Colombia Bogota North Mission

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cucuta Week 26

Ok so I haven´t really thought about what I´m gonna write yet so we´ll see what comes out. Thanksgiving! Happy thanksgiving to everything even though no one cares anymore because it´s December and that means christmas! woohoo! The church has a really big christmas thing going on "He is the Gift" or "Él es la Dádiva" but no one here knows what dádiva means so we have to explain it everytime we talk to people about it. Just a minor detail, still a super cool initiative. But yeah my thanksgiving was awesome. It was a  completely normal day because no one here celebrates it but my normal days are awesome so it was awesome. My "Thanksgiving Dinner" was pasta and fried platano (a type of banana but it´s not a banana it´s a platano). But pasta here isn´t like american pasta, it´s noodles with salty hamburger meat, and water. Don't worry the water is warm though. The day before, our mom made us super bomb beans and so I think she was a little worn out on cooking because it was one of our simplest lunches. So I just had a normal day, I didn't even buy a pony malta (but on saturday I bought one and drank the whole liter in one sitting). So I guess you could say I celebrated thanksgiving on saturday. for investigators we had a really good start of the week. We have been focusing on Viviana (baptism date for this saturday). At the start of the week we watched the 19 min video on the restoration and she was like "now I understand why you guys have talked so much about "the true church" and she said she´s received her answer that the church is true. She is so awesome. She also talked about how different her life would have been if she had grown up in the church and tons of other cool stuff. She´s been trying to quit smoking and has been going almost weeks at a time without smoking and hasn´t smoked since monday as far as we know. I say that because she hasn´t been answering our calls. The bad news is she didn´t go to church on sunday and has been declining our calls. We are going to drop by tonight and see what happened. Leidy and Paola and also Jasmin had dates for the 6th too, but they won´t be baptized, we have more work to do with them. 

It´s super hard when people stop progressing because I see the potential that they have. I feel like every person that we teach gets close to baptism and then just gives up and I´m really praying that that´s not the case with Viviana. She has so much potential. We´ll see how it goes, stay tuned. 

This week I have been attacking the scriptures so hard and it´s been awesome. I´ve been answering some questions that I´ve had for the last few months. The gospel makes more and more sense every day and I seriously love reading the scriptures which is kind of different than before the mission. Also I have been dabbling a little here and there with Jesus the Christ and it´s so good. 

In other news, I have been playing micro (soccer on a basketball court with smaller goals). It´s super fun but I´m super terrible. Did you guys know you can´t use your hands? like what kind of sport doesn´t use your hands? Do feet have thumbs? no. Then why are we using our feet? It´s whatever though I'm learning. Like I know what I should do, but I touch the ball and it does something else. I´m getting a lot better though. And I have 4 years until the next world cup so there´s plenty of time.

I hope everyone enjoys the start of december! I love christmas time, and even though it's super hot here year round, everyone has lights and decorations. You should all watch the he is the gift video and remember that God gave His son. It all comes down to that. He is the gift of christmas. I´m so grateful for our savior Jesus Christ. Well I hope you all enjoy singing your christmas carols and drinking hot chocolate. I've been singing my heart out in spanish because I love singing the christmas hymns. Take care everyone

Love Elder Downing

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cucuta Week 25

Happy thanksgiving. My last first thanksgiving in the mission, wow I´m almost finished. No one celebrates thanksgiving here, so to be honest I´m not too stoked for it, I´m probably just gonna buy a pony malta to celebrate (it's a type of soda that isn´t really like soda but kind of). I usually buy pony malta to celebrate events, but some times I just buy it on normal days and so I´m not really sure if it still counts as celebrating, but it´s an excuse to buy pony malta so that´s my holiday plan.

First things first, we have to address the important news. There´s an iphone 6?? Before the mission I wondered what iphone number they would be on when I came home. It's weird that it's already come out though. I don't think I'm gonna buy it though, I'm holdin out for the iphone 8, I hear it will have a hologram feature. Here in the mission we use a type of technology called books, it's pretty cool. Now over to Elderek with investigator news (newscaster voice)

We have the coolest investigator ever, Mateo. He´s 8. His Mom Viviana is super cool too. They have four church attendances in a row and are super awesome. Viviana smoked for 8 years but she is totally quitting right now. After we taught the word of wisdom she went four days without smoking, and relapsed, but then felt super sick for smoking. She's gonna kick that addiction in no time. Her dad flipped out because he's really antimormon but mateo totally stood up for his mom and was like "no grandpa I want to go to church, I´m going". Suit that boy up to join the sons of Helaman! He´s hilarious. But yeah, they have had a lot of adversities lately but they are still moving forward!

Adrian is an investigator too (his family is inactive) and his friend fernando is always with him so talking about adrian is basically talking about both of them. Adrian really wants to do whats right and help his family, he's a great kid. Fernando basically lives (or literally I'm not sure) with Adrian and he's super funny. They've attended church but the family hasn't so we're working to help them out.

Health report: I might have gotten chinkunguña last week. It´s a virus, the name comes from Africa and means "doubled over in pain". Everyone has it here. One day I counted and six out of the 7 families that we visited had at least one infected family member. But my case was super short and I didn't have all the symptoms so I might not have had it, we'll see if I get it in the future. So I have been a little sick the last two weeks with a few illnesses but it's all good, it's just my body. Staying healthy in this area is a challenge but I'm trying and I know the Lord is protecting me too (that´s why my case of chinkunguña was soft)

I'm so grateful for this gospel and for the opportunity to serve the people here and share it with them. We often forget that all that we have comes from God, from the ground we walk on to the bread on our tables. I hope we can all remember that and thank Him with our thoughts and actions! Im so thankful for all of you! (especially Kelly Orme who delivered my package to Bogotá, you are the best!).

Love Elder Downing

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cucuta Week 24

Ok so first of all, to those that have been writing me, I´m so sorry that I haven´t been able to write you back yet! But don't worry I am repenting. My area is Caobos 3 in Cucuta which means nothing to you guys but it's a super cool area! It´s way close to Venezuela (I saw Venezuela on Saturday in our zone leaders area [it wasn´t exchanges it was a stake activity] so that was cool [we were on a really high hill]). I´ve been told that Venezuela has the prettiest girls and that Colombia is second, so hypothetically, the girls here should be really pretty, but I haven´t looked at any yet. I´ll have to tell you next week. My area is really cool though, it's a about the same temperature as my last area, so kind of hot sometimes but not too bad. The streets are full of big trees and most of the houses are one story so the streets look kinda cool. We live in the area of another companionship (closer to downtown) and we have 4 missionaries in the apartment so it's way more fun. I taught Elder Ramos from Ecuador how to do the dougie and he is teaching me salsa. The 4th Elder (Valladares) is from Honduras but lived in the US for 10 years so I speak English every once in a while! My Spanish has improved a lot. I´ve realized that I haven't complained about my Spanish in a long time so it must be pretty decent! For real though, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments so I’ve been pretty stoked. There are still a lot of things I don´t understand though haha. On Sunday, I gave a talk and I didn´t even have to think about speaking it all just flowed out naturally. I didn't have time to prepare much, and so I had to finish in ward council before church haha. My habit of procrastinating in high school paid off. I spoke on faith and home (and visiting) teaching. It made sense, trust me. The ward is lacking in fellowshipping and visits and so I talked about that, and we have plans to work with the ward council. The people here are really receptive though. We started teaching a family this week (Leidy Calderon and her kids) and they have a baptism date for the 6th of December! She already received the answers to her prayers! The Lord has prepared that family and others for us, and I think we are going to have a lot of success here. I'll let you know about the details next week because I´m out of time! Love you guys!

