Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Last Six Weeks Went Fast, A Lot of Testimony Building Experiences

June 8, 2015

Well Hello Folks!
I hope you are all doing well.  I am working hard, and I feel bad for having written even less than last week, just know that when I get home, we aren’t going to worry about the hour writing time, because we can talk face to face every day!

These last six weeks have gone by fast, but I am glad I still have one more, I want to enjoy to the maximum.

We are grateful to have such great members who help out a lot.  

My companion has been feeling quite sick this last week, we are going to see a doctor in an hour.  Hopefully it is nothing serious.  Please pray that he can get better.  

Well there sure have been a lot of testimony building experiences over the last 2 years.  I know that God lives, and that he loves us, and that he takes interest in our lives.  I am so grateful for my mission.

I love you all, more than the number of walleye it would take to pull an aircraft carrier from the port of Talcahuano.  See you soon.

With love,
Elder Withers

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wish My Mission Could Go On Forever

Dear Family,

Well, it has been a little bit cold down here in Chile, but it would only make sense, I can’t imagine a country more chilly than Chile.  Well, just know that I am happy and healthy. 

I am sad that the mission doesn’t go on forever, but that doesn’t mean I am not excited to be with you guys.  I just sort of wish the mission could last longer, it will be hard to leave.  I spent a good chunk of my writing time getting the addresses of people so I can send those pictures with the temple and my contact information.  That is why this email is a bit short. 

This week was another good week, with lots of miracles along the way.  There are so many miracles that happen in the mission field, I know I don’t realize even half of the miracles that happen right around me, and out of the few I actually notice, I maybe have told you about 10%, if that.  Just know that there are lots of miracles, big and small, every single day.  It might be a wonderful day, or it might be a seemingly lousy day with lots of walking around in the rain, and it is still blessings galore.

We had a large ward fireside about the Book of Mormon.  It was fascinating.  The Book is true, it is powerful, and we all need to read it every day.

I love you all more than the number of times that God has blessed someone because they kept the commandment to which the blessing is affixed.

Have a great day!
Elder Withers

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Inspirational Quotes and a Testimony of the Book of Mormon

Dear Family,
 You guys are so awesome.  Thanks for praying for the people we are teaching.  It really makes a difference.

This week was a slower week than we had hoped for.  It isn’t always easy, but that is what makes fruitful moments all the better.  We had high hopes of finding some families, but a lot of plans fell through.  But those plans did not take our hope with them.  We will be at it again for this week, working harder and smarter than at any previous point in our missions.

This morning we had a zone activity of playing ultimate Frisbee.  It was a lot of fun, and luckily, no one lost the Frisbee.  

I enjoy trying to remember good quotes, and like anyone, I have heard hundreds of inspirational words of wisdom.  I have discovered that Elder Barnes also enjoys having a few good quotes, and in the house we often listen to recordings of inspirational speeches given at BYU.  Here are a few quotes I have grown to like:

“The grass is not greener on the other side.  It is greener where you water it.” 

“If you want to leave footprints in the sands of time, wear work boots.”

“Yesterday is ashes.  Tomorrow is wood.  Only today does the fire burn brightly.”

My comp had the great idea of getting together some good recipes from Chile.  There are a few members who have offered to write recipes.  I will bring home a small collection of what I deem to be the best foods this country has to offer.  Most of the ingredients are easy to find.  I won’t bring recipes for lentejas nor cazuela (lentils or casserole).

I will be sure to bring home a whole lot of Chilean candy.

Well just be sure that you know that I know that the Book of Mormon is true.  It is the most important book we can have in our lives.  I hope that all of us (myself included) can grow to more fully treasure it, study it, and openly feast upon it.  I have been thinking about the importance of the Book of Mormon lately.  The people who I have helped prepare for baptism and who had meaningful studies of this book are active, while those whose scripture studies were weak aren’t as strong in the Gospel.   

I know that this is the true church.  I know that my mission is a time to serve God by serving his children.  I am grateful for this time.  I sure wish I could have more time to serve, but the mission is only 2 years.  2 years spent teaching the gospel has been a great blessing and a time of growth for me.  I know there is still a lot to learn in life, but the mission has definitely prepared me for life’s challenges a whole lot better than anything else.  I am eternally grateful for the experiences I have had, and am continuing to have.

I love you all so very much.  More than the number of people who have felt the power of the Holy Ghost as they read the Book of Mormon.

Have the best week so far of 2015.
Elder Withers

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wonderful Visit on Mother's Day, Joy Seeing Best Friend and Cousin

Mother's Note:  
We had a wonderful talk with Elder Withers on Mother's Day.  He looks great, and is really enjoying the work.  He is an amazing missionary, but still the same Chad we know and love.  
Dallin (Elder Hill) that he mentions in this letter is his cousin.  They have always been close friends.  Elder Hill is from Woods Cross, Utah and is serving in the Concepcion South Mission.  Chad is in the Concepcion Mission, and the mission offices are in the same building.  They both happened to be passing through the office at the same time.  I can only imagine the excitement they must have felt to see each other.  
We have received travel plans for Elder Withers.  He will be home on June 17!!!

