Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Mission in Chile - Domino Effect

Today the Church announced the creation of the Chile Santiago South Mission.  They have taken the stakes that were in Santiago and part of the Chile Rancagua and moved them into the new mission.  Here come the dominoes!  Chile Rancagua Mission takes the Curicó and Talca Stakes from the Chile Concepción Mission which in turn takes the 2 stakes in Talcahuano from the Chile Concepcion South Mission - and that is where the dominoes stop.  Chile Concepción South Mission is smaller by 2 stakes.  Here are some pictures that show the changes.

Soooooo, where are we going to end up?  Well, there are new mission presidents coming July 1 to both Chile Concepción Mission (Kent J. Arrington) and Chile Rancagua Mission (Thomas R. Warne).  I serve as 1st counselor in the Chile Concepción Mission Presidency and while we live in Talca we do not have any specific assignments in Talca.  Our assignment is as a counselor in the presidency.  But it would be a little different being a counselor in a mission that you don't live in.  We will see what happens.  Maybe Pres Arrington will have a new assignment for us or will Pres Warne try to lay claim on us.  Who knows?

Now for the real important news!
Something huge is about to take place in Chile.  There are over 540,000 members of the church in Chile.  Unfortunately only about 10% attend sacrament meeting each week.  No that is not a typo.  It is a tragedy.  And to complicate the problem we don't know where most of the less-active members live now because the membership records haven't been updated since they were baptized.  We just completed the first phase of this project in the Piduco Ward here in the Talca Stake.  The ward had 796 members of record.  490 had addresses that were out-of-date or their name was misspelled.  33 were dead.  How do we know there were 490 members who had incorrect addresses or that their names were misspelled?  Because of this fine fellow from England, Brother Benjamin Ingram.

Brother Ingram is from northern England near Scotland.  He served a mission in London.  Some years after his mission he met a beautiful Chilean returned missionary living in England.  They got married in the temple and lived in England for awhile.  After the first baby arrived she did what all Latin girls do when they become mothers.  She came home to her family here in Chile.  They now have 2 beautiful daughters and live in Curicó.  He has a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Computer Science.  He is a professor in the engineering department of the University of Talca in Curicó.  They came to Chile 3 years ago and he has been forced to learn Spanish.  He teaches Chileans.  I'll bet they have fun with his English accent.  I guess we're not the only ones that had foreign professors in school.  He is brilliant and a very committed Latter-day Saint.  He is the Stake Membership Clerk in Curicó.   His parents joined the Church in 1962.  He knows their conversion story well.  They were taught by a missionary named Randall Turner.
I said, "you mean Randy Turner, the dentist and former stake president in Southern California?"
"Yes, that would be the one."
"I know Randy Turner.  He just graduated from Northwestern Dental School when I started.  He was just finishing his assignment as stake president when I was starting mine.  I knew his family where he grew up in the north suburbs of Chicago.  I dated his niece, Wendy Payne."
It is a small world in the church.

Ok, back to the subject.  Brother Ingram was frustrated with the condition of the church records here in Chile so he did something about it.  Registration for voting is automatic and mandatory here in Chile for everyone 18+. The government published online a list of all registered voters including their names, addresses and RUT (personal ID number) in 346 pdf files.  Brother Ingram turned that list into a searchable database.  That database plus the civil registry of Chile (births, marriages, and deaths) has been researched to give us updated information on the 490 people in Piduco Ward with incorrect information.  Now the missionaries just need to invite these people to come unto Christ again.  My goal is to get this implemented in the entire country.  We can give over 450,000 less-active members another chance to come back.  It will be too late for over 20,000 that we will probably find have passed away.  There were years in the 80's and early 90's when over 25,000 Chileans joined the church every year!  Some missions baptized 900 people a month!!  It was an insurmountable task to absorb and retain so many new converts.  The church is still young and immature in Chile.  But it is getting better.  I will post our progress on this huge effort to rescue the less-active.

I know that as the missionaries seek out the less-actives they will find more opportunities to teach.  Just last night I got a call from our zone leader, Elder Wade, in Curicó.  He was seeking out one of these less-actives and she was not interested.  She was now an evangelical.  They asked if she knew anyone who might be and the less-active member told them of a neighbor.  The elders visited her and she is golden!  She said she wants to come to church and wants to be baptized!

Brother Ingram  is teaching Elder Wade and Elder Glazier how to use the results of the database search to seek out the less-active.

Yes, computerization is being used to build the kingdom of God.  Both for the living and for the dead.

10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!  (D&C 18:10, 13-16)

Which soul is more valuable, the new convert or the less-active?

Monday, February 11, 2013

It's All About Family, vacation, and missionary work!

John and Jessica came to visit us and while we waited for them at the Santiago, airport, I found this long observation window, up one flight of stairs.  You can see down into the baggage claim and get a glimpse of your loved ones after they clear customs.  People would wave and blow kisses and were so excited to see their family.  I watched for about an hour before I found John and Jessica.  I could hardly wait!

It takes about 20 hours to get here.  They brought us 2 duffel bags full of goodies!  Thank you!

Our first stop was the Vino Bello restaurant in Santa Cruz.  
Santa Cruz is in the heart of the "wine country".  It is a small, cute town, and worth going through.  The food is delicious here.

