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

Friday, October 5, 2012

Week 3 in Chile!

Well howdy do!

This has been one super crazy week. The most physically and mentally stressfull yet. Aparently one of the many wild dogs with fleas rubbed against my pants and transfered the bugs to me. I´ve had bedbugs ever since. Just from my left ankle to shin I have over 41 bites. Ha. I´ve heard that the only way to get rid of them is to burn the mattress and cothes and whatnot. Seeing as I can´t really afford to burn EVERY item of clothing I have, does anyone know a way to get rid of the little critters? Or am I just kind of screwed for the next 10 weeks?

Random thought: before I left I promised the Horton family that I would let the know if the toilets flush the opposite direction down here. Unfortunately, I can´t remember which way the flush in the US haha. But I can tell you that down here they flush counter-clockwise. Is that opposite as in the States?

Being a tall white boy with blue eyes and blond hair kind of makes me stick out. People love to try to practice their English with me, but I usually can´t understand what they´re trying to say in English either haha. Plus most of the English people learn is from American songs, so it never makes any sense--or it´s just something really rude. Probably one of the best was when Elder Torres and I were proselyting and a random little kid yelled, ´´juan two tree ford!´´ as we passed haha. My favorite, however, was during lunch with a member family. The 11 yr old daughter was talking about music, and asked if I listened to ´´Juan Direcho.´´ I don´t know much Spanish music, so of course I said no. She started flipping out like I had said the most obsurd thing in all of history. I had the thought to ask her about the song, ´´´That´s what makes you beautiful´´ by One Direction. Her response was, ´´¡Sí, cómo te dije, Juan Direcho!´´ hahaha. She couldn´t pronounce One Direction. Silly times! Speaking of inability to speak English, I´m starting to forget words. It took me over a day and a half to remember the English word ´´pamphlet.´´ But understanding the Chileans is coming along. To help illustrate my point: my Mexican roommate (who was obviously fluent in Spanish before his mission) was unable to understand the Chileans for the first few weeks of his mission also. They just speak sooo differently. Instead of saying, ´´¿Cuantos años tienes tu?´´ they say something that sounds more like, ´´Kaydadteen.´´ So ya...haha.

As far as investigators, this week has been wild. We´re teaching a family of a mother and two daughters. They´re progressing, and the two daughters are scheduled to be baptized October 20th. When we stopped by on Thursday, suddenly no one wanted to be baptized. That same day we passed by our other new investigator, a man who´s wife and family left him and he´s been thinking about suicide. He cancelled our appointment for that night because his niece died that day. Super rough. So we´re working hard and praying harder for these people. Lend us your prayers!

Tracting has been really difficult.All our appointments usually fall through each day so we spend the whole time knocking doors trying to find people to teach. Satan has gotten better at blurring people´s beliefs and making it so our message doesn´t seem distinct anymore. People think that they are fine simply believing and that since Christ already paid for their sins, they just have to try to be better-than-average and they´ll live with God and their family forever. The difficult part is getting people to actually listen so that we can explain the importance of our message and help them understand the differences. So the work is pretty slow right now with only four investigators (three of which are in on house) who´s lives are breaking lose, but we´re praying and searching for more people to teach.

We also work a lot with inactive members. One family in particular has some marital problems. Through talking with them, we found a small, yet powerful, indicator. Neither of them could remember the last time they told each other they loved one another. So here´s my advice/plea to you. Tell your family and friends that you love them. Tell them often. And then match your actions to your words. It´s such a simple way to strengthen and protect a marriage or any relationship. 

General Conference is this next week, and I hope you´re excited to watch and listen and learn from the prophets and apostles of God! Powerful stuff right there. There´s sooooo many people that don´t have that blessing. I don´t think I´ll get to watch it in English, so please pray that I´ll be able to understand in Spanish. General Conference is one of my favorite church events, and I´m actually kind of bummed that I won´t get to fully understand it this time. So take advantage of it up in the US!!! 

Much love,

Elder Long