Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Can't Think of a Catchy Title. Sorry!

Mis Seres Queridos,

Another week gone.  This last week seemed to drag on and on at first (On Wednesday I thought it was Friday and Friday morning when I woke up I thought for sure that it had to be Sunday!), but as always we tried to keep busy and now that the week is over I don´t really know where it went!

On Saturday we had a meeting for all the Hermanas in the Chillán area, and they told us some new missionary statistics.  As they said in General Conference, there are now about 65,000 missionaries in the field, which is so great!  But here is something even more great - before the change in the missionary age requirement, the percentage of sister missionaries was about 9%.  NOW, there are about 36% sisters in the mission field!!!!  Wahoo!!!!!!  But the thing about sisters is that they are just a little bit different than elders.  And it makes it difficult for the elders to train them.  Something else that is hard is that our district leaders and zone leaders can´t go on splits with us for training purposes, so they really don´t know how we teach or how to help us sometimes.  But now that sisters make up such a larger portion of the missionary force, they need leader sisters to do this kind of training and to help care for the needs that elders simply can´t understand.
So recently the Church implemented a new leadership position in the mission (, a Sister Training Leader, who handles sister-specific training and mini-cambios and things like that.  The Sister Training Leader for our area (all three zones in Chillán) is Hermana Miskin, and she is going to be absolutely awesome at it!  She told us that we will be doing some kind of strange mini-cambios, though, because there are just so many new missionaries who can´t be left alone together when their companions do splits for training purposes, so more than just the two companionships will have to participate in order to always have an experienced missionary (or one who speaks Spanish, anyway) working with the new gringa sisters during these mini-cambios. I am excited about this because the elders are always talking about how when they did this mini-cambio or that mini-cambio it was the best day of their whole mission and they learned so much and the sisters have not had the opportunity to do that very often until now.  It´s going to be great.
The highlight of our week was that we had three investigators in church yesterday, and all three of them have a baptismal fecha, which is the requirement in our mission to be able to consider an investigator as "progressing."  I have never had so many progressing investigators in one week in my whole mission!  It was really a miracle and a blessing from Heavenly Father that we have been able to work with this people who are willing to come to church and to commit to prepare themselves for baptism and for a new, better life more in harmony with the teachings of the Savior.
Since I recently finished the Book of Mormon, I decided that now I want to read the New Testament, so I cut my Book of Mormon time down a little in order to accommodate for both during my personal study time.  I have loved studying from the New Testament so far, and my favorite part is using the footnotes, cross-references, and Joseph Smith Translations to enhance my understanding.  I especially love learning the Greek and Hebrew roots and meanings of the words because it so often gives depth and meaning to the verse that I didn´t recognize before!  But I learned something about the scriptures in Spanish - they´re a little more efficient because they cut right to the translation of the word.  I always do my personal study in English and I feel so inspired by what I learned about the root of this word or that word in Greek, and then when I go to share what I learned with Hermana Morán in Spanish, I look in the Spanish scriptures and there is the word already changed into its Greek meaning!  How interesting is that?  I could probably save a lot of time marking footnotes if I´d just read in Spanish in the first place, but then again I´m still pretty slow at reading scriptures in Spanish....
Anyway, I don´t really have a lot more to say today.  Just that I love you all and that I really appreciate your love and support (and your emails....).  I hope that you are all happy and well and taking good care of yourself.  And I also hope that you are still reading your Book of Mormon every day!  Even though I´ve read it several times (and I´ve read the beginning more than that, as we all have), I have learned so much this past week from just reading from the first few chapters of first Nephi.
I hope you have noticed that I have not changed your commitment for a few weeks.  That is because I want you to take it seriously and DO IT!  President Humphrey told us in his weekly email this week that in a training for all the mission presidents in the area this past week, the Area President emphasized the importance of the Book of Mormon in conversion, so I am not the only one who thinks it is important!  READ THE BOOK OF MORMON!  It´s even better than Harry Potter!
Gotta go now.  Until next week!
Hermana Burgess

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Libertador (April 15th)

¡Hola Familia!

