Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Parable of the PIG

April 28, 2014

Hello my dear family!!  I am super sad that I missed Prom and everything else this past week!!  Let me just say that from the pictures you sent, we have an attractive family!  MEG you looked GORGEOUS!!!  WOW.  Also, I am super sad I am missing B´s 11th b-day!!!  You are growing up too fast!   Anywho, just put a picture of me somewhere and imagine me singing Feliz Cumpleanos to you on Wednesday! 

Well onto this week.  First, by popular demand, I want to share a summary of the delicious food I’m eating here in Ecuador. 

1. RICE, RICE, RICE!  Without fail, every meal you better believe there will be rice.  Even at Carl’s Junior here the sides for hamburgers are, of course, RICE!

2. Fruits galore!  I am telling you the U.S. is missing out on some dang good fruits!  My favorite here are granadas (remember the snot-like fruit that I liked from the CCM?).  Well here they are even more savory and sweet!  They are only 1 dollar for 4 granadas, so let’s just say I eat A TON!

3. Best BANANAS you will ever have.  Dad I wish I could send fruit across the border and supply your 2 bananas a day!  You can buy a whole stem with bunches on them for 1 dollar.

4. JUICE.  The people here make juice out of everything!  Any fruit or vegetable you can think of, they make juice with it.  My favorite is "tomate de arbol" (tomato of a tree).  VERY delicious and it helps slim down your stomach.  I always say a tomate de arbol a day keeps the rice belly away!! :)

5. And what do we eat this fine food with?  Well, people here don’t believe in forks.  We always eat with an oversized spoon.  Want to cut your meat?  You’ve gotta use a spoon! 

This week I want to share 2 amazing stories about how God, our Heavenly Father loves all of his children and often puts people in our path.

The first story is from last Monday.  We were walking to the bishop’s house to chat with him about our investigators, but I felt like we should visit a less-active member family first.  So we detoured and while we were walking to this less-active’s house we heard someone yell, “Hermanas! Hermanas!"  My companion and I looked around and saw a 15-year old girl, waving out her window.  Although we had no clue who she was, we approached her and introduced ourselves.

She introduced herself as Valentina and she explained how she took lessons from 2 Hermana missionaries that were in this area before we came.  She didn’t finish the lessons because of problems at home, and she didn’t know if the message was true.  Then she said something that shocked us both... "I want to be BAPTIZED!!"

WHAAT?!   At first, we couldn’t believe it!  We told her we are preparing a baptismal service for the 17 de Mayo [May 17] and asked her if she would prepare for getting baptized that day.  She smiled and squealed with excitement, "CLARO!" Which is the equivalent of saying "OF COURSE!"  WOW!  

Although we are having struggles with getting permission from her mother (who told us her daughter was an Evangelica and didn’t want anything to do with our church), I saw firsthand how the seeds we are planting here, will be rewarded!  Hermanas Deem and Shill, who were in this area before, were the ones who found and started teaching Valentina.  Both of them were reassigned to a different city the week before I arrived here.  I’m sure they may have been discouraged because they weren’t able to see Valentina make any progress in accepting our message or baptism.  But now, Valentina has developed a testimony of Jesus Christ and desires to be baptized.  

During my mission, everyone I teach will not choose to be baptized.  But through this experience with Valentina, I can see how I am planting seeds for missionaries that will follow me.  Many people will recognize us as servants of Jesus Christ and will want to know Him because they know me.  

In speaking of missionary work, M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles said,
"Trust the Lord. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep, and His sheep know His voice; and today the voice of the Good Shepherd is your voice and my voice."

Our Savior knows His sheep and they will come to recognize His voice in HIS TIME!  Missionary work is HARD.  Many days I am broken hearted because our investigators don’t have the desire to act on their faith.  BUT I know that we are being examples of Christ and something we say may just astonish them and allow for the rewards of eternal life to be reaped later on.  How many stories have you heard that someone waved down the missionaries in the street saying they wanted to be baptized?  This is one for the books folks!  

Now this next story starts with a chancho (a very large pig).  A pig?  Yes, a pig.  Hermana Toledo and I were walking in Salto (an area in Babahoyo) and saw a huge pig just chomping on some food right next to the road.  No one was around so we decided to take a picture with this pig.  

Should I go near the PIG???

So we started taking pictures, not sure how close we want to get to the pig, when someone yells “Tocalo!” ("Touch it!!)"  Huh?  We looked at the nearest house and beheld that we had an audience who had been watching us the whole time.  They were all laughing while we tried to get the pig to look up for a picture.   

Hermana Toledo getting up close and personal with the PIG!

Our audience, was a woman named Reina and her family.  They came out of the house and insisted that I take more pictures with the pig and with one of their children.  

Touching the Famous PIG

(I now have people begging me to take pictures with their loved ones AND with their pigs apparently too!  Strange, but flattering?)  Anyway, we ended up talking to Reina briefly about our message and agreed on a time the next day to come back and visit them. 

So the next day came and it was time to visit Reina and her family but for the life of us, we could not remember or find where they lived.  The hard thing about Salto is that there are not street names and house numbers, we just have to ask around to find someone that knows where people live.  So we started asking many people if they knew where Reina lived, and eventually we were led to a DIFFERENT Reina’s house.  Since we weren’t having any luck we decided to talk with this other Reina about our wonderful message.  

She invited us into her home and we got to know her and her two daughters Genesis and Dalia.  We started a short lesson by asking, "What the most important thing in your life?"  Dalia said simply, "my MOM..." and as she explained why, tears were flowing down her face and the face of her mother Reina as well.  Hermana Toledo and I were both so touched by the sweet stories she told of her mom.  

Since arriving in Ecuador, no appearance or condition of a house or family has broken my heart more than this little family.  Trying to think of a way to serve them, we asked if they were having any challenges and needed our help.  This question was followed by silence and quiet tears and eventually the silence was broken by the story of their economic situation and how their father had died 5 years ago.  

Tears came to my eyes as I saw how much pain and sadness were in the eyes of Reina and her daughters.  We simply shared with them that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and because of Him, they will see their father again and have the opportunity to be together again with their family.  We explained this as God’s Plan of Happiness.  After hearing this message, their smiles just lit up the room!  We then showed them a short video message that included the story of a family who had lost their daughter, followed by a song mashup of “We Can be Together Forever” and “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”.  

The Spirit confirmed to their hearts that they could see their father again.  We were so grateful for the chance to bring this Plan of Happiness into this humble home that was losing hope.  And to think all of this happened because of a PIG!  The Lord works in mysterious ways folks!  

Sadly, none of our investigators could come to church this week, but hey there is always next week right?!  As a missionary you have good and bad days.  But when I look back and remember these incredible stories during the week, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I love being a missionary. 

I am called of God.  My authority is above that of kings of the earth.  By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is my master and He has chosen me to represent Him--to stand in His place, to say and do what He Himself would say and do if He personally were ministering to the very people to whom He has sent me.

My voice is His voice, and my acts are His acts; my doctrine is His doctrine.  My Commission is to do what He wants done; to say what He wants said; to be a living modern witness in word and in deed of the divinity of His great and marvelous Latter-day work.  How great is my calling!

My new best friend in Ecuador!
Dilon doesn't say much, but loves hugs and tickling.
(Ignore my shiny face! Oh, and my hair started out straight that day!)

Well my family, I love you and hope you are getting pumped to SKYPE for Mother’s Day - because I sure am!  Have a wonderful week, and give B 11 spankings for me! :) 

Con amor,
Hermana Bartholomew 

Funny story of the week:

One night while walking home, we saw this little old man who appeared to be struggling to catch something in the street.  As we got closer we realized he was picking up a HUGE FROG and throwing it as hard as he could to the ground in attempt to kill it!  After several times, it finally died.  Afterward he said something to the effect of, "dumb frog!"  We never know what crazy thing we will see next in Babahoyo! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Another week in the best place on Earth!!

April 21, 2014

¡Hola my favorite people!

Another week in the best place on Earth.  Some highlights of Ecuador I want to share with you...

1.      In Babahoyo, at night and after it rains, there are many mosquitos...I use my handy dandy DEET lotion everyday but for some reason they love my left leg.  So my left leg looks like it was attacked by a wild animal, but my right leg looks perfectly normal.  Haha, so strange. [Note – Jessica is highly allergic to mosquito bites, and usually ends up with extreme swelling after being bit.]

2.      I swear the dogs multiply by the hundreds at night.  There are SO many dogs.  Also, I saw a dead dog on the side of the road, shoved inside a grocery sack and covered by a million bugs.  That was a lovely sight.

3.      The ants here have a sixth sense...whenever you set food down on a table or the counter, one minute later there are at least 50 roaming around on your food.

4.      Everyone has a motorcycle, and every family member will somehow fit on the motorcycle at the same time.  Yesterday, I saw a family of six, SIX! people on one motorcycle.  Yah, I have no clue how it works when they need to make a sharp turn.

5.      Every home has at least one hammock.  Which is the most wonderful and ingenious thing ever invented.  Everyone needs to invest in one.  Here they are only 20 dollars!!!!  So, Dad find a place to put a hammock for me when I get home!

I LOVE Hamacas!

6.      Finally, the predominant church here is Evangelist.  When anyone we contact says they are “Evangelica”, we are in for a fun ride.  Let’s just say when they feel the Spirit they go CRAZY and dance all over the place.  One of our investigators said she felt the Spirit after she prayed, so I was thinking, PERFECT this is so great, baptism here we come...but then she explained how she got her mom and they had a little dance party.  Shoot, so maybe not ready for baptism...but so close.  Haha.

7.      Oh, and one more thing, the people here are adorable.  I have seen about 5 kids with special needs, and oh my heavens did they just capture my heart.  This one little boy will be coming back to Utah with me!  Oh and you know how I think old people are the cutest, well we were walking to Salto yesterday there was an old couple holding hands and slowly but surely walking across a bridge.  When they saw me, they both lovingly said "buenas tardes, niña!" [“good afternoon little girl”].  AHH, that made my day!

Anyways, those are some fun facts about my new home - good old Babahoyo, Ecuador.
(Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!)

My Spanish is coming along very fast, thanks to my loving and patient trainer - Hermana Toledo.  

