Monday, July 28, 2014

Making Friends for Eternity

July 28, 2014

¡Hola familia!  OH my heavens it’s Monday again?!  AND I just completed 5 months of being a missionary and I am as happy as could be. 

Hey, so funny fact about me, I can’t say Bartholomew any more...it always just comes out as Bartolomeo.  Also, when I was asked where I was from, by our new Zone Leader from Arizona (in English I might add), I said Draper, UT, but with a Latina twist and rolled the R in Draper.  Haha it will be an adventure switching back to English as my main language. 

Also, a funny story.  So you know how my middle name is Jo (hopefully you do because you named me) well here it is pronounced “Ho”.  So during our last district meeting I received a package from home and someone was looking at the address label and said, “Oh, your name is Jessica HO.”  Then all of the Latino Elders and my companion started saying, "Ho, Ho, Ho!"  My district leader and I being the only North Americans in the group just started laughing.  Within 10 minutes I was being called Santa.  "HO! HO! HO!” The church is true (instead of Merry Christmas, haha see what they did there?).  And then there is a Ho which is slang for a lady who usually is not known to serve a mission.  A few of the Elders now call me Hermana Ho, how lovely right?!  But don’t worry I still love my name! :)

While teaching this week I have learned and gained a stronger testimony of this gospel and it left me asking... really, how could anyone deny that this is the true church?  I mean really, the organization of the church being the same as Christ’s day - from prophets, apostles and bishops all the way down to nursery leaders, the priesthood, temples-everything!  There should be a line out the door of people wanting to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Well I sure have no doubt this church is true and I am willing to share it with anyone who will listen.

María, our 84 year old "princess" (she looks like a princess in her beautiful puffy sleeve decorated baptism dress) was baptized on Wednesday!  She struggled a little during the baptism to bend backwards, but she was fully immersed and born anew!  

Princess Maria before her baptism

The next day, we drew her a picture to remind her of her baptism because she can’t read.  The picture had a sun so that she could remember it was in the morning, and a little stick figure drawing of her getting baptized.  María is very honest so she let me know that I wasn’t blessed with the gift to draw, but she has treasured the picture next to her photo of the Savior this whole week. 

When Sunday came around for Maria to be confirmed a member of the church and receive the Holy Ghost, she wasn’t home and neither was her family and she doesn’t have a phone, so we are waiting until next Sunday for that ordinance.  So right now Maria is almost a member, but we are so happy for her and her desire to make this covenant with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  She told us that we are her best friends and that we touched her heart.  Although she has a difficult time remembering things, she told us that she will always remember us and her baptism, and not because we are the best missionaries ever, (although that is what she tells us ;) but because she was touched by the Spirit.  I am truly making friends here that I will have for a lifetime and the eternities to come. As it says in the scriptures “…the same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there [in heaven], only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.”  D&C 130:2

Three of our other new lifelong and eternal friends are the 3 amigos, Marcos, Wilson and Ricardo.  We learned this week that now Ricardo may have to wait a little while for his baptism because the divorce with his first wife has not finalized and he is not legally married to his new wife.  We are waiting and praying that all will work out quickly, but he is so excited and really wants to be baptized so we are happy. 

Then Wilson is the most thoughtful guy ever.  He is always calling us to make sure we have food and many times has made us a lunch to have for the next day.  We asked him this week if he liked attending church and in his exact words he said, “Did I like church?  I LOVED church.  I am just so excited and joyful I don’t know what to do with myself.” (Insert happy dance here ;)) 

Wilson has been looking for the right church for 19 years.  He joined a few churches and left a few more, but never was baptized.  In our last visit, we read from the scriptures with him the Savior’s invitation to come unto Him, repent and be baptized in His name.  Then we asked Wilson why he never was baptized (thinking that maybe he didn’t believe it was necessary) but we were surprised when he replied that no one had ever taught him like this, or no one else has had the TRUE church of Christ.  He said, “But you told me my baptism is August 2nd and I know that this is true, so I can be baptized right?”  Well of course you can!  We were beyond happy when he told us that! 

Now onto Marcos.  Marcos was a pastor in his Evangelical church which meets below his home. Actually better put, the church is IN his home.  As he has been gaining his testimony and receiving the answers that this church is true he just would not say "¡Si voy a ser baptizado!" [“Yes, I’m going to be baptized!”] 

