Monday, September 29, 2014

All Dogs Go to Heaven

It is crazy to think I have been here for so long! Almost two months. It went so fast and I feel like I just started my mission yesterday. There is so much to do and never enough time. This week I did not have any angel visitations but a lot of really cool smaller things happened.

Last Tuesday after we were done emailing we taught the family of our mamita and her husband is not a member. He is friendly enough but is kind of a manly man and enjoys tormenting me in Spanish and asking hard questions about the gospel. It is kind of fun but hard. I was teaching mamita and her son Seba who is about to serve a mission about families when the husband asked a couple hard questions about faith. I began to answer as best I could in Spanish but he kept throwing it back at me and I lacked the Spanish and confidence to answer. I was intimidated. Finally I just flat out asked, What do you want? What do you want from me? Do you really want faith? Do you want to be happy? DO you even care? I was very rough and put my foot down. Everything went quiet then he asked me some genuine questions and I bore testimony of faith. Elder Holt didn´t say much as he is trying to help me learn Spanish by letting me struggle through stuff and when we left he stopped me. He said many missionaries have tried to teach him but no one had ever just snapped and taught him like that. He usually cracks missionaries not the other way around. I really want to keep teaching him.

We had a counsel the next two days in the next city so we had to stay at our zone leaders house. I slept in the most ghetto bed in the most ghetto one room apartment ever. I had a million flea bites when I woke up. Fun. When we finally got to come home after hours of meetings, we just collapsed in the apartment for an hour of study. Elder Holt was reading something powerful out of an old conference talk and had just finished a very powerful sentence when an earthquake hit. It was so funny because he said, ¨Baptism¨ and the whole house shook. I laughed so hard for so long my gut hurt. Elder Holt happens to be a prophet.

We also have a new investigator. Her name is Tamara and I am teaching her English. She has been studying English for three years and it originally started with her wanting to talk to gringos to get some help. We taught her the restoration in English in one lesson, read from the scriptures in English the next, and we have another lesson with her in about an hour. She is of a different religion and wasn’t looking for another one but every lesson she listens intently and soaks in every word. The Spirit is always so strong.

We have had lots of other lessons with other investigators, members, and less actives also but there is just too much to write.

I have gotten so many questions about Chile that I figured I would answer a few. It rains. ALL THE TIME. I chop wood, A LOT. Elder Holt is 19 and tons of fun. He is an awesome trainer and very, very patient and has a strong testimony. There are dogs everywhere and just as many drunk people. Some hate white people and Mormons and especially those who are both so we have had some fun experiences there. There are lots of people, especially people of other faiths, who don’t like us but lots and lots of people who are kind and very open about their religion.

A little more on being white here. The drunks are the same as the dogs in that some are good and some are bad. I have been chased by dogs a couple of times and kicked an angry German Shepard twice. Angry drunks are easier. If they come over to cuss you out, you just lean sideways. They know they are drunk and think they are the ones sideways and try to correct themselves and just fall over and pass out. There are also barachos (drunks guys) who come hug us and express their respect for us and our purpose. 

Yet, for the most part people leave me alone for three reasons:

1. We are white and of Christ. A lot of people are intimidated by us because we are white and the fact that they know we have Jesus on our side makes them not want to harm us in case they bring down the wrath of God.

2. I am bigger. Standard rule of thumb. If they are bigger, leave them alone. Elder Holt is like 6 foot 4. Two months of working out hard, 2 inches, and lots of good hearty food later I am 15 pounds bigger and also bigger than 99% of Chile. Most of the missionaries too. People walk around us which makes contacting a little difficult sometimes.

3. This reason is the coolest to me. Remember how I said there are good dogs and bad dogs? The mean ones chase and bite. But there are dogs who some how know we are missionaries. They follow us, usually at a small distance, and protect us. We always have at least one or two dogs behind us or right next to us at a time. They will bark at other people and be fighting, but when we walk by they get really quiet and fall into place. They don’t do anything unless someone yells something or a drunk comes towards us or someone gives us a dirty look then they growl and bark at those people. Crazy cool right? God has promised to protect us and apparently this is the way.

