Monday, December 29, 2014

Bike wreck in Chile, Last of the Last Letters from Argentina

Mother’s Note:  Chad had a wreck on his bike and flipped in the air landing on his head and also hurting his hip.  He told us on Christmas that his companion did the sideline High School sport concussion test and declared that he didn’t have a concussion.  I am grateful for all the angels who watch over missionaries.  We had a good talk on Christmas with both Rebecca and Chad, and we are excited for her return home on Wednesday afternoon Dec. 31.

Dear Family,
Well, Merry Christmas to all of you, and a Happy New Year!!  This week has been good.  Camilla and Aaron were all set to be baptized, but Aaron was a bit forgetful and drank coffee the morning of his interview.  They are still excited to be baptized and will do it this Saturday.

This town is normally pretty calm and peaceful, but our bikes were stolen on Saturday.  I will be looking for a used bike today, (the uglier the better - protection against theft).  

I haven’t written very much, but we will talk on Christmas, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.

I have been healing rapidly from the bike wreck.  My hip that hurt for a day was a very manageable pain, and now it is perfectly fine, just a good bruise.  I haven’t had any of the head injury symptoms you mentioned in your email.  

We have cambios and I am staying here and my companion is going to Concepcion.  My new companion will be Elder Durrant. 

Love you all more than the number of Christmas trees it would take to cover the Sahara desert so it looks green from Space.
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
I know we are going to be able to talk tomorrow, but I just wanted to send a little note anyway.  I hope you all know how much I love you and how grateful I am to be a missionary.  Lots of changes are on the way for me, and I am excited to take them on but also anxious.    

I have learned more than words could truthfully or accurately explain, I have worked for a testimony....and I know for sure that this Church is the only one with the truth.  I have learned what it is like to go hungry or thirsty because there isn’t anything to eat, or no clean water to drink......what it’s like to get soaking wet in a rain storm or to roast in intense and humid heat.  I have seen a person rough around the edges or closed to the gospel experience a change of heart.  I have seen the restoration video at least a hundred times......and the part when Joseph Smith wakes up early to go to the Sacred Grove still gives me goose bumps.  I know what it is like to learn a new language, or try whacky weird foods all in the name of showing love to the person who cooked it.  I have been one of 10 people at church each week, and I have defended my testimony and what I know is the truth.  I have worked hard to be obedient every day of my mission.....and even though I am light years away from being perfect, I am grateful for my mission experiences which have helped me become a little more like Christ.  

I know that missions exist so that we can help others come unto the truth, but Heavenly Father is incredibly efficient, because as he sends missionaries around the world, as they lose themselves in service.....they too become more converted, just like the new converts.  I am grateful that He let me help for little bit in his vineyard, in this corner of the world.  I didn’t do it perfectly, but He let me help anyway and I am so grateful.

I love you more than the number of people getting ready to travel for the holidays!
Hermana Withers

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaching the Mission President the Atonement, Blessings of Obedience

December 15, 2014

Dear Family,
This week has been a pretty normal week, with nothing too much happening.  We are really working hard so that Camilla and Aaron will be baptized this Thursday.  Their interview is tomorrow, and tonight we are going to go over tithing, even though they have already accepted it.  If you could pray for them, that nothing happens that stops them from being baptized this week, it would mean a lot.  They are that young couple I wrote about several weeks ago.  They have two young daughters, and are a really nice family.  We went to their house Sunday morning to make them breakfast, and then went to church together, it was fun.  We were going to make hole-in-ones, but we messed up and ended up making scrambled eggs and toast, but their toaster was being troublesome, so we put butter on both sides of the toast and put it in a pot and put the pot on the stove, and it seemed to work out all right.  

This week we had interviews with the president, and it was great.  President decided to have us teach about the atonement for 5 minutes to him as if he were an investigator, and that was pretty much the interview.  He told the mission with several weeks notice to study the atonement, and then on the interview teach him in a simple manner as if he wasn’t a member.  I am sure it must have been a great couple of weeks for President.  Also his wife, as with almost every interview gave us cookies, this time large home-made Oreos.  Yea!

Well, I am happy and healthy and looking forward to another week in Chile.  I love you all so much, more than the number of watts of electricity needed to power all the Christmas lights in the world for 1 second.
 -Elder Withers

Dear Family,
This week was pretty normal for me...... we keep on teaching, talking to everyone about Christmas and “He is the Gift” we work a lot with the members, even though there are so few..... We eat lots of otter pops, and have strong testimonies of the gospel.  This week we had several people ask us for help in terms of service projects which was kind of cool, because hardly anyone lets us help them.....but we helped a less active lady who just had eye surgery go to the grocery store and buy groceries, another less active lady clean up the weeds in her front yard, and another  lady move some furniture around in her house....... all three projects were to help old ladies, and it was worthwhile.

Galvez has been a fun place to be for the Christmas season, because they actually decorate here.  There are several houses with Christmas lights, nearly everyone has a Christmas tree put up inside, with several people who have an extra outside, and all the stores are very awesomely decorated.  It’s pretty amazing.  

I really don’t know what else to write from this week.  I keep on keeping on, although I must admit....finishing a mission is not for the faint of heart.  It has been hard.  Everyone reminds me about it......but I am finishing strong.  I sometimes feel like I am in a weird emotional and spiritual and physical limbo, between finishing one stage of life and beginning another.....but I am doing well.  I am learning lots about enduring to the end, and noticing the little blessings that I receive each day.  
I am excited for Christmas and the chance to talk to all of you.  These next two weeks we have are super fast paced with lots of meetings, paperwork in Rosario, and of course......CHRISTMAS.  I am excited and I hope you all know how much I love you.  I really am doing well and being 100% obedient....because it’s the only protection we have, blessings from obedience.

I love you all more than the number of Christmas traditions that families have all around the world.
Hermana Withers

Miracles in Chile and Argentina this week!

December 7, 2014

Dear Family,
Well, this last week was really quite exciting.  It was really hot.  But, I greatly enjoyed being able to teach Patricio, as well as interview other baptismal candidates.  It is honestly one of the most rewarding things in the mission, interviewing people for baptism.  I was really tired all week because of waking up early to finish teaching Patricio, but it was all worth it.  He was baptized, as well as the family the other elders were teaching.  One of the people I interviewed, Carlos, asked me to baptize him.  It was neat that all 4 elders were able to baptize.  

