Friday, November 6, 2015

The Bermejeño!

November 2, 2015

My heart is pounding pretty hard right now, these have been the best 25 months of my life!

So many amazing things happened this week!  So many weekly goals were accomplished:)

My companion baptized for the first time!  Celestino, a man who'd been investigating for over a year, finally, through our humble words choose to follow Christ and make the baptismal covenant.  He's the best!  I'll show the pictures on Friday.  On Sunday, I confirmed him.  

What a delight to hear that so many of my favorite people bore their testimonies this week!  In my 7:30am Sacrament meeting in Bolivar, following which I taught the Gospel Principles class about eternal marriage (how ironic?!) then I got special permission to go to the Miraflores branch from the APs to give my testimony there (their meeting starts at 9:30am).  It was extra special bearing my testimony in Miraflores, because after the closing hymn was said, President Flores stood up before anyone left the sacrament meeting and said, "This isn't protocol, however... Elder Bender, can you come on up here?"  I walked up to his side and he said, "On behalf of the Miraflores family, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the work you have done here.  We all love you."  He went on to explain that I got to the branch just in time to save many people there, including the branch president who was more depressed at that point in his life than ever before.  I think more than one pair of eyes were watery.

I can't express enough my love for them all!  I want to be a member here!  The Church is so true! Love is the lubricant and the life of His Labor. 

Can I please be Bermejeño?

I have pondered a little bit about how I'd finish what I write today, and I guess I'll just mention a few of the changes - visual and non-visual - that He has made on the canvas of my soul.

Visual and obvious changes:
-Well, um, I speak Spanish!
-I have a new hairstyle - very missionaryish
-I am about 15 pounds heavier
-I am more doctrinally confident
-I am more reverent about heavenly things

Non-visual changes:
-I have cultivated a vivid and vibrant testimony of the divinity of Christ's mission, and the healing and comforting power of His Atonement.
-A strong and friendly relationship with the Holy Ghost.
-A childlike innocence and lack of desire to see, hear, or speak things that would offend the Spirit.
-I have learned to devour and love the holy scriptures.
-I have a better appreciation of the importance of, and basic need for an eternal family - and a deep gratitude for my parents, siblings, and relatives.
-I've better learned how to lead as Christ led, and follow as He followed His Father.
-I`ve learned the laws of justice, mercy, and grace.  Also the role of obedience in the eternal plan of happiness.
-A deeper understanding of covenants and a reverent desire to keep them, and make more.

I love you all!  

I Love Jesus Christ!  He is Lord.

-Elder Bender

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Limitless Love

October 26, 2015

This week was a very special one, I'll remember it forever! :)

It's safe to say that it's summertime!  I think it has gotten above 100 degrees every day this week.  I have a gnarly half-neck tan line from my white shirts.  It's hideous.  haha.
Last night it was like 88 degrees with probably more than 80% humidity at 10:30pm in our room while we were trying to go to bed!  Free sauna you know?

We are having great success teaching Rene`s  (our recent convert)  family.  His brother Ever has started reading the Book of Mormon and really has made some big changes.  This week we are hoping to meet and teach Ever's wife that way as a family they can have the vision of an eternal family.

Thursday we went to Tarija for the Zone Conference.  It was a great one.  Sister Willard shared about how often times in life, our plan A, doesn't work out.  However that doesn't mean that we are failures, or that God didn't hear our prayers, it's just His plan is often different than ours.  She explains that after our "Plan A" falls through we often transition to our Plan B.  And just as surely, it'll crash and burn just as Plan A!  
The answer is found in Plan G, Plan God. My "life plan" will have to be that when things are not working out, ask Him what the plan is!  Alma said it best, we need to counsel with God is all our doings.  
The moral of the story isn't that we have to fail 6 times to get to God's Plan, but rather try to live according to His Plan, His Plan of Happiness to find consistent, and often times instant, success.

As a district we had prepared a special musical number to sing at the multi zone conference and I chose "We'll Bring the World His Truth" as our song.  We sang the first verse in Spanish, the second in Portuguese, and the third in English! We changed the words "We will be the Lord's missionaries" to "We are now the Lord's missionaries". It was very special for me to sing that song, because I feel like singing it 7 years ago in EFY really stoked my flame into a scorching desire to serve. 

