Sunday, April 30, 2017

President and Sister Nelson Light a Fire

Progress on the temple in Concepcion Chile
The week started out good and just got better and better until the week ended with a SPIRITUAL EXPLOSION. I'll start at the beginning.

My companion and I had a few good lessons at the beginning of the week. I'll give you the highlights. First, we met with Angelica and her daughter.

God, Jesus, and Me in the Clouds Together
Let me tell you about Angelica:  a couple of weeks ago, my companion and I were passing by a gate she was coming out of. We both silently felt like we should talk with her, but didn't say anything right away. But after walking a few feet, I felt compelled to turn back. Talking with her, we found out she was a member, but had stopped attending at 18 years old. She has a family now, half of whom are not interested, but her young daughter turns 8 soon and is more enthusiastic.

Misspelled tag
We taught them about God's love for us and our families and a bit about prophets this week, and invited them to read the scriptures, pray, and come to church. At the end, the daughter gave me a card she made during the lesson that had God, Jesus, and me in the clouds together. Cute!

The zone leaders ordered these gold name tags for us missionaries (right). Cool idea.  Only, they spelled about 1/3 of our names wrong, including mine.

Prayer Works!
In our visit with Lizet this week, she told us that when we prayed for the safety of her family last time that the prayer worked -- her son was on his way home from work when two guys tried to rob him, but he got away untouched. Prayer works!

Event-wise, two big things happened this week.

Chilean Census - I'm Counted!
One, the Chilean Census was on Wednesday, the first census in which I was an active participant (and it's not even my native land). Because we were not allowed to leave the house until the Census guys came (we just had to answer a few questions), that day replaced our P-day, and we were able to watch some approved movies from a church list while we waited.

Second, we had a special mission conference on Friday - with President Russel M. Nelson!

Conference with President Russell M. Nelson
My companion and I were the first to shake hands with Elder Nelson, his wife Wendy, and other leaders. As you might have guessed, the conference was awesome. Some of my favorite parts:
  • Wendy Nelson talked about the story of Elisha and the young dude with the mountains full of the armies of God -- she applied it to family history. Let me 'splain: She said when we go out and talk with anyone, we should picture about 100 more people more with them. We should picture their ancestors. She came up with the idea that instead of praying to find the people who are ready, to pray for the people whose ancestors have already repented and accepted the gospel and want their family united from the other side of the veil. Dope!
  • Elder Nelson told stories about interacting with leaders of other faiths, talking about the Bible and Book of Mormon. But the best part was the promise he made at the end, an apostolic promise: he said that if I feast upon the words of Christ, apply what I learn, and am obedient to my Mission President, then I will have success and joy, learn from bad experiences, and I will be strong when I return home - following my faith, me and all my loved ones shall be healed. BOOM!
You can imagine that I left that conference on fire! Even over the past few days, I have continued to feel the Spirit the same way. During my studies, I absorbed more than ever before. Calling a million people to organize exchanges and lessons was like nothing.

Aftermath of Conference
The aftermath of conference has been miraculous, really.  Hermano Del Rio even came a half an hour by bus from Lorenzo Arenas to do 2 hours of work with me - he's the BEST! (He updated me on my old area too: Lorenzo Arenas is baptizing a ton right now, which makes me feel happy. Made me feel like I helped plant some seeds and prepare the way.) 
with Hermano Del Rio
And let me just say, over two days, we completed 12 lessons, four of which happened in a single hour! At the end of the day, I collapsed when I got back home and said a good 25 minute prayer of gratitude.

I feel amazing - I have not felt so full of the Savior's love since some of my time in Quillon. And this might even beat that. 

I demonstrated to the Lord that I was willing to give everything to be a worthy instrument in the hands of God. I know I fall short sometimes, but God makes up for what I lack when my heart is in the right place and I do my best. I love God and love this work. And I know that with God's help, great things are going to happen here.

Love you all,
Elder Connor Nef

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Lord is My Strength

During an exchange in Chiguayante, we passed by horses in a field
Another week of building up our teaching pool.  We spent much of the week knocking on doors, which gave us opportunity to talk to many people, and even teach them on their doorstep.  A not-so-perfect way to teach lessons, but it's hard to meet the mission goal of having a certain number of lessons with members present when member-help is few and far between and the only opportunities to teach are spur of the moment.

Frankly, when I get any little chance to share the Light of Christ - I'm taking it.

