Monday, January 27, 2014
Hey fambam. This week was packed full of meetings, meetings, interviews, and more meetings. Actually, in terms of teaching lessons, Elder Bills and I both feel that this was the worst week we've ever had in the mission haha. Nonetheless, it was a spiritually edifying week. I sure love President Martinez and his family. He is one of the most inspired men I've ever met. So with all the meetings we didn't get much done in our own sector despite working ourselves to death, but we still saw some grand miracles.
Yazna and Cristian, a married couple in their 40's, came back from a long vacation and we finally got to visit them Saturday night. We had about 15 mins, but we chatted for a bit, read a bit from 3 Ne 27 about Christ describing His gospel, and both of them eagerly accepted to be baptized on Feb 15th!!!! Wahoo!!!!! She's been dying to get baptized for months but President wanted us to wait for the husband, and then they went out of town for 3 weeks. They are back and ready. So exciting!
What's also awesome is to see our recent converts progressing so much. Pablo (a 17yr old that got baptized earlier this month) accompanies us to lessons all the time and has brought friends and inactive family members to church. We also had a super fun ward activity in the campo (woods?). The ward went out to a woodsie place where all day they played soccer, volleyball, chatted, swam, and had a bbq. We missionaries only stayed for a little bit because we had so much work to catch up on, but wow did we have a great time. I can't even describe how much I've missed playing volleyball, but the best part was playing with my recent converts and the members. It's so gratifying to watch them have fun together and feel confident that even after I leave they will stay faithfull and active. Only downside: the top of my poor head got burned to a crisp....haha.
Fun facts: I got birthday packages from Mum and Denice! Wahoo!!!! Thanks so much! Soooooo many delicious treats! Not to mention the beautiful new tie and some great socks haha. Youz da bestest!
Elder Douglas, our roommate that has about 6 months in the mission, is such an awesome kid. He was the biggest stud in his highschool and he's great at EVERYTHING he does. One of the best parts of the mission is living with 3 other guys with whom I can always discuss the gospel. As he and I conversed about Christ's life and example one evening, Elder Douglas said something that I had never quite thought about before. He said, ''Christ didn't just die for us; He lived every moment of His life for us.'' Everything Christ did, He did with wise purpose knowing that we would read and study all about it. He said and did everything in a precise way for a precise reason. Always. And as He was beaten, spat upon, mocked, whipped, and hung on the cross, He had us in mind. His love is so unmeasurable that He immediately asked the Father to forgive those that were crucifying Him, for they knew not what they were doing. Too often, we doubt or sin because we don't fully understand what we're missing out on. I had a tender experience this week of talking to a sweet sister missionary who wanted to end her mission because she missed home too much and wanted to comfort her mom after the loss of her grandfather. My heart was filled with love and compassion for her as she asked me what to do. All I could do was thank her for her trust and express our love and gratitude that she is in the mission doing what the Lord needs of her. President Martinez then testified to her that she can't go home until she knew what she would be missing out on. She's yet to feel the immense joy of watching someone's eyes fill with tears when they realize that what we're teaching them is true. She's yet to fully comprehend the happiness that comes from watching a loved one enter the waters of baptism and change their life. We can't give up until we fully know and understand what we would be missing--yet I know that no one would ever give it up if they truly understood. God loves us and wants to forgive us. Christ lived every moment in a way so that if we follow Him, we'll be happy, free from guilt or sin, and be able to overcome any sorrow or despair that we might otherwise feel. Of that I testify with all my heart.
Elder Long :)
Monday, January 20, 2014
Thanks so much for all the birthday wishes! It was great hearing from you! I'm so bummed I don't have enough time to reply to everyone individually, but know that you made me feel special! Monday night we had a little birthday party /going-away party for Hna Porter and me. Her birthday was the 14th and mine the next day. She got transfered to the north but I stayed here in Villa Obispo. We had a good little party with our neighbors (awesome young family with whom we spent Christmas). They are so sweet. My actual birthday I spent in a different sector because I had to do an exchange haha but we had a great time. I lived with Elder McOmie in Yumbel for a long time so it was great to spend my birthday with him. The dumb part is I forgot my cable at home and now cant send the pictures! Bah, I'll send them next week. But it was a day of miracles. All of our plans and appointments fell through, so we just relied on the Spirit and had some GREAT lessons and found some fantastic people for his sector. Wahoo!!!
I now live with Elder Bills, Elder Douglas, and his new companion Elder Lopez. Elder Lopez is the most gringo of all four of us. He's from Texas, has a thick southern accent, and still struggles with his spanish haha. But he's such an excellent guy. I love these 3 guys so much. What a pleasure it is to serve with them.
Other fun facts of the transfers: my ''son'' that I trained, Elder París, is now zone leader with my good buddy Elder Townsend (who has been the AP for the past 11 months). Also, Elder Tengberg, my MTC companion, is the new AP with Elder White, who was in my MTC district. One big happy haha. It's so fun and exciting watching them be the great leaders that they are. My hope is that Elder París will be the AP that leaves me in the airport in 5 months time. I believe!
This Sunday in church I had a wonderful revelation--that is to say, my understanding of Christ's atoning sacrifice was deepened. As I pondered the pre-mortal existance, I was reminded of the simple fact that Christ obviously knew us very personally before we were born. He is our older brother. Thus, as He atoned in the Garden of Getsemani, He knew for which person He was suffering. The Atonement is much more than just a sum total of debt paid to the Father; it is personal act of love done individually for each person who has ever existed or will yet to exist. Christ loved us so much before we were born that He was willing to suffer, bleed, and die for us. That is why He knows us intimately and can truly help us if we humbly repent and live the gospel He has given us.
I know that Christ lives. He loves us. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have each day to testify that to the Chileans. May we always seek the Lord's mercy and guidance as we kneel in prayer each day.
Elder Long :)
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Hey fambam! Let me just start out by saying how filled I am with joy right now. One of the most gratifying things I could have ever seen was that both Mum and Dad´s emails started out with ''This week we did some good member missionary work...'' Wahooo!!!!! I'm so proud of you! That's TOTALLY what EVERY ward needs! Thanks for being the best parents I could ever have, and thanks for being such a great example to the rest of the members in the ward. I'm sure the missionaries really appreciate your help. And if they don't, send them down to Chile for a month...
Before the mission I loved to rock climb, ride four-wheelers, wakeboard, play football, snowboard, and just have fun trying to enjoy all of the healthy acitivities life has to offer. This week, however, I did one of the most dangerous things I have EVER done. In humble prayer, I told Heavenly Father that I was willing to be put into the flame. I want to learn and grow, and I know that the mission is the best place to do it in shorter periods of time. The heat started immediately. The first thing He did was put my humility to the test. I'll give more details another day, but suffice it to say that it's been a difficult week as a leader in the mission. The light at the end of the tunnel for me has been the promise in Doctrine and Covenants 58:2-4. Read it. It's good. The promise of many blessings after much tribulation was fulfilled much sooner than I thought as we so joyfully baptized our beloved investigators Dagna and Pablo. Dagna is the eldest daughter of Isabel, who was baptized at the end of December, and Pablo is another young man who has bravely turned his life around. What stalwart examples they are of young faith and trust put in their loving Heavenly Father.
These past six weeks have been incredible as Elder Bills and I have been put to the test over and over again, seen TONS of miracles, and been blessed with the privilege of helping four people come unto Christ through repentance and baptism. Elder Bills and I will be together for one transfer more, so we're excited to see the Lord's hand in this work this transfer.
I love the Lord. He's so merciful and forgiving for our mistakes and dumb choices. I'm so grateful for the gospel in my life and the marvelous opportunity to serve Him and His children for two whole years. What joy and satisfaction unlike any other is found in doing the Lord's will. Have a wonderful week! Keep up the great work!
Elder Long :)
Monday, January 6, 2014
Hey fambam! What a wonderful weekend we had! We had a bautizaso with four people being baptized and another four dressed in white to baptize them! What a wonderful white Christmas in this melting Chilean summer heat! Our investigator Isabel has been preparing herself to get baptized for a while now, and Friday night we had a miracle with her 13 yr old son Anibal who also decided he wanted to get baptized with her. In that same evening, his older sister who has now been learning from us for a week also decided she wants to get baptized January 4th (this weekend). Wahoo!!!!!! The other two baptisms this past weekend were a 39 yr old daughter of a member in our ward and a young awesome 24 yr old Jhonny from the ward that shares our building. It was a fantastic baptismal service and the Spirit was soooo strong! There were over 15 other invesigators (friends that Jhonny invited).
We've worked verrrrrrrrryyyyy long and hard to finally have some baptisms, and it was just an additional blessing to see so many people make that step in their life all in the same day. What a wonderful gift they gave to their Savior for His birthday. It sure has been a long trial to find people that have been willing and diligent to progress in Christ's gospel, but the Lord has provided them a way to come unto Him, and He has given us missionaries the opportunity to participate in His miraculous and fulfilling Work of Salvation. I really was filled with an overwhelming joy and sense of fulfillment as we watched each person be submersed in the waters of baptism. I even had the blessing to confirm Anibal a member of the Church and bestow him the gift of the Holy Ghost. I've participated in that sacred ordinance before, but this was my first time pronouncing the prayer.
The best news of all is that Isabel's husband, who has been supportive but hasn't wanted to participate, came to the baptism. Actually, Friday night we were able to have a great conversation with him because he sat down to participate in our lesson and we had a frank conversation about how he feels about his family getting baptized. He said he's happy for them and that one day he might follow along as well. As he watched his wife and son be baptized, tears filled his eyes. We've yet to have the chance to talk to him since the baptism, but I know he felt something special.
We're also working with another family who's wife had a dream that she needs to get baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She's extremely excited and has brought her husband to church twice now. He's a busy man and hard to find, but he seems like he'll be an excellent leader.
In summary, we're working ourselves as hard as we can, and we are so grateful that the Lord has guided us to several wonderful families and allowed us to see success in their baptisms and spiritual progress. I sure love you, family, for being such a great example for others. We're not perfect either, but our family truly is unique and the Lord has big plans for each member of our family. Keep up the great work. Love you!
Elder Long :)
Hey fam bam! This is officially my first email of 2014. It's still strange to me how futuristic that sounds. Not to mention how FAST these past 18 months have flown by. What a mind trip. Elder Bills makes me laugh that he is constantly talking about being home (he goes home in May), and we realized together that we'll both be home for Christmas! haha he's a goof.
Thanks so much for the letters everyone wrote me during Thanksgiving! I got those this week during a mission conference for zone leaders. The delay gives me such an appreciation and gratitude that we have email. Tender mercies of the Lord.
What crazy news about Cameron! Dear friends and family, I 100% depend on you to convince him to wait until I get home so that the BEST FRIEND SINCE 2 YEARS OF AGE can approve of his bride to be.
I also have a few shout-outs to do. This Saturday will be Joseph Pearce's birthday. I honestly don't know if he's still in the mission field or not, but send my old friend birthday wishes on my behalf! Old geizer.
I also found out that my blog where mum posts my emails has become somewhat well-known. Apparently, several young men who received their mission calls to this mission had been reading my blog until they parted for the MTC. How cool! Haha. I was able to meet one of them a few weeks ago. To anyone else who may be reading as they prepare to serve in the Chile Concepción South Mission, I want to welcome you to ''la única misión celestial!'' This really is a celestial mission with a celestial mission president. He and I both end our missions in the next six months, but if you arrive before then, I'd love to shake your hand and welcome you in person.
In our leadership conference on Friday, President Martinez pointed out that of the 33 of us present (20 zone leaders, 8 sister missionaries, 4 Asistents, and pres), only five people would remain in the next six months. All of us are ending our missions very soon. So that put a huge responsibility on us to prepare new leaders for the mission and especially to help the transition to the next mission president.
We continued to have a great conference as we decided on future leaders, made adjustments in our verification process, and dicussed huge changes of how we work as a mission. For the past year, we worked with Operation Alma, in the which one companionship worked only with recent converts and less-active members, and the other companionship worked with investigators. That has now ended. We are going back to ALL missionaries working to find, teach, and baptize. Operation Alma worked wonders, but the wards didn't do their part to retain everyone we brought back. So with some reforms in how we work with the ward leaders, we should have some more success.
I can't come even close to fully expressing the HUGE IMPORTANCE of the members in the work of salvation. The missionaries are meant to help the ward in their efforts as we bring people to the gospel. But all of the retention and reactivation depends on the members to truly fellowship the new people and help them feel comfortable and learn more about the gospel after baptism. Mum and Dad, your role as ward missionaries is soooo crucial to the success that the new members stay active.
As missionaries, we are just teenagers pushing adulthood. We're not perfect, and we're not capable of doing all of this work alone. We absolutely need the members to participate if we are going to help others come unto Christ and endure to the end. I know that the Lord lives, and I know that He qualifies whom He calls. He will bless each person and their family who participates in helping others learn of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's so worth it. I'm so glad Dad got to attend the baptism of Margo. I actually do remember her, and I'm so excited she got baptized!!! Keep up the great work! I sure love you!
Elder Long :)