Monday, May 26, 2014

Defend HIS Gospel

¡Buenas días/tardes/noches [Good morning/afternoon/evening] (depending on when you read this)!  Happy, happy 3 months to me!  Wahoo, time is just flying by when you are having fun!

Well onto this week...Francisco was baptized!!!  WAHOO!!! Another baptism and the same indescribable joy.  Francisco was SO adorable after he was baptized.  He was trying to not smile too much but he couldn't help it!!  On the day of his baptism, he even woke up at 5:30 AM because he was so anxious to be baptized.  Cutest thing.

Hemana B, Francisco and Herman Toledo

Francisco with his parents

Francisco immediately after his baptism (trying not to smile)

And good news, Francisco has been reading the Book of Mormon with his mom this week and his mom is VERY interested in learning more about the church!  So we are going to go and teach them once a week, maybe twice, because they live in the campo [countryside] (which is about a 45 minute drive).  But I hear that where they live is beautiful and they are surrounded by millions of bannana trees. ¡Muy chevere! [Very cool!]

Well this week was full of firsts for me...some of which have to do with animals...

1.  One of the members of our ward took in 2 parrots that they found in the campo, and they have now become their pets.  My companion was too nervous to hold them because they bite, but I was all for it!

The Parrot

A Kiss from the Parrot - I hope it was a girl :)

2.  Now sad story...Aldo MOVED!! :(  Aldo and his mom went to live in Machala (which is a city south of Guayaquil and isn’t in our mission) with his aunt to find cheaper schooling and work. So sad, we went from seeing him every day for 2 months to nothing. :(  But good news, Aldo called and he found a church near his house and we are working on getting his church membership records sent there so they can take good care of him in his new area!  Ahh we are so proud of Aldo and his amazing testimony. 

So onto my animal story.  We went to Aldo’s house last Tuesday to hopefully catch them before they left, but sadly they had already gone.  We found his sister Viki and her husband Bryan were there finishing cleaning up.  When we arrived, they were just starting to move the chickens from Aldo’s house to their house.  So we decided to help. 

The process was quite entertaining.  We would all work together and chase after the chickens and hold them down while Bryan tied their legs together, so we could carry them to Viki’s house.  Well, the chickens weren’t too happy to have their legs tied together so they tried getting away by hopping around.  Basically it looked like someone on a pogo stick for the first time - a few jumps and then KERPLOP they would fall over.  Haha it was so great being surrounded by jumping chickens! 

When they were all tied up and ready we each took one and walked to Viki and Bryans house.  But of course we had to take a picture first, right?  

Transporting Chickens!

Hermana Toledo, Viki and Hermana B - transporting chickens!
I was laughing so hard, they were all shocked that I had never done this before in my life.  Well now I know how to tie a chicken down for relocation.  Don’t know if I will use this skill in the future but it is a good talent to have... :)

3.  This next one doesn’t have to do with animals, but equally a new experience for me.  Did I tell you all about the "Gringa" [gringo/gringa is slang for ‘American’] family?  Well I contacted a family from the states the first few weeks here in Ecuador and they called us this week wanting to meet up and talk more about our church!  I thought, well sweet, this is perfect, they don’t know much Spanish like me so I can teach them a little in English, and then they will get baptized.  We definitely had big dreams for them.

      Well, things didn’t go as well as we planned.  We meet them at the local KFC, and learned that they had been researching a great deal about our church.  They even found a translator for us so that my companion could understand as well.  Turns out they are missionaries for an Evangelica [Evangelist] branch here in Babahoyo, which means we have quite a few conflicting views on some basic things like who God is, etc.  Since meeting me a few months ago, they have researched for hours and hours each day and prepared an outline for me (typed and all) of all the things that are wrong with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
Growing up in Utah, where most of those I associated with were members of my church, I have never really been questioned or confronted on my beliefs.  Every scripture I gave to explain how Jesus Christ and God the Father are not the same person; how repentance is necessary; how Joseph Smith and the restoration of Christ’s church in the last days was prophesied of in the Bible; everything, as they said, was "taken out of context".  I was questioned about polygamy, and the last moments of Joseph Smith’s life, and told how the promise by Moroni given at the end of the Book of Mormon of how someone can know for themselves if the book is true, is really "a trick question".  Oh man, you could say I was a little flustered and overwhelmed by all the questions and attacks on my beliefs.
As Jeffery R Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, being a member of the church may not bring the most popular love - I can attest firsthand, I was not feeling the love from this family in that moment.  But praying in my heart about what I could say, I knew that I have been called to defend my faith and I have been promised that I will "feel the rocklike foundation of our savior Jesus Christ." 
So when they were trying to prove to me that there was no need for the Book of Mormon, the dad used an analogy and said it was like if my child had cancer and I went to 4 different doctors and 3 of them said the same thing about my child’s condition, but the last one said something completely different.  They asked me if I would go with the majority or go with the "crazy opinion".  I thought for a moment and realized, no the 4th doctor is not saying something completely different.  The last doctor, or the Book of Mormon, has MORE information about my child’s condition and has all the tools to fill in the gaps and in turn save my child’s life, or receive salvation. 
I shared with them that I do not have a perfect knowledge of the scriptures, or am I in no way a scriptorian, but I know perfectly, without a doubt through the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is another testimony of Jesus Christ, not to replace the Bible, but to testify alongside it. 
Every day as a missionary I invite everyone I meet to read the Book of Mormon and pray about its teachings, and I invited them to do the same.  Although sadly, they are not going to read the Book of Mormon and pray about its message, as Elder Holland said in his last General Conference talk, "be strong and defend HIS gospel."  And when in doubt, bear your testimony.  Simply put, I have learned for myself that many people aren’t going to care what I have to say, but if I can share my testimony of the things I know to be true by the power of the Holy Spirit, I have defended HIS gospel.
Brigham Young was not baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the first year of his learning about the restored gospel.  But of his conversion he said: “If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence or talents for public speaking, who could only say, ‘I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and a light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true.
A wonderful example of this is our investigator Katherine.  She mentioned to her friends that she was reading the Book of Mormon and has been attending church.  However, despues [after] she was scolded by her friends for investigating the church.  But she had the courage to share her sweet and simple testimony of the gospel and how she just knows it is true.  Wow, my companion and I were so impressed and had a proud missionary moment.  Katherine is just one of those “golden” investigators and is very excited for her baptism on the 31st of May.
Hermana Toledo, Hermana B with our investigator Katherine and her son Christian

Well, this week was full of new experiences and growth in my testimony.  The best way to strengthen your testimony is to share it!  Family, share your testimony and defend HIS gospel.  I love you and think the world of you!
Until next week, con amor,
Hermana Bartholomew
Funny Story / Favorite line of the week:

So my companions famous line to everyone is "¿Como esta su lectura del Libro de Mormon?” Which in English is basically, "How is your studies of the Book of Mormon?"  The recent convert family that we have been working with to be sealed in the temple later this year, is asked this question on a daily basis – every time we visit them.  So the other day we were visiting their home and we were discussing our days, just chatting away and as we were about to begin our lesson, Sergio (the member who we have been working with) asked my companion, “So Hermana Toledo, como esta SU lectura del Libro de Mormon?”  I could not stop laughing, it was SO great.  Hermana Toledo has never been asked this a missionary but proudly was able to report that she had just finished reading that morning and had a beautiful experience and confirmation otra ves [once again] that the Book of Mormon is true.  It’s kind of a “had to be there” moment - just know it was really funny! ;) 

Watching the last few minutes of Ecuador's World Cup Qualifying match while we were waiting for a member in Salto.
My companion thought it was hilarious because I was the only girl!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

There can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy

May 19, 2014

Family!!!!!! I am so happy. Oh so happy! I couldn’t even express my immense joy in Spanish to my companion (which sadly is not a new thing) so hopefully I can explain them in English!

Drum roll please...ALDO WAS BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously my cheeks hurt from smiling so much this weekend! Oh Saturday was the greatest day ever!

Aldo before his baptism
(We only had time for One Quick photo with Aldo Before the Baptism.   It looks Like I am Holding Hands with him but I Promise I Was not! Haha J )

Here is a little recap of our long journey with Aldo to enter the gate of baptism:

Every day seemed like it was something different. We would go from conversations like this - "Yes I want to be baptized!” “Are you excited?” “Of course!" to having Aldo say something like, "No, probably not this week, I don’t want to rush into anything." Calling it a rollercoaster of emotions would be an understatement.

Satan is real folks. He tried everything he could on Aldo – from problems with his family, to he can’t pay for schooling, to having to move out of their house and move to Milagro this week. BUT in the end, Aldo prevailed!

As we got closer to Aldo’s baptism date, my companion and I expressed our love for him, and told him how we truly wanted this happiness for him and that we were praying for him (side note: I also felt prompted to tell him that my family was praying for him too. When I told Aldo this, his face was so great...he was just shocked. He says thank you for all the prayers!). However, there was still something holding him back. As we tried to decide how persistent we could be without pushing him away, I felt a prompting and decided to talk to him about repentance. I explained that if he truly repents for his past mistakes he will have any guilt he feels lifted from him. With the help of our great district leader (who performed Aldo’s baptism interview), he was able to fully repent and be ready for his baptism.

On the night before Aldo’s baptism, when he told us he was finally ready, my companion and I literally leaped for joy. From that moment to now I am still smiling! Saturday when we entered the church I felt the presence of our Heavenly Father like never before when entering a church building. Ahh, there are no words to describe it!

While watching Aldo enter the font, I was humbled by the fact that my companion and I were instruments in the hands of the Lord in bringing the message of salvation to heart of Aldo, and the Spirit doing the rest. As he came out of the water he gasped and looked up at Hermana Toledo and I with the biggest smile on his face. He was just BEAMING!

After Aldo was dressed the Bishop gave him the opportunity to share his feelings, and he said something along the lines of, "I am a little nervous but right now I have so much peace. I know this isn’t the end of my journey and I will continue to have challenges in my life. Before, I didn’t want to read the Book of Mormon and wasn’t sure about getting baptized. But I now know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I could never deny the church was true. I am grateful to my mom and the missionaries, Hermana Toledo and Hermana Bartolomeo (that’s us!) for helping me find this joy. I know that if I live a good life I can receive eternal life, through God and Jesus Christ. Amen."

Family that was a testimony of a person who was baptized just moments before. WOW! I felt like my heart was going to burst during his testimony. I have never ever ever felt the Spirit that strong. To borrow the words of Alma, "There can be nothing as exquisite and sweet as was my joy!" It was an indescribably perfect day! 

 Aldo and Hermano Wellington
(Hermano Wellington, who baptized Aldo is the Young Men President in our ward)

Missions are hard. All the frustrations with the language, people not wanting to listen to what we have to say, missing my dear family, walking in the blazing heat, getting eaten by mosquitos, etc. All of these trials seem so small and such small sacrifices to be able to experience the grand joy of seeing someone you have come to love and care for follow the example of the Savior and experience this immense joy themselves.

My heavens, everyone needs to go on a mission and experience this wonderful work! Nothing I could type in this internet cafe is adequate to express my love and joy for this wonderful week! I know that it is impossible for everyone to serve a mission, but have no fear, every member can

be a missionary! Open your mouths and talk to everyone and their dog about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the joy and peace it has brought you. I promise that when you do, you will, as the Apostle Paul says in the New Testament, "Rejoice evermore!"

Quick update on our other investigators -
Francisco had his interview this week and is all ready for his baptism. He is very intelligent and retains information like a sponge. He now has received all of the lessons and is so excited to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized this coming Sunday!

Ilda went through a phase of not wanting to listen to our message anymore, but as of yesterday she wants to listen again! Her friend who is a member of the church and is also 82 years old, talked with Ilda about the sacrifices required to be a member of God’s kingdom, but the grand blessings we will receive in return. That’s the power of a good friend right there! Ilda couldn’t attend church this week because of work but she said she will attend this next week so her baptism has been moved to 31 de mayo [May 31].

Familia Jaramilllo wasn’t ever home this week

NEW INVESTIGATOR!!! Wahoo Katherine Bajaña is the sister of a menos active [less active member] named Yulixa. Yulixa is 20 years old and has two little boys, who are the cutest things ever but they don’t like to sit still for very long - especially during sacrament meeting and the benches became a playground...haha). Katherine went to a church youth activity with her sister on Saturday and we also invited her to the baptism of Aldo. She came, and she loved it!!!! Katherine wants to be baptized, and her date is also set for the 31 de mayo.

Funny story of the week – (more like a summary of the life of a "Gringa" here in Ecuador)
If someone here in Ecuador knows even a tiny bit of English, they ALWAYS use it when talking with me. One morning we were walking to lunch and a group of young men kept saying "HI, hi, hi, hey you, hi, hi, hi" repeatedly like the birds in Finding Nemo that annoyingly kept saying "mine, mine, mine, mine". But in this case it was “HI, HI, HI, HI!” They wouldn’t stop until I said Hi back.

Also, the father of Leonella, served in the air force and learned English so whenever we pass by their house, he pokes his head out the window and says "Sisters! How are you? Nice to see you! Nice to see you! Where do you come from? Visit people and read the book? Very very good. Very very good. Goodbye! God bless you and your family forever and President
Monson!" Haha he has become my break from Spanish during the day!

Anyway this week was amazing!!! I absolutely LOVE being a missionary in the best mission on earth – Ecuador Guayaquil North!!!

Thank you for the prayers - they are felt everyday! I love you all lots and lots! Until next week,

Con Amor,

Hermana Bartholomew

Aldo with some members of the ward before his baptism.  There were so many that came - our ward here is the BEST!!
From Left to Right in the Picture:
Hermano Wellington and his granddaughter (daughter of Hermano Wellington's son who baptized Aldo)
Eric Conforme (Young Men's Secretary in the ward)
Our Bishop
Hermano Wellington
Yulixa (the less-active member whose sister Katherine we started teaching this week)
Me and Hermana Toledo
Sergio (in Blue a recent convert we are working with to help)
Hermano Conforme (our Ward Mission Leader)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Crown of Thorns

Hello family,

Long time, no see right?!  Yesterday was the best day ever, but was also sad because I had to say goodbye again to my favorite people in the world!

Skype with Hermana B on Mother's Day

I’m sorry that my testimony was so simple and short yesterday.   I was so flustered at the end of our conversation because the time went by so fast and I didn't want to say goodbye again.  My companion said that was the best I have ever spoken Spanish, so feel honored.  J 

To watch video of Jessica's sharing her testimony in Spanish from Ecuador click on this link:

Jessica from Ecuador on Mother's Day

Leonella and the Wellington family [this is the family that let Jessica and her companion use their home and computer to Skype] could not stop talking about how cute our family is, and I could not agree more!  Especially you, Brandon B.  I believe you have a few arranged marriage plans starting up here in Ecuador.  J  And, they were very impressed by your Spanish Dad.  (I’m pretty sure it’s better than mine!) 

Skype with Hermana B on Mother's Day
Mr. Brandon B was front and center

It was the greatest day ever to see my family and talk with you wonderful people!  Tell everyone “Hello” from Ecuador and that I love them ALL!!!  Once we finished Skype-ing with our families we walked outside and I realized how white my family is!  Haha, I haven’t seen that many "gringos and gringas" in one setting in a LONG time. J

Anywho onto this week..

With it being Dia de Las Madres [Mother’s Day], Babahoyo was partying like no other yesterday.  All along the streets people were having competitions with who could play their music the loudest!!!  So basically it was a REALLY loud mixture of Spanish songs that I couldn’t understand.  People were dancing and singing and just having a grand old time with their families and especially their moms. 

This week it rained and I mean it RAINED!!! 

My cute comp in the rain

The following pictures can describe it better than I can in words, but literally the streets were like rivers.

Flooded streets of Salto after the rain

You know the pictures you see of the houses in Venice, Italy that are separated by water?  Well, yeah it was exactly like that here after the rain, except it should have been a dirt road.  It was an adventure walking down the streets in Salto.  Hermana Toledo and I were screaming because of the unknown objects that we encountered under our feet which in turn made us LAUGH and laugh because of how ridiculous we looked.

Crossing the flooded street (river) in Salto
Watch your STEP!

In most areas, the water was about mid-calf deep, and then every once and a while you would take a step and SURPRISE, Dip!!  In some places, water came up to the bottom of my knee!!!  Oh, good times. J
My fun story of the week is that I finally saw a real live Iguana!!

My first look at a real, live IGUANA
The iguana was actually HUGE - I zoomed in with my camera as far as it would go.  I just couldn't get any closer because the boardwalk was falling apart!

Speaking of boardwalks, to get to many of the houses in Salto we have to cross long rickety boardwalks.

Boardwalk in Salto
As you can see from these pictures, many of the houses in Salto are built on stilts.  This is to keep them from flooding after it rains!  Sometimes I wonder how the houses stay standing, especially when we have several people in them and you can feel the floor swaying!

This week was also super sad because our baptism fell through.  Narcisa didn’t like church last week because she is used to the rituals in her church (Catholic), and she told us afterward that she didn’t want to be baptized anymore.  We still dropped by and gave her a note along with a bag of caramels, and expressed our love and testimonies to her.  With the caramels...we were desperately wanting her to not give up and change her mind.  But, she kindly told us that she doesn’t want to visit anymore, which is sad because I will miss visiting with her in her crazy loud restaurant! 

But, good news!!!  Aldo is WELL prepared for his baptism date on the 17th!  He left for vacation with his mom this weekend so hopefully he won’t change his mind.  We know that he took his Book of Mormon with him and he promised to read it!  Keep him in your prayers - please!!!!!!

We also gained 2 new investigators this week who are progressing and are ADORABLE!  Ilda is 82 year old and is just the cutest thing.  She was a referral from a recent convert, Hermana Fernandez.  Ilda has bad arthritis in her left leg, so she struggles to walk.  Her husband died 18 years ago and she had a great relationship with him.  Her house is full of pictures of them together! AHH, so precious. 

Ilda scratches out a living by selling fruit in the local market every day. 

Fruit Stand in Babahoyo

One of her big concerns was leaving her fruit stand on Sunday for an hour to attend church.  Our mission president has encouraged us to promise our investigators blessings if they will obey the commandments, so we promised Ilda specific blessings, including that she would make just as much money if she would take off 1 hour of her work schedule and attend church and...SHE CAME!!!!

My companion and I actually went to pick her up in the market.  She covered her fruit stand with a tarp and we got a taxi to take us to the church because it is about a 30 minute walk from Salto to the church building.  She loved church and especially enjoyed the Mother’s Day program and the cute little primary-aged kids gave her a Mother’s Day treat!  Although right after the meeting was over she was walking toward the door as fast as she could in order to get back to work.  (One of the Hermanos in our ward gave her a ride back to the market.)

This week, we also received a referral from the Bishop’s family to teach their cousin Francisco, who is 11 years old.  He is so sweet and wants to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized SO bad, like to the point that I wonder if I was this excited to be baptized when I was 8! I LOVE teaching him because he understands my simple Spanish and I understand him!!  Big plus.  His energy and excitement to be a member of the church is so contagious I want all of our investigators to catch it!

My spiritual thought for all of you this week is that the Savior sees past the mask we sometimes put on from our sorrows and difficulties.  I discovered this insight by reading a story in the church Ensign magazine by a Larry Hiller called “Crown of Thorns, Crown of Victory.”  

