April, 2010

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The Lord Looketh on the Heart

Monday, April 26th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

How’s life in Tejas? Sounds like school is slowing down and summer is just about to begin. That still seems odd to me for many reasons. I think that I’m going to change subjects though or this letter will end up being trunky. And I’m not trunky. So we didn’t end up having consejo this week. I guess President Gamboa wasn’t in the country for some reason, so consejo is going down tomorrow.

This week was good too; I learned a lot. We had a couple of interesting issues come to light with a few of the missionaries in the zone, and I learned an interesting lesson about 1 Samuel 16:7 ,”Man looketh on the outward appearance but the Lord looketh on the heart.” They are all good elders but sometimes they need help (and a swift kick in the back side) in order to get back on track. And of course when there is a problem in the zone nobody ever wants to say anything until it’s too late; so recently I’ve been learning to trust a little more in the Lord and a little less in how my zone seems to be doing. On the whole things are going really well though. All of the baptisms for April are in (this Saturday and Sunday is the start of May) and the zone total was 17. Just so you know that’s a good thing. I was pleased anyway. In December the total was 6 and that number has been creeping up every month and it looks like it will continue to do so in May.

In my sector things are looking good as well. The family that lives way out in the middle of nowhere (the Cuenca family) is doing well. The mom (Jessica) is awesome; she has a powerful testimony. Even though they have to wake up at 5 a.m. every Sunday to get to church on time, they are always one of the first families in the chapel. The one problem that we have with them is the marriage that has to happen before she can get baptized. With the husband down in Guayaquil working almost constantly, it’s almost impossible for us to make it happen. But luckily tomorrow we will be in Guayaquil and we, being the forward thinkers that we are, are trying to arrange a meeting with the guy so that we can make this wedding happen. It’s all very tricky and making it all happen will take a miracle (or two) but hey, that’s part of our job description right?

In other news, I almost got robbed, again. This time it wasn’t the house. We were sitting outside of the Miranda family’s house waiting for the kids to get there when I noticed a guy down the street who was staring us down. He was making me nervous because he was dressed in a manner which some would consider “fly”– big sunglasses, baggy cloths, chains, etc. And he looked like he couldn’t decide if he wanted to come over to us or not. Now I know for a fact that there is a gang that lives a little higher up on that hill because the people have told us, and I have talked to them once. Most of the time as missionaries we can go places that are dangerous and nothing happens, but you can tell when they are up to no good. And so it was in this case. So I leaned over and said, “Hey Elder Ruiz. I think we are about to get robbed.” And he looked over at the guy and said, “I think you are right, let’s get out of here.” So we stood up, turned the corner, and split. It was sort of like playing hide and seek, but with guns. So yes, I enjoyed it. I would like to get robbed at least once before my mission ends but I’m not going to make it easy. Man I love this country.

Te quiero,

Elder Walke

Change Day in Portoviejo

Monday, April 19th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

So its change day and guess what? I’m still in Portoviejo! Yep I know, it’s a shocker. I’m pretty tired right now so no complaints about the quality or length of the letter this week ok? First off on the list of events this week, Elder Fonseca got the boot, and guess what? I totally predicted where he was going to get transferred. He has spent most of his mission on the coast so I was telling him all week that he was going to get shipped off to Los Rios to die…and he did. I also made a couple of other predictions about changes that were fulfilled too. I think I may be a prophet, or at least a really good guesser. Yes, I have finally been here long enough that I can give accurate predictions about changes! Of course, it may have just been luck and next change I will get it all completely wrong like usual. Yeah, that’s probably it.

