Monday, June 27, 2016

Joy in the Service

Found a restaurant that offered 2 giant hot dogs and 2 juices for a great deal. Four of us couldn't pass it up.

Back in Rhythm
Since Elder Evelo is feeling better, we have gotten back into a rhythm of teaching.  It feels good. With every conversation I am reinvigorated to do missionary work. Just small feelings of joy. One of the things that reinforced this feeling even more was in an article in an old magazine.

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane
by Heinrich Hofmann 1890
I Believe in Christ
I came across a decades-old Liahona magazine in English (what's that doing in our home?) which had the last testimony of Bruce R. McConkie in it. I read it, and let my imagination take me to each of the three Gardens, hoping that one day I could build my testimony to this level of knowledge, and how I need to base all my decision in life off of knowing Christ's sacrifice.

Upon this rock I cannot fail.

Fun Fact for my generation:
It was from this April 1985 testimony that they composed the hymn 134, I Believe in Christ.

Thursday, we did not enter a single house, but I was still on a spiritual high from McConkie's testimony.

Fun Facts:
-  Helped a less-active kid with translating his English homework. It was about Tupac.
-  Ate a Chilean churro. It's different from what we have in USA. Picture, deep fried corn based shell stuffed with manjar (caramelized sweetened condensed milk). So tasty.
- The other night, no one had keys to the place we were staying, so I was nominated to crawl through the 18" open window. I fit! and opened the door from the inside. Perks of being flako (skinny). This might not continue if I keep eating Chilean churros!

Travelling to Chillon
Half of our week was filled with teaching, the other half was spent travelling.  Think of riding a bus over the hill to Santa Cruz every day for a week straight. This was our travels to Chillon for a slew of stake conference meetings and mission conferences. So cool.

Scales Falling
At the stake Adult Meeting Saturday evening, two returned missionaries bore testimony and talked about the joy that opens in the hearts of missionaries, a joy that makes it feel like your eyes have been opened. Kind of an awakening.  The Apostle Paul likened it to scales falling from his eyes that enabled him to finally see, really see.

I felt this same thing in the CCM, the Mexico Missionary Training Center.
At conference with my buddies from the CCM
Farewell to the President
And then we had the farewell conference for President and Sister Arrington. Both gave inspiring talks. Two things that stuck with me from president's talk was:

  1. Without service, there is no progress. We can sit and study as long as we like, but we'll never progress if we never extend ourselves to help others,
  2. The key indicator for a returned missionary to stay strong is to stay active in a calling right after returning home.

See if you can see me in the back row
Kinda makes me think of my sister who just returned from her mission to France.

Welcome Home, Lauren!
In fact, it donned on me last Tuesday that the same time I entered my house after a day of work, is the same time when my sister, Lauren's, plane landed in San Jose.  Quite poetic, actually.  Welcome home, sister!

So proud of you.

Elder Connor Nef

Monday, June 20, 2016

How Can We Be Anything Less?

Damian leaving for his mission to Guatemala. His mom and uncle pose with us.
Sunday was the farewell of Damian Campos. Damian is a very social dude - full of personality. Every day when we're contacting, someone will say, "Hey, I know a guy who is about to leave on a mission - Damian Campos!"  He's going to make a terrific missionary.

The Reason for Staying
Most of our investigators have been dropping like flies, and I ain't gonna lie, it's downright discouraging. Such is missionary life, huh?  But what softens the blow are the families who are open and eager to learn. We still have a few of those.

For instance, we had a nice Noche de Hogar (Family Home Evening) with Jorge and Rafaela. They are a super cool young couple who own the local Pastry Shop. Jorge is 6'4" and Rafaela is like 5'3".

We had another great lesson with Danilo and Barbara. The lesson at first was a little scattered because I steered the topic away from what we planned and in a direction I felt inspired, but in the middle of the message, I got a strong feeling that this family is one of the reasons - if not the reason - I am still in Quillon.  That made me feel better.

Fun Fact:
- It is common to see men walking on either side of the street yelling a friendly conversation, like:
     "Hey neighbor, when can I pass by?" 
     "This Friday is good?" 
     "Yeah, sounds good!"
     "Ok by, see you later!"
     "Ok chow. Have a good day!"
     "Until Friday, take care!"
     "See you Friday. Have a beautiful day!"
Prolonging farewells is a thing here. Hilarious.

- Every day I hear Jefferson Starship's We Built This City on Rock and Roll. Mr Evans, my high school Journalism teacher, would hate this!

-  I keep seeing teenagers and young adults with rifles. Ironic because Quillon is super peaceful.

- They finally fixed our shower! Before the temperature was either freezing cold or scalding hot. Now, it's a nice (aaaaahhhh) warm shower.

-  My sister, Lauren, returns from her mission to France tomorrow! Congrats and Love you, Lo!

Evelo is Enfermo
Sickness is still lingering with my companion, Elder Evelo. Every day is a little touch and go. Some mornings he wakes up feeling great, but then his health goes south as the work day goes on.

Ixnay on the Noche
Because of this, we missed a ward activity we planned with the sister missionaries last Friday night. It was going to be like a giant Noche de Hogar with sopaipillas (a deep fried bread you can load with whatever topping or eat alone).  But the Hermanas said it went well. Everyone laughed and cried, and there was a perfect amount of sopaipillas.

Tommy In-Toe!
Did I tell you that we got permission from the mission president to watch Chile play in the Copa America Centenario (this hemisphere's version of the World Cup), because, to be honest, soccer is so big here that no one will open door to us with this game on. The one condition was that we needed an investigator in attendance.

