March, 2010

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Just Another Day in the Life of a Zone Leader

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

¡Hola familia!

How you doin? I’m just peachy. Life here is busy as always; I guess it has been a little more eventful than usual. I didn’t get to work as much in my sector as I would have liked, though; this week we had to go to Chone on Wednesday and Bahia de Caraquez on Friday and Thursday we had a baptism (Bladimir got dunked, hurrah!) and a ward activity, so after all is said and done, actual teaching this week was rather lacking. I guess I will start with the Chone trip in chronological order. The main reason for our trips to both Chone and Bahia this week was because of baptismal interviews. Normally when we have such needs we do interchanges with the elders of the aforementioned sector in order to keep the work moving in our sector, but Elder Cruz’s companion was sick so both Elder Fonseca and I had to go up there, do the interviews, and come back the same day. Chone is a constant headache for us. The interviews are not a problem; I wish that the elders in this zone baptized so much that we never have the chance to see our sector because of all the interviews we have to do. Chone is a headache because there are so many problems with that house. They rarely have running water and there is a random $4,000 dollar light bill that the electric company is constantly trying to make them pay, so the company comes and cuts the power every few days and they have to fight to get it back and we are stuck in the middle trying to fix it all. I have managed to prove that they can’t make us pay more than $400 of the bill, but it’s still way high. Every time I have gone to Chone I have to help them out with it all. The main issue is that we really just need to get those guys out of that house. It’s a really ugly house anyway. I think they finally found a new apartment but the problem is that it’s being renovated and it’s hard to find an apartment in Chone that meets the church’s requirements, so they are stuck waiting for it to be done.

So Wednesday after the interviews, they took us over to the apartment so that we could decide if it is going to work. It seems OK but the people are taking forever to finish the renovations, so while we were there Elder Cruz told the owners that I was there doing inspections and how I was their leader and such to try and get them to finish the apartment faster. My part was to act like I’m actually an important leader and that I know what I’m doing (I have to do that a lot actually) and it worked because I guess they have picked up the pace on the repairs. Other than that Chone is good, other than the fact that the city is half flooded right now because of the rain but that’s just life.

Thursday was our baptism. It was good; I saw part of the Cantos family so that made my day. I asked them for references because they have a lot of family here in Portoviejo. They gave me a few and promised to send a list of their relatives along with addresses, soon so hopefully they won’t forget. Right after the baptism there was a talent show.  I don’t know why they did it because my baptism was planned way before their darn talent show but it happened anyway. The elders quorum chose to sing a few Latin songs and invited Elder Fonseca and me to join in on the last one. It was “La Bamba”, and I dominated. I may decide to be a Latin rock star after my mission. One of the members recorded it so I will have to try and get a copy for you guys because it was funny.

Then Friday we went to Bahia—that was an interesting trip. First we had to take the bus to Bahia (2 hours) then we did an interchange and Elder Fonseca stayed in Bahia with Elder Mitchell and I left with Elder Quinde to continue our journey on to a very small town called Coaque (I think that’s how you spell it). That was an adventure. First we had to cross the bay in a small boat. Then we hopped a bus and traveled 3 hours until we got to…nowhere. Even people living in small towns in Nebraska would laugh at how small this town is. It’s pretty impressive…and sad. I really felt bad for the people there, not so much because of the poverty (and yes, all of them are very poor), but because of the way of life they lead. There is little to no education available in an Ecuadorian town so small and so far from everything, and apart from that in the short time I was there I saw that many of the people are just not very nice to each other or to their families. I have learned a lot since I came to Ecuador and I have learned that its amazing how much people can go without and still lead happy lives, but one thing people (and especially kids) should never have to go without is a family that loves them. It is a very beautiful place up there though. The bus from Bahia to Coaque follows the coast most of the way so we had the Ecuadorian wilderness on one side, blue ocean on the other, and the occasional small town every now and then. It was like something out of a movie, definitely the best 3 hour bus ride of my life. I really was blessed to get to get to serve a mission in this part of the world. I wasn’t smart enough to bring my camera but luckily Elder Quinde brought one and we took a few pictures. On the way back we were waiting for the boat to come and pick us up so we could cross the bay and the sun was setting over the city and it looked so cool we couldn’t resist taking some pictures. It was pretty goofy because the whole time we took shots with us looking off into the distance or sitting on some steps looking contemplative and mysterious. A couple of the pictures turned out really well. I was pretty pleased with my amazing picture taking skills. Sadly, it wasn’t my camera so I can’t send the pictures until I get the disk from Elder Mitchell that he is going to burn for me.

So all of these trips we have been taking cost money, money which we do not have. I’m pretty much flat broke right now and we don’t get money until Saturday. Chone cost me $4, not bad. but Bahia cost $2 to get up there, $0.30 to cross the bay, $3 to get to Coaque, and then all of those prices again in the return trip plus one taxi ($1) in total Bahia cost me $11.60 pus $4 from Chone equals $15.60 just for those two trips. Plus we have interviews with President Gamboa today in Manta and zone conference tomorrow, also in Manta. That’s another $6 total for those trips. Minus the $7 that I have to pay the mamita to wash my clothes over that same two week period and when you put it all together you can see how the $78 I started with last week isn’t quite covering all the expenditures I have in my own sector.

Luckily, I got mom’s package this week! Hurrah, I won’t starve! (This week). The new ties are sweet. I really like the green, black, and blue one. I really like green ties in general for some reason. Anyway, that’s the tie I’m wearing right now. I figured it would be a good one for interviews. Tomorrow I’m going to wear the other one for zone conference. I sure like getting new ties. I get sick of wearing the same ones every day. Yep, I’m easy to please.

Oh yeah, we also had an interchange with Elder Sanchez, one of the assistants, yesterday. I have no idea why; they just showed up Saturday night and told us that Elder Sanchez was going to hang out with us for a couple days. He left this morning but it was good I guess, sort of random though.  The last time I had an interchange with an assistant was when Elder Bryan came to Babahoyo with me and Elder Fuentemavida and a couple weeks later Elder Fuentemavida was made assistant, so I have a theory that my companion is going to be in the office soon, but I don’t want to scare him so I’m going to keep it to myself and see what happens. Plus I will look like a fool if I tell him he is going to the office and then he doesn’t go. After all, my predictions rarely turn out to be correct. Last night I kept having to call everyone in the zone because the office kept changing stuff about the interviews (what time they will be at, what to bring etc.). So last night I kept having “nightmares” about interviews today. It was really dumb. At one point I dreamed that President Gamboa told me that all the elders would need to bring a glass of water to interviews. So I was running around trying to find cups and water for 16 elders. When I woke up I was still thinking, “Where am I going to find 16 cups?” And then I realized it was a dream and felt stupid.

Well, that’s the news from Portoviejo.  General Conference starts Saturday! I am stoked. Pray that we can find a way to get all of our investigators to conference this weekend. Have a great Easter!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

“Golden Family” Getting Baptized

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

¡Hola familia!

It’s so hot here! I know that may come as a shock to you guys but its true. Ecuador is really hot. It must have something to do with the fact that I live at the equator. Actually, I think that in order to get to Chone when we do interchanges up there I have to cross the equator; that’s how close to the line I am. I started out talking about the weather this week because dad said that it’s a really cliché way to start an email so I figured I would give it a shot.

In other news, Josue got baptized! I’m very happy about it because of all the people I have baptized I think he has had the most barriers to overcome. He is definitely in the top 3. So he got baptized on Friday and I think I mentioned that we had another guy named Bladamir that was supposed to get baptized this week too but it didn’t happen. He is still going to get baptized but his girlfriend wants to come up and she couldn’t make it Saturday so we had to postpone it a little. So he will get baptized this Thursday and the funny part was when he mentioned that she was from Guayaquil I said, “Really? Hey, I lived in Guayaquil for a few months, what part?” And it just so happens that she lives very close to where I used to live. In fact, she was in my ward in Guayaquil. And it just so happens that I baptized her cousin, her cousin’s son and her brother-in-law while I was there. Orlando, David, and Ivan were all members of the famous Cantos family down in the Gallegos Lara ward. It’s a small, small world. So this Thursday I will get to see a few people from my old sector and I’m excited about it. I’m hoping that they will bring the whole clan up but I doubt it.

