Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Aug. 8, 2017- The Gift of Tongues is real

This week went by way too fast. I can’t believe how fast time has been going. This week we were mainly in the office, but on the weekend we worked and found lots of new people to teach and we taught pretty much all day. Yesterday we planned everything for the visit next week of Elder Teixeira, (of the Seventy) he is the President of the South America South Area. He’s coming to do two huge Zone Conferences, but it’s incredible the amount of details that go into something like that. Also, yesterday we recreated the board where president has a photo of every missionary because he wanted it to be magnetic (it was hard to use before) and he couldn’t start changes until it was done, so it was a late night.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but a Chilean missionary serving in Guatemala passed away this past weekend. I’m not sure of the details, but it looks like it was electrocution. She happens to be from the 2nd closest ward to the office which is where the Harrisons (our mission secretaries until Aug 18) attend church. In their almost 2 years in that ward, they have developed a real bond with the family of the missionary. In fact, Elder Harrison was the one who taught for 15 months and baptized her grandfather a couple weeks ago. The family was absolutely devastated and even angry when they first heard the news, but the sure promises of the Gospel and the Holy Ghost have softened their hearts and comforted them a great deal. Just days before passing away, the sister missionary went to the temple and while in the temple was touched by the following verse in Mosiah 26:20, “Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep” (She shared this scripture with Sister Harrison 3 days before her passing). My eyes tear up thinking about how little she comprehended the profound implications of this scripture in her own life. This is why I love the Gospel so much. Even times of horrible tragedies, we can receive comfort and peace to our souls in knowing the perfect nature of God’s plan and the certainty of His promises and covenants. Recent convert Alberto (her grandfather) found a lot of comfort in knowing that her mission has been extended to the spirit world. We are praying for the family and as a mission we are thinking of ways to reach out to the family at this time.

On Thursday, we finished up the Zone conferences with the zones in San Pablo and Renca. In the San Pablo zone there is a new sister from the Philippines named Sister Mahilum. She is in her first change in the mission field, she arrived on June 12th. I had personally never heard her speak in Spanish, but the time came for the new missionaries to present themselves. We generally ask the missionaries to answer 3 questions. What’s your name? Where are you from? and What will you commit to do in order to become an excellent missionary?

With great hesitation, she timidly answered the first two questions. She then began to think for a little while which in normal since the third question requires a lot more thought, but that “little while” quickly turned into 5 minutes of complete uninterrupted silence, with everyone’s eyes glued to her. Sister Meservy asked me to tell her she could talk in her native language if she wanted, so I told her and then thought the silence would be broken by a language that no one would understand. But the silence continued. Then, all of a sudden, she took a deep breath in and what then came out of her mouth can only be described as perfect Spanish. Wow, that was a special moment. The spirit was so strong in those moments as we were all witnesses of the gift of tongues in action.

I’m not sure at what age she was baptized, but I know that at the time of her baptism Sister Mahilum was the only member on her island. For being the only one she was persecuted and mocked for a time, but now she is not alone, in fact there are now 300 members on her island.

Ines in her natural habitat- reading the Book of Mormon
Speaking of converts, our convert Ines Gutierrez bore her testimony for the first time in sacrament meeting. It was incredible the testimony she shared. There really is a noticeable difference between those who read and study the scriptures every day and those who don’t. Ines studies the Book of Mormon for at least an hour a day and WOW, it is incredible the effect it has had in her life. I think that effect has direct correlation with her willingness and humility to actually do what she’s taught. She reads, prays, fasts, pays tithing, goes to church, serves others, shares the gospel, visits other converts and less actives, obeys the Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity and so much more. In other words, she is truly converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and is an example for everyone to follow. She is truly converted.

Changes are this Monday, but I’m not going anywhere. Talk to you next Tuesday.


Elder Birrell

Aug 1, 2017- Micah had a birthday!

Celebrating Micah's 11th birthday!
Hola Family,

We are currently in the car of President Meservy going to the furthest sector in the mission from Santiago. We’re currently in the middle of Zone conferences and to this point they’ve been awesome. We feel like the content of these conferences has been exactly what the missionaries needed and the spirit present has been exactly what the missionaries needed to feel.

I love the vision that president has for the mission and I know we all love the way he expresses this vision and applies it to his teaching and his one on one interactions with the missionaries. We can feel a difference in the excitement in the mission.

In the conferences, we had a little bit of an expanded role given that these are their first conferences ever so we’ve been showing them how everything has worked in order for them to adjust everything to the new vision of the mission. My companion has conducted the meetings, I have presented the mission numbers and translated the health class of Sister Meservy, and together we’ve taught a class on The law of Chastity, relationships with the companion, the mission leaders, the opposite sex, and kids.

