Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Trial of Faith

President and sister Prince visting zone

Birthday cookies! #thumbswayup

Hiya Familia!
Wow I can definitely remember the times when school was just about to end and there is excitement of summer in the air! I can imagine the kids are getting pretty excited! Keep focused for the finals! And I just cannot believe the life Code's is living these days. Great interesting job, apartment, roommates who take you to the beach, I guess that is the reward after a misión well served haha! Let's hope! Thanks mom and dad for the great updates every week. It is weird however when you guys talk about the weather, seeing as how I left in the Summer and it hasn't changed since I've been here haha. Oh, and my watch did break mom it almost made it halfway! I'll just get another one here. And dont worry about the wáter problem, we get a huge jug of wáter from the dueño of our house so I don't usually ever drink the water.
Well things are just dandy here in Buenaventura, the animo (encouragement) of the branch has gone way up after the changes. We have had some really succesful activities these last couple of weeks and we have seen the highest attendance in the history of Buenaventura the last two weeks... such a good feeling to see the fruits of all the work we put into the branch. I love this type of work because you get such a close relationship with all of the members, and you get to see more how the church works because you are constantly teaching and training leaders how things are done in that organization. I am amazed at the "leadership training program" on lds.org, it is helping so much, you should all check it out!
I had a pretty amazing experience yesterday, we were teaching a Young man named Bryan Solis, who had recieved a testimony of the truth a while ago, had changed so many of his old habits, and had been ready for baptism. The problem was that he wasnt accepting it, for some reason. Every time we talked about it he would hesitate saying that now wasn't the time, and that he wasn't prepared. 
We prayed, fasted, and studied a lot to try to find out what he needed because he just had to enter the water, he is that solid. Nothing came, and we had no idea what to do. We went to his house yesterday after church to try to find the problem. We tried sharing Mosiah 18:8-10 trying to help him understand that he met the requisites for baptism. We asked the same question as Alma:
  "Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord.." 
He responded that it was fear that was holding him back, that he didn't want to let the Lord down after having changed so much. We tried everything knowing that this Saturday was his day for sure, but he kept on saying that he needed more time. 
Then a scripture came to mind, and I knew what was going on, the trial of faith had arrived. Bryan had been given evidences that this is the correct path with the way he had been changed being the biggest. But the Lord will never make the decision for us.. we must act in faith being a little unsure trusting that the Lord will come through. We shared Ether 12:6 and he began to sob, he read that scripture about 3 or 4 times and it was obvious the Lord had given His answer. Bryan received revelation! He said he didn't feel any more sure about the decision, but he knew that was what the Lord wanted him to do. Now, it was nothing that I did that makes this experience special for me. It was the fact that I was given an opportunity to see the Lord's hand in action from a front row seat. I felt like the Brother of Jared, being edified by feeling of the Lord's hand right in front of me. I love being a missionary!
I have been studying the New Testament a lot lately, trying to learn more and more about the life of Christ so I can try to emulate it the best I can. I have been pondering the experience of Peter walking on the ocean this past week. It is when they had been sent home after the feeding of the 5,000 with the fish and bread and there was a terrible storm threatening their lives when the Savior came:
 27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good acheer; it is I; be not afraid.
 28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was aafraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little afaith, wherefore didst thou bdoubt?
I think we are like Peter a lot, wanting to be like the Savior taking an initial step of faith in his direction, recieving His Grace to do amazing things, but like a little child learning to walk, we fall. 

Luckily, He will always be there to stretch forth His hand, pick us up and teach us something new. If I could tell you all of the times I have felt like this on my mission! The important lesson I take from this is that with faith in Him who is perfect, there is so much we can do. It is when we doubt or think about it a little bit, that we start to sink. I apply that to Bryan a little bit. When he thought about it too much and doubted his worthiness, he sunk. But when he acted in faith, he felt the Spirit and chose to walk

So we will be having the baptisms next week and we are very excited about it. We also had Zone Conference this past week, those are so great I learn so much and it gives us extra excitement for the Work. Elder Inga and I gave a training last week to the Elders here about the "why?" of missionary work. A lot of the time we get too caught up in the "what" we do that we forget why we do it. Behind all the study, finding, key indicators, area books, leadership roles, and manuals, there are people being prepared, found, taught, and saved. 

It is a huge responsibility to be a missionary, and we must put our hand to the plow the hardest we can to be able to say at the end that we worked with all our heart, might, mind and strength. It was inspired by the talk by Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf a few priesthood sessions ago. "The what informs, the why transforms." If we always keep in mind the why of our work, we won't just be filling out planners every night, but we will be prayerfully seeking revelation to find out where to use our time the next day. I think we got the Elders to really focus and we saw the results this past week!

Good news about Juanchaco! It got approved! We will be headed there soon, we just need to find out about the details, send them to president and we head out on about an hour boat ride to Juanchaco, I am beyond excited about the experience. I feel like the missionaries who first reached England, the one who jumped from the boat wanting to be the first one there with the Restored Gospel! What an opportunity!
Well that's all the time I have folks! Love you all so much, keep praying for us here we need it!

Elder Eliason

Elder E's Mother's Day Skype Call -- Video Highlights!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Birthday...Baptisms and Juanchaco

 At the Youth Activity I got surprised with the weird Colombian tradition egg on the head with flour.

Group Youth Activity

8 missionaries at the party and when they got me with the cake haha

Baptism of Daniela Rojas

Hadin Ramirez, he is the brother of Yay.

Hola Familia!

Just some feedback on the Skype call...I loved it! It is just the strength boost I needed! I am so happy to know I have such an awesome fam back home! There was, in fact, a difference between that and the last Skype call. I was thinking about you guys way too much that last time after the call, I missed home a lottt. This time I still missed you guys but it was really like a switch was turned back on and it was back to work. It's nice to know that I am just that much more into the mission now. In fact, after the call Elder Inga and I put a baptismal date with one of our investigators. Family call magic!! haha But glad to know everyone is alright back home!

Here in Buenaventura it has been a lot of fun this past week. My birthday here was more than eventful haha. At the Youth Activity I got surprised with the weird Colombian tradition of egg on the head with flour (see pics) and then I got tricked into a surprise B-day fiesta. They told me they needed us to give a message for a FHE and when we showed up the room was dark and about half the branch attacked me with confetti. It was in Hermana Yay's house, and then I also got cake shoved in my face haha but it was a fun night with all of the members. 

As for the work here all is going well for the most part! We had a huge change in branch leadership. The Elder's quorum president, the entire Relief Society and Counselors to the Bishopric were all changed. Hermana Yay Peña who was baptized a month ago was called as the new President of the Relief Society! How excited she was and is to get working with everyone! We have been really busy with all of the meetings and what not giving President Jose our take on what we have seen with the members, and also meeting with President Prince and Trochez about all of the missionaries and changes with the Branch. We think we have got a great base on which to build on.

We also had a great baptismal reunion Saturday! We had to do it in the pool as there was not enough preparation time with all of the changes and what not, but it was special none the less. 6 more people were baptized into the church this past week! 2 of which were from Elder Inga and I! There names are Daniela Rojas and Hadin Ramirez, he is the brother of Yay. 

And the work will go on! We have transfers this week but only one Elder got changed! We are going well here so I think we are all here to stay for a while! 

We also are planning on making a trip to an island named Juanchaco (red dot on map) about 1 hour off the coast of Colombia. President Jose sent a request to the Area to get approved. It is an Island with about 4,000 people and is ready to hear the Gospel. An ex-bishop from Cartagena got transferred there for his work in the military and he has requested that missionaries get sent there. We are planning to take all 8 missionaries with a bunch of Book of Mormon and pamphlets, invite people to attend a meeting in hotel or something, and have a special meeting telling about the church and what we do. 
This is like a dream come true for me, going to an island where the church is unknown with 8 missionaries with the truth of Gospel to spread to all. It's something I would love to do, just help us out with prayers that the Area will accept the proposal.

Well that's it for today, gotta write president a special long letter today about the changes in the branch and about Juanchaco. Keep me and Buenaventura in your prayers! We are about to make some real progress here!

Elder Eliason

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Baptizing and Strengthening the Branch

This is Angie! the best member missionary we have! This was taken after a rain storm caught us and we were luckily her and her family were home to save us haha

Sleeping on the way to council in Cali... 

Wonderful Chilean meal prepared by the great Elder Faundez...

Leadership Council
We discussed what we learned from Elder Bednar and what we wanted to apply.

Hellooo familia ¿Como es que les ha ido? Diga? Buenaventuran saludo right there..

How great it is to see how excited the family is for the Mother's Day call! Me too! It will be the 2nd of 4 calls home I will get to make here on the mission! I will call home around 5 Colombia time. That is when I will be free to make the call. I will repeat what Elder Bednar told us at his meeting. Have your questions ready and have good questions! I only have 45 minutes so we don't have time to count time, we just have to make the time count! I am so excited to see all your faces on the Skype cam! 

Anyways I guess I will keep this really short so we will have things to talk about on Sunday.....

Well we have been as busy as ever here this past week, so it seems weird that I am already writing again! But anyways this week was going to be a baptism week, but we had some inconveniences with the pool people. They apparently had other customers wanting to do a baby shower that were willing to pay more than we were so we got the boot. We tried getting other pools but they were just ridiculous with the prices. One of the Latin elders thought it was just because of us gringos haha. "What's the price for an hour?" They said, "300,000 pesos." WHAA......... and without the gringos?" said Elder Faundez haha. So we couldn't do the baptisms this week. That is one of the blessings of having chapels is baptismal fonts! But it is all good because all of the would be baptisms have been moved to the 18th when we are going to go to the river! It will be a cool experience baptizing in a river. 

We have changed our work strategy a little bit here in Buenaventura. With the lack of Ward Missionaries and Leader of the obra misional, we can't seem to give all of these recent converts the after-baptism teaching that they deserve, and our retention is suffering because of that. 

We are also in desperate need of leaders in the branch, Presidente Jose is pretty overwhelmed with the work load he has. So we have shifted into looking for families where there is a responsible man at the head of the home that can be converted and given a leadership role quickly. Obviously we will baptize all that have the desire but there are certain added requirements that must be fulfilled. 

I spoke with President Prince the other day about what do to, focus on baptizing all that we can? Or strengthen the branch? He told me both.. haha. We will continue fulfilling our purpose as missionaries finding, baptizing and confirming, but we will also be taking more interest in the well-being of the branch. He has authorized the zone to study online all of the organizations in the church to understand how they should be ran and apply them with the leaders we have. Elder Inga and I are in charge of the helping bishopric. I am so grateful for such an opportunity like this to serve!

I don't think I told you about an experience I had with Elder Bednar! It was during the Q and A time and I felt a question come into my heart that I had been pondering a while. How can I come to understand better the Atonement of Christ and apply it more in missionary work? As a missionary I have come to understand the Atonement so much more and have started to finally have some feelings about it, but I realize that there is so much I don't quite get. 

I feel like Nephi saying that I know it was because He loves us, but I still don't fully understand the meaning of it. I had a real desire to ask that of Elder Bednar. Just so happened that another elder asked the same exact thing! I felt like a silent prayer in my heart was answered! He answered him (and me) that we should get a cheap copy of the B.O.M. and read it all the way through marking the references to the Atonement. When we get done, write a summary of what we learned.... then do it over again and again and again until we die. 

He said a study of the Atonement of Christ is a life-long task, but that understanding comes as we seek and apply diligently. I decided to take that apostolic invitation and do what he said. This past week I have been reading through 1 Nephi with a purpose to understand the Atonement more.. and it has been absolutely amazing what has happened. Almost everything in the teachings and experiences of Nephi can be tied somehow to the Atonement. I have learned that when we study with a purpose, God puts special, heaven-sent feelings and thoughts in our minds and hearts that help us to feel and understand a little bit more of His will for us, "little by little." So amazing!

Well I can't wait to talk to you guys! I know you have great questions for me and you better expect some great ones from me as well. Please do me the favor of not laughing if I jumble up words.... haha. Know that I am doing great and working hard while have the time to do it! Time goes by too fast as a missionary and I want to get the absolute most out of this experience helping everybody that I can come to Him.


Elder Eliason

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Elder Bednar Comes to Cali!

My good friend Elder Welling, who served in Buenvaventura before I arrived. 