Crown of Thorns, Crown of Victory

August in the Holy Land. Around us the ruins of Capernaum shimmered in the afternoon heat. It was a fascinating place to be, but our guide and a nearby cicada had both been droning for some time, and my mind began to wander.
Suddenly I was alert as the guide pointed to the tree that shaded us and said offhandedly, “They call that the ‘crown of thorns’ tree.” I looked up at the leafy branches. Where were the thorns? Reaching, I gingerly pulled a small branch closer.
There, among the delicate leaves, I saw the thorns. Slender and green, wickedly sharp and as long as my thumb, they couldn’t be seen from more than a few feet away. But anyone coming into contact with one of those leafy twigs would certainly feel pain.
I thought of the many paintings I had seen of the Savior standing before a mockery of a court, robed in purple and wearing a crown of twisted, dry, thorny vines.
Christ with Crown of Thorns, by Carl Heinrich Bloch
Suddenly it occurred to me that a slave or soldier tasked with making that crown might want to work with supple green branches like those of the tree overhead—not with brittle, dry twigs. More tellingly, the purpose of the crown was not just to inflict pain but to taunt and mock.
In the ancient world a green, leafy crown or wreath—usually of fragrant laurel leaves—was often given to the winners of contests and battles. Laurel wreaths adorned the images of kings and emperors. Perhaps the cruel crown pressed down on the Savior’s brow was leafy and green in sardonic reference to that ancient honor. It’s just supposition, not a matter of doctrine. But for me, visualizing it that way brings one aspect of the Atonement more clearly into focus: the Savior is aware of our sorrows, and He is able to heal us.
The robe placed on Him was a mocking symbol of royalty. It covered the welts and gashes of the scourging He had just suffered. In the same way, a leafy crown of thorns would appear to be a victor’s garland but would actually hide the pain it inflicted.
So many of us bear unseen hurts. The hymn teaches that “in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see” (“Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” Hymns, no. 220). But the Savior does see. He is well acquainted with private anguish. His whole ministry was lived in anticipation of the Atonement and Resurrection. Yet those He taught and blessed and healed did not know. Even His own disciples remained unaware.
The Savior sees past the “robes” and “crowns” that mask our sorrows from others. Having suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind,” He is full of mercy and knows how to succor us when we lay our burdens at His feet (see Alma 7:11–12). His is the balm that can heal even deep and hidden wounds. And the crown He holds out to us is truly the victor’s.

After reading this, the “Crown of Thorns” has become a symbol for me of the Savior’s awareness of all our hidden pains and his ability to heal them.  In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see!  I add my testimony to Larry´s that Christ DOES SEE! 

Many people say, "No one understand how I feel, no one can help me…"  These people have not experienced the power of the Atonement!  One of the less-active members we are working with, named Sergio, struggles with an addiction to alcohol.  Although, I have never struggled with this addiction, my companion and I bore simple testimony that Jesus Christ understands!  Sergio needs to experience the power of the Atonement! 

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Christ thought of me - my name, Jessica Jo Bartholomew, my feelings, my faults, my...EVERYTHING!  And he thought of YOU, and YOU and YOU! YES, YOU!  

In Spanish we have 2 words that translate into English as the verb "to know”.  Saber is "to know", meaning to know information, like knowing your mathematic times tables.   Conocer is "to know" but means to be familiar with, like to know someone or something intimately (you come to know them).  In the Spanish scriptures when talking about the Atonement the verb saber isn’t used, they use the verb conocer.  Conocer, conocer, conocer! 

Jesus Christ knows your struggle to make friends, he is familiar with your difficulty in having patience with a spouse or your children.  He knows all about your addiction to drugs, alcohol or pornography.  Literally he has met and is familiar with our deepest feelings, our excruciating pains, our terminal sicknesses, our hidden sorrows, he experienced them FIRST so he could know how to succor (to run to) his brothers and sisters. 

Suplicarè (beg) for his strength.  He will strengthen you!  He is perfectly familiar and KNOWS you!  Seek Christ, and, as you do, I promise you will feel the enabling power we call His Amazing Grace.  My favorite way to describe the power of utilizing the Atonement is a gentle and warm embrace from the Savior.  Although the words "gentle" and “warm" and "hug" may seem dainty, those who have experienced the grace of the Atonement know this gentle hug is POWERFUL.  I have felt this powerful hug numerous times in my life and especially here on my mission. 

Family and friends, "Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you!" (1 Peter 5:7)

La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los santos de los ultimos dias es verdadera folks! 

Love you all lots and lots.  Until next week! ,

Con amor,

Hermana Bartholomew 

More Video from Mother's Day:

Jessica's Trainer - Hermana Toledo

Monday, May 5, 2014

I Will Be Found of You

May 5, 2014

FAM BAM!!!!  Less than a week now and you get to see and talk to your favorite missionary!!! J  I am so so SO excited!  We planned it out this week and determined who has the best internet connection and not too many kids so we can actually hear each other!  Hope you are getting excited!  We only have 40 minutes though, but it is better than nothing, right?!  Also, be prepared to be amazed at my companion’s English!  She is preparing her testimony in English to share with you guys!

Every Tuesday we have our district and zone meetings and we always take a taxi because the church building where we meet is quite far from our house.  So we always go to the main road to catch a taxi.  But for some reason, EVERY Tuesday we just struggle to try and catch a taxi.  During the week we ALWAYS have taxis honking at us and wanting to give us a ride.  But not on Tuesday mornings.  One of the other Hermana’s in our district – Hermana Teo, and I were discussing this phenomenon.  The taxi drivers only have ONE job – to pick people up and drive them where they want to go.  But on Tuesdays it seems like we always see 5-10 taxis that ignore us and continue driving. 

This last week on Tuesday, one lady finally stopped for us and she must be a new taxi driver because she took us to the WRONG church building.  Haha – just our luck though!  So we were a good 20 minutes late for our meeting, and that did not go over too well with the Zone Leaders.  This next Tuesday (as a punishment) we are in charge of treats!

Part of our district - the day we were late!

So let me give you an update on our investigators.  All of them, except for 4, have problems. From getting permission, to couples living together that need to get married first, to those who just don’t want to come to church – you name it, we are seeing it.  This letter I will focus on those who are progressing!

Aldo is 17 yrs old.  His mother, Karina is a recent convert.  The past few weeks he has had no desire to read the Book of Mormon or attend church.  But we didn’t give up on him.  Through continuous efforts to visit him and through frequent bearing testimony of this wonderful Book and the importance of the Church, Aldo is now reading every day and he attended church on Sunday!  So if everything goes smoothly he will be baptized on 17 de Mayo. 

However, this past Sunday we were worried that Aldo would not attend church.  Here is what happened:  We passed by their house to wake them up for church! As we were outside of their fence calling "BUENAS! Buenas!"  There was no answer.  My poor companion was super discouraged because antes [before] we had passed by several other houses and none of our investigators were able to come to church.  We sadly and silently left their house and started back towards Babahoyo. 
I was broken hearted that they didn’t wake up to come to church with us.  As we were walking away, I said a prayer in my heart that one of our investigators would be able to come to church.  After ending my prayer I had the strongest impression to go back and try to wake them up one more time.  I hesitated because it was a long walk and we were both tired from walking around and pretty much inviting the whole world to come to church with us. J  I finally stopped and told my companion we needed to go back and try one more time to wake them up!  She doubted for a moment, and told me they didn’t want to come.

But I was determined to have them come, so I convinced her to try one more time.  As we approached their house...MIRACLE...the door was open.  This time as we yelled “BUENAS” it was followed by Karina coming to the door and her church clothes in hand listo [ready] to get ready for church.  My cute companion said (in English) "I LOVE YOU, Seriously!"  She thanked me for listening to the prompting to go back one more time, and gave me a huge hug and her smile was back!  She loves these people with all her heart so when they can’t or don’t come to church she is so discouraged. 

Next, we have Familia Jaramillo - Tamara and Alfonso, who are the cutest couple ever!  Hearing they could live with their family for eternity and have the example of faithful church members in their life brought tears to their eyes and has given them the desire to learn more.  We hope to place a fecha bautismal [baptismal date] for 24 de Mayo.

Then finally we have Narcisa.  Narcisa had actually not been progressing, and we were even contemplating stopping teaching her.  One day this week we were sharing a scripture with her, when out of the blue she interrupted us and asked, "Hermanas when is my baptism?"  WHAATT?!  In my mind I’m saying, “Well Narcisa, we weren’t sure if you wanted to get baptized, but it is scheduled for the 10 de Mayo.” 

Although we always visit Narcisa at her restaurant, Galaxys (where she sells papi pollo (fries with chicken)) and are frequently interrupted by her customers needing to pay, we have had many sweet experiences of feeling the spirit surrounded by all of the distractions.  And...SHE CAME TO CHURCH!!  And she stayed ALL 3 HOURS!!  She loved it and was touched by the sweet members’ testimonies that were shared about their conversions into the church.  We love Narcisa.

This week in my training I am learning the principle of FINDING!!!  I’ve learned a lot about how to talk to everyone and anyone about the gospel and the importance of finding members who have dear friends that they want to share the gospel with. 

On the subject of FINDING those who Heavenly Father has prepared for us, Hermana Toledo and I thought of the song “One way or Another” which describes finding perfectly!

“One way or another
I’m gonna find ya
I’m gonna give ya, give ya, give ya, give ya,
The gospel
Maybe next week
I’ll meet ya, I’ll meet ya”

Haha, my companion and I like to describe our lives through song!  We have had the wonderful opportunity of contacting the referrals from member of the church in this area and in the sweet experience of sharing the gospel with those you love!  The famous saying JUST DO IT, applies to missionary work!  Just pray about a friend that you have that needs the gospel and contact the missionaries, JUST DO IT! J

In the spirit of finding, my companion shared a sweet story with me this week that she read in the Liahona [this is the Spanish version of the church magazine].  The story was written by a guy named Aaron West:

I Will Be Found of You 

At the conclusion of our Sunday School lesson, Sister Hart asked us to turn to Jeremiah 29. She said she would read verses 12–14 aloud, and she asked us to ponder the meaning of the words.

“Then shall ye call upon me,” she read, “and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

“And I will be found of you, saith the Lord …”

Sister Hart went on, finishing verse 14, but my thoughts lingered happily behind, savoring the promise “I will be found of you.” I was reminded of the times when my wife, Emma, and I played hide-and-seek with our young children. When it was our turn to hide and their turn to seek, we always made ourselves easy to find. Sometimes we made noises or left a foot in plain view so they would find us quickly. Sometimes we hid in the same place repeatedly. We wanted the children to search for us, but we also wanted them to find us. We looked forward to their hugs and their joyful, unrestrained giggles of triumph.

This memory deepened my understanding of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. He wants us to search for Him, but He also wants us to find Him—He knows how happy we will be when we do. He does not try to trick us. Rather, He does all He can to help us know where and how to search: He gives us the scriptures, calls prophets, listens to our prayers, guides us by the power of the Holy Ghost, blesses us with temples and priesthood ordinances and family and friends. And if we have found Him somewhere once, we are sure to find Him there again if we are willing to renew our search.

“I will be found of you, saith the Lord.” What a comforting promise! In a world where trouble and temptations seem to find us so easily, it is reassuring to know that our greatest source of strength is so easy to find.

As I read this story I too reflected on memories with my siblings of playing hide and go seek and my siblings always saying "Make a noise!" Although my sister and I always wanted to find the BEST hiding spot, we eventually wanted to be found.  This story deepened my understanding of the LOVE God has for us.  "He wants for us to search for HIM, he also wants us to FIND Him."

Like in the title of the game, I encourage all of you to SEEK HIM.  There is much comfort to be found in this phrase from Jeremiah, "I will be found of you".  Our Heavenly father is looking forward to our joyful and unrestrained hug of triumph when we are reunited once again.  "SEEK and ye SHALL FIND."  You came to earth to find our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again.  May we continually SEEK Him and look forward to the day when we are reunited with our Heavenly father.  I promise there will be no joy as sweet and exquisite as when will rejoice together with our Heavenly Father and older brother Jesús Christ!

Well family and friends, I love and miss you all dearly!  I can’t WAIT for Mother’s Day - it is going to be better than Christmas!

Con amor,
Hermana Bartholomew

Fruit Stands EVERYWHERE!!

Rio Babahoyo - the river bordering Babahoyo and Salto