Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Day

December 29, 2014

We received a brief e-mail from Hermana Bartholomew today, explaining that her preparation day this week has been moved to Thursday (New Year’s Day).  I guess ringing in the New Year in Ecuador is quite the elaborate celebration, and there won’t be a lot of missionary work going on that day! 

We did have the chance to talk to Jessica via Skype (with video) on Christmas day.  As all missionary families know, it was a much anticipated (the BEST) Christmas gift for our family after 7 ½ months since we last spoke to her in person on Mother’s day.   She is doing amazing.  Her upbeat, positive attitude was inspiring and contagious. 

As part of our conversation, we asked her to speak to us in Spanish.  What followed was a very heartfelt, tearful few minutes of sharing feelings about her missionary experience, and thoughts about the gospel of Jesus Christ, all expressed in her new-found native language.  If you close your eyes and just listen to her speak, she could even pass for a native Ecuadorian.  

We recorded her speaking to us,  Even if you don’t speak or understand Spanish, I think you will enjoy listening to her and feeling of her spirit.  Enjoy!

Click on the link below:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Baby Vilchez

December 22, 2014

Hola Family!

May I have a drum roll please.....introducing my new companion, BABY VILCHEZ!!!!!  She comes all the way from PERU (which in reality isn’t that far from here).  I absolutely ADORE mi hijita linda [my beautiful little daughter]!!!!!  She has taught me SO much within these past 5 days, she is incredible.

With my new hijita Hermana Vilchez

So let me tell you the quick story of how I met mi hijita...after Hermana Perez left on Tuesday, I was in a trio with Hermana Alcazar and Hermana Velasquez until Wednesday morning.  On Wednesday, we needed to be at the temple in Guayaquil at 5:45 am to attend a session there at 6 am.  (This was just for the new missionaries and the trainers.) 

Well, thinking like the smart missionaries that we are, the night before we called a taxi (Raul – the driver who loves the Titanic song? Yeah, him.) and asked him to come by our house at 5 so we could be there on time.  And of course, we set 4 different alarms so we would get up on time.  So 5:10 rolled around and Raul was at the door.  We still don’t understand why, but he never knocked on the door or rang the doorbell he just sat in the car until 5:25 and then left.  At that same exact time, we all sprung up and yelled WHAT TIME IS IT?!  NOOO!!!  We have exactly 15 min to shower, get dressed, and look cute for the first picture with the baby!!!  AHH no. 

Our Heavenly Father blessed us with time and a member Alan (we woke him up with the billion calls we made to his phone) and he took us to the temple and we got there at about 6:25 am.  But luckily President Riggins was still there waiting for us.  Let’s just say we will never get up late again!!!!  I walked into the temple waiting room and looked at the room full of new missionaries with their faces beaming with both excitement and the nervous looks of apprehension that would surely last throughout all the day.  Can I just say that I love the temple and I am so grateful for the peace and guidance I received that day! 

After the temple session we all went to the President’s house and on the drive there, I had three sweet new American missionaries in the taxi with me.  We all got to share our testimony with the taxi driver, and it reminded me of what it was like when I had just arrived in Ecuador and didn’t understand anything that people were saying! Good times! 

At President’s house we sat and talked, and talked, and talked about all the rules....then it was time to be introduced to which of the new missionaries my new companion was.  BABY VILCHEZ!!!!!!!! 

The trainers with our new companions
We both could not stop smiling and hugging.  She is the absolute greatest. 
Oh I hope she will come to love me as much as I love my mamí Hermana Toledo and as much as I already do love her.  

One day this week, we were studying together and I noticed that something was bothering her, so I asked her if everything was ok.  She began to cry and of course just needed a mommy hug.  She then explained to me that her mother tragically passed away 5 years ago, and that now her father is very sick and she was worried that something would happen with her dad.  I was at a loss for words.  With tears in both of our eyes, we both went up to our bedroom and knelt down by our beds and she asked me to offer the prayer.  The power of PRAYER is real.  We both felt comforted and our testimonies edified that truly our Heavenly Father knows each and every one of us and that familias are eternal.  We ended the prayer with puffy eyes and tear stained faces, and she told me, “I don’t have my mom right now, but I am SO grateful that you are my mamí for now.”  AWWWW!!!  I can’t wait for you all to meet her!  

So last week I told you about our fundraiser for Familia Leon’s marriage license.  The good news is that we raised enough money!  The bad news is that they couldn’t be baptized because they weren’t able to get married.  Long story short, they are waiting for a few more legal papers to be processed.  We are hoping and praying that they can get married this week, and have rescheduled their baptism for this coming Saturday.  They are an amazing family and they are so anxious for their baptism. 

But great news....DANIELA WANTS TO GET BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!  She was at the beach all week so we couldn’t teach her, but she came home so she could attend church!!! YAY!  We went to her house with the plan of teaching her how to recognize her answer that this is the true church AND we were planning that Hermana Vilchez could invite her to be baptized.  When we arrived she tells us...“Well, I made my decision.   I have been praying ALL week and I have felt it is true and when I was with the young women today in church it just felt right.  I want to be baptized this week!”  WAHOO!!  (I literally raised my arms up in the air, I was so happy) :)  Afterwards, mi hijita was joking around and said that Daniela was just waiting for her to come here so she could be baptized. 

Enrique couldn’t come to church because he was still out of town with his family, but he will be back next week! 

Well, honestly training is HARD but it is SO rewarding.  This work, and seeing all of these families progress toward baptism is what makes me SO happy.   

I have so much more to tell you all, but we will just have to wait until Christmas!!!!! I can’t wait to see all of your bright shining faces.  Just know that mine will be brighter - not only because I am so happy, but because the sweat will be gleaming off my face! I love and adore you all so much! 


Feliz Navidad!

Con Amor,

Hermana B

Eating Fish for Sunday Lunch!!!!!  YUM!

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's a GIRL!!!

December 15, 2014

Oh my heavens family, this week was crazy and I can’t even remember all that we did...so we will see how this letter goes. ;) 

First off.....after 9 months in the mission...It’s a GIRL!!!!!!!  President Riggins called and said I will be expecting my "hijita" [little daughter] on WEDNESDAY!  AHH I am beyond excited and privileged to be training a new missionary here in Ecuador.  And also nervous, just like any new mommy right?!  Stay tuned for next week to find out more on Baby (insert last name here).    

The cutest lady in ALL the world, who has a major fear of swimming, baptismal fonts or anything that has to do with water...WAS BAPTIZED!!!!!!  Liliam really was so nervous that we took the time before the ordinance to say a quick prayer, and she finally was able to enter the water.  As she was telling her complete name to Elder Rojas, she said "Be careful, Elder, I am trusting you!"  To give her more consolation we explained to her that Elder Rojas (our zone leader) has the priesthood so he is obviously very strong, and will lift her back up.  And it worked! 

Hermana Perez and I were stationed at the top of the steps of the font, peaking around the corner of the door to the dressing room and we witnessed her PERFECT baptism.  She recounted afterwards that once Elder Rojas powerfully said her name...Liliam Joseline Baca Bustamante…she felt relieved of her fears and felt as though she was enveloped in warmth.  At that point she then fully trusted in the Elder and in her Heavenly Father that she truly had made the correct choice.  ALL day leading up to Liliam’s baptism, her daughter, Alejandra was beyond feliz [happy], as FINALLY her mom is also a member of the church.  Now all that is left is her dad Enrique.  

Liliam Baca with her daughter Vivana

Alejandra, Hermana B, Vivana, Liliam and Hermana Perez

Familia Leon are just the most perfect family in ALL the world.  One day this week we planned to teach the Law of Chasity which we were a little nervous about because they need to get married first before their scheduled baptism on December 20th.  But, I can truly testify that the Spirit filled the room when we asked timidly..."have you thought of getting married?"  Jessica and Victor looked at each other, and at the same time said, “YES!”  OH phew, that wasn’t hard at all! 

A year ago they had planned to finally get married, money and papers all ready to go, when she had a miscarriage and lost her baby boy.  After this heartbreaking experience they set aside getting married for the moment.  The cutest thing ever happened when Jessica said they were looking at rings this week, because after getting married civilly they thought they would be married in the temple the following day....AWWWE!!  Her face just dropped as we had to explain why she needed to wait for a year.  Let’s just say she is already anxiously waiting for next December to come around!!!

The cost of a marriage license in Ecuador is about 90 dollars.  As funds are tight right now for Jessica and Victor, we decided to use Jessica’s baking skills and make cupcakes and sell them to the members to raise the money so they can get married.  So far, we have a list of about 50 ladies in the ward that want to buy cupcakes.  Others also asked me for the apple pie I made for Thanksgiving (jaja).  We bought all the cooking ingredients today and are planning to make the cupcakes all morning long tomorrow. Keep praying for their dear family that they will raise enough money and that everything will run smoothly leading up to their baptism on Saturday. 

The Familia Jara’s friend Enrique was visiting his family again this week, so we are hoping he will be in town this next Sunday so he can attend church again. 

Last week we had a mission conference with one of the General Authorities – Elder Juan A. Uceda of the First Quorum of Seventy.  

Duran Zone with Presidente & Hermana Riggins (seated left) and Elder & Hermana Uceda (right)
He told us that one responsibility that we have as missionaries, and this comes directly from the prophet, is to share the new Church Christmas video, “Él es la Dadiva” [He is the Gift], with EVERYONE.  President Thomas S. Monson has a goal that EVERYONE will be able to see it, and FEEL of its power.  In English it is a little different at the last part, so because my mission is in Spanish, I will share the translation of the Spanish version.    

HAD NO BOW                      
HE GAVE HIS SON              
HE IS CHRISTMAS              

I KNOW that Jesus Christ truly is the BEST and GREATEST gift we have ever been given.  I have never seen my Savior face-to-face, but I have come to know him though reading the scriptures, and sharing his gospel.  Discover this great gift for yourself and introduce Him to others.  Most importantly, accept the greatest gift.  Accept that HE can heal us and save us.   

Now Dad, you made me so proud when you sent me your high council Christmas talk.  You are seriously amazing, especially when you said..."Turn and look at the person next to you, or think about someone who is not here.  All around us, there are people that Heavenly Father loves and wants back home.  There are many among us today, and many more who are not here, who He can only help through you and me. 

One of the signs that we have received the Savior and his Atonement is through our sharing the joy of the gospel message with others.  The process of coming unto Christ, or receiving Him, seems to make us more sensitive, more gracious, and more willing to share what means so much to us.  This Christmas season is a perfect opportunity for us to discover, embrace and then share The Gift with others.”

I absolutely LOVE sharing this, THE GREATEST or BEST gift we have received.  May you all be able to share of this gift as well. 

AHHH I am going to have una HIJITA!!!!!! 
Hermana Bartholomew 

Funny story of the week:

So the other Hermanas in our area have found a taxi driver who charges us missionaries less than all the other taxi drivers here in good ol’ Primavera.  The first time that I rode with him a few days ago, he was so excited that I knew English that he turned on his English cd that is FULL of songs from the 80s - Come on Eileen and ALL.  Then he comes to the familiar Titanic theme song.  He BLASTS the music and then swiftly extends his arms with just as much passion as the actors do in the movie - almost clothes-lining Hermana Velasquez in the front seat!  Now every time we are in the car he repeatedly plays this song, with his arms stretched out (when the stop lights permit him to do so.)  HAHA...the funny things that happen in Ecuador's taxis! ;)

Missionaries of Duran Zone

Selfie with missionaries from Duran Zone

Monday, December 8, 2014

FULL of much Love for this Work

December 8, 2014

Hello dear family and friends.  Greetings from the hottest country in all the world, at least for me, haha.  I personally think that sweating is a good thing, when you are actually doing something physically draining...but I wake up sweating, and I was SLEEPING!  It just doesn’t make sense.  But hey, I LOVE Ecuador so it is all good. 

So this is the last week in the mission for my dear compi Hermana Perez.  We have many fun things planned for her, and plan to make it the best week EVER in the mission for her.  Also we have a Christmas Program planned with our ward this coming weekend and it will feature the "Misioneras Navideñas!!!"  Stay tuned for up-coming pictures next week. ;)

Liliam is SO excited for her baptism this Saturday.  She has called all of her family in the US, whom are members of the church, and told them the great news that she is finally getting BAPTIZED!!!!  Her daughter, Alejandra, is even more excited, if that is possible, to have her eternal family.  Now we just need to work on Enrique, and they will be able to enter the temple in a YEAR!  Oh my goodness we are beyond excited for this weekend.

Daniela is the cutest girl in all the world.  We still haven’t met her mom in person yet but her mom basically asks her every day when she is going to become a Mormon. She came to church on Sunday and also went to our ward’s Young Women in Excellence meeting and LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!  She said she wants more time, so she won’t be baptized this week be we are hoping for the next week.
Enrique (the Jara’s friend), went to visit his family this weekend so sadly, he wasn’t able to attend church.  But he was reading the Book of Mormon and los folletos TODA la semana [the pamphlets ALL week]. WOOT! WOOT!  I think the best investigators are those who have recently been released from prison…if they were falsely accused of course ;)  He is the sweetest man. 

Now for Familia Leon...seriously the greatest family since Familia Jara ;)  They are reading, praying, and even downloading the LDS Gospel Library app on their phones.  So because Domenica is involved in scouts every Sunday at the same exact time as church we thought when we taught them about Dia de Reposo (Sabbath day?) that she would still attend scouts.  Well, Sunday comes around and I was sitting with Lilliam and her daughters and my companion was sitting directly in front of us with Daniela.  The Zone Leaders, who are also in our ward, were still welcoming people into the chapel.  When I heard, "psst. Hermana Bartholomeo..."  I looked back to see the Elder’s faces just glowing.  They said, “Familia Leon is here.  ALL 3!"  WHAT?! 

We had a quick, silent conversation back and forth with a lot hand signals of the number 3 and the Elders trying to use sign-language to tell us that the girls were dressed in long BEAUTIFUL dresses and Victor with a nice button down shirt and tie.  We didn’t believe it until all three of them walked in with smiles on their faces, which caused us to REJOICE silently inside.  THEY ALL CAME!!  Even though they had basically worked all night, and their bodies were exhausted, they were ready to be edified spiritually.    

Domenica came up to us after the Young Women’s class and asked us "YOU DONT DRINK COFEE?!?!"  OH man, they drink coffee.  But once we explained what exactly the Word of Wisdom is, they told us they will quit drinking coffee.  They are seriously the greatest. 

We also went to Hermana Monica’s house with Familia Leon last night to watch the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional and they LOVED it.  Especially the music. 

Well family, sorry this is so short this week, but just know it is FULL of much love for this work, those I am teaching, and of course for all of you!!!! 

Con mucho amor, 

Hermana Bartholomew  

P.S.  I went on splits this week with Hermana Alcazar.  The things you can buy at a stoplight in Ecuador!  We are just a little excited for Christmas! ;)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thank You! Hallelulujah! and Amen!

December 1, 2014

"THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!" and a few "HALLELUJAHS!!!" and "AMENS!" were repeated many times throughout my prayers this week.  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, because there are so many things to be thankful for.  HALLELUJAHS, well you will see why in the story with Liliam that follows, and AMENS because, of course, that is how you end a prayer. 

For starters, HAPPY HAPPY (belated) THANKSGIVING!!!  Thank you for all of the cute photos of you all blowing kisses to me.  Just know I caught them all the way from here. ;)  Since, of course, we HAD to celebrate Thanksgiving, eating and all, we had the most delicious dinner with la familia Bustamante.  Liliam made a RICISIMO [DELICIOUS] turkey and mashed potatoes on the side.  Enrique made the salad, and we brought the Sprite.  But what is a Thanksgiving meal without an APPLE PIE?!?!  Right... it just isn’t right.  So the day before, we swung by their house to whip up a graham cracker crust apple pie, which turned out DIVINE by the way. 

OK so back up a little to 2 days before Thanksgiving.  We had asked yet another time if Liliam and Enrique would prepare to be baptized this December 13th...and again, our inquiry was followed by, "I still don’t know!"  But Enrique did say that he would talk with Liliam and see what they wanted to do. 

So now back to pie making day.  As we were welcomed by BIG bear hugs from mis ñañas, Liliam slyly asked, " Hermanas when is my baptismal date?"  We just froze.  And then I said, "December 13th, why?"  She just smiled and said, "Because it IS my baptism day!  AHHHHHHHH!!!  My companion and I literally leaped and squealed for JOY!!  This is where the "HALLELUJAH!" comes in to play.  She is SO excited to be baptized on the 13th, which is the day before my comp leaves to go home.  I am still smiling....SHE SAID YES!!!  Best day ever.  This year I am SO grateful for the overwhelming joy that we experience when we witness ONE SOUL come unto our Savior.  

Oh, just wait, this week gets even better...so on Wednesday, after the hallelujah moment with Liliam, we receive a call from Gregorio Jara.  Still smiling, I answered the phone and he excitedly explained that his best friend that he had while he was in jail, just got out and was coming to their house.  "Hermanas you need to come and teach him about God.  I have been talking to him all day, and it is amazing with the gift of the Holy Ghost and my priesthood, when he asks me a question the words just come."  SO cool right? #convertforlife.  

So on Wednesday night we entered into la Familia Jara’s home, to find Gregorio with all of the pamphlets that we had ever given him and his family, and of course his hymn book and his Book of Mormon sharing with his dear friend Enrique.  Enrique, like Gregorio, was wrongfully accused of a crime and had been in jail for 6 long years.  Enrique is the most amazing 63 year old you will ever meet in your life.  Although being locked in jail for 6 years is long and lonely, he was a beacon of HOPE to all those who lived with him in the extremely crammed room full of those slowly losing hope.  He was especially that HOPE for Gregorio Jara. 

Enrique has 2 children who are both married, but he has minimal contact with them, and sadly his wife passed away about 5 years ago, so it would appear like he has NO ONE.  But he has never felt that way.  For one, Familia Jara have taken him in like one of their own.  They have even made a small room for him with a bed and all, in their cleaning room on the side of their house.  And two, because he is filled with SO MUCH FAITH.  He LOVED what his dear friend Gregorio shared with him so much that he wanted to learn even more.  

During our first lesson with Enrique, there was a moment of silence, and as I was about to break it, Wendy started bearing her testimony.  She recounted that during the day she was having a hard time with patience with her kids and with her husband.  She recounted how she had humbly knelt down and asked her Heavenly Father if she really was following his plan for her.  Wendy testified with SO much power as she declared that our prayers can be answered, and that Enrique had said something that was an answer to her prayer. 

I LOVE seeing Gregorio and Wendy testifying and sharing the gospel with all of their hearts.  Just as Enrique was a response to Wendy’s prayer, in turn the Familia Jara is an answer to Enrique’s prayers.  When we extended an invitation to Enrique to be baptized on the 20th of December, we started to qualify things telling him that he could PREPARE and when he knows that it is true, da da da....when he interrupted us and said, "Hermanas, I am CONVINCED that this is true."  WOW! 

We left the little pamphlet with Enrique about the Plan of Salvation, and he carried it around with him ALL day long…and he and Gregorio were continually reading it ALL day long.  He absolutely loved church on Sunday.  He repeated everything that was said, not in an Evanglica [Evangelist] way, but just to internalize everything that was said.  "THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU" Heavenly Father for allowing us to be the instruments in your hands to help Enrique remember who he truly is.  

Prior to our life here on earth, as spirit children of our Heavenly Father, ALL OF US, chose the plan of our Savior Jesus Christ and we were ALL, ALL OF US taught about His gospel.  We were all born with the LIGHT OF CHRIST in us.  How we act and what we choose to do, either amplifies that light or diminishes it.  As a missionary, I truly know the power of amplifying this light.  During one of our lessons, Enrique said, "The things you are teaching me are something I have known for a long time, aren’t they?"  YES!  The Light of Christ that is found in each of us, helps us to remember who we are (what we learned in the preexistence) and why we are here and where we are going.  The LIGHT OF CHRIST is real. 

This Christmas season, I challenge you to AMPLIFY THE LIGHT of CHRIST.  This LIGHT is something that can’t be found on Pinterest or won’t be captured in a cute vintage photo on Instagram.  The Light of Christ and THE GIFT to REMEMBER is something you can only feel with your heart.  This Christmas season help that one family AMPLIFY their vision of an eternal family.  Help that one friend REMEMBER who they truly are.  It is the greatest gift that we can give HIM this Christmas.  It doesn’t matter what religion they belong to, they were all very familiar with Jesus Christ, the Plan of Salvation and His gospel at one point before they came to earth - they just don’t remember it! 

When you pass light from one candle to the next, the wick will ALWAYS burn.  Share your LIGHT with others and I promise you their LIGHT will burn as well.  There is no greater feeling than helping people like Enrique, Liliam and many others AMPLIFY their LIGHT and REMEMBER who they are.  Family and friends, I am talking to you. ;)  This is a call from a representative of Jesus Christ.  This is serious.  I promise this will be the greatest Christmas ever if you will use your light to help amplify the light of others.  It will be a blinding Christmas! (haha get it?  Light...is blinding!)

I adore this work.  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU ALL for all of the love and support.  Your love for me is truly felt every day. 


Hermana Bartholomew 

Funny Story of the Week

Hahaha.  So a funny, laughing moment for this week was when my companion and I were invited to join the other Hermanas in our area at a FHE lesson with the guy named “Elder” and his family, who all are named Elder, remember him?  Yeah, so we were watching the new video that the church just released "El es la Dadiva" or "He is the Gift", when Hermana Velasquez asked a super inspired question, "So what will you give “The Gift”, Jesus Christ this Christmas?  After she asked the question, silence filled the room and the Spirit was testifying to each one of us what we should give.  Just then, our dear fellow miembro [member], Alan Caludett (who was talking earlier about how he hates turkey) sticks his hand up and says...."I will not kill the turkey."  All four of us missionaries, and Elder´s family just looked at him with the strangest looks - like why in the world did that come to your mind in this spiritual moment?  He quickly realized that he hadn’t received the response he wanted, and awkwardly laughed and said "BROMA (Joke)" and then tried to recover with a more "spiritual” answer.  HAHA.  Now every time we see Alan (almost daily), we remind him of his wonderful, inspiring answer. :) Oh good times!