In our last visit with Marcos, we read the talk given in this past General Conference by Elder Marcos Aidukaitis of the Quorum of the Seventy entitled “If Ye Lack Wisdom”.  He said,
“How can we recognize truth in a world that is increasingly blunt in its attacks on the things pertaining to God?”  He then goes on to say that the scriptures teach us that there are 3 ways we can know the truth - 1) by observing its fruits; 2) by experimenting on the word ourselves; and 3) by personal revelation from God.

We asked Marcos to tell us the fruits of the church that he has seen, how he has experimented upon the word, and if he has received personal revelation.  All of his answers were perfect, as if he had been a member of our church for all of his life.  But still, he would not say, “I will be baptized.”  Finally, one day Marcos opened up his heart to us and told us that he was a great friend and leader to all those who attended his Evangelical church.  Marcos is struggling to part with his friends and his lifestyle for that last 10 plus years.  His church is a huge part of who he is.

After hearing this, we finally knew what to teach him - the principle of Sacrifice.  Sacrifice.  Sacrifice is giving up something good for something better.  Following the example of the original 12 Apostles and many others we read about in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. They gave up everything to follow the Savior. 

One of the stories that came to my mind was the story of Peter being asked by Jesus 3 times - Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?  Yea Lord.  Then FEED my SHEEP. 

Marcos truly loves his Savior and knows it is the correct thing to be baptized, but doesn’t want to leave his friends.  Do you love the Savior?  Then feed his sheep.  Marcos has the opportunity to, as President Henry B Eyring said, "Wherever you are on the path to inherit the gift of eternal life, you have the opportunity to show many people the way to GREATER happiness...and leave a hope to those who might follow your example.”  Like King Lamoni and Alma and many others in the Book of Mormon, after they became converted to the Lord, they told everyone and anyone of this grand plan of salvation, the plan of our Heavenly Father. 

Marcos began crying yesterday as he expressed his gratitude for our teachings and testimonies. He knows this is true.  He has changed his prayers to not IF the church is true, but I KNOW that this church is true and I need the strength to sacrifice my old life and FEED his sheep.  WE are so grateful for the influence of our message on Marcos and the strong faith that he has built of prayer and of our Heavenly Father.  He truly sees the fullness of the gospel now.  OH we are so looking forward to the day when Marcos can say "Amen” (he always says it, it’s his habit from the Evangelica church), I want to be baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ by one with the real authority of God. 

Our investigator pool is small but FULL of those who are prepared by the Lord.  I love Babahoyo, my companion, our ward, our investigators and most importantly my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. 

I love you lots family and hope you have a wonderful week!  Thank you for all the love and prayers, I feel them daily!

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Bartolomeo

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

3 Amigos

July 21, 2014

¡Hola mi querida familia!  ¿Cómo están? ¿Cómo le fue en Hawaii?  Probablemente perfecto y bonito porque es Hawaii, verdad?  Soy muy feliz aquí en Ecuador, tengo una gran adoración por las personas aquí. 

[Hello my dear family!  How are you?  How did it go in Hawaii?  Probably perfect and beautiful because it is Hawaii, right?  I am very happy here in Ecuador, I have a great admiration (adoration) for the people here.]

Language switch...Hopefully you all got that! ;)   Can I just tell you how much I love the people here?!  Well I love and adore them.  They are the most loving and selfless people I know.  We received so much thoughtful service this week that we are overwhelmed!  The members love us so much and think we are too skinny (haha good one), so they are now finding members to feed us dinner in addition to our lunches every day.  Those who barely have enough food for their own families are so willing to give us everything.  One family in particular is a modern day example of the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  This family feeds the missionaries, less actives members of the church, neighbors, and their own family of 10 twice a week and they always have enough food and more.  Ahh service is the greatest thing ever.
Well I have happy news!  Maria, my favorite little old lady on this planet, is preparing to be baptized this coming Saturday.  She struggles with remembering all of the lessons we have taught her, but she loves going to church and when we come to visit she feels something special.   I gave her a picture of Christ depicting Him with all the little children gathered around him as described in the Book of Mormon in 3 Nefi.  Whenever she sees this picture she is reminded of her upcoming baptism and that she will become as a little child again, which she loves because as she says, "I am the at least 100 years old!" 

