Monday, February 24, 2014

T-minus 363 days!

T-minus 363 days until the Rioja Family will go to the Cochabamba temple and be sealed for time and all eternity(=

Hello Everyone!

I hope all is going well and hope that everyone is remembering to wear a smile even when the goings get tough!  I sure have put this tactic to work this week, and I have a testimony of it!  (=

To put it simply, being a missionary rocks!  (=  

This Sunday something really cool happened!  Javier, a 12 year old young man I baptized two weeks ago passed the sacrament for the first time!  One week ago he received the Aaronic priesthood, and this Sunday he came early in a white shirt and tie (he saved up and bought the shirt and tie special to pass the sacrament) and passed the sacrament like an old pro!  It was a really proud moment for me, I love that kid!  =D  Its so cool to see the people in whom I was blessed to help to enter into the covenant of baptism now receive callings, the priesthood, etc.  So awesome!

Saturday the Rioja family was baptized, along with a kid named Miguel Angel who we have been teaching for quite some time!  This was such a miracle and blessing to be a part of.  I have been working with the Rioja family since Christmas time, and helped them to get married earlier this month!  They are a young family that has a burning desire to grow in the gospel and nurture their children in the Church.  What makes me the most happy is the fact that they already have a strong desire to go to the temple and be sealed on February 22, 2015!  They understand the importance of the family, and they are very happy to become an eternal family(=  

I love the gospel, I love families, and I love to see the rich joy the gospel brings to the Family.  I have a strong testimony that through the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ we can be cleansed and make beautiful covenants that bring happiness in this life, and promise joy and happiness for all eternity!  =D

Due to Carnivales (a 3 day holiday they have here that turns Santa Cruz into Sodom and Gomorrah) I won't be able to leave the house for three days, and one of the days falls on our next pday.  So I will write you all again in two weeks!  

I love you!
Élder Bender
                                                      Baptism of Rioja Family and Miguel

Monday, February 17, 2014

I am a Daddy!

Hello everyone!  (=

I hope everyone is doing fantastic!  Because I sure am living it up and having the time of my life!  This week we had transfers and my companion Élder Oliart left the area, and I was called to train a brand new missionary here in Samaría!  I am so glad that I was able to stay in Samaría, the work here is going great.  My ¨Hijo¨ (new Companion) is Élder Peñarnada.  He is awesome!  Such a great guy!  He is from Columbia and is 19 years old.  My favorite quality that he has is that he has a burning desire to WORK!  This is literally the best gift I could every receive!  A companion who has the same desire as I do to use every minute of the Lord's time WORKING HARD! 
With this change in companions I already am seeing even MORE blessings and miracles come as both me AND my companion are 100% obedient and focused on working.  Élder Peñaranda is awesome, I am so grateful for him and I love the kid!  
The Lord really has blessed me this week as I have had ALL of the responsibilities on my shoulders.  I have been able to balance everything without problems and without stress!  It's been really enjoyable(=  
I prayed that the Lord would help me know how to love my companion, and to help me to help him love the Work.  The Lord has answered my prayers, and I have been blessed with a great sense of peace as I have taken on this new role.  It is fantastic(=
My love for the Savior has grown even stronger this week!  I was teaching a family the Plan of Salvation earlier this week and as I came to testify of the power that comes with knowing that families can be together forever, I was overcome with the Spirit and brought to tears.  I am so, so, SO thankful for my Savior, because of his sacrifice and love for us I know that our family will be together forever.  I feel forever indebted to my Savior, and I look forward to the day in which I can give him a big hug and thank him for all that he has done!  (=

I love you all so much!
Élder Bender

 My old zone!  I love these guys!  With these transfers our area (Samaria) got switched from the zone La Merced to the zone Nuevo Mundo

The "Gringo" Samaritan

February 10, 2014
Here in Samaría the people take pride in calling themselves ¨Samarítanas¨ or Samaritans.  I figured I could call myself the ¨Gringo¨ Samaritan because I'm the one blonde hair, blue eyed guy running around here!

Last Monday for PDAY we played an epic game of fútbol it was WAY FUN!  We played Gringos vs. Latinos, and we WON!  Honestly I have no idea how, they are way better than us, but we had so much team spirit and were going nuts screaming after each goal that I give all the credit to how energetic we were.  It rocked! (=

The weather here has been a lot different than it was when I first got here.  It hasn't been deathly hot, and we have been getting tons of rain.  With the rain comes many miles of hiking in rubber rain boots, and more mosquitoes than I thought was possible! I have learned a good repellent application technique now and I can keep them away pretty well now too.(=

We had some complications with the marriage papers with the Riojas Family, so their baptism got postponed.  However Saturday we baptized four of the Torrez kids, a family we have worked this transfer to reactivate, and it worked!  And we also taught the kids and grand-kids and now the whole family is active, happy members!(=  They are making plans to go to the temple as a family.(=
Also we baptized Javier Lopez Paco, he is a super stud (he's the older boy in the photo). He is 12 years old and a champion with an epic testimony of the Book of Mormon and cannot wait to be a missionary! (=  It blows my mind how even these young kids get so excited about reading the Book of Mormon and get such strong testimonies of the Restored Gospel.

After the Baptism we had a stake level activity with all the missionaries in the stake (two whole zones) invited their investigators and recent converts to come.  President Willard came and gave an EPIC talk and the spirit was just so strong!  He had all of the missionaries stand up and recite ¨My Purpose¨ and it was just epic to stand their in front of all of our investigators and say that our purpose is to help them develop faith, be baptized, and be active in the gospel and endure to the end!  It was super cool.  Then with all the missionaries we all sang ¨The Army of Helaman¨ and it was eipc!(=  We finished it all up with a really good enchilada dinner and it was a fantastic Saturday! (=

I love you all! 
Élder Bender

Baptism of Torrez kids and Javier!

                                                 Elder Bender and Elder Oliart and Pensionista


February 3, 2014
Hello all!  (=

I had a really crazy experience on Saturday morning.  We went to go teach a lady named Viviana, and we read a chapter from the Book of Mormon with her and all was well, the spirit was there and everything was good.  But then in the end of the lesson she said ¨I want to share something with you guys that I haven´t shared with anyone...¨  She then went on to tell us that when she was a teenager (shes like mid 30´s now) she played with a Wijie board and talked with a demon spirit.  She said that ever since that day she felt that someone is watching her and following her always.  
As she shared this story with us I immediately felt a dark cold feeling with us there in the lesson.   It was super scary and really weird.  We then gave her a Priesthood blessing and the Spirit came back stronger than ever before and she felt it!  It was super strong and just a really heavy, good moment.  We promised her that she will be protected as she prays and reads the Book of Mormon.  The power of the adversary is real, but it is weak compared to the power of the Spirit.

This week we were super blessed to have the marriage of the Rioja Family!  They are such a special family.  They are going to be baptized on Saturday, and they are excited to go to the Temple in Cochabamba and be sealed for Time and all Eternity in Feburary of 2015!  The Gospel blesses families.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is centered in the family, and I feel so blessed to have been able to teach and help this family taste the fruits that the gospel brings.  They are happier now than ever before, and this family really has a lot of potential to grown and strengthen the Church here Bolivia.  They are the Golden Family! (=

Thank you everyone for all of your prayers and support(=
I love you all! (=
-Élder Bender

Snakes! Yikes!

January 27, 2014

Hello everyone!

This has been another fantastic week as one of 90,000 of the Lords full time servants!  (=

This week I have encountered more snakes while walking around than any other week so far!  We found this super rare crazy part snake part eel thing in the middle of the road while walking to a lesson.  I thought it was dead so I tossed a rock by it and it freaked out!  I scared me and my companion so much!  It's like part dragon!  haha  Look at the picture!  

On Saturday we baptized young Carlos!  This kid is the most influential powerful little niño in all of Samaría!  He is the the leader of the clan of kids here in the neighborhood.  He is only 9 years old, but all of the kids listen to him!  Even the 14 and 15 year old kids!  Every Sunday morning he rounds up all his amigos and they go to church together.  It was a pleasure to be able to teach him, and then see him share what he learned with his little friends.  Our Branch President said ¨Carlos has great potential as a future leader in the church!¨  He's one charismatic little niño!  

I am very happy to be hear laboring in the vineyard of the Lord.  I have seen and felt His hand work through me time and time again!  I would be nothing and would do nothing without his help and his Spirit.  I know that we are all children of the Father and that he listens and answers our prayers!

I love you all!
Élder Bender
             We found the scariest snake I have every seen!  Its like part eel part snake!  IT freaked me out!

Carlos is a stud!  Such a mini prophet like leader!  And now he's clean and pure!

Stuck in the mud!

                                                  Our front yard was a lake from all of the rain!
                                                                         Me and Cows!
Our branch President