Monday, April 22, 2013

Buenaventura: Fastest Growing Branch in South America!

All photos courtesy of Carolina Duque

Hola Familia!

Woww.. I have to tell you guys first that I heard about the terrorist bombing even from here. Also about something blowing up in Texas?! What is going on in that country! Obviously I am very saddened by the news of terrorism happening back in the home country, I'll keep all of the affected in my prayers. 

In better news I saw the pics of the YM/YW activity and it just looks gross what they had to drink, Kids Meal Shake? Will they be adding that to the menu now or what haha. I remember all of those fun activities back in the day when I was young, you get to miss all of those little things you had when you are so far away! Also with the new program that the youth are following I can't believe how wonderful it is. It's so simply put, but the doctrine and topics that are covered are just crucial. And the youth get more opportunities to teach! It is a miracle! Here in Buenaventura we are also trying to incorporate the youth in the new program as well and it is helping a ton, especially with all of the new members!

Great to hear about Haley and the mouth (braces) progress, as well as the success Cody is having in school! The mission teaches good study habits for sure, something I am learning more and more everyday. Thanks for the update Dad, that's what I like.. good detailed letters!

As for the news here in ´Tura, we had another successful Saturday of baptisms! 7 more Buenaventuranos(?) entered the water! Two of which were from Elder Inga and my area! I am sorry to say my camera ran out of battery and I wasn't able to take pics, but I had some Elders take some and they will send me them soon! I absolutely love the baptismal services here, they are so unique and powerful. These people have been waiting so long to hear the message of the Restored Gospel and are now being made available to the proper authority to baptize. It is a special thing to be apart of. 

One of the people baptized was Yai Ramirez who I think I told you about briefly last week but I would like to explain a little bit more about the miracle that took place. Well back when I was in my other area we found her through Luis and Diana who live across from each other. We found out her husband was a member since forever back in Barranquilla. And ever since they moved they have not had access to the church. The missionaries had always visited Yai, trying to help her receive the Gospel, and despite many spiritual witnesses she let a few doubts and concerns get in the way of being baptized. 

6 years passed by living here in 'Tura and finally she had a dream that the missionaries were about to return into her life. The next day she saw us going to teach Luis and Diana. Again the doubts came back into her mind and she said she didn't want to go through the whole ordeal again just to tell us no. So the first time we went we tried to help her realize what she could have in the church and in the Gospel, but the whole time she just tried to dodge all of our questions and teachings. We weren't going to give up seeing how great the family was and how perfect they were for the Gospel. 

We invited them to Conference and they accepted. She came and thought it was great and all and wanted to keep coming to church but told us that baptism and membership isn't what she was looking for. They went home and for some reason turned on the second session of conference. Elder Holland gave that talk on belief and faith, and suddenly she felt as if God was speaking directly to her. God had chosen the perfect moment through one of His servants to deliver a specific Apostolic message through the Holy Ghost to Yai. She called us and told us she was ready to be baptized. Needless to say I was stunned and amazed. What a miracle, after so much time, talks with the missionaries, attending church, and prayers, she finally found the faith to do what was right. This strengthened my testimony that God speaks through living prophets. "By their fruits ye shall know them." 

Another thing we have been doing here in Buenaventura that is unique from any other branch or ward in the world is dealing with newness and growing pains of a new branch with the rapid growth that we are experiencing. It is the fastest growing branch in South America! So the problem is we have so much to train and retain, all the while trying to reach out to new investigators as well. 

We have to "strengthen our stakes" and "extend our borders" (Moroni 10:31) all at the same time. It calls for tons and tons of work, which is just music to the ears of a missionary. For example, Diana the recent convert of about 16 days was called to be a youth Sunday School teacher, someone who had never even been to a church in her life. So we went to help her prepare her class, which was a wonderful opportunity to serve. I just love being a missionary here so much, there is nothing really much more I can say!

We are also teaching a great family named Familia Rojas, a Father, Mother, and Daughter (they are married!) and they are golden. We are looking for families to help strengthen our stakes and they are perfect for the role. We have taught them all of the lessons and they are now ready to be baptized. the faith of the family had been shown in the fact that the Father is willing to take Sundays off of work to attend and keep the Sabbath day holy, even when their financial situation is really bad. I really think they will be a key strength moving forward. 

