Monday, June 30, 2014

Joyful Jessica Jo - The Happiest I've Ever Been!

June 30, 2014

Wow its Monday again?!  Hello my beautiful family, I hope you all had a great week and spoiled Mom for her birthday! 

Good news, Spanish is getting better every single day.  The gift of tongues is real folks!  The other day I was asked to say the prayer in our district meeting and they wanted to hear me say it in English.  I thought, YAY! I can pray in English!  But then...shoot I don’t remember how to say, let alone start a prayer in English anymore.  It was a struggle, but I do still remember some English! 

Oh, an embarrassing but hilarious story...we were getting to know a less active member in our area named Lorena, when her husband came out of the house.  So I asked her, “El es su esposo?  (Oh, is this your husband?)  She replied, “Si, el es mi esposo.”  (Yes, he is my husband.)  So I said, "Hola. esposo de Lorena..." [Hi, Lorena’s husband]  But neither my companion nor Lorena heard "de Lorena".  Entonces [So] they thought I just said, "Hola esposo!" [Hello husband!] Hermana Toledo looked at me like I was crazy and we all had a good laugh for a good 5 minutes.  Every day this week we just happen to always see her husband, which has become the running joke that he is my husband.  Oh good times. 

Today we got some cool Ecuador t-shirts that have our names on the back, along with the name of our zone and our mission.  I will send the picture of all the zone wearing the t-shirts next week.

Go Ecuador!

This past week we had our last reunion [meeting] with Presidente Amaya.  Our zone put together a musical number with a mix of songs (which I have no clue what they are in English).  We ended with “God be with You ‘Till We Meet Again” and “Nearer My God to Thee”, with yours truly on the violin.  WOW!  The power and spirit of a missionary choir is incredibly amazing!  No one wanted to move afterwards because the spirit was so thick.  Presidente y Hermana Amaya gave us wonderful advice and they will be missed dearly here in Ecuador.  After the meeting ended we all had the chance to take one last photo with them.  When it came my opportunity, the President told me to treasure my time with Hermana Toledo because we would have a big group of new missionaries coming this next week! 

Usually in this mission you are with your trainer for 12 weeks and then switched.  Tomorrow, July 1 will be exactly 12 weeks since I arrived in Ecuador.  Needless to say it was a stressful and anxious time in the days following to see if we would have cambios [transfers/changes] tomorrow.  But I am the happiest missionary in the world today because I am still with my best friend and amazing example Hermana Toledo!  

Together for another transfer - YAY!

As I’ve mentioned before, my prayers for my trainer prior to arriving here were fully answered with my dear trainer.  Oh, I am so grateful for her and hopefully my dad (wink, wink) will let me visit Chile often to see her lovely face.
Anywho, so we decided to tell Katy that there was a possibility that one of us would be leaving and she began BAWLING!!  She didn’t want us to leave and just poured out her gratitude for the role we played in her life as missionaries and her friends.  We counseled her that she needs to put all of her trust in our Heavenly Father and although one day we will not be here in Babahoyo, she will never be alone.  We are so proud of Katy and how much she has changed through this wonderful gospel.  She was smiling from ear to ear when she saw us the next day.  I am truly making friends here for a lifetime!  Also, when the Bishop of our ward here found out, he said, "YAY! Soy el mas feliz Obispo!  WAHOO!"  [“I am the happiest Bishop!”]  We truly have the best ward family here, it is going to be hard when it really is time to leave.
A quick update on Darien – he has SO many questions my head hurts some days.  He left to the beach this last week so we are meeting with him when he returns tomorrow!  His baptism date has moved to July 12th!

