Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Letter May 28, 2013

Hey fambam,
This week was quite the crazy week! Our zone leaders implemented in our zone a new pilot program recently approved by President Martinez. The zone leaders have done it in only their sector for two months, have seen a lot of success, and now President has approved to have the entire zone try it out. If it proves to be successful, the entire mission will put in into affect. Basically it changes the ENTIRE way we work down here, so it's been an adventure getting everything ready to make the change. But it's been fun and we've already seen some good results. The zone leaders in Cañete doubled their church attendance over the past month (from 85 to 210), so we're excited for what we can do to help this small branch of Curanilahue do the same if not better. Our branch president and branch mission leader are excited, so I'll keep you updated!

As we reviewed this new ''Operation Alma (soul),'' I had my mind broadly opened. To me before the mission, church was always just a place to go each Sunday. Obviously each person must live the gospel every day, but as far as the purpose of having wards and stakes, it just seemed like a simple way to organize who occupies the building so that it's not overcrowded. Correct me if I don't speak for most LDS members that almost all of us think the same way. Allow me to blow your mind for a moment:
The purpose of each branch, ward, stake, or unit in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to prepare the respective members for the fulfillment of the last two prophecies that have yet to come to pass: 1) The Gathering of the House of Israel, 2) the Second Coming. Just as President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, all members need the following three things: 
1) A friend
2) An Assignment
3) To be nourished by the good word (AKA continue learning).
All of the auxiliary organizations like Home Teaching, Relief Society, Seminary, Sunday School, Visiting Teaching, etc are to fulfill these three things and prepare the members for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I never understood that before the mission. I simply attended church and didn't smoke or drink. I always figured that the missionaries work so hard in their gig while we just try to endure to the end. But I missed the point that the reason I was assigned to be a home teacher was to be a friend and help someone else endure to the end--not just pass by once a month. I missed the point that any and all assignments are to help the ward run smoothly so that the leaders and members can focus on the Lord's great work--gathering His children to prepare them for the 2nd Coming (AKA baptism and confirmation). I missed the point that all the classes and early mornings in seminary were to prepare me to be on the front lines of the defense against Satan as He intends to let the world go up in flames (and he is rapidly succeeding).
Being a member of the church is just for one's own personal salvation. Salvation isn't personal. No one can do it without fully living this gospel, and no one can fully live the gospel of Jesus Christ without helping others progress towards their Savior. It's what He requires of us if He is to forgive us of our sins.
I'm so grateful that the Spirit helped me come to such a mind-opening and life-changing realization. I did everything so wrong for so long. Each ward needs to be one team with the missionaries to help the Lord with His great work. I hope and pray that when I come home I don't let myself backtrack to the same level of thinking that I just have to show up at church and obey the commandments. It's not sufficient if I want to reach the Celestial Kingdom where Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ dwell.
Love you! Thanks for putting up with my rants! Have a great week!
Elder Long :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Zone activity

Zone conference games

Sister Sandoval from Colombia

Elder Munoz had to find candy hidden in a bowl of flower

Fun in chile May 20th, 2013

Just another passerby


Ward activity

May 20th letter

Hey fambam! We had a super fun zone activity in Los Alamos today and we got back late (the buses here are pretty sketchy) so I'll have to be quick! First off, thank you so much for all of those great emails this week! I got emails from aunts, grandparents, my wonderful parents, etc. I loved hearing from you all! My dearly beloved siblings....I'll be looking forward to hearing from you this next Monday! Sí or sí.
Quick request: Lacey or Mum, could you send me a recipe for chocolate cupcakes? Preferably from scratch. A ward member wants help making some (they don't exist in Chile). Also, when you get around to it, I would love some North American chocolate... ;)
We had a great miracle a few days ago as the Lord guided us in His work. We were working on the hill behind our apartments and were close to the house of an inactive family we had planned to visit later that evening. We weren't sure if we should just visit them now or go look for the house of a street contact we had done last week. If we went to look for Claudia's house, we'd have to do a lot of extra walking and backtracking. Unsure of what to do, we decided to say a companionship prayer together in the street. We bowed our heads and humbly asked for guidance. I felt prompted to visit Claudia despite how inefficient it would be. We arrived at her house and shared with her for about 7 minutes when her husband then arrived and they both had to leave. We headed back up the mountain and kocked on the door of the inactive family, who told us they had just barely gotten home. Had the Lord not prompted us where to go, we wouldn't have found anyone at home in either house and the whole evening would have been a loss. What a blessing that the Lord is serving this mission with me.
Daily seek for the Lord's guidance in all you do each day. He wants to be a part of each decision you make so that He can guide you and help you realize your full divine potential. Have a wonderful week! Love you!
Elder Long :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chilean Food

Weird Chilean fruit

Ward fiesta and Elder Long made "muddy buddies"

The monthly calendar

Chilean life

Chilean stove

Cooking fries outside

Just in case someone wants to steal a car you know...

