Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Visit to Jurassic Park

Hola one and all,

Today for PDay we took a bus ride to a lovely little oasis town in the dry dry desert.  There we found a less exciting but altogether strange Jurassic Park on the side of the road.  The best part was that there weren’t any dogs in the streets! That is a huge miracle.

A little rough this week.  We have lots of great people to work with, but had major coordinating problems.  Like when we brought the district president and his wife to a lesson that we had called 2 hours before to absolutely make sure they were home (they said yes).  Everything was set and my excitement was great until we came to the door and they called us saying they had to leave. No! It’s so challenging to get the 4 different groups together--us, the investigators, the members, and the Spirit.

Speaking of teaching with the Spirit, an elder made an interesting observation the other day, "I don’t always know when I have the Spirit, but I sure know when I don’t.”

I think I have the Spirit in the lessons because the people are very focused on me when I talk, but my companion told me it was because my eyes are so piercing that people can’t help but look.  Cool, I thought--it's my piercing blue eyes looking into their soul!  No, he said, they’re not stunning; it’s more like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland.  Guess I need some eye surgery...haha

We got some people to church--a new couple we are working with and a guy who promised us to get married this month.  Church is so stressful for missionaries because we are worried the whole time about the investigators coming and having good experiences.  But somehow even though there were some disruptions during Sacrament meeting (the normal ones that happen with families/children in the congregation), the couple was able to feel a type of peace they hadn’t felt before.  That’s what happens when we step into God’s house.

Elder Cook is coming to our mission in November!!!!  We are all getting everything "shipshape and Bristol fashion" for his visit.

Lots of people who I have worked with moved to other areas and are getting baptized.  It has been rewarding being a small part of their process to salvation.

Everything is awesome,
Elder Phillips

What you do when you are ten or a missionary :)

Objects are Closer than They Appear

Jurassic Park Chilean Style

Pretty Church

Outside of church

A View of the Countryside

Fun on the Bus

Special Day

Monday, October 19, 2015

Baptisms, Weddings, Problems/Answers, Oh My!

October 12, 2015

Hola, the bottom of the earth says hello!

We had a sweet baptism of an 11-year-old girl who due to family circumstances could now get baptized.  She is a family member of the family we baptized a month ago and everyone was happy to finally see the day come. That same day we went to a wedding reception of a young couple I helped teach a month ago.  FOOD and wedding cuteness.  Good day.

There are lots of people in the 20 apartment buildings we have in the area; sometimes we spend the whole day going from one to another!  I feel like much of my time is dedicated to going from apartment to apartment trying to solve people's problems ranging from drugs, smoking, depression, little rascals running around, no answers to prayers, fear of going to church, exhaustion from working in the mine, and more recently a family whose parents as kids were living on the street begging for food at age 12 but somehow now they have a house and 3 healthy kids.  My mind and soul are stretched and twisted everyday trying to help find answers to all of these needs.

It’s been fun reading my journal entries from exactly one year ago.  I whined a lot—haha--and I guess I really didn’t like Spanish when I first started out—it was hard for me.  Wonder what I will say of my current self in one year.  It’s one reason I write in my journal, to see if I’m really making progress in life.

As missionaries, we have little (or zero) downtime, but while filling up the baptismal font I recently found a good 20 minutes of thinking time.  In the tranquility of the freshly swept corridor my eyes fixated on the giant framed painting of Jesus Christ visiting the Americas.  That perfect circumstance allowed me time to offer a prayer to reconfirm what I already know is true, the Book of Mormon.  I felt a warm growing presence filling my heart reaching across the dark, doubting crevices of my chest.

My question has always been, is there really a God?   But now I have changed my question.  Do I have a spirit or soul?  That is easier to answer because when I listen to music, when I read the scriptures, when I sin, and when I receive answers to prayers like my experience this week, I feel something more than a body with flesh and bones. There is something alive and sensitive in all of us. Really, it is the essence of us--who we are.  So if we have a spirit, who created it?  God.  So now for me in this way, it’s easy for me to answer the first question.

Have a great week!

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

Nice View!
Selfie in the font

The Family!  Great day

Wedding treats!

The Cute Couple

My companion and I enjoying the food table

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Faucet of Pure Truth

October 5, 2015

Hola a todos!

If you are one of those people who reads lots of missionary emails, you might be a little sick of hearing how much we all LOVED general conference (televised conference meetings with talks by church leaders).  It’s a crazy thing that happens on our missions--we all lose sleep waiting for this highly anticipated semi-annual weekend.  Maybe it’s because it’s the first time we realize in our young lives that there are talks on Saturday too and they aren’t any less important than the talks on Sunday. Or maybe it’s because it breaks up the monotony of the weekly routine, or that there is hope to finally sit in a room and listen to something in English.  Whatever the case may be, I LOVED conference as well.

General Conference feels like God is opening up a faucet of pure truth--overflowing my mind and spirit with good feelings.  Even though the talks can be a little straight forward (KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS, for example), it improves my relationship with God, making him seem much more tangible in a world that denies his existence.  Through his prophet he talks to us in 65 languages all over the world at the same time.  It is interesting that people wait for God to talk to them or show them a sign, but they refuse to watch conference or take it seriously.

Of course Elder Holland’s talk about mothers really tugged on the heartstrings of a room full of missionaries—especially the one who was brand new on his mission and missing home already.  Poor guy. When I think about my mother I think of sunshine, truth, sacrifice, persistence, forgiveness, intelligence and laughter.  I’m so grateful for parents who understand the gospel.  A recent card from them included this sentence from my mom, "I’m grateful God is giving you so many challenges to help you grow into what you need to be."  Every year I see them growing more like what I imagine my Heavenly Father to be, a caring father who loves me so much he’s willing to let me fall in order to lift me back up.  Isn’t that really the gospel of Jesus Christ?  I don’t like the falling part but I sure know he’s real when I can feel his arms raising me higher.

Side Note: God has also turned on the faucet with investigators who want to learn about the gospel.  We have an unexpected baptism this Friday of a family member from the wonderful miracle family we baptized a month ago.

God isn’t only real, but he talks to us today.  I don’t know why that’s so hard to believe, even for me sometimes.  But I know it's true.

Everything is awesome,
Elder Phillips

September 28, 2015

I don’t know about you but one year ago I was brand new on my mission, having my first fast Sunday—and sort of freaking out in the Mexico MTC.  Now I’m here in a dry desert, in a town called Alto Hospicio with kids listening to Spanish rap while attempting to train an Elder from Argentina to do missionary work. Who knows what the future will bring!

To celebrate a wondrous one year full of many surprises, we went to a familiar place.... McDonalds.  It’s odd to order your food in Spanish when all the items are in English: "Quiero un Big Mac con una papa frita con un McFlurry por favor. Si, me gustarĂ­a supersize."  Weird...

There are some complications with teaching two of our investigators since the dad works 15 days in the mine and then is here 15 days.  When he’s not here we go to visit the wife but we can’t go in when she's alone (mission rule), leaving us giving short lessons on her doorstep.  Fine and dandy except for her two young active children who smack the door open and shut.  Which means I am trying to answer her questions about the great apostasy while holding open the door with my one foot while my other foot is acting as a wall for the escaping children. Not the ideal situation but the word must go forth (and it is pretty hilarious looking too).

Our mission president has been focusing us on finding more people to teach through our investigators, or what I like to call "the hidden door theory" which means that the people who the Lord is preparing know a person who knows a person who knows a person.  Interesting concept, and I trust my mission president—the problem is every time he talks about it in our conferences all I can think of is SpongeBob (a cartoon character) saying, "There was a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy...who knew a guy's cousin...", which is unfortunate for me lol.

On Thursday a member invited us to come over and talk with his friend about the gospel and to give him a Book of Mormon!  We shared our testimonies and I was impressed by the sister’s story.  I mean no offense to my Catholic friends.  I am relating her story about getting an answer to a prayer as she told it to me:

"My whole family was Catholic--die hard Catholics.  I had a giant statue of the virgin of Guadalupe in my room who I prayed to everyday.  My cousin invited me to the LDS Church and later the missionaries came to teach us, but I told them I felt full religiously with my beliefs, I didn’t need anything else.  One day the missionaries challenged us to ask God right there with them what was the path God wanted us to take, not just what we were raised with.  If we felt it was the Catholic Church, they would leave and never come back.  I was last to go.  I started and asked God with all the faith that a 14-year-old girl could muster and asked if this was the path I needed.  I was filled with such emotion I couldn’t finish the prayer. My body was surrounded by warmth and peace that penetrated my heart.  I ran to my room, saw the statue and thought, “You don’t mean anything to me now.  I have found the truth." I took it off the wall and never looked back after that day."

I have realized many people are shrouded by tradition when it comes to their religious beliefs--dancing to statues or repeating the same prayers over and over.  I ask them why they believe and they respond, "Because that’s what I was taught.” My purpose is to show them they can ask God and he will respond, because that is what he did with me and promises to do with all who really want to know and follow.

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

One Year Anniversary Celebratory Lunch--McDonalds!
Watching Conference in English--note the dusty shoes

Always great to see old companions!