Thursday, June 29, 2017

Goodbye Presidente and Hermana Videla

My new Chilean hat :)
Be prepared, this letter might be a long one. Today marks the very last day of the Videlas three years of dedicated missionary service. Yesterday was the final Zone conference with them and they took the time to say goodbye to every missionary, one by one, which resulted in not a single dry eye among the 78 missionaries that were present that day. Fittingly, as the missionaries left the building, two by two, we heard screams and shouts throughout the whole city. Chile had won an important futbol match. Chile indeed had won, the three-year term of our dear Chilean President Videla and his wonderful wife was an incredible success.

One day 37 years ago, missionaries knocked the door of a young Chilean couple. The husband invited the missionaries in and they talked a bit about the message of the restored gospel. He found the message interesting, and invited them to come back another day. For one reason or another they didn’t come back until the following year. Once again they knocked on the door and the husband let them in, but this time it was a trio of missionaries. The wife got upset since the house was a little dirty, but she decided to participate as well. Hermana Videla talks fondly of those moments when they began to teach. She was moved to the center of her soul as they taught because she had a reoccurring feeling that she had already known these truths of the Restoration, Plan of Salvation and the gospel and Jesus Christ and that she was only being reminded of them. That first day that the missionaries shared with them, the third missionary was finishing his mission that very day. The other two missionaries taught, but when the missionary on his last day testified of Jesus Christ, they felt the spirit so strongly that they both wanted to be baptized. It took them a couple months to actually do that because the young husband (now President Videla) was a smoker and it took him a while to quit. Despite the challenges, including the mother of Hermana Videla disowning her, they have continued firmly in the gospel.

At the time of their mission call, President Videla was serving as the Stake President in the southern part of Chile. They first  had a preliminary interview with one of the apostles, and then the final interview with President Uchtdorf when the call was extended. President Uchtdorf told them that they would be serving in a foreign country, which was normal for someone from a country as small as Chile. They then began preparing to serve in another country, then the official call came. Mission Chile Santiago Norte, it read. “Huh”, he thought, “they must’ve mixed something up.” It was the same mission where they were married, baptized and raised their children. In that mission they had various kids and grandkids as well as many other relatives living there. Convinced that it was a mistake, he called the church offices, and explained the situation. The only response he got was, “Don’t worry, we know. Before these three years are over, you’ll know why as well.”

These three years, as wonderful as they have been for President and Hermana Videla, have also been filled with serious family problems. Serious enough that if they weren’t serving in Santiago, Chile they would’ve been forced to resign about halfway into the mission. It’s been really hard for everyone, but it would’ve been impossible if it wasn’t for the revelation that they needed to be in Santiago. President was watching a live stream of the current Mission President training that is going on right now in the Provo MTC a couple nights ago. Elder Bednar was talking about the process of selecting the missions of the new mission presidents and he said that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles go to the temple to receive revelation about the Mission Presidents. They see everything, they know their whole lives, every last detail. It is only then that they began to assign missions to Mission Presidents.

I know that this is exactly what the Mission Chile Santiago Norte needed: Three wonderful years of President and Hermana Videla. I’m grateful for these past 12 weeks that I've been in the office that have given me the opportunity to get to know them a lot better. It is amazing to me how truly good they are as people and as disciples of Jesus Christ.

They inspire me to be better, more fixed on my purpose, and committed to my Savior. I’ll miss them dearly, but two things comfort me.
1. They’ll be living 5 blocks from the Santiago Temple, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing them again.
2. President and Sister Meservy arrive tomorrow and I’m sure they’ll be just as wonderful.

Last Friday we also lost two senior missionaries, Elder and Sister Pack. They worked as pensionists and they’ll be missed a great deal. It’s incredible the amount of improvement they’ve made to the quality and cleanliness of the houses in this mission. They live in Heber, Utah so I’ll go to visit them after the mission for sure.
Elder and Sister Pack finishing their mission. They'll be missed.
On Sunday we had a baptism!! His name is David Gallardo and he is the youngest 81-year-old I know. Ever since the missionaries began visiting him he’s had a strong desire to join the church, repent, and be baptized. He had 3 main challenges that needed to be overcome in order to be baptized. The first was that he was unsure about the living day prophet, Thomas S. Monson. That was quickly fixed when he listened to one of his talks and felt that he truly is the prophet of God. To fix the other problems we needed the help of Oscar Valenzuela, the former ward mission leader. One problem that David had was the Word of Wisdom because he had always drunk wine when he ate fish. The other problem was that of tithing. He receives 160 thousand pesos every month in retirement money (240 dollars) and felt that the maximum amount he could pay was 10 thousand pesos every month. Thanks to the testimony of Hermano Valenzuela, he is excited to obey these commandments, in fact he wanted to pay even more than 10% in tithing. On Sunday that same Hermano baptized David in a very spiritual baptismal service. It looks like now the wife of David (Yolanda) is interested in learning more and possibly following the example of her husband. We’re happy for the newest member of the Vespucio ward, and now I know it’s never too late to repent!
Baptism of David Gallardo

