Monday, August 22, 2011

Dorsal 1 - Week #17 Last letter home

Hola for the last time from Chile!!!

I can't believe that I'm currently sitting in Quilicura and I've got lunch with one of my two Chilean families in 2 hours!!! AHHH!!! It feels like yesterday that I was here, and I'm absolutely excited to see Victor & Sandra again!

Just a quick run-down of how everything is going to work on Monday... (we're going to get the "trunky" part out first thing)... We'll be in the mission home from about 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM, with interviews, lunch, testimony meeting, and all that jazz. From there we'll probably go straight to the airport for check-in and to say our last goodbyes to the Essig's. Then I'm be "leaving on a jet plane" towards Miami. I'll have a little bit of time in the airport to call if you want, but I figured I'd let the suspense build up a little bit and wait til I see ya'll in Dallas (besides, I've got to pass through customs, change terminals, check-in my luggage again, and eat breakfast at McDonalds!!!). To make a long story short, I'll be seeing you on Tuesday but you won't get an e-mail from me on Monday (and you probably won't get a phone call either since I don't have anybody's cell phone number)!

Just to let everyone know... I am a little bit jealous about the Mac Book! But just a little bit, I think I'd have to get used to a Mac to be really jealous because I've worked with PC's all my life!

This week didn't have quite the results that we were expecting. Our expectations exceeded our excitement to fulfill them. In the beginning of the week everything started failing, as we were trying to work in both of the sectors, and we finally decided that we should only be focusing on our side. When we made that decision everything picked back up a little bit, but it was too late to recover completely!

The Calderón family are still doing great for their baptism this weekend. We are actually going to hold the baptismal service Saturday night (I cheated)! Sunday morning they should be confirmed. I feel like they are my second Chilean family, but I feel a little more distant with them than with the Cerda Araya family.

We can now almost count the days on one hand! I'm telling all of the members that say that I'm trunky that I'm not counting, but that I can count the days with my fingers! I'm seriously going to miss this ward!

So, Mom, I'm thinking about extending my mission!!!... Actually, the Area here gives very, very few extensions. The visa for Chile is really easy to get, especially for the Church, but we've already got a ton of missionaries, we don't need more. There are 7 more of us leaving on Monday (4 went last week), and 23 Elders arrive on Tuesday... The mission is growing again!

Time is running short, but I'm super excited to see ya'll in a few short days! The feeling are definitely bitter-sweet, especially today!

Love ya'll lots and I almost don't have to miss ya'll!


-- Élder Todd

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dorsal 1 - Week #17

It's the "Final Countdown"!!!

Time is flying by! We're going to start with the interesting news and then go into this last week's highlights... Last night at about 12:00 we got an unexpected phone call!... But this time it was Elder Garza instead of President... Turns out that our sector just doubled in size! With the exit of several missionaries from my group today there were several special changes that occurred, and one of them was that Dorsal 2 (the other sector in our ward) was closed. Now we have twice the area to cover in the same amount of time! My last couple of weeks ought to be really fun... I'm going to come home on a gurney because I won't be able to walk!

This morning we played soccer & basketball with several ward members and investigators. We had a good time and I actually didn't play basketball too horribly! Now we are headed to eat lunch (barbecue) with our converts and we have a family home evening tonight!

I can't believe several of the cousins have gotten married since I've been away, first Shelbey and now Jessi... What's goin' on? I've missed a lot of action on your side of the world in these last 2 years! Either way, good to hear that Jessi is now married and that the service turned out well... About the getting everybody together... I'm alright with the idea, since I haven't seen anybody from that side of the family in more that 2 years now! Let's make it happen!!!

In other news! Cristian, the other child of Ana (who was baptized recently), was baptized yesterday afternoon! The service was simple, but we had a ton of support from the ward. I was actually kind of surprised by how many people stayed to share that special moment with the newest member of the ward! Also, Friday I was able to attend the temple for the last time here in Chile (as a full-time missionary that is). Eight missionaries from our group and President & Sister Essig were able to attend! President told us "great job", as if we were already finished... LOL. Turns out that several of us from my group are having a lot of success in our sectors right now and it looks as if that might continue until we leave.

Something I've learned within the last couple of weeks is that after about 23 months in the mission field a missionary finally gets good at teaching and knows how to be a missionary... Then all too quickly the last month passes by! Missionary work isn't necessarily easy, so it takes a long while to get used to it and into the groove of things! Sooo... now that I'm in the groove my time is just about up! LOL...

