Monday, November 30, 2015

Stress Test

Well, this week started out with me being stressed! Sometimes I'm not even sure how it happens, but it does. It's pretty frustrating, sometimes.

Part of that was because on Wednesday when we went out to run in the morning my knee hurt a bit, but I ignored it and kept going. Bad idea, because for the next two days it hurt a good bit more, and I was limping all over the place. The nurse told me to buy a brace, and it feels a lot better now, but we might have to go to Quito this week to check it out.

We actually had a pretty cool experience - on Friday, we went back to the house after buying the brace to put it on. I started praying (because I was going to fast that day) and remembered to pray for my knee. That morning I'd called the nurse and she'd proposed going to Quito for a medical appointment but I wanted to wait (who wants to lose a day in Quito). But as I prayed I suddenly felt, very, very, quietly, that we should go to Quito. I wasn't sure if it was an impression, so I called my companion over and we prayed about it together. We sat there for a second then both decided, yeah, we needed to do it. Well, it turned out the nurse couldn't get an appointment that day, so I'm not sure why we received that impression but we undeniably received it. Maybe just to make me think about it a bit more seriously?

Something else that might have stressed me out was setting goals for the month and presenting them to the zone, something we do at the end of every month. It stresses me out because we set the goals, but then I stress because I don't know if we'll achieve them, whether we received the goals through revelation, etc...we set the goals of 4 confirmations and 4 rescues (work with less-actives) and I was fretting all this week about how to get those 4 confirmations for December - because if we want people to get baptized, we need to start working NOW so they can come to church at the least three times.

That and people just seem to have been slamming the doors on us war more lately. We've been pretty good about being persistent, but it hasn't meant much. Once a lady opened the door and immediately began to say "no thanks" and close it again but I quickly got a verbal foot in the door: "Wait, but do you even know who we are?" And she said "no" as she closed it all the way. It was pretty frustrating. I even started to say "but then what are you closing the door for-" and she closed it. I just don't get it sometimes!

BUT. We could have a ton of blessings at the end of the week. First, our less-active Victor is all set up to be rescued next week. He's got everything ready and his interview with the Bishop planned. So that's great. Also, Elizabeth, the less-active I mentioned last week, came to church again! She left after the first hour and we don't know why, but it's awesome because she's doing great. Also, for the very first time I think in all of my time here an investigator came and stayed all three hours! There's a part-member family we're teaching and the husband, who's not a member, came for the first time this week. It's funny, because their fellowshippers did a better job of keeping him their all three hours than his own wife who's a member, but we'll keep working there!

And finally, we have an awesome family we're teaching, the Sanchez family. We found them contacting, which alone is a miracle, and not only that but they are super receptive! It's the mom and her two sons, age 23 and 15. It turns out the mom is a less-active member who got baptized by the missionaries when she was really little so she doesn't remember anything, but she really wants this for her kids. We had our second visit with them yesterday and read the Book of Mormon and everything! They kept saying, "we totally want you guys to keep visiting us!" and the best part was when I started to invite them to a date for the 26th, and before I could even officially ask "will you be prepared to be baptized-" the son who's 23 said "yeah! I want to be baptized." I was so happy. And I started explaining that they need to come to church, etc. and the sons looked at each other and said "yeah, let's go!"

They're just so stinking ready!

This all has to do with the scripture I found while reading D&C 123 this week, which is now one of my favorite scriptures. 

17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

If we're doing what we should be...we just have to wait! That's probably the hardest part for me, but I can at least be sure the blessings will come. :) Love you all!
They have these mini-mangoes here you suck on that are really tasty.

Our zone had a paint fight today. Pretty fun.

Celebrated Thanksgiving by finding some pineapple pie.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fan Mail

The Cranberry Ward activity girls really outdid themselves with the Christmas care package this year. It may have come a bit prematurely but I AM leaving the wrapped-up package until Christmas. The cookies, on the other hand, didn't last three days. Thank you so much! I thought I'd take some time to answer the questions, too (original spelling preserved).

Eva Morgan

Why did you want to be a missionary and how old were you?

