Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 25th

Well, I didnt expect this last week to be relaxing for you two but it seems like it ended up being one very big, stressful mess for you. I'm sorry. I know that you probably are hoping for some time to relax and enjoy the summer but I've come to notice that, the older you get, the more stressful things seem to be. I've seen that here a lot in the mission. THe older members and investigators have a lot more on thier minds than us young folk. I know that probably doesnt help much but that is just an observation I've made over time. 
So, I am going to attach some pictures that I know you have been anxiously waiting for. Hopefully it will make up for all the time that has past since I last sent anything. 
So things are going well here. We are really seeing improvements everyday in ourselves and in the sector. I am really grateful for the chance to train because it is really helping me be a better missionary. I know I am not perfect but I am always trying to improve so, I feel like that is good.
We did a service project for a sister in our ward and one of her friends (a recent convert) came, grab a saw and hammer and went to work with us. I was really impressed. I was actually shocked that Bernarda would do that with us. It was really fun to work with her. 
We have a conference tomorrow which should be great. I can always feel when I am in need of  conference and I am excited to hear what President Humphrey has to say tomorrow. 
SOrry for not writing more but I am feeling a little fever-ish and am going to lay down for a little bit. I want you to know that I love you guys and that I am always praying that things work out well for you in all that you do.

Elder McNeil

July 18th

So that marble platter is pretty impressive but it would be nice to see it for real. I am sure that it is going to be a great addition  to what is going to be an incredible house. I am really happy to know that you are enjoying all the movies that are coming out. The members here always like to talk to me about movies because they know that I was a movie fanatic before the mission so they like sharing their opinions with me about such-and-such movie. A lot of members here have been talking about the new transformers, Harry Potter, and the new XMen movie. I want to one of them to see Cars 2 and fill me in on how it is. If there is one movie I want on the top of my movie list, it is Cars 2.
Wow, so it is nice to hear that you got such a flattering letter from President Humphrey. I am just trying to do what I was called to do but if people see that I have talents and abilities that I don't know about, I will happily keep trying to use them as best as I can. I feel that I really am uncovering and unlocking a lot of abilities I never really knew I had but I am far from a perfect missionary but I am doing my best.
So this week was really interesting. Chile was playing the La Copa America and was doing really well which was really exciting because the chileans were getting really into the games. When Chile scored, you could hear EVERYONE yelling while we were walking in the streets. Unfortunately it made it a lot harder to work on game days. Last night Chile lost to Venezuela which was disappointing but it is at least going to make it easier to work.
It has also been a lot colder recently which means that people are staying inside more and it has been a lot easier to do contacts BUT our house is really cold at night. We have an electric heater that we turn on every morning as we wake up and at night was we get home to warm up our bedroom. Sadly, the rain and cold keep even the most active of members from coming to church so this Sunday, our ward which normal has an attendance of 120+ only had 90. That was sad but winter only lasts so long and hopefully things will warm up here soon.
Random story. So there is a member of our ward who served his mission in the states and speaks English pretty well. He is a really great guy and he was hired to help a hotel make some official announcements about the hotel's reopening in English and Spanish. Well, they needed a recording in English to put on their website and on their phone lines to announce the reopening. Well, the member asked me to read something in English, heard my voice and said "I NEED YOUR VOICE!"  (Chileans find my voice fascinating for some reason. They ask me to speak in English so they can listen to the tone of my voice. Apparently that is just another one of those random talents that you stumble upon while on your mission.) He asked me help write and then record the announcement. He was really excited to have me help him out and we had a little bit of a bonding moment. As missionaries, we look for service opportunities on every street corner, but who would have thought that all I would have to do was talk.
So, it is sad hearing that your parents are slowing down but they're still kicking so I'm not going to complain. Good luck with your meetings Dad. I know that you are going to be stressed and probably even a little upset this week but it wont last forever.
Elder McNeil

