Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Christmas Miracle!

December 30th:

Well, just to start off I can't tell you all how great it was to be able to skype with all of you on Christmas! I had been looking forward to that for months and months! I will tell you all though that I enjoyed every minute of it. After I left, it felt like the entire 2 hours or so happened in less than 5 minutes.

Needless to say, I was very sad after that. All of my thoughs were of back home, and of all of you guys.  For the first time in my mission, I didn't have the same drive to do the work like I have had before. Especially with my area being so tough, the day after Christmas couldn't have been harder for me.

My companion and I did what we knew we should though, and got up, studied, then went to work like normal.  We visited a woman who we have been teaching since the day I got here, who's the son of a member of the ward.  She has always told us she can't be baptised because she doesn't want to stop drinking Chicha. It's always the same story when we go there, and she tells us she's not ready.  Until Thursday.  We knocked their door, and she answers.  The first thing she tells us, is she is ready to start over in the new year, and be baptised!! So, with the help of her son, and us, we prepared her completely, and baptised her on Saturday!  MY companion did the ordinance, and I confirmed her on Sunday!

If you don't remember, my area has been the cursing grounds of the mission for a long time.  There has been one baptism here in the previous 5 years, or more. There is no record of any other members being baptised since the early 2000's until now. SO this was a big day in the area for us.  We had many people show up to the baptism, including president, and the new convert, Sinda's family!

Fotos to come after!

So Dad gave me a great idea to bring my journal to internet and write to you all the things I write in my journal. SO here is an interestingSunday, from Novermber 3rd, 2013:

"I just want to kill over dead after what happened this morning.  Last night, 7 told us they would come to church with us and be waiting in the Plaza early, and in the morning, zero were there.  Eli said she couldn't because her mom got there late to the tienda of movies, maribel was still sleeping when we called her, since she worked until 3 am the night before, but she said she would still come. The rest didn't contest the phone. 9 O'clock rolls around and we're still waiting in Cliza. Sacrament meeting is starting. Then 9:30, still waiting.  Finally, Eli gets ready and we leave to Punata in Taxi. While arriving, Maribel calls and says she is waiting in the plaza in Cliza. So we told her to get a trufi to Punata.  We catch 10 minutes of Sacrament meeting, then ran to the parada of trufis 6 blocks away to get Maribel and her daughter and show her to the church.  Meanwhile, my stomach is about to put me into a fetal position.  So we get back to the church a second time and both Eli and Maribel stay for 2nd hour of church, then leave.  We took maribel to the parada again and returned to church a 3rd time, for thiird hour.  I was poope, but we got 2 people to attend church today!"

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Stuck in Cocha

December 16th

It's been an interesting week here in the mission. The first part of it was spent stranded in the city because of a lack of public transportation, but everything is back to normal, or so they say. There were rumors going around last night that they would go on strike again, but this morning there were trufis to take for us. What is interesting is it's not just Cochabamba, its all of Bolivia. And the most ridiculous part of the whole strike is that it's all over 20 centavos.  That's the equivalent of a few cents.  A couple of maestros in Cocha decided they think the price of a trufi ride should go fron 1,50 to 1,70 bs, and since they are with the government, the whole country jumped on board.  When the president rejected their appeal, they all decided to stop driving, and create blockades in every part of the city with their trufis.  So that left me, and 5 other elders all stranded together in the city last Pday.  We weren't able to get home Until Wednesday.  At one attempt to get home, we got in a trufi not owned by the government who promised to take us to Cliza, but for 40 Bolivianos a person ( that is ridiculously expensive, but we had to get back.)  We got in and dodged our way around blockades in the city and then finally got towards the outskirts of the city and reached the highway.  As soon as we thought we were home free, we hit miles and miles of stopped traffic, and hundreds of people walking back to the city. Realizing there was another blockade ahead, we got out and joind the rest of the people and walked our way back to the city. Finally on Wednesday, we were able to return to our area!
On Friday night, while walking back to the house, we got a phone call from our distric leader.  My companion answered and had a very startled look on his face, as if his blood was going cold. I got nervous too, but didn't lnow what was going on.  After he hung up, he was silent, the finally told me his visa came. He will leave Tomorrow to La Paz to sign some paperwork, and then after he will be gone.  This was sad news for the both of us.  He has been my best companion by far in my mission, and told me many times he doesn't want to go to Venezuela.  We found out on Friday and on Tuesday, 4 days after, he will be gone.  It's even harder for him at this time because it's so close to Christmas, and he won't know anybody when he gets there.  We are both trying to delay his flight to Venezuela until at least after Christmas!
So as you all know, people in my area can hardly ever attent church because of the Feria, or the big market that comes to the area every Sunday.  In order to get baptised, they have to attend church at least 3 times. So this is a huge problem for us.  Luckily, we met a new investigator this past week who works in some sort of government offices in Cliza.  He explained that the only reason the feria is on Sunday is because the city has been assigned that day.  After explaining our situation, he said it's not impossible to get the day changed.  They 2 next closest pueblos, Arani and Punata, have their ferias on tuesday and thursday.  What we would have to do though is creat a petition, and appeal to the local government.  Our arguement wouldn't just be so that we can get investigators to attend church, but so that everyone in Cliza can attend church on Sundays.  It's a long shot, but with our new investigator, it's not impossible.  We are advertising and explaining in our FHE's on Sunday nights, and our English classes on Fridays.  At this rate, the word can get around, and we will see how it progresses!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Past Two Weeks

