Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tanner Considers Moving to Bucaramanga Post Mission Life - and Other Adventures

 This week got off to a crazy start. As I told you, Elder Gonzales left for Suba Bogota. Due to difficulties in travel, my companion did not arrive until Wednesday at 2 AM. I hate not getting my sleep.....

I spent Tuesday with Elder Mamanchurra and Elder Mendenhall in Diamante II. It was a good day.

Wednesday things went back to normal. Elder Laura is from Peru. He is a cool Elder. I like him. Right now he just needs to improve on his authority. That sounds weird, but we just can´t get pushed around by other Elders. He is good though and like me and is willing to do the work in the good ways. No problems with him.

Xiomara and Tatiana were not baptized last week. They should be baptized this week on Friday. We are still trying to sort out some details, but they are good. A ton a stupid little things are happening in their lives right now. Pray that all will go well and that we will not have any substantial problems. They are really good people that need what we already have.

Andrea and Sandra continue to progress. They are good to go with baptism and such, just the papers aka divorce and marriage are getting in the way. We are trying to get them to do them as fast as possible, but you cannot drag people. We have had some great lessons with some great hidden messages to get them going. They just need to do it. Really great though and they make really good food.

We had a cool opportunity this week. A sister from Diamante, a sister that I knew very well, passed away from cancer this week. I had the opportunity to attend part of the funeral. The good part of all of this is that the stake patriarch contacted one of the people that works for the funeral service company. We had a really good lesson with him and he seems really interested. I really hope to be able to help with Alvaro´s spiritual progress.

Today we did nothing for preparation day. I have honestly been so tired these last few days. All we did was buy pizza, drink pop, and sleep. It was amazing. Then I went wild on my bathroom. It was getting pretty gross. It is clean now though.

I would easily be able to live here in Bucaramanga one day with my future family. It is sick here.

Tomorrow we will interchanges with the assistants and then Wednesday we will have interviews with President Laney. Should be cool.

What I am doing is truly the work of the Lord. It really is difficult. Anyone that thinks that it isn´t has not served a mission. One thing that I know is that the Lord knows his sheep, especially his missionaries. I like to think that we always are working in a threesome. Always remember that you cannot please everyone in the world, so please the people that count. Love you all very much. Always choose the right. Choose the right to get the blessings and choose the right to avoid negative consequences. That is what I try to do.

General Conference and Transfers

This letter is going to have to be short and sent late. Transfers were today and things are crazy.
Elder Gonzales left to be a zone leader in the zone Suba in Bogota. He was honestly a great companion. I was wishing to have him with me for another transfer, but the Lord called him away. I was bummed, but I am at least glad to have served with him. Both he and I learned a lot.

I will be receiving Elder Laura. He is from Peru and will be my new companion. I knew him when I was in Yopal. He is cool and I am looking forward to being his comp. We have a lot to do in the next 3 to 4.5 months that we will have together. He has 2 weeks more than I do in the mission.

The zone experienced not too many transfers, and I think all of them were in our favor. We received 3 good Elders into 3 struggling areas. I hope that they can get things going. I am now Zone Leader 1. It is wild.

General Conference was obviously excellent. We were able to watch it in English without malfunction. It was a great spiritual experience. Mom I thought of you when Elder Holland spoke.

I love the Lord. This is His church. Salvation is not free. We must fight for it. I know that it will all be worth it.

Tanner's Tact

Unfortunately we did not have the baptism of Tatiana and Xiomara. Everything went well in the preparation and such. Everything was good to go until Xiomara had to travel to a city called Pamplona for something with work. Long story short, she still isn’t back yet. It was a bit stressful and frustrating, but things happen. The worst thing is that this week is General Conference, so usually there are not any baptisms scheduled. We are gonna try and get approval and such to do it, but it is gonna be sticky. They are good though.

This week I had the opportunity to interview a baptismal candidate which required much care. I thought that I nailed it and did an excellent job handling the situation despite the circumstances. It turned out really well and she got baptized the next day. I was just real glad to have been led by the spirit to know how the handle the situation with care and much love.

This week was really tiring as we had to handle emergency transfers, interchanges, etc. I was super tired. It is all good though. I was glad to hit the sack every night. However, the time just goes by so fast.

This week we also spent a lot of time contacting. Hopefully our efforts will bring fruits. 

I am sorry that my letter is real short. Things are crazy here. Time goes by so fast.

