Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Rodents Running onto Tanner's Lap

So things are going well here in Diamante II. We had a really solid week in terms of teaching numbers. Our zone is the zone with the highest numbers in the mission. I am not sure if our district is the highest district, but we have to be close. We are making some real nice progress with Felipe. Felipe is 16 and is a reference from one of the Alvarez twins. He is very receptive and is ready to learn. His progress with the Book of Mormon is solid and he is completing his commitments. He said that he really feels different when praying about the Book of Mormon and asking the Lord for a remission of his sins. He is a really good investigator. The one problem that could be occurring is that his interest may be more in the Alvarez twin and less in the church. We will need to be careful to make sure that he is acting upon his own free will and testimony, and not on a gesture to impress this girl. No worries though. We will keep it covered. 

 The bishop asked us the visit every single recent convert over the last two years this week. We have 46 2 year old new converts, only of which maybe 15 are active. This is clearly a sign that the ward needs to do a better job, AND that missionaries are baptizing when people are just not prepared. That is something that I never want to do. The goal isn’t just the baptism, it is the lifelong conversion. We were not able to visit all of them because I had already jammed our planner full with lessons, but we did a good job.

Elder Correa is really good. I enjoy being around him. He likes to work, but at a slower pace. He is constantly complaining that we walk too fast and he sweats too much. He really is a great teacher though. He knows a good amount. We are really good together.

 This week we should have had over 6 investigators at Sacrament Meeting. Because it was lightly drizzling, we only had 2. Plus, a good amount of members didn’t come. I couldn’t just help but just shake my head.

I have learned that people here, or people in general, need what we have. They need it more than anything else. However, they just do not understand what we have, or their need for it. They are too caught up in the world to recognize the giant hole that they have in their lives. We are filling those holes with the only thing that could fill it.

 My feet are fine. The fungus is not going away. I am going to try some new strategies this week. I have literally tried everything. I have rubbed toothpaste, deodorant, cologne, Listerine, sunscreen, and a whole bunch of other things seeing if they work. Yeahhhh no. They do not work. No worries though. It isn’t slowing the work.

Good story that mom will love: We were teaching Carlos. Carlos lives in a pit that is very poor. We were sitting on his sofa, mid lesson, talking about 1 Nephi 9 when a mouse crawls over my shoulder and onto my lap. Carlos runs over, grabs the mouse off of my lap and throws it at the wall, killing it instantly. It was great. I was amazed that the thing stayed on my lap when Carlos ran over. Mom would have loved it.

I am so grateful for Christ. I know that he is my savior. I know that he laughs and cries. I know that Jehovah is the pre-mortal Christ. Without him, I wouldn’t and couldn’t be here. I cannot image living without the knowledge that he is with me where ever I go. There is nothing more important in our lives than Him and our families.

Meet Elder Correa - Tanner's New Companion

So transfers were a bit nuts. In our ward there were two elders and two sisters. The sister`s area was closed and was filled in with 2 elders. Elder Brown and Elder Gonzales. It is nice having two more elders. 

Being the senior comp has been a bit challenging, but fine. Making all the calls, appointments, planning, etc. is tiring, but fine. Elder Correa and I both act as a team to really do the work here. We are doing good work if you ask me. 

 Elder Correa and I are well. Elder Correa is from Paraguay, 20 years old, has 4.5 months in the mission, speaks no English, obviously, and is large. Not fat, just large. He could have been a really good outside linebacker. He is fun to be around. Obviously this first week has been somewhat quiet as we are getting to know each other, but things are picking up. I do miss Elder Baez, but things are really good with Elder Correa too. I have no complaints as of now.

 The work here is good. Finally we can do the work how I want to do it. This week we had more lessons than any other week with Elder Baez. We found a new investigator who is really great, Felipe. He is in one of the photos in a Colombian jersey. He is progressing and we should have a new fecha bautismal if all goes well tonight and tomorrow.

We also have been trying to get the ball rolling with a few people stuck in a rut. At times it is necessary to talk frankly with people, but when done with love it is very effective. People just need to start acting and stop sitting. Laziness is so frustrating. We are doing well though. We are teaching with members and doing our best.

 One thing I have been working on is focusing less on numbers and more on people. You all know me, I want to have the highest numbers in the zone every week. I want to teach a lot of lessons every day. However, missionary work is more than just numbers. If we get 29 lessons in one week but people aren`t progressing, what have we really done? It has been a good opportunity to focus on this.

Quick note on the mission: Within the next 6 months over one eighth of the mission goes home. The mission will be super young at that point. Plus, there are not enough missionaries coming in to fill their spots. We will definitely be experiencing some crazy transfers coming up.

I have got to run. I love you all so much. There is no better feeling than leaving a lesson and not remembering what you said, only the feelings that you felt. That is when you know the spirit is working through you. 

Tanner Becomes Senior Companion

 So Elder Baez left to go to Bogotà. He is headed to be the zone leader in Granada. Good for him. He was really sad to leave. He really loves Bucaramanga. He even cried when saying good-bye to certain people. He did good work here.

 After spending the majority of the day in the bus terminal, my new companion, Elder Correa, arrived at midnight. He is from Paraguay, has 4 and a half months in the mission, and is coming from Chia in Bogotà. In the fifteen hours that we have been together he seems pretty chill.

 When I got the news that I would be the senior companion I was a bit shocked. I wasn`t expecting that. It will be pretty tough considering that I still do not know the area or ward that well, and I have to lead.  Plus we have close to nothing right now. However, it will be good. This transfer will be good because we can finally do the work how I want to do it. That should be a good part about it. I will keep you filled in.

 We successfully completed the reactivation of Felipe and Alberto this week. We put in some solid lessons and they did everything on their part. They will still need visits, but they are much stronger than where they were. It has been good to really work with them.

As to investigators, we have no baptismal dates as of now. I sent a picture of Maria. She has been ready to be baptized for months, yet she needs to be divorced and then marry the person she is living with. She has been paying tithing for months and is practically a member. Hopefully we can get all the other stuff settled so that she can be baptized.

 Also, I have faith in a few people we have found recently. It should be a somewhat slow week but good nonetheless.

We were walking home and suddenly heard three large "splats" right by us. When we looked at what it was, it was egg. Then they started raining down. I guess someone found it funny to throw a bunch of eggs from a high rise at us. We didn`t get hit. Funny story.

 We were also walking in the street when the police stopped this "ñero" to check him. This kid was no more than 14 and probably Emma’s height. The police pulled a huge knife out of his pants. All the ñeros carry knifes, but they are typically small. This was literally a mini machete. Only in Colombia.

 We had intercambios with Elder Castillo, the zone leader this week. It was fun to work in a trio for a day. He is cool and we had fun.

Also, we witnessed a police raid this week. That was cool.

Tanner Ate an Avocado! And Mushrooms! And Tomatoes! Oh My!

As for the investigators, things took a bit of a hit this week. After baptizing Eugenia and Paula, our investigator pool drops off.

The Young Single Adults are starting a program with weekly activities to strengthen the work of salvation here in Bucaramanga. I am excited for the fruits of their, and our, work. It should be great. We will have to see.

The twins in the picture are a set of twins that were baptized almost 2 years ago. One of them leaves for a mission in 10 days so she is super helpful with the work. Plus, they and the entire family love the missionaries. She will be an excellent missionary in Argentina.  
The lessons with recent converts and less active members are always solid. Part of the Restrepo family is on the brink of becoming active in the church again. Plus, Eugenia and Paula are doing great. I honestly think that if we stopped visiting them they would be totally fine. We obviously will not though.

 My foot fungus is definitely decreasing. I called Sister Andelin and she told me to buy some specific cream. It is helping. In a few weeks I should have no problems. My health has been fine.

This week I successfully ate Avocado. Not Guacamolee, Avocado. It was fine. I also ate tomato, not the sauce, tomato. It was not the best, but not horrible. I also ate mushroom. It wasn´t bad either.

 Funny Story: We had to travel to a different part of Bucaramanga for a meeting with President Andelin. The meeting went fine. We had to travel home on Metrolinea, the bus/train service, during rush hour. Let’s just say it was a bit tight. Anyways, after spending 90 minutes on the bus when it should have taken us 15, it was so tight that I could not turn around. I then felt a hand on my left cheek.
I did not have any money back there, so I wasn´t worried at first. However, the hand was not pick pocketing me, the hand was literally caressing my left cheek. It was so tight that I could not turn around, but luckily our stop came up soon. I tried to grab a look of who was behind me, but it was just too crowded. That was a weird 15 seconds while on the bus.

Tanner Perfects His 'Don't Mess With Me Face'

First things first, both baptisms went through very smoothly. The service was Saturday at 5 and it had a very sweet spirit. I baptized Eugenia and a member that helped us for Paula baptized Paula. It was great. The service had a good amount of people, ran smoothly, didn´t have problems, and was just great. We even sang a special musical number (Elder Baez, one of the twins, and I).
The best part of the baptism was when Paula was bearing her testimony and she said that "I never want to go back to what I was." It was so great and both she and Eugenia have serious potential for greatness within and outside the church. Being with them for their conversion process has been a wonderful blessing. Also, the confirmations went well on Sunday.

As to other people, we are lacking serious investigators at the moment. No worries though, we just got to get the ball moving with a few people.

We had a couple lessons this week were we had good discussions but people have a hard time giving up their traditions. We had one person that told us that she totally believes what we say but she cannot change her family traditions. Whenever we have scripture "discussions" we always do it in a very loving type of way. I like the phrase that we open their hearts with the bible and convert their hearts with the Book of Mormon. I have been putting so much effort into studying the Bible because everyone here loves and knows their Bible. It is nice to simply say, "We believe something contrary, look in your own bible." I love seeing faces change.

Also, don´t worry about the dog bite. It was barely a nip and only drew a little blood. I am fine.

I have also mastered the "Don´t mess with me face." I only use it when we pass through bad areas. I just want people to know to not mess with us.

The whole "16 and pregnant" thing is unfortunately very prevalent here. We are teaching a girl named Katherine who is 23 and has an 8 year old girl. Paula, our recent covert, has two kids and is 22. The oldest is 6. They both live in Bogotá. It is very unfortunate and sad.

My talk went fine. The Bishop asked me to talk on Missionary Work. It was easy and went really well. I covered why there is missionary work, and why everyone should eagerly participate. I worded it in a way that was nice and not overbearing.

Some guy got really angry with us this week. We were teaching his mom and he walked into the house, not knowing that we were there, and was not happy. He made it very clear that he was not happy. Whatever. We still prayed to finish up.

Iguanas and New Years in Bucaramanga

So, things are well here in Bucaramanga. Things are progressing. Eugenia is excited for her baptismal date of the 10th. She is well prepared and has all that she needs to progress. Her testimony is there and is growing. She has been experiencing negative support from her family, but she recognizes that her commitment to God is important. I am looking forward to this Saturday at 5 PM.

Paula is also well. She has been in Bogotá for the majority of the week visiting family, but she is ready as well. Her testimony of the Book of Mormon is really strong. The desire is there. Everything is there. Paula is truly a golden investigator. She has been prepared to hear our word. It is so great to have a small hand in the work of the Lord.

Our less active members are making progress. On Sunday literally the entire Restrepo family showed up, members and relatives. It was nuts. They filled three whole pews. Some of them we had never seen before. Just great new opportunities. The ward here in Diamante is great. They are trying to fulfill their callings and build up Zion here in Burcaramanga. In Barbosa, during my 4.5 months there, we received 1 reference that turned out to be nothing. Here in Burcaramanga we are constantly having members come up to us and say that they want us to visit their friends, relatives, etc. It makes the work so much more effective. I really love the ward here, despite having to give a talk this upcoming week. No worries though.

As you can see in the pictures, I saw an Iguana. It was cool. In the pits the Iguanas will enter into people´s houses and eat their food. I also saw a snake this week. The snake was being beaten to death by a bunch of kids with rocks. The snake lost. Also, there is a picture of a dog without ears. Someone cut off the dog´s ears. Not sure why, but they did. That same dog "nipped" my arm and actually drew blood. Nothing severe though. The cut is very small. No worries.

New Year´s here was pretty crazy. People are literally 3 beers deep at 9 in the morning on a regular day, but on New Year’s it was even worse. The entire city was drunk. We actually went over to our Zone Leader´s house and "celebrated" there. We pretty much played Monopoly and ate burgers. Our burgers were meat and bun, literally. Not the best thing I have tasted here to say the least. We then slept in their house. Their apartment is giant, but super old and grungy. So that was a cool way to spend New Year’s.

Also, people here in Colombia give their babies water with cinnamon mixed it. They say it helps with digestion and gas. Cool I guess.

The week was overall good with lessons. We had good numbers. One of the companionships in our district is really struggling. They had 2 lessons in total last week. 2. Their problems stem from a specific elder. It is a real shame because one bad elder can mess up the work for months to come.

Elder Baez and I are doing well. He does the work but also knows how to have fun while doing it. He is fun to be around and knows how to bring people to Christ. He is a great missionary and a great person to be around.

Also, people here eat so much hot dog. When I tell people I live near New York they always ask me if I eat a lot of Hot Dog. They are ok. The best part is knowing in the USA, hot dogs are not made with real meat, so here in Colombia I have no idea what they are made of.