Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Another Tough Week

Dearest family and friends,

So this week has been a little rough. Nothing in particular has happened, only that we didn't have a lot of time to work due to various things that came up throughout the week, and we finished off the week with a feeling that we had definitely not taken good care of our sector, and our numbers reflected the same, which led to a concerned, yet humbling discussion with our zone leaders. It's definitely time to step up to the plate. I've got two weeks left in Carahue (perhaps), and I want to leave on a high note, knowing that I did my absolute best. The good news is that we are thoroughly pumped for this week and yesterday we started off on a really good foot, so now it's keeping that momentum going all week.

Marco is doing well. Of course, he still needs a lot of support in this journey, but we keep working with him.

Karol is not doing so well. Yesterday she miraculously showed up to church after saying that she wasn't going to be able to make it, so we were super excited. But then we had a lesson in the evening and she's basically given up hope, lost faith, and said she doesn't want to continue anymore. This is about the third time now that she has about given up. But every time she (without us doing anything) starts again. So hopefully that will be the case. But whatever happens, I am positive that we planted the seed and did everything that was within our power to help her. So one day, whether it's us or other missionaries, she will accept the gospel and enter into the fold. The Lord knows his sheep. I've heard stories of people that met with missionaries for years and years and finally got baptised. Sometimes it just takes more time. It's sad, but we are very grateful for being a part of her journey and having had some many incredible lessons with her. We're going to keep stopping by for her sister and mom, so we'll see what happens.

I apologize that I don't have much to share this week. And I apologize for often not saying much in regards to your lives and the things that are going on over there. Please know that I read every word and I love love love your letters.

Mom - I can't tell you how excited I am for you and that your going to publish the *dang* book. Thank you also for the wonderful lesson from 1 Nephi. I had never payed attention to those details before. Your words are always an inspiration to me. I love you, Mom
Dad - I am so so proud of you for your new calling. I know that if you put your trust in God and work your hardest, that he'll take care of the rest, so don't worry. I hope that through this calling you will be able to bless the lives of many people who need your service and your abilities, and that it will bless your life as well as you gain experience from your successes and perhaps at times failures. You are a great example to me Dad, and I know you'll do just fine. I have a testimony that callings are given by inspiration through our leaders and are the will of the Lord. He qualifies who he calls, not the other way around. I love you
Sisters - Thank you for the pictures! Your children are fantastic and make me smile so much. I love families. I know your lives are extremely busy, so thank you for taking time to write me. Your letters mean a lot. Ashely! You done learned Italian yet?

chilling in a parking garage after a feast of pizza hut with the zone today.

We organized a football game against Nueva Imperial saturday to support the young men. this was team Carahue. hopefully in the future we can do it again and get more participation.
Whipping up some french fries in the house. Really i don't understand why I've gained weight when I eat so so healthily.
Freezing during personal study in the morning.
A cool pic from the street that leads to our apartment
At the church for cleaning with Fernanda (and others)
A beautiful vista looking towards the Río Quillem on the south side of Carahue
Marco gets baptised!
 At the bowling alley with the zone.
 We had to do it.
 Part of the absolutely gorgeous scenery heading towards Puerto Saavedra
 In Pto. looking over the ocean.
 Sunrise over Ville Entre Lomas in Carahue.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Tough Week

Hello, One. Hello, All. The rest of you, please don't read. Hehe.

Well, I am happy to announce that Marco Segundo Barría Amolef was baptised and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints yesterday the 15th of April 2012. Doesn't mean the journey's over. In fact, it has only just begun, and Marco is still going to need a lot of help from now on if he's going to have success, but we are confident that if he has that support, he will succeed. The trick now is finding the support and making sure it stays! Aka, working a lot with the branch. The good news is now that Marco has received the gift of the Holy Ghost, he will have that constant companion with him to tell him, "do this. Don't do that," and lead him in the right direction, should he choose to be worthy of and follow that council.
Working with Marco is kind of a roller coaster, and up to this point in my mission, he has been the most challenging and emotionally and pyschologically draining convert, or perhaps the only one. But it has definitely made me realize that everyone is at a different point in the eternal progression. Some have a longer way to go than others by the time they join the church, but it does not mean that God says "no thanks. Join my kingdom when you're more perfect." He doesn't make exceptions of any one of His children. If the desire is there, and they are worthy, they are welcomed into the fold.

