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.

I know, It's been a while!


I know it has been a while since I have written a long family letter, but I promise I haven't forgotten about all of you.  If y'all have time though, you should send me a quick email;  Whats going on in your lives, school, work, family, kids, anything.  That way I feel like I know what's going on with everyone!

Anyways, back to my life: The mission.  I feel like not much has changed here, but maybe that's just because the mission makes you used to changes.

So, right now, I am training.  He is my first kid (as they call it in the mission, when you train someone.)  He is a great guy, and honestly, has been my best companion.  You really tend to latch onto your trainers because they are the one's who show you the ropes.  Not just when it comes to teaching, but also just how the mission is in general.  

My Kid is named Elder Cortez.  He is from Ecuador, but lived for a year in Mexico before the mission.  He is a former professional soccer player.   When he was 16, he was recruited by a person to play in Mexico, and eventually worked his way up from the reserve squad to the main team.  Within a few months, he was making decent money, and had no real plans of being a missionary.  With that money, he purchased a motorcycle that, according to him, was way too powerful for his 17 year old body to handle.  He was involved in a terrible motorcycle accident, which ended his soccer playing days.  After he has healed enough to travel, he headed back home to Ecuador.  In the airport was his family, and also his bishop.  His handed him a folder which contained his mission papers.  That was the first time in his life he had seriously considered a mission, although he was raised in the church.  So, while healing, he began to work and prepare for the mission, arriving here in Early January.

This week is Carnaval.  I know James, and also Jenny and Mom and Dad experienced this holiday in Peru while they were there.  But for those of you who don't know about it: It's basically a week long water fight.  And some people don't use water. They use paint, gasoline, soapy water, and somethines the balloons have rocks in them.  As you walk through the streets, you are constantly sprayed with water guns, and pegged with waterballoons, and sprayed with silly string.  This is not a holiday I enjoy, to be honest.  It also means the missionarys cannot teach.  3 days of nothing but sitting inside the house (or throwing water ballons from our balcony, since I live in the plaza now).  This holiday started yesterday, and goes until this wednesday.

So, you all remember my pensionista? She is the nicest person you could ever come across, and would do anything you want for you.  ANyways, she has a daughter, who is in her late 20's.  This daughter has been living in Italy for the past 8 years, but recently returned home to live.  Her name is Johana, and is equally as nice.This week we have been focusing on putting fecha bautismales with people we know are prepared. While teaching lesson 3 with Johana, who is very interested in baptism, she explained to us she knows she needed to be baptised, but wanted to wait a bit. At first, her excuse was that she felt she needed to learn more about the evangelio before being baptised. At that moment, her little sister quickly explained it was because she still wanted to drink, and party during Carnaval. That is when we decided to take the lesson in a different direction. We flipped to Alma 34:33 where it explains that we should not procrastinate the day of our repentance. After that, she accepted the new baptismal date for 2 weeks from now, and has promised to keep the word of wisdom. Her family, and us, were very proud of her for taking this step in her life.  She has told us she plans on staying in Bolivia for a while, and attends church with her family every week.

Well,  time is running short and we have to go.  If everyone could send me even a few sentences about your week, or what theyre up to I'd love that! Keep in touch!

Elder Potts III
Bolivia Cochabamba Mission