There was a real miracle this week.  The day of the baptismal service, Patricio was working on a roof, and some old wood gave in, he lost his footing, and fell about 10 feet from the roof, landing really bad on the concrete ground, hurting his head a little bit, but his head landed on something soft, but then a large heavy piece of roofing material fell from the roof and landed on his head.  He was unconscious for a little bit, but soon he was able to ride his bike, with great pain, to the car of the Kauers a missionary couple (from Rexburg) who were passing through Parral to drop stuff off, and they took us and him and his bike to the church for the baptism.  He was obviously hurting really bad, and Hermana Kauer gave him a couple of extra strength Tylenol pills.  The baptism went well, and Patricio commented that he felt great, pain free, the baptism took not only his sins away, but also took away his physical pain.  The Atonement of our Savior is an infinite sacrifice, he suffered for not only our sins but also our heartaches, disappointments, embarrassments, and pains of all kinds, spiritual and physical.  The next morning he was still doing great, without pain.  It is a miracle.

I love my mission, and I have a testimony that God lives and loves us. I am out of time now, I love you all, and have a lot more to say, but will send more next week.
I love you more than the number of drops of water in the Pacific ocean.
Elder Withers

Dear Famliy,
I am sitting at sort of an old and ancient dinosaur of a computer, and the exclamation point button doesn’t work, so all of them are going to be upside down today¡
This was a pretty good week.  We keep moving forward with the Christmas plan the church is doing, and it’s been cool, because people are a little bit nicer, and much more receptive to us.  There is something about the Christmas spirit that softens hearts and makes everyone a little bit kinder.  The church has suffered major blows here in Galvez for what disobedient missionaries messed up....... the name of the Christ wasn’t always appropriately represented like it should have been or deserved to be here, and it’s been taking a ton of work to clean it all up....because in small towns, gossip flies at record speeds.   That’s why we are trying to take full advantage of the Christmas spirit while it lasts, because we are making huge advances here with people and a few neighborhoods that have been tricky for us to get to....and its cool to see the miracles and progress¡  The work has never been easy, but it is always’s always possible to see miracles, and witness change and progress......sometimes the moment we wish to see the miracle or progress isn’t always on the same schedule as the Lords.......but they always come. 

We taught Eduardo again, and we taught him the Word of Wisdom.  I admit I was a little nervous as to what he was going to say about all of it....but we said a prayer before going in, and it was a miracle.  We explained that we don’t drink alcohol....and he responded, ´´Oh....I always drink wine with my dinner, but I can just start drinking more juice that’s okay, what else do I need to know?´´  Then we went to coffee and tea, and he said, ´´Well....I don’t know about those two, I really like coffee in the morning to wake me up, but you know what.....I could start drinking more mate¨......what else?´´ And we said, ´´Well....we don’t consume illegal drugs and he said, ´´great no problem there´´ and we also don’t consume tobacco......and when we got to tobacco he went ballistic, saying that he had changed his mind about getting baptized, that smoking isn’t that bad for you, that he needs cigarettes to calm himself down and so on.......the man who before was telling us he was willing to start drinking more juice and mate changed completely, and my heart sunk to the very depths.....we didn’t know what to do.  We calmed him back down...good thing his wife was sitting there with us the whole time, I said like a dozen more prayers in my head......and we started to talk about smoking, and why Heavenly Father asks us not to do it.  It took about thirty minutes of extra explaining and divine intervention from Heaven putting the words in our mouths, but by the end he said.......”It’s true you are right, I have always needed to stop smoking, but I have never really tried.....because truthfully I like smoking.”  He said, ´´God has told me I need to be baptized, so I better stop smoking to make it´´   What a miracle¡

I really don’t know how it happened or how he changed again, but he is truly progressing and changing.  His wife told us later as we were heading out of the house, that for the first time in their thirty years of marriage he said he would stop smoking, before he would fight back or say no, or completely avoid the subject.  Truly amazing.  

On Sunday morning we also went to pick-up a less active family.  The dad always goes, but the mom and kids never do.  We have been working with them since we got here, and when we showed up at their house on Sunday morning to walk to church....we found a family, with the dad and deacon aged son in white shirt and black slacks, the mom in a skirt and her other two boys with combed hair and neatly cleaned clothes.....ready at 8:15 to walk.....they live super far from the chapel and are very very poor, but seeing them make a sacrifice to sharpen up and go to church on Sunday was like Christmas early, they will be eternally blessed for all earthly sacrifices they make to be obedient, no matter how large or small.  

We are just trying to keep up with everything....we are always looking for new investigators, we still clean the chapel each week......may the members who do that each week in their wards or branches be blessed¡.......we keep meeting more and more less actives, and I am truly just so happy.  Happy to be a missionary, and happy to be a member.  

Galvez has done an impressive job with Christmas La Paz last year they didn’t have anything until Christmas Eve, and what they pulled out was kind of pathetic.  This year all stores have nice big trees, lights, music, Santa things and so on....I love it¡  I truly love Christmas.  
Thanks for all your wonderful letters.  In response to questions about Christmas plans. 

Galvez is sort of an interesting situation, in that not a single member here has a computer with internet.   Some have phones with internet, and others have computers but no internet......and we also don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with because the rule from President is that Christmas Eve has to be spent with an active member family, no part member families or less active families allowed.... no non-members may be present for reasons of safety and so avoid people drinking and swearing and stuff, and so in Galvez we find ourselves in a bind, because a perfect and wonderful family like that doesn’t exist yet, but our wonderful branch president yesterday invited us to spend Christmas with him and his family.  And they are out of this world wonderful, the only thing is that they live two hours away in Santa Fe, but we asked our Mission President for permission pleading our case....and it has been granted.  Our Branch President has offered to come and pick us up, spend Christmas Eve with his family, then we will spend the night with sister missionaries who live there, the next day use his computers to call home, and then return to the apartment of the sisters in Santa Fe....for security reasons.  Remember how the police went on some sort of lame strike last year?  Well they are expecting it again, and this year worse.  So Christmas is to be strictly spent in the apartment, and on Friday we will return to Galvez.  Those are our Christmas plans......wonderful right?¡  We have to skype home as soon as possible after studies, all for the same security reasons.....which would be around 10-11am for me.  I hope that works for everyone.  Another bonus is that he has 2 computers.  

