Monday, March 29, 2010

Lo Ovalle 1 - Week #15

¡Hola Familia!

I'm kinda bummed right now because it looks like Mom's letter didn't go through for some reason... so if you read this and there is a chance that I'm still online (or even if I'm not) send it again please!

¡Bueno! This past week has been a whirlwind of fun... Tuesday Elder Davenport and I had to go to the mission home to pick-up/meet our new companion and "padawan" (he calls himself that), Elder Diaz. He is from Viña del Mar Chile and just had his 19th birthday on Tuesday as well. It is strange to work in a trio but it is fun at the same time, we are taking advantage of the opportunity to do divisions with the members of the barrio since it is easier now. Right now we aren't sure how long he will be with us here in the Santiago North Mission but it is looking like he'll be here for at least 2 months and afterwards go to Concepción where he was originally assigned, but it possible he'll be here for the entire 2 years (we don't know). He is super bueno, and really has the urge to work as much as possible. It is definitely a humbling experience to work with a new elder that already speaks Spanish better than myself and to be training with so little time in the mission. I'm glad that Elder Davenport and I are training together (along with 2 other companionships), but sometimes it still gives me a headache! LOL.

Everything here in my neck of the woods (that we don't have) is doing great! We are currently teaching 3 families that are going to be baptized, the only question is when exactly. We are setting (or have set) goals with them for April and are striving our hardest to achieve them. It feels great when we can meet the goals that we have set during the week and to strive harder the next week to meet goals that are a little more difficult. I'm excited to be a part of the conversion of the people here in this sector and in this mission and I hope that they can be able to find the same blessings from this Gospel as I've seen in my personal life. The upside is that here in about a year they will all be able to go to the temple and be sealed as a family for time and all eternity!!! How great will that be? (My keyboard just decided to mess up so my punctuation may not be too great from now on... I'll try my best!)

This time here is flying by so fast!!! I'm loving every minute of the work, good and not so good. But our zone activity this morning wasn't neccessarily one of my favorites. This morning as a zone we climbed el Cerro Renca (a really big hill), unfortunately my body wasn't a huge fan of the climb and I wasn't a huge fan of the descent! The activities at the top were fun, but didn't last that long. I'll send you a picture or two if I can get them uploaded (I'll try to avoid viruses if at all possible).

Sounds like the things at the house are coming along again from what y'all have told me and from the letters that I got in my package, which I finally received this past week (THANK YOU!!!). Lots of work still but it will be worth it when everything can be moved. I'm sure Gabe and Ryah are medio apathetic about the move and just don't want to work over at the new house (like before I left). But it is all good... it would be really nice if the old house could be well sold before it is time for me to start thinking about coming home.

This week we had zone conference... it was 9 straight hours of amazingness! But it made me really really sleepy. (As did climbing the hill this morning). General Conference is this week!!! I'm super excited! The hours here are all messed up because of the change of when they were going to have the time change. So Saturday we have sessions at 1:00, 5:00, and priesthood at 9:00. Sunday we have sessions at 12:00 and 4:00 (and will only be one hour different from the time in Texas... from what I've been told). Besides all that, it will be so great to here from our leaders about the things that we need right now in the world and the revelations specific to our day!

I love this work and I love you all! Miss y'all bunches and look forward to talking to you in a little over 1 month! Keep moving forward and doing all you can to share this gospel with others.

¡Todo mi amor y mejores deseos! ¡Les amo muchisimo!

--Élder Todd

P.S. Recently I've learned that a few of the people in our ward (here in Chile) found my blog and are reading it... soooo... shout out to them!!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

¡Hola Familia!

Wow!!! This week has flown by...we had interviews with President May on Wednesday and I learned a lot of things from him and our other leaders about how I can personally improve in this work. I'm striving to apply the counsels that I've received in this work every day and we are starting to see the fruits of it.