Divorce and Belief in Colombia - Tanner's Take

Things are good with the investigators. The Gonzalez family is doing well. We had a bit of a frank chat with them in order to have more lessons with them. It went really well and they are excited for their baptism this upcoming Saturday. It should be great. Carlos, the son of 18 years, will not be baptized this week because he lacks many of the missionary lessons. Plus, he has a special university class for the next 3 weeks that occupies his Sundays. If all works out well, he will be baptized in October. The baptism of Tatiana and Xiomara will take place at 5PM Colombia time on Saturday. 
This week also went well with Andrea and her daughter Sandra. They are both super excited and have all the necessary elements to join the church and progress. Andrea works in the food business, so this week we had a multi-zone conference and we contracted with her to make the food for 45 people. It was good food, she made good money, and she was super happy. Alexander, the man that she is living with, is super great and has a strong testimony. They are working on their papers. Papers to get divorced here in Colombia can be sticky. If you have money, especially a lot of money, not problem at all, but it can delay a long time if you lack the cash. They are not that poor though. Marriage can be fairly easy. There is a member of the church that works in a Notary who helps with these types of things. We will see how they go down.

 This week we did 3 interchanges. 2 with district leaders, and 1 with the assistants. I had the opportunity to go back to my old area in Diamante II and see a few people that still love me. I was especially happy to see Sandra from my old area and her family. They are a family that is still marginally active, but they love me so much. I was super happy to see them.

The other interchanges were ok, though nothing too special. The Assistants are good.

Intercambios. I got to see Sandra and her kids from Diamante again. I love them so much.

The multi-zone conference that was held was ok. Honestly it was not that good because President and the Assistants taught literally the exactly same thing that they already had us teach during our individual zone meetings. I think that some of the ideas that the Assistants have are not good ones. It’s all good though.

To answer Dad`s question. Everyone here has beliefs. I have met less than 10 atheists here in Colombia. Almost everyone is super devoted to their church or is convinced that all churches worship the same god, so then there is no need to associate oneself with a church. It is great that the Colombian people are a faith driven people, but they don't usually want to search for greater understanding of what God might want for them.  

Today we had a zone activity. Elder Gonzales and I planned to contract a bus to take us to this tourist place about an hour outside of Bucaramanga. It was cool with great sites, but not that cool. I can’t send the photos that I took. Sorry.

Creative Plumbing, Unpleasant Zone Leader Responsibilities, and Lots of Fun Teaching Opportunities

This week was a good one. It was nuts and went by too fast, but a good one.

Things are going well on the investigator side. We are not teaching a ton of people, but almost all the people we are teaching have baptismal dates. We went off this week taking out dates. It was good.

The Family Gonzalez is good. They have their baptismal date for this upcoming Saturday, but I think we are gonna bump it until the 26th. They are progressing well and all, but it is just hard to have lessons with them. We usually only get one or maybe two in a week. They lack a few lessons and I think that we are just gonna play it safe and have the baptism on the 26th. We will see though. I think that the baptisms will be with the Mom, Xiomara, and the daughter, Tatiana. Carlos is good and all, but he is even more behind on the lessons and will not be able to attend the upcoming weeks because of a class for university. He will be baptized sometime in October. They are good and really like us.

Arelis and Brayan continue to somewhat progress. They receive us, listen to us, and say yes to all our questions. The problem is that I do not think they are fully grasping what we are teaching. When people always say Si Señor to every question, to me it seems like they are not listening. However, they came to all three hours of church this week. We will see what happens.

We are also seeing progress in a women named Andrea and her daughter Sandra. They are living with an inactive member who is separated from his wife and kids and now lives with Andrea and Sandra. They are super cool and they are all trying to come back to the church. Obviously, Alexander has to be divorced and then married with Andrea until she can get baptized, but they really want it. We have a baptismal date for the 24th of October with them. There is a lot of paperwork to be done, but they are progressing well.

We are also teaching the uncle of a recent convert. The man`s name is Jorge. He is an old guy that is honestly a bit strange (doesn’t leave the house, doesn’t have too many friends, etc.). The uncle introduced us to him and we have been seeing some progress. He has come to church, but he leaves for a 10 day trip to Sogamoso to visit somebody. So that throws a wretch in the work. He is good though. We will see how he progresses.

Elder Gonzales and I are well. No problems. The skin on my feet is real weird. It doesn't hurt or burn or itch, just feels real weird.

Also, dad you would be proud. My toilet was broken so today I went plumber on it and fixed it. It is definitely jimmy rigged, but it works much better. I was proud of myself.

This week went by fast because of the Zone meeting and 2 interchanges. The zone meeting went well and we trained the Elders accordingly. We then did an interchange per the request of Pres Laney with a companionship that is really struggling. They are in an area and the area has nothing going for them. They are not working and are not happy with each other. I went with the worse of the two and tried to buoy him up and get him working. We had a good day. However, things got out of hand the next day. After the interchange with the problematic companionship, we immediately did interchanges with another companionship. This companionship is fine, but at 5 PM; we get a call that one of the Elders from the bad companionship had separated from his comp. So we had to go all crazy to get the Elder. He just left his comp and went back to the house. I arrived, without Elder Gonalez because he was with the other comp, and we had to open the door because the Elder wouldn’t open it. I was very frustrated to be honest. He told me that he wanted to go home. We talked him down and had him call President. Nothing else happened, just President asked us to watch them with a close eye. It felt like I was babysitting children. Ridiculous.

