Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Making Weak Things Strong

July 27, 2015

Hola Familia,

I just want to cry because this week went by WAY, WAY, WAY too fast!  And as a gift for completing 17 months in the mish, I got LICE.  Lovely.  Haha that’s what you get for lending someone your comb. 

I am also sad because one of my best friends from the mission, Hermana Te’o is going home this week. :(  BUT she is coming to visit Utah in December, so really it’s just a see you soon!  I hope I can take these last few weeks to become a missionary like HERMANA TE’O!  She is just the greatest, if I write more about her I will cry, so we will just leave it at that! 

Hermana Te'o

Mi compi has now hit the big 20 and also completed 9 months in the mission, I woke her up the morning of her birthday singing, “WOOO, YOU’RE HALF-WAY THERE, WOOOH LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER!”  However we forgot to take the infamous “BABY BELLY” picture, which obviously comes compliments of RICE, rice and MORE rice. Can you imagine how big mine is after 17 months? YIKES! 

HAPPY happy birthday compi, here's a chicken's foot for lunch!!! ;) 

Thinking...pose with a chicken's foot ;) 
After 17 months in the mission I STILL don't understand how to eat these things. 
(Side Note - there was blood on my hand after taking this picture.  
Only the best when freshly CHOPPED off the Chicken!)

THIS on the other hand was the GREATEST lunch we could have.  Lobster and crab, yum yum! 

Now for the best news of the week - ROBISON Romero was baptized!  I was SO proud watching Jairon baptize his baby brother.  When Robinson asked his brother to baptize him, Jairon BEAMED and said YES!  Then Robinson looked at us and said, “I better not get on his nerves or he might just leave me under the water.” :)  HAHA! They were both SO nervous but afterwards I had never seen them both so happy.

Jairon & Robinson Romero

Rejoicing Evermore with Robinson Romero

Robinson with his family.  His sisters came to support his decision - they were all SO proud!

I’m short on time this week, so I’ll leave you with this thought.  Our plea this week with all our investigators was...“if you feel small and weak, please simply come unto Christ who makes weak things strong.” 

Christ truly loves us and has made ME strong.  So I KNOW He can make you strong too! 

I Love you all.  Until next week! 

Hermana Bartholomew 

Note from Jessica's Dad:

Our family was in Hawaii this past week, and while there had yet another experience that strengthened our faith that God knows each of us individually and His love and tender mercies for us can be manifest in unexpected ways.  

To start, on Monday we received Jessica’s weekly e-mail, with the comment about Hermana Te’o finishing her mission.  Jessica met Hermana Te’o in her very first area of Babahoyo, where they lived together and became good friends as I’m sure they helped each other get through the challenges of being a new missionary in a foreign country.

On Tuesday, we took the family to a zipline activity on the north shore of Oahu.  During the activity, one of the guides there asked about our family and we told him that our oldest daughter was in Ecuador on an LDS church mission.  He said, “one of my best friends is just returning to Hawaii today from her mission in Ecuador.”  Having just read Jessica’s e-mail, and remembering that Hermana Te’o was from Hawaii, I said, “does her last name happen to be Te’o?”  He said, “YES!” 

Long story short, the guide made a couple of phone calls and connected with Hermana Te’o’s family.  They were at the airport in Honolulu picking her up.  After our zip line activity, we drove a short distance to the town of Laie, where we had the awesome experience of meeting Hermana Te’o and her family just as they were arriving back into town.  (They hadn’t even been to their home yet.)  We enjoyed a short visit and she expressed her love and appreciation for Jessica in helping her get through a tough time on her mission. 

Homecoming in Hawaii with Hermana Te'o

There is no way that our meeting Hermana Te’o was just a coincidence.  God knows us, and watches over us, wherever we are – including when we thousands of miles from home.  We have repeatedly seen His hand in Jessica’s mission and rejoice evermore with her in His infinite goodness and mercy!  

Monday, July 20, 2015


July 20, 2015

HAHA looks like God loves the Bartholomew and Dominguez families!!!  SO on Tuesday last week, I knew that new missionaries were coming, and that one of them would be Hermana Dominguez (from Draper).  Thinking that I wouldn’t get the chance to meet her in person, I asked one of the Hermanas from this area, who was going to Guayaquil to pick up her new trainee missionary, to take a mosquito killing essence with her and give it to Hermana Dominguez so she wouldn’t die from mosquitos the first night here in Ecuador like I did.

