Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas is in the Air...

December 15, 2014

What a fun week!  Right now in the offices the 4 secretaries and the assistants are all writing home wearing Santa Hats and we are listening to some good ol` Christmas tunes=)

So basically I have the best companion ever.  Elder Garcia is the best.  We have so much fun together, and yet learn so much from each other and both want to work really hard in our area.  We have seen many miracles this week with finding new investigators.  Its been fantastic working in the Lords vineyard.

One office highlight was making the Mission Christmas card! The one from President and Sister Willard to the entire mission.  That was 100% my job and it turned out great, (if I do say so myself)...;)  I am getting way too good way to fast at using Microsoft Publisher, Excel, and other fun programs.  

On Thursdays we teach an English class.  Its actually a big hit!  In my time in the mission when missionaries have tried to teach English it usually fails after about a month because one one goes.  However this is our 3rd week doing it and we had like 25 people there!  Mostly members, but they are going to be inviting their non-member friends too.  I think its such a hit because here in the middle of the city people are a lot more advanced... More money, higher education, and they have a higher understanding of the importance of education.  Plus its cool being in the office where we can print out like 500 fliers to invite everyone to come and hand `em out on the street.  Bonus points.

I had an exchange on Saturday with Elder Bennett from Idaho.  He has 6 weeks in the mission and has had it rough these first 6 weeks.  He has a had time with the language and misses his family.  It was truly a blessing to be with him and build up his spirits and also give him a few Spanish tips.  I remember thinking that I would NEVER learn Spanish, its such a hopeless feeling!  Poor guy, Pray for him.  But we had a great guy, taught some great lessons, and he is going to be just fine.

Hope ya`ll are all doing great!  Don`t forget the true meaning of Christmas.

Èlder Bender 

                                 My companion and I sending birthday wishes to his family in Utah.
                                                          Me in my natural habitat!
My companion and I with our MTC group photos (yes we are from the same MTC group if I haven't told you that yet.)

Monday, December 8, 2014


Buenas Tardes,

I am so beat!  It's been such a tiring week full of lots, and lots of learning and smiles.

Monday we went to go pick up 9 new american missionaries.  It was fun to see them and be reminded of how humble we are as we start of the mission.  I want to be that humble again.

Tuesday we gave them a little training on contacting and about the ¨He is the Gift¨ movement.  We went out to the Plaza 24 de Septiembre (google it) and went contacting for an hour giving those new passalong cards out.  I buddied up with a new Elder named Elder Rose.  He's a great guy, and turned out that he is now my new great great grandson.  Haha Yes, he too has the blessing of starting in Samaría.  (Random note, for 14 months there has always been a new missionary in their training in Samaría.  In my second interview with President Willard when I had about 2 months in the mission he told me to work hard and learn all I can so I could train.  He wanted to turn Samaría into a training ground.  It thus so turned out.)  Tuesday in the afternoon President met with the Assistants and I for 4 hours to do what was supposed to be a few final ¨tweeks¨ to the transfers.  Well revelation was received and we made changes until 7:30.  That meant I was buying and canceling flights extremely late.  Oh joy it was.

Wednesday, Transfers.  So hectic.  The day started at 4:40am sending missionaries off to the airport to get to their new areas. 

Thursday, Sending home 21 missionaries after completing full time missions (Yes, I live in the airport now...)  oh and that went down from 12midnight until 5am.

Friday,  Zone meeting.

Sunday we had the cool experience of not having any investigators in church...  I prayed really hard in Sacrament that those who said they would come, would actually come!  I felt impressed to leave right after they finished the sacrament ordinance to go outside the church building and walk around inviting everyone to come in.  My companion Elder Garcia was down to do it, and we ended up finding Eduardo.  A random guy, and invited him to come to church with us, right that instant, and he said he would!  He changed really quick and stayed until the end.  It was a true miracle, and we are going to go teach him in about an hour!  =)

Pray for the spirit's guidance, and he WILL guide you.  It just leaves you to listen, and act.