Soooo... Elder Davenport and I received a call from the assistants to President May this morning advising us of a special change (you could say), but we aren't going anywhere. Tomorrow morning we have to be in the mission home to meet our new elder that we will be training together!!! It doesn't happen very often that missionaries train together, in a trio, nor does it happen very often that a missionary with 5 transfers in the mission, not to mention 4, are trainers. So needless to say we are nervous and excited at the same time!!! This missionary is not a permanent addition to the Chile Santiago North Mission, but rather would be going to Concepción had it not been the epicenter of a 8.8 earthquake. So when things start to normalize he will be sent to the Chile Concepción Mission having had 2 trainers in the Chile Santiago North Mission. Kinda cool huh (aka bakán)!!!

This week we also have Zone Conference followed by General Conference next week (that we may get to watch in English, if there aren't too many people in the stake center), so we are extremely excited for all of the spiritual food that we will be getting!

Mommy: I'm still completely and totally 100% Texan and always will be. I don't think I've let a single missionary in this mission forget that. There is a new sister in our zone who says she if from Texas still even though she hasn't lived there for a couple of years (moved to Montana), and she says also that she will always be Texan... that's the way it should be, isn't it? Also, I'm still waiting on the package... I'm pretty sure it has arrived, but I'm not 100% sure (one of the assistants was pretty sure the office just wasn't in a big hurry to deliver it). So it is now looking like the slow boat would be more practical for shipping to me, because the office definitely takes their time (and they are busy too).

Interesting to hear that Ward Conference was different than usual, but that is kind of a good thing, right? Either way they do it the spirit of the meeting still is there. Also good to hear that everyone had a good time in the temple and that the work is being done for those that I can't find. How is the family genealogy work going? Y'all gotten any more work done on the names that I got ready?

Chile finally seems to be settling down a little bit [in the sense that it isn't moving and not that the earth is settling]. We haven't had a temblor that we could feel for a couple of days or so, so that is good. We've been told to expect occasional movement, stronger than the norm, for a couple of months or so, so the level of alertness is still pretty high. It is good to hear that people are worried about me, even if I don't hear from them... LOL.

As I reflect on these almost 5 months I've had in Chile I'm starting to see success as more of a day to day thing. Even if we don't baptize every week like would be ideal, we are always teaching someone and helping others come unto Christ. I've come to look at many of the experiences I've had here as steps in my own personal conversion process. I love this work with all of my heart, there is nothing I'd rather be doing. It hurts me to see that not everyone who is able to serve in this way wants to take the opportunity to do so. We've been told that every worthy young man should serve a mission, how great is that call.

Recently we were asked to memorize a quote by Elder Bruce R. McConkie called "My Commission", that goes:

"I am called of God. My authority is above that of the kings of the earth. By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my Master and he has chosen me to represent him. To stand in his place, to say and do what he himself would say and do if he personally were ministering to the very people to whom he has sent me. My voice is his voice, and my acts are his acts; my words are his words and my doctrine is his doctrine. My commission is to do what he wants done. To say what he wants said. To be a living modern witness in word and deed of the divinity of his great and marvelous latter-day work."

How great is our call! We are literally called to be living witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Master, our Savior and Redeemer, and the Savior and Redeemer of the world. I'm grateful everyday for the opportunity that I have to testify of Him, in word and in deed.

I love the analogy that President Grisel gave in Ward Conference comparing angels to us as members of this great and marvelous latter-day work. We as members should be those angels for whom others are waiting, to testify of this restored Gospel and to share of the blessings that we have in our individual lives.

I stand as a living modern witness of Jesus Christ. I know that he lives and that he lived for us and died for us. Hermana May said shortly after the earthquake that "If we didn't die for Jesus Christ [during this crisis], then we should live for Him now." How true is that statement! We were chosen to live at this time to stand as witnesses in these last days of the divinity of God's Only Begotten Son, to do his work, until he should again come to the earth and say "the work is done". I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is His work and that we are here to complete his purposes. I love him and I know that he loves each of us. This is my witness.

