Monday, September 27, 2010

Sepember 27th

First, I am really sorry. This morning, we were in a hurry to get to Talca to do some things related to my companions visa (we need to get a new one every year) and I forgot to bring my camera so you will have to wait at least another week for the pictures I was going to email. I was going to wait until I sent the pictures to surprise y`all but this past weekend, we had three baptisms. Three fantastic mujeres named Violeta, Yazna, and Elena. Three weeks, three baptisms. They weren`t people that I contacted but people that I worked with these past few weeks and they really are amazing people. I`ll explain more when I actually send the pictures... hopefully next week I`ll be able to remember. Yeah, once again, I am really sorry about that. Also, yes Dad, loving people is a challenge for us but everyday I am learning to love more. It is hard and I am never going to be a "loving person" but I am learning to love people more and more everyday as i really get to know them.
Also I`ll explain a little bit about my area but more when I actually send the pictures. I am in a town called San Clemente which is close to a city named Talca which is just about two hours south of Santiago (I am closer to Santiago than Concepcion). The town is surrounded by Campo (vineyards, orchards, farms, ranches, etc.) and the people there either work in the campo or in Talca. Talca was hit pretty hard by the earthquake which is unfortunate because it is a cool city but a lot of it was destroyed but in a few years it is going to be really great again. The Branch in San Clemente has about 75 active members and is slowly getting stronger. Also my companion and I get along well, but is just frustrating that I can`t have some gringo backup if I don`t know what I am trying to say, but the branch really thinks my spanish is great especially for only 3 weeks, but don`t worry too much, I am learning how to handle frustration better than ever in my life (I know it isn`t saying much but improvement is improvement). So after the 18 of September which is the chilean independence day (when I ate probably 25 lbs of empanadas and asada) I have been constantly hungry. I am actually starting to get a little concerned because I am always eating. its weird!

I love you and pray for you constantly

Elder McNeil

September 20th

So I just realized that I forgot to bring my camera so I will have to wait another week to send some pictures but they are coming soon and I check often and my camera seems to be working right and pictures hopefully wont be a problem. Thanks for telling me about Bro. Dial. It is unfortunate that he passed away but one of the benefits of the gospel is we really understand the plan of salvation and hopefully faith and hope make it easier for them and their family during this time of grief. Let their family know that I´ll keep them in my prayers.

So I am in the little city of San Clemente and our Bicentennial celebration was very small because everyone made the 20 minute trip to talca for the actually party. Basically all we did was eat and really not a whole lot of anything else. Because Kerri is up in Santiago, she got a lot more freedom to celebrate, here we had just a normal day of work but with little Chilean women flooding us with empanadas which are really, really good. The Chilean food has been good since I´ve been here but because nothing is in season right now (end of winter, beginning of spring) it really has been mostly meat and potatoes. The Asada (grilling) for the bicentenial was also quite good but if you don't eat it right away, it drys out and just becomes jerky.

So I am kind of in a weird zone where things are either really easy or really hard and not anywhere in between. The people here are opening up to me and I am opening up to them and feeling more love but still things are difficult but getting better.
Anyway, I gotta go,
Elder McNeil

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hello from Chile

I am in the zone of Talca but my area is actually a town about the size of Farmington MN called San Clemente. The town I'm in is surrounded by vineyards and orchards so produce might be from my exact area. Our town has a branch and yesterday there were 77 people at church. My real motivation after seeing that is getting priesthood holders because we cant have a branch of just one huge relief society and primary. So, you knowing me, understand that I am easily frustrated, which is something I'm working on especially with the language, but I am able to communicate with members and investigators which gives me some confidence. Still, its a struggle but its coming.

My companion is a native Spanish speaker. He is from Buenos Aires and knows only a few phrases in ingles. I'm trying to teach him and vice-versa but still, it is difficult to not be able to turn to him for emotional support because he never had to learn the language. Also, pray that I can develop love for the people here. Right now, all the investigators feel like the are Elder QuiƱones and not mine. That will change with time and as I work hard to being people to Christ, it will come.

So, Kerri mentioned Ecco and don't freak out that they call this coffee in one of her last letters and I had that exact experience yesterday! I didn't see that email until today and I cracked up laughing. It tastes like burnt water but to be as nice as I can to the members and investigators here, I drink it any. maybe I'll start to like it eventually. Also yesterday, we had sausages for lunch with some members and, believe it or not, a sausage exploded on me. Right as I was trying to spear it with my fork BOOM!!!! That was interesting.
So I have to go do some stuff for my visa so I have to go but I love you and keep praying constantly for me, because I'll need it. But Chile is beautiful and I've found ways to help me out with the language and the work in general.

Elder McNeil

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Last Words From The MTC

August 31st,

Okay so yes I have my travel plans and I'm leaving for the Chile on Monday in the early afternoon. So I DON'T think I'll be able to see Kerri while I'm going through Santiago but I'll see her again soon enough. So other than that, the MTC is still the MTC and the food is giving everyone the same amount of gas. (Apparently I have bowels of steel immune to the food here, I've also only gained a single pound while everyone else in my district has gained multiple). The Spanish is coming along well. I'm no native or anything like that but being in intermediate made things quite a bit easier but also makes it so much easier to justify speaking English more because "we already know enough for now". That can be a little annoying but I'm feeling pretty ready for Chile and I have all of this week to prepare which is gonna be pretty awesome. Yah, I can teach well in Spanish so everything else I'm studying is just everyday kind of things and grammar which most people aren't going to use anyway but is common in the scriptures so I best learn it. So The elders in my district going to spain still don't have thier Visas so the three of them will either be reassigned to another mission or just wait here until they get their visas (which is still up in the air).

