Monday, January 20, 2014

MotoTaxi's, Menonites and Miracles!

January 20, 2014

Hello All!  =)
This has been another action packed week!  I am overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled by the many ways in which I have seen the hand of the Lord this week.

Random fruits!  This week we changed our pensionista (And it is SOO much better!) and she has introduced me to a new fruit!  It's called Ambiba.  It closely resembles a dead snake, and and a sand-papery outside, and a super sweet inside!  I sent some photos of it=)  Also I sent some photos of the Achachiru that I had written about before too.

Also this week things got a little complicated when we were trying to meet a family in whom we had a lesson with, and we got a bit lost!  So we ended up needing to take a MotoTaxi to get to where we needed to be.  Needless to say it was AWESOME!  The sketchiest, fastest, and most epic way to travel in Bolivia!  The driver, my companion, and I all crammed on one MotoTaxi and I was on the back holding on for dear life!  I was smiling and laughing the entire time, it was awesome=)

This week we had a multi-zone conference with President Willard.  It was AMAZING!  I learned SOOO much and took tons of notes.  My companion and I have been trying to apply the things we learned in the conference, and ALREADY we are seeing improvements in how effective we are as missionaries.  I LOVE searching for ways to improve, and I love seeing the Lord help me as I do my part, he makes up the rest.  A quote I really loved that President shared goes something like this in English ¨Choose the right, because it is right, because your heart loves the right, and in this you will overcome all things¨  --Joseph F. Smith 
Family!  I would like for all of you guys to memorize this quote tonight for family night, and recite it each family night!  I firmly believe that as we maintain this attitude we will overcome all troubles that pass in life(=

A few days before Christmas one of the most faithful members of our Branch was kicked out of her house by some gang members and she and her husband evacuated to Cochabamba for about a month.  They came back last Sunday, and this past Saturday we got together and helped them build their new house!  Maria Rocha is her name, and she is the most upbeat, happy, faithful person ever!  She has no home, but is always smiling and looking to serve others!  It felt really good to help her build her new home, my companion and I put in work digging a huge pit for their bathroom (outhouse).   In like 40 minutes we dug a 12ft. 12ft. hole about 8 ft. deep!  It was epic!  

Also this week we did some service for the Ayala Family.  They are a family that is going to get married and baptized, and have extreme faith!  However they are extremely poor.  They often don't have food to eat, and they are doing all they can to get some money together to pay for their identification papers they need to be married.  On Saturday night finally Pedro got paid for some work he had done (and finally he could buy the papers he need to be married).  Also because his family was starving, he left his house at 10:30 at night to go buy chicken for them to eat.  On his return trip he was jumped by some gang members and beaten to a near death state with a shovel. They stole his food, and the little money he had.  His girlfriend found him early that morning lying in his own blood in the street.  Sunday morning we went to pick them up to come to church with us and when we found him like this, his face and neck and back were all purple and bloody and swollen and he has to have a towel over his head to keep the flies from laying eggs in his open wounds.  The gashes are gnarly, they say he is lucky to still be alive.  Instantly when I saw him and heard the story my eyes flooded with tears, for I have come to love this man with all I have.  This man literally works like a dog to feed his family of 6 children, he wants to follow God with all he has, he never thinks of himself, always of his family, and yet he was cruelly beaten and robbed.  He expressed to us his worries that because he is so weak now he will not be able to work for his family.  We gave him a priesthood blessing and are working with the branch to give his family the help they need.  This truly is a test of his faith, but I am 100% sure that this man and his family will overcome this challenge, that they will be married, baptized, and in the near future go and be sealed as an eternal family in the House of the Lord.

Today, we went as a zone to Paurito.  It is a Menonite Colony that is actually in my Area!  But it's like a 30 minute trufy ride from where we live.  It was so FUN!  Our zone is awesome!  We goof around and make everything fun.  The Menonite Colony is like a whole different world out in the middle of nowhere!  There are 3000 Menonites, and they are all from German descent.  They speak German amongst themselves, and resemble Amish people in every way except they use motor power tractors to farm.  I bought a half kilo of cheese there for less than a dollar, and it's super good!  (There's a photo of me taking a big ol' bite out of it!)  They dress like Amish people, and they are really strict about things.  They always marry within their own colony.  However they are the nicest people!  We just showed up and they invited us on a horse drawn carriage tour around their colony.  It is super cool how they are self sustained in everything that they do.  They were really interested in us Americans, they had never seen Americans before!  They were awesome, it was a once in a life time experience for sure!

We have witnessed another great miracle!  This week Ismael gave permission for his son Marco to be baptized.  Marco is such a strong young man with a powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon.  On Saturday he was baptized, and the entire ride in the Micro to go to the stake center he was asking me questions about being a missionary and he expressed to me that he really wants to be a missionary in the next few years!  =)  Even a greater miracle, is the change we have seen in his father, Ismael.  He has had his heart softened, and we are hoping that as we continue to visit their family this will eventually bring their whole family into the fold, so they can be baptized and then be sealed as a family for time and all eternity in the Temple.  I have great faith that they will make it there!  I am excited to continue to see the miracles, and to see it happen=)
As you can see in the photos, both Marco (14) and Jonas (11) were baptized on Saturday.  Both are extremely powerful young men who I have no doubt will grow to be great missionaries and leaders in the church.  Their testimonies are pure and profound.  I feel blessed to have had the experience to teach them, seeing their growth and change, and to raise my arm to the square right there in waist deep water(=

I love you all!  Thanks for all of the prayers!
Élder Bender
                                                      Baptism of Marco and Jonas


                                                           Elder Bender, Jonas and Marco
                                                                              Ambiba fruit

                                                                     Achachiru fruit
                                                               
                                                    Visiting the Menonite Colony with my zone!


                                                                         Cheese!

                                                                          My Zone

Monday, January 13, 2014

Acts 1:8

January 13, 2014

Hola mi queridos Hermanos y Hermanas!

Another fantastic week of working in the most choice part of the Lord's Vinyard! I have seen so many Miracles here in Samaría, I never want to leave! It is like Disneyland for Missionaries - The Happiest, Hottest, and Dustiest place on Earth! =) The best part is that we have big plans to cool off in the Baptismal font this month!

I have been having fun learning by trial and error to cook some of the native foods here. This week I cooked Fritos! After a few tries they turned out pretty darn delicious! Like the real deal! Fritos are like a bisquit type thing you eat with hot chocolate. It consists of egg, salt, and flour, and you quick fry it to perfection!

One treat we have been blessed to experience here is one day we went to teach my good friend Marco! We asked him how his Book Of Mormon reading is going, and he plesantly surprised us by showing that he has read more than 200 pages already. He is one spiritual giant of a 14 year old! We asked him if he has had the opportunity to pray and ask God if the Book is true. He told us that he has prayed and asked 5 times, and every time God has responed saying YES!

One miracle in specific I want to expound on is the story of Adelia y Celso:
Adelia Ticona was a referral from Roxana Ticona, a Sister who we baptized last month. We have taught her for about a month now, and she slowly but surely has come to accept the Book Of Mormon and started to read it. She has very strong roots with the Bible, and it was hard to help her even open the Book of Mormon. (The Book of Mormon is another Testament of Jesus Christ in addition to the Bible)
A challenge that we knew we would have to face down the road of her conversion is that she isn´t married yet, and is living with her Boyfriend and their 4 children. He works a lot, and we had never met him, and we were under the impression that he didn´t want anything to do with us. However, on Saturday the Lord blessed us with a grand miracle! We met, and taught the Boyfriend, Hno. Celso! We taught him the Restoration and about the Book of Mormon and he ate it up! The Spirit was so strong while we taught and testified. He truly seems to be a man of Gold! We invited them to come to church on Sunday, and they came and loved it! Hno. Celso really seems to be extremely preapared by God to recieve this message. I have great hope that he will grow in his testimony and in the near future they will be married and baptized! =)

The Lord's hand is ever so prevelant here in Samaría, and daily I am seeing Christ's promise to his Apostles in Acts 1:8 being fulfilled quite literally through my faithful service and reliance on the Spirit.

Thanks to everyone for the continued support and prayers! I love you all and I am one very happy, sweaty, and dusty servant of the Lord! =) Things couldn´t be better! The Gospel is True!

Élder Bender

Millions of Mini Miracles!

January 6, 2014

Hello everybody!

I hope all is well with everyone! This week was so amazing. I saw the Hand of the Lord working mini miracles left and right this week. =)

We had some crazy rain in the first few days, so you will see in the photos I got all decked out in my jacket and rain boots! I also ate Achachiru for the first time, its some crazy fruit they have here. hard shell like an egg, and inside there's a big seed and you suck on it. Its really sour, and kind of tastes like the Sour patch kids dust! haha its really different!

We are super blessed to have TWO weddings planned for this transfer! As I have explained before, no one here is married, and almost no one wants to change t be married. Its the biggest challenge by far, and all the mission has the same problem in every area. However, we have been super blessed to have two different families, Familia Ayala, and Familia Riojas, who are excited about marriage and baptism! Familia Ayala has the goal set to be married on the 24th, and baptized on the 25th. Familia Riojas has the goal to be married on Febuary 7th, and baptized on the 8th! We are very blessed, and excited for both of these families! What has made the difference I think in helping these families recognized the importance of Marriage and Baptism, is teaching about Eternal Families and Temple Sealings. This is my favorite thing to teach! =) Both of these families have desires and long term goals to be seal together for eternity in the Temple of Cochabamba!

Saturday Abi Ignasi was baptized! It was super beautiful, and even more beautiful for me to look back and compare her to the person who she was when I first met her. She has changed so much, and has so much faith and hope for the future! She truly has found the light, and it shines within her! =)

I love this work, I love my Savior!

Thanks so much for all of your prayers, I can feel them each and every day=)

I Love you all!
Élder Bender
Rainy Day in Samaria

Baptism of Abi

Rain, Rain, Rain!

The Best Christmas Present!

December 30, 2013

Hello everyone!
I had a great week and Christmas here in Samaría!

On Christmas Eve I received the best Christmas gift ever! There is a Sister named Cintia Vaca who we has been attending church off and on for 2 months. However we have had a hard time finding her and teaching her! When we taught her in the past it's been at a member's home, but often times she didn't show up to our appointments and didn't answer her phone when we called. We got some super crummy directions to her house, and she lives really far away! We went before and spent a good 2 hours searching for her without success. On Christmas Eve we went to find her house again, and we just followed the spirit rather than our crummy directions, and BOOM! We saw her kids playing outside, and they helped us find her house! We then met her boyfriend, and sat down and taught a lesson to the whole family. (4 kids and the Parents) The Boyfriend, Pedro, explained to us how he has been wanting to change his life, and he has a desire to get married to Cintia! We have set a date for their wedding and baptism for this up coming month! It was the best BEST BEST gift I could ever get!
It's amazing to me how much the Lord is preparing people for us! We only have to go out and search for them!

On Christmas Eve here they go nuts with fireworks! Especially at midnight on Christmas eve its like there is a war going on outside! It sure is a lot different than the Christmas I am used to! On Christmas Eve in the evening we went to our Branch President's house and had dinner with them. We are BBQ beef, sasauge, and rice with cheese! A tradition here during Christmas time is to eat this cake called Panettone. It's like a fruitcake. It's pretty good!

Another awesome part of this week was we went to visit Familia Camacho. The Family of Belinda, the first person I baptized. It was super cool to see that they are still super excited about going to the temple to be sealed for time and all eternity as a family=) There is a HUGE difference in that family now ever since we taught them and since Belinda was baptized. The father who wanted nothing to do with the church when I first met him, now is doing everything he can to help his family get to the temple, and is paying tithing, and just has changed completely. He is such a spiritual guy now! I am so happy for that family=) Also I gave Belinda one of the Haz lo Justo rings that Aunt Sarah sent me! She LOVES it! The people here don't have much at all, especially extra things like jewlery, so it made her day! =)

Man, I am loving it here though! It's fantastic! My companion and I have gotten super close these past two weeks, which has been a great blessing! He wants to study at BYUI with me after the mission! He's a champion! We have a ton of fun, and work super hard! It's the best combo! =)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I love you all tons and tons!
Élder Bender

Feliz Navidad!

December 23, 2013

Hola y Feliz Navidad a todos!
This week we had our Christmas Devotional with Presidente y Hermana Willard! I sent some photos from it=) about a fourth of the mission came together, (because the mission is so big we can't all meet together, so they have mini devotionals in different parts of the mission) However it was fantastic. President shared how the wise men travel for roughly two years souly to give their gifts and sing praises to the Christ Child. Here I am traveling and working HARD for two years singing praises to my Lord and Savior just like those Wise men! Also he shared a really cool video from Elder Christoferson's series called ¨Daily Bread¨. This clip talks about how we need to get our daily bread, or daily substanance of the scriptures every day in order to live and prosper. This was really cool. We finished with an AMAZING lunch! It was the best food I have ever eaten since I was home! Turkey, rice potatos, fruit, and for dessert we had Flan! It's like a weird part jello, part sweet milk that's soaked in this thick molases type sugar stuff that tastes like burnt marshmellow. Honestly though, just about everything tastes good to me now! I devour tomatos now like nobodys buisness! And yesterday I spent a good 15 minutes beating a coconut open to eat it! Haha yes I am eating and enjoying tomatos and coconuts! haha

Also this week I had another intercambio. This time with Elder Cordova one of the Zone leaders. I went to his area and literally learned soooo much in 24 hours. It really was a blessing.

Almost no one here is married. It's really hard because it just isn't part of their culture. However they need to be married if they are going to live together in order to be baptized. Right now we are teaching a bunch of really awesome couples and families that have this situation. So the theme of this week was marriage and law of Chastity. Literally like half of our lessons were on this. It's really hard to help people want to be married and actually get to that point for a few reasons in specific:
1) It costs money, not a ton, but money most people don't have.
2) It's just not part of their culture
3) They are deathly affraid of divorce
4) They want to take their time, and often times set ¨marriage dates¨ a year or more in advance!

So our battle is trying to help people see the importance of Marriage, and set a date in the next 2 or 3 months. HOWEVER, if I am blessed enough to spend 2 more transfers here we will have A LOT of marriages and baptisms! Because these people are PREPARED!

In our mission their is a big emphasis put on reactivation. Our mission goal is to have a lesson with a less active for every lesson we have with investigators. So this we are doing a lot, and it's pretty awesome to see them start to come back step by step, and also we are getting tons of referrals from them!

All in all, All is well in Samaría! I am a very happy missionary, and we are working hard! I feel extremely blessed, ETREMELY BLESSED! Thanks for all of your prayers, I can really feel them! =)
Love,
Élder Bender