Ben Arkell, Mormon Light, and Poop Eating Fish – Episode 26

July 26, 2018

Ben Arkell (Guest – Left) and Nick Galieti (host – right)

Hello and greetings from Cartagena, Colombia in South America. This episodes guest is Ben Arkell. He runs a few different  LDS and Missionary-based Facebook groups, including the Preach My Gospel Facebook group, and web properties like Mormon Light. He talks about how he is accounting for a dry wall installer for his day job, but how he has been able to use internet technology to spread the gospel throughout the world.  He also has some really fun stories about his own mission to Panama, something about poop eating fish (yeah, you read right). Click here to visit the Mormon Light YouTube Channel.

Before I move on, I want to point out something that some of you might be missing. On our website, is a blog where we have letters sent in from missionaries who appeared as guests on our podcast before leaving for the missions, and are now serving missions. If you haven’t subscribed to our blog, you can do that and get the latest news from these missionaries each week. One highlight I wanted to share with you came from Elder Tanner Bennett serving in Taiwan. One week he reported that they had 14 investigators in his area, the next week 17 active investigators, he tells of a family that prayed together to find out if they should be baptized, the next week he reports that they accepted the invitation and will be baptized in a couple weeks. It is so empowering to see that in these parts of the world where the gospel is relatively young, the work is expanding and moving forward. We will be adding new missionary reports from all over the world over time. So stay locked in to the LDS MissionCast blog to read some of these fantastic stories and to see pictures of missionary work going on around the world.

Music from this episode comes from our main guest, Ben Arkell’s daughter, The Piano Gal.

LDS MissionCast - Piano Gal

The Piano Gal – Provided Music for this episode.

We have a Latter-Day Lives segment from Shawn Rapier and the Latter-day Lives podcast with his guest entrepreneur and influencer in his own way, Jimmy Rex. Then I am going to end with a story from my short time in Cartagena Colombia and the many ways we can recognize the hand of the Lord in bringing the gospel throughout the world.

Jimmy Rex - Latter-day Lives Segment guest - at Machu Picchu.

Jimmy Rex – Latter-day Lives Segment guest – at Machu Picchu.

I travel from time to time with my day job in the Simultaneous Interpretation industry.  This time a convention has brought me to a part of the world that is new to me. I first arrived in Bogotá, then I flew here to Cartagena where I am working for the week. I have never been to any part of South America, and I have found it to be an interesting place. New cultures, new landscapes being in the Andes Mountains it has been interesting to see their difference from the Rocky Mountains. It is summer in Utah where I live which means that it is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit at night, and around the high 90’s and low 100’s. Here, people are wearing winter jackets when it hits 72 degrees Fahrenheit. This was what I saw in the middle of January in Hawaii. Some people see 70 degrees as cold enough to wear a jacket. I was standing there in shorts, sandals, and t-shirt basking in the comfort of such a refreshing temperature. There was such a difference of experience when it came to something as simple and common as temperature. What feels incredible to me, was cold to others.

Cathedral Walled City Cartagena, Colombia

Cathedral Walled City Cartagena, Colombia

Sanctuary of San Pedro Claver and Church

Sanctuary of San Pedro Claver and Church – Walled City Cartagena

Cartagena Walled City

Clock tower – Cartagena Walled City

When I told people, including my mother I was coming to Colombia, specifically Cartagena, all I heard was drugs this, cocaine, heroin, you name it. It was as if Colombia was only known for one thing to people, illegal drugs and cartels. Now, I am not so ignorant to say that such things aren’t happen. This country is also one of the worst when it comes to Child Sex trafficking. It is not comparable to the people of 4th Nephi, I can say that. Cartagena is drug riddled, and there is a fair amount of the negatives that some people have put out there, that is the easy part to see from a map or from the news; but there is also incredible, unique, and beautiful parts as well. Cartagena has city within a city. There is a part of this city that some referred to as the Walled City. Its a part of town also referred to on some maps as Getsemani (a clear connection to Christian religious traditions). In this walled city are old buildings preserved culture as well as some more modern food and amenities. There is music, art, classic architecture, beautiful cathedrals and history all around. There are also, shall we say, “street performers” that will try and get you to give them some money or tips by doing improv rap three inches from your face. Not exactly the romantic experience some come to this part of town to take in, but it is a small part. I learned about Saint Peter Claver, the Catholic patron Saint of Slaves who lived and his remains are resting inside this walled city. This small part of a much larger city had such a beautiful and rich mixture and was beautiful in its own way, that I began to think. Is Cartagena this drug kingpin capital of South America as some movies and people have been taught to see, or is Cartagena what I saw in this incredible part of the city that I could spend days? For Cartagena, it took going behind the walls that protected its most precious history to see it as one of the most beautiful cities I have visited.

My dinner at Zaitún. Avocado and Tomatoes on the right, Beef Medallions in the style of Cartagena, and in the tiny pot is some coconut rice. I had a fresh passion fruit juice...amazing. Walled City Restaurant

My dinner at Zaitún. Avocado and Tomatoes on the right, Beef Medallions in the style of Cartagena, and in the tiny pot is some coconut rice. I had a fresh passion fruit juice…amazing.

Zaitún in Cartagena Walled City

The entrance to Zaitún, the restaurant we ate at in Cartagena. The restaurants are small and intimate, and filled with history.

Cartagena Old City Restaurants

The front of a more rock n’ roll themed restaurants in the Walled City portion of Cartagena. Tons of character but still seems to fit with the old style of the city.

I took some time to learn more about this beautiful yet troubled country. Columbia is 25th largest country on earth, right between South Africa and Ethiopia. It also has the 28th largest population in the world. It is bigger than France, Bigger than the UK, Its length stretches as far as Los Angeles California to Seattle Washington. It is almost the same size as Alaska. But there is one temple in Bogotá. A second temple will be dedicated in December 2018. The country has a population of close to 50 million people, with the total membership of the Church being 185,000. That means that .3 percent of the country is LDS. There is an MTC in Bogota, and there are currently 5 missions in Colombia. 

An example of the long, skinny streets that you find in the walled city - Cartagena, Colombia.

An example of the long, skinny streets that you find in the walled city – Cartagena, Colombia.

boat in the harbor Cartagena Colombia

This ship was parked just outside the walls of the old city portion of Cartagena. It shows a guard tower in the foreground before that. The walls at this point are around 25 feet high and at least as wide. This picture is taken from the top of the wall.

Cartagena streets

An example of the non-traditional angles of the streets found in the old city Cartagena, Colombia. The streets are all stone or stone-like with horse-draw carriages all over.

Coming here I could adhere to the fears and judgements of Cartagena as a place of drugs, underage prostitution, or I can see it exclusively as the gorgeous and historic walled city. But the reality is that Cartagena is like many places and people throughout the world—Fallen, but with divine origins. We are a mix of moral and immoral influences. As missionaries, when we knock on a door of a stranger or approach someone in the street and hope to share the gospel with them, remember, we are all complex beings. We all have our issues, and we all have our walls guarding what makes us special and unique. Sometimes it takes us getting beyond those walls that are in place to preserve what makes each person unique before we are able to see the divinity within. Regardless of where you serve, you will be encountering God’s children. Wherever we find ourselves on this planet, there will be people who have rough, mortal exteriors, that act as walls to their eternal spirit that once sat with God and our Savior in the same pre-existence, and can all return to the same Celestial Kingdom. 

Thank you for listening to my little (not so little) thought on Colombia. If you want to check out the pictures I took of the Walled City inside Cartagena, visit the posting for this episode at LDS. I will have them posted there with some descriptions. It really is an incredibly beautiful place. I was only able to visit at night, but perhaps that helped to add to the uniqueness of the experience. If we have listeners in San Antonio Texas, Orlando Florida, Kansas City, or Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, contact us and we can meet up and maybe have you on as a guest for an upcoming episode.

LDS MissionCast Logo

This is an alternative version of our Logo. This was not found in Cartagena, but I wanted to put it here anyway.

Make sure to follow LDS MissionCast on Facebook and Instagram. Stay tuned, and thank you so much for listening to this episode of LDS MissionCast. 

Comments are closed.