Post Skype letter May 13, 2013

Hey fam-bam! It was so great to see you all yesterday! Benjamin is so huge, Tyler is still a goof, Lacey already looks like a gorgeous college girl, Bridgette is all grown up, and my sweet grandparents are still able to make jokes despite frail, aging bodies. I loved hearing what you're all up to! And yes, I am only still a bit trunky...haha. And yet at the same time I don't want to be home. I don't know what I would do at home. It's been a strange feeling of missing you yet at the same time knowing that this is where I'm supposed to be. It was fun to see the Boices too! Brad is still a stinkin stud and Trina is obviously loving teaching for BYU-I. I think I saw Tom's tall body walk in front of the camera once, but I couldn't really tell haha. Thanks so much for the letters and emails, including a great email from Cooper from El Salvador! He told me he brought along several copies of the Book of Mormon in both English and Spanish so that he can give them away while he's there. Major missionary points there! I'm still waiting to get those pics of Brad in his blue tux at prom (as well as Lacey's prom pics)!
Funny random fact: apparantly Windows has a new desktop setup since I´ve been gone, and I had no idea how to work it -__- hahaha so I got a little taste of what it's like to be the aging generation lost in advanced technology. Weird! I just wanted to share a quick scripture that you´ll need to look up--maybe you can read it as a family for FHE after skyping Brittany in Japan. It's in Doctrine and Covenants 88:118, and it describes exactly what God suggests to do since He knows that not everyone fully believes His gospel. It's rather simple and clear. He understands that sometimes we struggle with believing or having enough faith, and thus he counsels us what to do to help everyone know with certainty whether or not this Restored Gospel really is the truth.
Have a wonderful week! Love you! See you in 7 months!
Elder Long :)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pictures May 6, 2013

Doing a skit for their ward

Spanglish on products

Proud to read the Book of Mormon in 3 months

Letter from Tanner May 6, 2013

Mis seres queridos,
What crazy and exciting news about preparing the house to be sold! I would personally prefer to come home to the same house because I sure loved that place, but I definitely understand. It will be in my prayers that Heavenly Father help you find a buyer. Lacey, send me some Canes!!!!! Ah man that made me so hungry to hear that you're working there hahaha. Have you mentioned to your boss or anything about what they did for me my senior year in high school? ha, good stuff :)
Quick news and updates: This week we had a pretty big storm roll through and we were left without water for two days and didn't see the sun for three days...haha. Woo! Our ''waterproof'' clothes stopped working after the first hour on the first day.... But I had fun convincing myself that I was the only person I knew that had survived a Chilean South American rainstorm ;) One night I even finally got to experience a little earth tremor! We were in the apartment chatting when the place started shaking haha. I thought it was so cool because I had never felt a legit tremor or earthquake before. Yeehaw!
Other awesome news: I get to skype you next Sunday!!! Yay having a wonderful mother with whom I can chat! To coordinate better than we did for Christmas, I'll be allowed to call you quickly sometime this week. A member down here has a google account from which I can call without spending tons of money, so be waiting for that (hopefully Wednesday). We have church early in the morning and then I can do it whenever during the day (plus we're supposedly 3 or 5 hours ahead...) so I'll give you a call so we can truly figure out the time change. Yay! Also, write down any questions you want to ask or stories you want to tell me!
This week we had a really difficult time with our investigators not progressing and/or mysteriously disappearing, but we did have an awesome experience Saturday evening. We had met with a member to accompany us to a lesson, but the investigator wasn't home (despite having a set appointment). Neither were our 4 backup plans... Ha. So my companion suggested we headed further up the mountain where an old investigator supposedly lived. Not home. With another 30 mins until our next appointment, we started heading further up the hill hoping to do some contacts. I commented to the member accompanying us that we would simply follow the Spirit since all our plans failed. We ended up getting lost because we had wandered into a zone we had never before walked. I stopped to ask a man that was cutting firewood in front of his house, and when we looked up, we recognized each other. It was Daniel, the miracle 50th mantacto from last week who hadn't told us where he lived because we had met in the house of his friend. The Spirit had guided us to his house in a sector we had never been to where his recently widowed mother told us she wants us to teach her too. We helped him finish cutting firewood, and their nextdoor neighbors commented how nice Mormons are and that they would like some help too. MIRACLE! I was so grateful that the Lord had guided us even when we didn't realize that that's what was happening. He sure knows better than we do ;) It's definitely easy to  say that this was a coincidence. My own brain tries to do that too. But I testify with surety that it was the Lord's plan to guide us to these two families. There are no coincidences--especially not with missionary work, the work of the Lord. I know He lives and directs His restored church to help us prepare ourselves for the day He comes again. All will know, and ALL will confess that He is the Christ.
Have a wonderful week. Love you! Talk to you SOON!
Elder Long :)