Monday, December 29, 2014

Bolivia, Montero—Week 12

Dearest Family and Friends,

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and that this week you can celebrate the New Year with your family and friends. Remember that it is a new year to learn, grow, and become more like Christ.

Just a few conference talks I read this week that I want to share with you all (this is the only Christmas gift we sent to Amanda, besides candy and things for the kids, so she’s putting it to good use!).
Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children by Tad R. Callister: 
“Which parent in Book of Mormon times would have let their sons march out to the front of battle without a breastplate and shield and sword to protect them against the potentially mortal blows of the enemy? But how many of us let our children march out the front door each morning to the most dangerous of all battlefields, to face Satan and his myriad of temptations, without their spiritual breastplate and shield and sword that come from the protective power of prayer? The Lord said, 

“Pray always, . . . that you may conquer Satan” (D&C 10:5). As parents, we can help instill within our children the habit and power of morning prayer.”

“God never gives us a responsibility without offering divine aid”

Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence by Jorg Klebingat
1.  Take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being
2.  Take responsibility for your own physical well-being
3.  Embrace voluntary, wholehearted obedience as part of your life
4.  Become really, really good at repenting thoroughly and quickly
5.  Become really, really good at forgiving
6.  Accept trials, setbacks, and “surprises” as part of your mortal experience

“Yours is the privilege, if you want it, to come to know for yourself, today or soon, that you are pleasing God in spite of your shortcomings. I testify of a loving Savior who expects us to live the commandments. I testify of a loving Savior who is so very anxious to bestow His grace and mercy. I testify of a loving Savior who rejoices when we apply His Atonement daily with the calm and happy assurance that we are facing in the right direction. I testify of a loving Savior who is anxious for your “confidence [to] wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45).

Love you all!

Have a great week,

XOXO Hermana Nelson
Hermana Gomez
Journal Pages
Christmas Dinner at Puerto Madero
Today we didn’t get to do much because we had to go to the chapel to meet all the Elders to go to Santa Cruz. We got in the micro (bus) and got to Santa Cruz at about 6:00 p.m. Our zone sang our Christmas Hymn and we all began to eat. President and Hermana Zambrano had a gold box on every seat at the table waiting for us to open. Then President read us a devotional from President Monson about a  little girl and her dad on Christmas. The story took place during the Great Depression. The girl was 3 years old and she used a sheet of expensive gold wrapping paper to wrap a box. Her dad was mad that she had wasted the expensive paper, but on Christmas, she gave him the gift. When he opened it, he noticed that it was empty and he reprimanded her, telling her that when you give a gift, you have to put something in the box. The little girl told her dad that she had put kisses in the box and her dad began to cry. 
President Monson said that we all have a gold box full of love from our Savior, family, friends, and loved ones. It is full of love that we can take out when we need it, but we also need to give this love to receive it. When we went home, I realized that I had probably seen a lot of those people for the last time. Crazy.

Christmas Eve
We went looking for people to teach, but almost nobody wanted to talk to us. We did a lot of walking and passing out cards. 
Then we asked President if we could have permission to buy gifts for the “D” family and he said “Yes!” (The missionaries aren’t allowed to give gifts because it makes it hard for future missionaries, but this family was in such dire need that they got permission to get a few things for them. Technology makes things so easy! Amanda called on Christmas Eve to set a time for our Christmas call and asked if we could put some more money in her account and we were able to transfer it into her account before we were even off the phone!)

We bought a laundry basket and filled it with rice, noodles, diapers, toilet paper, drink mixes, toothpaste, soap, detergent, powdered milk, oil, fruit cake, chicken, cookies, belt, wallet, tie, skirt, shirt, headbands, a toy truck, and a doll. Then we went to eat our Christmas Eve dinner and it was great because I didn’t eat rice! Then we went home to wrap the gifts and watch fireworks.
Christmas in Bolivia
We went early to drop off the gift for the “D” family and then to our zone meeting. We gave a class and then we had a gift exchange and too pictures and such. We walked a lot trying to find people to teach, but no success, so we went at 5:00 to talk on Skype with the fam! We borrowed the computer of “Y” and first Hermana Gomez called her family, then me. The family is good. Super “trunky,” but good!

500 Days of Summer (Day 500 of my mission and it’s super hot all the time)
We went to visit an investigator today, but he was sleeping, so we offered to help his wife make “patasca” (a popular soup here made of corn and boiled pig’s head). I used to think it sounded good, but after watching her put in literally every part of the pig’s head, including the nose, tongue, and eyeballs, I decided that I never wanted to try it. But it gave us an opportunity to teach her a lot of the Plan of Salvation. She told us that she had her first daughter when she was 14 years old, then met her husband at a disco and got married when she was 17 (he was 23). She had a lot of questions about life after death.

Our investigators didn’t come, but tons of members came. Hermana “D” even came in her new skirt we gave her for Christmas (she used to only have jeans). She’s great—she hasn’t missed a Sunday since I got here.

Some things I love about Bolivia:
1.  Fireworks are allowed and used all year long, but even more on Christmas and New Years
2.  Almost everyone knows each other—they stay in the same house for years, then their kids and their families live there
3.  The “mercado” (market) is always open and if you know where you’re going, you can find pretty much anything. If you don’t, then it’s almos worse than IKEA. The great thing is that you can barter with them and sometimes get a deal.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bolivia, Montero—Week 11

Dear Family and Friends,

We had a busy week full of teaching, learning, and even a few bat encounters!
Missionary Service
“E” left for Colombia today. We stopped by to see her off and she was so sad. I know she’s going to be a great missionary. It’s weird to think that I went through all that just 16 months ago. It seems like it was yesterday. I still feel like I am new to the mission, but I’m 100% glad I made the decision to come here. I have learned so many important lifelong lessons here that I know I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.

We’ve taught a lot of recent converts, references, and less active members this week. The thing that we keep trying to help them understand is that we need to continue doing the things we know we should be doing: attending and participating in our meetings, praying daily, reading the scriptures, keeping the commandments. It’s so easy to get too busy or tired of doing the things we know we should do. We really need to stick with the things that work and not let anything get in the way. Endure to the end!
Bats (1 of 4)
Hermana Gomez woke me up in a panic at 5:00 a.m. this morning. She was in my bed telling me to turn on the light. I asked her what happened and she said that something was in her bed. Then we saw something small and black walking in her sheets. We thought it was a small toad, but then it fell on the floor and we both screamed. I jumped on the kitchen counter and Hermana Gomez was on the bed. We didn’t know what to do. It was the first time we’d both seen a bat—ever! We just watched it crawl around until we got up enough courage to trap it. Our plan didn’t work, though, and it began to escape. Then we couldn’t find it, so we both went back to sleep. Later, when I was sweeping the floor, I pulled out the refrigerator to sweep under it and there was the dead bat. It looked like it got burned or something. Three more bats visited us in our apartment this week. Needless to say, even though it’s super hot, we’ve started shutting our window at night.

Familia Sanchez
This family is the best. Last week, we discovered that the Dad baptized Hermana Gomez’s grandma and aunt! We read from his mission journal and looked at the pictures. Sometimes I just never want to leave their house. They invited us over for breakfast on Monday and want us to visit their other house. And, on top of all the love they show us, they gave us 3 references! We are blessed here with so many great, faithful members.

Heat and Fasting
Today felt like the hottest day ever. We were walking in the sun all day, and on top of it all, we are fasting. All of the members were trying to give us things to eat and drink, but fasting is more meaningful when there is a true sacrifice.

