Sunday, January 26, 2014

Will a man rob Elder Luke?

La Cumbre - Bucaramanga, Colombia

Jan 20th

This week has been pretty good. We have investigators that are progressing, some dates set, and we are working towards baptism and reactivation of members. I still have not been robbed or anything like that, I'm beginning to think that these people don't think I'm rich enough or something. But really if someone tried to rob me, I could just say, "I only have books of Mormon and I'm trying to give these away to people."

 And they would probably respond, "Ohh mmmmm. Well then you can keep those." 

Some of the members have noticed that I have lost weight and they tell me it's because I'm walking too much and eating too little. The day after one of the members told me that, we had lunch with their family. They gave me a bowl of soup, a plate of salad, and a plate of rice, potatoes, beans and yucca. Then they gave me a whole chicken. I almost died. And they were watching me the whole time, so I ate the whole thing. I was full for quite some time.

One of the families we're teaching has a dad who moved out this week because he's an alcoholic. We went over there and one of the daughters was drinking wine. I wanted to ask her, what are you doing with alcohol when you've seen how it's destroyed your family!?!?!??!?!

We are busy have already scheduled appointments for pretty much every night this week, so that it's nice that we can stay busy and have people to teach. Hope life is going well. Love you guys.

Dear Dad. 

Alma 31:5 says that preaching the gospel has a more powerful effect on the minds of the people than the sword or anything else. I was thinking, "Well that's nice, but if someone had a sword and I had the word of God, I still might feel uncomfortable." I feel like perhaps with some people we should get to use both! I'm joking about that, because a true conversion can't be forced.

What's cool about the before mentioned phrase is that there is an example in the book of Helaman. While Moroniah has control of the army, the Lamanites come and take all the lands in the south. Moroniah takes back one half of their lands but wasn't able to take back any more through force of arms. But when Lehi and Nephi go and teach the Lamanites, they are convinced of their wickedness and give back the possessions of the Nephites. So that which could not be accomplished by the sword was accomplished be the word of God. 

I'm noticing a strange phenomenon. The people are all interested in the gospel, the blessing and eternal life, and the idea that families can be together forever-- until they learn they have to work. I guess that's human nature. We want the results without putting in the work.

Hope everything is well 

Love Elder Rallison 

Teaching in Bucaramanga

Jan 13

I just completed my first transfer here in Colombia. My companion and I are still together in the same area, which is fine by me. One of the things that we have been doing is lots of family home evenings in the houses of part member families. I think that the families enjoy them because they keep inviting us back. I figure that's a good sign.

We had five of our investigators drop us because in their words, the Mormon church expects its members to work and be active participants. They then went on to say they believed that the doctrine was good and they felt like they were drawing closer to Christ, but they don't want to change their lifestyle to accommodate the covenants and time commitments they would have to make to become members of the church.

I was thinking about their responses and the difference between a belief and faith. I figured that there must be a difference between belief and faith since we have two different words to describe them. I came to the following conclusion: faith is a principle of action. (as James 2: 17 says, faith without works is dead) but faith isn't just simply acting. Faith is acting in harmony with our beliefs. From this definition, we can see that the only way to grow faith is through action, because it's a principle of action. Just as the only way to grow our mind or our body is through using them. 

These people were not willing to act. I can help people have the desire to have a better relationship with God, but there are some things that I can't do. These people ultimately have their own agency and have to make their own choices. 

My companion and I hosted a movie night where we showed a movie in the chapel. It was a great activity. We had 42 people come and 15 non members. We're trying to work more with the members. We'd like them to invite a friend to read the Book of Mormon and discover for themselves if this book draws them closer to Christ. Christ said, "By their fruits ye shall know them. Can a man pick grapes of thistles?" People can put that principle to the test.

Life is good I think that I'm going to have diabetes because all they have here is white flower and people always give us juice and soda. They also eat a lot of cheese. Cheese with rice, cheese with fruit, cheese with bocadilla, which is a kind of candy. It's really delicious. 

Anyways, that is life here. I hope that you guys are doing well. Love you.


