Monday, July 27, 2015

Por Fin, conocimos el neuvo Pte. (We meet the new president)

So, Presidente Calderon finally made it  to the big bad coast to visit. He´s super different than Pte Pitarch and he´s really polarizing, with until now I think only one pole. Which techincally means he isn´t polarizing, he just has a positive charge. But, that would mean that we would have negative charges, and to avoid saying we are negative, we are going to leave chemistry and physics aside. But, he´s super cool. He´s also super short. He talked a lot about autosuficiencia [self-sufficiency], and talked about it in ways we hadn´t thought about before. We are starting to have the focus of helping the missionaries and the members be autosuficientes economically and spiritually and basically in any way we can.

The next day was interviews, and they were great. Basically, the Pte wanted to get to know us and asked about our strengths and weaknesses and why we´re serving a mission and a couple other things and how we´ve changed in the mission. I was surprised because I knew the answer to all the questions. I could look in the past a see how I´ve grown in just 9 months of mission. The two days together were really motivating for all, and the district has taken a leap forward in obedience and work, and it´s been really great to see the change happen.

So, we finally got to know that family in El Carrillo. It´s a widow with three children, one of which is living in Monteria and taking the lessons from the hermanas there. The other two live at home, but one works and only has Sundays off and the other was taking their 103 year old grandmother to the hospital. But we talked to the mother, and the daughter from Monteria was there and she beared her testimony and testified of the Book of Mormon and of the Church to her mother and it was super awesome. She isn´t even baptized. but she has a strong testimony of the truth and knows the importance of the family and having the family together in the Gospel. The mother, Eunice, came to church yesterday and although she has old eyes and doesn´t have glasses, she somehow can read the Book of Mormon, and has an energy to do the right thing. Also, a guy that I think is Methuselah´s cousin came, and although he can´t read, loves the Gospel and reads the BoM with his recent convert neighbors. He lives a very far distance from the capilla [chapel] and it´s hard to go because of his advanced age. He´s got super thick glasses. Coke-bottle glasses, I´ve heard them called. But, he came to church anyway, and was willing to leave an hour early and walk to the chapel if necessary. It was really cool to have them in church yesterday. Then, after the meetings and all, we met a blind man who recieved the lessons from the misioneras when there were hermanas here like 5 years ago, and his contact was lost in cambios. Teaching a blind man was interesting. We still maintained eye contact, we just didn´t ask him to read anything. But, it was awesome to see his faith and persistent energy although he couldn´t see us and can´t read the BoM. He was a reference from a member and the member is going to spend time with him reading the homework we leave.

This week was super awesome, and like I said last week, I´m super winning as LD [district leader] seeing the changes. But, this week I really noticed I´ve hardly done anything. I´ve invited, I´ve shared scriptures, I´ve given the example, but I didn´t make the change. I spent a time with Pte Calderon talking about faith, and I realized a lot of us have less faith than we think we do. Many times we think we´re alright, and that we´re completing our callings or getting to church every week. The Pte invented the word "activio" to describe the people who do the stuff and are active in the Church, but aren´t active in the Gospel. Often, we´re just worldly people who go through the motions of everything. Double check yourselves and arrepentíos [repent]. 

The picture I sent is the weather from I think Friday. The humidity gauge was broken, but it measured the temperature of the sunny street we were walking in. 43C = 109F.

Always Great,
Élder Hicken

Monday, July 20, 2015

Elder Hicken is the Best

As you know, I've been in this 6 week battle so far to fix the district, and it's been a rough ride. Last week, I said I started winning, and I'm still winning. The elders are working harder, being much more obedient, and more spiritual. Everyone is more focused, and basically life is better. The LZ recognize the progress, and as expected, aren't contented. Basically, it's what they should say. Great, they've come a long way, but compare it to where they could be, and it's your job to get them there. There's three weeks left of the long cambio, so I'll see what I can do.

Outside of that, it's been rough in terms of progressing investigators. Our investigatos are great and receptive, or that at least what it always seems like. Absolutely no one came to church yesterday and so we're like what is this. We had a couple people commit and we verified with them and all, and it was all seguro, and they didn't come. I was pretty upset. Diogenes, who had a baptismal date, and didn't come so now we're going to talk straight and put another date. Pezo and I decided that a part of our unsuccess could be that we just simply need more people. We've got more than enough work for the week, it's actually difficult to fit all the people in. But, we're going on the hunt real hard this week for stellar families.

So, this family from el Carrillo that we got completely soaked looking for? I found them on an intercambio with Elder Eno, LZ, on friday. and it was a small victory. Actually, we didn't find the family, just their house and their 200 year old tio [uncle].

This week, we did a Noche de Hogar with the family of Valentina, a family that was less active a month ago. Basically the mother, Vivianna, invited the entire block and they almost all came. There were a lot of people (or, in Colombia, un poco de gente) that night and it was great, we met new people, and we're planning visit again this week and start the ball rolling.

This week, Pte Calderon is finally coming to the famous Colombian coast. Maybe it's bad, but when people come, I always hope they experience the extremes of temperatures just so they understand what it's like here. Like that it's 40C one day, and it rains super hard the next. Like when Gma and Gpa came from California a couple of years ago and the weather suddenly dropped to like -20F for a couple days and everything froze.

Yesterday was one of those days that it rains an entire ocean and floods everything. It was great. We were in ward council when it started, and after it ended Elder Pezo remembered we left the balcony glass doors open (we normally do, just that it normally doesn't rain like it did yesterday) and we left running to the house hoping the damage wasn't bad. The streets had a good foot of water, deeper in some points. I got some video of trucks with the water halfway up their tires, and it was crazy. After like 3 minutes, we were completely soaked and Elder Muñoz tripped and fell in one of those deeper parts and got super soaked and all our shoes were wetter than a car with it's widows open in a malfunctioning car wash where it's spraying water, but doesn't move the car forward. It was a good time, but my shoes ended up super wet, and when we got to the house it was partially flooded, and we took over an hour trying to get the water out. The Colombians do a thing here when it rains, and it's sweeping the streets. It may sound normal to you all, but remember when I say about a foot of water in the streets. The rain's coming down and there's a foot of water, and there's people in the streets with a broom sweeping the same spot over and over again like they're trying to move the water away. None of us understand it.

On intercambios with La Granja, with Elder Zuchel, we were teaching and these bright orange and pink chicks were playing in the dirt. After the lesson, we started playing with them and it was just odd, these bright colored chicks. 
I love the woman's shirt.  They could have stopped with the first phrase  
but then we wouldn't have had the pleasure of being amused at how poorly the designer (or translator) actually is at writing English 

Always Great,
Élder Hicken

Monday, July 13, 2015

I like walking

This week was awesome. We met a super cool family contacting this week, and although they didn't come to church, a big part was because of a motorcycle accident they had. It wasn't bad, just that the youngest daughter scraped up her leg a good bit and it hurts to walk, and we haven't talked much with other members of the family because they've been coming and going. But, the family is super cool, believe me.

We received a reference from some sister missionaries in Montería of a family that lives in a place called el Carrillo. After a bit of research, we found out el Carrillo is a bit farther than San Pelayo, a smaller town outside of our small town. Basically, we thought it wasn't very far, maybe like a kilometer or two. Turns out, it's about 8 (5 miles). 

 Elder Pezo and I outside San Pelayo as we walk to el Carrillo

We kept thinking, it's just up ahead, no that's not it until two hours passed and we finally got there. We started looking for the house with the address we were given, carrera 2 with 8. After a half hour, I noticed we were actually looking for carrera 8 with 2, and that was not what we wanted. Basically, we started looking over, and asking questions, we were told that el Carrilllo was still like a half hour more, and if we wanted to get back to Cereté, we'd have to get going because there weren't going to be motos going back for very long. Equally, it was about to rain. So, we got on moto going back (took about a half hour) and it started raining like mad. We got super soaked. Even worse, we were almost there and my moto went right through a massive puddle (the streets are used as canals to channel the water out, so about a foot of water gathers there) and drenched my shoes and below my knees, and Pezo's moto let him off in the water-filled street. We were 100% drenched when we got there, and I was even missing a contact that was washed out. Our plan was iron a new shirt, put on new pants and socks and shoes and tie and all, and get to the next appointment. We get upstairs to the apartment and the power goes out for like 5 hours. Even better, the power went out the next day for practically the whole day. Hey, but it was fun. En fin, we never even found the house. We scheduled another day to find it (this time not walking) but it sure made for a good story.

I'm fairly certain I've mentioned at some point the challenges that exist in my district, and that I've got a supporting zone leader. This week I gained a victory. I got the entire district to work like I tell them to. It didn't last the whole week, but it lasted for a couple days. But, the victory wasn't that it happened, but what it did. Basically, the other elders noticed they got to the house feeling really good and excited to work more and I was like guys, I told you it always works like this, and I'm super excited for this next week, because the goals and plans we've got make it seem like the same thing will happen, but for more duration. Basically, I'm winning.

Oh hey, the weather is a whole lot better this week. It's actually raining.

Quick question, what malt drinks are there over there? Here, we've got Pony Malta and it's super good and I like it, but I want to know if there's like an equivalent in the USA.

A Colombian Sunset
Always Great,
Élder Hicken

Monday, July 6, 2015

New Mission President

So Presidente Caderon has officially taken the throne, though we don´t actually have any word of anything he´s done or anything. So far, for those of us far from the offices it´s just a background change. It´s like Apple with the ´s´ updates. But, the first letter he sent was total greenie "Hace siete días llegué a esta santa tierra Medellín y ya me siento preocupado porque me faltan solo tres años para concluir mi misión y salir de este maravilloso lugar, con misioneros muy bien formados por líderes amorosos como nuestro Presidente Pitarch y su amada Esposa." 

["It's been 7 days since I arrived here in the holy land of Medellín and I'm already feeling worried that I only have 3 short years to complete my mission  and leave this marvelous place, with highly trained missionaries by loving leaders like President Pitarch and his wife."]
Also they say he´s super short. If you saw the pictures with Pitarch and his shortness, Calderon is shorter.

This week was a lot better, and as a district we´re improving a lot. It´s been rough getting over the empty area Elder Sanchez left for Muñoz and León, along with Elder Davila, who´s only got 3 months out, training Elder Zuchel in La Granja, and there´s frankly stuff they don´t know how to do because they´re so new. But, there´s been a lot of improvement this week in focus and work and things like that. Pezo and I put a baptismal date with Angelica, who is super awesome, and also awesome. But, she left the next day to Venezuela for a week, but considering she didn´t have anything here, not friends, family, job, or studies, it could be that she stays in Venezuela trying to start a new life. We´re hoping not, but we´ll have to see.

So, before I tell this story, you need to understand that León is the shortest of us four, and Muñoz the fattest. And they´re companions. We pass our time nearly principally making fun of each other. Playing jokes, stellar one liners...many of you know I fit right in here. So, last night we were passing time railing on León for being little, including the fact that he uses a chair to stand on to see into the mirror in the bathroom, and that he plays the Ukelele instead of the Guitar that I play to compensate and play relative to his size, among many others. It continued until Muñoz, laughing at Leon, sat down and broke a chair. Obviously, this was not an opportunity to be missed. We took advantage of that. We also learned that fat is an effective cushion. Muñoz challenged me to give him a 5star on the belly and try to make the mark, and doing so I think hurt me more than him, though I left a purple mark and I´m sure I broke something like a vein, but he didn´t show any signs of pain.

Hey, so how was everyone´s 4th? Apparently the entire world knows what the 4th of July is, and recognize it. I wore a cardstock printout of the American Flag on my shirt and sang the National Anthem, so you could say I partied hard.
 My Fourth of July Festive Spirit

So, for my weekly heat update. You know how weather channels adjust for wind chill? Well, you can do the same thing for heat, adjusting for like humidity, rainfall, cloud cover, and stuff like that. Lunchtime the other day was 36ºC (97ºF) but the "RealFeel" said 52ºC (126ºF) and I took a picture. The good news is that today it´s cooled down a bit, and I think the hot spell is over and it´ll return to classic rainy Southern American coast.

Keep in mind this is CELSIUS!
RealFeel 52C=126F
Always Great,
Élder Hicken

Thursday, July 2, 2015

New Mission President comes this week

So Wednesday will be the big change, and it'll be a bit awkward for the whole mission, but I'm hoping it'll be a good change.

This week was again rough, basically no one came to church. The week was little bits of not being able to work. The Copa America has been on, and whenever Colombia plays, things get a bit crazy, and the APs called us twice to tell us not to go out during the game, and not afterwards either. And, I spent a fair bit of time traveling to Monteria for baptismal interviews and stuff like that. The worst is that we got to the end of the week, and thought we were going pretty fair with our investigators and that they'd come to church and all, and then nobody came to church. When I say nobody, I almost mean nobody. The ward dropped massively down to 64 people yesterday, and the bishobric flipped. There's a lot that needs to be done here, and it's only starting.

Hey, so listen to this conversation that happened last night. A sister in the ward gave us dinner and we were walking home and we decided to drop by an investigator on the way, who lives close to us. Sidenote: There used to be mangoes everywhere to eat, but now it's more rare, so Pezo found a good mango on the ground and we were like awesome and we were excited to eat it. I was walking a step ahead of the other three, and passed the phone back to them to call her, and they took it. I could hear them messing around behind me, as we walk alongside a massive rain gutter with a couple centimeters of water. After a couple seconds, I hear something fall into the gutter and a shocked/dismayed shock from the elders behind me. I'll translate the conversation to English. León says was that the cell? Pezo said that he and Muñoz were just fooling around and it fell on accident. Muñoz says it was more his fault for throwing it like that and that's why it fell. I asked them if they were serious, and Pezo said they were, and we started walking in silence. I started thinking about what to do without a phone, considering that the other companionship lost theirs in a taxi 6 weeks ago. I started putting together plans to recuperate numbers of missionaries and members and investigators and a way to complete my duties still, remembering that really, if I don't have a phone, the entire district almost doesn't have phones, because the other companionship in the district their phone stopped working. As I'm mentally making these plans, Pezo takes out the phone and calls the investigator. I noticed, and Pezo asked, wait, did you think we were talking about the phone falling in the gutter? We were talking about the mango.....and I was like gosh you freaking kids and they won that one. Heads were almost rolling that night.

Hey mom, I don't know if you've been looking at the weather here for this week. So it's been well over a week of basically the same thing. It's more or less 39 Celcius (bit more than 100 Farenheit) without substantial clouds, and the strongest sun that exists constantly for the whole week. Everything is dry, the dirt, the roadkill, the plants. Also, there's been a fair number of jokes about people frying alive outside. But, the point is it's been super hot without respite. Thinking a bit about the part in Landon's letter when he said we've all got our Gethsemane...even all the ice has melted and it's hard to find cold water. Hey, it'll be a great story for the grandkids.

It's awesome to hear about all the people getting married or going on missions! Just that all you out there without a badge, remember that the badge doesn't make the missionary. The missionary makes the missionary. The teaching that we will be held accountable for the souls we could have saved but didn't when we aren't magnifying our calling applies to all of you as well.

Happy Birthday, Talon! I think I said that in December as well...but all's well. Today we were invited to a finca to eat sancocho and relax so we're going to do that.

Always Great,
Élder Hicken