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
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 week......so 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 blessings.....so 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!)