Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Day

December 29, 2014

We received a brief e-mail from Hermana Bartholomew today, explaining that her preparation day this week has been moved to Thursday (New Year’s Day).  I guess ringing in the New Year in Ecuador is quite the elaborate celebration, and there won’t be a lot of missionary work going on that day! 

We did have the chance to talk to Jessica via Skype (with video) on Christmas day.  As all missionary families know, it was a much anticipated (the BEST) Christmas gift for our family after 7 ½ months since we last spoke to her in person on Mother’s day.   She is doing amazing.  Her upbeat, positive attitude was inspiring and contagious. 

As part of our conversation, we asked her to speak to us in Spanish.  What followed was a very heartfelt, tearful few minutes of sharing feelings about her missionary experience, and thoughts about the gospel of Jesus Christ, all expressed in her new-found native language.  If you close your eyes and just listen to her speak, she could even pass for a native Ecuadorian.  

We recorded her speaking to us,  Even if you don’t speak or understand Spanish, I think you will enjoy listening to her and feeling of her spirit.  Enjoy!

Click on the link below:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Baby Vilchez

December 22, 2014

Hola Family!

May I have a drum roll please.....introducing my new companion, BABY VILCHEZ!!!!!  She comes all the way from PERU (which in reality isn’t that far from here).  I absolutely ADORE mi hijita linda [my beautiful little daughter]!!!!!  She has taught me SO much within these past 5 days, she is incredible.

With my new hijita Hermana Vilchez

So let me tell you the quick story of how I met mi hijita...after Hermana Perez left on Tuesday, I was in a trio with Hermana Alcazar and Hermana Velasquez until Wednesday morning.  On Wednesday, we needed to be at the temple in Guayaquil at 5:45 am to attend a session there at 6 am.  (This was just for the new missionaries and the trainers.) 

Well, thinking like the smart missionaries that we are, the night before we called a taxi (Raul – the driver who loves the Titanic song? Yeah, him.) and asked him to come by our house at 5 so we could be there on time.  And of course, we set 4 different alarms so we would get up on time.  So 5:10 rolled around and Raul was at the door.  We still don’t understand why, but he never knocked on the door or rang the doorbell he just sat in the car until 5:25 and then left.  At that same exact time, we all sprung up and yelled WHAT TIME IS IT?!  NOOO!!!  We have exactly 15 min to shower, get dressed, and look cute for the first picture with the baby!!!  AHH no. 

Our Heavenly Father blessed us with time and a member Alan (we woke him up with the billion calls we made to his phone) and he took us to the temple and we got there at about 6:25 am.  But luckily President Riggins was still there waiting for us.  Let’s just say we will never get up late again!!!!  I walked into the temple waiting room and looked at the room full of new missionaries with their faces beaming with both excitement and the nervous looks of apprehension that would surely last throughout all the day.  Can I just say that I love the temple and I am so grateful for the peace and guidance I received that day! 

After the temple session we all went to the President’s house and on the drive there, I had three sweet new American missionaries in the taxi with me.  We all got to share our testimony with the taxi driver, and it reminded me of what it was like when I had just arrived in Ecuador and didn’t understand anything that people were saying! Good times! 

At President’s house we sat and talked, and talked, and talked about all the rules....then it was time to be introduced to which of the new missionaries my new companion was.  BABY VILCHEZ!!!!!!!! 

The trainers with our new companions
We both could not stop smiling and hugging.  She is the absolute greatest. 
Oh I hope she will come to love me as much as I love my mamí Hermana Toledo and as much as I already do love her.  

One day this week, we were studying together and I noticed that something was bothering her, so I asked her if everything was ok.  She began to cry and of course just needed a mommy hug.  She then explained to me that her mother tragically passed away 5 years ago, and that now her father is very sick and she was worried that something would happen with her dad.  I was at a loss for words.  With tears in both of our eyes, we both went up to our bedroom and knelt down by our beds and she asked me to offer the prayer.  The power of PRAYER is real.  We both felt comforted and our testimonies edified that truly our Heavenly Father knows each and every one of us and that familias are eternal.  We ended the prayer with puffy eyes and tear stained faces, and she told me, “I don’t have my mom right now, but I am SO grateful that you are my mamí for now.”  AWWWW!!!  I can’t wait for you all to meet her!  

So last week I told you about our fundraiser for Familia Leon’s marriage license.  The good news is that we raised enough money!  The bad news is that they couldn’t be baptized because they weren’t able to get married.  Long story short, they are waiting for a few more legal papers to be processed.  We are hoping and praying that they can get married this week, and have rescheduled their baptism for this coming Saturday.  They are an amazing family and they are so anxious for their baptism. 

But great news....DANIELA WANTS TO GET BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!  She was at the beach all week so we couldn’t teach her, but she came home so she could attend church!!! YAY!  We went to her house with the plan of teaching her how to recognize her answer that this is the true church AND we were planning that Hermana Vilchez could invite her to be baptized.  When we arrived she tells us...“Well, I made my decision.   I have been praying ALL week and I have felt it is true and when I was with the young women today in church it just felt right.  I want to be baptized this week!”  WAHOO!!  (I literally raised my arms up in the air, I was so happy) :)  Afterwards, mi hijita was joking around and said that Daniela was just waiting for her to come here so she could be baptized. 

Enrique couldn’t come to church because he was still out of town with his family, but he will be back next week! 

Well, honestly training is HARD but it is SO rewarding.  This work, and seeing all of these families progress toward baptism is what makes me SO happy.   

I have so much more to tell you all, but we will just have to wait until Christmas!!!!! I can’t wait to see all of your bright shining faces.  Just know that mine will be brighter - not only because I am so happy, but because the sweat will be gleaming off my face! I love and adore you all so much! 


Feliz Navidad!

Con Amor,

Hermana B

Eating Fish for Sunday Lunch!!!!!  YUM!

