Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The last letter from Chile ...

10 November 2015

Dear Family,

In case you forgot, this is my last mission letter!

Today we are going to a museum in Quinta Normal. Friday I will go to the temple (maybe run into Leah if I'm lucky).

Last week we watched "17 Miracles" with Yolanda. I had never seen it before and was inspired by the pioneer stories as I remembered my own ancestors’ stories and the hardship people suffered through to learn, live, and share the gospel. I have it easy, don't I? I've been reading my mission journals a little bit and remembering all of the miracles I have experienced in the last 18 months. 

In June I arrived in the MTC and was blessed with a visit from Lauren. During a really emotional time she made me feel like I wasn't so far away from home and that a year and a half really isn't that long. Then I was blessed to have the best trainer in the mission, Hermana Dodds. I know that President Essig received revelation to assign her as my companion. She actually reminded me a lot of Lauren and helped me adjust to the mission and Chile. I wasn't homesick but I was really worried that I would be at some point and she assured me that if I ever wanted to give up she would tie my red hair to the bunk bed. 

In July President and Hermana Videla arrived in the mission and introduced themselves. I had my first interview with President Videla. They are both miracles for me, converts who became faithful members and sacrificed so much to serve together in this mission and do everything they can so that I and hundreds of other missionaries can have successful, joyful, service.

I have to mention the Cortes family. I will always remember them as a great part of my experience in Calle Larga and in my first ward, Primer Crucero. In August Macarena and Domingo biked to our house at 2:00 in the morning to bring our cell phone because the other sisters in the ward had used it, forgotten to return it, and the APs were calling us with information about transfers. What kind of members are willing to bike in the middle of the night in the dead of winter to do a favor for the missionaries. They are incredible.

The miracle of September that changed my whole mission was when President trusted me enough to give me an assignment that was too big for me so I could grow into it. I finished my own training and started training Hermana Gomez. I had three months in the mission and wasn't the most efficient missionary but Hermana Gomez and I learned together and it was a real growth experience.

I was still in this learning process and discouraged about our numbers and the lack of success in October. We left district meeting one Wednesday feeling like we had no idea what we were doing and I was comparing us with the other companionships in the zone. That day we had a lesson with Miriam and Ayllen and as we watched the Restoration video Miriam felt the Spirit. As she explained what she felt I testified to her that the feeling she had was the Holy Ghost, that our message was true, and that's why we are here in Chile. I was able to recognize in that lesson that the Spirit testified through me and that Miriam could feel something divine. It is a sensation I will never, ever forget and it changed my perspective about the work we do as missionaries.

The first Sunday in November was the day that Hermano Muro returned to church after a long time away. Although he had been confused about the Book of Mormon before and didn't even want us to talk about it, this day he went to the pulpit and bore his testimony of the Book of Mormon. Hermana Nuñez called me recently to tell me that Hermano Mura had passed away after battling cancer. I am grateful that he was able to make changes and come closer to God during the last month of his mortal life.

I was transfered to Llay Llay in December. I love the members in the Llay Llay branch and had experiences with them and received revelation even before I was transferred that helped me to know that I needed to be there.

I have to mention Hermana Clark. Even though we were not companions we had several exchanges together. We traveled together to Chile, spent a day together when our companions went to the temple as they finished their missions, had P-day together the day before we both started training, had two exchanges doing visa paperwork, and had our last exchange in her sector in Almendral in January. We were in the same district and zone and had several activities and P-days together. We're going to be roommates this coming January, about one year after our last exchange.

Romina was baptized in February. She progressed so quickly and was always so obedient and optimistic about the commandments.

Even though I was in another sector, I was excited to hear about Miriam's baptism in March. We had taught her for six months, which is not common in our mission if someone is not progressing by accepting a baptismal date and attending church. I knew she was special and I'm grateful the Elders returned to visit her after the sector was closed for a while. I was able to send a note of congratulations to her with the Elders when we had a conference with Elder Oaks.

All through May I was with Hermana Young in Los Mares. We worked hard to improve our teaching skills, follow the Spirit, and teach to the needs of the people we taught. We tried to get outside the cookie cutter lessons. We were together a short time but it was a very memorable transfer.

Hermana Fullmer and I survived the venomous spider infestation in June. What an adventure.

July was Christobal's baptism after he surprised us by showing up at church with a humble desire to be baptized.

In August Juan and Yolanda got married and were baptized. A wedding and a baptism! It was a big miracle and they will be my friends for life!

There was an earthquake in September but what left a greater impression on me was Elder Vinas' talk. He is called of God and my questions were answered as I listened to a servant of the Lord.

We met Karina in October. I am sure that I knew her before this life and she will also be my friend for life.