Élder Bender

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fun Changes!

December 1, 2014

Buen Día!

Hopefully you have seen the new ¨He is the Gift¨ video the church has made!  If not, watch it NOW!  Our mission got 40,000 pass-along cards to help the entire population of Santa Cruz remember really the true meaning of Christmas.  The Church went big with the video, they bought Youtube, yes, Youtube, for a few days. they bought big advertisements in NYC's times square and printed millions of pass-along cards for us foot soldiers to hand out.  But really the purpose of this short yet inspiring message, is for you, yes YOU to watch it, and share it on your social media pages.  The Lord's second coming is close, let's do our part to prepare the hearts of his children for that day!

Tuesday night I got a call from President Willard asking me to be the new Secretary to the President.  Wednesday I started my training and it became very clear that I had a LOT to learn to help him help the mission function.  Your prayers will be needed.  I feel very unprepared for my new responsibilities, but I am happy to serve and happy to learn.  Today I´ll accompany President and Hermana Willard to the Airport to pick up 8 new gringo missionaries.  So that will be fun to work helping all the new missionaries feel comfortable and have a successful transition.  

The Church is true, I am thankful for Jesus Christ and His perfect example He left for us.

Ëlder Bender

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2014

Elder Hammond (a roommate) and I jumped the gun doing bad math thinking that turkey day was last Thursday... haha.  Just goes to show there are no hints whatsoever as far as when American holidays are down here. 
This week was delightful. =)
Thursday I decided to mix things up in my district meeting and invited Tatiana (an investigator mentioned in an earlier email) to participate in the pratice exercises.  It was such a sipritually powerful district meeting hearing the testimony of an investigator in the meeting and also it was great to get her feedback in how the elders are teaching.  It was the real deal!
Saturday the same Tatiana was in white and was baptized a member the Christs true church.
I love the mission!
Bonus points, shes going to Cochabamba with the Ward on Friday and Saturday to do baptisms for the dead. 
The church is true!
I am so thankful each and everyday for my Savior Jesus Christ and his Atonement.  I serve Him, and I love Him.  He is my everything.  I am thankful for the Book of Mormon which changes my life everyday, and for its faithful witness to me of Christ's healing power.  Read it.  Pray to him.  He is willing to help.  In John 15 it shares a great thanksgiving message:

14 Ye are my friendsif ye do whatsoever command you.
 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you        
friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
I am thankful that Christ has shared and given ALL things unto us.  He loves us.  I am thankful to be his friend.  I am thankful for his commandments and the opportunity they give me to make my love for Him manifest.  
Élder Bender

                                                               Baptism of Tatiana!
                                                Elder Trinidad and Elder Bender with Tatiana
                    Pics with some of the guys from my MTC group from a meet up at a multi-zone activity.
                                     My comp and I in front of a Bolivian famous Toborochi tree!


 Read the sticker.. 92 bolivianos... haha so worth it though!  It's about $13.79 in dollars!  Yup after a year the body will do anything for a bit of Jif.
 Pics of worn out running shoes! Also, a pic of my SWEET new running shoes=)  Great Christmas gift thanks!  (=  

                      My old Eccos (before and after taking them to a shoemaker)  THEY TURNED OUT GREAT! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Aponte Family

This week has been full of smiles!  Heck, every week as a missionary is(=I read this morning 1 Nephi 15:13-14.  A super strong spirit came over me testifying that I am fulfilling the prophecy:

13 And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the  fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the   space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of theMessiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the   remnant of our seed— 14 And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to theknowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they  shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to   come unto him and be saved.

