Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bugs and Baptisms!

December 16, 2013
Another fantastic week in Samaría! We worked HARD, it was great!

So I had the start of an ingrown toenail, and I told my pensionista about it, and she was kind enough to preform some living room surgery on me! haha. She did a really good job! I haven´t had any problems, and it's been like 5 days! I have been washing it good with alcohol, so no one get worried haha! I am taking care of it, and literally it isn´t a problem. I was so glad she could do a mini surgery for me so I didn´t have to go to the clinic, because that would have wasted an entire day of proseliting!

Another fun fact, this week I ate cow stomach that had been soaked in milk for days!! haha it as like taffy, super chewy, and pretty gross, honestly! An experience for sure! Also something that is really common here is fermented potatos. They are black inside and out. Not sure why they like them so much.

Our district meeting this week was awesome, we took an old shirt and wrote our names on it and the things we were ´fighting for´. It is our district Title of Liberty!
Also something really fun we did, was we went with some of the neighborhood kids after doing service and caught some of the giant bugs they have here. Then we took some strings and we tied them around the heads of these beetles, and they held onto the other end while the beetles tried to fly away! So they were like these big pet beetles on strings and we walked around with them for a little while haha! I hope you can see the photos!

This Sunday we had 13 investigators at church (these numbers only count those age 8 and above, there were like 20 plus including all the babies!) - such a blessing! Sadly there were a few key investigators that needed to attend this Sunday to fulfill their baptismal commitment for the end of this month that didn´t attend )=. But, now we are just going to try extra hard to get them there next Sunday!

Mom, I am LOVING the Christmas CD that you sent me! I listen to it every morning while I am exercising! Man alive, I have gotten pretty darn good at jumping rope! =) I do it every morning, haha.

This Sunday I gave a 12 minute talk on the work of Salvation. It was amazing to think that only 2 months ago I couldn´t form a simple sentence in spanish. But with the power of the gift of tounges, I can just about say whatever I want to say! And I can get up and give a 12 minute talk with only 5 min. of preparation time!

This week we had a beautiful baptismal service for the Ticona Family! Roxana, Joana, Diana, and Christian all we baptized=) It was so great to hear Hermana Roxana´s Testimony after the Baptism, and to hear her say that she knows without a doubt that the church is true. The spirit was really strong there! That family is really special to me, they have such faith! They had experienced some REALLY hard challenges the week before their baptism, and they proved their faith as they pressed forward and still went on to be baptized! =) I was able to act as voice in Confirming Joana, and it was great to feel the spirit work through me so I could give the blessing that was intended for her.

A miracle that I want to expound on today in my letter is one that testifies of the power of the priesthood. Two weeks ago we met a woman named Viviana and started teaching her. She has a 6 year old daughter that has had terrible health problems for the past 4 years. She almost always has intense fevers to the point where she can't move, eat, or do anything - simple lifeless. We gave here a priesthood blessing of health about 2 weeks ago, and to this day she has been happy and able to run and play with her friends. This really strengthen my testimony of the power of the priesthood in bring sheep into the fold. This miracle really has kick-started Hermana Viviana´s interest in the gospel, and I hope and pray it will be the start of bringing the whole family back into the fold!
God lives, we have His power to heal and bless others on the earth today, and I am so blessed to be able to share this beautiful gospel message with everyone in Santa Cruz!
I Love You all!
Élder Bender
                                                                      Title of Liberty
                                                                      Ticona Family

The first of many baptisms!

