Monday, November 20, 2017

Giving Thanks

Wild turkeys in Parral
Our whole district had a challenging week - few of us reached our goals.  Despite the rough patch, we had an inspiring Zone conference, and we performed a successful exorcism, which ended up blessing a family desperately in need.

I am grateful.  How appropriate that this week is Thanksgiving.

Giving Thanks
What do you say we mark this as the season to make it a habit of collecting blessings.  Let's catalog the Lord's kindness.  Assemble reasons for gratitude, and state it.  Daily.  This was the apostle Paul's advice to the Thessalonians.
Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks:
 for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Look at the sum total of those terms:  Rejoice...when?  Evermore. often?  Without ceasing.  Give what?  In every thing.

Gratitude is a conscious choice in all circumstances.  Good weeks and not so good weeks.  

Elder Sharp, Elder Aparicio, Elder Evans, and me

This is the Lord's work. The Church is True, and boy am I grateful to be a part of it.  Working 'til I drop.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, Everyone. And, save me some turkey and stuffing!
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hats Off to My New Companion

We had such a great ward activity this week: Noche de Sombreros (Hat Night).  Check these guys out!  Just for the fun of it, they came in homemade hats, purchased hats, decorated hats. We played games and had a fun time.

Introducing Elder Evans
My new companion is Elder Evans. He hails from the midwest - Indiana.  This is his first week in Chile, and I have been given the privilege of training him, which wont be a challenge since he is a chill dude and very excited to work.

We've been focusing a lot on teaching with questions, which is a bit of a hurdle since he does not yet understand the locals (it'll take time), but Elder Evans has initiative.  For instance, during one lesson, I paused and was searching for the right words, when Elder Evans put his hand on my shoulder and began teaching in his broken Spanish. It was great.

We have four elders sharing our apartment. Elder Sharp, my previous comp, is still there with his new green companion, Elder Aparicio from Malaga Spain.  Elder Aparicio's accent is very strong and the branch loves it.

Second Time's a Charm
One day as we were out on the street looking for new people to teach, we came across a guy named Ivan.  Elder Sharp and I ran into Ivan about 6 weeks ago and he wasn't interested in our message.  But as we talked with him this time, he was suddenly very interested and even committed to coming to church.  That was cool.

Joaquin out working with Elder Evans and me

Things are moving along. In fact, it's getting pretty hot around here - 36 Celsius (that's about 96 Fahrenheit).  Whew.  Hopefully our work will be just as hot.  Already, Elder Evans is headed in the right direction.  This week's gonna be great.

Love to All,
Elder Connor Nef

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It's All About Progress

with Branch President Erpel in Villa Baviera

It's been a good week. Hit our goals.  Investigators came to church.  Two families have set dates for baptism this month!  I'm not winking in the picture. The sun was mighty bright in Villa Baviera.

Villa Baviera
You remember the Book of Mormon in German I mentioned last blogpost?  Well, we handed it out. Yep. Our Branch President Erpel (very cool dude) took us to the German community, Villa Baviera.

While in this community we taught 3 lessons (not too bad for 1.5 hours of work).  The area here is beautiful and large - thousands used to live here.  Now there are probably about a few hundred.  The reduced population probably has something to do with its sketchy past.  Some Nazi officer moved here after WWII and started the community.  He also started a new wave of mistreatment of people. As a result, a lot of extreme abuse and secrecy shadowed Villa Baviera for decades thereafter.

We found people who are still mentally and emotionally scarred, but who want to heal.  One guy, Jorgan, kept saying, "But everything is better now. We are happier now."  "Everyone is now free to do what they want."  These people are very receptive and love to talk.

It would be a very redeeming story if the people of Villa Baviera accept the gospel.

En route to Villa Baviera, President Catala called and told us that we need to prepare our house to receive two more beds.  We are going to have 8 missionaries in this branch, and Elder Sharpe and I will each be training two new missionaries!  Very cool.  I have 3 weeks to train the dude to lead the area.  Challenge accepted!

Manuel Quotes
One day while knocking doors, we found an alley where everyone is related to each other and receptive to our message.  One dude in particular was especially eager to talk religion - a Jewish guy with a beard named Manuel.  It was refreshing that he knew so much about the Bible, quoting Old Testament prophecies. "In Daniel, it says that the restoration of all things will come to pass two thousand years after Christ." 

