Monday, August 26, 2013

That was condemning

August 26, 2013
Angamos, Chile (Elder Said)

That was condemning

So the biggest thing that happened this week was our zone conference with Elder Viñas of the Seventy. The Conference started off pretty normal with a few talks from President and Sister Dalton. Then Elder Viñas came to talk about the Atonement. It was really, really cool and I learned a lot of stuff. He talked all about how we can know if we are truly forgiven of our sins and what is required to enter in the celestial kingdom. Then came part 2 of Elder Viñas talk. 

To keep things short, Elder Viñas used the phrase "We need to eradicate the old vision from your minds". Basically what happened is that the majority of the missionaries, especially those that are almost done, are sitting thinking that they have done their entire missions incorrectly.

(Elder Viñas addressed the way missionaries approached the work previously was wrong minded and they needed to realize this. Mission work is not about baptize, baptize, baptize. It is so much more and that was lost over the last few years. It is good to know Gunnar picked up on that early on and consequently he feels pretty good right now, unlike some of the other missionaries.)

But life goes on and the missionaries are finding ways to deal with it. I have other things that I need to deal with. You remember how back when I started my mission you sent me an email telling me about the different types of missionaries that there are i.e. bro, give up, etc. Well I have realized that I am surrounded by Martyrs (Self-righteous types). It is funny, really annoying, but funny. 

(No matter what you do in life you will always meet the Martyr types; they are annoying.)
Just so you know I have pictures of every single room of every single pension I have ever lived in, they are just not on top of my priority list to send to you guys seeing a gmail only lets me send two pictures per email (I do not know why). 

(Every email I tell him to send us more pictures of his apartment and he hardly ever does. So I told him I was done asking since he wasn’t going to do it. We will see if we see any more now.)


Also as far as things about Chile in general . . . where he is going every house he goes into will give him food. Lots of it. Unreal amounts of Coke. With every meal, in every house, coke. There is no Mountain Dew but you can find Dr. Pepper and A&W Root Beer in a store called Jumbo. No beef jerky. Average meal-bread, rice, chicken, fried eggs, potatoes, mayonnaise. Yeah, that is about all I can think of right now.

(This is for my friend Kelli, whose son received his mission call to the Chile Concepcion mission last week. So no jerky and he will be drinking real Coke until he bleeds it. Peanut butter is also pretty hard to come by and brown sugar is rare too. No doing the Dew either.)

I only met Hermana ** one time but she seemed cool and all of the elders talk like she is so I do not know. 

(I told Gunnar I like to read all the mission blogs I can find so I get a feel for Chile and his mission – and the people in it too. Well I said I wasn’t sure if this Hermana was wickedly funny or just really grumpy. I am glad to hear it is the former.)

I am trying to set up that online folder so I will not be sending any pictures in this email. Wait an hour or so. 

(Since Gunnar is in the nicest area in the mission I told him to see if he could work with a member to upload his pictures – all his pictures in the mission so far – to an online folder that we could access. That way it would be insurance if his camera or card was ever lost or stolen)

As far as Hermana**, I was not sure how much to trust in the story from Elder ** but she has been acting kind of strange for a while (always asking me about other missionaries, how many baptisms they have, how well they work, that kind of thing), so I dropped President an email expressing concern for her mental health and anxiety level and asked if he could talk to her to see if everything is alright.

(If you recall last week’s letter he mentioned briefly about a Sister Missionary who seemed to have lost it a bit mentally after a dinner appointment. Well, being someone who used to work in the Mental Health business it set off all sorts of Alarm bells. A person in their early twenties under a high stress environment is prime for all sorts of anxiety disorders. Plus another reader of Gunnar’s letter who also has a lot of experience with this topic also had her alarms go off too. So I wrote Gunnar a long letter explaining why we were a little worried and asked him to talk with the Mission President.)

Well I love you and I should be on for a while so if you have anything else I will be here.


Elder Peters

Monday, August 19, 2013

Me Importa

August 19, 2013
Angamos, Chile (Elder Said)

Me Importa

So not a lot to say this week. Said and I have been working hard but still are not seeing very many results. We have a number of references that we have to contact this week and we have plans to have members come with us to every single one of the lessons so that should be good. This week we have Zone Conference with Elder Viñas of the Seventy so that should be really cool. President thanked me this week for my great leadership and told me that the results will come, patience is a Christlike attribute. 

(The seventy is a regional leadership position within the church; so a pretty important speaker. Zone conference is when several zones of missionaries get together for training and speakers, like 50-75 missionaries.)

President has told me that he will be taking one of the companionships out of Angamos this transfer but he has not told me which companionship. I talked to Elder Congelton and he told me it is most likely the other elders but it could be the sisters. My sector is basically safe but he said it is not for sure that I am staying. I really hope I stay. I have the opportunity to do something so great here, so awesome, so incredible but it is going to take time and I really hope that he does not take me out before that time comes. Honestly if President were to give me the option of going up as a ZL of staying in Angamos I would choose to stay in Angamos. 

(Elder Congleton was in Tocopilla the same time as Gunnar, and now serves in the Mission Home office. He also served in Angamos at one time. Anyways Gunnar and him are good friends. But if you read what Gunnar is saying it could be the other Elders that are moving, but it also could be the Sisters, but then again it could even be him. Essentially he knows nothing but that never stops anybody from guessing. A ZL would be a leadership position, but I am guessing he doesn’t need to worry about it.) 

In other news Hermana ** is completely stressing out. She is a Sister Training leader, a leadership position. The other day we had an appointment, the six of us in Angamos and Congleton, to visit some of Congleton’s converts and eat completos. We were there for about an hour and a half and Hermana ** was super jittery the whole time. Afterward (I heard this story second hand) she started yelling at her companion about how they did not have time for that, about all of the appointments that they have. Her companion was on the verge of tears asking Hermana ** what she could do to help her. This is when she started running around with her hands in the air and yelling in the street that she felt so disobedient and unworthy to be a missionary. All of this because of an hour and a half dinner appointment.

(Everyone reacts under stress their own way I guess. And we are all allowed a bad day. The general rule for a dinner appointment is an hour, but that is loosely held to – anotherwords it is situational.)

Duct tape is very useful and the knife . . . well you never know. I have never used the rope, but who knows? I really cannot comment on what to bring to Concepcion because it is sooooooooooo much different from Antofagasta. It is a completely different world. I have a good friend in Concepcion right now, Elder Shumway. Also a young man from this ward here in Angamos recently left for there, Elder Villarroel. 

(So these are responses to some specific questions I put forth. When he packed for his mission I threw in some things that I would have liked to have when I was serving 25 years ago. So he is using the roll of duct tape and the multi-tool I included but not the paracord (as we call it in the business, the MacGyver bundle). Also a good friend of mine from my Indiana days; her son just opened his mission call this week for the Chile Concepcion mission so I was asking if anything would be helpful. I was speaking generically and Gunnar did his usual and took it literally. So while there are many similarities between Northern and Central Chile, he was unable to bridge that gap of several hundred miles and notice any of them. So while they are indeed different, thay are a lot more similar than say Antofagasta is to Poland – where her older son is currently serving. That is so Gunnar.)

For my birthday I found a woman that makes the leather scripture cases. They are expensive ($45 a piece) but they are very well done. I also had to buy a new triple combination in Spanish and some underwear online. I also bought myself the electric toothbrush that I wanted. So I kind of got weird here for my birthday but the I really like what I got. 

(We told Gunnar to see if he could find what he wanted for his birthday there as the cost of mailing is expensive, the postal service is unreliable, and they have a mail strike on right now. So he got himself some covers for his scriptures, some underwear, and an electric toothbrush. Who says Mormon 20 year olds don’t know how to party? A triple combination is what we call our other scriptures. We use the Bible like anyone else – Old and New Testaments, but we also have three other books that are usually under the same binding – the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. You can also get them all bound together and it is cleverly referred to as a “Quad” in Mormon parlance. Anyways if anyone wants a copy of any of those books just let me know and you can have one.)

Really scary about Mom, but very happy that everything is alright. 

(Lisa recently found a lump that was biopsied and diagnosed as benign.)

And no my companion does not know how to fight haha. 

(Elder Said is from a city in Brazil that is world renowned for their jujitsu skills; but I guess not Elder Said.)

Elder Peters

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lord, I Believe

August 12, 2013
Angamos, Chile (Elder Said)

Lord, I Believe

Last night Said and I had a meeting with Stake President Castillo and went over some good points, mostly having to do with the unity between members and missionaries and the retention of recent converts. We spoke of the belief that we have a wall between members and missionaries that can be broken and we can begin to work together, and that by working together we can be successful. The biggest problem we have seen is that to a lot of the missionaries the retention of recent converts has not been important and so the majority of the local leadership believes that the missionaries are only here for numbers and have absolutely zero desire to help the ward; only to baptize. This belief, true as it may be, is causing a lot of problems in working with members. The missionaries have destroyed the relationship with local leadership over the last couple years and while I would like to change that, many other missionaries do not.