Well, we show up at the Campos-Burgos's house (with fingers crossed and a prayer), explain the situation, and Hermana Feli - bless her heart - sprints off to get someone and comes back with Tommy in-toe! FELI COMES IN THE CLUTCH ONCE AGAIN!  So we were able to watch a rather intense game of Chile vs. Bolivia, which Chile won with nearly no time to spare.
Elder Evelo, Damien, me

Because health issues have kept us indoors, it has given me a lot of time for study.
     I started and finished Our Heritage
     I am deep into Exodus in the Old Testament
     Reading 2 Nephi in the Spanish Book of Mormon
     Nearing the end of Matthew in the New Testament
     And about halfway through Jesus the Christ
We've also listened to a number of great talks (Elder Evelo came with a 109 GB USB full of Church films, talks, and music).

How Can We Be Anything Less?
One of my favorites was a BYU talk by Jeffrey R. Holland Oh, Lord, Keep My Rudder True -  An inspiring message on integrity and loyalty.

He shared a story of some LDS troops in Korea and how one Sergeant who was loyal enough to his bullet-ridden Lieutenant to go back for him and because this Sergeant was a slight 5'5" 150 lbs, he had to rely wholly on the strength of the Lord to carry the large 6'7" 245 lb. Lieutenant uphill to safety.

In a similar way, another man made an uphill climb many years before, carrying all of us.  As the Savior neared Calvary, his defenders became fewer and fewer.  But regardless of this, he has kept his loyalty to us.  His love, unwavering, has atoned for us.

Because of his loyalty, how can we be anything less than stand-up missionaries and disciples of Christ?

Ciao a Todos!
Elder Connor

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hurrah for Israel!

Hurrah. Hurrah for Israel  by Larry Wade
My companion and I are getting along great, but the bad news is that we are sick as dogs.  My comp got sick on Thursday, then it hit me with a vengeance on Saturday. Fever. Chills. Can't sleep. Can't keep anything down. It's been rough.

Tuesday we had a cambio (exchange) with other missionaries, and I was paired with a new elder from Brazil.  Near the end of our day, he said something that hit me like a ton of bricks. "Elder Nef," he said, "You need to be happier and smile more."

Wait. What?

Me - not happy? I have stooped to the point of not smiling? Note taken. Been smiling more since, but today is testing that. Sorry if I don't sound upbeat - this fever and exhaustion have temporarily gotten the best of me.

But even though I don't feel great physically, I can feel Heavenly Father supporting me - giving me just enough to keep going.  Reminds me of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball when they left on their missions to England.

Heber and Brigham's Mission to England
Their departure was a little...shall we say, less than idea. Malaria swept through the area, hitting their families and them personally. Weakness. Fever. Chills. Yet, even in the thick of sick, Heber and Brigham answered the call to serve overseas and leave immediately.

Heading out with nothing more than meager belongings and audacious faith, they staggered to their ride and plopped down in the back of a horse-drawn wagon.

But as they were being wheeled away, Heber didn't want his family's farewell image to be of him pathetically laying helpless in a wagon bed. So as the wagon rolled away, he and buddy Brigham mustered up enough strength to boost one another to their feet and call out, "Hurrah. Hurrah. Hurrah for Israel!"

Pretty inspiring.

That's the kind of faith I'm trying to have. Answering the call to do what the prophet and God commanded, so that others can learn about the Savior's love. Small price to pay to spread goodness and kindness. Anyway, that's what I'm trying to do.

Remember God's love for us and that miracles come more frequently than you think.

Hurrah for Israel!
Elder Connor Nef

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Summer may have arrived back at home in California, but here winter has come.  Basically gets down to about freezing every day.  But I packed for this.  I really love my coat, scarf, and gloves right now.

Meet Elder Evelo
My new companion, Elder Evelo, did not pack for the cold. Since he's from Florida, he wasn't expecting such low temperatures here, so he's a little out of his element.

Our lessons this week were a little lackluster because we are still trying to learn how to work as a team. The disappointing part is that I felt like we were teaching lessons, not people. Plus, all of our plans fell through this week. Friday was my toughest day.

It's Ok, Son
Funny how the Spirit helps us out sometimes. As the day went on, I was feeling more and more disorganized and alone, and we decided to pass by Luis' home (the recent convert), and found that he was feeling down. Actually, he was downright depressed.  To lift his spirits, Elder Evelo pulled out a scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants.

My son, peace be unto thy soul;
thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high;
thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again
with warm hearts and friendly hands.
D&C 121:7-9

As we expounded upon the scripture, I felt almost a whisper come to my mind, It's okay, son. I love you.  That slight comfort was exactly what I needed.

God always has our back.

No Quieremos Fumar!
When I was in the terminal with other missionaries waiting for our new companions to arrive, a crowd of 40 kids come marching through with picket signs and yelling "No quieremos fumar!"
They were holding anti-cigarette/anti-smoking signs, and passing out books. So adorable. I only remembered to take a picture when they were halfway out the door.

Apparently, it gets down to 0 degrees celsius. It's already hitting 1 degree.  Our one trusty space heater in our house gets a workout, but doesn't quite make the place toasty.  I can see my breath.  My one saving grace is an electric blanket for heating the bed before I hop in. Funny, a month ago I could still wear short sleeves, now I am bundling up with sweater, coat, scarf, and gloves every day. Winter nights have gotten longer as well.  Sun sets at 5pm and rises after 8am.

Weird changes, man.

But with change comes a new season of growth. I am hoping to really keep the work expanding in Quillon.

Love you all so much! Thank you for your prayers,
Elder Connor Nef