13 January 2015
Dear Darling Family,
We visited the Japanese garden in Santiago for P-day today, which is why I didn't write yesterday. It was an activity with all of the sister training leaders in the mission. There are twelve of us. I am the baby, both in age and time in the mission. It was a fun activity because I have wanted to go there since I read about it in Dad's travel book. It's tiny but really beautiful. We all brought snacks and had cookies and juice in a pavilion there. We also did a white elephant. I don't know why this is becoming such a popular game in the mission, perhaps because it's a new thing for all of the Latinos. As usual, I bought something in the metro on the way there. I found a little folding purse mirror. Good thing they "gift wrap".
There is some kind of disappointing news from Primer Crucero. On Monday night as I was falling asleep the phone rang and the trio from Calle Larga called us to say that they were ALL being transferred. I'm not sure exactly why. Hermana Nuñez is going to continue someone's training. She will be a wonderful trainer. That means that I have a "granddaughter" in the mission and Hermana Dodds has her first "great-granddaughter!" The strange part, though, is that the missionaries aren't being replaced right away. At the moment there is no one in Calle Larga. I think the Elders are going to try to work in both sectors but it's far away so I'm worried about the people I left there. The good news is that a sister we visited there went to church! Her husband started to reactivate while I was there but she never went until recently. Their marriage is healing and they are both attending church TOGETHER! I was happy to hear that.
This has been a week of exchanges (I think that's the English word for intercambios?). After our P-day in Santiago last week I spent Tuesday in Santa Maria, Wednesday in Putaendo, Thursday in Los Andes, and Friday in San Felipe. Saturday I returned home to Llay Llay for the weekend and yesterday we spent the night in Santiago with Hermana Gaona and Hermana Crump so we could be on time for the activity today. Let me say that all of the travel towels, tiny shampoo bottles, and folding makeup bags were good things to bring.
Friday was Chapter 6 with Hermana Clark! I have been lucky to have so many opportunities to spend time with her in the mission. More than anything, I love teaching with her. She loves being a missionary and understands what it takes to fulfill her calling.
We visited a man we both taught and put with a baptismal date in Chapter 2 of our exchanges. He has a new date which is coming up and we went over the baptismal interview questions with him.
We did a tour of their chapel with a man who is a convert from several months ago, and his friend who also has a baptismal date soon. The Elder's Quorum President happened to be there and had keys to the baptismal font so we got to stand in it and explain to him what his baptism would be like. We taught temple and family history with them in the chapel. Hermana Clark gave him the "My Family" booklet, inviting him to begin as if it were a sacred calling, which it is. Our leaders have told us that this is one calling we have the authority to extend as missionaries. Hermana Clark does it really well.
Our last lesson of the day had a big impact on me. We visited a young couple who were expecting their first son to be born in two days. The husband is a returned missionary and is sealed to his wife. They are both inactive. It's hard for me to understand how a returned missionary and his wife, both endowed and sealed and excited to start a family can just stop doing the things they know are right. I suppose it makes sense that Satan works on such righteous people much harder. We taught them about temples using a video that has images of many temples and music in the background.
The whole time I thought about their son who would be arriving this week. I don't know at what point a spirit enters a baby's body or if their little son is aware of his parents and their decisions today or not. But I am certain that if not now, at least earlier this year he knew that his future parents, although they made covenants in the temple, are not active members. I know that he, like all of us, chose to come to earth and hoped he could be successful in following Jesus Christ. I felt the need to speak to this baby's parents on his behalf. The couple told us that when they were sealed their parents were not able to enter the temple with hem. I told them that I hoped they would be there when their son entered the temple for his first time. I said that as they await the arrival of their first child I'm sure they want to give him everything and teach him everything. The gospel and the covenants they made are the best they can give him. As he arrives on earth what he really wants is not anything they could have received as a baby shower gift. He wants an eternal family. They seem to have a goal to return to church. As we left, the husband asked Hermana Clark to arrange for his wife to receive a priesthood blessing as she is naturally a little bit nervous. He lamented, "It should be me, but I'm not prepared." How sad it is that he cannot bless his wife in this moment, but how wonderful that he understands and has faith in the priesthood and that he is humble enough to ask someone else to do what he cannot now.
Another exchange was in Santa Maria. They have a lot for a chapel but haven't started building it so right now they meet in a house. In Santa Maria I did my creative contact of the week: Could you, would you, on a bike? As we were biking down the street a man on a bike behind me sneezed. I said "bless you" and slowed down to talk to him as we rode. At the corner he had to stop for traffic and I wrote him a pass along card.
I didn't write much about the leadership council last week but there are some big changes in the mission as far as numbers are concerned. We started by presenting our statistics and I felt pretty lousy about how our zone is below average in almost everything. Later, though, President Videla started to speak and I began to see the vision of what we are really supposed to be accomplishing. We have had baptisms this year and attendance has increased in church, but the attendance hasn't increased in the same proportion as the baptisms. I feel like as we are teaching, people are being baptized and then falling off the earth, or other members who we assume are active silently go inactive while we aren't looking. Dad wrote to me about helping the members in his letter before the meeting and it was really inspired and helped me understand why some changes are needed in our mission. Whereas before we used to report sixteen key indicators every week that included contacts, referrals, lessons to less actives, etc, now we will only report four. This is different from Preach My Gospel but it has been used in another mission. When Elder Nelson came and saw the success they were having, he approved it for our whole area, South America South. We now report only baptisms, sacrament meeting attendance, total lessons taught, and the number of investigators we are working with. This is a huge change but I think it will help us to focus on what is important and work on conversion, retention, and reactivation simultaneously rather than just living for baptisms.
We have a new investigator in Llay Llay that you can pray for. We found her last Sunday after fasting and praying. She is seventeen years old and has a one year old baby girl. Her grandmother is a less active. We taught her the Restoration and she accepted a baptismal date right away. Since then she has said that it seems soon and she wants more time. She came to church on Sunday and seemed to have a good experience. A recent convert (who wants to serve a mission and was the chorister for the Christmas choir) sat by her during Sacrament Meeting, which we appreciated. Our investigator went to nursery with her baby because she didn't want to leave her there but was shocked that her daughter enjoyed it and actually kind of ignored her mom. We hope that she will feel comfortable leaving her so she can go to Gospel Principles and Relief Society with us later.
We did the music for primary this week. I'm afraid I'm not as fun as Brother Brady but I think the kids enjoyed having someone new there. There is no Primary chorister so the fact that the sister missionaries showed up and played games was fun for them. We played "Hide Sister VanCott's watch and sing louder when seeker is closer," and "Hold up the red pencil when you want us to sing loud and the blue pencil when you want us to sing soft." I learned something in my many years of Primary.
This week we have another exchange with Putaendo on Wednesday and district class and interviews with President Videla on Thursday.
Lots of love!
Hermana Eva VanCott
Visiting the Japanese Gardens with the sister training leaders
With Hermana Santander and Hermana Gaona