Sunday, September 5, 2010

Will's Home

Here is the WHOLE family waiting excitedly. I was amazed at the resilience of all the little grand kids. They were all happy and excited in spite of the late hour - it was after midnight.

Here we are still waiting. We sent the 4 oldest grand kids up to the top of the stairs to see if they could spot them coming down the hall. They kept a very close watch for what seemed forever.
People from the Atlanta flight kept coming and coming but no Elders. When they saw 3 excited families waiting, the LDS people would get big smiles on their faces and say, "Hey, there are 3 Elders coming behind us. They were at the back of the plane." A few minutes later, someone would ask again, "Did you see any Elders? and some nice person would say, Yup, they are coming. We saw them."
I think the non LDS people coming down were quite surprised to see such a welcoming committee at well after midnight. They must have thought that the folks in SLC were really friendly.
So, when the kids actually spotted them, they came racing down the stairs saying, "They're coming, they're coming." We quickly got our cameras ready and finally, we caught a glimpse of them at the top.

Here he is coming down the escalator.

My first hug in two long years. I couldn't stop crying.

Elder Smith, Elder Lee, Elder Barnard.

Will looks a little older to us but then again, it has been two years.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Returning With Honor

Will, along with Elders Lee and Smith will be arriving at the SLC airport late Wednesday night (August 18). He will be speaking at the LDS South Stake Center in Evanston, Wyoming the following Sunday in Sacrament Meeting which starts at about 12:30 P.M.

Dear Family,
Well it’s crazy to think how near the end really is. Two years ago from tomorrow I was giving my "farewell" talk. Really it seems like it was much less than 2 years but at the same time it seems like a whole other life ago. wow.
This week has been another good one. I can happily say that I will finish my mission working hard and I have "Fought the good fight" and "kept the faith". I don’t know if I will be around an internet to say anything next Monday so the next time we talk it could be real talking.

But anyhow, this week we have continued working with our investigators and fighting to help them progress and make covenants with God. Martha and Stefani Garcia are doing great and are excited for their baptism on Friday. Sadly, Noe has been away managing their farm and couldn’t be in any lessons or in church this weekend. Is his case we will just have to get hold of him this week and see if he feels prepared to be baptized with his family, but be this week or a few weeks later I know he will be there with them? Another investigator named Slendi who is a teenage girl who lives with a member family will also be baptized, but on Wednesday. The bishop showed up this week with a ten year old girl from a member family whose baptismal records were lost so we will also have to quickly teach her the lessons this week and she will count as a "convert baptism", also on Friday. So it looks like I will be able to finish my last week with a minimum of 4 baptisms and go out on a good note.

Everyone in the ward here has found out that I am going home so we have dinner appointments booked for the whole week. We have gotten along great with the members here so no one misses a chance to ask how long I have left and act amazed at how little it is. The church is putting more emphasis on a few parts of Preach my Gospel so we will receive some more training from Monday to Thursday. We will be spending the mornings doing that and then working normally in the afternoon.

The zone is still doing great, we have already baptized 12 more in the first 2 weeks of this month and we are well on pace to pass 20 at least again. So there had only been 20 or more baptisms here twice before and we are about to drop two in a row. We have been very blessed. I had some areas like Barranca or Sogamoso where we worked our butts off but the people just weren't ready or it wasn’t the right time but the Lord really has blessed us to find many people here. It really is a great way to finish the mish and I can’t say how very grateful I am for it.

I am not scared or nervous about what will happen as I get home. I think everything is lined up very well but just the same, it’s going to be really strange. I will probably be a weird RM for a little while but I know good things are to come and it will go well. I’m excited to start at BYU.

Looks like we will do the baptisms on Friday. On Saturday, they invited us to go to Barranca and do a little Barbecue / Goodbye for Elder Mura and me. So we will go in the morning and come back in the night. Sunday I just happen to have a talk in church and Sunday night it looks like we will head out on a bus to Bogotá. I think Monday will be a free day there and the rumor is that President Camargo is going to invite us over to eat dinner with them. Tuesday we will go to the temple, have the last interview and have a little goodbye dinner / testimony meeting and Wednesday bright and early we will be in the airport. wowsers.

