May 7, 2010

The Mission

Below I have the map of the Chile, Santiago North Mission. It covers the northwest part of the city as well as a little bit of the countryside outside of it. It's not a very big mission, at least in terms of area.

The population of Santiago is approximately 5.5 million people. I figure since my mission covers about a quarter of the city, about 1.4 million of those 5.5 million are in my mission. Below are the populations of the other major cities in the area:

Lampa: 29, 250
Colina: 65, 082
San Felipe: 59, 294
Los Andes: 56, 859

This would make the total population of my mission to be around 1,610,485 or 1.6 million people. Granted, that is a very very rough estimate, since there are also small towns and villages all over the mission. It's one of the most densely populated areas in the country.

This is the link to my mission president's blog. I'm really excited to meet him and the rest of the missionaries there:

Chile Santiago North Mission

Now, normally I wouldn't do this because it would require math (yuck!), but I was really curious to see how many Chileans there are to the number of missionaries in my mission. There are about 175 missionaries serving in the Santiago North Mission, making the ratio roughly 9,000 Chileans to every missionary. I would have subtracted the number of Chileans that are already members from that number, but the LDS members make up less than 1% of the population, so I didn't bother with it.

I did quite a bit of research about Chile, and found that the name "Chile" very possibly came from the indigenous word "Chilli," which means "where the land ends," or "the deepest point on earth." The country has dramatically different climates in every direction: from deserts in the far north, to lakes and glaciers in the far south, with forests and farmland in between. It then has the Andes to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Think of all the different climates in the United States condensed into a 100-mile wide strip of land.

A vast majority of Chileans are Roman Catholic, and they are a very family-centered culture. They love Christmas, and any other reason they can have for the family to get together. In the 1970s and 1980s Chile was ruled by a harsh dictator, Augusto Pinochet, and many of the people still remember when they lived under his military regime. They officially became a democracy in 1990 and are rapidly modernizing, with Santiago being the center of all the development. They currently have one temple in Santiago and another one under construction farther south.

I'm excited beyond words to come into this country and begin serving the Lord. As I learn more and more about this country I am filled with this desire to teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ so that they and their families can be blessed by living God's law and by fully receiving His blessings. I know that during these months, as I am preparing my heart and mind to teach the gospel, Heavenly Father is humbling them, softening their hearts and preparing them to receive the words that I will say, so that they can feel the Spirit and know for themselves that this gospel is true.

That is one of the best parts of this gospel, being about to know for ourselves the truth of all things. It's one thing to listen to the prophets teach about the Book of Mormon being the word of God, but when we experiment upon their words and exercise faith, and come to know for ourselves, it is such a thrill and a blessing. I am so grateful for that. I know that this gospel is true, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

May 5, 2010

The Call

"Dear Elder Wilkes:

You are hereby called as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Chile Santiago North Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 24 months.

You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, June 16, 2010. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language. Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president.

You have been recommended as one worthy to represent the Lord as a minister of the restored gospel. You will be an official representative of the Church. As such, you will be expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct and appearance by keeping the commandments, living mission rules, and following the counsel of your mission president. As you devote your time and attention to serving the Lord, leaving behind all other personal affairs, the Lord will bless you with increased knowledge and testimony of the Restoration of the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Your purpose will be to invite others to come unto Christ 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. As you serve with all your heart, might, and strength, the Lord will lead you to those who are prepared to be baptized.

The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life. Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord in this labor of love among His children. We place in you our confidence and pray that the Lord will help you become an effective missionary.

You will be set apart as a missionary by your stake president. Please send your written acceptance promptly, endorsed by your bishop.


Thomas S. Monson, President"

I received that letter on March 31 while I was at BYU, just about a month ago. The next day I went over to my grandparents' house in Orem and opened the letter with my parents listening on the phone. It was such a happy event. I remember feeling that Chile was really the place I was supposed to go. I felt a confirming feeling from the Holy Spirit that Chile is where Heavenly Father wants me to go to teach His children. I already feel a love growing in my heart for the Chileans, and for my mission president. I know he is an inspired man that will watch over me while I am serving the people in South America.

Now I am home and I'm preparing to be ready for when that MTC date June 16th comes around. I've made a copy of this letter and the map of my mission. I look at them whenever I feel low or discouraged, because then I again receive that confirmation that I am called of God. God does love me, and He will look after me and bless me beyond my imagination for being His faithful servant. I am thankful beyond measure for this opportunity to serve the Lord in this country. I love Him very much. I am thankful for Christ and his Atonement. I am thankful for the scriptures, for they point me towards Christ. I am thankful for every good thing I have received on this earth, and I'm anxiously looking for ways I can give back to Him that gave me so much. I testify that that is the true way to live your life. If you feel something is missing from your life, then take a step back and consider what Moroni says in his last exhortation to us:
"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts."
Remember how merciful He has been to you. Remember all the good things in your life, and how it has all come to pass because of God's great love for us. Then live so that you can show Him how truly grateful you are for those things. If you do this then you will be happy and blessed. This I promise to you, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.