Monday, September 26, 2016

Iveth's Baptism

                                                                                                           Sept. 26, 2016
Hola Familia!
So at this point you may be asking ¨"Who the heck is Iveth" because I never have said anything about her before. Iveth is a 13 year old girl who has been meeting with the missionaries for a long time, but has struggled with the decision to be baptized. I have taught her a few times since I got here, but she told us she wasn´t ready yet. On Thursday we met with her and she told us she was ready and Saturday we had the baptism!

Lots of the youth were able to come support her and it went really well! She told us afterwards that she felt a lot better than before, which was so great to hear because whenever we ask her how she feels she just says "bien no mas" haha. Baptism is such a blessing and such an amazing opportunity we have to help people enter the kingdom of God!

I'm happy to report that our Ward mission leader fixed my camera this week haha...he is not a camera guy but somehow knew that I needed to turn on macro mode so that should do it. A really simple fix!
So I'm going to be able to send more pictures.

A picture of our Bishop (front) and Ward Mission Leader, Hermano
Nunez, (back) who is also our pension or caretaker who feeds us.  
In answering questions in regards to our eating situation, we have a pension (caretaker who feeds us)where we eat lunch every day. The pension is paid through our monthly mission funds. The Ward mission leader is our pension so that's been fun. The food is pretty good and normal - always soup first, then some rice and meat and veggies, then a dessert. His wife makes a KILLER homemade chocolate ice cream, but she only made it once so I am still hoping haha. Also everyone here makes really good fruit juices and I have really enjoyed those. Nothing has been too strange yet. We eat with a member family each Sunday. We usually don´t eat dinner to save money and because lunch is huge, but I have choco krispis or frosted flakes for breakfast every morning.

Hmm what else...on Monday we had a fun zone activity where we went to a wildlife park and played soccer and explored. We also got some pretty sweet zone shirts and I really enjoyed it! Anyway at the park we saw a few alligators, a sloth, and a monkey. It was so funny because Elder Sierra wanted to find a monkey the whole time (it reminded me of Theo and the sea turtles) and we searched for a while and finally as we were leaving the park there was one swinging around. Elder Sierra was so happy that God answered his prayers haha.
Also, we had a zone conference on Tuesday with President Rodriguez and it was great to hear from him. He focused on the Spirit and what we can do better to have the Spirit with us throughout the day. President compared the Spirit to the sun. It is in one place, but we can all feel its warmth if we want to. It requires action on our part however. We have to do something as easy as going outside or opening up the windows in order to feel the light of the sun. Similarly, it is not hard to feel the Spirit, but we have to do our part!
On Tuesday night I got really sick and so I was in bed for most of Wednesday which was a bummer. I felt a lot better by Wednesday night but I continued having really severe stomach pains until Friday. I got some medicine and I am back to normal now but for this reason we weren´t able to do a lot this week. 

The last thing I wanted to share is a special experience I had yesterday. After Church I was feeling pretty down because a few members made comments about how quiet I was when I told them I wanted to be a lawyer and it is really hard sometimes when people can´t see who I really am because I can´t speak to them well. Anyway, I was depressed about not being able to be myself here, but I had the chance to study my call letter and patriarchal blessing for a few minutes. I was able to feel of the love Heavenly Father has for me and it was a powerful testimony to me of the Holy Ghost´s role as a comforter. He sent the Spirit to comfort me during this time and I was completely overwhelmed by the love and hope I felt. The language is getting better and everything will get better! Heavenly Father loves us and the reason we have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost is so that no matter what happens, we will never feel alone or abandoned. Turn to Him in hard times and He will send His comforter. There is a peace that we can find in Him that we cannot find in the world.
I love you all so much and hope you have a great week! All is well here and there is something to learn, love, and enjoy every day!
Elder Harris

Monday, September 19, 2016

Teaching by the Spirit

                                                                                                             Sept. 19, 2016

Hola Family!

First of all, thanks for all your emails and updates on life! I enjoy reading and hearing from everyone and I'm sorry my responses are so underwhelming all the time, but an hour and a half is not long enough! So a lot has happened this week.

On Wednesday, I had my first intercambio (missionary exchange) with Elder Puitiza.
He is from Peru, has been out 5 months, and is a really great Elder.

In my area we only ride around in vans and buses, but in his area all they ride is motorcycle taxis, so we got to ride on a motorcycle which was pretty sweet!
Anyway, he was baptized three years ago and worked for a year to come out on a mission. He is such a Christ-like Elder and I had a really great time working with him!
Quick story:
At the beginning of one of our lessons this week an Hermana brought out a full Sprite bottle and I said, "Esto es mi favorito, or this is my favorite!" To which she then responded--Agua???
I realized that the bottle was full of water and not Sprite and we all cracked up. haha  It was funny, but a little embarassing.

Elder Sierra has been pretty sick this weekend so unfortunately we weren´t able to do much the past two days. We had to miss church which was a bummer, but I also had A LOT of time to study and read so I have learned a lot this weekend haha. All the studying I did without any teaching was just a reminder to me that if we don´t act on what we learn from the scriptures, they are just words on paper. The important part is going and doing! Anyway, he is feeling better now so we are excited to have a whole new week to work hard and improve. 
This week we stopped by Paul's house to set up an appointment and he told us he wasn't going to meet with us anymore. It was pretty disappointing, but he is still a really good guy and I enjoyed the opportunity we had to teach him!
Emmanuel is progressing really well and will probably be baptized either this week or next. We invited him to download the app and listen to the Book of Mormon on his phone, so hopefully he can start doing that!
Claudia and Ximena are also both doing well! Claudia is 23 and Ximena is 19 by the way. Their older sister and her husband are less active but they accompany us during the lessons and are really nice. They both told us this week that the Book of Mormon helps them feel clean, and Ximena said that after reading she feels like she has talked to someone. The Book of Mormon is powerful and we are seeing such a difference in our teaching as we focus on the Book of Mormon as the key source for conversion! Ximena came to church yesterday and is on track to be baptized the first of October.
This week I had the most amazing and powerful experience of my mission so far. On Thursday we were teaching Familia Suarez, an older couple with 3 children. They have been meeting with the missionaries for months and have accepted everything we have taught, but they aren´t married which is the only thing keeping them from baptism. As we were following up on their plans to be married at the beginning of the lesson, Hermana Gabby told us that they are having a lot of troubles in their relationship and Jorge is considering leaving. They have been together for 5 years but they told us they were always arguing and it was tough.
Elder Sierra and I are 18 and 19 year old boys and we are by no means qualified to give relationship advice, so we honestly had no idea what to tell them. We wanted to encourage them that by living more like Christ and showing more love they could improve their relationship, but we also didn´t want to tell them they should be married if they really don´t get along. As I was thinking about what kind of counsel we could give them, prayer came to mind. Then Elder Sierra began talking about how prayer could guide them. Then the thought came into my head, "We don´t know, but your Heavenly Father knows everything." Seconds later, I heard Elder Sierra say these exact words in Spanish. I could not deny that the spirit was guiding us both in this moment. I began to speak and told Gabby and Jorge that I can´t always understand their Spanish very well, but I can testify that the words of Elder Sierra are true because I was thinking of those exact same words. I got choked up and began to cry because I realized the Spirit was working through us. As I testified to them that their Heavenly Father loves them and knows them perfectly, the Spirit touched their hearts and they both began to tear up. We told them that in reality, we don´t know what they should do, but Heavenly Father wants to help them and guide them, and if they reach out to Him in prayer, He will give them an answer. We invited them to pray together and be willing to accept whatever answer they receive.

I testify that if we are worthy and obedient, we will have the power of the Holy Ghost with us as we teach. We do not need to worry, only trust in the promise of the Lord that it will be given us in the very moment what we shall say.

I love you all and hope you have a great week! Always remember how much we really owe and live in a way that demonstrates that understanding!


Elder Harris

The Power of God

                                                                                                               Sept. 12, 2016

Hola Familia!

How are you all? I'm sorry I am really short on time, but I will try my best to share a few things from this week!
First of all, this week we taught Paul about the Book of Mormon more and his Dad joined us during the lesson. His pastor discouraged him about the book and he said this might be our last visit but we managed to take out another appointment with him for this week so we will see! We invited them both to read and pray in order to know for themselves so hopefully they will receive the answer they need!
We also started teaching an English class on Tuesday and it was only about 6 people but hopefully it will grow! We are trying to use it to find new people to teach and also help people become friends with Claudia and Ximena. We taught them the law of chastity Saturday night and Claudia said about halfway through the lesson that this is impossible. I testified to her of the promise in 1 Nephi 3:7. We will receive no commandment that the Lord does not intend for us to keep, and he will always provide a way. They committed to live it and they are progressing well! Ximena read three extra chapters of the Book of Mormon more than what we had asked her and I think they are gradually gaining a testimony of it. They have a baptismal date for the first of October, but they need to attend church two more times to accomplish this goal so pray that they can come to church these next two Sundays!
We are also teaching a young man named Immanuel, who is 15 years old. He has been coming to church for years but no one knew he wasn't a member. As we taught him about the restoration this week for the first time, we discovered that he cannot read. This was both shocking and humbling to me and it makes teaching him a lot harder, but he is really smart and I know the lord will provide a way!
Last night we had a noche de hermanamiento at a less active family´s house. We usually have them every Sunday night. Basically the whole ward is invited and we all introduce ourselves, listen to a message from the bishopric, and then play a group game and eat some food. It was a really great opportunity to get to know the ward and it was a lot of fun. One of our investigators came and honestly it was a big success for the less actives as well. At the end of whatever weird game we were playing, I lost one round so I had to accept a punishment. The ward members decided I would have to pour a glass of water on my head. I stood in the middle of the huge circle of 50 members and poured water on myself. It was really awkward and funny haha. 
Anyway, I am doing so much better and starting to enjoy it here more! The people are great and we found a few new families to teach this week. Elder Sierra has been here for 9 months so it is likely he will be transferred in 3 weeks, but we are making the most of our time together haha.

Elder Sierra and I got creative as we continued to practice our teaching skills. 
He is really funny and a great trainer and we work well together so I am really grateful for him.
Thank you for your love and prayers! Hope you all have a wonderful week!
Elder Harris

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Answers to Prayers

                                                                                                          Sept. 5, 2016
Hola Familia!!!
This week in itself has been an answer to prayers. Thank you for all of your prayers and fasting on my behalf! I have been happier and enjoyed being here more and I am really grateful for all you have done.
Elder Sierra and I classing out in our sweaters.
Just a few quick funny and interesting things:

There is one field in our area where a bunch of owls live, which is super cool and unique because I've never really seen owls. There are usually 5 or 6 just hanging out and if I ever get the chance I will take pictures.

Also, this week we moved into a new house, which is a lot smaller, but perfect for what we need! And it is clean so we just have to keep it that way haha. Nice vaulted ceilings and it has really been a great change.
One time this week I was really tired and I know I did this once before during our family prayer haha but it was about 10:23 at night and I started my personal prayer. We usually pray as companions after so Elder Sierra just had to wait for me to finish. I fell asleep about halfway through my prayer, but I was kneeling with my head in my hands so Elder Sierra couldn't tell. He had a stressful day that day so he was thinking --Man this kid is really pouring out his heart. Then as time passed...Wow Elder Harris really loves me. He is praying on my behalf for this long...  and then after about 15 minutes he thought.. Wow this guy is a spiritual giant. He is amazing! And all the while I was just sleeping. So after 17 minutes at about 10:40 he saw me twitch, and he was like,--wait a minute! So he woke me up and then we just laughed about the whole thing for the next 5 minutes haha. And that is the story of the 17 minute prayer.
But on a more serious note, there are so many joys that come from this work. This week we started teaching a 17 year old boy named Paul, who I met on the bus last week. I almost wasn´t going to start talking to him, but I am so glad I did because he has been really prepared to receive the gospel. He already has a strong testimony of Christ and the bible and he has gladly kept his commitments. I am so excited for him and hope he can gain a testimony of the book of mormon this week!
We are also teaching two young women whose sister is a member. Their names are Claudia and Ximena. Saturday night we invited them to be baptized and although they were a little hesitant they accepted. We picked them up for church the next day and they stayed all three hours! The ward is really welcoming them and that has been great.
The last thing I wanted to share is that on Tuesday, we were walking around near our house and trying to decide where to go. Elder Sierra thought we should go to Familia Flores, and I don't really know everyone yet so I just agree with and follow all of his decisions haha. Anyway, they are a less active family with 3 or 4 kids. We taught a short lesson using the image of the tree of life. I testified that we don't need to wait to enjoy the fruit. We already have the iron rod in front of us and there is no reason to continue to be lost in the mists of darkness. Shortly after, Sister Flores told us that she had been praying all day and then we showed up. She didn't believe us when we told her that we had no plans to visit them that day. It was such a faith building experience for me because all I could think about while she was crying and sharing this with us was, this is why I came on a mission! In reality, I came to be the answer to someone's prayers and it is such a privilege to be doing the Lord's work here in Bolivia.
I love you all and hope you have an amazing week! Thanks for all your encouragement and loving words!
Elder Harris