Monday, September 23, 2013

"We are in the midst of the biggest month we have ever had in the mission, 177 people have been confirmed."

Good friend Elder Morgan from Utah, we both have a feeling we will be each other's first gringo companion....

and sometimes I get INSANE in the morning... 

Having lunch at Zone Leader Council at mission home in Cali.

Hiya Familia! 

Wow quite a letter this week! Good to see Dad is back on his game! Way to go and keep it coming! That's great the Braves are back where they should be as division champs. 13 more in a row? No big deal.  Good to see the 'boys are back on track, Super bowl bound! haha. Also I can't believe Grandma and Grandpa are leaving this week! That means I will have two sets of grandparents who have served missions. What a blessing! I am sure the whole family will be blessed as a result of their selfless service, way to go! Good to see all of the family serving missions, it is the best thing anyone could ever do.

Well to get ya'll caught up on what's going down here in Ipiales.....

We had a great week despite the two and a half days lost for the trip up to Cali, which by the way was amazing. First off, the accent of the caleños is great and makes me remember the good times back there. The leadership council was by far the most powerful that I have been a part of. Just about everyone left that meeting super excited for what is to come in the mission. We are in the midst of the biggest month we have ever had in the mission, 177 people have been confirmed as of now this month and with 1 more weekend left to go! We spoke a lot about faith. President gave us a great vision of the kind of faith that can change everything. the type of faith that Alma the older had to bring his son to the gospel...

"Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith."

This type of faith made an angel appear to Alma to change his ways. This is the faith or active power that we need in our missions! To gain this faith we must be clean vessels consecrated to this cause with no other distractions. We can change the impact that the people feel when we teach with this type of faith. It was so great to hear such a deep powerful lesson, I sure learned a lot! We also made tons of new plans and goals to help the missionaries build their faith in the Lord. 

We had a great week in our area as well, we now have 3 baptismal dates for early next month! One of them is named Harold, he is really great. He was a referral from a member and has progressed super fast. The problem is that he studies in Pasto and is only here on weekends. So we took advantage and taught him Saturday night and Sunday morning. On Saturday we verified his reading and praying and he said it went super well. He felt the "still voice of perfect mildness" that we had explained when we taught the Restoration and said he felt that was his answer. 

The problem was that he had a crazy nightmare afterward. Whoops. At first we didn't know what to say but then the thought came to us that when Joseph Smith was about to pray, he felt something pretty crazy as well. The adversary knew what was to happen as a result of that prayer and did all he could to stop it, but faith overcame fear and Joseph prayed and looked to heaven even more fervently and then came "the pillar of light, above the brightness of the sun." We just testified of the validity of his answer and asked him which of two experiences stood out to him more, and he obviously said the first one. There was a moment of silence and then we invited him to be baptized. It is something powerful when a missionary summons the power of his God given power and authority inviting the Holy Spirit to testify with all power that what he is invited them to do is right. He agreed and we put the date for the Saturday after conference!

We also have been teaching someone named William, who was also a referral. He is about 51 years old and lives alone, has also had tons of family problems and was very humble when we spoke to him. He was looking for a way out of his loneliness and from the first time we taught him he has said he feels a different presence in his life. He initially thought it was us the missionaries but we were quick to tell him that the peace he feels comes from the Spirit, and from the results of reading the Book of Mormon and coming to church. We also have him set for the 12th.

And the last one is Claudia, the golden of golden investigators. The problem we have run into is marriage. But the good news is that they had already had plans to get married. So the date is for later on in October. We are stoked at her progress and can't wait to get everything solved. She has also presented us to over 10 people from her English class who I have been helping the past week with their English project. It has been fun translating even though it is A LOT harder than it looks... some words just don't translate dangit! But it is fun and a challenge I enjoy. We are also starting up English classes in the church hoping to bring more people!

Well that's my week, finally things are looking way up in this area, it has been a little strange a whole month without baptisms but I know that the Lord tries us to make us stronger and I feel that this adversity has been good for me, as I have worked harder than ever these past weeks. Good things are ahead!

Thanks for the support! Y que Dios les bendiga y les proteja, vamos para arriba!

Elder Eliason

Monday, September 16, 2013

"We had a week of miracles finding new investigators and also helping old investigators progress!"

Zona Ipiales without Elder Bello who went home this week

Captain AMERICA! or Capitan Gringo

In Pasto with the father and old partner from ´Tura! Elder Matos and Elder Aldunate

Saying goodbye to a great friend. Elder Bello from chile finishing the mision strong! Learned a ton from him.

Que más familia?? Bien no más?? chevere! 

Well that is just devastating news about the scorekeeper business. Seems like the Eliason Family business is coming to a tragic end. So many ball games scored, so many freezing nights, friendships with the umps, and so many old men reliving their glory days getting way too into slow pitch softball. It will be missed. That is also too bad about the Horns and Cowboys. Poor Mack Brown has got to be on the hot seat right now. And it looks like Andy Reid will always have our number...  CONGRATS to Gma and Gpa Eliason with the mission call! Sweet home Alabama awaits the greatest couple missionaries of all time! Can't wait to hear all about the adventures! 

