I have learned that the work here is going to be harder than I thought. In the last year and a half they only baptized 10 people and 8 of those were kids. This number is even worse than it sounds because these kids were not like the baptisms I had in Babahoyo, where I kept coming across active families that had unbaptized kids for some reason. Of the kids that were baptized only one of them had parents active in the church. The rest were just a bunch of kids between 8 and 15 years that the missionaries found in the city and baptized them. These are the baptisms that I hate because the missionaries know exactly how hard it is for a little kid to stay active without family who are members. I don’t think that its impossible to have success here because I was going through the records and they had about 60 baptisms in 2005 and about 60 more in 2006, but then in 2007 they only had about 20 or 30 and then last year an impressive 12. I’m not sure what happened in the last couple years here but whatever it is, it almost destroyed the church here. Branch 1 used to have about 100 people in church on Sundays but now they are running at about 35. Branch 2 has a higher attendance, about 80 or 90, but they lost about 30 or 40 people in the last couple years as well. As far as I can tell, this area suffered from a string of bad missionaries and some major lapses in the local leadership. When I showed up Monday we had a grand total of 2 people in our teaching pool, but a couple days later we dropped one of them. I’m not entirely sure what the missionaries were doing the last couple of months but I don’t think they were teaching.
Things are looking up though. You know that one investigator we had in our teaching pool? She is going to get baptized Saturday, which will make her the first real baptism in branch 2 in almost 2 years. She is about 30 years old and lives in a house with her sister, who is a member, and her dad, who isn’t a member. My second visit to their house I asked the dad why he hadn’t been baptized yet and he said “to be honest I have just been waiting for you guys to tell me a day.” I think my companion almost fell out of his chair. I’m not sure if he though I was too direct or if he felt dumb for not asking sooner; maybe a little of both. So anyway, the dad will be getting baptized in the coming weeks (he can’t get baptized with his daughter because he is going out of town).
Before, the missionaries were not going to the church services of branch 1. Apparently the last missionary that was here said that branch 1 isn’t our problem but we have started to change that. On Sundays Elder Ruiz goes to one branch and I go to the other then the next week we flip branches so that we can help both branches out every week. Honestly, there is a whole list of things that we have started doing that the missionaries were not doing but you get the idea.
On to happier subjects: like answering your questions. The people from Jipijapa are not called hippies or Jipijapians. They are called Jipijapenes, which to be fair is the Spanish equivalent of Jipijapians. The weather here is pretty much perfect. At night it’s 70 to 75 and during the day it’s 80 to 85. The city is beautiful and much cleaner than Babahoyo. There are a lot of cool places to visit like the dormant volcano just outside of town, and they say there is a black sand beach about an hour away that I would like to visit. Also, we can eat sea food here. And that’s a good thing because they pretty much only eat sea food here. There is this one dish called cerviche that I’m pretty fond of. The main ingredient is uncooked fish. To be fair it is sort of cooked, they soak it in lemon juice and that sort of acid cooks the fish so when you eat it, it doesn’t even taste like fish. They make it out of octopus as well. Later today we are going to make some octopus cerviche with a member of the ward who sells the stuff. I’m pretty excited for that and I will definitely take some pictures. The bread they sell here is better than the stuff they sell in Babahoyo as well. Plus, it’s still cheap, running from between 10 to 25 cents depending on what you buy. Over all the food here is really good. Although they do still eat rice. Basically I have gone from eating rice and chicken to eating rice and fish.
My momita knows Elder Elwood. She was looking at my pictures and she said, “Hey I know that guy.” Elder Elwood was in Monti Cristi, which is sort of close to here, but I’m still not sure how she knows him. How are Elder Elwood, Elder Frye, and Elder Mitton? I miss those guys. We are sort of cut off from the rest of the mission out here so I really don’t know what’s going on. I didn’t hear anything about Valencia so you will have to fill me in. I did hear that some gringo missionary in the Quito mission got your pig flu thing. People here are really freaking out about that whole pork fever thing. I still don’t think it’s that big of a deal.
Anyway, Elder Ruiz is alright; he has been out for 14 months and he is a pretty good teacher. He’s good at talking to people on the streets, which is useful considering our situation. The Spanish spoken here really isn’t too different from what they speak in Babahoyo. I think they speak a little better here but I really have not been paying attention to that kind of thing.
I can’t believe I forgot to tell you about how my scriptures thing went. I did finish memorizing in time but we didn’t actually have a zone leader the last week I was in Babahoyo, so I never got the chance to take the test. It was sort of anti-climactic. Anyway I am going to get my maestro passed off this Wednesday, but it’s not that big of a deal. I already missed the deadline.
My sector isn’t very dangerous. In fact, it’s so safe Elder Ruiz says you can walk around at night with your camera out without a problem. I don’t think I will be doing that but it is pretty different. This city is a lot quieter than Babahoyo and the entire place is really laid back. It’s kind of weird. Nobody ever seems to be in a hurry and after about 8 at night there is almost nobody left in the streets. The buses don’t even run past 7. I haven’t seen much wildlife around here but they say there are iguanas around here somewhere so I will keep an eye out so I can get a picture for Andrea.
Tell the girls good job on their swim meet stuff. Oh and tell Allison that yeah, the last couple weeks of school are pointless but if you got rid of them there is still a “last two weeks of school,” so its impossible to escape from the pointlessness. But that’s school for ya.