Hola uno y todos!
Before I start in, I've got a few questions.
-Along with my stolen wallet, I believe I lost my BlueCross BlueShield card. Do I need a new one?
-Did you ever hear anything back from BYU about my deferment? I fear it might be too late now. I really don't want to have to apply to my school again, while in the mission especially. I'm lost, and have no idea what my status is with them or what I should do.
-Sorry no photos this week. We're in a different Ciber this week and it won't let me grab photos from my camera. So next week I'll send lots! Haha, yes I promise I am a missionary even with all the fun pictures. We can't take pictures while we're proselyting, so obviously the pictures are only going to be during fun time!
Jenn - Yay you read about the big news! I wondered if anybody in the family would receive any report about that or anything. It's all over the news here obviously, and Elder Salas is sure that his mother in Santiago is dying of worry. I'm happy to tell you that I and all the missionaries are perfectly safe. It's exactly like you said, I've barely noticed anything. We might have perhaps seen a small fire in the hills a long ways off in the distance of Carahue yesterday, but we weren't sure. I don't know if you ended up telling Mom about it, but Mom if this is the first you hear, no worries! Nothing's happened. That's awesome about Ethan singing along with you. Does he talk a lot more now than the last time I saw him? I miss your kids. And you and Sterling of course! Fortunately for us, there was no disturbing music New Year's Eve, so we slept fine. Our minor afflictions were for but a small moment :) Hope you are having a wonderful new year! Love you!
Okay, I was going to start into the whole person by person response thing, but as always time is short, and I really want to spend this E-mail talking about what has made this past week so incredible. However, I thank you all so much for your letters and your support! I love hearing about your lives, and you are all always in my prayers.
You might remember a little bit about Andrea Palma from our Skype, but for those of you who might be reading who weren't part of that Skype, I'll summarize.
Andrea Palma was a contact one day, the last one of the day in fact. The whole day, we didn't really make any progress with anyone, and no one sincerely wanted to listen. We were feeling a little discouraged, but still willing to give the end of the day our best effort. We decided to stop by the house of two guys that we had met the past week. The ended up not being home, but instead we were answered by Andrea. Andrea had been searching for a church for a long time. She had researched Jehova's Witness, Adventists, Evangelicals, Catholics, but everything left her more confused and concerned about her spiritual welfare. We found out later that in that moment at that house, she told herself that if we preached to her, she would take it as a sign that God was trying to help her find the way. Of course, we preached to her. We shared the message of the Restauration, and explained how we can know what God truly wants for his children in the midst of so much religious confusion. We left her a pamphlet, set a next visit, and she told us that she was going to have lots of questions ready for us, which of course made us extremely happy. Since then, we have also been teaching her 9 year old daughter, Fernanda, and they are both as gold as golden could be. Andrea understands every single principle we teach her, often before we even teach it. There have been many instances where she'll explain something according to her opinion and research, and we basically confirm that what she said is exactly right. I remember when we first invited her to be baptised. It scared her to death, and she was sure that she wouldn't be ready for such a large commitment. She said that baptism is like marriage, and she wanted to be absolutely sure, because afterwards, it would be once and for all. Whatever religion she decided to join herself to, she intended it to be forever. We promised her that through continued prayer and study, she would indeed be ready. The baptism for her and her daughter is scheduled for the 21st, and here we are, more than 10 days beforehand, and she is incredibly prepared. The primary thing that we have been working with her on is quitting smoking, and that's what I want to talk about specifically relating to this past week.
We knew from the beginning that we needed to set a plan with Andrea to help her stop smoking, but we weren't exactly sure how to do it or where to start, so admittedly we procrastinated a bit. But after a lot of study of Preach My Gospel and realizing that we needed to do something fast if she was going to be ready for baptism, we met with her I think Wednesday for a lesson. After talking a lot about The Book of Mormon and her batism and everything, the timing was right, and told her we wanted to set a plan with her. At this point she had cut down the smoking to about 10 a day, and we wanted it to be zero at least a week before the baptism. We marked on one of her calenders that everyday she would smoke one less than the day before. So we set aside 45 cigarettes for her, enough for 10 days (she had over 200 in her house). The rest we put up on her entertainment center, in front of a picture of Jesus among the nephites that we gave her, and covered them with a goal paper that she wrote that says ´´Por Diosito, por Jesucristo, por Fernanda, y por mi bautismo.´´ We also told her that we wanted to fast with her to start off the goal. However, fasting means no smoking, so we knew it was going to be very difficult. Elder Salas and I shared some of our favorite scriptures with her. I shared Matthew 26:41 and explained how in this special moment, when Jesus took all of the infermities and sins of all of us upon him, he told his disciples to pray in order to avoid temptation. Elder Salas shared 1 Corinthians 10:13. After an incredibly spiritual lesson, we finished with a pray that I offered. I've never felt the Spirit work through me so much in Spanish, and I don't know where the words came from, but it just flowed. I prayed with all my heart that Andrea would have the strength to accomplish this challenge. After the prayer, the Spirit was super strong, and I think I saw Andrea discreetly wipe a tear. It was an amazing experience. And even more amazing is that she did it. She went the entire 24 fast without smoking once. I have no doubt in my mind that she's going to conquer this, and we're going to have a beautiful baptism with her and her daughter. I have to go now, I wish I could write more. But God answers prayers! He strengthens us in times of need, if we confide in Him. I love you all! Have a wonderful week! Chao!