Monday, September 28, 2015


So, yes, I had cambio [transfers]. I left Cereté to the great city of Armenia, almost 3 times the size of Cereté. It´s much more beautiful here in every way. The weather reminds me of an early Colorado autumn, and also when we turn a corner and see a bunch of mountain peaks. We live on top of a large hill in Armenia, so we walk downhill to basically all our citas and while we´re within like 8 blocks from the house, we can see all of Armenia. There´s a ton of stuff I could be saying, but I just don´t have the time to write it all, but I´m trying to get it all down in my journal.

So, my area is called Álamos and my comp is Elder Velazquez from Panama, though he lives in Canada. Although he speaks perfect English, we always talk in Spanish. We´re both the zone leaders, and I´ll explain a bit of what that means for those of you who haven´t served missions. Basically, we verify the district leaders (what I was for the last couple months) in Armenia and train/motivate/care for all the missionaries in Armenia which is a count of 20, 4 of which being misioneras [sister missionaries]. Talon, that answers your question, and yes, it´s always a bit rough with hermanas, I know. I learned a bit also in Envigado when I had 2 hermanas in my district. We also are in charge of basically anything the missionaries need, may it be money, houseware, health, questions, and basically everything before it ever gets to the office. It´s really intensive and I´m really blessed to have the comp I´ve got. Elder Velazquez has 6 months less in the mission than I, but has 6 weeks more as LZ.

And yes, mom, it´s the Zona Armenia. And I don´t know our address, I´ll look for it and tell you next week. We´re trying to find a new house though because there are a couple things here that aren´t very good, just stuff that makes the house less functional. Also, the weather here is pretty chilly in the mornings, and our shower doesn´t heat up because the electric heater broke. So, the showers are super cold and it kinda takes the fun out of shower time. No, it doesn´t feel like Cajamarca at all. The mountains are bigger and prettier, and the form of the city is different, and much bigger. I feel like I´m more in the mountains than when I was in Medellin. Also, the only ones in our apartment are my comp and I.

So, speaking of the toe, everyone always seems to have their own magic remedy. In Cereté, it was normally salt and something. Salt and lukewarm water, or salt with some leaf of a specific plant. Here, the Pta of the SocSoc uses hot candle wax for basically anything. So, she tried it on my toe and maybe it helped, but maybe not because we were unable to carry though the necessary second treatment.

Hey, so also last night we saw a tiny bit of the eclipse, just as we were leaving a lesson going home. Basically nothing was happening so it was probably just beginning. But that picture that Emma took looks stellar.

So, talking with my comp, he hasn´t written in his journal since being made LZ. I´ve been trying to be juicioso [judicious] with that, but verifying takes us past 10:30 and other administrative things. There´s just a ton to do as LZ, and my comp and I have a combined 8 weeks doing it. I´d write more, but time. 

Always Great,
Élder Hicken

Monday, September 21, 2015


So the LZ are being "goofballs" (rough translation from a local idiom). So, I don't know if I'm leaving Cereté this week or what. Maybe they'll call before I finish writing the letter. The time has been really different with Elder Izquierdo. On top of it all, he's been sick and so it's making working more difficult. Just cosas [things]. 

Saturday we had a service activity by the little hospital here in Cereté cleaning an area from trash. It was fun, even though about 5 members came, but they were a good 5 members. 

Yo with the elders quorum president, Alvaro Peña with out plastic bag work gloves
 Oriana helping me out with a service project

In the afternoon, we got to the capilla [chapel] early to help prepare for the bautismos [baptisms]. It was at 3:30 that we found out the drain in the font didn't work, and the bautismos were at 4. After trying to solve the problem mechanically, we ended up just taking out the water by hand. When Diogenes and Gissell got there, we were still emptying the pila [baptismal font]. And then Marco (lider misional) [ward mission leader] started filling it up, and then we started to take pictures and he forgot about it, and we ended up having a real deep font for the baptisms. But, it all went well, but I need to go get the pictures from the ward missionary and so I guess I'll send pictures next week. 
Diogenes's Baptism
Gissell's Baptism

So, with all the talk right know of "cuidaos del orgullo" [Beware of Pride], I put myself to think (doing the next bit in Spanish because I'm having trouble putting sentences together in English. I'm doing a ton of backspacing). en todo mi tiempo en la misión y más como líder en la misión, me doy cuenta una y otra vez de la diferencia entre los buenos y los malos. Hablando de los misioneros, los investigadores, y los miembros. Hay algunas personas con quien siempre queremos trabajar, y siempre hay algunas personas con quien no queremos hacer mucho. La diferencia entre esas personas es constantemente dependiente en su orgullo o su humildad. No importa cuanto sepan ni la experiencia que tengan, depende tanto en su humildad. Una persona humilde esta siempre dispuesta de tomar consejos, corregirse, trabajar con otros, escuchar, y no pelea tanto. Ezra Taft Benson, en su discurso de "Cuidaos del Orgullo" en la Liahona de Julio 1989 dice que hay una diferencia entre estar orgulloso y ser orgulloso. Esta bien estar orgulloso de quizá un hijo, un logro, o algo así. Pero, cuando alguien se eleve más que otras personas, pasa la linea a ser orgulloso. De allí vienen los problemas de que hablo. Solo no sean así. Se llama el pecado universal por una razón, que todos lo tenemos. Solo quítenlo, y lograremos mucho más juntos. If you don't read Spanish, put it in Google Translate or something I guess. And, well, we still don't know cambios.

[All in all, my time on the mission, and more as being a leader in the mission, I realize every now and then the difference between the good and the bad.  Speaking of the missionaries, the investigators, and the members.  There are some people with whom we always want to work, and there are always some people with whom we don't want to do much with.  The difference in these two types of people is consistently dependent upon their pride or humility.  It doesn't matter how much they know or how much experience they have had, it depends completely on their humility.  A humble person is always willing to take advise, to correct themselves, work with others, listen, and not fight much.  Ezra Taft Benson, in his talk "Beware of Pride" in the July 1989 Liahona Magazine, said that there is a difference between feeling proud and being prideful.  It is good to feel proud of your child,of an achievement, or something like that.  But, when someone elevates themselves above others, he passes the line into being prideful.  This is where the problems arise from which I am talking about.  But they are not good.  It is called the universal sin for one reason: that we all have it.  If we can all just remove it, we will be able to achieve a lot more together.]

Zona Montería in the Finca de la Mamita, Elderes y Hermanas, Bagley, Nevado, Quiroga, Hicken, Muñoz, Welling, Zuchel, Rojas, Guzmán, Crandall, Condori, Bobadilla, Dávila, Torres, Fajardo, León, Hna Ballesteros, bottom row, Hna Vallejo, Hna Antonio, niño Rodolfo having an exorcism, Hna I don´t remember, she´s new.
Always Great,
Élder Hicken

Also, he wrote us a couple hours after this email and said:
"Hey, they called me just now and I'm going to Armenia! It's south of Medellin, so tonight I'm leaving tonight."
and then a little later:
"Also Mom, my toe is the same. I tried out shoes yesterday and my toe was killing me and it was not good. Hey, just a bit ago they told us more info. Muñoz is going to Manizales opening a new area, and I'm going to be lider de zona, so it'll be inner-city and right in the center."

Note, that he is not being transferred to the country Armenia (a former Soviet republic and neighbor to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran).  We'll just stop that rumor before it starts :-)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Q'mas de Colombia

So, this week, we focused a lot on getting a couple baptisms wrapped up before cambios.

So, we've got two baptisms lined up for this coming week, and I'm psyched because I've worked super hard for these baptisms. Actually, basically everyone has told me that these people aren't progressing and I've been the constant through multiple comps and intercambios. Diogenes I've talked about a bit in my letters home, but from him I learned to just do it. He didn't come to church for like 8 weeks and we went to him and "defined" him, basically deciding to drop him or not. It was that talk that got him to go to church, and he started going and now he's getting baptized. The other is Gisel. She's taken a lot of perseverance. It's been slow progress. We contacted her almost my first week in Cereté, and it's been a roller coaster getting her to baptism, and it's finally going through. Sometimes it's good to really make sure someone understands your intentions and goals, how you're seeing the finished product because that gets things going in the direction you want, and clears up tons of confusion. 

It's been rough with these two, and it's rewarding to have it so close. They still need their baptismal interviews which are on Tuesday, but still. I've put a lot of work into them two, and we've seen a ton of change in them, and especially Gisel. She's the older sister of a JAS [young single adult] in the ward, and she's had the lessons before, but went to Barranquilla and didn't get baptized. When I got to Cereté, we did a service for the family and I started talking to her about prayer and religion. She didn't really want to talk, and expressed that she didn't feel that religion ni [nor] prayer were actually important, and that God could understand her desires and that was enough. We explained that desires aren't sufficient, and God expects action to show faith. (With "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" in the back of my mind) and still progress was very slow. Over the next month or two, we built trust with her and began to visit more and teach the structured lessons. Then she began to read the Book of Mormon and it progressed much more, and getting her to church, and everything has been a battle, and then going smoothly afterwards. Every comp I've had here, and in almost every intercambio, I've been told that she'll never progress but I've stuck with her, sometimes dragging Pezo to citas. It's been great to see her change and be always reading her homewrork, and trying to understand the passages. 

Today we've got lunch with two lesbian investigators, and it should be interesting. Cereté has taught me a ton in the last 6 months and I just don't know how to put it in words. I'm sure a bunch of you know how that is.

Always Great,
Élder Hicken

Lunch -- an hermana gave us a fish last week

some dog that followed Izquierdo and I for like 2km

the Caño Bugre, the big river of Cereté, dried in the sun and it smells bad too

Monday, September 7, 2015

Nuevo compañero

There´s a list of stuff to talk about, I think I might get to the points. I go chronologically. Tuesday afternoon, Elder Muñoz and I went to the clinic to get our feet checked out. They gave us the typical expensive list of drugs we probably don´t actually need, and told us not to use shoes. So, I think we´re the only two missionaries in the mission to proselyte in sandals, so I´m back to my beloved flip flops. Gosh I love flip flops, and I kinda want my infection to never heal so I can stay with flip flops. After a week of treatment, it´s still there, so I guess maybe there´s a chance.

Also, Tuesday, my new comp got here. Elder Izquierdo from Lima and he´s dying in December [being released from his mission to go home, not literally dying]. This guy is unbelievable tronky. The good side is that I never have to make him work, he just comes with me when I tell him too. But, I apparently maintain my luck for comps. Everyone feels real bad for me, and basically they say they´ll pray for me that my next comp will be a good one. I kinda see stuff like this differently now, very very differently than I was when Rios was my companion back in Envigado. But, he´s a good guy, bought us all churros today.

Also this week, we efectuated a very odd intercambio [exchange]. Intercambios are normally between the LD and his missionaries, LZ and his missionaries, HL and her missioneras, AP or Pte with their missionaries. Well, the whole mission was told to do intercambios entre LD within every zone. They never told anyone why, just told us to do it and give an informe [report back]. I kinda felt like Nefi [Nephi], saying I have no idea why, but I do it hoping there´s a good reason. Even weirder, the intercambio was for 2 days, and not the standard 24 hours. But, they sent me to Lorica for the two days, and I was with Elder Welling, another gringo. It was really really interesting, and I was told they wanted me to really help out Welling because he´s struggling. He almost doesn´t speak Spanish at all, and he´s having a bit of trouble with mission life. I really had to trust in the Spirit for that, and I hope I did all right. I was just totally in the dark about what to do for this guy because I practically didn´t know him at all. Then, in my area they put Muñoz and Izquierdo together because my comp had like 2 days in our area and Muñoz knew the area because of our three weeks in trio.

Yesterday, church was really interesting. Diogenes came, but left early because he said he felt sick. I have a slight feeling it wasn´t so much that he felt sick to the stomach, but that he´s sick of the super boring elders quorum classes we have. Overall, he´s progressing well to his baptism. And he´s right about the elders quorum classes, I think we´re going to say something to the elders quorum presidente. Hey M+D, actually, I´m not going to talk about the ward. pg 20, MM (español).

Hey mom, on the asunto of being sick, here I depend much more heavily on prayer than drugs. Muñoz caught a cold this last week and no one has any idea how. It never drops below 30C, and during the day it´s normally 35-38C, and it was just a surprise. He was pretty grave yesterday.

Hey mom, good luck with translating in that talk, tell me how it goes! Hah and good, now you know how it feels to plan everything you were going to say, then sit down and forget it all. It´s rough.

Hey, so I don´t know if you´ve heard, but missionaries usually gain alot of weight in the mission. I weighed myself leaving out the door to the airport the day I left and I was 150lbs, like 68kg. When I got to Cereté, I was almost 75kg. I´ve gotten myself down to 71kg, so I´m closer to when I left than 6 months ago.

One thing I've been focusing on with my missionaries is using your time well. We almost always overestimate the time we´ve got. That´s my invitation home, to use your time better. Get rid of laziness. If you think being lazy helps you rest in any way, it's actually scientifically and biogically not true, it actually is physically tiring. It just doesn´t do you good. Just use your time better.

Always Great,
Élder Hicken

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Everything Is Crazy

Sorry for writing on a Tuesday. We had a zone meeting and activity coupled with trainings to the leaders from Elder Rojas, an AP, and a couple other stuffs in Monteria for the day and they never left us time to write, so I can take a tiny time out today.

Basically, everything is crazy right now. This upcoming week should be really interesting. It looks like, after three weeks in a trio, I´m gonna have a new comp coming today or tomorrow. That´ll make 5 official comps in 4 weeks.

And it looks like one of my mission-long dreams may be realized. I may be authorized to proselyte in flip flops. I´ve developed an infection in my foot and normal protocol with that is not use shoes. Shoes are kind of like a 4 billion degree oven that that´s bacteria´s ideal climate. The locals describe it like this: cooking the infection. I´ll have the official words a bit later today. Elder Muñoz also has a massive ingrown toenail, basically you can only see half his toenail. Just don´t think too hard. I have a picture of my foot, but I´m not going to send it.

Also, I think I got sick this last week. Not sure what it was, and thanks to a bunch of prayer it went away quickly. Basically, I had all the primary syptoms for Chikungunia, a coastal Colombian disease. 

I feel like there´s more, but I always forget everything when writing time comes around.

Hey, so Diogenes made it to church again, and he´s liking it. Just gets really bored in Elders Quorum. He had a misconception that reading the folletos [study guides] of the lessons was the same as reading the BoM, and didn´t understand when we said otherwise (time and time again) so we finally confiscated his folletos and he started reading the BoM and he made a study journal and takes notes and writes his questions (which are a TON) and although he still makes random comments in lessons, he´s progressing well. For example, last week we invited an hermana [sister] to the lesson, and one point he randomly just said  [to her] "no es por enamorarla, pero tienes unos lindos ojos"  [Not that I'm in love with you, but you have beautiful eyes]and we were like oh gosh this guy wants his exaltation. At one point we really had to drag him back and he was like I think I was getting off topic and we were like yes

Always Great,
Élder Hicken