July 11th

So, i know you have asked for pictures a few times but I have been a hard time getting pictures upload onto these computers to send you. Don't worry there isnt anything wrong, it is just that the internet cafe I usually go to has rewritten some software and my memory card adapter doesn't work with the software. I have been taking a lot of pictures and things are going really well.
So, we are doing well. In the last week, we have been able to pretty much doble the amount of lesson we are teaching which is great because this is a tougher sector to teach in. We are seeing some progress from a number of investigators but it will be hard to have any baptisms in the next few weeks which is tough. This is the longest I've gone in the mission without "getting wet" and our investigator, who would have been baptized last week, wasn't able to get permission, but there is still hope for him and a number of others.
My kid is doing well. He is really smart and really is trying to absorb the Chilean culture which has been a lot of fun to see. We are working really hard to try to get as much out of this sector as we possibly can. I have been working a lot with faith and unleashing its power. I am learning that an attitude of faith is probably the most important tool for overcoming any situation (I would recommend reading Hebrews 11 and the talk Hope by Elder Snow from this most recent conference).
So i really don't have a lot of news for y'all. Things are going really well here and I am really excited to see this sector produce some visible fruits. We are really excited to keep working hard and having fun. So, it is good to hear that you were able to find someone better to work on the house. Maybe you can still finish the house before I get out there (if not, at least soon after).  Heck, if it comes down to it., I'm thinking of sending a package home soon and if it comes down to it, I'll just send you my memory card. (That isn't a done deal but if I do, I will). So things are doing well and I hope you have a lot of fun. I love you a ton.
Elder McNeil

July 4th

Okay, so i know that you are probably completely exhausted still from your trip but it is great to know that y'all are doing well and that things should be moving forward here soon on the house. I never realized just how complicated a process it is to build a house. A lot of people here in Concepción keep making comments about the temple and how the church needs to start on it soon, but if it was this hard to build a house, I can't even imagine how hard it must be for the church to build one of its majestic temples especially when there are prejudices against them.
So you liked Transformers 3. I really was not a fan of the second but its nice to hear this one wasnt bad. mish, I'm excited to see it one day.
So you are probably anxious to learn about my trainie. Well, his name is Elder Ojeda and he is from Mexico. He is really cool. He is 25 and has already graduated from college which makes me feel a little weird being his trainer.
The jump from Junior comp to training caught me by surprise but it taught me to live by the principle "expect the unexpected". To be completely honest, at first I was kind of confused and didn't really know what to do but I am getting a hang of things and things are going well. One of my big goals is to increase my efficiency as a missionary. We really need to teach short powerful lessons that really help people because if we don't we will be helping few people and see very little progress. It was really eye-opening for me to see the difference between bad planning and good planning and now I am committed to planning as well as I can from here on out.
So, I complete a year in the mission this Thursday.... the time is going by too fast. I wish I could have come into the mission knowing the things I know now because I now only have half the time to really apply the things it has taken me a year to learn. There is no such thing as a perfect missionary let alone a perfect greenie but if I knew what I know now before, I would have done things quite differently. 
Well, we might have a baptism this week unless the investigator's grandpa changes his mind. Please pray that his heart might be soft and that he will let his grandson get baptized.
Oh random story. SO yesterday we had a stake conference with Elder Zaballos of the seventy and his wife and they wanted to take a special picture with me because Hermana Zaballos sent me a package for my birthday a few months ago.  A friend of mine met thier daughter in Utah while she (thier daughter) was doing a study abroad there. My friend Brianne asked them to bring a package to Chile for me when they came home after General Conference. When they got home they send the package from Santiago to Conce. When I saw a random package from Santiago, I obviously freaked out and then when I found out how it got to me, it was even more incredible. They thought it was a fun experience and wanted to take a picture so they could remember it. I'll try to get a copy of the picture because it really was a fun experience.
Anyway, I love you guys and hope everything goes well. Mom, get better, you can't go around getting sick on me.
Love ,
Elder McNeil

