Monday, July 21, 2014

Quillabamba 7.21.14

This is truly my last week in the mission and the last letter that you will receive from me as a missionary. Elder Doxey and I had to travel from Quillabamba to Cusco last night, we are going to Lima today in the afternoon to finalize our departure from the country.  I am a little disappointed that we had to leave the sector for half of our last week! But, on the bright side I was able to have a lot of good conversations with Elders that I really love right before I leave the mission. These are such good men that I am going to miss so much! Friendships that last for a brief moment but have such a profound affect on us. As I spoke with many of those good elders, I was able to come to some good conclusions about how I feel ending the mission. I think the first feeling that I have is gratitude and this is what I wanted to express to all of you.

I have been so blessed during my time as a missionary. I have been protected, guided, blessed with the spirit, moved to improve and repent, and most of all I have had the blessing of helping others to come unto Christ. I wanted to take this moment to thank all of you for the support that I have always received from all of you! I think that practically, you have never missed a week in writting me, encouraging me and letting me feel of your love. I feel so blessed to have such an awesome family! Perhaps the thing I am most excited for is to see all of you and to just give you all a BIG HUG!

I look forward to doing my best to help the members in this last week that we have with them in Quillabamba. I will be heading back on wedesnday and just hope to leave them all with a little bit of my love before my time is up.  They are wonderful people. I see how they rely on the Elders a lot for advice and help to resolve their personal problems. This week many people came out and asked for our advice or encouragement. It was so nice to have that experience! I am a little sad that the time is short, but there is something special about those friendships... their full confidence in that we can help them with their individual situations.  I am grateful for that experience of service... as we give all of our time to the Lord he certainly provides and sustains us in our good efforts to serve his children. More than anything, he fills us with charity for all of his children... whether or not they accept the gospel.

As Elder Doxey and I took the 5 hr drive from Quillabamba to Cusco, we were able to talk about the good changes that have come about as we have been on the mission. Again, it made me feel so grateful.

So for the last time, I am thankful. Thankful to all of you for you love and support, thankful to the wonderful people of Perú, and thankful to my Father in Heaven for this experience to learn what it means to love him and to serve his children with all of my heart, might, mind and strength!

I look forward to seeing you all very soon!

Con mucho amor,

Elder Neff

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Quillabamba 7.14.14

To give you an idea of what we are experiencing, we are excited when we break 70 in our little branch of Santa Ana! This week we were pleased to see a good amount of people come out to church, among them a less-active young man named Roy that we have been working with for a long time and have been trying so hard to get him to come! He finally came this week. It was a really interesting experience for me. I could tell that he was feeling uncomfortable ( it really is difficult for any less-active to make that decision to come back to church after a long time of inactivity). We hurried into sacrament mtg as it was starting and took our seat at about the middle bench. ( you can imagine that the chapel is small, about the size of the old oly choir room with out the vaulted roof). As we listened to the anouncements, I was surprised to hear him begin to make a few negative comments, and in general, just be a little impatient. I was thinking about how to help him when they called me up to direct the sacramental hymn. We sang "I stand all amazed" As I was singing/directing I thought to myself about the message of the hymn and about the savior. When I turned and looked at Roy, I could see that he was sensing the message of the hymn. It looked like he must have been feeling hurt, a litte bit of remorse for perhaps the difficulties that he has had since he left the church. He was later able to have an interview with the branch president and get some things worked out.

Elder Oaks visited our mission about a month ago. (I couldn´t be there quillabamba was to far away to come and be present in the mtg...:(   ) He made a comment that really struck me. He said that inactive members need to come to sacrament mtg because they need to feel like they are being baptized again. That struck me! As we renew that covenant, it can be an experience similar to baptism. Helping us to feel clean again. Really neat.

You can all hope for a great letter next week. Just know that I am doing very well, we are very happy with what we are doing. This is the greatest work and has been the greatest experience!

