Well, It’s been a great run so far! =)
I’m a bit more than 6 months into my mission, and as you can tell, I just lost track of my week count. To be honest, I’m not too crazy to keep up on it for myself. I do it more for those of you back home who are wondering how long I’ve been out. But I’ve learned a lot, forgotten a lot of English, and a lot has happened in these 6 short months of my life here in the outlying areas of Colombia, more than anyone would ever think possible. To start off with, I’ve learned to appreciate A LOT of things that many of us take for granted. To list just a few of them, I’ve learned VERY much to appreciate central air conditioning, fiberglass insulation, clean and dependable water sources, washing machines and dryers, airplanes, smart phones, ceiling fans, a police force that actually does their job, and enforced traffic laws. They’re VERY simple things that we all manage to take for granted or, sometimes, things that drive us nuts (especially the last one in my list). However, as I’ve been here putting myself completely out there, learning to love the people. learning the language (and forgetting quite a bit of my native tongue), and learning many of the customs that would seem strange to most of you back home, I can’t help but thinking that there is something that I lack still.
I realize that I’ve changed quite a bit from who I was, but who wouldn’t change after 6 months in a foreign land with nobody that knows your language, living with people that you don’t know, and both those things constantly changing. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this experience I’m having; it’s a once in a lifetime experience! I love the things I’m learning, and I love how fast I’m learning everything that I haven’t known before. It’s just that I don’t know why I didn’t give notice to this before nor why I didn’t notice things like this before. If everyone had the chance to take this experience that I’m having right now, I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone without second guessing. I’m only a quarter way through, but I know that when I finish that I will never be the same in many aspects.
This past week has been one that’s been practically empty but busy in the same moment. We spent a large part of our week traveling from Aguazul to Bogota by bus, so there’s about 16 hours of our week, plus the full 24 hours we spent IN Bogota and the other 24 in Yopal, making, in total, 64 hours of travel time and of time away from Aguazul. In addition, we sleep about 8 hours each day, so that’s about 40 hours of our week this week, so 80 hours of 168 hours was spent doing stuff that was rather boring. Also, there’s about 12 hours each Monday to prepare for all of the week, so 98 hours doing almost nothing. (Sorry for losing you on the math [if I did].) That left Elder Alonso and I with the 46 hours to work here in Aguazul this past week. You’d be COMPLETELY surprised what you can learn in 2 days worth of hours, especially in a town that is an hour away from the nearest major city, is at high risk for many tropical diseases that you may have never heard of, and is about the size of Henderson (if not smaller).
So, this past week, it rained buckets. Literally. If any of you have any idea how theater productions/movie productions make rain appear on screen, that’s how heavy it was here. In fact, it’s about ready to rain just as heavy again in a few minutes. So, in order to work, we had to ride our bikes REALLY fast in order to maintain somewhat dry (although it didn’t really help much). We only had 3 lessons with our investigators, and 9 lessons with less-active members of the church, but they all had a heavy impact on me. There was one charla we had that kind of depressed me a lot for the whole week and still has me kind of depressed. We went to visit one of our good friends who’s about 9 years old or so, named Gilber. When we arrived out front of his house, his dad was there sitting on his phone playing games. You have to understand, that is EXTREMELY RARE to find his dad, Ferney, at home because he works about 1 hour outside of Aguazul as a forester (more or less that’s what he does, I forget what to call it in English) almost all the week except some Sundays. So, that was a surprise for us, but the news that he had for us was somewhat devastating to him and also a little bit to us.
Lately, he’s been bringing his son, Duan, to work with him because he’s been SUPER bored at home lately. For the first 3 days of work, everything went fine, but this past Wednesday, Duan lost half of his dominant hand on a buzzsaw. I have a photo, but I’d rather not send it because it’s not the most pleasant thing to look at for most people (for me I was fine to be honest). He only has his thumb left as well as half of his palm. He lost his hand right where you fold your hand into a fist. What had happened is that he lost his balance and he put his hand out to catch himself, but he put it out right where the buzzsaw happened to be. As a result… =P
Anyways, sorry to spoil the Christmas mood for anyone there, but now on to my happier note to help bring in that awesome Christmas spirit that’s unique to this time of year. Christmas is the time of year where we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. If you haven’t read or heard of the Christmas story, I recommend that you go look it up on the internet and you will find millions of versions of it. It’s because of the wonderful and miraculous events that occurred around his birth that it was such a remarkable time to be alive. Anyways, we celebrate Christmas as a reminder to all of us that Jesus Christ was born. Our Savior and Redeemer. The one PERFECT gift of our Heavenly Father for us to live with him again. Without the birth of Jesus Christ, we would have never had the Atonement, the event that gave us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins and be made clean enough to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father. That is one of the reasons that we give gifts to each other: to remember the one perfect gift that God gave to all mankind in order to redeem them. This event was so great that angels appeared to mark the occasion to certain poor shepherds in fields outside of Bethlehem to mark the occasion. In addition, a new star marked the birth of Christ, a new light to guide us in all of our ways. There are many signs and symbols behind the decorations of Christmas. As much as I would love to share them all, I don’t have much time left to write, so it suffices me to say: Merry Christmas to all and I love you all. Happy New Year and talk to you next week!
