Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Message

[We had a great, hour-long Skype visit with Andrew on Christmas Day.  He looked happy and healthy, and he patiently answered our many questions.  He loves serving on his mission and has made many friends along the way.  Below is his Christmas email/message.]

Merry Christmas! Ours consisted of fruit cake, hot chocolate, and being woken up by a thousand fireworks at midnight. Nevertheless, it was a very memorable Christmas. I think of the gifts I witnessed given:
  • We participated in a baptism on Christmas Eve. The younger brother of one of our earlier converts was baptized on his eleventh birthday. His brother performed the ordinance. This meant the boy received the Holy Ghost on Christmas; fitting considering the talk of the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional that named it the best gift God can give here. 
  • Another young man was officially granted all of his rights as a member after a long, strenuous repentance process. He bore to us a climactic testimony that encapsulated all the sorrow and pain he'd finally conquered, and all the powerful hopes he was now permitted to entertain: the Melchizedek Priesthood, the temple, and a mission in a matter of months.

Both events were purified and called for heavenly attention. Being bound by mortal sight, we may only guess at the significance of such gifts. I feel it distinctly.  All of eternity's weight balances on the knife's edge of mortality.  So we hold on to what we have and stand up another year.

"And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child." Luke 2:17

Recent baptism
Elder Burt and friend at recent conference

Out caroling

Elder Burt w/ Friend

Huanuco Sunset

Monday, December 19, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! This last week was extraordinarily memorable. Our President gave us a goal a couple weeks ago of shooting for a 140 contacts a week...something this mission is absolutely not used to. We wanted to inspire our zone and decided to work hard to truly complete it this week. The experiences flooded in. We started talking with everyone, which led to a great many lessons with new people, including two young men about our age. Other than getting a bloody nose on their doorstep, the experience was amazing. We taught some basic principles about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and they felt the Spirit. The next day, we taught the first lesson in the church, invited them to stick around for an activity, and they did...watching messages of President Monson as they waited with members. On Sunday, they failed to come to church, but we found one in the street later that day. He said a family member had just passed away, so we met in the church a little later to talk about the Plan of Salvation. We explained the Spirit would only manifest the truth to him if he was determined to act and take the steps of Christ's gospel, including baptism. He conceded that if he came to know the church was true, he would be baptized, and prayed promising such to God. That was the most memorable experience. 

Also, we're preparing this awesome kid, the little brother of one of our last baptisms, for baptism this Christmas Eve. He's completely innocent.  We had to explain the commandments to him this week, and I had to try and explain chastity. As I started sweating, starting with the classic, "When a guy and girl like being around each other a lot...sometimes..." He interjected with an understanding, "Oooooh!! My older brother explained this to me! You have to respect girls and and not unchaste them until marriage!" I've never heard that term before, but, eh,we left it alone there.

Well, life is good. Life is amazing. I love every moment of my time here in Tarapacá, and I don´t want to leave it anytime soon. Mission life is golden, and I am so grateful for this time I have been given to legitimately touch the eternities with my actions. I hope you have a merry Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Chart & Map

This week Andrew sent an audio recording instead of a blog message, so I’ll relate some of it to give you an idea what he’s been up to.

Last week he got a new companion: Elder Moss.  They were both in the same MTC class together back in Lima, so they’ve known each other for quite some time and get along quite well.  Like Andrew, Elder Moss enjoys being active. I hear they’ve been going on runs together and had just gotten back from playing basketball when Andrew started his recording.

He said they’d had a very successful week, meeting their goal of 100 contacts with several call-backs.  They had an investigator come to church who then asked Andrew and his companion to give a blessing to a very sick aunt.  Two baptisms are coming up on Christmas eve, so that’s pretty cool.

Below is a chart of altitudes of Andrew's areas with a comparison to Mt. Rainier.  You can see that one of Andrew's areas (Junín) was nearly as high.  It's hard to imagine living there for months on end.  Also, I show a map of where those areas were and which order he was assigned (green color is current location; blue colors are previous assignments).

Monday, December 5, 2016

Here Comes Christmas

This week I saw my beloved companion off as he returned to Mexico for his goodly reward after two years. Meanwhile, I'm happy sticking here as the Christmas season comes in full swing. Here comes the beloved, whiny Christmas carols ("Campanas de Belèn", if you want to look up an example on YouTube), the essential panetòn, and its eternal companion -- hot chocolate. 

I'm glad for the Christmas story. Once again, roles we don't think much of get me thinking. As the shepherds stayed in the cool fields on the clear night, the angels came and visited them, giving a celestial choir experience. Who was in that choir? Nobody resurrected, surely, as no one could be resurrected before Christ. It could only have been selected spirits, probably waiting to descend in their proper time to be born. Were you in it? Was I? What parts did we play in angelic visitations in the pre-mortal life? Our lives were completely centered on Christ and the hopeful belief that we would indeed accept Him when we came here. I think that includes all of us... our internal spirits are desperately trying to live up to a pre-earthly hope and love for Christ. I think we become more true to ourselves as we serve Him more diligently. I hope we can do so this Christmas season.