In the same Zone Conference I gave my "Final Testimony" along with the other 2 Elders and a sister that are all finishing this transfer whom are currently serving in Tarija/Bermejo.
I feel like He has changed me so much since the day I entered the MTC!  How blessed I feel.  

I love the Lord!

Yesterday, Sunday, we had a Multi-Stake/District Conference broadcast for the Areas of Perù and Bolivia.  The first 30 minutes were presided by our district President, President Arce who has come to be a great friend of mine, and then vìa video conference Elder Anderson presided the conclusion of the meeting. In the first 30 minutes, President Arce asked me to share my testimony as part of the district conference.  Honestly, family, I feel so blessed to have worked in The Bermejo District!  As I bore my testimony, I looked out over many converts and less actives whom I have worked with, many leaders with whom I've been able to support and sustain, and I just love them all!  Bermejo is such a blessed town.  I feel like through working in 2 of the 4 branches, and then exchanges as DL, I have come to personally know about 80% of the members here!  The church is so true, they have so much faith.  It brought tears to my eyes thinking of how merciful God has been with me to lend me some of His love for His children.  

In conclusion, that's what its all about!  Godly Love.  Fatherly Love for all of his Children.  That's the work of salvation.  It is part of who I am, I love it, I love Him!

-Elder Bender 

P.S. FYI, I am at 901 contacts with my goal for contacting 1,000 before my mission ends!  99 to go!  Pray that they'll be accepting!

 Chopping down the papaya tree from our service project last week!

     Baptism selfie
 Rene's baptism pics from last week!
 Picture from the Zone conference with my first and last sons!  They are great Elders and great friends.
 Preaching to them vacas.  "Every ear shall hear, and every tongue confess..."
Ping pong for our morning workout! Here is Elder Hecker returning one with some heat.
We helped the Branch President with tearing down an old building with some less than adequate tool for our weekly service.
 Chopping down the papaya tree from our service project last week with Elder Hecker!

Pretty Papaya flow in Elder Hecker's hair
 The Cow that we taught wasn't really responsive.. but we tried to focus more on the plan of salvation because his family was gone.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

FYI, I am still in a third world country, the internet is terrible

October 19, 2015

This week was miraculous!

My internet is TERRIBLE, and it'll be a miracle if you get this, so it'll be short and sweet.

We did a SWEET service project for our branch president Friday morning - we knocked down an old adobe house, and cut down a papaya tree with a machete.  Then with the papayas that fell down, we played real live fruit ninja, and one played as "pitcher" and the other clopped up the papayas in mid air with the machete.  Too legit to quit.

Also Rene Santos was baptized!  He is the best.  Honestly.  He'll be taking my place in the mission field!  Without a doubt, he is more prepared for the mission that I was!

I love you all!

Elder Bender

Where's Waldo?

October 12, 2015

This week was very refreshing, after working in trio, and having to move stuff around a bunch and do preparations for the sisters to come, it just felt so good to work a solid week without interruptions! :) 

I am learning lots of patience, I felt as though my previous branch was really up to par with the work of salvation, retention, activation, baptisms, priesthood advancements, etc.

It seems as though in this new branch none of that has been common.  Its very notable how the faith of the members as a whole changes the results of the work.  

However many miracles have happened!  Starting off with; its been cooler weather!  Also a great future missionary who was receiving the missionary lessons in Tarija was able to pass his baptismal interview, and he asked me to baptize him this Saturday!  I felt that was especially cool, because I had set up baptisms for the Sisters in Miraflores, God has set Rene up for us, that way right when he moved we'd be ready to harvest!  Legit.  God is a just God.

We had a crazy experience, we found a GREAT family, the Vilca family, here in Bolìvar.  They accepted baptism, and also to attend church.  We picked them up early to come to church (because we enter at 7:30am) and they were waiting and ready to go!  However because they have a young baby, they went the two parents, and the baby on their little motorcycle and said they would meet us there.  Awesome!  So they obviously beat us there.  We got to the church, saw their bike out front, went into the chapel and they were NO WHERE to be found!  Hmm.. That's odd, so instead we decided to go to the near by Sunday Market and walk through to see if they had gotten distracted buying stuff on the way to church.... Nada.  So we entered into the meeting hoping they'd come in later.  After the sacrament had been passed, we went out side again, their bike was STILL THERE, we spent another 20 minutes running through this market looking for them!  Nothing.  
Anyway, you are probably wondering where the Vilca family was hiding, SO AM I! In the end we never found them, yet ALL OF CHURCH their motorcycle was out front!  It may have been the most frustrating thing all week! haha.  We are praying more specifically this week that they'll not only get to church but get inside the church!