Well, it turns out that WE LIVE TOGETHER!!! Yup. Hermana Dominquez was assigned to Buena Fe as the first area of her mission, and we live in the same apartment.  (Thanks for sending the hug mom!) ;)  Hna Dominguez basically knows everything about my family, me included!  AND she is adorable and is already an INCREDIBLE missionary.  I was talking with the President Riggins and he agrees with me! 

Hermana Melissa Dominguez
Don't know if I ever explained this to you all, but en los pueblitos they peel oranges, when they aren't orange (not ripe) just enough so that the white skin is still there, and then you cut a hole in the top and squeeze the wonderfully delicious juice right into your mouth.  You look awkward while eating it, but it is amazing! 

Funny story, Hermana Dominguez and her companion got locked in their study room today for almost an hour, while Hna Rebolledo and I tried to take the doorknob off and rescue them.  HAHA, it was classic.  Also mi nieta [my granddaughter – the new Hermana Hna. Vilchez is training] came ALL the way from the States and es PILAS en su Español [she is wonderful with her Spanish].  Well, it turns out from the new missionaries that came in, 10 of them were sisters and with luck, 5 of them came here to QUEVEDO!!  WOOT! WOOT!  I love working with the new missionaries and the ENERGY they have to work. 

Los 4 Hermanas de Buena Fe

Things are just dandy here in good ol´ Buena Fe.  Robinson esta SUPER animado por su bautismo. (sorry I just realized that was in Spanish aaaah.)  [Robinson is super excited for his baptism.] He is determined to change his life for good.  His biological mom is coming all the way from Quito to support him in his decision to be baptized, so it is going to be a great day! 

Yesterday morning, Fernando told us that he wasn’t going to go to church anymore and that he will return all the folletos [pamphlets] and books that we have given him. :(  This absolutely crushed our hearts, but we know that in a few months he will either get married or stop breaking the law of chastity so he can get baptized.  

Ok, so we are short on time today BUT I have a quick story for you all.  On Tuesday, while eating our lunch at Issela´s Diner (she is a less-active member), we saw this guy named Marcos that is always there to help her wash dishes while he is waiting for another bus to come so he can sell pan de yuca to the passengers.  In my 5 months here we have invited him a million and two times to come to church and he has always said, “Hermanas, one day you will just see me show up to church…and the first time that I go it won’t be the last.” 

So on Tuesday, we were able to finally teach him.  He ended up missing his bus, but the gospel is important right?  ;)  He is a great salesman, so we told him that one day he could “sell the gospel”.  Which he said he would never do because once he HAS the gospel, he would never give it away, but that he WOULD share it with others while also keeping it for himself. :) At that point, the Spirit prompted us to read a scripture that truly knocked his socks off. We read from Section 39 of the DyC, and as he began reading…

Y ahora bien, he aquí, te digo, mi siervo James (we inserted his name MARCOS for James), he observado tus obras y te conozco.  [And now, behold, I say unto you, my servant James, I have looked upon thy works and I know thee.]  After he read this part, he paused and then looked up at us with tears in his eyes and asked us why we wanted him to read this.  We encourged him to keep reading...

Y de cierto te digo, tu corazón es recto delante de mí ahora; y he aquí, he conferido grandes bendiciones sobre tu cabeza; [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;]

No obstante, has conocido mucha tristeza, porque me has rechazado muchas veces a causa del orgullo y de los afanes del mundo. [Nevertheless, thou hast seen great sorrow, for thou hast rejected me many times because of pride and the cares of the world.] Again he just looked up at us and said in amazement, “It’s like God is talking to me.” 

Pero he aquí, los días de tu liberación han llegado, si escuchas mi voz que te dice: Levántate y bautízate, y lava tus pecados, invocando mi nombre, y recibirás mi Espíritu y una bendición mayor que cualquiera que hayas conocido. [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.]

Y si haces esto, te he preparado para una obra mayor. [And if thou do this, I have prepared thee for a greater work.] Marcos then said, “HOW IN THE WORLD? We were talking before about how I would be a good missionary?!”

Predicarás la plenitud de mi evangelio que he enviado en estos últimos días, el convenio que he enviado pararecobrar a los de mi pueblo, que son de la casa de Israel. [Thou shalt preach the fulness 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.]

I had never seen someone read the scriptures so SLOWLY, and truly absorb ALL that the verses had to say, as Marcos did that day. He looked up at said, Issela will you go to church with me on Sunday?! And I am happy to report that when I got up to give my talk in Sacrament Meeting yesterday, Marcos quietly walked in the back doors. I almost gave him a shout-out in the middle of my talk, but I wanted to keep the reverence that was there or else I totally would have done it!
The scriptures are written for US!! Apply them to your life and you will know how to have eternal life. 

