Monday, March 28, 2016

"I Need to Do That Don't I?"

Elder Cowley and I with Luis
The Baptism of Luis
Luis was baptized on Saturday. A meaningful service for a guy who is a walking miracle. 57 year-old Luis almost died a year or two back when he fell 10 meters on his head during a construction job. It's a miracle that he even survived. And when the sisters found him, he proved to be a golden investigator.

During their first lesson with Luis, the Hermanas held up a picture of Christ with John the Baptist at the River Jordan.
          Luis asked, "What's Jesus doing there?"
          "He's being baptized," they said.
          "Well, I need to do that, don't I?" he suggested.
From the beginning, Luis' goal was clear.  After more lessons, finding friends at ward activities, and spiritual nourishment at meetings and conferences, here Luis stands, eager to enter the fold of God.

Luis had to use my white tie and Elder Cowley's white pants.  The bishop baptized him.  Happy day.

Noche de Talentos
The ward got together for a Noche de Talentos - ward Talent Night. Some fun moments:

-  6 year-old danced to a Shakira South Africa World Cup song.

-  Someone did the Quaga: Chile's national dance that's supposed to mimic the courtship of a rooster and a hen.

- Oscar, Elder Cowley, and I sang a song from Imagine Dragons (well, I sang, Oscar played drums, and Cowley was on guitar). It was fun.

Warmin' Up Them Vocal Chords
Speaking of singing, our Zone has been practicing a song for Zone Conference that was composed by my district leader, Elder Hepworth. It's a mix of "If You Could Hie to Kolob" (ya, weird words, but the music is pretty) and "Come Thou Fount." It's a good mix of Spanish and English.

Breaking Tradition
Had another lesson with our staunch Catholic family who reads the Book of Mormon every night. The lesson was awesome. They know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. They feel the truthfulness of the record and value it's teachings for their family. Admittedly, they say the one thing holding them back is their long-standing relationship with the Catholic church, not necessarily for its teachings, but purely because of tradition.

"Once I get a firm answer that your Church is true," said the dad, "I'm going to work to convert my whole family (they have 3 adult children), Then I will try to convert my neighbors."

This Week's Chilean Fun Facts:
-  Chile just lost to Argentina in soccer. People were bummed.
-  Inflation is fast growing - the exchange rate for Chilean peso is now 700 pesos to the dollar.
-  The fleas have stopped biting.
-  A bus we took to stake conference had a sign that said it does not allow frogs.
-    Durazno = nectarine.  Damazco = peach. Everyone has a durazno tree. Fruit grows everywhere.

-  It's beginning to get cold enough to wear sweaters.
-  Learned how to make Manjar - a caramel sauce made from sweetened condensed milk. Put a can of sweetened condensed milk in boiling water and before you know it you have caramel. Mmm.
-  Again, dogs everywhere.

"I need to do that don't I?"
Heard about the terrorist bombings in Belgium this last week. A sobering reminder that we are in the last days - a time when the Lord is Hastening His work, so it should come as no surprise that Satan is hastening his.

Who am I kidding? I am still surprised - even shocked - when evil surfaces to this extent. Makes me appreciate my faith all the more and want to share the light with anyone who will listen.

Let's just hope that the good that emerges from the darkness will be a serge of individuals and families who, like Luis, will look for answers and find it in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and have the faith to say, "I need to do that don't I?"

Have a great week everyone,
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

La Iglesia de Piedra

We are officially on winter schedule, meaning, our routine has moved up half an hour earlier: waking, returning home, and going to bed - and rainy season is fast approaching.  Despite the chilly weather, we visited a cave on the beach today.

"Iglesia de Piedra" - Stone Church
photo: cyclingwith antonie.blogpost
The Iglesia de Piedra near Cobquecura is basically a rock on the beach with a huge natural cave the locals refer to as Stone Church. The only thing that resembles a church are a couple of statues of Mary inside.

The town of Cobquecura was the epicenter of the devastating 8.8 earthquake in 2010, followed by a tsunami. The town has since rebuilt.
Apparently, these waters are listed as a world-class surfing destination. It was pretty cold on our visit.

Teaching is Coming Along
Prayer brings change of heart
Taught a guy named Luis who is a die-hard Catholic. "I was born a Catholic. I will die a Catholic!" But at the end of our lesson about Praying to God, he asked us for more literature on our faith.

Out of small and simple things
Our work with re-activating Carlos and Pascual has been amazing. Sure the lessons are these short spiritual thoughts, but the change it has brought in these two individuals is immense. They are active members now. Out of small and simple things, huh.
Manual is behind me giving the thumbs-up
I'm ready again
Took teenage member, Manuel (who is about to leave on his mission to Guatemala), with me on splits. I had scheduled lessons with two different families.  The first lesson was with a gal who had been taught by the missionaries before, but she had moved and lost contact.  Now she was ready again. The Spirit was strong during the lesson and we gave her a Book of Mormon.

Just Pray about it
The next lesson was even better - with a family we had visited a couple of times previously.  This family is staunch-Catholic, but get this, they read the Book of Mormon every night.  When we arrived, Manuel instantly recognized them, and the connection led the conversation naturally from visit to lesson.  We taught about prophets, authority of God, the First Vision, Restoration of the gospel, and how we can know the truthfulness of these things by praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. "Well, I already know the Book of Mormon is true!" says the dad.

Saturday morning we had breakfast with the Elders Quorum and High Priests. It was a big Bro-fast with lots of bread with jam, eggs, ham, and lamonisa (Chilean sausage, so good).
Because investigator Luis was there, we each took turns introducing ourselves and bearing a bit of a testimony. Luis is the sister missionaries' golden investigator. From the start, he was instantly drawn to the gospel. In fact, when the sisters showed a picture of Christ being baptized, Luis blurted out, "Oh, I need to do that, don't I?" Yes, Luis, and we can help you.

His baptism is next week.

"Language Will Not Be a Problem for You"
Elder Cowley and I make a great team when it comes to conversing with Chileans.

It's really funny because we'll be having conversations with people and I will only get the gist of what's going on and Elder Cowley will be doing most of the talking - that is until a movie/show/ music/historical/etc. reference comes up. Then Cowley suddenly doesn't understand what's going on and I actually start understanding everything they say!

So weird. Makes me bond with the members more.

You know, all blessings for my mission have consistently stated, "The language will not be a problem for you. The people will understand you and you will understand them." Note the order. First, people will understand me. That has already happened from day-1. Surprised others and myself!  But the 2nd part, I will understand them, is a process. I think a bit of fear has been holding me back on this.

Like every blessing from God, there is quick Divine help and some work we must do ourselves. That's how we grow.  And for a newb, I feel I am doing pretty well. I am beginning to have full conversations with people who slur their words and have no teeth and stuff.

Happy Easter everyone.
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Sign for the Sabbath & Service in Cement

This week was pretty mellow. Had to push back some of our teaching appointments. One of our investigators is struggling with the word of wisdom, but his prayers are really awesome and sincere. He just needs better friends and a better job. We can definitely help with one of those.

Service in Cement
My companion and I got to play in the dirt by helping out Patricio with building a house for his daughter's family. We were starting with the foundation, mixing and pouring cement.

Aaaah, the rewards that follow an afternoon of
Hot dog with guacamole. Guacing the dog?
Bernin - deep fried bread with cream filling

Obedience and the Sabbath Day
Sunday's Stake Conference was cool. A special broadcast from Salt Lake City to all of Chile with Elder Russell M. Nelson concluding the line-up of speakers - and he spoke in Spanish! Way cool. His topic was Obedience with an emphasis on keeping the Sabbath Day holy.

Bus ride to Stake Conference with ward members

"How do we hallow the Sabbath day? 
In my much younger years, I studied the work of others who had compiled lists of
things to do and things not to do on the Sabbath. It wasn't until later when I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father. With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don'ts.  When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, 'What sign do I want to give to God?'  That question made my choices about the Sabbath crystal clear."
(Russell M. Nelson, The Sabbath is a Delight, April 2015)

I like that. What are my actions saying to God and to others? Not just for the Sabbath day, but every day. Do the signs and signals I give out say that I am an honest and decent person?  A good friend?  A representative of Jesus Christ?
Me and Patricio
Well, since today is Pi Day (3.1415....), I am hoping to make a pie and get a haircut. We'll see how time goes.

Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

By the Obedience of One

Horse drawn wagons are a common site here in Quillon
By the Obedience of One
Zone Class this week was really meaningful. Instead of splitting into districts, we all gathered in one big circle and had a discussion on Obedience. Some great comments were made. One Elder even testified that because of his obedience, his family joined the church. Reminded me of a scripture, so I shared it.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners,
So by the Obedience of one shall many be made Righteous.
Romans 5:19
This applies to fellow-missionaries, families, and with people in general, really. And as we missionaries make it our goal to follow the commandments, the ward members and investigators will be more likely to follow suit. Obedience begets more obedience.

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers
I received the package you (my family) sent me. OH MY GOSH, ARE YOU GUYS MIND READERS? I was so excited for it, I began opening it while walking home. 
I love the Tigger (Mr. Evans' nickname for me in high school Journalism), the potato seasonings will be put to good use, the clothes are awesome (I'm wearing the Mustang t-shirt right now), and the snacks are amazing (chocolate is pretty expensive here). THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH! I wish I could hug you. Man, you guys make me so happy.

More and Less A Great Week
It's been a good week. I am getting more sleep and am having less appetite. Yeah, just a good feeling to this week.

Fun Facts: 
-  Chileans in Quillon like hanging Ox yokes above their porch. Reminds me of Jesus saying he'll take our yoke upon him.
-  Used a legit outhouse this week.
-  I baked a peach pie. For all the things I messed up on, it actually turned out really well. Yummy.
Behold, the peach pie!
-  Some common Chilean ice creams are called "Savory" and "Danky," which is funny because both are English words with totally different meanings.
-  Happy Birthday to my sister Lauren (in France)! I sent Lauren a special birthday present via Dropbox. I learned the Happy Birthday song in French in the CCM and I have practiced it just for this time. Hope my pronunciation isn't too bad. Love you, Lauren.

"I Want to Go with You"
There is a part-member family we are teaching and as we're getting the 9 year-old son ready for baptism, we had the idea that his 24 year-old brother (currently less-active) should baptize him. When we extended the invitation, well, his face just lit up. He is so excited about this opportunity that he came teaching with us the following day saying, "You know, I want to go teaching with you as much as I can so I can get to know more people." He's a shy guy, but awesome.

Look at that, by the obedience of one, his 9 year-old brother. Pretty great. The baptism is in two weeks.

It's in the Small Stuff
So, I contacted someone on the bus, gave her a Restoration pamphlet (she read all of it during the long bus ride), talked to her about missions, the primary program (she has two kids - 4 and 8 years old), and I committed her to come to Church, but forgot to get her address for a return appointment. Oh well.

Seems the reoccurring theme for me this week (both in lessons learned and in lessons I have taught) has been about how growth comes little by little, and that it is by small daily acts we strengthen our faith.

Reminds me of the scene from the first Hobbit movie where Gandalf is talking to Galadriel about how he thinks it is small things (like Hobbits) that keep the darkness at bay. (I always celebrate my nerd roots). It's all in the small stuff.
The Frog of Success now wears a California hat (represent)
Wishing you all a great week and keeping Grandpa Nef in my prayers always.
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

El Zapo de Exito

Connor and Elder Cowley with a member
The Frog of Success!
My Zone has a thing where the companionship that completes their goals successfully gets to keep, for a week, El Zapo de Exito (the Frog of Success)! And, guess who got it this week? Yep. Sorry I did not include a picture of the prestigious award. I'd like to thank my manager and publicist.

South American Missionary Conference
This last week we got to tune into a conference for all missionaries in Southern South America. It was an open forum discussion with Elder Bednar.  Really good.  The main point was on Action and how we can expand ourselves little by little throughout life.

The broadcast came from Buenos Aires, Argentina. But, funny thing is - while I was watching a missionary in Argentina gets up to ask Elder Bednar question - and it's my friend Victor Prybil. So cool.

This Spud's for You
Remember my 50 pound bag of potatoes? My companion asked if I am sick of potatoes  yet. NEVER. One-third done with the bag. But we are eating more tomatoes these days.
Saturday we helped a less-active pick tomatoes on her small farm. As a sort of gift for helping, she gave us a small crate of tomatoes, a bushel of cilantro, and 2 liters of fresh milk in a Sprite bottle. And the office elders stopped by to give us a cantaloupe. Now we can dine like kings.

Fun Facts:
-  Every day people point out my big feet. Si.
-  Found out that I don't like honeydew melon. The Chileans LOVE it and love serving it. So, when this missionary is served a gaggy slice, well, I am polite and just muscle through it.
-  Because everything is small here, I hit my head at least 4 times a week. Tuesday I hit my head a record 5 times in a single day.
-  Chileans have an expression, "Bajar la cana" (throw down the cane), which means to give someone a verbal smack-down.
-  Ate a red peach the other day. We're talking blood red, less sweet. Man I'm tired of eating peaches.
-  Cool thing about living in the "campo" (country) is you get close to rural life.
Horses in Quillon
Faith and Unexpected Inspiration
Went to a member's house the other night. The wife was there, but her less-active husband was not, and it was clear that she wasn't doing so well because her husband is a heavy drinker. As she opened up about her struggle, we felt the need to talk about attending church. And I felt prompted to share with her the story of a family in my ward back at home.

Back when I was 13 years old, this inactive sister decided to attend church one day, and that day proved to be an answer to her prayers because the youth speaker in Sacrament meeting happened to say something that helped bring perspective to her struggle. She and her husband were unable to have children and had let that affect their faith.

But, inspired by what she heard in church, she had a new resolve to recommit to the Lord and become active. Soon after that she was blessed with a healthy baby girl. I almost choked-up.  I was the youth speaker years ago (but I didn't share that part of the story). The Spirit was so strong. By the end of our visit, this sister agreed to begin attending Church again.

When we live our faith, God has ways in which He reaches back to us to uplift and inspire and bless us in the most unexpected ways. We just need to take the steps.

That's our week. We're doing a good job hitting our goals. Who knows, as we keep at it, we may be privileged to hold onto our amphibious award - <deep echoey voice> El Zapo de Exito.

May your week bring you a Frog of Success,
Elder Connor Nef