Bienvenido!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Transferrrrrssss!

Yo fams! I'm writing today (Monday) because everytime there are transfers, our Pday changes to Monday.

So the big news is transfers! Welp, nothing too exciting. I'm staying in the same area and getting a new companion tomorrow. His name's Elder Benavides and he's from Ecuador. He is gonna be the most experienced companion I've had so far because he's got like 17 months in the mission, so that's pretty cool, because he can teach me a WHOLE BUNCH! So it looks like I'm not gonna be training anyone, I'm still gonna be junior companion, and I'm gonna be in the same area as well. I didn't think I was gonna be staying here, and my companion didn't think that he would be getting transferred. One of the brothers in the ward was certain I was gonna be leaving and he started telling all the members that I was getting transferred. Little dork, haha. Yesterday in church, all the members in the ward were saying bye to me and wishing me luck in my new area. I felt bad because no one was saying bye to my companion.

I was kinda bummed that I wasn't gonna be leaving this area - I wanted a change. But it seems to me that there is someone here who still needs to hear the gospel from me. I'm just having a difficult time finding them! This area certainly has been a refiner's fire for me, and I think there's still more challenges for me that I need to face and more lessons I need to learn. It's been hard not having a single baptism in the 4.5 months I've been here. And I know that the number of baptisms doesn't define a successful mission, but it'd be nice. I know there are amazing missionaries in other countries where it's more difficult to baptize and have 1 baptism in two years. But at least in those countries, ALL the missionaries are facing that trial. Here in Bucaramanga, I feel like I'm the only one not baptizing. Everybody else is having plenty of baptisms, and if not plenty, at least one baptism.

But good news: we have been teaching a 20-yr old named Laura Sanchez and she is progressing amazingly! She goes to church EVERY week (something that no other investigator does), she reads the scriptures with true interest, she highlights things she likes while reading, she prays, she repents, she has comitted to live the law of chastity, and is giving up tea (which she said she likes a lot) in order to keep the commandment of the Word of Wisdom. She is excited for her baptismal date planned for the 12th of November! And it helps so much that she is a good friend of one of the members in the ward. See you guys what a big difference it makes when the investigators are friends with the members? When the members give the missionaries referrals? They have constant support from the members, they have the desire to go to church, they see the good in their member friends and want to be like them. So share the gospel! Give the missionaries lots of work to do! Make 'em sweat and beg for rest! haha!

Welp, that's everything! I love you family! Send me some encouraging words!

Love,
Elder Bogdan

Just so you know, I'm completing 9 months in the mission TODAY!

Welp, I have so much time and so much to say! Scratch that. Reverse it. And keep in mind that today's opposite day. Therefore, what I truly was trying to say is that I don't have much to say, and I also don't have very much time... haha

This week we FINALLY received a reference from a member of our ward! An ex-missionary of 25 years gave us the reference of his likely future girlfriend and wife, and so we started teaching her! She has a very sincere desire and accepted in the first visit to get baptized. She is progressing extremely well and reads the Book of Mormon so obediently. She highlights what she likes from the chapters we assign her and everything! Her name is Laura Sanchez, and she is passing through some problems right now, and it's a great privilege to be able to help her overcome those problems. I love being able to share my experiences with people, and bear my testimony of the healing power of the Atonement. And I get to do that when we teach her:)

The English classes I'm teaching are doing well, and I taught my students about the names of different parts of the body, and to practice the names, we sang and danced ''Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes''! Haha! It was funny because there were adults and youth dancing and singing as well. I gave them lots of candies afterwards for their enthusiasm. Remember how when we were kids we would always go to the bishop after church, say what we learned, and he would give us candy? Well, I've taken on that role here in Nuevo Sotomayor. The primary kids come to me after church and attack me for candy! It's so funny! haha!

I gave a talk this past Sunday that got many compliments from the members afterwards. I thank Heavenly Father because He inspired me to give a talk about Ssrvice, he helped me as I planned the talk for days, and it was His Spirit that touched the hearts of the members. As part of my talk, I shared the story of Grandpa Valdizan and how he didn't wanna listen to the sister missionaries at first, but one day the sisters were passing by and performed an act of service, helping out grandpa move stuff from the house when water was entering into his home. I talked about how service can help others recognize us as true Christians and want to learn more about the gospel and live the gospel. That night, we also had a missionary work fireside, which was also a success! I love the members of the ward here a LOT, and they love me a lot too. In spite of that, this week is the last week of the transfer, and I kinda hope I get transferred. I want something new. I wanna new ward and a new companion. Someone mentioned to me that perhaps I might be training next transfer. It's possible... How scary! I don't know if I'm ready for that! But I know that Heavenly Father will greatly help me out, as He lovingly helps me out with EVERYTHING, from the biggest things to the smallest things:) Welp, take care fams! THanks to all those who wrote me! I haven't had the opportunity to read all your letters yet, but thanks anyways! I love you hooligans!

Peace,

Elder Bogdan

PS- Just so you know, I'm completing 9 months in the mission TODAY! A baby's being born! NUTS!
Familia Mìa!

WoWzeRs! I got lots of letters this week! It was awesome! You guys really DO love me! Haha, thanks so much to all who wrote! Man, the weeks are just flying! This transfer is already gonna end and I'm gonna be completing 9 months in the mission! A baby will be born! Which is funny because there's a new convert couple in my ward who're gonna be having their baby within a week of my 9-month anniversary. Welp, seeing as the week flew by so quickly, I don't have very much to say.

Sad news: You all remember the powerful story about Elizabeth that I shared last week? Welp, we've talked to her some more about her baptism the 22nd of October and she wants to wait until the new year starts. Holy cow, right?? And maybe I would understand a little bit more if the reason were because she still feels a little afraid for her baptism, but that's not the reason. She doubts the response she has already received, and she told us that she has been praying that Heavenly Father will confirm her prayers through a dream, and as of now he has not answered her prayers in that manner. She also said that she wants to wait for the next year because this year we still haven't celebrated Christmas, New Year's, nor her birthday (which is this week). She told us that normally she drinks alcohol during those holidays and doesn't think she'll be able to resist that temptation. That was really sad news for us. It seems as if she still has not had a mighty change of heart, and is not willing to live the Word of Wisdom. We expressed to her our love and promised her that living the commandments, she will enjoy her holidays even more, because she will be focusing on Heavenly Father and her family more than on fiestas and drinking. And we invited her to keep praying to find out what Heavenly Father wants her to do, which is not necessarily what she wants to do. Do you guys have any advice? Please pray for Elizabeth and her family.

This week we have gained two new investigators who are willing to prepare themselves to get baptized - Salvador Ariza and Laura Sanchez! Both of them are very good people and have so much potential. Pray for them as well!

Welp, that's all that happened this week basically! I love you all! Take luck!... Errrr... Take... care of the luck that you might have! Hahaha Bryan Reagan.... :)

Love,
Elder Bognichnaknogdan (that's what some of the Elders call me as a joke because they know my last name is Russian so they change my name up even more to make it sound even more Russian haha)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The pear of great price

Dear Fams,

Thanks to all those who sent letters! Receiving lots of news this week was pretty cool, and hearing about all the blessings and happiness that is coming your ways fills me with such joy. Conference was soooooo spiritually uplifting, and I'm gonna strive to do what I usually don't do after conference and that is re-read my notes and try to APPLY the counsels of the Lord's servants. I invite all of you to do the same, and a good idea would be to dedicate your next family home evening talking more about one or more of the conference talks and making plans to apply the teachings in your families.

Well, this week I had an extremely amazing experience that I would like to share with yall! My mission president said once (and this is more or less paraphrasing) that we as members think the mission is the solution to our life's problems. We think that it will constantly be a spiritual blast, and we'll always be feeling great and super spiritual. But we learn on the mission that it is not the solution to our problems, and that it is a lot of tough work. The strong spiritual moments are far and few, separated by gaps of hard work, fatigue, and sometimes discouragement. In those gaps of grime and sweat, we must really make sure that our testimony of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and the restored gospel is sufficiently strong enough to help us endure. Welp, I testify that all of that is 100% true. And fortunately, this past week, a gap concluded and I had one of those few strong, spiritual moments. I don't know if yall remember me talking about some investigators here in my area, the Martinez family. We are teaching the mom, Elizabeth, and her son, Diego (10 yrs old). She also has a son named Michael (3 years old). We have been teaching them for about 3 months. During those three months, they hadn't progressed very much. They go to church sometimes, and then don't go to church for about 2 or 3 weeks. We have lessons with them sometimes, and then we don't teach them for a week because the mom is busy. We invite them to church activities on days other than Sundays, and the mom sends her son with us to the activities, but she doesn't ever go. They lacked a sense of commitment, and lacked a testimony, but they had interest and were slowly progressing, so we weren't gonna stop teaching them. Well, before this week, we hadn't taught them for like 2 weeks, and we thought that maybe the mom lost interest and didn't wanna learn more. I was really worried that that had happened. I began to think about them a lot and what we could do to help them. My love for them began to grow as I realized that we might be losing them. We decided one day that we were gonna stop by the house unexpectedly and pay a visit. That morning, I prayed to Heavenly Father, asking for guidance during my studies to know how to help Elizabeth gain a testimony. And the Lord truly helped me and guided my studies.

During the visit, we began to ask her questions about how she has felt since we started teaching her, what blessings she has seen in her life, how she feels when she prays to know if what we teach is true, how she could recognize her responses. And at the end of the lesson, I remembered that I had studied that we must trust in Moroni's promise at the end of the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:3-5). And so trusting in that promise, and with a prayer in my heart and with faith, I pleaded that the Lord would help Elizabeth gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. We reviewed Moroni's promise with her, and then we knelt down and she offered an extremely heartfelt prayer. During the prayer, her little son Michael started to make noise and flicker the lights, and I got up during the prayer and detained the little scoundrel, and he got quiet. The people next door were also making a lot of noise outside of the house and using bad words. We could hear them during the prayer. But Elizabeth continued on. At the end of the prayer, we were quiet. My companion told me he was tempted to begin talking, but the Spirit told him not to. We looked at Elizabeth and her eyes were red. And we continued to be quiet. The quiet was the great key. I didn't even realize it but the noise outside and the bad words of the neighbors had ceased. I had already let go of little Michael and I don't know where he went, but he definitely wasn't interfering with the quiet. And suddenly, Elizabeth burst into tears. She began to cry for the first time since we had met her. The Spirit had spoken to her heart. And she told us, ''I feel a sense of peace. I feel a sense of peace.'' We helped her to realize that she had received her response. She told us to come back the next day, which was something she had never said. It always seemed like she didn't want us passing by too often, so she had never told us to ''come tomorrow.'' The visits were usually more spaced apart. But she told us to come by the next day. Heavenly Father had answered the prayers of my companion and I, as well as the prayer of Elizabeth. My companion and I continued thinking about the experience for the next 24 hours. I realized as I thought over and over about that powerful experience that it was indeed the first time that I had ever witnessed the prayer of someone being answered, apart from my own prayers. I was able to see that exactly how the Lord has answered my prayers, he had answered the prayer of Elizabeth. The difference in Elizabeth's prayer that day is that she was truly following the invitation of Moroni, praying with a sincere heart, with real intent, and having faith in Christ. It caused me to remember the days when I had prayed in my room at my bedside to know if God really loved me and was aware of me, if Jesus Christ was truly the Savior of the world, if the Book of Mormon was true, if Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if the church was true. I had such a deeply profound desire to know. I NEEDED to know. And I had prayed with a sincere heart, with real intent, and with the greatest faith that I was capable of having. Wow, just writing about the experience, I have a lump in my throat and my eyes are starting to water up a little bit. I know so strongly, with all my being, that Heavenly Father answered my prayers. And what an experience it was to see that process again, occurring in the life of another. Because Heavenly Father answered my prayer, I know that He loves me, that He is aware of me, that I am his son, that Jesus Christ is my Savior and my older brother, that His is the only name whereby I can be saved, that the Book of Mormon is true scripture, written by prophets of the ancient Americas, that the humble 14-year old Joseph Smith truly saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, that he was a prophet of God, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored church of Christ, the same church that Christ had establised on the Earth over 2000 years ago but that was lost after His death and the death of His servants. Like Joseph Smith said, ''I [know] it, and I [know] that God [knows] it, and I [cannot] deny it''.

Loved ones, we are so blessed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. All the good news I have received this week, all the happiness our family is experiencing, all the blessings of the Lord we enjoy is a witness that the Gospel is true. Share it! Show it! Ye are the light and life of the world! The salt of the Earth! Help out the poor lil missionaries please! Like me, perhaps they are not having the sufficient support of the members like they should be having. This message is too great, to miraculous, to sweet and savorous to keep to ourselves! We have the pearl of great price. Will we keep it to ourselves?

Love,
Elder Bogdan

PICTURES!

So loading these pictures took a while and I lost all time to write you guys. But I love you all very much! I am doing great here in Colombia! By the way, a lot of these pictures are from months ago... I'm so excited for conference this weekend! Make sure you all attend! Go to EVERY SESSION!!!! I DARE you....

Take care family!

Love,
Elder Bogdan

2 Nephi 9:49
Alma 36:3























Dear Family,

I can´t help but glory in the goodness of God whenever I think about how wonderful my family is. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful and loving family. The Lord has given us great unity and great love for one another. We are a living proof of the truthfulness of the gospel, of the happiness that comes when we live the principles that our Savior taught. I love you all very much!

Ok, well this week seemed really long. It was only 2 days longer, but it seemed like a lot more. Perhaps it also has to do with the fact that I haven't been getting along too well with my companion, Elder Jara, recently. We are both two very different people, and we think very different. Our basic rules of thought are even different. And it seems like almost everything he says annoys me. I know that he feels the same way too, and that it's not just me, because he bluntly told me that sometimes he hates me. And that's exactly how he said it too. Yeah, I know we have different ways of thinking, but I would never say that to him. That's just messed up. Nobody should ever say that. There is no purpose in saying it either, because it won't help the situation even a little bit. Anyway, there are just a lot of things he does (or doesn't do) that bother me. My patience is definitely being tried. I know that we have to talk things out or things won't get better. The last time we fought, we talked things out, and things definitely were better afterwards. So I'm gonna talk to him, and with a prayer in my heart and with love, I'm gonna tell him what is bothering me, so that we can fix it. I know that with these hard feelings, it's hard to feel the impressions of the Spirit. Therefore, we must correct things quickly. President Hacking tells us that the mission is a great preparation for marriage, and I know that's very true. There are a lot of things to learn about how to deal with and overcome problems. But I can't help but notice that there is a big difference in that we get to CHOOSE our spouses, and we get to know them a lot before living with them and working together in everything. On the other hand, as missionaries, we don't choose our companions. We just get suddenly put into the same house with them and we are obligated to work with them in everything. But I know that we have our specific companions for a reason, and that there is a great lesson to be learned in each companionship. The Lord assigns companions through revelation, and therefore I must trust in the Lord and comprehend that it is for His wise purposes, and that it is for the best. On the bright side, if I learn to be happy with someone that I didn't choose to live with, and with someone who is very different from me, I can definitely learn to be happy with my wife in all circumstances, in good and bad, and my marriage will be undefeatable! Well, fams, keep praying for me!

Well, good things that happened this week - our investigator Lilia Pacheco is progessing greatly! She goes to church every Sunday, she enjoys the lessons, and now we are teaching her granddaughter that lives with her - Diana. Diana is almost 18 and has a very young baby named Malena. She's not married, and the baby's father lives far away. She is also enthusiastic about the lessons and Diana and Lilia both went to a FHE that we invited them too. Diana didn't go to church this past Sunday because she was up much of the night taking care of the baby and couldn't wake up for church at 8am. But she likes to learn about the gospel and has great potential. We extended the goal of a baptismal date for them on the 15th of October. I hope all goes well! I enjoy teaching them and I know that the fulness of the everlasting gospel can bless them greatly! Our other investigators are progressing more slowly, and we are still waiting to see what happens with them. I pray for all of them often, and I invite you all to pray for the people of Bucaramanga, Colombia as well!

Love,
Elder Bogdan

Hi fams!

Dear Family,

I feel like poop today. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I needed to throw up, but I never did. And all day today my body has been feeling real weak and crummy. But I am feeling a little better now. Welp, I don't have much to say this week. We have transfers tomorrow, so everyone's got P-Day today. I'm not getting transferred, and neither is my companion, Elder Jara. So looks like I'm staying here in the Nuevo Sotomayor ward! I kinda wanted to leave and I kinda wanted to stay. I haven't had a single baptism since I got here, which makes me wanna leave, but at the same time it makes me wanna stay for another chance at having a baptism. We have a good number of investigators, and there is hope for a baptism, if my companion and I have faith. It's hard not having baptisms, when the people don't use their agency to improve and keep commitments with the Lord, or when they progress very slowly. Having a baptism is such a joyous occasion! That is my purpose here in Colombia: to baptize. Yes, my purpose is also to bring happiness into people's lives, and to serve them, and to invite them to come unto Christ, but all of that is achieved to the max with baptism. Baptism is necessary for eternal life, it's necessary to have an eternal family, it brings a lasting happiness, and it's the greatest service that I can provide to someone. So please pray for me family, and pray for our investigators! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!

Welp, some more good news is that I'm not gonna be the newest missionary in my apartment anymore, because a newbie is arriving wednesday! We still don't know where he's from, but I hope he's cool. It'll be fun raising a baby in the house:)

Welp, I really don't have anything else to say. I'm trying to think but my head hurts. I love all of you guys! Ciao!

Your best and only friend,
Elder Bogdan
Well familia,
This week has been a good week! Very short! The weeks are starting to fly by! It seems like P-Day always comes so quickly! And I feel like things will only start to go by faster! Or maybe it's because I'm so accustomed to my area. If President moves me to a new area, the days will start to go slow again. Speaking of which, this next Monday we have transfers! I don't know what's gonna happen! I kinda wanna stick around here. Things are starting to progress and I wanna see the fruits of my labors! Welp, our golden investigator Marlon didn't drop off the face of the Earth! We found him on the street and he told us that he's been REALLY busy with his job and that even on his days of rest he's been working. He said that he was really tired of his job, and a few days later, he ended up quitting. He told us that he wanted more time for Heavenly Father in his life, and more time to spend with his family. We visited him a bit later and we taught him the Restoration. It was an awesome lesson! He was interested in eveything we taught, especially the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. He said that he believed Jesus Christ had come to the Americas and that it was amazing what happened to Joseph Smith. Then this morning he called us and asked us to come visit him and his grandma, because he had talked to his grandma about us. She has cancer, but is very positive, and very kind and has a warm personality. She is also very humble. We taught her a bit about the priesthood being restored and we gave her a blessing of healing. It was really cool! I love them a lot.
Elizabeth and her son Diego didn't go to church this past Sunday:( and we haven't been able to visit her so far this week. We believe she didn't go because she was a little sick. She is slowly progressing. Her and her sons bring my companion and I a lot of joy. I hope that we can begin teaching her much more and that she may soon gain a testimony.
Haha, something funny happened this week! Welp, here in Bucaramanga, it's humid and I sweat a lot, and my acne has gotten amazingly ferocious. I didn't have any medicine for it, so I got some major acne on my cheek, just under my eye. So there was a big red spot just under my eye, it wasn't even funny. Gross right? Well, I was talking to one of my zone leaders, and he asked me what happened to my face under my eye. I jokingly responded, '' It was my companion'' and I laughed a bit. He obviously didn't get the joke, because two days later our bishop told us that the zone leaders had called him asking him if my companion and I had been fighting. WWWWOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWW. My zone leaders are tripping, huh? But it was pretty funny. Welp, gotta go, fams! Write me please!
I love you all like crazy!
Elder Bogdan

FAAAAAAMMMMMMMMIIIIILLLLLLLLIIIIIIIIIAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!

Yo peeps! How's it hangin?!
Welp, our investigator Nora, who I said was a little bit different, is planning to be baptized on Sept. 10th! Happy birthday Lisette! She still has much to learn, but it's the goal that we have set with her. She feels really good about the church and I have seen the changes in her life. Her problems have not just suddenly disappeared, but I can see that she is more happy now, and she is not dwelling as much on her problems. And the future is looking a little brighter. Heavenly Father is so wonderful! His capacity to love is amazing! Nora is hard to love at times, and people have treated her bad for all her life, but Heavenly Father has always loved her perfectly. He never grows impatient with her, or with any of us, for that matter. Because we are all as the dust of the earth, and we make lots of mistakes repeatedly, and Heavenly Father is very patient with us.

The Martinez family (Elizabeth- the mama, and Diego and Michael - the hijos) are going to Church more dilligently now, and the members are befriending them. They are progressing much better now, reading the scriptures and praying more, but their baptism is still scheduled for the 1st of October. We are going to talk to Elizabeth tomorrow about how she feels about her baptism and see if we can schedule it for a closer date. She still needs more commitment, and she is still not ready to commit to the Lord in the covenant of baptism, but I feel like she can be ready for her baptism much sooner. It's a great blessing, and necessary for eternal life, and there is danger in postponing it too long, I believe.

Welp, our investigator Marlon, who was the golden investigator who began to cry in our first lesson as he expressed his desires to return back to God and repent of his sins, wasn't able to go to church this past Sunday. We went to his house to pick him up and walk to church with him, but he wasn't there. We've called him several times as well and he is not answering. I hope that nothing bad happened and that he still has interest in having the lessons with us. Lots of times when people stop answering our calls and we lose contact with them, it's because someone has talked to them and said bad things about the church, things which aren't true. I hope that didn't happen with Marlon....

Well family, this past week my companion and I had a fight. We didn't get physical or anything, but we had a lot of contention in between us. Luckily, we decided to follow the Spirit in resolving the problem and we patched up everything, and now we're better friends! I like Elder Jara as a companion:) We have our differences, but we also have much in common. Welp, that's this week! Love you guys! You're all in my prayers! Do good in all things and all things will go good:)

Love,
Elder Bogdan

Ode to Copper-poo

Copper-poo! Lisette told me you had a seizure! Are you ok?? I miss you too. How're your legs doing? Still having arthritis problems? Be good for the next year and a half and I'll give you the best dog treat of your life!

Hahahahah dear family,

This week was much better! Thanks to all of those who wrote me and gave me advice. Each one of you gave me some helpful insight. I'm really so glad to be here on the mission. I am learning so much, and I love to learn and grow closer to Heavenly Father. It is a great blessing to be one of His missionaries in this time and age. It's funny, I don't think I even realize or comprehend how much I've changed for the better, how much I've grown. I still feel like the same person, but I know I'm not. If I could watch a video of my life at the start of the mission and a video of right now, 7 months later, I think the change would be great.

Welp, I'm gonna start talking to you all about my investigators now, because they are the purpose of my mission. They define my mission. The first investigators are Elizabeth Martinez and her son Diego (10 years old). We met Elizabeth in the last transfer, knocking doors. She has been slowly progressing, but she is definitely progressing. She also has a son named Michael (3 years old) and a husband who we met the first time this week. The husband was always working, and Elizabeth was hesitant to tell her husband that we were visiting because she said he's very Catholic and doesn't like to talk to people who teach from different religions. We asked her to tell him that we were visiting and to ask him if he'd have interest in listening to the message that we share for the families. She did it, and that's a good sign, because it shows that she thinks what we share is important for her family, including her husband. However, the husband said that he didn't have interest, but he said it was ok that we continue passing by to teach Elizabeth and their sons. One night he arrived at the house from work while we were there, but didn't enter in the house and left. So we had never met him or talked to him. But this past Sunday, we stopped by the house and we met him and presented ourselves! The only thing is that he was drunk and went to his room to sleep, so we didn't get to talk to him more than present ourselves. Elizabeth is very kind, and we have a good friendship with her and especially her sons. She wants her family to be closer to God, and especially worries about her sons. She feels like she raises them by herself for the most part, and I know that she wants more help from her husband, and doesn't like that he drinks. She is still having trouble going to church, but she has started reading the Book of Mormon by herself and praying. In the last visit, she told us that she has interest in learning more about the Book of Mormon. I can see that she wants to know if it is true or not, but she still has trouble with commitment. She has a baptismal date for October 1st, which is kinda far away, but it's because she is still unsure. I know that as she keeps reading the Book of Mormon and praying, she will receive her answer that it is true and will feel more willing and prepared for her baptism. We had a lesson with her in which a recent convert to the Church accompanied us. The recent convert, Hermana Posada, worked wonders! She shared her testimony of the gospel so strong, and was able to relate a lot with Elizabeth. Ever since that appointment, Elizabeth has been showing more interest and more commitment. That goes to show that the testimony of the members of the Church can make a huge difference. We as missionaries can only do so much, but members can help us in accomplishing what we can't accomplish. Many times they can relate to the investigators in ways that we as missionaries cannot. So family, help the missionaries! Help them a lot! You guys will be amazed at the seeds you can plant in the hearts of others! Travis, I hope you are going out with the missionaries! I started to go out with them when I was 14 and I still feel like I arrived to the mission clueless. It is a great experience to help others come to Christ! I was able to help the missionaries in teaching Jennifer Kott and her brother, who were later baptized, and Travis Wormington, who was also baptized. And I was very happy in doing that. I was able to make friends in the process as well, with investigators and with the missionaries.

Another investigator is Nora Chacon. She is a little different, and my companion and I have concluded that she has a little bit of mental problems, but she is so innocent, and kind, and honest. She is our most devout investigator. She has gone to Church for the past month without fail, but she will be moving to a different stake next week to live with her mom. She has had a very hard life. I believe that of all the people I have met in my entire life, she has had the hardest life of all. And so although she is a little strange, and the lessons with her are difficult and sometimes it's hard to be patient, I have to learn to love her, and I do love her at times, but I'm still working on loving her all the time. And that's what she needs more than anything: someone to love her and treat her kindly. Because for all of her life, people have treated her as worthless, including her parents. I hope that one day, she can overcome all the pains she has had with the Lord's help, and continue going to Church, where she can feel the Lord's love and be with people who will hopefully treat her kindly, because even members of the church can be cold at times. And I hope that she can progress enough to be baptized one day. That would be awesome.

Our other main investigator is Marlon Vega. He is GREAT. He loves us and we love him. He has soooooo much potential. In our first visit with him, he started to cry as he talked about the relationship he used to have with God. He used to be very close to God, and had so many blessings from the Lord. But then he distanced himself from the Lord and fell into sin, and as he told us about the hardships he has had since he fell away, the tears came flooding. He told us that he felt like we were sent to give him a second chance in life. An opportunity to fix his mistakes and receive forgiveness through repentance and baptism. We have already talked about baptism, and he has the desire to work towards being baptized. But there is a great obstacle. He is living in ''union libre'' ( I forgot how to say that in English) with the woman who is practically his wife right now. So in order to be baptized, he must get married with her. But it gets more complicated because he needs to get divorced from his ex-wife to marry his current wife. And it's even more complicated because he doesn't know where his ex-wife is. She ran away with his daughter and he hasn't seen his daughter in 3 years. In order to get divorced, he needs the signature of his ex-wife, and then he has to get married, and THEN he can get baptized. And all that also costs a lot of money.... So we are going to be praying for him very much. I you all could pray for him, as well as for all our investigators, I know the Lord will answer our prayers.

I love you family! The work is going much better now, and I am happy!

Love,
Elder Bogdan

Q'hubo familia?!

Q'hubo familia?!
Well family, this week we had a great zone conference. Like 24 missionaries from two zones gathered together and Pres. Hacking, Sis. Hacking, the assistants to the president, and a senior couple of missionaries gave wonderful talks to help us! We talked about the Christlike attributes of humility and dilligence, how to deal with stress, setting goals, and being holy men of God. I liked it a lot, and the messages were just what I needed. One thing that I liked a lot was what the senior sister told us. She said that she had been present when Pres. David O. McKay (?) set apart temple sealers. He got down on his knees and told the men that he had sealed them apart as holy men not only in the temple, but that they were to be holy men when they were shopping in the market, when they were at home, when they were traveling, etc. Or in other words, they were to be holy men for the rest of their lives in all time and in all things and in all places. She told us that we as missionaries are holy men, and that should be true in all times, all things, and all places. And that even after the mission, we are to remain holy men. We must not return to be the same person we were before the mission. Our lives should change forever, and change for the better. I liked that message a lot.

Well family, at this time, I feel the need to tell you all of my trials, the difficulties I have been having, so that you all can know how I truthfully am doing here in Colombia, and in hopes that you all can perhaps help me... I think that perhaps you all have realized that in quite some time I have not written much about my investigators, or much about the people here in Colombia who I am teaching. And I want to let you all know that the past month or so has been the hardest time of my mission so far. The past transfer, my companion was Elder Silva, from Peru. I told you all that it was hard at times to be his companion, and that I was excited to get another companion, and that with Elder Silva I felt more like the senior companion than the junior companion. Well, I got pretty discouraged last transfer. I didn't feel prepared to be a senior companion so soon. I felt at times like I was the only one teaching, like I couldn't rely on Elder Silva to help me out. I tried to rely on the Spirit, but I felt like I still wasn't a very good missionary. I still have trouble relying totally on the Spirit. I lack faith. So it seemed as if two very unexperienced missionaries were working together. We found investigators, but they wouldn't progress, and we lacked the power in our teaching to help them realize the truthfulness of the message. It's true that the investigators have their agency, and they weren't choosing to go to church or read or pray. And instead of working harder and exercising even more faith, I started to get discouraged, my faith decreased, and my work ethic decreased greatly. And I would like to apologize to Mom and Wayne and all those who are supporting me financially on the mission, because for the past month or so, I have not been working my hardest, and working as I should. I know that the Lord would not be pleased with my effort, because I know I could have done much more. We wouldn't stay in the house and do nothing, or break any major rules, but we stayed in the houses of members for much too long time, we stopped contacting as much, and we stopped working as hard as the Lord wanted. Also during that time, I started to begin to miss the USA a whole bunch. I was ''trunky'', as the missionary lingo goes. Then Elder Silva left, and my new companion, Elder Jara, from Chile, arrived. I had hope that things were gonna change. But Elder Jara arrived and got sick, and I thought he was faking it cuz he didn't have a temperature, and the next day he said he had knee problems and couldn't walk. So for 2 days we stayed inside the house doing nothing or were in the clinic, because he was sick or couldn't walk. I got more discouraged. And then I finally realized that I HAD to change things. My faith HAD to increase. My testimony HAD to be stronger. My discipline had to be greater. I HAD to make it clear to my companion, through my words and actions, that I wanted to work hard and be obedient. Then this past week I got sick for the first time, and I was in bed for one day with a fever and wanted to throw up, but I never actually did throw up. And after all those trials for a month or so, I decided this past Sunday that I was gonna change things. It was time to become the missionary that I always wanted to be, and it wasn't gonna happen without effort. And I'm happy with my companion now, because I've realized that although he is not perfect, he has the DESIRE to be a good missionary, and that is enough for me! So now we're gonna work hard. I'm gonna make sure that I don't let myself get discouraged and lazy and trunky again. And if I start to feel that way, I'm gonna tell yall about it, so that you can help me and counsel me, instead of keeping it secret. Please keep praying for me, because the change still is under way, and this change will be difficult. Please write me, and encourage me, because I'll need it.

Thanks family! I love you all so much! I have realized here on the mission how important family is for me! After God, I can truly say with 100% - no, 200%- surety that my family is the most important thing to me in existence! Imagine me hugging you all now! Take care! Be good! I won't let yall down, so don't let me down either! Keep strong in the faith!

Love,
Elder Bogdan

Thursday, August 11, 2011

¡Nuevo compañero!

My dearest, most gracious, heavenly family

Haha, woops. Almost started a prayer there... Welp, thanks to all of those who wrote me letters for my birfday and stuff! I have really enjoyed the letters I've been getting lately. A happy Elder Bogdan means happy investigators! Sorry for not writing last week! I was busy!

So my companion Elder Silva left to serve in Bogotá, in the area that includes the temple, and my new companion is a Chileno, Elder Jara! It's refreshing to have a new companion. He jokes a lot, he's loud, he talks really fast, and he's crazy - or in other words, he's Chileno. He's a good teacher, so that's good. We've already butted heads in just a week, but I know that we can accomplish a lot together this transfer. At least now I don't feel like I'm teaching the lessons solo, whereas with Elder Silva I felt that way sometimes. So I'm grateful for my new companion. I realized this week that I LOVE to work. The first 3 days with Elder Jara, I felt really frustrated. He was sick, and because he didn't feel good, he didn't talk in the lessons. I thought, ''What the heck, are you gonna help me?'' The second day we went to lunch and he stood up from his chair and told me that his knee was hurting and that he couldn't walk, so we went back to the apartment for the rest of the day. The next day his knee was still bothering him and so we went to the clinic and he had an exam, and then we waited for like 3.5 hours for his radiography so that the doctor could tell him what was wrong. I heard that here in Colombia it's typical to wait for a LONG time when visiting the doctor. So that day we also didn't work very much. I was frustrated, and I thought that Elder Jara was lying about the pain because he wanted to chill in the house. I realized in all that frustration that I love working! I didn't come to Colombia to sit still and do nothing, to wait in doctor's clinics, to chill in the house. I came to work my butt off! But now Elder Jara's feeling better and he's helping A LOT, so I'm not angry at him anymore.

Oh, and yall probably wanna know what I did for my birthday, but first : Mom, thank you soooooo much for the package!!!!! I love you so much! I liked how you decorated the shoe box with little drawings and phrases of encouragement. Now I know that I DIDN'T get my drawing skills from you... haha! I love you! Thanks for the healthy cereal! I don't buy much cereal here cuz it's expensive, and when I do buy, I buy cereal that's not super healthy cuz it's cheaper. And I KNEW you'd remember that Sour Patch Kids are my favorite candy. And thanks for the Riesen's also! And the chips, and the power bar:) Welp, for my birthday, I worked like normal, and at night when I returned home to the apartment, we ate cake and ice cream, and the 3 other missionaries in my apartment tricked me and smased eggs on my head! As I was about to blow the candle out on the cake, they pulled eggs out of their pockets and smased them on my head! I wanted to beat them up at first (haha), but afterwards I realized it was really funny and it made my birthday very memorable. And we have everything on video too! haha! Also, some investigators (the Bernal Family) bought me pizza for my birthday, and the Toloza Family from the ward made me a cake and we celebrated a little in their house.

Mom, the emails you have been sending me have really shocked me. First to hear that Brett Weaver died, it was strange to imagine. I felt sad for the family and prayed a lot for them. And then to hear about the accident with the Moore family and the death of Brother Moore. I realized that while I was here in Colombia celebrating my birthday, a terrible crisis had occurred the same night in the Moore family. I prayed a lot for them as well. It was especially strange to comprehend the news of Brother Moore's death. My heart reached out to Sister Moore and her children. My friend Stephanie from Kempner told me about the accident as well and she's gonna give me Alaire's email. When I thought about how Alaire must be feeling, I thought about you, Mom. Because your dad died when you were the same age as Alaire. And she has two younger brothers as well who must be feeling sad in these times. I know the love of the Lord, and I know he will help them in their times of trial. And we can also help them as well. I hope you've have reached out to serve them, Mom. Because you know how they must be feeling. I'm glad for the knowledge of God's plan of Salvation, to know that God does everything for a purpose and knows what's best for us. I'm glad Mom that you realized that at a young age and were able to learn to trust in God in you times of trial.

I love our family and I'm also glad to know that we can be together forever, even after death. Thanks for all the happiness which you guys have shared with me in your letters!

Welp, I gotta go! I love all of you!

Elder Bogdan

20 años?? Què LOCO!!!!

Mi hermosa familia:)

Welp, I don't have much time to write today. But thanks to all those who wished me a happy birthday! And thanks to all those who thought about wishing me a happy birthday, but didn't actually do it, haha. Honestly, I'm not quite comprehending that I'm turning 20 tomorrow. And I'm not all that excited either. I'm more excited to celebrate Peruvian Independence Day tomorrow!!! 3 of the 4 missionaries who live in my apartment are Peruvian (1 of them being me). The other missionary is Chileno, and he sings really good! He was recording music before the misson. We both think that it's really refreshing to finally have someone to sing with who sings good, because that's a rare thing in the mission. We're planning on singing together in a baptism. Also, I've officially completed more than 6 months of the mission! NUTS! All I have left is a sister missionary mission. Time is flying!

This transfer is already ending, and I'm pretty sure that my companion will be getting transferred, cuz he's been in this ward for 7.5 months. Elder Silva is a good guy, and I know it sounds bad, but I'm kinda glad he's getting transferred. This transfer I felt more like the senior companion, even though he has 11 months in the mission. He wasn't very obedient. He's had a lot of companions who were very disobedient (almost all of them), and they had a bad effect on him. But I must congratulate him on his progress, because he has grown a lot and is much more obedient now. I'm glad that I was able to be an example for him and help him learn habits that will help him the rest of his mission. I have a testimony that when we are obedient to the will of the Lord, the Lord blesses us greatly. He can entrust his missionaries with teaching his children the gospel when we are worthy of his trust. I hope Elder Silva keeps being obedient for the rest of his mission. That is the only way to be truly happy as a missionary. And I want him to be happy.

Welp family, I don't have any more time to write! I love all of you, and I want all of you to be happy as well!

-Elder Bogdan

{written July 27, 2011}

Feliz Dia de Independencia de Colombia!

Mis queridos,

No one wrote me! You lil slackers! haha, but it's all good. If no one's writing, it means everyone's doing great!

Welp, today, the 20th of July, was the Independence Day of Colombia! WOOT! This morning, we went to a parade too! I have pictures, but I think I'll send them next week, because my time is short today. Like always:) But the military marched around the city with their weapons and tanks and jeeps and stuff, and they let people enter the jeeps and tanks and take pictures. And then they had some marching bands and stuff. It was cool, but not as good as the parades in the USA. But I ate some ice cream, so that made things better, haha. This past week was really great! We had lots of good lessons, and we are helping families be more united more than anything else! To celebrate the Independence of Colombia, I'm gonna talk about my investigators in Spanish. Also cuz I wanna show off more;)

La primera es Nicole. Ella es muy buena, tiene 13 años, y está muy animada para su bautismo. Su papá es miembro pero era inactivo por muchos años y recién está regresando a la iglesia. Su familia tiene muchos problemas ahora y los hijos pelean mucho con el papá, y por eso él decidió regresar a la iglesia e invitarnos a enseñar a sus hijos. Estamos enseñando mucho de la familia y ayudando a ellos a tener mas unidad.

                                             La familia Martinez consiste de los papás y dos hijos (10 años y 3 años). Todavía no hemos conocido al papá, pero la mamá y sus hijos tienen interés, y tuvieron una experiencia muy buena en la capilla este domingo. La mamá (Elizabeth) quiere estar mas cerca a Dios para ser un ejemplo para sus hijos. Ella está teniendo problemas con su esposo ahora y no le gusta que el bebe tanto alcohol. Este domingo en la capilla, como siempre, el Señor planeó una clase perfecta para Elizabeth, y hablamos de la Palabra de Sabiduría.  La mamá y su hijo, Diego, tienen la fecha del 6 de agosto para su bautismo. También la mamá invitó a su sobrina a la última lección y ella también tiene mucho interés! La sobrina se llama Tatiana y tiene 14 años, y quiere estudiar medicina para encontrar la cura de cancer. Chévere, no?

Well, the last thing I wanna say is that today someone almost committed suicide. We were shopping in a mall and we noticed that everyone in the street were yelling and looking upward. There was a drunk man laying down at the ledge of a building, thinking about letting himself fall off. I was so scared for him. Today was the first time that I've ever seen something like that. The despicable thing is that in the midst of a crowd of ppl, I noticed that the majority of the people were laughing and smiling. For them it was like a joke, or some form of entertainment. There weren't many people who were scared, or worried, or showed the slightest bit of compassion for the man. Yeah, he was a drunkard, and maybe he wasn't a very respectable man, but maybe he drinks because of all of his problems. Some dumb guys even had a heart cold enough to yell to the man, ´´Jump already! What are you waiting for? If you wanna jump, hurry and do it!´´ And they were laughing hysterically at the same time. It's like they were waiting to see something exciting happen, waiting for the man to jump. It was despicable. I got really angry. I thought for a while about going up to help the man. I was only two or three floors below him. Eventually I decided to go up. The stairway was closed by a locked gate that the suicidal man had locked, so I couldn't walk up the stairs. I can't explain it very well, but I started climbing the siderail of the stairs to get up to man. As I started to climb up, my companion told me that the police had just then grabbed the man and were taking him down. His wife had showed up too, I believe. The message of the story is... well, I don't know exactly. Perhaps it's that the world has degraded so much that people have lost the ability to have love and compassion. In St. Matthew, one of the signs of the second coming of Christ is that the love of man will wax cold. So the invitation is to love everyone, with all of your heart. We have to fight against that despicable plague of the inability to love, that despicable plague that I saw today. We have to love everyone, serve everyone, we cannot afford to be selfish, and only think of ourselves. Perhaps we can change the life of a person, or save the life of a person. I always loved the song from The Fray, ´´How to Save a Life´´. The world needs the gospel in their lives. The true gospel, the fulness of the gospel that is found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And more than just believe in the gospel, we have to live it, and apply it to every aspect of our lives. Because Colombia is FULL of Christians - Catholics, 7th Day Adventists, Jehovah´s Witnesses, Mormons, etc. - but today I saw a whole bunch of Christians and people who claim a belief in God and Christ, but are obviously not living the teachings of them. 

Well, I gotta go! Just do what Christ would do in every circumstance that you find yourself in. Love as he loves. Serve as he did. Because if we don't love, if we don't serve, we are not worthy to be called Christians.

Love,
Elder Bogdan
 
{written July 20, 2011}

I love the Gospel! Amen.

Dearest Family!

Thanks for all the letters that you guys sent! It was so nice to read them and laugh and smile and feel your love and feel the Spirit also! I'm glad that everyone is doing great! The Lord is protecting and blessing our family! Jonathan, I'm glad that everything turned out well with your surgery and that you're covering! I hope that everyone has been treating you good in your times of health trials! Sounds like Alex and David are doing good too, and I know that yall had a good time with Travis. I miss my brothers! Keep writing me and giving me mission advice:) Raquel and Ben and Tyler are also doing really good too, so that makes me happy. I always want the best for the first family that emerged from us kids. How old is Ben now? 26? Heavenly Father protected Lisette during work in a situation that was really hazardous too - don't know if everyone knows that story. Travis is obviously living the dream of a teenage kid this summer, so that's pretty sick too! He's never gonna forget his summer at SOAR:) Mom also sounds like she's doing perfect and is happy! And the Raquel & fam are gonna visit mom in the end of July, so that'll make mom even happier! And Dad got to have a good experience at scout camp with his youngest son and is strong and healthy (as always, haha). The Lord is blessing us a lot, even if we don't realize it. So don't forget him. EVER. And as mom wrote to me, we should always count our blessings:)

Not much to say this week. It flew by and I feel like I wrote you guys like 2 or 3 days ago. But we have an investigator who I'm positive is gonna get baptized!!! Por fin! Her name is Nicole and she's 13 years old. She's really great, and wants to make great changes in her life, because she's been acting up in school, in home, with her friends, and has gotten into smoking already at a young age. She lives with her dad and her older brother. Her dad is already a member but has been inactive for most of Nicole's life, and so she never went to church. But now the dad's going, she's going, and we hope to start teaching the son and get him to go to church too. He is 16 yrs old. We're gonna visit them tonight and have a lesson with them. SWEET! Welp, I don't really have much else to say. This area has still been difficult, and things have been a little difficult with my companion too, but I know that this time of trial will make me stronger and a better instrument in the Lord's hands if I choose to learn what the Lord wants me to learn from this experience. And I trust God with whatever plans he has for me. I hope that I can do what I need to do to become who the Lord wants me to become. Also, today we went to another waterfall, and it was cool and I didn't come close to falling off the cliff this time. I love all you guys! Be good! Stay in school! Don't do drugs! And read this scripture, ponder on it, and let it change you for good.

Joshua 1:8-9

¡Ciao!

Elder Bogdan

{written July 13, 2011}

Latino Word of the Week: ''July'', as in ''Why do july to me so much?''

Latino Word of the Week: ''July'', as in ''Why do july to me so much?''

Querida familia,

Hey guys! I just wanna tell y'all about 3 cool things that happened this week:

1. You're probably wondering what I did this 4th of July. Well first of all, I didn't set off any fireworks. Y'all are probably thinking, ''Elder Bogdan, julyer, of course you set off fireworks!'' But you'd be mistaken, because the fact of the matter is that I didn't set off any fireworks. I did see a couple as we were walking home to our apartment in the night. Now y'all are probably thinking, ''Elder Bogdan, why do july so much? They don't celebrate the 4th of July in Colombia!'' But once again, you'd be mistaken. Because the fact of the matter is, this year they DID celebrate the 4th of July in Colombia. Why? Good question. Monday was a Catholic Holiday for some saint, so people were off work and the kids didn't have school. Monday night, Elder Benson (a gringo who lives in my apartment) and I decided we were gonna eat American style, so we made hamburgers! And sang American songs while making them. And a member had some root beer and brought it to our house, along with ice cream, and we had root beer floats! Oh man oh man, it was SOOOOO GOOOOOD (as teen girl squad says it - I think only David gets that joke...) But seriously, I didn't realize how much I missed root beer and ice cream and hamburgers. Don't get me wrong, the Colombian food is delicious, but I felt a little bit at home that night with my American food. I miss you guys! And America too! La tierra prometida:) What did all of y'all do for 4th of July?! And especially what did Ben and Rascal and Tyler-poo do? And what did Copper-poo do??

2. Today my zone of 9 missionaries went to a water fall in a city called Pie de Cuesta. It was big and awesome and we took some really cool pictures! But something even more exciting happened. Kinda miraculous actually. I was walking on a mountainside at the edge of a cliff, above a river on our way to the waterfall. My shoes were already wet, and the ground was wet too, and I slipped. And fell 30 feet or more down the cliff! Well, I more of slid down the cliff. But it wasn't as nuts as it sounds. There was mud and soft grass as I was falling and so I didn't get hurt. I remember trying to grab some grass as I was falling and it didn't work. I remember falling towards the river at the bottom and seeing big rocks, and I remember thinking, ''Shoot, I can't let myself crash into those rocks. If my head hits the rocks that will be REALLY BAD.'' At last, my fall stopped as I landed in the river, and I didn't hit any rocks or anything. I didn't break any bones, or even bleed much. I just have some scratches on one of my arms and a little bruise on my hip. I am so glad that we started our activity today with a prayer, and that Heavenly Father was protecting me. And I know he's protected me many times so far in my mission. Honestly, that had the possibility of turning out really bad, and I am so grateful to Heavenly Father that he has allowed me to continue my mission as if nothing happened:)

3. This week we had a zone conference of missionaries with our mission president. We learned a lot and did a lot of role-playing to practice our teaching. My favorite part was at the end, when we listened to a talk from the apostle Jeffrey R. Holland. He gave a POWERFUL message to missionaries in the MTC, and as we were listening to it, I felt the spirit so strong. My favorite part was when he talked about the story of the apostle Peter. Christ first found Peter fishing, and Peter wasn't having success in catching fish. Jesus told him to cast his net on the opposite side, and suddenly the net was filled with fish. The apostles were dumbfounded and astonished at this incident, and that is when Christ invited them to follow him and be his disciples, saying, ''I will make thee fishers of men.''

After Christ's death, Peter was the new president of the Church. He wasn't a very good nor experienced leader, and didn't have Christ there to help him lead the church. The apostles asked him, ''What do we do now?'' And Peter didn't know. So everyone returned back to their normal lives, and Peter went back to fishing with some of the other apostles. As they were fishing, they were extremely sad, and they were constanly thinking about their beloved friend and Savior who had died. Their sorrow and lack of desire to fish was made shown in the fact that they didn't catch a single fish all that day. Then suddenly, the apostles see a man on the shore, who asks them how their fishing was going along. They told him that they didn't catch any fish, and the man tells them to cast their net on the opposite side of the boat. Suddenly, they catch many fishes. This had already happened once, when the apostles had first met Christ. The apostles, at that instant realized that the man on the shore was the same Christ. ''It's him!'' they thought, ''It's him!'' Their beloved friend, the person that they loved the most had returned to them in those difficult times when the apostles didn't know what to do, when they didn't feel like they could just return back to their regular lives after all that had changed when they were serving Christ. Excited beyond measure, they jumped out of the boat into the water and waded to the shore to greet their Savior.

That night, as they were eating, Christ asked Peter, '' Do you love me more than this food that we're eating?''

Peter answered yes.

Christ responded, ''Feed my sheep.''

Then again Christ asked, ''Do you love me more than all these boats and this sea and your friends here with us?''

Peter answered yes.

Christ said, ''Feed my sheep.''

Then again, ''Do you love me more than all your earthly possessions and your own self?''

Then Peter gave the response that changed the rest of his life. ''Yes Lord, I love you more than everything else.''

And Jesus responded, ''Feed my sheep. I invited you once, when we first met, to leave everything behind and serve me, and you were to be a fisher of men. When I extended that invitation, it wasn't for a few years, it was the rest of your life. When you left your job as a fisherman, it was for the rest of your life. There's no going back, Peter. You can't return back to fishing. Now you must feed my sheep. I will not extend the invitation a 4th time.''

And Peter nevermore returned to fishing mere fish, but dedicated the rest of his life to being a fisher of men. Because he loved Christ more than anything else. Forget about the stubborn Peter, or the violent Peter, or the ear-cutting Peter, or the Peter who denied Christ three times. That night is when Peter became the Great Apostle. When Peter finally realized that he loved Christ more than anything else, that is what set the tone for the rest of his life. That is what allowed him to become a great instrument in the Lord's hands.

That talk really inspired me, and motivated me. The mission is hard. Really hard. There are a lot of things in my new area that I find discouraging. Sometimes I lose my bright positive attitude, and I found myself needing more motivation. I realized that I, like Peter, love Christ more than anything else. I miss home at times, I miss my friends at times, I miss being able to celebrate the 4th of July, I miss hamburgers and root beer and ice cream, I miss Copper, I miss listening to music, and playing instruments, and watching movies, and most of all, I miss my family. But I love Christ more than all of those things. So I'm willing to give up those things. There's no going back. I can't return back to a life of comfort and luxury. And the rest of my life will never be the same. Because a mission changes one's life drastically. And so now I must feed the Lord's sheep. That was the Lord's call to me. Like Peter, I was to leave everything behind and follow Christ, being a fisher of men. That is the sacrifice I have to do, and it is nothing compared to Christ's sacrifice.

I love all of you, and I love my Savior more than anything else. I am willing to sacrifice these two years. We are all faced with decisions we have to make. We want some things, but the Lord calls us to give up those things and to do his will. It's not about what we want but what the Lord wants. So self evaluate: We all have things that we do, pleasures that we have, that we know we should give up, things that we know the Lord is not in agreement with in our lives, things that we know we need to change. Do we love Christ more than anything else? Can we trust in the Lord and finally give up that bad habit, or that bad TV show, or that bad music, etc?

I hope you all are doing great! Please keep writing me! Know that I love you all very much, and that I have sacrificed time with y'all these two years because I love Christ, and also because I love you guys too.

Be good,
Elder Bogdan

{written July 6, 2011}

Mi primera semana en Bucaramanga

Querida Familia,

This week in Bucaramanga has been a learning experience. I feel like I am growing as a missionary in many ways, and of course, I still have a lot more to learn. I want to be such a great instrument in the hands of the Lord, and make a difference in the world, or at least make a difference in the world of a person. I love the Gospel so much. It is the greatest privilege to serve God and serve my friends. My favorite painting right now of Jesus Christ is on my wall next to my desk where I study every morning. It is the picture of Jesus Christ washing the feet of the apostle Peter. I love the message that Jesus shared that goes with that simple act of service. Christ is so humble and so loving, and we should always be humble and willing to kneel down and serve someone as Christ did so many times. We can make a difference in the world, or at least make a difference in the world of a person. Don't get so caught up in yourselves that you forget to serve others. Always look for those opportunities to serve, giving someone temporal happiness and spiritual happiness. Serve in physical ways, such as helping someone who's car broke down, or painting a house, or donating food. And also serve in spiritual ways, sharing the Gospel with all that you meet, for that is what will give lasting happiness, and lasting peace.

Well, a little bit about Bucaramanga. It's hotter and more humid here than in Bogotá, but it doesn't rain as much here and the sun is always shining, so that's really cool. And in comparison to the weather in Houston right now, Bucaramanga weather is beautiful (but still hot). The city is really nice, and very commercial. I feel like I am in Miami or California or something. And I live in a big house too! Haha, I felt like I was in a dreamhouse when I arrived to my apartment. It has two floors, three bathrooms, and a gi-normous patio with a beautiful view of all the city! My companion, Elder Silva, is from Lima and talks like a kid from the streets (a little gangster). He's funny and cool, and although he's the senior companion, I feel more like the senior companion. I am the one that talks more in the lessons, and I feel like he's very comfortable here in Bucaramanga, cuz he's been in the same ward for 6 months. So I'm the one motivating him and training him. But he's a really good guy, and smiles a lot. Welp, since I arrived here, we have found lots of new investigators who God has truly prepared. One lady, Rosa Rivera, told us about her son who was killed some years ago. The last three months of his life he had made lots of changes and started going to a church. He also was reading the Bible and a lot more happier in his life. Her husband and her had dreams about him after his death and she wanted to know where her son is right now. In the dream of her husband, the son was wearing a white shirt and told his dad that he should quit drinking and take care of mom, and that he would be waiting for his parents ''over there''. In a dream the mom had, she saw her son entering what looked like a pool with clothing on. He looked really happy when he was entering the pool. I couldnt help but think that the dream had something to do with the baptisms for the dead that take place in the temples. Her son started his path to God at the end of his life, and is continuing the path and learning in the next life. Now he is ready for a baptism, and needs the help of his mom. We ended up teaching the mom about the Plan of Salvation. She is very interested! We want to teach her more about temples and vicarious work for the dead. Welp, Bucaramanga is really sweet! I hope you all are having a great summer and vacations! I think so, because the number of letters has dropped significantly, haha.

-Elder Bogdan

{written June 30, 2011}

Transfer to Bucaramanga!

Querido Familia,
 
No tengo tiempo para escribirles mucho. These past 5 days I have been in an area in Bogotá called Engativá. It's in the same stake as my old ward Alejandría. I was there temporarily replacing a missionary who finished his mission and left for the US. Another gringo from Idaho took my place in Alejandría while I've been here in Engativá. It's been really cool here in Engativá. In these 5 days I have already grown to love the people so much, it's NUTS! I'm gonna miss the members and the investigators, because tomorrow I'm leaving for my official new area in.... BUCARAMANGA! Uncle Greg is familiar with this city. Everyone in Colombia talks about how beautiful it is, so I'm really excited, although I'm gonna extremely miss Alejandría and Engativá. My companion will be Elder Silva, another Peruano. I hope he's cool and a powerful missionary and that we can learn a lot from each other!
 
I hope ur all doing well! I love you all, and I love the Gospel! It is SUUPPPERRRRRRR! And super true, too:)
 
Ciáo!

Elder Bogdan
 
{written June 20, 2011}

Happy Birfday, David!

¡Familia Mía!

First off, Happy 29th Birthday, David! What are you gonna do for your birthday?! I love you broseph! And also, Happy Father's Day! I love you Daddio!

This past Saturday we had our Ward Talent Show! We had investigators come and a lot of inactives members too. The Primary performed a reenactment of Pinnochio, the Relief Society and some Elders did some really cool Colombian dances, little kids told some jokes, other youth and YSA sang. We invited the missionaries in our zone to help us, and we performed some funny skits that all the members liked a lot. And I sang ''Mas Cerca Dios de Ti'' (Nearer My God to Thee), with a youth in our ward playing guitar while I sang. It was a success and the members wanna have another activity like it!

Ok, big news. Guess what happened? There were emergency transfers and I'm getting transferred:( NOOOOOOOoooooooooo! Jaja, but seriously, I really didn't wanna get transferred. Que vaina... I have grown to love the people and the ward so much. I remember that during my first transfer here in the Alejandría ward, sometimes I wanted to leave and go to a different city. Bogotá was cool, but it always rained and there was never sun. And the members weren't helping us very much in the missionary work. But now Alejandría is like my home. It has stopped raining so much and there's more sun, and I'm cool with all the members at last. They've started telling me that they really appreciate me in their ward and that I mean a lot to all of the members in the ward. There's a Seventy in our ward (did I ever tell you guys that?), the Torres family, and they love me because I look a lot like their son, Mauricio, who's serving a mission in Utah. And his friends in the ward tell me the same thing - that I remind them of him. The mom gave us a gift two Sundays ago too, some really nice umbrellas that won't break for a good while.

And the members have at last started giving us references too! Things were starting to look up. We have been teaching La Familia Puello, who are references and very kind. And this past week we had some amazing Family Home Evenings with investigators and with members. La Familia Santa Maria are references of the bishop and we had a great FHE with them, the bishop's family, and two other families in the ward. And on Sunday they went to Church and were just raving about all the the things they loved. And we were teaching other amazing families as well that were all references from the members. Really cool huh? But now that things have changed here in Alejandría, I'm getting changed too. Perhaps my job here is done. I have helped strengthen the ward and we have had found some remarkable people who have entered the fold of God and the church of God, who also help to strengthen the ward. The members are doing more missionary work now, so that is a great accomplishment. I pray that it continues, and I'm pretty sure it will. I'm also gonna miss my companion, Elder Cardona, a lot. We're best friends, and it stinks that we only had a little bit of time together. Not even a whole 6-week transfer, because he arrived later in the transfer, and I'm leaving a little bit before the transfer ends. We were together to celebrate his birthday and we wanted to stay together this transfer to celebrate MY birthday. But I guess not. It's sad, but immediately when I heard about the transfer, I also knew it was for the best. I know that Heavenly Father leads this work and that He sends His missionaries where they're needed. I'm excited to get to know a new area and a new group of people and accomplish my purpose in that area as well.

Right now I'm serving in an area called Engativá. It's in the same stake, same zone. Two days ago a missionary finished his mission and left for his house in the U.S., so now I'm temporarily replacing him here in Engativá, and on Sunday someone will call me to let me know if I'm gonna stay here in Engativá or move to a different city. Wish me luck! I love you all! Sharing the Gospel is so great! And do not fear in sharing the Gospel. Fear has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks for me at times, and it is the opposite of faith.

Que estèn bien!
Élder Bogdan

{written June 16, 2011}

Bautismo y Show de Talentos:)

Holar, familia!
 
Welp, I hope you all liked my pictures last week! Nobody wrote me this week, so I guess yall are STILL looking at my pictures... ahaha, but seriously, what's going on?! I hope everybody is doing great and I still love yall.
 
This past Saturday, we had the baptism of Jesús Alberto! He was so happy and excited! He's wanted to get baptized from the start and there were a lot of obstacles. But at last, he was able to participate in that special covenant with the Lord and feel the joy of his sins being forgiven. As the dude with dreadlocks says in Saturday's Warrior, ''He's gonna wash away his SINS!'' And that's exactly what happened on Saturday. I had the grand privilege of baptizing him:) It is so great to be able to use the priesthood to bless the lives of others, and I'm so glad that Heavenly Father trusts me enough to entrust me with his holy priesthood, the power to bless the lives of others in miraculous ways. Miracles still happen today. The priesthood which the worthy males of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints possess is the same power of Jesus Christ to bless people and perform miracles. And in the baptism, I sang with a member girl ''Señor Te Necesito'' (''I Need Thee Every Hour'') as the special musical number. It was pretty cool:)
 
THIS SATURDAY as part of the ward mission plan we're going to have a Talent Show! The members are all really excited to watch and to perform! We're expecting a lot of ppl who aren't members of the church to come to the Talent Show and we're going to jot down their numbers and directions and hand out Books of Mormon and Liahona magazines. I'm excited! My comp and I, along with other missionaries in our zone, are gonna perform some funny skits and I'm gonna play the guitar and sing a hymn. Wish me luck! Especially since I haven't had time to practice at all and I still don't know what song I'm gonna sing. But it's all good, Heavenly Father always helps and inspires me when I improvise:) Welp, gotta go! I love you all! I hope everything is going well for you guys. Happy Summer! Ciao!
 
Con mucho amor y cariño,
Elder Vitola
 
haha jk... it's me, Elder Bogdan! Peace!
 
{written June 8, 2011}

¡Monserrate!

Para la familia mas hermosa en todo el mundo:

I love all of you very much! I know I say that every week, but every time of think about you guys I realize how great you all are:) Well as usual, I don't have very much time to write. Today our zone of 12 missionaries went to a place called Monserrate and we arrived back to our areas later than expected, so that's why I don't have much time to write. But it was really cool! We took a cable car up to the top of a mountain and at the top you can see all of Bogotá. There's a big Catholic church at the top of the mountain and also a market where you can buy all sorts of souvenirs. I also got to pet a llama today! So that was really fun! At the bottom are some attached pictures from when we went to La Laguna Sagrada, and from today when we went to Monserrate, and from other mission stuff, including pictures with the 4 baptisms that we've had. My new companion Elder Cardona is in pic 0596.

Well, we haven't been able to have baptisms for a while, but this Saturday we're having a baptism for our investigator Jesús Alberto! He is older and sometimes he doesn't remember things well, so we thought it would take longer for him to get baptized because he has to understand all the principles pretty well. He's amazing, and he's had a testimony since the start and has wanted to get baptized since the start! And guess what?! He chose ME to baptize him! Haha! So this Saturday I will be baptizing for the second time in my life!

We are also teaching a golden family- La Familia Puello is a reference of members in the ward and they are a awesome! We haven't been able to visit them lately because they've been busy, but we ran into the mom the other day and she was so happy to see us! She told us that her husband is very happy in the Church and that her son Miguel (14 yrs old) ran home from school one day when he found out that we were going to visit them, opened the door, and immediately asked, ´´Where are the Elders?!´´ The appointment wasn't until later that day so he was disappointed when we weren't in his house when he got home from school. Miguel reminds my companion and I a lot of Joseph Smith because he is 14, has a lot of questions about religion, and he's looking for the truth. We're going to visit them tonight:)

Well I gotta go! I love you all! Take care and listen to mom! There's a lot of people we can be praying for right now. And we as members of the Church need to be strengthening others, in the community, in the ward, in the extended family, and most importantly, I think there's a lot that we can do right now to strengthen the members of our immediate family. Go forth and do good!

Con mucho amor
Elder Bogdanovich

Saturday, May 28, 2011

¡Que hace el pez todos los dias? Nada!

Querido Familia:

Whew, this week has been draining, but very cool as well! Every night I get into my bed and fall asleep within probably 45 seconds. And we don't get P-Day this week either, so it's been pretty draining. We don't have P-Day cuz we had a conference for the entire mission on Wednesday instead, which was really cool! I got to see 4 of my friends from the MTC who came to Bogota at the same time as me, and I got to see my previous companion Elder Velasquez, and I got to make a lot of new friends with Latino missionaries. It's so amazing that I am actually able to be good friends with people who don't speak my native language. I love being able to speak Spanish and connect with these amazing people and the amazing Latin culture. So I guess it's all good that we don't have P-Day this week... I guess.... haha. So the conference lasted 2 days, and we had to travel quite a distance each day to get to the conference. Originally the conference was scheduled because Elder Richard G. Scott was gonna come visit the mission. I was so excited to see an apostle! But for some unknown reason, Elder Scott had to cancel and instead Elder Walter F. Gonzalez, of the Presidency of the Seventy, came to talk to us. Poor Elder Gonzalez, I'm sure he knew that we all would've preferred to see Elder Scott. Some people during the talk starting ''booing'' too. Haha nah just kidding! Elder Gonzalez was really cool and gave a lot of helpful advice to us, and I believe he gave a talk in this past General Conference, but I'm not sure. I don't know, all these latinos look the same... hahaha jk! But in cereal, one thing he talked about was the power in teaching about the Savior with the people that we teach. Everybody is born with the light of Christ in them, which helps them recognize the good from the evil. Because everyone has the light of Christ, when we talk about Christ, people naturally feel the Spirit and grow to recognize that Jesus Christ is the source of all that is good. Jesus really is the source of all that is good in my life. President Hinckley said, ''Jesus Christ is my best friend.'' Jesus Christ is my best friend too:) I hope that I can continue to develop my relationship with him. Elder Gonzalez also invited us to focus more of our attention in teaching the less actives. Why? Because President Monson gave a talk about rescuing the members who have fallen from the path and stopped being active in the Church. Everyone needs the gospel in their lives, and the gospel is intended for all of God's children. Elder Gonzalez invited us to teach the people who are inactive in the Church and told us that whenever we obey the prophet of God, blessings come. If we focus more on the inactives, we will find more people to teach and bless, and we will be blessed with more happiness. I know that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, that he receives divine revelation, and is called to lead the Church of Jesus Christ, under the direction of none other than Jesus Christ. Freak, well, I don't have any more time to write today:( I might be able to come back and finish the rest of my hour another day. Take care my wonderful family!

I love you all!
Elder Bogdan

P.S.- I don't talk about all these spiritual things so that yall can forget them. Remember them and apply them in your lives! Talk with your friends about Jesus Christ, and remember those whose faith in God has grown weak. Through the teachings of Jesus Christ everyone can have everlasting happiness and peace. It is the one remedy for everyone and the one cure for everything. Trust me. And trust in Heavenly Father! ¡Ciao!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

4 month anniversary!

Mi Familia Hermosa:

Well, this week with my new companion has been awesome! We work very well together, and seriously, we are the best of friends. His personality is one of the friendliest I've ever known, and he reminds me of Nathan Morris cuz he's really goofy but super cool and friendly. He's also very spiritual, and I have learned a lot from him in only one week. And it's nuts how the Lord has been blessing our companionship with revelation and the aid of his Spirit. We were talking about our investigators the other day and making plans for them in order to teach them what will be of the most benefit. We started thinking long and hard about what to teach, and then at the same time we both said, ''The Plan of Salvation''. The same thing happened over and over and OVER again. The Lord was guiding us in unity as a companionship. And when it came to one family, we couldn't figure out what to teach them. Then I said, ''We should pray to find out'', and my companion said, ''I was thinking the exact same thing!'' It's amazing how when we are actually striving hard to receive revelation and listening intently, the Lord will guide his servants. And it wasn't that we heard a voice from the heavens or received a sign, but the Lord spoke to our hearts and minds. We meditated about our investigators, and then the same thought popped into both of our heads, and our feelings confirmed that those thoughts were of God, because we felt very good and very calm and very sure of the decisions. A lot of times I have felt those same impressions and those same feelings, and I doubted if they were from God or simply my own thoughts and feelings. But in this instance, I had a companion to confirm to me that those thoughts and feelings were from God. But here's the thing I learned: Don't doubt those feelings and thoughts. It is not necessary to have a companion to confirm those impressions of the Spirit. The impressions that I received in this instance were no different from previous impressions I have received from the Spirit throughout my life, even long before the mission. The only difference was that this time another person was there with me to share the experience. Yesterday I went to the temple and prayed, and I testify to you all once again that God DOES hear and answer prayers, through the Holy Ghost, which speaks to our hearts and minds, like I just described. Do not doubt spiritual impressions. I don't have my English scriptures with me, so I'm going to try to translate this scripture for you guys... '' Wherefore, all that is good comes from God.... Furthermore, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually. Wherefore, all that inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God and serve Him, is inspired of God.'' (Moroni 7:12-13)

This week we have seen the Lord's hand a lot. Like I said in my last letter, a lady randomly called out to us in the street and invited us to her house. Her name is Sujey Barrios and she isn't a member of the church and neither is her husband, Jose, but their three kids are. We have sufficiently grown to become friends with the family Barrios and are teaching them more about the gospel. The father wants to teach me how to ride a motorcycle and he also paints pictures very well and said he'd show me some techniques, haha. For them the family is very important, and the with the gospel a priority in their lives, their family can be UNSTOPPABLE, haha. We also started talking to a teenage kid, Jerson, in the street and he immediately invited us into his home to talk to him and his older sisters. His sisters have a lot more interest in the gospel, and one of them, Karen, came to church this past Sunday. They are very good, kind people, and the family is also very important to them. Karen is very young (20 something years old) but is already a widow. I know that teaching the Plan of Salvation to her can definitely help her out a lot and give her hope for her husband who passed away. Also, we are teaching a mother, Claudia, and her daughter Paola. Claudia has already come to church and has a lot of interest. We are also going to visit a 14yr-old kid named Miguel today who has a lot of interest and has already come to church. We are going to meet his parents who think very highly of the church as well. So we have a lot of people to teach who have been prepared by our loving Heavenly Father to receive the message of the Gospel! Like I said, the Lord's hand has been very present in this past week.

I LOVE YOU ALL!!! BE GOOD!

Con cariño,
Elder Usted (that's what one sister calls me cuz she can't pronounce my name very well)