Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Blessed and Happy State of Those Who Keep the Commandments of God

(Mosíah 2, last verse)

WOW! I received a ton of emails this week, for which I am very grateful, but at the same time quite distressed because I know there are many topics that I would cover if I could but can't so I won't. I feel like a broken record, but time is again short this week, as always. Especially this week since my computer decided to turn itself off and make me select all of my pictures again from scratch. However, I hope you enjoy the many pictures! Since last week there were very few.

Well, first of all, you're probably wondering if I'm alive, and if you've already lost all hope and assumed me dead, you're wondering who's writing this letter. I am thrilled to state that it's me, Elder Wilcox, and that I am quite alive. Jennifer, you hit the nail right on the head (at least part of your torn self did), just as you did when the news struck of the fires in Araucanía: Yesterday's temblor, I didn't feel a thing. Very few did really, although many told us it had happened. This marks about 5 temblores now in Carahue that I haven't felt, this one being the biggest. All is well here in the south, although the news tells me that there were about 14 injured and 24 thousand evacuated between Valparaíso and the Bío Bío region.

I really really wish I could respond personally to all of you right now, but there's just no time :( Although I will through a shout out to:
Chelsea Barker - for writing me for the first time. It was great to hear from you!
Austin Chardac - for making me laugh my head off with your wonderfully told drama of the week. In response to your dilema, I say go for it! if you feel it's the right thing to do. And don't forget the advice in James 1:5 and where the best council comes from
All the Wilcox girls for writing me and sending pictures and being awesome!
Dad for staying astonished and
Mom for the advice on how to be the only other parent my companion has ever had

Well, not much time. I just want to sum up a few things that happened this week and share a miracle that happened yesterday.  So, last week I believe I mentioned that our investigators were progressing very well. Well, now about four of them have stopped. I don't remember if I ever mentioned Carol, Alicia, or Marisol (two daughters and their mom), but they have always been amazing, and we always had faith that they would receive the gospel and be baptized. Well they finally all went to Church like I said last week, but when we had a lesson with them to see how it went, they mentioned various things the didn't like and expressed their feelings that they didn't think they would be attending again in the future. We were mortified. Carol even asked us "so if we decide to not continue with all of this, you're still going to stop by every now and then right?" Basically, they said goodbye. We shared a few thoughts and scriptures with them and expressed the importance of this message in their lives, but left their house very discouraged and frankly scared. After almost 3 months of effort and some beautiful experiences with them, they were closing the door.

We really didn't know what to do, so we started to think. My every thought for the next three days was in them. I have never in my 6 months in the mission put so much effort into finding answers to the questions of my investigators. I dug through the scriptures, prayed deeply for guidance, and thought constantly in what we could possibly share with them that would help them progress. Well, we finally passed by about three days later, Wednesday, and had one of the most powerful lessons I have ever had in my mission, that brought Elder Ramirez and I and Alicia to tears. We thought, hoped, prayed, that that would be the turning point, and although it ended better than the previous lessons, still something wasn't clickinng. They still had doubts and once again we left discouraged.

Long story short, we started to pray some more. And we fasted. We were and are willing to do anything within our power to help these daughters of God accept the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, they didn't come to church this Sunday, and missed two awesome talks given by me and Elder Ramirez, but late in the evening last night, heading towards one last appointment, we just happened to cross Carol on her bicycle heading for her house. We talked for a little bit, and she said to us "Hey, so you know what. I almost went to Church today. I've been thinking a lot about what you said the other day, and this morning I had a strong desire to go to church. And by the way, I'm thinking about giving up smoking and coffee." We were stunned and had no idea what to say, so we just listened. She continued to share with us a text message on her phone that she almost sent to us in the morning. It read something like "brother Ramirez and brother wilcox. Today I'm going to church. I've been thinking a lot and even if I don't join with your religion, I want to try one more time." We congratulated her for her decision to try again chatted a little bit, and walked away speechless, filled with a joy and hope that I can't describe.

Moral of the story, what happened with Carol, we didn't do that! God did that. Why did he do it? Because we worked. Because we applied the advice of Elder Wirthlin to put our trust in God, do everything we could, and leave the rest to him. And God provided. He sent the Spirit to move in her heart in a way that we simply cannot do. This week, my great lesson that I have learned is diligence and obedience. God gave us our agency, and he expects us to act. And when we give our all, and it's just not good enough (and it never will be) He knows we care, and He does what we can't. I have a testimony of the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God, and the miracles our Heavenly Father works in the lives of those that act, with an eye single to His glory. It is not enough to want. It is not enough to praise God with our lips.