December 9th:

All of you returned missionaries will understand when I tell you about Zone Leaders.  There are ones who are more relaxed, and others who literally walking rule books, Not that that is a bad thing.  Last week, we arrived at internet a little bit late, and internet is only between 10:30 and 12:00 here.  To the zone leaders, that means down to the minute.  I didn't want to send a huge letter mid sentence, so I just saved the stories for this week also.
So remember our investigator Nilda?  She got her test results back for her cancer to see if it is dangerous or not and.... she's going to be just fine! SHe has an operation ina few weeks that she is nervous about, but everything should turn out fine.  We still visit her every day, and loves hearing our messages.
3 Sundays ago I went to the hospital with a stomach infection.  My companion and I both assumed that would be the last trip to the sodpital for a while, but we were wrong.  Remeber the Holiday called Dia de Peaton? Where the prohibit to drive cars for an entire day.  Well, this is especially problematic for us, since we live in a tiny pueblito 20 minutes from the capilla.  The always seems to fall on a Sunday too, just our luck.  The night before, we slept with other elders near the capilla, but we had to find a way back to our area after church.  So, we came up with the idea od asking members of the ward to borrow bikes to go back.  My companion really wanted to go back on bikes, and since that was the only option, we did.  We got 2 bikes and made our journey back.  About 20 minutes into the trip, my companion hit a pot hole, and lost control of his bike.  He skid about 15 feet on the asphault before stopping.  The 2 members with us, and I rushed over to him, but he was having a tough time walking.  We hiked him up to a seat of another bike, and had to walk to bike about 3 kilometers to the local clinic.  Somehow, the clinic was full, and we had to take him to the hospital to get treated.  Luckily, nothing on him is broken, and all his wounds are superficial.  We were able to leave the hospital that night, and he is almost back to being 100% healthy! 

Last night coming home from the Christmas devotional was an absolute fiasco.  As you all know, missionaries normally don't have a ton of on hand cash to throw around. So at night, when there are no trufis to take, we fit as many elders into a taxi as we can.  Last night was no different, and we fit 6 elders into a 4 door taxi, and left.  About 10 minutes into the taxi ride, the taxi broke down.  Apparently the gas pedal disconnected and he couldn't go anymore.  We all got out to start helping him reconnect it, but we had no tools, or really any knowledge to fixing it.  The only thing we could find in the taxi was a piece of string...  And while this was not my idea, the taxista and some elders cooked up a plan to connect the throttle  with the string to make a very ghetto way of driving.  They fed the string from the engine through the hood, and then through the drivers window.  After, we all piled back in and were actually quite suprised at how smooth he was able to drive with the gas pedal on a string!

Miss all you guys! Write me soon!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spreading the Word

It's been a full week of events and new ideas here in Cliza, and it's making my companion and I super excited for the weeks to come!  Things are progressing here greatly!
Here a bit of a cool story:  Wednesday night of this week, at about 9 oclock, we went to go visit one more person before we turned in for the night.  About a block before we got to the investigators house, we saw smoke coming from a different house, but just assumed it was from an oven, since there was only a tiny bit. So we kept walking, and knocked the door of the investigator... as he answered the door, we turned back, and there was a cloud of smoke so big nothing was visible! The house was burning down!  We rushed over to the house, asking the number for Bomberos, or the fire department..  Cliza is so small, there is no fire department. So everyone ran down a few blocks to a small river with buckets to put it out, us included.  What makes it worse is the house also has a furniture store in it. So everything was flammable, sofas, beds, closets, chairs, all made of wood and cotton.  The fire suprisingly got put out relatively quickly and nobody was hurt from it.
The family I told you about last week, Family Vasquez, lost their Dad last night.  All our efforts are going towards them now.  All of the kids are under 18, and there are 4 of them.  We are working hard with the ward, and have scheduled for the ward members to bring them food every night of the week.  They also owe the hospital a large payment for the hospital stay, but we are still working on a solution for that.  Evelin, who is 16, told us last night the only reason she is at peace is because of prayer.  Also telling us she never prayed before we started teaching her.  They are all being comforted, by the ward and the Lord, although this is probably the hardest time of their lives.
Last week in a conference, President Dyer told us we should always invite our investigators to kneel and pray with us.  To the point of even saying it would be a sin not to pray on your knees with them.  I initially took this as some strong counsil, but decided to put it into practice.  Ivan, who is one of our investigators with a baptismal date for 2 weeks in the future, lacks the permission from his mom, who is very catholic.  We also visit her, and teach her too.  After asking permission for his baptism, and inviting her to baptism too, we ended with a prayer, and asked them to kneel with us.  That alone brought the spirit so strongly! I know his mom felt it also, and she said she would talk with Ivan before giving the permission.  We are still waiting for the word though.