Elder Ramirez took all the photos and I don't have his camera right now, so I'll have to send you the pics next week :( Also, sorry for writing so late today. We got back from a zone activity in Temuco entirely too late, and so we're racing to do internet right now so we can get to work!

Apart from the baptism of Marco, I would say the three biggest events of the week were the following:

One. We have a new investigator named Ana (like you Anna, but not!) who is incredibly prepared, or rather, a little bit farther along in her eternal progression. She is the younger sister of a young mother less active member of the church that we had visited a few times, and has since been attending again. She used to be Catholic, and belonged to a youth group and lots of stuff, but she told us that she found out through her own studies that the Catholic church isn't true and doesn't think her baptism means much. She also left behind a group of students which with she would have had a lot of worldly opportunities, but they were a bad influence, and she said that money is not the most important thing. She has met with various religious groups in search of the true church, and now she's meeting with us! She has a lot of questions (which we love), just like Andrea used to, but she already has a baptismal goal and we feel really confident about her. I'll keep you all updated!

Two. We had a family home evening with a certain family in the branch who is the most active but at times the most problematic. Usually when members of the church have issues, it is because they don't fully comprehend or appreciate the restoration of the Church. So we decided to base the lesson on that. We watched the movie The Restoration which was great and afterward had a little mini testimony meeting. It was the first time in my mission that I've heard the mother of the family admit (quite humbly, as well) that she has things she needs to work on and is not perfect, which was a breakthrough for us. Her son, who has his own challenges as well was in tears well before the movie was over, and had his head down wiping his eyes the entire time after it. I'm not exactly sure what touched his heart, but I'm glad it did, and I hope it continues to strengthen him as he takes on his new calling as Elders Quorum President.

Third. We meeted with Karol and Alicia yesterday and had a breakthrough with Alicia. Her project lately has been to pray more and with more sincerity. So she shared with us that this past week for her has been extremely difficult, with tons of reasons to be upset and unappreciative. But she said that for some reason, even with all the issues, she felt such a sense of peace and calm throughout the week. She even had the sudden urge to quit smoking, and since then has not smoked. She says it's strange, but wonderful, and She directly attributes it to prayer. We were able to help her see that that experience is an answer to her prayers, and a testimony that these things are true. A great lesson, and we're looking forward to more progress in the near future! We've learned that what Karol and Alicia need more than anything is time. But little by little, they're coming along.

Well, that's it for this week. I love you all very dearly and think and pray about you always. May God bless your lives, and may you all send me more pictures! (Thank you Heather. You're little lady is adorable :) As always, I leave you with my testimony that Christ lives. He loves us. And he always answers our prayers, in His way, and in His time. But He generally does it so that we learn a certain lesson. I know this church is true. I am every day grateful to be a latter-day saint, and I hope that all those who are not begin to find out why I and so many others think it's so great. Till next week!

Much love,
Elder Ross Carlos Wilcox

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Power of the Atonement

Hello family, friends, loved ones, strangers, etc.

Well I never cease to be amazed by how well Jennifer understands exactly what my mission life is like. Perhaps because she served a mission... But like you mentioned, Jenn, I'm not sure if I had a "good week" as there's really no such thing as a week that goes just as planned in the mission world. But I did have a few experiences that I will share that edified me and helped me grow. They all have to do with faith and/or the Atonement/Grace.

Friday was a very interesting day. I was on an intercambio with my District Leader, and in the bus on the way to Carahue with him in the morning, I received a phone call from the Asistants. They informed me that they had been talking with each other and praying and that they had received the impression that there was someone in Carahue who is prepared to be baptized this month. They said they didn't know if it would be someone we already knew, or someone that we would cross paths with, but to be on the lookout. So with that bit of information, Elder Sigaran and I were very much alert the whole day, to the point that it almost seemed like we had to follow clues. One of our investigators called us but I missed the call. So we went immediately to her house. She was busy and it turned out that the call was accidental, so we thought maybe it was only to draw us to that neighborhood, so we began to contact references there. Long story short, we approached the end of the day, and I have to admit that I was getting a little hopeless that we would find "the one." I doubted whether the asistants had actually received revelation or if they just wanted us to work harder. We closed the day, and we didn't set a single baptismal date. I was disapointed. However, as I have often learned and often forgotten, the Lord works in HIS way. Our thoughts are not his, nor our ways his ways. That day, in the morning, waiting for the bus to Pto. Saavedra, we began to chat with a girl of about 23ish years. We talked a long time waiting for the bus, about a lot of stuff, and obviously about the Church. She surprised us with the question, "so what do I have to do to join your Church?" We tried to hide our enthusiasm and said that she just needed to meet with the missionaries and learn. We finally got on a bus to Puerto, and Elder Sigaran talked to her the whole time. Upon arriving, she got off, and I woke up, realizing that her stop was our stop as well. So we got off the bus a little bit after her, and watched her begin to walk in the same direction that we needed to go. We were amazed at every street corner as she turned every time towards the house where we were going to have lunch. She finally arrived about three houses down from where we were going and when she saw us approach, we explained what had happened and had a good laugh at the coincidence. I realize now that it was more than coincidence. She is incredibly prepared to receive the Gospel. Unfortunately (for us), she lives in Temuco, but we have already contacted the missionaries there so that they go visit her, and I have full confidence that they will be able to set a baptismal date with her in the first visit. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and I admit I doubted that day. Maybe if I hadn't, we would have been able to set a date, or maybe she was "the one." Either way, I learned a lesson in faith.