So Elder Fonseca got transferred out on Wednesday morning, and when I say morning, I mean 4 am. And since he was the only person who got transferred that day, I had to go all the way to Guayaquil with him and bring my new companion back. That was fun and contributed to today’s tiredness but isn’t the main factor. My new comp is Elder Ruiz from panama, not to be confused with Elder Ruiz from Costa Rica, my companion in Jipijapa. He seems like a good guy but I don’t have much to say yet on that front, perhaps more in the weeks to come. Then Thursday we went on a road trip trying to find the house of a family that lives on a small farm about an hour outside of Portoviejo. Apparently Elder Bartholome baptized this 13 year old girl down in Guayaquil during the Ecuadorian equivalent of summer vacation and now that classes are back in she is back home in Portoviejo, and last week she brought her mom and two younger sisters to church. It’s a great family and all but they really live in the middle of nowhere. It’s over an hour outside of Portoviejo in bus and then after the bus it’s another 20-minute trip down a dirt road just to get to where they live. Just to visit this one family we basically have to dedicate an entire day because Thursday we left at 2 pm and didn’t get back to Portoviejo until 6:30 pm. So that has taken a serious hit to our weekly plans and we can only visit them once a week and the dad works in Cuenca or Quito or something like that and is only in Portoviejo a couple of days once every two weeks and they are not married so if they are ever going to get baptized we are going to have to plan well or it will never work out but they came to church again yesterday so at least they seem to be willing to work with us, that’s helpful.

Oh and I will tell you about last nights adventures so that you can understand and appreciate why I’m tired today. So we had changes and Bahia was sleeping in our house because they are far away and had to come to our house to sleep so that they would be closer to Guayaquil and not have to take a bus at 1 am (because 4 am is more reasonable apparently) so that meant we had to wake up before 4 am so that we could take them to the bus port in Portoviejo and we didn’t get back until about 5 am which left us with a little time left to rest until we had to get up for real at 6:30 am. Now if that had been all the fun we had that night I would be ok right now but we also had an unplanned awakening at 2:30 am. We live on the second floor and on the first floor of the house where we live the people started screaming at the top of their lungs, “ladron, ladron!” Which, by interpretation is, “thieve, thieve!” It seems some guy was picking at the bars on their window trying to break in. When the people started screaming the guy bolted and a couple of guys from the house soon tried unsuccessfully to catch him. It was pretty unsettling for me because we don’t have bars on our windows and we always sleep with the windows wide open because we don’t have A/C and concrete houses with closed windows are not conducive to a good nights sleep. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the guy didn’t just try and break into our house; it would have been much easier. Then again, maybe he was and what the people in the house below us heard was the guy trying to scale the wall and not picking at their bars. It seems more plausible to me. I remember that when I was in Babahoyo the house Elder Mitton was in had a similar break in. Anyway, we have decided that it would be in our best interest to sleep with the windows closed for a while. I really didn’t sleep well after that; I kept having weird dreams about people breaking into the house. I remember in one of them the person trying to break in was Elder Fonseca and I punched him in the face and he said, “hey, what was that for?” And I said, “wait a minute, shouldn’t you be in Los Rios?” The funniest one was mixed with the changes because I dreamed that one of the elders that was getting changed was robbed and lost all of his suitcases and for some reason we went to the store and bought a bunch of gangster style clothing (hats, dark glasses, baggy cloths, etc) so that we could sneak into the house where the guy lived and steal it back. Sometimes my dreams can be a little bizarre. So that’s the story of how I wasn’t robbed this morning.

And I had some other stuff to tell you but I’m tired and don’t feel like typing anymore. Have a loverly week guys. Happy birthday on Saturday mom! Hey, it’s great that you guys sent me a calendar that has all of these dates written on them already so that I’m less likely to forget them. Anyway, like I was saying before, happy birthday mom. Talk to you soon!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Changes

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Hola familia!

Well it’s that time again, that time when missionaries can get transferred any day of the week. Yep, I really do not like changes. The good news is that once this week is over things should calm down a bit around here. Ok maybe not because the fact that this is the last week means that next Friday is Consejo. Hurrah for 3 a.m. bus trips! And then the next week is probably interviews with the president and zone conference. And of course the odd trip to Bahia or Chone thrown in for good measure. Ok maybe things aren’t about to calm down around here after all.