In all reality, if it wasn't for the transfers requiring us to wait out the two months here in the MTC all of my teachers said that they would have sent most of us out a few weeks ago but its not their choice now is it. But I'm so excited to leave and finally start teaching real people. I mean, teaching volunteers, teachers, and other missionaries is great but 15 months of not only Provo but of those, 2 months in the MTC, I'm almost more excited to get out of UT than anything else

Yeah, life is exciting and this is going to be my last email before I actually enter the field so my next email will be about my initial experiences in the field so keep an eye out for that but I have no idea when my P-day is going to be or anything like that but i fairly confident that you'll keep an eye out for my email.

Yeah, I'm pumped to leave!!!! Chile is gonna be waiting for me in now under a week!

August 24th

So this past week has definitely been an adventure. My companion, Elder Pericle got his visa so he left for Spain on Saturday. I was so excited to be just a duo there for a second... but Elder Jack and I have gained another companion and we are back to being the eternal Trio, just with a different corner-stone. Our new companion is Elder Fundora, he converted when he was 14 and his dad is from Spain which makes it pretty cool for him to be going there. He is great, but I have realized that I will enter the mission field not having had the experience of working in just a two-some, which kind of annoys me, but meh, I guess I'll just have to learn how to deal with that in the field. In case you're wondering, we didn't get an apostle last week but we did get Elder Gonzalez of the Presidency of the Seventy and he was great. But once again, I have my hopes high that tonight we are going to get our apostle.
Right now I am taking the vaccine for typhoid, which means every other day a take a pill filled with live bacteria. I am glad I'm taking it so I don't have to get sick as often in the field but this vaccine is not the friendliest to the body, so I've been feeling a little but like my insides are trying to become my outsides. (Actually, it isn't that bad, but my little tummy doesn't like it very much)

So it is a little strange being in Provo and knowing that school starts back up at the Y in just a few days. For some reason, I tend to forget that the world keeps spinning while I am here and that just because I'm not at BYU, that doesn't mean they aren't still having classes. Missions do weird things to your perception of time.

August 17th,

We still haven't had an apostle come yet. I am starting to think that they are waiting for some construction to be finished on the bleachers in the gym/auditorium here in the CCM (MTC en espanol) Anyway, last week we had Elder Evans of the Quorum of the Seventies come and he gave a good talk about some changes that are happening in the world of Missionary work. So I'm not sure if they are coming out with a new version of Preach My Gospel or just making some changes to the way the work is being done but I know by the end of my mission, I will be doing things different than Mike and maybe even Kerri did/are.

So I keep trying to look up information on the Concepcion temple and it seems like I can never find any news about it, I am still fairly confident that while I'm there they will break ground for it but I would really love to see at least some significant amount of construction done on it before I leave. The studying here is all very much the same. We speak spanish essentially all of the time and are constantly studying the scriptures. Oh just a random note, i finished reading Jesus the Christ this morning. My goodness, that was a good book, it just took me three weeks to finish it which was longer than I hoped. The other missionaries in my district have referred to me as pensive, wise, and reserved which is probably the first time in my entire life that anyone has called me one of any of those things, which I think is fun.

So my district is now the oldest district in our zone because everyone else left this week. That kind of means we have to set good examples but it also means that people will come to us for help with teaching and Spanish now which makes me happy. I've grown a lot these past six/seven/however many weeks I've been here. And on a side-note, I really want Kerri to meet one of my teachers if after she gets home and wants to ease back into dating. Back to my own personal growth. Yeah, things are going well. I'm teaching in Spanish and really just enjoying the experience. I should be getting my travel plans sometime in the next week or so, and I'll let you know the info and I'll also pass it on to Kerri as well. ( Also a package filled with junk food would be awesome!! (Hint, hint ;) )

August 10th

Okay so I don't know if I'll have time to write Kerri today so let her know that I met a Hermana Bair, who is one of her former companion's little sisters. I'll be sending some pictures soon to prove it! Also I sent her a birthday card a while ago and I really hope she got it. Anyway.
So thanks for the mid-way package! I love being here in the MTC but 9 weeks really is a long time. But now that it is less than a month before I leave I am really excited. I'm still waiting on the pictures I printed off so i could send them to you but once they come, I'll put them in the mail right away. Also thanks for getting my address in the Lakeville ward bulletin, I really wanted to make sure that they got it. It sounds like things back home have been a strange mix of really exciting, fun, and stressful, which, frankly, is a pretty apt description of the MTC. We've been teaching in Spanish for awhile, but this is going to be the first week where we teach in exclusively espanol. The language is fun but I really want to actually be immersed in it, because you never get that total immersion here like you would in the country. So we didn't have an apostle last week but we had another emeritus seventy which was really one of the best devotionals we've had here, but tonight we have our fingers crossed for one of the big 15 (First presidency or an apostle). So there really isn't much else to report. Things are moving along here as they should and I'm really happy to be where I am. anyway i'm gonna run.