Well if the phrase ´´your future wife gets hotter each time you go tracting in the rain´´ is true, we misionaries down here are going to have some super hott wives!!! Luckily, spring officially started on Saturday, so hopefully the weather will get better. Today is a super beautiful day!!! Other fun facts of the past week: I´ve still yet to be able to purchase peanut butter. The local grocery store hasn´t had any in stock for two weeks now. Poop! I also had my ´´First Incoming.´´ You can ask Bishop Hollis to remind you what that means. Luckily, Heavenly Father protected us and the kid missed, but that also means I was unable to keep the rock haha :P
The food has still been really good so far. Hopefully that doesn´t jynx it. We only eat a small breafast and no dinner but a huge lunch. I still wish we ate dinner though... Our average--if not consistenly always--almuerzo starts off with a big soup, then a plate of rice, meat, delicious bread, and a salad. The salad is always just lettuce with lime juice and tomatoes. There´s been a few times when I´ve decided not to ask what part of the cow the meat is from, but it´s always tasted good at least haha.
This mission is definitely more dificult mentally than physically. Don´t get me wrong--I have blisters covering my feet and even my toes, I slouch from my backpack, and I yawn a bajillion times a day. But the struggle this past week has been mentaly. I´m definitely growing closer to Christ as I experience the rejection He faced. I´m amazed more and more everyday how He did what He did. I´m developing a deeper understanding of how He felt while knowing that He had to press on because it will be worth it. He didn´t give up on us, so I (and you) can´t give up on Him. I don´t quite believe all the people that have told me I´ll have hundreds of baptisms down here in South America, because people are not nearly as receptive here as everyone seems to think. Trust me. But I´m learning to work hard despite the feelings of frustration and disappointment that come with being a missionary.
A thought I had the other day really set me back: one of my roommates was watching a video of a past General Conference talk, and ofcourse it was dubbed over in Spanish. I realized that the people down here--and in so many other parts of the world--don´t get to actually hear the prophet´s voice. They don´t get to understand the uplifting messages of all those EFY CD´s that you never listen to because they´re not cool. Don´t take for granted the blessing that you have to live in a country where the prophets and apostles live, and to be able to speak and understand the language that they speak. How blessed I´ve been. Also, for those of you in the Hacienda Heights ward, do me a favor and give Sister Hales a giant hug and thank her for being so wonderful. In Sacrament meeting on Sunday, we sang the hymns acapella because our usual accompanist didn´t know how to play the hymns. And let me just add that I don´t think anyone in Chile will win any singing contests any time soon. Sister Hales has always been so fantastic to so willingly share her time and talents for the benefit of our ward. Don´t take for granted that she can so skillfully and easily play every hymn and every musical number that you throw her way last minute. She´s wonderful and I so appreciate her willingness and dedication to providing the music for the HH ward.
One thing I´ve noticed about the incredibly high number of inactive members down here that I´ve visited with is that they all have one thing in common: they stopped reading their Book of Mormon. That´s always the first step that leads to inactivity. Everyone needs to understand that the foundation of this entire gospel is based on that book, and therefore so should your testimony. If you aren´t reading the Book of Mormon on a daily basis, you are letting Satan ever-so-slowly pull you away from your Savior Jesus Christ. Please read and study that book. Even if the most you can do is a verse or two. It makes a difference
My time is gone, but I wish you all the best! Have a wonderful week, choose to be of good cheer despite rough circumstances around you, and smile. It´s great to see a stranger passing by on the street with a glum face and all my companion and I do is smile and say hello and keep walking. A sincere smile can really change a person´s mood more than you probably realize.
Elder Tanner Long
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Sept. 18, 2012
Soooo much has happened since I´ve been able to send an email! For one, I´m in Chile! So forgive me for typos, this keyboard is weird haha. Well so what was supposed to be an 18 hour trip turned into about 50 hours. Our flight leaving from LA was an hour late, so of course we missed our connecting flight from Santiago to Chile. We spent nearly the whole day Tuesday trying to get on another flight. We finally arrived that night in Conce, met the mission president, and had to be rushed out to our areas without the standard afternoon of intros and instructions. I´m about 2 hours south of the city of Concepción in a place called Los Angeles. My trainer is a native Chilean from Santiago, and we share our humble home with two others. Elder Gonzalez is from Peru and his companion Elder Alvarez is from Mexico. Our house is about the size of my kitchen in Las Vegas (maybe including the pantry), so it´s pretty humbling to be here. How blessed I´ve been! At times it´s kind of frustrating to not be able to fully communicate with my companions because they are all Latino, but we get by. Hopefully it will help my Spanish get better faster. Elder Gonzalez calls me ´´Elder Tin-Tin´´ because he thinks my hairdo is the same as the cartoon character. He´s probably my favorite so far. He knows the most random phrases in English--which really don´t do any good haha. For example, the only English he knows is,´´Hey baby, you smell good. Are you busy?´´ hahaha so I taught him, ´´Errbody on the flo gettin krunk´´ and ´´Chuck up them dueces!´´ Teaching each other phrases and words in each other´s language is really fun.
