Sunday, November 16, 2014

Waterfalls and Well Worn Shoes

 This Preparation Day we went with a less active to this secret waterfall in the boniis of Barbosa. It was super cool. A lot of people were cliff jumping. I was jealous. We hiked to the place with their dogs and had a fun time taking photos and soaking in the nature. It was a really fun day, especially when our PDAY´s are usually pretty lame.

 Alberto is doing well. He is nine years old, but as typical for kids here, he acts a lot older than he is. It is because kids have to grow up fast or they will get caught under the treads. He is doing really well. Our lessons with him and his mom are always solid despite the super energetic younger brother. I love seeing them grow in faith, diligence, and family unity. We are not supposed to hug or pretty much touch kids because of legal reasons, but every time we teach he always gives my legs a bear hug to begin the lesson and another to conclude the lesson. It is nice.

 As you can tell from my photo, my shoes are dying. Especially the inside soles. I have begun to use my inside sole from my Adidas in my Johnson and Murphy’s. Not bad actually. I am amazed that Garrett went two years in Cambodia using primarily one pair of shoes.

We have been working a lot with the less active family of Moreno. We have successfully gotten them to church a few times; however, it is evident that they have many problems with the commandments. We helped them move to a new house this week. I hate to be rude, but their house was so gross. Something out of "Hoarders." It was not my favorite two hours, but they very much appreciated it. They definitely needed the help. As to service, we probably do service once every two weeks. We always extend the invitation, but people never take us up on it. I think it has something to do with the culture. Who knows?

 As to my language skills, they are improving. However, I feel as if I am in this awkward stage of not knowing Spanish or English. Speaking in English is very difficult. I find that I prefer to talk with others is Spanish. Even though my Spanish isn´t very good, I just feel more comfortable with it. I am afraid that in 20 months I will return home and will have forgotten English. Whatever.

Unfortunately, we were unable to meet with Valentina all week because she was super sick. However, I insisted that we stop by daily to make sure that she knows that we are thinking about her and concerned for her. We hope to make some serious progress with her this week.

On Wednesday we had to travel to Tunja for zone conference. Not gonna lie, I hate zone conferences because we waste three fourths of the day traveling for a two hour long meeting. Plus, the drive makes everyone so sick. It is on a super dangerous road through the mountains. On Wednesday we were in a bus that broke down twice. Not my favorite.

Then on Thursday we had to travel to Duitama for a trainers and trainees meeting. The meeting was fine. Nothing too special. It was cool to see some Latinos that were in the same CCM group as me and it was cool to see some Latinos with even less time than me. However, the trip pretty much took the entire day. It wasn't my favorite.

Not gonna lie, this week was pretty lackluster in most regards. We taught very little and we didn't have as much success as I would have liked. However, this week was just a low one. This upcoming week will be really good. This week should be really good. We are determined to have a lot better results this week than we did last week. I pray for you all daily.

"Tronqui" is the word used in Bogotá Norte for missionaries that want to go home or that are looking forward to their departure. There is a little bit of tronquiness in our house, not on my end, but there is a lot of tronquiness in our zone, from what I have heard. We have a couple missionaries that are itching to get back to "normal life." I hope and pray and will do my very best never to be like that.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Colombian Valentine's Day and Other Cultural Observations

Homemade weights
In Colombia, Valentine’s Day is in September, so the ward put on a small party. It was nice and well done considering the limited resources. There was dancing, a few spiritual thoughts, and overall solid moral. I think everyone had a great time. It was fun to watch the adults try and dance. They need to practice.

 New mission rule: All missionaries are to leave the house at 10 and complete additional study and language study after lunch. I still don´t know how I feel about this rule. I am afraid it will make us less effective. However, we will have to see. Not gonna lie, I don´t really enjoy the extra "additional study time" that trainers and trainees have to complete. I feel like it is not very effective. However, what do I know? I wish I could be out on the street longer. We will have to see how this rule affects things.

Setting up the technology to watch General Conference
 I bought my first souvenir this week. We ordered some jerseys from Bogota. They should arrive in the next coming week. 1 of the Colombian National Team and another of a local team. They both should look super fresh. I hope everything works out with them. Plus, they were only 70 mil combined, or 35 bucks. In the USA, they both would have been 80 bucks a piece, easy.

We have been working with a recent convert, Hermano Rojas, and his son, a super less active member named Carlos, for a while now. We are trying to get Hermano Rojas ready to obtain the Priesthood. He is apprehensive and worried about the responsibility. However, things are improving. Cool note: Hermano Rojas´s family runs a road side food shack and their empanadas are amazing. Carlos noticed that I particularly enjoy them and is going to teach me and Elder Ramirez how to make empanadas Colombian style. Should be really cool and fun.

 The language is progressing. I feel more and more comfortable every day. However, it is a daily struggle. The religious language stuff is easy; it is the everyday "living" stuff that is most difficult. However, I can see the fruits of my labor and divine help from God. It is not easy, but it is progressing nonetheless.

Cool note: The majority of people here in Barbosa have small tattoos on their hands in between their index fingers and their thumbs. Often times it symbolizes gang affiliation, but other times it symbolizes something about their loved ones.

Also, all over the place people hang water bottles filled with water outside their windows. Apparently it is for good luck and to deter demons. Looks ridiculous and is a weird tradition, but regardless it is very interesting.
 Luis is also doing well. He is at the point now where he could easily be baptized if he could attend church. However, his work is a major problem. Help us pray for a change in schedule or something that will allow him to attend church.

There are many other people that we are working with, but none that are at the point of serious investigators. Our work with less active members and recent converts is high too. Everyone, even strong members, needs to hear our message.
Dad, I was reading in the Book of Mormon Alma Chapter 40 the other day. It is a great chapter about the spirit world and resurrection. It says, not sure what verse, that time is only measured by men. I like this a lot. The idea of a creation in 7 24 hour periods has always been something that I have never fully grasped or come to terms with. I truly believe that as mortal, imperfect beings it is silly, even offensive to God to put time standards on his work. We can´t even try to comprehend his power or work or "time."
Playing air hockey on preparation day

Also, I have been thinking a lot about the idea of perfection. The way I look at it, how can we ever be perfect in this life or the life to come? Once we reach this "level" of perfection and are deemed perfect, are we not then lacking humility? The balance of humility and perfection is something I have been trying to wrap my mind around. Any insights?

Also, the Book of Mormon is true. People just need to read it to know.

Continuous Conversion and Pining for Carpet

 Life here in the wonderful pueblo of Barbosa is great. I feel more and more like this is my home every day. When I walk down the streets, I just like to soak it all in. These people are my people, and I love them.
 Andres is great. No real news with him. His mom, who is a less active, is experiencing some problems. We have been visiting and working with her a lot. She has reached the point where she is ready to be active in the church again.  I enjoy working with her. I have heard, and am witnessing, that helping people return to church activity is almost always more difficult and requires more work than helping people get baptized. People think that after they are baptized they are done. Wrong. They forget the fifth part of the doctrine of Christ, enduring to the end. Getting people to rekindle their faith is very difficult.

 Valentina is doing well. We didn't have an opportunity to meet with her this week because she was super busy and had to cancel two of our appointments. However, she did attend sacrament meeting and was surprisingly engaged during our class for investigators and recent converts during second hour. Thank you for the prayers.

One thing that I miss: Carpet. Sounds silly but I really do miss it. Haven´t seen carpet once since I have been in the CCM or Barbosa. I doubt I will see it for 21 more months. Haha.

 In other news about drugs, so far I haven´t seen much. You smell weed often, but it doesn´t seem to be a problem with the cops. They smell like it to. Daily you will see people pack a bowl in the middle of the street. Plus, I have only been offered it once. We were talking with a person that has lived in Barbosa their whole life and they said that literally everyone that is rich in Barbosa has some affiliation with the drug trade. They said that if you see a BMW driving done the street, you can bet money that they are somehow connected. The drugs are grown/made in the small pueblos and then transferred to bigger cities for sale. Barbosa is one of those small pueblos.

We have been working with this guy named Luis recently. He wants to be baptized, but due to his work schedule, he cannot attend Sacrament Meeting. We went to an appointment with him only to find him with a huge black eye, missing teeth, and three almost completely severed fingers. Apparently when you do not pay your electricity bill, they send "enforcers." I felt really bad because he is by far the poorest person we are teaching. He is on the lower part of town, which is the most poor, and lives in a 15 by 15 foot shack made of that cheap sheet metal stuff. He has one light bulb. When we left we shook hands. His fingers were still fresh and a decent amount of blood was transferred from his hand to mine. Don´t worry mom, I washed my hands with soap.