Monday, June 29, 2009

Well, I´ve made it through my first week. I discovered that even after two months at the best language learning facility in the world, I don´t know any Spanish. I can speak pretty well, but I can´t understand. The Chilenos pride themselves on being one of the fastest dialects of Spanish--cause they are. They talk way fast. I feel like Kirby Heyborn in The Best 2 Years: "That ain´t the language they taught me in the MTC." Another Elder in my zone said it took him 3 months to understand them fully, and my companion took 6. Not very comforting. But my companion also told me that he can tell I´m picking up a lot faster than he did. And I speak much better than he did out of the MTC. That is comforting.

Speaking of my companion/trainer, he is way great. Elder Rigby is actually from Logan, Utah. He is really amazing, and I´ve learned a lot from him. I´m glad to have him for a first companion.

The houses here are really different. I´m in a zone called Renca, out in the suburbs. Most of the houses are like one building split into two homes. There is a gate outside, then a patio, and then the actual house. You have to stand outside the door and yell "Halo!" (ah-low) then wait until someone comes out. Often no one will, so we go to the next door and yell again. That is basically how contacting goes. We "knocked" 157 doors this week. The goal for the mission is 140 so we exceeded it, but all of our other numbers were pretty low. Elder Rigby says they were his lowest numbers yet. I feel bad cause I feel that it´s because I haven´t been helping much cause I can´t understand. But once I can understand and help him more our numbers should increase.

The area is pretty poor. The houses aren´t in the best condition. Sometimes they´re a mess. But the people are pretty humble for the most part. There are two main churches down here, aside from ours: Evangelist and Catholic. If someone is a member of one of these two churches, it is hard for them to change. There are dogs everywhere. The ones inside the gate bark as you walk past, and the thousands outside (that´s not too much of an exaggeration) just follow you and sometimes try to get you to pet them. There are a ton of dogs.

Our ward is really great. Yesterday there were 41 members in church. Not high attendance. There are 300-ish inactive families in the ward. We have a huge responsibility with re-activation and retention here. President May spoke in our Sacrament Meeting yesterday, which doesn´t really happen that often. He talked about members helping the missionaries, and really laid down the law. We appreciated it, and hope that it leads somewhere.

The food is really great. We eat a small breakfast in the morning, but the other meals are nothing like U.S.A. Down here lunch is at 1:30 or 2:00, and it is huge! We have a schedule and eat with a family in the ward every day, so we never have to cook. People here have what is called once(oh-n-say)(spanish for 11) at about 8:00, but we have ours at about 11. Ours usually consists of some bread warmed up on a George Foreman grill with butter and maybe jam. Sometimes a bowl of cereal. That´s about it. I actually like how it works, though. Big lunch at 1:30, snack at 11.

We walk a lot. There´s a bus system, which we take some, but not much. We walk most of the places we go. All day. Every night my feet hurt, and my legs are still upset at me. But it´s good for me. All the walking, plus exercising every morning, and I think I might loose that 12 pounds from the MTC, and maybe more. :) Hope so!

Our apartment is freezing cold. I have to wear my coat at night and in the morning. We´ve asked for a heater but don´t know when we´ll get it. Right now our heater is the George Foreman grill. My bed is warm, though, after I´ve been in it for a couple of minutes. That plus walking all day and I don´t have any trouble falling asleep at night. It´s kinda a small apartment, but it works. As we walk in the very small kitchen is on the left, a little farther is the living room, which is half the size of my room at home, and then the bedroom and bathroom, and an extra room where I keep my suitcases. There´s no dresser, so I´m living out of my suitcase, clothes-wise. So it is a small apartment, but it suffices. We´re not in it much anyway.

We do have a few people we´re teaching right now--less actives we´re trying to get back, new converts trying to keep, and investigators. We have a couple investigators that I think will turn out pretty good, but we haven´t gotten very far with them yet.

It´s pretty difficult down here. I have a hard time learning the language and I´m tens of thousands of miles away from my home, family, friends, and what I´m used to doing, etc. But I keep reminding myself that it isn´t about me; it´s about bringing others to Christ and baptism into His church. I know that I´m doing what I´m supposed to, and the Lord will help and bless me as I strive to be obedient and do my best.

We went to the zoo today. Monday´s the only day it´s open so missionaries go a lot for P-day, and we saw some others but none from my MTC district. It was pretty fun. They had elephants, lions, giraffes, tigers, white tiger, bears, condors, etc. kinda like a normal zoo, but it was cooler. It´s on a hill, so there´s a lot of climbing stairs to get to the next exhibit. It was really awesome.