How to speak Spanish like a Chilean: cut off the second half of all your words, say ´´po´´ at the end of your sentence, and speak as FAST AS YOU CAN! Vuala, Chileno Spanish. What´s difficult is that all the vocab I´ve ever learned is more Mexican, and down here the dialect is completely different. Luckily, my Mexican roommate Elder Alvarez has been out about 6 months, so he can usually help me out a bit. I definitely had that moment from the movie ´´The Best Two Years´´ where I thought, ´´Oh Elder, that ain´t the language they taught me in the MTC!´´ All four of us are only 19, so our house gets pretty crazy sometimes. My roommates are looooongi (loco)! So we have lots of fun. It´s the end of winter here, almost spring, so it´s still pretty cold. We don´t have any heaters or airconditioning, so it´s super cold in the morning. I can´t even describe how incredibly happy I was when I found out that we could use a propane tank to heat the water for a hot shower!!! But we ran out a few days ago....ha.
Normally my P-days will be Monday, but today is a national holiday so no missionary work would have gotten done. However, at the same time, all the stores are closed so we can´t do any grocery shopping. We got lucky enough that we can email at this members house! It took us over 30 mins to get the computers working...haha. Speaking of September 18th, it´s like the 4th of July in the US but multiplied times 10. For example, school is cancelled for the week prior and one week after so that everyone can party. It´s made missionary work pretty difficult because everyone says, ´´No, maybe after the 18th.´´ Bleh. But the parties have been pretty crazy! EVERYONE loves to blast music 24/7, and they actually listen to a lot of North American music. That´s how most people learn English phrases, so usually when someone wants to talk to me in English it´s pretty nonsensical stuff...haha.
For absolutely every meal we eat completos (hot dogs), the most delicious bread ever, mystery meat, and Coca-Cola. I never cared at all for Coke or Pepsi, but since those are my only choices now, I´ve accustomed myself to them. I´m going to come home sooooo fat though! The sky is always smoky because of everyone burning little furnaces to stay warm. I love the smell of smoke, but not necessarily for extended periods of time. I woke up the first morning with a sore throat and extremely thirsty! But life moves on. There are dogs EVERYWHERE! I´ve never seen so many dogs in my entire life, even when I´ve gone to dog parks haha. What´s funny is they are either super huge or amazingly tiny! My favorite is our pet wolf Osíto and a palm-sized dog that one of our investigators has. There is trash and graffiti everywhere as well, but I think this is one of the nicer areas of town. I´m developing a pretty bad slouch because I always have to duck to either avoid a tree branch to the face, but mostly because I have to lean down to hear what people are saying. They talk super fast and rather quiet at times. The abuelitas are the hardest to understand. They are usually whom we talk to when tracting because they stay at home all day. They crack me up.
Ok, I´m really out of time, but one quick spiritual thought. In the scriptures, many times the Lord commands us to ´be of good cheer.´ It is indeed one of the commandments to be able to gain eternal life. He also gives us the key how: in 2nd Nephi 9:39 it says, to be ´´spiritually minded is life eternal.´´ If you pay attention, the first letters spell out SMILE. Be happy! I´m in a country where I can hardly understand what´s going on and people either love to tease me for my white skin or completely hate me simply because I´m North American. That and I´m Mormon. Ha. Anyways, point being, all I have at the moment is my testimony and a smile. That´s really all I can contribute until I can understand what people are saying. People actually tell me I speak really well, which I humbly might concur with, but being able to understand the Chileans is completely different. So I SMILE and generically testify, ´´I know that everything my companion has said is true, and that this message will help you better your life. If I didn´t know it for myself, I wouldn´t be here.´´ And I mean it. Saturday royally sucked because no one would listen to us, I was mocked, flipped off, yelled at, insulted (that much I understood), and ridiculed. But I´m not coming home, because I know the message we share is true. And I implore you to read the Book of Mormon until you can´t deny it´s veracity either. Have a wonderful week, and remember to SMILE!
Elder Long :)
Sunday, September 9, 2012
First off, sorry for the late letter--I forgot to mention that this week's P-day was moved back a day so that we could have in-field training. Guess why... I leave for Chile on Monday morning! Whoo!!! So weird.
This week's fun events: During our mission conference last Sunday, one of the people giving a talk had the hiccups. Soooo hilarious!!! That night we also got to watch a recording of President Monson's 85th birthday celebration. So good! Look it up on LDS.org if you haven't seen it yet. The music is absolutely incredible. There are now over 2750 missionaries here in the MTC, so breathing space is very limited. Sooo crowded! Good thing I leave in one more day! I hosted again this past Wednesday and got to host Elder Garrett Jacobson. It was great to see him! I also bumped into Elder Sammy Caballero, who happens to me in my zone! It's so great to get to see him and talk with him! He'll be such in incredible missionary. Love those two.
On Monday morning I'll be able to make a phone call during my lay-over in the LA airport. I bought a $5 phone card with 500 minutes on it, so I won't need to use your credit card, Dad. That would have been super expensive! Mum and Dad, would you two figure out beforehand how to group call so that we don't have to use up precious time during my call? I'll probably be calling around 10:30 am or so. Also, I'd like to call Lacey. I don't have her number memorized and I won't receive any more Dear Elders here at the MTC, so I'll just ask you Mum and Dad during our call. Lacey, when your phone rings during class, just politely excuse yourself. I'm sure your teacher will be OK with Miss President of Everything missing a couple minutes. If not, too bad. I don't want to have to leave you a voicemail ;P See if you can grab Tyler or something too. That would be cool! Be ready for my call!
Soooo many great stories to share this week but so little time! I had to retype this letter because everything suddenly got deleted -__- I had a good discussion with our investigator, Javier, about why the day of rest is Sunday, when Saturday is considered the 7th day of the week. After some research, we discovered that it's because the day was changed after Christ was resurrected on the Sabbath day, Sunday. Remember Elder Holland's talk "Sunday Will Come"? Soooo much more meaning to it than you think. Just ponder on that one for a while. Do some scripture reading on it if you can ;)
During TRC last week, we met with a girl named Valerie. She was supposed to have gotten to the MTC an hour earlier for her appointment, but the traffic from SLC was so bad that she was super late. Which meant we taught her instead. As we talked with her and got to know her, we all realized that it was divine purpose that she was late. She was meant to be taught by us. My companions and I had each had specific experiences throughout the week prior to Friday that had taught us important lessons--lessons and experiences that Valerie needed to hear. The Lord had prepared us all week for that lesson without us even knowing it. It was the best lesson I've had so far. I got to genuinely help a real person (not fake investigator) come unto Christ. I so firmly believe that everyone in our life is placed there for a reason. There is something you can learn from each person. And next time you're running late, who knows, it might be for a bigger reason than you know.
I've always known the scripture stories and that's great, but now I'm finally really learning how to apply those stories to my life. I was reading in Alma 17-18 about the story of Ammon and found so many incredible gems. Please re-read those two chapters and really ponder about how his words apply to your life. For me, 18:3 is a powerful verse. We too, should live our life in a way so that others know we are a friend to the king--who is our Master Jesus Christ. Read through chapter 18 and think about what your "flocks" are and how you can be a better servant of the Master.
Lastly, I'd like to share my missionary purpose. "To invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the Restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." Guess what. That's your purpose too. Every member's job is to invite others to come unto Christ. You can do that through your example, sharing the Book of Mormon, bearing testimony, offering service, etc. Prophets have declared that every member is a missionary. And you don't have to teach non-members to be a missionary. "Invite OTHERS unto Christ." Everyone. Anyone. We all need help coming unto Christ. As I was reading in the Book of Mormon about Ammon's experiences, a thought was placed in my mind of a quote from the Bible, except the words had been changed prior to entering my mind. The thought was, "Be thou a servant of the believers" (1 Tim 4:12). I took that as my personal call to not forget to help other members and even other missionaries come unto Christ, not just the non-member Chileans.
I invite you to think about how you can be a better servant of the Lord. Have a wonderful week! Write me (at my new address) in Chile!
Elder Long :)