Tuesday, November 24, 2009

El Salto 2 - Week #4

¡Hola Familia!

I got everybody's e-mails this week, so we are good there!

Yesterday, here in el barrio El Salto, we had ward conference...so now we have new leadership for the Elder's Quorum, Young Men, Young Women, and Primary along with a new ward mission leader whom none of the missionaries (the 4 of us) know! Fun times!!!

Woot, woot!!! I'm excited to hear that Amanda got baptized. Elder Neilson told me that she had a fecha bautismal but didn't say when. It is also really cool that Tommy has been active enough recently to baptize her as well. I miss being at home and seeing all of the activity going on in the ward there.

On this end, we have one baptism scheduled for this Sunday. He is a 30-something year-old whose wife is a member. His name is Alex; we are like the 3rd or 4th set of missionaries that he has been through, but he is finally progressing (if we can find him at home ever). He is un poco flojo (lazy) and doesn't like to attend church regularly but he does have a strong member support system, he just likes to do his own thing.

To answer a few questions from Mom...we don't have cars in this mission. There are only a few areas with bikes because the houses are small enough that when you get in a door to teach there is not enough room for the bike...hence they get stolen about every 3-4 days or so. The office has 3 cars (1 for president, a van, and a truck) that are shared by the 5 office elders and the 2 assistants to the president. We walk alot and if we have meetings elsewhere in Santiago we use what is called the "Trans Santiago" transportation system. It is a system of Micros (little short trip buses), Metros (underground rails como subways), and Buses (longer distance). Occassionally if we want to get somewhere fast we use the taxis because they are everywhere, no one has an education (so they get a taxi), and the government pays for their car if they use it as a taxi.

This week was definitely an interesting one. I can't go into much detail on the actual problems because my companion would kill me...so when I get home just ask for more information on my first cambio (transfer/change) or to see my journal entry dated 23-November 2009! LOL. Wednesday of this week my companion and I went to the doctor of the mission (and the rest of Chile) se llama Dr. Dixon. He is serving a mission as a doctor for 18 months for the entire Chile region of the church (as we have our own region). My companion had talked to him Tuesday and he said come in. The problem he had had reoccurred from May when he was in the offices. Needless to say, Dr. Dixon sent him straight to a specialist for this problem. The specialist admitted him into the clinic that the church uses here in Santiago se llama Indisa (very prestigous...we avoid hospitals if at all possible). His family and the office was notified and we were in the clinic about 10:30-11 on Wednesday morning. THE JOYS OF PRIVATE MEDICINE!!! SERIOUSLY (IT WAS AMAZING)!!! He had to have surgery and had all of his exams (EKG, bloodwork, ultrasound) and his surgery prep and was under the knife by 1:30 in the afternoon. Sooo...our work got put on hold for the 3 days he was in the clinic (Wednesday-Friday) as I had to stay with him 24/7 as his companion. We were released Friday at about noon and he was on bed rest (except church Sunday) until today.

Saturday and Sunday I had the opportunity to do divisions with a member in our ward se llama Hno. José Contreras. ¡Él es super bueno! So, for the first time, I was speaking only Spanish, teaching by myself, contacting everyone by myself, leading our sector with someone who isn't a missionary, etc. for 4 hours each of the 2 days. Can anyone at home say STRESSFUL?!?!? Anyways, I feel really good about it and am really glad now that I had that experience! I feel like my Spanish has doubled in the last 2 days!!!

Work sounds fun for everyone! And good luck not being busy on Black Friday in a cell phone shop, Mom! I still can't believe I'm not getting Thanksgiving dinner!

And I forgot to mention! We here in El Salto eat almuerzo (lunch) with members on Saturday and Sunday. Dinner and breakfast are not big things here so we normally just eat in the apartment on our own. During the week, Martes-Viernes, we have lunch with our mamacita. We pay her about $3 (US money) a day for lunch (that is 1.500 pesos here), she is an inactive member. On P-day we either get fast food or eat in the apartment because every week our schedule is different on P-day.

Transfers (cambios) happen the 7th de Diciembre (a Monday) on a 6 week rotation. So, the earliest that I could be transferred is December 7th, but lots of the time the new missionaries either stay with their trainers or at least in their first sector for the first 2 changes (no guarantees though...especially since my companion is convinced I'll be training by the first cambio of the new year)... We don't find out if we are being transferred until the night before (so in this case the 6th of December). Fun, fun, fun...

Just to make our investigator sound like less of a bad person for not breaking (like we thought) but cutting his "wife's" hand (with a really nice home-made sword by the way), the two of them were both high at the time of the incident... I know, that just makes our work harder, but he is really trying to change his life...right now, it looks as if he will be moving sometime in the middle of December to another area of the mission, so hopefully we can get him baptized first.

Another story of another investigator... We currently have an investigator by the name of Ernesto. He is about 47 years-old and we found him because of a reference of another missionary. When we first talked to him it was in the street in front of his house and we did nothing more than extend a invitation to church (which down here NEVER works). He showed up that Sunday, and has every Sunday since that he has had a personal invitation (the only thing that is saving us)... Turns out Ernesto is what we like to call "locito", we think he has a pretty significant case of schizophrenia mixed with some ADHD. We are trying to figure out what to do with him and when we asked Presidente May we kinda say "ummmmmmmm" (which is never good) and told us to talk to the obispo. We think we are going to drop him because we are pretty sure he wouldn't even need a baptism because his mind is less that 8 years-old. Although it is commical that someone convinced him that he gets payed to watch TV all day and write short reviews about the movies that are on (he gets a check from the government...as does almost everyone else in Chile).

Hope everything at home continues to do well! I'm trying to send pictures again today, but no promises.

Love you all and look forward to hearing how Thanksgiving with the missionaries goes!

¡Todo mi amor! ¡Exito en todo que ustedes hacen!

-- Élder Todd

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

El Salto 2 - Week #3

¡Hola Familia!

I haven't gotten a letter from Dad yet this week! Good to hear the house is going well and that home is surviving without me. I'm kinda sad that I don't get Thanksgiving dinner at all and that the other missionaries are getting mine...LOL. We are living in the light again, and have been for about a week and a half (I forgot to mention that I guess), luckily the office decided to pay what they call "gasto comunes" finally (basically trash pick-up and other sanitation expenses) so they turned it back on!

Good to hear that Ryah is getting payed for her work at the chicken company and that Gabe hasn't changed one bit! I really miss all of you especially coming up on the holidays, but I try not to think about it too much...

Woot, woot!!! HOUSE PARTY! Why was I not invited? And be sure to let me know how that goes! (Sounds like it could get really interesting.)

Christmas: I don't (like every other year) know what I want. My companion put out an interesting idea for a electronic Spanish/English dictionary (apparently such a monster exists), so that would be really cool. I do have one special request besides candy (lots by the way, like the big bags they have at Wal-Mart)...that special request is...Peanut Butter. I didn't think I'd ever ask, but you can get a little bitty jar here for a lot of money and it isn't that good...plus it will survive the long trip. Other than that I've got no idea what I want/need/etc.

Also, are there pictures of the house coming? My companion is dying to see them! LOL. And I want to see how it has changed in the 3 months I've been gone...

One of our investigators this week got into an "argument" with his "wife" on Saturday night and didn't end up going to church Sunday morning. Turns out that he broke her hand!!! He is not looking so great for a baptism this transfer, but we'll see today. We are going to teach his la Palabra de Sabiduria (Word of Wisdom) today and try to set a plan to resolve his fairly extensive problems with it.

This week, yesterday, we put another golden investigator with fecha for the 13th of December. We are going by today to see if he recieved an answer to his prayer about the Libro de Mormón and José Smith. It is a family of 3, which we fasted and prayed for this week, but so far he is the only one with a fecha bautismal.

Everyone sounds busy, busy at home. And just so you know, we are not having our share of neccessary downtime here in El Salto. I don't think we ever stop. (I'm not complaining, just to clarify...I love it). In a day of 10 hours of proselyting we teach during about 4, tocar puertas (knock doors) about 2-3, visit a member or two, and are walking the other 3 hours... Our apartment is in the other sector (El Salto 1) in our district but we are normally working on the other end of our sector. Fun times!

Chile is finally starting to get hot!!! At night it isn't cooling down as much as it was previously and the days that it isn't nublado (cloudy) we have to do our best to find shade when we are walking and proselyting. Luckily (or maybe not...I'm not sure), it isn't nearly as humid as East Texas, but not nearly as green either. Everyone here either waters or sweeps the patch of dirt in front of their house, and no one has grass. Back yards don't exist (big or little) and almost everyone has a front yard piled with as much clutter as backyards in the states. The sidewalks have varying elevations about every 3-4 feet... Just so you have an idea of Chile. But the views of the sunsets with a reflection off of the Andes with palm trees in between you and the mountains is amazing!!!

I miss you all and love you all. I'm going to try to upload a few pictures now so sorry this isn't super long. Hopefully there will be pictures headed your way!!!

¡Todo mi amor!

-- Elder Todd

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

El Salto 2 - Week 2

¡Hola Familia y Amigos!

Esta semana has been full of all sorts of fun. We have an ex-drug dealer or user or something we are teaching (hopefully EX) and we are planning on him putting himself with a baptismal date tonight. Last night we taught him about a 10 minute lesson after he left Elder Low and I in his house by ourselves for about 35 minutes while he and his palola went to get their kids. (FUN!!! In the neighborhood.) Friday I had what the call Fase 1 training for new missionaries in which we learned about the mission and some of the rules. It was great, we got to go to the mission home in the rich part of Santiago (obviously not our mission) and enjoy the morning learning and then have almuerzo con Presidente y Hna. May. It was definitely a good experience.

This week in El Salto it has been tan vientoso. I don't know where all this wind is coming from, but it has made it un poco frio over the past couple days, especially at night. Although I can't complain much because it should be in the 90's as we are approaching verano here. Today for p-day we are going into el centro to go to a tourist attraction se llama Santa Lucia. It is apparently a big castle built into the side of un cerro (hill). When you climb up to the top you are supposed to be able to see all of Santiago, unfortunately está nublado hoy día, so we'll see. One thing I love about our sector is that you can see Los Andes to the north. Last night when we were contact (tocando puertas) we looked over and saw the sunset reflecting off of the clouds over Los Andes and the pine trees sticking up in between us and the montañas, it was an awesome sight to behold. (I'll try to get pictures this week and send them next week).

My companion is requesting printed pictures of the house to be mailed to us ASAP, since we only have limited e-mail time and we are already 1/3 of the way through this cambio. We had conferencía de estaca ayer and I was to the point of boredom from not understanding anything that I drew the floor plan of the first floor of the Hen. House. He absolutely loved it and really wants to see pictures!!!

Home sounds exciting, especially between the cats and racoons. I'm sure Gabe enjoyed having some fun with them! LOL. And I agree with getting another big dog, my vote is on a female rottie (my spelling is going out the window en inglés!). How is the house coming? Nobody said much this week about it.

Mom: Sounds like the job is going good and that you are progressing in your learning. And isn't the switch in computer programming how it always seems to work out. You'll get it, by the time I get back you'll be proficient at using a computer...LOL. Good luck with the food storage, if by some miracle you figure out how to freeze-dry food...my companion and I would love to have some chili and tacos. (No rush, just within about the next 4 weeks...if there is some other way to get it to us and it still be good then that would be great too.).

Dad: Work sounds fun as usual! The stories never get old, especially when they result from somebody's stupidity and turns out in a cool medical problem...LOL. My companion likes all my medical stories too. He plans on going into medicine when he gets back to BYU in just less than a year, his specialties of choice right now are neurology and anesthesiology! We get along very well.

I miss all of you at home and also the Texas weather, even if it is super rainy. I miss the rain!!! And I get to continue doing so until at least about Marzo...yuck! I get a hard time from all of the English speakers around here about being from Texas, especially with the Texas Pride factor figured in.

I'm loving Chile, every second of it!!! The work that we do here is unique, and the opportunity that we have to be the Lord's hands in it is an experience that I will never forget. At times it is hard, like this week to come will definitely be. Right now we have 11 investigadores con una fecha bautismal. Only 1 of those is progressing and 2 of our other "investigators". This week we are going to end up dropping at least 7 of our 11 that have a baptismal date because they aren't willing to keep commitments and are wasting our time and the Lord's time. Keep us in all of your prayers for our success in this gran obra (work) and as well that our investigators may do the things that they need to do to progress in este Evangelio and recieve the ordenanzas neccessary to recieve salvation and find the path to eternal life.

La Idioma (the language): So far the language is coming along very nicely. I'm at the point where I can definitely speak more than I'm able to understand because of the accent of the people here, and because many are missing teeth. I'm working on figuring out a new approach to my language studies and continuing to improve. It is amazing how much just listening helps. My companion does his best to speak Spanish to me all of the time, he is successful about 98% of the time (it is more difficult to speak Spanish when you are mad...LOL). We just set a goal today to not speak English, except in the apartment after 11:00 pm. We'll see how this works because one of the other elders is in his 2 cambio (change/transfer) and speaks English a lot of the time.

I love you all and miss you alot. My prayers are with all of you daily in your individual endeavours. I look forward to seeing you again in 21 fast Sundays! (I'm not counting). It feels like we've been apart for so long, but I know there is only a short time past and only a little bit longer one ahead.

¡Toda mi amor! ¡Besos!

--Elder Todd

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

El Salto 2 - Week 1

¡Hola Familia!

Just so everyone knows now, I´m in Chile, I´m safe, and all is well. I arrived at the mission home (located in Santiago East Mission) at about 12-ish on Tuesday from a long overnight flight!!! We had several hours of entrevistas y capacitación, after which we got a short (about 1 hour) nap. Afterwards, we met our trainers (decided during the interview process) and went to work, out proselyting by about 7:30 that night.

My companion is from Canada!!! His name is Elder Low, he has been a member his whole life (along with both parents and his 6 siblings) and lived in Alberta. We get along very well so far, I´m his first nuevo to train...he has been in the mission for about 16 months and just finished a couple of changes (9 months) in the mission office serving as secretary and medic. We are in an area of Santiago se llama El Salto. Before last Monday this sector/area did not exist. Basically we are opening a new area, but there are 2 other elders here that were here last cambios. (The area was only split). It is an interesting experience to live in 1 apartment with 3 other elders. Mi compañero is our district leader...and we are in the zone Zapadores. One of the other missionaries in the zone was in my zone/branch in the MTC but left 6 weeks before us.

The work here is great, I´m absolutely loving it! I keep figuring out more and more about Chile and how much certain aspects of it are amazing and other aspects (such as the postal system) sucks. Recieving anything from the states only takes about 2 weeks and doesn´t generally have problems, but sending letters and such from here doesn´t work so well. The only post office basically is in El Centro de Santiago and we can only go in to mail stuff on P-day (aka Monday). The assistants and secretary said say goodbye to the rain for about 6 months, but today it is cloudy and fairly cool out...very abnormal for summer. You can still see Los Andes though and it is so weird to me for it to be this temperature and still have snow on las montañas.

This week was good and bad, mi Español has been improving daily (despite the amount of slang in Chile and the fact that they speak castellano). Everything here has the J sound instead of the Y when you have a LL, so I´m staying a little lost. There is also ´po´that they through in every once in a while at the end of sentences, it doesn´t mean a thing but depending on who you are talking to depends on how often it is used, there is no rule. Our teaching and finding efforts this week have had some ups and downs. We are having trouble with a concept very common in the U.S. se llama con viviente o con vivir. Everyone down here it seems is living with some one, not married to that person, and is actually married to somebody else still...(I had been warned though, but it is way more prominent than I thought). We are probably going to have to drop a few investigators this week because they aren´t keeping their commitments and/or they don´t want to get married. One interesting concept in this mission is that in order for us to count a person as a nuevo investigador they must have a fecha bautismal. It really cuts down on all of the people trying to waste your time though.

An interesting experience this week has occurred over the last couple of days (weekend). When I came into the area we had a few investigators because they split the community and had already been teaching a few people. One of those people is named Mariajosé. We´ve tried several times to contact and talk to her and still to no avail. The first time her husband (I use the term loosely), Raul, got mad at us. We tried again Saturday and he came up and talked to us, we gave it to him tough (straight forward answers, etc.) so he wouldn´t waste our time. Turns out that with the folleto (brochure) the other elders left with his wife he taught himself the lesson of the Restoration and wanted us to come back that night. We went back and caught him as he was leaving. We returned again on Sunday on an inspiration from the Spirit and taught him a 45 minute lesson that had parts of Word of Wisdom, Lesson 1 (Restoration), Tithing [Diezmo], etc. He ate it up!!! We found out he isn´t married but he and his wife are having problems so we are going to see what to do (either get married or move out in order for us to baptize him). Tonight we have another lesson with him and are going to teach about eternal families, hopefully all goes well.

A little about my area...these 2 sectors cover one ward (El Salto) that has about 90 active members with about 1200 or so on the roster (that may be the other missionaries exagerating a little bit...but not by much). Chile is bad enough with retention that they area presidency has put a program called Permanaced in place with the missions, stakes, and branches to reactivate (Permanaced = Abide). This mission is kinda poor in most areas, there are a few with some richer barrios but not many. We cover a fairly large area for being in the suburbs with most of the others in the campo or Los Andes.

We have been without power in our pensión since Wednesday sometime and the office isn´t wanting to get their act together to get it turned back on. Sorry to everyone at home for the mix up with the letters and pictures, they were supposed to be sent out by Wednesday night but they have a new secretary in the office and he must have been really busy until Friday. Next Monday when I e-mail I´ll try to upload so pictures of Chile and my sector for everybody to see at home.

I love this work and the opportunity that I have to help people here come unto our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is amazing to see the change that people can make in a few short days, like Raul for example. (We´ve got a couple crazies we are teaching right now but we´ll see what the Lord directs us to do with them.) The mission is a hard thing, but ¨I can do hard things...¨ It is definitely a new experience being here and kinda weird being so far from home. I´ve been doing fine with it except for at times whenever there is no direct focus on what I should be doing, those are when I get a little homesick. The Spirit here in the mission, if we let it in, is way stronger than was felt in the MTC (el CCM) and I love it.

I miss you all, I´m glad I got to talk to everyone from the airport...yes, it would have been nice to see you, but it is easier this way. I love you a lot and I´m kinda glad I´m not having to deal with Texas weather right now (the California weather we have here is fine with me). I look forward to hearing back from everyone. Love you bunches.

¡Todo mi amor!

-- Elder Todd

P.S. You have the OK to post my e-mail address on the blog until at least a year from July, we can e-mail anyone after we e-mail family and this will be easier for everyone else too.