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.)
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.
(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.)