5 Nov 2013 Tues. Transfer day. Two missionaries we are very close to were transferred today. Sister Cazaut (Argentina) is being transferred from Illapel, and Elder Bond (UT) from Los Vilos. Elder Bond arrived about the same time as us, and we’ve watched him and his Spanish grow tremendously in 4 months. He was the only N.A. missionary in Los Vilos out of the 8 besides us. He’s a pretty good Spanish speaker now, after only 4 months. E. Bond was replaced by a greenie, Elder Ethington from Utah. His companion is E. Artica an Elder from Peru (I think) that has been here in Los Vilos since the last transfer. He has been a member less than 2 years and joined the church as a result of an introduction by his girl friend, who is also on a mission right now.
Elder Ethington went to the Chilean MTC (CCM), and he understands Chileans notatbly better than the Provo Utah MTC trained elders we’ve seen.
Sisters Cazaut and Valencia got to Los Vilos around noon and we took them on a short tour of the city and bought some pollo and papas fritas for lunch, while we were waiting for Sister Cazaut’s bus. She left on the “mission transfer bus”, a rented bus that collect missionaries every transfer day (every 6 weeks) along Route 5 starting in from the north of the mission at La Sarena, and traveling to the south of the mission to Vina del Mar, and then back north again with all the missionaries in the south that were transferred to the north. This transfer bus drops off and picks up missionaries along the 200 mile route, and from these drop off points, the missionaries being transferred take other buses if necessary up into their mountain towns. Chile’s geography (only 50 miles wide at this point) makes this a convenient way to transfer the missionaries. We have 240 missionaries in our mission and every 6 weeks about 60-80 are transferred to new locations.
We dropped Sister Cazaut off at the “Shell station” bus terminal outside of town (it is neither a shell station nor a bus terminal though, but it is interesting how it got its name). It was kind of exciting to see all the missionaries congregating there and waiting and seeing the reunions between those that knew each other and those that were receiving or leaving companions.
We had Sister Valencia with us the rest of the day while she was waiting for her new companion. We asked her what she wanted to do. “Sleep!” she said without hesitating. But she could not bring herself to “waste the time”. She sat out on our porch swing on the deck overlooking the beach and wrote in her journal for hours and then went with us on some visits.
Then, around 9:30 pm, we headed off for “the bus station” to meet her companion so they could catch another bus at another “station” back to Illapel. But we found out that the “bus station” was not HER bus station. In fact, within a 2 block radius, and within a half mile of our house, there actually 4 bus stations. We’d never really noticed 2 of them before. Some are just an alley next to a small office building. The bus backs in, loads up passengers, and drives off. I always thought it was just an alley from one of the bigger bus stations.
Anyway, Sister Valencia’s companion hadn’t arrived from the missionary north bound bus headed back from Vina to La Serena. They were late. Their bus was going to stop at the “Shell station” bus stop out of town and let them off. Members were going to shuttle the missionaries that needed to catch the Illapel bus back into town. They were late, so we tried to hold the driver and bus up until they got there. The bus driver finally said no more, shut the door and took off. 100 yards later he was met by two pickup trucks flashing their lights and honking, full of the members hauling the missionaries that had gotten off the other north bound bus. The driver stopped, and we made about 3 exchanges of missionaries and all their luggage right there in the main street, in the dark, with cars zooming by. I was sure a missionary was going to get run over with his/her luggage running across the street from the transfer cars to the bus. But they all made it safe. This was the last bus out of town going to Illapel, so if Sister Valencia missed this one, she and her companion would have been spending the night at our house.
7 Nov 2013, Thurs. Elder Saldivar and I went to Salamanca in the evening to issue callings to 2 counselors in the Elder’s Quorum. Our District Presidency Meeting was cancelled by the District President because he had to work. The other counselor was not responding to phone calls and email, so I decided to go do the callings myself and asked E. Saldivar to go with me.