I love you all and miss you all. I'll let you know how it goes being a young trainer!!! LOL

¡Todo mi amor y carino! ¡Suerte y éxito en todo lo que hacen!

Love ya, -- Élder Todd

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lo ovalle 1 - Week #13

¡Hola Familia!

I feel "moved" once again to tell you that I am absolutely OK!!! We have had some decently strong seismic activity here over the last week or so, and were out working for some of it as we don't have toque de queda now (curfew), as of last Monday it was lifted. But all is good here, the big replica during el cambio de mando hopefully wasn't an omen, de hecho, as long as Presidente Piñera allows the Church to keep missionaries here in Chile and we can keep working I'm indifferent to the change. It was definitely interesting to see the replays of the former president speaking and it quaking at the same time.

Just to keep y'all informed, we are expecting strong-ish seismic activity here in Chile for about the next 1-2 months (but it shouldn't be anything near like what it was). So please don't be shocked or scared for me unless it is bigger than about an 8.0 (Richter) close to Santiago.

Qulicura has finally normalized with power, water, cell phone service, todo todo... But yesterday the IV Region to the X Region of Chile had a black-out of 2 hours in the which the government had no idea what had happened. ¡Bien divertido! We were looking to see if it was a local thing at first but then noticed it was all of Quilicura. Upon listening to the radio of the neighbors we realized it was more than 1/2 of the country that was in the dark. It's almost like someone got bored and wanted to see what Chile would do without electricity! LOL.

This week was a really good week here in our sector. It is true that the people here have now opened, or are opening, their hearts to the message of the Gospel because of what has happened. We have a few people preparing and progressing towards baptism and were able to stay busy teaching for the large part of this week. It feels good to be busy again. I think a lot of our motivation was to avoid feeling like we did last week when we had to be sitting in the house for a large part of our effective teaching hours (8:00-10:00 pm). It feels good to teach and to help; it definitely makes the time pass by faster (almost 7 months now).

SHOUT OUT!!! Just a quick shout out to everyone who has asked how I am. For all to know, I am at least still living!!!

I officially became Chilean this past week!!! LOL. Friday morning (early) we had to go to the center to register our visas to stay in Chile. At first we are on a tourist visa for 6 months (Elder Davenport's was going to expire on Saturday or Sunday) and afterwards we have temporary visas for 1 year. So Friday we had to run to a bunch of government offices, la extranjería, InterPol, and el registro civil, to get our visa and Chilean identification card called a carné. So when I receive the card after the 24th of this month I'll officially have my Chilean ID, since I'm already legal... LOL

I'm really missing Spring right now, especially since after the earthquake the weather got really hot again. We are occassionally getting a little cool blast, mostly at night, so we are hoping it will finish changing pretty soon. Also the time didn't change here like it should have the first weekend in March and won't do it until the first weekend in April (by order of the government). It is interesting that they would do that, or that they even have the ability to do so... luckily I think this is the first time that it has happened in the history of Chile, and it took the 5th strongest earthquake in modern history to do it (I think that is pretty good motive).

Just to let you know, Correos Chile (the postal service here) had their offices closed when the office normally picks up the packages last week, so I should know on Wednesday if it has arrived. If it has I will have it at this time, if not it would have been better off on the slow boat because the mail system here is really slow anyways! That is my only real problem with Chile so far, but I knew ahead of time that I'd have it.

I still need pictures from y'all... Ryah said she was going to send some of the family in their natural habitat (aka Texas). So please, please, please get them to me as soon as you can. Just e-mail them and when I have my flash drive I'll put them on there to print them here.

So good to hear that everyone in Good Ol' East Texas is doing good. Just a warning for everyone who lives close to the site of a future temple, beware of natural disasters... they seem to be the way the Lord has chosen to cleanse the earth in preparation for his Holy House. (I think Elder Davenport is sending a notice to his family [in Payson] and his brother [Guatemala] warning of the same thing, as both are preparing to construct temples close-by.)

I love you all and miss you bunches! Please write me a handwritten letter in reply to the one y'all got recently. I look forward to getting some mail!

