Monday, January 25, 2016

Well today there were transfers but my companion and I are staying together. I'm pretty happy about that. We get along well and as we learn the sector together we'll be able to work harder and more efficiently. It's just a bit frustrating, because we've been stretched out a good bit with our work load. We now have people to visit at practically all extremes of the sector - from one town called Urcuqui all the way to Atuntaqui and everything inbetween, with names like Natabuela, Chaltura, ChorlavĂ­,'s a big mess. From one end to the sector to the other just by bus it's got to be something like 1.5 hours. Anyhow. Enough complaining.

This week we had a ton of trainings and meetings. There was a broadcast from Utah, we were with President, and we also had all the normal meetings with the zone and district. The focus in all of this has been commitments - an important part of what we do as missionaries. We learned a lot about how to help people commit to doing things like read the Book of Mormon, why that's important,'s been a lot of help, and a lot of information.

More than anything, through all of this I've learned a lot about faith. Before the mission "faith" never really interested me much, it seemed like a rather pedestrian attribute. Everyone (at least in Latin America) says they have faith so how special can it really be?

But I've come to realize, especially in these past few weeks, that faith is very powerful, and is at the center of many of the other attributes we have to develop. It's not just something floating around in space but a really useful principle.

Joseph Smith explained that a prerequisite to having faith is have a correct knowledge of God's character, which is absolutely true! I think it's pretty tough to have faith in a mystical energy or unknown being floating out there. The Bible Dictionary explains that our faith is centered in Christ - as he was perfect, we can have faith in him. If he hadn't been perfect or weren't god, it would be impossible.

I was thinking about that a bit yesterday during the sacrament. More than anything, I was thinking about what we'd learned in Priesthood a few weeks ago, what I also shared in my e-mail. I love thinking about that scene in the New Testament, when Jesus calms the storm.

I really testify he gives us peace! If we center our faith in him, we can be assured everything will turn out well.

That spiritual confirmation I received was pretty timely, because our investigator with a date, Cristian, didn't come to church so...that means his date fell through, and with it any hopes we had of hitting our goals for the month. BUT we could find him later that day and he's doing fine, he was just a little discouraged because of a few things that had happened over the weekend. He's going strong, however, and I know we can get him to a new date, which we put for the 6th.

I know miracles happen in our lives! It'll be disappointing to be at home because I feel like they're harder to see out there than here, in the front lines of the work, but I know they happen! For instance, this week a less-active family showed up out of nowhere at church, and we're going to get to work immediately!

Hope you all have a good week!
A typical lunch. I've come to love fried fish like this.

With President this week.

The other Elders had a baptism!

Monday, January 18, 2016


FINALLY did it. It cost $8 for just half, but it was totally worth it. I know the Lord directs this work because he put me in the very sector that includes the most famous guinea-pig spots here in the mission.

The skin was pretty chewy and there wasn't actually a ton of meat, but it was tasty. The meat itself was kind of stringy. I ended up eating the brain, too, which was really soft and tasted like a boiled egg.

But really at the same time none of that matters. What matters is that I got the pic.

In other food adventure news the other day my companion and I were walking to an appointment and my companion saw a cactus where the fruits were nice and big and red. I didn't even know the things were edible, so of course I was excited to try it out. We finally knocked a fruit down throwing rocks at the cactus and tried it. Buut my companion had somehow forgotten you have to thoroughly clean it first, so we had tiny thorns in our lips and hands for the rest of the day. It was kind of obnoxious but hey another thing to add onto my exotic foods tried list.

On the spiritual side this week we had a visit from Elder Godoy, from the area presidency, who toured the mission over two days. It was pretty great - we had a meeting with him on Friday in Otavalo. The two zones of Otavalo and the Ibarra zone got together. He's a really cool guy - he's actually from Brasil, but speaks Spanish and English in addition to Portuguese. It was funny, I think he actually felt more comfortable with his English than his Spanish because he'd sometimes slip into English while talking to us. He was very funny and personable. We had a question and answer session and he problem solved for the mission.

In essence, what he told us was that everything is in place for it to be an excellent mission. We're obedient and diligent. What we still faith. He explained that the conditions are perfect. We're working in practically the promised land of missionary work, the land of the children of Lehi. What most impressed me was that he said he believed we can baptize weekly here. I think most missionaries are happy here if they baptize every month. But he thinks we can baptize weekly. And it has to do with our faith!

I left pretty excited, honestly. It really inspired me. And I have to say, I have seen a lot miracles just these past few weeks.

One of those is Cristian. I mentioned last week that we had an investigator come out of nowhere and come to church. That's him. His wife who lives in Quito was baptized only a few months ago and invited him to come to church. Now we're working with him, as well, and he's progressing well towards a date for the 30th of this month. It's awesome - every time he meets with us he mentions how much he's changing and how good he feels in his life. It's really special. I know the gospel changes lives! And it's pretty much the only thing that really can.

And speaking of other miracles, I found the missionaries who are in my previous sector when we met with Elder Godoy, and they let me know that the Sánchez family, a family we'd found before Christmas, also got baptized.

It's great being a missionary!
Eating the cuy.

Guinea Pig.

Part of the sector.


Monday, January 11, 2016

I Killed a Pig This Week

So this week was pretty interesting. As you will recall from last week's episode, they took my companion out after being only three weeks with him and put me with Elder Vargas. So I had three weeks to learn a super gigantic sector and now I'm expected to lead it. It actually hasn't been too bad - if only for all the mistakes we made in my first few weeks here, especially missing buses and whatnot, I managed to learn the sector more or less quickly. There are still really big holes, but we haven't fared poorly, and the week went pretty well. The good thing is that Elder Vargas already knows what he's doing, he's got a good bit of experience already, and we already knew each other from being in the same district for two changes in Lago Agrio, so at least on that side the transition was pretty fast. But it hasn't helped that we're not teaching hardly anyone here in this sector and our efforts to find are still on-going. We've found one or two people though that seem like they could progress.

And one of my more favorite experiences this week was that of the pig slaughter. There's a less-active couple here we've been teaching and the wife has a kidney problem (there's a specific name for this but I don't know it in English) and has to have a dialysis every day - and it's not exactly cheap. So, they decided to do an activity to raise a bit of money - make fritada, a typical dish here. It's pork, mote (a kind of corn), potatoes, and a bit of salad (what they call salad at least, which is just tomatoes and onions in lime juice). And they were going to kill a pig of course to make it. When we found out we offered our help immediately.

So we helped kill a pig, gut it, and chop it up. I will spare you the details and the pictures for now because there are small children who might see that, but I'll be more than happy to show them to you when I get home.

On the spiritual side, there's a quote that's been bouncing around in my head a lot this week because of the way the sector's been behaving. I don't remember who said it the first time, but I saw it because Elder Holland cited it in a talk called "For Times of Trouble."

"Trouble has not necessary connection with discouragement - discouragement has a germ of its own."

I like that a lot because it's helped me separate getting down on my self and the sector from the fact that yes there are problems. But that doesn't have to affect my mood! I can keep moving forward perfectly fine in faith and hope - two qualities I've learned a ton about these past few months. I really liked something we read yesterday in church during the 3rd hour from the President Hunter manual:

All of us have seen some sudden storms in our lives. A few of them … can be violent and frightening and potentially destructive. As individuals, as families, as communities, as nations, even as a church, we have had sudden squalls arise which have made us ask one wayor another, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”[Mark 4:38.] And one way or another we always hear in the stillness after the storm, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” [Mark 4:40.]

None of us would like to think we have no faith, but I suppose the Lord’s gentle rebuke here is largely deserved.

We will all have some adversity in our lives. I think we can be reasonably sure of that. Some of it will have the potential to be violent and damaging and destructive. Some of it may even strain our faith in a loving God who has the power to administer relief in our behalf.

To those anxieties I think the Father of us all would say,“Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”And of course that has to be faith for the whole journey, the entire experience, the fulness of our life, not simply around the bits and pieces and tempestuous moments. …

Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John16:33.)

As I read this and listened also to some of the talks in sacrament meeting I realized how true it is! The matter of fact is that if we follow Christ the sun will always come up again. I'm not sure how to communicate this little pearl I've found, but the point is I know things will always get better. That knowledge is now a bit more than an ethereal concept, but something that motivates me to keep moving forward.

For instance, this week we had another small miracle. We got to church a bit early because we had a meeting to go to and we found someone outside we didn't know. Turns out he was an investigator who has a friend in Quito that invited him to attend church. And what do you know, he's from our sector!

The Lord will bless us, if we show him we deserve it! Love you lots everyone!

Pig stage one.

Stage Two

Stage three (my personal favorite).

A pic of me. I hate the way they cut my hair this week, by the way.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Wall of Faith

My new year's resolution is to finish my mission by the end of the year.

Haha just kidding. I mean, that'll happen, but let's not think about that. Please.

This week we had lots of experiences regarding the Book of Mormon and how it's the keystone of our religion! Had you heard that before? President Benson will explain it for us:

A keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles.

… Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.

There it is. So, we had one investigator this week who didn't believe any of what we said. This investigator just turns everything back on us asking for evidence in the Bible. "If you show me where it says that in the Bible I'll believe you!" If I had a nickel for every time someone said that...

We focused on the Book of Mormon. Because what else can we do? Everything just comes down to whether that book is true or not. At the end the investigator said they wouldn't read it, which was pretty disheartening, but we gave it our best shot. If someone isn't willing to read the Book of Mormon or pray about it, there ends their search. I'd like to point out that if you don't actually act on that invitation you can't call yourself and honest seeker of the truth. You HAVE to recognize that in the end, it's a question only God can answer, not Wikipedia, not your neighbor, not even the Book of Mormon or the missionaries. You have to ask. Which reminds me of another Benson quote I like:

Therefore, the only problem the objector has to resolve for himself is whether the Book of Mormon is true. For if the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was his prophet, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it is being led today by a prophet receiving revelation.

Our main task is to declare the gospel and do it effectively. We are not obligated to answer every objection. Every man eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there he must make his stand.

It's true! I know the Book of Mormon is true. I wish I could help you feel what I've felt when I've prayed and read. But I simply can't, that's not the way things work. But if you do it, with true intent, I know you'll get an answer. Just do it.

Also, I think every missionary has had the experience of a less active or investigator showing up out of nowhere and being a total miracle. I swear I've seen that happen so many times I'm not even surprised anymore.

My companion and I have been working hard, but we haven't been able to find many people to teach, nor had many people coming to church, and have been desperately looking for a way to reach the goals we've set this month.

We've been diligent, we've been obedient, so I was not at all surprised when a less active we didn't even know showed up out of nowhere this Sunday and stayed all three hours. And we'll start visiting him, soon!

Maybe that's the most valuable thing I learned from my previous sector. I had many, many hard weeks where nothing, absolutely nothing happened. But at the end, we were blessed with a family that progressed like no other family has, and many less-actives who were ready to come back.

Miracles happen! Keep working in faith. Faith leads to hope, and you can hope and know that good things will come. Have a good 2016, then!

AH and I forgot to mention I have a new companion! Yes, I was with Elder Flores for only 3 weeks. My new companion is Elder Vargas. I'll try to have pics for next week. The computers here had given my card a virus...

One thing they do here on new year's is the following: men dress up like women, throw a rope across the street and don't let cars pass until they pay them. So, our neighbors definitely did it. Yes, those are males.
And asking for money.