Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Busy Days in Bolivia


Here's a journal entry from possibly the most productive day I have had in this area, when it comes to mission work:

"3 Julio, 2014. Jueves. Universidad II

It's suprising to me how much I can get done when we have everything p`lanned out well.  I'm not lying when I say we were in a rush all day long, practically running from cita to cita.

We started off the morning early, with excersizes and a big breakfast, prepared by norma and Jessenia the day before (recent converts). After, at 8 am, we went over to Julia Chabarria's house to give service. I'm not kidding, we washed clothes for 3 hours straight, with her giving the orders every step of the way. I was hunched over the big water bucket for so long, that my back was in strong pain all day long after.

At 11:30 we arrived back at the house.  There was no time to study, or even shower, because we had a cita with Efain at 12 on the dot. All we did was shave and put on extra deodorant.  Efrain ended up presenting us to his friend, Eli. They study together at La San Simon, a state college here. We taught lesson 1 and she weemed to accept. Sunday she says she will come too. After we help her and Efrain with some upper level english class homework, then flew to lunch.

After shoveling down our food quickly, we went to Ghersons house, cita fija. He wasn't able to talk, so we went to Doña maria, who wasn't in her tienda either. After we went to Juana Espinoza, but she just asked us to come back tomorrow for a cita.

Finally, we arrive at Kevin and Arnolds house. Their Aunt ends up coming and greeting us, and invites us in.  We end up teaching her the plan of salvacion. She has to sell chicharron on Sundays in order to keep her family afloat, but she said she will do her bext to come on Sunday, maybe for one hour. We will go pick her up also Sunday Morning.

After, we left Amada's, Volando over to heidys. We were late to a cita fija we had with her. She has had tons of doubts about the church, eve though shes beena member for more than 10 years. They've mainly come for one reason: While going through a rough time a few weeks ago, her firend invitied her to his church, Crist Viene (yeah, the one created by an ex member who claims the same exact story as Jose Smith). She said she had a beautiful experience there, and really felt something.  SO, we are working a ton with her on her testimony so she can resolve her doubts.  She is reading the LdM ad praying often, so I know she will be able to rerain her testimony, and be reactivated. SHe promised us she will come on Sunday also.

From Heidy's, we booked it over to Zacharias's house, another set appointment.  With him, we have to be super direct. He has already attended 2 times, so this is what I told him: 'Zacarias, your sister in law Magda is getting baptized on the 12th of July. If you attend the sunday, and have your answer, you too can be baptized with her on that day.'  That really made him aware of the situation, althought he didn't accept nor reject the invitation.   But, we will see if he attends on Sunday.

Next stop we hit Assis, but he wasn't home. We ended up visiting Julio Cesar, a less active youth of 23 years old. We are getting to know his whole family, who aren't members yet except his litter sister who's also less active.  He recently quit his job, which was on Sundays, so he can focus better on studies and try to come back to church.  We taught him about the santa cena and explained to him he could be the example for his whole family to get baptized. 

Finally we made it to dinner, pounded the food, and filled out a progress report for ward counsil. We have a lot of tasks we need from the members, but they are really willing to help.  We gave our schpiel, and then turned the time over to the other companionship in the ward. Realizing I wouldn't be able to help them out with their area, my eyes became very heavy, and I eventually passed out for a few seconds. Luckily I don't think anyone noticed.

5 lessons, 1 new person, service. Today was very productive, I'd say.

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

A New Mission President

Last week the old mission president went home, and as of friday, we are under the reign of a new president, President Hansen.  NObody knows too much about him, but I was able to meet him on Saturday.  He is tall, hefty, in his late 50's, and wears hearing aids.  He came off as a great guy though.  I'm excited for the future with a new President.

We had out last conference on Wednesday with Predient Dyer, and it wasn't like normal ones.  It was filled with crying, last testimonies, and even a talk by Sister Dyer on "How to find your future wife." She asked us to take notes, but the fold it over and not read the notes until we get home.  The conference ended with president and sister Dyer hugging each and every missionary, and sharing a few words with us.  Presidents words to me? "You will be a great leader among these missionaries, Elder Potts."  It really meant a lot to me.

My companion and I had an experience this past week with a new person that we found. " We went and visited a little old fragile lady this morning named Hna. Espinoza. I have never wanted to help anyone so bad before. First of all, she is 80 years old, lives alone, and has no family even in the country.  She is also very sick with diabetes, and suffers from severe depression.  All she wants is for her family to be with her again, but her husband passed away a few years ago.  We had a very long visit with her, but I know she enjoyed every minute of our company. We shared with her about the plan of Salvation, and how this information can help her understand better our purpose here on earth, and where we are going. I know she was glad to learn about this plan. She no longer can read, so we will leave her with videos or audio to listen to next time we visit her."

So, Magda, the Golden Investigator we have been teaching now for a few weeks, introduced us to her sister, Flavia this past week.  She is 100% just as golden as Magda.  It was amazing teachign with both of them, and Magda began helping us teach the restoration and bearing her testimony... She hasn't even been baptised yet and she is already giving her testimony!  I feel blessed with the investigators that we have right now.

I love you all, stay safe and advise me of your activities throughout the week!

Elder Potts III

Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Temple Recommends, a New Companion and Baptismal Interviews

I have a new companion now, Elder Alvarado, from Perú. He has 4 months in the mission so is still getting used to mission life. His trainer was my current Zone leader, and a good friend, and so he is very obedient. He's gonna be a big help to the area for us.

We have a group of youth who we have begun teaching at least once a week.  It consists of our 2 recent converts Norma and Yessenia, their best friend Paty (who was baptised a year ago), and 2 recently reactivated members who were each inactive for many years.  The ward is very pleased, and each one of them is now a temple recommend holder, all hold callings, and are each going to the temple on Wednesday with us to do baptisms. It is nice watching your converts turn from converts to active members in the ward.

Here is an entry from my journal about my first baptismal interview I conducted:

"30 Abril 2014
Today I'll end with good news. We have 4 set baptisms for this Saturday in Las Cuadras from the district!  When the elders told me, the first thing I realized was that I'd end up doing all 4 interviews.  The entire family is getting baptised. 2 parents, and 2 kids. The youngest will turn 8 in a few months and also be baptised. This is especially cool because they are having their wedding on Friday, and their baptisms all on Saturday.  So back to the Entrevistas: I arrived at the capilla nervous. I guess that's natural, the first time you do anything, but I prayed in the trufi for comfort and I felt better when I arrived.  The first interview I had was with the dad. The family lives by very humble means, so I wasn't expecting any deep doctrine questions, but he asked me some very interesting ones about Joseph Smith and church history. It seemed like he has been doing a bit of internet research on the church. I was able to resolve all of his doubts though. I came to realize that he was way more nervous than I was during that interview, so it was nice knowing I wasn't the only one.  The mom's was next and hers was more simple. After one interview, the rest seemed to flow nicely, and they all passed.  It's amazing talking to people who are really changing their lives completely. Each one of them has a spirit to them that is indescribable and strong."

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission


Another week has passed and the days are flying by.  

This week has been good. I found out a whole family was baptised in my old area that we found a few months before I left.  All of the baptisms that have happened in my first area have come from our finds while there.  It's nice to feel like I did some good, even if I didn't end up dunking them.

We have also successfully reactivated 2 of the inactives in the ward here.  They now have temple recommends and callings, and attend regularly.

Write me soon familia. Les quiero mucho. ¡Siempre están en mis oraciones!  

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Kioskos in the City!

Last night was transfer night. The same as every 6 weeks here. After waiting up super last for the call to come in, it turns out, I'll be staying here a bit longer, and with my companion too. Nothing is changing for us, but the whole zone is getting transfers.  I'm happy though. We have a few more people here preparing for baptism, so it would be a shame if one of us was transferred out right now.

One of the new methods of missionary work is geared more towards the upper middle class, or the upper class.  This way of contacting these types of people is hard too, but it's just a test for south America to see if it's productive or not.  We set out big kiosks and passed out cards. They even have those square smart phone things, where you take a picture and it links you to the page. So, that was pretty cool.  My turn was on Friday, right around 5-6.  All of the working class left their jobs, and there we were, in the biggest plaza in Cochabamba with swarms of them passing by.  We assumed it would be busy so we had 4 elders there, instead of the normal 2 elders.  It actually turned out super successful, and at one time we had all 4 elders talking to different people.  We ended the day with about 10 references, and easily over 100 cards passed out.

So, remember the curly haired new convert, Jessenia? She has not only attends every activity and meeting we have had since her baptism, she has also successfully reactivated one of her friends.  Her name is cecilia, and has been inactive for 2 years.  She also being a med student, has just focused on her studies and basically forgot about the church.  The first Sunday she came back, she cried through all of sacrament meeting, but told us afterward she felt right at home in the capilla again. It was amazing to see the spirit touch her like that!

All in all, I have about 10 months left here in the mission.  It sounds like a lot, but honestly, the first 14 months have passed in a flash, so, in probably 40 emails or so, I'll be back in America! Tell me about your week everyone!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Investigators Teaching Us!

It has been a very busy week here in the mission! Saturday we have 3 that are ready for baptism, and 3 more the following week!I know this will be a good transfer here in the mission.

Here's a little bit about one of our investigators who has a baptismal date for in 2 weeks. Her name is Norma, and this is coming straight from my journal:
Norma is the prima of Patty, who is a member of about 3 years.  Both of them are here in Cochabamba studying medicine, but originally come from Peru.  Now, I don't know if it's because they educated, or if Patty just helps her understand the importance of the gospel, but she is just a golden investigator.  Every bit of tarea we give her she always comes back with good questions, verses highlighted, and ready to learn more.  Patty is the only member, but we are teaching Norma and Jisinia, her prima and friend. Anyways, today we taught Norma the Evangelio of Jesucristo. She came very prepared as always with 2 Nep 31, almost to the point to where she could teach us a little something about it. She already has a testimony and knows it's true.  She already knows she wants to be baptised, and that's the direction she should be headed. Her only fear is of her family, especially her dad. Although she is over 18, she wants his approval before she does it.  Her father is apparently very catholic and would not handle it well if she was baptized right now. Patty shared her conversion story and of her baptism, and the spirit was so strong.  After, I felt prompted to tell Norma "you know what you should do."  We asked Norma to give the closing prayer for us and she accepted.  While asking the Lord to soften the heart of her father about her baptism, tears began to fall.  She whispered to patty she couldn't finish the prayer. but Patty helped her through it.  I know and she knows what she should do. Patty did not have her family with her on the day of her baptism either, as they didn't accept it, but that hasn't stopped her from being a great member, and even sharing it with all of her friends.
I have more stories, but not enough time to write them all! I will probably save them for another time!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Conference and Confidence

Well,  my time has almost run out here at internet, so I'll try to make this one good, but quick!
I don't know if it's just because I'm a missionary, but man, I love conference! I always feel like I have questions that need to be answered, and they always get answered in the exact way that I need.  I have struggled recently with a few things. I'll try not to make these too personal, but I think possibly every male can relate.  Confidence is a great thing to have. But there is such a fine line between confidence, and pride, that sometimes the line can be crossed.  As a missionary, you have to be confident. You cannot have fear of speaking to strangers, or teaching them, or anything of that nature. But often times, orgullo, as it is in spanish, can get the best of you.  My main question was how to serve as a missionary being as humble as possible.  President Monson's talk on love may have been a life changing talk for me.  I now view the work differently than I did just a few days ago.
Just a quick update on the youth that are preparing for baptism: We have obtained permission for 3 of the 4 guys to be baptized! That means there should be some baptisms coming here in just about 2 weeks.
Last bit of news for the week: The last district leader, Elder Gonzalez has been transferred to another area, and they have called me to take his place! So I will be teaching a class to missionaries each week, taking numbers, going on splits, etc. I guess that is good news.

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Monday, March 31, 2014

One Year Ago! And a Kiss on the Cheek?

A year has past. I couldn't begin to explain how different things are now. In Spanish, there are two words people use to descibe change, There is "cambiando" and "mejorando". I wouldn't say I have changed as a person in general. But I would say I am "mejorando" or becoming better. In the past year, I have grown up.  I have gone from that kid who can't stop thinking about skateboarding, music, and girls, to someone who can never sleep Saturday nights, just praying investigators will come to church on Sunday. My priorities have gone from work, school, and food to companions, investigators, and baptisms. My brain has changed.  The main opportunities I have to speak english are writing you all, and tuesdays during meetings with other americans.  (so sorry for grammar if it's bad :D ) Other than that, I dream, think, and speak Spanish. My brain speaks spanish now, not english. I guess overall, these are good changes for me.  And this is only the halfway point!
Now, back to this week and all that has happened.
My companion and I decided that the best way for people to enter the water is for them to know from the beginning what our purpose is. This has helped us a ton, and now we usually place a baptismal date with them on the first lesson we teach to them.  Last week, we were teaching an older lady, named Julia. On our first visit, we invited her to baptism but explained she had to read the Book of Mormon, and then after pray about it. We promised her is she asked sincerely, she would receive an answer, and she did.  Now, I can't remember which apostle said this, but he explained that not everyone feels the spirit in the same way. Some people are cryers. Some people (like me) feel it as a burning within their chest.  Her answer was received in a much different way... We asked her to explain how she knew the book of mormon was true, and this is what she told us:  "I read one chapter out of the book of mormon, and after immidiately began to pray and ask if it were true.  I received my answer by a kiss on my cheek from the spirit! I felt it, and that was my answer!"  And while I doubt I'll ever receive an answer to my prayers through a kiss on the cheek, that was how she got hers. And now she has her answer.

While overall, I have loved my mission, everyone I have met, the things I have learned, etc., I can't say there haven't been very, very hard times here.  Thursday, I woke up. March 27, my year mark.  My first thought was "wow, one whole year!" Then after I realized it was only the halfway point. There's a whole other year left to go. Then came a whole string of negative thoughts into my head. Satan has a way of turning a good thing into a negative one, and I got brought down.  Thinking about home. Thinking about the family, my buddies. Worrying about bank charges. And, finding out a week ago my ex girlfriend Taylor was engaged wasn't comforting news either. This may have been my toughest time I've had so far in my mission, and I needed help.  Our first reachout as missionaries is the Lord, then our companion, then DL, LZ, etc.  With my situation, I consulted the Lord.  I asked to help clear my head. I asked to be able to focus on the work and stop getting caught up in back home. I wouldn't be there for another year anyways. I asked for blessings. That was Saturday night. Sunday, the blessings came flying in for us! We were able to bring 8 people to church with us! That was more than I had ever done before.  We also received 7 references from members. In my last area, we never received references from members. After church, we were able to find EVEN MORE new people.  My prayers were answered. We had success. I completely forgot about all other distractions and just focused all my energies on the people here. There is no other explanation to that other than answers to prayers. 

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Picture Update

3 White Shirts

Well, now that I have a week here in the city, I have sort of gotten a good look at how the work is going to be.  All of you returned missionaries will understand that much of the success acheived in an area depends on if the previous missionaries continued to work, or not.  My first week was filled with finding new people to teach.  When I arrived, my companion took me to 2 investigators house, who didn't seem to interested or promising, and then later explained there were no other people we had to teach or to visit... That's when I realized it was time to well, basically open and area and start fresh.  It has gotten off to a great start here in the area though! We now have 5 people with bpatismal dated and found great new people to teach.

Here's a bit about my companion now: HIs name is Elder Alvarez, and he is from Chimbote, Peru.  Apparently it's a fishermans town about 8 hours north of Lima.  As soon as I met him, I could tell he does not come from a family with money. Tuesday night was a bit cold (as it's starting to get a bit colder here) and he asked to borrow a hoodie of mine.  I noticed he didn't have one. Later on that night I told him he could have it. I have 2 hoodies, and the one he was wearing is a bit small. After that, he turned to me and said "this is the first piece of original (or namebrand) clothing I've ever owned"

We found 4 young boys on Thursday who were references from another youth.  Between thursday and Sunday, we were able to teach them twice. When Sunday came around, we went to their houses to take them to church, but unfortunately none of them were home.  A bit discouraged, we headed over to the capilla.  When we arrived there were 3 young men, all dressed in white shirts and ties, sitting reverently on the back row! They had gotten themselves dressed properly and on time to church, as it explained in the folletos we had given them! During 3rd hour, the teacher of their class came to us, asking us to speak a bit to them about the mission.  He also explained that 2 of these 3 young boys were brothers, abandoned by their parents a few years ago.  They were taken in by their uncles and aunts and now they live with them. They also told the entire young mens quorum they wanted to be baptized! Their Tios are also going to try and attend church with them this next week!

Here's Some Suprising News: I'm downtown now

So here's how my Saturday went:  

"Around 10 o'clock this morning, I got a phone call from the zone leaders while on my way to pick up out pension food from the tienda.  I answered, and all the told me is that we have cambios. TODAY. What does that mean? That means I am leaving my area, and I just have to pack everything up.  Of course I asked why, although they had no idea.  I got transferred to Universidad. This is the most central part of Cochabamba.  As in downtown. As in, I'm in the ghetto. And I have no idea how to work in an area like this. There are no cholitas working in tiendas. There are no campsinos working out in the farm to lend a hand to.  There are no people, really who have time to talk to us. Imagine missionaries in downtown Atlanta, or New York.  Nobody really has time to talk to us."
I only had time to see my pensionista and a few investigators before heading out to the city.  My pensionista, who we both refer to as 'Mami' was in tears from the second we got there until the second we had to go. It was so hard leaving my area, especially so suddenly. My investigators were in an outrage, and threatened to call president themselves, haha.  I arrived around 8 O'clock that night in the city.  The only thing my new companion, Elder Alvarez, wanted to share about the emergency transfer was that he talked to president the day before, and asked for a change. I left it at that, and did not want to pry assuming it was something serious.
My new companion as I said before, is Elder Alvarez. He is from Peru, and is the nicest person you will meet. He always greets every single person we see in the street, and offers service every chance he gets.  The area is a pretty slow one too, so I'm taking that as a chance to beef it up.  One elder, in the same ward but other part of the city, has been out for 6 months here and has not baptized yet.  We will be able to break this streak, it will just take time!
Love you all! Write soon!

Conference, Fires, and Fiestas

Long week. Lots of stories.  Too many to really explain via email, but
I'll do my best to tell the better ones.

Saturday and Sunday were our stake conference, but in reality, it was
a conference for all of Bolivia, broadcasted via satelite to every
stake in Bolivia.  Russle M. Nelson came, and actually speaks good
spanish.  The main topic of the conference was on Temples.  As you all
know, Cochabamba has the only temple in all of Bolivia, which is
interesting because it is the 3rd largest city in Bolivia.  Located
right in the middle of La Paz and Santa Cruz, it allows for both of
the citys of more than 900 thousand people in La Paz and 2.5 Million
in Santa Cruz, to come to the temple.  Nelson was very blunt when he
explained that if members payed their tithing and held a current
temple reccommend, 2 more temples could easily be build in each of the
cities.  He even went as far as saying that thei idea has been brought
up in the first presidency to announce the next temples here, but in
the end decided it was not time yet.  This is the now the goal of the
members here in Bolivia - To have have another temple built - so they
can be closer to their homes.

Carnaval continued this entire week, and has quickly turned into my
least favorite holiday ever.  Apparently the fiesta is was officially
on Monday and Tuesday, but I was splashed with water and sprayed with
'artificial snow' at least 3 times every single day.  Including
Sunday, in my suit.  Just imagine not being able to walk the streets
without some kid with a squirt gun, or a water balloon being thrown,
or foam sprayed at you, or even a bucket of water tossed on your head
from a few stories up...  And having the face of a gringo only
amplifies the attacks.  Honestly, I'm not even sure what the holiday
is all about.

SInce I live hours outside of Cohabamba, yesterday after Conference
and meetings, my companion, me, and the 4 other elders had to stay in
the city to sleep for Pday today.  While at the pensionistas house (3
floors down from the Elder's house in the same building. The elder's
house is on top) We see a man running and yelling towards the house,
saying it's on fire! I look out the window upwars, and all I see is a
black cloud flowing out of all the windows from the upstairs windows!
I book it up the stairs only to find all the latino elders panicing
and running around, in shock and not knowing what to do.  Elder
Bennett runs in and grabs the 30 liter drinking water and starts
dumping it.  Luckily, some of the elders were also making water
balloons, including one that probably had about a gallon of water in
it. One problem in Bolivia is that when you are 7 floors up, there is
no water pressure at all.  They use a machine called a 'Bombero' to
force enough pressure in the water for it to reach the top floor.  And
of cours, at this time it was turned off.  So no water was coming from
the faucetts.  I took that and threw it on a pile of clothes that were
burning up the wall.  After a few minutes, all of the flames were
gone, except for inside of one of the matresses.  Throwing water on it
did nothing either, because it was inside of the matress.  We haul the
mattress out and finally stomp the last of it out.  Luckily the fire
was in the other room, so none of my belingings were burned.  We lost
the bed, of course, 2 dressers, and part of a desk.  One elder lost
all of his clothes, including his suit and all white shirts.  Now,
this incident makes me think...  What would have happened if there
were not gallon sized water balloons? Or what would happen if there
was no more water in the large water bottle?  I'm really not sure. I
just know we were blessed to catch it in time and put it out before it
destroyed everything.  Now, I know you're all asking about how it
started.  Apparently one elder was sewing a doll for a girl in the
ward (strange, I know).  In order for string not to frey, he burned
the end of is, and threw the match out the window... only it didn't
leave. It got blown back in by the wind without him knowing it and
fell on a pile of dirty clothes.

Anyways, I'll still try to keep writing a weekly email.  Let me know
what's going on in the states.