Monday, December 15, 2014

It's a Wonderful Life and Other Christmas Musings

Hola y feliz Navidad!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Well, actually no.  There are a few houses with lights and Christmas trees but that’s all. Christmas is celebrated more simply here, if at all.

I took my first sick day this week. Tuve gripe!! (I had the flu!)  Luckily, I only had to take the morning off.  It felt weird to sleep in past 7, like someone was going to come in and start yelling at me to get up...memories of high school :) Thankfully I feel better now.

This week in the street market we set up a stand for people to sign up and have us come to their houses and sing Christmas carols.  Talk about a bunch of grinches!  NO ONE wanted us to come.  After an hour of constant rejection from people, I got a little desperate.  I pulled out my iPod and speaker, turned on my Christmas MOTAB (Mormon Tabernacle Choir) music and started singing, walking into the crowd and trying to get people to talk to me.  With my hat and sign, I probably looked a little crazy...but it felt good to be bolder.

Now I’m not saying you have to go out on the street and sing to share the gospel, but what is the worst that could happen if you started talking to someone next to you about the gospel, Christmas, or Christ?  They would say no, there would be an awkward pause, and you would move on with your life knowing you did what God has been practically begging us to do.

So this week, take 30 seconds and be bold with someone about the gospel (yeah, this sounds like the movie We Bought a Zoo, but its worth doing).

I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas.  Back home, we would watch the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas Eve.  There have been times on my mission so far when I think I am not making a difference--that this is a waste of time, and no one cares about what I have to say.  I imagine what the world would be like without the personal service I have done and will do, and realize missions are just like that movie I watch every year.

I look back at the blessings I have given to the sick, the words of encouragement to my companion, my testimony to investigators.  I matter. You matter.  It’s a wonderful life because we make a difference no matter how small it seems to us. Out of small things proceedeth that which is great (D&C 64:33).

Just my thoughts of the week.  The mission is a blessing because I get a lot of time to reflect and ponder the questions in my soul. It is a sacred time.

Have a great week!!  Merry Christmas!

Everything is awesome,
Elder Phillips

Wouldn't you like us to come sing Christmas carols?  :)

Church Activity

Christmas Tree in the Town Plaza

Friday, December 12, 2014

No, it wasn't fog--a roller coaster week!

Hola beautiful people!  Yes, I mean you!

Sometimes life can be the hardest, most awful monster of a thing, and at the same time contain life’s coolest moments.

I went on exchanges to a little town an hour south called Huasco.  The town is on the coast.  The air was kind of foggy, so I asked my temporary companion if it is foggy often.  It turns out it wasn’t fog, but smog from the giant factories on the other side of the hill.  Then I noticed that everything was covered by a thick layer of black dust, and it was harder to breath than normal.

The day was pretty awful. Hot, no water in the apartment, and a constant headache.  I was starting to feel like giving up, but we decided to keep going a little more.  We knocked on a house to compliment their Christmas tree, and  the lady said there was something special about us and wanted to talk to us more. Definitely a tender mercy for pushing ourselves a little more.

So I went from that experience thinking--yeah! I can do anything, to going back to my sector and having the hardest three days of my life.  Our gas ran out in our apartment (cold shower), then our water was cut (no shower), and then ALL of our 6 appointments fell through.  Now I was REALLY going to give up.  I told God that if he didn’t help me I was just going to die right there on the spot in the hot sun.

I passed a lady who was painting the outside of her house, and without thinking asked if she needed help.  She said yes.  So we changed our clothes and came back.  I started to paint and it was just what I needed--the heat actually felt good! The lady was touched by our service and said we could come back to teach. Double win.

One last thing.  The power of baptism is oddly more real than I ever imagined.  I took our English class on a tour through the church to name objects in English, and eventually we got to the baptismal font.  When the class was standing there, they said they could feel something.  I explained (in my broken Spanish) about baptism.  Two of the girls later came to us and said they didn’t know why, but they wanted to be baptized.  We also get the same reaction from people when we show them pictures of Jesus in the river Jordan; they feel something stir inside them.  Super weird, and SUPER cool.  Never knew the spirit would do that.

Thanks for your emails, and more importantly your love.  I love this time of year where I can think about the best gifts on my life.  I love the mission. I have never felt so pure and loved by God.  I know he loves you just as much.

Everything is awesome—even on hard days :)

Elder Phillips

Illegal homes outside of town


Nice family--recent converts--they give us yummy juice!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Star Wars, Rotten Apples, and a Spider's Revenge

Hola you wonderful people!

And just to give you a taste of what it is like here…

-The word permiso is said before EVERYTHING. It is like excuse me, but they say it a lot.  If you walk into a house you should say it. If you are going to say the prayer you should say it. It is kind of a polite old world thing to do, and it is said without thinking about it.

-Mayo is king.  If you have food that isn’t dessert, you put mayo on it.

-Most of the condiments, soaps, and other liquids are in plastic pouches, not bottles.

-Do you like salad dressing?  Ranch doesn’t exist, and vegetable oil is the preferred salad dressing of choice.

-There are stores on every street--in people’s houses.  I told my companion that such a thing doesn’t exist in the United States. He was surprised we could get along without that arrangement.  

I love the differences.  It is amazing how people can be so different and yet so similar. People may speak a different language and eat different food, but they have the same desires and needs in their hearts. The gospel truly is for everyone, whether they know it or not (yet).

Sad news for our family with the English class.  The family liked our message, except for the dad.  He just wants us to teach them English.
Good news though!  The woman who saw us in the fair is super receptive and that dad wants to invite us over to lunch… ( What?!? That never happens, especially from the dads.)  They really are a miracle from my prayers.

I said I would never talk about spiders again, but I have to.  I got into the shower early this morning.  Started to put soap on when, AHHHH a GIANT spider was crawling onto my foot.  I jumped out of the shower not knowing what to do.  It eventually drowned. I smashed it but I think it wasn’t alone. There is a hole in the shower where I think its family is plotting revenge.  Pray for me haha.

Ok, now I am going to tie in Star Wars to the gospel in two ways. At my mamitas house there was a commercial for the new Stars Wars movie. I know I'm not supposed to watch TV, but when I heard the theme song I couldn’t stop myself. Looks epic. But while I was watching it, I bit into the rotten part of the apple I was eating. The fruits of my labor?  Lol  I think God was telling me, Austin stop it!

Focus.  Lesson one.

But then I couldn’t focus so I do what I always do when I am thinking about something I shouldn’t be thinking about on the mission--tie it to the gospel!

So, lesson two: In Star Wars there is a definite evil and good.  Everyone is on the good side or the dark side. There is no middle ground.  And the good side is always in a battle with the evil or dark side.  Many of the people we talk to tend to think that everything is good, and that God will save them just because.  But that doesn’t make sense.  Goodness always requires effort.  Life should be hard sometimes because salvation is never easy.  If it were, the purpose of life would be meaningless--since you would never become anything greater than you are now.

I love you all so much!!  Thank you for your love and support. I couldn’t do this without your examples.

Everything is awesome,

Elder Austin Phillips :) :P  PS CHRISTMAS MUSIC TIME IS NOW HERE!!!

My own personal Thanksgiving Feast.  Yum!

Pumpkin bars--they tasted better than they look--so glad I was mailed a pan!

I am thankful for the supplies from home :)