Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Iguanas and Stomach Wounds

Tanner with a recently deceased iguana
This week was really great. We had a lot of teaching opportunities. It was good.

We are teaching Diego still, obviously. He is really a fun man to teach and is really just interesting. He has definitely come a long way from what he was. He is doing well, reading the Book of Mormon, praying and attending church. We are still waiting on his surgery. His belly is just gross. He always has a bandage, but the fluids leak through and it smells. He is funny about it. Don´t worry, I am not gonna get sick from him. (Note: His family was more concerned about Tanner bringing an infection to Fernando.)

 We are also teaching a family called the family Pardo as well. I pretty sure I spelt that wrong, but whatever. They are an unmarried couple with 4 kids, of which only one kid is from the "dad" and "mom." They are nice. The dad pretty much acts like a drunk all the time even though he rarely drinks. I just think it is his personality. He is kinda strange. They are cool but sometimes frustrating to teach. I sometimes wish people would just focus and listen. Anyways, their kids are really cute. Andres, 8 years old, rode his bike to church by himself, a 20 minute trip, then slept all during sacrament meeting. His neck looked like it was about to snap by the way he was sleeping. I love it when kids are more "juicioso" then their parents. They are fun.

We are also teaching Liliana. She is a middle age women that pretty much is great when it comes to listening and understanding. Her problem is coming to church. She already wants to be baptized, in a river is what she told us, but she is lacking church attendance. She thought that she had to pay to be baptized. We cleared that up fast. Haha. She is great, we just need to fortify her faith and strengthen her church attendance.

 Also, Aguazul´s first ever missionary leaves for Argentina this week. They had a "going away party" and we invited an investigator. There was time for everyone to get up and pay tributes, and then our investigator gets up and gives a short almost preacher like speech. It was crazy. Then one of our other investigators started slow clapping, then everyone started slow clapping, then everyone applauded. It was so funny. The best part is that she ended and walked over to Nixoon, the boy leaving, gave him a hug, then came over to us, and gave us the typical Colombian face/cheek kiss. Obviously, as missionaries, we do not do face kisses, but she came over and just did it. It was so funny and awkward at the same time because the fifty people there all know that missionaries don´t do that. Everyone just started to die laughing. It was funny. I probably didn´t explain that story very well, but you get the main point.

Bienvenido a Aguazul, Tanner!

Elder Correa and Tanner
 So there is a lot to write, I will get started.  First, it is a tough one to leave Bucaramanga. I love that city and the people there so much. I learned to love people that I did not think possible. The members there are really great, and I hope the converts that the Lord blessed us with will be faithful until the end. I really love Bucaramanga. I hope that maybe I can return to the city and serve in the other zone that is there. When we visit, Bucaramanga will be on the hit list.

So on to other adventures and other work. I already told you about how the trip went and stuff. But pretty much to fill you in the rest, I spent the majority of the day Tuesday with the zone leaders in Salitre. We did some stuff that they needed to do. Then I went to the trainer and trainee meet up meeting. It was pretty strange actually. It was me, the trainers, the trainees, the APs, and President Andelin. I was pretty much a misfit. It was funny. I was just waiting to get on a bus with a trainer and his trainee going to Yopal. We left Bogotá at roughly 10 PM Tuesday and arrived in Yopal 6 AM Wed. It was 8 hours to sleep on the bus. Not the best sleep.

So Yopal is a pretty big city, roughly 200 thousand people. Obviously much smaller than Bucaramanga though. To get to Aguazul, you have to take a 45 minute bus. It just takes you out to the middle of nowhere and that is Aguazul.

 Aguazul is really calm. Like too calm. The way I would describe it would be to watch a documentary on run down Detroit, then throw in some Colombian vibes, and you would have Agauzul. The people are nice so far.

So I thought that Barbosa was nothing, yep nope. Aguazul is nothing. It is a small city of roughly 30 thousand that is completely flat. It is just gridded blocks. I think that area wise it is bigger than Barbosa. It is just block after block after block. It definitely is poorer than Barbosa. Sometimes it looks like we are in a Colombian ghost town. It is cool though. Every house, literally every, has a fish net hammock thing called a Chincurrro. Every house. I will pick one up before I leave this city. Also, there are Iguanas everywhere. There are just tons of them. I want to try and eat one. I just need to find someone that wants to prepare it for me.

The apartment that we live in is actually pretty big, just really old and really dirty. I spent a chunk of time today just sweeping. It was gross how much grossness I picked up. I will try and tackle a different part of the house every preparation day. Hopefully by the time I leave it will be a bit better. We have not had any problems with water yet. From what I have heard, I arrived during the part of the year when it is on the colder end. Obviously, it is still extremely hot, but just less hot than normal. During this "cold" season there usually are not very many problems with water, so I should be good. The shower though produces very little water. It is hard to get really clean when the flow is very minimal. And of course, it is not hot water. I miss hot water.

Also, the last day in Bucaramanga I was served cow stomach and cow tail. Both were good, just a different texture. It was cool.

Church Building and Yard
As for the branch here, it is real small. There is an average of 35 members that attend weekly, many of which are young children. It is a house chapel but literally like a chapel in a house. It is cool though. Real small and the members are really tight. It looks like they actually want to progress and do their duties as members, unlike Barbosa. The gospel principles class is outside of the building under a Native American looking teepee thing. I will take more photos this week.

I am with Elder Villarroel from Bolivia. He is 19 and has 6 months in the mission. He is a good elder and the branch really loves him. He wants to do the work and be obedient, because his last companion was really a horrible missionary. We get along good and he teaches well too. I think we will have a good transfer or two together.

There are a bunch of investigators that we have. I think that we have a lot because we are in a small city, but I assume few will progress. We will have to see.

One investigator worth mentioning is Diego. He is roughly 32 years old and his body is a wreck. He has a ton of tattoos, scares everywhere, and is currently waiting for a surgery to close up his abdominal area that is literally just open. Someone tried to slit his throat before in the past and he survived. He also has multiple gun wounds. His body is like Frankenstein. The ab area is the thing that is most pressing right now. He is waiting to get it closed up and should be baptized after it heals. Just imagine all the skin covering your abs just gone, with all the insides just there to see. It is hideous, but cool. He is definitely a crazy guy, but he is changed a lot. His baptismal water will definitely be pretty dirty afterwards. I will keep you updated. There are others, but I do not know too many of them that well yet. We will do good work here.

One bad thing. Every time we have a zone conference, we have to drive 8 hours each way to Bogotá. That is gonna be rough. So Aguazul is really good. I am sure that I will learn to love it as I did with Bucaramnga and Barbosa. Definitely different though.

Tanner is Getting Transferred. Saying Goodbye to Bucaramanga.

 So things are pretty nuts right now. I’ll explain. So the week was good overall in Diamante. It was sad to leave. I love Diamante and Bucaramanga so much. The people there are so great. Really great people. I hope that I left the ward and the investigators in better shape than I found it. It was a bummer to say goodbye. A few people cried again. That makes ya feel good. There is a lot of love in Bucaramanga.

So we received the call for transfers Sunday night. I left Diamante II in Bucaramanga for Aguazul in Yopal. There are pretty much two zones in the mission where nobody wants to go. Barrancabermeja and Yopal. So I am headed to one of them. I had to take a bus from Bucaramanga to Bogotà which was roughly 11 hours. It was not very smooth. I arrived here last night and spent the night with the ZL’s here in the zone Salitre. I will leave for Yopal later on this day as I will be traveling as the group leader for a new missionary and his trainer. I will be the DL in Yopal. Yopal has 6 elders and Aguazul has 2. Yopal is more or less a city and then Aguazul is a small "town" outside of Yopal. I will be in Aguazul. It is about 10 hours to Yopal from Bogotà. 

Yopal is the most isolated area in the mission. It has a bad rep for really hard living conditions. Like no water for weeks. It is about to get real nasty. It is also much hotter than Bucaramanga, and I thought Bucaramanga was hot. From what I have heard, Yopal is not dangerous. We will wait and see. I am imagining that it is somewhat like Barbosa. It has a branch meeting in a casa-chapilla, or house chapel. I will see what I can do there. Should be fun. Fire Up. 

Don`t have much time to write. Transfers are always nuts. I am here with the Zone Leader as they have to send in reports to the mission home. I gotta run. 

Baptisms, Mammograms, and Shaved Legs

 So, the baptism of Fernando went well. He passed the interview and everything. Other than starting late, which is common in Colombia, the service went well. We had a good amount of ward members there too. The Spirit was there, and the service was sweet. I performed the baptism as he asked me too. It was nice.

