Friday, February 26, 2016

Baptism Adventures


In our ward there are the elders (us) and a set of sister missionaries.  The sisters called me to do a baptismal interview of an 81-year-old woman who had moved into the neighborhood, the sister of a lifelong member. I was interested to find out why this little 5 foot, two time cancer surviving grandmother wanted to now join the LDS church.

She explained that she had followed God’s commandments her whole life, had a 60-year marriage, paid tithing donations, and went to church.  After her husband’s death, she found herself living with her only sister who invited the sister missionaries over. A month later she had finished the Book of Mormon and knew she had been missing something in her life and this was it.  She was just so sincere.

The day of her baptism arrived; and an hour before the baptism we discovered no one had filled up the font! So Elder S. and I rushed around to start the two-hour process.  At 7:00 and with a half-filled font they began the service.  Oh who would be the poor human trying to baptize this little grandma in a puddle of water? ME.

Her frail little body entered the water, terrified of falling over.  She was so nervous, almost as nervous as I was!  :)  It took a good 10 minutes to get her calmed down and ready. Timber! Down she went--stiff and straight as a redwood pine, gasping all the way.

“I did it!” she exclaimed.  Nope, her gown had popped out of the shallow water and we had to do it again.  As part of the ordinance she needed to be fully immersed.  So we did it again with the same result.  I knew we didn’t have many chances left or we would probably need a break.

I pronounced the baptismal prayer a third time, this time lowering her down and dipping her completely in the water with her all the while slapping down the floating fabric.  Then we both slipped, wading around together in the water while audible gasps were heard from both the audience and us.  All I remember is seeing the concerned face of our 18-year-old investigator who was thinking about baptism--I hope that’s still the case.

We all survived the quite chaotic baptism.  I came away with two thoughts: 1. People can change at any age, but younger might be easier in many respects.  2. My testimony of the Restoration was put to the test, because if I didn’t believe in it and the necessity of baptism by immersion, I would have just sprinkled her with a bit of water and saved myself a lot of embarrassment haha.

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

Me prior to the baptism

In the water!

View from the museum

An important something at the museum

Goofing around

  notice the beautiful plants in the background

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Life With A Gringo

February 15, 2016


My new companion is from Brigham City, Elder S., and the first gringo I’ve been with for 8 months so it’s been different. I had actually met him a couple months ago on his first day in the mission in Alto Hospicio when the look on his face was "What am I doing here?" He’s doing great.

Honestly, this week was a little disheartening with people we had been working with saying they had heard enough of our message.  I knew I was boring but not THAT boring haha.  So I’ve been making up a couple questions/comments to help us work with them a little better:

If we don’t need current day prophets, why did God call lots of prophets in the Bible who always taught the same message?

If you believe in Jesus Christ shouldn’t you also believe what the Bible says, since it is the reason we even know who he his?

People should be coming home from their summer vacations soon so that’s a relief.  The ward train has been barely chugging along, when my expectation is more like a speeding silver bullet.  But Heavenly Father is so kind. When he can't give me what I was hoping for he makes up for it.  Walking around after a disappointing day, we stopped to pray to know what we should do in the last hour that remained. I began walking and remembered a guy who someone had told us might be interested in our message.  After knocking on his door, an older gentleman peered through the crack of the door.

What do you want?
Um, someone told us you would be interested in hearing a message from us.
Are you really missionaries or are you lying?
I’m pretty sure we are.
Ok come in, I have 10 minutes.

He appreciated our message and invited us back today.

I rejoice in a Creator who might have me cross on a rope, but who will never leave me hanging for too long. He loves me too much :)

Everything is awesome,
Elder Phillips

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!  I did NOTHING romantic and I’m good with that. haha

Me and Elder S. in our apartment

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Comings and Goings of Life

Hola Familia y amigos,

My companion Elder R. transferred this week to a city 10 hours away called Calama and Elder S., a newbie from Utah, will be my companion!  The mission is so weird in that you are literally glued to someone 24/7 for 3 months and two seconds later it splits you up to never see them again—just to start the cycle over and over again.  Good thing married life isn’t designed to be like that!

As for investigators, they should be returning from their summer vacations soon, and one told us that he wants to take a break from us to make a decision to see if he wants to keep going with us or not.  I asked if he had prayed, which he had not.  Well there you go!  You can’t just brush off eternal truths and the gospel as something that really doesn’t matter without at least trying to ask God if it is true.  I tell my investigators that the people who are always fighting about religious views in a war of words and opinions are never looking up to God, who is waiting with his arms open for them to ask him.

During lunch the other day with our mamita, we heard little chirps coming from the makeshift shed.  Her hen's eggs had hatched!  "Yay! We are going to have fresh chicken in 8 months", she exclaimed.  I like meat, but when I see those little chirping peeps my heart becomes vegetarian.

The subject of death has been prevalent with the people I’ve talking to lately. Some tell me there is nothing after this life--that people are in limbo, and that all the sinners are in hell! Well, I was listening to an account from a man in Utah who lost his family in a car accident 6 years ago Christmas Eve, and he explained that death is like a boat that carries the person farther away from the shore, silently shrinking every second until it disappears on the horizon. The second the boat disappears from our sight it appears--growing larger ever so rapidly to those waiting on the other shore.  Life does not end here—it continues and it is a wonderful place.  We see our loved ones again.

Heavenly Father really does have a plan for us at every stage.  My biggest fear of death is not that I won’t ever see my loved ones again, but the painful time we will have apart.  But if I have learned anything on my mission it is that when I keep myself busy in the work of the Lord, time flies.

Have a great week!

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

Off he goes to Calama!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Happiness, Hope, and Love

February 1, 2016

Hola Familia y Amigos!!

As a district leader I love doing baptismal interviews for the people who are ready to take a new step of faith in their lives.  For example, Saturday I interviewed a boxer who told me that five years ago he tore up his Bible, threw the cross around his neck out the window, while screaming all the while that God didn’t exist. But then listening to the missionaries in the house of his girlfriend, he felt his heart radiate a warmth--like a blanket was wrapped around his being. He told us, "This is what I need in my life--happiness, hope, and love."

As far as our success, my companion Elder R. was sick this week, but we managed to squeeze in a couple of visits and a new couple to teach.  The husband told us, " I was baptized in the Mormon church so I know how it all works." "Ok, so could you explain to your wife Joseph Smith's story?"  "Who?" I guess a little review is needed :)

I did have a slap in the face that has served me well.  These past few weeks, maybe because of the increasing heat or lack of success, I’ve been feeling frustrated and complaining about it to my companion. It is good to have companions who tell you like it is, since I hadn’t realized I had been doing that. Well, the wicked take the truth to be hard, but I prayed for help and I’ve seen a difference in how I feel.  I was the one who needed the attitude adjustment. Good thing we have individuals in our lives who set us on the straight path even when we protest that we are on dead center.

We are hoping to have four baptisms this month, which gives me the strength to keep walking :)

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

No Longer a Teenager

January 25, 2016

Hola familia y amigos,

On Saturday this body completed 2 decades in this lovely earthly existence. Peter Pan was disappointed because I decided to leave the island and step into a new phase in my life. Ok, lets not get too drastic--I’m still Austin Ray Phillips, but it did give me a shock to think how fast these first 20 years went and if I do that again I will be so old--40 years old. Yikes!

Our mamita bought me a cake and a cool colorful bag.  And our investigators, a young couple, after the lesson they brought out another cake, how nice!

All the members have told me this is the hottest it will get, so that’s a blessing. It’s not very humid but the sun seems to be at war with Northern Chile--sending swords of heat right through us when we step out the door.  Yay for sunscreen!

Two investigators of the sister missionaries in our ward have a Peruvian lady who takes care of the house and her son moved here recently. Both are members, inactive for a couple years.  The sisters went to visit the investigators and found them at the house and discovered that the son has been struggling with a desire to serve a mission.  They came to church and we talked seriously about what he wants to do, and after lots of deep reflection he’s going to work with us and the bishop to go on a mission.  I thought about "Decisions Determine Destiny" and how a small decision like this can literally change the world for eternity. Ask God if you should go on a mission or not (that’s to the older folks as well!)

Also we received a call from our miracle young man investigator who is on vacation in the south: "I went to church today and did visits with the missionaries.  It's awesome!"  What?!?!  Who leaves on their vacation to another part of the country and does visits with the missionaries?  And he isn’t even a member!  Well, we hope to change that last part soon. :)

Thanks for your birthday wishes!!  Love you all!

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

My Birthday Package!

Fishers Of Men…And Of Fish

January 18, 2016


This morning we went with a member family to the rocky pelican shores to fish using a plastic pipe, a bit of string, and a bite of guppy meat.  Somehow I managed to snare a 4 incher within 20 min.  Guess my mission has taught me how to be a better fisher of sorts :P

Our other young man who didn’t leave on vacation came to church again, this time in a nice shirt and pants.  The bishop suggested he became more acquainted with the other young adults in Sunday school class.  Thinking it was a good idea we came into the class, which was talking about Lehi's tree of life vision--forgetting that we had just barely explained the Book of Mormon.  "What tree are they talking about?  When did Joseph Smith write about this?" were some of his questions.  Maybe we will stick to the gospel principles class from now on.

In my studies this week I discovered that Christ, when he chose to, died of a heart rupture--both fulfilling a prophecy and poetically showing his extreme sorrow for the wickedness of his people.  The more I learn about Christ the more I love him and see him as a real person who loves me ;)

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips

Caught one!

My comp too!

I Believe In God…Well, When I Need Something

January 11, 2016

On a recent morning, two elders came to pick up their new cell phone so I talked with the brand new elder who just arrived this past week. "I survived my first week!” he exclaimed, "Just have to do this until 2018!" That seems like a long way for me.  I bet the other missionaries thought the same thing when I told them, "I’m leaving in 2016." haha.

Not such an eventful week but we did find another young man on the street whose mom turned out to be a less active member.  And they both came to church!  Being a missionary at church is stressful because you begin to see everything through the eyes of the investigator, and we see lots of different things that they don’t understand.  There's always a lot of explaining to do after church ends haha.

Everyone here seems to be enjoying his or her vacations at the beach.  Wish I could say the same ☺ but we keep pushing forward.

Talking to so many different people, it always amazes me that most say the same worn out phrase, “I don’t need a religion to have my belief in God", as if their faith is some kind of inner secret that needs no shape or form, unrecognizable even to themselves.  Well, I’m not only happy but also proud to call myself a Latter Day Saint since this divinely organized church and the doctrine it protects is the only thing that holds my faith together on a daily basis.  Its a theme I think I’ve mentioned before, but in the atmosphere I live in as a missionary it becomes ever more prominent.

Most people hate January for the cold, school, and lack of holiday spirit. I for one look forward to turning 20 soon.  :) Farewell teenage days.

Everything is awesome,

Elder Phillips