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.

July 11, 2017- Getting lost in Los Andes

Two of our newest and youngest missionaries!! The Meservy boys.
Bienvenido a la mission, Presidente Meservy.

It was a crazy week filled with just about everything minus work in Vespucio. Let’s start on Tuesday. The 4th of July happened to be a p-day so my companion and I went to a barbeque hosted by the San Pablo zone where Elder Langston is right now. It wasn’t exactly like 4th of July in the states and we did get a heavy pour of rain, but the Aloha shirt saved the day. (All Seth wanted for his birthday was an Aloha shirt. His dad travels to Hawaii often for work and happened to be there a few weeks before Seth’s birthday, so he hooked him up!!)

Wednesday: Our cumpleanos. (Seth and his companion have the same birthday!) Not a bad birthday, but it happened to be the day we planned out the mission tour for President Meservy so we were in the office all day in order to get that all put together. On Thursday the tour began in Los Andes where the missionaries got together for a meeting, interviews, and to eat empanadas. After that, we had the goal to go to each house and chapel of the missionaries, but we got a little lost and ended up having to pay 5 unnecessary tolls and we ended up spending the night in a hotel in Los Andes. Kind of fun spending the night in a hotel, it reminded us quite a bit of swim meet trips, in fact it made me go a little crazy because I started smelling chlorine even though there was no pool anywhere close.

It was a long day in Los Andes

On Friday we woke up and did the tour of Colina and I went back to Lampa for the first time which was cool. This week we’re doing the same thing but for the 7 zones in Santiago so we are/will be pretty busy with all of that, but we are enjoying and learning a lot. The family of President Meservy has come with us everywhere so we’ve also been able to get to know them. The kids are J (13) and M (10) and while they both have energy; M is without a doubt the craziest/funniest one. Never in my mission have I spoken so much English as I have in these past days and my companion has never spoken so much English in his life. For us, the Meservys already feel like family and we’re so excited to continue working with them to bring Chile Santiago Norte to new heights.

Have a wonderful week!


Elder Birrell