I´m officially in Chile! What a difference it has been here. Let me share a few things have blown my mind.
1. Dogs everywhere. They all have flees and are wild. They smell just as bad as Banjo and are about as smart as he was. Just last night we saw a dog attack the front tire of a car when it was driving by. But seriously, every corner we turn there are dogs. No need to be worried for my safety. I worked at Dog´s Day Out. I know how to deal with these muts.
2. There´s only one meal a day. And it´s a HUGE meal. Chileans only eat lunch and they put their all into making it. We still have snacks through out the day, but 1:30-3:00 each day is set apart for eating. Oh and the bread here is delicious. Delicious and fattening.
3. My pension (or home) is tiny. And no air conditioning or heater. We have a little heater that was bought sitting near our desks, but thats the only means for heat other than the shower. It gets pretty cold during the night so I fall asleep wearing sweats and all. LOVE IT!
Those are the few things I´ve noticed so far. I´m sure that I´ll notice more as I continue on.
Now let´s go back to before I arrived in Chile. It was really a bitter sweet experience saying goodbye to some elders from my district at the MTC. They all have become my brothers and I will miss them. But we are all serving for the same reason and I know the Lord will take care of them. Driving out of the MTC was weird! We drove a little through Provo and I saw all these places that I´d been this past summer. Dollar Theater, Jimmy Johns, In N Out, Cafe Rio..... It was awesome to see Utah again as we were driving to the airport. I love that I got the chance to see the SLC Temple one more time before I left. What a beautiful buidling it is! The airport was a really neat experience. It was the first time that I had been out on public as an official missionary. The name badge and suit attracted tons of attention, but not degrading attention. Many people congatulated us and wished us luck. I, of course, had to get my Cafe Rio at the airport :) While waiting in line, a random man behind us asked if he could pay for us! I was not expecting that. He was a really nice guy. And then of course the only table that was open was one that was right under the speakers.... I have not missed Kesha... While waiting at the gate, I had the chance to call the parents. It was great talking to you both and I´m glad that life is going great!
While at the Atlanta Airport, I had two really neat experiences. The first was with a woman who was waiting for her flight to Guatemala. I really wanted see if I learned anything at the MTC so Elder Miles and I decided to go talk to her. It seriously took us 5 minutes to get the nerve to talk to her. It was like talking to a girl when I was in 6th grade! The name of the woman was Irma and she spoke both English and Spanish. We bore out testimonies to her and gave her a pass along card. ALL IN SPANISH!! I realized that she was my first contact and I could not have asked for anyone better. She was really open with us and caring. The second experience involved a sergeant of the army. A soldier came up to us and asked if he could buy us food. Second time in one day! He payed for our meal and we had an awesome conversation with him. He was a member who had gone in active and then been reactivated during his life. I want to quote one phrase he said. ¨You missionaries are fighting the other half of the war. If you win your half than there is no need for me to fight my half.¨ Such an awesome and true statement! It was great talking with all the siblings! Congratulations on all the news!
I arrived in Chile and right away President Kahnlein put us to work. We drove to Vina (about an 1 1/2 car ride) and then got dropped off at the ¨clock of flowers¨. He gave us an address, two copies of The Book of Mormon, and a few pass along cards and then drove away. The address was that of the mission home and we had to ask for directions on how to get there. I was paired with an elder from Mexico who didn´t speak any English! It was such a cool experience! We gave out all the copies of The Book of Mormon and after an 1 1/2 hours of walking, we made it to the mission home. The elder I was paired taught me a lot of Spanish and I taught him a lot of English. He was legit and I could tell he was going to be a great missionary.
Oh I forgot to write something. SO while we were going through customs, guess who was at the end of our same line. Elder Oaks, his wife, Elder Bednar, and his wife! I had no idea but Dad served in the same mission as Sister Oaks. She got really excited when she saw my name badge and I got a picture with her and her husband.....WOW. I also got to shake hands with Elder Bednar. And I´m sure that I looked GREAT having just woke up a mere hour earlier.
Elder Oaks and Elder Bednar were in Chile because they each had a mission that they were going to visit and speak with. And guess which mission Elder Oaks went to... VINA! I´ll talk a little about this later. The first night in Chile was quite something. My companion had not arrived from our area yet, so I was assigned with another missionary for the night. Who spoke no English. Wassup! I loved that experience with him. We talked to every single person we saw on the street. And did it for 3 straight hours. They went by so quickly and I could tell we were being guided by the Lord. A ton of missionaries came down to Vina the night before the devotional with Elder Oaks was. We had 17 missionaries sleeping in this small little apartment in Vina. The next morning we arrived at the church and I finally got to meet my companion, Elder King. He has been out for a year and a half and just got finished training a newbie. Now he get´s another, which is uncommon but lucky for me. Elder Oaks expained the distinction of how our church not only believes in Christ but we follow Christ. Then he had missionaries ask him questions and he answered them through the Spirit. Such a cool experience.
I´m assigned to a small area in the northern portion of the mission. It´s called Ovalle and has tons of little casas stacked on hills. The ward is really welcoming as well as the people. Most of them... But the investigators love that I´m learning Spanish and they are always encouraging me to speak. Again there are dogs EVERYWHERE.
It has been a little tough adjusting to the new culture and realizing how long I´ll be here but through the Lord I have overcome this challenge and begun to love the people. The Lord has given me comfort and I have realized that it is impossible to do this without Him. He is my guide and light here.
Again it was awesome to talk with all of you!! I pray for each one of you everyday. I´ll send a follow up email with pictures in it.
I love you all!