Monday, January 26, 2015

The Rag-Tag Crew of La Bota‏

Lamentably I don't have pictures of hardly anyone - I'll try to procure some for y'all next week. But today, because I've realized (i.e. Mum's always asking for) that I never talk about the people I work with I'll do that. I can't believe I'm only in my 3rd change! Lemme tell you I'm really getting to love the people here. At first I didn't like this sector a ton, but I've truly come to love it, and the members, and everybody else. So here's a little insight into the people of La Bota and Ecuador:

Obispo Orrala: From the coast of Ecuador, and so he talks really fast and I have trouble understanding him sometimes. But it's probably my favorite accent I've come across here. Has an interesting twist and turn to it. He works for CES here in Ecuador and is relatively young (his oldest kid is about 13 or 14 years old I think). That means he actually gets paid really darn well for an Ecuadorian, so his kids have tablets, they have phones, a nice, well-built apartment, and are looking for a car. Of course, the tablets and phones were all bought in Peru or the US because technology is ridiculously expensive here. May I remind you that a PS2 (The pathetic competition to the Gamecube? Yeah I forgot it existed too before I came here.) costs over $200? Anyhow the Bishop is super pilas and always willing to help. Great guy. Always cheerful and laughing, and a bit on the tuco (chunky) side.

Hermano Lopez: The second counselor. Also rather well-off as he works in the petroleum business here. That unfortunately means he's often in the jungle working so he's not here very often. Also friendly and hilarious. A fantastic story-teller. He had a great time telling us about his mission, which he served in Guayaquil about 12 years ago. Did you know the missionaries used to have a Manual of Belief-Destroying? Oh man, good times.

Los Herrera: The primary president, her son (the ward mission leader), and her daughter and son-in-law (the first counselor). A great family. I think it's funny how so much power of the ward is concentrated in the hands of one family. As Hermano Herrera is the ward mission leader we are constantly bothering them and in their house.

Hermano Cabrera: Another super pilas member. I really like this guy a lot - he's an architect and a such also well-off. I admire his collection of classic rock. He has a sporty red car that we get plenty of rides in when he sees us walking in the street. He's really embraced a pattern of learning in his life, always studying and trying to get better. Here in Ecuador it's truly important, and he's an awesome example of how to rise above the rest. He learned a good bit of English through a BYU program called Pathway. I remember one time when he asked us to revise an essay he'd written for Pathway and smiling to myself as I read his railings against the left-wing Ecuadorian government. Funny how the members of the Church are similar even in other countries.

I think I'll add more next week! This was actually fun to write. Hopefully I'll have pictures, too.

Why Don't You Just Get It?

For me the more and more I study the Gospel and the church I belong to, the more and more it just makes sense to me. I absolutely love teaching the first lesson to investigators because I love teaching how the church came to be and why it's important that there is this church. Of course, I need to work harder, because people still don't get it. So I'll practice a bit here. Check it out. Hopefully I can explain it so that you get it, too. How much for me this all makes sense!

God is our Father and He loves us: Of course a lot of this making sense takes for granted a belief in God. So that's fine if you don't believe in God, but pretend that you do so that this will all make sense (by the way you can also know he exists, but we'll leave that for another e-mail). As Mormons we believe God is literally our Father in Heaven. We're creations of Him and as such follow the same pattern. He's just like us in the sense that he has a body just like ours, but perfect. We're here to become like Him, to learn and progress. And because He loves us and that's what He wants, He's given us the Gospel, or in other words, the path we need to follow to find happiness and progress in this life. But how did He let us know this plan, this Gospel?

God Reveals What We Need to Know Through Prophets: Prophets are just men called of God. Not any average joe can be the prophet - they have to be chosen. Prophets have the power of God, the Priesthood, to communicate with Him and receive revelation, or, the knowledge that God needs to give to the world. A classic example: the prophet Noah, in the Bible, received the info that there was going to be a lot of rain in the coming days. The people rejected him, but at what cost? They all died.

Now, do you think a prophet is important in our day? Think about that for a second. We live in a world off-kilter. Many people are searching for the truth. Do you think we need someone that can guide us? God knows everything, but of course WE don't. How can he tell us what we need to know without a prophet?

This Is How Christ Organized His Church: Christ also organized His church with prophets and apostles when He was on the Earth, as it says in Ephesians 2:20. With the ability to speak with God, the prophet and his apostles could correct error as it says in Ephesians 4. They could guide the church to go where it needed to go, and not change the doctrine of Christ, the specific Gospel we need to follow. But wait, if Christ established one church in the Earth, why do we have many different Christian denominations today? With so many different interpretations and ideas? Why didn't the prophet keep everyone in line?

The Prophet and Apostles Were Killed: And they never had transferred the power of God, the Priesthood, to anyone else. Without this Priesthood there was no revelation. There was no power of God in the Earth. And as such the Church went astray. All that was left was the scriptures, and with just the scriptures, people began to misunderstand and change the doctrine. Without somebody to tell them exactly what God had meant in such chapter and verse, they got confused. And so doctrines such as indulgences, the confusion of the Holy Trinity, and many such other things came to pass.

Why doesn't God speak to us today? Why doesn't He make everything clear for us?

Well, the message we as missionaries carry to all the world is that He has! He's called prophets again, beginning with Joseph Smith, and established the same Church with the same doctrines that Christ taught again in the Earth. Pretty cool, huh? Check out the prophet that lives today!

Anyhow I'm out of time. Ask me questions please! I love hearing from all of you. I hope this all made sense. The missionaries who've taught this before will probably note many things I could have taught better here, but let me just say: I know this is true! And you can too! Love you all!
Some pretty sweet graffiti at the bus stop.

Pay to play takes on a new meaning here. You can actually pay to play PS2 by the hour. It's hilarious to me but deep down incredibly depressing.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Star Wars 7 Is Literally of the Devil‏

I had my suspicions before, but now I'm sure of it.

As missionaries, we have to avoid every type of worldly entertainment. Obviously, this is to help us stay concentrated here, in the mission, and in the work of the Lord. In a book by Hugh Nibley a read a while back (and never finished) he explains an interesting pattern of how the righteous many times are commanded to flee into the desert and establish the church. For example, Lehi and his family, or Alma (the first), and many others. I think it's similar for missionaries. We have to flee from worldly influences. For instance, our mission President recently imposed a new rule that we can listen to music ONLY from or Goodbye, my collection of every single Mahler symphony.

It's difficult, sometimes. And the most horrible temptation yet was when, waiting for some people to arrive, in the corner of my eye I saw something on the TV. A temptation from the Fallen Son himself.

A teaser for Star Wars 7.

I'm sorry everyone. I failed. I looked. And maybe squeed a bit. I'm working through the repentance process now, listening to "Called to Serve" on repeat every morning and night. Sometimes the missionary life is HARD.

Do You Know Who You Are?

I don't know if I've talked about this on the blog before, but if I have, I'd like to talk about it again. Something I've learned in the mission that I'm really trying to apply. Something incredible, at least for me.

It begins with God, our Heavenly Father. There's a lot to be learned when we remember that. And what, exactly, our relation to him is. In Acts 17 we read:

 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone,graven by art and man’s device.

We're the offspring of God! As such we need to realize that “As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be.”

Think about that: We are literally Sons and Daughters of God. We have DIVINE potential. Our ultimate purpose here on this Earth is to be able to become like Him. We have, in each of us, something incredible.

We all have agency, the ability to choose what we do. As Lehi says in 2 Nephi 2:

 27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

It's important to realize that we ALWAYS have a choice. We can never blame others, our circumstances, nothing for what WE do. It's rather liberating to understand that, I think. You ALWAYS have a choice! Whatever thing you want to overcome, whatever obstacle there might be it CAN be overcome. Because we've all been given the power to do so. This is important for the plan of God; without this ability to choose, we couldn't progress. And our ultimate goal is to become like Him. In the end, when we're standing before the final judgement, we're going to be judged essentially on who we became in this life. And it can be incredible who we do become!

Of course we're going to make mistakes. That's why Jesus Christ died for us. To give us the opportunity to try again, and again, as many times as we need to.

Don't give up! Seek, through prayer and the scriptures, the person that you can become. God knows exactly who you are and who you can be, so He can help you along the way. Really, it can't be done without His help. I want to say again: you can do it! Everything is within your power!

I hope you guys enjoy the blog. Thanks so much for all the e-mails and I'd love to hear from every one of you! Love you all!

I think it's supposed to have something to do with earthquakes but this is way better.

 Me and my comp!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Another Transfer in La Bota

Really I don't know what to write y'all about. I think I'm just in a bit of shock, maybe. I received my new companion today (we basically knew for sure that my other companion was going to leave), and he's from Peru! I'm excited to finally have a native speaker to practice with.

And yes, I'm done with my training! It's really pretty darn scary. Now I'm responsible for this sector, at least for a while until I can show my companion around and get him up to speed and whatnot. But I'm just trying to focus on the fact that the Lord knows me, knows what I need, and that He knows I can have success here.

What being done with training means is that I use the normal study schedule of the other missionaries. When you're in training, there's an extra hour of companionship study. Now I won't have it. I don't know that I'll miss it, it's just daunting to me that now I have a whole other hour to fill with things to do...maybe that's what stresses me out the most. Much of the time I have no idea what to do with myself, really. But I'll figure it out, I'm sure.

We had a special training with President last Friday. He used a few talks from General Conference, my favorite of which right now "Which Way Do You Face?" It certainly inspired me to have a bit more courage and keep moving forward. Check it out if you have time!

Well I suppose one thing I've been trying to focus on this week is being patient (again). It's hard for us to recognize at times that our timing is not the Lord's timing. What I think is amazing is the promise that if we keep walking forward with faith and hope, doing as much as we can to live the commandments and love God, "everything will work together for our good." I certainly am trying to believe in that more. Hope has a ton of power! It's truly amazing.

Also I've started a prayer journal which is TONS of fun. I write down the things I ask for in my prayers and check them off and make notes as I receive answers. Not only is it a great way of recording personal revelation, but it's given me an even greater testimony of the power of prayer. It's powerful! Everything we need can be ours if we only ask with small example: we were waiting with a recent convert on the curb, trying to flag down taxis so we could get to church (she can't walk well) and there just weren't any taxis! So I said a quick prayer that a taxi could pass by so we could all get to church on time, because the week before we'd almost missed the sacrament. And only a few minutes later a taxi pulled up with one seat available - and the others filled by the family that is fellowshipping our recent convert! And then as my companion and I walked to church we ran into some other members that offered us a ride! Just one small example of how prayers can be answered.

That's all for now. I'm sure I'll have many more experiences to share with you. Sorry this one was so short this week but don't forget I love you all!

Elder Scanlan

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Most Eventfully Uneventful New Year's‏

Feliz año, todos!
Because of a P-Day activity that, naturally, went overlong and was ill-planned (although we ate a ton of food at the Stake President's house, so that kinda made up for it a bit) I have no time to write. So, some scattered thoughts from the middle of the world:
New Year's here is nuts. I'm very glad that we were only allowed to be out until 5:00. I slept well, because our house is kinda in a corner, but I still woke up a couple times in the night from fireworks and I think there was a dance in the apartment above. The first tradition I ran into is that guys will cross-dress, complete with multi-colored wigs, and dance around in the streets. Like, in the middle of the street. Then their friends will take ropes and run them across the streets so that cars can't pass until they pay the guy dancing something. No one is spared. And these improvised stops were everywhere. Then, there's the dolls they burn. I actually think it's a cool idea, symbollically, because supposedly they represent leaving behind your past lives, but it's also hilarious. Of course, as missionaries, we weren't allowed to do that. But I saw some as tall as two stories high. The most popular figure to burn this year was "El Chavo," apparently a famous comedian here who recently died. But pretty much anything is fare game - cartoon/TV characters are the most popular. Everybody here is into Dragonball Z.
And I forgot the camera in the house. No pictures for y'all until next year!
Speaking of which, I've been trying to learn a lot about patience and also strengthening my testimony of prayer. A hilarious moment connected the two this week: I was wondering why my sector can be so hard a times and why I have to wait for so long for something things and then I realized, and said out loud: "Oh shoot. I've been praying for patience. THAT'S why I'm here." My first companion told me: "Beware of praying for patience or humility. Because you'll get it." Yup!
So, I'm excited to try to learn to work hard here. Changes are next week and I'm ending my training! I'm scared, but I also know I'll be where I need to be with the companion I need to be with. I'm guessing I'm staying here, but who knows? Until next week....!
 Did you know: President Obama is in the mission? (Actually it's Elder Bustillo, but the resemblance is remarkable, no?) I think it's been a while since Jeremiah has seen a picture of Obama...not sure of the resemblance...:)

A typical Ecuadorian meal. Rice, eggs, plantain. And I love it!