Monday, January 28, 2013

Valle Grande are Great Member Missionaries!

Hola Familia!

What a great week I have to tell you about!

I just want to start by talking a little about how I am feeling right now at this point in my mission in Valle Grande. I love it here, I have been able to form such great bonds with the great members here! Their desire to work has inspired me since the day I got here. It's not everyday when the members beg the missionaries to give them someone to visit everyday, I believe that is why we have enjoyed so much success in this area as of late. When the members and the missionaries are on the same page, the work is transformed into what God wants it be. I also have created such great friendships with the people I have taught here. It's amazing to feel the amount of love that a missionary feels for his investigators when they come together through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I got to speak in Sacrament Meeting for the 2nd time in my mission yesterday! I was given the topic of the importance of member referrals. I was able to bear testimony to the ward of what I have learned about finding people to teach:
1) Obtain a desire to share, that comes through conversion to our message. 
2) Have faith that the Lord will put people in our path, that comes through diligence in looking for opportunities. 
3) Prayer, I have come to know in a real way the power of prayer in missionary work. 
4) ACT! Nothing happens in missionary work with just "good intentions." 
I was grateful for the opportunity to help the members feel what their responsibility is as members of the Church. I also realized how much better my Spanish was this time around haha. Words come so much easier than they did that first talk in my first area!

Familia Bonilla Vongera: we found this family of 8(!) in an FHE with the family of the Bishop! They seemed golden so we visited them and tried to figure out what they needed. Something else I have learned is that teaching the restoration or any other lesson only means as much to an investigator as it applies to them specifically. We found that they would love the message of Eternal families. They were able to hear the testimonies of the ward as they got back from the temple and just fell in love with the idea of Eternal happiness as a family. The only problem is marriage, we are working on them getting married and then hopefully baptism will follow!

Lida Gomez: Lida is a miracle! Both of her parents are members, converts from years of being Catholic. She also has two kids who are converts as well, but Lida had never wanted anything to do with the Church. One night we were in the Gomez home and she appeared, once we realized she wasn't a member we of course offered to teach her. She resisted at first assuring us that she would never change her mind, but we were able to spark just enough interest to set up another visit. 
We taught a powerful lesson with the whole family there and gave her the opportunity to read the Book of Mormon, the most powerful evidence we have of the Restoration. Week after week she told us that she had been reading and praying, but no definite answer. We finally decided that she had a testimony but just didn't realize it. We read 3 Nephi 9:20 and explained that sometimes we feel the Holy Ghost but don't recognize what we feel, and explained the role of the Holy Ghost in conversion more in depth. She then realized that she did know that the book was true. So yesterday we went prepared, and taught her the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the 5 things that are necessary to ultimately be saved. We were able to commit her to baptism on the 9th of Febuary! When someone has a desire to know and experiments a little on the word, it grows inside them until they know of assurance that it is true. Miracles happen!

We have been studying Jesus the Christ as a mission and this week was about the Ante mortal Godship of Christ. Talmage exhorts us to read and ponder Mosiah 14/Isaiah 53 to understand the mission of Christ. I pondered hard the poetic words of Isaiah about our Savior and was amazed at what I felt...

Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
 All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all...
and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made cintercession for the transgressors.

It amazed me that Christ, being the God, the Creator, the First-Born Son of God, would humble Himself even to come off the throne of God and take upon Him the flesh. Which gave Him the ability to suffer as man, and feel of sickness, temptation, and humiliation as anyone of us would. Nevertheless He understood His foreordained mission and never failed. "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh."
I want to make my mission for the love of the people of Colombia, just like His was for the love of all the children of God. 

Que Dios les bendiga y que todo salga muy bien esta semana! (May God bless you and I hope everything goes well for you this week!)

Elder Eliason

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2 Baptisms in Valle Grande this Saturday

Baptism of Merlin with Sebastian

Surprise miracle baptism of Angelica

Hola Familia

Wow what a week I have had to tell you about this week

Well I'll start off by telling you that we had 2 baptisms in Valle Grande this Saturday. One was expected and that was of Merlin Hurtado, which was amazing. It was planned carefully and executed to perfection. We had her whole family there to see the special moment in Merlin's life, 2 of which were able to come to church the next day to see the confirmation. 

We plan on visiting each of them to hopefully help them realize the same things that Merlin has realized. She was able to be baptized by a good friend of mine Sebastian Correa, who is the son of the Bishop, who helped Merlin a lot in this whole process. It is so gratifying to see your investigators get baptized, you grow with them so much through all of their trials and triumphs that when you see them make it to baptism it gives you a feeling of fulfillment and joy to see them use their agency correctly, we have been so blessed this month. 