Am I teaching Lehi´s seed?  Yup. Are they rejoicing in the eternal blessings thanks to the restored gospel?  Yup.
So you are probably thinking thanks to the title, who is the Aponte family?  Well they are who Lehi profecied of in verse 14.  The Aponte Family had been less active for 6 or 7 years, and we contacted them simply talking with everyone in the street. They came to church for the second time last Sunday, and the Bishop came with us to visit them. He extended the invitation to them to go with the ward to do baptisms for the dead on the 28th of this month. They accepted joyfully and are going full throttle with their family history. Truly they had been prepared to accept the gospel at 100%, because they are as a family studying the BOM and praying together everyday.  It's truly beautiful to see a family fill that empty space once more and find that Christ has his arms open to EVERYONE, always.
Élder Bender

                                                                 My Roommates!
                                              Hump Day T-shirt, thank you Grandma Bender!
Zone Conference wearing the new belt and tie I bought with Birthday money from Uncle Dan and Aunt Tina!
                                                      pique machu.. my favorite bolivian dish!

Monday, November 10, 2014

1 Nephi 19:9

¨lo soporta¨

This morning I had a great companionship study.  We learned about how Christ is the most patient and long-suffering person to have walked this earth.  As it says in the title,  1 Nephi 19:9 is my new favorite scripture.

 And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be athing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it;and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea,   they spit upon him,and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.

I love it.  Christ truly is the best example for us and how we should react to even the worst of outcomes.  The mission isn't easy.  In fact, it's pretty tough!  haha.  No one in the world is free from challenges.  In fact, we signed up for 'em, so enjoy 'em!  

I really love that scripture in Spanish because it says rather than ¨he suffereth it¨ ¨lo soporta¨.  To me the Spanish translation helps me to think that not only did Christ suffer through hard things, he carried them with his chin up, giving the glory to the Father through the entire journey.

On Tuesday we had a great zone conference about the Holy Ghost and how he can and SHOULD guide us in every moment.  This week I have felt more guided by the Holy Ghost that any other week I have yet lived.  It has been amazing.  The spirit is EAGER to be a part of our lives, LET HIM JOIN!  Trust me, he will guide our daily lives a whole lot better than we can alone.  

We need to tune out the world to listen to his whispering.  It's a blessing to be a missionary because I know NOTHING about what's going on it the world.  It's easy for me to follow him and his promptings.  He invites us ALL to tune out the world, and to tune into personal revelation and direction.

God Lives.  He Loves us.  I am more sure of that than anything else.  

Élder Bender

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Happy Halloween!

November 3, 2014

Howdy folks!
A great week to be a missionary!  Luckily it wasn't so hot this week=)
On Monday we got together with a member family and with Tatiana and made my famous chocolate chip cookies!  I always love the Bolivians reaction because those type of cookies don´t exist here and they just die everytime.  haha.  Then love em!  We also made the Cruzeñan famous Cuiñapé.  Yes, don´t worry I learned how to make em so I´ll teach ya´ll!  Basically what they are are little ping pong ball sized rolls with cheese mixed in the dough so its a cheesy gooey delight.  Dad would die for 'em guaranteed. 
Halloween was a joke here haha.  We live in a ¨rich¨ neighborhood so there actually were a few kids dressed up and trick or treating, and I even bought a bag of candy to give out but no one came to the house)=  Despite the fact that I put a hand written sign on the door that said ¨Halloween!  Trucos o Dulces!¨  I felt like Aubree making that cute little hand written sign and waiting patiently for little niños disfrazados. So, with my companion and the other two Elders in the house we ate the candy and did the Harlem Shake.  Figured it was a good enough Halloween celebration!
A big time blessing that I have been able to participate in throughout my mission (yet never have written home about yet) is reactivating inactive families.  Throughout my two months here in El Fuerte I have been able to teach and help the Marcos family a bunch.  This last Sunday they had an interview with the bishop setting goals to go to the temple for the first time!  =)  Seeing people who have felt full of shame or have forgotten what really is important ¨wake up¨ is a true blessing in anyone's life, and has been in mine.  He lives, and He loves us all.  His invitation is to return to Him who is powerful to save and redeem. ¿Lo harán?
les quiero muchísimo!
Élder Bender

100 degrees faithful!

