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

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