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's a GIRL!!!

December 15, 2014

Oh my heavens family, this week was crazy and I can’t even remember all that we did...so we will see how this letter goes. ;) 

First off.....after 9 months in the mission...It’s a GIRL!!!!!!!  President Riggins called and said I will be expecting my "hijita" [little daughter] on WEDNESDAY!  AHH I am beyond excited and privileged to be training a new missionary here in Ecuador.  And also nervous, just like any new mommy right?!  Stay tuned for next week to find out more on Baby (insert last name here).    

The cutest lady in ALL the world, who has a major fear of swimming, baptismal fonts or anything that has to do with water...WAS BAPTIZED!!!!!!  Liliam really was so nervous that we took the time before the ordinance to say a quick prayer, and she finally was able to enter the water.  As she was telling her complete name to Elder Rojas, she said "Be careful, Elder, I am trusting you!"  To give her more consolation we explained to her that Elder Rojas (our zone leader) has the priesthood so he is obviously very strong, and will lift her back up.  And it worked! 

Hermana Perez and I were stationed at the top of the steps of the font, peaking around the corner of the door to the dressing room and we witnessed her PERFECT baptism.  She recounted afterwards that once Elder Rojas powerfully said her name...Liliam Joseline Baca Bustamante…she felt relieved of her fears and felt as though she was enveloped in warmth.  At that point she then fully trusted in the Elder and in her Heavenly Father that she truly had made the correct choice.  ALL day leading up to Liliam’s baptism, her daughter, Alejandra was beyond feliz [happy], as FINALLY her mom is also a member of the church.  Now all that is left is her dad Enrique.  

Liliam Baca with her daughter Vivana

Alejandra, Hermana B, Vivana, Liliam and Hermana Perez

Familia Leon are just the most perfect family in ALL the world.  One day this week we planned to teach the Law of Chasity which we were a little nervous about because they need to get married first before their scheduled baptism on December 20th.  But, I can truly testify that the Spirit filled the room when we asked timidly..."have you thought of getting married?"  Jessica and Victor looked at each other, and at the same time said, “YES!”  OH phew, that wasn’t hard at all! 

A year ago they had planned to finally get married, money and papers all ready to go, when she had a miscarriage and lost her baby boy.  After this heartbreaking experience they set aside getting married for the moment.  The cutest thing ever happened when Jessica said they were looking at rings this week, because after getting married civilly they thought they would be married in the temple the following day....AWWWE!!  Her face just dropped as we had to explain why she needed to wait for a year.  Let’s just say she is already anxiously waiting for next December to come around!!!

The cost of a marriage license in Ecuador is about 90 dollars.  As funds are tight right now for Jessica and Victor, we decided to use Jessica’s baking skills and make cupcakes and sell them to the members to raise the money so they can get married.  So far, we have a list of about 50 ladies in the ward that want to buy cupcakes.  Others also asked me for the apple pie I made for Thanksgiving (jaja).  We bought all the cooking ingredients today and are planning to make the cupcakes all morning long tomorrow. Keep praying for their dear family that they will raise enough money and that everything will run smoothly leading up to their baptism on Saturday. 

The Familia Jara’s friend Enrique was visiting his family again this week, so we are hoping he will be in town this next Sunday so he can attend church again. 

Last week we had a mission conference with one of the General Authorities – Elder Juan A. Uceda of the First Quorum of Seventy.  

Duran Zone with Presidente & Hermana Riggins (seated left) and Elder & Hermana Uceda (right)
He told us that one responsibility that we have as missionaries, and this comes directly from the prophet, is to share the new Church Christmas video, “Él es la Dadiva” [He is the Gift], with EVERYONE.  President Thomas S. Monson has a goal that EVERYONE will be able to see it, and FEEL of its power.  In English it is a little different at the last part, so because my mission is in Spanish, I will share the translation of the Spanish version.    

HAD NO BOW                      
HE GAVE HIS SON              
HE IS CHRISTMAS              

I KNOW that Jesus Christ truly is the BEST and GREATEST gift we have ever been given.  I have never seen my Savior face-to-face, but I have come to know him though reading the scriptures, and sharing his gospel.  Discover this great gift for yourself and introduce Him to others.  Most importantly, accept the greatest gift.  Accept that HE can heal us and save us.   

Now Dad, you made me so proud when you sent me your high council Christmas talk.  You are seriously amazing, especially when you said..."Turn and look at the person next to you, or think about someone who is not here.  All around us, there are people that Heavenly Father loves and wants back home.  There are many among us today, and many more who are not here, who He can only help through you and me. 

One of the signs that we have received the Savior and his Atonement is through our sharing the joy of the gospel message with others.  The process of coming unto Christ, or receiving Him, seems to make us more sensitive, more gracious, and more willing to share what means so much to us.  This Christmas season is a perfect opportunity for us to discover, embrace and then share The Gift with others.”

I absolutely LOVE sharing this, THE GREATEST or BEST gift we have received.  May you all be able to share of this gift as well. 

AHHH I am going to have una HIJITA!!!!!! 
Hermana Bartholomew 

Funny story of the week:

So the other Hermanas in our area have found a taxi driver who charges us missionaries less than all the other taxi drivers here in good ol’ Primavera.  The first time that I rode with him a few days ago, he was so excited that I knew English that he turned on his English cd that is FULL of songs from the 80s - Come on Eileen and ALL.  Then he comes to the familiar Titanic theme song.  He BLASTS the music and then swiftly extends his arms with just as much passion as the actors do in the movie - almost clothes-lining Hermana Velasquez in the front seat!  Now every time we are in the car he repeatedly plays this song, with his arms stretched out (when the stop lights permit him to do so.)  HAHA...the funny things that happen in Ecuador's taxis! ;)

Missionaries of Duran Zone

Selfie with missionaries from Duran Zone

Monday, December 8, 2014

FULL of much Love for this Work

December 8, 2014

Hello dear family and friends.  Greetings from the hottest country in all the world, at least for me, haha.  I personally think that sweating is a good thing, when you are actually doing something physically draining...but I wake up sweating, and I was SLEEPING!  It just doesn’t make sense.  But hey, I LOVE Ecuador so it is all good. 

