Monday, December 28, 2009

Lo Ovalle 1 - Week #2

¡Hola Familia!

So, it was really good to get to talk to all of you on Christmas Day. Dad is right, it sounded like I was in the next room rather than however many thousands of miles away. It didn't feel like Christmas this year, in the mission it seems like holidays and birthdays just don't exist because the family is such an integral part in all of it. Eventhough everyone down here spends the holidays with family it doesn't feel the same as being with your own family.

It was so hard to speak English on the phone for the first couple of minutes. It was actually kind of ironic because I had just got done making fun of my companion for the same reason. And then after the phone call and all the next day it was hard to get back to speaking Spanish again (at least with any clarity). I kinda envy the Latinos in this mission that didn't have to switch languages, but I like being almost bilingual... :D

Saturday we found our first success in this sector...Woot! We taught a lesson to a mother and daughter (Maricel y Ivy) and put them with a baptismal date for the 24th of January. The mom has had the missionary lessons before but it was about 20+ years ago and was almost baptized wasn't her time apparently, but it is now! Other than that we've done alot of getting to know the ward because nobody wants to let us into their house to teach a lesson. Eventhough the holidays are the best time to find people in their homes they are also really hard because of the importance of the family in the Latino culture...nobody wants to interrupt their time with their family (and I don't blame them).

This past week has been a real learning experience working in a new sector, with a new companion. Until you are with someone who has barely more time than yourself in Chile it is impossible to know what it is like to rely on the Spirit in EVERYTHING! We should know what it is like before-hand but unfortunately missionaries are still people, and people rely on themselves alot more than they should... But Elder Davenport is great, he's got a really strong Spirit and a great command of the Gospel. We are going to have some tremendous success here, I just know it!

As always, new sectors are full of interesting we can see with Ernesto in my previous sector. Well here these new experiences are called Haitianos (Haitians). Wow!!! They are great people but alot of them don't speak very much Spanish or English nor do they have much time in Chile. Yes they are trying to learn like us but don't have the gift of tongues on their side. We are going to be experiencing the process of teaching through a translator tonight at 9:00 pm. Our translator is named Riki. He is a return missionary from Haiti that has been in Chile for 2 months and only speaks decent Spanish. Apparently we tell him a concept to teach and he goes at it, teaching, asking questions, resolving doubts, etc., etc. We however can't understand any of the conversation so he has to translate some stuff back to us...luckily not all...from the Haitian Creole-French language (más o menos). Sounds like fun doesn't it???

Sunday in our ward we had 171 people present and only 2 of all of those were investigators. We meet at 10:30 in the morning because there is another ward that meets at 8:30 (yuck!). Every ward in this stake, there are 5, has 4 missionaries and alot of active members...definitely a change from my last area, and from home. The leadership here is great and really welcoming, as was obvious by the fact that Elder Davenport and I had to share our testimonies and introduce ourselves in sacrament meeting. The best part was that directly afterwards the bishop spoke and told the congregation again how much time we had in Chile and that the only reason we could speak as well as we do is because the Lord works true that the Lord does work miracles, but I like to think that I've put alot of work into speaking Spanish as well. LOL...

Christmas sounds like it went well for everybody! And good to hear that Lufkin is still mostly okay after the F-3 tornado. I'm glad the only thing significant natural disaster wise that we get in Chile is teremotos (earthquakes) and those are very few and far between...("knock on wood").

Random funny...last Thursday we had all day as P-day because of Christmas and our companionship with 4 other elders and 2 sisters in our zone went into the central to the feria at Santa Lucia. It is a big open market with a bunch of souveneirs and nothing else. One of the elders with us, Elder Morrison, is leaving on the 17th of January to return home at the end of his mission and thus spent nearly $200 (American dollars) in the feria on souveneirs for his family to carry home with him...INSANE...

I'm scared I've lost my Texas accent for now and that I'll have to re-learn it when I get home. The only downside with that is that if I end my mission with a Chilean accent I'll end up losing it within a couple weeks after I return to the states. Either way, I lose...

Once again it was good to talk to everyone on Christmas and take a break from knocking every door in Lo Ovalle. But, I have a goal to knock every street in this sector before I get transferred, so I'm counting on not leaving in January changes...