I love you all more than the number of people looking forward to Christmas around the world¡

Hermana Withers

Finished Reading the Book of Mormon, Planning a Baptism in Argentina

Dec. 1, 2014

Dear Family,
Well, Happy Thanksgiving!  It seems that you guys had a great week.  It was good to hear that the relatives are doing well, and that you had a good visit.  

The branch of Parral is growing, and it is exciting to be here, where so many members are all about missionary work.  Now that summer break has started we have lots of young men to accompany us to appointments.  Juan Pablo, the young man I mentioned last week was baptized.  My companion baptized him on Saturday, and I conferred the Holy Ghost on him on Sunday.  He is a good young man and hopefully he will be able to go on the young men’s temple trip at the end of December.  There is a man here named Patricio, who was battling alcoholism, and had been doing really well, but the week before his baptism date, he gave into temptation and drank a lot.  The missionaries weren’t able to find him for almost a month because he works nonstop every day, but last Tuesday we found him again, and he had shivers because of battling alcoholism.  I asked my companion if he had ever received a priesthood blessing to stop drinking, and he hadn’t, so we gave him a blessing.  He is doing better, and hasn’t drank since.  We set a new baptism date, for this Saturday, the 6th of December, and he accepted it.  He is a very good man who has honest desires to stop drinking and be baptized.  We will be passing by every day this week, starting tomorrow to finish teaching him, in the mornings at 6 AM, because he has to leave early for work.  I hope he can be baptized, and if he gets baptized this Saturday, the branch will have 5 baptisms this weekend, because the other elders are going to baptize a grandma and three grandchildren.  If you could pray for Patricio that he will be strong against the temptation to drink it will be a big help.

I must make note that I have acquired by trade, a pocket size Book of Mormon in English.  There is a really good Dockers belt that I brought with me to the mission, and I never wear it because I have another belt.  My comp likes the belt a lot, and so I traded it for his mini scriptures, I got out of the deal a pocket size Book of Mormon, and a pocket size New Testament, they are both red.  I will figure out something to trade to get his pocket size Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price double combination.    Interesting to note, Elder Barrios family is moving, permanently to Utah on the 8th of January.  He will study at BYU after the mission.  

About Valerie´s Mongolia economics project, I remember the economic summit in High School, and my country was Chile, and then I got the mission call to Chile.  Just saying....

Today while out fishing, I finished reading the Book of Mormon, for the second time in my life.  I was using my new red book, and yes it fits in a shirt pocket.  It has been a great experience to study the Book of Mormon, and feel of its power.  It is a convincing testament that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, that Joseph Smith is the prophet of the Restoration of the Gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the Lord´s kingdom here on the earth.  I know it is a true book.  I have felt the Holy Ghost confirm of its truthfulness to me, and I felt the spirit as I read it this morning by the river.

I love you all more than the number of snowflakes it would take to have a snow day in every major city in the U.S.

Elder Withers

Dear Family,
I love you lots!  I am so glad that you had a great week with Thanksgiving.  Keep the traditions going.......they are awesome. I can’t believe we are already in December, time flies by fast, and if you don’t take advantage of opportunities they slip away.  

This week.......was pretty good.  Sometimes the days are long because it’s hot outside, but there is always a miracle, and we always meet someone awesome.  The miracle from this week, was putting a man named Eduardo on date for baptism.  He is the husband of our newly called relief society president, and he has been a missionary "project" for over 30 years.  He has always said no to the church, no to listening to the missionaries, no to going to church, and lots and lots of missionaries have worked with him.

Our very first Sunday here we didn’t know anybody, and he showed up.  We thought he was one of the other members, but we quickly learned that it was his first time going in years.  His wife was happier than a kid on Christmas, and she has loved teaching him how to read and sing the hymns (even though during every hymn I feel like I am singing a solo because no one sings very loud and everyone follows my voice, if I accidentally start too high or too’s a terribly funny disaster :), how to study the scriptures, and help teach him in the lessons and so on.  He has attended church several times since then, and is learning slowly but surely.  What has been hard is that he is truck driver and he has crazy whacky work hours, but the harvest of whatever he was hauling has finally ended and he is home much more often.  We are working with him to stop smoking, and we are excited for him to get baptized.  In reality, everyone is excited for him to get baptized.  It’s truly a miracle.  He is evidence of work from tons of other people, and Heavenly Father touched his heart right as we showed up.....but I know that none of the credit belongs to us.  We are only helping him through the steps to get to baptism, and it’s been fun to watch him change.   

I am grateful for the Christmas season, and I am sure you have all seen it by now, but the church has made an incredible video and has blasted it all over YouTube,, Facebook, twitter, and so on........and it is super well made.  It’s a month long plan, and as a missionary it is super cool to be a part of.  Each day we have 10 special Christmas pass along cards (and only we have them, not the members) to give out to people, inviting them to watch the video and visit the church website to learn more....and it’s been cool to see people soften their hearts towards the idea of Christ and religion, because of the holiday season.  I love how the Christmas spirit does that to people :)  And each week the church asks for our numbers in regard to this new plan, regarding how many people listened, accepted a second visit, referrals from members and so on so that they can keep track of the missionary impact from this’s estimated that 220 million people are going to see the video, and I am 100% sure that several of those people will be baptized.  How awesome.  Whatever monetary cost the church had to pay to produce and make it all possible, will be more than worth it.  

I am grateful for all you do and for your letters each week.  I really do love you lots and lots and lots.  I feel great and energized and as ready as ever.  Invite the missionaries over for dinner or something, and ask them about the video ¨He is the Gift¨  it’s worth it, and it will be a cool experience for you all, I promise :)  I hope you know that I love you all more than the number of little Christmas lights that will dot the earth and be used to decorate trees and homes this month in celebration of Christmas!  I love everybody and you are all my favorite!  

Hermana Withers

Fishing on P-Day, Feeling Thankful

Nov. 24, 2014

Dear Family,
I am thankful.  I am thankful for a great family, for having been born into a family that has received the gospel, for my testimony, for my mission, and for transfers.  I am so happy happy happy to not be with my last companion, he is one of the most confrontational people I have ever met.  I love my new sector, my companion is a great guy, and I live with 2 other great elders, in a nice house, with bikes, in a nice little town, with good members.  I am grateful for transfers.  

Here in Parral it is pretty, with amazing panoramic views of the Andes Mountains, mountains so pretty,  jagged, and snow peaked, that they dwarf the Sawtooths in Idaho. I will take good pictures.  :)  Today we went fishing. We caught nothing, but it was still lots of fun.   I hope it is all right with you Ma and Pa, but I bought a rod and reel and some hooks and a bobber, figuring that this is a small town with little to do on p day, and I will be here at the very least a few months.  

My companion is Elder Barrios, from Guatemala.  He knows the scriptures very very well, is a smart planner, and a hard worker.  At the end of this transfer he will have 6 months in the branch, and so it is most likely that I will only have 1 transfer with him, so I will have to learn the streets quickly.  Parral is a town of 18,000 people.  It has a lot of cowboys, the people are very humble and helping.  The branch is very strong with lots of priesthood holders, yesterday there were 140 people in church, which is about average assistance (attendance) for the branch.  It is a branch because it is located in a district, if it was in a stake it would be one of the stronger wards in the mission.  We have a baptism scheduled for next Saturday, the son of a less active lady who is coming back.  His name is Juan Pablo and he is 14 years old.  There is also a young couple with 2 toddlers we are teaching who will hopefully be baptized in December.  

It is hot here, but really pretty.  I love this sector and it looks like it is going to be a favorite.  I hope to be able to learn as much as I can from my trainer Elder Barrios.  Being here is different because my companion is experienced and knows how to work, and we make decisions together.  I enjoy not having to prepare district class, but there are plenty of other small tasks and assignments to do that keep us busy.  The zone is doing great, and we are harvesting lots of and lots of fruit.  Here the missionaries are happy, the members are happier, and people in the street are much more friendly.  It is relatively easy to get into homes here in this small town.  In the branch of Parral there are 6 missionaries, 2 of them being new from the MTC.  One of the sisters in the branch that just got here from the MTC is a convert from Mexico who was baptized a year and a half ago, it is amazing how powerful the Gospel of Jesus Christ is.  

I am very happy and excited to be here.  I love you all more than the number of ducks you would need tied to a yacht to lift a yacht out of Lake Champlain in Vermont, cross the Great Plains and set it in Boulder Lake in Wyoming.

-Elder Withers

Dear Family,

This has been a terrifically splendid that I am doing well and still as excited as ever to be a missionary and share the message with the whole world.  This last week I have been thinking about Thanksgiving a lot, and what it really means to truly be grateful.  Argentina doesn’t recognize it as an official holiday.........but to be grateful doesn’t mean we need a national reminder.  We can be grateful every day, truly truly grateful for all of the many blessings we have.  And when we feel gratitude for the blessings we have, we are able to realize how blessed we truly are.  There isn’t much to report from this last week.  We taught lots of lessons to lots of incredible people, spent some time with our newly called Relief Society and Primary presidents in the branch to help them know how to fulfill their callings (they didn’t know what visiting teachers were, sharing time, and so’s all a process!) and we have also been enjoying lots of rain storms.  This last week was much cooler, but with each rain storm the temperature goes up a little bit more and more, so this week should be nice and toasty.  

Today more than anything I am just feeling very very grateful.........
I am grateful to be a missionary.  That I am worthy and have been called to wear a black badge with Christ´s name....called to take his gospel to this part of the world.  My mission has changed me forever.

I am grateful for the gift of tongues, and that I was able to learn Spanish to be able to communicate with the people here in Argentina.  I am grateful for my health and strength.

I am grateful for my family, for my beautfiul beautiful family and that if we are obedient we can be together forever.  I am grateful that I was born into an eternal family, in the USA.........a truly incredible country with so many opportunities.  (I had to come down here to Argentina to realize how incredible and blessed the United States really is.)  I am grateful for the Book of Mormon, and that it is convincing evidence to everyone that this is the only true and authorized church of God.  I am grateful for Joseph Smith, that he was brave enough to ask Heavenly Father which is the true church, and then stick to his word and testimony regarding First Vision.  He was so valiant, and I am so grateful he never gave up.  I am grateful for temples, which allow us to make covenants and grow closer to Heavenly Father.  I am grateful that I have been able to serve a mission at the same time as Chad, Thomas, and Dallin.....(and in the same mission as Thomas! It has been one of the greatest blessings of my mission!)  I am grateful that someone invented internet, email, and skype which allows me to quickly and easily communicate with you.  I am grateful for all the examples of missionaries in my family (no one believes me when I say that nearly all of my aunts and uncles, grandparents, and great grandparents have served missions.....sometimes members ask me if I am the first, and I have the sweet privilege to say that I come from a long line of excellent missionaries, and I am only carrying on the heritage)

I am grateful for the little things that make life a going on trips, ice cream cones, watching the sun set, visiting family, and traditions.  Life really is too too good.  
I am grateful that I haven’t had to wash my clothes by hand my whole life, or live each summer without air’s something only people a lot stronger than me can do.

And really I could sit here for another 3 1/2 hours writing all the things that I am grateful for.....there are so many things.  I am grateful for the holiday season, and I hope you know how much I love you!  Eat an extra piece of turkey and pumpkin pie for me :) And enjoy all that beautiful snow!

Have a great week and know that I love you more than all the people who are getting excited for Christmas down here!  It’s a great time of year!

Hermana Withers

Moving to Parral Chile, Extra-Ordinary Day Tracting

November 17, 2014

Dear Family,
The cambios (transfers) are......drum roll please.........The sector is being closed.  It was unexpected and rather shocking.  Santa Sabina B is being closed, there will now be 4 missionaries in the ward, rather than 6.  My companion will be going to Talcahuano, a nearby city, and I will be going to the countryside, the town of Parral.  It is a branch with 6 missionaries, has hot weather, and it is a bike sector.  So that should be fun.  I estimate it is about 4ish hours north of the mission office.  For 10 and a half months I have been here in the city of Concepcion, so it will be neat to go out and see what is out there.  If you can google maps ConcepciĆ³n, you can probably find out where Parral is, it is between Concepcion and Rancagua.

I apologize for the short letter.  And will write with a million more details next week.  I love you all a million times over.  The sector is being closed because only 7 sisters are coming this transfer, and 7 sisters and 7 elders are leaving, so they had to cut somewhere.  We have been obedient, I promise.

