Monday, August 29, 2016

Patience in our Trials

                                                                                                               August 29, 2016

Hola Familia! Como estan? I hope everyone is doing well, it was great reading all of your emails!
Last Tuesday, I arrived in Bolivia and we slept in a hotel in the city until about noon that day. Then we had papa johns pizza for lunch which was AMAZING and got to spend time with the mission president the rest of the day. It was wonderful to visit and spend some time at the mission home.
My first companion in the mission is Elder Sierra
Wednesday, we met our trainers and did some contacting. My first companion is Elder Sierra! He looks Latino, so I thought he wouldn't speak English, but it turns out he is from Florida, so we are all good. haha
He is pretty awesome! 
The city of Santa Cruz is built in rings, so there are about 9 rings in total (moves from the center out, you can look up a map if you want). Our area is in the 7th ring. Generally, it gets poorer as you move out. Our area is pretty third world but luckily we have a nice apartment to live in. It is pretty big and we have only seen 2 roaches and 1 lizard which apparently is like super lucky and our apartment is the nicest in the mission. We are moving on Tuesday to a smaller apartment, but we are going to keep this one super clean so I am looking forward to it.
As I said, our area is really third world. In some parts people live in apartments but pretty general there are just one or two room brick homes with tin roofs.

There are cows and chickens walking around everywhere and it has been a real reality check for me since I've been so sheltered.

Our beautiful Ward building

I'm still getting used to the cows
We either walk everywhere or take trufis here, which are vans with like 15 seats that have routes and are pretty cheap. One time on my first day, we were in a trufi and my companion said when we need to get off just say, "Pare por favor." We were at a stoplight and needed to get out so I asked him if I should say the same thing and he said yes. Anyway, we had been stopped at this stoplight for like a minute and a half and I just all of a sudden said, "stop please," in Spanish. Then after we just cracked up because of how stupid everyone must have thought I was. haha

Anyway, I love my area and it is exciting to be participating in this great work. They have had a lot of success in this area and we have a lot of people to teach.

Last night we were teaching the Familia Millares, who were baptized almost a year ago and are preparing to go to the temple. They have a lot of challenges as they prepare, so we taught about the principle of adversity, and how Satan tempts us the most right before we are about to do something great. For example, Joseph Smith was almost overcome by the devil before he had the first vision. If he had not persevered and asked God to deliver him, we wouldn't have the restored gospel her on earth. As I testified of this principle, I realized that I was teaching myself. This week has been very difficult and full of adversity. I'm having a hard time adjusting to the new culture and language, but I know that if I am obedient, have faith, and persevere, that the Lord will bless me to do His amazing work and help bring people to Christ. If I can work hard and persevere through small trials, for the next few weeks, I will be able to do so much good for the next two years. 

Please keep us in your prayers as we try to teach more lessons this week. I know that this is exactly where I am supposed to be!

I love you all and hope you have an amazing week!

Elder Harris


Elder Harris Arrives Safely in Bolivia!

                                                                                                               August 23, 2016

Elder Harris has arrived safely in Bolivia!!

His preparation day(day off) will be on Mondays, where he will have a short time to email friends and family to share more of his mission experiences.

Although he hopes to answer every email, his writing time is very limited and so we have created this blog so you can follow along.

Please know how much he appreciates your love, support, and friendship!     

We received the following email confirming his safe arrival:

Good morning,

Glad to welcome your son to Bolivia, we are very happy to count him amongst us in the mission of miracles!
Élder Lozano
Secretario del Presidente
Misión Bolivia Santa Cruz


Monday, August 22, 2016

Goodbye Mexico City! Hello Bolivia!!

                                                                                                                     August 22, 2016            
Hola Familia,
How are you? We are leaving today at noon, but I have some time this morning, so I wanted to quickly share a few pictures.
Here are some pictures we took this morning with our teacher at the CCM. It was our last day so we took a lot of pictures of our group.

Our awesome morning teacher here at the CCM
 Also, I wanted to share a picture of our last P-day where we challenged another district to a game of ultimate and it was really fun. It started raining about half way through so we took off our shoes and kept playing. One of the most enjoyable games of ultimate I´ve ever played! 

It was an awesome experience to play ultimate with the Elders in the rain.

Our afternoon teacher Hermano Sanchez. He is amazing! 
One of my best friends, Elder Murphy, who swims for BYU and is a lot of fun! 

Elder Murphy took a quick snap shot of me.
Although it looks like I'm napping, I'm in deep contemplation. 
Elder Lebaron and I joking around about being from Chicago


I am so grateful for the time I have spent here at the CCM. I have learned so much and have loved getting to know so many wonderful people. I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and I look forward to sharing it with the people of Bolivia. 

Goodbye Mexico City! Hello Bolivia!!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Last Week in the CCM

                                                                                                      August 17, 2016

Hola Familia! Como estan? Estoy muy agradecido por esta oportunidad a hablar con ustedes!

This is my last week here in the CCM, which is still crazy to think about, but also very exciting!
I will miss my time in the CCM and especially the amazing friends I have made.

Here are a few pictures of some of my friends that have left this week. 
Elder Crane and me
picture of me with Elder Wilkins

Me with Elder Lebaron, the Elder we saw at the Chicago airport the morning I left.
He is from the Northwest Suburbs and is one of my roommates. He is a super funny guy!!

On our P-day we went on a parrot safari.

It was a great adventure!!

We got our travel plans the other night and it looks like Monday will be a long day. I leave the CCM at about noon to catch a 4:40 flight to Lima (I get to share a little bit of Theo´s mission experience after all haha), which arrives at 10:30 Monday night. Then at 11:59 (thank goodness it’s not midnight) I have a 2 hour flight to La Paz Bolivia. Assuming the altitude and my asthma don´t kill me during my 45 minute layover there, I will then fly to Santa Cruz and get there just before 5 in the morning. There are 4 other missionaries from another district going with me, so it should be a good time!

To get ready for our departure we have a lot of packing and other stuff to take care of today, so our P-day probably won’t be as fun as usual, but we are playing ultimate against another district this afternoon and there has been a lot of trash talk so I am very excited for that haha. The rest of the time before we leave we will continue studying, practicing, and preparing for the field!

This week Elder Hale had some problems with his ankle so we had to go to the hospital to get X-rays (I should say “got to” because we were both really excited for a trip outside the walls).

Another Elder who had knee problems and his companion came with us so it was actually pretty fun at first! One of them is from Ecuador and one is from Chihuahua Mexico and they were both super nice! We had about a 20 minute ride over to the hospital and then for some reason the x-rays and MRIs took about 3 hours, so we got a lot of good Spanish practice in with these missionaries. We taught the elder from Ecuador the names of facial features and body parts in English which was really fun because we are always the ones doing the learning here, haha. We taught him the word shoulders, but it was tough for him to remember this one so he kept pointing to his shoulders and saying “throats” and Elder Hale and I would just crack up every time. We probably shouldn´t laugh considering how many times a day we make mistakes in Spanish, but it was really funny in the moment.

The comedor was closing by the time we got back from the hospital so it was just the four of us eating in a huge cafeteria and they had so much food left over so we ate pretty well that night, haha. It was an interesting experience and I really enjoy joking around with the Latinos here. It’s always a party with them because there is so much to be happy about.

Ok so I know I talk a lot about food in these emails and I apologize for that, but for those of you keeping up with my pizza night performances I have something big to report. Last night I PR-ed with a total of 8 pieces of Costco pizza, which was really difficult but with faith and some 2% milk, all things are possible. I was happy to go out on a high note on my last pizza night and I´m grateful for everyone who has supported me throughout this journey. I´m feeling pretty sick today but it was entirely worth it.

Just a quick little story from this week:

So on Saturday we were trying to figure out whose turn it was to teach one of our investigators and I was trying to say “we taught Thursday” in Spanish, which is “Enseñamos jueves”. I messed up on my pronunciation a little bit and ended up saying “Enseñamos huevos”, which means “we taught eggs”. I immediately realized and we all started laughing, and from now on I´m going to focus on the difference between Thursday and eggs, haha.

Last night we had a really great devotional from Elder Helaman Montejo, an Area Seventy here in Mexico. He told a story from his childhood, where he was at a hardware store with his brother. He was only 7 years old and he found a chain on the floor inside the store while his brother was shopping. He told us at the time he had really wanted his very own chain and it was something he always dreamed of, haha. Anyway, he picked up the chain and brought it home, swinging it around the whole way home. When his father saw him, he asked Elder Montejo what he had in his hand. Elder Montejo replied, “It´s my chain” His father asked if he had bought it or if someone had given it to him, to which elder Montejo replied no. His father then told him to return to the store, go to the store owner, and return the chain. His father told his brother that he would go with him to make sure he returned the chain. When they arrived at the store, Elder Montejo went into the owner´s office and told him that he had taken this chain from the store without permission. The owner replied, “Are you Antonio Montejo´s son?, to which he replied yes. He was allowed to keep the chain and return home.

Now to be honest I don´t understand completely how this story relates to the gospel, but there are a few correlations I really love. First of all, Elder Montejo´s older brother was with him the whole time. He returned to the store with him and was there to make sure he accomplished what his father had asked him to. Our older brother Jesus Christ is here with us, in every moment, making sure we do that which Heavenly Father has asked of us. He will not let us return without accomplishing this. The second thing I liked is that the store owner recognized that this was a son of Antonio Montejo just because of his actions. All it took to realize that this 7 year old boy was a son of Antonio Montejo was to see him returning something worthless that he had taken. Similarly, people should be able to recognize us as children of God and disciples of Christ purely based on what we do. We shouldn´t need nametags in order for people to recognize that we are representatives of Christ - all of our actions should make this clear.

On Sunday we watched a video about the life of John Tanner. John Tanner was a really wealthy man living in the 1830s who had an infection in his leg that no doctor could diagnose or heal. He was told that unless they amputated it, he would die, but he refused to have his leg amputated. Because of this he only had a few months left to live. He was a methodist minister and because he wanted to disprove the mormon religion, he attended a sermon given by two missionaries. He believed their words and wanted to be baptized soon after finding the church. When the missionaries asked him to be baptized, however, he told them he could not because of his leg. He would not be able to get in the water with his infected leg. The missionary asked if he had faith in the power of God to heal, and then commanded John Tanner to rise up and walk. Soon after he got up, he leg was completely healed. That night he walked a quarter mile to the nearest lake to be baptized. John gave everything he had to the Church in the years following. He donated nearly 50,000 dollars to help build the temple and pay the Church´s debts. He lost his entire fortune and has family was forced to beg for food. John was asked to serve a mission, and before departing, he brought to Joseph Smith the prophet a note for money he had loaned to Joseph - thousands of dollars. John ripped up the note and said “The only debt is one of gratitude, and that is mine!”

I love this quote because it is how all of us should approach service in the Church and how we give to build the kingdom of God. There is NOTHING we can do to even come close to repaying our Heavenly Father for all He has blessed us with. No matter how much time or money we give, we simply cannot. He has blessed us with knowledge, families, and the ability to progress and return to him. The ability to overcome death and all of the effects of the Fall in order to have a more joy than we can ever imagine. Serving a mission is easy as long as long as we keep this perspective. I know the next few weeks are probably going to be very tough for me. I am going to be in an entirely new country with problems that I have never faced before. I may have a companion that doesn´t speak any English, and for a while its going to be nearly impossible for me to understand the people I am talking to. Yes I am a little bit scared, but this is something easy I can do for God. Our Savior is with us every step of the way to help us accomplish what the Father has asked of us, and He will not let us fail. I´m so grateful for this opportunity to serve a mission, and most importantly for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, through which all things are possible.

I love you all and hope you have a great week! I´ll talk to you soon!

Elder Harris


Love is Spoken Here

                                                                                                                    August 12, 2016
Hola Familia!

Como están? It was great to hear from all of you last week, I hope you are all doing well and life has calmed down a little bit!

Next week is my last full week in the CCM, so things are starting to wind down here, which is sad but also exciting.

I will miss these great guys in my district! 

This week we almost had a pizza eating contest on Tuesday. If you have been reading my emails, you know that Tuesday night is Costco pizza night at the cafeteria, and there is a lot of hype about this around here. We decided on Monday that we were going to have a pizza eating contest against another district to see who could eat the most. As everyone knows, I am a little bit of a competitive person so I employed all my eating strategies to prepare for this. I ate a huge dinner Monday night and then ate really small for breakfast the next day. At lunch I drank about 6 glasses of water (which was probably really not healthy now that I think about it) and I was ready to go (in more ways than one). A couple hours before the competition things were getting really heated and a lot of people in our district didn´t want to do it, so we had to call the competition off, which was really disappointing. But I still ate 7 pieces that night and matched my record which was a huge accomplishment. If you work hard you truly can accomplish anything.

View of soccer fields from CCM
We also played kickball this week a few times which is a blast for some reason. I still don´t know the rules really well (which sounds sad but I promise it’s pretty complicated) so my team always gets mad at me. But everyone goes all out and it’s really fun to slide and steal and do all the other things that are frowned upon in CCM kickball.

We also play ultimate sometimes which has been really fun to stay in shape. We are at 7,000 feet in Mexico City so I am always really out of breath and sunburnt after we play, haha.

