Sunday, July 12, 2015

Lago Agrio

Sorry I am late posting Miah's letter this week. I was at our church Girls Camp all week. Thank you for all your support for Jeremiah!

If only my blog could have:
-the titles of Elder McCrary's blog
-the picture of Elder McCrary's blog
-the snarkening pop-culture saturation of Elder McCrary's blog
-the food of Elder McCrary's blog
And then I was going to put a picture here of me eating a fish but it looks my blog does at least have the inconsistency of Elder McCrary's blog. 
Anyhow, looks like you won't be getting pictures because the computer refuses to read my card. And on such a crucial day! Oh well. Such is la vida misional. He was able to post pictures, they are at the end as usual.:)
As I said before there's a missionary in charge of the branch here, one of the zone leaders. Our district leader also has a responsbility - he's the secretary. Other than that there's just me and my companion, the good ol' normal companionship. We've got a gigantic sector here. Logistically, it's an absolute nightmare, because there aren't any buses and we have to pay taxis to get anywhere. Also we live on one extreme of the sector and on the other end live practically all the people we're teaching. On top of that my companion wasn't taught the sector very well (because his companion wasn't taught the sector well beforehand) and we've got to figure it out pretty much together. But hey, I'm hoping that within a week or so I'll get the hang of it and we can start being more efficient.
As for being "jungle," it's not like I'm hacking through undergrowth with a machete or anything. Really, I'm not even sure we're in the actual Amazon. Go look at a map or something and tell me. It's an actual small city out here and fairly nice, too. Pretty clean and with actually good-looking planning closer to the center. But where we spend most of our time I'm stepping on pebble roads - my feet hurt a good bit.
The majority of people here are actually from Colombia - I'm not exactly sure why, but it's annoying at times because it means I have to spend another few months with Colombian bread, which is just the worst thing on the planet. At least, when you've experienced Quito's bread. But weare teaching a recent convert that only knows the native language here - I don't remember what it's called. Her daughter, who's a member, translates for us. But she lives in a normal (Ecuadorian) house and everything, so don't get all excited.
Also things are generally a bit more expensive here, I'm guessing because getting stuff here is a bit of a trek through the mountains and whatnot. Just imagine those windy Western-PA backroads that always get you sick. That's pretty much all of the roads leading to or from here. They're well paved and everything, it's just fairly slow going, so what would in distance be only a two or three hour trip on a normal highway in the states turns into like twelve hour trip. And so bananas cost 10 cents each. TEN CENTS. That's a 100% difference from the coast. I guess that's why they give us 30 more dollars to play with here.
As for the branch membership, the great majority are converts that have at most 3 or 4 years in the church. It seems like we have an attendance of about 60 members. There is a couple of returned missionaries that moved here and they're a great help for the branch, it seems. And of course a lot of the converts are great, too! I'm just excited to try to find a couple on my own, too haha.
What else? The house is tiny. That's not fun. And it's not always super hot here so it stinks showering in cold water. It rains a ton - I think it's rained every day while I've been here and I managed to lose my umbrella about a month and a half ago...but there's KFC.
Relatos Verídicos
I thought I'd share a couple awesome stories I heard this week. For instance, I was talking with one of the other missionaries in the branch when I learn he's a recent convert with just 2 years as a member! It's awesome hearing that sometimes from gringos because I guess when I look at a gringo I assume he's been a member for all his life. Turns out his parents are less-actives and he didn't know much about the gospel, but as he went to college in Utah he got to know lots of member friends and one of them gave him a Book of Mormon. One night he finally got around to reading it and as he described it, started to feel super bad about the things that he had been doing. He got in contact with the missionaries and three weeks later got baptized. Now he's serving a mission and being a total champ.
I talked with one of our recent converts and she explained how she got to know the church a good while back but could never convince her husband to get married so they could get baptized. Then they moved here and last year got in contact with the missionaries again. This time she told her husband, "I'll give you two weeks and if we don't get married, I'm leaving - to China, if necessary, so I can get baptized." The husband had a change of heart and they got married - and one of their kids got baptized to with his wife. Now they have callings and they're all doing great in the church.
Yesterday was testimony meeting. I watched as a young lady who couldn't have had more than a few years as a member get up and testify powerfully of her desire to be married in the temple.

I was eating at the same table as our branch president/zone leader and I asked him, "What did you do before the mission?"
With a smile he says, "I was a bum."
More than anything it's just amazing how the gospel changes lives. There's nothing else that can do it so completely. When we light up a dark room the darkness just flees. It can't do a thing.
I like to think about Alma the Younger, sometimes, and the change he had in my life. I realized while being out here that at some point we have to stop reading the Book of Mormon stories and start living them. It can happen. And it will! I know the gospel is true and that it changes lives. I know the Book of Mormon is true and that we have living prophets. Love you all, have a great week!

Aha! I figure this thing out. Good, pics. Here's a lousy one of me in front of the sign that says "Lago Agrio."

We passed by some gorgeous scenery on the way down here.

Another lousy picture of the place we're renting to do the meetings.

With the Cevallos family, a family of recent converts. My and my comp are about to dig into that bandeja paisa. It's a Colombian dish and it has: sausage, egg, rice, avacado, plantain, pork, arepa, ground beef, and beans. It was the best way to end a fast ever.

Rain and more rain.

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