I love you all so much, more than the number of snowflakes it takes to fall on the streets of Boise to cause a snow day.

-Elder Withers

Dear Family,

Congrats on your new assignment Chad!  You will also love serving in the boonies.  I have spent the majority of my mission serving far away from everything, and it’s a good experience!  I hope you love your new area and companion.

This week was another good one for me!  There isn’t actually anything crazy or unusual that happened, so I am struggling to think of what to write.......but something will come to mind!  Transfer news is that........neither one of us is going anywhere.  Sweet! 

What actually is happening in Galvez, are lots and lots of miracles.  What Galvez has really needed is a great faithful family or somebody, or anybody, to move here.  Someone who understands the doctrine and how the church should function, and our prayers were  answered.  The other day we were outside contacting (in that beautiful but ever-intense Argentine heat!) and a nice man stopped us in the street and asked us where the chapel is.  We quickly told him, but we were also curious as to who he we asked him.  And he told us that he is a member from Santa Fe, but has been sent to Galvez for a year-long work contract.  He is about 30 years old, he doesn’t have a wife or kids....but he is a returned missionary from Bahia Blanca.  And, he said.....whenever you need a member to go visit someone, I am free every afternoon, after 5pm.  We couldn’t believe it!  It was truly a miracle.  Our prayers were answered, and another source of divine help has been sent here to Galvez, such a blessing. 

The other day I saw a family of gypsies for the first time. They were sitting on the side of the road eating a picnic lunch and drinking mate.  They all had really long skirts on, with their fingers and wrists full of jewelry, and in super high pitched voices asked us if we wanted to buy something from them.  We told them no thank you, but it was interesting to finally see one for the first time.  I don’t really know their culture or what it is they do or live like, but I do know that here in Argentina they like to have picnics under the shade of a tree and drink mate.

Good news, is that here in Galvez....otter pops are 1 peso each.  Ha...they aren’t actually otter pops, but they are a popsicle type thing and you eat it like an otter pop and it comes in all the flavors. 1 peso is like the equivalent of 10 cents.  It really is dreadfully hot outside, and when you throw in makes life even more interesting.  We are drinking what feels like gallons and gallons of water, and eating tons of fruit. 

On Tuesday there was a terrific thunder and lightning storm, it’s been a long time since I have seen so much lightning......and it was incredible.  It was kind of a scary walking home, because it was super dark outside and like every 10 seconds a huge ray of lightning would flash what felt like right in front of our eyes.  It was crazy, but we made it home for the night right before it started raining which was a tender mercy. 

I have been trying to take lots and lots and lots of pictures (actually my comp is the professional...she takes pictures of everything, and I am so grateful, I forget!) and I am saving them all on my thumb drive.  Trying to make the most of each day, look for the blessings, work hard, stay focused and obedient, and keep on keeping on.  Sometimes life feels like a long distance marathon, but I am happy.  A sweet stressful happy :)

The other day we spent part of the afternoon contacting, and it was incredible.  We felt like we were on fire........because every single person who answered the door, every single one...100%......we were able to convince them to come outside, accept a pamphlet, and we committed them to read it, and made a follow up appointment. We felt like professional saleswomen.... because we did everything to get them to be interested, to want them to peak their interest, and commit them to read and pray.  Most days aren’t like that, you do your best to introduce yourself to everyone, or offer to give them a free pamphlet or card with Jesus on it, and there is always at least some irritated person, or insanely devout Catholic....or somebody who rejects us.  But this day no.  It was an incredible feeling, I really felt like the plaque that I had on my shirt had an extra-ordinary power that day.  We ended the day with 9 return appointments to brand new people, from only 1 hour of contacting......absolute miracle! 

This last Sunday, we had branch conference, and it was so good.  We had the highest assistance (attendance) we have ever had......20!  And it was great to have several of the stake leaders (there were 7), so in reality the assistence from Galvez was only 13....but it felt great to have the chapel more full!  We had to clean the chapel (we always clean it every Saturday because we are still working on getting some member to have that assignment) but while we are all there is, we do it.   The Sunday services were excellent. The stake leaders really made quite a sacrifice to make the 2 hour drive to be there, and afterwards we had a potluck lunch.  We learned lots and it was good for the members to hear from the Stake leaders. 

Everything really is going well here in Galvez, and things get better and better each day.  I love being a missionary, and I love all of you! All that cold snow looks beautiful.  I love you more than the number of Christmas trees that are up for sale, being cut down, or getting put together in preparation for Christmas all around the world!

Hermana Withers 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Happy Families Live the Gospel, "Become the Convert in Galvez, Argentina"

November 10, 2014

Dear Family,
I shake you warmly by the hand.  This week we had some exciting stuff happen.  Daniel, the man who was baptized a few weeks ago had his 59th birthday on Thursday.  We called him and sang him happy birthday in Spanish.  He was really happy, and then the next day we went to visit him and they had saved us a little bit of cake.  ¡Que rico!  (Very delicious!)  It has been interesting to see him slowly grow to like the church more and more.  On his few first Sundays he would come in jeans and a plaid shirt, then he worked his way up to a color shirt with a blue sport coat and trousers, and for his confirmation he wore a suit, now he wears a suit and comes with a nice shoulder bag to carry his scriptures and Sunday school books.  I received a letter from Elder Catron, my trainer, saying that he interviewed Daniel`s wife for baptism, roughly 6 months ago.  He was surprised that Daniel has been baptized, because several months ago he was not even near wanting to join the church.  Elder Catron was a great companion, he gave me a stick of jerky today in the office, and is now training again, and ends his mission when Rebecca does.

I am genuinely doing great.  I love the mission and really would like to stay another transfer in Santa Sabina, but I guess I will find out next week whether or not I will still be here.  I know things have been hard with my companion, but he has come a long ways, and I have learned a lot about what it means to be a peacemaker.  I am glad that we have been together; it has given me an amazing opportunity to draw closer to the Savior.  I think Elder Z will end up staying in the mission field, thank you for your prayers.

I had laid aside Saturday to lay siege on the Bavarian village, but we will be having Stake Conference Saturday session that evening, and an Elders Quorum home teaching blitz in the morning, so It will have to be done a different day.  Very tricky.  

I am happy and healthy and really hope the very best for all of you.  I know without a doubt that any family that lives the gospel will be a happy family.  I love you all.  Keep living the gospel and you’ll be happy.  Thanks for all of your prayers and letters.  I hope you have a great week.  I love you all more than the number of toothpicks you would need to make a replica of a full-grown California redwood.

With lots of love,
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
This was a terrifically great week!  We had to spend a lot of time in Santa Fe, the closest big city to Galvez for meetings and paperwork for the visa of my companion, so that made the week seem slow in terms of missionary work......but it really was a great week.  

In one of the meetings we had this week, was with President Zanni.  It was with the Santa Fe and Santa Fe North it was kind of cool to have a smaller meeting with just president and his family, and I learned TONS.  It’s been a long time since I have felt so spiritually recharged and edified, both from what he taught us and from what the spirit taught me, and I have been mentally analyzing and thinking about it over and over again.  I wish I could type it all out and share everything that I learned, but the time will not even slightly cut it.  At one point he looked me directly in the eyes, and he said......"Sister, I know exactly what is happening in the area where you are serving........and what the Lord is really looking for is that you become the convert from Galvez".  I knew President was the person saying the words, but at the same time I felt like it was a message straight from Heavenly Father.  I looked President in the eyes the whole time and said, "I know........"  I hardly ever cry, but while sitting in that eyes started to well up with tears a little bit, as I realized Heavenly Father really does love us and expects the best of us at all times, and that a mission serves in many ways to bring more people unto Christ....but to also convert the missionary.  I have never felt that to be more true.  I had a working knowledge and belief that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet......I really did have a testimony, ever so small, before starting my mission.....but now there is no way you could ever get me to deny it.  Send me through jail, or put me through fire, strip me of my freedoms, whatever you want....but you could never get me to deny it.  Because what I have learned here on my mission has changed me forever.  My mission so far has been the school of my life, and I know that without all of my missionary experiences, I would have never grown to love Jesus Christ and His gospel in the way that I do.  President Zanni always says, that a mission is the school of the Gods.....because we were born to be Kings and Queens.......and someday we will be, but right now we are in schooling to learn how to do it right.

Galvez has been the Gethsemane of my mission, in that I have never felt so far and so lonely before.  In terms of missionary tools that a missionary could a ward missionary leader, or counselors for the branch president, or members who understand the doctrine and can help with the lessons, or members who give us lunch, a relief society president who goes to church, a branch president who lives close......there is absolutely nothing.  We have nothing.  The tools we have, are preach my gospel, the Book of Mormon, mission president, and prayer.

This week we had lots of problems with members getting offended by other members for silly and insignificant things......and all of the gossip and hate is really hurting this small branch.  Instead of being able to look for new investigators and teaching them, we had to spend some extra time this week working with all the members to help them keep the peace and cool off.  We taught a lot about forgiveness, and how no one is perfect, and not worrying about what happens in the church.  If at any moment you received a testimony that the church is true, and you were baptized....making a covenant with God saying you would take the name of Jesus Christ upon you, then forget about the rest of the things that happen with the imperfect members.  Keep your part of the deal with God by going to church, reading the scriptures, saying your prayers.......and you are fine.  Case closed.  They have taken it surprisingly well.....seeing as how we aren’t taking any more excuses.  :)  We teach with all the love we have to give, and what they have really needed is someone who loves them enough to remind them how we should act as members.  We talk clearly, and directly, and with as much love as possible.....and it’s what someone should have been doing here in Galvez a long time ago.  And so, when President said.......that the Lord was expecting that I become Galvez´s most converted convert, it really hit me.  It has been so true; as I have tried to help other people strengthen their testimonies.....I have become more and more converted.  I have also learned how important it is to stick to the fundamental basics, like the Book of Mormon and words from the prophets.  If we know those things to be true, then we start with that and work our way forward.  

It really was a great week, a spiritually fortifying week, with lots of blessings!  Thanks for everything.  I love you all lots and lots and lots!  I love you all more than the number of fireflies that fly around in the streets each night in Galvez!

Hermana Withers

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Chile has Record Number of People in Church, Argentina has Rain, Rain, Rain!!

Dear Family,
Well, I am happy to hear that all is well and that you have plenty of Halloween candy.  Our next door neighbors have chickens, and every morning their rooster starts up at about 5:00 am, periodically and loudly does his cock-a-doodle-doo until about 7:00 ish.  I have finally gotten used to it and can now sleep through it soundly.  

This week was not too crazy.  The work has been a little slower lately, with very few people to teach.  We will keep looking for new investigators, and once again the Bavarian village idea got slammed with other things.  I think we might just cancel some stuff this week to make room for it.  I read the first part of Luke 5.  I really liked it.  I recommend it.  Luke 5:4 is my favorite.  That is what we are going to do to find new investigators, “Launch out into the deep, and let your nets down for a draught”.

I hope you are all doing well, that you are in good health.  Oh, I forgot to say, that last week we hit an all time record for this ward of 208 people in church, almost getting the 210 we are aiming for.

I realize it is a short letter, but I promise next week will be a better letter.  
Thanks so much for all your prayers and support.

I love you all, more than the number of M&Ms that get chomped on the week after Halloween.
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
This week was pretty typical for me.  It was incredibly hot in the hot.  Like the kind of heat Argentina whips out towards the end of December, and I was sincerely nervous because we hadn’t even started November yet.....trying to imagine what December was going to be like wasn’t a happy or comforting thought....but it turns out that it was abnormally hot and humid, because a record storm was on its way.  We had intense heat and humidity for 5 days, and the epic storm started on Friday, and is still going strong.  It just barely stopped raining a few hours ago...but since Friday it has been raining on and off.........sometimes with a sharp whistling wind, sometimes with lightning and thunder so loud and powerful you can see water in a water bottle ripple and feel a cool chill run from your head to your toes, and sometimes the rain comes with a little bit of hail......but it hasn’t stopped until today.  And even then it is still cold with overcast, it is still going to rain....but at least it has stopped for a little bit right now! 

The weather was the most unhelpful thing ever in terms of church attendance.  We had 6 people show up, and they showed up soaking wet, I felt so bad for them (for only a minute) because I later realized that all sacrifices to be obedient bring blessings.  Even though they showed up wet and cold because they didn’t have a good coat or umbrella, and they had to walk in the thick and sticky mud (which is a tricky endeavor, you have to make a balance between walking and skating to keep from falling)...they made the sacrifice and got to the chapel....because they understand that the chance to take the sacrament comes but once a week, and it’s not optional.  We already promised that we would be there each Sunday to take the come what may.....rain/snow/mud/etc....we have to go!  We plugged the heater in so that they could dry off and warm up :) 

What this epic rain storm has made evident, is that the chapel roof leaks.  We had to put rags in random places to soak up the water, and also our apartment floods with such enormous amounts of water.  The door doesn’t keep all the water out, and so it seeps in from the under the door crack.....and gets everywhere.  We have been pushing water out of our apartment with a mop for days now, every few hours we have to do it again.  We have to pray kneeling on our chairs so we don’t get wet.  But in all reality it didn’t matter if we got wet or not while praying, because we got wet anyway when we went outside to was awesome.

My companion turned 23 this week, and for her birthday she wanted "completos".  Chad should know what they are.  Turns out they are just hot dogs, but apparently in Chile they love love love hot dogs.  They put whatever they want on them, and everyone eats them.  So we had "completos" and we also got ice cream to celebrate the occasion :)

What was really funny was watching kids try to trick or treat.  It isn’t a holiday that people recognize here, so all attempts to trick or treat basically failed.  A few moms or dads went out with their kids to try it anyway, with costumes like you would see in the states.....and when a kid knocked on a door, we could see them from a ways off.  We would watch as we kept walking towards our next appointment.  The kid knocked on the door, said trick or treat.....and nearly every house sent the kids marching empty handed.  I don’t know why they bothered, it’s not a tradition here.  But, oh well.  The United States has an incredibly powerful influence on the world, in so many ways.  Lots of people love the states, and lots of people hate the states, but either way lots of people try to mimic the examples or traditions we have.  

It really was a great week!  This letter is sort of a random mix of everything, I’m not sure if it is even entertaining to read...but it’s what happened this week and the thoughts that are running through my head right, there you go!  I am glad all is well with you.  It really is so nice to know that everything keeps on keeping on without big news, changes or problems.  I love you all so so so so so much!

I love you all more than how happy people feel when they are obedient to all of the commandments,
Hermana Withers

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Baptism in Chile! Battling Crickets in Argentina

Dear Family,
Daniel was baptized yesterday, and that was the exciting point of the week.  His wife, who was baptized about 5 months ago is delighted, as well as the other missionaries who were previously teaching him.  We also had a chance to take Book of Mormons to early morning seminary.  The kids were great, even though it was so early, 6:00 am.  I don’t know how they do it because they have early morning seminary at 6:00 am, and a lot of them have classes until 5 pm.  We didn’t go to the Bavarian village yet.

I still think it is really odd that you guys are entering winter and I am entering summer.  It is getting hot here, and the breezes are lifesavers. 

Just so you know, I had to buy the zone shirt for my comp.  He spent 40 dollars on a guitar without me realizing, and then didn’t have money to buy the Zone t-shirts.  He is such a headache sometimes, but I am glad to see him work hard when he decides to.  I want to thank you all for all of your love and support.  

I realize it was a short letter.  There was some stuff that came up and the zone leaders needed some numbers and the cell phone service was terrible, so that was 10 min down the drain, and my comp is nagging at me.  I will write a bigger letter next week.  

I love you all so much.  I hope you have a great week.  I love you all more than the number of Legos it would take to make a Lego bridge to cross the Andes, to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and then cross the continental U.S. into Idaho.
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
How I would love to be entering into winter right now too......the heat has come back, and it has come much earlier this year than last year.  It is HOT.  And you throw in the humidity and you have a nice challenge in front of you.  We are at temperatures normal for December, which makes me scared for what December is going to actually be like.  

This last week was great, with two meetings in Santa Fe....which made for a total of 8 hours in a bus for one week.  It’s a ton of time.  Every hour we have in Galvez is like gold and we try to take full advantage of it.  We have met lots more people, and yesterday we had 12 people at church.  

Funny story, there is a big beautiful tree in front of our apartment, and from our balcony you could reach out and touch it.  (We live on the second floor, above a funny little place that sells wooden furniture and gadgets) anyway, with the renewed heat and humidity......the crickets have come back.  And the tree in front of our apartment has like a bajillion.  We close the sliding door each night because we don’t want any of them to come in, even though its hot we leave the door closed and turn the fan on full power.  But one somehow snuck in our apartment anyway, and in the middle of the night started to sing its super long song.....and it wouldn’t stop!  It went on and on and on and on, starting at 3am, and at one point started to get louder.....and at 5 am my comp couldn’t take it any longer.  I was too tired to really care about getting up and killing it, but she was at her wits end.  She turned the light on...and with a look full of hate and annoyance for the little bugger......started to listen carefully to locate where it was exactly.  It turned out to be under my bed, she moved my bed (at this point I woke up too) and she saw it, but was still a little groggy and moved too slow, it escaped her....she went back to bed and in matter of minutes it started cricketing again.  She stood it out, and at 6:30 am woke up so annoyed that she hadn’t been able to get rid of it. We found it later that afternoon and killed it....but for the rest of the afternoon, in all the patches of grass we walked through, she would stomp her feet every few steps killing all the crickets she could. was pretty funny, and she had me laughing all day.  She is a great companion.  Last P-day she taught me how to make what she called Chilean pancakes......and they turned out to be crepes :)  They are really good though!  I took good notes :)

This week really was a good one.  There really isn’t much new to report.  Our branch president is awesome, and is one of the greatest blessings here in Galvez.  Church leaders really are so important.

My mission is going by fast and the time really does feel like it’s escaping me.  I am trying to make the most of each day and week, and give everything I have.  I know December is coming quick, but if there is one thing I have been forcing myself to do, it is not letting myself thinking about it.  It’s working, but it’s also hard.  There are lots of missionaries who will finish with me, and some are trunky, and others not.  And I am giving everything to remain focused.  Because remaining focused is the least I can do to return with honor.  I love this area and all that I am learning.  On Wednesday I will have one whole year in Argentina.  Crazy!  This year has been awesome, the most spiritually, emotionally, and physically trying....but I know a mission has been the best decision of my life.  If there is one thing I have done right, it was my decision to serve a mission.  

I love you all lots!  More than all the people who have asked me what Halloween is like (it still doesn’t exist in Argentina, but its starting a little bit!)

Hermana Withers

Friday, October 24, 2014

Seminary Students giving out Book of Mormons, Numbers Glued to Music Marquee

October 20, 2014

Dear Family,
We still haven’t been able to lay siege on the Bavarian Village, but it is part of the battle plan for this week.  It is hard to reserve a 5 hour block in one place.  This week we are going to early morning seminary with a lot of Book of Mormons for everyone to write their testimonies and then commit the seminary students to give the books to their friends.  Oh side note, the ward mission leader here has been working with the bishopric to make a new ward mission plan.  An important part of the plan is that members regularly go out and knock doors.  Yesterday, we saw the first counselor and two other members talking to people outside their doors.  I was so happy.  I sometimes feel that a lot of the members here are active in the church but inactive in the gospel, so seeing them take a very active part in missionary work was cool.  

Chile in many aspects is similar to the United States.  Halloween is much the same here, with small kids in costumes walking with their parents, going door to door asking for candy.  Wal-Mart has been selling costumes and Halloween candy for about a month now.  I remember last Halloween in Chillan, we went to a small store to see if the owner was there, because our records said she was a member.  She said her father was the first person to be baptized in Chillan, and she was the thirty somethingth member in Chillan, but went inactive when she married a nonmember.  Anyway, long story short, we didn’t set an appointment to come back, but she gave us candy.  

A sad but joyful story I will now tell you.  I was in the mission office today picking up a box of 36 Book of Mormons, and met up with some Elders serving in Lorenzo Arenas.  I asked how Amadeo is doing, the little old man, who got baptized in Lorenzo Arenas.  They told me he has terminal stomach cancer.  He isn’t expected to live much longer.  I have been told that his health has really taken a turn, and that he can no longer attend church.  The little old retired man is on his way out of this life.  What makes me really really joyful, is that Amadeo asked Christian, the member who always went with us to teach him, a great question.  Amadeo asked him how he can keep paying his tithing even though he is unable to attend church.  Amadeo is enduring to the end.  I am so glad that he found the gospel before he found cancer.  I am delighted that he is an honest tithe payer, that he will now be able to return to his maker.  I hope someone does his temple work soon after his passing.

Daniela, who got baptized last week, participated in the primary program yesterday, and received the Holy Ghost yesterday.  Daniel, who has had problems with coffee, is committed to be baptized this Sunday.  If you could pray for him that he will be humble and strong enough to permanently give up coffee that would be great.  His baptismal interview is this Friday.

Well, thank you all for all your great letters and emails.  You guys are all awesome.  You are all my favorite.  I love you all more than the number of times an airplane propeller spins to fly from Galvez, Argentina to ConcepciĆ³n, Chile to Boise, Idaho.

Elder Withers

Dear Family
Glad to know that all is well!  This week has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride.  We have been trying to establish ourselves here in Galvez, but it’s been hard.  We are literally out in the middle of nowhere.  We have no contact with other missionaries or church leaders except by telephone and our routine district meeting in Santa Fe (which we have to make a trip the equivalent of Boise to Burley (2 hours and then go back).  And Galvez is located in the Santa Fe Stake, but you wouldn’t know it.....because we are so far away from everything that stake leaders never come.  It’s the equivalent of having a stake in Boise.....all the other branches and wards of the stake are in Boise, except for one which is two hours away ....and that is Galvez.  Sometimes we feel like we have been left on an isolated island with lots of inactive members, but then a miracle happens or we say a prayer and we feel better.....and we just keep going. 

We have gotten ourselves a little more established here, meeting the members and getting to know their problems and situations, and they really are good people.  It’s nothing short of an honor to serve here.  Even though the church is weak and we are totally isolated, serving here has been incredible, and I only have a week here.  With lots more to enjoy and learn from.  

Ha ha, funny thing.....the branch president doesn’t know very many hymns, all he has are a few trusty ones that he likes us all to sing.  When we went to the chapel on Saturday to clean up quick for like half an hour, we learned that he had glued the hymn numbers to the wooden panel thing.  Ha, we had only had one Sunday here, so we didn’t know if they sing the same hymns or not, but it turns out they sing the same ones each week.  Ha!!  We are helping them with it.  I will be playing the piano each week to help them learn new ones.  The branch president really is awesome though, because he makes the 4 hour round trip here to Galvez to fulfill his calling, even though he has his wife and 2 kids sick with cancer.  He is strong and faithful, and wants to help the church grow....but it has been taking time and lots of things have held the work back.  First and foremost, about a year ago an elder set a very bad example of disobedience, for which he was sent home......and it has made several people go inactive, causing incredible damage to the church here.  Also that 2 sisters have gone home early for health reasons, and that Galvez is so far away from the stake that the stake leaders never come (we are also working on that with mission president).  I am learning how to recognize problems, do my best to find a solution.....and if I don’t know how to do it, ask someone for help, and if they can’t do it either....pray for inspiration to know what to do next....and it’s working.  We have been praying for help in all aspects anyway, and it’s the only thing that helps us.  I have never felt so dependent in Heavenly Father in my whole life, but really He is the only person that is miraculously helping things remain stable here.  The church is small, but with great potential to grow.  

The bonuses to Galvez, is that it is beautiful here.  The air is fresh and clean, without the contaminating factory smells that I had in Rosario.....the sunsets are out of this world pretty, and there are several streets with huge trees on both sides that create a tunnel, like Harrison Boulevard (street in the north end, an old part of town Boise, Idaho).

We had several meetings in Santa Fe this week, which meant lots and lots of time in colectivos (buses), but we are getting the hang of Galvez and learning our way around.  The heat is starting to come back, in all its glory with humidity and rain storms and mosquitoes......and all I say is bring it on.  I am more ready this time than I was last year; no one explained it to me that this place turns into such an oven.  

I really am happy and working hard and trying to keep up with the pace of the work here.  There is always so much to do that the agenda doesn’t have enough hours in the day to get it all done, and the tasks just keep piling up.  I feel like time is escaping me and I don’t know where it is all going so fast.  This week we are going to have a birthday party for a recent convert who is going to turn 12 (yay, more men with the priesthood!) who is going to have his party at the church and invite his friends , which will be a good missionary activity for Galvez.  And we are just going to keep on keeping on! 

I love you all more than the number of metal rods you would need to make a roller coaster that goes from Chile to Argentina to Boise!

Hermana Withers