I'm starting up an English class again here, and because of the people I know, it's going to be big.  We have an open shop right on the square to teach, thanks to our pensionista, and I recently met someone who works for the television in my little Pueblo, Cliza. He said if we make a commercial, we can play it for one month for 20 bolivianos. So we might be making a commercial for it and everything!  This could be big for the church. I know not everyone will get baptized, but everyone will know about the church. I'm really excited for it all.

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Investigators, Blessings, and Baptisms!

My area is still tough, but things are progressing amazingly. We now have a gigantic pool of investigators, and we have figured out that confedence in us is the key to having success in Cliza!  A few of my investigators have some pretty tough stories, but we are helping them in every way we can.

There is a family that we are in need of a lot of help. Their dad is in a coma and is in the hospital, and they are struggling without him. They have 5 kids, and we are teaching them all.  The mother is always in the hospital to stay with their dad.  Without a father at home, they have very little money, and no head of the house to look to.  Also, the medical costs have exceeded over 90,000 BS and they are unable to pay for it.  The dad can't leave the hospital until the pay the cost, so they are in a very tough situation. All of the children are girls, except for one. His name is Fabian, and he is 16.  Recently we have found out that he has been involved in gang activity for the past few years, but wants to change, telling us we are this.  After explaining to importance of families, and the role of a father, he has come to realize that he has to play that role now since his father is sick.  We have gotten together with the ward, and they are coordinating to be able to bring food to their house for them.  They will do this each day of the week for them, and our help.  After teaching the children, 3 of them have baptismal dates and attend regularly.  The only issue will be permission. Their parents are very catholic and closed minded when talking to them.  They are, however, very greatful for the ways that we are helping them.

This week we have gained much confedence of one of our investigators, Nilda. Before, she would not open up to us, so we did not know how to help her. Finally, she has come to trust us enough to tell us her problem. She has a type of skin cancer, but does not know how to tell her family. She is waiting to find out if it is dangerous or not before she tells her family. Now that we know this about her, she trust in us a lot, and tells us any updates. We taught her the plan of salvation after that, and explained how God has a plan for each of us. Because of her, we have realized that trust is one of the most important things to have with investigators.

The sister of this investigator with cancer is named Ely.  She is probably the best investigator I have probably ever had, for one main reason.  She is born and raised in Cliza, and literally knows everyone.  We are great friends now, and she loves hearing our lessons.  Through her, we get at least 3 or 4 references every single day.  All we have to do is accompany her to the store, and on the way we run into her friend, take out an appointment. Then we get to the store, and she introduces us to the store worker.  Everyone she knows, she introduces us too.  She has some doubts about the gospel, but when it comes to references, we couldn't have anyone better than Ely.

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Cliza, Punata, Cochabamba, Bolivia: Challenging Area, but Not Impossible

Well, blame the zone leaders for not being able to write a family letter last week. They cut our time short if we arrive to the internet cafe as a zone, as they did last week. So I wasn't able to write many people last week. I'll make sure to catch you all up on what happened the past 2 weeks here though.

First of all, my area may be the toughest area in the entire mission.  Cliza is a tiny pueblo in the middle of nowhere. The closest other pueblo is called Punata, which is where the branch meets.  It is about 20 minutes in a trufi from Cliza, and is a bit expensive to get there. Many people are humble here, and want to listen to our message.  They will listen, and read what we give them, and even pray to know its true.  The only major problem is attending church for them. One, it is expensive to travel to Punata, there and back. Two, there is The Feria.  This is a gigantic market that they only have on Sundays.  Nearly every person who lives in Cliza is a vendor of some sort.  Since the Feria is only on Sundays here, that means either sell what they have, or have their family starve.  For many people attending church is almost not even an option for them. And if they can't attend church, they can't progress or get baptized. For this, there as been one baptism in 5 years in my area, which was actually only a few months ago by my companion.  Since there have been no baptisms here, that means there are no members either to help us, or even less active members to go visit.  For a time, the area was closed because of having no success, but now it is back, and we are now here, and ready to build up the church here!

Now there are many things that could discourage any missionary about this area, and it does to some. There are elders who pray they never come here.  But for my companion and I, it's just a challenge we have accepted, and are doing great here! We have many people who are progressing now.  Sunday mornings are always a fiasco, but if we put all out efforts in, we can usually convince 2 or 3 to come, at least for an hour to church. But that allows them to progress, and it is really helping them.

Here in Bolivia, and much of South America, Halloween is very sacred.  It's not a time to put on masks and ask for candy at the doors of neighbors.  It's a time to remember those who have passed, and hold ceremonies for them.  In Bolivia, they call this holiday "Todos Santos" or All Saints, and its never held on the 31st of October.  They believe the modern tradictions of Halloween have ruined the day, so they celebrate either 2 days before ( my birthday haha) or 2 days after.  We helped the only recent convert in Cliza, Edwin, and his family make special types of bread to sell for the holiday too. Once I have a camera cable, I will send the pictures of them!
So that's what my new area is like, and I am enjoying every day here! I'd love to hear from everyoe personally, when you all get a chance!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Friday, October 25, 2013

Me Voy a Punata!!!

Transfer information came in last night! I'm leaving my first area and headed to another area, about 2 hours away from the city!  The name of my area is Cliza, and is a pueblo, or a small town where they nearly only speak Quechua.  I spoke with my new companion last night about the area, and he told me sacrament meeting is in quechua, unless the bishop speaks.  I am super excited to be going there!!
SO back tracking to this past week, here was a typical day in Boliva:
I wake up, 6:30. It's still dark outside. I flip on the lights, but the electricity is out.  This means 2 things. 1, I can't see anything until the sun comes up at 7 or 7:30. And 2, cold showers.  All of the showers are electrically heated when the water hits the shower head, so I suffer through a cold shower.  After, I get ready and study in the window since there is only light there.  It's a Tuesday, so we have a district meeting in Quillacollo, about 30 minutes in a Trufi.  We get ina  trufi, go about 5 minutes, and run into a blockade. Nobody can get through in either direction, and Cholitas are sitting in the streets. Nobody ever seems to know why the blockades are happening either. SO we get out of the Trufi, and start walking on the highway, along with everyone else.  This particular blockade had 2 parts. One side of the blockade was about 2 kilometers from the other, so we walk, and walk, and walk. Finally we reach the other side, and take another trufi to the capilla there. When we get there, we find out the capilla just got robbed the night before. They took all of the chairs in there. SO we sit on the floor to have district meeting.

It was a long odd series of events, but things like these happen every day here.

This week we gave service to a lady who was carrying over 100 pounds of cement mix in a wheel barrow in the street.  She seemed to be struggling, so we lended a hand to her.  We did not know it at the time, but she had to bring this wheel barrow full of cement more than 10 blocks.  With the bags spilling the powder everywhere, and us sweating from head to toe, we finally arrived at her house, exhausted.  A few minutes later, she began to cry, thanking the lord for 'sending 2 angels' to help her. She told us it would be inpossible for her to have done it alone, and she was positive the Lord sent us there for a reason. She could feel the spirit, and we were so happy just to be able to help her. It was a great experience!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Past 2 Weeks: Blessings of Health, General Conference, and Sickness

First off, sorry for not sending a letter last week! I ran out of time writing individually and couldn't send the normal big letter! But this letter will include the stuff that happened the past 2 weeks.

Last week, we taught a kid who was like 14 or so.  It was an investigator who we found knocking doors, but he seemed very interested in all of our information.  He was raised catholic, but knew a ton about the bible, new testament, and old. It was the first lesson on The Restoration and everything seemed fine with him. We taught him about the book of Mormon, explaining what it is, how we have it and so forth, and Then we asked him was his thoughts were on the book of mormon... Ironically, he happened to get sick at that very moment, and threw up! All over my companions shoes too.  It was ironic, but so gross too. We ended up helping him clean up, gave him some water, and he ended up being ok.

General conference was also the weekend before last, as you all know.  I never knew how busy it would be as a missionary.  Everyone watches it in the capilla, so we spent all morning preparing the capilla; blocking out the windows to see the screen, cleaning the floors, setting up all the rooms for Spanish and Quechua, etc. After, we spent our time right before runnign around gathering up less actives and our investigators to attend it! I swear, if we don't knock on some people door every morning, they don't remember that church  is on Sundays haha. The actual conference went well, and I watched 2 sessions in spanish, and 2 in english.  I Learn from watching in each language, but watching a translation from your native language just isn't the same.

