Thursday, August 27, 2015

Baptisms--the Best Kind of Stress!


A great week with big miracles and changes! I don't remember much of the beginning or middle days, something about stuffing cake in my mouth due to my very popular companion's birthday.

Then Saturday came, the baptism of our investigating family.  We went to the church early in the morning to start the water running to fill the baptismal font.  Hot water started flowing, always a good sign, until 30 minutes later, nothing.  But at this time we had to go pick up our lunch. *Ring ring* "Hello? WHAT? Black water is spilling out of the faucet!!!" The other missionaries luckily had passed by and noticed the black lagoon slowly growing in the font.  By the time we arrived they had drained the water and cleaned it all up.

So we started filling it up with the fire hose, which turned out to be full of leaks.  Another hour filling, and cleaning up the slip and slide on the chapel floor.

Despite it all, the baptism went without a glitch...although I did fall in the water trying to baptize the dad. I’m glad these things aren't recorded.  Well, I've always wanted to get baptized again!!

On Sunday, our other recent convert said the prayer, both men received the priesthood and next week they will bless the sacrament. For most people this doesn't mean a lot, but for a missionary--its what we live for.

In other news, Elder M. is being transferred to a new area, and I'm GOING TO TRAIN a brand new Elder.  So here comes the excitement!!!

Elder Holland's talk was great at the last LDS Church General Conference in April.  Today as I was going somewhere and I saw a billboard sponsored by the government that said: “We live how we live” with two guys making out.  Even in my missionary bubble, the world still creeps in.

I am glad to know that if we want to understand God, we must know that he sent Adam and Eve to an actual Garden of Eden, that his rules don't change, and that he really exists.

“What a plight! The entire human race in free fall—every man, woman, and child in it physically tumbling toward permanent death, spiritually plunging toward eternal anguish. Is that what life was meant to be? Is this the grand finale of the human experience? Are we all just hanging in a cold canyon somewhere in an indifferent universe, each of us searching for a toehold, each of us seeking for something to grip—with nothing but the feeling of sand sliding under our fingers, nothing to save us, nothing to hold on to, much less anything to hold on to us? Is our only purpose in life an empty existential exercise—simply to leap as high as we can, hang on for our prescribed three score years and ten, then fail and fall, and keep falling forever?

The answer to those questions is an unequivocal and eternal no!”
                                                                                                       (Elder Holland)

I wouldn't be doing all of this for some make believe creation of my imagination and no one would change their entire lives because a mumbling 19-year-old gringo told them to--if it weren't true.

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

Pictures:  the filling of the font disaster,  baptism happiness, a rare treat--eating a fast food hamburger
Filling of the font disaster!

Baptism Happiness!

The Whole Family

Goodbye Elder M!

A Rare Celebratory Meal--Fast Food American-style 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

It's a Miracle--A Family!


On the subject of miracles, we had two major ones this week.  Talked with a guy on the street and had a lesson with him and his wife.  Elder Holland once mentioned that we would shake the world with our message of the restoration.  I've given this lesson a lot, the one about Joseph Smith, but this time was different.

"So, if we have always had prophets and then the world fell into apostasy, what needs to happen?"
"God needs to call a new prophet--so, why hasn't he done that yet?"
"He has!"

We sure shook their world, and it felt great.  They looked so happy.

The other huge miracle: We are going to have three baptisms next Saturday, the dad and the two siblings of our recent convert.  How did that happen?

In our lesson on Tuesday, the whole family was out of sorts and the dad said that he wasn't sure what he wanted anymore.  I told him to pray and keep reading.  We passed by on Friday to go over the baptismal questions.

"Do you believe that the gospel was restored through Joseph Smith?”
“Yes. I've read the Book of Mormon and I feel it when you guys talk."

He told us he is ready for this Saturday with his two kids.  He broke down thinking about his younger brother who died many years ago.  In that moment, I strongly felt to tell him that his brother will be there at his baptism to guide him and his family to the temple. They are planning to leave in a year from now to be sealed. It was very powerful.

Most of my mission, I've looked at other missionaries saying, I love the mission!  I'm so happy!" Sometimes for me it’s hard to say that, but this week I feel full of something.  I've had a front seat to witnessing the blessings of the Atonement of Christ--watching Him heal and change the heart of a closed, sad man who for many years was angry with God.  The dad now smiles and I see something different in his eyes…hope. And it fills my eyes with tears.

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

Ward Noah's Ark Activity
Noah's Ark--food!
There is a kind of creepy doctor in the house!
Made this lunch myself :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Driest Place on Earth--Yeah, Right!


A few weeks ago South America had a special fast to overcome the deadly drought affecting the crops.  Well, we had a big storm and there is flooding and other rain related events. Nothing like my last experience with Chilean floods, but the power cut out for a while and there were some mudslides. Fasting works!

In the morning we walked through a thick damp fog watching hooded figures dance in and out of our limited vision.  I felt like Harry Potter in his dreamlike memories in the pensive, passing through a world we might have once known. (Poetic, huh?)

This damp sprinkle scared away from church about half of our branch so I was left to pick and lead the hymns, pass the sacrament, and preside at the meeting. Ok, kidding on the last one.  For some reason all of the priesthood left to go visit people during our 3rd hour class—maybe they were worried about the rain and flooding. We took the chance to teach a lesson to the dad of our investigator family about tithing. My heart was cringing the whole time knowing that they struggle with financial problems, but he took it rather well.

Sometimes you have to ask the hard questions; I asked him if he was just doing this to please his wife or was he doing this for himself. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “If I was just doing this for them, I would already be swimming in that font. I want to feel this."

