Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Prayers, Laughter and Courage!

This week has been a lot better. I'm finally getting the hang of a few things around here.  We had a few people attend church, and have been visiting more "menos activos" lately.  There are tons of them. I think it's like 80 percent in South America.  The problem with our investigators is we have many of them, but we are having trouble helping them understand the importance of the restoration. They always agree with everything we teach.  But they still think we are just like every other church and if they just believe in God they will be saved.  Everyone here is super friendly.
Streets of Ibague
You could help at home.  Please pray for A that he will be able to quit smoking.  Pray for F. and P. to be able to provide for their family. Pray for M to be able to share her testimony with her family. Pray for S that his family will be willing to hear our message.  Pray for L that her ankle will heal, and pray for N that she will be able to forgive those in the church who have wronged her.  Oh, and pray for E and his family that they will be able to know the truth of our message.

We teach a lot.  One discussion my comp was getting a little mad because the kids couldn't focus and were fighting over the pictures of Jesus.  He said something to their mother.  I have no idea what he said, but she had this look like, "You did not just say that."  It got really awkward so I just started laughing, and then she started laughing, and the kids started laughing and she realized that us Mormons aren't that crazy after all.   Grateful for the power of laughter. 

The members here are great!  The YM leader is the one who sends you pics on facebook.  He is such  a great guy.  Presidente Palma (the Branch President) is super outgoing and has a strong testimony, but my limited language skills mean I can never understand him.  He speaks faster than a rocket ship!!  The Vedolla familia and the Garcia familia and CD feed us weekly and they are all strong members who are a big blessing in my life. So pray for them too if you can!
Elder Amick and I worked as comps for a day for intercambio on Saturday.  It was a blast and also an adventure!  We got by with our little Spanish somehow.  All of our lessons were cancelled so the whole day was contacting.  We attended  a baptism for an investigate the Hermanas taught.
Funny story that Elder Amick said I could write home about.  So we arrived at the baptism early and both of us had to use the bathroom.  While we were in the stalls, a lady came in to clean so we both got really quiet and hoped she would just leave to avoid an awkward situation.  However, the doors don't have locks to the stalls, and she walked in on Elder Amick!!  She screamed and ran out!  He was embarrassed, but it was soo funny!!!  I'm glad he gave me permission to share because I am still laughing over this!

Also a big language blooper.  Hear this one:   When Elder G and I were contacting a man stopped us and asked me if I knew what I thought he said was "a Chinese Elder" .  I said, "Yes That is Elder G."  But my companion laughed and told me as we walked away that the man asked if I knew the Elder that got a girl pregnant?"!!   A huge different meaning in the Spanish language!  Whoops!  My first big language flop!   So sorry to Elder G for throwing his name around. 

We did not have any Thanksgiving celebrations here, but I did get a nice text from the Zone Leader that said Happy Thanksgiving so that was nice.
Our apartment is finally clean and livable.  I'm happy to report that I'm making good on my cooking skills.  I have found a couple recipes that I can cook that believe it or not taste pretty good.  I make Chili and Rice with taco seasoning and BBQ seasoning packets, and I've made French Toast Caramel Sandwhiches (Yep baby, you know it).  And Elder Amick and I even made French Fries so I'm eating pretty good lately.  
Sleeping Quarters.

Not too bad for our kitchen and wardrobe.

One more moment to share from the week.  We have a panedarie (shop) that has cinnamon rolls for like 5 cents.  I usually also get some of those every night.  When I was with Elder Amick on Saturday I bought 15 of them for breakfast because it was reimbursable.  He only ate one and I ate 14!  Then we went to lunch, and the lunches here are huge because we don't have dinner.  I had to eat everything on my plate.  I thought I was going to explode, but I did it.  In relation to food or anything else....whenever something gets really hard, I think of the Lord of the Rings theme song---remember the part when they show the gates of Mordar---and then I just buckle up and do it.   :)

I loved hearing about Ardis in the temple.  I wish I could have been there.  I also want to end on a spiritual note and share with you about Hermana J.  She is a seminary teacher here, walks with a cane, not too old and single Mom with her 15 year old son.  The night we visited her I was very tired.  It was getting late around 7:30pm.  We had done a lot of walking all day.  She had been talking to us for about ten minutes then she just started walking around to all of her neighbors and asked them if they would be willing to hear our message.  With tears in her eyes she bore her testimony to all of them about the power of our message.  Because of her that night we met a new family who is a young couple with a 5 year old.  We taught them the whole restoration and they have baptism dates.  We gave the Mom and son a blessing because they were sick.  It was powerful and spiritual.  I can also say it was the best lesson we have taught thus far all because Hermana J wasn't scared to bare her testimony.   What an example to me!  Let's all be as courageous. 

Thanks for all the updates on everyone and all your faith and prayers.  I love and miss you all. 

Keep praying and believing and finding something to smile about.

Love Elder Donaldson

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

First Area: Ibague: Si and Cinnamon Rolls

My trainer and companion is now Elder G.  from Peru.  He's been out for nineteen months, and he is 27.  He has a strong testimony, and he is really funny, but it's hard to talk much because he doesn't speak English and my Spanish is still pretty limited.  We are assigned together to open an area in Ibague.  It's up near the mountains North West of Bogota.  We took a long (6 hour bus ride) to get here.

We are opening up a new area so most of the day is walking around contacting.  We have acquired about 7 new investigators this week.  The branch president is in our area.  Elder Amick, my comp from the MTC,  and his companion  are in our branch and district.  That's been cool to still serve around him.  We are great friends.  And two hermanas are also in our branch.  It's nice being all together in the same branch. 
Church yesterday was very different.  Good but different.  The most surprising thing to me was that everyone SHOUTS "Amen!"after the prayers like they do in other christian churches.   I was like, okay?.?.   The branch president is super friendly and has one of the most uplifting spirits I've ever met.  He wanted me to thank you and Dad for all your sacrifices for me, and he really is thankful.  He sat me and Elder Amick down and made us promise to thank you guys in his behalf. So there you have it.
The members here have a lunch schedule for us.  Yay!  We eat.  We eat really big lunches.  We don't eat dinner which I'm still getting used to. I've been having super bad stomach pains because the food is different and the time when we eat, but the more walking I do the better I feel so it's good motivation to get to work.
Every night I make cinnamon rolls for the two of us though.  Well it's just bread with butter and brown sugar.  :)  But after walking around all day it tastes like cinnamon rolls.   Dinner = Cinnamon rolls.  Works for me!

Our apartment is pretty gross and infested with all kinds of bugs, especially termites.  Yup.  Everything is tile so I'm always sweeping.  Good thing I know how to clean! We spent the first half day we moved here just cleaning trying to make it a little livable.  The shower has an electric thing that zaps the water to heat it up, and its super hot and barely drips water so I take quick showers, but it's a shower and for that I am grateful. 
The people here are interesting, humble, kind, and very friendly.  There are some really nice people I've met, and some crazy people.  :)  Some houses we go to our very clean and nice, but others are like shacks. Every house has a nice TV and radio though, no matter where you go.  Priorities.  I was a little sad that none of our investigators attended church this Sunday.  A few of them started reading the Book of Mormon and said they felt happy. The big problem here is everyone loves alcohol and drugs.  There are people smoking all kinds of things all over the place.   Many people are always willing to hear our message though, and everyone we have taught likes what we are saying, but they don't quite understand yet.  They think we are just like all the other christian churches, and I am not very good at explaining it all in Spanish. 

I have definitely been learning a lot and have been humbled too.  It's not as bad as I thought it could be, but maybe not as easy either.  That's usually how life can go.  I am getting by with my Spanish.  Most of the time people talk to me and I just say Si.  I have little idea of what they just said.  My job right now is to bare testimony in our lessons.
Another hard part for me, too, has been adjusting to the music all around.   Everywhere we go they are always blasting music here.  And its straight up Spanish salsa. No Jazzercise play list here Mom!  Occasionally I hear an American song, but usually it's like the Spanish channel in Brigham.

I do like it here in Ibague, however. It's a million times better than the MTC because we actually help people. I gave a homeless man an ice cream and a lady saw and stopped us and asked a lot of questions about the church. I try to find ways to serve people everyday.  Sometimes that is hard in a shirt and tie, but we try. 

Your emails this week were answers to my prayers. It honestly has been a hard week and I have felt lonely.  My companion is cool but when it's hard to communicate?   We go out and visit investigators and that helps to relieve the loneliness.   I said a specific prayer to Heavenly Father and he answered it through what you shared in your emails.  I loved hearing about your experiences from Stake Conference.  I can't think of a greater blessing for me than to know Heavenly Father gave you those special experiences.  Thank you for sharing with me.  I know the gospel is true and literally Heavenly Father answers prayers. My prayers. 

Until next week...I love you all!

Elder Donaldson

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Hey!  So I leave the MTC next Tuesday, and I couldn't be more excited!  I'm going to miss Elder Amick and my district for sure. And there are certain things I will miss about the MTC, but honestly I can't get wait to move on.  My district is all a bunch of fun guys and we laugh and prank each other all the time, but some of the other missionaries here...well.....

This week they told us we had to stop contacting people through the fence and focus on studying Spanish.   I was not too happy about that and tried to give president a presentation on the benefits of contacting and how much more Spanish we learn that way,  but in the end I just had to humble myself and accept it.

There really weren't any funny experiences this week worth writhing about, just lots of strange comments from the new elders...

However, this week I have been studying charity, and it is especially hard for me with some of the new elders.  I have learned charity is so much deeper than just being nice and loving everyone.  I've also been studying a lot about the atonement.  Alma 7:11-13 is my favorite scripture about that because you can relate almost anything in life to the Savior's atonement.   I have also learned how much better the scriptures are when you have a question you are studying.  I have lots to learn, and I'm grateful I've got plenty of time.
I was sad I couldn't email Mom on her birthday.  Elder Vincent's mom has the same birthday too. But I hope she got my early letter and had a good one!

That's really cool that you started institute.  Please keep me updated on all the symbols of the old testament because everyone here knows the bible, except me.  I should've paid more attention in seminary... oh well.

I'll let you know where my first area will be next week.  Thanks for all your love and support!!

Elder Donaldson

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

New Roomates and an Indoor Waterfall

I'm so glad the family is having some missionary opportunities.  I've been having them like crazy.  During language study Elder Amick and I try and talk to people through the fence.   I'm sure it looks crazy but we do it anyways.  We usually get about four referrals a day, and a lot more rejections. Can you picture us yelling at people through a fence in a language we don't know?  Somehow the Lord prepares people to hear our message.   It will be great to not have a fence barrier soon.  :)

I did get your package you sent with Elder Vincent!  Thank you so much. I shared my candies with our new Latino roommates one night.  They had never tried skittles, fruit snacks, Swedish Fish, or any of that.   Made us all happy. 
So last week we got a bunch of new roommates with the new missionaries that arrived here.  One of our new roommates is 25 and has a degree in teaching Spanish. He has a strong testimony and is so fun to be around.  He has been a member since he was 19.  His family is Catholic and they aren't very happy about his decision to serve a mission, though they support him.  He says he is here for them, and I imagine he has had and will continue to have a great impact in bringing them unto Christ.
We really got lucky because our roommates this time around are all really good.  One new Latino in our room likes to prank us.  This what he does.  He likes to set off the alarm early by our faces to scare us!!  He's really cool and funny though.  He gave me a sweater. I was really touched by his gift.
Elder Vincent and his companion are super funny and they come and talk to our district all the time.  It's been cool to see him and feel a little of BC here in Bogota.
Elder Vincent and I--Selfie!

My companion and I have become great friends and he has a solid testimony which inspires my own.  My district is all normal hard working missionaries, and my roommates are fun normal guys with good hygiene.:)
My testimony continues to grow.  I know the gospel is true and that the Book of Mormon is true and that has carried me.  Had another special experience in the temple today.  I was overcome with gratitude and love.
The only other exciting thing this week was it rained like every day.  Elder Amick and I have an indoor waterfall right outside our room. Pretty sure we are the only MTC that has that...

Until next week....all is well, sending my love.
Elder Donaldson