Yesterday a member asked us to give a blessing of health to one of her family members who is not a member. When we got there, we learned that this person is very sick. She has not eaten anything solid in 2 months, and has only had liquid. She is old in age, and is in a very fragile condition. We proceeded with the blessing, my companion and I, and during it, I could tell the woman felt peace. She went from pains of groans to peaceful resting. The family members are not members, but we have scheduled an appointment to talk with all of them, and about the plan of salvation. They already seem interested in the idea, since it will answer the questions of where she will be going, and other difficult questions. I believe the family is now ready to hear and accept the restored gospel!

This morning we awoke to a number that was not programmed in our phone. I contested the phone and only heard a histerical woman on the other end of the phone... It was a mixture of weaping and mumbling in a combination of Spanish and Quechua, and I think she was talking to me, and her family at the same time. Confusingly, I asked who was speaking and what the problem was. Finally she calmed down, and explain she is from the Mamani Family, that we visited and gave a blessing of health to last night.  She is the daughter of the sick woman, and called to tell us her mother finally after 2 months, ate a solid bit of food, a piece of bread. The called to thank us for blessing her mother, and said her whole family could feel the effects of our spirit when we visited.

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Monday, September 30, 2013

Break-ins, Dog Apologies, and Forgiveness!

I ran out of time this week, so this one will have to be short.

This week our house got broken into. Oddly only my things were stolen from the house. They broke in the door, found my extra hidden keys, and took my camera, some money, my shoes, and the keys.  The land lady told us she is only going to fix the door, not replace the locks, so we have to do that ourselves.  We don't know who did it, but we suspect it is the person who lives across the hall, so we have to change the locks today to make sure they can't come in again.

One day this week, we were running late to a lesson from another and we were far from the next investigators house.  So we ended up trying to take short cuts, cutting through fields and small paths.  While going down a small path we ran into a big dog that started chasing after us.  I remember what happened last time, when the dog ripped up my pants, and I wasn't going to let it happen again.  So I picked up a huge rock and chuck it, pretty hard. My companion also threw a rock.  Anyways, the dog went running off and we though that was the end of it.  About 3 minutes later, a lady comes running after us! Apparently it was her dog who we scared, and she wasn't happy. We changed gears and asked what we could do to fix it.  If we could do service, or visit her, but she wouldn't accept our apologies. The next day, we contacted the house! She answered the door, and surprisingly let us in! We talked for a while, and apologized to the dog too. Although she did not want to hear any of our message, she now knows that we didn't mean anything bad by what happened.

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cristo de la Concordia, Bolivian Accents, and Reactivations!

Another full week of experiences here in Bolivia! I am actually in a ghetto internet cafe right now at the bottom of the hill from the Christ statue here.  We hiked it as a zone this morning, and it is basically stairs that go nearly straight up. It was far, but worth doing at least one time. I got a ton of good pictures too, so I will send them after!
This past week, we were running late to an appointment from a service project, so we decided to take a taxi to the house to change quickly.  We got into the taxi, and the first thing I noticed was a bunch of stickers of Christ all over the window and dash board.  We got to talking a bit, just about futbol and such, and then he asked what I was studying at the University. I guess he assumed we were students, since we live across the street from the Universidad Adventista Bolivia.  I love it when people ask us that, because it always gives us the opportunity to explain why we are here, and what we do.  So I told him we are missionaries for our church, here to help people, and invite them to Christ. Then something suprising happened. He turn and asked me if I was from Santa Cruz.  I quickly replied no.. I'm from the US.  He turned to look at my face, and laughed, asking how long I have lived here. When I told him I only have been here 5 months, he didn't believe me.  Now I honestly don't thnk I speak like a Bolivian.  But he might have mistakn me as one since I can't roll my R's with some words. Convienently neither do most of the Bolivians. They use sort of an 's' or 'z' sound, so I guess I have started to pick that up too. and it is easier. Anyways, we left the taxista with a pamphlet and our number, not expecting anything out of it.  That night, he called me, we took out an appointment, and now he is one our new investigators!
So remember the family who has been inactive for 10 years?  2 of my baptisms have been from that family, and we are still working hard to get them to come back.  Now all of them except the youngest are members, but the parents only came to see their kids baptisms and confirmation, then didn't come the next week.  So we came up with an idea. We planned a family home evening with the active members, my converts, in order to try and help them.  I asked the youngest one to share a scripture and a small message, and we could plan the rest.  Well, it went better than I expected! Aldrin, who is 9, shared a scripture and said directly to his dad "Papa, the only way we can live as a family forever is if you come back to church."  Then he shared his small testimony of the church. It was silent for a few seconds, and then both parents were in tears.  I know they felt the spirit right then, and hopefully this will help them come back.

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Monday, September 16, 2013

New Companions, Weddings, and Dirt in My Bed!

Well, things are a lot different now for me than from last week.  My old companion left to Potosi, and my new comanion arrived at the airport the same day.  His name is Elder Cortez, and it turns out he is actually from La Paz, another city in Bolivia. He is waiting for a visa to go to his mission in Venezuela, but they put a halt on all visas from Bolivia, so he and about 40 other missionaries will probably be staying here for their missions.  Anyways, he is a very hard worker, but is very shy.  He doesn't hardly speak, which is a huge change from my last companion who never stopped talking.  This means I have to do nearly all the talking. In lessons, in contacting, in just everyday activities.  It is helping my spanish and my teaching skills a ton, but we are working on getting him to open up a little more.

The missionaries in Vinto got to go to the temple on Saturday, for a wedding actually.  ONe of the Elders, Elder Supayabe had an aunt that was getting married, so President gave us permssion to attend the wedding.  Unfortunately the sealing room was too small, and one of the elders forgot his reccomend, so we couldn't enter in for the ceremony, but it was still a good experience to go to a wedding at the temple here.

As for missionary work this week, I about killed over dead.  I'm the only one who knows our area, and I'm also senior comapnion now, so I have to make the plans. Not only that, I teach just about all of the lessons.  So I am not only physically tired at the end of each day, but mentally too.  Last night, we got in at about 9 oclock at night, and I was so tired, I went to sit on my bed to rest.  The next thing I knew it was 6 am, I was still in my dirty proselying clothes and shoes, and my bed was covered in dirt because of my muddy shoes. I am hoping my body gets used to working even harder here. We have been having lots of success though.  In only 2 lessons , we invited 3 of our investigators to baptism, and they accepted.  So we should be baptizing even more during our time together, since we both can handle working harder.

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Up in Motecato for lunch yesterday with the other Elders.

My new companion and I in the elevator

After the temple we went to a Peruvian restaurant.  This is Arroz Chaufa, a super good rice plate.

My companion and I at the Cochabamba, Bolivia temple.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Transfers, No Water, and TV Celebrities!

Well family,  This are going to be changing for me here.  We got the transfer information last night, and my companion and I are being separated. He is going to Potosi, the middle of nowhere, to be a zone leader.  I am staying in my area, and getting a new companion who's from Peru.  Apparently he is pretty new and only has about 2 months.  Another Elder also told me that he speaks english, which will be interesting!
The past week with my companion, we have putting it in overdrive.  Everyday I came home at night and passed out as soon as I hit the bed.  We taught more lessons and visited more families than I thought was possible.  On Saturday, we had our last baptism together.  When we got there in the morning at the capilla to fill the font, we found out that soemhow there was absolutely no water in the capilla.  The reserve tank also had broken, so we had no water t ofill the baptismal font.  We called the bishop and told him what the problem was.  He came down to see it, and we were right. No water.  SO we started making the plans to have the baptism in a river closeby the capilla.  The only problem is the is the drought season, so when we checked the river, it was mostly just rocky and had almost no water.  The baptism was at 6, and we still didn't have water when 5 o'clock came around.  Finally, we got ahold of a company that fills water and had a truck come and fill it for us.  WHat  a relief.  WHile the water was cold, we got the baptism done without anymore problems.  My companion got to baptise this time, in the cold water, and I conducted.  On Sunday morning, my new little convert asked me if I would confirm him.  I have never confirmed before, but I accepted and it turne out ok.
There was another blockade here in Bolivia last week, except this time in my hometown, Vinto.  So instead of taking a trufi to lunch, we had to walk the streets just like everyone else.  We saw a news crew a bit aways from us, but didn't think anything of it.  WHen we got to the pensionistas house, she grabbed us and took us toward the television.  There we were, close up on the camera on National Bolivian TV!  I tried to reach for my camera, but it went off before I got a chance to take a picture.

This is a picture of our zone!  almost half the zone is changing now, but it's been a great group of missionaries!

 Bolivian money!  7 bolivianos is about the same as a dollar, so you can figure the breakdown.  My city, Quillacollo, is the only one who has the 200 bills, and they are a pain because nobody ever has change for them!

 This is the boy we baptised on Saturday.  He is the brother of our other convert and now their whole family are members of the church!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Quechua, Baptisms, and the 1920s!

Lot's of things happened this week!  I got to do a few intercambios (exchanges)  with some Latino elders, and a Bolivian holiday called Dia de Peaton.

The Cochabamba area in general is know in Bolivia as being the dirtiest place in the country. This is probably because it's in the middle of the 2 biggest cities La Paz and Santa Cruz, so there is alot of transit between the two.  This means that tons of semi trucks, and goods are moved right throught the city.  They don't have any regualtions on the cars like they do in the states, so there is a ton of pollution and trash everywhere.  In an effort to try and preserve the ozone layer, the government didn't decide to try and clean up.  They didn't try and put regulations on any of the cars, like in other countries.  All they did was ban vehicles for a day haha.  If anyone was caught driving, (which I saw some of them) they were charged 1,000 Bolivianos (about 150 USD) and their car was taken to the impound lot.  This day was yesterday. Luckily it was a Sunday, so we were going to stay in the area anyways.  Since my town is already barely a blip on the map, it looked like an ancient villiage without any cars on the dirt roads.  People used other means of getting around: There are tons of horses, so they rode those, and bicycles too. I wish I would have gotten some pictures because I felt like I was in the 1920's haha.

I had the chance to go on 2 different intercambios this week, but they were both in my area.  The first one I had was with a Peruvian elder.  He is the best missionary, and takes the saying "talk to everyone you see" literally.  If there was 10 minutes of down time, he was busy chatting with a new person and taking out an appointment to visit them.  

The second intercambio I had was with an Elder from Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  He is a new Elder here in the mission, only having about 2 months.  One of the great things about this elder is he speaks Quechua fluently. So part of out plans were to go up into the hills in my area where they only speak Quechua and contact.  He held a Quecha BOM and I held a spanish one.  If they spoke spanish, I spoke to them.  But if they only spoke Quechua, he spoke. It was so cool hearing the gospel be taught in another language!

This was a baptism that we went to.  The little guy in the middle is from a less active family that's starting to come back.  He's 8, so the baptism doesn't count for the mission, but he loves all the missionaries, so he had one of the elders baptize him!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"I Read the Mormon Book. I like!"

Hola Familia,

Well, another week here in Bolivia.  I have 2 more weeks until transfers and it's pretty certan that I will change companions, areas, or possibly even both. I'm excited for the changes though.

This past week, we met with one of our recent converts. She told us before she had to talk to us about something, but wouldn't tell us what. When we got to her house, she started to explain that she wants to serve a mission! We were very excited for her. She had many questions about the mission; how to start your papers, what it is like, where she could go, etc. We answered everything she had and will be talking to the bishop to take the next few steps. For me, this not only means that she will stay active, it also means that she will be spreading the gospel to many others also!

This past week we had a Zone Conference.  3 different zones of about 25 missionaries each, so there were right around 75 missonaries there.  During a break, the president's wife asked me if she could share a story I wrote to president. The one about using words that weren't in my vocabulary during a lesson, through the gift of tongues. I told her that was fine, and she proceeded with her talk.  In the middle of her talk, right as she was about to tell the story, she said it would be better if I explained it myself, and asked me to come up and share it.  I think this was the defining moment of my language skills.  One of the hardest things to do is tell a story in depth in another language. I wasn't sure if I would be able to explain everything, but when I got to the pulpit, I was fine. I told the story to everyone in detail, as if I would in English.

There is a woman who attends the english class we finally were able to get an appointment at her house. She really wants to learn english, but when it came to the gospel, she was only halfway interested.  We taught her the restoration, and gave her a book of mormon at her house. It was a pretty normal lesson. Suprisingly, she told us she would read the book of mormon.  We were glad she told us she would read, but we had our doubts.  The next day, we got a text from here saying "I read the Mormon book. I like" I was glad, but I'm still convinced she used Google Translate.  

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gringo Burgers, Llamas, and Baptisms!

Well, another week has past with it being difficult to work.  2 weeks ago was the party of the virgin, which was big.  Then we learned that that party was just the pre party. UkupiƱa is the gigantic one, and that closed our area down even worse for 2 days.  No tiendas were open, all restaurants were closed, and the members weren't even in their house.  It was a difficult couple of days, but we got through them.

On Saturday, a group of us went up to the city to get supplies and meat for a cookout that we are doing today for our zone.  We got there and went into a super market, and ran into another american, who started talking to us.  He owns a burger shack, so he helped us with selecting the meat.  We got to talking, and turns out he is a member, and a convert of 6 years!  He moved here because his wife is from Bolivia. instead of travelling by trufi, he agreed to take us back if we went to his burger place to try one of his burgers, and helped him set up. We agreed, and he gave us 2 of his best burgers a person! They were the best food I have had since I got here.

The other day, a member was talking about video games with us, and it got me really confused.  He told me the name of his favorite game was "Llamas Del Infierno." So using the words I knew, this sounded like a weird game.. Lamas of Hell.  He explained how you play and beat the game and all, and I followed up by asking where the lamas were, since that was the title.  I expected it to have some demon lamas in it or something.  They busted out laughing and had to explain to me that the word "llama" can also mean flame, and call. Flame in tis case.  I felt a bit awkward after that.

