9 March 2015Dear Everyone,
Hermana Santander and I are starting our third transfer together. No transfers for us! It will be a lot of time together, but we are very happy to stick together and to be in Llay Llay for General Conference with our new member and help her prepare names to take to the temple! The Elders in Catemu had transfers and we don't know who is arriving yet. President is doing this new thing he calls a transfer meeting. The weekend of transfers the APs call ONLY if you have transfers, but they don't tell you where you are going or with whom. There is a meeting Monday where they announce companions, callings, and sectors. Because we didn't have transfers, no one called us and we had to go to sleep wondering if someone was going to call us or if we were safe. It makes it hard to concentrate. We came to Santiago anyway today with the Relief Society president and the High Priest Leader of our branch, who work in the mission office. Hermana Gomez and Hermana Nuñez are companions now! And it looks like there are two more sisters, a trainer and trainee who will be in our zone.
When I was called to this mission I expected to be in the big city and I was excited. I never expected to be in places like Calle Larga and Llay Llay, but I am so happy to be here. Last Sunday as we traveled to Santiago for the activity with the other sister training leaders I was overwhelmed by the crowds and traffic. Santiago is interesting as a tourist, but it is a whole different world and I prefer proselyting where I am. People were grilling meat in a makeshift shopping cart grill and selling it on the sidewalk. The streets are full of sketchy people.
As I called the sisters in Putaendo last Monday I received some good news and I couldn't believe I hadn't written you about my exchange with Hermana Santillan and an experience we had. I guess it's even better now because I can see the results. Last Friday I had exchanges in Putaendo with Hermana Santillan from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her accent is so cute. This is her first transfer in the mission. She is 23 and worked as a nurse before her mission. It shows in the way she greets people, especially the elderly, and asks them sincerely how they are. She is the only member in her immediate family but has friends and a cousin (serving in Osorno!) who are members. She is a convert of one year and nine months. After attending church activities she called the Elders in her sector on the phone and told them she wanted to be baptized. She is an excellent missionary and asked me several times what she can do to improve. If she keeps that attitude her whole mission she is going to be even more extraordinary. We went to visit a less active man. We were hoping to meet his wife because the missionaries haven't met her yet. She was home but she wouldn't let us in the house and wouldn’t even come to the door to greet us. We taught this man on a bench at the bus stop. We shared some scriptures and invited him to church. He was hesitant. He wouldn't agree to go to church and as we asked him why we discovered that the main problem is his wife. He doesn't want to make her mad. He doesn't want to fight with her. He doesn't want to hear her insults. I didn't know how to respond and the conversation was dying along with our hope of helping this elderly man. I gazed up at the sky and prayed asking God to give me what to say. Thoughts entered my mind and allowed me to change the course of our discussion. I felt like I was being inspired and guided as I spoke. I explained very simply to him that God wants to bless families, including him and his wife. God loves them and He knows better than anyone how to bless them, which is why He gives us commandments like attending church. I promised him, as a representative of Jesus Christ, that if he went to church this Sunday his relationship with his wife would improve. He went to church.
When I read my emails the Monday after this lesson, Mom sent me a quote about discernment, Jaylen wrote about how the calling of a full time missionary means we have a right to the Spirit, and Dad talked about making bold promises when prompted. All of these letters reminded me of this experience and I couldn't believe I hadn't written about it because it was such a spiritual experience receiving revelation for someone we taught, feeling thoughts enter my mind, having ideas placed there from above. It was one of those moments I always hoped for when I read D&C 84:85 or D&C 100:5-8. Good news, folks. It's real. I want to thank you for your inspired and inspiring letters.
A less active woman we visited during exchanges with Hermana Kingsbury, is now considered active. Hermana Castillo was asked to share her story in zone conference recently.
I think during exchanges we are able to do different things. I feel more bold, perhaps because it's not my sector and I feel like I only get one shot.
We visited the branch mission leader, a new convert himself, last Sunday to teach him and then stayed to fill out a sheet for our new member's progress as a new convert and update those of other converts and reactivating members. The branch mission leader is impressive. As we went through our binder and his branch mission leader folder we analyzed and discussed each person and their progress or lack of progress. Eventually we got to his sheet and he said, "What are we going to do with this guy." What kind of convert is also qualified to be an excellent mission leader. He is going to complete one year as a convert this month and I sure hope he serves a mission because that kid knows his stuff. He studies to fulfill his calling and wants to know everything. He is constantly reading the Church Administration Handbook because he wants to be very correct and follow all of the rules. If everyone in the church fulfilled their callings like him, the world would be a different place.
This week I am grateful for my eyes. We have been visiting a convert who is having trouble with her eyes and as she spoke to us about how her poor vision is changing her life I realized how grateful I should be. She can't read the Book of Mormon by herself. I can't imagine not being able to read. She also has trouble keeping her house clean so my thoughtful companion started washing dishes after our lesson and I swept the floors. I can't imagine how hard that would be to lose eyesight.
We didn't have a lot of lessons this week but we are content because we are finding and teaching FAMILIES. One family has started reading The Book of Mormon and proved it with their great questions about the Urim and Thumim.
We also found a new family with a ten-year-old daughter. We taught them about the Book of Mormon and I can't explain how wonderful we felt explaining where it came from and the story it contains. The father keeps asking why it isn't compiled with the Bible now. He thinks that it should be more generally recognized as scripture. That's why we're here. We read about the stick of Judah and Ephraim and tried to explain that it is a prophecy that is still being fulfilled and that they can be part of it.
On Saturday we had a ward activity, a multicultural party. Different organizations represented the countries of the missionaries in our branch, U.S., Chile, Brazil, and Paraguay, with dances, stands, and lots of food. (Everyone in the branch is sad that Elder Gunnell is being transferred). I will try to send pictures next week. Tell Aunt Julie that I'm sorry there are no photos.
Hermana Eva VanCott