Sunday August 16, we left the busy city of Santiago where we spend most of our time. It was quite a change to be outside of the heavy traffic and big buildings and honking horns. We attended meetings in one of the two small branches for which we have stewardship. It is in San Jose de Maipo.
It took about 2 hours to drive to this sweet little branch up in the Andes Mountains. The road to the top is narrow and winding, but the scenery is spectacular…tiny, humble homes dot the countryside, and the foliage is emerald green, creating a stark contrasts against the backdrop of gray and white mountain mist. The rain and snow were falling lightly, as we drove further into the mountains. The sky was soft, snowy and cold.
Once we arrived in the little mountain village, the spirit was warm and inviting. The little ward house is a home that the Church owns and uses for a chapel and is quietly nestled on the main street of the village. It is built of red brick and sits amidst giant, tall trees and overgrown shrubbery. Though old, it is invitingly charming. We entered the front doors and were greeted by a sweet little Chilean man who faithfully comes every Sunday to sweep and clear the walks. He is not a member. For years he has wanted to join the church but is unable to be baptized because he has never been able to get a divorce from his first wife. He has been with his second wife for years and together they have a darling family. They are very active in the church, but they cannot legally get a divorce; therefore, they cannot be baptized. We are told that it is very expensive and extremely time-consuming to get a divorce in Chile, and unfortunately, we are not allowed to help with the legal aspect of anything here.
Water was dripping through the ceiling into buckets that sat, seemingly unnoticed by the members, in the chapel during the meetings, and the large space heaters were operating at full strength to offer some heat to the small room. The curtains were falling off the windows, and the kitchen ceiling was falling down. We have much work to do on this little building, but it has the potential to be a lovely chapel. We really feel very at home here. It reminds me of a little chapel I used to visit with my Mom’s Mom in Joseph, Utah…except that this one is even smaller.
A horse was tied to the fence outside, and the people were very humble and so sweet to us. They welcomed us with hugs and kisses. Our son, Landon got to bless the Sacrament in Spanish, and the people loved that he did that. Then the Missionaries, Elder Bullough and Elder Daw and Elder and Sister Bushman (a practically perfect Senior Couple) apologized that they only had 6 of their 17 investigators there! They explained that when it snows like this, people are unable to get through the deep mud to make it to church. We feel so grateful to all of them for all of their work. We were so very happy when Elder Bullough played the hymns on a small electric piano. These Missionaries are absolutely full of talents and abilities that constantly bless the lives of the Chilean people. President Laycock spoke about the power of prayer and how important it is in our lives.
Afterwards, we visited the “home” where the Missionaries live. This little home needs so much work to fix it up, but not one of the Missionaries complained even once. They just smiled and smiled and reported that they are just fine. We can’t begin to express our feelings of gratitude and love for these wonderful Missionaries. Sister Bushman has been baking lemon cookies in a very small, very old oven so that they can deliver them with love to members and non-members and invite them to come to Church and/or be baptized.
We really need a baptismal font in this little branch. We have already presented our plans to the Area Authority. As we sat in that small chapel, we could see in our mind’s eye a real chapel here, filled with happy Primary children and Young Men and Young Women and families of all ages and kinds. We know this area will be blessed to grow and develop into a strong Ward. We will continue to do our best to help them. Pray for the people to continue to grow and to be blessed with the physical and spiritual needs that will allow them to grow into and achieve what the Lord has in mind for them to become.