Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Chilean Fires

Chilean fires just over the hill from Chiguayante
Over one hundred fires are currently burning in central and southern Chile, consuming mostly forests and destroying local farms.  To people who already live in humble circumstances, this is devastating.

A number of zones in our mission have reverted to full-time service to the people affected by this tragedy. All of Latin America, the United States, Russia, and France have been called in to help. I saw a couple of super takers fly overhead because Hualqui (the smaller town just outside of Chiguayante) has some of the worst fires. Our town is miraculously untouched due to the wind being in our favor - pushing the flames in the opposite direction.

Speaking of fire
Close to midnight, we just happen to be up talking.  I am the only one whose bed faces the window, and I look up and see smoke close by!  A gas station had caught fire a block from my house.  Not knowing if this would spread or explode, we booked it over to the zone leaders' house for the night.

Every morning there is so much smoke in the air - it looks like fog.

By late afternoon, the Pacific breeze clears it up. Saturday, the visibility got down to a half a block in the morning. We've been told to use our filtered bottles.

Feliz Cumpleaños, Elder Arismendiz
For my comps birthday, we headed to Ester's house to cut and prune her garden. Afterward, she gave us some cake and we sang Feliz Cumpleaños to Elder Arismendiz.
with Ester

This week has been humbling, thinking about those effected by the fires, But with loss comes an opportunity to look up and reach out to those around you. This will be our mission's focus.

In the meantime, the Lord has blessed us with more families to teach and a good ward to work with.

I am happy to be serving here.

May the Lord keep you all happy and safe,
Elder Connor Nef


Monday, January 23, 2017

I Almost Got Seriously Mauled Today

I almost got seriously mauled today.

For our P-day activity, all the elders in my house headed to the big hill in Lorenzo Arenas. The pathway up the hill is paved with stairs, and the house at the top of the hill has some aggressive dogs that are, thankfully, always tied up. All but one of these canines is scared of humans. 

At the base of the hill I got thirsty and took out my water bottle, strangely didn't drink much and felt lazy to put it back in my bag (we had passed by the mission office to pick up some copies of the Book of Mormon and so my bag was pretty stuffed). Well, we began the hike and got half way up the stairs when I see that one dog is loose, but gets scared off when it sees me walking (but he keeps barking). 

The pit bull was like this one
But then the gray pit bull with bright blue eyes starts barreling towards us - its leash broken by his neck. Immediately, I recognize it as the violent one, and pause to see if it would stand its ground, but it keeps running at us. I felt remarkably calm, and knew that running would only trigger its predator instincts. So, I waited until he was 2 steps in front of me, while the other elders hid behind me (a big meat shield). Almost instinctively, I used what weapon I had in hand  - my water bottle. Quickly, I opened the bottle and poured the rest of the water on him. 

The dog instantly cowered and ran back up the hill. Which gave us to opportunity to make a get-away. 

Had I not gotten thirsty, had I not felt lazy to put my bottle back, I could have been seriously messed up by this thing.

Sorry to scare you Mom, it's a good story.

Thank heaven for inspiration and protection or this P-day really would have been the pits.

Love to All,
Elder Connor Nef

Monday, January 16, 2017

Galvarino, Chile's Hero

I Got Sole
So, I've been having some trouble with foot pain and I visited the Kinesiologist (a doctor who studies body movement) to get medical grade insoles for my shoes. While examining my feet, the Doctor says, "Your feet are incredibly wide! I have never seen any feet as wide as yours before!"

Recycled Inspiration
You know, I'm really grateful for inspiring letters from my family. They not only give me a boost, they are uplifting to others. This week has proven it.

One day I came across an elder who was having a bad day - discouraged, disheartened - you know what I mean, the kind of black cloud that leaves you down and depressed.  Instead of going about my routine, I felt that I needed to stay and help the guy. So I sat down and listened, then put in my two bits.

What I ended up sharing were paraphrased pieces of advice from letters my sisters sent. And, you know something?  It helped. This elder wrote me a note the next day and thanked me personally.

Thanks for the inspiration, Lauren and Ashley! Your words go further than you know.

This week I heard a story that blew my mind about one of Chile's greatest heroes. His name is Galvarino, and he lived in the 16th century, right around the time the Spanish started to up the ante on their imperial game in South America.

