Saturday, December 31, 2016

Dec. 27, 2016- Invitation to read the Book of Mormon - Read it with me!!

Merry Christmas from Chile
It was great talking to you on Christmas. You guys make me so happy, even if you try to make me pose for a bunch of pictures and recite stuff in Spanish and French. Only 138 more days until we get to do that again for the last time. Crazy!                       

I absolutely love being a missionary. It makes me sad that I only have one more year left as a missionary, but I continuously realize more and more that families are at the center of absolutely everything. I will do all I can to bless the families in Santiago, Chile in this year and in doing so, I know God will bless my current and future families.

The family back together (sort of :))
As I think back on this past year, I reflect on what’s different now, or rather how I am different now. I think of who I was just a year ago and to be honest, I’m not sure my desires have really changed much. One year ago I loved God, I wanted to serve Him in any way I could and I hoped and had faith that He would show me how. I write this today as someone who has these exact same desires, but there is a difference- today I’m happy to say I’m not just dreaming, I’m living my dream. I have a lot to learn still, but in this year God has given me the opportunity to fulfill desires to know more of the Gospel and understand the scriptures through study and by experience. I’ve been given the opportunity to wake up every day and dedicate every hour, every minute to serve God’s children here in Chile. I can finally do what I wanted to do 365 days ago and in learning how to work in the work of salvation I’ve been able to come to better know my Savior. I look at this first year as my training for what lies ahead of me this year.

In this past year I’ve also come to truly love and appreciate the Book of Mormon as a source for inviting the spirit into my life and as a source for personal guidance and direction. I know this book is true and I’m excited to start reading it from the beginning again on Sunday, Jan 1st  reading 2 chapters daily until I finish it. I’d like to invite everyone reading this (probably just you, mom) to join me and together we will strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ and his restored gospel.

There are still dreams and hopes I have for my mission that have yet to be fulfilled and I imagine we all have dreams and desires that have yet to be realized. I hope that we can all make 2017 the year that we do that together. Whether that be in school, work, in the family, with friends, in sports, in the kind of person we want to be, or in our relationship and service to our God. I know God wants us to take that step in our lives, and I testify that it’s liberating to finally do so.

Love you,

Elder Birrell

Best Christmas present!!
Elder Birrell with his Christmas tree
.....and presents

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Conversion and Commandments

Christmas in Santiago
This week (like many others) had its high and low points, and I know that’s all for the best and I’m looking forward to an even better week coming up. My comp’s doing well and learning the sector little by little, in fact tomorrow I’ll be leaving him in charge of the sector with another new missionary as I head off to do an interchange. The guy continues to amaze me and I can already see the positive influence he’s had on me, even though I still have so long to go.

A couple of thoughts I’ve been having these past couple days. The first has to do with the process of conversion.

I’m now approaching the year mark of being a missionary, so I’ve now taught more than a couple people and I’ve started to realize some almost universal truths. Something happens with almost everyone who begins to accept the gospel in their lives. Almost 100% of the time, they notice that things just go better in their lives, they’re happier, they find jobs when they couldn’t before, they see miracles in the family, and they find inner peace amidst the commotion of life that they’d been looking for.

Right there the conversion process begins, people recognize that God is trying to speak to them through this message. My personal conversion started exactly like that some years ago- there was a completely undeniable difference in my life and I could feel the hand of God in my life in a very real way. But…  this is just the tip of the iceberg, just the very top layer of spiritual and temporal blessings that lead to our more full conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings are more and so the effort required is obviously more as well, but it’s worth it. Unfortunately, not many end of enjoying these blessings of a more full conversion.

My other thought had to do with the commandments. We talk to so many people every day that we hear a wide range of ideas on many subjects (for example, yesterday we talked to someone who’s had visitations from aliens J ).One of such subjects is the love of God. A popular thought here in Santiago is that God loves us, so it doesn’t really matter if we keep the commandments.

Last night we were about to teach a family about the Word of Wisdom (knowing it’s not something they already do) and an idea came to my mind as to how we were going to teach. We started by giving everyone in the family a 1 peso coin (approximately 1/7 of a cent) and asking them what they’d do with it. The consensus was that they would probably leave it on the table, lose it, forget about, or even throw it away. I then presented them a bill worth 10,000 pesos (approximately 15 dollars) and asked them what they’d do with it. The answers varied from spending it on something important, saving it, putting it in a safe place, or and combination of those. The idea is that they would value the bill because it’s worth something. God loves us more than we understand and a lot more than we love 10,000 pesos. He doesn’t want us to throw away our precious loves like we would a single peso coin. For that very reason he has given us commandments – our guidelines to maximize this precious gift that He’s given us. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!!


Elder Birrell

Shopping in Santiago
Elder Birrell and Elder Duassan with their Chilean hats and ties.
 I think Chilean ties must be made for short people :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dec 13, 2016- Elder Dussan

Elder Dussan and Elder Birrell
Well, this week was a special one- one that I’ll never forget thanks to my new companion Elder Dussan. I’ve literally never met anyone my age who is so humble, Christlike, and disciplined he literally blows me away every day. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard just being in his presence, I guess I just don’t feel worthy to be his companion. He’s from Neiva, Columbia and is a convert of 1 year and 9 months. He comes from humbler circumstances- he mentioned that at home he didn’t even have a bed to sleep on. For him that’s not a reason to complain nor to dislike people who have better circumstances- he’s just so grateful for each day of life God’s given him and the eternal perspective on life that the gospel and his Savior Jesus Christ brings him. He loves everyone unconditionally and sees the absolute best in everyone.

I thought I was sharing the gospel with everyone I possibly could. The Elder Dussan showed up. Sometimes I look behind me only to see Elder Dussan, 20 meters behind me, Book of Mormon in hand, sharing with a neighbor or someone I didn’t even think to share with. One time we just went to get lunch from a Hermana (a lady in the ward) to take back to the house and we ended up helping her with a few things in the house and I was ready to go back to the house because we didn’t have much time to eat before we needed to go back to work, but Elder Dussan offered to leave with a prayer and by the end of the prayer the Hermana was sobbing, she was so touched by the prayer. We then had 10 minutes to eat, clean the dishes and leave and so we ended up leaving 2-3 minutes behind schedule. In the prayer before leaving, Elder Dussan repeatedly asked for forgiveness for leaving late and pleaded that he would still be able to have the spirit with him.

Elder Dussan isn’t just obedient, he constantly strives to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and he relies completely on having the spirit. I think sometime we can get into a rut where we are obedient to the written commandments but we forget the spirit of the law and thus the spirit isn’t as strong in us.

Sometimes being with the Elder Dussans of the world isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Many times during the week I felt pretty down on myself and discouraged, but mainly I’m filled with hope, knowing that I have the special opportunity to become more like Christ with the help of my companion. I see him as an angel sent from God to help me right now, so as difficult as it may be, I’ll try to make the changes I need to make in my life to be more like Christ.

Have a great week!

Elder Birrell

Baby Joseph!!
Cristian and baby Joseph
Elder Ortiz, Cristian, Elder Birrell
Haitian friends-Fritz is the member (middle) and Evans (short one) and Alexis
Elder Ortiz, President Videla, Elder Birrell

The San Pablo Zone
Best district in the mission