21 ¶Not every one that asaith unto me, bLord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that cdoeth the dwill of my Father which is in heaven.e

 12 Let no man adespise thy youth; but be thou an bexample of the believers, in word, in cconversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, indpurity.

I know that God worked a miracle yesterday. That He opened up a door that was about to close. May we all be obedient. May we all work hard, and honor the will of our Father in Heaven, that he may bless us with things we need that we can't do ourselves.

I wish I had more time to share my thoughts on this subject as well as similar points from my talk that I shared yesterday, but I leave you all with my testimony that Christ lives. That God is our greatest help, but He will rarely do for us what we can do for ourselves. Otherwise, we would not learn. And when our best just isn't good enough, He lifts us up, comforts us, and does the rest. I love my Savior, I love this Gospel, I love the beautiful experiences that I have been blessed with on my mission so far. May we all be a light not just of the world, but to the world, and glorify God in our thoughts, words, and actions. Thank you all for writing me. I love you dearly. Till next week!

- Elder Wilcox
My district right now, which consists of Carahue and Nueva Imeperial
My apartment! Finally! Sorry it took so long, Dad.
 A beautiful field in Carahue, between the neighborhoods of Entre Ríos and Los Pensamientos
A nice letter that Fernanda (daughter of Andrea Palma) and Fransisca (other girl in the primary) made for us this Sunday in Church.
 More food! gifted to us by the sweetest Hermana Norma Paredes
Sporting the cool weather coats.
From awhile ago, I don't remember.
Waiting for the bus to Temuco the night before the conference in Los Angeles
Zona Temuco Cautín!
The glorious piano of the Carahue branch.
Rehearsing the small primary choir for the activity we had on friday. it was actually quite lovely.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Un cambio más muerde el polvo

Buenas tardes, mi querida familia, amigos, y desconocidos!

Well, as always, there is very little to say and too much time...Strike that, reverse it. I have to admit, I was foolish and spent some precious moments translating Lord Make Us a Holy People into Spanish. There are a few frases that don't work too well, but over all it came out beautifully! Thank you, VelDean for extending that chain of revelation towards me, because your experiences and the words of that hymn touched my heart.

Mother dearest, mother mine, heck yeah I would LOVE to write a book with a famous author! And I really appreciate the challange too, because lately I have been failing a little bit in keeping up with my journal, something I will regret in the future, so this will be good motivation to my writing more of a priority. By the way, reading your contract made my tear up a little, which may be the first and the last time in my life that legal papers will have that effect on me. I really am so so so happy for you, and so excited, even astonished at what's happening and what's going to happen. Too much to take in really. And I'm glad that I'll be in the states at least for the release of the second book!

Dad, indeed we are entering fall here, it's starting to get a little colder, and the rain is becoming more frequent... I like the cold, but the rain I'm not too excited for. Things are good for the most part with my companion. I admit, my patience is being tried every day in one way or another, and it's starting to become more aparent that he indeed has only 18 years. But it's a learning experience, and I'm trying to learn, little by little. I'm certainly not the perfect companion/trainer/misionary, but hopefully by the end of our time I'll have become a better one.

I'm glad my letter last week was enjoyed by so many. I had a good time writing it, and a good time reading it at times throughout the week to remind me to remind myself to be astonished. There really are so many blessings to be enjoyed in this world en every moment.

Our investigators are progressing very very well. We had 7 people in the church yesterday, a new record for me! So we really super thrilled about that. It looks like this month we might have two more baptisms as well, if everything goes alright.

Well, I have to go. Sorry this letter wasn't as cool as the last one. Oposition in all things! Without lame letters, nobody would appreciate the good ones!

I will leave sharing my testimony again with you all that I know that Christ lives. He loves us more than we can imagine. He is kind, He is gentle, He is perfect, and He is our friend. We can always confide in Him, for as Moroni said, he is the author and finisher of our faith. I know this is His Church, and the only one that provides the door by which we may enter into the strait and narrow path. May God make us all a holy people, a covenant people, and may we all one day return to live again in His presence.

I love you all, familia and friends. You are a light in my world.

Until next week,
Elder Wilcox

three generations of Carahuinos
Enjoying the Irish Fiesta ¡Arrrrrriba!
I ate them all that night. The next morning, felt fantastic.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Asombro me da

"Wonder it gives me," or "It astounds me" is the title in Spanish of one of my favorite hymns, "I Stand All Amazed."

This week, I've thought frequently about the curse of complacency. What is it in human nature that makes us so easy to forget the blessings and wonder we experience from day to day? Why, when we eat a lot of ice cream, do we not taste it anymore? Or when we listen to a song we love too many times, does it sound like every other? When our Lord and Redeemer took upon him the sins of the world that fatefull night in the Garden of Gethsemany, Christ's closest friends slept. Why are our senses so quickly muted by apathy and familiarity? In these moments we generally forget what it was in some thing that amazed us in the first place, and we set it aside, searching for something new and exciting or perhaps quiting the search all together. Sometimes we just go to sleep.
I've thought a lot about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I've thought a lot about the love of our Savior and the fruit that is delicious beyond all others that Lehi saw in his dream. And while I realize that the everlasting doctrine of Christ is neither ice cream nor a catchy song, the principle is the same. After tasting of that fruit in Lehi's dream, many people let go of the iron rod and were led away into dark paths. After being baptized and confirmed, many members of the church fall away. It is both surprising and sad that from the one source of joy that never ends, the very well of living water, people choose to withdraw. It is a problem as much here in Chile as in all parts of the world that causes those who continue to drink from that well to remorse over their brethren who have wandered.
I've thought a lot about my own mission, and my own life. And although I don't see myself wandering from the Lord any time soon, I do find myself often guilty of the same attitude that plagues so many of God's beloved children - the attitude of apathy. That's not to say that I'm struggling with apathy right now, or that I'm sad, depressed, or anything similar. Not at all. But I have been thinking about el asombro que me da la vida, y el mismo asombro que no veo. How many blessings, even miracles, has my Father in Heaven poured out upon me that I have taken casually, without the astonishment that his daily acts deserve.
Today I spent some time reading through some old letters, cards, and dearelder's that I've received throughout my mission, especially some from the MTC. It was such a blessing to be able to look back and relive a little bit of the excitement that I and all of you experienced when I first set out on this journey, and to receive yet another small reminder of the whole reason that I am here, away from all of you who give me so much joy - to experience a joy even greater, and to help others do the same. Family and friends, those who read my letters, I have tasted joy beyond description. I have drank from the living waters. I know my Savior Jesus Christ, and I am honored and privileged to be sharing his Restored Gospel with the people of Chile. There is no greater work than this. And there is nothing better we can do than let God into our lives, so that we might see the riches He has surrounded us with. If any of you are feeling bored, lost, unastonished, or tired, look around you at all you have. Say a silent prayer. Count your blessings. This life, this Gospel is ice cream that doesn't get old. It's a song that's always exciting, but we have to do our part.

"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and ahappy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are bblessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out cfaithful to the end they are received into dheaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."
- Mosiah 2:41

I want to share my testimony with all of you that I know Christ is our Savior. I know that this is His church. I know we are in this life to be tried, but we're also here to be happy. Sure, at times I get bored, at times I forget, and I have wandered, but I know without a doubt that this Gospel, this message and this Church that I will represent for the next year and a half of my life bring greater joy and greater blessings than anything else on this Earth.
Thank you all for writing me. Thank you for your love and words of encouragement. Thank you Austin, especially, for writing. It was so so good to hear from you. Please know that you are always welcome in my house whenever you want. Get some singers together. I know my parents would love to have the MOM's over any time!
Well, gotta go. I admit I spent a good bit of time trying to perfectly word this letter instead of my usually chaotic thought-slop, but it feels good to have written something literarily admirable once again. May God bless each and every one of you. You are all my light.

Much love,
Elder Ross Wilcox

 a lovely bright moon over two neighborhoods in Carahue. Taken from the landing outside our apartment
another one of the many fires that continue to burn around the Araucanía region. This was taken from our kitchen window
 a note we left at the door of Aracely y Leo, along with a little chocolate, for not stopping by in a few days

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"I'll see you in white..."

...when the occasion is a baptism with your new spouse!

Yes, I am pleased, thrilled, overjoyed to announce that on Tuesday, February 28, Leonardo Gabriel Peña Bejar and Aracely Denis Palma Salas were married at the Civil Registry in Carahue and this past Saturday and Sunday were baptized and confirmed members de la Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días. I've already sent a bunch of pictures that do a lot of the explaining.

After the wedding on Tuesday, we all (Elder Ramirez and I and almost all of Aracely's family plus Leo and his parents) headed to the house of the mom of Aracely for a nice wedding feast, which was delicious. We continued to pass by throughout the week to offer more support to them and help them prepare for Saturday. Not that they needed much help, they were already so prepared. Elder Ramirez and I spent basically the whole day in the church on Saturday preparing the church for the Baptism as well as the party that followed. That day, as a branch we were going to have a party with sopaipillas and Mate (a special herbal tea that they drink here in Chile), but upon hearing the news, President Budaleo decided to turn it into a wedding bash for the happy new bride and groom. We had a fairly decent turn out from the branch, both at the baptism and activity, but with the help of a family in the branch that did almost all of the food plus the help of the same lady from the Stake that did the decorations for the Christmas program, everything was gorgeous. It did not look like the same chapel. Man, I wish I could write more in detail, but to be brief, it was a gorgeous baptism, and the same happiness and joy that I have described previously was felt in no less intensity. We're so happy for Aracely and Leo and we're going to do everything we can to help support them and make sure the stay active and one day make it to the temple to become an eternal family.

As always, I'm short on time, as I still have to write to the President and send photos of the baptism to the mission, but I wanted to share one special experience from the week with you all. The other day, while contacting in the streets, we were blessed to find a delightful couple named Sisto and Monica who seemed very interested in hearing what we had to say and said we could stop by another day. We did so, and upon entering the house, the whole family gathered together, and we realized very early on that the family is something very important to all of them. In that occasion, we were joined by Monica and Sisto, the parents, Ricardo their son, and Elma their daughter with her own son Benjamin. As we started to talk about the Resoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Spirit was felt very strongly in the room, and as we arrived at the First Vision of Joseph Smith, something touched their hearts and even brought Elma to tears. Just after this crucial moment in the lesson, with emotions already high, who should come to the door but Sisto Jr., the family's oldest son who had been serving in the military down south and who had not been seen by his family for more than 15 days. As he greeted and hugged his family, we silently observed and waited as they all bustled about a bit. Finally, after all settling in the seats again, there was a slight pause and moment of silence, after which Sisto, the father, burst out into tears. Trying his best to control his emotions and his words, he weeped of pride for his son and gratitude to us for having blessed their home and family with our message. Just at this moment, as we were about to testify of the eternal nature of families, there came another knock on the door, the which Elma answered. After a long moment waiting for her to return from conversing at the door, it was revealed that Elma, who had been out of work for some time had just then, in that moment, been offered a new job. Elder Ramirez and I were of course astounded, and moved by the powerful spirit that attended their home that day. To close the lesson, Elder Ramirez and I sang Families can be together forever, after which we all kneeled and said a prayer, offered by Elma. It was for sure one of the most powerful lessons I've ever had so far, and there is no doubt of the miracles that took place in that home that day. We're going to keep passing by obviously, because we feel that this family is chosen to receive the Gospel.

Well, I need to go. Sorry for not writing more. I know Christ lives, and He is our Savior. This is His true church. There is no doubt in my heart. Once again, I invite and encourage all who read this letter to learn more of the message of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, and if you are not familiar with the Church, meet with the missionaries. Being a part of this work, I can tell you with all the assurity that I have that this message changes lives, that it is true. I love you all. Thank you for all of your letters. 'Till next week!

-Elder Wilcox

P.S. Yes, there is another mission below this one. The Chile Osorno mission which extends all the way to the bottom of South America. Also, that building is indeed the Temuco Cautín Stake Center. Also, Mom, that response letter from Knox Robinson made my eyes water with happiness.
P.P.S. I have not received the Valentines box yet but I think I will tomorrow, as I have received word that there is a box from you somewhere in transit in the mission.
P.P.P.S Anna, this week I've been thinking a little bit about all the guys from our ward that left on missions, like Jonny, Marshal, Brennan, Michael, etc. Have you heard anything from any of them, like on facebook or something? I would love to know how they're all doing, especially Brennan, Spencer, Mark, and Jake (Roomiez 4 life) Thanks!
P.P.P.P.S. So, I'm really stupid and for some reason it didn't occur to me that I can easily go to my favorite sheet music site and print from any ciber here. So I thank you Jenn a million times over for the work you have put in to getting that music to me! But don't worry about anything more than you've already sent. I apologize for making you work to do it..hah. Love you!

A few pics from Temuco in the center

A few from the wedding feast we had after the wedding on Tuesday
A bunch of photos from the baptism on saturday followed by the wedding party slash branch activity afterwards
A view of the neighborhood Vista Hermosa and the fields behind it as seen from Los Pensamientos