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!!!!!