The other baptism we had in the ward was not so expected and ended up becoming a miracle. The day before I did a baptismal interview for a girl named Selica who was originally going to be baptized on Saturday but decided to postpone the service until next Saturday. It was such a powerful interview, I could feel that she was ready but she still didn't feel right about going through with the baptism. 

Well, the next day Elder Kendrick had the impression that she needed to get baptized that day. I felt the same way so we decided to pull an emergency division and go talk to her about her decision. She had a doubt that we had to find and resolve. During the lesson we were praying fervently for a miracle to happen and that we would be able to help this girl realize that we cant delay promptings and covenants with God and especially when we are prepared. We shared scripture after scripture and beared testimony often to hopefully have the Spirit enter into her heart to change her mind. Elder Kendrick felt the Spirit, I felt it, and Angelica felt it, but she was still resisting it. Finally after a while, and a lot of persistence on our part there was a long silence and eventually she gave in to what she was feeling. 

God wanted her to get baptized that day and everyone in that room knew it for assurance. It was a powerful act of faith that will help her out the rest of her life. We booked it home to call all of the members to prepare an immediate emergency baptismal service, and to their credit, made it happen. Just another experience that testifies to me of why I am here and the Divinity of this Work.

That experience made me think about how sometimes we let procrastination impede our progress. The idea of putting things off until we feel 100 percent comfortable with it only diminishes our faith. Sometimes walking blindly with the hope that God will lead us where we need to go is what we need to progress and grow in faith. If we need to change, now is the time, the cancer of procrastination will only halt our eternal progression.

As for investigators we are blessed to be teaching 2 new progressing families. The familia Bonilla and the familia Reyes. They have both come to church twice in a row and have been so receptive to our lessons. They both have 5 kids and were able to hear the testimonies of the members who just recently went to the temple to become eternal families. I really feel like that is what sparked their interest so much. We look to place fechas this week to help them set a goal for baptism, such a huge blessing to be able to help families progress in the Gospel, you can see the difference in the happiness and unity of the family after having family scripture reading and prayer. Such small things that help them realize who they are in the sight of our Heavenly Father. It makes me feel so thankful to have been born to such an amazing family who has always been so great about those things.

We have come to an unfortunate stop in the progression of Cindy, she has been passing through some family troubles after having received us. Her family will not give her their blessing for baptism and have tried to get her to stop receiving us all together. Luis has also been trying really hard to help us help her pass through this difficult trial. This could be the trial of faith that she needs to really be converted to the Lord, she has received many spiritual witnesses of the truth, and we will be there in any moment that she needs it.

Well thats about it, thanks for all of your support and your prayers they are felt every day in this grand cause that I have entered in.

Elder Eliason

P.S. Sorry if I sound a little unenthusiastic, the exclamation mark is broken on the keypad haha

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Staying in Valle Grande for what looks like 1 more transfer!"

Ruben Cano at the Baptism!

All in White!

Ruben and Alejandra outside the stake center.

The zone at transfers. Had to say goodbye to my ole buddy Elder Laws.

Que tal familia!? (How are you family?)

Well another transfer has passed by here and I will be staying here in Valle Grande for what looks like 1 more transfer! I am glad I will get to finish Elder Celaya's training and be here some more with these awesome members and investigators that I have found here! 

This week was just extraordinary! Tuesday we had the long awaited baptism of Ruben Cano! All 20 of the new missionaries were able to be there to witness the baptism. They were welcomed into the mission by seeing what we do here in the Colombia Cali Mission, baptize! 
Ruben was able to express what he felt throughout his process of change that he has experienced in the Gospel, and everyone was blessed with the spirit of his grand testimony. His member girlfriend, Alejandra, was also able to be there and share the moment with him, she later thanked us as missionaries for what we had done to help Ruben and we responded saying that we had no idea what we did and that really it was the humility of Ruben to submit to the Lord's help that was the catalyst for the change that was wrought in his heart. Without Christ, it wouldn't have been possible. What an experience it is to witness!