Dearest Family,
Me da gusto saber que estan bien.  (It makes me happy to know you are all well.)

Today, for the first time since the MTC, I saw Dallin!!!  We both happened to be in the office at the same time.  It was cool to see him.  I was going to take a picture, but my camera battery died right then, I will be sure to charge it today.  My companion took a picture of us.  It was fun to sit down and just talk with him for about 15 or 20 min.  I will get you that picture.  Dallin is such an awesome person.  I am glad to be his cousin.

This week my companion and I are planning to work crazy hard, and we’ve got the plans to do it.  We both want to finish our missions working hard.  We are trying to find people to teach and baptize.  We are working with an 18 year old named Sebastian, he went to church yesterday and is preparing to be baptized on June 6.  There is also Claudia who is 16, and is preparing for the 13th of June.  They are both friends of a ward missionary who invited them to take the lessons.  There is also Victor, 9 years old, whose grandfather is active, but mother is less active.  The whole family lives together, and they are excited for their youngest to be baptized on the 13th.  We however would really like to find some families.  Because people have to go to church 3 times before they can get baptized, people who we find this week I can see get baptized.  The favor I am asking for is that you pray for us to find families who accept the gospel and go to the temple in a year, as well as pray for Sebastian, Claudia, and Victor.  Elder Barnes and I are going to do all we can to find new investigators.  Your prayers are appreciated.

Today, we ate lunch with the Kauer family, a missionary couple from Rexburg.  They are really nice.  They invited us to eat with them, and it was a great lunch.  It was good to eat a chicken enchilada (something that no one cooks here in Chile).  

I am happy and healthy.  I am eating in the mornings and evenings nothing but fruit smoothies, and trying to eat less bread and soda at lunches.   

We are working at getting the area all figured out.  There are lots of member families, and we decided to make thank you notes for all of them.  We really want to take advantage of having so many members, so we are going to work at getting references, including helping Bishop build a covering/garage for his pickup truck.

I greatly appreciate the many emails and letters that you guys send.  You are more than awesome.  I love you all more than the number of pounds of ice it would take to make the ocean freeze over thick enough to drive some 10,000 semi trucks lined up in a train.

I love you all!

-Elder Withers

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Transfers... Staying in Talcahuano, new Companion from Idaho

May 4, 2015

Dear Familiy,
Well, transfers have come!  I am going to.... stay here in Talcahuano, but Elder Incil se va a Linares, at the north end of the mission, 4 hours from here.  My new companion will be Elder Barnes from Rigby, Idaho.  He is an excellent missionary, I once went on splits with him when I was his district leader, and I am looking forward to learn from him again.  It will be his first transfer as zone leader, and I am excited to show him the ropes.  Shocking but not too surprising, the other area of Cruz del Sur is being closed.  There were 4 elders in the ward, but now there will be only 2.  It was expected because the amount of missionaries entering the mission is significantly less than the number of missionaries finishing their missions.  I heard that each mission will have roughly 200 missionaries, so that means our mission will shrink slightly.  Pray for Elder Barnes and I, that we will be able to quickly learn the streets, members, and teaching groups of the other missionaries.  We lived in the same house but had the ward subdivided.  It is a lot of area to cover, but God wouldnt call us to fail, I know he will help us find, teach, and send people towards the temple.   

Christian was baptized on Saturday.  It was a very spiritual baptismal service, and I felt the spirit strongly.  It was edifying.  A member who accompanied us frequently in the teaching process baptized him, and Christian asked me to confirm him.  Finding, teaching, and baptizing this good man was a true testimony building experience.  He was a promising street contact; he gladly accepted the baptismal challenge in the first visit and has progressed steadily.  I am happy to know that there are millions of men and women all around the world like him who are ready to accept the gospel; they just need to have it preached to them.  Yesterday in fast and testimony meeting, he decided to share his testimony, and it was a great memory I will take from the mission. Seeing a recent convert, having just barely received the Holy Ghost, share a short and sincere testimony of how, by the spirit, he came to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that this is the only true church on the face of the earth.  Many members shared testimonies after he spoke, all brief and heartfelt, and it was the most powerful and uplifting fast and testimony meeting I have witnessed.  

Well, time has slipped away.  I am happy and healthy, and the church is true.   

I love you all, more than the number of rocks and plants that have been displaced by all the volcanic eruptions over the last 1000 years.
-Elder Withers

Volcano in Chile! Missionary work in Talcahuano Progressing

April 27, 2015

Dear Family,
Greetings from the highly volcanic nation of Chile!

It is good to hear from you all.  The best thing about p-day isn’t going to get groceries, or picking up clean laundry from a members home, or even having a little break.  The best thing about my p-days is hearing that you guys are all right, doing well in the things you do, and just being awesome.

Here in Talcahuano things are going well.  The volcano hasn’t affected us, but a lot of people are talking about it.  It was a really big eruption.  It was quite a long ways from where I am, so don’t worry, the ash isn’t piling up here like it is farther south. 

Things here in Talcahuano have been going a little bit crazy.  We are teaching a guy named Roberto.  He has one leg; his other leg was amputated because of diabetes.  He has gone to church three times in a row.  He has a wheel chair, and there are different members with cars that go to pick him up.  He is about 65 and we found him talking to people in the streets.  He has to stop smoking and drinking coffee but he has come a long ways with the Word of Wisdom.  He said last week he stopped smoking and drinking coffee.  He has been slowing down gradually, but if he smokes again we will change his baptismal date from the 9th to the 16th of May. 

Christian, the guy who used to smoke, drink, and consume coffee and tea, has been doing well with the Word of Wisdom, but we have to keep postponing his baptism because of his work, he is often far away for up to 2 weeks at a time.  There is a possibility that we could baptize Christian this Saturday, but we aren’t sure if he will be in town.  Please pray for Roberto, that he will never smoke or drink coffee again, and for Christian, that he will be able to find a more stable job.  Your prayers of faith make a difference. 

You guys are awesome.  I love you all.  I hope you all have a great day today.  I love you all more than the number of square inches of Chile and Argentina that have been covered in volcanic ash.

With lots of love,
Elder Withers

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sharing the Gospel on Facebook, and A Technical Miracle with Dallin H. Oaks Message

Dear Family,
Well I am alive and all is well.  This week our zone had P-day on Tuesday, instead of Monday, in order to go to a certain museum that is closed on Mondays.  I am happy and healthy, and hope that you all find the blessings and miracles in your lives in this upcoming week.

The transmitted conference with Elder Oaks was quite cool.  There were technical difficulties at the beginning that got everyone a bit worried, we were able to see the speakers but not hear them well.  Before Elder Oaks began his talk, President Arrington asked the entire mission, gathered together in the capilla (chapel) of my first ward in Chillan, to pray so that we could receive the transmission well.  Within 20 seconds, as everyone’s head was bowed in silent prayer we heard clearly and loudly the voices of the speakers.  It was a miracle, of the power of prayer, and an open manifestation that President Arrington receives revelation for this mission.  I love our President.

This week, well, was quite calm.  I am trying to remember if there was anything that was great or out of the ordinary.  Oh, I just remembered, something that happened last week, we had carne al disco, which I hadn’t eaten before, but I sure liked it.  The Barriga family, who by the way are awesome, y mas encima, los dos padres servieron misiones cuando eran mas joven, asi que ayudan mucho en la obra aqui.  (The Barriga family, who by the way are awesome, and even more, both parents served missions when they were young, and are helping a lot with the work here.)

Anyway, for lunch, they put on their wood stove, which is somewhat common for cooking here in Chile, a large iron disc.  On the disc they put various meats, such as beef, chicken, and pork, and they position the meats so that the different juices from the meats mix together, and the flavor is amazing.  It was a very fascinating way of cooking.  And then Brother Barriga explained some Chilean tradition of taking pieces of bread, to mop up the meat juices from the disc shaped pan (which was at least 2 feet in diameter) and then eating the bread.  We did that, and the flavor was great, but I don’t want to know how many calories were in that lunch, with all the bread, potatoes, beef steak, chicken, pork, sausage, and coca cola.  It was a lunch for the record books.  

We had a zone conference this past Thursday, It was two zones, Talcahuano Norte (north) and Talcahuano Sur (south).  It was really good.  It was focused on how to find new investigators, and it was quite inspirational.  Something missionaries did in another area of the mission, and that the Barriga family agreed to do is record their testimony and put it on Facebook as a short video clip.  The missionaries visited with a member, shared a lesson, and then asked the member to share her testimony of a certain principle.  She shared a short, heartfelt testimony.  And then the missionaries asked her to share that same testimony as they record her with her smart phone, so she could put it on Facebook.  They recorded the testimony, and then right then and there, she uploaded it to Facebook.  It seems like a creative, powerful way to find new investigators through members (the ideal source of new investigators).  We are going to do it with as many members who are willing.  The idea is that every member is a missionary.  I invite you all to consider what you are doing to share the gospel, and see if you can include this.  Family home evening idea!

Well there is a book called the power of the everyday missionary, you can read it online for free.  Look for it in the mission blog http://chileconcepcionmission.blogspot.com/ 

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that this is His church, and that Thomas S. Monson is his prophet.

I love you all.  I love you more than the number of rays of sunshine it would take to roast a marshmallow 99999999999999999999999 miles from the sun.

Elder Withers

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Looking Forward to Hearing Dallin H. Oaks

Dear Family,

There were some technical difficulties with my email account, but all is well and resolved.  I had to go to the mission office and we called church email people in Salt Lake.  Everything is well now, there just is zero time to write, because I am writing from the mission office, and the office people have to go run errands.