After suffering through about an hour of different construction stops going through the now dirt in road through the mountains between Salamanca and Illapel, we got to Salamanca. Salamanca is a beautiful little farming community in a pretty valley nestled in a little valley with mountains all around. Lots of vineyards and orchards fill the valley…avocados, oranges, grapes, pecans, walnuts, etc.. We went forward, not knowing beforehand whither we should go, being led by the Spirit. Through a series of events one would normally call miracles (which happen so often in the mission field its so easy to believe it is normal), we were able to quickly get a telephone number and contact of one of the brothers we wanted to meet with. When we contacted him (he was not at his house) he was within a block of where we were. We met up at the town plaza, which is the most beautiful and biggest of any town plaza in this region of Chile, and then walked a half block to the chapel, where he was interviewed and extended a call to serve as the first counselor in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency in the Salamanca Branch.
He is a taxi driver. Divorced. Recovering from a serious electrical accident in which he was immobilized and lost his memory for a long time. He is very lonely, and is shunned by his daughters and some church members who have been encouraged to do treat him that way by his ex-wife. His ex wife and daughters live in a nice house (nice by Salamanca standards) he gave his daughters after the breakup. He lives in a single rented room. He understandably was carrying a few grudges, and had not been totally active in the church. But he accepted the call to serve with humility and he promised to be an example of Christ-like service and living, and to heed our invitation to plead to the Lord in prayer to change his heart and fill it with love and forgiveness instead of hard feelings. The Spirit was strong as ever and it was a humbling experience for us.
The drive back to Illapel was long and torturous because of the construction stops and darkness and traffic. Then there was another hour-long drive back through another mountain range between Illapel and our home in Los Vilos. Carolyn had stayed home from this trip to prepare for the Young Men/Women District Activity in Los Vilos she has been planning for a couple of months, which will take place on the 9th of Nov.
P.S. I forgot to mention that we spent the morning cleaning the chapel for the district youth activity this weekend. Several members, incl. the yw presidency of the LV branch came to help. One helped me clean the courtyard in between the cultural hall and classroom wing. We did it by unrolling the fire hose from the fire extinguisher station in the church and cranking open the fire hydrant connection inside the church. That was a blast, literally. The building gets very dirty on the outside (and inside the courtyard) due to the combination of the salty sea breeze and lots of dust from the windy days. The fire hose did a good job though!
9 Nov. 2013 The day of the big youth activity Carolyn and her counselors have been planning. All morning was spent setting up. One of the leaders questioned why we were setting up so many chairs. I said we expected 25 kids, plus their leaders. How many do you think will come?, I asked. He said, you are much the optimist. I am a realist. No more than 10.
Everything ready by 1:30 p.m. The first group of kids, from Salamanca, arrived around 3:15, a big group of over 12 (big for such a small branch. Many brought their friends). Before long the place was packed with kids and their leaders. There were at least 25 kids, not counting their leaders, and they all had a great time with the “his hands” theme of the 3 hour activity. They did a “his hands” indexing class. Lots of kids brought their laptops to participate, there was a gospel centered “who wants to be a millionaire?” game, plus a guest speaker and other games and instruction and great food. They all had a blast and seemed to really enjoy themselves. And Carolyn also really enjoys being with these kids. They first thing they all asked when they arrived was “Where is Sister Schramm?” They are her surrogate grandkids. She even had a couple jars filled with little candies for them to guess how many there were. Hmmm, I wonder where she got that idea?
At the end, the kids got a little rowdy popping all the hand “balloons” with their fruit kabob sticks. There were a couple of dog piles of about 15 kids each, trying to smash balloons someone was trying to protect from being popped because they liked the face drawn on it. That was fun to watch, and they were all screaming and laughing and having tons of fun. Carolyn tried to protect one balloon for one girl and stuffed it under her shirt, making her look pregnant, which got lots of laughs and comments from the adults.
It was a very successful activity, and the start of hopefully a long tradition of good clean healthy and uplifting activities for the youth of this district. They have never been together like this before, and they felt much strength from each other in the numbers.
Lots of the single adults over age 18 have been asking us for weeks if they could attend this activity. We told them no, its for the youth 12-18. We finally had to promise to arrange an activity for them. There are several HUNDRED single adults of record in the district. They have also never had an activity together.