Monday, April 21, 2014

Converts with Callings!

April 21, 2014

Hello Everyone!

What a fantastic week! 

Last Monday after we wrote emails the entire zone all paid and rented a soccer astro turf field and we played a game of soccer our district against the other.  WE WHOOPED!  I scored two of the goals=)  I am turning into a Latino in every way possible, my soccer passion is growing fast!

This week I also had an intercambio (Exchange) with Elder Gines my district leader.  I spoke more English in one day that I have in the past 6 months!  Haha.  He gave me a ton of good feedback and was literally amazed at all the great work Elder Peñaranda and I are doing.  

Saturday Brenda Aguilar was baptized!  It was a beautiful baptismal service and there was some good ward support which I am really happy about. Brenda and Betsy we contacted on the same day in February, and now they have both been baptized and confirmed members of the Lord's Church.  Before they weren't friends, and now they are the best of friends and go to church together every Sunday and read the book of Mormon together regularly!  Also they both accepted callings to be representatives of the Liahona in our ward!  Woot! 

Easter here doesn't have any of the traditions of anything that we have in the states.  They celebrate more on Friday than on Sunday.  Sunday is a normal day.  They main traditional thing is they are restricted on what they can and can't eat.  They don´t eat beef during the entire week, and on Friday everyone watches the Passion of the Christ.  EVERYONE!  Haha its pretty hilarious.  All of these Catholics come out of hiding and act all religious and what not.  It was interesting!  Also they don’t put yeast in the bread so its just like little rocks that you´ll break your teeth on.  Not going to lie, I missed the eggs and chocolates!  Haha

However, Sunday was probably one of the happiest days of my mission!  Bismark, (who was baptized last Saturday)  Blessed the sacrament for the first time, and later accepted the calling to be the Ward Librarian!  Then in the evening he came with us to teach two lessons and his testimony is so pure and powerful.  No lie, that man is going to be a stake president! 

Having three of my beloved friends who all were baptized in less than a months time accept callings in the church brought me the greatest joy.  It's beautiful to see the fruits of my labors=)

Love you all!
Élder Bender
                                                                   
                                                                      Brenda's baptism!


                                         
                                            On the phone already planning for the next baptism!

                                         
                                              Fun times with Elder Tenny (my old district leader)

                                               
                                                  Elder Hodge, and elder from my MTC group!


We had a fun time playing soccer together on P-day!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Blessed

April 14, 2014
Hello everyone! =)

What a great week to be a full time representative of our Savior!  I am blessed.

Well on Tuesday we had a multi Zone Conference with President Willard and it was amazing!  He is the best, we always are spiritually filled when he speaks.  He spoke about Faith and trusting in the Lord especially when we can't see the whole picture.  It was great=)  

There were so many instances this week when I had to walk by faith!  A tiny example is Sunday morning we went to the house of some less actives to bring them to church for the first time in years, and they live REALLY FAR AWAY!  An area that I don´t know very well, but I was guided by the spirit as we beat through a jungled over forest to get to the church!  (Where they live there aren´t micro´s or anything to take us there, so we walked, or MARCHED through  jungle to get to church, but we made it!)  I really felt guided by the spirit in that instance.  

Something random, we were teaching a lesson like two weeks ago, and I was testifying about the Book of Mormon, and all of a sudden two monkeys showed up and were screaming at us!  They were like two feet away from me screaming super loud!  It was nuts!  haha, That's Bolivia for yah!

So on Wendnesday we taught Bismark, and we had taught all the lessons and he had the 3 church attendances he needed, so we gave him the opportnuity to move his baptism from the 19th, to the 12th.  He also jumped out of his seat because he was so excited to be able to get baptized even sooner!  On Saturday we held his baptismal service and it was one of the most spiritual services I have had.  I felt so blessed and just overwhelmed with joy as I stood in that freezing cold water (and it's been reallllly cooold these past few days) and raised my arm to the square and baptized a man who I love with all I have=)
Yesterday Bismark Guzman Received the Gift of the Holy Ghost AND the Aaronic priesthood=)  It was a beautiful day=)

SUCH AN AMAZING TIME IT IS IN WHICH WE LIVE!  We are living in the last days and I KNOW God is preparing His children for the second coming of the Savior.  I can see it every day!  I hope we ALL are doing all we can to not ¨Sleep through the Restoration¨ =)

Love,
Élder Bender

                                                                Bismark's Baptism!


                         I designed every inch of these scripture cases that I bought!  They are cool!


                                    Sopa lyfee!  Made soup and french fries with my companion!

                                                                     Elder Penaranda

Hay un Profeta viviente!

April 7, 2014
Hello everyone!

Wow what a treat! General conference rocked! =) They set up a small
TV to watch the conference in English, so 6 other gringos and I all
enjoyed it in the same language and at the same time as the rest of
you. It was fun to think that during the intermediate hymns we were
all singing the same song at the same moment all across the world,
that was really fun and the 7 of us white guys belted those songs out!

One miracle that I was blessed to witness and FEEL this week happened
on Thursday. Earlier in the week one of our investigators named Paul
told us that he doesn´t feel ready to get baptized yet and kind of
seemed as though he was losing the desire. We were worried for him
because we know how much we all need this saving odrinance. When we
did our weekly planning on Thursday morning we focused a lot in him
and what he needed to hear and FEEL in order to get excited to be
baptized again. Thursday night we went to go and teach him and my
companion and I felt very strongly that he can still be baptized this
upcoming Saturday (the 12th) but we knew that the spirit had to be
present and had to really touch his heart in order for him to want to
keep that baptismal date. We were ALL taught by the spirit that
night. The spirit was tangably present in the room as we testified of
the importance of baptism and LISTENED to his concerns and doubts. In
the end all three of us had tears in our eyes because the experience
was so pure that we could not deny what we were feeling. Paul then
told us of a experience he had the really gave root to why he wanted
to even begin listening to us. Last New Years Eve he told us he felt
really lost in his life and without purpose. He said he felt he
needed to find God. He knelt in the dark and prayed that he would
find purpose in his life this new coming year. On the First of
January Elder Oliart and I were walking down a dusty dirt road and saw
a young man sitting on a log looking at the ground, I looked at my
companion and he looked at me, ¨Vamos!¨ We both felt prompted to
cantact him. I contacted him and it felt to us like just any other
contact, but little did we know we were the answer to the prayer he had
prayed the NIGHT BEFORE. Tears were streaming down his face as he told
us this story, and then said repeteadly, ¨I want to be baptized, I
need to be baptized.¨
My companion I felt so blessed to have had ¨our mouths filled¨ was we
humbly searched for the guidance from the Holy Ghost.

Now I would like to share a few quotes from Conference that I loved=)

¨Live the Gospel faithfully even if others around you don´t at all.¨
-Élder Holland

¨The best filter is a deep testimony of Jesus Christ...¨ -Sister Reeves

¨Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God´s approval.¨ -President Monson

¨We find more joy in our lives when we serve the Lord first.¨ -Élder Scott

¨Through Obedience we find happiness and eternal life.¨ -Elder Hales

¨Gratitude surpasses dispair¨ -Elder Uctdorf

¨Prayer doesn´t change God, it changes me.¨-Sister Stevens

¨Some of the greatest intelligences are things that cannot be taught,
but things that can be learned.¨ -Elder Packer

¨Obedience is a choice between our own knowledge and power, and God's
wisdom and omnipotence¨ -Elder Perry

¨One should not roam through garbage!¨ -Brother Aiudakaisis

¨Our desires are who we become¨ -Brother Ridd

¨Having a smart phone doesn´t make you smart.¨ -Brother Ridd

¨The purpose of this conference is only going to work if we we are
willing to CHANGE¨ Brother Hallstrom

Conference was amazing! I know we are led by a living prophet, I know
the church is true, and I know that THIS is the MOMENT to shine!
These are our FOUR MINUTES! Act now and for all the eternities we
will look back on this life with smile and a heart of gratitude. The
gospel brings pure happiness, and isn´t a checklist of things to
complete, rather a way of life. I love this Gospel! =)
Love,
Élder Bender

The beauty of Agency

March 31, 2014
Hello everyone! 
This week I have come to learn a lesson really important, and that is the beauty of Free Agency.  Everyday I teach about how we have all been given free agency and are free to choose what we will do in this life, but only recently I have come to understand WHY this is so beautiful in the eyes of God.
Yes, part of the mission is inviting and inviting and having people NOT keep commitments.  But honestly yesterday when I was sitting in sacrament meeting surrounded by 12 investigators in whom I dearly love every one of them, I opened my eyes to the beauty of the occasion.  12 people who all have different problems and doubts all CHOSE for themselves to get up early, and to come to church.  Many chose NOT to work and to come to church instead. Not a single one was forced to do this, everyone of them was prompted by the spirit to do so.  I felt such a great joy sitting amongst them all and finally began to understand the type of joy our Father in Heaven feels when we choose to do what is right.  The power to choose really does bring such great joy into our lives.  I now understand why agency was part of the plan since the beginning, it brings the Father great joy too!

Yesterday a man named Bismark came to church all on his own.  We didn't recognize him so we went to go get to know him.  Turns out that last Sunday he attended in a different building with the Plan 3000 Ward.  The Elders there directed him to come and attended in our casa capilla because he lives in our area.  We talked with him at church and set an appointment to visit him last night.  In the visit he told us and David (The member we brought with us to the lesson who is the same age as him) that after he went to church in Plan 3000 he felt something special, he told us in the first few instances in the lesson that he has prayed and asked God if our church is true, he then told us that he KNOWS that our church is true!  We had given him a pamphlet of the Restoration at church, and he had read it all that afternoon. We then taught the first lesson and literally I have never in my life felt the spirit so strong!  As we talked with him about what he read and learned, really we were just taking turns with him testifying of the reality of the restored gospel.  He truly is a GOLDEN investigator!  He committed to be baptized before I could even finish the invitation!  ¨Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ...¨ ¨YES!  YES! YES I WILL!¨  It was the most epic and powerful experience I've had yet in the mission.  I know with out a doubt that God has restored His church once more upon this earth.  That this church will NEVER again be taken away, and this great and marvelous work in which I am so blessed to be a part of will continue to RUN forward because God is preparing his children.
I love you all so much!  I only hope that you all can feel the joy and excitement that I feel=)
Love,
Élder Bender

Betsy's Buckwild Baptism!

March 24, 2014
Sorry about the title, I couldn't resist! ;)

YES!  This week Betsy Oporto entered the fold=)  She is so awesome!  Her testimony is so strong!  She told us that she is 100% positive with her decision to be baptized and doesn´t have a single doubt.  After the baptism we gave her time to bare her testimony, she explained her excitement to endure to the end and stay active in the church throughout her whole life!  She really has caught the importance of that concept, Preseverar Hasta El Fin!  

Also this week Élder Grow from the 70 came and evaluated the mission.  He also held a mega multi zone conference where there were 190 missionaries present!  (Out of the 270 in the Mission) It was really amazing.  It opened up my eyes in how I can be a more effective missionary.  He focused what he taught on two principles, Personal Revelation, and Chapter 8 from PMG.  It was really amazing. The Spirit was SOOO STRONG!  I could feel that every one of those 190 missionaries were so hungry to go out and change the world after he finished speaking.  It was fantastic!  
One thing I loved that he taught that you all can apply in your daily lives as well, is a little something about goal setting.  Often times we set goals in what we BELIEVE we can achieve, however many times God has much Higher standards or higher goals set for us.  He invited us to turn to our Father in a kneeling prayer and seek personal revelation to learn of the Goals our Father in Heaven has set.

This week we have been blessed once more to see many miracles, I truly feel blessed.  Also the 19th was Father's Day here in Bolivia and it was my first Father's day to spend with my ¨hijo¨!  Haha we had a good time joking around about that =)

Happy Bolivia Father's Day to Everyone!

I love you all!
Élder Bender

                                                                Betsy's Baptism

                                                      A member gave me a ton of bananas!

                                                                Bieber in Bolivia!


  This ice-cream store called Vaca Fria is right next door to the mail office.  So, it's a tradition to get                   ice-cream when you send letters!  Best ice-cream in Santa Cruz=)

                                                                  Elder Penaranda
                                                                    Elder Bender

Downtown in the first ring, right by where we go to mail letters (like an hour away from our house).  Santa Cruz is a city broken up into like 9 rings.  The first ring is the center of it all , or downtown.  The first 4 rings are paved.  We live outside ALL of the rings, super far!  This type of civilization only sister missionaries enjoy!

Hola!

