I don´t even really know where to begin! This week has been another crazy one, but great!
I was really sad to leave Cordillera at first. The ward members are so wonderful there and we had some really special investigators who were just starting to really progress. Monday evening Hermana González and I each found members to accompany us and I went to visit our most special investigators and give them a heads-up that there would no longer be Hermanas in our sector. There is one family that it was especially hard to leave. They have only shared with us for a couple weeks and half of them have come to church once, but they are so special. When we shared the First Vision with the the first time, they were all very touched and though they are battling emotionally and socially against years of Catholic tradition in their family and community, and physically against serious cigarette and coffee addictions, I know that they have been touched by the Spirit and that they know that the Church is true. It was heartbreaking to have to leave before they got baptized, but I told them that the although Elders may not be as pretty as us, they would take good care of them and teach them the same gospel. For our last visit I reviewed the Restoration and recounted the First Vision again and everyone in the room was crying because the Spirit was so strong. I can´t wait to hear about their baptisms!
Tuesday morning the Familia Ardiles, who have been our "go-to" family for almost everything in the ward, along with our ward mission leader, Diego González, and Fran Benevidas, a jovencita who often accompanied us to "citas" (appointments), came by to take us (and our mountain of luggage) to the bus station. It was such a wonderful blessing to not have to take all our stuff in locomotion, and I hadn´t had the chance to say goodbye to these most special ward members. I have been so grateful to them for all their love and support, and I hope to get a chance to talk to them again someday when my Spanish is good. :)
So now I am in San Javier with my new companion, Hermana Fajardo. She is from Guatemala, when people ask her age she says, "veinti-siempre" (I think she, like me, is in her mid-to-late twenties), and she´s so sweet. She is very sincere and considerate and she has a positivity that just doesn´t quit. It´s actually remarkable to watch her work, because she sets high goals and just keeps working no matter what. It´s like it doesn´s even occur to her that missionary work might be hard. It´s the kind of perspective I have always needed to develop in my life, but never really have known how. She doesn´t have a negative word to say about anyone ever and makes the best of every situation. She understands some English and often asks me "how do you say?" because she is interested to learn more. Being companions with her makes me realize a little more what my potential could be, not because she pushes me or challenges me in an obvious way, but just because she can´t see herself as being anything different, and I am just kind of along for the ride!
A couple of things have really surprised me about San Javier. First of all, the size. Generally, in our mission, your area covers only one ward, and though that is definitely more area than a ward in Utah, it´s still manageable and you rarely have to use locomotion to get anywhere. So when they told me I was going to San Javier and that it was part of the zone (or stake) Talca, I assumed that meant that San Javier was a ward/sector in the city Talca. This is not the case. San Javier is its own city, and it´s a HUGE area to cover as far as missionary work. But there are four missionaries in our sector - two Hermanas and two Elders. It´s an open sector, which means that we don´t have assigned areas of the city in which we work. Everything is free game except for the other missionaries active investigators. It´s different to work more closely with Elders and to see them more often, as in Cordillera we were the only missionaries in our area, and the next closest were the sisters who lived with us and attended the same church building. But here we talk to and or see the Elders every day, and they attend our same branch. We "share" recent converts and less-active families and plan activities together for the branch.
One thing I was REALLY not expecting this transfer was our mode of transportation. Because San Javier is so huge, we can´t walk everywhere. Instead, andamos en bici! (That means that we ride bikes!) I was horrified at first when they told me this, as I am not accustomed to riding a bike, I did not purchase skirts for riding a bike on my mission, and I didn´t even know that any Hermanas in our mission even HAD bikes! But there really isn´t a better way here in San Javier. And though it is squeaky and the shocks are a little worn out and my poor little backside is a little brusied, I quickly came to love my bici and to be really grateful not to have to walk the miles of distance between poblaciones (neighborhoods). We have had a couple of scuffles and I have a couple battle scars, but I have not yet fallen off. Hermana Fajardo did, though, and her battle scar is more impressive than mine, but we´ve still got time for me to get a more impressive injury yet! And whenever we are sore or tired of riding bikes, or one of us has some kind of a battle with our bici, Hermana Fajardo, in her typical positive way, always says, "Bicis we wanted, and bicis we´ve got..." because she and her companion in Conce always wished they had bikes!
Something else about this sector is that we are "whitewashing" it. For some reason, President didn´t keep either of the Hermanas who were working here previously in the sector to train someone else on it as he would usually do. Instead, he sent the two of them together to a different sector and brought me from Chillan and Hermana Fajardo from Concepción and so we are starting from scratch! The first couple days the Elders (one of whom, Elder Lopez, has been here for a while and knows the sector well) would meet up with us and guide us different places, but for the most part we have been on our own to find our way around and just go to work! The sisters before us didn´t really leave behind any investigators for us to work with, so it really is kind of like we are just opening the sector as if no one had been here before. But we have been well received for the most part; people here seem to be more receptive than they were in Chillan. And Hermana Fajardo is a contacting MACHINE! The mission standard for contacts is 140 (a goal which I had never before reached), and this week we made 200 contacts. I don´t even know how it happened, I just know at the end of the day I would look at my planner and see 35 or 40 tally marks. I don´t think our district leader believed it at first when we gave him the weekly numbers last night. But it´s true! And this morning our zone leaders called to congratulate us on a good week and said we had set an example for the zone! I honestly don´t feel different as a person or as a missionary than I did last week, but this place is definitely special. I am excited to go out there and "whitewash" and baptize this whole darn city!
Tomorrow will be my five-month anniversary in the mission (and Hermana Fajardo´s - we entered the MTC the same day, but she has a transfer more than me in the field since she only spent 3 weeks in the MTC in Santiago), and with everyone´s missions getting cut short by three weeks, that also means that I have less than a year left to go. The other day someone asked me if I liked Chile, and I found myself saying that I wasn´t ever going to leave. I´m not sure yet if I really feel that way, or if I was just saying it, but it wasn´t something I would have imagined myself saying. Though I do love Chile, I have spent much of my mission counting down how much time there is left to go, instead of just enjoying the time that I do have. I expect someday a switch will flip and I will start begging for there to be more time instead of less, but for now a year still seems like kind of a long time! But for now, I can say that I do love San Javier, and I am excited to see the work of the Lord move forward in this little part of the world - and to do what I can to help it along!
This week your commitment is to "start fresh" in something. Set one small goal to be better and do it! Even if you think it might be hard, or you think you might not be capable, remember that I and the Lord know that you can do it! To think that you aren´t capable is crippling - I know because I have spent the better part of my mission feeling incapable and it showed in my work. Don´t waste time wondering if you can do something, or thinking about how bad you´re going to feel if you fail. Instead focus your energy on DOING IT! Because that is when you will be able to succeed!
I love you all and thank you for your unending love and support!
Lovelovelove from a different lugar,