We are working extremely hard here in our sector and hope to be able to keep up with the workload placed upon us by the closing of Dorsal 2... On the bright-side, we have more freedom to move around the ward now. We've got several baptisms planned for the 27th/28th of August, so hopefully everything turns out well there! Keep us in your prayers, we need them now more than ever (even more than last week)!

Love ya'll and I'll be seeing ya'll way too soon!

-- Élder Todd

P.S. You'll probably get a very quick note from me next week since I'll be visiting converts, but I'll do my best to get something substantially long off your way!

Dorsal 1 - Week #16

Buenas Tardes Familia Mia!

Hope all is well in casa this week! Nothing too exiting has been happening here in my half of the world. I'm currently listening to one of the many strikes that is going to be happening in the next couple of weeks between the workers and the public education system here in Chile... (I'm not going to miss the chaos)...

I'm officially enjoying my time here in Dorsal 1! This week we worked our tails off to teach with the members and got to Friday with only 1 lesson with a member present! AHHHH!!! But this weekend we saw really how hard we can work when we aren't sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves... We ended the week having taught 13 lessons with members (and not just the easy ones). In the last weeks I've really been reflecting on the wards that I've been in and their involvement with our work as missionaries. Overall I've seen that Chile lacks alot of participation with the investigators and new members; but of all my wards, I think I've enjoyed Dorsal the most and gotten the most help in this ward!

Missionary work really is differente when the members are involved. We are trying our hardest to get a larger portion of the ward members involved in what we are doing, but it is taking alot more effort than it should! I feel really bad now that I didn't leave very much with the missionaries when I was at home... hopefully it is something I can do more when I get back (my schedule allowing).

I'm excited to hear that the ward is ready for me to be home. It is tough though to not hear from anybody much during these 2 years away. If ya'll want to plan something for when I get home then go for it (but get the ward to help you out if you do anything... you shouldn't be doing it alone)... it makes no difference to me!!! But, if you could do me a huge favor and see when I've got to speak in the ward that would be great! LOL...

Time is flying! We are already in the middle of the change and I'll be heading to the temple this week for the last time in Santiago (apparently they will be doing maintenance from the 15th to the 29th of August). My next P-day has already been planned by several members & investigators here in Dorsal and people are signing up to give me the last lunch with their family! AHHH!!! Everything is working against my staying focused in the mission! It feels like time has passed by so fast... I remember being in Payson and in the MTC like it was yesterday!

Hope the "warm weather" isn't killing ya'll too quickly! We are starting to warm up a little bit here and today is a great day, weatherwise. We are going to be headed to Cerro San Cristobal for my last time to take some killer photos of Santiago! It's going to be a pretty fun day!

Has Lufkin changed much since I've been away, or am I still going to be able to get around fairly easily? I can't imagine at all the changes that happen in 2 years. I don't feel that different because I've been with myself the whole time. As for everyone and everything at home, my mind can't fathom that it has continued progressing... I know everything is different, but my mind put Texas on pause when I left and now I've missed 2 years of the production (the movie)!!! LOL... Crazy analogy, but that's how I can best explain what I feel!

I love ya'll and I'm starting to get anxious to see everyone! I need lots of prayers these next 3 weeks!!!

Miss ya'll and I'll be seeing ya'll very, very soon! ¡Todo mi amor!

-- Élder Todd

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dorsal 1 - Week #15

Hey Fam!

This week we've done our best to avoid near-death experiences, and so far we are succeeding! Time is ticking quickly away here in Chile. I find it very hard to believe that we are already in week 3 of the change... my last change!!! However, there is still a lot of work to be done and we are going into overdrive here in Dorsal 1 to make sure we don't lose a single minute...

Our entire week here in Dorsal didn't turn out quite as we had planned. It still amazes me how one simple act can change the outcome of the entire week. Despite the number of people who had committed to come to church yesterday, only 3 showed up. On the upside, we had several excellent talks, heard the farewell testimony of a missionary headed to Mexico City, and had a confirmation. Even with these great events, we got a little disappointed and our entire day went down the drain!

Also, yesterday evening we had an activity for the recent converts and investigators in the ward. Hermano Miranda, the ward mission leader, taught about Lehi's dream and then we had cake. It was a pretty decent shin-dig and a good time was had by all. However, the turn out wasn't the greatest... oh well...

Dorsal 1 is looking more white everyday. This last week we have put 2 more investigators with baptismal dates and we are hoping that everything goes according to plan. Right now we have 6 baptisms in planning for August, with a couple more once I'm gone! Sometimes I wonder why we are having so much success here now and not before. The ward here is growing and we are striving to work more closely with the members, but I've got to tell you... IT'S TOUGH!!! Either way, we are looking forward to some changes here in the ward and a lot of success in the not too distant future.

I'm kinda worried that my world is going to be turned completely upside down here in about 4 weeks. It actually amazes me that I've become used to the lifestyle of the mission, to a certain degree at least. I'm going to miss the mission! There are lots of things about Santiago that I don't imagine I'm going to take the time to miss, but a lot of the people here have really affected me and I'm dearly going to miss some of them... a part of me will always be in Chile!

Thanks for the news about Carl's Jr... I remember eating there a couple of times, but mostly stopping in for a break after driving for a long time! Elder Garza was pretty excited to hear that they are putting one in Lufkin, apparently they have them in northern Mexico (Monterrey).

I'm excited to see ya'll this month! Yes, THIS MONTH!!! I can't believe we are already in August of 2011... boy how time flies (when you're having fun... or something)! Keep hanging on and don't get too trunky for me to be home!

Love ya'll and miss ya'll bunches!

¡Besitos y abrazos!

-- Élder Todd

Dorsal 1 - Week #14

Howdy All!

I think I'm getting to the point that it would be easier to put how many weeks I've got left as the subject of my weekly letter instead of trying to keep track of how many weeks I've got left in the sector! LOL. Such is life I guess...

So, this week turned out to be great! I don't think I've seen this much continual success in a sector in my mission, and I thought we were doing great in Quilicura. Yesterday was also one of the best sacrament meetings I've attended since I've been in Chile; we had 2 members who have never spoken in sacrament meeting who addressed the congregation and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The talks were simple, yet heartfelt, and they didn't pull out any stops to let us know what we need to do better. I loved it, and it looks like a few of our investigators felt the same way. Also, Ana María was confirmed a member of the Church yesterday and is now our newest recent convert (Francisca wasn't able to make it to church, but will be there next week).

I'm pretty excited about what we are achieving here in the ward. I'm starting to see really how everything comes together when you have good leadership who are willing to work (most of the time anyways). Honestly, I'd have to say that this is one of my best wards here in Chile! There are a ton of people here that I'm going to miss within a few short weeks, but I'll be moving on to different things...

Good to hear that things are going well at home! Enjoy your hot temperatures... LOL. I'm about frozen over down here, and today is going to be worse because it rained all night and now there are very few clouds in sight! It looks like we might be going to bowling again today, so we shouldn't have to suffer too much during the day.

I can't believe that the family was so spread out again yesterday! Seems like Gabe and Ryah need a little lesson about el Día de Reposo... LOL... just pulling your leg! Either way, it is good to hear that everyone was in church, no matter what part of the state (or what state...LOL) they were in!

Sounds like there isn't too much happening at home...

I almost died this week... LOL... It's a funny story actually! On Saturday we were teaching our English class and one of our investigators was talking with Elder Mendez and was showing him some sort of spray. So me, being nosy, went to see what was going on (I'm curious, what can I say...). The spray was some sort of spray for your throat and they told me to try it, so I did... Instantly I noticed something interestingly familiar about the flavor of the spray! LOL... I checked the label and it definitely had peppermint (in Spanish peppermint, spearmint, and any other mint is just labeled as "menta", so I have to be very careful). After about 5 minutes we had to leave the class with Elder Wilkes and Elder Garza and head to the house to find my Benadryl, that until Saturday I hadn't had to use in Chile! We made it with my throat and esophagus just slightly swollen and having just a few difficulties in breathing & swallowing (but mostly swallowing)! After about 30 minutes I was back to normal... Elder Mendez described the look on my face when I noticed the peppermint flavor as if I had just made a self-goal (autogol) in an important game! LOL... It was pretty comical after we were sure I wasn't going to die!!!

Well, I think that is about all of my excitement for this week! I guess we'll see what this week brings! Hope all is well at home and that everyone is doing great!

Love ya'll and miss ya'll! I'll see ya'll in 5 weeks (my agenda is counting... LOL)!


-- Élder Todd

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dorsal 1 - Week #13

¡Buenas Tardes a Todos!

I'm feeling in a Spanishy sort of mood this afternoon... We had changes yesterday and received some unexpected news in the phone call at 1:30 this morning (Elder Sáenz had to call 3 times to wake me up). We had changes!!! I'm officially only a senior companion and I'm still here in Dorsal 1. My new companion is Elder Mendez, from Mexico, and I'm super excited to be here with him! ¡Vamos a sacar la mugre!

Yesterday we had 2 baptisms, as hoped for! Ana & Francisca were baptized after a 4 hour battle with the water heater in the chapel. From about 9:00 AM til about 1:00 PM, Hermano Miranda, the ward mission leader, and I waged war on the tankless water heater (nothing else exists in Chile) and kind of won. It turned out that the water at the top of the font was warmer than at the bottom... LOL. But overall everything turned out very well, and Elder Fuentes was able to perform/participate in his first baptism in the mission...

I'm excited to keep working here in Dorsal 1. We didn't quite expect changes, but the whole mission got mixed up pretty good... This ward is getting more on the ball everyday and we are hoping for lots of success this change. Actually, last week we were able to teach a part member family (the mom is a member) who has started to come back to church and we put the dad, Rodrigo, and 2 of the daughters, Constanza & Fernanda, with a baptismal date for the 14th of August. They are an amazing family!!!

It's wild to think that alot of my friends in the mission have finished as of today (they will be on a plane headed home tonight or tomorrow morning). I think I've got 4 former companions that finished today... Crazy!!!

I can't believe that time has passed by so fast! Ethan is already 3!!! That can't be possible!!! Hopefully all goes well with his next procedure.

Good to hear that Mom had a very happy birthday! Wish I could have been there to celebrate with ya'll... Looks like I'm only going to make it home in time for my birthday! Sorry Gabe! LOL...

Bummer that the ward changes so much... I think most places are like that though, or at least that is what it seems like here in the mission. I guess Lufkin didn't suit Ben quite like he expected. And the Reese's, any news yet?

Happy Pioneer Day to everyone! We might be doing a little activity on Sunday to "celebrate", but I'm not sure as of now... a little last minute, isn't it?

I love ya'll and miss ya'll everyday! I'll be home before you know it, but I'm not counting!


-- Élder Todd

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dorsal 1 - Week #12

Howdy All!

Before I forget and since I won't be able to write later in the week I want to send a birthday shout-out to Mom!!! ¡Feliz Cumpleaños! I wish I could be there to celebrate with you, eventhough our family isn't very big into celebrations! LOL

This week wasn't too exciting apart from the interviews with President Essig on Tuesday. Everything went exactly according to plan, but I'm pretty sure that is the longest interview I've ever had with the mission president. President May was pretty good at keeping them short and sweet, but I'm still sure this interview didn't last more than 10 minutes... LOL. Sunday at church, however, had to have been the highlight of the week!

During this week we focused quite a bit on inviting and committing our investigators to come to church, and it looks like our efforts payed off. The attendance of our sacrament meeting was 131, more than I've ever seen in the ward (even for ward conference with 20 people from the stake present), and we had 11 investigators from our sector! The significance of that is that we only invited them, that their friends and/or family members (members of the Church) did all the work of getting them there, and that all of them live in the sector and can potentially be baptized in the not too distant future! Not too bad, right?!?!? We were super excited that we had to keep counting how many people were coming in to the chapel and watch attently amidst the mass of people for those who aren't members! It's going be a good couple of months for baptizing!!! The most important thing is that out of this experience I've learned something... working with the members really pays off, you've just got to know how to do it!

Great to hear that Aunt Katie's visit went off without a hitch, and that ya'll found something in Lufkin to keep everyone entertained! I wouldn't really have thought of the antique stores as something unique to East Texas, but when you think about it you don't see them much outside of the state... Wish I had been home to see the family!

This Sunday we will be having, not 1, but 2 baptisms! Ana María and her daughter, Francisca, will be baptized on Sunday! I completely forgot that the entire Hendrickson family was fasting when Mom was baptized, but now I've got another testimony of fasting... Hopefully this will only be the first of many baptisms in July & August! I've got to stay super busy so I don't get too trunky! LOL.

It sounds as if the lives of many will be taking a different direction in the coming weeks and months! Good to know that Gabe & Ryah are still working (even if it is at the same places as before)... We've got to see if we can't get Gabe out of a rut too and get him on a mission about the same time Dillon goes!

Just so you don't freak out about time restraints on getting my room ready, you've got 7 weeks! We're going to see exactly how many miracles we can work here in Dorsal in the next little while, there are lots of people here that are prepared to receive the Gospel, so I've got to take advantage of the workload! It feels great to be busy, busy!

Keep cool up there, I'm not having a problem with that here at all! I love ya'll and I'll be seein' ya'll real soon! Changes are Sunday & Monday, but it isn't likely that we are moved! That means I'll be in my last change!

Love ya'll and miss ya'll bunches!


-- Élder Todd

P.S. How are ya'll doing at sharing the Gospel?