October 27, 2014

Que tal buen día!

We had our primary program last Sunday and just began to think as I sat in Sacrament meeting, ¨How marvelous it is that being so far away, in such a different environment where everything is completely different, yet it's all the same.¨  The gospel is true and eternal wherever you are.  

Our meetings are from 3 to 6 in the afternoon because there are three wards that meet in our building.  In case you didn`t know, Santa Cruz at this time of year at three o`clock hangs out at a temperatures of 100 to 108 degrees.  With 90% to 100% humidity.  That's freaking hot!   Let me tell `ya all about it.  It amazes me seeing people walk MILES in white shirts and ties in that terrible weather to come to worship our Savior. Their only day off of work they sacrifice not to rest, but to go out once more in the heat!  After 50 years of the Church being here, it's strong!  It is True.

This also makes me even more excited as many of our investigators on their own free will decide to do the same, to keep their commitments with our Father and worship Him in His meeting house.  Well, to put it bluntly, All your folks in the states have no reason to not attend your Sunday meetings.  I know we can receive revelation in the chapel of the Lord.  Go, and adore Him.

Élder Bender

Happy Halloween to everyone who celebrates that!  Haha we don´t down here.

50 years, 50 books, dream come true!

October 20, 2014

Buen Día!
Tuesday we had a special meeting especifically for trainers.  Never once has President Willard done that, but he is obviously really hoping to make something big out of this group of 27 new missionaries who came last transfer, 1 of them being mi querido Elder Trinidad=).  It was a good meeting, and I could tell that it really got to Elder Trinidad and he really is wanting to change.  Hes becoming such a fantastic and skilled missionary it amazes me.
Saturday we baptized!  Laura was baptized member of the restored church.  She was like a miricale baptism because she had attended church for 5 years straight with her older sister.  FINALLY her dad gave her permission to be baptized on her birthday, October 18th.  We had the blessing to teach her the lessons preparing her to make her first of many covenants with our Father.  Also her Mom who is less active is coming back to church thanks to our visits, and her Dad is a LOT more receptive to the gospel!  It's a testimony that God sometimes has people wait so that they can influence others around them when they are ready for the gospel.
Sunday President Willard was going to come teach our Sunday school class here in our ward, however he called me a few hours ahead of time saying he was triple booked, and that he wanted my companion and I to represent him and talk about the work of salvation.  Uhh.. What?  haha Nah I felt fine, and was able to bring to life a little dream I had!  This upcoming November the Church will have its 50 year anniversary here in Bolivia!  I made a quickie call to the Zone Leaders and asked them to bring me 50 Books of Mormon.  My Companion and I shared with the entire ward about how in order to really celebrate 50 years of the restored gospel in Bolivia, that we had 50 Books of Mormon for members to take and give to their friends during this month.  Seeing how thanks to the Book of Mormon God restored the fullness of the gospel in these latter days.  My comp and I did a mini demonstration in how a member can share the BoM with a friend in a loving and comfortable way.  The entire ward got super hyped up to participate and in the end we gave away all 50 books, plus two extras!  We are hoping to have a lot of great refferences thanks to this activity that fell into my lap.  We had each member write their names on a list as they took a Book, and also the name of their friend who the book was intended for.  These next few weeks we are going to be following up and visiting these members to then hopefully teach their friends in their homes.
Love you all!
The gospel is true! So live it puej!
Élder Bender

                                                                Laura was baptized!


