July, 2010

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Enduring to the End

Monday, July 26th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

Well the good news is I’m still alive. The bad news is I’m hungry and I haven’t eaten lunch yet. But the good news is that McD´s is just around the corner and I have a coupon for an extra cheese burger with the purchase of any combo. Yeah, free food! Well, it’s free after I buy something anyway. Close enough. Some people would call that a random way to start a letter; I, however, call it a most excellent ice breaker.

Ok now on to business. So this week was a pretty average week, and by average I mean frustrating. We have this one family that we are teaching that is really cool; the dad´s name is Jose and the mom is Elida—my last hope if I want to be able to baptize a family on my mission.  Everything was going well until…you guessed it…it stopped going well. Yesterday, literally all of Elida´s family went over to her house and chewed her out for wanting to get baptized and they were all basically telling her that joining the church would be the worst possible thing she could do. Then they took her away to some other relative’s house so that they could “unbrainwash her” and I haven’t seen her since. So that was bad. We also had a few people not come to church who were supposed to, so they are not going to get baptized until after I go home. It’s sort of strange for me to teach people and basically say, “Look, you can still push for a baptism date on the 17th of August; I mean, I won’t be around to see it, but even so it’s still important that you get baptized”.

This week we also did a couple of interchanges with some elders in my zone, both of whom were being seriously lame and needed a good kick in the back side and a stern talking to, and I was more than willing to give them both. President told me straight up when I came to this zone that I was here because there are some elders who are not doing what they should and he wants them fixed; so I’ve been trying to do just that. The problem is that I can’t be there looking over their shoulder constantly making sure they do what they should. Now I know how President Gamboa feels running an entire mission, and how you guys felt trying to raise me. It all makes so much more sense now.

So apart from preparing the zone to carry on without me, I’ve also been preparing my suitcases so that I don’t have to carry so much stuff back to Texas. It took me a good 5 hours to get all the stuff sorted out and put back in its place. The problem is that every time I had changes, I always just threw everything in and told myself I would sort out the garbage in my next sector. I never did get around to that though—until now. And man did it take a long time to figure out what I want to keep and what I will be throwing away or giving away. I have by no means finished packing; I just thought it would be wise to start now because I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get my stuff ready, and I didn’t want to be up all night the night before packing. So that’s pretty much my life these days—getting ready to leave, beating up on my zone, and feeling frustrated with my program. The other night I was thinking to myself, “Seriously? Is it really going to be this hard right up until the end of my mission? Can’t God just cut me a little slack at the end and let these people get baptized without any major difficulties? I’ve tried to be good and I know I’m not perfect, but can’t He just throw me a bone now that I’m at the end?” But then I remembered that it isn’t Gods plan to make me work hard for two years, and then for the last two weeks pat me on the head and tell me, “Good enough you can go out to play now,” and send me on my merry way. Nope, it doesn’t work that way; my tag still says “Elder Walke” and I’m still set apart as a missionary, so I have to keep on keepin’ on no matter how close or how far away my release date is.

Ok, well, now that that lovely little sentiment is out of the way, I’ve got to go. McD´s is calling my name. Have a great week guys!

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Wandering in the Desert

Monday, July 19th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

So…. you guys are on vacation. That’s great, I guess. Oh yeah, and you sent me my BYU class schedule, that’s just dandy too. Strangely, none of that stuff made me at all trunky, I really thought the BYU class schedule was going to get me but, nope, still good. I think I’m in denial. I would compare it to when Moses was leading Israel through the desert and what kept everyone going was stories of “the promised land” — a joyful place full of milk and honey where they would live happily ever after. Then they actually got there and they realized it wasn’t going to be such an easy time after all and got scared and ran away to wander 40 more years in the desert. That’s kind of how I feel about the post-mission life; it seemed like a good idea at the time and the legends say its awesome but I think I could use a little more time in the desert.

My zone seems to have sort of fallen on hard times, we didn’t have a single baptism on Saturday and we are only going to have one baptism in the zone this Saturday. I attribute it to several factors but the point is right now we are not doing so well. My sector is doing alright; we have a few solid baptismal dates coming up for the 31 of July and several other people who are coming along too. We had an awesome experience with this guy named Tomas this week as well. There is a sort of soccer type program thing for the primary aged kids in the stake here and they have two coaches–one of those coaches is Tomas. They do the practices on the church property and naturally that raised questions about the church and the other coach, who is a member, answered them and invited Tomas to church. He came and so we decided it would probably be a good idea if we teach him since he lives in our sector and all. So to make a medium-sized story shorter because I’m too lazy to write it, Tomas quickly decided that the church is true and that he should get baptized…some day. For some reason people always think they need to memorize all the scriptures or something before they get baptized. So we tried to explain to him that he just needs to obey Gods commandments in order to qualify to be baptized but he wouldn’t budge. Then I pulled out one of my favorite, “so you don’t want to get baptized, huh?” scriptures — Alma 32:16. It basically says, “More blessed is he that is baptized without being obligated to know the word before he will commit,” or something like that (you get the idea). So anyway, a strange thing happened, he agreed to get baptized! He read the scripture and said, “Hey you are right, there it is right there in the scriptures. Wow it’s like the Lord put that there just for me. Ok I will get baptized; what day did you say? The 31st right?” All I’m going to say is that almost never works. For me it was living proof of the scripture where the Lord says, “My sheep know my voice and follow me,” because, even though we couldn’t convince him, one verse from the Lord did the trick. So that was cool.

Anyway, I’m going to end this letter now. Oh yeah, this week was my last zone leader consejo. So because we are going home soon they had all the old zone leaders give their last testimony. When they announced all the names Sister Gamboa said, “Wait a minute; you can’t all go home at once!” They both seem to be a little worried since a full half of the zone leaders are going home this change. The testimony meeting was awesome. I won’t mention any names but a few elders may have shed tears. It was a good experience all in all. It’s hard to believe that I won’t be around for the next round of changes though. Ok with that, I’m going to sign off. Have a great week guys.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

Elder Janampa, A Great Missionary, Goes Home

Monday, July 12th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

Today is a sad day in the Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission—Elder Janampa went home. He tried to extend his mission one more change but they wouldn’t let him. So today I dropped him off in the mission offices and got a new companion. Also, both Elder Dayton and Elder Hasvold got transferred. This last change we did a lot of work and had a lot of fun. It was one of the highlights of my mission for sure; it’s sad to see it end. It was also really hard to see Elder Janampa go home because he was a great missionary and he was pretty worried about what he is going to do when he gets back. Watching him I felt like I was looking at my future in a month and I gotta say, it didn’t make me very excited about going home. Elder Janampa was definitely one of my favorite companions. I hope things work out for him. We had a pretty good last week this week and finished it off Sunday doing a training meeting to teach the ward mission leaders and ward missionaries in the stake. It went well. I’m not exactly sure if any of them will actually apply the stuff we taught but hey, at least we made the effort. We also created a new record for the stake (with help from one of the stake president’s councilors) that the ward mission leaders will have to use to register the efforts of the mission leaders and ward missionaries. I’m proud of it. Now the ward mission leaders will have to report their efforts every week to a member of the stake presidency, so they are going to have to know the investigators and recent converts better. They will also be more responsible for visiting these people as well. I’m sure it will take a while to get the wards used to using it but the stake presidency in Orquideas is awesome and they will be diligent about getting them to use it for sure.

So my new companion is Elder Tituaña from Otavalo (here in Ecuador). I’ve met him before; he was in my zone when I was in Jipijapa. Not that it’s too surprising that I know him. After almost 23 months I do seem to know a lot of elders. I’m stoked about having a companion from Otavalo. My entire mission I have wanted to learn Quechua. I have a book of Mormon in Quechua and everything, but I have never had anyone that could explain it to me. I tried to figure it out on my own but the grammar is crazy. I could only figure out what a few of the words mean. The bad news is that I will only have 4 weeks to learn it—just my luck. But hopefully he will help me get a good start and I will be able to study it on my own once I get a base. I’m also kind of worried that, now that Elder Janampa is gone, I won’t be able to find my way around this sector. I’m terrible with directions as it is but this sector is bad; every street looks exactly the same. The only thing that is going to save me is that here in Guayaquil the houses actually have block and house numbers, something that the rest of Ecuador doesn’t have. So if worse comes to worse, I can just wander around until I run into the block number I’m looking for.

Ok well, I’m done writing. To close I would just like to share with you the scripture that is my theme for the next month. I have it written in Spanish on my planner but the following is the rough translation:

“Let us work diligently, because if we cease to work, we will fall under condemnation. Because we have a work to do while in this tabernacle of clay, that we may defeat the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.”
(Moroni 9:6)

Te quiero,
Elder Walke

A Memorable Birthday

Monday, July 5th, 2010

¡Hola familia!

Well, this letter will be a little short because I’m sort of out of time this week. Today is super P-day and we did us a lot of cleaning today. But hey, it’s all good because this was my last super P-day. Never again will I do such a big cleaning job. Well, never again in Ecuador anyway. Honestly, it’s a little weird for me that in just over a month I will be back in Texas. I’m having a hard time believing that it has really been two years already. It really hit me when I turned 21 on Saturday. I was thinking, “Oh my gosh…I’m old! When did that happen?” I would like to extend my mission and stick around for a few months but I can’t. I must grow up eventually…darn it all. I was complaining about it this week and Elder Janampa pulled out a conference talk from May 2008 about moving on with our lives—he was right. But I really don’t want to have to do math homework again!

We had sort of a rough week in our sector. First, we had a bit of a rough time with the ward mission leader, and then we had a few food-related incidents. I will relay just one of them here [Editor’s note:  the others are too unpleasant for this forum and have been removed for the sake of the children and those with weak stomachs].  Remember how there is a volcano that is erupting in Ecuador and how it’s dropping a lot of ash on the country? Well, it’s not dropping much in Guayaquil these days but there is still a fair amount of it in the streets and such. So as I was eating my soup, somebody dropped something heavy and it shook the walls of the house a little bit, causing a small cloud of volcano ash to fall in my soup and my drink, making it look as though someone had dumped a fair amount of pepper in it. Then I just sat there a moment and stared at it thinking, “No, I don’t believe it. Not 3 days in a row. It’s my birthday for crying out loud.” Then I did the only thing I could do…I ate it. I pretended it really was pepper. You may not know this but being a missionary requires a good imagination. So that was my birthday lunch.

Right after lunch I started my fast because this Sunday was fast Sunday. So in answer to your question, “Did the cake we ate in your birthday video look good?” Yes, yes it did. And to finish my tale of woe, I’ve lost several pairs of my socks. But hey, the good news is Manuel got the priesthood this week! And he and his wife are getting called as ward missionaries next week. So that kind of balanced out all that other stuff that we went through this week. Plus, we started teaching someone this week that is Ecuadorian but has been living in Florida the last 5 years and is progressing well. She even came to church once. So I may baptize someone who lives in the states because she doesn’t go back home until a couple days after I do. That would be cool.

Ok its defiantly time for me to stop writing. Have a great week you guys and have fun in Utah.

Te quiero,
Elder Walke