All in all, I love being a missionary. It is so much fun and I am learning so much. I am excited to see what the rest of my time here has. I am already a different person and I look forward to more change for the better. I love you all.

Love,

Elder Rich

Papito. Who I am finally getting through to with jokes and stuff like stealing his hat.
My protector
Missionary bodyguards
Ghetto apartment
Complimentary fleas included!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Independence Day Proves Constraining

This week was a little slower than usual due to lots of traveling for meetings and holidays. We had a zone council Monday which required us to go into Osorno so we didn`t get a whole lot done that day besides a family home evening that night.

Tuesday, Elder Viñas of the Quorum of the Seventy visited and talked to us. It was all in Spanish so I understood pretty much none of it, but I still enjoyed it and felt the Spirit. He also cracked down on us which is always fun.

September 18th is the day of Chilean Independence which is a crazy celebration and there are Mormon-hating drunks all over the streets so we couldn`t go contacting or proselyting. We could go to members’ houses and to places we had set appointments. There were a lot of things yelled our way en route to people’s houses and the parts I could understand were pretty brutal. Deep breaths, self control.

That night Elder Holt got really sick so we just went to bed. The 19th is the same deal as the 18th as it is like the after party so we couldn`t go outside. Either way both Elder Holt and I were pretty sick. He had insanely bad abdominal cramps and I had the freaking flu, again. Elder Holt and I napped on the floor in front of the fire and after about an hour of that I couldn`t take it anymore. I don`t know why but I just had to do something. Anything. So I spent the next two and a half hours chopping wood, stacking all of it, cleaning the kitchen, making crepes for our little branch party the next day, and finally just did pushups to fight off the boredom.

I didn`t necessarily have a big spiritual experience but it just doesn`t feel right to ever be relaxing here in the field. I feel better and more in tune when I am actively doing something.

The reason the work was slow is all of our investigators were recently baptized so we don`t have any more, and we couldn`t contact due to meetings and drunk people so we had lots of family home evenings and did the reteaching for the recently baptized. I guess `slow` isn`t the right word there was just nothing new going on. However, I love our members so much and it doesn`t bother me to visit and share messages and get to know them better. The Spirit was very strong this week.

Yesterday I got to go eat lunch with the best cook in all of Rio Negro, Hermana Arriaza, who lives in the Campo (country) about 25 minutes from town with her family. It was soooo good, and after words we got to herd sheep and catch lambs. Ridiculously hard. Ridiculously fun.

I love everyone so much. I also love this beautiful place I get to call home. The people are really nice and for the most part, people are either respectful enough or intimidated enough to leave us alone. Keep in touch and always remember to send LOTS of pictures. I love them.

With much love,

Elder Rich

Elder Holt and I with Elder Petrovelli and Elder Perkins. We share a house.

A typical day's view


Cool train tracks (photo cred Elder Holt) 

A typical day's view

Overlook of Rio Negro, Chile

A typical home visit in Rio Negro, Chile

One of my favorite people, Anna, on her wedding day.

The Arriaza Family with Elder Perkins and Elder Petrovelli

Mud, lambs, and duck faces.

Monday, September 15, 2014

First Week of Real Work!

You know that feeling of relief when you are in the middle of a wrestling match and every muscle is on fire? You are in a bad position and feel really crappy but then you make a good move, end up on top, and then the glorious sound of the whistle and hand slapping the mat brings a wave of indescribable relief. This is how it felt to see Osorno for the first time.

The plane rides were very long and I felt really sick for both. I described my experience with Maria Adriana and our conversation on the plane last email and unfortunately she is not in my area.

After we got to the tiny one-portal airport here in Osorno, we were taken to the Mission Home where we had interviews with President Obeso, ate lunch and dinner, and learned the ways of the missionary. We slept in a small hotel that night and the next day we woke up the next day then went to the government building and started working on our paperwork to be legal here in Chile. Along the way I talked to a man and got his address after he expressed interests in lessons.

After all the paperwork, we went to a church and that is where I met Elder Holt. He is such a stud. He swam and played water polo before his mission and is the epitome of a good teacher. He is kind of a spaz sometimes but is also kind, patient and encouraging. We had a get-to-know-you lunch at the church, then we were off to our sector of Rio Negro in the district of Rahue.

About an hour later I was sitting in my first lesson and I ended up teaching about Alma 17:11 to a less active family. Elder Holt and I then went and taught the coolest people I have ever met. Ricardo and Carla are a young couple with a little girl named Josefa who is the most adorable thing I have EVER seen. They are super nice, humble people and we had a little visit with them.

The next couple days were all work. HARD WORK. We chop wood all the time and taught about 15 lessons in all in those four days. I had the opportunity to invite a family to start on the road to being sealed in the temple as they have been members for just long enough to start that process and it was so awesome. The Spirit was tangible and the effects of it were apparent. I wish I could describe each lesson in detail but there just isn`t enough time.

I also got to participate in my first baptism and marriage. Jacob del Carmen has been investigating the church for ten years but because of dumb marriage and divorce laws here in Chile hasn`t been able to be lawfully wedded to his wife and therefore couldn`t be baptized. However, this week after about 10 years it was all figured out and he had both his marriage and baptism on the same day. Super happy.

As far as what Chile is like in general, it is beautiful. It is very green but very, very cold in the mornings. The house are little wooden shacks with tin roofs that the inhabitants built themselves. Elder Holt and I, with about four other members, helped take on apart that had been damaged in a fire and also flooding. It was service day (where we do service all day) and it took about 6 hours. We were given big, heavy crowbars then just went wild. It was hard, dirty work filled with near death experiences, spiders, and good food as a reward.

There are also dogs EVERYWHERE. The area we are in is very poor and when they can`t afford/ don`t want a dog they put it on the streets. Usually if you bend down and pretend to pick up a rock they will scatter and stop barking or chasing you but yesterday we were running trying to make an appointment and these huge german shepards started chasing us. I bent down to scare them but Elder Holt kept running and screamed, `they are too big! Not scared of rocks!` So we ran for our lives and pretty soon we had about ten dogs behind us. I ended up turning and kicking one in the head and after that they scattered. We laughed so hard about that.

Not much else to report. I miss you all and love you all so much. Keep in touch. Iove this area. It is so beautiful and there is so much work to be done. Oh and the 18th of September is their independence day so the people are going crazy. They know how to celebrate.

Once again I love you all. 

Love,

Elder Rich

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Eagle has Landed


(We received an email Wednesday with a scanned copy of a handwritten letter that Elder Rich wrote us after arriving at the mission home. The following day we received a photo and brief message from his mission president letting us know he had arrived safely.)

Family,

OSORNO! This place is so beautiful and ridiculously green. The flight was long and I am exhausted, but I cannot stop smiling. The trip started at about 4 in the afternoon on Monday (so I had been awake all day), and it is currently 6:30 pm on Tuesday.  I flew from Mexico City to Santiago and then from there to Osorno.

While waiting for the plane to Osorno in Santiago, I ended up talking to a very nice Chilean woman named Clavania.  She was very hard of hearing so I basically yelled my testimony to her. She expressed a love for reading so I gave her a Book of Mormon, and she was so shocked and impressed by the gift, she almost cried. She promised to read it.

On the plane, I spoke to a woman named Maria Adriana. She is around her 60s and sat right next to me.  I helped her put her bags up above and gave her some of the Mike & Ikes I had bought, and from then on we were best friends. She told me she was Catholic, loved Jesus, and after I explained my purpose to serve the people, she expressed her respect for me.

We talked about our families, showed each other pictures, and she taught me more Spanish. As we were about to leave, she pulled my planner out of my pocket and wrote down her name, email, phone number and address. She said that if I stay I this area, she wants to be my first dinner appointment.

I love you so much and I am so happy. 

I love you!

Elder Aidan Rich

(P.S. Just got called to Maria’s area!)

Elder Rich with President and Sister Obeso in the Chile Osorno Mission Home.
He will be serving in the Rahue Zone and his companion is Elder Holt.