Tuesday, April 16, 2013

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:  http://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos/he-is-risen?lang=eng

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



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