Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tanner's Last Email!!!!!

Tanner and the two missionaries he trained.
Well this email will probably be my last official email. Next Monday I will check this email, but I doubt that I will write a full length email. We will see.

I am definitely gonna a need a good foot and hand spa treatment when I get home. :) Maybe Emma and Mick can help me out that Friday night. As you can see from the picture, my foot fungus has returned once again. I am guessing Mick and Emma would be overjoyed to help me... :)

This week was a real good one. On Tuesday I was feeling pretty sick with diarrhea and vomiting, but by Wednesday I was feeling fine again. On Wednesday we had a multi-zone conference. Other than it being really long, everything went well and it was a good conference. I was sad to see a bunch of my favorite missionaries for the last time. That night we got back to Facatativa at 8:30. On Thursday we had to go back to Bogota to get my new cedula or Colombian ID. Luckily it was pretty easy and not too much of a pain in the neck. That day we also helped an elderly woman clean her couches. They are made of some sort of carpet/wool material, so we scrubbed them with soap and then with pure water. She was content with our work.

We also did another "Cine Mormon" activity this Saturday. This time we watched the Other Side of Heaven. It is a pretty decent movie. We had a good crowd show up. It was fun and everything enjoyed themselves.

So today we had our "flower tour." [Note from Brad - I have an employee who's parents are from Colombia and currently live in Miami.  They operate a flower importing and distribution business.  My employee arranged with her father who does a lot of business in Facatativa to have a tour of there facilities there.  Her father was very pleased to be able to do it.]  We met up with this guy named Felipe, some representative of a flower company connected with Sole Farms, or Mauricio Jaramillo´s company, at 10 AM. He and some woman drove us 30 minutes to Mountain Farms or Mountain Flowers, or something like that. Sole Farms has 45 farms in the Facatativa area. Each farm employs about 400 people. We arrived and were given a tour by Felipe, and 4 other staff members of Mountain Farm, including the main boss. They showed us the way flower are planted, maintained, cut, stored, packed, and shipped. It is a pretty legit scientific process. What I did not know is that they cut the flowers before they are fully developed so that when they arrive in store or your home they fully bloom or open there. They transport the flowers in very cold conditions right after they are cut until they arrive at Walmart, Costco, etc. The farm is all pretty well kept and well organized. Check out the link I will include below that shows pictures of the huge white tents under which all the flowers are grown. The tents are huge and the rows and columns of flower beds go on forever. Also, roses can take literally years to grow. They have some rose bushes that are 17 years old. Anyway, they treated us very well, got us free drinks and food at the cafeteria, showed us all over the facility, and even gave us two huge bouquets of flowers. These flowers were already packaged and I SWEAR the packaging had the Stop and Shop logo on it. Maybe SoleFarm is the provider of Stop and Shop flowers?? The bouquets would probably be dang expensive in the states. Anyway they then drove us back to Faca and dropped us off. Everyone was very nice and even though every single worker was staring at us the entire time, it was a cool experience. Mom would have loved it. I did not take any pictures, so look at the website for an idea of what it all looks like.


This is a run-down of my final week before I head home.

----This is my last week in the "field." On Sunday I will travel to Bogotá during the afternoon to stay with the missionaries in Quirigua overnight. Monday morning, I have to pick up Elder Henningson, my companion for the last week who is also ending his mission with me, from the bus terminal as he is coming in from Bucaramanga. Monday night we have a special fireside (a close knit meeting) in the mission home among all the missionaries ending their missions. There are 12 of us in the same group. 2 gringos, 3 Latin Sisters, and 7 Latin Elders. On Tuesday we have a program called PEF that lasts from 8AM till 5PM. PEF is pretty much a debriefing before they send us home. After PEF we will go to the temple in Bogotá. Wednesday I have my final interview with President Laney. Thursday I will have to wake up at 2AM to go to the airport on time to from my 7AM flight. Elder Henningson and I will both fly to Atlanta, but then he will head to Utah and I will head to CT. That pretty much sums up the last week of the mission. -----

I am out of time. I need to go. Love you all very very much.

Tanner's Last Zone Conference

Things are well here in Faca. We had a good week four and are looking to have a good week five too.

A dog Tanner and his companion rescued.
So the conference with Elder Rasband was pretty cool. We had to wake up so early, 4AM, to get to a chapel in Bogota by 7:30. We arrived and it was already packed. The entire Bogota North and the entire Bogota South and the MTC Colombia were all in the same chapel. Almost 450 missionaries in total. The meeting started at 10. Both Elder and Hermana Uceda gave good talks. Hermana Uceda spoke on not "playing" with sacred responsibilities or callings. She used D&C 8:10 and D&C 6:12 to back up her points. It was well done and right on point for these two missions.

