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 compa├▒on 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!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fifty Years in Colombia

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, and that Mom had a good birthday! To be honest, I completely forgot that it was Thanksgiving. I was sitting, eating lunch in one of the members houses, and they had the radio on. And suddenly she started talking to me and saying, "Today is a holiday in the USA right?" And I realized then that it was Thanksgiving. So no, I can't say that I ate anything special on Thanksgiving, but on Saturday I got to eat salchipapas again, so that kind of made up for it. I personally think that's better than what Elder Rollins told me that he did. He told me that they went to McDonalds and ate a Big Mac with a McFlurry. I'll take salchipapas any day over that. Speaking of salchipapas, my joke with the Colombians here is that if I'm ever poor when I come home, I'm going to starting making and selling salchipapas for a living, because they're amazing and I know that Americans would love them. I told that to the 2 elders that are in our Branch, Elder Sanchez (the district leader) and Elder Gilt (who's younger in the mission than I am), and Elder Sanchez came up with a name for my future restaurant: SalchiGibbons. They all think that's hilarious, and now I have a plan should my current plans fall through.
 
But as for this week, it was a bit different. We had interviews with President Gallego on Wednesday in Barranquilla, which kind of ruined any work that we might have wanted to do that day. But it was alright. And on Saturday we did an activity for the Branch (which Mom read about. Basically, to celebrate the church being in Colombia for 50 years, they asked all of the wards and branches to do an activity out of the chapel and open to the public.). We set up tables outside of the building that's going to be our new house-chapel and we had pamphlets of family history, Liahonas, and stuff like that. It was really cool, because the missionaries here started to do all of the contacting and stuff to share the pamphlets, to encourage the members to start. But after about half an hour, the members were doing almost everything! They were handing out Liahonas and pamphlets, finding references for us, it was incredible! Really the members want to help, they just need some encouragement and an example to follow. But that and the interviews of G_____ and B_____ took up our entire day on Saturday. But they both passed, they're going to be baptized this Saturday, just in time for the next transfers! Which are next Monday. So we will both get to be here for it at least.
 
And I can't say that we didn't get to do any work on Saturday. We ate the salchipapas (see above) in Palmar, which is the area of the other elders that's literally 4 minutes from Santo Tomas. But they weren't quite ready, so we went out and did some contacting. I ended up being with Elder Sanchez, and the very last house we contacted was incredible. We had to wait for some young girls to find their mom to talk to us. When she came out, she was a bit confused (my Spanish....), but kept listening. And Elder Sanchez was inspired to say that she might be passing through problems in her family, and this gospel that we preach can help her to overcome these problems. She started to cry and said "Not 5 minutes ago I was saying 'why me God? Please show me the path, please guide me where I need to go', and then my daughter said 'someone's outside wanting to talk to you'" This was really a testimony to me that the Lord guides us to those who he wants us to talk to. But we have to work. We probably contacted a good 10 people before we found her. We have to keep trying, even if it's discouraging, because the Lord will guide us to those who need our help.
 
But I think that's everything from me this week. I didn't end up going to Barranquilla to find super cheap jerseys yet, we are hoping next Monday. We will see. And don't worry Mom, I'm not going hungry. I always keep a bit of personal money in reserve to use in an emergency, and the members who feed us do it really well. I love you all so much, you're all in my thoughts, and I hope that you have a great week! Try to remember the Spirit of Christmas, and the real reason of Christmas! Love you all!

Monday, November 21, 2016

One More Delay...

We went to a tiny zoo before playing soccer today, and I made friends with a monkey.
 He's grabbing my fingers.
 
 
 
 
Elder Lezano and I standing outside the stadium where Junior
(the local favorite team) plays.
 
 
Hello everyone, how are you? I hope that everything's going well. It sounds like you've all had a pretty great week. I'm glad that Dad and Kate made it home safely last night, and that they enjoyed their time there. Really I regret not making the time to go before my mission, it would have been something really great. But there's still time after I guess. I don't know what's going to happen for Thanksgiving, I don't think it's something that's really celebrated here. We will see what happens. I hope we can have something special. But right now we are a little short on money and we still have 9 days before we get more, so I don't know. 
 
G_____ and B_____ weren't able  to get married this week, but not due to any fault on their part. B_____ had to travel to a town nearby to request her birth certificate, and apparently it's protocol that they have to wait 6 days. So they're going to get married this Thursday, and I think they've asked us to be their 2 witnesses. we will see. We at least plan to be there for it. That means they're going to have their interview on Saturday, and get baptized next Saturday.
 
Other than that, this week was pretty normal. I've had good days, days that are more difficult. But every day I'm able to grow and improve a little bit more. I still get frustrated with myself sometimes, even though I don't want to. But every day it's a bit easier to push on despite the frustration.
 
But yeah, everyone calls Elder Rollins my bigger twin. He has about or 8 months in the mission and already is a district leader. Everyone thinks that he and I look really similar.
 
As for the clothes, I think everything's pretty good. Though I haven't really worn my light gray pants since the CCM, because I think they're a little bit too light for the mission. I've decided I'll come home with those pants, and they'll look nice and new, which I can't really say for my other stuff. It's annoying, for some reason the pockets on my shirts always seem really dirty. I have no idea why, but it's not really a problem. The black socks really are better, but only because they're thicker and thus more comfortable. Maybe more of those if you haven't sent the Christmas package. I don't know.
 
I'm really excited to get that talk from Grandpa, it should be really great. I haven't gotten any of Sister Eagley's letters yet, I don't know why. I got a package from Breje too, but so far only those two things.
 
As for my Spanish, my companion and the other elders in our branch say that I have the best Spanish of all the newer North Americans. I don't know how true that is, I think it's just because I make the effort to not sound like a gringo. But it always makes me feel better.
 
I think that's everything for this week. I love you all very much, I hope you all have a great week. I miss you all very much, but I'm also very happy to be here in Colombia. Really, the time flies, I'll be back before you know it. I'm excited to see you all for Christmas! (As for that, can you either email me my information for skype or make an account for me and send that information? I really can't remember anything.) They've told us that we can talk for 1 hour on the 24th or the 25th.
 
And Mom, have a great birthday this Sunday, I was really hoping that it would be on a Monday, but I guess not. Happy Birthday in advance, I'm excited to talk more about it next week. I love you all very much!
 

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Gospel Can Change Lives

 Zone soccer p-day (Nathan is the blond one on the left--hard to tell in these pictures)

As you can now see, I've found my twin in my zone. His name is Elder Rollins,
from Montana. The zone says that he's my more muscular twin.
To me, he looks more like Jalen.
 
My first baptism! It wasn't ours, it was the other two elders--Sanchez and Gilt.
 They're in the town next to ours, called Palmar. But G_____ and B_____ attended;
they're the two older people to the left.

Elders Gilt, Lezano, Gibbons, and Sanchez
 
Another typical dinner
 
 
I can't believe that I'm already 3/4 of the way done with my training. It's so weird. I only got here a few days ago. But suddenly I'm realizing that I can more or less understand what the people are saying, I'm able to focus more when they speak and I'm slowly able to teach better. Which means that maybe I can talk for 10 minutes rather than 2. Far, far from perfect, or even decent, but that's just how it is. Sometimes I get frustrated because I feel like I could be helping more, but I can't. It's been a bit difficult, but I'm learning more than ever to have patience with myself and my companion. He's really great, but he's obviously not perfect. But that's ok, I can't expect perfection from him, any more than he can from me.
 
As for G_____ and B_____, we had an interesting surprise there. I think last week I talked about how they always say that they're living in union libre, but when you ask they say they've gone to the notary and signed and everything. So we've always taken that to mean that yes, they're married. (As we know, we can't baptize people who are living together but aren't married). So this Saturday, we went over in the afternoon to fill out their baptismal record, because their interview was scheduled for that day. One of the requirements here is that they show their Marriage Register. So we asked if we could see theirs, and they once again said that they're not married. They showed us the document, and it's a register of co-existence. Which means that essentially the government recognizes that they've been living in union libre for many years, and if they separate or one of them dies, the other gets their things. It's basically as close as you can get to being married without actually getting married. For that, I've decided to call it the devil's marriage. But I know that this gospel, the message and the spirit that it brings really changes lives. As we talked with them, B_____ told us that G_____ has always thought that that was enough, he never wanted to get married. As we explained that it's a commandment of God and a requirement for baptism, they said "Ok, no problem. We can do it this week." It's incredible to see the changes that have come in them. I've really seen this hope change them. They really are happier, it's something truly incredible. I hope to be able to see that often. I'm really convinced that in 2 or 3 years, they're going to be temple workers. They're incredible, and the goal now is for the 26th of this month.
 
Everything's going well, we found a young guy named J_____ who's really great too. He attended for the first time yesterday. We are excited to see where he goes. Other than that, I think everything's pretty normal, we are working hard, the weather is starting to change a bit. Which means that instead of being blazing hot and humid with the sun, there are a few more clouds and sometimes a breeze. But after weeks of the first, the breeze feels amazing.
 
I really love it here, the mission is incredible. I know that this gospel can change lives, and that Heavenly Father really can work through each and every one of us, weak as we are. I'm definitely not the greatest missionary or the greatest teacher, but He's still granted me some success and allowed me to find some amazing people. I know that He is willing and able to do the same through the members too, not only the missionaries. The only thing we have to do is be willing to open our mouth and be brave, and trust that He will do the rest.
 
As for Christmas stuff, I don't know. Some Reeses peanut butter cups would definitely be welcome. Maybe a small strand of Cristmas lights to help me feel more festive. And ties, ties are always welcome. I already feel limited with the 10 or so I have. A new journal might be smart too, I still have a bunch of space in the one I have, but who knows when I'll be able to get another package. And maybe some shoe polish, here it isn't quite as good. I don't know, I don't really have time to think of stuff I need. Maybe one or two books on teachings of the prophets that they use in Priesthood. This year is President Hunter, and next year would be good to have in English. I don't know, just ideas.
 
I love you all so much, I hope that you're all doing well, and that you can all feel the spirit of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and missionary work! All three of these things are some of the greatest blessings we can possibly receive!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Pictures at Last!

With Elder Troche
 
 This is the reason that I'm getting fatter. I actually have a bit of a belly
right now, but I'm working on that. This is an average Colombian meal.
Rice and some kind of meat.
 
 
This is some traditional bowl thing. All I know is that the sister who has this property
(called a finca) was desperate for me to take this picture. I don't know why, but ok.

A motocarro con elder troche on our last day together, before I sent him to the mission
office. This is our normal mode of transport in the city.
 
More district p-day pictures


 
With Elder Lezano


It's so weird to think that I'm almost done with my training. It doesn't feel real, I'm starting week 9 of my 12 weeks. This doesn't feel right. Elder Lezano and Elder Sanchez (my district leader) always say that I'm going to be serving in a leadership position, and that I have to be ready to train someone. Which I hope doesn't happen right away, I don't feel quite ready for those responsibilities yet.

I actually brought my camera today, so I can send some pictures. Only a few, because these computers are pretty slow.
 
I have to say, at least here in Santo Tomas, Halloween is not a very big thing. I saw maybe 10 people going around for candy. But Elder Lezano tells me that in Barranquilla it's really big, so we will have to see about that in another year. It's so weird to think that I've officially passed 3 months in the mission, that's 1/8. That's not possible. Pero asi es. That's what they say here.
 
As for your questions Mom, we actually have a small house. It's actually a bit bigger than the average house here. We have a very small kitchen, a bigger room that's connected to the kitchen which is where we have our desks and stuff. We have a room for our beds, a room with a wardrobe, and a room that's empty. We don't know what to do with it. Each of those rooms is probably about the size of our computer room, maybe a little bit bigger. So we are pretty comfortable. We also have a really small bathroom with sometimes feels like the depths of inferno, because there's no window so it gets really hot and humid in there. We have a small gas stove and a little refrigerator. We also have a blender and a sandwich maker, and a sink, and that's about all of our modern appliances. We have to wash our dishes by hand, and to keep cool, we each have our own fan. And a sister in the branch does our laundry for us. For the mosquitos, I usually put on some bug spray after I shower in the mornings, and then try to kill the rest that still try to bite me throughout the day. The worst is right when the sun starts to go down, around 530 to 630. But I'm living, I don't have too many bites. And we have mosquito netting, which helps.
 
G_____ and B_____ are fantastic! They were actually supposed to get baptized this coming Saturday, but President Gallego wants us to announce every baptism in sacrament meeting, so we have to wait another week. But they're both great! I can really see the importance of the commitments we leave. Because these two people actually did the commitments that we left, they were able to receive testimonies and know that this is true. What was most amazing to me was church this Sunday. They attended (their 3rd attendance, which is the requirement for baptism) and we were talking in Sunday School about families and the law of chastity. And they said they weren't married, that they were living in union libre (not married, which is the status of more than half the people here, which frustrates us a lot). When we clarified by saying that they are married civilly, not in a church, B_____ said "oh, but Im not satisfied with that. I want to go to the temple" which is what we learned last week in Sunday School. I have seen this gospel really change their lives, and it's something really amazing to me. I've been able to see them become happier. It's obvious to me that they're happier than they were just a month or so ago when we first arrived. I wish everyone could feel this way. But that's our job, to bring it to them and offer it. And we learned in a training that it's not my work. In other words, it's not the work of the missionaries. This is the work of the stakes and wards. The missionaries are only here to help the members to do the work. So the investigators aren't "our" investigators. They're the ward's investigators. If we can change our mindset to focus on that, the mission work will change. It will be more efficient, we will baptize more. The church will grow. I know it's hard, because it requires personal sacrifice, especially of time. But really it is the best way to do it, I'm sure of that. I hope that we can all work on changing that mindset.
 
Everything is great here. I'm so happy to be here and I'm very glad for the chance I have to be here in Santo Tomas. It's not perfect, but I'm glad that I get to be one of the missionaries to help them to change. I hope you enjoy this email and the pictures I get to send this time. I love you all, I hope you all have a great week, and that you can all feel the Spirit, because really this is the most important. You are in my prayers, I hope you know that. Ciao!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Computer Glitch

Well, the computer just erased my first draft, which already had a bunch of stuff written in there, and I don't have much time. Sorry, this is going to be a bit shorter.
 
We are still here in Santo Tomas, but about  half of our district has changed this transfer. It's weird, I was used to all of the other missionaries. We also had a change in one of our zone leaders. And you'll never believe who it is! It's Elder Burk! Who lives in (...a town near us), and I actually got to meet him today. He seems really nice, though we only had about 10 minutes, and we weren't really talking about home or anything, it was all missionary stuff. But I'm excited to know him better, he seems pretty great. And actually, to use the mission slang, he's my great grandpa. Meaning he trained the trainer of Elder Lezano, who is my current trainer. Go figure.
 
But this week has been full of ups and downs, but with the help of the Lord, my companion, and my leaders, I've been able to pick myself up and push forward. And I really know now that when we look for the positive, focus on doing good (like what Dad sent me this week) we really are happier. When we only see the frustrations or on the things we can't do, it's harder to be happy. So try to focus on the Good!
 
G_____ and B_____ are doing well, but we need to refocus on baptism. G_____ hasn't prayed to know if the Church is true and if he should be baptized, so he's really unsure about it. We are praying that he receives an answer soon. And for C_____, the youth that we have, there are some things we have to do, some hoops to jump through. We will see what happens there. But we are going to teach him to be absolutely sure and baptize him should it come to that.
 
We've found some good people, but we have to be better in follow up. It's one of our goals to improve on. Really the mission is very good at humbling you in almost every aspect of your life, it's interesting. But as long as we are striving to improve, that's all that God wants from us. And He really does bless us as we are trying to improve. This week I felt really blessed during one of our lessons. One of the people we were talking to was having a hard time expressing a doubt, and with the help of the Spirit, I was able to ask a question that helped her to express it. But she hadn't said anything about it, so there was really no way I could have known what her doubt was. But really, the Spirit guides us when we strive to do His work and be worthy of it.
 
But yeah, that's been my week. Sorry there's not more. I finally found the cable for my camera, but I may have accidentally left my camera in the house.... Sorry, I'll be sure to bring it next week. I've taken a bunch of pictures, I'm excited to send them. I love you all so  much, and you're all in my prayers. I'm really jealous that Dad and Kate get to go on that humanitarian trip, it sounds like fun. I hope you all have a great week, and that you're able to take advantage of any missionary opportunities that come your way! Ciao!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Land of Heat and Mosquitos

With Elder Troche
 
Zone Conference


Hello everyone from Santo Tomas, the land of heat and mosquitos! Sorry for that really short email last week, but it was a pretty crazy P-day. Luckily I have a little bit more time today.
 
Elder Lezano is pretty great. I've gotten a little bit frustrated at times, mostly due to my disabilities. It's been difficult to "lead" the area, because I'm so new. Hopefully it'll be easier. But it's also helped to build my confidence a lot, hopefully that'll continue. Elder Lezano tells me that it's not unheard of for missionaries to finish training and immediately get called to a leadership position or trainer. I'm really hoping that doesn't happen with me, but it's good to be prepared I guess. But I've got another 6 weeks before I need to worry about that. I don't think that either of us is going to move this transfer, but we won't know until later tonight. They tell me that we usually get the call around 7 tonight, and then we get to spend the rest of the night packing. So we will see what happens. I hope that it doesn't happen, because I really don't want to repack, it would be difficult. But we will see.
 
As for G_____ and B_____, they're an older couple in their 70s that live close to our house (which is a small house for the two of us with one bathroom). They're very receptive, but they couldn't attend this week. We had a stake conference about 45 minutes from Santo Tomas, and they take care of both of their mothers, both of whom are 97 years old. 97 or 93, I can't remember for sure. But no, they couldn't attend. None of our investigators attended this week, which means we have no progressing investigators once again. Hopefully that will change. We need to teach them about the Book of Mormon soon. We've taught them the Word of Wisdom, and we were surprised with how receptive they were, because they both smoke and both drink coffee, but they both committed to do it without too much of a problem. We found them by talking to them. G_____ was sitting in the street reading a book, which isn't very uncommon here, and we walked up and started talking to him. At first they didn't seem really interested, they seemed pretty set in their beliefs. But about a week later we passed by and had a really great lesson, and they're doing really well. B_____ likes to talk a lot, sometimes it's difficult to actually teach. but we are working to fix that.
 
Also, I finally received the package from the Wolfleys, thank you all so much! Also, my zone leaders have another package for me, I don't know who it's from. There might also be letters there, I don't know. So now we know, it takes about a month for me to get a small package. But thank you all who have written to me, even if I haven't had the chance to read them yet!
 
It sounds like you guys had a really fun week. I'm glad that you're enjoying it and that you got to see Diane and Justin. And congratulations to Christina! And Kate, I'm sure that the ACT went well, but it's a good idea to plan to retake it, your scores will get better every time. Normally. I had to take it 3 times before my score improved.
 
As for how the people respond, its very different. Yes I do attract attention, being very tall and blond. Here they call blondes "mono" which means monkey. So we always get a laugh when I tell them that my last name is a type of monkey in English. It helps to start the relationship. They're usually pretty nice to me, but they don't seem to understand that they have to speak more slowly for me to understand, which is improving, but it's still difficult sometimes. But they're starting to talk to me more, which also helps my confidence. It's frustrating, when they're just talking, I don't have too hard of a time understanding them, but I feel like as soon as they direct a statement or questions at me, it seems like they don't speak as clearly, because for the life of me I can almost never understand what in the world they're saying.

Also, I may be getting my first baptism in the next week or two. There's a youth here whose baptism wasn't recorded, so we may have to rebaptize him. We've talked to him, and he says that if we have to do it, he wants me to do it. So we will see what happens there.
 
But yeah, everything's going pretty well. Sorry that I haven't been attaching pictures, I can't seem to find the cord for my camera. But I should be able to get one this week, so you can probably expect more pictures later. Also, could you send the contact information of the new stake presidency and bishopric? Because there was a change, I have to report it to the mission office. But I need their emails and phone numbers I think to tell them.
 
I think that's all for this week, if I think of anything else, Ill send out a short email before I go. I love you all, thank you so much for your prayers and thoughts. You are all in mine. Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Unexpected Change

Sorry that this is a day late, we had a crazy day yesterday. On Sunday night, President Gallego came and visited us, and he called Elder Troche to be a secretary in the mission offices. Which means he's not my trainer anymore. I'm still in Santo Tomas with Elder Lezano. He's Peruvian and has 6 months in the mission. He's very driven and organized, he should be very good for this area. I'm sad, I miss Elder Troche, but this should be very good too. It was weird, because transfers are next week, but Elder Troche had to go to the offices yesterday.
 
But this week was pretty good, we fnally have progressing investigators! They're an older couple named B_____ and G_____, and they're great. We expect to baptize them in November. There are more that we are hopeful for, but we will see how that goes. Sorry, I don't have too much time today. If I have time I'll answer more questions. I love you all, and I hope that you're all doing well.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Help the Missionaries!

Our zone
  
 More p-day pictures
 
 
 
To answer uestions first (sorry, the first letter of uestions isn't working). We don't have anyone progressing yet. There are 2 that are really close to progressing, they assisted for the first time yesterday, but also their baptismal date fell through because of a stake conference. So we need to meet with them and get that sorted out. But we also found some really great people that we have high hopes for, one of which is named W_____. Church is great, I'm starting to understand more. This week, the teacher for Principles of the Gospel was sick, so the Branch President asked us to cover for her, about 5 minutes before the class. That was a bit of an adventure, especially since more than half the class was investigators and we were talking about eternal families. But it was pretty great, I hope they felt the Spirit. Oh yeah, there's also a lady named B_____ who's super great. It can be hard to find people, but we are making some changes in our approach, and so far it seems to be working well. We teach people every hour, but sometimes I don't feel like I'm much of a help to my companion, which I'm trying to improve.
 
As for the area, it's awesome. I'm adjusting to the heat, slowly, and yes there are many, many, many mosuitos. But all is well. And when we were told that Colombians juice everything, they literally meant everything. Most of the time, I don't know what in the world I'm drinking, but it all tastes super good. I've had mora, which is something similar to a rasberry, guanabana, agua de panela which is really good, and even corn juice, which was surprisingly tasty. They also have lulu, which I have no idea what that is, but I've heard that it's super good. And the food is all really good, I haven't had a single problem yet. I like almost everything I'm given to eat, and even what I don't like, I can eat anyway. And the bread is incredible, my companion told me that Colombia is famous for its bread. It's really really good. Sorry dad!
 
I'm starting to be able to understand people better, but still not as much as I want to, which sometimes frustrates me a bit, but it is what it is.
 
I almost forgot. Im officially challenging all of my friends and family to get more involved in the mssinoary work. Its so hard without much help from the members, please please please help them!
 
That trip to Utah sounds like so much fun, I'm a little jealous, but I had my own little adventure today too. We played volleyball as a zone, and after that Elder Troche and I asked permission to go to a mall, because we both wanted some new bags. My bag is great, but it's really nice and it's starting to wear a bit, and it's really big and unwieldy, so I bought a smaller one. We ate pizza and ice cream for lunch, which was incredible. The pizza isn't uite the same, but hey, it's pizza. And we had McFlurry wth M&Ms and areuipe, which was pretty fantastic.
 
I hope that you're all doing well and that everyone has a great week. I love you all, and thank you for your prayers for me. Congratulations to the Spauldings for their new baby girl, she's absolutely adorable. I can't wait to meet her. Have a great week!


 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Conference!

P-day pictures
 

 
 
 

Hi everyone! Sorry, I don't have much time this week. This email will be pretty short. Things are still going well. Wow, the i key on this keyboard is difficult, sorry if I miss a few here and there.
 
Conference was fantastic, but I feel like I missed a lot of it. It was all in Spanish, but we had some pretty bad English subtitles for it. But I feel like I learned a lot, and I'm very excited for the Liahona. There was an English one in the stake center about an hour from us, but my district leader wanted me to listen in Spanish. So that was difficult, but it worked out well.
 
I'm very excited to keep working here. We've had to avoid a few election groups, but other than that it's been pretty normal. Not much interestng of that nature.
 
Just so you know, I expect all of my family and friends to be more involved in the missionary work after this conference, because that was a big theme!
 
For our meetings we have to take buses. They're super cheap in reality, less then 2 dollars American, but we don't like it much. That motorcycle thing is a motocarro, they're everywhere. Those are what everyone travels in here in Santo Tomas. For pdays, during each transfer, there's one day of soccer, one day of volleyball, one zone activity, one district activity, and 2 free days. Today was the zone activity. We played some games and watched half of The Other Side of Heaven and ate McDonalds hamburgers. It was alright, though I got sunburned during the games.
 
Elder Troche is great. He's very funny, he loves to joke, and he is really trying to learn English, which helps a lot. He's very good at helping me to step out of my shell. He's very encouraging too. I'm glad that he's my trainer.
 
I love you all, Thank you for your prayers and thoughts for me, I look forward to writing next week, hopefully with more time.
 
As for the ankle brace, it's barely bothered me. We can find a brace if it keeps happening.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Power in Testifying


With Elder Troche, headed to play soccer with the zone
 
A typical street, lined with mango trees. A lot of the streets have asphalt,
but a lot are also dirt.
 

 
Nathan's first zone conference, with Elder Falabella of the Seventy
 
The Falabellas with the Gallego Family
 
 
Thank you all for your emails, I love to hear from all of you. To start, this has been a week of highs and lows. I rolled my ankle late Tuesday night and it was very difficult to walk for a little while and very painful. The next morning was very hard for me, I felt very homesick for a long time. I actually felt pretty depressed. What helped me most was our training. Elder Falabella came and that day we heard from him, his wife, and President and Hermana Gallego. Their messages helped me a lot, and the things I have studied this week have been very powerful for that. I've definitely learned a lot about the Atonement this week and how I can apply it for myself. I think my biggest struggle is similar to the struggle of President Hinckley in his mission, I need to forget myself and go to work. But sometimes that's difficult. I'm working on it and getting better.
 
But everything is pretty good. I'm starting to adjust to the heat, more or less. The food is all fantastic. I had fish for the first time yesterday, and it was pretty tasty. It was the whole fish, head and all, fried. But it was very good. I definitely know that the blessing for missionaries is real, because I'm able to eat everything that people put in front of me. Even the tomatoes and green beans. I've learned to just mix it with the  rice and other stuff. As for food, our meals usually consist of rice, sometimes beans or lentils, with some kind of meat like chicken or beef cooked in some different form. And often potatoes. It's all very delicious. There are also usually some form of bananas, fried, roasted, every form imaginable. It's all very good. And the juices are all fantastic. So far my favorite is from some fruit called mora. But last night we tried one made from green mangoes and it was divine. And we learned that pretty much every tree that we walk under is a mango tree. But most of the mangos aren't ripe yet, but apparently their juice is still fantastic.
 
Elder Troche doesn't speak much English, but it's helping me to understand Spanish a lot. Our biggest problem is time. Sometimes he and I talk too much to the investigators and have a hard time getting to all of our appointments. But we have plans to fix that. Also, we aren't starting the area up again. There were missionaries here before us, but we've heard rumors that some of them were pretty disobedient, which means that we really need to win the trust of the members. Which we are working  at. The branch is really small. There are about 90 registered members, but about 50 attend regularly. But we had a branch conference this week and had almost 70, one of which was an investigator.
 
But I've realized that I'm a lot more confident in my Spanish during the lessons, and I'm starting to be able to understand more and more. I know more will come with time. I just have to focus almost completely in what they're saying. But when I do that and make an effort to love them, I definitely feel the gift of tongues.
 
I've learned that it's very hard to teach effectively, it requires a whole lot of thought and effort on my part. But there is an undeniable power when my companion and I testify. It's hard, but there is power, and I love to feel it. I need to be able to make the gospel applicable to the lives of the investigators, because that's when they will feel it. We received a reference for an investigator names A_____ this week who was awesome. Hes been searching all his life for a church, and said that as soon as we stepped on his porch, he felt something different. We hope for good things from him. He's searching for work, and of course the one day he found a short term job was on Sunday, which we were very upset about. But it's alright, we are going to work with him a lot.
 
As for our area, we have Santo Tomas and an area called Sabana Grande, which we have yet to visit since we've barely started learning our area. It's difficult, we are exhausted every night. But I also learned that Elder Troche loves music like I do, which was pretty great. He wants you to record yourself playing Come Thou Fount on the piano, Mom, and send it so we can listen to it.
 
I think that's all for this week, if I think of more I'll send out some more! I love you all, thank you for your prayers and thoughts on my behalf, and I look forward to hearing from everyone this next week! I love you!!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Santo Tomas

Holy cow its soooooo hot here. But its also pretty great. Sorry, I dont know how to use the apostrophe on this keyboard. I dont have a ton of time, because its been crazy and I dont have as much time as I will normally. Normally Ill have one hour, and itll be from 430 to 530 my time normally.
 
We are in an area called Santo Tomas, and neither Elder Troche nor I have ever been there. So its been a bit difficult. We have a huge area, and a lot of this week has been used to get to know the area. But the branch president is pretty great. For meals we have contracts, at least for lunch and dinner. That means that theres a member of the ward who we pay a small amount of money to each month, and they feed us lunch and dinner every day. Its a good system, and so far all of the food has been delicious. Rice every meal, but its very tasty.
 
There have been gringos here before, but apparently they didnt look quite as gringo as me, because I get a lot of stares from the people. They are very kind with my Spanish, which is actually getting along pretty well. Its far from perfect (far from proficient might be more honest) but I get by the people here speak pretty fast, but im getting to the point where I can understand a bit better. But yes, its difficult. But I like it here a lot. Santo Tomas is actually about an hour and a half from Barranquilla. Most of it is pretty poor, but its very safe. Thats what everyone says, and I havent felt unsafe once. There was a big party festival thing this weekend, so we were a bit more careful at night (since Im so obviously American) but we had no problems. 
 
As for mail, it seems that if you send it to the mission home, I can get it. One of the Elders that came with us had a package waiting for him, and Ive seen others get mail. I dont know about the whole putting pictures of  Jesus on it. It may help, it may not, I dont know.
 
Everyone here is super nice. Their doors are always open, and they love to talk to us. But when we got here, there were no progressing investigators, and in the last 2 years, there have only been about 10 investigators baptized. So we are working hard to change that.
 
I want you all to know that I love it here. Even though its hot and we never know where we are, its a great place to be, and Im very glad to be here. The people are super nice and the food is super good. I love you all and think of you often. Thank you all for your prayers for me. Sorry, I cant send pictures because I forgot my plug to the computer. Ill be sure to send some next week. I love you all!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Made It to Barranquilla!

With Presidente and Hermana Gallego
 
With the Gallego Family
 
The new Barranquilla missionaries!
 
 
I don't have much time, only about 10 minutes. I made it fine, but we left the CCM at 330 in the morning. It's been a bit of a long day. My trainer's name is Elder Troche, from Bolivia. I haven't met him yet, but everyone tells me that he's very funny. I'm going to be here in Barranquilla for my first transfer. It's very warm, right now it's a little less than Florida in August, but everyone is telling us that today is one of the coolest days they've had on their missions. We just had a great lunch at a Tucanos like place, but a bit more fancy. It was really good. We are going to be working in Barranquilla most of today. I'll officially go to my area tomorrow around 2. My pday is on Monday. We don't have set times to email, so I don't know when I'll be able to. I'll have one hour, like at the CCM. I love you all, and hope you're all doing well.