So, it’s been another week here in Colombia, it’s been a great week actually, I can’t wait to tell you about it.
I am sitting here with my journal right in front of me, so I am going to be looking at this to see what happened this week. It has been a lot. It says that June 12th, that was actually Michael’s birthday, kind of a cool thing happened; it’s almost 11 o’clock at night. Juan Gabriel just came up to the apartment to give us a cake from Sarah’s (his daughter’s) birthday. Yes it was the 12th of June, same as Michael’s. We went to their house today to teach Viviana’s brother, Leonardo, and just so you know, Juan y Viviana are a couple that we are teaching that are just about to get married. We are just jumping a few hurdles with them on that. But anyway, we were gonna teach her brother Leonardo, but we found them running out of the house to a class that Viviana had. In light of Sarah’s 8th birthday, we did service instead. We cleaned the house with Leonardo, who is 19 years old, and left cake that we bought for Sarah. I guess they wanted to repay us for the favor. Coming here, so late at night, we couldn’t refuse them. So they came to the door, and we live in an apartment complex and so there are bars at the front and a little office that you have to talk to to get in. They came all the way and we hear our phone ring inside the house and we were just doing companionship prayer when we heard it. I had just finished my personal prayer actually when it rang. We were like: “what the heck?’ and it wasn’t even our choice, but Juan Gabriel came up and gave us part of the cake that we bought for Sarah. Sure was nice of them. They actually have a car, which is one of few people that have them. Juan drives Uber with his Dad’s car. So it was really nice of them. I sure love that family a lot. We’ve talked to them just about every day this week. I believe that’s one of the reasons that I feel privileged to be here in this area. I know that you guys have all told me that you are waiting to hear “why the transfer?” I think that was part of the reason. Anyway, I am going to go back to reading:
Anyway, we are teaching Miriam, Viviana’s mother, and others of her family. I just feel privileged to be here. It was a cool thing to do, birthday service, also to commemorate the birthday of my own brother and best friend Michael. Sure do love and miss him.
15th of June- and just like that, I am back in Bucaramanga. Not to stay though, unfortunately. We are here to go to Diamante to see Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the 12. It will be my first time meeting an apostle of the Lord and I am very excited. We arrived here last night at 6:30 and me and my companion booked it over to Floridablanca and up to my beloved first area. Memories of my first days of the mission flooded over me. We went up to the 7th and surprised Cristian and Miladys. I can truly say that it was one of the most special moments of my life to see them again. As Alma said in Alma 17… you know what, I don’t know the scripture in English. So, Alma said “what cemented my joy even more was to see that they were still my brothers in Christ.” They are still my brother and sister in Christ. They are doing excellent and have plans to get married and sealed in Barranquilla. I hope that I can come back to Colombia to see them sealed. When I said that scripture… we went over to Bucarica, I wanted to go see Cristian and Miladys, but they had no idea I was coming. So, we just came in and I opened the gate really slow so that they didn’t hear anything and when the aunt of Cristian opened the door, she screamed. Haha. We walked in and they were so excited! I gave Cristian a big hug and if you don’t remember, they were my first… I baptized them more than a year ago. It was the first time I was able to baptize someone in the mission. Up to right now, they are two of my best converts in the mission. So, it was sure great to go back and see them. There’s a chapter in Alma, Alma 17, and he is walking (I imagine through the jungle) and lo and behold, here come the Sons of Mosiah. They are coming back from their 14-year mission among the Lamanites. They all get so excited and it fills them with joy and Ammon gets so excited that he falls to the ground just because his joy is so full. Alma says that what made my joy even more full was to see that they were still my brothers in Christ. That was really what I felt because Cristian and Miladys are still going really strong. They have callings, they are teaching the Valiant class and Cristian is a Stake Family History Consultant. He is going for his 8th generation in his family tree. For economic reasons, they haven’t been able to make it back to the temple this year. They went one time, but ya. They are looking to get married in Barranquilla. Also, funny thing, my companion, Elder Arredia, was in the area right next to Bucarica, right after I left. I left and like a month later, he got to that area that is right by Bucarica. In that area, in that time, lived the Mom of Miladys. He baptized the mother of Miladys. It sure was great because my companion knew Cristian and Miladys also. So that was… there are not coincidences. But oh, that was such a great experience to go back and visit them. I sure miss Bucaramanga. And actually, that brings me to the next thing that happened….
16th of June, 2018- yesterday was an incredible day. We went from the house of Elder Ostino, to the church in Puente de Provenza. I was again filled with old memories from the first days of my mission. In between visiting my old area, and looking at all of the beautiful views, the mountains covered in green and the people that I loved so much and the perfect weather, I was really sad when I thought about going back to dreary and cold Bogotá. I guess I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself, but I felt God had forgotten about me. I felt that he remembered me when I had a calling as a Zone Leader. Or when I opened an Area and Trained. But now, just as a Senior Companion, without much responsibility at all, I felt useless. I felt that I had somehow failed as a trainer, as a zone leader, or whatever and that now I am here to wait to finish. I felt that President had just put me here because it was convenient for the time that I had left and there was an opening here in Engativá. I felt that my experience as a Zone Leader, executing the transfers and talking so much about leadership strategies, that it was nothing more than that. I felt that the transfer here was nothing more than a leadership strategy that was just an open area that President wanted to put me in just because I only have 3 months left and just because he has to put me somewhere. I doubted my Mission President, a man who I loved and respected. Well… Gary E. Stevenson got to the church in Puente de Provenza at 9:15, and we were all waiting in line on the stairs by the futból court. We were singing hymns when he got there, and he came in a van. From the instant that he stepped off the van it felt different. He got out and he took a photo with his cell phone of all of us there lined up singing hymns. He then called Hermana Sato, who is from Japan, down and started talking with her in Japanese. He served as a missionary and later as a mission president in Japan. She said to me later that night that he speaks very well. Well Elder Stevenson then went with his wife, Elder Montoya (a general authority area 70) and his wife, and President and Sister Laney, to the doorway. He shook all of our hands as we entered in. I felt a peaceful feeling from the moment I shook his hand until the moment when we parted for Bogotá again. But it comes back when I think about the experience. The meeting then started at 10 am on point. Sister Montoya was the first to speak. She gave a stirring talk on Optimism. Then was Elder Montoya. After Elder Montoya was Sister Stevenson. She seemed like a very happy person and I enjoyed her message on Diligence. Then Elder Stevenson spoke. I have better notes on his talk in my Preach my Gospel. He spoke on returning missionaries needing to read their scriptures 60 days without fail, and it will become a lifelong habit. I am determined to do so. He also spoke about needing to keep “finding” after the mission. Finding a wife, that is. Haha. He said: “Elders, this whole time in your mission, your Mission President has taught you how to find. I want you to know that you need to keep finding after the mission. You need to find a woman like Sister Laney to marry. You need to be a man like President Laney is.” That just really struck me. He then said that we should Learn, Earn, and Serve. He said that we should study, then get a good enough job to retire and be able to serve the Lord full time. Then he stopped and said… this is the part that really got to me… He stopped and said: “ I am inspired by the Spirit of the Lord to tell you that your area and companion assignments are inspired of God.” He went on to talk about it and I was just stupefied that God could answer my question in such a direct way. I wont ever doubt revelation ever again. I learned that God knows me. He knew that I suffered when I went from Cucuta. He knows that I miss that place and he cares. He knew that it broke my heart to leave Cucuta but I now know, that it was for something. When Elder Stevenson gave his final testimony, I saw a visible light around him, that wasn’t with anyone else that was on the stand. He then blessed us as an apostle of Jesus Christ and our families with whatsoever thing we should need. What a blessing! That’s my journal entry on that.
So there were just a couple of things I wanted to tell you; first of all, I wanted to tell you about how Elder Stevenson, he literally looked over to the general direction that I was at, and he thought, and you know that the apostles don’t prepare messages when they go to speak to people other than General Conference of Stake Conferences or things, they don’t prepare anything. He stopped and I thought that maybe it was just that he ran out of things to say. But then he said “I am inspired by the Spirit of the Lord to tell you about how your area and companion assignments are inspired of God.” That was kind of a WOW. I felt like he literally read my mind. I was actually feeling really bad that day because I was just looking out at the green mountains, the perfect weather, going to see my old area, and then comparing it with where I am at in Bogotá. Bogotá is special, but it’s ugly. It’s sure as urban as you can get. It just feels cold sometimes. But I received a person testimony right then and there from an apostle of the Lord that that assignment is from God. It has really provided me with a great window to see why I am here. Also, Elder Stevenson talked about getting a testimony. He said that we should teach and then we should finish, and let them know “alright, we have finished, this is our testimony of what we have talked about.” And then give a testimony. That’s exactly what he did. He demonstrated it for us, and when he gave his testimony, I swear, that there was a light that came around him. As I looked at the rest of the people on the stand, it wasn’t around them. It was around him. Then he blessed us. He said: “as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I bless you with whatever thing you should stand in need of. I bless your families with whatsoever things they should stand in need of.” So know, family, that you have been blessed by an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have a special testimony that I already had a special testimony about Russell M. Nelson as a Prophet of God, and I don’t know if you remember my story about that, but I will share it with you when I get home. But now I have a special testimony that Jesus Christ has called his Apostles. The church is restored just like it was before. In beautiful simplicity, it has all been restored. You know, I have seen that. Coming back to my area, having left without glasses and coming back with glasses, I can see everything now clearer, why God has sent me here. I am grateful for revelation. I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t believe that it was revelation. But that is when I need to say to the Lord “Help Thou mine unbelief” you know? I will never doubt it again.
Well, I felt as he gave us that blessing that with that blessing, when he said “I bless you and your families with everything that you should need.” That family, if you need something, ask the Lord this week. Not that he wouldn’t already give it to you, but knowing that an Apostle of the Lord in these Latter days has asked that blessing upon you, ask for it with confidence. If you believe, if you can be more believing than I was, you will receive it. I know that is true. Now I am finished, and I want to give you my testimony that I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that because he has called Prophets and Apostles on the earth. I know in a special way, and with a special witness that that is true. I know that he lives because I have seen the men that he has called and have received a witness. I have also received a witness through the Book of Mormon. Through the Book of Mormon I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet. I know that Apostles continue to walk the earth today, never to be taken from the earth again. That is my testimony. I leave it with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
My original MTC group, reunited for the first time in 21 months! We started out with ten, now six remaining, but going strong!
Me, Elder Varillas (one of my favorite companions) and Elder Villarroel, whom I trained a year ago! First time I´ve seen him since then!
The beautiful Church house in "Puente de Provenza!"
I got to surprise two of the very best people in the world this week! We went to visit Christian and Miladys, the first people that I baptized here in the mission! It was a short visit, but so good!
Close to Bucaramanga. Colombia is really beautiful!
A beautiful little town called San Gil, close to Bucaramanga.