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!