March 17, 2014
Hola!   (=
This week was a great one!  On Thursday our entire zone went to the offices to have interviews with President Willard.  It was so great, President is such a wizard, I love that guy so much!  He said a specific prayer praying for the people in our area to open their hearts to the gospel, and honestly my companion and I have seen the blessings that have come since that day!  We have found and taught more new investigators this week than any other week in the mission, people that REALLY are prepared and don't seem to have HUGE hurdles to clear before baptism.  That's super exciting!  (=
About a month ago my companion and I were out looking for a family of recent converts that just moved into our area.  We had bad directions to their house and we were going around asking people in the street if they knew this family.  Nobody knew them, but we ended up getting two new investigators just out of talking with them and later sharing a short message and asking if they wanted to hear more.  Well, now I can say that one of these contacts, a young mother named Betsy, is going to be baptized this Saturday!  She has been SOOO prepared to hear the message of the restored gospel!  Not once have we given her a reading ¨assignment¨ that she hasn´t completed, not only does she read, but she marks up her Book of Mormon and the pamphlets we give her and then TEACHES US the lessons!  Haha it's been such a treat to teach her.  We have been bringing a man named Eduardo to teach her with us a bunch and he recently received the Aaronic Priesthood, so we invited him to baptized her this Saturday!  It's so cool to see a recent convert be so interested in helping others enjoy this gospel message, and I am so excited to see Eduardo baptize Betsy!  Also, the other contact we made at first didn't seem to show much promise, but this Sunday she came to church with us, and the really cool part is that Betsy (who still is investigating the church and isn't even a member yet) is fellow-shipping her and now Brenda (the second contact)  is really excited to be baptized too!  She has a baptismal date for the 12th of April.  She too is eating up the Book of Mormon, and it's so cool because these two young Mothers are like the best of friends now and before they didn't even know each other!  I LOVE seeing investigators have that HUNGER and burning desire to learn more and keep commitments!
I know the power of the Holy Ghost is real.  Without the Holy Ghost this work wouldn't work AT ALL.  The Spirit is who does the planning, the teaching, the converting, and keeps every single one of us hungry for more.  I love it!
I love you all!
Élder Bender

Selfless Service

March 10, 2014

Hello Everyone!  (=

I had a funny experience not long ago when I was getting my hair cut.  There is a lady that lives in our Ward that cuts hair in the city, and she asked if she could take a sample of my hair to use as a model for when she dyes the hair of her clients.  Everyone here wants to have blonde hair and blue eyes, and so now when she makes hair dyes she matches it with my hair sample.... haha REAL LIVE BLONDE HAIR!  That's hard to find in Santa Cruz!  (;

As you know this week we were locked in the house for three days due to Carnival.  I made the most of my time and read all of ¨Our Heritage¨ and lots of Preach my Gospel and the Scriptures!  It was nice to just soak up the word for three days!  Also I made no bake cookies!  They turned out SUPER GOOD!  Thanks Mom for the Recipe!  I shared them with the family that makes our lunch and they all loved them!  Haha so I shared the recipe with them too.  

Yesterday was Stake Conference, and it was extra cool because we listened to a satellite broadcast from Salt Lake that was broadcasted to all 27 stakes in Bolivia.  We listened to Elder Pino from the 70, the second counselor from the General Relief Society Presidency, and also Elder Russell M. Nelson from the Quorum of the 12!  It was sooo amazing.  When Elder Nelson gave an Apostolic blessing on all the members in Bolivia the Spirit was SO strong, and I just felt so grateful for the organization in the Church.  Many times I have felt like we are out here in the middle of nowhere trying to run a ward!  But it was cool to feel the power of that blessing and know that the leaders of the church really are aware of us and know EXACTLY what the people here need to hear.

I want to share a miracle story. We contacted the Coro Family more than a month ago, but every time we have passed by they haven´t had time to talk with us. They make Salteñas in their home for their work, so they work long hours and are always busy in the home. This week we went by for the first time in a little while and they told us they were really busy making Salteñas. I INSISTED that we helped them peel potatoes for a half hour. Finally they let us in and we peeled potatoes for about 40 minutes and then the Father invited us to wash our hands and share a message with the family. It was a miracle because before they never gave us the time of day to talk, as we followed the guidance given in chapter 9 of PMG we were able to get in the door, serve as Christ did, and then teach a lesson with this awesome family! In the end of the lesson the Spirit was so strong, and the Father was in tears as he knelt to give the closing prayer. He told us that he needs God in his life, and invited us to come back again. Through Service we got in the door, through the Spirit we got to their hearts. The converting power of the Spirit is real! 

I am so grateful for this time I have to serve my Savior.  I feel so blessed to be able to labor in the Lord's vineyard and to see the many miracles that he works in my life and the lives of those I am blessed to serve.

I love you all!
Élder Bender

During one of the days of Carnival we got permission to go next door to the house of our pensionista and learned to make donuts and empenadas!  They were SOOO yummy!



                                     
                                                              Donuts and Empenadas!




                         A super crazy fruit our pensionista gave us.  I forgot what it's called, but super yummy!

               
              I made no-bake cookies and shared them with our pensionista and her family, they loved them!