Another view of  soccer fields
I don´t have a whole lot to write about this week, and I can´t think of any funny stories at the moment, but I had a few really awesome experiences this week!

First of all, this past Saturday we started TRC, which is where we have the opportunity to teach volunteers who come from outside of the CCM to be taught. Most of the people who volunteer are already members of the church, but I was really nervous because we had never taught “Real people” before (just our teachers pretending to be investigators). Anyway, for this reason I was feeling really nervous beforehand and just had a lot of fears about how the lesson was going to go and if we were going to be able to understand and meet this person´s needs. As we were waiting to be assigned someone to teach, our teacher came up to us and told us that we would be teaching a man who was less active in the church. He told us this man was really less active and so we really needed to take this seriously. After hearing that, my fear grew tremendously and I started to feel a sense of personal responsibility for the reactivation of this man I had never even met.

We were directed into a room where a man named Zeniff was sitting, and I remember as I entered the room, I was filled with love for him. I felt how much Heavenly Father loved Zeniff and wanted him to return to the fold. As we sat down across from him and began teaching, I felt such great desires to help Zeniff and really was able to feel his Heavenly Father´s love for him. It was incredible. The next 20 minutes we taught with clarity and more power than ever before, and even though it was really difficult for us to understand him, we taught him that he can pray to His Heavenly Father, who will always understand him perfectly. At one point I totally forgot his name and I think I called him Neville, like from Harry Potter, haha, but I asked him to tell us his name again and it was all good after that. At the end of the lesson, the three of us knelt in prayer together, and it was one of the most powerful prayers I have been a part of in a long time.

This experience really taught me the truthfulness of a scripture in Moroni chapter 8: “Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.” I love this scripture and I know now more than ever that love is the most important component in this work. I still can´t really speak Spanish, I don´t know the doctrine as well as I should, and I am so full of imperfections and weaknesses, but I love the people of Bolivia, and that is what makes me allows me to teach. My call is the source of my authority, and my love is the source of my power. I know that if everything we do is motivated by sincere love for the people we teach, the mistakes we make won´t matter. One district during sacrament meeting this week sang the Children´s song “Love is spoken here”. This song is mostly about having love within families, but the last line says “And the things they teach are crystal clear, for love is spoken here.” I know that this is true. Obviously as missionaries we need to prepare and work hard to become the best teachers we can be, but if we love the people we teach, we will always teach with power and clarity.

Along with loving the people we teach, the most important thing we can do to become more effective teachers is to become more like Christ. On Sunday we had an awesome devotional from Elder David A Bednar on this topic. At the beginning of his talk, he said “What you are is more important than what you say”. He taught that the main difference between us and the Savior is that He turns outward when we would turn inward. It is natural for us to focus on ourselves and look for ways we can indulge ourselves, but the true way to become like Christ is to lose ourselves in the service of others. This is something I´ve really been working on this week, and I am still VERY far away from being someone who consistently turns outward, but I know that with faith in Christ and the power of His atonement, we can overcome any weakness that we want to.

Only a week and a half left here and I still have a lot to learn! With all the work we have done over the past four weeks it is easy to get complacent, but something I continually ask myself is “Am I doing what is expected of me, or am I doing what He expects of me, which is nothing but my best?” Becoming like Christ is a lifelong process, but we can always be a little more humble, a little more kind, and a lot more loving.

I hope you all have a great week! Thanks for your love and support!

Elder Harris

Continuing Revelation

                                                                                                                         August 5, 2016
Buenas Tardes familia!!! Como estan?

I hope everyone had a great week and you are all healthy and safe!

I am now over halfway through my time here at the CCM, which is exciting, but also pretty sad because I have made so many friends here.

We received a new District this week and it has been really fun getting to know them! They are pretty funny and some of them really want to work as hard as possible which is exciting to see!

Our District visiting the Mexico City Temple

We get to go to the temple on Friday, our day off. (Preparation Day)  

Beautiful fountain view of the temple

Not too many exciting things happened this week, and for some reason I can´t think of anything funny right now so I apologize in advance if this isn't the most entertaining email.

Quick story to start out: Every Saturday we have service assignments, where instead of gym time we help out with some job around the CCM. One time we helped clean tables and chairs, but last Saturday we got to help out in the comedor (cafeteria). I was given the privilege of cutting green bell peppers, which was easily the most exciting job there. One of the workers showed me the best way to do it and I got to work. I was about 3 peppers in when I started to feel really insecure about my pepper cutting. I was cutting really slow and inefficiently and decided I needed to ramp up my speed. About 3 dices later I cut my thumb open, and needless to say I did not cut anymore peppers after that. Later this week I saw peppers exactly the way I had cut them in one of our dishes for dinner and told everyone in my district that these were my peppers, but for whatever reason they weren’t too happy to hear this hahaha. But I am 100% there was no blood in the peppers so no need to worry!