I have been out of my sector a lot lately. In fact, in the two week period from March 24 to April 7 I have been out of my sector 9 days and working in it 6 days. Sad. I was out of my sector on the 6th and 7th because we did interchanges 2 days in a row. That wasn’t pleasant, it was brought on more because of need than desire but the point is we did it. I had to be the one who left the sector both times because I am better at saving my money than Elder Fonseca (I was running a little higher on cash than him) and interchanges always suck your money away faster than a normal day in your own sector even though not much traveling was required because both interchanges were here in Portoviejo. Back in the old days I loved interchanges because I got to hang out with some other missionary that wasn’t my companion for a day. It was nice, fun even. Now it’s just a pain; mostly it’s just more work because I’m supposed to basically analyze everything the missionary does so that I can help them out and write a lovely little report to president about how they are doing. I hate paperwork. Ok honestly, the paperwork isn’t so bad but it’s the being on my best behavior all the time that gets to me.

Oh so I haven’t mentioned this yet but Elder Fonseca is still hanging around here. My guess is that the office will call Thursday night with his transfer but he may make it as far as Sunday night before they call him. The point is, one of us has to get transferred. I have never heard of two zone leaders staying together for more than 2 changes. We get transferred around too often to be together longer. We have had a good run though; he’s a good guy. With luck Elder Elwood will get transferred over here for his last change before he dies. Or maybe Elder Frye will get transferred in, although I doubt that because he just got transferred 6 weeks ago to Duran so I don’t think that will happen. All of my other friends that I can think of at the moment are dead or dying this week so I don’t really have any predictions for my next companion. Although I do have a secret desire to train again. Now that I have trained a gringo I would like to train a Latin. I have no idea if there will even be many new missionaries coming in this change but I can dream.

You may have noticed that this letter has been all about changes and nothing else. That’s because I have nothing else to talk about. It’s been a rather normal week. Elder Garcia got transferred today; he has been the only one so far. So now we are down a district leader and district meeting is tomorrow. Hmm, I hope the new guy is a district leader or we may end up teaching Elder Garcia’s district tomorrow. Ok well its time to wrap this letter up. There are only so many things that I can say about changes before even I get bored. Have an awesome week everyone.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

General Conference Week

Monday, April 5th, 2010

¡Hey family!

Whoa, did I just slip some English into that intro? I guess that all the English I have been listening to the last couple of days is making my Spanish rusty. Ok that was a lame joke. Oh well, what’s written is written and I’m too lazy to erase it anyway. It takes a lot of effort to hold that backspace key down after all. Oh, that was another lame joke. Man, what’s with me and the lame jokes today? Anyway, back to the subject; I was unsuccessfully trying to get onto in the first place.

General Conference. It was awesome. We got to hear the living prophet of God. I learned a ton. I noticed that a lot of the talks had to do with the family this round. That may have something to do with my fast approaching homecoming but who knows? I didn’t have a specific talk that was my favorite because I learned a lot from several. I think I have 5 or 6 favorite talks. I really liked the talk about how to give blessings to the sick in the priesthood session (I think it was by Elder Oaks) because it was very informative and helped me understand a few things much better than before. I also really liked what he said about how sometimes we are going to be more spiritually in tune than others and that the most important part of a blessing isn’t the words pronounced but the blessing itself and the faith of the person. I also loved Elder Rasband´s talk Sunday about how missionaries are called. I know it’s true because I prayed to go to a South American country and I guess the Lord found a mission that worked into his plans and filled my request because here I am. When Elder Rasband was talking about how missionaries are called I didn’t have any doubt at all that that’s how it happened with me. I got to watch almost all of conference in English but the Sunday morning session we had to watch in Spanish because, as usual, all the Ecuadorians here only showed up for that one so it was packed and we had to change our English channel to the Spanish one. The good news is my Spanish has gotten much better in the last 6 months. I didn’t think it was getting much better these days but I guess it has because I didn’t have any trouble understanding the accents or anything. So that was weird, I think I’m starting to feel just as comfortable speaking Spanish as English. I even think bilingually; man was it weird when I realized that I was doing that! I try to keep my thinking in English so that I don’t trip over my words too much when I get back. It has worked, but try as I might, I still find myself slipping into Spanish every now and then.