With my trainer - Hermana Toledo
Sharing a hamaca with Hermana Toledo

I just need to find better way to study and learn vocabulary words and I will be set!  Many words are similar to words in English, so if I just add a Spanish twist to some words they are usually right. However to be embarrassed is NOT embarrasado…which is to be pregnant!  I learned that one real quick.  But I have found that I do frequently experience the gift of tongues in that I understand just enough of what our investigators are saying.   And, always something they say allows me to open my mouth and share a simple but strong testimony about what Heavenly Father wants them to hear.

So now onto the important stuff – an update of the missionary work here.  Our investigators from last week - Oscar, Narcisa and Katy are not progressing.  None of them have attended church, or been reading the scriptures or praying.  Things may change with time and I will keep you updated.

But no worries because we gained 8 new investigators this week and set baptism dates with all of them!!!!!  WAHOO!

La familia Terran is a family of 5 and they are so great!  Their 10-year old son Edwardo always has the most innocent and correct answers to our questions, it is so cute!  Edwardo and his father attended church with us this last week, which happened to be Stake Conference [a combined meeting of several area congregations].  We had the opportunity to listen to Elder Jeffery R. Holland and Elder Richard G. Scott from the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, and members of the Primary General Presidency through a satellite transmission from Salt Lake City.  What a great first Sunday to attend church, right? 

One quick cool fact is that Elder Holland served a mission in South America and so he knows Spanish.  (He even served part of his mission in Ecuador with Presidente Pratt – the President of the Mexico City CCM.)  Even though Elder Holland knows Spanish, he used a translator for most of his talk.  The translator even did a good job at conveying the strength and urgency in his talks.  Both Elder Holland and Elder Scott ended their talks by bearing testimony in Español.  When they did this, even though it wasn’t perfect Spanish, they astonished everyone with their simple and strong testimonies that the Savior was resurrected and HE LIVES today.  And Edwardo and his father were awake and attentive the WHOLE time and anxiously engaged in the meeting, YAY!

The Terran family wants me to help them learn English and they in turn will help me with Spanish.  They are loving and welcoming and are reading the Book of Mormon, so they are doing great.  They are planning to be baptized on el 10 de Mayo [May 10].

Next, we have la familia Jaramillo which is a young couple.  Our first visit with them was wonderful!  As we got to know them and asked them what they wanted to learn from our message they shared a touching story about how their niece passed away but they didn't want that to be the end for her.  BOOM!  Plan of Salvation.  As we shared God’s Plan of Happiness and bore testimony they could see their niece again and live with their families for eternity, when we asked them if they would be baptized, without hesitating they both said YES! Yay, so they are scheduled for 10 de Mayo as well!

Then we have Ariana and her daughter.  They were a reference from a member here named Hermana Manzo (she is actually the Stake President's wife).  She accompanied us to our first visit and we shared a lesson about the restoration of Christ’s church to the earth.  As my companion and I shared our experiences with reading the Book of Mormon and bearing testimony of the role Joseph Smith played in restoring the church, the spirit was so strong and tears came to her eyes and of course I was crying as well (let’s just establish right now that I cry in almost every lesson, I have just accepted that it is going to happen every time).   Ariana didn't accept a specific date yet, but she said yes to baptism!  She is the sweetest person and is very patient in helping me with my Spanish. 

(Side note- As I mentioned, Hermana Manzo accompanied us for this lesson and decided to share the story of our visit and my testimony to Ariana with her husband.  Well, that night I received a phone call from the Stake President, and he asked to share my testimony in the Saturday evening adult session of Stake Conference.  Talk about NERVE RACKING!!!!  My first week in Ecuador and I’m speaking in Stake Conference.  But it actually went really well and afterward everyone said that my pronunciation was very good.  I’m not sure if they were just being nice, but it gave me hope!)

Finally, we taught Michelle who is actually embarrasado (pregnant) and a single mother of another little boy named Charlie, who showed me all his toys and kept saying, "¡MIRA! Mira!"  [look, look]   We shared with her a video about the restoration and focused mainly on teaching her the concept that we have a loving Heavenly Father and he is sending a new hijo [child] into her home because he trusts her to raise him.  Well, we said what she needed to hear, and she had many tears streaming down her face and gladly accepted a baptism date for the 10th of Mayo as well!  The May 10th is going to be a GREAT day!

Because this weekend was Stake Conference we sat through many meetings.  Many people don't know this but there is actually another Article of Faith that has been added to our church’s original 13.   Article of Faith #14 says "We believe in meetings.   Indeed we may say that we love to attend meetings.  We believe in meetings, we hope for meetings.  And our bottoms have endured MANY meetings.  If there is any gathering similar to a meeting, we seek after such meetings."  Haha! I thought that was too great, and had to share it!

My funny story from this week...
My companion wanted me to record an answering machine message and explained this to me in Spanish.  But since I have not gained that vocabulary yet, I had no clue what she said when she gave me the phone.  So, I thought I was actually talking to someone, and now our answering machine sounds like this...

"Hola, soy Hermana Bartolomeo!  Hola? Hola?  Oh, is this our answering machine!”…followed by much laughing.  The funniest part is we can’t figure out how to change it...so everyone who calls when we can’t answer and ends up in our voicemail will be very entertained by my message.

Well family, things are going well here as a missionary!  I am so humbled and grateful that I can feel a portion of the love our Heavenly Father has for my hermanas y hermanos [sisters and brothers].  As this past week was the anniversary of Christ’s death and resurrection I want all of you to know, that I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW that Christ lives.  I know that he thought of EACH of us when He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross.  I know that he is our Savior and Redeemer.  I know that because of Him we will all be resurrected also and have the chance to live together forever with our families if we follow Him!

The church has produced a wonderful Easter video message this year called Because of Him.  If you haven't seen it, please watch it.

To watch the video, click on this link - Because of Him or you can watch below:

This week think about all that is possible Because of Him.

Con Amor,
Hermana Bartholomew

Pictures from Babahoyo!
Houses in El Campo of Babahoyo

The beautiful countryside of Babahoyo, Ecuador

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hola from Babahoyo, Ecuador!

Monday April 14, 2014

¡Hola best family in the world!  Guess what...I am finally here in ECUADOR!!!  I love it here to say the least.  

I walked off the plane and Hermana Mckee and I just looked at each other and she said, "Oh great, here comes the sweat!"  Basically, I have just learned that for the next year and a half I will have sweat dripping down my face.  When we are meeting with investigators or passing people on the street and THEY are sweating and using fans, etc., haha there is just no hope for me!  Everyone asks me if I am hot, and I’m sure from just looking at my lovely appearance their question is answered.  I just laugh and say "YES!" 

So we arrived at the airport in Guayaquil and Presidente Amaya and his wife (along with the assistants to the president) welcomed us.  They took us and all of our luggage to the mission office.  By the time we go there it was lunchtime and they took us to a restaurant called the Grand Chef.  We had what I’m sure is the fanciest (is that a word? I don’t remember - this is the most English I have spoken all week J) meal that I will have my whole mission.  Then we went back to the mission office and were able to write our families a note.

(Again I am so so so so so sorry that I couldn’t call you from Mexico or Columbia.  I was anxious the whole flight that you would know I was OK!  I also thought that they would let me email you after I arrived, but nope, we have to be full focused on the mission here so we aren’t supposed to think about our families.  Not to complain, but that is hard because I love my family!)

Anyway, after writing our letters we waited to get assigned to our new companions!  My trainer is Hermana Toledo and she is just the cutest thing on this planet.  

My Trainer - Hermana Toledo

She talks SO SO fast.  She is from Concepcion, Chile.  Hermana Toledo was originally serving her mission in Venezuela, but because of the civil war in that country, all of the missionaries in her mission have been reassigned to other locations.  

I was hoping that she would know a little English, but she doesn’t.  I’ll be honest, my first night was REALLY hard as I was struggling to communicate with her.  But the great thing is that she is helping me learn Spanish and I am helping her with English (she wants to go to BYU or Utah State for college after her mission). 

I have been praying for my trainer since I got my call, and let me tell ya Heavenly Father answered my prayers.  She is very patient and tries her hardest to speak slowly for me (she has an accent and a lisp so sometimes it is hard to understand)  She told me last night that she thinks I will be fluent in 1 month - haha we will see how that goes! 

Her favorite thing to do is to sing English songs with me!  She also says, "Quiero Partee!"  which means, “I want to party” (but she pronounces it PARTEEE).  We did have a 5 minute dance party last night after Daily Planning, because today is P-DAY!  She always holds onto my arm as we are crossing the street to keep me safe.  She is very sweet and loving!  Also, I guess in the Latin culture people don’t really burp, because I burped the other night and said, "Excuse me" and my companion proceeded to fall on the ground, laughing uncontrollably.  Haha it was great!  And now she loves to say, "Excuse me!" HAHA  We are always laughing even though I don't speak Spanish very well! 

Now onto our area...we are in BABAHOYO!!

Babahoyo, Ecuador

Babahoyo, Ecuador
(~35 miles Northeast of Guayaquil)
Babahoyo is a mix of small city and a big area of la campo [the countryside] (with dirt streets and houses built on water and shacks made of bamboo).  Much different from our little hometown of Draper, Utah.  [The main industry of Babahoyo is agriculture - lots of bananas and rice.]  

There are so many dogs here it is CRAZY.  And I am pretty sure that all of them are diseased and need to be neutered!  Also, did I mention it is hot here?  Luckily we have a fan in our bedroom and it is a lifesaver.  I just take a cold shower before getting into bed, point the fan right on me, and I’m hot again in 10 minutes!! J 

Our Bedroom and the lifesaving fan!

The children here are just adorable, every child I see I just want to take home with me!  Everyone is outside of their house, children playing soccer in the streets and families just outside talking and laughing together.  Family is the most important thing to the people here.  

Cutest Little Girl EVER!!
Her parents asked us permission to have her picture taken with a "Gringa".  That's what everyone calls me! 

Since my comp and I are both new to the area, we only have a few investigators and mostly have been visiting less active members of the church.  The bishop gave us a list of 34 families who are no longer actively attending church, crazy.  

My first full day we visited Karina who was baptized a few months ago, but has already stopped coming to church.  We shared with her a message and later invited her 17 year old son, Aldo to join the lessons!  HE ACCEPTED A BAPTISMAL DATE, woot, woot!  He is going to be baptized on the 26th of April!  He was hesitant at first and afterwards my companion asked me to share my testimony on baptism.  When I began to explain my baptism, I told him that although I was young, and don’t remember much, I DO remember the warm feeling I had like I was having a big hug from Heavenly Father.  Then I explained that I am here in Ecuador because I know that this church is true with ALL my heart, and then the spirit was overwhelmingly strong...and yup the tears came.  His mother, Karina added her testimony and she thanked me for sharing my testimony and said she felt the Spirit!  YES!!!  Oh it was so great.

We have 3 other investigators with a baptismal date for the May 3 - Katy Zambrano, Oscar, and Narcisa.  Katy Zambrano has a sister who is a member of the church and she invited us into her home to learn more about our gospel.  She hasn’t been home for the past two days when we went to visit so hopefully all is well with her.  

Narcisa is a mother of 5 kids and she runs a family business selling raw chicken.  Each time we meet with her it is in her store (a little booth) and there are always many interruptions as costumers come in and out to pay for their chicken.  My compañera said as we started and stopped our lesson 3 times, "Ayy Sàtanas, NO!"  Satan is really working on Narcisa and trying to distract her from being able to pray about our message.  

Then finally Oscar.  He is coming along SO well.  We taught him about the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement of Christ and he was really touched because he has a family of 6 and wants to be with them for eternity.  

In these past few days I have already seen the hand of the Lord in these people’s lives.  This work is HARD, but is so rewarding.  Some days I wish that I could just know Spanish already, but I sit back and realize how blessed I am to understand just enough of what the investigators are saying so that I can hopefully say something that they need to hear.  

Well I have to write my mission President now in Spanish – haha. Wish me luck!

Sorry that I don’t have more time and the letter was all over the place this week.  I love you with all my heart family!  Thanks for your love and prayers – they are definitely felt here. 

Ecuador is the greatest place on earth!  

Con amor,
Hermana Bartholomew 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Safe Arrival in Ecuador!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Hi Everyone, this is Jessica's Dad.  We finally received word this afternoon that Hermana Bartholomew arrived safely in Ecuador on Tuesday, April 8.

From her last e-mail home before she left the Mexico MTC on Monday, April 7, we expected to be able to talk to her by phone late that Monday night or very early Tuesday morning (April 8).  She expected that she would have time either at the Mexico City airport, or during a layover in Bogota, Columbia.  We ended up having a long sleepless night filled with the anticipation of receiving a phone call from her at any time, but the call never came.  We figured that she either had problems with the calling card, couldn't find a payphone, or didn't have enough time between connecting flights to call.  (It turns out that the calling card she took on her mission did not work in the Bogota airport.)  

On Tuesday morning I looked up flight information on the internet and figured that she would be arriving around 10:30 AM in Guayaquil.  We fully expected to receive an e-mail from the mission office letting us know of her arrival in Ecuador - we just didn't think it would take 3 days!!!  I guess things must move at a different pace down there.  But, better late than never!

Following is the e-mail we received from the mission office, a nice letter from her new mission president, and a handwritten letter from Jessica!

E-mail from Mission Office:

11 April 2014

Bartholomew Family,

Receive a warm greeting from our part.  It pleases us to inform you that Sister Bartholomew has arrived to the mission field without any complications.  We are very happy to receive her in the Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission.  Attached you will find the following: One picture of your daughter with President and Sister Amaya, one of the group with which she came, and one with her companion.  You will also find a letter written by your daughter and a letter written by President Amaya.

Thank you for the support you give to Sister Bartholomew.

Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission

Hermana Bartholomew with her Mission President and wife - Presidente & Hermana Amaya

April 2014 New Missionary Group - Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission

Letter from President & Sister Amaya:

Guayaquil, 11 April 2014

Dear Bartholomew Family,

After her experience in the MTC we had the wonderful opportunity to receive Hermana Bartholomew at the airport along with other missionaries in her group, we shared together a welcome lunch, and special moments starting her mission. She received instruction on the rules of the mission and the correct manner to work, she met her first companion, Hermana Toledo from Chile and was trained in the "Plan of First Twelve Weeks," according to the direction we have received from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.

Every Monday in her preparation day she has the opportunity to write to family, we hope you will encourage and support her.

Your daughter is doing very well, she loves you all, and she is progressing.  She is an excellent missionary and has an admirable conduct about her.  We express our gratitude for having prepared her to serve the Lord and supported her.

For Sister Amaya and I it is a great privilege to have her in the mission. It is an honor to help and guide her in the sacred process of developing her potential so she can serve the Lord the best she can. You have done very well, Congratulations. The Lord will strengthen her, help her and guide her through the Spirit, of whom Hermana Bartholomew will now have to depend on as never before in her life.

Sincerely yours, and May the Lord bless you.

President and Sister Amaya
Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission

First Companion - Hermana Toledo

Handwritten Letter from Jessica:

We look forward to hearing from Jessica again this coming Monday on her first P-day in Ecuador!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Reflections on General Conference and Adios CCM!

Well these past few days have just FLOWN by and now I'm down to the last few hours left here at the CCM.  My last day was greeted with a beautiful sunrise.  It was FREEZING this morning (about 70 degrees) - I guess I have definitely adapted to warm weather already!

My last beautiful CCM Sunrise

One of the best surprises of today was a special delivery from my family.  Thank You, Thank You for the FLOWERS!!! I love them :)  Oh, it seriously made my day when I got them!


My Spanish has continued to improve, pero [but] they just introduced subjunctive here right before we are leaving and I have NO CLUE when to use it.  If anyone would like to share their wisdom with me that would be great (especially past subjunctive).  Also, because we had General Conference the past two days, we went from teaching lessons twice a day to two full days of just sitting and listening to people speak English (when EVERYONE normally speaks to us in Spanish).  So, we got used to hearing English all day, and so today was a HUGE difference. 

But don’t worry, I still remember most of my Spanish!  Except for just barely one of our teachers gave us a gift from Guatemala (where he served his mission and just recently visited) and instead of saying "¡Muchas gracías!", I said "¡Mucho gusto!" which means, “Pleased to meet you!”  Haha he and I both had a good laugh!

Anyway, speaking of General Conference, was it not the BEST conference EVER?!  Granted this is the first time I have stayed awake through all of the sessions, but the General Authorities really had wonderful messages for us from our Heavenly Father.  When they mentioned "all those throughout the world" who are participating, I realized "That´s me!"  I was one of those throughout the world, not in good old Utah, to eagerly listen to the words of the prophets! 

Elder Allred and Elder Ruiz from our district with the matching ties that we got for all the boys!
(They were only $4 at the CCM tienda!)
We also wrote a message to each of them on the back of their ties with some of our favorite memories of each of them.
Here they are catching a few ZZZs between Conference Sessions

Hopefully you all watched ALL of CONFERENCE! ;)  Did you sense the URGENCY and the importance of DEFENDING our faith?  Like in Jeffery R. Holland´s talk, there will come a point where we will be called to defend our faith, just as Christ did.  Although Christ was spit upon and others smote him, he suffered through the Atonement with kindness and long-suffering.  “What would Jesus do?" may not bring a popular response but we need to exemplify Christ-like love in response.  "Pure Christ-like love followed by righteousness will change the world!"  I encourage you all to be strong and defend HIS gospel, and when you do "you will feel the rock-like foundation of our Savior Jesus Christ and you stand for the truth.”

When President Eyring talked about how some who are listening may have been invited to by missionaries, my companion and I were so proud because we invited all of our investigators to listen to the words of the latter-day prophets.  Hopefully they really did!  I loved how he also said, "You hold more happiness in your hand than a person can really hold!"  I LOVED that.  I am so humbled that I can bring this everlasting happiness to the people of Ecuador in less than 24 hours!!  AHH that made it seem so much more real that I really am leaving.  Phew!!!

Ok, President Uchtdorf´s talk was just amazing!  Please go and read or listen to it again!  I loved the quote, "Don´t look for the rainbow, without thanking God for the rain!" M. Russell Ballard´s talk on the importance of following up when he said in relation to missionaries, "no matter how good your message is you may not be able to share it if you are not persistent and follow up!"  As missionaries we need follow up, follow up, follow up!  He also said relating to a story (forgot it but it was a good story, haha) "[He] took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and he was walking and jumping and leaping towards the temple!"  I need to LIFT them UP! I need to help them replace fear and doubt with real faith and take them by the hand and lift them up!  So good right?  Then as he invited all of us to purchase a Preach My Gospel, I would invite you also to all obtain a PMG and read the wonderful things that we are teaching, for it is a guide book for missionary work, we ALL need to read it!  I would suggest studying it as a family and reading the scriptures that follow each section, I have become converted myself by reading its pages. 

And finally I loved, loved, loved Elder Bednar´s talk (again he reminds me so much of you, Dad!)  "Come unto me...for my yoke is easy and my burden is light!"  I never knew this but a yoke is a wooden beam that enables oxen to pull together, side by side, and carry the burden together!  Because of the Atonement, we pull together with HIM, pull YOUR load with Him.  We are not and never will be alone, although the burden is not perfectly taken away, it WILL be lightened because he will strengthen us.  We can all feel the empowerment of the Atonement. 

I want to add my testimony to Elder Bednar´s when I say that the Savior will NEVER forget us.  He perfectly knows and understands our struggles, our pains, our regrets, our fears, our sins because he bore them FIRST!  He has perfect empathy!  I know that he will cleanse, heal, guide and strengthen us! 

There were many more talks that were amazing, I have pages on pages of notes from Conference.  I hope you all listened to the incredible blessings that were promised to us with apostolic authority!  The church is true my friends!

Well, today was our last P-day and a chance to say goodbye to the many friends we have made over the past 6 weeks.  I've included pictures of some of my favorite people and new friends.

Hermana Aiono is going to Ecuador.  She tore her miniscus and she finds out on Thursday if she will have to go home and have surgery, or if it has healed enough for her to stay.  Please keep her in your prayers!  (She is the one in the very front of the picture)

Hermana Aiono

The Elder on the far left in the picture below attended Utah State and lived at Snow Hall [same freshman dorm building as Jessica], and we didn't even know each other until we met at the CCM!!  Crazy small world.  [Jessica didn't include the Elder's name.]

Hermana McKee is absolutely on of my favorite people and I really hope we become companions in Ecuador!  Oh, that would be so great!

Hermana McKee and I discussing how to pose for the picture.
She looks like she is teaching me!
On Hermana McKee's Birthday.  She shares a birthday with Jesus - how cool is that?!
Here is the B-day sign I made for her!  Also, you can see what my haircut looks like.
I decided to cut my hair before I left for Ecuador!!

They put on a program every Sunday for those who are leaving the CCM the next week, and they put a picture of us up on the big screen.

District 15C
Don't ask me why we took the picture so early in the morning.  It was SO bright - hence why we are all squinting!

Ecuador and Chile - Ready or not, here we come!!!

Well I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve Heavenly Father´s children in ECUADOR!  There are no words for the mixed emotions I have!  My mission is His and I know that if I will serve with diligence He will have no problem with recognizing who I am! 

Well family I love you lots, and I will talk to you later tonight!!  AHH, you better answer! J  I will call the home phone, esta bien?

Con amor,
Hermana Bartholomew

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Last P-Day in the CCM! What?

April 3, 2014

Well time is just flying by down here in the CCM!  Today is my last P-day AND I got my FLIGHT info for when I leave for Ecuador.  AHH!!!   I was so so excited, I could not stop smiling.  

I leave next Tuesday, April 8th at 2:15 in the morning.  We will leave the CCM at 11 pm on Monday night to get to the airport in time, and HOPEFULLY I will have the chance to call you in the airport.  If not, then I should be able to call you during my layover in Colombia. (No clue what time that will be in good old Utah, but I am calling every number I know until you answer. J)   I can´t wait to hear your voices and then it will only be a few short weeks until we can CALL for MOTHERS DAY!!  Woot! Woot!  So on Monday I will have the opportunity to email you again and then from here on out my P-day will be on Monday for the rest of my mission.  So expect a few emails sometime on this coming Monday around 2 pm.  

Hermanas Johnson & Shill - I love these ladies
They are going to knock the socks off the people in Chile!

So this week just FLEW by.  We had another huge wave of Latinos come in and I met 2 from the Ecuador, Guayaquil North Area.  I am here to tell you that I maybe got a fraction of what they were saying to me.  Haha oh boy, my first day in Ecuador is going to be wonderful. J  But once they started talking a little slower I could completely understand them.  And another thing…they are SO SHORT.  I feel so tall around them.  This one Hermana gives me THE biggest hug every time she sees me and told me she would tell her parents that I am coming to their area and to look for me.  She said they will feed me "mucha comida" (lots of food) and they will love me.  I have their address too so hopefully I will be able to meet her cute family.  

Here in the CCM we have become accustomed to responding to Hermana or Elder.  So the best thing to do in the comador (cafeteria) is to yell “HERMANA” or “ELDER” and then watch and admire as almost every missionary turns around in anticipation that someone needs them.  When I get home, I will most likely still introduce myself to everyone as Hermana Bartolomeo (I’ve given up and started using this because no one can say our last name, they just look at my name tag with the most confused face). 

Also, if anyone wonders what we are supposed to be doing during the day, most likely the answer is ADDITIONAL STUDY.  Study, study, study.  One important thing I learned during additional study this week is that the word “agency”, in the context of teaching the Plan of Salvation in Spanish is not "agencia" it is "albedrío".  "Agencia" is defined as a something like a travel agency or a car dealership, not the ability to choose for ourselves.  Entonces [well], for the past 6 weeks, in essence, I have been telling our investigators that the difference between Christ´s plan and Satan´s plan was that Christ wanted us to have a car dealership and Satan didn’t want us to have a car dealership.  I have no clue why no one told me that it was wrong, but my district and I laughed once we realized what I have really been saying.  "Travel Agencies are essential to our life on earth!"  J  I am sure that I will have many more similar moments to come in Ecuador.  

Also, speaking of study, we haven’t learned much vocabulary for things that are not gospel related, especially adjectives - so we say, "¡Esta bien!" (It’s all good!) 400 times a day.  Or, we switch it up and say, "¡Pero, esta bien!" (But, it’s all good!)  Or sometimes, we pull out the big guns with "¡Bien, bien, bien!" (Good, good, good!)  So my plan for the next 4 days I have left in the CCM is to learn new adjectives.  I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself though - I have been complimented by some of the Latinos that my Spanish is "muy bien."  Hopefully those in Ecuador will think the same!  

This week was the same old, same old schedule, but I want to share with you some spiritually edifying things I was able to learn this week...

1.    On Sunday Hermana Pratt (CCM President’s wife) reviewed the scriptures with us and drew our attention to how many times the Lord will "prepare" something for us.  Our Heavenly Father will always prepare a way for us.  He is preparing people right now for me to come and find in Ecuador.  We must do everything we can first and he will deliver.  As missionaries, our investigators will be delivered into our hands, but we must do the work first and open our mouths.

In 1 Nefi 17, verses 7-10, Nefi asks "How can I make the tools?" to build the ship; and the Lord PREPARED a way for Nefi to find ore to make the tools.  [Side note from Jessica’s Dad - I think it is funny that Jessica is already starting to use the Spanish words for things in her letters.  From experience I can tell you that she probably doesn’t even realize she is doing it.  Obviously, Nefi is Nephi

Hermana Pratt asked us what ORE have we been given in OUR lives?  I encourage you all to think about what ore have we been given to make tools in our lives?  Some examples are temples, scriptures, patriarchal blessings, family, the Preach my Gospel manual, bishops, testimony, our own personal talents (spiritual gifts), our personal experiences, etc.  These things are all ORE that Heavenly Father has given us...in 1 Nefi 10 verse 16, it says, “and I did make tools of the ore which I did molten out of the rock...And it came to pass."  

“And it came to pass” is a repeated phrase throughout El Libro de Mormon, (I can’t call it The Book of Mormon any more J) and signifies a period of time where the individual performed much work and planning.  With this ORE that we have been given we need to utilize and diligently study in order to make TOOLS.  As a missionary, I can use this ORE to develop teaching skills, and use this TOOL while teaching those in Ecuador.  It all depends on if you are going to take the ORE we have been given to acquire tools to work as a missionary!  I have always been told that we are given many TOOLS in our lives.  But in reality it is ORE and becomes a TOOL only when we put in the individual effort to do things like open the Book of Mormon and study, or pray, or talk to our families, do they become the TOOLS needed to return to our Heavenly Father.
2.    Grace is another word repeated many, many times in El Libro de Mormon.  I have never really understood what it truly meant until Presidente Pratt said, "Grace is the divine means of help or strength, an enabling power and ability to receive strength to accomplish things that you otherwise would not be able to do on your own.”  In Alma chapter 26 verse 12 it says, "…in His strength I can do all things."  Through Christ’s GRACE we can do ALL things.  The Lord will help me do things that I would otherwise never be able to do on my own - for example, learning Spanish and teaching the people of Ecuador for 18 months!  Amazing right?
3.    On Tuesday we watched a devotional by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that was held in the Provo MTC in 2012, two days before General Conference.  His talk was about getting the most out of General Conference.  How perfect, because this weekend we have the privilege of watching and listening to Conference!

Before I get into the conference portion of his talk, I want to share something his wife said.  She told us, "We are bringing a spiritual casserole to the world!"  How cute is that?  The best part was that the positioning of the camera allowed us to see Elder Bednar sitting behind her, and his reaction to this statement.  I have never seen an apostle laugh so hard.  It was so great.  

Elder Bednar promised that this will be the greatest General Conference that we (as missionaries) will ever watch, mostly because it will be the first time that we will be AWAKE for all 4 sessions.  Oh, and a little side note, we didn’t get to watch the General Women’s Conference, but we will watch it while the Elders are watching the Priesthood session this weekend.  

I encourage EVERYONE who is reading this to watch General Conference on TV, your phone, IPad, computer...where ever you are-LISTEN to the prophets of our day.  “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, IT IS THE SAME.” (D&C 1:38)

Elder Bednar gave us a pattern to follow while listening to the talks.  His pattern is: 1) look for the doctrine, or the saving truth (what we need to know to be saved); 2) look for the invitation or request to live in accordance with Christ’s teachings; and 3) finally listen for the promised blessings.  In almost every talk you will hear the phrase, "these blessings WILL come."  This is not just a fancy, common line in General Conference.  Our living Apostles say these things with the authority of the apostolic keys they hold.  These are SURE promised blessings and THEY WILL COME in the Lord´s time.  WOW!  

Also Elder Bednar made sure that it was clear to us - there are NO assigned topics for General Conference.  President Monson does not say, Elder Bednar you cover the Book of Mormon and then Elder Holland, then you go light it up!  No!  The Master, OUR Heavenly Father coordinates what will be said.  Elder Bednar said that every single conference he sits back and is AMAZED at the love that Heavenly Father has for us, and what we as HIS CHILDREN need to hear.  Our Heavenly Father is close and he IS aware of us.  He is never hidden or unable to help us, all we need to do is ASK! 

The final point he made was that the closing remarks by President Monson should not just be "concluding remarks" but they are the most important teaching during general conference.  President Monson is putting a spiritual exclamation point on the teachings of the LORD.  

I add my testimony to Elder Bednar´s that I KNOW that our Heavenly Father speaks through his prophets and when we follow the council given, the love we feel from our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will not feel as though it is from a distance, but as if He was right there giving us a big hug.  Oh man, I am SO SO excited for Conference and I hope you all are too! 

Well this week was sad because Hermana Olsen and I taught our investigators Renaldo, Ignacio and Ana for the last time.  They are all so excited to be baptized and I truly am so grateful for the ability to feel my Savior’s love for them.

District 15C with our Morning Teachers - Ana is on far left and Ignacio (Hermano Flores) is in the middle

I will always be grateful for my amazing teachers in the CCM and I am beyond grateful that they immersed me in the Spanish language.  I have learned more here in the incredible CCM then I probably have learned in my whole life.  Every missionary should be praying to be sent to the CCM!!  I know, I know, I KNOW this church is true and our Heavenly Father loves us beyond comprehension. AHH!!!!  Ecuador in 4 days!!!!  WAHOO!!  I seriously can´t stop smiling.  

Well family, I love you lots, and I will talk to you on Monday! 

Con amor, 
Hermana Bartholomew

[NOTE: Jessica sent us a note saying that she was having a problem with the memory card from her camera, and couldn't pull up any of the other pictures she took this week. So only 2 pictures this week!  She will try to send more this coming Monday.]