Monday, May 29, 2017

Hey, Everyone!

You´re right! I was super excited to return to Calama! Later today, I´m going to visit some families that I knew in other wards, so I´m super excited about that!!! So far I haven´t found the bloody, drunk guy again! hahaha! And the sector seems a lot safer, now that I know it better. The bus trip was without problems this time, which was good... and it was only 8 hours instead of 16! We live four missionaries together here, as well. My Chilean companion, another chilean from Santiago, and a Peruvian. (Another place with just latinos! hahaha!) I´ve gotten to the point that writing you guys in English is really hard, as Spanish grammar and vocabulary comes to my head faster now. I´ve also started doing all my personal prayers in Spanish... because everytime I start in English, I end up in Spanish anyway! hahaha! But about where we live.... I didn´t take pics ;) sorry. But we live with members, and it´s a safe area. I´ll finish explaining later today... Love you all!


(Several hours later...)
Hi again! Like I said, I was super excited to come back to Calama & we´ve seen several miracles this week! We had 5 investigators in church, and we met with a couple on Tuesday (Jorge and Ana) that we committed to get married and baptized. They immediately saw the importance of covenants with God, so they accepted, and we went with them to the government office, to set a marriage appointment. They are getting married June 16th, and baptized on the 17th! It´s been amazing to see their commitment, and that of the other investigators too. We also visited Bishop Martinez in Caspana, which was great! Anyway, I´ll write more next week, more specifically, because we have to go give a blessing to someone in the ward. 

--Elder Checketts

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

(PJ's response to a few questions we had...)

Yes.... I`m fine. I`m healthy. I`m eating sufficient amounts of food.... ;) We just got flu shots, so I should stay healthy and active. Yes, the water finally came back on, which is good! But then the water heater broke, but that's ok! But now, I`m not in Chañaral.... I was traveling all day yesterday, so I didn`t get the chance to write you guys.....but guess what?!?!?! I RETURNED TO CALAMA!!!!! I`m super excited to visit my converts and the members that were so awesome here!!! (Calama is the city in the middle of the desert that I was in for 6 months, the first time. ) I`m super excited to be here again!!! This will be my 3rd sector and ward in this city, since I was here before for 6 months in the Rìo Loa, and Caspana wards. Now I`m in the Oasis ward, and I`m super excited to have the opportunity to visit people I knew, for p-day, and to get to know more in this ward.

Last time, I had lots of success in this city, as far as having converts and growing close to the members goes... especially when I was with Elder Jennings. Hopefully I have the same success this time!! I`ll let you know next week how it`s going! I`m in the Oasis ward..... the ghetto area that we visited, when we were confronted by the bloody, drunk guy. lol. But don`t worry... I`m safe ;) I was talking with the Elders that are now in Caspana, and it sounds like the ward has suffered a lot recently, with some arguments between members, and difficulty retaining converts, and several active members going inactive because of difficult situations. Hopefully they`re doing well.... hopefully I`ll get the chance to visit them next p-day.

Anyway, this last week was very low-key. We spent the entire week cleaning the Chañaral church (after the big flood) to be ready for a baptism that the other Elders had, and for sacrament meeting on sunday. Unfortunately..... I forgot to bring my camera to send you guys pictures today...but I did take photos this time! My new companion is another Chilean, from Santiago, named Elder Urrutia. He has 4 and a half months in the mission, but is a recent convert of a year and a half, and is 26 years old. It`ll be interesting to have an older companion, but it`s already evident that he has tons of love for the people, and is a very hard worker. I feel like this will be a really successful, and enjoyable cambio! It`s also really weird to think that I`m going to be home before I know it!! Everyone is telling me that I`m almost done... but I keep reassuring them that I still have 8 months left.... which is a lot of time still!!!! (No one buys it much.)

I`ll have to send you my photos next week.... and I have a few that the mamita and papito took in Chañaral, that they sent me... 

Have another great week, and I`ll tell you how it goes, getting to know Oasis!

