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. 

Suplicar√® (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

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