From Dee York: I served in the Chile Santiago South Mission from August 90 to August 92. I was originally called to serve in Peru but two Elder's were assasinated while I was the MTC. North American Missionaries currently called to Peru were diverted to various other missions around the world.
Chile is by no means a rich country. Certainly there are the very wealthy in sections of Santiago, but the majority of the population struggles for the essentials. Fortunately Chile is a country capable of producing alot of food so hunger isn't as big a problem as in other third world countries. One saturday however my companion, Elder Escudero(Chilean), and I were fortunante to meet a nice couple in the streets of a small town named Molina. We talked to them for a bit and then asked them if they would be interested in having us stop by their home so we might share a message from the Savior with them. They seemed reluctant. Not for lack of desire to receive our message however. They gave us directions and insisted that it might be very difficult to find their home. It was cold and rainy that winter. There were weeks when the sun didn't shine. We would spend much of our lunch and dinner time drying shoes, socks, coats, and everything else so as to be dry for just another few minutes as we set out in the rain again. As we walked down the street the couple lived on, toward their address, the numbers quickly ran out. There were no more houses. We backtracked a couldn't find their home. We walked behind the last house on the street to see if there were any more buildings. Only a field. My companion pointed out a shed about 1/2 a mile into the field. We headed toward the shed. There was a 12 inch sewage pipe that crossed a creek going into the field. The creek had no real boundries. It's level went up and down with the rain. Mud was at least a foot deep from about 20 feet on each side of the water. Unfortunantely for us the pipe didn't get us accross the mud. We went on to the shed. As we approached I thought to myself that there was no way this couple could live here. The shed was about 10 feet by 10 feet and was made out of crates and boxes. The roof was made out of scrap plastic. The couple came out and greeted us. They introduced us to their three daughters. One was 14, one 12, and one 9. They were wearing their blue school uniforms. Their uniforms weren't in nearly as good shape as other girls. Inside the shed they had a bed, some shelves, and a habachi like stove where they burned coal to keep warm. I didn't see any food, extra clothes, or even a supply of coal. They used candles for light. For the most part the family seemed healthy. All except for the little 9 year old. She was the size of 4 or 5 year child. We shared our message of the Savior and of Joseph and the Book of Mormon. We invited them to church. They made the 2 mile trek the next morning. We felt that it would be important for the members of the ward to see the families condition. Over the next couple of days we took the Bishop, who was just 25 years old, and various other members of the ward. The Bishop, who lived in a rented bedroom with his wife and child, rallied his ward of about 20 or so active members to help this new family. Cheese, milk, pasta, canned goods, clothes, boots for girls, candles, and a few other items were collected. The next Sunday they came to church again. That night was their baptism. The family made the trek twice that day. They showed up that night but not without trouble. The youngest girl fell in the fast moving creek crossing the sewage pipe. The Father was too far away so the mother, age 50, jumped in to grab the little girl. Temperatures outside the water peaked at 40 degrees or so that time of year. The family showed up wet, cold, and the little one was crying. We had a font, but we couldn't afford the price of a tank of gas to heat the water. I was fortunate that night to be doing the baptizing. We had 2 other baptisms that night totaling 7. My legs were numb within a minute of being in the water. I don't say that to complain I just want people to know how difficult it was for this family to climb in to the waters of baptism. I am so proud to have known this family and to have known this valiant little ward. I read about the 1000's of converts in Chile. My heart is full when I see wards I served in turn into stakes in just a few years. Stakes I served in have split twice since I returned 5 years ago. I can't help but think that behind all this wonderful growth that there are thousands of pioneer stories happening in our midst.