Love Elder Downing

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Giron Week 23

First things first, my new area is Cùcuta! I leave in the afternoon, its way north by the Venezuelan border, and I hear that its way nicer than Giron. Giron is a little bit ghetto. I hear the people there are really receptive, it’s warm but not super hot, and everything there is cheap!! I’ll fill you guys in more next week. This week we had a lot of appointments fall through and we did a lot of walking. Yesterday we spent the whole night walking from house to house to house. The same happened on Halloween. All the kids dress up and trick or treat like in the states, so it was super fun to see them all. Viky's son, Estiven, dressed up as a missionary! That family will be eternal, I'm calling it. Rubiero said he doesn't want to get baptized. That family was so close, but whenever someone seems to get close to baptism, they fall. He says that he has too many problems (financial mostly) to move forward with marriage and baptism right now. I think there's a hidden problem though. His girlfriend Lizhet still wants to be baptized but can't because they live together and aren't married. Hopefully Elder Carballo can figure out what they need. The Valeck family accepted a baptism date for December 6th and they are super cool. We always visit them with members and so they know like 5 families. The only difficulty is they are super busy and involved, but I think Elder Carballo will be sending me baptism pictures soon. I'm a little sad to be leaving some of the people here, but I'm excited to start fresh and work hard in Cùcuta. I've learned so much in the four months that I've had here, I just hope I can apply it all. And I hope I like my companion, Elder Carballo has been awesome and it has been super easy to work and have fun with him. I like Bolivians. My next companion is Elder Olivo de Ecuador. I hope you are all doing well! 

Love Elder Downing
Happy Halloween!

Companion study

goodbye Giron!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Giron Week 22

Finally I had an interesting week! We preached the gospel a lot but there's some interesting stuff that happened too. I'll start with the good and finish with the depressing. We did a “service activity” that was presenting universal values to schools. I had to talk for 10 minutes on health without talking about the church or God or Christ or anything religious. The first school we went to had a group of about 70 kids between 15 and 17. there were no teachers to help us because they were in a meeting or something and so we had to sit them all down and they were all super rowdy during the presentation so it wasn't very good. A bunch got up and left during. And it was way more stressful because the mission president and his wife chose to watch our group of four out of the twelve groups. But he helped us out a lot so it was cool. The second school had about 100 10-12 year olds (mostly girls) and they were all super engaged it went really well at that school. When I said I was from the United States they all gasped, and afterward I gave about 15 autographs. I think they thought I was Justin Bieber or something. Ok, now time for the bad news. On monday we had everything planned for Lizeht and Rubeiro's baptism. From our activity we had raised the money to get their papers sent (we pulled some strings so we could get them mailed) and all they had to do was pay the money for the papers, set up a marriage date, and pay for the marriage. Four months of working my hardest every day had finally paid off. We were going to have a baptism before I left. Then they decided to spend the money that we earned for their marriage (and baptism) on other things. They didn't have any money left over to buy ingredients to make hamburgers for the ward, and they cancelled on everyone who had committed to help them (we planned two hamburger activities). So now they have no money to pay for the marriage. One of the things Rubiero used the money for was to look for a job which he found. So now the only chance is that maybe in the future they can save up the money. We can't ask for the help of the missionaries or members again because they already had it and misused it. My hopes were super high for them, but now i'm not even sure if Rubeiro wants to get baptized. We had a lesson at their neighbors house yesterday and he walked by without stopping or saying a word, and he looked pretty mad. Lizeht still wants to get baptized. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I was pretty discouraged from all of that. Alson, tons of our lessons fell through and we spent almost all of our time walking from house to house. Sunday something happened that changed my attitude. We went to visit Viky and we read a passage in the Book of Mormon. I could see how much her faith and love of God had grown and her desire to serve him. After the lesson, it came up in conversation that I'm probably leaving Giron next week. She got sad then after a little bit said “well you'll have to come back in December to baptize me.” I decided that even though I haven't baptized anyone yet, i've changed at least one life. And that's a pretty big deal. It's not very often that you get to change someone's life. And to say “change a life” is an understatement, because the happiness that comes from living the gospel is eternal. And even if all of our other investigators reject us tomorrow, it'll be okay because i'm confident that Viky will stay strong.
“Dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power, and then may we stand still with the utmost assurance to see the salvation of God, and that his arm be revealed” 
D&C 123:17
I'm enthusiastic about the work again, and working hard. I might not have had the best numbers here in Giron but I know the Lord is pleased. I know I was meant to serve here, and ti'm going to miss a lot of these people. It's been my home for the last four months and i've changed a lot in my time here. I hope my next area is cool. If I don't write next week, don't worry. Chances are I'll be traveling and won't get to write. But if I don't write for the next two weeks, that means I probably got dengue fever. I get like 6 mosquito bites every day. So stay tuned. For real though, I'm really blessed because I haven't even gotten a little sick. Well, I'll talk to you all on Nov 10th when I have a new area and comp and house and stuff.
Love Elder Downing

PS I ate cow stomach and intestine soup

Monday, October 27, 2014

Giron Week 21

We had a super awesome week! First I need to fill you in on Lizeht and Rubeiro. We have ben planning an activity to raise money for their marriage, and we realized that we could sell burgers at a multi zone meeting that we had (two zones to be less dramatic). This morning they sold 30 hamburgers and earned the cash they needed! Stay tuned for baptism. They scared me yesterday though. They didnt come to church, and We tried passing by twice and got rejected. His mom is here for the week and told us he doesn't want to go forward with this. His neighbor is the elders quorom president and he passed by and told us the same thing. I was praying super hard that Rubeiro would remember the personal testimonies that he has received, and later that night he called us. We made plans for the activity today, and he said for sure he wants to get baptized. He just had cold feet I guess. But Giron is typically hot, so they warmed up again pretty quick. In other news, my zone leader is from Murrieta! Crazy right? I found out when we were bowling today and we were both freaking out. Also he played water polo for two years, so that means I played his team. He went to vista. I drank beat carrot juice and it was an experience. Sometimes I wonder if it's better to eat healthy or just die young. Speaking of health, I'm giving a 10 min speech in front of about 500 kids about health. We are presenting to a bunch of different schools here about health, family, charity, and honor the law. So pretty cool I guess. Ill let you know how it went and give more detail next week. I got completely airborn in the bus today from hitting a bump (since wednesday, I have taken the bus 14 times). Also there was a scary dog on one of the buses this week, so that was cool. Love and miss you all.

Love Elder Downing

Granadilla jack-o-lantern

Giron Week 20

Ok, so I decided to write a more in depth letter on my life as a missionary because 1. You asked, and 2. I like when people write me in depth letters. So I’ll go through my daily routine and add special commentary. I’ll fill you in a little more on my thoughts and feelings throughout the day. We’re told that we’re not supposed to become occupied or think too much about home, that we need to be consecrated and fully dedicated to the work, I have mixed feelings about that though. Obviously we need to be fully devoted to the work but how am I supposed to not think about home. I spent 19 years with my family and friends, how am I not supposed to think about them a lot and worry about them? It’s not like I’m homesick or anything (my first week or two I was a little bit) it’s just that I think about you guys, I think about a lot of stuff. Okay quick side note, I get random inspiration and funny thoughts a lot, and I write them all down in a notebook, and I already have a bunch of funny ideas, I’m gonna hit twitter and social media so hard when I get back. Okay coming back from the side note. In the mornings I’m usually tired and don’t think about much, but when I do, I usually think about you guys at home. Sometimes I’m way tired and I’ll do really easy exercises since we’re supposed to exercise but I don’t want to. For real, I’ve gotten pretty good at jump roping. For breakfast I’ll usually eat something really fast, either egg sandwiches, pb&j, pasta, oatmeal (oats water and sugar), or hot dogs, I have to eat cheap food, and food I can make quickly, so I don’t eat super well, but well enough. I’m pretty adjusted to the food and juices here. Like I always enjoy lunch now, and sometimes I enjoy it a lot, the worst thing I ate recently was a super huge pork rind which is fried pig skin and fat. So basically a giant piece of pure fat and un-cuttable, un-chewable pig skin. But the rest of that lunch was so bomb. Personal study is probably my favorite part of the day. I wish it was 3 hours longer, no joke. I’m really grateful that I’ve developed a love for the scriptures, because before, I honestly didn’t have it. But now I love reading in the Book of Mormon, Bible, or in Jesus the Christ. I’ve only read the first 4 or 5 chapters but it’s so good and I’ve learned a lot already. You should really read it. I guess study might be a better word than read in that sentence. It’s full of references and I study most of the scripture references too so I’m not moving through it very quickly but I’m increasing my knowledge and teaching skills a lot. I study that book a lot when I have free time (sometimes I’ll have 15 min free time before bed). But yeah my favorite time is personal study. Honestly, that means that my day isn’t that fun. And honestly it’s not, its hard work that only stops for a few hours every Monday. I can’t go to the beach with my friends or go to a roller rink, dance party, and abandoned unfinished building to explore with my friends in all the same night. The mission isn’t as fun as the last two years of my life, but that should be obvious. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have fun though. I try to enjoy myself in each moment. It’s important that we remember though that fun isn’t happiness. Work and obedience often bring more happiness than dance parties. Already I’ve developed skills, habits, knowledge and faith that I know will affect the rest of my life and be a huge blessing. I can see that I’m laying the foundation for the rest of my life. I can see myself changing from being here in the mission, and even though I’m still “me” I’m different than when I started. I can’t say I wish the mission would never end. I’m looking forward to coming home (in the distant future) and being able to do normal things with my friends and family, of course only after I finish what the lord has commanded. I hope I get to the point where I don’t want to go home. It’s not that I want to leave, I’m very happy and comfortable here (Giron feels like home now) but I do want to go home (when the time comes). Hopefully the mission will become “the best two years” like people say and not just “the two most important crucial, drastically life changing years”. After studies we proselyte. My companion is super awesome. I do most of the planning, calls, guide the lessons, and stuff because I know the area and people but he works hard, teaches well, and is obedient, and he’s cool and super easy to live with. We have a good amount of members and families that accompany us in lessons. The ward actually relies on the missionaries too much. People come up to me in church (while we’re busy with investigators) and are like “Elders I need a blessing” then we say “have you talked to your home teachers, the Elders Quorum President, or the Bishop?” “no”. There are other examples too, like when we had to take on 4 responsibilities for a ward activity that had already been assigned but incomplete, so we had to try and do everything last second. We have good support though. Teaching isn’t hard anymore. Converting is super hard, but I’ve gotten way better at teaching and it’s not really a problem anymore (but still trying to improve every day). Seriously though, converting is so hard. Working 24/7 for four months, and I have for sure converted one person (well Jairo did [Viky’s boyfriend] but I did a lot of teaching to help) and Lizeht and Rubiero are at the testing point, so in about two weeks we will see if they are converted (hopefully I can finally have a baptism. I don’t say that for that stats but because if someone is baptized it is because they are ready and have been converted). So yeah, it’s a little discouraging that I have nothing to show for my work, and normally a South American town like Giron would have a lot of baptisms from what I understand. I might as well be in Germany. I might as well be in Germany in the 1940’s if I want to be really dramatic. It’s a little discouraging, but don’t worry I’m still working my hardest. If you guys freak out about the difficulties I have, I have to act like everything is rainbows all the time, so please never worry (feel free to give advice though). Yes, I’m being obedient and working hard and I don’t love EVERY one but I’m trying to (advice besides those things). The companion really is good though so things aren’t too hard. Sometimes he can be a little moody and hard to work with but I think that’s normal. Usually we’re good and we’re never bad. I wonder what things I do wrong because I know I’m not a perfect companion but I feel like I’m pretty easy to deal with. And that brings us to nighttime. We plan, eat, and sleep. My bed is pretty crappy because it is a metal frame with wood planks laid across, and the mattress lies on the planks, but the planks always fall through and that makes the bed super lumpy. If I put the planks back its comfy again though. I get destroyed by mosquitos. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night because my bites itch and hurt so bad, and I can hear the mosquitos buzzing around my ears. I’m going to buy a mosquito net (we were told we have to) but don’t worry, my faith acts as an antidote to dengue fever. Usually I sleep with the fan on and that helps. But yeah Giron is pretty Ghetto. Two blocks away there are little shack houses made out of boards and a tin roof. The drinking water is super clean (well I guess toilet water too) because Bucaramanga 40 minutes away has a lot of rich people. This week we preached the gospel. At the beginning of the week we had an inspiring zone conference (for real it was cool) and we got our new schedule for kiosks. We have been spending a lot of time in Bucaramanga standing by our sign waiting for people to be interested in the restored gospel. We have been working hard in the area but people progress and fall and progress and fall again. July has fallen pretty bad. Wendy and Nelson are on the decline (but not for long) and Lizeht and Rubiero are on the incline, trying to get married and baptized, but they’re getting hit by problems and so the next few weeks will determine if they fall or get baptized. But one person (Viky) hasn’t fallen so I’m happy about that. Converting people is way harder than they made it sound. The gospel is so great, I don’t know why people aren’t lining up in from of the baptismal font. It’s kind of the opposite though. One of our investigators hit their kid with a belt for letting us inside. She wasn’t very discrete about it. She cancelled the lesson because her husband “was working” but we were close, so we stopped by to make another appointment and the kid invited us in because the dad was home. Then he got beat, poor kid. They were some of our better investigators too. The other stories of rejection aren’t as interesting, but there are many. In other news I got brainfreezes twice this week from my shower. I thought it was pretty funny actually. This week we got a temporary cell phone, while we wait to get our old one back. The screen is shattered and completely destroyed, and the battery life is pretty bad but I was way stoked to have a cellphone again. Another funny story, our power went out for about 13 hours, so I made dinner by stovelight. Stovelight is like candlelight but funnier. I really like living in Giron though, its heat, ghettoness, and mosquitos have grown on me for some reason. It’s almost as if having a lot of money and nice things isn’t the key to happiness. I don’t now man it’s weird. This week I’ve been doing some reflection and scripture-reading and I’ve learned that people are wrong when they say we don’t have to be perfect. People always say “you don’t have to be perfect” but really Christ teaches “be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect” Matthew 5:48. A few other scriptures drew my attention and teach the same principle- 3 Nephi 27:27, John 13:15. A lot of the time we think we are fine because we don’t do really bad things, but the commandment is more, it’s to be perfect. Perfect in faith, hope, charity, love, virtue, knowledge, patience, humility, diligence, and obedience. This week I realized that we need to be improving every day for the rest of our lives, always, learning and repenting. Repentance is so awesome. I’m so glad we can repent all the time and keep improving. Well I guess I already knew that, but the importance of it really hit me this week. Before I was like oh yea, ok sure, perfect, got it. But this week I was like wow Jesus is serious here, he wants us to be perfect. But it makes sense, he didn’t pay for our sins so we can stay the same and say “well no one’s perfect” but so that we can become like him. Well, that’s my though of the week, I hope it doesn’t make you stressed. The mission life is treating me well though, it’s fun and I don’t know why. I shouldn’t be happy when I have to stand by a sign for hours but I am. It’s almost like the key to happiness isn’t partying and never working, I don’t know man it’s weird. Love you guys, and miss you (most of you [not Sammie]
Love Elder Downing

Almost forgot, on Thursday, after 6:30 pm we had to be in the house because it was “day of the women” or Woman’s day” and it was illegal for men to be in the street, only in our region though. Pretty weird right? One more request is that it’s fun to read in your weekly letters about news or trends like the ice bucket challenge or that Pau Gasol left the Lakers. I’m pretty cut off here, so little things like that are always fun.

Giron Week 19

We preached the gospel this week. And we watched conference! This week was pretty normal, not a lot of huge progress or losses. We are planning an activity to raise money for Lizhet and Rubeiro’s wedding. ($40 to be precise) and they are doing super well. Our other investigators testimonies aren’t quite as strong, but we’re trying to get them there. I leave November 3rd (97% sure) and it doesn’t seem like anyone else will be ready for baptism before I leave, but I know that’s not the important thing. I really wish I could be here for Viky’s baptism, because she is super awesome. Speaking of awesome did you guys watch conference? So much spiritual knowledge and goodness that my brain couldn’t contain it all, it was dripping out of my ears. Wasn’t it cool that they gave talks in other languages? The Latinos were like “wow I must have the gift of tongues, I understood that whole talk and no one translated it.” I really liked Elder Christofferson’s talk on responsibility and how we are responsible for our actions and that we can’t avoid the punishments of sin,. I loved how he said that resenting gravity won’t save you from falling off a cliff. I think elder Klebinget’s comments on whole hearted obedience were really good too, when he said that you can’t watch a bad movie and feel good that you didn’t watch a really bad one. I also liked his comments on the relation between physical wellbeing and spiritual confidence (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Elder Christofferson also had some interesting comments that helped lead up to Elder Hollands talks. He said that it is God’s will that we are free from sin and poverty, and that we need to take responsibility and go to work. You guys already know that Elder Hollands talk on poverty and charity was super good, I thought it was cool that fasting was talked about so much. It was also cool that the first three talks on Sunday focused so much on the prophet. Another cool theme in multiple talks was time management. Tons of super cool things to apply in my life, I just hope I can remember them all. In other news I got a haircut. My companion said my haircut makes me look like I’m 16. Well, he didn’t actually say that, but that would be the closest English translation. My companion is super cool. If you take a letter out of his last name, it means horse. And get this…. His first name is Rider. I hope you all enjoy October, I made Jack-o-lantern out of granadillas (fruit) to celebrate.

Love Elder Downing

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Giron Week 18

Ok so first let me start with my companion. He’s super chill and relaxed, but he’s not boring. He’s funny too but he’s not crazy like Elder Torres. And he’s really organized. I don’t think we’ll have any conflicts. There’s been a huge difference in the last week. During my training, I was more like a shadow than a missionary (mostly my fault). A shadow that doesn’t speak Spanish well. But now that Elder Torres left and Elder Carballo doesn’t know anyone or where anything is, I’ve been taking the lead in everything. Like I think I’m ready to be assistant to the President. But for real I’ve been working super hard and now I’m a real missionary who doesn’t speak Spanish well. It’s been really rewarding and really difficult and stressful. I have been praying a lot for the Lord’s help and that I can be capable of continuing the work in my area, and I’ve seen that the promise in Ether 12:27 is true “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Honestly, in one night I’ve seen many of my weaknesses become strengths, and I know that the Lord is supporting me. It’s even easier to see the Lord’s hand in the lives of our investigators. One of our investigators Viky (isn’t baptized yet because she lives with her member boyfriend) accompanied us in a lesson and helped us teach. She’s like a completely different person now. Her scriptures are more marked than mine. She has wedding and baptism plans for after I leave though *tear*. We’re working on getting the papers for Lizet and Rubiero so they can get married too. And Nelson and Wendy. We’re trying to marry everyone out here. Something cool about this week is we don’t have a cell phone. It got sent to Bogota with the group of missionaries. We have to make all of our calls at roadside stands which made things even harder but the worst part is that it’s expensive. All my money has gone towards phone calls and transportation (on Monday I took 8 taxis) so I’m probably going to run out of money and get skinny. Just kidding I’m already skinny. Also kidding because I have a reserve fund. I have  problem much bigger than not having a cell phone or money (relax mom, I have a reserve fund), and it’s called language study. I’m not very happy with my Spanish, I feel like it should be better, and so I’m trying to study hard every day for an hour. Language study always makes me super tired. Lunch always makes me super tired too. Aaannnd  now we’ve been told we have to do language study after lunch, instead of in the morning. So now it’s more of a battle against my eyelids. But we’ll see how things go. Some interesting things, I watch my companion while I’m sleeping. Because of the angle of my bed and because I sleep with my eyes open I keep 24 hour surveillance on that boy. Maybe, if I angle my books right, I can study Spanish in my sleep. I’d like to dedicate this next part of my letter to my mom. Hey mom. Every week my mom says to follow all the rules so the Lord will protect me. Relax mom, I’m find I can take care of myself. I don’t need rules to be safe here, Colombia is known for its safety. Don’t worry, we follow the rules still though, so we can have baptisms and convert everyone. To close I would like to share a scripture. Genesis 9: 20-25 is super funny. After the whole are and flood thing, Noah decides to grow a vineyard. One day he gets drunk and passes out naked then he wakes up and curses his son. The Bible is awesome guys, you should read it more. And the Book of Mormon. One part of the Book of Mormon that I really like is when Alma is giving advice to his sons. In chapter 36:1,30 chapter 37:13 chapter 38:1 he teaches “inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God, ye shall prosper in the land”. I love these scriptures because we are teaching a lot of people with a lot of problems, and Alma makes it so clear, if we keep the commandments, we’ll prosper. It’s not just “you’ll be ok” or “you’ll be fine”. Alma is really wise, it’s like he’s a prophet or something. Well, I’m gonna go make some hot dogs. Stay tuned till next time.

Love Elder Downing

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Giron Week 17

Cambios! Which means transfers! Actually it means changes, but I think in English they call them transfers. My assignment is....drum roll.... the same! I'm staying in Giron for another 6 weeks and after that I'll likely get kicked out. My trainer, Elder Torres, went to Bogotà this morning to go be a zone leader or something. My new companion (hasn't arrived yet) is Elder Carballo from Bolivia. I hear he's really short, cool, and pretty relaxed. So basically everything you could ask for in a companion. He has been working in the mission office as a secretary, so he's probably gonna be super stoked to baptize everybody. He probably also has glasses, because I'm pretty sure that's a requirement to be a secretary. To be honest, I'm a little unsure about carrying on the burden of the area, being that I'm still learning how to speak Spanish, but then I remind myself that I can rely on that Lord and then I'm like wow this is too easy. I'm glad to be staying in Giron though, because there are a lot of people that I still haven't baptized. But really, I have some awesome investigators there and they are progressing super well. And if I stay, I don't have to learn my way around a new area. But mostly, it's that seeing those people progress in the gospel and change their lives makes me really happy, I hope that when I have to leave, everyone is either baptized, or not progressing, because then it'll be super easy to go. Just kidding kind of. Lizet and Rubiero changed their minds again and said they wanted to get married, and I think it's for sure this time (probably). The same with Nelson and Wendy (they have very American names). The big difficulty is still marriage here. And from what I hear, all South American missions. It's super cool though that we have an in with the government. We keep the kiosks for the mission in the top story of the government building that does all legal documents and marriages. The guy in charge there is LDS as well as basically everyone else (don't tell anyone but we are taking over the government here). One funny story about doing kiosks to close- there was a homeless guy who makes a perfect meowing cat in distress noise. He would point up in the trees after making the sound and the people walking by would stop and look for the cat stuck in the tree. It was super funny. The church is true!

Love Elder Downing

Giron Week 16

So this week we preached the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. In the beginning of the week we had a ton of progress. July committed to be baptized on Saturday, Lizet and Rubiero decided to get married, and Anna (mom of two kids) said she wanted to keep coming to church because she wants her family to have the gospel. On Monday we went to visit July and Mai (her six year old daughter) was laying on the couch shaking and moaning because she was sick. We gave her a blessing (blessings are hard because you have to use a different verb tense and vocab that I still don’t know), and after the blessing she was walking around perfectly fine. It was a super awesome experience. The power of the priesthood is real. The next day, she was running around outside too. When Lizet and Rubiero said they wanted to be married and keep the commandments, we were like “alright we’ll call our people.” The church basically controls the government building that handles documents. We called up our boys and they sent a special request for us to get their papers taken care of. So basically I’m like a cartel boss but instead of pulling government strings to break the law, I pull government strings to keep the laws of God. So the start of the week was super good, but…. Everything fell this weekend. July chose not to get baptized because her boyfriend said she shouldn’t, Lizet and Rubiero are fighting over financial problems (big ones) and didn’t come to church because they were fighting (marriage plans halted), and Anna didn’t go to church either (oh I forgot to say July didn’t go).  Sooo,… no we’re farther behind than we were a week ago and we had 6 less investigators at church. I know that this is where I need to be, and that I’m doing the Lord’s work, so I’m not getting discouraged or anything. I think I’m going to trade my companion for a new one next week though and see if that helps (next week I get a new Latino). Last  P-day we raced go karts in our district (the zone leaders are in my district) and it was super funny because my companions tie got stuck in the chain and it was pulling him into the motor and destroyed his tie. Super funny. Also we ate super bomb pizza. This p-day all we did was clean though (woohoo). We no longer have maggots on the floor though so that’s good (it was really dirty). Shout out to anyone who is still reading my letters (not Lacey), I’ll try and have something crazy happen next week to keep things interesting.

Love Elder Downing

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Giron Week 15

We had a super good week this week. A lot of progress in a lot of people so we’re pretty stoked. We had 8 investigators attend church which is a record for me! (In my ten weeks of experience) and it was super awesome but we had a little problem. We couldn’t be with all of our investigators at once, and there were times when they were just sitting by themselves. No one from the ward really talked to them so I don’t know how welcome they felt. The story of meeting Anna though was super cool. We got a reference from a member in another ward and went to the house because the phone number didn’t work, and we rang the bell and five seconds later she comes up the sidewalk “oh I had the feeling you would be here, so I left work”. She listens to the promptings of the spirit and so we’re probably going to baptize her. Also Lizet (young couple) had a vision about the Book of Mormon. She had a dream where she received the answer that it’s the word of God (like Viky did). We’re probably going to baptize her and her husband I think. Also, July went to church again, and she committed to live the law of tithing. We’re still working to increase her faith in the Sabbath and not working on Sunday, but I think we’re going to baptize her. Not everyone progressed though. We’re teaching a young pregnant girl who lives with an inactive member who we’re reactivating as well. They fight a lot and so to try and bring a positive mood before talking about marriage my companion asked the guy to say 2 nice things about his girlfriend. He said he couldn’t think of anything. After trying multiple times, he still wouldn’t say even one nice thing. Soooo they have a long way to come. A lot of people have been asking me about Shakira. Obviously, there isn’t anything between us because I am dedicated to the Lord, but she did say she’ll wait for me. News from this week is that I saw two white guys in the same day! I think I’ve seen five total. One of the two walked by with his Colombian girlfriend while we were doing kiosks (standing in the street) and he was like “how’s in goin buddy? “as he walked by. It was weird. I’m doing pretty decently at understanding, instead of getting destroyed I’m just getting beat up. Now it’s more like getting hit by a Honda civic instead of a semi-truck. I’m pretty adjusted to the food now too. I’m liking the raw onion salads now, but juice made with blended orange and lemon peel is still an experience. It’s weird that everyone is starting school again because here the school year starts in February and ends in November. Hope everyone’s doing well! Let me know if there’s anything you want to hear more about. Yes I’m still skinny (my testimony is still way jacked now though).

Love Elder Downing

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Giron Week 14

Week 9 of training was pretty solid. We were supposed to have a baptism last Saturday but that fell through (probably permanently) at the start of last week, but the good news is that we just set two new baptism dates with two young families. I’m pretty sure there’s a saying about situations like this. Something like “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush”. Actually though, I wouldn’t even want a bird in my hand. Here there are a ton of fat nasty vultures everywhere and I definitely would rather have them in the bushes than touch them. This week we worked a lot with July. Her problem has been “keep the Sabbath day holy” because she’s trying to support her 3 young daughters. This week we had a super bomb lesson about the Sabbath and the spirit was at level 10 for sure. We read 3 Nephi 13: 31-33 (so bomb) and we bore our testimonies about trusting in the Lord at the end and everybody was crying (except me). July, my companion and the catholic mom cried and I was trying to cry but I’m so manly it’s hard for me. The spirit was so strong though it was crazy. And on Sunday *drum roll* she went to church! *stage rises out of the ground and Queen is performing “We are the Champions”* *Jets fly overhead doing aerial formations but they’re actually transformers and they transform and land next to the stage and start shooting fireworks into the air out of their cannons* But also she said if she has the chance to work Sundays she’ll take it *decepticons charge in and break the stage and start fighting the other transformers* So we’re working with her to increase her faith to keep that commandment. But besides that she’s doing super well. To sum up the difficulty with everyone else – marriage. Well some investigators are married but they live with different people and not their spouses, so they have to get divorced and married which is way more difficult. The food this week has been pretty good. Especially the food we buy on the street. Empanadas and papas are so deliciously delicious. An empanada is a ball of meat, rice, and egg (there are other types but that type is the best) covered in dough and fried. Papas are similar but instead of covering it in dough they cover it in mashed potatoes. The bread from the bakeries is super bomb too. There are little bakeries all over. Something funny this week is that my companion is practicing words that sound like swear words so that he doesn’t accidentally swear. So he’s been accidentally swearing all week and it’s hilarious. Also, I found out that his eyelashes are so long because his mom cut them when he was a kid (I think just once). Also, when it was raining we got drenched by buses driving by and spraying us with the water puddled in the streets. It makes me laugh because of how cliché it is. Thanks everyone who hasn’t forgotten me yet, especially the ones who send pictures. Hope you’re all safe (heard there was an earthquake in CA)

Love Elder Dāonin

Break away turtle that stopped traffic. Super funny to me I hope you think so too.

Giron Week 13

Last week we preached the gospel. Like super hard. We had a really good week though. We've sifted through a handful of new investigators and two young couples are progressing a lot in little time and I'm ready to go swimming. Nelson is inactive but we started meeting with him and his pregnant 17 year old girlfriend and he came they came to church  this Sunday and are really excited to have the gospel in their life again. He was like "I want Wendy to be baptized and I want to raise my son in the church because I know that's what our family needs" and I was about to do a backflip because I was so stoked but then I remembered they have to get married first and so I just did a 360, but I am still stoked about them actually. July quit her job and can come to church now. Her daughters are super funny and the oldest one (6) made me a picture, which in kid language means homies for life. So yeah I'm pretty stoked about that too. Life is awesome. If you guys are ever sad you should just decide to be stoked because that's what I do and it's way more fun. Personal update, I'm doing fantastic health wise. And my nails are the nicest they've ever been. A lot of people overlook nail care but not me anymore. Speaking of girly things that guys should do too, purses are so awesome. I have a "shoulder bag" and it's super manly and I look awesome in it but I'm not gonna lie, it's a purse. It's so convenient though I can take everything with me wherever I go and it's right at my hip. Guys, women have been holding out on us, you've got to try these. The food has been pretty basic this week (I ate some rice) but the juice has been a little rowdy. Two different times I had juice that was made by blending the whole fruit including the peel. Orange peel juice is something else man. Well I have twenty minutes to read and respond to mail so I'm cuttin it short. Love you guys!
Elder Downing

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Giron Week 12

So last P-day I didn't get to read much or write anything. My companion wasn't ready to leave until 5 and the internet cafe across the street didn't have 2 computers side by side that were open, nor did the next 5 places we checked. After 40 minutes we found another that we could use and after updating numbers and writing the president I had 7 minutes (we have to leave at 6). I was kinda mad (not at anyone but just at the situation) but kinda mad is a lot for me. The last time I was kind of mad was February. Speaking of emotionally difficult, kiosks this week were especially hard. We had a total of 5 hours standing by a sign trying to talk to people, and I only had 1 reference. My companion had 3 (he had more because his eyelashes are way nicer). Well actually I had 3 references too, but 2 of them were bogus. The cool thing about doing kiosks though is you get to meet a wide variety of people. Some people are kind of crazy and will just go off on rants about stuff. It's really funny. We've seen some pretty crazy stuff doing kiosks. Speaking of rants, we contacted a reference, and within 2 minutes (literally) she decided to tell us her whole life story and talked for an hour and a half uninterrupted. I spaced out for a solid 40 minutes thinking about Star Wars. Darth Vader should have been like “Luke, your mom was my girlfriend” instead of “I am your father” because that is a way bigger diss. We had another interesting lesson with a family that we started teaching recently. We were having a super bomb lesson, the spirit was at level 10, and the dad came home drunk, left again, came back with bags of chips for us, then tried to participate in the lesson and shook our hands 50 times. He is a super awesome guy (drunk and sober) but what was funny was that before he never wanted to pray and had a hard time praying but when he was drunk he offered to pray and gave a super enthusiastic prayer, said amen, and hugged me. So now when an investigators doesn't want to pray.... we teach them the importance of communicating with our father in heaven. Oh you thought I was going to say something else? Speaking of alcohol, July still works in a bar and is no longer progressing. Lame. Viky and Jairo (both super awesome) are doing really well and are talking about maybe getting married which would allow Viky to be baptized (since she can't find her own place). Another cool thing, the Gelves family is trying to get married. The dad is married to someone else, and so we offered to call and ask her thoughts on divorcement. The daughter answered and the conversation was a little awkward “oh your mom's not home?... We're calling oh behalf of your dad... he's living with another woman and wants to divorce your mom so he can marry her... can you tell her we called?” Seriously no one is married. The last two weeks have been hard because a lot of people have stopped progressing. We work super hard to get people to come to church, but Viky is the only one in the last two or three weeks. We're trying to figure out a way to take away their agency so we can make them go to church. Ha jk. It's rough when you put so much work into helping someone and their family, and you want them to have the same blessings that you and your family have but their progress fades away. Even though we haven't had a lot of success lately, I'm trying to stay focused on the potential that these people have. In one of our lessons the relief society president (super awesome) talked about her conversion and how much the gospel has changed and blessed her life. It got me so stoked I want to baptize the whole world. It's pretty hard to baptize the whole world though. It's stressful to be a missionary, there's a lot of pressure. You have to teach well and make the right commitments. You shouldn't teach the wrong thing, or teach it in the wrong way, or forget to make the right commitments, but you also shouldn't make the wrong ones. And it's all in Spanish. And you have to act the right way, and think and talk the right way. I've heard that you're ready to be a missionary when you're going home. It's hard to do all that stuff but the better you do it, the more you help the people. I'm trying to strip myself of all my normal human aspects and be more like a robot. Baptizatron 3000. Preachomatic 500. Just kidding I'm not trying to be a robot. I'm just trying to act like one. Okay now it's time for funny unimportant things about Colombia. To trim their trees and bushes they use machetes and just chop away. The dogs here are super racist. They never even look at my companion and always freak out at me. It's to the point where my companion will bark and growl so they'll get all worked up, but they don't get mad at him, they get mad at me. A term of endearment here is fatty. It's most common for the guys to call their girlfriends fatty but the women do it too. The worst part is that they only use it for chubby people. Like that's messed up right? I guess not here, they use it all the time. A few days ago I wasn't that stoked because it was a hard week but then I remembered that life is awesome and I was stoked again. Keep the commandments and always remember to be happy, and life is awesome. Read the scriptures every day (minimum 3 hours). Share the gospel with your friends and not friends. Love you guys. Send pictures with your emails. Also, send emails.

Love Elderek Downing
nightly planning

Sleeping Beauty

Sweatshirt because it was almost cold

Us trying to be angels (not a baptism)

Our ward activity (to Hawaii)

My street

On a Colombian bus

Playing Ping Pong

Lost in Ping Pong


Don't look at girls

Couldn't pick a tie

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Giron Week 11

I realized my letters are going to start to get really boring. “Yeah we preached the gospel this week…. Like every other week…” I have news though! *drum roll*… I got cold! It was awesome! So I’ve adjusted pretty decently to the heat and the other day it poured and I was cold! I wore a sweatshirt to celebrate (photo not included [just kidding it’s included]). Well that’s all that happened this week, see you later. This last week I realized the Book of Mormon is the solution to everything. July needs to find new work, she needs a miracle, miracles happen when we have faith, how do we help her gain more faith? Reading the Book of Mormon, BOOM! Jorge has an addiction, he needs to build his foundation on Jesus Christ (metaphor) to have the strength to overcome his addiction, how can he do this you ask? Oh let me tell you, it’s by reading the Book of Mormon. Seriously guys it’s a super good book why aren’t you reading it more? It’s like the word of God revealed through the prophets. There’s a huge change in investigators when they read. One of our investigators had a straight up vision (revelation through dreaming) about the Book of Mormon which was super rad. She’s progressed so much in the last few weeks she’s like a different person, at least to me. The awesome things like that outweigh the hard parts by a lot. And whenever it’s hard, I just tell myself that this is payment for an attractive wife. And who knows, maybe if I suffer enough I can rig like a Jessie Alllegretti or Hannah Willes or something. I told you guys how we sing hymns and change the lyrics to complain, but also we change the lyrics to popular songs to sing about the gospel, it’s way funnier. For example “we are the Elders” by Queen (we are the champions) “no time for the sisters, cuz we are the Elderssss…. Of Colombiaaaa” we sing a lot. Oh and I remembered something. Someone tell Lacey, since she probably doesn’t read this, that she needs to have a kid. Like I don’t want excuses. I’ve made up my mind. The other day I saw a 2 month old baby and it wasn’t fun at all. I don’t want to be the uncle of a baby that just lays down all day, so have a kid soon so it can get out of the drooling blob phase while I’m gone. Lindsey, you too. The other day we had an activity in the church that was pretty decent. “Trip to Hawaii” we simulated a plane (we gave all the directions like fasten your seatbelts and if you need to vomit, vomit on the person to your right… in Spanish and then in English like they do on planes and roller coasters and stuff so it was funny) then they had some fun activities but on the plane ride back, the plane crashed. Sacrament attendance is going to be way down because half the ward died. Then we taught about the plan of salvation and the importance of our actions on earth (in Hawaii). Buuuut it was a little unorganized because some ward leaders didn’t do what they were supposed to and we were rushing around trying to run everything. My companion still hasn’t come down from the stress. It actually turned out fine but we were so busy we didn’t get the info of the nonmembers there (our whole purpose at the activity). Soooo we didn’t have any new investigators like we could have but what can you do? We also went to a school. We said to an investigator “is there anything we can do to help you?” and for some reason he took the question seriously and was like “yeah help me with my activity at my school” so we watched about 80 4th and 5th graders sing some songs and we presented ourselves and talked about the differences between our countries “yeah it’s called carpet, it’s like hair that comes out of the floor” it was an interesting morning. We also had an interesting lesson with a Jehovah’s Witness. We got a reference and went to check it out, found out he was Jehovah’s Witness (not a problem, there are tons of super cool JW’s) but long story short we ended up leaving abruptly mid lesson. Another funny story, the kiosks that we use are pretty breakable, and one broke and we’re waiting for a replacement part. While we were setting up ours, I was singing “Don’t worry, about a thing, cause every little kiosk, is gonna break” like the Bob Marley song aaaand a part broke while I was singing that. But we had a replacement part in the church so it was fine. And the most important news of all is…. I’ve finished my first cambio! I think it’s called an exchange or something like that but to be honest I don’t know. But wooohooo! 42 days in the field, only 588 more! I bought a Dr Pepper to celebrate. I’ve learned a ton in these 6 weeks and even though I’m still terrible at speaking and teaching and everything else, it’s way easier than it was 6 weeks ago. Before it was like getting hit by a semi, now it’s only an F-150. Ok well to close, I’ll see if I have anything else interesting? One of my favorite things for lunch is rice with ketchup. We always have rice but sometimes if you’re lucky they put ketchup on it. There are tons of shirts with sayings in English. But no one knows what they say but me. A lot of them have terrible grammar or spelling or don’t even make sense and it’s really funny. Miss you guys. Keep America strong. Preach the gospel.

Love Elder Downing

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Giron Week 10

I realized I might have broken a rule and I debated sending myself home but I decided it’s better to just fix it. I’m not supposed to write anything negative about my areas and I realized that I might have made my area sound bad but it’s super awesome. There are some poorer areas but there are way more nice houses and areas than poor. A lot of the houses have painted walls too. I’ve been asked about my daily routine a lot even though I already told you guys (preach the good word) so I’ll expand. It takes me about 15 minutes to gain consciousness and put my shoes on then I have 15 minutes to make myself tired again (exercise) then I have 30 minutes to scratch my hairs off with tiny knives and stand under a tiny waterfall, then 30 minutes to pick which tie I want to wear, eat a sandwich and drink milk from a bag. Then we either have weekly planning, a meeting of some sort, church, or 4 hours of studying sacred texts and other materials (espanish). Then we go eat some rice and weird juice with a member family and then we preach the good word for about 8 hours. It’s pretty rad. Oh, I forgot to say I’m super good at rope jumping now. I jump rope every day, so I’m practically a professional boxer except I’m not jacked and I don’t punch people in the face. We do a lot of walking. A lot. It’s cool though because it gives us time to practice our beat boxing. We’ve gotten a lot closer in the last week or two which makes everything more fun. It’s awesome because his English is good enough that we can make jokes in public without other people knowing. Things are really good between us. He hasn’t been making me tie his shoes or do his laundry the last few days so I’d say we’re pretty solid. Even though everything here is super bomb, there is one big problem. No one is married. Like no one. We have a bunch of investigators that are progressing super well but live in a “free union” which is against the law of chastity. I’m thinking about hiring a priest to come to lessons with us and marry everyone. Two problems actually. July, who was progressing really well and had a baptism date for the 30th of August, was looking for work and found it. Yeah, woohoo, good job July! Supporting your family as a single mom of three, you go girl!... What…? You work in a bar and work during church? NOOOOOOoooooooo! Aaand so we have that minor problem but we’re working and praying for a miracle, yes miracles exist. I have them all the time because I have tons of faith. Time for the weekly update on my Spanish… *news reporter* “This just in, Derek is still getting destroyed by Spanish” *guy in business meeting pointing at a graph* “And from this graph we can see that Derek’s Spanish is increasing, but has not yet broken the threshold of destruction.” *safari guide with accent* “On the right you can see a family of wild Colombian Spanish feasting on a carcass of a northern white American!” haha I’m still getting destroyed but I’m doing a lot better, we visited a family I hadn’t seen since my first week and they said I used to talk way worse and I looked like I couldn’t understand anything which is very true. Now I can understand enough to fake it. It depends a lot on the person speaking actually. There are a lot of people that I can’t understand a word from, and others that I understand most. Usually it’s in between. Something kind of funny is that all the guys here wear a ton of Hollister, Aeropostale, and Abercrombie and Fitch. It’s kinda weird I definitely wouldn’t have thought that before. There are some funny phrases I want to share with you guys too. To say you’re tired you can say “I have dream” and to say I’m hungry you say “I have hunger” and you can replace these phrases perfectly with the start of the hymn “there is sunshine in my soul today” and so whenever I want to complain I sing hymns. We sing a lot of hymns, but usually not complaining. We also pray a ton. I’ve calculated that I pray out loud about 50 times a week. And if you add all the weeks together that’s like a billion prayers or something. Praying is awesome though I love praying. You guys should pray more. And read the scriptures. Mosiah 2:22 is super bomb. All of Mosiah 2 actually, straight up if you keep the commandments God will bless you and prosper you. Also, Matthew 10:35 which says you shouldn’t like your mother in law. But yeah everything over here is pretty good. I couldn’t tell you if it was bad but you’ll just have to take my word that it’s good because it really is. It’s super hard and super awesome. I’ve seen people’s lives change from night to day in a matter of weeks. There are a lot of failures, you get rejected in the streets, your investigators don’t keep their commitments, members aren’t coming to church, but the successes make it all worth it. All we can do is give people the option, then it’s up to them. And sometimes they choose to come unto Christ and receive the blessings that come from living the gospel. Being a missionary is rad. Alright let me see if I have any more miscellaneous comments… one of our investigators came home super drunk when we were teaching the other members of his family and he yelled “Americano!” like 50 times then passed out on the floor. That was fun. There was a huge parade here for Independence Day and the founding of Giron and we got to see the lame part which was fun (we missed the big artillery). I’ve decided the people here aren’t Latino. Most don’t look like Mexicans or other Latinos but it’s like they’re 1/3 Latino, 1/3 Asian, and 1/3 white. Whenever a pretty girl tries to talk to me and tell me how exotic I am, I just pretend I don’t speak Spanish. It’s really easy because I don’t speak Spanish. Love and miss you guys. Don’t forget to write me about cool stuff and boring stuff too.

Elder Americano

Mosiah 2:22
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Giron Week 9

I’m so stoked on life! Being a missionary can be so awesome. When I’m not getting destroyed by Spanish I love it, and when I’m getting destroyed by Spanish I like it. We have some awesome investigators and teaching them is so rad! July is a single mom of 3 super funny little girls and she has a baptism date and is progressing super well and I get so stoked to see her faith increasing. She’s in her mid-20’s and another girl Viky is in her mid-20’s and has a ten year old son and she’s preparing to be baptized too. When we teach her about repentance and the atonement I get so happy and I can feel the spirit so strong it’s amazing. I walk from house to house so pumped up and happy and we’ll be hiking up a mountain (basically) on a super hot day and I’ll be sweating and out of breath in the middle of a country where I don’t understand the people 80% of the time and I’ll be stoked on life. It’s weird. It’s still super hard though. My biggest problem is the cell phone. We have phone and every other day it’s my turn to carry it and answer and make the calls if I can, and I hate it. It’s not on the same level as Satan but it’s pretty close. It’s hard to hear and all fuzzy so I can’t understand anything and I get destroyed so hard. It’s like getting punched in the confidence by a gorilla. So basically every other day I cry inside. It’s fine though. Normal conversation is easier than phones and lessons are even easier than normal conversation. But still hard. In the lessons I’m trying to understand and figure out how to say stuff, at the same time I’m trying to think about what to say next, and it’s also really easy to just space out altogether. But I’m slowly improving my teaching skills. I’m learning a lot about how to teach from my companion. He’s really cool and funny. It’s hilarious when he speaks English. He’s pretty decent and I don’t know why it’s so funny but it is. Probably because he only speaks English when we’re joking around. Aside from lessons we spend a lot of time doing kiosks. Standing by a sign trying to get new investigators. I’ve estimated that I get between 150 and 200 rejections per session. One time the Jehovah ’s Witness members came out and put a sign next to ours it was hilarious. Especially because after any person talked with them I would get their info. “Ah, I see you’re looking for the truth, well here it is!” I’ve developed a new skill from doing the kiosks. I can look at a woman and tell how catholic she is by her hair or clothes or both if she’s really catholic. My favorite thing is when people don’t want to talk they shake their finger at you. One time a guy made a cross with his fingers like he was warning off an evil spirit. Then I turned my head and shaded my eyes and made a hissing noise like the cross was hurting me. Well actually I just laughed but I should have. The ward is pretty fun now that I know the people. There are some super awesome members and a lot of less active members that are super cool too that we’re working with. There are two really pretty girls in the ward too but don’t worry, I never look at them. I’m uglier here than I was at home (in my own opinion) but I’m super exotic. I get hard core stares in the streets, that’s how exotic I am. So I guess that’s pretty cool. There are a bunch of times that I think “wow, I wish everyone back home could see me right now.” Like when I’m in a super janky house teaching the gospel or when I’m up on the mountainside overlooking Giron and Bucaramanga in the distance surrounded by a bunch of niños and stray dogs playing fútbol in the streets. There are a lot of cool places here. I think the poor areas are more fun because toddlers randomly roam the streets and the houses are really innovative but there are nice areas too. I haven’t really talked about them much because they’re not as fun, but I guess they are more warm and inviting. It’s funny because even the houses that are basically shacks have TV and internet usually. Oh, I have to tell you about the buses since we spend a lot of time on them. The drivers drive fast and crazy so they can get more people and so they’re always kind of rocky. You have to flag them down or just hop on in the middle of the street if they’re stopped in traffic. Sometimes when it’s packed, I’ll only be able to get one foot in and I’ll hold on to the rails with my body completely outside the bus and they’ll just take off. It’s only like that for a little though because everyone squeezes in. there’s always someone trying to sell stuff. And the custom is they pass out the item and every one holds it and if you don’t want to buy it you hand it back when they come back around. It’s weird. A lot of people show off their sick kids or missing legs to ask for money too. I fall asleep a lot on the buses and the driver hits the brakes hard a lot and so there are multiple times that me and my companion have slammed our heads on the seat in front of us. When it’s super packed, if you have to get to the other side to get off, you have to violate like 15 people. It’s really awkward. The food is always the same. Tons of rice, meat that’s not that good, “salad” which is a bunch of tomatoes and onions in a pool of vinegar  and a bean soup which is almost always the best part. You know the food isn’t that good when your favorite part is bean soup. When I buy groceries I always buy a lot of stuff from the imported section, like PB&J and mac and cheese. Comfort food. Coming home and eating PB&J after eating fried fish head and onions swimming in vinegar is the best. Being a missionary is dope though. It’s like being a monk. we study and teach the gospel, don’t have girlfriends, and wear weird clothes. The only problem is I’m not fat enough to be a monk and I wear ties and not robes, but I’m close. There’s a scripture that I’ve been sharing with investigators a lot that I want to share with you guys. 3 Nephi 13:33 and it’s the same as Mathew 6:33 if you’re catholic or something. My favorite funny scripture of the week is Matthew 21:18-19. It’s the story of Jesus getting mad at a tree and killing it. Read the scriptures they’re really good! And go to church! Love you guys,
Elder Downing

 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

 18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.

 19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away.