¡Todo mi amor y cariño! ¡Mis oraciones siempre son para ustedes!

-- Élder Todd

P.S. - Mom, Gabe, and Ryah: How is the Spanish coming? ¿Pueden entender por lo menos ahora? Por qué yo creo que las llamadas por el Día de la Madre van a ser difícil para hablar inglés.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lo Ovalle 1 - Week #12

¡Hola Familia!

This week has been a very long/interesting week, to say the least. I feel moved to tell you all that we've been moving a lot lately... LOL. The temblores have slowed down a little bit but that are still fairly strong when they come.

Last night we had cambios, and as I'm sure you've already noticed I'm still in Lo Ovalle 1 and loving it. Both myself and Elder Davenport are still here and there are only 4 new missionaries in our zone (2 of which just entered the mission). Provo is sending 3 more missionaries to us and they should arrive in the morning. All of the missionaries in Chile are safe and sound after this huge disaster that we had, a few have more problems than others but all are safe. De hecho the only missionary that had a wound because of this earthquake was in Renca (a community in our mission that had relatively no problems).

The whole mission has been under toque de queda (curfew) at 8:00 every night this week with a few of the potential problems, and we have really been hurting to teach as most of our lessons occur at night when the whole family is home. We are hoping that the curfew gets lifted today, but so far we don't have any news as to that matter.

Our house is completely OK, we had one thing that fell and broke (the lid to the tank on the toilet) and nothing else. Our sector in general didn't have a lot of damage so the service opportunities were (and still are) limited, más que nada the concrete fences that almost everyone had didn't fair to well.

About the quake: I survived 3 minutes 8 seconds of an 8.3 earthquake that didn't let up at any point during that time! When Elder Boyce and I woke up (we were in divisions) because of the sound of the window next to my bed rattling very loudly the quake was becoming really strong and we didn't have time to go downstairs. So we rode it out in the door frames, holding on for our lives and still getting thrown in every direction. Needless to say I was "MOVED" by the experience!!! But I'm alive and well and tired of being couped up in the house for 3 and 1/2 hours every night... Let's just say that this is not an experience that I would care to repeat!!!

I remembered Thursday or Friday that amidst all of the excitement of last week I forgot to wish Dad a happy birthday... so... ¡FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS PAPÁ! I said it Saturday morning but I figured y'all probably didn't hear me. I'm glad your b-day turned out good! Wish I could have been there.

Good to hear that despite the fact that the whole world here has changed, including that the weather is back up close to 34 degree Celsius (way abnormal for this part of the year... especially when it was already cooling down before the terremoto), that Texas is still the same. The family motto "There is always another project!" seems to be holding strong... LOL.

The work here is slow right now, but we had the opportunity to have a stake conference broad casted from Salt Lake yesterday for Santiago hasta Arica. It was amazing, we heard from Elder Bradley D. Foster (of the Seventy), Sister Cheryl Lant (General Primary President), Elder David A. Bednar (Quorum of the Twelve), and President Thomas S. Monson. We were richly fed and it was great to hear their counsel during this time of crisis acá in Chile. The themes of their talks focused a lot on bettering ourselves to be able to conquer our own problems and lift others. They truly were inspired as to what the Chilean people need right now!

In this short time I've grown to love so much the people here! At times it is hard to adapt, todavia, but the people here (in general) are great. There are many that need the Gospel in their lives and I know that this tragedy will open many doors for them to accept the Gospel and have the ganas (urge) to do so.

I love this work and the opportunity that I have to provide the opportunity for others to accept our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and all of the blessings that he has waiting for them. I know this is His Church and that I am one of his chosen servants to do what he would do if he were here.

I love you all and miss you!!!
¡Todo mi amor y cariño!
-- Élder Todd

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lo Ovalle - Week #11

¡Hola Familia!

"I feel the earth move under my feet"!!! But luckily right now it is only about every 8-12 hours and not super strong. Turns out that we had about 3 minutes of seismic activity in Santiago at about an 8.3, considering the epicenter was an 8.8 that is pretty strong. All of the missionaries in all of Chile are accounted for and well. Currently I feel like I'm reliving the hurricanes from the past couple of years as we in Quilicura (and the only community in Santiago in such a situation) are without electricity, water, and communication through cell phone, Internet, and telephone fijo (regular phone line). Yesterday we had some pretty big problems with several of the supermarkets getting robbed and the PDI (basically FBI) and caribineros (police) were running pretty good. Last night Chile brought in the military and put us under martial law until this morning, when we left for the center it looked as if they had cleared out for the most part.

Structurally in Quilicura there isn't a whole lot of damage like in several other sectors of Santiago, but we are expected to be without utilities until tomorrow, at least. So, I got a not so nice e-mail in my inbox today from someone who reads my blog and apparently doesn't like the way that I write my e-mails to my family. I sent it to you, hope you enjoy. It is amazing how dumb and childish some people can be.

I saw the letter from Hermana Lyon, that is amazing. If there is one thing I've learned in the mission so far (especially with all of this) it is that the Lord really does work miracles! Just goes to show that the work of the Lord doesn't slow down for anything, not even an 8.8 terremoto.

Sorry it took so long to get a letter out to you. We had permission to e-mail real quick yesterday if we could find Internet, but I'm sure you can imagine how that search went. Fun to hear that Ryah got stuck in something fun too, a blizzard. Bet you didn't imagine that 2 of your children would be away from home having their own sort of fun at the same time. And just for the record, I didn't jinx Chile... Elder Arave did when he wished for an earthquake the other day!!!

The only thing most of the missionaries here were worried about was whether or not our parents were freaking out, and when they started seeing the news. I've been hoping that international news hasn't been showing Quilicura to the world as there have been quite a few problems there with murders and stuff like that, but not it is mostly under control.

Good to know you got my letter in the mail and finally received some pictures, I've been trying for a while. Also there should be another letter in the mail pretty soon. Did my camera memory card get there safe, and have y'all been able to get it fixed (hopefully without loosing the pictures)??? Glad you think I look good, but for the record, I'm a little bit lighter than Patricio.

The State Department sent me an e-mail reporting that the death toll in Chile is over 700 right now, but that still isn't anything compared to Haiti (even though the quake was smaller). I'm sorry to report that even though my package may be coming fast than it would on the slow boat it is going to have a few roadblocks. Right now the only aircraft coming into the Santiago airport are military, so all of the aircraft are being rerouted to Northern Chile or Argentina. Also the office of the mission looks like it has some structural damage, so nobody is sure what is going to happen at this point with that. Luckily we can still travel, but several of the entrances and exits to our community are down, as they are all over-passes/bridges. Fun times, fun times!

In Santiago there aren't any really big relief efforts like there were in Haiti, but I think the Church probably has more help to the south. We are currently working in proselitismo and service until 8:00 PM every night until further notice. All of the relief efforts are local and involve mostly helping people finish destroying so they can start rebuilding when utilities and supplies come back. Needless to say we did not have cambios, and none of the missionaries (6) that were going to be leaving today get to, nor are we receiving more missionaries from Provo until further notice.

Apart from the earthquake, I'm not sure we have any exciting news here. We are only trying to keep working and keep steady while all of the temblors keep passing. They are saying they will be strong for about a week, with possible replica (aftershock), and still able to be felt for about a month. But Chile has temblors all of the time anyways, you just normally can't feel one except for about every couple months.

I think that's all I've got from Chile for now. Keep all of the people here in your prayers as the recovery efforts continue and we begin to rebuild.

I love you all and I love this added opportunity that we have to serve in a different way to help people come unto Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

¡Todo mi amor y cariño! Your prayers have been being felt!!!

Love y'all,

-- Elder Todd

I'M OK!!!

I'm sure everyone is freaking out, but I'm ok...

I'll get another e-mail off in a little bit.

Love ya. -- Todd