Guess what?  I´m back in Chillan!  It´s great here.  One of the really great things is that this house that we live in here is part of an apartment complex, and the gas is a CENTRAL LINE.  That means that we NEVER, EVER run out of gas (which is how we get our hot water, so you can see how it might be important...)!  It´s pretty awesome.  Something else awesome is that there is a cancha (or soccer field) just down the street from our house where we go running in the mornings.  It takes about five laps around the cancha to run a mile.  Much easier than the 40 laps it took to run a mile  out in the yard in San Javier or the 100 laps it took to run a mile in the living room and kitchen in Cordillera.  It´s a little weird just walking everywhere now, instead of riding a bike.  But my feet don´t hurt too much yet!

Probably the most awesome thing about Libertador is my companion, Hermana Moran.  She is from Ecuador, but she lived in Santiago for three years while her dad was a mission president there and then she studied at BYU for three years before coming on the mission.  Her English is really great, and we take turns reading aloud frpm the Book of Mormon in our respective languages during language study.  She is really special.  I don´t really feel like I am training her at all - rather that she is training me!  She is really sensitive to the Spirit and she has a lot of faith that the Lord will provide for us if we are obedient and hard-working.  And she is a really great example of exact obedience, I would never get away with breaking a rule even if I wanted to now that I have her for a companion, just because she is so dedicated to being exactly obedient.  And she loves to offer singing hymns to people as a way to get into houses, so that is something else that is pretty great.

We live with two other Hermanas who also work in the same ward as us, Hermana Miskin and Hermana Phelps.  Hermana Miskin is from southern California, "cerca de Mexico," and has been in the mission about a month longer than I have.  She has been in Libertador my whole mission - I met her my first P-Day out here in the field and since then she´s had four different companions.  Hermana Phelps just got here on Tuesday from the MTC.  She´s from Minnesota and graduated in graphic design from BYU-Idaho.  She makes me really remember my early days in the mission, as she had to learn Spanish in the MTC as well, only she had three weeks less to practice!  They are both awesome and living with them and sharing the ward with them is going to be great.

Anyway, the ward here is HUGE!  I have never seen so many people in a Chilean Sacrament Meeting before.  I haven´t yet had a chance to meet very many of the members, but it seems like the bishopbric is very dedicated to helping the mission work move forward in the ward, and they are very protective of the sisters.

Our zone has eight sisters, and our district has six!  Our poor district leader, it´s his first transfer as district leader and they gave him SIX hermanas!  But he is doing a very good job.  Hermana Miskin just got called to be the "leader" of the hermanas for our area, which means that she will be making arrangements to do mini-cambios for training purposes.  We are very excited about this because the elders get to do mini-cambios all the time and they say they always learn so much and have such great experiences and it has been a long time since the sisters have been able to do this, so we are really looking forward to the chance to learn from other missionaries.

Anyway, that is pretty much everything there is to know about my new sector!  In other news, my bike crash wounds have pretty much healed and I have yet to take pictures.  I am so disappointed in myself.  It was just such a spectacularly awesome crash and now how am I going to be able to remember it properly?  But it is healing, so don´t worry yourselves about that!

Also, this morning I finished reading the Book of Mormon!  Wahoo!!!!  It´s so great.  You should all read it.

Your commitment this week is a continuation of last week´s, because I am just so in awe of how amazing and how important the Book of Mormon is.  If last week you set a small goal to start reading, I encourage you to evaluate your progress and set another goal to do a little more.  If you didn´t start yet, START NOW!  If you didn´t meet your goal, try again.  I am serious about this.  It´s IMPORTANT!  READ THE BOOK OF MORMON EVERY DAY!

I love you all.  Have a great week!



La Caída y El Regreso (April 8th)


This week was so great because we had General Conference!  Wahoo!!!!!!  I totally loved it, and I hope you all did as well!

I am still trying to process everything I heard and learned and felt.  Basically I can´t pick a favorite talk because they were all so great.  But I felt like much of conference can be attributed to a quote by President Boyd K. Packer, which says, "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.  The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior."  If anyone had a question about our doctrine, it was certainly answered in this Conference!  It was like, BAM! BAM! BAM!   True doctrine, presented boldly and clearly, so that it cannot be misunderstood by the earnest seeker of truth.  I know that if we study these doctrines and seek to understand them, our attitudes and behaviors will change and we will be able to bring our lives in harmony with these teachings of the Savior, declared unto us through His chosen servants.

I am looking forward to reviewing my notes and I hope to really be able to apply the doctrines and principles that I learned in Conference in order to become a better person, and better missionary, a better wife and mother, a better disciple of Jesus Christ.

But before we had General Conference, it was just another not-normal week in San Javier!  There are a lot of things that went on this week that I don´t have time to describe at the moment, but one really significant thing happened that I wanted to tell you all about.  On Wednesday I had the joyful experience of crashing my bike!  As the Chileans say, I "bought" San Javier.  It was defintely my turn, as my companions have fallen multiple times, and I was asking for it a little bit.  My bike tire was getting flat, but we were running late and a member was waiting on us, so I didn´t want to stop by the bike shop or take the time to trade my bike for the spare that another member keeps at her house.  In fact, I insisted against it despite loving exhortations from dear, sweet Hermana Fajardo.  I walked the bike through the rough dirt terrain, but mounted it again to descend a steep hill (which is exhilaratingly exciting to ride down) which ends in a sharp turn.  Well, my flat front tire was not equipped for the tight turn and my bike fell out from underneath me.  I continued moving forward, sliding into home base, as it were.  I WAS wearing a helmet (we ALWAYS wear our helmets), and though I have some pretty impressive scrapes on my hands and my right arm and leg, I was blessed to come out of it relatively okay.  Ever since it happened I have been thinking of the scripture in 1 Nephi 11:36, which says, "And it came to pass that . . . the [flat-tired bike] was the pride of [Hermana Burgess]; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great."  It turns out that pride is a huge problem for me.  I´d probably be a much better missionary if I could get that worked out....  But Hermana Fajardo does not have a problem with pride, and she has been nice enough not to say "I told you so."  And now I have awesome battle scars!

And, as it turns out, it was one of my last chances to "buy" San Javier.  I found out this morning that I am being transferred BACK TO CHILLAN!  I will be serving in Libertadores (where Hermana Frandsen started her mission), and I will be finishing the training of Hermana England´s (who is going home today) "hija," Hermana Moran.   It is in a different ward, zone, and stake than I was in before when I was in Chillan, but since I was "born" in the mission in Chillan, it has a very special place in my heart, and though I am sad to be leaving San Javier and my wonderful companions and the investigators and members here, it feels a little bit like going home.  It is going to be weird to have to walk again, though.  That will take some getting used to!

I have been thinking a lot about how very important The Book of Mormon is, not only in serving as evidence of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but as a guide for our lives.  I am reading right now in Ether, which generally makes me a little depressed.  It´s just a bummer to read about so many people rejecting the prophets, and so many men rebelling against and often taking the lives of their own fathers or brothers in pursuit of money and power.  I was wondering a bit why these chapters are even in there, but then I got to thinking about HOW IMPORTANT IT IS!  We NEED to be familiar with these patterns of pride and wickedness.  We NEED to be able to recognize them when they start to surround us.  We NEED to know how to combat them and how to remain safe and whole spiritually as well as physically.  We can really learn a lot from the people in the Book of Ether, and from all of the characters in the Book of Mormon, be they righteous examples of obedience and faith or merely the best example of what not to do.  The Book of Mormon is SO IMPORTANT.  In the MTC we had a devotional speaker who asked us each to make a personal commitment to read from it EVERY SINGLE DAY for the REST OF OUR LIVES!  I hesitated to make this commitment with myself because I was afraid I would not be able to do it.  But I realize now that I NEED to make this commitment.  I CANNOT progress toward becoming the divine being that my Heavenly Father intends for me to be if I do not do it.  There is simply too much to be learned from The Book of Mormon to let it slide for even ONE DAY.

Your commitment this week is to read The Book of Mormon EVERY SINGLE DAY!  If you, like me, are apprehensive about making it a lifetime commitment, I invite you to at least commit to reading (even just a little bit) EVERY SINGLE DAY THIS WEEK.  Then pray to know if the Book is true.  Pray that you can recognize the knowledge and blessings that have come into your life as a result of your decision to read every day.  I promise you that if you give it a try, you will soon want to make the commitment to read every day for a month, then a year, and then FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

There really are no excuses now for not "being able" to do this.  You can get it for free on your phone, on the internet, or by "asking a missionary" or an LDS friend or neighbor - they can help you!  If you have it on your phone or computer, try what Elder Scott suggests and review a verse of scripture the next time you send a text or Facebook message!

Anyway, I really sincerely hope that you will all take this commitment to heart.  I cannot express my gratitude and appreciation for the Book of Mormon enough.  Please let it help you have a better life.

I love you all so very, very much.  I pray that you are well and happy!  Thank you for your love, prayers, and support.

Next week I write again from Chillan!



Three Mini Missionaries and a Funeral (April 1, 2013)


This week was certainly different!  I don´t know that I would define it as crazy, per sé (I know, shocking!), but it was definitely different.  :)

On Tuesday we went to district class in Talca as usual and while we were there we found out that a member of our branch had passed away.  His name is Hermano Jorge and he had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks previous to his death.  What I could understand from my limited Spanish medical-terminology vocabulary is that he had suffered a stroke.  Though I am certain I saluded him at church on Sunday on a regular basis, I know we had only once really interacted with his family, when one of the families in the branch drove us out to their house to visit them (they live really far out in the campo so can´t get there on our bikes).  Needless to say, I did not know him well, but as any Latter-Day Saint knows, a death in the ward or branch affects every member of the congregation.  And due to the small number of people in the congregation, the support of the missionaries was definitely needed.

In Chile they do not embalm bodies, so the funeral has to happen fast.  Traditionally, there is a viewing of sorts in the home of a close family member which begins the same day or the following morning.  This viewing generally lasts an entire day and then the morning before the funeral service.  In this case, the viewing was held in the chapel.  But there is a rule that in order for the chapel doors (and the gate, or reja, outside of the chapel) to be open so that people can come in and out, there must be a Melchizedek Priesthood-holder inside.  This is where the Elders came in.  With the exception of their fixed citas for that day, they had to be in the chapel monitoring the comings-and-goings of all the family members and friends who came to despedir Hermano Jorge.  The Branch President, Presidente Cancinos, asked that we also be present in the chapel for as much time as possible, so we spent the better part of the afternoon and evening there to support the family and the branch.  There was a small devotional that night, where they asked me to sing.  Here in San Javier there is no piano (well, there is an electric organ, but it doesn´t work anymore because somebody cut the part that plugs into the wall outlet off the end of the cord...) so we sing almost all the hymns without accompaniment.  So planning a special musical number pretty much means that I walk into the church and Presidente asks me to sing something and so I choose something out of the hymnbook and sing it.  Anyway, Hermano Alfaro, a close friend of Hermano Jorge, wanted me to sing "Que Firmes Cimientos" ("How Firm A Foundation"), so I sang the first couple of verses to an alternate melody and then I sang the last verse in the normal way.  I thought after that that I was done, but at the end of the service Presidente asked me to sing again, so I sang "Acompañame" ("Abide With Me").

The next afternoon was the funeral, and they had asked me to sing again, so we went.  I sang "Conmigo Quedate, Señor" ("Abide With Me, ´Tis Eventide") by request of the branch presidency.  The funeral was nice, Elder Ford spoke as well as Presidente Cancinos.  After the funeral is over, it is tradtional for the whole congregation to follow the hearse on foot to the cemetery.  We were going to opt out of the burial and go back to work, but as we were leaving on our bikes, Presidente asked if I would please come to the cemetery with them and sing again at the graveside.  So we went, though we went in the car with Presidente Cancinos and his wife, Hermana Zenaida.  Here they do not bury people six feet under in individual graves.  Instead there are family tombs where they stack the coffins one on top of the other, or they are placed in slots in a cement wall, which is where Hermano Jorge went.  Anyway, at the gravesite we sang a few more hymns and Presidente Cancinos dedicated the grave, and then that was the end of my first Chilean funeral.  Hermana Holland had never been to any kind of funeral before.  I daresay I have been to too many.  And I felt so much sorrow for Hermana Teresa, the widow of Hermano Jorge.  They are sealed in the temple and Hermano Jorge was 79-years old, but Hermana Teresa was still understandably devastated by the loss.  In addition, many of their family members are not members of the Church, so they do not have the comfort and peace that come from the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation.  There was one granddaughter that was particularly heartbreaking to watch.  Being at someone´s funeral always makes you feel so helpless, as there really is nothing you can say or do that will really help the family, but this one was especially so because I literally did not have the words I needed to show my compassion and support.  I wanted to reach out to them and give them comfort and tell them what I have learned from my experiences with death in my family, but I just did not have the vocabulary.  I just couldn´t adequately express to them the joy and hope of eternal families or how I know with a surety that they will be reunited with their beloved ones again.  Yes, I have taught the Plan of Salvation before, and shared my experiences in small ways in lessons with investigators, but here at this funeral I was just at a loss for what to say and what to do to help comfort this grieving family.  But I gave Hermana Teresa a big hug and I tried to let it say what I couldn´t.  I hope it helped.

Then this weeked we got to participate in something called a Mini-Mission.  It is a program where 16-18 year-old youth get to go on a mission for three days somewhere close to their home.  This time 10 stakes participated, and over 280 youth were sent on mini-missions!  Each of the three of us received a mini-missionary to work with on Friday and Saturday.  They stayed with the Familia Alfaro, but were still required to go to bed and get up at the same time as us.  Then Hermano Alfaro would bring them over to our house in the mornings in time to study, and they stayed with us all day studying and working until 10 PM when Hermano Alfaro came to pick them up again.  My mini-companion was Hermana Morales.  She is 16 years old and from Tome, which is in the Penco stake and relatively close to Conce, if I am remembering right....  She also sings and plays the piano and the flute and loves to learn English and from what I can tell speaks pretty well (though we did not speak much English during our time together).  She was an awesome mini-companion!  I was amazed and how well she coped with walking around all day in less-than-adequate shoes for missionary work, and how much she was able to do without any MTC training.  The youth of this generation really are ready to serve!  Hermana Fajardo was companioned with Hermana Cuadra, from Conce, and Hermana Holland worked with Hermana Navarrete, who is from San Carlos, which is part of my stake in Chillan.  They are all delightful girls and it was such a good experience.

The only bummer is that this weekend was totally dead.  In Chile, for Easter (Pascua de la Resurreción) there are three days vacation, or feriada, from school and work.  Large stores like Líder (Chilean WalMart) are open, but for reduced hours, and any negocios that are owned and operated by an individual are allowed to remain open, but everything else is closed and EVERYBODY (and I mean everybody) leaves town.  When we were out working, there would be maybe two houses on a street with people in them.  It made it a little bit difficult for my little mini-companion and I to find people to teach!  But she had a very good attitude and did an amazing job when we did get to teach.  :)  I am grateful to have had that experience.

Some other things about Easter here are that for the whole Semana Santa (Holy Week), they show Bible movies on television.  They show The Ten Commandments (though as far as I can tell, everyone here calls it "Moises") just like they do in the States, but they also show The Passion of the Christ and a bunch of other movies about the life of the Savior.  When I first got to Chile I thought it was so odd that everyone seemed to have seen the same video of the baptism of Christ, but now I know why!  Also, they eat empanadas de mariscos (seafood empanadas) and cazuela de pescado (fish soup).  Yeah, lunch was real hard for me yesterday.  And nobody is home and nobody wants to go to church because they are on vacation.  It´s kind of a bummer.  I hardly even noticed Easter was coming, because the only signs of it were inside the grocery stores, where we only go on P-Day.  And they don´t have Cadbury eggs here.

But yesterday we did have some lovely talks in sacrament meeting about the atonement.  And there is always something special about Easter Sunday, even if there´s not a huge celebration or big choir program in church.  We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and I always receive a special witness from the Spirit on this day that my Savior lives.  I have been thinking about the lyrics from this hymn that President Hinckley wrote:

I know that my Redeemer lives,
Triumphant Savior, Son of God,
Victorious over pain and death,
My King, my Leader, and my Lord.

He Lives my one sure rock of faith,
The one bright hope of men on earth,
The beacon to a better way,
The light beyond the veil of death.

Oh, give me thy sweet Spirit still,
The peace that comes alone from thee,
The faith the walk the lonely road
That leads to thine eternity.

And this proclamation by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
"For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
"That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God." - D&C 76:22-24

I too know that my Redeemer lives!  He is my Savior and my King.  He has made possible for me, and for all men, to repent and be baptized and endure to the end, which will prepare us to return to live with God and our eternal families in a state of "neverending happiness" (Mosiah 2:41) if we will do it.  What an unspeakbly incredible gift!

Your commitment for this week:  Share your testimony of the Savior.  I know that my testimony always grows whenever I share it, and I feel such a special spirit whenever I talk about what Christ has done for me.  I want you all to experience the same thing this week.

Also, watch this video, because Church videos are just plain awesome:

Gotta go now!  Don´t ever forget that I love you and that the Lord loves you too.