Monday, February 24, 2014

Still working hard, Progress seems slow

Dear Family,
This week was awesome.  It started off slow, but we decided to just be happy, have faith, and work as hard as we can.  We are doing something called “hablar con todos” (talk with everyone) and it really works.  The idea is that we contact as many people as possible as we go between appointments.  Last night there was an older guy who was going to buy some bread with his grandson.  We were kind of on the fence about wanting to talk to him, but we decided we would.  He was amazingly nice, and we are going to go visit him this week.  Also, we are teaching a guy named Ivan, and he has one of the most impressive beards I have ever seen.  It is big and evenly parted, and he has a huge handlebar mustache to go with it.  The week didn’t have any crazy stories, but it was still a great week.  It was awesome to see one of the recent converts come to church, after not coming for 3 months or so.  The members did a good job of welcoming him back.  I am happy, and I think Chile  is a pretty cool place.  I know that this church is true, and that God loves us. 

I love you all, more than the number of snowflakes that made the winter Olympics possible.
With love,
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
Truthfully this week was long.  There were also lots of bright spots in the week though too.  Best of all was that we had district conference.  So the branches of La Paz, Las Termas, Santa Elena, and Feliciano all came here to meet.  President and Hermana Giuliani came for the meeting, and it was soo good to see and hear from them!  We hardly ever get to see them and it was so fun to have them here.  (That is how I was able to get mail in the middle of the month because they brought it up with them in the back of their car).  

Most disappointing of all is that Marisa came back from Neuquen.......unmarried.  She went all the way down there, a 30 hour drive one way, and wasn’t able to get married.  We had a lesson with her on Wednesday.  (Actually we were on exchanges with the Hermanas from Parana so I felt a lot of pressure for this lesson since it was the first time since we had seen her and Hermana Sainsbury wasn’t there) and we also brought Hermana Obertello with us to be there as moral member support.  It was an interesting lesson to say the least.  We walked in and she is normally always so happy and inviting, but this time she wasn’t so I could tell something was up.  We get to talking to her and find out that when they went to Neuquen.....her "husband" didn’t even have to get divorced.  This whole time they had been telling us that "they need to go to Neuquen so he can get divorced and then they can get married."  He has been divorced this whole time, and just needs to go to some government office in Neuquen to pick up the paperwork.  And he didn’t do it.  Marisa told us that he got very bitter all of the sudden about her decision to get baptized and is now saying that if she only wants to get married so that she can get baptized....then he doesn’t want to get married.  Its soooo sad.....and she is so hurt.  She wants to get married and she is offended that he won’t marry her, even just to support her in her decision to be baptized.  I wish I could just go down to the office and pick up the paperwork myself.  The thing is though; even though we are on the southern end of the equator....we aren’t at the edge of the planet.  We are living in the 21st century where fax machines exist.  We are going to try and see what we can do.  We have to come up with a plan fast though, because she has been waiting so long to be baptized and she needs to be living the law of chastity.  She has family who live down there who can mail things.....but I don’t know.  We are going to visit her again this week and help her come up with a plan.  It’s just sad that all the waiting to be baptized hasn’t even paid off yet.....because she is still waiting.  The other thing that is frustrating is that Marisa has learned about plural marriage and how it used to exist, and it has been quite the testimony shaker for her.  We are working it through it with her....but man she has been a difficult investigator to help get to baptism.  

And all of our other investigators aren’t really progressing either.  We are dropping a lot of them lately and looking and contacting ALL THE TIME.  We are trying to find the Lord´s prepared people.....and help those who are ready to progress.  The thing is that people´s agency to choose the natural man over their spiritual desires is hindering their ability to progress.  This transfer has been kind of hard in that that that we are working hard and we have good numbers to prove to the Lord we are working, but we are seeing so little success.  We follow the spirit, are obedient, and trying to be grateful for the blessings we have......but the Lord is really putting us through a refiners fire right now.  The prepared people are just very well hidden right now......but we will find them!  It’s just going painstakingly slow right now.  

Other than slow progression here.....all else is well!  We were able to organize and help the branch president here hold his first ward council that’s progress.  And a less active that hasn’t come in 2 years showed up to church.  