Hope everyone has a great New Year, party it up for me!!! I'll just be hear losing sleep because everyone else will be partying!

Love you all and talk to you again soon...

¡Todo mi amor y cariño!

-- Elder Todd

Friday, December 25, 2009

¡Feliz Navidad a todos! ¡Espero que todos tengan una Feliz Navidad y que todos puedamos recordar la significanza verdadera de este tiempo del año!

¡Con Amor!

-- Elder Todd Hendrickson

Merry Christmas to all! I hope that all of you have a Merry Christmas and that all of us can remember the true meaning of this time of year!

With love,

-- Elder Todd Hendrickson

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lo Ovalle 1 - Week #1: Merry Christmas!

¡Feliz Navidad a Todos!

Wow! These last couple of days have been a whirlwind of not so fun times, but so far I'm truly enjoying them. Sunday night at about 10:40 pm our cell phone unexpected rang with Presidente May on the other end of the line, needless to say the news that followed was not what I wanted to here the week of Christmas.

As of about 10:00 am Monday morning I am in the sector Lo Ovalle 1 in the zone Quilicura (maybe you can find it on the mission map). I am with Elder Dallen Davenport from Payson, Utah, and together we are opening the sector (aka white-washed). Elder Davenport has one cambio more in the mission than I, so we are really fresh meat here. Unfortunately we were transferred here under not so great circumstances, but as I'm sure everyone is aware I cannot explain. (Gotta love emergency transfers!!!). The upside is that we have the opportunity to start this sector out fresh and our ward is super supportive. We have about 200 active members in sacrament meeting every Sunday and all of the barrios in this stake/zone have 4 missionaries. Woot! That is definitely a change from my previous barrio. This sector is a little more (make that alot) upper class than El Salto, with many neighborhoods (villas) looking like we walked into the states!

Sounds like everything is decently well at home. Here it is looking a little like Christmas in Texas except that it is super dry (and Texas is cold this year). We are sitting at about 31-32 degrees Celcius on a daily basis here, but I'm starting to get used to it. Unfortunately, I don't think I've ever sweated as much in my life as I did my last week in El Salto (I guess because of the heat and in my case lack of humidity...doesn't exactly make sense).

Bummer that everyone has to work on Christmas Eve, especially since this is the one day of the year that we have almost completely free! Tonight we'll be in the home of a member (the family live about 5 steps from our front door) for cena (dinner) and we go home at midnight. We had our activity in the mission home on Tuesday night with 3 other zones, including my old one (Zapadencia), so we won't be there tonight...still works out OK. We were going to go to the zoo today but it closes at noon (boo!) and is never opened on Mondays. Also Tuesday, because I'm in a new zone and they hadn't gone yet nor had Elder Davenport, I got to go to the temple again. I've now gone through a session in Spanish twice and made it to the other side!!! LOL. I can now make it to heaven in 2 languages! :P

So, the work in this sector right now is few and far between. We have been doing alot of golpeando puertas (knocking doors) and have knocked into several members, as our sector is full of about 90% of the ward. We are having increased success with references from members, like I've never had before and it seems as if the missionary program in this ward and stake are really thriving.

It is hard to stay focused during this Christmas season, especially being so far away from family and friends. But it helps to be carrying a message of such importance to those that don't have the happiness that we do! I'm so greatful for the knowledge of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, especially in this season of the Navidad as we have a chance to reflect on his birth and life. It really helps to focus Christmas on more than just his birth, as crucial as that was, and to remember of his Atonement and sacrifice for each one of us.

(I just realized that whenever I'm trying to type in English I'm translating from Spanish to English in my head. Good luck with the phone call tomorrow! LOL)

I'm super excited to hear everyone's voices again and to hear how things are in the great state of Texas. I miss you all very much and I think about you daily (not enough to be disobedient and forget what I'm doing here). I'm eternally greatful for the sacrifice you are all making to help me be here and the support that each of you gives me. I love this work and this incredible chance I have to help others gain that which I have, eventhough it is hard...and it is HARD!