Galvarino was a war leader among a people called the Mapuche - an indigenous tribe to Chile whose relics in this area can be traced back to 600BC.

Anyway, our warrior Galvarino had employed some fairly effective guerilla tactics to beat back the Spanish conquerors. But after the Mapuche lost one pretty nasty battle, Galvarino was captured as a prisoner of war. Wanting to make an example of him, the Spanish  paraded the Mapuche leader in front of everyone, pushed him to the ground, laid his forearm across a tree stump, and chopped off his hand.

Except when Galvarino lost his hand, he didn't even flinch. Not even a wince!  What he did instead was put his other hand on the chopping block. The Spanish went, yeah sure why not, and chopped off that hand too. Still showing no reaction to having lost two of his limbs, Galvarino then put his HEAD on the chopping block. That was too far even for the Spanish. They sent this one-band-stud away with his life.

They came to regret that decision.

Galvarino marched straight back to the Mapuche, showed them his stump arms, and gave a rousing speech rallying them all to fight against the Spanish, come what may.  It worked. The next time the Spanish came to town, the Mapuche took them on, with their leader Galvarino at their head - this time with SWORDS TIED TO HIS ARMS FOR HANDS.

If that's not hardcore, I don't know what is.

Unfortunately the battle didn't go well for the Mapuche - the Spanish defeated them, Galvarino was captured again and this time put to death. But his story is still told, and, guess what?  Remnants of the Mapuche people still live on in Chile.

You know, heroes like these may not always be well-known, or have won countless battles, or donned metals of glory, but, man, that kind of crazy courage should be remembered.

No wonder Galvarino is one of Chile's greatest heroes. They remember him as an insanely gutsy guy who gave up everything for freeing his people.  They even named a couple of warships after him.


Inspiration comes from all kinds of sources. Sometimes it comes from guys like Galvarino, sometimes it come from family letters, or words shared.  But in the end, it's good to know that the true Source of Inspiration is the One that sent me here.
eating churrascos with the apartment elders
Here's to Inspiring Those Around Us!

Have a great week, All,
Elder Connor Nef

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I Love it Here

A horse named Gringo
New Years Day
Happy New Year everyone. On the night of December 31st, we missionaries were invited to Hermano Araya's home (the bishop's 2nd counselor) for a big dinner.
at the Araya's home for New Years Eve dinner
For New Years day, we got to watch movies as a zone.  President gave us a list of movies to chose from. We chose Finding Dory, Inside Out, and Invictus.

Chiguayante is beautiful. It is sandwiched between forested hills and the Bio Bio River, which I can see when I leave the house.
Work is Going Awesome
The work is going awesome here. By the end of Saturday we got our 20th lesson with a member present. Then on Sunday there were 142 people at church.  During the week we had visited five less-active families, and four of them came to church. Three of our investigators also showed up!

I had the opportunity to give my first baptismal interview. It was with a girl named Fernanda.  I first asked her how she felt about her baptism.
     "A little nervous," she said, "I have planned everything. I am just looking forward to having the Spirit of God residing in me."

Did I really need to ask any more questions?  She's ready.

I love it here!

Happy 2017 everyone,
Elder Connor Nef

Friday, January 6, 2017

Hola Tierra Bella!

A week of changes. Monday, I said goodbye to Bulnes, and Tuesday I arrived in my new city called Tierra Bella (which means beautiful land).

And Oh. My. Goodness. Is this land beautiful or what? I mean, in terms of the landscape it's fine - but as far as the missionary work, it is heaven! The ward is organized well, the members here are enthusiastic to help, and the people of the city are welcoming all-over, making meeting new people a greater joy than usual. 

The group of missionaries here is smaller than what I've dealt with, but it's kind of nice. The only missionaries are the zone leaders, and then my companion and me. Apparently they've had sister missionaries in this ward for a while, so mine is the first companionship of elders in about a year. So that's cool. 

Speaking of my companion, his name is Elder Arismendiz, and he is from Lima, Peru. He's awesome! He loves the work, he's smart, and we get along great. I think he's already one of my favorite companions. 

We have already found a few people teach in our short time here so far, including a family where only one person is a member. The couple of lessons we taught give me hope that my time here in Tierra Bella is certainly going to be beautiful indeed. 

Hoping everyone's New Year will be just as beautiful (if not more),
Elder Connor Nef