That is exactly our message, Manuel!  Needless to say, our lesson with him was pretty great.

Caterpillars are everywhere here
It's All About Progress
In my studies, I came across the little gem in Moroni-
"Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him."
Moroni 10:32
Now, the word "perfect" scares a lot of people. It seems to be an unattainable standard - I mean, who on earth can be perfect? No one! But the word used for perfect here does not mean spotless, without flaw. The scriptural definition of perfect is related to maturity and growth - it's about wholeness. Completeness. Filling in any emptiness or unfinished parts of our character. So really, we're talking about progress and becoming better than we were yesterday.

The only way we can get to this valuable state is to do as the scripture directs: Come unto Christ. He fills in our gaps, and He completes what we haven't finished in ourselves. He helps us fulfill our potential and become better than we ever were. How? There's another scripture for that:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.
I give unto men weakness that they may be humble;
and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;
for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me,
then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Ether 12:27

Weaknesses are a constant reminder of our dependence upon the Lord. When we take those  weaknesses to the Savior, we become effectively joined with Him in a great work. The work of becoming a little better every day.  It's about progress.  Moroni said as much. Here's the whole verse:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him,
and deny yourselves of all ungodliness;
and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness,
and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you,
that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ;
and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. 
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power,
then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God. 
Moroni 10:32–33

This is the message we hope to deliver to Manuel and our friends in Villa Baviera.  Change will start the moment we decide to Come unto Christ. 

Have a great week, everyone!
Elder Connor Nef

Monday, October 30, 2017

My Mission is a Chiasmus

Givin' It Our All
This week, we had one activity that totally bombed (poorly planned by our district - oh well.  Live and learn, right?).  Even though few investigators came to church and our appointments fell, our District is maintaining success.  My comp and I met our goals.  What's more -  I gave my all.  My comp gave his all.  We can't control everything but we are leaving it all on the playing field every day.

Work In Progress
During ward Correlation meeting this week, our ward mission leader did it again. He keeps communicating through me and doesn't call on or communicate with the sister missionaries. Not okay.  These sisters have a voice and a mind.  Guess you can call it a work in progress.  It'll get there.

This week's Fun Facts:
Someone offered us wine while knocking doors.

-  Parral produces a lot of asparagus. They even have an asparagus festival!  Funny, the members have never served us asparagus.

-  Book of Mormon in German arrived for those who live in Villa Baviera (the little Bavarian community here).

-  We helped arrange benches for a wedding.

-  With Spring, the mustard plants have shot up.

How Poetic
I realized that my mission is a chiasmus.
Chiasmus (from Greek χιάζω, chiázō, meaning, "to shape like the letter Χ")  
Term in literature in which clauses are written and then presented again in reverse order (it mirrors itself), in order to make a larger point. You find this method in poetry and in ancient scripture.
So, ya, it dawned on me that my mission is a chiasmus. I begin and end with a super cool, hard working, blonde, spectacled companion - paired for roughly three transfers each.  Beginning in the country and rounding finish in a country town.  It's all very poetic.

Happy Halloween
Bet you can't recognize us in our Halloween costumes. Elder Sharp dressed as me (he's wearing his contacts), and I as Elder Sharp. Pretty spooky, huh.

Have a Great Week, Everyone. And, Happy Birthday Grandma!
Elder Connor Nef

Monday, October 23, 2017

Little Tender Mercies

If you're gonna graffiti, have something smart to say. This reads, "Education is Liberty" - in cursive, no less!

You know, there are just some weeks when you see God's hand in the work. Little answers to prayers. Moments of synchronism with the universe. Glimpses of light that let you know that Heaven is watching and that you're not alone.  This was one of those weeks.  Nothing huge or earth-shaking happened.  Just nods from the Spirit that make you smile. Elder David Bednar calls them tender mercies.

Tender Mercies
Dude with the Long Hair and Guitar
One day we were walking through downtown and a tall dude with long hair and a guitar says, "Hi!" It took me a second to recognize that it was Antonio, one of my first investigators in Quillon.  The reason I didn't recognize him right off was that he had shaved his beard. We talked for a bit in English (that felt weird).  I think God is trying to tell him something.