Well it has been a great great week here in Ipiales. The Lord has been really merciful with us here after not being able to work too much these past weeks. We had a week of miracles finding new investigators and also helping old investigators progress! We set huge goals this week to find a huge number of people but from the members, and it gave great results. Instead of going in a home, sharing a message and asking for a referral, we looked for the need in every member to become an even better member of the church. For example, members that haven't been given the priesthood, that haven't been to the temple, that only come to church every once in awhile, etc. We let them know we care about them and we are here to serve them. Then they naturally have the desire to help us out introducing us to their friends and family. Way more effective and gratifying.

We had a miracle happen this week when we were walking to our next appointment. A señora stopped us on the street saying she knows who we are. Turns out she has a son that is a member and about 10 years ago was receiving the missionaries. To be honest this happens quite a bit, but never turns into anything. Well this time we felt good about it and passed by the house. We had a great lesson, prayed and then walked in a 16 year old boy whose name is Mario. We found out he had been to church before but the missionaries never went to his house to teach him. Long story short we taught him as well and he loved it. We sang "Grande eres Tú" (How Great Thou Art) at the end and he told us that we had gotten there in the perfect time in his life. So by just walking in the street we found 2 golden new investigators!

Also we received a referral from an ex-missionary in our branch, named Franklin. He presented us to a friend of his English class named Claudia! She lives in a little pueblito outside of Ipiales and receives us when she comes in for English class. Her story is also a miracle. Her big thing was she had a brother pass away and felt unsure about his whereabouts and bienestar (welfare). She had investigated other churches that varied in doctrine and wanted to know for sure what was up. We had one of the greatest lessons of my mission in the church on Wednesday about the Plan of Salvation. We spoke of the doctrine of the Pre earth life, and that the reason we are here is to go back. We spoke of our purpose here on Earth and what needs to be done while we are here. 
But what really hit home was the doctrine of the temples and work for the dead. Never once had I taught that doctrine in a 1st lesson, but when the Spirit leads the lesson we as missionaries just let it work as they tell us what they need to hear. We showed her a picture of the Salt Lake Temple and said she had a dream of being there.... woah. And after the lesson we showed her the baptismal font and right when she saw it she said she had also dreamt of being in all white there as well... woah. It was scary how prepared she was! Can't wait to see how she progresses! 

We are also still working with Gladis, who is having trouble still with the Law of Chastity. The father of her son still comes over sometimes and stays. We are trying to get them married but it is a little difficult because they are both already married to other people.

We now have about 5 investigators who are progressing. It is always the case that when the investigators read and pray about the Book of Mormon immediately after the 1st lesson, they without fail progress rapidly. I have come to have such great faith in the trial that presents the Book of Mormon. I am so grateful for its power and the truthfulness and purity of doctrine. 

This week we will lose 2 days of road tripping to Cali and back for the ZL Council, but we have another great week planned out to keep building on the success we have had! I should have a few more investigators to tell you about as well as we are going to focus on bringing them all to Church! 

Well that's it! Gotta write President! 

Elder Eliason

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Sometimes we can focus too much in reaching numbers of baptisms instead of working towards the actual conversion of the people." - Elder Wadell

Wow what a weekend! Looks like football season is well under way! And it looks like the family has started up a pick 'em tournament, how funny is that! Enjoy your time now but in a year you will all be witnesses.... haha. How tragic that the Texas Longhorns lost to BYU, that would have made me really really sad about a year ago! haha. And that is great that Eli Manning no longer has the Boys number in that stadium... bout time! I remember last year being in my first area hearing about the football year starting and it made me miss home just a bit... but I think being in another world for 14 months has made it easier. But How bout them Cowboys!

Well it looks like things are starting to get normal around here in Colombia, finally we will get to have a normal and full week of work! This past week we were told to jump up to Pasto as quick as we could before the roads closed up again in order to get to Cali for Elder Waddell. It ended up being a huge blessing because we got to work in Pasto for 2 days and I had the marvelous opportunity to work with 2 former companions! My son Elder Celaya and el gran Elder Aldunate my first comp in Buenaventura who now is ZL in Pasto. It was such a great experience being with old comps. It was great for remembering good times and seeing how each missionary has changed and progressed over time. It was cool to be in teaching situations remembering the old teaching ways that I had been used to in the past! It wasn't hard to pick up right where we left off as a companionship, such a treat! 

We also spent a while at the bus terminal each day looking for bus routes to Cali but there was nothing safe that opened up, we all prayed and fasted so that we would be able to see Elder Waddell in Cali but nothing resulted. I have come to understand on the mission the attitude of "let thy will be done." It wasn't the Lord's will that we would go to Cali this week, why? No idea, but like Nephi "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." When we develop faith in Jesus Christ we know He loves us and wants the best for us, no matter what. Prayers are always answered but according to the will who knows it all. I was grateful to help out this week in Pasto and also to have the rare experience to reunite with companions!

