Finally I am writing you from Buenaventura!! I don't have a lot of time so I would like to just tell you a little of the things that have been going on my first few days here!
First of all, before I left Cali I was privileged to attend a Zone Leader Council in the mission office, it was there I really felt the power of the new assignment that I have. I met my new companion Elder Aldunate from Cochabamba, Bolivia there as well! We got along from the get go. He has been here almost 5 months already so he was one of the first Elders to enter in Buenaventura and was there when they met in the garage of the Branch President!
Before the Council he told me all about how Buenaventura would be, the challenges we would have, and the goals of the things we could accomplish here! I was pumped from the get go! The next morning we took off for Buenaventura, the trip here was a little crazy. It's just a bunch of crooked roads that go through the mountains until you end up somehow in Buenaventura. When I got there Elder Matos and Hogan told me that they had thrown up on their trip there because of all the twists and turns haha. Luckily I made it okay! I then got to reunite with all of the Elders in the zone, it was so great being able to see so many familiar faces, it is something I love about the mission is being able to feel a sense of brotherhood in the mission field. But then we got right to the zone meeting that we had planned to explain all that we had learned from the council. It was powerful to feel the anxiousness to work as hard as we can for these people.
The situation we have here is interesting. We don't have a chapel, we have a house chapel that we meet in for Sundays and it is a little crazy. There are 100 or so members that attend and obviously they all don't fit in one room of the house chapel so we have to put cameras and TV screens to make sure that everyone can be apart of the meeting.
The missionaries basically do everything on Sundays like bless/pass the Sacrament, teach classes, give talks, and supervise all of the classes that the members do teach to make sure that the correct things are being taught. We have a Branch President named Jose Rodriguez who is just powerful, he is from Barranquilla and had been a bishop there before so it was easy to see why they chose him to start the Branch. He is in Buenaventura for his military job and had to travel 7hours to Cali every Sunday to attend church before they had built the highway to Cali! It is amazing the faith of that man. In fact, I was at his house last night and he was telling me of the vision that he has for what the Branch would become and what we needed to do. These 8 months have been filled miracles, some of them unexplicable, that have been happening because of the faith of these members. It is amazing to see how these members persevere even when they have so little to work with, they don't even know what it is like to have a chapel. The Branch President says we are about in 1836 in terms of where the church here is at haha.
We have set huge goals here, President Prince has informed me that different things are expected of the Elders that come here. We are really set on the goal to have a chapel built here soon, these members really deserve it! But yeah other than that we are just really getting started as a new zone here in Buenaventura!
It is really humid here, you sweat like you were in a sauna all the time haha. The elders don't even bring suits here because they get ruined, so I am without my suit! Another thing I have picked up here is the massiveness of the areas! The area Elder Aldunate and I are working in is called "La Isla" or the island, and it is pretty much all of downtown Buenaventura and then some. Absolutely massive.
There are now 4 areas with 4 companionships here and they are all just as massive. Something unique that we do here as well is tons of divisions with missionaries. When an investigator has troubles and stops progressing we send other missionaries to see of the change helps and if the other missionaries can find what the investigator needs. It's not like any other zone, we like to think of it not as areas but as the zone Buenaventura. With the rapid growth that we need, and with all the strengthening of the new members that we need as well, our work here is a lot different as well. The members need a lot of help because pretty much all of them are recent converts and don't have any idea how organized church works. But they are amazing because they didn't have any of the wow factors that draw people in anywhere else like a huge beautiful chapel or members that know how to help with everything, they just have their faith. You really feel a different spirit here.
We live in a house with 2 other elders, Elder Wilcox from Alaska and Elder Lopez from Cancún Mexico. It is such a great time living in a house with 2 other elders, especially with ones that I have know before and I know are great! I am loving it here already, we are loaded with work and I love how busy we always are. We get at the house every night and are so tired we just sleep in our proselyting clothes haha, that actually has happened a few times. I am so happy here, I already can feel of what a ride I am in for in my time here, it will be something special!
Well I gotta go! I love you all! Sorry this letter is all over the place, I explain better next week... with pics!!!