Elder Jared Rezendes
This past P-Day, we did our laundry, bought some things we needed, and wrote our families. As we wrote our families, Elder Castro called his over Skype and talked to them for a bit so I got the chance to see them! We left and finished out our day, visiting a less active family who WANTS to return to church REALLY badly, but problems have presented themselves every Sunday. The mother, Marilu, is the one we’re focusing on the most right now because she is the one who was the “founder” of the branch in Aguazul, but because her husband was cheating on her and (after she found out) fought with her every week causing them to miss church, she hasn’t attended for the past 5 years. She moved out of her husband’s house about 2 years ago and is living with her daughter, non-member brother, and his 3 non-member children who are all interested in the church, but they’re having problems now and she is trying to build a ranchita que el presidente y otros en la rama están ayudándonos con este. We are excited to do this because we know it’ll help her to attend each week without the problems she has right now.
Also this past week has been rather unproductive in general. We offered a lot of service, but other than that, we didn’t TEACH many lessons. We went to a lot of people’s houses, but we didn’t really talk much about the Church. One investigator in particular we talked to asked if we could help him finish painting his house that Elder Castro and Elder Huarca had helped him start to do. The last wall he had yet to finish was filled with holes and chipped paint, so we were there for about 3 hours cleaning up the wall before painting (which Elder Castro and I didn’t get the opportunity to do). The other service that we offered this week was to cook for one of our menos activos para ayudar con la empereza de vender arepas y cerdo. Well, that’s the week summed up. -_-
Well, it’s true what they say about the time in the mission (I don’t really know how time is going for all of you guys back home, but at least for me it’s true…) that a day feels like a month, but the months feel like days. I can’t believe that I’ve already been out for almost 6 months.
He helped us A LOT yesterday while we were talking with a family that was just recently reactivated, the Velandias. We’ve been training him to be a missionary, and he has been doing amazingly well. In fact, yesterday, while we were discussing something with Hermana Velandia about her son, Brajhan was talking to him and we saw a HUGE change in how he treated his mom from before the discussion. After ALL the four discussions we had with the family, we were able to find out a problem as well as get the family to try staying together with Omar again (as they’re in the middle of filling out their papers for divorce).
Wow, time flies a bit too fast down here. Anyways…
This week, we have another baptism planned for Graciela Muñoz. Elder Pluid is coming down this Wednesday to conduct her interview and we’re going to talk to her about her service a bit to see who she wants to speak, who she wants to baptize her, and just other last minute baptismal stuff. I’m really excited to see her get baptized this week. It’s such a great feeling knowing that we’ve been with her from the beginning. She’s already starting to trust in the ward, so OUR work (Elder Lopez and I) is just about finished and handing her over to the hands of the ward is now our main priority.
Our other families are progressing VERY slowly. The Cardena Arocas finally got to meet with us again, but when we tried to talk to them about their assignment we gave them, they hadn’t read it yet. My main concern with them however is that their oldest son, Nicholas, says he prayed about the Book of Mormon, but hasn’t received an answer about it yet while the rest of the family has said that they have. This week, we’re going to go over to their house again and answer a few questions that they have (because they said that they have some doubts) and hopefully help them through this sticky part of coming to Jesus Christ.
In better news though, the Garzons are progressing rapidly. Jorge, the father, attended church for the first time this week, so that puts everyone (except the mom) at church at least once. Jessica has already attended 3 times and she’s doing GREAT. She loves the church and the Young Women in our ward, and she feels really involved. Next week, Elder Lopez and I are hoping that the WHOLE family can attend church together and then we can put down another definite baptismal date for all of them. We were going to put one down Saturday when we visited them, but we forgot in the excitement of having everyone there at the same time for our first time teaching them.
The Suarezs are still our big headaches. As much as we love teaching them, they’re still having problems just reading and are constantly asking questions to COMPARE the Catholic church to this Church. It’s a bit frustrating because we can’t really get the Spirit with them when we teach, but we had one lesson where we read the assignment that they were SUPPOSED to read before we got there. We could feel the Spirit for the first time there, and I think they could too. So, we’re having some progress although none of them have attended church yet… They SAY that they’re going to go this week for sure, but they said that the past 3 weeks as well. I’m hoping, but there is nothing that we have done that has convinced them to come to church with us. I REALLY want this family to come to church so that they can feel the Spirit and progress a lot faster. I know that once they attend, that almost all of their questions will be answered.
So, in all we were able to teach a lot of inactives this week as well. With one family, (the Fernandez family) I’m a bit unsure how to handle the situation because the father (I forgot his name) doesn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, but he does believe that he was a great prophet and teacher and that we should follow his example. We have told him to read the Book of Mormon, but he says that’s a challenge for him because he only believes “80% of the church’s doctrine” (his words exactly)… So, I don’t really know what way to handle this with him. We’re trying to help him, but unless he’s WILLING to find out again what he knew before he went inactive, there’s nothing that we can really do for him.
Other than that, we’re doing good out here. We have a baptism in Sesquile planned for this week. Her name is Tatiana Casaya and she’s been attending church for a while, she’s just been needing formal lessons from the missionaries to be baptized. As for our other investigators, Graciela couldn’t attend church this weekend unfortunately, but she told us that this is the only week that she wouldn’t be able to attend. We’re looking forward to next week because that’s when she’ll receive her baptismal interview. She is an amazing woman. Many people asked about her when she didn’t show up to church Sunday, so I know that hermanamiento isn’t an issue with her (although I thought it was).
The Garzons’ children are one of our single rays of light right now. Although we had set the whole family’s baptismal date for the end of this month, they fell through because not all of them could attend church. So, we’re hoping that at least Christian and Jessica can get baptized on the 29th because they both seem to love the church right now. The special significance about that date is that it’s the day after Christian’s birthday. If he can attend church the next two weeks in a row, then he’ll be able to make that date for his baptism. I REALLY hope that he can. Anyways, all is well here in Tocancipa.
I’m not really sure what my favorite dish that I’ve had out here so far is. The closest thing I can think of that I REALLY liked was a soup called crema (even then, I’m not sure that’s the name of it). But for sure, my least favorite dish that I’ve had so far is mute. It was really rubbery and just the after taste wasn’t the greatest. It wasn’t HORRIBLE when I ate it, but it wasn’t that great either.
Other investigators that we have are Familia Garzon. Christian was our initial contact with them, and as such, he`s progressing much faster than the other members of his family, but we`ve only had one official lesson with them so far. Just yesterday, he and his 14 year old sister, Jessica, attended church. It was a good experience, but I think that they have questions that they didn`t get answered. We`re going over there tomorrow, so hopefully we`ll have the chance to talk to the whole family. The rest of the family (besides Christian and Jessica) are having problems attending church. The mother is a health care provider (somewhat kind of like an epidemiologist) and is working on a large report that involves all the people of Tocancipa and some of the surrounding cities, so it`s understandable as to why she isn`t able to attend right now. The father, Jorge, works most Sundays, so getting him to church is going to be a bit difficult also. I have high hopes for this family, but they need a lot of questions answered before they get baptized. Although they have a date set, Elder Lopez and I don`t think it`s going to stick for ALL 4 of them, but maybe for Christian and Jessica. We have the date set for the 29th, the day after Christian`s birthday, so we`re hoping that`s good motivation for them.
The other investigators we found this week was a group of 3 women: Tatiana, Luzdadi, y Luzmeni. Tatiana is ready and willing for the gospel, but her work schedule is really strange, so, this week, she was unable to attend church. Luzdadi and Luzmeni are sisters, but Luzmeni said when we asked her to be baptized that she`s STRONGLY Catholic because she was born Catholic. So, although they`re not PERFECTLY ready, they definitely want the gospel, as they`ve said that they can feel “something” there when we talk to them. It`s going to take a while, but we think we can do it with the help of the Spirit.
Anyways, nothing super exciting has happened this week other than the fact that we found that we need A LOT of help. Sesquile, another city in our area is in dire need of its own missionaries. Through it, we found out how large our area ACTUALLY is.Sesquile is 20 minutes away by bus and it has a huge Catholic cathedral in the middle of the city. The city itself has about 50,000 people in it and it was our first visit there this week.