December 9, 2013
Hello everyone! =)
Last pday we played Fútbol, and it was super fun. Plus out of all the latinos who are super good, I scored the first goal, and got the assist on the second! My first pday we played Bop it and Sorry with the branch president and his wife!
Firstly, I want to talk about the weather that we have had this week! It has been crazy. It was super crazy hot and humid for a day or two, then two days of dry heat and crazy wind. There was so much sand in the air I walk with my eyes closed! And I get sand EVERYWHERE! It was super sandy, like walking on the beach to appointments! Then we woke up one day to a crazy thunder and rain storm. It was just dumping! Everytime it rains we find tricky ways to quickly clean up the rain that leaks into our house, it's kind of fun! Haha. Our Pensionista told me that this wether pattern is going to repeat every week throughout December, January, and Febuary. Yeewhoo! Glad I bought some rain boots! They saved me this week!
Let's talk about bugs! There are some CRAZY bugs here! Haha its nuts. They call them Bechos, and there is this one type that chill out in the trees and every day around 6 they just all start screaming! So loud that in lessons we have to yell to talk over them! At first it was really weird, and now it's normal and I almost don't every recognize it! There are like a billion fatty, huge frogs right by our house too, they are always splated all over the road haha. Then we have lucinergas, which are more or less a type of firefly, just like the size of a fatty beattle! They glow super bright at night and just cruise around in the air! They are super cool. =)
I have gotten a zillion requests to write about food: Here are the things that I LOVE here! Salteñas and Empenadas are both literally so delicious, my favorite foods now! They are similar in theory, but the Salteñas are sweeter and just better all around, a bit more expensive too, but still cheap compared to American food! They are tiny little hand held biscuit things that are fried. And you can put whatever you want inside. The best ones have chicken, potatos, vegetables like carrots and peas, and then this super sweet juice stuff. They are amazing! I am sure you can look of recipes to make them online. Sometimes people just put cheese in the empenandas, but the best is the chicken!
On Saturday my pensionista slayed one of their Rosters! Haha I got to watch them do it, it was pretty nuts! I hope you can see the picture of its head! Sunday for lunch we ate him! It was pretty tough meat because he was 6 years old, but it was chicken none the less!
This week I had my first intercambio. I went to a different area about 30 minutes away and was companions with Elder Jamie for 24 hours. It was a really great experience and I learned so much! It's great to see how different people teach and what works for them. During this exchange I had my first experience teaching JW´s! It was really interesting. It was a first appoint with a lady and she invited her pastor over to just Bible bash us. It was SO cool because at first Elder Jaime bashed for a bit, and then I just started asking them questions, thought prevoking questions that answered their attacks on our church. Then I backed it up with a bunch of scriptures from the Bible and invited them to come to know for themselves that we having a living prophet today, for that is the only way they can know, is if they studied and prayed. OF COURSE they didn't accept the invitation, their hearts were veryyyy hardened, however we left with this invitation extended, a smile, and a handshake. They were baffeled because they wanted to fight, and we retaleated with love and invitations!
Now as you can see from the pictures I this week I was blessed to see someone who I have come to love enter the waters of baptism for the first time! It was a beautiful experience. Her name is Belinda, and she is 9 years old. She has such a testimony and desire to serve a mission when she gets older! One of the biggest miracles is that through us teaching her the lessons her father, who wanted nothing to do with the church at first, slowly came back into activity and baptized and confirmed his daughter. It was so beautiful at the service, he bore his testimony of how his life has changed because we have been teaching Belinda. And how he wants more than anything to take his family to the Temple so they can be sealed together for eternity. He started just crying and crying while bearing his testimony, and he just thanked us over and over and over for helping his daughter, but even more for helping him open his eyes once more to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Spirit was just so strong in that room, such a sweet experience, I was crying too!
This week we are going to have another baptismal service for Familia Ticona! They are awesome, and I have come to love them so much too. Their story is that the father left the picture about 2 years ago, and now Hermana Ticona works extrememly hard to support her five children. They are awesome! I am very excited for their baptism! =) Also we most likely will be baptizing a man named Oscar. He supposedly was baptized YEARS ago, but they don't have any record of it, and our branch president Presidente Raleigh said we should teach and baptize him again! Haha, so that we shall do! He most likely will be baptized on the 14th as well.
I love you all so very much, thanks for all of the prayers!
Élder Bender

                                                                Belinda and Family
                                                          Elder Bender and Elder Oliart

The Rooster

Saturday, December 7, 2013


December 2, 2013
Hello Everyone!
All is well in Samaria!
I will start by sharing a really cool experience. We went to teach a family this week and Juana, (The mom) had her father, Mateo, who was over too so we taught him also. We quickly realized that he was pretty worried about his wife's salvation (who passed away some time ago) and of course he had questions about the next life too. We taught him The Plan of Salvation and about Temple work for the dead, and how he can return and be with his wife again for eternity! He literally lit up so much, he was so excited and just delighted to hear this good news! I invited him to be baptized on the 28th of December and he gladly accepted! He also came to church this past Sunday! (Again we had 12 investigators at church with us!) But seriously, Mateo is Golden, he wants to go to the temple so badly its beautiful. He has been so prepared!
We had some CRAZY rain on Saturday Morning. Everything flooded. I got soooo muddy that day haha. However today I am going to buy some big rubber boots, so next time it rains it won't be so bad. Sunday was sooo hot and humid because of the rain previously. Apparently right after it rains is when the heat is the worst. But I am alive and a happy camper! (Literally!)
So, next Saturday I am going to have my first Baptism! I am going to baptize a girl named Belinda, she is 9 years old and she has such a strong testimony! Her Mom is active, and since we have been teaching her, her Father has come back into activity! I have had the opportunty to teach her all of the lessons but one, so I know her very well =) The family is awesome! Also on the 14th we will be baptizing all 6 of the Ticona Family! They are awesome. So prepared, so strong! They don't have much, but they are willing to give it all.
I have learned so much from all the people who I am blessed to teach. I have also been really blessed with the gift of tounges, and have learned alot! I have a lot to go, but I am seeing many blessings already=)
Samaria is a whole different world! Everyday I see hundreds of stray dogs and cats, random stray sheep, cows, llamas, pigs, bores, horses, and goats! They just roam the town eating the grass on the sides of the road. It's pretty neat! Most of the dogs are mellow, but there is one road that literally is like full of Demon Dogs. It's pretty nuts!
All in all, I am safe, happy, and loving missionary work here in Samaria. Plus I am learning so much! I just love this gospel and how simple it is, I love the people here, and I love my companion! I know without a doubt that this gospel is true, it is for everyone, and everyone needs it! I have seen so many people make huge changes already, and I am hoping and praying they will all follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized!

I love you all! Thanks for your prayers!
Èlder Bender

Hola de Samaria!

November 25, 2013
Hello Everyone!
I made it to Bolivia, and I am serving in an area called Samaría. It is about an hour south of Santa Cruz. It is a huge area. The area was closed for 2 years until three months ago it got reopened for missionaries to be in. It is an awesome area, the people are fantastic, and the pace of life is snail speed. It's really different, but I love everyone here. The area is gigantic size wise, and has one main paved road to get in and out of the city. Everything else is dirt! I have to shine my shoes daily, they get so filthy!
My Companion is Elder Oliart. He is awesome! He is from Peru-Cochabamba. He's lived in both for equal time. He's a great guy, and he was one of the Missionaries to first open this area so he knows it really well. WHAT A BLESSING THAT IS! Because it is huge and there are no street names or anything, all dirt with no names!
It definately is a culture shock coming here, that's something I can´t help to say. But I am getting used to it more every day and it's good! One crazy story I have to throw in, and one of the most shocking things I saw, was we were teaching a lady in her home, and her little brother was there and his baby too. The baby was hanging off of my leg for most of the lesson being all cute and all, and then she wobbled over to her Mom and in literally 2 seconds the woman was breastfeeding her child right there in the middle of our lesson! No blanket or cover or anything! As if it's no big deal! And of course, the lesson went on like nothing is happening and all is well. Man alive, I was staring into here eyes as if my life depended on it! It made it really easy for my eyes not to wander when I taught! The same thing happened at church in Gospel principles class, we were teaching, but it wasn't nearly as much of a shocker the second time.

It is extremely hot and humid here. I am always, ALWAYS, sweating. When I am walking, teaching, sleeping, studying, showering, etc. To answer your question Mom, yes there is hot water, but I don't use it! I embrace and love the cold!
Our Branch is awesome, Poderoso! There are about 80 members, and most are converts. There are very few priesthood holders, and most of the members are women. The Branch President is only like 26- 27ish. He lives next door to us. (I will try and send pics of my house next week!) It's bright green! His wife is our pensionista, and cooks us lunch everyday. Our other neighbors are strong members too and they wash our clothes for 100 Bs per transfer.
The food so far consists of: Rice, Chicken, more rice, Beef, Igno (cow intestins), and more chicken! Once I had some lentiles, and they were super good too. Overall, the food is great, and if it isn't, you are so hungry it tastes good anyways!
Yesterday we had 12 investigators come to church with us! Tan Maravilloso! It increased the attendance drastically haha. Church is at 10, and we leave our house at 8 and for two hours literally jog from house to house reminding everyone to come to church! Then we all flock to church together! The church is a ways away, so we take a micro, a tiny bus type thing. The church is also extremely tiny and doesn't even look like a church building, just like a building set up on the inside for church meetings. They don't have much here, but they are so happy anyways. Good news is they are building a new church building MUCH closer, and it will look like a real church! Hopefully in a year or so we can make this tiny branch a strong ward. On Sunday we confirmed 4 people members of the church and they received the Holy Ghost. It was great! They were all baptized the day before I got here, haha.
The work here seems to move forward at lighting speed! It's amazing.
Language: No lie, it is really difficult. My companion is pretty patient with me with is amazing. When teaching and talking about the gospel I can understand almost everything. But when talking about anything else it's much harder, because I haven't really studied those words! However I know the Lord is blessing me with the language. And I am learning!
Overall, I am a happy camper! The work is HARD. And I have been extremely humbled in coming to know how little I know. But at the same time, the work is beautiful, and there is nothing greater than seeing an investigator's smile and complete joy when they are feeling the Spirit. It's so cool to see people come to remember the things they knew from the life before this. The plan of Salvation is beautiful, and at the center of it is our ability to Grow and have Joy.
It is a great feeling to come home exhausted, sweaty, EXTREMELY dirty, and to just feel that we worked DURO DURO DURO all day long.
I love you all so very much and am grateful for all of your prayers! Jesus lives, and loves infinately.
I love you all so very much!
Élder Bender

Estoy aqui en Santa Cruz!

November 19, 2013
I am given just a few minutes to write home and say that I made it here safe! We took a 1 hour bus ride from the airport to the Mission Office which is on the 7th floor of a giant building in the middle of Santa Cruz. The city seems to be just as crazy and awesome as Bogota! I love it already!
President Willard is awesome, so nice and friendly. I won´t get my new companion until tomorrow just so you know.
I love you all so very much!
Have a great day!
-Élder Bender

Columbia Pictures

 In Cathedral del Sal

 Nativity at Cathedral del Sal

 Elder Bender and Elder Suarez

Bolivia, Santa Cruz!


Last Letter From Columbia!

November 16, 2013
Wow it has been awesome this past week and a half!
My Companion is Elder Suarez. He is from Baranquia Columbia and he is awesome. He's a pretty shy guy at first, but extremely powerly in lessons. He is the only member in his family, and just had his 24th birthday on Sunday. I gave him that tie that was still in the box, remember Mom? Elder Suarez knows no english whatsoever. It's really funny for me right now, because my whole life of being around hispanics they speak spanish when they don't want me to know what they are saying, and now me and all the other gringos can speak english and no one understands! It's hilarious how the tables have turned. I feel my spanish is getting so much better being around Latinos all the time.
Normally when they make a new district they call a new district leader. For some reason or another I got called AGAIN, and I was the only old leader to get called again, but I did! Being District leader is pretty cool, a lot harded now that it's all in Spanish, but I love it still. Plus it forces me to speak more because I teach district meetings. Anyway, its a good thing.
So, I think I leave for Bolivia Monday night at like midnight, but I don't have a schedule yet. It's been awesome here in Bogota, I love the city and the people, and I definately am going to miss it. However I am excited to go to Bolivia too!
I was supposed to have PDAY yesterday but we didn´t because a member of the 70 came, Elder Mestre. He is an amazing man. Hes only 40 or 41, has been a mission president in Spain, and is already a member of the seventy. Mark my words, he is going to be the first latino Apostle. He spoke about the importance of not only the HACER, (or the to DO) in missionary work, but also the SER (the to BE). His testimony of missionary work is so powerful. It was a cool experience. Another major highlight of this week was going to the temple twice! The first time was on Wendnesday, and it was my companion, Elder Suarez`s, first time going through the temple! It was such a neat experience being his escort, I loved that and will treasure that moment forever.
Also, this week we got to go out proselyting again, and our `golden contact` was with an old lady from Ecuador. We talked with her for 20 minutes at the fountain in the middle of a outdoor shopping strip. She was so interested in the Plan of Happiness and wanted her grandkids to grow up in the gospel. She had been so prepared, it was a great expereience.

Well a teacher is telling me to get off now, Sorry it's so short! Enjoy the pics from the Cathedral del Sal!

