Colombia Bogota North Mission

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