Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tanner on Skype!

Tanner on skype- dark but great to see him!

Listening to Tanner on Skype!

Tanner's missionary roomies and comp

Christmas in Chile!


So while my companion is skyping his family, I have a little bit of time to still email for all of you that I won´t get to skype!  This week has been absolutely insane with how busy it´s been, but it ended so wonderfully! Monday we had a fun zone activity where we ate delicious completos (giant hot dogs with all kinds of toppings) and then watched Home Alone and had a gift exchange. I got a hat that says Chile. On Tuesday I was on an intercambio, Wednesday we traveled 3 hours to Temuco for our Christmas Conference with the President, and Thursday and Friday I was on another two day intercambio in a different sector. The Christmas conference was fantastic, and we had a fun slideshow. I got a copy of it, so we´ll be able to watch it someday together haha. Eventhough it will just be a bunch of pictures of people you don´t know. 

Anyways, after an insane week, we had a beautiful baptism of Claudio Jr and Rosa Vasquez. Claudio is the son of the family that we baptized a month ago, but he had been living in Conce to play soccer for the University of Concepción. He´s awesome. I definitely see him as a missionary pronto (he´s only 20 yrs old). We also baptized 80 yr old Rosa. She was pretty afraid to go under the water, but Mario eventually got her under. Poor sweet little lady haha. What was absolutely fantastic was that their next door neighbors came! They are another family of 5 with whom we´ve been working, and they are sooooo close to getting baptized! The mother and 3 kids are solid, but we just need to reach the heart of the father. But all 5 of them came, and it was awesome! Afterwards we went back to Claudio´s house with everyone for refreshments (I´ll explain the difference between Chilean refreshments and American refreshments during skype). We all sat and talked and had just a simple but wonderful time. It´s moments like those that make life beautiful and worth it. Sitting in a small room filled with recent converts and investigators. It was marvelous. What I loved most was getting to listen to them bear their testimonies to their neighbors (and us). The Sandoval-Zapata family is excellent. So golden. They´ve gone through many trials this year, but  it was all in the wisdom of the Lord to prepare them to receive the Restored Gospel.

This Christmas, I was able to be a tool in the hands of the Lord to give him the gift of two redeemed souls. What a blessing. In reality, it´s all we can ever give to the Lord. Everything is already all His; the only thing He doesn´t have posession over is our souls/agency. Thus, what else do you plan on giving Him this Christmas? How great shall be our joy if we can give not just our own, but many souls unto the Lord. 

Merry Christmas, have a wonderful week :)

All my love,

Elder Long :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas in Chile photos

Weekly Schedule

The Field is White Ready to Harvest!

Have a Chile Christmas!

Almost a "Chilly" Chile Christmas!

Merry (almost) Christmas from Chile!

This week was quite the week! Besides all the people frequently asking us about the end of the world, our investigators are sure being tried. But with faith, fervent prayer, and hard work, we磖e pressing forward. A great quote I heard from a sister missionary in the MTC is, 创Work as if everything depends on you, and pray as if everything depends on the Lord.创 In this manner I know you磍l find success--no matter what your task at hand is. The Lord loves you. He wants to bless you. He wants to help you. But He also requires that we do as much of our own part as possible before He fills in the rest. Anyways, let me know how crazy the people in North America get the day before (and the day after) the world supposedly ends...ha. I磎 so sorry to hear about the massacre of the children and teachers in the U.S. How dreadful. Obviously I had tons of Chileans asking me about it before I had even heard anything about it. I have no way to get news other than from the Chileans themselves. It磗 amazing to see the responses of people from other countries about what happens in the U.S. 

This past week we had 4 baptismal dates set for upcoming weeks. Slowly but surely, these numbers dropped as Satan did everything possible to impede them from continuing on. Satan is really good at what he does. I can testify that he磗 real. He lives. He磗 powerful. And he hates you. One of his favorite (and extremely effective) tactics is getting us to forget that we磖e at war against him. He confuses us to feel that there磗 nothing more than this life. He cleverly lies to us through what seems like our own thoughts to try to convince us that God doesn磘 exist, Christ didn磘 atone for our sins, and we don磘 need to repent. It磗 a lie. We mustn磘 let him fool us. Christ lives. He磗 even more powerful. He loves you. And He WILL win. And if we磖e on His side, we磍l win with him. It磗 a promise by which God Himself is bound. Satan already lost, and he knows it. But he spends all of his time and effort trying to drag down everyone he can so that they磍l be miserable like him. But we have help. Trust in the Lord. He WILL help you.

Hardcore subject change: I got my SPAC book/package thing from Mum!!!! Waahooo!!!! I was practically giddy because of how excited I was to get it. I already absolutely love that book. SPAC tour really was the best time of my life. I love those people, and they have impacted my life so much more than they will ever realize. I loved their silly little notes! I磀 love to be able to send the team a letter--Mum, what address would I send it to? I also got a package from Denice! Aaahhhh so great! And so extremely generous. Thanks for being so wonderful, Denice. I know it wasn磘 cheap to send that package, but it means so much more to me than just the mere items inside the box. I love you :) I磎 sorry other aunts, but that scored some hardcore 创favorite aunt创 points... haha ;P

On Saturday we had our stake Christmas activity. It was quite somethin. The planning wasn磘 quite as well-done as it should have been, so the program lasted nearly three hours of choirs, an orchestra, etc. I mean it was a great activity, but it was just rather lengthy. Not to mention it felt more like an Evangelical amphitheatre performance in our chapel...ha. It was an experience I磍l never forget, that磗 for sure.

