Monday, February 28, 2011

Off to Machala for the Week

Quick note from Mom:  I read today that Carnavale (Mardi Gras) starts on Friday and asked if she's ready for another round.  Her response?  "Carnaval=stupidest holiday ever. They're already throwing water balloons at us in the street!!!!"  That reminded me of last year's Carnavale email where she said, "I´m pretty sure that it´s the dumbest holiday ever and that I hate it." (Feb. 22, 2010)  Well, it will be over in a week.

Hola de . . . . . . MACHALA!!!!!

No, I didn't get emergently transferred!!! I'm just here for the capacitations. Last night the zone leaders called at 9:30ish to inform us that we had to be in the terminal at 9:30 the next morning so that we could go to Machala. So here I am, companions with HNA Moran again because my compy stayed in Loja with HNA Salmon. When I informed her that I would be going and she would be staying, she looked confused and said, how's that gonna work?? Neither of us can speak Spanish!!! Por favor. She's gonna rock it and when I come home they're probs be 10 people with fechas. But I am sad that she's not with me.

On to more important things. So this week we had a way cool experience. We had contacted this lady, Maria, outside of Lady's house like forever ago. This week we came around the corner and bumped right into her. We asked her if we could come visit her the next day and she said yes. The next day we didn't have a lot of time to teach her so we just whipped out the Book of Mormon and started talking about it and shared a scripture from it. The whole time the Spirit was way strong and she was staring at the BOM looking like she was gonna cry. We asked her if she would read it and she said yes. Then I thought-we've taught her pretty much nothing about the Restoration . . . . . but I´m gonna see if she wants to be baptized. So I asked her-if you come to know that these things are true, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God?? She was silent for awhile and finally said-I believe so. It was so incredible-I cannot even describe how strong the Spirit was in this moment. We set the date and left, feeling incredible. Although we haven't been able to get in there to teach her since and she couldn't come to church this Sunday, HNA Robison and HNA Salmon have an appt. to go tomorrow and they're gonna rock it. I just know it.

We also had a breakthrough moment with Isabel this week. We read the intro to the BOM with her and just asked her how she was feeling and if she had any questions. She said, you know what?? I don't have as many questions as I did, and I don't know why. But I am convinced that Joseph Smith was a prophet. This was so unexpected that we just looked at her for a second, and she continued saying, I had an experience that I think could be an answer to my prayers, but I have to think about it some more. I was talking to Diego and all of a sudden something just crossed in my head, it was like a flash, I don't know how to explain it. But I think I need to meditate about it some more. We were just like . . . . . this is AWESOME!!! We explained to her that when we get answers from the Spirit, sometimes we can't explain them very well, but we know that they're answers from God. She smiled and looked really happy. We are so happy for her too-she is progressing really well and although she still doesn't have a baptismal date yet, I think she'll be baptized soon. She came to church this week and even said the closing prayer in Relief Society. We love her!!!!

Last night the sisters from Argelia had a Why I Believe fireside. We brought Isabel and it was amazing. The Spirit was sooooooo strong and I just felt an incredible feeling of happiness and joy to be around so many people who were strong in the gospel. For those who don't know, a Why I Believe fireside is when people share their conversion stories. Isabel really liked it and I think it will really help her in her progress. Afterwards we ate delicious tamales and got caught in the rain looking for a taxi. A delightful way to end the week.