New Year Progress

Jan 6

Hey Mom, I just wanted to say, it really is not very dangerous here. It's kinda and boring actually. I have heard Gangum Style three times while I've been here. That is just an interesting fact.

Another interesting fact is that I met a warlock. At least he said he was one. He said he works black magic and stuff like that. We thought he might have been crazy. He said he had seen snakes in his bed and a man that had no eyes appeared in his room. Because he's seen some creepy stuff, he says he wants to change. 

He also said some things that made me think he had more knowledge than we thought: like he believes that before this life, we lived with God as spirits. He believes that God sent everyone here to the earth with at least one spiritual gift. And he believes that because we have bodies we are more powerful than spirits. Soooo idk

I also had my first drunk person condemn me to hell. I had just read in Corinthians that day that drunkenness  is a sin before God. So I was laughing the whole time he told me I was going to hell, which seemed to make him madder. But I couldn't help it. It just seemed so funny that in a sinful state he was condemning me to hell. 

My companion was sick this week and asked for a blessing. I gave him one in the best Spanish. He got better and we were able to go out and teach. So that is pretty much what happened event wise this week. 
The language is coming along really well. I can speak well enough to speak my mind, participate in lessons, buy whatever I need, and laugh and joke with my companion. So things are pretty good. I wouldn't say that I'm fluent, but I don't feel incompetent. We have one person on a baptismal date but the last 2 Sundays he hasn't showed up, so we might have to take him off date. We had four investigators come to church and one of the members has a mother who is ready to be baptized so it looks like we will have a baptism.

 I would like more success than we've had, but I did some introspection and decided that I need to make sure I want success for the right reasons. This isn't my work and I'm not here for my glory. I'm here for God and to do his work. Perhaps I just need to lose myself and focus more on others and how I can help them. So that is what I'm trying to do, but as with all gospel principles, the application is the hardest part. 


The tongue of angels


This week we did a open house at the church and sang in a Christmas program. One of the nice things about Christmas is that people are more focused on Christ, so we were able to sing to them a church hymn and give a little message. We found 10 new investigators that way. 

My companion is from Argentina.

Last night was the first night that I felt sick. I think that I ate something bad, but I only threw up once and after that I felt better. So yeah life is good. Studies are great I just finished the Book of Mormon again. It was awesome.  
Talk to you guys on Wednesday. 



I'm working hard and hope that I bring the spirit with me to lessons. I feel like Alma--I wish I had the voice of an angel and could cause the earth to quake. I find that verse interesting because Alma had that experience with an angel firsthand and knows how quickly and angel threatening you with destruction can turn a person's life around. But in 2 Nephi 32 it says that angel speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost. That is what I'm trying to do--but I have yet to make the earth tremble. It's a goal though.

 Bucaramanga Zone Conference - back row, 4th from right

No comprendo.

Well another week here in Colombia. If you ever have the desire to know how I feel about the language, simply watch Finding Nemo--the part where Martin (Nemo's dad) is talking to the sea turtles. 

I will provide a brief quote here:

"It's like he's trying to speak to me, I know it! You're really cute but I don't understand what you are saying!"

That is pretty much what I felt like last week. This week is coming along pretty good though. The language is coming along nicely.  I'm actually able to have extensive conversations with my companion. I can participate in lessons, and I actually led a couple of them. I can feel when I have the gift of tongues and when I do not. The more obedient I am to the mission rules, the better I speak and understand. When I give me testimony, I just talk. and the people understand. 

A principle that I've learned is that the spirit of God speaks all languages. I simply need to bring the spirit and with that spirit comes understanding. During lessons I can always speak better because the spirit's stronger then. Afterwards, people ask me how long I have been in Colombia. When I tell them, they are always shocked and tell me that I speak very well. Which is nice to hear, but I know it's because God is helping me. 

This Sunday, the bishop asked me to fill in for one of the speakers in sacrament meeting. He said there were about ten minutes that needed to be filled, and it would be a good way to introduce myself to the ward. He told me this as the meeting was starting. So I became the concluding speaker of the meeting of 60 to 80 people. I don't remember everything that I said, but it didn't feel like I had been talking for very long. I looked down at my watch, saw I had taken up the allotted time, and so I concluded. After the meeting everyone came and thanked me for my words and the spirit they felt and some other stuff I didn't understand. 

People hear me in lessons and assume I'm fluent. After the lesson they talk to me and I don't understand all of what they are saying. After a little while they realize this, and they're so confused. They don't understand how one moment I can teach and listen and the next moment I'm only able to speak like a child. To be fair, sometimes it confuses me too.

But I'm learning line upon line and am beginning to be able to have more in depth conversations with my companion and others.

I haven't been having the success that I would like, and I was reading my scriptures and this sections of the Book of Mormon brought me comfort. I feel like I can sympathize with Alma the speaker in these verses.

Alma chapter 31 
verse 30 Oh Lord wilt thou give me strength that I may bear with mine infirmities.
32 Oh Lord wilt thou comfort my soul and give unto me success and also my fellow laborers who are with me.
34 Oh Lord wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ. 
35 Behold their souls are precious. 

This is my prayer for my mission.


Colombia or bust . . .

4am at the Spokane Airport, 2 Dec 2013

After three plane rides I got to Bogotá, went to the home of the mission president, and spent the night there with some new missionaries. The next day we had a training that lasted all day. That night I was put on a bus and went for a little, 10 hour bus ride to Bucaramanga.  I'm in an area called La Cumbre so named for the many hills and mountains. 

My legs look great.

Life is pretty good. I was a little stressed out my second day in Colombia but I feel fine now. The stress was a result of lots of little things: like not having a lot of sleep, not being able to understand anyone or have anyone understand me (which I knew was going to happen but it still wasn't fun) not having the right kind of money, not having a hot shower or even a warm shower--but at least I have a shower. One day this week I didn't work so I had to bathe out of a bucket.

In case you're worried, Mom, I haven't been robbed yet . Although three people tried. I'm kidding, Mom. That was just to scare you. Only one person has tried to rob me... ok no one has tried to rob me. 

The bread here is really good. That is because it's made out of the whitest flour I have ever seen, so I probably should not eat too much of it. Bogota is not 3rd world at all. The showers there are nice, the houses are nice, and you can drink out of the tap. I can't do that here. I boil my water. Everything here is bought in bags, like bags of milk and bags of yogurt. (Although you can buy soda in bottles.) Whenever we go to people's houses, they offer us juice which is pretty nice. 

I'm able to participate in lessons which is awesome. I feel like the Lord is really helping me with the language.

My first day here, we went contacting and I went with a native speaking elder. We to a park and were giving out a pamphlets. I let my native comp lead the way. He pointed to a person and said that we were going to go talk to him. While we were walking over there, I thought that the guy looked a little too white to be a native Colombian. It turned out that he was British. We did the lesson in English. So my first lesson here in Colombia was in English.

It turned out that the guy was an atheist and was there to be part of a protest that was about to happen over coffee. He was a coffee farmer. 

We ended up leaving that area pretty fast because the protest started. 

So that is basically the life here.

I'm learning a lot, and my Spanish has gotten loads better through the grace of God. When I'm not in a lesson, I still can't speak all that well, but when we are in a lesson. the spirit comes and all of  a sudden I can understand people and they can understand me. It's the most amazing thing.

 Elder Rallison and President and Sister Andelin

Good VISA news . . .


Things are going really well here in the area. The ball has really started rolling and things will be picking up fast. Yesterday we had 5 less actives and 3 investigators at church. We have 3 people on date for baptism and one more that we are going to challenge on Wednesday. I think that he will accept.  

I would like to tell you about the Smiths. They're an awesome family we found We went to visit them after a different appointment fell through. Our appointment was a nice lady who wasn't that interested in the gospel, but she didn't want to be mean to us and tell us not to come again. After stopping by five times when she missed her appointment with us, we got the hint. We decided to try somewhere else and that's when we found the Smiths. 