The confirmation also went well. The wife bore her testimony afterwards. It was good for the first five minutes, but then it just went off the cliff. She just went on forever on a story and other things. 20 minutes later she finished as the Bishop whispered in her ear. It was a great confirmation nevertheless.

 Also, I received a really low blow when Felipe accidentally erased all of my photos from my camera. All of them. I have all of them backed up until my time with Elder Correa. That is the good news. But, all the photos that I didn`t send to you over these last 12 weeks are most likely gone. One of the members knows a way to recover the deleted photos, but we will have to see. I think it is improbable. It was a bummer and I was just like, you gotta be kidding me. There are more important things than photos though. All good.

Sandra and Juan are well. We had a really great Family Home Evening with them with the Acuña family. They accepted a fecha and things were good. The problem is that they live with the dad and mom and the dad is an alcoholic. Things are in a bad situation. He goes nuts and tries to hurt her, etc. It is sad. But we are trying to help. We will keep it up.

Carolina is well. She got big, fast. She is pregnant, but the baby belly just showed up out of nowhere. Baby Tanner must have kicked into growing mode. She is good, but still really struggling.

Mom, what is a mammogram??? Is that something for pregnancies? Are you pregnant? That would be weird, and cool. Lemme know.

Shaved one leg for fun
 This week was pretty standard. We had a special meeting with President Andelin with only the District Leaders. It was good. He leaves pretty soon. Only one more transfer for him. Crazy. I also did interviews this week. I enjoy them. They really are not that hard, or maybe I have yet to have a hard one. We will see.

The next time I write, I have no idea where I will be. Something will definitely change, we will have to wait and see. If I don`t write Monday, it is because I am traveling or we just had a crazy day. Don`t go nuts.

The week was pretty normal with teaching and such. We have a new challenge to find a much larger number of new investigators. Zona Bucaramanga is by far the zone with the most success right now. The zone had 7 baptisms this weekend. The zone is in really good shape. The district is well too. All good. The sisters have a baptism this upcoming week which is really good.

One sister had to have her appendix taken out. We went to their house with Elders Brown and Gonzalez and gave a blessing. The sisters’ houses are MUCH nicer that our houses. It is totally different. They also receive much more money. Sisters....

All is good though. No good stories. Some guy told us that he murdered 4 people. We left that lesson very fast.

I know that what we do is right. I like the quote. We are not obedient because we are blind; we are obedient because we can see. I like that so much. I love you all very much. I am doing this work for many reasons, one of which is you all. I wouldn't trade you all for anyone, anything. You are my family.

General Conference Viewing and Tanner's Improving Jumping Skills

My Zone Leader and I
 So this week was a good one. Unfortunately my companion picked up a cold, and then gave it to me. He got better fast, but I have had a cold all week. It isn’t debilitating, just a pain. No worries though.

This week was good with teaching. Juan Carlos should be baptized this Saturday without trouble. Knock on wood. He is good and is very prepared. Carolina`s fecha will definitely fall though. We are being patient, but it is just so slow. No worries there. We just need to press forward.

We didn`t have any crazy teaching experiences this week. Just the normal. We got cut a bit short with two prime days totally gone, but it was still good.

 We are making progress with a woman named and her 8 year old son. They were almost baptized almost 5 years ago but things happened. I think that this time they are more prepared. They just need a lot of love from the ward. We will see.

General Conference was really good. We were able to watch all five sessions in English. That was nice. It was excellent. President Boyd K Packer`s talk was just what I was thinking. It was one of my favorites.

Elder Holland was a favorite of mine, as usual. I don`t have my notes with me right now, but I got notes on all of them. Too bad the Elder from Africa was almost impossible to understand.

My hops are improving

All of the North American elders got together in our chapel and watched it in a small upstairs room. It was real good.

Mom is right, Easter is big here. It is called the Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Pretty much every one has off on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Some days it was just dead in the streets. It was cool though. The Catholics have interesting traditions.

Nothing really else happened this week. Sorry the letter is so lame. I really do love you all. I am excited to live with all of you forever. There is no knowledge closer to my heart.

Encountering a Gigantic Moth and an Exchange Marathon

 Things are good here. This week was a long and hard one. Not exactly sure why. We had a lot of good lessons and took out some more fechas, but it was just long. I think the main reason why I was so tired was because I had two "intercambios" this week, or two interchanges. Both times I was outside my area. On Tuesday I went with Elder Castillo, one of my zone leaders to Cañaveral. Then on Thursday I went with Elder Porras to Bucarica. Both times I had to be on my A game, AND have to worry about what Elder Correa is doing in Diamante.

I don`t really know why, but the two days outside of the area just took a toll on me. It was fine though. Elder Porras, one of the Elders in my district, is doing good work with his junior companion. Sometimes there are problems between the two of them, but it is fine. One of the problems with Elders fresh out of the mission training center is that the new Elder doesn`t respect the senior companion. I will have to have some discussions in week five when I have the other intercambio with Elder Aguilar, the new elder. Overall I am just glad that I do not have to do intercambios with the sisters. The sisters are fine. Sisters do different work than the Elders. They just work in a different style. I can`t explain it, but it is just different. They have some areas where they need to improve, but then again so do I. Things are good in the district though.

 Our investigators are doing well. I am not sure if Carolina will be able to make her 11of April baptismal date. She is just still not very prepared. It is a tad bit frustrating, but we are doing fine with her. I just think she needs more time.

We also took out a new fecha for 18 of April with a man named Juan Carlos. He recently moved into the ward and was also recently married. He has been waiting for an answer to his prayers for a long time and now with us he feels like he has received his answer. The wife cried a ton during the lesson. It was nice. We will just need to foster him and get him ready for his fecha. I think that he will be a really good member.

 We are also on the verge of taking out some more fechas with 4 other people. Unfortunately, I will probably leave Diamante and not be able to see the fruits of our labor, but it will be good getting them ready. Some Elders plant, others cultivate, others harvest. All that is important is helping people make decisions to improve their lives and relationship with Christ. But then again, we will have to see what happens with transfers. They are three weeks away.

 We are working with an inactive family this transfer called the Velasquez family. They are really good people. The family literally loves us. They are really good with attending. We just need to finish the lessons. Should be good.

I do not have many good stories this week. We saw some baby kittens in a plastic bag waiting for the dump truck. That was sad.
One thing that I really like this week is that there is a great difference between sin and weakness. Often times we think that they are the same. In order to clear up sin, we need to use Christ`s atonement. In order to overcome weakness, we need to be humble and use Christ`s grace. In the Liahona it talks about this. Someone mentioned how as a missionary they lived the most righteous and the gospel to their best level during their time, but at the same time they also felt the most self-criticism and the most unworthiness. Sometimes I feel the same. Using both the atonement and the grace of Christ can help us to overcome our sins and our weaknesses.

Read Mathew 4, especially 18-20. For me, everyone is carrying their own net filled with fish, but our "fishes" are sins, weaknesses, traditions, regrets, etc. If we really want to follow Christ in the right way, we can`t bring these things. We can`t waste time. He requires that we leave it all behind and leave immediately. That is how we really need to follow Christ. We need to start immediately and never look back. As the scriptures say, "Remember Lot`s wife." These two scriptures are really good ones. I wish I had more time to write more eloquently.

Tanner's Favorite Lesson to Teach

Elder Brown and I
So where to begin. Carolina is doing fine. She is receptive to everything that we teach and does her best. Chelsey, she has literally almost nothing, so a DVD or cassette player is out of the question. Thanks though. She is doing fine. The ward does not have a ton of confidence in her though. She has been an investigator for a long time. We will have to change that.

My companion loves cats.
 A new couple moved into our ward this week that was recently married. The husband wants to be baptized very soon so we will have to see where that goes.

My face is so red.

Being a District Leader has been fine. This week will be jammed packed with "intercambios" as I will be with the Zone Leader´s tomorrow, then the Elders in my district on Thursday. We also have a multi zone conference this Friday. Word on the street is that we are gonna watch Meet the Mormons. We will have to see. Also, I will have to do my first baptismal interview this week. I am excited. We will have to see.
 I ate ants this week. Big ones. They come out at this time of the year and cover the streets. You get them, fry them, and eat them. Actually quite good. I have a really good video of them. Too bad I can´t send videos.
Someone this week asked me what lesson is my favorite to teach. Without a doubt, the Law of Chastity. I am not kidding or trying to be funny. It just is. This commandment comes off as awkward to so many people, but in reality it is so beautiful. It is such an integral part of the Plan of Salvation. To think that I can literally live with my family and my own posterity forever brings me so much joy. Families can be together forever. Chastity is so important, beautiful, and rewarding in this life.