Although conference was good for me personally, it wasn’t so great for my teaching pool. Only one person showed up. I guess you could say we were heart broken. I don’t understand why because on a normal Sunday we have 10-14 people come to church. I guess it was because we weren’t in the same building or something. The point is, nobody came and the Pino family won’t be able to get baptized this Saturday as planned. I think that was the biggest disappointment. The one bright spot was that Bladamir came to 3 of the 5 sessions, thus proving that he got baptized for the right reasons and that he has a strong testimony. It was a roller coaster of emotions for me I guess because I would feel great and happy during conference, then sad and depressed for the people we are teaching who didn’t get to share that experience with us, but at the same time happy for the many people who were there, specifically the people I had worked with. It helped me to understand better all the scriptures that talk about God’s feelings for those who sin and repent. I never understood how God could have such a wide range of emotions because of the actions of others, at times feeling happiness and sadness at once, until I became a missionary. It’s a lot smaller than what God feels for these people, but I get it now.

So that was my conference experience. Other than that we also had interviews with President Gamboa Monday, zone conference on Tuesday, and I was in another sector with Elder Parkinson (one of the elders in my zone) on Wednesday. So I only worked in my sector Thursday and Friday because Saturday and Sunday was the GC. I guess you could say that it was not the most productive teaching week for us but still a great week. I talked to the president about how BYU starts almost the same day as my release date and how that creates a small conflict in my plans and he was surprisingly good with it. He asked me how much time I have and when I told him I’ve been here 19 months he called me “the ancient of days.” I laughed. He said he will be sad to see me go but that I need to see my family a bit before I leave to BYU for the fall semester, so we have decided that I will be coming home 2 weeks early. It hurts a little because I won’t be able to be in the last big dinner with the other elders from my mission and talk about all the crazy stuff we did but that’s just the way the cards fell. I was really surprised because he told me I could spend all the time on the computer that I need to do BYU stuff like picking classes etc. It didn’t even come into my mind to ask him to do that; he just told me to do it.

So that was interviews, zone conference was good as well, the overlying theme that I got out of it was, “purifying ourselves through obedience and service.” Zone leaders usually give a 15-20 min workshop in the middle of the conference about some subject that the office assigns us. They told us to talk about “how to help investigators to purify themselves.” It was a real booger for us because we couldn’t figure out for the longest time what to talk about, but we finally managed to get a pretty good workshop put together where our overlying message was basically the gospel is what will help people to purify themselves, but we need to obey and be purified first in order to be successful and teach with the Spirit. Our piece turned out to be in lockstep with the overlying message of the conference but we hit a few points that the assistants and the president didn’t talk about so it turned out well. Then the next day I was in another part of Portoviejo in interchange with Elder Parkinson. This is only his second change but he is awesome. His Spanish is coming along really well. You can tell he has been working hard to learn it. Other than that we didn’t have any other noteworthy experiences. Thursday and Friday we were just trying to get everyone in our sector excited for the conference that they wouldn’t be going to anyway.

So that’s the news folks, hope you enjoyed it. Next Sunday marks the beginning of changes so I may have a new companion next time I write but if not Elder Fonseca will get transferred for sure a couple days later. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone the last couple of changes. I have now been out of Balzar twice as long as I was there for, but I still feel like I just got to Portoviejo! It’s sort of bitter sweet; I know that there are good things coming after I get back but I will really miss the people, the other elders, and President and Sister Gamboa. Oh well, Así Sea.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke