Monday, September 17, 2018

Week 102 - Final Update!

With Ruben and Karla

El Último

Wow! The time has finally arrived. I never thought it would! The last update…

I just want to share one experience from this week to keep things brief. We were able to see Ruben and his girlfriend Karla from Texas again this week. One last time before I said goodbye. They fed us Mexican hot dogs!! They told us they were going through a very rough patch in their lives from all the financial stress, anxiety, and family troubles.

We shared with them some of my favorite verses from the scriptures: Mosiah 24:13-15

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.”

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

“And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.”

We asked them how they felt as they read some chapters of the Book of Mormon we asked them to read. Karla said, “it has just given me this soothing feeling. I feel more relaxed, and less worried about everything that’s going on in our lives. It really has given us comfort!” They bore testimony of how much the gospel we have shared with them has blessed their lives and given them peace! We were able to testify to them that what they feel isn’t from anything we do or say as missionaries, but it comes from the Spirit. We talked about how we can have that feeling and the blessings of the gospel in our families if we repent and are baptized. It was an amazing night. They are both so special and I’m going to miss them a lot! I’m glad I got to meet them, and the many other amazing people here in my last area! This just adds to my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. The Book of Mormon is true and has power to bring us closer to Christ! I know His restored gospel is what brings true joy in our lives. I’ve developed a deeper gratitude for the gospel and my savior than I ever thought I would when I started my mission.

Well, words can’t express the range of emotions I have been feeling. It has been an amazing privilege to serve as a missionary for these past two years. It will sure be hard to say goodbye, but I thank my Heavenly Father for the experiences I’ve had and the many lessons I’ve learned. I’m so grateful for all of the support that I’ve received from you guys as well! I know your prayers have strengthened me so much. 

Gracias a todos ustedes, Dios les bendiga.
Nos vemos pronto!

Con amor, (y emociones mezcladas)
-Elder Bolinder

La Familia Preciado y Milo
La Familia Coon

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Week 101

Elder Bolinder, Brandon, Elder Harris

Another Week in the Books

Hola Familia!

We are currently driving down to Morris for our Spanish FHE tonight. Should be a blast! Today we had a super chido zone p-day in St Cloud, so it’s gonna be a long drive. This week was another great one though!

We’re super pumped about our Spanish group that’s been growing. We’ve started to have our own Spanish Sunday school class and we’ve welcomed in yet another member living in Morris that we didn’t know about - Sister Hernandez’ brother Hector who was baptized in Texas about 2 years ago! Hoping to have our first independent sacrament meeting here pretty soon.

This week we met with Ruben again and he’s doing great! He started working night shifts which makes things difficult for his schedule, but we were also able to meet his girlfriend Karla. She asked us a TON of questions and just sincerely wanted to know what we teach as missionaries, who we worship, and what the Book of Mormon is. We taught them about the restoration of the Christ’s church, and it was super cool how the spirit guided the lesson to be centered on the healing power of Jesus Christ. As tears filled the room, I realized just how much gratitude I have for the Savior and the knowledge that I’ve gained through the gospel and serving a mission. A sweet moment I won’t forget. They are both really prepared to come closer to Christ and we’re excited to see them both progress!

Felicitas is still doing well, it’s been hard for her to get to church. But she is still absolutely loving the Book of Mormon! We also had a super huge African American guy named Brandon come to church and he’s hilarious – super happy and great sense of humor. All in all, it’s been a great week and I’m looking forward to one more amazing week in the service of the Lord!! I love all of you! Have a wonderful week(:

Con amor,
-Elder Bolinder

Idaho Avenue!

St. Cloud Zone Activity


Lakeside Sunset

Friday, September 7, 2018

Week 100

Spanish FHE Group


Qué pasa amigos?
Man, what a miracle filled week!

Miracle #1
We started off the week with a bang! Monday evening we actually had to end our P-day a little early because we had some appointments down in Morris which is about an hour drive. So, the week before we visited on of the Hispanic families here - the Hernadez family. We asked them if they knew of anyone else who we could reach out to. They told us there was another Hispanic family living in Morris but their records were still in Minneapolis. We were like, WHAAAT there are more Spanish members here?! So, we went over the next week to invite them to the Spanish Family Home Evening we had on Monday. The wife answered and when we told her about the Spanish group we are trying to form in Morris, she was so astonished. She sat down on the step, and she started to tear up. She told us that she and her husband had been praying for this for 3 years! Just to see the joy on her face at that moment was absolutely priceless. They came to the FHE and we had a wonderful, spirit-filled night with 4 Hispanic families, 16 people in total!! So amazing.

