I woke up this morning thinking about Chile, the country in which I served my mission. I dreamed about it all night long. So this morning my thoughts are full of the great people I met while there, my companions, the beautiful (and not so beautiful) places I saw, as well as the countless character building experiences I had as a missionary.
Coincidence or not, today just happens to be the day, 14 years ago, that I started my mission.
Santiago is the biggest city in which I have ever spent any significant amount of time. In 1994, it had 5 million people. I remember being surprised at the interesting mixture of wealthy and poor almost right next to each other. Public transportation was much better than we had in Utah, although you would put your life in danger while riding on the city buses or taking a taxi through town.
I loved the outdoor markets that would come right to our area two or three times per week. Chile had the most amazing fruits and vegetables. It was there that I experienced nectarines, avocados and blackberries for the first time (I know it's hard to believe), ate grapes the size of plums, and consumed more melons in 16 months than one normally does in a life time.
The sunsets in Santiago, because of the heavy pollution, are some of the most stunning I have ever witnessed. The Andes mountains are incredible. The pollution makes them hard to see, but it's amazing how big they are.
Most of my mission was spent right in Santiago. However, one time I was transferred into a small town further south. I got to ride a train for the first time. When you get out of the city, the countryside is green and beautiful. There are vineyards of grapes everywhere and you can actually see the mountains. Big trees lines the streets, sometimes covering them like giant umbrellas. We rode bikes in this area and developed the ability to pedal faster than the crazy dogs nipping at our heels.
I have a tremendous love for the people of Chile. I met those who were so devoted to the gospel that they'd sacrificed everything to be where the Lord wanted them to be. Some people were living in absolute poverty, but they were still happy because they were together as a family.
There were those who broke my heart because I knew they felt the spirit and I knew that they knew what we were teaching was correct. But they chose not to listen. Then there were those who did listen. Those who climbed into the icy water in the middle of the winter to be baptized, but didn't feel the cold. Those who faced rejection by other family members because of their acceptance of the gospel, but did it anyway. Those who worked hard to be good examples to those around them, who went on splits with the missionaries, who always had people for us to teach, and who had an unwavering testimony of the gospel, are those who have impacted me forever.
My experiences as a missionary in Chile were life changing. I learned absolute reliance on our Father in Heaven and His Son, which knowledge has come in pretty handy these last 14 years.
6 years ago