These conferences will be remembered for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons will be that the change in the way the mission deals with health. In the past 7 months our health costs as a mission have been 3 times as much as any other mission in this area (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay). This really needed to change, so we’ve shifted more to a system that will force and enable us to take better care of ourselves and to be more responsible with our health. I’ll talk more about that later. It will also be remembered because, even though president want to wait for a leadership council to change some mission rules and policies, we can now drink Coca-Cola in our mission. I don’t really like Coke, nor do I know why it was banned in the first place, but the missionaries seem pretty happy. Another reason the conference will be memorable is one word “anatema”, a Spanish word used in the scriptures, but I’ll explain more about that another day.

Here is a quote from John Taylor that really applies to how President Merservy is leading this mission:

John Taylor, the third President of the Church, reported: “Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a 
gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he
was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the 
same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it 
was very easy to do that. ‘How?’ responded the gentleman; ‘to us it is very difficult.’ Mr. Smith 
replied, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

This really is the way that president directs this mission. As we learn correct principles, whether it be with our health, or in the mission work, we are capable of effectively governing ourselves. I feel that it really is the Lord’s way of leading and as we (as a mission) understand these principles in our minds and in our hearts, we will actually do what the Lords expects of us. We’ve felt the spirit so strongly in these conferences and what we’ve learned really does give us all opportunities to change and be better, happier missionaries. The trust he will continue giving us is something we all feel like we just can’t break. We’re excited for more opportunities this week!


Elder Birrell

Micah turned 11!
Celebrating with everyone in the office
Elder Santos expires on September 25th. Good thing that's when he goes home :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A week full of surprises

We’re doing well here in La Pincoya. We didn’t have a whole lot of time in our sector this week, but we were still able to see some cool miracles in the sector. We spent quite a bit of time with President this week and with some assignments he had for us. One day we got to his office and he said “Elders I’ve been asked to speak to the youth of a certain stake for an hour, but I just found out about it right now. You guys wouldn’t mind taking 15 minutes each would you? Perfect, they’re waiting for us, so let’s go.” So that’s just what we did. It was a 3 day conference and we went for the 2nd day. Later on that day, we taught President basically everything that goes on in the Mission Chile Santiago Norte and we then planned out the next 6 weeks with him. This week we’re going to start Zone conferences and then finish them up next week. He’s doing well, his family is doing well, he’s definitely an inspired man, they’re doing a fantastic job.

Over the years of religious teaching, President has compiled an incredible amount of quotes that amount to almost 100 pages, but he only has them in English. So, it’s been our job (and will continue being our job) to A) find professional translations of the quotes on the internet or B) do the translations ourselves. The task has our brains absolutely fried and makes it even more incredible to me that Joseph Smith translated The Book of Mormon in just 2 months. It has also been a learning experience for us to read all of those quotes he has from prophets and apostles. There’ve been a lot that I’ve liked quite a bit, so I’ll probably include one at the end of this letter.

On Sunday we had a special sacrament meeting on Missionary Work, so during the week we invited everyone that we could and it paid off. There were more people than I have ever seen at church since we got to Vespucio, including two people that I thought would never go to church: Rene and Humberto. Neither one is a member, but they both have a lot of family that are really active members of the church. Almost all of Rene’s daughters are sealed in the temple, but it’s been years since he’s been anywhere near the church. Humberto’s wife, Yolanda, has been an active member of the church for many years and her best friend, Ines, was recently baptized. In fact, we always teach her in the house of Humberto and Yolanda. Their daughter, Fabiola, is a recent convert (was baptized in Feb 2017) and is really active in the church. Humberto didn’t even go to church the day her daughter got baptized so that was almost a miracle that he went this past Sunday.

For the sacrament meeting, we created a 3 language choir with the first verse in Portuguese (my companion, ward mission leader and a Brazilian missionary from another ward) the second verse in English ( my and companion and I) and then the third verse in Spanish (all of us). The hymn was “Somos los Soldados” or “We are all Enlisted.”

Then we each had a talk (ward mission leader and us two). It was the first time I’m pretty sure in my life that I had ever prepared a talk before the day before. The song and talks were well received by everyone so hopefully we do it again soon.
Last night we were in the office until late and so we hurried to get home on time in order to deal with the p-day permissions. As we got out of the Metro Station (like a subway) we had to use an elevated bridge in order to cross the freeway and get to the apartment. By this point I was walking at approximately the speed of light, so when I approached a group of people blocking the way, they politely let us through and we continued on our way. As we started going down the bridge on the other side, my comp pulled out his phone and started dialing a number.
“Who are you calling?” I asked.
“The police.” He replied.
“What about?”
“That assault that we just walked through.”
I turned pale as I realized that without it even occurring to me, I walked right through an assault. I was too worried about my own task at hand (getting to the house on time) that I was completely oblivious to the far more serious needs of others around me. My comp said that one of the people looked at him with a face of complete desperation.
I think this very scene happens way too often in our lives – we are so caught up in our own problems and worries that we are unable to lend the needed hand in rescue. I don’t think that just assault should be worthy of our time and saving aid. If we truly pay attention to those around us, I’ll bet we find many opportunities every day to emulate the perfect example of the Savior and go about doing good (Acts 10:38).

