Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Baptism in Chile, Members & Investigators are not Forgotten

I just talked with a missionary who was in my last ward, and it is for sure, Adolfo was baptized. The military leader who at first refused to accept any scripture besides the first four books of the New Testament, is now a baptized and confirmed member of the church.  The missionary I just talked to, Elder Medina, from Argentina, baptized him.  I just wanted to start my letter with this, because I know it is a miracle that Adolfo’s finally embraced the Gospel.  Little things like watering peoples plants when they aren’t home, having a family home evening with them, or even just going fishing on a Monday morning, really can soften people’s hearts.  Alma 36:6-7  I know that the this family can be sealed in the year to come if they do three things:  Daily scripture study. Daily prayer.  Go to church every Sunday.  I am so happy for Adolfo.

Things are going well here in the Lorenzo Arenas Ward, of the Concepción Stake.  We are starting to have more investigators, more lessons, and the members are really helping us a lot. The ward leadership is awesome about doing mini meetings and then going on splits with the missionaries.  Instead of doing it weekly with the bishopric, the Bishop has decided to make it a regular ward activity for every other week.  As many members as can will meet at the church, receive a list of names and addresses, and then leave with either a missionary or another member to find the ´´lost sheep´´.  It is like a home teaching party.  Then after about an hour, the members will meet up at the church to have refreshments.  It is exciting, and a huge testimony builder, to witness that the Lord is hastening his work.  

Thanks for all the love and support, thanks for the prayers.  Thanks for all the awesome letters, emails, and packages you guys have sent.  I will try to respond.  I love you more than the number of boxes of Kellogg’s cereals that will be bought by missionaries around the world today.

With a smile from ear to ear,
Elder Chad Carl Withers

Dear Family,

The seasons are officially changing, and its beautiful!  I wear a jacket regularly in the evenings, and I get to sleep with blankets and long sleeve shirts.  When I got here and summer was just beginning, it felt like I would never see the day when fall and winter would come.....and here they are knocking on the front door.  I bought hot cocoa powder today and I am excited to use it in the evening after proselyting.  It feels so much nicer to be cozy in layers of clothes instead of roasting in shorts and a t shirt.  The seasons are changing, the leaves are falling, and time is flying!

We were in a neighborhood we don’t go to very often because it’s about an hour walk away from our apartment, but the other day we were there and along the chain link fence were armadillo skins, it was interesting because it was something new.....but it was mostly gross.  And I also saw the biggest spider web ever, probably in my whole life.  The spider was the size of a deck of cards, and its web strung clear across the street.....from one power pole to the other.  It was horrifying, but I was also kind of sad I didn’t have my camera just to take a picture of it.  And there is one type of bug here that is big and green, and when it flies it literally looks like it is using a jet pack.   

This week we had lunch with one of the members, and the mom cooked for a freaking army.  When she put the platter on the table, I sort of cried a little bit on the inside because she is easily offended if you don’t eat a lot.  She could have easily fed the entire branch with the platter of rice and chicken and potatoes.  I ate 3 plates full with a few pieces of bread, and hit absolute capacity.  I was full after the first plate, but tried to have good manners make her know that I thought it was good.  I am just grateful it wasn’t a plate full of pasta, pasta is the worst.  Its noodles covered in oil, but it’s so much more filling.  And between you and me, pasta isn’t so yummy to me anymore anyway.  We eat it at least 3-4 times a many noodles!  I never knew that Argentina ate so much pasta and bread until I got here.  Anyway.... moving on.  
It hit me the other day that I will be hitting the half way point of my mission in a few weeks.  9 months, half way.......can’t believe it.  