And we are now here in Ipiales super anxious to get back to work full throttle! It has been a bit frustrating not being able to work a full week in our area for about 3 weeks, but all the smoke has cleared and miracles are on the way. I feel like the opposition we have faced has worked as a refiner's fire and we are now refined and more excited to work than at any part of my mission! 

I also learned so much from the instruction of Elder Waddell from the webcast we had here in Ipiales! He talked about a huge problem there is in the Area right now... last year the South America Northeast Area baptized about 36,000 people. That is great.. but the attendance in the area only improved by about 9,000. That is to say that a lot of converts are being lost, and that is a big problem. 

Elder Waddell spoke about how sometimes in missions where the people have really believing hearts and baptize a lot, we can focus too much in reaching numbers of baptisms instead of working towards the actual conversion of the people. Baptism is the beginning, not the end. What is the good of "gathering the sheaves" if they are not "gathered into the garners." (Alma 26:5) Sometimes we are too focused on our goals to baptize that we forget the real conversion. This often leads to missionaries thinking they can still have success without teaching by the Spirit, using the Book of Mormon and having the investigators pray at the end of lessons, etc. 

So obedience is not a priority thinking that we can still have success baptizing. But the reality is, is that if we are not converted there is no way we will lead these people down the path to conversion. We may lead them to the font, but the conversion is superficial and won't last "the heat of the sun" that will come after baptism. In this mission and this area you can baptize without the Spirit, without the Book of Mormon and without prayer. But without all of these things, conversion is not possible. 

I am grateful for the wonderful counsel of Elder Waddell. It has sparked a fire in my personal study this week too. I tried to understand more the process of conversion, in order to understand what we must feel, do, and be to help these people to real conversion! I read in 1 Nephi 8:11-12: 

11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
 12 And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.

I find it interesting that only when Lehi got to the actual tree, and had eaten the fruit that he desired that his family also could partake of it, and signaled the way to help them get there. We as missionaries cannot be in the "forbidden paths" and expect to help people to the strait and narrow one, the tree of life is not the baptismal font, it is Eternal Life and true conversion. We must desire to help these people not just say that we do. I have learned a lot and will change a lot in my mission because of what I have learned!

Well next week's letter should be a lot better, now that we have a full week we are pumped to get at it! 

Well, until next week!

Keep the thumbs up, (and hook em horns) maybe I'll make that my new "trademark" haha

Elder Eliason 

Monday, September 2, 2013

"The spirit of prayer was felt all during the week as I just knew everything would be okay."

Hey there familia! 

What a strange, strange week it has been here in Ipiales, Colombia! By far the weirdest week of my short time here in Colombia. I should first tell you that everything is okay now, thanks to the prayers of everyone the government was able to solve everything again and it looks like the protesters have gone away satisfied and the roads will open up! 

It all started last Monday when we saw a ton of indigenous people protesting and shutting down all of the stores and Internet shops and just about everything that is in the city. That was strange but we could work around it. Then Tuesday night came and found out that they had gotten even more mad because nothing changed. And then everything went crazy and they even started throwing rocks at taxis and stores. That is when we got the order to stay in our houses until everything cooled down. And it didn't calm down until yesterday! We were in the house the whole week teaching lessons over the phone, having members visit all of the investigators and just feeling helpless that whatever was happening with our investigators was in someone else's hands. 

We had to keep two Elders in our house because where they were living was way too dangerous to be. It was pretty boring all week but we sure got a lot of studying time in! I realize I won't have the time to study this much after the mish so I took advantage of the time, I pretty much read the whole New Testament and Jesus the Christ! Haha but seriously there is not much to report after that.... we did have 7 baptisms in the zone, using a great scheme of leaving our houses surrounded by members who communicated with us by cell phone if there was danger or not. That was a huge tender mercy! We were worried we weren't going to be able to have the baptisms because we couldn't visit anyone! But the Lord was looking out for us and helped the people into the water. 

We did get horrible news that one of our fellow missionaries had died on Saturday. Elder Encarnación was a good friend of mine. We met in the Bogota MTC and was one of the first missionaries I talked to there. I tried so hard to speak Spanish well but I remember not understanding a word of what he was saying. He was from the Dominican so I think I asked him if he played baseball or something like that. It was really surreal hearing the news it was one of those moments you choose not to believe. But all is well, he was serving his Lord here in Colombia and he will continue preaching the Gospel on the other side. 

I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption... in the great world of the spirits of the dead. (D&C 138;57)

I know he is still working hard in this work just like before and still is going great for his goals for the month of September! He sure will be missed. 

Well now that everything will get back to normal we are super hungry to get back to work. There is nothing like staying in the house a week that rekindles your drive to get out and work. It should be a fun week, we have tons of plans that are hopefully going to result in some baptisms here in the near future! Can't wait!

Thanks to everyone who offered a prayer on our and my behalf. The spirit of prayer was felt all during the week as I just knew everything would be okay. When the enemy rises up contention against the Work of God, it motivates me more to keep going strong. 

We also have a trip to Cali planned for this week! Elder Waddell of the First Quorum of the Seventy is making a visit to our mission and we made it just in time out of the strike to go! Wish us luck!

Elder Eliason