When I was a teenager I learned a lot more about the Atonement, and as I did so I felt the need to share it with others. I love this passage from 2 Nephi 2:

 6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.

 7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

 8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth...

Were you ever a missionary trainor?

Not yet! Not sure I want the experience. It'd be pretty stressful.

What's your favorite thing about being missionary?

I love feeling the Spirit work through me and blessing others. It's an awesome experience.

What is your favorite food their

Encebollado, a fish soup with onion and a bunch of other stuff. I also have really come to like beans out here. You don't really understand the purpose of beans without rice.

What was your hardest word to learn in spanish? (I'm learning Spanish this year!)

"Ferrocarril" is pretty nasty because I have a hard time rolling my r's. Likewise with "tierra." Also, "nuestro." It's not that it's a hard word to pronounce, I just don't pronounce the r very well and I end up pronouncing it like the people from the Andes here, which is just the worst accent ever.

Kate Glover

Is it hard to wake up in the morning?

Eh, you get used to it. I'd already been getting up early before the mission so it wasn't a huge adjustment for me.

Do you like getting mail?

Yes, please.

Do you like it on your mission.

Yes! It gets easier as you go along. Now that I'm more at a point where I know what I'm doing it's easier and more fun.

Olivia West

Did you like it on you mission?

WHOA there hold up I'm not done yet and don't any of you start thinking I'm even close. But, I'm confident I'll be able to say "yes" at the end. It's the best experience. :)

Where you sad when you left?

When I left home? Yeah, I guess so, but I know it was necessary and important.

Did you met new people?

Every day! Recently they told us if we're not contacting every day we can't keep the missionary spirit with us. It's a lot of fun getting to know other people and cultures. You learn a ton!

Renee Lutz

Is it ever troubling trying to do your mission? Why?

You bet. It's not easy. What's hardest for me is seeing the giant gap between where I am and where I WANT to be. But I promise you'll never grow so much as you do in the mission!

Do you think it is fun? Why?

Once I knew what I was doing it starts to be more fun. But the fun of being a missionary is as President Faust once said...

When President N. Eldon Tanner presided over the West European Mission some years ago, his slogan was “Have a good time.” One day he said to a group of missionaries in Germany, “I would like you all to have a good time.” After the meeting, one of the missionaries came up to him and said: “President Tanner, I don’t think that it is quite fair for you to tell the missionaries to have a good time. You know, the only way they can have a good time is to do their work.” President Tanner said, “Well, go have a good time.”

What was your favorite part? Why?

Up til now? There have been several specific experiences where I've learned about myself and what I need to improve. They've been hard (and not my favorite in the moment) but I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.

Well, apart from that we had a miracle this week! Two weeks ago we started to contact. We said a prayer, and in the first door we found a less-active member who'd moved here a few months ago and gladly accepted an appointment! We came back to teach her and she said it seemed like God really wanted her to keep going on the church, that that's why he must have sent us. And yesterday she came to church, even bringing her non-member husband! It was really awesome. She was just so ready to come back, without any prompting from us, a huge blessing. And she's stayed all three hours, too! I can imagine how hard that must be, going to church again after so long in a ward you don't even know. But she did it!

Apart from that, Victor, our progressing less-active, is almost rescued! We finished up the lessons, he just needs his interview and to come to church one more time. Another huge blessing.

I think I'm glad I had a rough time the week before, because I think that's helped me be way more grateful this week. 

Thanksgiving isn't a thing out here (which means people have already have their Christmas stuff up for weeks already) but I hope you guys have a good one out there!

HEY I was checking out the church history website and there was this article about a branch in our mission in the coast! It's super cool, check it out. Until now the missionaries haven't actually gotten to go out there.
We made pizza this week in the apartment!

I lost my umbrella but by the time I'd finally gotten it again I got wet. It's rainy season out here...

I just liked the name. "Pe" Peruvian slang for "pues."


Monday, November 16, 2015

Onion Patch

This week was quite the week! I came off the week before pretty darn content, and ready to work again. But it just didn't turn out that way. Last week was full of lessons and talking to people. But this week...was a bit harder. Well, a lot harder. Appointments fell through, goals weren't met, everything kind of just turned dark and dreary. I think every missionary has experienced that moment when you're so excited to go teach someone but they're not home or don't seem to want to receive you anymore...that happened more than once this week.

As a point of reference, we can use the standards of excellence here in the mission. For contacts, the standard of excellence in a week is 100 (some of you who have served in places that aren't South America are probably laughing at the puniness of that number but that's the way it is here). Very rarely do people ever get 100 contacts (or even more than 50, really) because they're busy teaching people. This week, we had 106 contacts. So many of our appointments fell through (and back-up plans, too) that we had to be contacting a ton. And it's not easy in this sector. It's not very big. We contacted it in its entirety last change and I think we've already contacted a fourth of it over again in these first two weeks. And it seems like only here in Ecuador are people rude enough to actually slam the door on us some times.

All of this made it hard for me to have faith. I began to doubt whether the people were really out there. I wondered what I was doing here, why it was so hard, why nobody listened. It's the first time I've really started to feel that in my mission.

But late last night while were contacting (because everything had fallen through again) I remembered something I read recently in a talk Pres. Eyring once gave, a story about his dad.

Let me encourage you by telling you a story. It was told to me by my father. He told it with the intent to chuckle at himself. It was a story about his trying to do his duty, just the way you try to do your duty.

Now you have to know a little bit about my father. His name was Henry Eyring, like mine. He had done some of the things students of this university are preparing to be able to do. His work in chemistry was substantial enough to bring the honors some of you will someday have, but he was still a member of a ward of the Church with his duty to do. To appreciate this story, you have to realize that it occurred when he was nearly eighty and had bone cancer. He had bone cancer so badly in his hips that he could hardly move. The pain was great.

Dad was the senior high councilor in his stake with the responsibility for the welfare farm. An assignment was given to weed a field of onions, so Dad assigned himself to go work on the farm.

Dad never told me how hard it was, but I have met several people who were with him that day. I talked to one of them on the phone the other night to check the story. The one I talked to said that he was weeding in the row next to Dad through much of the day. He told me the same thing that others who were there that day have told me. He said that the pain was so great that Dad was pulling himself along on his stomach with his elbows. He couldn’t kneel. The pain was too great for him to kneel. Everyone who has talked to me has remarked how Dad smiled, and laughed, and talked happily with them as they worked in that field of onions.

Now, this is the joke Dad told me on himself, afterward. He said he was there at the end of the day. After all the work was finished and the onions were all weeded, someone asked him, “Henry, good heavens! You didn’t pull those weeds, did you? Those weeds were sprayed two days ago, and they were going to die anyway.”

Dad just roared. He thought that was the funniest thing. He thought it was a great joke on himself. He had worked through the day in the wrong weeds. They had been sprayed and would have died anyway.

When Dad told me this story, I knew how tough it was. So I said to him, “Dad, how could you make a joke out of that? How could you take it so pleasantly?”

He said something to me that I will never forget, and I hope you won’t. He said, “Hal, I wasn’t there for the weeds.”

Now, you’ll be in an onion patch much of your life. So will I. It will be hard to see the powers of heaven magnifying us or our efforts. It may even be hard to see our work being of any value at all. And sometimes our work won’t go well.

But you didn’t come for the weeds. You came for the Savior. And if you pray, and if you choose to be clean, and if you choose to follow God’s servants, you will be able to work and wait long enough to bring down the powers of heaven.

Well, as I remembered that, I realized...I'm in my onion patch, here. But what  I'm doing is what the Lord wants me to be doing. In working I'm showing him I love him, and that's what truly matters. It's hard to describe how I felt, but I could feel so much calmer and at peace. The Spirit let me know everything was ok.

We kept contacting and a lady answered the door who just couldn't accept something apart from the Bible. I could testify to her that it speaks of Christ, and I know it's how I get my testimony of him. She may not have accepted us, but a contact that would have discouraged me in the past left me with peace. I knew I'd done my part and testified and felt the Spirit. I was there for the Savior, although the weeds were pretty tough.

In other news, our less-active Victor is soon to be rescued! He came to church this week without any prodding at all and stayed all three hours. He's even excited to help us in the mission work, which is great.

Also, we went back to teach Olga, and it was a good visit. She told us a bit about her economic problems and I felt we should talk about the Sabbath day. My testimony of the sabbath has really grown here on the mission. You know, people just need to keep the commandments and they'll have everything they need! Honestly. She didn't come to church the next day, but I do feel good about what we taught, I think she understood pretty well. First time I've ever taught that in the second visit.

Well that's it from the Andes. Hope everyone's doing well at home.
 I ate beatles the other day, dried out and salted. I think they're beetles, at least. They're called catzos here. Pretty darn tasty actually. With the toasted corn I ate like half that plate alone.

 So some fleas managed to get in my bed and bit me all over. It's obnoxious because then I have to be walking around and the bites scrape against my clothes or shoes and get really terrible. This one developed into a blister. WARNING GRAPHIC

We made cookies! Totally taking advantage of the fact we have an oven here.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Peguche Falls‏

Well things are going well with my new companion, Elder Separovic. He's from Rancagua, Chile (shout-out to Sister Squires!) and this is only his fourth change in the mission. He may be fairly new time-wise but he's been with a lot of experienced companions and knows what he's doing for the most part. It's been good to be with him so far and we've been in sync more than a lot of companionships have been. What I like is his focus on working towards goals.

That formed a lot of the experience we had this week. We have the goal of 3 baptisms and 4 rescues (work with less-actives) this month, but the problem is that we started without anyone with a baptismal date. And we didn't have many investigators, either. Since an investigator has to come to church 3 times at least before baptism and since no one had come to church yet we had to really work hard to find people to come to church and have a date, since there are only three weeks for us to work with in November. It was great working towards those goals. Even though we didn't get anyone to come to church (and thus won't hit our goals for baptisms this month) I feel like we did really good work focusing on the people and helping them out.

We did have some great experiences this week. One was when we contacted some people some members had brought to the Viaje a Mexico activity. Well it turns out we could only have two lessons with them because they moved to Loreto, a small town way out in the jungle, but I can't help but feel that some day they'll help the growth of the church out there. Loreto is closest to the city Coca, which is part of our mission, where there's a small branch since about 4 years ago, but Loreto is like 2 hours away from Coca and the missionaries rarely go there. And they don't even live in Loreto - they live like 45 minutes further into the jungle. So it's not likely the missionaries will ever find them, but I feel like years from now when the chuch moves there as well they'll be ready. We gave them a Book of Mormon and other materials so they'll hopefully have a couple years of study before the missionaries get there haha.

We also had an awesome experience finding another new investigator, Olga Flores. A few weeks ago we were walking around pretty bummed with my companion because all the appointments had fallen through. We walked up a hill and a person we don't know says hi to us outside her house. Turns out she's a member from one of the Quichua-speaking wards here (that happens to us a lot) and hey, since the focus of the zone is on references, we ask her if she knows someone we could teach. She tells us maybe her neighbor. So yeah we ask her introduce her neighbor to us and we so we meet Olga. We finally got in contact with her again last week and had a great lesson. The best part was when my companion was explaining about the Book of Mormon he was saying "and if we know the Book of Mormon is true, we'll know Joseph Smith was a prophet, and also that the church" "Is true!" she finished, cutting in. I was so happy.

Apart from that our less-active Victor Piedra is doing well and progressing towards a rescue this month. We can go over the lessons quickly with him because he already knows everything and since he was the ward mission leader a good while ago he's also excited to even come with us to appointments. It's great to see him excited about the work.

I guess apart from that I'd just like to share something our bishop said the other day in ward council that I really liked he said, "When they relieve me I don't want them to say, "thanks bishop, we've now got three new wards." No, I want them to thank me because we were actually able to save people."

That's what counts, isn't it? Quality, not quantity. In the sector I've really been understanding what Elder Holland said when he said "salvation is not a cheap experience." It isn't, and that's why it's not easy to help people. But things will keep moving forward! Hope you all have a great week!

A picture of me. I don't take those very often so enjoy it while you can.

A pic from the parade a few weeks ago we saw. It's cool - parades here often include all sorts of dancing.

Peguche Falls! One of the touristy attractions here. I was just really happy to be out in nature. It was really surreal putting on normal clothing for the first time in a while.

While visiting Peguche falls today we also found an ancient Rameuptom. #onlyfunnyinthemish

 A tree. I'm sure it's important because it had a sign hanging on it but why I'm not clear.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Viaje a Mexico

This week was pretty good compared to last week. We had a good bit of success finding a bunch of new people. Some were references, some were from contacts. I learned a bit about being persistent, too. We went to find a contact I'd had like three or four weeks ago with the district leader and when we knocked, the husband came out and we got to know him. We talked and talked, he said he was going to another church every once in a while, etc...the usual, you know. Not like wow, come on in, but thing was he stayed there in the door and let us keep talking to him. Many times I would have simply said yeah, we'll see if we can come back some other day (because they were also getting ready for their restaurant family business) but this time I just kept at it and hey, he let us in! I think people give us doors (with or without knowing it) out of a contact lots of times. It would've been easy to say, hey, we'll let you get to cooking, or something, but this time persistence won and we got to know him and his family! We'll see what happens there, but I'm just glad I kept at it.

This week was also the week of the craziest ward activity I've ever participated in - Viaje a Mexico. The idea was to simulate a trip to Mexico and give people "money" to spend in the games we were going to set up (all Mexico-themed). Then at the end when they were "flying back" to Otavalo the plane would crash, every would "die" and depending on how they spent their money in the "world" (Mexico) they'd be judged and separated into different kingdoms of glory. But everything just went bad from the start. It was supposed to start at 6 but at 6  almost no one was there, not even the people who were supposed to set it up. Complications ensued, people forgot things at home, technology didn't work, and we started, finally at about 8, joined by a bunch of people from the other ward who also had an activity but nobody had told them. Anyhow, it all turned out good at the end, if a little crazy. The point was to get us references for the missionaries but we had to leave running to the appointment because we ended at like 9:25. But it was fun! And I got pictures.

This week was also stake conference here. The "keynote" speaker was an area 70 from Quito, Elder Calderon. It was pretty funny in the adult session because all the other speakers spoke quickly and left him about an hour and a half - and he managed to speak through all of it, and would have kept on going I'm sure if he wanted. It was really interesting to see how excited he was to just talk about the gospel, and more than anything, just about being obedient. He cited some interesting scriptures from John 5:33-36

33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.
 34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.
 35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.
 36 ¶But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

In essence, Christ's testimony was the work he did, his actions. That's the way it is with all of us. We are only what we do. And so Elder Calderon basically dedicated his hour and a half to talking about simply being obedient, not just saying pretty testimonies. He talked about Alma 31, where the Zoramites get up on their Rameuptoms and compared it to testimony meeting. (It was even more interesting because in Spanish it uses the word "pulpit" to describe Rameumptom.) It's a pretty common problem among the members of the church! Why do they have to often talk to us about the same principles over and over again? Because we just don't apply them. It's really true that the purpose of general authorities is to warn people of the consequences of sin - and Elder Calderon had a good time doing so. I guess that's what I should be doing as a missionary, too.

Ah, something else he said that caught my attention - he explained that the Quorum of the 12 have been praying and analyzing the scriptures for months to figure out what it is that the church needs right now  - and the answer is the Sabbath Day. That's why there's so much emphasis. How grateful we should be for living prophets and apostles. It was a good stake conference, and it was really cool seeing the hundreds of natives that came. The stakes here are pure Lamanites, let me tell you. There are few latins, mostly the natives. It was cool, because they dress up in their ponchos and traditional dress, so it was cool seeing the stake presidency up there in their ponchos with their long, braided hair. Some of the talks even drifted into the native language at times. It's a pretty special place here.

And the last bit of news is that I saw my "dad" in the mission "die." It's really crazy to think I'll be in the same position in less than a year. I could see it was really hard for him. He just didn't want to go. I hope I can get to that point as well of loving the mission.

Shoot I had a ton of pics for this week but this computer won't let me put my chip week!

No wait here they are!
        Ward members with costumes.

 Me and my trainer his last day.

             We found a freaking scorpion the other day. I didn't even know they existed here.