Monday, January 16, 2017

Good week!

I was thinking that in about 2 weeks, I'm going to pass the 6 month mark. Literally a fourth of my mission is almost gone. It's such a weird thought. I feel like I just got here. I can't believe that the time is going so quickly, but I guess that's pretty normal when you're literally busy every second of every day.

This week was pretty normal, but we had some pretty great experiences. We did teach Nolfis again. It's very interesting to teach her, because she comes to every lesson armed and ready with questions, and she expects answers in the Bible. It requires a whole lot of preparation, because she's very intelligent. The last lesson, I felt, got a bit too long and a bit too much into unimportant details. That's a trap that I feel like a lot of missionaries fall into. Rather than teach the simple, basic truths, they fall into trying to "prove" that the church is true with the bible and stuff. I personally prefer to teach simply and let them gain a testimony, which maybe isn't always the best approach. I have to be willing to adjust, even though it's hard. So that's something I've been struggling a little bit with. But it's all good, you learn something from every companion.

But anyway, back to Nolfis. Things were getting a little off track, but she was accepting it all, and I was trying to get it back to the basics. While a returned missionary that was accompanying us was talking, I was just pleading in my heart that I would be able to say something that would be able to help her feel the desire to read the Book of Mormon. And when I finally had the chance to speak, the words that came out weren't mine. They were filled with a power that I could never duplicate no matter how hard I tried. Before I finished my testimony, she was nodding and it seemed to me that she wanted to read the Book of Mormon (which was bad because we didn't have a copy to give her.) But that was pretty amazing.

Other than that, we found again a family that Elder Martinez was teaching. They're a fairly young couple with a 3 year old girl that reminds me of Hallie. And of course, because I'm in Colombia, they're not married, because literally NO ONE HERE IS MARRIED. Sorry, it's a little frustrating sometimes. They're called Jorge and Julis. They want to get married, but neither of them was working so they were worried. Then he got a job and is almost never home, and she went on vacations for the holidays. But before they left, I always saw their desire as being more or less. I was worried we'd have to leave them. But I don't know what changed, we kind of started again at the beginning when we found them and taught the Restoration again. By the end of it, it was amazing, they were saying that they feel comforted knowing that there's a prophet of God here on the earth again. And then we went again on Saturday, and julis said that she got an answer, that she knows the church is true. I almost didn't believe it, because she's always been a little doubtful in how her answer would come, even when we explained it to her repeatedly. Jorge is still unsure, but yesterday he attended church for the first time and really liked it! He was participating in the classes and remembered what we learned about the Restoration. He even wants to download some of the manuals so he can keep reading them.

That was pretty special about this week. I'm really excited for them. Also, the grandparents of the Ward Mission leader should be able to get married soon ( more miracles I'll talk about later), and should be baptized. We passed over the baptismal interview questions with them yesterday. He also has a cousin and nephew that want to get baptized too, but we have to wait a bit on them. Her boyfriend/spouse/whatever doesn't come very often, but when he does she always ends up pregnant. She really wants to get baptized, so when he comes (sometime this month supposedly) she's going to give him an ultimatum. It's incredible, she sees how important the gospel is, she's willing to give him up to be baptized. We will see how it goes.

That's about all the news from this week. I love you all and hope you have a great week

Monday, January 9, 2017

Tennis, anyone?



 
 
This has been a pretty normal week. More or less I should say, because we did have some changes. We had a zone conference on Thursday, and they announced our new plans for 2017. And we recived a worldwide announcement:  the missionary schedule is changing! It's not that big of a change, they're basically just putting more trust in the missionaries to do what needs to be done in our areas. We don't have set times for companionship and language study, we can put that at whatever point in our day. And now on p-day, we are free to do what we want or need after 8am. Basically pday got extended to 10 hours instead of 6. They also cut companionship and language study on pday. So that was pretty interesting.

Other than that, this week was pretty normal. Lots of walking, really hot, lots of sweating. But I did get the package from Levi, and two letters, from Kali and Rob, and Matiu and Jenny! Thank you so much for writing me, I really appreciated it. Though I don't know why I´m getting some letters and not others, it's weird. We will see what happens. I've written some letters, but due to the sketchiness of letters here (and the fact that I have no clue how to send them) I might have to hang on to them until I come home. I don't know, we will see what happens.

It's so crazy that you guys had such a crazy week with the snow and all. I miss that. You know that I love the snow, it makes me sad that I miss the year when we get a ton of it. But that's the way life is.

This week has been pretty boring. We did get to talk to Nolfis again (the mom with the 8 year old son). The lesson was basically a disaster. We weren't teaching in unity, we weren't teaching clearly, but it got better at the end. This caused a lot of self reflection and doubt that night. But I have to trust that even though we are far from perfect teachers, the Spirit can touch her heart. And now I have to keep preparing and becoming better to be able to help her. Even though it's hard I can do it.

That's about all I have to say about this week, not much else interesting happened. Here are some pictures of something interesting I found, and I knew I had to get a picture of it. So here you go, me and my companions with a giant tennis racket!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year!

 
Nathan's Bishop's family threw him a surprise birthday dinner/party!
They contacted us and asked for pictures of Nathan and our family
and made a poster. Then they sent us these pictures the night of
his birthday. We were SOOOO happy and grateful!
 

How did they know he'd love the Woody cup?! 

Studying the picture poster
 
With the Bishop and companions
 
With his Elders Martinez and Menacho
 
Nathan's birthday gifts to himself:  a milkshake...
 
...and a Colombia-themed soccer ball

 
Thank you all for wishing me a happy birthday. I hope you all had a great New Year. I enjoyed mine a lot, even though it was pretty crazy. This week has been very good, we almost had 30 lessons with members this week! It's all because one day we did 3 divisions with members (meaning that it was us solo with a member), and we had a member almost every single day to do a division and another to have lessons with members. We also found some great people, one of which I´m going to talk about later. But my birthday we found this amazing person (the one I´ll talk about later). I was with our ward mission leader, who while we were walking told me a lot of stories from his mission, which was pretty cool. He also told me that I teach really well for someone who only has 5 months in the mission, which caught me by surprise. I asked him for suggestions in how I can improve (which I do anytime a member accompanies me). He actually told me that he didn't have any suggestions for me, which took me by surprise, because he teaches really well. That made me feel pretty good.

After that we went to our first dinner. One of the members invited us over for dinner, and gave us rice with sausage and chicken, which was delicious. They have some traditional dessert here in Colombia. I don't remember what it's called, but its basically a firm pudding that you can cut like cake that tastes faintly of butterscotch. It's really good. Then we went to our actual dinner with the bishop's family, where the surprise happened. We were sitting outside for a long time, and they surprised me when I walked in and saw the poster. They gave us a really good dinner, sang to me, had the cake and all the pictures you saw. Mom, did you seriously send them those pictures? They said that you did. And did you have to include the picture of 15 year old me? It was terrible. But it was really great, I was really surprised. And today I got to celebrate it a bit more when we played soccer. I bought myself a milkshake (as seen in the picture) and a soccer ball (also as seen in the picture). We also didn't get to sleep at all the night of my birthday, because our neighbor downstairs decided to blast music so loud that our house was shaking until about 3 am. But that's pretty normal.
 
But as for this investigator. It's a single mom with an 8 year old son. We had a really spiritual lesson, with me and our ward mission leader, Hno Wilson who's a returned missionary from Mexico. He works with this lady and got us the reference to talk to her. Her son is really funny, he's super serious and super smart. He reminds me of a more serious Eli. He understood basically everything we shared. After this lesson we were talking with the other missionaries, and Hno Wilson was talking about our authority to promise blessings to people. He said that this lady accepted our visit because she's feeling empty, like there's something missing in her life. She didn't say this to me, but to some friend who told Wilson. And he told the elders that I promised her that if she listened to us and applied what she learned, she wouldn't feel this emptiness. He said I said almost exactly that, and he was very surprised, because no one had said anything about that to me. I don't remember saying anything like that, but it makes me feel better. It makes me feel like even though I'm weak, and I'm missing a lot, the Lord still uses me to talk to those that He's prepared. Sometimes we worry too much about saying the perfect thing, being 100% sure that we're feeling the Spirit. But we don't need to do that, we need to do what feels right and trust that He'll work with it.
 
I think that's about all the news for this week, I hope you all have a great week and that the new year starts out great for you all. I love you all, thank you for your prayers and support.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Zone Conference Party--two zones combined.
(Nathan's wearing the bright green tie in the front row.)
 
Nathan's zone (look for the green tie!)

 
  
Nathan's district
 
With the Gallego Family
 
With his companions

 
From our Christmas Day skype with Nathan!
 
 
Don't worry about the whole birthday thing, I totally forgot too. The hour passed really, really fast. I felt like we talked for about 10 minutes, I looked at the time and saw that half an hour had passed by already. It was really weird. But it was so great to see you all! I didn't think that so many people would be there. But it was so good to see everyone. Sorry that there were a few interruptions and that the time was so short, but president said 1 hour, I have to be obedient.

This week has been a bit more difficult, being the Christmas season and all. Not many people want to talk to us. Hopefully things can pick up this week. We had a whole lot of lessons fall through, and we spent a whole lot of time walking around. But hey, it's helping me to lose that belly that you guys saw, so it's alright. But we did see a miracle this week. The family of our ward mission leader aren't members, but they've now received all of the lessons and really want to get baptized, but they live in the infamous union libre. And it's going to cost them about 500,000 pesos to get married, which is hard because they're really in debt. But we went and taught about faith and miracles, and said that if they'll do everything possible, the Lord will make up the difference. Later in the week, the man went to the bank to go pay one of his debts, which was about 150,000 pesos, and when he got there, they told him the debt was only 30,000 pesos. That´s probably one of the most incredible miracles I've seen. I really know that if we are willing to do everything possible, even if the task seems impossible, the Lord will make up the difference. In Ether 12, I think it's verse 6, it says that if there's not faith among men, God can't work any miracles. But if there's faith, that means He can and will help us. That applies to every part of our lives. As we demonstrate our faith through our actions, the Lord will provide the  miracles according to His will.

And Dad, there's a video that I saw that I want the priests of our ward to see. As I watched it I thought of them. I don´t know if it´ll help with their difficulties, but it could. It's called The Atonement and Missionary Work. It starts with a talk from President Eyring and then a talk from Elder Holland. It's really great, President Eyring is talking about being diligent, learning and doing your priesthood duty. It's a really powerful video. Speaking of the priests, are there any that have started to fill out mission papers?

I think that's all of my news for this week. We will see how this week goes with the new year and all of that. We probably won't do anything for my birthday, I might get a call from President Gallego, I don't know. It'll probably just be a normal work day. But we'll see. This year has passed by so quickly, I remember clearly my last birthday. I don't know where the time´s gone. At this rate, I´ll be back home in no time! I love you all, I hope that you all have a great week and a great new year! See you all in 2017! Love you!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas!

My old house, which is still technically mine even though I don't live there.
My big suitcase with some stuff is still there, even though the majority
is here in the other area.
 
Sorry that it's not great, but this is us in our outfits for the sketch. It's funny,
Elder Martinez looks like he's in his late 20s or early 30s, but he's really only 19,
only about 2 months older than me, and Elder Menacho is 20.

Also on Saturday we did a service project. This is me and Elder Menacho.

This is the view from the balcony of my house; it's really pretty.


Wow, what an interesting week. I had to laugh, because later Monday night, just a few hours after emailing you all about how much I love my new area and all that, we got a call from our zone leaders, district leader, and one of the assistants at the exact same time. We are in a ward here in Garupal, Valledupar. There are two sets of missionaries--my companion and I, and our district leader and his companion. This call on Monday night changed that. We had an emergency transfer late that night. All of Valledupar is a zone, and one of the missionaries in another district had to go home for an injury. Our district leader's companion got transfered to that area, and now we are in a trio with the district leader, and we live in his house. It's been a bit difficult, because we still have to cover both of the areas. But we are working it out. So now I'm in a trio with Elder Martinez and Elder Menacho, from Peru. So now I've had a Bolivian, 2 Peruvians, and an Ecuadorian.
 
Other than that stress, this week has been pretty normal. Our ward mission leader is really funny. He's a returned missionary who really knows his stuff. He's a great help to us. With some of the new ward missionaries, we did a skit at the ward Christmas party on Thursday. It was a comical reenactment of the story of Nephi and his brothers going for the plates. We did a modern version, it was really funny. Everyone was dying of laughter. And of course they had me be Nephi, I don't know why. It's better than before, in the skit we planned before I was going to be Santa. It was interesting. We did a service project with the ward this Saturday, cleaning up a park around here. It was a lot of fun and we got a lot done. But there's definitely a stereotype of Americans here in Colombia. They think that I'm pretty average when it comes to height, and they think that we don't know how to work. Or that we don't like working with our hands. For example (it was a joke), but it was pretty obvious in something the bishop said. I squatted down to pick up some leaves to throw away, and he said, "look at the American using his hands!" It was a joke, and it was pretty funny the way he said it, but there's definitely a stereotype.
 
We ate pizza today!!! It was even Dominos!! It was really good, though it wasn't quite the same.
 
This week should be really fun. On Thursday we get to go to Santa Marta (about 2 or 3 hours in a bus), for our Christmas Conference, where we get to spend the day with President Gallego and do Christmasy things I guess. I don't konw what to expect. But it should be really fun, even if we don't get the chance to work at all that day.
 
I can't believe that Sunday is Christmas! I love Christmas, I get so excited! I have no clue if any of the packages have arrived to the mission office yet. If I don't get them on Thursday, I probably won't get them before Christmas, but that's ok, I'll still be excited for them.
 
Other than that, the work here is still going a bit slowly, but it's starting to pick up. I'm excited to keep seeing the area grow, that's really one of the greatest blessings. There's not really much like it.

But yeah, I think that's about all the news for this week. I'll be suprised if we get to work a lot next week, what with all the parties that'll be happening here. The Colombians really love to party, it's nuts. It's very loud, because it seems like every other house has these huge speakers that probably cost a fortune. (Though I've noticed that technology is super cheap here, I've heard that a bunch of missionaries buy iphones and stuff right before going home because it's super cheap). But still, the music is super loud, I can shout at full voice and my companion by my side can't hear me, it's ridiculous. I don't know how they still have their hearing, because they'll literally sit 2 feet from this speaker all day. But I digress....
 
I love you all, I think of you often, and I can't wait to talk to you on Sunday! We'll be doing it at about 3 my time, about 1 up there, I hope it works out. You're all in my prayers, and I hope you all have a great week leading up to Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Transfer!

Hi, how are all of you? I hope you all had a great week. I enjoyed mine, it was pretty great. A normal week for a missionary. So tell me a bit about your week.... Just kidding. Sorry, I've been wanting to do that all week, I couldn't resist. And now, for the big announcement.... I'm in Valledupar, pretty much the area farthest away in all the mission. 6 hours in a bus... More like 5, but still, long. But it's sooooo pretty here. There are beautiful mountains in the distance, it's a bit cooler, lots of wind (which reminds me of home). And it's very green. It's probably the prettiest place in the mission. It's definitely the coolest (not saying much, but that's how it is). My compaƱon is called Elder Martinez, from Ecuador. He's only a bit older than I am, he turned 19 the beginning of December, but he's already been here almost a year. He's pretty great, he loves to laugh, which I appreciate a lot. I enjoy working with Elder Martinez. He was actually in my first zone in my first transfer. Our house here is really great, it's pretty big and comfortable. I really love it here, even if it's hard to walk and I've rolled my ankle a few times. There are many streets that are just rocks, it makes it a bit hard to walk, but it always stops hurting after a few minutes, so no problem there.
 
But yeah, this week has basically consisted of coming here to Valledupar and adjusting to the new area. The work is going pretty slowly, but Elder Martinez and I have some plans for this next week to change all of that. It's hard, because we are pretty low on materials, but for now we are getting along.
 
And wow, I totally forgot that Solomon was coming home soon. I can't believe that it's already been 2 years. The time really flies. I hope that he's adjusting, I can understand how that would be hard. Life really changes here in the mission, I can't imagine having to adjust. Luckily, I've got a bit of time before that happens.
 
Thank you all for writing me, I love you all and hope you have a great week, and that you can all feel the Christmas spirit, because you all now have less than 2 weeks! I love you! Sorry for the lack of pictures, I haven't had time yet to take many. Ciao!

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Baptism! And Transfers...?

The baptism of G_____ and B_____!

Me today in front of some statue in Barranquilla. I have no idea who it is,
but I thought it looked impressive. They later told me that it wasn't very smart,
because it's a dangerous place in Barranquilla, but I still have all of my things,
 even though I got a lot of weird looks.
 
 
Like the email says, today we have transfers, but I'm not going to know who stays and who goes until 7 or 8 tonight. Right now, it seems like I'm going to be leaving. Presidente Gallego called Elder Lezano today and said that he's going to be training again. It'd be uncommon for him to leave and open another area with a new missionary (even though that's exactly what Elder Troche did with me). So right now we are expecting that I'll go, which will be difficult. I really love this area, but if I go, I'm also excited for a new adventure. Next week will see where I am.
 
But I guess I haven't explained exactly what salchipapas are. Let me just say that they are AMAZING and I know that everyone in the USA would love them even if they're incredibly unhealthy. What they are is a type of sausage (called a salchicha, similar to chorizo), that they slice up and fry just a little bit. That's the bottom layer. Then they layer a ton of french fries, cheese, lettuce, sometimes other meat like beef or chicken or pork, and with three different sauces: pineapple, mostanza (mayonnaise and mustard mixed together, super delicious), and rosa (essentially fry sauce). It sounds super weird, I know, but it's really really good. I'll figure out how to make it and bring it to the US.
 
But yes, G_____ and B_____ finally got baptized!!! Just in time for transfers. We had members planned to baptize them both, but one of them showed up late, so as you can see, I got to baptize one of them (because I was more or less prepared with my temple pants). I baptized G_____, it was really special. They are both so prepared. They're going to be great members of the Church.
 
I'm so excited for Christmas!!! Everyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love Chrsitmas, it's my favorite time of year. If I'm still in the Barranquilla area, we are going to have our Christmas zone conference party on the 14th. If I'm in Cartagena, it'll be the 20th, the 24th for Santa Marta. It all depends on where I am, but it'll be great wherever it is. It's so weird to think that pretty soon I'll only have one more Christmas in the mission, really the time passes super fast. I have no idea how I've already finished my training (I finished yesterday). It's so weird to think that I'm not a new missionary anymore, I'm normal.
 
But this week has been interesting. I've barely been able to work, due to an experience on Friday and Saturday. We got our money at the ATM this Thursday, and everything seemed fine. But I tried to pay for some oranges on Friday, and they wouldn't accept it, they said that it was fake. We checked, and sure enough, it was fake. It was a 50,000 bill (a bit less than $20, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it is when we get less than $90 every 15 days). We checked and learned that my district leader, Elder Sanchez, also had a fake bill, and the two bills had the same serial number. So we called the number on the ATM, and they said that we had to go to a Bancolombia office to sort it out, the nearest one was basically 2 hours away. So we got to spend a lot of our day Saturday doing that. A whole lot of money spent and time wasted to do that. But that's how it is.
 
Other than that, the week was pretty normal, though we had a training on Tuesday. I think that's about all for this week. Thanks for all the pictures and the information you sent, I always love to hear and see what's going on in MH. Thanks Dad for setting up the Skype for Christmas, I'm super excited to be able to talk with you guys. I'm going to be counting down the days. I love you all, I hope that you all have a great week, and that you're all able to feel the Christmas Spirit! Even though I'm constantly dying of heat and forget that it's almost Chrsitmas, I love it here, and still love the feeling of Christmas. I love you!