August 26, 2013

You've Won Me

Dear family and friends,

Oh my. Do you all realize that tomorrow marks six months in the mission for me?? Six months is big, and I hardly know what to think. It has gone by so quickly, and I don't even like to think of how quickly this next year is going to pass by. Everything from here on out is my first and last- first and last 18 de September (their patriotic holiday here. HUGE.), first and last Christmas, first and last..... Oh boy.

This week was a very good one. We were able to teach a lot, and guess what? In just another two weeks, you´ll be hearing about our first Estación baptism. This week we found two very prepared Chilean grandpas, and I couldn´t even be more excited for these next couple weeks of teaching them.

Here is the whole story!
Tuesday, we were looking for a street contact that we had, and called at a house near ours. Out came Osvaldo, who reminds me a lot of the grandpa in the movie "Up". He let us in, and we started getting to know him and his story. He's been in and out of many different churches- Catholic, Methodist, Jehovah's Witnesses, and some little local church. He even received the missionaries years back, but never went to church or progressed much because his family wasn't a big fan. We taught him about our missionary purpose and all the blessings he can receive for being baptized in the restored gospel. He accepted a baptismal date and we set a day to come back and teach him.

When we returned, there he was waiting- he told us excitedly that he'd found his old Book of Mormon, and that he'd been reading from it and from the pamphlet for about two hours the night before. He rambled on about Nephi, about baptism, and about receiving the Holy Ghost, saying that he'd been searching for years for a church that could really, truly, give him the gift of the Holy Ghost. Jaw-dropper moment!!! He committed to come to church, even though he has ulcers in both of his legs and walks with a cane. He excitedly introduced us to part of his family, who had come into town to visit and kill one of the pigs (I thought about taking a picture, but didn't want to be rude. It was hanging from the porch when we showed up, dripping blood into a big pan. It was quite dramatic and interesting.). They received us well and even offered us some freshly made soup. We were able to chat with one of the daughters, with his wife, and hopefully begin winning the hearts of the family.
Sunday came, and we arrived at his house about 5 minutes late... Forgive us for still being imperfect in this. Before we even called at the house, he opened the door and came out looking like a genuine Mormon. Suit jacket, pants, Sunday shoes, and a little bag for his Book of Mormon and pamphlets. Yet another jaw-dropper moment from Osvaldo!

We walked slowly together to church, and I counted my blessings that the church is only a block or two from his house. He was eager to greet everyone in church, and really liked the attitude of reverence (when it comes to reverence, I suppose it doesn´t hurt that he's mostly deaf. He did mention that he'd like to hear the classes better and that he's probably going to ask his doctor if he can get some kind of hearing aid.)

And there is Osvaldo! He´s so tender and dear. As for our second Chilean grandpa, on Saturday night we had almost all of plans fall through. We were near the house of Hermana Berta, an outgoing, hilarious, faithful lady that has been a member of the church since she was young. Hermana Nájera mentioned that it had been a while since we´d visited her, so we stopped by intending to ask her for references.
Upon entering the house, Hermana Nájera mentioned, and it soon became evident, that her husband Arturo isn´t a member. He was thrilled to receive us and insisted that we have some hot chocolate, but joked around saying 'Remember that I´m a Catholic!' They have a great sense of humor and they're so fun, even though I don´t always understand what he says. He's one of those that is just a little harder to understand. We chatted with them for a moment and tried to use telepathic communication to decide exactly what to teach. Do we teach him, or ask references? Hermana Nájera finally whispered "The candle example?" and though I wasn't sure at first, we went with it.

The Candle Example. It is a nice, dynamic way to explain the Restoration, the Apostasy, etc. We talked about Christ's original church, and how it had the authority (the flame) to baptize and seal families for eternity. The church had a prophet, (one big candle) and twelve apostles (twelve little candles). After setting up the example, we turn off the lights in the room and light the match. God gave his authority to Jesus Christ, the prophet of the church, and he in turn gave it to each of his apostles. But what happened to Jesus Christ? The people crucified him, and one by one, killed all the apostles. One by one, we blow out each of the candles, and end up sitting in darkness. Lead in to the Restoration, and we relight the candles, explaining that once again we can be baptized by the authority of God and live with our families forever.

