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 :)