In this Christmas season I encourage everyone to reflect on the true meaning of this holiday season and think about all that we have received because of our Lord Jesus Christ. May his blessing and love be upon you and your family during this special time of year.

¡Todo mi amor! ¡Yo estoy animado para hablar con ustedes mañana!

¡Feliz Navidad!

-- Elder Todd

P.S. The package was received this morning when I went to the mission office to get a new cell was here in time but if we didn't have to get a new phone or I hadn't asked I wouldn't have it until Tuesday when I'll get the credit card! LOL. (Gotta love the office missionaries...)

El Salto 2 - Week #7

¡Hola Familia!

First things first...there is another e-mail headed your way very shortly with the phone number that I will be at for Christmas. I will be waiting for your call promptly at 1:00 pm (local time) [10:00 am (your time)]. More details on the phone calls in my other e-mail.

So...BUMMER!!! The news I just recieved is definitely going to put a bummer on my P-day, but I'll try to stay as upbeat as possible. Let me know when you get any details, if they come. I can't imagine! Let everyone know that I love them and that my thoughts and prayers are with them in this hard time. Don't lose faith and remember the great knowledge that this Gospel brings of the future! Wish I could be with you, but for now my prayers will have to do...

This week has been pretty mellow here in El Salto. Friday was Fase 2 y 3 so there is a big possibility that I have a quote on Hermana May's Blog (our shoe picture should be on there as well pretty soon). We had divisions this time and showed up late (Elder Sierra and I)...Murphy's Law with the TranSantiago system! Saturday we did divisions in our district so I was with Elder Francis (shout out!) in El Salto 1 for the day. I think we knocked more doors on Saturday than I have any other day in my mission! LOL.

The work is progressing, slowly but surely. Our 2 investigators who were supposed to be baptized this Sunday aren't going to yet (hopefully the following), but we've got one other who should be on the 27th. The other missionaries began teaching him 2 transfers ago and now we are working with him for various reasons, but he is progressing and wants to be baptized now. This past week we ran into him again and he has received an answer to his prayers that this is what he needs to do. Woot! So, he may be my first baptism (if so that will be an interesting story for later).

Today we are headed into Santiago Central to go to a park called Quinta Normal. Apparently it is a pretty big attraction here, with museums all around it, so we may end up going to some of them too. The more time I spend here the more I fall in love with this country (and its people).

Yesterday...elections were held in Chile. Everyone said that voting wasn't as bad as was expected at any time of the day. The system is kinda unique though, the people only vote for president and diputado (representative for 3 communities). If you are registered here you are required by law (with threat of arrest) to vote, but you don't have to be registered. Turns out that yesterday none of the presidential candidates got over 50% of the vote, so the top 2 have re-votes coming up at the beginning of the year (January or February). Ahhhh!!! LOL.

So, I just thought we dropped Ernesto (our investigator with armies). We have since learned that in order to drop him completely we have to completely avoid his street (not just close to his house). Last night we ended up having "the last supper" with him (we got pulled into his lair because we went to close [about 200 yards away]). So, Elder Low wants to keep passing by to basically do a case study on him and I want to avoid him if at all possible. We'll see who wins out on this one, unfortunately I don't think it will be me!

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas here...everyone has their Christmas trees up and a few people have lights (not at all like the states)...and it is starting to get unbearably hot!!! The wind has all but stopped and the temperatures seem to be getting hotter and hotter everyday with no cooling at night. Oh the joys! I'm dreaming of a white Christmas!!! (But I'm not getting my hopes up).

I just want everyone to know that I love them and miss them, especially in this Christmas season. I look forward to hearing from everyone again soon and talking to you on Christmas day.

HEADS UP!!! Our P-day has been changed from the 21st of December (Monday) to the 24th of December (Thursday). I will be able to check my e-mail on the 21st only to see how the phone call to the member went and makes sure there are no problems with the calling on Christmas Day. E-mail will work as usual on the 24th!

Love you lots and hope to hear more from you later!

¡Todo mi amor!

-- Elder Todd

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

El Salto 2 - Week #6

¡Hola Familia y Emery!

