I had a nasty stomach bug Monday night and all day Tuesday. Luckily I didn’t puke and was able to work normally and it has since passed.
We had zone training Tuesday morning. Every Tuesday we meet as a zone but usually split up for district meetings. The zone trainings are especially good because the zone leaders just repeat what President Cook taught them. They talked about excellency and also reviewed principles of Elder Evans’s talk including that we should be focusing more on finding and teaching young men and families and not people that are easy (women, children, and people with problems). That’s not to say we should reject these people or stop teaching them, but I believe it was Elder Perry who said “You get what you’re going for and you know what you’re going for by what you get.” We ought to be going for young men and families and that’s what we’ll get.
I got two letters at the meeting, one from home dated Feb. 19 and one from Brother Pletcher dated Feb. 2. Brother Pletcher’s was sent through pouch so I really think airmail is better.
We taught a quite few lessons this week, but one was especially good. It was with a less active member and we taught her a lesson we call LOMA. In Spanish, loma is a mound or hill. We draw the hill with God at the top and us at the bottom and explain that there are things we need to do in order to climb the loma and reach him. LOMA stands for leer (read), orar (pray), meditar or mandamientos (ponder or commandments depending on the lesson), and asistar (attend church). We felt the Spirit strongly in the lesson, and she expressed her gratitude afterwards. Those are my favorite kinds of lessons – when the people we teach are genuinely grateful to us for coming and teaching. It was a good way to finish our day.
I mentioned last week that we had an unusual situation with a girl attending church and mutual but wasn’t technically an investigator because we had never taught her. We taught her whole family the second lesson Wednesday. I don’t know why my companion chose to teach the second lesson first. Sometimes it’s wise to teach it first if there’s a recent death in the family for example, but typically we should teach lesson one first so they understand that our church is different, understand what these differences are (usually not what they think they are), and that they understand what the Book of Mormon is and read it. That was one topic of Elder Evans’s talk The Book of Mormon is the most powerful missionary tool we have and we need to use it more. The lesson went very well anyway, with lots of questions, which I like because it means they are paying attention and thinking, a somewhat rare occurrence. They invited us back again and I hope to see them in church Sunday.
We taught a less active member Friday. She has attended church twice since I’ve been here, but said she won’t be able to make it this week. She reminds me of my grandma Rose, about the same age but fatter. She doesn’t understand much of the gospel but she is sharp enough to get some knowledge out of the lessons. I could feel the Spirit very strongly as I spoke and testified and she cried as she expressed her thanks for us coming in her closing prayer. Lessons like that are the reason we’re here and make all the sacrifice worth it.
We have a new investigator who is very interesting. She has had a really tough life between abusive boyfriends, drugs and alcoholism. While it’s still fresh in my mind I’ll mention that people never get married here. I don’t understand why, it’s not expensive. I would guess that close to 90% of the children here are born out of wedlock. I’d be interested to see a statistic.
We went to the home of a less active member who was finishing up watching Oblivion, which looked like a decent movie but he didn’t want to turn it off. He invited us to sit down and watch it because there wasn’t much time left and we could talk after. My companion went to the bathroom to think about what to do. He came out and asked him to turn the movie off. He reluctantly did, and we shared an extremely short message, but the Spirit wasn’t there. I hadn’t been in a situation like that yet. It’s really tough because we don’t want to offend the investigator/less active member and not be invited back.
We tried to find one of our investigators but he wasn’t home. His older brother was there with his family and he invited us in. The brother is a member but he’s not active. He told us right in the beginning that if we tried to do anything more than teach the gospel he would kick us out. He went on to tell us of the missionary who baptized him. He watched TV, played video games, partied until 2 am, went on a trip to the south, went swimming, and rode motorcycles. [All of these are against mission rules.] That missionary made the missions of countless other missionaries more difficult by making it harder for them to abide by mission rules and they add to the already long list of inactives in Chile. Not all, but a large portion of inactives in Chile should never have been baptized in the first place. He probably has no idea how much he damaged the church.
We had to get up early on Thursday, around 6:30, in order to go to downtown Santiago and apply for my Chile ID, called a carnet, and to receive my visa. It was a long and boring experience, but the process is somewhat interesting. The first step was to go to the Extranjeria which is the immigration office. At the Extranjeria they put a sticker in our passports. The sticker is our visa and it’s valid for one year. The next step was to go to the international police station and wait for several hours. When it was finally our turn, they gave us a Certficado de Registro, literall translated certificate of record. It has our photo, purpose for being in Chile, dates of validity, etc. The final step was to go to the Registro Civil or civil records office. We applied for the carnet there. They looked at all the paperwork we had accumulated throughout the day, took a photo and our fingerprints, and took the equivalent of about $8. We ran into some problems at this step. Our instructions said that we should inform the people at this office that someone else would be picking up the carnet in a month, but we were told that there was a policy change and that we would need to pick it up personally. I guess that means I’ll be going back to downtown Santiago in 30 days, but that’s not so bad.
After the application process we stopped by the church office building to get some stuff from the distribution center, but it was closed for maintenance. We visited the MTC to see if any of our old teachers were there but we didn’t find any of them. It was still kind of fun. “Real missionaries” are somewhat of a marvel to missionaries at the MTC.
That evening we met with one of our investigators and taught her the third lesson. She continues to invite us back and she has attended church, but she is not progressing at the moment. We also had a family home evening lesson with a recent convert at an active member’s home. Lessons with recent converts, less active members, and investigators with family home evenings in the homes of active members are very powerful. I’ve learned to love family home evenings on the mission. In a lot of ways the church is very weak here, but they are very good about doing their family home evenings and it is clear to me how much the program blesses families.
As we did our weekly planning meeting this week the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on the door again. My companion went to talk to them. To the other elders it’s a joke as I expressed last week, their lack of respect for other religions annoys me. I ended up going out to talk to them as well. I expressed my respect for them and the work that they do, their knowledge of the Bible, and that I consider them friends and have absolutely no desire to contend. I bore testimony of the Book of Mormon and offered them each a copy which they didn’t accept, but left happy and without contention.
Sunday we had a stake priesthood meeting at 8 am at the stake center in El Bosque. I got up at 6:30, showered, warmed up the chocolate chip banana pancakes I made for breakfast the night before, and woke up my companion. Sometimes I feel lie everyone’s dad the way I wake them up in the morning.