.  I love you all so much!

Sister Thomas

P.S.  I randomly received two dearelders from Sister Wandry and one from Aunt Sandy and handwritten letters from Jessica Richmond and Mary Lamphier from when I was in the MTC.    But I think they must have been found in the office because I think the mail system is still on strike.