This has been SUCH an amazing week! I am so obsessed with being a missionary and I can´t even get over it. Thank you all for your wonderfully sweet letters. No, we didn´t see the fireside last night. Not sure we even knew about it. Sounds like it was a wonderful experience... but we had other things to do last night, which I will tell you about in a little bit.
First of all, I am literally in the most beautiful place in the whole entire world. I am not super exactly sure where I am, but Los Andes is a GIANT valley completely surrounded by towering Andes mountains. It´s like Lord of the Rings type beautiful. I would compare Santiago to Denver - giant city with towering mountains to the side. Los Andes to Salt Lake (except WAY more beautiful). And my little suburb Centenarioish area to Breckenridge Village. Oh, if only you could see where I live. Yes, it gets pretty cold, but we´re doing all right. I usually wake up more due to yelling neighbors and barking dogs than cold. Our first night here, we didn´t arrive until 9ish, but we dropped our stuff and went out to work. Within 20 minutes, several different people told us we were crazy and that it was way too dangerous for us to be out that late and that we needed to go home. So we called and got permission to change our schedule and we now leave the house at 12, enter at 9, and study until 10. Well... at least we did until yesterday. Yesterday we had Stake Conference for all of Los Andes and the mission President and his wife came to speak. Unfortunately, after an absolutely EXHAUSTING week, Hermana Anderson happened to fall asleep... and we were sitting in the third row because we had brought two less actives with us. President Essig saw and freaked out and thought she was sick or something and so now we go to bed at 9:30. HAHAHAHA. It was the funniest thing in the whole world. She was absolutely mortified. But the poor girl. She IS tired after all. And the truth is that we both speak the language and have a limited need to study right now. We really just need to speak and listen. ANYWAY. It is NOT dangerous here at all. Don´t worry. Seriously. Everybody leaves their gates open here because it´s so safe. You would NEVER EVER EVER do that in Santiago. Like Never. (a little T-Swizzle humor) I think people were just shocked to see a couple of gringas out at night.
What we have done this week! Holy shoot. You would not believe the amount of work before us. We have found ourselves in what was supposedly once a powerful ward or at least an area strong enough to make a ward. Now it has about 5, maybe, active families- 3 worthy priesthood holders (the bishopric) and possibly hundreds of less actives. The problem is that when people go inactive, their records sort of get lost. So we have a list of tons and tons of families and we are not even sure if they live here or not. Not to mention, when they move here, their records don´t move with them and Chileans love to move. Love to move. They are ALWAYS moving. So dang. Of the few families we have to work with, they have mostly lost all hope and their faith in general is dwindling. We KNOW that we will not get ANYTHING done without the help of the members, so we are doing everything possible to build up this ward and build it up strong. Centenario is going to be the strongest ward in Los Andes. Sometimes it can be really easy to be disanimated (is that a word in ingles?) but every night we come home and pump ourselves up and remind ourselves that the Lord is preparing this area to work miracles. You know, I think having baptisms is something that is relatively easily achievable. But we REFUSE to baptize someone unless we absolutely KNOW with a surety that they will stay active. Seriously everyday we run into someone who proudly tells us that they are an ex-mormon or a menos activo and that they were baptized years ago. It seems that we now are making up for the mess that happened here many years ago with Chileans being baptized excessively. Apparently divorce used to be against the law, so people refused to get married... so missionaries baptized them anyways. Stuff like that.
But we LOVE it! We love that we have so much to do. And we know that the ONLY way to create a strong ward is by the power of missionary work. We are getting everyone involved with the investigators that we have (some left overs from the previous missionaries and some that we have found). There is no better way to build up the testimony of one who has lost all hope of a testimony than to ask them to give their testimony to an investigator. There is no better way to get an inactive to come to church than by asking them to pick up an investigator on their way there. The Lord is preparing this area through us and we are so dang excited to be a part of it.
There are a lot less dogs here. But we got chased by some a few nights ago. That was new.
Yesterday was amazing. We took two less actives to a special meeting before stake conference with a member of the seventy that was supposed to be for recent converts and investigators. None of our recent converts or investigators showed up, but these two ladies drove us there... so they did!
The conference was lovely, and as I mentioned, it was great to hear from President and Sister Essig. Sister Essig is so dang cute. She hardly speaks any Spanish but I guess she had someone translate her talk and she read it and did well.
Afterwards, we had almuerzo with the bishop and his family and went over the directory and whom we need to visit.
Then we went to see the YM’s president and asked whom he needs us to visit (apparently he´s also relatively inactive).
Then we went to see an investigating family from the eldlers before us that we STILL haven´t met. We´ve tried every single day. And once again they were busy.
Then we went to visit another member family to ask them to help us go teach a reference they gave us. But they weren´t there. Then it started to rain. And get very, very cold. And Hermana Anderson was feeling sick. And things were not going super well. We kept walking and saw a man smoking (everybody and their dog smokes here) under a little covered area of his patio. We began talking and talking and talking. But he refused to open his gate or let us in..... as we stood there freezing in the rain. SO eventually we left but we kept trying to talk to people and we kept getting rejected. The truth is that once it gets dark, everybody goes inside. It´s pretty hard to contact at night. Anyway, as we walked along, all of a sudden we heard an AY OIGAN OIGAN! We turned around to see the man, who talked to us through the gate but wouldn’t let us in, running toward us! He said, “Hey, actually, my wife and daughter are interested in hearing what you have to say, would you like to come in for a little bit and talk with us.” UMMMM……would we like to?!? You better believe it. We entered and it was an immediate feeling of peace. Their house was warm and colorful and clean and organized and filled with love. We sat down and began to teach and talk and the woman brought us cookies and we sang them a hymn and the father said "I bet you all make people feel really good when you sing" and we made a date for our next visit and we realized that they are the answer to our prayers. They will be our strong family with a worthy priesthood holder that is going to be the uniting force in this ward. So AWESOME. HE CHASED US IN THE RAIN!! We were so pumped.
Then we stopped by a recent converts home because they told us they´d have someone for us to do a Family Home Evening with. They didn´t, but it was a good thing we came, because they were going through a horrible time. H. Anderson asked the family to kneel and the mother to pray. She prayed and cried and cried and cried and it was absolutely beautiful. She said all the pain and fear and burden in her chest had been lifted as she began to pray. When we left we both had an impression to visit a less active young man that the YM´s President had referred to us. We didn´t know how to find him, but the Spirit guided us and it was the first door we knocked. He speaks English and was so pumped to meet us and wants to help us with missionary work and teach all his friends! We were like um, ok, if you say so!!! Hahaha. Best thing ever. It´s so funny too because he looks lie Green Day. Black eye makeup and Mohawk. But he´s so cool.
Miracles are happening here. I feel so blessed to be a part of it. Yes it´s hard, but that too is an answer to my prayers because last week was way too easy. I want this to be difficult. I want to be challenged. I want to progress and grow and be the best I can be. There will certainly be no lack of difficulty here. I’m going to try and send some pictures. I hope it works! I love you all and miss you dearly. And happy father´s day last Sunday Dad!
Help out those missionaries! They need you!!