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

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