So this is the last week in the mission for my dear compi Hermana Perez.  We have many fun things planned for her, and plan to make it the best week EVER in the mission for her.  Also we have a Christmas Program planned with our ward this coming weekend and it will feature the "Misioneras Navideñas!!!"  Stay tuned for up-coming pictures next week. ;)

Liliam is SO excited for her baptism this Saturday.  She has called all of her family in the US, whom are members of the church, and told them the great news that she is finally getting BAPTIZED!!!!  Her daughter, Alejandra, is even more excited, if that is possible, to have her eternal family.  Now we just need to work on Enrique, and they will be able to enter the temple in a YEAR!  Oh my goodness we are beyond excited for this weekend.

Daniela is the cutest girl in all the world.  We still haven’t met her mom in person yet but her mom basically asks her every day when she is going to become a Mormon. She came to church on Sunday and also went to our ward’s Young Women in Excellence meeting and LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!  She said she wants more time, so she won’t be baptized this week be we are hoping for the next week.
Enrique (the Jara’s friend), went to visit his family this weekend so sadly, he wasn’t able to attend church.  But he was reading the Book of Mormon and los folletos TODA la semana [the pamphlets ALL week]. WOOT! WOOT!  I think the best investigators are those who have recently been released from prison…if they were falsely accused of course ;)  He is the sweetest man. 

Now for Familia Leon...seriously the greatest family since Familia Jara ;)  They are reading, praying, and even downloading the LDS Gospel Library app on their phones.  So because Domenica is involved in scouts every Sunday at the same exact time as church we thought when we taught them about Dia de Reposo (Sabbath day?) that she would still attend scouts.  Well, Sunday comes around and I was sitting with Lilliam and her daughters and my companion was sitting directly in front of us with Daniela.  The Zone Leaders, who are also in our ward, were still welcoming people into the chapel.  When I heard, "psst. Hermana Bartholomeo..."  I looked back to see the Elder’s faces just glowing.  They said, “Familia Leon is here.  ALL 3!"  WHAT?! 

We had a quick, silent conversation back and forth with a lot hand signals of the number 3 and the Elders trying to use sign-language to tell us that the girls were dressed in long BEAUTIFUL dresses and Victor with a nice button down shirt and tie.  We didn’t believe it until all three of them walked in with smiles on their faces, which caused us to REJOICE silently inside.  THEY ALL CAME!!  Even though they had basically worked all night, and their bodies were exhausted, they were ready to be edified spiritually.    

Domenica came up to us after the Young Women’s class and asked us "YOU DONT DRINK COFEE?!?!"  OH man, they drink coffee.  But once we explained what exactly the Word of Wisdom is, they told us they will quit drinking coffee.  They are seriously the greatest. 

We also went to Hermana Monica’s house with Familia Leon last night to watch the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional and they LOVED it.  Especially the music. 

Well family, sorry this is so short this week, but just know it is FULL of much love for this work, those I am teaching, and of course for all of you!!!! 

Con mucho amor, 

Hermana Bartholomew  

P.S.  I went on splits this week with Hermana Alcazar.  The things you can buy at a stoplight in Ecuador!  We are just a little excited for Christmas! ;)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thank You! Hallelulujah! and Amen!

December 1, 2014

"THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!" and a few "HALLELUJAHS!!!" and "AMENS!" were repeated many times throughout my prayers this week.  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, because there are so many things to be thankful for.  HALLELUJAHS, well you will see why in the story with Liliam that follows, and AMENS because, of course, that is how you end a prayer. 

For starters, HAPPY HAPPY (belated) THANKSGIVING!!!  Thank you for all of the cute photos of you all blowing kisses to me.  Just know I caught them all the way from here. ;)  Since, of course, we HAD to celebrate Thanksgiving, eating and all, we had the most delicious dinner with la familia Bustamante.  Liliam made a RICISIMO [DELICIOUS] turkey and mashed potatoes on the side.  Enrique made the salad, and we brought the Sprite.  But what is a Thanksgiving meal without an APPLE PIE?!?!  Right... it just isn’t right.  So the day before, we swung by their house to whip up a graham cracker crust apple pie, which turned out DIVINE by the way. 

OK so back up a little to 2 days before Thanksgiving.  We had asked yet another time if Liliam and Enrique would prepare to be baptized this December 13th...and again, our inquiry was followed by, "I still don’t know!"  But Enrique did say that he would talk with Liliam and see what they wanted to do. 

So now back to pie making day.  As we were welcomed by BIG bear hugs from mis ñañas, Liliam slyly asked, " Hermanas when is my baptismal date?"  We just froze.  And then I said, "December 13th, why?"  She just smiled and said, "Because it IS my baptism day!  AHHHHHHHH!!!  My companion and I literally leaped and squealed for JOY!!  This is where the "HALLELUJAH!" comes in to play.  She is SO excited to be baptized on the 13th, which is the day before my comp leaves to go home.  I am still smiling....SHE SAID YES!!!  Best day ever.  This year I am SO grateful for the overwhelming joy that we experience when we witness ONE SOUL come unto our Savior.  

Oh, just wait, this week gets even better...so on Wednesday, after the hallelujah moment with Liliam, we receive a call from Gregorio Jara.  Still smiling, I answered the phone and he excitedly explained that his best friend that he had while he was in jail, just got out and was coming to their house.  "Hermanas you need to come and teach him about God.  I have been talking to him all day, and it is amazing with the gift of the Holy Ghost and my priesthood, when he asks me a question the words just come."  SO cool right? #convertforlife.  