Miracle #2
Remember that guy from Texas we brought to church last week, Ruben? We met with him again this week and we felt like we needed to talk about the Holy Ghost with him. In our lesson he opened up to us and explained that ever since going to church, he has felt this feeling he remembers as a kid - a warm feeling of peace inside. Everything in his life seems to just be falling into place ever since we knocked on his door! It's amazing to see how prepared he is to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ in his life!! He came to church again and we had a great testimony meeting. Ruben totally took us off guard too because he got up there and got up there to speak, just his second time coming!! It was so sweet. 

Miracle #3
Lastly, we got a referral from the Minneapolis Hermanas - a Hispanic lady named Felicitas who moved to our area. She had ordered a copy of the Book of Mormon online, and we delivered it to her, explained what is was and that it will help her to come closer to Christ and find peace in her life. We gave her a chapter to read, set up a return appointment and didn't think too much of it. When we went back to see her, she immediately just unloaded a bunch of questions on us. Turns out, she didn't just read 3 Nephi 11 (the chapter we assigned), but she read 17 more chapters after that! She said she couldn't put the book down! She explained that this feeling of peace in her heart overcame her, and all throughout that week she was so much more patient with her kids. It was funny because she said (pointing at me) "I think he put something in my book that made me cry! The last time I cried was 5 years ago when my mom died, and ever since then I haven't been able to cry, but when I read this I cried like never before.. And it's all his fault!" haha. Yet another witness that the Holy Ghost testifies of truth! We're super excited to see Felicitas read more and progress towards baptism.

We also had interviews with President Barney this week. We spent two full days in St Cloud, Minnesota - One for interviews and a zone meeting, and the next day we blitz the zone leader’s area. So now I can officially say I’ve served in Marshall’s home town from the show ‘How I Met Your Mother’ hahaha. 

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier as a missionary! To know that I am where the Lord needs me to be and seeing those around us find peace and joy in the gospel of Christ has such an incredible experience that I won’t soon forget. I love you all so much. I love my Savior Jesus Christ and I know he lives!

Con amor,

-Elder Bolinder

Zone Conference

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Week 99

Elder Bolinder, Reyes, Milo, Mariano, Elder Harris

This Week Was Just Electric!

Hola amigos!!!

It’s been another good week out here in Alex.

Unfortunately, Jordan has been out of town and a lot of the people we found a few weeks ago haven’t been able to meet. But we’ve still had some good successes this week! 

We found this awesome young Hispanic guy from Texas while tracting the other day. He came to church on Sunday to check it out! So, we had something super bizarre happen yesterday. Someone was up at the stand, speaking as normal when the microphone cut out all of a sudden. A few seconds later it started making this loud buzzing noise. All the counselors tried to fix it, but the noise just got louder! Then after about 4 minutes, it sounded like something was going to explode! Haha. So, everyone evacuated the room, and the bishop was trying to pull any plug he could find to the microphone. We stood out in the hall for about 10 minutes, and it finally stopped. Turns out, the electric organ short circuited!! Hahaha. Something was frying up inside, and when we got back inside you could smell it. Never had that happen before hahaha. Definitely an interesting first visit for Ruben! 

We had an amazing exchange on Tuesday. We had 4 lessons and gave away 6 copies of the Book of Mormon that day! 

We’ve been having some success with our Spanish group too. One of the highlights of the week was that we had the baptism of Milo’s boys, Reyes and Mariano!! It was so amazing to see the joy on Milo’s face being able to baptize his own sons. And he was baptized just two months ago! It was a sweet experience, and now our Spanish families are getting excited about sharing the gospel and inviting others too. So hopefully we can kindle some member missionary fire here to help the Spanish group!

It’s been such a privilege and blessing to be able to serve the people here - Spanish speaking or non-Spanish speaking. And above all, it has been a life-changing experience to serve my Savior Jesus Christ. I love Him so much!

Hope you all have a fantastic week! Love ya

-Elder Bolinder

Alexandria Spanish Group is Growing!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Week 98

Jordan, Elder Harris, Elder Bolinder

Locked Out!

Another week in the books.

Today has been interesting to say the least. Started out prime when I found a deal on a new suit worth $600 for just $90. Score. Then things took a turn when we accidentally locked our keys and tablets in the family history center😂 hahaha. Needless to say, we were stranded at the church for quite a while, but all is well. So, I have less time to write but I’ll try to type the most I can.

We’ve been keeping busy here in Alex. Still meeting tons of new people and finding new blessings in store for us every day!

