Sunday, July 26, 2015

Can I Change God?

Hola family and friends!

Another week has come and gone actually very fast. Did I say that? Yes!  It went by fast!! I won't lie, two years can seem like a long time because it is.  But it’s not nearly enough time to do what we need to do!!

We've been meeting lots of wonderful people who are hesitant to do much with their religious lives-- so they might take a little while to work with, especially considering the fact that many only can meet with us once a week. But I'm very grateful that people want to at least talk with us!

We have been teaching a woman who has been investigating the church for quite a while and hasn't been baptized, mainly because her less active husband needed to get a divorce so they can be married legally.  This is a common issue here for many reasons.  Well, this week it finally happened and they can get married in August and then baptized!  I am so happy for her.  An important commitment for baptism is following God’s laws, including husbands and wives being legally and lawfully married.

Last week we had a wonderful conference with an Area Seventy leader from our church, Elder Zeballos and his wife. He is from northern Chile, where I am serving.  It was also fun to catch up with my MTC companion and a few others from my group in the MTC that I haven't seen in a while.  One teaching from the conference that stuck with me is how the pain, long days, and frustration we face as missionaries will pass and fade. But if we don't do what we need to do, the weight of regret will always remain.  That principle is something I can carry forward in my life--serving God to the best of my ability so I won't have regrets. As I think back on my mission so far, I know I have tried my best. And one bright spot this week was hearing from one of the elders at the conference who was in Vallenar that golden girl, my first convert, is doing well--so great to hear.

As I was talking with a group of 30 year olds smoking on the street the other day, I finally found the response to the statement we get on a daily basis: "I believe in God, but in my own way."

Many people have it the wrong way around.  If we believe in God in our own way then we are assuming we have the ability to change an unchangeable being! Saying that someone is like this or like that doesn't actually change who they are. It’s the same with God. Our purpose in this life is to find the true nature of God.  To come to know Him and love Him for who he really is--through study, prayer, the Holy Ghost, and the blessings of His restored church.

Thanks for your kindness and love.

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

Great to see my MTC companion

And this missionary from my MTC days as well!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Here For A While Longer--To Baptize!


No transfers this week for me or Elder M., which is good because we are actually finding new people to teach here in Alto Hospicio!

Our red-haired wonder girl got baptized on Saturday and I had the opportunity to confirm the gift of the Holy Ghost on her at church on Sunday. It’s a little more difficult in Spanish :)  Organizing baptisms are somewhat stressful for me—you never know what will happen.  This time there was a birthday party going on in the back, and we had some missing leaders.  But it is all good--I am so happy for her.

I also had wonderful surprise last week when my old companion in Copiapo sent me a picture of the baptism of the girl we found whose mom was praying for the way to find the church when we showed up on her doorstep.  So technically I had two baptisms this week!

Epic fail on my part this Sunday. Another elder had a baptismal interview for someone and they brought some friends so we talked to them and invited them to church. They actually said yes...but they heard me said 6:30 instead of 3:30.  So they came at 6:30 when no one was there. Ugh!!!!  Finally people come to church but at the wrong time.  Cursed Spanish gringo accent.

To make up for my embarrassments the Lord is kind and gives me cool experiences like on Sunday night when a sister asked us to have a family home evening in her house with her less active family and her son’s non member girlfriend.  I felt prompted to ask the family about the goals they have for their lives. The sister who has been active all of her life said she would love to be sealed to her husband in the temple but didn't see it happening.  Her husband was last, and with tears in his eyes he said that his goal was to also be sealed to his wife.  The room was silent and powerful.

With lots of walking in our very large area we always have time to think about life. We believe that we lived before this life with God and all of our heavenly brothers and sisters.  In that case, it must be true that I have friends scattered throughout time who are all fighting for the same heavenly cause.  Cool!

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

A Reason to Gather and Rejoice!

A Happy Day!

Family and Friends

An Awesome Surprise

Missionaries can have fun too

There is an ocean over the horizon

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Surprise Situations and Viva Chile!

Hola muchachos,

Not a super typical week here in Alto Hospicio--I quote this saying from my Grandpa a lot on my mission, "a change is a good as a rest".

We changed to another chapel an hour walk away from our apartment where 5 branches will be meeting.  Good thing some members have cars!  And for all of you missionaries who have are lucky.

The great news is we have a BAPTISM set up for Saturday--a 16 year old girl with fire red hair who’s mom is coming back to church. I dozed off a little in sacrament meeting on Sunday (I didn't get a lot of sleep due to the soccer game and after game celebrations) and woke up to her walking to the pulpit to bear her testimony about the things we have been teaching her.  Super cool!!!!  Now—if we can just convert the dad... :)

Speaking of bearing testimonies, we had scheduled a family home evening with a less active member. When we arrived, all of her family and two of her very religious friends were there at the house.  I had a thought to talk about the Book of Mormon. In the midst of my lesson, I was cut off by her friend, who scolded me for teaching them that we have the restored church with the proper authority from God and the complete restored truth of the gospel.  He said I couldn’t possibly know from God that I was right.