I love you all so much!
-Elder Bender 

Monday, October 5, 2015

To Witness

General Conference was fantastic!  And it came just in time! :)

So much has happened in so little time - Changes!

Last Sunday (8 days ago) a missionary from my district was transferred out early, and his companion Elder Newmans, stayed with Elder Hecker and I in a trio for this entire week.  We were covering two areas for the week, Miraflores, and also Bolivar.  We were tearing things up the first two days, with double digit lessons and new investigators, MIRACLES left and right (all in the Miraflores limits). President Willard called me and informed me that our mission is lacking Elders, and that he felt impressed to instead send sisters to Bermejo to fill the holes.  He didn't want there to just be one lonely companionship of sisters, so he sent 2, now my district is made up of 4 elders and 4 sisters.  Sad I was to know that I would be transferred from my favorite branch on earth, Miraflores, and spend the rest of my mission in Bolivar.  (Mostly because Miraflores is safer and prettier and wealthier.)  I am not quite in Samaria type living and teaching, but close!

I know there is a reason why God wanted this change made, and I am excited to starting working in a new area that neither of us know!

Great news is that the new sisters that are in my district (that will actually be arriving in Bermejo in 2 hours) The ones that will be taking our place in Miraflores have two baptisms set up for this Saturday the 10th.  Teofilo Nina (thanks to your prayers) will be baptized, and also Martina.  I dearly love them, and all of Miraflores!

One of the struggles this week after learning of the transfer, was finding a suitable house for 4 sister to live in.  We found a beautiful house, great price, and it was perfect, one problem.... its on the 3rd floor.... fetch.  Moving all their stuff was a pain!  I am ready to be in Elders Quorum now, sign me up for the mover's team!

We were able to listen to General conference in English in all the sessions except for Sunday afternoon, and that was a true blessing for Elder Hecker!  He said to me like 3 minutes into it, I'll just wait for the Ensign to come out to read these", then ducked his head down to rest... haha poor guy!
He is great though, super positive and funny.  He reminds me of Jared, and is Kaylee's age!  bahaha.

I invite you all to ponderize with me The Family a Proclamation to the World!  ¿Lo haràn?

In General Conference I noted how often the authorities say that they "witness" in stead of that they "know".  I came to think, and commented to my companion, "Because they are special witness` are they the only ones allowed to say that they witness things in their testimonies?"  We can only say know when the spirit has manifested it to us, and we can say witness when we have seen the truthfulness, or fruits of a gospel principle. 
After pondering 2 years of consecrated service to Him, I can say that I know He Lives.  I witness His power to heal physically and spiritually.  I witness that the Holy Ghost speaks, warns, guides, and calms.  I witness the power of charity and love to change lives, behavior and character.  I witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, for only the word of God can work such potent changes in His children's lives.     

-Elder Bender

Monday, September 28, 2015

A historical week!

This is going to be, and has been a historical week! (Well, really they are two weeks but whatever...)
1) A bloody moon eclipse:  Who saw it?  Dad says it happens once every 30 years.  Seeing that Christ hasn't returned yet, looks like we got another 30 years to get prepped ;)
2) 3 New Apostles:  This Saturday we will sustain them.  That's cool, it'll be the first time since 1906 that 3 apostles have been called and sustained in the same conference!  Will there be any non-Americans? I think yes.
3) A new companion:  Yes!  Last Monday and Tuesday I was in Santa Cruz for Mission Leadership council meeting, and Wednesday I met my new companion, Elder Hecker from Las Vegas Nevada!  He's only 6 months older than Kaylee, (that weirded me out to think about!) and has a strong testimony of the restored gospel.  He was in the Provo MTC for 6 weeks, and I officially think it is the LEAST effective MTC in Spanish language training.  In Bogota I felt like I learned a lot more than my first two weeks in Provo MTC, and the Elders I meet that come from the Lima and also from Buenos Aires MTC's are well prepared in the language.  The few that are coming out of Provo seem to have less experience.  NEVERTHELESS, We are getting sore about that now are we?  Hay que trabajar no mas!  We are working with more faith, than ever before, and we are getting along greatly.  However we'll need your prayers for the Vilca family, and in general that our investigators can come to general conference and receive testimonies there.  Teofilo Nina seems to be getting less interested, which bums me out, he was basically in the water before hand, but with prayers I know he'll come around.
4) 20 years of the "Family - A Proclamation to the World":  Yup, on the 23rd of September she had her birthday.  So to celebrate I have set the personal goal to give out a ton of those documents to try and save more families in this decaying world.  I also have set the goal to memorize it... probably in English!  I haven't started yet, but this week I'll begin:)  Who'll join me?
I love ya'll mucho!
Élder Bender

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Work righteously for your own incentive

September 21, 2015

Good day family and friends! 

Today is the beginning of Spring here on the Southern hemisphere. Fun fact.

This week I recognized I was behind on my goal for contact 1000 people, and contacted about 16-22 a day to get back caught up, but I did!  I have contacted a bit over 500.  

We worked really hard this week with Teofilo Nina trying to get him prepared to be baptized, and more than anything have a very strong testimony of the Book of Mormon.  He even had his baptismal interview and passed, however he'll need to be included in everyone's prayers that way he can gain a strong confirmation of the truthfulness of that book in order to be baptized in October.

Sadly, my time with Elder Lozano was cut short, and he received a call from the assistants Tuesday and they said that he would be needed in Santa Cruz to finish training a missionary who has 5 weeks in the field (he has 11 weeks).  Elder Lozano is a stud and I know he'll kill it!

I was made companions with Elder Ramos for the time being until Sunday, when all the mission was informed of their transfers, and what a surprise, Elder Bender will being training a new missionary!  Once more.  =)  I am content, I love training!  It strengthens my faith.

I thought I'd share a special miracle story with you all: 

Monday I contacted a lady walking with her 14 month old daughter.  Her name is Benita.  She was very shy when we chatted, but we managed to set a visit for Wednesday.  Tuesday we were informed of the temporary transfer that would happen in my area, and that Wednesday morning we had to wake up early and drive to Tarija to make the transfer.  I was full of emotion leaving Elder Lozano, he has been a great companion, and will be a life long friend.  Elder Ramos was to be my temporary companion, and with the emotions of leaving a buddy, being with a stranger as a companion, and having only 4 hours of sleep in me, when it came time to go to the visit we had set with Benita at 3pm, I thought, "She isn't going to be there, she was really shy and probably only set the visit because of shyness.  Anyways, no one is in their home at 3pm on a Wednesday."  "Plus my companion has to unpack his stuff, it's hot out, and even if Benita is there, her husband probably won't be." (without a man in the house it's prohibited to enter and teach her alone).  "We are better off just going to our lesson for 4pm"

Did the spirit prompt me to go?  No.  Did I know from 23 months of being a diligent missionary that I SHOULD GO, yes.  Were the chances of actually teaching the lesson high, obviously not. Did we go?   Yes.  

Benita was there, Beto, her husband was too.  They let us in, they accepted a baptismal date, and Beto informed me that he just stopped attending his evangelical church because of some false doctrines that were taught there.  He felt that we were an answer to his prayers.

I know God lives, and I know that he TESTED ME but not flooding me with the spirit to inspire me to go, better yet He knew that I have been a diligent servant and I knew I must go.  I know that God wanted more than anyone else for us to be the answer to Beto´s prayer, but it was up to ME to act.

May we be quick to act, and work righteously in the service of our God, is my prayer and earnest desire for all of you this week.

Elder Bender

Being the Homecoming Queens brother, does that make me royalty too?
Good work Kaylee, we all love you!

                                                     Last district meeting of the transfer

Fun district pictures, Rene Santos came to district meeting with us, the dude is a stud!

 We brought new ties and got them imprinted with our names of all the trainers and trainees who were together for 12 weeks!  Good times, BERMEJO

I took a picture of my proselyting card on the date that says I am finished as a 'minister'. Well, I still have 1 month to go!

A Special Witness

September 14, 2015

This week was fantastic!  Elder Juan A. Uceda member of the first quorum of the Seventy and President of the South America North East Area came to tour the mission and train us as missionaries.

Thursday, I was flown in to Santa Cruz for a special Mission Leadership Council meeting with Elder Uceda and his wife.  It was amazing to me how simple his message was to us.  He talked about the conversion, and how it's impossible to achieve without one gaining a personal testimony of Prayer, Scripture study, and Church attendance.  These things give the spirit an opportunity to touch our hearts and mold us.  Moroni teaches about "Being perfected in Christ" in the last few verses of the Book of Mormon, and that simply isn't possible without these three vital lifestyles.

Saturday, I went with my powerful district to Tarija for a Zone Conference where Elder Uceda presided.  Honestly, for 5 hours I was on the edge of my seat!  It was very, very insightful.  The spirit was tangibly present.  Elder Uceda taught about "digging deeping" into the sciptures.  It was very cool to learn how he studies the scriptures and hear his insights after years of being a general authority.  Even though he was born in Peru, he said that more than 30 years have passed since he has studied the scriptures in Spanish, he studies in English 100% of the time, and literally exhorted all of the Latinos to learn English. Hahaha it was nuts!  The man is powerful!  like out of nowhere he just starts yelling!  haha or better said exhorting, but it was legit.

Something really special happened on Sunday, out of all the units in the mission, he chose to preside over our district conference!  Freak it was nuts though, so much "palo"!  He basically just gave all the members here a spanking.  haha.  For two hours:  Pay a full tithe, arrive to church meetings on time, or early, no purchasing on the Sabbath day, Modesty, and Having a current temple recommend.   It was heavy!  His wife got up and said, "NO COMPRAR EL DÌA DOMINGO, NO COMPRAR EL DÌA DOMINGO, NO COMPRAR EL DÌA DOMINGO"  (Don't buy on Sundays x3)  Literally yelling/exhorting.  haha I loved it.  It's exactly what we needed here in Bermejo!  And what basically every unit in Bolivia needs.  

All in all, it was a life-changing experience.  The spirit worked so strong within me this week, I feel so blessed! 
It is so important to be 100% obedient to even the smallest of things, after all, we are doing it for Him.
D&C 64:33, Amen.  

Elder Bender

                                                         Can you tell it is hot here?
Elder Lozano and I got matching BOCA shirts! Aguante BOCA!
Elder Rose and I both suffering in the heat on P-day. We had a great Churrasco with Presidente Fred!

The Work of Salvation

September 7, 2015

Such a special week!  Hey, the weather even cooled off for a few days too!  Probably the best birthday present;)

On Monday we had a super Asado (BBQ) with the district after playing an intense soccer game.  A bermejeño classic!  Soccer and Meat!  

Tuesday we drove to Tarija early in the morning to get to our Zone Conference and interviews with the mission president.  It was a fantastic zone conference that truly changed my life.  We prepared for it studying about the Light.  Light from Christ is tangible and easily measurable in one's own life, and its a precious commodity that we can easily gain, or loose depending on simply daily decisions. After the conference President asked for my district to stay back after all had left, and then said, "Today is Elder Bender's birthday!  Let's take him and his district to lunch!"  Haha I love President Willard.  So sneaky!  So we went to a way to nice restaurant with an all you can eat sides buffet, and yes, more great meat.  I had a great interview with President, and really nothing makes one feel better than knowing that God is happy with what one is doing.  God helped me to feel at peace knowing I am truly giving my all, each and every day.  President Willard is the best!
When we had returned from from Tarija we were blessed to teach two great lessons in the hour and a half we had left.  We taught the Gareca family (they still are the best converts ever!  So much faith!) and the Vilca family!  (The best investigators ever!)

Wednesday, Nephi's prophecy (2 Nephi 28-29) was fulfilled in just about every lesson. So many people that hated on the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.  As Moroni said, Joseph`s name would be held for good and evil, and more and more for evil as our Redeemer´s second coming closens. 

My district meeting on Thursday was focused on preparing ourselves and our investigators for the district conference where Elder Uceda will preside this next Sunday!  This is big news, in 40 plus years of the church in this pueblo, this is the first time a general authority will be visiting! Kind of a big deal... ;)  ¿Bermejo Stake?
I had a great exchange with Elder Evans Thursday and Friday.  One plus was running with him in the AM!  I set a PR, 6k in 22:20.  I hope Kaylee is training!

Saturday was very special.  Micaela Teran was baptized.  We sang a special musical number with Efrain Vargas, the World's best Mission leader.  He rocks.  She cried. #wesinggood

Honestly I just love the work of Salvation!  Sunday was full of ordinances.  The Sacrament, a confirmation, a baby blessing, and ordination of Roque Cazon to the Priesthood. 

¿Could this work be any more perfect?  I know is perfect because is His.  He guides His church.  We are His servants (friends).  What a blessing that is.  ¡Que se llenen con luz esta semana!

Elder Bender

View from our 3rd-floor apartment

 For the Bermejo foundation day (24 de Agosto) Everyone marched in celebration, even Bolivia's fiercest Marines

                                                  A random apostate march for some "virgin"
                                                    The Cazon Family baptismal pictures

                                                             The patio after a baptism!
                                            Elder Lozano and I last Monday with the prized meat.
                                                Another meat picture, Argentina's best.

Monday, August 31, 2015

One year older, and happier too!

Dear family and friends,

Thanks for all the birthday wishes!  I was especially peppy in replying to each one of them, so this general letter will be a shortie!

The best part of the week was cooling off in the baptismal font with the Cazon Family!  It was probably one of my favorite baptisms I've had. It was themed about the temple.  The Cazon family travels to Cochabamba (where the temple is here in Bolivia) frequently for their work, and they will be doing baptisms for the dead in September!

As a mission we are getting ready for Elder Juan Uceda from the 1st quorom of the 70 to come in a week and a half.  It'll be a life changing experience!  I am convinced that in a month he'll be an apostle too!  It's about time for a Latino apostle.

Elder Bender

Monday, August 24, 2015

Firsts and Lasts

August 24, 2015
Yesterday was a day of firsts!

It was a first for me to be a sacrament meeting where:  The two Priests that blessed the Sacrament were my converts (Cristian Galarza and Mauricio Lafuente) One of the deacons that passed, Luis Gareca (another convert) and the same Luis also gave the first talk in the sacrament meeting about prayer!  He wrote it all on his own and it was amazing!  I was blessed to give the second talk about the Holy Ghost, and personal revelation.  Liliana Gareca (1st counselor in Young Womens presidency) gave her first lesson in Young Womens and everyone said it was amazing!
I love the Miraflores branch, they know how to include the recent converts, and I feel that they wont ever fall away with the way things are going.

After church we have a ward missionary activity called "Together, to the Rescue!" It was planned and lead by the district.  The idea of the activity is that we divided into 13 groups of Preisthood, Relief Society, YSA, and kids to go out and visit less active families.  WE were able to successfully visit 18 less active families, and set future visits for the missionaries and the Hometeachers to teach the family and bring them back to activity in the gospel.  It was way legit. One thing I love about the saints in Bermejo, is they know how to work!

Wednesday I flew to Santa Cruz for Mission Leadership Council meeting.  It was good, weird because for about 18months I have been in those meetings, and now I am one of the "oldest" missionaries there!  I feel like Grandpa, "Wise with years". hahahhahaha ;)

All in all I am happy, healthy, and I love my companion Elder Lozano!  He is one the most chill companions yet, I'd love to finish the mission with him as my companion!

In my goal to contact 1,000, I am 145 contacts in, lots to go!

I love my Savior.  I know His church is true.  I know that if we put on the armour of God we'll be protected from the adversaries firey darts and they wont have power over us.

Sean Fuertes!

Elder Bender

Families are Forever

August 17, 2015
This week was fantastic!

Monday I ran 6 miles with my companion, that felt great. 
We have been working with a bunch of new families recently, and they have made some great progress!  I love teaching families.  Its the best.  The Plan of Salvation was made for our family to become like Gods.  We are literally practicing right now!

The Cazon family is an older couple that's overly excited to be baptized on the 29th of August that we are current very excited about. Roque, the husband, is the most enthusiastic guy ever when he learns about restored truths!  It almost makes me laugh seeing his reactions.  "Brother Cazon, your family can go to the Temple and be sealed together forever, and not only with your wife and your son, but also to your parents who have passed on, grandparents, etc."  Hno. Roque, "Really?!  That's amazing! That's like, way too perfect, God really does love us doesn't he?!"  
They are a special family!

Also the Vilca family is progressing splendidly.  They attended church for the first time yesterday, and as Dad would say they just about, "flipped the switch" in the chapel.  They left after the bishopric! haha, their youngest daughter was having the funnest time playing with the nursery toys with the nursery Sister and her Parents! haha.  They will be in the water before they know it. :)

I feel eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father for MY eternal family.  I have the best parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, everything!