Things are going well.  Being comps with Elder Incil is quite fun.  We get along good and laugh about a lot of stuff.  I am excited to hear from Elder Oaks this Saturday, it will be broadcast live.  

There are a number of good people we are teaching, including a man with one leg who wants to get baptized.  He went to church yesterday, he uses a wheel chair, and a kind member took him in his car.  Well I really have to go.  

Just know I am happy and healthy.  The church is true.  

I love you all more than the number of raindrops that crash onto the earth and ocean in a 24 hour period. 

Elder Withers

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Conference, A Flood of Revelation

April 6, 2015

Hola Family and Friends,
Well this past week was pretty calm.  The best thing that happened was conference weekend.  The Stakes here are really thoughtful and always have a television set up for missionaries to watch the conference in English if they would like, so I watched it live in English.  I watched the Spanish talks in Spanish however.  It was cool to see Elder Zeballos speak, he has spoken to our mission before and shook everyone`s hand.  He is originally from Talcahuano, so that is exciting. 

Our mission president asked each missionary to include in their weekly letter one thing that called their attention from conference.  Here is part of what I wrote President Arrington:  General Conference was a spiritual feast.  I am grateful for the inventions of pen and paper that allowed me to take notes.  What most called my attention from conference was a talk from Wilford W. Anderson of the Seventy.  I really liked the story of the Native American and the doctor.  “I can teach you to dance but you have to hear the music”  is a line I hope to never forget.  I want to always be worthy to hear the music of the gospel, and help others tune into it as well.

I hope you all enjoyed conference.  It was a flood of revelation.  I hope that I can get an organized canal system going on to make sure all that revelation doesn’t just go to the ocean, but rather divert the flood into the fields of productivity and action, allowing each drop of God`s guidance to seep in.  

The work is moving forward and we are really happy that the convert baptisms the ward has lately are staying strong.  Pia who got baptized last week is considering serving a mission, and her mother is thrilled with the idea, so that is good news.  There is a member family in the ward, the Barriga family, that is organizing 2 family home evenings with neighbor families this week and they have invited us.  One of the families is part member and the other family is all non- member.  They asked us to share the movie “Together Forever”.  We hope and pray that they will feel the spirit and accept the baptismal challenge.  

The 18th of April will be a good day here in Chile.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks will come to Santiago, capital of Chile, and his talk will be transmitted to a number of missions.  We will go to the Gleisner chapel in Concepcion, a large chapel, and the location of the fourth church building in Chile, to watch it.  Elder Oaks will be speaking to the missionaries of Chile, so I am definitely looking forward to that.

I love my family.  I love you all more than the number of good ideas, sent from Heaven  that people received as a result of the conference this past weekend.  

With lots of love,
Elder Withers

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Very Short Letter...

March 30, 2015

Dear Family,

I am glad to see you all had a good weekend and lots of fun.  Spring break is great!  I am short on time, so this will be short.

Teresa and Pia were baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday.  It was great, their family came.  Also, I heard that Patricio Aguayo, the tall man who sells Mercedes Benz, from Santa Sabina, finally got married and baptized and confirmed this last week.  I have stayed in contact with him; he has such a good family.  

We played soccer this morning, but we got there by taking the train.  It was lots of fun, and actually cheaper and faster than the bus.  We will be using the train more often now.

Things are going well with Elder Incil.  It is the 4th time we’ve been in the same zone at the same time, so it is like a big mini-cambio.  It is fun.  We had a ward talent show on Friday.  The ward did some pretty funny skits.  Well I am happy and healthy.

I love you all more than the number of wires it takes to send this message from Chile to the U.S.A.

-Elder Withers

Monday, March 23, 2015

Transfer Changes, and Absolute Truth

Dear Family,
This week was a pretty calm week.  Nothing too crazy has happened.  We are just hunting for people to teach, and we have been greatly blessed lately with new people to teach.  Yesterday was going really slow, but at the end of the day we visited a lady who a week ago said come back some day.  She is really good, and said that she will be baptized if God answers her prayer about the Book of Mormon.  We are excited for her.  Teresa and Pia are progressing well to their baptism this Saturday.  Teresa hasn’t smoked and is doing great about it.  Christian is also progressing along.  I am excited for the upcoming weeks, and hope the Lord will allow us to find some new folks to teach, hopefully families.  

There have been transfers, actually, a lot of transfers.  About half of the zone is being changed.  The president has said that there will be a large focus on giving more missionaries chances to serve as leaders, so a lot of missionaries will be ending the mission as senior comps or trainers instead of district or zone leaders.  My companion is going to be with an Elder that has lots of problems.  All 3 of the district leaders in this zone are leaving, and incoming are 3 brand new district leaders.  My companion will be a new zone leader.  The challenge that God has given me, and opportunity to grow by giving service this cambio will be to help the new leaders of the zone in their assignments.  My companion is Elder Incil, I have been with him a lot, this is the 4th time we are in the same zone.  He was in my district once and I really like his work ethic and teaching ability.  He is from Lima Peru.  Also, great news, one of the new district leaders is Elder Copling, whose training I finished in Lorenzo Arenas.  I am excited for the opportunities and challenges of this upcoming transfer.  

