Tuesday, September 20, 2016

¡Feliz Dieciocho!

Played soccer with the ward this morning
¡Feliz Dieciocho!
September 18, 1810 marked the beginning of Chile's long fight for independence from Spain. While their full-fledged independence didn't come until 1818, Chileans commemorate the inception of this journey with a two-day holiday, appropriately named El Dieciocho (the 18th), when the country declared its intention to rule itself.

Why a 2-day holiday?  Well, why not?  I think America could greatly benefit from slipping in a few two-day holidays.  As far as Chile's history goes, 206 years ago, the way it went down was that it took two full days for the country to declare its intention to rule itself.
     September 18, 1810 - First national meeting of government. 
     September 19, 1810 - First government council called.

And so, El Dieciocho (the 18th) is two days of las Fiestas Patrias - full of food, family, and dancing (local dance, the cueca). 

That's what we did with the ward on Friday night. We had an Independence Day party with churipan, sopaipillas (which we helped make), other local dishes, and some of the ward danced the cueca.

Gracias, Familia Lopez
Well, the day I write this letter is the day after 18th of September, which locals jokingly refer to as National Hangover Day in Chile. Pretty much everything is closed. Currently, I am the grateful recipient of the hospitality of the Familia Lopez and their computer. Gracia Familia Lopez.

Comps with the Pres
During the week, I went to visit Juan and Silvana with Presidente Catala as my companion! I ended up teaching the Restoration. During the lesson, president tested me to see if I had memorized Galatians 5:22-23 (the passage about the Fruits of the Spirit).  I think it went well.

Be At Peace
Tuesday we started a fast for the granddaughter of Familia Lopez. The 4 year-old has a brain condition which has rendered her incapable of bodily functions. She is trapped in a body that does not work and must relearn everything. So we added our prayers and fasting for her recovery.

Our fast was only 24 hours, but with all of the work and walking and the weather heating up - I ain't gonna lie, I was fatigued. But I just had to remind myself who and what this was all for - a little girl who needs a miracle.

At lunch on Wednesday, when we broke the fast, I had the neatest experience.  During the prayer, a distinct feeling came over me saying, "Be at peace. Your prayers have been heard. The child will be better."

Sunday, she returned home from the hospital.

Liberated on Chilean Independence Day. Kind of poetic. But the real beauty of it all is that because the Lord hears and answers prayers, a little girl is gaining a life. What a blessing.

¡Feliz Dieciocho!
Elder Connor Nef

Thursday, September 15, 2016

From Head to Toe

This week's Zone Conference Class was all about Order, Obedience, and Unity.  And, like the Bro-Zone we are, we got some snap backs with our names on them.
We dressed in sports clothes because of activities at the end that demonstrated Unity.
The Bro Zone
Dedo Pulgar del Pie (Big Toe)
That afternoon we almost had to cancel our appointments because Elder Fuenteabla's toe was pretty infected. He had surgery on it awhile back and has since had trouble with it.  Thankfully, two ward members came to the rescue: one to babysit Fuentealba, and the other to go out with me to make visits.

Letting in the Light
We had great lessons with Yesenia, Victor, Luis, and Estephani. All are progressing. It is such a neat experience to see the Spirit work on someone during a lesson, little-by-little changing their heart. Like a light turning on. So great. 

A-Tabbing We Will Go
Later in the week, when all appointments dropped, and the doctor ordered Fuenteabla to stay off his toe, well, we spent the day at home.  While stuck inside, I went on a tabbing crusade of marking my scriptures. And look!
Being stir-crazy led me to Sticky-Note the room of the Zone Leaders and play Where's Waldo. Cedeño found Waldo the next day. Brewster took a bit longer.

All-in-all, Friday was a testament to me that a Missionary is a creature created to GO OUT AND WORK, and not stay inside. 

From Blister to Brewster
The very next day, Elder Cedeño got a blister on his toe so bad - he couldn't walk! So he stayed inside with the other Bad Toe, and Elder Brewster and I went out and worked, then we cleaned the church, and filled the font for a baptism they were having that evening.

Felt good.

You're Never Too Old to Be Baptized
Elder Cedeño was able to limp over to the baptism with my comp so that he could baptize 70 year-old Jose (an adorable 5' man). During the baptism we watched the Messages of Light videos by David A. Bednar. Super cool.  Have a look.

Thought Full
Thursday onward, my attitude for the work and everything changed. And I know precisely why. My prayers had gotten pretty lack-luster before bed.  So I determined to be more thoughtful in communicating with my Heavenly Father. And, guess what. I felt more happiness come and fill me up. And when I became more thoughtful, the Spirit made my thoughts full.

