Wednesday, September 20, 2017

It's Parraldice

with Elder Gonzalez at the entrance monument to Yierba Buenas
What can I say?  It has been another terrific week. Parral is simply a blessed area, and I am doubly blessed to be working here.

Yierbas Buenas
Mid-week, we had an intercambio (exchanges) with the zone leaders.  I paired with Elder Gonzalez and worked in Linares.  He's a really cool dude from Santiago, and as a Chilean, he was able to teach me a lot about how to teach even better.  We meandered into the campo for lunch (noodles with a mackerel and kelp salad), then headed into the farming town of Yierbas Buenas (Good Herb) [-insert favorite joke here-].  The town is newly open to missionary work so everyone seemed more receptive to our message.

Fiesta Patrias - El Dieciocho (the 18th)
It is Chilean Independence, folks, so nothing is open. From Saturday until Wednesday, the nation is in lock-down celebration in honor of Chile becoming its own nation.  So we celebrated with our ward.
The picture doesn't show it, but there were a lot of people there, and 13 of our investigators came!  There was great amounts of food, and games like dodge ball, cup pong, and tug-of-war. Performances of Cuaiga Paillas, a type of Chilean limerick poetry, rounded out the evening.  Kind of like these:

by Bennie6 Haiku Poem

Chile ha sido
llamado la "Tierra de
Lagos y Ríos."
(Chile has been called the "Land of Lakes and Rivers")
Si tú estás en
Chile, y hace fresco,
¡prueba el chile!
(If you are in Chile, and it's chilly, try the chili!)

by Rajat Kanti Chakrabarty

Crooner Bruner loved his schooner 'Billie'
 He took a short holiday in Chile
 He went to Torres del Paine
Crooned across the terrain
And came back home with a robust chili 

It's More Chilean than Beans
I had quite the Chilean lunch: meat kebab, empenada, and mote' con huesillo (a beverage made from wheat and peaches). As they say out here, "It's more Chilean than the beans!"

Let's See Where the Spirit Takes Us
One evening when our appointments began to fall, my comp says, "Let's see where the Spirit takes us."  We started heading out, and think at-the-same-time MIRIELA.  Miriela was an investigator we dropped a while back.  So, we stop by her house and she invited us in. She admitted that whenever she felt bad, she would see us around town (hint, hint, girl, God is trying to get your attention).

We ended up having a great lesson with her. She felt the Spirit, though she has doubts about a living prophet and apostles. Let's hope that upcoming General Conference helps resolve those doubts.

Seba's Baptism
Seba was baptized on Sunday with his whole family present. All are inactive or non-members. He's a great example.
Elder Sharp, Seba, Roberto Espinosa (Young Men's President), me 

Dynamic District
Elder Sharp, Hermanas Vidal, Wendel (back), Rios, Contreras, me
At redimiento de cuentas, I learned that my district is the strongest one in the zone - probably the whole mission.  Doesn't surprise me.  These sister missionaries are dynamic.  Parral is a special area - a privilege to serve here with a district of hard working missionaries.

It's Parraldice!

Love to Everyone,
Elder Connor Nef

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hail Mary!

with Elder Sharp and Elder Lecheminant
We've had such a great week, everyone.  We bought a stove. Got our bikes fixed. Knocked doors.  Had some great visits.  Met goals, set baptismal dates, and have a nice group of investigators to-boot.

Give it Another Go
So, a couple of weeks ago while knocking doors, we visited a former Catholic priest who is now married with a family.  He told us back then to not return. Well, we decided that we'd ignore his suggestion and give a visit another go.  We returned on Tuesday. When he was about to send us on our way, my comp said, "Hey, we just want to sing a hymn with you."

They let us in.

We sang and talked which naturally led to our inviting them to a church activity. "Oh no," says the wife, "You try to get people to go to your activities and you are sneaky about it."

Sneaky!? We were a little confused.  "I know," she said, "because that is how I got baptized into your church!"

Whuuuut?  We ended up having a lesson WITH A MEMBER PRESENT. YESSSS!

Church Activity with the youth

Ana Maria, Missionary
We visited Ana Maria and taught about Patriarchal Blessings. She is doing great and so full of love for the gospel and her family that she's bent on seeing to it that her entire family is baptized.  Many of them attended her baptism (it is always great when there is family support for something life changing).  Anyway, we set up a family home evening with her family. Fingers crossed.

Maria and Maria
The other night my comp decides he wants some brain food, so we stopped by a place to buy him something, and as we were leaving the story, a lady calls out, "Hi Elders!"  A group of ladies are standing there, so we go over and introduce ourselves and my comp begins talking to one, whose name was Maria, and I make conversation with another, who also happens to be named Maria.

The Maria I talk with turns to her friends and says, "These guys baptize like Jesus was baptized - by immersion. And, I have heard that when you go to their church you feel a warm comfortable feeling."

Turns out, Maria had friends in another town who were members of the church. So we talk a little more and bear testimony.  The Maria that my comp talked to happened to be a less-active member who we had never met. SO WE HAD ANOTHER LESSON WITH A MEMBER PRESENT!

Sharp Dressed Man
Sometimes investigators feel the spirit strongly in discussions, but honestly have a hard time making it to church on Sundays. Christopher is one of them. Well, we finally caught up with him and were direct about needing to attend church. And, guess what?  He came - in full-on suit and tie!

People thought he was a member. Hermano Correa befriended him and stuck by his side for all three hours.  During church we taught him and he set a baptismal date.

Speaking of church - we had 5 investigators show up to church.  That was awesome.  Since we had reached our goals by Saturday, Sharp and I were able to spend Sunday visiting members for referrals.

Cinnamon Incentive
We set up a friendly competition between adults and kids. Whoever wins receives a cinnamon roll from me.  Hopefully it's an incentive. I mean, it is for me.

It's one of the reasons I look forward to General Conference.  My family's tradition is making cinnamon rolls every conference - a tradition I have continued out here. Though, I will need to be careful this time, because last Conference I ended up eating 25 rolls.

Like I said, the week has been fantastic. Hit goals.  People came to church.  Thank you for your prayers.  Parral is seeing the results of that, and I am blessed to be a part of it.

Love to All,
Elder Connor Nef

Thursday, September 7, 2017

"I Have an Invitation for You"

Linares Zone: Matching shirts are from Mission Conference
Like a Well-Oiled Machine
Received word on transfers: Elder Sharp and I are staying in Parral for my final 12 weeks. Exactly what we wanted. Sharp and I make a good team. We're working like a well-oiled machine and want to keep the momentum.

Baptism of Ana Maria
with Ana Maria and Moises (who did the honors)
It has been a pleasure teaching Ana Maria. She is so receptive (even wants to go out with the Hermanas to bear testimony) that it is proving to strengthen her 4-year old son, Gabriel.

During one of Ana Maria's final lessons, Gabriel enthusiastically interrupted so he could say the opening prayer (which his mom had already given). It was one of the most adorable things. He hopes to be a missionary one day, and Ana Maria can't wait to go to the Temple.  She's solid.  In fact, when Elder Hershberger interviewed Ana Maria prior to baptism, he was blown away by how strong her testimony was.  YESSSS.

Well, her baptism was really nice with many family members and investigators in attendance.

Scratch the Squash
What do you do with a Chilean pumpkin?  Why, you make pie!  My first.  From scratch. Check it out:
Isn't it cool looking?
Carve. The skin was real tough.
There it is, ready to bake.
Blend the pulp. Mix with spices etc.
Pour into homemade crust. Bake. Voila!

Since I didn't have an entire day to spend on this taste of home, I extended the process out over a 3-day period of time.  And, I think it was worth it.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it at District Class.  Yum.

"I Have an Invitation for You"
A weird thing happened when we returned to knock a door we had knocked before.  The daughter of the lady we talked with answered the door and said that her mom was not home.  After dragging out the conversation into a lesson (missionaries become expert in this), the mom pops her head out and says, "I have an invitation for you...that you come in and have dinner with us."

She explained that she had felt too busy to receive us and told her daughter to lie, but then felt bad and wanted to let us in.  We were greeted with homemade bread and a large salad with boiled eggs and fresh vegetables.  Good stuff.