We also worked like dogs this week trying to find new people to teach! After having baptisms you see what this message can do for people, and it motivates you to find more people that the Lord has prepared to hear it! We ended up finding a lot more than we expected! In this mission we find through members, people progress faster and longer lasting when they have friendships and sources of strength in the members, and this week all of our members left to Bogota for the annual temple trip! 
So this week we were a little on our own. We decided to talk to everyone that we saw and see what happened. We prayed that we would be led through our personal initiative to the people that would listen to us, and that they would be blessed to hear the message that we bring. We planned out carefully what we would do each day and set goals of what we wanted to accomplish. We gave our best effort and we saw miracles... People started coming out of the woodwork contacting us and asking about us, taxi drivers, phone operators, etc.. it seemed like this week people just had an ear for the gospel. Even people in the houses of the investigators we had already been teaching wanted to listen. It's just another thing the Lord has taught me here, if we do all we can and have a willing heart, the Lord will make up for our deficiencies

This next week we will have the baptism of Merlin Hurtado! Just a week ago we went to teach her, and she told us that she didn't feel prepared for her baptism and that she felt like she needed a few months to sort things out. A few things happened with the family that made her question the validity of her testimony and she felt like she wasn't ready for such a commitment. We thought and prayed long and hard what she needed and we had the impression that we just needed to sit down and talk with her to help her out. We knew that if we would listen to what she said and to what the Spirit was saying, we would know what to say or share to help her recommit. We went to the chapel with her and had a powerful lesson, we asked her some questions and bore pure testimony of what we knew. At some point she was touched because she left that lesson wanting to get baptized that very day. That experience helped me realize that sometimes you just have to trust in the Spirit even when you don't know what you are going to do. The Lord will always reveal if we are willing to listen.

I have learned a few things in these 6 months... the biggest being that we must trust in the Lord. He promised Peter, and the Apostles, that he would make them "fishers of men.." if they would follow Him. Then after His ministry they went back to their old fishing ways and stopped following Him. Obviously they didn't have much success. Then He came and told them to cast the nets to the right and they would find fish. Through Christ, they caught so many in the net that "they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes." No wonder the Lord tells us:  
  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)
I love this example because it shows the difference of what we can do ourselves, and what we can do with Him at our side. This is why obedience is so critical, how can we expect to abide in Him if we don't do what He says? The mission has shown me this and I am ever so grateful!

Have a great week! Elder Eliason

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year!

Luis and I will be lifetime friends no matter how long I stay in this area.

Luis and family

¡Hola Familia!

Well, first I must say that my prayers go out to Prep and the Browning Family, I definitely kept him apart of my fast this week and will continue to pray for his well-being. He has always been such a happy little guy and it makes me sad to know that he is so sick right now... just know that we have 2 missionaries in the family right now who are praying for him. I'm sure it is not easy for Elder Browning right now but I know that the Lord blesses the families of His missionaries!

And wow, what an email this week! Cody has moved out and the family is back to just the "kids" at home! (I am also praying for Mom and her well-being) I look forward to seeing pics of Codes´new home! Good luck to the kids who will be going back to school!

As for me, this week went really well! We had the baptism of Luis Alfredo!! I can definitely say that we have grown together throughout the journey of his conversion. This man has been such a testimony to me of the Savior's power to change the hearts of men. I am all amazed at the desire of Luis to put his life in line with God's will. Looking back I realize just how little we did in this process as missionaries.. We just did what our purpose tells us to do, invite and help people come unto Christ. It is them who must "come" and "accept." It is such a joy to get a front row seat to watch the Lord work with these people and change who they are. Luis and I will be lifetime friends no matter how long I stay in this area. The baptismal service was a very quiet one, Luis only wanted his special people there to share it with and even though it was quiet, the Spirit was incredible. One of those present was Cindy, who acknowledged the Spirit and marveled at the change of heart in Luis, and is still working to have one of her own. What a blessing we have as missionaries!

We have moved the baptism of Ruben Cano to this Tuesday! Elder Celaya and I had an impression during weekly planning that he was ready to take the step now, and that we should invite him to "lay aside every sin" and show God that he has repented and is willing make a covenant with Him today that he will follow Him unto the end. We went and shared Alma 7:15 and he accepted the date for the 12th. Then the Assistants called and wanted to know if he could do it Tuesday because they wanted the new missionaries coming in to see a baptism their first day. What a blessing it will be to share such a tender moment with 18 new bright eyed missionaries! Ruben is as excited as ever, and is now going on 2 weeks smoke free! Just another testimony of our God of Miracles!

As I come to this part of my mission I think about where I am at in my quest to become the Sacred Missionary that I wanted to become before the mission. I think every missionary has an idea of the missionary they want to become when they first head out. I know I did, and I look ahead and realize how much I still have to improve to become that missionary. I always thought of it as "me" that was going on a mission and that it was "my" mission, but came to realize that this mission has very little to do with me. The missionary I want to be is one that isn't worried about himself but about the Children of God that surround him. It is not as easy as it sounds but I know that is why I am here! How grateful I am for this opportunity to be a missionary.

I hope we all can have a great fulfilling week!

Hasta la pròxima semana! (Until next week!)

Elder Eliason

"It was the best present ever to be able give those kids some Christmas spirit!"

Devotional with the President

Another Christmas dinner

Niños at the orphanage

Our Zone at the orphange

Waiting in line for the regalos! haha
Gringos at Christmas dinner

Hola familia!

Wow my first Christmas away from home has passed! What an experience that was! How great it is to see that all went great back home. I can't believe Connor got an Iphone though... that kind of a phone in the hands of a 14 year old WOW! That makes the whole fam! I guess Lucy is next huh? haha And another Cowboys letdown? Well, there is always next year... (theme of Romo's career) 

Well I guess I will start by telling you how I spent my Christmas in Colombia...

The zone had an idea to do a service project for Christmas to get us in a Christ-like mood for Christmas! So we looked around and found an orphanage of about 80 kids who have been abandoned or found homeless in the middle of Cali. We decided to go to their orphanage and sing some Christmas Hymns, give out some gifts, play soccer, and just hang out with these kids. It was such a humbling experience for me. 

These children literally have nothing... no home, no parents, not even their own bed. We saw what they do every day, where they stay, and what they eat. They don't even have parents to tell them that they are loved. It was tough to see but it also was such a blessing to spread some Christmas Cheer and make them smile for a little bit. I really felt the love that God has for them, and I think they were able to feel it too. I realized also how lucky I am to have been born in the circumstances that I was is just ridiculous to comprehend after what I have seen here in Colombia. It was the best present ever to be able give those kids some Christmas spirit! It is another little treasure from the mission that I will always remember! 

After the service Elder Celaya and I headed to some members homes to enjoy some Christmas dinner and festivities. I don't think I have ever eaten so much in one week in my life... they really know how to do Christmas here! 

As for our investigators here is what's new...

Luis Alfredo: We had scheduled for him to be baptized this Saturday but we had some delay because of some questions about question for the interview. Luis had some confusing altercations with the police that weren't his fault and we had to make sure that there weren'
t any problems before we could baptize him. But the good news is that all is well and he will get baptized this Saturday! Luis is a very special person to me and is someone that I will never forget. The changes that we have seen in him these past couple months have been such testimony builders for me. He will be such a great member I have no doubt! 

Ruben Cano: He is still progressing very well with his smoking problem, we have been very diligent in visiting him and giving him the animo to quit for good! We have had a bit of a problem with him coming to church. He lives pretty far and still has a broken leg that has been problematic for travel, and he has had to help his dad work the past 2 Sundays and has not been able to come. We plan to have some members visit him and also have a good solid lesson on the Sabbath Day to help him recognize the importance of that day. But he is still reading and praying diligently as always, we are just so happy with his change and progress that we don't want him to miss out on all the blessings that God has in store for him if he would attend every week.

Cindy: She has been very busy with the new baby still, but has accepted 2 visits for this week. We are going to have Luis there again so that he can continue to help in her progression. We are hoping that seeing Luis get baptized this week will help her a lot. She has loved the change that the Gospel has had on Luis and loves the idea of their family becoming eternal. 

Merlin: we are still waiting for that "experience" with God that every investigator needs to have in order to truly be converted. She has made a lot of progress though. At first she felt very embarrassed to pray, she had never done anything like that before, and now she is praying day and night to find her answer. She is also coming every week to church and reading the Book of Mormon diligently. We are trying to help her feel sure in her testimony.

Well Happy New Year! It is officially time to turn a new page and begin a new year. How exciting right? We have a whole new year to set new goals, make plans to meet those goals, and new accomplishments! For me I am so excited to see what my "mission year" has in store for me, I am going to use every single day to fulfill my purpose as a missionary. 

I know that my time is short here in Colombia and I am going to make every minute count! I hope all of you do the same! Set goals as a family! What do you want to happen this year? How are you going to acheive it? How are you going to measure your progress to make sure that it is happening? These are all things that we should ask ourselves! I can't wait to see what this year 2013 has in store for all of us! 

¡Espero que todos tengan un año lleno de éxito! Acordémosnos de todo lo que tenemos y demostremos al señor nuestra gratitud! (Let us remember all that we have and show our gratitude to the Lord!)

Elder Eliason