Colombia Bogota North Mission

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.