What a fantastic twist of events.  The gospel is true!

Viva La Mision!!!
Elder Connor Nef

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Decided to Knock One Last Door

Horse and her new foal
What a great week. We had one baptism with 2 others in queue, 3 investigators came to church, an inspiring Zone Conference, lessons taught, families found, goals met. and I've got an awesome companion.

Chilean's Don't Horse-Around When Speaking Slang
Fun Fact:  I realized that Chilean slang phrases have a lot of animal references.  For instance -

-  If a place is ghetto, it's "Where the lobster pinches".
-  If you don't have money, you are a "Walking duck".
-  If you are stupid, you are a "Turkey".
-  If you are angry, you "Throw the seal".
 If you are small and scrawny, you are a "Small chicken".
 If you collect money from friends to pay for something, you "Make a small cow".

Justin's Baptism!
Elder Sharp, Poncho (Justin's brother), Justin, and me

Adios, Leandro!
Elder Sharp, Me, Leandro, and the Hermanas
After telling us for so long that he needs to look for work and a wife, Leandro finally had to let go of his calling as Ward Mission Leader.  Sad to see him go. He was such a great mission leader that Parral was being used as an example of how things should run, but....all things must end.

Our new mission leader is a really great ward member/returned missionary, Miguel Munoz.  It'll certainly be difficult to fill Leandro's shoes with his lovable, gung-ho energy and awesome business organization, but I have full confidence that Miguel will be great.

Zone Conference
Movie Poster
Zone Conference was great.  Pres started off the conference talking about la espada de Espiritu, which is to teach clearly and in a way that people will understand and want to commit.  After talking about Faith, he zeroed-in on urgency in the work, showing us a clip from the movie Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield.

Hacksaw Ridge
The film focuses on the true World War II experience of American medic, Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who won the Congressional Medal of Honor despite his refusal to bear arms in his service (due to religious beliefs).  Doss was drafted and found himself ostracized by fellow soldiers for his non-violent stance, but went on to earn great honor and respect for his bravery and selfless compassion after risking his life to save 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa. All without firing a shot.

The brief movie clip we saw showed Doss in the middle of battle, staying behind in hopes of finding one more life to save, praying for God's guidance the whole way.

President drew the comparison between Doss and us. In the thick of battle over souls, we too must search for one more life to save, praying for God's guidance the whole way.

Friday, we did just that.

We Found Waldo!
Friday was difficult because our members canceled and after a while, we found ourselves in a part of town that has, in our experience, been very unfruitful.  Tried working there in the past with absolutely no success. BUT, before we retreated to another part of town, we decided to knock one last door.

A 25 year-old dude named Waldo answers the gate (Success! We found Waldo, guys).  We talked a bit when he decides to let us in to his front yard. After starting to teach with our scriptures, he then invites us to come inside where his wife, Roxana and 4 year-old daughter, join us.  We teach Lesson 1 and they like it - so much so that when we conclude, they invite us to stay and have dinner.  They had never spoken with missionaries before.

That was a weirdly awesome experience.

One last door. One more life to save. If we keep mind and heart open, and ask God to guide our steps, He can certainly lead us to those ready to be saved.

Love to all,
Elder Connor Nef

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Find the Good God Gives

Leandro, Elder Sharp, the Hermanas, and Me having a snow-filled P-day
Another great week here in Parral! Here are some highlights:

Looking Forward
First of all, Justin, our nine-year old friend, is getting excited for the day of her baptism. Her mother has been taking her to evangelical services, but they attended this Sunday, so things are going well.

Guido Gets It
One of my favorite moments this week was passing by one of the hermanas' converts. His name is Guido. We tried asking for referrals of people to teach by asking for a list of friends to pray for, but he shot that idea down completely.

"Why only pray for names when we can just have them over here for an FHE? What day could we have one?"

Next Thursday. Guido gets it.

Chilean Pumpkin: they mostly eat it in soups...but I'm making a pie.
"The Path of the Lord"
That same night we were walking in a sketchy part of town late in the evening. All of our plans had fallen through, but we had a member with us, when suddenly a 29 year old guy comes running at us and says that he "found the path of the Lord", referring to us.

