Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thanks for serving

          We’ve had another change, which as you know in a mission is just life as usual.  Tonight we took a senior couple to the airport.  She served as the nurse and he worked in several areas: helping Latin missionaries learn English, apartment cleanliness and making sure emergency backpacks were filled and distributed to each missionary.  She spent many hours on the phone, waiting in emergency departments, and going to doctor’s appointments with various missionaries.  Together, they traveled the mission by bus to deliver medicines or other necessary supplies.  They were amazing in these areas and we will miss them very much.
          However, that was just part of how they served.  The elder played for sacrament meetings and for the choir in their ward, including the choir stake conference.  He was also called as a ward clerk.  She sang in the choir and supported the ward in many other ways: they both attended ward activities and correlation meetings.  They often visited ward members including those with challenges and also went out with the missionaries.  They fed the missionaries too many times to count. They were also great at planning get togethers for the senior couples which provided a much needed chance to relax and be together as a group. 
          Another reason to be impressed is that when they arrived 18 months ago, they didn’t speak a word of Spanish, yet today they both gave excellent and spiritual talks in Spanish.  They struggled, worked and progressed in many different areas during the time they were here and most amazing of all is that they are already thinking about another mission!  They serve as an example to all of us of how hard work and the Lord’s help can help us grow, change and do things we never thought we would.  I’m sending heartfelt thanks and love to this wonderful couple, the others with whom we serve now and have served.  Thank you!

Totally unrelated, but it was a great temple trip.
Thanks and good-bye to a great couple

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The day missionaries leave

This week I heard from actual blog readers!  Thank you for letting me know; I appreciate your feedback.  This week, I am going to outline a typical day for missionaries going home.

The final day is always a Monday. This time we had lots of missionaries here because 15 were leaving.  Some of the companions who accompanied them stayed a little longer to say good-bye to others.  The assistants and secretaries and comisarios came to help get everyone and their luggage to the airport.  One of the senior couples was here to take the group picture and collect bank cards and extra cash.

It was definitely an active scene with some missionaries giving last hugs, while others worked to get their suitcases to the correct weight.  President Warne spent the morning interviewing those who were leaving, while I, with a couple of sisters, made a trip to Jumbo (grocery store) because we needed a few extra ingredients for the lunch.

Our tradition is to have a nice lunch or almuerzo in the dining room with those leaving, while the office elders and senior couple have the same meal in the kitchen.  Yes, it gets pretty crowded in there.  This group was a little different because we had 14 sisters and 1 elder.  He was a good sport about being there on his own.  We had delicious Chilean-style ribs, mashed potatoes, broccoli, rolls, and a dessert which is a specialty of our cook.  She calls it terramoto, which means earthquake; chocolate cake, with a coconut and nut base served with ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.  I'm pretty sure no one left hungry!

After lunch we have a testimony meeting which is always my favorite part.  This group of sisters is unique because they are the first group who came after the age change announcement and now they have finished and returned home.  Of course I love all the missionaries but it was a privilege to associate with these wonderful missionaries who chose to serve and were excited to be able to go at 19.

The traditional going home picture in the front yard.
As soon as we finish testimonies, it is time to load missionaries and suitcases and head to the airport in Santiago.  The flights are scheduled so that Americans and Mexicans leave and fly overnight, while all the others leave the next day.  They spend their last evening visiting former areas here in Rancagua and perhaps doing some teaching.

At the airport we try to keep everyone organized as we shepherd them through check-in.  We gather for a final group picture, last hugs and usually a few tears, and send them through the door towards security.  This group went home a few days early so that most of them could start school on time which means that we will repeat the whole process again in two weeks, although usually it happens every six weeks. 

Now, hopefully, you can picture leaving day, and also, hopefully, you enjoyed hearing about it!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Teach and preach as missionaries do

     On Friday night last week, we went with three sisters to visit a couple of their families.  It was such a great experience that I would like to share it with you.  Both families have members and hopefully, future members.  Both homes were humble, yet as we felt the testimony of these wonderful people and the spirit during the lessons taught by the sisters,  nothing else seemed important.
     Many times, members here in Chile struggle to attend church 
each week.  They don't own cars, and public transportation is often more expensive than they can afford.   But they welcome the missionaries as a support and as a means to teach the nonmembers in their families.
     The sisters we went with are each amazing.  One goes home this week and we will really miss her for her example of hard work and ability to happily share the gospel no matter what difficulties she faced with hard companions or reluctant investigators.  The second is amazing as she has grown in confidence both in the language and in preaching the gospel of Christ here in Chile.  The third sister is a wonderful example of both firmness and cheerfulness in her missionary service.
     Whenever we go out with the missionaries my testimony is strengthened as I see their commitment, testimonies, and love for the Gospel and the people.  I have learned so much during our time here about these young people who are willing to sacrifice a significant amount of time away from their families and other life concerns to serve the Lord full time.  It is a real privilege for us to associate with them and help them wherever we can.  I have come to realize the importance of a mission as a crucial training period where they may strengthen their testimony and learn habits of service which will benefit them, their families and the church for their whole lives.
     We are here in Chile serving full time, a special opportunity for us.  However, it is possible for each of you to aid the missionaries wherever you are and help them fulfill their purpose.  By giving them references, going to appointments with them, or even feeding them, you will bring blessings to yourselves, your families and the work of the Lord.

A special temple trip with these two sisters
Hard-working assistants!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Funeral service

                This week went by so fast that, looking back, the days seem no more than a blur.  However, we had an experience this week about which I would like to write.  It is difficult to write on this subject without including names and places, so please forgive me if it sounds stilted.
                On Wednesday a sister in a branch in a little town 1 ½ hours south of Rancagua was killed in a car accident.  Such a death is always tragic and this was no different.  She left behind a husband of only a few months,  a 10 year old son, and a son on a mission who has been serving for six months. 
                We drove to Santiago late Thursday night  to meet him and bring him to the mission home where another senior couple waited, along with his temporary companion, to take him home, .
                The law in Chile says that burial must occur within 48 hours, so the funeral was held Friday afternoon.  The church building in that town is very small, so chairs had been set up behind, but as many were standing as found chairs.    About 400 people attended the funeral, many of whom were not members of the church--a reflection of the influence this sister had on  many people.  People from the community commented on the spirit they felt during the funeral and the positive feelings  they had about the church and its members.  She was a great missionary in life and continued that influence with her passing.
                However, I was also impressed by the strength shown by the family.  The missionary and husband both spoke at the funeral.  Sunday we attended that branch and the husband,  a counselor in the branch presidency, conducted Sacrament meeting, even though he had been injured in the accident.  The elder gave a short report about his mission and a sweet message about his mother.
                All of us are mortal, but I tend to forget, until experiences like this remind me that we never know when we will be called home.  The teacher in Relief Society today reminded us that we should have our lives in order.  To me this doesn’t mean having a will or similar things, although those are important.  We should always be sure our family knows how much we love them.  We need to be right with God and with ourselves.  Others have said these same things much more eloquently than I, but if you are reading this, please give everyone in your family a hug and tell them you love them!
beautiful plaza, church for funeral in background

zone conference lunch, sisters ate upstairs
office elders eat lunch in the kitchen during the final lunch for missionaries leaving

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Here's our schedule

Today, I would like to start by thanking you for the kind feedback I have received recently.  It is nice to know you are out there reading this!
For this post, I would like to write about the schedule of President Warne and I.  We often have missionaries ask, “So what exactly do you do all day?”  It is true our time is spent very differently from the schedule the missionaries must follow.  Also, obviously, we don’t do the same things every day or even every week.  Hopefully a short glimpse into what  we do will prove interesting.
Last week, for example we had cambios or transfers.  On Monday morning of each cambio, President interviews the missionaries who are leaving.  We have a nice lunch, a testimony meeting (our favorite part), and then we take a group to the airport.  On Tuesday, the new missionaries arrive and President does an initial interview with each one.  I stay busy offering them breakfast, and making sure each one gets to his interview.  We have a couple of hours of training and orientation, then lunch and they are off to their sectors with their new companions/trainers.  Wednesday, we started interviews, since August is the month for that.  We did the San Fernando zone in two days because it is so large.  We always bring a treat; this time it is marshmallow popcorn balls which they all seemed to enjoy.  While President is interviewing, I review the English progress for Latin missionaries and try to visit at least a little with each missionary.  The assistants also do training during that time so we often have lunch with them on interview days.  Friday was consejo or leadership council, a monthly meeting for zone leaders and coordinadoras or sister training leaders.  Since many come from far away we offer breakfast: this time it was zucchini or blueberry bread, fruit, and chocolate milk.  Training goes from 10 to 1:30, then lunch and they are off back to their sectors or areas.  Saturday is our P-Day, although President does not often actually take the day off because he has letters to read (250 per week!) or other issue to deal with.  Saturday nights we go to a baptism, and Sunday we attend a different branch each Sunday although we often start in one place and end in another because of different interviews the President needs to have.  The rest of this month we will be traveling to the various zones to have interviews.  With other obligations, such as the coordinadora meeting this Friday, and a temple trip with the missionaries leaving in September, the month is full.

Each night we are exhausted, and each day we get up ready to go again.  It is a privilege and a blessing to be serving the Lord in Chile together with these wonderful missionaries, senior couples and each other. 
Brand new coordinadoras: they'll be great

Trainers for the new missionaries--some of our best!