Well I am back in Santiago! My flight was good. It was sad saying goodbye to everyone on the island. The time went by so fast! I couldn’t believe it when I boarded the plane. I was on Easter Island for about 6 months but it didn’t feel like it. It was also really weird getting off the plane in Santiago and getting picked up and driven to the mission office. As you can imagine, Santiago is very different than Easter Island. It felt like I was starting another mission.
I am in Conchali now. My companion is Elder Muñoz and he is from Chile. He actually is from Santiago. His actual mission call is for Venezuela and he is waiting for his visa. There are a lot of Chilean missionaries in the mission right now also waiting for visas. Elder Munoz is awesome! He has only been a missionary for a short time. We live with two other missionaries. One of them is a really good friend from the MTC. His name is Elder Boelter. We were in the same district in the MTC and also lived together in the MTC. It is super fun living together again. He is a district leader and trainer.
I have had some funny things happen to me already because I need to adjust to living in Santiago again. Many of these things are really minor. For example, today when we got in a taxi I sat in the front seat and started talking to the driver and he got really irritated and told me to put my seat belt on. This is something I haven’t done in a long time because on Easter Island the taxis don’t even have seat belts!! I also randomly say things in “Rapa Nui” and no one understands me. And coming from super humid island weather to super dry Santiago weather is a change. I have experienced some allergies and my lips are chapped a lot but the change is not that bad. I am in many ways excited to be back in Santiago.
I am the senior companion for the first time! It is fun. I have had so many great companions that have taught me how to do missionary work well. So I am following their examples as a senior companion. Everyone in the ward and all of the missionaries ask me about how it was on the island. I try not to talk about it a lot!! I don’t want to make them jealous . . . ha! My new ward is great. It is weird just going to church and sitting and listening. I AM SO USED TO DOING EVERYTHING. I did bear my testimony in the meeting. Basically everything is just much bigger here and there are obviously way more people which is good because there are so many people to talk to and missionaries here are bound to find someone to teach. At the end of my experience on the island, it felt like I knew pretty much everyone. I loved going to the huge Wal-Mart today and buying groceries because there were so many products and it was all three times cheaper than on Easter Island! That is all for this week!!
Well, I am still on Easter Island! There was a problem with the travel agent and she didn’t purchase the tickets when she was scheduled to so now I will be leaving for Santiago on Wednesday! Just two more days in paradise then back to the city!
This week was great. I did a lot of showing Elder Caicedo around and training him regarding everything on the island. I said good-bye to a lot of the people here that I know. I realized this week that I probably know about 75% of the people on the island. Instead of locating things by streets or businesses, I give directions by where certain families live. I realize that is pretty funny.
We had one really unusual experience this week. In South America, the Mexican Soap opera TV shows are super famous and EVERYONE watches them, even people here on Easter Island! They are just shows that are super dramatic. They are also very funny. The reason I bring this up is because we had a real life soap opera experience with a woman we met. So a couple of weeks ago, Elder Nicoll and I found a lady named Juana. We were knocking on doors and met her. She was really nice and allowed us to teach her. She said that many years ago she had contact with missionaries and had gone to our church once or twice. Since we met her we have visited her a few more times. We asked her if she ever was baptized and she said “no” and it was apparent she wasn’t a member because when we taught her the lessons she didn’t know anything. So this week, my new companion and I were planning and I was looking at our big map that we have. It has all four of the members marked on it. As I was examining the map, I noticed that Juana’s house was marked. Her marker said “Juana Martinez: less active member”. I couldn’t believe it! The Juana we knew says that she isn’t a member and she doesn’t seem to know very much about the church either. So that day we went to visit her. She was sick so we didn’t go in to teach her. But we talked in her doorway. I finally asked her again if she had ever been baptized just to make sure. She said no again. (This is when the soap opera begin!) She paused for a second and was thinking hard. Then she said that a while ago, she had an accident and hit her head. She said that she lost some of her memory and forgot a lot of things that happened to her in the past. I thought “no way! She is a member but she forgot that she got baptized!” So then I said to her: “Juana you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. We have your name in the church records and you were baptized.” So just like a soap opera she acted confused and responded semi- dramatically. It was so funny. But it ended well and now we know she is a member and she knows too! She has the ordinances of salvation and she didn’t even know it!
We are also teaching a guy named “Lettuce.” Yes his real name is lettuce! We had a great day in church yesterday. Berta gave a talk. She is our recent convert. She did an amazing job. She first got up and started to bear her testimony. She said that she knew the church was true and that the priesthood has been restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. It was so awesome to see how her testimony has grown since the first day we taught her. She already is a strong member! I also talked about being followers of Christ and taking up our cross (Mat. 16:24). I applied it to recent converts and how at baptism a person is picking up their cross and putting it on their back and starting to walk down a path. I said that carrying a cross is not an easy thing. It is heavy and for recent converts it can be discouraging at times. So it is important that members who have a lot of time in the church help new converts carry their cross. They need to teach them and love them and show them how to keep walking on the path to eternal life.
I am just trying to work as hard as I can and enjoy these last days on Easter Island!
This week was awesome! Right now I am in an Internet cafe and outside they are protesting in the streets. Today is the anniversary of the day that Chile annexed Easter Island. So all of the Rapa Nui people are protesting against the Chilean government. There is definitely some tension between them. But nothing crazy is happening. Remember this is a tropical island. Everyone is laid back here. The other big news is that this next week will be my last week on the island! :(. I am sad. I got a new companion temporarily and he is from Colombia. So I am training him about the island. I have to teach him where everything is and I have to teach him Rapa Nui and many other things. He is super cool and a great missionary. My other companion left and he is headed back to Arizona today. He finished his two years!
There was a big tropical storm that rolled in on Friday and lasted through Saturday. This was a problem because we had a big branch party planned. It was a fish barbeque. Initially, it was raining so hard and there was so much wind that officials announced that people should stay in their houses and should not go in the street. So that pretty much killed all of our plans. But we went down to the church anyways with the fish. We sat in the church waiting. The rain stopped for a little and we thought to ourselves: “what the heck! Let’s go try and start the fire.” So all of my Eagle Scout skills got put to the test. We had a bunch of wet wood and the wind was blowing strong. We went behind the church and made a little fire pit and started to build the fire. It took a while but after pouring a little motor oil on the wood it started to catch fire pretty quickly and we had our fire going! Then the rain came back and we threw a sheet of metal on top of it to cover it and we ran inside. We just prayed that it would make it through the tropical storm and that the rain would stop. Miraculously the fire made it and the rain stopped again so we ran out and cooked the fish. Then some of the members and investigators came over to the church and we had our barbeque after all. It was a miracle! It turned out to be a great activity.
We have been working hard trying to find people to teach and the work is going great. That is a little of what happened this week!
This week flew by! It was a great week. This past weekend a storm rolled in and it rained a ton, especially on Sunday morning. I will tell a cool story about that later. First of all, my companion and I had a funny experience last Tuesday. We went to go see an investigator and he wasn’t home but his neighbor came out and told us that he was around back. So we said okay and walked around to the back. Before we turned the corner in the back of the house a small dog came out and growled and tried to bite my companion. We walked around it and as we looked around the corner there was a big Rottweiler with a big red spiked collar. We both stepped back really slowly to hide back around the corner. We heard it growl and the little dog kept barking also. Then as we got around the corner my companion yelled “RUN FOR IT!” So we both turned and pushed each other and started running. We looked really funny. We ran and we split up. The dogs went for my companion. Ha! There were some construction workers that were laughing at us. Fortunately, my companion got away from the dogs and so the dogs went back to their house. Then our investigator appeared from behind the house. The whole experience was a major adrenaline rush but it was also really funny. Our investigator told us that the dogs don’t bite and we didn’t have anything to worry about. We said “yeah, whatever” and laughed.
We have been teaching a man from Peru for the past couple weeks. It has been a great experience. He is very humble and likes sharing with us. He came here for work and is going back to Peru once he has enough money. He lives in one of those storage crates that you see on trains or ships. He lives with another guy from Peru that is here for work. He is awesome.
So I have a really awesome story about church yesterday. My companion and I woke up and it was pouring rain!! We were experiencing a major tropical storm. So we got ready for church and the rain had not let up at all. We tried to call some investigators to remind them about church. They all said that they wouldn’t be able to go. In the past, when it rained heavily on a Sunday, we had very low turnouts at church. Even a lot of the members here will stay at home. So my companion and I were worried that there wasn’t going to be anyone there except for us missionaries because it was raining so hard. So we prayed and put all of our waterproof clothing on and headed down to church. We were pretty drenched by the time we got to the building. We started to set up the chapel with the senior couple and were waiting to see who would come. It was getting close to the time to start when we heard a knock on the door. We said, “Come in!” The door opened and in walked four of the sisters in the ward: Sister Sara, Elvira, Maria Tuki and Berta. They started singing Come, Come Ye Saints as they walked in. In Spanish, the first line translates to “Come Saints without fear or trembling, but with joy keep moving” and it ends with “all is well”. This was a spiritual experience for me. The song fit perfectly with the faith that these sisters demonstrated by going out into the storm without fear to attend church. They were so joyous and happy too! Sister Elvira had called all of them up and told them that she would come pick them up. It was so awesome. We only had 8 people there and 4 of them were missionaries. On top of it all, it was Fast and Testimony Meeting. All four of these members bore powerful testimonies. I bore my testimony about the scripture in Helaman 5:12. It says that when we build ourselves on the rock of Christ, the storms of the adversary will have NO power over us and we will NEVER fail. Sundays here are always great. Those are the main things that happened to me this week!