Monday, March 25, 2013

And I Am Astonished

Wow. It's been a wonderful week. And add on to it all the news from the home front. A lot has happened here and there and I don't know where to begin.

But I'll start in Los Angeles and also bid it a sweet fairwell. It's been a good five and a half months here. I can't believe it went by that fast. Easily the fastest four transfers of my mission, which leaves me hesitant to start my last four, since it will probably fly by even faster. However, I will be spending them in familiar territory, as I have been assigned to the zone of San Pedro, about twenty minutes from Coronel (where I was 6 months) towards Concepción. I passed through San Pedro all the time, have stayed in the house there, know several members from the ward and know the chapel. It's going to be very very strange for me being back so close to where it seems like I just was, but I'm very excited for yet another adventure (not to mention all the sea food, ocean vistas, fleas, and heavy rain).

My companion will be Elder Torres, from Santiago, Chile. He was one of the district leaders here in LA south a few transfers ago and I love the guy. We got along super well and he's a fantastic missionary, so I'm excited to be with him.

I'm shipping out tomorrow in the morning, so I'll let you all know how the first week went next monday.

Other things:

1) Mom, thank you for letting me know about the school options. Still have not received the package, but when I get to Concepción tomorrow, I'm going to try and stop by the mission office and see if it's there. Thank you for understanding my desire to extend the mission. I asked president about it today in my letter, so I hope it all works out. And I would like to start school again as soon as posible upon returning, but if it's not possible, I would be happy to work on "Staying Astonished," although Mom I would not get too excited since I haven't really been as 100 percent in writing down astonishing things as I could be. I'll try to be more diligent in these last months, but please understand that writing a book isn't one of the things exactly on my radar at this moment. Missionary work is demanding!

2) Holy cow Greg you're engaged!!! That's fantastic! I'm so happy for you buddy! Seriously when I read that / saw the pictures I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout for joy but I'm in a library so it was really hard to restrain myself. That's great that you and Katie have had such a great relationship. I'm happy for you both and wish you the best. And when I get back, Greg, I must see you as soon as possible. It's been way too long since we've talked, but honestly I think about you all the time. I can't help but think about how you and I used to get together in my house years ago to listen to the missionaries, and how I'm one of those now. I think a lot about it actually, and it gives me a great sense of appreciation. As missionaries, we're always looking for people in every moment to teach this wonderful gospel that bring so much happiness and peace to people's lives. And to know that my friend Greg was one of those people who this message affected in at least some small way gives me great joy. I hope that when I get back, we'll be able to catch up a lot and also talk about what I've been teaching people for the last year and a half of my life. Love you buddy and see you soon.

3) Austin!!! Thanks for writing me man! It's great to hear from you. Glad to know everything's going well with the comedy business. We've got a lot to catch up on. I appologize too for not writing much either. I'll write you more next week, and see you soon! Love you buddy.

4)There were way too many amazing experiences this week to share in one day, but here's one that stands out, very briefly. Maite is a friend of a very strong member of the ward. They study the same career and often do projects together. We had a lesson with Maite in her friend Debora's house last monday. Maite is a wonderful person, and truly prepared to receive the Gospel. She's been catholic her whole life, but told us she's always felt that there's just something that's lacking but didn't know what. She hasn't been attending church for the last 6 months and that also makes her feel like she needs to recuperate her relationship with God. We taught her the message of the Restoration of the Gospel, and I know she felt the Holy Ghost testify to her of the truthfulness of it all. As we approached the end of the lesson, we knew it was time to extend the baptismal invitation as we had previously planned, but I admit that in this occasion for moment I felt fear. I thought, she's been catholic her whole life, she probably feels fine with the baptism she's got, or maybe she'll say "you know guys, thanks for the message, but I'm catholic and this just isn't for me." However, we testified of the importance of baptism in the way Jesus was baptised, following his example and extended the invitation. Her response was not what I expected. She said yes without hesitating and let out a large sigh and explained that she felt something like a chill mixed with great peace come over her. She then put her head on Debora's shoulder, who was sitting next to her, and began to cry, explaining that she felt that we were messengers of God sent to her in the precise moment. We testified to her that that was in fact true and promised her that she would be able to prepare herself to make a covenant with her Father in Heaven. We then invited her to prepare herself for baptism on the 20th of april, and, needless to say, she accepted. I am astonished.

