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 Concepción, 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

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