Monday, May 26, 2014

Lots of cool photo from you guys today :D Tommy with snakes and sacred groves, my mom and aunts with space shuttles and people killed in toxic volcano gas (Pompeii).

Happy Birthday, Dad :D :D :D :D

To everyone: I want to hear about what you`re learning in Preach My Gospel and how you have applied it :D

I love love love working in Puerto Varas. It`s lovely here and we`ve got a good view of Volcán Osorno when it`s not raining.

Hmm... What happened this week? We had our first Viernes Divertido (Fun Friday) activity. I don`t think it would have worked if it weren`t for the Relief Society President inviting her extended family and neighbors. It was basically them who attended. There were also a few young men that made it much more fun. Now the members of the ward are much more aware of the activity and are more excited about it, so I think we`ll have much more attendance next time.

Our bishop is really good! He tries to have a short meeting with us after church every Sunday to coordinate. He understands the role of the members and he understands our role. He told us that we shouldn`t worry about the activity and that the ward mission leader needs to handle it and delegate to the other organizations. He said we should just show up and everything should already be ready.

The bishop also wants us to focus a lot in the Missionary Agenda program, where we follow up with all the members to help them with their missionary duties. Elder Perry was absolutely right when he said that times have changed and that people don`t just let strangers in their door now (at least not here or in the USA. Hermana Lopez served in Venezuela before all the missionaries had to leave and she said the people were so nice and just let you in their door and asked when the missionaries could visit again. Even the disobedient missionaries in Venezuela were baptizing a ton because the members were doing their part.) This work depends on good coordination between members and missionaries.

Of course, Elder Dennis and I have also been doing our part to find people as well. There`s one crazy guy who we`ve run into a few times. He says that we talk with his twin thinking it`s him and that he drinks, but his twin doesn`t. He gave Elder Dennis one of the creepiest hugs I`ve ever seen and I was worried he was going to kiss Elder Dennis, but thankfully he didn`t.

Elder Dennis actually got lots of hugs yesterday, because there was also a drunk guy who came to talk to us, to "have more faith in God." I was going to just teach a one minute version of the Restoration, but he kept interrupting us. We were going to leave but something stopped us. The drunk guy was with a friend, who we noticed wasn`t drunk. He actually got very interested in what we were teaching and I taught him for a good 40 minutes while Elder Dennis was distracting the drunk guy. I saw out of the corner of my eye that Elder Dennis received many hugs. The man who wasn`t drunk asked if we could come and give a blessing to his sick niece, and we got a phone number. Hopefully we`ll find them today in the afternoon.

There are many drunk guys in the streets, especially at night. You can tell if they`ve been drinking a lot when the whites of their eyes are yellow. Kinda nasty.

The sisters in the other ward had a baptism the other day. It was really good and her family came, even though they haven`t really supported her in her decision. Hopefully they start to get what Veronica´s actually doing and start to listen to the missionaries. I`ll get to do the confirmation next Sunday.

Salvation only comes through Christ. We ought to follow the teachings he`s sent through prophets, scriptures, and the Holy Ghost. It`s a good thing to do. What more can I say?

Love you all,

Elder Connor Christopherson
This last week and a half has stretched me a lot. I feel like I`ve been in Puerto Varas for so long, even though it`s been less than 2 weeks.

All the missionaries in Puerto Varas (my district and the zone leaders who are part of another district) are very faithful and hard working. Very interesting how one of the sisters’ sectors is just full of investigators with baptismal dates and lots of great appointments, the other sisters’ sector is kinda dead. They`re both wonderful sets of sister missionaries. It`s evidence of what PMG teaches about a successful missionary. It doesn`t have to do with the apparent results, it`s the determination to invite that matters.

I`m really happy with my district, and our own sector is starting to have more good investigators. On Monday, we contacted a reference. We`ve only gotten to teach them once because the wife is being hospitalized right now (something to do with her stomach). They´re a great family and they`ve been asking all the right questions. He has never been baptized and has said, "There are so many churches and people teaching different things, one doesn`t know who to believe." Exactly what the message of the Restauración del Evangelio de Jesucristo answers.

The members are eager to work, but they don`t have much time. Several of them work in a frutería (like a small grocery store that just has fruits and vegetables) and they work long hours 6 days a week. It`s hard because we want them to have opportunities to teach with us.

We had intercambios (exchanges) this week with the zone leaders. I was in Elder Jones´s sector and we taught lots of great people. There was one lesson where the people didn`t really understand our claim that this is Christ`s only true and living church. At the end of the lesson, I felt prompted to invite them to be baptized. I thought "But it`s too late. We`ve already been here for awhile and it`s  not good when the lessons drag out too long. She`ll probably say something like "I`ve already been baptized" so what good would that do?"
I did invite them. There was a pause. She said exactly what I feared. "I`ve already been baptized." I didn`t like responding to this before, because I don`t like offending people. The truth is that baptism is given by Christ, so it needs to be done in the way he taught by someone with the proper authority. That authority is only found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
She asked "Does that mean my baptism wasn´t valid?" It made me think of "The District" (a video they use to train missionaries that shows real missionaries teaching real investigators). In "The District" the missionary responded that although it was a great gesture that he wanted to serve God, it wasn`t exactly valid. The man being taught in "The District" got really offended and stopped investigating. We responded similarly (Elder Jones helped so much with this part). I showed her my priesthood line of authority. The lesson extended an extra 45 minutes, so we were in there almost 2 hours.
I apologized to Elder Jones after the lesson for having done the invitation, but he told me it was exactly what they needed. He said something along the lines of, "If you didn`t notice, she was really thinking about it, and she`ll be thinking about it the rest of the night. She`ll wonder if her baptism really was valid, and she has faith and real intent, she`ll discover the truth." It was a great learning experience for me. When in doubt if you should invite someone to be baptized, do it.

We had a stake priesthood meeting on Sunday. We`re part of the Puerto Montt stake, so we travelled there. It was cool because I got to see lot`s of friends from my first sector. Esteban Espinosa gave a great talk, along with my old bishop. An area seventy spoke and I ended up playing piano because the person who was going to do it didn`t show up. I could only play one of the 3 hymns the wanted me to play, so everyone sang acapela for the other 2 hymns. Max, if you want to prepare for your mission, learn hymns on the piano :) I can only play 4 hymns confidently (just enough for a sacrament meeting).

I love you all :D I had my first interview from the other side of the desk last week. (as a district leader I interview people who want to get baptized). I was pretty nervous about it. She`s called Veronica and she is really smart. She`s read a lot of the Book of Mormon and she want`s to get baptized even though she doesn`t have any support from her family (her sister is way against it). Keep Veronica in your prayers.

I love you all so much :D

-Elder Christopherson

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Connor's new home in Chile -- Puerto Varas
Note from Mom: I got a little behind, so I'll combine 2 emails here -- May 5 and May 12.
May 5, 2014

You know... I was once shocked to see bloody cow skulls and rib cages in the street, but that`s become a normal sight for me now. I have no idea why they dispose of them that way.

Miriam`s baptism went well! I was pretty nervous the whole time. We started even later than Isaboth`s baptism. This time it wasn`t our fault. No one in the branch presidency showed up and we had to call them. We sang hymns as we waited. Miriam was beaming when she came out of the water. She told us that she felt lighter after, like a big burden had just been lifted. She`s awesome :D

It`s funny, I can remember the history of an obscure Bible story, answer complex doctrinal questions, and solve big calculus equations, but I can`t remember to bring dry clothes to a baptism. Typical me.

It was weird baptizing someone for the first time. It left me with that same eerie feeling I had when I first got to BYU or graduated high school or went to the temple where I think, "Wow.... that was it. I`ve known my whole life that I was going to do that and now it`s here." I don`t know why, but I really don`t like that feeling. I think marriage will feel more that way than anything else.

I`m flying to Puerto Varas this Miericoles (Wednesday) to be a district leader. I`ll be with an Elder Dennis from Manti, Utah. I`ve heard that Puerto Varas is very touristy. It`s beautiful, right at the edge of a lake. On the other side of this lake is Volcàn Osorno :D I also hear it rains a ton in Puerto Varas (basically, anywhere north of Chaitèn rains a lot). I hear Puerto Varas has a heavy German influence and that I`ll eat lots of sweet pastry type food (yum yum).

I love you all! Have a great week!

May 12, 2014
Have I mentioned that the computer puts little red lines below almost everything I type because the spellcheck is set to Spanish?
Random note, could you send me your no-bake cookie recipe? I wanted to follow the example of Elder Jacob Clarke ;)
Max, I`m going to send you an email after this one. Check your inbox.
Thanks a bunch Sister Sampson and Sister Rodriguez. Me ayudan recordar que hay tantos personas quien me miran como ejemplo. Gracias por su fe y diligencia en el barrio. Jocelyn Haddock, I remember being your home teacher. It`s hard to believe how much you´ve grown. Keep being a light to the world and love everyone. Brinley, you asked if you should serve a mission. Pray a lot and choose the right. When the time comes, you´ll know what the Lord wants you to do. And although there are some days I would love to sit on the couch and watch a movie, I don´t miss it all that much. There are so many other great things to do here. Bailey Woods, you are right. Heavenly Father has blessed me SO much (imagine me with my arms stretched out as wide as I can). Pray every day and do something EXTRA nice to someone every day. (Make sure these girls see this. Thanks.)
Well. I`ve already talked a little about this with my family on our Mother's Day Skype, but this week has been absolutely nuts. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. I`m a district leader in a district of 6 missionaries. The sisters in the other ward are doing great (pray for Veronica, Cristina, and Constanza, who each have baptismal dates in the other ward), but the work in our ward is slow. I`m seeing how the Lord qualifies those he calls and how He always provides everything we need to work. The Zone Leaders have helped a ton and have been very wise in their councils, our ward mission leader is very motivated (even when he works more than 13 hours a day, 6 days a week), the bishop is willing, and the missionaries are hard working. 
To hasten the work of salvation in the ward, we`re going to launch 2 big programs in the ward that will be AWESOME!!!

1. Missionary Agendas: The ward mission leader made booklets for several families in our ward. The booklets include inspiring scriptures and spaces to write names of people who the family can help edify and share the gospel. It`s got little check boxes next to each name for "They know you´re members of the church", "Invited to church", "Dedicated copy of the Book of Mormon given", "Lessons taught with missionaries", "Baptized", and "Temple." We give each family their own personal booklet. We will visit each family each week to follow up (Elder Ballard April 2014) and help them overcome trials.
2. Fun Friday: We want to have an activity in the chapel for the whole ward EVERY Friday night. The idea is to build animo (excitement) and unity in the ward. It`ll be a good opportunity to invite friends and it`ll become part of the ward culture. There will also be food, which is the great motivator of all church activities.
The work will be very different as we work on these programs because we`ll be visiting lots of active members and not as many less active members or investigators, but I know that these programs will result well. Why do I know this? Because the way that these programs were planned was through prayer and revelation. We have felt by the Spirit that this is what we should do. Nothing in the Lord`s work progresses if not by prayer, fasting, and revelation. We`re ready to put this yoke upon us and work.
I`m feeling more consecrated and I love it! I'm excited to work with my new companion, Elder Dennis. I testify of Christ and in His Mission.
-Elder Connor Christopherson


Sunday, May 4, 2014

I love working in Coyhaique. Every week I`m a better person and we meet new people to teach. However, I can`t help but escape the feeling that I`ll be transferred next week. I`ll know soon. 

May I just say that daylight savings was really awesome :) The only problem is that now it`s completely dark before 7:00pm. When I arrived in Coyhaique, the sun was still up after 9:00pm.

We had a district conference this past weekend, which is like stake conference but smaller. It was WAY better than any stake conference I had ever been to. Actually, the talks were pretty normal, the music was good (it was nice singing with a piano with more people), but what made the conference so incredible was that every session ended with President Rappleye teaching (because mission presidents preside over districts). He`s an incredible teacher! He taught the Plan of Salvation so clearly and with humor and very spiritual and memorable and awesome! The way he taught put the way I teach to shame. I learned a lot from it.

I noticed that President Rappleye used the scriptures as the primary fountain of the teachings, something that Preach My Gospel says we should do, but I`ve been struggling to do well. He taught with a whiteboard, which makes me want to buy a little whiteboard ASAP.

In the priesthood session, he taught about councils (like ward council, stake council, council of the first presidency). I never realized how central councils are in the church. It`s how the church is governed, and it`s how revelation for a group is received. President said that the most important councils in missionary work is that between two missionary companions united in searching the will of the Lord. The most important councils in the church are those between husband and wife (the kids can get involved too sometimes, making it a family council). There are no bad ideas in councils because bad ideas help stimulate the good ideas. Everyone supports one another to make it all work. I feel like I understand the structure of the church so much better. It`s inspired and could not have been better made by man. The church truly is guided by revelation.

In the Sunday general session, President Rappleye invited Miriam (the one we`re going to baptize next week) to come and bear her testimony without telling her before he was going to do that. He also invited two missionaries to bear their testimonies (which gave Miriam time to think about what to say). That decision to invite Miriam to bear her testimony was SO INSPIRED! It resolved so many problems. She had expressed before that she never wanted to give a talk or bear her testimony in front of everyone, so this was a very good push. President used what Miriam said in his talk (she said she would try to be a good member of the church and that she`d put forth her effort) and taught that putting forth your effort is the essence of the Gospel. We don`t go to church looking to receive, although we certainly receive much at church. We go to church looking to bless others. We are to turn outward and lose ourselves. He who loses himself will find himself. Such a great spiritual high :D

On a fun note, we were waiting for a collectivo with a member who recently returned from his mission. We saw a man with one of those collars that catholic priests use. He walked into a house on the other side of the street. The member with us told us we needed to give him a Book of Mormon to him. As it turns out, this man was the Archbishop of the Aysen Region. The head catholic leader guy of the whole región! (A región is like a state in the USA.) The member was very good about presenting us to him (he had talked with him before because he`d studied in a catholic school), and I bore my testimony and gave him the Book of Mormon. The archbishop was very polite. I`m not sure he`ll read it, but you never know.

I`m short on time, but I also wanted to talk about the Escuela Agricola. President Zamudio (our branch president) is a teacher at a local high school. He actually lives on campus because he used to be the director. He invited us to come help teach English in some of his classes and it was fun :D The idea is that they see us as friends and not strange Mormon missionaries. The school is absolutely beautiful with lots of tall trees. It`s got a very outdoorsy summer camp feel (it`s not IN the city, kinda like Tesoro High School). All the schools in Chile have uniforms.

I love you all so much! Keep learning and serving one another! Put God first in everything!

-Elder Connor Christopherson

PS: Did I mention that we found Elder Holt’s white shirts, but not the bag. I still haven`t a clue how I lost the bag.

PSS: For the package, I think all I really need is that extra inside cover thing for my sleeping bag (so I can always have a clean one). Don`t spend too much money on me. You can wait for when I`m in college to do that ;)