So on Wednesday night we entered into la Familia Jara’s home, to find Gregorio with all of the pamphlets that we had ever given him and his family, and of course his hymn book and his Book of Mormon sharing with his dear friend Enrique.  Enrique, like Gregorio, was wrongfully accused of a crime and had been in jail for 6 long years.  Enrique is the most amazing 63 year old you will ever meet in your life.  Although being locked in jail for 6 years is long and lonely, he was a beacon of HOPE to all those who lived with him in the extremely crammed room full of those slowly losing hope.  He was especially that HOPE for Gregorio Jara. 

Enrique has 2 children who are both married, but he has minimal contact with them, and sadly his wife passed away about 5 years ago, so it would appear like he has NO ONE.  But he has never felt that way.  For one, Familia Jara have taken him in like one of their own.  They have even made a small room for him with a bed and all, in their cleaning room on the side of their house.  And two, because he is filled with SO MUCH FAITH.  He LOVED what his dear friend Gregorio shared with him so much that he wanted to learn even more.  

During our first lesson with Enrique, there was a moment of silence, and as I was about to break it, Wendy started bearing her testimony.  She recounted that during the day she was having a hard time with patience with her kids and with her husband.  She recounted how she had humbly knelt down and asked her Heavenly Father if she really was following his plan for her.  Wendy testified with SO much power as she declared that our prayers can be answered, and that Enrique had said something that was an answer to her prayer. 

I LOVE seeing Gregorio and Wendy testifying and sharing the gospel with all of their hearts.  Just as Enrique was a response to Wendy’s prayer, in turn the Familia Jara is an answer to Enrique’s prayers.  When we extended an invitation to Enrique to be baptized on the 20th of December, we started to qualify things telling him that he could PREPARE and when he knows that it is true, da da da....when he interrupted us and said, "Hermanas, I am CONVINCED that this is true."  WOW! 

We left the little pamphlet with Enrique about the Plan of Salvation, and he carried it around with him ALL day long…and he and Gregorio were continually reading it ALL day long.  He absolutely loved church on Sunday.  He repeated everything that was said, not in an Evanglica [Evangelist] way, but just to internalize everything that was said.  "THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU" Heavenly Father for allowing us to be the instruments in your hands to help Enrique remember who he truly is.  

Prior to our life here on earth, as spirit children of our Heavenly Father, ALL OF US, chose the plan of our Savior Jesus Christ and we were ALL, ALL OF US taught about His gospel.  We were all born with the LIGHT OF CHRIST in us.  How we act and what we choose to do, either amplifies that light or diminishes it.  As a missionary, I truly know the power of amplifying this light.  During one of our lessons, Enrique said, "The things you are teaching me are something I have known for a long time, aren’t they?"  YES!  The Light of Christ that is found in each of us, helps us to remember who we are (what we learned in the preexistence) and why we are here and where we are going.  The LIGHT OF CHRIST is real. 

This Christmas season, I challenge you to AMPLIFY THE LIGHT of CHRIST.  This LIGHT is something that can’t be found on Pinterest or won’t be captured in a cute vintage photo on Instagram.  The Light of Christ and THE GIFT to REMEMBER is something you can only feel with your heart.  This Christmas season help that one family AMPLIFY their vision of an eternal family.  Help that one friend REMEMBER who they truly are.  It is the greatest gift that we can give HIM this Christmas.  It doesn’t matter what religion they belong to, they were all very familiar with Jesus Christ, the Plan of Salvation and His gospel at one point before they came to earth - they just don’t remember it! 

When you pass light from one candle to the next, the wick will ALWAYS burn.  Share your LIGHT with others and I promise you their LIGHT will burn as well.  There is no greater feeling than helping people like Enrique, Liliam and many others AMPLIFY their LIGHT and REMEMBER who they are.  Family and friends, I am talking to you. ;)  This is a call from a representative of Jesus Christ.  This is serious.  I promise this will be the greatest Christmas ever if you will use your light to help amplify the light of others.  It will be a blinding Christmas! (haha get it?  Light...is blinding!)

I adore this work.  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU ALL for all of the love and support.  Your love for me is truly felt every day. 


Hermana Bartholomew 

Funny Story of the Week

Hahaha.  So a funny, laughing moment for this week was when my companion and I were invited to join the other Hermanas in our area at a FHE lesson with the guy named “Elder” and his family, who all are named Elder, remember him?  Yeah, so we were watching the new video that the church just released "El es la Dadiva" or "He is the Gift", when Hermana Velasquez asked a super inspired question, "So what will you give “The Gift”, Jesus Christ this Christmas?  After she asked the question, silence filled the room and the Spirit was testifying to each one of us what we should give.  Just then, our dear fellow miembro [member], Alan Caludett (who was talking earlier about how he hates turkey) sticks his hand up and says...."I will not kill the turkey."  All four of us missionaries, and Elder´s family just looked at him with the strangest looks - like why in the world did that come to your mind in this spiritual moment?  He quickly realized that he hadn’t received the response he wanted, and awkwardly laughed and said "BROMA (Joke)" and then tried to recover with a more "spiritual” answer.  HAHA.  Now every time we see Alan (almost daily), we remind him of his wonderful, inspiring answer. :) Oh good times! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Heavenly Father LOVES His Children

Hello Family.  Well remember last week how I said it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas?  Well, it’s also beginning to look a lot like welcoming in the New Year.  As some of you already know, here in Ecuador they have the tradition of welcoming in the New Year by blowing up, or setting on fire these massive paper mache dolls called monigotes or Año Viejos (Old Years).  The idea is to burn away or say goodbye to your old life or the old year as you resolve to be better in the New Year.