I had a cool experience on Saturday too. We went up to Zamora Huayco to look for someone, and he ended up not being home. HNA Robison looked at me and asked, now what are we gonna do?? I had no idea, so I asked the Lord, where do we go now?? The answer came to me right away-Chela. We walked up to her house, knocked on the door and her 20 year old daughter Gabi came out. Chela wasn`t home. Another thought came to my head-contact her. So we told Gabi that we were missionaries and that we had a message about Jesus Christ and we wanted to share it with her sometime. She said, right now?? This was so unexpected to me that I was like . . . . do you have time right now?? She said yes!! Come in!!! So we went in, sat down and got to know her and her friend Jenny that lives there too. I had no idea what to teach, but then remembered that I had a copy of Finding Faith in Christ in my bag and asked if we could watch it with them. They said yes and we put it in, sang I Am a Child of God, which they loved, said a prayer and started to watch the movie. About halfway through, Maria Fernanda, Gabi's little sister, walked in and asked, whatcha guys watching?? She sat down to watch too and at the end they all said that they loved it and that they wanted to hear more about the Restoration. Although they're going out of town for 3 weeks and we can't go back until then, it was an incredible testimony of the power of the Holy Ghost and it's importance in the work. All three of them are super cool and we will definitely be going back!!!!

So lately a lot of people have been asking us how we knew that the church was true and we've been sharing our experiences with getting answers to our prayers about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. I thought I'd share mine with you all. I think I was about 14 or 15 years old and I don't remember very well exactly what happened but I remember that I knelt down to pray at my bedside one night and asked Heavenly Father if the Book of Mormon was true. I remember feeling peace and tranquility but what I remember most was a feeling of happiness. I remember that I had a big smile on my face afterwards. And that's how I knew that everything that my parents had taught me for all my life was absolutely true. I always tell the investigators that I was born and raised in the church, but even I had to kneel down and ask Heavenly Father if it was true. I know it is-there's no doubt in my mind or heart that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that Joseph Smith was His prophet.

Week highlights: Walking dogs for our Wednesday morning service. Going up to a new part of Zamora Huayco and finding a lot of great people. Making no bake cookies in our apartment. Going to the zoo with our district leader, his companion and the other sisters. Eating pizza. Teaching HNO Carlos, the nonmember husband of HNA Maria Luisa that comes to church every Sunday but has never wanted the missionaries, for the first time. Finding out that he's really cool. Hearing him say-I hope you can come back soon. Seeing Lady in church again when we hadn't visited her all week. Visiting the district president and getting to know his family. Waking people up to tell them to come to church. Getting yelled at by a crazy old (and possibly drunk) man. Finding nine new investigators. Developing Christlike attributes. Realizing that I am in love with Loja and everything about it-the people, the food, my companion, my district, the scenery and even the Virgencita. Finding out that I am a daughter of Mary because my palms have M's in them (long story). 6 hour bus ride to Machala. Talking to Elder Johnson the whole time. Seeing HNA Laime again (she goes home in a week!!! Can you believe it??) Not worrying about leaving my companion in the sector by herself. Knowing that she's gonna rock it. Pea and banana soup. Empanadas de verde. Lentil menestra and rice. Feeling the Spirit. Loving life. Being a missionary!! (HNA Robison's one liners did not make the list this week, not because they weren't funny, just because I can't remember any of them. Stay tuned next week.)

Well, time to go again. I'll be hanging out here in Machala until Friday or Saturday to be capacitated. Pray that I don't die of heatstroke-it's so hot here that I kind of feel like I can`t breathe. But I`m dealing. Hasta la proxima semana, les amo mucho y hagan lo correcto!!!


Hermana Chamberlain

Monday, February 21, 2011

Smell That? That's SATAN!


This week was pretty cool. The whole church thing didn't come together like last week, but we were excited to see Lady there, once again. Plus we started teaching a member´s girlfriend, Isabel, who is really great. Teaching her is a little interesting because she's actually from Germany, but her mom is from Argentina, so she grew up speaking German and Spanish, but her first language is German. She's really fluent but sometimes she has questions or doubts that she can't explain very well. But she's great, and although she doesn't want to accept a baptismal date yet, we're really excited about her because she's progressing really well. When she prayed at the end of the lesson she said, Heavenly Father, help me not to be so full of doubts!!! I thought that was really funny, and it showed that even though she does have doubts, which is natural, she wants to know the truth. Pray for her!!!

So after church, we decided to go over to Lady's house and give her what we like to call the "franca" in other words, we ask her what her problem is and why she hasn't been baptized yet when she's been to church like 7 times. So we went in, sat down and said, all the members are asking when you're getting baptized (which is completely true.) She thought about that for a second and said . . . . really?? Uhhh . . . YES!!!! So we sat there for about an hour hashing out all her doubts. I loved it because we were so direct it was not even real. She said, well what about the Virgin?? We said, okay Lady, lookit. It is NOT okay to worship the Virgin, saints, idols, images or anyone else that is not God or Jesus Christ. Then she said, well I don't want to be baptized again bc I was already baptized. We explained the power and authority and how Jesus was baptized and she said, but it's a mockery before God to be baptized again. I had a thought come to my mind, got scared for a second and then thought, what do I have to lose?? I looked at her and said, very plainly, Lady, if God asks us to be baptized like His Son Jesus was baptized, and we don't do it, THAT is a mockery before God. She looked kind of surprised, but we just kept on going. We said, if we don't get baptized the way Jesus was, we're telling Heavenly Father that we don't want to go back to His presence. We're telling Him that we don't want to receive blessings, that we don't want to be with our families, and that we don't love Him, because we're not being obedient to His commandments. She was thinking hard about that too. Then we said, Hermana, do you believe that this is the true church of Jesus Christ?? She said yes. Then we asked her, then why won't you be baptized?? We know that you know that you need to be baptized!!! She said, yeah, you know what?? I actually had a dream the other night that I was standing by the baptismal font. I said, you dreamed that you were being baptized and you STILL DON'T WANT TO BE BAPTIZED??? She laughed and said, I'll let you know sisters. She also told us that she wants the support of her mom, which was something we didn't know before. She also told us that she didn't want to be baptized by herself, that she wanted someone else to be baptized with her. I thought that was kind of interesting, but hey, I'm willing to baptize someone else, always. Anyway, we left that lesson and although she STILL didn't accept a baptismal date and maybe won't, I felt really good. HNA Robison afterwards was like, that lesson was SO GOOD!!! I felt like it was pretty much what Heavenly Father has been saying to her all along. We'll see what happens with her . . . . . hopefully she gets baptized before I go home!!!

So we had a fun experience on Saturday. We were standing outside of the Parque Jipiro waiting for the bus, when we heard a horn honking across the street. We looked over to see President Hernandez and his wife waving to us from the car. We waved back and then in a mixture of yelling and sign language, Pres. Hernandez communicated the message: Talk!!! Both of you!!! Tomorrow!!! I thought I hadn't heard him right at first, but unfortunately I did. He drove away and I was like, he can't be serious!!! When Hermana Robison heard that she had to give a talk too she was like, I can't give a talk!!! I can't even speak Spanish!!! But she rocked it of course. I talked about Pres. Monson's talk from the Relief Society session, Charity Never Faileth. He talks about not judging other people and developing the pure love of Christ and seeing them as they really are. It's a fabulous talk and I recommend it to everyone. We never know what's going on underneath someone's physical appearance, actions, inactions, personality or character. I remembered something that Mom always told me-people hide a lot under their Sunday clothes. We should never judge anyone by anything, and especially by physical appearance. Instead of judging, we should try to understand, instead of criticizing, we should try to love. Every single one of us has weaknesses, and the last thing we want or need is someone to point them all out every day. So why would we do it to someone else?? Judge not, that ye be not judged.