It was in this part of the lesson, after relighting the candles, that he said "Allright, you've won me. I want to be baptized." Hermana Berta started crying immediately and covered her face, and Hermana Nájera and I sat there in shock for a moment. Honestly, I didn't even understand him when he said it- it was Hermana Berta that stood up, saying, 'He's gong to be baptized!' and then came over to give us each a hug.

Needless to say, he also came to church and has a baptismal date for the seventh of September. Stay tuned! I think these weeks of teaching them might just be the best of my mission- they´re all so tender, so funny, so loving and excited by the gospel and the possibility of eternity together as man and wife. We also had 49 people in church this Sunday- Woohoo!! We had quite the dramatic experience with a less active family this week, and they came to church. Remind me to write about that in my journal...

Love you all so much. We´ll be seeing each other very soon, at the rate that this mission is passing. Pray that time goes a little slower? I pray for each of you and love you so dearly.

My thoughts and prayers,
Hermana Oldroyd

Cauquenes, Estación! Elder Crúz, Elder Dumm, Hermana Nájera and I.

Diego- he´s a big fan of stealing the extra tag and playing missionary

August 20, 2013

NOTHING worth distancing yourself

Once again, there is hardly a place to start.

Welcome to Cauquenes, Estación! After a long day of goodbyes on Monday, we arrived Tuesday morning here in Cauquenes. In total, it took four buses and a taxi to get to our area. Hermana Nàjera and I live alone in our own little house, and are working in a branch along with two Elders, Elder Dumm from California and Elder Cruz de Bolivia. The terrain here is really flat, and a lot more like the country. Trees, hills, fields. Whereas the schedule problem with Lirquen was the shifts of the port, here is that families leave all week to work in fields or vineyards closeby. The stars are breathtakingly beautiful and everytime we walk to Las Conquistadores (part of our sector), I feel like I'm walking through Pride and Prejudice.


When I first arrived, there had been a few little miscommunications between my companion and the branch president and our ward mission leader. I think we're on a very good road to fixing it, so no worries there. Hna Nàjera and I get along really, really well, and we've had an instant trust that allows us to talk very freely one with another. I know we'll do good work together. And as for work, lets just say that there is a LOT of it. The branch has an attendance of about 35 people, (there are three kids in Primary, two in Young Men, and no Young Women), our Area Book is about the size of one of our pamphlets, and the map of our sector could use some help. Our ward mission leader, Nikolas, is a recent convert of about four months, and our branch president only has one counselor. There has not been a very good tradition of retention here, but let me tell you one thing- everything is about to change.



Walking through the fields one night and chatting with Hermana, I felt more strongly than I ever have that this is where the Lord wants me to be. It all felt familiar- the area, being with Hermana Nàjera, being faced with this challenge of reactivating the branch. I felt like I'd been here before, like I knew this place, like I am here specifically for Hermana Nàjera as well. Before coming here, I'd been a bit discouraged with my lack of personal growth, but this is a time when I can really step out of normal and put my whole heart and mind into the work. The thing that most concerns me is the use of our time- we have so little and so much to do!! I want to make better use of every moment we have here and be very anxiously engaged in this good cause.


May I make a little plea to all of you? Consider what you value in your life right now. What are you sacrificing for what you now have? Even in this one week, we've met several people who have distanced themselves from the church because of a minor offence, a piece of gossip, lack of economic help from the church, lack of support in their calling, etc. With all my soul, I hope and pray that we can reinstate the flame of the gospel here in Estaciòn, reinspire the testimonies that once were in the hearts of these dear people.