So this week when I was doing an intercambio [exchange] with Hermana Bellota in another sector of Duran, one of her recent converts was sitting making preparations by painting all the dolls for the New Year.  Everything you can imagine, including old ladies with curlers, a little guy that looks like he should be on Mario Kart, all the way to Spider Man.  

The guy has it all!  It’s going to be a crazy New Year folks!!!  I’m thinking of buying the old lady with the curlers because I am SO OLD…9 MONTHS as a missionary?!?!  Ahhh!!!  No puedo creerlo [I can’t believe it.]

I absolutely LOVED this week. The opportunity to teach with power and with the divinity of my calling as a missionary is the greatest thing in all the world.  Sanctifying my life in serving the Lord and striving to be my best self and do my best is the most rewarding feeling.  The highlights of this week were found in the prayers of those I love and adore as representing Christ and helping them come unto Him.  It was found in the prayer of a little 10 year-old girl named Dana (who incidentally is taller than me, which isn’t saying a lot for me, but for an Ecuadorian, yes it’s a little different. I honestly don’t know how I am going to talk with the Hinton family after my mission without straining my neck jaja). 

Dana said, "Heavenly Father I covenant with thee to truly come to know if this message is true. Please bless the missionaries and their families, and how happy it is that they are together forever.  I am so excited to go to church on Sunday.  Please help us the take the sacrament too.  There are so many things in what the missionaries share that make sense, but my teachers at school don’t...so help them accept the missionaries too. I love you Heavenly Father.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

I probably nudged my comp 5 times during her prayer because Dana TRULY wants to know more and is willing to do her part.  “Become as little children.”

This week in our Sacrament Meeting they had the annual Primary program in our ward.  The children here are all the cutest things ever, with their matching flower headbands for the girls and the matching bowties for the little guys.  The simple testimonies that they share invite the spirit so strongly. For example, one little girl stood at the pulpit and said, "Arrepentimiento de pecados trae PAZ." [Repenting of sins brings PEACE.]  She was so excited that she REALLY emphasized the word PAZ.   Ahh, it was so cute. "Become as little children."

Oh yeah, so you know how I just think old people are the cutest things in the world?  Yeah, so there is a Familia Maingon who are members of the Church and live in our same gated community.  They have a grandmother who suffers from an unknown illness where she excessively moves her legs and arms all the time.  While we visited her one day this week, she was crying and silently said, "It hurts to be sick." :(  It broke my heart, so we decide to take a little walk with her in their small patio decorated with flowers.  As we smelled the roses, I quietly sang my favorite primary songs to try and help her feel calm. We finally sat down and I told her, "Hermanita, tengo sueño, vamos a dormir." [Dear sister, I am sleepy, let’s go to sleep].  And then she started to try and stand up, so I asked where she was going. "Querías dormir.  Vamos a la cama."  [You wanted to sleep.  Let’s go to bed]  Hahaha she is the cutest.

Now for the story of the week.  I humbly testify that Heavenly Father loves his children and there are always people put into our path to answer our prayers.  2 months ago, when I first entered this area, I was on exchanges with Hermana Rodriguez.  While riding the old-fashioned minivan taxi system here in the joya, we spoke with a lady named Jessica (I told her I really liked her name haha), but sadly we weren’t able to write down her address or phone number.

Then about two weeks ago, our Zone Leaders met Jessica and her husband Victor and their only daughter Dominica (who is 15) – la Familia Leon.  This time, the Elders were able to write down the family’s address and planned to visit them.  But, it turns out la Familia Leon had to move out because of problems with their landlord.  So when the Elders went to visit them at their house, sadly they found the house was vacant. 

Fast forward to 3 days ago.  The Elders ran into la Familia Leon AGAIN!!!!  This time they were moving into OUR SECTOR.  It is not a coincidence that I met her 2 months ago, the Elders met her and her family but they moved, and then again, as part of God’s perfect plan, they ran into the Elders again and have moved into our sector.  Full circle.

Yesterday we had an incredible lesson with Familia Leon and they basically told us that they know the Church is true and they are SO excited to attend church with us this next weekend.  They are seriously the cutest family in the whole world.  The only difficulty is that Jessica and Victor are not married...yet!!!!  It looks like we are going to be planning both a baptism and a wedding here soon! ;)  Today, we are going to go and help them finish cleaning and organizing their new house and then we are going to have a family home evening lesson with them.  Familia Leon puede ser una familia eterna! [The Leon family can be an eternal family!]

A quick update on our other investigators...

Liliam went to church with her daughters and Alejandra just got her recommend to go and perform baptisms in the temple! WAHOO!  We had a wonderful lesson with Liliam this week.  While we watched the video on the Restoration, she just kept saying how much she loved the movie and that she is now praying to know if Joseph Smith really was a prophet.  BUT she still feels like she is missing something. :(  We are planning to have Thanksgiving dinner with them on Thursday with APLLE PIE and all!

Brayan.  Oh Brayan.  Well, he told us he would come to church this week and we waited and waited but he never came. :(  We are hoping that this next week he will attend with his family.  We helped them decorate for Christmas this week and I was in charge of putting the tree together and stringing the lights.  I told my comp that I didn’t feel like it was Christmas because I usually am NOT sweating buckets while decorating for Christmas.  IT IS SO HOT!

Daniela came to church and she called US the night before to make sure that we were going to be at church with her the next day.  Haha that never happens!  She was busy all week so we weren’t able to teach her but we have big plans for our next visit this coming Thursday. 

So my companion is finishing her mission soon and there is the possibility for transfers happening next week before she goes home on December 16th.  If I don’t get transferred this next week on Tuesday, then I will be staying here in this sector and getting a new companion after Hermana Perez leaves.  (Also, if I don’t get transferred, that means that I will be here for Christmas and hopefully we won’t have any connections problems when we Skype!) 

