November 25, 2013
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!