Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ya Vine!!!!

Well loyal fans, it is my great displeasure to inform you all that this will be my last blog post, not because I don't love you all but because I'm not a missionary anymore and therefore won't have a whole lot to say about my life as a missionary.  It's been the most amazing adventure of my life so far, filled with laughter, tears, ups and downs, highs and lows and a lot of rice.  But I can definitely say that I am not the same person that I was when I left.  I personally feel that I'm a better person and I hope everyone else who encounters themself with me after the mission feels that way too.  I have learned so much about the gospel, the Plan of Salvation, the importance of obedience to the commandments and to the promptings of the Spirit, and most importantly, about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  And perhaps even more importantly than that, I have learned so much about myself.  If the choice between death and forgetting everything that happened during my mission was given to me, I would pick death, hands down.

I won't bore you all with the details of my flight home.  The important thing is that after riding in 3 airplanes, hanging out in airports all day and a almost-missing-my-connecting-flight scare, I finally arrived safe and sound in the Fort Wayne airport, amidst a thunder and lightning storm.  I saw my family waiting on the other side of the door and ran straight to them, stopping only when I ran into my Dad.  My first words??  "I want to go baaaaaack!!"  The next day I went to talk to President Shumard, who informed me that the Lord was very pleased with my work, and was saying to me "well done, good and faithful servant."  He then said the dreaded words, please take off your nametag.  I won't lie and say that it wasn't difficult, but I managed to do it and then went home, not a missionary but just a regular person.  Adapting hasn't been as difficult as I thought it would be, even though I haven't been able to watch anything more hardcore than a Disney movie yet (and I can't even get through those without tears), and I accidentally said "hola" to someone in the grocery store the day after I got back.  I miss a lot of things about Ecuador-the people, the work, the weather, the culture, even the rice sometimes!!!  But although I miss those things, I know that my time there is over, and that the missionaries who are there now will do an amazing job of continuing to bring people to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What am I going to do now??  That is a great question, one that I would love to know the answer to as well.  Obviously getting a job is in there somewhere, along with moving out of Indiana, buying a car and starting my own life.  Right now I'm just kind of getting used to being in the United States again, because wow, you have no idea how big the culture shock is and when it will hit you.  But I would like to thank you all for keeping track of me over the past 18 months.  I hope reading my blog was uplifting and edifying and help all of your testimonies grow, but what I really hope is that it help young men and women who are thinking about missions actually make the choice to go.  To you all I say-there is absolutely nothing better that you will do in your whole life, and not just for the people you serve but for yourself and your family.  Go.  It's the most incredible experience you'll ever have.

I leave you all with my testimony-yo se que esta es la iglesia verdadera de Jesuscristo.  Se que El vive y nos ama, y que Su Expiacion es real y la unica esperanza que tenemos para regresar a la presencia de nuestro Padre Celestial.  Se que Jose Smith fue un profeta de Dios.  Se que el Libro de Mormon es verdadero.  Se que el Espiritu Santo nos guia en cada aspecto de nuestras vidas si lo dejamos.  Se que las familias son eternas.

"And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith.  And now behold, my joy is full."  3 Nephi 17:20 (what Jesus says to the Nephites)

I love you all.  Keep the faith.


Ellen (not Hermana Chamberlain anymore :(

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Welcome Home!

Ellen nearly missed her connection in Dallas and it looked like she would be spending the night there, but we prayed for a miracle and got one.  After leaving Ecuador at 8 am Friday, she finally arrived home Saturday morning at 12:05.  The first words out of her mouth after, "Hello," were, "I want to go back!" 

Yesterday she went grocery shopping with her mom.  In Ecuador it is common practice to say "Hola," to everyone as you pass them.  Forgetting where she was she said "hola" to a man as she passed him in the grocery aisle.  He looked at her rather strangely.  The rest of us laughed.

Stay tuned for one last blog post from Ellen and hopefully more pictures of her mission.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Surprise! I'm Coming Home 4 Days Earlier!

Title-Surprise!!! I'm coming home early!!!!!


I cannot believe that this is the last email I will write home from the mission. It seems like yesterday I was writing about my MTC experience and now I'm done already??? The weird thing is that of the 4 sisters that were in my MTC district, I'm probably the last one home. Crazy stuff. Anyway, I'm glad you guys found out about the travel plans. Here's how I found out.....

Earlier this week I called Elder Vuinovic (sidenote: I probably have as much trouble as the natives do with that name) to tell him that you guys hadn't gotten the travel plans and that my mother was threatening to call Salt Lake. He replied that he had sent them and didn't know why they hadn't come yet but would send them again. Two days later I remembered that you guys had changed your email address forever ago and I forgot to tell the office about it, which is probably why you never got the travel plans. Me=dumb. So I called Elder Vuinovic back to tell him that I thought I knew the reason why my plans never got to my family and he informed that it was good to know but due to some changes in President's schedule, I was now going home on the 15th of April instead of the 19th.

Needless to say I was more than a little shocked, but I quickly rearranged all the things I had to do before leaving so that I could get them all done before Friday. The only thing I know is that Wednesday night I have to go to Guayaquil. I don't know if HNA Cochran will come with me, when my interview is, if I'll be able to see my converts or even what time I'm getting on the airplane or what time I'll get to Fort Wayne. If you guys know maybe you could shoot me the info????

Anyway, enough about that. On to more important things. This weekend Lady was FINALLY baptized!!!!! It took a lot of work, trials, frustration and persistence, but she finally made the decision, got in the (freezing) water and made a covenant with her Heavenly Father. Like all other baptisms that I've had, something went very wrong-this time with the font. The elders told us that they would fill it up for us, so at around 2 we went over to see if they had done it yet. We found Elder Johnson and Elder Wilson standing next to an empty font. We said, hey you should fill that up right now, to which they replied, oh no, we don't need to yet, we're gonna go to our appointment and do it when we come back. Ignoring our repeated requests to fill it up right then, they left, promising to return and fill up the font. At around 4:30, we returned to find a STILL empty font. Not good when your font takes forever to fill up. With the help of President Ruiz, we started it up and then encountered another problem-the water was freezing cold, and the gas had run out. Not to be deterred, we called the gas company to have them deliver a tank. By this time the elders had arrived and been severely chastised for not listening to us and filling up the font when they should have. After hanging out there watching the font fill for awhile, we found another problem-it was filling up way too slowly and there was no way that there would be enough water for the 7:30 baptism. So, finding 3 empty water jugs in the kitchen, we started rockin it old school and filling up the font from the faucets outside. Did I mention that by this time it was pouring down rain?? By the time we were done we looked like we had just been baptized ourselves. We ran to get Lady, got her changed into her white dress, and she was baptized. And of course, just like all the other baptisms that I've had, it was beautiful. Lady looked so pretty, and despite the fact that the water was really cold (the gas tank came but the heater was broken) she looked thrilled when she came out of the water. She even bore her testimony at the end, something that she hadn't wanted to do at all. And the next day she was confirmed. It was a beautiful weekend.

So that was the highlight of my week. The rest of the week was kind of lame. Our teaching pool has gone down big time and we desperately need to find new people who are prepared to receive the gospel. Plus we don't know what's gonna go down in changes-if HNA Cochran will stay or go. I want HNA Cochran to stay sooooo bad-she knows the people and will do miracles with them. So that can be your prayer project for this week!!!

Other week highlights: Putting pop rocks into sleeping Elder Johnson's wide open mouth. Saving HNA Cochran from gross food. Catching people in lies (they're not here . . . . yes they are, please don't insult our intelligence.) Choking down "dulce de manjar". Being forced to eat another serving. Wanting to throw up afterwards. Watching Elder Saban accidentally pat my companion on the back while shaking her hand. Laughing hysterically while watching his face turn bright red as he realized what he just did. Getting ripped off by a taxi driver and being too shocked by the outrageous price he asked for to say anything about it. Finding out secrets. Saying goodbye to everyone (actually that was kind of a lowlight-sadface.) Laughing at HNA Cochran's bad moods. Realizing that this time next week I will be in my house. Having a dream that we were all back in high school, Eucadorian style (I was wearing a uniform-just so you all know, I look good in plaid.) Loving life. Being a missionary!!!!

This time has been amazing and has ended all too soon. It's been the greatest adventure of my entire life so far......but I know that there's an even bigger one waiting for me......


Monday, April 4, 2011

Inside The Convent


Guess where I am??? In Guayaquil!!! Again!!!! This is the fourth time that I've made this trip and I'm glad that the 5th time will be the last. It's hot, my face is greasy and I'm ready to go back to Loja for the last two weeks of the mission, WHAT??? Two weeks?? That can't be right. I'm sure I have at least another year left . . . . . .

So a lot of people have asked me if I'm trunky and the answer is . . . . . . yes!!! Just a little bit!!! I'm excited to see my family and friends again, eat at IHOP, Cebollas, Jimmy Johns and Sonic again, drive cars, listen to music, and do worldly stuff. But at the same time, I'm dying a little on the inside, because there are sooooo many people here that I love so much that I won't be able to see for a long time. Plus the mission has been incredible-seriously the best thing I've ever done in my whole life. I can't believe that it went so fast and even though I'm excited to be home and I really feel that it's my time to go, I'll probably cry all the way home and just so you all know, those first few weeks/months I'll probably be such a weirdo that you'll all be like, dude, what is wrong with you?? Just be patient with me and eventually I'll remember how to be a normal person again.

Anyway, this week was MUCH better than last week, so everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. We had a ton of way cool experiences and hopefully I have time to share them all. We'll start with Sunday night of last week, when Hermana Cochran and I were walking down the street and randomly saw a group of nuns walking in the opposite direction. Just so everyone knows, the nuns here are full habited, convent, sound of music mother superior type nuns and sometimes they look a little scary but ever since I got to Loja and saw them I have been dying to talk to one. We stood in the street staring and wavering and finally took off running after them yelling SISTERS!!! SISTERS!!!! Two of them stopped right outside the convent door and I asked them if they collected clothes for people who needed them, and they replied that they did. I explained that I had been looking for a place to leave my missionary clothes when I went home and that I wanted to donate them to the convent. They cheerfully replied that they would be happy to take them and asked us to come back the next day to drop them off. We left absolutely thrilled because A:we talked to some nuns and B: we were going to talk to them again the next day!!!

The next day we went back to the convent with a bag of my clothes (including the famous Jody dress......haha) and rang the doorbell (yeah, there was a doorbell). A lady came to the door and we asked to talk to Sister Rosalinda. She left and never came back. We stood there for probably about 10 minutes wondering if we should ring again and finally did. After about 2 more minutes Sister Rosalinda herself came out apologizing profusely for making us wait so long and then said the most beautiful word in the missionary Spanish vocabulary: Pasen!!! (come in!!!) What?? Were we really going to get to see the inside of a convent??? Heck yes we were!!! We sat down and had the coolest conversation ever. She asked us where we were from, what we do, how we like Ecuador and Loja, why we wear skirts all the time, and we asked her how she decided to be a nun, what she did, and all kinds of things. We found out that a lot of the nuns have college degrees and that the Catholic church actually gives them scholarships to study in universities. She then said something very profound that I will never forget as long as I live: "You always have to live in the present. The past is already over, and no one knows what will happen in the future but if you live in the present, the past doesn't matter and everything will work out in the future." I thought that was so deep that I even told her, I'm going to remember that!!! And she's right. Living in the present is the only way to go.

So that was way cool. And that was just Monday!!! This week we also went back to Lady to ask her for the billionth time if she would be baptized. HNA Cochran asked her and she was like, ohhhh I dunno, this and that. HNA Cochran was like, okay fine, but a thought came into my head-keep trying and do not leave this house until she has a baptismal date. So we started Round Infinity of the fight and after much tribulation and reminding her of answers that she's already received to prayers, she agreed to be baptized this Saturday. PRAY FOR HER PLEASE!!!!!

Cool experience from last Saturday too. We were knocking on a door and while we waited for the lady who answered to look for the lady we were looking for, a man walked up to us and asked, are you missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?? We replied that we were and he said, I want to learn more about your church!!! We joyfully asked him when we could come visit him and he said, just one question: do you guys go to church down here in centro or up behind Supermaxi?? We said that we went in centro and asked him where he lived, to which he replied, behind supermaxi. Leaps of joy quickly turned into stares of disbelief-he lived in the ZONE LEADER'S sector. WHYYYYYY??? We took down his information and gave him a Book of Mormon and a pamphlet about the Restoration. As we were explaining that Jesus Christ had established a church and it was lost in an apostacy, he interrupted and said, this is interesting. This is what I want to know about!!!! We were just like . . . . . WHY DO YOU NOT LIVE IN OUR SECTOR, IT'S SO UNFAAAIIIIIIRRRR!!!!! We gave the reference the the zone leaders and this past Sunday we saw him (his name is Fernando) in conference. We went up to say hi to him and asked if he remembered us. His reply?? Of course!!!! Because of you, I'm here!!!! You cannot even imagine how awesome we felt in this moment!!!!

So that was cool. But what happened on Saturday night was probably one of the coolest things I've ever experienced not just in the mission but in my whole life. So lately HNA Cochran's been telling me stories about her teachers in the MTC who saw angels or people she knew on the mission that had angels guide them and I've been feeling sad like, hey that's never happened to me!!! This Saturday it did. Listen good:

So we were walking to an appointment that we were late to, and a group of three kids ran up to us and asked if they could interview us for school. They asked if we were in a hurry and although we were, the first word that came out of my mouth was, No!! We're not!! Then I checked myself and was like, yes we are, we're late to an appointment!!! So we took down their number and kept on going to the appointment. As we were walking, I thought, you know, I bet this lady's not going to be there, we should have stayed and talked to those kids. Later on my companion, who's usually the stickler for time (and I love her for it) told me that she had felt the same thing. But we kept on going.

We got to the lady's street, turned and kept walking. It was nighttime and the street wasn't lit very well. All of a sudden we saw an older man in front of us. As we passed him I said Buenas Noches!!! like we always do. He replied, Buenas Noches, and his next words sent chills down my spine:

"There is a robber behind you. Keep walking and don't look back. I will be behind you just in case."

I immediately sped up and told HNA Cochran to walk faster and not look behind her. We booked it to the lady's house, rang the doorbell and sure enough, she wasn't there. Great. By this time the older man had caught up to us and said that the robber had gone the other direction and we were safe, and to take a taxi home. I asked him how he knew that the guy was a robber and he just said by his face and the way he was acting, but he said, I was behind you the whole time just in case. We thanked him, he said it was no problem and walked away into the night.

I don't know if he actually was an angel. But I really think that he was. But whether he was or not, I know without doubt that Heavenly Father protects His chosen servants, even when we don't listen to the first promptings that we receive.

I saw an angel. I'm sure of it.

So that was pretty deep. How about some week highlights?? To start off: Hearing HNA Cochran ask Elder Saban if he was a ninja (he said no and probably thinks were crazy now but whatever.) Hearing a lot of talks about families and marriage in conference (guess I know what I need to do when I get home!!) Waking up HNA Cochran during the sessions. Finding out yesterday at 5 that we had to be on the bus to Guayaquil at 10. Meeting Beatriz, Adrian and Domenica, really awesome investigators from the Loja branch. Not sleeping on the bus. Meeting all the new elders and sisters. Hearing from the sisters in Huancavilca that everyone remembers me and that the Pino Family was SEALED!!!!!!! Hearing from the Bolivar elders (they took the sisters out last change) that everyone remembers me and that the Criollo family is doing so good and is in temple prep classes to be SEALED TOO!!!!!! (Mom and Dad: please please please please can we come back for that?????) Being interviewed in broken English by 3 high school kids. Taking pictures with them. Finding an old investigator and putting a baptismal date on her. Being in the best zone in the whole mission. Easter candy in packages. White chocolate covered pretzels. Not knowing anything about my flight plans. Baking brownies in a crock pot. Loving life. Being a missionary!!!!!!

I love you all and will see you soon!!!!!


Hermana Chamberlain