I’ll finish with a quote from Ezra Taft Benson. “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life.”

Have a great week!
Elder Birrell

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Doctrine of Christ

Mote con huesillos on top of the hill after a long ride
So today we actually had a p-day so we went biking through Santiago to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal for about 4 hours. It was awesome, quite possibly my favorite pday in Chile. A less active member named Alejandro Cancino took us. He´s mainly inactive because he rides his bike so much haha.  He made it quite the experience for us!

It snowed in Chile this past weekend. It didn't really hit our part of Santiago too hard, but it was freezing which made the work a little bit more challenging. Everything's good though. 

Snow covered mountains
It snowed
As the teacher of religion that President Meservy is, you can imagine that he shared a lot of scriptures as part of his first meeting with all the missionaries. The subject of his presentation was so simple, yet so profound and interesting. President Meservy talked with us about the Doctrine and in this letter, I’d like to talk a little bit about what I learned.

He prefaced his remarks with a quote that I’ve always loved ever since I began to study Preach my Gospel. Boyd K. Packer said that “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” There is real power in the Doctrine of Christ and it’s something I’ve felt to varying degrees throughout my whole life and is something I see every day (again to varying degrees) in the people here in Santiago. This power is accessible to everyone, but as the quote says, it does depend on the truthfulness and understanding of the doctrine.
In 1829, Hyrum Smith was desiring to preach the gospel, but the Lord taught him the following: “Wait a little longer, until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel, that you my know of a surety my doctrine” (D&C 11:16). At this time, the church still had not been restored and the doctrine was still in that same process. 90% just doesn’t cut it. It didn’t then, and it doesn’t now. If we start filling in the gaps of incomplete, or incorrect doctrine with our own knowledge there is no power, the spirit will not testify of it, and we are participating in the same process that led to the apostasy of the primitive church.
Some years ago, Elder Holland was analyzing the scripture Moses 1:39 with some missionaries which says “this is my work and my glory –to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” He asked the missionaries which was the most important word in that scripture and the missionaries gave their answers. “My” he said “is the most important word.” This is the work of God and unfortunately so many of us try to go about doing His work and teaching His doctrine in our way. Elder Holland then told the group “If you plan to go out and serve, but in your own way, take off your name tag right now.”
This kind of “my way worship” is probably the most common type of religious thinking that I’ve seen here in Chile and it’s so sad because it is so apparent that that kind of thinking has gotten them nowhere in their lives, not spiritually not temporally.
Paul had to use some pretty strong language in talking of our day. “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving head to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” There is a great opposition to an even greater work and a perfect doctrine. Jesus Christ and His Atonement are at the center of this doctrine and He has chosen 18-19+ year old men and women to teach and defend it.
President Meservy told us that many years ago he was in the Provo MTC for a conference and he was in the cafeteria when he noticed a woman sitting down with her tray of food began to pray. As she prayed, a young missionary grabbed everything off of her tray (the drink, the salad, the main course, desert, everything) and handed the food to other missionaries who hid the food under the table. When the women concluded her prayer and opened her eyes in order to begin to eat, she found her tray empty.
This moment was a cause for serious spiritual pondering for the observing President Meservy. He began thinking of the Atonement, of Jesus, His doctrine, the Restoration, the state of wickedness, confusion, and unhappiness in the world. “With that” he said, sarcastically referring to the young missionary who hid the food, “God has placed the responsibility of being the instruments to bring many to the knowledge of these things. It is incredible to me that he has placed his trust in 18 and 19 year olds to bring to pass this marvelous work. It is just as incredible to me the trust He has put in me as someone who hasn’t spoken Spanish in 30 years and has all the weaknesses that I do, to move the work of Salvation forward here in Chile.”
I love this work, I love this doctrine, I strive every day to learn and appreciate it more and more, but more than anything I love to share the joy it brings. I know this is the true church of Jesus Christ, that He lives and loves us. I know we can all participate in this love through living His Doctrine.
As for the week itself, we finished up the tour of Santiago on Friday so the only place left on the tour is Easter Island (we aren’t invited). This week we’re going to check out some more houses and then next week we’ll be waist-deep in Zone Conferencias. The Meservys have adapted well to Chile and the mission and seem ready for the challenges that wait them. With every meeting the Spanish of President got better and better and when he got here he was speaking well, so it’s just a matter of time before he’s speaking like a Chilean. Sister Meservy’s Spanish isn’t quite there, but she got her personal translator (me). Translating is pretty hard by the way because many things don’t really have a translation and as soon as she pauses I need to already be talking. Super fun experience though I hope I get to continue.
As for me I’m doing well, with over 5 more months to continue getting better at this mission thing and to serve the people here in Chile. I’m excited to keep going, I’m not ready to go home.

Talk to you next week!


Elder Birrell

P.S. I am an internationally licensed driver and I haven’t touched the wheel in almost 20 months. Watch out world.