Oh, the best was teaching her the Word of Wisdom. [The Word of Wisdom is the Church’s law of health that prohibits alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, etc.]   She thought the name of this commandment was hilarious and always asks us what our “words of wisdom” will be today.  She also is a little nervous about the baptismal font filled with water - if it will be clean and if anyone else will use it and if someone will be there to catch her. :)  After we resolved her concern and assured her that it would be clean water and just for her, and that a man with the power of God to baptize wouldn’t drop her, she wants to get baptized.  She is a hoot to teach, but we are so excited to help her receive these first ordinance of Baptism and Confirmation and help her enter into covenants with our Heavenly Father. 

The cute hand-stitched Ecuador dress that Maria made for me!

Oh, and the happiest news of all…MARCOS came to church and loved it!!!  [Marcos is investigator Jessica described in her letter from last week that was a referral from the bishop in their area.]  We had many powerful lessons with him this week, especially one in particular on the blessings of the temple.  The Spirit was so strong that none of us could stop the tears from coming.  We call him every night at 10 pm to remind him to read his assigned section of the Book of Mormon and many times he was already reading and sometimes he keeps reading until midnight!  Also, he took us to KFC for my companion’s birthday this week.  He treats us like we are his daughters.  We love Marcos - he is just like a big teddy bear. 

And as a result of teaching Marcos, we are now also teaching two additional investigators.  One is a man named Ricardo, who happens to work with Marcos and was a contact from the other Hermanas working here in Babahoyo.  Ricardo was an avid member of the same Evangelical church as Marcos, called Luz del Mundo [Light of the World].  Ricardo is a man of great faith and has read the Bible completely many many times.  HE loves church and always talks of the peace he feels while with the missionaries (aka “mis hermanas - La Chileana y La Norte Americana” [“my sisters – the Chilean and the North American”])  Marcos and Ricardo are both planning to be baptized with the priesthood authority of God a week from this Saturday on the 2 de Agosto [August 2]. 

And the good news doesn’t stop there.  On top of teaching and preparing Marcos and Ricardo for baptism, one day they introduced us to their friend, se llama Wilson [named Wilson]!  HE is a golden investigator.  Wilson is very special and hilarious.  He is one of those people who I know was prepared and ready to be reminded of this wonderful message about the Plan of Happiness. 

So a quick funny story about Wilson.  The first day we taught him about faith and baptism.  We explained to him that first comes a baptism by immersion in water, and that this is followed by a confirmation and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, also known as a baptism by fire.  Wilson said, "No, no, no I want to be baptized by fire first..."  "Um...well we have this order in which the ordinances are performed to truly cleanse us of our sins..."  "No, Hermanas. I want to be baptized by fire first so when I get baptized by water I can be refreshed or cooled down.  We have to put the fire out somehow!"  Haha!  This guy always makes us laugh. 

Wilson is such a sweet man, always serving others and he loves listening to our message.  And get this - HE has called US everyday this week to make sure we are coming to Marcos’ place because he is going to be there at 5:30.  We had an incredible experience of teaching him about the restoration of Christ’s church to the earth through Joseph Smith.  After that lesson, Wilson offered the prayer and began crying and kept saying that he couldn’t describe this great feeling he had and wanted to know why he always feels like this with us.  We explained it was God confirming to him through the Holy Ghost that our message is true.  He also defended the Book of Mormon to a bystander who said it was a book from man and not from God.  We were shocked, he had only had the book for 1 day and he was already defending it! 

Anyway, Marcos, Ricardo and Wilson, the 3 amigos who were avid members of their church, Luz del Mundo, and are now loving being taught the fullness of the gospel, adding truth to what they already know, and being reminded of additional truths they had originally learned in the pre-existence about this divine plan of salvation.  It is amazing to think that in the coming month all 3 will be baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ, and all 3 become priesthood holders with the authority to act in God’s name.  They will be a powerful addition to the church here in Babahoyo.

