Week 58 – Peor es Nada, Chile

IMG_3792

(The following is a letter McKay wrote to his brother, Chase, with advice on preparing for a mission.  Posted here with both of their permission.)

Hey Chase!

I’m truly sorry for not writing you as much as I should.  I get caught up a lot of times in the chats that we do with the family, so the time flies by faster than I want it to.  I promise you I will do my best to write you more.

This is kind of a crazy day.  I am writing this on the 18th of September, which means that I only have one year left of my mission.  Also, it means that in five days, you are going to turn 18!  To me, that is unbelievable.  It also means that you’re going to be turning your papers in pretty soon so that you can head out on your own mish.

The purpose of this letter is to explain in a little bit of greater depth some of the experiences I have had on my mission, as well as to tell you some of the things I wish I would have known when I was in your shoes.

To start off, serving a mission is amazing!  Honestly, I feel that at this point, it is the best thing I have ever done in my life.  It is the most rewarding and most spiritually high thing that can be done between the ages of 18-20.  The fact that you want to do this is fantastic!  There is a very small percentage of people in the world who are willing to give up two years of their life in order to serve God.  Feel special!  This is a huge thing!  But at the same time, it is a great sacrifice.  Every day is a constant grind if you do it right.  The “ideas” of a mission sound cool – you serve for two years, learn another language (maybe), help others.  But it’s hard.  Given all that, I know you are going to be a great missionary.  You have great gifts from the Lord.  Go out and apply them.

Let’s talk a little bit about the MTC.  It is awesome!  I really enjoyed my time in Mexico.  I felt like for me, the MTC helped me learn a lot of things.  I learned how little I know about the scriptures/gospel doctrine, ha ha.  I remember our second day there, we had a little circle discussion in which we talked about some of our favorite scriptures.  Everyone was sharing scriptures from the top of their heads and pulling out marked scriptures from their Books of Mormon.  I’m ashamed to admit I had to scramble and look in the index to find good scriptures!  Sure, all growing up I went to church and participated in Sunday School.  I even took a Book of Mormon class at BYU.  But  I was nowhere near where I wanted to be when I entered the MTC.  Pay a little closer attention to the teachers in priests quorum, or in sacrament meeting.  Also, try reading the Book of Mormon every day.  Try memorizing the scripture masteries in seminary.  Pick a gospel topic and go to the appendix, find that work in the scriptures, and read all the scriptures under that topic.  That is something I really enjoy doing and I regret not doing it before the mission.  It will help a ton!

Something though that I didn’t like about the MTC is that I felt like I was in a classroom the whole time!  It didn’t feel like being a missionary.  For the first two weeks, it was awesome because it was a new experience, new things, new language, etc.  But for the final four weeks, to be honest, it was hard.  You will find that in the MTC there is a ton of time to study.  I look back now and wish I could study that much.  At the time, I wouldn’t focus 100 percent.  I would talk in English with the guys in my district instead of practicing in Spanish.  I don’t think that was just me.  It happens a lot in the beginning, at least in my district, and with my friends.  Enjoy every second of the MTC.  Take advantage of it.  LEARN from it.  Study and practice as much as you can because you’ll find that when you get to the field, the practice you get is just going out and doing the work.  My advice is soak it up.  Learn everything you can from it.

At the same time, the training in the MTC is limited.  Life in the field is WAYYYY different than life in the MTC.  I didn’t understand that.  In week six right before I went to Chile, I thought it had it all.  I never admitted it, but I thought I had mastered Spanish, the mission lessons, and become an expert scriptorian.  The truth is, that is pretty silly.  You’re isolated in a place of only gringo missionaries who are all speaking the same ative language and all new, and you think that the MTC is the mission.  It’s not, ha ha.  I loved it in the MTC, I had some neat experiences there, but you should just recognize that it’s only the training.

The first three months of the mission in the field were definitely the hardest three months I have ever had in my entire life.  Everything is super new and different.  I didn’t know what the people were saying.  They didn’t know what I was saying.  It was during the holidays (thanksgiving and Christmas) and I was severely “trunky” (which means homesick in the mission lingo).  Plus, it was hot as heck, and we were on bikes.

The honest truth is that I was really depressed at that time.  I was missing you and the fam so much.  I have told you a little bit about my trainer, Elder Llavilla, but I recall one morning I was in our study room waiting for my turn to take a shower, and in that moment, it was like my second week, I was looking at some of the pictures that I had brought with me of you guys.  I was starting to get tears in my eyes, and then Llavilla walked in so I wiped my eyes real fast and hid my photos.  Then he asked me how I was doing.  I told him that I wasn’t doing too good, that these two weeks had been tough, and that I was really missing my family.  Then he laughed at me and said, “Que trunky!” and turned and walked out.

That was a turning point for me, but in a bad way.  It conformed something I had been thinking about that it was MY fault that I was feeling this way, and really there was something wrong with ME.  In that time, I felt like I was the problem to everything in the companionship, in the work, in the sector, etc.  It was weird at that time — I was always just so freaking tired for like the first two months.  Every time I went to bed, my head would hit the pillow and I was just out.  I would also fall asleep a lot in personal study.  I would try so hard to just do the simple things – do laundry, make food, etc., but it just wore me down.  I felt really alone.

After that incident with Llavilla, I didn’t share much with him.  We were just two really different kinds of people, and he didn’t really seem to care much about me, so I didn’t talk about what I was feeling with him.  We were also living with two other missionaries at the time – I didn’t really know or like them that much so I didn’t really open up with them either.  The truth is, I felt like I was going through all this solo.  I didn’t have my moral support system, which was you guys.  All I had was an hour and 15 minutes each week to chat with you guys.  Dad wrote me amazing emails with wise counsel, so you have that to look forward to.  But that was it!  The only thing I can think of that’s close to this feeling was the Texas move.  It was so hard.  But at least then, I had you guys with me.  It was tough.  Really, really tough.

My advice to you when you get into the field is to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  You have a loving family that is behind you, who prays for you every day, and wants you to succeed.  You have a loving Heavenly Father who knows and feels what you think and feel.  The most intense prayers I have ever had in the mission (and in my life) were at this time.  A lot of times I prayed that I could just get through the day.  It would be in simple occasions, like on our bikes, chasing my comp who was 100 yards ahead, or just in the shower, when I could be homesick and think about ya’ll.

But what I learned through this is that many times the Lord will answer our prayers, but not through the ways we want.  To be honest, some of the answers to prayers that I wanted were a new comp, perfect Spanish, and at some point, an illness that would require me to return home.  I didn’t get any of those, but what I did receive is comfort.  Whether that was through emails, people, scriptures – the Lord always helped me feel better when I really needed it.  Something that I’m realizing now is that when we pray and ask God for help, we shouldn’t ask him to make our situation easier.  We should ask him to strengthen US.

Read Alma 31:31 and 1 Nephi 7:17.  Those great prophets aren’t asking for the Lord to make it easier for them, rather to give them the power and strength to do the hard task.  The Lord isn’t going to change our situation, but the Lord is going to change us through our experiences and situations.  That key is truly how we change and become better people.  We accept what’s going on around us, becauase the only thing we can do about it is change our own actions.  That is how I’ve changed.  I have done a lot of things that I never thought I would be able to do, but thanks to the help and strength the Lord has given me, I have done them.

Alma 26:12 talks about how Ammon (missionaries) are nothing, but in the strength of the Lord we can do many things.  When times get hard, don’t look within or around you for help.  Look UP!  He will help.  God is rooting for you.  And he will be there for you.

Wow!  This has been a long letter.  I hope you enjoyed it.  I am so excited to see where you go and how you do in the mish.  I know you will kill it.  I will send you more letters like this in the future if you want, but just know that I love you and pray for you every day.

Love you buddy!

Your bro,

McKay

Week 56 – Peor es Nada, Chile

Hey guys.

This week has been seriously amazing!!!

So to start off, WE LIVE IN OUR HOUSE!!!! WOOOOO!!! We are so pumped! It definitely isn’t the nicest house by any means, but it means we don’t have to bike an extra 2 hours round trip every day, so we’re pretty pumped. We moved in on Saturday. One of the missionary couples came with their truck to come pick up all of our stuff and then we drove there and unpacked.  Then they went back to make a few trips to grab all the appliances. We are very happy. The only bad thing though is that every morning at like 5:30, all the roosters start to crow!!! And also, its pretty jank construction, so it’s really cold, and there are lots of bugs, but other than that it’s pretty solid!

We also had our zone conference this last week. Elder Mark Bragg, from the seventy, came with his wife and they gave the training. It was awesome. I really learned a ton. He gave a lot of training on how we can really talk and share the gospel with everyone, as well as how we can work with members better. Overall, it was just awesome!

Also, church was great yesterday!!! We had 20 people in church!!!! For Peor es Nada, that is insane!!! Also, 4 of them were INVESTIGATORS!!!! They are a family that we are teaching now who are really awesome!! When I saw them, I seriously almost cried. It was so cool to see God answering our prayers. Also the district president came and set us apart. I am the first counselor of the presidency of the branch, and my comp, Elder Garcia, is the branch secretary. So it’s basically going to be like when I was in Teno. Our first calling is still being missionaries, but now we just have other responsibilities. It will be good.

I was thinking about it yesterday, really I am just so grateful to see the hand of God in my life. My dad wrote me an email and talked about this. There are many times when we don’t see God’s influence in our lives, but there are also many instances when we do. And those times are really hard when we can’t see him. But it’s moments like now, with many blessings, when I am just so grateful for God’s mercy and grace in my life. I am so grateful and happy to be a part of his work.

Have a great week.

Love,

Elder Halverson

DSC00297DSC00322DSC00328DSC00329DSC00330

Week 55 – Peor es Nada, Chile

Hey guys!
These last weeks have been good.
So we found out about changes and I am staying in Peor es Nada another change to finish Elder Garcia’s training. I love it here. It’s hard and it’s a lot of work, but we’re still going strong. Elder Garcia, my comp, is an animal. He is a really good missionary. I am glad that we get to stay together another change.
The sector is going okay. Basically, these last few weeks, we have been working on our house. We live about an hour outside of Peor es Nada, on bike, so we gotta bike every day to get over there. It’s pretty tiring, ha ha, but we’re excited to be getting into the house. The builders built the frame of the house and everything, and put the walls in, but Elder Garcia and I have been doing the rest, ha ha. We’ve been painting, putting in tile, doing the landscaping, etc.  But it’s paying off — they are going to do the contract this Thursday, so hopefully that means we will pass inspection, and then we will be able to move in. There are a few little details that we need to finish, but we should be good to go.
It’s really hard finding people here. Like most of Chile, everyone is Catholic or Evangelico, but here the people are pretty stubborn; we’re not really teaching that many lessons. The key though is service!! Peor es Nada is one of the sectors with the most campo, so everyone is always working. It’s kind of funny, my comp and I were talking about it.  We feel like we are serving in the same sector as Kolipoki from the movie, “The Other Side of Heaven!” Everyone there is all related to each other, and the only opportunities we have to teach are when we are chopping wood or doing farm work, ha ha. Its awesome!!! My dream is to live out in the country, so I am definitely having a good time.
Today was a really cool P-day. This morning we got up at 5:30 to go run to a lake!!! I know right?  Running and me don’t go well together, ha ha, but it was cool. We couldn’t get too close to the lake, because there was a bunch of angry horses, but it was pretty and a cool adventure.
Anyways I am loving the mission. So freaking awesome. Have a great week
Love,
Elder Halverson
IMG_0297

Week 53 – Peor es Nada, Chile

Hey Everybody!

These past couple weeks have been super awesome.

We had general conference last week.  It was incredible.  As a missionary, that is like the best weekend ever!  Especially this past weekend, it was so great.  My two favorite talks were the ones from Sister Oscarson and Elder Nelson.  They both really inspired me a lot.  But in all reality, all the talks were great.  I learned a ton from each one.  I got to watch conference in English this time, so that was cool.  In Spanish, they do like a voiceover of a guy talking in Spanish, but I love hearing the actual voices of the speakers.  I feel like there is a difference, that the mere power in their words is so strong.  Overall, a great experience.

Also, we still don’t have a house here in Peor es Nada, but the owner is working on it, and he said that it would be done hopefully this week!  Elder Garcia and I have been doing a lot to help.  The other day, we pained the inside, and then we did some landscaping on the outside.  It’s coming together!

Yesterday, we also had the funnest p-day ever.  As a zone, we all went over to our sector, Peor es Nada, and played soccer there in a grass field.  It was seriously so fun!  I had only played soccer in courts of cement before, but playing on grass is seriously the best way to go!  I love soccer so much, ha ha!  I never thought I would become so obsessed, but I definitely will continue to play after the mish.

Anyway, it was just a great week.  I love the mish.  It’s the best thing I could be doing now.  Have a great week.

Love,

Elder Halverson

DSC00250DSC00248DSC00237

Week 51 – Peor es Nada, Chile

Hey Guys!

So this week has been pretty good.  On Tuesday, we had interviews with President Harris.  It was great.  We mostly just talked about the sector and things that we should do to find more people and help the branch.  He is such a great guy.  He gave me a lot of good ideas of things to start doing, so we’re going hard with that.  He also showed a ton of support for us, and he is really willing to help us.  It’s awesome.

We’ve also been kicking it up a notch on the service, as well as talking with everyone.  We have decided that every person we see working, we’re just going to go and help without asking.  It’s working well!  We have chopped firewood, cut grass, trimmed bushes, etc.  It’s giving us a lot of opportunities to introduce ourselves to the people, and also so that they can see us as nice people instead of just annoying people knocking on doors.

Overall, though, we are doing really good.  It’s tough work, the people are pretty hard and not really receptive (at least the ones we have met) but we’re going to keep going and trust that the Lord is preparing his children.

Have a great week!

Elder Halverson

DSC00225DSC00224DSC00222DSC00221DSC00212DSC00209

Week 50 – Peor es Nada, Chile

Hey Everyone!

This week has been a very dope week!

On Tuesday, we had interchanges with the assistants!  It was so awesome.  We left with Elder Covey, also known as Britain Covey, the football play for the University of Utah!  He is so cool.  We pretty much just went around contacting and talking with everyone.  We had a lot of success.  We handed out nine Books of Mormon!  It was a great interchange.  I learned a lot.  We found a guy with a BYU shirt on and I had to get a picture.  It was hilarious.

Peor es Nada, our sector, is really hardcore campo.  There is a ton of countryside, and because of this, we have been trying to offer a bunch of service.  It’s been working pretty well.  One day, we were riding on bikes and we saw a bunch of day workers working in the fields, so we decided to go and help.  We helped with the cherry trees.  We made cuts in the trees and then pasted it with this hormone paste so that branches will grow.  It was awesome.  All the workers were surprised to see a gringo and a Mexican in a shirt and tie doing labor work.  They were cracking jokes and whatnot as we were learning how to do it, but when they saw us work full speed, they were shocked to see that we were working faster than them, ha ha.  It was a fun experience.

We also offered service like building fences and constructing houses, as well as doing some farm work like cleaning barns and shoveling hay.  The people here are definitely fast to give us work.  It’s been working out well in finding people, so it’s something we’re going to keep doing.

On Monday, I also passed my first “diesocho” in Chile, which means “18.”  On the 18th of September, it’s the day of independence of Chile!  It’s basically just a giant party.  It was our P-Day on Monday, so we basically got to enjoy it and celebrate.  It was really fun.  We ate so much food!  Basically everything Chilean.  We had everything from empanadas and grilled meat to “terrrenotos” (without alcohol, of course) and “choripanes” (brat hotdogs, more or less).  We also went to a Chilean rodeo!  It was a cool experience.  They are way different than our rodeos in the US – the goal of rodeos here is basically two cowboys ride horses and try to pin a cow against a wall.  It was cool!  I am a huge fan of “la ropa de huaso” or Chilean cowboy clothes.

Overall, a great week.  I love you guys!  Enjoy your week!

Love,

Elder Halverson

DSC00140DSC00139DSC00130DSC00123DSC00118DSC00061DSC00056DSC00185DSC00183DSC00181DSC00180DSC00176DSC00174DSC00173DSC00172DSC00170DSC00166DSC00162DSC00160DSC00155DSC00154DSC00153DSC00152DSC00145

Week 49 – Peor es Nada, Chile

Hey Everyone!

So this week has been an insane week!!  Last week I said that I was going to stay in Teno again for another change with Elder Buxton and a new comp, Elder Everett, in a trio.  That was the plan.  But then Tuesday comes, which is day of changes, and it all starts off normal.  We get up, get ready to leave and go pick up Elder Everett at the bus station.  But then, on the way to the bus station, I get a call from Elder Covey, the assistant.  The tells me that I have to get to Rancagua, the mission office, as fast as possible!  He then says that I am going to go train a new missionary and go to Buin, the zone most north of the mission.

I started flipping out!!  I didn’t have anything packed!  I wasn’t even wearing a suit!  All I had with me was my Book of Mormon, ha ha.  So then I get up to Rancagua as fast as I can (by myself) and I’m in the mission office waiting.  I then try to figure out what the heck is going on!  I talked with the assistants and they tell me that they had planned on only receiving 13 new missionaries, and all of them were coming from the Santiago MTC.

But there was another missionary who couldn’t get his passport from Mexico who was at the Mexico MTC.  When he landed in the Santiago airport, no one was there waiting for him!!  Luckily, he was smart enough to realize no one was there, so he took a taxi to the Santiago MTC, and then met up with the other missionaries.  And our mission only had 13 trainers, so that’s why they had to call me with such short notice!  Pretty crazy, right??  Well, it gets even more crazy!

So, Elder Covey is telling me all this, but then he tells me that I’m not going to Buin.  He says that I am going to go serve in an area called Peor es Nada.  In the mission, this is known as one of the smallest branches in all the mission, with an average attendance of less than 10 people at church.  Also, that branch hasn’t had missionaries in that sector for over 30 years!  What had  always happened is missionaries in the neighboring sector would go over once a week to go work there, but really no progress was made.  So that’s where I’m at right now!  My companion, Elder Garcia is awesome!!  He is actually the same missionary from the Mexico MTC who was by himself!  He is from Mexico City.  We get along great and this is going to be a great change!!

So to describe Peor es Nada, it’s maybe the most campo sector in all the mission.  Campo means countryside.  The town itself of Peor as Nada is tiny, but we have a bunch of tiny towns scattered in our sector.  And we have bikes, so we are always just biking around.  We don’t have a house yet in our sector, so we are living with the elders in the next sector over until they can get us one – hopefully in a month or so.  It takes us 45 minutes to bike to our sector, and then we bike all over and work!  It’s crazy.

But it’s awesome.  I love it here.

Have a great week!

Elder Halverson