Friday, November 5, 2010

Letter 28 - 10/18/10

Mas del Bautismo
Baptism of Hna Abril Ordoñez
First of all, last night these people below us were having too much fun with their music. Their singing was the worst. I'm fully convinced that drunk people and music do much more damage than drunk people and cars.

So today we had our cleaning. The entire week we've had this gnarly smell in our kitchen and an army of fruit flies in the entire house. It's been soooooo annoying. Well, I cleaned the kitchen this week. We cleaned out the trash bins thinking that the banana peels were the source of the flies. No. I found a bag of super old, super rotten plantains. They were in liquid form and fermented. Hence the stench and the fruit flies. Man it was so gross. It was like a huge bag of snot. Forgive me for being too graphic.

This six months thing hasn't really sunk in. It was just a normal day in the mission. That's the way it should be though. Things are going pretty well. It's the last week of the change and if all goes well we'll be having four baptisms this week. We'll be completing the Ordoñez family (Finally!) which will be a huge blessing to be a part of, and the three nephews of José Albuja will be getting baptized. I´m really excited for this week. I would honestly be totally fine staying here for another change. I love watching this ward grow.

This week there was a four day conference for the senior comps and the zone leaders. So I stayed and worked my sector and with another elder, Elder Márquez, in his. He was having a really rough time with his mission so we spent more time in his sector and by the end of the week he was feeling a lot better. We found some good people and I talked to him a lot about just stuff. It felt really good.

A really cool experience this week was that at the start of the week I really didn't feel good. I felt semi trunky (homesick) and kind of out of it, and I really didn't like it. So finally I just prayed and right as I asked for help getting back on track I felt so much better, and love from my Father in Heaven. When I finished praying I felt recharged and we finished off with a really good day. I'm so grateful for the power of prayer and I truly know that it is that direct communication with our Father in Heaven, and that we all should pick up the line a little bit more.

Love you all and have a great week!

Letter 27 - 10/11/10

Elder Márquez, me and Elder Richins

Well today was pretty tight. We went over to the house of the missionaries in the sector right next to 7 de Septiembre. They live in a ridiculously nice house with the exception of the fact that it's tilted. You can feel a huge slant in the floor because something gave way underneath. They got the keys to go out on the balcony and we barbecued up there to celebrate Elder Richins and Elder Bigelow's birthday. Elder Bigelow's from the other sector, Eden. It was pretty tight. I made these jalapeño and cheese burgers that were really good. I'm not used to eating that much meat, let a lone grease, so I still feel a little woozy, but it was cool to actually do something this weekend and just go chill with some other missionaries.

As far as the actual week goes it went well. We had six people in church which is a good, sturdy number. We didn't find a bunch of people this week because we spent a lot of time inviting people to an activity that we held. We invited everyone, especially the leaders. No one showed up except the youth and young adults. It was this question game. I thought it was going to turn out pretty rough, especially because I was beat tired, but I tried to still put on a show and we still had a good time. We had two investigators come and afterwards we went to their house for a dinner. Afterwards the kids all stayed and hung out, which was awesome for those investigators to be able to make friends in the ward.

I feel pretty excited about the baptisms that are coming up. All of them are people where I started their teaching. So I don't feel like I'm coming in and robbing someone's baptism. I'd feel really awkward counting that as one of mine. Then again, none of them are really mine. There are so many other influences that go into someone's conversion, most importantly the testimony of the Book of Mormon by the power of the Holy Ghost, that I honestly just feel like the finisher. Almost like the guy that kinda does the final sweeping after a huge party. I'm really grateful for this role though, because here I get to see so much spiritual growth and the start of someone's testimony. It's really cool to watch as someone gives nourishment to their "seed of faith" and then see how they're actually willing to do something with that faith. It's seriously possible to have six baptisms this month, but we're going to push for eight. There's some really good people that are willing to progress so it'll be great to see how that turns out.

Cool note. I found where 2pac's been hiding. I saw him this week in my sector over by a member's house. He seems to be doing fine. I little malnourished, but he's for sure alive. He really likes playing volleyball. I'm thinking about challenging him to a freestyle contest see if he's rusty or not. haha

Stuff has kinda gotten to me this week. I've felt pretty down, and also because I really don't know what to do as senior comp. I really want to do well and do everything I can, but I always feel like I'm lacking. The baptisms are giving me a lot of excitement, but it's still been a rough transition. I'm trying to learn by doing and I know it'll take a while to fully get the hang of it, but I really don't like not knowing. I just got keep pressing forward.

I found a pretty awesome scripture. Alma 26: 27 not that I was thinking about going home or anything, but it really is true. In you most difficult moments we will always be comforted, as long as we always turn to Him.

Love you all a bunch! have a great week

Elder Vuinovic

Letter 26 - 10/4/10

Chillin during the lockdown
Wow this week was crazy!

First of all, we only really worked two days this week because on Thursday the Police went on strike. So what happens when there aren't police in one of the most dangerous areas of one of the most dangerous cities of the world? Oh yeah it happened. Chaos was unleashed. Somehow we made it back to th house not knowing of anything that was going on. We were at the chapel about to do a service project, but I needed to confirm a doctor's appointment. So we passed through the market, which looking back was a little more than excited, and the Tía (which is this chain grocery store that is everywhere.) I got back to the house and called the office and the nurse said, "I don't think you are supposed to be leaving the house.  Didn't you get a call?" ..... "No. Why, What's going on?"  Well, the Police decided they wanted more from the government. They came out with a list of demands and everything. So we were calling all the members we could to get the other missonaries that lived with us back home. When they finally got there they told us of all the stuff that was going on. It was absolutely insane. People walking around with knifes and stopping cars to rob them of everything, people walking around with eight women's purses. Seriously madness. Someone broke into the Tía by our house and almost the entire sector ran to the Tía to suck it dry. This one guy on our street made at least four trips. We saw people with lights, shelves, and even the boxes to store your bags. It was a perfect Grinch moment. So because of all the mayhem we were locked up in the house for two days.

So during the two days we just read and studied. I found a whole bunch of scriptures that prove that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings and that Jehovah is Jesus Christ. It really is incredible how obvious it is. It's sad that people get caught up in one scripture and base all of their doctrine around it, but now I have more references to share with people

So Conference... Awesome!  It was hard listening to translators and not the voices of the Brethren. That was pretty hard. I heard them for a little before the translator started talking, then got all excited, but then it cut. I thought about how deprived I really felt because I couldn't hear their voice and the care and love that they truly carry, and thought a lot about how marvelous it'll be when we hear the Voice of our Father and the purest love that he has for us. It was a pretty deep experience for me. I really look forward to that day where I can look my Savior in the eyes, try to thank him, and then see my Father again. To be honest I´m grateful that I can't remember the pre-existence. I experience a little bit of homesickness right now in the mission and I couldn't imagine how homesick I'd be if I could remember that.

I'm very grateful for this Gospel that gives me those little reminders and hints that He truly is there and loves us all. I'm also so thankful for The leaders that spoke at the Conference and shared that love with the whole world. I'll be honest there was this one translator who used the "zeta" which is essentially Spanish with a lisp. I can't describe how much I already disliked it, but trying to listen to a Conference talk and feel the Spirit was not easy with that going on. I honestly had the desire to punch myself in the face to see if the pain the lisp was causing would go away. Even worse was that guy did two of the talks.

The investigators loved conference. We took these two young guys, Angel Rodriguez and Erick Sanchez, to the Priesthood session (in white shirt and tie!) and they really like it. They're totally going to be missionaries. They've been asking questions about it stuff already. I'm SOOOOO exited for them. Also we took the Vera family to the morning Sunday session. The husband who is honestly looking for the truth said he loved the remarks from the Prophet and said the Monson is a man of great faith. I could tell he was really moved by it. The wife said she really like the Prophet's remarks also and the stuff about marriage being forever and that it's a promise for a family for all of our lives, and I thought "and even for a little bit longer." I'm excited to be able to teach them about eternal families tomorrow night.

Well that's pretty much the week. I was reading in John a lot and I loved reading the words of Christ. We were talking during the lock down about a lot of stuff, and how many things are actually a sin. I was really hit by that. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. I know I'm not perfect, but I thought I was doing a whole lot better than I really was. There are just things that are because I live like a human. I never really understood how much of "sinners" we really are. Not necesarily because we want to be, but just are. And then after realizing that I really am so imperfect, and reading a lot in John, I understood so much more profoundly the concept of a perfect man and that Christ alone was the Perfect Man. I find it almost incredible that we believe even that. I am so humble at our Savior's awesome and perfect sacrifice. I feel so much more dependent on Him and know that it is only through Him that we have any hope of anything greater and especially the great blessings of our Father that await us.

Love you all so much and have a great week.

Letter 25 - 9/27/10

Obispo Solano
Noche de amigos (the night before I got my change call)
Familia Baqui right after the call
I read about the Savior in Isaiah. When you process what he says verse by verse there're some truly powerful scriptures. I really like what he says about being carved in the palms of his hands. (Isaiah 49:14-16) That's really cool.

Yup the kids all got baptized. I stopped by for a little bit to see them, but it was too hard. It was really difficult to see my little ward all there and not be able to really be with them so I congratulated them and when they said they missed me I got a little choked up and thought, "you have no idea!" haha. They struggle a lot. The bishop is trying the best that he can. Elder Richins was telling me that the bishop went on visits with him this Sunday and that the bishop got choked up because he's really doing all that he can for that ward. I only wish I was still there to help them out. It's ok though, I'm obviously needed somewhere else. I'll always remember them though.

The tough thing right now is that I want to be able to do a lot. Especially now that I have the chance to apply some of my ideas, but right now I feel so turned around. I'm expected to guide the program, but I honestly feel like I'm in a completely different world, and all I did was cross the street. I want to work very closely with the members. 7 de Septiembre (the new area) has a lot of leaders and it would be great to be able to work very closely with them. The only problem is that I think they're so used to having baptisms with out doing anything that they're stuck in that mode, but I've been watching 7 de Septiembre for the last 4 months or so and people get baptized, but kind of weave in and out. I really don't want that to happen. There are a lot more members here than Independencia which could be really great. I think I'm freaking myself out with trying to get the most of the sector as possible. We had three investigators at church yesterday, which is nice, but I feel like we could've done better. We really going to stress general conference next week, and also prep people for church attendance the following week, because that really is the most important thing.

Elder Márquez has had some difficulties lately, but we've talked and things are getting better, we know now what I need to do to make him feel a little more oriented, and I'm really grateful for this opportunity to learn more patience, I know it'll help me a lot. I really think that I'm here not to be "senior comp" but to help out Elder Márquez patiently, but still be working hard. Especially if we keep talking about our needs I think this will be a really good change.

As far as the work goes this week, we're visiting some really good people, people who are truly looking for the truth or willing to follow their response to the Book of Mormon. There's one guy, Douglas, who sincerely is looking for the true church. He asks very sincere questions as he reads or listens to us. He's a really cool guy, we just need to get him to church, and especially get a friend for him and for his wife. I really think after that they're set. Cool fact is that I actually found his wife and son on and interchange with Elder Márquez last change. The wife wants to get baptized. Especially after she heard the testimony of Sara Guamán, a recent convert, of how she got an answer to the Book of Mormon. Monica, the wife, identified with her response and realized that it truly was sincere and accepted a baptismal date. So it'll be cool being able to baptize someone already that I actually helped find. We're also teaching the last of the daughters of a lady, Jenny Guamán that got baptized two weeks ago and a family friend. They also have baptismal dates, and the friend is going with us to the priesthood session of conference. I'm actually really excited for that. I know he'll love it.

Yesterday we had a pretty cool experience just walking down the street. We saw these two chicks on a vespa rip around a corner. The one on the back Lone Ranger jumped off the vespa before it stopped and walked over to a couple that was out for a stroll. When the couple realized who she was the guy went into a robot state of denial mode and tried to keep walking. The girls erupted into a flurry of "Oh no you didn't!" movements and screaming things that I'm sure you wouldn't find in the missionary Spanish-English dictionary. Sadly they turned the corner so we didn't see any flying fists, but it was probably the coolest Latin Jerry Springer Street Show ever. Two points for Ecuador. hahaha.

Well I'm off. Hope you all have a great week. I'll be thinking and praying for you.

Letter 24 - 9/20/10

Change number 4!!

So.... this is hard to say, but I've been taken out of Independencia. I had a feeling that I was leaving, but I honestly didn't want to yet. We got the call last night, and the Zone leader told me himself that I was leaving. I was pretty upset that I was leaving, but at the same time interested in seeing where I would be going. I get a call ten minutes later and the zone leader wants to talk to me again. He asks, "Do you want to know your new sector or your new companion." Worried about the possibility of going to the office as the finance secretary I said, "I'm worried that by knowing my companion I'll know where my sector is. "Yes, but which would you like to know?" I said,"Companion." "Elder Márquez!!!" Elder Márquez lives in the same house as me.

After processing what that meant I realized that I wasn't going anywhere, but at the same time I wouldn't be in Independencia any more. I now work on the other side of a street, but still live in my old sector and will see everyone from my old ward every Sunday. I'm having a very hard time letting go of this ward by being so close to it, but not being able to do anything for it. Imagine working on our side of Walnut for four and a half months, then the next day all you do is just walk to a different side of the street. I've taken it pretty rough. Saying goodbye (kinda) to José Albuja, who's my best friend in all of South America, was tough.

Me and José
Baptism of José´s nephews Rubén, Jairo, Manolo, And Georgie
We baptized a total of six of his nieces and nephews with three more this next week. He gave me this blink-182 bag and an Offspring beanie. I honestly think it's the most meaningful gift someone has given me. When I first got here he was just reactivated and he took the bag to church. I told him I thought it was to coolest thing ever, he offered to give or sell it to me, but I told him I couldn't because it was too sacred (Haha. I said that in church) We would talk about music pretty often. We loved so many of the same bands. For him to give me those things meant so much.

There's been so much good that has happened in this ward while I´ve been here. I've grown and learned so much from serving and working with these people that it'll be hard to be around them and not with them. I'm not going to lie, I've cried a few times today. It's ok, it´s all part of the mission. Apparently I'm senior companion now, which feels pretty weird to say. It doesn't mean too much, I just put my name first on papers and if something goes wrong my butt's on the line. Supposedly being senior comp this soon is rare, but it's not that big of a deal to me because Elder Márquez has been here for 3 changes so I'm not that cool. I am excited to apply some new ideas though. Although it'll be rough, I can see a huge purpose in me being here, and most of it is for Elder Márquez. He's had some tough times being in the field and I was able to help him out two weeks ago, so I think working with him will help him get the spirit again. I'm sure there will be a whole lot more for me to learn and do there and I'm excited to do it. I realize that I'm not on my mission for me, so I need to be serving and worry for others at this time.

As far as last week goes it went pretty well. We had a really rough time finding new people, but we looked hard anyway. I lot was focused on the baptism, like it should be, but it just meant that our numbers weren't the best. We got the four nephews of José baptized this week. It was SOOO awesome to see him baptize his nephews. Also, Fabián's mom Rosa Abril finally got baptized, after who-knows-how-many missionaries. I fully understand, though, that it was because of Fabian that she got baptized and not because of us. It's great so see families getting completed like this. I'm bummed I won't be able to teach Fabián's family about the temple, but I think I can go with them when they go to be sealed.

I love this place a lot, and it'll be interesting to see how it grows from a distance. Especially to see it in a year and a half from now. It truly is a diamond in a dumpster. Sounds almost like an insult, but so true.
So instead of a scripture I wanted to share this quote that more than perfectly helps me stay focused and moving forward. It was written in my English "Preach My Gospel". Which I haven't seen since I got here over four months ago. While I was moving my stuff I remembered there was a cool quote from Richard G. Scott, but I wasn´t sure what it was about. Hopefully it helps anyone else who is having a rough time also.

"Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Prov. 3:11–12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain."

Well Friends and Family,  I love you and have a great week!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Letter 23 - 9/6/10










What a great week!

This week has been such an incredible blessing. I know for sure that we have received so much help in bringing people to church and getting the members involved in befriending. I really can't even describe the huge change this program has had. We're actually able to have more than one back up plan for each hour. When I first got here I think we started the sacrament meeting with 15 people. By the time we started the Sacrament this week we had 51. I'm just so amazed at what we've been blessed with in these last few weeks with this program. I know for a fact this is only from much help from the Lord. We were able to have 7 investigators come to church and they all had really good experiences. One family in particular, Famlia Manzaba, were really interested during the meeting and during a lesson about the families the mom, Mirella, started to cry. I think we have a pretty good platform to teach the law of chastity and put a marriage date. They're an incredible family, and I know they will thrive with the blessings that will come, and love the relationships that are beginning to form.

We had the two baptisms this week! Diana Ordóñez was on friday because she didn't want anyone there. To be honest there are a whole slew of missionaries whose jaws would hit the floor if we told them that she accepted a baptismal date, let a lone showed up to the baptism, let alone got in the water. On Sunday Elder Richins and I had a split to be able to bring more investigators to church. We started the Sacrament meeting and he wasn't there. After a while he showed up and looked totally fried. He told me that he was at the house of Diana literally begging and pleading with her to come to church to get confirmed. She didn't want to go because she didn't want to have to sit in front of everyone. They prayed and he pleaded more. She told him several times that she wasn't going to go ...period, finally she came. When they called her to the front I honestly thought she was going to stay in her seat, but she got up. It was absolutely incredible. It was for sure her time and she really has changed a lot. Her "light" has grown in these last few weeks.



Luis also was baptised and confirmed. This guy is absolutely incredible. He has this powerful aura and now a huge smile. He is some one who was fully prepared to receive the Gospel and it's such a pleasure to teach him. We're going to start teaching the family this week hopefully.

Well this has been a great week of experiences and blessings. I love this sector and this ward, and I LOVE serving as a missionary.

I love you all and hope everyone has a great week.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Letter 22 - 8/16/10




Me. and the super ghetto homes. I really don't like this pic. Is it just me or do I look bloated and fat. bad angle.... I hope. jk I've actually lost some weight so that's why I'm so confused I look so pugdey. anywho.... I'm probably gunna get robbed now, but it's worth it.
hahahahaha

Hi!
This has been a trippy week. I was adjusting to a new companion and new style of teaching, but we're totally good now. He's still coming out of his trainer mode so I kinda have to wiggle myself in there to say something, but it's all coming along well.

To be completely honest I could write a whole letter just about what we saw yesterday. It was absolutely incredible. So the first of the cool things was that the big family (they're a bunch of cousins so there's about five last names. So we just call them Familia Grande) that we've been teaching came to church on their own account this week. The grandma that is a member was going to come but she had to stay and watch the other kids. Four of the boys:
  • Michael (14)
  • Carlos (13)
  • Ricardo (11)
  • Diego (10)
just walked to the church all by themselves because we were late getting to their house. When we got to the church they were all there waiting for us. Talk about the coolest thing. There are two older girls in their twenties. One, Michelle, has classes Sunday morning and couldn't make it, but tried to find another chapel in the afternoon, even though she got lost. She wants to go to church badly. The other one, Angie, also really wants to go to church, but has to attend in an area that's outside of our mission. So we're still working on finding her one. But the whole family is just AWESOME. I really love visiting them, and seeing their progress. The older girls told us that they want to be missionaries, and they were serious. When I heard that my heart seriously jumped. That was one of the coolest things I've heard. Sadly, Michelle has a child, but I know she will be a great example to her child and teach her these truths.

Anyway back to Sunday. So after church and study time we had a few appointments fall through. So Elder Richins wanted to go visit an investigator that lives around a super rough area (more rough than what is usual).

PAUSE.
REWIND.
...Saturday morning we were looking for an old investigator in that same rough area. Even though it was 11:30 am I was getting some bad feelings. We couldn't find the guy and I really didn't want to look lost and EVERY corner I turned we saw Negro Jessie gang members (Super notorious, Super dangerous gang). So I really don't know why, but I walked up to these guys to ask where a street was. There were two guys (the guy I talked to looked like someone filled a nail gun full of earrings, gave it to a four-year-old and to him to have fun with this guys face). So as we left I gave him the gangsta slide with the soul pound. Ya know, just doing my thang, keepin it real. We made a contact over there and during the lesson we saw the leader of Negro Jessie, and heard gun shots.
FASTFORWARD.
...Saturday night. Elder Richins said he wanted to go over to that area, and I straight up told him no. He's new here and still is learning of how dangerous it is.
FASTFORWARD. ...now we're caught up.


I begrudgingly say ok and we walk over to the other side. I wasn't feeling very good about it, but we went. We walk down a street turn a corner and see a family of about five, and the guy I saw the day before with the disco-ball face comes up and around them. He lifts up his shirt and I saw a gun in his pant waist. I seriously thought he was going to pull it out on us and rob us. Then he turned around and he crony grabbed the dad and they robbed the family. I turned around and saw the look on Elder Richins face then he just ran off. Luckily we were close to the corner, so we got out of sight fast. It was an incredible blessing that the we weren't robbed. Everyone thinks American's are filthy rich. I know for a fact that we were protected at that time. More than I think I even understand. I'm almost positive they never even saw us. And even better Elder Richins now understands how bad it is over there.

So our Sabbath Day was filled with a bunch of other awesome stuff, passed out drunks, people getting into a fight and then a woman running out screaming with a machete, etc. I mean it really doesn't get any better than this. There was a whole bunch more that happened too, but I only have so much time. We had another lesson with Familia Grande and as a was walking away I thought of how awesome it was that amongst all the bad that I'd seen that day, I had seen and experienced so much good at the same time. It really is such an incredible blessing to be in this sector and to find so much good, and then share with them these truths that will bring themselves so many blessings. It's awesome. And then we went and did a Family Home Evening with Familia Albuja. Probably my best friends in the ward. José is someone who really would do anything to help the missionaries and really wants to see this ward grow and be strengthened.

For public information, yes I did feel the earthquake. It was pretty cool. I was studying and I felt my seat shake. It's pretty normal for the house to shake when a semi goes by, but it was stronger and was long. I saw the fan was shaking. So I told Elder Richins to sit down and tell me if he felt anything. When he sat down nothing was going, but then it jerked again. His eyes got huge and said, "Let's go! let's go!" and just ran out of the house. I yelled out to him, "Elder we need a shirt!" all he said was "Don´t worry about it let's go" So I had to go out with him. Being from California and continually hearing about earthquakes, I knew what we were experiencing was nothing to worry about. It was pretty cool, but uneventful where I was. Elder Márquez saw some people out in the street praying the Rosary. It's amazing what it takes for people to remember God.

As far as the investigators go we still have really really great people. Luis Reyes is going to institute. Like the real deal institute that's through the church, not mental institute. He is loving it all. He describe his knowledge for the gospel as a thirst, and it truly is. As I watch him during the lessons it's amazing to see how much of sponge he is. He writes everything down. Such a privilege to teach him.

Fa Campuzano hit a roadblock this week. They're amazingly receptive and want to live these commandments. We taught the law of chastity and they didn't try to rationalize anything. They fully accepted it and said they want to get married, but right now he's trying to get into the Marines and apparently you have to be single when you enter. How this helps the quality of their military I don't know, but I do know that It's impeding on the work of the Lord. So we need to see what we can do about this, but encouraging someone to change careers isn't the easiest. It'll just be a test of their true desires.

Fa. Grande. Amazing amazing. Great great people, and still everyone is really listening and receptive. It's a little difficult to keep the kids interested, especially during the plan of salvation. but we manage.

So that's about it. It's been a really great week, and I hope it was for all of you. Scripture this week is Mormon 9: 19-21.

And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.
And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.
Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.

Anyone who thinks that God can't bless them or even help them in their lives, believes that God is no longer God. Pray to him in faith and ask him sincerely for what you need. He will provide.

Love,
Elder Vuinovic

Letter 21 - 8/9/10


Dirty side... clean happy green side. In all seriousness the dirty side is suuuuuper clean. I actually wouldn't mind touching the water there. When the tide goes down it looks a lot worse and the other areas are almost imcomparably worse. But I don't want to take out my camera there.

This week has been absolutely insane.

First of all it's the end of the change. Tomorrow I officially have three months in Ecuador. Crazy glue. We didn't have any baptisms, but I know that we worked really hard. When we started the change we literally had no one in the program, just recent converts. As of now we have a good amount of really solid investigators, a baptismal date with more to come this week. It's been such an awesome opportunity to be able to make a program out of nothing, it was tough, but fun. There were seriously several nights where I came home and all I could think was "I love being a missionary, I love being a missionary".

Elder Robinson left. It was for sure his time. He's been in this little place for six months and he was starting to loose it. Plus my training was done in my first change, so it was weird to be with my trainer when he wasn't training me. haha. We all thought that he was going until this Wednesday when the assistant, Elder Garcia, stopped by our sector to see what's up, and he told us that Elder Robinson was probably going to stay because the President didn't want to do a lot of changes. So we were getting ready mentally for another change together, but the call never came to confirm that there were no changes. The zone leaders tried to call the office, but no one was answering. So Elder Robinson was a little unhappy to have to go to bed not knowing if he was staying or not. This morning we get a call that he was leaving. He's going to a city called Milagro to train again. He's going to spend about two thirds of his mission outside of the city. Super lucky.

My new companion is Elder Richins. He's really cool. The only bummer is that he went from the largest sector in the city to the smallest. We're going to have a really good change together, especially with how many good people we still have from last change.
Fun fact. I heard from Elder Garcia that National Geographic did a study on the most dangerous cities in the world. After six o'clock is Guayaquil. The most dangerous part of the city is maybe a hundred feet from us across a bridge. YAY! Who need's Compton?
As kind of a investigator update right now we have some great people (as I've already said).

Javier Jiménez.
One night we were walking down a street and I saw a tv on in a house. I always see TVs on, but this time I felt my attention was grabbed a lot stronger. So I called Elder Robinson over and we contacted the house, and he let us right in. He's a really open and really humble guy. The only problem we have is he thinks he's going to move soon. When we taught the restoration he was super open to it. We met with him this last Monday for the second time, and all Sunday before I was praying that he'd read and receive an answer. When we met with him he said he really didn't like reading, but he and his wife (super bonus!) read and prayed, and they really felt that it was true. I was so excited. It'll be so great if he progresses and gets baptized in our program. We meet with him and his wife tonight.

The next is family Campuzano.
Wow. So how we came across them was awesome. One night we were just going around contacting. Elder Robinson asked me were I wanted to go and so I chose this house across the street. The lady let us in, but we only did a few principles and set a return appointment. When we came back she wasn't there, but the people she lives with were. We talked to the guy that answered and started to try to get in to teach him. Then I said something and almost right afterward I felt a strong confirmation that what I said was the right thing. Right after that he let us in to teach. The first lesson went great and the totally understood the Restoration and were also open to the Book of Mormon. Something incredible to see was when we came back we saw her sister outside and the look in her eyes was very dark and cold, and she really didn't want to talk to us, but sister Campuzano was such a bright person, and she really accepts what we teach.

It's such a crazy correlation, but there really is a light in people, and it's crazy to see how much it correlates to their receptiveness of the message/messengers. So when we met the second time they had made us lunch. That wasn't part of the plan, they just made it for us. They ate the chicken feet and they gave us the better cuts. I was so humbled when I saw that. There are some absolutely incredible people. It's such a pleasure to meet people that are so good in a place where you would never guess to find it.

Finally is family Antamba
.
This is a good one. They're a really huge family. With a gillion cousins all living in the same house. The grandma, Elsa, I found on an interchange. She is an inactive member because she couldn't get to church anymore. We tried to get in that day, but it sounded like they didn't want anything and neither did anyone else in the house. I told Elder Robinson that we should go back. When we showed up they let us right in with out us even saying anything. We taught for a little to one of the kids, Carlos, but it was too busy so we just set a return appointment. When we came back there was a bunch of people listening to us. We got to the second principle, the family, and they all started talking about who does what and kinda venting. Me and Elder Robinson just kinda sat back and watched and listened as we learned about them in their discussion. It was really cool. When we went back on Saturday eleven people were with us. Elder Robinson wanted to just teach Sabbath Day Observance, but I really thought we should finish lesson one. So we did, and it was great. Everyone was listening. It was so awesome to teach people from age six to 70-something and still have everyone's attention. My favorite part was giving the account of the first vision and have everyone's eyes one me. It was so powerful to look in every pair of eyes in the room and tell them of this glorious Restoration, and then to testify that I truly knew that it was true. Yesterday three of the kids went to church; Carlos, Ricardo, and Diego. I'm hoping to be able to get these kids baptized and also help Elsa get back to church. We got her a wheelchair so we're going to see if she wants it tomorrow night at our lesson.

Well it's been a great change/week. I love this opportunity I have to bring this great message to the world. I truly know this is the work of God for all of His children. I truly love my mission and being a missionary, and many of these people, but still I love you all just a little bit more.

Take care and have a great week.
Elder Vuinovic

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Letter 20 - 7/26/10

So this week was for sure one of the tougher. I think it was the week with the lowest amount of lessons, but we had one of the two kids (Kevin and Yulexy) come to church so he'll be baptized this week. Yay!

The biggest problem this week was that we had a lot of appointments fall through. I'm guessing because this week was "Guayaquil Week" so everyone was away and partying. Also because my comp is District Leader two nights he had to go do baptismal interviews, which are the most vital times to be teaching.

We've found some good people in a family that have serious potential to progress and are completely willing to go to church, but they have difficulties because of their work. They leave at five thirty in the morning to work and don't get home til nine. So the only time we can meet with them is on Sunday. Not the easiest situation for a smooth progression. So we going to have to work with that.

This week more than anything has taught me about just going out and being diligent at all times. It's not been easy in such a small sector, but I've really done a lot of relying on guidance during the day, and I'm trying really hard to figure out something new that can be done to get more investigators. I'm still maintaining my greenie fire, but trying to be more organized. For sure still learning a lot.

So I found a really good scripture on diligence, but of course I forgot it. So I'll give a double next week. Anyway I love you all so much and thank you for your continued support.

Elder Vuinovic

Friday, July 16, 2010

Letter 19 - 7/16/10


Wow.
This week has been one of the best.

We didn't have anyone come to church this week, but I've really learned a lot this week and felt a lot of changes. The biggest is when I had my "I'm actually a missionary" epiphany. It happened on Thursday when we came back early.

Pause... Let me explain why we came back early. We were looking for things to do so we decided to try and get into this apartment complex to try and find more people. There are buildings like this everywhere that hide so many houses, but you can't get in because the area is so unsafe that they only let in the people who live there. So we decided to pray first to see if we could get a little extra help trying to get into this place. So we went behind a bus that wasn't being used so we weren't praying in the street. Right in the middle of the prayer we heard a loud bang. At first I just thought it was a really REALLY loud engine backfire, because that's what always happens here. Then I thought, "Wait, that was an actual gun shot." Right after I thought that, we heard another one. I finished up the prayer and saw a cop, about 100 ft. from us, get back into his car and drive off. He had shot twice across a freeway, at some robbers probably. I almost instantly felt a feeling like, "just go home." I was glad because this happened right around the corner from our house.

