Monday, February 25, 2013

Off to Buenaventura!

Hiya familia! 

What a great email I just got! 58 new missions in the church? What a blessing! I love hearing about all of the excitement about missionary work since the big announcement, all of the prophecies of the Scriptures are coming to pass and we are really becoming a bigger and bigger army of the Lord to bring the world His truth! It is the greatest time to be a missionary right now!

Well I have some exciting news to tell you guys this week! Right before I came to write this letter I got a phone call from President Prince, he told me that he had a special assignment for me this transfer. He told me that I would be heading to a city called Buenaventura (see map). 

Now let me just tell you a little about Buenaventura... The Church just entered this area of Colombia about 6 months ago, and ever since it did, it has been growing at an incredible rate. In September it had just 12 members meeting in a "house-chapel" and as of now has about 110 attending members. It started out with just 2 elders going there to test the waters so to speak of what they could do there, and it has exploded with success. 

They have been sending more and more companionships there and now we are going to open a brand new zone in the mission called La Costa or the coast. President extended the assignment of going over there as one of the zone leaders of this new zone and rapidly growing area, and I was very honored and willing to accept. He was telling me of the miraculous time that this zone is experiencing right now, after years and years and years without the restored gospel in Buenaventura, it has now entered and now we have the responsibility of keeping that going until we can get a chapel built there! 

That is the goal right now, trying to force the church to build a chapel because of all the members that will be attending! All throughout my mission so far I have been hearing about how great it is over there, it is like the entire area has been being prepared by the Lord until finally His representatives can go there to share it with them.  

The people there get baptized in the nearest river because of the lack of a font, and they are not very well trained on church-organization, so the missionaries play a big role in everything of that nature. I am so grateful for this unique opportunity to go back to what it was like in the old days when the church was young and didn't have many of the things we have now in the organized church, it is really something I am so pumped for! 

The only downside is I hear the humidity over there is outrageous and that the people speak really weird and are hard to understand. But those are just challenges that I am excited to face! Another blessing of this new assignment is being with missionaries that I already know and love. Elder Chase and Elder Hogan are two of my great friends that I knew way back in Provo and Bogota and have already been there for 2 transfers. 

Elder Wilcox is another great friend of mine that served here in Cali with me. I am marveled at Elder Lopez (a new missionary in my zone from Cancun) for his desire to serve after only being a member for a year. And then there is the great Elder Matos, my trainer, who is also there. 

I am already looking forward to the great reunion that will be! But most of all I am excited because I know all of these missionaries are great and work hard. We have such a special trust given to us to bring this Gospel to this people and to build on what we already have. I can't even express my excitement to get started! This is a moment where I know I was put here in this mission for a reason! I leave Wednesday at 1 in the afternoon for Buenaventura to meet my new companion, it is about a 3 hour bus ride from Cali to there.

BUT,  of course all of this excitement comes with a downer... My time here in Valle Grande has come to an end, and all of the relationships and bonds that have been created must go their separate ways. I am so thankful for my opportunity to serve in this area and to have met all the people I have met. I will miss all of the members who have been too good to me and have helped us out so much with the work here in the area. I know that they are still in good hands though with Elder Celaya, who has grown so much in these 13 weeks of being his companion. I am not looking forward to tonight and tomorrow with all of the goodbyes, but all good things must come to an end so that greater things can give us more experience in our eternal journey to happiness! 

Well sorry for the short letter but I have a bout a billion people to say goodbye to haha... Until next week when I will be writing from Tura as the locals call it haha.

Que Dios les proteja y bendiga hasta que nos vemos de nuevo... (May God protect and bless until we meet again).

 Elder Eliason 

Monday, February 18, 2013

..."never have I felt the joy of having such a purpose and fulfillment in my life, this time is truly sacred."

 THE biggest downpour I have seen at this point in my life... in both countries in which I have ever lived.. that is saying something.

Manuel has a hobby of crafting hand weapons and even gave a sword to Elder Celaya.

Warriors of the truth with Elder Celaya's  sword haha

Hola familia!

How is everything back in the states! It's weird to think that it has been just about 6 months since being in that wonderful country! Time doesn't really exist in the mission, you just get a certain amount of days to get up, follow the routine in the morning, get out and work as hard as you can, and pass out at night. With that kind of a routine the time just flies by. Luckily I have been given an extra week in this area! President has to go to Peru for these couple of days so this transfer is now 7 weeks long! Such great news and a little tender mercy for me, as I have grown a lot in my time here and have seen a lot of growth in the people I have been teaching.. never have I felt the joy of having such a purpose and fulfillment in my life, this time is truly sacred.

As for my week here...It has been a lot of finding, finding, finding, with all of the work we have done with investigators and recent converts of late we have been lacking a little bit with new investigators. We set a high goal this week and worked hard to reach it! We collaborated with the ward to go on member splits and they responded greatly as always! We ended up having such a great week with tons of new people to teach. We had lost a little bit of the contacting and talking to everyone part of missionary work and we realized that was something that we needed to improve. 

The people here are just great, they are such a happy people and are so willing to talk to anyone! That has proved to be a good and a bad thing haha, it`s harder to tell if they are truly interested or if they are just too nice to say no. We have made the mistake of hanging on to investigators too long when in the first place they never really had an interest, that is why we are praying to have the Spirit with us all the time to make sure we are finding by the Spirit as well as teaching by it. 

I have also come to learn that it is okay to make mistakes as missionaries. I think I have been focusing a little too much on becoming a "perfect missionary" that I realize my shortcomings and let that get me down! I have realized the importance of humility and self evaluation. There is so much to learn in every single day of being a missionary that if we just take time to ponder about what we can do better every day, we will begin to develop the Godly wisdom that is so essential in the mission and in life! I am grateful for such great finding experiences this week!

Our investigators are still doing well!

Lida Gomez is still in recovery from the operation but thanks to the ward and her faith is still hanging in strong and still reading and praying all she can that she will be able to get baptized soon! 

Edilton Bonilla and Marcela Vongera are still working with the marriage thing, but we are still visiting and teaching them all about how a marriage can bless their family right now and eternally. Edilton had a great experience this week at Stake Conference when they called him up to the stand during the priesthood session, they asked how long he had been a member and he responded that he was not yet a member. He asked him if he had goals to be baptized and he said, "Of course it's something I want to do." He then had the opportunity to hear the testimony of the Stake President about eternal families. We weren't able to be there to see it because it was the morning priesthood session that we are not required to attend, but it gave us a huge smile to hear about the experience!

Manuel Bermudez: Manuel reminds me of Ruben with his faith and preparedness, ever since he received a spiritual witness of the truth he has been trying to put his life in harmony with God`s will. He has been through so much recently that he is sufficiently humble to realize this "pearl of great price" that we have in this Gospel. It is similar to Alma's situation right before preaching faith to the poor and afflicted:

"And now when Alma heard this, he turned him about, his face immediately towards him, and he beheld with great joy; for he beheld that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word." (Alma 32:6) 
You can just tell he has a more eternal perspective and feels great desires to please God. He revealed to us that he has had a problem with drinking coffee in the past and when we taught him the Word of Wisdom he immediately felt that it was true and committed to leave it behind. We are excited to be preparing his baptism for this Saturday, which I will get to see because of the 7 week transfer, what a blessing!

Well that is about it for the week! I want you to know how great it is, and how happy I am being a missionary! I try to express the best I can in my letters of my experiences here but I feel like one hour is never enough to fully get what I want to across. Hopefully one day I can have a talk with everyone to really let you know how I feel about missionary work!

 ¡Qué piedra de no tener el tiempo suficiente para expresarme! jaja 

Have a great week I love you all!

Elder Eliason

Monday, February 11, 2013

"It is amazing to see the people you witnessed receive testimonies act on that and become converted.""

Baptism of Juan Camilo, Iduard Alberto, Nicol Natalia, Micol Stiven, and Zulay Magoli

Hey there Familia!

Haha... I literally laughed out real loud when I saw the pics of the Stake Dance, reminds me of the one or two times I went to those things. The other times I was just a bit too cool... Big props to Connor for getting out of his comfort zone and dancing with girls, which is not the easiest thing to do at that age! I am not sure which has grown more since I have left... Lucy or Cody's hair? Haha... but seriously that dog is getting big! Gotta love a Dad who takes  such great pictures an lets me in on everything back home!

As for me in Colombia... when I wrote you last week, it started raining, and it hasn't stopped since! And I also experienced my first earthquake in my life. Elder Celaya and I were just having companionship study when the floor started moving... or that's what I thought at first haha... then we hurried outside to wait it all out. Everything was fine, all that was damaged was little cracks in the floor, nothing too big. It was a pretty interesting experience for sure!

I am still having it great here! The people that I have seen get baptized are really special. Luis has become a missionary, I don't believe that there is anyone in his neighborhood that hasn't had an invitation to hear the Gospel, an we have had some great new investigators because of it! Ruben also has decided to become a missionary, as he is always helping us out by coming with us to appointments where we need a guy to enter the house (even though he still has trouble with his femor!) Naomi and Merlin are quite active with the Single Young Adults and Naomi is now a leader in the organization! It is amazing to see the people you witnessed receive testimonies act on that and become converted. I have NO idea how I will be able to say bye to them all.

As for the investigators...

We had such a great baptismal service this Saturday for the kids of the Bonilla Vongera Family! All 5 of them entered the waters of Baptism to start their lives in Christ! During the week they were such a great support to their parents who are still going through some troubles and were so excited to take the step of baptism! 

Lida Gomez is still very excited for baptism, she has been such a trooper fighting through this obstacle in her path. The operation went well and we are now just waiting for her to switch back the hours of work so that she can come to church again. The ward has done such a great job visiting and calling her to keep her spirits up!

Manuel Bermudez: Manuel is a new progressing investigator! He was a reference from a member and ever since the first time we contacted him he has felt the influence of the Spirit. He has had a rough couple months with the separation from his wife and kid and has been looking for the "anchor of faith" that the Gospel provides us. He needed to feel sure about something that can keep him steady and hopeful when everything else in life is hectic and unpredictable. The Gospel just sounded "familiar" to him and knew that it was true the moment he heard it. Another humbling experience to see the progress of such a good man in need. He has a bit of a problem with coffee but we are working with him on that and have set a goal for the 23rd for his baptism.

Edilton Bonilla y Marcela Vongera: We are still working on the marriage thing... but the baptism of their children was such a great spiritual lift for them. We have an FHE planned with them tonight and are excited to plan new goals and plans for them to progress!

Keep all of these wonderful people in your prayers, they have meant so much to me and my companion!

That's about it for this week! Thanks for all of the prayers and continued support!

Elder Eliason

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Words don't mean as much as what is in your heart."

Former Provo MTC companion Elder Whitney and I at Dominos today.Yeah, REAL American pizza!

Divisions with Elder Carbajal. Silent, shy, gentle, but a powerful missionary.

Hey Family!

What? The Super Bowl was yesterday? That is a surprise! You know you are far far away from the U.S. culture when the Super bowl is no where to be found!! It's so great being out of the world for this little bit of my life, it gives me the opportunity to really "find myself in the service of others." But how great that the Cowboys are still tied for 2nd in Super Bowls haha...

Well all is still well here in Valle Grande, people seem to just keep coming out of nowhere! The members really responded well to the missionaries talks in church last week and really helped us out this past week. 

Something really cool that happened this week was divisions with other missionaries! Something that is great about being a leader is helping out other missionaries and seeing their areas, investigators, and ways of teaching. I learn so much from everyone of them and it is really gratifying and fulfilling to be able to help them in anyway I can. 

I was able to work with one Elder who is named Elder Carbajal, and he is known in the mission as being one of very few words and really shy. He is a convert of about 3 years and always desired to come on a mission. We had an experience during a lesson that I will never forget. This young man that we were teaching was having trouble accepting the Book of Mormon as scripture, he believed that the Bible was all that we needed. When I had finished teaching how we got the Book of Mormon and the test that it presents us there was a great silence in the room.. then after the silence Elder Carbajal opened his mouth and started to testify. Everyone in the room felt the sincerity of this Elders testimony, his words were without eloquence but there was no doubt that he knew what he was saying was true. It was something I wasn't expecting to feel, and it was powerful. It reminded me of earlier in my mission when I struggled to form Spanish sentences trying my hardest to express what I was feeling in my heart, I realized again that words don't mean as much as what is in your heart. That is something I am so grateful for here in the mission!
The investigators!

Lida Gomez- we had to postpone the fecha because she is going to have surgery on her mouth tomorrow and wont be able to get baptized until the 24th, I hope I am still in this area when she gets baptized because it has been such a journey to get her where she is at. She really knows that it is true. In fact, we have only been able to see her one day a week (if that) for this whole time that we have been teaching her. It just goes to show you that what the investigators do when we aren't there is way more important than what they do when we are!

Familia Bonilla Vongera- We are still trying to work on the marriage thing with the parents, and it is more difficult than it seems. They have to send papers to the government for every child that they have (6) and it is pretty costly. The kids however are an inspiration, they come to every activity, church event, sacrament meeting, and whatever other possible activity they can go to. Even the smallest one got up and bore her testimony this Sunday, it was incredible. At first the parents were a little hesitant with letting the kids get baptized first but have now realized what a blessing it would be for the family. So hopefully they will be baptized either this week or the next!

Yep, that just about does it! I think I will have more progressing investigators to tell you about next week, there are many, many people we are teaching right now that are on the verge of conversion! It's a really exciting time in my mission right now! However, I fear that my time here is coming to an end. The mission is growing rapidly, and I mean rapidly. I'm talking 20 new missionaries every 6 weeks with only about an average of 8 leaving. We have 4 missionaries in just about every ward/branch in the Cali area. It is such a blessing because when Medellin was in the mission we had the same amount of missionaries in twice as many chapels. With that being said our mission is SUPER young, I am considered in the older part of missionaries if that is even fathomable. 75% of the mission has less than a year. WOW, I know haha! But I am excited for what the Lord has in store for me!

I would like to share with you all something I have been pondering this week, a lot of it has come from 1 Corinthians 2:14

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

It makes me think in my studies every morning, am I just trying to make sense of these things in my mind, or am I really "getting it?" The carnal mind can't understand the things of God, it can just understand conceptually. It's like how a blind man can understand conceptually the principle of sight and how it works, but does he really understand it? Someone can conceptually understand the principle of repentance but if he has never felt godly sorrow and really felt the joy of true forgiveness the concept is still foreign to him. It is easy to understand conceptually how the Gospel can bless lives, but is another thing to live it and have the Holy Ghost imprint the truth and validity of the doctrine in our hearts. Reading and hearing the Word is not enough, we must experience them spiritually by putting it in practice, then God will make sure that we know by His Spirit that it is true. Then we really "get it," not because it makes sense, but because we have felt it in our hearts. Just like the Nephites in 3 Nephi 19:31-33:

31 And it came to pass that he went again a little way off and prayed unto the Father;
 32 And tongue cannot speak the words which he prayed, neither can be written by man the words which he prayed.
 33 And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed.
The words which the Savior prayed were understood by the hearts of the Nephites, not by the mind. I'm not even sure the words were spoken, maybe He was praying with His heart, and all the multitude felt it and understood. Imagine if all of our prayers and studies were like this!

Thank you family, 

¡Sé cuán afortunado he estado por haber tenido el apoyo de cada uno de ustedes!  (I know how lucky I have been to have had the support of each of you!)