Elder Uceda talked about carrying out not only a change of heart in our investigators, but also a change in our own hearts. Although he did not cite the scripture, the classic Helaman 3:35 came to mind. I love the phrasing of "yielding their hearts unto god." The word yield, if you ask me, has a context of submission or giving in. We sometimes fight so hard to do what we want when we want with whom we want, yet if we just accept and submit to the wonderful gospel of Jesucristo, everything will improve. That is a promise in Mosiah 2:41. “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

All in all, I just love the use of the word "yeild." A change of heart is one of the many changes that I have experienced. My heart still has a lot of changing to do, but we are making progress.

Hermana Rasband spoke about the Statue of Liberty and related it to the missionary work. She said some cool stuff, but what I enjoyed most was how she said that the Book of Mormon should be used, cared for, and given with the most absolute care. I agree. There are many missionaries that try to convert people using only the Bible. The Bible is great, yet to really be converted to the restored gospel, you must have a testimony of the Book of Mormon as well. My style of teaching has changed dramatically during my mission and while I am still no expert teacher, I have become much more refined.

Tanner has Rabbis?

This week was pretty good. We struggled getting lessons with investigators; however, we had a really good week when it came to less active members and recent converts.

Alexander and Martha are doing just fine. Alexander received the Aaronic Priesthood and was confirmed a Priest. He will bless the sacrament this upcoming week. That is good because here in Faca there are only two young men that attend. He is more than content with everything that is going on in the church. They are so good.

All the other recent converts of the last 6 months were at church. It was good to see the people that I am specifically working with all at church. The Gospel Principles class was packed. 

Also, the 4 less active members/families that we are specifically working with all came to church. They are good people and I enjoy teaching them. 

Elder Wright and I are doing really well. I really enjoy serving with him. He is not only a good missionary, but a good friend. We get along really well and I will definitely miss him when I leave.

So on Friday we were walking through the street and out of nowhere a dog came up and bit my right calf. I did nothing to provoke it. It literally came out of nowhere and took a bite. I did not really think much of it because it was not that bad, but on Sunday Night the health secretary called me and commanded me to urgently go to the hospital in Bogota the next day to get it checked by a doctor. So today we went to Bogota.  After waiting a butt ton of time a doctor checked out of my leg, said that I probably did not have rabies, but said just in case I need to get the rabies shots. So right then are there they gave me some sort of shot in the arm, then used clothing detergent to clean the leg, then sent me to a different hospital to get the first of 5 shots over a period of one month. So I got the other shot in the other arm and I have to come back on Thursday to get the second shot. They give the shots on day 0, day 3, day 7, day 14, and day30. Also, I have to go back for a checkup later on in the week. I am not too happy about all this. We are gonna waste a ton of time and money traveling back and forth. I kinda got salty with the health secretary because I definitely do not need the shots, but he said that I had to. Whatever. Mom and Emma, I am fine. I do not have rabies and am totally ok. The bite kinda hurt though. haha

I do not have many photos, just to scrubs selfie that I sent.

We met some gringo named John here in Faca this week. He came down here to Colombia to get married. After the marriage the wife stole over half of his money and bounced. He doesn’t really love Colombia. However, he bought a farm up in the mountains and he lives there in solitude. He is pretty much an alcoholic and smokes a ton of weed. He is an interesting character.

There is the tradition that in the last zone conference you get up and share your testimony. I am the only one ending my mission in the zone, so we will see what happens this Wednesday. I will base my testimony probably on three things, the cleansing power of the atonement, the reality of the Book of Mormon, and the true power in the Priesthood. My testimony is strong in these 3 things.

This week we gave talks in church. Elder Wright was super nervous, but he did fine. My talk went well. I spoke on how we can prepare ourselves to share the gospel. Pretty standard. We give talks every 3rd Sunday of the month.

Things are well family. I love you all very much. Be safe and do good. The church is a blessing in our lives. We should do better to appreciate it. 

I found a good scripture this week. Proverbs 26:11

Alexander & Martha Get Baptized!

So yesterday night we received the transfers and nothing changed. I will finish Elder Wright`s training here in Faca 1 and 2. In fact no one in the district was changed.

So as I mentioned in the call that Alexander and Martha were baptized this Saturday. It was a good service other than that is started really late. There was probably 40 in attendance. They were more than content. This Sunday Juan Jose was given the Priesthood and was ordained to the office of Priest. He is literally super smart. You can ask him anything that has to with the Old Testament, history, law, etc. and he is there with the answer. It was a joy to teach him and we will do our best to keep on helping him out on his conversion process. Everything has been picture perfect with him. Literally.

