Sunday, December 28, 2014

First Week in Bucaramanga

So I have completed my first week in Bucaramanga. Do not try and pronounce it. I promise you that you are doing it wrong. I will help when I call.

 As to other investigators, there are a bunch. We have a fecha for 10th of Jan with a 22 year old girl name Paula. She too is progressing well and wants to finish the Book of Mormon before the New Year. She is great and I enjoy teaching her. She works for an old lady who is a member. References from members are the best.
 Bucaramanga is awesome. It is pretty much a landscape with giant craters. The main streets are on top of the craters and the poor people live in the craters. For some lessons we literally climbed down three sets of latters to get to the houses. It was awesome. Not very safe though.
Elder Baez and Elder Gibson
 I am in the Diamante Ward. It is a ward that is really cool. The chapel is amazing. The members are nice and really loving. I feel like they already love me, and I have only been here a bit. I look forward to serving them.
There is not hot water here. Cold showers are not my favorite, but I am growing accustomed to them. By the time I leave they will be the norm.

There are definitely a lot of drugs here. It always reeks of weed and people literally pack bowls in the street. Some guy even saluted me with his pipe the other day.

Tanner's bedroom
 I never told you Mom, but at BYU I would drink raw eggs every day. There is a juice here that has the exact same texture. I love it.

I ate a strawberry. It was difficult, but I did it.
LDS chapel in Barbosa

Also, I cannot forget to mention an investigator named John. John is currently on house arrest for very poor decisions - selling cocaine, robbing, and stabbing two people. His father is somehow connected to the church and Elder Baez has been working with him for a while.
 We were teaching him yesterday when he just opened up to us on an experience he had where he felt forgiveness for his sins while pleading through prayer. I cannot describe the spirit that was in the room. It was so strong and honestly I do not remember what Elder Baez and I said, but all I remember was feeling on cloud 9 when we left. We invited him to be baptized and he said yes. His court date is in Jan. He will either go to prison, or be cleared. In Colombia, if you go to prison, there is a legitimate chance you will not return. We are going to fast that he can be cleared and therefore be better able to come unto Christ. That lesson was amazing.

Also, my feet are taking a beating. They are infected with something and as you can see from the pictures. I have a huge blister. No worries though, I bought some spray.

As to my health, I am fine. The only thing that is bad is my feet.

 This week was actually pretty great. As you can see from the pictures, we had a baptism this Saturday. The boy´s name is Michael. His mom was a less active member who has become reactivated. Their family is super cool. I have only taught them twice, but I already love them. Mother and son are both doing their best to come back or start new with Christ. It was awesome to be a part of the baptism this week. I look forward to working with them even more.

Moving day!

Lot of Pig and a Brand New Area

Tanner and a pig skin - Just doing some service
We received word Monday morning that I was being transferred to Bucaramanga. I will be in the area called Diamante 2 with Elder Baez. He is from Argentina and has 17 months in the mission. This is his 4th transfer cycle here, so he will definitely leave after this transfer. We will have to see what happens.

 Bucaramanga is a large city. It is the capital of Santander. It is hotter, larger, and much more dangerous. Leggo. I am excited for that. There are 2 zones here in Bucaramanga with 20ish missionaries in each. My experience here will definitely be different than Barbosa. I can already feel the difference in heat. My booty is sweaty at 8 in the morning. It is gonna be great.
Fernando, Joanna, and Karol

Leaving Barbosa really stank. I love Barbosa so much. Barbosa is great. I am really gonna miss it and the people. This week in Barbosa was much better. We actually had a semi filled agenda and it was great to finally have some solid sit down lessons. Things were much better this week. Fernando and his wife Joanna made some significant progress. Fernando even came to church. He is by far my favorite person in Barbosa. We did some service for him this week, including cleaning his equipment for Lechonas. I included an awesome picture with a pig skin.

In the morning I insisted that we visit Fernando before I left for Tunja. It was bitter sweet to say goodbye to Fernando, Joanna, and little Karol. I love them so much and they definitely love me too. Joanna and Karol started to cry when I left. You know you are doing something right when people cry when you leave. That felt so great to know that people care for me as much as I care for them.

Monday I traveled to Tunja and then from Tunja to Bucaramanga. The trip from Tunja to Bucaramanga was 7.5 hours. Not that bad. Just a lot of sitting and sleeping.

I arrived in Bucaramanga late yesterday. We took a taxi to my new house. The new house only is a two person house, so that is gonna be different too. We will have to see what goes down. Currently we are in a threesome with Elder Doll from Oregon as he waits for his new companion. He is cool.

This city is gonna be different, but I am excited.

Christmas Lights and Tanner's Favorite Investigator

My favorite investigator is Fernando and his wife. I have mentioned them before, but today I will fill you in a bit more. Fernando is from Venezuela. He is super cool. He sells Lechona, or deep fried pig. It is super tasty. I ate the pig ear and pig skin with him. He is also super smart. He knows more about the church than any of our other investigators. He is progressing, but at a very slow pace. He understands us super well and what we are doing. He is taking the right steps; the problem is that he is taking baby steps. I love him though. He also has a super cute little daughter named Karol. She is awesome and loves me. 

Typical meal
As for my health, all is well now. As for Thanksgiving, the people here do not celebrate it. Obviously. I spent Thanksgiving fasting. There is someone in the states that is really struggling right now in many different aspects of their life. I thought there couldn't be a better time to fast than on Thanksgiving. My day on the 27th was definitely different, but special if you ask me.

Sorry for the grammar and spelling. It is hard to retain English when you literally never speak it. Great.

 I have come to the realization that I am two things: Stubborn and Impatient. Mom, you have always told me that I have these two wonderful attributes, but I never listened. You were right. I hate being slow. I hate waiting. Patience is definitely a godly virtue, but currently I do not have it. I am working on it though. Elder Quispe is definitely helping me work on my patience. I love him to death, but he is just soooo slowwww. He honestly is the best, and I love him, but sometimes I just want to whip him into faster action. No worries though. I am stubborn too. Just a fact, but a fact that I need to change if I ever want to get married.

From a P-day excursion
 One funny note: Everyone here thinks that I have so much older than I actually am. When I tell people that I am 19 they all gasp. The typical guess is 25 and the highest I have ever received is 32. 32??? Seriously! When I ask why, they just say that my facial hair makes me look older and that my build is of a 25 year old´s. I do not know if this stuff is a compliment or not, but whatever. 32......

On Saturday we had a zone conference in Tunja. I hate the wasted time of traveling, but it was a good conference. As I am sure you all know, the church is starting a huge initiative called "Él es la Dádiva" or "He is the Gift." We received new pass along cards and videos to help us center our teachings in the month of December on Christ. It should be great. The video is super good. On the way home a little girl fell asleep on my left arm and a very fat farmer fell asleep on my right shoulder. It was such a great ride!!

Typical house
Not gonna lie, it has been real hard. Barbosa 1 is just struggling. We have no investigators, and the few that we have are wishy washy. We spent a butt load of time on our feet this week just trying to find new people. Unfortunately, not much success. A little, but we will have to see what happens with the new people that we found. Often times, people are just nice and let us talk to them. However, they have absolutely zero desire to learn. It is all good though.

Tanner and his dinner
 Despite the struggles in our area in regards to investigators and teaching opportunities, I honestly see light in the Barbosa Branch. Things are not easy here. If we get 4 or 5 people to ward council things are great. We also have not had a branch mission leader for the last 8 weeks. The last couple of weeks we have averaged 45 people for sacrament meeting. Despite the real struggles of being a branch for 20 years, in my opinion things are looking up. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Right now the light is dim, but at least there is light.  Overall, things are gonna get better here. Every week isn`t gonna be a walk in the park. Things are gonna be hard. Whatever though. This upcoming week will be better.

Christmas lights
Christmas here is huge. Every house that can afford it is decked out in lights and decorations. On the 7th there is a special Colombian and Venezuelan tradition where you put out candles during the night. Also, there has been non-stop fireworks for the last 2 days. It is like a warzone. Crazy.

I finished Jesus the Christ, by James E. Talmage. Excellent account of the life of Christ and everything surrounding him. Everyone should take the time to read it. My testimony and knowledge of the Savior is much stronger.

Christmas lights
 Quick note on Barbosa:  For the freshest milk, you go to the milk horse. Pretty much a guy on a horse rides around in the morning banging a pot with a stick. If you want milk, you go out and he ladles milk into your personal container. The milk is fresh, but that means it is also gross. We never use the milk-horse-man, but cool nonetheless.

For a washing machine, we call a guy that use to be an investigator. He brings the machine on his moto and carries it into our house. We fill it with buckets using water from the shower. When we are done, we call him and he picks it up. Not the best cleaning though. My white shirts are not exactly as white as they use to be. Haha no worries though.

Also, we were walking in the street and this guy was roasting some meat over his fire. In an effort to contact him, I asked him if he was selling his meat. He said no, but that if we wanted to try some he would let us. 15 minutes later his wife served us a full plate of yuca, cow liver, cow intestine, and cow heart. Delicious. The intestine was just ok considering I could not chew it, but the heart and liver were excellent. Yuca is always good too. Now I can say that I have eaten liver, heart, and intestine on the mission, plus I can say that I truly enjoyed it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chowing Down on Pig Ear

This week has been different. I will fill you in. Soooooo....... 

Unfortunately I do not have much to write about investigators. We did a ton of contacting this week. It was hot and sweaty, but I think it will bring some success. My knuckles did not bleed, but one day they got close. Haha. It is true!

 So an update on my body: All is good as of now. Things were bad. So I wrote you all on Monday. Tuesday I felt sick but fine. Wednesday night I got hit by a bus.... of sickness. I got home and was running a 39.5 fever. Run the math, Dad. Let’s just say it was a hot one. I didn`t get to sleep until 3 AM because of sickness. I felt horrible on Thursday, but the work progressed. A little, actually more like a lot, of sickness isn`t gonna slow us down. I feel bad now, but Elder Quispe wanted to say home in the morning one morning because he was feeling sick. I told him no and that he would be fine. Looking back, I let my zeal turn me into a jerk. That won`t happen again. That was a mistake on my part. Overall, I was sick this week, but now I feel fine. No worries, Mom.

Eating pig ear
 Also, I do not know if I have mentioned this, but I lead the music during Sacrament meeting. Not gonna lie, the singing isn`t the prettiest, but I love it. I want to sing a hymn in Spanish when I come home. I am learning to really love the hymns. They are truly prayers in song form. They are great.

Some notes on culture here: People love musica Christiana. There is Christian rock, rap, reggae, salsa, etc. It is ridiculous. An investigator showed us Christian death metal the other day. It is just plain horrible. I wish they would turn their religious zeal into a better form of worship.

Pig Ear
 Also, after almost 5 months of being in the mission, I am now finally legal. I received my Colombian ID. It is cool. I have been in Colombia with just a crappy copy of my passport. Luckily it has gotten me through every policia stop so far. It feels good to carry something legit now.

Chelsey, people here love their cheese. Queso is super big here. There are stores dedicated to cheese and nothing more. I have eaten some very strong cheeses. Not exactly my favorite. You would probably like it.

As to other crazy foods.... This week when teaching my favorite investigator, Fernando, he brings out a pig`s ear. He cooks Lechona, or pig, and serves it on Sundays. This is a major reason for the super slow progress that he is making. We have eaten the pig skin before and it is super delicious, but the ear wasn`t my favorite. It was huge, as you can see from the pictures, and was cold and crunchy. You had to put some major effort into eating it. Overall, good flavor, but just the thought of eating a pig`s ear wasn`t my favorite. Great though. 

 Dad, one thing that I have thought a bunch about this week is love, the most important commandment. I feel that this commandment is often overlooked in its difficulty. According to the Sermon on the Mount, we are supposed to love those that hate us, murder us, and wish the worst for us. We are supposed to put the welfare of those people before ourselves. In reality, this commandment, in my mind, is the hardest of all. How can I love someone that wants to kill me? It is so difficult to think about and comprehend. It goes to show how much God and Jesus love us. They love those that curse them. They love those who hurt their other children. For me, it is so hard to comprehend. Just my thoughts. Sorry if they are a bit jumbled.

So the reason why I didn`t write on Monday is because Monday morning we received a call that we needed to be in Tunja for interviews. Not gonna lie, I wasn`t too excited to spend my PDAY in a bus feeling sick. However, we did as were told. The interview with President Andelin was good. He pretty much said, how are you and how is your family. The interview didn`t last longer than 6 minutes. Nothing too special. Then on Tuesday we had the Zone Leaders in Barbosa for intercambios with Elder Galleguillos and Elder Carriel. Cool stuff.

Elder Quispe and I are good. Nothing is bad between us. He grinds my gears sometimes, but then again so do you all. Haha. We work well together and he is a great teacher. I am soaking up as much as his knowledge as I can. I can learn so much from him. 

Overall this week was another long and tough one. The sickness did not help and we had to drop a few more people. Right now we literally have two investigators, neither of which are progressing. No worries though. There will be a chapel here one day. I know it!

A Rough, Faith-Filled Week

Tanner's new companion, Elder Quispe, is on the left.

This week was really hard. Despite our best efforts to be obedient and work our hardest, things are just falling. No worries though...

One of the people Tanner has been working with has had some incredibly tragic stuff occur in her life and in particular this past week. Unfortunately, there was little Tanner could do to help. Due to the sensitive nature of her life story, I have chosen to exclude it from the blog, but I will include Tanner’s reaction.

We instantly began to fast for her. My heart was literally broken for her. I do not know what else to say.

Although we never have problems with mosquitoes, there is a new rule in the mission. You can probably guess what it is.
We had a killer lesson with Valentina this week. The President of the Branch was there and for the first time he did a great job. She was a no show in church. It has gotten to the point that we will have to stop teaching her. I love Valentina so much. I have worked with her for three transfers. However, if people do not want to change, I cannot drag them to Christ. It must be their desire. I hope that one day she will regain the desire to come unto Christ.

 Also, Juan Carlos pretty much told us that we were wasting our time with him. I do not know what brought this change of heart, but it was a killer.

So we literally will be stopping work with three best investigators. I do not know how to write my feelings about this.

Watch tan
Elder Quispe and I are great. He is from Peru and has only been a member for 1 year before his mission. He is 8 months in the mission and is short, a little nerdy, but great. I am learning more from him than I did during my two transfers with Elder Ramirez. I really like Elder Quispe. His knowledge of the scriptures and doctrine is outstanding. I am trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

 So I ate chicken feet this week. We did some service for an investigator of Elder Galleguillos and Elder Carriel. She served us soup with chicken feet. You pretty much slurp up the entire foot, suck off all the skin and cartilage and the tiny bit of meat, then spit out the tiny bones. Good taste, gross texture. Cool.

Emma, Colombia is Colombia. Not Columbia.

Also, there is no Thanksgiving here, but Christmas is huge here. There have been trees up with lights for over a month now. The people here are more crazy about Christmas than Chelsey is!!

I also have been super sick as of yesterday. During the night time I just got hit by a wave of freezing cold. My body ached, and aches. That night I could not sleep as I wrestled with a fever and waves of diarrhea and vomiting. I was so cold but sweating like a pig. I did not sleep very much. Today I feel slightly better, mostly due to the drugs in my body. However, I am still super sick as I write this.  Whatever though.

So overall this week was super hard, both physically and emotionally. We have so much work to do. We need to find more people to teach. This week will be a good one. I know it.

Cockroaches in Your Shoes

 As I told you last Monday, I am officially in my 3rd transfer in the field. I am in Barbosa again for another transfer. Elder Galleguillos is still here, Elder Carriel is still here, and I received a new companion, Elder Quispe. Elder Quispe has only 2 more transfers in the mission than I do. He is from Peru, short, kinda nerdy, but cool. He has served in Bucaramanga and in Bogotà. Elder Ramirez actually got sent to replace Elder Quispe in Bogotà. Elder Quispe is a good missionary. He is 19 as well and has only been a member of the church for 2 years. He knows the scriptures well, and I can learn a lot from him.

 He is definitely very different than Elder Ramirez. So far my only problem with him is that he is very slow. It drives me nuts. No worries though, I am the problem, not him. No problems so far between us. I think that we will be a dynamic teaching team here in Barbosa 1.

Our zone of 12 missionaries, 4 in Barbosa and 8 in Tunja got lowered to 10. There now are only 6 missionaries in Tunja, two of which are sisters. I do not know why there was a reduction, but just thought I would pass that on.

Despite this week being really disappointing, we did make some promising progress with Carolina. As I think I have told you already, Carolinaa is 17 living with her 18 year old boyfriend. Her family is not in Barbosa, and to be totally honest I am not sure why she is here. I like to think that she is here to meet us. Anyway, we had two really great lessons with her. She has a strong Christian background, as all Colombians do and is quite intelligent.

From Tanner's English Class
 We had to talk a little bit "hard" with her this week. She has a desire to be baptized, so I did what was needed and said that in order to comply with the Law of Chastity, you need to either marry or live separately from your boyfriend. People always say they do not enjoy talking "hard" to people, but I do not mind it. The hard things are what bless people the most. She took my charge well and is in the process of finding a new residence. It is small miracles like this that push me through the hardships. She attended sacrament meeting this week too. I have faith in her and I hope she has faith in us, but more importantly, in the truth of this church.

 We were looking to have an excellent week until Saturday and Sunday when we literally got dropped at every appointment. It was beyond frustrating. It is so hard to work so hard for someone and have them not want your help. It is all good though. We just had a few bad days. No worries.

We had a super powerful lesson with Valentina this week, then no show. Another huge disappointment. It is all good though.

 Elder Quispe and I spent a lot of time finding and contacting because Elder Ramirez wasn`t the "contacting" type and didn`t really enjoy working too hard. We spend many hours going door to door. Honestly, I do not mind it. Some missionaries hate it, but it is whatever. I like it. Hopefully our efforts bring out some promising new investigators from the wood work.

 My health has been fine this week. No worries. Knock on wood. Gross story though, I put on my shoe right before personal study, at 8:00. At 8:30 I got up to go to the bathroom and felt something in my shoe. I tore off my shoe to find a huge cockroach on my toes. Extremely gross considering I had been wearing the shoes for 30 minutes. Gross.

There is a rumor going around the mission that in 2015 Bogotà Norte will be receiving Gringas. I personally think it is bogus. They do not let gringos be together, ever, because it is so dangerous. How do they expect to bring in white sisters? Crazy. Don`t worry mom, Barbosa is super tranquillo. When I get transferred to Bogotà or Bucaramanga, kick up the prayers a little bit more. haha.