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.
Anyways, this past week was an amazing week for both of us out here in Tocancipa. We were blessed with the opportunity to find 9 new investigators in one day just 2 doors down from each other. One family is called the Garzons. There are two young men and a young woman in their family including the parents. We initially met Christian, the middle child, at the door as a contact. He invited us into his house the very first time we talked to him.
The second family, called the Gardena Aroca, was sort of a spiritual gift. I say it like this because when we talked to them, we were headed to an appointment with Christian and his family, but we forgot which door was his. We ended knocking on the wrong door and to our surprise, we met the family. We had originally contacted them, but only Oscar, 12 years old, was home and he didn´t seem to have much interest in the church, so we had planned to come by another day when we could tell if his parents were home. This time that we contacted them, his older brother, Nicholas, the 15 year old, answered the door.
Almost everyone was home, with the exception of the father, the family was extremely receptive and open to receive the gospel. Elizabeth, the mother, Nicholas, Oscar, and Leonardo, invited us in right away although we were a bit hesitant because we didn´t want to be late to the appointment with Christian, but this is where the guidance of the Spirit comes in. We went in anyways because they were so eager to hear our message and we just got to know them a bit. When Oscar and Leonardo left, the mother expressed concern about Oscar. I couldn´t really understand what she was saying, but I could tell that she had a genuine concern and that she really wants the Gospel in her life (also, Elder Lopez was understanding what she was saying, so he could just fill me in). When Oscar and Leonardo returned, we both had the strong impression to invite them to church. We did and they accepted. We were REALLY happy when we found them. We had a 30 second chat about it outside of the house before we went to knock on the door of Christian.
Outside of Christian´s house was his brother Jorge who is 22 years old. The first visit that we talked with Christian, he had expressed concern about his brother and him smoking. When we came up to the house, Jorge was just opening up a new pack of cigarettes with his friend, but when we arrived on his doorstep, he stopped what he was doing, his friend took the cigarettes and left, and Jorge started to talk with us a bit. He opened up his house and called Christian down and we started to talk to both of them. It was really interesting and fun to get to know them, but I know that the Spirit was guiding us because, as we started to talk and teach a little bit, the rest of the family (with the exception of the sister who was in Bogota with her cousin) started to come home. We got to talk to 4 of the 5 family members as well as Christian´s girlfriend. If we had shown up earlier, I know that we wouldn´t have been able to talk to anyone but Christian, which would have been great but the whole family was better. We have another appointment to go visit them this week.
All this occurred in the space of two hours on Saturday evening. It was an amazing experience to see Elizabeth at church the very next day with all of her children. It was even nice to see another golden investigator that we met this week come to church also.
Our other investigator´s name is Graciela Muñoz. She is so willing and ready for the gospel that in the second visit that we had with her, she was already asking what she had to become a member of the church. We challenged her, her son, Miguel, and his wife, Sandra, to baptism on the 22 of September and they all said yes. Miguel and his wife aren´t AS ready and receptive, but they are definitely willing to listen and to receive the Gospel in the right way and with the help of the Spirit. But anyways, the way we met Graciela this week was with the help of the Spirit also. We were contacting up in an area that we had never been in before and we were actually across the street from Graciela. When we went to go contact her, her door opened and another investigator (well, she just became a new investigator yesterday) named Estela was walking out.
Estela recognized us as missionaries and started praising the work of the Lord that we were doing and told us about how missionaries like us had saved the life of her daughter a few years prior, all in front of Graciela. We took down Estela´s information, she left, and then Graciela invited us in. We talked to her for a good half hour and she told us almost her whole life story and religious background that we wanted to know without us even asking. Her mom died just a few weeks ago, she is Catholic, and she had questions that the Catholic church SHOULD have had the answers to, but didn´t for her. As a result, she respects the Catholic church, but she started looking for the truth. She prayed for help, and we showed up two days later: the first day that she was in her son´s home. She had heard of Mormon missionaries a while ago, and she prayed to Heavenly Father to know a bit more about us when the time was right. Well, the time is apparently right, and she is listening and the Holy Ghost is helping her move so fast, it´s almost as if she´s a member already, but just needs the ordinance to do it.
All this week was amazing and filled with guidance and help from the Holy Ghost. It was the best week that Elder Lopez has had (he says) out here. I constantly thank Heavenly Father for our many blessings and the opportunity to teach the Gospel and bring it to the willing and ready in heart. This week alone, we tripled the work we had prior and now we´re having a bit of trouble keeping up with everything in the way we´d like to.
Right now, we are serving in a little town just outside of Bogota called Tocancipa. It has about 6,000 people in it and it´s super dusty here all the time. When it´s not dusty, it´s extremely muddy from the rain that we get about every 3 days for 2 days straight. (In other words, 2 days straight of rain and then a 3 day break before it rains again for 2 days straight). It´s a REALLY large area, apparently we have all the way down to La Asuncion (?) and we have to walk EVERYWHERE regardless of the area I´m in because: 1.) Bikes get stolen frequently from the Elders (and only them for some reason) and 2.) DRIVING IS DANGEROUS. I´m glad I´m not allowed to drive down here. If I want to get anywhere far away, I have to either walk or take a bus. The drivers here are all crazy! Worse than the US.