November is still happening. I am excited to hug each of you in ONE WEEK!

If I have learned anything in this year and a half it is that I know nothing. The Spirit is everything. This is the Lord's work and He blesses us by letting us participate and witness His miracles and His power. It's true. All of it.

Hermana Eva VanCott

Monday, November 2, 2015

Last Zone Conference

2 November 2015

Dear Family,

I got to share my testimony on Tuesday at the end of our last zone conference. The zone conference was all about health. They had the doctors and psychologists and their wives from the MTC come and speak. My favorite was listening to Elder and Sister Call. He is an eye doctor and she is a nurse. They have been to 65 countries together and have horror stories about people in Africa who scarred their eyes when they used goat urine to treat their eyes. After Sister Call's talk she made everyone do yoga exercises in the cultural hall. No one was expecting that and our clothing wasn't really adequate but she was hilarious.

When you receive a referral of a family who has lost a loved one, be prepared to meet that loved one upon entering. We talked to a woman who was putting calla lilies on a fence and she told us that her neighbor's husband had died. Hermana Chavez and I (exchanges) went to talk to that family and they let us in so we had the cultural experience of seeing their whole family sitting around their husband, father, grandfather's open casket in their living room. They sit near the body for days. We sang "Families Can Be Together Forever" and as we left we talked to one of the family members who lives next door and accepted an appointment for us to come back because she had received missionary lessons before and had a good experience.

Karina was confirmed yesterday. Her mom went and her only comment to us was "potente." We found out that Hermana Roman knows her mom from the gym as well. And Hermana Roman's daughter, Cata, studied the same thing as she did in the same university. I hadn't realized that before. I had talked to Cata about her studies but didn't catch that fonoaudiologia is communication disorders until I met Karina.

Yolanda invited us to eat Arabic food. She made falafel and Arabic rice with walnuts. AND there was Chilean bread. I've never had such a delicious lunch.

I'm learning how much the gospel blesses families. So while doing crunches in our exercises the other day, Hermana Souza started reading aloud from a booklet we have with our proselyting materials about how to have a happy family. She said we should apply these things to our companionship and as she started reading we realized we already do those things. 
--Spend time together. CHECK
--Eat together. CHECK
--Turn off the TV. CHECK
--Share chores and responsibilities. CHECK
So if you want a happy family, just be a missionary.

Talk to you on Tuesday! Thanks to Grandma Joan, Lauren, and everyone who has been writing emails. Sorry I am short on time to respond personally but I will see you soon. Love you all!

Hermana Eva VanCott

Most delicious lunch with Yolanda

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Beautiful Baptism

26 October 2015

Dear Family,

The young woman we have been teaching was baptized yesterday! Her parents went to her baptism so we got to meet them and we were invited to their house after. Her mom commented about how interesting it was that so many paths had joined and prepared her daughter for this because their family has so many Mormon friends, even though they didn't realize it. Her boyfriend was there with his whole family, a friend of hers from high school who served a mission in Ecuador a year ago (they went to a Catholic school together), her aunt and uncle who are members (her dad's brother and his wife), and her friends from work who were sealed in the temple a week ago. Her mom knew Hermana Diaz in our ward from the gym but didn't know that she is a member of the church. That Hermana Diaz. She knows EVERYONE.

We had a little bit of stress because we don't have a ward mission leader and because none of the bishopric members could attend the baptism but the bishop assigned the Elders Quorum President, Hermano Diaz, to preside and Leo Hendriquez, a future missionary and YSA leader, to conduct and plan the service. 

On top of planning a baptismal service one of the bishopric counselors called us Saturday night and asked us to speak in church. I was actually excited because I already had a talk prepared. One Sunday I was sitting in Relief Society and thought, "If they ask me to speak in this ward I know exactly what I want to say," and I wrote down a few points on a sticky note with scriptures that I wanted to use. When they assigned me a talk the last time I spoke here I prepared a new talk so I still had that sticky note talk up my sleeve and felt prepared. Hermana Souza, however, was not happy. She was obedient though, and gave a wonderful talk about obedience. I talked about humility.

A new member is back from her trip! She shared the gospel with her friends. It's the best feeling seeing someone I shared the gospel with share it with others. She also helped us finish the lessons with the young woman we are teaching before her baptism and both the new member and her husband went with us to teach another couple this week. They shared their conversion stories and testimonies with them and reassured them that Mormons are normal, it's just the missionaries who have weird rules. The newly baptized couple remind me of Mom and Dad in a way I can't explain. I really wish you could meet them.

I'm out of time but remind me to read you all of my journals, especially the recent ones, on the way home from the airport.

Hermana Eva Van Cott