Some quick highlights from the week:

Remember that inactive member from Lakeville that just so happened to be our next-door neighbor? Well we had dinner with him this week. He’s awesome! And guess what, he surprised us and came to church on Sunday! First time in over a year. Super glad we were able to make a connection with him.

We taught Milo, the Spanish recent convert in our area, and his two boys again. They are doing great and we are preparing for their baptism next week!

We felt prompted to call this media referral from Texas who was never contacted. She picked up and wanted to meet with us the next day! It was sweet, her name is Jane and she brought her boyfriend to the church and we gave them a free tour! They have both gone through so much. Her former husband committed suicide, and he got in a car accident and broke his neck. They both are pretty depressed and just looking for peace. It was amazing to be able to testify of the peace that comes from having faith in Jesus Christ. It was a really cool moment when we explained the purpose of our life, it just clicked with her, she said "wow I've never heard it like that before. That makes so much sense!" And afterwards she leaned over and started to explain it again to her boyfriend and was like, "See! If Adam and Eve didn’t sin, we wouldn’t be here to be able to grow!” It will be hard to meet with her regularly because she works 2 jobs, but hopefully we can see them progress in the gospel.

We also had zone conference this week. It’s a little different when you’re a 3-hour drive away from it, haha! But it was still good, we spent the night at the zone leaders’ apartment the night before. We had a really powerful training on how we can improve our personal prayers! President Barney showed us some clips from Russell M. Nelson and I just love this quote: “Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.” So true!

We’ve still been trying to find more Spanish peeps to teach. We saw la familia Maldonado again! Sadly, something happened and they didn’t make it to church. But we contacted a guy who ordered a copy of the Book of Mormon online and happened to be from El Salvador!! I’m surprised at how much Spanish I still use in this area, talking to people, translating at church, so that’s been a great blessing to keep practicing my Español!

Last but not least, our buddy Jordan from China! We had a lesson with him, and honestly it was pretty difficult haha. It's a little weird transitioning from teaching Hispanic people where knowledge of God and faith in Christ just come naturally in their culture. Jordan's only exposure to religion has apparently been from watching American Horror Story
😂. So, instead of trying to answer all of his questions we only focused on prayer. The spirit was a lot stronger, and he was able to say his first prayer! He’s progressing well, we just need to take it line upon line.

Elder Harris and I are having a ball out here! I've enjoyed meeting so many of God's children in the area already and I'm so grateful for this chance I have to serve them and serve my Savior. I know He lives!

Love you all! Hasta la proxima

-Elder Bolinder

Elder Harris and Elder Bolinder

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Week 97

Final Area - Alexandria, MN

A Warm Welcome to 'Alec'

Welcome back amigos!

Coming at you live from central Minnesota. Alexandria - population of a whopping 13,000! All the locals call it Alec. It’s been an interesting week for sure, but so many good things are happening. We’re just absolutely thrilled!

Let me give you some more details of the area. From one end of our area to the other it is a 2-hour drive, and Alexandria is the biggest town. So, there are a lot of cornfields in between! The area has been closed and reopened to missionaries countless times, and there hasn’t been a baptism there for 6 years! But, as of about a month ago, a Colombian family came to visit for the summer and hired an interpreter from Mexico so they could go to church. The interpreter wasn’t a member, but loved the church and felt the spirit so he was taught by the members and he decided to be baptized! So, we are reopening the area, and on top of that, President thought he would jump on the opportunity with the Spanish-speaking recent convert so they tossed me in here sort of as a guinea pig to try to spark something with the untouched Spanish work in the area! It is super exciting but also pretty daunting!! There is a branch of about 40 people, and the members area suuuper great. They were beyond excited to have missionaries again!!

Okay now let’s get into how weird the week was. On Tuesday, I spent the entire day in Bloomington and stayed the night at the APs because they combined our groups for departing missionary training. They had us go a transfer early since the temple was going to be closed in September. It was weird to have to do that 6 weeks early, but it was a good experience nonetheless. Got to go to the temple again! And the spirit was incredibly strong as all the “dying” missionaries gave powerful testimonies of Christ. On Wednesday I packed, we had a few lessons and I said goodbye to all the amazing members of St. Paul! Then Thursday was transfer day. However, since our housing coordinator was out of town until the next day, my new companion Elder Harris (from Pocatello!) and I didn’t get transferred until Friday because we had no apartment yet. So, yet another day in Bloomington spending the night at the assistants’ place. Haha! On Friday we drove 3 hours out to our area and spent most of the day moving into our new apartment. We’ve basically only had two and a half days in the area so far!

We’ve experienced some pretty cool miracles so far! First off, when we were moving all our furniture into our new apartment this guy next door walked out of his door. We said hi and started to chat and turns out he is a less active member from Lakeville! He’s here for college. And the Elders just happened to move in right next door, what are the odds!!? 

Second off, we happened to receive a referral for this guy named Jordan. We called him and he said he was available to meet that night! It was an adventure trying to find him way out in the middle of nowhere without an address.. that’s a story in it of itself! Lol. But it turns out he’s from mainland China here for a summer work program. Staying with them were 6 people from China, 3 people from Jamaica, and 2 people from Thailand! (The diversity continues! Lol) Jordan has essentially no religious background whatsoever, but was just so intrigued by Americans’ religious beliefs and asked us, “why do so many of you guys believe in God?” We talked for 45 minutes straight that God is our Heavenly Father and how we can seek to know Him. In the middle of the lesson, all of a sudden their roommates throw out a plate of chicken feet in front of us!! Haha. That definitely took us off guard! I guess you’re not exempt from exotic foods no matter where you are😂. The coolest part of that night was when we said the closing prayer. Elder Harris said a short simple prayer, and when we looked up afterwards, Jordan was literally on the edge of his seat. His eyes were just fixed on us during the entire prayer! He was just blown away and said to us, “that was the first prayer I’ve ever heard in real life, not in the movies!” It was so cool to see how amazed he was at a simple prayer, and in my nightly prayer I thanked my Heavenly Father so much for the connection we have with Him through prayer. I don’t think any prayer will be the same again after that experience! And we also got Jordan to come to church!! He’s just so open and willing to learn, and we’re hoping he can progress well before he moves back in a couple months!

Our third experience was when a member drove us to a tiny town on the edge of our area where there’s a pretty decent Hispanic population. We went to see this member, and she let us right in. Their whole family is from the Dominican Republic, they lived in Alaska and met with the missionaries there, and now moved to Minnesota. She was just so grateful to have us come over again and she said she hasn’t been to church in 3 months and really wanted to go but didn’t know where the church was and so she was super excited to hear we are trying to start a Spanish group in Alexandria! We also met a few of her kids, one of them is named Raul and isn’t baptized but was excited to start reading the Book of Mormon again. So, we are going to start teaching them and get them to church!! 😁

The cherry on top of the ice cream has to be the Spanish convert Milo and his familia. He’s super awesome and he is already a member missionary! We had a lesson with them and set baptismal dates two weeks out for his two sons who are 9 and 10, wahooo!! So, with Esperanza and her family whom we invited to church, our Spanish group has already grown to 3 families in just one week, with two baptisms on the way. What an awesome way to start the transfer! I’m grateful for the Lord’s hand in this work, and for everything I continue to learn out here in the mish.

To end, some funny finding stories from this week:
We were knocking doors in this apartment complex, when a little girl answered. We asked if her mom was home, and she ran outside the complex to get her. As she’s running, we hear her say, “Mom!! The two mailmen are at the door!” 😂. A couple doors down, we knocked and the door swings open only for us to see this 4 year old boy completely naked! Before we could say anything, he says “come in!” And about 3 seconds later he realized he didn’t have any clothes on and shut the door and ran off. Hahaha we were laughing so hard, we just thought, what just happened? Sadly, the parents didn’t come to the door, but we definitely got a laugh out of it😂.

Well, I just want to let all of you know how much I love each one of you! 

Que tengan una buena semana,

-Elder Bolinder

Elder Bolinder and Elder Harris
The Famous Alexandria Viking
Sweet Mission Car!
Impromtu Picnic
Alec Scenery
A Warm Ward Welcome

Week 96

"I'll miss these kids!"



Well, the day has come. Dreaded transfer week...
Had interviews on Friday so President Barney basically gave us a sneak peek.

Here’s the curveball.......

I’m heading out to the sticks for my last 6 weeks!! It’s a tiny city of 11,000 called Alexandria. So, another English ward! I guess the elders there say there’s been a couple Spanish contacts there recently. So, definitely a surprise but I’m excited to see what we can do!!

It’s been hard to leave this area. I’ve met so many awesome families and we’ve had many amazing experiences. St. Paul definitely has a special place in my heart! 

Sorry for the short update this week, but I have a bunch of pics for you all. So enjoy! Haha. I love you all!!

Dios te bendiga,

-Elder Bolinder

They're so happy!
La Familia Cisneros de México
Hmong Elders
Víctor Rubilar de Chile
The Pliego boys!
La Familia Pliego
Hermana Magaly 
La Familia Torres
“dáme una galleta!”
La Familia Rodríguez de México
"I'm gonna miss you, North St. Paul"