Monday, January 30, 2017

Hey, everyone!

This week has had it`s ups and downs, but we are working hard to find more people and help them get ready to be baptized. Last week and the beginning of this week gave us lots of hope for our investigators. We had a good amount that were progressing, and three that are able to get baptized really soon. However, one left on vacation for Peru, and won`t come back for several weeks, one fell through with her commitment to come to church, and the other didn`t answer his door when we went to visit him for his pre-planned baptismal interview. This left us a little disanimated Sunday afternoon, and as I refelcted back upon it, I realized, at least in part, what went wrong. I had been so sure that these people would get baptized immediately, because I had worked hard, helped them feel the Spirit, and simply wanted it to work out. However, it all seemed to fall apart the minute I thought it would function the way I planned, and the minute that I assumed we were having success because of our own labors. We recently watched a broadcast from the general authorities to all of the missionaries worldwide. Something that Elder Anderson said, I believe, really struck me. He said that baptisms are blessing from God. He explained that we can`t think of them as the fruit of our own labors, because they simply are not. The work of the Lord is just that... HIS work. If we believe that ANY of our success is thanks to anyone but Him, we are mistaken. In every part of our lives, God gives us blessings when He sees true efforts of our hearts. But we must remember that these blessings will not keep coming if we don`t keep relying on Him. That is simply the way a promise works. And promises of God are always fulfilled, as long as we stay humble, and remember the reason for such promises. Not to gain blessings, or gain anything for that matter... but to give our will to God, and show Him that we do the things we do because we love Him. Everything in this world is a gift from Him, and so, the only thing we can ever truly give is our time and our energy. If we show Him that we really care, we will in return recieve more opportunities to care for the rest of His children. And I have seen in my mission, that that is truly God`s greatest blessing. Service and love for others has completely changed the focus of every day, and I always leave my sector, edified at the end. 

I hope all of you continue to work hard to keep a focus on others throughout your day as well, and I promise you will all be blessed. I`ll talk to you all next week!

-Elder Checketts

(In response to several questions that I asked PJ last are his answers...)

About service projects.... We just help people if they ask us to help with a project or need specific help. Elder Aparco and I painted a mural once at a school in Alto Hospicio, and we help people clean their garages occassionally. However, each Sunday, we help take the sacrament to people who can`t come to church... in their houses, or in the hospital. And about not having mamitas..... yes.... you know me really well. I don`t really cook much. But Vallenar has a Subway, so I don`t die of hunger ;)  

And this week, our branch in Torreblanca had 46 people attending!!!!!! 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hey, everyone!

This week was really good. We had lots of success opening the sector.  We found lots of new people, and have found several people really interested in getting baptized. However, as for your questions.... the bus ride from Calama was really long.... and the bus broke down half way, and we had to wait for an hour and a half to get onto another one.  That was fun... but I made it in one piece :).  For the first bus ride, there were two other elders on the bus, but one got off when the bus broke down, and the other went to a different city on a different bus.  But Vallenar is really pretty, and it`s awesome in our sector, because our sector is an area on a big hill, and we can see the whole city. It`s super cool :) Our pension is nice, but we get a lot of ants.  As it is more fit for sustaining life than Calama, there are more bugs. Not tons, but if someone doesn`t wash the dishes, we get thousands of ants all over in the sink. And about my new companion, Elder Burgos, we get along really well.  

....And yes, Mom, the cities are safe.... but president just prefers that four missionaries are together. Each city is generally safe, but each one also has specific parts you don`t want to visit after sunset. But don`t worry... I`m fine :) The branch here is really good though. The members are nice, and we`ve found lots of people with tons of potential in our sector, and it`s definitely the prettiest sector I`ve had! The state of my area is about average. Alto Hospicio was fairly poor, and Calama had parts that were very rich, and so Vallenar is pretty average. But as for mamitas..... we don`t have one here :( I have to cook and wash my own clothes.

You asked about my favorite part of the mission so far... and I honestly had to think about that for a while. I realized that it`s not something I`ve asked myself, because I just enjoy the work when I`m looking for new people. While there are awesome, extremely spiritual moments that I`ve had here, more often than not the happiness I recieve is from simply working hard. It really brings a simple peace to the day. However, your question about my favorite area.... I don`t know what to say to that one. I love the hard work we`ve started in Vallenar, I loved the members and the things to do in Calama, and I loved Alto Hospicio for being my first area in the mission. 

Anyway, I`m glad you are all doing well also, and I hope you continue to enjoy the winter and the snow! 

And last week I was unable to send pictures, so here they are: from leaving Calama, the baptism of Nelly and Fernanda, and P-day in Huasco (a city on the coast, 45 minutes from Vallenar):

​(In the last picture, my companion and I are the ones wearing the most red). Anyway, I don`t have a lot of time to write much more, but I`m loving Vallenar, and we`re finding lots of people to teach. Work really is the secret to missionary work. The branch is great, and we`re working hard to help people towards baptism. Hope everyone has a great week, and I`ll talk to you all next monday!

-Elder Checketts

(A note from Preston's mom:  In many of the areas of PJ's mission, they have "Mamitas" that feed the missionaries lunch each day & also do their laundry each week (they are ladies in the ward who volunteer to do this to help out the missionaries).  When PJ told us this when he first went out, I said that he was going to get very spoiled!  Hahaha!  I made sure the year before he left that he had plenty of experience doing his own laundry, cooking meals, balancing his checkbook, planning meals & buying groceries, ironing, etc., so that he would be prepared.  So, I'm very happy that he actually has to do some of this for himself now.  :)  Hahaha!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hey, everyone! 

First things first, I`m sorry I didn`t write yesterday. I got transferred, and was on a bus all day, for 16 hours or so. 

This week, a lot of things happened!  First off, we had two baptisms. The 8-year old girl, Fernanda, and her great- grandma, Nelly. They felt the Spirit powerfully during their baptisms, and were very happy afterwards. Although Nelly was a bit hesitant at first, she decided to get baptized, and it was clear that she personalized with the things that were being taught in Gospel Principles, about the existence of God, and how we can feel His presence through ordinances of His, such as baptism, confirmation, and the sacrament. Overall, they have enjoyed the Spirit within the church, and have had lots of support from the members.  They had a great experience, and were baptized with two other people that were investigators of the other Elders in the ward. It was a great time for us and for them!  

I also got a call from the assistants, that I would be leaving Calama, to go to Vallenar. Vallenar is the southern-most city in the mission, and certainly a lot greener than Calama. It has flowers & plants (a huge change from Calama), and is very pretty!  I`m in a branch called Torreblanca, that has two elders and two sisters. I`m excited to start working here, and helping the people of Vallenar!  ...and guess who else is in our pension! Elder Jennings! hahahha! It`s good to see him again, since we got along and had lots of success together. My new companion`s name is Elder Burgos, and he`s from Santiago, Chile. He just finished his training, so he`s still pretty new, but he`s friendly, and really wants to work, which is good! 

I`m glad you are all doing well also!  Hopefully everyone else has a good week, and I`ll let you know how my first week in Vallenar goes!

-Elder Checketts

(Also, sorry for the lack of pictures. The computer wasn`t accepting my camera, so I`ll try to send them next week!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hopefully everyone had a good week!

For us, we had two really interested investigators have their baptismal interviews this week. It´s an older woman named Nelly, and her great- ganddaughter Fernanda that are friends with a family in our ward. Although fairly young, Fernanda has a very strong desire to serve God, and do good things to make Him happy. It´s so simple, yet so powerful, to be able to have such childlike faith, and such a determination to take hold of unfamiliar teachings, and continue in righteousness. Fernanda truly has a kind of zeal for the church I´ve rarely seen in adults, let alone children. 

Her Great grandmother, Nelly, was baptized in the Catholic Church, and at first did not see any reason for a second baptism, but as we explained the need for baptism only after an age where we are conscious of sin, she saw it as a very good, and necessary step of the remission of sins, and as well commited to be baptized.  

This really shows that when people understand the purpose of baptism: that it truly is a cleansing of our sins, they will want it. If someone understands that God wants to help them in every step in their lives, they understand that everything He has commanded of us is for our benefit. It has always been amazing to see people on different levels of this understanding, and watch their change as it finally clicks personally for them.  

I´ll let everyone know how the baptism goes this week, and I´ll talk to you all later next Monday!

-Elder Checketts

Monday, January 2, 2017

Hey, everyone!

Hopefully everyone enjoyed new years, and have had a great week! 
I realized on Saturday, that New Years in South America is interesting, to say the least. It´s a tradition for people to make manequins, and at 12, set them on fire.  People were very creative with this. Some manequins looked like people and had old clothes, others were minions, transformers, or twenty feet tall pokemon! Luckily, we were in the appartment, when all the craziness happened, but the next morning there were ashes, confeti, and firecrackers everywhere. Not to mention houses that had music blasting nearly 48 hours straight. 

However, we did have a lot of good come out of New Years. A lot of our investigators went on vacation, so we had to find lots of new people this past week, and we found several really receptive families, that we are now helping to prepare for baptism. Hopefully I´ll still be in Calama, to see their baptisms, but since I´ve been here for six months, it´s likely that I could be leaving. But wherever I´m supposed to go, I know that´s where I´ll be sent. 

I hope everyone has another great week, and starts the new year off well! I´ll write you all next week!

-Elder Checketts