As a missionary, occasionally all of our plans fall apart so we will land where God needs us to be.  Saturday was one of those days. After cancelled appointments and other frustrations cleared our schedule, we went to see how our investigating family was doing.  The dad was in the bathroom, so we talked with the mom who is a member. She began to cry, saying how this has been the hardest month of her life even though she’s been doing everything God wants her to do.  I shared with her Joseph Smith’s experience in Liberty jail. It was a very difficult time for him, and what helped give him peace and comfort was turning to God in his extremities.  She thanked us for the much needed visit.

In our planner that night, we had to put a zero on number of lessons we had, but when we do what God needs us to do, isn't that more important?

In other news, our other baptismal dates have been moved back due to legal problems with divorce papers.  And we have a new date in October for a young couple who just moved here!

Everything is awesomely unpredictable,

Elder Phillips

Rain--it's a miracle!

Wet clothes from the rain hanging on the line

Look mom--my room is clean!

The Feria--an open market

Sunday, August 9, 2015

All Dogs Go To Heaven and Meet the Mormons of Alto Hospicio

July 28, 2015

Hola familia y amigos!

It’s starting to cool down in the dry, dry desert.  The water is so cold it doesn't have time to heat up when it hits my skinny, white body at 7:30am.  Sure wakes me up!

Today for our p-day we have reservations to tour an old Chilean Navy sailing ship here by the shore.  I am excited because we don’t have opportunities to do things like this very often.  It is called the La Esmeralda.  It can carry over 300 sailors.

It’s been a great week. The 16-year-old girl we just baptized had us talk with her dad who usually avoided us whenever we taught her.  He was literally scared of us, but we invited him to church...and he came!!  We took advantage of the situation to have a family home evening with the district president, the older missionary couple here, and the family.  The mom, a reactivating member, expressed her tearful desire to have her whole family join the church.  The husband said he is reading the book of Mormon and isn't scared of us anymore haha. He smiles more and talks to us about his feelings.  Its amazing how people really open up when you show how much you care (and that we aren't that weird).

The mission is great and hard because it forces you to face the reality of your beliefs. At home I could say, yeah I know this is true, go to church and do what I needed to do.  But here, when someone tells you "You can't really tell me that you believe you have it all, that this Joseph Smith who had tons of wives really was some guy from God!" ¨ These moments are powerful because I have to draw from everything I know, and a lot I don't know.

Yes, I have questions about the gospel, a notebook even.  But I can't deny the promise of the Book of Mormon, to read, pray, and get an answer from God.  Since I have taken the time to actually do this before and on my mission, I can really tell those critics that yes, this honorable man restored the truth that was lost. "All dogs might go to heaven", but if we don’t follow the restored gospel--we won’t claim the full blessings of heaven.  I know it, because I have felt it. There are things you know with your heart that you don’t know with your head. ¨

After 10 months, I haven't had the mission I was expecting or wanted, but it’s the one I need.  Reading the biography of our beloved apostle, L. Tom Perry, I thought, if I died right now what could be written about me? Would I be considered someone who didn’t doubt, who loved unconditionally, who loved to work hard and knew his Savior?

Have a great week!  Found a baseball cap doing service this week from UNLV (University of Nevada Las Vegas—my home town!)...super random.  haha

August 3, 2015

Hola one and all in the land of the brave with amber waves of grain,

It’s been a little slow this week as many people have gone dancing for Saint Lorenzo so their houses won't burn down or something like that.

In this area we eat with the members on Saturdays and Sundays for lunch, since there is no such thing called dinner in Chile.  Chileans eat their big meal at lunch around 2 or 3 pm and have something called a Once or Tea at 9ish just as we are wrapping up our teaching (or walking).  So, no dinner meals for Austin Phillips for another 14 months.  That In-N-Out hamburger with animal fries will taste pretty good when I get home!

Eating with people gives me the chance to learn about their incredible stories, so I would like to present “Meet the Mormons of Alto Hospicio”.

A few years ago a man and his wife were preparing to accept a job offer as an evangelical pastor starting a new congregation.  One day this woman saw two young men dressed in white shirts and ties, and she felt drawn to them and asked them their names.  One of the gringo missionaries had a small picture of his family just below his nametag.  As she looked at his smiling family she had the distinct impression that they had met before in another time and place, but she didn't have the slightest idea where that could have been.  She invited them over to discuss the Bible with her and her husband.

 As they met with the missionaries, they refused to read anything not coming from the Bible since they believed it was all that they needed.  With the help of church members, these missionaries were able to show them references in the Bible that helped them to decide to at least take a look at the little blue Mormon book.  The wife told us as she tore through its pages her mind expanded, and new enlightenment about ancient covenants and peoples flooded into her heart.  They dropped everything--the security of a future job, friends and personal beliefs to follow a book and a church because it filled them with joy like they had never experienced before.  And they have not wavered since.  They are even going to help us teach others what they know to be true.

Another story is about a woman from Mexico who lived in the United States during her teenage years (She cooked us fried burritos with homemade guacamole and sour cream on Sunday and my life changed for good--I now love Mexican food).  Her father was a very bad guy so she had to flee with her mother to live in Arizona.  She later married a man from Chile and they began their life in America.

One day as she was praying, she had the distinct feeling to move to Chile.  "No, I don't want to move there. Never!!  My whole life is here now, no, I won't do it" she thought.  But the feeling kept coming and it also came to her husband.  They did what they needed to do and literally moved their whole life here to Alto Hospicio.

Now as she looks at her patriarchal blessing, she understands the promise in it that one day she would live among people of her native tongue to prepare their hearts for the second coming of Christ.

This world really is filled with wonderful people; you just have to find them.

Have a great week!

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

The Beach!

A slice a home--UNLV!

The Esmeralda

Found a Niagara Falls sweatshirt for four bucks here.  You can literally find anything here!!

I have decided to love Mexican food after this homemade meal!