Monday, May 30, 2016

Adventures in Missionary Work

Six weeks ago I told president that if he was going to make me a leader, I COULD NOT handle the stress and responsibility of sister missionaries. He just smiled and said, “I love you Elder Rich.”

Fast-forward to yesterday where Elder Herrera and I are waiting for the hermanas near the chapel around 9:00 at night to give them some important documents concerning a baptism. These hermanas are usually very punctual, but they never showed. We waited and waited and waited and eventually just assumed that they had forgotten and were about to go home when we got a call from the hermanas. Hermana Torres, a sister from Colombia with an attitude that could fry and egg, talked with my companion and after listening for more than a minute he just handed me the phone. I mouthed, “What’s up?” and he just shrugged. I then listened as hermana Torres explained the situation and all I understood was ¨We don’t know.... the door was open...wasn’t there...we went inside.... bible...suicide.... life insurance.... door pushed me...ran out...we called the cops."

Now, unless you are telepathic or understand frantic Colombian Spanish, you are about as lost as I was in the moment. They told us where they were and Herrera and I went running through the city like maniacs to get to the sisters.

We show up and there are several squad cars, they are interrogating the sisters separately, some of the cops are talking with neighbors, and I was completely lost. I asked hermana Alvarez, a super reserved, Chilean sister, what the heck was going on. She was about as embarrassed as I think she could be and a shade of red I didn’t know was possible for Latinos.

She explained that they had had an appointment with an older gentleman who in their first visit said he had considered suicide once but then found a reason to live. He wasn’t there when they passed by for the appointment and so they left and came back later. When they passed by the second time, the gate was open, the door was open and all the lights were off. They screamed into the house and called his phone but never found him. Hermana Torres assumed the worst and decided they had to go in to save/find him. They walked in and found on his table and open copy of the bible, some type of insurance, and a flower. I admit that that is pretty weird, but the hermanas took it to mean the old man had taken his life.

They began to check a few of the rooms in the big house and apparently a door pushed back when they tried to open it so they fled the house and called the authorities and then called me.

Anyway, so Hermana Alvarez gets done explaining this and I am trying to process what spirit possessed them to go into the house and look for a corpse when I look up and see a little old man on the porch. I asked, “ that him?” The hermanas looked up and both began to scream and cry and ask where he had been. Turns out he was in his backyard snoozing in a lawn chair and woke up to intruders in his house, cops on his porch, and some white kid looking really lost and out of place in the middle of it all. The cops left and the sisters went inside to have their lesson and LEFT US THERE. We just looked at each other and walked home, our hearts still pounding in our chests.

Moral of the story: Sisters are very spiritual and great teachers and nurturers, but when it comes to some type of real life situation, please let the elders do the talking and decision-making.


Elder Rich

Apparently Dominos is cheap and plentiful.

The usual: Ate dominos, got bit by a dog, got yelled at in the streets, had some spiritual moments, and ate cold dominos. Life is good.

Elder Rich and Elder Herrera. There's only a little over seven hours of daylight this time of year in Punta Arenas. Elder Rich said you can lean into the wind and it will hold you up.

The photo shoot was called "The YOLO Fridge - a wilderness experience"

Elder Rich cooked up a taco feast. Believe it or not this is very different then what he eats on a daily basis. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Shirt Off Your Back

This week was really awesome and we saw so many miracles. We are doing another purification as a companionship (that same thing Frausto and I did a while ago where we don’t do anything that could distract us), and the blessings have been immediate. We were in church yesterday and felt totally depressed as we sat alone in sacrament meeting because not even one investigator had shown up. I thought so hard about what I was doing wrong and what I could be doing better and shed a few tears during the sacrament as I tried to truly humble myself and be clean through the sacrifice of Christ. I had my head in my hands and was listening to the talks when Elder Herrera bumped me with his elbow. A 17-year-old kid we met a week or two ago, Joan, walked in and sat by us. Then another family we had been teaching walked in late and sat by us. Then ANOTHER family came in and sat by us. Then a less active member we had reactivated came in and sat by us. My eyes again filled with tears as each one quietly put their hand on my shoulder and smiled.

Then a kid, Luis, who was baptized about 6 months ago, was the cherry on top. He is from Colombia and had to flee the country with his mom and brother due to the violent killings of his father and two brothers by gang members. They are very poor and I was impressed by the Spirit to give him one of my suits. I took him to the house and opened my closet and was about to give him my cheaper suit that I don’t like very much when he pulled out my nice one and told me how cool it was. At first I wanted to say, “Nice try, here is the suit I was going to give you,” but I couldn’t. I could only point at an empty room for him to go try it on along with one of my shirts and ties. He came out and he lit up when he saw himself in the mirror.

He walked into sacrament meeting and when the ward saw him in his suit instead of his street clothes, their eyes filled with tears. Everyone called him Elder Luis the whole day. I cried like a baby when he prayed during sacrament meeting and talked about how embarrassed he had felt for six months because of his lack of church clothes and when he asked blessings for us missionaries for being the angels that had helped him. I learned how the smallest of actions can have the most profound of effects on people. He whispered in my ear after church that he was already planning with the bishop so he can serve a mission in six months.

All of the investigators that attended church accepted a baptismal date and want an eternal family. I am so happy. I feel like I don’t have enough time during the day to spend on my knees thanking the Lord for his many blessings that he gives to his undeserving and very imperfect missionaries here in the ward of Fitz Roy.

I love you so much.
Elder Rich

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ghost Writer

On May 8, 2016, the day following Mother's Day, I only received a brief message from Elder Rich with a sweet message and story about mothers. He was brief as we had a wonderful, long Skype session with him the previous day.

On the following P-Day, May 15, I only received this brief message:
Your email really helped me and meant a lot. Please, please forgive me but this week my email is going to be very short. I wrote some very long emails to people who really needed one.

I love you. I think about you all the time.
Elder Rich

Since the last few weeks the blog hasn't had much of an update, I'm going to share some of the exchange we had with Elder Rich during our Skype talk. This blog has always been intended to be Elder Rich's experiences as told through his words. So acting as a ghost writer, my purpose is to only relay the tender testimony that he shared with us.

First, he looks great. He looks healthy, fit, and happy. He has built some homemade exercise equipment consisting of cement filled tires, cinder blocks welded on to metal bars, and other soon-to-be CrossFit branded inventions.

He shared how returning back to his mission in September has been much harder than it was the first time he arrived from the MTC. However, he has thrived in his new leadership position as district leader and is loving his new area and companion, Elder Herrera. As we were beginning to say our goodbyes, Elder Herrera asked Elder Rich to translate for him so he could leave us with a message. It was so tender as Elder Herrera told us what a wonderful missionary and friend Elder Rich has been. 

As a mom, I don't know if I have ever been so touched by what someone has said about my son. It was tears all around as Elder Herrera would say something, Elder Rich would look up at him and hug him, and with tears tell us what he had said. I no longer wonder what the relationship between Alma and Amulek was like because I've witnessed the love that true disciples of the Lord have for one another as they labor side by side. 

I have two experiences that I want to share that Elder Rich related. As you may have read in previous posts, Elder Rich received a coat from a member in Chile after his apartment was robbed and much of his warm clothing and winter coat were stolen. We heard more to that story during our talk with him. Apparently, Elder Rich was visiting the home of some members just days after arriving in Punta Arenas.  When he went to the bathroom, the father of the home asked his companion if Elder Rich was an idiot because he wasn't wearing a coat just his suit jacket. Elder Rich's companion told the brother how his coat had been stolen. 

They left this home and continued working for the rest of the day. When they got home that night, the coat was waiting. Elder Rich returned to this family's humble home the next day to try and pay the mother for the coat or to offer service as payment. The mother just took his face in her hands and told him that if he wanted to pay her back then he should serve his mission with all his heart, and when he's done he should go home and get married and have children and love them with all his heart, and teach them the gospel with all his heart, and serve in callings with all his heart, and live his life with all his heart for the Lord. 

