Monday, January 25, 2016

Tamales and Tarantulas

Elder Cowley and I with the Zone Leaders

No time to write. Had a crazy day, but everything is great. We are working hard.

Eating well. Mmmm homemade tamales.

Seeing some very cool Chilean Rose Hair Tarantulas.

Scoping out our area.

Now it's time to get back to work.

Catch you next week,
Elder Connor Nef

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bienvenidos a Chile

Well, we said our goodbyes at the Mexico CCM, and six of us (Elder Wirtz, Elder Hamilton, Hermana Holt, Hermana Panek, Hermana Manwaring, and myself) arrived 3 hours early to the airport. I spent the time talking with Elder Wirtz about nerdy stuff. Talked with a few people in line for boarding, the flight attendant, and the guy next to me on the plan (an electro engineer from Mexico City).

The Arrival
After 11 hours, one time change, a connecting flight, and two hours of sleep, we arrived in Concepcion, Chile to find our mission president and missionaries greeting us with a big sign. It was a happy welcome, but I have to say that I felt a little gross from having been in a suit too long in 85 degree weather with little sleep.
with President and Hermana Arrington
No matter. We were whisked away to the mission home for lunch, testimonies, and orientation, after which they paired us up with our trainers.

Teamed Up
I was teamed with Elder Nathan Cowley from Cary, North Carolina - my aunt Diane's ward! Small world. Funny, previous to my arrival, Diane gave me the heads-up, "Hey, keep a look out for an Elder Cowley from my ward. He's serving in Concepcion, Chile." Well, I didn't have to look far. He's a cool guy. Great trainer.
with Elder Cowley
Quillon, Chile
Quillon - marked with red dot
This week has been awesome. My first area is Quillon, an inland, rural, richer part of the mission. Some people have pools here. It seems like it's kind of a vacation stop for tourists. The area reminds me of California's Central Valley, only a little more humid, and instead of mountains, we are flanked on one side by a range that looks like the Saratoga Hills.

The temperature lingers around 100 degrees, but it hasn't bothered me at all. The food is delicious. Rice and beans are the main staple, and tomatoes are served with every meal.

Had a traditional Chilean drink comprised of juice, puffed wheat seeds, and a dried baked peach. It was good. The wheat seeds helped tone down the sweet and offered an interesting texture.

The people are nice, even when they completely reject us. The ward is small, 80 people, and I am closest (so far) with the ward mission leader, Mario. Great guy.

Apparently My Accent is On-Fleek
We live in a small house on the property of a less-active. They are cool, but I can't understand them much. I can't really understand anyone yet because Chilean is spoken fastest, slurred most, and comes with more slang than other forms of Spanish. However, what little Spanish I do speak, people keep remarking on how good my Chilean accent is. Go figure.

Chileans Like to Share - and So Do We
When we got to our area, we had no investigators. However, on Friday a miracle occurred when we went to the chapel for a ward party. The Hermanas were going to teach a guy at the church a few hours before the activity, but he didn't show up until we did. Mario, the ward mission leader, started talking with him and signaled for us to come over and give him a blessing. He told us his problems (Chileans like to share) and we gave the blessing (my 3rd time anointing in Spanish). Then my companion shared a lesson and the guy set a date for another visit and committed to come to church. Nice!

I know this may be hard for many of you to believe, but I don't talk much. Yep, the language barrier has me temporarily stumped. But this was expected, and I know the challenges I am facing are only a passing thing. Just give me a little time and practice and you won't be able to shut me up.

I am a soldier in the Lord's army and it's Go-Time!
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Adios Mexico MTC!

Hey Everyone!
Guess what - I am currently in Concepcion, Chile! Right now I have no time to write, but will fill you in on the details of the adventure next Monday. In the meantime, here are some final pictures of our fantastic MTC District.
Elder Hamilton, Me, Elder Williams, Elder West
MTC District with Maestro Martinez
Donuts and chocolate milk courtesy of Hermana Holt's parents! Awesome.

This is the coolest!
Love to All,
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Salvation is Not a Cheap Experience

Begin with Prayer
This week has been one of drama and inspiration. So it was more than appropriate that the week began with a devotional recording of Elder Richard G. Scott speaking on Prayer. It was the happiest I have ever seen him. The gist of his message was how to receive answers to prayer, outlining three types of answers and what they might mean.
1.  Good feeling. Sense of peace = "yes" answer
2.  Unsettling feeling. Stupor of thought = usually "no"
3.  Silence = God wants us to study & ponder & continue trusting Him.
Elder Scott also urged us to not complain but ask God what we need to learn in the process of prayer.

The More the Merrier
We received another new District into our Zone! Four sisters and six elders in this crop. And, I am happy to report that they are all going to Chile (northeast and Concepcion south).

Is There Such a Thing as an Islander Who Cannot Sing?
A highlight of the week was during Sunday School class when Six Polynesian missionaries sang "Love At Home."  Verse 1 - English. Verse 2 - Tongan. Verse 3 - Spanish. It was the best rendition of that song I have ever heard. Is there such a thing as an Islander who can't sing? I don't think so.

Fun Facts:
-  They give one haircut here - military short. I think I need hair gel.
-  While running to get the doctor for the sisters, I learned that sprinting in mission clothes is surprisingly easy.
-  My Branch President is the coolest guy who works for the Church with financing Temples and helps with logistics for visiting Authorities.
-  The Spanish word for "Sunburn" is "Toastarse" = To toast oneself.
Makes me think of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer covers himself in butter and falls asleep on the roof.
- The Spanish word for "dinner" is "cena"....Cena...JOHN CENA (trumpets: doooo-do-do-doooo). Sorry, couldn't resist that one.
-  My MTC teacher was robbed at knife-point and despite repeated attempts at stabbing and slicing, she escaped with only a tiny cut on her finger. So cool.
-  Outside the MTC there are these giant sculptures that look like Quidditch goals or giant Lego arms.
Quidditch sculpture or Lego arm monument? The Locals don't even know.
Infirm Drama
Some strange sicknesses have been sweeping through our District this past week, mainly with the sisters. Sister Doxey started getting a splitting pain in her side so bad she was taken to the hospital for overnight observation. When she and her companion returned the next day, Doxey's companion, Sister Hawkins began having fainting spells. Doctor said it was stress, but the following day she was more sluggish and ended up fainting again, this time I was there to catch her. We were having a one-on-one teaching session and I looked up from reading just in time to see her eyes roll back and start to fall.

Sunday, we all fasted for the health of our District. In the meantime, our teachers noticed that we have been giving blessings in English, and they say we must learn to do them in Spanish (my goal is to learn the Baptism and Confirmation ones by tomorrow).

Anyway, after some more blood work and another fainting spell, Sister Hawkins is now getting around via wheelchair. We're hoping they can figure this out so she can get back to full capacity.
Christmas day, the hill was on fire, but stopped at the city's edge
It's Never Been Easy!
In the middle of this fiasco, our teachers showed us video talks from Elder Eyring and Elder Holland about how missionary work is hard, but we need to press through. It made me think of the conversation between Jack and John Locke in Season 2 of Lost.

Here's the Scenario:  Both Jack and John are arguing about pushing the button in the hatch when Jack (a man of science) asks John (a man of faith) why he finds it so easy to "Believe." John's response was an impassioned "It's never been easy!"

Salvation is Not a Cheap Experience
And that's the thing. Faith is not easy. Salvation is not easy. If it were easy, people would be flocking to churches in droves and lining up at the baptismal font en mass. But Elder Holland's message, like John Locke's, was that "salvation is not a cheap experience" and has never has been easy. Not for us. Not even for Christ. So we should expect (especially missionaries who are in the work of salvation) that our faith will be tried. We will have to undergo testing to grow our faith. Elder Holland said:
"Why is missionary work so hard?... If you wonder if there isn't an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn't an easier way...
"When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived.  You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrow and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary."     (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Missionary Work and the Atonement)
Then he ended his talk with an amazing scripture on why missionaries are out serving and enduring. We are sacrificing to bring a message of salvation, of Good News.

Bougainvillea Tree outside Monson Bldg
2 Nephi 2:6, 8-9
6  Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah...
8  Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
9  Wherefore,...they that believe in him shall be saved.

Experiencing Gratitude
While being here in the CCM, I've really come to appreciate my upbringing. I did not know how uniquely versatile I was until I got here. This isn't a prideful thing - just increased gratitude for my parents in raising me to have knowledge and practice and experience in many things. Thank you.

Well, this is officially my last P-day in the CCM (Mexico MTC). When you next hear from me, I will be writing from the streets of Chile. I head out next Monday afternoon and arrive in Concepcion 10am Tuesday. Looking forward to it.

I have loved my time here, but I'm looking forward getting to work.

Tenga Una Buena Semana!
Elder Connor Nef