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 pastorĂ¡ 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, MarĂ­a, 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:)

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