5) I always feel like I'm forgetting something, because I often do, but I'll leave you here, as this letter is already quite long, and I'm over time. I love you all and am always grateful for all that you do. I know Christ lives, has established His church on the Earth in these last days, and that his grace is sufficient for us, so that we may be perfect in Him. I am grateful for His gospel, not only because it saves me, but because it changes me too. Austin, Greg, Corey, all my friends and everyone I know: my testimony of these things is my soul's treasure, and I invite you to learn more about it. If I could, I'd be there to tell you myself, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you more about it before. I love you and know that God loves you. Thanks for everything.

With Love,
Elder Wilcox

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mountains to Climb

Great song that the church put out for the youth. Look it up.

Jenn, I know what you mean don't worry. That's great that you've got a renewed sense of missionary work but as a member missionary. I think that's truly the challenge for us all. It's easy to talk about the gospel in church clothes and a name tag on. But it's another to be able to talk about the gospel just as calmly and sincerely as we talk about any other topic. Keep up the good work both of you. Thanks for what you're doing for that awesome branch that I went to once that I would love to visit again someday...especially if they're doing one of those feasts...

Mom: Yeah I think we can get it all in in three days. In car all my sectors are actually fairly close with the exception of Carahue. In a few months I'll try and think of an itinerary for you. But I also wanted to mention something else I've been thinking about. Since I'm not going to be able to get home in time to start school anyway, I'm not terribly excited to just be in the house, so I was thinking about the possibility of extending my mission, if President gives me permision to do it. If so, it would only be by one month, which would put my release date to October 10th. Would that really mess up your plans to come down and pick me up? What are your thoughts? If it's okay with you both, I'd love to do it.

I haven't gotten the package yet, but I'm sure it'll get to me soon. Thanks for sending one!

This week was pretty good. We've been struggling a little bit with investigadores but having success with the less active families. We had three attend church yesterday, and many of them are very nicely re-integrating themselves into the ward, so we're very pleased with that. A highlight of my week was being able to perform the baptism of Camila, a convert from the other ward, Las Americas. I did her baptismal interview and, although I tried to give her some ideas of people from her ward that could do the baptism, she asked me to do it, and I happily accepted. She has a pretty cool story, and has changed a lot over the last few months. The first time I met her, she was kind of a quiet, emo dressed girl that looked like she was not with the best friends. Now, she comes to church and happily participates in all the classes and has a new glow about her. The Gospel changes people!

That's about all I can say today, as we've got to get a report turned in and time is short. I hope you all have a great week! I love you all very much.

Elder Wilcox

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mi Querida Familia

¿Cómo están? Me alegro de escucharles nuevamente.

Thank you for your letters this week. I want you to know that I am always grateful for your heartfelt and encouraging letters every week, despite the fact that in the last few months of my mission, it has been dificult for me to write the kind of long, thougthful letters I was used to writing before. Time seems to be very limited these days, with an increasingly unlimited list of things to do in it. I am grateful for you love and prayers. Thank you for your lives and who you are, and especially how you live the gospel in a world that is far more challenging than the one I am in right now.

Well, like I said last week, Alan was getting baptised, and he did on Saturday, and yesterday he received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Alan is the boyfriend of the stake president's daughter here. His parents are less active members who went when Alan was very young but have since been away from the church for many years, so Alan was never baptized. He started going to church with Camila (his girlfriend) less than two years ago, more than anything just to accompany her. He was not very interested in making changes in his live or really in the gospel in general, but he went. I had tried teaching him a little bit with Elder Badger months ago, and he was doing pretty well and had interest in learning, but we dropped him as he never fulfilled his commitments to read or pray.