Also, the Wednesday of the Zone meeting we had emergency transfers in an area, so we had to pick up a new Elder from the bus terminal at 5 in the morning. So pretty much the first night I slept little, then the next two nights I didn`t sleep in my own bed. It was fine, just a pain.

Also, sleeping in others people’s beds is not difficult. At first I thought it was weird, but now it is whatever. People should wash their sheets more often.....

I think one thing that I have improved on as a missionary is trying to comply with Christ`s two most important commandments. They are in the order given for a reason. I am trying to become a better servant of the Lord, trying to put him and his desires, above mine and those of other missionaries or people. I am not perfect, obviously, but I am more and more fearless when it comes to saying what needs to be said when it needs to be said to the people that need to hear it. Not everyone is gonna like the truth, and I have just become more accepting of that fact. You can`t please everyone, so what I try to do is please the Lord. I still have a long ways to go, let me assure you.

About 18 years ago, the guerilla forces planted a bomb in the chapel that I used to attend in Diamante here in Bucaramanga. They blew it up, but the bomb only hurt a small section of the chapel. Apparently the bomb was huge. Anyways, some drunk in the street came up to me and whispered in my ear, "remember what happened 20 years ago? Watch out" and then laughed a very cruel laugh. He then began to call me all sorts of vulgar language. It was an interesting experience. I love Colombia and especially Bucaramanga.

Tanner Goes to the Temple and Meets the Gonzalez Family

The Gonzalez family continues to progress. We were unable to have many lessons with them this week because they have a tight schedule, but all went well at church this Sunday. The mother got up in testimony meeting and expressed her feelings about the church. It was cool. She said how she felt comfortable and good in the church and how the Elders are great. It was cool to see her do that. Her name is Xiomara, then the son Carlos, and then the daughter Tatiana. The dad is a strict Pentecostal, but is cool and ok that they are preparing to be baptized. The son, Carlos, has the most struggles of all. He is pretty much an ex-stoner. However, his mom desperately wants him to make positive changes in his life, etc. We will see how they continue to progress.

 Diego Fernando is good. I guess that my comp and his previous comp didn`t explain the Law of Chastity real well with him because he moved back in with his girlfriend. They are planning on getting married, but you know how it is. He is good though and happy.

This week several people accepted our invitation to learn about Jesus Christ and his gospel.  I hope they all progress.

We are seeing some cool progress with a couple called Arelis and Brayan. They are cool and have two kids together that are real cute. One is 1 and the other is 2. The kids are challenging, but cool none the less. They need to get married before they can get baptized, but we have hope.

Every month in Bogota Norte the zone leaders and AP and president get together for a big meeting called Consilio. Anyways, Wednesday afternoon we flew, yes in an airplane, to Bogota. The trip is less than 40 minutes. We arrived in the nighttime and ate pizza with other Elders. Then on Thursday the big meeting began. A lot of training, rules, etc. that we receive and then we are to later train our zone. It was cool and some good things were taught. However, then we had to travel back to Bucaramanga with all the materials, books, packages, that our zone needed. We obviously traveled back in bus. It was lovely...... 10 hours. Didn`t help that I was very sick to my stomach... Cool experience and there will definitely be more concilios.

Yesterday, Sunday, for some reason we went off on blessings. It seemed like everyone was calling us. We blessed a bunch of people. We even went to the hospital and blessed a guy that was losing circulation in his foot, so the foot literally is falling apart. It was not pretty.

Elder Gonzales is good. I like him and we get along well. He is chill, teaches well, works sufficiently hard, etc. No problems so far.

While in Bogotà, I had the chance to go to the temple. It has been over a year since the last time I entered. It was real good.

Bienvenida a Cañaveral!

 This week passed by so fast. Things are crazy and there is a bunch of small and big extra things that we have to do as Zone Leaders. Planning out the calendar is weird. There are literally hardly any days without something special happening. We have a lot of time taken out of our own working area. Lots of exchanges, meetings, trips to Bogotà, inspections, trainings, etc. Fun stuff.

I do not have too much information on the investigators in this area. We did have a baptism this week though. His name is Diego Fernando. He is a man of 40 years who is trying to become a better person. He has truly seen the effects of the Atonement in his life. The baptismal service was sweet and simple. The confirmation went well. All is good with him. He still needs help with a lot of things, but that is what we are here for.

A little about the area. The area is called Cañaveral. There is only our companionship in this ward. We share a building with the Bucarica ward. The chapel is pretty small, so on Sundays it is a bit crowded. Nonetheless, the ward seems cool and the members seem good. Part of our area is very wealthy, the wealthiest part of Bucaramanga, but we usually do not work in that area because we do not have people to teach there. The area is generally just normal people on the poorer side. There are some dangerous parts of the area, but we stay safe.

 We have three people who want to be baptized for the 19th of September. They are a family, mom and two kids, who are good prepared for the Lord. We met with them today and they are excited. I had the opportunity to bear my testimony to them and it was a good lesson. We just need to focus more on the son. He has a lot of problems he needs to work on.

One thing that I have been meaning to write is that here in Colombia the youth are really lost. It is rough to say the least for the youth here. There are so many fatherless families and pregnant girls of 14 to 16 years old. It is sad. It is even worse in Aguazul. The attraction of drugs, girls, money, etc. is just so strong.

The zone is good. There are some really strong companionships and there are some companionships that have a lot of room for improvement. The good thing is that the somewhat lacking missionaries are ending their missions soon so they won`t hurt the work for that much longer. I like the zone and I hope they like me. But whatever.

Dad and Mom, congratulations with 32 years. That is a bunch of years. We are lucky as your children to have firm parents.

Update on the apartment. Our apartment is the only apartment with hot water. That said, you have to jimmy rig the heater with fire and then you barely get a minute of semi warm water. Honestly I have given up trying. I am used to the cold water by now after not having a hot shower for almost 10 months so it isn’t bad anymore. I shower fast too. That will be good for dad. Also, the apartment is real old despite being real big. It is old, ugly, and unclean. Everything is broken. My toilet doesn’t work. So I have to flush stuff with a bucket of water. Not the biggest deal in the world, just annoying. I usually just flush it once a day at night. I also spent a bunch of time this week trying to get some things organized. The amount of junk, old books, pamphlets, cards, etc. was amazing. We literally, LITERALLY, have roughly 5000 pamphlets of the lessons. It is absurd. I threw out so much stuff today. Young Women’s manuals from the 1970s, damaged books, etc. So much junk. The house literally has not been thoroughly cleaned in years. I will do my part. But the house is good though. I like it. A lot of space for activities. Just a lot of crap and disorder.

Last thing. The last week in Aguazul I was able to bless the son of Paola, another time. Literally the same thing happened. The spirit was strong and when we left, the fever left with us. It was sacred.

Tanner Just Got Transferred from Aguazul, And He's Pretty Sad About It

This picture does not do an adequate job of portraying how gross it is....
 Although it will be super hard to leave Aguazul, I have been called back to Bucaramanga to be the zone leader there. It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, zone of the mission. I will be serving in a area called Canaveral. Despite being super bummed to leave my beloved Aguazul, I am excited to go back to my same zone and be the zone leader. I look forward to seeing some of the people super special that I left behind in Bucaramanga. 

I am writing this at 240 and have to travel to Yopal in a few minutes. Then from Yopal I take a bus to Duitama, a 5 hour ride, then a bus from Duitama to Bucaramanga, a 10-11 hour ride. Should be good.

I will be serving with Elder Gonzalez from Bolivia. I hope he is good.

Elder Pinoargote will stay and receive a comp. Elder Pinoargote is really great. I will miss him.

I will really miss Aguazul. It is real special here. It was tough saying goodbye to many people. It is nice to know that I am loved here. I really love them.

I am sorry, but I do not have time to write a large letter this week. I am here in Bucaramanga after having a heck of ride to get here. I will update you all in a short manner.

Zone Meeting in Bogota
First of all, when I received the call to leave Aguazul, to be honest I was real bummed. I love Aguaul so much. The work in Aguazul is not easy. With only two families and a group of only 10 strong members, it is rough. However, I fell in love with the branch, the investigators, the people, everything. I so desperately want to go back. With the last hour that we had there, we borrowed some bikes from a member of the church (which is against the rules, by the way, and I am sorry) and I visited as many people as I could. It was really tough to say goodbye to some people, like President Cortez, and especially Alba and Melina. They have a special place in my heart. I will miss them so very much.

Plus, Alba was officially reactivated this week. 

Despite the desire to stay, I had to leave. I was to travel to Yopal and then leave with Elder Palma for Duitama. The ride from Yopal to Duitama is normally 5 hours, but it took us 6. The road was horrible. In the bus we bottomed out many times. I do not get sick easily, but I was sick on that bus. 

We arrived in Duitama that night at 11, expecting to get on a bus for Bucaramanga. However, the bus never arrived so we had to sleep in the zone leader’s house in Duitama for the night. It was so cool and what made it worse was the mattresses were literally wet. As you all know, I can sleep in any conditions, but that night was long, cold, wet, and smelly. 

Tuesday we left from Duitama for Bucaramanga. I was the trip leader and the ride went fine. It took about 10 hours in bus. We arrived and I went with my new companion, Elder Gonzalez from Bolivia, to our apartment. It is big, but old and gross. I will have to clean it.

This morning we had to wake up at 3 AM, after going to bed at midnight, to go to the terminal to pick up new missionaries. They look so lost. Needless to say I am tired.

I am looking forward to serving here in Cañaveral. Elder Gonzales seems chill and hopefully we can get some big work done. I will probably be here for the next six months, but who knows. 

I will be a zone leader with Elder Gonzales. There are 22 other missionaries here in the zone Bucaramanga. We gotta whip some of them into shape. I look forward to helping them to become better, and learning from them. It will be wild.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Melina's Baptism!


I  was a little bit bummed when I opened up my inbox and did not find a picture of baby Walter. No worries though. I am very excited. I am calling that he will pop out on Thursday. This week was a real good one. I will get started.

This started off normal. We had to travel to Bogotá Tuesday night for a zone conference Wednesday morning. It was fine. I enjoy traveling to Bogotá every once in a while, but not every other week. The trip was fine and the training was ok. When we were traveling back it was pouring rain and some of the road got washed away. It was nuts, but when got home fine.

So this week the main focus was on Melina. We met every day in the night time and did the final preparations for the baptism. She was prepared for the interview and passed it with ease. Despite being timid around other people, she actually is pretty smart and understands and remembers what we teach. Obviously, she is not at all timid around us, but sometimes she just is a bit nervous to speak up when she knows the answers more than long time members. She is great.

Thursday and Friday we spent a lot of time cleaning the baptismal font. It is outside of the building, it gets dirty real fast with the dust, bugs, and mice. We had some trouble, but after a lot of effort and stratigery (Bush Word), we got it done. It was really clean for Saturday night.

 The baptismal service was at 6 PM Saturday night. It went real well. People arrived on time. Sufficient people arrived on time. One of Alba´s less active sisters came witch was a miracle. It was sweet and simple. It went well and I plunged her real deep

Melina asked me to baptize her. She shared her testimony afterwards. That was my favorite part. She didn´t say much, but the best part was when she said, "I can feel that this is what God wants for me." That moment was one of the happiest moments of my life.

I was able to share my testimony afterwards and others as well. Overall it was great. Simple, small, and spiritual. That night I bought hamburgers for Melina, Alba, Felipe, Pinoragtoe and myself. We had a little celebration.

 As I have said before, I put more time, studying, effort, fasting, and care with Melina than any other baptisms that I have been blessed to participate in. It was oh so worth it. She is so special and I am just so glad that we had the opportunity to teach and baptize her. Saturday´s service really was one of the best moments of my life. My joy was immeasurable. The confirmation also went well. President Cortez did it. All went well.

Alba had to leave in the second hour this Sunday because the little tenacious son Felipe, who by the way is the biggest pain, fell in a huge puddle completely dirtying himself. It was funny yet frustrating at the same time.

We also had some great experiences with Santiago, the crazy man. (One thing that amazes me is that as missionaries, we have the power and authority to promise blessings. Obviously, one must do so with utmost care, but I know that I can promise blessings to people and they will come through.) After finding work that includes Sunday´s, I challenged him to talk to his boss and ask for Sundays off, promising that if he did, he would receive. (I actually did the same with Melina.) Long story short, he was at church this Sunday for all 3 hours. It was great. Plus, that night we had a great lesson with him. We touched a lot of things, but the greatest of all was when we somehow got on the topic of baptisms for the dead. He was caught. The best part was when I told him to image his happiness being baptized for himself, but then to image baptizing himself for people that can´t help themselves. It was the most spiritual lesson that we have had with him so far. I really hope to see him one day in white.

Next Monday the transfer cycle ends. We will see what happens. I hope to stay here in Aguazul with Elder Pinoargote. We will see. I gotta run. Not much time to write more. Sorry. I love you all. Send a lot of info and pictures of baby Walt.

Tanner's Mission Goals

So Melina and Alba continue to do well. We are at the point where we teach them daily. There was a little bump in the road as Tatiana found work in a tienda across the street from their "house." A tienda is a small place to buy food and assorted items. She works a ton and had the problem of working on Sundays. We had a really great spiritual lesson with her where I just laid it out to her of what God expects in terms of this commandment. I fasted the next day so that she could talk with the owner and be able to come to church. Everything worked out in the end.

 We also had a fun experience with her father the other night. Her father does not live with them and really is not a part of her life. But he passes by their house whenever he is drunk. President Cortez, branch president, went to visit Alba and Melina. We passed by and found the dad super drunk trying to lecture President Cortez and such. He was just being a stupid drunk. It was clear that when we arrived, President Cortez felt really relieved. I took control of the situation so that the President and his wife could get out of there. I think that I have a good ability to take control of situations like that when he was being all angry and swearing and such. He babbled on and on. However, at one point he spanked Alba super hard when she was walking by. I got really angry and grabbed him by the shoulder and told him to never, ever do that again. I have never been so close to hitting someone on my entire mission. Anyways, nothing happened. I just was angry. Afterwards I proceeded to take off his head. He eventually left. I just won´t sit there and watch him do what he does. Alba and Melina don´t deserve that at all. I love them too much to let that happen.

 I have seen the power of fasting. Fasting is not easy, especially as a hot weather missionary. It is tough. However, it works. I fast more than normal. I just find that I need the blessings more than normal. When in doubt, fast. I am so excited for Saturday. I am gonna fast Friday so that all can go well.

Friday we did a lot of service in the chapel. We, and a few others, worked on doing a deep clean. It was good. We also had a going away activity for Jessica Peña. She is leaving to serve in Costa Rica in a week. Aguazul has barely 25 truly active members, yet in a month we will have 4 in the mission field. I made cookies for the party. The members worship them.

We also had the opportunity to go to Cupíagua this week. A member lives there and he invited us for lunch. Cupíagua is a tiny town 30 minutes into the mountains from Aguazul. It is a lot more cool, temperature wise, and it was good to see the beautiful mountains. However, whenever we go into the mountains my senses go up. It is just more dangerous outside of the city, especially in the mountains. Nothing happened though.

Also, I think that yall give me too much praise. I am no knight in shining armor. I am just a normal missionary trying to do what the Lord would want.

Chelsey asked me what some of my goals are. I don´t have a ton, because I like to keep things simple. I have three. I think that I am a lot like Peter in a small sense. When Christ askes Peter if he loves him is one of my favorite parts of the Bible. I just want to be able to answer for myself if I really love Christ. Also, I want everyone that I meet to know that I just love them despite who they are. It is tough sometimes. The last, is just to be a light to the world. In short, love Christ, love the people, and be a light. Short and simple.

The last thing. I have observed the principle that if we apply ourselves 10 percent, we receive the blessings of 50 percent. The Lord wants, and is obligated, to bless us if we do what he asks. If we just try, even if just a little, he will and must bless us. The covenants we make, the commandments, everything is in our favor. Sometimes we just are too blind to see it that way.

Alba's History and a New Assignment

Milena and Alba continue to progress very well. Just to clarify, Alba is an inactive member who is being reactivated, not baptized. Milenca is the fecha bautismal. They are good and continue to be better and better. Mom asked why can´t Alba walk. She can walk, but not well at all. After she gave birth to her 4th child, Felipe, she had problems with the bone that is huge and in your hip region. I forget its name. It is really important I just can´t remember how to say it in English. Anyways, she can´t walk very well for that reason. So she relies heavily on a very old bike to get her to work and such. One of her kids, Hermanita Numero 1 as I like to say, took it to practice and during practice it got stolen. This is a big problem because Alba can´t get herself to work. Anyways, to get them to church, one of the 3 members with a car picked them up. It was good. They both are good on timing and such for the 15th. All is well with them. Knock on wood.

Paola is good. She continues to receive dreams and such, but is having a hard time understanding what she needs to do. It is a bit frustrating, but she is special and we are letting her go. She and her kids and her sister and the sister´s kids came to church. This week. More on that later....

 We have seen some real progress and desire in another investigator called Alberto. He is the son of Sandra, the sister of Paola. He is very different than his mother and has already attended church many times. He has expressed to us the desire to be baptized. Honestly, the first time he told me I didn´t take him seriously. A lot of people say that but when it comes to actually doing it and making the life changes necessary when creating that covenant relationship with God,... yea no. I told him very frankly that if this is what he wants to do, he needs to put it above all other things. He came to church early this week and although we do not have a fecha with him, I hope we will be able to take one out this week. From what I remember he has 15 years. Generally I do not enjoy teaching adolescents, so when I do, I put myself real serious and play a lot more “hard ball.” That sounds really weird; I am just trying to say that when I teach youth, I make sure that they know I am not going to waste my time goofing around. We will see what happens this week. The ward needs more active youth.

President Gomez, the first counselor of President Laney, came to Agauzul the other week and asked us to visit every single member in the ward every month. That is gonna take some time. We are just going to have to be even more smart with planning.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Branch Kindness and a Santiago

Bandeja Paisa
 This week was a good one. I find that every week in the mission has many extremely frustrating moments, but the simple joyful moments make the frustrating moments unimportant.

This week was good and finally we had a full work week. We were able to teach a good amount of lessons and complete some goals we had been working for.

We were able to get a little bit of progress out of Paola this week. She has told us that she believes the Book of Mormon to be true, but the whole baptism thing is iffy.

 We saw good progress with Alba and Milena this week. Through the branch council, we were able to obtain two outfits for Milena. She has expressed to us, the missionaries, that sometimes she feels embarrassed to go to the chapel without something more "elegant" to wear. We got it done and now she has two brand now outfits. The people don´t have a lot of money to give here, but when minds are put together, we were able to get it done. The two outfits are very good. They both attended church this week without problems. They are doing well. I think, and pray, that they will both reach their goal of the 15th. I am looking forward to that day.

 The new investigator of this week´s email will be Santiago. Santiago is 27, looks like he is 40, has the life´s experiences of an 80 man, but acts very immature sometimes. He moved into the house of a member with his 2 year old daughter. Let’s just say his life has been very different than the rest of us. He is really interesting, smart, dumb, intelligent, idiotic, and all at the same time.  He is honestly the strangest person I have ever met here in Colombia, and I assure you, I have met some really, really odd people. I have also heard some really, really good questions as a missionary; his, however, are the best. We have covered topics with him that I would never cover with other investigators, and maybe not even with members. He truly is one of a kind. His daughter is super adorable. She always hugs our legs. I cannot truly describe how different, yet cool, yet frustrating he is. However, he has attended church twice, and two of our ward activities. He is also turning 27 today. He loves us though and I really enjoy him as well.

 My companion didn´t have Chickiguña. He was just sick for a day. I honestly think it is a literal miracle that I have not gotten Dengue or Chickiguña. I do my part to not get bit, but sometimes it is just unstoppable. I am not scientist, but the probability of me not getting sick verses the immense amount of bites that I have received is literally a miracle.

I had the best idea today. We don´t do much on PDAY because there is nothing to do, so I started thinking about the best way to have a swimming like experience. I instantly thought of our tank. Every house in Colombia has a tank sink. Image a large box, like a moving box, but made out of concrete. Half of the top of the box is covered in a down sloping wash board and the other half of the top is open revealing an empty box like structure. These boxes are used to wash food, prepare food, wash dishes, clothes, etc. I used it as a soaking tub. I cleaned it with Clorox, filled it, and soaked. It was the best idea I have had in 13 months. This would be considered another cochino move. It was great though.

I hate animals.
Juan and Diana continue to be great, but aren’t progressing much. They did invite us to celebrate Juan´s birthday this week. One of Diana´s brother got super angry when we arrived and refused to shake our hand, leave his room, etc. A little bit immature if you ask me, considering he is 27. I will just say that out of all of us super calm, he looked dumb. It was funny. Cake was good too.
The Lord is obligated to bless us when we do what he commands, so just do it. It will be worthwhile. It is a promise.

Ate Cow Udder. It Was Surprisingly Good.

My little man Lucho. I bought him that hat and some candy for his second birthday. He was happy.
This week has been a good and frustrating one. It was really good. I came into the week ready to get a full week of work in as week one of this new transfer. Nope. Tuesday Elder Pinoargote woke up with symptoms of Chickiguña. He was feeling pretty sick, so we didn´t leave that day. It was real frustrating. Then Wednesday night we received a call that said that Friday we had to be in Bogotá for interviews... Another 16 hours of travel time.  So other than not having a normal week again, we were able to do some good.

Found in Yopul. Extremely expensive.
 We were also able to make some head way with Alba and Milena. They are both good people, just in a really tough situation. Milena accepted a baptismal fecha for the 15 of August and Alba received a date of rescue for the 15th as well. We will need to work really hard with them. One thing that is really hard with them is just feeling the spirit in their "house." The little boy, Felipe, and the 2 other younger sisters just do not know when to show respect. So the majority of our teaching will have to be done in others homes. The problem is that Alba can barely walk and there are not many other homes. This week they didn´t come to church because their friend got stabbed that very morning. All in all, I have faith that if we work hand in hand with them, we will see great progress.

 This week we had a great activity. Every single Thursday the missionaries put on either a Video Night or a Family Home Evening for the branch and investigators. This week we went all out. I finally made cookies for the event. They were not Mom’s cooks, but they were cooks nonetheless. Everyone liked them. Plus, it is a miracle that we have an oven. I have never seen an oven in Colombia until I arrived in our house in Aguazul. For the activity we a Night of the Brain. We talked about Agency, Thoughts, Intelligence, etc. Then we divided the group into 4 smaller teams and had a competition using 9 small mental games. Examples are finding how many squares are in a picture, how to remove match sticks to make more squares, how to fit 10 cows in 9 stalls, etc. It was really fun and the people loved it. I have never seen the members so animated. There was a little bit of bickering, but it was great. People left super happy and impressed with what we put on. It was a great activity.

Alba and Milena
Because of vacations, Diego still has work to do before he can receive the Aaronic Priesthood. He is a good kid and needs the church. Plus, his best friend is one of the only youth so that is a big help. He is making progress and we are happy to see that.

We had a cool experience with Paola this week. We have been practically begging her to pray about the church, Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, etc. She said that she was scared to because of the answer that she could receive. Anyways, she finally prayed and that night she had a dream where the missionaries, us, were looking for her, and she hid, but they came back again and found her. I do not proclaim to read dreams, so I will not attempt. However, she took that as an answer that the Book of Mormon is true. The latest compromise was to pray about baptism. We will see what happens.

I like in 2 Nephi 9 when it talks about the water of life. This same example is found in the Bible. I like to ask people if they are fully partaking of the water that Christ gives us, or are we just sipping.

Not sure if I mentioned this, but I ate cow udder. Surprisingly good. Sister Laney is a vegetarian. I feel bad for her. I was able to talk to her for a while and up to this point, she is having a bit of a hard time with the food. She was describing this soup called Ajiaco, which for the record is delicious, and was saying how bad it was. I just had to laugh because she is gonna be eating that for the next three years. I really love the food here. Is it the best food in the world? No. Is Indian food still better? Yes. But all in all I really do love it. They really use all of what the earth and animals give them.

Reflections Halfway into Tanner's Mission & Cow Intestines

Paola's Children
 This week was a fine one. We had the opportunity to meet the new President Laney and his wife. They both look excellent. Although a bit timid, they both look ready to do the work here in Bogotá Norte. President´s Spanish is pretty good, not wow. He will improve very fast. The same thing happened with President Andelin. Hermana Laney speaks literally nothing. She has a long way to go. I feel bad for her as this must feel so scary. They are literally arriving into a city and county where a ton of craziness is happening, and then they are in charge of 200 young men and women. They are great though. They love their family and love us. We will have interviews with him in the upcoming weeks. I only had 3 interviews with President Andelin, none of which were longer than 10 minutes. We had to travel to Bogotá for the meeting.... We arrived, had the 2 hour meeting, went to eat, and then got on the bus again to travel.....

 This week was good with the investigators. We are working closely with Juan and Diana. They are such good people. We were reading Alma 42 from the Book of Mormon with them and we (they and us) got carried into a discussion on families, the importance of family morals and values, etc. It was a great lesson. Unfortunately, they did not come to church this week. They are really great people. Definitely prepared.

We also had the opportunity to find a new family this week of Costeños, or the people of the Coast. The culture in Colombia varies greatly depending on where you are from. The coast has a much different culture then the llano, or the plains, where Aguazul is. The mom is alone with here 3 kids, 18 16 and 14. The kids are remarkably united. They play Dominoes together, the younger sister gets the older brothers to clean the house, they watch TV together, etc. They are just a really cool and united group. Unfortunately, the mom works all the time. It is really hard to find time with her. However, they are a great potential family.

 Also, we are seeing some great progress in a part member family. Alba, the mom, is a less active that we would visit one and a while. However, over these last few weeks things have begun to progress as she has become more open to us and ready to change. Also, her 14 year old daughter Milena was never baptized. They are a crazy group of God´s children, but really great. They both came to church this week which was a miracle. The daughter is enjoying learning for us and out of nowhere decided to read the Bible. She is currently in Genesis 30. It is funny.

I still think Elder Baez was my favorite companion so far. Elder Pinoargote is doing well. As mentioned before, he has some immature tendencies, but he is getting better. He is ready to do the work. His teachings are improving and his boldness is improving. One´s boldness is very important. Overall though, I really enjoy being his father (trainer) and he is a great kid (trainee).

 As can be seen from last week´s photos, on Monday we hiked up to the point of the mountain. It was a tough climb, but the views were worth it. Looking back at it, the climb itself wasn´t dangerous but the location was. Overall, it was really cool plus there was a cave that we went into. Bats.

Also, I saw that President Packer died. That is a real shame. I always liked him. When are we gonna know the new apostles????

One food item that I can explain. Here a common food is the "rellena." First image a real sausage. However, it is like this. They take the cow intestines and fill them with a mixture of rice, vegetables, and a little meat. Then they fill the whole tube of intestine with the mixture, then pour cow blood to fill it in. They then seal the intestine off in small 6 inch parts and then fry them and eat them. They are really good. I love them. However, they are dangerous to eat. Cool though.

To finish, it is weird to think that I have officially cleared the halfway mark. Wow. During this time, I have learned many, many things, both spiritual and temporal. However, the two things that I think I have learned the most are of maturity and humility. I know that sounds contradictory - one saying that they are mature and humble probably means that they are not, but just stay with me. One thing that really bothered me when I began the mission was comparing myself to others. Other´s teaching ability, speaking ability, investigators, area book, planner, obedience, etc. I feel like I felt like it was a competition. It really is not. I would get frustrated, obviously never at others, just in my head, when people would counsel me on how to get more new investigators or more lessons with members when I knew that my numbers were much higher than theirs. I would get frustrated when I knew that others, less hardworking, less obedient, less diligent, are baptizing great families, and I was without a single progressing investigator. Those things just didn´t sit right with me. Sometimes they still don´t. However, I have come to accept that the Lord is really the one in charge. We are his servants, but this is His work. It is not a competition; it is not a race. It is salvation. I have come to learn to do my best, to love others (missionaries and others alike), and to just learn to control my thoughts when it comes to expressing frustration with others. I am no master at it yet, but I have definitely learned to become better at that. 

Also, I would say that I am much more mature now than what I was. People often times tell me that I am a man of few words, but I just have realized that every word spoken is important, so it is easier to just cut down on the excess. I just don´t need to be dumb. Overall though, I am just becoming a better version of my previous self. I still feel like a hypocrite saying that I feel more humble and mature. Whatever. Those are two things that I have improved on.