Saturday, May 29, 2010

Circunvalacion 1 - Week #1

Hola Familia!

Guess what!!! It is Saturday... and that isn't a very good sign if I've got time to write you!!! Yes, the exact thing that I said in my e-mail on Monday about not changing sectors HAS HAPPENED! And I'm not sitting at the desk of the Historiador for the Mission Chile Santiago North. For the next few weeks I'll be training under Elder Tolman and shortly I'll be on my own (we don't know if it is a full change or not). Also I'm currently in another trio, with Elder Tolman (Historiador, from Chicago) and Elder Johns (Secretario, from Washington). The work here is different... and now I can almost say that I have a "day off" as we USUALLY don't work in the office on Saturdays since it is our P-day.

So to start back at the beginning... Monday Elder Davenport and I went to the chapel where we change companions and everything went well. I was with Elder Young for a while and we had just finished buying groceries for the week in Lider (aka Wal-Mart) when something strange happened. The zone leaders gave us a call as we were leaving Lider, I assumed that it was to see how everyone was doing in the new companionships and all... NOT!!! Elder Caro verified to make sure it was me who had answered the phone and immediately notified me that there had been a few changes in the zone and that I would be going to the office as the new historiador... WHAT?!?!? I tried to pry for a few more details, but he didn't have anything except for what was going to happen with my companion. About 5:30 PM (a half-hour later) Elder Hoyos, one of the assistants to President May, called me and had a few more details. Turns out that Elder Young and Elder Angulo, who was going to be in a different ward in Quilicura, would be opening the sector (white-washing) and that the companion that Elder Angulo had for about 6 hours as well would be training a new missionary that we didn't know was coming... So in about 2 hours I had to pack everything as well as do all of the paperwork and stuff to get Lo Ovalle 1 ready to have two new missionaries... luckily Elder Young was there and wrote everything down as I packed and talked. It is an even better sign that I haven't received a phone call from him with any questions, so I think they are doing alright.

As I said before I now sit here in the 3rd floor of El Cortijo (the office building where the mission office is) on my P-day to write you all... All sorts of fun... Right???

It has been a little bit difficult to get used to working all day in an office and then go out and do missionary work in the evening. We have to depend a lot on the members here in this sector to make sure that the ward is thriving without seeing us much, other than Sundays. Luckily we have the 4 office missionaries (5 when one is training) and one other companionship, full-time proselyting missionaries, here in the ward, Circunvalación. The members here are great and seem to be used to the fact that we aren't out working in the field all of the time, but either way the work is getting done and we are having success here. We have an investigator, Matthias, who is preparing to be baptized this next Sunday, and we are super excited about that. It doesn't really matter where you go, the work is still the same... the only difference is that we stay on the phone almost the whole time we are working in the sector and aren't in a house.

So about the office... it is just another office. All of the missionaries talk like it is a big secret (because it kinda is), but other than that it is basically a lot, and I mean A LOT, of administrative stuff to keep the mission running. We work here from about 10:15 AM to about 4:30 PM Monday-Friday and Saturdays when it is necessary. Also Sunday nights we have to worry about taking numbers and all of that jazz. My assignment as historiador is everything that has to do with the information to see how the mission is running and everything that has to do with the computer side of the missionary work in the mission. I also get to play the role of "Mr. Creative" or "Elder Creative" (I guess...) and figure out the way to do any report or project that President May, Hermana May, or the assistants want. So my job gets to be a lot of fun and playing around on the computer!!! Yay!!! But the mission is a whole different ball game from where I'm sitting now... Up until now I didn't appreciate all that the office missionaries did, but now I see that it is a lot more than I thought.

Apart from this big change of scenery there isn't really a whole lot of news coming from my end of the world! We are constantly getting colder and rainier outside and just like East Texas the weather can't figure out what it wants to do. This next week I'll have to be worrying about taking the written test for my Chilean driver's license, since there are only 2 of the 5 of us that have it. Hopefully all goes well, because I've heard that the test is a little difficult because it asks some really dumb questions. Right now we are working on getting all of the reports from the changes done and a few other things that we have due this week. And every Monday we have a meeting with President May to throw around ideas about how to help the mission out, from the administrative side... so that ought to be interesting (and I'm not being sarcastic, just so everyone knows... really.).

Hope to hear from y'all soon!!! Everyone will have to change their writing schedule for the next few months (could be 10 or so like Elder Tolman has here in the office). Love you all and miss you all! I'll get your letter on Saturdays now. Hope that all is well at home!!!

¡Todo mi amor y cariño!

-- Élder Todd

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lo Ovalle 1 - Week #19

¡Hola Familia!

Well, last night at about 12:30 A.M. we received the (semi-dreaded) phone call... and... Elder Davenport left Lo Ovalle 1 and I am now here with Elder Young from Idaho. Elder Young and Elder Davenport were companions in the MTC!!! So far I've heard nothing but good things about him. He has 10 months in the mission and this is his 4th sector and 4th zone. Please pray that he can put up with me as well as Elder Davenport did!!! LOL.

So, about this week... Yesterday we had the blessing to participate in a miracle here in Lo Ovalle! Victor Cerda, the husband of Sandra Araya, was baptized and the family took one more giant step towards the temple!!! We've seen tons of change in their family... Victor even showed up to church yesterday in white shirt and tie!!! WOW!!! (He didn't like it much, but he said he'll get used to it. LOL). It is wild to see the blessings that can come because of this gospel. A few months ago he insisted that he was Catholic, and devout Catholic at that, but now... he is Mormon (aka a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)!!! We are working very closely with them to help prepare him to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and to start preparing as a family to enter the temple in 1 year. This family (la familia Cerda Araya) has come to be, basically, the adoptive family of myself and Elder Davenport here in Lo Ovalle. It was really hard to see Elder Davenport say good-bye to them!

Apart from the excitement of yesterday with 2 baptisms for the sector Lo Ovalle 2 and one baptism of a child of record here in the ward there wasn't a whole lot that happened last week. We were able to make a little bit of progress with a few families that we are teaching and we are excited to continue seeing their progression in this next change.

Yesterday's changes left Quilicura in a new set of hands. Ten of the twenty missionaries who were here have been moved to different sectors, including the two best zone leaders ever... Elder Marin and Elder King. We now have two new zone leaders and I and in a new district. Lots of changes happened that surprised a lot of the mission, and a lot of things here went differently than what the zone leaders "had planned", but that just goes to show that the Lord sometimes has different plans for us than those that we have. I think the changes will be good for the mission... it looks as if all of the zones had a lot of changes with 7 new zone leaders starting out. We'll see what fruits come of this these next 6 weeks. I'm excited!!!

Good to hear that everything is going good at home... I can't believe that Dillon and Haley Barrett are dating!!! How cute!!! LOL. Good luck to Gabe and Ryah with the job hunts and everything like that, I hope all goes well. And me alegre [I'm happy... like in the joyful kinda way] to know that Mom is beginning to get in touch with technology a little bit more. (So Mom, what are the chances of me getting hooked up with a nice cell phone when I get back???) LOL.

So here I go again!!! We, Elder Young and I, are excited to be working here in Lo Ovalle and for the success that is waiting for us. There are a lot of changes happening here in the zone, in the sector, and in the ward, and I'm excited to see what effect they will have in the coming weeks and months. I just want to challenge everyone again to keep working to share the Gospel... I promise the blessings do come!!!

I love you all and miss you bunches! I'm anxiously awaiting the package, we'll see how long it takes to get to me (up to 10 days or so to get to Chile... plus whatever amount of time to get from the office to me... LOL)... Keep me posted on the goings on and SEND ME PICTURES, PLEASE!!!

¡Todo mi amor y cariño! ¡Besos!

-- Élder Todd

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lo Ovalle 1 - Week #19

Hola! (From the Ends of the Earth)

This has been a really long, but great week!!! It already seems like it has been a while since I talked to y'all, but it has only been a little over a week... AHHH! These last 2 transfer have felt really long with all of the changes happening with Elder Davenport and I here in Lo Ovalle... but we have almost survived completely, just 1 week left. This next weekend (Sunday night) we have changes again... unfortunately I have the distinct feeling that I'll be moved to another sector. (My bags will be packed before the weekend, just in case... LOL).

This weekend we have the opportunity to bring about a big turning point in a project we've been working on for a couple of months... Victor, the dad of Javiera (a recent convert) and husband of Sandra (a long-time member, recently reactivated), has recently decided to be baptized. Last week we set a baptismal date with him for the 30th of May, but the next morning he called us and notified us that he wanted to be baptized the 23rd... Woot Woot!!! Up until recently he was Catholic in all of his beliefs, but didn't participate in the church much (Católico en su manera). Now he is taking the steps to become a member of the Church and start the process of he and his family receiving all of the blessings possible in the next year. Yay!!! Elder Davenport and I were ecstatic when he first accepted a baptismal date and when he called us we couldn't stay in our seats and were almost unable to focus on studying the rest of the morning! It is so good to see the changes that the Gospel has in the lives of others.

Last night we had another experience with another one of the fathers that we are teaching. Freddy is the dad of another recent convert, Ian, and has been very reserved with accepting that what we are teaching is true and can bless his family. He has seen the changes in his life and the life of his family, but hasn't been willing to commit. Yesterday we were with Brother and Sister Castro (ward mission leader and his wife) and visited them. We felt that we should finish watching the video "Special Witnesses of Christ" (I had forgotten how powerful it was). Upon finishing the movie we asked Freddy what he felt. He expressed a pure testimony (that he didn't recognize as such), he testified that he knew that the belief system in which he was raised was absolutely not the truth and that if there was a true church on the earth (and he believes that there is) it is the one that we represent, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Wow! It is amazing to hear a pure, heart-felt testimony from the mouth of a non-member. Freddy expressed that he would like to be baptized but that he feels he needs a little more time. We expressed the idea of a "goal" and he replied that he would think about it... I guess we'll see in our visit with his family tonight...

I got the pre-Prom pictures from Gabe and Ryah... Y'all are right, definitely her style... LOL. I'm glad they had fun though... (Wish I could see the shoes in the picture though.) Also I'm excited to hear that Gabe has an interview for a job today. Hope all goes well! I've heard mixed feelings about working at ETECH, but hopefull he likes it if he gets the job. The key there is to work hard, because lots of the sales representatives get paid a bonus on commission!

Sounds like all of the projecting at the house is lots of fun. I kinda miss it... but just a little bit, really! And Dad, if you get finished with everything before I get home it won't hurt my feelings one little bit. I think I've been included in enough of the projects to last me a while!

Time is flying by too fast. I can't believe that Sean and Jared are both getting ready to come home in a little over a month!!! And I'm almost at my 9 month mark!!! (That is a third of the way done...) It is weird when a lot of the missionaries that you know as leaders in the mission start disappearing! And worse when you realize that you have enough time in the mission to be put in pretty much whatever assignment... AHHH!!!

Anyways... All is well here! We are working hard and waiting to see what this next week brings us by way of surprises. Lots of love to all at home! And if possible can y'all track down the e-mail address to Bishop Adams to send him a letter for the ward? Talk to you in a week or so...

Love y'all and miss y'all!

¡Todo mi amor!

-- Élder Todd

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lo ovalle 1 - Week #18

¡Hola Familia!

Sorry in advance that this letter is going to be pretty short... but I just got to talk to y'all yesterday! I echo the sentiments of Mom and would have to say it was my best Mother's Day ever too!!! LOL. Thanks to the phone call yesterday I'm recharged for the next "couple of months"...

To everyone I didn't get to talk to yesterday and that I don't have your e-mail addresses, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! (a little bit late no más).

It is wild to think I've been away from home long enough to get pregnant AND have the baby... LOL. Almost 9 months y todavia sacando la mugre!!!

As I said last week I'm in Lo Ovalle 1 again as junior companion to a district leader, Elder Davenport, and loving the mission again. We have had a lot of success in the recent months in this ward (with baptisms 3 weeks straight) and we are currently teaching parts of 5 families (the other parts have already been baptized). I love this ward and the work here... as with all wards it has its problems that could easily be fixed (and hopefully will be), but the members here are ready and willing to work with the obra misional to help the Church to grow in this area. I'm grateful for the friendships I've made here and all of the service and support that we get from the members and investigators here.

Sunday Ian was confirmed a member of the Church and hopefully his mom will take the steps to receive her own baptism, soon. It is great to see a young man or woman accept the Gospel and be the pioneer in the family that in time helps the whole family to find all of the blessings that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has for them. We have been blessed to help these families start in that process and hopefully will be in the mission to see them finish it. With this sector alone, there are 3 families that are well on their way to receiving these blessings within a little over a year.

I can't put into words the importance of member missionary work and the blessings that come from sharing this Gospel. As the face of the obra misional, the missionaries are a little bit intimidating... we are (as Sean Gilmore said) a bunch of teenage "religious freaks" walking around in suits and ties all day knocking on people's doors wanting to talk about Jesus Christ. We dedicate all of our time to this... but sometimes that isn't what the people need. They need examples like them, people like them... their neighbors and friends, to share the Gospel, to share the blessings they've seen in their lives. In 2 Nephi 2:6-8 we read about the importance of the Atonement of Christ and our commission to share the Gospel:

6 - Wherefore, aredemption cometh in and through the bHoly cMessiah; for he is full of dgrace and truth.
7 - Behold, he offereth himself a asacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto bnone else can the cends of the law be answered.
8 - Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, asave it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who blayeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

We've heard countless times, "Every member a missionary". Recently in General Conference, President Monson spoke to us about the importance of sharing the Gospel with our friends and neighbors. The missionaries (us) can do the work alone, but it is not the best way, it is not as effective, nor is it the WAY OF THE LORD. We are all, every one of us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called to take this message "to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people." That is our commission... what are we doing about it???

I encourage each of every one of you to prayerfully select someone with whom you can share the Gospel (a friend, neighbor, family member, etc.) and to start the process of being a member missionary. Perhaps you could have a Family Home Evening with them and invite the full-time missionaries, or invite them to a ward activity... perhaps you could start a conversation about the Church, or give them a Church related movie... whichever way you decide... JUST DO IT!!! I promise you, you won't lose their friendship or their respect... if they reject you it will do nothing more than put a little bruise on your feelings for a few minutes until you realize that they will in fact grow in respect for you as you strive to share something that is important in your life with them.

The message of this great and marvellous latter-day work is for EVERYONE!!! We are to share it, regardless of what we think the reaction of our loved ones will be!

I love you all and am eternally grateful for this opportunity that I have to serve as a full-time representative of the Lord Jesus Christ for these two years and for the opportunity that I have every morning to wake up and put his name on my chest. We represent Him and we represent each and every one of you. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in the last General Conference, “You are HIS hands.” We are the hands of the Lord, without us as members of the Church he does not work here on this earth... we must remember that and take the calling that each of us has seriously!

I love you all and miss you all! Also I look forward to getting more pictures soon and the package that y'all are preparing (with a big bag of Starbursts in it... *wink, wink*).

¡Todo mi amor y cariño!

-- Élder Todd

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lo Ovalle 1 - Week #17 (ó Lo Ovalle 1 - Otra Vez)

¡Hola Familia!

This has been a really fast week with a good ending... Yesterday we had the opportunity to baptize one investigator, named Ian (12 years-old), and help him take the next step in his Gospel journey. Unfortunately his mom was not able to be baptized because of some technical difficulties and we will be working with that either this next weekend or in 2 more weeks (depends on if we can reschedule lunches for this weekend with the phone calls and everything).

Currently I'm sitting in "limbo" between Lo Ovalle 3 & Lo Ovalle 1... we basically eliminated Lo Ovalle 3 last night, but it seems as far as the mission was concerned we didn't even exist in the first place... LOL! (I feel loved!!!). Elder Jensen and Elder Diaz leave for the office tonight and will be sleeping in the apartments there tonight. They will be flying to Concepción early tomorrow morning to join with the rest of their mission! This time with them has been fun, but tough at the same time... As we all know I'm one to clash heads and unfortunately there have been a few clashes in the past couple weeks, fortunately we've still been able to maintain a good relationship though and we look forward to hearing of their success en el Sur.

Like I said, yesterday [Sunday, May 2] we had a baptism of Ian Stumpf. The service was done with that of a 8 year-old from the ward. Almost every aspect of the service was a missionaries worst nightmare and somehow Jacqueline (Ian's mom, who was also going to be baptized) was able to feel the Spirit super strongly. All-in-all it turned out to be a good experience that will shortly be written in my journal of converts. The whole family of Ian is progressing and we are hoping to baptize his mom and dad, Freddy, soon.

Congratulations to Gabey and to Ryan Whitworth!!! Now that you are ordained to the office of Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood you've just got to do everything that you can to attach that little black and white name tag to your chest that says who you are!!! "We are not the ordinary... fearlessly extraordinary..." It feels so great to be able to show to the world who you are, and WHO you represent!

Life there sounds like it has sped up and is moving in more directions than when I was at home... I can't really say that I miss it! People here always ask us if we miss our country... my answer is almost always (if not always) NO. I don't really miss the United States en si... I really don't miss having to worry about all of the political stuff and all that mess, what I do miss is my family. Apart from the U.S.A. being where I grew up the only real connection that I have to it (apart from my loyalty... clearly) is that it is where y'all are!!! I feel blessed to be an American, but I can't say that I really miss being there (especially since wherever I go in the world I'll always be an American).

Sorry for my little patriotic spill that I threw in there... it kinda caught me off guard when I started typing it, but I figured I might as well finish. But sounds like work is busy... I haven't heard from Gabe and Ryah in a while and I'm not sure why!!! ¡Escribanme no más niños! Also if y'all can try to send me pictures of the family and what is going on right now! Please!!! Just as a side note... Did Ryah ever send that package with the souvenir from NYC??? (Cause if so I never got it... or por lo menos still haven't gotten it).

I love you all and miss you... look forward to talking to you on Sunday! Hope you've all brushed up on your Spanish or that you've talked Dad into translating because I only know how to write in English now and can barely speak it... LOL! (Mom, you just think I'm joking!!!).

¡Todo mi amor y cariño! ¡Mis oraciones siempre están consigo!

-- Élder Todd