As far as an investigator report, we have two baptisms scheduled for this Saturday: Claudio Jr (20 yrs old) and Rosa Vasquez (80 yrs old). Sweet little Rosa doesn磘 always comprehend everything, but she has her days when she磗 more alert and understands better. Elder Torres and I have talked about delaying her baptism a bit so we can take things slowly, but yesterday during church she proudly announced that she wants to get baptized the 22nd of December. So that磗 what we磍l do. It磗 been great to get to work with her and help her see the light............that came out wrong... Haha but really, she磗 had an extremely difficult life of many hardships, and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly what she needs. Despite her old age, the Lord in His mercy has provided her a way to receive forgiveness for her sins and start anew. 

May the Lord bless you during this wonderful holiday season. He lives, and He loves you. I know it. I know it because I磛e personally felt His love and compassion for me when I磛e doubted or struggled. Trust Him. I磍l see you on the 24th for skype! Merry Christmas! Love you!

Elder Long :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Missionary life

Dec. 10, 2012

Hey family and friends!

Woo, what a week! Bradley once mentioned to me in a letter that he thinks a mission is just a two year spiritual high. Lamentably I´d disagree, but it is definitely worth it, so don´t worry about it. I´ve thought about keeping track of good days verses bad days, but it´s more of an hourly rollercoaster, so oh well haha. But overall looking back on the week, it´s been a good week. Woo!

Corey told me that she has a friend who was on the same cruise as you! How crazy! What a small world! 

A few quick requests: Lacey, add ´the Hobbit¨ to my movie list for when I get back. There´s a poster here in the mall and it looks stinkin awesome... haha. Can you check to see what my skype name is? I´m pretty sure it´s T.J.Long, but do the caps matter? Mum, if you happen to have a few spare minutes, could you send me a scan of a few of your ESL lesson plans? I want some worksheets that I can give people as homework during the week. ¡Gracias!

Oh, also speaking of skype, our mission president mandated that we missionaries skype the 24th. That will be my P-Day. Can you still do it 9am Vegas time or would later work better? Let me know! I still need to somehow coordinate with a family to see when I can use their computer. Ha, international coordination is difficult without frequent communication....

This week has been filled with things tempting me to get oober trunky. Ha. We had an amazingly delicious barbeque with our bishop on Monday evening because he wanted to thank us for our hard work this year. The ward has had 18 baptisms. Wahoo!! We had super tasty carne asada--it tasted pretty close to how Dad makes it. Yum! 
Then of course there´s all the Christmas stuff going on (not nearly as much as in the US, but still an occasional Christmas song). We missionaries are helping in the stake Christmas choir, but the entire time we sang I just kept thinking about how much I want to be standing next to Dad and singing in our ward choir. Good times. 

This past week our toilet was clogged for 4 days. Ha. The plumbing is just a bit wack down here, and apparantly in our new house you can´t flush toilet paper. So we now have a trashcan in which we have to discard the used paper. Yummy. We´ve had some pretty epic adventures with that toilet....

Speaking of really strong smells, the olfactory sense is the strongest memory humans have. On Tuesday during ward council I got a whiff of perfume that smelled exactly like Denice and Joylynn. I always love that smell. So full of great memories. Send the aunts my love!

Quick update on investigators: we´re teaching the son of our recent convert family. He´s been living in Conce while he plays for the university´s soccer team, and he visits everyone once in a while. He´s stinkin awesome. Now that he´s on holiday vacation, we can fully teach him. The other night he told us that he feels that everything we teach and everything he´s seen about the LDS church is true. I can´t even describe the immense joy I felt! wahooo!!!!!!! His baptism date is scheduled for December 22nd, along with a few other progressing investigators we have. His dad received the priesthood on Sunday, so we´re obviously aiming to have him baptize his son. What a fantastic eternal family this will be. They are ´´investigadores de oro!´´

Just remember that you don´t have to be  full-time missionary to feel this great joy of seeing your loved ones (friends, family, neighbors, colleagues) accept the Restored Gospel and receive the remission of their sins by being baptized by someone who truly holds the authority of God´s priesthood. What a blessing..

Have a wonderful week! Write your letters to ´´El Viejito Pascuero´´ so he´ll bring you your Christmas presents! 

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dec. 3, 2012

Hello hello hello!

This past week has been sooooo incredibly busy, yet oddly went by super slowly. Weird. But here we are, beloved P-day once again! Some updates of my recent activities: we moved houses because the owner wants to sell it. We moved into an extremely nice house (for Chile) of a member who is moving out of the ward. It's undoubtedly the nicest house in the mission, but the tradeoff is that it's waaaayyyyy far from our sector! So that will be interesting, but such is life. I also finished by 12 week training program and am now officially just an average joe missionary rather than a greenie being trained. However, the four missionaries in our house didn't get transfered. We're all staying together. Honestly, I was very disappointed because we need a change of atmostphere regarding roommates. The other two missionaries Elder Torres and I live with constantly fight and it's been disheartingly difficult to feel the Spirit when they are around. But the Lord knows best. He obviously wants all four of us to stay together and learn more about patience and humility. Woo hoo! 

This week nearly every night I dreamed that I was home again. It's so weird to have such vivid dreams of home and family and friends and then wake up in South America several hundreds of thousands of miles away. I also dreamed about my beloved SPAC team! I miss those people! Send my love, please. 

Quick request: how's it coming with getting the Schwann credit card, Mum? I know you're busy and I'm sooooo grateful for ALL you have done and continually do for me and so many others, so don't stress if it's still on your to-do list. I'm just hoping to get it within the next month or so that I can buy some rain gear and protect myself against these storms. When it rains here, it POURS. But the city doesn't have a very good gutter system, so all the streets flood. It's pretty intense--and quite the obstacle course to try to go tracting and cross a river to get to the other side of the street. I would consider trying to re-create Moses' experience with the Red Sea, but for some reason I feel like it's not quite God's will. Such is the life. Oh well, at least I know how to swim! 

