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   

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