So fam this is the end of the road. It will be sad to leave Colombia behind. I really do love it and love the people here. I imagine I will shed a few tears this next week. I can't describe how great it has been to be a missionary; I wouldn't trade it for anything. It has been the best experience of my life and I’m very grateful that I was called to serve here. It’s a very strange feeling I have as I write this and realize that I am really that close.

I know that we are in the truth and I have a testimony of it. It’s hard to end but I am at peace with the mission I have served. I haven't been perfect by any means but I really can say that I have tried my best and I have always wanted to be the best missionary I could be. I have learned that by ourselves we may be able to do good things, but when we learn to depend on the Lord and humble ourselves is when we really find out our potential. Don’t worry about planning out anything fancy in the airport. I love you mucho and as sad as it is to finish, it will be so nice to see ya again. Take care this week and if I don’t send a quick letter on Monday I will talk to ya next Wednesday. wow crazy. Love Will

Monday, August 2, 2010

August 2, 2010

As it gets closer to seeing you, I feel less like spending time writing letters but here is the weekly report of another good week in Bucaramanga. Please don't take that as a trunky comment, I feel very untrunky and we are going as hard as ever and the spirit is very strong. But it’s inevitable and all the missionaries and ward members like to constantly remind me how soon I will be home. Actually I may only have one weekly letter left after this one depending on what they do with us.

This was a very good week. We finished the zone leader conference in Bogotá, it was a very good meeting held in the visitors center of the temple. It was nice to see big old Bogotá again and I felt pretty cold. I can’t imagine how dry Utah and Wyoming will feel.

After the conference, those of us who are traveling went to McDonalds and I got myself a nice quarter pounder with cheese and fries. McDonalds is actually funny here, the food is the same but they make it seem like a fancy thing and basically only rich people eat there. After that we went to the terminal and headed out on another all night bus ride back. I tried about every possible position to sleep that you can on a bus but without much luck. We got home at about 6 am, took a quick nap and then had district meeting.

Elder Mura and Elder Romero both know quite a bit of English so we did the meeting in English by their request. I spoke a little about the restoration in English and it was pretty awkward trying to talk about the gospel in English. I have found that when I try to talk more formally or about specific topics it’s pretty weird.

Anyway the week went great. I did divisions with Central and worked there with Elder Romero. They were struggling a lot to find investigators but we worked like crazy and we invited 7 people to be baptized and all accepted.

The Garcia family is doing great. We taught them with the Bishop. Marta and Stefani are very decided about baptism. Noe the dad is still a little unsure but he is progressing slowly but surely and continues with his goal for the 14th.

Also you may remember N. She is showing a lot of progress and starting to seem more like a member of the church and less like an evangelic. She always goes to church etc and is just waiting because she has to have an interview with president Hacking first. He should be here next week. She is reading the BoM like crazy, going to church weekly and even invites her friends to come. She bore a nice testimony yesterday in Sacrament meeting.

Today for Pday we got the zone together and gave out the cool zone t Shirts we had made. They look like the Bucaramanga soccer team jersey but they say “Terrazas Zone.” And there is a little 26 for the new baptism record and all our names on the back. They turned out really well. Then we played a little soccer and Bball and Elder Moen, Butler and I went and ate lunch at the mall here.

The sports pass sounds great and I’m sure it will work out just fine. Mom asked about the other missionaries in our group. Those of us traveling together will be me, Elder Moen - Idaho, Elder Lee - Utah, Elder Smith - Utah, Elder Larsen - Houston TX. So by the time you see us it will just be Elder Lee, Elder Smith and me.