On Tuesday we called a member to see if she would be willing to go out and teach with us for a few hours, she said yes, we stopped by to pick her up and we were on our way.  When we started walking she started talking to us and explained that the day before she had been feeling very frustrated with Heavenly Father.  She was annoyed with the other members, frustrated with the leadership, sad that she couldn’t go to the temple with the branch this week, and exhausted with her own family and financial problems.  She said she felt like Heavenly Father had some how forgotten about her and that it didn’t matter if she kept going to church, because she couldn’t see any of the she definitively decided to stop going.  The next day (the day we called her) she was kind of weepy but hadn’t told anyone in her family about her decision to stop going.  She prayed again, and decided that if Heavenly Father could show her that he loved her that day, she would keep going.  She said not even a minute later.......her phone was ringing with us on the other end.  We gave her call, not knowing any of this before hand.  Just following the Spirit saying she would be a good member to take out with us that day.  Such a simple, yet incredible example of the perfect love Heavenly Father has for each of us.  Heavenly Father is so good to each of us, and also incredibly efficient.  He was helping us with the missionary work, but also helping this sweet sister remember how important and loved she really was.  Heavenly Father never forgets anyone.  No matter where they are in the world, what language they speak, how far away they live from big city civilization, or what they do for a living.  He remembers all of us, and all of the small, yet important details of our lives.  Its fun to be a representative of that love, and teach people that God knows and loves all of us.  

For me, this week was a little more difficult mentally.  About the same time I realized that I am almost to my half way mark, I also realized that I have seen so very little fruits of my work.  No baptisms.  And only a few less actives become reactivated.  Hundreds of lessons and even hundreds more contacts, and no results.  And after 9 months, still nothing.  Day after day, the same labor for the Lord, and all I have to show for it is a testimony that is a little bit stronger.  I really had to fight the feelings of frustration, and remember that the Lord hasn’t forgotten me either.  Just like the sweet member who went out with us, he remembers us all.  It took me a couple of days to wrestle through it all in my head, but I have come to peace with it.  I know the Lord is guiding this work, and he knows us all better than we know ourselves.  I am trying to be obedient, have faith, believe in people when they say they are going to read or pray or go to church, and more than anything work hard.  I know it’s all worth it.  Even though I can’t see any of the results right now, it’s okay, I might not ever see the fruits.  And that’s okay too, I don’t need to be rewarded with the fruits.  Being permitted to be a tool in this tiny part of the Lords field is good enough.  More than anything I was humbled this week.  Humbled to remember that I am nothing, that the Lord is everything......and that I shouldn’t have conditions or blessings that I expect to see for the work I give.  It will all be worth it in the end.  

Alma chapter 29 is the chapter that really caught my attention this week, nearly bringing me to tears.  I feel the exact same way, and want to rejoice in all of the miracles that are occurring around the world in the work of the Lord, not just focus on the progress (no matter how slow it may be) here in La Paz. 

Interesting cultural note.....if you ask a woman how many kids she has, she will tell you the number including miscarriages.  They count all of them.  Kind of cool.  

I love you more than all of the stores here in Argentina that sell only raw meat (welcome to the meat capital of the world!)

Hermana Withers

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hastening the work in Chile, Rebecca has a new companion

Hola to Everyone,
We had a pretty good rainstorm Sunday morning, but it didn’t stop Moses from coming to church.  Moses or Moíses as it is Spanish, is a homeless alcoholic man, but nevertheless, a son of God, and was baptized about 10 years ago.  In 3 Ne 18:32, it talks about the importance of rescuing the less active.  We´ve talked with him a couple of times, and we decided to invite him to church.  He came!  We let him borrow a white shirt and tie, and he walked through the rain to the church building.  He had the biggest smile on his face as we walked to church, and I thought that this is probably the most concern anybody had shown him in years.  

To answer your question - no, the Chilean calendar has a slight defect and doesn’t include St. Patrick’s Day. 

I would like to start out by saying that the Lord is hastening his work.  Last Tuesday we had a ward executive committee meeting, almost the entire meeting was about ´´what ward executive committee should be´´, and also about missionary work.  A few people sort of dominated all the conversation and I didn’t have much to say.  Towards the end of the meeting, I suggested that every Tuesday we could have a quick mini meeting, and then each missionary could go on splits with a couple of members, and then everybody meet back up in the church.  The idea was a hit and we will start tomorrow.  My zone leaders in Chillán worked really effectively with their bishopric in this manner, and I hope it will work in this ward.

This week we are going to have a Noche de Hogar, or Family Home Evening with a member family and a non-member family they know.  I am pretty excited for it because those family home evenings are such an awesome way to find great new investigators.  We usually bring a cheap store-bought dessert, and a short church video.  

I love you all so very much.  I hope you all can share the gospel in every opportunity that the Lord gives you.  Pray to have missionary opportunities.  Scripture for this week: 2 Timothy, chapter 1:7-9  
“7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and by grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”

I love you all more than the number of people wearing green today.
You guys are awesome.  
-Elder Chad Withers

Dear Family,
This week was a terrific one!  It had lots of big changes, but it was so fun.  

Biggest news is that I have a new companion, and she is so cool.  Her name is Hermana Galan, from Mexico.  She comes from a humble home with a single mom and older brother.  She misses tacos a lot, and she can’t speak any English except for a few words or phrases. Someone taught her the word "fetch" at one point, and she uses it all the time.....ha it makes me smile every time.  She is going to help me so much with Spanish, and she has goals for English that I am excited to help her with.  She is a hard worker, and obedient, and so fun to have around.  Every one of my companions has been such a big blessing....they are all stable, normal, hard working, high functioning sisters....with great senses of humor.  It’s awesome!  

It was sad to say good bye to Hermana Sainsbury, because I had been with her for so long and we were such good friends, but Hermana Galan has been a breath of fresh air as well.  She is young (just barely turned 20!) and has only been on her mission for 4 months, but she has a solid grasp on the doctrine and fun methods of teaching.  Basically I am just soaking up my time with her and trying to make the most of it.  She was baptized when she was 12 years old, but then went in active for about 5 years, and then came back.  She is the only member in her family except for a few random cousins.  And we are going to see miracles this transfer! 

The day of transfers was so long for me though.  Hermana Sainsbury left at noon, and Hermana Galan’s colectivo (bus) didn’t pull in until 7:30 that night.  I had to spend about 4 hours with the Elders until one of the members could be with me. While with the Elders we ate lunch and watched movies, and it was super boring. And then I went with a member to her house and it was a little more interesting, but really I just wanted to have my new companion and get to know her.  That’s the thing about being here in La if transfers affect you, it involves lots of traveling.  We are clear up here in the boondocks, and it took Hermana Galan 9 hours in a bus to get here.  

Random note......Elder Hill is now serving as an office Elder, serving as the mission secretary.  Ha.... pray for him.  He is now in charge of all visa and passport paperwork.  

Random cultural note is that dogs are used as security systems here.  Often times if you walk past a business, regardless of what they are selling....if its locked and shut down for the night there is often a dog inside.  There is a car dealership that has a few, and I’ve seen a few other random places with dogs inside.  They have been trained too, because when you walk past them they follow you from the other side of the window and kind of growl at you.  It’s kind of funny to think of dogs as a security system, but people do it!  

Before I forget to tell you, the mission has told us to tell home that apparently the Argentine Customs isn’t letting any foreign food go through any more.  If there is a package and some candy thrown in, the whole package will be thrown away.  Just so you know.  Maybe it will change, but for now if you send packages, don’t put food in it.  

Anyway......things really are going well.  I am happy and healthy, and loving life.  I hope you know that I love you all!  I love you all more than all the people here in La Paz who have never seen snow before (I think I have met 2 people in all of my time here who have seen snow in person).  

Keep being awesome and know that you are all my favorites!  Until next week!
Hermana Withers 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

5 awesome people in Church on Sunday... Chile & Argentina

Dear Family,
Well the cambios (transfers) got here, I and Elder Copling are still together so that is good.  I don’t know if I told you about ´´The Tie´´.  There was a missionary who was here during the earthquake, and he gave the tie to the person he trained, and then that person to the next, and so on, kind of like the gold plates.  I was the 8th person to have the tie, and now Elder Copling has it since he finished his training.  The missionary who has it writes their name and the year on the back of the tie.  It is a cool tradition.  

This was a great Sunday.  Five less actives came to church.  One of them brought his girlfriend, and she is a non-member, so we hope we can start the lessons with her.  

Here are a couple of pictures one we put with our testimony in the Books of Mormon before we give them away.  The other picture is the man who goes up and down the streets all day selling fruits and vegetables out of his large ox pulled wagon.  He advertises by yelling really loud, he is good at it though.  

We had some pretty cool experiences this week.  Yesterday, at about 9:00 p.m. we came around a corner, and we both felt a very strong impression to just turn around and go back.  We both, neither one saying a word, knew that God didn’t want us to be over there.  I don’t know what would have happened had we ignored the spirit.  I hope that you all know that God answers prayers, and that he is watching out for his children.  I love you all!

I love you all more than the number of grapes that Chile exports to the U.S.A.
Elder Withers

Dear Family,
I love hearing from you guys.  I just love the routine of reading your letters each week and knowing that all is well.... Life is so incredibly good isn’t it?  We have so much to be thankful for and so many fun things to experience in this life.  

As for my adventures this was a good one!  We had five investigators at church.  FIVE!  Every time one walked in my heart sang a little bit louder.  It’s so fun to have them there, because the members do a really good job fellowshipping them.  
We had another lesson with Alfredo, and he is still so cool.  He is reading the Book of Mormon lightning fast, and has the most admirable curiosity.  He really is just like a child in that sense....very meek and willing to learn. 

And we had a lesson with Marisa.  Which went well, she is still letting doubts float around in her head instead of acting on faith with what she does know to be true. She is a good lady and is willing to do the Lord’s will, she is just getting confused as to what the Lord’s will actually is.  We are working with her though; at least she is still willing to meet with us.  

We had zone meeting this last week as well, which was fun..... I keep praying and hoping that the Christmas package makes it.  

Fun cultural note is that we are sort of stuck in the 90s down nearly everything.  In clothes, music (our neighbors are the worst in that sense.....they play footloose, and girls just wanna have fun, and so many more super loud....we sleep with the fan on the highest setting to drown out the noise and layer up the blankets....because it’s getting cold!)

I love that we are experiencing changes in seasons together, you guys on your way out of winter, and me on my way into winter.  It’s so crazy.  The time is flying by.  

Today we got transfer news, and............Hermana Sainsbury is going to Parana to be with Hermana Haynes (my MTC companion!).  Crazy!  I am getting a cute Hispanic companion named Hermana Galan (I still don’t know where she is from though; I get to meet her tomorrow!)  She just finished the 12 week program, and I am excited for the change.  Ha.....Hermana Sainsbury is devastated though.  She is going to a big city, and we have stayed at that apartment she is going to move to (when we have to travel long distances).....and it’s a real dive.  We will be buying ice cream this afternoon for sure.  

Really life is good.  I feel like my roots are firmly established here in this area, and it feels good to have a handle on the language.  Having a new companion here will be good to change things up too, and I can keep learning and growing.  

I love you all lots!  More than all the things that go up in price each day!  I am actually not even kidding, everything inflates in price a little bit each day.  

Hermana Withers    

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Stake Conference on Missionary Work and an Argentine Wedding

Dear Family,
Well, today was pretty cool.  Our zone went on a 20 minute drive to a trail head, and then we took a short 20 minute hike to a really pretty beach.  We played beach volleyball.  It was a lot of fun.  We had to make the court out of scratch.  The member and his convert friend cut down 2 small trees, and we dug holes in the sand, and then we put the trees in as the poles.  We brought our ward´s volleyball net.  We drew the lines in the sand, but after a couple hours the ocean started to erase the lines.  It was a really pretty hike, and the beach was nicely secluded and really pretty.  I brought my camera, and I got 1 picture at the trail head before the battery died.  

We are trying really hard to find new investigators.  Our Stake Conference was almost entirely about missionary work, and temples.  We had a Seventy come, and he was from Argentina.  His name was Elder Causse.  I got to shake his hand.  It was so nice to hear someone speak Spanish who isn't from Chile.  He was so easy to understand, and talked really slow.  It was like listening to someone from Alabama.  He talked about how right now, is the time when the Lord is hastening His work, and that the members and missionaries work together.  When he bore his testimony that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that this is the true church, I felt the spirit really strong.  

Our mission president had a really great talk, and he had 2 missionaries do a role play of how a member can share the gospel in an everyday conversation.  Then he asked every member to talk with the person sitting next to them of someone they could share the gospel with.  Then he told all the members to do a 2 minute practice, and he had the missionaries go around and help them.  It was a really good conference, and I took some notes that I want to re-read during my morning studies.  The first talk was one of my favorites.  It was a convert who grew up in a really hard home, but found the church.  He shared that if people study for years and years in order to live comfortably in this short life, just a High School diploma is about 12 years of study, then how important it must be to study the gospel and prepare ourselves for eternity.  He himself knew about studying, he is some sort of doctor of radiology or something like that.  It caught my attention, that this life really is very short, and we better prepare ourselves well, because where we are going after this, we will be there for a long long time.  

I wish you the very best in all you do, you are awesome!  I love you all more than the number of grains of sand in the ocean.
Elder Chad Withers

Dear Family,
Time really is flying by so fast!  I can’t believe it!  Today marks 8 months in my mission.  I hope last week’s email didn't make me sound sad or out of spirits, I am always doing great.  It’s just that last Sunday was sort of a rock bottom feeling with all of our investigators who just weren't progressing.  We have dropped the majority of the people we were visiting, and have essentially started over trying to find the people who are really ready......and the Lord blessed us so much in our efforts!

Last Saturday evening (2 weeks ago) we contacted a cute girl named Liza and taught her a quick lesson 1 on her doorstep.  We left her with the pamphlet and a Book of Mormon and set up a return appointment for the next Monday.  We showed up Monday for the appointment, asked for Liza, and her dad came to the door.  He told us his name was Alfredo, and that he knew we had met with his daughter, and that he needed to talk to us.  Physically looking, he is kind of scary; with broad shoulders, a thick handlebar mustache, and a really deep voice.  My immediate thought, was "oh shoot.....he is going to tell us that we can’t come back to meet with Liza" (shame on me for so little faith!)  He went to get the Book of Mormon that was on the book shelf and the pamphlet...he took us to the kitchen, told us to sit down.  

He told us he had read the pamphlet (which is many people never read!) and that he had started to read the Book of Mormon, and that he was very interested in it.  His curiosity was interesting though, it didn't come out of negative speculation but instead out of sincere wondering.  He had never seen it before, told us quickly all the things he hates about his church, and that he just wants to know about this church.  We only talked to him for like 10 minutes because he had to go, but we set up another appointment with him for Friday.  We showed up on time for our next Friday appointment......and he blew us away.  

He told us that a few nights ago, at like 3 in the morning, he had a toothache so painful he couldn’t even sit hurt so bad.  He walked around in his house, tried to go back to bed, and nothing worked.  He saw the book on the table and decided to read it to pass the night away....he started to read it and said he couldn't put it down.  He got to 1 Nephi 11 when he realized that his eyes were starting to get tired from reading.  When he closed the book, he realized his tooth didn't hurt anymore, and he was able to go back to bed and then to the dentist the next day.  We reviewed what he read, and he told us his favorite was chapter 8 which talked about the tree of life.  His interpretation of it was so spot on, it’s like he is a member.  He picked up that the iron rod is the way to God, the fruit is the gospel, the people out in the darkness are people who have fallen off the path and so on.  He picked it all up.  We went back to the first vision to go over that too, because we hadn't had the chance to really teach him about the restoration.....and he literally quoted back the First Vision to us.  He had already read the pamphlet a few times.  He says he is very interested in the church, and that what he has read so far he believes is true.  

