Monday, July 27, 2015

Colombia is pretty much paradise

“Colombia is pretty much paradise.
Everybody drives like me.
They have the same accent as me.
They eat like me.  There’s mangos everywhere.
Motocars are the coolest thing.
I only have good days.  A big bottle of mango juice usually fixes everything.
I have a cool companion right now.
Only thing I really miss is music. 
But it’s ok.  I just sing all my songs while we’re waling down the street, and no one knows what I’m saying.”

(Yes, he's holding a jar of Nutella. He really is in Heaven now.)

I'm teaching lessons about Christ everyday in Spanish to a bunch of random people who live in cement blocks and don't have shoes and usually don't wear shirts.  I love it.  I know it's true.  God loves you.  This gospel can change your life if you let it!

We asked: "Have you been able to use your music yet?"

His answer: "So there's no real piano in our church building.  There's this really, really crappy keyboard with no pedal from distribution.  There's two guys that take turns playing it, but it really doesn't matter, because the entire congregation is tone deaf and they don't know it, so they sing at the top of their lungs.  It's really bad...hahaha.  
You can't really hear the keyboard, so yea.  But I'm thinking about buying a guitar.  I think you are allowed to here, if you talk to President first.  He let's us use it for baptisms and meetings.  But it will depend on what I find. 

There was a baptismal service this week in our building for an investigator of the zone leaders and it was kind of sad to see what it was like.  The room was the size of a normal class room, and there were only about 20 people there, 5 of which were missionaries.  We sang 5 hymns and there were a couple of spiritual thoughts but it was nothing like what my baptism was like.  
We sang oracion de un nino as Elders for the musical number, which was better then the congregation, but still... I don't know, hopefully I find a good music shop.  

One thing that's super hard for keeping the spirit here is the sound space.  I'm not sure why, but in Colombia, where everybody is poor, there's a bunch of dirt roads, wild dogs, trash everywhere, everything is made out of cement, but yet every single freaking house has like the biggest sub speakers you've ever seen, with at least a 200 watt amp and like 50000 pirated techno songs or regge!  They blare their music super loud.  I mean like freaking loud!  And this is coming from me!!   So we're always on the front porch of some house, trying to teach a lesson, and Bruno Mars will be blasting through our lesson.  Or some dubstep song.  It's hard to understand Spanish as it is, but when you're trying to read lips in Spanish, with all the blaring music, it's ridiculous!! Yea.

We've had a family that we've been teaching the whole time I've been here named the Familia Avila.  They are really interested.  We're almost through all the lessons and the kids are all going to be baptized the 22 of August.  The Mom will be too, if she separates from the man in the house, the one she had the kids with, but she doesn't want to marry him, because she doesn't like him, and thy are cousins...  Welcome to Colombia! haha  But yea, they are super cool.

We have a ton of investigators.  It's really easy to find people here.  Only 1 out of 5 people will turn us down for a lesson in their house.  We have, I think, like 15 people with baptismal dates for August, but the problem with Costenos (the Colombian people) is that they have a hard time keeping commitments.  So I guess we'll see.  We are having a baptism this Sunday.  Her name is Karen.  There's a lot of others but I'll tell you about them next week.  

Love you Mom!  (and Dad)

Spence, just in case you're wondering, here in Colombia you get 2600 pesos for every dollar haha.  Oh, and I haven't been robbed yet. But my district leader got robbed last week, at gun point, so I guess we'll see.  Love you bro, be safe!

Brinley, I showed my companions some pictures of you, and they said you are very pretty.  Love you lots!

Braden, That's awesome you got your roll in the rapids!  Hey, for reals, be careful in those rivers.  I've thought about you in the big rivers, and it made me worry a tiny bit, just wear a helmet and stuff.  And don't drown, because then mom will sell the kayaks before I come home, and I guess I'll be out a brother and stuff ; )  haha  miss you bro!  Go study Preach my Gospel - for reals -  I wish I'd read it more in English, because now I'm trying to read it in Spanish.  Start with page 177.  Love you bro, be safe!

Love you!  I pray for you guys!  

P.S. You packed me very well.  I'm glad to have all the things I do.  Only thing I'm really missing is music--I'm on a music famine right now.  I'm kind of dying.  

Mom-Stuff I wish I had:
  • more music!!
  • a collar sweat guard
  • lots of good pens
  • a good dictionary
  • a good plastic water bottle
  • scripture markers
  • whiteout
  • scripture covers

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hey Mom, this is Mason, I got here...

Mason emailed us 7 mini recordings of him speaking on his voice recorder.  Which of course we loved hearing!  But wasn't sure how to post them on the blog.  So here is the transcription: 

"Hey Mom, this is Mason, I got here in Barranquilla by plane.  My first companion is Elder Cavero  he’s from Peru, super cool. 

Here in Barranquilla, the driving is crazy.  Everyone drives all over the street where ever they want.  My favorite thing is called motocarts.  They are like little go carts that have  3 wheels, you just jump in like little tiny taxis.  They drive all over no matter what.  So It’s like, everyone drives how I wish I could drive on the roads. And It’s awesome.  They drive up and down the street. They pass people in 5 lanes, on a 2 lane road.

My mission president is President Searle.  He’s super cool, really nice.  We had one interview downtown in Barrangquilla.  My first area is in: associadad dos min uno
It’s a very poor area.  Everything is concrete houses, and dirt roads.  It’s really different.

The ward has some problems. The ward has NO home teaching.  The teachers don’t really know how to do their job.  We have 150 people in our ward.  But a lot of people don’t show up.  The home teachers never do their job.  There is a lot of inactivity.

We have done a lot of teaching.  People are willing to accept the gospel and are fine about being taught.  Pretty much everyone says yes to you on the street.  The biggest problem is keeping people active in the church.  

One point this mission had over 600 baptisms a month, several years ago.  But it’s now down to 50.  We don’t know where all the people are.  Keeping people in the church is the main focus of missionary work here.

Ok so we got here by plane.  We went to Barranquilla.  I had about 9 missionaries coming with me. They are all from Eqcuador or Venezula.  We went right to the mission home for about five hours.  Then I got picked up by my companion Elder Cavero. We went out to my apartment which is all brick, and all the windows are always barred, and everything is locked in with big huge padlocks.  That’s how everyone lives here.  That’s how all the houses are here. 

Sorry Mom, today we only had about 30 minutes to write.  Because my companion and I were getting crunched with time stuff today.  I’m having a hard time sending all these recordings.  I am trying to cram everything in.  But I don’t know how much I’ll get in.  So …yeah.

Love you Mom, love you Dad.  Spencer and Brinley, thanks for the emails.  Braden, I’m glad you had fun at AFY.  That was one of my favorite times."

Elder Burk has a trainer: Elder Cavero

Elder Burk made it to the mission home in Barranquilla.  He's the only Elder from the USA in his group.
He had 5 hours at the mission home, then was picked up by his new trainer, Elder Cavero, from Peru.
I think they are going to like each other.
 Mason said everyone drives crazy in Colombia.  Here's his ride to his first area.
 The mission apartment.
 Mason with all of his new friends.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

No letter this week...

Mason's two weeks in the Bogota CCM ended Tuesday, July 14th.  He arrived in the Barranquilla Mission Wednesday July 15th.  The only communication we got this week was from the Mission President's Wife:

"Dear Burk Family,
We received your son in the mission yesterday.  He looked great and I had a good visit with him.  We are happy to have another Idaho boy with us in the mission.  His p-day will be Monday, every week.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to write me. 

Hermana Searle"

That was not nearly enough for us.  We were hoping for a big long letter on Thursday, with more smiling pictures.  Major disappointment.  Looks like we'll be waiting, all the way until Monday...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Week 2: Christ loves and cares for every single one of us.

Week 2:

NO DUERME CON LATINOS SI COMEN EN EL CCM!!!   (It gives them really bad gas)

Pues... Well, I only have 4 more days in the MTC. That was kind of fast, ha-ha! Next time I write I’ll be out in the field! There are three classes here in the CCM with about 100 missionaries total. The gringos are here for 6 weeks, those that know a little Spanish move up to 4 weeks, and the Latinos only come for 2. The food is pretty good. Lots of chicken and rice. And spencer, just so you know, I tried everything they had at least once. 

My district has 9 missionaries. The best way to describe my district is with a parable: We are like unto a large mug of hot chocolate with one marshmallow. So yea I’m the only white person in the two-week course. So much fun.

The first day when I woke up I had no idea what was going on. My companion jumped down from the bunk above me looked at me and said something really fast in Spanish. Which I did not comprehend in the slightest. He’s from Venezuela. They talk super fast and use a lot of slang. But so do the people in Barranquilla, so its good practice for me.

After the first day of being disoriented I started picking up on the Spanish a lot better. All my classes are in Spanish as are the devotionals and church and yea pretty much everything so the only time I speak English is at lunch or when we have our one-hour of futsal every day. So I have lots of time to practice. I taught my first lesson last Friday and we’ve been teaching an investigator all week. (a teacher pretending to be an investigator, and pretty rude one at that - she pulled out her phone in the middle of the first prayer.)

On Tuesday, I gave my first real blessing in Spanish. It was kind of crazy because we had just had a class on Sunday of how to concentrate oil and bless in Spanish and I actually gave one on Tuesday. Tuesday morning we had woken up at 5:00 am to go the temple and at breakfast my companion had a seizure. He apparently has epilepsy and didn’t take his pill the night before. So we stayed home that day. I gave him a blessing at his request that morning. Then at lunch, when everyone was back from the temple, he had another seizure because his pill hadn´t digested yet. (I know this because I saw it in his puke) So we went back to our room and a doctor came and checked him out.  Later he had another one, but this time he didn´t throw up. So I just held his head so he didn’t get hurt and told the president later. But his medicine stayed down so he’s all-good now!

I have been teaching English phrases to a lot of the Latinos in my district at night. Last night I helped Elder Paz write a note to his novia. It was really cool when they first asked me to help them because the first thing they all wanted to be able to do was to bear their testimony and learn how to pray. It’s really cool to see how many humble faithful servants god has in South America. They don’t have much as far as the world but they have a lot of faith and no fear to share the gospel with those that need it. 

Spiritual thought:  Alma 7 11-13 
These are my favorite verses on the atonement. The atonement of Christ really is the keystone of the plan of salvation. Without it we would have no hope at all of returning to live with our Father in heaven. I know without a doubt that He loves and cares for every single one of us. He knows everything about us knows-what we need, what we want, and what’s best for us. He made everything possible and all we have to do is rely on him. But sometimes even this can be hard for us. I challenge you to continue to read and study more about the atonement. We may never understand the love he has for us but the more we seek to learn the more we will understand and the more we will feel godly sorrow for our sins and seek to become more like him. 

Be good  
Hang loose 
Don’t eat the yellow snow.

Elder Burk

Week 1: I Survived

Week 1:
I Survived:
Ok well I’m alive with all my limbs still attached. This computer is highlighting every word I type which means I have no auto correct and all my words are probs misspelled.... but whatever... I met missionaries in every airport. There were a lot of sisters going to the Colombian CCM but they are all going to Equador. Last night the mission president welcomed us all here at like 12:30 (after midnight) and told everyone to go upstairs to their rooms...except Elder Burk, who can stay in this room with 3 other Latinos.
The next morning, I woke up and forgot where I was and they were all talking really fast.  Yeah,  awesome. My companero is Elder Salinas. He’s pretty cool.  Cool enough to be patient with my Spanish. But luckily all the other Latinos want to learn English so I teach them how to say most of the stuff they teach me. I am the only Norte that speaks Spanish and so I have no one to talk to in English. Everyone in all my classes are brown. It’s totally rad. We're going to go play soccer later today so we’ll finally be able to speak the same language! I don’t have a lot of time but my next p-day is next Thursday so I will write to you then.
Love you lots!
Elder Burk

Early Morning Farewell

Mason's Tuesday morning departure came too quickly.
We spent all day Monday washing, ironing nad helping Mason pack up his suitcases. It was a whole family affair. 
Monday night, we took Mason out to dinner for his Last Supper. 
At 4:00 am, we all woke up, and helped load the car to take Mason to the airport.  As Mason opened the front door, both of his dogs were on the doorstep looking right at him.  He petted both, then reached down and asked Lizzy, "Will you wait for me dog?"  He smiled, looked up and said, "Mom, she said yes!" 
 We all walked inside with him at the airport to get him checked in.  We paid the over weight fees on the suitcases, as he's stocked with everything for 2 years.
 Then right before security, we all said goodbye, and hugged him until he had to go.
Our final family photo, until we meet again. xoxo

Farewell Open House

We have been working all month to get the yard and property cleaned up for Mason's Farewell Open House.  We even hung Grandpa Callister's WWII flag off the barn for the grand old American Send off.

We are so grateful to all the family and friends that came to say good-bye to Mason.

 Spencer and Kyler ran the very popular SnoCone machine. 
Such a hit on the very hot 110 degree day.  
 Clarisa Borup, the only one that kept Mason's hair in line. 
 We had a surprise visit from Nate and Erin Meeker, our dear friends from med school days.
 Aaron Peery, sporting his Fiji skirt, just home from his mission. 
It was a great night, so many good friends and family all gathered together.