Tuesday, August 30, 2011

comings and goings

His visa arrived and after 12 weeks in the MTC in Provo, Elder Wright finally arrived in Colombia. 
 He arrived ready to go to work.
After a long day of training, he and his companion are off to change the world. 
We love these happy, prepared missionaries!

 Elder Wright and Elder Bastias

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Mother's Heart

I am feeling the pain of a mother's heart.  "...I will greatly multiply thy sorrow...in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children...joy and rejoicing in our posterity"

Five good mothers are feeling "sorrow and joy" as they turn their sons over to the Lord for two years of missionary service.  (Maybe it is more fear than sorrow...fear of the unknown)
Here in Colombia we rejoiced as we recieved these valiant sons and could see in their eyes that they "do not doubt" what their mothers have taught them.
Welcome to the best mission in the world
Elders Marcasciano, Walton, Jensen, Stucki, and Riepl!

On Thursday morning I sent a piece of my heart back to the United States.  It has been a joy and a blessing to have had Marcie with us here in Colombia.  She has traveled the mission with us and blessed the lives of many with her gift of music on the piano.  She has gotten up earlier than she has ever wanted to, baked more brownies than ever before, and made sure that we took time to enjoy the journey of these last 7 weeks by stopping for ice cream anytime we have opportunity to do so.
She has been an encouraging word, a shoulder to cry on, a calmness in chaos, and my best friend.  She has charmed the mission office as well as everyone else she meets.  My mother's heart is swollen with pride as she moves on with her life and filled with sorrow to have her so far away.

Good luck at school Marcie and never doubt that your mother knows you can do it!!

Six more mother's hearts are rejoicing as their sons Return with Honor from their missions this week. 
Good luck Elders Atwood, Graves, Hughes, Crompton, McGregor, and Mamani!
What amazing missionaries!  

A mother's heart can rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort...with a 165 missionaries to care for here on the mission, this mother's heart is sure to swell with the joy of their achievments and ache with the pain of their sorrows. 
And at the same time, for all my children and grandchildren at home...the miles between us do not stop the function of a mother's heart.  My heart is ever mindful of you and ever grateful for your support!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The best laid plans

Every day finds us wondering why we can't stay on schedule.  We start the day with a great plan and sometimes it only takes a look out the window to know it is going to be a LONG day.  That is how Wednesday started...we looked out the window to see the traffic backed up in both directions in front of our house and we were headed out in it!  What should have taken us 1/2 an hour to drive to Palmira ended up being a 2 hour tour!  We still are not sure if it was the bus that lost its wheel, the closure of a street, or just because it was Wednesday...but thus is the traffic on the streets of Cali.

Elders Knight and Elder Aamodt said goodbye to the traffic of the city as they finished their missions with honor this week.  We were at the airport on Tuesday morning at 5am to say good bye to them and wish them well on the next phase of their lives.  (I must say that the traffic is wonderful at 4:30am...I just wish the stores were open at that hour!  Where is Wal Mart when you need it!) What marvelous missionaries! 

Tuesday and Wednesday were missionary interviews in Tulua and Palmira with more house inspections and more experiences trying to find our way around.  Our zone leaders are men of great faith...they have to be to get in the car with me behind the wheel and expect that I will understand the directions they give to me in Spanish on how to find the missionaries apartments.  It is always a test for them to see if they know where to go and if the keys they have will actually open the doors!  We have experienced driving on one way streets...the wrong way...much to the insistance of the zone leaders who said,
"Hermana, I'm SURE you can go down this street...it is Colombia!" 
(someone forgot to tell that to the cars that were headed straight for me!)

Thursday was zone conference for the Tulua and Palmira zones.  What marvelous missionaries.  We shared testimony, shared scriptures, shared lunch, shared music, shared laughter, and shared some good competition.  We are glad that both zones came out victorious in the games.

                                         Tulua Zone                                           Palmira Zone

Celebrating Birthdays!

Let the games begin....!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

We baptize in this mission

"...to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places...and be numbered with those of the first resurrection...if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour ourt his Spirit more abundantly upon you..."

Lives are changing here in Colombia.  People are standing tall as witnesses of God as they enter the waters of baptism.  Our missionaries are leading people into the straight and narrow path that leads back to our Heavenly Father. 

We do baptize in this mission!

I CAN do Hard Things

Being a missionary is hard.  It is a process of learning how to do hard things.  I marvel as I watch missionaries cope with illness, be rejected, change companions, accept leadership challenges, patiently and lovingly guide investigators to the truth, and learn many life lessons being away from home (yes, for many it is the first opportunity to do their own laundry, clean their own fridge, manage their finances, etc.)

Our missionaries are like Nephi.  When the brothers of Nephi murmered to their father, Lehi, "saying it is a hard thing..." Nephi boldly made the decision to "go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded..." His decision to be obedient and keep the commandments did not secure him a life of ease and comfort.  He still had to do hard things.  His bow broke.  He had to wander in the desert for years.  He had to construct a boat by hand.  He had to cross the ocean with those who wanted to kill him.

Sometimes choosing to be obedient allows us the opportunity to do hard things and grow.  Our missionaries are growing to be the future leaders of the church.  They are learning to make decisions.  They are learning to be good companions.  They are "trying to be like Jesus" and as they Preach His Gospel they are learning about the atonement in their own lives as well as in the lives of their investigators.

I receive strength from our missionaries and I get up each day and know that I can do hard things...because I have made the decision to "go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded".

So this last week we traveled to what they call the "Eje Cafetero" or the Coffee hub of Colombia.  The travel between each city is beautiful.  Monday it was off to Armenia, Tuesday to Manizales, and Wednesday and Thursday were spent in Pereira.  President Prince had countless interviews with missionaries and members, Marcie and I traveled the zones with the zone leaders to inspect missionary houses.  Zona Armenia wins the prize for having the cleanest apartments...what a pleasant change from last weeks apartments!

In Manizales Marcie and I had time to go for a walk to the Monumento de los Colonizadores.  There we were approached by a Police officer and as wondered what we were doing wrong, in broken English he asked us where we were from and told us he would like to practice his English.  Now English is one thing I do know how to do!  As he gave us the tour of the monument, we were impressed with his kindness.  He ended up asking about the church and gladly we shared with him about what we are doing here.  We exchanged email addresses and he has already corresponded with Marcie and I.  We are happy to help anyone with their English!

Off to Pereira we had lunch with the Stake President (President Gonzales) and his wife at their home with four of our missionaries.  We had the traditional Ajiaco...it is a wonderful soup from Bogota.  The Postre de Milo was a hit and we are hoping for that recipe to try.  It was a wonderful visit for all of us and the beginning of new friendships.

We had dinner with some old friends of President Prince.  Elizabeth Henao had invited us to her home in the evening.  When President Prince was a missionary in Pereira 35 years ago, the missionaries rented a room from Elizabeth Henao and her husband.  Her daughters were only 14 and 5 at the time.  She told us many missionary stories about the missionaries who stayed with them over the years.  Although she is a very good friend of the church, she has had no interested in joining the church.  We introduced her to our zone leaders and hopefully we can continue on in this great friendship.  We had a wonderful time getting acquainted (and reacquainted) with her and her daughter.

Before heading back to Cali, we took time to enjoy a little fun at Crepes and Waffles with our Assistants and Zone Leaders.  This has become one of our favorite restaurants in Colombia.  We have now eaten at the one in Cali, Medellín, and Pereira.  This definitely was worth taking the time for and then traveling home in the dark! 

And this is what HAPPY looks like after a Zone Conference!
What would we do without our assistants - Elders Gallo and Farr! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Here in Cali

We spent this week sleeping in our own bed...or wishing we could sleep more in our own bed.   The days seem long.  The sun goes down promptly in Cali between 6 and 6:30pm and there is still a lot more to do before retiring for the day.  This week we had 4 zones to have interviews with President Prince.  That is 48 missionaries at about 20 minutes a piece...you can do the math.  Thursday, President Prince traveled to Popayán (about 2 1/2 hours from Cali) to do interviews of missionaries along with doing Temple recommend interviews and new missionary interviews for the district there.  (He left at 6am and returned home by 10pm...long days.)

While President Prince is doing interviews there are missionary apartments to be inspected.  We have some work to do...the scripture comes to mind about needing to "first clean the inner vessel..."  I did threaten to take pictures and send them to one of the missionary's mothers.  His response was, "My mother would kill me!"  I think I have found the incentive I need!

For family night we took a walk to the "Parque de los gatos" and stopped in for ice cream at Ventolinis.  Each gato is different and it was a pleasant diversion to walk through the park and read the story about the "Gato del rio".  The park is on the Rio Cali.

Our week finished up with zone conference for the 4 zones in this area-Calima, Villa Colombia, San Fernando, and Popayán.  It was full of learning, eating, playing, picture taking, some friendly competions and most of all the spirit of missionary work.  We really love these missionaries! Our meeting started with some lucky Latin missionaries being chosen to give testimonies or short talks in English.  Our meeting is instantly flooded with the spirit as they give simple testimonies and express their love for the Lord in a language that is new to them.  I can't keep back the tears as I listen...I KNOW how hard it is to express yourself in a new language.  Well done, thou good and faithful servants!!

And let's end the week with 2 baptisms Friday night complete with missionary chorus, followed by a pizza party with the office elders with none other than Domino's Pizza! We were happy to eat some good ol' fashioned American food!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Count your many blessings...1 month

After 1 month in the mission field...here is a quick accounting of our many blessings:
165 missionaries
  30 days of safety and answers to prayers
  10 safe airplane flights
    1 Marcie who accompanies us in our adventures and plays the piano everywhere she goes!
    5 bienvenidas
    1 zone leader counsel
    2 zone conferences
    1 district conference
    5 trips to the mercado and home again (if only you knew what an accomplishment this is!)
    3 firesides (yes, we were the speakers)
    4 hotel stays  (even with cold showers!)
    5 batches of brownies
    4 batches of cookies
    2 double batches of banana bread
 500 weekly missionary letters read
   60 interviews
   40 plus boxes arriving safely from the US (our shipment!)
 100's of pictures taken  (that's a lot of smiling!)
 100's of taxi rides safely executed
 2 many phone calls from sick missionaries :(
 2 assistants and 4 office elders that keep us on the right path
 Many reunions with old friends from Jon's mission days
 Weekly skyping with children, grandchildren, and parents...our lifeline!
 1 area medical advisor who happily takes all my phone calls.
 Many missionary department and area office staff that answer all our questions.
 1 Ana who helps me keep the house running..how did I get the laundry and house cleaning done before?
 1 Maria who keeps the missionary office clean and helps Ana with lunches!
 5 children and 7 grandchildren who are the wind beneath our wings.
 Many friends who email us and tell us we can do this.
 Parents of our missionaries who support and pray for all of us.
 and 121 baptisms! 
 The gospel is true...what else really matters!!

Zone Conference in Pasto

Our zone in Pasto is small, but mighty!  We have excellent leaders and the missionaries are sharing the gospel and supporting the wards they are serving in.  While President Prince did interviews on Tuesday, Marcie and I went with the Zone Leaders to check out the missionary apartments.  This is always quite an adventure...you never know if you will find M&M (Misioneros Maravillosos) houses or ones you would rather not see!  We are making sure all the missionary apartments have working fire and carbon monoxide detectors and replacing batteries as we go.  We are happy when we can leave M&M's and a little sad when we have to leave notes and :( frowny faces! 

                                On Wednesday we had our zone conference.  Here is Zona Pasto!!

Feliz Cumpleaños Elders Martinez, Lewis, & Smuin!
(we are celebrating those who have had birthdays in May, June, & July)


I never could have imagined...

I never could have imagined that this would become our new mode of travel or that we could get Marcie up at 4am to get to the airport on time!

I never could have imagined that I would be in a taxi driving through flooded streets to get onto a boat like this to go out onto a lake...

that looks like this...in the rain!  The life preserver came in handy as an umbrella!

                                                             Our guide and boat captain...can I call her that?

What a little rain can do!I never could have imagined that I would take a taxi ride up a mountain on unimproved roads, through mudslides, on steep cliffs, in the rain and fog, to visit a beautiful spot like La Cocha!