Monday, May 30, 2016


Hermana Manwaring, Hermana Guymond, Hermana Miner, Elder Cowley, Me

Ward Temple Trip
Thursday, the ward left for the temple. It's a 6 hour+ drive each way, so they make the most of their trip and spend a couple of days there, which had them back home late Saturday night. While they were being blessed for attending the temple, I have to say that we really missed their presence in attending investigator lessons with us for those 2 days.

Steady Now
In the meantime, our investigator pool is increasing. Some investigators are returning with renewed interest, and others are brand new to learning the gospel. We're still working at re-invigorating the less-actives, and strengthening our ward members and the leadership.

Something must be working because after church, the Bishop met with us and the Hermanas to thank us for our efforts these past 6 months in the ward.  He told us that the attendance usually goes down to about 30 people by June, but our current attendance has stayed at a steady 85 people.  He concluded that it was the fruit of our labors that has strengthened and steadied the ward.

New Study Class
This week we had a class with an older couple in the mission. I was really cool - about study and revelations from the Book of Mormon.

Cambios - Transfers!
Transfer calls came and I am staying here in Quillon, along with Hermanas Guymond and Manwaring.  Elder Cowley and Hermana Miner are going to areas close to Conce, and Cowley will be a new Zone Leader.

The mission is pretty much divided into towns and cities around Conce (inside), and campo places surrounding (outside). So I guess I can say hello from the outside (sorry Lauren, you will get that reference soon when you get home).
Elder Cowley and I with Manuel
Adios Cowley and Miner
Elder Cowley has been an amazing trainer. I have learned a lot from his example and have laughed with him about the quirks we both have.  He's one of the best missionaries I have seen and every other missionary made that clear to me day-one.

I'm also going to miss the crazy trio of Hermanas. They have become sisters to me (partly because we see each other every day with it being such a small town). They are each super powerful examples to me of missionaries and I wish them the best of luck.

After 6 months, this is my first big change. Cambios.  I hope to learn from my next companion and have him learn from me. I'm also hoping to be a big help here in Quillon.

Pray for the Work Here!

Love you All,
Elder Connor Nef

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Path of Christ

Quillon sunset
Ok, can I just say that foreign computers are FRUSTRATING! Slooow internet, no internet, dinosaur models, keys in different spots, no uploading capabilities. There should be a warning sign: Caution. Patience needed.

First Baptism!
Had my first baptism! 10 year-old Jeremias entered the waters on Friday - his birthday. An appropriate day to become renewed and born again, this time into the Fold of God. Jeremias was so excited, he hugged us afterward.

Teach Repentance
Word from the mission president is that many missionaries get 1 or 2 good lessons but then the investigators lose interest. Funny, that's exactly what has been happening in our area. He suggested that we teach Repentance more.

Seeing that this seemed to match our problem perfectly, we decided to take his advice, and guess what? The lessons were better!

The Path of Christ
I have come to more fully understand Repentance. You know, Repentance gets a bad rap. To teach repentance is not to sermonize with fire and brimstone, destruction and guilt.  No. In fact, it's the opposite.  Because Repentance is so inextricably connected with the Atonement of Christ - the most epic expression of love and compassion and progress - teaching Repentance is about going in, understanding people, and leading them to a path of improvement.

That's what repentance really is - a path of improvement. The path of Christ.
Quillon District missionaries with Manuel
And, who wouldn't want a personal upgrade?

Love You All!
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

There Are No Accidents

After an exchange with some elders in our District, and giving each of them a pep-talk about obedience and getting along, I looked up "happiness" and "joy" in my studies and found something interesting.

In the English Bible dictionary for "happiness" it lists words like "cheerfulness" and "eternal family." But in the Spanish definition for "joy," the synonyms are "obedience" and "obey."

It says that True Joy comes when we follow God's commandments.  Thought that was cool.

Took a pic of a flower
Last Minute Miracles
This week we've been achieving our goals, but it seems that the results are had by some last-minute miracles.  For instance, Friday, we pushed to meet our goals, but come evening, our appointment falls through. It's 8:50pm. We decide to go to the member's house (who was going to come with us) to tell him about the cancellation, and when we arrive, we see a kid (Toby) we have invited to English Class playing video games with the member's kids.

The member invites us in to go teach Toby. We do, putting an emphasis on the Sabbath day. By the end of the lesson, Toby has committed himself and summoned the help of member's kids to come and get him out of bed every Sunday.

Gearing Up
We are gearing up to 2 baptisms. One is a 15 year-old investigator from the hermanas and the other is our youth investigator, Jermemias. Should be awesome.

Fun Facts:
-  When I listened to Kachmir/Four Seasons mash-up instrumental by Jenny Oaks Baker, I first thought it would be a boring classical song, but then I heard the tune from Iron Man and all was good.

-  Saturday night was daylight savings so we got an extra hour of sleep. My entire Zone did not know about daylight savings. I found out from members 2 weeks ago and told my District.

-  It surprises me how common it is for women to breast feed in public. They usually do the blanket cover thing, but there are those who just whoop it out in the middle of lessons. Just have to maintain eye contact.

Deconstructed Service
We helped a family in our ward deconstruct their house because they have to move it back 50 feet onto a new foundations they built. Wish we had more of our ward priesthood there to help.

Elder Cowley and I are hoping to do a little deconstructing of bad attitudes and apathy in the ward's quorums and help the ward care for each other like family. That's where they will find strength.

Power of Prayer
Before we left the house-moving project, I said the prayer, asking for us to find people who would help strengthen the ward. Little did I know how quickly that prayer would be answered.

That night, we end up knocking a door and a 30-something guy invites us in. We find out that he is a less-active (for like 12 years). His wife (who is Catholic) and 4 year-old daughter are willing to hear our message. Right then, the words from my prayer start ringing in my ears, "that we will find those who will strengthen the ward..." (en Espanol, of course).

That's when I begin speaking about eternal families. At first the wife was closed off, but as the lesson continued, she softened, and by the end she was looking forward to the next lesson.

There are No Accidents
After that, we traveled to a different part of town, knock a door, and IT'S THE FAMILY OF THE LESS-ACTIVE GUY - Mom, sister, and her evangelical boyfriend.

We teach a little about studying scriptures. They were really nice and showed a sincere desire to draw closer to God. It was my Kung Fu Panda moment, "There are no accidents!"
Oogway, "There are no accidents!" in Dream Works'  Kung Fu Panda
Everything has its purpose in God's grand plan.  Sure we won't understand all things. All we can do is strive to strengthen ourselves, our families, friends, ward, stake, and work in general, to make the world a better place.

This is Christ's message to us - to try and strengthen. And me? I was strengthened by our goal commitment this week. Here we made a concerted effort to focus on our goals and Heavenly Father came in the clutch whenever anything fell through.

That is a great feeling.

Here's to a Joyful Week!
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Picture A Family of Nef

Chillon Zone
Familia Campos Burgos - they Rock!
Recently learned that this ward came into existence because of one family - the Familia Campos Burgos (dad, mom, 1 daughter, 2 sons). Basically, they have invited everyone in their neighborhood over for Family Home Evening with the missionaries. Half the ward was introduced to the gospel through this family.  Pretty great.  The mom is kind enough to do our laundry every week.

Farewell Manuel
My buddy Manuel had his missionary farewell on Sunday (going to Guatemala). His testimony is so strong - he's going to be an awesome missionary. Manuel has become a bro to me. He likes calling me "Freakin' Nef" which is weird because that was one of my middle school nicknames.
As part of the desbedida (farewell), our choir of 10 sang Brillan Rayos de Clamensia (Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy). I was the only base, but it was fine.

Speaking of hymns, I learned a tragic backstory of a hymn only published in the Spanish hymnal. Placentero Nos es Trabajar was written by a missionary who was kidnapped in Mexico. Before he died in captivity, he wrote a poem, and this is what they put to music and added in the Spanish Hymnario. Sad.

I Don't Like Buses
The bus ride back from Chillan last week was the worst. Bus drivers are usually pretty good about not over-packing their bus, but I'm supposing our driver wanted more money because he sardine jam-packed our ride and I was left standing hunched in a "C" position for the entire hour trip. My back cramped up in so much pain, I can't even begin to tell you. I don't like buses.

Add to that my allergies. Funny, I had no allergies up in the Andes. But here in the valley with all the smoke, the congestion fogs my head. Pains, discomforts, frustrations. I've had to practice patience, focusing on small blessings, even listening to inspiring music. It helps.

Kronk in Disney's Emperor's New Groove
"You Owe Me a New Acorn"
Every Thursday we teach an English class to anyone who wants to learn. It's a good way to provide service to the community.

This last week I taught them some lines from the ending of the movie Emperor's New Groove. I had them repeat what I said.
     "I gave you an acorn."
     "Did you eat my acorn?"
     "You owe me a new acorn."
I was so proud.
I learned that "bellota" is acorn.

Who Turned Out the Lights?
Friday we came home to find that our electricity was off. Glad we have flash lights, but sunrise is not until 8:30am and we wake up at 7am. Our clothes came back from being washed and I'm glad that I have a high collar sweater (because wrinkle resistant is a lie and no electricity meant no iron).

Our lights came on the next day around noon. Apparently the fuse box is outside 30 meters away. Our darkness was a reminder of the Sister missionary's electrical predicament.

Flash Back 2 Weeks Ago
Two weeks ago the hermanas were having multiple things wrong with their apartment, one of which was the electricity going kaput.  For three days they searched for the problem, but then the lights came back on - no explanation.

During the fiasco, we asked if their house had been blessed (it had not). So we put that on our to-do list, but as circumstances go - we never got around to it...until our blatant reminder on Friday.

We blessed their house.

"Picture a Family of Nef"
My week was good. Lessons are going great. People are progressing, but skyping my family on Sunday was the hilight for sure.

I loved Loved LOOOOVED talking with and seeing you all SO MUCH. (That last LOOOOVED was a high yodel). Following our goodbyes, it took me a minute to compose myself to thank the member whose house we were at. But I managed.
Skyping family in California. My sister Lauren in France, me in Chile.
After the call, Elder Cowley said, "Your family is awesome!  They are all so much like you, especially your mom!"  Yeah, we are a lively bunch! (editor's note: Wow, honorable mention from a companion. That's pretty legit. Thanks Elder Cowley!)

Apparently, I have the reputation of being the tallest, most hungry, highest animo elder in our zone. When Elder Cowley was on the phone with the Hermanas, they asked how it went meeting my family and he told them, "Picture a family of Nef."


Bendiciones a Todos,
Elder Connor Nef

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hiked the Andes

Nevados de Chillan and the Las Trancas Valley
Check out this view, you guys. We hiked the Chilean Andes! So awesome. This range in central Chile is called the Nevados de Chillan and is actually a string of stratovolcanoes making up the southern volcanic zone of the Andes. Pretty cool, eh?  The three volcanoes:
Cerro Blanco (Volcan Nevado)
Volcan Viejo (Volcan Chillan) - the oldest of the craters
Volcan Nuevo - the new guy
Volcan Viejo was active for some 2 centuries which slowly birthed the New Volcano (Volcan Nuevo) in the early 1900s. Then by the mid-1980s the baby Nuevo dome outgrew ol' Viejo. The activity of the volcanoes is becoming more frequent. The latest eruption (albeit small) was just in January of this year when a dark gray ash plume spewed from one of the new craters.

But today on our hike, it was calm and gorgeous.

99.999% Planting
The past few weeks have been interesting because we have amazing first lessons with people, but by strange circumstances we are unable to contact them for a while, and then when we do - they are suddenly not interested or they stop progressing. Hmmm.

Patience is the lesson I am learning. Patience with the logic of the people here. Patience with investigators, and with God's timing. Yet despite setbacks I have felt oddly happy.

Sure, on paper we don't look like we are doing much, but 99.999% of mission work is planting seeds and hoping they grow.
View of the Nevados de Chillan from the bus
The Blessing of Blessings
Lately we've been giving a lot of blessings to the Hermana's investigators. At least one per week. Seeing the Priesthood power bless so many is a wonder to experience.

For instance, Fernanda cried tears of happiness after her blessing. Cool.

Then there was this older couple whose son died 13 years ago and since then they have shut God out of their lives. I felt inspired to share a passage from Doctrine and Covenants 122.

If thou art called to pass through tribulation...
If fierce winds become thine enemy;
if the heavens gather blackness...
know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience,
and shall be for thy good...
The Son of Man hath descended below them all.
Art thou greater than he?
Therefore, hold on thy way...
Fear not...for God shall be with you forever and ever.
D&C 122:5, 7-9

I don't know how this helped the couple, but I couldn't help but feel that those words were for me - that no matter what happens "life will be ok, son." I felt it sink in so personally that I got all choked-up and almost cried.

Manwaring Musings
Hermana Manwaring, a sister missionary in our zone, has some hilarious experiences from her first few months in the mission. It is so fun to hear her tell them.
Me,  Elder Cowley,  Hermana Miner,  Hermana Manwaring,  Hermana Guymond
For example:
She was in a lesson with an investigator and the investigator tells them that oddly everyone has been getting sick on their street.  Manwaring thinks, "Now that you mention it, I don't feel so hot either." But they continue the lesson anyway, and in the middle of the message, she gets up, runs to the front yard, and throws up. Pukes.

But here's the rub: her companion makes them FINISH the lesson, so Manwaring has to stay and teach with remnants of barf on herself.

Power Trio
Our trio of sisters are a powerhouse. Another of their golden investigators is getting baptized this week. All three hermanas are work horses and we all get along like family.

This Week's Fun Facts:
-  Ate dried seaweed for the first time. Went from crunchy to chewy real quick. Tastes like ocean.
 Tried a Chilean nut called Castana. The raw nut tastes like a weird mix of chicken and nut.
-  Uprooted a durazno tree at Pascual's house. Surprisingly, it took only 30 minutes.

Miracle of the Week
Our miracle of the week was Roberto. A year ago he went to church, even bore testimony in meetings, but missionaries had to drop him because he couldn't give up the party-life. When we found him and had our first lesson, he explained how he's changed. The partying caught up with him and he contracted diabetes, which means he cannot drink any longer because booze has sugar. Can you thank God for diabetes?

Well, let's hope his strong faith in God will lead him to commit and transform the rest of his life.

It's been a week of hiking and helping and blessing. Good stuff.

LOVE YOU and can't wait to skype home this Sunday for Mother's Day!!!
Until then,
Elder Connor Nef