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.)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Goals Goals Goals!

July 27, 2015

I was very happy to hear from Mom and Kaylee that they had such a great experience at girls camp!

This week went by way to fast!  I feel like the higher my goals are, the faster the time flies because I have so much to do in so little time!

Elder Lozano is the best.  Hes got tons of faith and is super hyped to just work his tail off.  He is great.  We set the goal to have 15 investigators with a baptismal date by the end of this week and 20 investigators at church!  Woot!  In other words, we are going to work our tails off this week!

Wednesday we woke up at 2:30AM to travel to Santa Cruz from Mission Leadership council.  I think it was the best one yet!  I have been invited to that monthly every month since April of Last year, and I really felt this month the the Lord has big plans to change this mission, and US as missionaries in August in preparation for Elder Uceda's mission tour in September.

Saturday was "San Santiago" a Catholic holiday that's big in Bermejo known for dressing up and parading through Bermejo in the afternoon, and drinking WAY to much alcohol starting in the evening and not stopping for 48 hours.  Because all non-member folk were wrapped up in that shenanigans, we made the most of Saturday doing a slave type service project!  It reminded me of working with Grandpa Huyett ;)  
We brought down a 1 meter think adobe wall... It's probably at least 80 years old.  We brought it down with  picks and hammers!  It was pretty fun, I am still sore. :)  What made it most productive is we did it with Mauricio, a 49 year old investigator who'll be baptized shortly after Dad's Birthday!  :)  He's way legit, super funny, and really ready to accept the gospel and the baptismal covenant.

The Church is true!  What more can I say?

I love ya'll!

Elder Bender
Bermejo - Tarija - Bolivia

                  This pig was about to be "Crucified" They cook it on a cross over an open fire.  Legit!

Pic with my bestest bros:  Elder Woolf (finish his mission on the 29th) and Elder Juarez the favorite guatemalteco!

The God of Elder Bender

July 20, 2015

It's been a good week!

Two highlights:
Friday at 6am the district packed into 2 minivans (trufis) and we drove up to Tarija.  There we had a great zone conference.  Sister Willard talked about her mission, and even remembering what happened 25 years ago it brought her so much emotion.  It really made me think about what I have come to experience so far in my mission, I really feel like a new person,  I feel like I walk daily side by side with my Savior.  I have come to know Him, and love Him more than I've ever imagined.  After all is said and done, that may be one of the biggest successes I`ve had.
After Sister Willard finished her talk President Willard stood up and talked about how often in the scriptures name our Father "The God of Abraham, The God of Isaac, and the The God of Jacob".  He said that in her mission God became for Sister Willard, "The God of Kimberly".  I feel like He has become the God of Elder Bender, of Bryce.  How grateful I am to Him and His mercy.
Sunday we had a second Zapato Misional Activity in memory of the Gareca family who was baptized last week!  We found them through the efforts of the ward missionary activity that we did 2 months ago, so we decided to do another one in their honor!  It went great!  In total we collected 41 referrals of people who are willing to accept a visit from us.  Legit.
I know that working united, members and missionaries, is the Lord's way.  It's way better, faster, funner, and brings longer lasting, even ETERNAL fruits in all who participate.  Do it.
Elder Bender

Pics: Andrea, Bryan and Raul: So happy to have received this email!  3 amazing people who I found and taught in Cañoto have been baptized recently since I left.  Raul Choque, I found him one late in December with Elder Garcia and we baptized his wife and his kids with Elder Butts.  Now the family is complete and they are going to be sealed in a year!  :D 
Also Bryan and Andrea is an amazing couple that I found a few weeks before leaving and invited them to be baptized.  They go to the water!  :)
Thanks Mom for putting these pics on the blog so I can print them after the mission.

I love Him.