October 13, 2014

Howdy family and friends!
Well in all honesty it gets harder and harder thinking of knew things to write about...
Yesterday were the Presidential elections here in B town.  We were locked inside all day and the Sunday meetings were canceled.  Boring!  However the blessing was we all as a mission studied a bunch ¨the 4th missionary¨ document.  In preparation for a 40 day fast!
Someone wanted to hear about the food.  Honestly I don´t even pay attention to what I eat anymore, sorry!  OH!  In my district there is a companionship of Colombians, and they cooked us a super yummy Colombian dish called ¨Pisa¨.  It is made up of a giant sausage, fried beef, rice with coconut, and ironed down platano!  (Green bananas)  They just iron them.  Literally.  So they turn into little flat patties.  Crunchy crispy, and a little sweet!

I´ll take a moment to tell you a bit about Tatiana Duabyakoski (Her Dad is Polish!  Talk about a last name that's hard for Latinos to say!)
We met her Friday before General Conference in front of her home and invited her to come to GC with us.  She came!  Sunday night after conference we taught her and gave her a Book of Mormon.  Thursday she accepted a baptismal date after reading 15 chapters of that little blue book.  Last Saturday she had finished 1 Nephi and is trucking through the Isaiah chapters better than I can do! 
She also has a study journal where she writes summaries on each chapter.  After a year in the mission I had never seen someone fall in love so quickly with the look of Mormon!  Shes just counting down the days until her Baptism for November 8th.  She is contemplating accepting the challenge of reading the entire book of Mormon before her baptism. 
The Book of Mormon is true!  It changes lives!  Read it as a family to have your family changed too. Meditate it. Pray about it.  Act on it.
I love you all!
Élder Bender

Pictures are celebrating my one year of Missionary service!

Monday, October 6, 2014

"Maybe it's time to rearrange your priorities"

What a GREAT GENERAL CONFERENCE!  Maybe you recognize the title from one of my favorite talks, from Elder Richard G. Scott.  In Spanish we call that a HUASCASO! The English translation would be, ¨a verbal spanking¨.  Yes, I hope and pray we all felt the impulse of the spirit to change and become better disciples of our Savior.

This week I had a great exchange with Elder Romero, it went really well and we taught many, many great lessons.  

We had two great miracle families come to listen to conference with us, and that was a huge blessing, I know they felt the spirit and it will be a great start for them to build their testimonies.

My companion is doing great, he is feeling a lot more comfortable now in the mission, and I have focused all my effort this week to serve him and help him feel comfortable and see the mini daily miracles.

A few quotes I loved from conference:

Lynn G. Robbins ¨Which way do you face?  Do you fear men, or fear God?¨

Elder Christofferson  ¨Christ died not to save indiscriminately, but to offer repentance.¨

President Uchtdorf  ¨The Gospel is all about being good without guile.¨

Elder Holland  ¨The Savior's work is about LOVE not about statistics.¨

President Monson  ¨Pause to consider the consequences.¨
¨Simple belief in God provides us with a sanctuary of safety.¨

Elder Bednar ¨There are 88,000 missionaries to support the members in THEIR DUTY to share the gospel.¨  Yo soy uno.

Elder Oaks ¨Loving kindness is required, however we need to be firm in the truth.¨

And my favorite of all,

Elder Anderson ¨Opposition is allowed in Gods plan because it sends the faithful to their knees.¨

I know that God lives.  His gospel is a living Gospel.  It has brought life and light to my soul, and will spiritually resurrect anyone who comes to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  This I know to be true.  

Élder Bender

                                            My current companion Elder Trinidad and I, hijito #2.
                                     Elder Hammond and I after playing Frisbee!  Thanks Grandma!
                                                                     Homemade gym!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Book of Mormon

It's been a great week in the Lord's service.  

Last Monday for P-Day Elder Trinidad and I, and also Elder Hammond and Elder Rueda (The other companionship that lives with us)  went to a soccer field near our house and played Frisbee.  (Thanks Grandma!)  It was a lot of fun to just be a kid and run around, sometimes I forget I am only 20!  