June 26th

So it seems like everyone in our family is having just crazy cool experiences. It was fun killing Elder Harmer but it was sad. He was a really enjoyable companion and it was really sad to say goodbye to him. Actually 3 of my last 5 companions are going home today. I feel old in the mission! Time is going by way to fast.
Unfortunately, I spent a decent amount of last week a little sick but we got everything done that we needed to and it was a lot of fun. Cristofer is doing really well and we are finding more good people as well. The ash from the volcano erupting in southern Chile has actually caused some problems in our sector. It isn't like what happened when mike was in the mission but we are getting a little bit of the ash cloud here in the bay. 
So about my new companion... well, I would tell you about him but I don't know him, because I'M TRAINING. I will meet my new companion tomorrow and I'll let you know all about him next week. I wasn't expecting this at all but its happening! I am just about to complete a year, just killed my last comp, and I'm having a son! Time moves so incredibly fast in the mission and I am just grateful that the Lord has enough confidence in me to let me do this work. Mom asked why I am enjoying the mission so much. I can't explain it. It is just good. Being a part of something so good for everyone. What could be better than sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world?
So I have to go but I love you all a ton and hope everything is going super well for you.
Love r,
Elder McNeil

June 20th

. Killing a companion is tough because there are a lot of feelings to be hurt and a lot of people who can take what I do and say in the wrong way. It is also makes it a lot harder to not think about what I will do when I finish the mission. I just don't even let my mind wander into thoughts like that. I just am focusing on taking our one progressing investigator and helping him receive the gospel and putting my heart and soul into finding other people like him. One thing I've seen in the mission is that there are alot people who are really prepared and, as missionaries, we need to be willing to make the sacrifices required to find them. Cristofer was a teenager we found on Wednesday and I immediately knew that he was the investigator I've been looking for. It was a wonderful moment and I am so grateful for the blessings that Heavenly Father decides I deserve/need. Yeah, I am really happy about the way things are going.
So, people here think we have a really cool family because they found out that Kerri is in Jerusalem and that you were in India last week. It's nice to know that you didnt have some of the same adventures that we had last year and that you are having new adventures of your own to tell. What are y'all going to do for Kerri? She needs to have some crazy experience too (not that Jerusalem isn't adventurous enough). Here in Chile, it is rare to see air conditioning so I'm used to that already although right now it is winter which means RAIN!!!! We have also had a number of beautiful days which has been great. Hopefully you will have good weather when you go to El Nido or you will really miss out on that wonderful experience.
So Dad bought some of those carpets? And a marble Oakland temple? and a marble chess table? That doesn't sound like him. I guess he just couldn't help himself. Happy late fathers day BTW. I gave a talk yesterday in sacrament meeting and started off talking about how awesome you are. It was a good talk.
You need to start planning what the next big family vacation will be in a few years. (My vote is for a tour of south America and I assume mike and kerri will agree).
So with my facebook, people can't add me as thier friend and I have a lot of angry chileans looking for me on facebook right now. What can I say? People want to be my friend, who would've guessed, right? ;)
I am really happy right now. I love you tons and will keep you updated on everything.
Love ,
Elder McNeil

June 13th

Well, i do have to admit that I am a little disappointed that I cant brag about being the only kid you have taken to India, but I guess I'll just have to get over that. I know Mike and Cabrina are going to LOVE New Delhi and El Nido. I hope you have more time there than we did. That trip seemed to go by WAY to quickly. I have some great memories of our adventures out there, I just hope you dont get in any car accidents this time around.
Well, this week went well. We had interviews and it seems like President Humphrey is happy about how I am doing. It is really nice to have that opportunity to talk specifically about how to improve and learn from your mission president. The rest of the week went fairly well too. We have found a lot of good people but they all have specific difficulties and challenges. It is going to be hard to get a baptism before Elder Harmer finishes the mission which is tough for the both of us. Seeing as he only has two weeks left, I am trying to do everything I can to make these last weeks as rewarding as they can be.
So we tried to make american style onion rings this week and... well... they just werent the same so we are going to try and perfect the recipe so we can share something very gringo and cheap to make with the people here in Lirquén. One thing that I have learned in Chile is if you cant get into somebody's heart right away, charming them into receiving the gospel is sometimes necessary. (But this principle must be used with caution). I really want to help the people here in Lirquén receive the gospel but many have very views about the church and I have to keep adjusting the way I work to better fit this area but I feel like I am seeing progress which is what we want.
Hey Dad, so people still can't add me as a friend on facebook and they would greatly appreciate if you were able to get that fixed. (Mike can help). HAVE FUN AND BE SAFE.
Love ,
Elder McNeil 

June 6th

So did mom say something about you guys going to India again? Well, that's cool if you are. Also I hope things go well with the contractors. I want this project to be as problem free as possible for you. It was also great that you spent some time with Mike and Cabrina. I am sure they loved that little break from all the chaos of moving and getting settled in NC.
So this was another fun week. We worked hard and really saw some miracles with some recent converts and some less-active families who we are working with to complete their families. Unfortunately I don't have any news about our investigators but this sector is full of potential and I know that there is someone here waiting for us to knock their door. We have really been having a hard time finding people to teach which is when we need to get creative and learn to work differently. I have been learning a lot about patience and humility recently in my studies and now I am grateful for the chance to practice what I've been learning. It is a really great sector and the people are really nice but I am still working for getting a baptism before my comp finishes his mission in 3 weeks. We would have to find someone this week, have them come to church this sunday and then the next 2 after that but it is possible and what I am working for. He is a great missionary and deserves the chance to get into the water and baptize one more time.
So I really hope this house situation works out well and Mom, I know your calling in California is way different than it was in TX and MN but you are really helping these girls and the work you are doing is super important. Don't let yourself get tired and lose the desire to help those girls. Things will work out well because they always do when your are working on the Lord's side. So remember to work hard and do what you know you need to do. I love you guys a ton and hope things are going well.
Elder McNeil

May 30th

So did you know how amazing the church's online store is? I just ordered like a ton of stuff that I needed and they are going to deliver it straight to the mission!
Sorry, sometimes you need to stop and think about how wonderful the little things in life are. So this week went really well. Well actually we are having a hard time finding people to teach but we are teaching and the lessons we are having are really great. We have also discovered how incredible the chruch's new Church HIstory DVD set is for teaching. They have a video or visual for everything! Once again, the little things in life are making me really happy.
This week we had Zone conference and since then, I have been really happy about everything. Almost too happy. I really enjoyed what we heard and the mission is changing so much. I was watching as the missionaries who are leaving gave thier testimonies and it is really incredible. THe mission I arrived to almost doesnt exisit now. Also, the church keeps giving us new materials that it is almost changing faster than I can keep up. The Lord wants the best so He is giving us everything we need to be the best. It is a lot of responsibility, especially because we are kind of gineapigs for all this new stuff and Pres. Humprehy keeps implying that there is going to be even more changes coming soon.
So i love the new sector but it is hard to adjust to a new style of working because what I did in my other sectors does not work here so it is almost like starting from ground zero but it is really fun. I like the sector a lot and the ward is incredible. A missionary has gotten home every week from the mission every week for the past 3 and there is going to be another RM this week. We are going to have lots of extra hands to help us out. I love you guys but I have to go. I hope things go well with your callings and I'll try to give dad some of the new study supplies we have been getting to help you out (the missionaries there probably already have them but who knows, maybe i can teach you something they don't know).
I love you,

