Monday, April 17, 2017

Youth Conference: My best "missionary" day so far

[17 April 2017]

Tupiza District Youth Conference in Quiriza.
We have had many wonderful experiences on this mission so far, but  April 14th was my best "missionary"day. I'll tell you why.

I bore testimony of Jesus Christ and invited others to come to Him by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end (that is our purpose as missionaries).

I gave a talk without any notes and I did something really hard (for me) that required me to rely on my companion and my faith in Jesus Christ. Have I piqued your interest?

I tend to exaggerate, but I won't need to for this story, so you can believe what I am going to say.

When we visited the Quiriza Branch a few weeks ago, a meeting was held to talk about Youth Conference. They wanted to hold Youth Conference in Quiriza where the first chapel in Bolivia was built and Pres. Kimball came and dedicated this area of Bolivia for missionary work. Since Charlie and I are "old" and were youth when Pres. Kimball was the prophet, they invited us to share our experiences and memories of him at Youth Conference. Of course, we would love to.

All the youth and some of their leaders spent the night at the Tupiza chapel. One of  the branches in our district is in Uyuni -- about a 6-8 hour drive from Tupiza. Another is in Villazón -- about an  hour away. They brought blankets and a few had sleeping bags. They slept on the floor in the classrooms.

We arrived at the church about 7:30 am. to see about 25 youth and a handful of leaders all in a circle in the gym with scriptures in hand. For this activity (as far as I could gather from watching and listening after it had started), they were divided into groups of two or three people. Each group had a scripture from scripture mastery in seminary that they had memorized. When their group was called on, they stood and recited their scripture together. They then asked another group of their choosing a question about the scripture they just recited. I was very impressed with the participation, their answers and their questions. There were several recently baptized youth in the group and they participated as ably and enthusiastically as the rest.

As we walked in, Charlie and I were asked if we would share a scripture and an experience from our time in seminary after the game. Which we did.

They fed us a breakfast of yummy pound cake and hot cocoa. Then we boarded our bus to Quiriza. Here are some pictures of the bus. Don't pay any attention to the broken tail light, broken windshield, or generally dilapidated look of the bus. That's all pretty normal here.
It's hard to see in this picture, but the bottom half
of the driver's side windshield is gone and replaced with tape
and plastic wrap, it appears.

Who needs tail lights?

Dusty, run down, perfect for a trip to Quiriza!
It was the same beautiful drive as before, and this time we could even see more from the big windows of the bus. I had the same sweet feeling as I entered the chapel. It really is a special place. We sang, prayed and listened to Diogenes, the older gentleman we referred to before, who was one of the first members in Quiriza. He is so sweet and was very happy to have us there.

The story of President Kimball coming to Quiriza is very important to him and he loves to share it. As we left the chapel, we were given a banana to eat on the way. With Diogenes leading us, we headed out and up, up, up.

The hill behind the chapel (the grey one in front, not the red one behind), was our destination.

Quiriza chapel with the hill we hiked behind the palm tree.
Here's another view. We hiked to about the middle of the three bumps on the right by going around behind the mountain. There is a wash that comes around the left side of this "hill." We hiked up the wash, then scrabbbled up the loose shale.

We started up and kept climbing. It got really steep and very rocky and of course, there was no path. The rocks were not the stable kind that give you traction, but the kind that crumble when you try to grab onto them for support and the kind that move underneath you. I was in a dress and missionary shoes. I was grateful that I had on my Cholita socks that are thicker than my usual knee hi nylons, so my feet didn't slide around so much in my shoes. I was glad I had my companion with me. He took very good care of me.

The youth had no problem with the climb -- they are invincible. But the leaders didn't seem to have any problems either. The District Young Women President grew up on a mountain like this and the District President had worked on mountains carrying logs for power lines etc., so I guess it wasn't a big deal that he carried his 2 year old daughter on his shoulders most of the way.

There were several places that were very scary for me. I couldn't see where to place my feet and Charlie was trying his best to help me, but his footing was slippery as well. It almost always happened that when I felt like I didn't know where to go, someone reached out their hand for me to grab hold of, or had their arms under my armpits lifting me up. It was amazing. Where did they come from? I know they were with our group, but they just happened to be there when I needed them. They were like angels.