Another progressor is a couple of cousins Harrison and Brayan. they showed up one day to the English class we do and decided they would receive us. They are golden as well as they asked us after lesson 1, "So what do we have to do to get baptized?" You can really tell the preparedness in how they react to the baptismal challenge, they usually feel the Spirit strongly coming from a representative of the Lord inviting them to change their lives and they accept not knowing completely why. They are a blessing as well. Ahhh, I want to tell you about all the people we are teaching but it would take wayyyy too much time. Ill try to do my best with best of the best.

Well that's about it for now, I have really been pondering the difference between happiness and pleasure. Pleasure is a limited period of time of enjoyable activity. Some pleasurable but sinful things last for minutes maybe even seconds and cause long term guilt that may last for years. Pleasure can lead to guilt that just keeps on giving for long periods of time, for just a moment or two of pleasure. 

Happiness on the other end keeps on giving but in the good way. It is something that keeps us happy in the long term not just for a second. Sometimes we trade eternal happiness for just seconds of pleasure. If we would all make our decisions based on eternal and not momentary happiness, I think we would profit a lot more and be more happy. Our carnal minds think in the short term and wants things now, but the Spirit tells us to "bridle our passions"  to achieve the more abundant happiness.

I know that our Father in Heaven loves us and wants us to be happy forever. We don't have to give in to momentous temptations that will only bring us a moment of pleasure. I have come to know what happiness is here on the mission. I am more happy than I have ever been, but by the world's standards I should be miserable! I hope we can all focus on what will bring us true happiness, the way God wants us to be happy!

Thanks for all of the prayers and concerns! 

Connor and Haley: I am horrible for not writing back, I know. Just understand I read your letters very closely and am responding with my heart! hahaha but for real next week!

Elder Eliason

Misión Colombia Cali Leaderhip Council April 2013

With new companion Elder Inga

From Sister Prince's mission Blog (see links list):
On Thursday, April 11, 2013 we held our first ever Mission Leadership Council
This was somewhat "historic" for us and throughout the world.
On Friday, April 5, 2013 (the day before General Conference).
We are still "pioneers" in the process, 
but wanted to do something great to show the 
significance of this announcement.  
We unitedly proclaimed...GIVE ME THIS MOUNTAIN! (Tres Cruces)
And we made it to the top where we talked about the similarity between
climbing a mountain and missionary work.
Then we sang "Called to Serve" to the world below.
Everyone cleaned up pretty well!
 Misión Colombia Cali Leaderhip Council
 April 2013
One happy Elder!

Hiya Familia!

Well first shout goes to Codes for the birthday! 22 years young! WOW.. makes me feel super old. Happy birthday brother and hope to be there for many more! The next shout goes to the Braves who are apparently killing it right now.. 11-1? Can we get the chop officially going? I think so! And also the pics from Mormon prom made me feel even more old.. Haley already looks like she`s a senior! What is going on over there? Whatever it is, stop it. 

It is actually hard to believe I am already at the computer writing home again, it seems like I was here yesterday. But that's what happens when time flies and you`re working hard! And that is what has been happening.

My week started with all of the saying goodbyes with Elder Aldunate. That was really tough for him after being here for 6 months, the poor guy could hardly speak. It just made me want to take advantage of my time here because with time flying as it is I know that will be me in no time. We had a great reunion with President Jose and his family and sent the missionaries off on the right note.

Then I traveled to Cali to attend the Leaders meeting of the month and met Elder Inga there. We had the great opportunity to climb the mountain of Tres Cruces, which was something I have been wanting to do all my mission. The idea was that we are trying to climb a mountain in the mission right now, we have goal to have at least 1 baptism for every companionship in the mission this month, 2 in May, and 3 in June. Climbing the mountain was symbolic of getting to the top all as one. It wasn't easy, sadly I have fallen a bit out of shape and that mountain was pretty steep jaja (Spanish for haha). But the sights were great, and it is always good to be able to catch up with friends from other zones. We also had a great message at the top of the mountain that had us all excited for what is to come these next few months. Definitely a wonderful experience!

Elder Inga and I then got on a bus and returned to Buenaventura to start working on our new area! Thanks to some great Carpeta de area usage we were able to pick right up from where the other elders left off. The weird part is that there are no addresses here and we pretty much get around by knowing names of neighborhoods. We had to do a lot of calling and meeting at known places to get to our appointments. But other than that I am loving it in my new area. My new companion is really great too, he has been out for 13 months and is one of the greatest teaching misisonaries I have been around. One of his strengths is listening. Sometimes as missionaries we get too anxious to answer every single question an investigator has that we try to do everything at an instant, Elder Inga does a great job at listnening to all that they have to say and then teaching to thier needs. We get along great!

Another great thing that has happened is a miracle. One of the people I was teaching in my old area who had been taught by the missionaries for years finally got an answer and is getting baptized this Saturday! She said through Elder Holland's talk she felt God was speaking directly to her and years of fighting the Spirit she gave in to just a belief. 

Well I gotta go! Ill write better next time... Time goes by too fast!

Elder Eliason 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Area, New Companion...and Conference!

Hola Familia Qué mas!!!!

What a great sight to see! All the priesthood men of the family all gathered at IHOP, that is such a great memory from back home. The tradition goes on! And will never cease! 

By some pure miracle I was able to watch conference in English again! For the Saturday session all the gringos went to an internet cafe to watch the first session, but after that all of the internet places closed. We scrambled and scrambled until we found a member with a laptop that we were able to stream the conference from. They had a pretty cool set up in the casa capilla for all the Spanish watchers, while we went upstairs to put it on in English. It is just not the same when you hear the voices you have listened to for years through translators. It was such a blessing to watch it in my home language! 

The priesthood session was pretty special this year for me! I loved the talk about teaching leadership skills to young priesthood holders so that they arrive on their missions even more prepared. I would say that the mission is where I have learned the most about how to be a leader. Being a leader is an opportunity to serve and minister to help others in need. In the mission, 24 hours a day you are trying to help all the people you can. Can you imagine what would happen to missionary work if missionaries arrived with these skills?! Also President Eyring gave inspiring council that we are all missionaries, no matter if we have a tag or not. How is all of your missionary work coming along? As a missionary I know how the work improves when the members are involved and motivated. 

Other talks I liked were President Monson's and Elder L Tom Perry's about obedience. As a missionary I have really come to understand obedience and its importance not only in our life here but eternally speaking as well. Seeing as how learning how to be obedient is the reason of our existence, I believe the biggest lesson a missionary should learn on his mission is how to be perfectly obedient. How can we expect investigators to be obedient to the commandments if we can't keep the mission rules? It can´t be done! 

Also, President Uchtdorf came in clutch with talk about the Light that Christ is in the lives of those who accept Him. I see that in every investigator that keeps commitments. When they exercise faith you can see and feel Christ in their lives. Their entire countenance changes, and they experience conversion. But of course my favorite was Elder Holland's talk about faith, how we shouldn't diminish the faith we have, for the faith we think we don't have. It reminded me of what I heard Grandpa E say one time on HT, "Never let something you don't know, effect something you do know." Those words hit me then and hit me now as I listened to an apostolic testimony of what he knew. The story of the boy who could only believe also touched me. We face so much of this as missionaries. You try to help them so much to trust in the little bit of faith they have gained, to help them not fall when a conflict or doubt comes up. Faith is like a little seed, and it needs to be nurtured instead of cast out by unbelief. I could go on all day...

But as for the past week we have had a ton of things to do with the new house that we are trying to get: Elder Aldunate's visa that is expired, and helping out a family set up a funeral for a recent passing. A lot of administrative things. But we still did a lot for the zone and for our investigators! We are teaching a couple named Ulysses and Erika, they came to conference and had such a great experience. They live in very modest conditions and lately they have been reading praying and now assisting to church! They are examples of that little bit of faith that started when we contacted them saying our message could bless their lives, turning into action and evidence given by the Spirit. They want to get married as soon as possible and be baptized! 

We are also teaching a family of 4 named familia Zulaga who also came to conference! President Jose gave us the reference and have been progressing rapidly! And the miracle is is that they were already married when we got there!! What???

In other news...

the short 4 week transfer is over and they changed my area and companion.. I will miss Elder Aldunate a lot. In these 4 weeks I have learned so much from him. He has been here 6 months and he is not looking forward to the goodbyes. He already got emotional when we got the changes haha. Also I will be headed away from the downtown part of Buenaventura to the outer and upper part called La Independencia. This is the place where ALL of the members are, so I am very excited to get there and start breaking it! 

President thought it would be better for the zone leaders to have the area with the most members so we would have time to maintain our area and at the same time help everyone else. My new companion is Elder Inga de Peru. He is the trainer of Elder Chase and I know him a little bit. He is really great and I think he will do great here! The sad part is my companion, Elders Hogan, Chase and Matos are all leaving. I only got 4 weeks with them all but it was great and I loved every minute of it. The good news is that Elder Musselman is coming! My old Provo basketball co-champion and companion from Bogota! That is exciting. 

Anyways, cambios (changes) are always hard nut necessary. Elders are called to this mission for a reason and have keys to certain people's hearts in other places. We trust in our President who leads the mission by pure revelation. I am excited to begin with the new team here in Buenaventura. 

I invite you all to hearken to President Monson and study the General Conference addresses over and over again, I know I will be!  We have the special privilege to hear God's Will and Word every 6 months! What a miracle and blessing!

Que les vaya bien! 
Elder Eliason

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

This was the week of baptisms!

Hola familia!!

espero que todos hayan tenido lo mejor de lo mejor esta semana de Easter! It was pretty funny to hear about the cruel joke mom and dad played on the kids haha... no Easter baskets? even I would have know that was a joke! Thanks for keeping me informed!

How emotional this past week has been! I have loved every minute of it. This was the week of baptisms! Here we do all of the zone's baptisms the same day because we don't have a baptismal font and we have to rent the pool (which is pretty costly) to have everyone get baptized. We had 7 possible baptisms at the start of the week, and we really wanted all of them to enter the water. So we had a fast to make sure that everything would go well and that nothing unexpected would happen. 

We pulled out ALL the stops. Elder Aldunate and I visited every single one of them throughout the week and also set up a ton of "nidos" with the members to get them to call, visit, hand out Liahonas, give pictures of the temple, and anything else that we could think of that would help them. We realized that the adversary is always diligent to get the people who are about to make progress to fall, so we decided to be MORE diligent. In the end, all 7 were baptized and confirmed. Among them were Luis and Diana the couple that we have been teaching these past weeks. To be honest we didn't do too much in their conversion, the members took it upon themselves to help them out and Luis y Diana have always had an extra excitement for the Gospel. 

Luis comes from a family of all members, so his conversion was a little different than the usual, he basically knew all of the lessons already and had been taught numerous times by the missionaries. He had always had doubts that had kept him from being baptized. I think what got to him was the change in his wife Diana. I know that they were brought together for a reason, that they were led to Buenaventura to accept the Gospel and will be blessed eternally for their decision. When it was his turn to get in the water, Diana, Elder Aldunate and a bunch of members were in tears knowing that after years of fighting the promptings, he gave in to the change of heart he had experienced. It was really a special feeling to be there.

The Baptismal Service at the pool was a little different experience than what I am used to haha. But I felt the same! The ordinances of the Gospel are such blessings! 

I will now tell you about a miracle this week. Ever since I have been here in Buenaventura I have been without my white shirts and garments haha. The bag that I keep them in got lost and I have been borrowing and also had to buy a whole bunch of shirts this past week. The story that I got was that another elder took it by mistake and went all the way to the Terminal to go to Pasto for his transfer. He realized he took it there and gave it to another elder to bring it to the office of the mission. Well, it never got there. Apparently the elder gave it to another elder who left the terminal without the bag by mistake. When he went to get it back it was gone!

This past week I had to take a trip to Cali to buy some new shirts as they had told me it was gone for good. I decided to keep praying and even fasting that the bag would show up and I would have all of the clothing and books that I had lost. And three weeks later we got a call from Cali saying that they found the bag! I have yet to get the story how but all that I know is that is in the mission's possession!! Halleluya! What a relief is just too big of a cliche to say how I felt at the moment haha. God lives! 

We just got exciting word that Elder David A Bednar will be coming to visit our mission the 27 and 28 of this month! I am so excited to hear from another apostle of the Lord. I feel a little spoiled knowing that this is the 2nd apostle I will be hearing from on my mission! If the experience is anything like Elder Christofferson in Bogota I am veryyy excited! I'm not sure how the translating will happen seeing as I don't believe he speaks Spanish, but it should be an amazing experience that I wont ever forget!

Thanks for all the support! I love this Work and my time to be a missionary, I have learned that this time is precious and SHORT! 9 months already down makes me scared the next 15 will go by too fast. Well gotta go! I love you ALL!!

Elder Eliason