Monday, July 15, 2013

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! 

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