So lately I've been a little frustrated because the people we're working with aren't progressing. Although we teach, exhort, sort out doubts, bring the Spirit and pray that they'll do the right things, sometimes they don't. But I've realized that even though it seems like nothing is going right, the Lord is still pleased with what we're doing. He loves us and wants us to be happy, and He has blessed us with new people to teach who do want to progress. Although they have doubts, they have the desire to know the truth, and that will bring them to know it. We just have to keep working and keep being obedient and the success we're looking for will come. I know it will. I was also thinking hard this week and I realized how blessed I was to grow up with the gospel. I was born under the covenant, baptized when I was 8 by my dad, grew up in Young Women's and Young Single Adults. My parents supported me in all my church activities and callings and when I decided to go on a mission they couldn't have been more thrilled. Here in Loja I'm realizing how much of a blessing that was. I have no idea what it's like to grow up thinking that the Catholic church is true and if I'm baptized into another church I'll be damned. I have no idea what it's like to leave traditions that have been passed down for generations of time. I have no idea what it's like to change everything I've believed my whole life in 2 or 3 weeks. I have no idea what it's like to face opposition from my family or friends for listening to the missionaries, going to church or being baptized. I have no idea how difficult it is for some people to accept the gospel because for my whole life I've known it's true and my family and friends have supported me in it. But it's good for me to think like that because I'm becoming more patient with the investigators and I'm loving them more the way Christ does. But please pray for all of them-they face more opposition down here in Loja than any of us have ever imagined.

Week highlights: once again, the one liners of HNA Robison. This is my favorite so far:

(As we're walking by the nightclub near our house, smelling alcohol and cigarrettes) HNA Robison: Smell that?? That's SATAN.

More week highlights: Finally beginning to teach Isabel after wanting to for months. Sunshine every day (although it's raining right now, boo.) Eating bread and ice cream every day. Laughing about the random announcements in district meeting. My favorite: apparently now if we use knives to clean out the ice in our freezer, we will be transferred and bumped down to junior companion. HNA Robison's commentary: What if you're already junior companion?? Cleaning the freezer with knives then became the zone joke of the week. (sidenote:just in case president or the assistants are reading this, neither of us has ever cleaned out the freezer with a knife. Promise.) Teaching HNA Robison how to make patacones. Setting appointments to teach more incomplete families and less actives. Getting to know the members better through visiting them. Translating HNA Robison's talk into Spanish. Hearing her rock it from the pulpit on Sunday. Speaking Spanish. Loving life. Being a missionary!!!!

Well everyone, time to go. Tune in next week for more of the miracles and adventures from the misson life of Hermana Chamberlain!!!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Disappointments and Miracles


This was a week of ups and downs, laughter and tears (okay not tears but lots of sad feelings), disappointments and miracles. Ready to hear all about it?? Yeah?? Bacansisimo.

So this was a very rainy week. Like seriously. After we wrote to you last week we went back to the barbeque to find that the elders had eaten without us (just as I knew deep down they would) and then it started pouring down rain. We had to run out of the park and then spend 20 minutes trying to hail a taxi because no one would stop and pick up 4 completely soaked sister missionaries. Finally someone stopped for us and we all went home, changed and (reluctantly, I admit it) went back out into the monsoon. We ended up finding absolutely nobody that we wanted to teach and coming home just as wet as we had gone out. Boo. The rest of the week it rained on and off and was sooooooo cold that I thought I was still in Cuenca for a little while. But it was fun. We laughed it off and kept going.

We found this lady named Mari Carmen, from Peru. She's way cool, every time we go she's so happy, smiling and laughing. She works at a restaurant, making lunch in the morning and selling chicken wings in the afternoon. The first thing she told us when we came the first time was, Guess what?? I got married!!!! We were way excited too, because do you know how rarely people get married around here?? Finding someone that doesn't have chastity problems is a big deal!!! We put a baptismal date on her, although it took a little convincing, and yesterday we called her to come get her for church, but she was sick in bed. It's cool. Next week.
So we went back to visit Jessenia and Lucia this week and we committed them hardcore to go to church. They were both like, yes this week I am coming, don't worry. We were like yes please, because if you don't you can't get baptized!!! We passed by the Ushcas Sunday morning and they were like, oh yeah we're coming too, see you at 2. We passed by Lady to remind her, ran up to eat lunch and went back down to get everyone. We got to Lucia's, yelled her name and her neighbor came out and what do you think she said?? Oh, she went to the mercado. I just looked at her like . . . . . . seriously?? Even though we visited her last night and she told us that she would go to the mercado in the morning so that she could come to church in the afternoon?? Needless to say, we left empty-handed. We went back to the chapel and sat down to wait for everyone to come who said they would come solo. Guess who came?? Only Lady again. But we were glad to see her.

Sounds like a bummer of a Sunday, right?? WRONG. Remember how I said it was a week of disappointments AND miracles?? Here's where the miracle comes in. So the night before, we were down in the valley trying to get a taxi and NO ONE would stop for us. After about 10 minutes of unsuccessfully trying to hail a taxi, we decided to cross the street and try our luck from there. Not kidding, the first taxi that comes stops, the driver pokes his head out the window and says, hermanas!!! Do you need a taxi??? YES!!! We got in and the driver told us that his name was Giovanni, that he was a member but less active and that he had been baptized in Machala with his mom. He then said that he wanted to reactivate himself and asked when the meetings were the next day. We told him and he said he would be there and then the best part-his wife and kids weren't members. Uhhhh . . . . . OPPORTUNITY. We told him to bring them with him the next day and got out of the taxi. The next day while we were sitting in sacrament meeting, HNA Robison poked me all of a sudden and said, Giovanni's here!! And there he was, with his wife, kids and niece and nephew who also weren't members and just happened to be 10 and 8. Fabulous. Heavenly Father answers prayers-I had been praying to find someone prepared and the Lord gave us three!!! Plus we made plans to teach a sister's husband who always comes to church but up until now hasn't wanted to have the missionary lessons, and we talked to the girlfriend of a member who has been coming to church for awhile but has been a little hesitant about the lessons too. We are cleaning out our program little by little and it's coming together. Is someone going to be baptized this month?? Hopefully, there are a couple people who could, they just have to make the decision. But if they're not, I know they will be eventually, and that's what matters to me.

In my studies lately I've been finding a lot of good scriptures about trusting the Lord. My favorite is 2 Nephi 4-34. I know that when we perfectly trust in the Lord, things don't always go how we want them to but they do go the way He wants them to, and that's what matters.

Highlights of the week-HNA Robison's one liners. We'll just be sitting there quietly and all of a sudden she'll crack one off that makes me laugh hysterically. I love it. Getting hit on by two drunks and then saved by the valiant Mari Carmen (they tried to kiss HNA Robison, which was hilarious until they tried to kiss me too. Gross.) Taking pictures with llamas in the Parque Jipiro. Visiting the ancient and slightly eccentric but very sweet and lovable Carmen Delia, one of the ward members. Being called by Elder Luna at 10 on Saturday night to find out that we had to be in Guayaquil at 8 on Monday morning. Visiting the San Marino mall and having office flashbacks. Talking to HNA Barker. Meeting all the new sisters. Going back to Loja at 1.

Love my companion. Love the people. Love the work. Love the Lord.


Hermana Chamberlain

Monday, February 7, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering, Rats Can't Swim!


Today is P-day and guess what we're doing?? Another zone barbeque!!! And just like last time, we had to sneak out and write our families on the fly because the food was taking FOREEEEVEEEEERRR and we were running out of P-day time. Hopefully when we get back it will be ready because we're really hungry. Okay.

Anyway, we had some good times this week. We found this awesome lady named Lucia, who HNA Bravo and I taught one time and then never found her again, but we went back this week and found her. She totally gets the Restoration, it kind of blows my mind because almost nobody gets it the first time around. She even said, this is really important!!! Yes, yes it is. In fact, it's the most important thing you`ll ever hear in your life. We asked her if she'd go to church and she said yes, so we told her we'd come and get her at 1:30 on Sunday. Obviously we were hugely excited!!

So then the next day we visited Jessenia. We had had an appointment with her the day before but when we went she wasn`t there. This time when we came she told us, I'm so sorry I wasn't here yesterday, I had to go do a school project, but when my niece told me that you were coming back today, I didn't move!!! Cool. We taught her about the Sabbath Day and asked if she'd come to church this week. She said yes but that she'd have to see if they got their house fixing project done on time. We said we'd come get her and left, very happy.