I am super nervous for the coming weeks as there will be big changes, which also means a whole lot of STRESS!  But thankfully, tomorrow we have a reunion [meeting] with Presidente Riggins and we are going to the temple at 5:45 in the morning.  I am planning to fast tomorrow so that I will be able to feel peace that everything will work out.  After all, Heavenly Father’s Plan is perfect right? 

Thank you for all of the prayers.  They really are felt daily.  I LOVE YOU ALL to the moon and back. 

Se que nuestra familia es eterna, y el espiritu es increible cada vez cuando estoy testificando de ustedes.  LES AMO. 
[I know that our family is eternal, and the Spirit is incredible every time when I am testifying about you.  I LOVE YOU.]

Hermana B

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!!

November 17, 2014

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!! EVVVERRYWHERE we go....except for the fact that it doesn’t FEEL like Christmas at all.  There is absolutely NO SNOW or COLDNESS whatsoever!!  All this week our investigators and neighbors have been decorating for Christmas.  Christmas trees, lights, ribbons and all. 

Here in Ecuador winter on the calendar means THE hottest time of the year. HOT, HUMID, RAIN and then HOT again.  But really, the Ecuadorians dread winter....so there is no hope for me ;) jajaja.  But I still love Ecuador with all my heart, so I think I will stay ;)  To show how much I love Ecuador, someone gave me leggings that have a billion little Ecuador flags on them, which of course I wore all night with my Ecuador flag t-shirt (thanks mom).  I will send you all a picture next week!  AMO ECUADOR [I LOVE ECUADOR]

Today for P-day we took a trip to an IGUANA PARK!!!  

With Hna Alcazar and all of our Iguana friends
There are literally HUNDREDS of iguanas just walking around on the sidewalk with you....it kills me that I can’t figure out how to send videos, but I have a video where an iguana WALKED OVER MY FOOT!!!  AHHH!  

Selfie with our Iguana buddy
We also saw a man who was trying to feed an iguana a banana and IT CRAWLED UP HIS LEG TO EAT IT!  I will send a picture. QUE ASCO!!!!!!!!! [How disgusting!]

Banana man being attacked by a hungry iguana

My Compi, Hermana Perez and I
Anyways, this week we celebrated my compi´s birthday.  We (Hermana Velasquez y Hermana Alcazar y los miembros [the members] and I) successfully planned 5 surprise parties that day.  Basically, this means there were 5 shouts of "SUPRESA!!!!!!" [“SURPRISE!”], 5 tortas [cakes] (we didn’t feel so great that night), 5 regalos [gifts], and a MILLION hugs.  Hermana Perez turned 23, vieja [old lady] ;) and I loved seeing her surprise face at each house.  She is an INCREDIBLE missionary so she deserved the best birthday ever, right?! 

So this last week, Lourdes Cueva sent a picture to Aunt Lorena.  The picture was from one of the surprise parties, and it also happened to be with one of our new investigators.  

Happy Birthday Hermana Perez (and AUNT LORENA)!!!

So, I actually didn’t know that it was Aunt Lorena’s birthday but....HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY LORENA!!!!!!!!  Everyone here talks about Hermana Bartolomeo, and it’s not me they are talking about - it’s my amazing AUNT LORENA.  Everyone says that we are both super happy and we talk the same, HAHA. 

Speaking of the new investigator, this week Lourdes and her two sons introduced us to a friend of theirs from high school, Daniela.  ES UN AMOR!!! [She is a sweetheart!]  She lives with her single Mom and LOVES the church.  She actually attended the baptism of Familia Jara and as it was for everyone else there, had an INCREDIBLE experience.  We were able to share with her that coming to know Christ means you are NEVER ALONE.  She loved the lesson after the surprise party AND she CAME TO CHURCH!!!!!!  Daniela is only 16 so we are hoping to meet with and teach her mom as well so they can both be baptized together.  (Her mom works every day from 8am-9pm Sunday-Viernes [Friday], so she won’t ever be able to attend church.) :( But we are so excited to continue meeting with her this week!

Update on our other investigators - Liliam and Enrique CAME TO CHURCH!!!!!  They only stayed for the first hour and a half, but they CAME! :)  We had a wonderful lesson, full of tears and the spirit this week, and we truly saw the desire to have an eternal family from Liliam and her daughter Alejandra (who is menos active [less active]).  BUT Liliam told us that she still can’t accept a date to be baptized because she feels like she is missing something. 

My companion and I had a long week of praying and pondering about what we can share with Liliam that will ASTONISH her to the point where she will be running to the baptismal font. ;)  We both received a firm confirmation that we need to help her recognize the Holy Ghost, and then once she knows what she is feeling is the Holy Ghost, and not just a happy feeling, SHE WILL have un deseo a tomar (ahh sorry Spanish is just coming out today and I can’t help it, yeah, focus Hna B - ENGLISH) the desire to start her journey towards an eternal family.  Enrique keeps saying that he loves the church, and loves the fact that his family can be eternal, and loves reading the Bible (not so much the Book of Mormon yet), but he is CATHOLIC.  Enrique is an amazing guy and is another one of those Mormones secos ;)  Please keep them in your prayers!

Esdrina. OH Esdrina!!!!!!  I adore this lady but she doesn’t want to force her husband (but they aren’t officially married) to marry her and she doesn’t want to leave him either. :(  She has been a little discouraged because she REALLY wants to get baptized.  We are hoping that at one point her future husband will have time to meet with us so we can teach him as well.  

Brayan - we haven’t seen at all this week.  He said he was going to come to church, but didn’t come.  :(  So I will update you on him next week! 

