Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When In Doubt...

Anyhow, Easter was pretty uneventful here, in Ecuador. The Easter Bunny doesn't exist here in Ecuador (though they should totally have an Easter Cuy Guinea Pig?), but there are events all week long as the Catholics (aka everyone) celebrate holy week. We didn't see much here because I think the biggest parades happen in the big cities like Quito, but we did see a procession or two. It looks like they reenact different parts of Christ's life. I saw a parade where they had a guy dressed up as Jesus carrying a cross and Roman soldiers and everything, and they even went over to football field and did a mock Crucifixion. I didn't take pics because there was no way they wouldn't see me. Oh and there are these guys who dress up like the KKK (or the KKK dress up like them?), but in purple, and it was kind of terrifying. I'm sure all of this stuff happens in the States too but for a culturally ignorant Elder like me it was all pretty new. It didn't really affect us at all, it just meant no one was home on Good Friday and we spent all day contacting...

I had a pretty silly moment this week. One morning I went to make some oatmeal which I hadn't made in a long time. I checked the milk, and it was within the expiration date, but just by a few days. I took a whiff. Nothing. So I went ahead and started to making the oatmeal. Well it started smelling really funny, which should've alerted me (actually the fact that the milk here comes in bags should've been the first thing to bug me), but I threw in a bunch of cinnamon and it kind of went away. A few times the phrase the nurse had taught us crossed my mind, "When in doubt, throw it out." But I hadn't made oatmeal in forever and was determined to see it through. So, I ate it.

That night I had stomach pain and shivering all night and lost at least an hour of sleep and generally felt miserable the next morning.

Thank heavens by the afternoon I was feeling mostly ok again, but at the very least I learned by experience what I should've learned by faith. When in doubt, throw it out!

We also had a great experience with Karina, who we're still working with...she's always so close to progressing really well, but never seems to get all the way there. This week we took a huge step forward. We were reading Mosiah 18 with her and got to verse 8 or 9 where Alma asks his people what stops them from being baptized. My companion asked her, "What holds you back?" And she said, after a moment, "I'll be honest, I'm worried what my family thinks." I was like, woah! Finally she tells us! I also felt the Spirit confirming the moment. It was great. Now that actually isn't too much of a problem for her. We hope to maybe baptize her this month.

Oh and Samantha's baptism was on Saturday! My comp. and I went early, at like 12 (the baptism was at 5) to fill the font, because it takes forever to fill. We left the water going and went to work. When we came back at about 4...we realized the water had for some reason stopped about halfway and wasn't being filled anymore. Turns out there wasn't any water in the entire chapel. So my comp. had to baptize her kneeling - but other than that it turned out great! Her mom had set up the program and made a little book for people to write in and everything, so it was really nice.

One last experience I loved: we were visiting a member whose son had served a few years ago and she was telling us about how hard it had been for him to come back. He didn't really know what to do with his life, wanted to go back to the mission (now he's fine though don't worry). She said that when they took off his plaque, he cried.

I took a moment and thought about what it'll be like when they take off mine. And I started to cry a bit, too as the Spirit testified of the joy of being a missionary.

I love being a missionary! It's kind of the best. I hope you all can get to feel a bit of what it's like to be a missionary as well this week.
 Tostado and chochos, typical mountain food.

Eating encebollados today .

A rainbow. It rains a lot then is sunny then rains then gets sunny.

Us and Samantha.

Samantha and family.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Hooray! Miguel and Marlene Pillajo were baptized on Saturday, and it was a good experience! They're doing well, they felt good, and we'll do everything we can so that they can keep progressing! I got to baptize Miguel and my companion baptized Marlene. It's been a good long while since I've baptized a "real" convert, and it was a great experience. I know everything's in the Lord's hands. And I was also super impressed and happy to see that the very next day Miguel was ready to pay tithing! That was super great. Of course, that's only half the battle, and we just need to keep working with the branch so that they can have callings, etc. and keep moving forward...until they get to the temple!

In other news, this week my companion go to go on an adventure. At one point the zone leaders take us aside and say, "Hey, you need to be here tomorrow in the chapel at 8:30. Elder Vargas is going to Colombia with Elder Mendoza." It was the strangest thing I'd ever heard so I thought they were joking, but...turns out they weren't. Elder Mendoza, our zone leader, has had visa problems and had to leave the country because he wasn't technically allowed to be there. The plan was to take him across the border (which is only about 3 hours from Ibarra), where they'd get all the paperwork settled to get him back in. Since he would have to be absent right during the days where the zone leaders have to meet with the rest of the missionaries and train them, he had to go with Elder Vargas so that the other zone leader, Elder Stephens, could stay here and do all the meetings. So yeah, I had to accompany Elder Stephens for about 2 days while Elder Vargas and Elder Mendoza ran around with some members who work in the offices to get all that figured out. It was really weird, especially because Elder Stephens and I were stretched between our two sectors, which are at either end of Ibarra. But it was good.

We had a cool experience where our appointments fell through and we started contacting. Before one door, Elder Stephens said to me, jokingly, "We're going to find a family of 5 here, all above the age of baptism, that wants to give us food." We knocked. A young lady came out and we started to talk to her, and eventually we got in the house (her dad was home, too). Her mom came in to the room to listen, then her brother, then her sister...then her little brother. 5. All within the age of baptism.

Well, they didn't give us food, but oh well, next time. :)

We had a training by President about the Apostasy and the Restoration. It was a good moment to remember our testimonies of the First Vision. I know Joseph Smith really was called of God to be a prophet! I know he saw the Father and the Son, and I'm very grateful for that. If you have doubts or don't know...just pray and ask God! He'll help you know what's right or wrong.

And this week, we have another baptism planned - Samanta, the daughter of a less-active, Ana, that we rescued this week! Her mom plans on being very active in the church, so I don't feel bad at all baptizing her daughter. I know they'll keep moving forward.

Well that was this week! My head is kind of blank right now, but I know the church is true, that's sure enough! Oh and a huge thanks to the Karatassoses for the super awesome package. I hadn't had dark chocolate in almost two years. Thank you so much. :)

The baptism!


"Fanesca," the typical Easter dish here. Way good, but super filling. It's a soup made of every grain imaginable. Then they put all the stuff you see in the picture on it, plus dried fish. Super tasty, but I couldn't even finish this bowl.

Some pretty scenery in our sector.

 We tried out "helados de paila" this week. Normally the waffle cones here are paper trash, but this was the real deal.

 This is how they make the ice cream. The pan is resting on ice, and I guess they toss the ice cream ingredients in there and spin it around to make ice cream!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Managing Miracles

We've been having just so stinking many miracles that my companion and I don't really know how to organize our planners to make room for all of them. Let's start with the Pillajos.

Miguel and Marlene are progressing well towards their baptism...this Saturday!! It's been a good long while since I've actually been at the baptism of an investigator I taught, so I'm excited for the experience. They've passed their interview and everything and are super ready. At the beginning of the week, Marlene wasn't as sure as Miguel about the whole thing, but in companionship study we decided to read Matthew 3 along with 2 Nephi 31. We did so with them, and without even extending a baptismal invitation, Marlene committed to baptism more firmly all on her own! One miracle right there. The scriptures are powerful. Also, Miguel one day started asking us about the Priesthood because of what he'd read in the Gospel Principles manual (on his own, he's way ahead of where the class is) and what we were teaching about missionary work. He was asking about how he could get the Priesthood so that he could go out and preach as well. Awesome! He already wants to give us references. And they had their baptismal interview last Saturday and everything turned out well. We're super happy and excited to help them take that next step.

Another miracle. We've been teaching Ana Andino, a member who went to live in the Orient for several years and recently came back here to Ibarra. While she was out there, she couldn't go to church, because the church simple doesn't exist in the town where she was living. However, while she was out there, she really realized that there was a hole in her life without the Gospel, and so when she came back here she kept going to church (we didn't even know she was technically "less-active" until someone told us). Now, her daughter is also old enough to be baptized. We weren't sure if she could be baptized because of some strange thing here where the Catholic church supposedly requires people to be baptized and everything there to be able to study in the Catholic schools, but we've been praying for that to not be the case, and lo and behold, we learned this week it isn't actually necessary to do all that. So, she's going to get baptized the 26th!

This past Saturday the other elders and sisters in the branch both had baptisms, and the sisters had another miracle waiting for us. Earlier that day or that week they'd found a guy while looking for a different investigator who was interested in listening to the missionaries but lived in our sector. So, they invited him to the baptism, and he came! We went home with him afterwards because he lived practically just across the street...and gave him a baptismal date as well for the 9th! His name is Ramiro.

This isn't mentioning the mountain of other investigators we found this week, many with potential.

We had a funny experience fasting for some other miracles this week. During the fast, we had an appointment with the Pillajos and they offered us some corn bread (it wasn't exactly corn bread, it was ground up corn mixed with cheese and milk and stuff and baked in the oven so I guess it should be called corn bread), which of course we had to refuse, so they just left us with a big bag of it that just wouldn't stop smelling delicious all day afterwards. Then we ran into one of the sisters' investigators selling empanadas in the street, and she gave us some to try, which we just kind of held there not knowing what to do with them, thanked her, and walked towards the next appointment, supposedly to eat them along the way. We got to the next appointment, with Carina in her store, and gave them to her and her husband...and so she gave us donuts in return. Ugh. And then the next morning our district leader paid us a visit during the studies...and gave us oreos. It was pretty frustrating, but pretty rewarding when we got to eat all that as we ended our fast haha.

And like I said, the other companionships had baptisms last Saturday, and the sisters' investigator chose my companion to baptism him, which was great.

One small spiritual thought: I like studying Moroni 7:45 and all the things charity does. I had an experience this week where part of the scripture came to my mind and helped me understand it more.

 45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

I realized this week that one thing charity does is "believe all things." I realized that this can be like giving people the benefit of the doubt. We need to believe that people really are good and trying their best!

Anyhow hope you all are doing well. Get involved in missionary work! It's seriously the best.
 My companion, Carlos, the guy that got baptized, and Miguel Pillajo.

Eating a typical dish here called "fritada." It's made with potatoes, pig meat, and other stuff.

How they make it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Miracle Of March

So we have a thing going on as a mission where we're working hard to see tons of miracles this month. Everyone is sacrificing something personal and we're not having any activities on p-day. I'm pretty confident we'll see plenty of miracles. We've already seen many.

The Pillajos, Miguel and Marlene, are progressing to be baptized next weekend, the 19th! Miguel is super ready - he was going to be late to church yesterday and ended up grabbing a super-expensive taxi (paid something like $7) from Atuntaqui, where he lives, to get to the chapel in Ibarra on time, instead of taking the normal bus. So yeah, I think he's ready. Even asked if we could do the baptism this weekend, but he still needs to come to church one more time all three hours and we need to teach a few more lessons. Marlene still needs a testimony, so we're working with that, but I'm confident we'll also see miracles on that front.

Another miracle we saw this week was when we went to teach Carina, a lady we've been teaching for a month or two now. Her husband has often been nearby during the lessons (we teach her in her store), but has refused to participate. But last Saturday when we went to teach Carina, her husband was also in the store, and before starting she quickly whispered to us "Ask my husband if he wants to listen." So, I did. And without a word, he got up, crossed over to where we were, and sat down! Definitely a miracle right there.

Also, another small miracle, an investigator that the sisters are teaching invited some friends to listen and they even came to church yesterday, and guess what - they're from our sector! So now we've got a new family to teach, as well.

I read in a conference talk this week that the Spirit can work through us most powerfully if we have love. If we just have love for others, the Spirit will be able to be present in a lesson. I really liked that insight and I hope to be able to keep developing that kind of love for others.

This mission thing goes by way fast, but I love it! Sorry I don't have much to say this week, but I have some cool pictures, at the very least.

Oh one last thing:  This article is on the website. https://www.lds.org/church/news/elder-holland-reports-south-american-prophecy-continues-to-be-realized?cid=HP_FR_3-4-2016_dCN_fCNWS_xLIDyC-1_&lang=eng Right to the right of Elder Holland is a guy with glasses - the one further in the background. He was my bishop in La Bota and now he's a stake president in Quito. Crazy, right?
Way sweet pic of me shaking Elder Holland's hand.

 A delicious plantain empanada.

 The sector.

With the Pillajos! (The two on the right.)