Once again I'm reminded that there is just NOTHING worth distancing yourself from the church. I know its naive, but part of me just doesn't understand how everyone doesn't love this gospel like I do. It is the best thing that we could ever have! It is the one way to real happiness, and it is not worth sacrificing these blessings for a moment of pain, shame, or frustration. Don't let other people dictate the eternal blessings that you receive. I love the gospel with all my heart and sometimes it hurts me to be so imperfect in this, the Lord's work. I'll keep doing all that I can-

Love you all immensely

Hermana Oldroyd

P.S. I tracked dog poop into a house again, but this time it was an investigator. I've got to stop doing that...


August 12, 2013

Cauquenes it is!

My dear people, it is time.

I'll not keep you all in suspense and just tell you- that's right, they finally transferred me from Lirquen. But it'll all be ok! I'll be going to almost the border of our mission, to another little city called Cauquenes. I don't actually know how that is spelled yet... We'll see.

Lirquen to Cauquenes!

My companion is from Mexico, we´ll be 'co-companions', meaning no one is senior or junior, and that is all I know right now. Also don't know how to spell or pronounce her name, so I'll get back to you on that also. But I love her! It'll be a grand adventure in a new area and with yet another new companion. Now, for the past few days-

First of all, it hailed here. Hailed!! Who would have thought? Second of all, I barely remember all that has happened... Usually I try to make a list of things to tell you, but this week it slipped my mind. Ooh! I suppose I could give you the update on Victor. We had a lesson with him on repentance, planning to explain to him the necessity of being clean with the law before getting baptized. We were about halfway into the lesson, and it was going well, when we began asking more specifically what his restrictions are with the law. Turns out, instead of owing 5 days in prison like we originally thought, he actually owes 25--five days for every fine that he has, a grand total of about 200 thousand mil, which is about 400,000 dollars. Oh dear. He can't be baptized until he resolves all of that, and I'm thinking it'll be a process of a couple months until he can finally be baptized. The good news is that he isn't too discouraged and has agreed to work towards paying his fines and progressing towards his baptism. Keep on praying for him!

As for my birthday, it was a really good one. Thanks for all your birthday wishes!! (And yes, Kirsten, I really am 20 now!) Sundays are always one of the best days of the week, so that definitely didn't hurt. It also happened to be Dia de Niños, and it was fun to see and learn about that. Dia de Niños is kind of like a mini-Christmas, where all of the kids in the family get a present, and all the businesses and cities host little activities for children. I must admit, I really like the idea. Why not have another present-giving holiday in the middle of the year? Here in Chile, it falls on the second Sunday in August, though it happens on different days in other countries in Latin America. Apparently the United States is one of the only countries that doesn't celebrate it... Anyone else find that a little sad?

Erica, Sister Mena and a birthday frog!
Well, we woke up Sunday morning and ate breakfast together, then off to church. Relief Society was so sweet, as always, and Jonaton, Henry, Victor, and Jose Garces remembered right away that it was my birthday. Henry slipped me three big candy bars that he had bought me, and Victor asked me what kind of party I had planned for later. As for sacrament meeting, you´ll all be extremely proud of me, and perhaps a bit incredulous, if I tell you that I didn't even cry. We even sang 'El Fin Se Acerca', (umm, I don´t remember the translation in English. Something about the end drawing near.) and it didn't even phase me.

We went to lunch with Lorena Rubio, Marylou's sister. Of all the sisters in the ward, she always gives us the most food. We started with a yummy soup,some bread, then tacos! It was after my third taco that I saw her go back into the kitchen- maybe time for dessert? Nope! She'd also prepared Pastel de Papas, basically a potato casserole, for each one of us. We continued eating, laughing, and chatting with Vicente about Dia de Niños. I almost finished all the food, but not quite, and then came our first dessert, a ginormous serving of gelatin with caramelized sugar. Second dessert was a birthday cake that the Hermanas had bought for me the day before. Wasn't that nice of them? We lit the candle and everyone sang to me, and I was quite content.

Emotional climax of the day, week, and perhaps month, was that night. Sariah got set apart as a missionary, and she invited us to a little devotional that night in her honor. We gathered with all the Cortez family, lots of dear ward members, and the bishopric and stake presidency in the chapel. We kept doing business, asking members to come with us to visits, verifying a FHE that we have tonight, etc. until Sariah and the family finished getting set apart. They quietly came in and joined us, and we took our seats. The bishop conducted the meeting, and announced a short program. Sariah, her dad, the Bishop, the stake president. There was already someone at the piano, (a cousin, or something like that), but the bishop looked around for a moment and asked "Is there anyone that could lead the music?" After just a second or two, I jumped up. Aww, it felt good to lead the music again. They might sing the hymns a little differently, but there is nothing like singing praises and observing all the dear faces of the members that I so love.

Sis De Leon, Sariah and Erica

Believe it or not, I made it though the first song without crying. Sariah went up to the pulpit, however, and that was when I felt it really strongly- that sense of eternity, that recognition that something was happening that was always meant to happen, and that would never happen again. When I heard them say ´Hermana Farfal´for the first time, I felt the strongest sense of identification with her, and I know that we have touched each other´s eternities in this short time. She left this morning for Brazil, and I will miss her like crazy.

The rest of the program went really well, and then came the big whammy- our closing song, 'Para Siempre Dios Este Con Vos', or 'God Be With You Till We Meet Again'. You just should've heard them sing. Standing there, seeing their faces, listening to that song, I sang and prayed with all my heart that God really would be with them until we meet again. Meeting eyes with Hermana De Leon, we both started to tear up, and she cried even more than I did for the rest of the song. I don´t think I will ever forget the intense spirit, the intense connection with eternity that I felt in that moment.

Erica and Sis De Leon

The Bishop and his family prepared some little birthday treats for me that night, and we hermanas all slept together awaiting the news of transfers. We shared our feelings, etc. and Hermana De Leon got emotional again, saying how that night she'd realized it was probably our last real day together. She said she´s learned so much from me and that I've had such a great effect on her.

Sisters, Bishop's wife and son

As for today, I think I'll get everything in my suitcase! We've got some goodbyes ahead of us, but I know that the Lord orchestrates this work. My only purpose here is to help others accept the gospel, and if that means taking a little Transfer heart-ache here and there, I will come and go wherever the Lord wants me to be. Part of the mission, right? So grateful to have been here in Lirquen, so grateful to have this opportunity to continue serving the Lord. I love you all dearly and wish you all the best!

Hermana Oldroyd

And so it came to pass that Hermana Oldroyd was transferred from Lirquen.

August 6, 2013

Good news!

My dear family and friends-

Oh wow. Where to start? Perhaps with the good news- Yoselìn got baptized!! As always, there were a couple hiccups with the baptismal service, but as a whole it went really well. We started only 15 minutes late, which is just about perfect in Chilean time, and Priscilla Parra (Remember her?) gave the opening prayer. Lucia Cristosomo gave a talk about baptism, and then Fabiola Riquel Cuevas and I sang a duet of Yoselìn´s favorite hymn, I Need Thee Every Hour. Hermano Sixto Contreras Cortez baptized her, and then Carmen Silva gave a talk about the Holy Ghost. We sang a closing hymn, Alexis Moscoso gave the closing prayer, and then we all went up to Yoselìn's apartment for a little celebration. We gave her her first real scriptures and a hymnbook, and she was very pleased with those. Oh also! The other little miracle? The skirt that she´s wearing is one that we bought for her- we were so unsure if it´d actually fit her, but it did!! She was really happy with it.

Erica, Yoselin, Sis De Leon

Other good news? Victor came to church!! I don´t remember if I talked about him last week... Here's the thing- when I write my letters to all of you, I abide by something that I call the Grandma Rule. If it'll make my grandma worry, I don't write it. Don't worry, the things that I don't tell all of you, I usually record in my journal. We´ll have some nice discussions when I come home! But this week, I think I have to break that rule. Keep breathing, Grandma!!
He's the son of Mercedes, the menos activo that we found ages ago when I first came to Lirquen. That first time around, Victor was only present for one lesson, and he asked lots of questions without really wanting to know the answers. We tried to help Luis, Mercedes´pareja (um, boyfriend? That isn't exactly the right word... It is like husband but without being married.), but he was very alcoholic and not very committed to changing.

