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