So to answer a few questions first: The mission president's wife has a meeting tomorrow Tuesday (18th) with the doctor to schedule the surgery. I actually think you'll know before I will haha. I'd love to do a skype afterwards if President will let us. I think the begging will have to come from you, Mum, rather than me haha. I'm not nervous now--i might be the night before though--but thanks for all the reasurring words. I also know that the Lord will be watching over it all. Interesting to find out that it really was genetics. Of course it was the first thing the doctor asked me, but I had never heard of anyone in our family that had that. Bummer. But it will for sure make for a good story ;) Mum, refrain from buying a plane ticket to Chile...haha.
All your fun pictures make it look like you had a great trip to New York! I'm so jealous. Other announcement: We have transfers tomorrow, but all four of us (Elder Kohler, Rabanales, París, and I) are staying together here in Curanilahue for another 6 weeks! Granted, I'll be in Conce for about a week, but same idea.
My time is short, but I wanted to tell you about a cool guy I met this weekend. José and his wife showed up at our ward activity because they were visiting from Concepción and noticed that our chapel was open (they got baptized last August). They are a young married couple, and José is deaf. I felt sooooo frustrated that I couldn't remember the least bit of sign language that I had learned as a kid, but I was still able to communicate with him a bit. Sunday morning there he was in the chapel, ready for church. I marveled for three hours as he quietly and patiently sat in all the classes, obviously not being able to participate. I gave him my manual to read and he appreciated that. I kept trying to figure out why he was there. It obviously wasn't for the inspiring classes. Nor did he have any friends there. When sacrament meeting started (for us it's the 3rd hour), I watched him carefully still trying to figure out why he had come if he didn't hear a single word. Maybe he at least felt the Holy Ghost?I was so glad he was there, but I was just bewildered as to why he would do that each week. I was humbled as I realized why.
He reverently and humbly partook of the bread and water that represented the body and blood of Christ--the Sacrament. Despite probably being bored for 3 hours, he knew that he had the opportunity to renew his baptismal covenants and receive forgiveness for his sins (Moroni 4). I was reminded of the sanctity of such a simple act, and I'm so grateful I got to meet and converse with him. He taught me some sign language (which actually is different from ASL) and I felt such a strong gratitude towards him for teaching me so much about the importance of church attendance and partaking of the sacrament. It's an opportunity to set all worries aside and focus solely on Christ and His great atoning sacrifice. What a wonderful blessing.
First off, since I won't get to write until after the fact, Happy Father's Day Dad! Love you! Thanks so much for your great letters and advice each week. I always get a kick out of hearing about your sports life with Ben. I have so many fun memories of getting to travel with you all over each week for baseball games--eventhough I usually had a pretty lousy attitude on the way home if I didn't do well...haha thanks for loving me enough to put up with me. You da bestest :)
Other news for the week: You'll probably be getting an email from my mission presidents wife explaining why I'll be having surgery in about two weeks... Apparently I have a nice-sized hernia that's been hurting me for a while now, so we'll finally be getting that taken care of. The good news is I can stay here in Chile and not have to come home for surgery. So.........Happy father's day! haha. No need to worry, there was another missionary that had the same surgery a few months ago. He lived and walks only a little crooked now... ;P
I've been checking off all kinds of fun 创Things to do in a foreign country创 list: Get food poisoning, hitch-hike, pee on a wall when noone will let us use their bathroom, etc. Next up: surgery!
But on a more spiritual note, I had a tender experience this week as I testified to an investigator about God's Plan of Salvation and why we have trials in this life. I was sharing a story about one night in particular while I was at BYU. I was extremely frustrated that a few doctor's papers were impeding my missionary papers from being sent and for some reason I felt like it was the end of the world. I remember skyping Mum and Dad, getting angry, and storming out of my dorm room. Despite the cold wintery night, I knelt myself down on the outside 3rd floor patio and began to cry to the Lord for help. When I calmed down a bit, I sat down in the corner and cried for a while. After a few minutes, my best friend and roommate Cameron walked out and sat down on the cold patio next to me. He didn't need to say much to help me feel that he loved me and cared for me. He probably doesn't realize how huge of a blessing that was for me. He was an immediate answer to my prayer.
Looking back, I don't know why that was so frustrating for me or why I felt like I would never get to serve a mission. Here I am, serving with the Lord. As I shared that story with this investigator, the Lord opened my mind and helped me comprehend on a much deeper level what our problems in this life will seem like when we reach the next life. Despite how difficult and overwhelming some challenges may seem, if we humbly and faithfully seek the Lord's help, He will help us. And when we look back on all of this life's difficulties, we might even laugh at why it seemed so hard and be grateful that we passed the test. I know that Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ live. I know they love us. I know they restored Christ's true church with the fullness of the gospel to help us return to live with them someday.
Howdy hey loved ones :) I don't have any super exciting stories for this week unfortunately, but there were enough questions about Operation Alma that I can talk about that for a bit. But other important things first:
Lacey and Tyler, happy birthday!!!! I wish I could celebrate with you, but the good news is we have years ahead of us to do so. Do you think we'll still celebrate some type of birthday when we're in heaven? --maybe even celebrate our death because we returned to the presence of God? No sé! But I hope it's been a good one! You two are so stinkin old!!! Behave yourselves and please be verrrryyy careful while you drive! Love you :)
As far as Operation Alma: We have always worked according to sectors within each city. In these small towns in Chile (each one separated by about 45 mins) we have 4 missionaries and divide the town in half. Each companionship has their own set of investigators, less actives, and recent converts and has to plan their day and use their time accordingly. However, Operation Alma erases all boarders and we now work as one team in the entire city. Now, one companionship works 100% with only investigators and coordinates with members to have them accompany them for lessons, and the other companionship works 100% with inactives and recent converts. Immediate results that we saw this past week: We never had more than 9 lessons with a member present each week for the past 3 months; This week Elder París and I worked extremely hard to put into affect this new plan, and we ended with 21 lessons with a member present. Boo ya. We feel great despite how exhausting it has been. We expect that as we continue with Operation Alma, the members will become more excited to accompany us, inactives will become reactivated, and our number of mensual baptisms will increase as well. We're excited!
It's been a difficult change (not to mention that it rained all day every day all week!), but things will get more fluid soon. Keep on with the work in your own respective wards! There is a common and major error in Mormon culture that ''missionary work'' is for young men and young women ages 19-21. Missionary work really doesn't exist. It's the Lord's work, and He commands that all of His children actively participate. Have a wonderful week! Love you! Elder Long :)