I have never taught anyone like Alfredo on my mission before, and he is so fun to teach.  He asks us so many questions we have to draw him back into what we are talking about.  People who are progressing are just so much more fun to work with!  The intense contacting we have been doing so far is working and the Lord is really guiding us to where we need to go.  

We also went to a fiesta in the chapel for the wedding of the Elder’s investigators.  It was a cute party with lots of balloons, support from the members, and a great opportunity for our investigators to go to the chapel and meet everyone.  We met Ariel and Silvia there at the chapel (and they really came with their whole family and everything!) and it was awesome.  Pepe gave them a tour of the building, with a stop in front of the baptismal font, and they said they loved the chapel and members.  They were a family we were going to drop but they are still ever so slowly progressing, so we won’t lose hope on them yet.  If there is even the slightest sliver of a chance, we keep them.  If there is no movement forward, we move on to new people that are ready.  It’s sort of a sad cycle sometimes, and can be exhausting.....but it makes me really appreciate the true love Christ has for all of us.  

The wedding party was fun though because they have a cool tradition.  Instead of the bride throwing her bouquet of flowers of her shoulder to see who can catch it, they do something completely different.  They bake the cake with little coin things in the shape of random things (like a shoe, car, fish, house, bike, so on) with a string attached to it.  So the strings hang around the cake like aligned confetti (I hope this is making sense).  So all the single women gather around the cake, grab a string, and on the count of three everyone pulls the string.  The person who pulls the string with the ring at the end of it is the person who is going to get married next.  (Funny thing....the bride pulled the ring at this party.)  I pulled out a fish, and Hermana Sainsbury pulled out a house.  (We were reluctant to do it, but all the members thought it would be funny if we did it, so we did!).

The situation with Marisa has honestly just changed.  She sent us a text on Thursday saying she doesn't want to meet with us anymore, that she doesn't know what she believes, and that she just needs space from the church for a while.  We called her right up and asked what happened.....and honestly nothing has happened.  She just hasn't been reading the book of Mormon for 6 weeks or going to church in 2 months, and she has spaced herself enough from doing good things that the doubts Satan puts in her head have just become a little more difficult to overcome and get rid of.  She said she is going to pray this week to really see what the Lord wants her to do.  We fasted for her this Sunday, and we are excited to go see her this Wednesday for our appointment we talked her into.  She has just progressed too far to let us drop her so quickly.  We are going to fight for her as long as she will let us.  

We had a funny contact the other day, and they honestly had me walking away amazed.  It was a middle aged couple that came to the gate, and shared all sorts of information.  Apparently lots of missionaries have clapped that house before, but they still aren't interested.  They said that we aren't even part of a church because the only church that can exist is apparently their church, that we were on a bad path, and that we probably aren't going to be saved.  They talked on and on about how they have a higher chance of being saved compared to most people because of their Santos (saints), the virgin Mary, and Jesus. We just sort of said, "okay, good to meet you, we know this is the true Church of Christ that has been restored" left a pamphlet and just tried to get out of there.  They gave us a pamphlet thing with weird pictures and articles that make no sense.  I am just going to pick the path of Jesus and work to help others do the same.  Less confusing!  I hope one day they can come to understand. 

The Fall weather is still as beautiful as ever and I am excited for a new season.  I got out my sweat pants and sleeping bag to sleep just so I can feel cozy in the cool evenings and mornings.  It’s awesome!  Everything is still really green though.

Well....I hope you all have a great day!  We have zone meeting this Friday, so maybe I have a package waiting for me!  I hope you know I love you more than all of the Catholics who worship Gauchito Gil (Google him....he is like an Argentine Robin Hood who lived who knows how long ago and there are seriously shrines where people go to pray and leave flowers and stuff).

Stay awesome,
Hermana Withers