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

Monday, October 2, 2017

General Conference and a Baptism - Doesn't Get Any Better

with Hermano Correa, Cristofer, and Elder Sharp
Cristofer's Baptism
In between the first and second session of General Conference, Cristofer was baptized.  He was well received by his branch family, even choosing Hermano Correa, the brother who befriended him at church from day-1, to do the honors.  It was a really happy event.

Sticky Buns and the Shield of Faith
For this week's District Class, I made sticky buns (you can say that I have my district eating out of the palm of my hand!). I taught about bearing testimony, and I made the point by using the Armor of God - comparing the Shield of Faith to the Spartan shield.

Spartan Shield
Spartan Shield
The Spartan shield (also known as the ‘hoplon,’ which comes from the word hoplite for the Greek infantrymen) was made of wood, covered in bronze, and supported by laminated leather strapping.  Those layers, along with the curvature and weight (about 30 lbs), gave this piece of armor unmatched strength, enabling them to use it as an instrument of offence as well as defense (able to deliver more force than a car wreck).

Because of its power and versatility, the Spartan shield was considered (along with the spear) the most important piece of armor.  So vital was this piece, that soldiers who lost their shields in battle were punished severely afterwards. 
       When the Spartan king Demaratos was asked, "Why are men dishonored when they lose their shields but not when they lose other pieces of armor?" 
       The Spartan king responded, "Because the latter [other armors] they put on for their own protection, but the shield is for the common good of the whole line."

Drawing the comparison between a Spartan shield and our shield of Faith (our testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ) is an easy one.  It becomes our instrument of offence as well as defense, which is for the common good of the whole line.  I love it when I can nerd-up and teach.

General Conference
Elder Sharp and I watching General Conference broadcast
I loved conference. Here are some highlights:

I don't know about you, but I am inspired!

With that, have a great week, everyone!
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

He Did This Time!

Headed to Stake Conference in Linares with this good-looking group
It may have been raining much of the week, we may have biked and walked until our treads were smooth, with days of cancellations and no one letting us in - but our spirits weren't dampened.  It was good work.  Yes, much of the week was slow-going, but Friday everything changed. We taught 12 lessons on Friday alone.

Pancho (ward member) and I were even able to teach an atheist who wants us to return. That would be the ultimate turn-around.  And then there is our golden investigator, Cristofer.

Cristofer, the Young Adult
One day on splits when I headed out with Leandro, we ended up going to Cristofer's house.  We pass by this guy a ton and he is almost never home, but he was this time!

Earlier, when he wasn't home, we would simply leave a pamphlet every time with hopes that he would read it.  By now he had a handful of them.  And, come to find out, he read all of them and said, "The material was really good. They answered my doubts."

Carved from
Fish bone
Later in the week, we taught Cristofer a few more lessons and found him so prepared, he was basically teaching us the principles.  I have discovered that if you teach the first 3 lessons well to an investigator and he/she has lots of member communication, he/she will understand lessons 4-5 perfectly.  This was the case with Cristofer.

Later still in the week, as my comp and I were planning our schedule, Cristofer's name came up - and his baptismal date.  I felt that we should change it to an earlier date.  He was ready.  Shoot, he even wants to go on a mission right away!  Elder Sharp hands me the phone and I dial.

Cristofer NEVER answers his phone, but he did this time!  So I ask, "Cristofer, what would you think about getting baptized this Saturday."
"I think it sounds great," he says.

I then phoned the branch president to get permission for the service.  Branch pres never answers the phone, but he did this time - and he gave us the green light.

[cue angel choirs]

Plus, this weekend will be General Conference!  So great.

Have a blessed week, Everyone,
Elder Connor Nef

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. Christofer 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