July 13, 2015

Last Monday we had a SWEET district activity!  I talked with President Flores (my branch president) and Hugo Mercado (the branch secretary) and they helped us out with a SUPER BBQ that I put on for the district in the chapel.
We played an epic soccer game and then ate a TON of meat BERMEJEÑO style. Where you just grab the meet with your fingers right off the grill and eat the darn thing.  Yup.  We ate MEAT, and more MEAT for lunch.  Not any meat, but meat from Argentina (which is supposedly like the best in the world...)  I testify that it is!  So yummy.  I bought 6.5 kilos of meat, for 8 elders and 3 brothers.  Or like half a kilo for each of us:D  It was the best!
Tuesday we contacted probably 50 people.  Or like half of Bermejo.  It was productive in the end!
Thursday was our District meeting, we talked about the PMG principle of "How to Begin Teaching" from chapter 10.  It was good.   Like I have commented in the past, I want to work in the MTC after the mission - and I feel like having half of my district full of newbies, like I am already in the MTC!  It's dope!  (DOPE-A;) ) But seriously I have the best district in the world hands down.  I hope this transfer never ends!
Saturday I was blessed to baptize the Gareca family and Efrain.  Days like Saturday make it all worth it!  :)  Liliana Gareca is the best woman ever.  She reminds me so much of Mom!  She's been so happy and smile ever since she received a confirmation from the Holy Ghost that the Church is true.  She was counting down the days anxiously to be able to "be baptized in Christ's Church."  She knows it's His.  She already is serving and helping others with their callings, and already has a testimony of paying tithing and fast offerings.  She's changed me, and I feel like a more converted disciple.  In the baptismal pic of her family, I have my arm around her oldest son (Jose Armando) who hasn't been baptized yet, he rocks.  He accepted to listen to us tonight, and I am POSITIVE that he'll be baptized very soon too=)  Pray for him!
I know Christ Lives.  It's His Church.  His Work.  And if we participate we'll see His hand in it, and that same hand will mold us to become more like our Creator.
I love Him.
Èlder Bender

We had a legit activity last Monday, lots of meat!
Lunch with the best branch president ever!
                                                         It's cute dou.  Muy Peeerrddì

                                   The Gareca Family was baptized!  We love them, and Efrain.

                                           Elder Lozano is the best!  Tambièn Presidente Flores!

Que WeekANGO!

July 6, 2015

This week was LEGIT!

Monday evening and Tuesday morning I participated in Mission Leadership council.  It went really great.  In all honestly I love working with members and all the training we do to know how to work better with the members, but I also love accountability.  I love zone conferences and MLC's best when we just talk about how WE can work harder and better.  It makes no room for people to throw the blame on the members - as missionaries we just have to work our Books off!  I like that.

Tuesday at 2pm I was assigned by Pdte. Willard to help with picking up the new missionaries!  It was a ton of fun using all my past secretary experience to make this transfer the best one yet.  I gave all the newbies their "Welcome to the Mission Powerpoint" and just hyped them all up to go out and baptized while Pdte and the rest of the office was busy doing visa work and transfers.  Legit.  I love new missionaries so much!  They are so innocent and just full of faith.  This transfer there were 8 new Elders and 13 new sisters.  Muchas hermanas che!  As I stated before, half of the new Elders are destined to be born Bermejeños.  DOPE!  So many newbies = So many baptisms!

Wednesday we had our trainers training meeting, it was great.  However out of the 21 trainers, I was the "oldest"!  It felt so weird!  I feel like I am just getting started still!  Sad)=

Anyways, after about 2 hours of training us, (keep in mind this has been my 8th trainers meeting, 5 as I worked in the office, and 3 as a trainer) President changed up from his normal routine of having the newbies walk in and sit apart from the oldies and then couple by couple announce whose with who.

This time he told us all (the trainers) what our new companions name is, and had us stand up`by the pulpit.  As the newbies came in he called them out one by one and then their trainer walked back to meet them (it gave it a feel as if your trainer already knows you, it turned out cool.)  Anyways, when Elder Lozano walked into the chapel before president even announced his name I knew he was mine (because I met them all and been with the all day the day before not know which would be my comp.) I ran down and gave the kid the biggest hug!  

My companion Elder Lozano is DOPE!  He's a machine.  He came pretrained.  He's from Texas, El Paso, but comes from Latino parents so he speaks perfect Spanish.  #dreamcometrue #bestofbothworlds.

We have been straight killing it these last few days, and hes probably going to end up being my favorite companion of the mission!

The Gareca family passed their baptismal interviews last night, get ready for some whitepics next week!  #lovetobaptize

It's been one of the best weeks of my mission!  I hope this transfer never ends!

I have seen Christ's hand in so many moments, I give my thanks to Him for these many blessings.

Elder Bender

My companion and I in Cochabamba, we had a layover there in route to Tarija.
 Kicking it with the "Trufi"   - Those Japanese mini vans FLY!
 With the District in Pizza Eli's in Tarija before heading down to Bermejo.

 The district at "Angostura" a famous bridge that's on the way from Tarija to Bermejo.

My companion Elder Lozano and I at Angostura