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! 

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