Now that you are caught up, I had some extra time to just sit and think. I realized how crazy it was that I'm a legit missionary. It's something I've waited for for so long. Years and years, and now I'm official. It's such a thrill to see my name next to Elder on paper work too. And having those small moments where the Spirit prevails in a lesson are such great blessing. I absolutely love everything about the missionary work and the tough parts just make the good times even better. I absolutely love my sector. (Despite how Ghe-TOW it really is)

I especially love my ward. That's one thing I really felt this Sunday. There are only a few members who are truly active and help the missionaries. Those people mean everything to the ward, and I love them so much. I already would be sad to leave these people behind.

The next day we were reading in "Preach My Gospel" and we read all the intro stuff from the First Presidency. As we were reading it my perception of my sector changed completely. It's not just this little plot that I've been placed in. This is my "part of the vineyard" that I've been given to harvest, and now I really think of it as my sector of the vineyard. It's such an incredible honor to be able to be entrusted with a piece of God's greatest work. I was so grateful for that experience. It's helped me change my views and attitudes of work everyday.

Last night we met with the Gonzalez family. We found the dad because he was visiting a member when we stopped by his house. The member, José Albuja, said that before he would joke around with the missionaries, but wouldn't want to listen to the message, but this time it was serious. We had an incredible lesson with them and the presence and testimony of José made all the difference. The Spirit testified strongly and there was a lot of trust in what we were saying because of the support from their friend. Working through the members truly is the best way to work, and the only way to work if you plan on retaining the converts. I really value that experience this early in the mission.

Finally, we had a lesson with a girl named Brenda. Her family is super-hardcore Evangelical and were saying some untrue things about us. We asked her if she felt that these things were true and especially that the Book of Mormon is true. She just kept saying that she was so confused because she was caught between what we were saying and what her family was saying. Elder Robinson was getting super frustrated because he would say, "What do you have to do to not be confused?" "Pray." she'd say. "Ok, will you pray?" he'd say. "I don't know. I'm so confused." ...This went on as a near eternal round until we finally got her to pray. I explained what she had to do with all the faith and love that I could muster. As she finished the prayer a gentle wave of peace came over me and the tension in the room dissipated. It was amazing. She too felt better as a result from the prayer. Elder Robinson told me afterwards that his frustration was swept away and he too felt the peace that was there. It was such a great reminder that the Book of Mormon is everything people say it is, and my testimony is again strengthened.

I want everyone to know for sure that I know the Book of Mormon is a true book from prophets who held the true authority from God. I am not here because it was expected of me. I am serving this two years away from home show to the people of Ecuador that God is the same today, tomorrow, and forever. For that reason I want everyone at home to know the same. That truth is on the Earth and it can be found in a powerful testimony that all can attain through the Book of Mormon. Love you all so much, and I testify of this truth in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Love,
Elder Vuinovic

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Letter 18 - 7/4/10

Happy 4th..... 5th of July!!
IN all seriousness, I was really missing home yesterday. I really wanted to smell BBQ and blow something up. But we at least bought a cake on saturday and they wrote "America" and "234" for us. 234 because that's how many years ago it was since the Declaration of Indendence for all those who slept through US history. The only thing it lacked was vanilla ice cream, but beggars can't be chosers.

So first awkward experience of the week. We've been doing door contacts all week trying to find people. One of the houses we sent to the guy sounded a little off while we were talking to him. The stuf he was saying almost sounded recited. He realized who we were and started rattling off all these things about the church. Stuff like the prophet, how 'powerful he thought the Ensign is, asked about conference. What really threw me was he said he has "Jesus the Christ" memorized. But I believed him because he told us how Talmage talks about a discrepency between two of the gospels and even cited the page. We ended the contact because he said he liked his church, but I had to take some time and digest what had happened, and then realized that he was autistic. Normally they have an obsession with numbers, but for him it was religious facts. It was so insane. We walked by his house another day and sure enough he was there reading some religious magazine. I was seriously trippin' out about how much he knew.

Then this Saturday while we were walking around we heard something buzzing. We looked up and saw it was something on the power lines. There was this arc that was just raging and it got super hot. So much so that the coating caught on fire. Which actually was really awesome because you had this really bright arc surrounded in flames. We thought (hoped) it was going to blow up. But it didn't. It was still a great precursor to the 4th of July. Just goes to show how ghetto it is in Ecuador.

Health advisory. When you haven't eaten for 24 hours it's not a good idea to load up on hot stuff. I had just ended my fast when we went over to a member's house to have lunch with them. I brought over this hot sauce another member made for me from a local pepper called ají. It also had these things called rosilla which are decently spicy. I normally eat the sauce with anything so I wasn't worried about adding a lot. Only thing is before I went to eat my rice I added more, and had forgotten how much was already there. Then Elder Robinson added a lot more with four rosilla bulbs. It started eating the bulbs and my rice, and it was pretty spicy, even for me. But when I finished my rice I felt really dizzy and my eyes couldn't focus. It started to feel almost drowsy too. When we went back home afterwards I realized, "wow I ate a crazy unhealthy ammount of ají on an empty stomach and I'm probably hi right now." I don´t know what it was, but it was a bad ride and I just wanted off. in conclusion. Kids don't eat too much ají, it's a train that just doesn't end. haha.

I met the president this week (again). He called a huge meeting to meet a lot of the missionaries and kind of talk to us about what he's going to change. He's already made alot of changes. It's really different from how it was before. A lot of missionaries are having a hard time, but it'll just take time to understand what he wants to do with the program. He's much more business than President Johns, so it'll be interesting to see how that translates to the mission program.

As far as the work goes we're still looking for people. We found some good people, but they haven't progressed or don't want to anymore. We still have those two awesome kids though Kevin and Yulexey (Do-lex-e). The whole family is just great and really open and accepting of the message. The parents just need to fix their marriage situation, but for now the two kids have the baptismal dates. We're going to start to have to work in the more dangerous third of our sector because we've kind of run out of room otherwise. So it'll be interesting to see how the week turns out. I'm guessing two robberies one with a knife the other without. hahaha jk.

So "suggested reading" for the week is a talk by Elder Holland. It's called "The Best Is Yet To Be" and it referrences Luke 17:32 where the Savior cautions, "Remember Lot's Wife". It's really really powerful. It talks about living in the past and how by not letting the past be the past (but still learning from it) we inhibit ourselves from learning the great things God has placed in front of us. It's really helped me and my comp during this time of change and also for when I get a wave of homesickness. Love you all, and hope you have a great week.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Letter 17 - 7/1/10


End of my first change!! I can´t believe how fast it´s going already, and this is supposed to be the slowest one. I´m still with Elder Robinson for the next change. It´ll be his last, though, because he's been here for three changes already. We're excited to be starting the program fresh for this change too.

We rearranged the house to innagurate the change. The only person that left was Elder Tobar, which was really sad because he wanted to stay the most. He loved his sector so much, but because there were clashes with the Bishop there had to be a change. What's more is that he really didn't want to leave the city and he ended up in the sector farthest away from the city.
This week went really well. We had to completely start our program over. People weren't progressing so we had to drop them. We've been going street by street knocking every door. It's been really interesting, and I've liked it a lot actually. There's more of a game to it. We've met some really god people that have serious potential. We just need to help them progress by understanding the importance of what's going on. What was really great was on day we were walking down the street and I looked around and thought, ¨Wow. I really do love this place.¨ I really do enjoy my sector. It's really just doing the work makes you love it. This sector has been closed seven or eight times in the last tem years because things don't really progress here, or hadn't progressed, and it's not the prettiest, to say it nicely. But it's still great.
Once again we had an encounter with a drunk. He was urinating on the wall and was yelling out to us as we were walking behind him and said, ¨Hey you gotta say hi to me. You gotta say hi to me.¨ He quickly finished and came over to us to shake elder Robinson's hand. All I thought was, ¨Please just keep talking to Elder Robinson.¨ Sure enough he walked up to me too. Luckily I had germ-x. BAM! It was still gross making myself shake his hand, but hey it's all part of the experience right? (See comment from Steve)

President Johns leaves this week. I feel pretty sad about it. He is such an amazing man. I really felt close to him even in the first two weeks. He'll be called as a Seventy for sure. There's for sure more things for him to do in the work. This Friday I get to meet our new mission president. AGAIN! President John's told me that he still remembered me and has asked about me. Needless to say , I was really excited to hear that.
Well, that's it for now.
I love you all so much!
Have a great week :)
Elder Vuinovic

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Letter 16 - 6/22/10

...so here's the general update.

Here's how cool the robbers are here. At least the ones that aren't in gangs. On Saturday, while Elder Robinson and I are getting ready for the baptism, This guy jumps off a bus and comes up behind us and says,"Remember me? I robbed you." (way to make an entrance) so this guy is nagging us for a dollar while we're trying to go drop off our stuff at the church building. We both had our cameras on us, but we just told him we didn't have anything. I told him again that we were broke and he just yelled, three inches away from my face, "AMERICANO!!!" All I thought was, "You have a very flawed argument ,sir." so I just sarcastically told him I'm Ecuadorian. He kinda looked at me confused for a second or two and called me a liar. To show that we really didn't have any money he pulled out his pocket. The guy nearly jumped out of his skin and told us not to do that because he didn't want it to look like he was robbing us. So I thought, "Oh, so you don't like that do you? Well take this." And I just pulled out all my pockets and was like, "See? We don't have anything." He got all miffed/scared and then left. It was pretty funny.

*Side note. Along with my "Costly Apparel" franchise (all rights reserved). I´m going to open up an "Exceedingly Fine Footwear" sister company. I know, I know totally brill.

So this week I donated blood..... in a third world country. The grandpa of a recent convert in the other ward is dying and he needs a blood transfusion. The family can't pay for it so they have to donate enough blood to match the amount he'll receive. The other missionaries donated and we were asked to help. So what the heck. The mission president already said it was ok, but I don't think I can ever give blood in the US or ever donate an organ. Which really stinks because seven pounds really inspired me to do so. Sorry everyone, but believe me you may not want my kidney. When I was going through the questions with the guy in charge and I was laughing while he was asking me if I had any "relationships", diseases, drank or smoked. He kinda did a double take on the alcohol one. So I finish the questions and he said I'm not supposed to give blood, but he's going to let me because of my religion.

(strike one)
If they're willing to let a foreigner break the rules like that who knows who else's blood is there.
The place looked and felt like a WWII army hospital. When she went to put the needle in my arm she just took the bloodstained gloves she had for someone else and turned them inside-out

(strike two).
Then she took scissors and cut the tubes into an an open bin filled with other bloody tubes

(strike three).
I probably have a jungle disease, but I'll just find out when I cough up my liver. Fun stuff.

(Mom's note: Please pray for Adam that there will be no lasting effects from this!)

So to end the week was really cool. We baptized Ana Bermeo. She's so awesome. I think I already talked about her, but she has an ability to understand the scriptures that blows me away, and she's 15. It was such a privilege to teach/be taught by her. She also was asked to give her testimony after the baptism, and she was really nervous, but I told her to just say what she knows and how she felt after being baptized. She bore a powerful testimony. You'd never ever think she'd had only been introduced to the Book of Mormon only two weeks ago. She really knows it's true to her core.

There's something I've really learned from the sector. I've looked at these people for six weeks and wondered how can you allow yourself to be stuck in a life like this? Then I realized that all people are stuck like this who chose to not follow the commandments of God. Until this society chooses what is right they will forever be stuck in non-progression. It's so sad to see, but they have no value for marriage, the Sabbath Day is a joke to them, and they live under the influence of instant gratification.

(Steve's note: Sounds like a lot of Americans ...sadly.)

It's really sad, but I value obedience to God's laws even more now, and want to be able to help them understand the importance of it.

So the scripture is Jacob 4:6 I don´t know if I already shared this one. If I did than will you delete it mom? but it´s about how studying the words of the prophets increases your faith.

Wherefore, we search the prophets,
and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.

So everyone search the words of the prophets
(the scriptures and the Ensign.)

I love you all, have a great week!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Letter 15 - FIRST BAPTISM






MY FIRST BAPTISM!!

It was so awesome. Gosh. It was really uplifting. The Spirit was very strong at the baptism of the two girls, Genesis Cruz and Simonne Gomez. And we have another one this Saturday. It's possible for us to get one more before transfers, but the kid has to get permission. The kids are the only hope for this place. It's incredible the difference between the children and their parents. The only things is that often the kids don't get permission.

Anyway so Saturday morning we had a cool experience while preparing the baptismal font. The water just stopped filling up, and since there are only maybe two water pipes in the whole building, we couldn't figure out what was wrong. So Elder Robinson thought it might be a circuit problem. So he starting flipping the circuits. Then I heard water running, so he stopped and we waited. We listened to the water running for at least twenty minutes maybe thirty, and we could not figure out why the water wasn't coming to fill the font. After staring at it for while of sitting in silence we starting saying our own prayer. When I finished Elder Robinson called me over to help him look into the roof to see if the water was leaking somewhere else. We couldn't find anything just the two water tubs, so we supposed that it was filling up, but it should've been giving off water a while ago. So we went back to the font and Elder Robinson opened the door and said, "Hey! It's filling up now......... I guess sometimes you just gotta ask." It's so true. It was just another fun small reminder from Heavenly Father of, "Hey, how's it going? You got to this point because of me, and you still need my help. Remember that." Such an awesome experience. I really can't fully describe it but I was so happy to be able to help out in a small part of such a huge step in their progress and acceptance of our Savior's Atonement.

I finally found something hot in this country!!! It was so awesome. It all started on monday when I found jalapenos in the store. I almost broke out into my party dance, but for the sake of the missionary work here I refrained. Then the next day a missionary in my Zone gave me this habanero sauce that totally rocks. and THEN these members made me this sauce from a local pepper called aji. oh man, it's de-lish! I thought I was going to go my whole mission with out spice. I'm going to go make an offering to the spice god tomorrow. He really pulled some strings for me.

Random thought. If I live out in Utah I"m going to open a clothing store called "Costly Apparel". It's a gillion dollar idea for sure. Btw... by me saying i'm going to do it I (Adam Michael Vuinovic) hereby claim all rights and privileges pertaining to the idea, the name, and all corresponding logos. I (Adam Michel Vuinovic) hereby claim the rights to all products created, sold, or advertised by any "costly apparel" corporation, franchise, or any other group or industry that bears this ingenious name. All rights reserved.

So everything has been focused on the baptism this week so not much has happened besides that. Although I did have an awesome interchange on Wednesday. I was in my sector and had to plan and carry out the day pretty much. I had some solid help from the other Elder, but I was super stoked that I didn't feel lost anymore and I can take care of myself in my own sector. We got five new investigators that day. It was really awesome.

A side from that I forgot to tell you all that I saw a dog eating out of a dirty diaper that was in the street. And let me tell you what, that diaper was ripe. I wish I could take more pictures so you all could see what I"m trying to describe, but if I use my camera outside I'll get robbed for sure. If not that day someone will see me and I'll get mugged the next. It's so ghetto. Compton eat your heart out haha.

I don't know why milk suddenly started to hate me, but once again my milk turned into cheese curds. This time my comp said it'd be ok so I added more of a fresh milk and tried it, thinking that my trainer is all knowing in the ways of Ecuador (I'm so dumb). So I took a bite and my mouth stung from the rancid milk. Oh man, it was gross. What stunk was I couldn't get rid of it. It's like when you accidentally bite into the orange peel and the bitter taste just sits in your mouth no matter what. Oh yeah that was fun.

Ok so I almost forgot. The girl that's getting baptized this Saturday is Ana Bermeo. I think I talked about her. She's so awesomely awesome. She's accepted everything we taught her and she knows it's true. On the interchange Elder Poma and I taught her the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom and about how our body's are temples. She had a lip piercing so we told her that prophet has said that women should only have one set of earrings. She said it would be hard, but she said it'd be ok and that she wants to. The next day I saw her as we were walking in the street and the first thing I looked at was her piercing, but it wasn't there. I was so stoked!! She's so awesome. She really is someone who was born ready for the Gospel.

So the scripture is 2Nephi 27:19,20

Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned.

Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee.

Even if you think you can't understand the scriptures we've been commanded by our Father to read it. There's is so much advice and guidance in the Book of Mormon from a Father who understands all things in the universe, especially the things that you're going through right now. Read it, and find the answers to your questions.

Love,
Elder Vuinovic

Monday, June 7, 2010

Letter 14 - 6/6/10

Wow. So I didn´t say anything last week so there´s been a BUNCH of stuff going on. We´ll start with the good stuff.

So we had a "interchange" (I don´t know what it´s called in English because it´s intercambio in Spanish) and we (Elder Salcedo and I) had to go back to La Isla Trinitaria so I could pick up Elder Robinson and go home. Elder Robinson and his comp for the day, Elder Freeman, were super late. They got back at nine thirty, the latest you´re allowed to be in the house. And that´s really not a good idea especially on the Island, It´s the most dangerous place in the country. There´s a place on the island called Nigeria. If they see a white person they will kill them. Back in that area it´s all drugs and guns. So Imagine the most dangerous area in the US next to a jungle river and sugar cane houses. Ta-dah!

Well me and Elder Robinson start to head out. But, uh-oh. There´s no buses. Why? because it´s too dangerous to ride buses at that time of night. So we´re like crap we have to walk back, and we have to go over a bridge. The people that live under this bridge wouldn´t approach us because they would like to hear a message about Christ. So we´re walking and walking then we see a bus. We jump for excitement. We hurry up and get on the bus. We´re riding aloing thinking all is well, but then maybe 200 yards from the bridge it turns around. We then scamper off the bus and watch the one bus that was behind us go over the bridge. So now we´re freaked out. We have no money to give to anyone that would try and rob us let a lone get a ride over the bridge, and we are two white guys in white shirts and ties carrying a huge backpack and another bag. We´re walking targets. WE just kept walking at a very very quick pace while singing, "Just Keep Swimming" laced with my Chris Farley style color commentary. I don´t know how (I think it was the song) but we made it back ok. But as everyone knows luck can only go so far. Wednesday we got robbed. Since it was my first one I didn´t know until Elder Robinson told me and pointed out the kife. I kept telling him I had nothing even before that. He kept saying, "give me a dollar I´m broke" I just kept saying, "Cool. So am I welcome to the club." Finally Elder Robinson gave him a dollar and I found a penny that I could give him. It was redonk. I thought I´d get by without gettting robbed, but no. Then not to forget Sunday on our way to church we almost got robbed again. This guy started yelling at us to go over to him. At first I thought he was talking to this guy on a bike, but then the guy told us with a serious face to not go and walk towards the market. I looked back and my stomached turned when I saw how close he was to us, but we just kept walking. I him we were going to church and that he should come with us. I mean seriously, breaking two of the Ten Commandments. Working and robbing on the Sabbath. He´s not even trying. So we made to the market before he got to us/pulled out his knife. The thieves here are pretty cowardly if you get to a main street or a market you´re ok.

Also we found the rat that cem to the house in Elder Estrada´s luggage. Elder Tobar started yelling that he saw tah rat run under the fridge. He took a brrom handle and started pounding it under the fridge. The guy´s a boxer so needless to say it was a pretty fierce shot he was throwing under there. after not seeing anything run out he kinda scrapped under the fridge and swiped out the rat. We thought he´d killed it but when we wer taking pictures it took a gasp for air. After Tobar finished the job we realized that previously ahd only been knocked unconcious because Elder Tobar punched it´s testicles out. The poor thing died because he junk got destroyed. I´m sorry if this is crass. Then I started freaking out beacuse it was on our kitchen floor. I kinda have a problem with the thought of rodent genetalia in the same room as where we prepare food. So I took deodorant spray and lit the tile to try and cleanse it because I couldn´t find cleaning products. It was for sure a highlight of the week.

As far as spiritual stuff goes (kinda the point of the whole two years) we met a girl named Anna, because one of our really good friends in the ward brought her to church. After met we gave her the Book of Mormon she told us she´d read it and pray about it. When we returned we taught the "Gospel of Jesus Christ" and asked if she had erad and prayed. She told us that when she had she prayed with all her faith, and that afterwards she felt so much love, and that she felt so much love for her friends and for everyone around and her and she knew that it was true. I was so excited!! It was incredible to see her really study the Book of Mormon. She highlighted things added her own book mark and really showed that she wanted and answer. She took it seriously. If all our investigators did that they´d all know it is true. So she´s getting baptized next week! I know that people who would accept this message would normally accept it with our without me, but I´m so greateful to have the oppotunity to be able to watch someone come to a knowledge of the truth like that.

As far as the adjustment goes I´m still workin on it. The food is just fine, I enjoy it. Even the chicken feet and rice. you just don´t think about what you´re eating and it´s all good. I still don´t get this culture though. They believe in Christ because it´s fashionable, and they would seriously believe almost anything you say about Christ. "oh I don´t need to pray about you´re book. I believe what you say because I believe in Christ." We´ll talk about the one true church of Christ maybe fifty times in a lesson. Then we ask, "If our this is the only true church of Christ are the other churches in Guayaquil true?" and they just nod their head lightly. We have to totally re-teach about God too, adn be really patient as people try to work out of their mental rut of what they thought God was. There´s come crazy stuff here. I never thought I would have to re-teach what God was, and it´s for sure harder than I thought.

And I´m really tired of getting creeppy looks from every gay and crossdressser here. You have no idea how many there are here. It almost ruined my day yesterday.

But on the upside I learned how to make hot chocolate from scratch and it´s the best stuff ever.

So the scripture is in 2 Nephi 30:3-5 Nephi´s like, "Hold up, Imma drop a prophecy right here" (unofficial modern-day translation). I thought it was cool because I´m totally a part of this prophecy. The gentiles bringing the record to the remnant of the seed.

Love you all, bye!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Letter 13 - 5/24/10

Woah.....

This week has been crazy. We had five almost seven baptismal dates this week, but we went to visit one of the families and their kids told us they don't want to be baptized. So we had to drop their date. What didn't help was that the Mom, right in from of the kids, told us that the daughter is super rebellious, lies to her all the time, and that she thinks Satan is talking in her daughter. So we're going to sit down with just the kids and talk to them about how they feel about it and their concerns, worries, doubts and such without the parents present. I feel bad because the parents know it is true and want to be baptized so badly (they're working on being legally married), and they have a huge desire to progress while their kids don't want to be baptized. We had to explain the whole thing about agency and that the kids have to want to be baptized. So we'll see what happens.

Side note. There's this kid in the cyber that's by me and he's playing a video game and keeps taking out loud to himself, with a lot of random sounds and an occasional English phrase (cuss words, I think).

Back on track.

Interesting things I saw this week were two bus robberies almost right outside our window, and a dead dog that had had it´s stomach ripped open so all of it´s vitals were just hanging out. There´s always dead animals in the street, but this one was really special. For sure a gold medal winner. It was like something out of a horror movie.

I´m starting to adjust to place and like it. I’ll never adjust to the smells, but I've just accepted it now. They have these stores that have all these religious names, probably so they feel like they can justify themselves. My favorites are "the Heart of Christ" and "The Will of God" (because of course the will of God is for them to work on Sunday and sell alcohol). Also, they really really want to pretend they´re American. For the most part it really hasn't helped them. They just have uncontrollable trash problems because they´re semi-developed. All the houses are made of cinder block, even the nicer ones, and have aluminum siding roofs, with a bunch of exposed re-bar and wires. I love it though. I´m in a third world area and on p-days I can go to the rich area and by all the American-ish products.

I think my favorite are the buses. They´re absolutely insane. They go the same speed on the freeway as they do on regular roads. They drive and stop within a foot of everything at any speed. On Thursday I had to take a bus to a busy area, and there were so many buses and it was like they were racing around each other trying to pick up people and still not be slowed down by the other buses. Imagine the video game "crazy taxi", but buses mixed in with bus-style roller derby. That´s the Ecuadorian bus system.

On a more spiritual note, there are these two little kids that we met and have been teaching, Andrea, who is 13, and Renny, who is 9. They are so awesome. The first lesson was just with Andrea and she was completely absorbed in what we were teaching. The next time we came for a check on her reading she hadn't read, but Renny, her cousin (i think) sat in. We shared a quick message and they both said they would read. I was gone on a exchange when Elder Robinson went back. When he asked if they read they both had, and Renny was able to say exactly what went on. When Elder Robinson asked if they prayed and received an answer they had and Renny said he heard a voice telling him it was true. I was so excited to hear that. When I went back to teach them the Plan of Salvation, Renny made some pretty deep comments. These are really special kids. It´s easy to tell that Andrea is so receptive to these things by nature, and Renny has an incredible understanding for not knowing anything before. It shows how much more in tune children are with the Spirit. Man, it was just so cool to be able to teach these kids. They´re two of our baptismal dates. We have five right now! It´ll be a lot of work to maintain that, but I’m stoked for it.

So I don't have a scripture again, which stinks because I've read some good stuff this week. I'll be sure to have one next week.

I love you all. bye!

Letter 12 - 5/17/10

Hi everyone!

Wow. So here I am. This is the real deal. It's absolutely crazy here. As far as the language goes I can speak fine, but I´m having a more difficult time understanding what they´re saying to me. I just kinda stare blankly and nod every now and then, hoping they only ask my companion questions. There´s normally at least one person a day who I can understand though, which is really nice. I know I have it a lot better than the other Americans that came in with me. Hooray for Mexican friends who helped teach me Spanish!

So as far as the city goes, I have a whole lot of adjusting to do. The heat is pretty bad (Saturday was the worst for sure. I can´t even describe the amount of sweat). Sanitation is.... different. You can't flush your toilet paper, and all trash goes to the middle of the big streets which gets picked up once a week, I think. So that and the heat gives us some really interesting smells during the day. Things that I hope are only unique to Ecuador. The people are nice for the most part. Nobody will say no to you, so they say they’re busy and to come back at some indefinite time (at which they will be sure not to be home). In the mornings it´s hard to contact people because they’re "making lunch". One guy was just standing on the sidewalk just staring at the ground, holding a knife. So the elder I was on an exchange with and I tried to contact him, but of course he said he was to buy to listen, so we just talked about his family. Then he saw a friend down the street and told us he had to go so he could talk to his friend. Must have been a crazy cool friend to make him forget how busy he was.

So all week people are too busy and then all weekend they party or are drunk. It´s a little frustrating. Especially when two or three appointments fall through in a row and you´re trying to find someone to teach. Because the whole city is poor (except for two houses) people don´t have much, but they almost all have these little shops/stands that they have in their house behind an iron gate. On the other side of the freeway in our sector is pretty bad. The pictures of bamboo and aluminum siding huts that you may see of the poor areas of Guayaquil is my area most likely. It´s really sad.

On Saturday I had a transfer on La Isla Trinitaria, so I went over there on Friday. My area and the island are the poorest areas, but the island is way more dangerous. Friday night as we were going back to the missionaries’ apartment Elder Solares, my exchange comp, notice this motorcycle with a cart of people turned around right after they passed us. He started walking over to this random house and I starting thinking, "Another appointment? We should've been back a while ago." He started to do a intro lesson and then whispered that there were thieves that where about to rob us and begged her to let us in. Once I realized that I started to plead too, because I only had a dollar (which for sure wouldn't be enough for them) and I didn't want to find out what happened next. Finally she let us in until they left, but I was for sure paranoid after that. Then the next night we heard gun shots. Luckily we went back early because everyone was partying/didn't want to listen, but we would've been over on that side probably if we hadn't.

On the lighter side, Friday night I went to take a shower. When I closed my eyes it looked like there was light flashing up and down over my eyes and my head was vibrating. I thought, "This doesn't make any sense. The water isn't running that hard." So I stuck my hand up and finger went numb. Then I realized my head was touching the electric heater shower head and the vibration feeling was an electric current running through my head. Yay! As far as the success of the transfer, we had two new investigators down by the ports ( super crazy poor) and I saw this family of pigs just cruising around the streets. Once lunch came no one else wanted to listen to us except one group,but I don´t know how much they were being taught.

As a whole this city wears me out, and I generally don´t like it. But that´s only until we get into the homes and start teaching. I absolutely love the teaching and it´s worth it. Especially Sundays. Being at church where everyone there wants to learn more and be edified was my sanity for the week. It´s for sure what I look forward to. Today was nice going around to another part of the city and relaxing, but church was the best. We also taught a family who´s kids are going to be baptized and the parents REALLY want to also. But they´re trying to get a divorce from their other marriages and then get married so they´re living the law of chastity. It´s redonk, a marriage is 6 dollars and it takes maybe a week, but a divorce is about 600 and takes months. They´re really struggling with this financially, but it´ll awesome to see them once they make it through. Well that´s it for now. I´ll try to send home some pictures soon. I got really good ones today with iguanas at this park.

Love you all!

Letter 11 - 5/11-12/10


May 11, 2010

Anyway. So I´m here in Guayaquil and this place is absolutely amazing. Humid, but not uncomfortable. I stayed the night on the temple grounds, which was really cool. The temple is absolutely gorgeous. This city is AWESOME! I love it. Imagine a cross between the city that Jason Bourne was in when he was in hiding and San Francisco that´s really dense, in the middle of the jungle and sprawls over these huge jungle hills, with all these jungle trees mixed into the city. It´s the best. Just so incredible. Also, there´s stores and food shops literally everywhere. The best part is that there are no street lines so you just freestyle while you drive. LA eat your heart out! You drive 45 mph down these little streets and dodge around other cars. I love this place.

When I got out of the airport and felt the air I was so pumped. It felt like the Splash Mountain ride at Disneyland when it´s super hot outside. Only.... there´s no Splash Mountain. I´m so excited and ready to get to work. This place is so cool, and before it was just another thing on the map. What a gem!

Ok, well It´s almost time for dinner with the President (such an awesome guy) and his wife (also extremely awesome) so I gotta run.

May 12, 2010

Well, here I am. This place is crazy. I´m at the very southern tip of Guayaquil. I´m pretty sure my companion, Elder Robinson, said it´s the poorest. I for sure believe it. I´m going through major culture shock still. It´s crazy to see what people are living in. Things like rusted aluminum siding, bamboo fences, cinder block houses, anything. Dogs roam everywhere and I just saw one covered in fungus, with no hair. The only way to describe how this place looks is like Jamaican-Queens (NY neighborhood), Detroit, and a splash of Camden all mixed in with a post-apocalyptic movie set. It´s crazy, but as soon as we get into the houses and start teaching I completely forget about everything and it´s great. Our house isn't bad. It´s pretty nice actually. It's just always hot. Seriously, I¨m always sweating. I was just in a phone booth and I was as wet as if I had just gotten out of the shower. The food isn't bad here. I just have to be really careful of what I eat. So because of that I´m eating a lot less than normal because I¨m pretty paranoid until I figure things out.

Anyway, I just met my comp last night. He´s a really cool guy.... elder. We've had a pretty good day today as far as I can tell. I think we´ll do some great work. We got someone to start coming back to church today. Now we have to go and get some new investigators for our goal today, so I gotta run. Bye!

PS- there´s this car going around with a mega-phone talking about these onions he´s trying to sell. Just thought it was funny.
O yeah and in the northern part of the city we saw a Peugeot , Porsche and BMW car shop. anywho. Gotta jet.