I don't have time for second. But I will recommend that everyone read the talk from Elder Bednar in the latests Liahona (or is it Ensign in english? I don't remember). It has to do with the Atonement and how grace is the power to make bad men good and good men better. Like it says in Mosiah 5, "put off the natural man and become a saint." It's a wonderful article and I've been reflecting on it and sharing it with people continuously throughout the week

I don't believe I've ever mentioned Marco. He's 15 years old and from Osorno. He moved to Carahue to live with his mom and other family because he was seriously involved in drugs, theft, and other foolishness down south. I believe he is also a pathological liar. And I also believe he has a sincere desire to change. We have been working with him for the past few months now, and I admit he has become more than "an investigator" to me now. At first, he was an investigator. Then he was a project. Yesterday, he become a friend.
Although Marco seriously wants to be baptized, and in his heart of hearts he wants to be a good boy, teaching and helping him has been a serious challenge. His Mother is a member of the church that has been less active ever since she married another emotionally abusive man who loves his cigarettes more than his family, and largely due to her difficult circumstances in life has up until recently been almost zero support to her son in his journey towards Christ. It's a complicated situation. Cristina (Marco's mom) loves Marco, but she is also tortured by him. I won't mention all of the things that Marco has done to his family or to his mom, but it is to the point that yesterday she expressed openly in front of Marco and all of us that she doesn't deserve a son like him and that she often wonders if she has a devil in the house. We listened with pained ears yesterday as she bawled and listed all of her mixed feelings towards her struggling son. We felt sorry for her. We also felt sorry for the young Marco, who with tears in his eyes, listening to his own mother give up on him, tried to hand us back a pamphlet we had given him, telling us he no longer wished to be baptised because he would never change. In that difficult moment, we could have tried to talk about behavior patterns and the spicific issues in their family, but as Marco looked at us we knew there was literally nothing that could help him beside Christ. So we began to testify. We talked about the power of the Atonement. We talked about the conversion of Alma, one of the vilest of sinners. About the pain that his parents must have felt as they watched their son murder and try to destroy the church. And especially about the joy beyond description that he experienced upon accepting the Savior in his life. We promised Cristina that Jesus is Marco's only hope. That he needs baptism, the remission of his sins, and the opporunity to start again. That he needs the Holy Ghost, who will help him make good decisions from her on out. We promised her that Marco would not be the boy of her dreams in a week, not in a month, maybe not in year. But that little by little, with God in his life, he WILL learn to change, because God does NOT make garbage, and the Atonement of the Savior applies to EVERYONE. We pleaded for her help, that she would not lose faith in her son, because God definitely hasn't. We also pleaded with Marco to not lose faith in himself, even if everyone else in the world, including his own mother does. We promised we and God would never give up on him, and that if he wants to, he WILL change.
Even now as I write, my eyes water because of the love that I have developed for this troubled boy. I don't know that I've ever cared so much about the future of someone. Marco has a lot of problems, but he wants to change. He has even said that he wants to serve a mission. I dream of the day that he dedicates his time trying to help others be better, as we are now trying to do. I know that Christ is our savior. I know without a doubt that he died so that we might live. His love is the power to change. And he does not make exceptions. I will keep you all updated on the progress of Marco. Please keep him in your prayers. He needs them.

Thank you all for your love and support always. Your letters are always a strength to me. Be good!

Elder Wilcox

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I Had Such a Great Title for This Email in My Head Yesterday

...but now I can't remember. Oh well...

Well, it's been another week of miracles here in Carahue. I am truly astonished. But first, a bit of fun news! So, as you all know, I'm sure, David Archuleta will be serving a mission. You are correct, Dad. He will be serving in South America. But I hear from very good sources (by that I mean David Archuleta told his family who supposedly told a reporter, who told the news station, who broadcasted to the Great Salt Lake area in the evening news) that he will be serving somewhere in Chile! Yep, that's right, I'm going to be training Elder Archuleta. Well, we'll see, but it would be pretty wild if he ended up here in Concepción Sur. I'm not sure how close you were all paying attention when the MTC choir sang in Conference, but several times David's face showed up in the camera. I believe he was on the first row of the choir, not surprisingly. Let's keep our fingers crossed for Concepción Sur!

So the miracle. Remember Karol from last week? The girl who decided she wanted to "try again." Well, all of last week we had been prepping her and her sister for General Conference. We promised them that if they came to conference with a question in their heart, that that question would be answered. To the thrill and delight of Elder Ramirez and I, sure enough, they showed up to the first Sunday session yesterday (which, for me, was one of the most powerful sessions of conference I have ever attended, perhaps because I spent the entire session praying that the words of the leaders of the church would reach their hearts and answer their doubts). During the conference I sat behind them, and I noticed them nod their heads several times in agreement with the words that were being spoken. Even more remarkable, President Monson quoted Wordsworth, a poet about whom I had just been discussing with Karol only a few days before. And to top it all off, the session finished with my favorite arrangement of Come Thou Fount, the which left everyone in the Chapel astonished.

After the session, Karol and her sister Alicia left immediately after shaking our hands goodbye. At that point Elder Ramirez and I were very nervous as to what would be their response, and their faces displayed either pure astonishment, or distaste. It was difficult to say. So, we stopped by in the evening after the second conference to talk about what they thought, felt, heard, experienced and everything. Turns out, they both in fact did have a specific question in their minds when they went, and it turns out that that question was in fact answered almost immediately upon entering the Chapel. They had been reflecting on an unfavorable rumor about the missionaries that they had heard a few days ago (opposition in all things), and they were having a heard time not judging. But they said that President Uchtdorf's talk penetrated their hearts and made them reflect deeply on their situation. In addition to not judging others, the message of not judging yourself struck Alicia powerfully. She told us in her lesson last night that she had done something in her past life, for which up until now she has never been able to forgive herself. I was prompted to share a few verses from the book of Enos with her, and before I could finish verse 4, Alicia was in tears. I began to testify to her of the necessity of forgiving oneself as part of repentance, and it came to my mind the experience I had had in the MTC that honestly I had never thought about since it happened (see email week 5ish), and I felt prompted as well to share it. I couldn't hold back the tears. I felt the Spirit working through me, and I knew that my words were exactly what Alicia needed to hear. Once again, it was one of the most powerful lessons I have had in my mission. We invited them to pray mightily and plead forgiveness from God and from themselves, so that whatever barrier that might be stopping them from receiving a testimony of this gospel be removed and replaced with faith.

I am astonished. It is amazing that these two incredible people, whom we were so close to losing, are now progressing again and have gained a stronger testimony of modern day revelation as well as the power of Christ's Atonement. It is thanks to our hard work, but even more thanks to the miracles of our Father in Heaven who loves His children and wants them to be happy. Perhaps I don't understand exactly what it is that drives me to be a missionary and share this Gospel with everyone. Perhaps I don't know why or how I feel so happy when I live it in my own life. And perhaps, reflecting on the redemption of my own soul, I ask, like Enos, "Lord, how is it done?" I don't think I'll ever be able to explain sufficiently what the Gospel and this Church mean to me, but I know how I feel. And I have seen how it has made others feel. I love the Lord. I'm so grateful for the miracle of forgiveness and the power of purity.

Thank you all for you love and support, and especially for your prayers on my behalf and on behalf of all of our investigators. I love you all, and may we all put into practice what we have learned from General Conference. Sorry I didn't share many thoughts from the talks. Perhaps it will have to wait a month or so until Mothers Day!

Much love,
Elder Wilcox

 In the  house of Aracely with Leo and Angel
 Angel found my water bottle...
 Pretty small turnout for the second Sunday session, but the first session was pretty packed! I was pleased.
 With the branch president, trying to look tall.