All of this is happening because of the great faith and prayers given by our dear obispo [bishop] who had the courage to follow a prompting and talk to his friend Marcos.  I invite all of you to pray sincerely to our Heavenly Father and bring to him at least 3 names of family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues and listen for a prompting about who is prepared to be reminded of this wonderful gospel message.  God knows all his children perfectly and will prompt you about who is ready to listen and accept this great message.  Who knows, you might even find another group of 3 amigos. 

Finally, I’ve saved my best news of the week for last.  I need to tell you some awesome news about Carlos – the old man in the red chair.  First, a funny story.  So we were watching Mormon Messages with Carlos one night and the poor man was really tired.  During the last video we were watching he began falling asleep.  Hermana Toledo and I looked over to see if he was getting anything out of the video to find that his head was bobbing up and down.  Usually when someone is falling asleep, when their head bobs up and down they jolt awake...haha not Carlos.  His head was bouncing all over the place but he was not waking up - snoring and all!   Hna Toledo and I were trying so hard not to laugh but we couldn’t help it...neither of us had had the experience of an investigator or a member falling asleep in a lesson.  We didn’t quite know what to do.  Suddenly, a car honked its horn quite loud and it jolted Carlos awake just in time to see us dying from laughter.  In the closing prayer, I asked that Carlos would be able to “sleep well tonight”, and we all, including Carlos, couldn’t help but laugh when I said it.  I like to think that Heavenly Father has a sense of humor too. ;)

Anyways, the GREAT NEWS is that Carlos came to church again and excitedly reported to us that he is paying tithing again and is meeting with the bishop beginning to prepare to enter the temple and be sealed to his dear wife and their children in 2 WEEKS!!!!!!  Our AWESOME new mission president has given permission for Hermana Toledo and me to travel to be with Carlos and his family at the temple in Guayaquil!!!  AHH, we are beyond happy for Carlos!  He is so anxious and ready to have the sacred blessings of the temple and be sealed to his children and his wife, so they can live together for eternity.  All he needed was the invitation to come back to church, and our Heavenly Father knew he was ready.  How grateful I am that I listened to the prompting from the Holy Ghost to talk to the old man in the red chair, who is now reading the Book or Mormon AND a pamphlet on preparing to enter the temple. 

Needless to say we are loving life here in Babahoyo, Ecuador, and are so happy for the people that Heavenly Father has placed in our path. 

I love you family, have a wonderful week!

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Bartholomew

P.S.  We found a baby lizard in the church today, don't know where the mommy is but we will keep looking! 

The "Baby" Lizard
Oh, and I got the package of the pictures from Luke, letter from Marlee, work-out book and t-shirt!  Thank you so much for all the thoughtful packages!  Love you :) 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Falling Down and Getting Back Up

July 14, 2014

Well this week falling down and getting back up seemed to be one and the same motion.  The sidewalks here in Babahoyo are not necessarily even...it’s like a set of stairs that goes up 1, down 2, up 3, down 4, the entire length of the sidewalk.  I believe it must be due to the slow growth of the city building upwards so their houses don’t flood with all the rain here. 

Well, one day this week as I was looking around at all of the potential future investigators as I walked (because after all, I can’t look down - our future investigators aren’t plastered in the cement!), a step came sooner than I excepted and I fell down and scratched my knees a little.  Well, I got back up - no blood, we’re good.  Let’s keep going. 

Then the other day we decided to start using the bus to go to our area instead of walking the whole 30 minutes each morning.  Now I need to explain something about the bus system here in Ecuador.  To pick up and drop off the people on the buses here, they do a rolling stop but never actually stop.  The best way to describe it is like a rolling, I’m going to keep going because I have places to be, kind of rolling stop.  It is just enough so you can get on the bus and you better hold on because they keep cruising away, because like I said, they have places to go. 

SO getting on was the easy part, but when it came time to get off, it is a bit more difficult.  I had watched the "rolling stop" for the passengers that exited the bus, and thought I knew what to do...so waiting at the staircase as the bus driver started his rolling stop, I waited for the right moment and put one foot out and met the ground.  However, I forgot one important detail - to continue walking!  I guess that I “beautifully” fell to the ground.  Hermana Toledo, half laughing, asked if I was OK.  With an audience in the street, not to mention everyone in the bus also staring at the “Gringa” who just gracefully fell off the bus, I jumped up and said, "Bueno, vamos!” [I’m good, let’s GO!