(This is the eternal problem with missionaries and the work. Too often they get caught up in wanting to see results right now and thus they rush things. They work for achieving numbers and not worrying about the future. Because in the future they will be somewhere else and it will not be their problem anymore. Then you have the locals who will be there for the future and these problems being created will be theirs to manage and hopefully solve. So to be biblical, they get caught up in building a house on the sand because they can show a result really fast, but most of the time it will not endure. And the members want to build houses on the rock, to stand the test of time. A good missionary will not give in to the easy way out and will toil endlessly even if that means no immediate results.)

The "Baptize, Baptize, Baptize" mindset is still very much alive here in the MCA and there are several missionaries that have no intention of changing. It will be impossible to fix this relationship with the members if the missionaries do not change. Take my zone for instance. La Zona Antofagasta is one of the lowest baptizing zones in the mission and it almost never reaches the goals that it sets. However this does not seem to be enough to change the way we do things. The ZLs are still there for "B,B,B" and they run they zone in that way. What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and over again but expecting different results? 

I have been very stressed with everything that has been going on here lately but a conference talk kept coming to my head, "Lord, I Believe" by Jeffrey R. Holland, a certain phrase from it especially: Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe,” a phrase which, by the way, carried young Gordon B. Hinckley into the mission field. I know that I am here for a reason in Angamos and I know that I am not here to do nothing and to flounder around and do nothing. In my email that I received from President Dalton this week telling me that I am doing incredible things in the ward and that, while results may not be showing right now, they will. I am trying to look forward 6 months, not 6 weeks, and it is very hard. It is a very blurry future, all depending on what I do, because I know that no one else who is here right now is going to do it. 

Because of my desire to follow my mission president and work with his new vision, my numbers have been very low here lately and the ZLs are very unhappy with me. I am not working for right now, I am working for the future. They do not get it. The only thing that is important to them is the right now, and for that they think that I am a terrible missionary and leader. Because I am looking toward the future.

(The thing to remember is the mission president moved Gunnar to serve in his ward, and through the interview process gave him specific instructions on what he wants done. The new mission president has s different vision than the last one, and thus a lot of the other missionaries do not get it. They want results right now because that is what will make them look good; and Gunnar and his Mission President want results to last an eternity. So it is a hard road to walk when it seems you are not doing any good; but these crops take time to grow.)

Well I am trying to stay positive. I know that if I believe and I work like I know that I am supposed to work and follow the rules I will see results eventually. It is just very difficult to have to wait for them.

This week I have been trying to take out my carnet but I have run into several problems with this and have had to go the to the government offices every day this week and have to go again today, and probably tomorrow. 

(A Carnet is his Chilean identity card. I am not sure what sort of problems you can have with that.)

And not a single other person has written me since you sent out my email. 

(I asked him if his email had picked up since I put his address on the Facebook site. Shame on all of you! But do try and write him; everything helps.)

Also I do not understand those photos of the name tag in the sand, they seem really dumb to me, but whatever. 

(I pointed out just about everyone else who maintains a public web-site with their letters have included a picture of their nametag in the sand. I said I didn't get it, and he didn't need to send one to us, but he should make sure and take one so he doesn't feel left out.)

I had tacos twice this week so that was awesome, also have an appointment to have tacos again this upcoming week, very excited. Should be able to start contacting references this week, so that will be really good. Well I love you guys!

(I am not sure where the Taco love is coming from, but yeah I guess.)

Elder Peters

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mountains to Climb

August 5, 2013
Angamos, Chile (Elder Said)

Mountains to Climb

Rapid Reaction to Angamos: I have heard from every missionary that has served here that it is an incredibly difficult sector and that missionary work just does not work. It is easier to find a rich family who likes missionaries and just chill with them all day and make up some bad numbers than actually work because you will just get bad numbers anyway. Every missionary but one. Elder Congleton served here in Angamos for 3 transfers and loved it. And he worked hard. He worked, and he set the record for baptisms by a missionary in this ward with 9. Since he left his sector has baptized 1 and the other sector has baptized 4. I always wondered why. Well I found out that it is because the missionaries are not working.

(As you can find in the Book of Mormon, the pride cycle takes effect once a community starts to become prosperous. Chile is not immune to it, they are just like everyone else in the world; the more financially blessed you are the less you feel you need God. America is a testament to that. And then Gunnar looks at it from the other point of view. Yes the people here are prideful, but what are we doing as missionaries. So the next paragraph looks into that problem.)

After Congleton left an Elder named Elder *** entered. His third day he found a cool family that loves the missionaries and working for him was over. He then dragged the other companionship there with him and the sector died. Elder Said (my companion) is in his second transfer and his trainer was the aforementioned ***. Said is young and excited. He wants to work hard and have the success that I want. He wants to have the vision for this ward that I have. But it is very difficult to root the *** out of him. The other companionship is quite disobedient and they do not get along at all and are making things very difficult for everyone. 