Family I want you to know that I know this is the true church and I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I have had the blessing to read and search the book of Mormon and pray about it many, many times and I know that it is true. I think we may be the most blessed people in this whole world if you really think about it. I’m so thankful and happy for the experience my mission has been and the great way the Lord has blessed me to be able to end. Have a great week and I will talk to ya next time. Love Will.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July 26, 2010

Hola family,
I am here in Bogotá now. Today and tomorrow we are having the zone leader’s conference here in the temples visitor center. We left on a bus last night and drove all night. We got here at about 6 in the morning, caught a nap and then went to a synthetic soccer field they rented and played a little soccer. Here the temple has like a hotel by it because lots of people have to travel a long way to get here so we are staying there and the conference will be in a conference room here. Also today is president Hackings birthday so we will have a little birthday party tonight. It is nice to be back and see Bogotá after almost 9 months, I forgot how gigantic it is, but the weather here is perfect, always cool. We are writing from an internet cafe in Tierra Linda, my old area where I was before I went to the offices and on our way out of the temple we saw an old member from here who I was good buddies with and we traded email adds etc. Good memories.

The weeks keep on flying by like they always have. This week as yall know we went to Barranca for a few days to participate in the Independence Day activity they did. Another good chance to see old members and friends which was very cool and I got to see our old converts from Barranca and they are still firm and active :) The next day we did interchanges with the elders there which went very well. Friday I also went to Real de Minas and did divisions with Elder Thomas (another old area that I was in!). ha so without planning it I have now been in three old areas this week, but cool. We had a very good day working with Elder Thomas. He was just made district leader there for the first time so he has lots of questions and we had some good talks so I think it was a very good chance to help him and give him some confidence.

Things in the area just keep going great. We had 2 baptisms on Saturday, German and Vanesa. Unfortunately after his baptism German basically disappeared and when his mom and sister got to church the next day they told us he had gone with a friend after his baptism to visit and that they hadn’t heard from him yet. So Vanessa was confirmed but not German, hopefully he is alright and we can find out something. Please keep them in your prayers.

With this weekend we finish the month with 26 baptisms here in the zone, breaking the record of 21 :) It is very rewarding to see goals, plans and hard work pay off. We started as soon as we got here to put new ideas etc in place and just try to get the spirit and work hard and it has paid off in the whole zone. This week we designed and ordered zone shirts for everyone with all of our names (the shirt is modeled after the Bucaramanga soccer teams jersey) Now August will be starting so we can’t sit and celebrate because the idea is to keep things going.

We had a very spiritual experience this week with the Garcia Family. Noe, the dad, finally got back from working on their farm so we were finally able to have another lesson with the whole family. They are an awesome family and very good people. I don’t know if I told you but the other day they had special Colombian hats and bags brought in from the coast and gave them to us! They are the first investigators I have ever had that have 2 cars. The daughter studies no where else but in Alberta! She is at the University of Alberta, but she doesn't go back to study for a few months ... But anyway that’s not the spiritual experience. We finally got to teach them all, we planned a special lesson about the restoration and then the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a spiritual lesson and we shared some strong testimonies etc and then we "sacamos la fecha" (took out the date, invited them to be baptized) on the 14th of August, my last week in Colombia. The mom Marta said "you know me and Stefani (the daughter) have been talking about baptism and we think we should." So they all said they would prepare to be baptized the 14th of August. The mom and the daughter were both sure and happy about it, the dad was a little bit unsure but his wife put her hand on his shoulder and said "don't worry, you'll be ready to be baptized with us too" and he accepted to prepare for that same date. It was really a spiritual high, even for missionary life. They really are good people and they are looking for the truth and what’s right. I don't want to get ahead of myself because a lot of things can happen in a few weeks, but it would be a really great experience if they could stay strong and make it to their goal. I would love to see them be baptized my last Saturday here. It really is a testimony that the Lord guides his elect to us. If you remember it was one of our first weeks in the area and we had taken a wrong turn looking for a member’s house. They drove by in their SUV and almost kept going but a little ahead of us they stopped and called us over. Honestly, it can’t just be a simple coincidence. I know the Lord led us and them to each other.

So we will be busy working with them, also a few other investigators, and the rest of the zone. I am happy to say I will finish very well and working as hard as ever. I know this is the true church and I know that Christ lives, loves us and knows us. Thanks for all your support and love and have a great week. Mucho Amor, Elder Barnard

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 20, 2010

July 20, 2010
Hola Familia.
Well it’s been a good old week. We had another baptism and we had the chance to do a few good intercambios. The transfers in the mission were Wednesday, so we saw a few missionaries off and received a few others here in the zone. Unfortunately we have been slowed down (both of us) by un poco de gripa (a little flu) but we haven’t missed any days of work for it so we are still marching along. Right now we are in Barranca doing interchanges with the Elders here and helping them with an activity they will have today. Today is independence day and the 200th anniversary of Colombia. They are showing their patriotism.

We have both had some serious coughs this week and for a few days were feeling a little out of it but we keep working hard and trying to take care of it and now we are starting to get better. The members here have suggested about every remedy there is from certain pills to eating honey with eucalyptus. But just the same we did divisions with the Elders in Giron which turned out very well. I think we were able to help them get more excited about how things were going and we were able to secure a few commitments with investigators and find some new ones as well.

On Saturday we had another baptism, his name is Carlos Rincon and I think he will someday be a very good priesthood leader. His girlfriend is a member, so at first he started coming with her but then she left for a while and he kept coming and progressing. He has a very strong, new testimony and shared it after his baptism. He is very converted and the best part is he isn’t doing it just because his girlfriend dragged him into it. She even told him straight up in one of the lessons that if he was going to do it, it had to be for him and not for her. He really is converted for himself and even established his own baptismal date. In his testimony he thanked us a lot for teaching him and helping him find out for himself and we feel very blessed for another one of los hijos de nuestro pardre celestial who we have been able to help find the real source of happiness.

Lia and Claudia (our recent converts) moved to Bogotá and they are going to church there and settling in great. All 4 members of the Gomez family are more than happy and working great in the ward. Cesar, the dad, is soon going to be called as Elders Quorum secretary and they all seem to be very firm.

Things in the zone are going great, actually the best they have ever been in this zone. The Terrazas zone/stake includes the North Part of Bucaramanga and was the first stake to be established here in Bucaramanga (there are now two stakes in the city). It’s been a stake since the 80s as far as we can tell. The other day we were looking through the history as far as mission stats for the zone and we found out that the most baptisms that the zone has ever had in one month has been 21. Last week with the baptisms of the zone, we reached... 21 for July so far. And this week we will have 2 more baptisms in our area and 2 others in the zone which would leave us at 25, breaking the record by 4. We don't work to attain numbers ever, but numbers must be used to measure progress and are used in every part of the church because each number represents a soul and it gives you something you can easily measure and compare to look for progress. So we are very excited and very grateful for all the success that the Lord has blessed us with and at least for now we can say we were there for the best month this zone ever had.

The days are ticking down faster and faster. I don't in any way, feel trunky like happiness to end the mission, but I know its coming and that I should be content to do what the Lord has called me to do and to finish when he has called me to finish too (Alma 29). I love what I am doing. We are still working are butts off and we are far from finished. I still have faith that I can see the Garcia family and others come into the church and I will do my best till the last day.

I know the church is true and I know that this is the Lords work and that being a missionary is the bomb. Les amo mucho familia, gracias por todo su apoyo y gracias por su amor y sus oraciones. Despues de esta carta, solo escribiré 3 mas como misionero. Espero que estén bien y recuerden que siempre estan en mis oraciones. Con Amor, Elder Barnard

Monday, July 12, 2010

Last Transfer

Hello Family,
This week has been another fast one and another good one. We spent a lot of time working in divisions with the others in the zone which meant a little time outside our area but we were able to help out some other areas in the zone. Another transfer has come and gone.

Last night the 6 week transfer period ended so everyone was waiting like always to see if they would stay or if they would go. Luckily there were a few changes in the zone but not in our district. Elder Butler will be the missionary that "kills me" as we say. Our 2 roomies, Elder Mura and Romero, will also be here for this transfer. It’s very strange to think that I have begun my last transfer. The next 6 weeks that my planner includes will not just be lessons and meetings but a homecoming talk and... college... weird.

But anyway this week we took 2 days to go to Barranca and work with the missionaries there and make sure they don’t feel forgotten. I got to work with Elder Machacuay in Pinos where I used to be. It was very cool because I got to see quite a few of the members I got to know there and they were all very surprised and happy to see me. That (Barranca) was definitely one of the most challenging parts of my mission but one of the most memorable and I really love the people there.