To answer Dad's questions: So far I've been asked just once to play a musical number for our latest baptismal service, but other than that we have a young girl in our ward that has a calling to be the pianist. She knows a good portion of hymns, so that's usually what we sing. In our humble little chapel we have an electric keyboard that we use rather than a piano or organ. It's not quite big enough for some of my compositions (in terms of having enough keys) so I changed it a bit to make it work. I've been asked to sing in the Christmas program, but no one has given me any further information despite the program being in a week or two. I'll let you know how that goes haha. 
As far as skyping, Dad's proposal should work (9am Vegas time). I need to find a family who's computer I can use and coordinate with them and I'll let you know in my next email. 

The pictures of the Santa race are hilarious! I've always wanted to do that. I'm glad you had a fun time. When Tyler was dressed up as the wolf mascot thing he looked like those creepy wolf creatures from The Village. Ha. But I'm glad you're all enjoying the holidays! I certainly miss all the fun music and festivities! There's a few people here that have little fake Christmas trees (usually about 3 feet tall), but other than that it's still just summer here. Weird o_0 We did have a fun barbeque with our recent converts yesterday, though. It had nothing to do with Christmas, but maaaaaannnnn was it delicious!!! We had four different kinds of juicy meats, potatoes, Chilean bread, beans, salad, etc etc etc. Ohhhhhhh it was good! Yay missionary work! haha :P

Take advantage of this wonderful Christmas season to help people remember the real reason for all the gift shopping and face stuffing. It's nothing you haven't heard before, but it really is such an easy way to bring up the Gospel. And don't just remind people that it's about Christ--I'll be surprised if someone doesn't know that; rather, take the opportunity to introduce the Restored Gospel. Talk about the Book of Mormon. Talk about how Christ still lives. Talk about His visit to the American continent (3 Nephi 11). It's great to remind people what He's done for us, but I invite you to ask them what they think we can do for Him.

Have a wonderful week! Read the Book of Mormon each day! Love you!

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life in Chile

Chilean Sized Hamburgers

La Familia Claudio, Catalina, Jacquelin y Elder Torres

Best Missionaries Ever!

November 26, 2012

Mis amados,

What a week. I´ll say it again. What a week. I´ve been having troubles with my companion and I not getting along to the point where I wasn´t feeling the Spirit, and I was constantly praying and striving to know what I could do to help him change a few small things that would help us. I was finally humbled by my zone leader when he told me that it´s all my fault. I didn´t agree with him, but I decided to submit to him as my leader and do whatever I could to improve our situation. This week has been fantastic. My companion still has his same flaws and differences, but what changed was my attitude and reaction. I´ve heard so many times growing up that I can´t control the behavior of others, I can only control my own actions. But I didn´t LEARN that phrase until this week. I didn´t LIVE that simple truth until this week. I´d like to give myself some credit and say that in the past I´ve tried and done what I could, but I´ve learned so much during my time in the mission. It really is a time that the Lord stretches us so that we grow. It´s uncomfortable and difficult for a time, but as we endure our trials with faith and HUMILITY, all will be worth it and we will be better off.  Because otherwise, being a worry-wart, a perfectionist, and a missionary don´t go very well together.

This week we got to do several service projects--which I´ve learned are so much easier than proscelyting! Good thing I´ve always enjoyed doing service anyways haha. One of the projects was cutting a pasture of grass/weeds that reached up to my bellybutton. With a hefty weedwacker it would take maybe an hour or two. But here in Chile, we used scissors....hahaha it was quite the experience. At least they were big scissors... Afterwards we helped one of the members in our ward move a bunch of logs and wood and flour (for his bakery) we moved literally over two tons of flour. Hoorah! haha. I think dad will appreciate one thing the most: the top of my head got sunburned. Yay going bald....haha :P

Random thought #1: I bought some new lotion with the scent of White Gardenia--the flower from Hawaii. It reminds me of Mum, so now I walk around all day getting occasional wifts of Hawaii and thinking about Mum. I still need to decide if that´s a good thing or a bad thing...haha it hasn´t been a distraction though so I think we´re good.
Random thought #2: On Christmas day I´ll get to skype my family! Woo! Let´s start trying to coordinate now considering we can only do it through emails once a week.... What are the family´s plans this year? What time would be best to try to call? Start thinking of questions you have and write them down so that you don´t forget when we´re actually skyping!

Thanks so much to Paula for being so generous and contributing to paying for my mission! I sure feel the love and support from you all, and I don´t have the words to express how grateful I am and how much it means to me! 

Thanks for all the fun pictures of the cruise! Maybe I shouldn´t have looked at them though, because now I´m super jealous!!! Looks like you all had a blast! Hopefully no one got too sunburned or sea sick! Send my love and birthday wishes to Grampsir!

Speaking about having fun and finding joy in life, I want to mention the joy of missionary work. There´s countless scriptures that talk about it, but I had yet to really feel it until recently. I didn´t have a great connection with the first family we baptized because I don´t understand their Spanish and we don´t have anything in common. But I´ve had the opportunity over the past month or so to help another family accept the Restored Gospel, and my joy has been full. I have a strong feeling that Claudio and I were good friends before this mortal life, and I don´t doubt that I once promised him I´d find him. Claudio, his wife Jacquelin, and their daughter Catalina (my hermanita Chilenita) took the first step towards eternal life by being baptized this past weekend. I can´t describe the joy and love I feel for this family. Until recently, I wasn´t sure if I could love the Chileans. That has been one of my biggest and most unfortunate struggles as a missionary so far. But the Lord has shown me that I can love them, and I am so incredibly grateful. I´ve felt the joy and excitement of seeing an investigator come to church. I´ve experienced the happiness and gratitud of helping a friend enter the waters of baptism. And here´s the catch: you don´t have to be a full-time missionary to experience this ´´fullness of joy.´´ Invite your friend to FHE. Introduce them to the missionaries. Invite them to church. Mosiah 26:20-22 in the Book of Mormon describes exactly what you need to do to obtain eternal life and forgiveness of your sins. Read it and apply it. 

Thanks for all of your love, support, emails, letters, pictures, and prayers. It means the world to me. 

All my love,

Elder Long :)

Nov. 19, 2012

(Editorial comment: for some reason his letter came up with Japanese looking characters- perhaps he's blending into Brittany's mission in Japan!) 
eres Querridos! 

Happy (early) Thanksgiving! I hope you磖e enjoying the holidays!--especially on your stinkin family cruise! How fun! Obviously Chile doesn磘 celebrate Thanksgiving, so I guess we磖e just waitin for Christmas. I磎 curious to see how much decoration they磍l have or what they磍l do to celebrate. I磛e definitely felt extra homesick because of the holidays and remembering all the fun family traditions that I磎 missing, but such is the life. At the least, I磛e learned that I磎 going to make a great mom someday--I already know how to clean up after three teenage boys! But in all seriousness, everything that happens in our life really does prepare us for the future. I always figured that working for Dad and learning how to do plumbing and whatnot would do me well when I became a homeowner with my wife, but I didn磘 realize how much sooner I磀 be using all the skills I磛e learned over the years. Quite frequently I have the opportunity to help someone paint, do yardwork, muck out a house, shovel, fix something electrical, etc etc etc. Thanks, Dad, for being such a Renaissance man and teaching me soooooooooo much!!! Plus it helps people understand that I磎 not a lazy American that has never worked a day in his life as I can honestly describe how I worked construction and did manual labor for years to earn enough money to pay for a mission. But changing that stereotype is harder than the actual physical labor itself. Ha, anyways...

This week I finally got the letter that Kendra Williams sent several months ago, as well as letters 4 and 5 from Corey, and some Dear Elders from Mum. Thanks so much! The talk you sent me (Mum) was really good! It was missing some big chunks, but luckily one of the other elders in my zone has the audio recording of it and let me listen to it. Powerful stuff! Elder Holland is definitely an incredible representative of the Lord.

Quick questions: How many people regularly attend the Hacienda Heights ward? People ALWAYS ask me, but I have no idea what to guestimate. Also, what are some common/funny sayings in English? I want to do what Mum did for her English classes and end with a 创dicho创 each time. We taught our first English class on Wednesday, and it was interesting. After about 30 mins someone finally showed up, and after an hour we had a total of four people. So I taught the pronunciation of the alphabet, personal pronouns, and the verb 创to be.创 It went well, but I wouldn磘 mind some tips from my wonderful mother who already has so much experience with this! Thanks!

A few days ago my companion and I were out tracting on a beautiful sunny day when we felt like going to visit one of the inactive members of our ward. We sat down in her humble home, and began to converse and share a spiritual thought so we could ask for some references. After a few minutes, an ENORMOUS thunder storm suddenly started rumbling her entire house. The rain and hail was coming down so hard that we could barely hear each other speak--especially because her 创house创 is made out of thin cardboard-like walls and a tin roof. I haven磘 been in a storm that powerful in a long time. When the thunder struck, it shook the house. Honestly it was pretty stinkin cool! haha. As we wrapped up our visit, it was still raining pretty hard. We said a final prayer, thanked her for her time, and braced ourselves to get drenched. We opened the front door and the rain became an ever-so-light drizzle and then stopped completely. What a tender mercy of the Lord to protect us from the unexpected rain and hail. Moreso, He guided us to that protection--eventhough we didn磘 realize it until after the fact. That磗 often how the Spirit works. It seems like it磗 just your own thought or feeling, but can later trace it back to really being a prompting from the Spirit. So often we mistakenly think that 创being led by the Spirit创 is some grand powerful experience where it磗 so obvious that it磗 the Lord guiding us; this isn磘 so. I could easily write, 创The Holy Ghost led us to visit Juana where we would be protected from the unexpected storm创 and it sounds like I knew we were being prompted to go to a specific place. Don磘 let yourself discredit your ability to feel the Holy Ghost and receive His promptings. You probably just don磘 realize that it磗 the Holy Ghost. That磗 why it磗 so important to say your nightly prayer and think back through your day and try to recognize what the Lord did for you that day. 

We need the Holy Ghost in our lives. It磗 the greatest gift we can have in this life, and eternal life is the greatest gift in the life to come. If we don磘 live worthy to have the Spirit, we磖e missing out on some MAJOR blessings. When we don磘 have the Spirit, we know exactly what will happen: unhappiness, failure, loneliness, anger, etc. But when we do have the Spirit with us as our companion and guide, we have no idea how great of miracles the Lord will work. 

May the Lord bless you as you faithfully rely on Him! My love is sent your way during this holiday season! Eat enough delicous food for the both of us, and remember to be grateful for what the Lord has given you even after Thanksgiving has passed. Have a wonderful week!

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November photos

Keep those letters coming!

Effects of the Chilean Earthquake still 

Mornings in Chile are chilly

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Week 9

Hello hello hello!

I´m always in such a great mood after reading all your emails! I love them! Thanks so much for writing me Tyler, Mum, Dad, and Trina! This week I also got a bundle of letters from Kassi, Krysta, Corey, and Cydney! A very special shout out to TRINA for always emailing me every week and now even sending me a Dear Elder. Sorry I kept forgetting to throw your name on the list!

This week has been super hot, incredibly wet, and then super hot again! Chile is a little bit bipolar. Speaking of sudden changes, this week in our zone conference we recieved instruction that pretty much our entire mission is changing. After some conferences with Elder Arnold of the Seventy, my mission president (Presidente Martinez) decided to change the entire focus of the mission. Instead of contacts and lessons, our focus is now entirely on references. I´m excited about the change, because I already have a firm belief that references from members are a bajillion times better than contacting people on the street. We´ll need to work extremely hard to get our ward actively participating with us, but I expect many more fruits through the effort. We also work a lot with inactive members. There´s a lot. In our ward we have approximately 450 members, but yesterday we set our record high of church attendance with a count of 120 people (including us four missionaries and our 6 investigators). So I´ll keep you updated on how that all goes.

Quick questions: Dad, I miss your carne asada. Can you let me know exactly how it´s made (what kind of meat and what spices) or if there´s a different name so that I can try to find it down here? Because otherwise if I ask for ´´carne asada (grilled meat)´´ there´s endless options. Also, Mum (and anyone else) could you send me some ideas of fun/simple games for FHE? I remember doing ´´Love thy neighbor´´ and a few others, but here it´s a bit more difficult because we usually have two or three families squished together in a humble little house for our ´´noche de hogar.´´ Ideas of games we could do? Thanks!

Dad, great job giving someone a pass-along card! Mum, your hair is so dark and you look so thin! Tyler, you´re a stud. Brad, congrats on getting your Eagle and for doing such great missionary work already! Grampsir, I´m still amazed that you´re playing tennis and bike-riding around the world at 80 years old! Mum, I too dreampt that I came home for a quick trip. I often have dreams that I´m already home as an RM, but this was the first time that I dreampt I came home during my mission. You had recently had another baby whom you named Llena de Amor (bwuahahaha) and I came home to babysit for a night so that the rest of the family could go see a movie or something. It was a weird dream haha.

But on a more spiritual note, I have a story I want to tell you. I was doing my morning scripture study and was reading the parable of the tares in Matt 13:24-30. I completely didn´t understand how it applied to my life or how it applied to anyone´s life for that matter. This parable seemed pointless. As I kept reading, the parable suddenly ends and Christ starts describing another parable. I had to stop and re-read to see if I missed anything. Christ didn´t explain the parable´s meaning at all. I was immensly confused what weeds in some guy´s garden had to do with my life. I had two options: I could get frustrated and stop reading, or I could press forward with faith and confidence that God knows what He´s doing with His scriptures. I continued reading and reached verses 37-43, where Christ at last explains the meaning of the first parable in the chapter. Here´s the lesson learned: Often times in this life we become confused, frustrated, and feel that the challenge we are facing is pointless and that we have nothing to gain from it; however, if we press forward with faith in Christ trusting that He knows better than we do, we´ll receive our answers and our reward. ´´Endure to the end´´ doesn´t seem as far away as you think. Our Heavenly Father knows better than we do. He knows what we´re going through, and He´ll help us through it. We just need to rely on Him. And if we do so, all will be well. A quick second lesson is learned from this experience: You don´t have to understand the scriptures to be able to learn from them. Notice that I didn´t even comment on the actual meaning of the parable. Don´t get me wrong, it´s an awesome parable once you understand it--but I learned more from personal revelation/inspiration from the Holy Ghost than I did from the actual scriptures themselves. But if I hadn´t prayed beforehand to receive personal inspiration, I wouldn´t have gotten it. I invite you to say a quick prayer before you read your scriptures, do your homework, or whatever it be. Ask Heavenly Father to help you focus, understand, and gain the knowledge and wisdom that He wants you to have. And as a representative of our Savior Jesus Christ, I promise you that you will receive it. Simple.

Stay awesome, stay healthy, stay calm, read the sciptures, seek for personal revelation, pray daily, be kind to one another, have a blast on the cruise without me, take lots of pictures, and have a wonderful week! Much love!

Elder Long :)

P.S. -- Speaking as a third party outsider with absolutely no personal interest in the matter, Christmas and Elder Long´s birthday are coming up. He misses American candy, namely Mike & Ike´s, Swedish Fish, and chocolate. He also wants more pictures of his family/friends. Much obliged ;)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week 8

Hey mum, dad, family, friends, and whomever else might be keeping up with my adventures in Chile!

With warmer weather always comes bugs. There are lots. They are big. That´s all I´m going to expound on that.

Thanks so much for all the fun emails and pictures!!! I looooveeeee seeing all the pictures! Everyone looks so much older! Tyler is a stinkin stud, Bridgie looks 16, and Lacey looks like one of the girls from BYU´s cougarettes or dance teams (in her sweat jacket thing). Looks like you´re all having so much fun! I´m so glad Lacey, Tyler, and Bridgie participated in the Missionary Madness activity. Those were always so great. There´s great small lessons to learn like how to plan for a lesson, learning to become instant friends with your companion, and dining with strangers. That´s just the tiniest little taste of what a mission is like. I feel like I was sooo underprepared to serve a mission because, like everyone else, I thought the hard part would be the physical labor of working 15 hour days as well as learning the language. It turns out that´s the easy stuff. Ha. But we continue on relying wholly on Christ.

This week we had a mission conference with Elder Arnold of the Seventy. It was really good. The night before, however, was insane. Due to the early hour of our conference the following day, many missionaries in further sectors had to bus into town the night before. Guess where they stayed the night... our hut--I mean house. We had 8 missionaries in our very humble home and it was complete madness. Especially because all of them were Latinos except for me and Elder Willcocks. It was quite the adventure. Mum, I´ve met several missionaries down here from Colombia, and I´m always so excited to talk to them! Usually they don´t live near where you served, but I finally found an elder from Barranquilla! His name is Elder Ballesteros. I was just curious if you happened to meet (or even teach) a family by that name. Let me know!

Other silly stories from the week: As my companion and I were talking to a man while tracting, we asked him, ´´Do you attend church with your family?´´´and his response was, ´´No, I´m Catholic.´´ hahaha. Oh jeez. We also went tracting in the super far part of our sector. It takes about 45 mins to talk there even at a fast-paced missionary stride. It´s the rich side of town. They even have doorbells. So it was an interesting day. People really are less receptive when they have less monetary needs. 

Quick question: Mum, how´s it coming with getting me that Schwab credit card? It would be great to have that soon so I can buy some raingear! 

As far as an investigator update, we´re teaching a new family. Yes, and entire family. Whoo! They were a referral from their neighbor, the relief society president in our ward. Claudio, Jaquelin, and Katalina are super great, especially because they have sooo much contact with so many other members of our ward (through work and neighbors). It makes our job 20x easier when there are members that help fellowship and befriend our investigators. They have a baptismal date set for the 24th of this month, despite having only met them two weeks ago. Which brings me to another question:

When is the last time you gave a referral to the missionaries in your ward? Sure, it´s great that you feed them dinner and help them feel welcome in the ward, but what about actually helping them serve? Pull out your cell phone. Hit the green button. There will be a list of at least 5-10 people whom you frequently talk to. A list of people who you can share the gospel with. And don´t worry, you don´t need to be the one to teach them everything. That´s why the Lord has called so many missionaries! Invite one of your friends/neighbors to family home evening, and invite the missionaries to be there too. Invite them to a ward activity. Invite them to dinner. Invite them to church. Invite them to take the missionary discussions. Do whatever you want, just as long as you do it. Having them simply meet the missionaries somehow opens up soooo many more opportunities than if the missionaries were to knock on their door one day. Prophets and Apostles AND THE LORD have testified that members need to help with missionary work. Tracting is inefficient, but if the members don´t help we have no choice. Fulfill your baptismal covenant and commandment to share the gospel with others. We missionaries would appreciate it!

Have a wonderful week! Much love!

Elder Long :)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Beautiful Feet

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that publish glad tidings....

More baptisms!

Week 7 and 1 more baptism

Family and friends!

Wheew, this week was quite the ride. I´m definitely having a different experience than Brittany--she sounds like she´s soooo enjoying being in Japan and interacting with everyone! I´m still struggling to enjoy it down here, especially because my trainer is having some problems with obedience, but I´m hoping and praying things will get better. We do have some funny experiences also--more or less. It depends on you perspective. I was on a mikro (city bus) that had 27 seats, but we were crammed together with 44 people. I´ve never been so crowded in my life. Luckily I thought it was hilarious rather than freaking out about how hot it was or how I was running out of air to breathe. Such is the life.

Some fun facts about my zone/mission: In my zone we have missionaries from Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Mexico, and the U.S. We´re diverse haha. Our mission is a very young mission; the average age of our missionaries is 10 months in the field. Most of our zone leaders only have 14 months, and everyone else is around 3-8 months. So some of the work is difficult with such young/inexperienced boys, but it keeps things interesting at the least.

Happy Halloween to you all! I miss all the fun festivities like ward trunk-or-treats and whatnot. In the store here they have Hallowee masks, but otherwise I don´t think they really celebrate it here. Nothing has changed and there´s certainly no decorations or ward activities... Mum, sorry you were sick! That´s never any fun. And the rest of the family sounds like they have been sooooooo busy! Thanks for writing me Cameron, Lacey, Tyler, Dad, and Mum! I don´t have time to respond to everyone individually today, but know that I love getting mail from you! Tyler, definitely do your project with an Aussie accent ;)

This Saturday we had the baptism of David (the spouse of Katy, whom we baptized two weeks ago) and Paola (the younger sister of Katy). Without getting into specifics, let me just testify that Satan unleashes all hell on people the week/day of their baptism. The closer they get, the more ridiculous the situation becomes. But it just goes to show how important this work is and how hard I need to work to help people come unto Christ. And while I´m speaking about trials, let me share a scripture. In Alma 14:9-29 we read the story of Alma and Amulek when they were forced to watch their friends and loved ones viciously martyred for believing in Christ. Afterwards, Alma and Amulek were thrown in prison and beaten and interrogated for days (I think about 12 if my memory is right). They suffered immensely before finally being delivered by God. But why did this happen to them? They were valient missionaries/prophets of the Lord. They were righteous members at the least. The lesson learned is that being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or any type of Christian) doesn´t mean we´re going to have an easy or pain-free life. It doesn´t mean we won´t have diffiulties or suffer. What it does mean, however, is that if we endure our trials well, always relying on the Lord, our triumph and reward in the end will be great and WORTH IT. Don´t forget that the Lord promises His help and blessings throughout this life too if we remain righteous, but an even greater reward and rest awaits us if we endure well. All that seems unfair in this life will be made just in the next life. I know it.

One last thought: When you are asked to say the prayer, don´t complain. Don´t groan or act like it´s an unwanted obligation. Prayer is an opportunity to talk with your Heavenly Father. Think about it: God--the creator of all things, the great omnipotent and omniscient ruler of all worlds and galaxies--is giving you--an insignificant sinner-- the opportunity to communicate with Him. Even moreso, He asks you to. He wants you to. He commands you to. And why? So that He can bless you even more. So yes, be willing and excited that you get to be the spokesperson for a group of gathered children of the Lord to offer a prayer to your Creator. That is all ;)

Have a wonderful week! 

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Garbage day in Chile

New Elder in Chile

Week 6

¡Mis amados!

Thanks for all the emails! I got great emails from Tyler, Trina, Mum, Grampsir and Gramzy, and my mum forwarded me a message from Aunt Paula. I love getting mail from you and getting updated on your fun/busy/crazy lives! Sounds like homecoming was a blast, and I loved the pictures! Lacey is gorgeous of course and Tyler is a stinkin stud! Where did that come from?? haha he looks super tall. Did he get new glasses too? Son vacán. The new park by our house looks fun too, I´m glad Ben will get to enjoy that! 

Some updates about my past week: I think I already told you about my trip to Conce since we emailed after all that. On Friday we had cambios (transfers), and quite a bit changed! My roommate from Peru got called as a district leader to another zone and moved up north, my companion got called as district leader of our zone, and our Mexican roommate is now training! Our new roommate is a gringo fresh out of the MTC and can barely say ´´gracias,´´ so it´s been a fun weekend getting to translate for him! Having to translate made me realize how much I really do understand now. Having a new greenie brings back sooo many feelings and memories that I´ve felt in my first 6 weeks here in Chile. It will be good that I can truly relate to him because I so recently experienced what He´s now going through. His name is Elder Willcocks from Provo, UT. So now we have a Chilean, a Mexican, and two gringos in our humble home. He´s quite a bit bigger than me too, so there goes my ´´tallest guy in the ward´´ reputation... haha. 

There´s been some solid discussion about me teaching English classes down here, and I need some help from you, Mum! Could you send me a scanned copy of some of the worksheets that you use for your class at the stake center? I have no materials to work with, so I was hoping you could give me some advice about a decent (and extremely basic) curriculum. Thanks a ton! You da bestest!

Ironically enough, this week I have a story about how I butchered a lesson because I confused two different Spanish words. It was my turn to teach the Gospel Principles class on Sunday, and the lesson was on the regathering of the house of Isreal. That topic can be difficult enough in English, let alone Spanish. I actually really enjoy that topic though and had studied it while at BYU. So I knew what I was talking about--the difficulty was doing it in Spanish. When I got home after church, I realized that during the entire hour I had used the word ´´regocijar´´ (rejoice) instead of ´´recoger´´ (regather). So I gave a confusing lesson to a bunch of investigators about the rejoicing of a bunch of tribes from ancient Jerusalem. Ha. Oh well, the church is true :P

While we´re on the topic of words and their translations, I want to share something I realized this week. The Spanish word ´´prueba´´ translates to ´´test, trial, proof.´´ We often talk about how in this life we face many trials and challenges. These trials are tests of our faith to see if we´ll still rely on our Lord to help us through difficult times as well as through good times. We are ´´probado´´(tested/tried) throughout our entire life. Each prueba is more than just a test that we have to pass or a refiners fire to strengthen us. It is an opportunity to prove ourselves. This life is a prueba--a trial, a test, and a proof. Our Heavenly Father sent us to this earth to receive mortal bodies and prove our faithfulness to Him. What I´m trying to explain is that when a trial comes, don´t just endure through it waiting for it to end; take the opportunity that the Lord is giving you to prove yourself. Prove to Him and yourself that you deserve forgiveness for your sins. Prove that you deserve His help. Prove that you are willing to submit to His will because He knows better than you do. Difficulties in this life are more than just trials, they are opportunities to prove that you deserve Christ´s Atonement--every drop of blood that He spilled not just for your sins, but because of your sins. As my wise father has often told me, ´´You need to take the opportunity of a lifetime in the lifetime of the opportunity.´´ Trials don´t last forever. That means your opportunity to prove yourself has an end too. Don´t postpone your chance to prove yourself worthy of God´s mercy by complaining during trials and wishing them away. Take advantage of the opportunity just as you would if it were an opportunity to get that new car/house/phone you want. Because as great as those gifts are, the gift of eternal life is much, much greater.

Have a wonderful week, get to know your next-door neighbors, be kind to one another, and rely on the Lord. Read the Book of Mormon.

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tanner's 1st baptism!!

Tanner's 1st baptism!!

¡Mis amados!

First of all, happy birthday to Bridgette!!! How old are you now? 17?? Haha you all look so big and grown up in the pictures! Thanks Mum for sending me the pics of the fun adventures with the extended family! I´m so jealous! Looks like you all had a blast! Congrats to Lacey for having two big prom dates, and congrats to Brad for asking out the head cheerleader and getting a personalized announced entrance at the homecoming dance!!! ''That's how we do!'' hahaha :)

Speaking of pictures and dances, that's so stinkin cool I'm on several posters at BYU! And of course being as vain as I am, I reeeaaalllyy want one for keepsies! Would Emily or Corey or someone at BYU be so kind to ask for one? That would make my day :) 

Today we traveled two hours up to Conce for ''Return and Report'' with the mission president, which only happens this one time as a greenie. As of later this week, I won't be part of the newest crop because we're getting a new group of missionaries! Woo transfers! But since I was in Conce, I got to get mail early! Thanks so much to grandma Lenna, Krysta, Jackie, and Corey for sending me letters! I already wrote back (on the bus ride home) but of course you won't get my letters for a month... It's so weird to read letters and imagine your lives and what's going on, then remember that everything I'm reading happened over a month ago...haha so I'm a little behind on news, but I love recieving your letters. Thanks a ton!

This past week was a crazy week and pretty difficult, but we ended on quite the note. Our investigator Katy was baptized. She's an absolute miracle. She's 16 with a 10 month old baby--yet she's married! Marriage seems to be pretty uncommon down here, so it's been a true miracle to get to teach her. My companion and his prior companion found her mother about a week before I arrived, and then I've helped teach her all the lessons. What I really want to talk about, though, is how I didn't do anything. Seriously. Katy was prepared by the Lord long before Elder Gringo walked into the picture. So eventhough Brittany and I are on opposite sides of the world and we'll see varying amounts of baptisms and definitely experience different types of trials, we have a minimum of one thing in common: we are doing the Lord's work, not our own. It's also important to remember that each person still has their agency to accept or reject Christ's gospel, no matter how hard we as missionaries work. I've been extremely blessed to get to work with Katy and watch her life change for the better--and it certainly wasn't because of me. Yo no fui. It's also so surreal to look at our pictures and realize that I'm the missionary standing next to the girl in the white baptismal gown. But it's great to get to see the Lord's work move forward.

My time is short, but I wish you a great week! You're in my prayers daily, and I love you! Read your Book of Mormon daily, and if you're not, REPENT! That book is the key to eternal life. The only key. 

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Week 4

Hello hello hello!

Another week down here in Chile! Quick shout out to my awesome older sister Brittany who just turned 22 while serving in Japan! This week has been much better than the first three, even despite being the coldest and wettest stinkin ´´spring´´ ever haha. I´ve woken up a couple times with numb feet in the morning despite all my blankets and pajamas! What´s funny is that rather than smelling like beautiful nature after a rainstorm, it smells like wet dog. Anywho, I have some quick funny stories I want to share.

1) Every couple blocks there is a speed bump in the road, but that doesn´t always make the bus drivers slow down. It´s HILARIOUS to watch everyone get launched into the air as the old rickety bus hits the speed bump! I´ve turned it into a bit of a game to see who can get the most air. 
2) I´ve mentioned before that the singing down here is not quite American Idol worthy--well, unless we´re talking about the auditions. I still like to try to sing harmony or sing the recant bass part, but I always find people giving me quick glance that says ´´Poor dumb gringo can´t even sing the right melody or at the right time´´ hahaha. It always makes me laugh.
3)Most eventful story of the week: In the mission, girls are often referred to as snakes--just the flirty ones that will kill your focus with infectious venom. I´ve been lucky so far to not have any big problems....until a few days ago when one tried to kiss me. It might have been tempting if she weren´t 80 years old and extremely drunk...hahahaha. My companion and I were tracting and stopped to talk to a few abuelitas, when the drunk one stumbled over to me and said, ´´Tú me gustas.´´ It translates quite differently than you might think. We realized this conversation was going nowhere, so we gave them pass along cards and tried to leave. Before I could even extend my hand for a handshake, the old lady was grabbing me and pulling me in for a kiss! I firmly, yet gently, moved her small body to put distance between us and told her that just a handshake would suffice. I quickly walked away slightly confused, extremely creeped out, and didn´t even bother to try to hold back my laughter. Never in my life did I think that would happen. Oh the joys of foreign travels...hahaha.

I have several bits of great news! I got several letters at last! Thanks so much Mum for the Dear Elders, and thanks Sister Ochoa, Grandma Lenna and Corey for the letters! They were great!!! I heard that Kendra Williams sent one, but it got a little lost in the delivery process. Hopefully I´ll get it soon. I found out that while I´m here in Las Ámericas I´ll get mail the first Tuesday of each month. That´s when we have our zone conference and my zone leaders can give us the mail from the mission home (where all mail must be delivered). So thanks so much for writing me! Just a random thought that may or may not apply: if you should choose to send a package to me, it would be very wise to cover it in stickers of Saint Mary. People tend to break into those packages less often. It would also be smart to have a list inside the package that details what should be within the contents so that I know if anything is missing. ¡Gracias! Also, I finally got peanut butter!!! It´s ridiculously expensive though...ha. That will certainly have to be a luxery rather than a necessity for the next two years. 

Conference was so fantastic! It was so cool to be one of the missionaries that the prophet and apostles were referring to! Plus, how huge is the news of the age change???!!!! Wahoo!!! However, I am soooo glad that I did a year at BYU before my mission. I think that really helped me prepare so much better. But to teach is the responsibility to pray and decide for him/herself when is the right time to serve a mission. What´s crazy is that by the time I get home, Lacey could serve! And Tyler is shortly behind. Weird. Anyways I was so blessed and grateful that I got to listen to General Conference in English. All the members in all of Las Ángeles have to come to our chapel to receive the broadcast of GC. We 5 gringos went in a small classroom to watch in English. We had a blast! But it was nothing compared to home. As much as I loved every bit of Conference, it made me pretty homesick. Especially during Priesthood Session when I couldn´t stop thinking abou Dad, Papa, and Tyler attending together in Vegas. I´m so grateful for the opportunity that I had to go with them every 6 months as three generations of priesthood holders. 

Mum and Dad, thank you so much for teaching me the importance of listening to the prophets and apostles and heeding their counsel. Thank you for setting such a great example of always doing your best to be able to watch all the sessions of General Conference. I realized today that I haven´t been home for the past three conferences. But just three more and I´ll be home again! 

Since last Tuesday I had already chosen what spiritual thought I wanted to share, but then Elder Bednar gave his talk on it--AKA are you converted to Christ or to the church? So I´m going to change my spiritual thought. A few days ago, my companion and I were on our way to an appointment with a new investigator (or at least a hopeful). We couldn´t find her street at all, even though we knew exactly where it was supposed to be. Twice we stopped and asked for directions, and twice we were told the same direction to walk in. After deciding they pointed us in the wrong direction, we walked the opposite way and sure enough found the correct street. We found her house, and she cancelled on us because she had guests over. Disappointed, but not truly surprised, we set another appointment and left. We had only walked a few meters when we decided to stop and look at our list of inactives to see whom we could visit that lived nearby. As we discussed, a woman carrying grocery bags approached as if to pass by. We of course said hello, stopped her, and struck up a conversation with her. We found out she was an inactive member and we were standing in front of her house. She invited us in, and our discussion continued. I wish I could have understood more of what she said, but people are difficult to understand when they are crying. That´s why God blessed me with a native companion so that at least one of us understood haha. Anyways, long story short, she agreed to attend church this past weekend. I know that Heavenly Father wanted us to run into her that day. That´s why two different people pointed us in the wrong direction. That´s why our other appointment fell through. That´s why we decided to stop. We didn´t know who she was or when she would be passing by, but the Lord did. He is always aware of you and of your needs. The Lord will put you in the exact place you need to be at the exact time you need to be there because He has a plan for you. Even when it doesn´t seem like it. So don´t complain if external circumstances cause you to be late to something. You never know what the Lord has planned for you. Even in regards to Kassi Gillette having to wait to be 21 to serve a mission. The Lord has a specific place and time for you to be in Italy. He knows best. 

This gospel is true. Christ lives. He loves you. Trust in Him and in His timing. Have a wonderful week!

Elder Long