This week we contacted a referral from a less active who we are helping to come back to Church, and turns out the family is Golden!  As we taught Miguel and Teresa about the Restoration and my companion explained the first vision, Teresa cut him off mid sentence and said, ¨I believe it's true, or, I want to believe it's true, I just wish there was evidence of all of that...¨  BOOM BABY!  You can bet your bottom dollar that there is!  In Spanish it's 641 pages of evidence!  One promise, and my job as a missionary is EASY!  Yup, so now Teresa and Miguel are fully immersed in that little blue book and I give them about a month until you´ll see ´em en blanco!

I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon and the blessing it has been to me on my mission.  I know it is true, it comforts me when I feel faint, it guides me when I am confused, and most of all it testifies of Christ.

If you haven´t read it yet today, read it.  It will bless your life.
Then share it with someone you know who also could benefit from feeling Christ´s love more fully.

Élder Bender

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

El Fuerte

September 22, 2014
Hello all!
This week we had a great multi-zone conference with President Willard where 180 missionaries were in attendance.  It was BIG!  I went into the conference extremely humbled, and left it more edified than I have been from any other Zone conference!  I felt like a big ol´ sponge. 
Thursday I had my first district meeting and it went really well.  The Zone Leaders couldn´t get keys to the chapel so we had the meeting outside in the grass.  I felt like I was teaching the Sermon on the Mount #2.  haha.  It was great weather, and I loved it.  Kind of weird, but I have grown a love for planning and leading meetings since I have been in the mission.  I look forward to them!

We found a lot of great people to teach this week, and have been really blessed.  One young guy named Douglas (his Dad is from England that's why he has such a familiar name) we found, taught, and invited him to pray.  We returned and he told us that he prayed, and felt something special, something burning inside his chest.  He is excited to be baptized in October.  The work moves forward, and as we learn in Mormon 9:19, the Lord of the vineyard performs miracles according to our level of faith and diligence.  
I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Élder Bender

For my birthday I bought myself a HLJ ring!  It's legit, real silver, and a member made it for me for like 37 bucks.  Sweet deal huh?

All Zone leaders of the 3 Tarija Zones on the day of transfers.  Three of the six of us are now opening new areas and training!  Gringo lovin´!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


September 15, 2014
Buenos Días puejj!

Once more I am here in the humid Santa Cruz to preach the gospel to all of these fantastic people! Yup, my ¨Chapaco¨ days in Tarija are over.  Goodbye to the best weather ever, goodbye to a bunch of fantastic convert families, goodbye the the Zona Guadalquivir that I have babied with my whole heart for 4.5 months. . . AND HELLO to Santa Cruz!  HELLO to training a brand new missionary! HELLO to opening a brand new area (El Fuerte 3)! HELLO to being District leader!

Yes, I am training again.  His name is Elder Trinidad and he's GREAT!   He's 23 years old and a convert to the Church.  He was baptized when he was 17.  He is from Lima, Peru.  He has a pure heart, and it is so fun to once more be with a brand new companion who thinks the sky is the limit. Even though we are opening a brand new area and arrived to 0 investigators, he is hyped up to talk with everyone on the street and preach the restored gospel.  I can´t complain!

Random note, in the Training Meeting that was for all the new trainers Elder Peña was there, being prepped to train his 2nd hijo!  Let me break down a bit of Genealogy for 
ya´ll...  I trained Elder Peñaranda 3 months (son),  He right after trained Elder Peña 3 months (grandson), He right after trained Elder P. . . (don't remember how to say his last name but it too starts with a P) for 1.5 months, and now Elder Peña is training Elder . .  (Don't remember his name at the moment either but he's a gringo great grandson!).  Thus making me a father of 2, with 1 grandson and 2 great grandsons in less than a years time. . . Talk about multiplying and replenishing the earth!

Thanks to everyone for your letters and prayers.  I have felt comforted as I take on what has been the hardest challenge I have faced yet in the mission field, or better said, my life.  I know the Lord is with me and will bless us to successfully open this new area and find his lost sheep.

Élder Bender

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Buenos Días!

September 8, 2014
Buenos Días!
Last Monday and Tuesday we were in Santa Cruz for Leadership Council Meetings.  It was really great and I learned a lot about Charity.  President Willard shared that Charity really is a gift of the Spirit, and that is a gift that the Lord gives to the faithful and worthy who ASK for it in prayer.  He taught that it isn´t something that one develops like a skill, but more that through charitable acts we make ourselves more WORTHY to receive the the gift of Charity.
Last week our Ward Mission Leader gave us a reference of a 26 year old man named Alberto (Beto). We went with him and taught the guy and taught him the Restoration but he had a lot of doubts.  We invited him to pray with full confidence that if he really prayed he would receive an answer from God.  Tuesday while we were still in Santa Cruz he called us and asked us to come by and visit him as soon as possible.  When I hung up the phone I said to my companion, ¨It was Beto, he prayed.¨  We knew right then and there the Lord was working miracles in our area even when we were 300 miles away in Santa Cruz.  As soon as the plane touched ground we booked it over to his house with Fernando Castillo (recent convert who was baptized 3 week ago) and had a POWERFUL lesson.  He accepted to be baptized on the 27th of this month, and came to church with us for 3 hours and loved it.  A true testimony that when ANYONE asks God with faith, He answers.
Wednesday we had an exchange and Elder Mori taught with me in our area.  It went really well and its always good to be in exchanges to give your all in every conversation you hold and every lesson you teach.  We taught 7 super spiritual lessons.  
I am super grateful for the chance I have to be the witness of so many miracles, and to give 100% of my time and talents to God in his marvelous work. 
Élder Bender

A Baptism for my Birthday!

September 1, 2014

What a great week, I truly feel loved, thanks everyone for your letters and prayers.
First of all, last Monday my companion and I went over to the Castillo home and made the cake that Mom sent me.  It turned out SUPER yummy, and Fernando wants Pillsberry to start selling frosting in Bolivia.  hahaha.  It was a ton of fun, and while I worked on baking the cake Elder Bailey made some Oreo bon-bons, so we ate all kinds of sugary delights.
From Wednesday to Friday I have two exchanges with the two sets of elders in San Bernado.  It went really well, and I felt like I could help them out a lot in their areas, and also learned from them too.  It was a good time because I really got to know Elder Choque and Elder Orosco well during those 48 hours.  It really made me even more thankful that our entire family is in the gospel and for all the support I receive.  ¨Where much is given, much is required.¨ And MUCH has been given me.
Saturday I was blessed to baptize Ruth Ledezma. She's amazing, a future relief society president, and a REAL CONVERT.  She's 53 years old and the mom of Leslie and Nineth who I baptized in June with Elder Brasher.  He husband too is going to get baptized in the beginning of October after the elections are over.  Shortly after they will ALL go and be sealed as a family in the Cochabamba temple.  It's a goal they have, and a goal I know they will achieve.
After the baptism we went to the Ledezma house and little did I know they had a surprise birthday planned for me!  haha.  The coolest part was when one by one they talked about how grateful they are for us as missionaries as we came into their home and changed them forever through teaching them of the restored gospel.  We devoured TWO CAKES and they sang to me in Spanish and English.  Afterwards we taught them about the restoration again, and the spirit was so strong hearing them all testify of it. Such a special family.
Sunday after church the Castillo Family invited us over for lunch.  They made my favorite Piche a lo Machu for lunch and served it on an all American placemat (see pic).  Then also busted out a hidden cake that had written on it ¨Feliz Cumpleaños Elder Bender¨.  They are the best.  Love them so much!  They gave me my very own traditional ¨Chapaco¨ shirt!  With my name embroidered on it and everything.  Love it!  So legit.
All in all I think my biggest and most celebrated birthday was here in Tarija, and I didn´t even plan one bit of it!
Today we are traveling to Santa Cruz for Leadership counsel, a fantastic was to spend my 20th!
I love you all so much!
Élder Bender

                                                              Birthday Package from Home!

                                                               Celebrating with Castillo Family
                                                  ELder Bender and Eder Bailey
                                              Birthday Package from Grandma and Grandpa
                                                                  Baptism of Ruth

                                                                 Piche a lo Machu
                                                          Birthday Cake from Castillo Family!
                                 My very own traditional ¨Chapaco¨ shirt with my name embroidered! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

It is True

Muy Buenos Días a Todos! 

I want everyone to know that I Know the Gospel is true.

Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and He loves You.

He suffered and died for us, simply with the hope that we would accept his Gospel and Eternal Plan of Salvation.

Our Heavenly Father sent us here to this earth in Families for a reason.  So that we could cultivate experiences and learn more of his marvelous plan for us with our special loved ones.

Our Loving Father wants us to return to Him in these families.  EVERYONE together as one united group.  It is something that we EACH need to work on each and everyday, for in the end we are responsible for how we kept our own covenants with Him.

His Church has been Restored.

I love you all, and I love my Savior.

-Elder Bender 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

workin' Workin' WORKIN'

August 18, 2014

It´s been a great week, I am sure everyone who reads this is jealous of the life of a Missionary=) 
It´s the Best!

Monday we taught a FHE with the Stake President and his family, with the Castillo Family, and the Ledezma Family, it went beautifully!  I feel I'm family with them all.

First of all, this week there was a GIANT parade going all through my area celebrating the festival of San Roque.  Apparently that guy is a catholic saint, and he is the ¨saint of the Dogs¨  so everyone celebrates it as their dog's ¨birthday¨.  In the parade they march around the city carrying this giant china doll Mr. San Roque.  And, hundreds if not thousands of teenagers and people march behind him banging the heck out of their drums.  I don't believe they practiced much, or at all.  I got the impression that the goal was to simply make a racket!  They happened to march right by a house where we were teaching a lesson... Drove the spirit away for 20 minutes, but then after we finished up the lesson haha.

A recent convert family of 10 months from Bermejo (a town two hours south of here on the border with Argentina) came to a hospital here in Tarija on Wednesday in an Ambulance with their 16 month old baby boy who had fell in some water at home and drown.  He went over 10 minutes without breathing, and the doctors already had given the family forewarning that the boy wasn't going to make it.  We got a call from the Zone Leaders on Bermejo and quickly went over to the hospital to give the baby a blessing and comfort the family.  When we found the Dad in the hospital he didn´t even know we were coming, but was so happy to see two kids in ties.  The first thing he explained is simply that he wants his son to be able to be a missionary like us some day.  With a miracle we got past some Bolivian Police officers and got to critical care to bless the boy.  I found him on a 7ft long bed, and he only took up like 35 inches of it.  The saddest thing I had ever seen.  Tubes going in and out of him in every place imaginable, and they informed us that he was in a coma, but they had him breathing somehow.  We blessed him.  Taught a lesson to the parents.  Made arrangements for them to stay in the house of some members.  The bishop quickly met with them to work out medical detail and help needed.  And Sunday they came to church with us.  Informing us all that the boy is conscious, and should make a full recovery.

God works miracles, and loves his little future missionaries.  The church is true, and ready to help any, and everyone.

Saturday I got dressed in white and was blessed to perform another saving ordinance.  Fernando Castillo, the oldest son of the Castillo family (the family who I baptized in June with Elder Brasher) was also baptized.  He's 20 years old, a future missionary, and a great buddy of mine!  The entire Castillo family is happy that now when they go to the temple to be sealed, they ALL will be present.

The Church is true!

I love you all so much,

Thanks for your prayers and support!

Élder Bender

                                                                   Baptism of Fernando
                                                                     Castillo Family
                      These are the kids of our pensionista, the lady who cooks us lunch every day!
                                              Lunch Buddies!  We eat lunch together every day!