Con mucho amor,

Elder Neff

Quillabamba 7.7.14

Anthony was able to be baptized this week.  It was a really great experience and I am so pleased with how he has progressed.  We arrived early to the church to get everything set up ( about 1 hour early) The font fills up slowly and we had to clean the chapel as well. Anthony showed up a half an hour early with his white shirt and tie. So ready and so excited! That was at 3:30... we couldn´t even start the baptism until 4:30 because nobody was there! People continued to show up during the whole service and it really was a great experience. I am really happy for him... he is very likely the last person that we will be able to teach and baptize so we were really grateful for this experience. I´ve attached some photos for all to see. 

At the end of the baptismal service... I was waiting for something that I have been able to feel throughout my mission, a spiritual confirmation that we have done a good job with the people and that they are ready for the covenant of baptism. It was something that I had been able to feel many times as I interviewed people for baptism, and even with the very people that I have taught. As Anthony gave his testimony after the baptismal service. That feeling of warmth and confirmation came that we had done the best that we could to prepare him and that he was ready to make this decision. I knew that he was ready, but it truly was a tender mercy of the Lord to feel of his approval. Can´t wait to see the great things that this young man will do for the Lord in Quillabamba! I hope to hear that he is going on his mission exactly one year from saturday 05-07-14. Coincidentally, that was the very day that I entered into the MTC only two years ago to be a missionary! I can´t even believe that it has already been two years. It has been such a significant experience for me. 

I love you all so much! I really am praying for all of you.  We are doing so good don´t even worry about us. There are people to teach! (places to go and people to see every day) We don´t have a shortage of work and I pray that it is that way all the way up until we leave! 

Con MUCHO amor, 

Elder Neff
Anthony's baptism
Chocolate beans

Monday, June 30, 2014

Quillabamba 6.30.14

This week... I think that we walked a lot. It may sound odd that this is the first thing that comes to my mind, but we really did walk a lot.  The second councilor in the branch lives about 30 minutes off into the "jungle" ( not really jungle but junglely mountain) to the east of our house. It takes us up on a dirt road that is mostly used by little moto taxis, or if you have a little more money, small pick up trucks... all of which fly by breaking the non-existant speed limit and leaving us in a crazy dust cloud. But inspite of all that, we really love the walk because it gives us time to chat as a companionship... something that has really benefited elder Villa and I. 

We had one particular talk as we were walking that road this week. I was feeling a strong need  to talk to him, but wasn´t sure when the moment would present itself. When we are in the city, there are usually many people to talk with... in other words, places to go and people to see, and there are few oportunities for the type of conversation that we needed to have. 

My companion is a very good person, but has had some difficulties over the whole course of his mission... many of which we are still trying to work on.  I wanted to get to the root of all of that to help him to see the way ought of his dilema... especially before he ends his mission (we end together)  

I won´t speak of details, but I learned a really important lesson this week. We absolutely can never know the real intents or feelings that someone hold is their hearts. Only the Lord knows those things and that is why he asks us to leave the judgement to him and not to ourselves... that is why he asks us to take the beam out of our eye before we even consider worrying about the little sliver that is in our neighbor´s eye. I love the line from the hymn lord, I would follow thee. " in the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can´t see".  

I was able to gain a real love for my companion because I choose to think of how he felt.... it doesn´t mean that we need to find disobedience as acceptable behavior, but we can learn to love another and that gives us the opportunity to minister to others as Christ would do it. 

Sorry, I know that was perhaps, unspecific, but for me it was the most significant thing that I learned this week. 

here are the photos! 

the leaves and the tree.... are the "coca" leaf... . (they make cocaine out of that.... but only bad people here they just chew on it.... which isn´t that great either but its not asbad) 

My favorite super-glue.... glory to God super glue.... 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Quillabamba 6.23.14

Family! I am going to be writting on a Word document as I wait for the internet to get working… we just got a fiber-optic feed here in Quillabamba about a month ago and the internet changed from super slow to lighting fast! But, it seems like right now there is some trouble with the line and we are reverting to the old, satellite internet…. Let me tell you it´s slower than a tortuga…..

                I am learing a lot to say the least with my last companion…. It has been an odd experience knowing that both of us end at the very same time! I feel a little apprehensive about the people we are teaching knowing that, we are going to have to hand them off to another companionship at the end of July… but we are keeping good records and doing our best to be good teachers.  This Sunday we had a great experience with a less active member that we are trying to reactivate. We picked him up for church and he came out 100% ready with his white shirt ( I have plans to give him a tie). This is the fourth time he has came to church and it seems to me that he is beginning to have a real conversion. He also took up the courage to have an interview with the branch president and that was a huge step! We checked up on him after church and he just looked happy…. It has been a really big change since we found him back in April. It is really gratifying to see those changes in people.  Anthony Medina, our investigator who is going to be baptizedon July 5th is doing great. He´s 17 going on 18 and talks a lot about how he wants to go on a mission.  I really admire that. His brother in law is a member but works very far away in a mine in Puno… the take him to far away places because he knows how to blow things up from his experience in the army. Pretty cool right? I wish there were more things to blow up closer to Quillabamba so he could come to church but, oh well. Hopefully this job will end up being temporary rather than permanent! He only comes once every 2 months, but even so has been a wonderful influence on Anthony and the principal reason that he is investigating the church. The Lord prepares people in so many ways!

                Last experience that just made me WAY happy this week. We have been working with a few recent converts that are in the age to go on a mission… but haven´t quite worked up the courage to go and talk to the branch president yet. One of them is Fidel. Fidel is a great guy. Only member in his family. He works in a bakery delivering bread every morning to the different stores in Quillabamba. He´s a little guy and really quite shy, but he has a great testimony and wants to do what is right…. I think he just needed a little push to begin his mission papers. Anyway, as church was ending, I saw that he was standing outside the branch presidents office… timidly waiting to speak with him. Then, I suppose giving up on his intent, he started to make a move towards the exit of chapel. I thought to myself, uh uh, your talking to president today! I went and grabbed him and led him to president´s office. Not thinking much of it, we continued proselyting that day. At about 6 we passed by the chapel and saw that the lights were on. We went inside to investigate and saw that 2 young adults from the branch were working on their mission papers! Fidel being one of them. I was soooooo happy! If anyone has the chance to go on the mission, and decides not to, they are making the biggest mistake of their life! It has meant, so much to me.


Well… there you have it, another week in Quillabamba. It is getting hotter…. And dryer. But I am trying to enjoy every minute of it. Edna…. Buy good shoes. Read your scrips every day! Paigey… I am praying for you, john and hazel every day. Dad…. Spanish commentary on world cup games IS HILARIOUS!!!!! I hear it constantly in any given part of town during the day. Mommy, Its OK that you are helping Eden and couldn´t write. We´ll chat next week. Ben and Andy…. Keep going to scout camp because it preps you for fleas, diarrhea, and nasty weather in the mission!

Love you all very much,

Elder Neff

Panoramic on our roof!
how would you like these fellas as your roomates? (giant red killer wasps....) yes that is someones house and their roof beam! 
Bye, bye elder Murillo.
With the whole district and the pension

Monday, June 16, 2014

Quillabamba 6.16.14

Ok, ok... I am getting the picture. I´ll try to send you more normal things instead of just the spiritual. 

To start off, the world cup is getting to us. EVERYONE and their dog watches the world cup here in south america... so it is impossible to avoid having a few lessons fall through. On Saturday we had a pretty funny experience. We went to go and visit Niels to talk about his baptismal date (which was moved to a different week :( it´s ok he´s working on it.) when we walk into the house him and the member that he lives with were all sitting there on the couch watching the latest game. The invited us to come in and sit down. I tried to get Niels attention, " hey hermano Niels, how are you doing?".... silence. "Hey hermano Niels how are you doing?"... more silence. Eyes still glued to the TV, The third time was the charm but I could honestly not get his attention enough to even do a little bit of follow up on how he was doing haha... and when I turned to see if Elder Murillo was talking to the Member who is fellowshiping Niels, his eyes were glued to the TV too! Mezmerized. I can´t blame them though. The World Cup is the greatest I watched it all four years ago! We also were talking to a less-active member and set an appointment for last wedensday. He called that morning to cancel, and when we asked him for another day when we could have the appointment he said.... " Ya know.... why don´t you call me in about a month.... I already canceled all of my work appointments because they all conflicted with the World Cup!" Like, it was a joke but... not really haha. Ecuador also lost a game this week... Elder Murillo worked with a broken heart that day for real! Soccer runs in the blood of south americans. 

We had a really neat experience with a lady who is not a member but her daughter is. We went to visit her this last week with our ward mission leader. I love something that we learned in our companionship study this week that we are applying in a much better way to every teaching situation. Our purpose as missionaries is to invite others to come unto Christ. We do that best by helping them to have faith and to repent.... and really they accomplish those to things by making the firm decision to be baptized and receive the holy ghost. That principle has been so important for us this week. After studying that, I felt like I had even more confidence to invite others to take that first step to be baptized and really show their faith... There is a moment in "the district 2" a video that outlines the basics of missionary work, where an investigator says "hmm..... baptism, the b-word! " But baptism should never be taboo in missionary work. It is the center of all that we do. 

Elder Murillo has a change :( It has been great being with him but president feels that I ought to be placed with another missionary and fulfill a different assignment. 

Well that´s it for today! I love you all.... Have a great week! 

Elder Neff

Murillo and Me! 
Elder Murillo in Ajuajuyoc.... pronounce it! 
Elder Murillo as Santa Clause.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Quillabamba 6.9.14

I love the letters that I have been able to read of my friends who are finishing their missions. I am so impressed by their faith and desire to serve God. It makes me want to be a better missionary and reflect on my willingness and desire to serve the Lord... I feel like we can always ask ourselves that question, and even as we come up short have the confidence that our best efforts and full dedication will bring us the blessings of the Lord and make up all the difference.

Training Elder Murillo has been a difficult task. I know that I haven´t mentioned it that often but it truly has. Harder than my time in the mission office or in other leadership positions. In part that has come from a huge desire that I have had for Elder Murillo to be the very best missionary that he can be. I know that he has the same desire even if we both come up short at times. Our progress, however, has been incredible and looking back at our first week here in Santa Ana I come to the realization of just how many things have changed.

I am pleased that I have some good news to report on the people that we are teaching. Niels Holland Basurto is prepared and excited to be baptized this fourteenth of June! The Lord has been to good to us and put many people in our path who were preparred to receive the gospel. Yesterday, as we were teaching Niels two commandments, I was amazed when, after we taught them both and then asked Niels to explain to us in his own words what we had taught, he explained perfectly both commandments and his desire to live them. I thought back on countless investigators that I have taught who have had such trouble understanding or accepting the different gospel principles, and in one moment we find someone who has little or no problem at all in living it.

To finish off, I was thinking a little about the talk that Elder Ballard gave in the last general conference. He talked about how sharing what we learn from Preach my Gospel during our letters home would be a wonderful way to get excited about missionary work and the blessings we can receive as we share the restored gospel with others. This morning I read about our premortal life in Chapter 3 of Preach my Gospel (lesson: The Plan of Salvation). I reflected on the great blessing that we have in this time here on earth to prepare ourselves to be worthy of the blessing that we always wanted, to become like our Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ! Anyone is greatly blessed by that knowledge. It brings perhaps most importantly a sense of  purpose  to our lives that we would be lost without.

I love you all! Thank you for the love and support that you give me every week!

Elder Neff