First off, no I do not have an oven. We wanted to cook a turkey for Christmas but we can´t because we don´t have an oven. Don´t worry though, the members will take care of us ;)
Grocery stores here are pretty much the same as the ones in the United States, except that all the food comes in different kinds of containers. They have pretty much the same brands of peanut butter and candy and stuff like that, so I eat pretty normal food. And I can get pretty much everything that they have in the States, for now (it will probably be different once I go to Loja or Machala or other places). But I´m glad that you´re depositing money in my account so that I can get peanut butter and nutella, bc I feel bad using the mission money for it. Plus I want to get some of the native bracelets and stuff, bc they´re pretty.
SO, this week I learned that just when you think everything´s going awesome, Satan shows up and delivers you a nice swift kick in the pants (or skirt, I haven´t worn pants in awhile). Anyway this week was really hard. On Tuesday we did have two investigators commit to be baptized on the 26th!! Very exciting. Rolando, who is 24 and muy bueno. When we came to teach the second lesson he was reading the Book of Mormon before we came. And we have Jonathan who is 18 and is the brother of Luis who is a less active member that we´re trying to reactivate. He seems pretty excited about it too. Or so we thought until neither of them showed up at church on Sunday like they said they were going to!! We called Jonathan and he said that he wanted to go, but not without Luis, and since Luis went AWOL he didn´t go. But Luis has his own set of problems that I don´t even want to get into because we´d be here all day. Also, Hermano Pino wasn´t able to get his divorce on Wednesday, and to top it off, he got in a car wreck. He´s fine, but his car´s in pretty bad shape. I thought, really Satan?? You didn´t want them to be baptized so badly that you messed up his divorce and then you tried to kill him?? Was that necessary?? It was very sad and frustrating. But the Pinos are so great. They said they just needed to keep having faith and things would work out (I think . . . . I didn´t really understand very much!!) But it is heartbreaking for them. And Familia Belarezo . . . . ugh!! It´s so hard. I feel and know in my heart that they will be baptized, all of them together. But Hno. Belarezo just is the epitome of stiffnecked. We went over there last week with the whole family and guess who hadn´t started to read the Book of Mormon?? And then we went to visit Hna. Belarezo on Thursday and she´s having a really hard time with it. She is so good, she has such a strong testimony, and she really wants to get married but he just won´t relent. We did the best we could with scriptures and encouragement (I personally like Ether 12 where it says that faith can work miracles) but it was hard to see her upset like that. But yesterday, I feel like we maybe had a small breakthough. I didn´t really understand a whole lot of what was going on, but I feel like Hno. Belarezo maybe opened his heart just a crack. Hna. Laime asked him what he wanted most for himself and his family and he said, Tener paz (to have peace), to which I replied with a sentence from the BOM introduction, which talks about how reading the BOM will tell you how to have peace in this life and in the life to come. Then I said, I know that this is true, but we can tell you that over and over and you won´t believe. The only way you can know for yourself is by reading and praying to God, and I know that He will give you an answer. Then I told him that sometimes it was difficult for me to be here, when my family is on a different continent and I don´t speak or understand the language very well, but that I knew that Guayaquil Ecuador was where I was supposed to be, for him, his family and all my investigators. And I said it all in Spanish!! Granted it wasn´t very good Spanish but I´m pretty sure if not positive that he understood. Anyway, I felt very gratified afterward and I have strong faith that he will at least feel the desire to read and know that it´s true. And I extend the same invitation to all of you who read my blog or my emails, whether you´re a member or not. If you are, read the BOM again and pray again and I promise you that you´ll get a reassurance that it´s true. It probably won´t come like your first answer did, but it will come. If you´re not a member, please please read the Book of Mormon, and pray and ask God if it´s true. I promise you that if you pray, really wanting to know, Heavenly Father will answer you. If you don´t have a copy of the Book of Mormon, send me your address and I´ll do my best to get one to you (I have two copies in English) or go to mormon.org and request a free copy. I know this book changes lives for the better. It answers all the questions of the soul that you could possibly have, and I know that because it´s answered many of mine, even the ones I didn´t know I had until I found the answer. The best Christmas present you could give me this year is to read and pray. It´s not too hard, and you don´t even have to spend money, and really, it´s the best gift you´ll ever give yourself. I promise you that.
Wow!! I wasn´t expecting to write that but I felt like I should. Anyway, this week was tough for sure. Even the baptism we had fell through bc his dad had to travel for work (no worries though, we´re baptizing him on Wednesday). But at the same time, it was humbling and faith building. It taught me that sometimes you don´t always get what you want, even if it´s a good thing, and that you can do all the right things and pray and teach and commit and have the Spirit, but even after all that, people still have their agency and sometimes they use it to do the wrong thing. It happens. And I feel like I probably should have seen it coming, because after we got our baptismal dates on Tuesday, Wednesday morning I was reading in 1 Nephi 8 about the tree of life vision, about the vapors of darkness. It struck me that the mists of darkness only show up AFTER the people grab hold of the iron rod and begin on the path to the tree. And that´s exactly what happened this week. Our investigators grabbed onto the rod by reading and committing to be baptized, and then the mists of darkness came down like crazy. But I feel that this week will be better. It has to be!! Funny story. In Ecuador they make these things called muñecos for New Years. They´re paper mache statues of cartoon characters and famous people and superheroes and stuff like that. They put all the bad things that happened in the old year on them and then kick them around and stomp on them and finally light them on fire and blow them up. So Hna Laime, Hna Lopez and I decided that were going to build one of Satanàs and oh man are we gonna have a good time with taking him out!!
Anyway, for the most part things are pretty good. I eat pretty much all the time, it´s ridiculous. But the food is really good here!! Everything is just better!! And I really don´t think I´m gaining very much weight, because I walk so much. But I am having a tough time with Ecuadorian music, bc it´s really good, and we walk down the streets and I hear it and I´m like, wow, I really like this song!! And then I´m like, ah no!! I´m a missionary!! Must. Not. Listen!! It´s tough. But I´m making it!! I feel like I might complain a lot about how hard it is in my letters. And it is hard. But I hope nobody thinks it´s unbearable for me and that I hate my life. I know it´s going to be fine, and already I´ve had great experiences. But nobody talks about how the first few weeks of the mission are pretty tough!! So I´m letting you know. It´s fabulous and amazing but it´s tough!! But I promise I´m okay. More than okay. I´m superbien. Promise!!
Tambien, Hno. Barrios, ¡muchas gracia por su mensaje! Fue muy bueno y me ayuda mucho. No puedo enviarle un email, pero no dice en las reglas de la mision que no puedo escribirle en mis emails a mi familia. Entonces, estoy muy bien y trabajando mucho y muy duro. En Ecuador, las personas son muy buenos pero no puedo entender mucho. ¡Ellos hablan muy rapido y no dicen todas las palabras! Pero sé que me aman much y estan alegre que yo estoy aqui. ¿Cómo está usted? ¿Que tal su estudia? ¿Tiene una novia? Hahaha, jk. Yo lo extraño y el distrito tambien, pero estoy muy feliz para estar en Ecuador y hacer la obra del Señor. Espero que usted este muy muy bien. ¡Chao!
So yeah. I´m good!! Tired and hungry all the time but good!! This is the hardest yet best thing I´ve ever done in my life so far, even if sometimes it doesn´t seem like it. It´s fabulous. Life is good. And I´m glad that life is good for all of you too!! Kristen I love your nursing stories!! Katie and Hillary, muchas gracias for your words of encouragement. So far, the ants have not tried to eat my shoes. And we don´t have spiders or cockroaches in the apartment, which is good bc the cockroaches are sometimes the size of my thumbs. It´s gross. But the spiders are pretty small. Oh, my apartment. It´s pretty big, there are 3 rooms, the kitchen and 2 bathrooms and yes we have running water and flushing toilets. I´m still getting used to cold showers everyday but it´s not terrible. We have mosquito nets on our beds and no oven or microwave, just a stovetop, a blender and a fridge. And we can´t drink the water out of the tap, so we buy pure water every week. It´s pretty awesome, and we have good times!!
Well I need to go buy food, so hasta luego until next monday and love you all and be good!! The church is true!! Jesus is the Christ!!
PS: Hno. Barrios, if you write to Hna. Yoshino again, por favor tell her I miss her tons and love her to death and wish I could email her but I can´t and I had a brownie on my first Pday here and it was delicious and I thought of her. Gracias!!