On our way to a church activity with a member, we were telling him about our new investigator, Matias, and we look up at that very moment and see Matias pass by dangling out of a taxi yelling, "Friday at five!" - which was our next appointment with him.
Church activity with chocolate.
Crimilda and Co.
Two families came to our church chocolate activity. One family walked from the other side of town!  The mother, Crimilda, says things like, "I am planning to get my husband baptized too, even though he is not yet interested."  "I need to buy a skirt for church."  If that doesn't say Golden, I don't know what else will.

Hey Elders!  Need a Ride?
Thursday, we were needing one lesson with a member, when a car stops, "Hey Elders, need ride?"  It was a member from el campo (the country) who was dropping off his kid at mutual and then had nothing to do. Hm.  He joined us on our visit.  Once there, we were greeted with Mexican food!
Lunch with the District
Familia Rodriquez
We visited familia Rodriguez and they were adamant about not wanting to come to church, but by the end of our visit, they totally changed their minds and invited us to stay for dinner.  We graciously declined (since the dad is always worried about not having enough money to feed his kids).  Besides, we needed to get home.

I'm Hungry!
When we got home, I told my comp that I was hungry.  Right then the phone rings. It's Felipe saying, "Elders, where are you?"  "At our house."  "Well, we have extra linguica churipan.  How about I drop it off at your house?"  Sweet!  Tender mercies, man.

Moana - Connection and Identity
Last Monday, we got to see the Disney Movie, Moana, in Spanish. Sooo goood. Besides the movie just being overall fantastic, there were three powerful moments that tugged at my heartstrings.  

1.  The first was when Moana sings about leaving home for the first time.  

2.  Even stronger was when Moana is in her lowest state and the stingray shows up and Moana speaks with the Jedi grandma. I felt a shiver run down my spine with the accompanied feeling of connection with my family and ancestors. So cool.

3.  Upon seeing her connection to her ancestors, Moana finally realizes in greater depth who she is and what her mission entails, and belts out "Soy Moana!"  I got so pumped to go out and work even harder.  Awesome stuff.

Well, it was a great week.  Moments of positive twists and coincidences that make you feel like you're on the right track.  To top the week off, six of our investigators came to church on Sunday.  Makes me feel like we've got them on the right track too.

Here's wishing you all a week with tender mercies.

Elder Connor Nef

Monday, October 16, 2017

Golden Ratio

#TodaLaFuerza wrist bands

In his weekly letter, president Catala changed the mission goal numbers...big time:
         21 lessons with member present
          13 other lessons
          8 families in focus group
          5 new investigators
          3 investigators attend church
          2 investigators with set baptismal date
          1 baptism

That is a lot of work. 34 lessons in one week. Good news is - my comp and I have done it here before, so we know it's reachable.  But as I looked at pres' goal, I couldn't help but wonder about the number of numbers.  This is one long number sequence.  The previous goal was much shorter.  Hmm, curious.  As I thought about it - it finally hit me.  I know these numbers!  The light bulb of nerd nearly exploded in my brain.  This is a Fibonacci Number Sequence!

Fibonacci Sequence
Most people have heard of the Fibonacci Sequence from math class.  It's a series of numbers where one number is the sum of the previous two numbers.

The person we know as Fibonacci was actually Italian mathematician Leonardo da Pisa.  These numbers appear in his book Liber Abaci, published in 1202, which taught the western world the methods of arithmetic we use today.

photo:  nifty homestead
What's awesome about the Fibonacci Sequence is that these numbers appear in nature:
The number of petals in a flower is a Fibonacci number.
The number of spirals on a pineapple is a Fibonacci number.
And so on-
from galaxies
to hurricanes,
to sea shells,
and sunflowers,
and now our mission goals.
Our mission president is so cool.

Fun Fact:  Dan Brown used the Fibonacci Sequence in his book The Da Vinci Code.

Gold Star for Christofer!
We had a fun activity at the church this week where we were divided into teams and had to find answers to questions of the soul in the Book of Mormon.  My team had the questions:
"Will I be with my loved ones after this life?"
"How can I know that God has a plan for me?"
I found the scriptures in Alma 40 and Moroni 10, but Christofer, my recent convert, explained it in front of everyone.  He is AWESOME.  That just makes you feel good.