Last night we also had a cool experience—there is a family that we have been teaching for a couple of weeks who all came to church yesterday and we were quite pleased because it was the first time that that dad (Luis) had come and the second time that the mom (Evelin) and son (Jordano) had come and they are all progressing well. Last night we taught them and Evelin had prayed and received a powerful answer so we invited them to be baptized and they all accepted instantly. So they are getting baptized on the 10th of April. All they really need now is to get married, of course. Luis doesn’t drink, which automatically means that they need to get married because everyone in Ecuador either needs to get married or stop drinking or both. But it won’t be a problem because marriages are easy, alcohol is the bugger. I’m really excited for this family because it will be the first time that I have baptized an entire family. I have baptized parts of families or families where one of the spouses was already a member but I have never baptized a mom, dad, and kid in the same night. So that’s the news for now. Have a wonderful week. In two weeks its general conference time and we get to hear the prophet. Goodbye.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Saving Souls, Destroying Toilets

Friday, March 19th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

I’ve been playing around with this new email thing that we have and I discovered that I can actually change my font style. Pretty sweet huh? I can also include several interesting icons as well. For example, this one  which represents the food poisoning that I got last week. Yep I got food poisoning. It was quick but powerful. Luckily, I didn’t throw up; this attack was launched from a different direction. So I spent about 2 hours in the house in a great deal of pain and then I guess I managed to get it all out of my system (literally) and I was fine. I think it was this weird avocado shake that a family gave me. Avocados were not ever meant to be turned into a shake, they just are not that kind of fruit (avocados are fruits right?) and this proves it if you ask me.

Another icon that I will use to represent my week is this good looking fellow  that represents me looking fly in my suit for the zone leader council that we had on Friday. It was a really good meeting as far as meetings go. I learned a lot. I have a couple pages of notes full of changes that we are supposed to implement in the zone. I have to tell you, president sure is good at changing things up that’s for sure. The most notable change is that district meeting will now be held Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays. That one kind of rocked my world because district meeting has been on Wednesday since, since, since forever. I’m not complaining or anything, the change makes a lot of sense and it will make a few things easier for us. I won’t go into detail because these sorts of things don’t mean much to you non missionary folk.

Ok here is another most excellent icon  I’m pretty sure it’s a drop of water. That or it’s a smiley face with a cold. I can’t tell. But I’m going to pretend that it’s a drop of water and it represents Gabriela’s baptism. I may have mentioned last week that Gabriela’s baptism was scheduled for Friday and you may have noticed that I mentioned in this letter that the zone leader council was Friday. That’s a big deal because it’s almost 4 hours from Guayaquil to Portoviejo so it represented a huge scheduling conflict for us when they called us Thursday morning and told us that we had to be in Guayaquil the next day. so we woke up at 3 am and hopped a bus to Guayaquil, this time managing to stay on the road the whole way (remember last time we went off-roading in the bus and got stuck in the mud at the side of the road). Then we got to Guayaquil, ate breakfast, learned lots of stuff at our big important meeting, ate lunch really fast because the meeting ran late and we had to go, hopped a bus back to Portoviejo, and rushed to the church in order to bring to pass Gabriela’s baptism. Luckily, we were able to get someone else to fill the font for us in the morning and Gabriela’s husband, Carlos, did the actual baptizing so we just had to sit back and make sure everything ran smoothly.

Hey remember that guy who randomly showed up at church last Sunday? Well, we went to visit him on Tuesday and had a most excellent lesson at the end of which he decided to get baptized. So he will be getting baptized this Saturday. Along with a guy named Josue, he is 18 and the missionaries started teaching him a few weeks before I got here. We have been working with him a lot since I got to Portoviejo and it has been hard because he comes from a pretty broken family and had a whole list of issues to work through. The good news is that he has been making lots of changes in his life and now wants to get baptized. Unfortunately, several of our other investigators have been having pretty serious problems recently. In one house the oldest daughter ran away with some guy and hasn’t been seen since. So they have not had much time to talk to us these days. And in my favorite family, the house where we are going to have 5 of our baptisms, the dad showed up completely wasted Saturday and nobody from that family came to church on Sunday. Because of that I was pretty sad all day Sunday because they were progressing really well and their home life seemed to be improving. I still think they are going to get baptized, its just one more barrier to cross and it will push back their baptismal date but that’s life. I could tell you a whole list of other stories about messed up families, people who drink to much, and even a guy who cut off two of his own fingers the other day, but you get the idea.

Tuesday we did a service project that was very entertaining. I think it may have been the best service project ever. There is this family in the ward that had a really old brick out house type thing near their house that they wanted to remove. Guess who got to use heavy metal instruments to level that sucker? This guy. Best service project ever. I took a crow bar and beat the toilet to pieces. I had never smashed a toilet to pieces before, as it turns out, it’s wildly entertaining. Smashing the brick walls one row at a time was also fun. At one point part of the wall started to cave so I karate kicked it and the whole section went down, it was sweet! The only part I didn’t like was taking down the thick concrete pillars. We had to chip at the base with a pick axe for 10 minutes until it was mostly just re bar, then we pushed it over. That was before I had destroyed the toilet and we thought we were actually supposed to keep the toilet in tact so we tried to push the pillar down away from the toilet but the darn thing decided to fall to the right instead of falling to the left. So yeah, the pillar smashed down right on top of the toilet seat. Needless to say, the seat and basin did not survive. We were pretty worried but then they told us it didn’t matter because nobody used that old toilet anyway so that’s when I got the chance to finish the job and powder that thing with a crow bar. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Well, my time grows short. General conference is in about 3 weeks. Have a great day.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

The Field is White!

Monday, March 8th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

Ok this week I will try not to delete my email so that I can tell you a little bit more about what is happening around here these days. I didn’t get transferred. That’s good. Elder Fonseca didn’t get transferred either. That was a bit of a surprise but it’s also a good thing. My entire zone got transferred though. Seriously, my companionship is the only one in the entire zone that didn’t change. Most of the Elders got sent out Friday but Elder Piedra just left today. The part that stinks about being a zone leader is that you have to wake up early with the elders that get transferred to make sure they all end up where they are supposed to be. Friday morning we woke up and went down to the terminal here in Portoviejo to make sure that all the elders showed up and that they got on the right bus.

Elder Goode is a zone leader now. That’s good; he got sent to my home town, Babahoyo. Lucky. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. Then today Elder Piedra had to leave Chone really early in the morning because it’s far, far away from Guayaquil and they had to stop by in Portoviejo to pick up Elder Meril (Elder Meril will be training this change and went down to pick up his kid). So we had Chone call us at 3 a.m. when they got to Portoviejo and we called Elder Meril to make sure he left to go to the terminal and then we went back to bed. Oh yeah, I also had a really bad cold this week. I thought I was going to die. I think it was so bad because the last few days we have had a ton of rain followed by really strong sun, then a ton of rain, etc. So I think that amplified the nastiness of my cold, but it’s passing now, so all is good with the world.

I just read Nathan’s letter about how he committed a fake investigator to get married and baptized this week—that made me laugh. It’s good practice because he will be doing it a lot. In fact we just had a wedding last Friday. We are teaching a girl whose husband is a member but had gone inactive for a while but now wanted to come back to church, so we are teaching his wife. It’s a little awkward because they are both really young. The husband is 22 and the wife is 17 and she is pregnant; so with the kid on the way and everything, a marriage was in order. We have been teaching them since I got to Portoviejo and for several weeks we were not getting anywhere because Carlos (the husband) didn’t want to get married and Gabriela (the wife) didn’t want to get baptized. Then Gabriela finally decided that she really did want to get baptized and they have started going to church regularly, but the marriage was killing us because we could not get Carlos to help us out and get the papers together that we needed to make the appointment and get them married. Then one day Elder Fonseca was contacting people in the park with Elder Piedra (it was an interchange, I was in Chone) and they talked to this lady who didn’t want to hear anything about religion but at some point in the conversation she mentioned that she had seen lots of Elders because she was the person who preformed most of the civil marriages in Portoviejo. So then Elder Fonseca perked up and said, “Hey we are trying to have a marriage this Friday.” And she said something like, “That’s great but you need to make an appointment two days in advance.” That was bad news because it was Wednesday night, in other words, to late to have a marriage that week. I guess Elder Fonseca must have had a pretty sad look on his face when she said that because she told him that if we brought the papers in early the next morning she would take care of it. Of course we still didn’t have all the papers we needed in order to make the appointment so Elder Fonseca started walking to Carlos’ house but on the way he ran into Carlos who by some miracle had the papers we needed in his hand. I guess he finally decided he wanted to get married and had been working on getting the papers together at the same time that Elder Fonseca was looking for him. So the next morning the appointment was successfully made, and Friday morning (Feb. 26th) Carlos and Gabriela got married. The whole time we were at the wedding I had a hard time believing that it was really happening. So they are now married and this Friday Carlos will baptize Gabriela. So that’s cool.

This change is going to be a really good one for us because we are going to see a lot of baptisms. It’s just like how in Balzar we worked really hard and didn’t have a lot of baptisms but we had a really great teaching pool with lots of people who were about to get baptized, and then I got transferred. But this time I didn’t get transferred! And this may be the most successful 6 weeks of my entire mission because we have a goal of 18 baptisms and we are going to reach it. I don’t know what things are like in other missions but in this mission if the zone gets 18 baptisms in a change you are doing alright, so you could say that we have a high goal. But last week we had 11 people in church and this week we had 13 and next week we should see even more. In the next couple of weeks Gabriela and a couple of other people will be getting baptized plus a family of 5, so that’s almost half of the goal right there. And we have plenty of other people lined up as well. Like on Sunday a 20-year old guy just showed up at church, nobody invited him and we had never seen him before, but he loved it and it’s a little soon to tell because we just met him yesterday, but I think he will get baptized soon. He already made plans to go with the single adults on some trip they are doing next week and everything. I guess you could say that I’m excited for the upcoming weeks.

Let’s see, what else I can say. Well, mom asked how many people are in my ward. We usually have about 150 people in church but the last couple weeks the chapel has been pretty full, mostly because of the extra bus load of people we have been bringing in. Oh, one of the new elders in the zone is Elder Mitton’s kid, Elder Peña I think. Other than that I don’t think I have much to say. Well I do, but I don’t have time to keep talking about all the people that we are going to baptize. Plus, if I do keep talking about it I will jinx it and I’ll feel really bad if we don’t make our goal. Oh and by the way, you can just send stuff to my new email address; the stuff you send to the old one just gets re-routed here anyway. Ok have a great week family.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Earthquake

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

¡Hola familia!

Hey guess what I just did? I erased my entire email. Yep, I did. Pretty sweet huh? Darn it all. The reason it happened is that the church upgraded the email system. We basically have a Gmail account now. Unfortunately I no longer seem to be able to work with technology anymore because I erased my entire email by accident! Geez. I hate technology.

So here is the low down:  to answer dad’s question, no, I did not feel the Chile quake. But Sunday morning we did have our own Ecuador-based quake. At 5:30 am I woke up to my companion screaming like a crazy person. So naturally, I screamed too. I didn’t know why I was screaming; it just seemed like the thing to do at the time. So my companion bolted for the door and I said, “Hey, where are you going?” And he yelled something about the house being dangerous and earthquakes. It’s at this point that I noticed the earth was in fact moving. And I said, “Hey you are right, but it’s just a little one, what’s the big deal?” So I stayed in bed and enjoyed the last of the quake, because I still think earthquakes are fun—as long as nothing falls over. Interestingly, they say the quake here registered a 5.3. That’s pretty strong. It didn’t feel that strong to me. At least, I figured that with a number like that we should have seen some buildings fall over but there wasn’t any damage here. So that was good. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to include all of the witty comments and such that I wrote in my first letter about the experience but trust me, it was a funny experience.

In other news, we are having some success here, finally. We learned today that there is a guy who has been coming to church for three weeks and isn’t a member. I guess he used to come to church regularly a few years back, and even the bishop just assumed he had been baptized. But when they tried to pull up his membership record they realized he didn’t have one. So we will meet him today and we are going to try to get him baptized Saturday.

Ok I know this letter is short but I have to do other things and I’m out of time so I have to cut off here. Sorry. Have a great week. Next P-day is a new change so I may have a new companion. I really don’t anticipate getting changed. If they try to change me, I may just tell them no. I’m sick of getting changed. If I stay here for the next 6 months, that’s fine with me.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke