Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Marriage, Monkeys and Many Bugs!

June 22, 2015
Holllllllaaa!  (That's HoLLa as in "Hollabackgirl", not Hola as in "Hello")

Last Monday we played Soccer in a giant super nice stadium as a district with a bunch of recent converts and less actives.  It was so fun we are going to do it again in about half an hour! :)  I also used a good chunk of my Pday washing my clothes... by hand.  I have learned how to do it pretty good now!  But that doesn't mean it is enjoyable now!  hahaha.  However I have downloaded a bunch of different General Conference talks that I listen to as I wash clothes, so that makes it more enjoyable:)

Wednesday I brought Elder Allasia (a "Goucho" or Argentinian missionary who has about 1 month in the field) to my area to do an exchange.  It went suuuuppppeerr well.  The members helped us in each lesson all day.  He was impressed with their enthusiasm, and I was too!  Haha.  I am working hard with my district that way each branch can better participate in the work.

Friday we had a great FHE in our branch's 1st councilor's home, the Arteaga family, and the Gareca family came as well.  It went super great, and the Gareca family also came to the baptism and stayed all 3 hours at church!  They are making some major progression:)  Pray for them!

Saturday Celia and Ricardo Mamani got married!  That was quite a miracle in and of itself.  I was blessed to baptized Celia Sunday morning at 8am, and then she was confirmed at 9:30am in our Sacrament meeting.  Her testimony strengthened mine, and man alive I don't know if I have met anyone else who has fought so hard and overcome so many different problems to be baptized!  She'll be a great leader in the church.

I feel great.  I am happy as can be, as healthy as I'll ever be, and hyped to teach the gospel!:)

Elder Bender 

                            Don't let the photos confuse you, my mission ain't no monkey business!

                Took a few fun pictures on our roof, it kind of gives you an Idea of what Bermejo is like too!

                                                                Celia's Baptism pics

                    We had a super yummy lunch on Sunday with our branch mission leader and his family!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Oh what a week it was!

While thinking of what I was going to title this email the Peptobismol song came into my head, "Oh what a relief it is!".  I hope the jingle rings through clearly as you read this letter:)
Wednesday I had a great exchange with Elder Ruiz from the 1ro de Mayo branch.  I went to the farthest corner of civilization that pertains to our mission.  A small neighborhood called "Por venir".  Doing a mathematical guess, I assume that's the farthest I have ever been away from home!  haha.  It made me laugh at times to realize how in the middle of nowhere I found myself.  All in all, we taught some great families, and many accepted baptismal dates.
Thursday I had an amazing District meeting.  I taught about, ironically enough, the flu shot and Doctor Castro!  Yes, our long time favorite pediatrician.  The picture Mom send me of the kids in Doc. Castro's office goofing off inspired the theme of my meeting.  I'll give you a short break down:
Just as how Jared at the beginning was so eager to literally RUN AWAY from the doctor when the needle came out, often time people are eager to run way from "Mormon missionaries".  Why?  Because they have yet to grasp that as the Flu Shot, our Restored message will indeed save them from lots of physical and spiritual suffering.  
I take pride in how not one of the Bender kids runs away from Doc. Castro anymore when its Flu season!  Why are they not scared anymore?  Because Mom did a great job in "preparing the scene" and also our minds and heart for getting the shot and understanding the importance the shot.  
As Mom's key roll to relax, coax, and promise blessings changed our outlook towards Doctor Castro and his syringe, when a member talks to his non member friend and explains the blessing he has personally seen from the restored gospel, it gives the non member a chance to open his heart to this ever so pure message.  That's where conversion starts.
I invite you to do "role playing" in FHE to practice how each one of you can prepare your friends and family to receive the Restored Gospel, I know you play a VITAL role.
Thursday night we taught Daniel and family about the Plan of Salvation in President Flores` (the branch president's) home.  It was something we had planned to do for about 3 weeks now, and finally we were able to do it.  It was a testimony of the work of salvation, and the unity that there needs to be between members and missionaries.  You'll hear more about Daniel and family in the near future!  :)

Saturday Cristian Galarza was baptized.  What a sweet spirit we felt=)  He is a super rockstar future missionary.  He is 19, and was a reference from a 19 year old girl in the branch.  She is just as set on helping him serve a mission as she was about helping him get to know Christ.  I just feel so blessed to participate is settings such as those!
Lots of love,
Elder Bender

                                             It was cold, this old dude made a fire, I joined him.

                                                          There is a fungus among us!
                                                Cristian Galarza was baptized!  IT was GREAT!

It's fresh water, we cleaned the font 100% before filling it, its just the water here comes out of the pipes that color... 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Camping and a District Conference

June 8, 2015
This week was miraculous!
The first thing you should know is that you can see the stars SO CLEAR here in Bermejo at night.  It's honestly amazing!  It starts getting dark around 6pm here, so until 9pm while we are proselyting I get to enjoy working by starlight, it's great.  One day I commented to my companion for probably the 43rd time about how pretty the stars are and how I'd like to sleep under the stars... He was like, Yeah, let's do it!  So after planning that night, and realizing the conditions were perfect - almost no mosquitoes, not too cold, no wind, nor clouds - we took our matresses up to the roof, and went camping on the roof of our house!  (as you can see the roof is completely flat, so we weren't at risk of death while sleeping.)  We brought Mate up there, and drank mate before going to bed, it was a lot of fun mixing up the nightly routine, Elder Gomez is a really fun guy:)
We worked our tails off inviting everyone to the district conference that was last weekend, and it brought a ton of fruits!  As I explained last week about the Zapato Misional activity, it brought lots of fruits, one of them being the Gareca family that came to the district conference and accepted to be baptized! They are amazing! Such a miracle, I know that it was thanks to our efforts while working with the members we were able to find the Gareca`s.
All in all 13 investigors and a ton of less actives came to the district conference (where Pdte. Willard presided) and it turned out great.
Oh, Saturday we had our interview conference with Pdte. and Sister Willard, and that went really well.  It was pretty fun because it was the tiniest conference I have ever been in, 8 elders from Bermejo plus Pdte. and Hna. Willard! haha.  It was great though.
All in all, my faith has grown immensely in the truthfulness of the restored gospel, it seems as though everyone wants it now a days!  So open you mouth and share it already!

Elder Bender

Monday, June 1, 2015

Zapato Misional

Time for the weekly update!

Monday we played Wally with the district, it was way fun. 
Tuesday I did an exchange with the Elders from 15 de abril.  Their área is pretty interesting, a large majority of their branch is a Bolivian market that serves 98% Argentinian customers.  I was with Elder Ullua, he is from Argentina and Elder Garcia, my ex companion trained him.  It was fun because it turns out that his buddies in Argentina were mostly BMXers.  The first time in a WHILE that someone has understood me speak BMX!  haha
Wednesday I woke up at 3am to take a taxi to Tarija, there I flew to Santa Cruz for the Mission leadership conference.  The conference was great!  I learned a ton about how to better work with the members to be
Thursday we taught the Flores family again, they are doing great.  Franz wants so badly to get married and be baptized, and his girlfriend Ana could really feel the spirit that day, she said that she does want to be baptized, but’ll need your prayers to decide to get married!  They truly are a very happy couple, but the problem is that in Bolivia there is a REALLY BAD humor about marriage.  Like everyone thinks that as soon as someone gets married, they’ll be getting divorced…  It's really ridiculous. 
Sunday I gave my “welcome testimony” in the Miraflores branch sacrament meeting, later I taught the gospel principles class about “Faith in Jesus Christ”, and then under the branch president's direction participated in a Work of Salvation training for our 5th Sunday 3rd hour combination.  It went really well!  President Flores, our branch President is super excited to hasten the work here, I am hyped to have a great branch leader!  At 4pm we had a Ward missionary activity called Zapato Misional. The idea is that we divide into groups of 6 or 7 people (adults, kids, and one full time missionary) and go about contacting people!  All 8 elders from my district came out to help us, and we rounded up 63 new referrals to be contacted!  The branch presidency had prepared banana bread for each group to give out along with the missionary pamphlets, and it turned out to be a really great experience.

I know that the Lord is hastening His work! Let us join Him.

Elder Bender

3 generations of secretaries to the president at mission leadership council, Elder Gehring, Elder Bender, and Elder Winterholler
I borrowed Elder Gehrings sweatshirt when I slept in Tarija... Sorry Dad...
                                                   Back in my area!  #Jungle #Whiteboy
Elder Rose's birthday is today!  We asked one of our investigators to make him a cake...

                                                       he took a "Bolivian bite" out of it.  


May 25, 2015
Bermejo (Bear-meh-ho) Also know as: The new Navoo.  Few saints, a big river, lots and lots and lots of mosquitoes.
That's where I got transferred!  Bermejo is a boarder down with Argentina in the jungle. When I walk out my bedroom I am looking at Argentina, its just across the Bermejo river.
If you take a look at the Bolivian Map, you'll see that there is a tiny little boat at the bottom, the farthest tip south is Bermejo.
Bermejo is a district made up of 4 branches. I am in the Miraflores Branch.  Bermejo literally is the farthest thing away from Santa Cruz.
Wednesday I woke up at 4:50am to get on a micro that took everyone who was getting transferred to either Bermejo or Tarija to Viru Viru International airport.  We flew out to Tarija at 06:50am.  After the hour long flight, I got in a "trufi" a bigger taxi, or better said, a mini van converted taxi.  From Tarija to Bermejo its a 3 hour drive south.  It starts off with the high altitude mountainous semi barren Tarija terrain which I just love (visable in the pictures), and they you drop in elevation, and about an hour and a half into the ride your in a deep valley with a raging whitewater river to your right hand side, and on your left hand side a steep momentous green GREEN mountain.  I thought for one moment I saw George swinging through the trees, George of the Jungle that is.

Remember when the pioneers were crossing the planes and when they got to the river there were a few young gentlemen that carried everyone over? Brigham Young said something along the lines of this about them "That act alone will give them the celestial kingdom." Inspired President Willard said, "the same applies to the missionaries that go to Bermejo."
Why?  Because there are a TON of mosquitoes!  There are these tiny ones that you can hardly see, and definitely don't feel when they land on you, but when they have drank about a quart or two of blood they fly away and you all of a sudden have a blood spot on your arm, face, etc.  They itch too. haha
BUT, I literally have never seen members so willing to participate in the work of salvation.  Since Wednesday we found 22 new investigators, and most of them were member references!  That's my mission record, and I didn't even have the entire week working here!
Elder Gomez is my blessed companion!  He is from Ecuador.  He rocks. He is so humble, and I admire that so much, he is so easy to get along with.
There are 8 missionaries in Bermejo, one companionship for each branch.  All Elders, and I already love the other 7 Elders in my district!  I planned for us to go on a district activity to play wally today, I am stoked.  I feel like Alma, in the jungle with just a small band of brethren completely isolated from the rest from the rest of the mission, and world for that matter.  Lots of dirt, and because yesterday it rained super hard, lots of mud.  I feel like I am in Samaria again!  It's SO DANG FUN! It's hard, but I love it to pieces.

Please pray from the Flores family, that they can decide to get married soon!  They are ready to get baptized, they just need to get married.  Also pray from the Jurado family, that they can balance work and earn enough to have what is necessary to be able to focus on strengthening their testimonies.

The mission is the best, go on and serve one already!
Élder Bender