Recently we have been lacking in investigators, so we began contacting literally EVERYONE!!! One contact we made this week was an incredibly humbling experience as we were an answer to someone’s prayer.  We were walking quite swiftly to our next appointment with the family of Yuri (the cute girl that got baptized last week), and Hermana Toledo pointed out the cutest little dog (which is rare here, all the others have some kind of disease).  This led us to notice a cute mom sitting outside their house with her daughter.  We decided to contact her and as we approached her we noticed tears in her eyes.  We asked her if she needed any help and that we were there to serve her.  She began crying, so we gave her a big hug and shared our knowledge that Heavenly Father loves her so much.  She expressed her gratitude for being an answer to her prayers.  Her son is a part of a group of friends that haven’t made the wisest decisions lately and she hasn’t heard from him in weeks!  She had prayed that morning that someone would help her know what to do.  She said, “Every time our heavenly father sends someone to help me!"  We were so humbled that we were sent to answer her prayer that day!

We also had another neat experience contacting this week.  We were walking down the street Olmedo (which we walk at least twice a day) and I was telling Hna Toledo a story.  Then all of a sudden my companion starts walking across the street in the opposite direction. "AHH, Hermana!"  She felt inspired to walk across the street to contact a cute little old lady who was embracing her granddaughter.  We shared a quick 5 minute lesson on the restoration of Christ’s Church to the Earth.  We learned that she lived with her son's family and they have always watched us walk down the street and always wondered who we were!  She is the cutest thing ever and it is a FAMILY!!!!! AHH :)  We are already picturing them being sealed together in the temple.  Cross your fingers! ;)
View of the Babahoyo River from a church member's home.
My thought for you all this week comes from a letter that my dear aunt Karen sent me: 
"When I think of words that describe God I would have to say love, peace and joy (just to say a few).  If we really are sons and daughters of God then we have these same characteristics inside each one of us.  I think that many times we are looking for joy in things outside of ourselves...we are wanting physical things to fulfill us and bring us joy.  Those things can bring us pleasure but those outside things are not lasting.  It is not joy.  Joy comes from recognizing who we are.  Joy comes from knowing our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  When we feel that connection and joy within it is contagious and we want to share it with all those we come in contact with.  We are happiest when our lives are connected to others through unselfish love and service."

I loved what she related to me about JOY.  Joy comes from knowing our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  I am the happiest I have ever been because I have come to know my Heavenly Father and brother Jesus Christ, and I know that I am a daughter of God.  I am loving sharing this joy with the people in Babahoyo.  I am Joyful Jessica Jo over here in Ecuador. 

Family, I love you all so much and hope you have a wonderful week!! 

Con mucho gozo [joy],
Hermana Bartholomew

Some crazy pictures my sweet companion and I took today in our new Ecuador shirts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Old Man in the Red Chair Reading the Book of Mormon!

June 23, 2014

Oh hey hey hey family!!!!  I hope everyone had fun at camps and all the other fun stuff going on at home this week!  Summer is already flying by right?! 

To start, a quick correction from my email last week.  False alarm - the other area in our ward didn’t close.  Elder Camargo is still here with a new companion – Elder Torrez.  So right now it is Elder Camargo and Elder Torrez and Hermana Toledo and me.  We all get along so well.  The other 3 missionaries, all being Latinos, love using little phrases of English they have learned on me, although usually they don’t pertain to the situation!!  We are the fab-5, helping grow Barrio Olmedo like never before!

Next, a fun fact about Ecuador - we can’t flush the toilet paper down the toilet.  (It actually took me a few days after I arrived in Ecuador before I realized this.)  Instead of flushing, we just put the used toilet paper in a little (usually overflowing) trash can that is provided next to the toilet.  The reason for not flushing the toilet paper is not entirely clear to me.  I have seen a billboard depicting a sad banana tree with pieces of toilet paper along with a catchy phrase that says something about how it damages the trees?
Anyway, after a couple of months, I am now finally in the habit of putting my toilet paper in the little garbage can and not the toilet.  (By the way, it is extremely hard to change such a basic habit that you have been doing your entire life.)  But at least we have toilet paper here in Ecuador.  I think you will remember that Hermana Toledo started her mission in Venezuela.  While she was there, they usually didn’t even have toilet paper because of the war going on.  So I am just counting my blessings that we have toilet paper! :) 
Speaking of toilet paper - a related funny story from this week.  We were out working one day and my companion really needed to go to the bathroom.  We went to the nearest member’s house and asked to use theirs, however they were out of toilet paper.  So we ran to the nearest mini tienda [store] and back to the house.  When Herman Toledo entered the small bathroom and attempted to close the door, the whole door AND the door frame fell to the ground!  Both of us were laughing, and trying to lift the door back up so she could finally go to the bathroom.  In the end, I ended up holding the door frame and the door in place so she could finally go to the bathroom.  This little adventure helped us appreciate a functioning bathroom door.  :) 
Now onto the GREAT NEWS...YURI was baptized!!!! 