Grapes, grapes, grapes!

I'm holding the center piece; darling, isn't it?

We had to drive far and wide to see some great things in Chile.  Now that it has been over a week ago, I think it was totally worth it.

Sunday morning we had to get up early to drive to Constitucion so Doug could give a presentation on, "Working in Union".  We are going to all the wards/branches, in our area, to encourage the members to be the "finders" and the missionaries to be the "teachers".  He has done this every Sunday for the last 6 weeks.  Only 26 more times and we'll be done!  Doug has created a very good power-point presentation with a couple of videos and He does a wonderful job of motivation.  He is like a tiger out of its cage on this mission.  Give him an assignment and he doesn't hardly rest until everything is done.  I set up the tripod and focus the projector.  After that, I shut the curtains and greet the people.
After church we took a stroll on the beach and had lunch.  We skipped eating the seaweed.

Chileans eat this.
 It is some kind of seaweed and grows attached to the huge rocks.  They cut it off of the rock and bundle it up and sell it.

What a cute couple after a good nights sleep

We are waiting for the water to go back so we can dart through a cave.  Maybe we would, if it wasn't Sunday.

Our next stop was Villarrica.  There is a beautiful lake, volcano, German village and these thermal pools.

Termas Geometricas

You walk along these red walkways to get to the different pools.  They range from freezing cold to too hot to get in.  We really enjoyed our time here.  The pools were lined with slate and there was trickling waterfalls and larger ones all along the way.  The pools are only about  2 feet deep.  You can sit on the bottom and the water goes up to your neck.

This pool was probably over 100 degrees.
In a little village close to Villarrica there is a horse drawn milk wagon.  How about that! 

Here is another.
This part of Chile is beautiful

The Park Lake Hotel is where we stayed.  This would be a great place to spend 2 or 3 days.

The beach at Vina del Mar

This is the famous clock of flowers, where everyone takes a picture.

The "Ascensor" in Valparaiso.  A city built on hills.  This is a quick way to get up a very steep hill.  This was built in the 1800's.

After lunch we walked down the hill.  
 Sometimes the best pictures are found when you turn around and look where you've been.

Colorful Valparaiso

On our way to Santiago we decided to turn around and get one last picture of Viña del Mar.  We parked the car on a busy street, jumped out and I left my bag on the floor of the car.  In 15 minutes, when we returned, the window of the car was broken and glass was everywhere!  There was a rock on the drivers side.  The seat was covered with glass. I scraped the glass off the seat before we took this picture. The bag is gone, our tablet (Xoom was between the seats and that is gone, the little mobile WiFi device is gone.  It was a bitter lesson to learn.  Don't tempt people.  The good part is that we are alive and didn't get mugged!

Doug has always been resourceful!
We drove back to the hotel, changed passwords, reported stolen items, and got some cardboard and tape from the front desk.  This new window made it all the way to Santiago without blowing off!  We got to bed very late and felt very bad.
  The next day we were able to find a place to fix the window and get John and Jessica to the airport.  It was hard to say "good-bye", and I wondered if I could get back into the missionary mode after 6 days off.

Not to worry!!  As soon as we got home our phone started ringing.  We went with the missionaries to visit some investigators, helped with cambios, Monday and Tuesday, and met some new missionaries at our zone meeting.  I've been visiting teaching with an Hermana in our ward.  She was an example of the perfect visit.  She gave the message and we read the suggested scriptures together.  After the message, the mom and daughter looked at me and said, "Habla Hermana".  I tried to say how the mission was a great blessing in my life and how I loved the ward and the members.  I told them that I have 6 children and 18 grandchildren and they about fainted over that and then they started their "machine gun" Spanish and I didn't need to hablar anymore!  It was a fun experience. We helped the new hermana missionaries in our zone to get settled.  They had no food because the Elders had left the cupboards bare.  We had them for breakfast, (I mean, we invited them to eat breakfast with us), and took them grocery shopping.  They are the first hermanas in Talca in 30 years.  Their ward is so happy to have them.
We spoke at a noche de hogar, outside, with lots of mosquitos, about the Book of Mormon, attended a baptism and a "going away" party for a missionary leaving for Paraguay this week, attended a ward council meeting, and gave our Sunday training.  There were many other little things sprinkled into all those activities.
Sooo, it is easy to get back into the missionary mode.  Just be available!

Our new zone in Talca
I can't tell you how much I love these missionaries!!  Some Elders that have been with us our whole mission got transferred.  We will miss them.  If I ever start to feel "down", I just get a "missionary fix", since being around them is all I need to get a boost.
Hermana Lovell is the "gringa" in the middle.  Her parents are mission presidents in Argentina.  Her twin sister is on a mission in Spain, and her other sister is serving in Italy!  Five in a family!  Our mission is half and half, Latins to gringos.  Our zone is exactly that.  Hermana Chavez is sitting by me, and is from San Diego, so I think of her as a mix.  She can speak perfect Spanish and English, although she already has a funny English accent.  She has been here 3 months and serves in Constitucion.  The little latina on the left, just got here on Tuesday, from Guatemala.  She is wearing her Young Womanhood recognition award.  She does good with her English.