Love, PJ

Monday, May 22, 2017

From Preston's mom...  Sunday morning, we got a bunch of pictures from a couple of the members in Chanaral, Chile (where PJ has been for about 3 months, I think), and one message said that Elder Checketts was being transferred back to Calama.  We aren't sure if we will hear from him today, since the last time he made that trip, it took the entire day by bus to get to his new area.  I'm sure that PJ will be SO excited to go back to Calama!  He absolutely loved the people there, and got to know them very well, as he served there for about 6 months.  We will be excited to hear all about the changes...  So, until then, here are the pictures that the wonderful members of Chanaral shared with us...  :)  
(I'm SO grateful for the internet & the ability to communicate, send pictures, & email-- it definitely makes it feel not so far away...)  And I'm so grateful for kind, caring members that watch out for the missionaries & take good care of them!  :)

Monday, May 15, 2017

This week has been interesting... It started raining (for the first time in my mission) on Wednesday, in the night.... right before we left Chañaral to go to Copiapó, for the conference we had with Elder Texeira (Area 70 of South America South Area.) It was extremely powerful! He gave us lots of ideas to have more progressing investigators, and talked a lot about our morning study as the ´´golden time´´. President and Hermana Ferreira talked a lot about exact obedience, and then Hermana Texeira talked a lot about the Spirit, unity as a companionship, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the desire to serve. It was extremely spiritual, and when we got back to Chañaral, we had just enough time to make it to our English class! It went great this week! We had 8 people come!!! That´s more than we´ve ever had, and we got several new investigators out of it!! Then on Friday, it rained off and on all day. (At this point, I was pretty sick of having my planner wet, when I tried writing). We found several awesome new investigators that worked in the stores that we ducked into to keep dry... and found some very interested ladies that had spoken to missionaries before!!! We´ll see how it goes with them. That night, it started pouring!! And despite having an umbrella, we got absolutely soaked, before getting to the house. Unfortunately, it only rains in the Atacama desert like every 5 years..... so the streets aren´t built for rain (they don´t have drains), and the roofs aren´t either. Luckily, our roof stayed dry, but shortly after, they cut the electricity and the running water. The electricity came back on... but the pipes stayed dry. The next morning, there were giant pools of water all over the streets, and we realized that a big group of people had gathered on the highway. As we approached, we realized that they were looking at the river. (The river of Chañaral has been dried up for years, by the way), but it was full of rapid, brown water, and had flooded several streets, including all of downtown, had ripped away a highway bridge. Chañaral is split into two sections: the north (called Aeropuerto), and the southern side that has downtown. The river completely separated the two, and no one could cross, unless it was in a helicopter. We received news that the church building on the other side, had been flooded as well, and when we had the opportunity to cross the river, once it had died down yesterday, we saw that the fence of the church parking lot had been completely ripped away and destroyed, and the giant metal gate in front of the church was forced open. The entire first floor of the chapel had been coated in mud (and that means carpet replacement)... but luckily the sacrament room is upstairs, and was unaffected. We can now cross the river, and helped clean the church a little, but they´re sending the church clean up crew to do a deep clean and replace carpet and everything. We are still without running water though.... Luckily we have several 20 liter jugs of drinking water, but we are forced to take sponge baths! hahaha! Anyway, we´re doing fine, and we´ll see what we can do for the investigators as well. Have a great week, everyone!

-Elder Checketts

p.s. (In reference to our Skype call on Mothers Day)...
It was great to see you guys! I´m glad you all looked so happy and are doing so well! And I hope you had a happy Mother´s Day, Mom!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!!!

After waiting about 2-1/2 hours, PJ FINALLY called!!! Hooray!!!!! Because of a few challenges, it took a little longer to call us... They had the first rain there in about 4 years, and it flooded everything... The church, the roads, destroyed bridges, etc. Church was cancelled & they've been without water & power for a couple of days (they have bottled drinking water, and the power just barely came back on). They are fine & safe, just couldn't go anywhere, so had to figure out a few things... They were finally able to walk to a member's house to Skype. .  SO glad he was finally able to call!!! We loved seeing his smiling face & hearing his voice (and cute Spanish accent!). He is doing great & is happy & healthy! (He's lost about 25 lbs since he started his mission, but he is healthy & feels good).  When we were talking to him, he had a hard time remembering a few English words & mixed in a few Spanish words while we were talking...hahaha!   He hasn't spoken English at all for several months, because his companion & the other elders in his apartment are all native Spanish speakers.  It was SOOO great to see him & talk to him!!!!  When you only get to see & talk to your child twice a year, it's a pretty big deal!!!  :) It made our day!!! 

Monday, May 8, 2017

(In reference to the talk by President Uchtdorf, "Fourth Floor, Last Door.")

I love that talk!!! It was actually in my mind when I decided to knock ´´just one more door´´. It´s such a powerful story. And like you said, it has everything to do with the principle of faith. Because real faith always leads to action. 

We´ve had a very productive week! I was a bit discouraged, and we weren´t finding many people, but I decided to apply more effort, and teach all the people I could... and it really paid off! We´ve found some super interested and willing people, to listen to the gospel. I realized that I had slowly slipped into the trap of just working with all my might and strength, but witholding my heart and mind. And I´ve been a lot happier. :) Hopefully, we´ll get people to church this coming week. I don´t remember if I already told you guys, but we found a young mom named Maricel.... That talked a lot with missionaries before, came to church, and even recieved a witness of the Book of Mormon. The only problem is that her husband told her that she can´t talk with the missionaries. :( We´ll see if there´s anything we can do for her....

However, your questions really made me think deeply ;) .... so as for the greatest lesson that I´ve learned so far on the mission..... A lot of things crossed my mind: that I´ve learned to be a lot more patient with other people and with myself, I´ve learned how to better forgive myself of weakness, how to work hard, and press through discouragement. But all those things I´d sum up as having learned better for myself, how to apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ in my life. I´ve realized better for myself the love that God has for every one of us, and how to express that love to the investigators... and how to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ for myself. I have truly seen the Lord´s hand supporting me in the hardest days, and carrying me on His shoulders when necessary. Through His example, I have seen how I can better carry those I teach on my shoulders. 

As for my favorite companion... That´s a hard one. Elder Francis, Elder Jennings, and Elder Burgos specifically have made a great impact on me. Elder Francis truly became my best friend for the entire time that I was with him as my companion, and Elder Jennings and I saw lots of miracles occur with many investigators, and the blessing of many baptisms. I also grew to love Elder Burgos like a brother... (because sometimes he tested my patience in the same way as Jonah)... but I learned a lot from him, and helped me a lot to improve.

As for the greatest blessing from my mission so far: I´d say definitely being able to see huge changes in the lives of others. Nothing makes me so happy as seeing the Spirit touch someone´s heart to make true changes in their lives!

I know I didn´t finish all the questions... but I have to go now. You can ask me all you want during our Skype call on Mother's Day.... and I´ll answer the rest next week. 

Have a great week everyone!  
-Love, PJ

Monday, May 1, 2017

Hey Everyone!

This week was slow, but ended on a good note. On Friday, we had a home evening in the church as a branch, that was super awesome and super fun, but earlier that day, all of our plans and appointments were falling through, and we decided to knock doors, to find more people. NO ONE opened their door!! So as it got close to the home evening, we were getting ready to head over to the church with little success in our efforts, and I decided that we'd try with one more house. So I picked a friendly looking one that said welcome, on the door. A young mom answered the door, and said, "Elders! Come on in!" It turns out she and her husband had investigated the church for a long time in the south of Chile... but lost contact when they moved... but now, she wants to start receiving the lessons again!!! ¡Hay milagros! (There are miracles!) However, even with this awesome little miracle, none of our investigators came to church :( Even if we pass by ten different people on Sunday morning, sometimes it's difficult to remember that each person still has their own choice...and we simply have to trust that God will touch their hearts, and help them get HIS timing. Not always ours... :) Anyway, I'll keep working hard, and work on finding more people. :) Hope you all have another great week!

--Elder Checketts