Elder McNeil

May 23rd

Okay Mom, so I got your packages today plus one from my friend Brianne plus a lot of mail. (Today has been REALLY good so far). I have been getting Kerri's letters so dont worry about that. So, I have been really enjoying my time in my new sector. MY new comp's name is Elder Harmer and my sector is called Lirquén. I am going to be killing Elder Harmer this cambio which I would have done to Elder Higham had I stayed in Chillán. So it is totally and completely different from my other two sectors. First off; It is right on the ocean. I mean there is a big port, there are a lot of fishermen, and lots of seafood. (Imagine Montrey but 50 years ago). There is actually a super nice restaurant in Lirquén which is owned by a member and it is really good, plus we eat there for free (we go every Thursday). If you end up picking me up from the mission, I'll take you there. Second; There are hills... everywhere. It is like I am constantly hiking to get from appointment to appointment (I've taken some great pictures of the bay. We have some amazing views). Third; I am only  25 minutes or so from Concepción! Actually I am here in Conce right now. It is Chile's "Second City". It is really nice. I have been in more rural places for a long time so this is a little wierd. It isnt like I am in Gringolandia but it feels much more like a big city.
We have some work to do in the sector but we have a wonderful ward. It is by far the biggest ward I've been in since I've been on the mission. We are going to do quite a bit of finding because the people they were teaching before I got here have either lost interest or we haven't been able to find them. The port in Lirquén was also on strike this last week so some of the people we wanted to teach were probably there protesting and not in thier houses. Mom don't be concerned about the changes. They are expected and every sector is where Heavenly Father wants me to be. My success depends on how well I follow the Spirit and how diligent I am. I working really hard and learn a little more everyday. The Lord blesses His missionaries. It is true. We work hard, go through trials, see blessings, all because the Lord wants to show us how much He loves the children of God. Yes, I still expect a lot of myself but because I know the Lord expect a lot from me. I am not perfect and know that I wont be anytime soon, but I can observe the changes that I need to make in my life or in the way I work to best fulfill my calling. I love you guys and want you to know how happy I am. I love the mission. It has been wonderful so far and I can only seeing it getting better.
Love ,
Elder McNeil

May 16th

So I am getting transfered. I am leaving tomorrowfor my new sector. I am going to be in a sector called Lirquen in the zone of Penco. I have heard good things about the sector. I hear the ward is good and that the sector is pretty. The only bad things I have heard are that it is going to be rainy there and also there are some pretty intense hills. i havent gained weight since I´ve been here but there is a good chance I´ll lose some in this new sector. I´ll be missing some baptisms here in Chillán but I will just have to be happy that they are getting in the water. It really isnt a surprise that I am leaving which is making it easier on me. To be honest, if it was my choice, i would stay here a little longer.
This week was a lot of fun. We had an activity in the stake here about family history and we were in a skit for it. It was a great activity and makes me wonder, How are y´all doing on our family history work?
So, I tried to send a gift to you but the post office wouldnt let me send it because it has a peice of wood in it. So now I have a very large and heavy chunk of wood and metal that I cant send you until I finish the mission... i wasn´t very happy to find that out today. Other than that things are going really well.
I love you guys and hope that this next week goes well as you settle into the new house.
Elder McNeil

May 9th

So i am going to keep this email fairly short because, well, we just talked yesterday. Today, we had a Mexican food party which was a lot of fun. There is NO Mexican food here in Chile and the food we eat has very little to nothing in common so we felt the need to make something authentic. There is a missionary who is from a Mexican family who basically told me and a few other missionaries what to do while some others played some games. It was really fun and we ate a ton!
So after the phone call, we had to do a ton of things to finish off the week. We didn´t end with the numbers we were hoping for BUT after having 3 or 4 amazing weeks in a row, you just have to accept what happens with a smile.
Things are going well, we just need to get our investigators animated about things but that wont be a problem. My comp Elder Higham is probably the most animated people I´ve ever met. It is actually pretty funny to see.
So I´m going to know if I am going to stay or go next week. I really don´t want to go quite yet but if I do, I just have to accept it. It really would be nice to see what happens with the people we have found recently.
Anyway, I will have a lot more to write about next week. I love you guys and hope everything is going well. Enjoy all the things that make life fun. I know yall are busy but enjoy the time you have to relax a bit.
Love ,
Elder McNeil