Thursday, October 29, 2015

The stakeout...October 26, 2015

 Well life keeps going and it brings even more twists and turns!!  Monday right after writing the family we got a call from the assistants that we were having an emergency transfer.  My companion (Elder Puchoc) got transferred to Cartagena and I got a new companion.  My new comp is Elder Gonzàlez from Chile (he was my district leader in Valledupar) and we settled in pretty nice having known each other before!  After saying goodbye to a couple of people Elder Puchoc and I went to do some investigating!!
We had heard that some missionaries were getting home late and so we went and did a stake out.  We got to their house at 8:30 and waited for a good hour and 15 minutes until these missionaries walked into their apartment.  Elder Puchoc was situated in another room while I was in their bedroom closet with a balloon in my hands..  One of the Elders walked into the room (it just happened to be the missionary that trained me) and I popped the balloon.  It sounded like a gun had gone off so he turned around and I exploded out of the closet!  Hahaha o I wish you all would have been able to see his eyes!!  hahahahahaha I am sure he peed his pants and just didn't want to say anything! 
Besides the fun stuff... we learned a lot this week as we had Zone Conferences and our Stake Conference.  President Searle talked a lot about how Faith leads into Repentance and it is interesting to think about it.  The flow that our Heavenly Father is unreal and it amazes me how perfect his gospel is.  Right now I have been trying to really repent every day for the little things I do.  I have to know and love the word repentance.  It is no longer a long process that hurts like it did before but little changes in my life that make me happy because I am following the Lord Jesus Christ.  His atonement is real and we are blessed when we can become more like him. (Try it!) 
 I have also learned the importance of strict obedience.  Our zone is composed of 16 missionaries spread out in distance of a little more than an hour.  Many members of the wards in our zone are new members (less than 5 years) and don't really comprehend the importance of missionary work.  As we have seen some of the disobedience of missionaries really just destroys the work in these wards and branches.  We have strived to be obedient to a "T" these past weeks and this week were blessed to encounter a less active and his wife who isn't a member.  We also encountered a family that listened to the missionaries before and just about got baptized but moved..  We are truly blessed when we obey the commandments God gives us.  All of them. 
I hope you are all doing splendid and have an excellent week!!
Love Elder Slack

Elder Hudgens from Heber, Elder Slack

Elder Farro, Elder Brunis, Elder Gonzalez, Elder Slack

Chased by a dog...October 19, 2015

Well here I am again writing another weekly letter.  This week was just like any other (with its ups and downs).  We started off the week really well!  We were supposed to have Zone Conference but some mixed up schedules took place and we ended up not having it.  We did some exchanges ( I got to look for directions while my companion went and taught) and had some pretty good time together.  It is pretty funny because our ward says their are 580 people!! (I don't even think my ward has that many people registered) Only 150 come on a regular basis and so we have been looking for the lost sheep!  I will put the whole story into a short one.  (Disney and Pixar always do it and they turn out better so here it goes) I met up with some crazy people who said their name was name so as not to be recognized.  We got chased by a dog.  We talked with an atheist who had no good reasoning besides a book he read when he was younger.  We replied we too have read books (the scriptures) and he shut up pretty quick.  We looked for 35 names and you will never guess what the outcomes were... We found 3 people that still live in our area one that died 3 years ago and the other 29 just never even existed... I am short of words and will finish by saying that we aren't even close to halfway done... Face with tears of joy
This week we also had lots of run ins with marriages gone wrong (so not looking forward to the next chapter of my life). Lots of Less Actives who have been lead astray for things others have done (do they not understand that the church is perfect made up of very imperfect people?!).  Last but not least... I got to do an exchange with some Elders in a small town called  Santo Tomas.  It is probably the most beautiful town ever and if you get the chance I would look it up on Google images.  That night was terrible because their was no energy in the house and I didn't have a fan to keep me cool... worst nights sleep ever!! 
Keep it real and have an excellent week!!
Love Elder Slack

Soledad 2000 zone

Elder Slack, Laura (Beatriz's daughter), Elder Puchoc
Crazy faces!!

Up to our necks in mud...October 12, 2015

What we had the quite the week!  This past was transfer week and I have the awesome opportunity to be with Elder Puchoc for another great transfer!  Tuesday we were stuck up to our necks in mud working the terminal!  It wouldn't have been so hard if the missionaries didn't act like such kids sometimes but watching my companion get frustrated is pretty funny sometimes haha!
Wednesday we were able to have a meeting with President Searle and our Stake President, President Rodriguez.  It is very interesting to have these meetings monthly about the missionary work because the church is really new here (our stake is relatively new and expanding southward due to little towns) and many of the church leaders have only been members for a few years (if that).  I really liked the phrase by President Uchtdorf saying, "We need to be converted to the gospel, not to the church." I could possibly make that my number phrase for my mission because it seems like everyone we visit just says no to our message because their pastor or leader said they could only visit their church. None others.  When asked gospel questions they have no idea how to respond and sometimes it is difficult to get that mindset out of the people.  (At this point I will just finish with some homework. Alma 4:3-4 will do the trick and needless to say, my companion and I are trying to build the church more fully... :) 
Friday we had Leader Council and we were able to talk about Faith, growing a Testimony, and feeling the Spirit.  It was a wonderful experience to hear the ideas and thoughts of others which also brought some interesting thoughts in my own head.  This week I was "Ponderizing" the scripture found in Ether 12:12 which reads "For if their be no faith among the children of men, God can do no miracle among them; Wherefore, He showed not Himself until after their faith." I found two key words and they were "Miracle" and "Showed Himself".  It was amazing to realize that every time we receive inspiration from God, it is a miracle.  How many times do we realize the miracles in our life?  Obviously life is hard but I find it a lot easier to have an eternal perspective as I recognize the little miracles in my life! 
Saturday we also had 2 Baptisms!!  I love it every time because ever since I was in Valledupar I have only been able to baptize when it comes from part member families.  What a joy it brings to see that families can be together forever.  Will yours?  I hope you have an excellent week and the Lord blesses you immensely as you strive to be obedient and love one another. Grinning face with smiling eyes
Love, Elder Slack

Beatriz, her husband, Elder Slack, Elder Puchoc

Elder Slack and Elder Puchoc

Love the new word, Ponderizing...October 5, 2015

Well what a great week filled with interviews for our zone with President Searle and then the General Conference!  What a wonderful spiritual experience that was!  I was thrilled to be able to listen to it in English and hear amazing counsel given by men and women called of God!  I think one of my favorite talks was by Sister Stephens and the importance of the commandments!  During interviews (mine are always real short with president) he asked me a question that threw me for a loop.  Maybe it is because he has never asked it before or they are so short that I didn't ever catch it but he asked me, *Will you keep the mission rules after the  mission?*
I was ponderizing (just love the new word I learned during conference hahaha) the question and I think Sister Stephens (and many others) really reinforced the importance of keeping the commandments (and mission rules).  What a waste it would be of two years to not apply mission rules after the mission.  Haha obviously I answered yes to the question President Searle asked me (right now thinking nuts this is going to be difficult) but my mother always said I could do difficult things.  What an awesome little personal experience/revelation I had this weekend among many others! 
This week I also got to work with Elder Black and Elder Selman in some companion exchanges! Elder Black is probably one of the most humble and righteous kids I have been able to become acquainted with here in the mission and Elder Selman is a farming kid from Utah.  Very hard working and super loving.  I learned lots of great things from them and I hope that I can continue to develop attributes so that others might learn something from me.  We just got transfer calls and I will be staying here with Elder Puchoc for another 6 weeks (unless we have emergency transfers, I have learned to expect the unexpected).  I am actually really excited to be able to work with him again and be able to learn lots more from him!  Earlier today I was able to go back to Lucero and visit with the Vargas family (my adopted Colombian family) and eat an amazing lunch with them!  I really do have to say that it will be a wonderful experience to be one huge eternal family after this life with so many people I have met and come in contact with!! 
Love, Elder Slack

General Conference
Elders Black, Elder Slack, ?,?,Elder Hudgens from Heber, Elder Burk

Monday, October 5, 2015

Little testimony builders...September 29, 2015

Sorry, one day late!  Well, I have noticed a couple of things here in the mission, the lights go out way too often, maintaining water pipes seems to be hard here, and ya really miss your mother when you are sick... :) gotta love the mission.
It was a super great week!  I was able to have two companion exchanges this week (one with Elder Garcia from Colombia and my trainer Elder Herbas from Bolivia!) I was able to learn tons of new things from them and also help them (I hope) learn a little!  It was interesting to teach once again with my trainer because we laughed about old times and talked about how those we taught were (which is to say that my first baptism, Victor Sanchez, is preparing to go through the temple!! WAHOOOO!!!) 
I also woke up on Wednesday morning with one eye shut.. I was trying to feel for the crusty stuff that usually comes with it but never came so I was kinda disappointed about that.. It didn't really go away until about Friday in the afternoon but by the time that went away my companion and I were struck with the cold... we have been talking in super deep voices (what power and authority right?! ;) and coughing the whole weekend!  Right now in Colombia it should be the rainy season but it has only been super hot and humid!  We have air conditioning in our bedroom (thank my lucky stars!) and I think that is maybe what has caused it! 
Besides all of the crazy things that happened we did have some spiritual moments!  We have 2 investigators progressing and will be baptized the 10th of October.  One is Karolyne De La Cruz (12) and the granddaughter of some recent converts.  The other is Kelly Gomez (15) who has been going to church for more than a year and the missionaries have never taught her and her parents have never accepted the missionaries but we have been able to help them out a little this week! 
I also had a super awesome priesthood experience!  We were visiting with some recent converts (Orlando and Otilia De La Cruz (grandparents of Karolyne)) and he said he needed a blessing because his back has been hurting him and he had a stomach infection.  It has been hurting him for some time and the doctors and their treatments had only been making it worse.  He asked me to give him a blessing and so we did and to be honest I don't remember what I said (yeah I understand Spanish but sometimes those things just happen!) and we passed by the next day and he was out working because all the pain in his body left!  I thought it was pretty sweet and little things that happen like this almost daily make things even more sure for me! I love little testimony builders that help me work more diligently every day! 
Hope you all have a wonderful week and love you all!
Love, Elder Slack

Pray with real intent...September 21, 2015

With my birthday week down.. I can officially say that good things must come to an end.. Birthdays are probably the worst day in the mission just because you think about the things you could be doing but I guess those things will just not matter one day!  We will be about 33 years old in the resurrection with no need to worry about time ruining us because we will all be perfect!  Besides, it was the neighbor's birthday too and just like every good *Costeño* they had their huge sound system (and when I say huge I mean it.. just about as big as my car) playing happy birthday bright and early for the whole street to hear!!  I guess it wasn't too bad!! ;) This week went by super fast being super busy with exchanges and running errands for the zone and having a super awesome zone meeting! Each week I print off one or two talks on a subject and I decided last week I would like to learn more about prayer.  I was able to study two talks given in BYU devotionals on prayer that strengthened my testimony even more.  I learned the meaning of praying with *real Intent* (Moroni 10:3-5). Why pray if we aren't willing to follow the impressions or guidance given by the spirit?! One thought I really enjoyed was the ability the pray for exact things and ALSO pray for understanding.  When we pray for exact things we express to God the choices we would like to make and if they aren't what we should do he will bless us with the answer and understanding as to why we should do it! (Look back to *real intent*... kick your bum into gear and Just Do It!!:) I was able to put that into practice a little this week as I make my decisions on schooling, work, etc.. for after the mission (because I have realized it is sadly coming closer to the end).  As I prayed for answers or told God what my desires were I felt like he truly showed me what it was I should be doing!  How blessed I am to have the opportunity to speak with my Father in Heaven!!  I know he listens as we repent to take away barriers keeping us from receiving answers we will truly be able to see our lives change so that we will be able to do what Heavenly Father would want us to!
Love, Elder Slack
P.S. this week was also *Valentines Day* here in Colombia (Dia del amor y amistad because they don't do it in February) and we couldn't really teach anyone so we went to the Relief Society President's house and talked to them and asked them about their marriage.  It is a scary thought and even more scary when their granddaughter (she is 15 years old) started listening to *Love the way you lie* by Rihanna... I don't wanna get married!!!  

Last birthday wishes!!...September 14, 2015

Well... This week went by way too fast.  I really have gotten to the point of my mission where I look back on the week and have to think even harder of things I did to keep you all informed!  I think the things I write are super cool for you all but I can't wait to get to end of my mission and be able to read these letters!  I would like to write about one experience that we have had but I think this one will be more for me to remember later.. There are 8 recent converts in our area that we are assigned to and they are all super duper awesome!  There is one who has been a member for about 12 months now. His name is Andres and he is 21 years old.  He is the only member in his family and the rest of his family constantly hammer him about being Mormon and not going to the church where they go!  He had a super strong testimony but has started reading lots of books that are written about beliefs or different opinions and has started asking lots of questions that are really easy and simple such as... *Is there just one God or are they three beings?* *Was Joseph Smith a prophet?* *Why is baptism so important?* etc.. I have really thought about a phrase this week by Joseph B. Wirthlin that says *Come what may and Love it...* Do we really come what may and love it?  He has been passing through some difficult repentance things but I have really learned that after the trial of our faith is when we will really know!! (D&C 121:7-8).  I know this is true and I love it!  I am doing super good and we had a stellar week!!  I hope you all have an awesome week and eat lots and lots of cake on Wednesday for me!!  Thanks for the birthday wishes!!
Love, Elder Slack 

In the growth and not very comfortable zone...September 7, 2015

I have been very fortunate to be in the refiners fire these past few weeks here in my new area.  I think I have been challenged physically, mentally, and spiritually more in these past 2 weeks than I have in a long time.  But mostly due to my own pressure to really become the son that God would have me become.  I was reading a conference talk titled * The Eternal Perspective of the Gospel of Jesus Christ* and thought really hard on my personal conversion.  Are the trials that I face really looked at as trials or little faith testers given by my Father in Heaven?  I have loved the experience of the mission for many reasons and I was able to reflect even more so this week with a statement given by President Searle in our Leadership Council this past Wednesday.  He said that the 3 most common statements given to him by missionaries are, 1. I don't have faith, 2. I don't have a testimony, and 3. I don't feel the Spirit.  I was able to look (and continue to look) more in depth on these three statements. 
I am so grateful because the Lord has blessed me with the opportunity to really grow my testimony and help me have more faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement.  What wonders the Atonement can really do for us when we comprehend it's extensive healing powers.  We read Alma 26:22 in a Zone meeting training this week and were able to help the missionaries understand the importance of a personal conversion before changing other people.  I really have loved my Personal Study time because I have been able to read (and I am almost finished with) The Book of Mormon, Preach my Gospel, and the New Testament.  I have grown closer to my Savior through a personal conversion. 
I was also thoroughly surprised to find that a topic heavily talked about in the Liahona this month is Prayer.  I know that I can definitely work on my prayers and get to the point where I have a conversation with God.  I know He lives and He sent His son Jesus Christ to atone for us, suffer for our sins and to be able to know how to help us in times of needs (Alma 7:11-12).  God has called modern day prophets to let us know who we really are.  I would like to invite you (if you can get a hold of it)(all of you) to read the introduction to Preach My Gospel.  It is truly inspired by God to help us through our trials and our personal path to conversion.  I am so grateful for trials.  I am so grateful for the pressure and time that it takes to become who we truly can become. 
*The climb might be a lot tougher but the view is always better at the TOP*.
Love, Elder Slack

Baptism on Saturday...August 31, 2015

Well, I am getting settled into my new area.  I am in Soledad (it is like a suburb of Barranquilla) and it is super crazy!  I am glad to live where I live because the weekends here are crazier than spring break in Miami!!  My new ward is medium size (about 110 people) and we have a progressing area! In our zone we are in charge of the bus terminal (the mode of transportation for the mission) and so things got super crazy right when I got here as we then had to find rides for about 100 missionaries to their respective areas.  Later that night we had to send the trainers and their new missionaries off to each of the cities where they were going then to take some of the new sisters in our zone to their town where they are going to be.  Our zone is one of the bigger zones in the mission (16 missionaries but 4 less than Valledupar) but super super big in distance.  Half of our zone lives a half hour or more from where we live.  The mode of transportation here is the front half of a motorcycle welded to what looks like a roll cage... It would make for a sweet snowmobile hahaha :)
My new companion is Elder Puchoc from Peru.  He has the same time I do in the mission and is super cool!  We have gotten along super good and been able to make some pretty good goals or plans we would like to accomplish together! 
Right when I got here I was informed that we were to have a baptism on Saturday!  Her name is Beatriz and her husband is Raul.  He has been a member for a while but has been less active.  She has been listening to the missionaries for 3 years now but none of them have been able to dunk her in the water yet (short of papers to get married which happens a lot because they get lost or aren't registered right and then you have to go to where you are born to get them out.) I was thrilled to find out I would be able to be there with her in the special moment but felt super bad because the missionary that worked oh so hard to have her be baptized was gone.
We were able to be at their wedding (only my companion Beatriz Raul their daughter Laura and I) in the Notary and then in her baptism and confirmation.  It is always such a joy to see what the Gospel can do for someone. 
I learned a lot during the wedding about the Family, especially when the Judge said that he was doing it by the authority he possessed.  It is true that he does have authority but as I thought about it.. we are truly blessed to have the POWER and AUTHORITY of God.. What a blessing it is to be a member of this Church and have the blessings available to us as we do what we are commanded to do.  I know it is true and hope you all have a wonderful week!
Love Elder Slack