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