The next day I worked with Elder M who is from Idaho and from my group (we went thru the MTC together and will go home at the same time). He is a very interesting case if I never told you. His dad is a preacher in an Evangelical church and his family is quite anti Mormon. He was baptized about a year before he came on a mission and is very hard working as a missionary. He will have a lot of challenges after finishing his mish and there are a lot of unsure things so it was good to work with him and talk about plans etc.

Right now it’s "winter" here so although still very hot and humid, Barranca isn’t like it was back in my day during the hot summer months. We got back to work Thursday in our area and Friday we went and worked with the sisters in their area to help them out. It’s very weird to work with sisters because obviously we both have to go which makes us 4 people walking around and trying to teach people. Their names are Sister Berrios from Peru and Sister Wolosko from Argentina. It was a good chance to encourage them and help them keep feeling good about the work.

Our stats dropped in Pinos because we spent over 3 days out of the area but we were still able to have 10 investigators in sacrament meeting (that’s our sixth time in a row with 10+) and there are 5 with baptismal date. This Saturday we have one for sure named Carlos. He is about 27, studying and working and his girlfriend is a member :) But he is developing a strong testimony and he established his baptism date by himself and is very excited. Also for the coming Saturday, there are 2 teenagers (German and Vanesa) who are preparing to be baptized. There mom is a member who was inactive for a while but through our visits and the wards support she is now active and happy in the church and her kids are excited too. Our most interesting investigator is Nury. She went from being atheist, to spending 10 years as a Christian missionary and evangelical pastor to dropping it all and now she is determined that she has found the truth in the church and "needs to start working for Jesus. " She wants with all her heart to be baptized. We only teach her in the church and we are putting challenging commitments to make sure she is doing things for the right reasons. Her plan was to be baptized with her daughter this week but for some reason they didn’t come to church. So this week we will have to see what happened and how she continues to progress.

We are still working with the Garcia family. They are progressing slowly but very surely and we really believe they are one of those golden families. The dad has been out of town working but the rest have been coming to church and receiving the lessons great and we call him every once in a while to see how he is and he is very enthusiastic. So please keep those people in your prayers.

And so begins the last transfer of my mission. I am not trunky at all but I can start to feel the end coming and like President has told us, we have to start wrapping our minds around the fact that the mission is going to end and to be ready for it. But I still have hopes to help many more people make covenants with our Heavenly Father and make this the best transfer yet. I have planned to work like crazy in our area and do as many divisions as possible with the zone and leave everything on the field. I really don’t know what else to write haha, in 5 weeks I can just tell it to you.

Thanks for everything, I love yall and I love this work. Hasta luego. Elder Barnard

Monday, July 5, 2010

White night a great success

New Members
Elder Butler and Elder Barnard
Stairs to their apartment.

Dear Family,
Hooray. Well it was a great week here. We had lots to prepare and lots to do but all turned out well. We had investigators to finish preparing, a mission conference and interviews to help prepare, and the noche blanca to get all planned out and finalized. And today to celebrate we went with the zone to Chicamocha National Park here in Santander which was very cool.

The first part of the week we spent finishing up all the interviews for Saturday. The zone leaders do baptismal interviews for their district leader so Elder Butler and I spent basically a whole day doing interviews for Central, our district neighbors. They all turned out well.

Also Elder Romero who lives with us got Dengue fever so he had to spend some time in the hospital getting tests done which meant us being short one missionary and one of us spending time with him there. I spent Tuesday sitting in the hospital with him.

Also this week we had a special mission conference with an Area 70 from Venezuela named Elder Mestre. All in all there were about 60 missionaries, everyone from Bucaramanga, Cucuta and Barranca plus the assistants and President and Sister hacking. The conference was held in our chapel so we were in charge of getting everything organized nice and early and arranging for something to eat. We organized with a member here who does catering and we got some nice sandwiches for everyone during the break and everything turned out very well. Elder and Sister Mestre gave very good training sessions and it was a very good conference.

Saturday morning we had interviews with President Hacking. It was a nice short interview. He thanked me for the work we had done in the zone and said it was a clear example of how a few good attitudes can change a whole zone. He expressed that he had no worries about how things would go for me after the mish because I already know where I will be, what I will be doing and I have great family support.