I LOVE YOU all and hope you have a wonderful week!
Hermana B

Exploring on P-day with Hermana Rebolledo

Monday, July 13, 2015

I Have Found My Eternal Friends

July 13, 2015

So it’s official, I’m an oldie!!!  Why?  Because I’m going to be a GRANDMA!!!  That’s right, mi hijita [my daughter – meaning her trainee Hna. Vilchez] is going to train this week, she called me in a panic when she found out, asking for advice...but she will be SUCH an amazing trainer – much, much better I’m sure than her mother was. ;)  Also, almost every sister missionary here in Quevedo will be training, so hopefully Melissa will come to Quevedo so I can finally meet her. ;) CROSS YOUR FINGERS! 

Manuel is seriously going to be the next prophet. ;)  He now has the priesthood and is starting to share the gospel WITH EVERYONE!  

The Bone family still has not fetched our MANY BONES that we have thrown for them to go to church.  BUT we still have faith that they will come! 

Everyone was asking about Fernando, but sadly he was not baptized this week.  The assistants to the President came to have his baptismal interview, but he wasn’t home, so I called him and he told me that, “The church wasn’t for him.”  Devastated, I pleaded for ONE last meeting with him the next day.  Turns out that he was just scared to not live up to all the expectations of being a member of the church.  Needless to say he realized he can do anything with Christ, and came to church on Sunday.  He is still a little hesitant to get baptized this week but we are hoping for the 25th. 

Robinson, is Jairon Romero’s younger brother, and LOVES the church.  His earthly temptation has been drugs for quite a few years, but since going to church he has now gone 3 weeks without drinking, smoking or whatever else you can do with drugs.  He told us that he had to quit before, but when he entered into the church building and sang “Nearer My God to Thee”, he just decided that he would never partake of those things again.  He is planning to get baptized the 25th as well. 

Jose Quinteros finally came back from the mountain!  HALLELUJAH!  He shared with us ANOTHER incredible spiritually prompted moment which went something like this...He was offered a job on the OTHER side of the country and would receive MUCH more money that he is currently making.  He told us that as he was about to get onto the bus to travel the long 8 hours to his destination, but he felt a strong prompting that he should NOT get on the bus.  However, ignoring the prompting, he started once more to get on the bus when AGAIN he was prompted not to do so.  While holding up 3 fingers he said, “The spirit told me 3 times not to get on the bus...so I didn’t.”  About a week later, Jose was offered another job closer to Buena Fe and will be making about the same amount of money he was offered with the other job. 

Jose always says that we are “the white angels with long dresses” that have come to help him find the truth. As we shared the plan of salvation with him after church on Sunday, the sprit TESTIFIED to each of us that before we came to this earth, Hna Rebolledo and I PROMISED him that we would help him find the truth.  This spiritual prompting reminded me of a story I heard in one of the many missionary farewells that I attended before the mission.  It’s called, I FOUND MY FRIEND.  The story quoted below is from the farewell talk of an Elder before leaving for his mission…

“During the time I was waiting for my mission call I had a dream.  I knew it was not an ordinary dream. I dreamed I was in the pre-existence and awaiting my time to come to earth.  I was filled with the same anticipation and excitement that I had before I received my mission call.  In my dream I was talking to a friend, and I felt a special closeness to him, even though I've never met him in this life.  As we talked, a messenger came and gave me a letter.  I knew it was my call to go to earth.  In great excitement my friend and I opened the letter.  I gave it to him and asked him to read it aloud.  He read, "You've been called to earth in a special time and to a special land. You will be born into the true church of Christ and you will have the priesthood of God in your home. You will born into a land of plenty, in a land of freedom. You will be born in the United States of America."

My friend and I rejoiced as we read my call, and while we were rejoicing the messenger returned.  This time he had a letter for my friend.  We knew it was his call to earth.  Now my friend gave me the letter to read aloud.  His letter said, "You've been called to go to the earth in circumstances of poverty and strife.  You will not be raised in the true church.  Many hardships will attend your life.  Your land will be fraught with political and social difficulties - which will hinder the work of the Lord.  You will be born in Costa Rica."

As the realization of our different assignments settled in, my friend and I wept.  With tears in his eyes, my friend looked at me and said, "When we are down on earth, you in your choice land, and me in Costa Rica, please come and find me."

Then this young missionary, with tears in his eyes, said, "Brothers and Sisters, I have received my mission call. I am going to Costa Rica."

There is a sequel to the story. About a year after the sacrament meeting, the bishop received a letter from the missionary in Costa Rica. The letter had one sheet of paper in it and on that sheet written in capital letters were four words:

Although, I did not have a dream before coming to Ecuador, the sweet assurance of the spirit has confirmed to me MULTIPLE times here in the mission that I promised these people that I would come and help them remember the choice they made to follow our Savior before coming to this earth.  I know that Jose Quinteros is one of them, along with many others from Babahoyo, Duran and here in Buena Fe.  I HAVE FOUND MY FRIENDS, and I will keep finding them until it is my time to leave.  I have found these ETERNAL friends and through meeting them, can I just say how much I LOVE THEM and the perfect plan of JOY that our Heavenly Father has blessed me with.  HE truly loves me and each one of us.  

We found OTHER eternal friends this week including Familia Sanchez Macias.  Their names are Marjorie and Roberto and their 2 sons.  And, yup you guessed it....“Here Comes the Bride”, will be played once more!  Marjorie’s smile could light up ANYONES day and she has become our dear friend.  They own a bakery and have a talent for making sugar cookies.  They were not able to come to church on Sunday, but we are hoping they can make it this week! 

There are many more families that we are teaching, but I don’t have time to write about all of them.  Cross your fingers for next week!  

In closing I’ll tell you that Genesis and Milton shared their testimonies last week in Fast and Testimony meeting.  Milton was wearing the tie we gave him and they have SUCH strong testimonies of this church.  Ya mismo [already] they are going to receive callings in the ward.  We are also planning on going to the temple on August 8th with them, Andreaina y Jairon, Manuel, Fernanado, Robinson and anyone else who wants to come. ;)  

My companion’s sprained ankle is as GOOD AS NEW and we are back to our full walking speed. ;)  We love teaching together and are making the most of each and every day! 

I love you ALL and hope you have a great week! 

Hermana Bartholomew

Here is a picture complements of Jessica's former companion, Andrea Perez.  It was posted on facebook by Hna. Blacutt.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Our Ecuador Grandpa

July 6, 2015

Hola Familia,

Well this past 4th of JULY was one for the books.  The day started off with a phone call from our ZONE Leaders screaming "HAPPY BIRTHDAY `MURICA!!"  Haha they’re crazy.  Then we made 3 cakes for the main event of the day…the baptism of Manuel Santana - because we invited EVERY single person we know here.  Then on the way to the church building, as we were walking down the stairs exiting the house where we made the cakes (and decorated them quite professionally I might add ;) ) my compi with her KIND heart, tried to help me with one of the cakes in my hands....AND SHE FELL, spraining her ankle.  Even with all the pain, SHE laughs and we wobbled on over to the church dying laughing.  But no worries at least the cakes didn’t fall. ;) 

Manuel`s baptism service was one of the MOST spiritual baptisms I have witnessed on my mission.  It truly was the greatest experience for my companion and I and all those who were there too, but especially for our "Ecuador grandpa", Manuel.  

Hna Rebolledo, Manuel, Hna B

We told Manuel to put his shoes back on so we could go outside and take pictures, but he said
"Jesus walked without shoes, so can I!"  Haha he is adorable.

Manuel with his daughter Diana, who he LOVES with all his heart.
(She is the Young Women President in our ward here)
Manuel with his best friend and next door neighbor, Johnny who baptized him

Manuel IS THE MOST Christ-like person you will ever meet.  After I had cut and passed out all the cake, my hands were pretty messy due to issues with the dull knife I was using.  Manuel came over and pulled out his handkercheif (no clue how to spell that) and with MUCH care began to clean my hands off.  It sounds silly, but in the moment I felt as the apostles of Christ would have felt to have their feet washed by their Savior who had become their dear friend.  I even told him, “NO I will get your handkerchief dirty!”  But he insisted.  A small group of those present gathered around to marvel at HOW ADORABLE he is, and to feel of the spirit as we witnessed a true disciple of Christ.  I don’t think he has ever even killed a fly because he is so loving.  He is just the greatest.  

Well, I don’t have enough time to write more from this week, because we are off to Guayaquil once more and we have to leave earlier today because THE POPE came to Ecuador and literally EVERYONE is going to see him in Guayaquil or Quito this week, so the bus terminal is going to be CRA-ZYY!  

“We shouldn’t wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was already available – ALL THE TIME!”  - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Be happy folks!! 

Love you each dearly, 

Hermana Bartholomew