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.