Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tanner's First Zone Conference

On Saturday I had my first multi zone conference. It was in Sogamoso, so we had to wake up at 3 AM and travel the roughly two hours to Tunja, and then we had to travel another 2ish hours to Sogamoso. The trip was real bad. I was banking on sleeping, yet I didn´t receive much. The conference was cool. I need to memorize a bunch of things. President Andelin gave two lessons on the Law of Chastity and the Atonement. His teachings will help us be better teachers. Overall the experience was cool. The day was pretty much over by the time we got back to Barbosa. It was nice to hear and speak English to native speakers. Elder Brito is good at English, but it still is not the same. The other missionaries seem chill.

 Andres is doing well. He is attending almost every class that we provide, even mission prep. I doubt that he will serve a mission, but it is good that he is attending the class. His mom is actually a less active member who we are working with. We actually have a Noche de Hogar, or family home evening lesson, with her and another less active family tonight. Should be good. Andres is doing well.

Also, you all should look up Tad Callister´s talk about the "Blueprint of Christ´s Church." It is excellent.
 Valentina is also doing well. After we taught the Plan of Salvation lesson we asked her how she felt about Oct 4, her baptismal date. She said that she wanted to be baptized, but needed more time. That is very understandable. She is also doing great. She is coming to Sacrament meeting and choir practice and other branch functions. It is really helpful having her friends be Mormons. We couldn´t do it without them. I am very much looking forward to Oct 4th.
 It has been raining a lot this week. Getting soaked stinks. Literally. When it rains, the sewers become stinky. Not my favorite.

 Emma, we were contacting this week when suddenly we heard a large commotion above us. Just as I looked up I saw a cat dive off a second floor balcony in an attempt to avoid a chasing dog. The cat landed smack on the concrete. I am amazed it did not die instantly. It was incredible.
 Elder Brito leaves tomorrow! We have to travel to Tunja with him where he will travel to Bogotá with others that are dying. It will be Elder Ramírez, Elder Galleguillos, and I until Saturday. Having the threesome will be different, and I am excited for it. Should be cool. Elder Brito was a Zone Leader for 8 transfers, a District Leader for 5 transfers, and a trainer three times. Yes, those numbers are correct. I am bummed to see him go. On Sunday the branch actually prepared a surprise party for him during choir practice. We had more people show up to the party than we had at Sacrament Meeting. Haha. It was really nice and almost 50 people got up to the pulpit to publicly thank him. He also sang "Be Still My Soul." He is a great singer. I am definitely gonna miss him.

Every day we eat at a member’s house for lunch. Lunch is the main meal of the day by far. We actually never eat dinner. I don`t know why, but we never take time for dinner. It is whatever. Garrett said to become Colombian. If Colombians don`t eat dinner, I won`t either. However, whenever we are teaching at night, it is uncommon if someone does not give us a fruit drink and a roll. Pretty standard. Also, when coming home at night you can do a quick stop and buy something at a bakery to fill you up. So no dinner, but you rarely go to bed hungry. For breakfast we eat usually eat at bakery across the road. Mad cheap and really good.

 I am literally the only white person in Barbosa. In Bogotà you would see a Gringo here and there. Not in Barbosa. Also in Bogotà you would occasionally run into someone that could speak English. Not here. We do hold an English class every Saturday at 5. We had approximately 14 people this last Saturday, all of which were members. Elder Brito explained things in Spanish, and I just said the proper pronunciation of words. Fun and effective, or at least I think.

I love you all so much. The family and friends that I have are the best in the world. I was a fool for not having cherished them/you more. Families can be together forever. That knowledge brings me so much joy.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Baptism in Bogota!

So the baptism for Andres went through!! It was nuts but really great. We arrived to the large canvas bag that is our font an hour before the baptism. It is leaking and the water is about a foot high. It also so happens that the water is off. Great. We spent the next hour running up and down the stairs to the third floor filling up buckets of water from our shower and dumping them in the font. We worked frantically. Our efforts put a mere dent in the problem, getting the water level to knee height. We were going to do this baptism though. Opposition in all things is real. The baptismal service was simple yet sweet. I was pretty sweaty though. It took Elder Ramirez three tries to get it right. The spirit was strong and this service made me hungry to do more of the Lord`s work. It was a great yet very interesting first baptismal experience.

