Monday, February 23, 2015


February 23, 2015

Hi Fam bam.  Sorry that I didn’t write earlier today.  The assistants to the Presidente called me and Presidente Riggins has called me to be the next líderesa....AHHHHHHH!!  I can’t believe it.  But I am also súper excited. :)  I will write all that happened next week.

Thanks for all the b-day wishes.  I love you all!

Hermana B 

Yesterday was Jessica’s 20th birthday and the ward there in Duran threw her a surprise “noche de hogar” (family night) birthday party at one of the members houses.  Megan saw several pictures on Facebook that were taken by some of the people who were there. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Lord's Hand is in Our Lives

February 16, 2015

Hola Familia,

Do you remember the moment from the movie, The Best Two Years, cuando [when] the new missionary, Elder Calhoun answers the phone and it is the investigator that they were all waiting for his call…and at that moment all four missionaries together give a triumphant look up to the heavens with the background music of HALLELUJAH!!!!!  Now take that image and just insert mine and Hna Vilchez’s faces, and that was our reaction when FINALLY Brayan was baptized on el dia de amor, amistad, y BAUTISMO [the day of love, friendship and BAPTISM].

I have come to truly love and appreciate Brayan and his childlike desire to learn, along with his sensitivity to the Spirit.  When asked on the day of his baptism how he was feeling, he kept saying GOZOSO (joyful).  We had the Elders fill up the baptismal font in the morning, only as precaution so that I would not flood the building again - haha I still can’t believe that I did that...but hey you live and you learn! ;)  Because it was a holiday, not all the members who wanted to be there could attend, but what was most important is that Brayan AND his family were there...even though Satan worked up until minutes before his baptism to try to stop it. 

Brayan on his Dia de amor, amistad y BAUTISMO - February 14, 2015

Bryan with his Uncle and Aunt Nunez who introduced him to the gospel

Family and friends of Brayan who attended his baptism

ALL were able to participate in the sweet spirit that filled the room as we sang the words to the song, "Come follow me, the Savior said.  Then let us in his footsteps tread..."  Brayan followed the footsteps of our Savior that day.  Dad sent me a couple of quotes this week that are so appropriate.  “The Lord’s hand is in our lives. If we will but feel for it, in the darkness, we can grasp it and be lifted thereby...all that we suffer and all that we endure....purifies our hearts, expands our souls and makes us more like HIM.”  In the end, we ALL were rejoicing evermore.

So a quick update on another investigator…Kleber is a stubborn little fella and insists on SEEING a baptism before it can be HIS baptism.  But do not fear his baptism is near. ;)

Now, STORY TIME!!!!!!!!!  “Ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath prepared for you” (D&C 78:10)   Well, being in this sector for almost 6 months I pretty much know EVERYONE that works in this area....the little old lady that sells the best ice cream, the guards of Esmeralda, (the gated community where about every family that I have taught here lives.  In fact, whenever we contact someone new and ask, “where do you live?” the answer seems to always be, “Oh Esmeralda....do you know where that is?”  ALL too well my friend, all too well!) And to top it off, we know pretty much ALL of the taxistas [taxi drivers] that work within the gated community area. 

In particular, one taxista just happens to live in Esmeralda and also loves the ice cream from the little old lady down the street....his name is SARGENTO.  Sargento, what a cool name right?  Well, actually it just means Sargent in English and he loves for people to call him that because he served in the army.  He is SO crazy and HILARIOUS and LOVES the Mormons.  He met a friend about a 30 years ago that was a Mormon and still remembers him and the BLUE BOOK.  To make a long story short, we became good friends and I went to visit him several times with Hermana Perez and more recently with Hermana Vilchez. 

For about 2 weeks now, we hadn’t seen him, and I began to miss my bud Sargento driving us when we were late for church or a visit...Where did Sargento go?  On Sunday, a lady in our ward named Veronica approached us and said that she had a reference for us...WAHOO!  Someone to teach. YES!  She began to explain that her neighbor, who lives in Esmeralda (of course ;)), had her husband recently pass away from a brain tumor and she wanted for the missionaries to come and visit her.  Well, after she gave us the lady’s address, the light bulb clicked and I couldn’t believe it.  After standing there in awe for a few moments with my jaw wide open, I realized that Sargento, our dear taxista and friend had passed away. :(  He will be missed, but I truly feel that he has already accepted the gospel and is just beginning the wait for his family to become members so that his baptism can be performed in the temple of the Lord.

As I was Planning with mi compi [my companion] on what we could teach Sargento’s grieving wife, and in what manner we could teach someone who had just lost a loved one, Hna Vilchez shared how SHE felt after she lost her incredible mom.  I absolutely admire and adore ALL those who have lost a loved one while here on their mortal journey.  QUE DIFICIL! [HOW DIFFICULT!]  Hna Vilchez said, "I don’t know if I am the person to bring encouragement, hope, and happiness in a time when you just don’t think about anything but grief and pain....but what I DO know is that THIS PLAN of happiness is real and even when I didn’t want to pray to my Heavenly Father he STILL loved me..."  Isn’t she the greatest?!  YUP I know, claro que si, ella es mi hijita! ;) [of course she is, she is my daughter

We are beyond happy and feel blessed for the opportunity to help Sargento’s wife understand even more of this wonderful plan of happiness and to experience the power of the atonement.  Because of Him all is well in this life, and in our life to come.  

I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Bartholomew 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Heart, Might, Mind and Strength

February 9, 2015

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your HEART, MIGHT, MIND AND STRENGTH that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. 

I believe that there should be an added footnote or two to this well-known missionary scripture that says....WARNING - Footnote a: when serving with all your HEART, it may be broken as your sincere desires for other to come unto Christ are not fulfilled.

Footnote b: when serving with all your MIGHT and STRENGTH, you may encounter days when it truly is a miracle that your body still functions because you are so exhausted. 

I could continue with footnote c about the MIND, but my mind is a little tired.  :) haha
With Valentine’s Day coming up, of course HEARTS are the symbol that represent the feeling of LOVE and devotion to someone.  Well this year my valentine is Missionary Work...and according to the above footnote when a missionary embarks on this journey sometimes your heart is broken and you have never felt so exhausted physically in your life, therefore your preparation day for the coming week was full of sleeping. :)  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE with all my heart, might, mind, and strength being a missionary....but sometimes your heart is broken and you just feel exhausted.  But, as President Uchtdorf stated..."there is too much at stake to only give a halfhearted effort to this sacred work." 

ALL this week we saw MIRACLES and prayers answered that Brayan, especially, could not deny that this was the true church and he should be baptized.  2 days before his planned baptismal date he even had a dream that he told his parents, who are very against the church, that he would be baptized the following Saturday.  With tears in his eyes he exclaimed to us that, "Hermanas, they were OVERJOYED for me.  They were happy."   But I learned this week as never before that Satan plays until the whistle blows, and at times, makes a freaking late hit. 

So on Brayan’s baptism day (Saturday), we participated in an activity with the youth in our ward who are planning to go on missions.  The activity was to give them the experience that they could become missionaries for a day.  To start the day, I had volunteered to make pancakes for everyone for breakfast....let’s just say we went to bed late the night before from making all the pancake mix and woke up SO early to cook them all.  Everyone loved them, and for a few of them, it was their first time eating a pancake...crazy right?!  

Missionaries for a Day

Each full-time missionary or returned missionary was assigned 2 of the youth to help them study and practice being a missionary.  I was assigned the two cutest girls in the world, Karen and Mayra, and we set out to teach as many people as we could.  

Karen and Mayra
We tried a lot of people, but NO one was home so we went back to the church.  Mi hijita, Hermana Vilchez, and her temporary companions had similar luck and were not able to find anyone home, BUT she did call Familia Nuñez (Brayan’s uncle and aunt) and they said they weren’t home, but that we would see them at Brayan’s baptism at 7pm.  WAHOO!!!!!  We even bought a chocolate cake to celebrate with after the service. 

So at 6 pm we arrived at the church and began to arrange the chairs for the baptism.  I also went and turned on the water to fill up the baptismal font (keep in mind I turned it on about 6:30 and obviously left it on at full blast so it would be ready at 7 o’clock....we will get back to the font in just a few moments).  7:00 came around and Brayan wasn’t there.  We just thought, okay they are late because of the rain storm, it’s all good.  7:30 came and went and they STILL weren’t there.  We called to his house a million and 3 times but no one answered. 

Finally, at exactly 8:12, Melanie, the youngest of the Nuñez family, came running into the church absolutely dripping wet from just getting from their car to the door of the church.  (When it rains here, it RAINS!)  We happily greeted the family as they all came in and Hermana Nuñez said, "I am very upset with you 2...."  "WHAT?! WHY?!" we asked.  Turns out that Brayan’s aunt and uncle (Hermano y Hermana Nuñez), who he lives with, were not aware until this week that his baptism was happening on Saturday.  They said that they didn’t have time to invite everyone, that Brayan’s parents also didn’t know and would be upset with his aunt and uncle, and that they wanted a certain person to baptize him.

AHH un poco de vinas [not sure about the translation here – literally translated it means “a little bit of vineyards”, but I’m sure it has some kind of other meaning in Ecuador].  Grandma Nuñez and her daughter, Hermana Nuñez were arguing, and in the end not talking to each other.  Long story short, Brayan and the missionaries, yours truly, did not communicate very well to the family that Brayan would be baptized so quickly.   We felt AWFUL and so did Brayan.  Brayan wanted to be baptized on Saturday, but because the family was fighting and the spirit of happiness and love was not present, we all decided it would be better to wait until next week. 

Oh how Satan used the spirit of contention to ruin a perfectly happy day.  After talking for a LONG time with everyone we decided on a baptismal date.  SO the new date, Saturday the 14th will be Dia de amor, amistad y BAUTISMO [Day of love, friendship, and BAPTISM].  SO in the end, this week our hearts will rejoice evermore because he will FINALLY be able to enter the waters of baptism. 

After the family left....we noticed that a few of the members that were there for the baptism were mopping up water that I thought had flooded in from outside, maybe from those entering into the church building in the pouring rain.  BUT....on second thought, this is way too much water to be from just the rain.  Just then I remembered the baptismal font that I was filling up at FULL BLAST to fill it up even quicker.  AHH…You guessed it - I forgot to shut it off.  I FLOODED THE CHURCH!!! Hahaha Oh my heavens family!  :)  Everyone said that since we couldn’t baptize our investigator, I baptized the church instead.  I ran to the font, which at this point was OVERLY full, turned off the water and unplugged the drain.  We spent the rest of the night soaking up all the water in the church.  Luckily, it is tile and not carpet. :)  HAHAHA we had a good laugh!  At the end of the night, we still had a leftover cake, and we ended up giving it to the guards of our gated community because they were drenched from the rain and needed some cheering up!  What a day, right?!!! 

From this story you can see that I am obviously NOT a perfect missionary...at all.  Becoming like Christ is HARD…but I LOVE IT!!  Along with Elder Holland, "I am convinced missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy."  As HIS representative I am here to become like HIM, in ALL aspects.  Christ gave us the PERFECT example of what it truly means to serve with all your HEART, MIGHT, MIND, AND STRENGTH!  His heart was broken.  He experienced exhaustion.  He understands.  What HE did was not easy...so of course, what I am doing as his representative will not be easy.  But even so, I LOVE it with all my HEART, MIGHT, MIND, AND STRENGTH.  I KNOW my Savior, now that I am here serving HIM.  I have felt his LOVE and strength this week like never before. 

In this month of LOVE, I so glad that I am in LOVE with being a missionary and I can feel the LOVE of my Savior as I serve Him.

Well dear family, I love you all!  Thank you for all the love and support!


Love and adore you all!

Hermana B

P.S.  I forgot to tell you last week that Familia Leon FINALLY got to enter into the temple (after years of anticipation), to perform baptisms for some of their ancestors.  I cannot tell you how happy I am, they are THE greatest.

I LOVE to see the temple!
LtoR Hermana Vilchez, Hermana B, Domenica, Jessica y Victor Leon

Also, Meet the Mormons is now in Spanish (it’s called conozca a los Mormones) and I finally saw it this last week.  It is SO GOOD!!!!  I LOVED IT!  It is coming soon to all the movie theaters in Ecuador.  The First Presidency wanted all of the missionaries to be able to see it first so we could invite EVERYONE to see it!

And finally, a long-awaited picture of the grasshoppers - 

ALL the dead grillos under the welcome mat of the church!  
(By the way, this is nothing compared to what it usually is)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Highly Favored of the Lord

February 2, 2015

Grasshopper fans?!  Grasshopper fans?!  Where are you?!  *insert grasshopper/cricket noise here*  Why?   Because of course there aren’t too many grasshopper fans.  Have you ever had a cricket in the house that prevents you from sleeping because you just want to jolt out of bed and kill it?  Now imagine that sensation with HUNDREDS of grasshoppers that find the TINIEST little crack to enter into your home where you are attempting to sleep peacefully after a long day....let’s just say it is hard to sleep. 

SO, I think you can tell that I am NOT their biggest fan.  Every day after it rains...it brings all the GRILLOS out to the parking lot of the church.  I am not joking when I say that there are MILLIONS jumping and flying...one jumped in between my skirt...haha it was a great day ;)  I don’t have the greatest picture yet, but I do have videos.  And as you know NIGUN computadora [not a single computer] likes me, so we will just have to have a mission movie night when I return home, which I’m sure could easily be compared to Fear Factor, with all the creeping things that crawl upon the earth I’ve seen here in Ecuador.  

BRAYAN (do you guys remember him?  He was one of the first investigadores we had when I came to Primavera?  22 years old, cousin to Familia Nuñez?!)  Well Brayan is getting baptized THIS Saturday.  Miracles truly happen!  We went to pick him up at his home Sunday morning and he answered the door with his best clothes on and hair all slicked back AND his Book of Mormon in hand.  YAY!!!!  He has attended church 3 times now for ALL 3 hours.  Just a few months ago it seemed like it was IMPOSSIBLE to get him to come.  And of course he immediately made friends with all the HAZ (young single adults). 

Brayan, although 22 years old, is becoming more and more like a little child every day.  BECOME as little children...for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Little kids always love the question game...Why is the sky blue?  But why? But why?  But why?  No matter what clever response you come up with...they still want to know MORE!  That is Brayan.  He is SO eager to LEARN....which we LOVE.  To contrast that, some people just sit there and don’t interact at all.  I feel like we just talk their ears off.  

One day we felt impressed to share a scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants 39 with Brayan.  We told him, “READ it and insert your name everywhere it says James.”

 Hearken and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity, the Great I Am, even Jesus Christ—
 The light and the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not;
 The same which came in the meridian of time unto mine own, and mine own received me not;
 But to as many as received me, gave I power to become my sons; and even so will I give unto as many as will receive me, power to become my sons.
 And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me.
 And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.
 And now, behold, I say unto you, my servant James, I have looked upon thy works and I know thee.
 And verily I say unto thee, thine heart is now right before me at this time; and, behold, I have bestowed great blessings upon thy head;
 Nevertheless, thou hast seen great sorrow, for thou hast rejected me many times because of pride and the cares of the world.
 10 But, behold, the days of thy deliverance are come, if thou wilt hearken to my voice, which saith unto thee: Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on my name, and you shall receive my Spirit, and a blessing so great as you never have known.
 11 And if thou do this, I have prepared thee for a greater work. Thou shalt preach the fullness of my gospel, which I have sent forth in these last days, the covenant which I have sent forth to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel.
 12 And it shall come to pass that power shall rest upon thee; thou shalt have great faith, and I will be with thee and go before thy face.

 19 Wherefore, go forth, crying with a loud voice, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand; crying: Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God.
 20 Go forth baptizing with water, preparing the way before my face for the time of my coming;
 21 For the time is at hand; the day or the hour no man knoweth; but it surely shall come.
 22 And he that receiveth these things receiveth me; and they shall be gathered unto me in time and in eternity.
 23 And again, it shall come to pass that on as many as ye shall baptize with water, ye shall lay your hands, and they shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and shall be looking forth for the signs of my coming, and shall know me.
 24 Behold, I come quickly. Even so. Amen.

Brayan’s face LIT up when he read those promised blessings.  Let’s just say he will serve a mission one day! (Oh, did I tell you that Domenica Leon wants to serve a mission as well?!  AHH we are so excited for her.) 

This Saturday, during the day, we are having an Invasion where we are having a MISSIONARY FOR A DAY.  This is where all the youth in our ward, who are preparing to serve missions, are going to go out and teach with us all day.  The day will end with the baptism of Brayan.  Daniela and Domenica have both been “called” to the mission for a day as well.  I will send you pictures next week. 

Now I want to introduce you to a new investigator we have - Kleber....CLEVER how his parents spelled his name in Spanish – “KLEBER"!  HAHA!  So it turns out he knew Victor Leon a few years ago when they both were working at a phone company...it’s so crazy how small this world is.  Kleber is divorced and has a 10 year old son who is only with him on the weekends.  KLEBER is the golden investigator who LOVES the church, KNOWS that the Book of Mormon is true....you think what would follow is he WANTS to be baptized...but no. :(  He knows he NEEDS to be baptized, but he is scared of falling into the traps of Satan after his baptism and says he doesn’t have enough faith.  BUT luckily we have faith that he will be baptized this week!  

We also had an INCREDIBLE lesson with Maria Jose, the oldest daughter of Familia Jara, (that wasn’t baptized with the rest of her family) but she didn’t come to church so we will see what happens.  The Jara’s aunt (Gregorio’s sister) Esdrina does NOT want to get married so she still can’t be baptized.  We also have a few other familias we are teaching but I’m out of time and will have to update you on them next week…hopefully they won’t be going anywhere. ;) 

My invitacion this week is to BECOME as little children, in the aspect of asking inspired QUESTIONS.  Inspired questions help us LEARN and open our heart to the truth.  President Riggins asked us on one occasion, “Does our Heavenly Father have favorites?”  In my head, I thought...of course not!  He LOVES us all. 

President Riggins then referred us to the most read scripture in the Book of Mormon...1 Nephi, Chapter 1, verse 1 – “I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents…” and he drew our attention to the following phrase, “having been highly favored of the Lord all of my days”.  Our Heavenly Father may not have “favorites” per say...but he does FAVOR those who are obedient to his word.  So next to this oh so common verse, I have written in my scriptures – “Am I favored of the Lord?  Am I obedient to his word?”

I will leave you all to reflect on this, and exhort you ALL to BECOME favored of the Lord.  I promise that the blessing of obeying the word of our Savior bring happiness beyond expression, and the assurance and rewarding feeling of being favored of our Heavenly Father.  

I love you all!  I cannot believe that another month came and left....AH!  I just love Ecuador.  
Have a happy week! 

Con mucho amor,

Hermana Bartholomew