View of city from the CCM

This week I also hung out with some of the latino elders more which was a blast! It´s always a fiesta for the Latino elders here, haha. One of them that I am pretty close with is named Elder Carrillo. I didn´t get a picture with him yet but I will send one next week. We have become pretty good friends and yesterday he gave me a Mexico City Temple tie pin that his brother had given to him, which was super generous of him and I was so grateful. Last night he asked me if I wanted to study the scriptures with him in Spanish. He ended up leading our entire district in a discussion of Helaman 5 - all in Spanish. At some point as he was testifying of the importance of the Book of Mormon and his love for the gospel, he told us his story. Elder Carrillo is originally from Colombia, and in Colombia his parents had a business that was super successful, so they were rich compared to the rest of Colombia. About 4 years ago he moved to Mexico, and his parents business did not have the same success it had found in Colombia. Elder Carrillo wanted to go on a mission but his family was now poorer than they ever had been and he didn´t know if he would be able to. Elder Carrillo worked for 2 years, earning $10 a month in order to pay for his mission. Obviously this would not have been enough to pay for an entire mission, but my friend Elder Carrillo gave all of the last two years in order to earn these two years.

This was such a humbling experience for me and I honestly felt so guilty afterwards. We live in so much wealth and have so many incredible blessings that we often take for granted. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to serve a mission and sometimes we forget how blessed we are. Hearing Elder Carrillo say all of this made me so grateful for every opportunity I have to succeed and all of my many blessings, both temporal and spiritual. He is an amazing example to me of sacrifice and having an eye single to the glory of God.

This week if I learned anything it is that we really can receive revelation at this time and in these latter days. So many amazing experiences on Sunday taught me this. The two facets of this principle I want to focus on are modern day prophets and apostles and prayer.

In our priesthood meeting on Sunday, Presidente Alvarez (one of the leaders for our branch) shared with us a story from L. Tom Perry. L. Tom Perry, who recently passed away, was called by God as a modern day apostle. He had all the same powers and responsibilities given to the apostles like Peter, James, and John at the time Christ was on the earth. Elder Perry was in Denmark, touring a cathedral or some other sort of religious place with some other apostles and President Kimball, who was the prophet at the time. There were marble sculptures of the original apostles around them, and President Kimball said to the person who was giving the tour “These are the original apostles (pointing to the sculptures).” And then pointing to Elder Perry and the other living apostles the prophet said, “And these are the new apostles which the Lord has called.”

Later that night we watched the Joseph Smith movie, which is EASILY one of my favorite movies of all time. It is an hour long film about the life of Joseph Smith, the prophet God chose to restore His true church to the earth. There is a scene in the movie where Joseph Smith heals men, women, and children who are extremely ill near the banks of the Mississippi. This made me think of Christ and how he healed so many people during his mortal ministry. I realized that Joseph Smith had that same power to heal and save that the Savior of the World has, and then I thought to myself, “Do we really have that power?” Do I, such an imperfect person, really have the power of the priesthood of God through which I can heal and bless God´s children? Immediately I received my answer: Yes, we really do! The priesthood of God really is restored to the Earth. We have a modern prophet and apostles who are called by God to act in his name. The heavens are open and we can receive revelation once again!

I also gained a stronger testimony of prayer this week. In sacrament meeting on Sunday, the district in our branch that left the CCM this week sang “A Childs Prayer”, one of my new favorite songs. I felt the spirit so strongly throughout, and especially when I heard the words in Spanish “Pray, he will listen” They then switched to singing in English halfway through and sang “Speak, he is listening” I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is true. Our Heavenly Father loves us. He hears every single one of our prayers. Not only does he hear them, He answers them. As we pray sincerely to express our gratitude to God and ask for His help, He will answer those prayers.
I know that we can receive revelation. Just as Joseph Smith did, we can pray to know the truth. We have prophets and apostles to lead us and guide us. Each of us can receive personal revelation by through the power of the Spirit of God. All we need to do is pray. If we don´t believe these principles and live based on that belief, we are missing out on an immense amount of knowledge and happiness! The Heavens are open! This knowledge has blessed my life in so many ways and I cannot imagine where I would be without it!

Have a great week!

Love you all!
Elder Harris