President and Sister Prince, and Elder and Sister Bednar

Group Shot!

Hey Family! 

Wow what a week of news from home! First of all, congrats to Cecily! I can't believe another one of the 7 is getting married!Such great news to get on the mission! Another congrats has to go to Mason for receiving the call to serve, that is something special to receive such a divine sent call to serve in the Lord's vineyard, the best decision a young man can make! Happy Birthday Haley! I wrote her a letter this week so that is the closest thing I can give here haha. Thanks for the updates Mom and Dad!  I laughed at the pic of Lucy playing roll over in Sammy's old spot!

Well what an experience I have to tell you about this week! We were visited as a mission this Saturday by none other than Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve!  What an experience of a lifetime. We all met in Cali in the Stake Center in San Fernando for the meeting. We were awaiting the arrival of Elder Bednar in our positions to take the photo when President Prince walked in with Elder Bednar behind him. It is was a surreal experience to see him live, it seemed like everything was super quiet until he finally said "hola" haha. 
He spoke the entire time in English with a translator right next to him. It was interesting trying to translate in my head and comparing it to a professional translator haha. We were all expecting some sort of a talk he was going to give, but he quickly dismissed that thought by saying "now, are you ready to work?" He explained how he prefers speaking with us rather than at us. He had given us 3 talks to read this month before he came, "Ask in Faith," "Seek learning by Faith," and "Converted to the Lord." The first part he asked us to share what we learned. Microphones were passed around and we discussed for a about an hour what we had learned. 
After every comment Elder Bednar would respond and shed more light. It was a revelatory experience!  The next hour we were able to ask him questions, imagine that, an opportunity to ask a question to one of the 15 prophets, seers and revelators on the planet. I will always remember when one elder asked him what it was like to be a "special witness of Jesus Christ." Something that only 15 people on the planet understand! 
One teaching that effected me was that sometimes as missionaries we think we can push the doctrine in the heart of an investigator and get them to believe, thinking we have enough faith to coerce them. But the truth is that it is up to them to accept the invitation to act to invite the Holy Ghost to teach them the truth. He shared 2 Nephi 33:1 that says the Holy Ghost can bring the truth unto the hearts of the children of men, but not into their hearts. That comes from righteous use of our agency choosing to act in accordance with the teachings of Christ, acting and not just being acted upon. 
It was a special experience that I will never forget. I can't explain the powerful Spirit that was in that room, there was no doubting of that man's divine calling. The most special part for me was hearing the sacred testimony of an apostle of the Lord. I can't explain it but it is something else when an apostle shares his testimony fulfilling his role to bear his sacred witness of Jesus Christ all over the world. I have now had the opportunity twice to hear such a testimony in person from Elders Christofferson and Bednar, in 2 different languages! How lucky am I?! 

Well in other news the work rolls on here in Buenaventura! All of the areas are having great success here. We are looking forward to a HUGE month of May. Everyone is working so hard and being so obedient that it is inspiring to think what the Lord can do with missionaries with this kind of commitment! I love working here so much, I was talking to my good friend Elder Welling the other day who was in Buenaventura before me about how great it is here, I would stay here my whole mission if that was any way possible. It sure is challenging
There is a ton of broken families due to violations of the Law of Chastity and a lot of Word of Wisdom problems as well. It breaks my heart to see some of the things you see on a daily basis here, but it fuels the fire of my testimony of the Gospel and of the commandments. Not to mention knowing that we are God's Army fighting against these evils makes the excitement to work go way up! I also have gained appreciation for what I have always had growing up, I will never stop thanking Mom and Dad for what they did for me my whole life! In spite of the hardships it is also such a blessing to work here looking for the people who have been prepared for a lot of time to hear the message. 

I love being a missionary here in Buenaventura, I have never felt more "into" the work! After what I have seen here on the mission, I now have a knowledge of the validity of this work. I am so grateful for what this mission is doing for me and for all of the people we teach as missionaries. As Elder Bednar put it, "If this Church wasn't true, the missionaries would have ruined it a long time ago!" There are way too many things I want to tell you guys, but time just doesn't allow me a fraction of what I could say haha. Some time I will tell you all of the blessed time here in Buenaventura!

Love you all!

Elder Eliason