Well, I´m about out of time, and can´t think of anything more to say. The mission is awesome and I love it. I can´t wait to really get into it and get going. Thank you everyone for everything.
Elder Murdoch

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

First Letter From Chile (handwritten and scanned)

Well I just talked to you , but I guess a little has happened since then. The flight down here went okay. It was a really nice airplane--comfy seats, pillows, meals, the works. It was enjoyable, but after about 4 hours I was ready to be done. Too bad I still had 12+ left. It was a long flight and now I'm really tired. We landed, paid for visas, went through customs, baggage claim, etc. and met up with the assistants at about 5:30 a.m. We stood and talked with them until Preisdnet and Sister May showed up. Then we packed up and came here to the mission home. Funny, it seems like days ago but it was actually just hours ago.

I love President & Sister May. They are way amazing! And they also brought in a sister and three elders from the MTC here. They are all natives of Peru, Chile, etc. They're learning English while we're learning Spanish. It should help us all out a lot. Soon we'll be meeting our trainers. President told us the trainers are some of the best missionaries. So you don't have to worry too much about my first comp being a slacker! :-) We'll have some training today and then go to the apartment. Then I'll probably get some tracting or something in tonight. That'll be fun!

I had an interview with President. It was pretty short, but good. He talked some, had me give my testimony, then gave me a blessing. It was great.

Well, I'm about out of room so I'll stop. It think they're scanning this so hopefully you can read it!

Love you all,

Elder Murdoch

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yay! One last email and then I'm in Chile!! We got flight plans Friday. We're supposed to be at the travel office next Monday at 6 in the morning. We got off easy; other districts have had to leave at 4. We fly from SLC at 9:45, arriving in Los Angeles at 10:45. We leave L.A. at 1:20. Our branch president, who travels a lot, especially to South America (he's a Spanish translator and really rich, retired from wallstreet and owns a recording studio), he told us that we'll probably have a couple hour layover in Lima, Peru. We'll get to Santiago about 5:30 Tuesday morning. Then Elder Williams, another elder in my district, has about a 2 hour bus drive to vina del mar. 16 hours on a plane! I'm gonna get a lot of sleep and studying in. Maybe some teaching, too. :) I love it here, but I am definitely ready to get to Chile and do some real teaching.

Thanks for the package! I love the letter, and will love the food even more! I already ate a couple candy bars, and I'll probably save a few for the plane. Oh, and thanks for the hug, too. :)

My health is steadliy returning. I still have a very minor cough, but even that is almost gone. I'm about 90% healthy. Way better than last week and the week before.

Last Monday we taught Bernardo, our "progressing investigator", again. He had gone to church the week before, so we started out by asking how it went and if he had any questions. He said, no, not about church. I picked up on the "not about church," and asked if he had any other questions. He said he's been having a hard time deciding if he's in the right place. (He's from Spain but moved to Chile to teach English.) He misses his family and doesn't get along with some of the other teachers and doesn't know if he should stay or go back home to Spain. I asked him if he's prayed about it. He said once, but it was a disaster. He gets a good feeling, then it leaves, and he still doesn't know what he's supposed to do. So we talked a lot about prayer, and Elder Andelin talked about making a list of pros and cons. At one point it was silent for a while as Bernardo was thinking. I knew I had to say something but felt that I should wait a minute. Finally, the Spirit gave me the go ahead, and I said, "Bernardo, we want you to know that we are here because we love you, and we want to help you. God also loves you, and wants to help you. All you have to do is ask." The Spirit was really strong the whole lesson, and even more so as I said this. Then we bore testimony some more and closed by having him say a prayer. When we taught him Wednesday, we asked how his praying had been going. He said great. He'd made the pros/cons list and prayed and got a feeling he should talk to the other teachers. So he met with them and asked them how they felt about his teaching. They told him what they like and gave him some advice, and he said he gets along with them better now and thinks he's been able to help his students out a lot more. It was great. We teach him tonight at 4 again. We'll finish up lesson 3 with Endure to the End. Last night, as we watched a movie about a talk by Elder Scott about prayer, I got a feeling that we should see how strong his testimony about prophets, especially modern-day, is. So I'll probably talk about that tonight, too.

Tuesday night we had a great devotional. We always sing 3 introductory hymns and, after the 1st, the big head security guy came to the microphone and talked about how we never stand during songs, unless one of the 12 or 1st presidency comes. Then he said, "So IF it's an apostle, feel free to stand up. Now aren't you glad you came early and got good seats?" So we all knew it was going to be an apostle, and were pretty happy. But I was so excited and thrilled when, as we all stood up, Elder Bednar walked up to the stand. I love him, and actually have been hoping for him to come. I guess my wish came true. It was a really great talk. He asked the question, How do I tell if it's the Spirit or just me? Then he answered it: Quit worrying about it and get to work! Be a good boy, be a good girl, remember and honor your covenants, keep the commandments, and you will be led and guided, and you cannot go amiss. It was a wonderful talk, which really helped me, and I'm sure many others. Hands down the best devotional we've had.

Thursday in class we had Hermana Penaflor for a teacher. She told us she had been praying to know what to prepare to teach us, and felt that she should have us teach her. Not as a situation or investigator, but as her--as Hermana Penaflor. My companionship went first. She gave us some time to pray and prepare. As we were preparing, Elder Wiggins looked at my Preach My Gospel, opened to questions of the soul, and all he saw was "Does God answer my prayers?" Later he said everything else was blurry. Elder Andelin opened to a random page in his study journal which was about praying, and I opened to a random scripture, which happened to be about, yep, prayer. So we prepared to teach Hna Penaflor about prayer. When we got in there, after the opening prayer, I asked her if she had any questions or concerns. She said the recently, she's been having trouble with prayers. It seems like she has doubts and they never seem like real prayers. (This is all in Spanish, remember. And the real deal, she's not making it up.) So we read some scriptures about prayer and bore testimony a lot. I felt prompted to read James 1:6, which is often skipped over during the Joseph Smith story but talks about praying in faith, nothing wavering--having no doubts. Then I mentioned how sometimes it is hard to not have doubts; we might wonder why something is happening, why me? Then I shared a scripture which I had randomly turned to while preparing. It's in 2nd Nephi 26:24, which says that God doesn't do anything unless it's for the benefit of the world. Then we all bore testimony again. I talked about how important prayer is to me because it's how I talk to God and one way he talks to me. Then I wanted to tell her that when she prays God will answer her. But I completely forgot the Spanish word for "to answer." So I said that He will help. Seconds later I remembered the word for answer. We ended by having her say a prayer. Afterwards she said, "Thank you, Elders. I really needed to hear that." She had written down a lot of notes. The next Elders that went in later told us that when they got there she was crying. I'm really grateful for the opportunity we had. It was a great experience, and I think we all helped her a lot.

Well, that was a pretty long email. Lots of great stuff happened this week. Every day just keeps getting better. And the Spirit just keeps getting stronger, and easy to follow. The Spirit really is an amazing thing. I don't know what we'd do without it. I really don't want to think about it. But it really is an amazing opportunity to feel the Spirit and be able to teach according to what it says.

Well, gotta go, I'm out of time. I'll call next Monday, probably about 11:00ish. Tell the kids that I love them all. Thanks for everything!

Elder Murdoch

Monday, June 8, 2009

Wow, how the time flies! There's no way I've been here for 7 weeks, but I already only have two more left. This morning the two older districts above us, well, what was left of them, left to their missions. Which means that for the next two weeks, we are the oldest district. Weird. But it'll be nice having the younger districts to be examples to. We got one last Wednesday and the week before and will get one this Wednesday too. It's gonna be a pretty big zone.

Last Wednesday, because of the flu, they changed up how the missionaries came in. They had the families drive up behind 19M, the gym. Then a "host missionary," missionaries that have been here awhile, would meet them. We would let them take pictures and then when the family left we would take them to their residence, then to get their shot charts filled out and get their package, and all the new missionary orientation. I was assigned to do it in the morning, but we did some after lunch, too. It was fun and really nice to be able to help out the new missionaries. The first one I helped took a couple minutes saying goodbye to his mom. He cried a little and she was bawling. It kinda made me think of when I left you guys and I had to look away. This same missionary is a really good elder. I've seen him several times since then, and he always calls out to me and says "Hi." Yesterday coming back from a temple walk I saw another missionary that I helped out, and we talked for a minute. It's a really good experience. I think we're going to do it again this week.

I've been sick off and on for the past week. Monday I had to stay home all day, like I mentioned in my email on Tuesday. I got feeling better, but then on Wednesday went downhill again. Thurdsay I had a real bad cough, runny nose, headache, and was really tired. So we went to the doctor to see what's up. Fortunately, I didn't have a fever. They just told me that I had a cold and should get some cough suppressant. So I got some Robitussun. I only used it once, but it worked. I'm slowly getting better. However, I was too sick on Thursday to teach at the TRC, as well as another Elder in our district, so we watched the teachings and gave some feedback. It was fun, but I really wished that I could teach.

The Spanish is coming so well. We're to the point where about 95% of class is Spanish, and the only English is if we don't know the word in Spanish and are asking our teacher or if the teacher has to explain something to us in English. But mostly we're in Spanish. And getting faster and faster each day. And I'm learning so many things from Preach My Gospel to help me teach. And also from the Book of Mormon. This is a great opportunity to study the Book of Mormon every day, and I'm learning so much from it and marking it up a ton!

I've completely forgotten to tell you about Bernardo. The first week of TRC, Elder Wiggins and Elder Andelin had to teach a guy who took it kinda rough on them. But then afterwards he requested them to teach him as a progressing investigator. And since I joined the trio, I get to do it too. We've taught him four times, I think. We teach every Monday and Wednesday, and even have a teaching record to fill out. We missed last Monday cause I was sick and Wednesday cause Elder Wiggins was, so today will be the first time in a week and a half. But in our last visit we did get him to commit to going to church with his friend who referred him to us. And hopefully within the next couple visits we might try commiting him to baptism, if the Spirit tells us. It's a great experience, because it makes it so much more real life than the TRC. Anytime we see him on the sidewalk or lunch, he's Bernardo, not Brother Johnston. And after every appointment we fill out the teaching record. I'm really grateful for this experience.

The other day, we had Hermana Penaflor sub again. She just got a new batch of 11 missionaries, and she took us over to them the last hour of class and we talked to them about studies and stuff. It was great to be able to help them out. I wish we could have had something like that when we first got here.

Well, one more Monday left. Two weeks from right now I'll probably be on a plane. And the next you'll hear from me will be from Chile! I'm way excited, but a little nervous too. But definitely ready to go.

Well, I think that's about it. We have to go prepare to teach Bernardo the third lesson. Wish us luck!
Thanks for everything and I love you all!
Elder Murdoch

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sorry I wasn't able to email yesterday. I was sick, and had to stay home. There have been a few cases of influenza here, and so they're telling missionaries that if we feel sick we are supposed to stay in our rooms. Also, they're holding some in as well. Another district in our zone was supposed to leave next Monday but they're getting delayed till the 15th. Anywho, yeah. I haven't been feeling 100% for a few days, but yesterday it got really bad. So I stayed home, and my companions did my laundry and got my food for me. I slept for 4 hours. It felt great. I also got some good journal writing in (I was behind 5 days) and wrote a couple letters. The sleep definitely helped, and today I just have a cough, but I'm feeling way better.

We got a new district in our zone last Wednesday. One of them, Elder Wadsworth, I sat close to in my college mission prep class. They're all really good Elders and Sisters. (6 Elders 3 Sisters) And tomorrow we get another zone of 12 Elders. Also last Wednesay, Tom, my old rooommate, and Logan, a college basketball teammate came. Tomorrow, Jeff, another teammate is coming. It's nice to be able to see some of my friends again before I leave the country for 22 months.

For TRC on Thursday we taught the first lesson in Spanish, for the first time. It went okay. Well, for our first time doing it in Spanish it went pretty well. But I felt that we were worrying too much about teaching the lesson, and not worrying enough about teaching the investigator. We were able to teach the lesson and the Spirit was there, but we didn't teach according to the needs of our investigator. It was mostly just teaching and trying to get the language right. But we're learning more of the language this week and Thursday, when we teach the first lesson again, it should go a lot better.

The language is going great. I'm learning a lot. It's amazing how much and how fast we learn here. I know that it's true what Hermano Huber told us: this is the best language learning facility in the world. We not only have way amazing teachers, but we have the Lord helping us as well. And we're learning a TON!!! Today Hermano Huber asked us what we want to start learning in language, cause we're almost done with what he and Hno Adams have planned. Crazy! I love the Spanish language, though, and can't wait until I can speak it fluently.

Today in the RC I had three great chats. One of them had a question about the 3 kingdoms of heaven, and then wanted to know about cremation, because her grandpa's dying and wants to be cremated and she thought you have to have a body to be resurrected. I was able to teach her a lot and she felt better about it after. Another was wondering why our church is so much better than any others, like Islamic or Judaism. I taught him about the Apostasy, and the need for a Restoration, and that because of this we have the fulness of the truth. Then we talked about prayer, and he's going to pray about it. I'm going to pray for him and hope that he can receive the answer he needs.

We've been to the temple every Monday except last Monday on Memorial day. I love going to the temple. Especially the celestial room, it's so peaceful in there! Sounds like it's a good thing I'm here and safe from Julie ;) Glad everything at home's going okay. Grandma wrote and told me that it's been raining/hailing there. I'm sorry. We have great sunny weather here. It hasn't rained in a couple weeks. She also talked about Barry. I can't believe he's graduated! That's crazy! I didn't realize he was that old yet. And Alyssa's graduated too! Shoot, by the time I get back, Jordan will be just about there as well. I'm really hoping to get back in time to make it to his graduation, but it's all in the Lord's hands.

Well, I think that's about it for this week. Things are going great. I love it here, but am ready to get to Chile. Tell everyone Hi for me. Thanks for the package. Thanks for the Turkish Delight! I shared with my companions and they loved it! It's way good!
That's it till next week. Only two more times emailing home, and then I'll be in Chile! Yea!!!! Love you all and appreciate everything you've done for me!
Elder Murdoch

P.S. I think we'll get to call from the airport, so I'll get to talk to you guys on Monday the 22nd. Can't wait!