Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013

Hey Everyone!

I am still in Talca Centro and will be at least until next Tuesday. This cambio ends the 5th of Feb. The cambio after will be a three-week cambio until Feb 26, I think. Then we will have six more weeks until the next cambio. I hope I get to stay in Talca Centro until Feb 26th; I want to do my part to pull this sector out of sector calamity before I leave it to some other poor elder. And I wanna stay with Elder Ulibarri. He is a bro. Reminds me a TON of Ben. But we will see. Could go either way.

It has been a hard week in Talca Centro. I have heard of dead sectors in the lore of missionary work but never really thought that I would have to work in one. But I guess it depends on attitude. We just had to hit rock bottom before we could really start rockin’ it again. We have had a crazy week with lots of really weird experiences. Let me elaborate.

Monday: We went to Chinese food for P-day. Good stuff; dessert was included in the price (six bucks for lotsa food), and we saw the waitress bring everyone else ice cream so we were pumped. Then she brought us a little bit of cantaloupe each. That was pretty hilarious. Just give the cantaloupe to the Mormons.

Tuesday: We met a "famous" opera singer who has sung all over who told us that a marriage can only last for seventeen years. I told her about my grandparents. Kinda blew her theory and she got mad. That was fun.

Wednesday: We found out the guy Jose that ended up getting baptized in Linares is a con artist, as is his ex-girlfriend who still lives in our ward. He had his own church that went bankrupt. He is wanted in parts of Chile. He completely lied to everyone. Looks like he was scamming the church to get money. Classic.

Thursday: Gave a blessing to a little kid who wouldn’t stop moving. I kept trying to follow my hands to his head. I think it still counts though.

Friday: Gave a blessing to a dying man on a ventilator; not sure that counts as still alive even. That was also strange.

Saturday: An old, creepy lady who is our neighbor (who walked in on us changing the other night just to say hi and to salude my mother for her) asked her to give her a blessing and like grabbed my hand to cross herself. I pulled away really fast but we coulda been 3 for 3 on blessings Thursday thru Saturday.

Sunday: Turns out we pretty much ran Church. We did the Sacrament, I played the piano, Elder U talked, we gave both lessons in the next two hours.

Just another normal week in Talca Centro.

It has been a really tough week but we know as we continue being really, really obedient and diligent, sacrificing and working smart and without regrets, the work is really going to take off here. We have the faith to find many new people in this sector and really change this ward´s perception of missionary work! It is really hot and hard sometimes but as we work hard we really have power and authority and the Spirit to help us. I am learning a lot.

I got a letter from Anna Willoughby from Duke this week! Tell her thanks from me. That was a really nice surprise! It is always great to hear from old Southgate people, and it was great to hear that she is doing well. She said she has a friend leaving to Russia or something soon. Cool stuff. Go Southgate!

Also, the bishop´s cuñada here from Fayetteville went back to NC today after like two months in Chile. She is nice and wants me to visit her when I get home too. Good stuff.

Today we climbed the hill in the morning, played some ping pong in the church, went and got good completos, went to Jumbo to buy (lots of American stuff) and now here we are.

I hope everyone is doing well. I know that the Lord blesses us in our sacrifice, and I want more than anything to make sure all y'all family and friends are being good kids and doing good things. Daily nutrition by the Spirit is really easy and the cure all. Just do it. I feel bad that I’m not giving specific assignments anymore but it’s pretty much that simple.

Have a great week everyone! Hopefully next week I will write with the news that Elder Ulibarri and I will be slam dunking this sector for three more weeks together. ¡Talca Centro- Hijos de Trueno!

Lotsa love to everyone,
Elder Zach Brown

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 21, 2013

January 21, 2013

Hey family and friends and everyone!

We are having a great time here in Talca Centro. I mean, the weather is ridiculously hot, I´ve never sweat so much in my life and gone through white shirts so fast. And we are not really teaching anyone at the moment... We have had a lot of really sad things happen this week with investigators just falling away and people not wanting to talk to us or fleeing from the heat to other parts of Chile. So we are kind of having a pretty hard time.

We had been teaching Patricia and her daughter, Alejandra, and they had two assistances at Church. They were great. Golden. She asked us when she could get baptized. And then, out of nowhere, she didn’t want it anymore. We came one day, when I was on a minicambio with Elder Carter. We walked in and she asked if baptism would make her Mormon. We kind of sat there thinking, “Who is this lady and has she not been listening to us this whole time?” But then we told her that baptism would make her a part of the Lord´s church on the earth, basically. She didn’t even listen. She just told us she was Catholic and that she didn’t want to continue. It is SO frustrating. We will be explaining something very, very clearly, thinking she is really feeling the Spirit, and then she will just start talking about how much faith she has and how she is Catholic and how she feels so good with us but doesn’t want to continue. So we are going to leave her alone. Hopefully she will start to realize how much the Gospel has already helped her and decide she wants to listen to us.

Other than that, we have had a slow week. Not many lessons, not many people to teach, none that are coming to Church or progressing. We are employing every way we can to find-- references, door contacts, talking with everyone, part member families, looking for service opportunities. We found one really good lady that accepted a baptismal date but didn’t come to church this week but we will see. She could prepare for February.

We did some service this week, moving all these tejas, basically big curved roof tiles, for this member. We worked for like three hours, and it was exhausting. It’s been an exhausting week. But there have been some really fun stuff too—that’s the good thing with Elder Ulibarri, even though all this super depressing stuff is happening to us, it doesn’t feel as bad because we know we are doing our best, and we are able to just laugh it off, mostly. But it still hurts. It really makes you think about your purpose as a missionary, how dedicated you really are, and what success in the mission really means. I love that quote from John Hammond—“Any people we convert and help baptize are many more than we ever deserve.”

Saturday was fun, too--our lunch fell through, but she gave us money so we went to Centro. We ate pizza, which wasn’t extremely great. Chileans don’t do great pizza. Basically just bread with tomatoes and cheese and ham. But it was fun, and then we got really good icecream, more like gelato. I got pistachio and nutella. That was great; haven’t tasted anything so good in a long, long time. I think something I have learned in the mission will be to never take for granted any small luxury ever again.

Well, that’s really all that is going on here. I hope Duke is going well for all those that are out there. Elder Ulibarri is a big Flight of the Conchords fan-- our theme song this week has been Brett, You’ve Got It Goin’ On. Takes me back to lots of good times with Carson and Thomas! I was thinking about multivariable calc and o-chem this week—don’t remember anything. Good thing I took notes.

Well, that’s about it. Have a great week and keep praying for us here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14, 2013

January 14, 2013

WOW. Wow. Wow. Um... wow. WOOOOWWWW.

So, any news I have to send really just got trumped. Dearest Alice is going to AFRICA!!! The Adventures of Alice in Africa. Hermana... or Irmä Bradford. Whatever they say in Portugese. Actually this is okay because on a minicambio with Elder Flores in Jardin del Valle this week he told me that I have a Portugese accent while speaking Spanish. I had already almost bitten my tongue in half the day before so that might have been part of it, but anyways... I am SOO PUMPPEDDD. This week was hard just waiting to find out! And leaving May 15... I´ll think about that. That should put her home in November of 2014. Crazy.

Lots of things have been happening here in Talca Centro but mostly me just thinking about where she will be going on her mission. I was obviously still focused in the work but all my spare moments were spent pondering and making bets with other elders. I thought Honduras. No one said Africa. There was some consensus among others she would be headed to Russia because, for some reason, in the MTC it always seems like the large majority of the attractive hermanas are headed to Russia. But what an awesome call. I am sure she will be spending most of her time out there just building all the branches. I wonder how many hermanas they have in that mission?

So Tuesday and Wednesday, I was in Jardin del Valle with Elder Flores, a great, great guy, fun Chilean from Santiago. He is super animated and loves to talk with everyone, like most Chileans. Jardin del Valle is having a tough time right now, really disanimated, but I think his attitude will turn them around. He fell on his bike about a block away from where we started riding on Tuesday afternoon. Got all scraped up. He put lemon juice on it. Told me it was a disinfectant. Sounded reasonable. But we spent the next day in a member’s house after it got all infected, and she had to clean it all out. Bummer. Health issues.

Then we got back to work in our sector. Patricia is doing really well, as is her daughter Alejandra. She is our only young woman now-- if she gets baptized, which she will. She loved church. We have been suffering a little in the heat, especially after eating huge lunches.

We were walking one afternoon and decided to contact a house. This guy answered and let us in. It turned out he was a member from Valparaiso visiting his mom because his dad had just died. The whole family was there but he was the only member. We taught them from Alma 40:11 or something, about the spirit world. 11 and 12, I believe. A little “in the moment” inspiration. They were all really touched and it was awesome to see that the Lord really put us in the place we needed to be in the moment we needed to be there.

I can really see myself starting to grow as a missionary. I feel really, really comfortable in my ability to handle almost anything. Especially since literally every weird thing that could happen does happen to me and Elder Ulibarri. Like we were teaching a lesson and a drunk guy knocked on the door and wouldn’t leave; he kept asking for money. I used to think all these weird things happen everywhere in the mission but apparently it’s just Talca Centro because Elder Ulibarri says these things have never happened to him before.

We are working really, really hard and being very diligent. I really love this work (almost all of the time these days) and am starting to see my effect on people. I hope I get one more cambio here in TC with Elder Ulibarri but I am excited that I am almost finishing up my first sector! Super exciting. I will almost have a year when Allie leaves on her mission! I will be able to look down upon her and her greeny ways. Just kidding I won’t do that. I’m a little nervous that she is going to baptize all of Africa and make it look like I haven’t been doing anything in Chile besides Chillin’, but that’s prideful of me. She is gonna be a great missionary.

I really wanna know when she goes to the temple. That is really one of the most exciting parts about this time for me. I love the temple. I hope she really does too. After lots of times going and receiving inspiration, I know it’s the most special place in the world. I know she will love it.

Elder Brown

Thursday, January 3, 2013

December 31, 2012

December 31, 2012

Hey Everyone!

So Javier is coming along. A very strange man but I think he wants to be baptized, and he likes learning about the Book of Mormon but is really trying to do it all intellectually and very nervously, and that just doesn’t work. We are gonna talk about faith versus fear with him. I love Elder Ulibarri, though! We have all the unity we need, maybe too much, we are always laughing and probably speak too much in English. We might need to work on that. He is very organized and obedient and diligent; what he lacks in working really well with people and identifying with them, I feel like are more my strengths (with most people). But he has really opened up with me and we are having a lot of fun, even though it is SUPER hot here and we are having tough times.

Also at the interviews, I got letters from Allie! Woohoo! They were from like forever ago but it’s still fun to read things written in her voice. What a goob. Cute lil goob. Elder Ulibarri is the biggest Beatles fan, too. Allie should totally just come on her mission to Chile and we can all have Beatles parties together. He can play Blackbird on the guitar. He is teaching me. He already taught me how to play James Bond on the guitar. It’s prettttyyyy awesome. And he taught me how to do the Rubik Cube! I am pretty slow, it takes me like five minutes, but I can do it. All by myself. I am humbly proud.

One afternoon, we were visiting this guy in a part member family, we had him in our registro. So we went in, and he was this older guy but seemed like he was all there. Started telling us about how his wife and child had been killed and he had been put in a concentration camp by Pinoche. How he had escaped (showed us the scars on his wrists from when he broke the cuffs to get away) and then went on the run in Bolivia and Argentina and all these places "clandestina," to quote him. Sounds like he has probably killed people--was a guerilla soldier. And then he turned himself in and spent ten years in prison. Showed us all the scars. Not sure if this was before or after he was baptized--but he has a strong testimony of the gospel. We will probably go by again this week. His name is Manuel Jesus. He says he has a documentary about him and some other survivors that was made.

Another crazy story: One afternoon, Elder U and I were doing contacts on this dusty street by a canal (pit with water filled with garbage) and were talking to this old guy. Out of nowhere this guy on a bike selling ice cream rides up, tells us he is a recent convert from Independencia, gives us a free cone of strawberry ice cream, testifies of the truthfulness and blessings of the gospel to this old guy we were talking to, and then leaves. NO idea how he knew where we were or what he was doing in this random part of Talca, but the ice cream sure tasted good. A little extrañable misericordia.

We went by and talked with Fabiola about the scriptures she read in D&C 59, where it talks about keeping the Sabbath Day holy. In all her time with missionaries, I don’t think she ever realized that going to Church is a commandment and you can’t be clean without the sacrament each week. She kinda had a change of heart, and, as soon as her dad dies, I think she is gonna come to Church.

On Christmas, after talking with you guys, we went out to find people. We talked to this nice younger lady that was basically telling us how she doesn’t believe in Catholicism and is looking for the truth. We gave her a Book of Mormon--that was exciting to find her but it looks like she might be hiding from us now. Oh, well. Embarrassing for her. Can’t man up and talk to two jovenes.

The Chilean Santa Claus has been at large this week, too! He always stays on this one corner, and, every time we pass by, he starts yelling at us. We tried to give him a pass along card again, told him God loves him, and that made him even madder. Not a happy man. Probably not sane, either.

We taught a lot of good lessons this week, too--have lots of investigators but they all have lots of problems and lack real desires to commit and make changes, at least for right now. Most of them just don’t understand the need for action--they just want to feel good. Crazy Chileans. But we are teaching well, I think. I am feeling a lot more confident teaching and really controlling the lesson. We work pretty well as a team, and I have definitely felt the Spirit guiding me at times during the lessons to know how to respond to questions.

Well, that’s about all that’s been going on here. We are working hard and trying to be diligent in all things, and hopefully we will start to see all the blessings soon. I am feeling confident in my abilities as a missionary, and loving this sector, despite its MANY faults. Loving all the Chileans is a little more difficult but I love them individually as people. Even the Chilean Santa Claus.
My new favorite chapter of scripture right now is Alma 26. It’s a classic, especially for our situation right now. We are starting to qualify ourselves better and better, and can really feel more power in our testimonies and commitments with the people we talk with. It all starts with being humble and praying and going to Church and doing the easy stuff every day that people just won´t do! Patience.

There is a talk I love from Elder Christofferson about the consecrated life; you should all read it. About working hard. And playing hard. It’s a winner.

We are gonna eat dinner tonight with the Bishop, for New Years! That should be fun. I’m excited. And we have a good week planned, to start off my whole year as a missionary! Game time! Have a great week everyone! Get your call, Alice! And tell me soon ‘cuz I’m actually dying to know. Get good grades, Tom and Cars, and everyone else who is studying, and get wins, Duke basketball! Tell Jabari Parker to stay at Duke two years so I can chill with him when I get back.

Elder Brown

My lego men! They have all the personalities a missionary should have. Harold, the business man, who plans and gets stuff done and is a number cruncher. Then theres Bjorn, who works out a lot and takes good care of his body and is intense. Then theres Hamlet, who ponders and is spiritual, and then last but not least, Hans who just likes to have a good time with his good food. Good guys. And Grandma and Grandpa backin them up.