This week, while meeting with members and talking with them about their loved ones and their desires for them to experience the incredible happiness the gospel of Jesus Christ brings, I felt impressed that we should never lose hope, and never stop praying for our loved ones who are inactive, or not members of our church, or simply do not believe in God.  The atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible for hearts to change, and to one day be together in a fullness of JOY.  We are waiting for the atonement of our Lord and Savior to work in algunos de nuestros investigadores [some of our investigators] right now, but right now is not the time.  We must continue with patience and diligence and one day we will see them change through the miracle of the atonement. 

I always say this in my letters and when I am sharing lessons, but I am going to say it again...WE ARE HERE TO REJOICE EVERMORE.  In the Emma Smith movie that was produced by the church, someone asked the Prophet Joseph, "Why another temple?”  He responded “Dios quiere que estemos llenos de gozo, y que solo lo podremos tener a través de las bendiciones del templo.  Aparece ser una doctrina muy atrevida.  Poder con el cual puedes mandar en la tierra y en los cielos.  Dios ha restaurado este poder de nuevo.  En un templo podemos recibir las ordenanzas de salvación no solo para nosotros mismos también por aquellos quienes han muerto sin esas ordenanzas.  Esta es una de las grandes bendiciones del Señor.  Las más hermosas en el plan de salvación que las relaciones que tenemos en esta vida perdurarán hasta despues de ella. Que un hombre y una esposa gozarán por medio del poder del sacerdocio y lo disfrutarán por toda la eternidad." (Sorry Dad - the movie was in Spanish, so I just took a few notes in Spanish and I’ll let you translate.) :)

[Here is Dad's best shot at the translation - “God wants us to be full of joy, and we will only be able to have it through the blessings of the temple.  It appears to be a very bold doctrine.  Power with which you can command [seal things] on earth and in heaven.  God has restored this power again.  In the temple, we can receive the ordinances of salvation, not only for ourselves, but also for those who have died without these ordinances.  This is one of the greatest blessings from the Lord.  The most beautiful thing in the plan of salvation is that relationships that we have in this life can survive in the hereafter, and that a man and a wife can have a fullness of joy through the power of the priesthood and enjoy it for all eternity.”]

For those who are praying for their family members to come back into the fold, President Uchtdorf said, “Never give up on anyone, and that includes not giving up on yourself.”  I also like the encouraging words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Don’t you quit. You keep walking.  You keep trying.  There is help and happiness ahead – a lot of it.”

My hope is that we will each strengthen our own testimonies and HELP all those we can.  I love helping all those I meet here in Ecuador at least FEEL of the happiness and love that we can have as we are converted unto the Lord.  

LES AMO TANTO TANTO TANTO!! Tengan una semana feliz y LEEN las escrituras, HAGAN sus oraciones y ASISTEN la iglesia. ;)  [I love you so so so much!!  Have a happy week and read the scriptures, say your prayers and attend church.]

Con muchisimo amor, 

Hermana B

Funny story of the week:

The other Hermanas that live with us have an investigator that came to church on Sunday.  He was SO pumped to partake of the sacrament because of the incredible lesson he had the day before, that when the water came around he whipped out his tablet and took a SELFIE.  #selfiewiththesacrament  "NO! You don’t take pictures with the sacrament!" "Oh sorry I didn’t know.  I was just so excited and wanted to let everyone know."

I died laughing.  Are we so excited to take the sacrament that WE want to take a selfie as well? HAHA, oh man good times.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Discipleship is Hard

November 10, 2014

Hello my dear loving family and friends, do you guys know how much I love and adore each of you?  Well I hope so ;) 

This week honestly went by so quickly, I JUST WISH TIME WOULD SLOW DOWN!!!  But truly we had such an edifying and spiritually filled week that I hope I can recount everything we did in this short letter...

So this week we finally got the chance to share with CARLOS OTIZ.  We were beyond excited to share with the man that also forgot to pay his water bill.  I just kept saying, "God’s Plan is perfect.  We were meant to meet him, He NEEDS this message of hope."  Turns out that Satan is an ugly man that is working SO hard to not let others be happy. :(  Our visit went as follows...

I am not a religious person.
Our message is for everyone - religious or not.
I don’t believe that God knows me personally.
Well he does.  He sent us here as witnesses that He does.
I have nothing to live for, my wife is far away, my kids are far away, I can’t even see far away.
Our message is of HOPE.  You do have a purpose. 
I can believe in HIM from afar.
But he is calling to you... "COME FOLLOW ME." 
I don’t believe that He calls prophets today.
But God is the same yesterday and today.
I will not promise to go to church tomorrow.
But you WILL feel his love, because it is HIS house. 
Why would you leave your families to come HERE?
We are here to HELP YOU.  Our message is of HOPE.
You two are persistent.
Yes we are because this is more than just selling AGUA de COCO [coconut water] on the street.
Ok you win, I will go to church tomorrow.
YOU will feel the HIS love for you tomorrow.
We will see.
Can we sing you a song, or maybe 3? ;) 

Later at night our phone said CARLOS OTIZ esta llamando [is calling].  I answered with such HOPE that he wanted to express his excitement to come to church. 
I am truly sorry to have wasted your time...but I will not be going to church tomorrow.
Why? What changed your mind?
(With a video playing loudly in the background) I have spent all day on the internet watching videos about your church. Not many other churches like you guys. 
Yeah hermano, Satan doesn’t want for others to attend the true church. (In my head I’m thinking, "Freaking Satan, why?") These things you have seen are not true.
NO, I have seen enough.  I don’t ever want to attend your church, especially not tomorrow.
I tried to get a word in that he needs to ask GOD and to share my testimony one last time...but he was not willing to listen. He had made his decision.
I passed the phone to my comp who had no luck either, but said sweetly "When you change your mind call us, and we will happily come share with you this message of HOPE."

WHY?  Why don’t people see the GREAT value of this message?  

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.”

The following day we met with Pricilia Torres and her family.  She said "NO! NO! NO!  I like being Catholic and will die a Catholic.  Don’t waste your time with me.  I am not going to change. 