Yes, I just finalized the name for "the DAWG" (as Dad put it), so her name is officially Emery...Gabe and Ryah did good for once.
So cambios happened last night and continue today, we got the phone call at 12:15 this morning (kinda last night). And the verdict says...all 4 of the missionaries here in El Salto are staying put for another 6 weeks. Also none of the Zone Leaders or the Assistants to the President changed this transfer (probably because we met our goal of 120 baptisms in the mission for the month of November), so that was cool too...Elder Low said that has never happened with President May (the leadership not changing that is).
This month is already starting to look promising for my first baptism. We have 2 people with fecha for the 20th and hopefully we will know for sure this week that they are definitely going to be baptized. Unfortunately this Sunday is going to be super crazy as Chile has their elections (presidential). So, hopefully we find out soon how proselyting is going to work or if it is going to change at all for Sunday! We've only got sacrament meeting for church so we'll have a longer day than normal.
Good news!!! We only have a few more weeks until Christmas/Navidad, ojalá Viajito Pascuero will be able to find me here in Chile...LOL. And on Christmas day we get to talk to our family (that means ya'll). I'm going to give you a low down on how it is going to work, because preparations have to be made this week and next week (on my end and yours).
Christmas Calls: We get to talk for 40 minutes of Christmas day! So the time is going to fly, but it is because we have to be proselyting that afternoon at 4 pm. So we will be talking at 1:00 pm local time, which means 10:00 am Texas time. Things here work a little differently so I won't be calling. Rather I will be sending you the phone number of a member next Monday where I will be awaiting your phone call promptly at the appointed time...LOL. Within a couple days of getting the number Dad will need to call it to make sure it works and the connection is OK and then send me an e-mail to let me know. (I say Dad because the person needs to speak Spanish). Then on Christmas day ya'll will have to call the number again (at your expense, way easier than us having to hassle with calling cards or running up bills on members phones). ANY QUESTIONS?
Back to the work... We finally dropped our loco investigator who has armies that are ready to kill us at any moment...luckily he is protecting us. He was really sad when we told him we couldn't visit him anymore, but we have no reason since he doesn't need a baptism.
Our investigator, José Luis, is on fire!!! He has been to church twice, and yesterday he stayed to practice with the choir (which consists of all the youth, one YSA sister, the missionaries, and now him) and afterwards stayed for the baptism that the ward/other missionaries had. He absolutely loved it and he is really clinging to the gospel! So far he is on track for a baptism on the 20th and his wife has started to become interested in our message and actually sat in on part of our lesson the other day! YAY!!! Previously she has been really pesada and not really interested at all, but slowly she has been turning from her prior ways and started to look into what we share. He really wants her to open her mind and at least experiment with our message. We have the highest hopes for him and know that when he is baptized he will be a very strong member (and potentially a bishop by next year...LOL).
Alex, our other investigator with fecha for the 20th, is progressing rather slowly. He has had almost every lesson and knows that what we share is true, he is just rather slow to take the initiative! Fortunately his wife is a member and return missionary, so she has been a huge help in this process. And he has really come a long way from where he was, as he didn't even believe that there was a God several months back.
Work and work on the house sounds fun for everybody!!! I can't say that I miss that part of being at home, since I'm getting plenty of work here! Just keep your chins up...
I'm sad to here that Elder Nielsen is finally leaving Lufkin, but he'll do great wherever he goes! I feel bad for Lufkin too though, he has really brought about so good changes there it sounds like.
SNOW!!! IN LUFKIN!!! Apparently the world is freezing over or something (Chile unfortunately is not). Elder Low just told me that his sister said they got snow in Alberta in one day that was deeper than she is tall, which even for this time of the year is a little unusual...but not nearly as much as snow in East Texas. Is is 90 degrees outside again yet? Or is it looking more and more promising for a white Christmas? We get a green/brown Christmas here, all the trees are pretty but the dirt kinda gets a little boring (fortunately we have about 2 blocks with grass in our sector...we got lucky!).
All is well here, everyone is looking forward to the Christmas program/activity thing we have on the 24th. We will be in the mission home this year (in 2 groups as there are wayyyyy to many missionaries for 1) that will be cool. I've got Fase 2 training this Friday so keep an eye on the mission blog for the comments from missionaries and try to guess if one of them is mine!!! LOL...good luck.
I just want to end with my testimony of this great and marvellous work and the change that it has wrought in me. It is so great to be able to see someone change their life because of a message that is so simple to us yet at the same time so profound. I have really grown to love the place that I have in preaching this great gospel to the people here in Santiago. The simplicity of this message has given me a whole new perspective on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and his life. To see someone take this gospel and apply it in their lives to bring forth a mighty change is something that there are no words to describe. I love this work and this gospel with all my heart and would not trade this opportunity to be a missionary for the world! I encourage anyone who is looking for a change in their life or is searching for more direction to take the opportunity to listen to this unique message that we have (member or not) and to truly apply it in your life. The message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly our unique message to the world, it is from beyond the veil and has made a huge impact on my life and my entire outlook.
I love you all and look forward to hearing your voices on Christmas day!