I love you all!

Elder Bender  

We take very seriously our callings, but we also know how to go crazy when the camera comes out! 

-With the Bermejo District

A few more pics Elder Ruiz sent me.

In the last one, you can see us playing Raquetball, our activity from last week!

Last week of transfer #1 in Bermejo. Kind of out of order

The 'cacha sythetica' in Bermejo is amazing. We had a blast playing with members.
"La Casa Dorada" A famous building in Tarija, it is on the back of the 20 Bolivano Bill
Raquetball with Presidente Flores and the District was fun
The first week of transfer #2 in Bermejo. District Meeting photo.

Transfers - With no changes!

August 10, 2015
Wednesday we were to a training meeting in Tarija with all the district.  It was really special.  The meeting was especially to train the new missionaries, and measure how they are doing after 5 weeks in the field.  There were 22 missionaries there, 8 from my district, and the rest are serving in Tarija.  The Assistants didn't fly down for this meeting, so President Willard asked me to direct the meeting, and apart from that doing a one our practical training with the other trainers.  It was the best!  I love training new missionaries, talking about it, everything about it I just love!  President Willard told me that he was very pleased with the change there has been in the effectiveness of the work in Bermejo.  He said, "This transfer just keep it up! I don't think I'm changing anyone there."  That made me stoked, because I have so much reaping to do in my area!  It's been so much to work with these new guys here, I feel like I am living my dream of working in the MTC early! haha.  MTC Bermejo!  

Sunday night I got the call from the APs, yep, no one is getting transfered from my district!

Saturday was full of many, MANY miracles.  The three Mamani Sisters were baptized, and Mauricio was as well!  It was a one of kind special night, and there was a great support from the Branch.

My testimony was strengthened this morning of the universalness of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  It really was necesary for every part of the plan of Salvation to work.  If you're not reading Preach my Gospel's 3rd chapter currently, then read it!  

I love you all!

Elder Bender

                                                   Mamani Sisters!
                                                   Mauricio was baptized!

1,001 Disciples of Christ

August 3, 2015
I just feel so hyped right now!

I have loved reading all your emails, hearing about all the great stuff your doing, and finally I found a computer that will let me email pics!   I hope you enjoy!

As you can see from the pictures, Elder Lozano and I are running to the internation bridge (6k loop) every other morning.  It feels good!  Its such a beautiful run too, I run with Tucan Sam flying over head... literally there are tons of tucans here.

As I wrote you about last week - we set some high goals, and I feel like God inspired us to do so to raise our vision, and highten our faith.  I felt so blessed!  My faith has grown, and we invited a TON of people to come unto Christ.  

Friday we didn't have a single "set in stone" lesson.  We talked to probably 80 people, no lie.  haha.  It was hot too, but I felt so great doing it!  We found and taught a ton of new investigators, and I am stoked on that.  That night our feet HURT!  haha, but we felt great for having talked to so many people, and I made a comment to Elder Lozano, I said, "we probably talked to a thousand people today!"  And thinking about how happy that made me I thought all of a sudden, What if I set the goal for my last two transfers (more or less last 3 months) to talk to 1000 people in that time period, and count em! (its about 12 people a day, so it's easily doable and still have time to teach 6 or 7 lessons a day.)  So that's what I am going to do!  I am going to finish off my last 3 months talking to everyone and their mothers, and invite them all to come unto Christ.

I love you all!

Elder Bender

 Soccer from 2 weeks ago with the District!
 A lady dressed up from San Santiago (I wrote about that holiday last week)
 Going hard in the service project for the La Fuente family trying to pick apart the harder than cement adobe footings (2pics)

 #Aztecstyle.  The big stair case going up to the Christ statue in Bermejo
 Elder Barahona and I
 Bermejo Panorama! #smalltown
 Our Lord!
 My District (with some random guy who wanted a picture with us)
 With My companion Elder Lozano
 Cool statue, its big.
 Showing off my true colors, #banderaboliviana
 El Rio Bermejo (The Bermejo River) Panorama on one of our morning jogs.
 "Hey Mom!  I got a bridge!"  The international Argentina/Bolivia Bridge
 The Bridge, look at the cool way its painted!
 Bolivian side...
 Goucho side ;)
 The bridge in fog
 The boats that smuggle across illegal goods.

KFC in Bermejo!  (It ain't real.)