Some things I love about Bolivia:
1.   The Culture. The traditional clothing, food, language, etc. I think it is beautiful that they still have these traditions.
2.   The Heat. Sometimes it’s had to live with, but it’s so much better than the cold. And you have a good excuse to eat chocolate ice cream often!
3.   Everything comes in bags—water, soda, milk, yogurt, etc. It’s fabulous.
4.   All the different species of bugs, worms, animals, etc.
5.   Everything is tile. All of the floors, walls, and even the front walkways are tile. It’s fantastic.
6.   The fruits! They are the best.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Xoxo Hermana Nelson

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bolivia, Montero—Week 10

Dear Family and Friends,

First off, I talked to Elder Francis (a new missionary from Moab that Grandma told me about) today. He told me that his mom, Miss Roberts, taught Dad when he was in high school. Small world!

The whole Familia “A” clan are members except for their Dad. He is the one that usually works on Sunday, but came to Church last week. We had FHE with them and we invited him to be baptized. He said, “Yes!” We don’t have a date yet, but he says he’ll be baptized for sure.

We visited the Familia “T” this morning and we began to help the girls clean their room. It turned into a huge project, but when we finished a few hours later, it looked great. They are a great family and I think they are ready to accept the Gospel.

It was a difficult lesson with “B” today. She’s older and very stubborn. We began to talk with her about the Sabbath Day and our baptismal covenants, but she informed us that she doesn’t have to go to Church every week because as a Catholic, she didn’t go and she has a “special faith” that when she asks God for something, He gives it to her. So, she has decided that she doesn’t have to come to Church if she can just ask for the things she needs from home. We explained the baptismal covenants that she has made and promised her that she will receive even more blessings if she obeys all of the commandments.

“J” understands why he needs to read the scriptures, but he just doesn’t do it. He says he has no interest in doing it and that he doesn’t have time. We read a chapter with him. It’s hard to testify of something you didn’t do on a daily basis in real life, but I tried my best to bear my testimony of what I have learned here from reading my scriptures every day. I know that if he just starts, he’ll want to continue.

“L” is doing well. She said she hasn’t gone back to smoking and that she has been reading the Liahona and her scriptures more frequently. We talked with her about all of the basic beliefs of Latter-day Saints and helped her understand a little more about tithing and fast offerings. Her husband and son have been working in another city, but I hope they can come home for Christmas and be together as a family.

Stake Christmas Lighting
All of the missionaries had an activity to sing Christmas songs at the lighting of the Stake Center. Lots of people came and they said that every night it will be open for people to see and take pictures.
Stake Center Christmas Lights
Stake Relief Society Activity
We went to the Sanchez family’s house to make cinnamon rolls for the RS activity this afternoon. It’s an exposition of everything they’ve learned to make during the year. It’s super cool because they recycle everything—and I mean everything! They make some beautiful things. Everyone loved the cinnamon rolls. The Sanchez’s said that when they come to Utah, they are going to visit Mom so she can make them cinnamon rolls.
Hermana Gomez and I Presented
Cinnamon Rolls and Our Spoon Tree

Some things I love about Bolivia:
1.   The rain. The drops are so small but there are so many of them that it feels perfect.
2.   Everything is recycled—everything! They make projects from almost anything.
3.   The torrential rain in the mornings, and even better if it continues all day. It’s so beautiful.
4.   The “Refresco” (drinks) they make out of every kind of fruit, seed, etc. Just a few are: pineapple, mango, apple, lemonade, chichi de soy (soy), de maiz (corn), canela (cinnamon), orange, ginger, and black corn—it’s the best!
5.   You can hang your clothes out to dry and, if it’s sunny, they’ll be dry in about 5 minutes.
6.   There is always someone selling something. Every house has a sign on the door about what they do or sell. They even go door-to-door selling food, “Refresco”, etc.

Xoxo Hermana Nelson
See anything strange in this picture?
Melted Gummy Worms from Home
Our "Spoon" Christmas Tree and Treats from Home
Gummy Worm . . . Cubes?

Baby Ryan (The Elders Named Him)
Stake Relief Society Activity

Thinking of You, Alyssa!
Christmas Nativity