Well about two weeks ago, as we were eating lunch with the Stake president's family, Alan and Camila walked in and sat down at the table. After eating, we had some friendly conversation and shared a message with the family about the importance of the Book of Mormon. Alan didn't say much and we didn't focus much on him, but still extended the invitation to seriously read the Book of Mormon and pray to know if it's true, promising him that doing so would lead him to a testimony of the truth. Out of nowhere, Camila's mom began to talk about her conversion to the gospel and how she had been an investigator for more than 6 months before deciding to get baptised. She said she hated how all the missionaries tried to put a date for her baptism, and that her pride did not let her see that she already knew that it was true and the right decision for her. Needless to say that she realized that she had nothing more to wait for and was baptised. Alan remained quiet and had a pensive look on his face, but we ended the lesson and headed out.

Later that same day, about 9 o clock at night as we were heading towards the chapel for PEC, we get a phonecall from Alan who tells us, "I want to receive the discussions for baptism. When can we meet?" We franticly took our agendas out and scheduled an appointment for the next day to meet in the chapel. In that lesson Alan disclosed his desire to be baptised that he had had since the beginning of january but never said anything because of opposition from his parents. He told us he had met with the bishop and that he had given him our number to call.

We invited him to be baptised and he immediately accepted a date for the next week (the 9th). Since then, he has faithfully kept all of his commitments and is reading several chapters of the Book of Mormon daily. His parents even came to his baptism, which was the first time they had stepped inside a church building in many years. They were proud of their son, and came to church yesterday too to see his confirmation and stayed for all the classes. Now we are going to their house tonight to teach the whole family.

Alan will be heading off to Concepción for school this weekend, but he knows several members of the church here that will be there too and they all are going to be going to institute together. I know Alan will be in good hands, and I'm proud of him too for making the right decision.

I know without a doubt that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is real and it changes lives. Men are not static creatures. We all have great potencial, and Christ helps us reach it. We will be in contact with Alan as much as posible and encouraging him to serve a full time mission as well, a possibility that he's not ruling out. It is amazing to think of all the lives that can be blessed because of the decision of one person.

Jesus is the Christ. This is his true church. I love him and am grateful that he loves us enough to endow us with power from on high. Have a great week and thrust in your sickle with all your might.

Much love,
Elder Ross Wilcox

Monday, March 4, 2013

Real Happiness

is not the destination. It is the ride. I know that for a fact now. These last few weeks have been some of the most pleasant of my entire mission, because I gave up worrying. I gave up freaking out when things didn't work out right, or getting disappointed when people or plans let us down. I'm enjoying every moment, even if it means a door slammed in the face, or a lesson that falls, or investigadores that don't progress, I don't care. This life is to be enjoyed, and wouldn't you know it, it's actually pretty darn enjoyable, even with all the problems!

So yeah, I'm trying to change my attitude and have more patience and more love. And it's helped me a lot. We're actually seeing a lot more success now in our sector. I don't have a lot of time to tell you about Alan this week so I'll give you his whole story next week. Sufficeth to say that he will be getting baptized this weekend and we're super happy for him. We're also working with part member family that is extremely prepared and the wife and family already love the church and even had us over for lunch yesterday. We're going to try to set a baptismal date with them tomorrow.

There have been so many miracles happening in the mission lately it's insane. So many people that have been what are called "eternal investigators" that out of the blue feel the spirit and decide to get baptised. It's so fantastic and we feel so grateful for what God is doing here. Ever since President Monson made the announcement about missionaries, we can truly feel that the Lord is indeed "hastening his work." These are the last days, and we are in the process of gathering Isreal in preparation for the second coming. We are trying to flood the earth with the book of Mormon, because that book, combined with the Holy Spirit, is the most powerful tool for conversion that exists. We have seen it change lives, and I have seen it change my own.

This past friday we had an awesome mission-wide activity in Renaico that we enjoyed very much. Every zone had to have a t-shirt, a song, a cheer, a flag, and two talents. It all went really well and helped our zone get a lot more unified.

That's about all the news I have for right now! Times up so we'll see ya next week!

Much love,
Elder Wilcox

The Gospel is true. What else matters?

Our awesome bidet, getting ready for the huge mission activity, including our zone's shirt complete with yellow capes, and a bunch of photos from the activity, etc. Also, a few photos from a brief birthday party celebration at the house of some new converts and investigators in Las Américas. A white board with the lyrics of the song our zone sang at the activity, ten bucks if you can translate it with all the Chilean idioms, confiscated some more cigarettes from a recent convert/less active member that wants to quit smoking again. That's it.