¡Todo mi amor!
-- Elder Todd

El Salto 2 - Week #5

¡Hola Familia y Amigos!

You can tell that the days just start to become a blur when you've been in a foreign country for over a month and you have to look back at your last e-mail sent home to see how many weeks you've been here. We just completed week 5 in this transfer with cambios coming up next Monday! There is no telling where any of us are going or if any of us are leaving. We should find out at about 11 o'clock Sunday night! LOL.
So, right now we are sitting in the middle of Santiago (outside our sector) in a place called Plaza de Armas. This plaza is freaking huge and is full of people. Right now it is pretty tranquilo as we are sitting in a Internet business (hopefully that explains it well enough). I tried to send pictures home on CD today but the person at the business said my card had a virus...looks like I have to try another way of getting pictures to ya'll.
So this week we have really felt the effects of our stay in the hospital and the fact that my companion is still on "light duty" work... We have a couple of good investigators, but we've had to get rid of several this week and several others have told us they don't want to meet with us anymore. The work still goes on.
We did find out this week that Ernesto, our crazy schizophrenic has armies that are trying to kill us. He luckily has told them not to so we may have to keep visiting him for a little while to make sure he doesn't change his mind...LOL.
Dad, usted lo ha dicho...just when our investigators look golden they take a really big downhill turn. Raul just took one of those this week, and it doesn't look like he's coming back...unfortunately. On the other hand though we have one investigator named José Luis who is on fire (ojalá). He went to church this past Sunday (yesterday) and absolutely loved it!!! It really makes you feel good when you see somebody like that that really starts to cling to the gospel. He does have doubts though, nadie es perfecto...his was devoutly Catholic and now his son is becoming more Agnostic than anything, so he is really worried about his family. He expressed to us his wish that they would open their hearts and at least experiment with our message as he has to see if it is true for them as well. I really have the highest hopes for him!
Thanksgiving sounds like it was a success...and a party at Paw-Paw Tom's that I wasn't invited to...somebody has got to talk to him about that!!! Good to see that Dad is doing his home teaching now...LOL. Work sounds like oh so much fun for everybody! Thanksgiving here was just like any other day...we had pasta with hot dog cut up in it and a salad for our Thanksgiving almuerzo (lunch). But our mamasita does feed us good...
I also have been getting your letters on time for the past 2 weeks (today and the previous), Mom and Dad. So no worries there...but I haven't gotten a chance to print or read the talk yet. I'll try to next week when we are back in our sector.
This week is going to be crazy!!! We have interviews and Clase de Zona/Distrito on Tuesday and inspections for the pensions on Saturday...all with it being the last week of the change and cambios on Monday morning!!! AHHHHH!!! But all is well here in Chile, I'm still healthy and doing great. I've eaten everything they've given me, drink tap water on a daily basis, and eat all my vegetables...LOL. Everything in Santiago is pretty much 100% safe (as to health concerns) except for street vendors, which we are highly advised to avoid.
I love it here...and highly recommend Santiago as a vacation spot for anybody looking for something foreign outside of Europe. It is beautiful, I'm still trying to get pictures for you so be on the look out.
Love you all and hope to hear back from lots of people next week...

¡Todo mi amor! ¡Suerte!
-- Elder Todd