Saturday night at 6 we had our baptism service. We arranged this whole past week the clothes for it. We collected all the white baptism suits we could find in the zone and even had a few brought in from Barranca. We spent Friday night and Saturday afternoon arranging the church and all the last minute details. At the end of the day all 12 baptisms from the zone and 6 from our area went great and were confirmed on Sunday. We had over 100 people attend and many investigators from other areas who absolutely loved it. One of our investigators named Carlos who was trying to decide on a baptism date but was struggling to make the decision went and really really felt the spirit. On Sunday he came up to us by himself and said "I made my decision, I want to be baptized this coming Saturday".

The church has 2 floors, the sacrament / cultural hall and kitchen upstairs and all the classes downstairs. We arranged everything from who would use what bathrooms to get changed faster. We set up a room across from the baptism room with all the white clothes. We started upstairs in the sacrament hall because of the large crowd. We played a short video "finding faith in Christ" from 6 until 6 30 and during that time we got all the famous baptism pictures in white with all the missionaries and families etc. The first counselor from Pinos directed and President Hacking gave a nice talk about baptism and we had a special musical number from some of the members in our ward.

After that we had everyone go down in groups to keep the reverence. We had the baptism room filled with as many chairs as would fit. First we had all those who were baptizing and being baptized go down and we waited in the room across from the font. There we got everyone lined up in their order with their baptizer and explained to them how it would be etc. Then we had them send the investigators down and take up the chairs closest to the font up front. We sent all the members down and they filled up the rest of the chairs and a lot of people had to stand up in the back or in the doors.

Then we started baptizing!! Haha it was so awesome, we just went through the line and started baptizing them like crazy. I baptized 2 of our 6 investigators (Lia and Karla). I was one of the first to baptize and I had time to dry off, change, go upstairs and get my suit and when I got down they were still baptizing people.

Afterwards everyone headed back upstairs and reverently listened to interlude music while the last ones got changed. They gave the time to the new converts to share their testimonies. The only ones that were brave enough were Cesar Gomez and his wife. It was a very spiritual thing, they told about their conversion etc, their testimonies and the new process they were starting. It’s such an amazing feeling to see people and especially families make these changes and become converted.

Nights like Saturday are what it’s all about. I can’t lie - I did drop a tear or two. Baptizing families is what we live for and these people really are converted. To just think about the generations that could change because of this step, the kids, the grandkids, the great grandkids and all the missionaries who will come from them and go find others... it’s the greatest. I am so grateful that the Lord has allowed me to be a missionary and I know that he puts us where we need to be and where his elect are waiting for us. I remember praying in the MTC and knowing that there were families here waiting to hear what my companions and I would tell them and praying that we could be led to them and I really know that we were and just at the right moment. We are far from done with our work here but this is close to a very great way to finish the mish. The stake president gave a very nice welcome to all the new members and everything turned out great.

Today to celebrate (and because it’s been planned for a while) we went with the whole zone to Chicamocha Nat’l Park about an hour from Bucaramanga. Last week we collected 25 dollars from everyone to pay for the trip. We rented two big vans for 8 bucks a person and the rest we used to get into the park and prepare everyone some food. We made 60 peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches and included oreos and chips. We met up early this morning and spent the day in the park. There are all kinds of beautiful views and a cool Gondola thing that takes you to the actual park. I got some good souvenirs and everything turned out great.

Well I’m about out of time but like I said I am loving life and everything is going well. This week we have transfers so we will see what happens in the zone. Pres told me I would not be going anywhere but who knows if my comp will be changed, I hope not but we will see. Despite baptizing 6 people we still had 10 more investigators in church, the work just keeps on going and we can’t quit now. Tonight we will head to Barranca to spend 2 days working with them and then back to our area to keep on keeping on.

I love you fam. Happy 4th of July and Happy birthday Cameryn! I know we are in the truth and I am so grateful for all the blessings we have. Stay great, love life. Love Elder Barnard (PS I have sent about 12 pics of us, our apartment, the baptism and the trip so hopefully they all arrive.