We have 3 investigators with baptismal dates for September 7th.  We are trying to invite at least one more investigator for the same day. They seem solid, so I think we will be baptising at least 2 of them for sure.
If we do, that will mean I will have baptised every transfer so far. My goal is to baptize at least once per transfer, although this mission is not like a Peruvian mission. All of my friends serving there crank out at least 2 baptisms a month. I have realized it takes perfect obedience, and relying on the holy ghost for the work to progress.  I have felt the blessings of hard work and obediance here in the mission. It really works!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Snow, Temples, and Baptisms!

Well, sorry I didn't write yesterday. But there is a story behind why I wasn't able to go to internet yesterday.

 So this is what happened:  We got a group of 3 zones of elders and sisters (approx. 65 or 70 missionaries) to go on a bit of a trip for Pday.  We left early yesterday morning on 2 large busses to go up into the mountains where it had just snowed. It took about 2 hours to get up there.  It was great and all, and everyone had fun. When we were getting ready to leave, we were missing a group of elders.  We had no idea where they went. We sat waiting literally all day.  It was nearly dark by the time they finally got down.  What had happened was they got up to a part of the mountain with a lot of snow and ice. One elder slipped and sprained/broke his ankle, and then got stuck in about 3 feet of snow. They had to take turns carefully getting him back down the mountain, and that is what took so long, and the busses couldn't leave until everyone was accounted for. So there was no time to write yesterday, or really do anything.

This past week, with all of the fiestas going on, we had the chance to bring some of our investigators to the Temple, since we couldn't work.  This is a special occasion, since you need permission from either the temple president, or the mission president.  One of the elders knows the temple president, so he got us permission to go as a group with some investigators. Everybody had a great time. We even got the temple president to give us all a tour of the temple grounds and to answer all of the investigators questions about the temple and all. He is very knowledgable.  We also had the chance to do some baptisms at the temple with some members. This is also soemthing you need permission for, which we got. It was great also.  While the missionaries can't do baptisms, they can be witnesses and run the names on the camera (which I was able to to). It was interesting seeing the baptisms from a different perspective.

I have gained a testimony of befriending the investigators to build the trust, and allow the spirit to bear witness to them stronger.  This past week, we met with a girl who is about 14 years old.  Her mother is a member, and set up the appointment with her daughter for us.  The first thing she told us was the she does not want to be baptised. Apparently, in Orura, a closeby city, she was taught by missionaries who invited her to baptism on the first lesson, and after 2 minutes of talking to her.  So her perspective of missionaries was that we are rebots who just push people to be baptised.  We quickly explained to her that this was not our purpose at all, and we only want to help her however we can.  It didn't feel right to just jump into a lesson, so we just sat and visited with her, talking about anything and everything.  Eventually we realized that she was confortable, and gave her a short lesson. She invited us back two days later, without us even contacting her.  That was when she was finally ready to hear about the restoration,a nd the spirit was very strong, since we had already built up that trust and friendship.  She now has a baptismal date and is progessing greatly!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Fiestas and "espeaka engrish?!"


Well, this past week has been a great one. I look forward to every single day when I go to bed! (but not the waking up at 6:30 am, that part still sucks).  We have found success with our English classes, and The biggest party inall of Bolivia takes it's home right here in Quillacollo this week. It has already been interesting, and it just started last night!

The English class I teach has attracted many people to the church, and has turned into something bigger than I thought it ever would.  There are some people who let us know they would like to attend the class, but can't make it on tuesday nights, so we suggest teaching them in their house. These are golden opportunities! Its a more relaxed situation for one, and it builds the trust and friendship a lot more than from a class of 10 or 12.  The other missionaries close by have also bandwagoned the idea, and their investigators also attend the classes. Between the members, the other missionary's investigators and ours, we usually have a good turnout.  It does put stress on me to prepare a new english lesson every week, especially with my limited materials.  But it is strengthening my teaching skills tremendously, having to teach in front of so many people.

While we have many investigators, and tons with baptismal dates, they all have some sort of fear or doubt, and there is not much we can do except visit them and help them. I know the baptisms will come, but the wait is agonizing! Especially when you know the investigator is more than prepared for baptism.

This week, the parties begin. But for missionaries here in Bolivia, all that means is us being stuck in the house all week.  So basically this is apparently how it has gone here every year in the past: There are parades on Sunday and Monday (we saw one last night, and one this moning on the way to internet) And then Tuesday there is a huge tradicional dance that everyone prepares all year for. This lasts fromTuesday until Thursday, and during it, nobody works, or even sleeps. Everybody just drinks, and that is why it gets dangerous and we can't leave the house for those days.  Its pretty certain that there will be some sort of violence haha.  I have a few photos that I will send over from one of the parades, and I'll try to get some of the dances for next week!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission