Monday, November 26, 2012

The 2 Things I am Most Thankful For

Well, well, well it sure sounds like you guys had a great Thanksgiving this year. It makes me really happy to know that you guys are doing great up there in Oregon!
So I can´t lie.  I woke up on Thursday morning,  rolled out of bead, and did a halfhearted workout, made my breakfast halfheartedly, showered and was studying by 8.   All the while thinking, “man my family is making food right now, watching some football, the Macys parade and enjoying the day together. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself lol. Then I noticed a plan of salvation pamphlet on my study desk and I picked it up and started reading. I noticed all the photos of the happy families and after I had read/skimmed the whole thing I just felt sooooooooooooo blessed. The lonely feelings went away and were filled with joy and happiness because of 2 things: 1 is my awesome family that I have that loves me and supports me 100 percent, and 2 is this amazing gospel that we have. Being here in Colombia has made me realize even more how blessed I am to have these 2 things. A WHOLE ENTIRE family that is sealed for eternity and the WHOLE ENTIRE gospel that gives us our purpose here in this life. THANK YOU DAD for being a worthy priesthood holder who keeps his sacred covenants, THANK YOU MOM for being the very best example of faith and strength in the gospel, and THANK YOU SHAY for just being your goofy self who sets her standards high and works so darn hard to achieve her goals. Haha so after all of this it was time to leave for the day and we always leave with a prayer and after bear our testimonies. On Thursday my testimony was: I know that Tunja, Colombia is the very best place I can be right now, even though my family is sitting at the table eating turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and CRANBERRY SAUCE ( you all know that’s my favorite:). I know that someone needs the light we have to brighten their life and maybe it can even make them as happy as it has made me and my family. haha yup that was my testimony for the day. Oh and our lunch waaaaaasssssssss, you guessed it RICE!! VEGGIES!! BEANS!! and a special surprise in the beans there were pigs feet lol. I ate it with a big ol´ grin on my face cause I just know that of all the Thanksgivings I will have in my life, I will probably remember this one best! Then really after lunch,  I forgot all about Thanksgiving cause it was just another normal day for us. Now dad had a few q´s for me so  I´ll answer them. 
DAD: Yup I just live with my comp from Paraguay. So I speak English once in a while with Elder Guillete who is the other elder here in Tunja.  but I´d say about 2 or 3 times a week, mostly on p-day though. But about now I can say almost anything I want, I can joke and express myself which to me is the most important, and of course I can teach all the lessons without help anymore. But still I understand about 65 to 70 percent of the things that people are saying, but for the most part I get the gist, and can carry on a conversation. As for my favorite foods here in Colombia I LOVE platanoes.   When I first got here I hated the things lol but now I can’t get enough of them. Also the 2 best meals I´ve had here are fried fish, only the costenos make it and I´ve only had it twice. But they fry the whole entire fish and it is SOOOO GOOD, some of the best fish that I´ve had. Also there is also a common dish from the city Medellin called la bandera paisa.  Its beans, they’re kinda like mexican beans but they have a different flavor with rice and a fried egg on top, patacones (which are fried platanoes) and a big ol´ sausage lol, that’s real good too. Also I am having an awesome time here.  We hope to have 2 baptisms here in a few weeks. And no there are no problems whatsoever, and really if there was one thing about being a missionary that I can really say that I´m good at it would be getting along with my companions.  I can’t say I´m that great at anything else but I can say that I´m good at being a friend and a companion. 
Well I´m gonna end my letter with the adventurous little p-day we had today (no we didn’t go to playa blanca) I guess I´m notorious for saying that we are gonna do something sweet the next p-day and then not doing it.  So from now on I´m not gonna tell you guys till after lol, just so I don’t jinx myself. But anyways almost always we do p-days with the other elders from Tunja sur. After eating at a pizzeria we wanted to go play mini golf, soo I guess there is a golf course here that supposedly has ¨mini golf¨ so we told the taxi driver to take us to the golf course with mini golf.  He said there is only one place here in Tunja so we were like ok sweet lets go. So he takes us out of the city of Tunja and into rural Colombia, I have to say that it is sooooooo beautiful, after about 10 minutes I ask the taxista if he is sure there is mini golf at this place or just normal golf, cause obviously he´s taking us to a huge Golf course, he reassured me so we kept on going. We finally got there and he points to the putting green where you can practice and says mira! mini golf! to add to this failed attempt at putt putt golf the course was closed lol. Then the driver says 20 mil! we payed reluctantly and then opted to walk back cause we definitely couldn’t afford another 20 mil cab ride. But actually it turned out to be really awesome cause we took some great pictures in the places we found, everyone was kinda bummed but I was running around exploring and I came upon a shotgun shooting range! That was cool and we found what looked like an abandoned caddy shack that had the MOST beautiful view I have ever seen.  The pictures I´ll send just don’t do it justice. Then we walked all the way back into town which took us about 2 hours lol, I tried to ask for rides back into Tunja but the only people that stopped had sand and animals in the back on their trucks lol, so we walked the whole way. It was fun though!! haha, well until next week I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!

                          -Elder Crook

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Monday, November 19, 2012

I Can't Believe You're Going to Mexico without Me!!

First of all I would like to say congrats to Colton! I already wrote the Elliots a letters but I´m SUPER excited for that kid!! I can’t wait to see and hear the things that are in store for him there. Haha this morning I had the thought ¨hey Colton might have gotten his call, wait nooo his papers couldn’t  have gotten back that fast¨ but sweet bro!! I don’t wanna get all touchy feely but when I read¨Mexico, Mexico City East¨ I felt a huge wave of tingles and clapped my hands real loud and half shouted cause I was so excited.   Yeah then everyone here in this little Podunk  internet cafe looked at me weird. But by now I just half expect that look from people. I guess the nametag/suit/super white skin and red hair isn’t really what people think is normal here lol. 
DAD: We walk EVERYWHERE cause we´re cheap and you have to pay for the busses here. There is no free public transportation only busses that cost mil tres cientos which is roughly like 60 or 70 cents. The area is huge, we have one half of the city and the other Elders have the other half.  As for the tanks, I assume they are for water but I´m not sure, if I remember I´ll ask. Oh yeah dad the people here in our area are really rich, the standard of living is quite a bit higher here than in Suba in Bogota. As for the people, in the richer part I heard that they are all just retired business people with businesses in Bogota. I´ve met a few professors in our ward too. Yes the way we teach is changing!!! We focus on Jesus Christ and his atonement. It used to be the restoration and Joseph Smith but it is Jesus now. The mission had a conference of leaders about 2 months ago when I was fresh out of the MTC. The mission leaders of the whole world, who advise the missionary work worldwide, came and had a conference with all the zone and district leaders. They changed things up a bit, now every lesson we have, every contact we make we focus on Jesus, nothing else, not the church, not the restoration,  just Jesus. SO I have really been studying the Bible hard. I started in Matthew and studied the Sermon on the Mount and now I am just finishing the book of Matthew. I´m not sure if there will be anymore changes but this has seemed to work really well. Also with Elder Suarez- right after he went to the conference, he said that they told the missionaries to knock on a door first and only ask that as servants of God could we bless your home. So as we bless the home we ask special blessing and if they ask us to come back that means they are ready to hear the message. I´m not sure if that really panned out cause no one else other than Suarez has told me that. So I haven’t been doing it. Oooh I guess we are all in for some interesting times, man all I could think about when I heard about Obama getting re-elected was what you told us about when people support those small groups of wickedness until it becomes  a huge group of wickedness that is supported by the government and everything - then we will see God’s wrath. It was something like that, at least that’s all I can remember. As for all that stuff I have a favorite scripture,  Ephesians 6:12 - which is about putting on the armor of God and how we are not fighting a physical battle shedding blood, but a battle against an increasingly darkening world.
MOM: How can you be going to Mexico without your favorite son? haha man that sounds awesome.  You guys better send me tons of pictures!! oh and Bend too dangit! Haha I´m glad you guys get to get out of the house and have some fun! Thanks for the gravy recipe and I’ll tell you how our little Colombian dia de gracias goes:) Have a great thanksgiving!!
SHAY: Keep workin hard guurrrll, haha good luck with all your tests and things.
Well next p-day we should be going to a beach called playa blanca.  It’s not for sure yet but if I have anything to do about it,  we´ll be going!! I´ll send you some sweet pics, Well I have to go but I sure love you guys and will be looking forward to your next letters!
             Elder Crook

Monday, November 12, 2012


YEAH for all you Gringos out there reading this it`s pronounced Toongha. And yes It is soooo BEAUTIFUL:) man the scenery is awesome here. It`s a city of about 125,000 people I think, I asked a member and she told me around there. So it`s big, but way smaller than Bogota, man it kinda reminds me of Henefer, Utah but everything is green. The city is in the bottom of a valley and there are pretty big mountains/hills around us. In the city there is 1 ward and 2 sets of missionaries. I sent you a pic of us 4, the other Elders are in the area of Tunja South, and we are in the north called Tunja Unicentro.There is one chapel here and about 150 members that come to church. But this last Sunday there were hardly any, like 50 lol. We have investigators and members that live on top of a huge hill that you can see the entire city and the other hill/mountain across the valley. So far I have only been up there at night but I will figure out the Panorama function on my camara and hopefully send you guys some sweet pics. And yes Tunja is super high, higher than Bogota. And one of the coolest things is that when there are no clouds in the sky at night, there are MILLIONS OF STARS!!! One night we were walking on a dirt road in pure pitch black on the crest of one of the mountains that encircle the town (yea I know kinda Sketchy lol) The only light we had was the light on the cell phone, but we turned that off for a bit, stopped and just gazed up at all the stars. Man was it beautiful, especially cause we were away from the lights of the city. Images like that I will never , ever forget! And of course it`s kind of pointless to take a picture of stars lol so sorry you guys can’t see it. But there were literally millions of stars! More than I`ve ever seen before. Anyways so we live in an apartment just us 2, it`s HUGE -  bigger than the apt. in Suba that roomed  4 of us. But at night it’s kinda lonely - my comps a pretty quiet, chill guy so I`ve just been going to bed early almost every night, which is nice to have some extra sleep. Oh yeah ok so more about him. He`s from Paraguay and I guess Paraguay has a native language named Guarany or something like that. There are 8 different dialects of this language and he speaks 6 of them, not to mention Spanish and Portuguese. I told him there was only enough room in my brain for 2 languages. And he did actually play on the Paraguayan national team for 3 years. He`s 24 and has 2 months left in his mission. He has been a member all his life but didn’t have plans to serve a mission, just play soccer. But he decided that he needed a change in his life at age 22 and sent his papers in for a mission. 
Anyways the people here are just like in Bogota, so contacting has been pretty rough for us, but we have a few really great investigators and one of them (who is 18) told me that she wants to be a sister missionary! So we`ll see how that plays out, haha - she has to be baptized first, then we will see from there. But it’s not at all like Jordan where we had a mountain of eternal investigators and regular investigators. Like every Sunday we´d have at least 10 investigators in the chapel. This Sunday we had a big FAT 0. I was kind of mad with myself. But my comp told me that it’s really hard to get our investigators to church cause the chapel is in the other area and REALLY far. But I´m not making excuses(only that one lol). But I am having a great time here and the members are also really cool!! so far we´ve gotten a few references that might just be golden, but once again we´ll have to see. 
So I want to end with congratulating Shay. She is pretty  amazing. WAY TO GO TOOTS!!! LOVE yeah and a little story of mine: Well you know how I like pancakes and they are pretty cheap here, also I like nice warm syrup. So one morning I was just doing my normal thing and making my pancakes. I put my syrup in the microwave to warm it, I usually always put it in for 30 seconds but for some reason I hit an extra 0 that made it 3 minutes. So I put it in not realizing the extra time, and started to wash my dishes (yeah I´m soooo obedient) well it got to be about a minute and I heard this whizzing sound. OH CRAP I thought, my syrup. So I opened the microwave (bad idea) there was syrup exploding everywhere! so I shut the door and watched the bottle warp and explode lol. It was awesome but It sucked to clean and now I have mix and no syrup. 
Well I gotta go but mom, yes Nasa as in the space company (what other kind of NASA is there lol?) and the motorcycle was of a members that I took the picture. LOVE YOU GUYS!!!

               Elder Crook

Monday, November 5, 2012

CAMBIOS: They'll knock the wind right out of ya!!

Well if you’re wondering where I´m sitting right now, I´m in Tunja, Colombia. It´s not Sogamoso but its pretty close, like 30-45 minutes I think. (Ask Moises he probably knows better) But it´s supposedley the coldest part of the mission. To me it feels the same as Bogota but I think it might get a little bit colder during the nights .Ok so I broke the big news.  Now i´m going to tell you about my best week yet that I´ve had in the mission. 
Well last Sunday we were expecting to have a baptism of one of our investigators named Karen, but we were really working hard with another girl named Leidy (yeah I know Lady lol but its a common name down here) She has been one of our eternal investigators that just was too scared to make commitments. So in our lesson on Sunday we just decided to put it in the Lord’s hands and let him do what He does best: answer prayers. So the whole time we just talked about prayer, and beat it like a dead horse over and over. Well it came to be Monday night and we got a call from her(around 10) saying that she had prayed, opened the bible to a random page and found her answer. You can´t even imagine how happy we were, me and Da Silva were jumping all around the house and screaming like little girls lol. saying things like ¨wow God really answers prayers, and  the Book of Mormon is true!! It really is. So that was just about one of the happiest moments of my mission. So yup we had 2 baptisms last Saturday. But I´m sure not done yet.   Wednesday we had the interview with Leidy and she PASSED! haha and it was also Halloween, so we went out trick or treating lol. Here to say trick or treat they say ¨quiero paz, quiero amor, quiero dulces por favor¨ or I want peace, I want love,  I want candies please. Lol sounds better in spanish. But anyways we took sweet pictures with some guys in the street like an indian and pirates haha. And people (members and investigators gave us tons of candy!!) haha just what I like. So yeah that was Wednesday,  Halloween night. Then Friday night we had interviews of the other areas which took all night until like 10:30 which was not good lol. Because Saturday morning me and Da Silva had to wake up at 5 in the morning to fill up the font (and no we didn’t use the kitchen with buckets lol GAGE) haha but we got there to fill it cause the baptism was at 9 in the morning. It was the only time that Karen could be baptized that day. Haha so after we got there, I laid on the benches in the chapel and slept for an hour, and left a giant drool spot on the cushion. I tried to clean it but I think it stained it lol. So at 8 we went and ate breakfast at a bakery and then at 9 had the baptism. It was the best baptism I have ever been in, She shared her testimony afterwards and how she has had a tough life but this is the best thing she has ever done. I felt the spirit so strong and I just can´t believe how much my testimony has grown because of my investigators. Then we had another garage sale for the young women lol. And during the night we had 5 other baptisms. The other area had 4 and we had one. The baptism of Leidy. It was soooooo great. Oh another thing is that all our investigators have chosen Elder Da Silva to baptize them but every service we have had they chose me to give a talk lol, So I have given a few talks before the baptisms during this change. Man then we had the testimony meeting of a lifetime! All of the recent converts went up and bore the BEST testimonies and one of our investigators too. We told them all that we would bear our testimonies first if they would do it too. Haha it sure worked! I can remember back home I would never bear my testimony during Fast Sunday. But now I´m doing it in SPANISH! Its a great feeling. I have never felt so much love for other people in my life. Goodness gracious I love my ward with all my heart, from all the members to all of the investigators I can feel Christ’s love for me.  It’s just something you can´t describe.
Then came the cambios...I had been praying like crazy to God to let us both stay in the area for one more change, we have been on fire! But we got back to the house last night and I learned that Elder Da Silva is going to  be Zone Leader of the zone that we were in, and I get sent to Tunja,  about 3-4 hours outside of Bogota. Man it hit me like a steamroller. Knowing that I probably  won’t ever be back in the ward that I started in. But I am also exited for this change. My new comp is Elder Ortiz from Paraguay (he was selected to tryout for the Paraguayan national soccer team) and I think I might kill him. Mission speaking that is.  He’s way cool but he’s only got 2 more changes so I´m pretty sure I´ll be his comp when he dies. And I think I´ll spend Christmas here which is good cause my area is more or less pretty close to Sogamoso. So today wasn’t much of a p-day.  I just got up at 6 (yeah i went to bed at 2 last night cause that’s when I got finished packing) and got on a bus at 10 and got here in Tunja at 4, yeah I was alone on the bus for most of the way but I felt like a boss cause I´m a gringo in Colombia that can get around on his own (haha all I had to do was get off the bus at the right stop lol) but hey THIS IS COLOMBIA.  Oh mom can you buy a Nasa size S shirt and a Fresno bulldogs hat for Elder Da Silva? You can take money out of my account,  I dont care.  I just want to get him something for Christmas because he really is like my best friend here. I love him to death so if you could do that I would really appreciate it. Oh let me know what happens with Coltons papers. AND WAY TO GO SHAYLEN YOU ARE SO AWESOME!!! KEEP IT UP BABY!!! I love you all sooooooo very much and am very very very exited to start a new cambio in a new area with yet another new Comp!!! Love you guys soooooo  much!!

                                       -Elder Crook