Monday, June 29, 2015

Death in The Jungle

"Hey, Elder Scanlan! How's it been!"

"Great! I'm getting sent to the Orient!"

"The jungle! No way! And your companion?"

"They say I'm getting sent there to kill him."

I just like how missionary slang works some times.

Anyhow, I got changes! And I'm getting sent to Lagio Agrio! As it's going to be my companion's last transfer he's going to "die" and I'm going to be the one that "kills" him. I'm super excited because I've heard a lot about this place. It's in the "selva" of Ecuador - basically on the exact opposite side of the country. I'm going from the coast into the deep, dark, jungle.

Well, actually, from what I know it's just a city like any other. Apparently it's just really hot - as hot as the coast, but without wind, and more humid. It rains a lot there. There are monkeys. They also eat "gusanos" (worms) and I've heard you can find boa, armadillo...I'm excited. Are you excited? I'm excited.

Lago Agrio itself is an oil town - how big I'm not sure, but there's one branch and three sectors. In fact, our mission currently works in just two places in the Oriente - both of them branches. One in Lago Agrio and one in Coca. The missionaries haven't been out there for more than about 4 years, so it's going to be a totally different experience and I'm super excited. A missionary works as the branch president and other missionaries have callings like councilors and secretaries (I know all of this thanks to Elder Equite, who was my companion a few months ago. He was the secretary in Lago Agrio for a while.). Now it's not like I'm going to be teaching natives or anything like that - Lago Agrio is actually pretty close to Colombia from what I've gathered, so there's a good number of Colombians and some Peruvians as well. I think the majority are just people who've come to work in the refinery. But we'll see what happens.

Also there aren't any sister missionaries out there. I'm going to have been at least half a year with being in a zone with sister missionaries. Not that I'm complaining, exactly...also, President only visits every three months or so I think, so we're kind of out on their own. Everybody forgets about the people out in the Oriente. I'm not going to know anybody by the time I get sent back to someplace like Quito or Otavalo...

I'm actually in Quito right now, enjoying the cold for a little bit. Since it takes long enough to travel from the coast to the selva (about 6 hours for each trip from or to Quito) they have us do it over two days so I'll be staying in one of the houses in Quito tonight. Next week I'll have plenty of pics, I'm sure!

But anyhow, Esmeraldas...It was great being in Paraiso. The change us a lot in this mission so it's interesting to see the growth of a ward and in the people there over a longer period of time - the three changes I had there. I guess it's hard, more than anything, to keep a good perspective. As missionaries we have goals to meet and expectations we have and some times it's easy to get stressed out about people not getting to a certain point in a certain amount of time. But in the eternal scheme of things, if it brings salvation...we just need more charity.

Maybe that's one of the things I learned most being in Paraiso, watching the interactions of the ward members and the missionaries. It can be very hard to put your trust in somebody and care about them enough to help them out. It's often very hard to know whether certain people will progress, others's important to see with charitable eyes. I read a talk a few weeks ago that talked about seeing with eyes wide open but a heart wide open as well. It's so true. Just have charity with all the people you interact with! A while ago the Karatosses sent me this talk: and I really loved it. More than anything I love the story that he tells.

One Sunday morning some 30 years ago, while I was serving in a stake presidency, we received a telephone call from one of our faithful bishops. He explained that his ward had grown so rapidly that he could no longer provide a meaningful calling to all worthy members. His plea to us was that we divide the ward. While waiting for such approval, we decided as a stake presidency that we would visit the ward and call all these wonderful, worthy brothers and sisters to be stake missionaries.

About the third person I visited was a young female student attending the local university. After chatting for a few moments, I issued the call to serve as a missionary. There was silence for a few moments. Then she said, “President, don’t you know that I am not active in the Church?”

After a few moments of silence on my part, I said, “No, I did not know you were not active.”

She answered, “I have not been active in the Church for years.” Then she said, “Don’t you know that when you have been inactive, it’s not all that easy to come back?”

I responded, “No. Your ward starts at 9:00 a.m. You come into the chapel, and you are with us.”

She answered, “No, it is not that easy. You worry about a lot of things. You worry if someone will greet you or if you will sit alone and unnoticed during the meetings. And you worry about whether you will be accepted and who your new friends will be.”

With tears rolling down her cheeks, she continued, “I know that my mother and father have been praying for me for years to bring me back into the Church.” Then after a moment of silence, she said, “For the last three months I have been praying to find the courage, the strength, and the way to come back into activity.” Then she asked, “President, do you suppose this calling could be an answer to those prayers?”

My eyes started to water as I responded, “I believe the Lord has answered your prayers.”

She not only accepted the call; she became a fine missionary. And I’m certain she brought much joy not only to herself but also to her parents and probably other family members.

And I love the conclusion he draws from this:

Over the years I have wondered how this interview might have gone had I approached her as a less-active Church member. I leave you to be the judge.

Have charity! Love you all!
Look at what my companion did to his white handbook. It's..beautiful...such rules...

Have I mentioned I love the things people put on the back of the cars/trucks? This is one of the high councilor's trucks. "No success can compensate for failure at home."

 The Martinez family, our infamous cock fighters. Well, actually, the husband wasn't there that day but here's the rest of them.

Comin' back to the outskirts of Quito in the bus.

 The Rangel family! We were helping the husband to get active again and he was making great progress.


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