Monday, July 15, 2013

July 15, 2013


Wow.  You guys would not believe the week I have had.  In a nutshell:
Monday: sick
Monday night: Work anyway.  Most successful night in weeks.
Tuesday: Zone Conference and interchange with Hna Ibarra
Tuesday night, Hna Ibarra gets sick.
Wednesday: Hna Ibarra is really really sick.  Go to Dr. (Stake President) in San Felipe.  He gives her lots of medicines and whatnot including a series of injections she has to take.  Our bishop is a doctor, so we decide it will be fine for him to give her them.
Wednesday night: Bishop never shows up and she´s like dying.  Go to stay the night at President Perez´s home in San Felipe.
Thursday: Full day in their home. Can't change back because we´re both contagious.
Thursday night: Change back to normal companions.
Friday:  I get really sick again.
Friday night: work anyway.
Saturday: Finally normal day.  Seems like everyone we talk to is sick.  Some people say there was water contamination.  I say  it´s the dang kisses everyone insists on giving even when they´re deathly ill.
Sunday: FORTY ONE people in CHURCH!!!!!  Lots of less actives came!!!  And... we didn´t even work this week!  How?  Still clueless.
Sunday night... late: Call from President.  Emergency transfers tomorrow morning.
Monday:  I am now officially in Renca with Hermana Mora, where I am guessing I will be for quite a while.  Renca is a suburb of Santiago like Quilicura.

Literally can´t believe it.  I was devastated at first.  Buuuuutttt the Lord has a plan.  And it is absolutely beautiful here in Renca.  Not to mention we are in a super nice area with a ridiculously nice home.  But as we were walking here I noted that it´s half an half.  There are little cardboard shacks on one side of the street, and beautiful, brand new condos on the other.  Fascinating.

Anyway.  To break it down a little better.

Monday I was sick with a stomach something or other.  Throwing up and just really not doing well, but I began to feel better that night so we went out and worked and were shocked with the blessings we received.

Tuesday was Zone Conference.  It was seriously unbelievable.  Absolutely incredible.  We learned all about how to control our stress in the mission.  President and his wife were there and are such wonderful people.  Truly.  I can´t even describe how wonderful they are.  We had a full on almuerzo prepared by nearby members and played games and practiced teaching and learned so much and just had a blast in general.  It was so much fun!  Because Hermana Anderson has to do interchanges, we changed that day.  The conference ended at 5ish and Hna Ibarra and I got back to Centenario around 6:30.  She is awesome.  She is also in pre-nursing at BYU, is from Miami, and speaks both languages perfectly.  Her mom is from Honduras and her dad is from Cuba.  She is seriously so great, but after our appointments that night she was really not doing well at all.  I felt so bad!  She had had a fever all day and her throat was killing her and not told me and I had made her run around with me to various appointments in the cold.  She called HnaEssig for permission to sleep in in the morning.  

I got up the next day and studied until she got up around 12.  She was not well.  She had like balls of pus in her throat and her fever still hadn´t broken.  Not to mention she felt nauseous and had a splitting headache.  Our bishop and his wife are both doctors, but she knows President Perez pretty well so we decided to go see him instead.  My throat was also beginning to hurt.  He absolutely loaded her up with all kinds of drugs.  It really was probably very unnecessary.  HnaEssig thinks she would have been fine with a simple amoxicillin, but... Chilenos really like to exaggerate things.  Everything actually.  Anyway so we had to go buy a bunch of penicillin injections and have our bishop give them to her two time a day.  Well, we went home and waited all day for our bishop.  He called us at 10:00 at night to say that he couldn´t make it... so darn.  We called President Perez and he told us to get our hinies over to his house.  So we did.  With permission from HnaEssig of course.  We arrived at about midnight.

The next day we both slept in (again, with permission, obvio).  I played nurse all day, giving her her various remedies almost every hour.  I was also taking something, but I was feeling pretty good.  I think it was more like a precautionary antibiotic.  President Perez even taught me how and let me give her one of her injections.  It was so fun!!  They live, literally, in a mansion.  Not just like a mansion for Chilean standards.  I´m talking giant mansion on acres and acres of property with a pool and dishwasher and dryer and two cars - like normal cars.  Their home is huge and absolutely stunning.  I felt like I was in a magazine for a "Chilean Vacation."  That night, we were officially 24 hours into our antibiotics so we were able to change back to our companions.  Except when they arrived, Hna Anderson let the taxi go without us in it for some reason.  We were out in the campo or, like farmland.... where taxis are not.  And especially not at 9:00 at night.  Sister Perez drove us into the city of San Felipe where we eventually found a taxi that we had to pay a ridiculous amount of money to take us home... she learned her lesson that day hahaha.  But, we arrived in safety at least!

Friday morning, I woke up with the same miserable sickness from Monday.  Luckily I didn´t throw up this time, but it was still pretty bad.  By Friday night I was doing better and we went out to work.

Saturday and Sunday were lovely, full of lessons to make up for our lost time.  Though still, our numbers for this week were... well.... unfortunate.

When I reported last night to my district leader, he was like... uhhhh.... What happened to you sisters?  Then the zone leader called a little while later like, uhhh, are you alright?  So, when President called, I assumed I was once again about to face the shame of my numbers.  But no.  He asked if I was feeling better and if I had regained my strength.  I said yes, thank you, I´m doing very well now.  And he said, perfect, because tomorrow morning I need you to report to the office with your companion for changes.  I couldn´t believe it.  Like literally stunned.  Speechless.  Chile Santiago Norte is a visa waiting mission.  Two missionaries received their visas yesterday for Venezuela and had to leave today.  Sooooo  the Lord chose Sister Anderson and I to fill in the gaps.  Sister Anderson is going to remain in LosAndes for the two weeks she has left with a sister that is about to finish her training, and I will be here, in Renca with Sister Mora.

Sister Mora is great.  She trained Hermana Shaw!!! It seems that they were like best friends... and since Hna. Shaw and I were best friends in the MTC... I´d say those are pretty good odds.  She is originally from Ecuador, but has spent the last 9 years in Spain.  She is in her 8th month here.  I´m guessing that I will finish my training with her.  She doesn´t speak much English, actually hardly any which is awesome.  It´s time to really submerge myself.  I know I´m going to learn a ton here.  Also, she is a recent convert of four years, so that´s pretty cool!  I wanted a convert companion!  And a Latina companion.  Haha.  I guess you get what you wish for.  I also wanted a really poor area.  Hna. Anderson told me that we have some of the poorest areas in the whole mission. I´m not sure if we actually work there or not... but it seems that the Lord is listening.  We share our branch with two elders.  And that´s really about all I know for this area.  I think it´s going to be great!  

Because of all the chaos, once again, I was unable to bring my camera this week.  I´m so sorry, but I´ll really try next week. Promise.  I think some people are going to begin adding me on facebook here soon, so hopefully they can post some pictures of me.

I have a new plan: to write until 15 minutes before I have to close out so that if anybody is on we can chat for a few minutes.

It is very very difficult for me to send letters.  But I sent one with Hna. Anderson to deliver to you once she arrives!  Also, she is going to be in Aspen several times in the next month and wants to visit you all!  I told her maybe... maybe... you could meet halfway in Vail or something?  Just an idea.  I gave her your information just in case.

Much love to all!
Hermanita Thomas

July 8, 2013

Welpt, we had super awesome plans to go on tour in Santiago today...  but I ended up spending the morning throwing up in our apartment.  I woke up again at 2ish and here we are.  I am doing pretty well now.  I miss you all, but we have been working so hard.  Our MED went from 100 something to 320 this week.  We get a specific amount of points for the numbers we have.  I think it's  like 15 points for every lesson with a member present, one for every contact, etc.  This area is going to become the Celestial Kingdom on earth.

We learned yesterday that  five years ago there was a bishop that went inactive and took the ward down with him... so that explains quite a bit of the trauma that we have to deal with.  How tragic.  I mean really, it just broke our hearts.

Speaking of broken hearts, we got thrown out of three homes this week!  It was so awful, but at the same time it made me feel like, "Hey, I´m a real missionary now."

The first was when I went on interchanges with Hma. Silva.  Hna Anderson had to go to a leadership training meeting.  We are both trainees, but we did really well.  We even committed someone to baptism.  She is from Concepcion and I understood her 100%!!!  That was big.   The lady that through us out was an old, crazy lady... and I´m not super sure she even knew what she was doing so we weren´t too devastated.  It was really fun to work with Hna. Silva.  She is stationed in a little teeny town called Santa Maria. Now THAT was the Chile I imagined, a little rough around the edges, very, very poor, and mountainous.  We were on bikes for the first half of the day and I was freaking out because I literally could not ride.  Like I´m not THAT out of shape.  And my knees were killing me and I was thinking I´m going to have to tell President that I can never be in an area with bikes.  It was so embarrassing.  When we came back for almuerzo, I examined the bike, hoping that I could make it less painful for the afternoon.  Turned out the back tire was COMPLETELY flat-like ZERO air at all.  HAHAHA, we laughed and laughed and laughed.  I´m not THAT fat after all!  Except, the people in her branch referred to me as ¨La Grande¨ but like whatever, I´m over it.  Luckily, grande here just means tall.  At least I’m not "La Gordita"... yet.  People here are uncommonly honest but it´s just the culture. 

I get to go on interchanges again tomorrow.  Because Hna Anderson is a Sister Training Leader, she has to do at least three every month.  Tomorrow I get to go with Hna Ibarra.  She is super awesome.  She is from Miami, fluently speaks both languages, and is in pre-nursing at BYU!!!!  We clicked instantly.  I am so pumped to work with her tomorrow.  We also have a huge zone conference tomorrow.  Looks like there are about to be some serious changes to the missions.  From what I understand from the little that Hna Anderson told me, the church has three new books for training new missionaries and helping them to be... normal.  Looks like there have been some issues with mental health across the world.  Yesterday, we heard about an elder who literally returned home crazy because he fasted almost every day. I'm not sure how that´s even possible.  But, anyway.  The mission is stressful, and people do stupid things when they are stressed, so it´ll be cool to see what the General Authorities have prepared for us.  I´m not sure I´ll be trained at all using the new materials, but if I become a trainer someday, I´ll probably be using it.

The other two times we got thrown out were both yesterday, one after the other.  That was hard, and they weren´t crazy old ladies.  One was an inactive family and the other, investigators that we found this week.  We found a TON of people this week... but none of them are really working out too well.  We are also still searching out all of the inactives that we can possibly find.  Our list is getting smaller.  Most that we try to visit have moved, but the ones that we find always let us in.  It’s amazing.  Not a single one of them can deny the truthfulness of the gospel.  Usually by the time we leave they are testifying to us of some aspect of the Church.  Then we tell them to come to church and it´s "es que es que es que."  But we always leave knowing that they have felt something and that we are doing the best we can.

It is so heart-wrenching to visit some of these people.  We have met at least three inactive sisters who were missionaries.  Though it´s awful, I have to say that we are, in a way, grateful for their bad example.  It has been especially good for Hna Anderson, who only has three weeks left, to see how easy it is to fall away and to have a miserable life. They are always sad or angry or offended or feisty or whatever.  It has been good for us to see how easy it is to fall into Satan´s trap.  He really attacks the strong.  Why waste time on the weak?

In Sunday School yesterday, we learned that there are three reasons people go inactive.
1.  Pride
2. Negatively critiquing leaders
3. Being offended

That is about the truest list I´ve ever heard of.  Everyone we talk to has at least one of those, and usually all three.  Their pride led them to be offended by their leaders.

We have also talked to several people who refuse to be active because their family refuses.  One woman said, "I don't want to live in the celestial kingdom if it means that my family will be somewhere else.  I want to be with them, wherever they go."  This poor woman clearly does not understand the power of the Atonement and it´s far-reaching effects in all of its forms.  There will be both justice and mercy.  And the truth is that, without her example, her family will never come back.  We were all crying with that one... including her.

Maria Paz got a new job and so we haven´t seen her in a long time, which has been very difficult.  She went on vacation this weekend and couldn´t go to church here, so she lost her baptismal date.  But she should still be good two weeks from now. Investigators need to have three church attendances to get baptized.
La Familia Diaz also let us down this week.  We were CERTAIN they would come to church... and they didn´t.  Vladimir has got some serious doubts.  It´s so interesting though.  He believes fully and completely in the Plan of Salvation, but can´t accept that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God or that there are prophets today.... Ummm, the Plan Of Salvation was a revelation given to modern day prophets...

It can be hard sometimes because Chile has recently had a plethora of false prophets come out of the woodwork and say they´re sent from God or that they´re Jesus Christ or whatever else.  Most people are pretty skeptical when we start to talk.  But we talk about how "by their fruits ye shall know them."  Just as Moses had the ten commandments, and Noah the ark, and Abraham the Abrahamic covenant, the Book of Mormon is the convincing evidence that the Church of Jesus Christ has been established once again on the earth today through  Joseph Smith.  We don´t want them to believe US.  If they believe us, they will never progress, never know for themselves.  We want them to experiment on the word.  Read the Book of Mormon, and meditate on it, and ask God, the only real source of truth, if the Book of Mormon is the word of God, if Joseph Smith was a prophet, if  Christ has truly restored His church on the earth today.  If they rely on our testimonies, they´re just going to go inactive. 

We were talking to an active woman in our ward yesterday, Hna. Ana Vasquez.  She has a lot of trials in her life.  Her husband died several years ago, her kids are inactive, and yet she has remained so firm and true.  We asked what had helped her to remain active after her baptism (most people here are converts).  Her response?  "Testimonio, po!"  Hahaha.  She just basically said, look, if you have a testimony for yourself of the truthfulness of the gospel, then you´re gonna want to stay, if not, you´re not.  She´s so great.  We love her.

I loved hearing all about your Yellowstone trip.  It sounds absolutely miraculous.  How cool that you could see a grizzly bear and bison and deer and everything else!  It sounds so fun!  Someday we´ll have to do a Chile Santiago Norte trip.  I wish you all could see where I live.  Our stake center is in a city called San Felipe.  We have to go there at least once a week for district meetings and I am obsessed with the ride there.  It´s so unbelievable.  Kilometers after kilometers of grape vineyards underneath unbelievable snow-covered peaks.  Even though we are in winter here, there are oranges, lemons, and flowers in full bloom.  It´s so cool!

Fun fact, when people feel the Spirit, they give us food.  It´s awesome.

Other fun fact, I was talking to an Argentine elder a little while ago and telling him how it has been a little difficult here because the Chileans speak so differently.  I told him I can say whatever the heck I want, but that it´s often pretty hard to understand.  He was like "Look sister, I´m from Argentina.  My mission call told me to prepare to preach the gospel in my native language, Spanish.  This is not Spanish.  I have no idea what they´re speaking here."  So that was nice to hear.

Other fun fact: we put up little teeney 4th of July flags in our study room on 4th of July.  Everyone here is in a two week winter break.  Christmas break is their big "summer break."  Crazy huh?   But anyway, we decided to have our own little Christmas while it´s cold.  On the night of July 24th we´re going to have a party.  "Party" meaning probably just eat toast and listen to music at 10:30 until 11 at night like we do every night.  But at least it´ll have a special name.

I hope all is well and that you are super happy!

With so, so, so, much love,
Sister Thomas

P.S.  Oh thank you SO MUCH for the pictures!!!!  I printed one for about 4 dollars... but it was totally worth it. Hopefully next week I´ll finally be able to get some pictures to you.  The truth is that I only have about 5.  We are not allowed to take pictures when we are working.  And when we are not working we are not allowed to look like a tourist... which... is difficult.  Thank you for your update on Yellowstone. Sounds like you had a great time! 

 July 1, 2013

Yeah- it's family writing day again! woot woot!
I will start by answering some of the questions you asked me.

We live in a little teeney house.  It's about as cheap as they come in the area that we live.  But I actually was surprised at how big it is for just two people. It has red-stained brick-like flooring that makes EVERYTHING red and is very difficult to clean.  We have one red couch that looks like it has been around since 1589. We have a little study room and a little bedroom with a bunk bed.  We have a little kitchen too, which, this week became a wonderful place because we finally have an oven and stove!  We have been using a microwave for a few weeks now.  The senior couple that does all of the housing brought it to us a few days ago and I made them lunch because Hermana Anderson was sick.  They were so so so grateful and said they would write you.  I hope they did!  We have our own washer!!  It's outside of our house and actually pretty nice.  Then we just hang dry all our clothes on a little rack.

Hermana Anderson was super sick for about 3 days this week and so I had a LOT of time to study. It was wonderful. Such an edifying and empowering experience.  To just have hours and hours and hours to study the gospel all by yourself?  It was awesome!

Preparation day is not that super fun.  My companion and I are the only missionaries in our area or really nearby in general as far as I know.  We go to Lider, which is like Wal Mart in the Centro of Los Andes. We write our family, clean and organize our house  and she sleeps.  I find other stuff to do because sleeping seems like the biggest waste of time I've ever heard of.  Everywhere we go, we travel in taxi colectivo.  It is super funny because its like a taxi bus.  People just jump in and we stop wherever they need and we need and it's just a preach-the-gospel party. 

I don't even know what most of the food  is called but it is all so good.  Mom, you would LOVE the vegetables.  Salad dressing doesn't exist here.  All vegetables are chopped, soaked in lemon and salt, and eaten cold.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, you name it. It is so refreshing and delicious.  The fruits are to die for.  Your typical apple here is like a piece of heaven.  We eat a lot of meat - chicken, this red crazy good sausage stuff, and one time we even had ASADO!  That was for father´s day and made by a professional chef who cooks for the prophet when he comes to South America. Yeah, he was in our old ward.  It was awesome.  Peanut Butter!!  Dah. It hardly exists here because people don't buy it. Don't buy it?  WHY? Like they don´t even know what it is. It's crazy. But it was in the store today and I spent about 7 dollars on two little cans.  WORTH IT.

Every street has a little almacen. A family decides to turn their front patio of their house into a little shop.  You can buy bread (it's like France where everyone runs to the little shop and buys bread fresh for each day) and any of the necessities.  Hna. Anderson always stops for a coke.  You have to drink the coke in the store because they reuse the bottle. 

My foot feels wonderful.  I wonder though, if you could find out if I can buy procardia and meloxicam over the counter or if I need to have it shipped here? I talked to a pharmacist today but I'm not super sure if what they have is the same and I wasn´t really willing to risk it because it seemed like she was excessively tentative.

As far as the weather goes, honestly, we´re doing alright.  The tricky thing is  when you want to get in your nice warm bed at night, your blankets are all frozen.  So, it takes a while to get warm. We can´t sleep with the heater on but we try and warm up our room as best as we can before bed.

 I met Elder Baldwin the day he left along with who I thought was the Hart's cousin... but it appears there´s no relation.  It was super awkward.

Other stuff.  All of the missionaries think there is going to be an earthquake soon because we have had warning after warning to be prepared with a 72 hour kit and places to go and whatnot.  They all seem to be waxing prophetic.  Because of that, I doubt that there will be one in the near future, but rather, when nobody expects it.  But who knows!  Also, it's super not good to have an earthquake because of the missionaries we have out on the islands.  If there is a tsunami... well... darn.  But good news!  Starting in September, the President is going to begin sending sisters to the islands. 

Funny thing:
You know how we have ice cream trucks that sing little songs and all the kids run out and beg their parents to buy them ice cream?  Yeah. Here, we have Gas Trucks.  Everything is powered by  gas.  They have songs and bells and whistles and they roam the streets all day... AND night... and everyone comes running to buy gas to keep themselves warm.  Most people have either a wood-burning or gas stove in their home to try and keep warm.  Luckily, it's still been pretty warm,at least during the day.  From what I understand, the real cold begins now and will last through August.  But, I wonder... people say a lot of things. It rains every once in a while, not all day everyday like people say.  But, the thing with rain is that there are no drains.  Anywhere.  So, when it begins to rain really hard, the streets, naturally, begin to flood. And lakes  begin to form. That make things a little bit more difficult for those of us walking the streets.

Yesterday, our whole zone got to watch the missionary broadcast from last week. HOLY COW.  WE WERE SO PUMPED!!!!!  We still are so pumped.  That was amazing!  If only all the members could see that!  I'm glad you all were able to watch it. My companion and I have decided to be way more direct with people.  Just today, we've asked, twice, Are you Mormon? Well YA SHOULD BE!  Haha.  We loved that.  Also, we loved the story about how they needed an LDS architect and so they converted one. We need a ward mission leader, and so we've decided to convert one. We committed the famillia Diaz (the one with the dad who chased us down in the rain) to baptism last night.  He says he's an atheist. And yet last night we got him testifying to US that God lives.  My smile was about to jump off of my face.  It's so funny.  There is no such thing as an atheist.  EVERYONE has felt the power of God in their lives, but sometimes it's just hard for them to recognize it.  Anyway, he's going to be our ward mission leader in a few weeks and we are so excited even though he doesn´t know it yet.

Our other main investigator is someone that I haven't even told you about! Her name is Maria Paz and we committed her to baptism in the first lesson, in fact, I think it was our first lesson here. SHE IS AMAZING!!!  She has been prepared for so long to receive the gospel. The elders found her knocking doors (yelling Alo at gates) but we are so confused... like they didn´t teach her or something. We´re not really sure what happened, but it doesn´t matter, because she is just so great. She is also 19 and we have been working closely with the Bishop´s daughter who is also 19.  They have become instant best friends. Actually the four of us have.  The problem is that the daughter, Ilolay, leaves for her mission this month for Concepcion. So we are trying to integrate here with as many other members as we can.  Maria Paz´s only doubt about baptism is that she fears that if she gets baptized the Lord is going to call her on a mission and she will have to pause her life... which He ABSOLUTELY will.  And she knows it and that's why she's scared.  Oh we just LOVE her.  She is going to help us with the work too. Her baptism is scheduled for the 13th and after that we´re going to do divisions with her and Ilolay and just bring the house down. In fact, she already accompanied us one day. We taught three families with her and she was on fire.
We have a few other investigators that we may have to dejar... or... leave, let go, not really sure how to say that.  But we picked up two new ones this week. Two women who are best friends and single and take care of each other but have lots and lots and lots of problems. It´s tricky because it's like they think that we´re a fix-all source.  One of them has lots of medical problems and thinks that because we are from the USA we should know how to fix her and her child and brother. She made us read all of her prescriptions and X-rays and MRIs and whatnot and we were like, uh, we know that God loves you?
This week, we got to travel to Santiago to the mission office for Phase One.  All of the newbies have a big special meeting and learn about the mission and special rules and such. It was pretty cool. I was the only gringa sister.  I'm not sure, but I would guess that at least 2/3 of our mission are Latinos.  Interesting fact:  our mission spends 500,000 dollars a month.  A MONTH.  And we are one of how many missions in the world?  The Church has money, true, but I have to side with Elder Nelson when he pleads that we contribute to the mission fund.  I wonder how many missionaries in my mission are covered in full.  I know that some of them come from absolutely nothing.

I am so excited to hear about all of your member missionary experiences recently. How you're fulfilling your callings in church, in the family, and as missionaries.  It makes me so happy to hear all about it.  I´m especially glad to hear that the ward is stepping up. When we all heard ¨The days of knocking doors are over¨ (in Spanish) yesterday, we were ecstatic.  Like Hallelujah kind of ecstatic. It´s true.  It can be such a waste of time.  And the real power comes from the members, from being friendly toward all of God's children.
May we all be filled with hope and faith as we search for ways to serve this week!

Love you all!

Hermana Thomas