I love you all!
Èlder Bender

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Calm before the Storm

November 5, 2013
Hello everyone!
I am doing fantastic and loving it here in Bogota! One of the highlights since Friday was eating my first Granadia! It is a fruit that they have here that looks like a orange, but has a thick hard outer shell that you crack like an egg. Inside is a soft white sack. When you tear into the sack there are hundreds of little tiny bluish seeds that have a gross looking film around them, they look like salmon eggs. This is how you eat them: slurp all the seeds out at once, (enough to fill the amount of a fist) and then you swish them around in your mouth and then swallow without chewing. apparently if you chew it's really gross tasting. But if you just swish around the seeds is delicious! It sorta tastes like cantalope, but fresher and sweeter. I have had two so far, and I love them!
Saturday I got to go out and contact again! This time we went to a different place right by El parke de Simone Bolivar. My companion and I went into this neighborhood across the street from it and we were there the entire time. It was literally a freaking gold mine! The people here are so prepared it catches me off guard everytime. I love it! We met this man in his mid twenties named Emanuel, and he is literally an angel. He had no religious background which is really uncommon here, but he was so interested in the Book of Mormon. He works as an outdoor librarian. I know it's cool! They have these mini library things, which are big yellow boxes that are locked up. They have one librarian guy with the key who just sits by it all day in the middle of the neighborhood and he checks books out to people. It's a really cool idea. Anyway, we spoke with him for a good 30 minutes about God, Christ, The Book of Mormon, and the Plan of Salvation. He was so interested, and I grew to completely love they guy within like 5 minutes of talking. I was testifying of the truthfullness of the Book of Mormon and how it has blessed my life and literally the spirit was so think in the air right then it was amazing. He was so affixiated on my words, and I got all emotion right there in the middle of a little park in a neighborhood. I invited him to be baptized right then and there in the street and he said that he feels like it is the right thing to do, but he wants to read and go to church first. Man, he is so ready, the Lord is preparing people left and right! I think it is really cool that everyone back home is having cool missionary experiences too!
Sunday was really spiritual, and it was all in English! It really made it feel like a day of rest! Right now there are only 19 gringos here because all the latinos left already. I have been playing with my hackysack (or in spanish it's called a fuchi) a lot during gym time. I have gotten a lot better! It's been a lot of fun.
This morning we went to the Bogota Temple again and it was fantastic! I love that temple so much. I felt heavenly presence there with all of us missionaries in the celestial room, it was amazing. Afterwards we went straight back to the CCM, and changed into pday clothes. Today was the day of the tour! It was epic. We went to the Cathedral del Sal, and it was literally the gnarliest thing I have ever seen! On the way we stopped at the sandwich shop for lunch, and it was sooo good! I had my first Coke in 2 years! I have a picture of me with it, it's pretty cool, and it was in a glass bottle! =) The sandwiches were way good. We saw them cut the meat right off the bone right there in front of us. It was the real deal!
In the Cathedral de Sal there was sooooo much cool stuff! I hope I can upload pictures today, I just can't find my plug in thingy. Anyway, the Cathedral was hundreds of feet underground into the mountain. it was built in an old salt mine. The Catholics carved out these giant meeting rooms literally 150 feet tall rooms in the center if the earth unsupported. There are tons of giant granite cross carved out of the stone there too and they are all lit up and look freaking amazing. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen no lie! They also had this giant granite nativity scene carved out of the rock and it was sooo cool! The entire place took hours to explore, it was miles and miles of huge tunnels with beautifully polished granite. I vowed that I am going to come back to that place sometime later in life because it should be one of the seven wonders of the world!
Tonight 13 more gringos are coming in, and tomorrow 50 latinos are coming in. I will be getting a latino companion for the last two weeks that I am here. It will be hard, but it will be a great learning experience for me. Everyone here talks about how they take you on the tour the day before you get a latino companion as kind of like a ¨calm before the storm¨ type thing. It was seriously the coolest thing though.
I love you all so much!
I assume the next time I will be able to write will be next Tuesday.
Elder Bender

Hello from Columbia!

