Monday, March 25, 2013

39,826 - One at a time

Last Wednesday we finished training the last zone in finding the less active members.  The final count of members over 18 on the records of the church within the mission is just shy of 40,000.  A few missionaries have finished updating the online document (google doc) with the new addresses and information from the results of the database search.  One missionary who is at home for 6 weeks recovering from an injury (he should be back to our mission within 5 weeks) has updated over 400 names & addresses in the Lautaro Ward where he was working when he had his accident (playing soccer).  That ward is the biggest in the mission with 1616 members 18+.  The missionaries are beginning to find part-member families to teach.  Less-active members are being invited back to church.  There is a huge amount of work to do.  We have new addresses for over half of the members of the church within the mission.  Each new address must be verified.  Each person must be invited back.  This work can only be done one person at a time.  Just comparing the new information in the database with the information in the church records and updating the google doc takes many hours for each unit.  Any volunteers want to help?

Training the missionaries

We were able to use the mission office where there were more computers for 3 of the zones.  We were travelling every day for 10 straight days.  I believe we filled our car up 7 times in those 10 days ($7/gallon).  We couldn't do this without a car.
We are working on a statistical analysis of the membership in the mission.  I hope to have the results within a week or so.  It is amazing that all of this can be created by obtaining a small file of less than 1 MB from each stake or district.  Ben Ingram is definitely a blessing to the church in Chile.
Here are some of the scenes from our travel to complete the training.

These last 2 pictures are of Dichato which was devastated by the tsunami which came and wiped out the village after the February 2010 earthquake.  Here are some photos of that devastation.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Seek and Ye Shall Find

The work of finding the less-active has begun in earnest.  The missionaries working in 26 wards/branches have received their documents.  There are 17,761 members over 18 years of age in those units.  About 2,100 of these members attend sacrament meeting.  I estimate that 10,000 have out-of-date or unknown addresses.  Nearly all of these members have not had contact with the church for years and many for decades.  I estimate that 8-900 are deceased.  The task of finding these less-active members is monumental!  We should have good updated addresses for about 8,000 of these less-active members.  Some of them will accept our invitations to come unto Christ again.  Imagine if we could get 10% to come back it would increase our sacrament meeting attendance in those units by 800 or 38%!!!!  I believe that they had a concerted effort in the Philippines to reach out to the less-active and they were able to increase sacrament meeting attendance by 12,000 within a year.
Each companionship received by email a member list with name, address, birth date, baptism date, move-in date, and priesthood office.  They also received a pdf document with the database search results for each member 18+ showing the latest address.  Now the missionaries need to go verify each one and invite them to come home.
When they get their documents they will map out the new addresses so they can effectively use their time and not be crisscrossing their areas all day long.  Our missionaries are asked to have plans for every 30 minutes during their proselyting day with backup plans every hour.  They are also asked to do what is called "U" contacting.  Whenever they are trying to make contact with a potential investigator or less-active member they are to go to all the immediate neighbors while they are in the neighborhood.  This is why seeking out the less-active is such a gold mine.  When they are looking for a person they ask the neighbors and often start teaching new families that they weren't even looking for.  It happens all of the time.  Plus, when they do find the less-active families that are interested in returning to church there are usually non-member family members they can teach and baptize.
This whole process could dramatically affect the work here.  We hope and pray it does.  We've got 40 more wards and branches in our mission to get ready for.

"And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith."  (Moroni 6:4)