The law of physics wasn’t in my favor this week, and my knees are a little bruised and scratched up.  But, hey, I guess I’m taking the quote I shared at my farewell, before I left for my mission, literally and to a whole new level – “I am done with smooth knees”  Haha!  We have had many long laughs about my great bus-exiting experience, and the ward members who witnessed my fall also have had MANY good laughs.  The good thing is I can laugh at myself too, and next time I get off a bus, I promise I won’t fall. 

Falling down, or coming up short of our goals seemed to be a bit of a theme for this last week and month.  The 3 investigators planning to be baptized this month all "fell" because of challenges or simply no desire to change their lives.  But, I personally learned physically, as my knees can attest, and spiritually, from the experiences with our investigators, to jump up and say, “Bueno! Vamos!  Podemos hacerlo!" [Good!  Let’s Go! We can do it!]

The great news is that we found 3 wonderful families this week!!!  We are the happiest missionaries in all the world!  The first family came as a result of us talking to the kind guard of the Chinese restaurant on the corner of Flores y 10 de Agosto.  The guard’s name is Gonzalo, and he and his wife Violeta and their daughter Estephanie have a great faith in our Savior Jesus Christ and currently attend the Evangelica church near their home.  They are planning to be baptized this August.  We asked Violeta where she saw her daughter in 5-10 years and she said that she wants her to become a pastorá and preach the gospel.  Although we didn’t tell them, we are picturing her as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Whaoo, sister missionaries! :)

The second family came to us as a result of us attempting to find Gonzalo and his family one day, and we ended up meeting their son Manuel and his wife, Yuli.  They are the cutest couple ever.  They have questioned if their church is true and honestly want to follow Christ.  Manuel and Yuli are Christians and they have great faith and a relationship with Heavenly Father.  Yuli told us a neat experience of where once she lost some important papers for her school enrollment and couldn’t find them anywhere.  Later that night she had a dream and saw exactly where to look and at 3 am her prayers were answered and she found her papers.  We are super excited to have found them.

The third family came as a result of a reference from Viki (Aldo’s sister).  She had prayed and prayed to know which of her friends would be willing to listen to our message.  She finally received an answer that she should introduce us to her friend, Adela and her husband Adois and their two sons Andres and Junior (10 and 7).  They were so excited to come to church and eagerly want to follow the example of our Savior and be baptized.  They are pretty much one of the coolest families I have ever met.
Then we have another investigator - our big friend (both in heart and physically) named Marcos, who is a long-time friend of our bishop is an avid member of an Evangelica chruch near his home for 5 yrs.  When told by his dear friend, Obispo [Bishop] Olmedo (who lives on the street named Olmedo, and he is the bishop of our ward named Barrio Olmedo - haha so great), that he had prayed for him and strongly felt that he needed to hear from the missionaries, he was humbled.  Marcos accepted to listen to the missionaries - us!  Our favorite moment with him this week was when we asked him, "Marcos do you know that your church is true?"  He started justifying his answer by saying that he feels good...."  But we said, “No.  Marcos, yes or no?  Do you KNOW that your church is true?"  He sat back and said, "Honestly Hermanas, No."  We replied, "Well Marcos we promise you that you can KNOW that the church of Jesus Christ is true.  You can say, ‘I know that my church is true.’"

We fasted and prayed, and prayed and prayed with all our hearts that they all would come to church this Sunday.  But nothing.  No one came.  Not one of them was home.  No one.  AHH! Not again!  Sister Toledo and I were so discouraged – just like falling off that bus.  We were down.  Just as we were starting to complain and feel sorry for ourselves, we began seeing the tender mercies of the Lord. 

First, Ginger, our new Down Syndrome friend saw us and came running and gave me a HUGE hug with the biggest smile on her face.  It made my week!  Then, we found the cutest little old lady, María, whose  "smile lines" showed us how happy she was that someone invited her to church.  She instantly became my best friend and gave me a handmade dress from Ecuador! (which I forgot to take a picture of, I will send it next week)  Luz and Jenny also came to all 3 hours of church.  Someone also gave us a strawberry shake, so I was just beaming! ;) [Strawberries are, by far, Jessica’s favorite fruit.]

One of Satan’s strongest weapons on a missionary is discouragement.  But as President Dieter F Uchtdorf said, "Even those who set their hearts upon divine goals may still occasionally stumble, but they will not be defeated.  They trust and rely upon the promises of God.  They will rise up again with a bright hope in a righteous God and the inspiring vision of a great future. They know they can do it now.  Every person, young and old, has had his own personal experience with falling.  Falling is what we mortals do.  But as long as we are willing to rise up again and continue on the path we can learn and become better and happier as a result."  

I took the following advice and I invite all of you to do the same... “There will be times when you think you cannot continue on.  Trust the Savior and HIS love.  With faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the power and hope of the restored gospel, you will be able to walk tall and continue on.  Your path will at times be difficult.  But I give you this promise in the name of the Lord, rise up and follow in the footsteps of our Redeemer and Savior, and one day you will look back and be filled with eternal gratitude that you chose to trust the atonement and its power to lift you up and give you strength.  No matter how many times you have slipped or fallen, rise up!  Your destiny is a glorious one!" 

I fell down - literally and emotionally this week, but I know that my knees will heal, and I know that the Lord will help lift my spirit.  He will hasten His work in HIS time.  Although I wish that all of our investigators could be baptized today, I know that in the Lord’s time they will be.  I seriously just love being a missionary and the opportunity it gives me to always be striving to become better.  I am far from perfect but I am coming to know my Savior perfectly. 

Well family have a wonderful week in Hawaii!  The weather here is comparable to that in Hawaii, only hotter!  I will keep working on my missionary tan, while you all get nice and real tans. ;) 

I love you lots and lots family!

Con muchisimo amor,

Hermana Bartholomew

P.S. I will send pictures next week!  Sorry, you probably forget what I look like right?!  HAHA:)

Monday, July 7, 2014

One Day with the Savior

July 7, 2014

Another week in Babahoyo with Hermana Toledo just loving this grand work and getting wrinkles from smiling so much! 

The biggest smile of the week came because…Carlos came to church!!! :)  Hermana Toledo and I squealed for joy because he came all on his own, we didn’t have to pass by his house or anything!  After 20 years of not coming to church, the many prayers of his family were answered this week as he finally entered the doors of the chapel again. 

This week we have also seen Carlos’ prayers answered as he said, "Hermanas, I prayed and I know that Joseph was a prophet and this is the true church of Christ!"  Ahh it was perfect!  His son who is active in the church (he is actually the stake president’s secretary) said, "Who are these missionaries that are teaching my dad?  I want to meet them.  We have had missionary after missionary try and help my dad over all these years!  I want to meet these Hermanas!!"  So, to any of you out there who are reading this, who are praying and waiting for a wayward son or daughter or mother or father to return, your prayers will be answered in HIS time.  Carlos truly is the man in the red plastic chair reading the Book of Mormon!

We also had some tender and spiritual experiences working with Luz and Jenny this week that strengthened my testimony and understanding that trials in our lives are given to strengthen our faith.  Luz always has millions of challenges when she tries to return to church, but persevering with patience she came to church this week with her daughter and granddaughter.  She is the sweetest lady whom we just love!  Another reason to smile.
Well, these two snippets from our week of less-active members returning to church were definitely highlights.  Sadly, we are lacking in investigators right now who either desire to attend church or didn’t get drunk the night before and were too out of it to come to church.  Derian "Dear Johned" us over the phone and told us he just isn’t ready to make this kind of commitment but still wants to be friends.  But like Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of 12 Apostles said in his past general conference talk, we have learned the importance of persistence.  Like him, we are going to try once more this week with Derian and pray for a miracle!

As of July 1, we have a new Mission President!  President and Hermana Riggins! They are amazing and I feel that they truly are called of God to come and serve here in Ecuador at this time.  We had a meeting in Milagro along with a few other zones this week to meet the new president and to be taught and edified.  And boy were we edified.  Wow!  President Riggins taught an amazing lesson and it fit perfectly with what I have been studying recently during my personal study time in 3rd Nefi [Nephi]. 

President Riggins said something that I just love.  In speaking of how to best connect with investigators, he said, “Help them remember what they already knew.  You are here to help them remember their divine nature as a Child of God.”  He told us that everyone on earth today made a choice in the pre-existence to follow Jesus Christ and his plan for us.  We were taught the lessons of the gospel before we came to this earth.  We knew Christ personally. 

In the letter Mom wrote me in the package, she reminded me how there was a time when I was little and I was inconsolably crying and there was nothing my sweet parents could do to calm me down.  As my mom was walking around the house with me in her arms, she passed a picture of the Savior and I stopped crying and just gazed at the picture of Christ.  In Mom’s letter, she said, "You knew His face...you didn’t know me as well at that time.  I remember holding you up to look at Him...it strengthened my testimony of knowing that we lived with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ before coming to earth..." 

I have had similar experiences here in Ecuador with children seeing the picture of Christ and becoming more reverent and teachable.  As a missionary and representative of Christ I am here to help others gain a testimony of the Savior, so when they see a picture of HIM, they truly know and recognize HIS face.
Yesterday, I spent the whole day with my favorite picture of the Savior in my hands.  (I got this idea from a video I saw before I left on my mission.  The video was made by a member of the church back in Utah named Al Fox and is on YouTube called “Always There”.)  I carried the picture around as a visual lesson or reminder for me to truly see that as a missionary I am serving shoulder to shoulder with The Perfect Missionary who ever lived. 

The Picture of Christ in my Hand - All Day Long!

With the picture of Jesus in my hands, HE was with me while walking under the hot sun.  HE was with me when I placed the cap back on my pen after writing down the name and address of a new contact who we are going to teach and baptize right? :)  HE was with me while eating my lunch prepared by the ward.  HE was with me when we walked into church without a single investigator.  HE was with me when I shook the hand of Carlos, with a huge smile on my face, as he entered the chapel for the first time in 20 years.  HE was with me as I stood up in Fast & Testimony Meeting and shared my testimony of HIM.  HE was and is with me always.  I looked at the Savior’s face many times yesterday and many times throughout my life I have seen His face.  Like the story mom shared in her letter about me as a baby - I truly know my Savior, and I know that HE is always with me!          

Getting back to our meeting with Presidente Riggins, he also shared with us a story from when he was a bishop that will forever change my reverence and feelings for the Savior during the sacrament.  President Riggins once walked into the chapel on a Sunday morning before Sacrament Meeting with a visitor.  This man turned to President Riggins (then Bishop Riggins) and asked, "Oh, who died?"  President Riggins looked at him thinking, that is a silly question, and then realized that the visitor was looking at the sacrament table with the bread and water covered by a white cloth.  Without thinking, he quickly replied, “Oh, no one died, that is just the sacrament.”

President Riggins recounted this experience to us with shame and said, "¡Que terible!" [“How terrible!”]  Indeed someone did die.  Our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ."  It is not "just the sacrament", it is our covenant with the Savior to ALWAYS REMEMBER HIM and His great atoning sacrifice.  When we partake of the sacrament, the bread and water enter our bodies, and through digestion, literally penetrate our whole body.  May we all be more reverent and remember that truly someone did die for you and me. 

After Christ was resurrected, he visited the people living on the American continent and instituted the sacrament.  You can read about this in the Book of Mormon in 3 Nefi chapter 18.  In speaking of the sacrament Christ told the people, “And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you. 

And this shall ye do in rememberance of my body, which I have shown unto you.  And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me.  And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.”

He then gave them wine to drink and said, “and ye shall do it [drink the wine] in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me.  And if ye do always remember me, ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.”

As part of Jesus’ visit to the people in America, He also gave each of them a chance to spend a minute with Him and come to know for themselves that HE was their personal Savior by feeling the wounds in his hands and feet.  This happened right after he appeared to the people for the first time and is recorded in 3 Nefi chapter 11. 

I like to imagine this encounter as a profound and intimate moment physically to be embraced by the Savior.  His arms are always extended towards us.  As important as it was for those individuals, one by one, to touch the Savior, it was as important, if not more, for them to know that HE touched them.  I invite you all to imagine what you would do with that one moment with the Savior. 

I also invite all of you who read this to take one day this week and carry around a picture of the Savior to truly see we are never alone.  HE is ALWAYS with us.  I know my Savior.  I know His face.  My love for Him and His atonement grows each day.  We are never alone when we rely on our Savior. 

I love you all family, have a wonderful week! 

Con muchisimo amor, 

Hermana Bartholomew