November 1, 2013
Hey Everyone!
Thank you so much for all the emails! I loved seeing pictures of the kids all carving pumpkins! :) On that note, I will talk about my halloween here in Columbia! I learned a really funny halloween song in spanish, its what kids sing while they trick or treat. It is called Triki Triki Halloween. In English it goes, ¨Trick or treat, halloween, I want candy, give me some, or I will break your nose.¨ Haha I love it. when we sing it it sounds so innocent too its great.
OKAY So starting from the top. My first few days in Columbia were really different and kind of surreal. Everything is different, and everything is in Spanish. It was really great though. The food here is the best food I have ever eaten, no lie! For every meal we have these amazing fruit juices that are like liquid candy. And the food is just so real and amazing. Their halloween candy and snack type food is weak though compared to american snacks haha. My two favorite desserts I have had are called Torta de Tres Leches and also Milhoja. They are both out of this world good. Oh I also had this doughnut type thing that was filled with dulce de leche cream and I about died it was so good. Food wise, I have never been better in my life! Rice and soup for every meal too! The awesome thing is here they put ketchup on everything, so its the first time I feel normal for drowning my food in ketchup!
My companion is Elder Gubler. He is from St. George Utah, and he is a Cowboy through and through. I love this guy! The first week he was having a really hard time and completely overwhelmed with Spanish since all instruction here is in Spanish. (I feel blessed to have spent two weeks in Provo first so I can understand what everyone says) But this week, he's been feeling really good and he's been liking it.
I was assigned to be District leader, and I am learning so much from this experience. It is really humbling and helps me strive even more to be an example of the Savior in everything I do. There are 6 Elders in my district, and a trio of Sisters. They are all super awesome and have very unique personalitys and cool backgrounds!
Last week, one night, one of the Elders in my district was having extreme chest pain that is a result of a car accident he was in. It was really racking his body with pain for a few hours and at about 12 at night, he asked me for a blessing and only a few minutes after the blessing was finished he had no pain at all and he was able to sleep through the night. The Priesthood is real! That was such a great experience for me to be able to learn and grow from.
Saturdays here we walk about a mile and a half into downtown Bogota and we go street contacting for a few hours! It is so fantastic I loved every second of it! I specifically remember the first lady we contacted, and my companion Elder Gubler literally knew like no spanish at the time other than "hello" and "goodbye" and "how are you doing?" And we were both super nervous inside, but we walked straight up to her and talked with her, and she totally shut us down! It was great because I could understand what she said, and was never nervous ever again haha! The next guy we talked to we gave him a Book of Mormon and he promised to read it. We also got his address and phone number for missionaries in the area to come teach him the lessons. It was golden! He expressed tons of interest in the fact that the Book Of Mormon contains a record of Christ's ministry to HIS ANCESTORS in the Amercias. That's such a selling point for the Book Of Mormon down here, it is awesome. About 30 minutes later we see this guy shooting hoops at a innercity park by himself. We walk up to introduce ourselves and as soon as he turns around and see us he's like, "Come on over Elders, let's play some basketball!" We found out his name is George and then we walk up and play a game that translates to HorseShoe. It's basically a three teamed 1v1 basketball game. We played for like 4 minutes and then asked him what he knew about our church. He said "Everything!" Turns out he spent some time in New Jersey and took all the missionary lessons, but he moved back to Columbia before he and his family could be baptized. He said he had been looking for a church in Bogota to attend a sacrament meeting, but he hadn't found one yet. We gave him the address and he was so grateful. When we asked him what he knew about the Book of Mormon he said, "I have one and teach my family from it every week!" None of his family had been baptized yet, they had been looking for a church building where they could attend, and they do Family Home Evening each week! He is the prime example of how the Lord is preparing His children to receive the Gospel, they just need to know where to find it! It was the highlight of the entire week. The spirit was so strong when we were with him and I just grew the strongest love for him like the 15-20 minutes we were with him.
So, we were given 90 minutes to contact that day, and my comanion and I gave out ALL the materials they gave us to hand out as we contacted: 2 Libro de Mormon, 6 pamphlets, 6 pass along cards, and a Liahona Magazine! It was awesome. We got 6 people's contact information too, to give to the local missionaries as referrals. Overall, the people in Bogota are so nice, so prepared, and they need the gospel so badly. They thirst for it, it's beautiful to share with them exactly what they need.
Another highlight was going to the Bogota Temple last Tuesday! It is literally the prettiest temple I have ever seen. Look it up! It was so cool going in the temple and having everyone in there doing the exact same thing as we do at home just thousands of miles away and in a different tongue. It was beautiful. And man, that temple sure does stick out among the busy and dirty city streets of Columbia!
On Wendnesday, we had Elder Albanez from the 70 come and speak to us. It was so cool, and again I was blessed to be able to understand almost everything he said - and he speaks serious native Spanish! It was cool to be in a room of 50 missionaries, and one member of the 70. It was so personal, and really interactive. I sat on the front row!
Here in the Columbian MTC they have a tradition that on the beginning of your 4th week you get an all day Tour of the City on your pday. (I think I should be able to Email at some time Tuesday next week too.) I am doing that next week and I am so excited! We get to go to the Museum of Gold, go up into the mountains, and ride llamas! So it should be super fun and I can't wait. The next day (Wendnesday of next week) I get a new companion, I will get a brand new guy to the MTC who is a Latio. He won't know any English, so that will be an adventure! I am very excited for that opportunity. :)
I love you all so very much! Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!
Elder Bender

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Columbia MTC

I made it to the CCM in Columbia safely!  It was a crazy long day of traveling and I definitely experience some culture shock when we arrived in Bogota.  I heard more sirens in 10 minutes in Bogota than I had in a year in Vista!  It's awesome here, everything is so different.  President y Hermana Dyer are super nice, I love them. The teachers here had us teach a mini lesson to them en espanol for a few minutes just so they could see where we are at.  After that they pulled me back for much more interviewing and they decided they wanted to send me to my mission in 8 days!  They figured I will be prepared enough to leave that soon BUT then they found out no one is going to my mission until 4 weeks from now, and I can't travel alone... So looks like I am stuck here! Oh well, I like it here, and I am companions with Elder Gubler who is a brand new gringo who knows no spanish at all (he came straight here and hadn't gone to Provo) The Latino Elders here are awesome!  So funny.  I feel my Spanish has improved since I've been here and I haven't even had a class yet.  I just speak it a lot in everyday things.  I am loving it!  On Saturday we are going out into the city and going to go contacting for 2 hours.  It will be sweet!  It will be hard with a brand new Companion, but it will just make me work that much harder.  I am having a lot of fun!  Thanks for your prayers, I am going to need all the prayers I can get to stay healthy running on so little sleep and being in a different country eating different food.  So far the food has been good though!  Different but good :)
I love you all so much!
-Elder Bender
ps.  its so weird typing English on a Spanish keyboard, it says everything is spelled wrong... haha 

Provo, Utah MTC pictures

P1050180.JPG         Elder Bender with Companion

P1050139.JPG     Going to Bolivia, Santa Cruz!

P1050132.JPG    The name Badge!!!

P1050134.JPG  The District!

"We are NOW the Lord's missionaries!"

October 21, 2013
Hello everyone!
It has been a fantastic week!  I am leaving tomorrow morning to go to the CCM in Columbia, so today is my last day in the US for 2 years!  So on Tuesday I got to hear from Elder Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles!  It was fantastic.  He spoke on what makes our Church different and what makes it TRUE.  He broke it down in three points.  
1:  We have additional living scripture
2:  We have the Priesthood Authority of God
3:  We have a unique relationship and love of the Savior Jesus Christ
It was so cool to be in his presence, when he walked in it was just epic!  One of the greatest highlights of being in the MTC is when we all sing the primary song "We will bring the world His truth"  It has always been one of my favorite songs, and in the CCM they change the lyrics from "We will be the Lord's Missionaries..." to "We are NOW the Lord's Missionaries and bring the world his truth..."  It's so epic every time we sing it I get all teary eyed!  The Spirit is so strong here ALL of the time.  It's the best place on Earth to feel the Spirit and learn.  Other highlights were we finished up teaching our "investigator" Shonna and it was really cool to see the improvement in my language abilities, teaching abilities, and most of all seeing her open up to us and the love that we had for her and she had for us.  Yes, it is all a act, but it feels just as real as you make it.  And the Spirit will ALWAYS be present when we testify of truth.  That is what is most important, for the Spirit does the converting not the missionary.  

This week I got spoiled!  3 Packages of goodies!  I have been eating and sharing goodies like a mad man.  Thanks Mom & Dad, Sabrina, and Devore's!  Sarah, those milky way cookies and 'better than crack brownies' are infamous among my zone.  Everyone is talking about them!  |
Also, thank you everyone for all the awesome E-mails!  The support is greatly appreciated.  I wish I had more time to write back to everyone!

This week my Companion Elder Cisneros got his Patriarchal blessing and seeing his complete transformation from who he was before he went into the room to receive the blessing-to who he became afterwards was a testimony builder to me about Patriarchal blessings.  Tonight I am going to read mine again!

I just want to throw in here that I have the best district ever.  Since me and one other sister are leaving tomorrow to go to the MTC in Columbia we had a district testimony meeting during some of our personal time.  It was amazing, its so cool how you much faster friendships grow when the spirit is present.  I am kind of bummed to leave this awesome District!

I heard an awesome quote from Elder Holland recently that I'd like to share.  He said that when Jesus set up his Church is was part of the calling to Apostleship to be messengers of the Gospel and be missionaries.  Think back to "FEED MY SHEEP!"  He then went on to say that as full time missionaries we are 'Extensions to the arms of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles''  That is so cool to think about!  Missionary work is great, and I am so grateful to go to the Colombian MTC and hope to learn Spanish even faster there!  I testify that God knows each and every one of us, and that he loves us infinitely.  I also want to share one last awesome quote that I heard since being here "God loves all of his Children equally, he just loves his Missionaries more equally!" Serving my Master, Redeemer and Savior full time is such a blessing and I feel so blessed to be a part this hastening of the work.
I love you All!
-Elder Bender

Monday, October 14, 2013

"The MTC Rocks!"