We start talking with him, and he shares his life problems with us (divorced for two years, lives with disapproving parents, trying to overcome drug/alcohol problems). We gave him our number and the time church meets, so we will see what happens.

Rest In Peace, Jose
Jose, a man whom I had interviewed for baptism, recently passed away. He was the most humble I have seen in an interview. He passed away from cancer, but now he is in a better place, and is ready to meet God.

All Good Comes From God
I've been thinking a lot about the words in Moroni 7:12-13 lately:

Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; 
and that which is evil cometh of the devil; 
for the devil is an enemy to God, 
and fighteth against him continually, 
and inviteth and enticeth to sin 
and to do that which is evil continually. 

But behold, that which is of God 
inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; 
wherefore every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, 
is inspired of God. 

When I read and think about these words, I think about how miserable Satan is, and how everything he does has one goal: to make us as miserable as he is. That sucks.

BUT God is awesome and only wants good things for us. He wants us to be our best, to grow and love and feel peace. Everything positive comes from him - so we should gravitate toward that. Be positive guys! Because that helps draw you closer to God. And that is the best thing in the world.

Hope you all find the good God gives you each day,
Elder Connor Nef

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Prepare for Eternity

Me, Irene, and the Hermanas
Irene's Ah-ha
We've had the zone goal of searching out and finding perennial investigators. We thought we'd divide and conquer. Elder Colman and I teamed up, and Elder Sharp teamed up with Elder Lecheminant. Elder Colman and I arrived at the home of an elderly lady named Irene. 

Turns out she had been investigating the church for years, and even bragged about what she knew. We were really direct with her - she said that she needed to go to church and take the sacrament, but we reminded her that the sacrament before baptism is only bread and water. It's baptism that makes it significant, because the sacrament is about remembering and renewing those baptismal promises. 
Elders Sharp, Colman, Lecheminant, and Me

We said a prayer and kept going. Elder Colman opened up the Book of Mormon to Alma 34 and read to her the verse that says, 

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; 
yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. 

And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, 
therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance 
until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, 
behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, 
then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
Alma 34:32-33

We hammered home the idea that she shouldn't put off doing what she knows is right. Elder Colman and I took turns bearing testimony. Even though the neighbors were listening to loud music next door, our room felt all silent, like it was only us. Elder Colman finished with a testimony so powerful I almost cried. Irene began to cry, and then began to utter a prayer of repentance and gratitude, and said she wanted to be baptized on Saturday. 

When Elder Colman stepped out of the room to take a phone call, I had a five minute interview with her. She was really ready. She asked if I would baptize her, and I said I would. This was possibly the most spiritual experience on my mission thus far. 

She was baptized on Saturday, and she kissed my hand after baptizing her and after the service, thanking me for helping her to take these steps. 

Work is Picking Up In Parral
The rest of this week has been busy: finding, teaching lessons. We have a few people committed to baptism, and we hope to see them through to the end. Members are helping us out wonderfully, like Pancho.

Pancho wanted a picture with the missionaries. I love our district.
Almei and Wislei, our Haitian investigators.

I testify that miracles really do exist, and we can find them - but especially in the service of God.

How great it is to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord,
Elder Connor Nef

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Miracles in Parral

[Editor's Note:  The internet point this week wouldn't send Connor's photos, meaning we could only use his email, and not his journals, for information. Pictures used here were sent in past weeks.]

Hello Everyone,
I witnessed many miracles this week including:
  • Finding TWO different Moms of young kids. They have huge potential AND they agreed to be baptized!
  • One of those Moms came to church on Sunday.
  • A 9-year old girl with the name Justin (it's unisex in Chile) has her baptism Saturday.
  • We helped commit two of the hermanas' investigators to baptism.
  • What makes the previous point so cool is that one of these investigators was an eternal investigator, 
  • AND she got baptized Saturday,
  • AND she asked me to do the ordinance!
You could say it was a great week.

Hope you see some miracles this week,
Elder Connor Nef