Then we visited Wendy, taught her the same thing and asked if she could come to church. She said she would try, which is better than a flat out no. We left happy.

Now we come to Lady, who was supposed to be baptized this Saturday but at the last minute decided that she wasn't going to be baptized yet. When she told us that I just sat there staring at her like, are you serious right now?? She was really excited and we have no idea what happened to unexcite her. We were thinking and thinking about what could be her problem and we decided that we were going to try a little experiment to see if she really was committed. We decided that we were going to pass by on Sunday morning and tell her that we would see her in the chapel at 2 and then wait there for her to see if she came. If she came by herself, we would keep on going, if not . . . . . well we would see what happened from there.

Sunday comes. We go out in the morning pass by Lady first, tell her to come to church at 2 and keep on going. Then we pass by Lucia, who says, oh yes, yes I'm coming, what time are you guys coming?? We say, 1:30. She says, 1:00?? No, 1:30. Oh yeah yeah, that's fine, I'll be here. Okay. We run up to Zamora Huayco, eat lunch and grab a taxi to go get Jessenia. She comes out and says, oh we just finished the project and now we're going to eat lunch. Okay. Well if you can will you go by yourself?? Oh yeah yeah I'll try. We go up to get some other people who say they're gonna come. They're not home. We run to Lucia, it's exactly 1:30 on the dot. We yell at the door for her and her son comes out. We ask, Lucia?? Is she here?? No, she went to the mercado. Me: .......blank stare, not believing what's happening. I almost said, ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?? But that would have been rude, and furthermore it doesn't translate to Spanish very well. So we just told him to tell her that we'd come and we left. As we walked to a phone booth we saw Olger walking to church with his little daughter Angye. We asked him where Wendy was and he says that she stayed behind with her little brother who was sick. We tried not to cry about it, went to the phone booth, came back and sat down in church with nobody. I was sitting there trying not to cry. I don't get discouraged very often but this week I was thinking, what more could we possibly have done?? We visited, we taught, we brought the Spirit, we reminded, we called, we reminded again, we went to get them, and nobody came. What more could we have done for our vineyard?? I was sitting there still feeling depressed when all of a sudden I saw somebody come in with two little kids and a baby in her arms. I thought . . . . . it can't be. But it was!!!! Lady had come by herself to church, and brought her two little girls and her little sister too, just like she did every Sunday. Immediately I felt amazing. I felt like even though no one else came, the fact that she did, and came without us going to get her, was huge. I know she'll be baptized-it's just a matter of when.

Time for a funny/gross story. Right outside our house there's a sink to wash clothes in and it has a deep tank right next to it. The drain on this tank isn't great so a lot of times it`s about half full of standing water. So Thursday night I woke up and was about to go back to sleep when all of a sudden I heard a splash outside. I thought . . . . what the heck was that?? Do I get up or do I just keep lying here?? I decided I was too scared to get up, so I stayed in bed listening to whatever it was splash around in the tank. It finally quit and I went back to sleep. The next morning I said to HNA Robison, I heard something splashing around outside last night, I'm gonna go see what it was. I went out, looked into the tank and found a large, dead rat lying at the bottom. EWWWWWWW!!!!!! We were so grossed out that we had no idea what to do about it, so we just left it there for awhile. We asked Elder Johnson and Elder Reuschmann if they wanted to do a service project, but after they heard what it was they said no. Pansies. So we put on our big girl pants and got it out today when we cleaned the house. Way gross. But at least it will quit smelling!!

Well family, friends, and randoms, love you all (yes even the randoms). I love this work, even though it's hard sometimes. I love my companion HNA Robison. I love Loja. I love my zone. I love life, life loves me. Everything in the world makes me happy (except for rats in the tank and people that don't come to church!!)


Hermana Chamberlain