Monday, November 3, 2014

Fried Alligator

November 2nd, 2014

Dear Family,
What a great week here in Trinidad! I had some super great and inspiring experiences this week. Before sharing, I will also let you know that I ate fried alligator this week. And it was yummmm, however I still prefer fried chicken.
First off, Jorge got baptized! I only got here for the last 3 weeks of his pre baptism teachings, but I already felt like we got to share so much learning with him and his wife (who is a member) that I just felt a part of his experience. And I am so happy to have the privilege of teaching him as a convert. They really need a lot of strengthening and have a long way to go in order to prepare this year for the temple. His baptism was an incredible experience, because of the Christlike examples of my bishop and the ward members. This bishop is by far my favorite so far. The majority of his family is less active, including his wife, but he is as strong as ever. He emanates humility and love, but his also firm and apropiately uses his leadership authority. He treats us equally as he treats the elders, and it is with great respect and love. He is truly a shining light for the whole ward. On the day of the baptism, there was no electricity in the chapel. We had to abruptly change the baptism from the night time to afternoon. We were super worried because it is already very difficult to get members to come to things, especially if it is in the hot, hot afternoon hours. Then we tried to fill the font, and there was no water in the chapel either. Our bishop, who lives in a stick hut with dirt floors, sacrificed time when he could have been working, to wait with us for hours in the chapel for water to arrive that we had delivered, which after a prayer, arrived 5 minutes before the baptism was supposed to begin. Then, the members started to come. I was so surprised! I never saw that happen in my other area, where people have cars and such. These members came in on motorbike taxis, in the middle of the afternoon to support an investigator that many of them did not know very well. It was very heartwarming, and we all enjoyed uplifting testimonies. I was so grateful Jorge could see the love those members have, this can make all the difference for a recent convert. The next day we visited Hermana Marina and her 3 children who will be baptized the 14th of November. We found them as a referral right after I got here. It has been so amazing teaching them and watching them read their book of Mormon, and the other day they finally remembered to offer their first family prayer before they went to bed. Marina finally opened up to us and to our amazing relief society president. We knew she had been in danger a few weeks ago, she had told us she might not come to church because she wasn’t sure if she could go out in the open, but we weren’t sure why, and then she did actually end up coming! But the other day she explained. She had been living in the mountains in the jungle in a village with her children and their dad. However the dad had been involved in drug trade and crossed the wrong people, and so they were coming after his family to kill her and her children. They had to run, and she said they went undercover through the jungle for 15 days. Her daughters have scars from being eaten
alive by mosquitos, and she said they could barely sleep at night because they were also so scared of the  jaguars and alligators. She told us they were blessed by God to get to her aunts house where they are living now, and then to be introduced to us. She feels they are safe here. I cant even imagine living the types of things people live here. And now they are accepting the gospel into their lives. What a light of hope it will bring into her life and those of her children if they can stay strong and faithful. We would appreciate prayers of protection in behalf of this family, the Souza family, and that they can keep progressing towards their baptism date. Yesterday was also a great day. In church, a young  couple came to the front. They just got back from traveling to Cochabamba to be sealed in the temple. They both had difficulty speaking because they were emotional, but expressed gratitude for the blessing of becoming an eternal family. I was so moved as I watched the husband reach out and put his hand lovingly on his wifes shoulder and hold their baby girl. It was such a huge contrast in comparison with the men and women we encounter every day who have lost hope and live drunk, or without ever smiling, or the men who leer and shout things at us. The gospel transforms people. Then later when we lunched in a tiny stick hut with the Smith family, Hermana smith told us how her husband had been inactive and drunk after his younger brother died. After almost dying three times from alcohol poisoning, he said to her that they were going back to church. They then reactivated, and she said one day he came home and said, Would you like to get sealed with me in the temple? Hermana smith was crying when she related this. She said she thought she had fallen and hit her head because this had been her dream, and she had waited and suffered so much until her husband was ready to live this dream. They prepared and eventually went, and now he is in the bishopric and they are two of the strongest members of our ward. It is so amazing to see these things, to feel my testimony grow as I see the fruits of the gospel when it is sincerely applied. True love, true hope, true light. 
I love you all, have a great week
Hermana Bingham

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Adios Paraiso

October 13th, 2014

POR FIN!!! i got to leave santa cruz again! haha but this time outside outside. im in Trinidad!! this week was a little crazy. First president called us to come to the offices out of no where wednesday. he told me i would finally be leaving the city, and that i actually would have gone earlier if it had not been for the emergency transfers that happened a couple months ago. So i packed my 40 pound suitcase and said goodbye to my beautiful house in paraiso, my home for 6 months. i had to go stay in a hotel with 3 new hermanas who just came in from peru. luckily, hermana uzqueda was there, it was her last day and they had me be her companion for the day to visit a few of her converts. shes the best, shes from tarija, bolivia. after that the asistents and secretaries asked if i could help them out with the greenies. before the gringo asistents got there i had to be a translator for a wee bit, to tell them things like, "the receptionist wants you all to know that you have to stop putting toilet paper in the toilet. you can only put it in the trash can" I also didnt know that probably for a good month at the beginning of my mission haha. then i was in charge of the peruvian elders and hermana to take them to immigrations and the offices in micro haha. our micro crashed a car right as we pulled up to the offices and i was like, bienvenida a bolivia haha. 
Now i am in Trinidad, it is like the poorest parts of montero, with a lot of dirt roads and everyone rides motorcycles and fourwheelers haha. the people are nicer and their lives are slower. it is very beautiful with jungle trees, and the big thing to eat here is alligator. im not kidding. in the elders areas you can actually see small alligators sometimes, but im assuming not around the houses where we are. 
Anways, when i left paraiso, i stopped by my two converts houses. Rafael told me thank you for helping him to get baptized, and that he would work towards a mission. the other day we had a lesson with him using the family history pamphlets and he started crying and said he wanted to do temple work for his uncle who recently died. then i stopped by gabriel. he was very surprised that i would be leaving and told me very sincerely how grateful he was to me that i had never given up on him, even after he didnt show up to his first baptism date and such, and he said that he thought i was a very rare person with a strength inside, and he wanted to be like that. he gave me a present, a scarf with american flags all over it hahahaha. but it was very nice to hear how much it meant to him that i had been there, especially after leaving such a hard area with hardly any baptisms. it is worth it even to touch one life deeply. 
im excited to work here in trinidad and know new people. my new companion is hermana milne. i actually told my president one time that she was probably one of the only girls i was afraid of being companions with. i obviously should not have told him that. we are VERY opposite. she is a homeschooled girl from bountiful utah. but i know if we work hard together everything will be great. keep praying for the people we were teaching in paraiso. president put in two completely different hermanas so im hoping that it wont impede their progress. we had one investigator who was working towards a baptism date for this month. Hermano Grover, Hermana Juanita, and the Longaric family.
Love, Hermana bingham


October 6th, 2014

Family and Friends!

Wasn´t conference the BEST!!! my companion and i were looking forward to it for dayzondayzondayz. Luckily, since im still here in the good ol city, we got to watch it in english with a bunch of other missionaries. i was so extremely happy and grateful that they started incorporating talks in other languages. this is such an extremely smart and loving move on the churchs part to help a worldwide membership. I can now say from the personal experience of having to watch with voice-overs (like i watched the Womens session), that it is obviously just not the same. you are worried you are missing meaning that you can only get from cultural cues and you arent actually listening to their real voice. i know that there were people around the world crying tears of gratitude to finally hear a talk at such a high level said in their native language without having to hear it through a voice over. as the church works to accomodate for more peoples languages and cultures we too must try even harder to accept all. this is ultimately how we become like Jesus Christ, a respecter of no one culture, race, language, nationality, etc. It was also exciting to listen and understand in both english and spanish when the spanish speakers spoke. it was only a short few months ago that i would not have had that ability. i can even understand the portugese guy a little! haha. 

Anyways, for me personally the Saturday afternoon session was THE BEST. Like i have said before, anyone who thought i would become less sensitive to preventing even small actions or words or even jokes of discrimination against others after being out on a mission and away from my social sciences studies is dead wrong. Talks like that of Elder Oaks and elder Holland only strengthen my resolve to continue being a protector of the minority, even as we wanted to be protected as a minority religion and people. I loved how Oaks called us out in some of our very closed off mentalities in some of the culture pockets of mormonism - the gospel is the leaven, meant to raise the whole mass - we should fully encourage ourselves and our children to associate with all people of differing religious backgrounds, culture backgrounds, racial backgrounds, etc and be a shining example of civility and christlike behavior, avoiding any types of discriminatory action or words against other races or religions, etc, and we can do all this while STILL upholding and defending our own beliefs. 

Elder Hollands talk brought tears to brought tears to my eyes. i have been privileged beyond what i deserve to be a first hand observer of some of the most depraved poverty in this world that puts to shame any of us who have thought we have suffered because we didnt have enough to buy the latest update of the iphone. I loved his plee for us to try to see as the saviour does. We do not judge why someone is poor or put conditions on them or on the help we will give based on our poor judgements. How can we even pretend to be in a position to judge people in these conditions, even when they have made poor decisions, when we due to no work on our own part were just born on top of mountains of privilege, resources, connections, and gospel knowledge? I loved his challenge that although we need to uphold values of self sufficiency, each one of us can pray and receive personal revelation of how we can help in our own way. 

Anyway, conference is such a testimony booster, i hope everyone watches or reads it again! Love you all, ill talk a little more about investigators next week. Wednesday is cambios. i have mixed feelings because im a little tired of my area, but i dont want to leave some of our investigators and not hermana nelson either, she has become a very best friend. but i trust whatever happens good things will come of it!! 

Love, Hermana Bingham


September 29th, 2014

I cant even remember all the hilarious things that happen to me and hermana nelson every day here in bolivia. i was better at telling that stuff at the beginning of my mission when it was new to me too. But it usually has to do with a huge bug, or old pervy men yelling what little english they know like ¨HEY BEBE I LOVE. HELLO. HELLO. HI.¨haha. or like when we decided to do a service a wash a little gatito the other day that was muy muy sucio, and it literally put up the biggest fight in the whole world and little 8 year old carlita was just laughing at us. or when the Galdos pet parrot crawled right up onto hermana nelsons head and she was too scared to try to grab it off unless it pecked her hahaha.or whenever i find baby chicks running around and i juggle them. but besides all the stuff in between, we do have some lessons and we are blessed to learn so much from every one. i will share a few experiences:

we visited with a 19 year old named natalia. she was super excited to meet us, and she speaks spanish and english. she is adorable and super smart. however, she lives just with her nanny and her mom is always gone and it seems she might be lonely. we met with her in a little plaza next to her house, and gave her the whole first lesson because she understands things so quickly. however, when we got to joseph smith she got super quiet. we are used to people who have heard things about us or their friends call us crazy etc, so it isnt too uncommon that people are super wary about the first vision and a modern prophet. however we explained simply that we never try to convince people - thats actually impossible - but only invite them to pray in order to know for themselves. She started to cry and told us she was sorry but she couldnt even pray. she explained her family is traditionally catholic (although none of them actually go to church) and even though she doesnt feel it is true, the one time she tried to investigate a christian church her family started to shun her until she stopped going. she tearfully told us she was too afraid to even pray about the possibility of a modern prophet or anything because it was just too hard to go against her family´s costums. This is a common problem we have here, and it is so sad, especially when youth are just trying to find a stronger spiritual anchor because they can clearly see their catholicism is just for tradition and show and not to actually change their actions or spirits. 

We also were stopped in the street by the Familia Vaca. it was right in front of a HUGE catholic cathedral, which was funny because usually the crowd outside avoids us naturally, but the mom yelled AMIGAS!! and we stopped surprised and she started to tell me how much she loves my hair. we clicked with them right away and they told us they wanted us to visit them and to visit our church. that NEVER happens here haha. Hermana Nelson told me my hair converts people hahaha. we had an amazing first lesson with them where the dad was present, and they have been happily married for 20 years. that also NEVER happens here. i feel something special about their family. they havent come to church yet, so please pray that they will start to attend!!

We are teaching Rosalia, the cousin of a recent convert who is only 17 and just lost a baby to a miscarriage. she is living with her 18 year old boyfriend, and they want to start a family. but he drinks and doesnt want to come to church with her every, but keeps telling her they should have a baby. we shared the family proclamation and she was very pensive and we talked about things she said she had never thought about before, because like so many other young, undereducated, neglected youth here, she doesnt think ahead, and neither does her boyfriend. they just do what they see, and what they see is always broken homes and families. Ximena, her cousin who is a member, and is AMAZING, gave an incredible testimony. she testified how the gospel changes us, makes us see that we dont have to live what we see, that we can be the difference, that we can hope for something more, etc. 

Ximena has also grown up in conditios of a broken home, with trials we cant even imagine. but she has completely transformed, her dreams of a mission, a temple marriage, a home where her children can feel safe and taken care of, are the opposite of the norm here in bolivia. and this emotional, mental, and spiritual development came through the gospel of jesus christ. I know its true. its the only way. i will study international development more when i get home. i just want to help this world, the united states is more of a blessing than we can imagine until we see up close some of the situations i have been able to see in africa, bolivia, etc. but i will always know that the best development plan, the most powerful and sustainable, is the gospel. 

Love, Hermana Bingham 

Vista por mi ventana

September 22nd, 2014

Santa Cruz

September 15th, 2014


September 8th, 2014 

Dearest Family and Friends, 

I think maybe it has been a while since i have written a group email, i cant remember. But now i will try to update you on the good ol happenings of Paraiso, Santa Cruz, Bolivia. For one thing im in my FOURTh cambio. ill have passed a third of mission here by the end of this cambio. Really, i have learned a lot, but it has been emotionally taxing. i miss my first area because it was out in the boonies and so much easier to work with the members and leaders. i took it all for granted because i didnt know anything else, but here in Paraiso, we are only one ring out from the downtown center of Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz es la ciudad de anillos, there are 9 or more rings that gradually expand outward and outward, so everything is talked about in relation to the rings. my area es between the first and second ring) But anyway, this means the people in my area generally have much more money than the average Bolivian and really this ward has suffered a lot for the problems that naturally come when people get prideful - gossip, disunity, prejudgements, etc. it is super hard to baptize here, and super hard to retain once we baptize because the ward is not good at embrace new converts. However, i guess some of the biggest insights i have gained here have been about how a ward can be when the members are working in unity to help in God´s purposes and how much pain there is when they are not. However, i have also met some incredibly amazing people here, and a couple of life long friends. i know i have been imperfect and often very weak, as a young inexperienced missionary, but i think in a lot of ways i have been used by God to spread good. 
Most recently we are working with a bunch of men, which is always so hard because we have to get a girl member to accompany us always, and it is HARD to get these members to make time for that, but really i am so grateful for the women who do when they can. they literally are lifesavers. if you guys ever have time volunteer to acompany the missionaries!!!! it is one of the biggest services ever. 
We were working with an old single guy named Braulio who came to church with us for 3 weeks. He is studying theory, and it has been so hard to help him because his studies have made him look at everything with such a critical eye, and he can not understand the concept of depending and trusting in God for an answer that can come from no other source, instead of only trusting what science tells us. MAN can i relate with him.. I thought we could maybe help him out because his first sunday he cried after a powerful talk from our stake president where he obviously felt the spirit. We tried to testify, explain how the Spirit works, read from the Book of Mormon, share general conference talks, but he was so set on the fact that he cant see the gold plates and that our so called prophet doesnt go on CNN to defend our beliefs that he literally would not listen to the simple ways in which faith work. i tried to explain to him that even if we had the gold plates could touch them, read them, still people would not believe, just criticize. The only way to know is to recieve confirmation from an unearthly source. We had to just leave him (again) with the promise that if he will read with faith and pray with faith, he will know. 
We also are helping an investigator that is exactly opposite, Grover. He is the friend of a recent convert of the Elders in our ward and has attended several times. He reads everything we leave with him, and prayed after the first lesson to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet. He (like everyone here haha) thinks he will get his answer in a dream, He said, "i had a dream in the morning, but woke up and it left my mind! i couldnt remember, i think God was trying to tell me, but i cant remember!" We explained more about how he can recieve his answer through the simple means of the spirit, and that it could or could not be through a dream haha. People here think every dream has significance and they often think dreams tell the future or have spiritual significance, so sometimes its hard when they think that they HAVE to have a dream about the church or they cant know its true. I really do think people here maybe have some type of dream gift, because SO many strong members here had dreams that helped convert them (there ancestor is Lehi) but i also know not every person needs to have a dream haha. 
We also are working with Bernabe and Guillermo, but i dont have much time to write about everyone. If you guys could please pray for Braulio, Grover, Bernabe, Guillermo, and also the Clavijo and Galdo Family (who are less actives we are trying to rescue), that would be awesome. 
I had a cool experience recently when my mission president took me and my companion aside in a conference to tell us he wants us to work on a new project. He tactfully explained that there is a certain class of people we have often avoided contacting in south america because they are really hard to reach, and this woudl be the upperclass. For years and years in south america missionaries have baptized impoverished people because they are easier to baptize. the thing is, is they are easier to baptize, but harder to retain, because often their motivations are confused due to their conditions, or missionaries dont prepare them or verify their actual faith and testimony enough because it is so easy to talk them into baptism. On the other hand, it is so extremely hard to get a well established person to listen to the message, because they dont feel they are lacking anything materialistically, but if we can convert them they will already be in the position to be self sufficient and more easily take on the role as a leader in the church for example. This whole concept obviously can be taken offensively or out of context extremely easily - but after the initial shock i thought it out and realized, we arent going to stop teaching to anyone who will listen - regardless of social class God loves EVERYONE and so do we. However, at the same time it may be a lack of faith and effort on the part of missionaries and members in poorer countries that many times we rely on finding converts in only the lower class, and avoid the upper class because they are too catholic or too rich to accept. President said that these people obviously dont open their doors when we knock (almost NEVER) so we obviously need to work through members and references, but that many members have fear of presenting the gospel to this type of person. He said he thought only sister missionaries like us could be the one to start to find access points to this type of reference. he asked us to fast, and gave us permission to leave our area for one weekend. We did so, and visited with leaders in our area as well as one other well to do area that is nearby. We had prayed and planned a specific lesson for members who we thought could understand this new vision, which ultimately could help the church grow in a more effecient and effective way in all social classes, with more retention. We could not believe our success, and were even invited to the priesthood meeting by our stake president, to present and talk more with the high councilors. We received over 30 references in 3 or 4 days, which is unheard of here in Bolivia haha. We then had a meeting with our mission president to report the ideas and suggestions of the members we had talked to as well as our own. He was impressed and wants to "organize more with us" and as a result neither of us got transferred out to the boonies like we wanted. i felt like i got punished for my obedience hahaha just kidding. but really i wanted to got the brazil border. Anyways, we havent done much more over the last week with this yet, because we had Hermana Rivero with us for her last week before she goes home due to some time complications - she was my first companion in the mission! It has been amazing to see how different she even is as a missionary 8 months later. She has a different spirit about her, and it has been so cool to be with her for a week after so much time. She goes home wednesday, and then Hermana Nelson and i will be talking to president more about this project and such. I love hermana nelson, she is my favorite companion so far - we have been through some CRAY things in this ward, and i will have to tell you all more about it next week because im out of time. 

But i love  you all!!
Love, Hermana Bingham