Time passes, and we continue to pass by every once in a while to visit Mercedes. One day, (this was with Hermana Peterson), we pass by and find her pulling out all the clothes, shelves, etc. from Victor´s room. She´d just returned from work when one of her neighbors told her that the police had come looking for Victor, and she immediately went searching through his things to see if he had hidden any drugs etc. She didn´t find anything, and we helped her put everything back together and comforted her that it´d all be ok.

The next thing we know, he'd left the region to 'look for work', and I think to escape the law as well. When it comes to little intricate details like law, health conditions, etc. my spanish doesn´t always do so well. But that is what I understood. Fastforward to about a week ago, when we passed by to visit Mercedes. There was Victor! We started the lesson, and it became evident that he´d experienced what Alma calls 'a mighty change in his heart' (Alma 5:12). He accepted a baptismal date and agreed to read a chapter in the Book of Mormon. We returned for our sita with him, and to our dismay, he was a bit hung over and sleeping in his room. Anyone think that is going to stop us from teaching him? Think again. Mercedes ventured back there, and we followed, inviting him to come sit for the lesson. He did, and we agreed to try one more time to come and teach him.

The next lesson, he was really ready. To our surprise, he'd read the whole chapter, marked it up, and had lots of sincere questions. While we were in the lesson, someone knocked the door, and Mercedes answered it, saying 'We're busy!' Victor responded quickly, saying 'Is it Nico? Invite him in!' I couldn't have been happier. The peer pressure is a big factor for Victor- he only drinks when his friends come pick him up for parties, and we´d been brainstorming what we could do to help him with this. What better than to teach the friends?

After meeting and teaching Nico, we found out that he was baptized about 6 years ago with his family. Surprise! He also accepted our invitation to read the Book of Mormon and said he'd support Victor in his desire to be baptized. The next lesson, we walked up to the department to find not only Victor and Nico, but their other buddy Miguel waiting for us. My friends, we basically taught a Chilean gang. It was one of my favorite mission moments to this point, teaching with Hermana De Leòn, feeling the sincere desire that Victor has, the growing remembrance that Nico was feeling, and the curiosity that was eminating from Miguel.

Victor came to Yoselìn's baptism, and said he was super excited for his on the 24th (at 7:30- he's already decided the time). He left right after, and that night we decided to pass by and visit him, see how he was doing. We knocked and knocked and knocked the door, but he didn't answer. Oh no. I was afraid that he'd caved to peer pressure and left with his buddies again, and that he'd be hung over for church. The next morning, we called him, and he answered the phone, saying he was ready to go to church. Turns out he'd literally hidden himself in his room and refused to answer the phone or door all night, so that he wouldn´t be tempted to leave and break his commitment. Wow.

It'll be a process to fix everything for the 24th- because he's had problems with the law, President Arrington or one of the assistants will have to do his baptismal interview. We´ll see how it goes!! I´m so happy to be teaching him and so happy to be a missionary. I know that the Lord listens to our prayers- this week I started feeling rather disappointed in myself, feeling that I haven´t progressed very much as a missionary. Haven't helped Hna De Leòn as much as I'd hoped, haven't studied Spanish as dilligently as I'd like, haven't used our time to the very best that we should. This week we also went to a Family Home Evening with Ana Cortez and family, kind of a Goodbye for Sariah. She leaves for her mission on the 13th, and hearing from the family and their advice to her reminded me of my preparation, and also the grand privilege that it is to be a missionary. Cried a lot that night, thinking of all that I wanted to be and my frustration with my lack of progress.

Sariah, Sis De Leon, Erica

This sunday, the Soc Soc lesson was titled "Nothing is impossible for the Lord". I was so touched by the lesson, and I felt so renewed by testimony meeting and the sacrament. I bore my testimony, as it is probably my last week in Lirquen, and we´re ready and good to go for another week of work work work!

Love you all so much!

Hermana Oldroyd

An RIP celebration for a Sister and Elder finishing their missions
A slightly early birthday celebration for Erica (her bday is the 11th)