It’s starting to cool off and I have never been more excited for the autumn and winter seasons.  It’s going to be sweet!  
I love you all lots and I have a testimony of this work!  I know the church is true!

I love you more than all the ping pong games we plan on P Day!
Hermana Withers

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Opening a new area, Sharing candy from USA

Dear Family,
Thanks for your amazing letters.  I really enjoy all the little updates each person has to share.  I can’t believe you had 60 mornings below zero. That is crazy, I wish I could send some summer over to you guys, because we have a lot of it. 

My companion is a really nice, genuine person.  We work together really well, and I feel like he would be a companion I will keep in contact with after the mission.  He was really into sports before the mission, and did just about everything (football, wrestling, basketball, hockey, motocross, and lifting)  His morning exercise is pretty intense.  One time he was benching his bed, with another missionary on top of the bed for added weight.  

The area we are in is a brand new area.  It was opened one transfer before I got here, so we are kind of starting this sector from ground zero.  We are starting to find investigators and inactives too.  We may or may not baptize during this transfer, but I know there is no shortage of work here in Lorenzo Arenas.  This ward has some of the first converts of Chile.  Missionaries got to Santiago in 1956, and there are some 1957 converts here.  There is an active member who served in the Chile Mission.  She was the first sister missionary to serve in Concepcion, and her mission covered all of Chile.  We had a family home evening with her and her husband, who also served a mission.  They served root beer floats (which is awesome because you can’t buy root beer in Chile)  The husband had a companion who brought root beer with him to the mission field in Chile, and he thinks it is the most amazing drink.  They have American Elders ask their families to send root beer concentrate with a package, and then they make the root beer.  I told them (the Mella family) that you guys could send root beer concentrate in the next package.  They would love you forever if you can send some in the next package.

I will try to put two weeks of adventures in one letter.  I ate horse meat last week.  It was a lunch appointment with the Lopez family, and they usually serve horse meat.  

I live with a missionary named Elder Ainge.  His father is Danny Ainge, of the Boston Celtics. Elder Ainge was playing basketball for BYU before the mission.  He is really nice and very humble.  

The other day was Valentine´s Day, and we had an awesome ward activity.  It was a karaoke night.  The bishop made it really exciting for everyone by dividing the ward into three teams, and putting one or two missionaries with each team.  The teams would compete for points by trying to be the best group in a certain category of music.  It was a close competition and everyone was a winner.  At the end of the activity they had the YMCA song playing, and nobody was really paying attention, most people were just getting ready to leave.  My companion thought it would make for a good grand finale, so he handed me the microphone and told me to jump up on the stage.  During the whole activity, nobody used the stage. All the singing had just been done on the floor.  I jumped up there and started to sing the song as I spelled out the letters ´´Y.M.C.A.´´  I got  the 20 or so people that were still there singing and dancing to it, then at the end of the song, my companion and Elder Taylor carried me on their shoulders and I kept singing the song and making the  ´´Y.M.C.A.´´ letters as they carried me around. The whole ward knows I have no idea how to sing, but I just decided to be really excited about it, even though I was about 10,000 miles outside of my comfort zone.  It was kind of like when Buddy the Elf (Movie Elf with Will Ferrell) got the mail room singing and dancing.  It was  a good ward activity, and some less active members and some investigators showed up.  Most of them participated in the competition. 

I can’t remember if I told you guys yet or not that the second temple in Chile will be built in my zone.  It will be down by the Bio Bio River.  I've seen pictures of what it will look like.  It will be three floors, with a fourth floor underground.  

The stake here is starting to put a huge focus on family history work.  Our zone leaders are expecting us to help the members use family history as a way to find new investigators.

I would love to share the awesome pictures that I have, but the blasted plug ins with these computers just don’t pick up anything.

I love you all more than the number of good people all over the world who would accept the gospel but just don’t know where to find it.  

Elder Chad Withers

Dear Family,
This week has been BEAUTIFUL.  This whole summer has been impossibly hot throughout the whole thing, but this week it has cooled off and it’s even a little bit chilly during the night.  I have slept with a blanket for 6 nights in a row!  That’s a new record.  

I’m not really sure how, but the town of La Paz has this overwhelming smell like cilantro.  Not so much in the downtown part, but if you get out in the wide open spaces with fields and farms and acreage.....the whole town has a cilantro smell for some reason.  It just barely started...maybe its cilantro season?  I have no idea.  I don’t even like cilantro, but I can’t seem to get enough of this smell.  It is just so fresh and’s like I am living in paradise!  

We have an investigator named Tito (not sure if I have talked about him) but he is awesome.  He is 20 years old and working hard.  He doesn't actually live with his family though.  He comes from a humble background, is the oldest of 6 kids, and when he was little his mom would send them out to beg for food because they had no income.  He would always go to the Castella family....who are less actives in our branch.  The mom would give him lunch and let him stay to play with her kids.  Play out 15 years to where we are today, and that mom is a nice grandma, her daughter lives in the house in front of hers, and Tito is like the child they never had who helps out with nearly everything.  He helps take care of the paralyzed grandpa who can’t eat, go to the bathroom, get dressed, or anything. He runs errands for them, cleans stuff up, and it’s so cool.  This boy who was so little when his mom sent him out to ask for food is able to give back and help out.  So he has been living essentially with this less active family.  We have visited the family what feels like a million times and they know they need to come to church, but actually getting there is a struggle.  A couple of weeks ago we met Tito and started teaching him and he is so awesome!  He absorbs the lessons like a child....sincerely interested in learning and so quick to act on faith and believe.  His work schedule has made it hard for him to come to church, but he has progressed so much so far, that I know he can do it.  He told us that he met with the missionaries for a while about 4 years ago, and he wanted to get baptized but he was only 16 and his parents wouldn't give him permission.  Now he is baptism is his independent decision!  We are excited and hope he will get baptized. 

Tito is really the only investigator we have though that is pulling through and keeping his word.  All of our investigators keep meeting delays in progression....making up excuses for why they didn't come to church, or trying to explain that they are just so busy they didn't have time to read the Book of Mormon.  The best part is that when we have these conversations with people, we are usually talking to them while they are sitting there drinking mate telling us about how stressful and hectic their lives are.  

I’m working hard to not be frustrated though!  Because frustration just drives the spirit away, but seriously.....where are the people who are ready to progress?  Our teaching pool has been cycled through several times and it’s hard when all of them don’t want to choose the Gospel.  Maybe they still don’t get how important it is (even though we have explained it like a thousand times) but it’s okay.  Missionary work is all the same.  Some get to plant for a while, others may be in charge of weeding, and some get to pick the fruit.  It feels like I have been in the weeding department for a really long time, but maybe that’s what I am good at.  Ha, who knows.  Success isn't manifested by the number of baptisms but rather my desire to bring people to Christ.  

So I got another box.  I think your theory about the boxes being faster is true.  I know they are more expensive, but I still haven’t got the padded envelope you sent in October, but I got a box sent January 30.  It doesn't add up but it makes me feel closer to you guys when I can get notes and a package that isn't three or four months out dated.  I opened the box up right away and gave a tootsie pop to each of the Elders.  The one from the Jungle of Peru loved it.  I also gave one to Pepe our missionary leader and in Spanish he was like, "candy from America?!"  Ha it was fun to share.  Don’t worry, I am keeping the rest for me.  From the other package I let the Hermanas from Santa Elena try a tootsie roll.  One is from Chile and the other from Peru, and they were so funny.  They kept asking if it was gum or if it was chocolate....and I was just like......"uh...neither.  It’s a chewy sweet called a tootsie roll with chocolate flavoring"  

I love you all sooooooo much and hope you know I pray for you every day.  I am so grateful you are all doing well.  Keep up the good work and know that I love you more than all the plates of noodles with bread I have eaten since being here!

Hermana Withers

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Packages in Chile, Bus crash in Argentina

Dear family,
I got a wonderful package from home.  I also got a package from the Victory View Relief Society.  It had candy, letters, oat meal, and ramen noodles.  It also had a lot of CTR stickers. Please be sure to tell them thanks for me.

Did I tell you they have Subway here in Concepción?  And Dominos pizza too.  It is awesome.  
That is awesome that the Olympics are up and going.  I love you all more than the number of peanuts it would take to fill an Olympic ice rink for these games.
Elder Withers

Dear family,
We are writing a little bit early today because we have the Hermanas from Santa Elena who spent the night over at our place (our zone is having a special P-day today.....volleyball on the beach of the Parana River and a member is BBQing for us.....sweet!)

This week really was so typical I struggled coming up with things to write about.  But don’t fret!  There is always something to write about :)

Earlier this week we were riding a colectivo, which is bus system that EVERYONE uses. Interesting to note is that there is no capacity or limit they have for the amount of people that can be riding it at once, they just keep shoving more and more people on when its rush hour.  Anyway we were riding the bus from the furthest part of our area (about an hour walk) back home for the night, when the bus pulled over at the next stop, to let some people off and others on.  The new passengers got on, the bus driver put the thing in gear, and seconds after that a car going decently fast slams into the back of the bus.  In my head I was thinking, great this is going to take we have to wait for police to come and check everything out, make sure everyone was okay, and so on....considering that it might be better to just walk home at this point The bus driver got out to go check out the situation, was gone for about 30 seconds, got back on the bus, and kept driving as if nothing happened.  I was floored..... thinking.... don’t you need to exchange information for insurance purposes in case of necessary repairs or liabilities?!  Ha!  Oh well.  The laws are clearly not the same here.  May God Bless America.  

On Tuesday we had a rainstorm that would put Portland to was raining SO HARD when we woke up, and was like that solid all day until 4 in the didn’t even stop or let up once.  It flooded some houses and made a mess of all the roads, but it cooled everything off and everything looked so pretty with the gray clouds for a backdrop and the moisture in the air.  Funny thing though.  You know how we say in English that it’s raining cats and dogs and how even though the expression makes no sense, you still know what it means?  Well in Spanish they say it’s raining expression that also makes no sense but everyone here knows what it means.  You should have seen us talking to the member about it, he was trying so hard to explain what a pitchfork was, and we were trying so hard to figure out what the heck he was talking about.  We gave up, wrote down the word and looked it up later.  We get it now :)

This week we had a small adventure at the doctor’s office for my companion.  Hermana Giuliani gave us a list of doctors we could go see.  My companion looked at the list and said, "I want to go to Dr. Lawrie.....his name looks the least Argentine and most reliable."  I was like.....ha okay.  All these docs are going to be Argentine, but pick whoever you want.  (It’s not that we don’t love this country, we do....but when it comes to medical things sometimes being in a foreign country is scary.)  We made the appointment for that afternoon, showed up and ended up waiting for 2 1/2 hours.  When the doctor finally got to us....he read her name and then in English says, "she speaks English, come on lets go into my office!"  We got into his office, and he goes onto explain that he was born and raised in La Paz but that his grandma was very strict and that every time they went over to her house they had to speak in English or they didn’t get to eat.  He said, "You can talk in English or Spanish to’s all the same concept" and I think he was right.  His English was incredible, if not fluent.  He said he learned English with a British accent, and it was kind of funny to hear him speak british english with an argentine accent....but he really does know was so cool!  My companion starts to explain what has been happening, and he gets a wicked grin on his face and says, "you know we have a little problem.....I would love to help you but I am an orthopedic surgeon....I have no idea how to help you"  Haaaaa...........what a bust.  The list of doctors Hermana Giuliani gave us weren’t all general practice ones like she thought they were.  He gave us our money back and we were on our way out.  We have an appointment with the doctor’s brother (who works in the same office but is general practice and can also speak English!)  It was just a huge waste of time more than anything, but we are working on making it all better!

This week really was a great one!  All is well and life is good.  We have visitors over for today and its going to be a great day with volleyball and barbeque and zone meeting tonight. 

I’m doing well and love you all.  I love you more than all the glasses of chocolate milk I have consumed this summer!  
Hermana Withers

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chad's new area in the city, Rebecca is staying in La Paz

Dear family,
I love you so very much.  I would send you pictures of the ocean view we have from our 4th story apartment, but the virus security is questionable on these computers, so I don’t want to hook my camera up. I will try to use better computers next week.  My companion is really cool.  We live with 2 other North Americans, so it is harder to learn Spanish.  Living with Latinos was a huge help for my Spanish.  

Amazing news,  Elder Vàsquez sent me an email saying that, after 8 or so years of missionaries on and off, Adolfo finally accepted a baptismal date, the 22 of February.  He was the guy that took us fishing.  I will make sure that Elder Vásquez sends me the pictures of the baptism.  Adolfo always reads the assigned chapter of Principles of the Gospel Class, and takes brilliant notes.  He prepares for Sunday School class more than the teacher does.  I am so happy that he is getting baptized.  

That is great that the Seahawks won.  Being in Concepción, I am now a fan of ocean birds.  Yea Seattle!

I love you all so much, and hope that you always remember that Heavenly Father loves us more than we can possibly imagine.  I love you all more than the number of times it says in the scriptures ´´Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.´´

Con mucho amor,
Elder Chad Withers

Dear Family,
 Today marks 7 months in my mission......!!!!!!!  So crazy.  I have a lot of time left to serve still, but these last few months have flown.  

As for the transfer update.....I am staying another transfer in La Paz with Hermana Sainsbury.  People are starting to make jokes that she has been here so long and will have to finish her mission here, but we are excited to have another transfer together.  We have a smooth rhythm in the way we teach and contact....we can go back and forth in talking really easy because we have been doing it for so long together....we can only improve and get better from here!  

My birthday was fun.....but in all honesty felt like any other day.  My companion made me French toast with dulce de leche, and served it with a nice cold glass of peach juice (the fruit juices here are out of this world delicious), and we went to get ice cream from the shop a block away from our apartment.  You walk in and no one is there....and then this tall lanky man will come towards the front from this dark hallway that is in the back and stare at you, not asking you anything....just expecting you to start telling him what flavors you want) least his ice cream is good!  

While we were waiting for a colectivo earlier this week, it was clear and sunny skies, then in a matter of seconds clouds came from nowhere and seconds after that it started to rain, HARD.  We ran from the stop....bagging the idea of catching the bus right then and ran to the closet thing that could cover us....which ended up being a Catholic chapel (ironic right?!)  It only rained for a couple of minutes and then stopped, so we went back to life as usual.  It was just the most random storm ever.  

And the other day while we were walking home, we were walking past a part where the sidewalk turns into this wide open gravel patch that leads to a couple of different roads.  We walk on the side of it in case people turn in from the main road to turn to the other side roads.  Anyway....we were walking past this part (on the left hand side) and a white car going kind of fast turns in.  We keep walking and it turns towards us and speeds up.  We look at each other.....freak out and run to the right side of the road......the car speeds up and also turns to the right side of the road.  We tried to escape the car and run to anywhere with protection but there really wasn’t anywhere to go.  It was a big open gravel patch of nothing with no trees or buildings to run towards....and before we knew it the car was inches away from us.  The car really couldn’t have gotten any closer without touching us when it slammed on the brakes.  We thought we were about to turn into road kill at the hands of some dumb kids or something....when one of the families we are teaching piles out of the car laughing their heads off.  They were deep belly laughing so hard at the faces we were apparently making - and they thought it was so funny.  Once we knew who it was we were laughing too, but in the moment they really scared us. Which is what the dad was going for when he was driving I think.....quite the prank!  They really are a great family though.  The parents are married (which is unusual!) they have six kids, and are very kind to us (except for the car prank thing....that was lame!)  They are very Catholic but also have an admirable relish to learn more about the LDS church.  We just barely started working with them, so we will see what happens and how they progress!  

Yesterday at church I think was the first Sunday that we didn’t sing Secret Prayer and Who’s on the Lords side Who.  We sing at least one of those hymns every Sunday just because everyone seems to like them and they don’t know that many songs, so if they know one they like to sing it lots.  I never really sang those hymns before my mission......but I am pretty sure they are always going to make me think of this Branch in La Paz.  

We have new investigator named Florencia who is living with a menos activo.  He wants to come back to church and she wants to get baptized.  We are teaching them together, and hoping that we can have a wedding this transfer and a baptism right after! 

I am doing well and excited for another transfer here in La Paz...there is lots of work to do.  Holy just started to rain torrential down pour outside.  Good thing we live a block away from the member whose computers we use, because we totally didn’t bring our umbrellas!  We should be having zone meeting this next week which means I get to see what made it in the mail from America all the way down here in Argentina!  (:  

I love you all lots....more than all the people who are shocked when they learn that mate doesn’t exist in the States.....and more than all the people who pronounce Google "gugley"  it’s my favorite (:  

Have a great week!
Hermana Withers