Hola familia y amigos!!
First off, an announcement. I asked President Johns if friends are allowed to email me and he said that email is for family only. So friends, even though I love your emails, I also don´t want to be disobedient. I´ll try to snail mail you all, and if you want to send me a message, write on my facebook or blog and my mom can email it to me, or try dearelder.com. Or snail mail it, but know that it will take forever and probably be expensive. Just letting you know!! Oh yeah, and family extends to grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. So you´re all still good. :)
Feliz Navidad everyone!! I hope everyone had an amazing Christmas. Family, it was so great to talk to you!! It was hard to hang up that phone though, there were so many more things I wanted to say, but it´s okay. We didn´t really do a whole lot on Christmas, and I actually think we could have worked a lot harder than we did, so I´ve made a goal that next Christmas, wherever I am, I´m going to work harder and really try to accomplish the goals we make for the day. This coming week is Nuevo Año (New Years) which is celebrated pretty much the same as the United States except louder, drunker, and more dangerous, so I think we have to be in early on the 31st. Hopefully we can still be productive though.
Christmas in Ecuador is really interesting. On the 24th they have Nochebuena, which basically is that everyone stays up till midnight and then throws a big fiesta in the street. Families visit each other and everyone eats a lot of food. They eat turkey on Christmas here, and this stuff called relleno, which, as one of our zone leaders put it, is "their attempt at stuffing." I thought it was okay but they gave us a ton of it and it would have been much better in a smaller amount. But they also have torta Navideña which is AMAZING. So good!! And this stuff called Pan de Pascua, which is bread and looks like it should be good but I don´t like it. It´s got that crystallized fruit stuff in it like fruitcake, which makes it pretty gross. But for the most part, the food was awesome although I ate way too much and seriously thought I was going to die on Thursday night. But the next day I was hungry again. Of course. Pretty much everyone has a nacimiento (manger scene) but they don´t put the baby Jesus in until midnight on Christmas day, so that´s kind of cool. So yeah, it´s pretty similar to the United States except everyone celebrates on a different day and time. But what´s important is that we celebrate the birth of Christ, cierto??
So this week was slightly frustrating because we couldn´t get a lot accomplished because everyone was busy celebrating Christmas and didn´t want to talk to us. But we did get two people committed to baptism on Saturday!! Robert Grazzo, the guy with the chicken stand, and Marcos Arrata, who is 26. Both of them have had the missionaries visit them before, and Marcos even knows who he wants to baptize him!! He has a cousin who is a bishop in another ward that he wants to come and baptize him. I feel really good about these two but I also am a little wary, because I know that as soon as something good happens, Satan comes right down and tries to ruin it. But we´re going to try not to let that happen. Plus Rolando finally comes back this week after taking his tests for the police academy. We talked to his dad on Saturday and he told us that Rolando passed all his tests!!! YAAAAAY!!!! I´m pretty sure it´s because he was reading and praying. Haha. Anyway, hopefully we can get in touch with him again and get him baptized. We´re all feeling really good about this next change, and I´m trying to keep those good feelings with me so that I don´t get discouraged.
So I´ve decided that since you all ask me questions, I´m going to start asking questions too, one every week, for my RM friends and family. This week´s question is: What is the absolute worst/lamest/stupidest/funniest reason you´ve been given for someone not coming to church?? I got the best one so far of my mission this Sunday. We went to get the Fam. Balarezo to go to church with us and when we got there, they told us they couldn´t go because . . . . . . there was no water in their house. Ummmm . . . . how does that possibly keep you from going to church?? And guess what building always has running water??? If you guessed the chapel, you get a gold star!!! We walked away and I was seriously so irritated, because I knew that Hno. Balarezo had something to do with this (he´s the one that doesn´t want to get married and thinks that we´re crazy bc we don´t worship Mary and Joseph Smith wrote the BOM.) Anyway, I was upset all through church and it was bad bc this time I didn´t hide it as well, bc Hna. Lopez and Marcelo Bacaluna both were like, "Hna. Chamberlain, por que usted es triste? (why are you sad?) Anyway, I thought again, I just want one person to come to church today. And boom!! When we went to pick up Marcos, there he was, ready and waiting. Robert bailed on us again, but he´s got plenty of time to go to church before he´s baptized, so I´m not too worried about him yet. So yeah, I´m trying to look at all the good things that happen and realize that I need to learn patience. I think maybe that´s why I was put in this area first, is because I didn´t learn enough patience in the MTC. But I´m trying, I really am. I could always try harder, I know, but that´s what this life is for, to find your weaknesses and make them strengths, right?? Also, we were talking to this lady last night who lives with someone else that we were trying to contact, and all of a sudden she was telling us about all the problems she has with her family and we were just like . . . . whoa. You really need the gospel!! So we´re going back sometime this week to talk to her again. It was so random, who talks to complete strangers about their personal problems like that?? But it was good for us, and I was able to tell her about the people in my family that have made some bad decisions and caused us a lot of pain and sorrow, but that having the gospel of Jesus Christ and knowing that He was there always helped us, and that it was part of the reason I was here, because I wanted to share what helped me. In Spanish!! And she even said Gracias at the end, which meant she understood!! YAY!! It´s getting better. Slowly but surely.
So who wants to know what I did on Christmas?? Well, I got up at 6:30 like every day and then I went to the playground next to the chapel and played volleyball for 3 hours with the rest of our district. It was super fun. We had BonIce for breakfast and I got to talk to the other elders in my district who speak English (which is secretly why I look forward to P-day and district meeting. I know it´s bad but it´s the truth!!) Then we went home and planned and ate lunch and called our families and then went out and tried to visit people. I felt like kind of a bum, to tell the truth, which again is why I have resolved to make next Christmas better. And that was my first Christmas in Ecuador. Cheverissimo!!
So I feel kind of at a loss for other things to say, because nothing super exciting happened this week, other than me eating a lot of food on Christmas Eve and the two baptismal dates that we made. Hopefully this week is more exciting. Elder Hicks, who is in my district in area La Pradera, told me a cool story about blessing a house of this lady that they found. Some of the members told him and his companion that she was having trouble with evil spirits, and he said that when they went into her house he was like, okay this lady´s just crazy, there´s nothing wrong with this house. But when they went into her room, he said that the Spirit pretty much flew out the window. But after they blessed it, it came right back. I was like . . . whoa!! I´m hoping that nothing that exciting happens to me, because that would be super scary. But it just goes to show the power of the priesthood of God, and how grateful we should be that we have it in our church to bless our lives and our families. I hope those of you that have the priesthood that are reading my email never take it for granted. It´s the power to act in God´s name given to you, and I can´t imagine a more amazing gift, or one that requires more responsibility. Remember that!!
Shoutout time!! Eric, I´m not sure how long ago you sent that letter but I finally got it!! Muchas Gracias!! It was awesome, and I promise that you will get Ecuadorian postcards . . . . eventually. I was going to write soon but that probably would have been a lie. But sometime throughout the course of these next 15 months, you will get them. But for now I will just say be good and don´t do anything I wouldn´t do!! Also, I still need addresses from the rest of you or you won´t get any letters ever. Kristen, Jordan Mayorga, anyone who didn´t write in my pink book before I left, I´m talking to you. Oh yeah, and write to me!! DearElder is super easy and supposedly I get it within a week (although I suspect that may be wrong, bc apparently there´s a ton of dearelder letters that have been sent but I haven´t gotten them.) But I love you all, and I miss you all, and I´m loving it here even if it is frustrating sometimes. Salvation isn´t easy or cheap, so of course it´s going to be hard!! But at the same time . . . somehow it´s also awesome.
So I guess that´s all for now. Please keep praying for me and being good and feeding the missionaries, and when they ask for members to come with them to lessons, please go and help them out!! It´s so much better when members come!!
Mucho amor!! La iglesia es verdadera!!