Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mission Report / Homecoming talk -- Feb. 11, 2018

Good morning, Brothers and Sisters. The bishop has asked me to speak upon the blessings of work, as well as share experiences from my mission that apply to this topic. As I thought about specific experiences or stories that had portrayed to me the blessings of hard work in the mission field, I had one quickly come to mind. I served my mission in the Atacama desert, which spans about the northern third of Chile. My second and third sectors were in Calama: the mission’s driest city. It is about 3 hours from the ocean, which means it lacks the moderating effects of the sea breeze during the day, and the warm humidity at night, found in the coastal cities. In my third sector, my companion and I lived at a member’s house. Though the family lived in our sector, in was a little far from the rest of our sector where we usually worked. So, we got into the habit of heading back to the house about ten minutes early each night, to get there on time. As we walked back each night, I usually didn’t contact anyone else in the street, as to get home as soon as possible and avoid being late. However, one night, as we were walking back to the house and about a block away, I was surprised to see my companion quickly begin talking to a woman that was moving a dresser out of her house, and asking if she needed any help. She told us that she did not, but despite having never talked to the missionaries, was very strong in her faith in God, and has always wanted to talk to us, but had never seemed to have the opportunity. We were very surprised at her comment, but happily made an appointment to meet her and her family where they worked at a local supermarket, as they were in the process of moving, and were not sure what their new address would be. We returned to the house happily, and I began to reflect on what had just happened. Because my companion had decided to open his mouth in those last few minutes of our day, we had found a very interested and sincere new investigator. It made me realize that even the last ten minutes of our day were a golden opportunity to find the people that were prepared to receive the gospel. Over the next few weeks, we got to know Elena better, along with her husband Juan, and their four children. They all quickly accepted the gospel, and Elena and Juan were baptized with their two youngest children, Rodrigo and Carolina. But before the two oldest children, Luis and Nayeli had the opportunity to get baptized, the family had to move back to their native Bolivia for a time, and I hoped and prayed that they would continue strong and active within the church. Several months later, I left Calama to go to a new sector, still not having heard from Elena or Juan. However, four and a half months later, I got sent back to Calama, to a different part of the city. Not long after returning, I received a phone call from the bishop of the ward where I had previously been. He began asking me about Elena and Juan’s children, and which ones had been baptized and which ones had not. I told him that Luis and Nayeli had not yet had the opportunity, and he explained that their bishop in Bolivia had called him to make sure, and so that the other two could be baptized. This news filled me with joy and excitement, and several months later, as I was ready to leave Calama for the second time, the bishop informed me that Elena and Juan had returned to my previous ward, and were once again attending there. All of these experiences with this family filled me with such joy to see their progression and strength within the church, but it always made me think as well. If we had not talked to Elena that night that we were rushing to get home, if we had passed her without saying anything, justifying it with the fact that we were tired, or hurried, or felt that we had finished our day’s fill of work, none of these blessings, or the fulfillment of having helped a family in such a personal way ever would have happened. Though God would have given Elena another opportunity to learn of the Restored Gospel and be baptized in the restored church, we may not have had the opportunity to celebrate with her. By doing something so simple to better magnify our callings as missionaries, we were able to receive so many more blessings, and be part of so many other people’s conversions.
            When it comes to the importance of hard work in the mission field, Ezra Taft Benson often said, “… one of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work! If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people and he will be happy. There will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for all time and talents and interests are centered on the work of the ministry. Work, work, work—there is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work.” 
            J. Richard Clarke also spoke of the importance of hard work and also clarified its sacred nature. He said, “We are co-creators with God. He gave us the capacity to do the work he left undone, to harness the energy, mine the ore, transform the treasures of the earth for our good. But most important, the Lord knew that from the crucible of work emerges the hard core of character.”
            Our Heavenly Father expects and enables us to work for ourselves, so that by our own experience we grow and progress to be stronger, more intelligent, and more able: progress that only comes through practice…and life’s practice being hard work. While working for a certain purpose brings good consequences including feelings of accomplishment, or the desired outcome, work is a blessing in and of itself. Only by work can we gain experience and improve, for this was Adam and Eve’s great dilemma in the Garden of Eden: that in the Garden, where no work was required, and everything was freely given to them, they could not learn nor be better than they currently were. For that to be possible, they needed opposition and difficulty… they needed to work for themselves.
            As the Lord states in Doctrine and Covenants section 58, verses 26 to 28: “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.”
            As this scripture says, if we work hard and try to fulfill our potential, we will not lose the reward that God promises us. However, we often demand from Him a specific reward, while in reality He will be giving us what we need to improve, and not necessarily what we want in that given moment.
            On another occasion during my mission my companion and I had a family that had prepared for a long time to be baptized, and while all of them that were not yet members wished to have that blessing, the parents, Justina and Javier, needed to do extensive paperwork to be able to get married first. However, their nine year old daughter Antonia, had an enormous desire to get baptized and receive her blessings as soon as possible, and her parents, knowing that their paperwork could take a very long time to process, wanted her to get baptized as soon as possible, even if they could not be baptized with her. So we began planning Antonia’s baptism. We began calling members so that they could prepare talks, and finally the day of the baptism arrived. We filled the font, and as we waited another young man showed up that was to be baptized the same day. However, we continued waiting, and we still had not seen Antonia or her family. We suddenly received a phone call from her mom, informing us that Antonia’s sister had gotten really sick and needed to be hospitalized, and that Antonia would not be able to be baptized that day. We went forward with the young man’s baptism that we also had planned, but afterwards, I felt angry and confused. We had worked hard to help Antonia and her family, and yet she was hindered in her desire to receive blessings. I could not understand why God would allow this to happen, when it was the best thing she could do at that moment. A few days later we passed by to talk to Justina and Javier, to see how their daughter was doing. They informed us that she was doing better and that she would recover well, but they quickly told us that they had some important news. They told us that the paperwork for their marriage had taken much less time than they had thought, and that they were going to be able to get married in the government office that week, and they wanted to see if they could possibly be baptized that Saturday with Antonia. As they told us this, my heart was full of gratitude, and I realized that that had always been Heavenly Father’s plan for them: to get baptized together. We had worked hard and He did bless us for our efforts, but not right when I wanted it. But His plan was certainly better, and my heart was filled with even more joy to see Justina and Javier in white along with their young daughter.
            As I spent my mission trying to improve and work hard each day, I was repeatedly impressed by a talk by Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge titled, ‘The Fourth Missionary’. In this talk Elder Corbridge speaks of 4 types of missionaries, the first and second being distinct levels of disobedient, but both the third and fourth missionaries that he describes are obedient missionaries. However, there is a distinction between them, being the desires of each one. While the third missionary does the things he should, he does them for that sole purpose: that he SHOULD. His heart and mind are still focused on his personal affairs, when he simply goes through the motions of his day-to-day missionary routine. The fourth missionary on the other hand has given his will over to the Lord, and unlike the third missionary has not just offered the Lord his might and strength, but also his heart and mind.  In the same way the third missionary differs from the fourth, our hard work will have little value when we do it to simply complete a task: working hard to do something because we SHOULD, rather than because we view its importance and working hard because we WANT to.
            As we truly work hard in our personal affairs as well as spiritual affairs with the Lord’s will as our own, we will be blessed with improvement, success, and satisfaction. The Lord will help us to grow, and the work in and of itself will be a great blessing for our eternal experience.



Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Elder Checketts arrived home on January 31st, at 8:55 a.m. We are SO happy to have him back home again!!! His mission report will be on Feb. 11th, at 11 a.m., at our church (49 W. Tanner Lane, Saratoga Springs, UT). All family & friends are invited, and we will have a light luncheon at our house afterwards. :)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Hey, Everyone!

To not be too stressed with time limits, I`m just going to write one main email, since I can talk to everyone in a week anyway.

It sounds like everyone has been doing well, and having fun with the things they`re doing. It sounds like Dad`s working hard in his job as well, and that everyone is enjoying the cold weather ;) hahaha! I WILL BE!!!!! I realized that I hadn`t told you guys that several weeks ago President Ferreira assigned me to be a discrict leader for these last several weeks of my mission. He said that he wanted to try something new, to see if it would be effective, so both my companion and I are district leaders together, to have a stronger and more unified district. Anyway, I was running really short on time last week, so I couldn`t talk much. Valentina got baptized, but Jostyn and José still had not felt ready and so we`re working with them to help them get baptized. We are now working with a family from Bolivia: Modesto, Basilia, and their four kids: Juan Gabriel, Juan Daniel, Norma, and Anabel. We have to help Modesto learn to read, so we`re going to do it with the Book of Mormon!!! We also have to help him and Basilia get married, but Juan Gabriel and Juan Daniel, who are 9 and 8 years old are really excited to be able to get baptized as well, so we`re preparing them to get baptized this Sunday.... as well as an investigator named Juan José, who is the boyfriend of a less active member. He is very interested in knowing more about the church, and being able to recieve his own answer from God as to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

Anyway, Mom.... as for your questions! hahaha!
You asked first about my best memories from the mission. The best times in my mission have been those that have given me the opportunity to help people in ways that I never would be able to if I weren't a missionary....the opportunity to share the gospel with someone that had recently decided to get divorced and had pleaded to God for help to fix her relationship with her husband and with her Heavenly Father if it were possible, or the opportunity to help a person that wants to show God-like charity to others but finds it difficult to forgive certain close relatives. I find it impossible to put these experiences into words..... but there have been many moments in which I have felt very clearly that I was inadequate to help a certain person with their specific situation or doubt, and despite my weakness and inadequicy, my mind and heart have been filled with the impressions of what I should say or what I should do.... and I feel honored that despite all of my own mistakes, my Heavenly Father has used me anyway, as a choice intrument in his hands, because he knows how great my potential is to grow personally, as well as touch the hearts of others, and have my heart touched by them, their situations, and the spiritual strength they have to confront their problems. My testimony has been greatly strengthened because of the people that I have had the privelige to teach. As missionaries we are supposedly the teachers, but I have felt extremely taught by the amazing people I`ve met. As for the hardest moments and the moments that have helped me grow most: they have been generally the same. Moments when I`ve felt ready to break, whether it be stress with the doubts or lack of commitment of an investigator, or patience with my companion, or my own imperfections, I have learned a lot during these two years about the truth of the Book of Mormon, as it has filled my soul with light when I`ve felt my lowest, and has given me the needed power to specifically help any of God`s many diverse children. By way of these hard situations, I have also learned to greatly appriciate the Atonement, and though I`m not close to understanding its depth, I do understand that by way of the atonement, Christ gives us the opportunity to dust off our knees every time we fall, and just keep moving forward. As Elder Holland stated in April of 2016, God blesses those who know the importance of the commandments and try to keep them. But I`ve also been able to learn that he doesn`t just heal, he also helps us to grow by way of the Atonement. We can learn to love others much more and feel their worries and needs when we do what is necesarry to better know our Savior, and therefore, feeling more of the compassion for others that He has for us. My mission president`s wife also shared a beautiful story about the mistakes and fallbacks of one`s life. She explained that in Japan, when a plate or jar breaks, the people don`t throw it away. Instead, the seal the crack with gold, creating a beautiful pattern in the ceramic. They do this with the lesson that the broken plates are like our lives. We don`t have to throw it away, and our life doesn`t have to be ugly and broken after a trial, but rather, our difficulties help us to grow, and adversity makes our lives even more beautiful and rich in blessings, in the same way that the gold makes the broken plate prettier. As for my faviorite companion, I`m not sure about that one. I think that Elder Francis and Elder Jennings grew to be my best friends, but each one of my companions taught me something very important. Elder Urrutia helped me see the spiritual influence I could have on the investigators, Elder Orellana taught me charity by the way he treated all of the people we came in contact with, and Elder Pasigan has helped me to learn that I shouldn`t let problems get bigger than they need to be. I know I haven`t answered every single question, but I`ll finish with how I would describe my mission experince with one thing... I have realized over a lot of time that I have been taught on my mission how to be a more courageous and valiant person.... asking for help when I need it, speaking up when I need to do so, acting in the precise moment to help someone with something specific. My Heavenly Father has shown me that my potential is great if I reject fear and doubt, and follow with complete faith. And the fruits have been beautiful. I love you all, and I`ll see you soon. It looks like this is my last email, since I`ll be in the mission home next Monday, but I love you all, and I`ll see you really soon. I`ll attatch the picture of Valentina`s baptism below! Love you!

-Elder Checketts

Monday, January 8, 2018

Hi there!

I`m glad to hear that everyone is doing well, and that everyone is excited for me to get home, as well! haha! Anyway, as for me, this week has been good. On Sunday, we have a 10 year old girl named Valentina that will be getting baptized, and a young man named José that will we getting baptized the same day. Valentina has wanted to get baptized for a very long time, but hasn`t been able to come to church very often because her parents are in jail, and the only times she can visit her mom are Sunday and Tuesday in the mornings. However, almost all of Valentina`s relatives are members of the church... including her mom, and they want to help her be baptized as well. Her mom told her that she would rather have Valentina go to church every Sunday to be able to get baptized, than visit her Sunday morning. I really respect that she told her daughter that. Hopefully Valentina will get baptized with her brother Jostyn as well... although he`s a little more indecisive. Anyway, I don`t have a lot of time left, but I`ll tell you guys how it all goes next week!

Love, PJ

Monday, January 1, 2018

Hey, Everyone!!!

I´m glad you had a good Christmas, and that the family has been doing well. It sounds like you guys had fun visiting the family this week, and you had some pretty nice quality time, even with Dad beeing really busy. Anyway, as for your questions.... this week has been great! Remember how I had talked about Dalcy and Darleth, the 17 year old girl and the 9 year old girl from Bolivia that had tons of desire to get baptized?.... well... they got baptized, yesterday!!! It was super exciting for them, and they have so much desire in their hearts to be able to progress withing the church and serve missions.... they´re just super great over all! As for new years.... they had lots of fireworks that they were shooting off of the morro of Arica, which is like a big cliff at the bottom of the city that we can see from our apartment. Other than that, in Chile they always make manequins that they burn at midnight, so it can get kind of crazy... We had a dinner with a family where the dad is a less active member, and his daughter, Fernanda, is a really interested investigator that came to church this sunday with her boyfriend, and this week also agreed to be baptized in two weeks if she recieves her own answer that the church is true.

This week, we also had lots of investigators that came to church. One of them was a ten year old girl named Valentina. Almost all of her relatives are less active members of the church, and she has been an investigator for a very long time..... but the problem is that she has not been able to come to church regularly because her mom is in jail, and visiting hours to see her are only Sunday and Tuesday in the mornings. However, this Sunday she came to church with her grandma and her aunt, and her aunt told us that she wants us to teach the lessons to Valentina so she can be able to get baptized in January, because she will now be able to come to church every week. (I don´t know if the jail schedule changed for the new year or what... but it looks like she´s getting baptized in two more weeks). Anyway, hope you guys have another great week! ttyl!

Love, PJ

Monday, December 25, 2017

(From Preston's mom  We got a Skype call from Elder Checketts this morning, and had a wonderful hour visiting with him!  It was great!  He is happy, healthy, and doing fantastic!  He has had a great Christmas, celebrating with the members in Chile, and we are so grateful for all the wonderful people there who have been so good to him, and so welcoming to the missionaries!  Here is a picture from our Skype call this morning, as well as a couple pictures from a lady in PJ's area, that sent the other pictures to me on Friday (I just saw them today).  We can't believe that PJ will be home in just 5 more weeks!!!  January 31st at 8:55 a.m., we will get to see him & hug him again!!!  Hooray!!!  :)


Monday, December 18, 2017

Hey, Everyone! I´m not going to write a whole lot because we´ll talk on Christmas.... but I´m staying in Arica with Elder Pasigan. As for Michelle and Ferenando... they can´t get married right now, because she has to go back to Ecuador to get her kids and bring them here... so when she gets back they can get married, and they can get baptized with their 8 year old son. Anyway, I´m really short on time.... sorry!!! But we´ll talk over Skype next Monday, so we can talk more about all that!

Love, PJ

p.s. Regarding our Skype call...I think at 1 should work... (You said that´s 10 there?)... but if I have to do it at a different time, I´ll let you know... I´ll have a member tell you over facebook if it needs to be changed. Also, I got my itinerary.... I arrive in the Salt Lake airport at 8:55 am January 31st.