Friday, November 6, 2015

The Bermejeño!

November 2, 2015

My heart is pounding pretty hard right now, these have been the best 25 months of my life!

So many amazing things happened this week!  So many weekly goals were accomplished:)

My companion baptized for the first time!  Celestino, a man who'd been investigating for over a year, finally, through our humble words choose to follow Christ and make the baptismal covenant.  He's the best!  I'll show the pictures on Friday.  On Sunday, I confirmed him.  

What a delight to hear that so many of my favorite people bore their testimonies this week!  In my 7:30am Sacrament meeting in Bolivar, following which I taught the Gospel Principles class about eternal marriage (how ironic?!) then I got special permission to go to the Miraflores branch from the APs to give my testimony there (their meeting starts at 9:30am).  It was extra special bearing my testimony in Miraflores, because after the closing hymn was said, President Flores stood up before anyone left the sacrament meeting and said, "This isn't protocol, however... Elder Bender, can you come on up here?"  I walked up to his side and he said, "On behalf of the Miraflores family, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the work you have done here.  We all love you."  He went on to explain that I got to the branch just in time to save many people there, including the branch president who was more depressed at that point in his life than ever before.  I think more than one pair of eyes were watery.

I can't express enough my love for them all!  I want to be a member here!  The Church is so true! Love is the lubricant and the life of His Labor. 

Can I please be Bermejeño?

I have pondered a little bit about how I'd finish what I write today, and I guess I'll just mention a few of the changes - visual and non-visual - that He has made on the canvas of my soul.

Visual and obvious changes:
-Well, um, I speak Spanish!
-I have a new hairstyle - very missionaryish
-I am about 15 pounds heavier
-I am more doctrinally confident
-I am more reverent about heavenly things

Non-visual changes:
-I have cultivated a vivid and vibrant testimony of the divinity of Christ's mission, and the healing and comforting power of His Atonement.
-A strong and friendly relationship with the Holy Ghost.
-A childlike innocence and lack of desire to see, hear, or speak things that would offend the Spirit.
-I have learned to devour and love the holy scriptures.
-I have a better appreciation of the importance of, and basic need for an eternal family - and a deep gratitude for my parents, siblings, and relatives.
-I've better learned how to lead as Christ led, and follow as He followed His Father.
-I`ve learned the laws of justice, mercy, and grace.  Also the role of obedience in the eternal plan of happiness.
-A deeper understanding of covenants and a reverent desire to keep them, and make more.

I love you all!  

I Love Jesus Christ!  He is Lord.

-Elder Bender

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Limitless Love

October 26, 2015

This week was a very special one, I'll remember it forever! :)

It's safe to say that it's summertime!  I think it has gotten above 100 degrees every day this week.  I have a gnarly half-neck tan line from my white shirts.  It's hideous.  haha.
Last night it was like 88 degrees with probably more than 80% humidity at 10:30pm in our room while we were trying to go to bed!  Free sauna you know?

We are having great success teaching Rene`s  (our recent convert)  family.  His brother Ever has started reading the Book of Mormon and really has made some big changes.  This week we are hoping to meet and teach Ever's wife that way as a family they can have the vision of an eternal family.

Thursday we went to Tarija for the Zone Conference.  It was a great one.  Sister Willard shared about how often times in life, our plan A, doesn't work out.  However that doesn't mean that we are failures, or that God didn't hear our prayers, it's just His plan is often different than ours.  She explains that after our "Plan A" falls through we often transition to our Plan B.  And just as surely, it'll crash and burn just as Plan A!  
The answer is found in Plan G, Plan God. My "life plan" will have to be that when things are not working out, ask Him what the plan is!  Alma said it best, we need to counsel with God is all our doings.  
The moral of the story isn't that we have to fail 6 times to get to God's Plan, but rather try to live according to His Plan, His Plan of Happiness to find consistent, and often times instant, success.

As a district we had prepared a special musical number to sing at the multi zone conference and I chose "We'll Bring the World His Truth" as our song.  We sang the first verse in Spanish, the second in Portuguese, and the third in English! We changed the words "We will be the Lord's missionaries" to "We are now the Lord's missionaries". It was very special for me to sing that song, because I feel like singing it 7 years ago in EFY really stoked my flame into a scorching desire to serve. 

In the same Zone Conference I gave my "Final Testimony" along with the other 2 Elders and a sister that are all finishing this transfer whom are currently serving in Tarija/Bermejo.
I feel like He has changed me so much since the day I entered the MTC!  How blessed I feel.  

I love the Lord!

Yesterday, Sunday, we had a Multi-Stake/District Conference broadcast for the Areas of Perù and Bolivia.  The first 30 minutes were presided by our district President, President Arce who has come to be a great friend of mine, and then vìa video conference Elder Anderson presided the conclusion of the meeting. In the first 30 minutes, President Arce asked me to share my testimony as part of the district conference.  Honestly, family, I feel so blessed to have worked in The Bermejo District!  As I bore my testimony, I looked out over many converts and less actives whom I have worked with, many leaders with whom I've been able to support and sustain, and I just love them all!  Bermejo is such a blessed town.  I feel like through working in 2 of the 4 branches, and then exchanges as DL, I have come to personally know about 80% of the members here!  The church is so true, they have so much faith.  It brought tears to my eyes thinking of how merciful God has been with me to lend me some of His love for His children.  

In conclusion, that's what its all about!  Godly Love.  Fatherly Love for all of his Children.  That's the work of salvation.  It is part of who I am, I love it, I love Him!

-Elder Bender 

P.S. FYI, I am at 901 contacts with my goal for contacting 1,000 before my mission ends!  99 to go!  Pray that they'll be accepting!

 Chopping down the papaya tree from our service project last week!

     Baptism selfie
 Rene's baptism pics from last week!
 Picture from the Zone conference with my first and last sons!  They are great Elders and great friends.
 Preaching to them vacas.  "Every ear shall hear, and every tongue confess..."
Ping pong for our morning workout! Here is Elder Hecker returning one with some heat.
We helped the Branch President with tearing down an old building with some less than adequate tool for our weekly service.
 Chopping down the papaya tree from our service project last week with Elder Hecker!

Pretty Papaya flow in Elder Hecker's hair
 The Cow that we taught wasn't really responsive.. but we tried to focus more on the plan of salvation because his family was gone.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

FYI, I am still in a third world country, the internet is terrible

October 19, 2015

This week was miraculous!

My internet is TERRIBLE, and it'll be a miracle if you get this, so it'll be short and sweet.

We did a SWEET service project for our branch president Friday morning - we knocked down an old adobe house, and cut down a papaya tree with a machete.  Then with the papayas that fell down, we played real live fruit ninja, and one played as "pitcher" and the other clopped up the papayas in mid air with the machete.  Too legit to quit.

Also Rene Santos was baptized!  He is the best.  Honestly.  He'll be taking my place in the mission field!  Without a doubt, he is more prepared for the mission that I was!

I love you all!

Elder Bender

Where's Waldo?

October 12, 2015

This week was very refreshing, after working in trio, and having to move stuff around a bunch and do preparations for the sisters to come, it just felt so good to work a solid week without interruptions! :) 

I am learning lots of patience, I felt as though my previous branch was really up to par with the work of salvation, retention, activation, baptisms, priesthood advancements, etc.

It seems as though in this new branch none of that has been common.  Its very notable how the faith of the members as a whole changes the results of the work.  

However many miracles have happened!  Starting off with; its been cooler weather!  Also a great future missionary who was receiving the missionary lessons in Tarija was able to pass his baptismal interview, and he asked me to baptize him this Saturday!  I felt that was especially cool, because I had set up baptisms for the Sisters in Miraflores, God has set Rene up for us, that way right when he moved we'd be ready to harvest!  Legit.  God is a just God.

We had a crazy experience, we found a GREAT family, the Vilca family, here in Bolìvar.  They accepted baptism, and also to attend church.  We picked them up early to come to church (because we enter at 7:30am) and they were waiting and ready to go!  However because they have a young baby, they went the two parents, and the baby on their little motorcycle and said they would meet us there.  Awesome!  So they obviously beat us there.  We got to the church, saw their bike out front, went into the chapel and they were NO WHERE to be found!  Hmm.. That's odd, so instead we decided to go to the near by Sunday Market and walk through to see if they had gotten distracted buying stuff on the way to church.... Nada.  So we entered into the meeting hoping they'd come in later.  After the sacrament had been passed, we went out side again, their bike was STILL THERE, we spent another 20 minutes running through this market looking for them!  Nothing.  
Anyway, you are probably wondering where the Vilca family was hiding, SO AM I! In the end we never found them, yet ALL OF CHURCH their motorcycle was out front!  It may have been the most frustrating thing all week! haha.  We are praying more specifically this week that they'll not only get to church but get inside the church!

I love you all so much!
-Elder Bender 

Monday, October 5, 2015

To Witness

General Conference was fantastic!  And it came just in time! :)

So much has happened in so little time - Changes!

Last Sunday (8 days ago) a missionary from my district was transferred out early, and his companion Elder Newmans, stayed with Elder Hecker and I in a trio for this entire week.  We were covering two areas for the week, Miraflores, and also Bolivar.  We were tearing things up the first two days, with double digit lessons and new investigators, MIRACLES left and right (all in the Miraflores limits). President Willard called me and informed me that our mission is lacking Elders, and that he felt impressed to instead send sisters to Bermejo to fill the holes.  He didn't want there to just be one lonely companionship of sisters, so he sent 2, now my district is made up of 4 elders and 4 sisters.  Sad I was to know that I would be transferred from my favorite branch on earth, Miraflores, and spend the rest of my mission in Bolivar.  (Mostly because Miraflores is safer and prettier and wealthier.)  I am not quite in Samaria type living and teaching, but close!

I know there is a reason why God wanted this change made, and I am excited to starting working in a new area that neither of us know!

Great news is that the new sisters that are in my district (that will actually be arriving in Bermejo in 2 hours) The ones that will be taking our place in Miraflores have two baptisms set up for this Saturday the 10th.  Teofilo Nina (thanks to your prayers) will be baptized, and also Martina.  I dearly love them, and all of Miraflores!

One of the struggles this week after learning of the transfer, was finding a suitable house for 4 sister to live in.  We found a beautiful house, great price, and it was perfect, one problem.... its on the 3rd floor.... fetch.  Moving all their stuff was a pain!  I am ready to be in Elders Quorum now, sign me up for the mover's team!

We were able to listen to General conference in English in all the sessions except for Sunday afternoon, and that was a true blessing for Elder Hecker!  He said to me like 3 minutes into it, I'll just wait for the Ensign to come out to read these", then ducked his head down to rest... haha poor guy!
He is great though, super positive and funny.  He reminds me of Jared, and is Kaylee's age!  bahaha.

I invite you all to ponderize with me The Family a Proclamation to the World!  ¿Lo haràn?

In General Conference I noted how often the authorities say that they "witness" in stead of that they "know".  I came to think, and commented to my companion, "Because they are special witness` are they the only ones allowed to say that they witness things in their testimonies?"  We can only say know when the spirit has manifested it to us, and we can say witness when we have seen the truthfulness, or fruits of a gospel principle. 
After pondering 2 years of consecrated service to Him, I can say that I know He Lives.  I witness His power to heal physically and spiritually.  I witness that the Holy Ghost speaks, warns, guides, and calms.  I witness the power of charity and love to change lives, behavior and character.  I witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, for only the word of God can work such potent changes in His children's lives.     

-Elder Bender

Monday, September 28, 2015

A historical week!

This is going to be, and has been a historical week! (Well, really they are two weeks but whatever...)
1) A bloody moon eclipse:  Who saw it?  Dad says it happens once every 30 years.  Seeing that Christ hasn't returned yet, looks like we got another 30 years to get prepped ;)
2) 3 New Apostles:  This Saturday we will sustain them.  That's cool, it'll be the first time since 1906 that 3 apostles have been called and sustained in the same conference!  Will there be any non-Americans? I think yes.
3) A new companion:  Yes!  Last Monday and Tuesday I was in Santa Cruz for Mission Leadership council meeting, and Wednesday I met my new companion, Elder Hecker from Las Vegas Nevada!  He's only 6 months older than Kaylee, (that weirded me out to think about!) and has a strong testimony of the restored gospel.  He was in the Provo MTC for 6 weeks, and I officially think it is the LEAST effective MTC in Spanish language training.  In Bogota I felt like I learned a lot more than my first two weeks in Provo MTC, and the Elders I meet that come from the Lima and also from Buenos Aires MTC's are well prepared in the language.  The few that are coming out of Provo seem to have less experience.  NEVERTHELESS, We are getting sore about that now are we?  Hay que trabajar no mas!  We are working with more faith, than ever before, and we are getting along greatly.  However we'll need your prayers for the Vilca family, and in general that our investigators can come to general conference and receive testimonies there.  Teofilo Nina seems to be getting less interested, which bums me out, he was basically in the water before hand, but with prayers I know he'll come around.
4) 20 years of the "Family - A Proclamation to the World":  Yup, on the 23rd of September she had her birthday.  So to celebrate I have set the personal goal to give out a ton of those documents to try and save more families in this decaying world.  I also have set the goal to memorize it... probably in English!  I haven't started yet, but this week I'll begin:)  Who'll join me?
I love ya'll mucho!
Élder Bender

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Work righteously for your own incentive

September 21, 2015

Good day family and friends! 

Today is the beginning of Spring here on the Southern hemisphere. Fun fact.

This week I recognized I was behind on my goal for contact 1000 people, and contacted about 16-22 a day to get back caught up, but I did!  I have contacted a bit over 500.  

We worked really hard this week with Teofilo Nina trying to get him prepared to be baptized, and more than anything have a very strong testimony of the Book of Mormon.  He even had his baptismal interview and passed, however he'll need to be included in everyone's prayers that way he can gain a strong confirmation of the truthfulness of that book in order to be baptized in October.

Sadly, my time with Elder Lozano was cut short, and he received a call from the assistants Tuesday and they said that he would be needed in Santa Cruz to finish training a missionary who has 5 weeks in the field (he has 11 weeks).  Elder Lozano is a stud and I know he'll kill it!

I was made companions with Elder Ramos for the time being until Sunday, when all the mission was informed of their transfers, and what a surprise, Elder Bender will being training a new missionary!  Once more.  =)  I am content, I love training!  It strengthens my faith.

I thought I'd share a special miracle story with you all: 

Monday I contacted a lady walking with her 14 month old daughter.  Her name is Benita.  She was very shy when we chatted, but we managed to set a visit for Wednesday.  Tuesday we were informed of the temporary transfer that would happen in my area, and that Wednesday morning we had to wake up early and drive to Tarija to make the transfer.  I was full of emotion leaving Elder Lozano, he has been a great companion, and will be a life long friend.  Elder Ramos was to be my temporary companion, and with the emotions of leaving a buddy, being with a stranger as a companion, and having only 4 hours of sleep in me, when it came time to go to the visit we had set with Benita at 3pm, I thought, "She isn't going to be there, she was really shy and probably only set the visit because of shyness.  Anyways, no one is in their home at 3pm on a Wednesday."  "Plus my companion has to unpack his stuff, it's hot out, and even if Benita is there, her husband probably won't be." (without a man in the house it's prohibited to enter and teach her alone).  "We are better off just going to our lesson for 4pm"

Did the spirit prompt me to go?  No.  Did I know from 23 months of being a diligent missionary that I SHOULD GO, yes.  Were the chances of actually teaching the lesson high, obviously not. Did we go?   Yes.  

Benita was there, Beto, her husband was too.  They let us in, they accepted a baptismal date, and Beto informed me that he just stopped attending his evangelical church because of some false doctrines that were taught there.  He felt that we were an answer to his prayers.

I know God lives, and I know that he TESTED ME but not flooding me with the spirit to inspire me to go, better yet He knew that I have been a diligent servant and I knew I must go.  I know that God wanted more than anyone else for us to be the answer to Beto´s prayer, but it was up to ME to act.

May we be quick to act, and work righteously in the service of our God, is my prayer and earnest desire for all of you this week.

Elder Bender

Being the Homecoming Queens brother, does that make me royalty too?
Good work Kaylee, we all love you!

                                                     Last district meeting of the transfer

Fun district pictures, Rene Santos came to district meeting with us, the dude is a stud!

 We brought new ties and got them imprinted with our names of all the trainers and trainees who were together for 12 weeks!  Good times, BERMEJO

I took a picture of my proselyting card on the date that says I am finished as a 'minister'. Well, I still have 1 month to go!