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.

Tanner Bids Farewell to a Dear Friend and His First Mission President

 This week we had to travel to Bogotá. On Monday night we left and traveled through the night. On Tuesday we had a multi-zone conference. President Andelin literally left today to go home. The conference was his last "shabang." It was cool. He was and is a good president. I am sure the new President, Laney, will likewise be excellent. I am looking forward to meeting him. We will have the opportunity to meet him week 6. That means another trip to Bogota. Then we will have a zone conference in week 1. Another trip. Then we will have another trip for “father and son” meetings. I can´t wait......We also had intercambios this week. I was in Yopal with Elder Zuniga de Chile and Elder Pinoargote was in Agauzul with Elder Palma from Mexico.

We got back to Agauzul Wednesday but felt horrible. It was wonderful. We had a good week teaching and such. We are getting some decent progress with Juan and Diana. They are the ones that look a ton like Mark Warlberg. They are super cool, already married, and love us.

We are making progress with them. Their two year old has some sort of conditions with her lungs. She is really so cute. She was super timid when we first started visiting, but now she wants tea parties. It is fun.

The picture is of me and President Gomez, the First Counselor in the Colombia Bogota North Mission. He loves me and I him.  On Saturday, we had a good bye party for President Gomez. He is super chill. We pretty much had a BBQ and ate a ton of meat. It was great. He will be missed very much. We are great friends.

Also, I felt one day that we should go and talk with the husband/boyfriend of Paola, when she wasn´t there. He has always been really rough with us, but this time I was able to get him where he couldn´t leave. It was a really good talk between him and us. He voiced concerns, and then we answered. It was good. He said that if he was not working this upcoming Sunday, he would come to church. That was so cool to hear. So this Sunday will be a great one, hopefully!

Puppies and Furniture Assembly

This week was good despite being crazy as usual. Before I arrived to the mission, I thought that things would be super organized, set forth, and the same every day. Yeaaa no. I feel like every day has something out of the ordinary that throws everything for a loop. You just gotta be ready for anything. Anyways...

Last Monday we spent literally the entire day putting together a closet that a member bought. It was really frustrating watching three people fiddle around with the instructions for the first 2 hours, so eventually I kindly and respectfully took over. I took the instructions, analyzed them, and put people to work. It went sooo much faster with someone, me, actually understanding the plans. Dad would have been proud. Honestly, I enjoyed putting the closet together. If I could provide for my family putting together a closet with set instructions every day, that would be fun. It still took all day.

So Tuesday we had to take some of our day to do some necessary things for Preparation Day. We then received a call from the branch president asking us to put together a large desk like structure that he too had recently bought. It went much faster as I immediately took charge. Only 4 hours that time. Later that night we had to go to Bogotá.

So Wednesday we had a zone meeting, requiring us to leave Yopal at 9 in the night on Tuesday. We left, arrived in Bogotá at 4 AM, had the zone meeting, ate, and then got on a bus to go back to Aguazul. We arrived in Aguazul at midnight to a huge storm. My bed got wet again.... Two nights on the bus again. I don´t mind it, but I would prefer to not have to do it. Bogotá was good though.

Thursday till Sunday we did normal work. The investigators are fine. It is a bit frustrating without having any truly progressing investigators as of right now, but we are still doing good work. One good thing is that we sought out a less active this member week, Dillan Ricardo Niño, and got him excited to come back to church. He is cool and has 15 years. I am excited to rekindle his testimony.
 So Wednesday we had a zone meeting, requiring us to leave Yopal at 9 in the night on Tuesday. We left, arrived in Bogotá at 4 AM, had the zone meeting, ate, and then got on a bus to go back to Aguazul. We arrived in Aguazul at midnight to a huge storm. My bed got wet again.... Two nights on the bus again. I don´t mind it, but I would prefer to not have to do it. Bogotá was good though.

Thursday till Sunday we did normal work. The investigators are fine. It is a bit frustrating without having any truly progressing investigators as of right now, but we are still doing good work. One good thing is that we sought out a less active this member week, Dillan Ricardo Niño, and got him excited to come back to church. He is cool and has 15 years. I am excited to rekindle his testimony.

Paola is fine. She didn´t accept our invitation to be baptized. She practically told me that she completely believes what we teach, Book of Mormon, etc., but doesn´t think it is necessary to get baptized again. We have work to do with her. She is good though. Plus, her tiny little daughter of 5 years loves me. Literally. haha