It was great talking to yall yesterday. It was fun, obviously too short, but great overall. Happy Mother’s Day again mom!

Well it is hekka weird to think that this is literally the last transfer. 6 weeks is gonna go by so fast. I am glad to be training to finish. I think it will keep me extra focused.

I don’t think that I spoke clearly enough yesterday when I commented on the Book of Mormon. What I was saying is that every time when I read it, it seems as if my mind just opens and I begin to watch the book, not just read it. The Book of Mormon is the base of my testimony. I would be lying if I said that my testimony is super strong when it comes to other gospel practices or principles; however, you are not gonna convince me that the Book of Mormon is false. It is one of the few things that I can say with certainty that are true.

Tanner's Happy Surprise from Bucamaranga

Things are well here in Facatativa. Today we did not do much. Some old guy hustled me in ping pong. I lost and had to buy him a pop. I was pretty salty.

We had a good week. Alexander and Martha are progressing just fine. We will have the baptismal service this Saturday at 5 PM. This Sunday they both got up to share their testimonies. They are really good.

The family from Pueblo Viejo unfortunately did not go to church this week due to some legitimate reasons. We had a good lesson with them the other day and the daughter came out of the blue saying that she wants to get baptized. It was cool. Last night a member that we brought on the previous lesson with them called us and asked us if he could go visit them by himself. I thought, what could be the worst that could happen. I still have not called him to ask him how it went. Hopefully well. They are a good family. The dad kinda looks like Wolverine.

This Saturday we borrowed the big soul question cube from the zone leaders and put it up in front of the biggest mall that there is here in Faca. We were quite the spectacle. haha. It was so crowded that day and even though not a ton of people came up to us, we did get a TON of people that saw us and our spectacle. It was fun. I sent some pics.

This is Samuel from Bucaramanga. He contacted me in the street one day when I was in intercambios with Elder Calaway. It is cool that he got baptized. 
Btw, as dad commented, in the last 6 months I have gained some weight. I am guessing around 8 pounds. It has been fun. During the summer I will have to do some serious work to get back to what I was pre-mission.

Also, the last 15 chapters of Alma could make a SICK war movie.... just saying..... haha

Alexander & Martha - and Tanner's Thoughts on Sin

Things are going well with Elder Wright. He is a really good kid. We get a long well and he is improving little by little. I am so glad I got him versus the other whites in his group. They were all way weird. Elder Wright is definitely a bro.

Alexander and Martha continue to progress really well. They already have 4 back to back attendances of the three hours. The requirement is 3 attendances. Anyway, they are doing really well for the 7th of May. We are working on getting a lot of members to come to their house to befriend them. It is working and they are already inviting people from Bogota to come to the service. Their progress is a real tender mercy.

We are also seeing some unexpected progress from a family of 5. They are old investigators that came to the church 2 years ago and then stopped coming. They are a good humble family that live in this sketchy part of Faca that is on top on a mountain. It is a hike to get up there. I really want this family to do well. They are not married, but they are interested in the option. They came to church this week, all five of them, but only stayed the first hour. Hopefully we can put a fecha with them this week to help them progress towards sometime in June. Please pray for them.

We are having a lot of teaching opportunities here in Faca. We are already, even after opening two areas, teaching more lessons that the two prior companionships had combined. In the last three weeks we have found 13, 15, and 13 new investigators, when the average of our zone is 4 a week. I say this not to boast, because we still have a LONG ways to go; I am just excited about what is happening in the areas. Alexander and Martha, and then hopefully this family of 5 from Pueble Viejo show the most promise at this point.

Today we went to the Jehovah´s Witness "center" or "visitors center" thing. It was actually pretty dope. They have an army of workers that keep the place spotless. They print off all the magazines, books, etc for Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and Ecuador. It was pretty impressive. Everyone was SO nice. Too nice though. The place is huge and cool.

One thing that I have thought much about lately in the severity of sin. I think sometimes we do not realize just how much damage sin really does. Satan is the great imitator, father of lies, and the son of the morning. He knows us well. He knows our faults/weaknesses, and even knows the scriptures. If we do not build up a good defense, we will lose, and the sin will stain us. However, the Atonement is real, and it is powerful. It erases sin completely. I have experienced its grand power. If all the world would come to a greater comprehension of the Atonement, things would be a lot different.

Tanner in the Salt Mines

Today we went to one of the biggest tourist places in Colombia, the Salt Mines of Zipaquira. They were super cool. Look it up on the internet. We took some good fotos. I will send them next week. I was fun and really cool. The mines are HUGE. It was a lot of fun.

Tanner's Thought on Ammon

This week was really good. We had a lot of teaching opportunities, a lot of news, and we are doing really well with Alexander and Martha. They are great. Already have the 3 attendances necessary to be able to be baptized. They, well more especially Alexander, knows more about church history than the lifelong members. He knew that Joseph Smith prophesied the Civil War, and I thought I was special for knowing that. May 7th will be a good day. However, they are planning to move to a city called Tunja, which does have the church, but to be honest I hope they move after the 7th of May. It would be really nice to see them baptized.

Also, we are seeing progress with a man named Juan. He arrived to the church by himself one day and we have met with him just a few times. We will see where it goes, but he has some real potential. We hope to be able to put a fecha with him this week. He has an 11 year old daughter that he wants to bring to the church, but we have yet to meet her.

Elder Wright and I are doing really well. He is a good friend and we are working hard. Faca is a good little city with prepared people. I enjoy training him and we get a long real well.

This week Elder Montoya of the 70 did a tour of the mission. It was good. He did a good job speaking and then afterwards we went to Chiles in Bogota. It was like being in the states. Weird.

Sometimes I feel similar to Ammon in Alma 17:23.

 21 And thus Ammon was carried before the king who was over the land of Ishmael; and his name was Lamoni; and he was a descendant of Ishmael.
 22 And the king inquired of Ammon if it were his desire to dwell in the land among the Lamanites, or among his people.
 23 And Ammon said unto him: Yea, I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die.

I am not perfect, but I can say that I love Colombia.

Exciting New Friends in Faca

So this week was actually really great. We found a ton of people to teach aka new investigators, taught a good amount, had some good fun, and had the two baptisms. Carlos and Nini are a great young couple with lots of potential. It was an honor to finish up teaching them and then to carry out the baptismal service. All went well; no huge hiccups. The bishop baptized them both. On Sunday I confirmed Carlos. It was nice. I am looking forward to helping them strengthen their testimonies and keep them on the active path.

We also had some really great spiritual experiences this week. It was nice.

We found pair of new investigators called Alexander and Martha. They are mother and son. The mother having 82 years and Jose having 50ish. They are referrals from a member in Bogota. Never, in my almost 22 months in the mission, have I ever met people so "prepared." We met them for the first time on Tuesday and they immediately accepted a baptismal date for the 7th of May. They literally said that they are willing to do anything, be anywhere at anytime, and change anything to achieve the goal of baptism. Honestly, at first I thought that it was too good to be true, but it is not. They have already attended church twice, they attended the baptismal service of Carlos and Nini, etc. I cannot explain how ready they are. They are great people. They love us and we really have not done anything super special for them.

Alexander is a lawyer/historian who is unmarried living with his mom. They are collectors of antique items. Their house is FULL of antique stuff. He has a library, but it is a LEGIT library. He is an old book collector. I cannot express how much I think the value of his house is. His house is not very nice, just the items within. The books that he has are striking. I am not fanatic when it comes to old books, but he is, and I would not be surprised if his collection is worth a considerable amount. He has a SICK sword of the Colombia Navy whose handle is complete gold. I gotta take a picture with it. They are gonna be great converts that could help the church so much.

Today we did a bunch of errands that were necessary. Then we went to a park called Piedras de Tunjo. It resides here in Faca and is the only national park here in Colombia that is within a city. It has some ancient art on huge rocks. We had a good time checking it out.

Elder Wright is doing really well. I am trying to include him as much as I can in the lessons. His Spanish is struggling, but he is improving and gaining confidence. He is a real good kid.

We cleaned up the house we are staying in and I switched the beds from the vacant house to the apartment we are using. The apartment is great, just does not have water. We are talking with the land lord so don’t worry.

Just to answer mom´s question about if Faca is so safe that it is ok to put two whites together - no. President Laney has been changing some things up and putting whites together, but Faca has some really rough parts. They are currently doing "Social Cleaning." o limpieza social here in the city. Pretty much they just kill unwanted people. We are fine though. We live in a really safe building.

This week had some funny moments. My comp accidentally poured a TON of oil on a baby’s head when we were giving a blessing. Super funny. Also, during the baptismal service I accidentally started singing when I was not supposed to. Everyone heard... haha. Also, my comp threw up in a cardboard box last week. It is disgusting, but I still do not know why we have not thrown it out. Also, Elder Wright accidentally told someone that he was retarded even though he was trying to say something else. Classic.

Leaving Bucaramanga

This week we had a multi-zone conference. I did well on the training that we did. We talked about conversion through the Book of Mormon. I think we brought our point across very well. It was a good day.

Also, this week I had the opportunity to attend the baptism of a man that I helped teach here in Cañaveral. He never was living in our area, but would come to our chapel sometimes and ask us to teach him. Some of the other Elders did not pay attention to him, but I was glad I did, because he got baptized this week. It was cool to see.

You all asked about Jonathan. Jonathan is a 22 year old that contacted us one day in the street. He works selling cellphones and stuff like that. He has a big heart and a good desire to learn. It was cool because this last Sunday he arrived late to church and we asked him why. He explained that his relatives arrived from the coast and wanted to spend time with him, but he told them he had an appointment with the Lord. Cool.

We have spiritual experiences every single day and I love it. It is just the truth that we do the same thing every single day and we have the spirit with us all the time, so usually it does not jump out like it maybe did before the mission. 

Transfers are coming up this Sunday. I do not know where I will go, but I mentioned to President that I want to train and open an area. We will see what happens. I could use some cold air though. Maybe Bogotá or Sogamoso or Duitama. We will wait and see.

It is sad to think that this week will probably be my last here in Bucaramanga. I love this city so much. I also know the city inside and out. The people here are always fiery, like a true Santanderiano, but I love it. I has been hard to not see many "fruits" over the last 7 months, especially when the only 3 baptisms you have had are all inactive. There is not one day that goes by when I do not think about the Xiomara, Tatiana, and Giovannis and what happened to them. All in all though, I can look back at my time in Cañaveral and say with confidence that I tried hard, was obedient, led the zone like a champ, and loved every trying minute. 

A classic talk on Grace for dad.   https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/brad-wilcox_his-grace-is-sufficient/

Personal study is very enjoyable. Companion study too, usually. haha

Tanner's Birthday - Mission Style

My birthday was fine. Nothing special to be honest. We a huge lunch that a member gave us, HUGE, and then we went to start our fast at the apartment of our ward mission leader. When we arrived he have me a HUGE hot dog. I was SO stuffed. Started the fast and yeah, that’s all we did.

This week we had the leadership training meeting in Bogota. As usual, we flew in on Wednesday, had the meeting on Thursday, and then rode in bus back to Bucaramanga through Thursday night. The meeting was good, not great. This upcoming week we have to go back to Bogota for intercambios with the assistants. I cannot wait..... We also have the zone meeting tomorrow, zone activity on Monday, and then a multi-zone conference on next Tuesday. We got assigned to give a 30-minute training during the multi-zone conference. It is a busy couple of weeks to say the least.

We did our last intercambios with district leaders this week. It was good. It is a bummer that my real good friend Elder Calaway is going home in 3 weeks. He has been an excellent missionary, but his time is up. I will definitely be seeing him when I return.

Family Lopez was official reactivated this week. That is good. Everything went well during our zone meeting. We did a really good job in the training portion. They enjoyed it.

The problem that we had to fix the last week was that two elders fought, literally. It ticks me off that I have to deal with this type of stuff. They are children.

We went to Bogota again to do the interchanges with the assistants. It was a cluster. Our flight was supposed to leave at 7PM, but do to storms, they pushed our flight to 11:30 PM. We waited to only have it get cancelled. They said that if we waited in line they could get us a flight for the next day. We waited in line, along with literally 500 other people. We got a next morning flight at 7 AM. So at midnight we go down the mountain and arrive in our apartment to sleep. We then have to wake up at 4:30 AM to go back up the mountain to the airport. We arrive, only to find out it was pushed back to 10:30 AM. As Emma would say, "I did not crack a smile the entire time. I was POed."

We found this young adult called Jonathan this week. He is great and has a fecha for the 16th of April. Mark my words in April, Cañaveral will have many baptisms.

The zone is doing well. By the way, during February we once again had more baptisms than any other zone. This month we already have 6 baptisms and 3 reactivation. We will see what we can do in the remaining two weeks.

I had the chance to go and visit Diamante this week and eat lunch with the Acuña family. Probably my favorite family in Bucaramanga. It was cool. Also, now going back to Diamante, I never really realized how dangerous some parts were. I was so ignorant walking through those streets with Elder Correa. It is funny to think about.

We had our zone activity today. We played some silly games like wheelbarrow races, water balloon throws, and the saltine challenge; then we played soccer. I love Colombia, but I still do not love soccer....

Tonight we have a meeting with President Laney and us. Then tomorrow we have the multi-zone conference.

I have been thinking a lot this week about the difference between an object and an agent. An object is what is acted upon and an agent is what acts for itself. As missionaries, we often times treat our investigators as objects. However, we need to help people act for themselves. To be a real follower of Christ there has to be sacrifice. People have to act, not be acted upon. That is when conversion occurs.