How could a scrawny 19-year-old white boy with a gringo accent find his way through this situation with 12 sets of eyes all piercing deep into his soul?  I thought of the prophet Brigham Young’s conversion experience--when a poor humble man of little education bore a simple testimony of what he knew and felt, and the spirit bore witness of the truthfulness of what he was saying to Brigham Young--changing this future prophet’s life forever.  Testify. That’s we need to do. "Sir, I know I’m 19 and have little experience. But when I put on this name badge I made a promise to God to defend the truth he has given me. So yes, Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ. He restored His church and I can’t deny it because I know from the Holy Ghost. I’m not here to offend, I’m here to testify."  He congratulated us for our efforts and gave us a hug as we left.

For 4th of July, we got permission to watch the final of the Copa America: Chile vs. Argentina. It was a nail bitter game but we won with a penalty shot.  You would have thought the world exploded—so fun. We had to ask our branch president to take us home in his truck or we would have surely died on our way in the crazy festivities.  The partying didn’t cease until 6 am.  Go America! Viva Chile!! TAKE THAT KELSEY SPENCER HAHAHAHA  (Kelsey is my cousin and she is serving a mission in Argentina—just a little friendly cousin teasing)

Today was a fun surprise as well. We got a call from the other elders in our area that I was needed to help the local school with English.  It turned out they needed some English speakers to be honored judges for the school English spelling bee--with a fancy seat, sparkling water, a tour of the school, and a meeting with the principal. I was bombarded by kids wanting selfies, and asking my name. I’m famous!! lol

We never know what each day might bring. So we better prepare carefully. :P

Everything is awesome,
Elder Phillips

Here is a description of the night Chile won the Copa America from another missionary serving in Elder Phillips’ mission:

"July 4th--This was a big day because first, it was the fourth of July and second, it was the finals of "La Copa America". Which is like the world cup but instead of all the world being invited, it's just the Americas (minus the USA this time). And for the first time since 1987 (I think) Chile made it to the finals. They played against Argentina and for the first time ever, Chile won the tournament…oh my goodness. There is no event in American culture that equals or even attempts to reach this level of excitement. Not a single one. Chile was on fire Saturday. I swear it measured on the Richter scale when Alexis scored that last goal. You gringos can't even imagine. I'm not Chilean and I went nuts."

Judging the Spelling Bee--cute kids

Night time in Alto Hospicio

A good meal

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Changing Times and Seasons

Hola from the land where it freezes in July,

We finally moved into our improved apartment so now I have a warm bed, a semi warm shower, and two rooms with Disney banners on the walls.  Who could ask for more? Seriously, when I saw the Disney stuff I laughed. However, I did super enjoy living in the other apartment with 6 elders.  Never a dull moment!

As far as the work goes, it’s been a bipolar week.  The family we were working with kind of dropped us.  My companion called them and they said rather shortly they would "call us".  I don’t know why. This is one of the hardest things about the mission.  As my brother once told me, "As missionaries we hand our hearts over on a silver platter to watch the people pick it up, look at it for a while, throw it on the ground, and smash it. Then we have to pick up the pieces for the Lord to stitch it back together."

Sometimes I don’t want to give people my heart for this reason. After so much rejection and false hope, it is easier to close myself off.  But to find the people who want to change their life forever, I will go through this process many times in my two years. The question I ask myself is--will my heart harden over time or will it become faster and easier to repair it?

We are having some great success with a teenage girl whose mom is returning back to church.  We got permission to baptize her in these coming weeks so I will keep you posted. :)

I did hear through the grapevine that same sex marriage was legalized in America and that Donald Trump has been saying some controversial things.  News travels even way down here in Chile.

We had a wonderful talk in sacrament meeting from a woman (Hermana) in the ward about the temple.  As a member of the church, one must follow certain requirements to enter LDS temples once they have been dedicated. If you follow them, you can obtain a recommend, a little piece of paper with your name on it. It represents your willingness to obey God’s commandments and to make certain covenants with God.

The Hermana said, holding her temple recommend up for all to see, "The difference between immortality (the free gift to live forever given to all of us) and eternal life (to live with God) is this little slip of paper."

I don’t care what the world says, or even what my own mind thinks sometimes.  I choose to believe God knows more than me even if according to the world I am stupid, intolerant, and behind the times. I know for myself that God is real, and I believe in his words and those of his prophets. The covenants we make with God in His temples are important.

Tengan una buena semana!!  (Have a nice week!)

Everything is awesome,

Viva Chile!  Elder Phillips

Vive Chile--Ward Activity watching soccer!
Good times

Number six

The apartment of six minus one

Our new apt. = disney princess paper
Another room--can you believe it? lol

New and improved yard wall
Our own spiral staircase


Where we study the gospel each morning