By JULIE MARIE BUSH
OBSERVER Staff Writer
Fredonia resident Kristin Deas recently returned home after completing an 18-month mission trip to Chile, South America. She got firsthand knowledge of how Chilean people live and had the opportunity to spread the Gospel and give hope to these people.
Kristin holding a Chilean dish consisting of zucchini with carne de vaca (beef) and queso (cheese).
Kristin and another girl missionary, Hermana Barillas at an open air food market in La Marina, Chile.
Deas got the idea to go through her church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly called Mormon for short.
"I was born in the religion but there comes a time when everyone has to branch out and find out what they believe. I decided that this is true and we claim we are the only church with all the power and authority to do things like marriage and baptisms. I just wanted to help other people and tell them what I know and give them the joy that I have with my family and the church and things that they can have," said Deas.
After applying to go on a mission, Deas was informed through the mail she would be going to Chile. She began her mission on July 28, 2010 in a training center in Provo, Utah. While attending she learned Spanish and how to teach others the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
"There is so much to talk about, it's kind of overwhelming if you don't know where to start," said Deas. "The most challenging thing for me was learning the language. Chilean Spanish is different than regular Spanish. It took me a long time to get accustomed to their Spanish. They speak really fast."
She flew about 27 hours by plane to reach her final destination, the city of Concepcion.
"I flew from Utah to California, then California to Lima, Peru. Then from Lima, Peru to Santiago and then Santiago to Concepcion. It took more than a day when all the travel time was added up."
In the area she was working in there were 200 other missionaries working, out of that number only 25 were female missionaries. "Every six or 12 weeks I changed who I was living with. I was never alone. I was always with another girl missionary. I had about 10 different 'companions,'" (term used for other girl missionaries she lived with) during the course of her mission trip.
The first house she stayed at after arriving in Concepcion gave her the most culture shock. The house had mold everywhere including the ceiling. There were fleas everywhere. The bathroom was very unclean with slugs coming up from the shower drain and the water pressure was very low. However even after dealing with these conditions she continued to stay on this mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Chileans.
"I was serving in really poor areas so this isn't how all of Chile is. But I had fleas down there because their were stray animals roaming around in the streets. Puppies who had no food to eat were starving in the street. The women confided in me that their husbands would beat them like animals and that made me really angry. They have a lot of confidence in missionaries because we tell them about their soul and God. They would open up about things, things they wanted to change and make their lives better and their homelife better. The men were very controlling about the women. Really the women need to stand up and they're just not standing up, (to their men)" said Deas.
Most houses in Concepcion were about the size of a typical American's living room. They didn't have a central indoor heating system. Instead of forced air with vents in each room, they had a little stove with a chimney which was used to heat their homes which had either dirt, tile or cement floors. Another popular way the Chileans keep warm is by using a hot water bag made of rubber which boiling water was put into and could be carried close to your body provided a sweater material was put on it to keep it from burning their skin. Deas purchased one for $12 which she used regularly when she slept at night in her sleeping bag. It would keep her warm for the entire night. She even brought her two hot water bags back to home to Fredonia for our cold winters.
Chileans love their food just like Americans do, however their food is void of flavor. Their biggest meal is lunch, which consists of sandwiches and bean and noodle soup. It is common for Chilean women to make their own homemade bread.
"They are a pleasantly plump people because they eat a ton of bread. Almost everyone has diabetes when they get older," said Deas.
Most of the women don't work outside the home. They take care of the children and make bread most of the day. Some of the men who live in Chile work in the mines which are notoriously unsafe and many men have lost their lives due to mines collapsing. Deas was there when the Chilean mining accident took place on Aug. 5, 2010 and with alot of prayers and help all 33 miners were rescued 69 days later on Oct. 13, 2010.
"I remember when they were pulled out. The Chileans were partying and celebrating in the streets. The capsule that pulled them out safely was very long and skinny. It was moved throughout the big cities for display so everyone could see it. I saw it on display when it was in Concepcion," said Deas.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
A typical day for Deas involved a routine schedule which started bright and early at 7 a.m. From 7 to 7:30 a.m. she would work out either running outside or doing push-ups or sit-ups to get pumped up for the busy day ahead. Next from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. she would study by herself reading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon. From 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. she would study with her companion. From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. they studied together and worked on perfecting their Spanish vocabulary and prounciation. From 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. they would work which involved walking the streets, visiting people in their homes and meeting people in the streets. They would teach Chileans who wanted to learn the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes they did humanitarian work but most people didn't want help. On one occasion Deas had the opportunity to drastically change one Chilean's life.
"I remember this one guy (named Armando) we were teaching. He was a drunk on the streets. We were talking to him in the street when he wasn't passed out. He started coming to church and then he started progressing. He was baptized and I saw his life change and how happy he was, how if people listen and really want to change they can change," said Deas smiling.
To keep in touch with her parents back in Fredonia she was allowed to e-mail them once a week to keep them informed about her mission and to share pictures. She only called home on Christmas and Mother's Day so she could stay focused on the mission.
"For Christmas I got to Skype home which was a really big deal. Some people get really homesick," said Deas.
NEXT BIG ADVENTURE
Deas shared some advice for others who have the desire to go a mission trip. "It will change their life in good ways. Leaving and coming back is making me really grateful for what I have here. We take a lot for granted, like hot showers. One area I showered in a bucket with warm water."
Deas graduated from Fredonia High School in 2006 and on Jan. 4 she started her next adventure at Brigham Young University in Rexburg, Idaho. sHE and her dad decided to drive to Idaho which was a total of almost 2,000 miles across the country to attend this prestigious, private college.
"I know it's really cold. It's common to have a wind chill of 40 below zero. I want to go there because there are alot of members of the church there. There are like no members of the church here. I want to be in the religious environment plus the school is really cheap and it's a great education," said Deas.
"It's one of the cheapest schools because it's church affiliated. So if you're a church member the tuition is comparable to SUNY Fredonia," chimed in Deas' mother, Mary.
"I want to go somewhere I can find my husband who's a member," said Deas, grinning from ear to ear.
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