Oscar, David and Yolanda at David's baptism

Funny story. On the way to a Zone conference on Tuesday a man asked us for some coins to buy a sopaipilla. We didn’t have any change so we told him we couldn’t help. He then began spitting on me 2-3 times, but when he didn’t get a reaction, he started launching giant loogies at my suit coat, covering my whole back. My suit is definitely dirty, but I still thought it was funny.  Hopefully he got his sopaipilla. :)

Tomorrow at 7 in the morning we’re going to pick up the Meservys from the airport. We’re excited!

Talk to you next week!


Elder Birrell

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Faith precedes the miracle

Comida Chilena with my Presidente Chileno- empanadas con queso and mote con huesillos (rehydrated peaches soaked in juice or honey with wheat)
Uh oh. It’s not even winter yet and it’s already FREEZING. It almost snowed here for the first time in like a decade (it didn’t though). It did rain however (a lot) so right now the air is nice and clean and the view of the Los Andes mountain range is beautiful from our apartment window.

When it was raining it was a big concern because on Saturday our ward and another ward that shares our building had planned to do a “Capilla Abierta” activity which is basically the equivalent of taking a Visitor’s Center to the chapel. It’s an activity just recently making its way to Chile and it’s the first time I had ever participated personally. It requires a lot of sacrifice, planning and inviting from the members or it doesn’t work at all. I was impressed by the efforts of the members from both wards, especially the attitude that the activity would go on even if the rain and wind continued. In general, Chileans aren’t exactly the most “weatherproof” people, so it was exciting for me to see that kind of positive mentality.

A view of all the rain from our apartment window
There was a really heavy rain here in Huechuraba until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when all of a sudden the rain stopped completely. This happens to be the same exact time that the activity began. In the end, it was a huge success as 31 non-members came to visit, as well as some inactive members. One of the non-members was one of our investigadores (Segundo) who came out of the activity saying that he’s going to start cancelling all his Sunday activities (probably futbol) so his whole family can come every week and get baptized. He does need to get married first, but he already has plans to do that soon. That’s just one of the many examples of miracles that comes about because of these activities.

That day reminds me of the scripture in Ether 12 when it says, “if there be no faith among the children of men, God can do no miracle among them; wherefore he showed not himself until after their faith.” The members impressed me with their faith, and from 4-8 in the afternoon we all witnessed the miracle.

The rest of the week was good too. On Tuesday we received and spent the day with the new missionaries and they all talk differently. One Elder is from Bueno Aires where they pronounce every “y” and “ll” with the sh sound. The other Elder is from the coast of Colombia where they talk almost as if they are singing. One Sister is from Spain where they speak “true” Spanish with vosotros, the “th” sound with their Cs and Zs among other things. Another Sister is gringa, she speaks well for a new missionary, but she’s still gringa. The other Sister is from the Philippines and she speaks her native language, Tagalog, and a little bit of English, but zero Spanish.

It was a great week and we look forward to meeting the new mission president in 10 days!!

Have a great week!

Elder Birrell

The Last Leadership council of Presidente and Hermana Videla 

Monday, June 19, 2017

June 13, 2017- Stripling Warriors

Yesterday we finished up with the change of 3 weeks and started up the 9-week change. The photo I attached is of the missionaries who left this change. All of them are excellent missionaries and will be greatly missed by the mission. All of them have been great leaders in the mission. Two of them have been my District leaders, two of them my Zone leaders and two of them have been Asistentes as well. One of them was my companion for a week about a year ago. The amount of experience and leadership that’s leaving is incredible, but I know that as we all continue with diligence the work of Salvation here in Santiago will only continue getting better. I thank each one of those Elders for everything they have done to help me in my mission and I hope to do the same for the missionaries here right now. This photo is originally from the Stripling warriors, so it’s a fitting way to honor these amazing missionaries.

The weather has turned cold, but I’m getting used to it already. This is my last winter in Chile so it’s kind of bittersweet. We only have a small portable heater, but the apartment heats up pretty fast so it’s all good. This week was good, but we had to drop what was our best investigator. It’s been hard not being able to spend much time in our area working, but we´re trying to find new investigators. The new mission president comes in 18 days!!!

Have a great week,

Elder Birrell
A picture  Elder Nieto (serving on Easter Island) took on his way to church on Sunday.
Nothing picture worthy in Santiago, but at least we have the Island as part of the mission :)