The first time we stopped by, the husbanded answered and said that now wasn't a good time, that they were busy and not really interested and so it looked like another failure, but after talking with us for a few minutes on the doorstop, he had a change of heart and invited us in. We started talking to Elizabeth, the wife's older sister who lived with the family to take care of the kids while Penny, the wife, worked.

Elizabeth mentioned to us that she was a member of the church but hadn't been for years. Overall, she was pretty short with us, and her sister Penny watched TV the whole time in the room right next to us. Yeah, not the best time. 

But surprisingly they set up a time for us to come back and give a lesson. When we came next time, we asked if Penny would like to join us and she came over and sat with us and even turned off the TV. I don't even remember what the lesson was, but we found out that Penny was also a member of the church. After the lesson, she said that she wanted her daughter to be baptized. 

So that was crazy and we gave them Books of Mormon because they no longer had any, and we got another return appointment.

We continued to come over and teach them. During one lesson, I had the prompting to talk about the Tower of Babel and how it related to the doctrine of Christ in John 10:1 and 2 Nephi 31. So we talked about following Christ, being baptized, and the importance of enduring to the end. Penny works at a casino and doesn't have Sundays off so she can't come to church.

But after that lesson she said that she wanted her daughter to go to church the next day and Elizabeth said she also wanted to go too.

Later that day Penny called and asked for a blessing because she was having problems with her eye and wanted a blessing before she went to the doctor. We gave her a blessing, and I wanted to talk to her about quitting her job so she could go to church on Sundays because the gospel is most important. I didn't even have to bring it up. Right after the blessing, she asked us for the number of the unemployment specialist. She said she was going to quit her job and look for a new one because she want to go to church and the casino wasn't the best environment for her anyways.


The point of this really jumbled message is to talk about just one of the miracles I've seen on my mission: how the Smiths hearts have changed. They went from not wanting us to come into their house to being willing to change their lives to follow Christ. 


by December 2nd I will be in Colombia



Still no VISA - Hello Spokane Washington Mission


Life is good. My companion obtained four pies at a festival, and we have been using them to get into people's homes. The open the door and I know they are thinking, "No it's the missionaries. Whyyyyy did I open the door?" And then they try to pretend that they are busy, and I'm like: I know you aren't doing anything because I see you bowl of chips on the couch and your TV is still on.

Then the person says, "Oh well, I can't stand here and talk to you. I have arthritis in my knee."

I say, "That's okay. Let's go sit down and we can talk." 

And they say, "Well, I would rather not."

And then we say, "We brought pie."

And the they say, "Oh well I guess I can talk for a little bit."

I told Asenath that I feel bad for God because most of his children are morons... I'm still working on charity. 

We are doing a lot of less active work. There are some people who have misplaced priorities, and some people who are just lazy. I want to say to the lazy ones, "Do you think that God is going to trust you with the power of godliness to create worlds without end if you aren't willing to turn off the TV and go to church for three hours?"

In one family the mother told me that the bishop speeds, and so she cannot sustain a man who breaks the law. She told us that she will not come to church until they get a new bishop. She'll have to wait for awhile if she's waiting for the perfect bishop. Sometimes all the nonsense makes me want to start rebuking people and praying for famines and wars and pestilences. Patience is a virtue and I'm patiently waiting for charity.  

I have yet to rebuke people but I wanted to during the last testimony meeting.

The mission life is great I love it but I don't feel like I have yet amounted to any measure of success and I'm determined to leave Washington in a better state than I found it. So I still have lots of work to do.

My companion and I got our first baptismal date, and it's super exciting. The glitch is the guy is living with his fiancée who is a member, but hasn't come to church in years. She saw some missionaries and decided she wanted to get in contact with the church again. She gave her information to the missionaries and her name ended up in our hands. So that was nice. We have given him the first two lessons and he has come to church. We gave him the baptismal challenge and he accepted. Then that week at church he approached me and said that he heard he had to get married before he could get baptized. He said he had a problem with that because he and his fiancé hadn't planned to get married before, the date of his baptism.
I had the impression to tell him about how he could hold the wedding at the church and it wouldn't cost much and the bishop could perform the service and all that stuff. He got a little excited, and he was like: Wow! That was one of the things we were worried about. We don't really have the money for a wedding so we didn't want to get married till we could afford it. Now things might work out.
Elder Marsh and I are excited. We also tracted into this lady who seems like she is super prepared for the gospel. We gave her the first discussion and she asked us to come back.
But she also is living with her boyfriend, soo Elder Marsh and I will hopefully be attending lots of wedding while we are in this area. 


This week has probably been one of the most interesting weeks of the field. We had a lot of meetings and I learned a lot of awesome stuff. I was a little upset with the members of my district who said that numbers don't matter. I told them that to God numbers in themselves don't matter but the people they represent are significant to them. I felt like their view led to laziness and lack of faith. They got mad at me and said that I was a new missionary and I shouldn't expect to baptize every week, and I didn't know what I was talking about.
At zone conference, we had a big talk about setting high expectations and that people in this mission should be baptizing weekly. So the missionaries in my district got a spiritual kick in the pants, which they needed. 

We got two people to commit to a baptismal date which is nice. Chuck is one of them. He is engaged to Marcy and they've been coming to church with us. We've been teaching them and are trying to get them married. Then we taught a woman named Jamie. Elder Marsh and I both felt the spirit prompt us to give her the baptismal challenge. She accepted, so that was super awesome. 

We are going to start teaching a guy named John. He's had a hard time recently and he started coming to our church. He felt the spirit there and asked to meet with us next Friday.

I seem to run into a lot of broken lives on the mission. At first I wasn't as happy about that as I should have been. I wondered why God was sending me so many troubled people. Then I realized it's because God loves them and wants to bless them. That is exactly the point of the gospel: to bless people's lives. These people certainly need it. 

I've also noticed an interesting phenomenon: people who smoke and do drugs have less money and worse health. So many people smoke here in Washington. I always smell like smoke because I'm always visiting homes of smokers. I'm a little worried that people will assume I smoke. 

I went on exchanges with Elder Johnson and it was awesome.

I told him that I wanted to teach more than I usually do. So instead of asking to teach people and trying to find someone who would agree to set up an appointment, we just decided to teach the people we met.

Normally when we ask it goes like this.

Us: Hi, we're the missionaries. We're here to share a message about Jesus Christ and how his teachings bless families, Can we share our five minute message with you?

Them: No.

So instead we didn't ask. We just started teaching, and it was great because they didn't notice till about half way through that we were giving them a lesson. Then they had a look of perplexity as if to say, "How did this happen? They are teaching me and I'm stuck here. I don't remember giving my consent to have them teach me."

But as we got to the first vision, the spirit was always strong, and you could see that they wanted to hear us.

I taught more on that day than I have on any other day so far on my mission. It was great

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

No VISA for Colombia MTC - Provo here I come !

Provo MTC - six weeks of intense learning. Helps when you like the people you are serving with and a friend from home. Elder Luke and Elder Ben Merrill. Elder Ben is heading to the Phillipines Naga mission.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

First Post - Luke's talk at church at mission 'farewell'

How missionary work brings us closer to the Savior and makes us happy

 I thought I would start my talk today on missionary work with an explanation of why  I want to be a missionary. We live in a first world society. When it comes to blessings, we're abundantly blessed. There are many people who would love to switch places with us and have the life we have. Despite the goodness in our lives, we still have trials. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes it feels like all the forces of the world are combining against us.
I am not excluded from this. Half way through high school, I was at a great time in my life. I felt invincible. I was at the height of my gymnastics career. I was beginning to reap the benefits from devoting my life to the sport. I felt that this is what defined me. I was Luke the Gymnast.
 Then I began to have chronic back problems and I lost all of those abilities. It was life shattering for me. Everything I had worked for, everything I thought I was, was gone. Now I was just Luke. I remember being furious with God, thinking; How could you let this happen to me? Why didn't you respect the time and the effort I devoted to the sport? I could have been somebody.
 I lost sight of my individual worth and placed my value on something that would have decayed eventually. People everywhere will have trials that they feel are life shattering.      
When trials happen, we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have something we can turn to. We have restored truths and added strength available to us that enable us to grasp peace amongst our trials. We have the knowledge of the plan of salvation. We know that there was life before this one and that there will be life after this one.
 Several general authorities have referred to life as a three act play. We are in the second act of the play. Never in the second act of the play are the words "happily ever after" found. Those words are reserved for the end of the story or the third act. The second act is filled with trials and hardship. What does this knowledge give us? It gives us an eternal perspective. That our trials will be but a small moment.
The plan of salvation also teaches us that God loves and is the father of our spirits. Isn't that a great piece of knowledge to have? God loves us. What does that mean for us? It means that he desires our happiness. It means he does things for our sake or for our benefit.
Knowing that trials are small in the eternal scope and that God loves us, gives us spiritual, physical, and mental reserve of strength. There are people who have trials much more severe than mine. These people are missing that reserve of strength because they do not know what I know and they do not know where to look. I know that God loves all his children and he wants all his children to know that he loves them and has a plan for each of them. I want people to know where to look when they find hardship.
There is a great quote attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi that says, "Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words."  We need to let others see that there is something different about us. After I read the quote about being an example, some people may have relaxed in their seat, and thought, "Well, I'm not doing anything bad. Therefore I'm a good missionary."
There is another quote I enjoy, that says: "The church is here to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable".
I would like to tell you the story of a man who conversed with God. This man lived his life making sure he was not out actively doing evil and often pondered on the sad state of the world. When the man died he went straight to God. The man asked God, "Do you know what is going on down on earth? There is starvation, there is famine, there are wars and genocides. There is depression, recessions, violence, racism, hatred and sadness. Why didn't you send help?"
God looked at him for a moment and said "I did, I sent you". It was at that moment that the man realized that while he had not done evil, he had missed many opportunities to do good.    
I would say that all of us are the same way. Perhaps we are comfortably missing the opportunities to be doing good.
We have promised to God our time, talents, and strength to help one another and to help others. We have promised this by taking his name upon us, and now that we share his name it has become our duty to act as Christ would. But duty does not require perfection it requires diligence.
As we work to serve the Lord, we will see something marvelous happen to us. We will see our memory enlarged, our bodies strengthened, and our spirit fortified. We will find our mental, physical, and spiritual stamina increased, enabling us a greater capacity to do the Lord's work. A faithful servant of the lord will recognize that there is more to do.
Growing is never easy. If we wish to increase our strength, we must do so through exercise--tearing the muscle fibers that we have, enabling our body to grow back stronger. If we wish to grow our mind we must study. If growing our mind and our body take vigor, why should we expect anything less for growing our spirit or our testimony?
Increasing our capacity to serve and becoming better tools for our Father in Heaven takes work, time, and effort. But why would we expect anything less? The question is not whether or not it will take effort. The question is whether or not we will push ourselves to grow or pass up our opportunities to others.    
Brothers and sisters, when you promise to give your time and your talents, your strength and your love; you are promising to do hard things. I have come to a new understand about a well known scripture: "The natural man is an enemy to God." (Mosiah 3:7)  
The common interpretation of this scripture is that the natural man is prideful and selfish. When we are proud, we place ourselves above God and thereby place ourselves at odds with him. But I would like to offer another interpretation.
This interpretation comes from the law of entropy which states that things go from a high energy state to a low energy state. This means that when nature acts, it uses the least amount of energy possible. When water moves, it flows downhill. When lightning strikes, it takes the path of least resistance. My interpretation of the natural man is that he is a lazy man. He expends as little energy as possible to act takes the path of least resistance.
We represent Christ. We are his followers. To be a follower of Christ means to follow his example and be like him. Was Christ the kind of person who expended as little energy as possible and who took the path of least resistance? This is Christ's church and as members of his church it is our duty to follow him. Remember that duty does not require perfection it requires diligence.    
    In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen