Thursday, October 27, 2016

Baptism of Carmen and Camila

Camila, Carmen, Elder Fuentealba, and me
What a happy day. Carmen and Camila were baptized! Carmen asked that I baptize her, and Fuenteabla baptized Camila. The only way Fuentealba was able to do it was to wrap his ailing toe in latex and tape, but it still got wet.

The service was held during the third hour of church on Sunday, and several of our investigators came - and loved it!  The Spirit wasn't the only thing that was overflowing. The bishop filled the font too high, and when we stepped in - well, let's just say we were glad to have mops on-hand afterward.

Fun Fact:
Carmen and Camila sometimes calls us "Los Nef".
And they occasionally refer to me as "Pantrucita" - little dumpling.

Queridos Hijos y Hijas
We had a mega mission conference in which president kicked it off by reinforcing the idea of each missionary holding high standards and consecrating themselves to the work - in thought and in action, and he couched this with the admonition to leave the world behind.

His words reminded me of Jeffrey Holland's great talk in the MTC about Investing Yourself in the Work. Elder Holland said in his talk that because of the significance of the latter days,

"You have to be the best missionaries we've ever had, because no task has ever 
been put before a missionary like the one we're putting before you...
"We expect you to be mature, powerful, bold, spiritual missionaries. 
And you have to have an abiding conviction of this work in your heart."

While president Catala was bearing a very emotional testimony to us, you could feel how much he cares for each of us as his own. I mean, in every letter he sends, he addresses us as "Queridos hijos y hijas" (my dear sons and daughters).

Afterward, they had a pie eating contest and had I not eaten such a large breakfast, my comp and I may have won. Hey, but 2nd place isn't bad.

Small World
Monday when I was about to leave the computer cafe, I ran into an old friend - Hermana Robinson - who is now serving in the Concepcion South Mission.
Bumped into Hermana Robinson at the Cafe
She and I were in Zion Choir together and I had taken her to the Priest/Laurel Formal. The missionaries from the south come north on P-days because we have all the stuff.  Great to see a face from home.

Litter Patrol
It's not often that a bunch of guys will get excited about picking up trash, but our stake service project drew out our entire zone to clean up and beautify the lake shore by our apartment. It was fun.
Guess we picked up more than litter
Elder Fuenteabla, Hermano Del Rio, yo, Elder Oliviera
Certificates for running around the Lake
Keeping the Sabbath
This week Elder Brewster and I visited Viviana and family to teach them about the Ten Commandments. Viviana's two boys play soccer on Sundays so we were a little leery about how this lesson might pan out. But when we asked the boys if they were going to keep the commandment to Keep the Sabbath Day Holy, they instantly said,
     "Yes, our mom has now forbid us from playing on Sundays, so that we can be baptized on the 5th with her!"

Viviana had attended Carmen and Camila's baptism and loved it. She went on to share how she'd like to see her sons pass the sacrament.

So great!

Love to All!
Elder Connor Nef

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Power of Everyday Missionaries

Um...some doors are a little more challenging than others
Ya. It has been one of those weeks. One investigator wants to postpone baptism (at least it's still on the table). Another may have compromised her standards, and another investigator is fearful of committing. He doesn't want to be judged by church members.  And my comp's toe - well, it's infected again.

A damper has been put on the work.  Such are the highs and lows of missionary life. It's what we expect, but we hope for the best.

Splits and Sushi
Late in the week, I had splits with Elder Lopez from Uruguay. Great guy. What does one do at the end of a long day of work? Sushi!
Sushi and Elder Lopez
3-1 = 2
Sunday night we get a call from the president saying that Elder Oliviera is being transferred to Chillan because another elder was going home. Makes me sad. Oliviera was a nice addition to the work here. Now we have no more trio.

And since Fuentealba's toe is infected again, I am back to working solo with the members - which works out great.
Elder Oliviera, Elder Fuentealba, y Yo
I also felt prompted to write a bunch of letters to the members in my first area, Quillon. I heard that since I left, the ward has dwindled a little. I felt really good after writing the letters, so I hope they help.

New Goal: 2 References/Day
The mission president set a new goal: 2 references from members per day.  Boy, it was difficult for us to get one reference a week! President even went as far as saying, "If you visit a member and they say that they do not have any references (no friends or acquaintances who are interested in hearing the gospel) - you then ask them if there is another member they know who actually wants to work with you."


Looking at this from a missionary's perspective, it is awesome and bold. But viewing it as a regular life-long member, boy, I am realizing my faults in being a pro-active, responsible member.

Sure, I accompanied missionaries a few times, even went on a mini-mission, but I never reached out to get to know their investigators, and only once gave them a reference. I never did anything that we expect members here to do.

Power of Everyday Missionaries
As a member of a large ward back at home in California, there is always the ability to fade into the background when it comes to missionary work. But here in these wards and branches of 30-100 people, there is no hiding from the work. Everyone must be involved.

And we as missionaries expect the members' help: Finding, Teaching, Fellowshipping, Retaining.

Why? There is power in pairing with members!  Because of this, our goal is to get the whole ward involved.

This expectation has left me doing a little personal inventory. As a member, as a regular person of this faith who purports to follow Christ, bear His Name, and love my neighbor - how often are we really willing to help the missionaries?

My involvement with our good members has changed my perspective and therefore my resolve. I will be more helpful and involved even after the name tag comes off.

Hey All, Every Member a Missionary!

Love you guys,
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tres Compañeros

Quail on the banks of the Bio Bio River
Found a Guy Named Gabriel
This week was awesome. Sunday evening we found a guy named Gabriel who contacted us on the street a few days earlier. He wants to fix his life and knows that coming closer to Christ is what he needs. He loved the lesson and is looking forward to more. Should be cool.

I found a part-member family, the wife is not a member.  When we approached the house, she originally rejected me at the gate, but her heart suddenly softened and she let me and Christian in. The lesson went well and we were invited back for second visit.

Cue Heavenly Choir
Then we taught Carmen and Camilla, and with this lesson we hit our goal of teaching 21 investigators with a member present!  WE HIT THE GOAL THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN TRYING TO GET US ALL TO DO.  I swear I heard angelic choirs.

Speaking of Carmen and Camilla, they are close to baptism.  In fact, they and another family, Yesenia and her kids Michael and Tyson, could get baptized as soon as next Sunday! Praying like crazy for this.

Church Attendance - UP
Sunday was a banner day in that church attendance reached 78 - and 7 were investigators!  Among the attendees was Hermana Gadoy. She has been unable to go because of health issues, but came for her grandson's blessing.
with Elder Oliveira
Introducing, Elder Oliveira
The new elder to join us is Elder Oliveira from Brazil.  I like him. And I love having another missionary in the companionship because three = more splits = more people we are able to reach and teach.

With the help of good members, this tres compañeros thing is great. We are able to divide and conquer and accomplish quite a lot, and it feels good.

Have a Great Week Everyone!
Elder Connor Nef

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Spiritual Kick of Conference

General Conference Weekend
Ah, General Conference weekend. I look forward to it because the spiritual kick I get from the messages inspires me on all aspects of personal improvement.  To add to the sweetness of the sessions, Sunday morning I made cinnamon rolls - a family tradition I shared with the elders.

I LOVED the talks. So glad four of our investigators came to the stake center to watch it. Throughout each session, I found common themes of missionary work (of all forms), repentance, and prayer.

Some highlights:
Inbetween sessions we went outside to do some contacting. The stake center is located next to the University of Cencepcion. Nice looking campus.  Then it was back to more inspiring sessions of conference. Good stuff.
Here we are in the English broadcast room
Transfer calls came this week and we learned that my comp and I are are staying as co-senior companions, and we are receiving another Elder.  I will introduce you to him next week.

I think I will end this post with a quote from the prophet. I think it perfectly sums up why I am here on a mission.

Have a Great Week, All,
Elder Connor Nef

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Bum Toe Steps-Up the Work

Cementerio Parque Concepcion  (Concepcion Cemetery Park)
Cementerio Parque Concepcion (Concepcion Cemetery Park)
Visited the local cemetery here in Concepcion. It's huge.

Bum Toe Steps-Up the Work
So my comp has been confined to the house because of his toe problem. The doctor took out the nail on his big toe and says that it will be at least another three days to a week before he can get back to work.  But I am actually more animated, because it has given the members double the opportunity to step forward and help in missionary service. I am so appreciative.

Let me tell you about a few of these good people who have been my companions.

The bishop has come out on some lessons. After hearing me teach, he told me afterwards that I need to ask more questions. He's right.  The more I hang with this guy, the more cool he is. For instance, he is a DC Superhero guy. Atta boy!

That is What I Want!
President Tapa, first counselor in the stake presidency, was good enough to join in on a lesson. President Tapa's story is an intriguing one.  He converted to the church in 2002.  Before, he was very much an Evangelical. His dad was one of those pastors who stood on a street corner with a megaphone yelling at people to repent. When Tapa was old enough to realize he did not have the authority of God, he converted to the Church.
"Peace to those to give Peace"

He was the perfect member to join in on our lesson with Juan and Silvana because they too were Evangelical.  The most powerful part of the lesson, for me, was when I bore testimony of the Book of Mormon. It sort of caught me off guard that my words came out in such a direct, powerful way. But as I spoke, this feeling of strength and internal peace filled me.

Juan noticed, and said, "That! That is what I want to have! That kind of assurance and conviction of what is True." He and Silvana are searching, even reading scriptures as a couple (they are now in 2 Nephi).

Officially Unofficial Companionship
One afternoon, Elder Cedeno came back from lunch sick, so while our companions convalesced, Elder Brewster and I set out together working in the Leguna Redona ward. That evening, we doubled the work when members, Cristian Lopez and Hermano Del Rio from my ward joined us. The evening was successful.
Elder Brewster at the Bio Bio River
The next day, Brewster and I teamed again, and the work was awesome. During one lesson, investigator Victor was asking about Faith and answers to prayers. I shared Galatians 5:22-23 (the Fruits of the Spirit), and 1 Kings 19:11-12 to demonstrate how answers come from God. Victor then said, "I like how you guys talk to God directly. Other religions just say to talk with a pastor or priest. Man can lie, but God cannot."

Working with members has proven successful because 8 INVESTIGATORS CAME TO CHURCH!!! SIX OF WHOM SET A DATE FOR BAPTISM. I am so grateful to be an instrument in this work.

How Did You Find Out These Things are True?
The Familia Lopez have been real superheroes this week, aiding in lessons, driving us around, even bringing 6 of our investigators to church! Seriously, this family is the BEST.

Anyway, during one of the lessons in which the Lopez's shared their conversion story, investigator Carmen looked at me and asked, "How did you find out these things were true?"

Surprisingly, that is a question I do not get asked that much.  Being born and raised in a strong LDS family in which we lived the gospel daily, my conversion is often times much different than that of a convert.  My testimony came over the course of my life, through the decisions I made. Through living what I believed. I kind of just learned to do the right things and ask God for confirmation of their veracity. Little-by-little, through many small experiences that have added up to a good life that made a whole lot of sense, I gained the testimony I have today. And, it keeps growing stronger.

That is what I shared with them, and what I leave with you.

Have a great General Conference weekend everyone,
Elder Connor Nef