Hello Everyone!  
Thanks to everybody for all the kind DearElders and e-mails.  They are really appreciated! Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers as well. So I guess I will start from the top.
On the flight I sat by an Elder who is going to Argentina, so sadly that shut down an airplane missionary opportunity.  It was fun though, we talked most of the flight and he was way nervous because he'd never been away from his family.  I think I helped calm him down a bit - everything happens for a reason, so that's probably why I was sitting by him!  I got to the MTC at like 10am-ish.  There was like a pre-orientation orientation just to kill time with the Elders who came before 12:30.  Luckily, since I came early I got to eat lunch in the cafeteria!  It was good. 
I later met my companion and my district.  I LOVE my companion Elder Cisneros.  He's from Orem, UT and is fluent in Spanish.  The only reason why he is here for 6 weeks is because he can't read or write in Spanish.  In fact, I can read and write in Spanish better than him.  And that isn't saying much!  My district has 5 companionship's, 2 Elder-ships and 3 Hermana-ships.  They all are awesome.  My Zone is super cool too, all the Elders in my Zone are all in the same hall as me and they are all super fun guys and I know just about all their names now.  The first day was pretty easy and fun.  We did a really cool "Teach Experience" workshop that was eye opening and really great.  I really started to learn how to recognize what the investigator is feeling, yet isn't saying - which is really important.  
After day one, everything has been in Spanish, which is great for learning!  It also made you have to try REALLY hard to listen 24/7.  It's tiring, humbling, and hard.  But I am loving every second of it.  I am taking full advantage of every minute of personal study time so I can learn everything I can.  It's crazy how fast I am learning things - especially compared to the rate I learned with Rosetta Stone pre-mission.  It isn't even funny how real the gift of tongues is, and the power the Spirit has in helping us learn.  In addition to learning lots of Spanish I have learned a ton about studying, my Savior Jesus Christ, The Holy Ghost, and just teaching skills in general.  
I taught my first lesson in Spanish on Friday.  Boy, it was so hard and very humbling.  The investigators here are so real, extremely good actors.  I had to fill 25 minutes of gospel and spirit filled time in Spanish. I was extremely blessed with being able to say a lot of the things I was prompted to say which was amazing.  However, I was reminded that I am a tool in the Lords work, and that I need to do everything I can to be the most useful I can be.  Saturday we had the second lesson with the same investigator, Shonna.  It went WAY better.  We talked all about the atonement and the healing power that comes from it.  We also taught her that Christ set the example for us to be baptized - along with talking about his life.  She seemed really interested and touched by the atonement, and when I testified of Eternal families I got all teared up and the Spirit was about as thick as pudding in the air!  It was awesome.  It so cool to feel the Spirit as I testify in Spanish.  I invited her to be baptized and she seemed interested but she want to change some things in her life first.  Tomorrow morning, we will teach her about the Restoration and Book of Mormon.
Last night, we had a sweet devotional all about the importance of the investigator feeling and recognizing the Spirit.  It was awesome, and I got to usher for it!  Pretty cool because then I got to sit in the second row in the very front!  So cool.  After that we watched the Elder Bednar talk "Characters of Christ".  Holy cow, it was amazing.  Everyone said, "It is so good, it will change your mission, and your life!"  And they were all true.  It's the best talk I have every heard and my love, appreciation, and desire to become more like the Savior grew so much.  I advise everyone to look it up and watch it, your guaranteed to cry your eyes out, I am getting teary just thinking about it!
I love the MTC, I love my Savior, I love my Companion, and I love this Gospel.
Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers, I can feel them bless my life here.
I love you all!
-Elder Bender
Caminamos con fe

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Elder Bender off to the Missionary Training Center!


photo.JPGWe took Bryce to the airport this morning to fly to the Missionary Training Center (MTC).  We found out a few days ago that his visa hasn't arrived yet, so plans were changed for him to begin his training at the Provo, Utah MTC today, instead of the Columbia MTC.  It is anticipated that he will transfer to the Columbia MTC after his visa arrives.  Bryce had a great send off.  The whole family, including Grandma and Grandpa Huyett, came to the airport to say good-bye prior to his 6:15AM departure.  We miss him already but are so pleased with his decision to serve the Lord and share the gospel.  We look forward to hearing about his experiences!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Called to Serve!

On June 2, 2013 I held a packet with trembling hands sent to me from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.  This packet held the direction my life would take for the next two years, and change me forever.  I opened it up and read that I have been called to serve in the Bolivia, Santa Cruz Mission!  I am very excited and honored to give two years of my life in service to my Savior and the Bolivian people.  I leave on October 8th to fly to the Bogota, Columbia Missionary Training Center.

I can be contacted via e-mail throughout my mission at  I would love to hear from you!

This blog will be kept up by my Mom who will be posting each of my weekly updates, along with photos that I take along the way.  If you would like to be added to the direct e-mailing list send her an e-mail at and she will add you to the weekly e-mail update list.

-Elder Bender