Yuri before her baptism

Her full name is Yuri Pamela Mora Ube.  She was so excited to be baptized and her WHOLE family came as well.  (After years of being inactive in the church, they all came on Sunday too.)  Yuri is going to be a great example to her friends and family to always attend church and say family prayer!  One day she will be a mother and her testimony will help her future children.  Heavenly Father has big plans for this little lady!  Now we are working on getting their family sealed in the temple, and hopefully I will be able to attend that ceremony later on in my mission!

Well this week we contacted a referral from Julissa (who is Katy’s sister – the Katy who was baptized a couple of weeks ago).  Julissa’s friend’s name is Derian, and he is 18 years old.  Derian has a billion and 2 questions about the church, which is wonderful because as Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of 12 Apostles said, "Ask the missionaries!  They can help you!"  We love studying for our meetings with Derian and answering his questions.  We enjoy seeing our own testimonies grow as we go!  Derian’s baptismal date is set for the 5th of July, but he was very clear with us that he will only get baptized if he receives an answer to all of his questions.  We are praying he will open his heart and exercise faith so he will come to know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer.
The final grand story I have for you all this week goes back to the first few weeks of my mission.  So we live a good 20-30 min away (walking) from our assigned sector [proselyting area].  Every morning on the familiar walk to our area we pass a house with two flower pots outside the door.  There have been 2 distinct times I remember seeing an older man sitting outside the house in a red plastic chair reading a book and I’ve had the thought, "Hey, he likes to read - give him a Book of Mormon!” After having the thought I would always rationalize it away with something like, "No, you don’t know enough Spanish!” or “You just want to share the gospel with everyone because you are a missionary.  Plus, we have lunch or a visit right now and can’t be late!" 
Well, on this past Monday night we passed the house with the two flower pots and there was the old man in his red plastic chair reading the newspaper.  I thought, "Hey, look he is reading again...he really does love to read...Give him a Book of Mormon."  My companion had a similar feeling so we both looked at each other and approached the man who loves to read!  At the same time, Hermana Toledo took a phone call, and I was left to contact this man.  So I introduced myself and stated that I observed that he likes to read and we have a great book for him that he will just love!  Carlos Paceco invited us into his home and accepted another visit for the next day! 
24 hours later we again entered Carlos’ home and he apologized for not telling us earlier but he was baptized about 40 years ago and has been inactive for about 20 years.  His wife died 4 years ago as a faithful, active member of the church, but they were never sealed in the temple to each other or to their 11 children because at the time, there wasn’t a temple in Guayaquil and they didn’t have enough money to travel to the temple in Lima, Peru. 
But we were an answer to his prayer as we reminded him of the great plan of happiness and that Heavenly Father loves him.  Heavenly Father knows his children!  The Spirit told me to stop and give him a Book of Mormon but I did not listen and quickly rationalized away the prompting.  We were just beaming when we found out he was already a member - all he needed was a loving and helping hand to bring him back to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we told Carlos, it does not matter how long you have been inactive, you are a member of His church! 
Elder Robert C. Gay of the Quorum of the 70 recounted a similar experience of failing to initially heed the prompting from the Holy Ghost in a General Conference talk in 2012.  He said, "…As I went home that evening, I realized two great truths. First, I knew as never before that God is mindful of each of us and will never forsake us; and second, I knew that we must always hearken to the voice of the Spirit within us and go “straightway” wherever it takes us, regardless of our fears or any inconvenience.”
Elder Gay goes on to say, “One day the disciples asked the Savior who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He told them to be converted, humble, and submissive as little children. He then said, “The Son of man is come to save that which [is] lost.”  With that one sentence, He defined our mission (my mission).  We are to go to the rescue—to the lost, the last, and the least. It is not enough to avoid evil; we must “suffer his cross” and “be anxiously engaged,” helping others to conversion. With compassion and love we embrace the prodigal, answer the cries of orphans in hysteria, the pleas of those in darkness and despair, and the distress calls of family in need.”
As I have served the people of Ecuador I have always received the confirmation that God forsakes no one.  I myself as a missionary and all those who are members of this great church, may we always go straight way without fears or any inconvenience and rescue the one!  The lost, the last, and the least.  God is aware of each of us.  God is aware of Carlos Paceco and placed him in our path so he can become, Carlos Paceco in the red plastic chair, reading the Book of Mormon!  My testimony is that Heavenly Father is aware of us all, and anyone can come to know of his love through service and can begin to take on the countenance of God.  Oh I just love being a missionary!  The church is true my friends!  I love you all and think the world of you!  Can you believe that this week I will have completed 4 months of my mission?! Crazy.
Oh I forgot to tell you ECUADOR WON!!!!! 2-1!!!!  (Against Honduras I believe)  There were hundreds of people in the street with their Ecuador shirts and flags, riding in cars or their motorcycles (of course) blowing horns, singing, and setting off fireworks!!!!  It was a crazy night!  But YAY for Ecuador, hopefully they can win the next one too!  Also I heard that USA won their first game, wahoo!!

Well family I love and adore each of you! 

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Bartholomew   

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Father's Day - The Unspeakable Gift from God

June 16, 2014
¡Hola mi familia y amigos! ¿Como le va? [How’s it going?]
Good news!  The world cup started!!!!:)  However this makes our job a little more difficult.  People here live and breathe soccer.  To say that soccer is a big deal is an understatement here in America Sur.  Yesterday, Father’s Day (Happy Father’s Day all you dads out there - we will get to that in a minute)  was the first game for team Ecuador!!!  The streets were full of the Bright Yellow jerseys, grand flags waving out the windows and these fancy soccer hats that actually almost look like the hats the people have at hot dog on a stick!  HAHA, wahoo ECUADOR!!! 

But the game started at 10 AM sharp and just our luck, 10 AM is the same time of our sacrament meeting.  So of course everyone’s response to the invitation to church was either nope we are watching the game or we are going to Guayaquil for Father’s Day...to watch the game!  Needless to say not too many people came to church and the talks during sacrament meeting were accompanied by GGGGGOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!! 

We actually had more people come the night before to our Ward Talent Show, and gladly it was a SUCCESS!  Both we and the Elders serving here in our ward had investigators and menos activos [less actives] come and they loved it!  Everyone went all out for the show...wearing their nicest clothes, memorizing dances and singing their hearts out...they even found me a violin so I could play too.  I love our ward, we are all so close it is going to be hard to leave them...ya let’s not even think about that. 

Now for the sad news, Elder Juanes and Elder Camargo had cambios [transfers] today and the Mission President closed their sector so it is only Hermana Toledo and I in our ward now.  They will be missed.  Along with the Elders leaving we gained all of their investigators, so I will update you on all the new people next week!

AHH!!!  Now for the happiest news of all...Yuri definitely wants to be baptized and we cleared up everything wither her family, so if no other surprises come up she is planning to be baptized this Sat. the 21st.  So please pray for Yuri and her sweet family (thank you for your prayers, I feel them daily)  

Coming back to Sunday...HAPPY HAPPY FATHERS DAY!!  Shout out to the greatest dad in the world, my dear father (and those who know him agree with me ;) )  The most important thing my dad had taught me is that I am a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father!  As Jeffery R. Holland, of the Quorum of 12 Apostles said, the most important doctrine we teach as missionaries is that we have a loving Heavenly Father.  He loves you and me. 

This week we had the experience of explaining the great plan of happiness and specifically our premortal life with our loving Heavenly Father.  We made a great impression on a less active member, Viki (Aldo’s sister).  Viki is 18 yrs old and expecting a baby boy here in a few months.  While teaching her this week, we focused on her role as a mother and that Heavenly Father trusted her with one of his precious children.  We told her that her child is so excited to come to earth and receive a body and that she is going to be his or her mother.  We explained that our Heavenly Father loves her so much and is rejoicing in the life she is living.  Also her son was specifically chosen to come to her humble home.  In unbelief she asked us if we were joking, but then being touched by the spirit, she asked if she really knew her child before she came to earth.   Yes, Viki, Heavenly Father is sending you a bundle of joy and entrusts you with the important role of being a mother in these the latter days.  All three of us then realized that all of our future children are watching over us and are anxiously waiting for their time to come to Earth. 

As I was thinking about this, at first I was like AHH that’s so weird to think about.  I’m on a mission.  I’m not thinking of getting married right now, but there was a sweet spirit in the room and we are all so excited and humbled to know that one day Heavenly Father will entrust us with his precious children. 

Oh what love Heavenly Father has for us to provide us with families.  I just adore my family and miss you lots, but I know that Heavenly Father is blessing you MUCHISIMO while I am away.

I reflected much on the famous scripture, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Our Bishop from the ward here in Babahoyo, has a granddaughter, Emily, who is 3 years old.  She explained the atonement to me and truly understands the ultimate sign of love from our Heavenly Father.  Emily was asked one day after lunch, “Who is Jesus Christ?”  She began drawing a simple stick figure on a cross, and simply said, "He died on the cross."  Why did he have to die?  "So we can be good again."  Is he still dead? "Noo, he is living with Heavenly Father right now."  And pointed to the frame on the wall of the portrayal of the 2nd coming.  Do we get to see him again? "Of course!" It was probably the sweetest way to describe what happened.  Emily truly understands that "He died" so that she can "be good again" and "of course" we will all see him again.  Our Heavenly Father loves us SO much that He gave his only perfect Son so we can all live again.
I don’t know if everyone remembers the Church produced video many years ago called THE BRIDGE.  I think this video is a perfect way to understand a Father’s love for his son.  I imagine that the movie is on the Church website or on YouTube.  I invite you to go and watch it.

This week during my personal study I read a General Conference talk given in 2012 by Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Quorum of 70 about the Unspeakable Gift from God.  This gift is the Holy Ghost.  Many times as members of the church we only think of our Heavenly Father giving his Son to us.  And not in any way diminishing the Atonement, he has also given us the gift of the Holy Ghost.  In his talk Elder Christensen said, “The Holy Ghost loves us and wants us to be happy.  He is known as the comforter helping us feel the peace of God which passes all understanding.  I testify that the gift of the Holy Ghost is Heavenly Father’s precious and unspeakable gift to all who will come unto His Son be baptized in His name and receive the Holy Ghost." 

I had never thought of that concept before, that the Holy Ghost loves me.  The Holy Ghost truly is an unspeakable gift from God and has comforted me many times in my life when it passed my understanding.  How great the love of our Heavenly Father that He gave us the Holy Ghost to literally FEEL of His love for us. 

I love my Heavenly Father so much.  I know that I lived with Him before I came to this earth and he wants me to return home to Him.  I am so grateful for the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost and the ultimate gift of love His Son Jesus Christ.  I know that we can all feel of our Heavenly Fathers love for us, because I sure do, every single day! 

Have a wonderful week family and friends, talk to you soon!

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Bartholomew 

P.S.  This is my favorite little girl in the whole wide world!!!  Her name is Kimberly and everytime she sees us coming down the street she yells HERMANAS!!!!! And runs to us to give us a big hug! And she is in love with my Ecuador ring so of course I had to take a picture!  

Kimberly and my Ecuador Ring

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monsters and Missionary Work

June 9, 2014

¡Hola mi familia! 

Oh you all are just the greatest!  Know that I pray for you multiple times each day!  Thank you for all the love and prayers this week, I felt every one!!!  June?!  What?!  Time is just flying by, I can’t believe it!  Hopefully it is going by just as fast for you all as well!

So sad news...Yuri wasn’t able to be baptized this week because we didn’t have permission from her family and her godmother is super Evangelica, so of course that didn’t go over well.  But we are planning to work with her family this week and they are coming to the ward talent show this Saturday.  Hopefully their hearts will soften with the crazy, fun talents we have planned.  But Yuri really wants to be baptized so we have been praying continuously for her and her family, so I will keep you updated on her.

Jenny Barco did not attend church this week and her family does not want her to become "Mormon".  We planned a perfect lesson for her using Mateo [Matthew] 10:22, which says,

"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”  

We plan to tie this scripture into sharing the rejection of Joseph Smith so hopefully she will continue to listen.  She is AMAZING and loves El Libro de Mormon and adores our meetings on Sundays.  AHHH!  Families are sometimes the biggest problem, not the investigator.
Basically, all the rest of our investigators are no longer interested, having family problems, need to get married first, or just want us to visit so I can teach them English.  During a recent lesson, as we were repeatedly interrupted by a group of young boys who wanted me to tell them their names in English, Hermana Toledo asked me in frustration, "Why do you have to be American?!"  Haha, so great!  Anyways, so right now we are in the process of finding new investigators and contacting references of members.
Although we lack investigators at the moment, we still had an incredible week!  I have 2 spiritual thoughts for you all...

1.  Monsters Inc. can be related to missionary work!  Who would have thought?!  I never thought of the popular Disney movie in this way, until this week as I was talking with another Hermana in our mission. 

Bueno, during the movie, the monsters work to obtain energy or electricity to supply the city’s needs.  There is a dramatic moment early in the movie when the monsters walk into the workhouse in slow-motion with serious faces, and are intently waiting for their door. This exemplifies their grand desire at that point was to have better numbers than the monster next to them and indicates that they felt their success was all about the number of cans they filled. 

However, by the end of the movie, the monsters had realized that the work was more rewarding, in both numbers and the experience, when they focused on the children, making them laugh, and perfecting their comedian skills rather than the numbers. 

Talking with another Hermana in our mission this week, we compared this to missionary work.  It’s not all about the numbers!!!  This divine work is much more rewarding when we focus on those we are teaching, perfecting our teaching skills, and honestly having fun; not being consumed with how many baptisms we have or how many the other missionaries have. 

In reality when the monsters refocused their approach on the children and not the numbers, Mike Wazowski (the main character one-eyed green monster) couldn’t change the cans out fast enough to capture all the energy he received.  As missionaries we will receive blessings "that there will not be room enough to receive it” if we are focused on the right things.   

I loved this analogy that we found because many missionaries are consumed with how many baptisms they have and the others next to them.  Elder Jeffery R Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles said that it doesn’t matter how many people we baptize on our mission, but at a minimum we better come home with at least one convert - and I know that it will be ME!!!!  I am a representative of Jesus Christ here on my mission and my mission is to become more like HIM.

2.  My second thought comes from a meeting we attended this last week with all of the missionaries from the missions in Guayaquil (North, South, and West).  We had a visiting General Authority from one of the Quorums of the 70 speak to us, an Elder Madel.  Elder Madel counseled us to picture our investigators dressed in WHITE in the TEMPLE of Guayaquil.  He said although our missions are the highest baptizing missions in the world, the number of those converts attending the temple are minimal.  He talked about how the ordinance of baptism is hollow without the added blessings and covenants made in the temple. 

Elder Madel told of a recent convert family, a couple and their 4 children, who had come to the temple to be sealed as a family for time and all eternity.  As the family was waiting in the sealing room, the temple sealer asked if everyone was present.  The family gave an affirmative nod and the sealer began to talk with the family prior to the ceremony.  After a couple of minutes, the sealer stopped and again asked if everyone was present.  The mother counted everyone and said, “Yes, we are all here.”  The sealer began talking again and then stopped and asked one more time if everyone was present.  The mother recited the names of each of her kids and again affirmed that all were present.  The sealer began talking again, but then stopped and said, "Sister, did you ever have a child pass away?" 
The mother then recounted the story of how she had lost her first son only a few months after birth.  The sealer smiled and said, "I knew someone was missing.  A little voice keeps saying ‘Mommy, Mommy don’t forget me!’"  The family was overcome with emotion.  They went back and did the necessary gospel ordinance work for their deceased son and were later sealed as a family with all members present. 
The ordinance of baptism is necessary to open the door to the path home to our Heavenly Father, but as missionaries we need to picture our investigators progressing further than just entering the door.  We need to picture them dressed in WHITE in the TEMPLE of Guayaquil. 
Family, the spirit in that room full of missionaries was incredibly strong as we were counseled how to become better missionaries.  Another happy thing is that I understood practically ALL that was said, minus a few words, AHH the gift of tongues is real.  Wow! 
Thank you again for all your prayers this week!  I felt of your love and most importantly the love of my Heavenly Father.

Have a fantastic week!!!

Lots of love from Ecuador,
Hermana Bartholomew

(Oh, a quick fun fact, I learned all the words to the Macarena song!! Wahoo!!  Before, I thought the words were just, dadada da da, macarena, dadañlksdfjñalskd susa buena, dadadañsldkjfñasdk AAAAAA MACARENA.  But now I know all the words, yup no big deal! ;)

Besides her regular e-mail, Jessica sent a separate note about a video she was attempting to send us:

I am trying to send you a video of all the banana trees but it is not working! :(  THERE ARE MILLIONS!!!!  And I got to see the whole process of how they package them and ship them off to America!  SO COOL!! 

A few minutes later she sent this note:

Sorry this computer sucks and I can’t send the video I have for you this week! I’ll try again next week!  Love you all family! ¡Chao!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Once Upon a Time

June 2, 2014

Ecuador is BEAUTIFUL - Babahoyo River

Well family, this week I have a wonderful story for you.  It is like a fairy tale for missionaries so of course you start with “Once upon a time”.

Once upon a time there was a young lady named Katerine Reyes.  She was 20 years old and was the single mother of two beloved boys, Christian, age 4, and Jampier, age 2.  She took care of her children all day until 5:30 pm when she left to attend night school.  She had listened to "the Mormons" in white shirts several times but never completely accepted their message or invitations to attend church or to be baptized, even though all of her siblings were members of the Church.

One day Katerine decided to attend an activity at the church with her sister Julissa, where she met the best missionaries in all the land, Hermana Toledo and Hermana Bartholomew (the narrator of this story may be a little biased :)).  The Hermanas invited her to attend the baptismal service of Aldo Martinez and afterward she was overcome with joy and accepted their invitation to be baptized. 

Katerine told the Hermanas that she had met with the missionaries before, but the Hermanas knew she was placed in their path by a loving Heavenly Father, for she is a daughter of God.  Like all children of God, she had made mistakes in her life and became intrigued with the principle of repentance and the ordinance of baptism.  The sadness of losing her first daughter only a few days after birth was calmed when she came to learn that her daughter is waiting for Katerine to come back home so she can be her mom for eternity.  She truly learned the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  She came to really know she was a daughter of God as declared in a song,

Walk tall, you’re a daughter, a child of God. 
Be strong - please remember who you are. 
Try to understand, You’re part of His great plan.
He is closer than you know - reach up He’ll take your hand.

One day Katerine’s faith was tested when her friend introduced her to a man.  This man was very flattering, had a large house, fancy clothes, and a temporal substance she and her two sons lacked...MONEY.  This man gave her a tour of the house and glorified his wealth.  The man promised her she could live in this grand house and she and her two sons would never lack the things of the world.  All could be hers.  However, there was one condition - she could not be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Later, when recounting this story to the Hermanas with her tear-stained face, Katerine said, "I need that money for my kids, we have little food and clothing."  Despite her temporal need for food and clothing, and her desire to have the best for her kids, she declined the offer from this man and with faith told him, "I would rather have my children grow up and know they are a child of God than have your wealth." 

Remembering the warning of the Hermanas that when she made her decision to be baptized, that Satan would try everything to stop her, Katerine recounted that the man was Satan - who promised her all the pleasures in the world if she would NOT follow the example of Christ and become a member of His Church.  Oh, Satan really does want everyone to be miserable like unto himself.  She was also being ridiculed by her friends for listening to the Hermanas and wanting to be baptized.  But, like many before her she did not care because she knew that she was a daughter of God and instead said, "THIS IS MY RELIGION!" 

On May 31, 2014, Katerine Rosío Reyes Sanchez was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  She has been beaming with the light of Christ ever since. 

Katerine with Hermanas B & Toledo

Left to Right: Julissa, Hma B, Christian, Katerine, Hma Toledo
The spiritual understanding of the Hermanas was opened during those short two weeks.  They received a personal witness and testimony of our Savior’s love for Katerine.  Hermanas Toledo and Bartholomew knew that their Heavenly father and Savior Jesus Christ trusted them to serve and teach someone in need, by placing Katerine in their path.  Katerine exemplified her faith in God and she will live happily ever after by enduring to the end.

Family, Hermana Toledo and I are so so so beyond grateful for the chance we had to be the Lord’s hand and serve the ONE.  Katerine is a special and choice daughter of God.  Satan tried all he could to prevent her from coming unto Christ.  We are a little upset with him at the moment. :)  When she told us the story about being approached by the unknown man, and her courage to stand up for "her religion" even though she wasn’t even a member yet?  WOW!!

We always left Katerine’s humble home after our meetings with her in awe at her incredible faith, and many times we were in tears because of the matchless love the Savior has for her.  My testimony of faith and love have grown so much in the past two weeks.  Like President Thomas S. Monson said, "In reality you can never love the Lord until you serve Him by serving His people."    

I love my Savior Jesus Christ and I know He lives.  I love my Heavenly Father and I know He hears my prayers.  Although at times this week it was hard to be a missionary, I know God hears my prayers.  My knees are a little bruised from the amount of time I spent on our tile floor talking with my Heavenly Father.  I know He heard my prayers and "loves me ‘til the end". 

This week I also had an intercambio [exchange] with the Hermana Training Leader in our area named Hermana Valesquez.  I was so nervous at first because I was in charge of where we would go and who we would teach the entire day (and she reports everything back to the President).  No pressure right?!  But all went well and she was impressed by how much I could talk during the day, haha:)  It was a great day but I missed my companion, Hermana Toledo.  I don’t know what I am going to do without her when my 12 week training is over. 

Speaking of training, my Spanish is coming along and I can pretty much get the idea of what others are talking about, just not quite to the point of knowing every word.  My companion and I’s favorite word is muchisimo (so much).  And we add the “-isimo” ending to any word we can.  For example, buenisimo (so good), cheverisimo (so cool), ricisimo [??], when we exaggerate the first letter "ísimo" It makes any word sound more happy! 

Our investigators are doing well but most were unable to attend church this week.  But we do have a baptism planned for this Saturday for Yuri!!!  She is 11 years old and comes from a part-member family.  She is so excited to be baptized!

Well family although many times it is hard to be a missionary, I LOVE MY MISSION!!!  Hermana Toledo and I remembered this week why we love our missions so much and it is because of Katy, Francisco and Aldo and most importantly serving shoulder to shoulder with the greatest missionary who ever lived, Jesus Christ.

Until next week,

Con "Muchisimo" amor,

Hermana Bartholomew