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!