Something's A-Foot in the Plaza Jerusalem
By Saturday, we reached our goal: 23 lessons with members, 12 others, and 8 new investigators. Awesome!  It got to the point that the teaching opportunities came to us even when we weren't looking for them.  For instance...
Plaza Jerusalem
There's this guy named Leonardo, who came up to us a few weeks back and said that he had listened to missionaries 15 years ago. That was that.  Well, Elder Sharp and I were studying in a small park when Leonardo pops up and wants to know what we were reading.  (You don't need to tell us twice about a good teaching opportunity!)  And he says, "I want to go to church."  And he did. Showed up to church all by himself.  By Sunday evening, Leonardo set a baptism date of November 4th. Gold!

The park we were in, by the way, is called Plaza Jerusalem.  While we were in this park, a strange gypsy ginger lady came up to us asking for a picture of Jesus. So we handed her one, and she left.  In the middle of our lesson with Leonardo, she returned and gave us each a blue plastic stone.  Something's a-foot in the Plaza Jerusalem.

Goals are lofty.  I am going to try to get my entire District up to the Fibonacci Sequence before I go.  Lots of work for the last 6 weeks and I wouldn't have it any other way.


Love You All,
Elder Connor Nef

Monday, October 9, 2017

Restoration Continues

Activities with Other Districts
We got together with the Longavi District(above pic) and made Argentinian sandwiches. 
Check it out:

Today, we connected with a neighboring District for futbol, ping-pong, and Colombian food. Fun.

Old Southern Women - What Can I Say?
So, I had a dream in which an old sassy colored woman told me to wash my face and teeth at night because I need to look my best to find a wife.  Even though I feel like I have time enough to not worry about that type of thing, I am taking the sassy lady's advice.  I am also making my bed and keeping my desk more organized (don't faint, mom).  Old Southern women - what can I say?

Battle Plan
We learned that recently baptized Justin has been facing a bit of opposition from her very evangelical mother. Justin's mom has been dragging her to an evangelical church during the week.

Battle Plan:  Convert very evangelical mom.

So far, we're making advancements, as Justin's mom is now reading the Book of Mormon.  This could end up awesome.

Polite Inconvenience
Perched next to a 3'x3' gaping hole in the sidewalk, this very polite construction sign has been here for over a month, and it looks like nothing is going to change any time soon. Hilarious.
"Sorry for the annoyance. We are working for you. Our apologies to you."

Unlike the sidewalk, our work is going great.  We have some families, and a few individuals listening to the discussions. One family even walked 40 minutes to get to Church on Sunday!

Tuesday, we cleaned the church building in preparation for Zone Conference the following day.

Zone Conference
President started conference with several themes, many paralleling themes from General Conference.  We heard statistics, watched a church history video, and then the General Authority in charge of Missionary Work talked about our role in the Restoration of the Gospel.  

Quoting President Deiter F. Uchtdorf:
"Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized.  In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now.  It includes 'all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,' and the 'many great and important things' that 'He will yet reveal.'...  The exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is one of the most remarkable periods of the world’s history!  Ancient prophets yearned to see our day.

When our time in mortality is complete, what experiences will we be able to share about our own contribution to this significant period of our lives and to the furthering of the Lord’s work?  Will we be able to say that we rolled up our sleeves and labored with all our heart, might, mind, and strength?  Or will we have to admit that our role was mostly that of an observer?"     (Are You Sleeping Through the Restoration, April 2014)

It's an exciting thought to realize that the Restoration continues and that we are all part of this awesome work.  And, my time here in Chile puts me in a remarkable position to help:
-  Restore families as we reveal that they can be together forever.  
-  Restore the thought of divine heritage as we share that, yes, they are a child of God.  
-  Restore relationships as we teach about forgiveness and repentance.
And, especially restoring their connection with their Savior.

It's all about reinstating, renewing, bringing back, reconstructing what has been broken or lost or forgotten.  God's Plan is all about restoration.  And, it continues.

Love You Guys!!!
Elder Connor Nef