I'll tell you, this starting from scratch has been a slow uphill climb. Did I tell you that my previous companion tossed our phone in the water before he transferred, thus losing all of our contact information history?  Without contact information, we have been starting afresh.

Add to that, my companion is having foot trouble. Something with the tendon. The doctor is grounding him for a bit, so we have to get extra creative to work our area and rally member support.

Despite the setbacks, we have found a few people with potential. Thank Heaven.

Gladys and Gaston
One came on Saturday when I was able to get out for a good three hours (on divisions) and we FINALLY GOT INTO A HOUSE!  Gladys and Gaston. We talked about the Atonement and how Christ came to heal us. But for that to happen, we need to take action to draw close to him.  It was the most spiritual lesson I have had in a long time.

We committed them to come to church - AND THEY CAME!

Intercambios in Chiguayante
We worked a couple of days in Chiguayante, my old stomping grounds, to help the elders in that area. I teamed with my buddy, Elder Almeida (from Brazil) one day. We had a good time.
with Elder Almeida and a member
The next day, Elder Fuentes and I worked together. Everything about Elder Fuentes screams telanovela Mexicanas star. He's got the look, and he's got the house. I saw pictures of his mansion home back in Mexico, complete with a plaza and fountain. He's a great guy. We work well together.
Elder Fuentes and I on P-day
Never Short on Drama
Our first contact of the day was with a transvestite. He did everything to look like a woman, except shave.  His name was Sofia.

A couple of days before this, an old bearded guy riding a bike really slow, wobble/glided passed us screaming profanities into the air.  "The truth is in the Evangelical bible!" <profanity> <profanity> "Maldito perro!" <profanity> <profanity> "Maldito testigo!" When the guy on the bicycle swore at another passerby, I thought the passerby was going to deck him.  We're never short on drama.

The Lord is My Strength
From a list of scriptures the mission president sent out, one was particularly meaningful to me.  It is from the Old Testament during a pretty unprofitable time for the prophet Habakkuk.  He wasworking hard and not seeing the fruit of his labors.  This passage is his prayer.
Although the fig tree shall not blossom,
neither shall fruit be in the vines;
the labour of the olive shall fail, 
and the fields shall yield no meat;
the flock shall be cut off from the fold,
and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
and he will make my feet like hinds' feet,
and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

After reading that, I went to work knowing that God was with me.  Yes, a lot of my lessons were five minutes at someone's front gate, but I felt full of confidence, joy, and gratitude for being able to share any sort of inspiring message and be an instrument for God

Sometimes it seems like the only interest is to reach a goal of hitting a certain number/statistic.  But it always comes down to reaching that one person. Finding that one individual who is ready to hear the gospel.

If the remainder of my mission here is filled with simple contacts transformed into lessons - so be it. If it means I have the opportunity to teach - to share - I will take it.  Because, as long as I can walk, speak, think and breathe, I must share this message that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior, and leader of His Church, restored in these latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith. And that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and testifies of these truths.

How lucky am I to be here and to be entrusted with something so valuable.

Wishing you all Strength in the Lord. Pray for my area!
Elder Connor Nef

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Putin' in Work

Enjoying it here - especially with this house of elders. Me, Portillo, Hershberger, and Contreras' eyeball
We're working hard, and I know very well how to work without wasting time, but I still need to figure out how to organize the schedule so I can write letters, journal, talk members into coming with us on lessons, set appointments, verify stuff, study, and rest.  Time management is still a difficulty.

Frankly, it's been a tough week. Lots of members cancelling at the last minute. And with the mission focus of lessons with members, well, without members, we don't have many lessons.

In fact, we currently do not have any investigators. Nada.  But, we did get four lessons Friday morning by teaching in the gates of people's houses and handing out the pass-along card with the Church Easter video Principe de Paz (Prince of Peace).  Moises, elder Fuentealba's brother, came with us.

Hot cocoa with Diego
Trying to not let the lack of investigators get me down.  I am focusing on the positive this week!

April Showers
The rain arrived Thursday, and came pretty hard on Friday. Diego came with us to our appointments and gave us hot cocoa because it was cold.

Noche de Hogar
This week's Family Home Evening with the ward was an activity that focused on following the Spirit where we blind-folded someone and guided them with one person whispering directions in their ear, while the rest of the room was a cacophony of sound.  One person attempted to confuse them more by whispering opposite directions in their other ear.

The task was to get across the room to the Prince of Peace card. It was a demonstration of following the Spirit and the Prophet in order to get to Christ.
Found out that Rodrigo, our ward mission leader (holding the #TodaLaFuerza sign) who returned recently from his mission, trained a missionary who was with me in the CCM (Mexico Missionary Training Center) - Elder Rocha from Las Vegas.  Small world.

Easter Week
Well, it's Easter week. How grateful I am for the Savior's life and sacrifice. Our message is to share His life and love and light with the people of Chile, so they know who they can turn to for life and love and light.

When investigators are hard to come by, and time management seems to be a little allusive, I try to not let the voices of guilt or discouragement overspeak the Spirit.  Like the ward members in our blindfold follow the Spirit's voice game, I too, can listen carefully to the One who speaks peace to my heart.

I will close this blogpost with our scripture for this week.
And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; 
for is we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation;
for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay,
that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness,
and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.
Moroni 9:6
Putin' in work!

Happy Easter, everyone,
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Awakened with a Renewed Spiritual Freshness"

After investigating the church for more than 15 years, I had the privilege to teach and see sweet Sonia baptized. Here, Elder Contreras and I pose with and Sonia and (editor was not told the name of the gentleman).

Rapper Sebas #TodaLaFuerza
Sebas is my bro and loves helping missionaries (he's the guy who likes to rap).  The #TodaLaFuerza sign (All the Strength) is our mission motto, you could say.

Elder Tesch, Teacher of Missionaries
Elder Tesch's mission is teaching the missionaries in the mission. Because he has always been called to the far corners of the mission, this was my last chance to see him before he returns home.

Adios to Mission-Bound Leo
Leo, a local member, joined us at our Zone conference. He is leaving on his mission soon, making this one of my last chance meetings. He'll make a great missionary.

P-Day Basketball
Basketball with fellow missionaries and a few members is always a blast. Leo (right), Rodrigo, our ward mission leader (back-center) and his sister Claudia (center) pose with us.

Conference Week
This week was conference week - General Conference and Zone Conference.  And every conference whip out a batch of cinnamon rolls (a family General Conference tradition I brought from home).

We made invitations to General Conference for our investigators.

Conference is always a welcome boost, especially now since my comp and I are starting from scratch in building up this area. Honestly, I can use all the inspiration I can get.

Normally, I'd offer a list of my favorite conference talks, but this time it would be too long.  Really great messages.

Well, Friends, I think it fitting to end this post with a quote from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's concluding message.
"As we fill our hearts with the love of Christ,
we will awaken with a renewed spiritual freshness
and we will walk joyfully, confidently, awake,
and alive in the light and glory of our beloved Savior,
Jesus Christ."

Here's to a week, awakened, and full of joyful confidence!
Elder Connor Nef

Saturday, April 1, 2017

How Beautiful Upon the Mountains

Coastal cliffs of Concepcion, Chile

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of those that are still publishing peace!
Mosiah 15:16

Okay, since I've been out on my mission, I've already gone through 5 pairs of shoes. I don't know if it's the miles I walk or the way I walk - either way, I am rough on shoes. Picture does not show it, but the damage is in the soles. They get ripped, chewed and rubbed to the metal.  "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet?" Apparently, not in my case.  But a new pair just came in the mail from home and they feel great!  Gonna be walking in comfort.
Worn shoe next to new shoe

Baptism of Carolina
Carolina was baptized this week and confirmed on Sunday. Arismendiz returned for her special day. Here we are in a picture with her mother, her son, Santiago, and Karim.

Introducing Elder Contreras
Let me introduce you to my new companion - Elder Contreras.  He is from Santiago Chile. A really smart, well educated guy.  You know, Chilean missionaries, I have found, teach the best because they are in their element - their territory. So I plan on learning a lot more on this transfer with Elder Contreras.
Elder Contreras cooking up something good

Around the World Ping-Pong Tourney
The ward activity this week was really fun - an Around the World Ping-Pong tournament.  Everyone had a blast.

This weekend is General Conference. I look forward to hearing from the Lord's servants, bearing testimony of Him who is the Author of Peace. On that note, I'll leave you with this verse.

O how beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings,
that is the founder of peace, yea,
even the Lord, who has redeemed his people;
yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people.
Mosiah 15:18

Now that's something beautiful.  Time to go publish Peace!

Happy Conferencing, everyone,
Elder Connor Nef