(At its heart missionary work is hard. So hard in fact a few missionaries will shirk from it. I remember guys like that when I was out and just wonder why they were even out there for. I mean you could have a lot more fun back home wasting time, probably for a lot less money too. Also you can see that mission or not, 19-20 year olds can get on each other’s nerves. Typically they can work through it to get the job done, but occasionally you will have to have some intervention. Gunnar has to be that intervention.)

Angamos is incredible. Two seventies have been bishop of this ward (Elder Jimenez and Elder Zeballos), all three members of the Stake Presidency are in this ward, every member of the Stake High Council is in this ward, and the majority of the Stake Auxiliary Leaders are in this ward. 200 people come to church every week, the people make unreal amounts of money, and the Stake runs the closet to an American Stake as I think exists in the north of Chile. If a missionary worked with the Leadership and the members and worked hard and gave it his all he would do incredible work here. That, however, is the problem. The promise of success is not great enough to make working hard worth it, and so the missionaries do not work at all. I have to somehow unite this district, this ward and a bunch of "young missionaries" (P: 6 Months, C: 6 Months, Said: 3 Months, C: 9 Months, N: 11 Months) and make it work. Then throw in that we are trying to root out the "Baptize, nothing else matters" mentality at the same time. I am not sure how to do it.

(But all is not lost, the area itself is incredible and it has some incredibly strong members. Seventies is a church job that is comparable to a Catholic Cardinal as responsibility goes. You local church is called a ward and several of those (approximately 10-12 wards) make up a Stake which has a Stake President. So what he is saying all the leadership for this region go to his local church that he is assigned to. He needs to work with them to get the work moving forward, so that is great. But getting missionary work done that way is incredibly hard and can have a great failure rate; but when it works the blessings are so large you almost do not have room to receive them. Given the increased failure rate coupled with the increased work amount, a lot of missionaries will opt to take the easy way out, do less or nothing and just wait to get transferred to an easier area. However, we used to say it is better to aim for the stars and miss than to aim for bullshit and hit.)

I talked to President Dalton about my plans for the sector and he told me that he believes in me, that I have the right vision, and that if I work well I will have unreal success. He then told me that I need to keep an eye on everything that happens with the other missionaries. This is by far the largest challenge I have received in my mission so far. 

I do, however, really like the sector. This Saturday a member took all 6 missionaries to a Brazilian Restaurant. It was incredible, so much food, and I saw the final bill. 150 Lukas (300 Dollars!!). The dude dropped it like it was nothing. Then you see some of the houses. Compared to every other sector I have been in they are incredible. Huge, with pools, man caves, patios, backyards. It is unreal. I got the socks package, but that is it so far. I could probably find shoes in Antofagasta, and the guys who owns all of the shoe stores downtown is in my ward so I can talk to him. As far as my birthday present, I am not sure. Nothing has really come to mind that I have seen. I was honestly thinking about an Electric toothbrush that I saw. I hope I come up with something better than that, maybe a nice tie. 

(So there are some rewards to be found in the Angamos area that come with the harder work – better food. We have been pestering Gunnar if there is anything he would like for his birthday coming up in a few weeks, and he is faltering on a choice. Is that a sign he is growing up? Speaking of which, now is the time to send your birthday wishes to Gunnar as he will be 20 on August 31st. Letters and packages take several weeks (and if you are sending a package you cannot go wrong with peanut butter containing candy)) 

The other day they had a South American Cup game at the Stadium and the Church is right across the street. We got done with our meeting and watched the last five minutes of the games through the gates, so that was pretty cool. And we also visited a guy who is a member of the NRA. He showed us his armory. That was also very cool.

(I asked about the football because I remember going to a Coventry game as a missionary and wondered if Gunnar was going to get the same chance. I do remember pulling off the highway outside Milton Keynes outdoor arena and listening to several songs of a David Bowie concert as a missionary too. Check out the pictures to see Gunnar toting a gun from the armory.)

Angamos Stadium

Said and I are working hard with the members and trying to see what we can do. We have received a lot of references but have not been able to contact them yet. Well that is about it for right now. I love you guys but I am a little stressed as you can tell, so any advice would be great.

Elder Peters

(So there you go; Gunnar is soliciting advice on what to do to heal his young missionaries and get the work progressing. Plus he will be turning 20 in a few weeks and would love to hear from you. So get those letters going. I posted his email a few letters back so feel free to use that if you want.)