Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Toda La Fuerza

Elder Alvarado and I
My comp and I are hitting it off really great. He's a thought-provoking dude. For instance, he likes adapting stories like The Odyssey to real life situations. He used the example of Odysseus and how he needed to go through all of his trials and experiences to become less prideful.

I'm also teaching Elder Alvarado English. He's having a bit of a struggle, but he's coming along.

#TodaLaFuerza Zone Conference
Had a mega conference that combined two zones, ours and Chiguagante. The focus was on Unity, Order, and Obedience. The President's message spoke of re-converting the less-active, which I think is really great. The Lord is looking - not for numbers, but for the truly converted.

The assistants introduced #TodaLaFuerza - the hashtag is to encourage members to share pictures of them with members on social media.

One of the sisters talked about teaching with a member present. It reminded me about what my sister Lauren told me from her mission experience in France: Investigators that are not taught with a member present seldom stay active. Our hope is to use members more in the work.

Noche de Barrio
We had a ward activity in which my companion and I shared a talk from Elder Jeffrey Holland. We told those that were in attendance that they were golden, reliable, trustworthy people, and that if we unite and work with them, we would bring less actives back. We really pumped them up and rallied them to the cause.

Speaking of which, I have been feeling more motivated myself. Been hitting the workout time harder. Even went out for a run with one of the Zone Leaders, Elder Brewster.

The Comeback Veggie
I received a nickname from the lady who washes our clothes: pantruca palida. It's a long, thin, white vegetable that poor Chileans chop up and put into soup. It's apparently making a comeback.

Directly Speaking
The numbers in church nearly doubled this week. Juan and Sirvana were among them - yes!

Bishop told us to visit the Young Men's president in the ward who has not come to church for a month. When we sat down with this Young Men's president, we were very direct with him in telling him to come back to church.

He said, "I think I am going to wait for 2 weeks more before returning."

Well, we weren't having any of that. So we took turns telling him why his thinking was bad. It kind of reminded me of the story of the angel visiting Alma Jr. But what made this more uncanny was that this brother said, "You elders are like my angels. You always arrive when I need you, and tell me what I need to do."

That was cool.

Thoughts on a Hymn
The song "I am a Child of God" takes on a new meaning in Spanish.  The chorus in English says,
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with Him some day.
Now, in Spanish, the first words of the chorus are:
Guienme, enseñenme - ("Guide me, Teach me" - in plural form)
It's the pluralization that meant something different to me. The Spanish translation makes it clear that it is talking to more than one person, as in giving parents the directive to Guide and Teach their children what they "must do to Live with Him some day."

Working on Finding people - families this week. Knocking a lot of doors. Wish us luck!

Elder Connor Nef

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Be Strong and of Good Courage

Concepcion, Chile
Well, I arrived in Concepcion safe and sound, in the sector of Lorenzo Arenas. Lorenzo is a suburb of Concepcion, as Campbell is to San Jose, California. The ward is small both by area and numbers. We went and met a few members, a recent convert, the Bishop, and our very cool ward mission leader, Hermano Del Rio. I'm excited to have members to work with.

Meet Elder Alvarado
Elder Alvarado, from Peru, is a convert of only three years, and he's been on his mission for 17 months. This is his first time being senior companion and I'm finding him to be hard-working, obedient (which I appreciate), a great teacher (he's very direct), and ward members seem to love him.

Knocking Doors etc etc etc
Spent much of the week knocking doors. One day, no one opened. Whatever. Happens. Made a lot of visits, did some FamilySearch (computers were slow), and attended a ward activity in which they showed the making of the Salt Lake Temple with Wilford Woodruff and the journalist dude.

Our apartment houses both us and the Zone Leaders, one of which is Elder Hepworth, my first district leader, so that's cool. We have carpet and it's so much warmer than my last place in Quillon. But this 4th floor apartment is a little more cramped and will be challenging to find area enough for exercise: Little space, big body, and three other dudes to not bump into. I'll make it work somehow.
View from our apartment in Lorenzo
Fecha Bautismal
After teaching the Restoration to teenage brother and sister, they set a date for their baptism!

Juan and Zirvana and their 16 year-old daughter are long standing investigators who have put off baptism by mere fact that they aren't married, and Elder Alvarado was about to drop them, only I thought we should keep teaching them because they behave like active members.  Well, we gave this couple the challenge to set a date to go visit the Civil Registrar's office to make things legal, and thought that their goal would be close to October.  When we asked them what their goal was - they told us the date was set for July 28th!

OH MY GOSH.  Pumped.

Now the whole family can be baptized together (not just the daughter).

Punchinello from You Are Special, by Max Lucado
Talk with a Punch
Sunday was just what I needed. Sacrament meeting was awesome. There were only 36 people there (rain kept most away), but the Bishop's talk was awesome!  Using the story of Punchinello in You Are Special, his message was on being more like our Heavenly Father and Savior. I have always loved that story and it was a great reminder for my state of mind on that day.

Be Strong and of Good Courage
Then for good measure, there was a wall we walked by on our way home to almuerzo (lunch) with an inspiring verse on it. I think I will end this post with this thought.

"Be strong and of good courage:
be not afraid,
neither be thou dismayed;
for the Lord thy God is with thee
whithersoever thou goest"
Joshua 1:9

Love you All. Peace Out,
Elder Connor Nef

Monday, July 11, 2016

Adios Quillon!

Quillon, Chile
Monday morning, transfer calls came and my suspicions were confirmed - Elder Evelo is staying in Quillon, and I am leaving the country for the big city and going to Conce Centro (Central Concepcion)!
Concepcion, Chile  photo by Julio Saez
I'm excited.

The week leading up to transfer calls was pretty productive. Always expect the ebb and flow of the work. One day is full of appointments, then everything drops. Another day is empty and then you end up with several lessons. Some commit, others drop. But all-in-all it's always a good week when the goal is to serve others.

Noche de Hogars (Family Home Evenings)
Carlos and Carla Poblete invited us over for a Family Home Evening that focused on Temples (Carla is anxious to go).

Familia Zapata (Gladys, Getsemani, Danilo, and Barbara) got to hear the steps to an eternal family.
     1.  Marriage
     2.  Baptism/re-activation
     3.  Temple
The lesson went well, and I have not been in a room with this much laughter since the CCM (Missionary Training Center in Mexico). It was so much fun!

That Sort of Boldness
The rest of the week was teaching a variety of other gospel principles to instill perspective or help them along. Everything from Repentance to the Word of Wisdom to keeping the Sabbath Holy. When you get to know your investigators, you learn to tailor the message to the need. And when you let the Spirit guide your words, the result is magic.

For instance, in a lesson with Maria, we were talking about being an example, and while I was giving the compromiso (getting her to commit), I felt this power to be more bold and just come right out and tell her to go to church. That sort of boldness could only have come with following the Spirit.
Zone lunch
Fun(?) Facts:
-  Weekly English Course classes are great - I only wish we had more students. This week's topic: the difference between cracker and cookie (both are galletas here), and other important things to survive state-side: Freedom, Justice, Superbowl...

-  The Hermanas told us that the locals call me and my companion: Nef - the tall one, and morenito - the little dark one.

-  There's a popular Reggae rapper here in Chile who sounds exactly like Hamilton dude Lin-Manuel Miranda, only this guy raps in Spanish.

-  My whole life I wanted a dog and couldn't understand why my mom was a little afraid of dogs (she went on a mission to Puerto Rico, which had wild dogs everywhere on the streets). After this little time in Latin America with wild dogs roaming everywhere, I now understand. I don't want a dog anymore...except when I see something cute like this:

Tag-Team Missionaries
Friday we did FamilySearch genealogy and I found some more people in my family line (on my dad's and mom's side) and input the information.  Then, come to find out, my family went to the Oakland, California Temple on Saturday and were baptized for 34 ancestors(I found about 1/2 of those)! Team effort, man.  All for one and one for all!

Adios Quillon
Well, I have been in Quillon for 4 transfers (5 1/2 months). The Nefs seem to stay in areas for a long time (my sisters were in each of their areas for long periods of time) and so far I have kept that tradition.

Quillon has grown the time I have been here and I expect it to continue to grow and become stronger. My time here has been good, and I have a lot of goodbyes to make today. Adios Quillon.

See you next week in Concepcion!
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Meet President and Sister Catala

Our Zone with new Mission President and Sister Catala
Our new mission president and his wife arrived, so we had a conference meet and greet conference with everyone.

President Nelson Catala and
Sister Liang-Fan Wu Catala
Meet President and Sister Catala
President Nelson Catala is a real high animo guy, loves numbers, loves music (can play around 6 instruments and can sing - so can his wife and 16 year-old son). He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and has previously served as stake president and bishop. He's pretty awesome.

Sister Liang-Fan Wu Catala, from Taiwan, is pretty awesome herself - speaks Spanish and has this happy-go-lucky attitude.

President Catala has had a pretty rough life. His father died before he was born, and because his mother wasn't able to care for his, he spend the next dozen or so years being passed from one grandmother to the next until he was completely orphaned by the age of 13. That's when he joined the church.

Church Family
Shortly after baptism, his aunt forbade him to attend Church, but because he had made a promise to God, he defied her order and went anyway. So she kicked him out of the house, and he lived on the streets for a few weeks. When members of the Church heard about his plight, he was invited into their homes, which made him realize that his real family was his Church family.

250 is the Goal
That experience is the driving influence behind his goal-making for this mission. He sees real power when we work with members. His weekly goal for the mission is to have every zone have 200-250 lessons to investigators with members present. That means every sector needs 9 lessons per week.

To help with the goal, president suggested that every recent convert be a ward missionary. Good idea.

Happy July 4th!
The 240th birthday of our beloved United States of America. I've quietly been looking forward to this day, wearing red, white and blue, and changing the ring-tone on the cell phone to America the Beautiful (the only American song we have).

And, like a patriotic nerd, I doodled America on my agenda. FREEDOM!

Our zone celebrated with hot dogs and floats, soccer and monopoly. It was fun.

A Question About Trials
Went on an exchange with my District leader, Elder Barson, and stopped by Ezekiel and Fabiola's. They are struggling right now and wondering why life is so hard. So Barson and I ended up tag teaming between scripture, inspiration, and testimony.

I agreed with them - life is tough and no one escapes adversity in this life. Why?  Well, basically, we are here on earth to learn, and God gives us tests so that we can learn through experience. Wish that our "education" could come in a pain-free, worry-less, free-ride scholarship, but that's not how Heaven's scholastic works.

And this reminded me of a video telling a sort of modern day parable about a currant bush.

Trials are designed to be difficult so we can exercise our character muscles, tone our temperament, and build our spirit.  But we're not left without help. Christ provides the grace and power and comfort and peace - everything we need to get through the tough stuff and come away improved.

For an hour and a half we answered their questions, and in the end, left them with a really good spirit and no more questions.

Sometimes I feel like the currant bush, but like they say, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." The Lord's got my back.

Love you all. Until next week,
Elder Connor Nef