Well time has flown and I need to be off and away, but just know that the following things are absolute truths.  Jesus Christ is our Savior.  Joseph Smith was called by God to be the prophet to restore the gospel.  The Book of Mormon is true, and together with the Spirit establishes convincing evidence of the former 2 truths.  I love to be a missionary.

I love you all, more than the number of beams and rays of sunlight the sun has shot off so far this morning. 
Elder Withers

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reading the Book of Mormon Strengthens Investigators

Dear Family,

This week was quite great.  We have been seeing miracles with the people we are teaching.  One of them, Christian, who we found a few weeks ago is happily preparing for his baptism.  He is about 45 years old, and recently moved here.  His baptismal date is the 4th of April.  He accepted tithing yesterday.  When we taught him the Word of Wisdom 2 weeks ago, we found that he occasionally drinks, frequently smokes, likes tea, and drinks coffee every morning, but ever since he accepted to live the Word of Wisdom 2 weeks back he hasn’t had a problem.  He reads the Book of Mormon and that helps him.  He is an interesting character and gets very easily distracted and goes off on random tangents, but we did practices in our studies of how to control the lessons and it has helped a lot. 

Teresa and Pia are also doing good.   Teresa hasn’t smoked, and her daughter Pia has been a good reminder for her.  When we leave them something to read in the Book of Mormon they read it together and talk about it before the next lesson.  Their baptismal date was changed to the 28th of March, and they are progressing well.  Tomorrow we will teach them tithing.  If you could keep in your prayers Christian, Teresa, and Pia, it would be great.  

I am so excited for today, the first P day in a while where we aren’t busy doing lots of stuff.  Last week for example the zone activity was make and eat pizza for brunch and play basketball, it was fun but tiring.  Today will be a great day. 

The Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I know it is true.  When we read from it God blesses us with the Spirit.  I am so glad to have the Book of Mormon as a teaching tool.  Today from the office we picked up a box of 36 copies of the Book of Mormon from the zone.  Such a power tool!

I love you all more than the number of times in the Book of Mormon that we are given reminders to have faith in Jesus Christ.

-Elder Withers

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mother Feeling Grateful for a Guardian Angel Serving in Chile

March 9, 2015

Dear Family,
Well this week was a pretty good week, we have been greatly blessed lately. 

I usually don’t write you all about scary experiences that happen here in the mission, because I don’t want you worrying about me.  However, on Friday at about 3:30 and something minutes, God preserved my life in such a way that I feel compelled to write about it today.  We live on a big street, with about 5 or so lanes of traffic that travels at almost freeway speed.  We were heading out to work, after our post lunch study session.  We went to the crosswalk to get to the other side of Colón.  On the big street of Colón, on the corner with Juan Guillermos Sosa, there is a crosswalk, with cross and don’t cross lights, and all that stuff.  Half way across the street, there is another little island, or crosswalk waiting place.  I got to the middle, and was waiting for the cross signal.  It seemed that the cars weren’t going to go, so I foolishly decided to jog to the other side of the street, thinking I could make it in time.  I had to make it across three lanes.  I got about one and a half or two lanes down and then the cars got a green light.  I started running, and this would have been a much more delightful experience, had it not been for a car that was in the third lane, closest to the other side of the street, that was coming fast, because it never had to stop because the light turned green before it got there.  I didn’t see it coming because the 2 lines of stopped cars had kept it blocked from my view.  What happened next was all in God´s hands.  Somehow, the driver was able to see me just in time, and slow down just enough, to give me just enough time to make it to the other side of the street.  The missionary who was with me, (I was on splits) less of a stupid risk taker than I was that day saw it all play out, and couldn’t believe it.  He thought I was going to be knocked flat and killed.  It was a miracle.  Once I saw the car I sort of lost thinking ability and it was just an instinctive mad sprint, but I know that angels quickened my step, and the Holy Ghost must have helped the driver realize the foolish pedestrian and slow down just in time.  Mom and Dad, I promise to more closely obey the laws of traffic.  It was a close call.  I wanted to share this with you all just so that you realize that God is aware of each and every one of us and protects us from harm.  I will do my very best to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

Teresa and Pia from last week´s letter are staying strong.  Teresa hasn’t smoked since we taught her the Word of Wisdom.  If you could keep her in your prayers, that she quits smoking it would be great.  

I love you all so very much, and am so very grateful to God for all the miracles big and small, noticed and unnoticed that have helped me here in Chile.  I hope you all have a great week.  I love you all more than the number of miracles that God works on this earth every single day.

May you have Heaven´s blessings in all that you do this upcoming week.

-Elder Withers

Joy in Teaching, Witnessing Miracles

March 2, 2015

Hello Family,  
It fills me with delight, to know that you are all happy and healthy.  It is so cool that you all had a good week. 
Well, a couple of weeks ago, we gave a priesthood blessing to the mother in law of an investigator.  She was 80 something years old, suffering complications from after her surgery, and was having some sort of severe bleeding problem.  The investigator herself, Rosa, had a cold.  We gave her a blessing and Rosa, strongly felt the spirit and her cold went away that very moment.  The internal bleeding problems of the older lady stopped that very Saturday night (which is no small miracle, that woman has had many surgeries and many complications) and the next day we took the older lady to church in a wheelchair we borrowed from someone else.  I know that the Priesthood is a real power that, when exercised in faith, works miracles.

This past couple of weeks, the Lord has been putting in our path some people who are more than willing to accept the Gospel.  We contacted in the street an older lady, Gabriela, who said she was baptized 34 years ago, but has since gone inactive.  We walked with her to the home of her daughter, and started teaching.  We invited her daughter, Teresa, who is 51 years old and she accepted to be baptized the 21 of March.  Her 18 year old daughter, Pia, also accepted to be baptized on the 21st. Pia has a twin brother that is very receptive as well, but plays for a traveling soccer team, so he is often not home.  The father, Carlos, a retired navy man, is not too interested, but he is not opposed to his family meeting with us.  Teresa and Gabriela were able to go to the baptism of Macarena and Hilda and felt the spirit, strongly, and yesterday in church the family felt great.  We learned in the second lesson, that 2 days before we contacted Gabriela in the street, Teresa found 2 white tunics while cleaning the house, and was puzzled by what they were.  When she went to the baptism service she made the connection that the 2 white tunics are for baptisms .  That was definitely one of many miracles we have seen lately.  We are excited to teach Teresa and her family.

Thank you all so much for being awesome, I LOVE YOU ALL so very much, more than the number of leaves that fall from the trees when it is fall time in Vermont.

Have a stellar week,

Elder Withers

Friday, February 27, 2015

La Semana Paso Volando!

February 23, 2015

Dear Family,
La semana pasó volando (This week flew by).  I am grateful to be here in Talcahuano.  This week we had a conference with Elder Di Giovanni from Buenos Aires who is a member of the 7th Quorum of the Seventy.  It was great and I got good notes. 

Macarena and Hilda were baptized.  They both love the gospel, I think it is because they have passed through some extremely trying times.  The Bishop baptized Macarena and Brother Campbell from the Stake Presidency baptized Hilda.  The previous missionary here worked very hard, and I am making sure he gets a picture of their baptism.  

It is very windy here in Talcahuano, it is great.  Today as a P-day activity we had a big dodge ball competition with 7 combined zones.  It was fun.  We met up in a very large stake center, and divided the 150ish missionaries into 6 teams.  We had a blast.  

We have a few people that we are teaching, but not many, so we are going to be committing member families to give away copies of The Book of Mormon.

I love you all and hope you are well.  I am short on time to write, but I love you more than all the minutes that have passed since the first vision in the spring of 1820.

Elder Withers

Monday, February 16, 2015

New Area, New Companion and a New Bishop

February 16, 2015

Dear Family,
Well, this has been a good week.  

The weather here in Talcahuano is way comfortable right now.  It isn’t as hot as Parral, there is a constant and strong ocean wind, and we can see the huge huge ships that come into the harbor area of the zone.  It is a great ward, with about 160 people in church on Sundays.  Our ward mission leader magnifies his calling, and we got a new bishopric last Sunday.  The ward had gone a few months without a bishop, because the last one moved and they took a while to find a new one.  Bishop Krausse is his name, and he looks like Einstein, an older guy with crazy scientist white hair, and a well trimmed white moustache.  He is cool. 

Being companions with Elder Hutchins is probably one of the biggest blessings so far in the mission.  We think alike and I haven’t ever had a comp I got along with so well.  He is the 3rd of 10 children, which explains why he is so easy to get along with.

Well, I am out of time.  I was reading and responding to a lot of people today.  Just know that I am happy and healthy and love you all more than the number of paper clips it would take to link the sun to the far end of the milky way galaxy.

Elder Withers

Transfer to Talcahuano

February 9, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,
This week has been an adventure and a half.  Our landlord has been very problematic, and has been cheating the contract, and so the mission office had us look at a few houses where we could live, and we found a good house and we’re going to move in at the end of the week, but then on Wednesday morning, Elder Kauer from the office called us and said we had better start packing up, he wanted us out that day.  The other elders called a convert who has a huge flat bed truck, and before lunch we had the entire house packed up.  It was crazy, but it is good to be in a better, cheaper house.  It is a bit smaller, but brand new, better priced, more secure, in a more quiet, and more central location.  We are a 3 minute walk from Lider Expres (a mini Wal-Mart).  The new landlords are great.  Our house is built behind their house, and they have chickens and roosters.  They asked if the roosters bother us, and since they wake us up at 5 am we said yeah, they are a bit bothersome.  That same day, in the afternoon, they broke the necks of those blasted birds, and were later cleaning them out.  They are a nice older couple.  I really like the new house.   

However, I won’t get to enjoy the house for long, I am being transferred to Talcahuano tomorrow.  Estaca Talcahuano Norte, barrio Cruz del Sur (Talcahuano North Stake, South of the Cross Ward).  It is hard to leave Parral, but I know Talcahuano will be good, and I will at least have the mission office close by again.  It will be an exciting place, a lot less hot than Parral because it has a good ocean breeze.  I will be with Elder Hutchins from Connecticut.  He is a good elder, I was in the same MTC group as him, and there are a lot of other missionaries in the zone that I already know.  I look forward to the upcoming transfer.  

I am loving the mission, and am grateful for each and every thing I have learned so far.  I love how each day I have the opportunity to help other people come closer to God.  I hope you are all happy and healthy.  Have a great week, and just keep being awesome.  I know you will all be able to do your best on everything, if you try your hardest and say a sincere prayer. 

Cuidense arto.  Les amo más que el numero de versiculos en los libros canonicos que mencionan Jesucristo.  (Take care.  I love you more than the number of verses in all the cannonzied books – scriptures, that mention Jesus Christ.)

-Elder Withers

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Improving Teaching Methods, and Surviving a Dog Bite

Feb 2, 2015

Hello Folks, Fellows, and Familiar Faces!
This week was a very interesting week.  It was a good week, just very busy.  We had splits with the assistants, and those were great because I learned a lot a lot of good things about how to work with members in every aspect of the work.  Funny thing about the assistants - it is trainer and trainee from a year and a half ago.  After Elder Calder finished his 12 weeks training he trained Elder Mitton, and now they are companions again.  I was with Elder Calder and took really good notes. 

Something Elder Calder taught me that can help any and all teachers prepare to teach a class or a lesson is breakdown vocabulary.  Let me explain.  Try teaching a 5 year old what ordinance means.  Now teach the same thing to a 45 year old.  To help the 5 year old understand, you use simpler words, right?  When we break it down, they understand better.  Now the preparation.  Take key words from the lesson you are going to teach words such as faith, atonement, priesthood, baptism, or any gospel term, and wrap your mind around it by trying to express the meaning of the term in 3 words.  In Spanish you might need to do it in 4 words.  For example, faith might be “action in Christ”.  As we teach simply so that even a child can understand, everyone will understand, and the Spirit will have a greater chance to testify. 

Also, quite frequently we study and learn gospel doctrines with a highly in-depth, complex perspective, and then when we teach that is all we express. We often teach the roof, and then hope the person either already has a foundation or that he can build it and then put the roof back on.  We teach the complex, hoping they will understand the principles as we understand them.  For a teacher to achieve that his students understand as he does, he must first teach the simple and then build up their understanding, bit by bit, according to the needs of the learner.  In other words, milk before meat.         

A few days ago, as I was riding my bike, a dog ran up and normally they are just following the bike, focusing on the spinning of the wheels.  If I speed up, they usually get excited and more aggressive.  If I slow down or stop, they lose interest and go away.  I started to slow down, and this dog for whatever reason decided to latch onto my ankle.  It was a medium to large street dog, but didn’t bite too deep because the movement of the bike pedals made him lose his grip.  We called the mission nurse and she told me what to do.  I have started the required process of 5 shots for anti-rabies and other infections.  Luckily, Chile does dog bite shots for free, because dog bites are so frequent, so it doesn’t cost the mission anything.  There wasn’t any bad bleeding or anything, and it should heal quickly.

Also this week was the Semana Parralina, because the city is 200 and something years old they do a big party all week long in the plaza.  So we contacted hundreds of people in the evenings, and set up some good citas (appointments).  I am excited.  The work is moving along great here in Parral.

I love you all more than the number of boats and canoes docked to the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota.

-Elder Withers 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Importance of Members is Immeasurable

Dear Family,
This has been a solid week.  I hope you can all have a chance to share the gospel with someone, or show kindness by doing a quiet act of service.  I can’t believe how fast the time is flying.  I really can’t believe how fast the mission has been going by lately.  Every transfer is faster than the previous.  I am grateful for every day.  

A couple of months ago we made a street contact, and the lady says she is less active.  Yesterday for the first time we were able to find her again, and she has a 9 year old son who loves the church.  His name is Francesco, and he is really bright - and no joke a living encyclopedia with a solid grasp on the Bible.  And he wants to be baptized!  We want to re-activate his mom, Eliana (who by the way gave us amazing empanadas) and baptize her son.  Hopefully everything works out.  

I am still in the thick of the summer heat, but it should start to cool off a little bit once February starts.  

The importance of the members is immeasurable.  Every member a missionary is of huge importance.  If we truly act as disciples of Christ everywhere we go, and our words are in agreement with our righteous actions, the church will grow faster than it ever has.

I want you all to know that God loves us, that he is aware of who we are, of our strengths and our weaknesses.  He can help us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, if we are simply humble, and allow him to help us.  Missionary work is really miraculous.  He helps us as we help his children receive the gospel.  That is cool!  I want you all to know that God is watching out for you, that he has angels to protect you, and that his son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior.  I love Him.  I love the mission.  I love being a part of the Lord`s missionary force.  I love being a member of the church that Christ established, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I want you all to know that I really mean it.  I love to be a member of this church.  Remember who you all are, you are sons and daughters of the most high God.  All of us on this earth are brothers and sisters.  Let’s all work together to return home to the presence of our Father in Heaven.  He will help us. 

I hope you can all be well of health, and that you read the scriptures, say your prayers, and invite people to go to church with you.  I love you all more than the number of grains of oats it would take to make ten thousand big bowls of oat meal.  

Elder Withers

Monday, January 19, 2015

Surviving in the Hot and Rainless Dry Heat of Chile

January 19, 2014

Dear Withers Family,
I salute all relatives that came to Rebecca’s report.  I hope they enjoyed their brief stay in the home of my upbringing... ¡Well it was fun talking a bit like Shakespeare, but let´s get on with the letter!  

Out here in Parral, it is very very hot, and rainless.  It is a dry heat, and I am grateful for a bike.  I hope it is all right with you all if I make some necessary adjustments on my bike, there are no reflector lights, and as it was a used bike the tread was wore down, and the air is always slowly leaking.  I got it spruced up. 

Also small announcement, my companion doesn’t want to go home out of shape, so we are going to the gym 3 times a week. 

I have decided that mote con huesillo, and harina tostada are 2 of my favorite food items here in Chile.  Harina tostada is toasted flour and you can put it in water, in milk, or in any drink, and stir it, with sugar, and it is amazing, and a great source of protein and energy.  Here they even put it on watermelon, I really like it.  It is a very Chilean thing.  If you can find it, buy some and try it.  If not, shoot me an email and I will get you hooked up, as it is very cheap.

I love the mission.  There are days, even weeks, even months when it seems very difficult, but the Lord will get done that which he has set out to do, we just have to obey the master and everything will work out.  Every day you learn something, and it really is great.  I know the church is true, and that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the beginning of the Restoration. 

I love you all more than the number of toothpicks and brownish red varnish it would take to make a replica of a California Redwood.  Have a great week.

-Elder Withers

Another Great Week

January 12, 2015

Dear Family,
This has been another great week.  We are excited,  we are finding lots of new people lately, and trying to help them realize they need the gospel in their lives.

I am greatly enjoying this cambio.

This week I did not crash my bike or anything like that, so that was a plus.  I am really excited for this new week, because my comp and I have decided to just work crazy hard trying to find as many new people to teach as possible.  We want to enter about 5 houses a day, and in the street contacts be extra bold and to the point, testifying at every chance we get.  We will see how it goes.  Yesterday we found a mom and her only son that both are excited to be baptized and go to church.

I love the work.  I am happy and healthy and I know that this church is the only true one, the only one that has authority from God.  I love you all, more than the number of pedals it would take to drive a bike from Parral to Boise.

Have a great week,
Elder Withers

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Baptisms and Mission Changes

January 5, 2014

I am not home, but nonetheless, I send by email a big welcome home hug to Rebecca.  ¡Bienvenidos!

Well Hello Folks,
Today I have a full day P-day, because we got back from the meeting in Concepcion at about 5:45, so we have the rest of the day off.  That is why I am writing so late.  I must say one thing - the mission is a big collection of awesome adventures.  This week has been one of the more adventurous of the mission, not in the sense of flying over the handlebars of a bike or anything like that, but just big, positive changes in the mission.

First off, I would like to mention that my companion, Elder Durrant,from Murray Utah is very similar to Dallin (Chad’s cousin also currently serving a mission in Chile).  We laugh about a lot of stuff together.  He has 3 more months in the mission.  He wears a cowboy hat everywhere but church.  We get along great and it is a lot of fun.  

Also, today we learned of a number of big changes in the mission.  At the end of each week we report ´´key indicators´´, and in our mission there are about 16 or so of them, such as lessons to investigators with member present, without member present, number of lessons to converts and less actives with member present, new investigators, percentage of recent converts in church, with callings, and stuff like that.  Well today, we found out that we are going to be reporting just a handful things each week.  The number of baptisms, confirmations, sacrament meeting attendance, investigators with fecha bautismal (baptism date), street contacts, and baptisms this month.  It is going to be very different.  I am excited.  After discussing the changes we had Papa John’s pizza, I had a chicken barbecue pizza.  Yum!  There is a huge focus on strengthening the wards and branches by working with Ward leadership.  We can’t do our jobs without the Ward leadership.

Camila and Aaron got baptized.  They are a cool little couple.  Very rarely do you find a young married couple in Chile, most people their age just convivir (live together). 

I am happy and healthy, and ready for another great week.  I love the mission, and once again, WELCOME HOME REBECCA!!!!!

I love you all more than the number of times a day missionaries invite people to learn about the Restoration.   

-Elder Withers