And I saw God in the little things. I appreciated the small stuff. 

Which I am grateful for because most often we look for Him in the grand and miraculous, but those things don't happen very often. And since they don't happen very often, we think God isn't there.  But when we learn to look for, and see Him, in the little common stuff - ah, that's when we see Him every day.

Have a Thought Full Week, All,
Elder Connor Nef

Monday, September 5, 2016

Obedience - I'm All In

Me, ward missionary superstar Cristian, and Elder Fuentealba
A good week, friends. Let me first run you through the highlights.

Hilights of the Week:
-  While on FamilySearch, finding 45 people for temple ordinances in less than 1/2 an hour!  There's a Google Chrome extension called Hope Chest which is super fast at finding peeps.

-  Helping the Lopez family move a big metal machine thing.

-  Teaching Yesenia's entire family together.

-  Contacting a less-active family and then seeing them in church for the first time in 2 years.

-  Having a man go from "not interested" to wanting to learn more when we taught the Restoration.

My decorated Day Planner
-  Finding a golden referral for the elders in the neighboring ward.

-  Yesenia's family attending church on Sunday.

-  Inastroza family at church and hearing their kids' excitement for having come.

-  Yesenia's family committing to be baptized.

-  Elder Cedeño decorating my dayplanner with quotes that embody some things that I ponder most about.

-  Ward missionary, Cristian's, help in connecting with less-actives.

-  Mustering courage to go the house at the top of the hill with 4 XL scary dogs. The woman was interested! Whew!

Lighting Up the BBQ
Today the guys in our apartment had a barbecue: burgers and choripanes. Yum!
photo by Hilah Cooking

What are choripanes?  Good question.
Choripanes were invented in Argentina, but similar sandwiches are eaten here in Chile. Choripán is a compound word of chorizo and pan — sausage (Argentinian sausage or Italian sausage, not Mexican chorizo - it's very different) and bread — oh, but that's not all. Chimichurri is what makes the sandwich extra delicious.

Chimichurri is a fresh salsa made of vinegar & oil, parsley, oregano, onion, and garlic.

Next best thing to seeing lives change from the gospel?  Eating good food.  


And, the final highlight of the week:  Mega Conference.

Which Category of Obedience are You In?
That's right, we all got together for 12 hours of inspirational talks and classes. I always enjoy thoughts from our mission president. His remarks focused on Obedience and Faith as he categorized levels of obedience using examples from the Bible:

     Adam = Complete obedience
     Peter = Obedience once you gain understanding
     Cain = Disobedience

He said that in order to completely follow Christ, it's pretty crucial to understand which of these states we fall into. "Do not look for exceptions to rules," he said, "because more often than not the exceptions do not come from God."

He followed this up with 5 Steps of Faith, beginning with simple Belief on up to receiving Power from on High.

We reach the most empowering level of Faith when we are completely willing to lay everything down for God. This was the experience for Nephi, son of Helaman, when the Lord said to him:

Blessed art thou...for those things which thou hast done;
for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word,
which I have given unto thee, unto this people.
And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life,
but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness,
behold I will bless thee forever;
and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works;
yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word,
for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
Helaman 10:4-5

It was good. Pres also suggested we mark our scriptures more. I think I have that one down. Any more marking and I may not be able to read them. Maybe I'll give his tab-idea a go.

Looking at the pres' list, I'd like to think that I am in the Adam category (though I still consider Peter one of the biggest studs in the Bible).  Obedience has been my mantra. The commitment to totally obey the rules was made from the moment I decided to serve.  If I was going to give God two years, I was giving Him my all.  How else could I expect His complete help in return?

And how I need His help!

So, the question to obey or not to obey - or how much do I obey?  Pfff.  No question. If obedience is the first Law of Heaven, and obedience connects me to the greatest Power in the Universe....

I'm all in.

Have a great week, Friends, and look up a recipe for the Choripanes. You'll thank me.
Elder Connor Nef

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Invitation

Elder Fuentealba and Elder Nef
Meet Elder Fuenteabla
Let me introduce you to my new companion, Elder Fuentealba. He's a pretty cool dude with a very connected past to this area. Apparently, he lived in this very ward when he was a baby and his dad was stake president at one point. As a result, half of the ward remembers him and his family.

His family moved to Brazil and to the states during his growing up years, so he speaks very good English. I'd say his English is just as good as my Spanish, maybe a little better.

I think what will be especially difficult for my comp is the fact that his family has moved back to Chile and now lives about a half-hour bus ride away in the neighboring stake.

Anyway, right after we met up at the terminal, we got busy teaching investigators, following up on less-actives and connecting with our ward mission leader, Hermano Del Rio.

Number for the Noche
The weekly Noche de Barrio was pretty successful, considering that we had double the numbers attending this week.

While I am typing this letter in the Ciber Cafe, they are blaring the music, Hooked on a Feeling - you know, the ooga-chakka song? Hahaha.

USB Blessings
One of the benefits to living in a techy dispensation is that you can share videos on-the-go.  Our mission does not yet have iPads, but we can share videos from a USB. Sometimes a good visual with music taps into additional senses that the Spirit can use to create a feeling for the message. It's a blessing.

Some of my video faves this week:
"Amor Duradero" (Enduring Love) about an adorable older couple and eternal marriage.
The Twelve-Step videos about Addiction are pretty honest and powerful. I recommend.
The one about a father making an analysis of his life, likening himself to Heavenly Father is pretty good.

Oh, before I forget...
That was super sweet.

The Invitation
Friday night, our stake had a special meeting for returned missionaries, and our Mission President invited us to attend. The evening began with a devotional and some nice talks, but president's talk carried the biggest impact.

Instead of sharing the expected full-time missionary experience, he told a personal story about member-missionary work.

The story went this way:
Years ago, he owned a supermarket next to another store owned by this lady. Because they were neighbor proprietors, they became good friends and even changed hours of their respective stores to not steal business from the other.

photo by David Joseph Davies
She was a strong, independent woman who was not into religion, per se. However, after knowing her for a while, and seeing that she was having some family issues, he invited her to church to come listen to his talk he was delivering in Sacrament meeting. She went! And right away started listening to the missionaries.

The gospel lessons were a tremendous comfort. She felt the Spirit testify and was eager to learn more.

After a couple of weeks, he and the missionaries stopped by the lady's store, when a family member came out and told them that she had passed away, suddenly.

That's when president described this deep feeling of regret that pitted his soul. He asked, "Why didn't I invite her two months before?  Three months?  Six months?  Why did I wait so long?"

His point:You never know if someone is ready for the gospel unless you give the invitation.  And it is always better to invite sooner than wait until it is too late.

Christ has already extended an invitation to all.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock:
If any man hear my voice, and open the door,
I will come in to him.
Revelations 3:20

But for those who don't know where to find truth, it is up to us to reach out.

"The words 'Come unto Christ' are an invitation.
It is the most important invitation
you could ever offer to another person.
It is the most important invitation
anyone could accept."
President Henry B. Eyring

This is a Test. It is Only a Test.
Saturday, as part of a worldwide missionary study, we took a language test, then did some FamilySearch.

Members with Cars
One of the great challenges of serving in the more humble parts of the globe is not committing people to come to church, but in actually getting them there. Many people don't have cars. So we must rely of the goodness of members with cars. Sunday we were in a bind and called every automobile owner we knew, but nothing panned out.

Then we got a call saying that the Bishop worked it out with a dude. So, we high-tailed it to the investigators' house, and lo-and-behold, dude-member was there ready to chauffeur the family. Sweet!

Chilean Pioneer
Sunday evening we visited Hermana Godoy, who just so happens to be one of the pioneers of the Church in this area. She was baptized in 1958 and is still going strong.

The Beauty of Teaching with Hermano Bello
That evening, we went on divisions (splits) for the last hour of the day. Elder Fuentealba went with Del Rio to do some service, and I went with Hermano Bello (the High Priest Leader) in a last-ditch effort to get some work done.  In that hour, Hermano Bello and I taught 2 lessons and set 4 more return appointments!

One of the people we found while walking around town. We came across a dude in his 20s smoking outside his house. I lead-in with the usual schpeel but was rejected. That's when Hermano Bello chimed-in with a brief explanation of the Plan of Salvation, then transitioned to the Restoration. It melded so well. He then asked if the missionaries could pass by another time.

Renaldo, the dude, says Yes. So I handed him the Restoration pamphlet, commit him to read it, left him with a prayer - BOOM! That was cool.

I must say, Hermano Bello has a gift.
It's all in the invite. Don't be afraid to ask, kindly explain, and ask again.

"To know God is to receive his invitation. Not just to hear it, not just to study it, not just to acknowledge it, but to receive it. It’s possible to learn much about God’s invitation and never respond to it personally. His invitation is clear and non-negotiable. He gives all and we give him all. Simple and absolute.

Isn’t it incredible that God leaves this choice up to us? Think about it. We can’t choose the weather. We can’t control the economy. We can’t even choose how people respond to us. But we can choose where we spend eternity. The big choice, God leaves to us. The critical decision is ours. What are you doing with his personal request that you live with him forever?"     Max Lucado, And The Angels Were Silent

Have a Great Week, All,
Elder Connor Nef