Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Feliz Navidad

We got to Skype with Jordanne this morning.  She looks and sounds great!  It was so wonderful to visit with her. She talked non-stop in true Jordanne fashion.  She seems really happy!

Dearest Family and Friends,

Today is Christmas Eve (or Noche Buena, as they say here)!  I am both excited to celebrate the holiday and also sad that the season is ending, since we won´t be able to use Christmas carols (villancicos) as a way to find people to teach anymore....  And because sharing our testimonies of the birth of the Savior has been such a wonderful opportunity this month.  I love Christmas so much because the Savior is almost never more real to me than at Christmastime.  Whenever I sing carols or read the Christmas story in the Bible, I can´t help but remember that these things REALLY HAPPENED.  What a glorious miracle and marvelous gift!

My favorite account of the birth of the Savior is in 3 Nephi 1.  Samuel the Lamanite had prophesied 5 years earlier of the signs and the imminent coming of the birth of the Savior, and the believers were faithfully waiting for these signs to appear.  But the unbelievers had had enough, and they set apart a day in which, if the signs had not yet come, all the believers would be put to death.  The prophet, Nephi, knows that the Savior will come as Samuel has prophesied, but he worries for the sake of his people, and he prays mightily unto the Lord for help.  And the Lord answers his prayer, saying (in verse 13), 

"Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets."

The Lord, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, knew that these people would be in danger of their lives for their faith in Jesus Christ, and He had planned all along for His coming to be at precisely the right moment.  I can´t help but marvel at the Lord´s love and care for all of His children when I read this scripture.  Not only did the Lord send His Son on that day in order to save the lives of the people of Nephi, but He sent Him so that ALL of us might be saved if we will accept Him and keep His commandments.  I cannot adequately express my awe and gratitude for this marvelous gift.  It is the real reason for Christmas, and it is why I am here in Chile, serving a mission.  I am here seeking to share the gift of eternal life with all who will accept the restored gospel of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and who love Him enough to live according to its precepts.  What a wonderful opportunity I have to be spending my Christmas sharing the best gift any of us will ever be given with all those who will receive it!

One of my favorite Christmas hymns ends with this verse:

How silently, how silently
The wond´rous gift is giv´n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The wonders of His heav´n.
No ear may hear His coming;
But in the world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

I love you all and pray that your Christmas is a wonderful one.  I hope that you will remember our Savior on this special day, and show your gratitude and love for Him by "receiving Him" and living the gospel!

Your commitment this week is to re-read one of your favorite accounts of the Savior from the scriptures.  Share it with your family or a friend, and tell them why it means so much to you, and how the message of the Savior has changed your life.

Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas!


Hermana Burgess

P.S.  This is our "official" Christmas picture.  We are wearing our rain gear because it has strangely been raining like crazy this week!  So it´s a little bit like winter here, even though it still isn´t really Christmas without any snow!

The other pictures are of me, Hermana Bowns, Hermana England, and Hermana González with our Christmas tree, our Christmas tree, and me and Hermana Bowns at Christmas conference.  More pictures coming soon!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

First Cambio

Sounds like she's learning to communicate, if only through music.  Music is the universal language, isn't it?  Keep the letters coming...


This morning was cambios (transfers) and do you want to know something?  I don´t like cambios at all.  We knew nothing was going to happen to our companionship, since I am still in training and Hermana Bowns goes home after this cambio, but I was still sick to my stomach all morning waiting for the phone to ring.  I am not looking forward to that happening every six weeks for the next 15 months.  We didn´t get changed at all, as we thought, but we do have one change in our district.  Hermana England, who lives in the house with us, is getting transferred to a different area in Chillan.  She will be living with Hermana Frandsen and her companion, so I told her to get excited about that.  In Hermana England´s place, we are getting an Hermana Leish, whom I have not yet met but who I am told is from Utah and is really sweet.  So I am looking forward to meeting her.

I don´t really know what to say about this week.  For some reason I can´t seem to remember very much of it....  But a few things of note did take place.

On Wednesday we had a Christmas Conference with half the mission.  We rode a bus a couple of hours north to Talca for the conference and rather than being a full day of training, interviews, etc., we did a half-day with a Christmas devotional and a lunch afterward.  On Sunday we got a call from the Assistants, asking Hermana Bowns and I if we would perform a musical number at the conference.  The only problem was they were already using most of the Christmas hymns!  We had a hard time finding something, and changed our minds several times, but in the end we used an arrangement of Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee with the words for Oh, Pueblecito de Belén (Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem).  It was a little different, but we felt good about it, considering the fact that our resources were very limited and we put it together in just a couple of days.  At the conference, there was one other musical number from people in the mission and musical numbers from the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.  We also watched President Monson´s talk from the Christmas Devotional, but it was in Spanish so I didn´t understand it very well.  President and Hermana Humphrey also spoke, and they gave really great talks.  Hermana Humphrey always knows just what to say to get to me.  This is going to be President and Hermana Humphrey´s last Christmas in the mission, since they go home in July.

For lunch at conferences, I am told they always serve the same thing.  They cook up a bunch of whole chickens and then cut them in half and each person is supposed to eat half a chicken, along with rice, bread, a banana, and some kind of dessert (this time it was brownies).  I have gotten pretty good at eating everything on my plate and I ate all the chicken and most of the rice.  Who´s proud?

Two things great happened one morning this week.  We went to find a reference in a part of our sector where neither of us had never been, and on the way there, we stopped to talk to a woman on the street and seriously did the best job of making a contact that we have ever done as a companionship!  I even said some things besides, "somos misioneras por La Iglesia de Jesucristo."  It was a singular event, as of yet.  Usually I don´t know enough of what people are saying when we contact them to be able to say much, but contacting is something we have been trying to work on, so maybe this week we can have two or three that are thay good!

The other great thing that happened that morning was that when we went to the address for our reference, the house was clearly not occupied, so we started asking around at all the neighbors houses to see if maybe we had the address wrong or if they had moved.  One woman came out and gave us some ideas for where else we could look, and then when we asked if we could share a Christmas song with her (this is one of the ways we have been trying to find people this month, offering to sing Christmas carols), she said she was the caretaker of a sick woman but she´d ask her if we could come in and sing and she said it was okay so we went in.  The sick lady, Maria, loved our song and started crying because she loves music and misses it so much.  We also made plans to stop by again to share a gospel message with her and her caretaker, Angelica.  When we went back, Angelica wasn´t there, but Maria´s daughter, Maria Teresa, was. Apparently we had made an impression on her mother (who suffers from a little dementia, so I know it takes an impression for her to remember things) because Maria Teresa knew who we were and invited us in immediately, where we got to teach her and her mother a lesson. It was a blessing that only came to us because we were willing to share our musical talent.  I am so grateful for that opportunity.  I know that if nothing else comes from meeting them, we made Maria´s day when we sang to her that morning, and I know she felt the love of the Savior, and that is really why we´re here - to help people come closer to Christ.

Our investigator who was in church last week came again yesterday!  And she came to two meetings instead of just one!  Our district leader, Elder Aguirre, has been trying really hard to teach us the importance of verification and daily contact (we worry about bothering people).  Last week we talked to or saw Paulina almost every day, and she came to church again!  I know she didn´t really want to, since it´s so early in the morning, but she came!  So we are learning that our district leader is inspired and we should probably try harder to make all the changes he suggests for us.  Yesterday he challenged us to be more bold (sometimes we beat around the bush because we are afraid of people´s reactions), and we are really nervous about it.  But I know if we learn to do it we will be blessed and so will our investigators.

To top off this week of music, last night we had a stake choir "competition" and Hermana Bowns and I participated in the choir from our ward because they needed her to play the piano.  We sang Regocijad, Jesús Nacio (Joy to the World); Mira Maria (Shepherd´s Carol from the Children´s Songbook); and Jesús en Pesebre (Away in a Manger) as a choir.  I also sang a duet version of He Sent His Son with one of the members of the ward.  It was supposed to be an SAB arrangement, but for some reason no one ever learned the alto part so it was just me and Jorge.  Musical talent isn´t widespread around here, but our ward has a few people in it that manage pretty well, and our performance went better than could have been anticipated, I think.  The Sprirt was very strong especially when we sang Jesús en Pesebre, and that is really the most important thing!

Well, I´ve gotta go now.  I love you all!  Your commitment this week is to share your testimony of the birth of the Savior with someone who needs to feel His love.  You can sing a song, read a scripture, share a story, or just bear testimony, but find a way to let someone know how much this holiday means and how much our Heavenly Father and the Savior love us and that that is why we celebrate Christmas.


Hermana Burgess

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mini-Conference and a Discurso

Hello Again!

Sorry to make you all so depressed last week.  I am still not perfectly obedient and we are not perfect in teaching or in achieving our goals or anything like that.  But we did have TWO investigators at church this week.  So there are some small miracles, and I know it is because of your prayers on our behalf.

Can you believe that I have been in the field for nearly a month now?  CRAZY!  I feel like in a whole month maybe I should have learned more or gotten more done, but at the same time it seems like I really haven´t been here all that long at all and that I shouldn´t worry so much about it.

This cambio (transfer) is only five weeks, because they don´t do cambios the week of Christmas, so there might be some changes in our district or zone after this week.  But I´m pretty sure I won´t have to worry about it because I´m only halfway through training and Hermana Bowns goes home after next cambio.

We had a mini-conference this week, where they trained us on how to teach like the Savior.  I understood about half of what was said because President speaks pretty slowly in Spanish and Hermana Humphrey doesn´t really speak Spanish at all, so she has someone translate for her.  But I couldn´t understand anything the assistants said, they just spoke too quickly for me.  We learned a LOT though and we had a practice that we got to do in English since Hermana Humphrey was in charge of our group.  They put all the newer gringo missionaries together with her so that we could all understand what was going on.  Hermana Humphrey is a really great missionary!  She helped us so much in our practice to recognize the needs of the people we were teaching, learn how to ask inspired questions, and teach the doctrines that will meet their needs and help them to have a spiritual experience.  Of course, in English this is always easier and though I really want to apply it in my everyday lessons, I haven´t yet figured out how to do it in Spanish....

I also got to see Hermana Frandsen!  She is in the other zone in Chillan and we met with both zones together that day, so that was awesome.  We sang our theme song (Loch Lomond) and gave each other normal hugs instead of saluding.  It was so great to see her.

On Sunday, I had to give my very first talk (discurso) in sacrament meeting since my "farewell" talk.  It was very stressful, especially when the bishop told us that the other speaker hadn´t come and so we had to fill the whole meeting (when originally I was told to speak for only seven minutes).  But I think I took up my fair share of the time and Hermana Bowns left a sweet note in my himnario that said that she thought it was a talk someone eight months, not only one, into the mission would have given.  I don´t really believe her, since I really hope I speak better Spanish that I did yesterday seven months from now (I had to keep asking her for translations from the pulpit), but I did feel like it didn´t go too badly.

I had been studying and learning a lot about the connection between faith and obedience (I think I shared some scriptures before about that) and so I decided to talk about that.  I shared three stories from the scriptures about people who had to ACT on what they had a belief in.  

The first was about the Israelites in the wilderness with Moses, and how they had been murmuring against God, and so the Lord sent fiery serpents among them and many of them were bitten and killed.  When they realized that they had been disobedient and asked Moses for help, the Lord told him to make a brass serpent and put it on a rod, and then anyone who had been bitten need only LOOK at the brass serpent and they would be healed.  (Numbers 21:5-9)  It´s so simple!  If you have faith in the Lord and believe that He will heal you, you LOOK.  But many of them did not look (1 Nephi 17:41); they did not have real faith and so they perished.

The next story was that of the woman with the issue of blood who is healed because she reaches out and touches the hem of the Savior´s robe. (Matthew 9:20-22)  I love what it says in verse 21, "For she said within herself, if I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole."  And did she sit around waiting for the Savior to come and heal her?  Did she hope that maybe his clothing would brush up against her in the crowded street?  NO!  She REACHED OUT and touched it herself!  She had the faith to ACT!

The last example I shared was that of Nephi.  He is always heralded as having had incredible faith.  But we wouldn´t say so if he hadn´t ALWAYS done whatever things the Lord had asked him to do.  (1 Nephi 3:7, 2 Nephi 33:15)

Fatih is not just believing.  It is an assurance, an expectation.  If you expect it to rain and you don´t bring your umbrella, you´re going to get wet!  By the same token, if you expect the Savior to heal you, if you expèct the Lord to bless you, if you expect to receive the incredible gift of eternal salvation, you have to DO those things which our Heavenly Father and the Savior have asked you to do.

So that is your commitment (and mine) this week.  DO SOMETHING!  Pray more fervently, study the scriptures more diligently, be more attentive in Church, love and serve those around you, strengthen your family with family prayer or scripture study or family home evening, or make a different personal goal.  But do something to demonstrate your faith, your gratitude, and your love to our Heavenly Father.  I know that if you do, you WILL receive those promised blessings.

I love you all.  Thank you for your support and prayers!


Hermana B

Monday, December 3, 2012

Another letter from Chile!

Here is this week's letter!  I looks like the best way for us to write to her is directly to her mission email account,  She says that dearelder takes a while to get to her because of the distance from the mission home.  She also says that snail mail takes about a month to get there.  Anything we send for Christmas probably won't make it before Christmas, but she'll appreciate it when it arrives!  Keep those letters and prayers coming...

Hi Everyone,

This week I don´t have a lot to report.  That´s because we didn´t have much success this week.  And that´s because I am not really very good at being a missionary.

I really have no trouble with the concept of the mission rules (well, the 6:30 in the morning thing isn´t my favorite, but actually in Chile we wake up at 7:30 in the summer and 7 in the winter, so I didn´t get off too badly), but we don´t seem to be very good at following them.  Don´t get me wrong, we aren´t going swimming and watching movies and going out dancing or anything like that.  But we run late.  A lot.

We seem to always be late leaving the house to work.  We stay too long in lessons and at meals with members because we don´t know how to politely excuse ourselves, and sometimes that makes us late coming home from lunch for afternoon study or at night to plan.  Then we plan FOREVER.  I don´t know why, but it always takes us at LEAST an hour to plan.  (It is supposed to take half an hour.)  So after we´ve planned for an hour or more we are lucky to have time to brush our teeth and get in our pajamas before it´s time (or too late) for bed.  We aren´t trying to be disobedient.  We´re just really struggling.  We get up on time, we exercise, we study, we work all day, and then we plan.  And yet we are oh, so disobedient because we can´t seem to do things in a timely manner.  I´m really frustrated because it´s like, we study for three hours so even if I had everything totally ready to walk out the door before we started studying, we´d both still have to go to the bathroom before we left (because who knows when we´ll get another chance), and that´s like ten minutes gone.  But if we stop studying ten minutes early to go to the bathroom before we leave the house, we aren´t studying when we´re supposed to be.  I don´t know which is the lesser evil.  It´s a vicious cycle and I don´t know how to stop it!

Our numbers have been so low that our district leader has been calling us every day.  That is not supposed to happen.  He´s supposed to call twice a week to get numbers.  But no, we aren´t good missionaries, so Elder Aguirre calls every day and "counsels" Hermana Bowns for ten or twenty minutes.  And sometimes he wants to talk to me and that always makes me stressed out and then I cry because he only speaks Spanish and I can never, ever understand him so I don´t really know what it is he wants me to do.  And then I am so frustrated with him for stressing me out that I don´t even want to do what he asks me to do, so then I am being even more disobedient and that just makes us even less effective.

I have been learning a lot in my studies this week about how faith and obedience are so connected.  There is a scripture in Alma 57:21, which talks about the Stripling Warriors.  It says that they OBEYED with EXACTNESS and they were blessed according to their FAITH.  Ding!  Light bulb came on in my brain.  The Stripling Warriors were blessed according to their FAITH in the Lord and their FAITH in the leaders whom the Lord had sent to be their commanders at war, and because they had FAITH they were OBEDIENT.  They tell you here in the mission that you won´t be successful if you don´t have faith.  They also tell you that you won´t be successful if you aren´t obedient.  Well, they really are one and the same.  You cannot be obedient if you do not have faith that that obedience will bring you some kind of blessing.  You cannot be obedient if you do not have faith in the person who is giving you guidelines to follow.  You cannot be obedient if you do not have faith in yourself that you can accomplish your goals to do so.

So this week, I need to work on having more FAITH.  I need to be more obedient, yes, but the first thing I need to fix is my faith.  I need to love the Lord and trust Him enough to DO WHAT HE ASKS.  He asked me to come on a mission, and I came.  I left my life and my family and my friends behind and I moved to South America for heaven´s sake!  But just coming, it isn´t enough.  When I accepted my call to serve, I was accepting not only the fact that I would have to leave things behind, but also that I would have to accept new rules, a new schedule, and a new way of life.  I already accepted it.  I said I would do it, and now here I am, acting like being here is going to be enough!  IT´S NOT!  The Lord loves me so much.  He has given me everything, and He is really asking so little in return.  I just need to get over myself and show Him my love and gratitude by doing what He asks of me.  Because that is when I will receive blessings.  That is when I will see miracles.  

Whenever we have a bad day and we know it is because we weren´t exactly obedient, Hermana Bowns tells me, "I am going to be more obedient, Hermana Burgess, because you deserve to see miracles!"  There are some wonderful people here who really need those miracles in their lives, and I am just getting in the way because I can´t do a few simple things that Heavenly Father and His chosen servants have asked me to do.

So this is your commitment this week:  Please pray for miracles.  Pray that I can be humble, that I can be obedient, and that I can have faith.  Don´t worry about my health or safety or whether I am happy.  Because if I am being obedient, those things are PROMISED to me as a servant of the Lord.  Just pray that I can learn to overcome my "natural man" (Mosiah 3:19) and be the kind of missionary whose exemplary obedience and hard work prompts the Lord to work miracles in the lives of those who so desperately need His gospel.

One last scripture, that I read earlier this week and totally fell in love with.  And I think it has a lot to do with my obedience as well.  1 John 1:6-7, which reads:

"If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."

I love you all,

Hermana Burgess

P.S.  Congratulations to the Huffs, Hislops, and Knights, who all had the most BEAUTIFUL babies in the past couple weeks.  My mom sent me pictures and I am SO HAPPY for you all.  Tell them that I love them and I can´t wait to meet them!  :D

P.P.S.  Visit if you do not have access to a Book of Mormon to look up the references in this post.  I´d link it, but I can´t figure it out on this Spanish-speaking computer....