Sometimes it is hard to accept that people have their agency to choose.  That even though I want everyone to experience this incredible happiness that I have experienced, WE ALL MUST MAKE A CHOICE.  This week I learned firsthand, as Elder Jeffery R. Holland said, “Discipleship is HARD”.  There are "haters" of the LDS church, but we must ALWAYS respond with LOVE just as the Savior would. 

I know that one day, Carlos and Pricilia WILL accept the gospel.  WHY?  Because we told them we will continue to pray for them, because WE LOVE THEM.  As a representative of Christ we can feel the pure love of Christ for them, or in other words that we BELIEVE the atonement of Christ CAN and WILL help them change.  I LOVE being a missionary, but to be honest it is hard at times to accept that people don’t always want to experience the blessings of this gospel.  But I am learning how to truly become like Christ and SAY and ACT as he would with those who are investigating this church.  

But...GREAT NEWS!!!!!!!!  We have made a calendar for each of our investigators with info on when we are going to visit them, with whom, what time, and most importantly when they will make their special convent with the Savior.  Brayan Franco and Liliam Baca and her husband Enrique are those who are EXCITED and desiring to learn more, que bendicion [what a blessing]!!!!

I LOVE being a missionary, como de verdad!!!!  I hope you all have a wonderful week, and we will chat more next week! 

Hermana Bartholomew 

Quote of the week.... Our taxi driver asked us as North Americans, if we know how to dance.  And I told him that, “Yes people there know how to dance.”  He said, "Are you sure?  Because you Americans are FREE so you can just dance however you like."    I died laughing, I am assuming he has seen a video of a college dance to dumb step when everyone just jumps up and down and is pushing into each other.  Haha ´'MERICA! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Dulce o Folleto!!

November 3, 2014

Well hello there lovely family!!! ¿Comó están? Hope you all had a feliz HALLOW!!! WE sure did.

Well first off, Hallow isn’t that big here in Ecuador. Many think it is a satanic holiday, and then the missionaries are asked why they would celebrate such a holiday...jaja! So in the little urbanizations where many people adopt American traditions, all the kids were going from house to house asking for candy. They say, "DULCE O TRIC?!" Haha!

Well shoot, we are missionaries, we don’t have a stash of candy, what in the world could we give these little kids?....FOLLETOS!!!! So we gave each of them a "The Gospel of Jesus Christ" pamphlet and we shared a bag of popcorn with them. Contacting through trick-or-treating is the best way so far to meet FAMILIES here in Primavera!


This week, well the 4 days since my last letter, many people were out of town to get an early start on the Ecuador national holidays today and Tuesday so NO ONE WAS HOME! But I will give you a quick update on everyone.

Familia Jara did have a lesson on the priesthood with the Familia Torres, and I LOVED seeing their faces light up with excitement for the great privilege of receiving the priesthood. Mi querida [my beloved] family went out of town for the weekend, so Gregorio and Luis Gonzalo will receive the priesthood this coming Sunday. They are also so excited to work on their Family History booklets to go to the temple and do ordinance work for their ancestors. Nothing much, but they continue being the greatest family ever.

Esdrina went out of town with Familia Jara, so we didn’t share much with her either. But she also told us that she thought the Law of Chastity was just a suggestion, and that she had understood that she doesn’t have to live the commandment before her baptism, so we will see if her future husband wants to get married or not. We are praying que SI [that yes]!!!!!!

We haven’t seen Liliam and Enrique Bustamante in a week, so hopefully we will be able to share something with them this week.

Priscilia Torres went to the baptism of the Jara family but didn’t want to come to church. And, in spite of the pleas of her 13 year old son Sebastian, she didn’t want to come down and join us for family night on Sunday. It broke my heart to see him come down the stairs bawling that his mom said no. He wants so badly for his mom to accept the gospel but she just doesn’t want to yet. :( I gave him one of the pictures of Christ that mom sent me – the one with all the children gathered around Him and He is smiling. We were able to testify that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ IS so happy when we strive to share the gospel and that He understands the stubbornness of Sebastian’s mom. We also told Sebastian that he is getting PRE training for the mission. They are the greatest family - I have faith that one day Priscilia will join the church.

Speaking of our Savior being pleased with our service to Him...I was able to say my final goodbyes to Hermana Toledo and Hermana Rodriguez today. 

Goodbye to Hermana Rodriguez

Goodbye Party for Hermana Rodriquez

With Hermana Rodriguez and Virginia on her last P-day
(wishing I wore glasses)

Goodbye to Hermana Toledo

[Jessica told me not to put this next picture on the blog, but she's not the blogger, and what she doesn't know won't hurt her :)]

This is my MAMITA TOLEDO squeezing my cheeks like always. :) haha

My beloved trainer, Hermana Toledo

I am ETERNALLY grateful for each of these ladies and their perfect example of TRUE DEDICATION TO THIS WORK. They know, as do I, the great blessings that this gospel brings to ALL, and the wonderful blessing we have in sharing it with others. OUR Savior is so proud of them and their unwavering service dedicated in His name.

Elder Jeffery R Holland said, "I believe we have all been created for greater things than we can comprehend." The plan of our heavenly father is truly perfect. I absolutely LOVE being a missionary and am BEYOND happy to serve him until the end.

Hope you have a wonderful week. Thank you all for the love and prayers - they are felt daily!

Con Amor,

Hermana Bartholomew

P.S. Funny Story

At the going away party for Hermana Rodriguez there was a young man there named Elder - and I'm not talking about the missionaries.  Yup, and not only his name, but his father’s name, his grandfather’s name....ELDER?!?!  He is an investigator of the other Hermanas here in Primavera - none of his family are members.  We think that perhaps his great grandfather saw some missionaries walking in the street and thought that Elder was a beautiful name...haha who knows. 

The Hermanas and the Elders!