Monday, January 28, 2013

Week of Miracles Jan. 28, 2013

Howdy hey family and friends!

Thanks so much for all the emails I got this week! It was so great! I
got emails from aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, counsins, of
course my wonderful parents, etc. I always love  getting so many
emails from my loved ones. I loved the pictures you sent me too!
Tyler´s nongirlfriend girlfriend looks a lot like Lacey in the pic
from the bbq place. Brad is a stinkin stud and Trina´s hair looks so
long in the pic from the show at the Hilton! Send me a copy of the GQ
magazine with Brad on the front cover as soon as it gets released!

Quick request: Dad, would you please send me my Line of Authority? I
could have sworn I brought it, but I can´t find it :( Thanks!

So I´m super pressed on time, but I wanted to share a few experiences
I had this week. It was a week of miracles! It started out rough when
I found out that my old investigator´s baby died during the C-section
operation on Monday, but we´ve done everything we can to help them--as
much as they allow anyways. But throughout the week I witnessed
several miracles and tender mercies of the Lord. We´ve been struggling
for about two months to find new people to teach, and finally after
much hard work, fervent prayers, and diligent obedience, we found a
few possibilities that we´ll follow up with next week. One of them was
a reference from another set of missionaries that met a member´s
friend while visiting a less active family. After many attempts to
find her this week, on Saturday we finally found her at home and had a
fantastic gospel discussion with her. As we discussed all the
spiritual experiences she´s had throughout her life, it dawned on me
how prepared she is. What a huge blessing. She even brought up the
Mormon´s blue book and told us she´d love to read it some day. We of
course whipped out a copy of the Book of Mormon, read the
introduction, and she understood the purpose of it--AKA, testify of
Jesus Christ and support the Bible. She was so excited when we offered
to give it to her as a gift! What a blessing. I felt like a true South
American missionary as we sat on a dirty cement block in front of her
humble shack and discussed the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I so
wish I had a picture of that wonderful experience.

We´ve also been working with a family of 5 for the past two months.
The mother and 3 children have told us they know the gospel is true
and want to get baptized, but they won´t do it until the dad supports
them--the problem is he won´t listen to us. But this week as we taught
the Plan of Salvation to the family, he stood in the doorway and
listened. He´s done it before for 3 or 4 mins at a time, but this time
his attention was caught. He even asked several questions and
participated in the lesson. He wouldn´t sit down to join us, but I
know he learned something that night. It was SSSSSSOOOOOOOO great!!!
How grateful I am for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the opportunity I
have to help people learn for themselves if the Church of Jesus Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is really true or just another
religion to choose. Obviously we missionaries are in all parts of the
world to teach and explain, but a person will never know for sure
until they read the Book of Mormon, ponder about it, and ask Heavenly
Father in sincere prayer if it is true. That´s the promise He has
given us. If it is true, He will tell you. But no one can receive that
answer until they fulfill their end of that deal. As a representative
of Jesus Christ, I testify that the Book of Mormon indeed is sacred
scripture written by ancient prophets called of God. A humble young
man during the 1800´s was then also called by God to translate the
ancient manuscript into English. Every person can know with certainty
whether it´s true or not by taking the time to read some of the book
and pray about it--it´s the physical evidence we offer that can be put
to the test. You can´t decide that a cake is gross until you try a
bit, just like you can´t know if the Book of Mormon is true or false
until you try it. I know that living the gospel principles found
within the book will improve your faith in Jesus Christ and thus
improve your life. I know it. If I didn´t know it with a certainty, I
wouldn´t be giving up two years of my life to testify about it. I
didn´t travel this far and endure this much to tell a lie.

Have a wonderful week! My love and prayers are sent your way!

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Elder Long turns 20!

Birthday waffles!

They finally get bunkbeds!

January 21, 2013

Buenos Días,

So this week has been quite the week! I´m pretty sure I always say that though...haha. Monday was my last Pday and we went to Salto Del Laja, and Tuesday was my birthday! Thanks so much for all the birthday wishes! I even got a letter from David and Leanne´s family--very special and grateful thanks to them for their very generous birthday gift! I´ll use it best I can! A Huge congratulations to Matt and Mel for their new little daughter Samantha! I´d love to see some pics if possible! It´s so weird to think I´ll never see her as a baby really. I´ll come home and Eric will be huge and Samantha will almost be two! haha crazy stuff.

For my birthday I spent the morning in the bus terminal waiting for my new companion to arrive. After a few hours, Elder Pond´s bus arrived and we did  our little greeting. He´s nothing like I expected he would be like, but it´s not necessarily a bad thing. He´s a farm boy from Nebraska with only 5 months left in his mission. He´s got lots of experience, so I obviously have a lot to learn from him. The hardest part has been my own attitude. I´m bored of this sector because we have no one to teach. We walk down the streets and I can point to a house and tell him who lives there and how many times they´ve rejected us...ha. So hopefully he´ll have some new ideas to help us find people to teach and other ideas to help the inactive memebers I´ve been working with for the past 4 months, because I´m out of ideas. It´s been really difficult trying to plan for the days because he can´t help me since he´s new to the sector, and on top of that we usually have only 2 appointments a day--both of which end up falling through. We´ve spent all week tracting in 40 degree Celcius weather (which I think is around 108 degrees Farenheit or something). It´s been rough. And I don´t mean to just complain for the sake of complaining, but it´s because I want to lead in to a story:

Elder Townsend, my new roommate, and I were talking about the difficulty of mentally balancing the pressure of fulfilling the number requirements while remaining sane and truly helping the people. It´s so much easier said than done. I´ve become way too focused on the need to work and get X amount of lessons and X amount of people that I end up being in too big of a hurry to get things done. I´m always stressed and apparantly a really big downer for whomever I´m with. Elder Townsend told me that he had a rather similar experience in his past sector when the branch president quit and the branch was falling apart--not to mention Elder Townsends personal responsibilities with training a new missionary and being district leader. He was stressed, not fulfilling the standards of excellence, not teaching well, not finding good new investigators, etc. What finally made the biggest difference for him was when he began asking himself a simple little question each morning: ´´What would Christ do today?´´ By constantly trying to truly be a representative of Christ and striving to receive the personal revelation he needed, he found that everything began falling in place. He told me the story of how his grandmother was found by two young gringos in Argentina--the first two allowed to share the Restored Gospel in the country. Two generations later, Elder Townsend is serving a mission helping even more people receive the saving ordinances of this true gospel as well as changing and blessing the lives of all he meets. He told me that many years from now, the grandson of my recent convert Claudio will be telling one of his friends his own story, thanking his Heavenly Father that a young kid from the US and his Chilean companion dedicated two years of their life to serving the Lord and found his grandfather Claudio. That impacted me. I´ve always known it´s about people not numbers--I just lost sight of what´s most important. 

Despite the pressure to find new people to teach and have X amount of lessons with members and my personal desire to be on time, the Lord wants me to be a light in the life of others, not teach them a certain amount of lessons. So with the Lord´s help and with the patience of my companion, we´re going to take things a bit more slowly and truly focus on helping each individual come unto Christ.

I invite you to ask yourself a similiar question each time you feel yourself getting frustrated or depressed: ´´How would Christ react?´´ And I promise you that you have the capability to react the same way--it won´t necessarily be easy, but it´s possible. You have the light of Christ within you, and you are a child of God. You have the potential to become like Him. May the Lord bless you as you exercise your faith in Him to be patient and humble enough for Him to help you become like Him. He wants to be a part of your life--you just need to let Him.

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

New companion 1/14/13

Hello hello hello!

Well today is quite a weird day! It磗 my last day as a teenager. How weird is it to think that I spent the last 6 months of my adolescense living in Chile? haha how many of my highschool friends can say something like that?? But looking back it磗 been a great 6 months--difficult, frustrating, trying, uncomfortable, wonderful, joyful, and worth it.

Sounds like everyone at home is doing well too despite being so cold and stressed! Trina, Grampsir and Gramzy, Papa and Lenna and Lorinda, thanks so much for writing me! Unfortunately I don磘 have time to respond back individually today, but your emails mean so much to me! Thanks a ton! Love you!

News update: After 4 1/2 months with one companion in one sector, my companion Elder Torres is being transfered to San Pedro. One of my roommates is getting transfered to Temuco, and Elder Willcocks and I are staying in Los 羘geles. Our new companions are two gringos too! Ha, it磗 going to be pretty crazy! Besides setting a mission record for the longest amount of time spent together with us four, we are now also breaking a mission norm of having four North Americans in one house. But I磎 super excited, because Elder Willcock磗 new companion Elder Townsend was with me in the MTC! whoo! And my companion Elder Pond is my great-grandfather (in other words, he trained my trainer磗 trainer haha). Elder Pond as 18 months in the mission, so he磗 very well experienced. They don磘 arrive unil Tuesday, so I磍l send pictures next Monday.

Rather often during district and zone meetings, I look around and think to myself, 创We磖e just a bunch of kids. Living in Chile. Trying to teach people about Jesus. What the heck am I doing here?创 It磗 so strange to look around and realized that there are no adults governing us or babysitting us during these meetings or really anything else. I often wonder about what it will be like to send my own children on missions and realize that they will be in a foreign country where I will have no control what they do or what happens to them. It磗 a daunting thought. But when I glance about the room, I notice something else; despite being a bunch of teenagers from North and South America, we are well behaved. We are responsible. We are determined. We are endowed with power and authority, promised protection and health, and immensely blessed by our Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ. It磗 a powerful feeling. I磛e had real conversations with my Heavenly Father through prayers--more than just a list of things to thank or ask Him for. He listens, and He responds. But we have to prepare ourselves to be able to have such blessings from Him. We need to live righteously, always obeying all of His commandments. We need to live worthy of His guidance that He so willingly wants to give us. It can be very difficult, but it磗 so worth it. I know He磗 there. I know He will answer you. Just trust in Him, and patiently, faithfully await His response. Follow the counsel found in James 1:5, and follow the example of a young 14 year old boy that asked with faith. 

The Lord loves you. And He WILL bless you if you allow him. Mum and Dad, I磎 so glad that you have been keeping a list of the blessings you磛e been receiving. What a wonderful example for us to follow. 创Count your many blessings创 is more than just a catchy song, it磗 inspired wisdom. Have a wonderful week! Love you!

Elder Long

PS. Lacey, I came across a great scripture that you should read. Tyler should read it too now that he nears the dating age. It磗 in 1 John 3:18 (different from the Gospel According to St. John). It speaks great wisdom. Plus it made me laugh. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pictures from Chile

BBQ outside the missionary house 

Elder Long saves the day with his emergency water supply

Fixing the chapel ceiling after rains

My son the Chilean

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Talking to Tanner on Skype Christmas Day

Skyping with Tanner Christmas Day 2012

We're a captive audience talking with Tanner

First Week of January 2013

Hola hola!

Sounds like you all had tons of fun at the cabin! I'm so glad you got to enjoy the new year with the extended family--and with some fun visitors. That's so cool about Steven's mission call to Russia! How exciting! When does he report to the MTC? I missed you all, but we had a great new years down here too!

Our mission president wanted us in our houses by 8:30pm (as opposed to the usual 10pm), so we took advantage of it and had our own little bbq! We found some cement pieces to create a bbq pit, and borrowed a slab of metal from a neighbor for our grill. Oh yeah! It was crazy ghetto, but so delicious! Churripan is my favorite. I don't know if it exists in the US or not. I doubt it... It was the four of us plus two other missionaries from Mulchen (a nearby town) that stayed the night with us. On Tuesday we spent the whole day in our chapel as a zone with the APs (as mandated by President Martinez). It was for a number of reasons that all missionaries stayed inside, but mostly because he knew no real missionary work would get done. So we took advantage of the day to do capacitation and practices and meetings and set goals for the new year. It was a long day, but a fun day. It was very similar to being locked in the MTC again...haha.

One night this week we came home and the water wasn't working in the whole city because there had been roadwork that day and the water had yet to come back on. It had been an extremely hot day and we were dehydrated and exhausted and needed water. Luckily, just a week earlier, I had received a prompting to take some of the used soda bottles we had and clean them and fill them with water. Many thanks to our Lord for the inspired preparation, we had several liters of water to get us through the night (and honestly we didn't know how long we'd be without water). Luckily the water eventually came back on, but it was a sweet tender mercy of the Lord. There's a simple, basic testimony of the importance of heeding the counsel of the prophet to keep a water and food supply to get you through emergencies. I don't care if you're a college student or on a mission or too poor to even pay attention--the prophet speaks for the Lord who has wisely commanded us to be prepared. If the least you can do is a liter of water and some granola bars, do it. You never know what could happen. Be obedient, and the Lord will watch over you. Special thanks to my wonderful parents for teaching me that principle by always having food storage and preparing ahead. Woo fantastic examples!

This Friday we had interviews with President Martinez. He's an incredible man. He asked me how I would prepare myself if I were sent to a sector that only has a tiny branch instead of a ''large'' ward like the one I'm in now. Ay ay ay haha. So us missionaries have had a really fun time guessing and gossipping about who will get transfered and to where! That's always the large talk of the mission...haha it's silly but entertaining. 

Last night I dreamed that Mum was given special permission to be my companion for a day. We had fun talking in Spanish and teaching my current investigators! Love you, Mum. Thanks for the visit :) Random question, does the last name ''Camargo'' sound familiar to you? He's a missionary from Bogota and his parents got baptized about the same time you were on your mission. Just curious!

This Sunday was a marvelous Sunday. After a long week of tracting all day in extreme heat and intense sunshine with NO SUCCESS this week, we had our reward on Sunday. I've been working the past four months with my companion to get Ezequiel and his wife Lorena to come to church. They went inactive after they couldn't have children, then of course began struggling with a few other commandments. It's been an incredible struggle to get them to come. Therefore, I can't even describe the immense joy I felt when I saw them walk through the church doors this Sunday, hand in hand and nervous but happy smiles on their faces. Ah, such fulfilling joy and excitement! This gospel is true, and I hope each of you believe me when I say so. But more than just that, I want you to have your own testimony of it. God gives us a promise that if we have a question or doubt, we can ask Him directly and He will answer us as long as we ask in faith (James 1:5-6). We have that same promise in the Book of Mormon to help us feel four ourselves that the Book of Mormon truly is the word of God, and we can receive that testimony through the Holy Ghost, who testifies of truth and will teach us all things (Moroni 10:3-5). I invite you, and even exhort you, to find out for yourself. Read even just those three verses in the end of the Book of Mormon, and exercise your faith to ask God our Heavenly Father in a sincere, heartfelt prayer if the BoM is not true. Do it and expect an answer--meaning create the environment of quietness and peace to be able to receive an answer. And if you already have gained a testimony of the veracity of the Book of Mormon and this Restored Gospel, I invite you to do it again. The Lord counsels us to ''remember always.'' 

Family and friends, I love you. I miss you. And the Lord loves you ever so much more and misses you even more. He's anxiously awaiting your return to Him after this life, but we must live this life valiently and prepare ourselves for that rejoiceful day (Alma 34:32-34). Have a wonderful week, and may the Lord bless you in this new year. Make it the best one yet!

Much love,

Elder Long :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Christmas in Chile

In El Campo Christmas Day

Bipolar skies of Chile

Christmas Dinner

Onward Christian Soldiers 

Cheers to Tanner from the Longs 

Cheers to Tanner from Las Vegas

New Years from Chile

Mis seres queridos!

Thank you so much for all the great emails! I also got hilarious pictures from Trina, Cooper, and the family. I loved hearing from so many relatives this Christmas! Mum, rest assured that I also got your package!!! It came only a few days after Christmas haha. But I sure love it! Vamos a engordarnos no más! I also got fun letters from Tynica, Grandma, my Aussie Twinner Alissa, Krysta, and several ward members. It has been great! 

After skyping, I got to go out to the campo (woods) to spend the afternoon and evening with one of the member families in our ward. It was a blast! I took TONS of gorgeous pictures of all of their land out in the woods, and we feasted like never before. Whoo, it was delicious! It didn't feel like Christmas at all, ha, but we had fun :)

Quick requests: Dad, could you send me my line of authority please? I feel so bad that I don't have it! I could have sworn I put it in the envelope with my patriarchal blessing, but I can't find it :/ Thanks! Also, Mum, have you had time to work on getting that Schwann card? If not, how much is the fee to use the Visa I currently have? Because the raingear is much cheeper now that the rainy season is gone (despite the fact that it still rains 3 times a week...haha). Let me know please! Thanks!

Funny Spanish of the week: in the scriptures it talks about how when the Savior comes again, there will be "gnashing of teeth" among the wicked. In Spanish, the verb is "crujir" which also means to squeek. It just made me laugh reading about the "wailing and squeeking of teeth'' haha ;P

Ok, so this week was completely exhausting--not just for us, but for the entire zone. We worked like crazy to be able to get these last few people baptized before the end of the year. To give you a little taste of my missionary life, I'll explain my experiences with Alejandra. She's 33, 8 months pregnant, and we've been working with her ever since I arrived about 4 months ago. She hasn't been able to get baptized for reasons of not living the Law of Chastity, but finally everything got resolved and we had set a date for last Saturday--the same day Claudio Jr got baptized. When we passed by on Friday, she had decided not to do it. She came up with a number of excuses about physical pain from her pregnancy, etc. At long last (after a really cool personal experience of the Spirit speaking through me), we planned another baptismal service for her the following Saturday. It was her last chance before she has a C-section and won't be able to get baptized. Based on experience, we knew that if she didn't get baptized this Saturday, she would again lose the desire to take this important step in her life and she would never receive the forgiveness of her sins nor the blessings of having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. We worked like mad all week to keep her actively reading, praying, and maintain the desire to be baptized. We even made trips to visit her  when the Spirit prompted us too--which usually took about 2 hours because she lives in the campo. Finally the hour for the baptism had come, but she hadn't yet shown up. We divided amongst companionships to send out search parties for her. After another hour, someone spotted her getting on a bus headed the opposite direction. Meh.

After 4 months of hard work, fasting, praying, running across the city (often literally), and doing absolutely everything in our power to help her get baptized, she used her God given agency to choose not to follow through. We've done everything. Everything. It's been extremely disappointing, but the Lord has reassured me through the scriptures that I've done my part and I shouldn't be discouraged. So fear not, I'm doing well. Set back a bit, completely exhausted in every way, but cared for by the Lord. He loves us. He wants us to be happy. God has blessed each of us with our personal agency, and unfortunately at times it's a pain that we can't force people to accept the restored gospel haha. But all is well. The Lord knows best. I can testify that the true gospel of Jesus Christ really has been restored to the earth. Not just reformed, but restored. To restore means to bring back to its original state. We have a living prophet, we have apostles, we have the priesthood authority of God, and we have the opportunity to repent and be forgiven of our sins. May God bless you this next year as you do all of your part with the promise that God will do His. 

Feliz Año Nuevo!
Much love,

Elder Long :)