Valentina is doing well. She attend sacrament meeting and that was great. It was a fast and testimony meeting. She could not have picked a better Sunday to come. Everyone that bore their testimony did a really fine job. We also taught her about the gospel of Christ this week Andres was actually with us and helped us teach a lot. Midway through the lesson Valentina was talking and just started to cry. To be honest, I really wish I could have understood what she was saying, but whatever she did say must have been profound. The spirit was forceful that night. The lesson was great and she is progressing daily. It is also super helpful that she has some good friends that are members. Members are amazing support systems in this work. They show that Mormons are actually normal.

 My head cold is pretty much gone, knock on wood. However, a nasty blister has been killing me. I will send a picture. It does not look bad, but let me assure you it is quite painful. Imagine walking on a marble all day. As the week has progressed it has grown less painful. I hope it does not get infected. I spray some stuff on it every night. Hope it works!

You know how I am extremely inflexible? I have been working on it, and now I can touch my toes. No lie. It is a miracle. I am sure that my football friends are gonna not believe me after they saw daily how bad at stretching I was. I am telling the truth though. It is great to see the progress. I am going to come back more flexible than Miranda B!

 Crazy story. We were coming back from a lunch appointment at the first councilor’s house. Many of the taxis here are just jeeps with bench seating. We flagged down the taxi only to find zero room. However, if you stand on the back you don`t have to pay full price. So that’s what we did. Imagine standing on the back lip of the van, holding onto the roof rack, and driving on highway 84. It was definitely not the smartest or safest thing I have ever done. The best part is that while traveling 80 Kilometers an hour, I couldn`t miss the opportunity to snap a pic. One handed pic while holding onto the roof rack for dear life. The pic is pretty poor, but it is still awesome. Cool story. Really stupid though.

I had my first zone conference this week. I am in the Barbosa 1 area, in the Barbosa district, which is in the Tunja zone. There are 4 of us in Barbosa and 8 in Tunja, 2 of which are Latino sisters. There are no Gringo sisters in all of Colombia. There are 12 of us in the zone. The drive to Tunja was fine. Tunja is the coldest place in Bogota Norte. It was nice to take a break from the heat. The meeting was fine. Nothing too special. A lot of memorization to learn. The Zone Leaders gave a spiritual thought. We then went to get pizza, the 4 of us, at the best pizza place in Tunja. It was pretty good. Nothing like real NYC pizza, but good for Colombian standards.

Gun shots, absurd facial hair growth, and Tanner's testimony of Christ

Valentina is doing well. She has a testimony of the restoration and believes that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Every time we have met with her we have met in the "house" of a member. Having a member present is so vital. People see that, oh wow, these Mormons are actually normal. Hermana Mora and Hermano Sanchez have been excellent in helping Valentina grow spiritually. Her baptism is set for September 27th, but attending church is difficult for her because of work. Things may have to be pushed back a bit, but conversion is a process and the Lord will always welcome his children into the fold. I really enjoy teaching Valentina.
I probably have told you this already, but everyone here loves my name. They find it so funny that my name is similar to Mel Gibson. Everyone always asks me if my dad is Mel Gibson, and they are serious. When it was announced that I would be giving a talk at the beginning of sacrament meeting, the counselor referred to me as Elder Mel. The 60ish members died. People have even referred to me as Elder William Wallace. I just have to chuckle. It is always funny.

 Andres is doing well. He is honestly a great person. He comes to every class, choir practice, and "thing" we put on for the church. He is active in Sunday school and bears his testimony often. He took the tithing lesson well, which always scares me, and has been progressing towards baptism like an exemplary investigator. I cannot wait for this Saturday. It will be a marvelous day.

In regards to other investigators, we are working on turning our somewhat progressing investigators into serious investigators. We are working with a bunch of people that are interested, but not seriously interested. It is frustrating, but people have their own agency and can choose to progress or not. We are just here to help.

 I am unsure if I have told you this already, but every Saturday we teach an English class at17:00. Elder Brito is a great teacher, and I am the go to reference for proper pronunciation. This is great because for 1 hour I am the one that gets to teach language and not be taught. We have a good crowd of roughly 15 to 20 each week. Mostly members and the children of members. I really enjoy it. Hermano Sanchez came up to me after the class was over and said, "Thank you for your efforts." However, his "efforts" sounded like "I farts." It took all of my strength to not bust up laughing. It still makes me chuckle thinking about it.

Funny story: Many people here wear clothing with English words. We were walking past the largest Catholic chapel in Barbosa the other day when mass was being let out. Some man sauntered out with a hat that read, "I´m the king of sex" in big bold letters. I just cracked up. I am sure he wouldn´t have worn that hat to church if he had known what it meant. People also wear clothing that references NYC. I´ll ask them if they have ever been to NYC and they won´t know what I am talking about.

This week I have been pretty much sick the entire time. Nothing too serious, just a head cold. I am able to function fine; it is just annoying. Nyquil has been super handy. Also, lucky I have only woken up once in the night this week due to a cat on our ceiling.

Funny note: I feel like my facial hair is growing at an absurd rate. It is like my rate of growth went from fast to Sean Rowe status. I have my thick five o’clock shadow at 1 in the afternoon. Sometimes I have to shave twice a day! Ridiculous. I don´t know why this is happening, all I know is that it is crazy.

 I was also asked to give another talk this last Sunday. Having a couple days’ notice was nice. President Ramírez, the branch president, asked me to prepare an 8 minute long talk about a topic that would rally the members. I choose to talk about faith. I used a general conference talk to guide my thoughts. As I was standing up to give the talk, President Ramírez informed me that I need to speak for 10 minutes. No worries, I had a back up scripture, Alma 26:12, in my back pocket. I personally think the talk went really well. I thought my thoughts were on point and gave the members confidence and courage. Miracles are capable when we have faith. That is not a thought; that is a fact.
 During church the roof just started pouring water. I couldn´t help myself but chuckle. Water just poured into the chapel. We spent the majority of church mopping water and trying to figure out what was going on. It is a good thing that literally half the people in Barbosa work with their hands. We got the water stopped during the middle of third hour.

Every Saturday morning we play Mirco with the members. Micro is just miniature soccer. Really fun, but too bad I am horrible. I just wish we could throw on some football pads and play a little American fútbol.

 We did some service this week. Some girls that Elder Brito and Elder G have been teaching needed help on their school project. They wanted to turn a really run down dune buggy into a Volkswagen Beetle. We couldn´t really help much, but Elder Brito told us to try our best because the father of one of the girls pulls a lot of weight in this town. Here’s a pic (above).

The water and power here is very temperamental. The water will just shut off out of nowhere and the same thing with the power. I was mid shower the other day, fully covered is soap when the water shut off. I felt weird/unusually sticky the entire day as I was still covered in soap. Whatever.

 After sacrament meeting I was asked to talk for 7 minutes in English about the Law of Chastity to the youth. I honestly have no idea why they wanted me to speak in English, considering none of them understand a word of English; however, I did as I was told. I thought I did a good job, but then again, it doesn´t matter since I could have talked about tithing and they would have never known the difference.

We also teach a mission prep class every Sunday. It feels so weird to be teaching and not being taught. It still has not dawned on me that I am a real missionary. I doubt it will until I get on the plane to come home. It is fun to teach the things I learned in the CCM to the older youth of the ward. I really enjoy it, and I really hope they all serve missions.

I heard gun shots for the first time the other day. I get to cross that off the missionary bucket list. We were waiting to teach a recent covert and out of nowhere we heard 2 shots and then a third. The kids in the street stopped for maybe a second in their soccer game. Cool experience and I know mom will love it...

We play a lot of UNO. Almost every night after planning we sit and play a bunch of rounds. It is fun and a nice way to relax after a stressful day.
Everything else is really good. The work is not easy. Elder Holland once said that the reason why missionary work is not easy is because it was never easy for Christ. Christ suffered for my sins. The least I can do is give 2 years of my life to help others find the joy and happiness that I have.