When I thought we couldn't go any higher we kept going. It seemed there was always more to climb. The thought of going down was daunting. Down is always the hardest for me. We finally reached what seemed like the top and Diogenes led us down a ways,  right on the side of the mountain with not much footing space. We finally came to the "spot", according to Diogenes, where President Kimball blessed this area of Bolivia for the preaching of the gospel. Because of his age and poor health, President Kimball was carried up the difficult terrain by missionaries. It was a beautiful setting.

We had a prayer and two musical numbers from Villazón Branch and  Uyuni Branch. I was so touched by these songs. One was "Nearer my God to Thee" (which I felt at that moment) and the other was one of my favorites, "Secret Prayer". I felt so close to these people and so touched by their help in getting me up the mountain.  I was so grateful that I made it.

When I got up to give my part, I was a bit overcome as I looked at them and thanked them for helping me. I briefly told them how hard that climb was for me and that I felt that they were angels helping me. My whole talk was about how President Kimball was a hero to me because he never gave up, "nunca se dio por vencido," even when it was painful and embarrassing and very hard.

I shared the story of his first speaking assignment as an apostle after throat surgery. Three times Elder Herald B. Lee, the senior apostle, asked him to speak, and every time a horrible sound would come out. Imagine after having a beautiful singing and speaking voice, to stand in front of a group and have such a horrible sound come out. He even asked Elder Lee not to call on him, but he did. He was so humble. He had faith in Jesus Christ and confidence in the leaders of the church and he was obedient. He turned his weakness, his voice  into a strength.

Because his voice was so unique it was always in my mind. Likewise, his words and teachings were in my mind too. I told the youth that I had faith and I was being obedient as a missionary, and I knew that Heavenly Father would turn my weakness, climbing down this mountain, into a strength, and I would get down safely. I felt good about it and never looked at my notes except to read the story and the scripture.

Charlie shared how before his mission he realized he needed a testimony of the living prophet, who happened to be Pres. Kimball, and how powerful that testimony came. He shared some things Pres. Kimball said, like "Do It," and encouraged them to gain testimonies of living prophets. It was very inspiring. The whole experience were very powerful for me. After we talked, a recently baptized young man bore his testimony, and the Tupiza Branch sang the closing song.

Now for the trek down. I wasn't scared. I knew the Lord would help me. Charlie was so patient with me and taught me what to do with my feet as we went down. Most of the way I held onto both of his hands from behind and just followed in his footsteps with baby steps and slides every once in a while.
However, there was one spot where we were stuck. If Charlie had been by himself, he would have been just fine, but how to get himself down and help me down too without us both sliding off the mountain was the question. I was about ready to sit down and scoot when Sister Maria came and held my other hand, with Charlie holding my hand and guiding from the front we managed for a while.

Then it got worse. The Branch President of Uyuni came and put his arm around me and put mine over his shoulder. He told Charlie he could let go that he would help me through the worst of it. He practically carried me, and when we would slide he would say that it was OK to slide and he just whisked me down the bad part.

Charlie took over then and another time I had to put my arm around Charlie and he around me to get us down, but we did it. It was amazing! A very powerful lesson for me in so many ways. I'm sure I will reflect upon it many times.

This shows the way down. Right about in the middle of the picture, you can see a small grey area in front of the red mountain. That's about 2/3 of the way down. If you magnify the image enough, you can actually see a couple of people down there.

After we got back to the chapel, I saw one of the young women outside, alone, and visited with her. She was struggling with some questions and I happened to be there, and was able to testify of Jesus Christ and gospel principles. My "missionary"experience.

They fed us yummy Bolivian chicken noodle soup on glass dishes that we brought with us from Tupiza and mocochinchi (a cinnamon drink with dried peaches in the bottom for flavor) to drink. Then they brought us a big plate full of rice, one half of a potato and chicken. It was all very tasty, and was a lot to eat. Here, they have a big afternoon meal, and little to nothing for dinner. We still are used to three balanced meals a day, though, so it was a bit much.

We had a bit of a break, and Charlie and I walked around the block to take a look at the Catholic church there in Quiriza. We visited with a cute lady who was there. The church was really run down - quite discouraging to see its condition.

While I played outside games with the youth, Charlie visited with Diogenes. He took him to his home and showed him pictures of when President Kimball came. We both had a very eventful, adventurous day.

We got back to the Tupiza Chapel about 6. Quite the day.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing experience! I'm glad you made it safely back down the mountain. You exert so much faith through so many of your experiences. What a good example of trying your hardest, but knowing you need to rely on others along the way. The youth seem amazing, I hope to meet them one day!