The other experience I wanted to share from our conversation was Elder Rich's testimony of his love for his Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. He admitted that he feels so inadequate and wishes he had done so many things different in his life, but through the Atonement of Christ, he is doing the things God ask him to do. 

He said that has low moments or misses home, but the Lord will give him "little visions" and those tender mercies sustain him. He then asked us what we had for dinner last night. I laughed because it had been a far cry from a Norman Rockwell family dinner. It had been one of those Saturdays where we had been running all day and in desperation and exhaustion, we drove through Chick-fil-A and picked up something to eat like a bunch of hungry savages around the kitchen counter. 

Elder Rich had been holding a card in his hand since the beginning of our conversation, he now held it up so we could read it, and he had written "Chick-fil-A" on it. He said Saturday night he had a dream where he was able to look in on us for just a moment. He said that when he's been given these kind of little peeks at his family, they never last long, but the Lord gives him just enough to let him know we're doing fine. 

He told us that we were sitting around the bar, not the table, which we were, and where each of us were sitting. He saw and felt that we were talking and laughing. He said that he then immediately woke up and looked at the clock. By our estimation, it was about the same time in Chile as Elder Rich sat in his darkened bedroom, as it was in Utah as we happily ate our fast-food dinner.

The sweet sidebar to that story is that Elder Rich's brother, Andy, had offered the prayer over dinner that night. He said an especially thoughtful and pleading prayer that we would be able to communicate with Elder Rich the next day and that the technology would work, and that we'd know the things to say to help him be happy, and that he would know we love him.  I'm here to testify that the Lord doesn't need Skype to let our missionary know we love him. 

To all who read this blog, I testify that the Lord lives. He hears and answers our prayers. Our family has been the recipient of miracles and blessings that will never be cataloged on this blog but are burned into our hearts. Elder Rich challenged us to 'invite' our friends and family to the gospel. As he said, it's not enough just to live our lives and assume others know the offer stands. We need to extend the invitation to pray, read the Book of Mormon, and come unto Christ. I'm grateful for my son's example, and accept his invitation to share the gospel more fully with others. 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is my anchor and my hope. I will tether my life to His. I will hold on with all my might and serve God with all my soul. I'm grateful for a testimony of the truthfulness of these things and share that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Amber Rich

Screen shot of Elder Rich on Mother's Day. A little fuzzy but that bright smile comes through just fine.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Consider the Lilies of the Field

Being a district leader has definitely been interesting. It consists of daily phone calls every night with each companionship in my district (three in total) where we discuss their needs and what they can do better to have more success. We discuss the people they are preparing for baptism and what they need to progress. I have to attend several meetings every week with all the district leaders in the area and then have to lead a meeting every week with just my district.

I can’t remember if I already told you or not, but I ran into Jovita and Ramon (the couple I baptized in Llanquihue) last week on my way to the airport in Puerto Montt. I was standing there with some other missionaries when I heard, “It can’t be!”

I turned around and Jovita just about tackled me and fell to her knees crying. It was so special to take her hand and help her up, and listen to her tell me how they had been looking for me for over a year to thank me for teaching them the gospel. She dragged me by the hand outside where Ramon was waiting and he about lost his mind when he saw me. He also fell to the ground crying and I didn’t know what to do.

They told me they are now called to be over all of the young men and women and are going to the temple this month to be sealed. That’s why they were in Puerto Montt, to buy bus passes and we just happened to cross paths.

The Lord is so merciful. I was nervous about changing places and being a leader, so he reminded me why we do all that we do.

I love you so much.
Elder Rich

P.S. I bought a couple sweaters so I don’t freeze. I don’t need a jacket anymore because a member here bought me one without asking twice. I felt so bad and didn’t know what to say, so I just accepted it.

The new coat that a generous member bought him. "Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you..."

Elder Rich is sharing some photos of his family in the United State with his "little brothers" in Punta Arenas. 

He's praying...he snores when he prays.

It get's a little windy in Punta Arenas. Like tip you over when you're walking windy.

Is that Antartica I see in the distance?